Life and Lorna come again

When the little boy came back with the bluebells, which he had managed to find—as children always do find flowers, when older eyes see none—the only sign of his father left was a dark brown bubble, upon a newly formed patch of blackness. But to the center of its pulpy gorge the greedy slough was heaving, and sullenly grinding its weltering jaws among the flags and the sedges.

With pain, and ache, both of mind and body, and shame at my own fury, I heavily mounted my horse again, and, looked down at the innocent Ensie. Would this playful, loving child grow up like his cruel father, and end a godless life of hatred with a death of violence? He lifted his noble forehead towards me, as if to answer, “Nay, I will not”: but the words he spoke were these:—

‘Don,’—for he could never say ‘John’—’oh, Don, I am so glad that nasty naughty man is gone away. Take me home, Don. Take me home.’

It has been said of the wicked, ‘not even their own children love them.’ And I could easily believe that Carver Doone’s cold-hearted ways had scared from him even his favorite child. No man would I call truly wicked, unless his heart be cold.

It hurt me, more than I can tell, even through all other grief, to take into my arms the child of the man just slain by me. The feeling was a foolish one, and a wrong one, as the thing has been —for I would fain have saved that man, after he was conquered— nevertheless my arms went coldly round that little fellow; neither would they have gone at all, if there had been any help for it. But I could not leave him there, till some one else might fetch him; on account of the cruel slough, and the ravens which had come hovering over the dead horse; neither could I, with my wound, tie him on my horse and walk.

For now I had spent a great deal of blood, and was rather faint and weary. And it was lucky for me that Kickums had lost spirit, like his master, and went home as mildly as a lamb. For, when we came towards the farm, I seemed to be riding in a dream almost; and the voices both of man and women (who had hurried forth upon my track), as they met me, seemed to wander from a distant muffling cloud. Only the thought of Lorna’s death, like a heavy knell, was tolling in the belfry of my brain.

When we came to the stable door, I rather fell from my horse than got off; and John Fry, with a look of wonder took Kickum’s head, and led him in. Into the old farmhouse I tottered, like a weanling child, with mother in her common clothes, helping me along, yet fearing, except by stealth, to look at me.

‘I have killed him,’ was all I said; ‘even as he killed Lorna. Now let me see my wife, mother. She belongs to me none the less, though dead.’

‘You cannot see her now, dear John,’ said Ruth Huckaback, coming forward; since no one else had the courage. ‘Annie is with her now, John.’

‘What has that to do with it? Let me see my dead one; and pray myself to die.’

All the women fell away, and whispered, and looked at me, with side glances, and some sobbing; for my face was hard as flint. Ruth alone stood by me, and dropped her eyes, and trembled. Then one little hand of hers stole into my great shaking palm, and the other was laid on my tattered coat: yet with her clothes she shunned my blood, while she whispered gently,—

‘John, she is not your dead one. She may even be your living one yet, your wife, your home, and your happiness. But you must not see her now.’

‘Is there any chance for her? For me, I mean; for me, I mean?’

‘God in heaven knows, dear John. But the sight of you, and in this sad plight, would be certain death to her. Now come first, and be healed yourself.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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