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"The ship in which the deed was done," Midwinter answered, with the first signs
of impatience that he had shown yet. "The ship in which my father's murderous
hand turned the lock of the cabin door."
"What of it?" said Mr. Brock.
He appeared not to hear the question; his eyes remained fixed intently on the page
that he was reading.
"A French vessel, employed in the timber trade," he said, still speaking to
himself--"a French vessel, named La Grace de Dieu. If my father's belief had been
the right belief--if the fatality had been following me, step by step, from my
father's grave, in one or other of my voyages, I should have fallen in with that
ship." He looked up again at Mr. Brock. "I am quite sure about it now," he said.
"Those women are two, and not one."
Mr. Brock shook his head.
"I am glad you have come to that conclusion," he said. "But I wish you had
reached it in some other way."
Midwinter started passionately to his feet, and, seizing on the pages of the
manuscript with both hands, flung them into the empty fireplace.
"For God's sake let me burn it!" he exclaimed. "As long as there is a page left, I
shall read it. And, as long as I read it, my father gets the better of me, in spite of
Mr. Brock pointed to the match-box. In another moment the confession was in
flames. When the fire had consumed the last morsel of paper, Midwinter drew a
deep breath of relief.
"I may say, like Macbeth: 'Why, so, being gone, I am a man again!'" he broke out
with a feverish gayety. "You look fatigued, sir; and no wonder," he added, in a
lower tone. "I have kept you too long from your rest--I will keep you no longer.
Depend on my remembering what you have told me; depend on my standing
between Allan and any enemy, man or woman, who comes near him. Thank you,
Mr. Brock; a thousand thousand times, thank you! I came into this room the most
wretched of living men; I can leave it now as happy as the birds that are singing
As he turned to the door, the rays of the rising sun streamed through the window,
and touched the heap of ashes lying black in the black fireplace. The sensitive
imagination of Midwinter kindled instantly at the sight.
"Look!" he said, joyously. "The promise of the Future shining over the ashes of
An inexplicable pity for the man, at the moment of his life when he needed pity
least, stole over the rector's heart when the door had closed, and he was left by
"Poor fellow! " he said, with an uneasy surprise at his own compassionate
impulse. "Poor fellow!"