Parting with the dead, and parting with the living.
Softly the morning broke and the raindrops glittered like diamonds in the rising sun, whose rays fell mockingly upon desolate Sunnybank, where the howling of the blacks mingled with the sobs of those more nearly bereaved. Very troublesome had the beautiful departed been in life; none knew how troublesome one-half so well as Arthur, and yet of all the weeping band who gathered around her bed, none mourned her more truly than did he who had been her husband in name for eleven years. Eleven years! How short they seemed, looked back upon, and how much sorrow they had brought him. But this was all forgotten, and in his heart there was naught save tender love for the little maiden now forever at rest.
All the day he sat by her, and both Edith and Victor felt that it was not the mere semblance of grief he wore, while others of the household, who knew nothing of his past in connection with Edith, said to each other, “It is strange he should love her so well when she was so much care to him.”
They did not know it was this very care for her; this bearing with her which made her so dear to him, and as the mother longs for and wishes back the unfortunate but beloved child which made her life so wearisome so Arthur mourned and wept for Nina, thanking God one moment that her poor, pain-worn head was at rest, and again murmuring to himself, “I would that I had her back again.”
He scarcely spoke to Edith, although he knew whenever her footsteps crossed the threshold of the darkened room; knew when she bent over Nina; heard the kisses she pressed on the cold lips; and even watched until it was dry the tear she once left on Nina’s cheek, but he held no communication with her, and she was left to battle with her grief alone. Once, indeed, she went to him and asked what Nina should be buried in, and this for a time roused him from his apathetic grief.
“Nina must be buried in white,” he said; “she looked the best in that; and, Edith, I would have her curls cut off, all but those that shade her face. You have arranged them every day. Will you do so once more if I will hold her up?”
Edith would rather the task had devolved upon some one else, but she offered no objection, though her tears fell like rain when she brought the curling-stick and brush and began to separate the tangled locks, while Arthur encircled the rigid form with his arm, as carefully as if she still were living, watching her with apparent interest as she twined about her fingers the golden hair. But when, at last, she held the scissors which were to sever those bright tresses, his fortitude all gave way, for he remembered another time when he had held poor Nina, not as he held her now, but with a stronger, firmer grasp, while, by rougher hands than Edith’s, those locks were shorn away. Groan after groan came from his broad chest, and his tears moistened the long ringlets he so lovingly caressed.