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SATAN CAST OUT.
I was within a mile of the village, returning from my visit to the Misses Crowther, when my horse, which was walking slowly along the soft side of the road, lifted his head, and pricked up his ears at the sound, which he heard first, of approaching hoofs. The riders soon came in sight — Miss Oldcastle, Judy, and Captain Everard. Miss Oldcastle I had never seen on horseback before. Judy was on a little white pony she used to gallop about the fields near the Hall. The Captain was laughing and chatting gayly as they drew near, now to the one, now to the other. Being on my own side of the road I held straight on, not wishing to stop or to reveal the signs of a distress which had alınost overwhelmed me. I felt as cold as death, or rather as if my whole being had been deprived of vitality by a sudden exhaustion around me of the ethereal element of life. I believe I did not alter my bearing, but remained with my head bent, for I had been thinking hard just before, till we were on the point of meeting, when I lifted my hat to Miss Oldcastle without drawing bridle, and went on. The Captain returned my salutation, and likewise rode on. I could just see, as they passed me,
, that Miss Oldcastle's pale face was flushed even to scarlet, but she only bowed and kept alongside of her companion. I thought I had escaped conversation, and had gone about twenty yards farther, when I heard the clatter of Judy's pony behind me, and
I up she came at full gallop.
" Why didn't you stop to speak to us, Mr. Walton ?" she said. “ I pulled up, but you never looked at me. We shall be cross all the rest of the day, because you cut us so. What have we done?”
“ Nothing, Judy, that I know of," I answered, trying to speak cheerfully. “But I do not know your companion, and I was not in the humor for an introduction.”
She looked hard at me with her keen gray eyes ; and I felt as if the child was seeing through me.
"I don't know what to make of it, Mr. Walton. You're very different somehow from what you used to be. There's something wrong somewhere. But I suppose you would all tell ine it's none of my business. So I won't ask questions. Only I wish I could do anything for you."
I felt the child's kindness, but could only say
“ Thank you, Judy. I am sure I should ask you if there were anything you could do for me. But you'll be left behind.”
“No fear of that. My Dobbin can go much faster than their big horses. But I see you don't want me, so good-by.'
She turned her pony's head as she spoke, jumped the ditch at the side of the road, and flew after them along the grass like a swallow. I likewise roused my horse and went off at a hard trot, with the vain impulse so to shake off the tormenting thoughts that crowded on me like gadflies. But this day was to be one of more trial still.
As I turned a corner, almost into the street of the village Tom Weir was at my side. He had evidently been watching
His face was so pale, that I saw in a moment something had happened.
“What is the matter, Tom ?” I asked, in some alarm.
He did not reply for a moment, but kept unconsciously stroking my horse's neck, and staring at me “with wide blue eyes. “Come, Tom," I repeated,“ tell me what is the matter. ,
" I could see his bare throat knot and relax, like the motion of a serpent, before he could utter the words.
“ Kate has killed her little boy, sir.”
- hid his face in his hands.
“God forbid!” I exclaimed, and struck my heels in my horse's sides, nearly overturning poor Tom in my haste.
“She's mad, sir; she's mad," he cried, as I rode off.
“Come after me," I said, “and take the mare home; I sha'n't be able to leave your sister.”
Had I had a share, by my harsh words, in driving the woman beyond the bounds of human reason and endurance? The thought was dreadful. But I must not let my mind rest on it now, lest I should be unfitted for what might have to be done. Before I reached the door, I saw a little crowd of the villagers, mostly women and children, gathered about it. I got off my horse, and gave him to a woman to hold till Tom should come up. With a little difficulty, I prevailed on the rest to go home at once, and not add to the confusions and terrors of the unhappy affair by the excitement of their presence. As soon as they had yielded to my arguments, I entered the shop, which to my annoyance I found full of the neighbors. These likewise
I got rid of as soon as possible, and locking the door behind them, went up to the room above.
To my surprise, I found no one there. On the hearth and in the fender lay two little pools of blood. All in the house was utterly still. It was very dreadful. I went to the only other door. It was not bolted as I had expected to find it. I opened it, peeped in, and entered. On the bed lay the mother, white as death, but with her black eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling: and on her arm lay little Gerard, as white, except where the blood had flowed from the bandage that could not confine it, down his sweet deathlike face. Ilis eyes were fast closed, and he had no sign of life about him. I shut the door behind me, and approached the bed. When Catherine caught sight of me, she showed no surprise or emotion of any kind. Her lips, with automaton-like movement, uttered the words
“ I have done it at last. I am ready. Take me away. I shall be hanged. I don't care. I confess it. Only don't let the people stare at me.”
Her lips went on moving, but I could hear no more till suddenly she broke out
“Oh! my baby! my baby!” and gave a cry of such agony as I hope never to hear again while I live.
At this moment I heard a loud knocking at the shop-door, which was the only entrance to the house, and remembering that I had locked it, I went down to see who was there. I found Thomas Weir, the father, accompanied by Dr. Duncan, whom, as it happened, he had had some difficulty in finding. Thomas had sped to his daughter the moment he heard the rumor of what had happened, and his fierceness in clearing the shop had at least prevented the neighbors, even in his absence, from intruding further.
We went up together to Catherine's room. Thomas said nothing to me about what had happened, and I found it difficult even to conjecture from his countenance what thoughts were passing through his mind.
Catherine looked from one to another of us, as if she did not know the one from the other. She made no motion to rise from her bed, nor did she utter a word, although her lips would now and then move as if molding a sentence. When Dr. Duncan, after looking at the child, proceeded to take him from her, she gave him one imploring look, and yielded with a moan; then began to stare hopelessly at the ceiling again. The
doctor carried the child into the next room, and the grandfather followed.
“ You see what you have driven me to !” cried Catherine, the moment I was left alone with her. “I hope you are satisfied.”
The words went to my very soul. But when I looked at her, her eyes were wandering about over the ceiling, and I had and still have difficulty in believing that she spoke the words, and that they were not an illusion of my sense, occasioned by the commotion of my own feelings. I thought it better, however, to leave her, and join the others in the sitting
The first thing I saw there was Thomas on his knees, with a basin of water, washing away the blood of his grandson from his daughter's floor. The very sight of the child had hitherto been nauseous to him, and his daughter had been beyond the reach of his forgiveness. Here was the end of it the blood of the one shed by the hand of the other, and the father of both, who had disdained both, on his knees, wiping it up. Dr. Duncan was giving the child brandy; for he had found that he had been sick, and that the loss of blood was the chief cause of his condition. The blood flowed from a wound on the head, extending backwards from the temple, which had evidently been occasioned by a fall upon the fender, where the blood lay both inside and out; and the doctor took the sickness as a sign that the brain had not been seriously injured by the blow. In a few minutes he said
“ I think he'll come round.” “ Will it be safe to tell his mother so?” I asked. “ Yes: I think you may. I hastened to her room. “Your little darling is not dead, Catherine. He is coming to."
She threw herself off the bed at my feet, caught them round with her arms, and cried
“ I will forgive him. I will do anything you like. I forgive George Everard. I will go and ask my father to forgive me.”
I lifted her in my arms how light she was! and laici her again on the bed, where she burst into tears, and lay sobbing and weeping. I went to the other room. Little Gerad! opened his eves and closed them again, as I entered. The doctor had laid him in his own crib. He said his pulse was improving. I beckoned to Thomas. He followed me.
“She wants to ask you to forgive her," I said.
“ Do not,
in God's name, wait till she asks you, but go and tell her that you forgive her." “ I dare not say I forgive her,” he answered. I
“ I have more need to ask her to forgive me.”
I took him by the hand, and led him into her room. She feebly lifted her arms toward him. Not a word was said on either side. I left them in each other's embrace.
I The hard rocks had been struck with the rod, and the waters of life had flowed forth from each and had met between.
I have more than once known this in the course of my experience — the ice and snow of a long estrangement suddenly give way, and the boiling geyser-floods of old affection rush from the hot deeps of the heart. I think myself that the very lastingness and strength of animosity have their origin sometimes in the reality of affection: the love lasts all the while, freshly indignant at every new load heaped upon it: till, at last, a word, a look, a sorrow, a gladness, sets it free; and, forgetting all its claims, it rushes irresistibly towards its ends. Thus was it with Thomas and Catherine Weir.
When I rejoined Dr. Duncan, I found little Gerard asleep, and breathing quietly.
“What do you know of this sad business, Mr. Walton ?” said the doctor.
“I should like to ask the same question of you," I returned. “ Young Tom told me that his sister had murdered the child. That is all I know."
“ His father told me the same ; and that is all I know. Do you believe it?"
“At least we have no evidence about it. It is tolerably certain neither of those two could have been present. They must have received it by report. We must wait till she is able to explain the thing herself."
“ Meantime,” said Dr. Duncan, “all I believe is, that she struck the child, and that he fell upon the fender.”
I may as
well inform my reader that, as far as Catherine could give an account of the transaction, this conjecture was corroborated. But the smallest reminder of it evidently filled her with such a horror of self-loathing, that I took care to avoid the subject entirely, after the attempt at explanation which she made at my request. She could not remember with any clearness what had happened. All she remembered was that she had been more miserable than ever in her life before,