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THE BLOW FALLS.
"Father, father, what is the matter? What ails you?"
Mr. Minton had taken up the paper after breakfast. He had glanced carelessly down the columns.
The editorials were dull, and the news meagre. Suddenly, he came across a large heading--"DREADFUL TRAGEDY!" He read a few lines, and then uttered a cry of horror. He threw down the paper, and looked at Minnie. It was a look of anguish.
Minnie reached forward for the paper. Her eye caught the fatal head line. By its suggestion of horror it provoked that hunger for details which, in its acute stage, becomes pruriency.
This is what the eye, with a constantly augmenting expression of fearfulness, conveyed to the brain:--
About mid-day yesterday one of the most fearful tragedies ever enacted in this province, indeed in Canada, took place in the village of Megantic. Our readers are familiar with the agrarian troubles in which Donald Morrison has been figuring for some time past. They have also been apprised that, upon the burning of Duquette's homestead, suspicion at once fell upon Donald. A warrant, charging him with arson, was sworn out against him, and a man named Warren undertook to execute it. It is alleged that the latter, armed with the warrant and a huge revolver, swaggered about Megantic for several days, boasting that he would take Morrison dead or alive. Be that as it may, the two men met yesterday outside the village hotel. The accounts of what followed are most conflicting. One of our reporters interviewed several witnesses of the scene, and the following statements, we believe, may be relied upon. Warren approached Morrison, and, in a loud tone of voice, told him that he had a warrant for him, and commanded him to surrender. The latter attempted to get past, and said he wanted to have nothing to do with him. With that Warren pulled out a pistol, and ordered Morrison to throw up his hands. Now, whether Morrison fully believed that Warren meant to shoot him, will never, of course, be known. That is the statement he made to our reporter with every appearance of earnestness, subsequent to the occurrence. At any rate, the moment that Warren's pistol appeared, Morrison whipped out his revolver, and shot him through the head. Warren fell backward, and died in a few minutes. The dreadful act has caused the utmost excitement throughout the country, whose annals, as far as serious crime is concerned, are stainless. A singular circumstance must be noted. There is not a single person who regards Morrison in the light of a murderer. The act is everywhere deplored, but Morrison's own statement, backed by several witnesses, that he committed the deed in self-defence, is as generally accepted, and the consequence is that every house is open to him, no man's back is turned upon him, and his friends still hold out to him the hand of fellowship. He is still at large, and likely to be so, as the county is without police, and strangers coming here would have no chance of arresting him. Indeed, Morrison, armed with a rifle and two revolvers, walks about Megantic and Marsden in broad daylight--perfectly safe from harm, as far as the people themselves are concerned. It is said the Provincial Government are about to take some steps in the matter."
Minnie read this account through to the end. She seemed to grow stiff, and her eyes dilated with a nameless horror. She did not faint. That is a privilege reserved for the heroines of the Seaside Library. This is a very modest narrative of fact, and we could not afford so dramatic a luxury as that. Minnie was a hearty country girl, and oatmeal repudiates all affinity with hysterics.
Minnie read the article, threw down the paper, and rushed to her room. She flung herself beside her bed. First of all, she didn't believe the story. It was a foul lie. "What! Donald Morrison kill a man! Donald, my lover, whom I have known since childhood--whose generous instincts I have so often admired! Donald Morrison to redden his hands with the blood of his fellow! Impossible, impossible! Oh, Donald, Donald," she cried wildly, "say it isn't true; say it isn't true!"
She knelt over the bed, too deeply stricken for tears. After that passionate prayer for denial--a prayer which is constantly ascending from humanity, and which, asking for an assurance that the storm shall not ravish the rose of life, has in it perhaps at bottom something of selfishness--she remained motionless. She was thinking it out. It was true Donald had killed a man. The report could not lie so circumstantially. The place, and the date, and the details were given. The story was true, and Donald had taken a life. But then, had he committed murder? A thousand times, no! Warren had threatened to kill Donald. Warren would have killed him. Donald defended himself; and if, in defending himself, he had taken a life, what then? Terrible--too terrible for words; but life was as sweet to Donald as it was to Warren. A moment later and he would have been the victim. He obeyed the fundamental law of nature.
Thus Minnie tried to reason, but it brought no comfort to her. Her simple dream of love and modest happiness was over. She knew that. The beautiful vase of life was broken, and no art could mend it!
When thought was in some degree restored, she sat down and wrote the following letter:--
"Oh, Donald, Donald, what have I read in the papers? Is it true? Is it true?
"Tell me all. Even if the truth be the very worst, do not fear that I shall reproach you. God forbid that I should sit in judgment upon you. Look to God. He can pardon the deepest guilt. My feelings are not changed toward you. I loved you when you were innocent, and I would not be worthy the name of woman if I were not faithful even in despair. Hasty you may have been, but I know that wickedness never had a lodgment in your heart.
'Oh, what was love made for if 'tis not the same
Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame."
"Your broken hearted
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