Home! A dear and a mournful remembrance was revived in the reflections suggested by that simple word. Through the darkness that thickened over my mind, there now passed one faint ray of light which gave promise of the morning—the light of the calm face that I had last looked on when it was resting on my father’s breast.
Clara! My parting words to her, when I had unclasped from my neck those kind arms which would fain have held me to home for ever, had expressed a promise that was yet unfulfilled. I trembled as I now thought on my sister’s situation. Not knowing whither I had turned my steps on leaving home; uncertain to what extremities my despair might hurry me; absolutely ignorant even whether she might ever see me again—it was terrible to reflect on the suspense under which she might be suffering, at this very moment, on my account. My promise to write to her, was of all promises the most vitally important, and the first that should be fulfilled.
My letter was very short. I communicated to her the address of the house in which I was living (well knowing that nothing but positive information on this point would effectually relieve her anxiety)—I asked her to write in reply, and let me hear some news of her, the best that she could give—and I entreated her to believe implicitly in my patience and courage under every disaster; and to feel assured that, whatever happened, I should never lose the hope of soon meeting her again. Of the perils that beset me, of the wrong and injury I might yet be condemned to endure, I said nothing. Those were truths which I was determined to conceal from her, to the last. She had suffered for me more than I dared think of, already!
I sent my letter by hand, so as to ensure its immediate delivery. In writing those few simple lines, I had no suspicion of the important results which they were destined to produce. In thinking of to-morrow, and of all the events which to-morrow might bring with it, I little thought whose voice would be the first to greet me the next day, whose hand would be held out to me as the helping hand of a friend.
It was still early in the morning, when a loud knock sounded at the house-door, and I heard the landlady calling to the servant: “A gentleman to see the gentleman who came in last night.” The moment the words reached me, my thoughts recurred to the letter of yesterday—Had Mannion found me out in my retreat? As the suspicion crossed my mind, the door opened, and the visitor entered.
I looked at him in speechless astonishment. It was my elder brother! It was Ralph himself who now walked into the room!
“Well, Basil! how are you?” he said, with his old off-hand manner and hearty voice.
“Ralph! You in England!—you here!”
“I came back from Italy last night. Basil, how awfully you’re changed! I hardly know you again.”