I knocked at the bedroom door.
Only two words--but the voice that uttered them, hoarse and peremptory, was altered almost beyond recognition. If I had not known whose room it was, I might have doubted whether the Minister had really spoken to me.
At the instant when I answered him, I was allowed to pass in. Having admitted me, he closed the door, and placed himself with his back against it. The customary pallor of his face had darkened to a deep red; there was an expression of ferocious mockery in his eyes. Helena's vengeance had hurt her unhappy father far more severely than it seemed likely to hurt me. The doctor had said he was on the verge of madness. To my thinking, he had already passed the boundary line.
He received me with a boisterous affectation of cordiality.
"My excellent friend! My admirable, honorable, welcome guest, you don't know how glad I am to see you. Stand a little nearer to the light; I want to admire you."
Remembering the doctor's advice, I obeyed him in silence.
"Ah, you were a handsome fellow when I first knew you," he said; "and you have some remains of it still left. Do you remember the time when you were a favorite with the ladies? Oh, don't pretend to be modest; don't turn your back, now your are old, on what your were in the prime of your life. Do you own that I am right?"
What his object might be in saying this--if, indeed, he had an object--it was impossible to guess. The doctor's advice left me no alternative; I hastened to own that he was right. As I made that answer, I observed that he held something in his hand which was half hidden up the sleeve of his dressing-gown. What the nature of the object was, I failed to discover.
"And when I happened to speak of you somewhere," he went on, "I forget where--a member of my congregation--I don't recollect who it was--told me you were connected with the aristocracy. How were you connected?"
He surprised me; but, however he had got his information, he had not been deceived. I told him that I was