“God help me, Edith! You should have spared me this. Do I love you? Oh Edith, alas, alas! Here with Nina, whom, Heaven is my witness, I did love truly at the last—here with her, I say, lying dead between us, I swear to you that never was maiden loved as I this moment love you; but I cannot make you mine. I dare not prove thus treacherous to Richard, who trusted you with me, and, Edith, you can be happy with him, and you will. You must forget that I ever crossed your path, thinking of me only as one who was your sister’s husband. And God will give you strength to do this if you ask it of him aright I shall not forgot you, Edith. That cannot be. Across the sea, wherever I may be, I shall remember you, enshrining your memory in my heart, together with Nina, whom I so much wish I had loved earlier, and so have saved us both from pain. And now go—go back to Collingwood, and keep your vow to Richard. He is one of God’s noblest works, an almost perfect man. You will learn to love him. You will be happy. Do not write to me till it is over, then send your cards, and I shall know ’tis done. Farewell, my sister—farewell forever.”
Without a word of reply Edith moved away, nor cast a backward glance at the faint, sick man, who leaned his burning forehead against the gleaming marble; while drop after drop of perspiration fell upon the ground, but brought him no relief. He heard the carriage wheels as they rolled from the door, and the sound seemed grinding his life to atoms, for by that token he knew that Edith was gone—that to him there was nothing left save the little mound at his feet and the memory of his broken lily who slept beneath it. How he wanted her now—wanted his childish Nina—his fair girl-wife, to comfort him. But it could not be, Nina was dead—her sweet, bird-like voice was hushed; it would never meet his listening ear again, and for him there was nothing left, save the wailing wind to whisper sadly to him as she was wont to do, “Poor Arthur boy, poor Arthur boy.”
Oh, what a change it was from sunny Florida to England, just how both Edith and Victor shivered, arrived at the last stage of their journey, they looked out upon the snow-clad hills and leafless trees which fitted out by bare and brown against the winter sky. West Shannondale! the brakeman shouted, and Edith drew her furs around her, for in a few moments more their own station would be reached.
“The river is frozen; it must be very cold,” said Victor, pointing to the blue-black stream; skimmered over with a thin coat of ice.
“Yes, very, very cold,” and Edith felt the meaning of the word in more senses than one.