« ElőzőTovább »
preacher,— all this, while he was driving over the bleak Northumberland wilds, with the cutting wind from the hills in his face, and the church-bell in his distracted ear, breaking the Sunday! Not a bright spot, so far as he could perceive, was anywhere around him, in earth, or sky, or sea.
Sunday night!—once more the church - bells, the church-going groups, the floating world, which he had many a time upbraided from the pulpit, seeking its pleasure. But it was in London now, where he stood in utter exhaustion, but incapable of rest, not knowing where to turn. Then the thought occurred to him that something might be learned at the railway stations of a party which few people could see without remarking it He waited till the bustle of arrival was over, and then began to question the porters. One after another shook his head, and had nothing to say. But the men were interested, and gathered in a little knot round Mm, trying what they could recollect, with the ready humanity of their class. "I'd speak to the detective police, sir, if I was you," suggested one; "it's them as finds out all that happens nowadays." Then a little gleam of light penetrated the darkness. One man began to recall a light-haired gentleman with a mustache, and two ladies, who "went off sudden in a cab, with no luggage." "An uncommon swell he did look," said the porter, instinctively touching his cap to Vincent, on the strength of the connection; "and, my eyes, she was a beauty, that one in the blue veil. It was—let me see—Wednesday night; no—not Wednesday—that day as the up-train was an hour late —Friday afternoon, to be sure. It was me as called the cab, and I won't deny as the gen'leman was a gen'leman. Went to the London Bridge station, sir; Dover line, no luggage; I took particular notice at the time, though it went out o' my head first minute as you asked me.—Cab, sir 1
Yes. Here you are — here's the last on the stand.—London Bridge station, Dover line."
Vincent took no time to inquire further. In the impatience of his utter weariness and wretchedness, he seized on this slight clue, and went off at once to follow it out. London Bridge station ! — what a world swarmed in those streets through which the anxious minister took his way, far too deeply absorbed iu himself to think of the flood of souls that poured past him. The station was in wild bustle and commotion ; a train just on the eve of starting, and late passengers dashing towards it with nervous speed. Vincent followed the tide instinctively, and stood aside to watch the long line of carriages set in motion. He was not thinking of what he saw; his whole mind was set upon the inquiry, which, as soon as that object of universal interest was gone, he could set on foot among the officials who were clanging the doors, and uttering all the final shrieks of departure. Now the tedious line glides into gradual motion. Good Heaven! what was that 1 the flash of a match, a sudden gleam upon vacant cushions, the profile of a face, highfeatured, with the thin light locks and shadowy mustache he knew so well, standing out for a moment in aquiline distinctness against the moving space. Vincent rushed forward with a hoarse shout, which scared the crowd around him. He threw himself upon the moving train with a desperate attempt to seize and stop it: but only to be himself seized by tne frantic attendants, who caught him with a dozen hands. The travellers ill the later carriages were startled by the commotion. Some of them rose and looked out with surprised looks; he saw them all as they glided past, though the passage was instantaneous. Saw them all! Yes; who was that, last of all, at the narrow window of a second-class carriage, who looked out with no surprise, but with a horrible composure in her white face, and recognised him with a look which chilled him to stone. He stood passive in the hands of the men, who had been struggling to hold him, after he encountered those eyes; he shuddered with a sudden horror, which made the crowd gather closer, believing him a maniac. Now it was gone into the black night, into the chill space, carrying a hundred innocent souls and light hearts, and among them deadly crime and vengeance— the doomed man and his executioner. His very heart shuddered in his breast as he made a faltering effort to explain himself, and get free from the crowd which thought him mad. That sight quenched the curses on his own lips, paled the fire in his heart. To see her dogging his steps, with her dreadful relentless promise in her eyes, overwhelmed Vincent, who a moment before had thrilled with all the rage of a man upon whom this villain had brought the direst shame and calamity. He could have dashed him under those wheels, plunged him into any mad destruction, in the first passionate whirl of his thoughts on seeing him again; but to see Her behind following after—pale with her horrible composure, a conscious Death tracking his very steps—drove Vincent back with a sudden paralysing touch. He stood chilled and horror-stricken in the crowd which watched and wondered at him: he drew himself feebly out of their detaining circle, and went and sat down in the nearest seat he could find, like a man who had been stunned by some unexpected blow. He was not impatient when he heard how long he must wait before he could follow them. It was a relief to wait, to recover his breath, to realise his own position once more. That dreadful sight, diabolical and out of nature, had driven the very lifeblood out of his heart.
As he sat, flung upon his bench in utter exhaustion and feebleness,
stunned and stupified, leaning his aching head in his hands, and with many curious glauces thrown at him by the bystanders, some of whom were not sure that he ought to be suffered to go at large, Vincent became sensible that some one was plucking at his sleeve, and sobbing his name. It was some time before he became aware that those weeping accents were addressed to him; some time longer before he began to think he had heard the voice before, and was so far moved as to look up. When he did raise his head it was with a violent start that he saw a little rustic figure, energetically, but with tears, appealing to him, whom his bewildered faculties slowly made out to be Mary, his mother's maid, whom Susan had taken with her when she left Lonsdale. As soon as he recognised her he sprang up, restored to himself with the first gleam of real hope which had yet visited him. "My sister is here!" he cried, almost with joy. Mary made no answer but by a despairing outbreak of tears.
"Oh no, Mr Arthur; no—oh no, no! never no more! cried poor Mary, when she found her voice. "It's all been deceitfulness and lyin' and falsehood, and it ain't none o' her doing—oh no, no, Mr Arthur, no !—but now she's got nobody to stand by her, for he took and brought me up this very day; oh, don't lose no time!—he took and brought me up, pretending it was to show me the way, and he's sent me right off, Mr Arthur, and she don't know no more nor a baby, and he'll take her off over the seas this very night—he will; for I had it of his own man. She's written letters to her Ma, Mr Arthur, but I don't think as they were ever took to the post; and he makes believe they're a-going to be married, and he'll have her off to France to-night. Oh, Mr Arthur, Mr Arthur, don't lose no time! They're at a 'otel. Look you here—here's the name as I wrote down on a bit o' paper to make sure; and oh, Mr Arthur, mind what I say, and don't lose no time!"
"But Susan — Susan—what of her?" cried her brother, unconsciously clutching at the girl's arm.
Mary burst into another flood of tears. She hid her face, and cried with storms of suppressed sobs. The young man rose up pale and stern from his seat, without asking another question. He took the crumpled paper out of her hand, put some money into it, and in
few words directed her to go to his mother at Carlingford. What though the sight of her would break his mother's heart—what did it matter? Hearts were made to be broken, trodden on, killed,—so be it! Pale and fierce, with eyes burning red in his throbbing head, he too went on, a second Murder, after the first which had preceded him ill the shape of the Carlingford needlewoman. The criminal who escaped two such avengers must bear a charmed life.
Printed by William Blackwood <fc Sons, Edinburgh.
No. DLXII. AUGUST 1862. Vol. XCII.
CHRONICLES OF CARUNGFORD : SALEM CHAPEL.
Mrs Vincent rose from the uneasy bed, where she had not slept, upon that dreadful Sunday morning, with feelings which it would be vain to attempt any description of. Snatches of momentary sleep more dreadful than wakefulness had fallen upon her during the awful night— moments of unconsciousness which plunged her into a deeper horror still, and from which she started thinking she heard Susan call. Had Susan called, had Susan come, in any dreadful plight of misery, her mother thought she could have borne it; but she could not, yet did, bear this, with the mingled passion and patience of a woman; one moment rising up against the intolerable, the next sitting down dumb and steadfast before that terrible necessity which could not be resisted. She got up in the dim wintry morning with all that restless anguish in her heart, and took out her best black silk dress, and a clean cap to go under her bonnet. She offered a sacrifice and burnt-offering as she dressed herself in her snow-white cuffs, and composed her trim little figure into its Sunday neatness ; for
YOL. XC1L—NO. DLXII.
the minister's mother must go to chapel this dreadful day. No whisper of the torture she was enduring must breathe among the flock—nothing could excuse her from attending Salem, seeing her son's people, and hearing Mr Beecher preach, and holding up Arthur's standard at this dangerous crisis of the battle. She knew she was pale when she came into the sitting-room, but comforted herself with thinking that nobody in Salem knew that by nature she had a little tender winter bloom upon her face, and was not usually so downcast and heavy-eyed. Instinctively she rearranged the breakfast table as she waited for the young minister from Homerton, who was not an early riser. Mr Beecher thought it rather cheerful than otherwise when he came in somewhat late and hurried, and found her waiting by the white covered table, with the fire bright and the tea made. He was in high spirits, as was natural. He thought Vincent was in very comfortable quarters and had uncommonly pleasant rooms.
"Don't you think so 1 and one I
has just as great a chance of being uncomfortable as not in one's first charge," said the young preacher; "but we were all delighted to hear that Vincent had made an 'it. Liberal-minded people, I should say, if I may judge by Mr Tozer, who was uncommonly friendly last night. These sort of people are the strength of our connection—not great people, you know, but the flower of the middle classes. I am surprised you did not bring Miss Vincent with you for a little cheerful society at this time of the year."
"My daughter may perhaps come yet, before—before I leave," said Mrs Vincent, drawing herself up, with a little hauteur as Mr Beecher thought, though in reality it was only a physical expression of that sob of agony to which she dared not give vent in audible sound.
"Oh, I thought it might be more cheerful for her in the winter," said the preacher, a little affronted that his interest in Vincent's pretty sister should be received so coldly. He was interrupted by the arrival of the post, for Carlingford was a profane country town, and had its letters on Sunday morning. The widow set herself desperately down in an arm-chair to read Arthur's letter. It made her heart beat loud with throbs so violent that a blindness came over her eyes, and her very life failed for an instant. It was very short, very assured and certain —he was going to Northumberland, where the fugitives had gone—he was going to bring Susan back. Mr Beecher over his egg watched her reading this, and saw that she grew ashy, deathly pale. It was not possible for him to keep silent, or to refrain from wondering what it was.
"Dear me, I am afraid you are ill—can I get you anything?" he said, rising from the table.
Mrs Vincent folded up her letter. "Thank you, my tea will refresh me," she said, coming back to her scat. "I did not sleep very much last night, and my head aches: when people come to my time of
life," said the little woman, with a faint heroical smile, " they seldom sleep well the first few nights in a new place. I hope you rested comfortably, Mr Beecher. Mr Vincent, Arthurs dear papa, used to say that he never preached well if he did not sleep well; and I have heard other ministers say it was a very true rule."
"If that is all, I hope you will be pleased to-day," said the preacher, with a little complaisance. "I always sleep well; nothing puts me much out in that respect Perhaps it is about time to start now? I like to have a few minutes in the vestry before going into the pulpit. You know the way perhaps 1 or we can call at Mr Tozer's and get one of them to guide us."
"I think I know the way," said Mrs Vincent, faintly. It was a slight comfort, in the midst of her martyrdom, to leave the room and have a moment to herself. She sank down by her bedside in an inarticulate agony of prayer, which doubtless God deciphered, though it never came to words, and rose up again to put on her bonnet, her neat shawl, her best pair of gloves. The smile that might have come on the face of a martyr at the stake dawned upon the little woman's lips as she caught sight of her own pale face in the glass, when she was tying her bonnet-strings. She was not thrusting her hand into the scorching flames, she was only pulling out the bows of black ribbon, and giving the last touch to that perfection of gentle neatness in which Arthur's mother, for his sake, must present herself to his people. She took Mr Beecher's arm afterwards, and walked with him, through the wintry sunshine and streams of churchgoers, to Salem. Perhaps she was just a little sententious in her talk to the young preacher, who would have stared had anybody told him what active and feverish wretchedness was in her heart. She quoted Arthur's dear father more than usual; she felt a little irritated in spite of herself by the complaisance