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"The one who has been the cause of this is Clark, another one of my father's murderers. He is in the hands of the law. His punishment is certain.
"There yet remains the third, and the worst. Your vengeance is satisfied on him. Mine is not. Not even the sight of that miscreant in the att.i.tude of a bereaved father could for one moment move me to pity. I took note of the agony of his face. I watched his grief with joy. I am going to complete that joy. He must die, and no mortal can save him from my hands."
The deep, stern tones of Despard were like the knell of doom, and there was in them such determinate vindictiveness that Brandon saw all remonstrance to be useless.
He marked the pale sad face of this man. He saw in it the traces of sorrow of longer standing than any which he might have felt about the ma.n.u.script that he had read. It was the face of a man who had suffered so much that life had become a burden.
"You are a clergyman," said Brandon at length, with a faint hope that an appeal to his profession might have some effect.
Despard smiled cynically.
"I am a man," said he.
"Can not the discovery of a sister," asked Brandon, "atone in some degree for your grief about your father?"
Despard shook his head wearily.
"No," said he, "I must do something, and only one purpose is before me now. I see your motive. You wish to stop short of taking that devil's life. It is useless to remonstrate. My mind is made up. Perhaps I may come back unsuccessful. If so--I must be resigned, I suppose. At any rate you know my purpose, and can let those who ask after me know, in a general way, what I have said."
With a slight bow Despard walked away, leaving Brandon standing there filled with thoughts which were half mournful, half remorseful.
On leaving Brandon Despard went at once to the inn. The crowd without had dwindled away to half a dozen people, who were still talking about the one event of the day. Making his way through these he entered the inn.
The landlord stood there with a puzzled face, discussing with several friends the case of the day. More particularly he was troubled by the sudden departure of the old man, who about an hour previously had started off in a great hurry, leaving no directions whatever as to what was to be done with the body up stairs. It was this which now perplexed the landlord.
Despard listened attentively to the conversation. The landlord mentioned that Potts had taken the road to Brandon. The servant who had been with the young man had not been seen. If the old man should not return what was to be done?
This was enough for Despard, who had his horse saddled without delay and started also on the Brandon road. He rode on swiftly for some time, hoping to overtake the man whom he pursued. He rode, however, several miles without coming in sight of him or of any one like him. At last he reached that hollow which had been the scene of his encounter with Clark. As he descended into it he saw a group of men by the road-side surrounding some object. In the middle of the road was a farmer's wagon, and a horse was standing in the distance.
[Ill.u.s.tration: "IT WAS POTTS."]
Despard rode up and saw the prostrate figure of a man. He dismounted.
The farmers stood aside and disclosed the face.
It was Potts.
Despard stooped down. It was already dusk but even in that dim light he saw the coils of a thin cord wound tightly about the neck of this victim, from one end of which a leaden bullet hung down.
By that light also he saw the hilt of a weapon which had been plunged into his heart, from which the blood had flowed in torrents.
It was a Malay creese. Upon the handle was carven a name:
[Greek: Deute teleutaion aspasmon domen.]
The excitement which had prevailed through the village of Denton was intensified by the arrival there of the body of the old man. For his mysterious death no one could account except one person.
That one was Brandon, whom Despard surprised by his speedy return, and to whom he narrated the circ.u.mstances of the discovery. Brandon knew who it was that could wield that cord, what arm it was that had held that weapon, and what heart it was that was animated by sufficient vengeance to strike these blows.
Despard, finding his purpose thus unexpectedly taken away, remained in the village and waited. There was one whom he wished to see again. On the following day Frank Brandon arrived from London. He met Langhetti with deep emotion, and learned from his brother the astonishing story of Edith.
On the following day that long-lost sister herself appeared in company with Mrs. Thornton. Her form, always fragile, now appeared frailer than ever, her face had a deeper pallor, her eyes an intenser l.u.s.tre, her expression was more unearthly. The joy which the brothers felt at finding their sister was subdued by an involuntary awe which was inspired by her presence. She seemed to them as she had seemed to others like one who had arisen from the dead.
At the sight of her Langhetti's face grew radiant--all pain seemed to leave him. She bent over him, and their wan lips met in the only kiss which they had ever exchanged, with all that deep love which they had felt for one another. She sat by his bedside. She seemed to appropriate him to herself. The others acknowledged this quiet claim and gave way to it.
As she kissed Langhetti's lips he murmured faintly:
"I knew you would come."
"Yes," said Edith. "We will go together.
"Yes, sweetest and dearest," said Langhetti. "And therefore we meet now never to part again."
She looked at him fondly.
"The time of our deliverance is near, oh my friend."
"Near," repeated Langhetti, with a smile of ecstasy--"near. Yes, you have already by your presence brought me nearer to my immortality."
Mrs. Thornton was pale and wan; and the shock which she felt at the sight of her brother at first overcame her.
Despard said nothing to her through the day, but as evening came on he went up to her and in a low voice said, "Let us take a walk."
Mrs. Thornton looked at him earnestly, and then put on her bonnet. It was quite dark as they left the house. They walked along the road. The sea was on their left.
"This is the last that we shall see of one another, Little Playmate,"
said Despard, after a long silence. "I have left Holby forever."
"Left Holby! Where are you going?" asked Mrs. Thornton, anxiously.
"To join the army."
"Little Playmate," said Despard, "even my discovery of my father's death has not changed me. Even my thirst for vengeance could not take the place of my love. Listen--I flung myself with all the ardor that I could command into the pursuit of my father's murderers. I forced myself to an unnatural pitch of pitilessness and vindictiveness. I set out to pursue one of the worst of these men with the full determination to kill him.
G.o.d saved me from blood-guiltiness. I found the man dead in the road.
After this all my pa.s.sion for vengeance died out, and I was brought face to face with the old love and the old despair. But each of us would die rather than do wrong, or go on in a wrong course. The only thing left for us is to separate forever."
"Yes, forever," murmured Mrs. Thornton.
"Ah, Little Playmate," he continued, taking her hand, "you are the one who was not only my sweet companion but the bright ideal of my youth.