“My brothers,” said the preacher, “if two sparrows, that are sold for a farthing, are not too little for the care of this infinite Providence—”
A scream rang out and drowned the sentence. It was followed by a torrent of vile words, shouted by a man who had seen, now for the second time, the form that clothed his wife’s soul shrivelled in unthinking flames. All that was left of the white moth lay on the altar-cloth, among the fruit at the base of the tallest candlestick.
And because the man saw nothing but cruelty in the Providence of which the preacher spoke, he screamed and cursed, till they overpowered him and took him forth by the door, He was wholly mad from that hour.
Few rivers in England are without their “Lovers’ Leap “; but the tradition of this one is singular, I believe. It overhangs a dark pool, midway down a west country valley—a sheer escarpment of granite, its lip lying but a stone’s throw from the high-road, that here finds its descent broken by a stiff knoll, over which it rises and topples again like a wave.
I had drawn two shining peel out of the pool, and sat eating my lunch on the edge of the Leap, with my back to the road. Forty feet beneath me the water lay black and glossy, behind the dotted foliage of a birch-tree. My rod stuck upright from the turf at my elbow, and, whenever I turned my head, neatly bisected the countenance and upper half of Seth Truscott, an indigenous gentleman of miscellaneous habits and a predatory past, who had followed me that morning to carry the landing-net.
It was he who, after lunch, imparted the story of the rock on which we sat; and as it seemed at the time to gain somewhat by the telling, I will not risk defacing it by meddling with his dialect.
“I reckon, sir,” he began, with an upward nod at a belt of larches, the fringe of a great estate, that closed the view at the head of the vale, “you’m too young to mind th’ ould Earl o’ Bellarmine, that owned Castle Cannick, up yonder, in my growin’ days. ‘Ould Wounds’ he was nick-named—a cribbage-faced, what-the-blazes kind o’ varmint, wi’ a gossan wig an’ a tongue like oil o’ vitriol. He’d a-led the fore-half o’ his life, I b’lieve, in London church-town, by reason that he an’ his father couldn’ be left in a room together wi’out comin’ to fisticuffs: an’ by all accounts was fashion’s favourite in the naughty city, doin’ his duty in that state o’ life an’ playing Hamlet’s ghost among the Ten Commandments.
“The upshot was that he killed a young gentleman over a game o’ whist, an’ that was too much even for the Londoners. So he packed up and sailed for furrin’ parts, an’ didn’ show his face in England till th’ ould man, his father, was took wi’ a seizure an’ went dead, bein’ palsied down half his face, but workin’ away to the end at the most lift-your-hair wickedness wi’ the sound side of his mouth.