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inmate of the castlo; and the loneliness of my dwelling without her, in spite of Nell's efforts to make it otherwise, and the constant thought that Canth would fall a victim to consumption, with which the doctors said she was threatened, made me glad to seek talk from any one whose time could afford it to me. Ned and I this night, at all events, walked up and down the village, outside the castle-gates, until it was late enough to be indoors in all reason. But Ned, having heard of some neighbour's child's wedding, would wait out to see her brought home, as if the sight was new to him. Presently loud shouting foretold her coming, and on, through the gloom of the late October night, came troops of men, women, and boys, trampling the autumn leaves beneath their feet, and bearing aloft huge torches, the light of which illumined the whole neighbourhood, and the heavens over it. In the midst of these boisterous, loving people, cantered the bridegroom's grey mare, bearing the gallant owner, while the new-made bride, abashed and blushing, sat behind him, hiding her face from the glare of the torchlight on her husband's shoulder.
“On they rode towards their happy home, passing us by, of course, unnoticed ; but from the distance still, for many a mile, the wild mirth was borne back on the breeze, and the torches' light still gleamed in the heavens. Laughing more heartily than I had done for months at some of Ned's remarks, I bade him good-night, and took a short and unfrequented path by the back of his house to my more elegant dwelling. Whistling cheerily, to beguile the time, I went along over the brambles and bushes, hills and ruts, till I got to the interior of the wood—my own footsteps on the mossy ground, or the faint twitters of some disturbed bird, being all the signs of life I had to bear me company. But as I crossed the bridge that leads to the planted side of the river, I thought I heard whispering. I stopped and listened—all was silent. I advanced a few steps farther, thinking the slight noise might have been the rustling of leaves, when I distinctly heard hurried footsteps pass on swiftly into the gloom, and then faintly die in the distance. I followed them quickly, and as noiselessly as I could ; but, losing the track, I laid my finger on the trigger of my gun (which I always carried through the wood at night), thinking that if I fired, I might surprise the intruders out of some exclamation which would lead me to discover who roamed so late through my lord's lands. I fired, of course, in a different direction from whence the footsteps went, lest I should endanger the life of any creature.
“My plan succeeded but too well! The report of the gun was followed by a scream; and the words, Oh, Percy, Percy, save me !' in a voice I could not fail to know, rang through the planting. Good God! how my blood curdled! What a pang shot through my heart ! How immoveable I stood! How powerlessly I listened !"
The old man sobbed aloud; the traveller had risen, and paced the room with the uneven strides of one deeply agitated. Poor Nell was again on her knees, scarcely conscious of anything that was going on, moaning in the depths of her agony. And the eyes of the form in the tattered clothing shone out with the most unnatural lustre.
"Oh, Percy, save me!' resumed the old man.
“Hush, Canth ! cried a voice which I would know out of a hundred, Blind men have sharp ears, sir.”
The traveller let the remark pass unnoticed.
" " Hush, Canth! If you love me, be silent. I have already told you what the consequences of a discovery at such a time would be. It was your father who fired—he alone has liberty to do so. But we are safe; he is at the other side of the hedge, or my ears deceive me.'
"Do you think so, Percy? Then take me home's lift me in your arms, Percy; I tremble and cannot walk. There now, I feel safe in your strong embrace. But I know I'll never live when you have left me, branded with shame, and unable to clear myself; my father will never admit me to my home again, neither will darling Miss Annie love me longer; and—I fear
“IIere the words grew faint; he was either moving on with his light burden, or I was growing senseless. It must have been the latter; for soon I fell, without any power to save myself, like a stone to the ground, where I lay insensible, till found by the workmen in the early morn. Home they carried me to poor Nell, in raving fever, and she soon gleaned from my wild talk the misfortune which had befallen our child.
" I lay delirious for many weeks; and if it was the Lord's will to take me then, how much sorrow might have been spared ! but Ilis blessed will be done! He knows best the time to take us.
“When I became conscious, I heard Percy de Vere had left the castle, and I saw Canth helping her mother to tend me. The sight of her drove me mad again. I started from my bed, and, throwing my hands high above my head, cursed her! -cursed her with deep and heavy curses !—cursed the eyes that looked on her in her infamy, and prayed Heaven to send its awful vengeance on her ; though I saw her lying lifeless before nie—lying like a broken recd, her long, fair arms listless at her side, and her eyes closed.
" Nell did all a woman could do to calm me. She might as well have tricd to clothe herself in moonbeams. I paced the room like a lunatic until I saw Canth recovered and able to stand. Then I drove her from my house-drove her out in the darkness of the night-on the pitiless world, never to see her more; never ! never!
" I got a relapse, and, after many weeks of fevered suffering, rose from my bed a blind man. My heartless cruelty was chastised by the Lord. As soon as I was able to walk, I went to the castle. The scene which took place here I will not even try to describe; suffice to say, I left the old lord's service, gave back all the power with which he had invested me, all the riches he had lavished on me, and retired here with the remnant of my property, and the only remaining treasure of my heart—to this low cabin, which the old lord at his death bequeathed to me for ever. But even here 'my child's shame followed me; for scarcely had we been settled four months, when, on our return from some out-door occupation one morning, we found a young babe in our bed (just such a tiny thing as Canth had been when Heaven sent her to us), and pinned outside the shawl in which it was wrapped was a card, on which a few lines were neatly written with the words
"Your child in trust, until her mother can claim her shainelessly.-CANTI.' “ Ilow poor Nell would have managed to bring the wec thing through, I know not, had not Providence sent to her assistance a poor dumb woman, who had just lost a child of her own. She took on Moll's nursing, and, indeed, no mother could have reared her more tenderly, or lavished more love on her. She comes after us still ; we call her dumb Martha. The wealth of her world seems to be in the cot there-Canth's little child."
“Your story's done, old man,” said the traveller, stepping before Mick, who now sat wiping the dew of sorrow and excitement from his brow. “But I tell you, fool, dolt that you are! that your child is sinless. I could not believe that the girl whose character you have just sketched could fall from her purity, or forget her duty to Heaven and you. How know you that she was not married ?"
“Fool and dolt back to your teeth !" roared the old man, stamping. "How do I know that she was not married ! If she were, why not proclaim it to the world? What need of mystery? Married ! Percy de Vere marry her and then journey off, leaving his wife to be branded with shame. Journey off for years, and never write to her-never send an inquiry after her! Likely that! Married ! Ha! ha!-what reason had she to hide it if she were?”
“To save Percy de Vere from being disinherited,” hissed the traveller. “Beggary awaited the proclamation of such a union. Curses deeper than those which you—
“ Husband_Mick! Good God! What's here—what's this ?" shrieked Nell, tottering to the light, and holding in her hand some glittering bauble she had rescued from the sea-gull. “A curl !-a long golden curl !-never but on my child's head did anything like it grow; andand-oh! my heart opens-a ring!
- a wedding-ring rolled up in writing-soiled writing! Sir-stranger-whoever you are, will you read it?"
She was gasping, her eyes were starting wildly, her bosom heaving tumultuously. The traveller put his arm round her tenderly and placed her in his vacant chair. He spoke to her in a low, soft-voice, and tried to calm her; but still her words were
"The writing, sir! What's on the paper ? Read it, sir-for the love of God, read it, if it's news of her!”
The traveller commenced in a voice quivering with emotion" On the
of -, 18, at St. — Dublin, by the Rev. Percy de Vcre to Kathleen, only daughter of Michael Fany."
Nell threw herself into the old man's arms and sobbed convulsively, while the stranger cried out exultingly
“I knew it! I knew it! for I met Percy de Vere abroad."
“Not only did he tell me he was coming home to claim leis wife"-here the stranger spoke rapidly—" but he came in the Iron Duko, and landed in Kingstown last night, and is now
“And is now?" the old man's voice was imploring.
“In your cabin l-on the floor beside you. His hand clasps yours, old man. Where is your child—my wife ?”
One unearthly scream now filled the ears of all; and the ragged outcast, who had entered unheard, who had lain crouched in the corner, who had sent the bird on its mission of discovery, reeled to the middle of the floor, with hood thrown back and outstretched arms.
“Here, here, father! to forgive and be forgiven! Here, mother! to love and bless you! Here, Percy de Vere, husband of my hcart! to show you the strength of woman's trusting love!" And, with a wild bound, she threw herself into the arms of one who yearned to feel so true a heart beat against his own.
To the many questions of “Where, my child, did you come from ?" . Where have you been ?” “How did you live through these long years of sorrow and suffering ?” her soft answer came
“Where my child was, I was. Sheltered by you, fed by you, clothed by you. What roof but a father's could shield a daughter's honour from the storms of the howling world? But you, mother"-and she left her husband's arms to throw herself on Nell's bosom—" how came it that you never recognized in the dumb Martha your own loving Canth? No; you could not, with hidden hair, disfigured face, and voice which would have betrayed all, silent—'twas impossible !"
Poor old Mick had, since the perusal of his daughter's marriage-certificate, seemed to be so wholly absorbed in his own thoughts and mutterings, that he was perfectly unconscious of all that was going on around him. In a self-satisfied, child-like manner he kept repeating
“I knew his voice; I would have known it in a hundred. Blind men have sharp hearing. But Nell persuaded me out of my reason. It was a queer dream, sure enough ; it was a queer dream." Ana indeed it would have been a difficult matter to persuade him that the same dream had not a great deal to do with the happiness which now reigned with its holy calm around him.
Little Moll (or, as she'll be styled now, I dare say, Miss Marie), quite refreshed after her three hours' sleep, was as merry as a cricket; and so, with the beautiful Canth passing from one to the other, with words of love and forgiveness, caresses, prayers, and thanksgivings, the booming of merry peals chimed from her castle home, and ushered the New Year in.
WHENEVER I would escape uncasy thoughts, or soothe a wcary head ; or whenever I have a mind to be idly contemplative, one resource I have always at hand. Some people keep a favourite book about them for this purpose ; others (I do not know any instance, but there must be many such) find the same charm in a picture. Were I obliged to choose between these means, I should certainly select the latter—a portrait, or a fine flat Dutch landscape. As it is, my resource is of similar character: I fall back on my grandmothers, the whole series of them, up to the remotest period of which British history takes cognisance. Clearly, one must have had a grandmother extant-in every age of the world. The life that moves in this hand has flowed in one uninterrupted stream through countless generations. If you prick your finger, there starts blood that burned in the cheek of some pretty miss who heard the hurrahs of the Blessed Restoration—in lips that were kissed, perhaps, by that naughty Plantagenet Edward the Fourth—in bands that spun at the domestic wheel A.D. 860 : while the feet thereunto belonging rocked the cradle in which lay a grandfather (in the then futuro), and he with some thirty or forty after him. All to grow up to be men. All to be good or bad, idle or valiant. All to go courting. All to take home wives—in this costume or that, fair or dark, tall or short—with more or less of love. All to begin the world as if there was nothing but youth in it, as if they could never grow old and become grandfathers and grandmothers too.
And this is what makes it so pleasant and so touching a contemplation. I do not think of my male progenitors, because that would be more or less like a glance at the history of England. They represent the serious work of it-fighting, farming,