In the meantime Brandon, not at all aware that several people besides John Mortimer had noticed that he was out of spirits—Brandon also prepared to set forth on his travels. He had persuaded several families to emigrate, and had also persuaded himself that he must go to their destination himself, that he might look out for situations for them, and settle them before the winter came on. He was very busy for some days arranging his affairs; he meant to be away some time. Mr. Mortimer knew it—perhaps he knew more, for he said not a word by way of dissuasion, but only seemed rather depressed. The evening, however, before Brandon was to start, as, at about eight o’clock, he sat talking with his step-father, the old man lifted up his head and said to him—
“You find me quite as clear in my thoughts and quite as well able to express them as usual, don’t you, St. George?”
“Yes,” answered the step-son, feeling, however, a little dismayed, for the wistful earnestness with which this was said was peculiar.
“If you should ever be asked,” continued Daniel Mortimer, “you would be able to say that you had seen no signs of mental decay in me these last few months?”
“Yes, I should.”
“Don’t disturb yourself, my dear fellow. I am as well as usual; better since my illness than I was for some time before. I quite hope to see you again; but in case I do not, I have a favour to ask of you.”
The step-son assured him with all affection and fervour that he would attend to his wish, whatever it might be.
“I have never loved anything that breathed as I loved your mother,” continued the old man, as if still appealing to him, “and you could hardly have been dearer to me if you had been my own.”
“I know it,” said Brandon.
“When you were in your own study this morning at the top of the house——”
“Yes, my liege?”
“I sent Valentine up to you with a desk. You were in that room, were you not?”
“A small desk, that was once your mother’s—it has a Bramah lock.”
“I noticed that it had, and that it was locked.”
“What have you done with it?”
“Valentine said you wished me to take particular care of it, so I locked it into my cabinet, where my will is, as you know, and where are most of my papers.”
“Thank you; here is the key. You think you shall never forget where that desk is, Giles?”
“Never! such a thing is quite impossible.”
“If I am gone when you return, you are to open that desk. You will find in it a letter which I wrote about three years ago; and if I have ever deserved well of you and yours, I charge you and I implore you to do your very best as regards what I have asked of you in that letter.”
SIGNED “DANIEL MORTIMER.”—CANADA.
burn red; she lifts her head
For sledge-bells tinkle and tinkle, O lightly swung.
’Youth was a pleasant morning, but ah! to think ’tis fled,
Sae lang, lang syne,’ quo’ her mother, ‘I, too, was young.’