OF HOW THE VICOMTE WAS BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE

For several days De Laprade hovered between life and death, apparently
conscious and that was all. Dorothy hardly left his bedside night or
day, attending upon him with sedulous care and devotion. Seeing that she
was about to give way under the strain, Saunderson took affairs into his
own hands and forbade her the room altogether. While she had been in the
sick chamber De Laprade had used to follow her with his eyes–eyes in
which there was little sign of intelligence–but now that she came no
more, he sank into a deep and deathlike lethargy from which he seldom
awakened. Whether for Dorothy´s sake or from the nature of the case,
Saunderson gave up much of his time to the wounded Viscount, and
invariably reported his patient´s progress to the anxious girl who was
awaiting his departure from the sick chamber. So far from adopting the
physician´s usual diplomacy, he had endeavoured to keep up her spirits
from the beginning, assuring her that with skill and care, ill as he
seemed, he would yet dance at her wedding.

“You will see,” he had said, with rough kindliness “there are twa bodies
tha´ll no die lichtly–he that´s gain to be married and he that´s gain
to be hangit; and when this braw callant hath had both prospects before
him he´ll no leave us this gait. He should have been a corp three days
syne by every rule of the faculty, but yon bit thing never touched his
vitals after all. You´ll no greet your bonnie een out, Miss Carew, but
just tak your rest and leave him to Providence and me.”

For Saunderson had come to the conclusion that the Vicomte was Dorothy´s
lover, and that in some way or other, that was the cause of the quarrel
in which he had been wounded. He had at first believed that Gervase had
been the assailant, but Dorothy had undeceived him on that head; but on
the other she had remained entirely silent and made no effort to remove
his misunderstanding. She had, however, seen, or thought she had seen,
through the friendly deception of the surgeon, and when she had been
closed out of the sick room she had believed the end was approaching.
She had not understood, though she had guessed, the nature of the
tragedy that had been enacted between her brother and her cousin; and
though she was not aware of all the circumstances she had come to think
she owed the Vicomte a great debt. She had remembered every word of
their brief conversation an hour or two before the brawl, and knowing
his high sense of honour, she had laid the blame entirely on her
brother. All that was passing without seemed like a dream now–only the
death chamber was real to her and this tragedy with its deep and
indelible stain of guilt. She had felt that she was grieved for the
wretches who had been driven to starve under the walls, and she felt
rejoiced when she heard that De Rosen had relented, but she felt also
that she had not realized the news. It seemed wholly remote. This
domestic tragedy, so near and so terrible, entirely filled her mind with
its abiding horror. She felt there was no sacrifice she would not
willingly make to avert this calamity, and each day she waited with a
suspense that was intolerable for the coming of the surgeon from the
sick room. Even Jasper´s treachery had passed into the background in the
presence of this new and more appalling crime. Gervase Orme had called
every day but she had refused to see him, for though she yearned for
sympathy in her distress her pride compelled her to nurse her sorrow in
secret. Jasper came and went with perfect _sang froid_; he seemed to be
the only person in the household to whom the wounded man´s condition was
a matter of indifference.

So the days went past and there seemed to be little or no change in the
Vicomte´s condition. But at length he recovered perfect consciousness
and asked eagerly for Dorothy. It was indeed his first question after he
recovered speech. Saunderson was in the room and seated by his patient´s
side feeling his thin and languid pulse, when De Laprade suddenly looked
at him with an eager and questioning gaze. The change was so sudden that
the surgeon was startled. “I saw Dorothy–Miss Carew–but now,” said the
Vicomte. “Where is she?”

“She´ll no be long, my friend; just keep yourself cool and ye´ll see her
the now. That´s a good laddie.”

“I have little time to spare and I must see her before I die.”

“Ye´ll no die this time. Ye´ll scratch grey hairs yet, if ye keep
yersel´ blate and dinna fash without reason.”

“You´re a good fellow,” said De Laprade, with a faint smile on his thin,
wasted face, “I think I have seen you here in the room with me for
months, but I will not trouble you much longer. Now bring Miss Carew
here and complete your kindness.”

“Ye must not excite yoursel´ in that fashion. Ye have been ower long in
coming round, and we maun keep ye here when we hae you. Now drink this
like a good laddie, and I’ll even fetch her mysel’.”

He poured out a draught and held it to the Vicomte´s lips, who drank it
obediently. Saunderson believed that the crisis had come and though he
hoped that he was wrong for Dorothy´s sake, had come to the conclusion
that this was the last feeble flicker of consciousness in his patient
before the end. As he left the room De Laprade followed him with the
same eager gaze. He found Dorothy in the corridor and told her what had
happened. “And now,” he said, “ye´ll just keep him quiet and humour him
like a baby. Let him gang his ain gait and say ‘Ay´ to all his clavers.
I´d rather you were elsewhere, but he´ll no bide till he has seen you.”

It was with a heavy heart that Dorothy entered the sick room. There was
something in the surgeon´s manner that told her she must hope no longer;
and as she saw De Laprade lying with the deathlike pallor on his wasted
face and the eager famished look in his dark eyes she thought that he
was dying. She went over noiselessly to the bed and sat down beside him,
laying her hand on the coverlet. Neither of them spoke, and it was with
an heroic effort that she restrained her tears. Then De Laprade took her
hand in his and a look of contentment lighted up his dark face. She
wondered to herself at the change that had taken place in so short a
time. There was something almost boyish in the face that was turned
toward her.

“I am starting on a long journey, my cousin,” he said, “and I would see
you before I go. You will not think unkindly of me when—-”

She could make no answer but only bent over his hand to hide the tears
that were welling to her eyes, though she strove to repress them.

“This is a fit end for me,” he went on, “but, believe me, I tried to
keep my promise toward your brother; he did not understand and—-”

“You must say no more,” said Dorothy; “I never doubted of your faith and
honour. You will yet live to know that I trust you.”

“Too late, too late!” he said, sorrowfully. “Why should I live? I have
had my chance and wasted it. In all the world there is no one who will
regret me but yourself, and you will forget me when–it is but right you
should. Victor De Laprade–a stranger–that is all, and I deserve no
better.”

“I will never forget you,” she said, touched beyond expression by the
pathos of his speech; “you must not think such thoughts; you will yet
live to smile at them.”

“Why should I live for whom there is no room and no need? I have wasted
my life. As I lay here I have lived it all again, and seen its folly.
You have helped me to see what I never saw before, and I could not go
before I told you. Nay, it is best for me to die. It is not hard to say
farewell with your hand in mine. I had hoped some day to tell you what I
am going to speak, some day when I had shown myself not altogether
unworthy, but I cannot wait for that now, and must say it here if it is
ever to be spoken.”

She knew what he was about to say; full of pity she did not withdraw her
hand, but continued to hold his in her own. At that moment she almost
felt she loved the man who looked at her with such fervent longing in
his eyes.

“I have come to love you, my cousin, with such love as I never felt or
dreamed of before–a love that makes me ashamed of my life, and desire
to forget the past and all its follies. That love has taken the terror
away from death. I do not think I should have made you happy. I had too
much to forget. And you know you did not love me, Dorothy; as indeed why
should you.”

“Indeed, I think I do,” she answered honestly, and lifted his hand to
her lips with the tears in her eyes. “Oh! Victor, do not wrong yourself
in speaking thus.”

“I am but a poor fellow, Dorothy,” he said slowly, “but if this is true
I would not change my place with His Christian Majesty. In happier times
you will remember me as one who loved you, and died content because he
loved you.”

“You will not die, but live to let me help you to forget the past. There
is no sacrifice I would not make to bring you happiness.”

“I would not let you sacrifice your life for me, my cousin.”

“Nay, I did not mean that. I am but a weak and thoughtless girl and
cannot say all that I would, but I love no other, and–and I think I
love you dearly.”

She could not have imagined before she came into the room that she would
have spoken these words, but the pitiable sight of this wrecked and
wasted life filled her with a great flood of compassion, and she spoke
almost without thinking of the meaning of her words. Then she bent over
and pressed her lips to his forehead. His pallid cheeks flushed a
little; the act was so spontaneous and so foreign to her manner, that it
carried to his heart the happiness of hope and love. For a time he did
not speak.

“I do not know,” he said, “whether this is a part of my dream; it seems
too much to believe that this great happiness should have come to me at
the end; but I shall believe it true, and carry your love with me
whither I am going. It will be a light to the way. The good Saunderson
would not let me die when I desired, and you make it hard to go. You see
I thought you loved—-”

She interrupted him hastily, “I have not thought of love till now. My
foolish Victor, you must drive these idle fancies from your head; if I
do not love you, I love no one.”

“If this were not the shadow of a dream, the happiness is too great!

“‘Amis, le temps nous presse;
Menageons les moments que le transport nous laisse!´

“Kiss me again, my sweet Dorothy, for the darkness is coming.”




She thought that all was over and the end was come. He lay pale and
exhausted, with his hand in hers and his breathing so low and faint that
she could not catch the sound of it. There was the shadow of a smile on
the open lips; a smile of contentment like that a child smiles while
dreaming. She was afraid to move or withdraw her hand, and when
Saunderson came into the room she made a gesture of warning.

He came over quietly beside her. “I think,” he said, “ye have given him
a more efficacious remedy than any in the pharmacopœia. He is
sleeping finely, puir laddie! Ye may leave him now and ye´ll see a
change for the better when ye come again. I kenned ye would either kill
or cure him, though I thocht ye would do him little harm if ye could
help it.”

“He is not dying?”

“Indeed, that he is not, but just making up his mind to live bravely. I
would like to bottle up your specific and carry it about in a phial;
it´s what I have been wanting this many a day.”

However it came about the surgeon´s prediction was verified, and a
sudden change for the better took place in the Vicomte´s condition that
evening; he had fallen into a refreshing slumber which lasted for some
hours; and when he awakened, the fever had entirely disappeared, leaving
him very weak indeed but on the high road toward convalescence. With the
considerateness that was always natural to him, he had refused to allow
Dorothy to remain in his room, and had asked to see Jasper, with whom he
was anxious to make his peace. What passed between them no one ever
knew, for De Laprade was silent on the subject, but Carew was heard
whistling gaily as he returned to his own room.

Dorothy was for a long time unable to realize the events of the day. It
filled her with happiness to think that De Laprade was likely to
recover, and that the shadow of crime was to be removed; but when she
began to think of the new relation that was springing up between herself
and her cousin, an indefinable and restless feeling took possession of
her. She knew that she had been carried away by pity and regret to speak
without examining her own heart;–she had desired to bring a momentary
happiness to the forlorn and wasted life that she thought was passing
away before her, and she had spoken with deep feeling and entire
sincerity. But when she came to think over it now that the danger had
passed away and her mind had grown calm and reasonable, she felt that
she had spoken rashly and without due premeditation. She feared that she
had mistaken compassion for love. But if she did not love him now with a
strong and devoted affection, it might grow and all might yet be well.
She could not now tell him that she only pitied him. Then her thoughts
went further afield, and with a start she wakened up wondering what
Gervase Orme would say when he heard that she had plighted her troth to
his friend. The idea filled her with pain; she shrank from it with a
feeling akin to dismay. While Orme was nothing more to her than a
friend, her thoughts had involuntarily dwelt much on him, and she had
come to look to his strong and silent nature for help and consolation,
sure of perfect sympathy and understanding. She knew, though she now
strove to forget it, that he loved her. Had she been free to choose her
own way, and had duty so plain and so self-evident not lain in her
path–but no, she did not love him and must not allow her mind to dwell
on these idle imaginings. There was only one thing for her to do,–to be
true to the words she had spoken and bring her wayward heart to respond
to the promise she had made. There was no one to whom she could go for
advice or help; she must rely upon herself alone, and happen what might,
there was at least one Carew who would be found faithful to her word and
jealous of her honour. The sin and wrongdoing of her house might be
visited upon her, but she would bear it cheerfully.

[Illustration: “JASPER BUCKLING HIS SWORD ABOUT HIM”]

She had visited Lady Hester at midnight and was about to retire to her
own room, when she heard her brother´s door open and someone passing
down the corridor. Without waiting to think, she came down the stairs
hurriedly, and found Jasper in the hall with his cloak and hat on,
buckling his sword about him. He was evidently very angry at seeing her.

“These are no hours for a woman,” he said; “you should have been abed
hours ago.”

“They are not hours for some men either,” she said, looking at him
earnestly. She knew from the look that he cast on her that he was
certain she had learnt his guilty secret. She did not flinch but stood
up before him, with a firm and steadfast look. He drew on his gloves
slowly without raising his eyes to meet hers. Though there was neither
sympathy nor love between them, and though she had striven devotedly to
win his confidence without success, she longed to save him from this
dishonour, and to hold him back from ruin, for that ruin and dishonour
were impending she did not doubt.

“These are not hours for some men either. For your own sake and for
mine, you must not leave the house to-night.”

“And pray, madam, why not? It is not enough that I should be mewed up in
this damned town with a couple of women and a mad Frenchman for my
companions, but that I must have my actions spied upon and my coming and
going brought in question. I have borne with you in patience, my good
sister, but I will not let you spy upon me longer. There must be an end
on´t.”

“You can speak no words that will make me fear you,” she said quietly.
“I would have been your loyal and loving sister, but you know what I
know, and if I can prevent it you shall not play the traitor longer. It
is true that I have watched you, watched you day and night; and was
there not need? Shall it be said that a Carew, for I know not what base
reward, sold his honour and flung away his good name? Can Hamilton or
Tyrconnell or James himself save you from this disgrace?”

“These are mad words,” he said doggedly; “I know not what you mean.”

“I am only a woman with a woman´s weakness, and I cannot turn you from
your purpose. But before I had carried such a paper as I have seen you
carry, I would have died a thousand times. Jasper,” she continued
pleadingly, laying her hand on his arm, “It is not yet too late.”

“I was right after all, and it was you who set yon slow-witted coxcomb
to lecture me with his mysterious threats. Now listen to me, Miss Carew;
you have shown a more than sisterly interest in my affairs; and you may
as well know it all. I have followed my own course, and laid my plans
that I will suffer no woman to wreck with her whims and fancies. These
beggarly citizens and these foolish country gentlemen are nothing to me.
I stand by my lawful king, and on that side is my service and my
interest, I have taken no great pains to conceal my thoughts, and
perhaps to-morrow—-” here he checked himself.

“Then go over to your friends.”

“It does not suit my purpose. Now I will give you a word of advice
before I go. Make no more confidences for the future–they are dangerous
for those who speak and for those who listen to them, and I will not
have my acts questioned by you or others. For the paper you speak of,
you may keep it now and it may prove useful hereafter, but for your
friend I shall call him to a reckoning if I live. I think that hereafter
you will keep my secret more closely, for it does not redound to the
credit of the family that you should take the world into your
confidence.”

He opened the door and stood looking at her threateningly; then he went
out, drawing it noiselessly after him.

Though he had borne himself with a high hand, she could see that he had
felt her words keenly, and that he was already fearful for his own
safety. What course she should take she did not know, for she shrank
from making his treachery public and from bringing punishment by any act
of her own on the offender. It was clear that no entreaty nor
expostulation of hers would have any weight with him; she knew his
headlong and obstinate nature too well to hope that it might.

She remained standing for a long time lost in thought, and then she
crept to her own room, wondering whether, after all, Gervase Orme might
not keep his word. They had not renewed their conversation since the day
that she had placed the pass in his hands, but she felt certain that he
had not relaxed in his vigilance. And then it struck her suddenly that
by this act she might have imperilled his safety, for her brother had
already threatened him, and she knew that in this, at least, he would
keep his word, if he had the power or the opportunity to injure him. She
regretted now that she had not taken the initiative earlier herself, but
on this she was determined, that she and her brother should not remain
under the same roof, even if she was compelled publicly to denounce his
crime. But she was saved the pain, for she never saw her brother again.