Page images

of the property, and they think I'm quite daft about money. I wish, with all my soul, there was no money in the world! There'll be none in heaven, that's one comfort! We'll do all we can for everybody, and get all we want from everybody without paying for it, up there.' Effie was startled. Tom spoke of heaven as though he had been there and knew all about it, and wanted to get back again soon. His words sank into her mind, and were pondered many a time afterwards.

There was silence. Effie could not have put her thoughts into words, and Tom was trying to remember what question he was intending to ask. They were now at the top of the hill; for a short distance the road was level, going across the breast of a ridge; presently it would rise again, and in the hollow beyond the next ridge lay Moor-edge, on the skirt of a wide extent of moor, as its name implied.

And which of us did your father wish you to stop with?' asked Tom.

'It was always aunt Hephzibah that he seemed to look to. I don't know why. Perhaps because he thought she might be sorry for my mother.'

'Does she expect you?'

'I wrote to her since--a few days ago, but no answer came, and I could not stay very long where I was. letter. Is she away anywhere, or ill?'

Perhaps she has not got the

Not that I know of,' said Tom, and people at Moor-edge know pretty well all there is to know about everybody else. But I'm not surprised that she didn't write.'

'Do you think she won't want me? I have a little money left, and I can find some work to do, I suppose. I was a junior teacher, and was just going to try for a school when father fell ill, but I'll go out to service if I can't get teaching to do.'

That's brave!' said Tom. If that's your mind, I'll stand your friend, and you needn't care, in one sense, whether aunt wants you or not. But you look as though you want some rest before you begin work-and I can ask a visitor to our house if I choose.' It was rather a curious ending, but Effie understood it in part. What she did not gather from it was the doubt that Tom felt whether if Effie were the visitor she would be welcome.

This inexperienced, gentle-natured girl could not know the aversion to her that would be felt by people who were daily doing her a great injustice. And when she came to know it, she could not understand it.

They were her relatives, her natural guardians; they had consider

able property in which she ought to have shared; she asked them for nothing but a brief shelter until she could find work: they would not think of denying her that, surely! She would never hint, even by a look, that she wanted any of their money. Indeed, it was only in obedience to her father's wishes that she was here at all. He had been bent on bringing her to Moor-edge, and to cherish his memory and his desires was all the religion and all the satisfaction she had now. She would go where he wished her to go; for his sake she would run the risk of a repulse: it was all she would ever be able to do for him. Death had claimed him, as it had claimed her mother: all she wished now was that it should take her too, and let her have done with this horrible mockery called life; this fearful world, where the tenderest love and the truest faithfulness seemed to go down into the same corruption with all that was vile and false.

Effie could not have put this into words, but she felt it. How could she feel otherwise, trained in such a creed, and coming from such a death-bed? To the unbeliever in God and immortality, the truest, loveliest, most beautiful facts of human life are the most terrible, the most awful. We may love with the most passionate and sanctified affection another human being who loves us in return, but this love, with all its ennobling influences, all its unspeakable memories, all its marvellous power, must-if there be no God, no immortality-go down into the darkness with the impure and the abominable.

Effie was now in the thick of the horrible gloom that belongs to such unbelief when brought into contact with death. There was no comfort for her in earth or sky, no hope-no God.

Her heart beat fast as the dog-cart rolled down the slope and entered the one long, irregular street lying between two ridges of moorland, which went by the name of Moor-edge. The houses were built of the dingy gray stone of the district, gardens were few and trees scanty, and a bleak, cold aspect, corresponding to the gray November sky overhead, pervaded the place. A tall chimney, at the other end of the village, proclaimed a factory, the only one in the place, except the unused one about which the Crabtrees were disputing.

[ocr errors]

'That's our place,' said Tom, indicating the chimney, and our house is among those trees beyond. Here's aunt Hephzibah's, now.' He checked the horse at the gates of a paved court or fold,' two sides of which were enclosed by the deserted factory, and the third by a narrow two-storied house, the residence of Hephzibah Crabtree. Two windows in the gable of this house looked upon the road.

'Now,' said Tom, 'she had better not see that you have come with me. Take your pluck in your hands, and go up to the door; she'll open it herself, and you can just tell her who you are, and ask if you

are to stay. I'll stop here till you come back: she can't see me from the door, if you close the gate behind you.'

Perhaps not, but she had seen him already from one of the windows, and even if she had been inclined to receive Effie before, she said to herself that she would not do it now; since she had come in Tom Crabtree's company, he and his people might look after her.

To the first knock and the second she paid no heed, but when a third sounded along the narrow passage of the dwelling, Hephzibah came out of her grim horse-hair furnished parlour, and opened the front door. She was a tall, bony woman, about fifty years of age, with a pallid complexion, gray eyes, thin, cold lips, and gray hair, plentiful enough, but drawn back from the face in a fashion that did not add to its charms. She was thriftily dressed in a plain dark winsey, fastened at the throat with a small worked collar and a gold brooch containing hair. Effie's courage did not rise as she looked at her aunt, and she faltered out a rather feeble enquiry whether her letter had reached its destination.

'O, ay! I got yoar letter. Why didn't yoar feyther write himself afore he started? We might ha' bin all dead an' gone for aught he knew.'

Now in justice to Hephzibah it must be said that she did not quite know how rough and cruel this sounded. North-country people are given to plain speaking, and Hephzibah only meant to ask a sensible question about a proceeding which she regarded as very unsensible as well as tiresome.

She locked

Burning tears forced their way to Effie's eyes in spite of her will; but loyalty to her father required one effort, at any rate. her fingers tightly again, and said with some firmness:

'My father 'il never offend you or anybody else again. He bade me come to you because he thought you were fond of my mother.' It seemed odd to think of Hephzibah being fond' of anybody, but it was the only word that occurred to Effie. Having said it, her voice failed, and the uncontrollable tears fell.

Thy mother should have stayed wi' her own folk, and thou can go whoam wi' the felly 'at brought thee. His folk ha' getten th' brass 'at might ha' bin thy mother's, and more besides.' And the door was deliberately shut in her face. Effie but half understood the coarse words, uttered in an accent so strange to her, but she felt the purpose of them, and said to herself that if her father had known all he would never have subjected her to this. The next feeling was one of thankfulness that he had not known it, that his last moments were soothed by a delusive hope for her. Yet this thought had its own intense bitterness, and she turned away from her aunt's door

utterly sick at heart. She stood on the pavement of the fold, rejected by one, shrinking from appeal to the other, until Tom, quite impatient, and by this time sure of the event, came after her.

'Have you seen her?' he said.

O yes!' Effie replied, in a tone that was conclusive.

'Then,' said Tom to himself, if they cut up rough at home, I must just be positive for once; it's a Christian duty.'

To Effie he only said as he led her out and put her again in the vehicle, and drove through the street under the observing eyes of that Moor-edge 'folk':

'Don't mind her, lassie. She's to be pitied, if you only knew it, a great deal more than you.'

But it was not likely that Effie could believe this. She was utterly miserable, and when Tom lifted her from the conveyance and took her into the room where his father and uncle sat taking their tea, she could scarcely speak.

Fortunately it was not necessary. Tom was determined, and was able to stand by her.





HE slaves had all been stowed away in the hold, and, under a stretch of awning, the sailors were preparing the first meal of yam and rum for the poor creatures below, as the vessel glided steadily out of the harbour. Ancass gazed for the last time upon the shores of his native Africa.

Jamaica was the destination of the ship; her cargo of human chattels being intended for the Kingston market.

During the voyage Ancass was permitted to remain on deck, along with some other boys, and as he could run about with them during the day, and was allowed to sleep in the captain's cabin at night, he almost forgot his grief, and became tolerably happy. But the cries and groans of the poor creatures in the hold, who from day to day bewailed their separation from their native land, home and friends, and felt very terribly their close and unnatural confinement, often marred his pleasure; and to see them brought on deck morning after morning, to be fed with yam and rum, often made him weep bitterly.

After several weeks' sailing-how many exactly Ancass never remembered,-with very little to break the monotony of the voyage, except the sight of an occasional sail away upon the horizon, so indistinct as to be scarcely discernible except by a practised eye,

they at length reached the West Indies. First they sighted a few small islands, which looked in the distance like huge rocks rising out of the trackless waste of water, coasted two larger ones for a day or two, and then Jamaica appeared in view, one of the loveliest of 'a constellation of Elysian isles.'

At the time of which we write, there were about seven hundred and sixty sugar estates in the island, with over two hundred thousand negroes employed in their cultivation; six hundred and seven coffee plantations; over a thousand grazing farms or pens, besides small settlements for the cultivation of cotton, ginger, pimento, etc.; altogether the island contained between two and three hundred thousand slaves; ten thousand freed negroes and people of colour; over one thousand maroons, and about thirty thousand whites.

The first object which appeared in view, as the ship neared her destination, was the Blue Mountain peak, rising to the height of about eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, hung about with light, fleecy clouds, and decked with perpetual verdure. Then lower hills appeared, their sides covered with trees of various shades, in the branches and around the boles of which, in the evening, millions of beautiful fire-flies glanced

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »