Starr," returned old Simon. "The old 'Monk' is mad enough now, at any rate!"
"All the better," quoth Madge.
"I don't know that," said Starr, shaking his head; "it is a terrible sort of madness this."
"Ah! now I understand that the very thought of him must have terrified poor little Nell, and also I see that she could not bear to denounce her grandfather. What a miserable time she must have had of it with the old man!"
"Miserable with a vengeance," replied Simon, "between that savage and his owl, as savage as himself. Depend upon it, that bird isn't dead. That was what put our lamp out, and also so nearly cut the rope by which Harry and Nell were suspended."
"And then, you see," said Madge, "this news of the marriage of our son with his granddaughter added to his rancor and ill-will."
"To be sure," said Simon. "To think that his Nell should marry one of the robbers of his own coal mine would just drive him wild altogether."
"He will have to make up his mind to it, however," cried Harry. "Mad as he is, we shall manage to convince him that Nell is better off with us here than ever she was in the caverns of the pit. I am sure, Mr. Starr, if we could only catch him, we should be able to make him listen to reason."
"My poor Harry! there is no reasoning with a madman," replied the engineer. "Of course it is better to know your enemy than not; but you must not fancy all is right because we have found out who he is. We must be on our guard, my friends; and to begin with, Harry, you positively must question Nell. She will perceive that her silence is no longer reasonable. Even for her grandfather's own interest, she ought to speak now. For his own sake, as well as for ours, these insane plots must be put a stop to."
"I feel sure, Mr. Starr," answered Harry, "that Nell will of herself propose to tell you what she knows. You see it was from a sense of duty that she has been silent hitherto. My mother was very right to take her to her room just now. She much needed time to recover her spirits; but now I will go for her."
"You need not do so, Harry," said the maiden in a clear and firm voice, as she entered at that moment the room in which they were. Nell was very pale; traces of tears were in her eyes; but her whole manner showed that she had nerved herself to act as her loyal heart dictated as her duty.
"Nell!" cried Harry, springing towards her.
The girl arrested her lover by a gesture, and continued, "Your father and mother, and you, Harry, must now know all. And you too, Mr. Starr, must remain ignorant of nothing that concerns the child you have received, and whom Harry-- unfortunately for him, alas!--drew from the abyss."
"Oh, Nell! what are you saying?" cried Harry.
"Allow her to speak," said James Starr in a decided tone.
"I am the granddaughter of old Silfax," resumed Nell. "I never knew a mother till the day I came here," added she, looking at Madge.
"Blessed be that day, my daughter!" said the old woman.
"I knew no father till I saw Simon Ford," continued Nell; "nor friend till the day when Harry's hand touched mine. Alone with my grandfather I have lived during fifteen years in the remote and most solitary depths of the mine. I say WITH my grandfather, but I can scarcely use the expression, for I seldom saw him. When he disappeared from Old Aberfoyle, he concealed himself in caverns known only to himself. In his way he was kind to me, dreadful as he was; he fed me with whatever he could procure from outside the mine; but I can dimly recollect that in my earliest years I was the nursling of a goat, the death of which was a bitter grief to me. My grandfather, seeing my distress, brought me another animal-- a dog he said it was. But, unluckily, this dog was lively, and barked. Grandfather did not like anything cheerful. He had a horror of noise, and had taught me to be silent; the dog he could not teach to be quiet, so the poor animal very soon disappeared. My grandfather's companion was a ferocious bird, Harfang, of which, at first, I had a perfect horror; but this creature, in spite of my dislike to it, took such a strong affection for me, that I could not help returning it. It even obeyed me better than its master, which used to make me quite uneasy, for my grandfather was jealous.