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- A Day Of Fate - 60/66 -
it,' for he was terribly excited--so was his sister, Charlotte Bradford--and it was as much as we could do to keep them from going to her room. If they had, I believe the excitement would have destroyed either her life or reason. Gilbert Hearn plainly intimated that something was wrong. 'Very well, then,' I said, 'bring thy own family physician, and let him consult with Doctor Bates,' and this he angrily said he would do on the morrow. The very fact they were in the house made the poor girl almost wild; but I stayed with her all night, and she just lay in my arms like a frightened child, and my heart yearned over her as if she were my own daughter. She did not speak of thee, but I heard her murmur once, 'I was cruel--I was unjust to him.'
"In the morning she was more composed, and I made her take strong nourishment, I can tell thee. Thee remembers how I used to dose thee in spite of thyself.
"Well, in the morning Emily seemed to be thinking deeply; and by and by she said: 'Mrs. Yocomb, I want this affair settled at once. I want you to sit by me while I write to him, and advise me.' I felt she was right. Her words were about as follows: (I asked her if I could tell thee what she wrote. She hesitated a little, and a faint color came into her pale face. 'Yes,' she said at last, 'let him know the whole truth. Since so much has occurred between us, I want him to know everything. He then may judge me as he thinks best. I have a horror of any more misunderstanding.')
"'You can never know, Mr. Hearn,' she wrote, 'the pain and sorrow with which I address to you these words. Still less can you know my shame and remorse; but you are an honorable man, and have a right to the truth. My best hope is that when you know how unworthy I am of your regard your regret will be slight. I recall all your kindness to me, and my heart is tortured as I now think of the requital I am making. Still, justice to myself requires that I tell you that I mistook my gratitude and esteem, my respect and genuine regard, for a deeper emotion. You will remember, however, that I long hesitated, feeling instinctively that I could not give you what you had a right to expect. Last spring you pressed me for a definite answer. I said I would come to this quiet place and think it all over, and if I did not write you to the contrary within a few days you might believe that I had yielded to your wishes. I found myself more worn and weary from my toilsome life than I imagined. I was lonely; I dreaded my single- handed struggle with the world, and my heart overflowed with gratitude toward you--it does still--for your kindness, and for all that you promised to do for me. I had not the will nor the disposition to say no, or to put you off any longer. Still I had misgiving; I feared that I did not feel as I ought. When I received your kind letter accepting my silence as consent, I felt bound by it--I was bound by it. I have no defence to make. I can only state the miserable truth. I cannot love you as a wife ought, and I know now that I never can. I've tried --God knows I've tried. I'm worn out with the struggle. I fear I am very ill. I wish I were dead and at rest. I cannot ask you to think mercifully of me. I cannot think mercifully of myself. To meet again would be only useless suffering. I am not equal to it. My one effort now is to gain sufficient strength to go to some distant relatives in the West. Please forget me. "'In sorrow and bitter regret, "'Emily Warren.'"
I started up and paced the room distractedly. "The generous girl!" I exclaimed, "she lays not a particle of blame on me. But, by Jove! I'd like to take all the blame, and have it out with him here and now. Blame! What blame is there? The poor child! Why can't she see that she is white as snow?"
Again I eagerly turned to Mrs. Yocomb's words:
"Emily seemed almost overwhelmed at the thought of his reading this letter. She is so generous, so sensitive, that she saw only his side of the case, and made scarcely any allowance for herself. I was a little decided and plain-spoken with her, and it did her good. At last I said to her, 'I am not weak-minded, if I am simple and plain. Because I live in the country is no reason why I do not know what is right and just. Thee has no cause to blame thyself so bitterly.' 'Does Mr. Yocomb feel and think as you do?' she asked. 'Of course he does,' I replied. She put her hands to her head and said pitifully, 'Perhaps I am too distracted to see things clearly. I sometimes fear I may lose my reason.' 'Well, Emily,' I said, 'thee has done right. Thee cannot help feeling as thee does, and to go on now would be as great a wrong to Gilbert Hearn as to thyself. Thee has done just as I would advise my own daughter to do. Leave all with me. Thee need not see him again. I am going to stand by thee;' and I left her quite heartened up."
"Oh, but you are a gem of a woman!" I cried. "A few more like you would bring the millennium."
"Gilbert Hearn was dreadfully taken aback by the letter; but I must do him the justice to say that he was much touched by it too, for he called me again into the parlor, and I saw that he was much moved. He had given his sister the letter to read, and she muttered, 'Poor thing!' as she finished it. He fixed his eyes sternly on me and said, 'Mr. Morton is at the bottom of this thing.' I returned his gaze very quietly, and asked, 'What am I to infer by this expression of thy opinion to me?' His sister was as quick as a flash, and she said plainly, 'Gilbert, these people were not two little children in Mrs. Yocomb's care.' 'Thee is right,' I said; 'I have not controlled their actions any more than I have those of thy brother. Richard Morton is absent, however, and were we not under peculiar obligations to him I would still be bound to speak for him, since he is not here to speak for himself. I have never seen Richard Morton do anything unbecoming a gentleman. Has thee, Gilbert Hearn? If so, I think thee had better see him, for he is not one to deny thee any explanation to which thee has a right.' 'Why did he go to the city so suddenly?' he asked angrily. 'I will give thee his address,' I said coldly. 'Gilbert,' expostulated his sister,--we have no right to cross--question Mrs. Yocomb.' 'Since thee is so considerate,' I said to her, 'I will add that Richard Morton intended to return on Second Day at the latest, and he chose to go to-day. His action enables me to give thee a room to thyself.' 'Gilbert,' said the lady, 'I do not see that we have any reason to regret his absence. As Mrs. Yocomb says, you can see him in New York; but unless you have well founded and specific charges to make, I think it would compromise your dignity to see him. Editors are ugly customers to stir up unless there is good cause.'"
"I know one," I growled, "that would be a particularly ugly customer just now."
"'In Emily Warren's case,' I said, 'it is different,'" Mrs. Yocomb continued. "'She is a motherless girl and has appealed to me for advice and sympathy. In her honest struggle to be loyal to thee she has worn herself almost to a shadow, and I have grave fears for her reason and her life, so great is her prostration. She has for thee, Gilbert Hearn, the sincerest respect and esteem, and the feeling that she has wronged thee, even though she cannot help it, seems almost to crush her.' 'Gilbert,' said his sister warmly, 'you cannot blame her, and you certainly ought to respect her. If she were not an honest- hearted girl she would never have renounced you with your great wealth.' He sank into a chair and looked very white. 'It's a terrible blow,' he said; 'it's the first severe reverse I've ever had.' 'Well,' she replied, 'I know from your character that you will meet it like a man and a gentleman.' 'Certainly,' he said, with a deep breath, 'I cannot do otherwise.' I then rose and bowed, saying: 'You will both excuse me if I am with my charge much of the time. Adah will attend to your wants, and I hope you will feel at home so long as it shall please you to stay.'"
"By Jove! but her tact was wonderful. Not a diplomat in Europe could have done better. The innocent-looking Quakeress was a match for them both."
"Then I went back to Emily," Mrs. Yocomb wrote, "and I found her in a pitiable state of excitement. When I opened the door she started up apprehensively, as if she feared that the man with whom she had broken would burst in upon her with bitter reproaches. I told her everything; for even I cannot deceive her, she is so quick. Her mind was wonderfully lightened, and I soon made her sleep again. She awoke in the evening much quieter, but she cried a good deal in the night, and I surmise she was thinking of thee more than of herself or of him. I wish thee had waited until all this was over, but I think all will come out right."
"Oh, the unutterable fool that I was!" I groaned; "I'm the champion blunderer of the world."
"Well, Richard, this is the longest letter I ever wrote, and I must bring it to a close, for my patient needs me. I will write soon again, and tell thee everything. Goodnight.
"Second Day. P.S.--I left my letter open to add a postscript. Gilbert Hearn and his sister left this morning. The former at last seemed quite calm and resigned, and was very polite. His sister was too. She amused me not a little. I do not think that her heart was greatly set on the match, and she was not so troubled but that she could take an interest in our quiet, homely ways. I think we seemed to her like what you city people call _bric-a-brac_, but she was too much of a lady to let her curiosity become offensive. She took a great fancy to Adah, especially as she saw that Adela was very fond of her, and she persuaded her brother to leave the child here in our care, saying that she was improving wonderfully. He did not seem at all averse to the plan. Adah is behaving very nicely, if I do say it, and showed a great deal of quiet, gentle dignity. She and Charlotte Bradford had a long chat in the evening about Adela. Adah says, 'Send Richard my love'; and if I put in all the messages from father, Reuben, and Zillah, they would fill another sheet.
"I asked Emily if she had any message for thee. She buried her face in the pillow and murmured, 'Not now, not yet'; but after a moment she turned toward me, looking white and resolute. 'Tell him,' she said, 'to forgive me and forget' Be patient, Richard. Wait. "Thine affectionately,
"Forget!" I shouted. "Yes, when I am annihilated," and I paced my room for hours. At last, exhausted, I sought such rest as I could obtain, but my last thought was, "God bless Ruth Yocomb. I could kiss the ground she had trodden."
The next morning I settled down to my task of waiting and working, resolving that there must be no more nights like the last, in which I had wasted a vast amount of vital force. I wrote to Mrs. Yocomb, and thanked her from a full heart. I sent messages to all the family, and said, "Tell Adah I shall keep her love warm in my heart, and that I send her twice as much of mine in return. Like all brothers, I shall take liberties, and will subscribe in her behalf for the two best magazines in the city. Give Miss Warren this simple message: The words I last spoke to her shall ever be true."
I also told Mrs. Yocomb of my promotion, and that I was no longer a night-owl.
Toward the end of the week came another bulky letter, which I
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