Amanda Clark looked after John Farrington as a nurse in the
summer of 1883. They corresponded afterward and so John
learned of her father's death in January. In April he comes
to St. Paul for the interment, hoping to see Amanda. When
actually at the cemetery, he realizes how inappropriate a
time this is to renew acquaintance and he stays in the
distance during the service. Later, when the family has
departed and the grave is filled in...
The workmen had left Amanda's rose lying discarded to
one side of the grave. John placed the flower on the plinth
of the tombstone, stood back, and regarded the decorated
grave reverently for a few moments. He had never felt so
forlorn as now - standing by himself in a melancholy drizzle,
by the grave of a man he had never met, having abandoned
hope of again seeing that bright gem who had given his life
purpose for nearly a year.
On turning to leave, John almost stepped into someone
who had noiselessly approached from behind. He caught his
breath at the start. In one simple about-face, he had
exchanged his bleak outlook for a pair of blue eyes that led
into a soul where he felt more at home than in the world
around him. Those portals beheld him intently, searching
his own as if looking there for an answer to some question.
No more hiding now. He sighed with resignation and smiled
"That was a thoughtful gesture, sir," said Amanda.
Sir? he wondered.
"I don't believe I saw you here earlier," she continued.
"Were you at the service?"
"Uh, no. I was over yonder visiting the family plot," he
replied truthfully, not disclosing whose family. "I got
talking with the gravediggers here."
"Did you know my father?"
"No... no, I never met him."
Of course, John realized with sudden insight: she hasn't
seen me since I got rid of my beard in the fall.
Amanda looked at the rose and back at John, her puzzled
expression politely requesting an explanation.
"I just have enough sympathy with the human plight that I
grieve a little at each person's passing, whether I knew them
or not," he replied with newly found eloquence.
Amanda beheld John as though he had just stepped out of a
vision. A fresh sparkle in her eyes told him that they were
moistening a little. Her countenance gradually fell and she
spoke with sadness: "I wish more people were like that. I've
found that when you grieve, you grieve alone."
Being careful to not seem too dismal, Amanda did not
linger on the point. "I left with the others earlier," she
explained, "but I came back to see that the men have done
"They were impressed with the little ceremony your family
had," John noted.
"That was my doing. I'm surprised that others don't do
more for their loved ones." She looked over at another
interment proceeding unattended. "I did such a little bit,
yet some people make me feel I went overboard on it."
"I've always enjoyed the pipes, the few times I've heard
them," said John. "Your father did too, I expect?"
"Yes. His mother was a Sutherland." Amanda pointed to the
name on the stone. "She was born in Scotland and came over
with her parents. They're all buried here. Father always
hoped to get over to the old country to visit relatives and
see the Highlands. It was one more thing he kept putting
"It's a short life, isn't it?" observed John after a
"It reminds us to live it to the full," he continued.
"Each day is precious."
"I sometimes think of it as more of an obligation than
something to be enjoyed," replied Amanda candidly.
"Happiness often does require effort," he agreed.
She smiled a little. "You seem to be a kindred spirit."
"I'm glad if I can be."
The drizzle was getting heavier.
"Well, I should be getting back," said Amanda. "I have a
carriage here, sir. Can I offer you a ride somewhere?"
"Oh... no," replied John, regretting her impending
departure. "I don't have far to go."
She regarded him momentarily as if subconsciously
desiring some reason to linger. "I'll say good-day then."
She turned and headed for the roadway, John staring after
her with his heart sinking back toward his feet. He had
taxed his ingenuity for some tactful way of revealing his
identity and explaining his situation.
Something in his expression as they parted caused Amanda
to look back at him once as she made her way to the carriage.
His countenance still had that same forlorn aspect she could
not account for.
When she had turned away from him for what must surely be
the last time, he decided to throw tact to the wind.
"Elgitha," he called out in a bold, clear voice.
Amanda pivoted instantly. "John!" She ran eagerly back to
him. "I knew I should have recognized you! What are you
"I was coming home on leave, and - well, it's not much
farther to the city. I knew your father was being buried
today, and I thought maybe you could use a little moral
support, so I just stayed on the train."
"But you didn't come to the graveside for the service. And
why didn't you tell me who you were?"
"I - well - I, uh..."
The rainfall helped him out with its sudden intensity.
"Oh, never mind!" said Amanda. "We're getting wet!" She
grabbed his arm and headed for the roadway. "We're having
people back at the house. You must come over."
An invitation like this was hard to turn down. She pulled
John to the carriage and hauled him in after herself.
Later, at the Clark home