Edith was almost crazy, and Arthur, whenever he chanced to meet her, marvelled at the change since he saw her last. Once he, too, thought of appealing to Richard to save her from so sad a fate as that of an unloving wife, but he would not interfere, lest by so doing he should err again, and so in dreary despair, which each day grew blacker and more hopeless, Edith was left alone, until Victor roused in her behalf, and without allowing himself time to reflect, sought his master’s presence, bearing with him Nina’s letter, and the soiled sheet on which Richard had unwittingly scratched out Arthur’s marriage.
It was a warm, balmy afternoon, and through the open windows of the library, the south wind came stealing in, laden with the perfume of the pink-tinted apple blossoms, and speaking to the blind man of the long ago, when it was his to see the budding beauties now shut out from his sight. The hum of the honey-bee was heard, and the air was rife with the sweet sounds of later spring. On the branch of a tree without, a robin was trilling a song. It had sung there all the morning, and now it had come back again, singing a second time to Richard, who thought of the soft nest up in the old maple, and likened that robin and its mate to himself and Edith, his own singing-bird.
But why linger so long over that May-day which Richard remembered through many, many future years, growing faint and sick as often as the spring brought back the apple-blossom perfume or the song of mated robins. It is, alas, that we shrink as Victor did from the task imposed, that, like him, we dread the blow which will strike at the root of Richard’s very life, and we approach tearfully, pityingly, half remorsefully, as we stand sometimes by a sunken grave, doubting whether our conduct to the dead were always right and just. So Victor felt, as he drew near to Richard; and sitting down beside him said,
“Can I talk with you awhile about Miss Hastings?” Richard started. Victor had come to tell him she was sick, and he asked if it were not so.
“Something has ailed her of late,” he said.
“She is greatly changed since Nina’s death. She mourns much for her sister.”
“Yes,” returned Victor, “she loved Nina dearly, but it is more than this which ails her. God forbid that I should unnecessarily wound you, Mr. Harrington, but I think it right for you to know.”
The dark face, shaded with the long beard, was very white now, and the sightless eyes had in them a look of terror as Richard asked,
“What is it, Victor? Tell me.”
“Come to the sofa first,” Victor rejoined, feeling intuitively that he was safer there than in that high arm-chair, and with unusual tenderness he led his master to the spot, then sitting down beside him, he continued, “Do you remember Nina once made you write something upon a sheet of paper, and that you bade me ascertain what it was?”
“Yes, I remember,” answered Richard, “you told me you had not read it, and imputing it to some crazy fancy of no importance, I gave it no more thought. What of it, Victor?”