An hour later when the first pale ray crept in at the low window, two faces lay upon the pillow; one full of the despairing grief for which there seems no balm; the other with lips and eyes of solemn peace, and that mysterious expression, lovelier than any smile, which death leaves as a tender token that all is well with the new-born soul.
To Christie that was the darkest hour of the dawn, but for David sunrise had already come.
When it was all over, the long journey home, the quiet funeral, the first sad excitement, then came the bitter moment when life says to the bereaved: “Take up your burden and go on alone.” Christie’s had been the still, tearless grief hardest to bear, most impossible to comfort; and, while Mrs. Sterling bore her loss with the sweet patience of a pious heart, and Letty mourned her brother with the tender sorrow that finds relief in natural ways, the widow sat among them, as tranquil, colorless, and mute, as if her soul had followed David, leaving the shadow of her former self behind.
“He will not come to me, but I shall go to him,” seemed to be the thought that sustained her, and those who loved her said despairingly to one another: “Her heart is broken: she will not linger long.”
But one woman wise in her own motherliness always answered hopefully: “Don’t you be troubled; Nater knows what’s good for us, and works in her own way. Hearts like this don’t break, and sorrer only makes ’em stronger. You mark my words: the blessed baby that’s a comin’ in the summer will work a merrycle, and you’ll see this poor dear a happy woman yet.”
Few believed in the prophecy; but Mrs. Wilkins stoutly repeated it and watched over Christie like a mother; often trudging up the lane in spite of wind or weather to bring some dainty mess, some remarkable puzzle in red or yellow calico to be used as a pattern for the little garments the three women sewed with such tender interest, consecrated with such tender tears; or news of the war fresh from Lisha who “was goin’ to see it through ef he come home without a leg to stand on.” A cheery, hopeful, wholesome influence she brought with her, and all the house seemed to brighten as she sat there freeing her mind upon every subject that came up, from the delicate little shirts Mrs. Sterling knit in spite of failing eyesight, to the fall of Richmond, which, the prophetic spirit being strong within her, Mrs. Wilkins foretold with sibylline precision.
She alone could win a faint smile from Christie with some odd saying, some shrewd opinion, and she alone brought tears to the melancholy eyes that sorely needed such healing dew; for she carried little Adelaide, and without a word put her into Christie’s arms, there to cling and smile and babble till she had soothed the bitter pain and hunger of a suffering heart.