Why wasn’t she glad to be home again? Why did her thoughts cling so to distant Sunnybank, or her heart die within her as waymark after waymark told her Collingwood was near? Alas! she was not a loving, eager bride elect, returning to the arms of her beloved, but a shrinking, hopeless, desolate woman, going back to meet the destiny she dared not avoid. The change was all in herself, for the day was no colder, the clouds no greyer, the setting sun no paler than New England wintry days and clouds and suns are wont to be. Collingwood was just the same, and its massive walls rose as proudly amid the dark evergreens around it as they had done in times gone by, when to the little orphan it seemed a second Paradise. Away to the right lay Grassy Spring, the twilight shadows gathering around it, piles of snow resting on its roof, and a thin wreath of smoke curling from a single chimney in the rear.
All this Edith saw as in the village omnibus she was driven toward home, Richard was not expecting them until the morrow, and thus no new fires were kindled, no welcoming lights hung out, and the house was unusually gloomy and dark. During Edith’s absence Richard had staid mostly in the library, and there he was sitting now, with his hands folded together in that peculiarly helpless way which characterized all his motions. He heard the sound of wheels, the banging of trunks, and then his ear caught a footstep it knew full well, a slow, shuffling tread, but Edith’s still, and out into the silent hall he groped his way, watching there until she came.
How he hugged her to his bosom—never heeding that she gave him back but one answering kiss, a cold, a frozen thing, which would not thaw even after it touched his lips, so full of life and warmth. Poor, deluded man! he fancied that the tears he felt upon his face were tears of joy at being home again; but alas! alas! they were tears wrung out by a feeling of dreary home-sickness—a longing to be somewhere else—to have some other one than Richard chafing her cold hands and calling her pet names. He looked older, too, than he used to do, and Edith thought of what he once had said about her seeing the work of decay go on in him while she yet was young and vigorous. Still her voice was natural as she answered his many questions and greeted Mrs. Matson who came in to see her as soon as she heard of her arrival.
“In mourning!” the latter exclaimed as with womanly curiosity she inspected Edith’s dress.
Richard started, and putting his hand to Edith’s neck, felt that her collar was of crape, and a shadow passed over his face. He liked to think of her as a bright plumaged bird, not as sombre-hued and wearing the habiliments which come only from some grave.
“Was it necessary that my darling should carry her love for a stranger quite so far as this?” he asked. “Need you have dressed in black?”
Without meaning it, his tone implied reproach, and it cut Edith cruelly, making her wish that she had told him all, when she wrote that she was coming home.