« PoprzedniaDalej »
Ever since the period of his mother's death he him that no drop of rain had fallen inside the had been oppressed by the conviction that cottage. As he spoke the words, he saw a some curse hung over the family. At first change pass over his grandfather's face — the they had been prosperous, they had got sharp features seemed to wither up on a sudmoney, a little legacy had been left them. den; the eager expression to grow vacant But this good fortune had availed only for a and death-like in an instant. The voice too time; disaster on disaster strangely and sud- altered ; it was harsh and querulous no more ; denly succeeded. Losses, unisfortunes, pov- its tones became strangely soft, slow, and erty, want itself had overwhelmed them ; his solemn, when the old man spoke again. father's tem per had become so soured, that the “ I hear it still,” he said, "drip! drip! oldest friends of François Sarzeau declared he faster and plainer than ever. That ghostly was changed beyond recognition. And now, dropping of water is the last and the surest of all this past misfortune the steady, wither the fatal signs which have told of your father's ing, household blight of many years — had and your brother's deaths to-night, and I ended in the last worst misery of all —in know from the place where I hear it - the death. The fate of his father and his brother foot of the bed I lie on - – that it is a warning admitted no longer of a doubt — he knew it, as to me of my own approaching end. I am he listened to the storm, as he reflected on his called where my son and my grandson have grandfather's words, as he called to mind his gone before me; my weary time in this world own experience of the perils of the sea. And is over at last. Don't let Rose and the chilthis double bereavement had fallen on him just dren come in here, if they should awake – as the time was approaching for his marriage they are too young to look at death." with Rose ; just when misfortune was most Gabriel's blood curdled when he heard these ominous of evil, just when it was hardest to words. - when he touched his grandfather's bear! Forebodings which he dared not realize hand, and felt the chill that it struck to his began now to mingle with the bitterness of his own — when he listened to the raging wind, grief, whenever his thoughts wandered from and knew that all help was miles and miles the present to the future ; and as he sat by the away from the cottage. Still, in spite of the lonely fireside, murmuring from time to time storm, the darkness, and the distance, he the church prayer for the repose of the dead, thought not for a moment of neglecting the he alınost involuntarily mingled with it duty that had been taught him from his childanother prayer, expressed only in his own hood the duty of suinmoning the priest to simple words, for the safety of the living – for the bedside of the dying. " I must call Rose, the young girl whose love was his sole earthly he said, “ to watch by you while I am away, treasure ; for the motherless children who “Stop!” cried the old man,“ stop, Gabriel ; must now look for protection to him alone. I implore, I command you not to leave me !"
He had sat by the hearth a long, long time, "The priest, grandfather — your confesabsorbed in his thoughts, not once looking sion round towards the bed, when he was startled “ It must be made to you. In this darkness by hearing the sound of his grandfather's and this hurricane no man can keep the path voice once more. “ Gabriel,” whispered the across the heath. Gabriel ! I am dying – I old man, trembling and shrinking as he spoke. should be dead before you got back. Gabriel ! “ Gabriel, do you hear a dripping of water for the love of the Blessed Virgin, stop here - now slow, now quick again on the floor with me till I die — my time is short -- I have at the foot of my bed?"
a terrible secret that I must tell to somebody " I hear nothing, grandfather, but the crack- before I draw my last breath! Your ear to my ling of the fire, and the roaring of the storm mouth!-quick! quick!” outside."
As he spoke the last words, a slight noise " Drip, drip, drip! Faster and faster ; was audible on the other side of the partition, plainer and plainer. Take the torch, Gabriel; the door half opened ! and Rose appeared at it, look down on the floor – look with all your looking affrightedly into the room. The vigieyes. Is the place wet there ? Is it God's rain lant eyes of the old inan - suspicious even in that is dropping through the roof?"
death — caught sight of her directly Gabriel took the torch with trembling back!” he exclaimed faintly, before she could fingers, and knelt down on the floor to examine utter a word, " go back — push her back, it closely. He started back from the place, Gabriel, and pail down the latch in the door, as he saw that it was quite dry the torch if she won't shut it of herself!" dropped upon the hearth - he fell on his knees “ Dear Rose! go in again,” implored Gabefore the statue of the Virgin and hid his briel. “ Go in and keep the children from face.
disturbing us. You will only make him worse “Is the floor wet? Answer me, I command you can be of no use here!" you !- Is the floor wet?" — asked the old She obeyed without speaking, and shut the man quickly and breathlessly. Gabriel rose, door again. While the old man clutched him went back to the bedside, and whispered to l by the arm, and repeated, “ Quick! quick!
- your ear close to my mouth,” Gabriel heard of the sides of the book, and through the hole her say to the children (who were both awake), some bank-notes bulged out. I saw them, “Let us pray for grandfather.' And, as he and so did your father (don't move away, knelt down by the bedside, there stole on his Gabriel ; keep close, there is nothing in ine to car the sweet, childish tones of his little sisters, shrink from). Well, he shared his food, like and the soft, subdued voice of the young girl, an honest fellow, with us; and then put his who was teaching them the prayer, mingling hand in his pocket, and gave me four or five divinely with the solemn wailing of wind and livres, and then lay down before the fire to go sea, rising in a still and awful purity over the to sleep. As he shut his eyes, your father hoarse, gasping whispers of the dying man. looked at me in a way I did n't like. He'd
“I took an oath not to tell it, Gabriel been behaving very bitterly and desperately lean down closer! I'm weak, and they must n't towards us for some time past; being soured hear a word in that room - I took an oath about poverty, and your mother's illness, and not to tell it; but death is a warrant to all the constant crying out of you children for men for breaking such an oath as that. Listen ; more to eat. So, when he told me to go and don't lose a word I'm saying ! Don't look away buy some wood, some bread, and some wine into the room : the stain of blood-guilt has with the money I had got, I did n't like, somedefled it forerer !— Ilush! Hush Hush ! how, to leave him alone with the stranger; Let me speak. Now your father 's dead, I and so made excuses, saying (which was true) can't carry the horrid secret with me into the that it was too late to buy things in the vilgrave. Just remember, Gabriel — try if you lage that night. But he told me in a ruge can't remember the time before I was bed- to go and do as he bid me, and knock the ridden ten years ago and more — it was people up if the shop was shut. So I went about six weeks, you know, before your out, being dreadfully afraid of your
fathermother's death ; you can remember it by that. as indeed we all were at that time — but I You and all the children were in that room could n't make up my mind to go far from the with your mother; you were all asleep, I house ; I was afraid of something bappening, think; it was night, not very late — only nine though I did n't dare to think what. I don't o'clock. Your father and I were standing at know how it was ; but I stole back in about the door, looking out at the heath in the ten minutes on tip-toe, to the cottage ; and moonlight. IIe was so poor at that time, he looked in at the window; and saw -O! God had been obliged to sell his own boat, and forgive him! 0, God forgive me ! — I saw none of the neighbors would take him out -1. - more to drink, Gabriel ! I can't speak fishing with them your father was n't liked again - more to drink!" by any of the neighbors. Well; we saw a The voices in the next room had ceased ; stranger coming towards us; a very young but in the minute of silence which now enman, with a knapsack on his back. He looked sued, Gabriel heard his sisters kissing Rose, like a gentleman, though he was but poorly and wishing her good-night. They were all dressed. He came up, and told us he was three trying to go to sleep again. dead tired, and did n't think he could reach Gabriel, pray yourself, and teach your the town that night, and asked if we would children after you to pray, that your father give him shelter till morning. And your father may find forgiveness where he is now gone. said yes,
if he would make no noise, because I saw him, plainly as I now see you, kneeling the wife was ill and the children were asleep. with his knife in one hand over the sleeping So he said all he wanted was to go to sleep man. He was taking the little book with the himself before the fire. We had nothing to notes in it out of the stranger's pocket. He give him but black bread. He had better got the book into his possession, and held it food with him than that, and undid his knap- quite still in his hand for an instant, thinkenck to get at it — and — and — Gabriel! I 'm ing. I believe — 0, no! no! - I'm sure, sinking - drink ! something to drink – I’m he was repenting; I am sure he was going to parched with thirst!”
put the book back; but just at that moment Silent and deadly pale, Gabriel poured some the stranger moved, and raised one of his arms, of the cider from the pitcher on the table into a as if he was waking up. Then, the temptadrinking cup, and gave it to the old man. Slight tion of the devil grew too strong for your as the stimulant was, its effect on him was al- father I saw him lift the hand with the mast instantaneous. His dull eyes brightened knife in it — but saw nothing more. I could n't a little, and he went on in the same whispering look in at the window - I could n't move tones as before.
away - I could n't cry out; I stood with my “ He pulled the food out of his knapsack back turned towards the house, shivering all rather in a hurry, so that some of the other over, though it was a warm summer-time, small things in it fell on the floor. Among and hearing no cries, no noises at all, from these was à pocket-book, which your father the room behind me. I was too frightened picked up and gave him back; and he put it to know how long it was before the opening in his coat-pocket - there was a tear in one of the cottage door made me turn round;
hut when I did, I saw your father standing ceased altogether ; when she heard the sohs before me in the yellow moonlight, carrying that followed them; and when her heart told in his arms the bleeding body of the poor lad her who was weeping in the next room who had shared his food with us, and slept then, she began to be influenced by a new on our hearth. Hush ! hush! Don't groan feeling which was stronger than the strongest and sob in that way! Stifle it with the bed- fear, and she opened the door without hesitatclothes. Ilush! you 'll wake them in the ing — almost without trembling. next room!'
The coverlid was drawn up over the old Gabriel - Gabriel !” exclaimed a voice man; Gabriel was kneeling by the bedside, from behind the partition. “What has hap- with his face hidden. When she spoke to pened? Gabriel! let me come out and be him, he neither answered nor looked at her. with you!”
After a while, the sobs that shook him ceased ; “No! no !" cried the old man, collecting but still he never moved except once when the last remains of his strength in the attempt she touched him, and then he shuddered to speak above the wind, which was just then shuddered under her hand ! She called in his howling at the loudest. Stay where you little sisters, and they spoke to him, and still
don't speak - don't come out, I com- he uttered no word in reply. They wept. mand you !
Gabriel" (his voice dropped to One by one, often and often, they entreated a faint whisper), “ raise me up in bed -you him with loving words; but the stupor of must hear the whole of it, now - raise me ; grief which held him speechless and motionI'm choking so that I can hardly speak. less was beyond the power of human tears, Keep close and listen - I can't say much stronger even than the strength of human
Where was 1? — Ah, your father! love. He threatened to kill me if I did n't swear to It was near daybreak, and the storm was keep it secret; and in terror of my life I lulling - but still no change occurred at the
He made me help him carry the bedside. Once or twice, as Rose knelt near body — we took it all across the heath - 0! Gabriel, still vainly endeavoring, to arouse horrible, horrible, under the bright moon him to a sense of her presence, she thought (lift me higher, Gabriel). You know the she heard the old man breathing feebly, and great stones yonder, set up by the heathens ; stretched out her hand towards the coverlid ; you know the hollow place under the stones but she could not summon courage to touch they call • The Merchant's Table'. - we had him or to look at him. This, was the first plenty of room to lay him in that, and hide time she had ever been present at a deathhim so; and then we ran back to the cottage. bed ; the stillness in the room, the stupor of I never dared go near the place afterwards ; despair that had seized Gabriel, so horrified po, nor your father either! (Higher, Ga- her, that she was almost as helpless as the briel! I'm choking again.) We burnt the two children by her side. It was not till the pocket-book and the knapsack - never knew dawn looked in at the cottage window — so his name
we kept the money to spend. coldly, so drearily, and yet so reässuringly (You 're not lifting me! you 're not listening that she began to recover her self-possession close enough!) Your father said it was a at all. Then she knew that her best resource legacy, when you and your mother asked about would be to summon assistance immediately the money. (You hurt me, you shake me to from the nearest house.
While she was trypieces, Gabriel, when you sob like that.) ing to persuade the two children to remain İt brought a curse on us, the money; thé alone in the cottage with Gabriel, during her curse has drowned your father and your temporary absence, she was startled by the brother; the curse is killing me; but I've sound of footsteps outside the door. It confessed – tell the priest I confessed before opened, and a man appeared on the threshold, I died. Stop her; stop Rose! I hear her standing still there for a moment in the dim getting up
Take his bones away from The uncertain light. She looked closer - looked Merchant's Table, and bury them for the love intently at him. . It was François Sarzeau of God! — and tell the priest - (lift me himself! higher : list me till I'm on my knees) — if He was dripping with wet; but his face your father was alive, he'd murder me - but always pale and inflexible seemed to be but tell the priest – because of my guilty soul - little altered in expression by the perils through
and remember The Merchant's which he must have passed during the night. Table — to bury, and to pray - to pray always Young Pierre lay almost insensible in his arms. for
In the astonishment and fright of the first moAs long as Rose heard faintly the whisper- ment, Rose screamed as she recognized him. ing of the old man — though no word that he • There ! there ! there !” he said, peevishly, said reached her ear — she shrank from open- advancing straight to the hearth with his ing the door in the partition. But, when the burden, * don't make a noise. You never whispering sounds which terrified her she expected to see us alive again, I dare say: knew not how or why — first faltered, then We gave ourselves up as lost, and only escaped
after all by a miracle.” He laid the boy bling all over," said François. “If he is down where he could get the full warinth of dying at all, he is dying of 'cold: help me to the fire ; and then, turning round, took a lift him, bed and all, to the hearth.” wicker-covered bottle from his pocket, and “ No, no! don't let him touch me !" gasped said, “ If it had n't been for the brandy!
_" the old man.
• Don't let him look at me in He stopped suddenly - started — put down that way! Don't let him come near me, Gathe bottle on the bench near him — and ad-briel! Is it his ghost? or is it himself ?" vanced quickly to the bedside.
As Gabriel answered, he heard a knocking Rose looked after him as he went; and saw at the door. His father opened it; and disGabriel, who had risen when the door was closed to view some people from the neighboropened, moving back from the bed as François ing fishing village, who had come — more out approached. The young man's face seemed of curiosity than sympathy - to inquire to have been suddenly struck to stone - its whether François and the boy, Pierre, had blank ghastly whiteness was awful to look at. survived the night. Without asking any one He moved slowly backward and backward to enter, the fisherman surlily and shortly antill he came to the cottage wall — then stood swered the various questions addressed to quite still, staring on his father with wild, him, standing in his own doorway. While vacant eyes, moving his hands to and fro be- he was thus engaged, Gabriel heard his grandfore him, muttering; but never pronouncing father muttering vacantly to himself — Last one audible word.
night — how about last night, grandson? François did not appear to notice his son ; What was I talking about last night? Did I he had the coverlid of the bed in his hand. say your father was drowned? Very foolish “ Anything the matter here ?” he asked, as to say he was drowned, and then see him he drew it down.
come back alive again? But it was n't that Still Gabriel could not speak. Rose saw it, -I'm so weak in my head, I can 't rememand answered for him. “ Gabriel is afraid ber! What was it, Gabriel? Something too that his poor grandfather is dead," she whis- horrible to speak of? Is that what you 're pered nervously.
whispering and trembling about? I said * Dead! There was no sorrow in the nothing horrible. A crime? Bloodshed! I tone, as he echoed the word. “ Was he very know nothing of any crime or bloodshed here had in the night before his death bappened? - I must have been frightened out of my wits Did he wander in his mind? He has been to talk in that way! I'he Merchant's Table ! rather light-headed lately."
Only a big heap of old stones! What with “ He was very restless, and spoke of the the storm, and thinking I was going to die, ghostly warnings that we all know of: he and being afraid about your father, I must said he saw and heard many things which have been light-headed. "Don't give another told him from the other world that you and thought to that nonsense, Gabriel? I'm betPierre - Gabriel !" she screamed, suddenly ter now.
We shall all live to laugh at poor interrupting herself. “ Look at him! Look grandfather for talking nonsense about crime at his face! Your grandfather is not dead!" and bloodshed in his sleep. Ah! poor old
At that moment, François was raising his man - last night - light-headed — fancies father's head to look closely at him. A faint and nonsense of an old man — why don't you spasm had indeed passed over the deathly laugh at it? I'm laughing so light-headed face; the lips quivered, the jaw dropped. 80 light —!” François shuddered as he looked, and moved He stopped suddenly. A low cry, partly away hastily from the bed. At the same in- of terror and partly of pain, escaped bim; stant Gabriel started from the wall; his ex- the look of pining anxiety and imbecile pression altered, his pale cheeks flushed sud- cunning which had distorted his face while denly, as he snatcheù up the wicker-cased he had been speaking, faded from it forever. bottle, and poured all the little brandy that He shivered a little breathed heavily once was left in it down his grandfather's throat. or twice -- then became quite still. Had he The effect was nearly instantaneous; the died with a falsehood on his lips? sinking vital forces rallied desperately. The Gabriel looked round, and saw that the cotold man's eyes opened again, wandered round tage-door was closed, and that his father was the room, then fixed themselves intently on standing against it. How long he had occuFrançois, as he stood near the fire. Trying pied that position, how many of the old man's and terrible as his position was at that mo- last words he had heard, it was impossible to ment, Gabriel still retained self-possession conjecture, but there was a lowering suspicior enough to whisper a few words in Rose's ear. in his harsh face as he now looked away from “Go back again into the bedroom, and take the corpse to his son, which made Gabriel the children with you," he said. “We may shudder; and the first question that he asked, have something to speak about which you once more approaching the bedside, was exhad better not hear."
pressed in tones which, quiet as they were, “Son Gabriel, your grandfather is trem-I had a fearful meaning in them. “What did
your grandfather talk about last night?” he trying in every way. He must have been a asked.
good deal shaken in his wits, last night, beGabriel did not answer. All that he had tween fears about himself, and fears about me. heard, all that he had seen, all the misery and (To think of my being angry with you, Gahorror that might yet be to come, had stunned briel, for being a little alarıned - very natuhis mind. The unspeakable dangers of hie pres- rally — by an old man's queer fancies !) Come ent position were too tremendous to be real-out, Rose - come out of the bedroom whenized." He could only feel vaguely as yet in ever you are tired of it: you must learn sooner the weary torpor that oppressed his heart; or later to look at death calınly. Shake hands, while in every other direction the use of his Gabriel; and let us make it up, and say no faculties, physical and mental, seemed to have more about what has passed. You won't? suddenly and totally abandoned him. Still angry with me for what I said to you
" Is your tongue wounded, son Gabriel, as just now? Ah !- you 'll think better about well as your arm ?” his father went on, with a lit, by the time I return. Come out, Rose, bitter laugh. “I come back to you, saved by we've no secrets here." a miracle ; and you never speak to me. Would “Where are you going to?" asked Gabriel, you rather I had died than the old man there? as he saw his father hastily open the door. He can't hear you now-why should n't you “ To tell the priest that one of his congretell me what nonsense he was talking last gation is dead, and to have the death regisnight? - You won't? I say you shall !" tered," answered François. “These are my (He crossed the room and put his back to the duties, and must be performed before I take door.) « Before either of us leave this place, any rest.” you shall confess it! You know that my duty He went out hurriedly, as he said these to the Church bids me go at once, and tell the words. Gabriel almost trembled at himself, priest of your grandfather's death. If I leave when he found that he breathed more freely, that duty unfulfilled, remember it is through that he felt less horribly oppressed both in your fault! You keep me here -- for here I mind and body, the moment his father's back stop till I am obeyed. Do you hear that, idiot? was turned. Fearful as that thought was now, Speak! Speak instantly, or you shall repent it was still a change for the better even to be it to the day of your death! I ask again capable of thinking at all. Was the behavior what did your grandfather say to you when of his father compatible with innocence ? he was wandering in his mind, last night?" Could the old man's confused denial of his
“ He spoke of a crime, committed by own words in the morning and in the presence another, and guiltily kept secret by him," of his son, be set for one instant against the answered Gabriel slowly and sternly. “ And circumstantial confession that he had made this morning he denied his own words with during the night, alone with his grandson ? his last living breath. But last night, if he These were the terrible questions which Gabriel spoke the truth "
now asked himself; and which he shrank in• The truth !" echoed François. “What voluntarily from answering. And yet, that truth?” He stopped, his eyes fell, then doubt, the solution of which would one way turned towards the corpse. For a few minutes or the other irrevocably affect the whole future he stood steadily contemplating it; breathing of his life, must sooner or later be solved at quickly, and drawing his hand several times any hazards! There was but one way of setacross his forehead. Then he faced his son ting it at rest - to go instantly, while his once more. In that short interval he had be- father was absent, and examine the hollow come in outward appearance a changed man: place under “ The Merchant's Table.” If his expression, voice, and manner, all were al- grandfather's confession had really been made tered. “Heaven forgive me !" he said, “ but while he was in possession of his senses, this I could almost laugh at myself, at this solemn place (which Gabriel knew to be corered in moment, for having spoken and acted just now from wind and weather) had never been visso much like a fool !Denied his words, did ited since the commission of the crime by the he? Poor old man! they say sense often perpetrator, or by his unwilling accomplice :comes back to light-headed people just before though time had destroyed all besides, the death ; and he is a proof of it. The fact is, hair and the bones of the victim would still be Gabriel, my own wits must have been a little left to bear witness to the truth - if truth shaken -and no wonder — by what I went had indeed been spoken. As this conviction.. through last night and what I have come grew on him, the young man's cheek paled ;. home to this morning. As if you, or anybody, and he stopped irresolute, half way between could ever really give serious credit to the wan- the hearth and the door. Then he looked: dering speeches of a dying old man! (Where down doubtfully at the corpse on the bed ;. is Rose? Why did you send her away?) I and then there came upon him, suddenly, as don't wonder at your still looking a little revulsion of feeling. A wild, feverish impa-startled, and feeling low in your mind, and all tience to know the worst without another inthat--for you're had a trying night of it;/stant of delay possessed him. Only telling