“Yes; I didn’t know the cause of her emotion, but at last I got it out of her.”—“What was it?”
“Oh, a mere trifle; she was already married to somebody else, that’s all; some d——d fellow, who had gone trading about the islands, a fellow she didn’t care a straw about, that was old enough to be her father.”
“And you left her?”—“No, I didn’t. Guess again. I was a mad-headed youngster. I only felt—I didn’t think. I persuaded her to come away with me. I took her aboard my ship, and set sail with her. A few weeks flew like hours; but one day we were hailed by a vessel, and when we neared her, she manned a boat and brought a letter on board, addressed to Belinda. It was from her father, written in his last moments. It began with a curse and ended with a blessing. There was a postscript in another hand, to say the old man died of grief. She read it by my side on the quarter-deck. It dropped from her grasp, and she plunged into the sea. Jack Pringle went after her; but I never saw her again.”
“Gracious Heavens! what a tragedy!”—“Yes, tolerable,” said the old man.
He arose and took his hat and placed it on his head. He gave the crown of it a blow that sent it nearly over his eyes. He thrust his hands deep into his breeches pockets, clenched his teeth, and muttered something inaudible as he strode from the apartment.
“Who would have thought, Henry,” said Flora, “that such a man as Admiral Bell had been the hero of such an adventure?”—“Ay, who indeed; but it shows that we never can judge from appearances, Flora; and that those who seem to us the most heart-whole may have experienced the wildest vicissitudes of passion.”
“And we must remember, likewise, that this was forty years ago, Henry, which makes a material difference in the state of the case as regards Admiral Bell.”
“It does indeed—more than half a lifetime; and yet how evident it was that his old feelings clung to him. I can well imagine the many hours of bitter regret which the memory of this his lost love must have given him.”
“True—true. I can feel something for him; for have I not lost one who loved me—a worse loss, too, than that which Admiral Bell relates; for am I not a prey to all the horrors of uncertainty? Whereas he knew the worst, and that, at all events, death had claimed its victim, leaving nothing to conjecture in the shape of suffering, so that the mind had nothing to do but to recover slowly, but surely, as it would from the shock which it had received.”
“That is worse than you, Flora; but rather would I have you cherish hope of soon beholding Charles Holland, probably alive and well, than fancy any great disaster has come over him.”
“I will endeavour to do so,” replied Flora.
“I long to hear what has become of Dr. Chillingworth. His disappearance is most singular; for I fully suspected that he had some particular object in view in getting possession for a short time of Bannerworth Hall; but now, from Jack Pringle’s account, he appears not to be in it, and, in fact, to have disappeared completely from the sight of all who knew him.”