After that evening she saw and heard nothing of him for a great while. Her fortnightly journeys to the sergeant-major’s grave were continued, whenever weather did not hinder them; and Mr. Miller must have known, she thought, of this custom of hers. But though the churchyard was not nearly so far from his homestead as was her shop at Chalk-Newton, he never appeared in the accidental way that lovers use.
An explanation was forthcoming in the shape of a letter from her mother, who casually mentioned that Mr. Bartholomew Miller had gone away to the other side of Shottsford-Forum to be married to a thriving dairyman’s daughter that he knew there. His chief motive, it was reported, had been less one of love than a wish to provide a companion for his aged mother.
Selina was practical enough to know that she had lost a good and possibly the only opportunity of settling in life after what had happened, and for a moment she regretted her independence. But she became calm on reflection, and to fortify herself in her course started that afternoon to tend the sergeant-major’s grave, in which she took the same sober pleasure as at first.
On reaching the churchyard and turning the corner towards the spot as usual, she was surprised to perceive another woman, also apparently a respectable widow, and with a tiny boy by her side, bending over Clark’s turf, and spudding up with the point of her umbrella some ivy-roots that Selina had reverently planted there to form an evergreen mantle over the mound.
‘What are you digging up my ivy for!’ cried Selina, rushing forward so excitedly that Johnny tumbled over a grave with the force of the tug she gave his hand in her sudden start.
‘Your ivy?’ said the respectable woman.
‘Why yes! I planted it there—on my husband’s grave.’
’Yes. The late Sergeant-Major Clark. Anyhow, as good as my husband, for he was just going to be.’
’Indeed. But who may be my husband, if not he? I am the only Mrs. John Clark, widow of the late Sergeant-Major of Dragoons, and this is his only son and heir.’
‘How can that be?’ faltered Selina, her throat seeming to stick together as she just began to perceive its possibility. ’He had been—going to marry me twice—and we were going to New Zealand.’
‘Ah!—I remember about you,’ returned the legitimate widow calmly and not unkindly. ’You must be Selina; he spoke of you now and then, and said that his relations with you would always be a weight on his conscience. Well; the history of my life with him is soon told. When he came back from the Crimea he became acquainted with me at my home in the north, and we were married within a month of first knowing each other. Unfortunately, after living together a few months, we could not agree; and after a particularly sharp quarrel, in which, perhaps,