|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||A Golden Dawn|
A GOLDEN DAWN. [FAMILY HERALD] CHAPTER XVI. I cannot cry. My eyes burn, my heart swells, all my tears have been dried long since; but a great sob comes from my lips. Oh, if I could but escape through the narrow win dow, were it only to fall dead on the ground beneath ! My dream has un nerved me; the -song of the bird on the pear tree is with me still. I hear the low ripple of the little brook over the pebbles ; I hear the soft sweet chime of the church bells; I know just now that the sunlight lies low on the hills, that the haymakers are leaving work, that the children are wandering through the woods, that the birds are calling to each other, that the cows are returning from the meadow, that the sun is beginning to set amid a great mass of crimson clouds, that the wind is whispering, and the trees stir their great branches in languid answer. Never again will sun set, or bird sing, or flowers bloom for me. Never again will the reapers, passing me in the green lane, greet me cheerily. All sweet sounds of earth have ceased for me. If I could but stop that changing light I It is on the right side now, and it is growing fainter. A cold horrible shudder comes over me, my limbs tremble, an unutterable anguish burns my very soul. I give one long linger ing look at the blue sky. Shall I see it to.morrow when they take me out shame-stricken to die before the eyes of thousands ? Shall I notice either the sky or the sunlight then-I, who have loved them all my life ? Then comes another pause. I dream again. This time I am standing in the churchyard at home, with a group of laughing girls around me. The great oak-trees and the stately elms line the path that leads to the porch, great tendrils of ivy reach the ground, birds sing gaily in the heart of the green trees, the bells are ringing merrily. I stand there laughing as gaily as any of them. Near us is a large white marble cross with crimson roses grow ing over it; on that cross I read my mother's name. Suddenly one of the girls turns to me and says, "I do not see your gravestone here." Another answers, "No-Hyacinth Vane was buried in Ulverston Gaol." And they all fall back from me with a terrible cry. I wake with great drops of anguish on my face. While I have slept, the light has grown dim, and the aun has set. The light men love so well and call the gloaming has set in ; strange shadows lie in the corners of my cell, strange sounds fill my ears ; every few moments a curious sensation comes over me, a loss of memory and a con fusion of thought. Once I fancy that the face I love best on earth is smiling into mine; I fancy I am kneeling, with my head on my lover's breast, and his dear arms around me. I for give him, my dear love, whose dis loyalty has brought me here. I for give him, and love him with all my heart, as I always have. But, when my senses return to me, my head lies on no lover's breast; I have fallen upon the stone floor, and have barely strength to rise. Ah, my love, I shall never more know the clasp of your hands I said hard words, cruel and bitter, in my jealous rage, but I never meant them. I would have given my life for you, not have taken the life of any one you loved. Hyacinth Vane guilty of murder I It seems absurd, as though one broke a butterfly on a wheel, or racked with torture a feathered soogster. My whole heart faints at the sight of pain. I hated her for her beautiful face, for her proud manner, for her false sweet words, for her insolence to me; but slay her ? Dear Heaven, I had neither the strength, the courage, nor the will to hurt one hair of her head I I hated her; she had robbed me of more than my life ; but slay her ?' Ah me, how foolish the wisest of men are ! If I had been a judge, and they had brought before me such another girl as myself, it seems to me that I should have looked in the girl's face and said "That child a murderess? What nonsense I" Though my judge looked sorry for me, yet he certainly believed I had done that shameful deed. I shall stand before another Judge to-morrow, and He will know; there will be no injustice then-no nntruth. I shall find Infinite Mercy. My earth ly judge has failed-on these hands of mine no stain of blood rests. And now the last faint light must be dying out of the skies at home. My hours grow fewer. I must pray now, while my senses are left to me. I must beg Heaven to forgive all my sins. What is my worst sin ? I made an idol of my lover. I worshipped him as one should only worship the great Creator. I gave to my lover the love I should have given to Heaven. For that sin I must pray for pardon. Again, the sins of hatred against the beautiful woman who stole him from me, of burning jealousy, of bitter words, of longing for vengeance-for those sins, and no other, I have to sufler to-morrow a shameful death. 1 am sorry for her, lying in her grave, her bright beauty hidden for ever from the eyes of men ; but I pity myself more. Thousands of curious eyes will look on while I die. There will be no one to prove that I was innocent. My father, my friends, the girls I loved, the children I played with, will all believe me guilty ; and for fifty years to come they will tell at Dunwold the story of how Hyacinth Vane murdered Gertrude Fraser out of jealousy and revenge. There will be no one to defend me and say I was innocent. The little ones I have nursed will grow up into men and women, and to their children in their turn they will tell how Hyacinth Vane murdered her beautiful rival, and died in Ulverston gaoL There will be no one to tell the truth. I hate to think that Elsie Vane's only child-" the little white Hyacinth," as she was called-shall for all time be branded with the name of murderess.
I kneel down and pray as well as I know how. I remember my sins, and ask pardon for them. And then I ask that I might die bravely; that I may not cry, or shriek, or faint; that I may not cling to the kindly chaplain, whose heart aches for me ; that I may not cry out to the seething multitude. I ask-and I never stop to think whether it be right or wrong-with woeful tears that my mother may come and be near me on the scaffold when I am about to die. It is quite dark; and a strange sound comes to me. It is like the hum of a multitude-a confused, hor rible sound. The gaol at Ulverston stands facing one of the wide streets, and clearly enough I recognise the sound of an enormous surging mass of people. They are come to see me die ! I fall upon my knees with a passion ate cry of terror and pain. Hundreds and hundreds of people will tell each other how they saw Hyacinth Vane hung. I remember having read with wonder and amazement in the news papers that to see a fellow-creature die men and women will walk for hours, stand for hours, shouting, singing, jesting, giving no thought to the pain of the doomed one's last moments. Oh, Heaven, under the bright blue beautiful sky, can such things be ? Then another sound freezes the blood in my veins. What can it be, this muffled hammering ? Oh, I know! At night, with the help of torches, they are erecting the scaffold on which I am to die ! I hear the sound plainly, and I cry out with passionate terror and pain-loud bitter cries; I cannot restrain them. This brings my fate home to me. Who will save me ? Who will help me ? Oh, Heaven oh, mother-I am so young, and must I die? I fling myself upon the ground. I am half mad with fear ; and the cruel sound of the hammering, and the shouting of the crowd, of a vast multi tude, seem to grow clearer. How they will rejoice when I stand before them to-morrow to die I! For it was a cruel murder, and they all believe me guilty. I could make no defence, except that I had not done it. My passionate cries ring through the vaulted passages. Some one must have fetched the Governor, Captain Long more, and the head matron, Mrs. Martyn. I hear the key turn in the lock ; my sad longing eyes gaze out into the corridor, and then the door closes. I am shut up in the condemned cell, and the outer world has gone from me. It is Mrs. Martyn who raises my head from the cold stone floor, and, looking into the Governor's face, says quietly : " It is very sad for her to hear that noise ; it is bad enough without that." The Governor's face darkens. "It is bad enough altogether," he replies ; and I wonder in my own mind whetheir he thinks me innocent or guilty. I may mention that this tragedy of mine took place thirty years ago, when it was the custom to hang men and women alike before the scoffing gaze of thousands. My passion of terror has exhausted me. I feel that my face is white and still as that of a dead woman. I can not unlock my lips to speak my eyes are closed. " I will lay her on the bed," says the matron. " She ought to sleep till the bell tolls." The Governor shudders, strong man though he is. I feel him tremble as he raises me in his arms. "Hanging men is bad enough," he says, "but a woman, a fair delicate girl like this-I would as soon be hung myself as help in it ?" "Do you really think she did it ?" asks the matron in a whisper. "The law has pronounced her guilty. Surely the judge and the jury must have had pretty good evidence, or she would not be here. I am bound, as Governor of this prison, to believe her guilty, and to see that she is punished; but, if you ask my opinion as a man with a judgement of his own in the matter, I should say that she is inno cent-that a white dove is far more likely to slay an eagle than she is to murder a girl young as herself. I believe another thing, Mrs. Martyn, and it is that, if she does not have either wine or brandy, she will be dead before to-morrow comes.,' The kindly matron says : "Let her die, Captain Longmore. Only think what it would save her, if she could die here, and now I" "I dare not," he answers slowly, " I must do my best to keep her alive. I shall order some wine." It is brought to him; and they try to pour it down my throat. I endea o?or to open my lips, but I am quite poweriess. "She is dying," cries the matron, "what shall we do ?" They send for the prison Doctor, and he comes in haste. "Dying ? Is she, poor child ?" he says. "I wish that I dare let her die." But he dares not. He does all he can to bring me back from the shadow land, to keep me alive, that to-morrow thousands may look on in the bright sunlight and see me die. Slowly under his skill and care my eyes open, and the blood stirs in my veins. I read the very yearning of pity in the Doctor's eyes. The sound of the hammer with its mighty muffled blows is more clear and distinct. I catch his arm. "Doctor," I cry, "send me wherelI - Oh, I cannot bear to hear that noise I" He turns from me with a groan ; and the Governor says: " You cannot leave this cell. Try not to hear it, Hyacinth Vane." Four hours later. The sun has long since set, the birds are surely resting, the flowers all fast asleep; the great beautiful wings of night are spread over the world ; the wind is hushed, the trees are still. The noise of the hammer has ceased, and my heart, which seemed to throb painfully with each stroke, bcats more regularly. The moon must be shining, for across the narrow window falls a ray of light, faint silver light. Ah me, how often have I watched il lying on the lillies and roses at home! I have
seen it on my lover's face, when it has given to it the beauty of a Greek god. I shall never see the sweet silver moonlight again. I can hear the surging, the subdued noise, of the vast crowd; I know that men and women are waiting outside-lying, standing, sitting, through the long hours of the sweet summer night, just to see me die. A hundred memories sweep over me, Again I go over the tragedy of my love-the love that has been my doom, my fate-that has brought me here to die ; and I say to myself-may Heaven forgive me if I am wrong ! -that my love was so dear and so sweet, it made me so unutterably happy, that I would rather have had it, even were it to be followed by the punishment of death, than have been without it and have never known it--ten thousand times rather. I think of every hour I spent with Alan and my heart grows warm again. Unutterable anguish, the very extreme of sorrow and woe, have followed my love; but it lives in my heart and will never die. They will kill me to-morrow, but they will never slay my love. The best part of us never dies. I remember her-the tall dark brilliant beauty whose eyes alone would have lured any man to his ruin. There is no stain on my hands; they are white and clean. I hated her, but I would not have hurt one hair of her head. Then comes to my mind, as I lie in the darkness and the silence, a horrible story. We had a fair at Dunwold every year; and when I was about ten years old I was allowed to go to it. The thing that struck me most was not the booths, the stall-, the amusements, the people, or the fun, but a man who carried a large board on which were painted the several scenes of a murder. I remember every detail of it, even the sound of his voice as he shouted out the story. It was of a mother who had murdered her child by throwing it upon a large blazing kitchen fire. The picture that thrilled me most was a representation of the condemned cell, in which the hapless woman sat staring helpless at one corner, where the murdered child stood surrounded by a bright light. The man chanted the mother's words -" By night and by day the child stood always in a corner of my cell, looking at me with such sad eyes." There was no silent figure reproaching me; for on my soul lay no sin of murder. Th3 darkness increases; and the matron, who has asked to remain with me for the night sleeps ; I can hear her calm regular breathing, and it seems to me that my pain is increasing. My restless sighs awake her, for she opens her eyes and says, " Can you not sleep ? Would you like to get up ?"-(To be continued.).