CHAPTER 53. ANOTHER RETROSPECT
I must pause yet once again. O, my child-wife, there is a figure in the moving crowd before my memory, quiet and still, saying in its innocent love and childish beauty, Stop to think of me — turn to look upon the Little Blossom, as it flutters to the ground!
I do. All else grows dim, and fades away. I am again with Dora, in our cottage. I do not know how long she has been ill. I am so used to it in feeling, that I cannot count the time. It is not really long, in weeks or months; but, in my usage and experience, it is a weary, weary while.
They have left off telling me to 'wait a few days more'. I have begun to fear, remotely, that the day may never shine, when I shall see my child-wife running in the sunlight with her old friend Jip.
He is, as it were suddenly, grown very old. It may be that he misses in his mistress, something that enlivened him and made him younger; but he mopes, and his sight is weak, and his limbs are feeble, and my aunt is sorry that he objects to her no more, but creeps near her as he lies on Dora's bed — she sitting at the bedside — and mildly licks her hand.
Dora lies smiling on us, and is beautiful, and utters no hasty or complaining word. She says that we are very good to her; that her dear old careful boy is tiring himself out, she knows; that my aunt has no sleep, yet is always wakeful, active, and kind. Sometimes, the little bird-like ladies come to see her; and then we talk about our wedding-day, and all that happy time.
What a strange rest and pause in my life there seems to be — and in all life, within doors and without — when I sit in the quiet, shaded, orderly room, with the blue eyes of my child-wife turned towards me, and her little fingers twining round my hand! Many and many an hour I sit thus; but, of all those times, three times come the freshest on my mind.
It is morning; and Dora, made so trim by my aunt's hands, shows me how her pretty hair will curl upon the pillow yet, an how long and bright it is, and how she likes to have it loosely gathered in that net she wears.
'Not that I am vain of it, now, you mocking boy,' she says, when I smile; 'but because you used to say you thought it so beautiful; and because, when I first began to think about you, I used to peep in the glass, and wonder whether you would like very much to have a lock of it. Oh what a foolish fellow you were, Doady, when I gave you one!'
'That was on the day when you were painting the flowers I had given you, Dora, and when I told you how much in love I was.'
'Ah! but I didn't like to tell you,' says Dora, 'then, how I had cried over them, because I believed you really liked me! When I can run about again as I used to do, Doady, let us go and see those places where we were such a silly couple, shall we? And take some of the old walks? And not forget poor papa?'
'Yes, we will, and have some happy days. So you must make haste to get well, my dear.'
'Oh, I shall soon do that! I am so much better, you don't know!'
It is evening; and I sit in the same chair, by the same bed, with the same face turned towards me. We have been silent, and there is a smile upon her face. I have ceased to carry my light burden up and down stairs now. She lies here all the day.
'My dear Dora!'
'You won't think what I am going to say, unreasonable, after what you told me, such a little while ago, of Mr. Wickfield's not being well? I want to see Agnes. Very much I want to see her.'
'I will write to her, my dear.'
'What a good, kind boy! Doady, take me on your arm. Indeed, my dear, it's not a whim. It's not a foolish fancy. I want, very much indeed, to see her!'
'I am certain of it. I have only to tell her so, and she is sure to come.'
'You are very lonely when you go downstairs, now?' Dora whispers, with her arm about my neck.
'How can I be otherwise, my own love, when I see your empty chair?'
'My empty chair!' She clings to me for a little while, in silence. 'And you really miss me, Doady?' looking up, and brightly smiling. 'Even poor, giddy, stupid me?'
'My heart, who is there upon earth that I could miss so much?'
'Oh, husband! I am so glad, yet so sorry!' creeping closer to me, and folding me in both her arms. She laughs and sobs, and then is quiet, and quite happy.
'Quite!' she says. 'Only give Agnes my dear love, and tell her that I want very, very, much to see her; and I have nothing left to wish for.'
'Except to get well again, Dora.'
'Ah, Doady! Sometimes I think — you know I always was a silly little thing! — that that will never be!'