The women gazed in mournful silence on the touching scene before them. Clarence was on his knees, regarding with fear and wonder the unnatural stillness of his mother—the child had never before looked on death, and could not recognize its presence. Laying his hand on her cold cheek, he cried, with faltering voice, “Mother, can’t you speak?” but there was no answering light in the fixed stare of those glassy eyes, and the lips of the dead could not move. “Why don’t she speak?” he asked.
“She can’t, my dear; you must come away and leave her. She’s better off, my darling—she’s dead.”
Then there was a cry of grief sprung up from the heart of that orphan boy, that rang in those women’s ears for long years after; it was the first outbreak of a loving childish heart pierced with life’s bitterest grief—a mother’s loss.
The two children were kindly taken into the house of some benevolent neighbour, as the servants had all fled none knew whither. Little Em was in a profound stupor—the result of cold and terror, and it was found necessary to place her under the care of a physician.
After they had all gone, an inquest was held by the coroner, and a very unsatisfactory and untruthful verdict pronounced—one that did not at all coincide with the circumstances of the case, but such a one as might have been expected where there was a great desire to screen the affair from public scrutiny.
An Anxious Day.
Esther Ellis, devoured with anxiety respecting the safety of her father and the Garies, paced with impatient step up and down the drawing-room. Opening the window, she looked to see if she could discover any signs of day. “It’s pitchy dark,” she exclaimed, “and yet almost five o’clock. Father has run a fearful risk. I hope nothing has happened to him.”
“I trust not. I think he’s safe enough somewhere,” said Mr. Walters. “He’s no doubt been very cautious, and avoided meeting any one—don’t worry yourself, my child, ’tis most likely he remained with them wherever they went; probably they are at the house of some of their neighbours.”
“I can’t help feeling dreadfully oppressed and anxious,” continued she. “I wish he would come.”
Whilst she was speaking, her mother entered the room. “Any news of your father?” she asked, in a tone of anxiety.
Esther endeavoured to conceal her own apprehensions, and rejoined, in as cheerful tone as she could assume—“Not yet, mother—it’s too dark for us to expect him yet—he’ll remain most likely until daylight.”
“He shouldn’t have gone had I been here—he’s no business to expose himself in this way.”
“But, mother,” interrupted Esther, “only think of it—the safety of Emily and the children were depending on it—we mustn’t be selfish.”
“I know we oughtn’t to be, my child,” rejoined her mother, “but it’s natural to the best of us—sometimes we can’t help it.” Five—six—seven o’clock came and passed, and still there were no tidings of Mr. Ellis.