Imatges de pÓgina
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The girl sat down on a fallen tree to have accumulated a store of firing to pre. watch for the first appearance of a human sent to some kindly householder, at whose figure in the distance. The past three fireside she was used to sit. Her work months had left their traces upon May. done for the present, she washed her hands Her face was always pale now, except and feet in the brown bog-water, and put when a blush or a spring wind made it on her old ak, which had been laid aside bloom for a passing moment. Her eyes carefully, and picked up her stick, and had grown larger and darker, and had a began to climb the bank, that she might look of hidden suffering. Pauses like this rest in the grove a little before beginning were very difficult to her, for she could her evening journey to seek a shelter for not afford much brooding when in trouble, the night. Old women can love pretty was not given to tears, and did not do places as well as young girls, and May's what women call fretting. Grief dealt fallen tree was a favourite resting-place for so hardly with her that for life's dear sake Bid, who might often be found there on fine she was driven into resistance. .

days, knitting busily in the solitude. This was not the romantic sorrow of the Bid felt a little uneasy as she climbed girl of a year ago, whose lover had gone the bank, for as she tied on her cloak she away, but the quiet woe of a woman who had heard a sigh float past her ear across had sworn to be faithful. Grief that is the loneliness and silence of the bog. It most unselfish is always hardest to bear. seemed as if the wind had bent the bog. A selfish heart will comfort itself with the blossoms, and they had whispered, “My little merciful compensations which life is heart is broken." No sound heard here ever providing, but the heart that aches need be surprising, where the air was full for another cannot even relish peace while of spirits, but Bid did not quite like to be evil has hold of the one beloved. May the confidante of creatures of whom she plucked violets for occupation, and made knew not the dwelling - place, nor the them up into nosegays, and wound them nature. The very bending and bowing of together in wreaths; one she would give the ranks and files of white fleecy blossoms to Paul for his button-hole, and she would that rocked themselves towards her like wear another in her bosom. But she living things in trouble made the old creawould not give any to Katherine. She and ture shiver, and almost believe that they Paul should share at least a wreath of had spoken. She crept up the bank, and violets between them.

crossed herself as she set foot in the little At this childish work her heart eased grove; but superstition filed like a bat at itself a little, till

, looking up, she saw blink of daylight when she saw a fellowfigures in the distance among the trees— creature lying prone on the earth. Paul and Katherine; but they were not Bid knew the girl from the abbey. Not coming quite her way. The flowers fell once, nor twice, but many scores of times from her fingers ; her hands dropped in had she been warmed and fed by her in her lap. She had told Paul in the morn- the kitchen at Monasterlea, and the old ing that she would, if possible, meet him woman was afflicted at this piteous sight. at this spot, but he had met Katherine She knew now whose heart was broken. instead, and she was leaning on his arm. Bid was shrewd and sympathetic; there It seemed to May that they were walking was not a love-story in the country that as lovers walk. She sighed a little, and she did not know of, and she had early then the blow descended on her heart, her scented trouble when things got amiss with senses went away, and she fell from her Paul and his promised wife. seat, and lay, forgetful of all trouble, among called Katherine a witch before that young the primroses.

lady had been a week at Monasterlea ; and a At the other side of the bank, and right few minutes since she had descried this witch behind the great thorn, an old woman was and May's lover coming out of the woods. toiling down in a cutting of the ugly bog. “Heart's blood of the hope of the She was the person known in the country counthry!” murmured the old woman,

“Bid the thraveller,” and she had been making a kind of mournful song as she busy since daybreak cutting long sods of chafed the girl's cold fingers. “ Ye brought the black reeking turf, and setting them throuble on yer head when ye promised this up on their ends together in little stacks. bit o' a hand to a Finiston. Sure the devil By-and-bye she would come back to them, that is tackled wid Paul has took a woman's and spread them out to get thoroughly shape this time ! But ye'll rise out o her, dried, and against autumn she would avourneen-ye'll rise out o' her yet!"

She had


The words filtered through May's ears triumph over some one; and she liked to as she lay on the arm of the good Samaritan. please, except when she could have her will She sat up and wondered how her secret without the trouble of doing so. Her voice had been found out.

was shrill, and as she sang, coming down “Deary, don't mind an ould woman!” the kitchen-garden, there was a cruel harshsaid Bid. “Sure I love Paul Finiston ness in her song which might have made mysel', an' I have swore, on my knees, the birds shiver. It was dusk, but the that the divil'll never get him. I niver put girls could see one another as they met ap a prayer that wasn't answered in the between the ranks of the cabbages, and end; an' harm shall not get Paul while his May wondered greatly at Katherine's fancy friends has tongues to pray!".

for vegetables. The latter stopped her May sat on a stone opposite Bid, who song upon a high, sudden note, while she exhorted her thus, with finger aplifted and picked the clay in pieces from her carrot. a sybil-like look on her weather-beaten “Perhaps you are looking for Paul,” face.

she said, with a careless air of superior “The curse is against me,” said May, knowledge. “He is gone home to his farmdespondingly. “It is creeping closer round house. He will not be here to-night.” him, and I am too weak to save him from “I dare say he is busy,” said May. it."

Katherine shrugged her shoulders and Bid looked frightened. “You won't smiled. “I don't think he has much give him up, avourneen ?" she asked. business in his head,” she said. “I believe

"Give him up!” said May, and she rose he is not in the humour for our company. to her feet, glowing with sudden energy. He is not happy in his mind. Why don't “No, I will not.


make him happy ?” "God love you, my jewel!" said Bid, "for “He has a good deal of care,” said May, you're fit to have the hope of the country not noticing the insolence of Katherine's in yer hands. Of course ye'll manage him tone. “He will be happier by-and-bye." well

, for the quality does know how to deal "Perhaps he will,” said Katherine, and wid one another; but I'm thinkin' it's turned her back on May, and went on mostly the same wid high an'low, an I wanst towards the house. lost a lover wid floutin' an' poutin' at him. In Paul's absence conversation was apt He got tired o' a cross face, an' went off to to flag of an evening between the ladies at seek a pleasanter wan; so you just de Monasterlea. Since experience had respise yon flauntin' hussy, an' smile at Paul vealed Katherine's character to Miss Finiston till ye smile the divil oat o' Martha, the young lady took no longer him !”

any trouble to amuse her hostess; who "You are a kind friend,” said May; treated her, nevertheless, with all politeand she began to think of how strange it ness and attention, for hospitality is a was that she should thus give her con- tyrant, and the unwelcome guest must be fidence to a beggar-woman. But she put treated like the guest who is most desired. down her pride with a true instinct. “Ask Katherine knew this, and made herself the people to pray,” she said, " for you are comfortable accordingly. On this evening, right in saying that this is the affair of the while May sewed and Miss Martha knitted, country.”

she yawned over the pages of a novel. Her “Ay!” said Bid, “it is the affair of the entertainers were not sorry when she bade whole counthry; for if Paul Finiston gets them good-night and yawned herself away into evil hands there'll be another miser to her own chamber. o' Tobereevil, an'a star the less in heaven. When she had gone, May turned with An’. do you keep up yer heart an' smile; her sewing to the fire, for she could not for they say the divil does fly away before bear Miss Martha's eyes. She had known the smile o' patience.”

for a long time that her aunt wanted to May went home with the beggar's speak to her, and she felt that she could lesson in her heart, and, coming through not endure the things that the old lady the kitchen-garden, she met Katherine would surely say. But now she plied her tripping along, carrying a large carrot by needle wildly, knowing that the moment its green top, which was soiled with clay, had come when she must listen to a lecture having just left the ground. The guest with patience; that a conversation was was singing loudly, as if in the highest going to take place which it would be very spirits. She seldom sang except when hard for her to forget. unable to control the outpouring of her Miss Martha was evidently making a great struggle to begin. Her knitting- will not make it worse by leaving him needles flew faster, and pecked at each when he most wants a friend." other wickedly, never heeding dropped Miss Martha winced. Simon's words, stitches. Her mouth twitched, and her “You who deserted me in my need,” came chin went up in the air and came down across her ears, as they had many a time again.

done since the day they were spoken. “ May,” she said, “is it possible that But May's doctrine was not acceptable to you have got nothing to say to me; now Miss Martha's faith. It must lie in people's when we are alone, and not likely to be own will, whether to be bad or good. interrupted ?"

“Fiddle-de-dee,” said Miss Martha again. “I, Aunty ?”

“People walk into crooked ways with their “Yes, you. Who else ? Is it possible eyes open, and then they rail at fate for not that you have nothing to complain of ?" putting their feet into straight ones.”

“Complain! Why should I complain ?" “I don't think Paul is deliberately walk

“We shall not get on very far if you ing in crooked ways,” said May; "and-unecho every word I speak, said Miss less he himself throws me off I will hold to Martha, testily. “You may as well be him even at the cost of being thought to frank with me-not look on me as an have no spirit. I know him better than enemy. I am old and fidgety, but I am you do, and I believe there are stranger not at all sure that you have another things in the world than you think of." friend in the world."

“You think he is bewitched, so that he May's lips moved, but no sound came. doesn't know what he is doing,” said Miss She tried again and said, “Only one Martha in amazement. besides, Aunty.”

“I cannot say what I think. He is Miss Martha's irritation was soothed under some influence which seems to have away. She drew her chair a little nearer, changed his whole nature. If he be quite stretched out her soft wrinkled hand, delivered up to it the change will be comand laid it on May's shoulder. “ Are you pleted, and he will become- May sure that you have that one, May ? Come, shuddered and paused. trust the poor old woman! Inward grieving “You have grown as superstitious as will rot the soundest heart."

himself,” said Aunt Martha. “I really May's lips quivered, but her mouth soon give you up. All I can say is, I wonder steadied itself, and her eyes kept dry and you can sit by neglected, and see him bright.

prefer another woman." “Now turn round to me, for I want to May turned pale, and her hands knotted see your face. If you have got nothing to themselves together in a knot of pain. “I tell me, then I must speak out to you; I cannot say that I have seen that yet, wish in the name of Heaven that


had Aunty.never set your eyes on Paul Finiston.” There was something of agony in the “ You must not say that."

young girl's voice, that smote upon Miss * Yes, I will say it; for I fear he will | Martha's heart, and made her regret her break your heart. I will say, also, that I impatient speeches. thought you had more spirit. If I were in

"Perhaps you are right, love," she said, your place I would bid good-bye to him at after a pause. “I am a peppery old woman; once, and let him go about his business." but your happiness is the one object of my

“I can't do it, Aunty; and if I could, I | life.' dare not."

“I know it, dear Aunty; but listen, and “ Dare not !”

I will tell you about my happiness. It is “Oh, do you forget? Panl is not like staked on one person; his welfare is my another man. It is the shadow that he has welfare, his affliction is my affliction; I always dreaded that has come over him, have no business in the world except to be that is all.”

true to Paul Finiston. His cares, and “Fiddle-de-dee !” said Miss Martha; even his wrong-going, must all be upon my “that old nonsense ! I tell you I won't shoulders. I believe it would be a great listen to it; it is a sin against Heaven. I misfortune to him if he were to love Kathethought you had more sense than to get rine Archbold, therefore I will do all in my smitten with his madness.”

power to prevent such a thing happening. “It may be madness,” said May; “but if I saw her truer, more loving, more madness is a misfortune, not a crime. likely to make him good and happy than Something has gone wrong with him; I myself, I think I think I could give him

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up to her; but I do not believe he likes household gods looked down and could not her, and there are other things which I soothe. But it was only for one moment dread for him more than her influence that this cruel doubt was harboured. He is not in a condition at present to meet “It is well that I have known him," she his enemies ; I must fight his battles for said ; "for I will save him if it cost me him until good times come. So don't be my life. When he is old, and the battle disgusted if I have got no proper pride, won, he will be glad to think that I lived.” but try to have patience with me, and with

She dried her tears, and thought upon him for


Paul's case, acknowledging that the thing So spoke May, with a brave air ; but that she dreaded most for him was the utter later, when quite alone, she walked about loss of his mind; that the curse and its the room, weeping silently. The cottage fascinations, or his horror of the same, was quiet, but the wind moaned loudly would in the end drive him to madness. round the cloisters, and the owls had begun What if after all it had been only a latent to hoot in the old belfry. Her thought insanity that had wrought through generatravelled through the dark night, along the tions of the race of Finiston, making them moorland path to the highest window in creatures unhappy and solitary, and shunned the gable of the farm-house. There was by the rest of mankind ? If so, then had Paul sitting alone and overwhelmed with Paul better fly from this place with its strange troubles, as far removed from her associations, and seek safety in another as if the sea had rolled between them. part of the world. She would send him Here was an hour in which Katherine could across the seas, and never look upon his not divide them, and yet that hour was as face again, if thus she could secure his peruseless to her as if it had no place in time. fect welfare. She longed to be a cat or a dog, that she Katherine at the same moment was also might sit beside his foot, and look in his awake and alive, though she had retired to face, or a bird that she might peck at his her room so early. The tall wax candles on window and gain admittance. Was he her chimney stood in candlesticks adorned reckoning the miser's hoards, or thinking with crossed and reverend figures which of Katherine ? It seemed long, long since had been taken from the chapel, having he and she had made their simple plans at been used on the monks' altar. Her woodthis fireside, counting the world a paradise, fire crackled merrily, her arm-chair was and all danger of harm and trouble at an drawn up beside it, and she was dressed in end. Now the night wind assured her that a long red flannel dressing-gown, with her these days would come no more.

hair unbound on her shoulders. Faster and faster her tears came down. As Katherine sat so she amused herself She despaired when she found herself with a quaint amusement. She held the weeping, thinking her courage quite gone, carrot in her hand which had excited and flung herself against the old arm-chair May's wonder in the kitchen-garden; and in the chimney-corner, burying her face in she had washed it and cut away its delicate its leathern lap. The old clock ticked in green plumes, and was carving it with a the hall by the stone angel, and its voice penknife into the likeness of a little man. came into the room and grew hoarse with She was making a mandrake in order to sympathy; the lamp burned low, and the keep her word to Tibbie, and she held it fire glowed in red ashes; and May was aloof, and laughed at it as her work protempted for once to think of her aunt's gressed. She had never seen a mandrake, vehement wish, and to doubt whether it but then neither had Tibbie, and in pleasing would not have been better for her if she the old woman she would follow her own had never seen Paul. She might have fancy. She was by no means an artist, had placid years in this home safe from the but contrived to throw a knowing look world; have made soups for the sick, and into the eyes of the little figure, making it knitted her life into warm petticoats and as ugly as it was possible that one could socks for the poor; have heard the winter make it. She pared, and picked, and howl past her in fearless content, and picked notched till its aspect had become sinister the flowers of the summers, and so travelled enough to content the most superstitious without a pang to her grave. Now the hag in the world. When all was done she turmoil of despair was in her heart, and a stained it a darker hue, so that the carrot prospect lay before her of endless uneasi- might not appear. ness and pain. The tranquil little home But what did Miss Archbold want with could not comfort her with its shelter; the Tibbie that she should thus humour her

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