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together and I had so hated, so loathed the man who had brought her to such misery. ...
“And if it had been I, not Frank, what then, Madcap ?” said Mr. Eyre; “ could you not have loved me still, been faithful to me-never changed ?”
“And so we were to live together, we two, like that; or you said something just now of leaving me."
She did not stir or speak as she stood apart from him; then something very like a groan burst from his lips, that seemed to
a shape itself to the cry of Frank ! as with hasty steps he paced the room, Madcap almost forgotten in the deadly struggle going forward in his breast. As his figure passed and repassed her in the gloom, she seemed to herself to be standing in the midst of a reality of which all that had gone before was but as the portent.
The time seemed long before she felt his arms about her, and then not with the old masterful grasp, but more as the dying soldier who, with relaxing hold, clings to the sacred colours that have cost him all save honour; but Mr. Eyre knew that Madcap had beggared him even to that, when he felt her heart beating against his own.
“Poor, pretty Madcap!” he said, “and so you can love nothing but a good man. Did I ever tell you I was that? And you must hate the sinner even worse than the sin ; and you can't make allowances_women never can.
And I think there is a little jealousy at the bottom of it, too—more if it had been I, but a little for Frank as it is. And a man sins through thoughtlessness, or because he wants a woman's pure eyes to see the thing in its proper light-eyes like yours, Madcap. If women only knew how much is in their hands, how they may confirm a man in his ill opinion of them, or make them reflections of what he remembers his own mother to have been. And so you can't forgive Frank? Poor lad! poor boy!”
“He is not sorry," said Madcap, her heart still heavy, knowing that forgiveness was yet denied. “I could be sorry for him if he were
it is the thought of her misery that makes me bitter against him. She has lost all-even her little baby-and he will not be kind to her .... and he would not even let me go to see her . but I will go now, with you."
“Her child died—did she tell you how ?” said Mr. Eyre.
"No; but I think that some one had been unkind to it; and she shall love Dody as she pleases."
“And so you kissed her, Madcap,” he said. “How sweet! how womanly! And you always loved children ; but don't regret that one-it might have grown up a bad man like its father. Why have you not girls, Madcap, with your eyes and your smile? And here you have been suffering for other people's sins; and an unselfish nature like yours needs no apprenticeship to suffering—it understands and enters into each throe. ... And so you kissed her, and she loves you, to be sure ;, and now you'll kiss me! And if I'd committed every crime in life you should have no chance of running away from me after to-day. We'll dine together, and I'll dress you for it in white, though my father is dead; but you can wear black for him to-morrow. I can't see you in this darkness—I must have light.” And he rang the bell to summon her maid.
The woman started back at sound of his voice, but he bade her light candles and lay out a white gown for her mistress; her shoes were to be white as well, and a white flower was to be brought for her hair; and when all this was done he bade the woman hasten dinner, for that he was very hungry.
When he had put on her little shoes, and arranged the flower in her hair, clasped a string of pearls about her neck, and a silken ribbon round her waist, repeating over as he did so—
A narrow circlet, and yet there
Take all the rest the sun goes roundhe brought a wax candle and held it above her.
“Let me look at you," he said. “And so you were going away from me. How exquisite you are ! I seem to have forgotten you, and your whiteness and beauty come upon me with a surprise. I am as one who has lived so long in the light as to forget how beautiful it is, and wanted a sudden plunge into darkness to make me realise the preciousness of it. And could you have left me ?” he added, as he set the light down and caught her to his breast.
“I thought so then,” she said, with a long sobbing sigh; " but now—now I know that
I had happier died by thee
The best of rest is sleep,
Thy death, which is no more. EXCITEMENT ran high in Lovel on the evening before the day fixed for the execution. It was known that Colonel Busby had returned from town unsuccessful, and that Lord Lovel had departed on the same mission the previous afternoon. But when it was bruited abroad that Mr. Eyre had unexpectedly returned, but spoken no word of a reprieve, all hope was considered to be over; and on the two women who sat side by side within the jail had fallen the deadly quiet of those to whom expectation was past, and the consummation of the morrow as inevitably fixed as the rising of the sun.
Janet's impending fate was too awful, and too near, to permit Hester's mind to dwell on any thought of self; she saw but the black outline of the scaffold rearing itself against the sky, heard but the cruel shout of the crowd as she appeared by Janet's side, felt her own life wrenched violently from her body as she beheld it jerked out of Janet's, and pass with Janet's soul through those awful pangs of dissolution she knew not whither.
Across the blackness now and again a child's face flitteddimpled, lovely, with warm loving lips that pressed her ownthrill of joy shot through her; for a moment she looked beyond that dread to-morrow, and tasted a rapture for which her heart so long had thirsted; then she thrust the thought away, and took Janet's cold hand between both her own, and held it fast.
"Mistress,” said Janet softly, “don't fret; if it weren't for you I'd rather go; t'other death in life 'ud be worse, an' I'd be as much cut off from you as if I was dead
an’ if only you'd bide away I'd have no fear."
“I'll stay with you till the last,” said Hester; “'tis I that should be hanging, not you.”
Janet shook her head.
“The baby's death lies at my door,” she said; "but I've thought of something as will make it less lonely for you when I'm gone; that child you told me of last night-steal it."
“Janet !” cried Hester, drawing back from the woman in horror.
“Ay," said Janet, lawless in everything that concerned her mistress's welfare ; "she's got another, she can well spare
“ him; let her suffer a bit, an' when they as we knows on sees her look as white and whisht as I see you, he'll know better what he's done than he knows now.”
She called me ‘sister,' said Hester, slow tears rolling down her cheeks; "she kissed me. I'll not harm her any more than I've done already; I can't be like her, but I'll never forget it, how good she's been to me I'd like to show her that a bad woman can sometimes be as generous as a good one . if only I might see the child sometimes she said that I might love him, and that he would love me, but that was before. ! «Then bide here, mistress," said Janet eagerly, knowing that the worst of death would be over if she could leave her mistress with some interest in life that would draw her out of herself, and keep her from thought. "You've got a bit of
• money, an' can live where you please ; just pity her, and love the child to your heart's content, an' after a bit you'll forget .. the other.”
“No,” said Hester in a whisper; “ I promised him I'd go away, but I'd live on a crust if I might see the child sometimes .. I feel his arms round my neck now, and hear his little voice saying, “Mamma.'
“ Then feel them in flesh an' blood to-morrow," cried Janet. “Go to him, mistress; sure there's none 'ud have the heart to come between you, an' you'll forget about me an' after a bit, knowing I'm at rest, you'll give over fretting for the little baby and me.
The gathering darkness almost hid the women from each other's eyes, as by a sudden impulse they turned and clung together—“Janet . ... Mistress . . ;" and in the darkness a kiss was exchanged, that spoke the perfect reconciliation and peace that lay between these two miserable hearts.
A great crowd had gradually assembled without the prisongates, but it was quiet, and conversed little. All eyes were turned in a certain direction; all ears were strained to discover the first sound of carriage-wheels from the direction of the station, for the last train was now due, by which, if Lord Lovel did not arrive with the reprieve, the last chance would be over.
At nine o'clock a low hum rose, and swelled gradually to a roar, as a carriage was heard approaching, and there came gradually within the eager ken of the crowd the conveyance that was wont to convey strangers to and from the station.
A deep groan of disappointment went up from the assemblage, the driver was half dragged from his seat by a hundred eager hands, while his speech was lost in the universal howl of anger that rent the air. To have waited here in the chill evening for a whole hour, confidently looking forward to the spectacle of Lord Lovel dashing up in his own carriage at full speed, waving the reprieve out of the window, and to be put off with a sorry one-horse chaise, and Jim Pipes, the one-eyed driver—it was beyond human patience; and only by degrees was it gathered that Lord Lovel had not arrived.
Within the prison that savage shout had awakened the two women from an uneasy doze into which they had fallen. For a moment they clung together wildly, thinking that it was morning and they were on their way to the place of execution. ..
The stillness that followed seemed to those within to last hours. Neither spoke, and only the loud beating of their hearts was heard in the silence of the cell. But presently footsteps were heard approaching, the door was thrown back, and the turnkey entered bearing a lantern, and followed by the chaplain, who, approaching the two women, told Janet briefly, but in words of strong feeling, that hope was over, and only resignation to the will of God left to her. Then he kneeled down and prayed, and the women clasping hands, kneeled, and prayed also, losing the sense and sound of the clamour without, as they followed, word for word, and from their hearts, that simple, reverent voice.
The extreme favour that could be granted to Janet on earth was permitted, and Hester allowed to spend with her the last few hours of remaining life. Towards dawn they fell asleep, and were awakened from that fitful slumber by the loud unbarring of the door, through which came several people