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Title: Eugene Aram — Volume 03
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Eugene Aram — Volume 03" ***

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                             EUGENE ARAM

                       By Edward Bulwer-Lytton



                               BOOK III.

                               CHAPTER I.

        FRAUD AND VIOLENCE ENTER EVEN GRASSDALE.--PETER'S NEWS.
                --THE LOVERS' WALK.--THE REAPPEARANCE.

                   AUF.--"Whence comest thou--what wouldst thou?"
                                      --Coriolanus.

One evening Aram and Madeline were passing through the village in their
accustomed walk, when Peter Dealtry sallied forth from The Spotted Dog,
and hurried up to the lovers with a countenance full of importance, and a
little ruffled by fear.

"Oh, Sir, Sir,--(Miss, your servant!)--have you heard the news? Two
houses at Checkington, (a small town some miles distant from Grassdale,)
were forcibly entered last night,--robbed, your honour, robbed. Squire
Tibson was tied to his bed, his bureau rifled, himself shockingly
confused on the head; and the maidservant Sally--her sister lived with
me, a very good girl she was,--was locked up in the--the--the--I beg
pardon, Miss--was locked up in the cupboard. As to the other house, they
carried off all the plate. There were no less than four men, all masked,
your honour, and armed with pistols. What if they should come here! such
a thing was never heard of before in these parts. But, Sir,--but, Miss,--
do not be afraid, do not ye now, for I may say with the Psalmist,

                   'But wicked men shall drink the dregs
                      Which they in wrath shall wring,
                   For I will lift my voice, and make
                      Them flee while I do sing!'"

"You could not find a more effectual method of putting them to flight,
Peter," said Madeline smiling; "but go and talk to my uncle. I know we
have a whole magazine of blunderbusses and guns at home: they may be
useful now. But you are well provided in case of attack. Have you not the
Corporal's famous cat Jacobina,--surely a match for fifty robbers?"

"Ay, Miss, on the principle of set a thief to catch a thief, perhaps she
may; but really it is no jesting matter. Them ere robbers flourish like a
green bay tree, for a space at least, and it is 'nation bad sport for us
poor lambs till they be cut down and withered like grass. But your house,
Mr. Aram, is very lonesome like; it is out of reach of all your
neighbours. Hadn't you better, Sir, take up your lodgings at the Squire's
for the present?"

Madeline pressed Aram's arm, and looked up fearfully in his face. "Why,
my good friend," said he to Dealtry, "robbers will have little to gain in
my house, unless they are given to learned pursuits. It would be
something new, Peter, to see a gang of housebreakers making off with a
telescope, or a pair of globes, or a great folio covered with dust."

"Ay, your honour, but they may be the more savage for being
disappointed."

"Well, well, Peter, we will see," replied Aram impatiently; "meanwhile we
may meet you again at the hall. Good evening for the present."

"Do, dearest Eugene, do, for Heaven's sake," said Madeline, with tears in
her eyes, as they, now turning from Dealtry, directed their steps towards
the quiet valley, at the end of which the Student's house was situated,
and which was now more than ever Madeline's favourite walk, "do, dearest
Eugene, come up to the Manor-house till these wretches are apprehended.
Consider how open your house is to attack; and surely there can be no
necessity to remain in it now."

Aram's calm brow darkened for a moment. "What! dearest," said he, "can
you be affected by the foolish fears of yon dotard? How do we know as
yet, whether this improbable story have any foundation in truth. At all
events, it is evidently exaggerated. Perhaps an invasion of the poultry-
yard, in which some hungry fox was the real offender, may be the true
origin of this terrible tale. Nay, love, nay, do not look thus
reproachfully; it will be time enough for us when we have sifted the
grounds of alarm to take our precautions; meanwhile, do not blame me if
in your presence I cannot admit fear. Oh Madeline, dear, dear Madeline,
could you know, could you dream, how different life has become to me
since I knew you! Formerly, I will frankly own to you, that dark and
boding apprehensions were wont to lie heavy at my heart; the cloud was
more familiar to me than the sunshine. But now I have grown a child, and
can see around me nothing but hope; my life was winter--your love has
breathed it into spring."

"And yet, Eugene--yet--" "Yet what, my Madeline?"

"There are still moments when I have no power over your thoughts; moments
when you break away from me; when you mutter to yourself feelings in
which I have no share, and which seem to steal the consciousness from
your eye and the colour from your lip."

"Ah, indeed!" said Aram quickly; "what! you watch me so closely?"

"Can you wonder that I do?" said Madeline, with an earnest tenderness in
her voice.

"You must not then, you must not," returned her lover, almost fiercely;
"I cannot bear too nice and sudden a scrutiny; consider how long I have
clung to a stern and solitary independence of thought, which allows no
watch, and forbids account of itself to any one. Leave it to time and
your love to win their inevitable way. Ask not too much from me now. And
mark, mark, I pray you, whenever, in spite of myself, these moods you
refer to darken over me, heed not, listen not--Leave me! solitude is
their only cure! promise me this, love--promise."

"It is a harsh request, Eugene, and I do not think I will grant you so
complete a monopoly of thought;" answered Madeline, playfully, yet half
in earnest.

"Madeline," said Aram, with a deep solemnity of manner, "I ask a request
on which my very love for you depends. From the depths of my soul, I
implore you to grant it; yea, to the very letter."

"Why, why, this is--"began Madeline, when encountering the full, the
dark, the inscrutable gaze of her strange lover, she broke off in a
sudden fear, which she could not analyse; and only added in a low and
subdued voice, "I promise to obey you."

As if a weight were lifted from his heart, Aram now brightened at once
into himself in his happiest mood. He poured forth a torrent of grateful
confidence, of buoyant love, that soon swept from the remembrance of the
blushing and enchanted Madeline, the momentary fear, the sudden
chillness, which his look had involuntarily stricken into her mind. And
as they now wound along the most lonely part of that wild valley, his arm
twined round her waist, and his low but silver voice pouring magic into
the very air she breathed--she felt perhaps a more entire and unruffled
sentiment of present, and a more credulous persuasion of future,
happiness, than she had ever experienced before. And Aram himself dwelt
with a more lively and detailed fulness, than he was wont, on the
prospects they were to share, and the security and peace which retirement
would instill into their mode of life.

"Is it not," said he, with a lofty triumph that we shall look from our
retreat upon the shifting passions, and the hollow loves of the distant
world? We can have no petty object, no vain allurement to distract the
unity of our affection: we must be all in all to each other; for what
else can there be to engross our thoughts, and occupy our feelings here?

"If, my beautiful love, you have selected one whom the world might deem a
strange choice for youth and loveliness like yours; you have, at least,
selected one who can have no idol but yourself. The poets tell you, and
rightly, that solitude is the fit sphere for love; but how few are the
lovers whom solitude does not fatigue! they rush into retirement, with
souls unprepared for its stern joys and its unvarying tranquillity: they
weary of each other, because the solitude itself to which they fled,
palls upon and oppresses them. But to me, the freedom which low minds
call obscurity, is the aliment of life; I do not enter the temples of
Nature as the stranger, but the priest: nothing can ever tire me of the
lone and august altars, on which I sacrificed my youth: and now, what
Nature, what Wisdom once were to me--no, no, more, immeasurably more than
these, you are! Oh, Madeline! methinks there is nothing under Heaven like
the feeling which puts us apart from all that agitates, and fevers, and
degrades the herd of men; which grants us to control the tenour of our
future life, because it annihilates our dependence upon others, and,
while the rest of earth are hurried on, blind and unconscious, by the
hand of Fate, leaves us the sole lords of our destiny; and able, from the
Past, which we have governed, to become the Prophets of our Future!"

At this moment Madeline uttered a faint shriek, and clung trembling to
Aram's arm. Amazed, and roused from his enthusiasm, he looked up, and on
seeing the cause of her alarm, seemed himself transfixed, as by a sudden
terror, to the earth.

But a few paces distant, standing amidst the long and rank fern that grew
on either side of their path, quite motionless, and looking on the pair
with a sarcastic smile, stood the ominous stranger, whom the second
chapter of our first volume introduced to the reader.

For one instant Aram seemed utterly appalled and overcome; his cheek grew
the colour of death; and Madeline felt his heart beat with a loud, a
fearful force beneath the breast to which she clung. But his was not the
nature any earthly dread could long abash. He whispered to Madeline to
come on; and slowly, and with his usual firm but gliding step, continued
his way.

"Good evening, Eugene Aram," said the stranger; and as he spoke, he
touched his hat slightly to Madeline.

"I thank you," replied the Student, in a calm voice; "do you want aught
with me?"

"Humph!--yes, if it so please you?"

"Pardon me, dear Madeline," said Aram softly, and disengaging himself
from her, "but for one moment."

He advanced to the stranger, and Madeline could not but note that, as
Aram accosted him, his brow fell, and his manner seemed violent and
agitated; but she could not hear the words of either; nor did the
conference last above a minute. The stranger bowed, and turning away,
soon vanished among the shrubs. Aram regained the side of his mistress.

"Who," cried she eagerly, "is that fearful man? What is his business?
What his name?"

"He is a man whom I knew well some fourteen years ago," replied Aram
coldly, and with ease; "I did not then lead quite so lonely a life, and
we were thrown much together. Since that time, he has been in unfortunate
circumstances--rejoined the army--he was in early life a soldier, and had
been disbanded--entered into business, and failed; in short, he has
partaken of those vicissitudes inseparable from the life of one driven to
seek the world. When he travelled this road some months ago, he
accidentally heard of my residence in the neighbourhood, and naturally
sought me. Poor as I am, I was of some assistance to him. His route
brings him hither again, and he again seeks me: I suppose too that I must
again aid him."

"And is that indeed all," said Madeline, breathing more freely; "well,
poor man, if he be your friend, he must be inoffensive--I have done him
wrong. And does he want money? I have some to give him--here Eugene!" And
the simple-hearted girl put her purse into Aram's hand.

"No, dearest," said he, shrinking back; "no, we shall not require your
contribution; I can easily spare him enough for the present. But let us
turn back, it grows chill."

"And why did he leave us, Eugene?"

"Because I desired him to visit me at home an hour hence."

"An hour! then you will not sup with us to-night?"

"No, not this night, dearest."

The conversation now ceased; Madeline in vain endeavoured to renew it.
Aram, though without relapsing into any of his absorbed reveries,
answered her only in monosyllables. They arrived at the Manor-house, and
Aram at the garden gate took leave of her for the night, and hastened
backward towards his home. Madeline, after watching his form through the
deepening shadows until it disappeared, entered the house with a listless
step; a nameless and thrilling presentiment crept to her heart; and she
could have sate down and wept, though without a cause.



                              CHAPTER II.

              THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN ARAM AND THE STRANGER.

                   The spirits I have raised abandon me,
                   The spells which I have studied baffle me.
                                --Manfred.

Meanwhile Aram strode rapidly through the village, and not till he had
regained the solitary valley did he relax his step.

The evening had already deepened into night. Along the sere and
melancholy wood, the autumnal winds crept, with a lowly, but gathering
moan. Where the water held its course, a damp and ghostly mist clogged
the air, but the skies were calm, and chequered only by a few clouds,
that swept in long, white, spectral streaks, over the solemn stars. Now
and then, the bat wheeled swiftly round, almost touching the figure of
the Student, as he walked musingly onward. And the owl [Note: That
species called the short-eared owl.] that before the month waned many
days, would be seen no more in that region, came heavily from the trees,
like a guilty thought that deserts its shade. It was one of those nights,
half dim, half glorious, which mark the early decline of the year. Nature
seemed restless and instinct with change; there were those signs in the
atmosphere which leave the most experienced in doubt, whether the morning
may rise in storm or sunshine. And in this particular period, the skiey
influences seem to tincture the animal life with their own mysterious and
wayward spirit of change. The birds desert their summer haunts; an
unaccountable inquietude pervades the brute creation; even men in this
unsettled season have considered themselves, more (than at others)
stirred by the motion and whisperings of their genius. And every creature
that flows upon the tide of the Universal Life of Things, feels upon the
ruffled surface, the mighty and solemn change, which is at work within
its depths.

And now Aram had nearly threaded the valley, and his own abode became
visible on the opening plain, when the stranger emerged from the trees to
the right, and suddenly stood before the Student. "I tarried for you
here, Aram," said he, "instead of seeking you at home, at the time you
fixed; for there are certain private reasons which make it prudent I
should keep as much as possible among the owls, and it was therefore
safer, if not more pleasant, to lie here amidst the fern, than to make
myself merry in the village yonder."

"And what," said Aram, "again brings you hither? Did you not say, when
you visited me some months since, that you were about to settle in a
different part of the country, with a relation?"

"And so I intended; but Fate, as you would say, or the Devil, as I
should, ordered it otherwise. I had not long left you, when I fell in
with some old friends, bold spirits and true; the brave outlaws of the
road and the field. Shall I have any shame in confessing that I preferred
their society, a society not unfamiliar to me, to the dull and solitary
life that I might have led in tending my old bed-ridden relation in
Wales, who after all, may live these twenty years, and at the end can
scarce leave me enough for a week's ill luck at the hazard-table? In a
word, I joined my gallant friends, and entrusted myself to their
guidance. Since then, we have cruised around the country, regaled
ourselves cheerily, frightened the timid, silenced the fractious, and by
the help of your fate, or my devil, have found ourselves by accident,
brought to exhibit our valour in this very district, honoured by the
dwelling-place of my learned friend, Eugene Aram."

"Trifle not with me, Houseman," said Aram sternly; "I scarcely yet
understand you. Do you mean to imply, that yourself, and the lawless
associates you say you have joined, are lying out now for plunder in
these parts?"

"You say it: perhaps you heard of our exploits last night, some four
miles hence?"

"Ha! was that villainy yours?"

"Villainy!" repeated Houseman, in a tone of sullen offence. "Come, Master
Aram, these words must not pass between you and me, friends of such date,
and on such a footing."

"Talk not of the past," replied Aram with a livid lip, "and call not
those whom Destiny once, in despite of Nature, drove down her dark tide
in a momentary companionship, by the name of friends. Friends we are not;
but while we live, there is a tie between us stronger than that of
friendship."

"You speak truth and wisdom," said Houseman, sneeringly; "for my part, I
care not what you call us, friends or foes."

"Foes, foes!" exclaimed Aram abruptly, "not that. Has life no medium in
its ties?--pooh--pooh! not foes; we may not be foes to each other."

"It were foolish, at least at present," said Houseman carelessly.

"Look you, Houseman," continued Aram drawing his comrade from the path
into a wilder part of the scene, and, as he spoke, his words were couched
in a more low and inward voice than heretofore. "Look you, I cannot live
and have my life darkened thus by your presence. Is not the world wide
enough for us both? Why haunt each other? what have you to gain from me?
Can the thoughts that my sight recalls to you be brighter, or more
peaceful, than those which start upon me, when I gaze on you? Does not a
ghastly air, a charnel breath, hover about us both? Why perversely incur
a torture it is so easy to avoid? Leave me--leave these scenes. All earth
spreads before you--choose your pursuits, and your resting place
elsewhere, but grudge me not this little spot."

"I have no wish to disturb you, Eugene Aram, but I must live; and in
order to live I must obey my companions; if I deserted them, it would be
to starve. They will not linger long in this district; a week, it may be;
a fortnight, at most; then, like the Indian animal, they will strip the
leaves, and desert the tree. In a word, after we have swept the country,
we are gone."

"Houseman, Houseman!" said Aram passionately, and frowning till his brows
almost hid his eyes, but that part of the orb which they did not hide,
seemed as living fire; "I now implore, but I can threaten--beware!--
silence, I say;" (and he stamped his foot violently on the ground, as he
saw Houseman about to interrupt him;) "listen to me throughout--Speak not
to me of tarrying here--speak not of days, of weeks--every hour of which
would sound upon my ear like a death-knell. Dream not of a sojourn in
these tranquil shades, upon an errand of dread and violence--the minions
of the law aroused against you, girt with the chances of apprehension and
a shameful death--" "And a full confession of my past sins," interrupted
Houseman, laughing wildly.

"Fiend! devil!" cried Aram, grasping his comrade by the throat, and
shaking him with a vehemence that Houseman, though a man of great
strength and sinew, impotently attempted to resist.

"Breathe but another word of such import; dare to menace me with the
vengeance of such a thing as thou, and, by the God above us, I will lay
thee dead at my feet!"

"Release my throat, or you will commit murder," gasped Houseman with
difficulty, and growing already black in the face.

Aram suddenly relinquished his gripe, and walked away with a hurried
step, muttering to himself. He then returned to the side of Houseman,
whose flesh still quivered either with rage or fear, and, his own self-
possession completely restored, stood gazing upon him with folded arms,
and his usual deep and passionless composure of countenance; and
Houseman, if he could not boldly confront, did not altogether shrink
from, his eye. So there and thus they stood, at a little distance from
each other, both silent, and yet with something unutterably fearful in
their silence.

"Houseman," said Aram at length, in a calm, yet a hollow voice, "it may
be that I was wrong; but there lives no man on earth, save you, who could
thus stir my blood,--nor you with ease. And know, when you menace me,
that it is not your menace that subdues or shakes my spirit; but that
which robs my veins of their even tenor is that you should deem your
menace could have such power, or that you,--that any man,--should
arrogate to himself the thought that he could, by the prospect of
whatsoever danger, humble the soul and curb the will of Eugene Aram. And
now I am calm; say what you will, I cannot be vexed again."

"I have done," replied Houseman coldly; "I have nothing to say;
farewell!" and he moved away among the trees.

"Stay," cried Aram in some agitation; "stay; we must not part thus. Look
you, Houseman, you say you would starve should you leave your present
associates. That may not be; quit them this night,--this moment: leave
the neighbourhood, and the little in my power is at your will."

"As to that," said Houseman drily, "what is in your power is, I fear me,
so little as not to counterbalance the advantages I should lose in
quitting my companions. I expect to net some three hundreds before I
leave these parts."

"Some three hundreds!" repeated Aram recoiling; "that were indeed beyond
me. I told you when we last met that it is only by an annual payment I
draw the little wealth I have."

"I remember it. I do not ask you for money, Eugene Aram; these hands can
maintain me," replied Houseman, smiling grimly. "I told you at once the
sum I expected to receive somewhere, in order to prove that you need not
vex your benevolent heart to afford me relief. I knew well the sum I
named was out of your power, unless indeed it be part of the marriage
portion you are about to receive with your bride. Fie, Aram! what,
secrets from your old friend! You see I pick up the news of the place
without your confidence."

Again Aram's face worked, and his lip quivered; but he conquered his
passion with a surprising self-command, and answered mildly, "I do not
know, Houseman, whether I shall receive any marriage portion whatsoever:
If I do, I am willing to make some arrangement by which I could engage
you to molest me no more. But it yet wants several days to my marriage;
quit the neighbourhood now, and a month hence let us meet again. Whatever
at that time may be my resources, you shall frankly know them."

"It cannot be," said Houseman; "I quit not these districts without a
certain sum, not in hope, but possession. But why interfere with me? I
seek not my hoards in your coffer. Why so anxious that I should not
breathe the same air as yourself?"

"It matters not," replied Aram, with a deep and ghastly voice; "but when
you are near me, I feel as if I were with the dead; it is a spectre that
I would exorcise in ridding me of your presence. Yet this is not what I
now speak of. You are engaged, according to your own lips, in lawless and
midnight schemes, in which you may, (and the tide of chances runs towards
that bourne,) be seized by the hand of Justice."

"Ho," said Houseman, sullenly, "and was it not for saying that you feared
this, and its probable consequences, that you well-nigh stifled me, but
now?--so truth may be said one moment with impunity, and the next at
peril of life! These are the subtleties of you wise schoolmen, I suppose.
Your Aristotles, and your Zenos, your Platos, and your Epicurus's, teach
you notable distinctions, truly!"

"Peace!" said Aram; "are we at all times ourselves? Are the passions
never our masters? You maddened me into anger; behold, I am now calm: the
subjects discussed between myself and you, are of life and death; let us
approach them with our senses collected and prepared. What, Houseman, are
you bent upon your own destruction, as well as mine, that you persevere
in courses which must end in a death of shame?"

"What else can I do? I will not work, and I cannot live like you in a
lone wilderness on a crust of bread. Nor is my name like yours, mouthed
by the praise of honest men: my character is marked; those who once knew
me, shun now. I have no resource for society, (for I cannot face myself
alone,) but in the fellowship of men like myself, whom the world has
thrust from its pale. I have no resource for bread, save in the pursuits
that are branded by justice, and accompanied with snares and danger. What
would you have me do?"

"Is it not better," said Aram, "to enjoy peace and safety upon a small
but certain pittance, than to live thus from hand to mouth? vibrating
from wealth to famine, and the rope around your neck, sleeping and awake?
Seek your relation; in that quarter, you yourself said your character was
not branded: live with him, and know the quiet of easy days, and I
promise you, that if aught be in my power to make your lot more suitable
to your wants, so long as you lead the life of honest men, it shall be
freely yours. Is not this better, Houseman, than a short and sleepless
career of dread?"

"Aram," answered Houseman, "are you, in truth, calm enough to hear me
speak? I warn you, that if again you forget yourself, and lay hands on
me--" "Threaten not, threaten not," interrupted Aram, "but proceed; all
within me is now still and cold as ice. Proceed without fear of scruple."

"Be it so; we do not love one another: you have affected contempt for me--
and I--I--no matter--I am not a stone or stick, that I should not feel.
You have scorned me--you have outraged me--you have not assumed towards
me even the decent hypocrisies of prudence--yet now you would ask of me,
the conduct, the sympathy, the forbearance, the concession of friendship.
You wish that I should quit these scenes, where, to my judgment, a
certain advantage waits me, solely that I may lighten your breast of its
selfish fears. You dread the dangers that await me on your own account.
And in my apprehension, you forebode your own doom. You ask me, nay, not
ask, you would command, you would awe me to sacrifice my will and wishes,
in order to soothe your anxieties, and strengthen your own safety. Mark
me! Eugene Aram, I have been treated as a tool, and I will not be
governed as a friend. I will not stir from the vicinity of your home,
till my designs be fulfilled,--I enjoy, I hug myself in your torments. I
exult in the terror with which you will hear of each new enterprise, each
new daring, each new triumph of myself and my gallant comrades. And now I
am avenged for the affront you put upon me."

Though Aram trembled, with suppressed passions, from limb to limb, his
voice was still calm, and his lip even wore a smile as he answered,--"I
was prepared for this, Houseman, you utter nothing that surprises or
appalls me. You hate me; it is natural; men united as we are, rarely look
on each other with a friendly or a pitying eye. But Houseman; I know
you!--you are a man of vehement passions, but interest with you is yet
stronger than passion. If not, our conference is over. Go--and do your
worst."

"You are right, most learned scholar; I can fetter the tiger within, in
his deadliest rage, by a golden chain."

"Well, then, Houseman, it is not your interest to betray me--my
destruction is your own."

"I grant it; but if I am apprehended, and to be hung for robbery?"

"It will be no longer an object to you, to care for my safety. Assuredly,
I comprehend this. But my interest induces me to wish that you be removed
from the peril of apprehension, and your interest replies, that if you
can obtain equal advantages in security, you would forego advantages
accompanied by peril. Say what we will, wander as we will, it is to this
point that we must return at last."

"Nothing can be clearer; and were you a rich man, Eugene Aram, or could
you obtain your bride's dowry (no doubt a respectable sum) in advance,
the arrangement might at once be settled."

Aram gasped for breath, and as usual with him in emotion, made several
strides forward, muttering rapidly, and indistinctly to himself, and then
returned.

"Even were this possible, it would be but a short reprieve; I could not
trust you; the sum would be spent, and I again in the state to which you
have compelled me now; but without the means again to relieve myself. No,
no! if the blow must fall, be it so one day as another."

"As you will," said Houseman; 'but--' Just at that moment, a long shrill
whistle sounded below, as from the water. Houseman paused abruptly--"That
signal is from my comrades; I must away. Hark, again! Farewell, Aram."

"Farewell, if it must be so," said Aram, in a tone of dogged sullenness;
"but to-morrow, should you know of any means by which I could feel
secure, beyond the security of your own word, from your future
molestation, I might--yet how?"

"To-morrow," said Houseman, "I cannot answer for myself; it is not always
that I can leave my comrades; a natural jealousy makes them suspicious of
the absence of their friends. Yet hold; the night after to-morrow, the
Sabbath night, most virtuous Aram, I can meet you--but not here--some
miles hence. You know the foot of the Devil's Crag, by the waterfall; it
is a spot quiet and shaded enough in all conscience for our interview;
and I will tell you a secret I would trust to no other man--(hark,
again!)--it is close by our present lurking-place. Meet me there!--it
would, indeed, be pleasanter to hold our conference under shelter--but
just at present, I would rather not trust myself beneath any honest man's
roof in this neighbourhood. Adieu! on Sunday night, one hour before mid-
night."

The robber, for such then he was, waved his hand, and hurried away in the
direction from which the signal seemed to come.

Aram gazed after him, but with vacant eyes; and remained for several
minutes rooted to the spot, as if the very life had left him.

"The Sabbath night!" said he, at length, moving slowly on; "and I must
spin forth my existence in trouble and fear till then--till then! what
remedy can I then invent? It is clear that I can have no dependance on
his word, if won; and I have not even aught wherewith to buy it. But
courage, courage, my heart; and work thou, my busy brain! Ye have never
failed me yet!"



                              CHAPTER III.

     FRESH ALARM IN THE VILLAGE.--LESTER'S VISIT TO ARAM.--A TRAIT
     OF DELICATE KINDNESS IN THE STUDENT.--MADELINE.--HER PRONENESS
         TO CONFIDE.--THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN LESTER AND ARAM.
               --THE PERSONS BY WHOM IT IS INTERRUPTED.

                Not my own fears, nor the prophetic soul
                Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,
                Can yet the lease of my true love controul.
                         --Shakspeare: Sonnets.

                Commend me to their love, and I am proud, say,
                That my occasions have found time to use them
                Toward a supply of money; let the request
                Be fifty talents.
                         --Timon Of Athens.

The next morning the whole village was alive and bustling with terror and
consternation. Another, and a yet more daring robbery, had been committed
in the neighbourhood, and the police of the county town had been
summoned, and were now busy in search of the offenders. Aram had been
early disturbed by the officious anxiety of some of his neighbours; and
it wanted yet some hours of noon, when Lester himself came to seek and
consult with the Student.

Aram was alone in his large and gloomy chamber, surrounded, as usual,
by his books, but not as usual engaged in their contents. With his face
leaning on his hand, and his eyes gazing on a dull fire, that crept
heavily upward through the damp fuel, he sate by his hearth, listless,
but wrapt in thought.

"Well, my friend," said Lester, displacing the books from one of the
chairs, and drawing the seat near the Student's--"you have ere this heard
the news, and indeed in a county so quiet as ours, these outrages appear
the more fearful, from their being so unlooked for. We must set a guard
in the village, Aram, and you must leave this defenceless hermitage and
come down to us; not for your own sake,--but consider you will be an
additional safeguard to Madeline. You will lock up the house, dismiss
your poor old governante to her friends in the village, and walk back
with me at once to the hall."

Aram turned uneasily in his chair.

"I feel your kindness," said he after a pause, "but I cannot accept it--
Madeline," he stopped short at that name, and added in an altered voice;
"no, I will be one of the watch, Lester; I will look to her--to your--
safety; but I cannot sleep under another roof. I am superstitious, Lester
--superstitious. I have made a vow, a foolish one perhaps, but I dare not
break it. And my vow binds me, save on indispensable and urgent
necessity, not to pass a night any where but in my own home."

"But there is necessity."

"My conscience says not," said Aram smiling: "peace, my good friend, we
cannot conquer men's foibles, or wrestle with men's scruples."

Lester in vain attempted to shake Aram's resolution on this head; he
found him immoveable, and gave up the effort in despair.

"Well," said he, "at all events we have set up a watch, and can spare you
a couple of defenders. They shall reconnoitre in the neighbourhood of
your house, if you persevere in your determination, and this will serve
in some slight measure to satisfy poor Madeline."

"Be it so," replied Aram; "and dear Madeline herself, is she so alarmed?"

And now in spite of all the more wearing and haggard thoughts that preyed
upon his breast, and the dangers by which he conceived himself beset, the
Student's face, as he listened with eager attention to every word that
Lester uttered concerning his niece, testified how alive he yet was to
the least incident that related to Madeline, and how easily her innocent
and peaceful remembrance could allure him from himself.

"This room," said Lester, looking round, "will be, I conclude, after
Madeline's own heart; but will you always suffer her here? students do
not sometimes like even the gentlest interruption."

"I have not forgotten that Madeline's comfort requires some more cheerful
retreat than this," said Aram, with a melancholy expression of
countenance. "Follow me, Lester; I meant this for a little surprise to
her. But Heaven only knows if I shall ever show it to herself?"

"Why? what doubt of that can even your boding temper discover?"

"We are as the wanderers in the desert," answered Aram, "who are taught
wisely to distrust their own senses: that which they gaze upon as the
waters of existence, is often but a faithless vapour that would lure them
to destruction."

In thus speaking he had traversed the room, and, opening a door, showed a
small chamber with which it communicated, and which Aram had fitted up
with evident, and not ungraceful care. Every article of furniture that
Madeline might most fancy, he had sent for from the neighbouring town.
And some of the lighter and more attractive books that he possessed, were
ranged around on shelves, above which were vases, intended for flowers;
the window opened upon a little plot that had been lately broken up into
a small garden, and was already intersected with walks, and rich with
shrubs.

There was something in this chamber that so entirely contrasted the one
it adjoined, something so light, and cheerful, and even gay in its
decoration and its tout ensemble, that Lester uttered an exclamation of
delight and surprise. And indeed it did appear to him touching, that this
austere scholar, so wrapt in thought, and so inattentive to the common
forms of life, should have manifested this tender and delicate
consideration. In another it would have been nothing, but in Aram, it was
a trait, that brought involuntary tears to the eyes of the good Lester.
Aram observed them: he walked hastily away to the window, and sighed
heavily; this did not escape his friend's notice, and after commenting on
the attractions of the little room--Lester said: "You seem oppressed in
spirits, Eugene: can any thing have chanced to disturb you, beyond, at
least, these alarms which are enough to agitate the nerves of the
hardiest of us?"

"No," said Aram; "I had no sleep last night, and my health is easily
affected, and with my health my mind; but let us go to Madeline; the
sight of her will revive me."

They then strolled down to the Manor-house, and met by the way a band of
the younger heroes of the village, who had volunteered to act as a
patrole, and who were now marshalled by Peter Dealtry, in a fit of heroic
enthusiasm.

Although it was broad daylight, and, consequently, there was little cause
of immediate alarm, the worthy publican carried on his shoulder a musket
on full cock; and each moment he kept peeping about, as if not only every
bush, but every blade of grass contained an ambuscade, ready to spring up
the instant he was off his guard. By his side the redoubted Jacobina, who
had transferred to her new master, the attachment she had originally
possessed for the Corporal, trotted peeringly along, her tail
perpendicularly cocked, and her ears moving to and fro, with a most
incomparable air of vigilant sagacity. The cautious Peter every now and
then checked her ardour, as she was about to quicken her step, and
enliven the march by the gambols better adapted to serener times.

"Soho, Jacobina, soho! gently, girl, gently; thou little knowest the
dangers that may beset thee. Come up, my good fellows, come to the
Spotted Dog; I will tap a barrel on purpose for you; and we will settle
the plan of defence for the night. Jacobina, come in, I say, come in,--

              "'Lest, like a lion, they thee tear,
                And rend in pieces small;
                While there is none to succour thee,
                And rid thee out of thrall.'

What ho, there! Oh! I beg your honour's pardon! Your servant, Mr. Aram."

"What, patroling already?" said the squire; "your men will be tired
before they are wanted; reserve their ardour for the night."

"Oh, your Honour, I have only been beating up for recruits; and we are
going to consult a bit at home. Ah! what a pity the Corporal isn't here:
he would have been a tower of strength unto the righteous. But
howsomever, I do my best to supply his place--Jacobina, child, be still:
I can't say as I knows the musket-sarvice, your honour; but I fancy's as
how, like Joe Roarjug, the Methodist, we can do it extemporaneous-like at
a pinch."

"A bold heart, Peter, is the best preparation," said the squire.

"And," quoth Peter quickly, "what saith the worshipful Mister Sternhold,
in the 45th psalm, 5th verse,--

'Go forth with godly speed, in meekness, truth, and might,
And thy right hand shall thee instruct in works of dreadful might.'"

Peter quoted these verses, especially the last, with a truculent frown,
and a brandishing of the musket, that surprisingly encouraged the hearts
of his little armament; and with a general murmur of enthusiasm, the
warlike band marched off to The Spotted Dog.

Lester and his companion found Madeline and Ellinor standing at the
window of the hall; and Madeline's light step was the first that sprang
forward to welcome their return: even the face of the Student brightened,
when he saw the kindling eye, the parted lip, the buoyant form, from
which the pure and innocent gladness she felt on seeing him broke forth.

There was a remarkable trustingness, if I may so speak, in Madeline's
disposition. Thoughtful and grave as she was, by nature, she was yet ever
inclined to the more sanguine colourings of life; she never turned to the
future with fear--a placid sentiment of Hope slept at her heart--she was
one who surrendered herself with a fond and implicit faith to the
guidance of all she loved; and to the chances of life. It was a sweet
indolence of the mind, which made one of her most beautiful traits of
character; there is something so unselfish in tempers reluctant to
despond. You see that such persons are not occupied with their own
existence; they are not fretting the calm of the present life, with the
egotisms of care, and conjecture, and calculation: if they learn anxiety,
it is for another; but in the heart of that other, how entire is their
trust!

It was this disposition in Madeline which perpetually charmed, and yet
perpetually wrung, the soul of her wild lover; and as she now delightedly
hung upon his arm, uttering her joy at seeing him safe, and presently
forgetting that there ever had been cause for alarm, his heart was filled
with the most gloomy sense of horror and desolation. "What," thought he,
"if this poor, unconscious girl could dream that at this moment I am
girded with peril, from which I see no ultimate escape? Delay it as I
will, it seems as if the blow must come at last. What, if she could think
how fearful is my interest in these outrages, that in all probability, if
their authors are detected, there is one who will drag me into their
ruin; that I am given over, bound and blinded, into the hands of another;
and that other, a man steeled to mercy, and withheld from my destruction
by a thread--a thread that a blow on himself would snap. Great God!
wherever I turn, I see despair! And she--she clings to me; and beholding
me, thinks the whole earth is filled with hope!"

While these thoughts darkened his mind, Madeline drew him onward into the
more sequestered walks of the garden, to show him some flowers she had
transplanted. And when an hour afterwards he returned to the hall, so
soothing had been the influence of her looks and words upon Aram, that if
he had not forgotten the situation in which he stood, he had at least
calmed himself to regard with a steady eye the chances of escape.

The meal of the day passed as cheerfully as usual, and when Aram and his
host were left over their abstemious potations, the former proposed a
walk before the evening deepened. Lester readily consented, and they
sauntered into the fields. The Squire soon perceived that something was
on Aram's mind, of which he felt evident embarrassment in ridding
himself: at length the Student said rather abruptly: "My dear friend, I
am but a bad beggar, and therefore let me get over my request as
expeditiously as possible. You said to me once that you intended
bestowing some dowry upon Madeline; a dowry I would and could willingly
dispense with; but should you of that sum be now able to spare me some
portion as a loan,--should you have some three hundred pounds with which
you could accommodate me.--" "Say no more, Eugene, say no more,"
interrupted the Squire,--"you can have double that amount. Your
preparations for your approaching marriage, I ought to have foreseen,
must have occasioned you some inconvenience; you can have six hundred
pounds from me to-morrow."

Aram's eyes brightened. "It is too much, too much, my generous friend,"
said he; "the half suffices--but, but, a debt of old standing presses me
urgently, and to-morrow, or rather Monday morning, is the time fixed for
payment."

"Consider it arranged," said Lester, putting his hand on Aram's arm, and
then leaning on it gently, he added, "And now that we are on this
subject, let me tell you what I intended as a gift to you, and my dear
Madeline; it is but small, but my estates are rigidly entailed on Walter,
and of poor value in themselves, and it is half the savings of many
years."

The Squire then named a sum, which, however small it may seem to our
reader, was not considered a despicable portion for the daughter of a
small country squire at that day, and was in reality, a generous
sacrifice for one whose whole income was scarcely, at the most, seven
hundred a year. The sum mentioned doubled that now to be lent, and which
was of course a part of it; an equal portion was reserved for Ellinor.

"And to tell you the truth," said the Squire, "you must give me some
little time for the remainder--for not thinking some months ago it would
be so soon wanted, I laid out eighteen hundred pounds, in the purchase of
Winclose Farm, six of which, (the remainder of your share,) I can pay off
at the end of the year; the other twelve, Ellinor's portion, will remain
a mortgage on the farm itself. And between us," added the Squire, "I do
hope that I need be in no hurry respecting her, dear girl. When Walter
returns, I trust matters may be arranged, in a manner, and through a
channel, that would gratify the most cherished wish of my heart. I am
convinced that Ellinor is exactly suited to him; and, unless he should
lose his senses for some one else in the course of his travels, I trust
that he will not be long returned before he will make the same discovery.
I think of writing to him very shortly after your marriage, and making
him promise, at all events, to revisit us at Christmas. Ah! Eugene, we
shall be a happy party, then, I trust. And be assured, that we shall beat
up your quarters, and put your hospitality, and Madeline's housewifery to
the test."

Therewith the good Squire ran on for some minutes in the warmth of his
heart, dilating on the fireside prospects before them, and rallying the
Student on those secluded habits, which he promised him he should no
longer indulge with impunity.

"But it is growing dark," said he, awakening from the theme which had
carried him away, "and by this time Peter and our patrole will be at the
hall. I told them to look up in the evening, in order to appoint their
several duties and stations--let us turn back. Indeed, Aram, I can assure
you, that I, for my own part, have some strong reasons to take
precautions against any attack; for besides the old family plate, (though
that's not much,) I have,--you know the bureau in the parlour to the left
of the hall--well, I have in that bureau three hundred guineas, which I
have not as yet been able to take to safe hands at--, and which, by the
way, will be your's to-morrow. So, you see, it would be no light
misfortune to me to be robbed."

"Hist!" said Aram, stopping short, "I think I heard steps on the other
side of the hedge."

The Squire listened, but heard nothing; the senses of his companion were,
however, remarkably acute, more especially that of hearing.

"There is certainly some one; nay, I catch the steps of two persons,"
whispered he to Lester. "Let us come round the hedge by the gap below."

They both quickened their pace, and gaining the other side of the hedge,
did indeed perceive two men in carters' frocks, strolling on towards the
village.

"They are strangers too," said the Squire suspiciously, "not Grassdale
men. Humph! could they have overheard us, think you?"

"If men whose business it is to overhear their neighbours--yes; but not
if they be honest men," answered Aram, in one of those shrewd remarks
which he often uttered, and which seemed almost incompatible with the
tenor of the quiet and abstruse pursuits that he had adopted, and that
generally deaden the mind to worldly wisdom.

They had now approached the strangers, who, however, appeared mere rustic
clowns, and who pulled off their hats with the wonted obeisance of their
tribe.

"Hollo, my men," said the Squire, assuming his magisterial air, for the
mildest Squire in Christendom can play the Bashaw, when he remembers he
is a Justice of the Peace. "Hollo! what are you doing here this time of
day? you are not after any good, I fear."

"We ax pardon, your honour," said the elder clown, in the peculiar accent
of the country, "but we be come from Gladsmuir; and be going to work at
Squire Nixon's at Mow-hall, on Monday; so as I has a brother living on
the green afore the Squire's, we be a-going to sleep there to-night and
spend the Sunday, your honour."

"Humph! humph! What's your name?"

"Joe Wood, your honour, and this here chap is, Will Hutchings."

"Well, well, go along with you," said the Squire: "And mind what you are
about. I should not be surprised if you snare one of Squire Nixon's hares
by the way."

"Oh, well and indeed, your honour."--"Go along, go along," said the
Squire, and away went the men.

"They seem honest bumpkins enough," observed Lester.

"It would have pleased me better," said Aram, "had the speaker of the two
particularized less; and you observed that he seemed eager not to let his
companion speak; that is a little suspicious."

"Shall I call them back?" asked the Squire.

"Why it is scarcely worth while," said Aram; "perhaps I over refine. And
now I look again at them, they seem really what they affect to be. No, it
is useless to molest the poor wretches any more. There is something,
Lester, humbling to human pride in a rustic's life. It grates against the
heart to think of the tone in which we unconsciously permit ourselves to
address him. We see in him humanity in its simple state; it is a sad
thought to feel that we despise it; that all we respect in our species is
what has been created by art; the gaudy dress, the glittering equipage,
or even the cultivated intellect; the mere and naked material of Nature,
we eye with indifference or trample on with disdain. Poor child of toil,
from the grey dawn to the setting sun, one long task!--no idea elicited--
no thought awakened beyond those that suffice to make him the machine of
others--the serf of the hard soil! And then too, mark how we scowl upon
his scanty holidays, how we hedge in his mirth with laws, and turn his
hilarity into crime! We make the whole of the gay world, wherein we walk
and take our pleasure, to him a place of snares and perils. If he leave
his labour for an instant, in that instant how many temptations spring up
to him! And yet we have no mercy for his errors; the gaol--the transport-
ship--the gallows; those are our sole lecture-books, and our only
methods of expostulation--ah, fie on the disparities of the world! They
cripple the heart, they blind the sense, they concentrate the thousand
links between man and man, into the two basest of earthly ties--
servility, and pride. Methinks the devils laugh out when they hear us
tell the boor that his soul is as glorious and eternal as our own; and
yet when in the grinding drudgery of his life, not a spark of that soul
can be called forth; when it sleeps, walled around in its lumpish clay,
from the cradle to the grave, without a dream to stir the deadness of its
torpor."

"And yet, Aram," said Lester, "the Lords of science have their ills.
Exalt the soul as you will, you cannot raise it above pain. Better,
perhaps, to let it sleep, when in waking it looks only upon a world of
trial."

"You say well, you say well," said Aram smiting his heart, "and I
suffered a foolish sentiment to carry me beyond the sober boundaries of
our daily sense."



                              CHAPTER IV.

      MILITARY PREPARATIONS.--THE COMMANDER AND HIS MAN.--ARAM IS
            PERSUADED TO PASS THE NIGHT AT THE MANOR-HOUSE.

           Falstaff.--"Bid my Lieutenant Peto meet me at the town's end.
           . . I pressed me none but such toasts and butter, with hearts
           in their bellies no bigger than pins' heads."
                    --Henry IV.

They had scarcely reached the Manor-house, before the rain, which the
clouds had portended throughout the whole day, began to descend in
torrents, and to use the strong expression of the Roman poet--the night
rushed down, black and sudden, over the face of the earth.

The new watch were not by any means the hardy and experienced soldiery,
by whom rain and darkness are unheeded. They looked with great dismay
upon the character of the night in which their campaign was to commence.
The valorous Peter, who had sustained his own courage by repeated
applications to a little bottle, which he never failed to carry about him
in all the more bustling and enterprising occasions of life, endeavoured,
but with partial success, to maintain the ardour of his band. Seated in
the servants' hall of the Manor-house, in a large arm-chair, Jacobina on
his knee, and his trusty musket, which, to the great terror of the
womankind, had never been uncocked throughout the day, still grasped in
his right hand, while the stock was grounded on the floor; he indulged in
martial harangues, plentifully interlarded with plagiarisms from the
worshipful translations of Messrs. Sternhold and Hopkins, and psalmodic
versions of a more doubtful authorship. And when at the hour of ten,
which was the appointed time, he led his warlike force, which consisted
of six rustics, armed with sticks of incredible thickness, three guns,
one pistol, a broadsword, and a pitchfork, (a weapon likely to be more
effectively used than all the rest put together;) when at the hour of ten
he led them up to the room above, where they were to be passed in review
before the critical eye of the Squire, with Jacobina leading the on-
guard, you could not fancy a prettier picture for a hero in a little way,
than mine host of the Spotted Dog.

His hat was fastened tight on his brows by a blue pocket-handkerchief; he
wore a spencer of a light brown drugget, a world too loose, above a
leather jerkin; his breeches of corduroy, were met all of a sudden half
way up the thigh, by a detachment of Hessians, formerly in the service of
the Corporal, and bought some time since by Peter Dealtry to wear when
employed in shooting snipes for the Squire, to whom he occasionally
performed the office of game-keeper; suspended round his wrist by a bit
of black ribbon, was his constable's baton; he shouldered his musket
gallantly, and he carried his person as erect as if the least deflexion
from its perpendicularity were to cost him his life. One may judge of the
revolution that had taken place in the village, when so peaceable a man
as Peter Dealtry was thus metamorphosed into a commander-in-chief. The
rest of the regiment hung sheepishly back; each trying to get as near to
the door, and as far from the ladies, as possible. But Peter having made
up his mind, that a hero should only look straight forward, did not
condescend to turn round, to perceive the irregularity of his line.
Secure in his own existence, he stood truculently forth, facing the
Squire, and prepared to receive his plaudits.

Madeline and Aram sat apart at one corner of the hearth, and Ellinor
leaned over the chair of the former; the mirth that she struggled to
suppress from being audible, mantling over her arch face and laughing
eyes; while the Squire, taking the pipe from his mouth, turned round on
his easy chair, and nodded complacently to the little corps, and the
great commander.

"We are all ready now, your honour," said Peter, in a voice that did not
seem to belong to his body, so big did it sound, "all hot, all eager."

"Why you yourself are a host, Peter," said Ellinor with affected gravity;
"your sight alone would frighten an army of robbers: who could have
thought you could assume so military an air? The Corporal himself was
never so upright!"

"I have practised my present attitude all the day, Miss," said Peter,
proudly, "and I believe I may now say as Mr. Sternhold says or sings, in
the twenty-sixth Psalm, verse twelfth.

                'My foot is stayed for all assays,
                  It standeth well and right,
                Wherefore to God--will I give praise
                  In all the people's sight!'

Jacobina, behave yourself, child. I don't think, your honour, that we
miss the Corporal so much as I fancied at first, for we all does very
well without him."

"Indeed you are a most worthy substitute, Peter; and now, Nell, just
reach me my hat and cloak; I will set you at your posts: you will have an
ugly night of it."

"Very indeed, your honour," cried all the army, speaking for the first
time.

"Silence--order--discipline," said Peter gruffly. "March!"

But instead of marching across the hall, the recruits huddled up one
after the other, like a flock of geese, whom Jacobina might be supposed
to have set in motion, and each scraping to the ladies, as they shuffled,
sneaked, bundled, and bustled out at the door.

"We are well guarded now, Madeline," said Ellinor; "I fancy we may go to
sleep as safely as if there were not a housebreaker in the world."

"Why," said Madeline, "let us trust they will be more efficient than they
seem, though I cannot persuade myself that we shall really need them. One
might almost as well conceive a tiger in our arbour, as a robber in
Grassdale. But dear, dear Eugene, do not--do not leave us this night;
Walter's room is ready for you, and if it were only to walk across that
valley in such weather, it would be cruel to leave us. Let me beseech
you; come, you cannot, you dare not refuse me such a favour."

Aram pleaded his vow, but it was overruled; Madeline proved herself a
most exquisite casuist in setting it aside. One by one his objections
were broken down; and how, as he gazed into those eyes, could he keep any
resolution, that Madeline wished him to break! The power she possessed
over him seemed exactly in proportion to his impregnability to every one
else. The surface on which the diamond cuts its easy way, will yield to
no more ignoble instrument; it is easy to shatter it, but by only one
substance can it be impressed. And in this instance Aram had but one
secret and strong cause to prevent his yielding to Madeline's wishes;--if
he remained at the house this night, how could he well avoid a similar
compliance the next? And on the next was his interview with Houseman.
This reason was not, however, strong enough to enable him to resist
Madeline's soft entreaties; he trusted to the time to furnish him with
excuses, and when Lester returned, Madeline with a triumphant air
informed him that Aram had consented to be their guest for the night."

"Your influence is indeed greater than mine," said Lester, wringing his
hat as the delicate fingers of Ellinor loosened his cloak; "yet one can
scarcely think our friend sacrifices much in concession, after proving
the weather without. I should pity our poor patrole most exceedingly, if
I were not thoroughly assured that within two hours every one of them
will have quietly slunk home; and even Peter himself, when he has
exhausted his bottle, will be the first to set the example. However, I
have stationed two of the men near our house, and the rest at equal
distances along the village."

"Do you really think they will go home, Sir?" said Ellinor, in a little
alarm; "why they would be worse than I thought them, if they were driven
to bed by the rain. I knew they could not stand a pistol, but a shower,
however hard, I did imagine would scarcely quench their valour."

"Never mind, girl," said Lester, gaily chucking her under the chin, "we
are quite strong enough now to resist them. You see Madeline has grown as
brave as a lioness--Come, girls, come, let's have supper, and stir up the
fire. And, Nell, where are my slippers?"

And thus on the little family scene, the cheerful wood fire flickering
against the polished wainscot; the supper table arranged, the Squire
drawing his oak chair towards it, Ellinor mixing his negus; and Aram and
Madeline, though three times summoned to the table, and having three
times answered to the summons, still lingering apart by the hearth--let
us drop the curtain.

We have only, ere we close our chapter, to observe, that when Lester
conducted Aram to his chamber he placed in his hands an order payable at
the county town, for three hundred pounds. "The rest," he said in a
whisper, "is below, where I mentioned; and there in my secret drawer it
had better rest till the morning."

The good Squire then, putting his finger to his lip, hurried away, to
avoid the thanks, which, indeed, however he might feel them, Aram was no
dexterous adept in expressing.



                               CHAPTER V.

           THE SISTERS ALONE.--THE GOSSIP OF LOVE.--AN ALARM
                           --AND AN EVENT.

                   Juliet.--My true love is grown to such excess,
                   I cannot sum up half my sum of wealth.
                                --Romeo and Juliet.

                   Eros.--Oh, a man in arms;
                   His weapon drawn, too!
                                --The False One.

It was a custom with the two sisters, when they repaired to their chamber
for the night, to sit conversing, sometimes even for hours, before they
finally retired to bed. This indeed was the usual time for their little
confidences, and their mutual dilations over those hopes and plans for
the future, which always occupy the larger share of the thoughts and
conversation of the young. I do not know any thing in the world more
lovely than such conferences between two beings who have no secrets to
relate but what arise, all fresh, from the springs of a guiltless heart,-
-those pure and beautiful mysteries of an unsullied nature which warm us
to hear; and we think with a sort of wonder when we feel how arid
experience has made ourselves, that so much of the dew and sparkle of
existence still linger in the nooks and valleys, which are as yet virgin
of the sun and of mankind.

The sisters this night were more than commonly indifferent to sleep.
Madeline sate by the small but bright hearth of the chamber, in her night
dress, and Ellinor, who was much prouder of her sister's beauty than her
own, was employed in knotting up the long and lustrous hair which fell in
rich luxuriance over Madeline's throat and shoulders.

"There certainly never was such beautiful hair!" said Ellinor admiringly;
"and, let me see,--yes,--on Thursday fortnight I may be dressing it,
perhaps, for the last time--heigho!"

"Don't flatter yourself that you are so near the end of your troublesome
duties," said Madeline, with her pretty smile, which had been much
brighter and more frequent of late than it was formerly wont to be, so
that Lester had remarked "That Madeline really appeared to have become
the lighter and gayer of the two."

"You will often come to stay with us for weeks together, at least till--
till you have a double right to be mistress here. Ah! my poor hair,--you
need not pull it so hard."

"Be quiet, then," said Ellinor, half laughing, and wholly blushing.

"Trust me, I have not been in love myself without learning its signs; and
I venture to prophesy that within six months you will come to consult me
whether or not,--for there is a great deal to be said on both sides of
the question,--you can make up your mind to sacrifice your own wishes,
and marry Walter Lester. Ah!--gently, gently. Nell--" "Promise to be
quiet."

"I will--I will; but you began it."

As Ellinor now finished her task, and kissed her sister's forehead, she
sighed deeply.

"Happy Walter!" said Madeline.

"I was not sighing for Walter, but for you."

"For me?--impossible! I cannot imagine any part of my future life that
can cost you a sigh. Ah! that I were more worthy of my happiness."

"Well, then," said Ellinor, "I sighed for myself;--I sighed to think we
should so soon be parted, and that the continuance of your society would
then depend not on our mutual love, but the will of another."

"What, Ellinor, and can you suppose that Eugene,--my Eugene,--would not
welcome you as warmly as myself? Ah! you misjudge him; I know you have
not yet perceived how tender a heart lies beneath all that melancholy and
reserve."

"I feel, indeed," said Ellinor warmly, "as if it were impossible that one
whom you love should not be all that is good and noble; yet if this
reserve of his should increase, as is at least possible, with increasing
years; if our society should become again, as it once was, distasteful to
him, should I not lose you, Madeline?"

"But his reserve cannot increase: do you not perceive how much it is
softened already? Ah! be assured that I will charm it away."

"But what is the cause of the melancholy that even now, at times,
evidently preys upon him?--has he never revealed it to you?"

"It is merely the early and long habit of solitude and study, Ellinor,"
replied Madeline; "and shall I own to you I would scarcely wish that
away; his tenderness itself seems linked with his melancholy. It is like
a sad but gentle music, that brings tears into our eyes, but which we
would not change for gayer airs for the world."

"Well, I must own," said Ellinor, reluctantly, "that I no longer wonder
at your infatuation; I can no longer chide you as I once did; there is,
assuredly, something in his voice, his look, which irresistibly sinks
into the heart. And there are moments when, what with his eyes and
forehead, his countenance seems more beautiful, more impressive, than any
I ever beheld. Perhaps, too, for you, it is better, that your lover
should be no longer in the first flush of youth. Your nature seems to
require something to venerate, as well as to love. And I have ever
observed at prayers, that you seem more especially rapt and carried
beyond yourself, in those passages which call peculiarly for worship and
adoration."

"Yes, dearest," said Madeline fervently, "I own that Eugene is of all
beings, not only of all whom I ever knew, but of whom I ever dreamed, or
imagined, the one that I am most fitted to love and to appreciate. His
wisdom, but more than that, the lofty tenor of his mind, calls forth all
that is highest and best in my own nature. I feel exalted when I listen
to him;--and yet, how gentle, with all that nobleness! And to think that
he should descend to love me, and so to love me. It is as if a star were
to leave its sphere!"

"Hark! one o'clock," said Ellinor, as the deep voice of the clock told
the first hour of morning. "Heavens! how much louder the winds rave. And
how the heavy sleet drives against the window! Our poor watch without!
but you may be sure my uncle was right, and they are safe at home by this
time; nor is it likely, I should think, that even robbers would be abroad
in such weather!"

"I have heard," said Madeline, "that robbers generally choose these dark,
stormy nights for their designs, but I confess I don't feel much alarm,
and he is in the house. Draw nearer to the fire, Ellinor; is it not
pleasant to see how serenely it burns, while the storm howls without! it
is like my Eugene's soul, luminous, and lone, amidst the roar and
darkness of this unquiet world!"

"There spoke himself," said Ellinor smiling to perceive how invariably
women, who love, imitate the tone of the beloved one. And Madeline felt
it, and smiled too.

"Hist!" said Ellinor abruptly, "did you not hear a low, grating noise
below? Ah! the winds now prevent your catching the sound; but hush,
hush!--now the wind pauses,--there it is again!"

"Yes, I hear it," said Madeline, turning pale, "it seems in the little
parlour; a continued, harsh, but very low, noise. Good heavens! it seems
at the window below."

"It is like a file," whispered Ellinor: "perhaps--" "You are right," said
Madeline, suddenly rising, "it is a file, and at the bars my father had
fixed against the window yesterday. Let us go down, and alarm the house."

"No, no; for God's sake, don't be so rash," cried Ellinor, losing all
presence of mind: "hark! the sound ceases, there is a louder noise below,
--and steps. Let us lock the door."

But Madeline was of that fine and high order of spirit which rises in
proportion to danger, and calming her sister as well as she could, till
she found her attempts wholly ineffectual, she seized the light with a
steady hand, opened the door, and Ellinor still clinging to her, passed
the landing-place, and hastened to her father's room; he slept at the
opposite corner of the staircase. Aram's chamber was at the extreme end
of the house. Before she reached the door of Lester's apartment, the
noise below grew loud and distinct--a scuffle--voices--curses--and now--
the sound of a pistol!--in a moment more the whole house was stirring.
Lester in his night robe, his broadsword in his hand, and his long grey
hair floating behind, was the first to appear; the servants, old and
young, male and female, now came thronging simultaneously round; and in a
general body, Lester several paces at their head, his daughters following
next to him, they rushed to the apartment whence the noise, now suddenly
stilled, had proceeded.

The window was opened, evidently by force; an instrument like a wedge was
fixed in the bureau containing Lester's money, and seemed to have been
left there, as if the person using it had been disturbed before the
design for which it was introduced had been accomplished, and, (the only
evidence of life,) Aram stood, dressed, in the centre of the room, a
pistol in his left hand, a sword in his right; a bludgeon severed in two
lay at his feet, and on the floor within two yards of him, towards the
window, drops of blood yet warm, showed that the pistol had not been
discharged in vain.

"And is it you, my brave friend, that I have to thank for our safety?"
cried Lester in great emotion.

"You, Eugene!" repeated Madeline, sinking on his breast.

"But thanks hereafter," continued Lester; "let us now to the pursuit,--
perhaps the villain may have perished beneath your bullet?"

"Ha!" muttered Aram, who had hitherto seemed unconscious of all around
him; so fixed had been his eye, so colourless his cheek, so motionless
his posture. "Ha! say you so?--think you I have slain him?--no, it cannot
be--the ball did not slay, I saw him stagger; but he rallied--not so one
who receives a mortal wound!--ha! ha!--there is blood, you say, that is
true; but what then!--it is not the first wound that kills, you must
strike again--pooh, pooh, what is a little blood!"

While he was thus muttering, Lester and the more active of the servants
had already sallied through the window, but the night was so intensely
dark that they could not penetrate a step beyond them. Lester returned,
therefore, in a few moments; and met Aram's dark eye fixed upon him with
an unutterable expression of anxiety.

"You have found no one," said he, "no dying man?--Ha!--well--well--well!
they must both have escaped; the night must favour them."

"Do you fancy the villain was severely wounded?"

"Not so--I trust not so; he seemed able to--But stop--oh God!--stop!--
your foot is dabbling in blood--blood shed by me,--off! off!"

Lester moved aside with a quick abhorrence, as he saw that his feet were
indeed smearing the blood over the polished and slippery surface of the
oak boards, and in moving he stumbled against a dark lantern in which the
light still burnt, and which the robbers in their flight had left.

"Yes," said Aram observing it. "It was by that--their own light that I
saw them--saw their faces--and--and--(bursting into a loud, wild laugh)
they were both strangers!"

"Ah, I thought so, I knew so," said Lester plucking the instrument from
the bureau. "I knew they could be no Grassdale men. What, did you fancy,
they could be? But--bless me, Madeline--what ho! help!--Aram, she has
fainted at your feet."

And it was indeed true and remarkable, that so utter had been the
absorption of Aram's mind, that he had been insensible not only to the
entrance of Madeline, but even that she had thrown herself on his breast.
And she, overcome by her feelings, had slid to the ground from that
momentary resting-place, in a swoon which Lester, in the general tumult
and confusion, was now the first to perceive.

At this exclamation, at the sound of Madeline's name, the blood rushed
back from Aram's heart, where it had gathered, icy and curdling; and,
awakened thoroughly and at once to himself, he knelt down, and weaving
his arms around her, supported her head on his breast, and called upon
her with the most passionate and moving exclamations.

But when the faint bloom retinged her cheek, and her lips stirred, he
printed a long kiss on that cheek--on those lips, and surrendered his
post to Ellinor; who, blushingly gathering the robe over the beautiful
breast from which it had been slightly drawn; now entreated all, save the
women of the house, to withdraw till her sister was restored.

Lester, eager to hear what his guest could relate, therefore took Aram to
his own apartment, where the particulars were briefly told.

Suspecting, which indeed was the chief reason that excused him to himself
in yielding to Madeline's request, that the men Lester and himself had
encountered in their evening walk, might be other than they seemed, and
that they might have well overheard Lester's communication, as to the sum
in his house, and the place where it was stored; he had not undressed
himself, but kept the door of his room open to listen if any thing
stirred. The keen sense of hearing, which we have before remarked him to
possess, enabled him to catch the sound of the file at the bars, even
before Ellinor, notwithstanding the distance of his own chamber from the
place, and seizing the sword which had been left in his room, (the pistol
was his own) he had descended to the room below.

"What!" said Lester, "and without a light?"

"The darkness is familiar to me," said Aram. "I could walk by the edge of
a precipice in the darkest night without one false step, if I had but
once passed it before. I did not gain the room, however, till the window
had been forced; and by the light of a dark lantern which one of them
held, I perceived two men standing by the bureau--the rest you can
imagine; my victory was easy, for the bludgeon, with which one of them
aimed at me, gave way at once to the edge of your good sword, and my
pistol delivered me of the other.--There ends the history."

Lester overwhelmed him with thanks and praises, but Aram, glad to escape
them, hurried away to see after Madeline, whom he now met on the landing-
place, leaning on Ellinor's arm and still pale.

She gave him her hand, which he for one moment pressed passionately to
his lips, but dropped, the next, with an altered and chilled air. And
hastily observing he would not now detain her from a rest which she must
so much require, he turned away and descended the stairs. Some of the
servants were grouped around the place of encounter; he entered the room,
and again started at the sight of the blood.

"Bring water," said he fiercely: "will you let the stagnant gore ooze and
rot into the boards, to startle the eye, and still the heart with its
filthy, and unutterable stain--water, I say! water!"

They hurried to obey him, and Lester coming into the room to see the
window reclosed by the help of boards found the Student bending over the
servants as they performed their reluctant task, and rating them with a
raised and harsh voice for the hastiness with which he accused them of
seeking to slur it over.



                              CHAPTER VI.

     ARAM ALONE AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.--HIS SOLILOQUY AND PROJECT.--
                  SCENE BETWEEN HIMSELF AND MADELINE.

                                      Luce non grata fruor;
                   Trepidante semper corde, non mortis metu
                   Sed--
                                --Seneca: Octavia, act i.

The two men servants of the house remained up the rest of the night; but
it was not till the morning had progressed far beyond the usual time of
rising in the fresh shades of Grassdale, that Madeline and Ellinor became
visible; even Lester left his bed an hour later than his wont; and
knocking at Aram's door, found the Student was already abroad, while it
was evident that his bed had not been pressed during the whole of the
night. Lester descended into the garden, and was there met by Peter
Dealtry, and a detachment of the band; who, as common sense and Lester
had predicted, were indeed, at a very early period of the watch, driven
to their respective homes. They were now seriously concerned for their
unmanliness, which they passed off as well as they could upon their
conviction "that nobody at Grassdale could ever really be robbed;" and
promised with sincere contrition, that they would be most excellent
guards for the future. Peter was, in sooth, singularly chop-fallen; and
could only defend himself by an incoherent mutter, from which the Squire
turned somewhat impatiently, when he heard, louder than the rest, the
words "seventy-seventh psalm, seventeenth verse,

"The clouds that were both thick and black,

                    Did rain full plenteously."


Leaving the Squire to the edification of the pious host, let us follow
the steps of Aram, who at the early dawn had quitted his sleepless
chamber, and, though the clouds at that time still poured down in a dull
and heavy sleet, wandered away, whither he neither knew, nor heeded. He
was now hurrying, with unabated speed, though with no purposed bourne or
object, over the chain of mountains that backed the green and lovely
valleys, among which his home was cast.

"Yes!" said he, at last halting abruptly, with a desperate resolution
stamped on his countenance, "yes! I will so determine. If, after this
interview, I feel that I cannot command and bind Houseman's perpetual
secrecy, I will surrender Madeline at once. She has loved me generously
and trustingly. I will not link her life with one that may be called
hence in any hour, and to so dread an account. Neither shall the grey
hairs of Lester be brought with the sorrow of my shame, to a dishonoured
and untimely grave. And after the outrage of last night, the daring
outrage, how can I calculate on the safety of a day? though Houseman was
not present, though I can scarce believe that he knew or at least abetted
the attack; yet they were assuredly of his gang: had one been seized, the
clue might have traced to his detection--and he detected, what should I
have to dread! No, Madeline! no; not while this sword hangs over me, will
I subject thee to share the horror of my fate!"

This resolution, which was certainly generous, and yet no more than
honest, Aram had no sooner arrived at, than he dismissed, at once, by one
of those efforts which powerful minds can command, all the weak and
vacillating thoughts that might interfere with the sternness of his
determination. He seemed to breathe more freely, and the haggard wanness
of his brow, relaxed at least from the workings that, but the moment
before, distorted its wonted serenity, with a maniac wildness.

He pursued his desultory way now with a calmer step.

"What a night!" said he, again breaking into the low murmur in which he
was accustomed to hold commune with himself. "Had Houseman been one of
the ruffians! a shot might have freed me, and without a crime, for ever!
And till the light flashed on their brows, I thought the smaller man bore
his aspect. Ha, out, tempting thought! out on thee!" he cried aloud, and
stamping with his foot, then recalled by his own vehemence, he cast a
jealous and hurried glance round him, though at that moment his step was
on the very height of the mountains, where not even the solitary
shepherd, save in search of some more daring straggler of the flock, ever
brushed the dew from the cragged, yet fragrant soil. "Yet," he said, in a
lower voice, and again sinking into the sombre depths of his reverie, "it
is a tempting, a wondrously tempting thought. And it struck athwart me,
like a flash of lightning when this hand was at his throat--a tighter
strain, another moment, and Eugene Aram had not had an enemy, a witness
against him left in the world. Ha! are the dead no foes then? Are the
dead no witnesses?" Here he relapsed into utter silence, but his gestures
continued wild, and his eyes wandered round, with a bloodshot and unquiet
glare. "Enough," at length he said calmly; and with the manner of one
'who has rolled a stone from his heart;' [Note: Eastern saying.] "enough!
I will not so sully myself; unless all other hope of self-preservation be
extinct. And why despond? the plan I have thought of seems well-laid,
wise, consummate at all points. Let me consider--forfeited the moment he
enters England--not given till he has left it--paid periodically, and of
such extent as to supply his wants, preserve him from crime, and forbid
the possibility of extorting more: all this sounds well; and if not
feasible at last, why farewell Madeline, and I myself leave this land for
ever. Come what will to me--death in its vilest shape--let not the stroke
fall on that breast. And if it be," he continued, his face lighting up,
"if it be, as it may yet, that I can chain this hell-hound, why, even
then, the instant that Madeline is mine, I will fly these scenes; I will
seek a yet obscurer and remoter corner of earth: I will choose another
name--Fool! why did I not so before? But matters it? What is writ is
writ. Who can struggle with the invisible and giant hand, that launched
the world itself into motion; and at whose predecree we hold the dark
boon of life and death?"

It was not till evening that Aram, utterly worn out and exhausted, found
himself in the neighbourhood of Lester's house. The sun had only broken
forth at its setting; and it now glittered from its western pyre over the
dripping hedges, and spread a brief, but magic glow along the rich
landscape around; the changing woods clad in the thousand dies of Autumn;
the scattered and peaceful cottages, with their long wreaths of smoke
curling upward, and the grey and venerable walls of the Manor-house, with
the Church hard by, and the delicate spire, which, mixing itself with
heaven, is at once the most touching and solemn emblem of the Faith to
which it is devoted. It was a sabbath eve; and from the spot on which
Aram stood, he might discern many a rustic train trooping slowly up the
green village lane towards the Church; and the deep bell which summoned
to the last service of the day now swung its voice far over the sunlit
and tranquil scene.

But it was not the setting sun, nor the autumnal landscape, nor the voice
of the holy bell that now arrested the step of Aram. At a little distance
before him, leaning over a gate, and seemingly waiting till the ceasing
of the bell should announce the time to enter the sacred mansion, he
beheld the figure of Madeline Lester. Her head, at the moment, was
averted from him, as if she were looking after Ellinor and her uncle, who
were in the churchyard among a little group of their homely neighbours;
and he was half in doubt whether to shun her presence, when she suddenly
turned round, and seeing him, uttered an exclamation of joy. It was now
too late for avoidance; and calling to his aid that mastery over his
features, which, in ordinary times, few more eminently possessed, he
approached his beautiful mistress with a smile as serene, if not as
glowing, as her own. But she had already opened the gate, and bounding
forward, met him half way.

"Ah, truant, truant," said she, the whole day absent, without inquiry or
farewell! After this, when shall I believe that thou really lovest me?

"But," continued Madeline, gazing on his countenance, which bore witness,
in its present languor, to the fierce emotions which had lately raged
within, "but, heavens! dearest, how pale you look; you are fatigued; give
me your hand, Eugene,--it is parched and dry. Come into the house;--you
must need rest and refreshment."

"I am better here, my Madeline,--the air and the sun revive me: let us
rest by the stile yonder. But you were going to Church? and the bell has
ceased."

"I could attend, I fear, little to the prayers now," said Madeline,
"unless you feel well enough and will come to Church with me."

"To Church!" said Aram, with a half shudder, "no; my thoughts are in no
mood for prayer."

"Then you shall give your thoughts to me and I, in return, will pray for
you before I rest."

And so saying, Madeline, with her usual innocent frankness of manner,
wound her arm in his, and they walked onward towards the stile Aram had
pointed out. It was a little rustic stile, with chesnut-trees hanging
over it on either side. It stands to this day, and I have pleased myself
with finding Walter Lester's initials, and Madeline's also, with the date
of the year, carved in half-worn letters on the wood, probably by the
hand of the former.

They now rested at this spot. All around them was still and solitary; the
groups of peasants had entered the Church, and nothing of life, save the
cattle grazing in the distant fields, or the thrush starting from the wet
bushes, was visible. The winds were lulled to rest, and, though somewhat
of the chill of autumn floated on the air, it only bore a balm to the
harassed brow and fevered veins of the Student; and Madeline!--she felt
nothing but his presence. It was exactly what we picture to ourselves of
a sabbath eve, unutterably serene and soft, and borrowing from the very
melancholy of the declining year an impressive, yet a mild solemnity.

There are seasons, often in the most dark or turbulent periods of our
life, when, why we know not, we are suddenly called from ourselves, by
the remembrances of early childhood: something touches the electric
chain, and, lo! a host of shadowy and sweet recollections steal upon us.
The wheel rests, the oar is suspended, we are snatched from the labour
and travail of present life; we are born again, and live anew. As the
secret page in which the characters once written seem for ever effaced,
but which, if breathed upon, gives them again into view; so the memory
can revive the images invisible for years: but while we gaze, the breath
recedes from the surface, and all one moment so vivid, with the next
moment has become once more a blank!

"It is singular," said Aram, "but often as I have paused at this spot,
and gazed upon this landscape, a likeness to the scenes of my childish
life, which it now seems to me to present, never occurred to me before.
Yes, yonder, in that cottage, with the sycamores in front, and the
orchard extending behind, till its boundary, as we now stand, seems lost
among the woodland, I could fancy that I looked upon my father's home.
The clump of trees that lies yonder to the right could cheat me readily
to the belief that I saw the little grove in which, enamoured with the
first passion of study, I was wont to pore over the thrice-read book
through the long summer days;--a boy,--a thoughtful boy; yet, oh! how
happy! What worlds appeared then to me, to open in every page! how
exhaustless I thought the treasures and the hopes of life! and beautiful
on the mountain tops seemed to me the steps of Knowledge! I did not dream
of all that the musing and lonely passion that I nursed was to entail
upon me. There, in the clefts of the valley, or the ridges of the hill,
or the fragrant course of the stream, I began already to win its history
from the herb or flower; I saw nothing, that I did not long to unravel
its secrets; all that the earth nourished ministered to one desire:--and
what of low or sordid did there mingle with that desire? The petty
avarice, the mean ambition, the debasing love, even the heat, the anger,
the fickleness, the caprice of other men, did they allure or bow down my
nature from its steep and solitary eyrie? I lived but to feed my mind;
wisdom was my thirst, my dream, my aliment, my sole fount and sustenance
of life. And have I not sown the whirlwind and reaped the wind? The glory
of my youth is gone, my veins are chilled, my frame is bowed, my heart is
gnawed with cares, my nerves are unstrung as a loosened bow: and what,
after all, is my gain? Oh, God! what is my gain?"

"Eugene, dear, dear Eugene!" murmured Madeline soothingly, and wrestling
with her tears, "is not your gain great? is it no triumph that you stand,
while yet young, almost alone in the world, for success in all that you
have attempted?"

"And what," exclaimed Aram, breaking in upon her, "what is this world
which we ransack, but a stupendous charnel-house? Every thing that we
deem most lovely, ask its origin?--Decay! When we rifle nature, and
collect wisdom, are we not like the hags of old, culling simples from the
rank grave, and extracting sorceries from the rotting bones of the dead?
Every thing around us is fathered by corruption, battened by corruption,
and into corruption returns at last. Corruption is at once the womb and
grave of Nature, and the very beauty on which we gaze and hang,--the
cloud, and the tree, and the swarming waters,--all are one vast panorama
of death! But it did not always seem to me thus; and even now I speak
with a heated pulse and a dizzy brain. Come, Madeline, let us change the
theme."

And dismissing at once from his language, and perhaps, as he proceeded,
also from his mind, all of its former gloom, except such as might shade,
but not embitter, the natural tenderness of remembrance, Aram now
related, with that vividness of diction, which, though we feel we can
very inadequately convey its effect, characterised his conversation, and
gave something of poetic interest to all he uttered; those reminiscences
which belong to childhood, and which all of us take delight to hear from
the lips of any one we love.

It was while on this theme that the lights which the deepening twilight
had now made necessary, became visible in the Church, streaming afar
through its large oriel window, and brightening the dark firs that
overshadowed the graves around: and just at that moment the organ, (a
gift from a rich rector, and the boast of the neighbouring country,)
stole upon the silence with its swelling and solemn note. There was
something in the strain of this sudden music that was so kindred with the
holy repose of the scene, and which chimed so exactly to the chord that
now vibrated in Aram's mind, that it struck upon him at once with an
irresistible power. He paused abruptly "as if an angel spoke!" that sound
so peculiarly adapted to express sacred and unearthly emotion none who
have ever mourned or sinned can hear, at an unlooked for moment, without
a certain sentiment, that either subdues, or elevates, or awes. But he,--
he was a boy once more!--he was again in the village church of his native
place: his father, with his silver hair, stood again beside him! there
was his mother, pointing to him the holy verse; there the half arch, half
reverent face of his little sister, (she died young!)--there the upward
eye and hushed countenance of the preacher who had first raised his mind
to knowledge, and supplied its food,--all, all lived, moved, breathed,
again before him,--all, as when he was young and guiltless, and at peace;
hope and the future one word!

He bowed his head lower and lower; the hardness and hypocrisies of pride,
the sense of danger and of horror, that, in agitating, still supported,
the mind of this resolute and scheming man, at once forsook him. Madeline
felt his tears drop fast and burning on her hand, and the next moment,
overcome by the relief it afforded to a heart preyed upon by fiery and
dread secrets, which it could not reveal, and a frame exhausted by the
long and extreme tension of all its powers, he laid his head upon that
faithful bosom, and wept aloud.



                              CHAPTER VII.

     ARAM'S SECRET EXPEDITION.--A SCENE WORTHY THE ACTORS.--ARAM'S
     ADDRESS AND POWERS OF PERSUASION OR HYPOCRISY.--THEIR RESULT.
          --A FEARFUL NIGHT.--ARAM'S SOLITARY RIDE HOMEWARD.
            --WHOM HE MEETS BY THE WAY, AND WHAT HE SEES.

                   Macbeth. Now o'er the one half world
                             Nature seems dead.

                   Donalbain.   Our separated fortune
                             Shall keep us both the safer.

                   Old Man. Hours dreadful and things strange.
                                      --Macbeth.

"And you must really go to _____ to pay your importunate creditor this
very evening. Sunday is a bad day for such matters; but as you pay him by
an order, it does not much signify; and I can well understand your
impatience to feel discharged of the debt. But it is already late; and if
it must be so, you had better start."

"True," said Aram to the above remark of Lester's, as the two stood
together without the door; "but do you feel quite secure and guarded
against any renewed attack?"

"Why, unless they bring a regiment, yes! I have put a body of our patrole
on a service where they can scarce be inefficient, viz. I have stationed
them in the house, instead of without; and I shall myself bear them
company through the greater part of the night: to-morrow I shall remove
all that I possess of value to--(the county town) including those unlucky
guineas, which you will not ease me of."

"The order you have kindly given me will amply satisfy my purpose,"
answered Aram: "And so, there has been no clue to these robberies
discovered throughout the day?"

"None: to-morrow, the magistrates are to meet at--, and concert measures:
it is absolutely impossible, but that we should detect the villains in a
few days, viz. if they remain in these parts. I hope to heaven you will
not meet them this evening."

"I shall go well armed," answered Aram, "and the horse you lend me is
fleet and strong. And now farewell for the present; I shall probably not
return to Grassdale this night, or if I do, it will be at so late an
hour, that I shall seek my own domicile without disturbing you."

"No, no; you had better remain in the town, and not return till morning,"
said the Squire; "and now let us come to the stables."

To obviate all chance of suspicion as to the real place of his
destination, Aram deliberately rode to the town he had mentioned, as the
one in which his pretended creditor expected him. He put up at an inn,
walked forth as if to visit some one in the town, returned, remounted,
and by a circuitous route, came into the neighbourhood of the place in
which he was to meet Houseman: then turning into a long and dense chain
of wood, he fastened his horse to a tree, and looking to the priming of
his pistols, which he carried under his riding-cloak, proceeded to the
spot on foot.

The night was still, and not wholly dark; for the clouds lay scattered
though dense, and suffered many stars to gleam through the heavy air; the
moon herself was abroad, but on her decline, and looked forth with a man
and saddened aspect, as she travelled from cloud to cloud. It has been
the necessary course of our narrative, to pourtray Aram, more often than
to give an exact notion of his character we could have altogether wished,
in his weaker moments; but whenever he stood in the actual presence of
danger, his whole soul was in arms to cope with it worthily: courage,
sagacity, even cunning, all awakened to the encounter; and the mind which
his life had so austerely cultivated repaid him in the urgent season,
with its acute address, and unswerving hardihood. The Devil's Crag, as it
was popularly called, was a spot consecrated by many a wild tradition,
which would not, perhaps, be wholly out of character with the dark thread
of this tale, were we in accordance with certain of our brethren, who
seem to think a novel like a bundle of wood, the more faggots it contains
the greater its value, allowed by the rapidity of our narrative to relate
them.

The same stream which lent so soft an attraction to the valleys of
Grassdale, here assumed a different character; broad, black, and rushing,
it whirled along a course, overhung by shagged and abrupt banks. On the
opposite side to that by which Aram now pursued his path, an almost
perpendicular mountain was covered with gigantic pine and fir, that might
have reminded a German wanderer of the darkest recesses of the Hartz; and
seemed, indeed, no unworthy haunt for the weird huntsman, or the forest
fiend. Over this wood the moon now shimmered, with the pale and feeble
light we have already described; and only threw into a more sombre shade
the motionless and gloomy foliage. Of all the offspring of the forest,
the Fir bears, perhaps, the most saddening and desolate aspect. Its long
branches, without absolute leaf or blossom; its dead, dark, eternal hue,
which the winter seems to wither not, nor the spring to revive, have, I
know not what of a mystic and unnatural life. Around all woodland, there
is that horror umbrarum which becomes more remarkably solemn and awing
amidst the silence and depth of night: but this is yet more especially
the characteristic of that sullen evergreen. Perhaps, too, this effect is
increased by the sterile and dreary soil, on which, when in groves, it is
generally found; and its very hardiness, the very pertinacity with which
it draws its strange unfluctuating life, from the sternest wastes and
most reluctant strata, enhance, unconsciously, the unwelcome effect it is
calculated to create upon the mind. At this place, too, the waters that
dashed beneath gave yet additional wildness to the rank verdure of the
wood, and contributed, by their rushing darkness partially broken by the
stars, and the hoarse roar of their chafed course, a yet more grim and
savage sublimity to the scene.

Winding a narrow path, (for the whole country was as familiar as a garden
to his footstep) that led through the tall wet herbage, almost along the
perilous brink of the stream, Aram was now aware, by the increased and
deafening sound of the waters, that the appointed spot was nearly gained;
and presently the glimmering and imperfect light of the skies, revealed
the dim shape of a gigantic rock, that rose abruptly from the middle of
the stream; and which, rude, barren, vast, as it really was, seemed now,
by the uncertainty of night, like some monstrous and deformed creature of
the waters, suddenly emerging from their vexed and dreary depths. This
was the far-famed Crag, which had borrowed from tradition its evil and
ominous name. And now, the stream, bending round with a broad and sudden
swoop, showed at a little distance, ghostly and indistinct through the
darkness, the mighty Waterfall, whose roar had been his guide. Only in
one streak a-down the giant cataract, the stars were reflected; and this
long train of broken light glittered preternaturally forth through the
rugged crags and the sombre verdure, that wrapped either side of the
waterfall in utter and rayless gloom.

Nothing could exceed the forlorn and terrific grandeur of the spot; the
roar of the waters supplied to the ear what the night forbade to the eye.
Incessant and eternal they thundered down into the gulf; and then
shooting over that fearful basin, and forming another, but a mimic fall,
dashed on, till they were opposed by the sullen and abrupt crag below;
and besieging its base with a renewed roar, sent their foamy and angry
spray half way up the hoar ascent.

At this stern and dreary spot, well suited for such conferences as Aram
and Houseman alone could hold; and which, whatever was the original
secret that linked the two men thus strangely, seemed of necessity to
partake of a desperate and lawless character, with danger for its main
topic, and death itself for its colouring, Aram now paused, and with an
eye accustomed to the darkness, looked around for his companion.

He did not wait long: from the profound shadow that girded the space
immediately around the fall, Houseman now emerged and joined the Student.
The stunning noise of the cataract in the place where they met, forbade
any attempt to converse; and they walked on by the course of the stream,
to gain a spot less in reach of the deafening shout of the mountain giant
as he rushed with his banded waters, upon the valley like a foe.

It was noticeable that as they proceeded, Aram walked on with an
unsuspicious and careless demeanour; but Houseman pointing out the way
with his hand, not leading it, kept a little behind Aram, and watched his
motions with a vigilant and wary eye. The Student, who had diverged from
the path at Houseman's direction, now paused at a place where the matted
bushes seemed to forbid any farther progress; and said, for the first
time breaking the silence, "We cannot proceed; shall this be the place of
our conference?"

"No," said Houseman, "we had better pierce the bushes. I know the way,
but will not lead it."

"And wherefore?"

"The mark of your gripe is still on my throat," replied Houseman,
significantly; "you know as well as I, that it is not always safe to have
a friend lagging behind."

"Let us rest here, then," said Aram, calmly, the darkness veiling any
alteration of his countenance, which his comrade's suspicion might have
created.

"Yet it were much better," said Houseman, doubtingly, "could we gain the
cave below."

"The cave!" said Aram, starting, as if the word had a sound of fear.

"Ay, ay: but not St. Robert's," said Houseman; and the grin of his teeth
was visible through the dullness of the shade. "But come, give me your
hand, and I will venture to conduct you through the thicket:--that is
your left hand," observed Houseman with a sharp and angry suspicion in
his tone; "give me the right."

"As you will," said Aram in a subdued, yet meaning voice, that seemed to
come from his heart; and thrilled, for an instant, to the bones of him
who heard it; "as you will; but for fourteen years I have not given this
right hand, in pledge of fellowship, to living man; you alone deserve the
courtesy--there!"

Houseman hesitated, before he took the hand now extended to him.

"Pshaw!" said he, as if indignant at himself, "what! scruples at a
shadow! Come," (grasping the hand) "that's well--so, so; now we are in
the thicket--tread firm--this way--hold," continued Houseman, under his
breath, as suspicion anew seemed to cross him; "hold! we can see each
other's face not even dimly now: but in this hand, my right is free, I
have a knife that has done good service ere this; and if I feel cause to
suspect that you meditate to play me false, I bury it in your heart; do
you heed me?"

"Fool!" said Aram, scornfully, "I should dread you dead yet more than
living."

Houseman made no answer; but continued to grope on through the path in
the thicket, which he evidently knew well; though even in daylight, so
thick were the trees, and so artfully had their boughs been left to cover
the track, no path could have been discovered by one unacquainted with
the clue.

They had now walked on for some minutes, and of late their steps had been
threading a rugged, and somewhat precipitous descent: all this while, the
pulse of the hand Houseman held, beat with as steadfast and calm a throb,
as in the most quiet mood of learned meditation; although Aram could not
but be conscious that a mere accident, a slip of the foot, an
entanglement in the briars, might awaken the irritable fears of his
ruffian comrade, and bring the knife to his breast. But this was not that
form of death that could shake the nerves of Aram; nor, though arming his
whole soul to ward off one danger, was he well sensible of another, that
might have seemed equally near and probable, to a less collected and
energetic nature. Houseman now halted, again put aside the boughs,
proceeded a few steps, and by a certain dampness and oppression in the
air, Aram rightly conjectured himself in the cavern Houseman had spoken
of.

"We are landed now," said Houseman, "but wait, I will strike a light; I
do not love darkness, even with another sort of companion than the one I
have now the honour to entertain!"

In a few moments a light was produced, and placed aloft on a crag in the
cavern; but the ray it gave was feeble and dull, and left all beyond the
immediate spot in which they stood, in a darkness little less Cimmerian
than before.

"'Fore Gad, it is cold," said Houseman shivering, "but I have taken care,
you see, to provide for a friend's comfort;" so saying, he approached a
bundle of dry sticks and leaves, piled at one corner of the cave, applied
the light to the fuel, and presently, the fire rose crackling, breaking
into a thousand sparks, and freeing itself gradually from the clouds of
smoke in which it was enveloped. It now mounted into a ruddy and cheering
flame, and the warm glow played picturesquely upon the grey sides of the
cavern, which was of a rugged shape, and small dimensions, and cast its
reddening light over the forms of the two men.

Houseman stood close to the flame, spreading his hands over it, and a
sort of grim complacency stealing along features singularly ill-favoured,
and sinister in their expression, as he felt the animal luxury of the
warmth.

Across his middle was a broad leathern belt, containing a brace of large
horse pistols, and the knife, or rather dagger, with which he had menaced
Aram, an instrument sharpened on both sides, and nearly a foot in length.
Altogether, what with his muscular breadth of figure, his hard and rugged
features, his weapons, and a certain reckless, bravo air which
indescribably marked his attitude and bearing, it was not well possible
to imagine a fitter habitant for that grim cave, or one from whom men of
peace, like Eugene Aram, might have seemed to derive more reasonable
cause of alarm.

The Scholar stood at a little distance, waiting till his companion was
entirely prepared for the conference, and his pale and lofty features,
hushed in their usual deep, but at such a moment, almost preternatural
repose. He stood leaning with folded arms against the rude wall; the
light reflected upon his dark garments, with the graceful riding-cloak of
the day half falling from his shoulder, and revealing also the pistols in
his belt, and the sword, which, though commonly worn at that time, by all
pretending to superiority above the lower and trading orders, Aram
usually waived as a distinction, but now carried as a defence. And
nothing could be more striking, than the contrast between the ruffian
form of his companion, and the delicate and chiselled beauty of the
Student's features, with their air of mournful intelligence and serene
command, and the slender, though nervous symmetry of his frame.

"Houseman," said Aram, now advancing, as his comrade turned his face from
the flame, towards him; "before we enter on the main subject of our
proposed commune--tell me, were you engaged on the attempt last night
upon Lester's house?"

"By the Fiend, no!" answered Houseman, nor did I learn it till this
morning; it was unpremeditated till within a few hours of the time, by
the two fools who alone planned it. The fact is, that myself and the
greater part of our little band, were engaged some miles off, in the
western part of the county. Two--our general--spies, had been, of their
own accord, into your neighbourhood, to reconnoitre. They marked Lester's
house during the day, and gathered, (as I can say by experience it was
easy to do) from unsuspected inquiry in the village, for they wore a
clown's dress, several particulars which induced them to think it
contained what might repay the trouble of breaking into it. And walking
along the fields, they overheard the good master of the house tell one of
his neighbours of a large sum at home; nay, even describe the place where
it was kept: that determined them;--they feared, (as the old man indeed
observed,) that the sum might be removed the next day; they had noted the
house sufficiently to profit by the description given: they resolved,
then, of themselves, for it was too late to reckon on our assistance, to
break into the room in which the money was kept--though from the aroused
vigilance of the frightened hamlet and the force within the house, they
resolved to attempt no farther booty. They reckoned on the violence of
the storm, and the darkness of the night to prevent their being heard or
seen; they were mistaken--the house was alarmed, they were no sooner in
the luckless room, than--"Well, I know the rest; was the one wounded
dangerously hurt?"

"Oh, he will recover, he will recover; our men are no chickens. But I own
I thought it natural that you might suspect me of sharing in the attack;
and though, as I have said before, I do not love you, I have no wish to
embroil matters so far as an outrage on the house of your father-in-law,
might be reasonably expected to do:--at all events, while the gate to an
amicable compromise between us is still open."

"I am satisfied on this head," said Aram, "and I can now treat with you
in a spirit of less distrustful precaution than before. I tell you,
Houseman, that the terms are no longer at your control; you must leave
this part of the country, and that forthwith, or you inevitably perish.
The whole population is alarmed, and the most vigilant of the London
Police have been already sent for. Life is sweet to you, as to us all,
and I cannot imagine you so mad, as to incur not the risk, but the
certainty, of losing it. You can no longer therefore, hold the threat of
your presence over my head. Besides, were you able to do so, I at least
have the power, which you seem to have forgotten, of freeing myself from
it. Am I chained to yonder valleys? have I not the facility of quitting
them at any moment I will? of seeking a hiding-place, which might baffle,
not only your vigilance to discover me, but that of the Law? True, my
approaching marriage puts some clog upon my wing, but you know that I, of
all men, am not likely to be the slave of passion. And what ties are
strong enough to arrest the steps of him who flies from a fearful death?
Am I using sophistry here, Houseman? Have I not reason on my side?"

"What you say is true enough," said Houseman reluctantly; "I do not
gainsay it. But I know you have not sought me, in this spot, and at this
hour, for the purpose of denying my claims: the desire of compromise
alone can have brought you hither."

"You speak well," said Aram, preserving the admirable coolness of his
manner; and continuing the deep and sagacious hypocrisy by which he
sought to baffle the dogged covetousness and keen sense of interest with
which he had to contend. "It is not easy for either of us to deceive the
other. We are men, whose perceptions a life of danger, has sharpened upon
all points; I speak to you frankly, for disguise is unavailing. Though I
can fly from your reach--though I can desert my present home and my
intended bride, I would fain think I have free and secure choice to
preserve that exact path and scene of life which I have chalked out for
myself: I would fain be rid of all apprehension from you. There are two
ways only by which this security can be won: the first is through your
death;--nay, start not, nor put your hand on your pistol; you have not
now cause to fear me. Had I chosen that method of escape, I could have
effected it long since: When, months ago, you slept under my roof--ay,
slept--what should have hindered me from stabbing you during the slumber?
Two nights since, when my blood was up, and the fury upon me, what should
have prevented me tightening the grasp that you so resent, and laying you
breathless at my feet? Nay, now, though you keep your eye fixed on my
motions, and your hand upon your weapon, you would be no match for a
desperate and resolved man, who might as well perish in conflict with
you, as by the protracted accomplishment of your threats. Your ball might
fail--(even now I see your hand trembles)--mine, if I so will it, is
certain death. No, Houseman, it would be as vain for your eye to scan the
dark pool into whose breast you cataract casts its waters, as for your
intellect to pierce the depths of my mind and motives. Your murder,
though in self-defence, would lay a weight upon my soul, which would sink
it for ever: I should see, in your death, new chances of detection spread
themselves before me: the terrors of the dead are not to be bought or
awed into silence; I should pass from one peril into another; and the
law's dread vengeance might fall upon me, through the last peril, even
yet more surely than through the first. Be composed, then, on this point!
From my hand, unless you urge it madly upon yourself, you are wholly
safe. Let us turn to my second method of attaining security. It lies, not
in your momentary cessation from persecutions; not in your absence from
this spot alone; you must quit the country--you must never return to it--
your home must be cast, and your very grave dug in a foreign soil. Are
you prepared for this? If not, I can say no more; and I again cast myself
passive into the arms of Fate."

"You ask," said Houseman, whose fears were allayed by Aram's address,
though, at the same time, his dissolute and desperate nature was subdued
and tamed in spite of himself, by the very composure of the loftier mind
with which it was brought in contact: "You ask," said he, "no trifling
favour of a man--to desert his country for ever; but I am no dreamer, to
love one spot better than another. I should, perhaps, prefer a foreign
clime, as the safer and the freer from old recollections, if I could live
in it as a man who loves the relish of life should do. Show me the
advantages I am to gain by exile, and farewell to the pale cliffs of
England for ever!"

"Your demand is just," answered Aram; "listen, then. I am willing to coin
all my poor wealth, save alone the barest pittance wherewith to sustain
life; nay, more, I am prepared also to melt down the whole of my possible
expectations from others, into the form of an annuity to yourself. But
mark, it will be taken out of my hands, so that you can have no power
over me to alter the conditions with which it will be saddled. It will be
so vested that it shall commence the moment you touch a foreign clime;
and wholly and for ever cease the moment you set foot on any part of
English ground; or, mark also, at the moment of my death. I shall then
know that no farther hope from me can induce you to risk this income;
for, as I should have spent my all in attaining it, you cannot even
meditate the design of extorting more. I shall know that you will not
menace my life; for my death would be the destruction of your fortunes.
We shall live thus separate and secure from each other; you will have
only cause to hope for my safety; and I shall have no reason to shudder
at yours. Through one channel alone could I then fear; namely, that in
dying, you should enjoy the fruitless vengeance of criminating me. But
this chance I must patiently endure: you, if older, are more robust and
hardy than myself--your life will probably be longer than mine; and, even
were it otherwise, why should we destroy one another? At my death-bed I
will solemnly swear to respect your secret; why not on your part, I say
not swear, but resolve, to respect mine? We cannot love one another; but
why hate with a gratuitous and demon vengeance? No, Houseman, however
circumstances may have darkened or steeled your heart, it is touched with
humanity yet--you will have owed to me the bread of a secure and easy
existence--you will feel that I have stripped myself, even to penury, to
purchase the comforts I cheerfully resign to you--you will remember that,
instead of the sacrifices enjoined by this alternative, I might have
sought only to counteract your threats, by attempting a life that you
strove to make a snare and torture to my own. You will remember this; and
you will not grudge me the austere and gloomy solitude in which I seek to
forget, or the one solace with which I, perhaps vainly, endeavour to
cheer my passage to a quiet grave. No, Houseman, no; dislike, hate,
menace me as you will, I still feel I shall have no cause to dread the
mere wantonness of your revenge."

These words, aided by a tone of voice, and an expression of countenance
that gave them perhaps their chief effect, took even the hardened nature
of Houseman by surprise; he was affected by an emotion which he could not
have believed it possible the man who till then had galled him by the
humbling sense of inferiority, could have created. He extended his hand
to Aram.

"By--," he exclaimed, with an oath which we spare the reader, "you are
right! you have made me as helpless in your hands, as an infant. I accept
your offer--if I were to refuse it, I should be driven to the same
courses I now pursue. But look you; I know not what may be the amount of
the annuity you can raise. I shall not, however, require more than will
satisfy wants, which, if not so scanty as your own, are not at least very
extravagant or very refined. As for the rest, if there be any surplus, in
God's name keep it for yourself, and rest assured that, so far as I am
concerned, you shall be molested no more."

"No, Houseman," said Aram, with a half smile, "you shall have all I first
mentioned; that is, all beyond what nature craves, honourably and fully.
Man's best resolutions are weak: if you knew I possessed aught to spare,
a fancied want, a momentary extravagance might tempt you to demand it.
Let us put ourselves beyond the possible reach of temptation. But do not
flatter youself by the hope that the income will be magnificent. My own
annuity is but trifling, and the half of the dowry I expect from my
future father-in-law, is all that I can at present obtain. The whole of
that dowry is insignificant as a sum. But if this does not suffice for
you, I must beg or borrow elsewhere."

"This, after all, is a pleasanter way of settling business," said
Houseman, "than by threats and anger. And now I will tell you exactly the
sum on which, if I could receive it yearly, I could live without looking
beyond the pale of the Law for more--on which I could cheerfully renounce
England, and commence 'the honest man.' But then, hark you, I must have
half settled on my little daughter."

"What! have you a child?" said Aram eagerly, and well pleased to find an
additional security for his own safety.

"Ay, a little girl, my only one, in her eighth year; she lives with her
grandmother, for she is motherless, and that girl must not be left quite
penniless should I be summoned hence before my time. Some twelve years
hence--as poor Jane promises to be pretty--she may be married off my
hands, but her childhood must not be left to the chances of beggary or
shame."

"Doubtless not, doubtless not. Who shall say now that we ever outlive
feeling?" said Aram, "Half the annuity shall be settled upon her, should
she survive you; but on the same conditions, ceasing when I die, or the
instant of your return to England. And now, name the sum that you deem
sufficing."

"Why," said Houseman, counting on his fingers, and muttering "twenty--
fifty--wine and the creature cheap abroad--humph! a hundred for living,
and half as much for pleasure. Come, Aram, one hundred and fifty guineas
per annum, English money, will do for a foreign life--you see I am easily
satisfied."

"Be it so," said Aram, "I will engage by one means or another to procure
it. For this purpose I shall set out for London to-morrow; I will not
lose a moment in seeing the necessary settlement made as we have
specified. But meanwhile, you must engage to leave this neighbourhood,
and if possible, cause your comrades to do the same, although you will
not hesitate, for the sake of your own safety, immediately to separate
from them."

"Now that we are on good terms," replied Houseman, "I will not scruple to
oblige you in these particulars. My comrades intend to quit the country
before to-morrow; nay, half are already gone; by daybreak I myself will
be some miles hence, and separated from each of them. Let us meet in
London after the business is completed, and there conclude our last
interview on earth."

"What will be your address?"

"In Lambeth there is a narrow alley that leads to the water-side, called
Peveril Lane. The last house to the right, towards the river, is my usual
lodging; a safe resting-place at all times, and for all men."

"There then will I seek you. And now, Houseman, fare-you-well! As you
remember your word to me, may life flow smooth for your child."

"Eugene Aram," said Houseman, "there is about you something against which
the fiercer devil within me would rise in vain. I have read that the
tiger can be awed by the human eye, and you compell me into submission by
a spell equally unaccountable. You are a singular man, and it seems to me
a riddle, how we could ever have been thus connected; or how--but we will
not rip up the past, it is an ugly sight, and the fire is just out. Those
stories do not do for the dark. But to return;--were it only for the sake
of my child, you might depend upon me now; better too an arrangement of
this sort, than if I had a larger sum in hand which I might be tempted to
fling away, and in looking for more, run my neck into a halter, and leave
poor Jane upon charity. But come, it is almost dark again, and no doubt
you wish to be stirring: stay, I will lead you back, and put you on the
right track, lest you stumble on my friends."

"Is this cavern one of their haunts?" said Aram.

"Sometimes: but they sleep the other side of the Devil's Crag to-night.
Nothing like a change of quarters for longevity--eh?"

"And they easily spare you."

"Yes, if it be only on rare occasions, and on the plea of family
business. Now then, your hand, as before. Jesu! how it rains--lightning
too--I could look with less fear on a naked sword, than those red,
forked, blinding flashes--Hark! thunder."

The night had now, indeed, suddenly changed its aspect; the rain
descended in torrents, even more impetuously than on the former night,
while the thunder burst over their very heads, as they wound upward
through the brake. With every instant, the lightning broke from the riven
chasm of the blackness that seemed suspended as in a solid substance
above, brightened the whole heaven into one livid and terrific flame, and
showed to the two men the faces of each other, rendered deathlike and
ghastly by the glare. Houseman was evidently affected by the fear that
sometimes seizes even the sturdiest criminals, when exposed to those more
fearful phenomena of the Heavens, which seem to humble into nothing the
power and the wrath of man. His teeth chattered, and he muttered broken
words about the peril of wandering near trees when the lightning was of
that forked character, accelerating his pace at every sentence, and
sometimes interrupting himself with an ejaculation, half oath, half
prayer, or a congratulation that the rain at least diminished the danger.
They soon cleared the thicket, and a few minutes brought them once more
to the banks of the stream, and the increased roar of the cataract. No
earthly scene perhaps could surpass the appalling sublimity of that which
they beheld;--every instant the lightning, which became more and more
frequent, converting the black waters into billows of living fire, or
wreathing itself in lurid spires around the huge crag that now rose in
sight; and again, as the thunder rolled onward, darting its vain fury
upon the rushing cataract, and the tortured breast of the gulf that raved
below low. And the sounds that filled the air were even more fraught with
terror and menace than the scene;--the waving, the groans, the crash of
the pines on the hill, the impetuous force of the rain upon the whirling
river, and the everlasting roar of the cataract, answered anon by the yet
more aweful voice that burst above it from the clouds.

They halted while yet sufficiently distant from the cataract to be heard
by each other. "My path," said Aram, as the lightning now paused upon the
scene, and seemed literally to wrap in a lurid shroud the dark figure of
the Student, as he stood, with his hand calmly raised, and his cheek
pale, but dauntless and composed; "My path now lies yonder: in a week we
shall meet again."

"By the fiend," said Houseman, shuddering, "I would not, for a full
hundred, ride alone through the moor you will pass. There stands a gibbet
by the road, on which a parricide was hanged in chains. Pray Heaven this
night be no omen of the success of our present compact!"

"A steady heart, Houseman," answered Aram, striking into the separate
path, "is its own omen."

The Student soon gained the spot in which he had left his horse; the
animal had not attempted to break the bridle, but stood trembling from
limb to limb, and testified by a quick short neigh the satisfaction with
which it hailed the approach of its master, and found itself no longer
alone.

Aram remounted, and hastened once more into the main road. He scarcely
felt the rain, though the fierce wind drove it right against his path; he
scarcely marked the lightning, though at times it seemed to dart its
arrows on his very form; his heart was absorbed in the success of his
schemes.

"Let the storm without howl on," thought he, "that within hath a respite
at last. Amidst the winds and rains I can breathe more freely than I have
done on the smoothest summer day. By the charm of a deeper mind and a
subtler tongue, I have then conquered this desperate foe; I have silenced
this inveterate spy: and, Heaven be praised, he too has human ties; and
by those ties I hold him! Now, then, I hasten to London--I arrange this
annuity--see that the law tightens every cord of the compact; and when
all is done, and this dangerous man fairly departed on his exile, I
return to Madeline, and devote to her a life no longer the vassal of
accident and the hour: but I have been taught caution. Secure as my own
prudence may have made me from farther apprehension of Houseman, I will
yet place myself wholly beyond his power: I will still consummate my
former purpose, adopt a new name, and seek a new retreat; Madeline may
not know the real cause; but this brain is not barren of excuse. Ah!" as
drawing his cloak closer round him, he felt the purse hid within his
breast which contained the order he had obtained from Lester; "Ah! this
will now add its quota to purchase, not a momentary relief, but the
stipend of perpetual silence. I have passed through the ordeal easier
than I had hoped for. Had the devil at his heart been more difficult to
lay, so necessary is his absence, that I must have purchased it at any
cost. Courage, Eugene Aram! thy mind, for which thou hast lived, and for
which thou hast hazarded thy soul--if soul and mind be distinct from each
other--thy mind can support thee yet through every peril: not till thou
art stricken into idiotcy, shalt thou behold thyself defenceless. How
cheerfully," muttered he, after a momentary pause, "how cheerfully, for
safety, and to breathe with a quiet heart, the air of Madeline's
presence, shall I rid myself of all save enough to defy want. And want
can never now come to me, as of old. He who knows the sources of every
science from which wealth is wrought holds even wealth at his will."

Breaking at every interval into these soliloquies, Aram continued to
breast the storm until he had won half his journey, and had come upon a
long and bleak moor, which was the entrance to that beautiful line of
country in which the valleys around Grassdale are embosomed: faster and
faster came the rain; and though the thunder-clouds were now behind, they
yet followed loweringly, in their black array, the path of the lonely
horseman.

But now he heard the sound of hoofs making towards him; he drew his horse
on one side of the road, and at that instant a broad flash of lightning
illumining the space around, he beheld four horsemen speeding along at a
rapid gallop; they were armed, and conversing loudly--their oaths were
heard jarringly and distinctly amidst all the more solemn and terrific
sounds of the night. They came on, sweeping by the Student, whose hand
was on his pistol, for he recognised in one of the riders the man who had
escaped unwounded from Lester's house. He and his comrades were
evidently, then, Houseman's desperate associates; and they too, though
they were borne too rapidly by Aram to be able to rein in their horses on
the spot, had seen the solitary traveller, and already wheeled round, and
called upon him to halt!

The lightning was again gone, and the darkness snatched the robbers and
their intended victim from the sight of each other. But Aram had not lost
a moment; fast fled his horse across the moor, and when, with the next
flash, he looked back, he saw the ruffians, unwilling even for booty to
encounter the horrors of the night, had followed him but a few paces, and
again turned round; still he dashed on, and had now nearly passed the
moor; the thunder rolled fainter and fainter from behind, and the
lightning only broke forth at prolonged intervals, when suddenly, after a
pause of unusual duration, it brought the whole scene into a light, if
less intolerable, even more livid than before. The horse, that had
hitherto sped on without start or stumble, now recoiled in abrupt
affright; and the horseman, looking up at the cause, beheld the Gibbet of
which Houseman had spoken immediately fronting his path, with its ghastly
tenant waving to and fro, as the winds rattled through the parched and
arid bones; and the inexpressible grin of the skull fixed, as in mockery,
upon his countenance.





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