Part 2 out of 3
alternate stripes of white and red. The next instant, a sense of her pure
and innocent intentions gave her strength and courage; and her attitude
and look had now something of pride and dignity. These, however, in their
turn, gave way; for Edward Walcott pressed forward, and attempted to
"Ellen, Ellen!" he said, in an agitated and quivering whisper; but what
was to follow cannot be known; for his emotion checked his utterance. His
tone and look, however, again overcame Ellen Langton, and she burst into
tears. Fanshawe advanced, and took Edward's arm. "She has been deceived,"
he whispered. "She is innocent: you are unworthy of her if you doubt it."
"Why do you interfere, sir?" demanded Edward, whose passions, thoroughly
excited, would willingly have wreaked themselves on any one. "What right
have you to speak of her innocence? Perhaps," he continued, an undefined
and ridiculous suspicion arising in his mind,--"perhaps you are acquainted
with her intentions. Perhaps you are the deceiver."
Fanshawe's temper was not naturally of the meekest character; and having
had a thousand bitter feelings of his own to overcome, before he could
attempt to console Edward, this rude repulse had almost aroused him to
fierceness. But his pride, of which a more moderate degree would have had
a less peaceable effect, came to his assistance; and he turned calmly and
Ellen, in the mean time, had been restored to some degree of composure. To
this effect, a feeling of pique against Edward Walcott had contributed.
She had distinguished his voice in the neighboring apartment, had heard
his mirth and wild laughter, without being aware of the state of feeling
that produced them. She had supposed that the terms on which they parted
in the morning (which had been very grievous to herself) would have
produced a corresponding sadness in him. But while she sat in loneliness
and in tears, her bosom distracted by a thousand anxieties and sorrows, of
many of which Edward was the object, his reckless gayety had seemed to
prove the slight regard in which he held her. After the first outbreak of
emotion, therefore, she called up her pride (of which, on proper
occasions, she had a reasonable share), and sustained his upbraiding
glance with a passive composure, which women have more readily at command
Dr. Melmoth's surprise had during this time kept him silent and inactive.
He gazed alternately from one to another of those who stood around him, as
if to seek some explanation of so strange an event. But the faces of all
were as perplexed as his own; even Hugh Crombie had assumed a look of
speechless wonder,--speechless, because his imagination, prolific as it
was, could not supply a plausible falsehood.
"Ellen, dearest child," at length said the doctor, "what is the meaning of
Ellen endeavored to reply; but, as her composure was merely external, she
was unable to render her words audible. Fanshawe spoke in a low voice to
Dr. Melmoth, who appeared grateful for his advice.
"True, it will be the better way," he replied. "My wits are utterly
confounded, or I should not have remained thus long. Come, my dear child,"
he continued, advancing to Ellen, and taking her hand, "let us return
home, and defer the explanation till the morrow. There, there: only dry
your eyes, and we will say no more about it."
"And that will be your wisest way, old gentleman," muttered Hugh Crombie.
Ellen at first exhibited but little desire, or, rather, an evident
reluctance, to accompany her guardian. She hung back, while her glance
passed almost imperceptibly over the faces that gazed so eagerly at her;
but the one she sought was not visible among them. She had no alternative,
and suffered herself to be led from the inn.
Edward Walcott alone remained behind, the most wretched being (at least
such was his own opinion) that breathed the vital air. He felt a sinking
and sickness of the heart, and alternately a feverish frenzy, neither of
which his short and cloudless existence had heretofore occasioned him to
experience. He was jealous of, he knew not whom, and he knew not what. He
was ungenerous enough to believe that Ellen--his pure and lovely Ellen--
had degraded herself; though from what motive, or by whose agency, he
could not conjecture. When Dr. Melmoth had taken her in charge, Edward
returned to the apartment where he had spent the evening. The wine was
still upon the table; and, in the desperate hope of stupefying his
faculties, he unwisely swallowed huge successive draughts. The effect of
his imprudence was not long in manifesting itself; though insensibility,
which at another time would have been the result, did not now follow.
Acting upon his previous agitation, the wine seemed to set his blood in a
flame; and, for the time being, he was a perfect madman.
A phrenologist would probably have found the organ of destructiveness in
strong development, just then, upon Edward's cranium; for he certainly
manifested an impulse to break and destroy whatever chanced to be within
his reach. He commenced his operations by upsetting the table, and
breaking the bottles and glasses. Then, seizing a tall heavy chair in each
hand, he hurled them with prodigious force,--one through the window, and
the other against a large looking-glass, the most valuable article of
furniture in Hugh Crombie's inn. The crash and clatter of these outrageous
proceedings soon brought the master, mistress, and maid-servant to the
scene of action; but the two latter, at the first sight of Edward's wild
demeanor and gleaming eyes, retreated with all imaginable expedition. Hugh
chose a position behind the door, from whence, protruding his head, he
endeavored to mollify his inebriated guest. His interference, however, had
nearly been productive of most unfortunate consequences; for a massive
andiron, with round brazen head, whizzed past him, within a hair's-breadth
of his ear.
"I might as safely take my chance in a battle," exclaimed Hugh,
withdrawing his head, and speaking to a man who stood in the passageway.
"A little twist of his hand to the left would have served my turn as well
as if I stood in the path of a forty-two pound ball. And here comes
another broadside," he added, as some other article of furniture rattled
against the door.
"Let us return his fire, Hugh," said the person whom he addressed,
composedly lifting the andiron. "He is in want of ammunition: let us send
him back his own."
The sound of this man's voice produced a most singular effect upon Edward.
The moment before, his actions had been those of a raving maniac; but,
when the words struck his ear, he paused, put his hand to his forehead,
seemed to recollect himself, and finally advanced with a firm and steady
step. His countenance was dark and angry, but no longer wild.
"I have found you, villain!" he said to the angler. "It is you who have
"And, having done it, the wrath of a boy--his drunken wrath--will not
induce me to deny it," replied the other, scornfully.
"The boy will require a man's satisfaction," returned Edward, "and that
"Will you take it now?" inquired the angler, with a cool, derisive smile,
and almost in a whisper. At the same time he produced a brace of pistols,
and held them towards the young man.
"Willingly," answered Edward, taking one of the weapons. "Choose your
The angler stepped back a pace; but before their deadly intentions, so
suddenly conceived, could be executed, Hugh Crombie interposed himself
"Do you take my best parlor for the cabin of the Black Andrew, where a
pistol-shot was a nightly pastime?" he inquired of his comrade. "And you,
Master Edward, with what sort of a face will you walk into the chapel to
morning prayers, after putting a ball through this man's head, or
receiving one through your own? Though, in this last case, you will be
past praying for, or praying either."
"Stand aside: I will take the risk. Make way, or I will put the ball
through your own head," exclaimed Edward, fiercely: for the interval of
rationality that circumstances had produced was again giving way to
"You see how it is," said Hugh to his companion, unheard by Edward. "You
shall take a shot at me, sooner than at the poor lad in his present state.
You have done him harm enough already, and intend him more. I propose," he
continued aloud, and with a peculiar glance towards the angler, "that this
affair be decided to-morrow, at nine o'clock, under the old oak, on the
bank of the stream. In the mean time, I will take charge of these popguns,
for fear of accidents."
"Well, mine host, be it as you wish," said his comrade. "A shot more or
less is of little consequence to me." He accordingly delivered his weapon
to Hugh Crombie and walked carelessly away.
"Come, Master Walcott, the enemy has retreated. Victoria! And now, I see,
the sooner I get you to your chamber, the better," added he aside; for the
wine was at last beginning to produce its legitimate effect, in stupefying
the young man's mental and bodily faculties.
Hugh Crombie's assistance, though not, perhaps, quite indispensable, was
certainly very convenient to our unfortunate hero, in the course of the
short walk that brought him to his chamber. When arrived there, and in
bed, he was soon locked in a sleep scarcely less deep than that of death.
The weather, during the last hour, had appeared to be on the point of
changing: indeed, there were, every few minutes, most rapid changes. A
strong breeze sometimes drove the clouds from the brow of heaven, so as to
disclose a few of the stars; but, immediately after, the darkness would
again become Egyptian, and the rain rush like a torrent from the sky.
"About her neck a packet-mail
Fraught with advice, some fresh, some stale,
Of men that walked when they were dead."
Scarcely a word had passed between Dr. Melmoth and Ellen Langton, on
their way home; for, though the former was aware that his duty towards his
ward would compel him to inquire into the motives of her conduct, the
tenderness of his heart prompted him to defer the scrutiny to the latest
moment. The same tenderness induced him to connive at Ellen's stealing
secretly up to her chamber, unseen by Mrs. Melmoth; to render which
measure practicable, he opened the house-door very softly, and stood
before his half-sleeping spouse (who waited his arrival in the parlor)
without any previous notice. This act of the doctor's benevolence was not
destitute of heroism; for he was well assured that, should the affair come
to the lady's knowledge through any other channel, her vengeance would
descend not less heavily on him for concealing, than on Ellen for
perpetrating, the elopement. That she had, thus far, no suspicion of the
fact, was evident from her composure, as well as from the reply to a
question, which, with more than his usual art, her husband put to her
respecting the non-appearance of his ward. Mrs. Melmoth answered, that
Ellen had complained of indisposition, and after drinking, by her
prescription, a large cup of herb-tea, had retired to her chamber early in
the evening. Thankful that all was yet safe, the doctor laid his head upon
his pillow; but, late as was the hour, his many anxious thoughts long
drove sleep from his eyelids.
The diminution in the quantity of his natural rest did not, however,
prevent Dr. Melmoth from rising at his usual hour, which at all seasons of
the year was an early one. He found, on descending to the parlor, that
breakfast was nearly in readiness; for the lady of the house (and, as a
corollary, her servant-girl) was not accustomed to await the rising of the
sun in order to commence her domestic labors. Ellen Langton, however, who
had heretofore assimilated her habits to those of the family, was this
morning invisible,--a circumstance imputed by Mrs. Melmoth to her
indisposition of the preceding evening, and by the doctor, to
mortification on account of her elopement and its discovery.
"I think I will step into Ellen's bedchamber," said Mrs. Melmoth, "and
inquire how she feels herself. The morning is delightful after the storm,
and the air will do her good."
"Had we not better proceed with our breakfast? If the poor child is
sleeping, it were a pity to disturb her," observed the doctor; for,
besides his sympathy with Ellen's feelings, he was reluctant, as if he
were the guilty one, to meet her face.
"Well, be it so. And now sit down, doctor; for the hot cakes are cooling
fast. I suppose you will say they are not so good as those Ellen made
yesterday morning. I know not how you will bear to part with her, though
the thing must soon be."
"It will be a sore trial, doubtless," replied Dr. Melmoth,--"like tearing
away a branch that is grafted on an old tree. And yet there will be a
satisfaction in delivering her safe into her father's hands."
"A satisfaction for which you may thank me, doctor," observed the lady.
"If there had been none but you to look after the poor thing's doings, she
would have been enticed away long ere this, for the sake of her money."
Dr. Melmoth's prudence could scarcely restrain a smile at the thought that
an elopement, as he had reason to believe, had been plotted, and partly
carried into execution, while Ellen was under the sole care of his lady,
and had been frustrated only by his own despised agency. He was not
accustomed, however,--nor was this an eligible occasion,--to dispute any
of Mrs. Melmoth's claims to superior wisdom.
The breakfast proceeded in silence, or, at least, without any conversation
material to the tale. At its conclusion, Mrs. Melmoth was again meditating
on the propriety of entering Ellen's chamber; but she was now prevented by
an incident that always excited much interest both in herself and her
This was the entrance of the servant, bearing the letters and newspaper,
with which, once a fortnight, the mail-carrier journeyed up the valley.
Dr. Melmoth's situation at the head of a respectable seminary, and his
character as a scholar, had procured him an extensive correspondence among
the learned men of his own country; and he had even exchanged epistles
with one or two of the most distinguished dissenting clergymen of Great
Britain. But, unless when some fond mother enclosed a one-pound note to
defray the private expenses of her son at college, it was frequently the
case that the packets addressed to the doctor were the sole contents of
the mail-bag. In the present instance, his letters were very numerous,
and, to judge from the one he chanced first to open, of an unconscionable
length. While he was engaged in their perusal, Mrs. Melmoth amused herself
with the newspaper,--a little sheet of about twelve inches square, which
had but one rival in the country. Commencing with the title, she labored
on through advertisements old and new, through poetry lamentably deficient
in rhythm and rhymes, through essays, the ideas of which had been trite
since the first week of the creation, till she finally arrived at the
department that, a fortnight before, had contained the latest news from
all quarters. Making such remarks upon these items as to her seemed good,
the dame's notice was at length attracted by an article which her sudden
exclamation proved to possess uncommon interest. Casting her eye hastily
over it, she immediately began to read aloud to her husband; but he,
deeply engaged in a long and learned letter, instead of listening to what
she wished to communicate, exerted his own lungs in opposition to hers, as
is the custom of abstracted men when disturbed. The result was as
"A brig just arrived in the outer harbor," began Mrs. Melmoth, "reports,
that on the morning of the 25th ult."--Here the doctor broke in,
"Wherefore I am compelled to differ from your exposition of the said
passage, for those reasons, of the which I have given you a taste;
provided"--The lady's voice was now almost audible, "ship bottom upward,
discovered by the name on her stern to be the Ellen of"--"and in the same
opinion are Hooker, Cotton, and divers learned divines of a later date."
The doctor's lungs were deep and strong, and victory seemed to incline
toward him; but Mrs. Melmoth now made use of a tone whose peculiar
shrillness, as long experience had taught her husband, augured a mood of
mind not to be trifled with.
"On my word, doctor," she exclaimed, "this is most unfeeling and
unchristian conduct! Here am I endeavoring to inform you of the death of
an old friend, and you continue as deaf as a post."
Dr. Melmoth, who had heard the sound, without receiving the sense, of
these words, now laid aside the letter in despair, and submissively
requested to be informed of her pleasure.
"There, read for yourself," she replied, handing him the paper, and
pointing to the passage containing the important intelligence,--"read, and
then finish your letter, if you have a mind."
He took the paper, unable to conjecture how the dame could be so much
interested in any part of its contents; but, before he had read many
words, he grew pale as death. "Good Heavens! what is this?" he exclaimed.
He then read on, "being the vessel wherein that eminent son of New
England, John Langton, Esq., had taken passage for his native country,
after an absence of many years."
"Our poor Ellen, his orphan child!" said Dr. Melmoth, dropping the paper.
"How shall we break the intelligence to her? Alas! her share of the
affliction causes me to forget my own."
"It is a heavy misfortune, doubtless; and Ellen will grieve as a daughter
should," replied Mrs. Melmoth, speaking with the good sense of which she
had a competent share. "But she has never known her father; and her sorrow
must arise from a sense of duty, more than from strong affection. I will
go and inform her of her loss. It is late, and I wonder if she be still
"Be cautious, dearest wife," said the doctor. "Ellen has strong feelings,
and a sudden shock might be dangerous."
"I think I may be trusted, Dr. Melmoth," replied the lady, who had a high
opinion of her own abilities as a comforter, and was not averse to
Her husband, after her departure, sat listlessly turning over the letters
that yet remained unopened, feeling little curiosity, after such
melancholy intelligence, respecting their contents. But, by the
handwriting of the direction on one of them, his attention was gradually
arrested, till he found himself gazing earnestly on those strong, firm,
regular characters. They were perfectly familiar to his eye; but from what
hand they came, he could not conjecture. Suddenly, however, the truth
burst upon him; and after noticing the date, and reading a few lines, he
rushed hastily in pursuit of his wife.
He had arrived at the top of his speed and at the middle of the staircase,
when his course was arrested by the lady whom he sought, who came, with a
velocity equal to his own, in an opposite direction. The consequence was a
concussion between the two meeting masses, by which Mrs. Melmoth was
seated securely on the stairs; while the doctor was only preserved from
precipitation to the bottom by clinging desperately to the balustrade. As
soon as the pair discovered that they had sustained no material injury by
their contact, they began eagerly to explain the cause of their mutual
haste, without those reproaches, which, on the lady's part, would at
another time have followed such an accident.
"You have not told her the bad news, I trust?" cried Dr. Melmoth, after
each had communicated his and her intelligence, without obtaining audience
of the other.
"Would you have me tell it to the bare walls?" inquired the lady in her
shrillest tone. "Have I not just informed you that she has gone, fled,
eloped? Her chamber is empty; and her bed has not been occupied."
"Gone!" repeated the doctor. "And, when her father comes to demand his
daughter of me, what answer shall I make?"
"Now, Heaven defend us from the visits of the dead and drowned!" cried
Mrs. Melmoth. "This is a serious affair, doctor, but not, I trust,
sufficient to raise a ghost."
"Mr. Langton is yet no ghost," answered he; "though this event will go
near to make him one. He was fortunately prevented, after he had made
every preparation, from taking passage in the vessel that was lost."
"And where is he now?" she inquired.
"He is in New England. Perhaps he is at this moment on his way to us,"
replied her husband. "His letter is dated nearly a fortnight back; and he
expresses an intention of being with us in a few days."
"Well, I thank Heaven for his safety," said Mrs. Melmoth. "But truly the
poor gentleman could not have chosen a better time to be drowned, nor a
worse one to come to life, than this. What we shall do, doctor, I know
not; but had you locked the doors, and fastened the windows, as I advised,
the misfortune could not have happened."
"Why, the whole country would have flouted us!" answered the doctor. "Is
there a door in all the Province that is barred or bolted, night or day?
Nevertheless it might have been advisable last night, had it occurred to
"And why at that time more than at all times?" she inquired. "We had
surely no reason to fear this event."
Dr. Melmoth was silent; for his worldly wisdom was sufficient to deter him
from giving his lady the opportunity, which she would not fail to use to
the utmost, of laying the blame of the elopement at his door. He now
proceeded, with a heavy heart, to Ellen's chamber, to satisfy himself with
his own eyes of the state of affairs. It was deserted too truly; and the
wild-flowers with which it was the maiden's custom daily to decorate her
premises were drooping, as if in sorrow for her who had placed them there.
Mrs. Melmoth, on this second visit, discovered on the table a note
addressed to her husband, and containing a few words of gratitude from
Ellen, but no explanation of her mysterious flight. The doctor gazed long
on the tiny letters, which had evidently been traced with a trembling
hand, and blotted with many tears.
"There is a mystery in this,--a mystery that I cannot fathom," he said.
"And now I would I knew what measures it would be proper to take."
"Get you on horseback, Dr. Melmoth, and proceed as speedily as may be down
the valley to the town," said the dame, the influence of whose firmer mind
was sometimes, as in the present case, most beneficially exerted over his
own. "You must not spare for trouble, no, nor for danger. Now--Oh, if I
were a man!"--
"Oh, that you were!" murmured the doctor, in a perfectly inaudible voice,
"Well--and when I reach the town, what then?"
"As I am a Christian woman, my patience cannot endure you!" exclaimed Mrs.
Melmoth. "Oh, I love to see a man with the spirit of a man! but you"--And
she turned away in utter scorn.
"But, dearest wife," remonstrated the husband, who was really at a loss
how to proceed, and anxious for her advice, "your worldly experience is
greater than mine, and I desire to profit by it. What should be my next
measure after arriving at the town?"
Mrs. Melmoth was appeased by the submission with which the doctor asked
her counsel; though, if the truth must be told, she heartily despised him
for needing it. She condescended, however, to instruct him in the proper
method of pursuing the runaway maiden, and directed him, before his
departure, to put strict inquiries to Hugh Crombie respecting any stranger
who might lately have visited his inn. That there would be wisdom in this,
Dr. Melmoth had his own reasons for believing; and still, without
imparting them to his lady, he proceeded to do as he had been bid.
The veracious landlord acknowledged that a stranger had spent a night and
day at his inn, and was missing that morning; but he utterly denied all
acquaintance with his character, or privity to his purposes. Had Mrs.
Melmoth, instead of her husband, conducted the examination, the result
might have been different. As the case was, the doctor returned to his
dwelling but little wiser than he went forth; and, ordering his steed to
be saddled, he began a journey of which he knew not what would be the end.
In the mean time, the intelligence of Ellen's disappearance circulated
rapidly, and soon sent forth hunters more fit to follow the chase than Dr.
"There was racing and chasing o'er Cannobie Lee."
When Edward Walcott awoke the next morning from his deep slumber, his
first consciousness was of a heavy weight upon his mind, the cause of
which he was unable immediately to recollect. One by one, however, by
means of the association of ideas, the events of the preceding night came
back to his memory; though those of latest occurrence were dim as dreams.
But one circumstance was only too well remembered,--the discovery of Ellen
Langton. By a strong effort he next attained to an uncertain recollection
of a scene of madness and violence, followed, as he at first thought, by a
duel. A little further reflection, however, informed him that this event
was yet among the things of futurity; but he could by no means recall the
appointed time or place. As he had not the slightest intention
(praiseworthy and prudent as it would unquestionably have been) to give up
the chance of avenging Ellen's wrongs and his own, he immediately arose,
and began to dress, meaning to learn from Hugh Crombie those particulars
which his own memory had not retained. His chief apprehension was, that
the appointed time had already elapsed; for the early Sunbeams of a
glorious morning were now peeping into his chamber.
More than once, during the progress of dressing, he was inclined to
believe that the duel had actually taken place, and been fatal to him, and
that he was now in those regions to which, his conscience told him, such
an event would be likely to send him. This idea resulted from his bodily
sensations, which were in the highest degree uncomfortable. He was
tormented by a raging thirst, that seemed to have absorbed all the
moisture of his throat and stomach; and, in his present agitation, a cup
of icy water would have been his first wish, had all the treasures of
earth and sea been at his command. His head, too, throbbed almost to
bursting; and the whirl of his brain at every movement promised little
accuracy in the aim of his pistol, when he should meet the angler. These
feelings, together with the deep degradation of his mind, made him resolve
that no circumstances should again draw him into an excess of wine. In the
mean time, his head was, perhaps, still too much confused to allow him
fully to realize his unpleasant situation.
Before Edward was prepared to leave his chamber, the door was opened by
one of the college bed-makers, who, perceiving that he was nearly dressed,
entered, and began to set the apartment in order. There were two of these
officials pertaining to Harley College; each of them being (and, for
obvious reasons, this was an indispensable qualification) a model of
perfect ugliness in her own way. One was a tall, raw-boned, huge-jointed,
double-fisted giantess, admirably fitted to sustain the part of
Glumdalia, in the tragedy of "Tom Thumb." Her features were as excellent
as her form, appearing to have been rough-hewn with a broadaxe, and left
unpolished. The other was a short, squat figure, about two thirds the
height, and three times the circumference, of ordinary females. Her hair
was gray, her complexion of a deep yellow; and her most remarkable feature
was a short snub nose, just discernible amid the broad immensity of her
face. This latter lady was she who now entered Edward's chamber.
Notwithstanding her deficiency in personal attractions, she was rather a
favorite of the students, being good-natured, anxious for their comfort,
and, when duly encouraged, very communicative. Edward perceived, as soon
as she appeared, that she only waited his assistance in order to disburden
herself of some extraordinary information; and, more from compassion than
curiosity, he began to question her.
"Well, Dolly, what news this morning?"
"Why, let me see,--oh, yes! It had almost slipped my memory," replied the
bed-maker. "Poor Widow Butler died last night, after her long sickness.
Poor woman! I remember her forty years ago, or so,--as rosy a lass as you
could set eyes on."
"Ah! has she gone?" said Edward, recollecting the sick woman of the
cottage which he had entered with Ellen and Fanshawe. "Was she not out of
her right mind, Dolly?"
"Yes, this seven years," she answered. "They say she came to her senses a
bit, when Dr. Melmoth visited her yesterday, but was raving mad when she
died. Ah, that son of hers!--if he is yet alive. Well, well!"
"She had a son, then?" inquired Edward.
"Yes, such as he was. The Lord preserve me from such a one!" said Dolly.
"It was thought he went off with Hugh Crombie, that keeps the tavern now.
That was fifteen years ago."
"And have they heard nothing of him since?" asked Edward.
"Nothing good,--nothing good," said the bed-maker.
"Stories did travel up the valley now and then; but for five years there
has been no word of him. They say Merchant Langton, Ellen's father, met
him in foreign parts, and would have made a man of him; but there was too
much of the wicked one in him for that. Well, poor woman! I wonder who'll
preach her funeral sermon."
"Dr. Melmoth, probably," observed the student.
"No, no! The doctor will never finish his journey in time. And who knows
but his own funeral will be the end of it," said Dolly, with a sagacious
shake of her head.
"Dr. Melmoth gone a journey!" repeated Edward. "What do you mean? For what
"For a good purpose enough, I may say," replied she. "To search out Miss
Ellen, that was run away with last night."
"In the Devil's name, woman, of what are you speaking?" shouted Edward,
seizing the affrighted bed-maker forcibly by the arm.
Poor Dolly had chosen this circuitous method of communicating her
intelligence, because she was well aware that, if she first told of
Ellen's flight, she should find no ear for her account of the Widow
Butler's death. She had not calculated, however, that the news would
produce so violent an effect upon her auditor; and her voice faltered as
she recounted what she knew of the affair. She had hardly concluded,
before Edward--who, as she proceeded, had been making hasty preparations--
rushed from his chamber, and took the way towards Hugh Crombie's inn. He
had no difficulty in finding the landlord, who had already occupied his
accustomed seat, and was smoking his accustomed pipe, under the elm-tree.
"Well, Master Walcott, you have come to take a stomach-reliever this
morning, I suppose," said Hugh, taking the pipe from his mouth. "What
shall it be?--a bumper of wine with an egg? or a glass of smooth, old,
oily brandy, such as Dame Crombie and I keep for our own drinking? Come,
that will do it, I know."
"No, no! neither," replied Edward, shuddering involuntarily at the bare
mention of wine and strong drink. "You know well, Hugh Crombie, the errand
on which I come."
"Well, perhaps I do," said the landlord. "You come to order me to saddle
my best horse. You are for a ride, this fine morning."
"True; and I must learn of you in what direction to turn my horse's head,"
replied Edward Walcott.
"I understand you," said Hugh, nodding and smiling. "And now, Master
Edward, I really have taken a strong liking to you; and, if you please to
hearken to it, you shall have some of my best advice."
"Speak," said the young man, expecting to be told in what direction to
pursue the chase.
"I advise you, then," continued Hugh Crombie, in a tone in which some real
feeling mingled with assumed carelessness,--"I advise you to forget that
you have ever known this girl, that she has ever existed; for she is as
much lost to you as if she never had been born, or as if the grave had
covered her. Come, come, man, toss off a quart of my old wine, and kept up
a merry heart. This has been my way in many a heavier sorrow than ever you
have felt; and you see I am alive and merry yet." But Hugh's merriment had
failed him just as he was making his boast of it; for Edward saw a tear in
the corner of his eye.
"Forget her? Never, never!" said the student, while his heart sank within
him at the hopelessness of pursuit which Hugh's words implied. "I will
follow her to the ends of the earth."
"Then so much the worse for you and for my poor nag, on whose back you
shall be in three minutes," rejoined the landlord. "I have spoken to you
as I would to my own son, if I had such an incumbrance.--Here, you
ragamuffin; saddle the gray, and lead him round to the door."
"The gray? I will ride the black," said Edward. "I know your best horse as
well as you do yourself, Hugh."
"There is no black horse in my stable. I have parted with him to an old
comrade of mine," answered the landlord, with a wink of acknowledgment to
what he saw were Edward's suspicions. "The gray is a stout nag, and will
carry you a round pace, though not so fast as to bring you up with them
you seek. I reserved him for you, and put Mr. Fanshawe off with the old
white, on which I travelled hitherward a year or two since."
"Fanshawe! Has he, then, the start of me?" asked Edward.
"He rode off about twenty minutes ago," replied Hugh; "but you will
overtake him within ten miles, at farthest. But, if mortal man could
recover the girl, that fellow would do it, even if he had no better nag
than a broomstick, like the witches of old times."
"Did he obtain any information from you as to the course?" inquired the
"I could give him only this much," said Hugh, pointing down the road in
the direction of the town. "My old comrade trusts no man further than is
needful, and I ask no unnecessary questions."
The hostler now led up to the door the horse which Edward was to ride. The
young man mounted with all expedition; but, as he was about to apply the
spurs, his thirst, which the bed-maker's intelligence had caused him to
forget, returned most powerfully upon him.
"For Heaven's sake, Hugh, a mug of your sharpest cider; and let it be a
large one!" he exclaimed. "My tongue rattles in my mouth like"--
"Like the bones in a dice-box," said the landlord, finishing the
comparison, and hastening to obey Edward's directions. Indeed, he rather
exceeded them, by mingling with the juice of the apple a gill of his old
brandy, which his own experience told him would at that time have a most
desirable effect upon the young man's internal system.
"It is powerful stuff, mine host; and I feel like a new man already,"
observed Edward, after draining the mug to the bottom.
"He is a fine lad, and sits his horse most gallantly," said Hugh Crombie
to himself as the student rode off. "I heartily wish him success. I wish
to Heaven my conscience had suffered me to betray the plot before it was
too late. Well, well, a man must keep his mite of honesty."
The morning was now one of the most bright and glorious that ever shone
for mortals; and, under other circumstances, Edward's bosom would have
been as light, and his spirit would have sung as cheerfully, as one of the
many birds that warbled around him. The raindrops of the preceding night
hung like glittering diamonds on every leaf of every tree, shaken, and
rendered more brilliant, by occasional sighs of wind, that removed from
the traveller the superfluous heat of an unclouded sun. In spite of the
adventure, so mysterious and vexatious, in which he was engaged, Edward's
elastic spirit (assisted, perhaps, by the brandy he had unwittingly
swallowed) rose higher as he rode on; and he soon found himself
endeavoring to accommodate the tune of one of Hugh Crombie's ballads to
the motion of the horse. Nor did this reviving cheerfulness argue anything
against his unwavering faith, and pure and fervent love for Ellen Langton.
A sorrowful and repining disposition is not the necessary accompaniment of
a "leal and loving heart"; and Edward's spirits were cheered, not by
forgetfulness, but by hope, which would not permit him to doubt of the
ultimate success of his pursuit. The uncertainty itself, and the probable
danger of the expedition, were not without their charm to a youthful and
adventurous spirit. In fact, Edward would not have been altogether
satisfied to recover the errant damsel, without first doing battle in her
He had proceeded but a few miles before he came in sight of Fanshawe, who
had been accommodated by the landlord with a horse much inferior to his
own. The speed to which he had been put had almost exhausted the poor
animal, whose best pace was now but little beyond a walk. Edward drew his
bridle as he came up with Fanshawe.
"I have been anxious to apologize," he said to him, "for the hasty and
unjust expressions of which I made use last evening. May I hope that, in
consideration of my mental distraction and the causes of it, you will
forget what has passed?"
"I had already forgotten it," replied Fanshawe, freely offering his hand.
"I saw your disturbed state of feeling, and it would have been unjust both
to you and to myself to remember the errors it occasioned."
"A wild expedition this," observed Edward, after shaking warmly the
offered hand. "Unless we obtain some further information at the town, we
shall hardly know which way to continue the pursuit."
"We can scarcely fail, I think, of lighting upon some trace of them," said
Fanshawe. "Their flight must have commenced after the storm subsided,
which would give them but a few hours the start of us. May I beg," he
continued, nothing the superior condition of his rival's horse, "that you
will not attempt to accommodate your pace to mine?"
Edward bowed, and rode on, wondering at the change which a few months had
wrought in Fanshawe's character. On this occasion, especially, the energy
of his mind had communicated itself to his frame. The color was strong and
high in his cheek; and his whole appearance was that of a gallant and
manly youth, whom a lady might love, or a foe might fear. Edward had not
been so slow as his mistress in discovering the student's affection; and
he could not but acknowledge in his heart that he was a rival not to be
despised, and might yet be a successful one, if, by his means, Ellen
Langton were restored to her friends. This consideration caused him to
spur forward with increased ardor; but all his speed could not divest him
of the idea that Fanshawe would finally overtake him, and attain the
object of their mutual pursuit. There was certainly no apparent ground for
this imagination: for every step of his horse increased the advantage
which Edward had gained, and he soon lost sight of his rival.
Shortly after overtaking Fanshawe, the young man passed the lonely cottage
formerly the residence of the Widow Butler, who now lay dead within. He
was at first inclined to alight, and make inquiries respecting the
fugitives; for he observed through the windows the faces of several
persons, whom curiosity, or some better feeling, had led to the house of
mourning. Recollecting, however, that this portion of the road must have
been passed by the angler and Ellen at too early an hour to attract
notice, he forbore to waste time by a fruitless delay.
Edward proceeded on his journey, meeting with no other noticeable event,
till, arriving at the summit of a hill, he beheld, a few hundred yards
before him, the Rev. Dr. Melmoth. The worthy president was toiling onward
at a rate unexampled in the history either of himself or his steed; the
excellence of the latter consisting in sure-footedness rather than
rapidity. The rider looked round, seemingly in some apprehension at the
sound of hoof-tramps behind him, but was unable to conceal his
satisfaction on recognizing Edward Walcott.
In the whole course of his life, Dr. Melmoth had never been placed in
circumstances so embarrassing as the present. He was altogether a child in
the ways of the world, having spent his youth and early manhood in
abstracted study, and his maturity in the solitude of these hills. The
expedition, therefore, on which fate had now thrust him, was an entire
deviation from the quiet pathway of all his former years; and he felt like
one who sets forth over the broad ocean without chart or compass. The
affair would undoubtedly have been perplexing to a man of far more
experience than he; but the doctor pictured to himself a thousand
difficulties and dangers, which, except in his imagination, had no
existence. The perturbation of his spirit had compelled him, more than
once since his departure, to regret that he had not invited Mrs. Melmoth
to a share in the adventure; this being an occasion where her firmness,
decision, and confident sagacity--which made her a sort of domestic
hedgehog--would have been peculiarly appropriate. In the absence of such a
counsellor, even Edward Walcott--young as he was, and indiscreet as the
doctor thought him--was a substitute not to be despised; and it was
singular and rather ludicrous to observe how the gray-haired man
unconsciously became as a child to the beardless youth. He addressed
Edward with an assumption of dignity, through which his pleasure at the
meeting was very obvious.
"Young gentleman, this is not well," he said. "By what authority have you
absented yourself from the walls of Alma Mater during term-time?"
"I conceived that it was unnecessary to ask leave at such a conjuncture,
and when the head of the institution was himself in the saddle," replied
"It was a fault, it was a fault," said Dr. Melmoth, shaking his head;
"but, in consideration of the motive, I may pass it over. And now, my dear
Edward, I advise that we continue our journey together, as your youth and
inexperience will stand in need of the wisdom of my gray head. Nay, I pray
you lay not the lash to your steed. You have ridden fast and far; and a
slower pace is requisite for a season."
And, in order to keep up with his young companion, the doctor smote his
own gray nag; which unhappy beast, wondering what strange concatenation of
events had procured him such treatment, endeavored to obey his master's
wishes. Edward had sufficient compassion for Dr. Melmoth (especially as
his own horse now exhibited signs of weariness) to moderate his pace to
one attainable by the former.
"Alas, youth! these are strange times," observed the president, "when a
doctor of divinity and an under-graduate set forth, like a knight-errant
and his squire, in search of a stray damsel. Methinks I am an epitome of
the church militant, or a new species of polemical divinity. Pray Heaven,
however, there be no encounter in store for us; for I utterly forgot to
provide myself with weapons."
"I took some thought for that matter, reverend knight," replied Edward,
whose imagination was highly tickled by Dr. Melmoth's chivalrous
"Ay, I see that you have girded on a sword," said the divine. "But
wherewith shall I defend myself, my hand being empty, except of this
golden headed staff, the gift of Mr. Langton?"
"One of these, if you will accept it," answered Edward, exhibiting a brace
of pistols, "will serve to begin the conflict, before you join the battle
hand to hand."
"Nay, I shall find little safety in meddling with that deadly instrument,
since I know not accurately from which end proceeds the bullet," said Dr.
Melmoth. "But were it not better, seeing we are so well provided with
artillery, to betake ourselves, in the event of an encounter, to some
stone-wall or other place of strength?"
"If I may presume to advise," said the squire, "you, as being most valiant
and experienced, should ride forward, lance in hand (your long staff
serving for a lance), while I annoy the enemy from afar."
"Like Teucer behind the shield of Ajax," interrupted Dr. Melmoth, "or
David with his stone and sling. No, no, young man! I have left unfinished
in my study a learned treatise, important not only to the present age, but
to posterity, for whose sakes I must take heed to my safety.--But, lo! who
ride yonder?" he exclaimed, in manifest alarm, pointing to some horsemen
upon the brow of a hill at a short distance before them.
"Fear not, gallant leader," said Edward Walcott, who had already
discovered the objects of the doctor's terror. "They are men of peace, as
we shall shortly see. The foremost is somewhere near your own years, and
rides like a grave, substantial citizen,--though what he does here, I know
not. Behind come two servants, men likewise of sober age and pacific
"Truly your eyes are better than mine own. Of a verity, you are in the
right," acquiesced Dr. Melmoth, recovering his usual quantum of
intrepidity. "We will ride forward courageously, as those who, in a just
cause, fear neither death nor bonds."
The reverend knight-errant and his squire, at the time of discovering the
three horsemen, were within a very short distance of the town, which was,
however, concealed from their view by the hill that the strangers were
descending. The road from Harley College, through almost its whole extent,
had been rough and wild, and the country thin of population; but now,
standing frequent, amid fertile fields on each side of the way, were neat
little cottages, from which groups of white-headed children rushed forth
to gaze upon the travellers. The three strangers, as well as the doctor
and Edward, were surrounded, as they approached each other, by a crowd of
this kind, plying their little bare legs most pertinaciously in order to
keep pace with the horses.
As Edward gained a nearer view of the foremost rider, his grave aspect and
stately demeanor struck him with involuntary respect. There were deep
lines of thought across his brow; and his calm yet bright gray eye
betokened a steadfast soul. There was also an air of conscious importance,
even in the manner in which the stranger sat his horse, which a man's good
opinion of himself, unassisted by the concurrence of the world in general,
seldom bestows. The two servants rode at a respectable distance in the
rear; and the heavy portmanteaus at their backs intimated that the party
had journeyed from afar. Dr. Melmoth endeavored to assume the dignity that
became him as the head of Harley College; and with a gentle stroke of his
staff upon his wearied steed and a grave nod to the principal stranger,
was about to commence the ascent of the hill at the foot of which they
were. The gentleman, however, made a halt.
"Dr. Melmoth, am I so fortunate as to meet you?" he exclaimed in accents
expressive of as much surprise and pleasure as were consistent with his
staid demeanor. "Have you, then, forgotten your old friend?"
"Mr. Langton! Can it be?" said the doctor, after looking him in the face a
moment. "Yes, it is my old friend indeed: welcome, welcome! though you
come at an unfortunate time."
"What say you? How is my child? Ellen, I trust, is well?" cried Mr.
Langton, a father's anxiety overcoming the coldness and reserve that were
natural to him, or that long habit had made a second nature.
"She is well in health. She was so, at least, last night," replied Dr.
Melmoth unable to meet the eye of his friend. "But--but I have been a
careless shepherd; and the lamb has strayed from the fold while I slept."
Edward Walcott, who was a deeply interested observer of this scene, had
anticipated that a burst of passionate grief would follow the disclosure.
He was, however, altogether mistaken. There was a momentary convulsion of
Mr. Langton's strong features, as quick to come and go as a flash of
lightning; and then his countenance was as composed--though, perhaps, a
little sterner--as before. He seemed about to inquire into the
particulars of what so nearly concerned him, but changed his purpose on
observing the crowd of children, who, with one or two of their parents,
were endeavoring to catch the words, that passed between the doctor and
"I will turn back with you to the village," he said in a steady voice;
"and at your leisure I shall desire to hear the particulars of this
He wheeled his horse accordingly, and, side by side with Dr. Melmoth,
began to ascend the hill. On reaching the summit, the little country town
lay before them, presenting a cheerful and busy spectacle. It consisted of
one long, regular street, extending parallel to, and at a short distance
from, the river; which here, enlarged by a junction with another stream,
became navigable, not indeed for vessels of burden, but for rafts of
lumber and boats of considerable size. The houses, with peaked roofs and
jutting stories, stood at wide intervals along the street; and the
commercial character of the place was manifested by the shop door and
windows that occupied the front of almost every dwelling. One or two
mansions, however, surrounded by trees, and standing back at a haughty
distance from the road, were evidently the abodes of the aristocracy of
the village. It was not difficult to distinguish the owners of these--
self-important personages, with canes and well-powdered periwigs--among
the crowd of meaner men who bestowed their attention upon Dr. Melmoth and
his friend as they rode by. The town being the nearest mart of a large
extent of back country, there are many rough farmers and woodsmen, to whom
the cavalcade was an object of curiosity and admiration. The former
feeling, indeed, was general throughout the village. The shop-keepers left
their customers, and looked forth from the doors; the female portion of
the community thrust their heads from the windows; and the people in the
street formed a lane through which, with all eyes concentrated upon them,
the party rode onward to the tavern. The general aptitude that pervades
the populace of a small country town to meddle with affairs not
legitimately concerning them was increased, on this occasion, by the
sudden return of Mr. Langton after passing through the village. Many
conjectures were afloat respecting the cause of this retrograde movement;
and, by degrees, something like the truth, though much distorted, spread
generally among the crowd, communicated, probably, from Mr. Langton's
servants. Edward Walcott, incensed at the uncourteous curiosity of which
he, as well as his companions, was the object, felt a frequent impulse
(though, fortunately for himself, resisted) to make use of his riding-
switch in clearing a passage.
On arriving at the tavern, Dr. Melmoth recounted to his friend the little
he knew beyond the bare fact of Ellen's disappearance. Had Edward Walcott
been called to their conference, he might, by disclosing the adventure of
the angler, have thrown a portion of light upon the affair; but, since his
first introduction, the cold and stately merchant had honored him with no
sort of notice.
Edward, on his part, was not well pleased at the sudden appearance of
Ellen's father, and was little inclined to cooperate in any measures that
he might adopt for her recovery. It was his wish to pursue the chase on
his own responsibility, and as his own wisdom dictated: he chose to be an
independent ally, rather than a subordinate assistant. But, as a step
preliminary to his proceedings of every other kind, he found it absolutely
necessary, having journeyed far, and fasting, to call upon the landlord
for a supply of food. The viands that were set before him were homely but
abundant; nor were Edward's griefs and perplexities so absorbing as to
overcome the appetite of youth and health.
Dr. Melmoth and Mr. Langton, after a short private conversation, had
summoned the landlord, in the hope of obtaining some clew to the
development of the mystery. But no young lady, nor any stranger answering
to the description the doctor had received from Hugh Crombie (which was
indeed a false one), had been seen to pass through the village since
daybreak. Here, therefore, the friends were entirely at a loss in what
direction to continue the pursuit. The village was the focus of several
roads, diverging to widely distant portions of the country; and which of
these the fugitives had taken, it was impossible to determine. One point,
however, might be considered certain,--that the village was the first
stage of their flight; for it commanded the only outlet from the valley,
except a rugged path among the hills, utterly impassable by horse. In this
dilemma, expresses were sent by each of the different roads; and poor
Ellen's imprudence--the tale nowise decreasing as it rolled along--became
known to a wide extent of country. Having thus done everything in his
power to recover his daughter, the merchant exhibited a composure which
Dr. Melmoth admired, but could not equal. His own mind, however, was in a
far more comfortable state than when the responsibility of the pursuit had
rested upon himself.
Edward Walcott, in the mean time, had employed but a very few moments in
satisfying his hunger; after which his active intellect alternately formed
and relinquished a thousand plans for the recovery of Ellen. Fanshawe's
observation, that her flight must have commenced after the subsiding of
the storm, recurred to him. On inquiry, he was informed that the violence
of the rain had continued, with a few momentary intermissions, till near
daylight. The fugitives must, therefore, have passed through the village
long after its inhabitants were abroad; and how, without the gift of
invisibility, they had contrived to elude notice, Edward could not
"Fifty years ago," thought Edward, "my sweet Ellen would have been deemed
a witch for this trackless journey. Truly, I could wish I were a wizard,
that I might bestride a broomstick, and follow her."
While the young man, involved in these perplexing thoughts, looked forth
from the open window of the apartment, his attention was drawn to an
individual, evidently of a different, though not of a higher, class than
the countrymen among whom he stood. Edward now recollected that he had
noticed his rough dark face among the most earnest of those who had
watched the arrival of the party. He had then taken him for one of the
boatmen, of whom there were many in the village, and who had much of a
sailor-like dress and appearance. A second and more attentive observation,
however, convinced Edward that this man's life had not been spent upon
fresh water; and, had any stronger evidence than the nameless marks which
the ocean impresses upon its sons been necessary, it would have been found
in his mode of locomotion. While Edward was observing him, he beat slowly
up to one of Mr. Langton's servants who was standing near the door of the
inn. He seemed to question the man with affected carelessness; but his
countenance was dark and perplexed when he turned to mingle again with the
crowd. Edward lost no time in ascertaining from the servant the nature of
his inquiries. They had related to the elopement of Mr. Langton's
daughter, which was, indeed, the prevailing, if not the sole, subject of
conversation in the village.
The grounds for supposing that this man was in any way connected with the
angler were, perhaps, very slight; yet, in the perplexity of the whole
affair, they induced Edward to resolve to get at the heart of his mystery.
To attain this end, he took the most direct method,--by applying to the
He had now retired apart from the throng and bustle of the village, and
was seated upon a condemned boat, that was drawn up to rot upon the banks
of the river. His arms were folded, and his hat drawn over his brows. The
lower part of his face, which alone was visible, evinced gloom and
depression, as did also the deep sighs, which, because he thought no one
was near him, he did not attempt to restrain.
"Friend, I must speak with you," said Edward Walcott, laying his hand upon
his shoulder, after contemplating the man a moment, himself unseen.
He started at once from his abstraction and his seat, apparently expecting
violence, and prepared to resist it; but, perceiving the youthful and
solitary intruder upon his privacy, he composed his features with much
"What would you with me?" he asked.
"They tarry long,--or you have kept a careless watch," said Edward,
speaking at a venture.
For a moment, there seemed a probability of obtaining such a reply to this
observation as the youth had intended to elicit. If any trust could be put
in the language of the stranger's countenance, a set of words different
from those to which he subsequently gave utterance had risen to his lips.
But he seemed naturally slow of speech; and this defect was now, as is
frequently the case, advantageous in giving him space for reflection.
"Look you, youngster: crack no jokes on me," he at length said,
contemptuously. "Away! back whence you came, or"--And he slightly waved a
small rattan that he held in his right hand.
Edward's eyes sparkled, and his color rose. "You must change this tone,
fellow, and that speedily," he observed. "I order you to lower your hand,
and answer the questions that I shall put to you."
The man gazed dubiously at him, but finally adopted a more conciliatory
mode of speech.
"Well, master; and what is your business with me?" he inquired. "I am a
boatman out of employ. Any commands in my line?"
"Pshaw! I know you, my good friend, and you cannot deceive me," replied
Edward Walcott. "We are private here," he continued, looking around. "I
have no desire or intention to do you harm; and, if you act according to
my directions, you shall have no cause to repent it."
"And what if I refuse to put myself under your orders?" inquired the man.
"You are but a young captain for such an old hulk as mine."
"The ill consequences of a refusal would all be on your own side," replied
Edward. "I shall, in that case, deliver you up to justice: if I have not
the means of capturing you myself," he continued, observing the seaman's
eye to wander rather scornfully over his youthful and slender figure,
"there are hundreds within call whom it will be in vain to resist.
Besides, it requires little strength to use this," he added, laying his
hand on a pistol.
"If that were all, I could suit you there, my lad," muttered the stranger.
He continued aloud, "Well, what is your will with me? D----d ungenteel
treatment this! But put your questions; and, to oblige you, I may answer
them,--if so be that I know anything of the matter."
"You will do wisely," observed the young man. "And now to business. What
reason have you to suppose that the persons for whom you watch are not
already beyond the village?" The seaman paused long before he answered,
and gazed earnestly at Edward, apparently endeavoring to ascertain from
his countenance the amount of his knowledge. This he probably overrated,
but, nevertheless, hazarded a falsehood.
"I doubt not they passed before midnight," he said. "I warrant you they
are many a league towards the sea-coast, ere this."
"You have kept watch, then, since midnight?" asked Edward.
"Ay, that have I! And a dark and rough one it was," answered the stranger.
"And you are certain that, if they passed at all, it must have been before
"I kept my walk across the road till the village was all astir," said the
seaman. "They could not have missed me. So, you see, your best way is to
give chase; for they have a long start of you, and you have no time to
"Your information is sufficient, my good friend," said Edward, with a
smile. "I have reason to know that they did not commence their flight
before midnight. You have made it evident that they have not passed since:
ergo, they have not passed at all,--an indisputable syllogism. And now
will I retrace my footsteps."
"Stay, young man," said the stranger, placing himself full in Edward's way
as he was about to hasten to the inn. "You have drawn me in to betray my
comrade; but, before you leave this place, you must answer a question or
two of mine. Do you mean to take the law with you? or will you right your
wrongs, if you have any, with your own right hand?"
"It is my intention to take the latter method. But, if I choose the
former, what then?" demanded Edward. "Nay, nothing: only you or I might
not have gone hence alive," replied the stranger. "But as you say he shall
have fair play"--
"On my word, friend," interrupted the young man, "I fear your intelligence
has come too late to do either good or harm. Look towards the inn: my
companions are getting to horse, and, my life on it, they know whither to
So saying, he hastened away, followed by the stranger. It was indeed
evident that news of some kind or other had reached the village. The
people were gathered in groups, conversing eagerly; and the pale cheeks,
uplifted eyebrows, and outspread hands of some of the female sex filled
Edward's mind with undefined but intolerable apprehensions. He forced his
way to Dr. Melmoth, who had just mounted, and, seizing his bridle,
peremptorily demanded if he knew aught of Ellen Langton.
"Full many a miserable year hath passed:
She knows him as one dead, or worse than dead:
And many a change her varied life hath known;
But her heart none."
Since her interview with the angler, which was interrupted by the
appearance of Fanshawe, Ellen Langton's hitherto calm and peaceful mind
had been in a state of insufferable doubt and dismay. She was imperatively
called upon--at least, she so conceived--to break through the rules which
nature and education impose upon her sex, to quit the protection of those
whose desire for her welfare was true and strong, and to trust herself,
for what purpose she scarcely knew, to a stranger, from whom the
instinctive purity of her mind would involuntarily have shrunk, under
whatever circumstances she had met him. The letter which she had received
from the hands of the angler had seemed to her inexperience to prove
beyond a doubt that the bearer was the friend of her father, and
authorized by him, if her duty and affection were stronger than her fears,
to guide her to his retreat. The letter spoke vaguely of losses and
misfortunes, and of a necessity for concealment on her father's part, and
secrecy on hers; and, to the credit of Ellen's not very romantic
understanding, it must be acknowledged that the mystery of the plot had
nearly prevented its success. She did not, indeed, doubt that the letter
was from her father's hand; for every line and stroke, and even many of
its phrases, were familiar to her. Her apprehension was, that his
misfortunes, of what nature soever they were, had affected his intellect,
and that, under such an influence, he had commanded her to take a step
which nothing less than such a command could justify. Ellen did not,
however, remain long in this opinion; for when she reperused the letter,
and considered the firm, regular characters, and the style,--calm and
cold, even in requesting such a sacrifice,--she felt that there was
nothing like insanity here. In fine, she came gradually to the belief that
there were strong reasons, though incomprehensible by her, for the secrecy
that her father had enjoined.
Having arrived at this conviction, her decision lay plain before her. Her
affection for Mr. Langton was not, indeed,--nor was it possible,--so
strong as that she would have felt for a parent who had watched over her
from her infancy. Neither was the conception she had unavoidably formed of
his character such as to promise that in him she would find an equivalent
for all she must sacrifice. On the contrary, her gentle nature and loving
heart, which otherwise would have rejoiced in a new object of affection,
now shrank with something like dread from the idea of meeting her father,
--stately, cold, and stern as she could not but imagine him. A sense of
duty was therefore Ellen's only support in resolving to tread the dark
path that lay before her.
Had there been any person of her own sex in whom Ellen felt confidence,
there is little doubt that she would so far have disobeyed her father's
letter as to communicate its contents, and take counsel as to her
proceedings. But Mrs. Melmoth was the only female--excepting, indeed, the
maid-servant--to whom it was possible to make the communication; and,
though Ellen at first thought of such a step, her timidity, and her
knowledge of the lady's character, did not permit her to venture upon it.
She next reviewed her acquaintances of the other sex; and Dr. Melmoth
first presented himself, as in every respect but one, an unexceptionable
confidant. But the single exception was equivalent to many. The maiden,
with the highest opinion of the doctor's learning and talents, had
sufficient penetration to know, that, in the ways of the world, she was
herself the better skilled of the two. For a moment she thought of Edward
Walcott; but he was light and wild, and, which her delicacy made an
insurmountable objection, there was an untold love between them. Her
thoughts finally centred on Fanshawe. In his judgment, young and
inexperienced though he was, she would have placed a firm trust; and his
zeal, from whatever cause it arose, she could not doubt.
If, in the short time allowed her for reflection, an opportunity had
occurred for consulting him, she would, in all probability, have taken
advantage of it. But the terms on which they had parted the preceding
evening had afforded him no reason to hope for her confidence; and he felt
that there were others who had a better right to it than himself. He did
not, therefore, throw himself in her way; and poor Ellen was consequently
left without an adviser.
The determination that resulted from her own unassisted wisdom has been
seen. When discovered by Dr. Melmoth at Hugh Crombie's inn, she was wholly
prepared for flight, and, but for the intervention of the storm, would,
ere then, have been far away.
The firmness of resolve that had impelled a timid maiden upon such a step
was not likely to be broken by one defeat; and Ellen, accordingly,
confident that the stranger would make a second attempt, determined that
no effort on her part should be wanting to its success. On reaching her
chamber, therefore, instead of retiring to rest (of which, from her
sleepless thoughts of the preceding night, she stood greatly in need), she
sat watching for the abatement of the storm. Her meditations were now
calmer than at any time since her first meeting with the angler. She felt
as if her fate was decided. The stain had fallen upon her reputation: she
was no longer the same pure being in the opinion of those whose
approbation she most valued.
One obstacle to her flight--and, to a woman's mind, a most powerful one--
had thus been removed. Dark and intricate as was the way, it was easier
now to proceed than to pause; and her desperate and forlorn situation gave
her a strength which hitherto she had not felt.
At every cessation in the torrent of rain that beat against the house,
Ellen flew to the window, expecting to see the stranger form beneath it.
But the clouds would again thicken, and the storm recommence with its
former violence; and she began to fear that the approach of morning would
compel her to meet the now dreaded face of Dr. Melmoth. At length,
however, a strong and steady wind, supplying the place of the fitful gusts
of the preceding part of the night, broke and scattered the clouds from
the broad expanse of the sky. The moon, commencing her late voyage not
long before the sun, was now visible, setting forth like a lonely ship
from the dark line of the horizon, and touching at many a little silver
cloud the islands of that aerial deep. Ellen felt that now the time was
come; and, with a calmness wonderful to herself, she prepared for her
She had not long to wait ere she saw, between the vacancies of the trees,
the angler advancing along the shady avenue that led to the principal
entrance of Dr. Melmoth's dwelling. He had no need to summon her either by
word or signal; for she had descended, emerged from the door, and stood
before him, while he was yet at some distance from the house.
"You have watched well," he observed in a low, strange tone. "As saith the
Scripture, 'Many daughters have done virtuously; but thou excellest them
He took her arm; and they hastened down the avenue. Then, leaving Hugh
Crombie's inn on their right, they found its master in a spot so shaded
that the moonbeams could not enlighten it. He held by the bridle two
horses, one of which the angler assisted Ellen to mount. Then, turning to
the landlord he pressed a purse into his hand; but Hugh drew back, and it
fell to the ground.
"No! this would not have tempted me; nor will it reward me," he said. "If
you have gold to spare, there are some that need it more than I."
"I understand you, mine host. I shall take thought for them; and enough
will remain for you and me," replied his comrade. "I have seen the day
when such a purse would not have slipped between your fingers. Well, be it
so. And now, Hugh, my old friend, a shake of your hand; for we are seeing
our last of each other."
"Pray Heaven it be so! though I wish you no ill," said the landlord,
giving his hand.
He then seemed about to approach Ellen, who had been unable to distinguish
the words of this brief conversation; but his comrade prevented him.
"There is no time to lose," he observed. "The moon is growing pale
already, and we should have been many a mile beyond the valley ere this."
He mounted as he spoke; and, guiding Ellen's rein till they reached the
road, they dashed away.
It was now that she felt herself completely in his power; and with that
consciousness there came a sudden change of feeling, and an altered view
of her conduct. A thousand reasons forced themselves upon her mind,
seeming to prove that she had been deceived; while the motives, so
powerful with her but a moment before, had either vanished from her memory
or lost all their efficacy. Her companion, who gazed searchingly into her
face, where the moonlight, coming down between the pines, allowed him to
read its expression, probably discerned somewhat of the state of her
"Do you repent so soon?" he inquired. "We have a weary way before us.
Faint not ere we have well entered upon it."
"I have left dear friends behind me, and am going I know not whither,"
replied Ellen, tremblingly.
"You have a faithful guide," he observed, turning away his head, and
speaking in the tone of one who endeavors to smother a laugh.
Ellen had no heart to continue the conversation; and they rode on in
silence, and through a wild and gloomy scene. The wind roared heavily
through the forest, and the trees shed their raindrops upon the
travellers. The road, at all times rough, was now broken into deep
gullies, through which streams went murmuring down to mingle with the
river. The pale moonlight combined with the gray of the morning to give a
ghastly and unsubstantial appearance to every object.
The difficulties of the road had been so much increased by the storm, that
the purple eastern clouds gave notice of the near approach of the sun just
as the travellers reached the little lonesome cottage which Ellen
remembered to have visited several months before. On arriving opposite to
it, her companion checked his horse, and gazed with a wild earnestness at
the wretched habitation. Then, stifling a groan that would not altogether
be repressed, he was about to pass on; but at that moment the cottage-door
opened, and a woman, whose sour, unpleasant countenance Ellen recognized,
came hastily forth. She seemed not to heed the travellers; but the angler,
his voice thrilling and quivering with indescribable emotion, addressed
"Woman, whither do you go?" he inquired.
She started, but, after a momentary pause, replied, "There is one within
at the point of death. She struggles fearfully; and I cannot endure to
watch alone by her bedside. If you are Christians, come in with me."
Ellen's companion leaped hastily from his horse, assisted her also to
dismount, and followed the woman into the cottage, having first thrown the
bridles of the horses carelessly over the branch of a tree. Ellen trembled
at the awful scene she would be compelled to witness; but, when death was
so near at hand, it was more terrible to stand alone in the dim morning
light than even to watch the parting of soul and body. She therefore
entered the cottage.
Her guide, his face muffled in his cloak, had taken his stand at a
Distance from the death-bed, in a part of the room which neither the
increasing daylight nor the dim rays of a solitary lamp had yet
enlightened. At Ellen's entrance, the dying woman lay still, and
apparently calm, except that a plaintive, half-articulate sound
occasionally wandered through her lips.
"Hush! For mercy's sake, silence!" whispered the other woman to the
strangers. "There is good hope now that she will die a peaceable death;
but, if she is disturbed, the boldest of us will not dare to stand by her
The whisper by which her sister endeavored to preserve quiet perhaps
reached the ears of the dying female; for she now raised herself in bed,
slowly, but with a strength superior to what her situation promised. Her
face was ghastly and wild, from long illness, approaching death, and
disturbed intellect; and a disembodied spirit could scarcely be a more
fearful object than one whose soul was just struggling forth. Her sister,
approaching with the soft and stealing step appropriate to the chamber of
sickness and death, attempted to replace the covering around her, and to
compose her again upon the pillow. "Lie down and sleep, sister," she said;
"and, when the day breaks, I will waken you. Methinks your breath comes
freer already. A little more slumber, and to-morrow you will be well."
"My illness is gone: I am well," said the dying-woman, gasping for breath.
"I wander where the fresh breeze comes sweetly over my face; but a close
and stifled air has choked my lungs."
"Yet a little while, and you will no longer draw your breath in pain,"
observed her sister, again replacing the bedclothes, which she continued
to throw off.
"My husband is with me," murmured the widow. "He walks by my side, and
speaks to me as in old times; but his words come faintly on my ear. Cheer
me and comfort me, my husband; for there is a terror in those dim,
motionless eyes, and in that shadowy voice."
As she spoke thus, she seemed to gaze upon some object that stood by her
bedside; and the eyes of those who witnessed this scene could not but
follow the direction of hers. They observed that the dying woman's own
shadow was marked upon the wall, receiving a tremulous motion from the
fitful rays of the lamp, and from her own convulsive efforts. "My husband
stands gazing on me," she said again; "but my son,--where is he? And, as I
ask, the father turns away his face. Where is our son? For his sake, I
have longed to come to this land of rest. For him I have sorrowed many
years. Will he not comfort me now?"
At these words the stranger made a few hasty steps towards the bed; but,
ere he reached it, he conquered the impulse that drew him thither, and,
shrouding his face more deeply in his cloak, returned to his former
position. The dying woman, in the mean time, had thrown herself back upon
the bed; and her sobbing and wailing, imaginary as was their cause, were
"Take me back to earth," she said; "for its griefs have followed me
The stranger advanced, and, seizing the lamp, knelt down by the bedside,
throwing the light full upon his pale and convulsed features.
"Mother, here is your son!" he exclaimed.
At that unforgotten voice, the darkness burst away at once from her soul.
She arose in bed, her eyes and her whole countenance beaming with joy, and
threw her arms about his neck. A multitude of words seemed struggling for
utterance; but they gave place to a low moaning sound, and then to the
silence of death. The one moment of happiness, that recompensed years of
sorrow, had been her last. Her son laid the lifeless form upon the pillow,
and gazed with fixed eyes on his mother's face.
As he looked, the expression of enthusiastic joy that parting life had
left upon the features faded gradually away; and the countenance, though
no longer wild, assumed the sadness which it had worn through a long
course of grief and pain. On beholding this natural consequence of death,
the thought, perhaps, occurred to him, that her soul, no longer dependent
on the imperfect means of intercourse possessed by mortals, had communed
with his own, and become acquainted with all its guilt and misery. He
started from the bedside, and covered his face with his hands, as if to
hide it from those dead eyes.
Such a scene as has been described could not but have a powerful effect
upon any one who retained aught of humanity; and the grief of the son,
whose natural feelings had been blunted, but not destroyed, by an evil
life, was much more violent than his outward demeanor would have
expressed. But his deep repentance for the misery he had brought upon his
parent did not produce in him a resolution to do wrong no more. The sudden
consciousness of accumulated guilt made him desperate. He felt as if no
one had thenceforth a claim to justice or compassion at his hands, when
his neglect and cruelty had poisoned his mother's life, and hastened her
Thus it was that the Devil wrought with him to his own destruction,
reversing the salutary effect which his mother would have died exultingly
to produce upon his mind. He now turned to Ellen Langton with a demeanor
singularly calm and composed.
"We must resume our journey," he said, in his usual tone of voice. "The
sun is on the point of rising, though but little light finds its way into
Ellen's previous suspicions as to the character of her companion had now
become certainty so far as to convince her that she was in the power of a
lawless and guilty man; though what fate he intended for her she was
unable to conjecture. An open opposition to his will, however, could not
be ventured upon; especially as she discovered, on looking round the
apartment, that, with the exception of the corpse, they were alone.
"Will you not attend your mother's funeral?" she asked, trembling, and
conscious that he would discover her fears.
"The dead must bury their dead," he replied. "I have brought my mother to
her grave,--and what can a son do more? This purse, however, will serve to
lay her in the earth, and leave something for the old hag. Whither is she
gone?" interrupted he, casting a glance round the room in search of the
old woman. "Nay, then, we must speedily to horse. I know her of old."
Thus saying, he threw the purse upon the table, and, without trusting
himself to look again towards the dead, conducted Ellen out of the
cottage. The first rays of the sun at that moment gilded the tallest trees
of the forest.
On looking towards the spot were the horses had stood, Ellen thought that
Providence, in answer to her prayers, had taken care for her deliverance.
They were no longer there,--a circumstance easily accounted for by the
haste with which the bridles had been thrown over the branch of the tree.
Her companion, however, imputed it to another cause.
"The hag! She would sell her own flesh and blood by weight and measure,"
he muttered to himself. "This is some plot of hers, I know well."
He put his hand to his forehead for a moment's space, seeming to reflect
on the course most advisable to be pursued. Ellen, perhaps unwisely,
"Would it not be well to return?" she asked, timidly. "There is now no
hope of escaping; but I might yet reach home undiscovered."
"Return!" repeated her guide, with a look and smile from which she turned
away her face. "Have you forgotten your father and his misfortunes? No,
no, sweet Ellen: it is too late for such thoughts as these."
He took her hand, and led her towards the forest, in the rear of the
cottage. She would fain have resisted; but they were all alone, and the
attempt must have been both fruitless and dangerous. She therefore trod
with him a path so devious, so faintly traced, and so overgrown with
bushes and young trees, that only a most accurate acquaintance in his
early days could have enabled her guide to retain it. To him, however, it
seemed so perfectly familiar, that he was not once compelled to pause,
though the numerous windings soon deprived Ellen of all knowledge of the
situation of the cottage. They descended a steep hill, and, proceeding
parallel to the river,--as Ellen judged by its rushing sound,--at length
found themselves at what proved to be the termination of their walk.
Ellen now recollected a remark of Edward Walcott's respecting the wild and
rude scenery through which the river here kept its way; and, in less
agitating circumstances, her pleasure and admiration would have been
great. They stood beneath a precipice, so high that the loftiest pine-tops
(and many of them seemed to soar to heaven) scarcely surmounted it. This
line of rock has a considerable extent, at unequal heights, and with many
interruptions, along the course of the river; and it seems probable that,
at some former period, it was the boundary of the waters, though they are
now confined within far less ambitious limits. The inferior portion of the
crag, beneath which Ellen and her guide were standing, varies so far from
the perpendicular as not to be inaccessible by a careful footstep. But
only one person has been known to attempt the ascent of the superior half,
and only one the descent; yet, steep as is the height, trees and bushes of
various kinds have clung to the rock, wherever their roots could gain the
slightest hold; thus seeming to prefer the scanty and difficult
nourishment of the cliff to a more luxurious life in the rich interval
that extends from its base to the river. But, whether or no these hardy
vegetables have voluntarily chosen their rude resting-place, the cliff is
indebted to them for much of the beauty that tempers its sublimity. When
the eye is pained and wearied by the bold nakedness of the rock, it rests
with pleasure on the cheerful foliage of the birch, or upon the darker
green of the funereal pine. Just at the termination of the accessible
portion of the crag, these trees are so numerous, and their foliage so
dense, that they completely shroud from view a considerable excavation,
formed, probably, hundreds of years since, by the fall of a portion of the
rock. The detached fragment still lies at a little distance from the base,
gray and moss-grown, but corresponding, in its general outline, to the
cavity from which it was rent.
But the most singular and beautiful object in all this scene is a tiny
fount of crystal water, that gushes forth from the high, smooth forehead
of the cliff. Its perpendicular descent is of many feet; after which it
finds its way, with a sweet diminutive murmur, to the level ground.
It is not easy to conceive whence the barren rock procures even the small
supply of water that is necessary to the existence of this stream; it is
as unaccountable as the gush of gentle feeling which sometimes proceeds
from the hardest heart: but there it continues to flow and fall,
undiminished and unincreased. The stream is so slender, that the gentlest
breeze suffices to disturb its descent, and to scatter its pure sweet
waters over the face of the cliff. But in that deep forest there is seldom
a breath of wind; so that, plashing continually upon one spot, the fount
has worn its own little channel of white sand, by which it finds its way
to the river. Alas that the Naiades have lost their old authority! for
what a deity of tiny loveliness must once have presided here!
Ellen's companion paused not to gaze either upon the loveliness or the
sublimity of this scene, but, assisting her where it was requisite, began
the steep and difficult ascent of the lower part of the cliff. The
maiden's ingenuity in vain endeavored to assign reasons for this movement;
but when they reached the tuft of trees, which, as has been noticed, grew
at the ultimate point where mortal footstep might safely tread, she
perceived through their thick branches the recess in the rock. Here they
entered; and her guide pointed to a mossy seat, in the formation of which,
to judge from its regularity, art had probably a share.
"Here you may remain in safety," he observed, "till I obtain the means of
proceeding. In this spot you need fear no intruder; but it will be
dangerous to venture beyond its bounds."
The meaning glance that accompanied these words intimated to poor Ellen,
that, in warning her against danger, he alluded to the vengeance with
which he would visit any attempt to escape. To leave her thus alone,
trusting to the influence of such a threat, was a bold, yet a necessary
and by no means a hopeless measure. On Ellen it produced the desired
effect; and she sat in the cave as motionless, for a time, as if she had
herself been a part of the rock. In other circumstances this shady recess
would have been a delightful retreat during the sultry warmth of a
summer's day. The dewy coolness of the rock kept the air always fresh and
the sunbeams never thrust themselves so as to dissipate the mellow
twilight through the green trees with which the chamber was curtained.
Ellen's sleeplessness and agitation for many preceding hours had perhaps
deadened her feelings; for she now felt a sort of indifference creeping
upon her, an inability to realize the evils of her situation, at the same
time that she was perfectly aware of them all. This torpor of mind
increased, till her eyelids began to grow heavy and the cave and trees to
swim before her sight. In a few moments more she would probably have been
in dreamless slumber; but, rousing herself by a strong effort, she looked
round the narrow limits of the cave in search of objects to excite her
She now perceived, wherever the smooth rock afforded place for them, the
initials, or the full-length names of former visitants of the cave. What
wanderer on mountain-tops or in deep solitudes has not felt the influence
of these records of humanity, telling him, when such a conviction is
soothing to his heart, that he is not alone in the world? It was singular,
that, when her own mysterious situation had almost lost its power to
engage her thoughts, Ellen perused these barren memorials with a certain
degree of interest. She went on repeating them aloud, and starting at the
sound of her own voice, till at length, as one name passed through her
lips, she paused, and then, leaning her forehead against the letters,
burst into tears. It was the name of Edward Walcott; and it struck upon
her heart, arousing her to a full sense of her present misfortunes and
dangers, and, more painful still, of her past happiness. Her tears had,
however, a soothing, and at the same time a strengthening effect upon her
mind; for, when their gush was over, she raised her head, and began to
meditate on the means of escape. She wondered at the species of
fascination that had kept her, as if chained to the rock, so long, when
there was, in reality, nothing to bar her pathway. She determined, late as
it was, to attempt her own deliverance, and for that purpose began slowly
and cautiously to emerge from the cave.
Peeping out from among the trees, she looked and listened with most
painful anxiety to discover if any living thing were in that seeming
solitude, or if any sound disturbed the heavy stillness. But she saw only
Nature in her wildest forms, and heard only the plash and murmur (almost
inaudible, because continual) of the little waterfall, and the quick,
short throbbing of her own heart, against which she pressed her hand as if
to hush it. Gathering courage, therefore, she began to descend; and,
starting often at the loose stones that even her light footstep displaced
and sent rattling down, she at length reached the base of the crag in
safety. She then made a few steps in the direction, as nearly as she could
judge, by which she arrived at the spot, but paused, with a sudden
revulsion of the blood to her heart, as her guide emerged from behind a
projecting part of the rock. He approached her deliberately, an ironical
smile writhing his features into a most disagreeable expression; while in
his eyes there was something that seemed a wild, fierce joy. By a species
of sophistry, of which oppressors often make use, he had brought himself
to believe that he was now the injured one, and that Ellen, by her
distrust of him, had fairly subjected herself to whatever evil it
consisted with his will and power to inflict upon her. Her only
restraining influence over him, the consciousness, in his own mind, that
he possessed her confidence, was now done away. Ellen, as well as her
enemy, felt that this was the case. She knew not what to dread; but she
was well aware that danger was at hand, and that, in the deep wilderness,
there was none to help her, except that Being with whose inscrutable
purposes it might consist to allow the wicked to triumph for a season, and
the innocent to be brought low.
"Are you so soon weary of this quiet retreat?" demanded her guide,
continuing to wear the same sneering smile. "Or has your anxiety for your
father induced you to set forth alone in quest of the afflicted old man?"
"Oh, if I were but with him!" exclaimed Ellen. "But this place is lonely
and fearful; and I cannot endure to remain here."
"Lonely, is it, sweet Ellen?" he rejoined; "am I not with you? Yes, it is
lonely,--lonely as guilt could wish. Cry aloud, Ellen, and spare not.
Shriek, and see if there be any among these rocks and woods to hearken to
"There is, there is One," exclaimed Ellen, shuddering, and affrighted at
the fearful meaning of his countenance. "He is here! He is there!" And she
pointed to heaven.
"It may be so, dearest," he replied. "But if there be an Ear that hears,
and an Eye that sees all the evil of the earth, yet the Arm is slow to
avenge. Else why do I stand before you a living man?"
"His vengeance may be delayed for a time, but not forever," she answered,
gathering a desperate courage from the extremity of her fear.
"You say true, lovely Ellen; and I have done enough, erenow, to insure its
heaviest weight. There is a pass, when evil deeds can add nothing to
guilt, nor good ones take anything from it."
"Think of your mother,--of her sorrow through life, and perhaps even after
death," Ellen began to say. But, as she spoke these words, the expression
of his face was changed, becoming suddenly so dark and fiend-like, that
she clasped her hands, and fell on her knees before him.
"I have thought of my mother," he replied, speaking very low, and putting
his face close to hers. "I remember the neglect, the wrong, the lingering
and miserable death, that she received at my hands. By what claim can
either man or woman henceforth expect mercy from me? If God will help you,
be it so; but by those words you have turned my heart to stone."
At this period of their conversation, when Ellen's peril seemed most
imminent, the attention of both was attracted by a fragment of rock,
which, falling from the summit of the crag, struck very near them. Ellen
started from her knees, and, with her false guide, gazed eagerly upward,--
he in the fear of interruption, she in the hope of deliverance.
"At length, he cries, behold the fated spring!
Yon rugged cliff conceals the fountain blest,
Dark rocks its crystal source o'ershadowing."
The tale now returns to Fanshawe, who, as will be recollected, after
being overtaken by Edward Walcott, was left with little apparent prospect
of aiding in the deliverance of Ellen Langton.
It would be difficult to analyze the feelings with which the student
pursued the chase, or to decide whether he was influenced and animated by
the same hopes of successful love that cheered his rival. That he was
conscious of such hopes, there is little reason to suppose; for the most
powerful minds are not always the best acquainted with their own feelings.
Had Fanshawe, moreover, acknowledged to himself the possibility of gaining
Ellen's affections, his generosity would have induced him to refrain from
her society before it was too late. He had read her character with
accuracy, and had seen how fit she was to love, and to be loved, by a man
who could find his happiness in the common occupations of the world; and
Fanshawe never deceived himself so far as to suppose that this would be
the case with him. Indeed, he often wondered at the passion with which
Ellen's simple loveliness of mind and person had inspired him, and which
seemed to be founded on the principle of contrariety, rather than of
sympathy. It was the yearning of a soul, formed by Nature in a peculiar
mould, for communion with those to whom it bore a resemblance, yet of whom
it was not. But there was no reason to suppose that Ellen, who differed
from the multitude only as being purer and better, would cast away her
affections on the one, of all who surrounded her, least fitted to make her
happy. Thus Fanshawe reasoned with himself, and of this he believed that
he was convinced. Yet ever and anon he found himself involved in a dream
of bliss, of which Ellen was to be the giver and the sharer. Then would he
rouse himself, and press upon his mind the chilling consciousness that it
was and could be but a dream. There was also another feeling, apparently
discordant with those which have been enumerated. It was a longing for
rest, for his old retirement, that came at intervals so powerfully upon
him, as he rode on, that his heart sickened of the active exertion on
which fate had thrust him.
After being overtaken by Edward Walcott, Fanshawe continued his journey
with as much speed as was attainable by his wearied horse, but at a pace
infinitely too slow for his earnest thoughts. These had carried him far
away, leaving him only such a consciousness of his present situation as to
make diligent use of the spur, when a horse's tread at no great distance
struck upon his ear. He looked forward and behind; but, though a
considerable extent of the narrow, rocky, and grass-grown road was
visible, he was the only traveller there. Yet again he heard the sound,
which, he now discovered, proceeded from among the trees that lined the
roadside. Alighting, he entered the forest, with the intention, if the
steed proved to be disengaged, and superior to his own, of appropriating
him to his own use. He soon gained a view of the object he sought; but the
animal rendered a closer acquaintance unattainable, by immediately taking
to his heels. Fanshawe had, however, made a most interesting discovery;
for the horse was accoutred with a side-saddle; and who but Ellen Langton
could have been his rider? At this conclusion, though his perplexity was
thereby in no degree diminished, the student immediately arrived.
Returning to the road, and perceiving on the summit of the hill a cottage,
which he recognized as the one he had entered with Ellen and Edward
Walcott, he determined there to make inquiry respecting the objects of his
On reaching the door of the poverty-stricken dwelling, he saw that it was
not now so desolate of inmates as on his previous visit. In the single
inhabitable apartment were several elderly women, clad evidently in their
well-worn and well-saved Sunday clothes, and all wearing a deep grievous
expression of countenance. Fanshawe was not long in deciding that death
was within the cottage, and that these aged females were of the class who
love the house of mourning, because to them it is a house of feasting. It
is a fact, disgusting and lamentable, that the disposition which Heaven,
for the best of purposes, has implanted in the female breast--to watch by
the sick and comfort the afflicted--frequently becomes depraved into an
odious love of scenes of pain and death and sorrow. Such women are like
the Ghouls of the Arabian Tales, whose feasting was among tombstones and
upon dead carcasses.
(It is sometimes, though less frequently, the case, that this disposition
to make a "joy of grief" extends to individuals of the other sex. But in
us it is even less excusable and more disgusting, because it is our nature
to shun the sick and afflicted; and, unless restrained by principles other
than we bring into the world with us, men might follow the example of many
animals in destroying the infirm of their own species. Indeed, instances
of this nature might be adduced among savage nations.) Sometimes, however,
from an original _lusus naturae_, or from the influence of
circumstances, a man becomes a haunter of death-beds, a tormentor of
afflicted hearts, and a follower of funerals. Such an abomination now
appeared before Fanshawe, and beckoned him into the cottage. He was
considerably beyond the middle age, rather corpulent, with a broad, fat,
tallow-complexioned countenance. The student obeyed his silent call, and
entered the room, through the open door of which he had been gazing.
He now beheld, stretched out upon the bed where she had so lately lain in
life, though dying, the yet uncoffined corpse of the aged woman, whose
death has been described. How frightful it seemed!--that fixed countenance
of ashy paleness, amid its decorations of muslin and fine linen, as if a
bride were decked for the marriage-chamber, as if death were a bridegroom,
and the coffin a bridal bed. Alas that the vanity of dress should extend
even to the grave!
The female who, as being the near and only relative of the deceased, was
supposed to stand in need of comfort, was surrounded by five or six of her
own sex. These continually poured into her ear the stale, trite maxims
which, where consolation is actually required, add torture insupportable
to the wounded heart. Their present object, however, conducted herself
with all due decorum, holding her handkerchief to her tearless eyes, and
answering with very grievous groans to the words of her comforters. Who
could have imagined that there was joy in her heart, because, since her
sister's death, there was but one remaining obstacle between herself and
the sole property of that wretched cottage?
While Fanshawe stood silently observing this scene, a low, monotonous
voice was uttering some words in his ear, of the meaning of which his mind
did not immediately take note. He turned, and saw that the speaker was the
person who had invited him to enter.
"What is your pleasure with me, sir?" demanded the student.
"I make bold to ask," replied the man, "whether you would choose to
partake of some creature comfort, before joining in prayer with the family
and friends of our deceased sister?" As he spoke, he pointed to a table,
on which was a moderate-sized stone jug and two or three broken glasses;
for then, as now, there were few occasions of joy or grief on which ardent
spirits were not considered indispensable, to heighten the one or to
alleviate the other.
"I stand in no need of refreshment," answered Fanshawe; "and it is not my
intention to pray at present."
"I pray your pardon, reverend sir," rejoined the other; "but your face is
pale, and you look wearied. A drop from yonder vessel is needful to
recruit the outward man. And for the prayer, the sisters will expect it;
and their souls are longing for the outpouring of the Spirit. I was
intending to open my own mouth with such words as are given to my poor
Fanshawe was here about to interrupt this address, which proceeded on the
supposition, arising from his black dress and thoughtful countenance, that
he was a clergyman. But one of the females now approached him, and
intimated that the sister of the deceased was desirous of the benefit of
his conversation. He would have returned a negative to this request, but,
looking towards the afflicted woman, he saw her withdraw her handkerchief
from her eyes, and cast a brief but penetrating and most intelligent
glance upon him. He immediately expressed his readiness to offer such
consolation as might be in his power.
"And in the mean time," observed the lay-preacher, "I will give the
sisters to expect a word of prayer and exhortation, either from you or
These words were lost upon the supposed clergyman, who was already at the
side of the mourner. The females withdrew out of ear-shot to give place to
a more legitimate comforter than themselves.
"What know you respecting my purpose?" inquired Fanshawe, bending towards
The woman gave a groan--the usual result of all efforts at consolation--
for the edification of the company, and then replied in a whisper, which
reached only the ear for which it was intended. "I know whom you come to
seek: I can direct you to them. Speak low, for God's sake!" she continued,
observing that Fanshawe was about to utter an exclamation. She then
resumed her groans with greater zeal than before.
"Where--where are they?" asked the student, in a whisper which all his
efforts could scarcely keep below his breath. "I adjure you to tell me."
"And, if I should, how am I like to be bettered by it?" inquired the old
woman, her speech still preceded and followed by a groan.
"O God! The _auri sacra fames!_" thought Fanshawe with, a sickening
heart, looking at the motionless corpse upon the bed, and then at the
wretched being, whom the course of nature, in comparatively a moment of
time, would reduce to the same condition.
He whispered again, however, putting his purse into the hag's hand. "Take
this. Make your own terms when they are discovered. Only tell me where I
must seek them--and speedily, or it may be too late."
"I am a poor woman, and am afflicted," said she, taking the purse, unseen
by any who were in the room. "It is little that worldly goods can do for
me, and not long can I enjoy them." And here she was delivered of a louder
and a more heartfelt groan than ever. She then continued: "Follow the path
behind the cottage, that leads to the river-side. Walk along the foot of
the rock, and search for them near the water-spout. Keep a slow pace till
you are out of sight," she added, as the student started to his feet. The
guests of the cottage did not attempt to oppose Fanshawe's progress, when
they saw him take the path towards the forest, imagining, probably, that
he was retiring for the purpose of secret prayer. But the old woman
laughed behind the handkerchief with which she veiled her face.
"Take heed to your steps, boy," she muttered; "for they are leading you
whence you will not return. Death, too, for the slayer. Be it so."
Fanshawe, in the mean while, contrived to discover, and for a while to
retain, the narrow and winding path that led to the river-side. But it was
originally no more than a track, by which the cattle belonging to the
cottage went down to their watering-place, and by these four-footed
passengers it had long been deserted.
The fern-bushes, therefore, had grown over it; and in several places trees
of considerable size had shot up in the midst. These difficulties could
scarcely have been surmounted by the utmost caution; and as Fanshawe's
thoughts were too deeply fixed upon the end to pay a due regard to the
means, he soon became desperately bewildered both as to the locality of
the river and of the cottage. Had he known, however, in which direction to
seek the latter, he would not, probably, have turned back; not that he was
infected by any chivalrous desire to finish the adventure alone, but
because he would expect little assistance from those he had left there.
Yet he could not but wonder--though he had not in his first eagerness
taken notice of it--at the anxiety of the old woman that he should
proceed singly, and without the knowledge of her guests, on the search. He
nevertheless continued to wander on,--pausing often to listen for the rush
of the river, and then starting forward with fresh rapidity, to rid
himself of the sting of his own thoughts, which became painfully intense
when undisturbed by bodily motion. His way was now frequently interrupted
by rocks, that thrust their huge gray heads from the ground, compelling
him to turn aside, and thus depriving him, fortunately, perhaps, of all
remaining idea of the direction he had intended to pursue.
Thus he went on, his head turned back, and taking little heed to his
footsteps, when, perceiving that he trod upon a smooth, level rock, he
looked forward, and found himself almost on the utmost verge of a
After the throbbing of the heart that followed this narrow escape had
subsided, he stood gazing down where the sunbeams slept so pleasantly at
the roots of the tall old trees, with whose highest tops he was upon a
level. Suddenly he seemed to hear voices--one well-remembered voice--
ascending from beneath; and, approaching to the edge of the cliff, he saw
at its base the two whom he sought.
He saw and interpreted Ellen's look and attitude of entreaty, though the
words with which she sought to soften the ruthless heart of her guide
became inaudible ere they reached the height where Fanshawe stood. He felt
that Heaven had sent him thither, at the moment of her utmost need, to be
the preserver of all that was dear to him; and he paused only to consider
the mode in which her deliverance was to be effected. Life he would have
laid down willingly, exultingly: his only care was, that the sacrifice
should not be in vain.
At length, when Ellen fell upon her knees, he lifted a small fragment of
rock, and threw it down the cliff. It struck so near the pair, that it
immediately drew the attention of both.
When the betrayer, at the instant in which he had almost defied the power
of the Omnipotent to bring help to Ellen, became aware of Fanshawe's
presence, his hardihood failed him for a time, and his knees actually
tottered beneath him. There was something awful, to his apprehension, in
the slight form that stood so far above him, like a being from another
sphere, looking down upon his wickedness. But his half-superstitious dread
endured only a moment's space; and then, mustering the courage that in a
thousand dangers had not deserted him, he prepared to revenge the
intrusion by which Fanshawe had a second time interrupted his designs.
"By Heaven, I will cast him down at her feet!" he muttered through his
closed teeth. "There shall be no form nor likeness of man left in him.
Then let him rise up, if he is able, and defend her."
Thus resolving, and overlooking all hazard in his eager hatred and desire
for vengeance, he began a desperate attempt to ascend the cliff. The space
which only had hitherto been deemed accessible was quickly passed; and in
a moment more he was half-way up the precipice, clinging to trees, shrubs,
and projecting portions of the rock, and escaping through hazards which
seemed to menace inevitable destruction.
Fanshawe, as he watched his upward progress, deemed that every step would
be his last; but when he perceived that more than half, and apparently the
most difficult part, of the ascent was surmounted, his opinion changed.
His courage, however, did not fail him as the moment of need drew nigh.
His spirits rose buoyantly; his limbs seemed to grow firm and strong; and
he stood on the edge of the precipice, prepared for the death-struggle
which would follow the success of his enemy's attempt.
But that attempt was not successful. When within a few feet of the summit,
the adventurer grasped at a twig too slenderly rooted to sustain his
weight. It gave way in his hand, and he fell backward down the precipice.
His head struck against the less perpendicular part of the rock, whence
the body rolled heavily down to the detached fragment, of which mention
has heretofore been made. There was no life left in him. With all the
passions of hell alive in his heart, he had met the fate that he intended
The student paused not then to shudder at the sudden and awful overthrow
of his enemy; for he saw that Ellen lay motionless at the foot of the
cliff. She had indeed fainted at the moment she became aware of her
deliverer's presence; and no stronger proof could she have given of her
firm reliance upon his protection.
Fanshawe was not deterred by the danger, of which he had just received so
fearful an evidence, from attempting to descend to her assistance; and,
whether owing to his advantage in lightness of frame, or to superior
caution, he arrived safely at the base of the precipice.
He lifted the motionless form of Ellen in his arms, and, resting her head
against his shoulder, gazed on her cheek of lily paleness with a joy, a
triumph, that rose almost to madness. It contained no mixture of hope; it
had no reference to the future: it was the perfect bliss of a moment,--an
insulated point of happiness. He bent over her, and pressed a kiss--the
first, and he knew it would be the last--on her pale lips; then, bearing
her to the fountain, he sprinkled its waters profusely over her face,
neck, and bosom. She at length opened her eyes, slowly and heavily; but
her mind was evidently wandering, till Fanshawe spoke.
"Fear not, Ellen. You are safe," he said.
At the sound of his voice, her arm, which was thrown over his shoulder,
involuntarily tightened its embrace, telling him, by that mute motion,
with how firm a trust she confided in him. But, as a fuller sense of her
situation returned, she raised herself to her feet, though still retaining
the support of his arm. It was singular, that, although her insensibility
had commenced before the fall of her guide, she turned away her eyes, as
if instinctively, from the spot where the mangled body lay; nor did she
inquire of Fanshawe the manner of her deliverance.
"Let us begone from this place," she said in faint, low accents, and with
an inward shudder.
They walked along the precipice, seeking some passage by which they might
gain its summit, and at length arrived at that by which Ellen and her
guide had descended. Chance--for neither Ellen nor Fanshawe could have
discovered the path--led them, after but little wandering, to the cottage.
A messenger was sent forward to the town to inform Dr. Melmoth of the
recovery of his ward; and the intelligence thus received had interrupted
Edward Walcott's conversation with the seaman.
It would have been impossible, in the mangled remains of Ellen's guide, to
discover the son of the Widow Butler, except from the evidence of her
sister, who became, by his death, the sole inheritrix of the cottage. The
history of this evil and unfortunate man must be comprised within very
narrow limits. A harsh father, and his own untamable disposition, had
driven him from home in his boyhood; and chance had made him the temporary
companion of Hugh Crombie. After two years of wandering, when in a foreign
country and in circumstances of utmost need, he attracted the notice of
Mr. Langton. The merchant took his young countryman under his protection,
afforded him advantages of education, and, as his capacity was above
mediocrity, gradually trusted him in many affairs of importance. During
this period, there was no evidence of dishonesty on his part. On the
contrary, he manifested a zeal for Mr. Langton's interest, and a respect
for his person, that proved his strong sense of the benefits he had
received. But he unfortunately fell into certain youthful indiscretions,
which, if not entirely pardonable, might have been palliated by many
considerations that would have occurred to a merciful man. Mr. Langton's
justice, however, was seldom tempered by mercy; and, on this occasion, he
shut the door of repentance against his erring _protégé_, and left
him in a situation not less desperate than that from which he had relieved
him. The goodness and the nobleness, of which his heart was not destitute,
turned, from that time, wholly to evil; and he became irrecoverably ruined
and irreclaimably depraved. His wandering life had led him, shortly before
the period of this tale, to his native country. Here the erroneous
intelligence of Mr. Langton's death had reached him, and suggested the
scheme, which circumstances seemed to render practicable, but the fatal
termination of which has been related.
The body was buried where it had fallen, close by the huge, gray, moss-
grown fragment of rock,--a monument on which centuries can work little
change. The eighty years that have elapsed since the death of the widow's
son have, however, been sufficient to obliterate an inscription, which