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brawler, but had its earlier babbling, purling, and murmuring stages, running gently over sand and gravel, and meeting seldom with greater obstructions than a chance stone or jutting bank, such as could be overcome by a light rippling effort. Once, however, in the quiet retired stage of its career, it had met with a great obstacle to its progress, and, like many quiet natures in such emergencies, had then put forth an unwonted vigour and will. The obstacle was a large rock, which rose directly in its way, and slightly above its bed. Through this upper part it had forced its way by a large hole, like the mouth of a pitcher, and from it fell on a projecting shelf into a selfwrought basin, shallow and shellshaped as a baptismal font, overflowing which its waters gushed in a full straight fall into a gravelled reservoir beneath, and then purled on again with their wonted calmness as though they had never met a resistance, or put forth an effort. True to its similitude with quiet natures, however, it had made this effort unobtrusively and in seclusion. The scene of the waterfall was a little deep dell, overhung by trees and thick foliage, which crept and twined and clustered over every part of the bank and rock where the stream was not, and framed it with masses of verdure. It was a great haunt of birds, where they had their glees and oratorios, and was much favoured by wildflowers and creepers. The spot was called St Kneighton's Keeve. The word keeve means font, it is supposed, but who this Kneighton the Baptist was even tradition knows not; or whether it was on the front of infidels, or on the brows of the knights of the round table, that he dashed the pure flood, and made the holy cross. The ruins of a small chapel or oratory on a platform overhanging and overlooking the cascade, testify to the some-time existence of such religious eremite. And we could almost forgive him for his asceticism, his waterand-cress meals, his isolate piety, and his uncommuned prayers, when we looked on the still verdant beauty of the spot where he had placed his soul in solitude with God. Winter had stripped the trees and creepers of
their leaves now, but amid the tumbling walls of the chapel, and on the plateau beside, was the evergreen verdure of many an arbutus and hollybush, and here and there a dwarf oak. The scene had still its drapery; and almost hidden by a screen of berries, bright green leaves, and suchlike Christmas foliage, there sat on a stone directly above the waterfall, one whom hermits even might have looked upon with admiration, so simple and bright was her beauty, freshened now by the clear crisp air, and toned, perhaps, by the solemnity of the services she had just joined in. This was the trysting-place, and Grace was waiting her lover. The tryst was to her a pleasant one, and she scarcely felt, under the influences around her, impatience or displeasure at being the first comer. In the sonorous fall and cheerful dash of the waters, she seemed again to hear the swell and joyful choruses of the jubilee anthems, and in the rustling of the bare branches and the shrubs, listened again to the echoed voice of uttered prayer.
The dread of the night before had passed away, or been forgotten. Her soul was calm and happy in its trysting. A step breaks the silence; so slow, so broken-can that be Phil Rounsval? Again her heart asks the question as she looks on a face so woe-stricken-on a form so bent and shrunken in its strength-on an expression so wanting in its old manliness and honesty, so shrouded with gloom and agony, that she almost thinks it must be the apparition of her old lover, and fears to break the spell of his presence.
At last her voice and her fears find utterance.
“Phil-Phil, what ails thee? what has happened? what hast seen? what has come upon thee?"
With a ghastly smile he tendered her a bunch of sea-pinks, crushed and already withered.
"There, Grace; there is the token that I did thy behest. Didst thou know at what cost it was done, thou wouldst cast it from thee like a curse."
No, Phil; I never could believe that it came in ill-and it shall be ever dear to me;" and as she spoke,
the crumpled flowers were placed in her bosom. "Some misfortune has befallen thee, but thou hast not done a crime, Phil-no, Phil, that is not in thy nature. My heart misgave me as I looked out from my window last night" (her anxiety overcame her maiden modesty now), "and saw a black shadow of a man crawling after thee. "Twas Rich Curgenven, I know. What was there betwixt thee? what hast done? Tell me tell me, man. Oh tell me, my love," and this time it was her arm which twined round him, and her hand which closed in his. He writhed, and turned from that gentle pressure.
"No, no, Grace; thou must not touch me. There is blood on my hand-murder in my soul."
"In mercy, Phil, speak out," gasped the young girl, her face ashen with terror, her frame trembling and quivering with fear.
"I will tell thee, Grace, if it be my last words. Thou shalt know the truth. I went, thou knowest, at thy bidding, to the cliff, and was plucking the sea-pink for thee, and listening for the sound of the bells on the waters, when I saw quite sudden the flash of a blade before me, and felt a man's hand upon me. It was Brazilian Dick. We strove there on the brink of the Black Pit, man to man-hours I think, and at last there was a whirl and a shock as if the earth was upheaving, and I saw him shot down like a great black bird over the cliff, throwing out his arms and grasping at the darkness, and felt myself hanging by the clench of one hand on the turf. 'Twas done in self-defence not in malice, God knows; but oh, Grace, Grace! my hand has taken life, and I have lost my peace-lost thee, lost everything." And the strong man shook in his agony, as if ague-stricken, and the tears dropped slow and heavily through the hands which covered his face. A man's tears, ever such a mournful sight, overcame poor Grace entirely, and she laid her head on her lover's shoulder, sobbing and weeping bitterly. The greatness, the suddenness of the calamity, overpowered her at first, but with the elasticity of woman's strength, tender
and supple, bending and breaking not, she was the first to recover from the dread sorrow.
"Rise up, Phil; look up, man," she said, "there may be blood on thy hand, but there is no guilt on thy soul. Thou hast done a man to death, but 'twas in self-defence, in right of thy own life, and God will forgive thee for it. But thou must face the deed before the world. Thee must, Phil-thee must."
And her hand took his 'twas her gentle strength which lifted him up; her strength which bore the bulk of the strong man over the loose stones, up the rocky path, over the stiles, and on to his own threshold. There stood John Truscott, with a gloom resting on his open face like a cloud on a broad field, shading, but not shadowing it, as though it had no right to a being there. She knew what his presence meant; he was parish constable; so she gave her lover's hand one gentle clasp, passed her hand over his brow, muttered a short prayer, "God help thee, Phil," and then sped down the valley to weep and pray in her own chamber.
Confronted with his own sex, Phil's manhood arose again erect and strong; his brow cleared, and his eye looked out calm and confident.
I know thy errand, Champion Jan," he said; and will go with thee-don't handcuff me. I couldn't bear that couldn't bear to go like a criminal through the streets."
"Never fear, Phil; I will do my duty gently by thee, lad. 'Tis a black business, but I never will believe thee dost it wilfully. I have known thee boy and man for years, and never saw thee do a vengeful or wilful thing. Tell us, lad, all about it. I feel like a fayther to thee, and would help thee all I can."
Confidence begat strength. Phil roused himself, thought over the incidents of that fearful night, and gave them in a detail more circumstantial than they had yet occurred to himself, and his heart was lightened thereby. Thus he went on to meet the charge of murder, upheld by his own uprightness, comforted by the memory of Grace's tenderness and love.
Early on that Christmas morn, old Joe Treherne had gone out in his boat, had sailed round the Willapark Point, and stood in towards the Black Pit. With his wonted habit, he was scanning the shore, and running his eye over the cliff and the precipice, when it lit on something strange lying on a shelving slit in the wall of the rock. He thought at first it was a calf or goat fallen over; but then it seemed to have a sort of motion; the wind was raising the clothes, and he thought it must be a man. He put the boat close in, jumped on the ledge, and saw indeed the body of a man. A glance at the dress sufficed to recognise Richard Curgenven. The legs hung dangling, and seemingly lifeless, the body lay still and deathlike, the arms stiff and motionless by its side; the pallor of death was on the face, but the eyes still rolled and glared, and the breath of life came from the lips and nostrils in quick and fitful respirations. The hands were cut and bleeding, and one still clutched a silk neckerchief with a firm numbed grip.
Here has been some wild work," muttered the pilot. ""Twas no false or tipsy step that brought this man over the cliff. Dick hath met with a fall from some hand or other."
As he lifted up the body, he saw no trace of wound or blow; the limbs and trunk were paralysed and powerless-the only vitality was in the mouth and eye. The collar and shirt about the throat were torn and displaced; and as Joe and his mate carried their burden to the boat, the empty sheath of a knife dropped from the sash around the waist.
"Hot blood, cold steel, and a death-grip have been the story here, I expect. I hope young Faarmer Phil had nought to do with this business," said old Joe, as he made a bed of coats and sails in the boat for the dying man.
I hope not-I hope not, pilot; but there was ever a grudge atwixt 'em; and both of 'em had a liking for miller Rosevear's lass; and one never
knows what a man will do when his heart is jealous, like."
Sadly and silently they pulled back into the harbour. Not a moan or a groan came from Curgenven ; but the eye flashed and wandered as though in search of some unseen thing. A door was soon unhung, and a mattress placed on it to make a litter, on which he was conveyed to a cottage where he had lodged. A crowd soon gathered round, and made a kind of procession. The story, with all kinds of exaggeration, went from house to house, and lip to lip Phil's name was gradually connected with the event, and the bruit went abroad that Brazilian Dick had been thrown over the cliff and murdered by young Rounsval. Meanwhile he had been placed on a bed, and the doctor had been sent for. Fracture of the vertebræ and laceration of the spinal cord was his verdict, caused, he said, by the fall. There was no hope of life; but death might not ensue for hours, perhaps for days, and there might be intervals of consciousness, and partial restoration of the mental powers. On examination no mark was found which indicated violence; but the kerchief clutched in the hand was soon identified as having belonged to Rounsval, and a pin stuck in it was recognised as an old and treasured heirloom of his family. This and many corroborative circumstances made a body of circumstantial evidence which was considered sufficient to lead to the apprehension of Phil. Gossipry was soon rife, and produced the story with every kind of variation. One version was, that Dick had been pixy-led, and had thus lost his way and tumbled down into the Black Pit. Another told how he had been haunted and bewitched by the sound of a bell, and had gone on and on following its sound, until he was enticed over the cliff. Another detailed more circumstantially how he and Grace had met up by the Point, how Phil had followed them, how they were just breaking the ring in sign of troth, when he had sprung
forward and pushed the happy lover down the precipice; how Grace had tried to spring after him, and how she had swounded away, and been found in this state by the old sexton on the steps of the church, when he had gone to open the door.
For a long time the dying man lay in a kind of stupor, without sign or motion. Very strange and awful was this life in death-this struggle of strong vitality with fate. After some hours, a feverish strength seemed to seize upon the brain, and set eye and tongue in vivid motion. This spasmodic action of thought, and look, and speech-the terrible memories which flashed forth in ghastly glances, and were shouted out in wild utterances, were in fearful contrast with the deadness which had spread over the poor body from the neck downwards. The limbs could no longer respond to the impulses of the will, or sympathise with the workings of the spirit.
At times the ravings were of past things, and horrible enough were these revelations. At times he would be on the pirate's deck rejoicing in fiendish laugh at the tortures of his victims as they went over into their watery grave—at times would be launching out imprecations and curses in the slaver's hold--at times would live through the scenes of the past night, mixing up its memories with those of other days, tangling all the dark threads of life together.
"Ah! that accursed bell!" thus he raved-" that cursed eye! I had him fast and sure-'twas my turn, then. How pale he looked as he was tottering on the brink! How he clutched my throat! I feel his fingers now, hot and throttling. Then that bell,-boom-boom-it came on my ear, and that eye flashed like lightning from the clouds. Then my feet slipped. How it donged into my ear and shot into my brain as I hung on by that rock. What are those priests chanting the burialservice for? There is no one in that chair! there is only an eye. How it pierces; I can't look at it! My hold is giving! How sharp the rock is! I can't look up for that eye, and I can't go down to that dark hell down there. That pale lady and her
husband and her child are down there, looking as they did when we made them walk the plank. What are those black fellows crawling up the rock for? Chain them !-lash them! Thrust them down-down into the black pit!"
Exhaustion soon followed, and he fell into a fitful broken sleep. When he awoke again, his mind had recovered its consciousness, and was yielding to the influences of the physical prostration. The spirit had sunk into a sort of calm; its fierceness was succeeded by a half-sullen, half - penitent mood. There was apathy rather than dread of death indifference rather than remorse; and it was then that, in the presence of many witnesses, he avowed that he had sought Phil Rounsval's life, and that the struggle in which he had met his death was of his own seeking. Investigation soon brought corroborations of this confession. Grace testified to having seen him follow Rounvsal up the hill; old Truscott had gone to the spot, and there, shining in the grass, found a knife which had been worn by Curgenven. General conviction set with the proof of facts, and there could no longer be cause or reason for Phil's detention. Never did Truscott perform a duty more gladly and heartily than when he announced Phil's liberation. The tear stood in his eye, and his strong voice faltered as he congratulated him.
"And now then, lad,” said he, "when thou hast thanked God for thy deliverance, home to thy sweetheart, and thou mayest yet have a happy Christmas."
No, no! I must see 'un once more. Though I'm innocent in intent, I took his life, and must have his forgiveness." They were alone now in that chamber of death the once rivals, the two strong men-the one bowed by sorrow, the other lying broken and prostrate on the threshold of eternity. Slowly Phil advanced towards the bed, and looked down on that pale face; the death sweat was on the brow now, and the eyes were half closed. As they opened on him, there shot a ray of their wonted glare, but this passed away as Phil knelt down by the bedside, and said softly and calmly, "Dick, Dick, I
bore thee no malice-I meant thee no harm. Let us forgive one another ere thou goest hence. Let us part in peace."
There came no voice in answer; the
power of speech had gone, but the eye looked out peace and reconciliation; and as Philip Rounsval prayed there by that bedside, the stain of blood passed away from his soul.
'Twas Christmas night, and the fire was blazing on Hugh Rosevear's hearth, but it lighted up no merriment or gladness there. Sad and melancholy was the group by that fireside. A few short hours had brought a change as though years had past and gone, and had brought age and blight and woe. The old miller sat in his old place, silent and mournful, with his head bowed on his chest, his eyes bent on the ground. Before him was a large old bible, and on the open page lay his horn spectacles. His wife was on a stool at his feet, rocking to and fro, and sobbing, bursting forth into exclamations, half sorrowful, half prayerful. Opposite sat Grace, pale, and still as a statue, but tearless and resigned, her sorrow touched with the strength of trust, and the hopefulness which cometh from prayer. Thus the night was speeding when the latch was lifted, a footstep was heard on the floor, and Phil stood among them. 'Twas like an apparition, but the presence brought at once a sense of relief and instinct of joy. The old miller sat up erect once more. The dame uttered a fervent "Thank God!" and Grace glided silently to her lover's side.
Phil," said the old man, "I know'st thou art free, and hast proved thy innocence, or thou wouldst not have come to my hearthstone. Thank God for it. My heart will keep Christmas-time yet."
"Yes, yes, miller, thou shouldst never have see'd me again unless I could look in thy face, and stand before thee a clear man. He confessed all, tould how he had tried to stab me as I stooped down, and how 'twas in self-defence I threw 'im from the cliff. We have parted in peace.'
There was not much demonstration or utterance in the joy which followed. It was calm and solemn, such as
falls on hearts which have passed from trial and suffering into peace and gladness.
Shortly after midnight old Truscott brought the last tidings from the deathbed. "He has passed away," he said-"'tis all over. He was calm and peaceful-like at the last. Old Goody says she heard him say some prayer, though 'twas in a foreign tongue. As the bells chimed the hour from Tintagel too, a sort of faint smile came over his face, and his lips was moving, and then 'twas all still, still."
And so closed the Christmas day which had dawned so darkly.
The summer was at its full, the sun fell brightly on the downs and on the old church-tower of Botreaux. The sea was smooth, and lay basking in the brightness; the furze and the heath were in full bloom, and the scent of thyme and clover mingled freshly with the sweet air, when a marriage-train passed on to the old church. Old Hugh was there, old Truscott, gay and hearty, and all our old friends. And as Phil and Grace passed out again, linked arm-in-arm, they looked up significantly at the silent tower, and then back lovingly into each other's face, as though they felt there needed no bells to peal the gladness of their hearts.
The events of that terrible night left their impress on Phil in a certain seriousness which shaded, though_it did not cloud, his cheerfulness. He was never known to lay his hand on a man again. The ring knew him no more. But his hearthstone knew him well. On it he stood ever a glad and happy man, and he was often known to say that the voices of his wife and children, as he crossed his threshold, rang a merrier peal on his heart than could ever have come from the holy bells of Botreaux.