Opening her eyes at last from a very quiet sleep, she begged that they would kiss her once again. That done, she turned to the old man, with a lovely smile upon her face—such, they said, as they had never seen, and never could forget—and clung with both her arms about his neck. She had never murmured or complained, but with a quiet mind, and manner quite unaltered—save that she every day became more earnest, and more grateful to them—faded like the light upon the summer's evening.
The child who had been her little friend came there almost as soon as it was day with an offering of dried flowers, which he begged them to lay upon her breast. He told them of his dream again, and that it was of her being restored to them, just as she used to be. He begged hard to see her, saying that he would be very quiet, and that they need not fear his being alarmed, for he had sat alone by his younger brother all day long when he was dead, and had felt glad to be so near him. They let him have his wish; and indeed he kept his word, and was in his childish way a lesson to them all.
Up to that time the old man had not spoken once—except to her—or stirred from the bedside. But when he saw her little favourite, he was moved as they had not seen him yet, and made as though he would have him come nearer. Then, pointing to the bed, he burst into tears for the first time; and they who stood by, knowing that the sight of this child had done him good, left them alone together.
Soothing him with his artless talk of her, the child persuaded him to take some rest, to walk abroad—to do almost as he desired him. And when the day came on which they must remove her in her earthly shape from earthly eyes for ever, he led him away, that he might not know when she was taken from him. They were to gather fresh leaves and berries for her bed.
And now the bell—the bell she had so often heard by night and day, and listened to with solemn pleasure, almost as to a living voice—rung its remorseless toll for her, so young, so beautiful, so good. Decrepit age, and vigorous life, and blooming youth, and helpless infancy, poured forth—on crutches, in the pride of health and strength, in the full blush of promise, in the mere dawn of life—to gather round her tomb. Old men were there, whose eyes were dim and senses failing—grandmothers, who might have died ten years ago and still been old—the deaf, the blind, the, lame, the palsied—the living dead, in many shapes and forms, to see the closing of that early grave.