Read CHAPTER XXI - EVENING RED of Bylow Hill, free online book, by George Washington Cable, on

Then she began to unrobe, but stopped to throw her arms about her mother’s neck.

“Now, dearly beloved, you hurry away down the path and persuade him up and send him in.  I’m only afraid you’ll find him chilled half to death, it’s growing cold so fast.  And you can follow in after him, dearie, if you wish,-only not too close.”

The mother went, and had got no farther than the cross-path when she came all at once upon the master of the house.

“Oh! ho, ho! here you are!  I was just-Arthur, dear, where is your overcoat?  Do go right up to your room, my son, till I can get Sarah to have a fire started in the library.”  She multiplied words in pure affright, so drawn was his face with anguish, and so wild his eyes with aimless consternation.

Without reply he passed in and went upstairs.  Mrs. Morris remained below.

Isabel’s heart beat fast.  She had made her change of dress, and in a far corner of her room, with her face toward the open door that let into his, was again leaning with a mother’s ecstasy over the sleeping babe, when she heard his step.

It came to his outer door, which from her place could not be seen.

Did he stop, and stand there?  No, he had not stopped; he was only moving softly, for the child’s sake.

She stood motionless, listening and looking with her whole soul, and wishing the light were less dim in this shadowy corner, but knowing there was enough to show her to him when he should reach the nearer door.  The endless moment wore away, and there on the threshold he stood-if that-Oh merciful God!-if that was Arthur Winslow.

His eyes fell instantly upon her, yet he made neither motion nor sound, only stayed and stared, while an unearthly terror came into his face.

Care of the child kept her silent, but in solemn tenderness she lifted her arms toward him.

He uttered a freezing shriek and fled.  In an instant his tread was resounding in the hall, then on two or three steps of the stair as she hurried after, and then there came a long, tumbling fall, her mother’s wail in the hail below, and a hoarse cry of dismay from Giles as he rushed out of the library.

“He’s only stunned, mum,” Giles was saying as Isabel reached the spot.  “He’s no more nor just stunned, mum.”

He had lifted the fallen man’s head and shoulders, and Mrs. Stebbens came, dropping to her knees and sprinkling water into the still, white face.

Isabel threw herself between.

“Arthur!  Arthur! can’t you speak?  Oh, let us move him into the library!”

“Yes, um!” exclaimed Giles. “’E’ll come to in there; you can see ’e’s only stunned.”

He tried to raise him, and Isabel and Sarah moved to help; but the wife turned on hearing Ruth’s voice at her side, and Leonard Byington lifted the limp man in his arms unaided, and bore him to the library lounge.

“Arthur,” he pleaded, with arms still under him, “can’t you speak to us, dear boy?  Say at least good-by, can’t you, Arthur?” He parted the clothing from neck and breast, and laid an ear to his heart.

“Do you hear it, Leonard?” cried the wife.  “Oh, you do hear it, don’t you, Leonard?”

There was no answer.  For a moment Leonard’s own form relaxed, and he turned his face and buried it in the unresponsive breast.  Then he lifted it again, and taking the other face between his hands he sank his brow to the brow upturned and cried:  “God rest your soul, Arthur!  Oh, Arthur, Arthur, God rest your soul!”