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- A Day Of Fate - 66/66 -


"I wish I could find some sweetbrier; I'd give you the whole bush."

"Do you think I deserve a thorny experience?"

"You know what I think. When was there an hour when you did not look through me as if I were glass. But we are confidential friends, are we not?"

"Well, for the sake of argument we may imagine ourselves such."

"To be logical, then, I must tell you something of which I have not yet spoken to any one. I called on Adah the evening I learned she was in town, and I saw her enter an elegant coupe driven by a coachman in stunning livery. A millionaire of your acquaintance accompanied her."

"What!" she exclaimed, her face becoming fairly radiant.

I nodded very significantly.

"For shame, Mr. Morton! What a gossip you are!" but her laugh rang out like a chime of silver bells.

At that moment Mr. Yocomb appeared on the piazza, and he applauded loudly, "Good for thee, Emily," he cried, "that sounds like old times."

"Come away, quick," I said, and I strode rapidly around the barn.

"Do you expect me to keep up with you?" she asked, stopping short and looking so piquant and tempting that I rejoined her instantly.

"I'll go as slow as you please. I'll do anything under heaven you bid me."

"You treat Mr. Yocomb very shabbily."

"You won't make me go after him, will you?"

"Why, Mr. Morton? What base ingratitude and after such a dinner, too."

"You know how ill-balanced I am."

"I fear you are growing worse and worse."

"I am, indeed. Left to myself, I should be the most unbalanced man in the world."

"Mr. Morton, your mind is clearly unsettled. I detected the truth the first day I saw you."

"No, my mind, such as it is, is made up irrevocably and forever. I must tell you that I can't afford to keep a coupe."

"There is a beautiful sequence in your remarks. Then you ought not to keep one. But why complain. There are always omnibuses within call."

"Are you fond of riding in an omnibus?"

"What an irrelevant question! Suppose I followed your example, and ask what you think of the Copernican system?" "You can't be ill-balanced if you try, and your question is not in the least irrelevant. The Copernican system is true, and illustrates my position exactly. There is a heavenly body, radiant with light and beauty, that attracts me irresistibly. The moment I came within her influence my orbit was fixed."

"Isn't your orbit a little eccentric?" she asked, with averted face. "Still your figure may be very apt. Another body of greater attraction would carry you off into space,"

"There is no such body in existence."

"Mr. Morton, we were talking about omnibuses."

"And you have not answered my question."

"Since we are such confidential friends, I will tell you a profound secret. I prefer street cars to omnibuses, and would much rather ride in one than in a carriage that I could not pay for."

"Well, now, that's sensible."

"Yes, quite matter-of-fact. Where are you going, Mr. Morton?"

"Wherever you wish--even to Columbus."

"What! run away from your work and duty? Where is your conscience?"

"Where my heart is."

"Oh, both are in Columbus. I should think it inconvenient to have them so far off."

I tried to look in her eyes, but she turned them away.

"I can prove that my conscience was in Columbus; I consulted you on every question I discussed in the paper."

"Nonsense! you never wrote me a line."

"I was enjoined not to in a way that made my blood run cold. But I thought Mrs. Vining's opinions might be influenced by a member of her family, and I never wrote a line unmindful of that influence."

Again her laugh rang out. "I should call the place where you wrote the Circumlocution Office. Well, to keep up your way of doing things, that member of the family read most critically all you wrote."

"How could you tell my work from that of others?"

"Oh, I could tell every line from your hand as if spoken to me."

"Well, fair critic?"

"Never compliment a critic. It makes them more severe."

"I could do so much better if you were in New York."

"What! Do you expect me to go into the newspaper business?"

"You are in it now--you are guiding me. You are the inspiration of my best work, and you know it."

We had now reached a point where the lane wound through a hemlock grove. My hope was glad and strong, but I resolved at once to remove all shadow of fear, and I shrank from further probation. Therefore I stopped decisively, and said in a voice that faltered not a little:

"Emily, our light words are but ripples that cover depths which in my case reach down through life and beyond it. You are my fate. I knew it the day I first met you. I know it now with absolute conviction."

She turned a little away from me and trembled.

"Do you remember this?" I asked, and I took from my pocketbook the withered York and Lancaster rosebud.

She gave it a dark glance, and her crimson face grew pale.

"Too well," she replied, in a low tone.

I threw it down and ground it under my heel; then, removing my hat, I said:

"I am at your mercy. You are the stronger, and your foot is on my neck."

She turned on me instantly, and her face was aflame with her eager imperious demand to know the truth. Taking both my hands in a tense, strong grasp, she looked into my eyes as if she would read my very soul. "Richard," she said, in a voice that was half entreaty, half command, "in God's name, tell me the truth--the whole truth. Do you respect me at heart? Do you trust me? Can you trust me as Mr. Yocomb trusts his wife?"

"I will make no comparisons," I replied, gently. "Like the widow in the Bible, I give you all I have."

Her tense grasp relaxed, her searching eyes melted into love itself, and I snatched her to my heart.

"What were the millions I lost compared with this dowry!" she murmured. "I knew it--I've known it all day, ever since you crushed my hand. Oh, Richard, your rude touch healed a sore heart."

"Emily," I said, with a low laugh, "that June day was the day of fate after all."

"It was, indeed. I wish I could make you know how gladly I accept mine. Oh, Richard, I nearly killed myself trying not to love you. It was fate, or something better."

"Then suppose we change the figure, and say our match was made in heaven."

I will not attempt to describe that evening at the farmhouse. We were made to feel that it was our own dear home--a safe, quiet haven ever open to us when we wished to escape from the turmoil of the world. I thank God for our friends there, and their unchanging truth.

I accompanied Emily to Columbus, but I went after her again in the spring and for a time she made her home with Mrs. Yocomb.

Adah was married at Mrs. Winfield's large city mansion, for Mr. Hearn had a host of relatives and friends whom he wished present. The farmhouse would not have held a tithe of them, and the banker was so proud of his fair country flower that he seemed to want the whole world to see her.

We were married on the anniversary of the day of our fate, and in the old garden where I first saw my Eve, my truth. She has never tempted me to aught save good deeds and brave work.

THE END


A Day Of Fate - 66/66

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