THE year -- what an eventful year it had been for me! -- was drawing to a close, and the brief wintry day hardly gave light enough to recognize the old familiar objects, bound up with so many happy memories, as the train glided round the last bend into the station, and the hoarse cry of `Elveston! Elveston!' resounded along the platform.
It was sad to return to the place, and to feel that I should never again see the glad smile of welcome, that had awaited me here so few months ago. `And yet, if I were to find him here,' I muttered, as in solitary state I followed the porter, who was wheeling my luggage on a barrow, `and if he were to "strike a sudden hand in mine, And ask a thousand things of home", I should not -- no, "I should not feel it to be strange"!'
Having given directions to have my luggage taken to my old lodgings, I strolled off alone, to pay a visit, before settling down in my own quarters, to my dear old friends -- for such I indeed felt them to be, though it was barely half a year since first we met -- the Earl and his widowed daughter.
The shortest way, as I well remembered, was to cross through the churchyard. I pushed open the little wicket-gate and slowly took my way among the solemn memorials of the quiet dead, thinking of the many who had, during the past year, disappeared from the place, and had gone to `join the majority'. A very few steps brought me in sight of the object of my search. Lady Muriel, dressed in the deepest mourning, her face hidden by a long crape veil, was kneeling before a little marble cross, round which she was fastening a wreath of flowers.
The cross stood on a piece of level turf, unbroken by any mound, and I knew that it was simply a memorial- cross, for one whose dust reposed elsewhere, even before reading the simple inscription:
In loving Memory of
She threw back her veil on seeing me approach, and came forwards to meet me, with a quiet smile, and far more self-possessed than I could have expected.
`It is quite like old times, seeing you here again!' she said, in tones of genuine pleasure. `Have you been to see my father?'
`No,' I said: `I was on my way there, and came through here as the shortest way. I hope he is well, and you also?'
`Thanks, we are both quite well. And you? Are you any better yet?'
`Not much better, I fear: but no worse, I am thankful to say.'
`Let us sit here awhile, and have a quiet chat,' she said. The calmness -- almost indifference -- of her manner quite took me by surprise. I little guessed what a fierce restraint she was putting upon herself.
`One can be so quiet here,' she resumed. `I come here every -- every day.'
`It is very peaceful,' I said.
`You got my letter?'
`Yes, but I delayed writing. It is so hard to say -- on paper --'
`I know. It was kind of you. You were with us when we saw the last of --' She paused a moment, and went on more hurriedly. `I went down to the harbour several times, but no one knows which of those vast graves it is. However, they showed me the house he died in: that was some comfort. I stood in the very room where -- where --' She struggled in vain to go on. The flood-gates had given way at last, and
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