All up the road to the village, some half-mile in length, she pondered Amy. She had never seen her, to her knowledge; but she had a tolerably accurate mental picture of her from Mrs. Baxter’s account.... Ah! how could Laurie? How could he...? Laurie, of all people! It was just one more example....
After dropping her letter into the box at the corner, she hesitated for an instant. Then, with an odd look on her face, she turned sharply aside to where the church tower pricked above the leafless trees.
It was a typical little country church, with that odor of the respectable and rather stuffy sanctity peculiar to the class; she had wrinkled her nose at it more than once in Laurie’s company. But she passed by the door of it now, and, stepping among the wet grasses, came down the little slope among the headstones to where a very white marble angel clasped an equally white marble cross. She passed to the front of this, and looked, frowning a little over the intolerable taste of the thing.
The cross, she perceived, was wreathed with a spray of white marble ivory; the angel was a German female, with a very rounded leg emerging behind a kind of button; and there, at the foot of the cross, was the inscription, in startling black—
THE DEAR AND ONLY DAUGHTER
AMOS AND MARIA NUGENT
DIED SEPTEMBER 21st 1901
RESPECTED BY ALL
"I SHALL SEE HER BUT NOT NOW."
Below, as vivid as the inscription, there stood out the maker’s name, and of the town where he lived.
* * * * *
So she lay there, reflected Maggie. It had ended in that. A mound of earth, cracking a little, and sunken. She lay there, her nervous fingers motionless and her stammer silent. And could there be a more eloquent monument of what she was...? Then she remembered herself, and signed herself with the cross, while her lips moved an instant for the repose of the poor girlish soul. Then she stepped up again on to the path to go home.
It was as she came near the church gate that she understood herself, that she perceived why she had come, and was conscious for the first time of her real attitude of soul as she had stood there, reading the inscription, and, in a flash, there followed the knowledge of the inevitable meaning of it all.
In a word it was this.
She had come there, she told herself, to triumph, to gloat. Oh! she spared herself nothing, as she stood there, crimson with shame, to gloat over the grave of a rival. Amy was nothing less than that, and she herself—she, Margaret Marie Deronnais—had given way to jealousy of this grocer’s daughter, because ... because ... she had begun to care, really to care, for the man to whom she had written that letter this morning, and this man had scarcely said one word to her, or given her one glance, beyond such as a brother might give to a sister. There was the naked truth.