“Where, then, is he?”
“God knows how rejoiced I should be if I were able to answer your question. I must seek him, dead or alive! I must see him yet before I bid adieu to this world, which has now lost all its charms for me.”
“Do not despair,” said Henry; “I will go to the town now at once, to make known our suspicions that he has met with some foul play. I will set every means in operation that I possibly can to discover him. Mr. Chillingworth will aid me, too; and I hope that not many days will elapse, Flora, before some intelligence of a most satisfactory nature shall be brought to you on Charles Holland’s account.”
“Go, go, brother; go at once.”
“I go now at once.”
“Shall I accompany you?” said Marchdale.
“No. Remain here to keep watch over Flora’s safety while I am gone; I can alone do all that can be done.”
“And don’t forget to offer the two hundred pounds reward,” said the admiral, “to any one who can bring us news of Charles, on which we can rely.”
“I will not.”
“Surely—surely something must result from that,” said Flora, as she looked in the admiral’s face, as if to gather encouragement in her dawning hopes from its expression.
“Of course it will, my dear,” he said. “Don’t you be downhearted; you and I are of one mind in this affair, and of one mind we will keep. We won’t give up our opinions for anybody.”
“Our opinions,” she said, “of the honour and honesty of Charles Holland. That is what we will adhere to.”
“Of course we will.”
“Ah, sir, it joys me, even in the midst of this, my affliction, to find one at least who is determined to do him full justice. We cannot find such contradictions in nature as that a mind, full of noble impulses, should stoop to such a sudden act of selfishness as those letters would attribute to Charles Holland. It cannot—cannot be.”
“You are right, my dear. And now, Master Henry, you be off, will you, if you please.”
“I am off now. Farewell, Flora, for a brief space.”
“Farewell, brother; and Heaven speed you on your errand.”
“Amen to that,” cried the admiral; “and now, my dear, if you have got half an hour to spare, just tuck your arm under mine, and take a walk with me in the garden, for I want to say something to you.”
“Most willingly,” said Flora.
“I would not advise you to stray far from the house, Miss Bannerworth,” said Marchdale.
“Nobody asked you for advice,” said the admiral. “D——e, do you want to make out that I ain’t capable of taking care of her?”
“No, no; but—”
“Oh, nonsense! Come along, my dear; and if all the vampyres and odd fish that were ever created were to come across our path, we would settle them somehow or another. Come along, and don’t listen to anybody’s croaking.”