Reybold only tarried a moment at the gaming tables, where the silent, monotonous deal from the tin box, the lazy stroke of the markers, and the transfer of ivory “chips” from card to card of the sweat-cloth, impressed him as the dullest form of vice he had ever found. Treading softly up the stairs, he was attracted by the light of a door partly ajar, and a deep groan, as of a dying person. He peeped through the crack of the door, and beheld Joyce Basil leaning over an old man, whose brow she moistened with her handkerchief. “Dear father,” he heard her say, and it brought consolation to more than the sick man. Reybold threw open the door and entered into the presence of Mrs. Basil and her daughter. The former arose with surprise and shame, and cried:
“Jedge Basil, the Dutch have hunted you down. He’s here—the Yankee creditor.”
Joyce Basil held up her hand in imploration, but Reybold did not heed the woman’s remark. He felt a weight rising from his heart, and the blindness of many months lifted from his eyes. The dying mortal upon the bed, over whose face the blue billow of death was rolling rapidly, and whose eyes sought in his daughter’s the promise of mercy from on high, was the mysterious parent who had never arrived—the Judge from Fauquier. In that old man’s long waxed mustache, crimped hair, and threadbare finery the Congressman recognized Old Beau, the outcast gamester and mendicant, and the father of Joyce and Uriel Basil.
“Colonel Reybold,” faltered that old wreck of manly beauty and of promise long departed, “Old Beau’s passing in his checks. The chant coves will be telling to-morrow what they know of his life in the papers, but I’ve dropped a cold deck on ’em these twenty years. Not one knows Old Beau, the Bloke, to be Tom Basil, cadet at West Point in the last generation. I’ve kept nothing of my own but my children’s good name. My little boy never knew me to be his father. I tried to keep the secret from my daughter, but her affection broke down my disguises. Thank God! the old rounder’s deal has run out at last. For his wife he’ll flash her diles no more, nor be taken on the vag.”
“Basil,” said Reybold, “what trust do you leave to me in your family?”
Mrs. Basil strove to interpose, but the dying man raised his voice:
“Tryphonee can go home to Fauquier. She was always welcome there—without me. I was disinherited. But here, Colonel! My last drop of blood is in the girl. She loves you.”
A rattle arose in the sinner’s throat. He made an effort, and transferred his daughter’s hand to the Congressman’s. Not taking it away, she knelt with her future husband at the bedside and raised her voice:
“Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember him!”
HERMAN OF BOHEMIA MANOR.
(See note at end of poem.)