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A CANDLE faintly burned in the window,
to which the black ladder had often been
raised for the sliding away of all that was most
precious in this world to a striving wife and a
brood of hungry babies; and Stephen added
to his other thoughts the stern reflection, that
of all the casualties of this existence upon
earth, not one was dealt out with so unequal
a hand as Death. The inequality of Birth
was nothing to it. For, say that the child of
a King and the child of a Weaver were born
to-night in the same moment, what was that
disparity, to the death of any human creature
who was serviceable to, or beloved by,
another, while this abandoned woman lived

From the outside of his home he gloomily
passed to the inside, with suspended breath
and with a slow footstep. He went up to his
door, opened it, and so into the room.

Quiet and peace were there. Rachael was
there, sitting by the bed.

She turned her head, and the light of her
face shone in upon the midnight of his mind.
She sat by the bed, watching and tending his
wife. That is to say, he saw that some one
lay there, and he knew too well it must be
she; but Rachael's hands had put a curtain
up, so that she was screened from his eyes.
Her disgraceful garments were removed, and
some of Rachael's were in the room. Everything
was in its place and order as he had
always kept it, the little fire was newly
trimmed, and the hearth was freshly swept.
It appeared to him that he saw all this in
Rachael's face, and looked at nothing besides.
While looking at it, it was shut out from his
view by the softened tears that filled his
eyes; but, not before he had seen how earnestly
she looked at him, and how her own eyes
were filled too.

She turned again towards the bed, and
satisfying herself that all was quiet there,
spoke in a low, calm, cheerful voice.

"I am glad you have come at last, Stephen.
You are very late."

"I ha' been walking up an' down."

"I thought so. But 'tis too bad a night
for that. The rain falls very heavy, and the
wind has risen."

The wind? True, It was blowing hard.
Hark to the thundering in the chimney,
and the surging noise! To have been out in
such a wind, and not to have known it was

"I have been here once before, to-day,
Stephen. Landlady came round for me at
dinner-time. There was some one here that
needed looking to, she said. And 'deed she
was right. All wandering and lost, Stephen.
Wounded too, and bruised."

He slowly moved to a chair and sat down,
drooping his head before her.

"I came to do what little I could, Stephen;
first, for that she worked with me when we
were girls both, and for that you courted her
and married her when I was her friend—"

He laid his furrowed forehead on his hand,
with a low groan.

"And next, for that I know your heart,
and am right sure and certain that 'tis far
too merciful to let her die, or even so much
as suffer, for want of aid. Thou knowest
who said, ' Let him who is without sin among
you, cast the first stone at her!' There have
been plenty to do that. Thou art not the
man to cast the last stone, Stephen, when she
is brought so low."

"O Rachael, Rachael!"

"Thou hast been a cruel sufferer, Heaven
reward thee!" she said, in compassionate
accents. " I am thy poor friend, with all my
heart and mind."

The wounds of which she had spoken,
seemed to be about the neck of the self-made
outcast. She dressed them now, still without
showing her. She steeped a piece of linen in
a basin, into which she poured some liquid
from a bottle, and laid it with a gentle hand
upon the sore. The three-legged table had
been drawn close to the bedside, and on it
there were two bottles. This was one.

It was not so far off, but that Stephen,
following her hands with his eyes, could read
what was printed on it, in large letters. He
turned of a deadly hue, and a sudden horror
seemed to fall upon him.

"I will stay here, Stephen," said Rachael,
quietly resuming her seat, " till the bells go
Three. 'Tis to be done again at three, and
then she may be left till morning."