Mr. Bates looked about him bewilderedly for a short time, and then replied, “No, no, you need not apologize, you are right—I thank you; I myself should have known better. But my poor child! what will become of her?” and in an agony of sorrow he resumed his seat, and buried his face in his hands.
George Stevens prepared to take his departure, but Mr. Bates pressed him to remain. “In a little while,” said he, “I shall be more composed, and then I wish you to go with me to this worthless scoundrel. I must see him at once, and warn him what the consequences will be should he dare approach my child again. Don’t fear me,” he added, as he saw George Stevens hesitated to remain; “that whirlwind of passion is over now. I promise you I shall do nothing unworthy of myself or my child.”
It was not long before they departed together for the hotel at which Clarence was staying. When they entered his room, they found him in his bed, with the miniature of little Birdie in his hands. When he observed the dark scowl on the face of Mr. Bates, and saw by whom he was accompanied, he knew his secret was discovered; he saw it written on their faces. He trembled like a leaf, and his heart seemed like a lump of ice in his bosom. Mr. Bates was about to speak, when Clarence held up his hand in the attitude of one endeavouring to ward off a blow, and whispered hoarsely—
“Don’t tell me—not yet—a little longer! I see you know all. I see my sentence written on your face! Let me dream a little longer ere you speak the words that must for ever part me and little Birdie. I know you have come to separate us—but don’t tell me yet; for when you do,” said he, in an agonized tone, “it will kill me!”
“I wish to God it would!” rejoined Mr. Bates. “I wish you had died long ago; then you would have never come beneath my roof to destroy its peace for ever. You have acted basely, palming yourself upon us—counterfeit as you were! and taking in exchange her true love and my honest, honourable regard.”
Clarence attempted to speak, but Mr. Bates glared at him, and continued—“There are laws to punish thieves and counterfeits—but such as you may go unchastised, except by the abhorrence of all honourable men. Had you been unaware of your origin, and had the revelation of this gentleman been as new to you as to me, you would have deserved sympathy; but you have been acting a lie, claiming a position in society to which you knew you had no right, and deserve execration and contempt. Did I treat you as my feelings dictated, you would understand what is meant by the weight of a father’s anger; but I do not wish the world to know that my daughter has been wasting her affections upon a worthless nigger; that is all that protects you! Now, hear me,” he added, fiercely,—“if ever you presume to darken my door again, or attempt to approach my daughter, I will shoot you, as sure as you sit there before me!”
“And serve you perfectly right!” observed George Stevens.