“Papa,” she said, kissing him softly, “day is dawning.”
But the captain never moved nor spoke. And then Harriet Hunsden knew the everlasting day had dawned for him.
THE DEAD MAN’S SECRET.
It was a very stately ceremonial that which passed through the gates of Hunsden Hall, to lay Harold Godfrey Hunsden’s ashes with those of many scores of Hunsdens who had gone before.
The heir at law—–an impoverished London swell—was there in sables and sweeping hat-band, exulting inwardly that the old chap had gone at last, and “the king had got his own again.”
Sir Everard Kingsland was there, conspicuous and interesting in his new capacity of betrothed to the dead man’s daughter.
And the dead man’s daughter herself, in trailing crape and sables, deathly pale and still, was likewise there, cold and rigid almost as the corpse itself.
For she had never shed a tear since that awful moment when, with a wild, wailing cry of orphanage, she had flung herself down on the dead breast as the new day dawned.
The day of the funeral was one of ghostly gloom. The November wind swept icily over the sea with a dreary wail of winter; the cold rain beat its melancholy drip, drip; sky and earth and sea were all blurred in a clammy mist.
White and wild, Harriet Hunsden hung on her lover’s arm while the Reverend Cyrus Green solemnly read the touching burial service, and Harold Hunsden was laid to sleep the everlasting sleep.
And then she was going back to the desolate old home—oh, so horribly desolate now! She looked at his empty chamber, at his vacant chair, at his forsaken bed. Her face worked; with a long, anguished cry she flung herself on her lover’s breast and wept the rushing, passionate tears of seventeen that keep youthful hearts from breaking.
He held her there as reverently, as tenderly as that dead father might have done, letting her cry her fill, smoothing the glossy hair, kissing the slender hands, calling her by names never to be forgotten.
“My darling—my darling! my bride—my wife!”
She lifted her face at last and looked at him as she never had looked at mortal man before. In that moment he had his infinite reward. She loved him as only these strong-hearted, passionate women can love—once and forever.
“Love me, Everard,” she whispered, holding him close. “I have no one in the world now but you.”
* * * * *
That night Harrie Hunsden left the old home forever. The Reverend Cyrus drove her to the rectory in the rainy twilight, and still her lover sat by her side, as it was his blissful privilege to sit. She clung to him now, in her new desolation, as she might never have learned to cling in happier times.
The rector’s wife received the young girl with open arms, and embraced her with motherly heartiness.