them, as it was not a proper thing where a maiden might be; only I wanted to know just this, whether she were there or not.
Taking nothing by this movement, I was forced, much against my will, to venture to the door and knock, in a hesitating manner, not being sure but what my answer might be the mouth of a carbine. However it was not so, for I heard a pattering of feet and a whispering going on, and then a shrill voice through the keyhole, asking, Whos there?
Only me, John Ridd, I answered; upon which I heard a little laughter, and a little sobbing, or something that was like it; and then the door was opened about a couple of inches, with a bar behind it still; and then the little voice went on,
Put thy finger in, young man, with the old ring on it. But mind thee, if it be the wrong one, thou shalt never draw it back again.
Laughing at Gwennys mighty threat, I showed my finger in the opening; upon which she let me in, and barred the door again like lightning.
What is the meaning of all this, Gwenny? I asked, as I slipped about on the floor, for I could not stand there firmly with my great snow-shoes on.
Maning enough, and bad maning too, the Cornish girl made answer. Us be shut in here, and starving, and durstnt let anybody in upon us. I wish thou wert good to ate, young man: I could manage most of thee.
I was so frightened by her eyes, full of wolfish hunger, that I could only say Good God! having never seen the like before. Then drew I forth a large piece of bread, which I had brought in case of accidents, and placed it in her hands. She leaped at it, as a starving dog leaps at sight of his supper, and she set her teeth in it, and then withheld it from her lips, with something very like an oath at her own vile greediness; and then away round the corner with it, no doubt for her young mistress. I meanwhile was occupied, to the best of my ability, in taking my snow-shoes off, yet wondering much within myself why Lorna did not come to me.
But presently I knew the cause, for Gwenny called me, and I ran, and found my darling quite unable to say so much as, John, how are you? Between the hunger and the cold, and the excitement of my coming, she had fainted away, and lay back on a chair, as white as the snow around us. In betwixt her delicate lips, Gwenny was thrusting with all her strength the hard brown crust of the rye-bread, which she had snatched from me so.
Get water, or get snow, I said; dont you know what fainting is, you very stupid child?
Never heerd on it, in Cornwall, she answered, trusting still to the bread; be un the same as bleeding?
It will be directly, if you go on squeezing away with that crust so. Eat a piece: I have got some more. Leave my darling now to me.
Hearing that I had some more, the starving girl could resist no longer, but tore it in two, and had swallowed half before I had coaxed my Lorna back to sense, and hope, and joy, and love.
I never expected to see you again. I had made up my mind to die, John; and to die without your knowing it.
As I repelled this fearful thought in a manner highly fortifying, the tender hue flowed back again into her famished cheeks and lips, and a softer brilliance glistened from the depth of her dark eyes. She gave me one little shrunken hand, and I could not help a tear for it.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|