“It must have been the wind,” she said, resuming her seat by the bedside, while Victor Dupres, gliding from the closet where he had taken refuge, stood again at his former post, waiting for that deep slumber to end.
“Nina, are you here?” came at last from the pale lips, and the bright, black eyes unclosed looking wistfully about the room.
Silent and motionless Victor stood, while Nina, bending over Edith, answered, “Yes, Miggie, I am here, and I’ve brought you something to make you well. He wrote it—Richard did—just now, in the library. Can you see if I bring the lamp?” and thrusting the paper into Edith’s hands she held the lamp close to her eyes.
“You havn’t strength, have you?” she continued, as Edith paid no heed. “Let me do it for you,” and taking the crumpled sheet, she read in tones distinct and dear:
“I, the blind man, Richard Harrington, do hereby solemnly swear that the marriage of Arthur st. Claire and Nina Bernard, performed at my house, in my presence, and by me, is null and void. Richard Harrington, Collingwood, November 5th, 18—”
Slowly a faint color deepened on Edith’s cheek, a soft lustre was kindled in her eye, and the great tears dropped from her long lashes. Her intellect was too much clouded for her to reason clearly upon anything, and she did not, for a moment, doubt the validity of what she heard. Richard could annul the marriage if he would, she was sure, and now that he had done so, the bitterness of death was past,—the dark river forded, and she was saved. Nina had steered the foundering bark into a calm, quiet sea, and exulting in her good work, she held Edith’s head upon her bosom, and whispered to her of the joyous future when she would live with Arthur.
As a child listens to an exciting tale only comprehends in part, so Edith listened to Nina, a smile playing about her mouth and dancing in her eyes, which at last, as the low voice ceased, closed languidly as did the soft blue orbs above them, and when the grey dawn stole into the room it found them sleeping in each other’s arms,—the noble-hearted Nina who had virtually given up her husband and the broken-hearted Edith who had accepted him. They made a beautiful tableau, and Victor for a time stood watching them, wiping the moisture from his own eyes, and muttering to himself, “Poor Edith, I understand it now, and pity you so much. But your secret is safe. Not for worlds would I betray that blessed angel, Nina.” Then, crossing the hall with a cautious tread, he entered his own apartment and sat down to think.
Victor Dupres knew what had been scratched out!