Wise old Mr. Kemble had indeed proved the better physician. His misgivings, fears, and needs, combined with his honest affection, had checked the cold, bitter flood of despair which had been overwhelming Martine. The morbid impression that he would be only another complication, and of necessity an embarrassment to Helen and her family, was in a measure removed. Mere words of general condolence would not have helped him; an appeal like that to the exhausted soldier, and the thought that the battle for him was not yet over, stirred the deep springs of his nature and slowly kindled the purpose to rally and be ready. He rose, ate a little of the food, drank the wine, then looked around the beautiful apartment prepared for her who was to have been his wife, “I have grown weak and reckless,” he said. “I ought to have known her well enough—I do know her so well—as to be sure that I would cloud her happiness if this thing destroyed me.”
“You must remember”
Mr. And Mrs. Nichol wonderingly yet promptly complied with the request for their presence, meantime casting about in their minds as to the identity of the relative who had summoned them so unexpected. Mr. Kemble arrived at the hotel at about the same moment as they did, and Jackson was instructed to keep the carriage in waiting. “It was I who sent for you and your wife,” said the banker. “Mr. Martine, if possible, would have given you cause for a great joy only; but I fear it must be tempered with an anxiety which I trust will not be long continued;” and he led the way into the parlor.
“Is it—can it be about Albert?” asked Mrs. Nichols trembling, and sinking into a chair.
“Yes, Mrs. Nichol. Try to keep your fortitude, for perhaps his welfare depends upon it.”
“Oh, God be praised! The hope of this never wholly left me, because they didn’t find his body.”
Dr. Barnes came down at once, and with Mr. Kemble tried to soothe the strong emotions of the parents, while at the same time enlightening them as to their son’s discovery and condition.
“Well,” said Mr. Nichol, in strong emphasis; “Hobart Martine is one of a million.”
“I think he ought to have brought Albert right to me first,” Mrs. Nichol added, shaking her head and wiping her eyes. “After all, a mother’s claim—”
“My dear Mrs. Nichol,” interrupted Dr. Barnes, “there was no thought of undervaluing your claim on the part of our friend Hobart. He has taken what he believed, and what physicians led him to believe, was the best course to restore your son. Besides, Mr. Martine is a very sick man. Even now he needs my attention more than Captain Nichol. You must realize that he was to have married Miss Kemble to-day; yet he brings back your son, sends for Mr. Kemble in order that his daughter, as soon as she can realize the strange truth, may exert her power. He himself has not seen the girl who was to have been his bride.”