Dalhousie perused and re-perused this letter, until its contents were fixed in his mind. He had many doubts and scruples, both prudential and conscientious, in regard to the step he was about to take: but the chimera of fortune prompted him to risk all in the great project he had matured. Taking from his pocket a small screw-driver, with which he had prepared himself, he opened the drawer designated in the letter, the key of which he had secured. Emptying the drawer of its contents, he turned it over, and, to his great delight, perceived the slat as described in the letter. Removing the screws, he soon had the satisfaction of holding in his hand the packet which, he doubted not, would restore the heiress of Bellevue to her home and her estates, if she were still alive; or which would give him a hold upon Jaspar, by means of which he could make his fortune.
Dalhousie was not a natural-born villain. It was the pressure of necessity, the almost unconscious yielding of a weak resolution, which had led him thus far in his present illegal and dishonorable course. Of the heiress he knew nothing; and the thought of restoring her had never entered his head, much more his heart. The great purpose of his life was to make his fortune, and it was this idea alone which influenced him in the present instance. He had entered upon his duties at Bellevue only the day before; but so impatient was he to realize the hope which had brought him there, that every hour seemed burdened with the weight of weeks.
Carefully depositing its contents as he had found them, he locked the drawer, and put the key upon the floor.
plot he overheard,
Its every point portrayed;
Yet ere the villain’s words were cold.
The counter-plot was made.”
Hatchie was chagrined at the loss of his prisoner. His diligent search was of no avail. The Chalmetta’s boat, which lay at the wood-yard in the morning, was gone; so he had no doubt Maxwell had made his escape in it. Having no further motive in remaining at the wood-yard, he procured a small canoe, with the intention of joining his mistress at Cottage Island.
Seated in the stern of the canoe, Hatchie propelled it with only sufficient force to avoid the eddies which would have whirled his frail bark in every direction. His thoughts wandered over the events of the past few days. He moralized upon the conduct of the attorney and the uncle, and nursed his indignation over them. Hatchie was a moralist in his own way, but not a moralist only. The great virtue of his philosophy, unlike much of a more scholastic origin, was its practical utility. From the past, with its conquered trials, he turned to the future, to inquire for its dangers, to ask what snares it had spread to entangle the fair being whom he worshipped with all a lover’s fondness, without the lover’s sentiment.