“Little rose-bud,” he whispered to himself. “It’s strange no envious, longing eyes have sought her out as yet, and tried to win her from me. There’s St. Claire—cannot help admiring her, but thus far he’s been very discreet, I’m sure. Victor would tell me if he saw any indications of his making love to Edith.”
Deluded Richard! Victor Dupres kept his own counsel with regard to Edith and the proprietor of Grassy Spring; and when questioned by his master, as he sometimes was, he always answered, “Monsieur St. Claire does nothing out of the way.”
So Richard, completely blinded, trusted them both, and had no suspicion of the scene enacted that afternoon in the Deering Woods. Hearing a swift footstep coming up the walk, he held his breath to listen, thinking it was Edith, but a moment only sufficed to tell it was Nina. With a rapid, bounding tread she entered the library, and gliding to his side, startled him with, “Come, quick, Miggie’s dead—dead in the Deering Woods!”
For an instant Richard’s brain reeled, and rings of fire danced before his sightless eyes; then, remembering the nature of the one who had brought to him this news, hope whispered that it might not be so bad, and this it was which buoyed him up and made him strong to follow his strange guide.
* * * * * *
Down the lane, across the road, and over the fields Nina led him, bareheaded as he was, and in his thin-soled, slippers, which were torn against the briers and stones, for in her haste Nina did not stop to choose the smoothest path, and Richard was too intent on Edith to heed the roughness of the way. Many questions be asked her as to the cause of the accident, but she told him nothing save that “Miggie was talking and fell down dead.” She did not mention Arthur, for, fancying that he had in some way been the cause of the disaster, she wished to shield him from all censure, consequently Richard had no idea of the crushed, miserable wretch leaning against the sycamore and watching him as he came up. He only heard Nina’s cry, “Wake up, Miggie, Richard’s here!”
It needed more than that appeal, however, to rouse the unconscious girl, and Richard, as he felt her cold, clammy flesh, wept aloud, fearing lest she were really dead. Eagerly he felt for her heart, knowing then that she still lived.
“Edith, darling, speak to me,” and he chafed her nerveless hands, bidding Nina bring him water from the brook.
Spying Arthur’s hat Nina caught it up, when the thought entered her mind, “He’ll wonder whose this is.” Then with a look of subtle cunning, she stole up behind the blind man, and placing the hat suddenly upon his head, withdrew it as quickly, saying, “I’ll get it in this, shan’t I?”
Richard was too much excited to know whether he had worn one hat or a dozen, and he answered her at once, “Use it of course.”
The cold water brought by Nina roused Edith once more, and with a sigh she lay back on Richard’s bosom, so trustfully, so confidingly, that Arthur, looking on, foresaw what the future would bring, literally giving her up then and there to the blind man, who, as if accepting the gift, hugged her fondly to him and said aloud, “I thank the good Father for restoring to me my Edith.”