As I walk home again through the wintry roads, and my eyes fix themselves with a tired languor on the green ivy-flowers—on the little gray-green lichen-cups on the almshouse-wall, I think, “Does no one remember her? Is she already altogether forgotten?”
It is still early in the afternoon when I reach home. The dark is coming indeed, for it comes soon nowadays, but it has not yet come.
I go into the garden, and begin to pace up and down the gravel walks, under the naked lime-trees that have forgotten their July perfume, and are tossing their bare, cold arms in the evening wind.
Only one of my old playfellows is left me. Jacky still stands on the gravel as if the whole place belonged to him; still stands with his head on one side, roguishly eying the sunset.
Thank Heaven, Jacky is still here, sly and nefarious, as when I bent down to give him my tearful good-by kiss on my wedding-morning. I kneel down, half laughing, half crying, on the damp walk, to stroke his round gray head, and hear his dear cross croak. Whether he resents the blackness of my appearance as being a mean imitation of his own, I do not know, but he will not come near me; he hops stiffly away, and stands eying me from the grass, with an unworthy affectation of not knowing who I am. I am still wasting useless blandishments on him, when my attention is distracted by the sound of footsteps on the walk.
I look up. Who is this man that is coming, stepping toward me in the gloaming?
I am not long left in doubt. With a slight and sudden emotion of surprised distaste, I see that it is Musgrave. I rise quickly to my feet.
“It is you, is it?” I say, with a cold ungraciousness, for I have not half forgiven him yet—still I bear a grudge against him—still I feel an angry envy that Barbara died with her hand in his.
“Yes, it is I!”
He is dressed in deep mourning. His cheeks are hollow and pale; he looks dejected, and yet fierce. We walk alongside of each other in silence for a few yards.
“Why do not you ask what has brought me here?” he asks suddenly, with a harsh abruptness. “I know that that is what you are thinking of.”
“Yes,” I reply, gravely, without looking at him, “it is!—what has?”
“I have come to bid you all good-by,” he answers, in a low, quick voice, with his eyes bent on the ground; “you know”—raising them, and beginning to laugh hoarsely—“if—if—things had gone right—you would have been my nearest relation by now.”
“Yes,” say I, “I know.”
“I am going away,” he goes on, raising his voice to a louder tone of reckless unrest, “where?—God knows!—I do not, and do not care either!—going away for good!—I am going to let the abbey.”
“To let it!”
“You are glad!” he cries in a tone of passionate and sombre resentment, while his great eyes, lifted, flash a miserable resentment into mine; “I knew you would be! I have not given you much pleasure very often, have I?”—(still with that same harsh mirth).—“Well, it is something to have done it once!”