"Yes, madam," groaned the old man.
"Why, you alarm me! Why didn't he come home, then?"
"He did try--he did try! I begged him not to--but he would! Oh, dear!
"Why, what in Heaven's name is the matter? What has happened? Is my son ill?"
"Tell her, Mr. Dulan--tell her! I could not, to save my life!"
The widow turned very pale.
"Where is William? Where is my son? Is he ill? Is he ill?"
"My dearest aunt, do try to compose yourself!" said John Dulan, in a trembling voice.
"Where is my son? Where is he?"
"You cannot see him to-day----"
"Yet he was at the ferry-house last night! Great G.o.d! it cannot be!"
cried the mother, suddenly growing very pale and faint, "Oh, no!
Merciful Providence--such sorrow cannot be in store for me? He is not----"
She could not finish the sentence, but turned a look of agonizing inquiry on John Dulan. He did not speak.
"Answer! answer! answer!" almost screamed the mother.
John Dulan turned away.
"Is my son--is my son--dead?"
"He is in heaven, I trust," sobbed John.
A shriek, the most wild, shrill and unearthly that ever came from the death-throe of a breaking heart, arose upon the air, and echoed through the woods, and the widow sunk, fainting, to the ground. They raised her up--the blood was flowing in torrents from her mouth. They bore her to the house, and laid her on the bed. John Dulan watched beside her, while the old man hastened to procure a.s.sistance.
The life of the widow was despaired of for many weeks. She recovered from one fit of insensibility, only to relapse into another. At length, however, she was p.r.o.nounced out of danger. But the white hair, silvered within the last few weeks, the strained eyes, contracted brow and shuddering form, marked the presence of a scathing sorrow.
One day, while lying in this state, a traveling carriage drew up before the door, and a young, fair girl, clad in deep mourning, alighted and entered. Elizabeth, who was watching beside her, stooped down and whispered very low:
"The betrothed bride of your son."
The young girl approached the bed, and, taking the hand of the sufferer, exclaimed: "Mother, mother, you are not alone in your sorrow! I have come to live or die by you, as my strength may serve!"
The widow opened her arms and received her in an embrace. They wept.
The first blessed tears that had relieved the burdened heart of either were shed together.
Alice never left her. When the widow was sufficiently recovered, they went to England. The best years of the life of Alice were spent in soothing the declining days of William Dulan's mother. The face of Alice was the last object her eyes rested on in life; and the hands of Alice closed them in death.
Alice never married, but spent the remainder of her life in ministering to the suffering poor around her.
I neglected to mention that, during the illness of Mrs. Dulan, the body of her son was found, and interred in this spot, by the request of his mother.
"What becomes of the moral?" you will say.
I have told you a true story. Had I created these beings from imagination, I should also have judged them--punished the bad and rewarded the good. But these people actually lived, moved, and had their being in the real world, and have now gone to render in their account to their Divine Creator and Judge. The case of Good _versus_ Evil, comes on in another world, at another tribunal, and, no doubt, will be equitably adjudged.
As I fear my readers may be dying to know what farther became of our cheery set of travelers, I may, on some future occasion, gratify their laudable desire after knowledge; only informing them at present that we did reach our destination at ten o'clock that night, in safety, although it was very dark when we pa.s.sed down the dreaded Gibbet Hill and forded the dismal b.l.o.o.d.y Run Swamp. That Aunt Peggy's cap was not mashed by Uncle Clive's hat, and that Miss Christine did not put her feet into Cousin Kitty's bandbox, to the demolition of her bonnet; but that both bonnet and cap survived to grace the heads of their respective proprietors. The only mishap that occurred, dear reader, befell your obsequious servitor, who went to bed with a sick headache, caused really by her acute sympathy with the misfortunes of the hero and heroine of our aunt's story, but which Miss Christine grossly attributed to a hearty supper of oysters and soft crabs, eaten at twelve o'clock at night, which, of course, you and I know, had nothing at all to do with it.
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