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"Take me away," she murmured to Philips.
But Philips would not.
"Cheer up, old woman!" said he. "There's nothing to fear now. That devil won't hurt you."
"Now, in my deep interest in you, and in my affection, I tried to find out what this meant. The nurse and I often talked about it. She told me that your father never cared particularly about you, and that it was strange for your clothing to be marked 'D' if your name was Potts. It was a thing which greatly troubled her. I made many inquiries. I found out about the Manilla murder case. From that moment I suspected that 'D'
"Oh, Heavens!" sighed Beatrice, in an agony of suspense. Brandon and Despard stood motionless, waiting for something further.
"This is what I tried to solve. I made inquiries every where. At last I gave it up. So when circ.u.mstances threw Beatrice again in my way I tried again. I have always been baffled There is only, one who can tell--only one. She is here, in this room; and, in the name of G.o.d, I call upon her to speak out and tell the truth."
"Who?" cried Despard, while he and Brandon both looked earnestly at Mrs.
"Mrs. Compton!" said Langhetti; and his voice seemed to die away from exhaustion.
Mrs. Compton was seized with a panic more overpowering than usual. She gasped for breath. "Oh, Lord!" she cried. "Oh, Lord! Spare me! spare me!
He'll kill me!"
Brandon walked up to her and took her hand. "Mrs. Compton," said he, in a calm, resolute voice, "your timidity has been your curse. There is no need for fear now. I will protect you. The man whom you have feared so many years is now ruined, helpless, and miserable. I could destroy him at this moment if I chose. You are foolish if you fear him. Your son is with you. His arm supports you, and I stand here ready to protect both you and your son. Speak out, and tell what you know. Your husband is still living. He longs for your return. You and your son are free from your enemies. Trust in me, and you shall both go back to him and live in peace."
Tears fell from Mrs. Compton's eyes. She seized Brandon's hand and pressed it to her thin lips.
"You will protect me?" said she.
"You will save me from him?" she persisted, in a voice of agony.
"Yes, and from all others like him. Do not fear. Speak out."
Mrs. Compton clung to the arm of her son. She drew a long breath. She looked up into his face as though to gain courage, and then began.
It was a long story. She had been attendant and nurse to the wife of Colonel Despard, who had died in giving birth to a child. Potts had brought news of her death, but had said nothing whatever about the child. Colonel Despard knew nothing of it. Being at a distance at the time, on duty, he had heard but the one fact of his wife's death, and all other things were forgotten. He had not even made inquiries as to whether the child which he had expected was alive or dead, but had at once given way to the grief of the bereavement, and had hurried off.
In his designs on Colonel Despard, Potts feared that the knowledge of the existence of a child might keep him in India, and distract his mind from its sorrow. Therefore he was the more anxious not only to keep this secret, but also to prevent it from ever being known to Colonel Despard.
With this idea he hurried the preparation of the _Vishnu_ to such an extent that it was ready for sea almost immediately, and left with Colonel Despard on that ill-fated voyage.
Mrs. Compton had been left in India with the child. Her son joined her, in company with John, who, though only a boy, had the vices of a grown man. Months pa.s.sed before Potts came back. He then took her along with the child to China, and left the latter with a respectable woman at Hong Kong, who was the widow of a British naval officer. The child was Beatrice Despard.
Potts always feared that Mrs. Compton might divulge his secret, and therefore always kept her with him. Timid by nature to an unusual degree, the wretched woman was in constant fear for her life, and as years pa.s.sed on this fear was not lessened. The sufferings which she felt from this terror were atoned for, however, by the constant presence of her son, who remained in connection with Potts, influenced chiefly by the ascendency which this villain had over a man of his weak and timid nature. Potts had brought them to England, and they had lived in different places, until at last Brandon Hall had fallen into his hands.
Of the former occupants of Brandon Hall, Mrs. Compton knew almost nothing. Very little had ever been said about them to her. She knew scarcely any thing about them, except that their names were Brandon, and that they had suffered misfortunes.
Finally, this Beatrice was Beatrice Despard, the daughter of Colonel Despard and the sister of the clergyman then present. She herself, instead of being the daughter of Potts, had been one of his victims, and had suffered not the least at his hands.
This astounding revelation was checked by frequent interruptions. The actual story of her true parentage overwhelmed Beatrice. This was the awful thought which had occurred to herself frequently before. This was what had moved her so deeply in reading the ma.n.u.script of her father on that African Isle. This also was the thing which had always made her hate with such intensity the miscreant who pretended to be her father.
Now she was overwhelmed. She threw herself into the arms of her brother and wept upon his breast. Courtenay Despard for a moment rose above the gloom that oppressed him, and pressed to his heart this sister so strangely discovered. Brandon stood apart, looking on, shaken to the soul and unnerved by the deep joy of that unparalleled discovery. Amidst all the speculations in which he had indulged the very possibility of this had never suggested itself. He had believed most implicitly all along that Beatrice was in reality the daughter of his mortal enemy. Now the discovery of the truth came upon him with overwhelming force.
She raised herself from her brother's embrace, and turned and looked upon the man whom she adored--the one who, as she said, had over and over again saved her life; the one whose life she, too, in her turn had saved, with whom she had pa.s.sed so many adventurous and momentous days--days of alternating peace and storm, of varying hope and despair.
To him she owed every thing; to him she owed even the rapture of this moment.
As their eyes met they revealed all their inmost thoughts. There was now no barrier between them. Vanished was the insuperable obstacle, vanished the impa.s.sable gulf. They stood side by side. The enemy of this man--his foe, his victim--was also hers. Whatever he might suffer, whatever anguish might have been on the face of that old man who had looked at her from the balcony, she had clearly no part nor lot now in that suffering or that anguish. He was the murderer of her father. She was not the daughter of this man. She was of no vulgar or sordid race. Her blood was no longer polluted or accursed. She was of pure and n.o.ble lineage. She was a Despard.
"Beatrice," said Brandon, with a deep, fervid emotion in his voice; "Beatrice, I am yours, and you are mine. Beatrice, it was a lie that kept us apart. My life is yours, and yours is mine."
He thought of nothing but her. He spoke with burning impetuosity. His words sank into her soul. His eyes devoured hers in the pa.s.sion of their glance.
"Beatrice--my Beatrice!" he said, "Beatrice Despard--"
He spoke low, bending his head to hers. Her head sank toward his breast.
"Beatrice, do you now reproach me?" he murmured.
She held out her hand, while tears stood in her eyes. Brandon seized it and covered it with kisses. Despard saw this. In the midst of the anguish of his face a smile shone forth, like sunshine out of a clouded sky. He looked at these two for a moment.
Langhetti's eyes were closed. Mrs. Compton and her son were talking apart. Despard looked upon the lovers.
"Let them love," he murmured to himself; "let them love and be happy.
Heaven has its favorites. I do not envy them; I bless them, though I love without hope. Heaven has its favorites, but I am an outcast from that favor."
A shudder pa.s.sed through him. He drew himself up.
"Since love is denied me," he thought, "I can at least have vengeance."
THE MALAY'S VENGEANCE.
Some hours afterward Despard called Brandon outside the cottage, and walked along the bank which overhung the beach. Arriving at a point several hundred yards distant from the cottage he stopped. Brandon noticed a deeper gloom upon his face and a sterner purpose on his resolute mouth.
"I have called you aside," said Despard, "to say that I am going on a journey. I may be back immediately. If I do not return, will you say to any one who may ask"--and here he paused for a moment--"say to any one who may ask, that I have gone away on important business, and that the time of my coming is uncertain."
"I suppose you can be heard of at Holby, in case of need."
"I am never going back again to Holby."
Brandon looked surprised.
"To one like you," said Despard, "I do not object to tell my purpose.
You know what it is to seek for vengeance. The only feeling that I have is that. Love, tenderness, affection, all are idle words with me.
"There are three who pre-eminently were concerned in my father's death,"
continued Despard. "One was Cigole. The Carbonari have him. Langhetti tells me that he must die, unless he himself interposes to save him. And I think Langhetti will never so interpose. Langhetti is dying--another stimulus to vengeance.