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Chapter XX

“Triumphant in thy closing eye
The hope of glory shone;
Joy breathed in thy expiring sigh,
To think the fight was won.”

—Rev. S. Dale.

“Are you going at once to Aloe Hill? I fear the fatigue is too much for you.”

“I shall not find it so, Mr. Arney; I long to be at home.” The old man bent over a packet of papers, and appeared to be busily searching for something, but his fingers turned the letters with an aimless touch, and he hemmed a little. The young widow pushed back the oppressive folds of crape from her fair brow, and rising, pursued—quickly and eagerly, with the manner of a child looking forward to a long delayed vacation—

“I long to be at home, to hear the familiar voices again—to see the old faces—to speak to those who understand me; to feel a woman, not a thing. I want sympathy; I crave for that; I must have it—I must—or die!”

“No, no; you will not die: you will live many years happy and beloved.”

“I must be beloved; that is essential to my being. I will put aside all that is childish and weak, God helping me.”

“You will, you will,” the old man said soothingly. “Shall I send my clerk with you, Mrs. Fenwick?”

“No, Sir, I thank you, I have no fear; I am going home.

“How happy to have a home! Leave your affairs with confidence to me; I will strictly study your interests.”

“I know it, Mr. Arney; I shall have little; I shall be poor—shall I not?”

“No, not poor; but, can you economise?”

“Oh, yes! I can do anything; I feel strong, I have so much hope.” But even as she spoke, the girl-widow wiped away a large hot tear for the dead.

Too slowly for her impatience drove the coachman; too lingeringly turned the wheels; expectation had dried her tears; they would flow when that meeting was over; but, for the present, one thought absorbed her every faculty, and at length

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she was folded in the still strong arms of the Captain, was weeping between Aunt Nancy and Rachel, was cared for and cherished. It was all too much, too closely allied with bereavement and disappointment: nature avenged herself for the stress laid upon her, and tears flowed without restraint.

To sleep that night was impossible; the grey light of morning gleamed between the venetian blinds, and the candle flickered in the socket, but still in their own room Rachel and Elice sat on a low couch, with their arms twined round each other, telling and hearing all that had occurred since they parted.

“But, Elly, you must have some sleep, you are so weary with your journey.”

“No, Rachel, no rest now. Do you remember some one exclaiming—‘Rest, rest, I shall have all eternity for rest.’ There are times when action is most refreshing. Let us admit the dawn.” She pushed open the shutters, a cool breeze entered, laden with the smell of flowers and sea-weeds.

“Rachel, I shall love this place, it is so peaceful.”

“It is. How red the horizon is, where the sun will shortly arise. Our God is above and around us—why should we fear anything? is He not stronger than the strongest?”

“A bruised reed He will not break;
Afflictions all His children feel;
He wounds them for His mercy sake,
He wounds to heal!”

Wreathed in each other's arms, they watched the eastern sky grow rich in amber sheen, and the sun's rays light over the silent landscape; and then they stepped from the open window to visit the orchard and the inlet. They did not know that their grandfather traced their progress, and rejoiced to see his children together under the protection of their aunt.

“Elly's marriage was a mistake—strange how often such mistakes are made. I could have wished to leave Rachel under the protection of Leigh Osman—he is a man, a true-hearted man”—thus he reflected—“when I leave them.” This was, indeed, the ever-present thought, for Captain Dell now felt the approach of death. His habits were not altered; no outward alteration notified this conviction, except that he often bent over his large Bible, or, closing it, sat absorbed in thought.

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Still the sentence pronounced upon Gilbert Calder was unrevoked; no mention of his name passed his lips; the pride of heart was yet unbroken; he was yet saying “I do well to be angry;” but the time came when a clearer light streamed into his soul—a sincere faith in the Lord's Christ; then closing the covers of his Bible, and turning to Rachel, he said—

“My child, I forgive your brother his sin against me. If ever you see him again, tell him so.”

A dread knowledge that the spirit had gained an ascendancy over the body, and was hovering on the wing for flight, seized her; she fell on her knees by his side, and said in a low voice—

“Dear Grandfather, Leigh has found him—toiling steadily and in poverty at the diggings. Oh, believe it, he is innocent.”

“God grant it, my child! Into thy hands, Oh Christ, I resign my soul.”

The victory was won, and the Christian went out from the battle-field, to rest evermore!