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One day it occurred to Raby he could play the misanthrope just as well at home as abroad, so he returned home.
He found old Dence dead and buried, and Patty Dence gone to Australia with her husband.
He heard Jael was in the hospital. He called at Woodbine villa, and they told him Grace was lying between life and death.
He called on Dr. Amboyne, and found him as sad as he used to be gay. The doctor told him all, and even took him to the town hall, and showed him an arm and part of the trunk of a man preserved in spirits, and a piece of tweed cloth, and a plain gold ring.
"There," said he, "is all that remains to us of your nephew, and my friend. Genius, beauty, courage--all come to this!" He could say no more.
The tears filled Raby's eyes, and all his bitterness melted away. With respect to his sister, he said he was quite willing to be reconciled, and even to own himself in the wrong, if Dr. Amboyne, on reading the correspondence, should think so. Dr. Amboyne said he would come to Raby Hall for that purpose. He communicated this at once to Mrs. Little.
Grace had a favorable crisis, and in a few days more she was out of danger, but in a deplorable state of weakness. Dr. Amboyne ordered her to the sea-side. A carriage was prepared expressly for her, and her father took her there.
Woodbine Villa was put up to let furnished, and it was taken by--Mr.
Jael Dence began to recover strength rapidly, but she wore at times a confused look. The very day Grace left for Eastbank she was discharged as cured, and left the hospital. This was in the morning.
In the afternoon Dr. Amboyne, being now relieved of his anxiety as to Grace, remembered he had not been to see this poor girl for some time; so he went to the hospital.
When he heard she was discharged, he felt annoyed with himself for not having paid her closer attention. And besides, Grace had repeatedly told him Jael Dence could make a revelation if she chose. And now, occupied with Grace herself, he had neglected her wishes.
"Where is she gone? do you know?"
One of the nurses said she was gone home.
Another said the patient had told her she should go down to the works first.
"And that is the very last place you should have let her go to," said the doctor. "A fine shock the poor creature will get there. You want her back here again, I suppose!" He felt uneasy, and drove down to the works. There he made some inquiries among the women, and elicited that Jael Dence had turned faint at sight of the place, and they had shown her, at her request, where she had been picked up, and had told her about the discovery of Little's remains, and she had persuaded a little girl to go to the town hall with her.
"Oh, the tongue! the tongue!" groaned Amboyne.
He asked to see the little girl, and she came forward of her own accord, and told him she had gone to the town hall with the la.s.s, "but"
(regretfully) "that the man would not show them it without an order from the Mayor."
Dr. Amboyne said he was very glad that common sense had not quite deserted the earth. "And where did you go next?"
"I came back here."
"So I see; but the la.s.s?"
"She said she should go home. 'My dear,' says she, 'there's n.o.body left me here; I'll go and die among my own folk.' That was her word."
"Poor thing! poor thing! Why--"
He stopped short, for that moment he remembered Raby had said old Dence was dead, and Patty gone to Australia. If so, here was another blow in store for poor Jael, and she weakened by a long illness.
He instantly resolved to drive after her, and see whether she was really in a fit state to encounter so many terrible shocks. If not, he should take her back to the infirmary, or into his own house; for he had a great respect for her, and indeed for all her family.
He drove fast, but he could see nothing of her on the road. So then he went on to Cairnhope.
He stopped at the farm-house. It was sadly deteriorated in appearance.
Inside he found only an old carter and his daughter. The place was in their charge.
The old man told him apathetically Jael had come home two hours ago and asked for her father and Patty, and they had told her the old farmer was dead and buried, and Patty gone to foreign parts.
"What, you blurted it out like that! You couldn't put yourself in that poor creature's place, and think what a blow it would be? How, in Heaven's name, did she take it?"
"Well, sir, she stared a bit, and looked stupid-like; and then she sat down. She sat crowded all together like in yon corner best part of an hour, and then she got up and said she must go and see his grave."
"You hadn't the sense to make her eat, of course?"
"My girl here set meat afore her, but she couldn't taste it."
Dr. Amboyne drove to Raby Hall and told Raby. Raby said he would have Jael up to the hall. It would be a better place for her now than the farm. He ordered a room to be got ready for her, and a large fire lighted, and at the same time ordered the best bedroom for Dr. Amboyne.
"You must dine and sleep here," said he, "and talk of old times."
Dr. Amboyne thanked him--it was dusk by this time--and was soon seated at that hospitable table, with a huge wood fire blazing genially.
Meantime Jael Dence sat crouched upon her father's grave, stupefied with grief. When she had crouched there a long time she got up, and muttered, "Dead and gone! dead and gone!"
Then she crept up to the old church, and sat down in the porch, benumbed with grief, and still a little confused in her poor head.
She sat there for nearly two hours, and then she got up, and muttered, "Dead and gone--he is dead and gone!" and wandered on the hill desolate.
Her feet wandered, her brain wandered. She found herself at last in a place she recognized. It was Squire Raby's lawn. The moon had just risen, and shone on the turf, and on the little river that went curling round with here and there a deep pool.
She crept nearer, and saw the great bay-window, and a blaze of light behind it.
There she had sung the great Noel with her father; and now he was dead and gone.
There she had been with Henry Little, and seen him recognize his mother's picture; and now he was dead and gone. She had saved his life in vain; he was dead and gone. Every body was dead and gone.
She looked up at the glowing window. She looked down at the pool, with the moon kissing it.
She flung her arms up with a scream of agony, and sunk into the deep pool, where the moon seemed most to smile on it.
Directly after dinner Dr. Amboyne asked to see the unhappy correspondence of which he was to be the judge.