“I fear not the dead, and I love the living. The honour of Hyde is safe in my keeping. If you have any advice to give me, sir, pray speak plainly.”
“With all my soul. I ask you, then, to play with some moderation. I ask you to avoid any entanglement with women. I ask you to withdraw yourself, as soon as possible, from those blusterers for French liberty— or rather French license, robbery, and assassination—I tell you there is going to be a fierce national fracas on the subject. Stand by the President, and every word he says. Every word is sure to be wise and right.”
“Father, I learnt the word ‘Liberty’ from your lips. I drew my sword under your command for ‘Liberty.’ I know not how to discard an idea that has grown into my nature as the veining grows into the wood.”
“Liberty! Yes; cherish it with your life-blood. But France has polluted the name and outraged the idea. Neither you nor I can wish to be swept into the common sewers, being by birth, nobles and aristocrats. Earl Stanhope, who was heart and soul with the French Revolution while it was a movement for liberty, has just scratched his name with his own hand from the revolutionary Club. And Burke, who was once its most enthusiastic defender, has now written a pamphlet which has given it, in England, a fatal blow. This news came in my letters to-day.” Then taking out his watch, he rose, saying, “Come, it is time to go to the ship—my dear George!”
George could not speak. He clasped his father’s hand, and then walked by his side to Coffee House Slip, where the North Star was lying. There was no time to spare, and the General was glad of it; for oh, these last moments! Youth may prolong them, but age has lost youth’s rebound, and willingly escapes their disintegrating emotion. Before either realized the fact, the General had crossed the narrow plank; it was quickly withdrawn; the anchor was lifted to the chanty of “Homeward bound boys,” and the North Star, with wind and tide in her favour, was facing the great separating ocean.
George turned from the ship in a maze. He felt as if his life had been cut sharply asunder; at any rate, its continuity was broken, and what other changes this change might bring it was impossible to foresee. In any extremity, however, there is generally some duty to do; and the doing of that duty is the first right step onward. Without reasoning on the matter, George followed this plan. He had a letter to deliver to his mother; it was right that it should be delivered as soon as possible; and indeed he felt as if her voice and presence would be the best of all comfort at that hour; so late as it was, he rode out to Hyde Manor. His mother, with a lighted candle in her hand, opened the door for him.
“I thought it was thy father, Joris,” she said; “but what? Is there anything wrong? Why art thou alone?”
“There is nothing wrong, dear mother. Come, I will tell you what has happened.”