It was late in the afternoon when Martine awoke with a dull pain in his head and heart. As the consciousness of all that had happened returned, he remembered that there was good reason for both. His faithful old domestic soon prepared a dainty meal, which aided in giving tone to his exhausted system. Then he sat down by his fire to brace himself for the tidings he expected to hear. Helen’s chair was empty. It would always be hers, but hope was gone that she would smile from it upon him during the long winter evenings. Already the room was darkening toward the early December twilight, and he felt that his life was darkening in like manner. He was no longer eager to hear what had occurred. The mental and physical sluggishness which possessed him was better than sharp pain; he would learn all soon enough—the recognition, the beginning of a new life which inevitably would drift further and further from him. His best hope was to get through the time, to endure patiently and shape his life so as to permit as little of its shadow as possible to fall upon hers. But as he looked around the apartment and saw on every side the preparations for one who had been his, yet could be no longer, his fortitude gave way, and he buried his face in his hands.
So deep was his painful revery that he did not hear the entrance of Dr. Barnes and Mr. Kemble. The latter laid a hand upon his shoulder and said kindly, “Hobart, my friend, it is just as I told you it would be. Helen needs you and wishes to see you.”
Martine started up, exclaiming, “He must have remembered her.”
Mr. Kemble shook his head. “No, Hobart,” said the doctor, “she was as much of a stranger to him as you were. There were, of course, grounds for your expectation and hers also, but we prosaic physiologists have some reason for our doubtings as well as you for your beliefs. It’s going to be a question of time with Nichol. How are you yourself? Ah, I see,” he added, with his finger on his patient’s pulse. “With you it’s going to be a question of tonics.”
“Yes, I admit that,” Martine replied, “but perhaps of tonics other than those you have in mind. You said, sir [to Mr. Kemble], that Helen wished to see me?”
“Yes, when you feel well enough.”
“I trust you will make yourselves at home,” said Martine, hastily preparing to go out.
“But don’t you wish to hear more about Nichol?” asked the doctor, laughing.
“Not at present. Good-by.”
Yet he was perplexed how to meet the girl who should now have been his wife; and he trembled with strange embarrassment as he entered the familiar room in which he had parted from her almost on the eve of their wedding. She was neither perplexed nor embarrassed, for she had the calmness of a fixed purpose. She went swiftly to him, took his hand, led him to a chair, then sat down beside him. He looked at her wonderingly and listened sadly as she asked, “Hobart, will you be patient with me again?”