Part 8 out of 8
he feared it would. He liked to look at her, to hear her musical
voice, to watch her graceful movements as she flitted about the
house, and as the days and weeks went on he grew young again in
her society, until he was much like the Richard to whom she once
said, "I will be your wife," save that his raven hair was tinged
with grey, making him, as some thought, finer-looking than ever.
To Arthur and Edith he was like a dearly beloved brother; while to
Dick and Nina he was all the world. He was very proud of little
Dick, but Nina was his pet, as she was every body's who knew her,
and she ere long learned to love him better, if possible, than she
did her father, calling him frequently "her oldest papa," and
wondering in her childish way why he kissed so tenderly as often
as she lisped out that dear name.
And now but little more remains to tell. It is four months since
Richard came home, and the hazy Indian summer sun shines o'er the
New England hills, bathing Collingwood in its soft, warm rays, and
falling upon the tall bare trees and the withered grass below,
carpeted with leaves of many a bright hue. On the velvety sward,
which last summer showed so rich a green, the children are racing
up and down, Dick's cheeks glowing like the scarlet foliage he
treads beneath his feet, and Nina's fair hair tossing in the
autumn wind, which seems to blow less rudely on the little girl
than on her stronger older brother. On one of the iron seats
scattered over the lawn sits Richard; watching them as they play,
not moodily, not mournfully, for grief and sorrow have no lodgment
in the once blind Richard's heart, and he verily believes that he
is as happy without Edith as he could possibly have been with her.
She is almost everything to him now that a wife could be
consulting his wishes before her own, or Arthur's, and making all
else subservient to them. No royal sovereign ever lorded it over
his subjects more completely than could Richard over Collingwood,
if he chose, for master and servants alike yield him unbounded
deference; but Richard is far too gentle to abuse the power vested
in his hands and so he rules by perfect love, which knows no
shadow of distrust. The gift of sight has compensated for all his
olden pain, and often to himself he says, "I would hardly be blind
again for the sake of Edith's first affections."
He calls her Edith now, just as he used to do, and Edith knows
that only a scar is left, as a memento of the fearful sacrifice.
The morning has broken at last, the darkness passed away, and
while basking in the full, rich daylight, both Richard and Arthur,
and Edith wonder if they are the same to whom the world was once
so dreary. Only over Grace Atherton is any darkness brooding. She
cannot forget the peerless boon she throw away when she
deliberately said to Richard Harrington, "I will not walk in your
shadow," and the love she once bore him is alive in all its force,
but so effectually concealed that few suspect its existence.
Richard goes often to Brier Hill, staying sometimes hours, and
Victor, with his opinion of the "gay widow" somewhat changed, has
more than once hinted at Collingwood how he thinks these visits
will end. But the servants scoffed, at the idea, while Arthur and
Edith look curiously on, half hoping Victor is right, and so that
matter remains in uncertainty.
Across the fields, Grassy Spring still lies a mass of shapeless
ruins. Frequently has Arthur talked of rebuilding it as a home for
his children, but as Richard has always opposed it and Edith is
indifferent, he will probably remain at Collingwood.
Away to the south, the autumn winds blow softly around Sunnybank,
where Edith's negroes are living as happy under the new
administration as the old, speaking often of their beautiful
mistress who, when the winter snows fall on the Bay State hills,
will wend her way to the southward, and Christmas fires will again
be kindled upon the hearthstones left desolate so many years. Nor
is she, whose little grave lies just across the field forgotten.
Enshrined is her memory within the hearts of all who knew and
loved her, while away to the northward where the cypress and
willow mark the resting-place of Shannondale's dead, a costly
marble rears its graceful column, pointing far upward to the sky,
the home of her whose name that marble bears. "NINA." That is all.
No laudations deeply cut tell what she was or where she died.
"NINA." Nothing more. And yet this single word has a power to
touch the deepest, tenderest feeling of two hearts at least,
Arthur's and Edith's--speaking to them of the little golden-haired
girl who crossed so innocently their pathway, striving hard to
efface all prints of her footsteps, caring to the last for her
"Arthur boy" and the "Miggie" she loved so well, and calling to
them as it were, even after the rolling river was safely forded,
and she was landed beside the still waters in the bright, green
fields of Eden.
And now to the sweet little girl and the noble man who, through
the mazy labyrinths of Darkness and of Daylight, have grown so
strongly into our love, whose faces were familiar as our own,
whose names were household words, over whose sorrows our tears
have fallen like rain, and in whose joys we have rejoiced, we bid
a final adieu. Farewell to thee, beautiful NINA. "Earth hath none
fairer lost. Heaven none purer gained." Farewell to thee forever,
and blessings, rich and rare, distil like evening dew upon the
dear head of the brave-hearted, generous hero RICHARD HARRINGTON.