As to scruples on Lord Ormersfield becoming Mary’s escort on the voyage, Mrs. Ponsonby perceived his determination to be fixed beyond remonstrance. Perhaps she could neither regret that her daughter should have such a protector, nor bear to reject his last kindness; and she might have lingering hopes of the consequences of his meeting her husband, at a time when the hearts of both would be softened.
These matters arranged, she closed out the world. Louis saw her but once again, when other words than their own were spoken, and when the scene brought back to him a like one which had seemed his own farewell to this earth. His thread of life was lengthened—here was the moment to pray that it might be strengthened. Firm purpose was wakening within him, and the battle-cry rang again in his ears—’Quit yourselves like men; be strong!’
His eye sought Mary. She looked, indeed, like one who could ’suffer and be strong.’ Her brow was calm, though as if a load sat on her, borne too patiently to mar her peace. The end shone upon her, though the path might be hid in gloom: one step at a time was enough, and she was blest above all in her mother’s good hope.
A hush was on them all, as though they were watching while a tired, overtasked child sank to rest.
There was a space of suffering, when Mary and Miss Mercy did all that love could do, and kept Mrs. Frost from the sight of what she could neither cheer nor alleviate, and when all she could do was to talk over the past with Lord Ormersfield.
Then came a brief interval of relief and consciousness, precious for ever to Mary’s recollection. The last words of aught beneath were-’My dearest love to your father. Tell him I know now how much he has to forgive.’
The tender, impulsive, overhasty spirit had wrought for itself some of the trials that had chastened and perfected it, even while breaking down the earthly tabernacle, so as to set free the weary soul, to enter into Rest!
He talked of daggers and of darts,
Of passions and of pains,
Of weeping eyes and wounded hearts,
Of kisses and of chains:
But still the lady shook her head,
And swore by yea and nay,
My whole was all that he had said,
And all that he could say.
W. MACKWORTH PRAED.
Mary’s strength gave way. She was calm and self-possessed as ever, she saw Lord Ormersfield, wrote to her aunt, made all necessary arrangements, and, after the funeral, moved to Mrs. Frost’s house. But, though not actually ill, she was incapable of exertion, could not walk up stairs without fatigue; and after writing a letter, or looking over papers, Aunt Catharine would find her leaning back, so wan and exhausted, that she could not resist being laid down to rest on the sofa.