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As he went out of the door he fell upon Roland, rushing eagerly after him. “I can see Stone Edge from Win Hill above our close," said he, «for all there's two dales and three shoulders o' the hill betwixt us. Tell Cassie if she'd go up to the Stones 'wi' you, and make a fire o' weeds, I should see the white smoke plain, and take it as a sign she ha'n't forgotten me. Tell her I shall go up every evening till I see it."
With which injunctions German rode home: prices for his father, buttons for his mother, and this primitive love-token for his sister.
Stone Edge overlooked the whole country. In one direction the Dale stretched far up to the purple moors in a pale distance. About it the mountains were tumbled into an extraordinary variety of peaks and shoulders, with precipitous valleys huddled in between, while beyond the long slow ugly ascent which lay behind rose other hills and valleys far and dim. On the extreme summit stood the stones of some great Druidical work, remnants of forgotten worship. Two great uprights still remained, and a rocking-stone. They must have been a most poetic-minded priesthood : their temples are placed in the finest situations for effect of natural scenery that can be chosen.
Stonehenge, with its almost illimitable horizon of plain, with something of the same grandeur as the sea, the Cornish rocking-stone on its stern granite precipices, within hearing of the never-resting dash of waves, the Northern remains, are each perfect in its kind.
The Edge must have been seen far and near, and the signal-fires —which were no mean substitute for telegraphs-could have been transmitted from such a centre with almost electric rapidity. Still there were other hills near, apparently as good for this purpose, and nothing but the keenest sense of the majesty and grandeur which such a position would add to their ceremonies, could have induced men in those pathless mountains to spend so much labour as was required to raise such vast stones on such a spot,—the worship of the beauty of Nature, which we are now taught to think came into the world only with and since good roads and “convenient post-chaises” gave people leisure to look about. No doubt it was a different feeling from what prompts a young lady to put ber head languidly out of a carriage-window and say, “Look, papa, what a pretty mountain !”
The old Druid probably believed in his everlasting hills with a deep reverence mixed with fear. The earth-god had been at strange work in his wrath here, he probably thought; and those scarred cliffs and rifted mountains were no pastime for a smoking, flirting, noisy, draggled pleasure-train as now; but the signs of an offended God, propitiated probably by some fearful rites on that solitary peak of "earth-o'ergazing mountains.” And there the young girl went up the next day and lit her signal-fire. The thin blue smoke curled outwards and away, and seemed to bear her thoughts with it. Even such communication, however, was a comfort to her, as she watched dreamily the answering beacon from the other hill.
“ The cranberries are ripe," said German one day to his sister.
“Be they ?” said she. “ Then I'll out and pick some, and send ’um to my aunt by Nanny Elmes.”
Nothing can be more charming in the rare fine days of that rainy region than the upland moors in their unspoiled beauty. In July and August they are a gorgeous carpet of flowers—the dwarf yellow furze, mixed with three kinds of heather in their various purple gradations, making a perfect sea of bloom. Growing among these are rare vacciniums, with their lovely pink and white waxen bells, cranberries, whortleberries, blueberries, bilberries; while the red-leaved sundew, cotton-plant, and yellow asphodel, mixed with wonderful green mosses, cover the wetter spots. It is a rich garden for those who care, and for those who do not there is a fresh, soft, balmy lightness in the air, as if it were too delicious for Nature to give it in common use to her children, and she therefore kept it only for rare occasions and places difficult of access. Cassie was out on the cranberry moor very early in the next morning, and as she came and went among the flowers, not with any sentimental purposes towards them, but simply picking her " berries," she threw off her bonnet, and the delicate, bright, breezy-scented air made her young blood light within her heart, and she sang to herself as she went; the beautiful fresh young face looking even brighter than usual, for she felt as if all must come right.
The summer flower is to the summer sweet,
says one of the Shakspeare sonnets. I hope, therefore, that the summer enjoyed its human flower also, for there was no one else to do so, and it was a pity, for the sight was a very fair one. She turned home, having filled her little can and gathered moss to pack the fruit in, picking a bilberry here and there as she went, and putting it into her mouth as she smiled at the recollection of the many scrapes which she and German had got into on this very part of the moor-playing truant from work, their little mouths, blackened with the stains of the tell-tale bilberry, revealing their iniquities--when in the distance she saw Nanny Elmes coming up the green lane leading to the Old Hall.
It was so short a time since the old woman had been with them, that a cold chill of fear came over Cassie that something must have gone wrong, and she hurried forwards anxiously.
“ Your uncle sends ye word, my lass, that your aunt ha' had a 'plexy stroke, and ye mun come down as fast as mid be an ye would see her alive. I were to ha’ letted ye know last night, but I were so late, and I darena come up the lone moor by night, for 'tis a very boggety bit," said Nanny.
Cassio gave a little cry; her flowery visions seemed to melt away as under a frost, and then her conscience reproached her that her next thought should be, not of her poor aunt, but the personal one that if she went to Youlcliffe she might see Roland again.
- Ashford was sitting in the kitchen, much “put about ” by the news, and therefore as obstinate as possible. He seemed to take pleasure in declaring that Cassie should not go, a sufficient number of times to prevent her thinking him too kind. And he probably would have held to it, but Nanny Elmes was an authority and came to the rescue.
“ She's struck for death, and Cassie mun go quickly or she'll never see her again. Go and put on thee bonnet, child,” said she, as if it were a matter of course- e-which carried the day, and Cassie set off for Youlcliffe on her sad errand with a strange mixture of joy and sorrow in her heart.
Meantime Joshua, the shrewd and wary, had happened to hear of Mrs. Broom's illness before his son. He was standing on the high stone steps leading to his door that same evening when a small boy appeared at the foot.
“What do yo want, little un?" said he, looking down superciliously. " Where's Roland ? ” replied the small messenger.
“Bessie Broom have had a fit, and the doctor's away to Stoneaton they says, and Nathan thowt that mebbe Roland would ride over for un. Eh but there is the doctor come home hissen, so it don't matter now!” said the boy, who had not hurried himself with his message.
Joshua immediately determined to get his son out of harm's way. “For to be sure, Cassie'll be down to see her aunt d'recly," said he to himself.
After his fashion he was proud and fond of his boy. He had given him some education: Roland could read, and write, and cipher-at that time not common accomplishments, of which his father made much use. He had a sort of general notion of his son's making a grand marriage with money, which might help the “trade," which was all done in a gambling sort of way, rich one day, half-ruined the next, and he determined to make a great effort.
He went down to Roland, who was hard at work in the sheds behind the house “suppering up" and "littering down " the cattle, safe, as his father saw, from all chance of hearing the news. He came close up to the heifer which Roland was driving in, pinched it scientifically, and said,
“ Yo'll tak’ her betimes to-morrow to Farmer Stodge's, as I promised un when he were this way; and then I was a thinking, Roland, as 'twould be a good job for thee to go on to t'other side York, to Mitchell's, as sould me the last lot o' runts, and see and manage about not paying the money. And there's a horsedealer, Jackman, as worries me sore about
a heap o' things down there. Nobody can't manage it but you, Roland," said his father, who had a persuasive way with him when he chose. “I canna go mysen. I mun pick up summat i' th' way o' nags at the big fair at Hawksley; but if it can be done, you'll do it, and things is out and out bad wi' me this time.”
Joshua had always kept his son in the dark as to his affairs; but his uneasiness this time was real.
“ There's Martha Savage had a very tidy portion left her,” he went on, “ when her husband died; 'twould be very convenient now. Couldn't yo tak' to her, Roland ? She's a pair o'smartish black eyes, and hur's a rare un to manage a house, and nimble o' foot.”
“Ay, and wi' her tongue, too. But ye'd best leave yon alone, father. I'd not wed wi' her an she'd the Bank o' England to her fortune, and were as pretty as Queen Esther in her royal robes.”
Joshua was beginning to feel that there was a certain point beyond which even he did not dare to urge his son, “quiet”, as he thought him to be, and he hurried him off very early, before Cassandra could reach Youlcliffe, going with him himself the first few miles for better security.
“ I'm not particular to a day or two about your coming back, Roland; 'tain't often ye get an out,” he said at parting to his unconscious son.
"It's all for his good," he said to himself, as he returned slowly home alone. Whenever we do anything particularly selfish and ill-natured, wo always find out that it is all for somebody's advantage. We so far pay homage to the good within us as to tell it a lie. It is not quite so silly as to believe us, but it is a little stupefied.
He was quite successful in his plans. The unsuspecting Roland was leaving Youlcliffe by one road as Cassandra approached it by another.
When she at length reached her aunt there was little consciousness left. The old woman lay in a sort of sleep, painless and quiet; and although she often spoke, the bystanders could not be sure that she recognized them. Pleasant, kindly words they were which she uttered, like herself, but the unseen world seemed to be closing round her. She talke 1, but it seemed to be chiefly with those who were gone,-her father, mother, and sister, who had been dead for years.
It was a gentle dismissal. As Cassie sat in the dimly-lighted chamber, watching the waning life ebbing slowly away, she involuntarily looked towards the door, and started at every fresh voice downstairs, hoping to see Roland, longing for a word or a sign. It was many months since the meeting under the fern on the steep hill-side, and she began to have the cold shiver of doubt which absence brings with it under such complete separation ; but she watched and waited in vain, no Roland appeared. She reproached herself for thinking of anything but the solemn scene before her; but the tide of life was too strong within her,—she was too young to live in the past,—and her heart sank within her as she heard and saw nothing of him.
The old man wandered about in a lost way, which was very pathetic, and refused to be comforted.
“Eb," said he, “she were ailing long afore she spoke; she niver took to her bed, and she said sudden like one day, 'I think I'll send for Cassie an I'm going to be bad.' And I said, “Eh, lass, but ye mustna talk like that, to want a nuss! Thee'st ony a bit low; bide a bit. What'll iver I do an thou'st sick ?' And she laughed out so merry, and says, • Eh, men's but poor creeturs wi'out women to look arter 'um!' And I wouldn't b’lieve there was much amiss, and she aye so cheerful like. And last Saturday, afore she were took for death, there come one o' thoe Methodus as owed her a bit o' money for summat o' 'nother, and arter she'd paid her, I heerd her say, "Well, now I've squared matters wi' re here, Bessie Broom, and I hope, too, you've a made your accounts right wi' God; for it's like He may ca' ye soon to Himself an ye be so bad.' And such a turn it giv' me as niver were ; for yur see she'd niver said nowt, and I couldn't bear to think she were real ill, nor as she were going away from me.
And I'm right down mad wi' myself now as I didn't send for you d’recly, and the doctor too before, but she never could abide doctors."
“I'm sure you did a' you could for her, uncle," said Cassie affectionately.
“Nay, lass, but I didna ; that's where 'tis. I were a thinkin' o'my own comfort, -I were right down took up wi' mysen,—that's how 'twere; and she, she were allus thinkin' for other folk, and niver girl in till she were took for death."
" She were a happy wife anyhow were aunt Bessie,” said she, " and thought no end o' you, ye know, uncle Nathan."
“ Yes, my wench, but that was her goodness, not mine."
At last came the end : a bright light passed over the old woman's face—the light of the rising, not the setting--and then she passed so peacefully away that neither Cassandra nor her uncle could tell the moment when the breath ceased : that strange moment, which changes the man made after the image of his Maker into something less valuable than the clods of the field. Her father had made her promise that she would return immediately after the death, clenching it by saying that German shoald not go to the funeral unless she came home, so she prepared honourably to keep her word.
“Good-by, Cassie," said her uncle, as he parted with her at the little garden-gate. * She were main fond othee, lass, were thy aunt Bessy. Her have a left thee the sixty-eight pund odd. “German,' says she, “will hae his father's farın. We mun trust to thee to do rightly by that now.' Ah, and thae flowers,” said the old man, going back to his own thoughts, and passing his hand affectionately over a bush as he went along, “how fond she were othae roses! She made 'um a' for to stand o'one leg. She said they werena so bothersome about the bottom, they didna hae so many rucks. And there she didna bide wi' us sa long as