"Ah, that is how they talk when those we love are----One word! I shall never see my poor little Jenny again; shall I?"
"Yes, Alfred; if you will but follow her steps and believe in Him, who soothed her last hour, and made her face shine with joy like an angel's while we all wept around. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, he said he had but one true friend in the world. Alas it is so; you have but me now, who pity you and love you more than heart can utter; my own, my beloved, my bereaved."
What could soften such a shock as this? It fell, and his anguish was frightful, all the more so that he ascribed the calamity to his imprisonment, and mingled curses and threats of vengeance with his bursts of grief. He spurned the consolations of religion: he said heaven was as unjust as earth, as cruel as hell.
She cried out and stopped his mouth with her hand; she almost forced him to kneel beside her, and prayed aloud for him: and when at last his agony found vent in tears, she put her innocent arms round his neck and wept with him.
Every now and then the poor fellow would almost shriek with remorse. "Oh, if I had only been kinder to her! if I had but been kinder to her!"
"You were kind to her," said Julia softly, but firmly. "Oh, no; I was always sneering at her. And why? I knew her religion was sincere: but my little mind fixed on a few phrases she had picked up from others, and I----" He could say no more, but groaned with anguish. And let his remorse be a caution to us all. Bereaved we all must be, who live on and on: but _this,_ bereavement's bitterest drop, we may avoid.
"Alfred," said Julia, "do not torment yourself. We girls care little about a few sarcasms; it is the cold heart that wounds us. You loved Jane, and she knew it well, and joyed in it. You were kinder to her than you think, and so her dying thoughts were for you. It was for you she asked, and made your father send for you, and poor I hoped you would come. And, dearest, her last act was to write a few words to you, and trust them to her who she knew loved you better than heart can utter. Since it was her wish, let us try and read them together, the last words of a saint (I have never seen them), and, if they do not prove words of love, then I will let you think you were not a good brother to her you and I, and poor, poor Edward, have lost."
He made a sad sign of assent; and Julia rose and got the enclosure. But, as Jane's last written words reappeared on the scene in a somewhat remarkable way, I will only say here, that both these poor young things tried in vain to read them, and both in turn burst out sobbing, so that they could not: so they held the paper and tried to see the words out of their streaming eyes. And these two mourners had the room to themselves till midnight; for even Mrs. Dodd's hostility respected Alfred then; and as for Julia, she was one of those who rise with the occasion: she was half wife, half angel from Heaven to her bereaved lover through all those bitter hours.