At length came the welcome and beautiful light of day, and Henry rose fevered and unrefreshed.
His first impulse now was to hold a consultation with his brother George, as to what was to be done, and George advised that Mr. Marchdale, who as yet knew nothing of the matter, should be immediately informed of it, and consulted, as being probably better qualified than either of them to come to a just, a cool, and a reasonable opinion upon the painful circumstance, which it could not be expected that either of them would be able to view calmly.
“Let it be so, then,” said Henry; “Mr. Marchdale shall decide for us.”
They at once sought this friend of the family, who was in his own bed-room, and when Henry knocked at the door, Marchdale opened it hurriedly, eagerly inquiring what was the matter.
“There is no alarm,” said Henry. “We have only come to tell you of a circumstance which has occurred during the night, and which will somewhat surprise you.”
“Nothing calamitous, I hope?”
“Vexatious; and yet, I think it is a matter upon which we ought almost to congratulate ourselves. Read those two letters, and give us your candid opinion upon them.”
Henry placed in Mr. Marchdale’s hands the letter addressed to himself, as well as that to the admiral.
Marchdale read them both with marked attention, but he did not exhibit in his countenance so much surprise as regret.
When he had finished, Henry said to him,—
“Well, Marchdale, what think you of this new and extraordinary episode in our affairs?”
“My dear young friends,” said Marchdale, in a voice of great emotion, “I know not what to say to you. I have no doubt but that you are both of you much astonished at the receipt of these letters, and equally so at the sudden absence of Charles Holland.”
“And are not you?”
“Not so much as you, doubtless, are. The fact is, I never did entertain a favourable opinion of the young man, and he knew it. I have been accustomed to the study of human nature under a variety of aspects; I have made it a matter of deep, and I may add, sorrowful, contemplation, to study and remark those minor shades of character which commonly escape observation wholly. And, I repeat, I always had a bad opinion of Charles Holland, which he guessed, and hence he conceived a hatred to me, which more than once, as you cannot but remember, showed itself in little acts of opposition and hostility.”
“You much surprise me.”
“I expected to do so. But you cannot help remembering that at one time I was on the point of leaving here solely on his account.”
“You were so.”
“Indeed I should have done so, but that I reasoned with myself upon the subject, and subdued the impulse of the anger which some years ago, when I had not seen so much of the world, would have guided me.”
“But why did you not impart to us your suspicions? We should at least, then, have been prepared for such a contingency as has occurred.”