“I have been thinking so much. I am glad now that Barbara does not love me, for it would only give her pain—sometime tell her of my love for her—”
Then by and by, with the tenderest look in his large eyes, he added, “May she come, to let me see her once more?—You will surely trust me now!”
“Oh, Howard! My noble Howard!” was all that Mrs. Douglas could answer; but at her words a look of wonderful happiness lighted his face.
When Mrs. Douglas asked the physician if a friend could be permitted to see Howard, he replied:—
“He cannot live; therefore let him have everything he desires.”
And so, before consciousness left him, Barbara came with wondering, sorrowful eyes, and in answer to his pleading look and Mrs. Douglas’s low word, bent her fair young head and kissed tenderly the brow of the dying young man who had loved her so much better than she knew. And Howard’s life ebbed away.
It was almost as if one of the family were gone. They did not know how much a part of their life he had become until he came no more to the home he had enjoyed so much—to talk—to study—to bring tributes of love and gratitude—and to contribute all he could to their happiness.
Whatever they would do, wherever they would go, there was one missing, and their world was sadly changed.
Mr. Sumner sent the mournful tidings to the lonely grandmother over the ocean, and accompanied the faithful John as far as Genoa, on his way homeward with the remains of the young master he had carried in his arms as a child.
Then, as it was so difficult to take up even for a little time the old life in Florence, it was decided that they should go at once toward Rome.
On the Way to Rome.
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all art yields, and nature can decree:
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes’ fertility:
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin grand
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
[Illustration: ORVIETO CATHEDRAL.]
“We will take a roundabout journey to Rome,” said Mr. Sumner, “and so get all the variety of scene and emotion possible. Something that crowds every moment with interest will be best for all just now.”
And so they planned to go first of all to Pisa: from thence to Siena, Orvieto, Perugia, Assisi, and so on to Rome.
Miss Sherman had asked to accompany them, since Florence would be so dull when they were gone. Indeed, she had stayed on instead of seeking the warmer, more southern cities simply because they were here.
Therefore one morning during the last week of February all bade good-by to their pleasant home in Florence.