The gray dawn broke at last, and up the graveled walk rapid footsteps came—Arthur St. Claire hastening home. From a distant hill he had caught the blaze of Nina’s bonfire, and trembling with fear and dread, he hurried on to learn what it could mean. There was no stir about the house—no sign of life, only the crimson blaze shining across the fields, and the sound of a voice, feeble now, and sunk almost to a whisper, for Nina’s strength was giving way. For hours she had sung, while the head upon her bosom pressed more and more heavily—the hand which clasped hers unloosed its hold—the eyes which had fastened themselves upon her with a look of unutterable love, closed wearily—the lips, which, so long as there was life in them, ceased not to bless her, were still, and poor, tired, crazy Nina, fancying that he slept at last, still swayed back and forth, singing to the cold senseless clay, an infant lullaby.
“Hushaby, my baby—go to sleep, my child.”
He had sung it once to her. She sang it now to him, and the strange words fell on Arthur’s ear, even before he stepped across the threshold, where he stood appalled at the unwonted spectacle which met his view. Nina manifested no surprise whatever, but holding up her finger, motioned him to tread cautiously, if he would come near where she was.
“He couldn’t see,” she whispered, “and I made him a famous light. Isn’t it glorious here, smoke, and fire and all? He is sleeping quietly now, only his head is very heavy. It makes my arm ache so hard, and his hands are growing cold, I cannot kiss them warm,” and she held the stiffening fingers against her burning cheek, shuddering at the chill they gave her, just as Arthur shuddered at the sight, for it needed nothing more to tell him that Dr. Griswold was dead!
The spacious rooms at Grassy Spring had been filled to their utmost capacity by those of the villagers, who, having recovered from their panic, came to join in the funeral obsequies of Dr. Griswold. In the yard without the grass was trampled down and the flowers broken from their stalks by the crowds, who, failing to gain admittance to the interior of the house, hovered about the door, struggling for a sight of the young girl, whose strange death watch and stranger bonfire was the theme of every tongue. Solemnly the voice of God’s ambassador was heard, proclaiming, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” and then a song was sung, the voices of the singers faltering, all but one, which, rising clear and sweet above the rest, sang of the better world, where the bright eternal noonday ever reigns, and the assembled throng without held their breath to listen, whispering to each other, “It is Nina, the crazy girl. She was the doctor’s betrothed.”