“Yes,” said the prisoner; and if anything could have tempted a smile from him, this manner of speech would have done it. But Adolphus was far enough from smiling.
“Come, eat something,” said he, with tremulous persuasion. “My wife knows how to get up such things. She will do the best for you she can.”
The prisoner again looked out of the window. It was growing dark; the outline of sea and land was fading out of sight; dreary looked the world without,—but within the lamp seemed shining with a brighter light than usual. And here was a person and a speech, a human sympathy, that almost warmed and soothed him.
He approached the table where Adolphus had spread his supper. He sat in the chair that was placed for him, and the Drummer waited on him, recommending Pauline’s skill again, much as he might have presented a petition. The prisoner ate little, but he praised Pauline, and said outright that he had tasted nothing so palatable as her supper these five years. This cheered Montier a little, but still his spirits were almost at the lowest point of depression.
“You seem to pity me,” remarked the prisoner, when Adolphus was gathering up the remains of the frugal supper.
“My God!—yes!” exclaimed Adolphus, stopping short, and looking at the man.
It was a sort of sympathy that could not harm the person on whom it was bestowed.
“I consider myself well off to-night,” said he, quietly. “It is your little daughter that works in the garden so much? I have often watched her.”
“Yes,” said Adolphus, almost with a sob.
“And you are the man whose music has been so cheering many a time?”
“I want to know what airs you like best,” said the poor Drummer, hurriedly.
“I never heard you play one that I did not like.”—Precious praise!
“Then you like music? I can be pretty tolerably severe, Sir, if I make up my mind!” said Adolphus, as if addressing his own conscience, to set that at rest by this open avowal. “There’s no danger of my doing wrong by the government. I’d have to pay for you with my life. Yes,—for it would be with my liberty. And there’s my wife and child. So you understand where I am, as I told you before; but, by thunder! you shall have all the music you want, and all the flowers; and my little girl can sing pretty well,—her mother taught her. And if you’re sick, there a’n’t a better nurse in the hospital than Pauline Montier. There! good night!”
Adolphus took up the tray and hurried out of the room,—and forgot to fasten the door behind him until he had gone half way down the stairs. He came back in haste, and turned the great key with half the blood in his body burning in his face,—not merely an evidence of the exertion made in that operation, which he endeavored to perform noiselessly. He was ashamed of this caging business; but he would have argued you out of countenance then and there, had you ventured a word against the government,—though, as he said, he was in the dark concerning the prisoner’s crime.