There was nothing to interrupt her; Fred lay as lifeless as before, and not a creature passed along the lonely road. The frosty air was perfectly still, and through it sounded the barking of dogs, the tinkle of the sheep-bell, the woodsman’s axe in the plantations, and now and then the rattle of Dumple’s harness, as she shook his head or shifted his feet at the gate where he had been left standing. The rooks wheeled above her head in a clear blue sky, the little birds answering each other from the high furze-bushes, and the pee-wits came careering near her with their broad wings, floating movement, and long melancholy note like lamentation.
At length, far away, there sounded on the hard turnpike road a horse’s tread, coming nearer and nearer. Help was at hand! Be it who it might, some human sympathy would be with her, and that most oppressive solitude, which seemed to have lasted for years instead of minutes, would be relieved. In almost an agony of nervousness lest the newcomer might pass by, she gently laid her cousin’s head on the grass, and flew rather than ran towards the opening of the lane. She was too late, the horseman had passed, but she recognised the shining hat, the form of the shoulders, and with a scream almost wild in its energy, called “Philip! O, Philip Carey!”
Joy, joy! he looked back, he turned his horse, and came up in amazement at finding her there, and asking questions which she could only answer by leading the way down the lane.
In another moment he was off his horse, and she could almost have adored him when she heard him pronounce that Frederick lived.
A few moments passed whilst he was handling his patient, and asking questions, when Beatrice beheld some figures advancing from the plantation. She dashed through the heath and furze to meet them, sending her voice before her with the good news, “He is alive! Philip Carey says he is alive!” and with these words she stood before her father and her Aunt Mary.
Her aunt seemed neither to see nor hear her; but with a face as white and still as a marble figure, hastened on. Mr. Geoffrey Langford stopped for an instant and looked at her with an expression such as she never could forget. “Beatrice, my child!” he exclaimed, “you are hurt!”
“No, no, papa,” she cried. “It is Fred’s blood—I am quite, quite safe!”
He held her in his arms, pressed her close to him, and kissed her brow, with a whispered exclamation of fervent thankfulness. Beatrice could never remember that moment without tears; the tone, the look, the embrace,—all had revealed to her the fervour of her father’s affection, beyond—far beyond all that she had ever imagined. It was but for one instant that he gave way; the next, he was hastening on, and stood beside Frederick as soon as his sister-in-law.