“His words were true; I felt them in force; if he died, I would be arraigned as his murderer—I had no proof to the contrary—circumstances would be against me—I should be imprisoned—condemned—perhaps executed—a loathsome sight for gaping thousands—I could not bear the thought—I might escape—ay, would escape—and bidding him a hasty farewell, I turned and fled. Not a hundred rods distant I met my father; and falling on my knees before him, I hurriedly related what had taken place, and begged advice for myself, and his immediate attendance upon my cousin. He turned pale and trembled violently at my narration; and, as I concluded, drew forth a purse of gold, which he chanced to have with him, and placing it in my hand, exclaimed:
“‘Fly—son—child—Algernon—for Heaven’s sake, fly!’
“’To the far western wilds, beyond the reach of civilization—at least beyond the reach of justice—and spare my old eyes the awful sight of seeing a beloved son arraigned as a criminal!’
“‘And my mother?’
“‘You can not see her—it might cost you your life,—farewell!’ and with the last word trembling on his lips, he embraced me fondly, and we parted—perchance forever.
“I fled, feeling that the brand of Cain was on me; that henceforth my life was to be one of remorse and misery; that I was to be a wanderer upon the face of the earth—mayhap an Ishmael, with every man’s hand against me. To atone in a measure to my conscience for the awful deed I had committed, I knelt upon the earth, and swore, by all I held sacred in time and eternity, that if the wound inflicted upon my cousin should prove mortal, I would live a life of celibacy, and become a wandering pilgrim in the western wilds of America till God should see proper to call me hence.”
“And—and did the wound prove mortal?” asked Ella, breathlessly.
“Alas! I know not, Ella, and I fear to know. Four months have passed since then; and after many adventures, hardships, sufferings, and hair-breadth escapes, you see me here before you, a miserable man.”
“But not one guilty of murder, Algernon,” said Ella, energetically.
“I know not that—Heaven grant it true!”
“O, then, do not despair, Algernon!—trust in God, and hope for the best. I have a hope that all will yet be well.”
“Amen to that, dear Ella; and a thousand, thousand thanks, for your sweet words of consolation; they are as balm to my torn and bleeding heart; but until I know my fate, we must not meet again; and if, oh Heaven! and if the worst be true—then—then farewell forever! But who comes here?”
The closing sentence of the preceding chapter was occasioned by the glimpse of a man’s shadow, that for a moment swept along in the sunlight, some twenty paces distant from the speaker, and then suddenly disappeared by being swallowed up in the larger and more stationary shade thrown from the cottage by the sinking sun. Scarcely were the words alluded to uttered, ere the sound of a step was heard close by the door, and the next moment the cause of the shadow and remark divided the light of the entrance.