'Ah!' replied the man, in the tone of a person who is compelled to admit a very unpleasant fact, to which he would rather remain blind, if he could. 'You must get better somehow, for we must have money. You must go to the parish doctor, and make him give you some medicine. They're paid for it, damn 'em. What are you standing before the door for? Let me come in, can't you?'
'Father,' whispered the girl, shutting the door behind her, and placing herself before it, 'William has come back.'
'Who!' said the man with a start.
'Hush,' replied the girl, 'William; brother William.'
'And what does he want?' said the man, with an effort at composure- -'money? meat? drink? He's come to the wrong shop for that, if he does. Give me the candle--give me the candle, fool--I ain't going to hurt him.' He snatched the candle from her hand, and walked into the room.
Sitting on an old box, with his head resting on his hand, and his eyes fixed on a wretched cinder fire that was smouldering on the hearth, was a young man of about two-and-twenty, miserably clad in an old coarse jacket and trousers. He started up when his father entered.
'Fasten the door, Mary,' said the young man hastily--'Fasten the door. You look as if you didn't know me, father. It's long enough, since you drove me from home; you may well forget me.'
'And what do you want here, now?' said the father, seating himself on a stool, on the other side of the fireplace. 'What do you want here, now?'
'Shelter,' replied the son. 'I'm in trouble: that's enough. If I'm caught I shall swing; that's certain. Caught I shall be, unless I stop here; that's AS certain. And there's an end of it.'
'You mean to say, you've been robbing, or murdering, then?' said the father.
'Yes, I do,' replied the son. 'Does it surprise you, father?' He looked steadily in the man's face, but he withdrew his eyes, and bent them on the ground.
'Where's your brothers?' he said, after a long pause.
'Where they'll never trouble you,' replied his son: 'John's gone to America, and Henry's dead.'
'Dead!' said the father, with a shudder, which even he could not express.
'Dead,' replied the young man. 'He died in my arms--shot like a dog, by a gamekeeper. He staggered back, I caught him, and his blood trickled down my hands. It poured out from his side like water. He was weak, and it blinded him, but he threw himself down on his knees, on the grass, and prayed to God, that if his mother was in heaven, He would hear her prayers for pardon for her youngest son. "I was her favourite boy, Will," he said, "and I am glad to think, now, that when she was dying, though I was a very young child then, and my little heart was almost bursting, I knelt down at the foot of the bed, and thanked God for having made me so fond of her as to have never once done anything to bring the tears into her eyes. O Will, why was she taken away, and father left?" There's his dying words, father,' said the young man; 'make the best you can of 'em. You struck him across the face, in a drunken fit, the morning we ran away; and here's the end of it.'
The girl wept aloud; and the father, sinking his head upon his knees, rocked himself to and fro.
'If I am taken,' said the young man, 'I shall be carried back into the country, and hung for that man's murder. They cannot trace me here, without your assistance, father.