“Your brother will be best unexcited when he comes to himself, sir; look—his eyes are unclosing now. Could you do me the favor to go to his lordship? His grief made him perfectly wild—so dangerous to his life at his age. We could only persuade him to retire, a few minutes ago, on the plea of Mr. Berkeley’s safety. If you could see him——”
Cecil went, mechanically almost, and with a grave, weary depression on him; he was so unaccustomed to think at all, so utterly unaccustomed to think painfully, that he scarcely knew what ailed him. Had he had his old tact about him, he would have known how worse than useless it would be for him to seek his father in such a moment.
Lord Royallieu was lying back exhausted as Cecil opened the door of his private apartments, heavily darkened and heavily perfumed; at the turn of the lock he started up eagerly.
“What news of him?”
“Good news, I hope,” said Cecil gently, as he came forward. “The injuries are not grave, they tell me. I am so sorry that I never watched his fencing, but—”
The old man had not recognized him till he heard his voice, and he waved him off with a fierce, contemptuous gesture; the grief for his favorite’s danger, the wild terrors that his fears had conjured up, his almost frantic agony at the sight of the accident, had lashed him into passion well-nigh delirious.
“Out of my sight, sir,” he said fiercely, his mellow tones quivering with rage. “I wish to God you had been dead in a ditch before a hair of my boy’s had been touched. You live, and he lies dying there!”
Cecil bowed in silence; the brutality of the words wounded, but they did not offend him, for he knew his father was in that moment scarce better than a maniac, and he was touched with the haggard misery upon the old Peer’s face.
“Out of my sight, sir,” re-echoed Lord Royallieu as he strode forward, passion lending vigor to his emaciated frame, while the dignity of his grand carriage blent with the furious force of his infuriated blindness. “If you had had the heart of a man, you would have saved such a child as that from his peril; warned him, watched him, succored him at least when he fell. Instead of that, you ride on and leave him to die, if death comes to him! You are safe, you are always safe. You try to kill yourself with every vice under heaven, and only get more strength, more grace, more pleasure from it—you are always safe because I hate you. Yes! I hate you, sir!”
No words can give the force, the malignity, the concentrated meaning with which the words were hurled out, as the majestic form of the old Lord towered in the shadow, with his hands outstretched as if in imprecation.
Cecil heard him in silence, doubting if he could hear aright, while the bitter phrases scathed and cut like scourges, but he bowed once more with the manner that was as inseparable from him as his nature.