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My last entry was made on the day of the arrival of the _Tecumseh_ at the Quarantine Station, Gosse Island, Quebec. We were delayed there for two days. Every thing was in confusion. A large number of ships had arrived, and all were filled with sick. The authorities were taken by surprise; and as no arrangements had ever been made for such a state of things the suffering was extreme. The arrival of the _Tecumseh_ with her frightful record of deaths, and with several hundred sick still on board, completed the confusion. At last the passengers were removed somehow, I know not how or when, for I myself on the evening of our arrival was struck down by the fever. I suppose that Frank Brandon may have nursed me at first; but of that I am not sure. There was fearful disorder. There were few nurses and fewer doctors; and as fast as the sick died they were hurried hastily into shallow graves in the sand. I was sick for two or three weeks, and knew nothing of what was going on. The first thing that I saw on coming to my senses was Edith Brandon.

She was fearfully changed. Unutterable grief dwelt upon her sweet young face, which also was pale and wan from the sickness through which she had passed. An awful feeling shot through me. My first question was, “Is your mother on shore?”

She looked at me for a moment in solemn silence, and, slowly raising her hand, pointed upward.

“Your brother?” I gasped.

She turned her head away. I was silent. They were dead, then. O God! and this child–what had she not been suffering? My mind at once, in its agony of sympathy with her, burst through the clouds which sickness had thrown around it. “Poor child!” I said. “And why are you here?”

“Where else can I go?” she answered, mournfully.

“At least, you should not wear yourself out by my bedside.”

“You are the only one left whom I know. I owe you far more than the small attendance which I have given you.”

“But will you not take some rest?”

“Hush! Wait till you are stronger. You are too weak now to think of these things.”

She laid her thin hand on my forehead gently. I turned my head away, and burst into a flood of tears. Why was it that this child was called upon to endure such agony? Why, in the midst of that agony, did she come to me to save my life? I did not resist her any longer on that day; but the next day I was stronger, and made her go and repose herself.

For two successive days she came back. On the third day she did not appear. The fourth day also she was absent. Rude nurses attended to me. They knew nothing of her. My anxiety inspired me with such energy that on the fourth day I rose from my bed and staggered about to find her if possible.

All was still confusion. Thousands of sick were on the island. The mistake of the first week had not yet been repaired. No one knew any thing of Edith. I sought her through all the wards. I went to the superintendent, and forced him to make inquiries about her. No one could tell any thing.

My despair was terrible. I forced the superintendent to call up all the nurses and doctors, and question them all, one by one. At last an old Irish woman, with an awful look at me, hinted that she could tell something about her, and whispered a word or two in the superintendent’s ear. He started back, with a fearful glance.

“What is it? Tell, in God’s name!”

“The dead-house,” he murmured.

“Where is it? Take me there!” I cried to the woman. I clutched her arm and staggered after her.

It was a long, low shed, open on all sides. Twelve bodies lay there. In the middle of the row was Edith. She was more beautiful than an angel. A smile wreathed her lips; her eyes looked as though she slumbered. I rushed up to her and caught her in my arms. The next moment I fell senseless.

When I revived I was lying in one of the sick-sheds, with a crowd of sufferers around me. I had only one thought, and that was Edith. I rose at once, weak and trembling, but the resolve of my soul gave strength to my body. An awful fear had taken possession of me, which was accompanied by a certain wild hope. I hurried, with staggering feet, to the dead- house.

All the bodies were gone. New ones had come in.

“Where is she?” I cried to the old woman who had charge there. She knew to whom I referred.

“Buried,” said she.

I burst out into a torrent of imprecations. “Where have they buried her? Take me to the place!” I cried, as I flung a piece of gold to the woman. She grasped it eagerly. “Bring a spade, and come quick, for God’s sake! _She is not dead!_”

How did I have such a mad fancy? I will tell you. This ship-fever often terminates in a sort of stupor, in which death generally takes place. Sometimes, however, the patient who has fallen into this stupor revives again. It is known to the physicians as the “trance state.” I had seen cases of this at sea. Several times people were thrown overboard when I thought that they did not have all the signs of death, and at last, in two cases of which I had charge, I detained the corpses three days, in spite of the remonstrances of the other passengers. _These two revived._ By this I knew that some of those who were thrown overboard were not dead. Did I feel horror at this, my Teresa? No. “Pass away,” I said, “unhappy ones. You are not dead. You live in a better life than this. What matters it whether you died by the fever or by the sea?”

But when I saw Edith as she lay there my soul felt assured that she was not dead, and an unutterable convulsion of sorrow overwhelmed me. Therefore I fainted. The horror of that situation was too much for me. To think of that angelic girl about to be covered up alive in the ground; to think of that sweet young life, which had begun so brightly, terminating amidst such black darkness!

“Now God help me!” I cried, as I hurried on after the woman; “and bring me there in time.” There! Where? To the place of the dead. It was there that I had to seek her.

“How long had she been in that house before I fainted?” I asked, fearfully.

“Twenty-four hours.”

“And when did I faint?”

“Yesterday.”

A pang shot through me. “Tell me,” I cried, hoarsely, “when she was buried.”

“Last night.”

“O God!” I groaned, and I could say no more; but with new strength given to me in that hour of agony I rushed on.

It was by the eastern shore of the island. A wide flat was there, washed on one side by the river. Here more than a thousand mounds arose. Alas! could I ever hope to find her!

“Do you know where they have laid her?” I asked, tremblingly.

“Yes,” said the woman, confidently.

Hope returned faintly. She led the way.

The moon beamed out brightly from behind a cloud, illumining the waste of mounds. The river murmured solemnly along the shore. All my senses were overwhelmed in the madness of that hour. The moon seemed enlarged to the dimensions of a sky; the murmur of the river sounded like a cataract, and in the vast murmur I heard voices which seemed then like the voices of the dead. But the lustre of that exaggerated glow, and the booming concord of fancied spirit-voices were all contemned as trifles. I cared for nothing either natural or supernatural. Only one thought was present–the place where she was laid.

We reached it at last. At the end of a row of graves we stopped. “Here,” said the woman, “are twelve graves. These were made last night. These are those twelve which you saw.”

“And where–where, O God, is SHE!”

“There,” replied the woman, pointing to one which was the third from the end.

“Do not deceive me!” I cried, imploringly. “Are you sure? For I will tear up all these till I find her.”

“I am sure, for I was the one who buried her. I and a man–“

I seized the spade and turned up the soil. I labored incessantly for what seemed an endless period. I had thrown out much earth but had not yet reached her. I felt my fitful strength failing me. My mind, too, seemed entering into a state of delirium. At last my knees gave way, and I sank down just as my spade touched something which gave back a hollow sound.

My knees gave way, and I sank down. But I would not give up. I tore up handfuls of earth and threw them into the air.

“Oh, Edith!” I cried, “I am here! I am coming! I am coming!”

“Come, Sir,” said the woman, suddenly, in her strong voice, yet pityingly. “You can do nothing. I will dig her out in a minute.”

[Illustration: “I TOOK HER IN MY ARMS AND BROUGHT HER FORTH FROM THE GRAVE,” ETC.]

“God forever bless you!” I cried, leaping out and giving place to her. I watched her as she threw out the earth. Hungrily I gazed, devouring that dark aperture with my eyes till at last the rough boards appeared.

Then I leaped down. I put my fingers at the edge and tore at it till it gave way. The lid was only fastened with a few nails. My bleeding fingers clutched it. It yielded to my frantic exertions.

O my God! was there ever a sight on earth like that which now met my eyes as I raised the lid and looked below? The moon, which was high in the sky, streamed down directly into the narrow cell. It showed me the one whom I sought. Its bright beams threw a lustre round that face which was upturned toward me. Ah me! how white was that face; like the face of some sleeping maiden carved in alabaster. Bathed in the moonbeams it lay before me, all softened and refined and made pure; a face of unearthly beauty. The dark hair caught the moon’s rays, and encircled the head like a crown of immortality. Still the eyes were closed as though in slumber; still the lips were fixed into a smile. She lay as one who had fallen into a deep, sweet sleep–as one who in that sleep has dreams, in which are visions of more than earthly beauty, and scenes of more than mortal happiness.

Now it was with me as though at that unequaled vision I had drawn into my inmost being some sudden stimulus–a certain rapture of newborn strength; strength no longer fitful and spasmodic, but firm, well fortified and well sustained.

I took her in my arms and brought her forth from the grave into the life of earth.

Ah me! how light a thing was that frail and slender figure which had been worn down by the unparalleled suffering through which she had passed. This thought transfixed me with a pang of anguish–even awed the rapture that I felt at clasping her in my arms.

But now that I had her, where was I to seek for a place of shelter? I turned to the woman and asked: “Is there any secluded place where she may sleep undisturbed till she wakes–“

“No, there is none but what is crowded with the sick and dying in all this island.”

“I must have some place.”

“There is only one spot that is quiet.”

“What one?”

“The dead-house.”

I shuddered. “No, not there. See,” said I, and I handed her a piece of gold. “Find me some place and you shall have still more.”

“Well,” she said, hesitatingly, “I have the room where me and my man live. I suppose we could give up that.”

“Take me there, then.”

“Shall I help you carry her?”

“No,” I answered, drawing back my pure Edith from her outstretched hands. “No, I will carry her.”

The woman went on without a word. She led the way back to the low and dismal sheds which lay there like a vast charnel-house, and thence to a low hut some distance away from all, where she opened a door. She spoke a few words to a man, who finally withdrew. A light was burning. A rude cot was there. Here I laid the one whom I carried.

“Come here,” said I, “three times a day. I will pay you well for this.”

The woman left. All night long I watched. She lay unmoved and unchanged. Where was her spirit wandering? Soared it among the splendors of some far-off world? Lingered it amidst the sunshine of heavenly glory? Did her seraphic soul move amidst her peers in the assemblage of the holy? Was she straying amidst the trackless paths of ether with those whom she had loved in life, and who had gone before?

All night long I watched her as she lay with her marble face and her changeless smile. There seemed to be communicated to me an influence from her which opened the eyes of my spiritual sense; and my spirit sought to force itself upon her far-off perceptions, that so it might catch her notice and bring her back to earth.

The morning dawned. There was no change. Mid-day came, and still there was no change. I know not how it was, but the superintendent had heard about the grave being opened, and found me in the hut. He tried to induce me to give back to the grave the one whom I had rescued. The horror of that request was so tremendous that it force me into passionless calm. When I refused he threatened. At his menace I rejoined in such language that he turned pale.

“Murderer!” said I, sternly, “is it not enough that you have sent to the grave many wretches who were not dead? Do you seek to send back to death this single one whom I have rescued? Do you want all Canada and all the world to ring with the account of the horrors done here, where people are buried alive? See, she is not dead. She is only sleeping. And yet you put her in the grave.”

“She is dead!” he cried, in mingled fear and anger–“and she must be buried.”

“She is not dead,” said I, sternly, as I glared on him out of my intensity of anguish–“she is not dead: and if you try to send her to death again you must first send me. She shall not pass to the grave except over my corpse, and over the corpse of the first murderer that dares to lay hands on her.”

He started back–he and those who were with him. “The man is mad,” they said.

They left me in peace. I grow excited as I write. My hand trembles. Let me be calm.

She awoke that night. It was midnight, and all was still. She opened her eyes suddenly, and looked full at me with an earnest and steadfast stare. At last a long, deep-drawn sigh broke the stillness of that lone chamber.

“Back again”–she murmured, in a scarce audible voice–“among men, and to earth. O friends of the Realm of Light, must I be severed from your lofty communion!”

As she spoke thus the anguish which I had felt at the grave was renewed. “You have brought me back,” said she, mournfully.

“No,” I returned, sadly–“not I. It was not God’s will that you should leave this life. He did not send death to you. You were sleeping, and I brought you to this place.”

“I know all,” she murmured, closing her eyes. “I heard all while my spirit was away. I know where you found me.”

“I am weary,” she said, after a silence. Her eyes closed again. But this time the trance was broken. She slept with long, deep breathing, interrupted by frequent sighs. I watched her through the long night. At first fever came. Then it passed. Her sleep became calm, and she slumbered like a weary child.

Early in the morning the superintendent came, followed by a dozen armed men. He entered with a frown. I met him with my hand upraised to hush him, and led him gently to the bedside.

“See,” I whispered–“but for me she would have been BURIED ALIVE!”

The man seemed frozen into dumbness. He stood ghastly white with horror, thick drops started from his forehead, his teeth chattered, he staggered away. He looked at me with a haunted face, such as belongs to one who thinks he has seen a spirit.

“Spare me,” he faltered; “do not ruin me. God knows I have tried to do my best!”

I waved him off. “Leave me. You have nothing to fear.” He turned away with his white face, and departed in silence with his men.

After a long sleep Edith waked again. She said nothing. I did not wish her to speak. She lay awake, yet with closed eyes, thinking such thoughts as belong to one, and to one alone, who had known what she had known.

I did not speak to her, for she was to me a holy being, not to be addressed lightly. Yet she did not refuse nourishment, and grew stronger, until at last I was able to have her moved to Quebec. There I obtained proper accommodations for her and good nurses.

I have told you what she was before this. Subsequently there came a change. The nurses and the doctors called it a stupor.

There was something in her face which inspired awe among all who saw her. If it is the soul of man that gives expression to the features, then her soul must have been familiar with things unknown to us. How often have I seen her in walking across the room stop suddenly and stand fixed on the spot, musing and sad! She commonly moved about as though she saw nothing, as though she walked in a dream, with eyes half closed, and sometimes murmuring inaudible words. The nurses half loved and half feared her. Yet there were some little children in the house who felt all love and no fear, for I have seen her smiling on them with a smile so sweet that it seemed to me as if they stood in the presence of their guardian angel. Strange, sad spirit, what thoughts, what memories are these which make her life one long reverie, and have taken from her all power to enjoy the beautiful that dwells on earth! She fills all my thoughts with her loneliness, her tears, and her spiritual face, bearing the marks of scenes that can never be forgotten. She lives and moves amidst her recollections. What is it that so overwhelms all her thoughts? That face of hers appears as though it had bathed itself in the atmosphere of some diviner world than this: and her eyes seem as if they may have gazed upon the Infinite Mystery.

Now from the few words which she has casually dropped I gather this to be her own belief. That when she fell into the state of trance her soul was parted from her body, though still by an inexplicable sympathy she was aware of what was passing around her lifeless form. Yet her soul had gone forth into that spiritual world toward which we look from this earth with such eager wonder. It had mingled there with the souls of others. It had put forth new powers, and learned the use of new faculties. Then that soul was called back to its body.

This maiden–this wonder among mortals–is not a mortal, she is an exiled soul. I have seen her sit with tears streaming down her face, tears such as men shed in exile. For she is like a banished man who has only one feeling, a longing, yearning homesickness. She has been once in that radiant world for a time which we call three days in our human calculations, but which to her seems indefinite; for as she once said– and it is a pregnant thought, full of meaning–there is no time there, all is infinite duration. The soul has illimitable powers; in an instant it can live years, and she in those three days had the life of ages. Her former life on earth has now but a faint hold upon her memory in comparison with that life among the stars. The sorrow that her loved ones endured has become eclipsed by the knowledge of the blessedness in which she found them.

Alas! it is a blessing to die, and it is only a curse to rise from the dead. And now she endures this exile with an aching heart, with memories that are irrepressible, with longings unutterable, and yearnings that cannot be expressed for that starry world and that bright companionship from which she has been recalled. So she sometimes speaks. And little else can she say amidst her tears. Oh, sublime and mysterious exile, could I but know what you know, and have but a small part of that secret which you can not explain!

For she can not tell what she witnessed _there_. She sometimes wishes to do so, but can not. When asked directly, she sinks into herself and is lost in thought. She finds no words. It is as when we try to explain to a man who has been always blind the scenes before our eyes. We can not explain them to such a man. And so with her. She finds in her memory things which no human language has been made to express. These languages were made for the earth, not for heaven. In order to tell me what she knows, she would need the language of that world, and then she could not explain it, for I could not understand it.

Only once I saw her smile, and that was when one of the nurses casually mentioned, with horror, the death of some acquaintance. “Death!” she murmured, and her eyes lighted up with a kind of ecstasy. “Oh, that I might die!” She knows no blessing on earth except that which we consider a curse, and to her the object of all her wishes is this one thing– Death. I shall not soon forget that smile. It seemed of itself to give a new meaning to death.

Do I believe this, so wild a theory, the very mention of which has carried me beyond myself? I do not know. All my reason rebels. It scouts the monstrous idea. But here she stands before me, with her memories and thoughts, and her wonderful words, few, but full of deepest meaning– words which I shall never forget–and I recognize something before which Reason falters. Whence this deep longing of hers? Why when she thinks of death does her face grow thus radiant, and her eyes kindle with hope? Why does she so pine and grow sick with desire? Why does her heart thus ache as day succeeds to day, and she finds herself still under the sunlight, with the landscapes and the music of this fair earth still around her?

Once, in some speculations of mine, which I think I mentioned to you, Teresina, I thought that if a man could reach that spiritual world he would look with contempt upon the highest charms that belong to this. Here is one who believes that she has gone through this experience, and all this earth, with all its beauty, is now an object of indifference to her. Perhaps you may ask, Is she sane? Yes, dear, as sane as I am, but with a profounder experience and a diviner knowledge.

After I had been in Quebec about a month I learned that one of the regiments stationed here was commanded by Colonel Henry Despard. I called on him, and he received me with unbounded delight. He made me tell him all about myself, and I imparted to him as much of the events of the voyage and quarantine as was advisable. I did not go into particulars to any extent, of course. I mentioned nothing about _the grave_. That, dearest sister, is a secret between you, and me, and her. For if it should be possible that she should ever be restored to ordinary human sympathy and feeling, it will not be well that all the world should know what has happened to her.

His regiment was ordered to Halifax, and I concluded to comply with his urgent solicitations and accompany him. It is better for _her_ at any rate that there should be more friends than one to protect her. Despard, like the doctors, supposes that she is in a stupor.

The journey here exercised a favorable influence over her. Her strength increased to a marked degree, and she has once or twice spoken about the past. She told me that her father wrote to his son Louis in Australia some weeks before his death, and urged him to come home. She thinks that he is on his way to England. The Colonel and I at once thought that he ought to be sought after without delay, and he promised to write to his nephew, your old playmate, who, he tells me, is to be a neighbor of yours.

If he is still the one whom I remember–intellectual yet spiritual, with sound reason, yet a strong heart, if he is still the Courtenay Despard who, when a boy, seemed to me to look out upon the world before him with such lofty poetic enthusiasm–then, Teresella, you should show him this diary, for it will cause him to understand things which he ought to know. I suppose it would be unintelligible to Mr. Thornton, who is a most estimable man, but who, from the nature of his mind, if he read this, would only conclude that the writer was insane.

At any rate, Mr. Thornton should be informed of the leading facts, so that he may see if something can be done to alleviate the distress, or to avenge the wrongs of one whose father was the earliest benefactor of his family.

CHAPTER XVI.

HUSBAND AND WIFE.

“It is now the middle of February,” said Despard, after a long pause, in which he had given himself up to the strange reflections which the diary was calculated to excite. “If Louis Brandon left Australia when he was called he must be in England now.”

“You are calm,” said Mrs. Thornton. “Have you nothing more to say than that?”

Despard looked at her earnestly. “Do you ask me such a question? It is a story so full of anguish that the heart might break out of pure sympathy, but what words could be found? I have nothing to say. I am speechless. My God! what horror thou dost permit!”

“But something must be done,” said Mrs. Thornton, impetuously.

“Yes,” said Despard, slowly, “but what? If we could reach our hands over the grave and bring back those who have passed away, then the soul of Edith might find peace; but now–now–we can give her no peace. She only wishes to die. Yet something must be done, and the first thing is to find Louis Brandon. I will start for London to-night. I will go and seek him, not for Edith’s sake but for his own, that I may save one at least of this family. For her there is no comfort. Our efforts are useless there. If we could give her the greatest earthly happiness it would be poor and mean, and still she would sigh after that starry companionship from which her soul has been withdrawn.”

“Then you believe it.”

“Don’t you?”

“Of course; but I did not know that you would.”

“Why not? and if I did not believe it this at least would be plain, that she herself believes it. And even if it be a hallucination, it is a sublime one, and so vivid that it is the same to her as a reality. Let it be only a dream that has taken place–still that dream has made all other things dim, indistinct, and indifferent to her.”

“No one but you would read Paolo’s diary without thinking him insane.”

Despard smiled. “Even that would be nothing to me. Some people think that a great genius must be insane.

‘Great wits are sure to madness near allied,’

you know. For my part, I consider Paolo the sublimest of men. When I saw him last I was only a boy, and he came with his seraphic face and his divine music to give me an inspiration which has biased my life ever since. I have only known one spirit like his among those whom I have met.”

An indescribable sadness passed over his face. “But now,” he continued, suddenly, “I suppose Thornton must see my uncle’s letter. His legal mind may discern some things which the law may do in this case. Edith is beyond all consolation from human beings, and still farther beyond all help from English law. But if Louis Brandon can be found the law may exert itself in his favor. In this respect be may be useful, and I have no doubt he would take up the case earnestly, out of his strong sense of justice.”

When Thornton came in to dinner Despard handed him his uncle’s letter. The lawyer read it with deep attention, and without a word.

Mrs. Thornton looked agitated–sometimes resting her head on her hand, at others looking fixedly at her husband. As soon as he had finished she said, in a calm, measured tone:

“I did not know before that Brandon of Brandon Hall and all his family had perished so miserably.”

Thornton started, and looked at her earnestly. She returned his gaze with unutterable sadness in her eyes.

“He saved my father’s life,” said she. “He benefited him greatly. Your father also was under slight obligations to him. I thought that things like these constituted a faint claim on one’s gratitude, so that if one were exposed to misfortune he might not be altogether destitute of friends.”

Thornton looked uneasy as his wife spoke.

“My dear,” said he, “you do not understand.”

“True,” she answered; “for this thing is almost incredible. If my father’s friend has died in misery, unpitied and unwept, forsaken by all, do I not share the guilt of ingratitude? How can I absolve myself from blame?”

“Set your mind at rest. You never knew any thing about it. I told you nothing on the subject.”

“Then you knew it!”

“Stop! You can not understand this unless I explain it. You are stating bald facts; but these facts, painful as they are, are very much modified by circumstances.”

“Well, then, I hope you will tell me all, without reserve, for I wish to know how it is that this horror has happened, and I have stood idly and coldly aloof. My God!” she cried, in Italian; “did _he_ not–did _they_ not in their last moments think of me, and wonder how they could have been betrayed by Langhetti’s daughter!”

“My dear, be calm, I pray. You are blaming yourself unjustly, I assure you.”

Despard was ghastly pale as this conversation went on. He turned his face away.

“Ralph Brandon,” began Thornton, “was a man of many high qualities, but of unbounded pride, and utterly impracticable. He was no judge of character, and therefore was easily deceived. He was utterly inexperienced in business, and he was always liable to be led astray by any sudden impulse. Somehow or other a man named Potts excited his interest about twelve or fifteen years ago. He was a mere vulgar adventurer; but Brandon became infatuated with him, and actually believed that this man was worthy to be intrusted with the management of large business transactions. The thing went on for years. His friends all remonstrated with him. I, in particular, went there to explain to him that the speculation in which he was engaged could not result in any thing except loss. But he resented all interference, and I had to leave him to himself.

“His son Louis was a boy full of energy and fire. The family were all indignant at the confidence which Ralph Brandon put in this Potts–Louis most of all. One day he met Potts. Words passed between them, and Louis struck the scoundrel. Potts complained. Brandon had his son up on the spot; and after listening to his explanations gave him the alternative either to apologise to Potts or to leave the house forever. Louis indignantly denounced Potts to his father as a swindler. Brandon ordered him to his room, and gave him a week to decide.

“The servants whispered till the matter was noised abroad. The county gentry had a meeting about it, and felt so strongly that they did an unparalleled thing. They actually waited on him to assure him that Potts was unworthy of trust, and to urge him not to treat his son so harshly. All Brandon’s pride was roused at this. He said words to the deputation which cut him off forever from their sympathy, and they left in a rage. Mrs. Brandon wrote to me, and I went there. I found Brandon inflexible. I urged him to give his son a longer time, to send him to the army for a while, to do any thing rather than eject him. He refused to change his sentence. Then I pointed out the character of Potts, and told him many things that I had heard. At this he hinted that I wished to have the management of his business, and was actuated by mercenary motive. Of course, after this insult, nothing more was to be said. I went home and tried to forget all about the Brandons. At the end of the week Louis refused to apologize, and left his father forever.”

“Did you see Louis?”

“I saw him before that insult to ask if he would apologize.”

“Did you try to make him apologize?” asked Mrs. Thornton, coldly.

“Yes. But he looked at me with such an air that I had to apologize myself for hinting at such a thing. He was as inflexible as his father.”

“How else could he have been?”

“Well, each might have yielded a little. It does not do to be so inflexible if one would succeed in life.”

“No,” said Mrs. Thornton. “Success must be gained by flexibility. The martyrs were all inflexible, and they were all unsuccessful.”

Thornton looked at his wife hastily. Despard’s hand trembled, and his face grew paler still with a more livid pallor.

“Did you try to do any thing for the ruined son?”

“How could I, after that insult?”

“Could you not have got him a government office, or purchased a commission for him in the army?”

“He would not have taken it from me.”

“You could have co-operated with his mother, and done it in her name.”

“I could not enter the house after being insulted.”

“You could have written. From what I have heard of Brandon, he was just the man who would have blessed any one who would interpose to save his son.”

“His son did not wish to be saved. He has all his father’s inflexibility, but an intellect as clear as that of the most practical man. He has a will of iron, dauntless resolution, and an implacable temper. At the same time he has the open generosity and the tender heart of his father.”

“Had his father a tender heart?”

“So tender and affectionate that this sacrifice of his son must have overwhelmed him with the deepest sorrow.”

“Did you ever after make any advances to any of them?”

“No, never. I never went near the house.”

“Did you ever visit any of the county gentry to see if something could be done?”

“No. It would have been useless. Besides, the very mention of his name would have been resented. I should have had to fling myself headlong against the feelings of the whole public. And no man has any right to do that.”

“No,” said Mrs. Thornton. “No man has. That was another mistake that the martyrs made. They would fling themselves against public opinion.”

“All men can not be martyrs. Besides, the cases are not analogous.”

Thornton spoke calmly and dispassionately.

“True. It is absurd in me; but I admire one who has for a moment forgotten his own interests or safety in thinking of others.”

“That does very well for poetry, but not in real life.”

“In _real life_, such as that on board the _Tecumseh_?” murmured Mrs. Thornton, with drooping eyelids.

“You are getting excited, my dear,” said Thornton, patiently, with the air of a wise father who overlooks the petulance of his child. “I will go on. I had business on the Continent when poor Brandon’s ruin occurred. You were with me, my dear, at Berlin when I heard about it. I felt shocked, but not surprised. I feared that it would come to that.”

“You showed no emotion in particular.”

“No; I was careful not to trouble you.”

“You were in Berlin three months. Was it at the beginning or end of your stay?”

“At the beginning.”

“And you staid?”

“I had business which I could not leave.”

“Would you have been ruined if you had left?”

“Well, no–not exactly ruined, but it would have entailed serious consequences.”

“Would those consequences have been as serious as the _Tecumseh_ tragedy?”

“My dear, in business there are rules which a man is not permitted to neglect. There are duties and obligations which are imperative. The code of honor there is as delicate, yet as rigid, as elsewhere.”

“And yet there are times when all obligations of this sort are weakened. When friends die, this is recognized. Why should it not be so when they are in danger of a fate worse than death?”

Thornton elevated his eyebrows, and made no reply.

“You must have heard about it in March, then?”

“Yes, at the end of January. His ruin took place in December, 1845. It was the middle of May before I got home. I then, toward the end of the month, sent my clerk to Brandon village to make inquiries. He brought word of the death of Brandon, and the departure of his family to parts unknown.”

[Illustration: “THEN, COVERING HER FACE WITH HER HANDS, SHE BURST INTO AN AGONY OF TEARS.”]

“Did he make no particular inquiries?”

“No.”

“And you said not a word to me!”

“I was afraid of agitating you, my dear.”

“And therefore you have secured for me unending self-reproach.”

“Why so? Surely you are blaming yourself without a shadow of a cause.”

“I will tell you why. I dare say I feel unnecessarily on the subject, but I can not help it. It is a fact that Brandon was always impulsive and culpably careless about himself. It is to this quality, strangely enough, that I owe my father’s life, and my own comfort for many years. Paolo also owes as much as I. Mr. Brandon, with a friend of his, was sailing through the Mediterranean in his own yacht, making occasional tours into the country at every place where they happened to land, and at last they came to Girgenti, with the intention of examining the ruins of Agrigentum. This was in 1818, four years before I was born. My father was stopping at Girgenti, with his wife and Paolo, who was then six years old. My father had been very active under the reign of Murat, and had held a high post in his government. This made him suspected after Murat’s overthrow.

“On the day that these Englishmen visited Girgenti, a woman in deep distress came to see them, along with a little boy. It was my mother and Paolo. She flung herself on the floor at their feet, and prayed them to try and help her husband, who had been arrested on a charge of treason and was now in prison. He was suspected of belonging to the Carbonari, who were just beginning to resume their secret plots, and were showing great activity. My father belonged to the innermost degree, and had been betrayed by a villain named Cigole. My mother did not tell them all this, but merely informed them of his danger.

“At first they did not know what to do, but the prayers of my mother moved their hearts. They went to see the captain of the guard, and tried to bribe him, but without effect. They found out, however, where my father was confined, and resolved upon a desperate plan. They put my mother and Paolo on board of the yacht, and by paying a heavy bribe obtained permission to visit my father in prison. Brandon’s friend was about the same height as my father. When they reached his cell they urged my father to exchange clothes with him and escape. At first he positively refused, but when assured that Brandon’s friend, being an Englishman, would be set free in a few days, he consented. Brandon then took him away unnoticed, put him on board of the yacht, and sailed to Marseilles, where he gave him money enough to get to England, and told him to stop at Brandon Hall till he himself arrived. He then sailed back to see about his friend.

“He found out nothing about him for some time. At last he induced the British embassador to take the matter in hand, and he did so with such effect that the prisoner was liberated. He had been treated with some severity at first, but he was young, and the government was persuaded to look upon it as a youthful freak. Brandon’s powerful influence with the British embassador obtained his unconditional release.

“My father afterward obtained a situation here at Holby, where he was organist till he died. Through all his life he never ceased to receive kindness and delicate acts of attention from Brandon. When in his last sickness Brandon came and staid with him till the end. He then wished to do something for Paolo, but Paolo preferred seeking his own fortune in his own way.”

Mrs. Thornton ended her little narrative, to which Despard had listened with the deepest attention.

“Who was Brandon’s friend?” asked Despard.

“He was a British officer,” said Mrs. Thornton. “For fear of dragging in his government, and perhaps incurring dismissal from the army, he gave an assumed name–Mountjoy. This was the reason why Brandon was so long in finding him.”

“Did your father not know it?”

“On the passage Brandon kept it secret, and after his friend’s deliverance he came to see my father under his assumed name. My father always spoke of him as Mountjoy. After a time he heard that he was dead.”

“I can tell you his true name,” said Mr. Thornton. “There is no reason why you should not know it.”

“What?”

“Lionel Despard–your father, and Ralph Brandon’s bosom friend.”

Despard looked transfixed. Mrs. Thornton gazed at her husband, and gave an unutterable look at Despard, then, covering her face with her hands, she burst into an agony of tears.

“My God,” cried Despard, passing his hand over his forehead, “my father died when I was a child, and nobody was ever able to tell me any thing about him. And Brandon was his friend. He died thus, and his family have perished thus, while I have known nothing and done nothing.”

“You at least are not to blame,” said Thornton, calmly, “for you had scarcely heard of Brandon’s name. You were in the north of England when this happened, and knew nothing whatever about it.”

That evening Despard went home with a deeper trouble in his heart. He was not seen at the Grange for a month. At the end of that time he returned. He had been away to London during the whole interval.

As Mrs. Thornton entered to greet him her whole face was overspread with an expression of radiant joy. He took both her hands in his and pressed them without a word. “Welcome back,” she murmured–“you have been gone a long time.”

“Nothing but an overpowering sense of duty could have kept me away so long,” said he, in a deep, low voice.

A few similar commonplaces followed; but with these two the tone of the voice invested the feeblest commonplaces with some hidden meaning.

At last she asked: “Tell me what success you had?” He made no reply; but taking a paper from his pocket opened it, and pointed to a marked paragraph. This was the month of March. The paper was dated January 14, 1847. The paragraph was as follows:

“DISTRESSING CASUALTY.–The ship _Java_, which left Sydney on the 5th of August last, reports a stormy passage. On the 12th of September a distressing casualty occurred. They were in S. lat. 11 deg. 1′ 22″, E. long. 105 deg. 6′ 36”, when a squall suddenly struck the ship. A passenger, Louis Brandon, Esq., of the firm of Compton & Brandon, Sydney, was standing by the lee-quarter as the squall struck, and, distressing to narrate, he was hurled violently overboard. It was impossible to do any thing, as a monsoon was beginning, which raged for twenty-four hours. Mr. Brandon was coming to England on business.

“The captain reports a sand-bank in the latitude and longitude indicated above, which he names ‘Coffin Island,’ from a rock of peculiar shape at the eastern extremity. Ships will do well in future to give this place a wide berth.”

Deep despondency came over Mrs. Thornton’s face as she read this. “We can do nothing,” said she, mournfully. “He is gone. It is better for him. We must now wait till we hear more from Paolo. I will write to him at once.”

“And I will write to my uncle.”

There was a long silence. “Do you know,” said Despard, finally, “that I have been thinking much about my father of late. It seems very strange to me that my uncle never told me about that Sicilian affair before. Perhaps he did not wish me to know it, for fear that through all my life I should brood over thoughts of that noble heart lost to me forever. But I intend to write to him, and obtain afresh the particulars of his death. I wish to know more about my mother. No one was ever in such ignorance of his parents as I have been. They merely told me that my father and mother died suddenly in India, and left me an orphan at the age of seven under the care of Mr. Henry Thornton. They never told me that Brandon was a very dear friend of his. I have thought also of the circumstances of his death, and they all seem confused. Some say he died in Calcutta, others say in China, and Mr. Thornton once said in Manilla. There is some mystery about it.”

“When Brandon was visiting my father,” said Mrs. Thornton, “you were at school, and he never saw you. I think he thought you were Henry Despard’s son.”

“There’s some mystery about it,” said Despard, thoughtfully.

When Mr. Thornton came in that night he read a few extracts from the London paper which he had just received. One was as follows:

“FOUNDERED AT SEA.–The ship _H. B. Smith_, from Calcutta, which arrived yesterday, reports that on the 28th January they picked up a ship’s long-boat near the Cape Verd Islands. It was floating bottom upward. On the stern was painted the word _Falcon_. The ship _Falcon_ has now been expected for two months, and it is feared from this that she may have foundered at sea. The _Falcon_ was on her way from Sydney to London, and belonged to Messrs. Kingwood, Flaxman, & Co.”

CHAPTER XVII.

THE SHADOW OF THE AFRICAN FOREST.

Let us return to the castaways.

It was morning on the coast of Africa–Africa the mysterious, the inhospitable Africa, _leonum arida nutrix_.

There was a little harbor into which flowed a shallow, sluggish river, while on each side rose high hills. In front of the harbor was an island which concealed and protected it.

Here the palm-trees grew. The sides rose steeply, the summit was lofty, and the towering palms afforded a deep, dense shade. The grass was fine and short, and being protected from the withering heat was as fine as that of an English lawn. Up the palm-trees there climbed a thousand parasitic plants, covered with blossoms–gorgeous, golden, rich beyond all description. Birds of starry plumage flitted through the air, as they leaped from tree to tree, uttering a short, wild note; through the spreading branches sighed the murmuring breeze that came from off the ocean; round the shore the low tones of the gently-washing surf were borne as it came in in faint undulations from the outer sea.

Underneath the deepest shadow of the palms lay Brandon. He had lost consciousness when he fell from the boat; and now for the first time he opened his eyes and looked around upon the scene, seeing these sights and hearing the murmuring sounds.

In front of him stood Beatrice, looking with dropped eyelids at the grass, her arms half folded before her, her head uncovered, her hair bound by a sort of fillet around the crown, and then gathered in great black curling masses behind. Her face was pale as usual, and had the same marble whiteness which always marked it. That face was now pensive and sad; but there was no weakness there. Its whole expression showed manifestly the self-contained soul, the strong spirit evenly-poised, willing and able to endure.

Brandon raised himself on one arm and looked wonderingly around. She started. A vivid flash of joy spread over her face in one bright smile. She hurried up and knelt down by him.

“Do not move–you are weak,” she said, as tenderly as a mother to a sick child.

Brandon looked at her fixedly for a long time without speaking. She placed her cool hand on his forehead. His eyes closed as though there were a magnetic power in her touch. After a while, as she removed her hand, he opened his eyes again. He took her hand and held it fervently to his lips. “I know,” said he, in a low, dreamy voice, “who you are, and who I am–but nothing more. I know that I have lost all memory; that there has been some past life of great sorrow; but I can not think what that sorrow is–I know that there has been some misfortune, but I can not remember what.”

Beatrice smiled sadly. “It will all come to you in time.”

“At first when I waked,” he murmured, “and looked around on this scene, I thought that I had at last entered the spirit-world, and that you had come with me; and I felt a deep joy that I can never express. But I see, and I know now, that I am yet on the earth. Though what shore of all the earth this is, or how I got here, I know not.”

“You must sleep,” said she, gently.

“And you–you–you,” he murmured, with indescribable intensity–“you, companion, preserver, guardian angel–I feel as though, if I were not a man, I could weep my life out at your feet.”

“Do not weep,” said she, calmly. “The time for tears may yet come; but it is not now.”

He looked at her, long, earnestly, and inquiringly, still holding her hand, which he had pressed to his lips. An unutterable longing to ask something was evident; but it was checked by a painful embarrassment.

“I know nothing but this,” said he at last, “that I have felt as though sailing for years over infinite seas. Wave after wave has been impelling us on. A Hindu servant guided the boat. But I lay weak, with my head supported by you, and your arms around me. Yet, of all the days and all the years that ever I have known, these were supreme, for all the time was one long ecstasy. And now, if there is sorrow before me,” he concluded, “I will meet it resignedly, for I have had my heaven already.”

“You have sailed over seas,” said she, sadly; “but I was the helpless one, and you saved me from death.”

“And are you–to me–what I thought?” he asked, with painful vehemence and imploring eyes.

“I am your nurse,” said she, with a melancholy smile.

He sighed heavily. “Sleep now,” said she, and she again placed her hand upon his forehead. Her touch soothed him. Her voice arose in a low song of surpassing sweetness. His senses yielded to the subtle incantation, and sleep came to him as he lay.

When he awaked it was almost evening. Lethargy was still over him, and Beatrice made him sleep again. He slept into the next day. On waking there was the same absence of memory. She gave him some cordial to drink, and the draught revived him. Now he was far stronger, and he sat up, leaning against a tree, while Beatrice knelt near him. He looked at her long and earnestly.

“I would wish never to leave this place, but to stay here,” said he. “I know nothing of my past life. I have drunk of Lethe. Yet I can not help struggling to regain knowledge of that past.”

He put his hand in his bosom, as if feeling for some relic.

“I have something suspended about my neck,” said he, “which is precious. Perhaps I shall know what it is after a time.”

Then, after a pause, “Was there not a wreck?” he asked.

“Yes; and you saved my life.”

“Was there not a fight with pirates?”

“Yes; and you saved my life,” said Beatrice again.

“I begin to remember,” said Brandon. “How long is it since the wreck took place?”

“It was January 15.”

“And what is this?”

“February 6. It is about three weeks.”

“How did I get away?”

“In a boat with me and the servant.”

“Where is the servant?”

“Away providing for us. You had a sun-stroke. He carried you up here.”

“How long have I been in this place?”

“A fortnight.”

Numerous questions followed. Brandon’s memory began to return. Yet, in his efforts to regain knowledge of himself, Beatrice was still the most prominent object in his thoughts. His dream-life persisted in mingling itself with his real life.

“But you,” he cried, earnestly–“you, how have you endured all this? You are weary; you have worn yourself out for me. What can I ever do to show my gratitude? You have watched me night and day. Will you not have more care of your own life?”

The eyes of Beatrice kindled with a soft light. “What is my life?” said she. “Do I not owe it over and over again to you? But I deny that I am worn out.”

Brandon looked at her with earnest, longing eyes. His recovery was rapid. In a few days he was able to go about. Cato procured fish from the waters and game from the woods, so as to save the provisions of the boat, and they looked forward to the time when they might resume their journey. But to Brandon this thought was repugnant, and an hourly struggle now went on within him. Why should he go to England? What could he do? Why should he ever part from her?

“Oh, to burst all links of habit, and to wander far away, On from island unto island at the gateways of the day!”

In her presence he might find peace, and perpetual rapture in her smile.

In the midst of such meditations as these her voice once arose from afar. It was one of her own songs, such as she could improvise. It spoke of summer isles amidst the sea; of soft winds and spicy breezes; of eternal rest beneath over-shadowing palms. It was a soft, melting strain–a strain of enchantment, sung by one who felt the intoxication of the scene, and whose genius imparted it to others. He was like Ulysses listening to the song of the sirens. It seemed to him as though all nature there joined in that marvelous strain. It was to him as though the very winds were lulled into calm, and a delicious languor stole upon all his senses.

“Sweet, sweet, sweet, god Pan,
Sweet in the fields by the river, Blinding sweet, oh great god Pan,
The sun on the hills forgot to die, And the lily revived, and the dragon-fly Came back to dream by the river.”

It was the [Greek: meligaerun opa], the [Greek: opa kallimon] of the sirens.

For she had that divine voice which of itself can charm the soul; but, in addition, she had that poetic genius which of itself could give words which the music might clothe.

Now, as he saw her at a distance through the trees and marked the statuesque calm of her classic face, as she stood there, seeming in her song rather to soliloquize than to sing, breathing forth her music “in profuse strains of unpremeditated art,” the very beauty of the singer and the very sweetness of the song put an end to all temptation.

“This is folly,” he thought. “Could one like that assent to my wild fancy? Would she, with her genius, give up her life to me? No; that divine music must be heard by larger numbers. She is one who thinks she can interpret the inspiration of Mozart and Handel. And who am I?”

Then there came amidst this music a still small voice, like the voice of those helpless ones at home; and this voice seemed one of entreaty and of despair. So the temptation passed. But it passed only to be renewed again. As for Beatrice, she seemed conscious of no such effect as this. Calmly and serenely she bore herself, singing as she thought, as the birds sing, because she could not help it. Here she was like one of the classic nymphs–like the genius of the spot–like Calypso, only passionless.

Now, the more Brandon felt the power of her presence the more he took refuge within himself, avoiding all dangerous topics, speaking only of external things, calling upon her to sing of loftier themes, such as those “_cieli immensi_” of which she had sung when he first heard her. Thus he fought down the struggles of his own heart, and crushed out those rising impulses which threatened to sweep him helplessly away.

As for Beatrice herself she seemed changeless, moved by no passion and swayed by no impulse. Was she altogether passionless, or was this her matchless self-control? Brandon thought that it was her nature, and that she, like her master Langhetti, found in music that which satisfied all passion and all desire.

In about a fortnight after his recovery from his stupor they were ready to leave. The provisions in the boat were enough for two weeks’ sail. Water was put on board, and they bade adieu to the island which had sheltered them.

This time Beatrice would not let Brandon row while the sun was up. They rowed at night, and by day tried to get under the shadow of the shore. At last a wind sprang up; they now sailed along swiftly for two or three days. At the end of that time they saw European houses, beyond which arose some roofs and spires. It was Sierra Leone. Brandon’s conjectures had been right. On landing here Brandon simply said that they had been wrecked in the _Falcon_, and had escaped on the boat, all the rest having perished. He gave his name as Wheeler. The authorities received these unfortunate ones with great kindness, and Brandon heard that a ship would leave for England on the 6th of March.

The close connection which had existed between them for so many weeks was now severed, and Brandon thought that this might perhaps remove that extraordinary power which he felt that she exerted over him. Not so. In her absence he found himself constantly looking forward toward a meeting with her again. When with her he found the joy that flowed from her presence to be more intense, since it was more concentrated. He began to feel alarmed at his own weakness.

The 6th of March came, and they left in the ship _Juno_ for London.

Now their intercourse was like that of the old days on board the _Falcon_.

“It is like the _Falcon_,” said Beatrice, on the first evening. “Let us forget all about the journey over the sea, and our stay on the island.”

“I can never forget that I owe my life to you,” said Brandon, vehemently.

“And I,” rejoined Beatrice, with kindling eyes, which yet were softened by a certain emotion of indescribable tenderness–“I–how can I forget! Twice you saved me from a fearful death, and then you toiled to save my life till your own sank under it.”

“I would gladly give up a thousand lives”–said Brandon, in a low voice, while his eyes were illumined with a passion which had never before been permitted to get beyond control, but now rose visibly, and irresistibly.

“If you have a life to give,” said Beatrice, calmly, returning his fevered gaze with a full look of tender sympathy–“if you have a life to give, let it be given to that _purpose_ of yours to which you are devoted.”

“You refuse it, then!” cried Brandon, vehemently and reproachfully.

Beatrice returned his reproachful gaze with one equally reproachful, and raising her calm eyes to Heaven, said, in a tremulous voice,

“You have no right to say so–least of all to _me_. I said what you feel and know; and it is this, that others require your life, in comparison with whom I am nothing. Ah, my friend,” she continued, in tones of unutterable sadness, “let us be friends here at least, on the sea, for when we reach England we must be separated for evermore!”

“For evermore!” cried Brandon, in agony.

“For evermore!” repeated Beatrice, in equal anguish.

“Do you feel very eager to get to England?” asked Brandon, after a long silence.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I know that there is sorrow for me there.”

“If our boat had been destroyed on the shore of that island,” he asked, in almost an imploring voice, “would you have grieved?”

“No.”

“The present is better than the future. Oh, that my dream had continued forever, and that I had never awaked to the bitterness of life!”

“That,” said Beatrice, with a mournful smile, “is a reproach to me for watching you.”

“Yet that moment of awaking was sweet beyond all thought,” continued Brandon, in a musing tone, “for I had lost all memory of all things except you.”

They stood in silence, sometimes looking at one another, sometimes at the sea, while the dark shadows of the Future swept gloomily before their eyes.

The voyage passed on until at last the English shores were seen, and they sailed up the Channel amidst the thronging ships that pass to and fro from the metropolis of the world.

“To-morrow we part,” said Beatrice, as she stood with Brandon on the quarter-deck.

“No,” said Brandon; “there will be no one to meet you here. I must take you to your home.”

“To my home! You?” cried Beatrice, starting back. “You dare not.”

“I dare.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“I do not seek to know. I do not ask; but yet I think I know.”

“And yet _you_ offer to go?”

“I must go. I must see you to the very last.”

“Be it so,” said Beatrice, in a solemn voice, “since it is the very last.”

Suddenly she looked at him with the solemn gaze of one whose soul was filled with thoughts that overpowered every common feeling. It was a glance lofty and serene and unimpassioned, like that of some spirit which has passed beyond human cares, but sad as that of some prophet of woe.

“Louis Brandon!”

At this mention of his name a flash of unspeakable surprise passed over Brandon’s face. She held out her hand. “Take my hand,” said she, calmly, “and hold it so that I may have strength to speak.”

“Louis Brandon!” said she, “there was a time on that African island when you lay under the trees and I was sure that you were dead. There was no beating to your heart, and no perceptible breath. The last test failed, the last hope left me, and I knelt by your head, and took you in my arms, and wept in my despair. At your feet Cato knelt and mourned in his Hindu fashion. Then mechanically and hopelessly he made a last trial to see if you were really dead, so that he might prepare your grave. He put his hand under your clothes against your heart. He held it there for a long time. Your heart gave no answer. He withdrew it, and in doing so took something away that was suspended about your neck. This was a metallic case and a package wrapped in oiled silk. He gave them to me.”

Beatrice had spoken with a sad, measured tone–such a tone as one sometimes uses in prayer–a passionless monotone, without agitation and without shame.

Brandon answered not a word.

“Take my hand,” she said, “or I can not go through. This only can give me strength.”

He clasped it tightly in both of his. She drew a long breath, and continued:

“I thought you dead, and knew the full measure of despair. Now, when these were given me, I wished to know the secret of the man who had twice rescued me from death, and finally laid down his life for my sake. I did it not through curiosity. I did it,” and her voice rose slightly, with solemn emphasis–“I did it through a holy feeling that, since my life was due to you, therefore, as yours was gone, mine should replace it, and be devoted to the purpose which you had undertaken.

“I opened first the metallic case. It was under the dim shade of the African forest, and while holding on my knees the head of the man who had laid down his life for me. You know what I read there. I read of a father’s love and agony. I read there the name of the one who had driven him to death. The shadows of the forest grew darker around me; as the full meaning of that revelation came over my soul they deepened into blackness, and I fell senseless by your side.

[Illustration: “I THOUGHT YOU DEAD, AND KNEW THE FULL MEASURE OF DESPAIR.”]

“Better had Cato left us both lying there to die, and gone off in the boat himself. But he revived me. I laid you down gently, and propped up your head, but never again dared to defile you with the touch of one so infamous as I.

“There still remained the other package, which I read–how you reached that island, and how you got that MS., I neither know nor seek to discover; I only know that all my spirit awaked within me as I read those words. A strange, inexplicable feeling arose. I forgot all about you and your griefs. My whole soul was fixed on the figure of that bereaved and solitary man, who thus drifted to his fate. He seemed to speak to me. A fancy, born out of frenzy, no doubt, for all that horror well-nigh drove me mad–a fancy came to me that this voice, which had come from a distance of eighteen years, had spoken to me; a wild fancy, because I was eighteen years old, that therefore I was connected with these eighteen years, filled my whole soul. I thought that this MS. was mine, and the other one yours. I read it over and over, and over yet again, till every word forced itself into my memory–till you and your sorrows sank into oblivion beside the woes of this man.

“I sat near you all that night. The palms sighed in the air. I dared not touch you. My brain whirled. I thought I heard voices out at sea, and figures appeared in the gloom. I thought I saw before me the form of Colonel Despard. He looked at me with sadness unutterable, yet with soft pity and affection, and extended his hand as though to bless me. Madder fancies than ever then rushed through my brain. But when morning came and the excitement had passed I knew that I had been delirious.

“When that morning came I went over to look at you. To my amazement, you were breathing. Your life was renewed of itself. I knelt down and praised God for this, but did not dare to touch you. I folded up the treasures, and told Cato to put them again around your neck. Then I watched you till you recovered.

“But on that night, and after reading those MSS., I seemed to have passed into another stage of being. I can say things to you now which I would not have dared to say before, and strength is given me to tell you all this before we part for evermore.

“I have awakened to infamy; for what is infamy if it be not this, to bear the name I bear? Something more than pride or vanity has been the foundation of that feeling of shame and hate with which I have always regarded it. And I have now died to my former life, and awakened to a new one.

“Louis Brandon, the agonies which may be suffered by those whom you seek to avenge I can conjecture but I wish never to hear. I pray God that I may never know what it might break my heart to learn. You must save them, you must also avenge them. You are strong, and you are implacable. When you strike your blow will be crushing.

“But I must go and bear my lot among those you strike; I will wait on among them, sharing their infamy and their fate. When your blow falls I will not turn away. I will think of those dear ones of yours who have suffered, and for their sakes will accept the blow of revenge.”

Brandon had held her hand in silence, and with a convulsive pressure during these words. As she stopped she made a faint effort to withdraw it. He would not let her. He raised it to his lips and pressed it there.

Three times he made an effort to speak, and each time failed. At last, with a strong exertion, he uttered, in a hoarse voice and broken tones,

“Oh, Beatrice! Beatrice! how I love you!”

“I know it,” said she, in the same monotone which she had used before–a tone of infinite mournfulness–“I have known it long, and I would say also, ‘Louis Brandon, I love you,’ if it were not that this would be the last infamy; that you, Brandon, of Brandon Hall, should be loved by one who bears my name.”

The hours of the night passed away. They stood watching the English shores, speaking little. Brandon clung to her hand. They were sailing up the Thames. It was about four in the morning.

“We shall soon be there,” said he; “sing to me for the last time. Sing, and forget for a moment that we must part.”

Then, in a low voice, of soft but penetrating tones, which thrilled through every fibre of Brandon’s being. Beatrice began to sing:

“Love made us one: our unity
Is indissoluble by act of thine,
For were this mortal being ended,
And our freed spirits in the world above, Love, passing o’er the grave, would join us there, As once he joined us here:
And the sad memory of the life below Would but unite as closer evermore.
No act of thine may loose
Thee from the eternal bond,
Nor shall Revenge have power
To disunite us _there_!”

On that same day they landed in London. The Governor’s lady at Sierra Leone had insisted on replenishing Beatrice’s wardrobe, so that she showed no appearance of having gone through the troubles which had afflicted her on sea and shore.

Brandon took her to a hotel and then went to his agent’s. He also examined the papers for the last four months. He read in the morning journals a notice which had already appeared of the arrival of the ship off the Nore, and the statement that three of the passengers of the _Falcon_ had reached Sierra Leone. He communicated to the owners of the _Falcon_ the particulars of the loss of the ship, and earned their thanks, for they were able to get their insurance without waiting a year, as is necessary where nothing is heard of a missing vessel.

He traveled with Beatrice by rail and coach as far as the village of Brandon. At the inn he engaged a carriage to take her up to her father’s house. It was Brandon Hall, as he very well knew.

But little was said during all this time. Words were useless. Silence formed the best communion for them. He took her hand at parting. She spoke not a word; his lips moved, but no audible sound escaped. Yet in their eyes as they fastened themselves on one another in an intense gaze there was read all that unutterable passion of love, of longing, and of sorrow that each felt.

The carriage drove off. Brandon watched it. “Now farewell. Love, forever,” he murmured, “and welcome Vengeance!”

CHAPTER XVIII.

INQUIRIES.

So many years had elapsed since Brandon had last been in the village which bore the family name that he had no fear of being recognized. He had been a boy then, he was now a man. His features had passed from a transition state into their maturer form, and a thick beard and mustache, the growth of the long voyage, covered the lower part of the face like a mask. His nose which, when he left, had a boyish roundness of outline, had since become refined and chiseled into the straight, thin Grecian type. His eyes alone remained the same, yet the expression had grown different, even as the soul that looked forth through them had been changed by experience and by suffering.

He gave himself out at the inn as an American merchant, and went out to begin his inquiries. Tearing two buttons off his coat, he entered the shop of the village tailor.

“Good-morning,” said he, civilly.

“Good-morning, Sir; fine morning, Sir,” answered the tailor, volubly. He was a little man, with a cast in his eye, and on looking at Brandon he had to put his head on one side, which he did with a quick, odd gesture.

“There are two buttons off my coat, and I want to know if you can repair it for me?”

“Certainly, Sir; certainly. Take off your coat, Sir, and sit down.”

“The buttons,” said Brandon, “are a little odd; but if you have not got any exactly like them, any thing similar will do.”

“Oh, I think we’ll fit you out, Sir. I think we’ll fit you out,” rejoined the tailor, briskly.

He bustled about among his boxes and drawers, pulled out a large number of articles, and finally began to select the buttons which were nearest like those on the coat.

“This is a fine little village,” said Brandon, carelessly.

“Yes, Sir; that’s a fact, Sir; that’s just what every body says, Sir.”

“What old Hall is that which I saw just outside the village?”

“Ah, Sir, that old Hall is the very best in the whole county. It is Brandon Hall, Sir.”

“Brandon Hall?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I suppose this village takes the name from the Hall–or is it the Hall that is named after the village?”

“Well, neither, Sir. Both of them were named after the Brandon family.”

“Is it an old family? It must be, of course.”

“The oldest in the county, Sir.”

“I wonder if Mr. Brandon would let a stranger go through his grounds? There is a hill back of the house that I should like to see.”

“Mr. Brandon!” exclaimed the tailor, shaking his head; “Mr. Brandon! There ain’t no Mr. Brandon now!”

“How is that?”

“Gone, Sir–ruined–died out.”

“Then the man that lives there now is not Mr. Brandon?”

“Nothing of the kind, Sir! He, Sir! Why he isn’t fit to clean the shoes of any of the old Brandons!”

“Who is he?”

“His name, Sir, is Potts.”

“Potts! That doesn’t sound like one of your old county names.”

“I should think not, Sir. Potts! Why, Sir, he’s generally believed in this here community to be a villain, Sir,” said the little tailor, mysteriously, and with the look of a man who would like very well to be questioned further.

Brandon humored him. “How is that?”

“It’s a long story, Sir.”

“Oh, well–tell it. I have a great curiosity to hear any old stories current in your English villages. I’m an American, and English life is new to me.”

“I’ll bet you never heard any thing like this in all your born days.”

“Tell it then, by all means.”

The tailor jumped down from his seat, went mysteriously to the door, looked cautiously out, and then returned.

“It’s just as well to be a little careful,” said he, “for if that man knew that I was talking about him he’d take it out of me quick enough, I tell you.”

“You seem to be afraid of him.”

“We’re all afraid of him in the village, and hate him; but I hope to God he’ll catch it yet!”

“How can you be afraid of him? You all say that this is a free country.”

“No man, Sir, in any country, is free, except he’s rich. Poor people can be oppressed in many ways; and most of us are in one way or other dependent on him. We hate him all the worse, though. But I’ll tell you about him.”

“Yes, go on.”

“Well, Sir, old Mr. Brandon, about twenty years ago, was one of the richest men in the county. About fifteen years ago the man Potts turned up, and however the old man took a fancy to him I never could see, but he did take a fancy to him, put all his money in some tin mines that Potts had started, and the end of it was Potts turned out a scoundrel, as every one said he would, swindled the old man out of every penny, and ruined him completely. Brandon had to sell his estate, and Potts bought it with the very money out of which he had cheated the old man.”

“Oh! impossible!” said Brandon. “Isn’t that some village gossip?”

“I wish it was, Sir–but it ain’t. Go ask any man here, and he’ll tell you the same.”

“And what became of the family?” asked Brandon, calmly.

“Ah, Sir! that is the worst part of it.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you, Sir. He was ruined. He gave up all. He hadn’t a penny left. He went out of the Hall and lived for a short time in a small house at the other end of the village. At last he spent what little money he had left, and they all got sick. You wouldn’t believe what happened after that.”

“What was it?”

“They were all taken to the alms-house.”

A burst of thunder seemed to sound in Brandon’s ears as he heard this, which he had never even remotely imagined. The tailor was occupied with his own thoughts, and did not notice the wildness that for an instant appeared in Brandon’s eyes. The latter for a moment felt paralyzed and struck down into nothingness by the shock of that tremendous intelligence.

“The people felt dreadfully about it,” continued the tailor, “but they couldn’t do any thing. It was Potts who had the family taken to the alms-house. Nobody dared to interfere.”

“Did none of the county families do anything?” said Brandon, who at last, by a violent effort, had regained his composure.

“No. They had all been insulted by the old man, so now they let him suffer.”

“Had he no old friends, or even acquaintances?”

“Well, that’s what we all asked ourselves, Sir; but at any rate, whether he had or not, they didn’t turn up–that is, not in time. There was a young man here when it was too late.”

“A young man?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Was he a relative?”

“Oh no, Sir, only a lawyer’s clerk; wanted to see about business I dare say. Perhaps to collect a bill. Let me see; the lawyer who sent him was named Thornton.”

“Thornton!” said Brandon, as the name sank into his soul.

“Yes; he lived at Holby.”

Brandon drew a long breath.

“No, Sir; no friends came, whether he had any or not. They were all sick at the alms-house for weeks.”

“And I suppose they all died there?” said Brandon, in a strange, sweet voice.

“No, Sir. They were not so happy.”

“What suffering could be greater?”

“They do talk dreadfully in this town, Sir; and I dare say it’s not true, but if it is it’s enough to make a man’s blood ran cold.”

“You excite my curiosity. Remember I am an American, and these things seem odd to me. I always thought your British aristocrats could not be ruined.”

“Here was one, Sir, that was, anyhow.”

“Go on.”

“Well, Sir, the old man died in the alms-house. The others got well. As soon as they were well enough they went away.”

“How did they get away?”

“Potts helped them,” replied the tailor, in a peculiar tone. “They went away from the village.”

“Where did they go?”

“People say to Liverpool. I only tell what I know. I heard young Bill Potts, the old fellow’s son, boasting one night at the inn where he was half drunk, how they had served the Brandons. He said they wanted to leave the village, so his father helped them away to America.”

“To America?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Brandon made no rejoinder.

“Bill Potts said they went to Liverpool, and then left for America to make their fortunes.”

“What part of America?” asked Brandon, indifferently. “I never saw or heard of them.”

“Didn’t you, Sir?” asked the tailor, who evidently thought that America was like some English county, where every body may hear of every body else. “That’s odd, too. I was going to ask you if you had.”

“I wonder what ship they went out in?”

“That I can’t say, Sir. Bill Potts kept dark about that. He said one thing, though, that set us thinking.”

“What was that?”

“Why, that they went out in an emigrant ship as steerage passengers.”

Brandon was silent.

“Poor people!” said he at last.

By this time the tailor had finished his coat and handed it back to him. Having obtained all the information that the man could give Brandon paid him and left.

Passing by the inn he walked on till he came to the alms-house. Here he stood for a while and looked at it.

Brandon alms-house was small, badly planned, badly managed, and badly built; every thing done there was badly and meanly done. It was white- washed from the topmost point of every chimney down to the lowest edge of the basement. A whited sepulchre. For there was foulness there, in the air, in the surroundings, in every thing. Squalor and dirt reigned. His heart grew sick as those hideous walls rose before his sight.

Between this and Brandon Hall there was a difference, a distance almost immeasurable; to pass from one to the other might be conceived of as incredible; and yet that passage had been made.

To fall so far as to go the whole distance between the two; to begin in one and end in the other; to be born, brought up, and live and move and have one’s being in the one, and then to die in the other; what was more incredible than this? Yet this had been the fate of his father.

Leaving the place, he walked directly toward Brandon Hall.

Brandon Hall was begun, nobody knows exactly when; but it is said that the foundations were laid before the time of Egbert. In all parts of the old mansion the progress of English civilization might be studied; in the Norman arches of the old chapel, the slender pointed style of the fifteenth century doorway that opened to the same, the false Grecian of the early Tudor period, and the wing added in Elizabeth’s day, the days of that old Ralph Brandon who sank his ship and its treasure to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Around this grand old Hall were scenes which could be found nowhere save in England. Wide fields, forever green with grass like velvet, over which rose groves of oak and elm, giving shelter to innumerable birds. There the deer bounded and the hare found a covert. The broad avenue that led to the Hall went up through a world of rich sylvan scenery, winding through groves and meadows and over undulating ground. Before the Hall lay the open sea about three miles away; but the Hall was on an eminence and overlooked all the intervening ground. Standing there one might see the gradual decline of the country as it sloped downward toward the margin of the ocean. On the left a bold promontory jutted far out, on the nearer side of which there was an island with a light-house; on the right was another promontory, not so bold. Between these two the whole country was like a garden. A little cove gave shelter to small vessels, and around this cove was the village of Brandon.

Brandon Hall was one of the oldest and most magnificent of the great halls of England. As Brandon looked upon it it rose before him amidst the groves of six hundred years, its many-gabled roof rising out from amidst a sea of foliage, speaking of wealth, luxury, splendor, power, influence, and all that men hope for, or struggle for, or fight for; from all of which he and his had been cast out; and the one who had done this was even now occupying the old ancestral seat of his family.

Brandon entered the gate, and walked up the long avenue till he reached the Hall. Here he rang the bell, and a servant appeared. “Is Mr. Potts at home?”

“Yes,” said the man, brusquely.

“I wish to see him.”

“Who shall I say?”

“Mr. Hendricks, from America.”

The man showed him into the drawing-room. Brandon seated himself and waited. The room was furnished in the most elegant manner, most of the furniture being old, and all familiar to him. He took a hasty glance around, and closed his eyes as if to shut it all out from sight.

In a short time a man entered.

He appeared to be between fifty and sixty years of age, of medium size, broad-shouldered and stout. He had a thoroughly plebeian air; he was dressed in black, and had a bunch of large seals dangling from beneath his waistcoat. His face was round and fleshy, his eyes were small, and his head was bald. The general expression of his face was that of good- natured simplicity. As he caught sight of Brandon a frank smile of welcome arose on his broad, fat face.

[Illustration: “YOU ARE, SIR. JOHN POTTS OF POTTS HALL.”]

Brandon rose and bowed. “Am I addressing Mr. John Potts?”

“You are, Sir. John Potts of Potts Hall.”

“Potts of Potts Hall!” repeated Brandon. Then, drawing a card from his pocket he handed it to Potts. He had procured some of these in London. The card read as follows:

BEAMISH & HENDRICKS,
FLOUR MERCHANTS & PROVISION DEALERS, 88 FRONT STREET, CINCINNATI,
OHIO.

“I, Sir,” said Brandon, “am Mr. Hendricks, junior partner in Beamish & Hendricks, and I hope you are quite well.”

“Very well, thank you,” answered Potts, smiling and sitting down. “I am happy to see you.”

“Do you keep your health, Sir?”

“Thank you, I do,” said Potts. “A touch of rheumatism at odd times, that’s all.”

Brandon’s manner was stiff and formal, and his voice had assumed a slight nasal intonation. Potts had evidently looked on him as a perfect stranger.

“I hope, Sir, that I am not taking up your valuable time. You British noblemen have your valuable time, I know, as well as we business men.”

“No, Sir, no, Sir, not at all,” said Potts, evidently greatly delighted at being considered a British nobleman.

“Well, Sir John–or is it my lord?” said Brandon, interrogatively, correcting himself, and looking inquiringly at Potts.

“Sir John’ll do,” said Potts.

“Well, Sir John. Being in England on business, I came to ask you a few questions about a matter of some importance to us.”

“Proceed, Sir!” said Potts, with great dignity.

“There’s a young man that came into our employ last October whom we took a fancy to, or rather my senior did, and we have an idea of promoting him. My senior thinks the world of him, has the young man at his house, and he is even making up to his daughter. He calls himself Brandon– Frank Brandon.”

At this Potts started from an easy lounging attitude, in which he was trying to “do” the British noble, and with startling intensity of gaze looked Brandon full in the face.

“I think the young man is fairish,” continues Brandon, “but nothing extraordinary. He is industrious and sober, but he ain’t quick, and he never had any real business experience till he came to us. Now, my senior from the very first was infatuated with him, gave him a large salary, and, in spite of my warnings that he ought to be cautious, he wants to make him head-clerk, with an eye to making him partner next year. And so bent on this is he that I know he would dissolve partnership with me if I refused, take the young man, let him marry his daughter, and leave him all his money when he dies. That’s no small sum, for old Mr. Beamish is worth in real estate round Cincinnati over two millions of dollars. So, you see, I have a right to feel anxious, more especially as I don’t mind telling you, Sir John, who understand these matters, that I thought I had a very good chance myself with old Beamish’s daughter.”

Brandon spoke all this very rapidly, and with the air of one who was trying to conceal his feelings of dislike to the clerk of whom he was so jealous. Potts looked at him with an encouraging smile, and asked, as he stopped,

“And how did you happen to hear of me?”

“That’s just what I was coming to. Sir John!” Brandon drew his chair nearer, apparently in deep excitement, and in a more nasal tone than ever, with a confidential air, he went on:

“You see, I mistrusted this young man who was carrying every thing before him with a high hand, right in my very teeth, and I watched him. I pumped him to see if I couldn’t get him to tell something about himself. But the fellow was always on his guard, and always told the same story. This is what he tells: He says that his father was Ralph Brandon of Brandon Hall, Devonshire, and that he got very poor–he was ruined, in fact, by–I beg your pardon, Sir John, but he says it was you, and that you drove the family away. They then came over to America, and he got to Cincinnati. The old man, he says, died before they left, but he won’t tell what became of the others. I confess I believed it was all a lie, and didn’t think there was any such place as Brandon Hall, so I determined to find out, naturally enough, Sir John, when two millions were at stake.”

Potts winked.

“Well, I suddenly found my health giving way, and had to come to Europe. You see what a delicate creature I am!”

Potts laughed with intense glee.

“And I came here after wandering about, trying to find it. I heard at last that there was a place that used to be Brandon Hall, though most people call it Potts Hall. Now, I thought, my fine young man, I’ll catch you; for I’ll call on Sir John himself and ask him.”

“You did right, Sir,” said Potts, who had taken an intense interest in this narrative. “I’m the very man you ought to have come to. I can tell you all you want. This Brandon is a miserable swindler.”

“Good! I thought so. You’ll give me that, Sir John, over your own name, will you?” cried Brandon, in great apparent excitement.

“Of course I will,” said Potts, “and a good deal more. But tell me, first, what that young devil said as to how he got to Cincinnati? How did he find his way there?”

“He would never tell.”

“What became of his mother and sister?”

“He wouldn’t say.”

“All I know,” said Potts, “is this. I got official information that they all died at Quebec.”

Brandon looked suddenly at the floor and gasped. In a moment he had recovered.

“Curse him! then this fellow is an impostor?”

“No,” said Potts, “he must have escaped. It’s possible. There was some confusion at Quebec about names.”

“Then his name may really be Frank Brandon?”

“It must be,” said Potts. “Anyhow, the others are all right.”

“Are what?”

“All right; dead you know. That’s why he don’t like to tell you about them.”

“Well, now, Sir John, could you tell me what you know about this young man, since you think he must be the same one?”

“I know he must be, and I’ll tell you all about him and the whole cursed lot. In the first place,” continued Potts, clearing his throat, “old Brandon was one of the cursedest old fools that ever lived. He was very well off but wanted to get richer, and so he speculated in a tin mine in Cornwall. I was acquainted with him at the time and used to respect him. He persuaded me–I was always off-handed about money, and a careless, easy fellow–he persuaded me to invest in it also. I did so, but at the end of a few years I found out that the tin mine was a rotten concern, and sold out. I sold at a very high price, for people believed it was a splendid property. After this I found another mine and made money hand over fist. I warned old Brandon, and so did every body, but he didn’t care a fig for what we said, and finally, one fine morning, he waked up and found himself ruined.

“He was more utterly ruined than any man I ever knew of, and all his estates were sold. I had made some money, few others in the county had any ready cash, the sale was forced, and I bought the whole establishment at a remarkably low figure. I got old Brandy–Brandy was a nickname I gave the old fellow–I got him a house in the village, and supported him for a while with his wife and daughter and his great lubberly boy. I soon found out what vipers they were. They all turned against their benefactor, and dared to say that I had ruined their father. In fact, my only fault was buying the place, and that was an advantage to old Brandy rather than an injury. It shows, though, what human nature is.

“They all got sick at last, and as they had no one to nurse them, I very considerately sent them all to the alms-house, where they had good beds, good attendance, and plenty to eat and drink. No matter what I did for them they abused me. They reviled me, for sending them to a comfortable home, and old Brandy was the worst of all. I used to go and visit him two or three times a day, and he always cursed me. Old Brandy did get awfully profane, that’s a fact. The reason was his infernal pride. Look at me, now! I’m not proud. Put me in the alms-house, and would I curse you? I hope not.