- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXXIX. WAITING.
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HOW glorious is the earth after a storm! How radiant! how young! The trees and flowers rejoice in their renewed freshness, and the birds! how they revel in the glowing aerial waves, and exultantly sing, Jubilate! Even the mountains look less grim, and try to hide their roughness under a radiant vail. Truly a fitting time for the dawn of liberty. So Elsie felt as she hailed the bright day.
But the beauty of the morning caused only a momentary glad thrill. She had too many anxieties to give herself up to its enjoyment. Elsie was not the only anxious one. Mrs. Dinly felt disturbed. She regretted very much that she had mixed herself up in | | 323 this business. Her saintly conscience reproached her for helping a sister return to Babylon. Suppose it should ever be found out, what would be the consequence? But what nonsense; who was going to find it out? Any means that would secure Lucy's position seemed right to her mother heart, although upon this point an idea had suggested itself--that if the elder was determined to marry, Elsie would be less difficult to manage than a stranger. However, this idea had not had sufficient time to work any change in Sister Dinly's mind, swayed as it was by so many stronger motives. Perhaps the strongest of these, although the least apparent, was her desire to thwart the elder. Since Mr. Dinly's marriage Sister Dinly owed all men a grudge, and she laughed in anticipation of the discomfiture of the would-be bridegroom when he should discover that his love had flown away. What fun it would be to see the blank looks, to hear the exclamations, the surmises! Then it would give her a chance to display her histrionic powers, for she was a born actress. Yet with all this delightful anticipation, Sister Dinly regretted her part in the affair, and once she thought of missing her appointment; but that would never do. She had always kept her word; besides, Elsie might get desperate and run off anyway. No, she would go; but it was rather late when she started, On her way she met the elder, who seemed more smiling than usual.
"Sister Sara, the women are waiting for you. I'm off to the country, but I shall be back in time for your party."
"Thank God, he is out of the way: that will make it easier," thought Mrs. Dinly, watching him as he rode out of sight.| | 324
When Mrs. Dinly reached Silvertung's house, she found Elsie half wild with suspense. The girl's manner was so strained and unnatural, that Mrs. Dinly feared it would betray everything. She must be got out of the way. Her pre-arranged plans were upset by the arrival of some visitors, who would detain them an hour at least. But her wit aided her. She would send Elsie upon an errand.
"Elsie, dear, you are younger than I, and do not mind steps. I wish you would run up to Bishop Jones' and ask them to come round this afternoon; then come up to the Bee-Hive; we shall be there."
Elsie bowed assent; she could not speak. How she longed to kiss her mother good-bye; but she dared not; it would look suspicious. A word even would be enough to foil all plans for liberty. Still Elsie lingered; perhaps she would never see them again: tears filled her eyes.
"Come, come," cried Sister Dinly, who trembled in spite of herself, "come, when I was young, I didn't loiter. What's coming to the young folks?"
"Elsie has been queer all the morning. What is the matter?" remarked Mrs. Silvertung.
Another word from her mother, and Elsie would have broken down. She ran from the house. She was out in the street, on the way. The moment she had so impatiently desired had come; and it had brought sorrow instead of gladness. Mechanically, she reached the Jones' house, and delivered the message. As she turned to leave, Mr. Jones hurried out exclaiming, "It is twenty minutes of ten. Can't stop."
Twenty minutes of ten! The announcement electrified Elsie. She awoke from her dream of sadness. | | 325 In twenty minutes she must be on the Hot Springs road, by the creek, ready to jump into Mr. Delville's buggy. It was a long walk. Elsie walked as she had never walked before. Once she stopped in a retired spot to tie a thick vail over her face and hat. At last she arrived at the appointed place, all breathless with haste and expectation. She looked up and down the road, but no buggy was in sight. Was she too late? Mr. Delville would certainly wait for her a minute. A woman was working in the garden of a cottage near by. Of her, Elsie inquired the hour. The woman good-naturedly went indoors to consult the clock. Elsie clutched the fence to support herself, so much she dreaded to hear that she was late.
"Four minutes of ten; and our clock is right to a minute. I put it by the town-clock this very morning."
"Four minutes of ten!. Thank God, she was in time. She rested a minute to take breath, and then, to avoid exciting curiosity, she walked down a block. Mr. Delville was not yet in sight; so she turned back, crossed the street, and walked leisurely towards the creek. She heard ten o'clock strike; the sound of wheels caught her ears. It was only a cart; then a buggy appeared. It was he, surely. She started into the middle bf the road, so as to be all ready. A stranger sat in the vehicle: he did not notice the vailed woman, and passed on without a sign. Elsie drew back, sick and dizzy. Why was he late? Stanly would have been there long ago. She waited a few seconds; they seemed hours, and she fancied every one of the passers-by watched her as if they guessed her purpose.
It had been agreed that if Elsie had to wait (for some delay might occur), she should walk on towards | | WAITING. the Springs. This was fortunate; for Elsie soon found that five minutes more of inaction would drive her mad. She proceeded slowly, looking up at every sound, her anxiety increasing with every disappointment. On she walked, block after block, stopping ever and again to scan the road. Nothing, nothing as yet. The sun was hot and the path dusty, but Elsie did not know it. She only knew that Mr. Delville was late. She kept on, still hoping, till her progress was stayed by a smoking sulphur stream, running across the road. She was at the Hot Springs, and yet no friendly Mr. Delville in sight.
Elsie groaned: "Why did he not come?" How anxious Stanly would be! It was no use to go any further. She retraced her steps--perhaps she would meet him; but her heart grew heavier, her cheek whiter at every step. A pile of wood lying by the way-side offered a seat. She was so weary, a rest would do her good. She sat down and waited. Oh! the sickening suspense of that waiting. Where could they be? Was it Tuesday and not Monday? No, for every letter of the note was stereotyped upon her brain and it was in Stanly's handwriting. Some delay must have occurred. She recommenced walking, meeting few, and none for whom she cared. As she turned the corner of South Temple street, the whistles blew the hour of noon. The sound caused Elsie to stop. Hope was dead for that day. She must return quickly, or her absence would lead to an inquiry that would frustrate all future plans.
How weary she felt! The passers-by appeared in a melting condition, but Elsie shivered with cold. She repaired to Mrs. Simpson's, thinking that Mrs. Dinly | | 327 and her mother must have returned. When she came in sight of the house, she saw them entering.
"Why, Elsie, where have you been?"
"Only for a walk, mother."
Mrs. Dinly could only exclaim, "Elsie!" The reappearance of the girl amazed her. It overturned all her ideas. Fortunately, Mrs. Silvertung never noticed anything; so Mrs. Dinly's astonishment passed unheeded. As soon as she collected her senses, she called Elsie out of the room, and learned all that had happened. Three words explained all the mystery "No one came."
As to the why and the wherefore, Elsie was too sick at heart to surmise. She could only think of the terrible disappointment. Mrs. Dinly did not know whether to feel glad or sorry, She returned to the parlor in rather a confused state of mind.
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