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14. CHAPTER XIV.

Last Words.

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It was on the evening of the next day, that Isabel, tired and wearytempted her, and sitting there, her fancy wandered beyond the limits of the small clear space before her. The mystery was solved now. To her mind all was clear. She could connect the girl's words and knew how her father met his death. A great horror was spared her and all, for surely in time even her mother and Kate would accept this history in their inner hearts, as they now languidly, and as if with constraint, agreed to it with their lips. But Mrs. Lang could not easily divest herself of the strong impression she had, that her husband had been murdered, either by one of the two convict servants, or horrible, dreadful to think of, in a fit of passionate anger by the man he had insulted. Carried away with these thoughts, striving to realise the relief this new version was to her, Isabel was unusually lost to things present, and neither heard nor saw what went on not far from her. Behind—not many yards, where he could scan her attitude and side face, stood Jack Lynch, the very ghost or shadow of what he had been when last Isabel saw him. Pale as the shadow of death, worn, unshaven, his hair rough and wild, his deep and dark eyes blazing with a concentrated smouldering fire of intense heat; the other features more clearly cut and defined than ever, and alive with some powerful passion; there he was, ragged, and torn, a sight which would scare most persons. Finding her so lost to everything, he advanced a step and rustled the branches of underwood purposely. At last she raised her


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head, but did not glance round, and he was forced to come to her side.

‘Good heavens! who is it?’ she cried, starting up. Then suddenly recalling her presence of mind, ‘Do you want anything? Are you—are you in want? Who are you?’ she repeated, as a dim recognition floated over her mind.

‘I am one Lynch—Jack Lynch,’ he answered, hoarsely. ‘I come—Is she alive and safe? Safe, I say.’ He went on, not pausing for an answer, ‘You haven't—you daren't have let them take her away for that! How dared any one believe such a lie? She did it?’ and he broke into a wild laugh which caused Isabel to shudder. ‘She! No—no! Bless you! 'twas another hand, not her innocent fingers. No—no! I'd sworn vengeance, so I had! Many's the time I had it in me to kill him! and now he's dead, got his reward. But don't go for to kill the most innocentest and sweet little soul that ever lived. Hang the right man. He stands before you, Miss Issy, and he don't mean to shirk; only—only—for the love of God, for the hope ye have for mercy for yourself, let me only see Nellie once more! Will ye, now?’

‘What are you saying? What do you—what can you mean? Did you—did you, after all—do—kill him—my father? O Lynch! O Jack Lynch, how could you? How dared you?’

‘O, I dared and I could! Why not? Tell me why, Miss Issy? Did he ever spare me? Did I ever get a kind word or aught but curses? Did he pity the poor ill-used orphan, poor Nellie? Would he let her come to me, who would have died or lived so I could best shelter her? No, he—he—Well, that's past now! He's gone! I am ready—yes, ready. But let me see her first, and then bind me and lead me off to your prison. The gallows is welcome!’

‘I don't understand you at all!’ said Isabel, bewildered and frightened at his vehemence.

‘Don't you? Isn't Nellie—Ellen Maclean here? Tell me!’

‘Yes—yes, she . . . .’

‘Then for God's sake let me see her. And, Miss Isabel, you'll never live to repent it, if you use every bit of power you can to get her set free. Don't I say I am the guilty man? Take me and let her go. Now, do you understand?’

‘But, Lynch,’ and she laid her hand on his arm, which trembled with his eagerness. ‘Thank God, we have heard, we know now that my poor father was not murdered at all. At least, so Nellie said. And now you come and confess you did it! O, Lynch! is it, can it be true? Have you done this dreadful, this cruel deed?’

The man gazed at her tearful eyes for a moment; he even rubbed his


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own hand across his brow, as if to wipe away something.

‘What's hanging to me? What do I care? only—O miss—let me see her first of all! It is the last favour I'll ever beg of man or woman,’ he added, pleadingly.

‘You shall see her, of course. But I must make you understand first, Lynch. Be patient and listen to me. Poor Nellie, you know, has been missing for a long time. No one could find her out, though there were rumours about—well, I see you have heard of this;—then came this horrid thing, and then only two days ago Nellie came to my window. She was cold and half-starved. She must have been lost in the bush, and she was more strange and excited than I ever knew her. She said some dreadful things, that is, she declared she had done it, killed my poor father, and all to get your ticket of leave! How awful it is to say anything to one only half-witted like her! Who knows what words led her even to imagine doing such a thing? By nature such a kind-hearted and gentle girl.’

‘She didn't do it!’ Lynch thundered out. ‘She—a weak slip of a girl! Don't I say I am guilty? Surely I had cause enough to hate him!’

‘Don't say that now! Don't bring up such fearful feelings. Death should teach us better. Ellen now would tell you, could she speak, that a ticket is little, hard words but little, and wont last for ever, but to be wicked and take revenge and to hate, will bring us to hell! She and my father have perhaps met now, up there . . . .’

‘Met! Do you mean—what do you mean, miss?’

‘I mean that Nellie is dead, Lynch—lying dead now in my own room—dead and cold—that is her body. But she is, I hope, safe and happy. Come and see her, if you wish it.’

And rising she went on, while he followed, neither speaking again; nor did they meet any one. She opened the door and signed for him to go in. He stopped and pulled off his torn shoes. Then softly he went in, and close to the bed stood for one moment quite still, then gently lifted the delicate white covering which shrouded her face. So young and childish she looked, and so thin, sharp, and pale! Nellie was dead, indeed. He uttered one long, low, but heart-piercing cry, and fell on his knees beside her, hiding his face; convulsive sobs shook him.

‘O, Nellie! Nellie! It's me—your own Jack, darling, that loves you always and forgives you all, if you've ever forgotten him! Speak, darling,—speak again—just one word! No—never she'll speak again;—never more! But they wronged you. Yes—they've broken your poor heart with fright and craft—the wicked vermin! Nellie! Why did you leave me so? Why didn't you wait just to look at me and say—‘Jack,


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come! Don't mind the rope—we're bound for the same shore!’ They said you did it! If you did—I would have died for you! But you would not wait. You are gone and I am left alone—alone—all and quite alone for evermore!’ Then nothing was heard but deep sobs. The poor upturned dead face, such a contrast to his! ‘But it wont be long,’ he began again; ‘I'm a coming after you, my heart's pet! They'll put you in the earth, and don't be afeard, for Jack will come and lie beside ye. He's spent and worn, darling, and his days are reckoned up, pretty nigh. They deceived you! Yes—I know about it,’ and he took her hand and kissed it, almost frantically, begging her not to fret—he knew all now, and loved her more than ever. Then rising, and with a sudden self-control stopping his tears and sobs, he turned to Isabel and spoke gravely and sternly.

‘I'll swear I'll find the rascal that strove to ruin her, and do my best to punish him. That done, I'll be glad and thankful to follow her so soon as they choose and any way they please. A hunted animal can't live long, and it's come to that now with me—and worse too. For the wild dogs have got their homes, but Jack Lynch has not a stone to lay his head on.’

Isabel here left the room, meaning to come back again and offer rest and refreshment on her own responsibility to Lynch. When she returned he was not there. It was easy to go out by the window, and so she concluded he had done so, thinking better, perhaps, of giving himself up as guilty, and resolved to fight a little longer for life.

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