“You may cut them now,” he said at last, holding his breath as if the sharp steel were cutting into his heart’s core, as, one by one, the yellowish curls were severed, and dropped, some into Edith’s lap, while others, lodging upon his fingers, curled about them with a seemingly human touch, making him moan bitterly, as he pressed them to his lips, and then shook them gently off.
Nina’s hair, like her sister’s, had been her crowning glory—so thick, so wavy, so luxuriant it was; and when the task was done, and the tresses divided, five heavy curls were Arthur’s and five more were Edith’s.
“Where shall I put yours?” Edith asked, and for a moment Arthur did not answer.
In a rosewood box, into which he had not looked for years, there was a mass of longer, paler, more uneven curls than these, but Arthur would not distress Edith by telling her about them, and he replied, at last, “I will put them away, myself.” Then taking them from her and going to his own private chamber, he opened the box and dropped them in, weeping when he saw how strongly they contrasted with the other faded crazy curls, as he called them.
In a plain white muslin, which had been made for Nina at Grassy Spring, they arrayed her for the coffin, the soft, rich lace encircling her throat and falling about her slender arms folded so meekly together. Flowers were twined about her head—flowers were on her pillow—flowers in her hands—flowers upon her bosom— flowers of purest white, and meet emblems of the sweet young girl, whose features, to the last, retained the same childlike, peaceful expression which had settled upon them when she called back to Arthur, “Climb up the bank. I’m most across.”
The day of her burial was balmy and warm, and the southern wind blew softly across the fields as the weeping band followed the lost one across the threshold and laid her away where the flowers of spring would blossom above her little grave. Very lonely and desolate seemed the house when the funeral train returned to it, and the lamentations of the blacks broke out afresh as they began to realize that their young mistress was really gone, and henceforth another must fill her place. Would it be Arthur or would it be the queenly Edith, whose regal beauty had captivated all their hearts? Assembled in the kitchen they discussed this question, giving to neither the preference, for though they had tried Arthur and found him a kind and humane master, they felt that after Nina, Edith had the right. Then, as other than blacks will do, they speculated upon the future, wondering why both Arthur and Edith could not rule jointly over them; they would like that vastly, and had nearly decided that it would be, when Victor, who was with them, tore down their castle by telling them that Edith was already engaged to some one else. This changed the channel of conversation, and Victor left them wondering still what the future would bring.