So good-bye, my dearest me—just for a little moment! My dearest one, Good-bye!
MARY O’NEILL’S LAST NOTE WRITTEN ON THE FLY-LEAVES OF HER MISSAL
It is all over. I have given him my book. My secret is out. He knows now. I almost think he has known all along.
I had dressed even more carefully than usual, with nurse’s Irish lace about my neck as a collar, and my black hair brushed smooth in my mother’s manner, and when I went downstairs by help of my usual kind crutch (it is wonderful how strong I have been to-day) everybody said how much better I was looking.
Martin was there, and he took me into the garden. It was a little late in the afternoon, but such a sweet and holy time, with its clear air and quiet sunshine—one of those evenings when Nature is like a nun “breathless with adoration.”
Although I had a feeling that it was to be our last time together we talked on the usual subjects—the High Bailiff, the special license, “the boys” of the Scotia who were coming over for my wedding, and how some of them would have to start out early in the morning.
But it didn’t matter what we talked about. It was only what we felt, and I felt entirely happy—sitting there in my cushions, with my white hand in his brown one, looking into his clear eyes and ruddy face or up to the broad blue of the sky.
The red sun had begun to sink down behind the dark bar of St. Mary’s Rock, and the daisies in the garden to close their eyes and drop their heads in sleep, when Martin became afraid of the dew.
Then we went back to the house—I walking firmly, by Martin’s side, though I held his arm so close.
The old doctor was in his consulting room, nurse was in my room, and we could hear Christian Ann upstairs putting baby into her darling white cot—she sleeps with grandma now.
The time came for me to go up also, and then I gave him my book, which I had been carrying under my arm, telling him to read the last pages first.
Although we had never spoken of my book before he seemed to know all about it; and it flashed upon me at that moment that, while I thought I had been playing a game of make-believe with him, he had been playing a game of make-believe with me, and had known everything from the first. There was a certain relief in that, yet there was a certain sting in it, too. What strange creatures we are, we women!
For some moments we stood together at the bottom of the stairs, holding each other’s hands. I was dreadfully afraid he was going to break down as he did at Castle Raa, and once again I had that thrilling, swelling feeling (the most heavenly emotion that comes into a woman’s life, perhaps) that I, the weak one, had to strengthen the strong.
It was only for a moment, though, and then he put his great gentle arms about me, and kissed me on the lips, and said, silently but oh, so eloquently, “Good-bye darling, and God bless you!”