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and seeing this, and receiving an inward satisfaction from the sight,
Reuben involuntarily slipped into a familiarity of speech and manner
very opposed to the stiff reserve he usually maintained toward
strangers.

Ten days were given before the day on which Jerrem was to die, and
during this time, through the various interests raised in his behalf, no
restriction was put upon the intercourse between him and his friends; so
that, abandoning everything for the poor soul's welfare, Reuben, Joan
and Jerrem spent hour after hour in the closest intercourse. Happily, in
times of great extremity the power of realizing our exact situation is
mostly denied to us; and in the case of Joan and Jerrem, although
surrounded by the terrors and within the outposts of that dreaded end,
it was nothing unfrequent to hear a sudden peal of laughter, which often
would have as sudden an end in a great burst of tears.

To point to hopes and joys beyond the grave when every thought is
centred and fixed on this life's interests and keen anxieties is but a
fruitless, vain endeavor; and Reuben had to try and rest contented in
the assurance of Jerrem's perfect forgiveness and good-will to all who
had shown him any malice or ill-feeling - to draw some satisfaction from
the unselfish love he showed to Joan and the deep gratitude he now
expressed to Uncle Zebedee.

What would become of them? he often asked when some word of Joan's
revealed the altered aspect of their affairs; and then, overcome by the
helplessness of their forlorn condition, he would entreat Reuben to
stand by them - not to forget Joan, not to forsake her. And Reuben,
strangely moved by sight of this poor giddy nature's overwrought
emotion, would try to calm him with the ready assurance that while he
lived Joan should never want a friend, and, touched by his words, the
two would clasp his hands together, telling each other of all the
kindness he had showed them, praying God would pay him back in blessings
for his goodness. Nor were theirs the only lips which spoke of gratitude
to Reuben May: his name had now become familiar to many who through his
means were kept from being ignorant of the sad fate which awaited their
boon companion, their prime favorite, the once madcap, rollicking
Jerrem - the last one, as Joan often told Reuben, whom any in Polperro
would have fixed on for evil to pursue or misfortune to overtake, and
about whom all declared there must have been "a hitch in the block
somewheres, as Fate never intended that ill-luck should pitch upon
Jerrem." The repetition of their astonishment, their indignation and
their sympathy afforded the poor fellow the most visible satisfaction,
harassed as he was becoming by one dread which entirely swallowed up the
thought and fear of death. This ghastly terror was the then usual
consignment of a body after death to the surgeons for dissection; and
the uncontrollable trepidation which would take possession of him each
time this hideous recollection forced itself upon him, although
unaccountable to Reuben, was most painful for him to witness. What
difference could it make what became of one's body after death? Reuben
would ask himself, puzzled to fathom that wonderful tenderness which
some natures feel for the flesh which embodies their attractions. But
Jerrem had felt a passing love for his own dear body: vanity of it had
been his ruling passion, its comeliness his great glory - so much so that
even now a positive satisfaction would have been his could he have
pictured himself outstretched and lifeless, with lookers-on moved to
compassion by the dead grace of his winsome face and slender limbs.
Joan, too, was caught by the same infection. Not to lie whole and decent
in one's coffin! Oh, it was an indignity too terrible for contemplation;
and every time they were away from Jerrem she would beset Reuben with
entreaties and questions as to what could be done to avoid the
catastrophe.

The one plan he knew of had been tried - and tried, too, with repeated
success - and this was the engaging of a superior force to wrest the body
from the surgeon's crew, a set of sturdy miscreants with whom to do
battle a considerable mob was needed; but, with money grown very scarce
and time so short, the thing could not be managed, and Reuben tried to
tell Joan of its impossibility while they two were walking to a place in
which it had been agreed they should find some one with a message from
Eve, who, together with Adam, was in hiding on board the vessel Captain
Triggs had spoken of. But instead of the messenger Eve herself arrived,
having ventured this much with the hope of hearing something that would
lessen Adam's despair and grief at learning the fate of Jerrem.

"Ah, poor sawl!" sighed Joan as Eve ended her dismal account of Adam's
sad condition: "'tis only what I feared to hear of. But tell un, Eve, to
lay it to his heart that Jerrem's forgived un every bit, and don't know
what it is to hold a grudge to Adam; and if I speak of un, he says,
'Why, doan't I know it ain't through he, but 'cos o' my own headstrong
ways and they sneaks o' revenoo-chaps?' who falsely swored away his
blessed life."

"Does he seem to dread it much?" asked Eve, the sickly fears which
filled her heart echoed in each whispered word.

"Not _that_ he don't," said Joan, lifting her hand significantly to her
throat: "'tis after. Oh, Eve," she gasped, "ain't it too awful to think
of their cuttin' up his poor dead body into bits? Call theyselves
doctors!" she burst out - "the gashly lot! I'll never let wan o' their
name come nighst to me agen."

"Oh, Reuben," gasped Eve, "is it so? Can nothing be done?"

Reuben shook his head.

"Nothing now," said Joan - "for want o' money, too, mostly, Eve; and the
guineas I've a-wasted! Oh, how the sight o' every one rises and chinks
in judgment 'gainst my ears!"

"If we'd got the money," said Reuben soothingly, "there isn't time. All
should be settled by to-morrow night; and if some one this minute
brought the wherewithal I haven't one 'pon whom I dare to lay my hand to
ask to undertake the job."

"Then 'tis no use harpin' 'pon it any more," said Joan; while Eve gave a
sigh, concurring in what she said, both of them knowing well that if
Reuben gave it up the thing must be hopeless indeed.

Here was another stab for Adam's wounded senses, and with a heavy heart
and step Eve took her way back to him, while Reuben and Joan continued
to thread the streets which took them by a circuitous road home to
Knight's Passage.

But no sooner had Eve told Adam of this fresh burden laid on poor Jerrem
than a new hope seemed to animate him. Something was still to be done:
there yet remained an atonement which, though it cost him his life, he
could strive to make to Jerrem. Throwing aside the fear of detection
which had hitherto kept him skulking within the little vessel, he set
off that night to find the Mary Jane, and, regardless of the terrible
shame which had filled him at the bare thought of confronting Triggs or
any of his crew, he cast himself upon their mercy, beseeching them as
men, and Cornishmen, to do this much for their brother-sailor in his sad
need and last extremity; and his appeal and the nature of it had so
touched these quickly-stirred hearts that, forgetful of the contempt and
scorn with which, in the light of an informer, they had hitherto viewed
Adam, they had one and all sworn to aid him to their utmost strength,
and to bring to the rescue certain others of whom they knew, by whose
help and assistance success would be more probable. Therefore it was
that, two days before the morning of his sentenced death, Eve was able
to put into Reuben's hand a scrap of paper on which was written Adam's
vow to Jerrem that, though his own life paid the forfeit for it,
Jerrem's body should be rescued and saved.

Present as Jerrem's fears had been to Reuben's eyes and to his mind,
until he saw the transport of agitated joy which this assurance gave to
Jerrem he had never grasped a tithe of the terrible dread which during
the last few days had taken such complete hold of the poor fellow's
inmost thoughts. Now, as he read again and again the words which Adam
had written, a torrent of tears burst forth from his eyes: in an ecstasy
of relief he caught Joan to his heart, wrung Reuben's hand, and from
that moment began to gradually compose himself into a state of greater
ease and seeming tranquillity. Confident, through the unbroken trust of
years, that Adam's promise, once given, might be implicitly relied on,
Jerrem needed no further assurance than these few written words to
satisfy him that every human effort would be made on his behalf; and the
knowledge of this, and that old comrades would be near, waiting to unite
their strength for his body's rescue, was in itself a balm and
consolation. He grew quite loquacious about the crestfallen authorities,
the surprise of the crowd and the disappointment of the ruffianly mob
deprived of their certain prey; while the two who listened sat with a
tightening grip upon their hearts, for when these things should come to
be the life of him who spoke them would have passed away, and the
immortal soul have flown from out that perishable husk on which his
last vain thoughts were still being centred.

Poor Joan! The time had yet to come when she would spend herself with
many a sad regret and sharp upbraiding that this and that had not been
said and done; but now, her spirit swallowed up in desolation and sunk
beneath the burden of despair, she sat all silent close by Jerrem's
side, covering his hands with many a mute caress, yet never daring to
lift up her eyes to look into his face without a burst of grief sweeping
across to shake her like a reed. Jerrem could eat and drink, but Joan's
lips never tasted food. A fever seemed to burn within and fill her with
its restless torment: the beatings of her throbbing heart turned her
first hot, then cold, as each pulse said the time to part was hurrying
to its end.

By Jerrem's wish, Joan was not told that on the morning of his death to
Reuben alone admittance to him had been granted: therefore when the eve
of that morrow came, and the time to say farewell actually arrived, the
girl was spared the knowledge that this parting was more than the shadow
of that last good-bye which so soon would have to be said for ever.
Still, the sudden change in Jerrem's face pierced her afresh and broke
down that last barrier of control over a grief she could subdue no
longer. In vain the turnkeys warned them that time was up and Joan must
go. Reuben entreated too that they should say good-bye: the two but
clung together in more desperate necessity, until Reuben, seeing that
further force would be required, stepped forward, and stretching out his
hand found it caught at by Jerrem and held at once with Joan's, while in
words from which all strength of tone seemed to die away Jerrem
whispered, "Reuben, if ever it could come to pass that when I'm gone you
and she might find it some day in your minds to stand
together - _one_ - say 'twas the thing he wished for most before he went."
Then, with a feeble effort to push her into Reuben's arms, he caught her
back, and straining her close to his heart again cried out, "Oh, Joan,
but death comes bitter when it means good-bye to such as you!" Another
cry, a closer strain, then Jerrem's arms relax; his hold gives way, and
Joan falls staggering back; the door is opened - shut; the struggle is
past, and ere their sad voices can come echoing back Jerrem and Joan
have looked their last in life.




CHAPTER XXXVIII.


When Reuben found that to be a witness of Jerrem's death Joan must take
her stand among the lawless mob who made holiday of such sad scenes as
this, his decision was that the idea was untenable. Jerrem too had a
strong desire that Joan should not see him die; and although his
avoidance of anything that directly touched upon that dreaded moment had
kept him from openly naming his wishes, the hints dropped satisfied
Reuben that the knowledge of her absence would be a matter of relief to
him. But how get Joan to listen to his scruples when her whole mind was
set on keeping by Jerrem's side until hope was past and life was over?

"Couldn't 'ee get her to take sommat that her wouldn't sleep off till
'twas late?" Jerrem had said after Reuben had told him that the next
morning he must come alone; and the suggestion made was seized on at
once by Reuben, who, under pretence of getting something to steady her
shaken nerves, procured from the apothecary near a simple draught, which
Joan in good faith swallowed. And then, Reuben having promised in case
she fell asleep to awaken her at the appointed hour, the poor soul, worn
out by sorrow and fatigue, threw herself down, dressed as she was, upon
the bed, and soon was in a heavy sleep, from which she did not rouse
until well into the following day, when some one moving in the room made
her start up. For a moment she seemed dazed: then, rubbing her eyes as
if to clear away those happy visions which had come to her in sleep, she
gazed about until Reuben, who had at first drawn back, came forward to
speak to her. "Why, Reuben," she cried, "how's this? Have I been
dreamin', or what? The daylight's come, and, see, the sun!"

And here she stopped, her parched mouth half unclosed, as fears came
crowding thick upon her mind, choking her further utterance. One look at
Reuben's face had told the tale; and though she did not speak again, the
ashen hue that overspread and drove all color from her cheeks proclaimed
to him that she had guessed the truth.

"'Twas best, my dear," he said, "that you should sleep while he went to
his rest."

But the unlooked-for shock had been too great a strain on body and mind,
alike overtaxed and weak, and, falling back, Joan lay for hours as one
unconscious and devoid of life. And Reuben sat silent by her side,
paying no heed as hour by hour went by, till night had come and all
around was dark: then some one came softly up the stairs and crept into
the room, and Eve's whispered "Reuben!" broke the spell.

Yes, all had gone well. The body, rescued and safe, was now placed
within a house near to the churchyard in which Eve's mother lay: there
it was to be buried. And there, the next day, the commonplace event of
one among many funerals being over, the four thus linked by fate were
brought together, and Adam and Joan again stood face to face. Heightened
by the disguise which in order to avoid detection he was obliged to
adopt, the alteration in Adam was so complete that Joan stood aghast
before this seeming stranger, while a fresh smart came into Adam's open
wounds as he gazed upon the changed face of the once comely Joan.

A terrible barrier - such as, until felt, they had never dreaded - seemed
to have sprung up to separate and divide these two. Involuntarily they
shrank at each other's touch and quailed beneath each other's gaze,
while each turned with a feeling of relief to him and to her who now
constituted their individual refuge and support. Yes, strange as it
seemed to Adam and unaccountable to Joan, _she_ clung to Reuben, _he_ to
Eve, before whom each could be natural and unrestrained, while between
their present selves a great gulf had opened out which naught but time
or distance could bridge over.

So Adam went back to his hiding-place, Reuben to his shop, and Joan and
Eve to the old home in Knight's Passage, as much lost amid the crowd of
thronged London as if they had already taken refuge in that far-off land
which had now become the goal of Adam's thoughts and keen desires. Eve,
too, fearing some fresh disaster, was equally anxious for their
departure, and most of Reuben's spare time was swallowed up in making
the necessary arrangements. A passage in his name for himself and his
wife was secured in a ship about to start. At the last moment this
passage was to be transferred to Adam and Eve, whose marriage would take
place a day or two before the vessel sailed. The transactions on which
the successful fulfilment of these various events depended were mostly
conducted by Reuben, aided by the counsels of Mr. Osborne and the
assistance of Captain Triggs, whose good-fellowship, no longer withheld,
made him a valuable coadjutor.

Fortunately, Triggs's vessel, through some detention of its cargo, had
remained in London for an unusually long time, and now, when it did
sail, Joan was to take passage in it back to Polperro.

"Awh, Reuben, my dear," sighed Joan one evening as, Eve having gone to
see Adam, the two walked out toward the little spot where Jerrem lay,
and as they went discussed Joan's near departure, "I wish to goodness
you'd pack up yer alls and come 'longs to Polperro home with me: 't 'ud
be ever so much better than stayin' to this gashly London, where there
ain't a blow o' air that's fresh to draw your breath in."

"Why, nonsense!" said Reuben: "you wouldn't have me if I'd come."

"How not have 'ee?" exclaimed Joan. "Why, if so be I thought you'd come
I'd never stir from where I be until I got the promise of it."

"But there wouldn't be nothin' for me to do," said Reuben.

"Why, iss there would - oceans," returned Joan. "Laws! I knaws clocks by
scores as hasn't gone for twenty year and more. Us has got two
ourselves, that wan won't strike and t' other you can't make tick."

Reuben smiled: then, growing more serious, he said, "But do you know,
Joan, that yours isn't the first head it's entered into about going down
home with you? I've had a mind toward it myself many times of late."

"Why, then, do come to wance," said Joan excitedly; "for so long as they
leaves me the house there'll be a home with me and Uncle Zebedee, and
I'll go bail for the welcome you'll get gived 'ee there."

Reuben was silent, and Joan, attributing this to some hesitation over
the plan, threw further weight into her argument by saying, "There's the
chapel too, Reuben. Only to think o' the sight o' good you could do
praichin' to 'em and that! for, though it didn't seem to make no odds
before, I reckons there's not a few that wants, like me, to be told o'
some place where they treats folks better than they does down here
below."

"Joan," said Reuben after a pause, speaking out of his own thoughts and
paying no heed to the words she had been saying, "you know all about Eve
and me, don't you?"

Joan nodded her head.

"How I've felt about her, so that I believe the hold she's got on me no
one on earth will ever push her off from."

"Awh, poor sawl!" sighed Joan compassionately: "I've often had a feelin'
for what you'd to bear, and for this reason too - that I knaws myself
what 'tis to be ousted from the heart you'm cravin' to call yer own."

"Why, yes, of course," said Reuben briskly: "you were set down for Adam
once, weren't you?"

"Awh, and there's they to Polperro - mother amongst 'em, too - who'll tell
'ee now that if Eve had never shawed her face inside the place Adam 'ud
ha' had me, after all. But there! all that's past and gone long ago."

There was another pause, which Reuben broke by saying suddenly, "Joan,
should you take it very out of place if I was to ask you whether after a
bit you could marry me? I dare say now such a thought never entered
your head before."

"Well, iss it has," said Joan; 'and o' late, ever since that blessed
dear spoke they words he did, I've often fell to wonderin' if so be 't
'ud ever come to pass. Not, mind, that I should ha' bin put out if 't
had so happened that you'd never axed me, like, but still I thought
sometimes as how you might, and then agen I says, 'Why should he,
though?'"

"There's many a reason why _I_ should ask _you_, Joan," said Reuben,
smiling at her unconscious frankness, "though very few why you should
consent to take a man whose love another woman has flung away."

"Awh, so far as that goes, the both of us is takin' what's another's
orts, you knaw," smiled Joan.

"Then is it agreed?" asked Reuben, stretching out his hand.

"Iss, so far as I goes 'tis, with all my heart." Then as she took his
hand a change came to her April face, and looking at him through her
swimming eyes she said, "And very grateful too I'm to 'ee, Reuben, for I
don't knaw by neither another wan who'd take up with a poor heart-broke
maid like me, and they she's looked to all her life disgraced by others
and theyselves."

Reuben pressed the hand that Joan had given to him, and drawing it
through his arm the two walked on in silence, pondering over the
unlooked-for ending to the strange events they both had lately passed
through. Joan's heart was full of a contentment which made her think,
"How pleased Adam will be! and won't mother be glad! and Uncle Zebedee
'ull have somebody to look to now and keep poor Jonathan straight and
put things a bit in order;" while Reuben, bewildered by the thoughts
which crowded to his mind, semed unable to disentangle them. Could it be
possible that he, Reuben May, was going down to live at Polperro, a
place whose very name he had once taught himself to abominate? - that he
could be willingly casting his lot amid a people whom he had but lately
branded as thieves, outcasts, reprobates? Involuntarily his eyes turned
toward Joan, and a nimbus in which perfect charity was intertwined with
great love and singleness of heart seemed to float about her head and
shed its radiance on her face; and its sight was to Reuben as the first
touch of love, for he was smitten with a sense of his own unworthiness,
and, though he did not speak, he asked that a like spirit to that which
filled Joan might rest upon himself.

That evening Eve was told the news which Joan and Reuben had to tell,
and as she listened the mixed emotions which swelled within her
perplexed her not a little, for even while feeling that the two wishes
she most desired - Joan cared for and Reuben made happy - were thus
fulfilled, her heart seemed weighted with a fresh disaster: another
wrench had come to part her from that life soon to be nothing but a
lesson and a memory. And Adam, when he was told, although the words he
said were honest words and true, and truly he did rejoice, there yet
within him lay a sadness born of regret at rendering up that love so
freely given to him, now to be garnered for another's use; and
henceforth every word that Reuben spoke, each promise that he gave,
though all drawn forth by Adam's own requests, stuck every one a
separate thorn within his heart, sore with the thought of being an
outcast from the birthplace that he loved and cut off from those whose
faces now he yearned to look upon.

No vision opened up to Adam's view the prosperous life the future held
in store - no still small voice then whispered in his ear that out of
this sorrow was to come the grace which made success sit well on him and
Eve; and though, as years went by and intercourse became more rare,
their now keen interest in Polperro and its people was swallowed up amid
the many claims a busy life laid on them both, each noble action done,
each good deed wrought, by Adam, and by Eve too, bore on it the unseen
impress of that sore chastening through which they now were passing.

Out of the savings which from time to time Adam had placed with Mr.
Macey enough was found to pay the passage-money out and keep them from
being pushed by any pressing want on landing.

Already, at the nearest church, Adam and Eve had been married, and
nothing now remained but to get on board the vessel, which had already
dropped down the river and was to sail the following morning, Triggs had
volunteered to put them and their possessions safely on board, and
Reuben and Joan, with Eve's small personal belongings, were to meet them
at the steps, close by which the Mary Jane's boat would be found
waiting. The time had come when Adam could lay aside his disguise and
appear in much the same trim he usually did when at Polperro.

Joan was the first to spy him drawing near, and holding out both her
hands to greet the welcome change she cried, "Thank the Lord for lettin'
me see un his ownself wance more! - Awh, Adam! awh, my dear! 't seems as
if I could spake to 'ee now and know 'ee for the same agen. - Look to un,
Reuben! you don't wonder now what made us all so proud of un at home."

Reuben smiled, but Adam shook his head: the desolation of this sad
farewell robbed him of every other power but that of draining to the
dregs its bitterness. During the whole of that long day Eve and he had
hardly said one word, each racked with thoughts to which no speech gave
utterance. Mechanically each asked about the things the other one had
brought, and seemed to find relief in feigning much anxiety about their


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Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 4 of 20)