« PreviousContinue »
“ Stay a moment, Letitia !” exclaimed her father, « let us consider what we had best do. Good God! what a dreadful event!”
But Letitia was not to be kept back from her sister now even by a father's command. She broke from his trembling grasp and sprang out, followed by him.
Lady Hester recovered with great difficulty; hysteric gaspings for breath were attended by convulsions, and followed by heavy sighs. At length she arose to her feet, and, fastening her eyes, that were wildly dilated, on the Earl, raved of her husband in a state of perfect frenzy.
“ Why do you return in this sad plight, Clinton ?" she cried, with livid lips and cheek.
“Why is there blood upon your head and breast? Tell me who has done it? I am your wife! You are precious to me as my own soul! Speak to me then! and tell me why you come back so changed! Ah! how he melts away -away-and I cannot follow him! He is gone! He has left me alone for ever! He has been MURDERED! Ring the horrid sound through this world of devils! Make it heard from pole to pole! He has been murdered! cruelly-basely-horribly murdered! Let heaven know of the damned deed! Sound it abroad! Why stand you all gazing upon me, as though the blow had stricken my brain and made me mad! I had a husband once who shot himself! I did not go mad then-shall I go mad now? Would to God I could, or die with him I loved! How often have we sworn not to outlive each other! Ah! ours was love indeed!”
“ Hester! beloved sister! do you not know me?" cried Letitia, bathing her face with streaming tears.
Go-go,” muttered Lady Hester, pushing her away—“ my father will make your life miserable if he knows you are with me.”
" Not so~I am come to be reconciled with you, Lady Hester,” said the Earl, by force restraining the emotion he felt. · My dear daughter, forget what is past, and let me take you to my own residence immediately, my carriage is here.”
“ If you are the Earl of Wilton I have nothing to say to you,” said Lady Hester, instantly becoming more rational, and her face changing from lividness to a flush of vehement anger. “ It was you who caused the arrest of the Marquis, and embittered my husband's bridal hours with grief for his father. I owe my present anguish to you! for his fatal journey would not have been undertaken had not the Marquis been condemned. Do you call me your daughter ?-I abjure the title ! You will never more, sir, have a daughter in me-I shall never more acknowledge you for my father. Do not stay here I beseech you, for your presence adds fury to my grief! Go away, and leave me with the dear remains of him whom, when living, you dis ained. I ask not your sympathy for my loss."
“ But me, Hester,” pleaded the weeping Letitia,
you will not send me from you? I have not grieved you knowingly."
Lady Hester's reply was an agonising embrace, which was accompanied with groans and sighs. The Earl of Wilton was pierced to the soul with the repulse he had received; he felt acute pangs at having lost the love of his eldest daughter, but could not stoop to argue with her as his feelings prompted.
Distraction again swept over the mind of the peeress. She would not be hindered from going to the disfigured body which now lay in an adjoining chamber. There she sees the forehead, the neck, and the heart of her beloved pierced with gun-shot wounds, about which the congealed blood lay thick. The teeth are set as in the last fierce pang of dissolution; the hands are clenched; the eye, balf open, still glares a desperate defiance from its overspreading film.
A mortal sickness shoots through the heart of the bereaved bride, and again she falls into a swoon. Out of this she revives as before to a state of frenzy, which no medical skill is able to overcome, or even to subdue.
Meanwhile, Jane is little less wretched, but she throws herself on that heavenly Comforter who alone is able to sustain the mourner in an hour like this. Her watchful and tender husband also is nigh to sosten the violence of her anguish by his heartfelt participation in it.
“ Leave me alone awhile, Arthur," was her request after the first shock was a little subsided, “ let me give free scope to my misery, and pour out my soul before my God, then I shall be calmer."
He left her accordingly, and she joined bim in an hour self-possessed, and able to listen to her grandfather's account of his finding of the body, and the taking of the murderer, as well as to discuss with both the best means of breaking the dreadful tidings to her father.
Illness had prevented the Pastor from setting out from the lodge as soon as he could have wished, and he had not answered the letters because he anticipated that every morrow would see him sufficiently restored for