The Legacy of Cain HTML version

33. The Minister's Misfortune
"Do you know that lady?" Miss Helena asked, as we entered the house.
"She is a perfect stranger to me," I answered.
"Are you sure you have not forgotten her?"
"Why do you think I have forgotten her?"
"Because she evidently remembered you."
The lady had no doubt looked at me twice. If this meant that my face was familiar to her,
I could only repeat what I have already said. Never, to my knowledge, had I seen her
Leading the way upstairs, Miss Helena apologized for taking me into her father's
bedroom. "He is able to sit up in an armchair," she said; "and he might do more, as I
think, if he would exert himself. He won't exert himself. Very sad. Would you like to
look at your room, before you see my father? It is quite ready for you. We hope"--she
favored me with a fascinating smile, devoted to winning my heart when her interests
required it--"we hope you will pay us a long visit; we look on you as one of ourselves."
I thanked her, and said I would shake hands with my old friend before I went to my room.
We parted at the bedroom door.
It is out of my power to describe the shock that overpowered me when I first saw the
Minister again, after the long interval of time that had separated us. Nothing that his
daughter said, nothing that I myself anticipated, had prepared me for that lamentable
change. For the moment, I was not sufficiently master of myself to be able to speak to
him. He added to my embarrassment by the humility of his manner, and the formal
elaboration of his apologies.
"I feel painfully that I have taken a liberty with you," he said, "after the long
estrangement between us--for which my want of Christian forbearance is to blame.
Forgive it, sir, and forget it. I hope to show that necessity justifies my presumption, in
subjecting you to a wearisome journey for my sake."
Beginning to recover myself, I begged that he would make no more excuses. My
interruption seemed to confuse him.
"I wished to say," he went on, "that you are the one man who can understand me. There is
my only reason for asking to see you, and looking forward as I do to your advice. You
remember the night--or was it the day?--before that miserable woman was hanged? You
were the only person present when I agreed to adopt the poor little creature, stained