Mrs. Hare did not reply. She was musing upon other things, in that quiescent happy mood, which a small portion of spirits will impart to one weak in body; and Barbara softly closed the door, and stole out again to the portico. She stood a moment to rally her courage, and again the hat was waved impatiently.
Barbara Hare commenced her walk towards it in dread unutterable, an undefined sense of evil filling her sinking heart; mingling with which, came, with a rush of terror, a fear of that other undefinable evil—the evil Mrs. Hare had declared was foreboded by her dream.
THE MOONLIGHT INTERVIEW.
Cold and still looked the old house in the moonbeams. Never was the moon brighter; it lighted the far-stretching garden, it illuminated even the weathercock aloft, it shone upon the portico, and upon one who appeared in it. Stealing to the portico from the house had come Barbara Hare, her eyes strained in dread affright on the grove of trees at the foot of the garden. What was it that had stepped out of that groove of trees, and mysteriously beckoned to her as she stood at the window, turning her heart to sickness as she gazed? Was it a human being, one to bring more evil to the house, where so much evil had already fallen? Was it a supernatural visitant, or was it but a delusion of her own eyesight? Not the latter, certainly, for the figure was now emerging again, motioning to her as before; and with a white face and shaking limbs, Barbara clutched her shawl around her and went down that path in the moonlight. The beckoning form retreated within the dark recess as she neared it, and Barbara halted.
“Who and what are you?” she asked, under her breath. “What do you want?”
“Barbara,” was the whispered, eager answer, “don’t you recognize me?”
Too surely she did—the voice at any rate—and a cry escaped her, telling more of sorrow than of joy, though betraying both. She penetrated the trees, and burst into tears as one in the dress of a farm laborer caught her in his arms. In spite of his smock-frock and his straw-wisped hat, and his false whiskers, black as Erebus, she knew him for her brother.
“Oh, Richard! Where have you come from? What brings you here?”
“Did you know me, Barbara?” was his rejoinder.
“How was it likely—in this disguise? A thought crossed my mind that it might be some one from you, and even that made me sick with terror. How could you run such a risk as to come here?” she added, wringing her hands. “If you are discovered, it is certain death; death—upon—you know!”
“Upon the gibbet,” returned Richard Hare. “I do know it, Barbara.”
“Then why risk it? Should mamma see you it will kill her outright.”
“I can’t live on as I am living,” he answered, gloomily. “I have been working in London ever since—”
“In London!” interrupted Barbara.