When at last her husband entered the room where she awaited him that night,—
“Oh! Charlie, it is very late,” said Alice, a little reproachfully.
“Not very, is it, darling?” said he, glancing at his watch. “By Jove! it is. My poor little woman, I had not an idea.”
“I suppose I am very foolish, but I love you so much, Charlie, that I grow quite miserable when I am out of your sight.”
“I’m sorry, my darling, but I fancied “be had a great deal more to tell me than he really had. I don’t think I’m likely, at least for a little time, to be pressed by my duns—and—I wanted to make out exactly what money he’s likely to get me for a horse he is going to sell, and I’m afraid, from what he says, it won’t be very much; really, twenty pounds, one way or other, seems ridiculous, but it does make a very serious difference just now, and if I hadn’t such a clever, careful little woman as you, I don’t really know what I should do.”
He added this little complimentary qualification with an instinctive commiseration for the pain he thought he saw in her pretty face.
“These troubles won’t last very long, Charlie, perhaps. Something, I’m sure, will turn up, and you’ll see how careful I will be. I’ll learn everything old Mildred can teach me, ever so much, and you’ll see what a manager I will be.”
“You are my own little treasure. You always talk as if you were in the way, somehow, I don’t know how. A wife like you is a greater help to me than one with two thousand a year and the reckless habits of a fine lady. Your wise little head and loving heart, my darling, are worth whole fortunes to me without them, and I do believe you are the first really good wife that ever a Fairfield married. You are the only creature I have on earth, that I’m quite sure of—the only creature.”
And so saying he kissed her, folding her in his arms, and, with a big tear filling each eye, she looked up, smiling unutterable affection, in his face. As they stood together in that embrace his eyes also filled with tears and his smile met hers, and they seemed wrapt for a moment in one angelic glory, and she felt the strain of his arm draw her closer.
Such moments come suddenly and are gone; but, remaining in memory, they are the lights that illuminate a dark and troublous retrospect for ever.
“We’ll make ourselves happy here, little Ally, and I— in spite of everything, my darling!—and I don’t know how it happened that I staid away so long; but I walked with Harry further than I intended, and when he left me I loitered on Cressley Common for a time with my head full of business; and so, without knowing it, I was filling my poor little wife’s head with alarms and condemning her to solitude. Well, all I can do is to promise to be a good boy and to keep better hours for the future.”
“That’s so like you, you are so good to your poor, foolish little wife,” said Alice.
“I wish I could be, darling,” said he; “I wish I could prove one-half my love; but the time will come yet. I shan’t be so poor or powerless always.”
“But you’re not to speak so—you’re not to think that. It is while we are poor that I can be of any use,” she said, eagerly; “very little, very miserable my poor attempts, but nothing makes me so happy as trying to deserve ever so little of all the kind things my Ry says of me; and I’m sure, Charlie, although there may be cares and troubles, we will make our time pass here very happily, and perhaps we shall always look back on our days at Carwell as the happiest of our lives.”
“Yes, darling, I am determined we shall be very happy,” said he.
“And Ry will tell me everything that troubles him?”
Her full eyes were gazing sadly up in his face. He averted his eyes, and said,—
“Of course I will, darling.”
“Oh! Ry, if you knew how happy that makes me!” she exclaimed. But there was that in the exclamation which seemed to say, “if only I could be sure that you meant it.”
“Of course I will—that is, everything that could possibly interest you, for there are very small worries as well as great ones; and you know I really can’t undertake to remember everything.”
“Of course, darling,” she answered; “I only meant that if anything were really—any great anxiety—upon your mind, you would not be afraid to tell me. I’m not such a coward as I seem. You must not think me so foolish; and really, Ry, it pains me more to think that there is any anxiety weighing upon you, and concealed from me, than any disclosure could; and so I know—won’t you?”
“Haven’t I told you, darling, I really will,” he said, a little pettishly. “What an odd way you women have of making a fellow say the same thing over and over again.
I wonder it does not tire you, I know it does tire awfully. Now, there, see, I really do believe you are going to cry.”
“Oh, no, indeed!” she said, brightening up, and smiling with a sad, little effort.
“And now, kiss me, my poor, good little woman,—you’re not vexed with me?—no, I’m sure you’re not,” said he.
She smiled a very affectionate assurance.
“And really, you poor little thing, it is awfully late, and you must be tired, and I’ve been—no, not lecturing, I’ll never lecture, I hate it—but boring or teasing; I’m an odious dog, and I hate myself.”
So this little dialogue ended happily, and for a time Charles Fairfield forgot his anxieties, and a hundred pleasanter cares filled his young wife’s head.
In such monastic solitudes as Carwell Grange the days pass slowly, but the retrospect of a month or a year is marvellously short. Twelve hours without an event is very slow to get over. But that very monotony, which is the soul of tediousness, robs the background of all the irregularities and objects which arrest the eye and measure distance in review, and thus it cheats the eye.
An active woman may be well content with an existence of monotony which would all but stifle even an indolent man. So long as there is a household—ever so frugal—to be managed, and the more frugal—the more difficult and harassing—the female energies are tasked, and healthily because usefully exercised. But in this indoor administration the man is incompetent and in the way. His ordained activities are out of doors; and if these are denied him, he mopes away his days and feels that he cumbers the ground.
With little resource but his fishing-rod, and sometimes, when a fit of unwonted energy inspired him, his walking-stick, and a lonely march over the breezy expanse of Cressley Common, days, weeks, and months, loitered their drowsy way into the past.
There were reasons why he did not care to court observation. Under other circumstances he would have ridden into the neighbouring towns and heard the news, and lunched with a friend here or there. But he did not want anyone to know that he was at the Grange; and if it should come out that he had been seen there, he would have had it thought that it was but a desultory visit.
A man less indolent, and perhaps not much more unscrupulous, would have depended upon a few offhand lies to account for his appearance, and would not have denied himself an occasional excursion into human society in those rustic haunts within his reach. But Charles Fairfield had not decision to try it, nor resource for a system of fibbing, and the easiest and dullest course he took.
In Paradise the man had his business—“to dress and to keep” the garden—and, no doubt, the woman hers, suitable to her sex. It is a mistake to fancy that it is either a sign of love or conducive to its longevity that the happy pair should always pass the entire four-and-twenty hours in each other’s company or get over them in anywise without variety or usefulness.
Charles Fairfield loved his pretty wife. She made his inactive solitude more endurable than any man could have imagined. Still it was a dull existence, and being also darkened with an ever-present anxiety, was a morbid one.
Small matters harassed him now. He brooded over trifles, and the one care, which was really serious, grew and grew in his perpetual contemplation until it became tremendous, and darkened his entire sky.
I can’t say that Charles grew morose. It was not his temper, but his spirits that failed—careworn and gloomy—his habitual melancholy depressed and even alarmed his poor little wife, who yet concealed her anxieties, and exerted her music and her invention—sang songs—told him old stories of the Wyvern folk, touched with such tragedy and comedy as may be found in such miniature centres of rural life, and played backgammon with him, and sometimes “cart”, and, in fact, nursed his sick spirits, as such angelic natures will.
Now and then came Harry Fairfield, but his visits were short and seldom, and what was worse, Charles always seemed more harassed or gloomy after one of his calls. There was something going on, and by no means prosperously, she was sure, from all knowledge of which, however it might ultimately concern her, and did immediately concern her husband, she was jealously excluded.
Sometimes she felt angry—oftener pained—always troubled with untold fears and surmises. Poor little Alice! It was in the midst of these secret misgivings that a new care and hope visited her—a trembling, delightful hope, that hovers between life and death—sometimes in sad and mortal fear—sometimes in delightful anticipation of a new and already beloved life, coming so helplessly into this great world—unknown, to be her little comrade, all dependent on that beautiful love with which her young heart was already overflowing.
So almost trembling—hesitating—she told her little story with smiles and tears, in a pleading, beseeching, almost apologetic way, that melted the better nature of Charles, who told her how welcome to him, and how beloved for her dear sake the coming treasure should be, and held her beating heart to his in a long, loving embrace, and more than all, the old love revived, and he felt how lonely he would be if his adoring little wife were gone, and how gladly he would have given his life for hers.
And now came all the little cares and preparations that so mercifully and delightfully beguile the period of suspense.
What is there so helpless as a newborn babe entering this great, rude, cruel world? Yet we see how the beautiful and tender instincts which are radiated from the sublime love of God, provide everything for the unconscious comer. Let us then take heart of grace when, the sad journey ended, we, children of dust, who have entered so, are about to make the dread exit, and remembering what we have seen, and knowing that we go in the keeping of the same “faithful Creator,” be sure that his love and tender forecast have provided with equal care for our entrance into another life.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57