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   Chapter 11 THE MIDNIGHT MESSENGER.

May Brooke By Anna Hanson Dorsey Characters: 9709

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


May listened, and heard Mr. Stillinghast moving to and fro in his room with slow and regular footsteps for a while, then all was silent, and she supposed he had gone to bed. Still waiting for Helen, she recited the rosary for his conversion. She knew that all things are possible with Almighty God, and that dear to him, and precious in his sight, is the conversion of sinners. She also knew that Jesus Christ ever turns a propitious ear to the intercession of his Immaculate Mother, and it was with tender confidence, and earnest faith, that she implored her to obtain from her Divine Son the conversion of her uncle. At last a carriage stopped, and May heard Helen's voice at the door conversing gayly with Walter Jerrold. She wrapped her shawl about her, and went out to admit her. She sprang into the hall, singing wild thrills from Lucia de Lammermoor, and without stopping, flew to her harp, and ran her fingers over the strings, preluding brilliantly,

"Oh, May, you should have been there-the most divine opera! Sontag sung like an angel."

"Dear Helen," said May, interrupting her, and laying her hand on her arm, "don't! you will disturb Uncle Stillinghast; he is not well."

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Helen, turning her face towards her, while a gleam of almost ferocious pleasure shone in her eyes. "Oh, you don't say so! Is he very sick?"

"A slight cold, I believe; at any rate, do not let us disturb him," said May, surprised and shocked at her evident pleasure.

"What nonsense!" cried Helen, laughing hysterically; "he'll live until you and I are both dead, May. He's as tough as gutta percha. But, would it not be a nice thing if he'd pop off suddenly, and leave us his money?"

"Do not say us, Helen. I expect nothing, and desire nothing. As for you, be satisfied; you are handsomely provided for."

"I know it; I know it. I have read the will!" exulted Helen.

"Read the will, Helen! How? When?"

"Oh, I did not mean that exactly," said Helen, much confused; "you really take me up so quick, that it is terrible. I should have said that Walter told me something of the old man's intentions."

"May it be blessed to you, Helen, come when it will; but while he lives, let his generous intentions in your favor purchase at least your respect," said May, in a tone of bitter reproof, for at the moment she recollected Helen's threat some weeks before to get into her uncle's chamber, if possible, and she feared that she had accomplished her object at the expense of all that was honorable in feeling, and just in principle.

"May, you won't say anything-about-about what I just blundered out concerning the-" said Helen, confused and stammering.

"No, Helen; I have nothing to say. It was natural, though not delicate, for Mr. Jerrold to impart such information to you. No doubt he thought it would enhance your happiness," said May, settling herself in her uncle's chair.

"That's a good May. Oh, May, if you were not such a little fanatic how I should love you," said Helen, stooping over to kiss May's forehead; but she put up her hand, and the kiss fell on the tips of her fingers. But her very indignation, although just, humbled her, for with a flash of thought, she was in Gethsemane, and saw the meek and Divine Jesus receive the kiss of Judas. "Why, then," she thought, "should I shrink back from one who needs my pity more than my hate?"

"I shall sit up a little longer, Helen. I feel quite uneasy about

Uncle Stillinghast. Good night," she said, holding out her hand to

Helen.

"What a curious little one you are, May," said Helen, holding the tiny hand a moment in her own; "but do come up soon, for really I am afraid to be up there alone."

And Helen went up to their chamber, and closed the door. She was alone, and had inadvertently placed her candle on May's table before the old Spanish crucifix. A small circle of light was thrown around it, from the midst of which the sorrowful face, in its depicted agony of blood and tears, and the measure of a world's woe stamped on its divine lineaments, looked on her. Terrified and silent, she stood gazing on it-her hands clasped-her lips apart, and trembling. The crown of thorns-the transfixed hands and feet, from which the blood seemed flowing-the wounded side-the sorrowful eyes, appealed to her. "For thee!" whispered the angel conscience; "it was all for thee!-this ignominy-this suffering-this death-oh, erring one! It was all for thee Divine Jesus assumed the anguish and bitterness of the cross! Oh, wanderer! why add new thorns to that awful crown of agony? Why insult the son of God, who suffers for you, by your derelictions and betrayal?"

Stricken and afraid, she would have fled from the spot, but she could not move; her temples throbbed and her limbs trembled, when, lifting her eyes, she beheld a portrait of th

e mother of Sorrows, whose countenance, sublime in its blended tenderness and grief, seemed to look down with pity on her. She sunk weeping to the floor, and murmured, "Intercede for me, oh, Lady of Sorrows! I have wounded thy Divine Son by my transgressions; I fear to approach Him, who is my terrible Judge; pity me, then, that I may not become utterly cast away!" Then she wept softly, and it seemed that, in this hour of keen repentance, the errors of the past would be atoned for-that a new life would dawn around her; that in prodigal's attire of repentance and tears, she would return humbly to her Father's house. But the spirit of the world had wound its deadly fetters too closely around her; the time of her return and purification, and welcome-if it ever came, was veiled in the future; but that passionate soul-felt appeal to the Refuge of Sinners was registered where it would return in benedictions when the soul weary of its wanderings, sought for forgiveness and peace-if it ever did. And, after all, ere sleep visited her eyelids, she was plunged again in plans of petty ambition, vanity, and the pride of life,-so impotent is the human heart, unsupported by the grace of God.

Twelve o'clock chimed from the old French clock over the mantel, and May, all unconscious of Helen's struggle with conscience, still waited to hear any sound that might come from Mr. Stillinghast's chamber: but everything remained quiet, and she was wrapping her shawl around her to go up to bed, when she thought she heard a groan-then footsteps, followed by a peculiar muffled sound. In a moment she was in the hall, where she heard it more distinctly, and springing up the staircase, rushed into her uncle's room. By some rare forgetfulness, or bewilderment, he had left his door unfastened. The candle was still burning, and May saw him lying on the floor, where he had fallen in his endeavor to reach the door to call for assistance; his face purple and swollen, and his breath gurgling up with a choking, spasmodic sound.

"Great God, help me!" cried May, throwing up her arms wildly. "He will die before I can obtain help!" But she was not the one to stand lamenting when aught was to be done, so, collecting her scattered senses, she bethought herself of the watchman, who was just at that moment crying the hour at the corner. She flew down, unlocked the hall-door, and springing out into the freezing mist and darkness, she found him, seized his hand, and told her story. "Go, for God's sake! for the nearest doctor; do not delay an instant."

"Who are you, you wild witch, grabbing a fellow like a cat! Who are you?" cried the watchman, shaking her off.

"I am the niece of old Mark Stillinghast. He is dying, I fear," she cried, wringing her hands.

"Zounds! the old man dying! Yes, I'll go directly," said the watchman, moving off. He had been on the beat twenty years, and felt an individual interest in all those whose property and lives he guarded. Then May, thankful for his promptness, remembered to have heard that ice applications to the head were good in cases like this, and rushing back into the yard, she groped her way to the rain-barrel, and stooping over, seized the jagged edges of the ice, which she had broken that very day, and tearing it away from the sides, hastened back, and up to the chamber of death, with her prize in her bleeding hands. Stripping a case from a pillow, she threw in the ice-pounded it with the tongs-shook it together, and lifting up her uncle's insensible head, laid the icy pillow under it, and gathered the ends over his forehead, as well as she could. Then she chafed his hands, exclaiming all the time, "Merciful Jesus, pity him! Merciful Jesus, help me, and strengthen me!" But his breathing became more and more difficult, and his limbs began to be agitated with horrible convulsions. A sudden thought suggested itself. She untied her silk apron, tore off the strings-ripped up the sleeve of Mr. Stillinghast's shirt, and wound the ribbon tightly around his arm above the elbow; and while waiting for the vein to swell, she took a small penknife from her pocket, and opened the blade-it was thin, keen, and pointed. She had found it among her father's papers years ago, and kept it about her to scrape the points of her ivory knitting-needles. In another moment, invoking the aid of Heaven, she had made an incision in the vein. A few black drops of blood trickled down-then more; then fast and faster flowed the dark stream over her dress, on the floor, for she could not move-her strength was ebbing away. Presently the brain of the stricken man, relieved of the pressure on it, began to resume its functions; the spasms and convulsions ceased, and a low moan escaped his lips. At that moment the watchman, accompanied by a physician, entered the room, and May remembered nothing more.

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