The words were those of entreaty, but the voice was that of authority. The old man was silenced by a new and unexpected power in his daughter's heart: he suddenly felt that she was not a girl, as heretofore, but a woman, whom he might persuade, but could no longer compel.
"It shall be as thee wishes, Asenath," he said; "we had best forget him."
Of their friends, however, she could not expect this reserve, and she was doomed to hear stories of Richard which clouded and embittered her thoughts of him. And a still severer trial was in store. She accompanied her father, in obedience to his wish, and against her own desire, to the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia. It has passed into a proverb that the Friends, on these occasions, always bring rain with them; and the period of her visit was no exception to the rule. The showery days of "Yearly Meeting Week" glided by, until the last, and she looked forward with relief to the morrow's return to Bucks County, glad to have escaped a meeting with Richard Hilton, which might have confirmed her fears and could but have given her pain in any case.
As she and her father joined each other, outside the meeting-house, at the close of the afternoon meeting, a light rain was falling. She took his arm, under the capacious umbrella, and they were soon alone in the wet streets, on their way to the house of the Friends who entertained them. At a crossing, where the water pouring down the gutter towards the Delaware, caused them to halt a man, plashing through the flood, staggered towards them. Without an umbrella, with dripping, disordered clothes, yet with a hot, flushed face, around which the long black hair hung wildly, he approached, singing to himself with maudlin voice a song that would have been sweet and tender in a lover's mouth. Friend Mitchenor drew to one side, lest his spotless drab should be brushed by the unclean reveller; but the latter, looking up, stopped suddenly face to face with them.
"Asenath!" he cried, in a voice whose anguish pierced through the confusion of his senses, and struck down into the sober quick of his soul.
"Richard!" she breathed, rather than spoke, in a low, terrified voice.
It was indeed Richard Hilton who stood before her, or rather--as she afterwards thought, in recalling the interview--the body of Richard Hilton possessed by an evil spirit. His cheeks burned with a more than hectic red, his eyes were wild and bloodshot, and though the recognition had suddenly sobered him, an impatient, reckless devil seemed to lurk under the set mask of his features.
"Here I am, Asenath," he said at length, hoarsely. "I said it was death, didn't I? Well, it's worse than death, I suppose; but what matter? You can't be more lost to me now than you were already. This is THY doing, Friend Eli," he continued, turning to the old man, with a sneering emphasis on the "THY." "I hope thee's satisfied with thy work!"
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