Chapter 5 Account of all that passed on the night on February 27th, 1757
On the evening of the interview referred to, the Master went abroad; he wa_broad a great deal of the next day also, that fatal 27th; but where he went, or what he did, we never concerned ourselves to ask until next day. If we ha_one so, and by any chance found out, it might have changed all. But as all w_id was done in ignorance, and should be so judged, I shall so narrate thes_assages as they appeared to us in the moment of their birth, and reserve al_hat I since discovered for the time of its discovery. For I have now come t_ne of the dark parts of my narrative, and must engage the reader's indulgenc_or my patron.
All the 27th that rigorous weather endured: a stifling cold; the folk passin_bout like smoking chimneys; the wide hearth in the hall piled high with fuel; some of the spring birds that had already blundered north into ou_eighbourhood, besieging the windows of the house or trotting on the froze_urf like things distracted. About noon there came a blink of sunshine, showing a very pretty, wintry, frosty landscape of white hills and woods, wit_rail's lugger waiting for a wind under the Craig Head, and the smoke mountin_traight into the air from every farm and cottage. With the coming of night, the haze closed in overhead; it fell dark and still and starless, an_xceeding cold: a night the most unseasonable, fit for strange events.
Mrs. Henry withdrew, as was now her custom, very early. We had set ourselve_f late to pass the evening with a game of cards; another mark that ou_isitor was wearying mightily of the life at Durrisdeer; and we had not bee_ong at this when my old lord slipped from his place beside the fire, and wa_ff without a word to seek the warmth of bed. The three thus left together ha_either love nor courtesy to share; not one of us would have sat up on_nstant to oblige another; yet from the influence of custom, and as the card_ad just been dealt, we continued the form of playing out the round. I shoul_ay we were late sitters; and though my lord had departed earlier than was hi_ustom, twelve was already gone some time upon the clock, and the servant_ong ago in bed. Another thing I should say, that although I never saw th_aster anyway affected with liquor, he had been drinking freely, and wa_erhaps (although he showed it not) a trifle heated.
Anyway, he now practised one of his transitions; and so soon as the doo_losed behind my lord, and without the smallest change of voice, shifted fro_rdinary civil talk into a stream of insult.
"My dear Henry, it is yours to play," he had been saying, and now continued:
"It is a very strange thing how, even in so small a matter as a game of cards, you display your rusticity. You play, Jacob, like a bonnet laird, or a sailo_n a tavern. The same dulness, the same petty greed, CETTE LENTEUR D'HEBET_UI ME FAIT RAGER; it is strange I should have such a brother. Even Square- toes has a certain vivacity when his stake is imperilled; but the drearines_f a game with you I positively lack language to depict."
Mr. Henry continued to look at his cards, as though very maturely considerin_ome play; but his mind was elsewhere.
"Dear God, will this never be done?" cries the Master. "QUEL LOURDEAU! But wh_o I trouble you with French expressions, which are lost on such an ignoramus?
A LOURDEAU, my dear brother, is as we might say a bumpkin, a clown, _lodpole: a fellow without grace, lightness, quickness; any gift of pleasing, any natural brilliancy: such a one as you shall see, when you desire, b_ooking in the mirror. I tell you these things for your good, I assure you; and besides, Square-toes" (looking at me and stifling a yawn), "it is one o_y diversions in this very dreary spot to toast you and your master at th_ire like chestnuts. I have great pleasure in your case, for I observe th_ickname (rustic as it is) has always the power to make you writhe. Bu_ometimes I have more trouble with this dear fellow here, who seems to hav_one to sleep upon his cards. Do you not see the applicability of the epithe_ have just explained, dear Henry? Let me show you. For instance, with al_hose solid qualities which I delight to recognise in you, I never knew _oman who did not prefer me - nor, I think," he continued, with the mos_ilken deliberation, "I think - who did not continue to prefer me."
Mr. Henry laid down his cards. He rose to his feet very softly, and seemed al_he while like a person in deep thought. "You coward!" he said gently, as i_o himself. And then, with neither hurry nor any particular violence, h_truck the Master in the mouth.
The Master sprang to his feet like one transfigured; I had never seen the ma_o beautiful. "A blow!" he cried. "I would not take a blow from God Almighty!"
"Lower your voice," said Mr. Henry. "Do you wish my father to interfere fo_ou again?"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," I cried, and sought to come between them.
The Master caught me by the shoulder, held me at arm's length, and stil_ddressing his brother: "Do you know what this means?" said he.
"It was the most deliberate act of my life," says Mr. Henry.
"I must have blood, I must have blood for this," says the Master.
"Please God it shall be yours," said Mr. Henry; and he went to the wall an_ook down a pair of swords that hung there with others, naked. These h_resented to the Master by the points. "Mackellar shall see us play fair,"
said Mr. Henry. "I think it very needful."
"You need insult me no more," said the Master, taking one of the swords a_andom. "I have hated you all my life."
"My father is but newly gone to bed," said Mr. Henry. "We must go somewher_orth of the house."
"There is an excellent place in the long shrubbery," said the Master.
"Gentlemen," said I, "shame upon you both! Sons of the same mother, would yo_urn against the life she gave you?"
"Even so, Mackellar," said Mr. Henry, with the same perfect quietude of manne_e had shown throughout.
"It is what I will prevent," said I.
And now here is a blot upon my life. At these words of mine the Master turne_is blade against my bosom; I saw the light run along the steel; and I thre_p my arms and fell to my knees before him on the floor. "No, no," I cried, like a baby.
"We shall have no more trouble with him," said the Master. "It is a good thin_o have a coward in the house."
"We must have light," said Mr. Henry, as though there had been n_nterruption.
"This trembler can bring a pair of candles," said the Master.
To my shame be it said, I was still so blinded with the flashing of that bar_word that I volunteered to bring a lantern.
"We do not need a l-l-lantern," says the Master, mocking me. "There is n_reath of air. Come, get to your feet, take a pair of lights, and go before. _m close behind with this - " making. the blade glitter as he spoke.
I took up the candlesticks and went before them, steps that I would give m_and to recall; but a coward is a slave at the best; and even as I went, m_eeth smote each other in my mouth. It was as he had said: there was no breat_tirring; a windless stricture of frost had bound the air; and as we wen_orth in the shine of the candles, the blackness was like a roof over ou_eads. Never a word was said; there was never a sound but the creaking of ou_teps along the frozen path. The cold of the night fell about me like a bucke_f water; I shook as I went with more than terror; but my companions, bare- headed like myself, and fresh from the warm ball, appeared not even consciou_f the change.
"Here is the place," said the Master. "Set down the candles."
I did as he bid me, and presently the flames went up, as steady as in _hamber, in the midst of the frosted trees, and I beheld these two brother_ake their places.
"The light is something in my eyes," said the Master.
"I will give you every advantage," replied Mr. Henry, shifting his ground,
"for I think you are about to die." He spoke rather sadly than otherwise, ye_here was a ring in his voice.
"Henry Durie," said the Master, "two words before I begin. You are a fencer, you can hold a foil; you little know what a change it makes to hold a sword!
And by that I know you are to fall. But see how strong is my situation! If yo_all, I shift out of this country to where my money is before me. If I fall, where are you? My father, your wife - who is in love with me, as you very wel_now - your child even, who prefers me to yourself:- how will these avenge me!
Had you thought of that, dear Henry?" He looked at his brother with a smile; then made a fencing-room salute.
Never a word said Mr. Henry, but saluted too, and the swords rang together.
I am no judge of the play; my head, besides, was gone with cold and fear an_orror; but it seems that Mr. Henry took and kept the upper hand from th_ngagement, crowding in upon his foe with a contained and glowing fury. Neare_nd nearer he crept upon the man, till of a sudden the Master leaped back wit_ little sobbing oath; and I believe the movement brought the light once mor_gainst his eyes. To it they went again, on the fresh ground; but no_ethought closer, Mr. Henry pressing more outrageously, the Master beyon_oubt with shaken confidence. For it is beyond doubt he now recognised himsel_or lost, and had some taste of the cold agony of fear; or he had neve_ttempted the foul stroke. I cannot say I followed it, my untrained eye wa_ever quick enough to seize details, but it appears he caught his brother'_lade with his left hand, a practice not permitted. Certainly Mr. Henry onl_aved himself by leaping on one side; as certainly the Master, lunging in th_ir, stumbled on his knee, and before he could move the sword was through hi_ody.
I cried out with a stifled scream, and ran in; but the body was already falle_o the ground, where it writhed a moment like a trodden worm, and then la_otionless.
"Look at his left hand." said Mr. Henry.
"It is all bloody," said I.
"On the inside?" said he.
"It is cut on the inside," said I.
"I thought so," said he, and turned his back.
I opened the man's clothes; the heart was quite still, it gave not a flutter.
"God forgive us, Mr. Henry!" said I. "He is dead."
"Dead?" he repeated, a little stupidly; and then with a rising tone, "Dead?
dead?" says he, and suddenly cast his bloody sword upon the ground.
"What must we do?" said I. "Be yourself, sir. It is too late now: you must b_ourself."
He turned and stared at me. "Oh, Mackellar!" says he, and put his face in hi_ands.
I plucked him by the coat. "For God's sake, for all our sakes, be mor_ourageous!" said I. "What must we do?"
He showed me his face with the same stupid stare.
"Do?" says he. And with that his eye fell on the body, and "Oh!" he cries out, with his hand to his brow, as if he had never remembered; and, turning fro_e, made off towards the house of Durrisdeer at a strange stumbling run.
I stood a moment mused; then it seemed to me my duty lay most plain on th_ide of the living; and I ran after him, leaving the candles on the frost_round and the body lying in their light under the trees. But run as _leased, he had the start of me, and was got into the house, and up to th_all, where I found him standing before the fire with his face once more i_is hands, and as he so stood he visibly shuddered.
"Mr. Henry, Mr. Henry," I said, "this will be the ruin of us all."
"What is this that I have done?" cries he, and then looking upon me with _ountenance that I shall never forget, "Who is to tell the old man?" he said.
The word knocked at my heart; but it was no time for weakness. I went an_oured him out a glass of brandy. "Drink that," said I, "drink it down." _orced him to swallow it like a child; and, being still perished with the col_f the night, I followed his example.
"It has to be told, Mackellar," said he. "It must be told." And he fel_uddenly in a seat - my old lord's seat by the chimney-side \- and was shake_ith dry sobs.
Dismay came upon my soul; it was plain there was no help in Mr. Henry. "Well,"
said I, "sit there, and leave all to me." And taking a candle in my hand, _et forth out of the room in the dark house. There was no movement; I mus_uppose that all had gone unobserved; and I was now to consider how to smuggl_hrough the rest with the like secrecy. It was no hour for scruples; and _pened my lady's door without so much as a knock, and passed boldly in.
"There is some calamity happened," she cried, sitting up in bed.
"Madam," said I, "I will go forth again into the passage; and do you get a_uickly as you can into your clothes. There is much to be done."
She troubled me with no questions, nor did she keep me waiting. Ere I had tim_o prepare a word of that which I must say to her, she was on the threshol_igning me to enter.
"Madam," said I, "if you cannot be very brave, I must go elsewhere; for if n_ne helps me to-night, there is an end of the house of Durrisdeer."
"I am very courageous," said she; and she looked at me with a sort of smile, very painful to see, but very brave too.
"It has come to a duel," said I.
"A duel?" she repeated. "A duel! Henry and - "
"And the Master," said I. "Things have been borne so long, things of which yo_now nothing, which you would not believe if I should tell. But to-night i_ent too far, and when he insulted you \- "
"Stop," said she. "He? Who?"
"Oh! madam," cried I, my bitterness breaking forth, "do you ask me such _uestion? Indeed, then, I may go elsewhere for help; there is none here!"
"I do not know in what I have offended you," said she. "Forgive me; put me ou_f this suspense."
But I dared not tell her yet; I felt not sure of her; and at the doubt, an_nder the sense of impotence it brought with it, I turned on the poor woma_ith something near to anger.
"Madam," said I, "we are speaking of two men: one of them insulted you, an_ou ask me which. I will help you to the answer. With one of these men yo_ave spent all your hours: has the other reproached you? To one you have bee_lways kind; to the other, as God sees me and judges between us two, I thin_ot always: has his love ever failed you? To-night one of these two men tol_he other, in my hearing - the hearing of a hired stranger, - that you were i_ove with him. Before I say one word, you shall answer your own question: Which was it? Nay, madam, you shall answer me another: If it has come to thi_readful end, whose fault is it?"
She stared at me like one dazzled. "Good God!" she said once, in a kind o_ursting exclamation; and then a second time in a whisper to herself: "Grea_od! - In the name of mercy, Mackellar, what is wrong?" she cried. "I am mad_p; I can hear all."
"You are not fit to hear," said I. "Whatever it was, you shall say first i_as your fault."
"Oh!" she cried, with a gesture of wringing her hands, "this man will drive m_ad! Can you not put me out of your thoughts?"
"I think not once of you," I cried. "I think of none but my dear unhapp_aster."
"Ah!" she cried, with her hand to her heart, "is Henry dead?"
"Lower your voice," said I. "The other."
I saw her sway like something stricken by the wind; and I know not whether i_owardice or misery, turned aside and looked upon the floor. "These ar_readful tidings," said I at length, when her silence began to put me in som_ear; "and you and I behove to be the more bold if the house is to be saved."
Still she answered nothing. "There is Miss Katharine, besides," I added:
"unless we bring this matter through, her inheritance is like to be of shame."
I do not know if it was the thought of her child or the naked word shame, tha_ave her deliverance; at least, I had no sooner spoken than a sound passed he_ips, the like of it I never heard; it was as though she had lain buried unde_ hill and sought to move that burthen. And the next moment she had found _ort of voice.
"It was a fight," she whispered. "It was not - " and she paused upon the word.
"It was a fair fight on my dear master's part," said I. "As for the other, h_as slain in the very act of a foul stroke."
"Not now!" she cried.
"Madam," said I, "hatred of that man glows in my bosom like a burning fire; ay, even now he is dead. God knows, I would have stopped the fighting, had _ared. It is my shame I did not. But when I saw him fall, if I could hav_pared one thought from pitying of my master, it had been to exult in tha_eliverance."
I do not know if she marked; but her next words were, "My lord?"
"That shall be my part," said I.
"You will not speak to him as you have to me?" she asked.
"Madam," said I, "have you not some one else to think of? Leave my lord t_e."
"Some one else?" she repeated.
"Your husband," said I. She looked at me with a countenance illegible. "Ar_ou going to turn your back on him?" I asked.
Still she looked at me; then her hand went to her heart again. "No," said she.
"God bless you for that word!" I said. "Go to him now, where he sits in th_all; speak to him - it matters not what you say; give him your hand; say, '_now all;' - if God gives you grace enough, say, 'Forgive me.'"
"God strengthen you, and make you merciful," said she. "I will go to m_usband."
"Let me light you there," said I, taking up the candle.
"I will find my way in the dark," she said, with a shudder, and I think th_hudder was at me.
So we separated - she down stairs to where a little light glimmered in th_all-door, I along the passage to my lord's room. It seems hard to say why, but I could not burst in on the old man as I could on the young woman; wit_hatever reluctance, I must knock. But his old slumbers were light, or perhap_e slept not; and at the first summons I was bidden enter.
He, too, sat up in bed; very aged and bloodless he looked; and whereas he ha_ certain largeness of appearance when dressed for daylight, he now seeme_rail and little, and his face (the wig being laid aside) not bigger than _hild's. This daunted me; nor less, the haggard surmise of misfortune in hi_ye. Yet his voice was even peaceful as he inquired my errand. I set my candl_own upon a chair, leaned on the bed-foot, and looked at him.
"Lord Durrisdeer," said I, "it is very well known to you that I am a partisa_n your family."
"I hope we are none of us partisans," said he. "That you love my so_incerely, I have always been glad to recognise."
"Oh! my lord, we are past the hour of these civilities," I replied. "If we ar_o save anything out of the fire, we must look the fact in its bar_ountenance. A partisan I am; partisans we have all been; it is as a partisa_hat I am here in the middle of the night to plead before you. Hear me; befor_ go, I will tell you why."
"I would always hear you, Mr. Mackellar," said he, "and that at any hour, whether of the day or night, for I would be always sure you had a reason. Yo_poke once before to very proper purpose; I have not forgotten that."
"I am here to plead the cause of my master," I said. "I need not tell you ho_e acts. You know how he is placed. You know with what generosity, he ha_lways met your other - met your wishes," I corrected myself, stumbling a_hat name of son. "You know - you must know - what he has suffered - what h_as suffered about his wife."
"Mr. Mackellar!" cried my lord, rising in bed like a bearded lion.
"You said you would hear me," I continued. "What you do not know, what yo_hould know, one of the things I am here to speak of, is the persecution h_ust bear in private. Your back is not turned before one whom I dare not nam_o you falls upon him with the most unfeeling taunts; twits him - pardon me, my lord - twits him with your partiality, calls him Jacob, calls him clown, pursues him with ungenerous raillery, not to be borne by man. And let but on_f you appear, instantly he changes; and my master must smile and courtesy t_he man who has been feeding him with insults; I know, for I have shared i_ome of it, and I tell you the life is insupportable. All these months it ha_ndured; it began with the man's landing; it was by the name of Jacob that m_aster was greeted the first night."
My lord made a movement as if to throw aside the clothes and rise. "If ther_e any truth in this - " said he.
"Do I look like a man lying?" I interrupted, checking him with my hand.
"You should have told me at first," he odd.
"Ah, my lord! indeed I should, and you may well hate the face of thi_nfaithful servant!" I cried.
"I will take order," said he, "at once." And again made the movement to rise.
Again I checked him. "I have not done," said I. "Would God I had! All this m_ear, unfortunate patron has endured without help or countenance. Your ow_est word, my lord, was only gratitude. Oh, but he was your son, too! He ha_o other father. He was hated in the country, God knows how unjustly. He had _oveless marriage. He stood on all hands without affection or support - dear, generous, ill-fated, noble heart!"
"Your tears do you much honour and me much shame," says my lord, with _alsied trembling. "But you do me some injustice. Henry has been ever dear t_e, very dear. James (I do not deny it, Mr. Mackellar), James is perhap_earer; you have not seen my James in quite a favourable light; he ha_uffered under his misfortunes; and we can only remember how great and ho_nmerited these were. And even now his is the more affectionate nature. But _ill not speak of him. All that you say of Henry is most true; I do no_onder, I know him to be very magnanimous; you will say I trade upon th_nowledge? It is possible; there are dangerous virtues: virtues that tempt th_ncroacher. Mr. Mackellar, I will make it up to him; I will take order wit_ll this. I have been weak; and, what is worse, I have been dull!"
"I must not hear you blame yourself, my lord, with that which I have yet t_ell upon my conscience," I replied. "You have not been weak; you have bee_bused by a devilish dissembler. You saw yourself how he had deceived you i_he matter of his danger; he has deceived you throughout in every step of hi_areer. I wish to pluck him from your heart; I wish to force your eyes upo_our other son; ah, you have a son there!"
"No, no" said he, "two sons - I have two sons."
I made some gesture of despair that struck him; he looked at me with a change_ace. "There is much worse behind?" he asked, his voice dying as it rose upo_he question.
"Much worse," I answered. "This night he said these words to Mr. Henry: '_ave never known a woman who did not prefer me to you, and I think who did no_ontinue to prefer me.'"
"I will hear nothing against my daughter," he cried; and from his readiness t_top me in this direction, I conclude his eyes were not so dull as I ha_ancied, and he had looked not without anxiety upon the siege of Mrs. Henry.
"I think not of blaming her," cried I. "It is not that. These words were sai_n my hearing to Mr. Henry; and if you find them not yet plain enough, thes_thers but a little after: Your wife, who is in love with me!'"
"They have quarrelled?" he said.
"I must fly to them," he said, beginning once again to leave his bed.
"No, no!" I cried, holding forth my hands.
"You do not know," said he. "These are dangerous words."
"Will nothing make you understand, my lord?' said I.
His eyes besought me for the truth.
I flung myself on my knees by the bedside. "Oh, my lord," cried I, "think o_im you have left; think of this poor sinner whom you begot, whom your wif_ore to you, whom we have none of us strengthened as we could; think of him, not of yourself; he is the other sufferer - think of him! That is the door fo_orrow - Christ's door, God's door: oh! it stands open. Think of him, even a_e thought of you. 'WHO IS TO TELL THE OLD MAN?' - these were his words. I_as for that I came; that is why I am here pleading at your feet."
"Let me get up," he cried, thrusting me aside, and was on his feet befor_yself. His voice shook like a sail in the wind, yet he spoke with a goo_oudness; his face was like the snow, but his eyes were steady and dry.
"Here is too much speech," said he. "Where was it?"
"In the shrubbery," said I.
"And Mr. Henry?" he asked. And when I had told him he knotted his old face i_hought.
"And Mr. James?" says he.
"I have left him lying," said I, "beside the candles."
"Candles?" he cried. And with that he ran to the window, opened it, and looke_broad. "It might be spied from the road."
"Where none goes by at such an hour," I objected.
"It makes no matter," he said. "One might. Hark!" cries he. "What is that?"
It was the sound of men very guardedly rowing in the bay; and I told him so.
"The freetraders," said my lord. "Run at once, Mackellar; put these candle_ut. I will dress in the meanwhile; and when you return we can debate on wha_s wisest."
I groped my way downstairs, and out at the door. From quite a far way off _heen was visible, making points of brightness in the shrubbery; in so black _ight it might have been remarked for miles; and I blamed myself bitterly fo_y incaution. How much more sharply when I reached the place! One of th_andlesticks was overthrown, and that taper quenched. The other burne_teadily by itself, and made a broad space of light upon the frosted ground.
All within that circle seemed, by the force of contrast and the overhangin_lackness, brighter than by day. And there was the bloodstain in the midst; and a little farther off Mr. Henry's sword, the pommel of which was of silver; but of the body, not a trace. My heart thumped upon my ribs, the hair stirre_pon my scalp, as I stood there staring - so strange was the sight, so dir_he fears it wakened. I looked right and left; the ground was so hard, it tol_o story. I stood and listened till my ears ached, but the night was hollo_bout me like an empty church; not even a ripple stirred upon the shore; i_eemed you might have heard a pin drop in the county.
I put the candle out, and the blackness fell about me groping dark; it wa_ike a crowd surrounding me; and I went back to the house of Durrisdeer, wit_y chin upon my shoulder, startling, as I went, with craven suppositions. I_he door a figure moved to meet me, and I had near screamed with terror ere _ecognised Mrs. Henry.
"Have you told him?" says she.
"It was he who sent me," said I. "It is gone. But why are you here?"
"It is gone!" she repeated. "What is gone?"
"The body," said I. "Why are you not with your husband?"
"Gone!" said she. "You cannot have looked. Come back."
"There is no light now," said I. "I dare not."
"I can see in the dark. I have been standing here so long - so long," sai_he. "Come, give me your hand."
We returned to the shrubbery hand in hand, and to the fatal place.
"Take care of the blood," said I.
"Blood?" she cried, and started violently back.
"I suppose it will be," said I. "I am like a blind man."
"No!" said she, "nothing! Have you not dreamed?"
"Ah, would to God we had!" cried I.
She spied the sword, picked it up, and seeing the blood, let it fall agai_ith her hands thrown wide. "Ah!" she cried. And then, with an instan_ourage, handled it the second time, and thrust it to the hilt into the froze_round. "I will take it back and clean it properly," says she, and agai_ooked about her on all sides. "It cannot be that he was dead?" she added.
"There was no flutter of his heart," said I, and then remembering: "Why ar_ou not with your husband?"
"It is no use," said she; "he will not speak to me."
"Not speak to you?" I repeated. "Oh! you have not tried."
"You have a right to doubt me," she replied, with a gentle dignity.
At this, for the first time, I was seized with sorrow for her. "God knows, madam," I cried, "God knows I am not so hard as I appear; on this dreadfu_ight who can veneer his words? But I am a friend to all who are not Henr_urie's enemies."
"It is hard, then, you should hesitate about his wife," said she.
I saw all at once, like the rending of a veil, how nobly she had borne thi_nnatural calamity, and how generously my reproaches.
"We must go back and tell this to my lord," said I.
"Him I cannot face," she cried.
"You will find him the least moved of all of us," said I.
"And yet I cannot face him," said she.
"Well," said I, "you can return to Mr. Henry; I will see my lord."
As we walked back, I bearing the candlesticks, she the sword - a strang_urthen for that woman - she had another thought. "Should we tell Henry?" sh_sked.
"Let my lord decide," said I.
My lord was nearly dressed when I came to his chamber. He heard me with _rown. "The freetraders," said he. "But whether dead or alive?"
"I thought him - " said I, and paused, ashamed of the word.
"I know; but you may very well have been in error. Why should they remove hi_f not living?" he asked. "Oh! here is a great door of hope. It must be give_ut that he departed - as he came - without any note of preparation. We mus_ave all scandal."
I saw he had fallen, like the rest of us, to think mainly of the house. No_hat all the living members of the family were plunged in irremediable sorrow, it was strange how we turned to that conjoint abstraction of the famil_tself, and sought to bolster up the airy nothing of its reputation: not th_uries only, but the hired steward himself.
"Are we to tell Mr. Henry?" I asked him.
"I will see," said he. "I am going first to visit him; then I go forth wit_ou to view the shrubbery and consider."
We went downstairs into the hall. Mr. Henry sat by the table with his hea_pon his hand, like a man of stone. His wife stood a little back from him, he_and at her mouth; it was plain she could not move him. My old lord walke_ery steadily to where his son was sitting; he had a steady countenance, too, but methought a little cold. When he was come quite up, he held out both hi_ands and said, "My son!"
With a broken, strangled cry, Mr. Henry leaped up and fell on his father'_eck, crying and weeping, the most pitiful sight that ever a man witnessed.
"Oh! father," he cried, "you know I loved him; you know I loved him in th_eginning; I could have died for him - you know that! I would have given m_ife for him and you. Oh! say you know that. Oh! say you can forgive me. _ather, father, what have I done - what have I done? And we used to be bairn_ogether!" and wept and sobbed, and fondled the old man, and clutched hi_bout the neck, with the passion of a child in terror.
And then he caught sight of his wife (you would have thought for the firs_ime), where she stood weeping to hear him, and in a moment had fallen at he_nees. "And O my lass," he cried, "you must forgive me, too! Not your husband - I have only been the ruin of your life. But you knew me when I was a lad; there was no harm in Henry Durie then; he meant aye to be a friend to you.
It's him - it's the old bairn that played with you - oh, can ye never, neve_orgive him?"
Throughout all this my lord was like a cold, kind spectator with his wit_bout him. At the first cry, which was indeed enough to call the house abou_s, he had said to me over his shoulder, "Close the door." And now he nodde_o himself.
"We may leave him to his wife now,"' says he. "Bring a light, Mr. Mackellar."
Upon my going forth again with my lord, I was aware of a strange phenomenon; for though it was quite dark, and the night not yet old, methought I smelt th_orning. At the same time there went a tossing through the branches of th_vergreens, so that they sounded like a quiet sea, and the air pulled at time_gainst our faces, and the flame of the candle shook. We made the more speed, I believe, being surrounded by this bustle; visited the scene of the duel, where my lord looked upon the blood with stoicism; and passing farther o_oward the landing-place, came at last upon some evidences of the truth. For, first of all, where there was a pool across the path, the ice had been trodde_n, plainly by more than one man's weight; next, and but a little farther, _oung tree was broken, and down by the landing-place, where the traders' boat_ere usually beached, another stain of blood marked where the body must hav_een infallibly set down to rest the bearers.
This stain we set ourselves to wash away with the sea-water, carrying it in m_ord's hat; and as we were thus engaged there came up a sudden moaning gus_nd left us instantly benighted.
"It will come to snow," says my lord; "and the best thing that we could hope.
Let us go back now; we can do nothing in the dark."
As we went houseward, the wind being again subsided, we were aware of a stron_attering noise about us in the night; and when we issued from the shelter o_he trees, we found it raining smartly.
Throughout the whole of this, my lord's clearness of mind, no less than hi_ctivity of body, had not ceased to minister to my amazement. He set the crow_pon it in the council we held on our return. The freetraders had certainl_ecured the Master, though whether dead or alive we were still left to ou_onjectures; the rain would, long before day, wipe out all marks of th_ransaction; by this we must profit. The Master had unexpectedly come afte_he fall of night; it must now he given out he had as suddenly departed befor_he break of day; and, to make all this plausible, it now only remained for m_o mount into the man's chamber, and pack and conceal his baggage. True, w_till lay at the discretion of the traders; but that was the incurabl_eakness of our guilt.
I heard him, as I said, with wonder, and hastened to obey. Mr. and Mrs. Henr_ere gone from the hall; my lord, for warmth's sake, hurried to his bed; ther_as still no sign of stir among the servants, and as I went up the towe_tair, and entered the dead man's room, a horror of solitude weighed upon m_ind. To my extreme surprise, it was all in the disorder of departure. Of hi_hree portmanteaux, two were already locked; the third lay open and near full.
At once there flashed upon me some suspicion of the truth. The man had bee_oing, after all; he had but waited upon Crail, as Crail waited upon the wind; early in the night the seamen had perceived the weather changing; the boat ha_ome to give notice of the change and call the passenger aboard, and th_oat's crew had stumbled on him dying in his blood. Nay, and there was mor_ehind. This pre-arranged departure shed some light upon his inconceivabl_nsult of the night before; it was a parting shot, hatred being no longe_hecked by policy. And, for another thing, the nature of that insult, and th_onduct of Mrs. Henry, pointed to one conclusion, which I have never verified, and can now never verify until the great assize - the conclusion that he ha_t last forgotten himself, had gone too far in his advances, and had bee_ebuffed. It can never be verified, as I say; but as I thought of it tha_orning among his baggage, the thought was sweet to me like honey.
Into the open portmanteau I dipped a little ere I closed it. The mos_eautiful lace and linen, many suits of those fine plain clothes in which h_oved to appear; a book or two, and those of the best, Caesar's
"Commentaries," a volume of Mr. Hobbes, the "Henriade" of M. de Voltaire, _ook upon the Indies, one on the mathematics, far beyond where I have studied: these were what I observed with very mingled feelings. But in the ope_ortmanteau, no papers of any description. This set me musing. It was possibl_he man was dead; but, since the traders had carried him away, not likely. I_as possible he might still die of his wound; but it was also possible h_ight not. And in this latter case I was determined to have the means of som_efence.
One after another I carried his portmanteaux to a loft in the top of the hous_hich we kept locked; went to my own room for my keys, and, returning to th_oft, had the gratification to find two that fitted pretty well. In one of th_ortmanteaux there was a shagreen letter-case, which I cut open with my knife; and thenceforth (so far as any credit went) the man was at my mercy. Here wa_ vast deal of gallant correspondence, chiefly of his Paris days; and, wha_as more to the purpose, here were the copies of his own reports to th_nglish Secretary, and the originals of the Secretary's answers: a mos_amning series: such as to publish would be to wreck the Master's honour an_o set a price upon his life. I chuckled to myself as I ran through th_ocuments; I rubbed my hands, I sang aloud in my glee. Day found me at th_leasing task; nor did I then remit my diligence, except in so far as I wen_o the window - looked out for a moment, to see the frost quite gone, th_orld turned black again, and the rain and the wind driving in the bay - an_o assure myself that the lugger was gone from its anchorage, and the Master (whether dead or alive) now tumbling on the Irish Sea.
It is proper I should add in this place the very little I have subsequentl_ngled out upon the doings of that night. It took me a long while to gathe_t; for we dared not openly ask, and the freetraders regarded me with enmity, if not with scorn. It was near six months before we even knew for certain tha_he man survived; and it was years before I learned from one of Crail's men, turned publican on his ill-gotten gain, some particulars which smack to me o_ruth. It seems the traders found the Master struggled on one elbow, and no_taring round him, and now gazing at the candle or at his hand which was al_loodied, like a man stupid. Upon their coming, he would seem to have foun_is mind, bade them carry him aboard, and hold their tongues; and on th_aptain asking how he had come in such a pickle, replied with a burst o_assionate swearing, and incontinently fainted. They held some debate, bu_hey were momently looking for a wind, they were highly paid to smuggle him t_rance, and did not care to delay. Besides which, he was well enough liked b_hese abominable wretches: they supposed him under capital sentence, knew no_n what mischief he might have got his wound, and judged it a piece of goo_ature to remove him out of the way of danger. So he was taken aboard, recovered on the passage over, and was set ashore a convalescent at the Havr_e Grace. What is truly notable: he said not a word to anyone of the duel, an_ot a trader knows to this day in what quarrel, or by the hand of wha_dversary, he fell. With any other man I should have set this down to natura_ecency; with him, to pride. He could not bear to avow, perhaps even t_imself, that he had been vanquished by one whom he had so much insulted who_e so cruelly despised.