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He began to read it, thus :
DEAR SIR,—I write to ask from you a personal favour. It is that you will receive Catherine for a time, the duration of which it is now impossible to fix, in your house; and with the understanding that she receives no visitors but your visitors, and never leaves your house and grounds without your express permission.
“How much is involved in these requests, I, alas ! of all men, have the saddest reason to know. Nor should I put them to you-how could I?—for myself; but I do put them and urge them for her.
She has deeply wronged me, but to what extent I leave her to explain. I am willing to hope for the best. I demand that for a time, at least, she keeps aloof from society; and I in return will do my best to hold her reputation safe before the world, so long, at least, as she will let me.
"I grieve to see that I am not writing as I intended to write. The bitterness of the heart, I feel, is infecting my every word, and making me unjust.
'I do think she is personally innocent. I do think, for one so young, so beautiful, so inexpressibly lovely in that loveliness of the spirit which is as heaven to earth compared with the body's attractions—I do think, I repeat, that all these things, with my own age and rigidity of character, may excuse her in your eyes. Ah! I would to God that they might in mine too. You do not know-she does not-how I worshipped her.
'I dreamed again I was of the kind capable of loving and being loved. All the chivalry of the past seemed to be revived—all the romance of my youth, and I said, my life may be of little worth to her, but it cannot but be glorified in such light, and whatever I am, or have, or may be, all is hers.
• What my state is now, it is worse than useless to speak of, if she be lost to me.
Ah, sir! will you try to win her back to me ? 'Hear her story. Keep her by your side. Win her confidence. Then—though not too soon—write to me. If you can then say in solemn truthfulness of soul, “Take back your wife ; she is no longer unworthy of the love of an honest man,”-then, indeed, will I give her, what now I cannot, my trust.
*Dare I still think this may yet be so ? My life cannot be
prolonged to any great extent, but whatever it be, then it shall be devoted once more to her, to smooth over the past, to struggle for a future—one where I may indeed feel peaceand so feeling, may show to her an old man's boundless gratitude.'
She had never once interrupted him, except by the occasional half-stifled cry of despair his words wrung from her ; but when he had finished, she rose hastily, wiped away the moisture off her face, and said with sudden animation:
Owen, I accept this—I do-indeed I do; and now will you let us part, as we should part. Oh! my husband-my heart still beats for you—and your happiness-if-if-'.
He could no longer resist. Before he was himself conscious of what he was doing, he opened his arms, and she flung herself upon his breast, and wept there a long time.
After a time she whispered
"To-morrow. We will ride together to the station, then part—your groom and maid going with you.'
· Very well.'
No. • Because I feel I am no fit judge of my own case. My heart seems to harden against you—while-while
'I understand. This, then, is our farewell ?' “Yes—substantially.''
Then, O my husband, will you not-not-even-say-God bless you ?! :
She knelt down, with bowed head.
His trembling hands were upon her-his murmured words floated in her ear-unrecognised, yet fully understood.
"And pardon ?' • Do you deserve that, Catherine ?! She looked up at him. He had not spoken severely, she saw. "I do! as God is my other Judge, I do!'
"Take it, then—and let us both hope all the barriers are removed that lie between us and a future.'
• One word more. You spoke as if desiring vengeance-'
She could go no farther-so terrible was the look that came upon his face.
She would not be warned. Cunliff was in danger—that was all she could think of. She prayed in her inmost soul not to be obliged to see him or write to him ever again. But she could not allow him to
Owen, you have forgiven me—you must also forgive him.'
Catherine, I will not be tempted. There has been enough, and too much, of violence. Leave him to God!'
Will you do so ?'
Catherine had said before that his silence had maddened her, but never had it been to her so terrible as now.
In the night she made a resolution, reckless of consequences, and in the morning she carried it out as recklessly.
THE MOUNTAIN ORCHARD. MRS. Rhys rode over to Capel Illtyd before breaakfst next morning. When she reached the gate of the lowest field of Bod Elian, she got down from her horse, and told her groom she was going to walk up to see the people at the farm.
She had a vague hope of meeting Cunliff rambling about before she reached the house; but her determination to warn him was so fixed, and her fears as concerned her own safety so slight, that she scarcely paused once to think how or where the interview she wished for was to take place.
In this manner, defying more and more the danger that became more and more apparent to her as she went on, Mrs. Rhys reached the flat field in front of Bod Elian.
The doors were open—the house seemed empty, and indeed it was just the time when Nanny was away with the cows, and Elias.had ridden out to set the men to their day's work.
Standing hesitatingly a minute at the open door, Mrs. Rhys thought she heard voices somewhere behind the house, and gathering up the skirt of her habit, walked quickly round towards the garden trees.
In the wall that inclosed those trees, she saw a broken door swinging back on its hinges ; she entered by this, and found herself in a garden. On her right was a long path, sloping downward; on her left a flight of uneven steps, with moss and ferns growing out of them. The instant that she reached that spot she heard Cunliff's voice-not so as to understand a word he was saying—but only in a murmur, audible enough for her to know it was his voice. It came from somewhere above. She looked up, and saw that the steps led to a little orchard, whose trees bore scarcely any. thing but moss upon their branches, which were all bent one way by the sea wind that came along the valley on the other
Mrs. Rhys mounted the steps in that same spirit of impetuous courage and generosity that had let her dare so much already in coming to Bod Elian on such an errand.
She followed the only path she saw in the weird little orchard, and it took her straight to the other side, where the valley, with its walls of mountains, its glittering little thread of a river, and the great flashing line of sea at the end, burst suddenly upon her view.
But the beautiful valley, in all the glory of the morning sun, was only a background to the picture by which the eyes of Catherine Rhys, in their brave, reckless search, were suddenly riveted. Just before where she stood a part of the loose stone wall had fallen long ago; and the stones, all thickly cushioned with moss, were scattered for some way down a little green hill, at one side of which a waterfall dashed down with a force and noise as if it had all the sea in its flow.
On one of these stones sat the man for whose sake her heart was so full of misery- her eyes so dim with midnight tears that she could scarcely bear the morning sun which lit the picture. There he sat, looking in tender, smiling interest, at a girl, whom apparently some question of his had plunged in a fit of sweet, thoughtful embarrassment. She was very lovely. Catherine Rhys felt her loveliness through all her heart, which seemed to drink it in like poisoned honey—the dewy hazed eyes, full of fresh fancy and tender wildness—the smiling lips—the fresh, natural grace of the form, which the poor dark clothes suited as the foliage of the young willow suits the tree—the pretty, childish fingers twining round the great horn of the cow against which she leaned, with her feet crossed, and her other hand stretched down caressingly to a little calf, that rubbed its blind, soft head, against her knee
-nothing was lost to Catherine's eyes, which looked upon the picture till it and they seemed both to turn to fire, and she pressed her hands over her face, but only to snatch them down and gaze once more.
CHAPTER XXVI. MR. CUNLIFF AGAIN VISITS DOLA HUDOL. KEZIA WILLIAMS was standing near the kitchen window kneading a dark mass of dough, when she saw a stranger come into the yard and look about him. One of the farm boys passing, the man stopped him, and asked him some questions which, as the boy did not answer, Kezia concluded must have been spoken in English. The man was dressed as a groom, and she thought he had, perhaps, come with an order from some large house. Muffling her hands in her apron and raising the window, she asked in English
" What is your business, please ?!
The man turned sulkily, like one who has had his patience rather sorely tried.
Do you know if my mistress is ready ? ' he said. Kezia looked perplexed. · Whose servant are you?' she asked.
“Mr. Rhys's at Dola' Hudol. Mrs. Rhys came up here about an hour ago—she ain't gone, is she?'
Kezia was quite amazed and flustered at the idea of such a visitor, but she answered quietly
I have not heard of her being here, but I will see and let you know if she is ready.'
She rubbed the dough from her hands and went out into the passage calling Hirell. She thought she might have met the lady of Dola' Hudol and taken her into the parlour-but that was empty, and so seemed all the house beside.
Kezia took her hat and went round towards the garden. Then she heard, as Mrs. Rhys had done, voices above in the little orchard. She went lightly up the steps, seeing no one till she came upon the same picture-the bit of broken wall, the cow, Hirell leaning against it, the little blind calf rubbing against her knees, Mr. Rymer sitting on the stone-his pale face all brightness and animation.
Hirell !' cried Kezia with the faintest tone of reproach in her voice.
'Yes, Kezia. Do you want me?'
Rymer rose laughing, and looking, Kezia thought, a little confused.