The doctor’s question was unanswered, either because Holden forgot it, in his excitement, or that he was incapable of giving any accurate account of the passage of time. But thus much the doctor could gather from his incoherent account, that, at some period of his life, he had suffered a great calamity, which had affected his reason. In this condition, he had probably joined the Indians, and passed several years among them, and afterwards, upon a partial restoration of intellect, adopted the wild notions he professed. What had passed during those years, was a secret known only to himself, if, indeed, the events had not disappeared from his memory.
“You have suffered bitterly,” said the doctor.
“Talk not of suffering,” exclaimed Holden. “I reckon all that man can endure as not to be compared with the crown of glory that awaits him who shall gain entrance into the Kingdom. What is this speck we call life? Mark,” he continued, taking up a pebble and dropping it into the water, “it is like the bubble that rises to burst, or the sound of my voice that dies as soon away. Thereon waste I not a thought, except to prepare me for the coming of my Lord.”
“You think, then, this solitary life the best preparation you can make for the next?”
“Yes,” said Holden; “I work not my own will. Can the clay say to the potter, what doest thou? Behold, I am in the hand of One wiser and mightier than I. Nor hath he left me without duties to perform. I am one crying in the wilderness, and though the people heed not, yet must the faithful witness cry. I have a work to perform, and how is my soul straitened until it be done? Canst thou not thyself see, by what hath happened to-day, some reason why the solitary is upon his lonely island? Had he loved the crowded haunts of men, a fellow-being had, perhaps, perished.”
The allusion to the occurrence of the morning recalled the doctor’s attention to the purpose for which he had left the chamber, and which he had forgotten, in listening to the talk of the enthusiast. He now directed the conversation to the subject of the wound, and heard Holden’s account. He became convinced, both from his statement, and from a few words Pownal himself had dropped, as well as from the sight of the gun which Holden had picked up, and found just discharged, that the wounding was accidental, and occasioned by the young man’s own fowling-piece. Having satisfied himself on this point, the doctor, with his companion, re-entered the hut. It was only to give a few parting directions to Bernard, to enjoin quiet upon his patient, and to take leave of him, which he did, in the words of his favorite—
“Fare thee well!
The elements be kind to thee, and make
Thy spirits all of comfort.”
Ici il fallut que j’en divinasse
plus qu’on ne m’en disoit.
MEMOIRES de Sully.