“Great heavens!” said Walter, “can such villains exist? Poor, poor Mr. Hope: who would think he had an enemy in the world?”
“Alas!” said the Colonel, “that is not all. His daughter, it seems, over-heard the villain bribing the ruffian to commit this foul and terrible act, and she flew to the mine directly. She dispatched some miners to seize that hellish villain, and she went down the mine to save her father.”
“Ah!” said Walter, trembling all over.
“She has never been seen since.”
The Colonel’s head sank for a moment on his breast.
Walter groaned and turned pale.
“She came too late to save him; she came in time to share his fate.”
Walter sank into a chair, and a deadly pallor overspread his face, his forehead, and his very lips.
The Colonel rushed to the door and called for help, and in a moment John Baker and Mrs. Milton and Julia Clifford were round poor Walter’s chair with brandy and ether and salts, and every stimulant. He did not faint away; strong men very seldom do at any mere mental shock.
The color came slowly back to his cheeks and his pale lips, and his eyes began to fill with horror. The weeping women, and even the stout Colonel, viewed with anxiety his return to the full consciousness of his calamity. “Be brave,” cried Colonel Clifford; “be a soldier’s son; don’t despair; fight: nothing has been neglected. Even Bartley is playing the man; he has got another engine coming up, and another body of workmen to open the new shaft as well as the old one.”
“God bless him!” said Walter.
“And I have an experienced engineer on the road, and the things civilians always forget—tents and provisions of all sorts. We will set an army to work sooner than your sweetheart, poor girl, shall lose her life by any fault of ours.”
“My sweetheart,” cried Walter, starting suddenly from his chair. “There, don’t cling to me, women. No man shall head that army but I. My sweetheart! God help me—SHE’S MY WIFE.”
In a work of this kind not only the external incidents should be noticed, but also what may be called the mental events. We have seen a calamity produce a great revulsion in the feelings of Colonel Clifford; but as for Robert Bartley his very character was shaken to the foundation by his crime and its terrible consequences. He was now like a man who had glided down a soft sunny slope, and was suddenly arrested at the brink of a fathomless precipice. Bartley was cunning, selfish, avaricious, unscrupulous in reality, so long as he could appear respectable, but he was not violent, nor physically reckless, still less cruel. A deed of blood shocked him as much as it would shock an honest man. Yet now through following his natural bent too far, and yielding to the influence of a remorseless villain, he found his own hands stained with blood—the blood of a man who, after all, had been his best friend, and had led him to fortune; and the blood of an innocent girl who had not only been his pecuniary benefactress for a time, but had warmed and lighted his house with her beauty and affection.