“The worst of it is,” said the admiral, “I can’t think what to do with him.”
“Do nothing, uncle, but just let him go; it will be a sufficient punishment for such a man to feel that, instead of succeeding in his designs, he has only brought upon himself the bitterest contempt of those whom he would fain have injured. I can have no desire for revenge on such a man as Marchdale.”
“You are right, Charles,” said Flora; “let him go, and let him go with a feeling that he has acquired the contempt of those whose best opinions might have been his for a far less amount of trouble than he has taken to acquire their worst.”
Excitement had kept up Charles to this point, but now, when he arose and expressed his intention of going to the ruins, for the purpose of releasing Marchdale, he exhibited such unequivocal symptoms of exhaustion and fatigue that neither his uncle nor Flora would permit him to go, so, in deference to them, he gave up the point, and commissioned the admiral and Jack, with Henry, to proceed to the place, and give the villain his freedom; little suspecting what had occurred since he had himself left the neighbourhood of those ruins.
Of course Charles Holland couldn’t be at all accountable for the work of the elements, and it was not for him to imagine that when he left Marchdale in the dungeon that so awful a catastrophe as that we have recorded to the reader was to ensue.
The distance to the ruins was not so great from this cottage even as it was from Bannerworth Hall, provided those who went knew the most direct and best road to take; so that the admiral was not gone above a couple of hours, and when he returned he sat down and looked at Charles with such a peculiar expression, that the latter could not for the life of him tell what to make of it.
“Something has happened, uncle,” he said, “I am certain; tell me at once what it is.”
“Oh! nothing, nothing,” said the admiral, “of any importance.”
“Is that what you call your feelings?” said Jack Pringle. “Can’t you tell him as there came on a squall last night, and the ruins have come in with a dab upon old Marchdale, crushing his guts, so that we smelt him as soon as we got nigh at band?”
“Good God!” said Charles, “has such a catastrophe occurred?”
“Yes, Charles, that’s just about the catastrophe that has occurred. He’s dead; and rum enough it is that it should happen on the very night that you escaped.”
“Rum!” said Jack, suddenly; “my eye, who mentions rum? What a singular sort of liquor rum must be. I heard of a chap as used to be fond of it once on board a ship; I wonder if there’s any in the house.”
“No!” said the admiral; “but there’s a fine pump of spring water outside if you feel a little thirsty, Jack; and I’ll engage it shall do you more good than all the rum in the world.”
“Uncle,” said Charles, “I’m glad to hear you make that observation.”