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