“Poor little Meb, she deserved a better fate,” was all he said, as he continued his kneeling posture, until the family and servants, whom Nellie had summoned, came crowding round, the cries of the latter grating on the ear, and seeming sadly out of place for her whose short life had been so dreary, and who had welcomed death as a release from all her pain.
It was Mrs. Livingstone’s wish that Mabel should be arrayed in her bridal robes, but with a shudder at the idle mockery, John Jr. answered, “No,” and in a plain white muslin, her shining hair arrayed as she was wont to wear it, they placed her in her coffin, and on a sunny slope where the golden sunlight and the pale moonbeams latest fell, and where in spring the bright green grass and the sweet wild flowers are earliest seen, laid her down to steep.
That night, when all around was still, John Jr. lay musing sadly of the past. His affection for Mabel had been slight and variable, but now that she was gone, he missed her. The large easy-chair, with its cushions and pillows, was empty, and as he thought of the pale, dark face and aching head he had so often seen reclining there, and which he would never see again, he groaned in bitterness of spirit, for well he knew that he had helped to break the heart now lying cold and still beneath the coffin-lid. There was no shadow on the wall, for the lamp had gone out with the young life for whom it had been kept burning, but many a shadow lay dark and heavy across his heart.
With the sun-setting a driving rain had come on, and as the November wind went howling past the window, and the large drops beat against the casement, he thought of the lonesome little grave on which that rain was falling; and shuddering, he hid his face in the pillows, asking to be forgiven, for he knew that all too soon that grave was made, and he had helped to make it. At last, long after the clock had told the hour of midnight, he arose, and lighting the lamp which many a weary night had burned for her, he placed it where the shadow would fall upon the wall as it had done of old. It was no longer a phantom to annoy him, and soothed by its presence, he fell asleep, dreaming that Mabel had come back to bring him her forgiveness, but when he essayed to touch her, she vanished from his sight, and there was nothing left save that shadow on the wall.
MRS. GRAHAM’S RETURN.
Mr. and Mrs. Graham had returned to Woodlawn, the former remaining but a day and night, and then, without once seeing ’Lena, departing for Europe, where business, either fancied or real, called him. Often, when lying weary and sick in Havana, had he resolved on revealing to his wife the secret which he felt was wearing his life away, but the cowardice of his nature seemed increased by physical weakness, and from time to time was the disclosure postponed, while the chain of evidence was fearfully lengthening around poor ’Lena, to whom Mrs. Graham had transferred the entire weight of her displeasure.