|Chapter Title||MASTER AND MEN AT WAR.|
|Newspaper Title||Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1896 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||Children of Fire: A Mining Romance of Christmas-Tide|
CHILDREN OF ,FIRE.
A MINING ROMANCE OP CHIST MASTIDB. Chapter I. — Master and Men at War.
On the wide stretch, of moorland which lay between the mining village of Roxton Green and the well known town of Rams bury, a man and a woman came lace to lace one afternoon in mid-November, some teens of years ago. He wao young, stur dily built, dark ol face, and yet most comely. She was younger stitl — perhaps one and twenty — and had the lithe, pliant, graceful figure and pale handsome face not infrequently encountered among the pit brow lasses of Lancashire.
About the man and miner maiden the level expanse of moor stretched wide and white, for all that morning and the night before enow had fallen thickly ; and amidst the wilderness of white only the high road showed black where the passage of many feet and the coming and going of numerous vehicles, had crushed the soft, fleecy masses into hard, dark, slippery sheets, over which a skater could have travelled with ease and celerity. ' Nance Lathom !' the young man cried pleasantly bb he -came to a sudden stand still before the girl and held out bis big brown hand. ' I could tell it was you at the other end of the moor.' ' Just as I could tell it was you, Dick Graston !' she replied, with a smile lighting up her pale face. ' And I was wondering, Dick, what had taken vou into Ramsbury
to-day. You are not thinking of leaving Roxton Green already, are you, when the strike at the pits is only a week old ?' The shy, grey eyes were suddenly raised to his own bright, brown ones in an ap pealing way, and the hand he had freed was buried in the folds of the warm shawl she was wearing. 'Well, to tell you the truth, Nance,' be responded somewhat slowly und a trifle awkwardly, ' 1 did think of shifting my quarters — that is,' he added quickly, ' if 1 could have managed to get work in the town.' 'Tired o* th' Green, already?' she murmured, with a look of abstraction in her fine soft eyes, as she allowed hers9lf to - drift into the vernacular of the district. ' No, Nance, not that !' he criad, im pulsively. 'I'm not tired o' th' Green, but I'm not one o' fch' sort that's content to drift into debt an' idleness. I thought if I could get 'work in the town, I'd stay there till the etrike was over ; and then I might have come back again.' 'But you didn't get a shop, Dick 1' she quried, her clear, warm eyes turned up to him again, and the little nostrils of her finely moulded nose distended. ' No, I didn't, Nance !' he muttered,
in a tone of intense mortification. ' I wns out this mornin' at break o' day, and since then I've tramped through the snow to every pit round about Bimabury. Bat it was the same tale I was told at each col liery — they were a' full, and no chance for anybody 1' ' 'Specially anybody fro* Roxton Green, Dick !' she remarked in a tone full of meaning. - 41 Just what I was forced to think, wench, at last !' he rejoined, bis strong, brown features clouding sullenly. ' There's no work for any of the men on strike Old Halliburton and bis cursed manager, David Grale, have sent round the word to all the other owners and bosses iu the neighbor hood, and the men of Roxton Green are to be starved tack to their work. By
? f if all the men were of my mind we'd make ? ?' A little brown hand laid suddenly upon his sleeve interrupted the flow of the miner's impassioned speech, but it was the look in the handsome pit-brow girl's eyes, rather than the act, which fettered his tongue. ' Hush, Drck ! Don't say another word now, pi* ass. I know how you must feel, and I think we all feel us you do.' ' But. it's more than a human being can stand, Nance,' he growled, with thunder ous eyes. ' These men grind the faces of the poor as if they were beneath consider ation. I toll you ? ' Agaiu the small brown fingors sought his sleeve, and she almost; whispered — ' And go you couldn't find work any where, Dick? Well, T am glad. I shouldn't have been pleased if one of the ringleaders
of the strikers bad gone away, .besides, whit would the others have Quid? It is your duty to ct-xy in Rjxton Gracn aud see the end of the business.' ' Yoa'ie right-, wench, and I'm goin -to 8°e 'ho ruaMcrout!' he exclaimed with.
a clearing face. ' But,' he added more slowly and with wondering eyes, 'you eay you are glad, Nance. Why ? If Ned Grundy was out of the way, I should never want to leave Roxton Green.' ' Ned Grundy ia nowt (nothing) to me, Dick,' she answered with lowered face ; but he could see that her Boft cheeks were aflame with colour. 14 1 thought you were keeping company together,' he stammered. ' The folks said you were to be man and wife. But for that I should have told you, Nance He paused irresolutely and their eyes met. The woman's gaze fell 6rst, but a-? her eyes veiled themselves she murmured lowly — ' Ned axed me to be his wahfe. but I
couldn't. An' — an', Dick, what were yo' goin' to tell me ?' ' That I loved the ground you walked od, Nancy !' burst from his lips as he captured both her hands and drew her towards him. ' But I should never have told you this if you had not told me about Ned. Bub Nance, dear, do you really think you could care for me ?' ' Oh, Dick !' she answered, and with tremulous lips, ' if it badn't been you I think I should have liked Ned better. I did like him once, Dick, and then you came here, nearly three years sin', and then I knowed there was only one chap
in a' the world for me.' They were standing breast to breast when she had finished speaking, and his hofe, ardent eyes were peering lovingly into her soft, grey, moisture-dimmed ones. His lips were hungering for a taste of her ripe, small mouth, but he restrained him self with an effort and asked, quietly as he could— ' And when this strike is over, Nance — will you marry me then ? I have saved a few pounds, and in the spring we might set up house together. What do yon say to that, my dear Nance ?' 'lam ready and willing, Dick, when ever you say the word,' was the maiden's shy reply. Then he crushed he? to his breast and covered her Iids and cheeks and hair with
hot kisses. A little later, when she had broken away, flush-faced and happy eyed, from his amorous clasp, he cried in the tone of a new master — ' Come alocg, Nance ! You are going to Ramsbury, I can see, and I'll go with you. Now that we are sweethearts, I cannot have you tramping the country alone.' ' No, Dick ; you must go right on to the village at once, for you are wanted there. As I cams past the British Queen I heard that Master Grale had sent fop some of the men about the strike. They had been to your lodgings, but couldn't find you, and were wondering where you could be.' ' Then I'll be off, Nance,' he cried. 'Perhaps owd Halliburton and Grale have changed their minds after all and intend to let us start work again without any reduction. Well, I hope so, the Lord knows.' ' I hope so, too, Dick,' was her fervent
Then he kissed Nance again, they shook hands, and she proceeded on her way townwards. For a few moments he stood there in the centre of the snow-swathed moorland with his eyes fixed on the slim, darkly-clad rebreating figure of the pit brow girl. Then, with a sigh of deep contentment, he turned, set his face in the direction of Roxton Green, and walked quickly away.
Chapter II. — The Murder on the Moor. The darkness of tbe early winter even ing had fallen, and in the centre of Rox ton Green, before and about the entrance to tbe British Queen, a large number of pitmen were congregated. The hostelry named formed the head quarters and meetiog place of the miners of the village. Therein the lodge gather ings of the local Miners' Union were held, and an hour ago a crowded meeting
had been held in the club-room upstairs to consider the proposals made that very evening by the manager of the Roxton Green colliery, Mr. David Grale. On returning hot-foot to the village nffcer his meeting with Nance Lathoin on the moor, Dick Craston found a score of miners eagerly awaiting hie appearance. As Nance had said, Gralo had sent word that a deputation of ininord was to call upon him forthwith at the colliery offices to discuss with him terms of settlement, j and thithor after a hurried consultation '
Dick Craston, Ned Grundy, and three ther miners had repaired. At 6 o'clock all the pitmen ia the vil lage were bidden to repair to the British Queen to hear the result of the conference with Grale. At half-past 6 the long, low roofed room on the upper storey of the old inn waa filled to overflowing, and there Dick Craston delivered the mine mana ger's ultimatum. In lieu of the 15 per cent, reduction of wages all round, which Mr. Halli burton bad originally demanded, the mineowner was willing to accept 5 per cent, less, provided the miners returned in a body to their employment in three days — that was on the morning of the following Monday. If tbe bulk of the men and lads em ployed underground, and the women and girls and surfacemen employed above, were not at work as usual on the day named, the different pits would be closed perman ently, never probably to be reopened again. The announcement of this drastic ulti matum gave rise to intense excitement. Many of the village pitmen gave utter
ance to deep curses — bade the old scound rel to close his pits for ever, for they would never accept the scandalous reduction ; and among tbose who were loudest in their approval of such a policy was Dick Craston. In a brief passionate speech Dick pointed out the brutality of the demand made upon them. The miners at Roxton Green were already much worse paid than others in the district, and yet they were to be fur ther reduced or driven to seek work ihree or four miles away. As for himself he had thought of Fettling- at Roxton Green, but rather than accept the degrading terms offered he would emigrate. But he did not blame their employer, Mr. Halliburton, so much as he blamed the manager, David Grale. If Providence would only remove that gentleman from among them, it would be a good thing for them all. Although the majority agreed with Dick
and cheered his statements to the echo, there wera a few who ware prepared to accept the terms offered. Among these was Ned Grundy. He pointed out, amidst some hoots and curses, that the villagers had nothing to look to but the local pits. If these were closed it meant ruin to them all. Many would be forced from the vil lage never to return, and on tbe principle that half a loaf was better than no bread, he should vote for accepting David Grale's offer. A tornado of passionate remonstrances drowned Ned's peroration, and when he sat down the meeting broke up in con iusion. Afterwards in tbe various rooms of the British Queen, before the tavern door, and in their respective homes the parties inter ested discussed r,he great subject of the hoar in varying moods.
Jtmt tbere appeared to ue one matter on which every soul in Roxton Green was agreed. It had been a bad day for tbe village when David Grale 6et foot in it, and it would be a good day for them all if Providence, as Dick Craston had put it, would remove him from their midst. That pregnant utterance of Dick's was turned over and over again by the horny fisted pitmen ere they broke up, and it was repeated afterwards around many a hnmble
nreside before the little village was plunged in slumber and quietness. Next day men ta ked of Dick's utterance still, but it was in a strange hushed way then. Along the moorland road which led from Ramsbury to Roxton Green the figure of a dark-garbed man was pacing with slow, heavy measured steps. It was the country policeman, and on reaching the narrow stream which divided tbe borough and the village he paused a few minutes, drew forth a clay pipe, lit it, and smoked away in quiet enjoyment of the soothing
It was several hours after midnight, and the whole of the country side was p'unged in deepest silence. Save the lapping of the stream as it slid under tbe single arcb, the guardian of the night could hear no thing. On high the stars scintillated like jewels through the ckar frosty air, a half- moon cast its radiance over the broad expanse of snowy moor, and away to tho north a faint halo-like light hung over tho sleeping town. Presently the constable knooked ou£ the aabes from his pipe, stowed it away care fully iueido his great coat, and then with j the methodical movement of his kind, he made bis way towards the village, glad
doubtless that his nightly vigil was nearly at an end. . On tho confines of the village, where the houses straggled from the high road on to the moor, and whore a few naked trees broke the level monotony, a small round object, ' ? ' showing jet black against the white snow, caught and arrested the constable's gaze. A low grunt fell from tho policeman's lips, a little start of surprise ; he shook hia head, »nd then with a slight acceleration of pace he left the black, slippery high road, plunged amongst the crisp-coated snow, and stooping picked up a black billy cock hat. Another moment and the bullseye lamp was turned upon the vagrant headgear, and. then, an instant later, as be cast his glance around, a cry fell from the man's moutb, and he ran forward a score of paces to where a dark tumbled heap lay face down ward among the snow at the foot of a rapged tree. Drunk or dead ! That question rose involuntary to the constable's lips and the white ray of the lamp was flashed over the silent, prostrate figure. Then a hoarse murmur of horror' , was wrung from the policeman's dry lips as he noticed the jigged gash in the man's skull, and the blood that poured over hair, neck, and coat. Feeling sick and weak the constable rushed away in the direction of tbe village. He was a youag man — a new hand in ' the force,' and that was his first experience of bloody murder. Half au hour later the frightened ' bobby' returned to tho spot, and with him were another constable and the local sergeant of polico. Then tbe murdered man was Identified as Mr. David Grale, the manager of the Roxton Green col liery. On a rudely extemporised stretcher the body was conveyed to the British Queen, until such time as the inqnest could be
held upon it ; and some hours afterwards when day broke and the village awoke to life, the story of the tyrannical mine mana ger's tragic end waa in the mouths of all the Roxton ' Greeners.' Chapter III. — The Valley op Black Death. Two days more had passed away, end the inquest held in tbe village hostelry to inquire the cause of the death of David Grale bad terminated, as every intelligent person had forseen, in the jury returning a verdict of ' wilful ' murder against some
Daring the progress of the short inquiry only a fragment of additional evidence had been brought forward, saving the few facts already laid before the reader. Polico-constable Meadows had testified to the finding of the body and giving the alarm to his local chief ; tho other consta ble and sergeant had corroborated hia statement ; and Sergeant Johnstons had added that on searching the corpse it waa found that his watch and chain — both of gold — had disappeared, that several of the dead man's pockets were turned inside out, and that not a single coin of the realm or valuable of any kind was found about the body. For two days the villagers and the folks of the adjacent neighborhood conversed eagerly with one another in a wonderiDg awe-atmck way about the tragedy, and although none of the mining people were heard to express any regret for the mana ger's death, the manner of it was a never ending subject of puzzlement. Then it was that tho pitmtn reminded each other of Dick Craeton's prophetic say ing that it would be a good thing fjrthem all if Providence removed David Grale from among them, and lo ! within a few hours after that utterance was made the de tested official had been culled suddenly and awfully to his account. It was perhaps only natural that the simple-minded pitfolk should talk, and when it was found that Grale had been robbed as well as murdored, not a few of Dick Craston's chums and workmates felt easier in their minds. These folks could conceive it possible that Craston and Grale might have met and quarrelled and fought on the moor, but the robbery of the dead pointed to tbe work being that of other hands. It waa evident now that tho manager had been attacked for the sake of spoliation. Perhaps moro pity vyould have bean felt for tho dead man's fate had hn not bt.eu without kith aud kin in the whole of the countryside. A little while before, on the death of tho former manager. Grale had obtnined tbe vacant managership, and after his installation bad appeared to fake do*
light in riding rough shad over the miners and their rights. A tall, thin-faced, epare-fraraod, eoarse grained, caustic-tongued bachelor of fifty, David Gralo invited i;o nun's confidence, no more than ho spared the shortoominge or derelictions of duty en iha part of his his workpeople. Had ho set himself tha task of making himself hated Gride c-u'd not have suc ceeded more thoroughly. If a miner got drank on Sunday and abaeuted himself on . the following morning in canBequence, bo was certain to be either ' shelved ' for the remainder of the week or dismissed alto gether. If a dataller ceased work a few minutes beforo the recognised hour — 4 o'clock p.m. — he was mulcted of a quarter of a day for his trifliug offence. And very soon tin colliers were to be heard grumbling and cursing over their cups of the different small privileges and ' allowances ' which Graiie had taken from them, the result being in all cases that their wages were reduced, and their liberty and convenience hampered. The new broom was sweeping clean with a vengeance ; right and left Gr?le had pruned and pared, cutting down expenses to the last fraction ; and, finally, the work people had received notice of that reduction of 15 per cent. No wonder, after all these things, that no one mourned over the fate of David Grale. AU the Roxton Green folk did ?wonder about then was — whab steps Mr. ' Halliburton would take now that bis abo minated understrappir had gone the way of all flesh. Next day the question received an an swer. Shortly before noonday a crowd of villagers were loung'ng in front of the British Queen, eagerly, excitedly reading and discussing a large placard which had just been posted on the end of the public house. The poster, in black and white, was headed — V. E. .£100 REWARD, and it went on to state that such an amount would be paid to anyone offering such in formation as would lead to the apprehen sion and conviction of the person or per sons : concerned m the murder of David Grale. Further, it was stated that a free pardon would be granted to anyone, not the actual murderer, who ' turned Queen's evidence.' Agape and agog the pitmen were debat ing this iast bit of intelligence, when their attention was suddenly diverted by the clanging of a vigorously swnng hand bell. Turning, they confronted the town-crier from Kamsbury, who wa3 standing in the centre of the rudely-paved sqaare, swingtng the instrument of his calling. Presently 50 or 60 pitmen, of all sizss and ages, were gathered in a ring about the bellman, and then he proceeded to unfold his budget of news, which wassome thing altogether different from .what the audience anticipated. Aftor clearing Mb voice and glancing around for some portentous seconds the crier went on to state that by the orders of James Strangford Halliburton, Eq, of Roxton Green Hall, proprietor ot Roxton Green Colliery, he was authorised to maka public the fact that the strike was ended. On the following morning all the oid bands - were to repair to their old places, above ground and below, to resume their former work, for which they would be paid at the old rate of wages. Hisproclamation ended, the crier doubled up the sheet of paper he held in his hand, clattered his bell afresh for a moment, and Btrode proadly away, fully conscious of his importance. For a few moments the miners separated into knots and discussed the pleasing news with avidity. Ten minutes later they had broken upland were hieing them homeward to disseminate the tidings and prepare for the coming morrow's work. On the day namefJ by the town crier work had been recommenced at the Eoxton Green Colliery, and for several weeks the daily work of the village community went on in much the same uneventful manner that had characterised it previous to the strike and David Grale's taking off. The murderer, whoever he might be, was stiil at large, but although the police were still prosecuting the search for tha criminal local interest in the crime had fallen almost to zero. In a week or two Christmas and the New Year would bo ushered in, and meanwhile the villagers were making all their preparations for the welcoming of those festive days. One morning, just five days before Christmas, Dick Crastoo and Nance
Lathorn chanced to meet, but not by acqi dent, in the village thoroughfare. It was frosty and dark and very early. The stri dent scream of a brass-throated steam whistle was flooding the air with its clamor, telling the work-a-day world that the hour of 5 a.m. had come, and here and there a collier might have been seen wending his way to the pits. As the last notes of the vociferous ' buzzer' quivered in the chill morning air the well-braced figure ol a man came walking alertly nlong the wide straggling street, whistling gaily as he went towards his labor, and presently a woman's head was thrust from a narrow entry between the houses and one word cleft the silence. 'Dick!' ' That you, Nance ? Whatever are you doing abroad so early ?' ' I want to speak to you, Dick. I must ! Come into the entry a minute, where no one will see us.' There was an anxious ring' in the pit brow girl's voice and her hand was laid on Craston's sleeve in an appealing manner, which Dick found irresistible. Wonder ingly he stepped into the small opening with queries on his lips. ' What is it, Nance ? Some'at wrong at home, eh ?' 'There's nowt wrong a' whoam, Dick,' was the quick, low answer, ' but ah think there's some'at wrong somewheer else. Bush whahle ah tell tliee ! Last neet, Ned Grundy was at eaur heawse, an' ah heerd him tell mi fayther that th' police had, getten a clue abeawt th' murder !' ' That's all good news, wench, and I am glad to hear it,' was the miner's ready reponse. 'Gladl' she reiterated faintly. 'But Grundy said that everybody suspected you and ? ' She paused suddenly and both her hands were placed on her lover's shoulders, while her sweet pale face was thrust close to his own. ' ? Grundy !' he cried passionately. ' Who cares for what he thinks or says ?' There, Nance, cheer up, wench, and never fret about me. I'm innocent. God knows ! And now I must be off to my work. Good morning. I'll see you to night.' They kissed tenderly, parted reluctantly, and the miner went on towards the colliery. About three or four hours after this a couple of respectably-attired men made their way through the village. The stran gers appeared to be decent working men of the better class, and when they enquired for Richard Craston the first woman they spoke to pointed out the pitman's lodgings. A minute later they were knocking at the cottage door. ' We want to speak to Richard Craston, my good woman,' the elder of the men said to the buxom housewife who threw open the door. ' Dick's workin ',' the woman answered, ' an' he'll not get whoam afoor 3 or 4 o'clock. If you' ca' agen then yo'll see him.' ' Where does he work now ?' the man added. ' At th' Arley Pit, o'er tbeer,' and the woman jerked her head towards the 'Roxton Green Colliery, which waff just visible from the doorway. ' Thank you. Good morning. Perhaps we may call again.' ' Without more ado the two men turned away, retraced their steps through the village, and then just outside n went along the lane which led to Mr. Halliburton's colliery. Entering the yard tbey came to the flight of stone steps leading up to the brow of the different mines, and they ascended the stairway quietly and self possessed, like men who had business of importance in front of them. The Roxton Green Colliery comprised three shafts leading to an many seams — tha Yard Coal, the Cannel Seam, and the Arley mine — and the three pit mouths all opened out upon the eame brow, each pit having its own banksman and separate set of pit-brow women. As the two strangers gained the pit bank they noticed a collier sitting on an overturned pit-waggon. It was Nod Grundy, who for aome reason or other hail just come up the pit and was waiting there for somstbing. Near the mouth of the middle pit Nance Lathom was standing, and her sweet pale fs-ca and supple form appeared to great advantage in the curious hybrid attire she was wearing. ' Which is the Arley mine, my man ?' one of the newcomers queried, as he paused beside Grundy. ' The middle pit there.' 'Can you tell me it Richard Craston is working to-day and what time he will finish work T
' Dick's working, but. I can't say when he'll finish. That's our new manager. Mester Daglashe an' he'll tell yo' a' yo want to know abeawt the men an' pits.' The two men hurried away and were in time to intercept the new manager just as he was on the threshold of his office, which stood on the extremity of the pit-bank. ' Mr. Daglashe — a minute, please !' ' What is it ? Do you want work? If so you had better see one of the under lookers.' ' We do not want employment, thank1 you,' returned the elder man', with a faint smile. '' We are here to fulfil an unplea sant duty, that is all, and desire your assistance.' ' What is your business 1' 'I am Detective Brandram, of the County Police, and this is Constable Ryding. I hold the warrant for the arrest of one of your miners, Richard Craston, who is charged with the murder of your predecessor, David Grale. The accused is at work in the Arley mine pit and we want him.' . 'This is a most unpleasant business,' Daglashe muttered with a clouded face. 'What can I do?' ?' Send down a note saying that Craston is wanted at once in your office. Nothing could be easier than that, Mr. Daglashe.' ' Humph ! Well, I suppose I had better do as you suggest, Mr. Brandram. Will you step this way ?' They were about to enter the office when a deep rumbling report, as of lar away thunder, assailed their startled ears. In an instant they had sprung round in time to see a mighty column of smoke and dust belched out of the Arley shaft as if hell itself were spewing forth its fumes, while the surface hands were flying in all directions. ' My God !' the manager cried in an awed whisper and with an ashen face, ' the Arley mine has exploded !' Then he darted away towards the fired pit. Chapter IV. — Abisen feom the Tomb, The whole of a year, with the exception of a few weeks, had passed away since the occurrence of the incidents chronicled in the preceding chapter, and affairs, at Roxton Green were flowing along smoothly in their accustomed channels. The tragedy of David Grale was now almost forgotten, and the explosion in the ill-fated Arley mine waa looked back upon as a blood-red spot in the pages of local history. Of the three score men and lad'* in the mine ait the time of the disaster not one solitary human being had lived to tell his version of the devastating calamity. Haifa dozen of the miners and youths who worked at or about the pit bottom had been rescued and conveyed to the surface alive, but their injuries had been of such an awful nature that not one of them survived a week. Of the remainder a black, indescribable death had overwhelmed ithem all; and many weeks passed ere the burnt, shat tered, and indistinguishable remains were discovered and brought forth for inter ment. After the explosion the mine was dis covered to be on fire, and for several weeks the seam had been sealed up — utterly closed at every point — in order that the smouldering, deep-seated, underground fires mi;-ht be extinguished. When the pit was re-opened it was found that the mine had been completely wrecked — that hundreds of yards ot tha galleries had caved in ; that many of the old working places were lost altogether ; and it is a profound conviction of many miners -o this dny that the bodies of many of the doomed men were never disinterred from their vast subterranean tombs. On one man it was said that his terrible end was a piece of poetic and Almighty justice. If the explosion had not swept Dick Craston into eternity he would cer tainly have found his way into the hang man's hands, for on the day following tho catastrophe, when there was no hope of saving any ot the entombed miners, the police had paid a visit to Craston'd lodg ings, and in his box had found the gold wacch and chain which had belonged to David Grale. After that damning discovery not one of even Dick Craston's best friends — not even Nance Lathom — was inclined to dispute the evident guilt of the miner ; and a little later, when Ned Grundy con fessed, reluctantly, that he had all along been cognisant of Craston's fell crimina lity, the seal was set upon what had pro mised to become an unfathomable murder mystery. No words can paint the sufferings of If aaco Lathom when she heard that her
'ovei? was among the doomed men in the . exploded seam ; and the discovery shortly afterwards that her affianced husband was the murderer of David Grale could add but little to the poignaucy of her unspeak able woe. Luckily for the poor lass she was poor, as were her parents ; and the labor to which she had perforce to Bubmit herself daily had, to an appreciable extent, the tendency to lessen her load of sorrow. But for months she went about her* daily toil and the village a wan shadow of her former self, laughing never at all, and Beldom speaking to anyone j and warm,, fruitful summer was making the whole countryside green and gay and beautiful ere the color came back again to her pale, comely ctrantenance. The basset of the sad lassie was buried fathoms ciaep with Dick Craston, and she knew that love was a closed book to her for ever. ? But with the advent of summertide one of Nance'a old lovers laid siege to her heart afresh. This was Ned Grundy, for whom she had ever a liking. But Nance was in no mood yet; for loving. Her heart was bleeding still, and it needed all the urging of father and mother to bring the1 girl to accept the loving attentions Ned was dying to shower upon her. : At length, completely worn out by Grundy 's insistance and her parents' re monstrance, Nance had given way, and in the autumn it was generally known that; a wedding might be expected before the end of the year. At the very beginning Nance had in sisted upon telling Ned Grundy the whole truth. The dead miner had all her love, and she felt she would never care for another man. Ned smiled at this ; said he would be glad to take her and wait patiently for the love he knew would come. And so the matter was arranged, and the day fixed for the weddiDg drew nearer and nearer as the autumn slipped quietly away and winter drew on. At length the eventful morning was decided upon ; and one Sabbath morn — 'twas the last Sunday before Christmas — Nance Lathom, Ned Grundy, and a small crowd of friends assembled in the little church at Roxtou Green to solemnise the marriage. The house of God was half-filled with villagers — many of whom seldom went there save when a wedding, christening, or burial was afloat — when the wedding ceremony began, and the clergvman was intoning the preliminary words when some commotion was caused by a dark-bearded' stranger coming suddenly from a pew to the chancel. . ' I forbid this marriage ! ! !' the stranger said in a deep voice which sounded huskily solemn. ' Tuis man, Edward Grundy, is « the murderer ofDavid G-rale. I am Dick Craston, whom you all thought dead and guilty!' . ., * As he spoke the man tore off the lfi^rzr-^^ black beard, and the next moment a low, sobbing shriek rang through the church as Nance Lathom fainted in her father's arms. . . ^ ..'Good God! You here?' bnrstina hoarse scream from Grundy's lips as ho., faced Dick Craston with ashen face and° quivering limbs. Then he bounded away madly, like one suddenly bereft of reason, and slipping on the smooth polished tiles fell senseless near the veBtry door. InBtantly all was confueion. The villa gers rushed pell-mell from their seats and - pews and crowded about the chancel rails round Nance Latbom and her parents; , some rushed to the side of the prostrate man, while the minister drew the cause of the turmoil aside, talking to him lowly and most earnestly. A little later the church was cleared ; Nance \va* conveyed home by her parents, the Bonsele^s man was carried into the vestry, and the clerk was dispatched for the local doe* or. And during all the hub bub the man who had como back from the dead stood there grim- faced and silently resolute. ?,?;'--— An hoar later it was known through the length and breadth of Roxton Green, that Ned Grundy, ere he gasped out his last breath in the fit that had seized him, and confessed that he had mardered David Grale, whose gold watch and chain he had placed in Crastou's box during the tumult and confusion caused by the ex plosion. Later in the day to Nance Lathom and her parents Dick Craston explained hia own strange reappearance on tho scene. On the morning his sweetheart had warned him Dick had been thoroughly alarmed, and sti-a.ling quietly «o his lodg ings he had possessed himself of h» savings and stolen away, never rvsiiog
- until lie bad put the sea8 between himself and~arresfc. v In America, where he had journeyed, he had sojourned for nearly a year, and then a strange chance had thrown him acroBaan old friend from Roxfcon G-reen. From this man Craston' had learned all that bad happened at Boston Green since his flight— had learned with amaz8 that he was supposed to have been lost in the ex plosion ; that the police were on the brow to arrest him for Grale'a murder when the explosion happened ; that the watch and chain of the murdered man were found in his box ; that Grundy bad accused him of the murder ; and, finally, that his old ? sweetheart and his maligner were to be married at Christmas. On hearing these things Dick had re solved to return at once to the village, satisfied that the murderer of Grata was G-rundy himself. Fortunately he had arrived on the scene just in time to Bave Nance from a disgraceful wedding ; and the shock of his sudden appearance, when he was supposed to be dead, had brought on that fit from which G-rundy had died. In going abroad he had simply placed himself out of harm's way for a time, feel ing assured that the real murderer would be unearthed when the Almighty willed it. The rest they all knew. In the spring Nance Lathom again stood attired in bridal array inside the little church; but this time the bride groom was honest Dick CraBton.