Duffel could not but see that there was a discrepancy between the first and last request of these fellows, though they tried to make them appear as one, and he knew there was personal enmity at the bottom of the whole affair. His duty, as a member of the order, made it obligatory for him to discourage any ill feeling among the members; but he needed the services of these two rascals, and so forbore to reprove them.
“I will aid you as far as my duty to the League will permit, provided you will do me still another service.”
“There is a fellow standing in my way in the prosecution of a scheme for the benefit of our order, and I would like to have him removed. I understand you with regard to Duval; you wish to be revenged upon him for some injury or insult, and that revenge looks to his death. You need not say, yea or nay; well, we will stand by each other all around. I will give you further instructions at another time. Hold yourselves in readiness at any moment to aid me. Meet me in the forest by the old oak, on the path to the ‘Swamp,’ every day, and be always prepared for either of the services I may require at your hands.”
“You may rely on us.”
Thus these worthies parted. What a series of villainous conspiracies had been developed in this one night, in that secret den of iniquity! Will these murderers succeed in all their plans? Alas! the wicked often triumph.
The captain soon returned, and placed the key of his room in Duffel’s possession—and then the clan dispersed.
“Charles, Charles! Where is Charles?”
This name and inquiry were often repeated by Miss Mandeville as she still lay “between life and death,” on her couch of fever, pain and unconsciousness, and the tones of her voice were so full of sorrow, the father’s heart melted at last, and he began to relent. And when, after a pause, his daughter would continue:
“He is gone! gone!—gone forever!—ah, my poor heart!”—in accents more sadly plaintive than any words that had over fallen upon the parent’s ear, he said to himself:
“It must not be! Hadley shall be, sent for; she loves him, and his voice may call her back to consciousness. I cannot bear to think of her leaving the world in ignorance of her father’s good will; better a thousand times that Hadley should be with her for a few hours. He may not be guilty after all. Why ought I to believe Duffel’s word before his? Yes, and before that of my own daughter, too? and that without a word of explanation! No, it is unnatural. I wonder I have been blinded so long! Yes, Hadley shall be heard, and if he can show a clean hand, Eveline shall no longer mourn over his absence and my rashness.”
This was going a step farther than Mr. Mandeville had ever gone before: for he had never been known to recede from a position once taken or to change an opinion once formed, unless the most positive evidence compelled him to do so, and then it was a silent acquiescence to the right rather than a willing change of opinion.