felt it, even before I knew who he was. I knew there was somebody, and that it
They crossed Oxford Street in silence, feeling their way. The busses had stopped
running and the cab-drivers were leading their horses. When they reached the
other side, MacConnell said suddenly, "I hope you are happy."
"Terribly, dangerously happy, Mac,"-- Hilda spoke quietly, pressing the rough
sleeve of his greatcoat with her gloved hand.
"You've always thought me too old for you, Hilda,--oh, of course you've never
said just that,--and here this fellow is not more than eight years younger than I.
I've always felt that if I could get out of my old case I might win you yet. It's a fine,
brave youth I carry inside me, only he'll never be seen."
"Nonsense, Mac. That has nothing to do with it. It's because you seem too close
to me, too much my own kind. It would be like marrying Cousin Mike, almost. I
really tried to care as you wanted me to, away back in the beginning."
"Well, here we are, turning out of the Square. You are not angry with me, Hilda?
Thank you for this walk, my dear. Go in and get dry things on at once. You'll be
having a great night to-morrow."
She put out her hand. "Thank you, Mac, for everything. Good-night."
MacConnell trudged off through the fog, and she went slowly upstairs. Her
slippers and dressing gown were waiting for her before the fire. "I shall certainly
see him in New York. He will see by the papers that we are coming. Perhaps he
knows it already," Hilda kept thinking as she undressed. "Perhaps he will be at
the dock. No, scarcely that; but I may meet him in the street even before he
comes to see me." Marie placed the tea-table by the fire and brought Hilda her
letters. She looked them over, and started as she came to one in a handwriting
that she did not often see; Alexander had written to her only twice before, and he
did not allow her to write to him at all. "Thank you, Marie. You may go now."
Hilda sat down by the table with the letter in her hand, still unopened. She looked
at it intently, turned it over, and felt its thickness with her fingers. She believed
that she sometimes had a kind of second-sight about letters, and could tell before
she read them whether they brought good or evil tidings. She put this one down
on the table in front of her while she poured her tea. At last, with a little shiver of
expectancy, she tore open the envelope and read:--
Boston, February-- MY DEAR HILDA:--
It is after twelve o'clock. Every one else is in bed and I am sitting alone in my
study. I have been happier in this room than anywhere else in the world.