“I grant that, sir,” replied I, “but at the same time, we must feel that we must abide by the results, however unpleasant.”
“When we do wrong, Mr Newland,” replied the bishop, first looking at my card, and then upon me, “we find that we are not only to be punished in the next world, but suffer for it also in this. I trust you have no reason for such suffering?”
“Unfortunately, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and, in that view, I may say that I have suffered.”
“My dear sir,” replied the bishop, “I trust you will excuse me, when I say, that my time is rather valuable; if you have anything of importance to communicate—anything upon which you would ask my advice—for assistance you do not appear to require, do me the favour to proceed at once to the point.”
“I will, sir, be as concise as the matter will admit of. Allow me, then, to ask you a few questions, and I trust to your honour, and the dignity of your profession, for a candid answer. Did you not marry a young woman early in life? and were you not very much pressed in your circumstances?”
The bishop stared. “Really, Mr Newland, it is a strange question, and I cannot imagine to what it may lead, but still I will answer it. I did marry early in life, and I was, at that time, not in very affluent circumstances.”
“You had a child by that marriage—your eldest born—a boy!”
“That is also true, Mr Newland,” replied the bishop, gravely.
“How long is it since you have seen him?”
“It is many years,” replied the bishop, putting his handkerchief up to his eyes.
“Answer me, now, sir;—did you not desert him?”
“No, no!” replied the bishop. “It is strange that you should appear to know so much about the matter, Mr Newland, as you could have hardly been born. I was poor then—very poor; but although I could ill afford it, he had fifty pounds from me.”
“But, sir,” replied I, much agitated; “why have you not reclaimed him?”
“I would have reclaimed him, Mr Newland—but what could I do—he was not to be reclaimed; and now—he is lost for ever.”
“Surely, sir, in your present affluence, you must wish to see him again?”
“He died, and I trust he has gone to heaven,” replied the bishop, covering up his face.
“No, sir,” replied I, throwing myself on my knees before him, “he did not die, here he is at your feet, to ask your blessing.”
The bishop sprang from his chair. “What does this mean, sir?” said he, with astonishment. “You my son!”
“Yes, reverend father—your son; who, with fifty pounds you left—”
“On the top of the Portsmouth coach!”
“No, sir, in the basket.”
“My son! sir,—impossible; he died in the hospital.”
“No, sir, he has come out of the hospital,” replied I; “and as you perceive, safe and well.”