But no one would have anything to do with Martin. He had escaped scot-free from those common enemies of mankind, the law and the police, but he was a marked man, even among his own friends, and they did not scruple to let him know plainly, that the sooner he packed himself off out of the country the better.
There was no hope of the young Consul’s recovery. For a fortnight he had been wavering to and fro. Sometimes it appeared as if the right side would prevail, but then the left got the upper hand again; and each time the paralysis seemed to get a firmer hold.
Miss Cordsen heard the doctor say to Richard, “He may perhaps linger for a few hours, but he cannot live through the night.” The old lady remained for a few minutes in the sick-room, and then went upstairs. Her own apartment was a picture of old-fashioned neatness. Carpets and chairs carefully covered, boxes locked, nothing lying about; everything trim, well cared for, and shielded from prying eyes.
There arose an odour of clean linen and lavender she opened the press, and in a little secret drawer behind a bundle of well-starched nightcaps, there lay carefully wrapped up, a miniature portrait in a black frame. It represented a young man dressed in a green frock-coat, with a broad velvet collar. The hair was slightly red, and brushed back in the fashion of the time, in two locks in front of the ears. The eyes were blue and clear, and the under jaw was slightly projecting. Miss Cordsen sat a long time gazing at the portrait, and tear after tear dropped down among the other secrets which lay cherished in the old press among the linen and dry lavender.
Uncle Richard sat gazing at his brother. The doctor’s words had deprived him of all hope, but even yet he could not bring himself to believe that the end could be so near.
“It will soon be all over, Richard,” said the invalid, in a feeble voice.
The attache sat down by the side of the bed, and after a short struggle broke into tears, and laid his head on the coverlid.
“Here am I, so strong and well,” he sobbed, “and can’t do even the smallest thing to help you! I have never been anything to you but a trouble and a burden.”
“Nonsense, Dick!” answered the Consul; “you have been everything to me—you and the business. But I have something for which to ask your forgiveness before I die.”
“My forgiveness?” Uncle Richard thought he was wandering, and looked up.
“Yes,” said the Consul, as what was almost a smile passed over the half-stiffened features. “I have made a fool of you. Your account does not exist. It was only a joke. Are you angry with me?”
How could he possibly be angry? He laid his face down again on the withered hand, and as he lay there in his sorrow, with his curly head buried in the pillows, he looked almost like a great shaggy Newfoundland.