At last she consented, saying:
“Dear girls, to only one before have I given my entire confidence, and that was my mother. I scarce know why I have yielded to your persuasions, little Edna, save that this night, with its gloom and rain, carries me back long years, and my heart seems to join its pleading with yours, yearning to cast forth some of its fulness, and perchance find relief by pouring into your loving heart its own sorrows. But, darling, I would not cast my shadow over your fair brow, even for a brief time.”
With her hand still shading her face, Aunt Edna began:
“Just such a night as this, eighteen years ago, dear child, my fate was decided. The daughter of my mother’s dearest friend had been with us about a year. Dearly we all loved the gentle child, for scarcely more than child she was—only sixteen. My mother had taken her from the cold, lifeless form of her mother into her own warm, loving heart, and she became to me as a sister. So fair and frail she was! We all watched her with the tenderest care, guarding her from all that could chill her sensitive nature or wound the already saddened heart. Lilly was her name. Oh, what a delicate white lily she was when we first brought her to our home; but after a while she was won from her sorrow, and grew into a maiden of great beauty. Still, with child-like, winning ways.
“Great wells of love were in her blue eyes—violet hue he called them. Often I wondered if any one’s gaze would linger on my dark eyes when hers were near? Her pale golden hair was pushed off her broad forehead and fell in heavy waves far down below her graceful shoulders and over her black dress. Small delicately-formed features, a complexion so fair and clear that it seemed transparent. In her blue eyes there was always such a sad, wistful look; this, and the gentle smile that ever hovered about her lips, gave an expression of mingled sweetness and sorrow that was very touching. You may imagine now how beautiful she was.
“Her mother had passed from earth during the absence of Lilly’s father. Across the ocean the sorrowful tidings were born to him. He was a naval officer. Lilly was counting the days ere she should see him. The good news had come, that soon he would be with her. At last the day arrived, but oh! what a terrible sorrow it brought. When her heart was almost bursting with joy, expecting every moment to be clasped in those dear arms—a telegraphic despatch was handed in. Eagerly she caught it, tore it open, read—and fell lifeless to the floor.
“Oh! the fearful, crushing words. We read, not of his coming to Lilly, but of his going to her, his wife, in heaven. Yes, truly an orphan the poor girl was then.
“In vain proved all efforts to restore her to consciousness. Several times, when she had before fainted, mother was the only physician needed. But that night she shook her head and said: