Familiar with the moods of nature, he deemed the hour to be that of noon; nor was he mistaken, for the sky began to clear, and with the light came the return to a calmer mind. He now, for the first time, realized the folly—probably the disaster—of his flight. Might he not be needed at the cottage? Was not his dying wife’s prayer for his presence and succour? Had not an unmanly selfishness led him to play the coward? Thoughts like these led him to marshal his resolves, and turn his steps towards the valley below.
No sooner did he do this than a strong self-possession came to him, and swift was his return. The clouds were now parting, and as they chased one another towards the distant horizon, the sun—the watery November sun—shone out in silver upon the great stretch of moorland, and lit it up like a sea of light. Little globes of crystal glistened on the hedgerows, and many-coloured raindrops glowed like jewelled points on the blades of green that lay about his feet. A great arch of sevenfold radiance spanned the valley, based on either side from the twin slopes, and reaching with its crown to the summit of the skies. It was now a passage from Hebrew tradition came to his mind, and he thought of him of whom the poet wrote, ‘and as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him.’
And yet his heart failed him as he drew within sight of the cottage door. Was it the house of life, or the house of death?—or was it the house where death and life alike were victorious? He paused, and felt the blood flow back to its central seat, while his bones began to shake, and his heart was poured out like water. But the battle was won, though the struggle was not over, and he pressed on towards his home.
The first thing he saw on entering the door was Dr. Hale seated before a cup of steaming tea, with a great weariness in his eye, who, when he saw Matt, threw a look of rebuke, and in somewhat stern tones said:
‘You can go upstairs, Matt, if you like; it’s all over.’
With a spasm in his throat Matt was about to ask what it was that was all over; but he was forestalled by old Malachi’s wife, who, pushing her head through the staircase doorway into the room, cried:
‘It’s a lad, Matt, and a fine un an’ o’!’
‘Hang th’ lad!’ cried Matt; ‘how’s Miriam?’
‘Come and see for thisel; hoo’s bin waitin’ for thee this hawve haar.’
With a bound or two Matt cleared the stairway and stood by the side of Miriam.
There she lay, poor girl! limp and exhausted, wrapped in her old gown like a mummy, her long, wet hair, which was scattered in tresses on the pillow, throwing, in its dark frame, her face into still greater pallor.
‘Thaa munnot speak, Miriam,’ said the nurse in a low tone. ’If thaa moves tha’ll dee. Thaa can kiss her, Matt; but that’s all.’
Matt kissed his wife, and baptized her with his warm tears.
‘And hesn’t thaa getten a word for th’ child, Matt?’ cried old Deborah, who sat with a pulpy form upon her knees before the fire. ‘It’s thy lad and no mistak’; it favours no one but thisel. Look at its yure (hair), bless it!’ And old Deborah stooped over it and wept. Wept—which she had never done since her girlhood’s days.