Father Rodwell saw that spiritual expression in the pale, wasted face, and he told himself that a lost soul could not look out of eyes like those. If death were near, as he feared, the true repentance for which he had prayed many an earnest prayer was not far off.
Bride and bridegroom were to leave Rome by the mid-day train. Colonel Disney was going to see the last of them at the station, but Isola and her sister-in-law were to say good-bye in the vestry, and to part at the church door. And now Father Rodwell’s brief, but fervent, 佛山桑拿按摩全套 address had been spoken, the Wedding March pealed from the organ, and the small wedding-party went into the vestry to sign the registers.
Isola was called upon for her signature as one of the witnesses. She signed in a bold, clear hand, without one tremulous line, her husband looking over her shoulder as she wrote.
“That doesn’t look like an invalid’s autograph, does it, Hulbert?” he asked, snatching at every token of hope, unwilling to believe what his doctors and his own convictions told him—expecting a miracle.
They had warned him that he could not keep her long. They had advised him to humour her fancies, to let her be present at the wedding, even at the hazard of her suffering afterwards for that exertion and excitement. She would suffer more perhaps—physically as well as mentally—if she were thwarted in 佛山桑拿去哪里好 her natural wish to be by Allegra’s side on that day.
All was finished. Neither Church nor law could do anything more towards making the lovers man and wife. The law might undo the bond for them in the time to come, but the part of the Church was done for ever. In the eye of the Church their union was indissoluble.
Isola clung with her arms round the bride’s neck.
“Think of me sometimes, dearest, in the years to come. Think that I loved you fondly. Be sure that I was grateful for all your goodness to me,” she said tearfully.
“My own love, I shall think of you every day till we meet again.”
“And if we never meet again on earth—will you remember me kindly?”
“Isa, how can you?” cried Allegra, silencing the pale lips with kisses.
“You may be glad to think how much you did towards making
my life happy—happier than it ought to 佛山桑拿按摩蒲友论坛 have been.” Isola went on in a low voice. “Dearest, I am more glad of your marriage than words can say; and, Allegra, love him with all your heart, and never let your lives be parted—remember, dearest, never, never let anything upon this earth part you from him.”
Her voice was choked with sobs, and then came a worse fit of coughing than she had suffered for some time; a fit which left her exhausted and speechless. Her husband looked at her in an agony of apprehension.
“Let me take you home, Isa,” he said. “You’ll be better at home, lying down by your sunny window. This vestry is horribly cold. Hulbert, if you and Allegra will excuse me, I won’t see you off at the station. Father Rodwell will[Pg 291] go with you, perhaps. He’ll be of more use than I could be; and we shall see each other very soon again in Switzerland, please 佛山桑拿全套 God.”
“Yes, yes, There is no need for you to go,” Hulbert answered, grasping his hand, distressed for another man’s pain in the midst of his own happiness. There death, and the end of all joy—here the new life with its promises of gladness just opening before him. Such contrasts must needs seem hard.
They all went to the church door, where the carriages were waiting. Only a few idlers loitered about the pavement, faintly interested in so shabby a wedding—a poor array of one landau and one brougham, the brougham to take the travellers to the station, where their luggage had been sent by another conveyance.
The two women kissed each other once more before Allegra stepped into the carriage, Isola too weak for speech, and able only to clasp the hands that had waited on her in so many a weary hour; the clever hands, the gentle 广东佛山桑拿论坛 hands, to which womanly instinct and womanly love had given all the skilfulness of a trained nurse.
Disney lifted his wife into the landau, Father Rodwell helping him, full of sympathy.
“You’ll dine with us to-night, I hope,” said the colonel. “We shall be very low if we are left to ourselves.”
“I’ve an engagement for this evening—but—yes, I’ll get myself excused, and spend the evening with you, if you really want me.”
“Indeed we do,” answered Disney, heartily; but Isola was dumb. Her eyes were fixed upon the distant point at which the brougham had disappeared round a corner, on its way to the station.
“GONE DEEPER THAN ALL PLUMMETS SOUND.”
Church bells are always ringing in that city of many churches, and there were bells ringing solemnly and slowly as Isola walked feebly up the two flights of stairs that led to Colonel Disney’s lodging. She walked even more slowly than usual, and her husband could hear her labouring breath as she went up, step by step, leaning on the banister rail. He had offered her his arm, but she had repulsed him, almost rudely, at the bottom of the stairs.
They went into the drawing-room, which was bright with flowers in a sunlit dusk, the sun streaming in through the narrow opening between the Venetian shutters, which had been drawn together, but not fastened. All was very still in the quiet house; so still that they could hear the splash of the fountain in the Piazza, and the faint rustling of the limes in the garden.
Husband and wife stood facing each other, he anxious and alarmed, she deadly pale, and with gleaming eyes.
“Well, she is gone—she is Mrs. Hulbert now, and she belongs to him and not to us any more,” said Disney, talking at random, watching his wife’s face in nervous apprehension of—he knew not what. “We shall miss her sadly. Aren’t you sorry she is married, Isola, after all?”
“Sorry! No! I am glad—glad with all my heart. I have waited for that.”
And then, before he was aware, she had flung herself at his feet, and was kneeling there, with her head hanging down, her hands clasped—a very Magdalen.
“I waited—till they were married—so that you should not refuse to let her marry—his brother—waited to tell you what I ought to have told you at once, when you came home from India. My only hope of pardon or of peace was to have told you then—to have left you for ever then—never[Pg 293] to have dared to clasp your hand—never to have dared to call myself your wife—never to have become the mother of your child. All my life since that day has been one long lie; and nothing that I have suffered—not all my agonies of remorse—can atone for that lie, unless God and you will accept my confession and my atonement to-day.”
“Isola, for God’s sake, stop!”
Again the racking cough seized her, and she sank speechless at his feet.
He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the sofa, and flung open the shutters and let the light and air stream in upon her, as she lay prostrate and exhausted, wiping her white lips with a blood-stained handkerchief. He looked at her in a kind of horrified compassion. He thought that she was raving, that the excitement of the morning had culminated in fever and delirium. He was going to ring for help, meaning to send instantly for her doctor, when she stopped him, laying her thin cold hand upon his arm, and holding him by her side.
“Sit down by me, Martin—don’t stop me—I must tell you—all—the truth.”
Her words came slowly, in gasps; then with a great effort she gathered up the poor remnant of her strength, and went on in a low, tremulous voice, yet with the tone of one whose resolve was strong as death itself.
“There was a time when I thought I could never tell you—that I must go down to my grave with my sin unrevealed, and that you would never know how worthless a woman you had loved and cherished. Then, on my knees before my God, I vowed that I would tell you all, at the last, when I was dying—and death is not far off now, Martin. I have delayed too long—too long! There is scarcely any atonement in my confession now. I have cheated you out of your love.”
He looked at her horror-stricken, their two faces close to each other as he bent over her pillow.
No; this was no delirium—there was a terrible reality in her words. The eyes looking up at him were not bright with[Pg 294] fever, but with the steady resolute soul within—the soul panting for freedom from sin.
“You have cheated me 佛山桑拿论坛网 out of my love,” he repeated slowly. “Does that mean that you lied to me that night in London—that you perjured yourself, calling God to witness that you were pure and true?”
“I was true to you then, Martin. My sin had been repented of. I was your loving, loyal wife, without one thought but of you.”