“Madam,” said Harley, “let us never forget that we are all relations.”
He kissed the children.
“Their father, sir,” continued she, “was a farmer here in the neighbourhood, and a sober industrious man he was; but nobody can help misfortunes: what with bad crops, and bad debts, which are worse, his affairs went to wreck, and both he and his wife died of broken hearts. And a sweet couple they were, sir; there was not a properer man to look on in the county than John Edwards, and so indeed were all the Edwardses.”
“What Edwardses?” cried the old soldier hastily.
“The Edwardses of South-hill, and a worthy family they were.”
“South-hill!” said he, in a languid voice, and fell back into the arms of the astonished Harley. The school-mistress ran for some water—and a smelling-bottle, with the assistance of which they soon recovered the unfortunate Edwards. He stared wildly for some time, then folding his orphan grandchildren in his arms,
“Oh! my children, my children,” he cried, “have I found you thus? My poor Jack, art thou gone? I thought thou shouldst have carried thy father’s grey hairs to the grave! and these little ones”—his tears choked his utterance, and he fell again on the necks of the children.
“My dear old man,” said Harley, “Providence has sent you to relieve them; it will bless me if I can be the means of assisting you.”
“Yes, indeed, sir,” answered the boy; “father, when he was a-dying, bade God bless us, and prayed that if grandfather lived he might send him to support us.”
“Where did they lay my boy?” said Edwards.
“In the Old Churchyard,” replied the woman, “hard by his mother.”
“I will show it you,” answered the boy, “for I have wept over it many a time when first I came amongst strange folks.”
He took the old man’s hand, Harley laid hold of his sister’s, and they walked in silence to the churchyard.
There was an old stone, with the corner broken off, and some letters, half-covered with moss, to denote the names of the dead: there was a cyphered R. E. plainer than the rest; it was the tomb they sought.
“Here it is, grandfather,” said the boy.
Edwards gazed upon it without uttering a word: the girl, who had only sighed before, now wept outright; her brother sobbed, but he stifled his sobbing.
“I have told sister,” said he, “that she should not take it so to heart; she can knit already, and I shall soon be able to dig, we shall not starve, sister, indeed we shall not, nor shall grandfather neither.”
The girl cried afresh; Harley kissed off her tears as they flowed, and wept between every kiss.
CHAPTER XXXVI—HE RETURNS HOME.—A DESCRIPTION OF HIS RETINUE
It was with some difficulty that Harley prevailed on the old man to leave the spot where the remains of his son were laid. At last, with the assistance of the school-mistress, he prevailed; and she accommodated Edwards and him with beds in her house, there being nothing like an inn nearer than the distance of some miles.