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self would not accompany him. She acquiesced, and bade him proceed, promising to follow in a few seconds, as she wished first to try and find the piece of paper upon which she had written : this was nowhere to be found. She was just in the act of joining the police-sergeant, when, as she was leaving the room, a scarcely perceptible rustle of the window curtain caused her to turn quickly round. She looked nervously at the drapery, and saw a tall black figure, with the upper part of the face masked, come from behind the curtain. It slowly raised its arm in a threatening and impressive manner, as if commanding silence, advancing at the same time towards her.
There was scarcely any need of this precaution upon its part, for Catherine, after the recent excitement she had gone through, was incapacitated from uttering a sound. The only wonder was, that she did not fall senseless. The majestic-looking figure had now come quite close to her, while it slowly raised one hand to its face and pulled off the mask, whispering, as it did so“Do you not know me, Catherine ?--not recognise me ?”
Alas! she knew him ; recognised him but too well. It was her cousin, Pierce O'Neile, who now stood before her!
None are all evil-quickening round his heart,
HER cousin ! and more than all, the man she loved so passionately, so devotedly, spite of all his misfortunes and failings! There he stood before her, he whom they all believed to be in another part of the world. This, then, was the manhood of the wayward, wild lad, whom no control could influence-a midnight robber! the chief of a gang whose very name produced terror ! She sank upon her knees before him; then starting wildly up, ran to the window and undrew the bolt to let him pass out, when he approached her, and said softly
“ They are there, I have heard them, or I should have escaped long since. Catherine, you must hide me somewhere, and at once.”
“Where, oh! where?” and she gazed around her in despair, when quick as thought, her eyes rested upon an antique cabinet that stood at the far end of the room. With a beating heart she approached it, and turning the key, that by some good fortune or fatality happened to be there, opened it. It contained three broad shelves, upon which were placed a collection of minerals, and other objects of curiosity. She could hide him there. With a sweep of the hand she drew all the articles towards her into her lap, then took out the shelves, and placed them one upon the other at the bottom of the cabinet; and, regardless of the store set upon the contents in her lap, she threw them back again into one of the corners, in one heap. She only thought of the life that was dearer to her than all others, and that at any sacrifice an O'Neile must be saved. She made him get into the cabinet, and told him to remain quite still, till she should have an opportunity of setting him free, which must be managed somehow before daybreak. She locked him in, then handed him the key through the fretted wood-work. The cabinet not being more than four feet in height, he was obliged to take a cramped, painful sitting posture. Catherine had scarcely secreted him, when she heard footsteps returning along the passage. She threw herself into one of the arm-chairs, now fairly exhausted with bodily fatigue and mental anxiety. It was Sergeant Patricks himself who now entered, with a rather anxious look, for he had begun to wonder at Catherine's non-appearance up-stairs. Upon seeing her flushed face and feverish eyes, he exclaimed
“Ah, I thought as much, Miss O'Neile, this hard work has been too much for you, and you appear over excited. The reaction has yet to come, and then you will suffer for your magnanimous conduct of to-night. Let me at least ease your mind upon one point, by assuring you that Miss Maitland is quite safe. Strange to say, I found her lying upon her bed, apparently more dead than alive through mere nervousness; she now desires to see you very much, and to thank you as her deliverer. She asserts that she was suddenly awakened from the deep sleep into which she had fallen, by hearing voices quite close to her. She started up, and for the moment imagined that she was under some delusion, when she observed half-a-dozen men all masked, who, without paying the slightest attention to her presence, began inspecting everything in the room. The tallest of them, evidently the leader of the band, made a sign to the others to withdraw, and then coming up to her, addressed her with the courtesy of a gentleman, assuring her that she had nothing to fear, as he respected her too much to offer her any violence. Then, in a light playful way, he remarked that Dame Fortune had played him false, and reduced whatever worldly possessions he possessed to a very low ebb; and to such an extent that he did not think it wicked, though it might be unlawful, to take from those who could freely spare from their abundance. He begged of her, with an air more of command than entreaty, to allow him to conduct her to her room, it being the most agreeable place for her under the circumstances. He offered his arm as he spoke, yet she did not endeavour to stir, for a sickening sensation overpowered her, and she fainted.
When consciousness returned, she found herself lying upon her bed; and when for a moment she opened her eyes, to her astonishment she perceived a face gazing down upon her. A remarkable one it was, too, and not altogether unfamiliar, though where and when she had last seen it, was a puzzle to her. I begged of her to give me an exact description of the face, as it might help in discovering the robber. But she could only describe that it was a very dark one, and so disguised by a thick beard, that it would be impossible to identify it again.”
Catherine eagerly listened to this account, and an undefined dread crept over her, as she thought of the occupant of the cabinet.
The sergeant said that he should not think of quitting the house till the return of Mr. Maitland. He sat himself down before the fire, and took a newspaper out of his pocket, seemingly with the intention of reading it. Catherine saw there was nothing to be done but leave things to their fate; so she left the room, and went up to her friend. One comfort at least was hers,
that of knowing that Pierce had heard the whole of the conversation between her and Sergeant Patricks, and consequently would understand how matters stood.
She found Miss Maitland anxiously awaiting her. The meeting between them was very affecting ; not that words took much part in it, for both felt too deep an anxiety concerning what had taken place to speak about it. There they remained, hand clasped in hand, till Miss Maitland's eyes closed; yet not in sleep, for she opened them from time to time, and fixed them upon Catherine's upturned face, as it lay against the pillow. Never had it appeared to her as it did then, in the shadow of the room; for there was a world of love, sorrow, and intelligence breathing from it, that she never saw combined in the countenance of any one before.
An hour might have passed thus, when Catherine was aroused from a fitful state between waking and sleeping, by a gentle tap upon the shoulder. She started up with an alarmed look, and recognised Edward Maitland. He put his finger to his lip in token of silence, as he pointed to the now sleeping form upon the bed, and then made a sign for her to follow him out of the room. The door had no sooner closed upon them, than he seized both her hands, while he said with emotion
“ Catherine!”-it was the first time that he had called her by that name- words are but poor indeed to tell you how grateful I am for the great service you have rendered me to-night, even at the risk of your own life. My brave, my noble Catherine ! should you ever require a friend in any need, be it great or small, though God forbid that such should ever come near you !"—this was spoken with much fervour-“I will be that friend."
Catherine was now about to speak, but he anticipated her intention.