She had been but a short time in this passion of regret, when the Cricket on the Hearth, unheard by all but her, began to chirp. Not merrily, but in a low, faint, sorrowing way. It was so mournful that her tears began to flow; and when the Presence which had been beside the Carrier all night, appeared behind her, pointing to her father, they fell down like rain.
She heard the Cricket-voice more plainly soon, and was conscious, through her blindness, of the Presence hovering about her father.
'Mary,' said the Blind Girl, 'tell me what my home is. What it truly is.'
'It is a poor place, Bertha; very poor and bare indeed. The house will scarcely keep out wind and rain another winter. It is as roughly shielded from the weather, Bertha,' Dot continued in a low, clear voice, 'as your poor father in his sack-cloth coat.'
The Blind Girl, greatly agitated, rose, and led the Carrier's little wife aside.
'Those presents that I took such care of; that came almost at my wish, and were so dearly welcome to me,' she said, trembling; 'where did they come from? Did you send them?'
Dot saw she knew, already, and was silent. The Blind Girl spread her hands before her face again. But in quite another manner now.
'Dear Mary, a moment. One moment? More this way. Speak softly to me. You are true, I know. You'd not deceive me now; would you?'
'No, Bertha, indeed!'
'No, I am sure you would not. You have too much pity for me. Mary, look across the room to where we were just now--to where my father is--my father, so compassionate and loving to me--and tell me what you see.'
'I see,' said Dot, who understood her well, 'an old man sitting in a chair, and leaning sorrowfully on the back, with his face resting on his hand. As if his child should comfort him, Bertha.'
'Yes, yes. She will. Go on.'
'He is an old man, worn with care and work. He is a spare, dejected, thoughtful, grey-haired man. I see him now, despondent and bowed down, and striving against nothing. But, Bertha, I have seen him many times before, and striving hard in many ways for one great sacred object. And I honour his grey head, and bless him!'
The Blind Girl broke away from her; and throwing herself upon her knees before him, took the grey head to her breast.
'It is my sight restored. It is my sight!' she cried. 'I have been blind, and now my eyes are open. I never knew him! To think I might have died, and never truly seen the father who has been so loving to me!'
There were no words for Caleb's emotion.
'There is not a gallant figure on this earth,' exclaimed the Blind Girl, holding him in her embrace, 'that I would love so dearly, and would cherish so devotedly, as this! The greyer, and more worn, the dearer, father! Never let them say I am blind again. There's not a furrow in his face, there's not a hair upon his head, that shall be forgotten in my prayers and thanks to Heaven!'
Caleb managed to articulate 'My Bertha!'
'And in my blindness, I believed him,' said the girl, caressing him with tears of exquisite affection, 'to be so different! And having him beside me, day by day, so mindful of me--always, never dreamed of this!'
'The fresh smart father in the blue coat, Bertha,' said poor Caleb. 'He's gone!'
'Nothing is gone,' she answered. 'Dearest father, no! Everything is here--in you. The father that I loved so well; the father that I never loved enough, and never knew; the benefactor whom I first began to reverence and love, because he had such sympathy for me; All are here in you. Nothing is dead to me. The soul of all that was most dear to me is here--here, with the worn face, and the grey head. And I am NOT blind, father, any longer!'
Dot's whole attention had been concentrated, during this discourse, upon the father and daughter; but looking, now, towards the little Haymaker in the Moorish meadow, she saw that the clock was within a few minutes of striking, and fell, immediately, into a nervous and excited state.