“Well, sir, what’s done can’t be undone, and I’m sure we’d any of us bring him back to life if we could, even by cutting off our hands, though he was a mighty plaguey chap while he’d breath in him. But what I’m thinking is this: it’ll maybe go awkward with you, sir, if he’s found here. One can’t say. But don’t you think, miss, as he’s neither kith nor kin to miss him, we might just bury him away before morning, somewhere? There’s better nor four hours of dark. I wish we could put him i’ the churchyard, but that can’t be; but, to my mind, the sooner we set about digging a place for him to lie in, poor fellow, the better it’ll be for us all in the end. I can pare a piece of turf up where it’ll never be missed, and if master’ll take one spade, and I another, why we’ll lay him softly down, and cover him up, and no one’ll be the wiser.”
There was no reply from either for a minute or so. Then Mr. Wilkins said:
“If my father could have known of my living to this! Why, they will try me as a criminal; and you, Ellinor? Dixon, you are right. We must conceal it, or I must cut my throat, for I never could live through it. One minute of passion, and my life blasted!”
“Come along, sir,” said Dixon; “there’s no time to lose.” And they went out in search of tools; Ellinor following them, shivering all over, but begging that she might be with them, and not have to remain in the study with—
She would not be bidden into her own room; she dreaded inaction and solitude. She made herself busy with carrying heavy baskets of turf, and straining her strength to the utmost; fetching all that was wanted, with soft swift steps.
Once, as she passed near the open study door, she thought that she heard a rustling, and a flash of hope came across her. Could he be reviving? She entered, but a moment was enough to undeceive her; it had only been a night rustle among the trees. Of hope, life, there was none.
They dug the hole deep and well; working with fierce energy to quench thought and remorse. Once or twice her father asked for brandy, which Ellinor, reassured by the apparently good effect of the first dose, brought to him without a word; and once at her father’s suggestion she brought food, such as she could find in the dining-room without disturbing the household, for Dixon.
When all was ready for the reception of the body in its unblessed grave, Mr. Wilkins bade Ellinor go up to her own room—she had done all she could to help them; the rest must be done by them alone. She felt that it must; and indeed both her nerves and her bodily strength were giving way. She would have kissed her father, as he sat wearily at the head of the grave—Dixon had gone in to make some arrangement for carrying the corpse—but he pushed her away quietly, but resolutely—
“No, Nelly, you must never kiss me again; I am a murderer.”
“But I will, my own darling papa,” said she, throwing her arms passionately round his neck, and covering his face with kisses. “I love you, and I don’t care what you are, if you were twenty times a murderer, which you are not; I am sure it was only an accident.”