He appeared not to see her when she came down to breakfast. After the meal was over he sat on the piazza engrossed in the morning paper. An excursion party for the mountains was forming. He merely bowed politely as she passed him to join it, but he ground his teeth as he saw Merriweather and Hackley escorting her away. When they were out of sight he tossed the paper aside and went down to the river, purposing to row the fever out of his blood. He was already satisfied how difficult his tactics would be should he continue to see her, and he determined to be absent all day, to so tire himself out that exhaustion would bring early sleep on his return.
After dinner she and her mother slipped over to the adjoining cottage, which had been made so pretty for her reception. While Mrs. Kemble busied herself here and there, Helen kindled a fire on the hearth of the sitting-room and sat down in the low chair which she knew was designed for her. The belief that she would occupy it daily and be at home, happy herself and, better far, making another, to whom she owed so much, happy beyond even his fondest hope, brought smiles to her face as she watched the flickering blaze.
Jim's begrimed and impassive face disguised an aching heart as he boiled his coffee alone that night. Then, although wearied almost to exhaustion, he gave himself no rest until he had found what promised to be the safest means of forwarding the letter in his pocket.
"Yes, but don't think of them."
It was the day before Thanksgiving. The brief cloudy November afternoon was fast merging into early twilight. The trees, now gaunt and bare, creaked and groaned in the passing gale, clashing their icy branches together with sounds sadly unlike the slumberous rustle of their foliage in June. And that same foliage was now flying before the wind, swept hither and thither, like exiles driven by disaster from the moorings of home, at times finding a brief abiding-place, and then carried forward to parts unknown by circumstances beyond control. The street leading into the village was almost deserted; and the few who came and went hastened on with fluttering garments, head bent down, and a shivering sense of discomfort. The fields were bare and brown; and the landscape on the uplands rising in the distance would have been utterly sombre had not green fields of grain, like childlike faith in wintry age, relieved the gloomy outlook and prophesied of the sunshine and golden harvest of a new year and life.
"How will you get back now?"
"You couldn't," she replied with bowed head.