Imatges de pÓgina


these thoughts, she leaned tremblingly through which Paul had passed with Simon against a tree, and again strained her eyes on the day when they had first met as towards the thickets and across the moors. uncle and nephew, when Paul had con

The grey early dawn came creeping sented to share the miser's interests and to over the scene; frown after frown dropped touch the miser's gold. That door led, as from the trees, and groups and masses of she knew, to Simon's sitting-room ; and it unknown something threw off their sombre also lay open.

A second threshold was mystery, and became broken-down fences, crossed-she advanced a few steps, and did clumps of ragged hedge, pieces of ruined not need to go further. Simon was sitting wall, or bushes of unsightly shape! The in his chair; his head lay back so that the bogs showed their dreariness, the river face was almost hidden, his arm hanging threw up a steel-like ray, and the marshes over the chair, the long skeleton fingers gave forth pale glimmers of beautiful hues : nearly touching the ground. The old man grey

look of awe was on the face of the was a corpse; his breast covered with waking world, as if the coming of a new blood, and blood lying round about him on day had been a fearful and unexpected the floor. boon. The dull shoulder of the mansion This was the ghastly spectacle on which rose above some bristling trees; and there May and the cold dawn looked in through was a great roar in the air coming from door and window. A terrible cry—of more the distance. May noticed it without than fear, of more than horror-rent open thinking of it, for every one knew of the May's lips, and made the old house echo grumbling of the woods; but the trees of as it had never before echoed, even to the Tobereevil had never made such a sound cries of the lamenting winds. Simon did as this before.

not stir-nor was anything startled within She told herself that she had much better the cursed walls except the echoes. May go home, yet could not bear to turn till tried to fly, with some vague idea about she had first walked round the mansion to saving some one spinning round and round see that the fastenings were all untouched, in her dizzy head; but, though the spirit and that no wandering footsteps, save her might will the body would not obey, and own, were about the place. There was a she fell on the floor of the hideous chamdreadful fascination for her in the nearness ber. For a long time she lay there silent, of the stern grey walls; she could not turn motionless, dead-like a second victim to her eyes away, and began walking quickly whatever hatred had spilt an old man's towards them.

blood on the floor by her side. While She had been there but once before, and the long spell of silence lasted the light did not quite know her way among the grew clear in the room, and the dreadful vagrant bushes and straggling trees to the sight it looked upon became more fully refront of the house. She found herself at vealed in all its details. It was a colourthe back, and walked round many sides less, grey morning, the sun had not yet and gables, noticing with relief how well risen, and yet there was a bright red glow the windows were barred, and thanking lying on the ground outside, and creeping God for the miser's caution, which was like a gilding round the window frames. good for something at last. “When the It shone in through the panes, and danced back is so well guarded,” thought she, “it with fearful frolic over the awful figure in is not likely that the front will be found the chair, glancing on May, and dying her neglected. The door will be locked and white dress as the feeling of life returned bolted." Then May came stealing round gradually into her body. At the risk of the last corner of the house. But the hall- bringing madness with it, consciousness door was lying open!

came creeping back to her. A cry of anguish rose in her heart, but She wakened to life again, struggling the sound of it did not come through her with a pain at her heart, which seemed trylips, as she drew near the open door hovering to crush it, that she might have death ingly, as a blessed spirit might approach and peace; but her healthful youth would the mouth of hell, seeking for some lost not have it so, and out of her struggle came one, sorely afraid to enter, yet impelled by recollection, and with it the strong will and the love that is stronger than death. She self-forgetting impulse which had already could not but go in; her feet carried her carried her so far in this adventure. She across the hall, moved by the same fascina- rose to her feet, and staggering, indeed, and tion which had drawn them towards the still half-stunned, and covering her eyes trees. Away to the right was the door with her hands, that she might not behold




again the sight that had nearly killed her, murderer nor that of a madman, but the she fled back across the hall and out of the clear, honest voice of Paul Finiston in his house.

May knew it of old; it was a Then she found herself wrapped in the sound sweet and unhoped for, and each glare of the burning woods; hissing and echo of it pierced her brain with a state of roaring the fire rolled towards her over the perilous joy. The revulsion of feeling heads of the nearer trees, which were not was so sudden that it almost robbed her a yet drawn into the furnace, though it shone second time of her senses; and as she right behind them. Clouds of smoke blot- wheeled round to obey the call she doubted ted the heavens, and were luridly pierced her own sanity, and moaned aloud piteously by the savage flames, which seemed to es in the agony of uncertainty. Was she, too, cape with every groan from the hearts of mad, and did she imagine happy sounds the perishing trees. Now that it had got which could be heard no more on earth ? mastery over the woods, the fire spread She began running towards the direction with a terrible rapidity, licking up root and from which the sound had reached her. branch, devouring oak, and beech, and When the hot mist that bad obscured her chestnut, wrapping away in its embraces eyes cleared away a little and allowed her to stalwart trunks and writhing boughs, and see, she perceived Paul coming to meet opening up such a raging abyss between her, walking rapidly, pushing his way heaven and earth, that it seemed as if the through the bushes from that side of the spirits of fire had been let loose out of their wood not as yet approached by the fire. It kingdom, and the world having been given seemed as if he had descended from the up to them, the last day had begun. mountain, He was quickly at her side,

May stepped out from the shadow of the and threw a protecting arm round her. grim house into a scorching atmosphere, “ You are going to faint,” he cried. that made her eyes grow dim and her breath “What can have brought you out here seem to burn. Her dress, her flesh, her alone ?” hair grew hot, so that she felt as if already May shuddered and shrank from him. wrapped in the flames, while the fire half “ Simon is dead !” she said. “Simon is encircled her at the distance of about a murdered !” hundred yards. With still the one idea of Paul started. « Simon murdered !” he Paul's madness possessing her, the thought said, awe-struck. “ What do you mean? flashed through her mind that this new How do you know ?” horror must be in some way owing to it- “I mean-I know-oh God, Paul, oh that he himself was even now buried in God !-tell me you did not do it!" yonder furnace. " Paul! Paul !” she “I?” Paul drew back and looked at shrieked in a high shrill note that pierced her with horror. the smoke-clouds and reached further than “Forgive me! forgive me! I think my the bellowing of the trees; and, bereft of senses have left me. Oh Heaven, what I all reason, she rushed frantically towards have suffered! Oh this terrible, terrible the flames.

night!” A few wild steps and her feet stopped “My darling, calm yourself! You are again. What was that? Oh! what was distracted by the sight of this extraordi. it? Not the roaring of the trees nor the nary fire. It has frightened you out of bissing of the flames--not the groaning of your sleep. It is very strange and awful;

; the newly-attacked giants, whose bodies but can be traced, I do not doubt, to some were girdled by fire-not like to any of simple cause—the great heat of the weather, these was the sound that made her stop. or some sparks from the fires on the moun. It was Paul's voice calling to her. “May ! tain. You were raving just now, saying May !" it cried, in a loud and ringing that Simon had been murdered; the fire voice; and it was not coming from the has not reached the house, and he shall cerfire, though if it had summoned her from tainly be saved. I was hastening to look thence she would have obeyed it. It was after him when I caught sight of your coming from behind her from the side white dress." where lay fields and meadows and the river May looked in his face with a puzzled cooling the land.

and wistful gaze. "May ! May !" This time the voice “ Paul !” she said, are you sure you are sounded nearer to her—Paul was not far in your right senses ?” away-he could see her and was calling Paul smiled, though he was uneasy, to her; and it was not the voice of a thinking her a little crazed by fright.

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“I think I am,” he said. “I feel like a Paul! he is lying murdered in his chair!

I am more in my right senses I thought you had done it in your mad. at least than you are !"

Forgive me, Paul ! I thought it was Still she looked at him wonderingly and in your madness.” fearfully.

Paul had become deadly pale. “Is this “Do you remember last night ?" she all true?” he said. “Am I dreaming, or said.

are you?” “Yes,” he answered, smiling, and will- "Neither, neither--we are both too wide ing to humour her. " I do remember last awake. It is all true that I have said. night; should you like to hear an account But you did not murder Simon, Paul ? of it? I wakened with the moonlight, Your senses had returned to you where you allowed me to fall asleep on the wakened out of your sleep? You know sofa, in your parlour. I could not go to what you have been doing all the time sleep again, and turned out to enjoy the since you left the house ?” night, and to think over a crowd of things Paul reeled under her words, and leaned which came into my head. I got up into heavily against a tree. May stood before the hills, and soon saw that the woods were him like a figure of snow, and waited for burning I watched them for some time, his answer. The fire hissed and roared, knowing that there was nothing for it but and they neither saw nor heard it. to let them burn themselves to death

“I remember all distinctly,” he said at May shuddered.

last; “I have not the slightest doubt. My “And then I suddenly thought about mind has been sound and clear since I Simon; and was hurrying down to save wakened out of my sleep and left the house. him when, as I say, I caught sight of you." I know what I have been doing; and I did

May listened; still looking at him with not murder Simon. Must I believe all that that pale, unsatisfied gaze.

you tell me ?-it is unspeakably strange and “But, before all that?" she urged him, awful!” “Do you remember what happened in the “ He did not do it," said May, speaking evening, and yesterday, and the day be- to herself in a kind of rapture. “ He did fore!

not do it at all--he did not even know of “Of course, I do," he said. “On the it. Stay, Paul; indeed I will not faint. day before yesterday I escorted Miss Arch- I have turned a little blind, but, indeed, I bold to Camlough, and returned to Monas- shall not faint." terlea yesterday evening. I came home He held her up in his arms till the swoonlate and very tired, and was allowed to sleep ing sensation left her. Suddenly a sharp upon your sofa. How this came to be is the cry broke from her. only thing I am not perfectly clear about. “The curse is now at an end,” she said ; But why do you question me like this, and the last miser is dead! Even the prophecy what does it all signify ?”.

is fulfilled-murdered !” she shuddered. May looked half relieved, yet still ter- Not by a kinsman of his own,” said rifiad.

Paul. Paul,” she said, “it was April when No," said she, “ but still the curse is you went to Camlough with Katherine ended; and you are free and need fear no Archbold, and now it is July.” “May, you are dreaming!” he cried. “I do not fear anything,” he said,

un“Oh Paul, oh Paul ! it is you who have less it be pain for been out of your senses.

You went to It was very plain, indeed, that whatever Camlough, you became ill and lost your mischievous powers had hitherto irritated mind, and they kept you there. I went and and maddened Paul, had at last given up stole you away that you might be cured. their hold of him, and had left him in While you were gone Simon ill-used the possession of the faculties that God had people, and they were in distress. Last given him. He spoke and moved with a night they told you this, and, in your mad- calm and self-contained air which May had ness, you threatened to murder Simon. I never noticed as belonging to him. Thoughtsoothed the idea out of your mind, and you ful and awe-struck as he was at this mofell asleep. Afterwards, when you awoke, ment, there was still no trace of that conI heard you quit the house, and followed fusion of trouble—that gloom and nervous you in terror lest the idea of doing harm dread—which had always been so painfully might still be working in your mind. I visible in him when grief or perplexity had found Simon's door open ; and, oh God, thrust themselves in his way. Even in his





what may,


joy there had always been a fererishness fires that the shepherds has for ever goin' and uncertainty which had not suggested night and day!” suggested a third.


Oh, peace nor any well-grounded happiness. murther ! here's Misther Paul and Miss Now, there was a quiet look of strength in May hersel'." his face-an expression of resolved content They've been lookin' after Simon," said in his eyes, as if he would say: “Come a fourth. “Bad as he is, a body couldn't

I will weather this storm ;' for see him burnt." he already saw it coming, though May did “God knows frizzlin' would be too good not as yet. She thought of nothing at the for him all the same. Save


Misther moment but the wondrous change in Paul; Paul! This is a terrible night we have.” and joy, mingled with awe, filled up all her “Very strange and terrible,” said Panl. consciousness, leaving no room for antici- “ But there is something more awful still, pation of things to come. Paul was re- up at the house. Simon Finistou has been stored to her, or rather given to her newly murdered.” As she clung to his arm, and he led her from “Murdered !” A hum of horror rose and the spot, she felt him to be at last possessed sank into silence. There was an extraorof that power, strong and fine, on which dinary look on every face. she could repose, by which he should govern “God knows he desarved it!” cried a himself and others without hindrance of woman fiercely, breaking the silence. doubt or fear. What her faith hàd dis- "Oh, ay!" Said a man, but some wan cerned latent in him, hidden by the over- be to done it on him." shadowing of some mystery inscrutable, “That's the point," said the farmer, she now beheld manifested to her senses. solemnly, with a sombre look at Paul. Truly and indeed she had got matter for “ Thou shalt not kill.” joy. Hitherto she had been the stronger- Some of the people looked askance at had battled for him and protected him as the young couple, and others gazed away the man might protect the woman. Now, from them with grief and embarrassment the God-given strength and dignity of man in their faces. Paul quickly saw the signs had appeared and asserted its superiority of the storm that was coming upon him, over her own; and, with a sigh brimful of and his greatest desire was to see May bliss, the woman fell back into her place. safely at home. Paul led her away, we

her face to the “I must take this lady home, my men,” fields and the cool river. He wanted to he said to them, “and then I will return bring her home as quickly as possible, so to you. Will you hurry on and remove that he might return and have Simon's the body before the flames get up to the body carried decently from the house be walls? There is not a moment to lose." fore the flames should get round the walls. “Ay, ay !" they said, assenting, and As they hurried along they saw numbers moved slowly on.

There was

a heavy of people running from all sides, attracted doubt on their minds, and Paul knew it. by the strange spectacle of the burning “Till wan o' them be murdered by a woods; all the early risers in the neigh- kinsman of his own,” muttered the farmer bourhood having been attracted from their to himself. “I did not think Paul Finiston homes by so extraordinary a sight. They had it in him.” were talking and gesticulating as they ran, “Oh ye coward !" cried a woman who suggesting causes for the phenomenon, and caught or divined his words. “Oh ye illgiving vent to their amazement.

minded man !” “Oh, good Lord !" cried a woman, “I didn't say nothin'," said the man. divil himsel' must ha' whisked a spark out “It's the law's affair, not mine.” o'hell wid him by mistake when he was night-walkin' as usual in the woods !”

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66 the

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