Death had never before looked into Warrington’s life; he had viewed it with equanimity, with a tolerant pity for those who succumbed to it, for those whose hearts it ravaged with loneliness and longing. He had used it frequently in his business as a property by which to arouse the emotions of his audiences. That it should some day stand at his side, looking into his eyes, never occurred to him. He tried to think, to beguile himself into the belief that he should presently awake to find it a dream. Futile expedient! She was dead; that dear, kind, loving heart was dead. Ah! and she had died alone! A great sob choked him. He sank into a chair and buried his face in his arms. The past rushed over him like a vast wave. How many times had he carelessly wounded that heart which had beat solely for him! How many times had he given his word, only to break it! He was alone, alone; death had severed the single tie; he was alone. Death is kind to the dead, but harsh to the living. Presently his sighs became less regular, and at length they ceased entirely.
The portiere rustled slightly, and Patty’s face became visible. Her eyes were wet. She had tried to keep away, but something drew her irresistibly. Her heart swelled. If only she might touch his bowed head, aye, kiss the touches of grey at the temples; if only she might console him in this hour of darkness and grief. Poor boy, poor boy! She knew not how long she watched him; it might have been minutes or hours; she was without recollection of time. A hand touched her gently on the arm. Kate stood by her side.
“Come,” she whispered; “come, Patty.”
Patty turned without question or remonstrance and followed her up stairs.
“Kate, dear Kate!”
“What is it, darling?”
“He is all alone!”
At midnight John tiptoed into the music-room. Warrington had not moved. John tapped him on the shoulder.
“You mustn’t stay here, old man. Come to bed.”
Warrington stood up.
“Would you like a drop of brandy?”
Warrington shook his head.
“It is terribly hard,” said John, throwing his arm across the other’s shoulders. “I know; I understand. You are recalling all the mistakes, all the broken promises, all the disappointments. That is but natural. But in a few days all the little acts of kindness will return to your memory; all the good times you two have had together, the thousand little benefits that made her last days pleasant. These will soften the blow, Dick.”
“I wasn’t there,” Warrington murmured dully. His mind could accept but one fact: his aunt had died alone, without his being at the bedside.