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That night while seated at supper she fainted right away; albeit this lasted not long, and speedily her soft eyes, in which the brightness had strangely vanished, opened, and she smiled-a most mournful smile, though lovingly meant to comfort us.
"I am better now," said she, presently"much better; but, oh, so tired! I never felt so tired before, and should like to go to bed."
Charles-poor Charles-his face white as Edie's, and full of bitter forebodings, gathered her in his strong arms and bore her to her room. Mother and I quickly got her into bed, and while yet a murmured prayer lingered on her lips she fell asleep. I left her not, but, lying on a sofa in the chamber, likewise slept awhile.
At dead of night Edith called to me. She had been awake a long time, she said, and did not like to disturb me. She was very ill, and was getting worse: she knew not what ailed her.
"Oh, Sariann!" quoth she, presently, casting around me her arms, and speaking in quivering tones, "is this it! Is this death?"
She sank back, and methought she had again fainted.
Soon were all gathered around the bed, striving and watching for tokens of returning life. Howbeit they came not; no, the gentle spirit had gone to heaven-gone to its eternal rest and peace and joy-gone without a pang or a sigh; and thus did the great God pityingly, tenderly grant her girl's weak prayer. Oh, this is a sad, sad time! My page is wet with tears as I write, and for awhile-it may perchance be a long while-I must lay aside my journal.
I am reading the words I last wrote "It may perchance be a long while.". Verily it is a long while-nearly two years! Thanks be to our heavenly Father, time-blessed timehath so ground down the keen, jagged edges of our great sorrow that we can now bear to softly handle the past, and look forward in cheerful hopefulness to a reunion in the future with our beloved ones.
Next week Charles leaves college. Oh, it will be a right happy thing to have him-dear, joyous, noble-hearted fellow-always with us!
He is to take Holy Orders, and assist our father as curate, until such time as the former is unable to longer carry the weight of kirk duties; whereupon Charles will become Rector of Riversdale; for so have ruling powers decided.
TIME flowed on smoothly, uneventfully, in Riversdale during the six months of Charles Beechley's absence. My studies had, meanwhile, progressed to dear grandmamma's satisfaction under the combined tuition of an amiable, accomplished governess and the best masters procurable in the town of Shrewsbury, which was fifty miles distant from our village. But now we-that is his friends-were all astir with pleasure and pride, in expectation of Charley's return, crowned, as we knew he was, with literary laurels and laden with honours. Yes—all his friends-for, young though I was, my intimacy with his family, particularly Sariann, had so imbued my heart and thoughts with their feelings on the subject that none sympathized more keenly than I did.
According to his wont, Charles wrote repeatedly to his mother while at college; latterly, however, his correspondence had flagged somewhat. This made her rather anxious, but all was again set to rights by the final letter announcing the day of his arrival at Riversdale Rectory. He wrote in exuberantly happy spirits, but would, he said, reserve all accounts of himself until able to deliver them personally.
On the evening of his expected return Sariann and I walked to the cross roads to meet the stage coach by which he was expected, no railway approaching to within forty miles of Riversdale. To our surprise, Charles being remarkably punctual when the tranquillity of his mother was concerned, our hero did not make his appearance. We were greatly disappointed, and the following day went again, but with the same result-and so on, and so on, to the end of the week. The strangest part of the matter as yet was his not writing one line of explanation to his family, who, he well knew, were sure to be so anxiously on the look-out for him-especially his invalid mother.
Every morning, before commencing my