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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 nodded.
  • "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.