Almost the moment I entered the child's chamber, she waked up suddenly, looked at me, and said, "I know you, you are my friend." She never would call me her cousin, I was always her friend. Then she sat up in bed, with her eyes wide open, and said, as if stating a problem which had been put by for my solution, "I should like to see my mother."
How our hearts are rent by the unquestioning faith of children, when they come to test the love that has so often worked what seemed to them miracles,--and ask of it miracles indeed! I tried to explain to her the continued existence of her mother, and she listened to it as if her eyes drank in all that I could say, and more. But the apparent distance between earth and heaven baffled her baby mind, as it so often and so sadly baffles the thoughts of us elders. I wondered what precise change seemed to her to have taken place. This all-fascinating Laura, whom she adored, and who had yet never been to her what other women are to their darlings,--did heaven seem to put her farther off, or bring her more near? I could never know. The healthy child had no morbid questionings; and as she had come into the world to be a sunbeam, she must not fail of that mission. She was kicking about the bed, by this time, in her nightgown, and holding her pink little toes in all sorts of difficult attitudes, when she suddenly said, looking me full in the face: "If my mother was so high up that she had her feet upon a star, do you think that I could see her?"
This astronomical apotheosis startled me for a moment, but I said unhesitatingly, "Yes," feeling sure that the lustrous eyes that looked in mine could certainly see as far as Dante's, when Beatrice was transferred from his side to the highest realm of Paradise. I put my head beside hers upon the pillow, and stayed till I thought she was asleep.
I then followed Kenmure into Laura's chamber. It was dusk, but the after-sunset glow still bathed the room with imperfect light, and he lay upon the bed, his hands clenched over his eyes.
There was a deep bow-window where Laura used to sit and watch us, sometimes, when we put off in the boat. Her æolian harp was in the casement, breaking its heart in music. A delicate handkerchief was lodged between the cushions of the window-seat,--the very handkerchief she used to wave, in summer days long gone. The white boats went sailing beneath the evening light, children shouted and splashed in the water, a song came from a yacht, a steam-whistle shrilled from the receding steamer; but she for whom alone those little signs of life had been dear and precious would henceforth be as invisible to our eyes as if time and space had never held her; and the young moon and the evening star seemed but empty things unless they could pilot us to some world where the splendor of her loveliness could match their own.
Twilight faded, evening darkened, and still Kenmure lay motionless, until his strong form grew in my moody fancy to be like some carving of Michel Angelo's, more than like a living man. And when he at last startled me by speaking, it was with a voice so far off and so strange, it might almost have come wandering down from the century when Michel Angelo lived.
"You are right," he said. "I have been living in a fruitless dream. It has all vanished. The absurdity of speaking of creative art! With all my life-long devotion, I have created nothing. I have kept no memorial of her presence, nothing to perpetuate the most beautiful of lives."
Before I could answer, the door came softly open, and there stood in the doorway a small white figure, holding aloft a lighted taper of pure alabaster. It was Marian in her little night-dress, with the loose blue wrapper trailing behind her, let go in the effort to hold carefully the doll, Susan Halliday, robed also for the night.
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