Her touch of sympathy broke the stony paralysis; her hot tears melted those which seemed to have congealed in the breaking heart, and the mother took Madge in her arms and cried till her strength was gone.
When Mr. Wendall returned with some of the neighbors, Madge met him at the door and held up a warning finger. The overwrought woman had been soothed into the blessed oblivion of restoring sleep, the first she had for many hours. A motherly-looking woman whispered her intention of remaining with Mrs. Wendall all night. Mr. Wendall took Madge’s hand in both his own, and looked at her with eyes dim with tears. Twice he essayed to speak, then turned away, faltering, “When I meet you where Tilly is, perhaps I can tell you.”
She went down the little path bordered by flowers which the dead girl had loved and tended, and gathered a few of them. Then Graydon drove her away, his only greeting being a warm pressure of her hand.
At last Madge breathed softly, “Think where I have gone. Where is heaven? What is it?”
His eyes were moist as he turned toward her. “I don’t know, Madge,” he said. “I know one thing, however, I shall never, as you asked, say a word against your faith. I’ve seen its fruits to-day.”
A NEW EXPERIMENT
Stella Wildmere would not leave the seclusion of her room. As the hours passed the more overwhelming grew her disappointment and humiliation, and her chief impulse now was to get away from a place that had grown hateful to her. She had bitterly reproached her father as the cause of her desolation, but thus far he had made no reply whatever. She had passed almost a sleepless night, and since had shut herself up in her room, looking at the past with a fixed stare and rigid face, over which at times would pass a crimson hue of shame.
Mrs. Wildmere went down to dinner with her husband, and then learned that Mr. Arnault had breakfasted with him. This fact she told Stella on her return, and the girl sent for her father immediately.
“Why did you not tell me that Mr. Arnault was here this morning?” she asked, harshly.
He looked at her steadily, but made no reply.
“Why don’t you answer me?” she resumed, springing up in her impatience and taking a step toward him.
He still maintained the same steadfast, earnest look, which began to grow embarrassing, for it emphasized the consciousness which she could not stifle, that she alone was to blame.
She turned irritably away, and sat down on the opposite side of the room.
“It’s just part and parcel of your past folly,” she began. “If I had known he was here, and could have seen him or written to him—”
She still encountered the same searching eyes that appeared to be looking into her very soul.
“Oh, well, if you have nothing to say—”