One by one the grey December days went by, and Christmas fires were kindled on many a festal hearth. Then the New Year dawned upon the world, and still the thick, dark curtains shaded the windows of Edith’s room. But there came a day at last, a pleasant January day, when the curtains were removed, the blinds thrown open, and the warm sunlight came in shining upon Edith, a convalescent. Very frail and beautiful she looked in her crimson dressing gown, and her little foot sat loosely in the satin slipper, Grace Atherton’s Christmas gift. The rich lace frill encircling her throat was fastened with a locket pin of exquisitely wrought gold, in which was encased a curl of soft, yellow hair, Nina’s hair, a part of the tress left on Edith’s pillow. This was Richard’s idea,—Richard’s New Year’s gift to his darling; but Richard was not there to share in the general joy.
Just across the hall, in a chamber darkened as hers had been, he was lying now, worn out with constant anxiety and watching. When Nina left, his prop was gone, and the fever which had lain in wait for him so long, kindled within his veins a fire like to that which had burned in Edith’s, but his strong, muscular frame met it fiercely, and the danger had been comparatively slight.
All this Grace told to Edith on that morning when she was first suffered to sit up, and asked why Richard did not come to share her happiness, for in spite of one’s mental state, the first feeling of returning health is one of joy. Edith felt it as such even though her heart was so sore that every beat was painful. She longed to speak of Grassy Spring, but would not trust herself until Victor, reading her feelings aright, said to her with an assumed indifference, “Mr. St. Claire’s house is shut up, all but the kitchen and the negro apartments. They are there yet, doing nothing and having a good time generally.”
“And I have had a letter from Arthur,” chimed in Mrs. Atherton, while the eyes resting on Victor’s face turned quickly to hers. “They reached Sunny Bank in safety, he and Nina, and Soph.”
“And Nina,” Edith asked faintly, “how is she?”
“Improving, Arthur thinks, though she misses you very much.”
Edith drew a long, deep sigh, and when next she spoke, she said, “Take me to the window, please, I want to see the country.”
In an instant, Victor, who knew well what she wanted, took her in his arms, and carrying her to the window, set her down in the chair which Grace brought for her; then, as if actuated by the same impulse, both left her and returned to the fire, while she looked across the snow-clad fields to where Grassy Spring reared its massive walls, now basking in the winter sun. It was a mournful pleasure to gaze at that lonely building, with its barred doors, its closed shutters, and the numerous other tokens it gave of being nearly deserted. There was no smoke curling from the chimneys, no friendly door opened wide, no