HOW THERE CAME NEW GUESTS INTO THE HOUSE.
The last day that I ventured out in this foolhardy manner I had a terrible fright which even now it is distasteful to remember. I was hurrying to get home, being warned by the darkening light that it was drawing near Althea’s time to return, and, chancing to look behind me as I turned a corner, I was aware that not many paces from me was a man, tall and sturdy, who seemed to be following me, his eyes being fixed on me; and when I turned it seemed to give him a kind of start, for he looked away, and made as if he would cross to the other side. This alarmed me, and I quickened my pace from a walk almost into a run, resolving meanwhile not to look round again; yet I could not resist the fancy that I heard steps coming after me; and glancing over my shoulder I was aware of some one at no great distance off; on which I dared look no more; and, being now very near home, I darted round to the back entrance; and having got in and made the door fast, I sat down trembling, to get my breath.
I was still much disquieted, when I heard the joyful sound of Althea’s signal at the back door; I flew to open to her, my hands trembling so I could hardly withdraw the bolts. But when I got the door open, it was not Althea who stood without, but that very man whom I had tried to escape; he stood with his back to the sky, which was red and glowing, for it was just past sunset; and I saw him to be tall and powerful and roughly clad, so sunburnt that he might have been a Moor; and a long scar that ran from his eyebrow half across his cheek gave a strange fierceness to his look. This was all I could see, his back being to the light, such as it was. I gave a smothered shriek, and would have shut the door on him; but he said,—
’Not so hasty, mistress—look at me again, and you will not turn me away, I think.’
But I still held the door in my hand, and said hastily, ’I can admit no stranger—you should know this house is infected—what do you seek?’ at which the man’s eyes, which I saw to be blue and bright, began to twinkle, and he said,—
’You will think it odd, madam, but I am come seeking my true love—Lucia Dacre is her name; do you know aught of her?’ with which words he smiled, and all his face changed in that smile into the face of my own Harry.
My heart sprang up in sudden rapture; I think, as the play says, it ‘leaped to be gone into his bosom,’ for there I found myself the next moment, clasped tight in his arms, and holding him tight enough too, while I laughed and sobbed, crying out, ’Are you indeed my Harry? am I so blest beyond all other women? have you come back to me, alive from the dead?’
‘You may say indeed, sweetheart, that I am alive from the dead,’ he said seriously; ’in a double sense I was dead and am alive again. But my tale must wait for a better time. I am sent before, dear love, to tell you your sister is coming, and not coming alone.’