Зображення сторінки

But she again promised him to think over all he had said, and then, as if moved by some strong revulsion of feeling that she could not control, she tried to say a few kindly parting words, then broke down, when Cunliff said, as his last words

• When all this is over, I shall again see you to ask and earn your forgiveness;' but when he made as he would kiss her, she put him aside, and said

Good-night!' and disappeared in the darkness.

Was it fancy that made him think he heard a cry that curdled his blood, only a minute or two afterwards? It was low, penetrating, but full of such concentrated essence of all mortal suffering—at least, so his conscience received it-that it rang

in his ears, in his heart, in his brain, all the way to the hotel

, and through the live-long night, which for him passed without a moment of sleep.



Elias had indeed returned in an anxious and despairing state of mind. The efforts which the Reverend Ephraim Jones and himself had made to discover Hugh, had been as unavailing as they had been injurious to his home affairs and to his purse. To continue the search longer would have been simply ruinous to him. He had parted from the minister with a despair on his face so settled and deep, that Ephraim Jones had considered it his duty to rebuke him; but broke down ignominiously in the attempt, at the mildness with which Elias received his lecture. The accounts he heard of Hugh's manner of living from the people to whom he owed money, and therefore probably exaggerated accounts, were such as to fill one so inexperienced in town life, and so austere in his own, with dismay and deep anger.

On reaching Bod Elian, and hearing from Kezia of Hirell's absence, he sat like one overtaken by a storm, and not knowing which way to turn for shelter. He did not reproach Kezia in words, but looked at her in a manner that filled her heart with remorse and foreboding:

These two sat waiting for Hirell through the long hours of the May afternoon, never speaking to each other, but going in

[ocr errors]

turn to the door to look for her. Elias made no attempt to work, his whole soul was in expectancy; he knew he could not work; he would not pretend ; he knew, too, perhaps, how great a punishment it was to Kezia to see him thus doing nothing, but sitting, apparently unconscious of his great fatigue, grimly waiting.

Kezia was the first to hear the footsteps coming, and watched Elias growing gradually conscious of them too. They were the footsteps of a single person, and were familiar to them.

Elias rises and goes to the door, opens it, and sees his daughter's form alone at the door, while another form is dimly revealed in the moonlight retreating along the wall.

Hirell Morgan,' he says to her, is this how you employ your time while I am away?'

She stands still without attempting to enter, and he hears her sigh heavily.

' It is coming back to such a home, no doubt,' thinks Elias. Then he says aloud and very sternly

* So the man avoids me, Éirell ?

'No, father,' answers she in a languid, faint voice," he would have seen you and spoken to you if he had heard you had come back; but I–I saw no good in such a meeting.'

He pauses a minute, perplexed and troubled greatly at the strangeness of her voice, then moves back as a sign to her to come in.

She walks slowly across the kitchen, bringing with her fresh odours of the spring evening, and stands by the fire holding her hand towards it and shivering. The two look at her in some bewilderment at seeing her show no fear of her father's anger, and they see that her face is very pale, her eyes look large, bright, and very sadly thoughtful.

Suddenly while they are looking at her she turns to her father.

* Father, any news of Hugh ? '

• None, Hirell,' returned Elias, it seems that he is lost to us.'

No, father, I think not,' says Hirell ; then looking down deeper and deeper into the fire she says—Do you remember my once asking you to let me go away from home, father ? Do you remember how much we always wished-poor Hugh and 1-to see the world, to see what it was like, and what life

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

was like


from here? I have not been very many miles to-day, father; but-but'

She sobbed out, and Elias approached her in alarm. · Hirell!'

* But my journey has been too much for me; I-I am weary; I want to see and hear no more of anything-of any one away from here. Yes, and to forget what I have seen.'

Hirell,' said Elias, “I desire to hear where you have spent this day, and how you have spent it.'

• Mr. Rymer came here this morning, the gentleman we have known as Mr. Rymer,' answered Hirell, speaking in a quiet but strained voice, " Kezia has told you what he wanted -have you not done so, Kezia ? I went with him, thinking that when I came back I should tell you the time for our marriage was arranged, and that if father returned with good news of Hugh, we should all be very joyful together.'

Elias looked at her searchingly; Hirell returned his look with steady eyes.

We looked over a beautiful estate,' said Hirell, 'we talked. a great deal of the owner, Mr. Rymer showed me how great a man he must be, and then how much responsibility and care would fall to the wife of such a man, and how no one but a lady born and bred should aspire to such an honour. He made me to agree with him, and then at last it came out that Rymer himself was the great man-owner of the place—that he is Sir John Cunliff.' Kezia could scarcely take in so much romance as this all at

She sat gazing in fixed astonishment at Hirell. Elias went to his daughter, and took her hand.

'Go on, Hirell, tell me all,' he said.

• He convinced me of the truth of what he said. he convinced me!' answered Hirell.

Why has he chosen so strange and unstraightforward a plan for doing this?'

They still looked into each other's eyes. At last Hirell's filled and overflowed, and her lips quivered.

“My father,' said she, 'does this matter to us, who are parted from him for ever? Is it not between him and his God?' * Have we done with him for ever, Hirell ? '

When I say my prayers to-night, father, I shall try to say “I have done with this man," with the same calmness and


Ob, yes,

[ocr errors]


resignation with which good Christians at their death-bed say, “I have done with life,” though mine-mine-mine are the harder words, and in saying them I think I say the others too.'

'Kezia, she is faint,' said Elias, 'help her to her room. I will see you, my child, before I go to bed myself.'

They went out together; and Elias sat himself down alone, and life was more bitter and mysterious to him than ever.



The next evening Sir John Cunliff received the following letter :

"Sir,—You desired me to think over our interview calmly before answering you. Not calmly, but in as peaceful and forgiving a spirit as after long prayer God gives me, I have thought of your actions on this dreadful day just past; and now, in the night-not calmly as you requested—but not I trust with unchristian passion—I sit down to write to you. I wish first to inform you that I have not made known to iny father or any one the whole truth of this day. I feel no need to do so—I feel no need of being protected from you more than you have protected me by showing me that which you really are; so believe me, sir, and be thankful for it, this poor, labouring household of God's elect, of which I am so unworthy a member, shall never know how cruelly, how treacherously its peace

and honour have been struck at through me. Thank God, they sleep, and I, only I am awake, bearing my sorrow by myself as best I may.

‘My answer, sir, is only this—I will never of my own will see you more in this world. I need to take no oath, to bind myself by no vow; the resolve that comes from humble prayer and conquered passion is sufficient in God's eyes. Oh! let it be in yours, and do not try me. Farewell, Mr. Rymer, I use the name I loved once

more. May God forgive and bless you, and guide you to His kingdom, where, if we meet, humble will be my place compared to yours. Your servant,


On the day after he had received the letter, Cunliff was at Capel Illtyd. Here he heard news which kept him from continuing his journey to Bod Elian.

Hirell was away from home.
Her father had taken her away, no one knew whither.

Hugh had not been heard of. Special prayer had been offered at the chapel for Elias.

Cunliff in a few hours was once more at Llansaintfraid, and there took his place in the night train for London.



[ocr errors]

HIRELL had been absent some days, and Elias back at Bod Elian, when he received the following letter from the Reverend Ephraim Jones

· DEAR FRIEND,-- The prodigal is found. Fain would he arise and go to you, who are to him as his earthly father, but that severe sickness holds him to his bed, from whence it is doubtful whether he will ever arise. The physician and death are in combat for his body, and myself and Satan for his soul. The manner in which I discovered him you shall hear of another time. His spirit is full of despair; his bones are almost through his skin. This night will perhaps decide his fate. Wait till you hear again, to-morrow. Yours in commiseration,

EPHRAIM JONES.' Elias rose up from the reading dry-eyed and silent. He went out to his work, but found no comfort in it. The emerald fields—the flowery coppices of May—the skylark letting down from the impenetrable blue distance a faint pathway of song that seemed thronged, like Jacob's ladder, with heavenly company—the rich-voiced thrush, whose breast has become dyed as with the rich flickering shade and sunshine that plays over it through the dancing leaves of her home tree

-the tiny, thrilling linnet-all seem to Elias this morning to be singing the songs of Hugh. He strides through the furrows, his hard hands to the plough, and as he reaches a corner where a cluster of young fruit-trees drop their blossoms on to the brown mould, his eyes rest upon a long, broken bough that

« НазадПродовжити »