"I should think not," said the Major, decidedly. "If he did, he wouldn't be apt to doubt the soundness of my sinews,—I'd horsewhip him into instant conviction."Suddenly he raised his eyes to Major Bergan's face with the question;—
Brick's face grew radiant through all its dusk. "Go a-fishin', massa," he burst out, eagerly; "I jes' should!""Impossible, father! He had such a fine, noble countenance!""Will you open that door?" interrupted Doctor Remy, fiercely, "or shall I do it myself?""He says his name is Bergan," explained the Major, shortly; "but I have given him to understand that he is to be known by my own name, Harry, while he stays here."Had he waited but for an instant, he would have been startled and spellbound by the deadly whiteness of Roath's face. Through all the glimmering indistinctness of the dimly-lighted hall, his features were clearly discernible, by reason of that marble pallor. For the moment, he seemed to lose sense and consciousness; he would have fallen, except for the friendly support of the wall against which he leaned."Before we go any farther," said he, "I feel bound in honor to make a confession. If I had supposed that writing your will was going to put me in such an awkward position, I should certainly have desired you to look elsewhere for a lawyer. However, it cannot be helped now. Well, the truth is"—he stopped for a moment, as if to overcome an excessive reluctance,—"the truth is, I have long admired your niece; and now, as my practice is steadily increasing, and I think I could take care of a wife, I had made up my mind to ask permission to pay her my addresses."
- Alas! no. The image evoked by that "voice in the air," had followed her across the threshold, and still faced her with sad, upbraiding eyes. Instinctively, she threw herself upon her knees to exorcise it by the spell of prayer. Though no intelligible word might come to her trembling lips, though not a coherent thought might shape itself in her dizzy brain, she was, nevertheless, prostrate at the foot of the cross, and the Saviour would understand!
- "Take care!" replied the doctor, warningly; "you know I don't want him killed,—only laid up for two or three weeks, and indisposed to meddle with other people's affairs."
- Yet one word had fallen from Bergan's lips, which had startled him at the moment, and haunted him on his way homeward. The young man had seriously bidden him be thankful that he was saved from "another crime." Was the phrase accidental, or did it imply some knowledge of the affair of the will? In the latter case, was it likely that Bergan would submit to the loss of what he had been encouraged, at one time, to consider his lawful inheritance, without a most rigid scrutiny and investigation of the document by which, while the property was apparently given to Carice, it was done in such a way as to place it absolutely in her husband's control. Would Bergan's forbearance toward her and hers be likely to extend as far as this? Judging by himself, and his experience of men in general, and especially of heirs, he did not hesitate to affirm that it would not. For, though Bergan had seemed to be possessed of some unusually Quixotic notions of honor, independence, and disinterestedness, during the period of their intimate association, he had doubtless seen enough of life since then, to grow more sensible. What, then, had he not to dread from his natural acuteness and legal skill, when both of these, sharpened by interest, should be brought to bear on the false will?
- "Of what kind, pray?" inquired Mr. Bergan, in considerable surprise.
- Bergan turned round for his glass, which he had left standing on the window-sill, and, the sooner to be done with the distasteful business, swallowed at a gulp what, it seemed to him, the next moment, must have been liquid fire. A loud laugh from his uncle told him to whom he was indebted for the substitution of raw spirit for weak punch. The passion which he had so promptly smothered, doubly inflamed by the consciousness of being betrayed and the instantaneous action of the potent draught, blazed up with sudden, ungovernable fury. Feeling that he was losing control of temper and reason together, he rushed toward the door. At a sign from the Major, two or three of the bystanders threw themselves in his way. They were instantly sent reeling right and left by two powerful blows. Dick Causton, catching hold of him with the friendly design of preventing him from doing more mischief and provoking more enmity, was shaken off with a violence that threw him in a disordered heap on the floor; over which Bergan strode wrathfully towards his uncle, who had planted himself in the doorway. The spectators held their breath to witness the expected encounter between uncle and nephew,—Bergan against Bergan, the blood of both up, the hereditary frenzy blazing in each pair of dark eyes.
- Hubert Arling wooed and won Coralie Youle. His strong likeness to his brother first found him favor in her eyes; by and by, she would have been amazed to be told that she had ever cared for him, except on his own sufficient account.
- Perhaps Dr. Remy's good angel, absent from his side for many years, hovered, at that moment, above his head, with a wistful—almost a hopeful—face. For, at last, the strong man was visibly affected. Some chance word of Astra's had found a joint in his iron armor, and penetrated to the living flesh. His lip trembled,—it may have been with an unshaped prayer to Astra to make that effort to save him, of which she had declared herself capable,—it may have been with a sudden perception of the barrenness of his life, and the valuelessness of its ends, disposing him, for a moment, to try whether any richer realities were to be reaped from an unselfish human affection and an unquestioning heavenly faith.
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