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Major Blake almost immediately after appeared on the threshold of the door-way, accompanied by another military officer.
“ Well, Mr. Smyth, is the man here ?" demanded the major of his companion, speaking rapidly and eagerly.
“ That is the man," replied the lieutenant, pointing solemnly and sadly towards William Hutchinson.
“ Great God I” resumed Major Blake under his breath, “what is to be done ? Pray step back, Smyth, and keep the men out of sight a moment.”
The officer obeyed, and some soldiers who had been seen outside the door, in the hall, retired from view.
There was now real confusion on all hands. Every one stood up, staring or whispering. The master of the board advanced slowly to his old friend, Major Blake; his face was marked with a miserable
The friends exchanged a few words apart. Sir Miles started -almost jumped upwards, swervingly, as if a bullet had cut through him. The confusion still increased; and to help it to its utmost, after the ringing through the house of a woman's shriek, of a cadence so appalling, that every listener quailed to it—Fanny tottered back into the room, her arms extended, her eyes staring, her under-jaw dropped, and falling forward upon her father-in-law's breast, was just able hoarsely to mutter, “I knew it-ye could not deceive me- the little boy is dead !—and whisper, Sir Miles-poison ! poison ! the doctor says, 'poison I and can prove it. Go to him, and see-go to him !” when she fainted in his arms.
“Ay?” questioned Sir Miles ; “ay, indeed, Fanny ? Here, my good women,” calling to her maid and nurse, who had followed her as far as the hall; convey your mistress to her chamber-quietly, very quietly.” They took Fanny from him, assisted by one or two of the ladies present, and bore her away still insensible. When she and they had gone—“ Ay, indeed, Fanny ?” resumed the baronet, speaking to himself—" and the doctor says even so ? Well, we shall hear what proof he has to give; but there is no time for that now; other business presses us closer.” He turned to his guests, assuming, with extraordinary success, much dignified self-possession, and addressed them: “My dear friends, I'm doomed, it seems, to spend this whole night in making apologies to you for very untoward interruptions to our festivity. But you are able to judge yourselves, partly at least, how impossible it now has become for me any longer to have the pleasure and the honour of entertaining you on this occasion. I must indeed absolutely turn you out-so, good night-good night-and may we
soon meet again under happier circumstances. Good night.”
The room was soon cleared of all but Sir Miles Hutchinson, his son, Major Blake, and Lieutenant Smyth. William still remained motionless where he had been standing when the knocking sounded at the ball-door. Sir Miles closed, latched, and locked the door of the eating-room.
“ Now, Major Blake,” he began.
“By heaven, Hutchinson ! I do not know what to say, or how I am to act,” said his old friend.
“Say and do whatever is your duty," answered the baronet.
“Would to God I had myself recognised at the moment of the unfortunate occurrence the face and person of the offender ; but it was my friend Mr. Smyth who came up with him first, and then the crape got off his face in Smyth's presence only, and he escaped again ; and Smyth, having never seen him before, did not know his name, though he was able to track him to this house in my company, after we had called up the soldiers near at hand. What, I ask againwhat is to be done ?”.
“ First, Blake, let me hear the charge a little more distinctly, and then we can easily decide what ought to be done. If William Hutchinson deserves it, call in the soldiers-that's all ; and afterwards I will say nothing, but-God help me! God help the father who outlives his own child's honour !"
“ I say amen to that, Hutchinson, from the bottom of my heart; I am a father myself—and-old friend—my nature yearns for the father's agony you must now experience."
The veteran wrung Sir Miles's hand, while his hard-edged gray eyes moistened.
“I thank you, Blake,” said the baronet, returning the manly pressure ;
66 and now let us go on. I thank “ Thus it happened, then. About half way between Dublin and Howth, not more than two hours ago, three men, with crape on their faces, and disguised in cloaks, stopped the postchaise in which Smyth and I were travelling from town. We jumped out upon them, and there was a scuffle. Two of them immediately fled; I pursued those, leaving Smyth and the third man struggling together. Coming back from my useless chase, I saw that third man also running fast away from my companion, and I followed them too. Before I could join them they were struggling again, and, after a moment, I saw the man Aing
Smyth upon the ground, and at last race out of sight.”
“ Then you are not able to identify William Hutchinson as that man ?” questioned Sir Miles, his features expressing a slight release from his terrible fears.
“ No; but Smyth speaks now, you know," answered Blake, sighing heartily.
“ Ah, yes—I forgot;—proceed, Mr. Smyth, I pray you, sir.”
“I do so very unwillingly," said the young man; “and I have but a few words to say--indeed I said them before that is the person with whom I struggled,” again pointing to William. During our last encounter I twitched the crape from his face, and saw his features too plainly.”
“Why, 'twas a dark night!" cried Sir Miles.
“ It was night--that's certain,” said William Hutchinson, suddenly turning round with a horrible smile; “it was night—but the merry young harvest moon shone out as clear as day !"
“Monster! you confess it, then ?" exclaimed his father, drawing back.
“ Even if he did not,” resumed Smyth, “ there is additional proof. During our scuffle together he seized my sword. I drew it quickly through his closed hand, and I believe a mark of it remains."
6 You confess ?” repeated his father.
“ Confess !—and why should I not ? Would you make a mean villain of me, as well as a daring, dashing one ?” bellowed William. “Would you teach me to lie, palter, and equivocate, as well as to cry
deliver!'" “O you disease of my pure blood ! And do you exult in it ? What dream can he have been dreaming, Major Blake ? What maniac's fit is on him, as silly as it is wicked ? He would correct our old planet, I suppose-give new laws—would he-to time and motion. Pray, tell me now, sir, how many sage legislators, like himself, may have got up the promising plot.
“ There was no ploti” resumed William Hutchinson, the savage fever increasing on him; “listen, unnatural father, and wince ! There was no fine young patriotism. I wanted what your miserly hard-heartedness had denied me. I wanted-guineas !--guineas !
and I did my best to get them. And now you have the story right."
• Almighty heaven !” exclaimed Sir Miles, clasping his hands; “ reptile ! you utter a falsehood! Speak again.”
“Sir! Being my parent–by nature so—but, I repeat, most unnatural-treat me more like a parent, or
r-I may forget.” “ Hiss away, adder! It is a lie, Major Blake,–I say it is ! Fallen as the wicked boy may be, he belies himself now! Speak you! Let me hear you say it !"
“ He has spoken,” answered Blake.
“ Blake, mercy !-have mercy upon a father's heart. He has spoken, as you say,—but not the fact !--not the fact !”
6. The fact, Sir Miles.”
« The fact !" echoed William. 6 And now let us have done. Why do we stand here talking idly? Dispose of me—iny brain and my breast are jarred. Let me have some rest; in sleep, or in silence, or in solitude, or in death—no matter which, Take me out of this house, Major Blake. Farewell, father! Over-careless and overprudent father !_see in me the fruits of your early neglect, and your tardy, your unreasonable coercion. My young blood be on your head I”
“Silence, obdurate man !" cried Major Blake, observing that his old friend stood pale and shaking, unable, in the utter horror that fell upon him, to utter a word.
“ Tell my old nurse, the sea, to hold her tongue, when a good stiff south-wester is lashing her back," roared the half madman.
“ Have a care how you defy me, sir, as well as your father,” continued the veteran, his indignation aroused, and yet more as a friend sympathising with Sir Miles than as a public functionary, from whose decision in the present case there could be no appeal.
“ Defy you? Ay, you, or any man. What have I to fear but what I know? Do you think all your gold lace makes you awful before me there? What more do you want of me than what you have all made me ? My life ! 'tis yours. Why refuse me, then, the utterance of a few harmless words ? Words can't waken the father in his heart--no fear of that. See !--there he stands, able to plead for
me, and to save me; but nature abandons him, as in my boyhood childhood almost-he abandoned me !"
The afflicted father was at last able to speak. Having stepped backwards into a corner of the apartment, he had bowed his forehead upon his locked and uplifted hands, and perhaps prayed to Heaven for presence of mind, and power to form some good and necessary resolutions. At all events, again advancing forward, there was now upon his brow something like the effect of such a prayer.
My son, my son," he said, in a solemn and awful voice, which, with a great effort he kept from becoming broken ; “ do not, by such raving words, peril, in Heaven's face, your immortal soul. I was not, I am not, such a father to you. Your
blood fall, indeed, upon my aged head, but it will be for my shame and anguish—not in judgment.” He turned slowly to his old friend, and while he addressed him, there appeared, through all his habitual dignity of manner, a kind of beseeching, humiliating admission of loss of importance and self-reliance—a consciousness of participation by the father in the shame come upon the son, which it was pitiable to see ; and he spoke almost under his breath, and, while he ended his appeal, bowed very low.
“I am a suitor to you, Major Blake, thus far, seeking not, asking not, to turn justice from her course one single jot. I would yet request you, major, in my character and in my responsibilities as a gentleman, as your friend, and as a civil magistrate of our country, that this guilty man--my son—may remain here in this house, for the present, guarded by one of your soldiers, as my prisoner, to be produced by me to-morrow morning whe rever you appoint a courtmartial to try him. This is my request; and should you feel no difficulty in granting it, I shall be most sincerely, most gratefully, obliged to you, Major Blake."
« Oh, Sir Miles, don't consider yourself my debtor for so very slight an indulgence ; he is your prisoner-do with him as you think fit.'
Bowing again, Sir Miles unlocked the door of the room, withdrew, and returned in a short time, followed by old Martin, who held a key in his hand, and by a soldier bearing his musket-one of the men whom Major Blake had desired Lieutenant Smyth to remove out of view in the hall.
“I have told this soldier that he would have your orders, Major Blake, to obey me, for to-night and to-morrow morning, in this house."
“ Sir Miles Hutchinson, in what he says, has told you what you are to do, my man," said the major, nodding to the soldier. The human machine put his hand to his cap.
“ Remove him, then, to the place I told you of,” continued the baronet, addressing old Martin ; « and, soldier, you will guard the door of the place in which this servant locks up your prisoner--the young gentleman yonder," pointing to William Hutchinson; “remove him, Martin."
“I protest against this partial course!" vociferated William. Claiming the usages and the privilege of even the commonest felon, which I am, I ask to be conducted to the proper prison built for me, and for my worthy brother felons, at the expense of the county. I will not stay here to be the victim of a cold-hearted father-such a thing were monstrous. Do not outrage nature in this manner, but let me quit his house at once.”
“ Remove him," his father repeated, turning his head away, and making a signal sideways to his old servant.
“ Answer me then, father—upon what sentence do you command me away from you? I need not be told that it must be just as you choose to shape it—for life or death ?”
“ Remove him," still said Sir Miles, now turning quite away.
“ Come, then!” roared the desperado; “and from this hour, between the father and the son--comel-let all that can part man and man part us for ever! Worlds--if there are more than one-your great, vague desert of space-time-life-death-your dream of eternity itself, if such a dream can come true--ay, hell and heaven Lor, what is a better, ha, ha! than all together-hatred 1-hatred !
- let that be the abyss between us ! Come !” He rushed out of the room, followed by Martin and the soldier.
“ And now, Blake,” said the father, tottering to his friend, his hands again clasped, his features convulsed, his voice gasping, his whole self-possession gone, and his whole frame failing—“and now, Blake, we are alone, and that bad son cannot hear us - I supplicate you ! you are a father. Nay, hear me out-by your own son—by our early friendship_by our gray hairs in common—and by our tears, too, in common -for I see you are a man as well as a father and can compassionate me, and weep for me. Oh, pardon !" he fell on his knees—“ pardon, Blake--do not drag him to shame-public-recorded - ineffaceable shame-shield us from that ! And thou, Father of fathers,” he ran on, now turning his face upwards, while Blake vainly endeavoured to raise and calm him, “melt this man to my prayer. Whisper mercy to him—the mercy he may yet crave from thee. Suffer me not, in my last years, to bem-to-oh, save-save !”—He fell prostrate at his length on the floor, having fainted.
* To be continued.