‘Yes, father; there is one about whom I would fain question you.’
‘Who is it? shall I tell you about Elliot?’
’No, father, not about Elliot; but pray don’t be angry; I should like to know something about Big Ben.’
‘You are a strange lad,’ said my father; ’and, though of late I have begun to entertain a more favourable opinion than heretofore, there is still much about you that I do not understand. Why do you bring up that name? Don’t you know that it is one of my temptations: you wish to know something about him. Well! I will oblige you this once, and then farewell to such vanities—something about him. I will tell you—his—skin when he flung off his clothes—and he had a particular knack in doing so—his skin, when he bared his mighty chest and back for combat; and when he fought he stood, so . . . . if I remember right—his skin, I say, was brown and dusky as that of a toad. Oh me! I wish my elder son was here.’
My brother’s arrival—The interview—Night—A dying father—Christ.
At last my brother arrived; he looked pale and unwell; I met him at the door. ‘You have been long absent,’ said I.
‘Yes,’ said he, ‘perhaps too long; but how is my father?’
‘Very poorly,’ said I, ’he has had a fresh attack; but where have you been of late?’
‘Far and wide,’ said my brother; ’but I can’t tell you anything now, I must go to my father. It was only by chance that I heard of his illness.’
‘Stay a moment,’ said I. ’Is the world such a fine place as you supposed it to be before you went away?’
‘Not quite,’ said my brother, ’not quite; indeed I wish—but ask me no questions now, I must hasten to my father.’ There was another question on my tongue, but I forbore; for the eyes of the young man were full of tears. I pointed with my finger, and the young man hastened past me to the arms of his father.
I forbore to ask my brother whether he had been to old Rome.
What passed between my father and brother I do not know; the interview, no doubt, was tender enough, for they tenderly loved each other; but my brother’s arrival did not produce the beneficial effect upon my father which I at first hoped it would; it did not even appear to have raised his spirits. He was composed enough, however: ‘I ought to be grateful,’ said he; ’I wished to see my son, and God has granted me my wish; what more have I to do now than to bless my little family and go?’
My father’s end was evidently at hand.
And did I shed no tears? did I breathe no sighs? did I never wring my hands at this period? the reader will perhaps be asking. Whatever I did and thought is best known to God and myself; but it will be as well to observe, that it is possible to feel deeply, and yet make no outward sign.
And now for the closing scene.