This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
Collection:
Tags:
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

In a moment the truth flashed upon him. He had been standing on a trap- door which opened from the cabin floor into the hold of the ship. Over this trap-door old Ralph Brandon had seated and bound himself. Was it to guard the treasure? Was it that he might await his descendant, and thus silently indicate to him the place where he must look?

And now the fever of Brandon’s conflicting hope and fear grew more intense than it had ever yet been through all this day of days. He stooped down to feel what it was that lay under his feet. His hands grasped something, the very touch of which sent a thrill sharp and sudden through every fibre of his being.

_They were metallic bars!_

He rose up again overcome. He hardly dared to take one up so as to see what it might be. For the actual sight would realize hope or destroy it forever.

Once more he stooped down. In a sort of fury he grasped a bar in each hand and raised it up to the light.

Down under the sea the action of water had not destroyed the color of those bars which he held up in the dim light that came through the waters. The dull yellow of those rough ingots seemed to gleam with dazzling brightness before his bewildered eyes, and filled his whole soul with a torrent of rapture and of triumph.

His emotions overcame him. The bars of gold fell down from his trembling hands. He sank back and leaned against the wall.

But what was it that lay under his feet? What were all these bars? Were they all gold? Was this indeed all here–the plunder of the Spanish treasure-ships–the wealth which might purchase a kingdom– the treasure equal to an empire’s revenue–the gold and jewels in countless store?

A few moments of respite were needed in order to overcome the tremendous conflict of feeling which raged within his breast. Then once more he stooped down. His outstretched hand felt over all this space which thus was piled up with treasure.

It was about four feet square. The ingots lay in the centre. Around the sides were boxes. One of these he took out. It was made of thick oaken plank, and was about ten inches long and eight wide. The rusty nails gave but little resistance, and the iron bands which once bound them peeled off at a touch. He opened the box.

Inside was a casket.

He tore open the casket.

_It was filled with jewels!_

His work was ended. No more search, no more fear. He bound the casket tightly to the end of the signal-line, added to it a bar of gold, and clambered to the deck.

He cast off the weight that was at his waist, which he also fastened to the line, and let it go.

Freed from the weight he rose buoyantly to the top of the water.

The boat pulled rapidly toward him and took him in. As he removed his helmet he saw Frank’s eyes fixed on his in mute inquiry. His face was ashen, his lips bloodless.

Louis smiled.

“Heavens!” cried Frank, “can it be?”

“Pull up the signal-line and see for yourself,” was the answer.

And, as Frank pulled, Louis uttered a cry which made him look up.

Louis pointed to the sun. “Good God! what a time I must have been down!”

“Time!” said Frank. “Don’t say time–it was eternity!”

CHAPTER XXIV.

BEATRICE’S JOURNAL

BRANDON HALL

September 1, 1848.–Paolo Langhetti used to say that it was useful to keep a diary; not one from day to day, for each day’s events are generally trivial, and therefore not worthy of record; but rather a statement in full of more important events in one’s life, which may be turned to in later years. I wish I had begun this sixteen months ago, when I first came here. How full would have been my melancholy record by this time!

Where shall I begin?

Of course, with my arrival here, for that is the time when we separated. There is no need for me to put down in writing the events that took place when _he_ was with me. Not a word that he ever spoke, not a look that he ever gave, has escaped my memory. This much I may set down here.

Alas! the shadow of the African forest fell deeply and darkly upon me. Am I stronger than other women, or weaker? I know not. Yet I can be calm while my heart is breaking. Yes, I am at once stronger and weaker; so weak that my heart breaks, so strong that I can hide it.

I will begin from the time of my arrival here.

I came knowing well who the man was and what he was whom I had for my father. I came with every word of that despairing voyager ringing in my ears–that cry from the drifting _Vishnu_, where Despard laid down to die. How is it that his very name thrills through me? I am nothing to him. I am one of the hateful brood of murderers. A Thug was my father– and my mother who? And who am I, and what?

At least my soul is not his, though I am his daughter. My soul is myself, and life on earth can not last forever. Hereafter I may stand where that man may never approach.

How can I ever forget the first sight which I had of my father, who before I saw him had become to me as abhorrent as a demon! I came up in the coach to the door of the Hall and looked out. On the broad piazza there were two men; one was sitting, the other standing.

The one who was standing was somewhat elderly, with a broad, fat face, which expressed nothing in particular but vulgar good-nature. He was dressed in black; and looked like a serious butler, or perhaps still more like some of the Dissenting ministers whom I have seen. He stood with his hands in his pockets, looking at me with a vacant smile.

The other man was younger, not over thirty. He was thin, and looked pale from dissipation. His face was covered with spots, his eyes were gray, his eyelashes white. He was smoking a very large pipe, and a tumbler of some kind of drink stood on the stone pavement at his feet. He stared at me between the puffs of his pipe, and neither moved nor spoke.

If I had not already tasted the bitterness of despair I should have tasted it as I saw these men. Something told me that they were my father and brother. My very soul sickened at the sight–the memory of Despard’s words came back–and if it had been possible to have felt any tender natural affection for them, this recollection would have destroyed it.

“I wish to see Mr. Potts,” said I, coldly.

My father stared at me.

“I’m Mr. Potts,” he answered.

“I am Beatrice,” said I; “I have just arrived from China.”

By this time the driver had opened the door, and I got out and walked up on the piazza.

“Johnnie,” exclaimed my father, “what the devil is the meaning of this?”

“Gad, I don’t know,” returned John, with a puff of smoke.

“Didn’t you say she was drowned off the African coast?”

“I saw so in the newspapers.”

“Didn’t you tell me about the _Falcon_ rescuing her from the pirates, and then getting wrecked with all on board?”

“Yes, but then there was a girl that escaped.”

“Oh ho!” said my father, with a long whistle. “I didn’t know that.”

He turned and looked at me hastily, but in deep perplexity.

“So you’re the girl, are you?” said he at last.

“I am your daughter,” I answered.

I saw him look at John, who winked in return.

He walked up and down for a few minutes, and at last stopped and looked at me again.

“That’s all very well,” said he at last, “but how do I know that you’re the party? Have you any proof of this?”

“No.”

“You have nothing but your own statement?”

“No.”

“And you may be an impostor. Mind you–I’m a magistrate–and you’d better be careful.”

“You can do what you choose,” said I, coldly.

“No, I can’t. In this country a man can’t do what he chooses.”

I was silent.

“Johnnie,” said my father, “I’ll have to leave her to you. You arrange it.”

John looked at me lazily, still smoking, and for some time said nothing.

“I suppose,” said he at last, “you’ve got to put it through. You began it, you know. You would send for her. I never saw the use of it.”

“But do you think this is the party?”

“Oh, I dare say. It don’t make any difference any way. Nobody would take the trouble to come to you with a sham story.”

“That’s a fact,” said my father.

“So I don’t see but you’ve got to take her.”

“Well,” said my father, “if you think so, why all right.”

“I don’t think any thing of the kind,” returned John, snappishly. “I only think that she’s the party you sent for.”

“Oh, well, it’s all the same,” said my father, who then turned to me again.

“If you’re the girl,” he said, “you can get in. Hunt up Mrs. Compton, and she’ll take charge of you.”

Compton! At the mention of that name a shudder passed through me. She had been in the family of the murdered man, and had ever since lived with his murderer. I went in without a word, prepared for the worst, and expecting to see some evil-faced woman, fit companion for the pair outside.

A servant was passing along. “Where is Mrs. Compton?” I asked.

“Somewhere or other, I suppose,” growled the man, and went on.

I stood quietly. Had I not been prepared for some such thing as this I might perhaps have broken down under grief, but I had read the MS., and nothing could surprise or wound me.

I waited there for nearly half an hour, during which time no notice was taken of me. I heard my father and John walk down the piazza steps and go away. They had evidently forgotten all about me. At last a man came toward the door who did not look like a servant. He was dressed in black. He was a slender, pale, shambling man with thin, light hair, and a furtive eye and a weary face. He did not look like one who would insult me, so I asked him where I could find Mrs. Compton.

He started as I spoke and looked at me in wonder, yet respectfully.

“I have just come from China,” said I, “and my father told me to find Mrs. Compton.”

He looked at me for some time without speaking a word. I began to think that he was imbecile.

“So you are Mr. Potts’s daughter,” said he at last, in a thin, weak voice. “I–I didn’t know that you had come–I–I knew that he was expecting you–but heard you were lost at sea–Mrs. Compton–yes–oh yes–I’ll show you where you can find Mrs. Compton.”

He was embarrassed, yet not unkind. There was wonder in his face, as though he was surprised at my appearance. Perhaps it was because he found me so unlike my father. He walked toward the great stairs, from time to time turning his head to look at me, and ascended them. I followed, and after going to the third story we came to a room.

“That’s the place,” said he.

He then turned, without replying to my thanks, and left me. I knocked at the door. After some delay it was opened, and I went in. A thin, pale woman was there. Her hair was perfectly white. Her face was marked by the traces of great grief and suffering, yet overspread by an expression of surpassing gentleness and sweetness. She looked like one of these women who live lives of devotion for others, who suffer out of the spirit of self-sacrifice, and count their own comfort and happiness as nothing in comparison with that of those whom they love. My heart warmed toward her at the first glance; I saw that this place could not be altogether corrupt since she was here.

“I am Mr. Potts’s daughter,” said I; “are you Mrs. Compton?”

She stood mute. An expression of deadly fear overspread her countenance, which seemed to turn her white face to a grayish hue, and the look that she gave me was such a look as one may cast upon some object of mortal fear.

“You look alarmed,” said I, in surprise; “and why? Am I then so frightful?”

She seized my hand and covered it with kisses. This new outburst surprised me as much as her former fear. I did not know what to do. “Ah! my sweet child, my dearest!” she murmured. “How did you come here, here of all places on earth?”

I was touched by the tenderness and sympathy of her tone. It was full of the gentlest love. “How did you come here?” I asked.

She started and turned on me her former look of fear.

“Do not look at me so,” said I, “dear Mrs. Compton. You are timid. Do not be afraid of me. I am incapable of inspiring fear.” I pressed her hand. “Let us say nothing more now about the place. We each seem to know what it is. Since I find one like you living here it will not seem altogether a place of despair.”

“Oh, door child, what words are these? You speak as if you knew all.”

“I know much,” said I, “and I have suffered much.”

“Ah, my dearest! you are too young and too beautiful to suffer.” An agony of sorrow came over her face. Then I saw upon it an expression which I have often marked since, a strange straggling desire to say something, which that excessive and ever-present terror of hers made her incapable of uttering. Some secret thought was in her whole face, but her faltering tongue was paralyzed and could not divulge it.

She turned away with a deep sigh. I looked at her with much interest. She was not the woman I expected to find. Her face and voice won my heart. She was certainly one to be trusted. But still there was this mystery about her.

Nothing could exceed her kindness and tenderness. She arranged my room. She did every thing that could be done to give it an air of comfort. It was a very luxuriously furnished chamber. All the house was lordly in its style and arrangements. That first night I slept the sleep of the weary.

The next day I spent in my room, occupied with my own sad thoughts. At about three in the afternoon I saw _him_ come up the avenue My heart throbbed violently. My eyes were riveted upon that well-known face, how loved! how dear! In vain I tried to conjecture the reason why he should come. Was it to strike the first blow in his just, his implacable vengeance? I longed that I might receive that blow. Any thing that came from _him_ would be sweet.

He staid a long time and then left. What passed I can not conjecture. But it had evidently been an agreeable visit to my father, for I heard him laughing uproariously on the piazza about something not long after he had gone.

I have not seen him since.

For several weeks I scarcely moved from my room. I ate with Mrs. Compton. Her reserve was impenetrable. It was with painful fear and trembling that she touched upon any thing connected with the affairs of the house or the family. I saw it and spared her. Poor thing, she has always been too timid for such a life as this.

At the end of a month I began to think that I could live here in a state of obscurity without being molested. Strange that a daughter’s feelings toward a father and brother should be those of horror, and that her desire with reference to them should be merely to keep out of their sight. I had no occupation, and needed none, for I had my thoughts and my memories. These memories were bitter, yet sweet. I took the sweet, and tried to solace myself with them. The days are gone forever; no longer does the sea spread wide; no longer can I hear his voice; I can hold him in my arms no more; yet I can remember–

“Das suesseste Glueck fuer die trauernde Brust, Nach der schonen Liebe verschwundener Lust, Sind der Liebe Schmerzen und Klagen.”

I think I had lived this sort of life for three months without seeing either my father or brother.

At the end of that time my father sent for me. He informed me that he intended to give a grand entertainment to the county families, and wanted me to do the honors. He had ordered dress-makers for me; he wished me to wear some jewels which he had in the house, and informed me that it would be the grandest thing of the kind that had ever taken place. Fire-works were going to be let off; the grounds were to be illuminated, and nothing that money could effect would be spared to render it the most splendid festival that could be imagined.

I did as he said. The dress-makers came, and I allowed them to array me as they chose. My father informed me that he would not give me the jewels till the time came, hinting a fear that I might steal them.

At last the evening arrived. Invitations had been sent every where. It was expected that the house would be crowded. My father even ventured to make a personal request that I would adorn myself as well as possible. I did the best I could, and went to the drawing-room to receive the expected crowds.

The hour came and passed, but no one appeared. My father looked a little troubled, but he and John waited in the drawing-room. Servants were sent down to see if any one was approaching. An hour passed. My father looked deeply enraged. Two hours passed. Still no one came. Three hours passed. I waited calmly, but my father and John, who had all the time been drinking freely, became furious. It was now midnight, and all hope had left them. They had been treated with scorn by the whole county.

The servants were laughing at my father’s disgrace. The proud array in the different rooms was all a mockery. The elaborate fire-works could not be used.

My father turned his eyes, inflamed by anger and strong drink, toward me.

“She’s a d—-d bad investment,” I heard him say.

“I told you so,” said John, who did not deign to look at me; “but you were determined.”

They then sat drinking in silence for some time.

“Sold!” said my father, suddenly, with an oath.

John made no reply.

“I thought the county would take to her. She’s one of their own sort,” my father muttered.

“If it weren’t for you they might,” said John; “but they ain’t overfond of her dear father.”

“But I sent out the _invites_ in her name.”

“No go anyhow.”

“I thought I’d get in with them all right away, hobnob with lords and baronets, and maybe get knighted on the spot.”

John gave a long scream of laughter.

“You old fool!” he cried; “so that’s what you’re up to, is it? Sir John –ha, ha, ha! You’ll never be made Sir John by parties, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, don’t you be too sure. I’m not put down. I’ll try again,” he continued, after a pause. “Next year I’ll do it. Why, she’ll marry a lord, and then won’t I be a lord’s father-in-law? What do you say to that?”

“When did you get these notions in your blessed head?” asked John.

“Oh, I’ve had them–It’s not so much for myself, Johnnie–but for you. For if I’m a lord you’ll be a lord too.”

“Lord Potts. Ha, ha, ha!”

“No,” said my father, with some appearance of vexation, “not that; we’ll take our title the way all the lords do, from the estates. I’ll be Lord Brandon, and when I die you’ll get the title.”

“And that’s your little game. Well, you’ve played such good little games in your life that I’ve nothing to say, except–‘Go it!'”

“She’s the one that’ll give me a lift.”

“Well, she ought to be able to do something.”

By this time I concluded that I had done my duty and prepared to retire. I did not wish to overhear any of their conversation. As I walked out of the room I still heard their remarks:

“Blest if she don’t look as if she thought herself the Queen,” said John.

“It’s the diamonds, Johnnie.”

“No it ain’t, it’s the girl herself. I don’t like the way she has of looking at me and through me.”

“Why, that’s the way with that kind. It’s what the lords like.”

“I don’t like it, then, and I tell you _she’s got to be took down!_”

This was the last I heard. Yet one thing was evident to me from their conversation. My father had some wild plan of effecting an entrance into society through me. He thought that after he was once recognized he might get sufficient influence to gain a title and found a family. I also might marry a lord. He thus dreamed of being Lord Brandon, and one of the great nobles of the land.

Amidst my sadness I almost smiled at this vain dream; but yet John’s words affected me strongly–“You’ve played such good little games in your life.” Well I knew with whom they were played. One was with Despard, the other with Brandon.

This then was the reason why he had sent for me from China. The knowledge of his purpose made my life neither brighter nor darker. I still lived on as before.

During these months Mrs. Compton’s tender devotion to me never ceased. I respected her, and forbore to excite that painful fear to which she was subject. Once or twice I forgot myself and began speaking to her about her strange position here. She stopped me with her look of alarm.

“Are you not afraid to be kind to me?” I asked.

She looked at me piteously.

“You are the only one that is kind to me,” I continued. “How have you the courage?”

“I can not help it,” she murmured, “you are so dear to me.”

She sighed and was silent. The mystery about her remained unchanged; her gentle nature, her tender love, and her ever-present fear. What was there in her past that so influenced her life? Had she too been mixed up with the crime on the _Vishnu_? She! impossible. Yet surely something as dark as that must have been required to throw so black a cloud over her life. Yet what–what could that have been? In spite of myself I associate her secret with the tragedy of Despard. She was in his family long. His wife died. She must have been with her at the time.

The possibilities that have suggested themselves to my mind will one day drive me mad. Alas, how my heart yearns over that lonely man in the drifting ship! And yet, merciful God! who am I that I should sympathize with him? My name is infamy, my blood is pollution.

I spoke to her once in a general way about the past. Had she ever been out of England? I asked.

“Yes,” she answered, dreamily.

“Where?”

She looked at me and said not a word.

At another time I spoke of China, and hinted that perhaps she too knew something about the East. The moment that I said this I repented. The poor creature was shaken from head to foot with a sudden convulsion of fear. This convulsion was so terrible that it seemed to me as though another would be death. I tried to soothe her, but she looked fearfully at me for a long time after.

At another time I asked her directly whether her husband was alive. She looked at me with deep sadness and shook her head. I do not know what position she holds here. She is not housekeeper; none of the servants pay any attention to her whatever. There is an impudent head servant who manages the rest. I noticed that the man who showed me to her room when I first came treats her differently from the rest. Once or twice I saw them talking in one of the halls. There was deep respect in his manner. What he does I have not yet found out. He has always shown great respect to me, though why I can not imagine. He has the same timidity of manner which marks Mrs. Compton. His name is Philips.

I once asked Mrs. Compton who Philips was, and what he did. She answered quickly that he was a kind of clerk to Mr. Potts, and helped him to keep his accounts.

“Has he been with him long?” I continued.

“Yes, a considerable time,” she said–but I saw that the subject distressed her, so I changed it.

For more than three months I remained in my room, but at last, through utter despair, I longed to go out. The noble grounds were there, high hills from which the wide sea was visible–that sea which shall be associated with his memory till I die. A great longing came over me to look upon its wide expanse, and feed my soul with old and dear memories. There it would lie, the same sea from which he so often saved me, over which we sailed till he laid down his noble life at my feet, and I gave back that life to him again.

I used to ascend a hill which was half a mile behind the Hall within the grounds, and pass whole days there unmolested. No one took the trouble to notice what I did, at least I thought so till afterward. There for months I used to go. I would sit and look fixedly upon the blue water, and my imagination would carry me far away to the South, to that island on the African shore, where he once reclined in my arms, before the day when I learned that my touch was pollution to him–to that island where I afterward knelt by him as he lay senseless, slowly coming back to life, when if I might but touch the hem of his garment it was bliss enough for one day. Ah me, how often I have wet his feet with my tears– poor, emaciated feet–and longed to be able to wipe them with my hair, but dared not. He lay unconscious. He never knew the anguish of my love.

Then I was less despairing. The air around was filled with the echo of his voice; I could shut my eyes, and bring him before me. His face was always visible to my soul.

One day the idea came into my head to extend my ramble into the country outside, in order to get a wider view. I went to the gate.

The porter came out and asked what I wanted. I told him.

“You can’t go out,” said he, rudely.

“Why not?”

“Oh, them’s Potts’s orders–that’s enough, I think.”

“He never said so to me,” I replied, mildly.

“That’s no odds; he said so to me, and he told me if you made any row to tell you that you were watched, and might just as well give up at once.”

“Watched!” said I, wonderingly.

“Yes–for fear you’d get skittish, and try and do something foolish. Old Potts is bound to keep you under his thumb.”

I turned away. I did not care much. I felt more surprise than any thing else to think that he would take the trouble to watch me. Whether he did or not was of little consequence. If I could only be where I had the sea before me it was enough.

That day, on going back to the Hall, I saw John sitting on the piazza. A huge bull-dog which he used to take with him every where was lying at his feet. Just before I reached the steps a Malay servant came out of the house.

He was about the same age as John. I knew him to be a Malay when I first saw him, and concluded that my father had picked him up in the East. He was slight but very lithe and muscular, with dark glittering eyes and glistening white teeth. He never looked at me when I met him, but always at the ground, without seeming to be aware of my existence.

The Malay was passing out when John called out to him,

“Hi, there, Vijal!”

Vijal looked carelessly at him.

“Here!” cried John, in the tone with which he would have addressed his dog.

Vijal stopped carelessly.

“Pick up my hat, and hand it to me.”

His hat had fallen down behind him. Vijal stood without moving, and regarded him with an evil smile.

“D–n you, do you hear?” cried John. “Pick up my hat.”

But Vijal did not move.

“If you don’t, I’ll set the dog on you,” cried John, starting to his feet in a rage.

Still Vijal remained motionless.

“Nero!” cried John, furiously, pointing to Vijal, “seize him, Sir.”

The dog sprang up and at once leaped upon Vijal. Vijal warded off the assault with his arm. The dog seized it, and held on, as was his nature. Vijal did not utter a cry, but seizing the dog, he threw him on his back, and flinging himself upon him, fixed his own teeth in the dog’s throat.

John burst into a torrent of the most frightful curses. He ordered Vijal to let go of the dog. Vijal did not move; but while the dog’s teeth were fixed in his arm, his own were still fixed as tenaciously in the throat of the dog.

John sprang forward and kicked him with frightful violence. He leaped on him and stamped on him. At last, Vijal drew a knife from his girdle and made a dash at John. This frightened John, who fell back cursing. Vijal then raised his head.

The dog lay motionless. He was dead. Vijal sat down, his arm running blood, with the knife in his hand, still glaring at John.

During this frightful scene I stood rooted to the spot in horror. At last the sight of Vijal’s suffering roused me. I rushed forward, and tearing the scarf from my neck, knelt down and reached out my hand to stanch the blood.

Vijal drew back. “Poor Vijal,” said I, “let me stop this blood. I can dress wounds. How you suffer!”

He looked at me in bewilderment. Surprise at hearing a kind word in this house of horror seemed to deprive him of speech. Passively he let me take his arm, and I bound it up as well as I could.

All this time John stood cursing, first me, and then Vijal. I said not a word, and Vijal did not seem to hear him, but sat regarding me with his fiery black eyes. When at last I had finished, he rose and still stood staring at me. I walked into the house.

John hurled a torrent of imprecations after me. The last words that I heard were the same as he had said once before. “You’ve got to be took down; and I’ll be d–d if you don’t get took down precious soon!”

I told Mrs. Compton of what had happened. As usual, she was seized with terror. She looked at me with a glance of fearful apprehension. At last she gasped out:

“They’ll kill you.”

“Let them,” said I, carelessly; “it would be better than living.”

“Oh dear!” groaned the poor old thing, and sank sobbing in a chair. I did what I could to soothe her, but to little purpose. She afterward told me that Vijal had escaped further punishment in spite of John’s threats, and hinted that they were half afraid of him.

The next day, on attempting to go out, Philips told me that I was not to be permitted to leave the house. I considered it the result of John’s threat, and yielded without a word.

After this I had to seek distraction from my thoughts within the house. Now there came over me a great longing for music. Once, when in the drawing-room on that famous evening of the abortive fete, which was the only time I ever was there, I had noticed a magnificent grand piano of most costly workmanship. The thought of this came to my mind, and an unconquerable desire to try it arose. So I went down and began to play.

It was a little out of tune, but the tone was marvelously full and sweet. I threw myself with indescribable delight into the charm of the hour. All the old joy which music once used to bring came back. Imagination, stimulated by the swelling harmonies, transported me far away from this prison-house and its hateful associations to that happier time of youth when not a thought of sorrow came over me. I lost myself therein. Then that passed, that life vanished, and the sea-voyage began. The thoughts of my mind and the emotions of my heart passed down to the quivering chords and trembled into life and sound.

I do not know how long I had been playing when suddenly I heard a sob behind me. I started and turned. It was Philips.

He was standing with tears in his eyes and a rapt expression on his emaciated face, his hands hanging listless, and his whole air that of one who had lost all senses save that of hearing. But as I turned and stopped, the spell that bound him was broken. He sighed and looked at me earnestly.

[Illustration: “I STOOD LOOKING AT HIM WITH A GAZE SO FIXED AND INTENSE THAT IT SEEMED AS IF ALL MY BEING WERE CENTERED IN MY EYES.”]

“Can you sing?”

“Would you like me to do so?”

“Yes,” he said, in a faint imploring voice.

I began a low song–a strain associated with that same childhood of which I had just been thinking–a low, sad strain, sweet to my ears and to my soul; it spoke of peace and innocence, quiet home joys, and calm delights. My own mind brought before me the image of the house where I had lived, with the shadow of great trees around, and gorgeous flowers every where, where the sultry air breathed soft, and beneath the hot noon all men sank to rest and slumber.

When I stopped I turned again. Philips had not changed his attitude. But as I turned he uttered an exclamation and tore out his watch.

“Oh, Heavens!–two hours!” he exclaimed. “He’ll kill me for this.”

With these words he rushed out of the room.

I kept up my music for about ten days, when one day it was stopped forever. I was in the middle of a piece when I heard heavy footsteps behind me. I turned and saw my father. I rose and looked at him with an effort to be respectful. It was lost on him, however. He did not glance at me.

“I came up to say to you,” said he, after a little hesitation, “that I can’t stand this infernal squall and clatter any longer. So in future you just shut up.”

He turned and left me. I closed the piano forever, and went to my room.

The year ended, and a new year began. January passed away. My melancholy began to affect my health. I scarcely ever slept at night, and to eat was difficult. I hoped that I was going to die. Alas! death will not come when one calls. One day I was in my room lying on the couch when Mrs. Compton came. On entering she looked terrified about something. She spoke in a very agitated voice: “They want you down stairs.”

“Who?”

“Mr. Potts and John.”

“Well,” said I, and I prepared to get ready.

“When do they want me?”

“Now,” said Mrs. Compton, who by this time was crying.

“Why are you so agitated?” I asked.

“I am afraid for you.”

“Why so? Can any thing be worse?”

“Ah, my dearest! you don’t know–you don’t know.”

I said nothing more, but went down. On entering the room I saw my father and John seated at a table with brandy before them. A third man was there. He was a thick-set man of about the same height of my father, but more muscular, with a strong, square jaw, thick neck, low brow, and stern face. My father did not show any actual ferocity in his face whatever he felt; but this man’s face expressed relentless cruelty.

On entering the room I walked up a little distance and stood looking at them.

“There, Clark; what do you think of that?” said my father.

The name, Clark, at once made known to me who this man was–that old associate of my father–his assistant on board the _Vishnu_. Yet the name did not add one whit to the abhorrence which I felt–my father was worse even than he.

The man Clark looked at me scrutinizingly for some time.

“So that’s the gal,” said he, at last.

“That’s the gal,” said my father.

Clark waved his hand at me. “Turn round sideways,” said he.

I looked at him quietly without moving. He repeated the order, but I took no notice of it.

“D–n her!” said he. “Is she deaf?”

“Not a bit of it,” said John; “but she’s plucky. She’d just as soon you’d kill her as not. There isn’t any way of moving her.”

“Turn round!” cried my father, angrily.

I turned as he said. “You see,” said he, with a laugh, “she’s been piously brought up; she honors her father.”

At this Clark burst into a loud laugh.

Some conversation followed about me as I stood there. Clark then ordered me to turn round and face him. I took no notice; but on my father’s ordering it, I obeyed as before. This appeared to amuse them all very greatly, just as the tricks of an intelligent poodle might have done. Clark gave me many commands on purpose to see my refusal, and have my father’s order which followed obeyed.

“Well,” said he, at last, leaning back in his chair, “she is a showy piece of furniture. Your idea isn’t a bad one either.”

He rose from his chair and came toward me. I stood looking at him with a gaze so fixed and intense that it seemed as if all my being were centred in my eyes.

He came up and reached out to take hold of my arm. I stepped back. He looked up angrily. But, for some reason, the moment that he caught sight of my face, an expression of fear passed over his.

“Heavens!” he groaned; “look at that face!” I saw my father look at me. The same horror passed over his countenance. An awful thought came to me. As these men turned their faces away from me in fear I felt my strength going. I turned and rushed from the room. I do not remember any thing more.

It was early in February when this occurred. Until the beginning of August I lay senseless. For the first four months I hovered faintly between life and death.

Why did they not let me die? Why did I not die? Alas! had I died I might now have been beyond this sorrow: I have waked to meet it all again.

Mrs. Compton says she found me on the floor of my own room, and that I was in a kind of stupor. I had no fever or delirium. A doctor came, who said it was a congestion of the brain. Thoughts like mine might well destroy the brain forever.

For a month I have been slowly recovering. I can now walk about the room. I know nothing of what is going on in the house, and wish to know nothing. Mrs. Compton is as devoted as ever.

I have got thus far, and will stop here. I have been several days writing this. I must stop till I am stronger.

CHAPTER XXV.

THE BYZANTINE HYMNISTS.

More than a year had passed since that visit to Thornton Grange which has already been mentioned. Despard had not forgotten or neglected the melancholy case of the Brandon family. He had written in all directions, and had gone on frequent visits.

On his return from one of these he went to the Grange. Mrs. Thornton was sitting in the drawing-room, looking pensively out of the window, when she saw his well-known figure advancing up the avenue. His face was sad, and pervaded by a melancholy expression, which was noticeable now as he walked along.

But when he came into the room that melancholy face suddenly lighted up with the most radiant joy. Mrs. Thornton advanced to meet him, and he took her hand in both of his.

“I ought to say, welcome back again,” said she, with forced liveliness, “but you may have been in Holby a week for all I know. When did you come back? Confess now that you have been secluding yourself in your study instead of paying your respects in the proper quarter.”

Despard smiled. “I arrived home at eleven this morning. It is now three P.M. by my watch. Shall I say how impatiently I have waited till three o’clock should come?

“Oh no! don’t say any thing of the sort. I can imagine all that you would say. But tell me where you have been on this last visit?”

“Wandering like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none.”

“Have you been to London again?”

“Where have I not been?”

By this time they had seated themselves.

“My last journey,” said Despard, “like my former ones, was, of course, about the Brandon affair. You know that I have had long conversations with Mr. Thornton about it, and he insists that nothing whatever can be done. But you know, also, that I could not sit down idly and calmly under this conviction. I have felt most keenly the presence of intolerable wrong. Every day I have felt as if I had shared in the infamy of those who neglected that dying man. That was the reason why I wrote to Australia to see if the Brandon who was drowned was really the one I supposed. I heard, you know, that he was the same man, and there is no doubt about that. Then you know, as I told you, that I went around among different lawyers to see if any thing could be done. Nearly all asserted that no redress was possible. That is what Mr. Thornton said. There was one who said that if I were rich enough I might begin a prosecution, but as I am not rich that did me no good. That man would have been glad, no doubt, to have undertaken such a task.”

“What is there in law that so hardens the heart?” said Mrs. Thornton, after a pause. “Why should it kill all sentiment, and destroy so utterly all the more spiritual qualities?”

“I don’t think that the law does this necessarily. It depends after all on the man himself. If I were a lawyer, I should still love music above all things.”

“But did you ever know a lawyer who loved music?”

“I have not known enough of them to answer that. But in England music is not loved so devotedly as in other countries. Is it inconceivable that an Italian lawyer should love music?”

“I don’t know. Law is abhorrent to me. It seems to be a profession that kills the finer sentiments.”

“Why so, more than medicine? The fact is where ordinary men are concerned any scientific profession renders Art distasteful. At least this is so in England. After all, most depends on the man himself, and, one who is born with a keen sensibility to the charms of art will carry it through life, whatever his profession may be.

“But suppose the man himself has neither taste, nor sensibility, nor any appreciation of the beautiful, nor any sympathy whatever with those who love such things, what then?”

Mrs. Thornton spoke earnestly as she asked this.

“Well,” said Despard, “that question answers itself. As a man is born, so he is; and if nature denies him taste or sensibility it makes no difference what is his profession.”

Mrs. Thornton made no reply.

“My last journey,” said Despard, “was about the Brandon case. I went to London first to see if something could not be done. I had been there before on the same errand, but without success. I was equally unsuccessful this time.

“I tried to find out about Potts, the man who had purchased the estate, but learned that it was necessary to go to the village of Brandon. I went there, and made inquiries. Without exception the people sympathized with the unfortunate family, and looked with detestation upon the man who had supplanted them.

“I heard that a young lady went there last year who was reputed to be his daughter. Every one said that she was extraordinarily beautiful, and looked like a lady. She stopped at the inn under the care of a gentleman who accompanied her, and went to the Hall. She has never come out of it since.

“The landlord told me that the gentleman was a pale, sad-looking man, with dark hair and beard. He seemed very devoted to the young lady, and parted with her in melancholy silence. His account of this young lady moved me very strangely. He was not at all a sentimental man, but a burly John Bull, which made his story all the more touching. It is strange, I must say, that one like her should go into that place and never be seen again. I do not know what to think of it, nor did any of those with whom I spoke in the village.”

“Do you suppose that she really went there and never came back?”

“That is what they say.”

“Then they must believe that she is kept there.”

“Yes, so they do.”

“Why do they not take some steps in the matter?”

“What can they do? She is his daughter. Some of the villagers who have been to the Hall at different times say that they heard her playing and singing.”

“That does not sound like imprisonment.”

“The caged bird sings.”

“Then you think she is a prisoner?”

“I think it odd that she has never come out, not even to go to church.”

“It is odd.”

“This man Potts excited sufficient interest in my mind to lead me to make many inquiries. I found, throughout the county, that every body utterly despised him. They all thought that poor Ralph Brandon had been almost mad, and, by his madness had ruined his family. Every body believed that Potts had somehow deceived him, but no one could tell how. They could not bring any direct proof against him.

“But I found out in Brandon the sad particulars of the final fate of the poor wife and her unfortunate children. They had been sent away or assisted away by this Potts to America, and had all died either on the way out or shortly after they had arrived, according to the villagers. I did not tell them what I knew, but left them to believe what they chose. It seemed to me that they must have received this information from Potts himself; who alone in that poor community would have been able to trace the fortunes of the unhappy emigrants.”

There was a long silence.

“I have done all that I could,” said Despard, in a disconsolate tone, “and I suppose nothing now remains to be done. When we hear again from Paolo there may be some new information upon which we can act.”

“And you can go back to your Byzantine poets.”

“Yes, if you will assist me.”

“You know I shall only be too happy.”

“And I shall be eternally grateful. You see, as I told you before, there is a field of labor here for the lover of music which is like a new world. I will give you the grandest musical compositions that you have ever seen. I will let you have the old hymns of the saints who lived when Constantinople was the only civilized spot in Europe, and the Christians there were hurling back the Mohammedans. You shall sing the noblest songs that you have ever seen.”

“How–in Greek? You must teach me the alphabet then.”

“No; I will translate them for you. The Greek hymns are all in rhythmical prose, like the _Te Deum_ and the _Gloria_. A literal translation can be sung as well as the originals. You will then enter into the mind and spirit of the ancient Eastern Church before the days of the schism.

“Yes,” continued Despard, with an enthusiasm which he did not care to conceal, “we will go together at this sweet task, and we will sing the [Greek: cath castaen aemeran], which holds the same place in the Greek Church that the _Te Deum_ does in ours. We will chant together the Golden Canon of St. John Damascene–the Queen of Canons, the grandest song of ‘Christ is risen’ that mortals ever composed. Your heart and mine will beat together with one feeling at the sublime choral strain. We will sing the ‘Hymn of Victory.’ We will go together over the songs of St. Cosmas, St. Theophanes, and St. Theodore; St. Gregory, St. Anatobus, and St. Andrew of Crete shall inspire us; and the thoughts that have kindled the hearts of martyrs at the stake shall exalt our souls to heaven. But I have more than this. I have some compositions of my own; poor ones, indeed, yet an effort in the right way. They are a collection of those hymns of the Primitive Church which are contained in the New Testament. I have tried to set them to music. They are: ‘Worthy is the Lamb,’ ‘Unto Him that loved us,’ ‘Great and marvelous are thy works,’ and the ‘Trisagion.’ Yes, we will go together at this lofty and heavenly work, and I shall be able to gain a new interpretation from your sympathy.”

Despard spoke with a vehement enthusiasm that kindled his eyes with unusual lustre and spread a glow over his pale face. He looked like some devotee under a sudden inspiration. Mrs. Thornton caught all his enthusiasm; her eyes brightened, and her face also flushed with excitement.

“Whenever you are ready to lead me into that new world of music,” said she, “I am ready to follow.”

“Are you willing to begin next Monday?”

“Yes. All my time is my own.”

“Then I will come for you.”

“Then I will be waiting for you. By-the-way, are you engaged for to- night?”

“No; why?”

“There is going to be a fete champetre. It is a ridiculous thing for the Holby people to do; but I have to go to play the patroness. Mr. Thornton does not want to go. Would you sacrifice yourself to my necessities, and allow me your escort?”

“Would a thirsty man be willing to accept a cooling draught?” said Despard, eagerly. “You open heaven before me, and ask me if I will enter.”

His voice trembled, and he paused.

“You never forget yourself,” said Mrs. Thornton, with slight agitation, looking away as she spoke.

“I will be back at any hour you say.”

“You will do no such thing. Since you are here you must remain and dine, and then go with me. Do you suppose I would trust you? Why, if I let you go, you might keep me waiting a whole hour.”

“Well, if your will is not law to me what is? Speak, and your servant obeys. To stay will only add to my happiness.”

“Then let me make you happy by forcing you to stay.”

Despard’s face showed his feelings, and to judge by its expression his language had not been extravagant.

The afternoon passed quietly. Dinner was served up. Thornton came in, and greeted Despard with his usual abstraction, leaving his wife to do the agreeable. After dinner, as usual, he prepared for a nap, and Despard and Mrs. Thornton started for the fete.

It was to be in some gardens at the other end of Holby, along the shore. The townspeople had recently formed a park there, and this was one of the preliminaries to its formal inauguration. The trees were hung with innumerable lamps of varied colors. There were bands of music, and triumphal arches, and gay festoons, and wreaths of flowers, and every thing that is usual at such a time.

On arriving, Despard assisted Mrs. Thornton from the carriage and offered his arm. She took it, but her hand rested so lightly on it that its touch was scarce perceptible. They walked around through the illuminated paths. Great crowds of people were there. All looked with respectful pleasure at Mrs. Thornton and the Rector.

“You ought to be glad that you have come,” said she. “See how these poor people feel it: we are not persons of very great consequence, yet our presence is marked and enjoyed.”

“All places are alike to me,” answered Despard, “when I am with you. Still, there are circumstances about this which will make it forever memorable to me.”

“Look at those lights,” exclaimed Mrs. Thornton, suddenly; “what varied colors!”

“Let us walk into that grotto,” said Despard, turning toward a cool, dark place which lay before them.

Here, at the end of the grotto, was a tree, at the foot of which was a seat. They sat down and staid for hours. In the distance the lights twinkled and music arose. They said little, but listened to the confused murmur which in the pauses of the music came up from afar.

Then they rose and walked back. Entering the principal path a great crowd streamed on which they had to face.

Despard sighed. “You and I,” said he, stooping low and speaking in a sad voice, “are compelled to go against the tide.”

“Shall we turn back and go with it?”

“We can not.”

“Do you wish to turn aside?”

“We can not. We must walk against the tide, and against the rush of men. If we turn aside there is nothing but darkness.”

They walked on in silence till they reached the gate.

“The carriage has not come,” said Mrs. Thornton.

“Do you prefer riding?”

“No.”

“It is not far. Will you walk?”

“With pleasure.”

They walked on slowly. About half-way they met the carriage. Mrs. Thornton ordered it back, saying that she would walk the rest of the way.

They walked on slowly, saying so little that at last Mrs. Thornton began to speak about the music which they had proposed to undertake. Despard’s enthusiasm seemed to have left him. His replies were vague and general. On reaching the gate he stood still for a moment under the trees and half turned toward her. “You don’t say any thing about the music?” said she.

“That’s because I am so stupid. I have lost my head. I am not capable of a single coherent idea.”

“You are thinking of something else all the time.”

“My brain is in a whirl. Yes, I am thinking of something else.”

“Of what?”

“I’m afraid to say.”

Mrs. Thornton was silent. They entered the gate and walked up the avenue, slowly and in silence. Despard made one or two efforts to stop, and then continued. At last they reached the door. The lights were streaming brightly from window. Despard stood, silently.

“Will you not come in?”

“No, thank you,” said he, dreamily. “It is rather too late, and I must go. Good-night.”

He held out his hand. She offered hers, and he took it. He held it long, and half stooped as though he wished to say something. She felt the throbbing of his heart in his hand as it clasped hers. She said nothing. Nor did Despard seem able to say any thing. At last he let go her hand slowly and reluctantly.

“You will not forget the music?” said he.

“No.”

“Good-night.”

He took her hand again in both of his. As the light shone through the windows she saw his face–a face full of longing beyond words, and sadness unutterable.

“Good-night,” she faltered.

He let go her hand, and turning away, was lost amidst the gloom. She waited till the sound of his footsteps had died away, and then went into the house.

On the following morning Despard was walking along when he met her suddenly at a corner of the street. He stopped with a radiant face, and shaking hands with her, for a moment was unable to speak.

“This is too much happiness,” he said at last. “It is like a ray of light to a poor captive when you burst upon me so suddenly. Where are you going?”

“Oh, I’m only going to do a little shopping.”

“I’m sure I wish that I could accompany you to protect you.”

“Well, why not?”

“On the whole, I think that shopping is not my forte, and that my presence would not be essential.”

He turned, however, and walked with her some distance, as far as the farthest shop in the town. They talked gayly and pleasantly about the fete. “You will not forget the music,” said he, on parting. “Will you come next Monday? If you don’t, I won’t be responsible for the consequences.”

“Do you mean to say, Sir, that you expect me to come alone?”

“I did not hope for any thing else.”

“Why, of course, you must call for me. If you do not I won’t go.”

Despard’s eyes brightened.

“Oh, then, since you allow me so sweet a privilege, I will go and accompany you.”

“If you fail me I will stay at home,” said she, laughingly.

He did not fail her, but at the appointed time went up to the Grange. Some strangers were there, and Mrs. Thornton gave him a look of deep disappointment. The strangers were evidently going to spend the day, so Despard, after a short call, withdrew. Before he left, Mrs. Thornton absented herself on some pretext for a few moments, and as he quitted the room she went to the door with him and gave him a note.

He walked straight home, holding the note in his hands till he reached his study; then he locked himself in, opened the note, and read as follows:

“DEAR MR. DESPARD,–How does it happen that things turn out just as they ought not? I was so anxious to go with you to the church to-day about our music. I know my own powers; they are not contemptible; they are not uncultivated; they are simply, and wholly, and irretrievably _commonplace_. That much I deem it my duty to inform you.

“These wretched people, who have spoiled a day’s pleasure, dropped upon me as suddenly as though they had come from the skies. They leave on Thursday morning. Come on Thursday afternoon. If you do not I will never forgive you. On that day give up your manuscripts and books for music and the organ, and allot some portion of your time to, Yours,

“T.T.”

On Thursday Despard called, and Mrs. Thornton was able to accompany him. The church was an old one, and had one of the best organs in Wales. Despard was to play and she to sing. He had his music ready, and the sheets were carefully and legibly written out from the precious old Greek scores which he loved so dearly and prized so highly.

They began with the canon for Easter-day of St. John Damascene, who, according to Despard, was the best of the Eastern hymnists. Mrs. Thornton’s voice was rich and full. As she came to the [Greek: anastaseos haemera]–Resurrection Day–it took up a tone of indescribable exaltation, blending with the triumph peal of the organ. Despard added his own voice–a deep, strong, full-toned basso–and their blended strains bore aloft the sublimest of utterances, “Christ is arisen!”

[Illustration: AND THEIR BLENDED STRAINS BORE ALOFT THE SUBLIMEST OF UTTERANCES, ‘CHRIST IS ARISEN’]

Then followed a more mournful chant, full of sadness and profound melancholy, the [Greek: teleutaion aspasmon]–the Last Kiss–the hymn of the dead, by the same poet.

Then followed a sublimer strain, the hymn of St. Theodore on the Judgment–[Greek: taen haemeran taen phriktaen]–where all the horrors of the day of doom are set forth. The chant was commensurate with the dread splendors of the theme. The voices of the two singers blended in perfect concord. The sounds which were thus wrought out bore themselves through the vaulted aisles, returning again to their own ears, imparting to their own hearts something of the awe with which imagination has enshrouded the Day of days, and giving to their voices that saddened cadence which the sad spirit can convey to its material utterance.

Despard then produced some composition of his own, made after the manner of the Eastern chants, which he insisted were the primitive songs of the early Church. The words were those fragments of hymns which are imbedded in the text of the New Testament. He chose first the song of the angels, which was first sung by “a great voice out of heaven”–[Greek: idou, hae skaenae tou Deou]–Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men!

The chant was a marvelous one. It spoke of sorrow past, of grief stayed, of misery at an end forever, of tears dried, and a time when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying.” There was a gentle murmur in the flow of that solemn, soothing strain which was like the sighing of the evening wind among the hoary forest trees; it soothed and comforted; it brought hope, and holy calm, and sweet peace.

As Despard rose from the organ Mrs. Thornton looked at him with moistened eyes.

“I do not know whether your song brings calm or unrest,” said she, sadly, “but after singing it I would wish to die.”

“It is not the music, it is the words,” answered Despard, “which bring before us a time when there shall be no sorrow or sighing.”

“May such a time ever be?” murmured she.

“That,” he replied, “it is ours to aim after. There is such a world. In that world all wrongs will be righted, friends will be reunited, and those severed here through all this earthly life will be joined for evermore.”

Their eyes met. Their spirit lived and glowed in that gaze. It was sad beyond expression, but each one held commune with the other in a mute intercourse, more eloquent than words.

Despard’s whole frame trembled. “Will you sing the _Ave Maria_?” he asked, in a low, scarce audible voice. Her head dropped. She gave a convulsive sigh. He continued: “We used to sing it in the old days, the sweet, never-forgotten days now past forever. We sang it here. We stood hand in hand.”

His voice faltered.

“Sing,” he said, after a time.

“I can not”

Despard sighed. “Perhaps it is better not; for I feel as though, if you were to sing it, my heart would break.”

“Do you believe that hearts can break?” she asked gently, but with indescribable pathos.

Despard looked at her mournfully, and said not a word.

CHAPTER XXVI.

CLASPED HANDS.

Their singing went on.

They used to meet once a week and sing in the church at the organ. Despard always went up to the Grange and accompanied her to the church. Yet he scarcely ever went at any other time. A stronger connection and a deeper familiarity arose between them, which yet was accompanied by a profound reverence on Despard’s part, that never diminished, but as the familiarity increased only grew more tender and more devoted.

There were many things about their music which he had to say to her. It constituted a common bond between them on which they could talk, and to which they could always revert. It formed a medium for the communion of soul–a lofty, spiritual intercourse, where they seemed to blend, even as their voices blended, in a purer realm, free from the trouble of earth.

Amidst it all Despard had so much to tell her about the nature of the Eastern music that he wrote out a long letter, which he gave her they parted after an unusually lengthy practice. Part of it was on the subject of music, and the rest of a different character.

The next time that they met she gave him a note in response.

“DEAR MR. DESPARD–Why am I not a seraph endowed with musical powers beyond mortal reach? You tell me many things, and never seem to imagine that they are all beyond me. You never seem to think that I am hopelessly commonplace. You are kind in doing what you do, but where is the good where one is so stupid as I am?

“I suppose you have given up visiting the Grange forever. I don’t call your coming to take me to the church _visits_. I suppose I may as well give you up. It is as difficult to get you here as if you were the Grand Lama of Thibet.

“Amidst all my stupidities I have two or three ideas which may be useful in our music, if I can only put them in practice. Bear with me, and deal gently with

“Yours, despondingly,

“T. T.”

To this Despard replied in a note which he gave her at their next meeting, calling her “Dear Seraph,” and signing himself “Grand Lama.” After this they always called each other by these names. Grand Lama was an odd name, but it became the sweetest of sounds to Despard since it was uttered by her lips–the sweetest, the most musical, and the tenderest. As to himself he knew not what to call this dear companion of his youth, but the name Seraph came into use, and grew to be associated with her, until at last he never called her any thing else.

Yet after this he used to go to the Grange more frequently. He could not stay away. His steps wandered there irresistibly. An uncontrollable impulse forced him there. She was always alone awaiting him, generally with a sweet confusion of face and a tenderness of greeting which made him feel ready to fall on his knees before her. How else could he feel? Was she not always in his thoughts? Were not all his sleeping hours one long dream of her? Were not all his waiting thoughts filled with her radiant presence?

“How is it under our control
To love or not to love?”

Did he know what it was that he felt for her? He never thought. Enough that he felt. And that feeling was one long agony of intense longing and yearning after her. Had not all his life been filled by that one bright image?

Youth gave it to him. After-years could not efface it. The impress of her face was upon his heart. Her voice was always in his ears. Every word that she had ever spoken to him was treasured up in his memory and heart with an avarice of love which prevented any one word from even being forgotten.

At church and at home, during service and out of it, in the street or in the study, he saw only one face, and heard only one voice. Amidst the bustle of committee meetings he was conscious of her image–a sweet face smiling on him, a tender voice saying “Lama.” Was there ever so musical and so dear a word as “Lama?” For him, never.

The hunger of his longing grew stronger every day. That strong, proud, self-secluded nature of his was most intense in all its feelings, and dwelt with concentrated passion upon this one object of its idolatry. He had never had any other object but this one.

A happy boyhood passed in the society of this sweet playmate, then a young girl of his own age; a happy boyhood here in Holby, where they had always been inseparable, wandering hand in hand along the shore or over the hills; a happy boyhood where she was the one and only companion whom he knew or cared for–this was the sole legacy of his early life. Leaving Holby he had left her, but had never forgotten her. He had carried with him the tender memory of this bright being, and cherished his undying fondness, not knowing what that fondness meant. He had returned to find her married, and severed from him forever, at least in this life. When he found that he had lost her he began to understand how dear she was. All life stood before him aimless, pointless, and meaningless without her. He came back, but the old intercourse could not be renewed; she could not be his, and he could only live, and love, and endure. Perhaps it would have been wiser if he had at once left Holby and sought out some other abode. But the discovery of his love was gradual; it came through suffering and anguish; and when he knew that his love was so intense it was then impossible to leave. To be near her, to breathe the same air, to see her face occasionally, to nurse his old memories, to hoard up new remembrances of her words and looks–these now became the chief occupation of his hours of solitude, and the only happiness left him in his life.

One day he went up with a stronger sense of desolation in his heart than usual, going up to see her in order to get consolation from the sight of her face and the sound of her voice. Their former levity had given place to a seriousness of manner which was very different. A deep, intense joy shone in the eyes of each at meeting, but that quick repartee and light badinage which they had used of old had been dropped.

Music was the one thing of which they could speak without fear. Despard could talk of his Byzantine poets, and the chants of the Eastern Church, without being in danger of reawakening painful memories. The piano stood close by, and always afforded a convenient mode of distracting attention when it became too absorbed in one another.

For Mrs. Thornton did not repel him; she did not resent his longing; she did not seem forgetful of what he so well remembered. How was it with her who had given her hand to another?

“What she felt the while
Dare he think?”

Yet there were times when he thought it possible that she might feel as he did. The thought brought joy, but it also brought fear. For, if the struggle against this feeling needed all the strength of his nature, what must it cost her? If she had such a struggle as he, how could she endure it? Then, as he considered this, he thought to himself that he would rather she would not love him than love him at such a cost. He was willing to sacrifice his own heart. He wished only to adore her, and was content that she should receive, and permit, and accept his adoration, herself unmoved–a passionless divinity.

In their intercourse it was strange how frequently there were long pauses of perfect silence, during which neither spoke a word. Sometimes each sat looking at the floor; sometimes they looked at one another, as though they could read each other’s thoughts, and by the mere gaze of their earnest eyes could hold ample spiritual communion.

On one such occasion they stood by the window looking out upon the lawn, but seeing nothing in that abstracted gaze. Despard stood facing her, close to her. Her hand was hanging by her side. He stooped and took that little slender hand in his. As he did so he trembled from head to foot. As he did so a faint flush passed over her face. Her head fell forward. Despard held her hand and she did not withdraw it. Despard drew her slightly toward him. She looked up into his face with large, eloquent eyes, sad beyond all description, yet speaking things which thrilled his soul. He looked down upon her with eyes that told her all that was in his heart. She turned her head away.

Despard clung to her hand as though that hand were his life, his hope, his joy–as though that alone could save him from some abyss of despair into which he was falling. His lips moved. In vain. No audible sound broke that intense stillness in which the beating and throbbing of those two forlorn hearts could be heard. His lips moved, but all sound died away upon them.

At last a stronger effort broke the silence.

“Teresa!”

It was a strange tone, a tone of longing unutterable, a tone like that which a dying man might use in calling before him one most dear. And all the pent-up feeling of years rushed forth in concentrated energy, and was borne to her ears in the sound of that one word. She looked up with the same glance as before.

“Little playmate,” said he, in a tone of infinite sweetness, “have you ever forgotten the old days? Do you remember when you and I last stood hand in hand?”

His voice sounded like the utterance of tears, as though, if he could have wept, he would then have wept as no man wept before, but his eyes were dry through his manhood, and all that tears can express were shown forth in his tone.

As he began to speak her head fell again. As he ended she looked up as before. Her lips moved. She whispered but one word:

“Courtenay!”

She burst into a flood of tears and sank into a chair. And Despard stood, not daring even to soothe her, for fear lest in that vehement convulsion of his soul all his self-command should give way utterly.

At length Mrs. Thornton rose. “Lama,” said she, at last, in a low, sad voice, “let us go to the piano.”

“Will you sing the _Ave Maria_” he asked, mournfully.

“I dare not,” said she, hastily. “No, anything but that. I will sing Rossini’s _Cujus Animam_.”

Then followed those words which tell in lofty strains of a broken heart:

Cujus animam gementem
Contristatam et flebentem
Pertransivit gladius!

CHAPTER XXVII.

JOURNAL OF PAOLO LANGHETTI.

When Mrs. Thornton saw Despard next she showed him a short note which she had just received from her brother, accompanying his journal. Nearly two years had elapsed since she had last heard from him.

His journal was written as before at long intervals, and was as follows:

Halifax, April 10, 1847.–I exist here, but nothing more. Nothing is offered by this small colonial town that can afford interest. Life goes on monotonously. The officers and their families are what they are every where. They are amiable and pleasant, and try to get the best out of life. The townspeople are hospitable, and there is much refinement among them.

But I live for the most part in a cottage outside of the town, where I can be secluded and free from observation. Near my house is the Northwest Arm. I cross it in a boat, and am at once in a savage wilderness. From the summit of a hill, appropriately named Mount Misery, I can look down upon this city which is bordered by such a wilderness.

The winter has passed since my last entry, and nothing has occurred. I have learned to skate. I went out on a moose-hunt with Colonel Despard. The gigantic horns of a moose which I killed are now over the door of my studio. I have joined in some festivities, and have done the honors of my house. It is an old-fashioned wooden structure which they call the Priory.

So the winter has passed, and April is now here. In this country there is no spring. Snow is yet on the ground. Winter is transformed gradually till summer. I must keep up my fires till June, they say.

During the winter I have guarded my treasure well. I took a house on purpose to have a home for her. But her melancholy continued, and the state of mind in which I found her still endures. Will it ever change? I gave out here that she was a relative who was in ill health. But the winter has passed, and she remains precisely the same. Can she live on long in this mood?

At length I have decided to try a change for her. The Holy Sisterhood of Mercy have a convent here, where she may find a higher and purer atmosphere than any where else. There I have placed her. I have told nothing of her story. They think she is in grief for the death of friends. They have received her with that warm sympathy and holy love which it is the aim of their life to cherish.

O mater alma Christ! carissima,
Te nunc flagitant devota corda et ora, Ora pro nobis!

August 5, 1847.–The summer goes on pleasantly. A bracing climate, a cool sea-breeze, fishing and hunting in the forests, sailing in the harbor–these are the amusements which one can find if he has the leisure.

She has been among the Sisterhood of Mercy for some months. The deep calm of that holy retreat has soothed her, but only this much, that her melancholy has not lessened but grown more placid. She is in the midst of those whose thoughts are habitually directed to that work which she longs after. The home from which she has been exiled is the desire of their hearts. They aim after that place for which she longs with so deep a longing. There is sympathy in all those hearts with one another. She hears in their chants and prayers those hopes and desires, and these are but the utterances of what she feels.

Here they sing the matchless Rhythm of Bernard de Morlaix, and in these words she finds the highest expression that human words can give of the thoughts and desires of her soul. They tell me that the first time they sang it, as they came to this passage she burst into tears and sank down almost senseless:

O bona patria! lumina sobria te speculantur, Ad tua nomina sobria lumina collacrimantur: Et tua mentio pectoris unctis, cura doloris, Concipientibus aethers mentibus ignis amoris.

November 17.–The winter must soon be here again.

My treasure is well guarded by the Holy Sisterhood. They revere her and look upon her as a saint. They tell me wonderful things about her which have sunk into my soul. They think that she is another Saint Cecilia, or rather Saint Teresa, the Saint of Love and Longing.

She told them once that she was not a Catholic, but that any form of worship was sweet and precious to her–most of all, the lofty utterances of the prayers and hymns of the Church. She will not listen to dogmas, but says that God wishes only love and praise. Yet she joins in all their rites, and in this House, where Love is chiefly adored, she surpasses all in the deep love of her heart.

January 2, 1848.–I have seen her for the first time in many months. She smiled. I never saw her smile before, except once in the ship, when I told my name and made her mother take my place in the cabin.

She smiled. It was as if an angel from heaven had smiled on me. Do I not believe that she is one?

They all say that she is unchanged. Her sadness has had no abatement. On that meeting she made an effort for my sake to stoop to me. Perhaps she saw how my very soul entreated her to speak. So she spoke of the Sisterhood, and said she loved them all. I asked her if she was happier here than at my house. She said “No.” I did not know whether to feel rejoiced or sorrowful. Then she told me something which has filled me with wonder ever since.

She asked me if I had been making inquiries about her family, for I had said that I would. I told her that I had. She asked what I had heard. I hesitated for a moment, and at last, seeing that she was superior to any sorrow of bereavement; I told her all about the sad fate of her brother Louis, which your old friend Courtenay Despard had communicated to his uncle here. She listened without emotion, and at last, looking earnestly at me, said,

“_He is not dead!_”

I stood amazed. I had seen the very newspapers which contained an account of his death, I had read the letters of Courtenay Despard, which showed how painstaking his search had been. Had he not traveled to every place where he could hear any thing of the Brandons? Had he not written at the very outset wherever he could hope to hear any thing? I did not know what to say.

For Louis Brandon is known to have fallen overboard from the ship Java, during a tremendous monsoon, several hundred miles away from any land. How could he possibly have escaped death? The Captain, whom Courtenay Despard found out and questioned, said he threw over a hen-coop and a pail. These could not save him. Despard also inquired for months from every ship that arrived from those parts, but could learn nothing. The next ship that came from New South Wales foundered off the coast of Africa. Three passengers escaped to Sierra Leone, and thence to England. Despard learned their names, but they were not Brandon. The information which one of them, named Wheeler, gave to the ship-owners afforded no hope of his having been found by this ship, even if it had been possible. It was simply impossible, however, for the _Falcon_ did not pass the spot where poor Brandon fell overboard till months had elapsed.

All these things I knew, and they came to my mind. She did not notice my emotion, but after a pause she looked at me again with the same earnestness, and said,

“_My brother Frank is not dead._”

This surprised me as much as the other.

“Are you sure?” said I, reverently.

“I am.”

“How did you learn this? All who have inquired say that both of your brothers are dead.”

“They told me,” said she, “many times. _They_ said that my brothers had not come among them to their own place, as they would have had to come if they had left the earth.”

She spoke solemnly and with mysterious emphasis. I said nothing, for I knew not what to say.

On going home and thinking over this, I saw that she believed herself to have the power of communicating with the departed. I did not know whether this intelligence, which she believed she had received, had been gained in her trance, or whether she thought that she had recent interviews with those on high. I went to see her again, and asked this. She told me that once since her recovery she had fallen into that state, and had been, as she called it, “in her home.”

I ventured to ask her more about what she considered a communion with the departed. She tried to speak, but looked like one who could not find words. It was still the same as before. She has in her mind thoughts which can not be expressed by any human language. She will not be able to express them till such a language is obtained. Yet she gave me one idea, which has been in my mind ever since.

She said that the language of those among whom she has been has nothing on earth which is like it except music. If our music could be developed to an indefinite extent it might at last begin to resemble it. Yet she said that she sometimes heard strains here in the Holy Mass which reminded her of that language, and might be intelligible to an immortal.

This is the idea which she imparted to me, and I have thought of it ever since.

August 23–Great things have happened.

When I last wrote I had gained the idea of transforming music into a language. The thought came to me that I, who thirst for music, and love it and cherish it above all things–to whom it is an hourly comfort and solace–that I might rise to utter forth to her sounds which she might hear. I had already seen enough of her spiritual tone to know what sympathies and emotions might best be acted upon. I saw her several times, so as to stimulate myself to a higher and purer exercise of whatever genius I may have.

I was encouraged by the thought that from my earliest childhood, as I began to learn to speak so I began to learn to sing. As I learned to read printed type so I read printed music. The thoughts of composers in music thus became as legible to me as those of composers in words. So all my life my knowledge has widened, and with that knowledge my love has increased. This has been my one aim in life–my joy and my delight. Thus it came to pass that at last, when alone with my Cremona, I could utter all my own thoughts, and pour forth every feeling that was in my heart. This was a language with me. I spoke it, yet there was no one who could understand it fully. Only one had I ever met with to whom I told this besides yourself–she could accompany me–she could understand and follow me wherever I led. I could speak this language to her, and she could hear and comprehend. This one was my Bice.

Now that she had told me this I grasped at the thought. Never before had the idea entered my mind of trying upon her the effect of my music. I had given it up for her sake while she was with me, not liking to cause any sound to disturb her rapt and melancholy mood.

But now I began to understand how it was with her. She had learned the language of the highest places and had heard the New Song. She stood far above me, and if she could not understand my music it would be from the same reason that a grown man can not comprehend the words of a lisping, stammering child. She had that language in its fullness. I had it only in its crudest rudiments.

Now Bice learned my words and followed me. She knew my utterance. I was the master–she the disciple. But here was one who could lead me. I would be the follower and disciple. From her I could learn more than in all my life I could ever discover by my own unassisted efforts.

It was mine, therefore, to struggle to overcome the lisping, stammering utterance of my purely earthly music; to gain from her some knowledge of the mood of that holier, heavenly expression, so that at last I might be able in some degree to speak to this exile the language of the home which she loved; that we, by holding commune in this language, might rise together to a higher spiritual realm, and that she in her solitude might receive at least some associate.

So I proposed to her to come back and stay with me again. She consented at once.

Before that memorable evening I purified my heart by fasting and prayer. I was like one who was seeking to ascend into heaven to take part in that celestial communion, to join in the New Song, the music of the angels.

By fasting and prayer I sought so to ascend, and to find thoughts and fit utterance for those thoughts. I looked upon my office as similar to that of the holy prophets of old. I felt that I had a power of utterance if the Divine One would only inspire.

I fasted and prayed that so I might reduce this grosser material frame, and sharpen and quicken every nerve, and stimulate every fibre of the brain. So alone could I most nearly approach to the commune of spirits. Thus had those saints and prophets of old done when they had entered upon the search after this communion, and they had received their reward, even the visitation of angels and the vision of the blessed.

A prophet–yes–now, in these days, it is left for the prophet to utter forth his inspiration by no other way than that of music.

So I fasted and prayed. I took up the words from the holy priesthood, and I said, as they say:

Munda cor meum, ac labia mea, Omnipotens Deus, qui labia Isaiae prophetae, calculo mundasti ignito!

For so Isaiah had been exalted till he heard the language of heaven, the music of the seraphim.

She, my divinity, my adored, enshrined again in my house, bore herself as before–kind to me and gentle beyond all expression, but with thoughts of her own that placed between us a gulf as wide as that which separates the mortal from the immortal.

On that evening she was with me in the parlor which looks out upon the Northwest Arm. The moon shone down there, the dark, rocky hills on the opposite side rose in heavy masses. The servants were away in the city. We were alone.

Ah, my Cremona! if a material instrument were ever able to utter forth sounds to which immortals might listen, thou, best gift of my father, thou canst utter them!

“You are pale,” said she, for she was always kindly and affectionate as a mother with a child, as a guardian angel with his ward. “You are pale. You always forget yourself for others, and now you suffer anxiety for me. Do not suffer. I have my consolations.”

I did not make any reply, but took my Cremona, and sought to lift up all my soul to a level with hers, to that lofty realm where her spirit ever wandered, that so I might not be comfortless. She started at the first tone that I struck forth, and looked at me with her large, earnest eyes. I found my own gaze fixed on hers, rapt and entranced. Now there came at last the inspiration so longed for, so sought for. It came from where her very soul looked forth into mine, out of the glory of her lustrous, spiritual eyes. They grew brighter with an almost immortal radiance, and all my heart rose up till it seemed ready to burst in the frenzy of that inspired moment.

Now I felt the spirit of prophecy, I felt the afflatus of the inspired sibyl or seer, and the voice of music which for a lifetime I had sought to utter forth now at last sounded as I longed that it should sound.

I exulted in that sound. I knew that at last I had caught the tone, and from her. I knew its meaning and exulted, as the poet or the musician must always exult when some idea sublimer than any which he has ever known is wafted over his upturned spiritual gaze.

She shared my exaltation. There came over her face swiftly, like the lightning flash, an expression of surprise and joy. So the face of the exile lightens up at the throbbing of his heart, when, in some foreign land, he suddenly and unexpectedly hears the sound of his own language. So his eyes light up, and his heart beats faster, and even amidst the very longing of his soul after home, the desire after that home is appeased by these its most hallowed associations.

And the full meaning of that eloquent gaze of hers as her soul looked into mine became all apparent to me. “Speak on,” it said; “sound on, oh strains of the language of my home! Unheard so long, now heard at last.”

I knew that I was comprehended. Now all the feelings of the melancholy months came rushing over my heart, and all the holiest ideas which had animated my life came thronging into my mind, bursting forth into tones, as though of their own accord, involuntarily, as words come forth in a dream.

“Oh thou,” I said, in that language which my own lips could not utter– “oh thou whom I saved from the tomb, the life to which I restored thee is irksome; but there remains a life to which at last thou shalt attain.

“Oh thou,” I said, “whose spirit moves among the immortals, I am mortal yet immortal! My soul seeks commune with them. I yearn after that communion. Life here on earth is not more dear to me than to thee. Help me to rise above it. Thou hast been on high, show me too the way.

“Oh thou,” I said, “who hast seen things ineffable, impart to me thy confidence. Let me know thy secret. Receive me as the companion of thy soul. Shut not thyself up in solitude. Listen, I can speak thy language.

“Attend,” I cried, “for it is not for nothing that the Divine One has sent thee back. Live not these mortal days in loneliness and in uselessness. Regard thy fellow-mortals and seek to bless them. Thou hast learned the mystery of the highest. Let me be thine interpreter. All that thou hast learned I will communicate to man.

“Rise up,” I cried, “to happiness and to labor. Behold! I give thee a purpose in life. Blend thy soul with mine, and let me utter thy thoughts so that men shall hear and understand. For I know that the highest truth of highest Heaven means nothing more than love. Gather up all thy love, let it flow forth to thy fellow-men. This shall be at once the labor and the consolation of thy life.”

Now all this, and much more–far more–was expressed in the tones that flowed from my Cremona. It was all in my heart. It came forth. It was apprehended by her. I saw it, I knew it, and I exulted. Her eyes dilated more widely–my words were not unworthy of her hearing. I then was able to tell something which could rouse her from her stupor. Oh, Music! Divine Music! What power thou hast over the soul!

There came over her face an expression which I never saw before; one of peace ineffable–the peace that passeth understanding. Ah me! I seemed to draw her to myself. For she rose and walked toward me. And a great calm came over my own soul. My Cremona spoke of peace–soft, sweet, and deep; the profound peace that dwelleth in the soul which has its hope in fruition. The tone widened into sweet modulation–sweet beyond all expression.

She was so close that she almost touched me. Her eyes were still fixed on mine. Tears were there, but not tears of sorrow. Her face was so close to mine that my strength left me. My arms dropped downward. The music was over.

[Illustration: “I DID NOT MAKE ANY REPLY, BUT TOOK MY CREMONA, AND SOUGHT TO LIFT UP ALL MY SOUL TO A LEVEL WITH HERS.”]

She held out her hand to me. I caught it in both of mine, and wet it with my tears.

“Paolo,” said she, in a voice of musical tone; “Paolo, you are already one of us. You speak our language.

“You have taught me something which flows from love–duty. Yes, we will labor together; and they who live on high will learn even in their radiant home to envy us poor mortals.”

I said not a word, but knelt; and holding her hand still, I looked up at her in grateful adoration.

November 28.–For the last three months I have lived in heaven. She is changed. Music has reconciled her to exile. She has found one who speaks, though weakly, the language of that home.

We hold together through this divine medium a lofty spirited intercourse. I learn from her of that starry world in which for a brief time she was permitted to dwell. Her seraphic thoughts have become communicated to me. I have made them my own, and all my spirit has risen