She suffered him to caress her as much as he liked, and offered no remonstrance when lifting her in his strong arms, he bade Nina lead him back to Collingwood. Like a weary child Edith rested her head upon his shoulder, looking behind once, and regarding Arthur with a look he never forgot, even when the darkness in which he now was groping had passed away, and the full daylight was shining o’er him. Leading Richard to a safe distance, Nina bade him wait a moment while she went back for something she had forgotten—then hastening to Arthur’s side she wound her arms around his neck, smoothed his hair, kissed his lips, and said to him so low that Richard could not hear,
“Nina won’t desert you. She’ll come to you again, when she gets Miggie home. You did do it, didn’t you? but Nina’ll never tell.”
Kissing him once more, she bounded away, and with feelings of anguish which more than compensated for his error, Arthur looked after them as they moved slowly across the field, Richard sometimes tottering beneath his load, which, nevertheless, he would not release, and Nina, holding to his arm, telling him where to go, and occasionally glancing backward toward the spot where Arthur sat, until the night shadows were falling, and he shivered with the heavy dew. Nina did not return, and thinking that she would not, he started for home, never knowing how he reached there, or when; only this he knew, no one suspected him of being in the Deering Woods when Edith Hastings was attacked with that strange fainting fit. Thanks for this to little Nina, who, returning as she had promised, found the forgotten hat still dripping with water, and hiding it beneath her shawl, carried it safely to Grassy Spring, where it would betray no one.
The darkness deepens.
Death brooded over Collingwood, and his black wing beat clamorously against the windows of the room to which, on that fearful night, Richard had borne his fainting burden, and where for days and weeks she lay so low that with every coming morning the anxious villagers listened for the first stroke of the bell which should tell that Edith was dead. Various were the rumors concerning the cause of her illness, all agreeing upon one point, to wit, that she had fainted suddenly in the woods with Nina, and in falling, had received a deep gash upon her forehead. This it was which made her crazy, the people said, and the physician humored the belief, although with his experience he knew there was some secret sorrow preying upon that young mind, the nature of which he could not easily guess. It never occurred to him that it was in any way associated with Arthur St. Claire, whose heart-broken expression told how much he suffered, and how dear to him was the delirious girl, who never breathed his name, or gave token that she knew of his existence. Every morning, regularly he rung