Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir
Chapter XXIII. Mother and Son—Sorrow and Joy
Chapter XXIII. Mother and Son—Sorrow and Joy.
Let us return to Black Charlie for a moment. He, it will be remembered, was left dangerously ill in Falconer's cottage from the terrible blow given by the whale's 'flukes'—ill, past all recovery, and in the hands of Mrs. Norris, his mother, who did not know her own long-lost son.
It must not be forgotten that twice at least, out of sheer, implacable hatred and dark revenge, he had tried to compass Falconer's death; and twice he had been baulked in the moment of supposed triumph.
And now this man of iron will, of fierce, untameable passion, whose life had been a succession of crimes, without shame and without conscience, lay helpless as a child—face to face with himself.
Falconer knew without a doubt that Black Charlie was Mrs. Norris's son Will. The deed of shame which had left such a sting in his mother's heart had been openly boasted of and joked about, when he and others of the same stamp were recounting their deeds of page 156bravado over their cups; deeds which excited no horror, and met with no reprimand, from those who listened.
But Falconer's tongue was tied. He could not run the chance of subjecting Mrs. Norris's tender, high-strung feelings to the insults of one who had not a particle of regard for her—insults which, coming from her son Will, would have killed her. Such were his thoughts.
He believed, too, if anything would bring the hardened man to repentance, it would be suffering, weakness, and the sense of utter dependence on one whose love and devotion would at length reach his heart.
Black Charlie knew his mother.
His mother unconsciously revealed this to Falconer. Black Charlie, hating and hated by all, turned from all—was silent, rough, hid his face. Yes, for his mother was there, and her presence was a constant, bitter reproach.
And Mrs. Norris?
She had no real knowledge of the big, powerful, hirsute man, whose beard covered half his face, as being her lost son. Yet something spoke to her out of the past, and spoke constantly to her of her son Will.
'Why does he remind me of Will?' she asked herself very often; and as yet could find no answer.
Mrs. Norris often sat and watched him, watched the turns and expressions of his face. As she did so, visions of her husband and Will came up before her and moved her to tears. She tried to make the wounded man speak; and when he spoke she said to herself, 'He has Will's voice.' And yet how could that huge, bruised, and broken mass of humanity be her Will?page 157
She would ask him if he had ever seen anybody like her Will. But it was hard to do so. He turned away from her so roughly. Besides, he was really very ill, dangerously ill, and might die.
As the days passed, and languor and weakness took possession of the wounded man, his real character came out. He gave way to passionate bursts of swearing, which shook him terribly.
'Oh, my poor lad!' exclaimed Mrs. Norris one day, when he was thus violent, 'what can I do for you? You are weak and ill, and it must be so hard to lay there—'
'Hard!' he hissed fiercely; 'why should I be tormented like this? I'd give all I have if you'd shoot me through the head. I've served others so—it's my turn now; only these soft-hearted boobies won't, I know. If I could only git a knife!'
He writhed and twisted about, giving himself agony as he moved, swearing all the time; his face was disturbed by passion, and it made him terrible to look at.
Mrs. Norris stood spell-bound at his side. She felt so helpless here; and this sense of helplessness made the tears roll down her cheeks.
'My poor lad!' she murmured, tenderly, putting a cool hand to his heated brow; 'try and bear it I'd help you if I could—help you as if I was your own mother.'
'My mother!' he repeated, staring at Mrs. Norris, but not in anger; the paroxysm had passed.
'Yes; I am a mother; and my poor boy—O God! where is he?'page 158
Black Charlie turned away his head, murmuring to himself.
'Oh, my poor Will!' burst out Mrs. Norris, clasping her hands; 'if I could but hear him repent of that one act towards me, I should live, I should die in peace—yes, and happy.'
A shiver passed over the wounded man—a low groan escaped him.
'You're in pain, I'm afraid.'
'No! yes! only—but there, never mind!' Something troubled him—big beads of perspiration covered his forehead.
'When my poor husband was brought home and laid on his bed, and—and—I was a widow, I said, I have Will left; he will be my comfort, he will stand by me, his love will be mine. Poor boy! he turned against his own mother, against my love, and—and—nearly broke my heart. I would have passed over all else, all his thoughtlessness—boys don't think—but at last to—to—'
'What? what?' gasped Black Charlie, shutting his eyes.
'May God have mercy on him, and on me, for he—for he—he's—' Mrs. Norris fell on her knees, sobbing.
'Mother! mother!' cried the sick man, hoarsely, trying to sit up, ghastly pale, with horror written in every line of his face.
'Mother! I did it!'
'You! my Will! my boy!' rang through the room, as Mrs. Norris sprang to her feet, and, clasping Will's unwounded hand to her heart, gazed with a yearning pity no words can describe into her son's sunken face,page 159
Those two looked with anguished vision into each other's eyes: the mother startled, yet restful; pained, yet joyful; sad, yet so happy that now she could open the floodgates of her pent-up affection, and lavish it all upon him who needed everything—and, above all, a mother's love.
'Can you forgive me?'
'Can I forgive you, Will? Oh, that is the sweetest music I've heard all these long years. My poor boy, I've been waiting for that, praying for that, night and day. For I said, if he will only take away the sting from my poor stricken heart, God will hear a mother's prayers, and give him His blessing.' 'God's cursed me, mother!'
'Hush!' she whispered; 'He's here, Will; ready to pardon to the uttermost all those who come to Him by Jesus Christ.'
'Yes, but I'm no longer the boy you knew. I've done the devil's work—not God's. I've bin agin God and man. I'm an outcast. If they knew I was here—I should be—' 'What, Will?' 'Hung!'
'Will! if they take you they shall take me; if they—if they—kill you they shall kill me—we live, or die together!'
'Poor mother!' burst from the sick man, tears actually running down' his cheeks. The deep-down, long-hidden feelings of his better, nature had struggled to the surface, called forth and sustained by a mother's undying love.page 160
It was a touching sight to see the broken-hearted mother hanging over her newly-found and repentant son. She forgot herself, forgot the past, and even her son's desperate state morally and physically, in the great joy of having found him, of his having taken the sting from her life—of his being repentant.
The doctor, who had unwittingly heard much of this at the door, now made a noise and walked in.
'Good day, Mrs. Norris; how's the patient?'
'It's no good, sir,' replied Will, at once. You've been very good to me, and I've been a brute; but it ain't no good.'
'I'm done for; and you know it. How long shall I hold out?'
'My good fellow, as your eyes have been opened to it—make your peace with God; your time is short!'
'Save him! Oh, save him!' cried Mrs. Norris, piteously. 'I've only just found him; and now to—'
'Don't cry, mother said Charlie. 'I've lifted my hand agin you—and agin all men—and God has cut me down!
'Listen, doctor,' said he, in a whisper, as Mrs. Norris left them; 'I'm Black Charlie! But you won't tell on me? It'ud kill her, poor mother! Let me die in peace.'
The doctor was so affected by the whole scene that he could hardly speak.
'My good fellow,' he replied, 'don't fear me. Falconer, who brought you here, did it expressly. He took every precaution.'
'Falconer!' exclaimed Charlie, excited and eager; page 161'bring him here. I'll tell him all—confess all—in your presence.'
'I cannot, I'm sorry to say; he's gone up the Straits, trading. Shall I send a minister?'
'No, sir, not now. My mother's wonderful, never-dyin' love to a wretch like me, that's my minister. If God will shew any mercy to me, it's because of her—because of her prayers.' Such was his thought for the moment; and can we wonder at it?
The mother's love seemed to weave a spell around the dying man. The heart that had felt no pity, tenderness, or love for others, and, in truth, had received none from others, now yearned for the tender word, for the slightest expression of a mother's love and sympathy.
Speaking humanly, with our dim perceptions of the actual working of God's pity and love in a sin-stained, crime-laden soul, it appeared God used a mother's love to lead the dying man to a knowledge of His—to Himself.
'I must see Falconer, mother,' said Charlie, suddenly; 'I'd crawl on my knees to him, and beg his pardon, I would! I can't die without that!'
'My poor boy, he's gone up the Straits, and—no, it can't be!'
'What can't be?'
'They say he's—he's lost!'
'Lost! Falconer! What, has God spared a wretch like me—and taken him? I can pray now.'
The widow knelt down, and holding Charlie's sound hand, poured out her soul in agonizing prayer—the page 162prayer that clings, pleads, and supplicates, that believes, realizes, and accepts God's promises, and brings the blessing down.
The dying man lay still. All his vitality seemed concentrated in his face. His eyes were fixed with such a tender, beseeching look in them on his mother's, that she seemed spell-bound by them; the two gazed into each other's soul without a word.
Thus they sat looking at each other; he resting, it would seem, on that sweet mother's love he had lost for so long; and she silently pouring out her heart's love and pity on him she was to lose again so soon.
'Mother!' gasped Charlie, suddenly; 'His love is—'
'Unfathomable to all who repent and—'
'Through Christ, and believe in Him.'
When Nivens came in, Mrs. Norris knelt beside her dead boy.
God had heard her prayer.