“Whitticar dead!” repeated Stevens.
“Yes; and what’s more, he’s buried—so he’s safe enough, squire; and I shouldn’t be at all surprised if you’d be glad to have me gone too.”
“I would to God you had been, before I put myself in your power.”
“’Twas your own hastiness. When it came to the pinch, I wasn’t equal to the job, so ye couldn’t wait for another time, but out with yer pistol, and does it yerself.” The wretched man shuddered and covered his face, as McCloskey coolly recounted his murder of Mr. Garie, every word of which was too true to be denied.
“And haven’t I suffered,” said he, shaking his bald head mournfully; “haven’t I suffered—look at my grey hairs and half-palsied frame, decrepit before I’m old—sinking into the tomb with a weight of guilt and sin upon me that will crush me down to the lowest depth of hell. Think you,” he continued, “that because I am surrounded with all that money can buy, that I am happy, or ever shall be, with this secret gnawing at my heart; every piece of gold I count out, I see his hands outstretched over it, and hear him whisper ‘Mine!’ He gives me no peace night or day; he is always by me; I have no rest. And you must come, adding to my torture, and striving to tear from me that for which I bartered conscience, peace, soul, everything that would make life desirable. If there is mercy in you, leave me with what I give you, and come back no more. Life has so little to offer, that rather than bear this continued torment and apprehension I daily suffer, I will cut my throat, and then your game is over.”
Lizzie Stevens stood rooted to the spot whilst her father made the confession that was wrung from him by the agony of the moment.
“Well, well!” said McCloskey, somewhat startled and alarmed at Stevens’s threat of self-destruction—“well, I’ll come down a thousand—make it four.”
“That I’ll do,” answered the old man, tremblingly; and reaching over, he drew towards him the cheque-book. After writing the order for the sum, he was placing it in the hand of McCloskey, when, hearing a faint moan, he looked towards the door, and saw his daughter fall fainting to the ground.
The Thorn rankles.
We left the quiet town of Sudbury snow-clad and sparkling in all the glory of a frosty moonlight night; we now return to it, and discover it decked out in its bravest summer garniture. A short distance above the hill upon which it is built, the water of the river that glides along its base may be seen springing over the low dam that obstructs its passage, sparkling, glistening, dancing in the sunlight, as it falls splashing on the stones below; and then, as though subdued by the fall and crash, it comes murmuring on, stopping now and then to whirl and eddy round some rock or protruding stump, and at last glides gently under the arch of the bridge, seemingly to pause beneath its shadow and ponder upon its recent tumble from the heights above. Seated here and there upon the bridge are groups of boys, rod in hand, endeavouring, with the most delicious-looking and persuasive of baits, to inveigle finny innocents from the cool depths below.