"It's nearly a year now since I was home," said Lucy Gray to her husband; "and so you must let me go for a few weeks."
They had been married some four or five years, and never during that time had been separated for a single night.
"I thought you called this your home," said Gray, looking up with a mock-serious air.
"I mean my old home," replied Lucy, in a half-affected tone of anger. "Or, to make it plain, I want to go, and see father and mother."
"Can't you wait three or four months, until I can go with you?" asked the young husband.
"I want to go now. You said all along that I should go in May."
"I know I did. But then I supposed that I would be able to go with you."
"Well, why can't you? I am sure you might, if you would."
"No, Lucy, I cannot possibly leave home now. But if you are very anxious to see the old folks, I can put you in the stage, and you will go safely enough. Ellen and I can take care of little Lucy, no doubt. How long a time do you wish to spend with them?"
"About three weeks or so?"
"Very well, Lucy, if you are not afraid to go lone, I have not a word to say."
"I'm not afraid, dear," replied the wife in a voice hanged and softened in its expression. "But are you perfectly willing to let me go, Henry?"
"Oh, certainly," was answered, although the tone in which the words were uttered had in it something of reluctance. "It would be selfish in me to say no. Your father and mother will be delighted receive a visit just now."
"And you think that you and Ellen can get along with little Lucy?"
"Oh yes, very well."
"I should like to go so much."
"Go, then, by all means."
"But won't you be very lonesome without me?" suggested Lucy, in whose own bosom a feeling of loneliness was already beginning to be felt at the bare idea of a separation from her husband.
"I can stand it as long as you," was Gray's laughing reply to this. "And then I shall have our dear little Lucy."
Mrs. Gray laughed in return, but did not feel as happy at the idea of "going home" as she thought she would be before her husband's consent was gained. The desire to go, however, remaining strong, it was finally settled that the visit should take place. So all the preparations were made, and in the course of a week Henry Gray saw his wife take her seat in the stage, with a feeling of regret at parting which it required all his efforts to conceal. As for Lucy, when the time came, she regretted ever having thought of going without her husband and child; but she was ashamed to let her real feelings be known. So she kept on a show of indifference, all the while that her heart was fluttering. The "good-bye" finally said, the driver cracked his whip, and off rolled the stage. Gray turned homeward with a dull, lonely feeling, and Lucy drew her vail over her face to conceal the unbidden tears from her fellow-passengers.
That night, poor Mr. Gray slept but little. How could he? His Lucy was absent, and for the first time, from his side. On the. next morning, as he could think of nothing but his wife, he sat down and wrote to her, telling her how lost and lonely he felt, and how much little Lucy missed her, but still to try and enjoy herself, and by all means to write him a letter by return mail.
As for Mrs. Gray, during her journey of two whole days, she cried fully half the time, and when she got "home" at last, that is, at her father's, she looked the picture of distress, rather than the daughter full of joy at meeting her parents.
Right glad were the old people to see their dear child, but grieved at the same time, and a little hurt too, at her weakness and evident regret at having left her husband, to make them a brief visit. The real pleasure that Lucy felt at once more seeing the faces of her parents, whom she tenderly loved, was not strong enough to subdue and keep in concealment, except for a very short period at a time, her yearning desire again to be with her husband, for whom she never before experienced a feeling of such deep and earnest affection. Several times during the first day of her visit, did her mother find, her in tears, which she would quickly dash aside, and then endeavour to smile and seem cheerful.
The day after her arrival brought her a letter--the first she had ever received from her husband. How precious was every word! How often and often did she read it over, until every line was engraven on her memory! Then she sat down, and spent some two or three hours in replying to it. As she sealed this first epistle to her husband, full of tender expressions, she sighed as the wish arose in her mind, involuntarily, to go with it on its journey to the village of----.
Long were the hours, and wearily passed, to Henry Gray. It was the sixth day of trial, before Lucy's answer came. How dear to his heart was every word of her affectionate epistle! Like her, he went over it so often, that every sentiment was fixed in his mind.
"Two weeks longer! How can I bear it?" said he, rising up, and pacing the floor backward and forward, after reading her letter for the tenth time.
On the next day, the seventh of his lonely state, Mr. Gray sat down to write again to Lucy. Several times he wrote the words, as he proceeded in the letter--"Come home soon,"--but often obliterated them. He did not wish to appear over anxious for her return, on her father and mother's account, who were much attached to her. But forgetting this reason for not urging her early return, he had commenced again writing the words, "Come home soon," when a pair of soft hands were suddenly placed over his eyes, by some one who had stolen softly up behind him.
"Guess my name," said a voice, in feigned tones.
But he had no need to guess, for a sudden cry of joy from a little toddling thing, told that "Mamma" had come.
How "Mamma" was hugged and kissed all round, need not here be told. That scene was well enough in its place, but would lose its interest in telling. It may be imagined, however, without suffering any particular detriment, by all who have a fancy for such things.
"And father, too!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Gray, after he had almost smothered his wife with kisses, looking up with an expression of pleasure and surprise, at an old man, who stood looking on with his good-humoured face covered with smiles.
"Yes. I had to bring the good-for-nothing jade home," replied the old man advancing, and grasping his son-in-law's hand, with a hearty grip. "She did nothing but mope and cry all the while; and I don't care if she never comes to see us again, unless she brings you along to keep her in good humour."
"And I never intend going alone again," said Mrs. Gray, holding a little chubby girl to her bosom, while she kissed it over and over again, at the same time that he pressed close up to her husband's side.
The old man understood it all. He was not jealous of Lucy's affection, for he knew that she loved him as tenderly as ever. He was too glad to know that she was happy with a husband to whom she was as the apple of his eye. In about three months Lucy made another visit "home." But husband and child were along this time, and the visit proved a happy one all around. Of course "father and mother" had their jest, and their laugh, and their affectation of jealousy and anger at Lucy for her "childishness," as they termed it, when home in May; but Lucy, though half vexed at herself for what she called her weakness, nevertheless persevered in saying that she never meant to go any where again without Henry. "That was settled."