Arthur was indeed coming to Grassy Spring, brought thither by the knowing that something must be done with the place ere he went to Europe as he intended doing, and by the feverish desire to see Edith once more even though she were the wife of Richard, as he supposed her to be. Grace’s first letter had been lost, and as he had been some weeks on the way he knew nothing of matters at Collingwood, though occasionally there crept into his heart a throb of hope that possibly for Nina’s sake the marriage had been deferred and Edith might be Edith Hastings still. It was very sad coming back to the spot so fraught with memories of Nina, and this it was in part which made him look so pale and haggard when at last he stood within the hall and was met by Grace, who uttered an exclamation of surprise at seeing him so changed.
“I am very tired,” he said, with the tone and air of an invalid, “Let me rest in the library awhile, before I see the negroes. Their noise will disturb me,” and he walked into the very room where Edith stood waiting for him.
She had intended to meet him as a brother, the husband of her sister, but the sight of his white, suffering face swept her calmness all away, and with a burst of tears she cried, “Oh, Arthur, Arthur, I did not think you had been so sick. Why did you not let us know; I would have come to you,” and she brought herself the arm-chair which he took, smiling faintly upon her and saying,
“It was bad business being sick at a hotel, and I did sometimes wish you were there, but of course I could not expect you to leave your husband. How is he?”
Edith could hear the beating of her heart and feel the blood tingling her cheeks as she replied, “You mean Richard, but he is not my husband. He—”
Quickly, eagerly Arthur looked up, the expression of his face speaking volumes of joy, surprise, and even hope, but all this faded away, leaving him paler, sicker-looking than before, as Edith continued,
“The marriage was a second time deferred on account of Nina’s death. It will take place in June.”
Grace had left the room and an awkward silence ensued during which Arthur looked absently into the fire, while Edith gazed out upon the darkening sky, wondering if life would always be as hard to bear as now, and half wishing that Arthur St. Claire had staid at Sunnybank until the worst was over.
There was a sound of wheels outside, and Edith heard Richard as he passed into the hall. He had received her message, and thinking it proper for him to welcome Mr. St. Claire, he had come to Grassy Spring to do so, as well as to escort Edith home. Richard could not see how much Arthur was changed, but his quick ear detected the weak, tremulous tones of the voice, which tried to greet him steadily, and so the conversation turned first upon Arthur’s recent illness, and then upon Nina, until at last, as Richard rose to leave, he laid his arm across Edith’s shoulder and said playfully, “You know of course, that what you predicted, when years ago you asked me to take a certain little girl, is coming true. Edith has promised to be my wife. You will surely remain at Grassy Spring through the summer, and so be present at our wedding on the 15th of June. I invite you now.”