The Witchs Head

Zane Grey
The Witch's Head
H. Rider Haggard

Swell out, sad harmonies,
From the slow cadence of the gathering years;
For Life is bitter-sweet, yet bounds the flood
Of human fears
A death-crowned queen, from her hid throne she scatters
Smiles and tears

Until Time turn aside,
And we slip past him towards the wide increase
Of all things beautiful, then finding there
Our rest and peace;
The mournful strain is ended. Sorrow and song
Together cease.
A. M. Barber.

"Come here, boy, let me look at you."
Ernest advanced a step or two and looked his uncle in the face. He was
a noble-looking lad of about thirteen, with large dark eyes, black hair
that curled over his head, and the unmistakable air of breeding that
marks Englishmen of good race.
His uncle let his wandering glance stray round him, but, wandering as it
was, it seemed to take him in from top to toe. Presently he spoke again:
"I like you, boy."
Ernest said nothing.
"Let me see--your second name is Beyton. I am glad they called you
Beyton; it was your grandmother's maiden name, and a good old name
too. Ernest Beyton Kershaw. By the way, have you ever seen anything
of your other uncle, Sir Hugh Kershaw?"
The boy's cheek flushed.
"No, I have not; and I never wish to," he answered.
"Why not?"
"Because when my mother wrote to him before she died"--here the lad's
voice choked--"just after the bank broke and she lost all her money, he
wrote back and said that because his brother--I mean my father--had
made a low marriage, that was no reason why he should support his
child and widow; but he sent her five pounds to go on with. She sent it

"That was like your mother, she always had a high spirit. He must be a
cur, and he does not speak the truth. Your mother comes of a better
stock than the Kershaws. The Carduses are one of the oldest families in
the Eastern counties. Why, boy, our family lived down in the Fens by
Lynn there for centuries, until your grandfather, poor weak man, got
involved in his great lawsuit and ruined us all. There, there, it has gone
into the law, but it is coming back, it is coming back fast. This Sir
Hugh has only one son, by the way. Do you know that if anything
happened to him you would be next in the entail? At any rate you
would get the baronetcy."
"I don't want his baronetcy," said Ernest, sulkily; "I will have nothing
of his."
"A title, boy, is an incorporeal hereditament, for which the holder is
indebted to nobody. It does not descend to him, it vests in him. But tell
me, how long was this before your mother died--that he sent the five
pounds, I mean?"
"About three months."
Mr. Cardus hesitated a little before he spoke again, tapping his white
fingers nervously on the table.
"I hope my sister was not in want, Ernest?" he said, jerkily.
"For a fortnight before she died we had scarcely enough to eat," was
the blunt reply.
Mr. Cardus turned himself to the window, and for a minute the light of
the dull December day shone and glistened upon his brow and head,
which was perfectly bald. Then before he spoke he drew himself back
into the shadow, perhaps to hide something like a tear that shone in his
soft black eyes.
"And why did she not appeal to me? I could have helped her."
"She said that when you had quarrelled with her about her marrying my

father, you told her never to write or speak to you again, and that she
never would."
"Then why did you not do it, boy? You knew how things were."
"Because we had begged once, and I would not beg again."
"Ah," muttered Mr. Cardus, "the old spirit cropping up. Poor Rose,
nearly starving, and dying too, and I with so much which I do not want.
O, boy, boy, when you are a man never set up an idol, for it frightens
good spirits away. Nothing else can live in its temple; it is a place
where all things are forgotten--duty, and the claims of blood, and
sometimes those of honour too. Look now, I have my idol, and it has
made me forget my sister and your mother. Had she not written at last
when she was dying, I should have forgotten you too."
The boy looked up puzzled.
"An idol!"
"Yes," went on his uncle in his dreamy way--"an idol. Many people
have them; they keep them in the cupboard with their family skeleton;
sometimes the two are identical. And they call them by many
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