I turned aside my head in silence, for my thoughts, at that moment, were not the thoughts which can be spoken by man to man.
“This has been a sad scene for any one at your age,” he resumed kindly, as he left the bedside, “but you have borne it well. I am glad to see that you can behave so calmly under so hard a trial.”
Yes! at that moment it was fit that I should be calm; for I could remember that I had forgiven her.
On the fourth day from the morning when she had died, I stood alone in the churchyard by the grave of Margaret Sherwin.
It had been left for me to watch her dying moments; it was left for me to bestow on her remains the last human charity which the living can extend to the dead. If I could have looked into the future on our fatal marriage-day, and could have known that the only home of my giving which she would ever inhabit, would be the home of the grave!—
Her father had written me a letter, which I destroyed at the time; and which, if I had it now, I should forbear from copying into these pages. Let it be enough for me to relate here, that he never forgave the action by which she thwarted him in his mercenary designs upon me and upon my family; that he diverted from himself the suspicion and disgust of his wife’s surviving relatives (whose hostility he had some pecuniary reasons to fear), by accusing his daughter, as he had declared he would accuse her, of having been the real cause of her mother’s death; and that he took care to give the appearance of sincerity to the indignation which he professed to feel against her, by refusing to follow her remains to the place of burial.
Ralph had returned to London, as soon as he received the letter from Mr. Bernard which I had forwarded to him. He offered me his assistance in performing the last duties left to my care, with an affectionate earnestness that I had never seen him display towards me before. But Mr. Bernard had generously undertaken to relieve me of every responsibility which could be assumed by others; and on this occasion, therefore, I had no need to put my brother’s ready kindness in helping me to the test.
I stood alone by the grave. Mr. Bernard had taken leave of me; the workers and the idlers in the churchyard had alike departed. There was no reason why I should not follow them; and yet I remained, with my eyes fixed upon the freshly-turned earth at my feet, thinking of the dead.
Some time had passed thus, when the sound of approaching footsteps attracted my attention. I looked up, and saw a man, clothed in a long cloak drawn loosely around his neck, and wearing a shade over his eyes, which hid the whole upper part of his face, advancing slowly towards me, walking with the help of a stick. He came on straight to the grave, and stopped at the foot of it—stopped opposite me, as I stood at the head.