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“My dear child, yoa are quite overdone. Had you not better come to bed, and tell me the rest to-morrow ? Do, dear,” Mrs. Weatherill said, persaasively.
"No," she said, “I must tell all to-night," and sbe ceased sobbing, and spoke quietly. “I will tell you at once about to-day, and how it all ended. Last week-it was only last week, and yet it seems almost like years since this morning-I happened to say that of all places not very far away I longed to see Oxford, because of its beanty, and its associations-historical, literary, and religious. And he said, Would I come? It was rather far, and too much to see for one day; but would I come? And I said, • YES!' I did not mind how early in the morning I rose, and we set forth. And to-day we went. To-day! Oh! if it could only be blotted out! if all these past months could be ; if I could wake up and find it all a dream—the foolish joy, the elation, and the horror of darkness of these last hours! I was happy exceedingly up to that very moment; the brightness was at its highest when the darkness came. What a city Oxford is ! And how proud I was to behold its glories with him, to whose eyes they were familiar, and as a part of his birthright of rank and wealth. We saw Christ Church and its magnificent Hall, the Cathedral, the Library; and he pointed out to me the windows of his rooms ; for at this princely college he bad studied. And we walked up the wonderful High Street, and saw beautiful St. Mary's; and we entered, and I stood beside the pillar where Cranmer stood and recanted, and prayed that prayer; and we went out at the same door through which the martyrs passed, and stood where they died, and looked up at the lovely Memorial ; then tarned, and saw the great dome of the Radcliffe, and the spire of St. Mary's, standing out against the clear blue of the cloudless sky. And we entered the school's Quadrangle, and went through the little door and up the stairs into the dimness and solemn silence of the Bodleian Library, with its carved ceiling and painted windows, and vast treaso res of learning. Then we went down, and out, and-how well I remember it all !—through a fine gateway into All Soul's, jast for a few moments. What a sight was there!
“ I wonder I can remember it all; but I do! It may be if Dante had gone from Paradise to Hell he might yet have remembered the glories he had seen; I took that descent, but I have not forgotten; and, perhaps, I am telling all this to put off what must come. We had some refreshment, and then to beautiful Magdalen. We crossed Magdalen Bridge, and looked down on the divided waters and green-wooded banks; then returning, looked up at the lofty tower, and heard the swect bells. And we entered and saw the dim chapel in its perfect beauty; walked round the cloisters,
wondered at the wild grotesqueness of the figures on the battresses, saw the dining-ball and the strange old kitchen, and then into the calm gracefulness of the fair gardens, I never thought how time was going on; but I felt my spirit overwhelmed by the grandeur, the solemnity, the crowding associations; and I said we would leave even these wide gardens, and refresh ourselves in the shady seclusion of Addison's Walk ; for by description I knew Magdalen already. So we crossed the bridge, and entered beneath the arching trees; and I knew not that I left love, happiness, self-respect bebind, and went on to meet—now I must tell. But not in many words; I can't. We had gone more than half round the walk which would lead us again to the cloisters, when it happened !
“Once and again during the day my companion bad recognised one and another whom he knew ; none bad stopped to speak. But as we now walked, we were met by a young man, in dress and outward air a gentleman; but I felt a repulsion before he came
He stopped with a familiar greeting, and as I was introduced, be raised his hat ; but he gave me a look. O, Mrs. Weatherill ! and then a smile-a glance of intelligence towards Arthur! I looked up; I thought Arthar would knock him down, but I saw in his face, not resentment, but a glance of warning ; and -I knew all ! Clearly, certainly, in one flasb, I understood. wonder I did not die. No death-stab could have hurt like that, We walked on, the river beside us, and a dreadfal parpose in my heart. And we came to a narrow foot-bridge, protected only by a slight hand-rail, and that broken at the farther end. "We will stand on that bridge,' I said, and by a motion I made him go first.
Suddenly Irene rose from her low seat and stood upright, a fierce light flashing from her eyes. “I am strong, Mrs. Weatherill; I could have done it,” she said, raising her right arm.
“Irene, Irene ! this is dreadful, sinful. You must not speak, you must not feel so,” Clarissa entreated, trembling. " Sit down again.”
But Irene stood as she went on : “I faced him and put the question plainly; and he could not look me in the face and say he had ever intended marriage. I knew it. I know not what he said ; I was not listening. I was calculating the depth of the water, I knew he could not swim. I suppose I intended to jump in after, I don't know; it was revenge, deadly hate, that filled me—not despair. I waited for a wherry that had shot ander as to be gone further, and for three young men in the walk to torn behind the trees. Just as they were turning, Magdalen bells chimed, andthey sounded like bells I bad heard in childhood as I knelt and said my evening prayers. And I saw the sin, the horror of my purpose. Yet, I was still tempted to do it; but I cried for help, and help was given.”
The fierce light died out of her eyes, and she came and knelt by Clarissa as she went on :
“Withont a word, or look, I stepped off the bridge, and hurried along the walk until the college was reached; there through cloisters, court, gateway, out into the High Street. He followed me with soft words and entreaties ; I never looked, never answered; it was too late pow, he said, to return to Westhaven that night; still I pressed on, my one fear that the murderous impulse might return irresistibly. I could not keep from thinking of a knife I had with me, and wondering whether its slender blade were long enough and strong enough for a fatal thrast. Bat I kept praying, and listening for the chiming, and straining on and on, dimly conscious of passing St. Mary's, All Saints, reaching Carfax; just aware that the sky had grown black, and that a keen blast was driving through the street, and still on and along the New Road towards the railway stations.
“Bat I stopped before they were reached. I had noticed in the morning a police-station, and when I saw it close at hand, I faced him again. 'I put myself under the protection of the police authorities,' I said. I knew he was protesting, entreating ; I heeded not, but went in, and asked for the saperintendent. He listened to what I said-only a few simple words were necessary ; with fatherly kindness he asked what I wished to do; it was impossible to get back to Westhaven that night. I said if I could reach Hillsbridge, I had an almost mother living near there ; if not, I would stay in Oxford, but ander his protection and observation. He looked at a time-table, said Hillsbridge could be reached, though late; and he sent an elderly officer with me to the station, who wrote the telegram, made me take some tea, saw me into the right train, and waited near the carriage antil the train started, rushing through the wild wind, and presently through torrents of dashing rain. I threw that knife ont of the carriage window into the storm, it carried such dreadful recollections, and with it a rich pearl ring.
“When we got to Hillsbridge it was dark, floods of rain falling, no disengaged cab on the stand. I told the station-master that I must reach Failand to-night, cost what it might; he kindly procured the conveyance, and here I am. Oh, Mrs. Weatherill ! so miserable; so very miserable! bat;—delivered from bloodgultiness. Thank God!” And she hid her face on the kindly lap, and wept long and bitterly.
bair turned grey ; it ought to be ? ” she said, as at last she lifted her head. And on the morrow, as Clarissa tenderly combed out the entangled tresses, a streak of silver was found among the long brown curls.
Five weeks had passed before Irene said that she thought now she might safely return to Westhaven and her work. She did not believe he was at Clifhampton at present; and if he were, the danger was over: the deadly hate, the marderoas desire for revenge was gone.
To the minister's wife alone had the story been confided. “Mrs. Hensler," Irene said, the erening before the day of her departure from Failand, "I trust I have learned much during these weeks. I think it was allowed to happen, to humble me, and to prove me, and to let me know what was in my heart! And an evil heart I found mine to be !”
CHAPTER XXXII.-NIGH UNTO DEATA. Harvest was over in and around Failand. A plenteons and safe in-gathering there had been this year; and now in field and farm was peacefully progressing the leisurely labours which sacceeded the anxious, busy, joyous harvest-time. Bat a sense of solicitude and sad, ness was felt throagbout the village and the neighbourhood. Some weeks ago it had been known to every one that Mrs. Weatherill was very arwell,-confined to the house, quite unable to continue any of her kindly visits. Then it was said that she was confined to her bed; and now the mournful intelligence spread that her recovery was more than doabtful ; that she was, indeed, gradaally sinking.
Many were the inquiries made each day at Gracefield Cottage and those who did not call, asked anxiously one of another, “How is she, to-day?” Bedridden invalids almost forgot their own illness, in anxiety respecting their" dear lady!” the teacher and the children missed her froin the school; in the chapel on the Sanday everyone looked mournfully towards the vacant place, with fall heart and tearful eyes, joining in the prayers for her recovery, and when in the parish church the petition was read for "all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate," the thought of very many, and of the clergyman himself, turned towards the gentle lady whose life seemed ebbing quietly away.
Although during Clarissa's residence in Failand her service of others had been rarely interrapted by distinct illness, even for a few days, these kindly activities had been oftentimes persevered in under a sense of weariness and difficulty, fully known only to herself; although, in a measure, perceived by Susan, who had faithfully endeavoured to shield her mistress as far as in her lay from anxiety and fatigue. Her health had, in trath, never fully recovered the great shock she had undergone.
This autumn her strength and spirits had been heavily taxed by
very constant attendance on a young womin sinking under a distressing malady, ani wbo, suffering greatly both in body and mind, seemed to find in Mrs. Weatherhill's visits greater solace and help than in those of any other Christian friend or minister. Thus clang to by the sufferer, she would not spare herself, and she was with her during the night in which she died.
On the very next day there occurred one of those sadden falls of temperature to which our climate is so liable. Clarissa seemed to feel the change, and soon it appeared that she was suffering from a bad cold, accompanied by feverishness and debility. It was “only a cold,” the doctor said, when at last called in, though it was a severe one, and should have received greater attention earlier. Hearing of her sister's indisposition, Mary came from Northallerton, but Clarissa begged her not to inconvenience herself and Mr. Brown-low by remaining ; sorely Sasan and Mrs. Hensler together were able to nurse her through a cold, and as it happened to be particularly inconvenient to Mary to be absent from home jast then, she felt no hesitation in leaving her sister in sach competent hands. But as, while the days went on, Clarissa grew rather worse than better, Susan became alarmed, especially as she fancied the doctor, when he come, looked grave, and she commanicated her uneasiness to Mrs. Brownslow, who immediately returned.
Still there was nothing to occasion alarm in the opinion given by the doctor. He was disappointed, he admitted, that no progress was made ; yet he could see no ground for apprehension, no reason whatever for fearing a fatal result. He should change the medicine, she must be kept in yet more perfect quiet, and take as much and as frequent nourishment as possible. So no one was allowed to see her save Mr. Hensler, whose prayers she valued, and his wife, whose presence was as unexciting as Mary's own; and she did not ask to be allowed other visitors. She complied with all medical directions, and patiently took all the medicine, and tried to partake of all the food brought her, though appetite had failed; she smiled her thanks for all services rendered ; now and then asked for some sick person ; sent her love and thanks and regrets that she could not see them to all friends inquiring; but she talked little, slept mach, and though she suffered little pain, grew thinner, paler, and weaker day by day.
Occasionally it was necessary for Mary to pay a brief visit to her own home. One afternoon, on her return from Northallerton, Clarissa greeted her as usual with a pleased smile, but she thought that never before had her sister's face looked so wan and weary. After removing her things she took her seat beside the bed ; there were a few minutes' silence, then Clarissa drew from ander her pillow two closed envelopes. “Mary,” she said, in a weak, low