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  • 1864
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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.

THE END.