"am i here, or there?" cried robin, starting; for all at once, when his thoughts had become visible and audible in a dream, the long, wide, solitary street shone out before him.
he aroused himself, and endeavored to fix his attention steadily upon the large edifice which he had surveyed before. but still his mind kept vibrating between fancy and reality; by turns, the pillars of the balcony lengthened into the tall, bare stems of pines, dwindled down to human figures, settled again into their true shape and size, and then commenced a new succession of changes. for a single moment, when he deemed himself awake, he could have sworn that a visage--one which he seemed to remember, yet could not absolutely name as his kinsman's--was looking towards him from the gothic window. a deeper sleep wrestled with and nearly overcame him, but fled at the sound of footsteps along the opposite pavement. robin rubbed his eyes, discerned a man passing at the foot of the balcony, and addressed him in a loud, peevish, and lamentable cry.
'o, it's you, michael,' he said, carefully blocking up the narrow opening: 'it's very late.'
michael without a word reached forth, grasped morris warmly by the hand, and gave it so extreme a squeeze that the sullen householder fell back. profiting by this movement, the lawyer obtained a footing in the lobby and marched into the dining-room, with morris at his heels.
'where's my uncle joseph?' demanded michael, sitting down in the most comfortable chair.
'he's not been very well lately,' replied morris; 'he's staying at browndean; john is nursing him; and i am alone, as you see.'
michael smiled to himself. 'i want to see him on particular business,' he said.
'you can't expect to see my uncle when you won't let me see your father,' returned morris.
'fiddlestick,' said michael. 'my father is my father; but joseph is just as much my uncle as he's yours; and you have no right to sequestrate
'i do no such thing,' said morris doggedly. 'he is not well, he is dangerously ill and nobody can see him.'
'i'll tell you what, then,' said michael. 'i'll make a clean breast of it. i have come down like the opossum, morris; i have come to compromise.'
poor morris turned as pale as death, and then a flush of wrath against the injustice of man's destiny dyed his very temples. 'what do you mean?' he cried, 'i don't believe a word of it.' and when michael had assured him of his seriousness, 'well, then,' he cried, with another deep flush, 'i won't; so you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.'
'oho!' said michael queerly. 'you say your uncle is dangerously ill, and you won't compromise? there's something very fishy about that.'
'what do you mean?' cried morris hoarsely.
'i only say it's fishy,' returned michael, 'that is, pertaining to the finny tribe.'
'do you mean to insinuate anything?' cried morris stormily, trying the high hand.
'insinuate?' repeated michael. 'o, don't let's begin to use awkward expressions! let us drown our differences in a bottle, like two affable kinsmen. the two affable kinsmen, sometimes attributed to shakespeare,' he added.
morris's mind was labouring like a mill. 'does he suspect? or is this chance and stuff? should i soap, or should i bully? soap,' he concluded. 'it gains time.' 'well,' said he aloud, and with rather a painful affectation of heartiness, 'it's long since we have had an evening together, michael; and though my habits (as you know) are very temperate, i may as well make an exception. excuse me one moment till i fetch a bottle of whisky from the cellar.'
'no whisky for me,' said michael; 'a little of the old still champagne or nothing.'
for a moment morris stood irresolute, for the wine was very valuable: the next he had quitted the room without a word. his quick mind had perceived his advantage; in thus dunning him for the cream of the cellar, michael was playing into his hand. 'one bottle?' he thought. 'by george, i'll give him two! this is no moment for economy; and once the beast is drunk, it's strange if i don't wring his secret out of him.'
with two bottles, accordingly, he returned. glasses were produced, and morris filled them with hospitable grace.
'i drink to you, cousin!' he cried gaily. 'don't spare the wine-cup in my house.'
michael drank his glass deliberately, standing at the table; filled it again, and returned to his chair, carrying the bottle along with him.
down the avenue there came to them, with the opening of the door, the voice of owen's motor. it was the signal which had interrupted their first talk, and again, instinctively, they drew apart at the sound. without a word darrow turned back into the room, while sophy viner went down the steps and walked back alone toward the court.
at luncheon the presence of the surgeon, and the non-appearance of madame de chantelle--who had excused herself on the plea of a headache--combined to shift the conversational centre of gravity; and darrow, under shelter of the necessarily impersonal talk, had time to adjust his disguise and to perceive that the others were engaged in the same re-arrangement. it was the first time that he had seen young leath and sophy viner together since he had learned of their engagement; but neither revealed more emotion than befitted the occasion. it was evident that owen was deeply under the girl's charm, and that at the least sign from her his bliss would have broken bounds; but her reticence was justified by the tacitly recognized fact of madame de chantelle's disapproval. this also visibly weighed on anna's mind, making her manner to sophy, if no less kind, yet a trifle more constrained than if the moment of final understanding had been reached. so darrow interpreted the tension perceptible under the fluent exchange of commonplaces in which he was diligently sharing. but he was more and more aware of his inability to test the moral atmosphere about him: he was like a man in fever testing another's temperature by the touch.
as their strength and their grandeur, so their navigation, commerce, and husbandry are very imperfect, compared to the same things in europe; also, in their knowledge, their learning, and in their skill in the sciences, they are either very awkward or defective, though they have globes or spheres, and a smattering of the mathematics, and think they know more than all the world besides. but they know little of the motions of the heavenly bodies; and so grossly and absurdly ignorant are their common people, that when the sun is eclipsed, they think a great dragon has assaulted it, and is going to run away with it; and they fall a clattering with all the drums and kettles in the country, to fright the monster away, just as we do to hive a swarm of bees!
as this is the only excursion of the kind which i have made in all the accounts i have given of my travels, so i shall make no more such. it is none of my business, nor any part of my design; but to give an account of my own adventures through a life of inimitable wanderings, and a long variety of changes, which, perhaps, few that come after me will have heard the like of: i shall, therefore, say very little of all the mighty places, desert countries, and numerous people i have yet to pass through, more than relates to my own story, and which my concern among them will make necessary.