It was on the third morning previous to that unhappy event, that the brother of his Una—the most active and indefatigable of all those who had interested themselves for him—was announced as requiring an interview. Connor, although prepared for this, experienced on the occasion, as every high-minded person would do, a strong feeling of degradation and shame as the predominant sensation. That, indeed, was but natural, for it is undoubtedly true that we feel disgrace the more heavily upon us in the eyes of those we esteem, than we do under any other circumstances. This impression, however, though as we have said the strongest,—was far from being the only one he felt. A heart like his could not be insensible to the obligations under which the generous and indefatigable exertions of young O’Brien had placed him. But, independently of this, he was Una’s brother, and the appearance of one so dear to her gave to all his love for her a character of melancholy tenderness, more deep and full than he had probably ever experienced before. Her brother would have been received with extraordinary warmth on his own account, but, in addition to that, Connor knew that he now came on behalf of Una herself. It was, therefore, under a tumult of mingled sensations, that he received him in his gloomy apartment—gloomy in despite of all that a humane jailer could do to lessen the rigors of his confinement.
“I cannot welcome you to sich a place, as this is,” said Connor, grasping and wringing his hand, as the other entered, “although I may well say that I would be glad to see you anywhere, as I am, indeed, to see you even here. I know what I owe you, an’ what you have done for me.”
“Thank God,” replied the other, returning his grasp with equal pressure, “thank God, that, at all events, the worst of what we expected will not——” He paused, for, on looking at O’Donovan, he observed upon his open brow a singular depth of melancholy, mingled less with an expression of shame, than with the calm but indignant sorrow of one who could feel no resentment against him with whom he spoke.
O’Brien saw, at a glance, that Connor, in consequence of something in his manner, joined to his inconsiderate congratulations, imagined that he believed him guilty. He lost not a moment, therefore, in correcting this mistake.
“It would have been dreadful,” he proceeded, “to see innocent blood shed, through the perjury of a villain—for, of course, you cannot suppose for a moment that one of our family suppose you to be guilty.”
“I was near doin’ you injustice, then,” replied the other; “but I ought to know that if you did think me so, you wouldn’t now be here, nor act as you did. Not but that I thought it possible, on another account you——No,” he added, after a pause, “that would be doin’ the brother of Una injustice.”