“Don’t Birdie, don’t.”
It was a strange bridal, more sad than joyous, for though in the hearts of bride and groom there was perfect love for each other, there were too many bitter memories crowding upon them both to make it a moment of unmixed bliss—memories of Nina, who seemed to stand by Arthur, blessing him in tones unheard, and a sadder, a living memory of the poor blind man whose low wail, when all was done, smote painfully on Edith’s ear.
In a pew near to the altar Victor sat weeping like a child, and when the last Amen was uttered, he sprang to his master’s side and said,
“Come with me. You cannot wish to go home with the bride.”
Instantly the crowd divided right and left as Victor passed through their midst, leading out into the open air the faint, sick man, who, when they were alone, leaned his head meekly on his faithful valet’s arm, saying to him,
“You are all there is left to care for me now. Be good to me, won’t you?”
Victor answered with a clasp of his hand and hurried on, reaching Collingwood before the bridal guests, who ere long came swarming in like so many buzzing bees, congratulating the newly-wedded pair, and looking curiously round for Richard. But Richard was not there. He had borne all he could, and on his bed in his bolted room he lay, scarcely giving a token of life save when the sounds from the parlors reached his ear, when he would whisper,
“’Tis done. It is done.”
One by one the hours went by, and then up the gravelled walk the carriages rolled a second time to take the guests away. Hands were shaken and good nights said. There was cloaking in the ladies’ room and impatient waiting in the gentlemen’s; there was hurrying down the stairs, through the hall, and out upon the piazza. There was banging to of carriage doors, cracking of drivers’ whips, and racing down the road. There was a hasty gathering up of silver, a closing of the shutters, a putting out of lamps, until at last silence reigned over Collingwood, from whose windows only two lights were gleaming. Arthur was alone with his bride, and Richard alone with his God.
Six years later.
The New York and Springfield train eastward bound stood waiting in the depot at New Haven. There had been a slight accident which occasioned a detention of several minutes, and taking advantage of this delay many of the passengers alighted to stretch their weary limbs or inhale a breath of purer air than could be obtained within the crowded car. Several seats were thus left unoccupied, one of which a tall, dark, foreign-looking man, with eyes concealed by a green shade, was about appropriating to himself, when a wee little hand was laid on his and a sweet baby voice called out,
“That’s my mamma’s chair, big man, mamma gone after cake for Nina!”