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The Mysteries of Musgrovio

Chapter Text

      home is the resort

 Of love, of joy, of peace and plenty, where,

 Supporting and supported, polish'd friends

 And dear relations mingle into bliss.*

      *Thomson


On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur Sieger Holmes. From its windows were seen the pastoral landscapes of Guienne and Gascony stretching along the river, gay with luxuriant woods and vine, and plantations of olives. To the south, the view was bounded by the majestic Pyrenees, whose summits, veiled in clouds, or exhibiting astounding forms, seen, and lost again, as the partial vapours rolled along, were decorated with forests of gloomy pine, that swept downward to their base. These tremendous precipices were contrasted by the soft green of the pastures and woods that hung upon their skirts; among whose flocks, and herds, and simple cottages, the eye, after having scaled the cliffs above, delighted to repose. To the north, and to the east, the plains of Guienne and Languedoc were lost in the mist of distance; on the west, Gascony was bounded by the waters of Biscay.

Holmes loved to wander, with his wife and son, on the margin of the Garonne, and to listen to the music that floated on its waves. He had known life in other forms than those of pastoral simplicity, having mingled in the busy scenes of the world; but the flattering portrait of mankind, which his heart had delineated in early youth, his experience had too sorrowfully corrected. Yet, amidst the changing visions of life, his principles remained unshaken, his benevolence undaunted; and he retired from the multitude 'more in pity than in anger,' to scenes of simple nature, to the pure delights of literature, and to the exercise of domestic virtues.

He was a descendant from the younger branch of an illustrious family, and it was designed, that the deficiency of his patrimonial wealth should be supplied either by a splendid alliance in marriage, or by success in the intrigues of public affairs. But Sieger Holmes had too nice a sense of honour to fulfil the latter hope, and too small a portion of ambition to sacrifice what he called happiness, to the attainment of wealth. After the death of his father he married a very amiable woman, his equal in birth, and not his superior in fortune. The late Monsieur Holmes's liberality, or extravagance, had so much involved his affairs, that his son found it necessary to dispose of a part of the family domain, and, some years after his marriage, he sold it to Monsieur Anderson, the brother of his wife, and retired to a small estate in Gascony, where conjugal felicity, and parental duties, divided his attention with the treasures of knowledge and the illuminations of genius.

To this spot he had been attached from his infancy. The green pastures along which he had so often bounded in the exultation of health, and youthful freedom—the woods, under whose refreshing shade he had first indulged that pensive melancholy, which afterwards made a strong feature of his character—the wild walks of the mountains, the river, on whose waves he had floated, and the distant plains, which seemed boundless as his early hopes—were never after remembered by Holmes but with enthusiasm and regret. At length he disengaged himself from the world, and retired hither, to realize the wishes of many years.

The building, as it then stood, was merely a summer cottage, rendered interesting to a stranger by its neat simplicity, or the beauty of the surrounding scene; and considerable additions were necessary to make it a comfortable family residence. Holmes felt a kind of affection for every part of the fabric, which he remembered in his youth, and would not suffer a stone of it to be removed, so that the new building, adapted to the style of the old one, formed with it only a simple and elegant residence.

The library occupied the west side of the chateau, and was enriched by a collection of the best books in the ancient and modern languages. This room opened upon a grove, and the tall trees gave it a melancholy and pleasing shade. Adjoining the library was a green-house, stored with scarce and beautiful plants; for one of the amusements of Holmes was the study of botany, and among the neighbouring mountains, which afforded a luxurious feast to the mind of the naturalist, he often passed the day in the pursuit of his favourite science. He was frequently accompanied in these excursions by his son, Sherlock.

Adjoining the eastern side of the green-house, looking towards the plains of Languedoc, was a room, which Sherlock called his, and which contained his books, his drawings, his musical instruments, with some favourite birds and plants. Here he usually exercised himself in his studies, cultivated only because they were congenial to his taste, and in which native genius, assisted by the instructions of Monsieur Holmes, made him an early proficient. The windows of this room were particularly pleasant; they descended to the floor, and, opening upon the little lawn that surrounded the house, the eye was led between groves of almond, palm-trees, flowering-ash, and myrtle, to the distant landscape, where the Garonne wandered.

In the surrounding ground, Holmes had made very tasteful improvements; yet, such was his attachment to objects he had remembered from his boyish days, that he had in some instances sacrificed taste to sentiment. There were two old larches that shaded the building, and interrupted the prospect; Holmes had sometimes declared that he believed he should have been weak enough to have wept at their fall. In addition to these larches he planted a little grove of beech, pine, and mountain-ash. On a lofty terrace, formed by the swelling bank of the river, rose a plantation of orange, lemon, and palm-trees, whose fruit, in the coolness of evening, breathed delicious fragrance. With these were mingled a few trees of other species. Here, under the ample shade of a plane-tree, that spread its majestic canopy towards the river, Holmes loved to sit in the fine evenings of summer, with his wife and children, watching, beneath its foliage, the setting sun, the mild splendour of its light fading from the distant landscape, till the shadows of twilight melted its various features into one tint of sober grey. Here, too, he loved to read, and to converse with Madame Holmes; or to play with his children, resigning himself to the influence of those sweet affections, which are ever attendant on simplicity and nature. He has often said, while tears of pleasure trembled in his eyes, that these were moments infinitely more delightful than any passed amid the brilliant and tumultuous scenes that are courted by the world. His heart was occupied; it had, what can be so rarely said, no wish for a happiness beyond what it experienced. The consciousness of acting right diffused a serenity over his manners, which nothing else could impart to a man of moral perceptions like his, and which refined his sense of every surrounding blessing.

The first interruptions to the happiness he had known since his retirement, were occasioned by the death of his two daughters. He lost them at an early age; and though, in consideration of his wife’s distress, he restrained the expression of his own, and endeavoured to bear it philosophically; he had, in truth, no philosophy that could render him calm to such losses. One son, Sherlock, was now his only surviving child.

He had discovered in his son’s early years an uncommon genius of mind; his powers of observation were considerable; and moreover he applied these observations with the purpose of explaining the world around him, both natural and social.  These ‘deductions’, however, were not always well received by those who were the subject; and Sherlock, being a boy of warm affections; was hurt by this reaction and knew not how to reconcile it with what had been declarations of truth, and fact. It had the effect of making him reserved; and many thought him unfriendly; but no-one who saw him in the bosom of his home could doubt of his warm and tender heart. 

In person, Sherlock resembled his mother; having the same tall, elegant form, the same delicacy of features, and the same blue-green eyes, full alternately with tender sweetness or lost in the resplendent palace of his mind. But, lovely as was his person, it was the varied expression of his countenance, as deduction awakened the keener emotions of his mind, that made others captivated by him, even as their secrets were laid bare.

Holmes cultivated his son’s understanding with the most scrupulous care. He gave him an intimate view of the sciences, and an acquaintance with elegant literature; he taught him Latin and English. His pleasures were not only of the mind; Sherlock delighted to ramble among the scenes of nature; he loved the wild wood-walks, that skirted the mountain; and still more the mountain's stupendous recesses, where the silence and grandeur of solitude impressed a sacred calm upon his heart and quietened the frantic activity of his mind. In scenes like these he would often linger along, wrapt in a melancholy charm, till the last gleam of day faded from the west; till the lonely sound of a sheep-bell, or the distant bark of a watch-dog, were all that broke on the stillness of the evening.

His favourite walk was to a little fishing-house, belonging to Holmes, in a woody glen, on the margin of a rivulet that descended from the Pyrenees, and, after foaming among their rocks, wound its silent way beneath the shades it reflected. Above the woods, that screened this glen, rose the lofty summits of the Pyrenees, which often burst boldly on the eye through the glades below. Sometimes the shattered face of a rock only was seen, crowned with wild shrubs; or a shepherd's cabin seated on a cliff, overshadowed by dark cypress, or waving ash.

It was in one of these excursions to this spot, that he observed the following lines written with a pencil on a part of the windowsill:

 SONNET

 Go, pencil! faithful to thy master's sighs!

 Go—tell the young god of the fairy scene,

 When next his light steps wind these wood-walks green,

 Whence all his tears, his tender sorrows, rise;

 Ah! paint his form, his soul-illumin'd eyes,

 The sweet expression of his pensive face,

 The light'ning smile, the animated grace—

 The portrait well the lover's voice supplies;

 Speaks all his heart must feel, his tongue would say:

 Yet ah! not all his heart must sadly feel!

 How oft the flow'ret's silken leaves conceal

 The drug that steals the vital spark away!

 And who that gazes on that angel-smile,

 Would fear its charm, or think it could beguile!

These lines were not inscribed to any person; though Sherlock was undoubtedly the satyr of these shades; but it seemed beyond reason that any person acquainted with him should ascribe an ‘angel-smile’ to Sherlock. Not even his own parents would be so generous, he considered wryly.  The poem was therefore dismissed from his thoughts; he had other concerns in his books and his chemical studies.

 Soon after this period, his anxiety was awakened by the indisposition of his father, who was attacked with a fever; which, though not thought to be of a dangerous kind, gave a severe shock to his constitution. Madame Holmes and Sherlock attended him with unremitting care; but his recovery was very slow, and, as he advanced towards health, Madame seemed to decline.

The first scene his father visited, after he was well enough to take the air, was his favourite fishing-house. A basket of provisions was sent thither, with books, and Sherlock's violin. After employing himself, for about an hour, in botanizing, dinner was served. It was a repast, to which gratitude, for being again permitted to visit this spot, gave sweetness; and family happiness once more smiled beneath these shades. Monsieur Holmes conversed with unusual cheerfulness; every object delighted his senses. The refreshing pleasure from the first view of nature, after the pain of illness, and the confinement of a sick-chamber, is above the conceptions, as well as the descriptions, of those in health. The green woods and pastures; the flowery turf; the blue concave of the heavens; the balmy air; the murmur of the limpid stream; and even the hum of every little insect of the shade, seem to revivify the soul, and make mere existence bliss.

Madame Holmes, reanimated by the cheerfulness and recovery of her husband, was no longer sensible of the indisposition which had lately oppressed her; and, as she sauntered along the wood-walks of this romantic glen, and conversed with him, and with her son, she often looked at them alternately with a degree of tenderness, that filled her eyes with tears. Holmes observed this more than once, and gently reproved her for the emotion; but she could only smile, and clasp his hand, and that of Sherlock. Sieger felt emotion stealing upon himself in a degree that became almost painful; his features assumed a serious air, and he could not forbear secretly sighing—'Perhaps I shall some time look back to these moments, as to the summit of my happiness, with hopeless regret. But let me not misuse them by useless anticipation; let me hope I shall not live to mourn the loss of those who are dearer to me than life.'

To relieve, or perhaps to indulge, the pensive temper of his mind, he bade Sherlock fetch the violin he knew how to touch with such sweet pathos. As Sherlock drew near the fishing-house, he was surprised to hear the tones of the instrument, which were awakened by the hand of taste, and uttered a plaintive air, whose exquisite melody engaged all his attention. He listened in profound silence, afraid to move from the spot, lest the sound of his steps should occasion him to lose a note of the music, or should disturb the musician. Every thing without the building was still, and no person appeared. He continued to listen, curiosity increased by a remembrance of the pencilled lines he had formerly seen, and he hesitated whether to proceed, or to return.

While he paused, the music ceased; and, after a momentary hesitation, he advanced to the fishing-house, which he entered, and found unoccupied! His violin lay on the table; everything seemed undisturbed, and he began to believe it was another instrument he had heard, till he remembered, that, when he followed M. and Madame Holmes from this spot, his violin was left on a window seat. As he pondered this, he perceived that to the lines on the windowsill others were added, in which his name appeared.

Though no longer suffered to doubt that they were addressed to himself, he was as ignorant, as before, by whom they could be written. While he mused, he thought he heard the sound of a step without the building, and catching up the violin, hurried out; but nothing could be seen. Eventually he turned his steps in the direction of his parents, whom he found seated on the grass of a small hill, overlooking the vallies and plains of Gascony.  While their eyes wandered over the glorious scene, and they inhaled the sweet breath of flowers and herbs that enriched the grass, Sherlock played several of their favourite airs.

Music and conversation detained them in this enchanting spot, till the sun's last light slept upon the plains; till the white sails that glided beneath the mountains, where the Garonne wandered, became dim, and the gloom of evening stole over the landscape. It was a melancholy but not unpleasing gloom. Holmes and his family rose, and left the place with regret; alas! Madame Holmes knew not that she left it for ever.

When they reached the fishing-house she missed her bracelet, and recollected that she had taken it from her arm after dinner, and had left it on the table when she went to walk. After a long search, in which Sherlock was very active, she was compelled to resign herself to the loss of it. What made this bracelet valuable to her was a miniature of her son to which it was attached, esteemed a striking resemblance, and which had been painted only a few months before. When Sherlock was convinced that the bracelet was really gone, he became thoughtful. That some stranger had been in the fishing-house, during his absence, his violin, and the additional lines of a pencil, had already informed him: from the purport of these lines it was not unreasonable to believe, that the poet, the musician, and the thief were the same person. But though the music he had heard, the written lines he had seen, and the disappearance of the picture, formed a combination of circumstances very remarkable, he was irresistibly restrained from mentioning them.

They returned pensively to the chateau, Sherlock musing on the incident which had just occurred. As they drew near the house, they observed an unusual bustle about it; the sound of voices was distinctly heard, servants and horses were seen passing between the trees, and, at length, the wheels of a carriage rolled along. Holmes perceived the liveries of his brother-in-law, and in the parlour he found Monsieur and Madame Anderson already entered. This gentleman was the only brother of Madame Holmes; but the ties of relationship having never been strengthened by similarity of mind or character, the intercourse between them had not been frequent.

Anderson had lived altogether in the world; his aim had been consequence; splendour was the object of his taste; and his address and knowledge of character had carried him forward to the attainment of almost all that he had courted. The marriage of his sister with Holmes had been mortifying to his ambition, for he had designed that the matrimonial connection she formed should assist him to attain the consequence which he so much desired. But his sister perceived that happiness and splendour were not the same, and she did not hesitate to forego the last for the attainment of the former. Monsieur Anderson would readily have sacrificed his sister's happiness to the gratification of his own ambition; and, on her marriage with Holmes, expressed in private his contempt of her spiritless conduct, and of the connection which she had formed. Madame Holmes, though she concealed this insult from her husband, felt resentment in her heart; and, though a regard for her own dignity, united with considerations of prudence, restrained her expression of this resentment, there was ever after a reserve in her manner towards M. Anderson, which he both understood and felt.

In his own marriage he did not follow his sister's example. His lady was an Italian, and an heiress by birth; and, by nature and education, was a vain and frivolous woman.

They now determined to pass the night with the Holmes family; and as the chateau was not large enough to accommodate their servants, the latter were dismissed to the neighbouring village. When the first compliments were over, and the arrangements for the night made, M. Anderson began the display of his intelligence and his connections; while Sherlock, who living in a small society found these topics recommended by their novelty, listened, with a degree of patience and attention, which his guest mistook for the humility of wonder. The latter, indeed, described the few festivities which the turbulence of that period permitted to the court of Henry the Third, with a minuteness of detail, that somewhat recompensed for his ostentation; but, when he came to speak of the character of the Duke de Joyeuse, of a secret treaty, which he knew to be negotiating with the Porte, and of the light in which Henry of Navarre was received, Sherlock soon perceived that Anderson could be only of an inferior class of politicians as well as of intellect; and that, from the importance of the subjects upon which he committed himself, he could not be of the rank to which he pretended to belong.

Madame Anderson, meanwhile, was expressing to Madame Holmes her astonishment, that she could bear to pass her life in this remote corner of the world, as she called it, and describing, from a wish, probably, of exciting envy, the splendour of the balls, banquets, and processions which had just been given by the court, in honour of the nuptials of the Duke de Joyeuse with Margaretta of Lorrain, the sister of the Queen. She described with equal minuteness the magnificence she had seen, and that from which she had been excluded; while Sherlock's vivid fancy, as he listened with the ardent curiosity of youth, heightened the scenes he heard of; and Madame Holmes, looking on her family, felt, as a tear stole to her eye, that though splendour may grace happiness, virtue only can bestow it.

'It is now twelve years, Holmes,' said M. Anderson, 'since I purchased your family estate.'—'Somewhere thereabout,' replied Holmes, suppressing a sigh. 'It is near five years since I have been there,' resumed Anderson; 'for Paris and its neighbourhood is the only place in the world to live in, and I am so immersed in politics, and have so many affairs of moment on my hands, that I find it difficult to steal away even for a month or two.' Holmes remaining silent, M. Anderson proceeded: 'I have sometimes wondered how you, who have lived in the capital, and have been accustomed to company, can exist elsewhere;—especially in so remote a country as this, where you can neither hear nor see any thing, and can in short be scarcely conscious of life.'

'I live for my family and myself,' said Holmes; 'and I know only happiness.'

'I mean to expend thirty or forty thousand livres on improvements,' said M. Anderson, without seeming to notice the words of Holmes; 'for I design, next summer, to bring here my friends, the Duke de Durefort and the Marquis Ramont, to pass a month or two with me.' To Holmes's enquiry, as to these intended improvements, he replied, that he should take down the whole east wing of the chateau, and raise upon the site a set of stables. 'Then I shall build,' said he, 'a salle a manger, a salon, a salle au commune, and a number of rooms for servants; for at present there is not accommodation for a third part of my own people.'

'It accommodated our father's household,' said Holmes, grieved that the old mansion was to be thus improved, 'and that was not a small one.'

'Our notions are somewhat enlarged since those days,' said M. Anderson;—'what was then thought a decent style of living would not now be endured.' Sherlock was incensed at this insult to his father, but his anger soon yielded to contempt. 'The ground about the chateau is encumbered with trees; I mean to cut some of them down.'

'Cut down the trees too!' said Holmes.

'Certainly. Why should I not? they interrupt my prospects. There is a chesnut which spreads its branches before the whole south side of the chateau, and which is so ancient that they tell me the hollow of its trunk will hold a dozen men. Your enthusiasm will scarcely contend that there can be either use, or beauty, in such a sapless old tree as this.'

'Good God!' exclaimed Holmes, 'you surely will not destroy that noble chesnut, which has flourished for centuries, the glory of the estate! It was in its maturity when the present mansion was built. How often, in my youth, have I climbed among its broad branches, and sat embowered amidst a world of leaves, while the heavy shower has pattered above, and not a rain drop reached me! How often I have sat with a book in my hand, sometimes reading, and sometimes looking out between the branches upon the wide landscape, and the setting sun, till twilight came, and brought the birds home to their little nests among the leaves! How often—but pardon me,' added Holmes, recollecting that he was speaking to a man who could neither comprehend, nor allow his feelings, 'I am talking of times and feelings as old-fashioned as the taste that would spare that venerable tree.'

'It will certainly come down,' said M. Anderson; ‘but my good sir, I will not dispute with you. You must return to Paris before our ideas can at all agree. But apropos of Venice, I have some thoughts of going thither, next summer. In that case I shall leave the improvements I mention to another year.'

Sherlock was amused to hear him talk of being tempted to remain abroad, after he had mentioned his presence to be so necessary at Paris, that it was with difficulty he could steal away for a month or two; but for his father, the possibility that these projected improvements might be deferred, gave him a hope, that they might never take place.

Before they separated for the night, M. Anderson desired to speak with Holmes alone, and they retired to another room, where they remained a considerable time. The subject of this conversation intrigued Sherlock; but, whatever it might be, Holmes, when he returned to the supper-room, seemed much disturbed, and a shade of sorrow sometimes fell upon his features.

On the following day, before M. Anderson departed, he had a second conference with Holmes.

The guests, after dining at the chateau, set out in the cool of the day for Epourville, whither they gave him and Madame Holmes a pressing invitation, prompted rather by the vanity of displaying their splendour, than by a wish to make their friends happy.

Sherlock returned, with delight, to the liberty which their presence had restrained, to his books, his walks, and the rational conversation of M. and Madame Holmes, who seemed to rejoice, no less, that they were delivered from the shackles, which arrogance and frivolity had imposed.

Madame Holmes excused herself from sharing their usual evening walk, complaining that she was not quite well, and Holmes and Sherlock went out together.

They chose a walk towards the mountains, intending to visit some old pensioners of Holmes, which, from his very moderate income, he contrived to support, though it is probable M. Anderson, with his very large one, could not have afforded this.

The elder Holmes distributed to his pensioners their weekly stipends and listened patiently to their complaints; whilst the younger deduced them.  Upon Sherlock advising one shepherd that he should certainly hasten the marriage of his daughter if he did not wish for her babe to be born outside of wedlock; they shortly found themselves on the way home, leaving behind a degree of uproar which was not inconsiderable.  

After giving his son a familiar lecture on the opportune times to give well-meaning advice, Holmes was silent till he reached the chateau, where his wife had retired to her chamber. The languor and dejection, that had lately oppressed her, now returned with increased effect. On the following day, symptoms of fever appeared, and Holmes, having sent for medical advice, learned, that her disorder was a fever of the same nature as that, from which he had lately recovered. She had, indeed, taken the infection, during her attendance upon him, and, her constitution being too weak to throw out the disease immediately, it had lurked in her veins, and occasioned the heavy languor of which she had complained. Holmes, whose anxiety for his wife overcame every other consideration, detained the physician in his house. He remembered the feelings and the reflections that had called a momentary gloom upon his mind, on the day when he had last visited the fishing-house, in company with Madame Holmes, and he now admitted a presentiment, that this illness would be a fatal one. But he effectually concealed this from her, and from his son. The physician, when asked by Holmes for his opinion of the disorder, replied, that the event of it depended upon circumstances which he could not ascertain. Madame Holmes seemed to have formed a more decided one; but her eyes only gave hints of this. She frequently fixed them upon her anxious friends with an expression of pity, and of tenderness, as if she anticipated the sorrow that awaited them.

On the seventh day, the disorder was at its crisis. The physician assumed a graver manner, which she observed, and took occasion, when her family had once quitted the chamber, to tell him, that she perceived her death was approaching. 'Do not attempt to deceive me,' said she, 'I feel that I cannot long survive. I am prepared for the event - do not suffer a mistaken compassion to induce you to flatter my family with false hopes. If you do, their affliction will only be the heavier when it arrives: I will endeavour to teach them resignation by my example.'

The physician was affected; he promised to obey her, and told Holmes, somewhat abruptly, that there was nothing to expect. The latter was not philosopher enough to restrain his feelings when he received this information. Sherlock was at first overwhelmed with the intelligence; then, deluded by the strength of his wishes, a hope sprung up in his mind that his mother would yet recover, and to this he adhered almost to the last hour.

Never had Sherlock felt the importance of the lessons, which had taught him to restrain his sensibility, so much as in these moments, and never had he practised them with a triumph so complete. But when the last was over, he sunk at once under the pressure of his sorrow, and then perceived that it was hope, and not reason, which had supported him. Holmes was for a time too devoid of comfort himself to bestow any on his son.

Chapter Text

 I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word

 Would harrow up thy soul.

     SHAKESPEARE

 

Madame Holmes was interred in the neighbouring village church; her husband and son attended her to the grave, followed by a long train of the peasantry, who were sincere mourners of this excellent woman.

The first person who came to condole with Holmes was a M. Barreaux, an austere and seemingly unfeeling man. A taste for botany had introduced them to each other, for they had frequently met in their wanderings among the mountains.  Holmes was somewhat surprised to see him; for, though he had often pressed him to come to the chateau, he had never till now accepted the invitation; and now he came without ceremony or reserve, entering the parlour as an old friend. The claims of misfortune appeared to have softened down all the ruggedness and prejudices of his heart. It was in manners, more than in words, that he appeared to sympathize with his friends: he spoke little on the subject of their grief; but the minute attention he gave them, and the modulated voice, and softened look that accompanied it, came from his heart, and spoke to theirs.

At this melancholy period Holmes was likewise visited by Monsieur Mycroft, the son of his wife’s previous marriage, who had been some years a widower, and now resided on his own estate near Tholouse. The intercourse between them had not been very frequent; Mycroft had been raised by the family of his father, who had not thought it necessary to maintain much of a relationship between the infant and his mother. In his condolements, words were not wanting; he assured Holmes that he sincerely sympathized with him, praised the virtues of his late mother, and then offered what he considered to be consolation. Sherlock could not bear to look upon him while he spoke; Holmes was tranquil, listened to what he said in silence, and then turned the discourse upon another subject.

At parting he pressed him and his half-brother to make an early visit. 'Change of place will amuse you,' said he, 'and it is wrong to give way to grief.' Holmes acknowledged the truth of these words of course; but, at the same time, felt more reluctant than ever to quit the spot which his past happiness had consecrated.

But there were calls which must be complied with, and of this kind was the visit he paid to his brother-in-law M. Anderson. An affair of an interesting nature made it necessary that he should delay this visit no longer, and, wishing to rouse Sherlock from his dejection, he took him to Epourville.

The sound of carriage wheels brought a troop of servants to the great gate, where Holmes alighted, and from which he led Sherlock into the gothic hall, now no longer hung with the arms and ancient banners of the family. These were displaced, and the oak wainscotting, and beams that crossed the roof, were painted white.  The heavy walls were hung with frivolous ornaments, and every thing that appeared denoted the false taste and corrupted sentiments of the present owner.

Holmes followed a gay Parisian servant to a parlour, where sat Mons. and Madame Anderson, who received him with a stately politeness, and, after a few formal words of condolement, seemed to have forgotten that they ever had a sister.

Sherlock felt his feelings rise hot in his throat, but resentment checked tears. Holmes, calm and deliberate, preserved his dignity without assuming importance, and Anderson was depressed by his presence without exactly knowing why.

After some general conversation, Holmes requested to speak with him alone; and Sherlock, being left with Madame Anderson, soon learned that a large party was invited to dine at the chateau, and was compelled to hear that nothing which was past and irremediable ought to prevent the festivity of the present hour.

Holmes, when he was told that company were expected, felt a mixed emotion of disgust and indignation at the insensibility of Anderson, which prompted him to return home immediately. But when he looked at Sherlock, and considered that a time might come when the enmity of his uncle would be prejudicial to him, he determined not to incur it himself, by conduct which would be resented as indecorous, by the very persons who now showed so little sense of decorum.

Sherlock was shocked by the salutation with which Monsieur Mycroft met his father—'Dear man,' said he, 'I am concerned to see you look so very ill; do, pray, have advice!' Holmes answered, with a melancholy smile, that he felt himself much as usual; but Sherlock's fears made him now fancy that his father looked worse than he really did.

Among the visitors assembled at dinner were two Irish gentlemen, of whom one was named Moriarty, a distant relation of Madame Anderson, a man about thirty, of an uncommonly handsome person, with features sharp and expressive, and quick of discernment; but was mercurial in temper and extremely changeable in intention.

Sherlock would have been amused by the new deduction opportunities presented, and the varied conversation that passed during dinner, which was served in a style of splendour he had seldom seen before, had his spirits been less oppressed. Mr. Moriarty was lately come from Italy, had styled himself as a Signor, and he spoke of the commotions which at that period agitated the country; talked of party differences with warmth, and then lamented the probable consequences of the tumults.

Holmes ordered his carriage at an early hour, and Sherlock observed, that his father was more than usually silent and dejected on the way home; but Sherlock considered this to be the effect of his visit to a place which spoke so eloquently of former times, nor suspected that he had a cause of grief which he concealed from his son.

On entering the chateau Sherlock felt more depressed than ever, for he missed the presence of that dear parent, who, whenever he had been from home, used to welcome his return with smiles and fondness; now, all was silent and forsaken.

But what reason and effort may fail to do, time effects. Week after week passed away, and each, as it passed, stole something from the harshness of Sherlock’s affliction, till it was mellowed to that tenderness which the feeling heart cherishes as sacred. His father, on the contrary, visibly declined in health; though Sherlock, who had been so constantly with him, was almost the last person who observed it. His constitution had never recovered from the late attack of the fever, and the succeeding shock it received from Madame Holmes's death had produced its present infirmity. His physician now ordered him to travel; for it was perceptible that sorrow had seized upon his nerves, and variety of scene, it was probable, would, by amusing his mind, restore them to their proper tone.

They retired early to their chamber on the night before their departure; but Sherlock had a few books and other things to collect, and the clock had struck twelve before he had finished, or had remembered that some of his scientific instruments, which he meant to take with him, were in the parlour below. As he went to fetch these, he passed his father's room, and, perceiving the door half open, concluded that he was in his study. When he was below stairs he looked into this room, but without finding his father; and as he returned to his chamber, he tapped at his parent’s door, and receiving no answer, stepped softly in, to be certain whether he was there.

The room was dark, but a light glimmered through some panes of glass that were placed in the upper part of a closet-door. Sherlock believed his father to be in the closet, and, surprised that he was up at so late an hour, apprehended he was unwell, and was going to enquire; but, considering that his sudden appearance at this hour might alarm his parent, he removed his light to the stair-case, and then stepped softly to the closet. On looking through the panes of glass, he saw his father seated at a small table, with papers before him, some of which he was reading with deep attention and interest, during which he often wept and sobbed aloud. Sherlock, who had come to the door to learn whether his father was ill, was now detained there by a mixture of curiosity and tenderness. He could not witness this sorrow, without being anxious to know the subject of it; and he therefore continued to observe him in silence, concluding that those papers were letters of his late mother. From amongst the papers his father took a miniature picture. The rays of light fell strongly upon it, and Sherlock perceived it to be that of a lady, but not of his mother.

Holmes gazed earnestly and tenderly upon his portrait, put it to his lips, and then to his heart, and sighed with a convulsive force. Sherlock could scarcely believe what he saw to be real; he could form no deduction relating to this circumstance.

At length Holmes returned the picture to its case; and Sherlock, recollecting that he was intruding upon his fathers’ private sorrows, softly withdrew from the chamber.

Chapter Text

O how canst thou renounce the boundless store

 Of charms which nature to her vot'ry yields!

 The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,

 The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields;

 All that the genial ray of morning gilds,

 And all that echoes to the song of even;

 All that the mountain's shelt'ring bosom shields,

 And all the dread magnificence of heaven;

 O how canst thou renounce, and hope to be forgiven!

..... These charms shall work thy soul's eternal health,

 And love, and gentleness, and joy, impart.

     THE MINSTREL

Holmes, instead of taking the more direct road, that ran along the feet of the Pyrenees to Languedoc, chose one that, winding over the heights, afforded more extensive views and greater variety of romantic scenery.   As the travellers ascended the heights, Holmes often looked back upon the chateau, in the plain below; tender images crowded to his mind; his melancholy imagination suggested that he should return no more; and though he checked this wandering thought, still he continued to look, till the haziness of distance made his home indistinct to view.

He and Sherlock continued sunk in musing silence for some leagues, from which melancholy reverie Sherlock first awoke, and his young fancy, struck with the grandeur of the objects around, gradually yielded to delightful impressions. The road now descended into glens, confined by stupendous walls of rock, grey and barren, except where shrubs fringed their summits, or patches of meagre vegetation tinted their recesses, in which the wild goat was frequently browsing. And now, the way led to the lofty cliffs, from whence the landscape was seen extending in all its magnificence.

Sherlock could not restrain his excitement as he looked over the pine forests of the mountains upon the vast plains, that, enriched with woods, towns, blushing vines, and plantations of almonds, palms, and olives, stretched along, till their various colours melted in distance into one harmonious hue. Through the whole of this glorious scene the majestic Garonne wandered; descending from its source among the Pyrenees, and winding its blue waves towards the Bay of Biscay.

Soon after mid-day, they reached the summit of one of those cliffs, which, bright with the verdure of palm-trees, adorn, like gems, the tremendous walls of the rocks, and which overlooked the greater part of Gascony, and part of Languedoc. This was a spot well suited for rest, and the travellers alighted to dine, while the mules were unharnessed to browse on the savoury herbs that enriched this summit.

It was some time before Holmes or Sherlock could withdraw their attention from the surrounding objects, so as to partake of their little repast. Seated in the shade of the palms, Holmes pointed out to his son’s observation the course of the rivers, the situation of great towns, and the boundaries of provinces, which science, rather than the eye, enabled him to describe. When he had talked awhile he suddenly became silent, thoughtful, and tears swelled to his eyes; which Sherlock observed, and deduced their cause.   The scene before them bore some resemblance to a favourite one of the late Madame Holmes, within view of the fishing-house. They both observed this, and thought how delighted she would have been with the present landscape, while they knew that her eyes must never, never more open upon this world. Holmes remembered the last time of his visiting that spot in company with her, and also the mournfully presaging thoughts which had then arisen in his mind, and were now, even thus soon, realized! The recollections subdued him, and he abruptly rose from his seat, and walked away to where no eye could observe his grief.

When he returned, his countenance had recovered its usual serenity; he took Sherlock's hand, pressed it affectionately, without speaking, and soon after called to the muleteer, who sat at a little distance, concerning a road among the mountains towards Rousillon. Michael said, there were several that way, but he did not know how far they extended, or even whether they were passable; and Holmes, who did not intend to travel after sun-set, asked what village they could reach about that time. The muleteer calculated that they could easily reach Mateau, which was in their present road; but that, if they took a road that sloped more to the south, towards Rousillon, there was a hamlet, which he thought they could gain before the evening shut in.

Holmes, after some hesitation, determined to take the latter course, and Michael, having finished his meal, and harnessed his mules, again set forward and, in spite of the rough road, and the pain of his poor mules, which he had been lately lamenting, rattled, in a full gallop, along the edge of a precipice, which it made the eye dizzy to look down. Holmes was terrified; but Sherlock, calculating still greater danger from suddenly stopping the vehicle’s motion, urged him to sit quietly, and trust his fate to the strength and discretion of the mules, who seemed to possess a greater portion of the latter quality than their idiotic master; for they carried the travellers safely into the valley.

As they advanced, the valley opened; its savage features gradually softened, and, towards evening, they were among heathy mountains, along which the solitary sheep-bell was heard, and the voice of the shepherd calling his wandering flocks to the nightly fold.  The sun was now setting; its last light gleamed upon the water, and heightened the rich yellow and purple tints of the heath and broom, that overspread the mountains.

Holmes enquired of Michael the distance to the hamlet he had mentioned, but the man could not with certainty tell; and Sherlock began to fear that he had mistaken the road. Here was no human being to assist, or direct them; and the scene became so obscured in twilight, that Sherlock could not follow the distant perspective of the valley to deduce the presence of a cottage, or a hamlet. A glow of the horizon still marked the west, and this was of some little use to the travellers. Michael seemed endeavouring to keep up his courage by singing; his music, however, was not of a kind to disperse melancholy; he sung, in a sort of chant, one of the most dismal ditties his audience had ever heard, and Holmes at length discovered it to be a vesper-hymn to his favourite saint.

They travelled on, sunk in that thoughtful melancholy, with which twilight and solitude impress the mind. Michael had now ended his ditty, and nothing was heard but the drowsy murmur of the breeze among the woods, and its light flutter, as it blew freshly into the carriage. They were at length roused by the sound of fire-arms. Holmes called to the muleteer to stop, and they listened. The noise was not repeated; but presently they heard a rustling along the side of the road. Holmes drew forth a pistol, equipped his son similarly, and ordered Michael to proceed as fast as possible. Before they had covered much ground a horn sounded, that made the mountains ring.

Sherlock looked again from the window, and saw a young man spring from the bushes into the road, followed by a couple of dogs. The stranger was in a hunter's dress. His gun was slung across his shoulders, the hunter's horn hung from his belt, and in his hand was a small staff, which, as he held it, added to the manly grace of his figure, and assisted the agility of his steps.

After a moment's hesitation, Holmes again stopped the carriage, and waited till he came up, that they might enquire concerning the hamlet they were in search of. The stranger informed him, that it was only half a league distant, that he was going thither himself, and would readily shew the way. Holmes thanked him for the offer, and, pleased with his chevalier-like air and open countenance, asked him to take a seat in the carriage; which the stranger declined, adding that he would keep pace with the mules. 'But I fear you will be wretchedly accommodated,' said he: 'the inhabitants of these mountains are a simple people, who are not only without the luxuries of life, but almost destitute of what in other places are held to be its necessaries.'

'I perceive you are not one of its inhabitants, sir,' said Holmes.

'No, sir, I am only a wanderer here.'

The carriage drove on, and the increasing dusk made the travellers very thankful that they had a guide; the frequent glens, too, that now opened among the mountains, would likewise have added to their perplexity. Sherlock, as he looked up one of these, saw something at a great distance like a bright cloud in the air.  He deduced that it was the snowy summit of a mountain, so much higher than any around it, that it still reflected the sun's rays, while those below lay in deep shade.

At length, the village lights were seen to twinkle through the dusk, the stranger now came up, and the Holmeses, on further enquiry, found not only that there was no inn in the place, but not any sort of house of public reception. The stranger, however, offered to walk on, and enquire for a cottage to accommodate them; for which further civility Holmes returned his thanks, and said, that, as the village was so near, he and Sherlock would alight, and walk with him.

On the way, Sherlock deduced out loud that their companion had not had much success in the hunt, due to the state of his clothes and the condition of his gun lock. 'Not much, sir,' he replied with amazement, 'nor do I aim at it. I am pleased with the country, and mean to saunter away a few weeks among its scenes. My dogs I take with me more for companionship than for game.'

'I admire your taste,' said Holmes, 'and, if I was a younger man, should like to pass a few weeks in your way exceedingly. I, too, am a wanderer, but neither my plan nor pursuits are exactly like yours—I go in search of health, as much as of amusement.'

They now arrived at the village, and commenced their search for a cottage, that would afford a night's lodging. In several, which they entered, ignorance, poverty, and mirth seemed equally to prevail; and the owners eyed Sherlock and his father with a mixture of curiosity and timidity. Nothing like a bed could be found, and Sherlock observed the languor of his father's countenance, and privately lamented, that he had taken a road so ill provided with the comforts necessary for an invalid.  The young stranger seemed to divine Sherlock’s thoughts, for drawing him aside, he made an offer of his own bed. 'It is a decent one,' said he, 'when compared with what we have just seen, yet such as in other circumstances I should be ashamed to offer your father.'

Holmes acknowledged how much he felt himself obliged by this kindness, but refused to accept it, but the young stranger would take no denial. Holmes at length consented, that, if this could be done, he would accept his kindness, though he felt rather surprised, that the stranger had proved himself so deficient in gallantry, as to administer to the repose of an infirm man, rather than to that of a very lovely young man, for he had not once offered the room for Sherlock. But Sherlock thought not of himself, and the shy smile he gave the stranger, told how much he felt himself obliged for the preference of his father.

On their way, the stranger, whose name was John Watson, stepped on first to speak to his hostess, and she came out to welcome Holmes into a cottage, much superior to any he had seen. This good woman seemed very willing to accommodate the strangers, who were soon compelled to accept the only two beds in the place. Eggs and milk were the only food the cottage afforded; but against scarcity of provisions Holmes had provided, and he requested John to stay, and partake with him of less homely fare; an invitation, which was readily accepted, and the men passed an hour in intelligent conversation. Holmes was much pleased with the manly frankness, simplicity, and keen susceptibility to the grandeur of nature, which his new acquaintance discovered; and his son was not less impressed by the strength’s in the man’s compact frame and the twinkling of his blue eyes.

The conversation was interrupted by a violent uproar without, in which the voice of the muleteer was heard above every other sound. John started from his seat, and went to enquire the occasion; but the dispute continued so long afterwards, that Sherlock went himself, and found Michael quarrelling with the hostess, because she had refused to let his mules lie in a little room where he and three of her sons were to pass the night. The place was wretched enough, but there was no other for these people to sleep in; and she refused to let the animals have the same bed-chamber with her children. This was a tender point with the muleteer; his honour was wounded when his mules were treated with disrespect, and he would have received a blow, perhaps, with more meekness. He declared that his beasts were as honest beasts, and as good beasts, as any in the whole province; and that they had a right to be well treated wherever they went. 'They are as harmless as lambs,' said he, 'if people don't affront them. I never knew them behave themselves amiss above once or twice in my life, and then they had good reason for doing so. Once, indeed, they kicked at a boy's leg that lay asleep in the stable, and broke it; but I told them they were naughty, and by St. Anthony! I believe they understood me, for they never did so again.'

Sherlock was bored by this discussion, but the tedious affair was at length settled by John, who drew the hostess aside, and desired that her sons should have the bed of skins designed for him, for that he would wrap himself in his cloak, and sleep on the bench by the cottage door.

It was late when Holmes and Sherlock retired to their room, and John to his station at the door. Sherlock was somewhat surprised to find in his room volumes of Homer, Horace, and Petrarch; but the name of Watson, written in them, told him to whom they belonged.

Chapter Text

   In truth he was a strange and wayward wight,

  Fond of each gentle, and each dreadful scene,

  In darkness, and in storm he found delight;

  Nor less than when on ocean-wave serene

  The southern sun diffus'd his dazzling sheen.

  Even sad vicissitude amus'd his soul;

  And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,

  And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,

 A sigh, a tear, so sweet, he wish'd not to controul.

     THE MINSTREL

 

Holmes awoke at an early hour, refreshed by sleep, and desirous to set forward. He invited the stranger to breakfast with him; and, talking again of the road, John said, that, some months past, he had travelled as far as Beaujeu, which was a town of some consequence on the way to Rousillon. He recommended it to Holmes to take that route, and the latter determined to do so.

'The road from this hamlet,' said John, 'and that to Beaujeu, part at the distance of about a league and a half from hence; if you will give me leave, I will direct your muleteer so far. I must wander somewhere, and your company would make this a pleasanter ramble than any other I could take.'

Holmes thankfully accepted his offer, and they set out together, the young men on foot, for John refused the invitation of Holmes to take a seat in his little carriage.

The road wound along the feet of the mountains through a pastoral valley, bright with verdure, and varied with groves of dwarf oak, beech and sycamore, under whose branches herds of cattle reposed. The mountain-ash too, and the weeping birch, often threw their pendant foliage over the steeps above, where the scanty soil scarcely concealed their roots, and where their light branches waved to every breeze that fluttered from the mountains.

The dawn, which softened the scenery with its peculiar grey tint, now dispersed, and Sherlock watched the progress of the day, first trembling on the tops of the highest cliffs, then touching them with splendid light, while their sides and the vale below were still wrapt in dewy mist. Meanwhile, the sullen grey of the eastern clouds began to blush, then to redden, and then to glow with a thousand colours, till the golden light darted over all the air, touched the lower points of the mountain's brow, and glanced in long sloping beams upon the valley and its stream.

Sherlock took the opportunity to examine the flora growing at these altitudes; John often stopped to enquire what he was looking at, to be amazed by Sherlock’s knowledge, and to contribute his own knowledge of the medicinal properties of some of the plants.  Holmes was pleased with him: 'Here is the real ingenuousness and ardour of youth,' said he to himself; 'this young man has never been at Paris.'

Sherlock found himself sorry when they came to the spot where the roads parted, and his heart took a more affectionate leave of John than is usual after so short an acquaintance. John talked long by the side of the carriage; seemed more than once to be going, but still lingered, and appeared to search anxiously for topics of conversation to account for his delay. At length he took leave. As he went, Holmes observed him look with an earnest and pensive eye at Sherlock, who inclined his head to John with a countenance full of flustered timidity, while the carriage drove on. Sherlock, for whatever reason, soon after looked from the window, and saw John standing upon the bank of the road, resting on his pike with folded arms, and following the carriage with his eyes. He extended his hand, and John, seeming to awake from his reverie, returned the salute, and started away.

The aspect of the country now began to change, and the travellers soon found themselves among mountains covered from their base nearly to their summits with forests of gloomy pine, except where a rock of granite shot up from the vale, and lost its snowy top in the clouds. The rivulet, which had hitherto accompanied them, now expanded into a river; and, flowing deeply and silently along, reflected, as in a mirror, the blackness of the impending shades.

They continued to travel over a rough and unfrequented road; neither village nor hamlet was seen for many leagues; the goat-herd's or the hunter's cabin, perched among the cliffs of the rocks, were the only human habitations that appeared. The road eventually began to descend, and, leaving the pine forests behind, wound among rocky precipices. The evening twilight again fell over the scene, and the travellers were ignorant how far they might yet be from Beaujeu.

On turning the angle of a mountain, a light appeared at a distance, that illumined the rocks, and the horizon to a great extent. It was evidently a large fire, but whether accidental, or otherwise, there were no means of knowing.  Holmes thought it was probably kindled by some of the numerous banditti, that infested the Pyrenees, and he became watchful and anxious to know whether the road passed near this fire. He had arms with him, and prepared one for himself and its pair for his son in apprehension of the danger. While Sherlock shook his head in amused silence at these outlandish fears of his father; he heard a voice shouting from the road behind, ordering the muleteer to stop. Holmes bade him proceed as fast as possible; but either Michael, or his mules were obstinate, for they did not quit the old pace.

Horses' feet were now heard; a man rode up to the carriage, still ordering the driver to stop; and when this stranger’s hand was upon the door of the chaise, Holmes could no longer doubt his purpose. The man staggered on his horse, the report of the pistol was followed by a groan, the horror of Sherlock and his father may be imagined, when in the next instant Sherlock thought he heard the faint voice of John Watson! He now himself bade the muleteer stop; and, pronouncing the name of ‘John!’, was answered in a voice, that no longer suffered him to doubt.

Sherlock, who instantly alighted and went to his assistance, found John still sitting on his horse, but bleeding profusely, and appearing to be in great pain, though he endeavoured to soften his apprehension by assurances that he was not materially hurt, the wound being only in his shoulder. Sherlock, with the muleteer, assisted him to dismount, and he sat down on the bank of the road, where Sherlock tried to inspect the wound.  Anxious to bind up the arm, Sherlock called for his father to bring him bandages.   Receiving no answer, he went to the carriage, and found his father sunk on the seat in a fainting fit.

Between the distress of this circumstance and that of leaving John bleeding, he scarcely knew what he did; he called to Michael to fetch water from the rivulet that flowed by the road, but Michael was gone beyond the reach of his voice in attempting to reclaim John’s horse. John, who heard these calls, and also Sherlock’s distressed calls to his father, instantly understood the subject of his upset; and, almost forgetting his own condition, hastened to his relief. Sherlock’s father was reviving when he reached the carriage; and then, understanding that anxiety for him had occasioned his indisposition, he assured Sherlock and his father, in a voice that trembled, but not from anguish, that his wound was of no consequence.

While he said this Sherlock turned round, and perceiving that John was still bleeding, the subject of his alarm changed again, and he hastily formed some handkerchiefs into a bandage and pressed them with a trembling hand to John’s shoulder. This stopped the effusion of the blood; but Sherlock, dreading the consequence of the wound, knew not how John, in his present state, would bear the motion of the carriage for the remaining distance to Beaujeau, and observed that he was already faint from loss of blood. When he mentioned this, John entreated that he would not suffer himself to be thus alarmed on his account, for that he had no doubt he should be able to support himself very well; and then he talked of the accident as a slight one.  Sherlock abused John for an idiot, directed him into the chaise, and as his father was now revived and John’s horse recovered, they moved slowly on towards Beaujeu.

Sherlock, when the chaise was underway, expressed surprise on seeing John, who explained his unexpected appearance by saying, 'You, sir, renewed my taste for society; when you had left the hamlet, it did indeed appear lonely and forlorn. I determined, therefore, to change the scene; and I took this road, because I knew it led through a more romantic tract of mountains than the spot I have left. Besides,' added he, hesitating for an instant, 'I will own, and why should I not? that I had some hope of overtaking you. And your father, of course.'

'And I have made you a very unexpected return for the compliment,' said Holmes, who lamented again the rashness which had produced the accident, and explained the cause of his late alarm. But John seemed anxious only to remove from the minds of his companions every unpleasant feeling relative to himself; and, for that purpose, still struggled against a sense of pain, and tried to converse with gaiety. Sherlock meanwhile was silent.

They were now so near the fire, which had long flamed at a distance on the blackness of night, that it gleamed upon the road, and they could distinguish figures moving about the blaze. The way winding still nearer, they perceived in the valley one of those numerous bands of banditti, which at that period particularly haunted the wilds of the Pyrenees, and lived partly by plundering the traveller. They were preparing their supper; a large pot stood by the fire, over which several figures were busy.

The travellers saw plainly their danger. John was silent, but laid his hand on one of Holmes's pistols; Sherlock drew forth another, and Michael was ordered to proceed as fast as possible. They passed the place, however, without being attacked; the rovers being probably unprepared for the opportunity, and too busy about their supper to feel much interest, at the moment, in any thing besides.

After a league and a half more, passed in darkness, the travellers arrived at Beaujeu, and drove up to the only inn the place afforded; which, though superior to any they had seen since they entered the mountains, was bad enough.

The surgeon of the town was immediately sent for, if a surgeon he could be called, who prescribed for horses as well as for men, and shaved faces at least as dexterously as he set bones. After examining John's shoulder, and perceiving that the bullet had passed through the flesh without touching the bone, he dressed it, and left him with a solemn prescription of quiet, which his patient was not inclined to obey.

Late as it was, however, Holmes was obliged to go out with the landlord to buy meat for supper; and Sherlock, who, during this interval, had been looking to their rooms, which he found rather better than he had initially deduced, found himself returning to converse with John alone. They talked of the character of the scenes they had passed, of the natural history of the country, of developments in science, of poetry, and Sherlock amused John by deducing the inn’s other guests.

In the morning Sherlock found that John had passed a restless night; that he was feverish, and his wound very painful. The surgeon, when he dressed it, advised him to remain quietly at Beaujeu; advice which was too reasonable to be rejected. Sherlock, however, had no favourable opinion of this practitioner, and was anxious to commit John into more skilful hands; but learning, upon enquiry, that there was no town within several leagues which seemed more likely to afford better advice, he and his father determined to alter the plan of their journey, to await the recovery of John, who, with somewhat more ceremony than sincerity, made many objections to this delay.

John's indisposition detained the travellers at Beaujeu several days, during which interval Holmes had observed his disposition and his talents with the philosophic inquiry so natural to him. He saw a frank and generous nature, full of ardour, highly susceptible of whatever is grand and beautiful, but impetuous, wild, and somewhat romantic. John had known little of the world. His perceptions were clear, and his feelings just; his indignation of an unworthy, or his admiration of a generous action, were expressed in terms of equal vehemence. Holmes sometimes smiled at his warmth, but seldom checked it, and often repeated to himself, 'This young man has never been at Paris.' A sigh sometimes followed this silent thought. He determined not to leave John till he should be perfectly recovered; and, as he was now well enough to travel, though not able to manage his horse, Holmes invited him to accompany him for a few days in the carriage. This he the more readily did, since he had discovered that John Watson was of a family of the same name in Gascony, with whose respectability he was well acquainted. The latter accepted the offer with great pleasure, and they again set forward among these romantic wilds about Rousillon.

They travelled leisurely; stopping wherever a scene uncommonly grand appeared; frequently alighting to walk to an eminence, whither the mules could not go, from which the prospect opened in greater magnificence; and often sauntering over hillocks covered with lavender, wild thyme, juniper, and tamarisc; and under the shades of woods, between those boles they caught the long mountain-vista, sublime beyond anything that Sherlock had ever imagined.

Holmes sometimes amused himself with botanizing, while John and Sherlock strolled on. When he thought himself not observed, he frequently fixed his eyes pensively on his son’s countenance, so animated when he spoke to John; listened to a peculiar tenderness in the tone of his voice, that defeated any attempt to conceal his sentiments from his concerned father.

After traversing these regions for many leagues, they began to descend towards Rousillon, and features of beauty then mingled with the scene. Holmes began to look out for the little town he had been directed to by the people of Beaujeu, and where he meant to pass the night; but no habitation yet appeared.

The sun now gave his last light, and Holmes bade the muleteer proceed with all possible dispatch. They continued to travel long after twilight had obscured the road, which was so broken, that, now thinking it safer to walk than to ride, they all alighted. The moon was rising, but her light was yet too feeble to assist them. While they stepped carefully on, they heard the vesper-bell of a convent. The twilight would not permit them to distinguish anything like a building, but the sounds seemed to come from some woods, that overhung an acclivity to the right. John proposed to go in search of this convent. 'If they will not accommodate us with a night's lodging,' said he, 'they may certainly inform us how far we are from Montigny, and direct us towards it.' He was bounding forward, without waiting Holmes's reply, when the latter stopped him. 'I am very weary,' said Holmes, 'and wish for nothing so much as for immediate rest. We will all go to the convent; they will scarcely deny us repose.'

As he said this, he took Sherlock's arm, and they began to ascend towards the woods, guided by the bell of the convent. The moon now threw a faint light over their path, and, soon after, enabled them to distinguish some towers rising above the tops of the woods. Still following the note of the bell, they entered the shade of those woods, lighted only by the moonbeams, that glided down between the leaves, and threw a tremulous uncertain gleam upon the steep track they were winding. The gloom and the silence that prevailed, except when the bell returned upon the air, together with the wildness of the surrounding scene, struck Sherlock with a degree of fear his logical mind could not quash, which, however, the near and solid presence of John somewhat repressed. When they had been some time ascending, Holmes complained of weariness, and they stopped to rest upon a little green summit, where the trees opened, and admitted the moon-light.

Before them, extended the valley they had quitted; its rocks, and woods to the left, just silvered by the rays, formed a contrast to the deep shadow, that involved the opposite cliffs, whose fringed summits only were tipped with light; while the distant perspective of the valley was lost in the yellow mist of moon-light.

'These scenes,' said John, at length, 'soften the heart, like the notes of sweet music. They waken our best and purest feelings, disposing us to benevolence, pity, and friendship. Those whom I love—I always seem to love more in such an hour as this.' His voice faltered, and he stopped.

Having continued on their way they emerged from the woods, they saw, upon a turfy hillock above, the convent of which they were in search. A high wall, that surrounded it, led them to an ancient gate, at which they knocked; and the poor monk, who opened it, conducted them into a small adjoining room, where he desired they would wait while he informed the superior of their request. At length the superior received them with courtesy; and, having asked them a few questions, granted their request.

The monks had found it prudent to supply them with a modest supper; Holmes was too much indisposed to share it; Sherlock, disinclined to eat; but John, silent and thoughtful, yet never inattentive to them, appeared particularly solicitous to Sherlock’s needs, and pressed him to take a few mouthfuls.

They separated at an early hour, and retired to their respective apartments. Sherlock laid upon the bed awake, for his heart was melancholy; he thought his father daily declining in health.  In about two hours after, he was awakened by the chiming of a bell, and then heard quick steps pass along the gallery, into which his chamber opened. Initially he feared he was being summonsed to her father, fearing he had taken very ill; before he recollected that the bell was the call of the monks to prayers. His mind was not disposed for immediate sleep, and the moon-light, that shone into his chamber, invited him to open the casement, and look out upon the country.

It was a still and beautiful night, the sky was unobscured by any cloud, and scarce a leaf of the woods beneath trembled in the air. The midnight chant of the monks soon after dropped into silence; but Sherlock remained at the casement, watching the setting moon, and the valley sinking into deep shade. At length he retired to his mattress, and eventually sunk into tranquil slumber.

Chapter Text

While in the rosy vale

 Love breath'd his infant sighs, from anguish free.

     Thomson

Holmes, sufficiently restored by a night's repose to pursue his journey, set out in the morning, with his son and John, for Rousillon, which he hoped to reach before night-fall. The scenes, through which they now passed, were as wild and romantic, as any they had yet observed, with this difference, that beauty, every now and then, softened the landscape into smiles. Little woody recesses appeared among the mountains, covered with bright verdure and flowers; or a pastoral valley opened its grassy bosom in the shade of the cliffs, with flocks and herds loitering along the banks of a rivulet, that refreshed it with perpetual green.

As they travelled Sieger found great pleasure in conversing with John, and in listening to his remarks. Holmes discovered in his sentiments the justness and the dignity of an elevated mind, unbiased by intercourse with the world. John believed well of all mankind - this opinion, the reflected image of his own heart.

Holmes, as he sometimes lingered to examine the wild plants in his path, often looked forward with pleasure to Sherlock and John, as they strolled on together; Sherlock, with a countenance of animated delight, pointing to John’s attention some interesting fact about the scene; and John, listening with a look of tender seriousness. They appeared like two lovers who had never strayed beyond these their native mountains; and who knew no other happiness, than in the union of pure and affectionate hearts. Holmes smiled, and sighed at the romantic picture of felicity his fancy drew.

Holmes was refreshed by the shades, and they continued to saunter under them, following, as nearly as they could guess, the direction of the road, till they perceived that they had totally lost it. They had continued near the brow of the precipice, allured by the scenery it exhibited, while the road wound far away over the cliff above. John called loudly to Michael, but heard no voice, except his own, echoing among the rocks, and his various efforts to regain the road were equally unsuccessful. While they were thus circumstanced, they perceived a shepherd's cabin, between the boles of the trees at some distance, and John bounded on first to ask assistance. When he reached it, he saw only two little children, at play, on the turf before the door. He looked into the hut, but no person was there, and the eldest of the girls told him that their father was with his flocks, and their mother was gone down into the vale, but would be back presently.

As he stood, considering what was further to be done, on a sudden he heard Michael's voice roaring forth most manfully among the cliffs above, till he made their echoes ring. John immediately answered the call, and endeavoured to make his way through the thicket that clothed the steeps, following the direction of the sound. After much struggle over brambles and precipices, he reached Michael, and at length prevailed with him to be silent, and to listen to him. The road was at a considerable distance from the spot where Holmes and Sherlock were; the carriage could not easily return to the entrance of the wood, and, since it would be very fatiguing for Holmes to climb the long and steep road to the place where it now stood, John was anxious to find a more easy ascent, by the way he had himself passed.

Meanwhile Holmes and Sherlock approached the cottage, and rested themselves on a rustic bench, fastened between two pines, which overshadowed it, till John should return.

The eldest of the children desisted from her play, and stood still to observe the strangers, while the younger continued her little gambols, and teased her sister to join in them. Holmes looked with pleasure upon this picture of infantine simplicity, till it brought to his remembrance his own daughters, whom he had lost about the age of these, and their lamented mother; and he sunk into silence.

Eventually John returned, and told them, that he had found Michael, as well as a way, by which he thought they could ascend the cliff to the carriage. Thither they were preparing to go, when they saw a young woman join the children, and caress and weep over them.

The travellers, interested by her distress, stopped to observe her. She took the youngest of the children in her arms, and, perceiving the strangers, hastily dried her tears, and proceeded to the cottage. Holmes, on enquiring the occasion of her sorrow, learned that her husband, who was a shepherd, had lost, on the preceding night, his little all, for several of his master’s sheep had been stolen. 'Jacques,' added the shepherd's wife, 'had saved a little money, and had bought a few sheep with it, and now they must go to his master for those that are stolen; and what is worse than all, his master, when he comes to know how it is, will trust him no longer with the care of his flocks, for he is a hard man! and then what is to become of our children!'

By the hems on the woman’s petticoats and mud splashes upon her boots Sherlock pronounced the tale as true; John asking eagerly what was the value of the stolen sheep; turning away with a look of disappointment on hearing the answer. Holmes put some money into her hand, Sherlock too gave something from his small funds, and they walked towards the cliff; but John lingered behind, and spoke to the shepherd's wife, who was now weeping with gratitude and surprise. He enquired how much money was yet wanting to replace the stolen sheep, and found, that it was a sum very little short of all he had about him. 'This sum then,' said he to himself, 'would make this poor family completely happy—it is in my power to give it—to make them completely happy! But what is to become of me?—how shall I contrive to reach home with the little money that will remain?' For a moment he stood, unwilling to forego the luxury of raising a family from ruin to happiness, yet considering the difficulties of pursuing his journey with so small a sum as would be left.

While he was in this state of perplexity, the shepherd himself appeared: his children ran to meet him; he took one of them in his arms, and, with the other clinging to his coat, came forward with a loitering step. His forlorn and melancholy look determined John at once; he threw down all the money he had, except a very few louis, and bounded away after Holmes and Sherlock, who were proceeding slowly up the steep. John had seldom felt his heart so light as at this moment; his spirits danced with pleasure; every object around him appeared more interesting, or beautiful, than before. Sherlock observed the uncommon vivacity of his countenance: 'What has pleased you so much?' said he. 'O what a lovely day,' replied John, 'how brightly the sun shines, how pure is this air, what enchanting scenery!' 'It is indeed enchanting,' said Holmes, whom early experience had taught to understand the nature of John's present feelings. 'What pity that the wealthy, who can command such sunshine, should ever pass their days in gloom—in the cold shade of selfishness! For you, my young friend, may the sun always shine as brightly as at this moment; may your own conduct always give you the sunshine of benevolence and reason united!'

John, highly flattered by this compliment, could make no reply but by a smile of gratitude.

Holmes rejoiced when he reached the carriage, but it was evening when they descended the lower alps, that bind Rousillon, and form a majestic barrier round that charming country, leaving it open only on the east to the Mediterranean. The cheerful tints of cultivation once more beautified the landscape; for the lowlands were coloured with the richest hues, which a luxuriant climate, and an industrious people can awaken into life. Groves of orange and lemon perfumed the air, their ripe fruit glowing among the foliage; while, sloping to the plains, extensive vineyards spread their treasures. Beyond these, woods and pastures, and mingled towns and hamlets stretched towards the sea, on whose bright surface gleamed many a distant sail; while, over the whole scene, was diffused the purple glow of evening. This landscape with the surrounding alps did, indeed, present a perfect picture of the lovely and the sublime, of 'beauty sleeping in the lap of horror.'

The travellers, having reached the plains, proceeded, between hedges of flowering myrtle and pomegranate, to the town of Arles, where they proposed to rest for the night. They met with simple, but neat accommodation, and would have passed a happy evening, after the toils and the delights of this day, had not the approaching separation thrown a gloom over their spirit. It was Holmes's plan to proceed, on the morrow, to the borders of the Mediterranean, and travel along its shores into Languedoc; and John, since he was now nearly recovered, and had no longer a pretence for continuing with his new friends, resolved to leave them here.

Holmes, who was much pleased with him, invited him to go further, but did not repeat the invitation, and John had resolution enough to forego the temptation of accepting it, that he might prove himself not unworthy of the favour. On the following morning, therefore, they were to part, Holmes to pursue his way to Languedoc, and John to explore new scenes among the mountains, on his return home. During this evening he was often silent and thoughtful; Sherlock was serious. After one of the most melancholy evenings they had yet passed together, they separated for the night.

Chapter Text

 I care not, Fortune! what you me deny;

 You cannot rob me of free nature's grace;

 You cannot shut the windows of the sky,

 Through which Aurora shews her brightening face;

 You cannot bar my constant feet to trace

 The woods and lawns, by living stream, at eve:

 Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,

 And I their toys to the great children leave:

 Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave.

     THOMSON

In the morning, John breakfasted with Holmes and Sherlock, neither of whom seemed much refreshed by sleep. The languor of illness still hung over Holmes, and to Sherlock's fears his disorder appeared to be increasing fast upon him.

The breakfast was almost as silent as the supper of the preceding night; but their musing was at length interrupted by the sound of the carriage wheels, which were to bear away Sherlock and his father. John started from his chair, and went to the window; it was indeed the carriage, and he returned to his seat without speaking. The moment was now come when they must part. Holmes told John, that he hoped he would never pass Bakersfield without favouring him with a visit; and John, eagerly thanking him, assured him that he never would; as he said which he looked at Sherlock. Holmes then led the way to the carriage, Sherlock and John following in silence. The latter lingered at the door several minutes after they were seated, and none of the party seemed to have courage enough to say—Farewell. At length, Holmes pronounced the melancholy word, which Sherlock passed to John, who returned it, with a dejected smile, and the carriage drove on.

Sherlock looked back upon the road they had passed, John was seen, at the door of the little inn, following them with his eyes. He perceived Sherlock looking, and waved his hand; and he returned the adieu, till the winding road shut John from his sight.

The travellers remained, for some time, in a state of tranquil pensiveness. Holmes interrupted it by observing 'I remember when I was about his age, and I thought, and felt exactly as he does. The world was opening upon me then, now—it is closing.'

'My dear sir, do not think so gloomily,' said Sherlock.

'Ah, my Sherlock!' replied Holmes, 'for thy sake! Well—I hope it is so.' They travelled on, among vineyards, woods, and pastures, delighted with the romantic beauty of the landscape, which was bounded, on one side, by the grandeur of the Pyrenees, and, on the other, by the ocean; and, soon after noon, they reached the town of Colioure, situated on the Mediterranean. Here they dined, and rested till towards the cool of day, when they pursued their way along the shores—those enchanting shores!—which extend to Languedoc. Sherlock gazed with enthusiasm on the vastness of the sea, its surface varying, as the lights and shadows fell, and on its woody banks, mellowed with autumnal tints.

Holmes was impatient to reach Perpignan, where he expected letters from M. Anderson; and it was the expectation of these letters, that had induced him to leave Colioure, for his feeble frame had required immediate rest. After travelling a few miles, he fell asleep; and Sherlock, who had put two or three books into the carriage, on leaving Bakersfield, had now the leisure for looking into them. He sought for one, which John had been reading the day before, and hoped for the new pleasure of re-tracing a page, over which the eyes of a beloved friend had lately passed, of dwelling on the passages, which John had admired; even as he scolded himself for  this sentiment. On searching for the book, he could find it no where, but in its stead perceived a volume of Petrarch's poems, that had belonged to John, whose name was written in it, and from which he had frequently read passages.

Sherlock hesitated in deducing, what would have been sufficiently apparent to almost any other person, that John had purposely left this book, instead of the one Sherlock had lost, and that love had prompted the exchange; but, having opened it with impatient pleasure, and observed the lines of John’s pencil drawn along the various passages he had read aloud, and under others more descriptive of delicate tenderness than John had dared to voice in the company of Sherlock’s father, the deduction came solidly to Sherlock’s mind. For some moments he was conscious only of being beloved; then, a recollection of all the variations of tone and countenance, with which John had recited these sonnets, and of the soul, which spoke in their expression, pressed to his memory, and Sherlock smiled giddily over the memorial of his affection.

They arrived at Perpignan soon after sunset, where Holmes found, as he had expected, letters from M. Anderson, the contents of which grievously affected him. “My God” said Sherlock to his father as he looked upon his shaking hands and noted the timbre of his voice; “will you have to leave Bakersfield?”

His father, startled by this deduction, came forth with the sad tale. There was a M. Motteville, of Paris, and the chief of Holmes’s personal property was invested in his hands;  a variety of circumstances have concurred to ruin him, and—Sieger Holmes, and consequently his son, was ruined with him. M. Anderson had told Sieger part of this news on his visit, which had now been confirmed.

Sherlock considered.  Depending on the compromise Motteville was able to make with his creditors; it was possible his father could remain at Bakersfield, which would be best for his spirits and health.  His father’s income, never large, would now be reduced to little indeed.

‘It is for you, Sherlock, for you, my child, that I am most afflicted.' Said Holmes, faltering. 'My dear father,' said he, 'do not grieve for me, or for yourself; we may yet be happy. Bakersfield may remain to us; and poverty cannot deprive us the delights of intellect and reason.'

On the following day, therefore, they recommenced their journey through Languedoc, winding the shores of the Mediterranean; the Pyrenees still forming the magnificent back-ground of their prospects, while on their right was the ocean, and, on their left, wide extended plains melting into the blue horizon.

It was evening when they reached a small village of Upper Languedoc, where they meant to pass the night, but the place could not afford them beds; for it was the time of the grape harvest and the rooms were full of workers, and they were obliged to proceed to the next post.  The rich plains which exhibited all the glories of the vintage, with the gaieties of a French festival, no longer awakened Holmes to pleasure, whose condition formed a mournful contrast to the high spirits and youthful beauty which surrounded him. As his languid eyes moved over the scene, he considered, that they would soon, perhaps, be closed for ever on this world. 'Those distant and sublime mountains,' said he secretly, as he gazed on a chain of the Pyrenees that stretched towards the west, 'these luxuriant plains, this blue vault, the cheerful light of day, will be shut from my eyes! The song of the peasant, the cheering voice of man—will no longer sound for me!'

The intelligent eyes of Sherlock seemed to read what passed in the mind of his father, and he fixed them on his face, with an expression of such tender pity, as recalled Holmes’s thoughts and he remembered only, that he must leave his son, not yet of age, without protection. The sun now threw a last yellow gleam on the waves of the Mediterranean, and the gloom of twilight spread fast over the scene, till only a melancholy ray appeared on the western horizon.

Increasing illness made Sieger now more anxious than ever to finish the day's journey, and he stopped the muleteer to enquire how far they had yet to go to the next post. He replied, 'Nine miles.' 'I feel I am unable to proceed much further,' said Holmes; 'enquire, as you go, if there is any house on the road that would accommodate us for the night.' He sunk back in the carriage, and Michael, cracking his whip in the air, set off, and continued on the full gallop, till Holmes, almost fainting, called to him to stop. Sherlock looked from the window, and saw a peasant walking at some little distance on the road, for whom they waited, till he came up, when he was asked, if there was any house in the neighbourhood that accommodated travellers. He replied, that he knew of none. 'There is a chateau, indeed, among those woods on the right,' added he, 'but I believe it receives nobody, and I cannot show you the way, for I am almost a stranger here.' Holmes was going to ask him some further question concerning the chateau, but the man abruptly passed on. Every moment now deepened the twilight, and increased the difficulty of finding the road. Another peasant soon after passed. 'Which is the way to the chateau in the woods?' cried Michael.

'The chateau in the woods!' exclaimed the peasant—'Do you mean that with the turret, yonder?'

'I don't know as for the turret, as you call it,' said Michael, 'I mean that white piece of a building, that we see at a distance there, among the trees.'

'Yes, that is the turret; why, who are you, that you are going thither?' said the man with surprise.

Holmes, on hearing this odd question, and observing the peculiar tone in which it was delivered, looked out from the carriage. 'We are travellers,' said he, 'who are in search of a house of accommodation for the night; is there any hereabout?'

'None, Monsieur, unless you have a mind to try your luck yonder,' replied the peasant, pointing to the woods, 'but I would not advise you to go there.'

'To whom does the chateau belong?'

'I scarcely know myself, Monsieur.'

'It is uninhabited, then?' 'No, not uninhabited; the steward and housekeeper are there, I believe.'

On hearing this, Holmes determined to proceed to the chateau, and risk the refusal of being accommodated for the night; he therefore desired the countryman would shew Michael the way, and bade him expect reward for his trouble. The man was for a moment silent, and then said, that he was going on other business, but that the road could not be missed, if they went up an avenue to the right, to which he pointed. Holmes was going to speak, but the peasant wished him good night, and walked on.

The carriage now moved towards the avenue, which was guarded by a gate, and Michael having dismounted to open it, they entered between rows of ancient oak and chesnut, whose intermingled branches formed a lofty arch above. There was something so gloomy and desolate in the appearance of this avenue, and its lonely silence, that Sherlock almost shuddered as he passed along; and, recollecting the manner in which the peasant had mentioned the chateau, he deduced a mysterious meaning to his words, such as he had not suspected when first uttered. These apprehensions, however, he tried to check, considering that they were probably the effect of a melancholy imagination, preyed upon by concern for his father’s physical and financial health.

They passed slowly on, for they were now almost in darkness, which, together with the unevenness of the ground, and the frequent roots of old trees, that shot up above the soil, made it necessary to proceed with caution. On a sudden Michael stopped the carriage; and, as Holmes looked from the window to enquire the cause, he perceived a figure at some distance moving up the avenue. The dusk would not permit him to distinguish what it was, but he bade Michael go on.

'This seems a wild place,' said Michael; 'there is no house hereabout, don't your honour think we had better turn back?'

'Go a little farther, and if we see no house then, we will return to the road,' replied Holmes.

Michael proceeded with reluctance, and the extreme slowness of his pace made Holmes look again from the window to hasten him, when again he saw the same figure. He was somewhat startled: probably the gloominess of the spot made him more liable to alarm than usual; however this might be, he now stopped Michael, and bade him call to the person in the avenue.

'Please your honour, he may be a robber,' said Michael. Holmes considered there may be some grounds for this apprehension; and determined to return to the road.

Michael turned about immediately, and was retracing his way with alacrity, when a voice was heard from among the trees on the left. It was not the voice of command, or distress, but a deep hollow tone, which seemed to be scarcely human. The man whipped his mules till they went as fast as possible, regardless of the darkness, the broken ground, and the necks of the whole party, nor once stopped till he reached the gate, which opened from the avenue into the high-road, where he went into a more moderate pace.

'I am very ill,' said Holmes, taking his son's hand. 'You are worse, then, sir!' said Sherlock, extremely alarmed by his manner, 'you are worse, and here is no assistance. What is to be done!' Music was heard on their air; it was to Sherlock the voice of Hope. 'Oh! we are near some human habitation!' said he, 'help may soon be procured.'

He listened anxiously; the sounds were distant, and seemed to come from a remote part of the woods that bordered the road; and, as he looked towards the spot whence they issued, he perceived in the faint moon-light something like a chateau. They had not gone far towards it, when Sieger fainted, and the carriage was again stopped. He lay quite senseless.—'My dear father!' cried Sherlock in great agony, who began to fear that his father was dying, 'speak!' But no voice spoke in reply. He fetched some water from the rivulet, that flowed along the road; and with trembling hands he sprinkled it over his father's face, which, as the moon's rays now fell upon it, seemed to bear the impression of death.

There was no time to be lost, and, committing his father to the care of Michael, who refused to go far from his mules, he stepped from the carriage in search of the chateau he had seen at a distance. It was a still moon-light night, and the music, which yet sounded on the air, directed his steps from the high road, up a shadowy lane, that led to the woods. His mind was for some time so entirely occupied by anxiety and terror for his father, that he felt none for himself, till the deepening gloom of the overhanging foliage, which now wholly excluded the moon-light, and the wildness of the place, recalled him to a sense of the adventurous situation. The music had ceased, and in the darkness, no deductions were possible – he had no guide but chance. He hurried on, however, not knowing whither, avoiding the recesses of the woods, and endeavouring to keep along their margin, till a rude kind of avenue, which opened upon a moon-light spot, arrested his attention. The wildness of this avenue brought to his recollection the one leading to the turreted chateau, and he was inclined to believe, that this was a part of the same domain, and probably led to the same point.

While he considered, a sound of many voices in loud merriment burst upon his ear. Sherlock rushed forward, with a hope of obtaining assistance from the people in the woods. The sounds led him towards the moon-light glade he had before noticed; at a little distance from which he stopped, and saw, between the boles of the trees, a small circular level of green turf, surrounded by the woods, on which appeared a group of figures. On drawing nearer, he distinguished these, by their dress, to be peasants, and perceived several cottages scattered round the edge of the woods, which waved loftily over this spot. While he observed, several peasant girls came out of a cottage; music instantly struck up, and the dance began. It was the joyous music of the vintage! the same he had before heard upon the air. His heart, occupied with anxiety for his father, could not feel the contrast, which this cheerful scene offered to his own distress; he stepped hastily forward towards a group of elder peasants, who were seated at the door of a cottage, and, having explained his situation, entreated their assistance. Several of them rose with alacrity, and, offering any service in their power, followed Sherlock, who seemed to move on the wind, as fast as they could towards the road.

When he reached the carriage he found Holmes restored to animation. His father renewed his enquiries for an inn, and concerning the chateau in the woods. 'The chateau cannot accommodate you, sir,' said a venerable peasant who had followed Sherlock from the woods, 'it is scarcely inhabited; but, if you will do me the honour to visit my cottage, you shall be welcome to the best bed it affords.'

The carriage again moved slowly on; Michael following the peasants up the lane, which Sherlock had just quitted, till they came to the moon-light glade. Holmes's spirits were so far restored by the courtesy of his host, and the near prospect of repose, that he looked with a sweet complacency upon the moon-light scene, surrounded by the shadowy woods, through which, here and there, an opening admitted the streaming splendour, discovering a cottage, or a sparkling rivulet. He listened to the merry notes of the guitar and tamborine with a calm complacency.

The dance ceased on the approach of the carriage, which was a phenomenon in these sequestered woods, and the peasantry flocked round it with eager curiosity. On learning that it brought a sick stranger, several girls ran across the turf, and returned with wine and baskets of grapes, which they presented to the travellers, each fluttering their eyes at Sherlock’s beauty. At length, the carriage stopped at a neat cottage, and his venerable conductor, having assisted Holmes to alight, led him and Sherlock to a small inner room, illuminated only by moon-beams, which the open casement admitted. Holmes, rejoicing in rest, seated himself in an arm-chair, and his senses were refreshed by the cool and balmy air, that lightly waved the embowering honeysuckles, and wafted their sweet breath into the apartment.

His host, who was called La Voisin, quitted the room, but soon returned with fruits, cream, and all the pastoral luxury his cottage afforded. When the fruit had allayed the fever of Holmes’ palate, and he found himself somewhat revived, he began to converse with his host, who communicated several particulars concerning himself and his family. 'I have only one daughter living,' said La Voisin, 'but she is happily married, and is every thing to me. When I lost my wife,' he added with a sigh, 'I came to live with Agnes, and her family; she has several children, who are all dancing on the green yonder, as merry as grasshoppers—and long may they be so! I hope to die among them, monsieur. I am old now, and cannot expect to live long, but there is some comfort in dying surrounded by one's children.'

'My good friend,' said Holmes, while his voice trembled, 'I hope you will long live surrounded by them.'

'Ah, sir! at my age I must not expect that!' replied the old man, and he paused: 'I can scarcely wish it,' he resumed, 'for I trust that whenever I die I shall go to heaven, where my poor wife is gone before me. I can sometimes almost fancy I see her of a still moon-light night, walking among these shades she loved so well. Do you believe, monsieur, that we shall be permitted to revisit the earth, after we have quitted the body?'

Sieger was agitated; he made an effort to speak, and at length said in a low voice, 'I hope we shall be permitted to look down on those we have left on the earth, but I can only hope it. It is a hope which I will never resign,' continued he, while Sherlock blinked back moisture at his eyes, 'it will sweeten the bitter moments of death!' There was a pause of silence before Holmes continued on a different subject.  ‘Who touches that guitar so tastefully? are there two instruments, or is it an echo I hear?'

'It is an echo, monsieur, I fancy. That guitar is often heard at night, when all is still, but nobody knows who touches it, and it is sometimes accompanied by a voice so sweet, and so sad, one would almost think the woods were haunted.' 'They may be haunted,' said Sherlock wryly, 'but I believe it is by mortals.' 'I have sometimes heard it at midnight, when I could not sleep,' rejoined La Voisin, not seeming to notice this remark, 'almost under my window, and I never heard any music like it. It has often made me think of my poor wife till I cried. I have sometimes got up to the window to look if I could see anybody, but as soon as I opened the casement all was hushed, and nobody to be seen. They say it often comes to warn people of their death, but I have heard it these many years, and outlived the warning.'

Sherlock, though he smiled at the mention of this ridiculous superstition, could not, in the present tone of his spirits, wholly resist its contagion.

'Well,' said Sherlock, endeavouring to introduce a tone of logic to the conversation, 'has nobody had courage to follow the sounds? If they had, they would probably have discovered who is the musician.' 'Yes, sir, they have followed them some way into the woods, but the music has still retreated, and seemed as distant as ever, and the people have at last been afraid of being led into harm, and would go no further. It is very seldom that I have heard these sounds so early in the evening. They usually come about midnight, when that bright planet, which is rising above the turret yonder, sets below the woods on the left.'

'What turret?' asked Holmes with quickness, 'I see none.'

'Your pardon, monsieur, you do see one indeed, for the moon shines full upon it;—up the avenue yonder, a long way off; the chateau it belongs to is hid among the trees.'

'Yes, father,' said Sherlock, pointing, 'don't you see something glitter above the dark woods? It is a fane, I fancy, which the rays fall upon.'

'O yes, I see what you mean; and who does the chateau belong to?'

'The Marquis de Lestrade was its owner,' replied La Voisin.

'Ah!' said Holmes, with a deep sigh, 'are we then so near Le-Blanc!' He appeared much agitated.

'It used to be the Marquis's favourite residence,' resumed La Voisin, 'but he took a dislike to the place, and has not been there for many years. We have heard lately that he is dead, and that it is fallen into other hands.' Holmes, who had sat in deep musing, was roused by the last words. 'Dead!' he exclaimed, 'Good God! when did he die?'

'He is reported to have died about five weeks since,' replied La Voisin. 'Did you know the Marquis, sir?'

'This is very extraordinary!' said Holmes without attending to the question. 'Why is it so, my dear sir?' said Sherlock, in a voice of curiosity. Holmes made no reply, and in a few moments asked who had succeeded to the estates. 'I have forgot his title, monsieur,' said La Voisin; 'but my lord resides at Paris chiefly; I hear no talk of his coming hither.'

'The chateau is shut up then, still?'

'Why, little better, sir; the old housekeeper, and her husband the steward, have the care of it, but they live generally in a cottage hard by.'

'The chateau is spacious, I suppose,' said Sherlock, 'and must be desolate for the residence of only two persons.'

'Desolate enough, young sir,' replied La Voisin, 'I would not pass one night in the chateau, for the value of the whole domain.'

'What is that?' said Holmes, roused again from thoughtfulness. As his host repeated his last sentence, a groan escaped from Holmes, and then, as if anxious to prevent it from being noticed, he hastily asked La Voisin how long he had lived in this neighbourhood. 'Almost from my childhood, sir,' replied his host.

'You remember the late marchioness, then?' said Holmes in an altered voice.

'Ah, monsieur!—that I do well. There are many besides me who remember her.'

'Yes—' said Holmes, 'and I am one of those.'

'Alas, sir! you remember, then, a most beautiful and excellent lady. She deserved a better fate.'

Tears stood in Holmes's eyes; 'Enough,' said he, in a voice almost stifled by the violence of his emotions,—'it is enough, my friend.'

Sherlock, though extremely surprised by his father's manner and unable to deduce its cause, forbore to agitate him by any question. La Voisin began to apologize, but Holmes interrupted him; 'Apology is quite unnecessary,' said he, 'let us change the topic. You was speaking of the music we just now heard.'

'I was, monsieur—but hark!—it comes again. Sherlock now observed, that it produced a tone much more full and melodious than that of a guitar, and still more melancholy and soft than the violin. They continued to listen, but the sounds returned no more. 'This is strange!' said Holmes, at length interrupting the silence. 'Very strange!' said Sherlock. 'It is so,' rejoined La Voisin, and they were again silent.

After a long pause, 'It is now about eighteen years since I first heard that music,' said La Voisin; 'I remember it was on a fine summer's night, much like this, but later, that I was walking in the woods, and alone. I remember, too, that my spirits were very low, for one of my boys was ill, and we feared we should lose him. I had been watching at his bed-side all the evening, and went out for a little fresh air, the day had been very sultry. As I walked under the shades, I heard music at a distance, and thought it was Claude playing upon his lute, as he often did of a fine evening, at the cottage door. But, when I came to a place where the trees opened, (I shall never forget it!) and stood looking up at the north-lights, which shot up the heaven to a great height, I heard all of a sudden such sounds!—they came so as I cannot describe. It was like the music of angels, and I looked up again almost expecting to see them in the sky. When I came home, I told what I had heard, but they laughed at me, and said it must be some of the shepherds playing on their pipes, and I could not persuade them to the contrary. A few nights after, however, my wife herself heard the same sounds, and was as much surprised as I was, and Father Denis frightened her sadly by saying, that it was music come to warn her of her child's death, and that music often came to houses where there was a dying person.'

Sherlock, on hearing this, shrunk with a superstitious dread entirely new to him.

'But the boy lived, monsieur, in spite of Father Denis.'

'Father Denis!' said Holmes, who had listened to this narrative with patient attention, 'are we near a convent, then?'

'Yes, sir; the convent of St. Clair stands at no great distance, on the sea shore yonder.'

'Ah!' said Holmes, as if struck with some sudden remembrance, 'the convent of St. Clair!'

'But, my dear sir,' said Sherlock, fearing another bout of superstitious drivel would be forthcoming, 'you forget that repose is necessary to you.  Let me assist you to bed’.

'If I am better, to-morrow, Sherlock,' said Holmes as he leaned upon his son’s arm, 'I mean to set out at an early hour, that we may travel towards home. In the present state of my health and spirits I cannot look on a longer journey with pleasure.' Sherlock was grieved at his father's sudden wish to do so, which he deduced indicated a greater degree of illness than his father would admit to. Holmes now retired to rest, and Sherlock to his little chamber, but not to immediate repose.

Sherlock recollected the extreme emotion his father had shewn on mention of the Marquis La Lestrade's death, and of the fate of the Marchioness. His deductions on the subject proved altogether unsatisfactory.  His surprise and curiosity were indeed the greater, because he did not recollect ever to have heard him mention the name of Lestrade.

He leaned pensively on the little open casement, and in deep thought fixed his eyes on the blue vault of heaven, studded thick with stars.  “What is the stuff of stars?” he mused.  “Is it truly the domain of spirits? Is my father to be one of their number soon?”

The surrounds were still, the merry dance had ceased, and every cottager had retired to his home. No mysterious music stole on the silence of the night, and Sherlock, unconscious of the late hour, gazed upon the stillness of the scene for some time.

Chapter Text

     Let those deplore their doom,

 Whose hope still grovels in this dark sojourn.

 But lofty souls can look beyond the tomb,

 Can smile at fate, and wonder how they mourn.

 Shall Spring to these sad scenes no more return?

 Is yonder wave the sun's eternal bed?—

 Soon shall the orient with new lustre burn,

 And Spring shall soon her vital influence shed,

 Again attune the grove, again adorn the mead!

     BEATTIE

Sherlock work at an early hour, little refreshed by sleep, for uneasy dreams had pursued him, and marred the kindest blessing of the unhappy. But, when he opened the casement, looked out upon the woods, bright with the morning sun, and inspired the pure air, his mind was soothed.

Sherlock heard persons moving below in the cottage, and presently the voice of Michael, who was talking to his mules, as he led them forth from a hut adjoining. As he left his room, Holmes met him at the door, apparently as little restored by sleep as his son. With La Voisin they sat down to a breakfast table, spread with cream, fruit, new cheese, butter, and coffee.

Sherlock, who had observed his father and concluded his illness was very severe, endeavoured to persuade him to defer travelling till the afternoon; but he seemed very anxious to be at home, and his anxiety he expressed repeatedly, and with an earnestness that was unusual with him. “I am as well as I have been, of late” said he, “and I could better bear travelling the cool hour of the morning, than –ah!”

With a sudden chance in countenance, he fell back in his chair.  In a few moments he recovered from the sudden faintness that had come over him, but felt so ill, that he perceived himself unable to set out.   When he was once more in bed, he desired a private audience with his son. 

When they were alone, he held out his hand to his son, and fixed his eyes upon his countenance, with an expression so full of tenderness and grief, that all Sherlock’s fortitude forsook him, and hot tears cascaded over his cheeks. Holmes seemed struggling to acquire firmness, but was still unable to speak; he could only press Sherlock’s hand, and check the tears that stood trembling in his eyes.

At length he commanded his voice, 'My dear child,' said he, trying to smile through his anguish, 'my dear Sherlock!'—and paused again. 'My dear child, I would soften the painful truth I have to tell you, but I know that you have deduced it. It cannot be long before we must part; let us talk of it. In death there is nothing new, or surprising, since we all know, that we are born to die.  I am an old man; had my life been spared now, in a very few years, I would still must have resigned it.  Old age, with all its train of infirmity, its privations and its sorrows, would have been mine; and then, at last, death would have come. Rather, my child, rejoice, that I am saved from such suffering, and that I am permitted to die with a mind unimpaired’.

Sherlock bit at his tongue; these were the precepts to which he himself aspired, but never before had the struggle seemed so hollow.

‘There is a circumstance of solemn consequence, which I have to mention, and a solemn promise to obtain from you; when this is done I shall be easier. You have observed how anxious I am to reach home, but you, I think, have not deduced all my reasons for this. Before I explain the chief circumstance which it concerns; there are others, of which your peace requires that you should rest in ignorance. Promise, then, that you will perform exactly what I shall enjoin.'

Sherlock, awed by the earnest solemnity of his manner, wiped his sleeve across his face; and, looking eloquently at Holmes, bound himself to do whatever he should require by a vow, at which he shuddered, yet knew not why.

Holmes proceeded: 'I know you too well, my Sherlock, to believe, that you would pass over the opportunity to acquire knowledge, but the observance of this is of the utmost importance to your tranquillity. Hear, then, what I am going to tell you. The closet, which adjoins my chamber at Bakersfield, has a sliding board in the floor. You will know it by a remarkable knot in the wood, and by its being the next board, except one, to the wainscot, which fronts the door. At the distance of about a yard from that end, nearer the window, you will perceive a line across it, as if the plank had been joined;—the way to open it is this:—Press your foot upon the line; the end of the board will then sink, and you may slide it with ease beneath the other. Below, you will see a hollow place.' Holmes paused for breath, and Sherlock sat fixed in deep attention. 'Do you understand these directions, my dear?' said he. Sherlock assured him that he did.

'When you return home, then,' Holmes continued -

At the mention of his return home, all the melancholy circumstances, that must attend this return, rushed upon Sherlock; he bit his lip and tasted the salt of his own blood.  

‘—when you return home, go to it; and, beneath the board I have described, you will find a purse of about two hundred louis d’ors; and a packet of written papers. Attend to me now, for the promise you have given particularly relates to what I shall direct. These papers you must burn—and, solemnly I command you, WITHOUT EXAMINING THEM.'

Sherlock's surprise, for a moment, overcame his grief.

‘What!’ he cried. ‘Why must this be?’

‘If I had wished to explain my reasons’ said his father, ‘your promise would have been unnecessary. It is sufficient for you to merely understand the importance of observing me in this instance.  And I have yet another promise to receive from you, which is—that you will never, whatever may be your future circumstances, SELL the chateau.'

Holmes even enjoined Sherlock, whenever he might marry, to make it an article in the contract, that the chateau should always be his. He then gave his son a more minute account of his present circumstances than he had yet done, adding, 'The two hundred louis, with what money you will now find in my purse, is all the ready money I have to leave you. I have told you how I am circumstanced with M. Motteville, at Paris. Ah, my child! I leave you poor—but not destitute,' he added, after a long pause.  

After this conversation, the mind of Holmes appeared to be much more at ease; but exhausted by the effort of speaking. Sherlock played upon the violin for his father; drew airs he designed to be soft and soothing but were inadvertently infused with his own melancholy. 

Sherlock continued to play till a gentle tap at the chamber-door roused him. It was La Voisin, come to say, that a confessor from the neighbouring convent was below, ready to attend Holmes. The confessor remained alone with Holmes above half an hour; when Sherlock was called in, he found Holmes more agitated than when he had left him, and he gazed, with a degree of resentment, at the friar, as the cause of this; who, however, looked mildly and mournfully at him, and turned away. Holmes, in a tremulous voice, said, he wished his son to join in prayer with him, and asked if La Voisin would do so too. The old man and his daughter came; they both wept, and knelt with Sherlock round the bed, while the holy father read in a solemn voice the service for the dying.

When it was concluded, and extreme unction had been administered, the friar and La Voisin and his kin withdrew.  Sherlock was left alone with his father, whose spirits seemed fainting fast, but yet employed much of these last moments in advising his son, as to his future conduct.

'Above all, my dear Sherlock,' said he, 'do not indulge in the pride of fine feeling, the romantic error of amiable minds. Those, who really possess sensibility, ought early to be taught, that it is a dangerous quality, which is continually extracting the excess of misery, or delight, from every surrounding circumstance. And, since, in our passage through this world, painful circumstances occur more frequently than pleasing ones, and since our sense of evil is, I fear, more acute than our sense of good, we become the victims of our feelings, unless we can in some degree command them’.

“My dear, though I would guard you against the dangers of sensibility, I am not an advocate for apathy.  I would not teach you to become insensible. To pride yourself only on the powers of your mind is vanity; if you yield to it, your happiness is lost forever. I have exhausted myself,' said Holmes, feebly, 'and have wearied you, my Sherlock; but, on a subject so important to your future comfort, I am anxious to be perfectly understood.'

Sherlock assured him, that his advice was most precious to him, and that he would never forget it, or cease from endeavouring to profit by it. He felt as if these words were poison; surely to feel nothing was preferable than his present agony.  His father was mistaken; the comforts of the mind were infinite above the doubtful comforts of the heart; which must always be endangered by mortal woes.

Holmes, some time after, spoke of Monsieur Mycroft, his wife’s elder son. 'Let me inform you of a circumstance, that nearly affects your welfare,' he added. 'We have, you know, had little intercourse for some years, but, as he is now your only relation, I have thought it proper to consign you to his care, till you are of age, and to recommend you to his protection afterwards. He is not exactly the person, to whom I would have committed my Sherlock, but I had no alternative, and he is your brother, so must I believe him to be upon the whole—a good kind of man.’

Here Holmes trailed off for a time before resuming. 

‘I need not recommend it to your prudence, Sherlock, to endeavour to conciliate his kindness; I know how this will grate you, but you will find an easier time of it if you are successful in this endeavour.'

Sherlock sat up at this pronouncement.  It was the thing which he least had wished; and though he gave his promise to his father, he felt the execution of it would be impossible.

Holmes looked up silently in his face, as if would have spoken, but his eyes were heavy and dull. Sherlock felt that look at his heart. 'My dear father!' Sherlock exclaimed; he saw the lines of death beginning to prevail over his father’s countenance—saw his sunk eyes, still bent on his son, and their heavy lids pressing to a close.

'Where are you, my son?' said Holmes, as he stretched forth his hands. Sherlock had turned to the window, that his father might not perceive his struggles; he now understood, that his father’s sight had failed him. When he had given Sherlock his blessing, and it seemed to be the last effort of expiring life, he sunk back on his pillow. Sherlock pressed his hand to his father’s forehead; the damps of death had settled there, and, forgetting his resolutions for a moment, his tears mingled with them. Holmes lifted up his eyes; the spirit of a father returned to them, but it quickly vanished, and he spoke no more.

Holmes lingered till about three o'clock in the afternoon, and, thus gradually sinking into death, he expired without a struggle, or a sigh.

Unseeing, Sherlock played upon his violin until La Voisin pulled him from the chamber.

Chapter Text

 O'er him, whose doom thy virtues grieve,

 Aerial forms shall sit at eve,

 and bend the pensive head.

     COLLINS

When all the house had retired to bed, Sherlock decided to visit the corpse. Silent, and without weeping, he stood by its side. The features, placid and serene, told the nature of the last sensations, which had lingered in the now deserted frame. For a moment he turned away, in horror of the stillness in which death had fixed that countenance, never till now seen otherwise than animated; then gazed on it with a mixture of doubt and awful astonishment. His reason could scarcely overcome an involuntary and unaccountable expectation of seeing that beloved countenance wake; of hearing his father’s voice. 

“No!” he hissed to himself.  “Look upon this, and observe it, for you are now alone! Alone is what you have! Loneliness must be your protection!”

Sherlock leaned back against the wall; slowly he descended to the floor, facing the body of his father.  Eventually he fell into a kind of slumber, but the images of his waking mind still haunted his reason. He thought he saw his father approaching him with a benign countenance; then, smiling mournfully and pointing upwards, his lips moved, but, instead of words, Sherlock heard sweet music borne on the distant air. The strain seemed to swell louder, and he awoke. The vision was gone, but music yet came to his ear in strains such as angels might breathe.

He doubted, listened, raised himself from the floor, and again listened. It was music, and not an illusion of his imagination. After a solemn steady harmony, it paused; then rose again, in mournful sweetness, and then died, in a cadence, that seemed to bear away the listening soul to heaven. Sherlock instantly remembered the music of the preceding night, with the strange circumstances, related by La Voisin, concerning the state of departed spirits. All that Holmes had said, on that subject, now pressed upon his mind, and overwhelmed it. What a change in a few hours! His father, who then could only conjecture, was now made acquainted with truth; was himself become one of the departed!

Sherlock threw open the window and leaned out. All without was obscured in shade; the sounds became fainter and fainter, till they softened into silence. He listened, but they returned no more.

On the following morning, he was visited by a sister of the convent, who came, with kind offices and an invitation from the lady abbess to console with the convent; and Sherlock, though he could not forsake the cottage, while the remains of his father were in it, consented to pay his respects to the abbess, in the evening.

About an hour before sun-set, La Voisin shewed him the way through the woods to the convent, which stood in a small bay of the Mediterranean, crowned by a woody amphitheatre; and Sherlock, had he been less unhappy, would have admired the extensive sea view, that appeared from the green slope, in front of the edifice, and the rich shores, hung with woods and pastures, that extended on either hand. But his thoughts were now occupied by one sad idea, despite his attempts to occupy it with reason alone, and the features of nature were to him colourless and without form.

The abbess received him with an air of maternal tenderness; an air of such gentle solicitude and consideration, as made Sherlock instantly more unhappy; her smoothness on the rough edges of his mind jarring him.  'Be composed, my son,' said the abbess in a soothing voice, 'do not speak yet; I know all you would say. Your spirits must be soothed. We are going to prayers; we will go to the chapel.'

Sherlock sat in silence during the service; he tried to deduce the character of the nuns; but boredom was the result; they were all women who were either escaping an unwanted marriage or who had been so unfortunate as to be caught engaging in intimate relationships before they had entered that holy state. 

Twilight came on, before the abbess's kindness would suffer Sherlock to depart, to be reconducted by La Voisin through the woods, the pensive gloom of which was in unison with the temper of his mind.  He pursued the little wild path, in musing silence, till his guide suddenly stopped, looked round, and then struck out of the path into the high grass, saying he had mistaken the road. He now walked on quickly, and Sherlock, proceeding with difficulty over the obscured and uneven ground, was left at some distance, till his voice arrested La Voisin, who seemed unwilling to stop, and still hurried on. 'If you are in doubt about the way,' said Sherlock, 'had we not better enquire it at the chateau yonder, between the trees?'

'No,' replied La Voisin, 'there is no occasion. When we reach that brook, monsieur, (Sherlock observed light upon the water where the peasant pointed), we shall be at home presently. I don't know how I happened to mistake the path; I seldom come this way after sun-set.'

'It is solitary enough,' said Sherlock, 'but you have no banditti here.'

'No, monsieur—no banditti.'

'What are you afraid of then? you are not superstitious?' 'No, not superstitious; but, to tell you the truth, sir, nobody likes to go near that chateau, after dusk.' 'By whom is it inhabited,' said Sherlock, 'that it is so formidable?'

'Why, it is scarcely inhabited, for our lord the Marquis, and the lord of all these find woods, too, is dead. He had not once been in it, for these many years, and his people, who have the care of it, live in a cottage close by.' Sherlock now understood this to be the chateau, which La Voisin had formerly pointed out, as having belonged to the Marquis Lestrade, on the mention of which his father had appeared so much affected.

'Ah! it is a desolate place now,' continued La Voisin, 'and such a grand, fine place, as I remember it!' Sherlock enquired what had occasioned this lamentable change; but the old man was silent, and Sherlock, whose interest was awakened by the fear he had expressed, and above all by a recollection of his father's agitation, repeated the question, and added, 'If you are neither afraid of the inhabitants, my good friend, nor are superstitious, how happens it, that you dread to pass near that chateau in the dark?'

'Perhaps, then, I am a little superstitious, monsieur; and, if you knew what I do, you might be so too. Strange things have happened there. Monsieur, your good father, appeared to have known the late Marchioness.' 'Pray inform me what did happen?' said Sherlock, striving for a detached tone.

'Alas! Monsieur,' answered La Voisin, 'enquire no further; it is not for me to lay open the domestic secrets of my lord.'—Sherlock decided to try a different approach; and recollecting the music he heard on the preceding night, he mentioned it to La Voisin. 'You were not alone in this,' he replied, 'I heard it too; but I have so often heard it, at the same hour, that I was scarcely surprised.'

'You doubtless believe this music to have some connection with the chateau,' said Sherlock suddenly, 'and are, therefore, superstitious.' La Voisin greeted this remark with silence, and Sherlock occupied himself with the possibilities thus implied.

On reaching the cottage, he felt the violence of his grief overwhelming him again; which could only be given relief upon his instrument.

When the hour arrived, in which the remains of Holmes were to be taken for ever, he went alone to the chamber to look upon his father’s countenance yet once again; and with his back pressed to the wall of the room; he recalled his father’s advice not to become insensible; he felt its lie and its cruelty.  Caring was not advantageous.

Holmes had given a particular injunction that his remains should be interred in the church of the convent of St. Clair, and, in mentioning the north chancel, near the ancient tomb of the Lestrades, had pointed out the exact spot, where he wished to be laid. Thither, therefore, the sad procession now moved, with the solemn chant of the anthem, and the peal of the organ, that struck up, when the body entered the church; followed by nuns, whose plaintive voices mellowed the swelling harmony of the dirge. When the procession came to the grave the music ceased. Sherlock commanded his feelings, till the coffin was let down, and he heard the earth rattle on its lid. Then, as he shuddered, a groan burst from his heart, but he quickly supressed it.

The Friar led Sherlock from the church into the monastery adjoining the convent; and pressed him to stay on a few days.  Sherlock, who felt no desire to take up residence with Mycroft, had leisure, now that no immediate care pressed upon his attention, to feel the indisposition, which disabled him from immediately travelling.

He lingered for some weeks at the monastery, under the influence of a slow fever, wishing to return home, yet unable to go thither; this hastening the unwelcome reunion with his half-brother. In the meanwhile, he sent letters to Mycroft and to the old housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, informing them of the sad event that had taken place. From his brother he received an answer, abounding more in common-place condolement, than in traits of real sorrow, which assured him, that a servant should be sent to conduct him to Bakersfield, for that Mycroft’s own time was so much occupied by company, that he had no leisure to undertake so long a journey. However Sherlock might prefer Bakersfield to Tholouse, he could not be insensible to the indecorous and unkind conduct of his brother, for while Sherlock felt equipped to look to his own protection; he knew society would not regard him so while he had not yet come into his majority.

During his stay at this place, the peace and sanctity that reigned within, the tranquil beauty of the scenery without, and the opportunities to dedicate a life to scholarship, were circumstances so soothing to his mind, that they almost tempted him to leave a world, where he had lost all friends, and devote himself to the monastic life, in a spot, rendered sacred by containing the tomb of his father.

But as his spirits revived, they brought once more to his heart an image, which had only transiently been banished thence. By this he was silently awakened to hope and comfort and sweet affections; visions of happiness gleamed faintly at a distance, and, though he knew them to be illusions, he could not resolve to delete them for ever. It was the remembrance of John, of his bravery and goodness, and of the handsome countenance which glowed with delight at Sherlock’s mind, that, perhaps, alone determined him to return to the world.

Sherlock attempted to dispel these thoughts from his mind, they were not rational.  ‘The grandeur and sublimity of the scenes, amidst which we had first met, made John more interesting by consequence, he himself is not remarkable.  Further, though John’s countenance and manner had continually expressed his admiration of Sherlock, he has not otherwise declared it; it is nothing.  It is absurd to let him influence my conduct when even the hope of seeing him again is so distant’.  These were arguments satisfying to cold reason; but they were not entirely successful in banishing the soldier’s presence from Sherlock’s heart.

It was several days after the arrival of Monsieur Mycroft's servant before Sherlock thought he could no longer put off the journey to Bakersfield. On the evening preceding his departure, he went to the cottage to take leave of La Voisin and his family, and to make them a return for their kindness. The old man seemed to love Sherlock as his own son, and shed tears.  Sherlock avoided going into the cottage, since he knew it would revive emotions, such as he could not now endure.

One painful scene yet awaited him, for he determined to visit again his father's grave; and though his command over his emotions would certainly not fail, he decided to defer his visit, till every inhabitant of the monastery, except the monk who promised to bring him the key of the church, should be retired to rest. Sherlock remained in his chamber, till he heard the convent bell strike twelve, when the monk came with the key of a private door, that opened into the church, and they descended together the narrow winding stair-case, that led thither. The monk offered to accompany Sherlock to the grave, adding, 'It is melancholy to go alone at this hour;' but Sherlock dismissed him.

'You will remember, brother,' said the monk, 'that in the east aisle, which you must pass, is a newly opened grave; hold the light to the ground, that you may not stumble over the loose earth.' Sherlock took the lamp, and, stepping into the church, a sudden fear came over him, and he returned to the foot of the stair-case, where, as he heard the steps of the monk ascending, and Sherlock was tempted to call him back. While he hesitated, the footsteps ceased, and, in the next moment, ashamed of his fears, Sherlock returned to the church. The cold air of the aisles chilled him, and their deep silence and extent, feebly shone upon by the moon-light, that streamed through a distant gothic window. Sherlock scarcely heard the whispering echoes of his own steps, or thought of the open grave, till he found himself almost on its brink. Turning aside to avoid the broken ground, he passed on with quicker steps to the grave of Holmes, when in the moon-light, that fell athwart a remote part of the aisle, he thought he saw a shadow gliding between the pillars. He stopped to listen, and, not hearing any footstep, eventually concluded he had been mistaken. Holmes was buried beneath a plain marble, bearing little more than his name and the date of his birth and death, near the foot of the stately monument of the Lestrades. Sherlock remained at his grave, till a chime, that called the monks to early prayers, warned him to retire; then, he said over it a last farewell, and forced himself from the spot.

When the moment of departure from the convent arrived, Sherlock was stoic; the abbott repeated many kind assurances of regard at their parting, and pressed him to return, if ever he should find his condition elsewhere unpleasant.

Sherlock had travelled several leagues, before the scenes of the country, through which he passed, had power to rouse him for a moment from the deep melancholy, into which he was sunk, and, when they did, it was only to remind him of friends who had parted; of his father and mother, gone forever, and of John, seemingly just as absent. Thus, without any particular occurrence, passed the day in languor and dejection; which Sherlock told himself was the triumph of his mind over sentiment. He slept that night in a town on the skirts of Languedoc, and, on the following morning, entered Gascony.

Towards the close of this day, Sherlock came within view of the plains in the neighbourhood of Bakersfield, and the well-known objects of former times began to press upon his notice, and with them recollections, that awakened all his grief and struggle. 'There!' he would say in his mind, 'there are the very cliffs, there the wood of pines, which he looked at with such delight, as we passed this road together for the last time. O my father, shall I never see you more!'

At length, the chateau itself appeared, amid the glowing beauty of Holmes's favourite landscape. This was an object, which called for fortitude, not for tears; Sherlock composed himself, and prepared to meet with calmness the trying moment of his return to that home, where there was no longer a parent to welcome him. 'Yes,' said Sherlock, 'let me not forget the lessons my father has taught me! How often he has pointed out the necessity of resisting sentiment; how often we have admired together the greatness of a mind that can reason!’

A turn on the road now allowed a nearer view of the chateau, the chimneys, tipped with light, rising from behind Holmes's favourite oaks, whose foliage partly concealed the lower part of the building. He saw the old housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, coming to open the gate. Redbeard also came running, and barking before him; and when his young master alighted, fawned, and played round him, gasping with joy.

'Dear boy!' said Mrs. Hudson, and paused, and looked as if she would have offered something of condolement to Sherlock, whose pressed his lips together and swallowed against emotion. The dog still fawned and ran round him, and then flew towards the carriage, with a short quick bark. 'Ah, Sherlock!—poor Monsieur Holmes!' said Mrs. Hudson, whose feelings were more awakened than her delicacy, 'Redbeard's gone to look for him.' Sherlock choked back a sob; and, on looking towards the carriage, which still stood with the door open, saw the animal spring into it, and instantly leap out, and then with his nose on the ground run round the horses.

'Don't cry so, my boy,' said Mrs. Hudson, 'it breaks my heart!' The dog now came running to Sherlock, then returned to the carriage, and then back again to him, whining and discontented. 'Poor rogue!' said Mrs. Hudson, 'thou hast lost thy master, thou mayst well cry! But come, my dear young sir, be comforted. Come and have some tea.'

Sherlock found his hand taken by the old servant and bustled into the house. But still he felt the change as he walked to the chateau, for within he dreaded to see objects, which would recall the full remembrance of former happiness. Sherlock seated himself, without immediately observing it, in a window, which opened upon the garden, watching the sun retire from the rich and extensive prospect, that appeared beyond the groves; and half-listening to Mrs. Hudson’s chatter about the villagers; that some were dead whom they had left well; and others, who were ill, had recovered. 

Sherlock sat for some time, given up to sorrow. Not an object, on which his eye glanced, but awakened some remembrance, that led immediately to the subject of his grief. His favourite specimens, which his father had assisted him to mount; the books, that he had selected for his use, and which they had discussed together; his musical instruments, whose sounds his father had loved so well,—every object gave new force to sorrow. At length, Sherlock roused himself and, summoning his resolution, stepped forward to go into those forlorn rooms that had been his fathers’.

The rooms were a solemn place; recollections crowded him once more and he sank slowly into an armchair. As he mused he saw the door slowly open, and a rustling sound in a remote part of the room startled him. Through the dusk he thought he perceived something move. The subject he had been considering, and the present tone of his spirits, which made his imagination conquer the reason he had so carefully honed, gave Sherlock a sudden terror of something supernatural.  The silence, which again reigned, made him ashamed of these fears. ‘It is merely one of those accountable noises, which sometimes occur in old houses’ he told himself, pulling his knees to his chest. 

The same sound, however, the next instant returned; and, distinguishing something moving towards him, and in the next instant press beside him into the chair; Sherlock shrieked!

But: ‘Take a hold of your senses!’ he sternly admonished himself on perceiving that it was Redbeard who sat by him, and who now licked his hands affectionately.

Feeling the giddy rush of spirits that sometimes comes after a fright; Sherlock took the dog into the garden, and walked down to the terrace, that overhung the river. The sun was now set; the bat flitted silently by; and, now and then, the mourning note of the nightingale was heard.

Sherlock, wandering on, came to Holmes's favourite plane-tree, where so often, at this hour, they had sat beneath the shade together, and with his mother so often had conversed in happier times.  ‘No!’ said Sherlock; ‘It is merely a tree; sentiment is a weakness’, and walked towards the house, where he was met by Mrs. Hudson. 'Sherlock,' said she, 'I have been seeking you up and down this half hour, and was afraid some accident had happened to you. How can you like to wander about so in this night air! Do come into the house. Think what my poor master would have said, if he could see you. I am sure, when my dear lady died, no gentleman could take it more to heart than he did, yet you know he seldom shed a tear.'

'Pray, Mrs. Hudson, cease,' said Sherlock, wishing to interrupt this ill-judged, but well-meaning harangue; Mrs. Hudson's loquacity, however, was not to be silenced so easily. ‘I have set out a supper for you.' Sherlock waved his hand—'No,' said he, 'let it remain. I am going to my chamber.'

'This is poor doings!' said Mrs. Hudson. 'Dear boy! do take some food! I have dressed a pheasant, and a fine one it is. Old Monsieur Barreaux sent it this morning, for I saw him yesterday, and told him you were coming. And I know nobody that seemed more concerned, when he heard the sad news, then he.'

'Did he?' said Sherlock, in a bored voice, and continued to his room.

Chapter Text

  Can Music's voice, can Beauty's eye,

  Can Painting's glowing hand supply

  A charm so suited to my mind,

  As blows this hollow gust of wind?

  As drops this little weeping rill,

  Soft tinkling down the moss-grown hill;

 While, through the west, where sinks the crimson day,

 Meek Twilight slowly sails, and waves her banners gray?

     MASON

Sherlock, soon after his return to Bakersfield, received letters from his half-brother, Monsieur Mycroft, in which, after some common-place condolement and advice, he invited Sherlock to Tholouse, and added, that, as their late father had entrusted Sherlock's EDUCATION to him, he should consider himself bound to overlook the conduct of his young sibling. Though Sherlock understood the propriety of appointing Mycroft to be his guardian, he was sensible, that this step had made his happiness depend, in a great degree, on the humour of his elder brother.  Sherlock faced with extreme reluctance the prospect of them residing together, and decided upon a reply that he believed would encourage Mycroft to quit this object of removing Sherlock from his home.

In his reply, he begged permission to remain, at present, at Bakersfield, mentioning the extreme dejection of his spirits, and the necessity he felt for quiet and retirement to restore them. These he knew were not to be found at Monsieur Mycroft's, whose inclinations led him into a life of dissipation, which his ample fortune encouraged. 

Monsieur Mycroft returned no answer to Sherlock's letter, who began to hope, that he should be permitted to remain some time longer in retirement, and his mind had now so far recovered its strength, that he had taken up again his books and studies; and his violin.

One evening he took his violin down to the little fishing-house; he went alone, and at that still hour of the evening when all is quiet and hushed. The little path, that led to the building, was overgrown with grass and the flowers which Holmes had scattered carelessly along the border were almost choked with weeds—the tall thistle—the fox-glove, and the nettle. He stood by the window and played; played those favourite airs his parents had been wont to listen to in that very spot. The music was in unison with his mind; the instrument did not vibrate on the chords of unhappy memory, but was soothing to the heart. He continued to play, unconscious of the gloom of evening, and that the sun's last light trembled on the heights above, and would probably have remained so much longer, if a sudden footstep, without the building, had not alarmed his attention.

In the next moment, a door opened, and a stranger appeared, who stopped on perceiving Sherlock, and then began to apologize for his intrusion. But Sherlock, at the sound of his voice, lost his irritation in a stronger emotion: its tones were familiar to his ear, and, though he could not readily distinguish through the dusk the features of the person who spoke, he felt a remembrance too strong to be distrusted.

The stranger repeated his apology, and Sherlock then said something in reply, when the stranger eagerly advancing, exclaimed, 'Good God! can it be—surely I am not mistaken—the young Monsieur Holmes?—is it not?'

'It is indeed,' said Sherlock, who was confirmed in his first conjecture, for he now distinguished John’s countenance, lighted up with still more than its usual animation. A thousand anxious feelings crowded to his mind, and the effort, which he made to appear himself, only served to increase his agitation. John, meanwhile, having enquired anxiously after Sherlock’s health, and expressed his hopes, that M. Holmes had found benefit from travelling, learned from the expression of grief on Sherlock’s countenance, which he could not repress, the fatal truth. John led him to a seat, and sat down by him, while Sherlock blinked rapidly to conceal his struggles, and John to hold the hand, which he was unconscious he had taken.

'I feel,' said John at length, 'I feel how insufficient all attempt at consolation must be on this subject. I can only mourn with you, for I cannot doubt the source of your emotion. Would to God I were mistaken!'

After some time, however, Sherlock spoke of his father, and gave a brief account of the manner of his death; during which recital John's countenance betrayed strong emotion, and, when he heard that Holmes had died on the road, and that Sherlock had been left among strangers, he pressed Sherlock’s hand between his, and involuntarily exclaimed, 'Why was I not there!' but in the next moment recollected himself, for he immediately returned to the mention of M. Holmes; till, perceiving that Sherlock’s spirits were exhausted, John suggested they walk about; and gradually changed the subject, and spoke of himself. Sherlock thus learned that, after they had parted, John had wandered, for some time, along the shores of the Mediterranean, and had then returned through Languedoc into Gascony, which was his native province, and where he usually resided.

When he had concluded his little narrative, he sunk into a silence, which Sherlock was not disposed to interrupt, and it continued, till they reached the gate of the chateau, when he stopped, as if he had known this to be the limit of his walk. Here, saying, that it was his intention to return to Estuviere on the following day, John asked Sherlock if he would permit him to take his leave in the morning; and Sherlock, perceiving that he could not reject an ordinary civility, without expressing by refusal an expectation of something more, was compelled to answer in a conventional way, that he should be at home.

Sherlock walked back to his rooms; reflecting on all that had happened since he had first seen John, and the scene of his father's death appeared in tints as fresh, as if it had passed on the preceding day. He remembered particularly the earnest and solemn manner, in which he had required Sherlock to destroy the manuscript papers, and, he was shocked to think he had forgotten this solemn trust, and determined, that not another day should pass before the obligation was discharged.

Chapter Text

     Can such things be,

 And overcome us like a summer's cloud,

 Without our special wonder?

     MACBETH

Upon his return to the house, Sherlock lighted a fire in the stove of the chamber, where Holmes used to sleep. Having fastened the door to prevent interruption, he opened the closet where the papers were concealed. There was a great chair in one corner of the closet, and, opposite to it, stood the table, at which he had seen his father sit, on the evening that preceded his departure, looking over, with so much emotion, what Sherlock believed to be these very papers.

By the directions which Holmes had given him, Sherlock readily found the board he had described in an opposite corner of the closet, near the window; he distinguished also the line he had mentioned, and, pressing it as he had been bade, it slid down, and disclosed the bundle of papers, together with some scattered ones, and the purse of louis. With a trembling hand he removed them, and his eye settled on the writing of some loose sheets, which lay open; and he was unconscious, that he was transgressing his father's strict injunction, till a sentence of dreadful import awakened his attention and his memory together.

He hastily put the papers aside; but the words, which had roused equally his curiosity and terror, he could not dismiss from his thoughts. So powerfully had they affected him, that he could not resolve to destroy the papers immediately; and the more he dwelt on the circumstance, and tried unsuccessfully to deduce its meaning, the more it inflamed his imagination. Urged by the most forcible, and apparently the most necessary, curiosity to enquire farther, concerning the terrible and mysterious subject, to which he had seen an allusion, he began to lament the promise to destroy the papers. For a moment, he even doubted, whether it could justly be obeyed, in contradiction to such reasons as there appeared to be for further information. But the delusion was momentary.

'I have given a solemn promise,' said he, 'to observe a solemn injunction. Let me hasten to remove the temptation’ he said to himself; and he consigned the papers to the flames, though the next moment he longed to snatch them from the consuming fire. His eyes watched them as they slowly consumed, his mind twisting at the recollection of the sentence he had just seen, and at the certainty, that the only opportunity of explaining it was then passing away for ever.

It was long after this, that he recollected the purse; and as he was depositing it, unopened, in a cabinet, perceiving that it contained something of a size larger than coin, he examined it. At the bottom of the purse was a small packet, having taken out which, and unfolded paper after paper, she found to be an ivory case, containing the miniature of a—lady! He started—'The same,' said he, 'my father wept over!' On examining the countenance he could recollect no person that it resembled. It was of uncommon beauty, and was characterized by an expression of sweetness, shaded with sorrow, and tempered by resignation.

Holmes had given no directions concerning this picture, nor had even named it; Sherlock, therefore, thought himself justified in preserving it. More than once remembering his father’s manner, when he had spoken of the Marchioness of Lestrade, Sherlock felt inclined to believe that this was her resemblance; yet he could deduce no reason why he should have preserved a picture of that lady, or, having preserved it, why he should lament over it in a manner so striking and affecting as had been witnessed on the night preceding his departure.

Sherlock still gazed on the countenance, examining its features, but he knew not where to detect the charm that captivated his attention, and inspired sentiments of such interest and pity. Dark brown hair played carelessly along the open forehead; the nose was rather inclined to aquiline; the lips spoke in a smile, but it was a melancholy one; the eyes were blue, and were directed upwards with an expression of peculiar meekness, while the soft cloud of the brow spoke of the fine sensibility of the temper.

Sherlock was roused from the musing mood into which the picture had thrown him, by the closing of the garden gate; and, on turning his eyes to the window, he saw John coming towards the chateau. On meeting him in the parlour, Sherlock was struck with the change that appeared in his air and countenance since they had parted in Rousillon, which twilight and the distress he suffered on the preceding evening had prevented him from observing. But dejection and languor disappeared, for a moment, in the smile that now enlightened John’s countenance, on perceiving Sherlock. 'You see,' said he, 'I have availed myself of the permission with which you honoured me—of bidding YOU farewell, whom I had the happiness of meeting only yesterday.'

Sherlock smiled faintly, and, anxious to say something, asked if he had been long in Gascony. 'A few days only,' replied John. 'I engaged in a long ramble after I had the misfortune of parting with the friends who had made my wanderings among the Pyrenees so delightful.'

They walked down to the terrace, where John was charmed with the river scenery.  'I was a few weeks ago,' said he, 'at the source of this noble river; I had not then the happiness of knowing you, or I should have regretted your absence—it was a scene so exactly suited to your taste. It rises in a part of the Pyrenees, still wilder and more sublime, I think, than any we passed in the way to Rousillon.' He then described its fall among the precipices of the mountains, where its waters, augmented by the streams that descend from the snowy summits around, rush into the Vallee d'Aran, between whose romantic heights it foams along.

Sherlock and John talked of the scenes they had passed among the Pyrenean Alps; as John spoke of which there was often a tremulous tenderness in his voice. When he admired the grandeur of the plane-tree, Sherlock gave a small twist of his lips.

'This was a favourite tree with my dear father,' said he; 'he used to love to sit under its foliage with his family about him, in the fine evenings of summer.'

John understood Sherlock’s feelings, and was silent; he pressed Sherlock’s hand to his lips impulsively. He rose, and leaned on the wall of the terrace, from which, in a few moments, he returned to his seat, then rose again, and appeared to be greatly agitated; while Sherlock himself so much affected by the warmth still lingering on the back of his hand that he could make no efforts to renew the conversation. John again sat down, but was still silent, and trembled. At length he said, with a hesitating voice, 'This lovely scene!—I am going to leave—to leave you—perhaps for ever! These moments may never return; I cannot resolve to neglect, though I scarcely dare to avail myself of them. Let me, however, without offending the delicacy of your sorrow, venture to declare the admiration I must always feel of you, Sherlock—O! that at some future period I might be permitted to call it love!'

Sherlock's emotion would not suffer him to reply; and John, who now ventured to look up, observing Sherlock’s blank countenance and rapid blinking; pressed him by the shoulder in reassurance. When John spoke again, his voice told the tenderest love. 'I will not presume,' he added, 'to intrude this subject longer upon your attention at this time of your mourning, but I may, perhaps, be permitted to mention, that these parting moments would lose much of their bitterness if I might be allowed to hope the declaration I have made would not exclude me from your presence in future.'

Sherlock made another effort to overcome the confusion of his thoughts, and to speak. He feared to trust the preference his heart acknowledged towards John, and to give him any encouragement for hope, on so short an acquaintance, for John could not know his true nature. Yet, though the thought of dismissing John was so very painful, that he could scarcely endure to pause upon it, the consciousness of this made him fear his judgement was clouded by sentiment, and hesitate still more to encourage that suit, for which his own heart too tenderly pleaded. The family of Watson, if not his circumstances, had been known to his father, and known to be unexceptionable. Of his circumstances, John himself hinted as far as delicacy would permit, when he said he had at present little else to offer but an heart, that adored Sherlock. John had solicited only for a distant hope, and Sherlock could not resolve to forbid it; at length, he believed it would be rational to say, that he must think himself honoured by the good opinion of any person, whom his father had esteemed.

'And was I, then, thought worthy of his esteem?' said John, in a sharp voice; then checking himself, he added, 'But pardon the question; I scarcely know what I say. If I might dare to hope, that you think me not unworthy of such honour yourself, and might be permitted sometimes to enquire after your health, I should now leave you with comparative tranquillity.'

Sherlock was again confused, and again hesitated what to reply; he felt most acutely the difficulty—his isolation did not allow a single relative, or friend, to whom he could turn for even a look, that might support and guide him in the present embarrassing circumstances. Monsieur Mycroft, who was his only relative, and ought to have been this friend, was either occupied by his own amusements, or so resentful of the reluctance his brother had shewn to quit Bakersfield, that he seemed totally to have abandoned Sherlock there.

'Ah! I see,' said John, after a long pause, during which Sherlock had begun, and left unfinished two or three sentences, 'I see that I have nothing to hope; my fears were too just, you think me unworthy of your esteem.' His voice faltered, and he abruptly quitted his seat and walked on the terrace. There was an expression of despair on his countenance, that affected Sherlock. His mind was in tumult; he turned towards John; he could say nothing, the words dead on his lips. Sherlock’s eyes, however, reflected all the emotions of his heart.

John passed, in an instant, from the impatience of despair, to that of joy and tenderness. 'O Sherlock!' he exclaimed, 'my own Sherlock—teach me to sustain this moment! Let me seal it as the most sacred of my life!' John caught up Sherlock’s hand again, and drawing him close, kissed his hand most passionately.

John, as he gazed on Sherlock, considered that it would soon be impossible for him to recall, even to his memory, the exact resemblance of the beautiful countenance he then beheld; at this moment an hasty footstep approached from behind the plane-tree, and, turning his eyes, Sherlock saw Monsieur Mycroft. He felt a blush steal upon his cheek, and stumbling away from John, went to greet this visitor. 'So, brother mine!' said Monsieur Mycroft, casting a look of surprise and enquiry on John, 'so brother, how do you do? But I need not ask, your looks tell me you have already recovered your loss.'

'My looks do me injustice then, Monsieur, my loss I know can never be recovered.'

'Well—well! I will not argue with you; I see you have exactly your father's disposition; and let me tell you it would have been much happier for him, poor man! if it had been a different one.'

The look of dignified displeasure, with which Sherlock regarded Monsieur Mycroft, while he spoke, would have touched almost any other heart; he made no other reply, but introduced John, who could scarcely stifle the resentment he felt, and whose bow Monsieur Mycroft returned with a slight nod of his head, and a look of supercilious examination. After a few moments John took leave of Sherlock, in a manner, that hastily expressed his pain both at his own departure, and at leaving him to the society of Monsieur Mycroft.

'Who is that young man?' said his brother, in an accent which equally implied inquisitiveness and censure. 'Some idle admirer of yours I suppose; but I believed brother you had a greater sense of propriety, than to have received the visits of any young man in your present unfriended situation. Let me tell you the world will observe those things, and it will talk, aye and very freely too.'

Sherlock, extremely vexed at this coarse speech, attempted to interrupt it; but Monsieur Mycroft would proceed, with all the self-importance of a person, to whom power is new.

'It is very necessary you should be under the eye of some person more able to guide you than yourself. I, indeed, have not much leisure for such a task; however, since your poor father made it his last request, that I should overlook your conduct—I must even take you under my care. But this let me tell you, brother mine, that unless you will determine to be very conformable to my direction, I shall not trouble myself longer about you.'

Sherlock made no attempt to interrupt Monsieur Mycroft a second time, pride keeping him silent, till his brother said, 'I am now come to take you with me to Tholouse; I am sorry to find, that your poor father died, after all, in such indifferent circumstances; however, I shall take you home with me. Ah! poor man, he was always more generous than provident, or he would not have left his son dependent on his relations.'

'Nor has he done so, I hope, sir,' said Sherlock sharply, 'The affairs of M. de Motteville may, I trust, yet be settled without deeply injuring his creditors, and in the meantime I should be very happy to remain at Bakersfield.'

'No doubt you would,' replied Monsieur Mycroft, with a smile of irony, 'and I shall no doubt consent to this, since I see how necessary tranquillity and retirement are to restore your spirits. I did not think you capable of so much duplicity, brother; when you pleaded this excuse for remaining here, I foolishly believed it to be a just one, nor expected to have found with you so agreeable a companion as this M. Botson—, I forget his name.'

'At this moment, indeed, I feel more than ever the value of the retirement I solicited.’ Sherlock snapped.

'I see that I have undertaken a very troublesome task,' said Monsieur Mycroft, colouring highly.

'If you believe the task will really be so troublesome, I must lament, that it is yours. Perhaps you should resign it.'

'Well! brother, fine speaking signifies little. I am willing, in consideration of our poor parent, to overlook the impropriety of your late conduct, and to try what your future will be.'

Sherlock interrupted him, to beg he would explain what was the impropriety alluded to.

'What impropriety! why that of receiving the visits of a lover unknown to your family,' replied Monsieur Mycroft, not considering the impropriety of which he had himself been guilty, in exposing his young brother to the possibility of conduct so erroneous.

A faint blush passed over Sherlock's countenance; pride and anxiety struggled in his breast; appearances did, in some degree, justify his brother's suspicions, but he could not resolve to humble himself so far as to enter into his own defence; and especially not when the address had been so welcome.

'And who is this young adventurer, pray?' said Monsieur Mycroft, 'and what are his pretensions?' 'These he must himself explain, madam,' replied Sherlock. 'Of his family my father was not ignorant, and I believe it is unexceptionable.' He then proceeded to mention what he knew concerning it.

'Oh, then, this it seems is a younger brother,' exclaimed his brother, 'and of course a beggar. A very fine tale indeed!’

Sherlock strode off towards the chateau, leaving Monsieur Mycroft to catch up behind; and without desisting from a topic, which he discussed with so much complacency to himself, and severity to his younger brother.  'I am sorry to perceive, brother mine,' said he, ‘that you imagine yourself to be violently in love with this young adventurer, after an acquaintance of only a few days. There was something, too, so charmingly romantic in the manner of your meeting!' he sneered.

Monsieur Mycroft, notwithstanding an apparent reluctance to receive his brother, desired his company. The love of power was his ruling passion, and he knew it would be highly gratified by taking into his house a young orphan, who had no appeal from his decisions, and on whom he could exercise without control the capricious humour of the moment.

On entering the chateau, Monsieur Mycroft expressed a desire, that Sherlock would put up what he thought necessary to take to Tholouse, as he meant to set off the next morning at daybreak. The day passed in the exercise of petty tyranny on the part of Monsieur Mycroft, and in mournful regret and melancholy anticipation on that of Sherlock, who could not conquer a presentiment, which frequently occurred to him, this night—that he should never more return to Bakersfield. Having passed a considerable time in what had been his father's study, having selected some of his favourite authors, to put up with his clothes, he seated himself in his chair before the reading desk, and sat lost in melancholy reflection, till Mrs. Hudson opened the door to examine, as was her custom before she went to bed, if was all safe. She started, on observing her young master, who bade her come in, and then gave her some directions for keeping the chateau in readiness for his reception at all times.

'Alas-a-day! that you should leave it!' said Mrs. Hudson, 'I think you would be happier here than where you are going, if one may judge.' Sherlock made no reply to this remark, the sorrow Mrs. Hudson proceeded to express at his departure aligned too much to his own; but he gave such directions as might best conduce to her comfort during Sherlock’s own absence.

Having dismissed Mrs. Hudson to bed, Sherlock wandered through every lonely apartment of the chateau, committing them to his mind. From the window he gazed upon the garden below, shewn faintly by the moon, rising over the tops of the palm-trees, and, at length, the calm beauty of the night tempted him to descend. He silently passed into the garden, and, hastening towards the distant groves, was glad to breathe once more the air of liberty, and to be unobserved. The deep repose of the scene, the rich scents, that floated on the breeze, the grandeur of the wide horizon and of the clear blue arch, soothed his mind. Sherlock forgot Monsieur Mycroft; his thoughts ascended to the contemplation of those unnumbered mysteries, that lie scattered in the depths of aether, thousands of them hid from human eyes, and almost beyond the flight of human fancy.

And now the moon was high over the woods, touching their summits with yellow light, and darting between the foliage long level beams; while on the rapid Garonne below the trembling radiance was faintly obscured by the lightest vapour. Sherlock long watched the playing lustre, listened to the soothing murmur of the current, and the yet lighter sounds of the air, as it stirred, at intervals, the lofty palm-trees.

Sherlock gazed on the plane-tree, and then seated himself, for the last time, on the bench under its shade, where he had so often sat with his parents, and where, only a few hours before, he had conversed with John, at the remembrance of whom, a mingled sensation of esteem, tenderness and anxiety rose in his breast. John had declared his love; but Mycroft’s words taunted him; perhaps it was indeed all a romantic fantasy. It would be a cruelty to John to allow him to bind himself to Sherlock; who was so unsuited for the world. 

After some time in deep thought Sherlock cast an restless eye around, deciding to return to the chateau, and often stopped for a moment to examine the shadowy scene before he ventured to proceed, but he passed on without perceiving any person, till, having reached a clump of almond trees, not far from the house, he thought she perceived a person emerge from the groves, and pass slowly along a moon-light alley that led between them; but the distance, and the imperfect light would not suffer Sherlock to judge with any degree of certainty whether this was fancy or reality. He continued to gaze for some time on the spot, till on the dead stillness of the air he heard a sudden sound, and in the next instant fancied he distinguished footsteps near him. Fearing discovery by Mycroft, wasting not another moment in conjecture, he hurried to the chateau, and, having reached it, retired to his chamber, where, as he closed the window he looked upon the garden, and then again thought he distinguished a figure, gliding between the almond trees he had just left. He immediately withdrew from the casement, and, though much agitated, eventually fell into an exhausted sleep.

Chapter Text

I leave that flowery path for eye

 Of childhood, where I sported many a day,

 Warbling and sauntering carelessly along;

 Where every face was innocent and gay,

 Each vale romantic, tuneful every tongue,

 Sweet, wild, and artless all.

     THE MINSTREL

At an early hour, the carriage, which was to take Sherlock and Monsieur Mycroft to Tholouse, appeared at the door of the chateau. It was with much reluctance, that Sherlock's request to take with them the dog Redbeard was granted. Old Mrs. Hudson stood at the door to take leave of her young master. 'God for ever keep you, dear boy!' said she, while Sherlock gave his hand in silence, and could answer only with the pressure of his hand.

John, mean while, was returned to Estuviere, his heart occupied with the image of Sherlock; sometimes indulging in reveries of future happiness, but more frequently shrinking with dread of the opposition he might encounter from Sherlock’s family. He was the younger son of an ancient family of Gascony; and, having lost his parents at an early period of his life, the care of his education and of his small portion had devolved to his brother, the Count de Hariette, his senior by nearly twenty years. John had been educated in all the accomplishments of his age, and had an ardour of spirit, and a certain grandeur of mind, that gave him particular excellence in the exercises then thought heroic. His little fortune had been diminished by the necessary expences of his education; but M. Watson, the elder, seemed to think that his genius and accomplishments would amply supply the deficiency of his inheritance. They offered flattering hopes of promotion in the military profession, in those times almost the only one in which a gentleman could engage without incurring a stain on his name; and John was of course enrolled in the army.  John’s ardour for whatever is great and good in the moral world, as well as in the natural one, displayed itself in his infant years; and the strong indignation, which he felt and expressed at a criminal, or a mean action, sometimes drew upon him the displeasure of his tutor; who reprobated it under the general term of violence of temper; and who, when haranguing on the virtues of mildness and moderation, seemed to forget the gentleness and compassion, which always appeared in his pupil towards objects of misfortune.

John had now obtained leave of absence from his regiment when he made the excursion into the Pyrenees, which was the means of introducing him to Holmes; and, as this permission was nearly expired, he was the more anxious to declare himself to Sherlock's family, from whom he reasonably apprehended opposition, since his fortune, though, with a moderate addition from Sherlock’s, would be sufficient to support them, would not satisfy the views, either of vanity, or ambition. John was not without the latter, but he saw golden visions of promotion in the army; and believed, that with Sherlock he could, in the mean time, be delighted to live within the limits of his humble income. His thoughts were now occupied in considering the means of securing an address with Sherlock’s family, as he was entirely ignorant of Sherlock's precipitate departure from Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, the travellers pursued their journey mostly in silence; with intermittent lectures from Mycroft on the general wrongness of Sherlock’s character, conduct and precepts. At length, these unpleasant sermons were interrupted by the arrival of the travellers at Tholouse; and Sherlock, who had not been there for many years, and had only a very faint recollection of it, was surprised at the ostentatious style exhibited in his brother’s house and furniture; the more so, perhaps, because it was so totally different from the modest elegance, to which he had been accustomed. He followed Monsieur Mycroft through a large hall, where several servants in rich liveries appeared, to a kind of saloon, fitted up with more shew than taste; and Mycroft, complaining of fatigue, ordered supper immediately. 'I am glad to find myself in my own house again,' said he, throwing himself on a large settee, 'and to have my own people about me. I detest travelling; though, indeed, I ought to like it, for what I see abroad always makes me delighted to return to my own chateau. What makes you so silent, brother mine?—What is it that disturbs you now?'

Sherlock rolled his eyes at the arrogance and ostentatious vanity of Monsieur Mycroft's conversation. He sat silently while Monsieur Mycroft expatiated on the splendour of his house, told of the numerous parties he entertained, and what he should expect of Sherlock. Monsieur Mycroft looked on his brother’s diffidence with a feeling very near to contempt, and endeavoured to overcome it by reproof, rather than to encourage it by gentleness.

The entrance of supper somewhat interrupted the complacent discourse of Monsieur Mycroft and the painful considerations, which it had forced upon Sherlock. When the repast, which was rendered ostentatious by the attendance of a great number of servants, and by a profusion of desserts, was over, Sherlock retired to his chamber, which was small and at the back of the house.

Redbeard, now in the chamber, fawned over Sherlock when he returned, and licked his hands, 'Ah, poor Redbeard!' said Sherlock, 'I have nobody now to love me—but you!' and he felt the hot pricks of tears at his eyes. After some time, his thoughts returning to his father's injunctions, he remembered how often he had blamed him for indulging useless sorrow; saying that the faculties of the mind strengthen by exertion, till they finally unnerve affliction, and triumph over it. He felt his own weakness against this standard, but at least Redbeard did not appear to mind it.

Monsieur Mycroft's house stood at a little distance from the city of Tholouse, and was surrounded by extensive gardens, in which Sherlock, who had risen early, amused himself with wandering before breakfast. From a terrace, that extended along the highest part of them, was a wide view over Languedoc. On the distant horizon to the south, he discovered the wild summits of the Pyrenees, and his heart pointed to his peaceful home—to the neighbourhood where John was. His mind was occupied with these interesting ideas, till a servant came to tell him breakfast was ready. His thoughts thus recalled to the surrounding objects, the straight walks, square parterres, and artificial fountains of the garden, could not fail, as he passed through it, to appear the worse, opposed to the negligent graces, and natural beauties of the grounds of Bakersfield.

'Whither have you been rambling so early?' said Monsieur Mycroft, as his brother entered the breakfast-room. 'I do not approve of these solitary walks;' and Sherlock was surprised, when, having informed Mycroft, that he had been no further than the gardens, he understood these to be included in the reproof. 'I desire you will not walk there again at so early an hour unattended,' said Monsieur Mycroft; 'my gardens are very extensive; and a young man, who can make assignations by moon-light, at Bakersfield, is not to be trusted to his own inclinations elsewhere.'

Sherlock, extremely surprised and shocked, had scarcely power to beg an explanation of these words, and, when he did, his brother absolutely refused to give it, though, by severe looks, and half sentences, he appeared anxious to impress Sherlock with a belief, that he was well informed of some degrading circumstances of his conduct. Conscious innocence could not prevent a blush from stealing over Sherlock's cheek; he started, and looked confusedly under the bold eye of Monsieur Mycroft, who blushed also; but Mycroft’s was the blush of triumph, such as sometimes stains the countenance of a person, congratulating himself on the penetration which had taught him to suspect another, and who loses both pity for the supposed criminal, and indignation of his guilt, in the gratification of his own vanity.

Sherlock, deducing that his ramble in the garden on the night preceding his departure from Bakersfield had been observed, now mentioned the motive of it, at which Monsieur Mycroft smiled contemptuously, refusing either to accept this explanation, or to give reasons for refusing it; and, soon after, concluded the subject by saying, 'I never trust people's assertions, I always judge of them by their actions; but I am willing to try what will be your behaviour in future.'

It was obvious to Sherlock that it was John whom he had seen at night in the gardens of Bakersfield, and that he had been observed there by Monsieur Mycroft; who now passing from one painful topic only to revive another almost equally so, spoke of the situation of Sherlock’s property, in the hands of M. Motteville. While Mycroft thus talked with ostentatious pity of Sherlock's misfortunes, he to rendered Sherlock fully sensible of every cruel mortification of his situation, as he was to be considered as a dependant, not only by his elder brother, but by his brother’s servants.

He was now informed, that a large party were expected to dinner; and informed that he was expected to be attired with gaiety and taste; after which Mycroft condescended to shew Sherlock the splendour of his chateau, and to point out the particular beauty, or elegance, which he thought distinguished each of her numerous suites of apartments.

When the company arrived, Sherlock saw Signor Moriarty was one of their number, and who now seemed to converse with Monsieur Mycroft with the familiarity of old acquaintance.  This Signor Moriarty had an air of conscious superiority, animated by wild spirit, and strengthened by talents, to which every person seemed involuntarily to yield. The quickness of his perceptions was strikingly expressed on his countenance; and Sherlock felt admiration, but not the admiration that leads to esteem; for it was mixed with a degree of fear he knew not exactly wherefore.

The day passed without any material occurrence; and Sherlock, though amused by the characters he had seen, was glad when he could retire to his books, his studies, and his memories.

Chapter Text

 Some pow'r impart the spear and shield,

 At which the wizard passions fly,

 By which the giant follies die.

     COLLINS

A fortnight passed in a round of dissipation and company, and Sherlock, who was forced to attend Monsieur Mycroft in all his visits, was sometimes entertained by the opportunities to practice his deductions, but oftener wearied. He would have been struck by the apparent talents and knowledge displayed in the various conversations he listened to, if it were not that the talents were for the most part those of imposture, and the knowledge nothing more than was necessary to assist them.

Sherlock's pleasantest hours were passed in the pavilion of the terrace, to which he retired, when he could steal from observation, with a book or violin. There, as he sat with eyes fixed on the far-distant Pyrenees, and thoughts on John and the beloved scenes of Gascony, he would play the sweet and melancholy songs of his native province—the popular songs he had listened to from childhood.

One such evening, having successfully extricated himself from accompanying his brother out, he thus withdrew to the pavilion.  His thoughts were with John, of whom he had heard nothing since his arrival at Tholouse, and now that he was removed from him, and in his uncertainty, Sherlock perceived all the interest John held in his heart. Before he saw John he had never met a mind and taste so suited to his own.  Monsieur Mycroft had of late told him much of the dissimulating ways of men and of Sherlock’s own undesirability, and the possibility his brother might be right; and John wrong in his esteem of Sherlock was sufficient to harass his mind with anxiety.  Sherlock found that few conditions are more painful than that of uncertainty as to the merit of a beloved object; an uncertainty, which he would not have suffered, had his confidence in his own opinions been greater.

He was awakened from musing by the sound of horses' feet along a road, that wound under the windows of the pavilion, and a gentleman passed on horseback, whose resemblance to John, in air and figure, for the twilight did not permit a view of his features, immediately struck him. He retired hastily from the lattice, fearing to be seen, yet wishing to observe further, while the stranger passed on without looking up, and, when he returned to the lattice, he saw him faintly through the twilight, winding under the high trees, that led to Tholouse. This little incident so much disturbed Sherlock’s spirits, that unable to concentrate on his violin, he returned to the chateau.

On the following morning, he was summoned to Monsieur Mycroft, whose countenance was inflamed with resentment, and, as Sherlock advanced, he held out a letter to him.

'Do you know this hand?' said he, in a severe tone, and with a look that was intended to search his heart, while Sherlock examined the letter with a show of great attention, assured his brother that he did not. He had, of course, instantly deduced by the strong, upright characters of the letter ‘H’ that John Watson was his brother’s correspondent.

'Do not provoke me,' said his brother; 'you do know it, confess the truth immediately. I insist upon your confessing the truth instantly.'

Sherlock was silent, and turned to leave the room, but Mycroft called her back. 'O you are guilty, then,' said he, 'you do know the hand.' 'If you was before in doubt of this, Monsieur,' replied Sherlock calmly, 'why did you accuse me of having told a falsehood?'

'It is useless to deny it,' said Monsieur Mycroft, 'I see in your countenance, that you are no stranger to this letter; and, I dare say, you have received many such from this impertinent young man, without my knowledge, in my own house!'

Sherlock, shocked at the indelicacy of this accusation, still more than by the vulgarity of the former, instantly forgot the pride, that had imposed silence, and endeavoured to vindicate himself from the aspersion, but Monsieur Mycroft was not to be convinced.

'I cannot suppose,' he resumed, 'that this young man would have taken the liberty of writing to me, if you had not encouraged him to do so, and I must now'—'You will allow me to remind you, brother,' said Sherlock, 'of some particulars of a conversation we had at Bakersfield. I then told you truly, that I had only not forbade Monsieur Watson from addressing my family.'

'I will not be interrupted,' said Monsieur Mycroft, interrupting his brother, 'I was going to say—I—I-have forgot what I was going to say. But how happened it that you did not forbid him?' Sherlock was silent. 'How happened it that you encouraged him to trouble me with this letter?—A young man that nobody knows;—an utter stranger in the place,—a young adventurer, no doubt, who is looking out for a good fortune. However, on that point he has mistaken his aim.'

'I called you here,' resumed Mycroft, 'to tell you, that I will not be disturbed in my own house by any letters, or visits from young men, who may take a fancy to flatter you. This M. Hotson—I think you call him, has the impertinence to beg I will permit him to pay his respects to me! I shall send him a proper answer. And for you, Sherlock, I repeat it once for all—if you are not contented to conform to my directions, I shall give up the task of overlooking your conduct—I shall no longer trouble myself with your education, but shall send you to board in a monastery!'

Upon this threat Sherlock left his brother’s company; and comforted himself with the reflection that at least at a monastery a vow of silence could be took and no idiots spoke to, ever again.

He walked a while in the gardens, arranging his thoughts; he saw John amiable and intelligent, and Monsieur Mycroft neither the one, nor the other. The remembrance of John, however, brought with it many very painful emotions, for Sherlock was by no means reconciled to the thought of resigning him; and, Monsieur Mycroft having already shewn how highly he disapproved of the attachment, Sherlock foresaw much suffering from the opposition of interests; yet with all this was mingled a degree of delight, which, in spite of reason, partook of hope.  Still, what should occur when they should next, if ever, meet again was an occurrence impossible to deduce.

‘Should we ever meet again!' Sherlock sighed; before hastily turning, for she heard footsteps approaching, and then the door of the pavilion open, and, on turning, she saw—John! An emotion of mingled pleasure, surprise and apprehension pressed so suddenly upon his heart as almost to overcome his spirits; the colour left his cheeks, then returned brighter than before, and he was for a moment unable to speak, or to rise from his chair.  It was difficult to tell which predominated—the joy of seeing John, or the anxiety of her brother’s displeasure, when he should hear of this meeting. After some short and embarrassed conversation, Sherlock led John into the gardens, and enquired if he had seen Monsieur Mycroft. 'No,' said he, 'I have not yet seen him, for they told me he was engaged, and as soon as I learned that you were in the gardens, I came hither.'

John paused a moment, in great agitation, and then added, 'May I venture to tell you the purport of my visit, without incurring your displeasure, and to hope, that you will not accuse me of precipitation in now availing myself of the permission you once gave me of addressing your family?' Sherlock, who knew not what to reply, was spared from further perplexity, and was sensible only of fear, when on raising his eyes, he saw Monsieur Mycroft turn into the avenue. As John moved to stand at his side; Sherlock felt his solid warmth and this fear was so far dissipated as to permit him to appear tranquil, and, instead of avoiding his brother, he advanced with John to meet Mycroft.

The look of haughty and impatient displeasure, with which Monsieur Mycroft regarded them, made Sherlock understand from a single glance, that this meeting was believed to have been more than accidental; and in tones of great haughtiness sent Sherlock away that he might have a private conversation with John.  When Mycroft returned to the chateau, his countenance expressed ill-humour, but not the degree of severity, which Sherlock had apprehended. 'I have dismissed this young man, at last,' said he, 'and I hope my house will never again be disturbed with similar visits’.

'It was very inconsiderate of my brother,' resumed Monsieur Mycroft, 'to leave the trouble of overlooking your conduct to me; I wish you was well settled in life. But if I find, that I am to be further troubled with such visitors as this M. Hotson, I shall place you in a monastery at once;—so remember the alternative. This young man has the impertinence to own to me,—he owns it! that his fortune is very small, and that he is chiefly dependent on an elder brother and on the profession he has chosen! He should have concealed these circumstances, at least, if he expected to succeed with me. Had he the presumption to suppose I would marry my brother to a person such as he describes himself!'

Sherlock’s heart leapt in his breast when he heard of the candid confession of John; and, though the circumstances it discovered were afflicting to his hopes, John’s artless conduct gave him a degree of pleasure, that overcame every other emotion. But Sherlock knew that good sense and noble integrity are not always sufficient to cope with folly and narrow cunning.

Monsieur Mycroft continued. 'He has also thought proper to tell me, that he will receive his dismission from no person but yourself; this favour, however, I have absolutely refused him. He shall learn, that it is quite sufficient, that I disapprove him. And I take this opportunity of repeating,—that if you concert any means of interview unknown to me, you shall leave my house immediately.'

Monsieur Mycroft now went to dress for an engagement, which he had made for the evening; and at which Sherlock was expected to attend. So it was that Sherlock and Mycroft joined the company at the house of Madame Petitbois, an elderly widow lady, who had lately come to reside at Tholouse, on an estate of her late husband. She had lived many years at Paris in a splendid style; had naturally a gay temper, and, since her residence at Tholouse, had given some of the most magnificent entertainments, that had been seen in that neighbourhood.

These excited not only the envy, but the trifling ambition of Monsieur Mycroft, who, since he could not rival the splendour of her festivities, was desirous of being ranked in the number of her most intimate friends. For this purpose he paid her the most obsequious attention, and made a point of being disengaged, whenever he received an invitation from Madame Petitbois, of whom he talked, wherever he went, and derived much self-consequence from impressing a belief on his general acquaintance, that they were on the most familiar footing.

The entertainments of this evening consisted of a ball and supper; it was a fancy ball, and the company danced in groups in the gardens, which were very extensive. The high and luxuriant trees, under which the groups assembled, were illuminated with a profusion of lamps, disposed with taste and fancy. The bright and various dresses of the company, the gallant manners of the gentlemen, the exquisitely capricious air of the ladies; the light fantastic steps of their dances; the musicians, with the violin, the hautboy, and the tabor, seated at the foot of an elm, and the sylvan scenery of woods around were circumstances, that unitedly formed a striking picture of festivity. Sherlock felt himself distant from the gaiety of the scene, and his emotion may be imagined when, as he stood with his brother, looking at one of the groups, he perceived John; saw him dancing with a young and beautiful lady, saw him conversing with her with a mixture of attention and familiarity, such as Sherlock had seldom observed in his manner.

Sherlock turned hastily from the scene, and attempted to draw away Monsieur Mycroft, who was conversing with Signor Douglas and the Count Bauvillers, and neither perceived John, or was willing to be interrupted. When Count Bauvillers, made some observations upon the scene to Sherlock, to which he answered almost unconsciously, for his mind was still occupied with the idea of John. Some remarks, however, which the Count made upon the dance obliged Sherlock to turn his eyes towards it, and, at that moment, John's met his. Sherlock felt a moment’s faintness, and instantly averted his looks, but not before he had observed the altered countenance of John, on perceiving him.

He would have left the spot immediately, had he not been conscious, that this conduct would have shewn John more obviously the interest he held in his heart. The Count was continuing: 'The lady,' said he, 'dancing with that young Chevalier, who appears to be accomplished in every thing, but in dancing, is ranked among the beauties of Tholouse. She is handsome, and her fortune will be very large. I hope she will make a better choice in a partner for life than she has done in a partner for the dance, for I observe he has just put the set into great confusion; he does nothing but commit blunders. I am surprised, that, with his air and figure, he has not taken more care to accomplish himself in dancing.'

Sherlock, whose heart trembled at every word, endeavoured to turn the conversation from John, by enquiring the name of the lady, with whom he danced; but, before the Count could reply, the dance concluded, and Sherlock, perceiving that John was coming towards him, rose and joined Monsieur Mycroft.

In an instant John had reached them, bowed lowly to Monsieur Mycroft, and gave an earnest and dejected look to Sherlock, who had managed to assume an air of more than common reserve. The presence of Monsieur Mycroft prevented John from remaining, and he passed on with a countenance, whose melancholy reproached Sherlock for having increased it. Sherlock was called from the musing fit, into which he had fallen, by the Count Bauvillers, who was known to his brother.

'I have your pardon to beg, sir,' said he, 'for a rudeness, which you will readily believe was quite unintentional. I did not know, that the Chevalier was your acquaintance, when I so freely criticised his dancing.' Sherlock blushed, and Monsieur Mycroft spared him the difficulty of replying. 'If you mean the person, who has just passed us,' said he, 'I can assure you he is no acquaintance of either mine, or my brother’s: I know nothing of him.'

'O! that is the Chevalier Watson,' said Douglas carelessly, and looking back. 'You know him then?' said Monsieur Mycroft. 'I am not acquainted with him,' replied Douglas. 'You don't know, then, the reason I have to call him impertinent;—he has had the presumption to admire my brother!'

'If every man deserves the title of impertinent, who admires Monsieur Sherlock,' replied Douglas, 'I fear there are a great many impertinents, and I am willing to acknowledge myself one of the number.'

'O Signor!' said Monsieur Mycroft, with an affected smile, 'I perceive you have learnt the art of complimenting, since you came into France. But it is cruel to compliment children, since they mistake flattery for truth.'

Douglas turned away his face for a moment, and then said with a studied air, 'Whom then are we to compliment, madam? for it would be absurd to compliment a man of refined understanding; HE is above all praise.' As he finished the sentence he gave Sherlock a sly look, and the smile, that had lurked in his eye, stole forth. Sherlock perfectly understood it, and felt the sting for Monsieur Mycroft, who replied, 'You are perfectly right, signor, no man of understanding can endure compliment.'

'I have heard Signor Moriarty say,' rejoined Douglas, 'that he never knew but one man who deserved it.'

'Well!' exclaimed Monsieur Mycroft, with a short laugh, and a smile of unutterable complacency, 'and who could he be?'

'O!' replied Douglas, 'it is impossible to mistake him, for certainly there is not more than one man in the world, who has both the merit to deserve compliment and the wit to refuse it. Most men reverse the case entirely.' He looked again at Sherlock, who observed him carefully.

'Well, signor!' said Monsieur Mycroft, 'I protest you are a Frenchman; I never heard a foreigner say any thing half so gallant as that!'

'True, monsieur,' said the Count, who had been some time silent, and with a low bow, 'but the gallantry of the compliment had been utterly lost, but for the ingenuity that discovered the application.'

Monsieur Mycroft did not perceive the meaning of this too satirical sentence, and he, therefore, escaped any indignation at the barbs his brother had detected. 'O! here comes Signor Moriarty himself,' said he, 'I protest I will tell him all the fine things you have been saying to me.' The Signor, however, passed at this moment into another walk. 'Pray, who is it, that has so much engaged your friend this evening?' asked Monsieur Mycroft, with an air of chagrin, 'I have not seen him once.'

'He had a very particular engagement with the Marquis La Riviere,' replied Douglas, 'which has detained him, I perceive, till this moment, or he would have done himself the honour of paying his respects to you, monsieur, sooner, as he commissioned me to say. But, I know not how it is—your conversation is so fascinating—that it can charm even memory, I think, or I should certainly have delivered my friend's apology before.'

'The apology, sir, would have been more satisfactory from himself,' said Monsieur Mycroft, whose vanity was more mortified by Moriarty's neglect, than flattered by Douglas's compliment. His manner, at this moment, and Douglas's late conversation, now awakened a suspicion in Sherlock's mind, which, notwithstanding that some recollections served to confirm it, appeared preposterous. He has deduced, that Moriarty was paying serious addresses to his elder brother, and that he not only accepted them, but was jealously watchful of any appearance of neglect on his part.—That Monsieur Mycroft at his years should elect a second husband was ridiculous, though his vanity made it not impossible; but that Moriarty, with his discernment, his figure, and pretensions, should make a choice of Monsieur Mycroft—appeared most absurd.

His thoughts, however, did not dwell long on the subject; nearer interests pressed upon them; John, rejected by his brother, and John dancing with a carefree and beautiful partner, alternately tormented his mind. As he passed along the gardens he looked forward, half fearing and half hoping that John might appear in the crowd; and the disappointment he felt on not seeing him, told him, that he had hoped more than he had feared.

Moriarty soon after joined the party. He muttered over some short speech about regret for having been so long detained elsewhere, when he knew he should have the pleasure of seeing Monsieur Mycroft here; and he, receiving the apology with the air of a pettish child, addressed himself entirely to Douglas, who looked archly at Moriarty, as if he would have said, 'I will not triumph over you too much; I will have the goodness to bear my honours meekly; but look sharp, Signor, or I shall certainly run away with your prize.'

Monsieur Mycroft and her party supped with Madame Petitbois in the saloon, and Sherlock, with difficulty, disguised his emotion, when he saw John placed at the same table with himself. The table, at which they sat, was very long, and, John being seated, with his partner, near the bottom, and Sherlock near the top, the distance between them may account for John’s not immediately perceiving Sherlock.  Sherlock avoided looking to that end of the table, but whenever his eyes happened to glance towards it, he observed John conversing with his beautiful companion, and the observation did not contribute to restore his peace, any more than the accounts he heard of the fortune and accomplishments of this same lady.

Monsieur Mycroft, to whom these remarks were sometimes addressed, because they supported topics for trivial conversation, seemed indefatigable in his attempts to depreciate John, towards whom he felt all the petty resentment of a narrow pride. 'I admire the lady,' said he, 'but I must condemn her choice of a partner.' 'Oh, the Chevalier Watson is one of the most accomplished young men we have,' replied the lady, to whom this remark was addressed: 'it is whispered, that Mademoiselle D'Emery, and her large fortune, are to be his.'

'Impossible!' exclaimed Monsieur Mycroft, reddening with vexation, 'it is impossible that she can be so destitute of taste; he has so little the air of a person of condition, that, if I did not see him at the table of Madame Petitbois, I should never have suspected him to be one. I have besides particular reasons for believing the report to be erroneous.'

'I cannot doubt the truth of it,' replied the lady gravely, disgusted by the abrupt contradiction she had received, concerning her opinion of John Watson's merit. 'You will, perhaps, doubt it,' said Monsieur Mycroft, 'when I assure you, that it was only this morning that I rejected his suit.' This was said without any intention of imposing the meaning it conveyed, but simply from a habit of considering himself to be the most important person in every affair. 'Your reasons are indeed such as cannot be doubted,' replied the lady, with an ironical smile. 'Any more than the discernment of the Chevalier Watson,' added Douglas, who stood by the chair of Monsieur Mycroft, and had heard him assume for himself, as he thought, a distinction which had been paid to his younger brother. 'His discernment MAY be justly questioned, Signor,' said Monsieur Mycroft, who was not flattered by what she understood to be praise of Sherlock.

'Alas!' exclaimed Douglas, surveying Monsieur Mycroft with affected ecstasy, 'how vain is that assertion, while that face—that shape—that air—combine to refute it! Unhappy Watson! his discernment has been his destruction.'

Sherlock looked surprised and embarrassed; the lady, who had lately spoke, astonished, and Monsieur Mycroft, who, though she did not perfectly understand this speech, was very ready to believe himself complimented by it, said smilingly, 'O Signor! you are very gallant; but those, who hear you vindicate the Chevalier's discernment, will suppose that I am the object of it.'

'They cannot doubt it,' replied Douglas, bowing low.

'And would not that be very mortifying, Signor?'

'Unquestionably it would,' said Douglas.

'I cannot endure the thought,' said Monsieur Mycroft.

'It is not to be endured,' replied Douglas.

'What can be done to prevent so humiliating a mistake?' rejoined Monsieur Mycroft.

'Alas! I cannot assist you,' replied Douglas, with a deliberating air. 'Your only chance of refuting the calumny, and of making people understand what you wish them to believe, is to persist in your first assertion; for, when they are told of the Chevalier's want of discernment, it is possible they may suppose he never presumed to distress you with his admiration.—But then again—that diffidence, which renders you so insensible to your own perfections—they will consider this, and Watson's taste will not be doubted. In short, they will, in spite of your endeavours, continue to believe, what might very naturally have occurred to them without any hint of mine—that the Chevalier has taste enough to admire a beautiful man.'

'All this is very distressing!' said Monsieur Mycroft, with a profound sigh.

'May I be allowed to ask what is so distressing?' said Madame Petitbois, who was struck with the rueful countenance and doleful accent, with which this was delivered.

'It is a delicate subject,' replied Monsieur Mycroft, 'a very mortifying one to me.' 'I am concerned to hear it,' said Madame Petitbois, 'I hope nothing has occurred, this evening, particularly to distress you?' 'Alas, yes! within this half hour; and I know not where the report may end;—my pride was never so shocked before, but I assure you the report is totally void of foundation.' 'Good God!' exclaimed Madame Petitbois,' what can be done? Can you point out any way, by which I can assist, or console you?'

'The only way, by which you can do either,' replied Monsieur Mycroft, 'is to contradict the report wherever you go.'

'Well! but pray inform me what I am to contradict.'

'It is so very humiliating, that I know not how to mention it,' continued Monsieur Mycroft, 'but you shall judge. Do you observe that young man seated near the bottom of the table, who is conversing with Mademoiselle D'Emery?' 'Yes, I perceive whom you mean.' 'You observe how little he has the air of a person of condition; I was saying just now, that I should not have thought him a gentleman, if I had not seen him at this table.' 'Well! but the report,' said Madame Petitbois, 'let me understand the subject of your distress.' 'Ah! the subject of my distress,' replied Monsieur Mycroft; 'this person, whom nobody knows—(I beg pardon, madam, I did not consider what I said)—this impertinent young man, having had the presumption to address my young brother, has, I fear, given rise to a report, that he had declared himself my admirer. Now only consider how very mortifying such a report must be! You, I know, will feel for my situation. A man of my condition!—think how degrading even the rumour of such an alliance must be.'

'Degrading indeed, my poor friend!' said Madame Petitbois. 'You may rely upon it I will contradict the report wherever I go;' as she said which, she turned her attention upon another part of the company; and Douglas, who had hitherto appeared a grave spectator of the scene, now fearing he should be unable to smother the laugh, that convulsed him, walked abruptly away.

'I perceive you do not know,' said the lady who sat near Monsieur Mycroft, 'that the gentleman you have been speaking of is Madame Petitbois's nephew!' 'Impossible!' exclaimed Monsieur Mycroft, who now began to perceive, that he had been totally mistaken in his judgment of John Watson, and to praise him aloud with as much servility, as before he had censured him with frivolous malignity.

Sherlock, who, during the greater part of this conversation, had been so absorbed in thought as to be spared the pain of hearing it, was not sorry when Monsieur Mycroft, who, though he now tried to appear unconcerned, was really much embarrassed, prepared to withdraw immediately after supper. Moriarty then came to hand Monsieur Mycroft to his carriage, and Douglas, with an arch solemnity of countenance, followed with Sherlock, who, as the carriage rattled away, saw John among the crowd at the gates.

On the following morning, as Sherlock sat at breakfast with his brother, a letter was brought to him, of which he knew the handwriting upon the cover; and, as he received it with a trembling hand, Monsieur Mycroft hastily snatched it from his grasp. As his brother looked it over, Sherlock endeavoured to read on his countenance its contents.

 'Yes, read it, child,' said Monsieur Mycroft, handing over the letter, in a manner less severe than Sherlock had expected, and he had, perhaps, never before obeyed his brother so willingly. In this letter John said little of the interview of the preceding day, but concluded with declaring, that he would accept his dismission from Sherlock only, and with entreating, that he would allow him to wait upon them, on the approaching evening.  Sherlock looked at his brother.

'Why—we must see the young man, I believe,' replied Mycroft to the unasked question, 'and hear what he has further to say for himself. You may tell him he may come.' Sherlock dared scarcely credit what he heard. 'Yet, stay,' added Monsieur Mycroft, 'I will tell him so myself.' Sherlock’s surprise would have been less had he deduced what Monsieur Mycroft had not forgotten—that John was the nephew of Madame Petitbois.

The result was a visit from John in the evening, whom Monsieur Mycroft received alone, and they had a long conversation before Sherlock was called down. When he entered the room, his brother was conversing with complacency, and he saw the eyes of John, as he impatiently rose, animated with hope.

'We have been talking over this affair,' said Monsieur Mycroft, 'the chevalier has been telling me, that the late Monsieur Petitbois was the brother of the Countess de Duvarney, his mother. I only wish he had mentioned his relationship to Madame Petitbois before; I certainly should have considered that circumstance as a sufficient introduction to my house.' John bowed, and was going to address Sherlock, but his brother prevented him. 'I have, therefore, consented that you shall receive his visits; and, though I will not bind myself by any promise, or say, that I shall consider him as my brother-in-law, yet I shall permit the association, and shall look forward to any further connection as an event, which may possibly take place in a course of years, provided the chevalier rises in his profession, or any circumstance occurs, which may make it prudent for him to take a husband. But Mons. Watson will observe, and you too, Sherlock, that, till that happens, I positively forbid any thoughts of marrying.'

Sherlock's countenance, during this indelicate speech, varied every instant, and, John, meanwhile, scarcely less embarrassed, did not dare to look at him, for whom he was thus distressed; but, when Monsieur Mycroft was silent, he said, 'Flattering, sir, as your approbation is to me—highly as I am honoured by it—I have yet so much to fear, that I scarcely dare to hope.' 'Pray, sir, explain yourself,' said Monsieur Mycroft; an unexpected requisition, which embarrassed John again, and almost overcame him with confusion, at circumstances, on which, had he been only a spectator of the scene, he would have smiled.

'Till I receive Monsieur Sherlock Holmes's permission to accept your indulgence,' said he, falteringly, with a step towards Sherlock—'till he allows me to hope—'

'O! is that all?' interrupted Monsieur Mycroft. 'Well, I will take upon me to answer for him. But at the same time, sir, give me leave to observe to you, that I am his guardian, and that I expect, in every instance, that my will is his.'

As he said this, he rose and quitted the room, leaving Sherlock and John in a state of mutual embarrassment.

The conduct of Monsieur Mycroft in this affair had been entirely governed by selfish vanity. John, in his first interview, had with great candour laid open the true state of his present circumstances, and his future expectancies, and Mycroft, with more prudence than humanity, had absolutely and abruptly rejected his suit. He wished his brother to marry ambitiously, not because he desired to see Sherlock in possession of the happiness, which rank and wealth are usually believed to bestow, but because he desired to partake the importance, which such an alliance would give. When, therefore, he discovered that John was the nephew of a person of so much consequence as Madame Petitbois, he became anxious for the connection, since the prospect it promised the exaltation Mycroft coveted for himself.

His calculations concerning fortune in this alliance were guided rather by his wishes, than by any hint of John’s, or strong appearance of probability; and, when he rested her expectation on the wealth of Madame Petitbois, he seemed totally to have forgotten, that the latter had a daughter. John, however, had not forgotten this circumstance, and the consideration of it had made him so modest in his expectations from Madame Petitbois, that he had not even named the relationship in his first conversation with Monsieur Mycroft. But, whatever might be the future fortune of Sherlock, the present distinction, which the connection would afford for himself, was certain, since the splendour of Madame Petitbois's establishment was such as to excite the general envy and partial imitation of the neighbourhood. Thus had he consented to involve his younger brother in an engagement, to which he saw only a distant and uncertain conclusion, with as little consideration of his happiness, as when he had so precipitately forbade it: for though he himself possessed the means of rendering this union not only certain, but prudent, to do so was no part of his present intention.

From this period John made frequent visits to Monsieur Mycroft, and Sherlock passed in his society the happiest hours he had known since the death of his father. They were both too much engaged by the present moments to give serious consideration to the future. They loved and were beloved, and saw not, that the very attachment, which formed the delight of their present days, might possibly occasion the sufferings of years. Meanwhile, Monsieur Mycroft's intercourse with Madame Petitbois became more frequent than before, and his vanity was already gratified by the opportunity of proclaiming, wherever he went, the attachment that subsisted between their relations.

Moriarty was now also become a daily guest at the chateau, and Sherlock was compelled to observe, that he really was a suitor, and a favoured suitor, to his brother.

Thus passed the winter months, not only in peace, but in happiness, to John and Sherlock; the station of his regiment being so near Tholouse, as to allow this frequent visiting. The pavilion on the terrace was the favourite scene of their interviews, and there Sherlock, supervised by Monsieur Mycroft, would work, while John read aloud works of genius and taste, listened to Sherlock’s enthusiasm, expressed his own, and caught new opportunities of observing, that their minds were formed to constitute the happiness of each other.

Chapter Text

  As when a shepherd of the Hebrid-Isles,

  Placed far amid the melancholy main,

  (Whether it be lone fancy him beguiles,

  Or that aerial beings sometimes deign

  To stand embodied to our senses plain)

  Sees on the naked hill, or valley low,

  The whilst in ocean Phoebus dips his wain,

  A vast assembly moving to and fro,

 Then all at once in air dissolves the wondrous show.

     CASTLE OF INDOLENCE

 

Monsieur Mycroft's avarice at length yielded to his vanity. Some very splendid entertainments, which Madame Petitbois had given, and the general adulation, which was paid her, made the former more anxious than before to secure an alliance, that would so much exalt him in his own opinion and in that of the world. Mycroft proposed terms for the immediate marriage of his brother, and offered to give Sherlock a dower, provided Madame Petitbois observed equal terms, on the part of her nephew.

Madame Petitbois listened to the proposal, and, considering that Sherlock was the apparent heiress of his brother’s wealth, accepted it. Meanwhile, Sherlock knew nothing of the transaction, till Monsieur Mycroft informed him, that he must make preparation for the nuptials, which would be celebrated without further delay.

Sherlock observed with concern the ascendancy, which Moriarty had acquired over Monsieur Mycroft, as well as the increasing frequency of his visits; and his own opinion of this Italian was united with that of John, who had always expressed a dislike of him. As he was, one morning, sitting at his experiments in the pavilion, enjoying the pleasant freshness of spring, whose colours were now spread upon the landscape, and listening to John, who was reading, but who often laid aside the book to converse, Sherlock received a summons to attend Monsieur Mycroft immediately.

Scarcely had he entered the dressing-room, when he observed with surprise the dejection of his brother’s countenance, and the contrasted gaiety of his dress. 'So, brother mine!'—said Monsieur, and he stopped under some degree of embarrassment as Sherlock made a most unwelcome deduction, the next moment confirmed.—'I sent for you—I—I wished to see you; I have news to tell you. From this hour you must consider the Signor Moriarty as your relative—we were married this morning.'

Considering the secrecy with which the marriage had been concluded, and the agitation with which it was announced, Sherlock attributed the privacy to the wish of Moriarty, rather than of his brother. His husband, however, intended, that the contrary should be believed, and therefore added, 'you see I wished to avoid a bustle; but now the ceremony is over I shall do so no longer; and I wish to announce to my servants that they must receive the Signor Moriarty for their master.' Sherlock, incredulous, could make no response. 'I shall now celebrate my marriage with some splendour,' continued Madame Moriarty, 'and to save time I shall avail myself of the preparation that has been made for yours, which will, of course, be delayed a little while. Such of your wedding clothes as are ready I shall expect you will appear in, to do honour to this festival. I also wish you to inform Monsieur Watson, that I have changed my name, and he will acquaint Madame Petitbois. In a few days I shall give a grand entertainment, at which I shall request their presence.'

Surprise was not John’s predominant emotion on hearing of these hasty nuptials; and, when he learned, that they were to be the means of delaying his own, and that the very ornaments of the chateau, which had been prepared to grace the nuptial day of his Sherlock, were to be degraded to the celebration of Moriarty's, grief and indignation agitated him alternately. He could conceal neither from the observation of Sherlock, and, when, at length, he took leave, there was an earnest tenderness in his manner, which extremely affected Sherlock; he stood watching after John for some time, yet knew not exactly why he should do so.

Moriarty now took possession of the chateau, and the command of its inhabitants, with the ease of a man, who had long considered it to be his own. His friend Douglas, who had been extremely serviceable, in having paid Monsieur Mycroft the attention and flattery, which he required, but from which Moriarty too often revolted, had apartments assigned to him, and received from the domestics an equal degree of obedience with the master of the mansion.

Within a few days, Mycroft, as he had promised, gave a magnificent entertainment to a very numerous company, among whom was John; but at which Madame Petitbois excused herself from attending. There was a concert, ball and supper. John was, of course, Sherlock's partner, and though, when he gave a look to the decorations, he could not but feel anger at the rememberance that they were designed for other festivities.

During this evening, Mycroft danced, laughed and talked incessantly; while Moriarty, silent, reserved and somewhat haughty, seemed weary of the parade, and of the frivolous company it had drawn together.

This was the first and the last entertainment, given in celebration of their nuptials. Moriarty, though the severity of his temper and the gloominess of his pride prevented him from enjoying such festivities, was extremely willing to promote them. Moriarty was a master of cruelty and exploitation; in such gatherings of people he could find those on which to practice his talents.  But his husband, who had a consciousness of his inferiority to other men, in personal attractions, which counteracted his readiness for mingling with all the parties Tholouse could afford.

A few days only had elapsed, since the marriage, when Monsieur Mycroft informed Sherlock, that Signor Moriarty intended to return to Italy, as soon as the necessary preparation could be made for so long a journey. 'We shall go to Venice,' said he, 'where the Signor has a fine mansion, and from thence to his estate in Tuscany. Why do you look so grave, child?—You, who are so fond of a romantic country and fine views, will doubtless be delighted with this journey.'

'Am I then to be of the party?' said Sherlock, with extreme surprise and emotion. 'Most certainly,' replied his brother, 'how could you imagine we should leave you behind? But I see you are thinking of the Chevalier Watson; he is not yet, I believe, informed of the journey, but he very soon will be so. Signor Moriarty is gone to acquaint Madame Petitbois of our journey, and to say, that the proposed connection between the families must from this time be thought of no more.'

The unfeeling manner, in which Monsieur Mycroft thus informed his brother, that he must be separated, perhaps for ever, from the man, with whom he was on the point of being united for life, added to the dismay, which he must otherwise have suffered at such intelligence. When Sherlock could speak, he demanded to know the cause of the sudden change, but the only reply he could obtain was, that Moriarty had forbade the connection, considering it to be greatly inferior to what Sherlock might reasonably expect.

'I now leave the affair entirely to the Signor,' added Mycroft, 'but I must say, that M. Watson never was a favourite with me, and I was overpersuaded, or I should not have given my consent to the connection. I was weak enough to suffer other people's uneasiness to affect me, and so my better judgment yielded to your affliction. But the Signor has very properly pointed out the folly of this, and he shall not have to reprove me a second time. I am determined, that you shall submit to those, who know how to guide you better than yourself.'

Sherlock would have been astonished at the assertions of this eloquent speech, had not his mind been so overwhelmed by the sudden shock it had received, that he scarcely heard a word of what was latterly addressed to him. Whatever were Mycroft’s weaknesses, he might have avoided to accuse himself with those of compassion and tenderness to the feelings of others, and especially to those of Sherlock.

Sherlock retired to his apartment, to think, if in the present state of his mind to think was possible, upon this sudden and overwhelming subject. It was very long, before his spirits were sufficiently composed to permit the reflection, which, when it came, was dark and even terrible. He saw, that Moriarty sought to aggrandise himself in the disposal of Sherlock, and it occurred, that his friend Douglas was the person, for whom he was interested. The prospect of going to Italy was still rendered darker, when he considered the tumultuous situation of that country, then torn by civil commotion, where every petty state was at war with its neighbour, and even every castle liable to the attack of an invader. He considered the vast distance, that was to separate him from John, and, at the recollection of him, every other image vanished from his mind, and every thought was again obscured by grief. He had to be outside; in the cool of the garden perhaps he could find repose.

As he crossed the hall, a person entered it by the great door, whom, as his eyes hastily glanced that way, he imagined to be Moriarty, and he was passing on with quicker steps, when he heard the well-known voice of John.

'Sherlock, O! my Sherlock!' cried he in a tone faltering with impatience, while he turned, and, as John advanced, was alarmed at the expression of his countenance and the eager desperation of his air. 'In tears, Sherlock! I would speak with you,' said he, 'I have much to say; conduct me to where we may converse. But you tremble—you are ill! Let me lead you to a seat.'

John observed the open door of an apartment, and hastily took Sherlock’s hand to lead him thither; Sherlock scarcely knew what to say, and made some comment regarding going to seek his brother.  'I must speak with YOU, my Sherlock,' replied John, 'Good God! is it already come to this? Are you indeed so willing to resign me? I was wretched enough when I came hither,' exclaimed John, 'do not increase my misery by this coldness—this cruel refusal!’

‘My brother!’ cried Sherlock in agitated confusion. ‘It is Moriarty’s doing!’

'Where is he?, where, then, is Moriarty?' said John, in an altered tone: 'it is he, to whom I must speak.'

Sherlock, terrified for the consequence of the indignation that flashed in John’s eyes, urgently assured John, that Moriarty was not at home. At the wavering accents of his voice, John’s eyes softened instantly from wildness into tenderness. 'You feel it too, Sherlock,' said he, 'they will destroy us both! Forgive me, that I dared to doubt your affection.'

Sherlock no longer opposed him, as John led him into an adjoining parlour; the manner, in which John had named Moriarty, left Sherlock no doubt that John intended to fight a duel, the lethal consequences of which must be prevented. ‘Do not expect, Sherlock’ stormed John, ‘that I can tamely submit to the authority of Moriarty; if I could, I should be unworthy of you!’

John sat down by Sherlock and, greatly daring, cupped Sherlock’s face in his hands. ‘Yet, O Sherlock! how long may he condemn me to live without you,—how long may it be before you return to France!'  The comfort of John’s hands on his face caused quiet to steal over Sherlock’s heart, he closed his eyes and sighed against John’s palm, before feeling the warm, solid press of John’s lips upon his own. His eyes fluttered open to see, John’s blue eyes close to his own, but also his brother’s fixed upon him from across the room!

'This is not the conduct I should have expected from you, sir;' sputtered Mycroft 'I did not expect to see you in my house, after you had been informed, that your visits were no longer agreeable, much less, that you would seek a clandestine interview with my brother, and that he would grant one!'

John, perceiving it necessary to vindicate Sherlock from such a design, explained, that the purpose of his own visit had been to request an interview with Moriarty; but his explanations were answered with severe rebuke; Mycroft lamented again, that his prudence had ever yielded to what he termed compassion, and added, that he was so sensible of the folly of his former consent, that, to prevent the possibility of a repetition, he had committed the affair entirely to the conduct of Signor Moriarty.

The feeling eloquence of John, however, at length, made Mycroft sensible in some measure of his unworthy conduct, and he became susceptible to shame, but not remorse: he hated John, who awakened him to this painful sensation, and, in proportion as he grew dissatisfied with himself, his abhorrence of John increased. At length, Mycroft’s anger rose to such a height, that John was compelled to leave the house abruptly, lest he should forfeit his own esteem by fighting Sherlock’s relative. He was then convinced, that from Mycroft he had nothing to hope, for what of either pity, or justice could be expected from a person, who could feel the pain of guilt, without the humility of repentance?

To Moriarty he looked with equal despondency, since it was evident that this plan of separation originated with him, and it was not probable, that he would relinquish his own views to entreaties, which he must have foreseen and have been prepared to resist. Yet more in love with Sherlock than with his pride, John was careful to do nothing that might unnecessarily irritate Moriarty, he wrote to him, therefore, not to demand an interview, but to solicit one, and endeavoured to wait with calmness his reply.

John restrained the impulse, that urged him to the house of Moriarty, to demand what had been denied to his entreaties. He only repeated his solicitations to see him; seconding them with all the arguments his situation could suggest. Thus several days passed, in remonstrance, on one side, and inflexible denial, on the other; for Moriarty was neither softened to pity by the agony which John's letters pourtrayed, or awakened to a repentance of his own injustice by the strong remonstrances he employed. At length, John's letters were returned unopened, and then, in the first moments of passionate despair, he hastened to Moriarty's chateau, determined to see him by whatever other means might be necessary. Moriarty was denied, and John, when he afterwards enquired for Monsieur Mycroft and Monsieur Holmes, was absolutely refused admittance by the servants.

Not choosing to submit himself to a contest with these, he, at length, departed, and, returning home in a state of mind approaching to frenzy, wrote to Sherlock of what had passed, expressed without restraint all the agony of his heart, and entreated, that, since he must not otherwise hope to see him immediately, Sherlock would allow him an interview unknown to Moriarty. Soon after he had dispatched this, his passions becoming more temperate, he was sensible of the error he had committed in having given Sherlock a new subject of distress in the strong mention of his own suffering, and would have given half the world, had it been his, to recover the letter. Sherlock, however, was spared this by the suspicious policy of Mycroft, who had ordered, that all letters, addressed to his brother, should be delivered to himself, and who, after having perused this and indulged the expressions of resentment, which John's mention of Moriarty provoked, had consigned it to the flames.

During this period of torturing suspense to John, Sherlock was sunk into that kind of stupor, with which sudden and irremediable misfortune sometimes overwhelm the mind. Loving John with the tenderest affection, and having been accustomed to consider him as the friend and companion of all his future days, Sherlock had no ideas of happiness, that were not connected with John. What, then, must have been his suffering, when thus suddenly they were to be separated, perhaps, for ever, certainly to be thrown into distant parts of the world, where they could scarcely hear of each other's existence; and all this in obedience to the will of a stranger, for such as Moriarty, and of a person, who had but lately been anxious to hasten their nuptials!

It was in vain, that Sherlock endeavoured to subdue his emotion, and seek comforts in science. The silence of John afflicted more than it surprised him, since he correctly attributed it to his brother’s meddling. He kept his room, every meeting with Mycroft was a painful torment.

The night before Sherlock was to depart from Thoulose, Sherlock brooded, absorbed in his grief, till long after every member of the family, except himself, was retired to rest. He could not divest himself of a belief, that he had parted with John to meet no more. At length he started up from his chair and threw open a window, and sat down by it.

The still moon-light, that fell upon the elms of a long avenue, fronting the window, somewhat soothed his spirits, and determined him to try whether the open air would not relieve the intense pain that bound his temples. In the chateau all was still; and, passing down the great stair-case into the hall, from whence a passage led immediately to the garden, he softly and unheard, unlocked the door, and entered the avenue. Sherlock passed on with steps now hurried, and now faltering, as, deceived by the shadows among the trees, he fancied she saw some person move in the distant perspective, and feared, that it was a spy of Moriarty. His desire, however, to re-visit the pavilion, where he had passed so many happy hours with John, overcame his apprehension of being observed and his disgust at his own sentimentality, and he continued on.

Having reached the pavillion, he paused a moment to look round, but he heard only the plaintive sweetness of the nightingale, with the light shiver of the leaves; and plains extending gradually and indistinctly to the eye to distant mountains, and the nearer river reflecting the moon.

Sherlock, as he entered the pavillion, was sensible of the features of this scene only as they served to bring John more immediately to his mind. 'Ah!' said he, with a heavy sigh, as he threw himself into a chair by the window, 'how often have we sat together in this spot—often have looked upon that landscape! Never, never more shall we view it together—never—never more, perhaps, shall we look upon each other!'

His musings were suddenly stopped by terror—a voice spoke near him in the pavilion; Sherlock started up—it spoke again, and he distinguished the well-known tones of John. It was indeed John who supported him in his arms! For some moments their emotion would not suffer either to speak. 'Sherlock,' said John at length, as he pressed Sherlock’s hand in his. 'Sherlock!' and he was again silent, but the accent, in which he had pronounced the name, expressed all his tenderness and sorrow.

'O my Sherlock!' he resumed, after a long pause, 'I do then see you once again, and hear again the sound of that voice! I have haunted this place—these gardens, for many—many nights, with a faint, very faint hope of seeing you. This was the only chance that remained to me, and thank heaven! it has at length succeeded— But you are going from me,' said he, 'to a distant country, O how distant!—to new society, new friends, new admirers, with people too, who will try to make you forget me, and to promote new connections! How can I know this, and not know, that you will never return for me—never can be mine.' John’s voice was stifled by sighs.

'You believe, then,' said Sherlock, 'that the pangs I suffer proceed from a trivial and temporary interest; you believe—'

'Suffer!' interrupted John, 'suffer for me! O Sherlock—how sweet—how bitter are those words; what comfort, what anguish do they give! But why should we confide the happiness of our whole lives to the will of people, who have no right to interrupt, and, except in giving you to me, have no power to promote it? O Sherlock! venture to trust your own heart, venture to be mine for ever!' His voice trembled, and he fell silent; Sherlock looked upon him in amazement, when John proceeded to propose an immediate marriage, and that at an early hour on the following morning, he should quit Mycroft’s house, and be conducted by John to a neighbouring county, where a friar should await to unite them.

The silence, with which Sherlock listened to a proposal, dictated by love and despair, and enforced at a moment, when it seemed scarcely possible for him to oppose it;—when his heart was softened by the sorrows of a separation, that might be eternal, and his reason obscured by the illusions of love and terror, encouraged John to hope, that it would not be rejected. 'Speak, my Sherlock!' said John eagerly, 'let me hear your voice, let me hear you confirm my fate.'

With abrupt candour, that endeared Sherlock to John, if possible, more than ever, John was told that he was an idiot; and reminded that Sherlock, who at nineteen was some time from achieving the age of his majority at twenty-one, could not be married without the consent of a guardian.  John was confident they could lie to the friar and so be married; but was crestfallen when Sherlock then pointed out this would certainly invalidate the marriage in the eyes of the law.

John was silent a moment before speaking again.  'This Moriarty: I have heard some strange hints concerning him. Are you certain he is of Madame Anderson's family, and that his fortune is what it appears to be?'

'I have no reason to doubt either,' replied Sherlock. 'Of the first, indeed, I cannot doubt, but I have not deduced anything of the latter, and I entreat you will tell me all you have heard.'

'That I certainly will, but it is very imperfect, and unsatisfactory information. I gathered it by accident from an Italian, who was speaking to another person of this Moriarty. They were talking of his marriage; the Italian said, that if he was the person he meant, he was not likely to make Monsieur Mycroft happy. He proceeded to speak of him in general terms of dislike, and then gave some particular hints, concerning his character, that excited my curiosity, and I ventured to ask him a few questions. He was reserved in his replies, but, after hesitating for some time, he owned, that he had understood abroad, that Moriarty was a man of desperate fortune and character. He said something of a castle of Moriarty's, situated among the Apennines, and of some strange circumstances, that might be mentioned, as to his former mode of life. I pressed him to inform me further, but I believe the strong interest I felt was visible in my manner, and alarmed him; for no entreaties could prevail with him to give any explanation of the circumstances he had alluded to, or to mention any thing further concerning Moriarty. I observed to him, that, if Moriarty was possessed of a castle in the Apennines, it appeared from such a circumstance, that he was of some family, and also seemed to contradict the report, that he was a man of entirely broken fortunes. He shook his head, and looked as if he could have said a great deal, but made no reply.

'A hope of learning something more satisfactory, or more positive, detained me in his company a considerable time, and I renewed the subject repeatedly, but the Italian wrapped himself up in reserve. Think, Sherlock, what I must suffer to see you depart for a foreign country, committed to the power of a man of such doubtful character as is this Moriarty!’

John continued to expound upon this subject, while Sherlock remained leaning on the balustrade in deep thought. He had never liked Moriarty, though he was as fascinating as the viper. From his observations Sherlock was the more inclined to believe, that it was this Moriarty, of whom the Italian had uttered his suspicious hints.

With John, whose imagination was now awake to the suggestion of every passion; whose apprehensions for Sherlock had acquired strength by the mere mention of them, and became every instant more powerful; there could be no further consideration. He thought he saw in the clearest light, and love assisted the fear, that this journey to Italy would involve Sherlock in misery; he determined, therefore, to persevere in opposing it, and in conjuring Sherlock to bestow upon him the title of lawful husband and protector: ‘O Sherlock! let my tenderness, my arms withhold you from these evils—give me the right to defend you!'

Sherlock spoke, that there was no proof of Moriarty being the person, whom the stranger had meant; that, even if he was so, the Italian had noticed his character and broken fortunes merely from report; and that, though some of Sherlock’s deductions gave probability to a part of the rumour, it was not by such circumstances that an implicit truth could be ascertained. These considerations arose so distinctly to his mind, and the terrors of John that presented to him such obvious exaggerations of his danger, incited Sherlock to distrust the fallacies of passion.

On hearing this, John’s voice and countenance changed to an expression of dark despair. 'Sherlock!' said he, 'this, this moment is the bitterest that is yet come to me. You do not—cannot love me!—It would be impossible for you to reason thus coolly, thus deliberately, if you did. I, I am torn with anguish at the prospect of our separation, and of the evils that may await you in consequence of it; I would encounter any hazards to prevent it—to save you. No! Sherlock, no!—you cannot love me.'

'We have now little time to waste in exclamation, or assertion,' said Sherlock, endeavouring to conceal his emotion: 'if you are yet to learn how – how I – how dear you - no assurances of mine can give you conviction.'

The last words faltered on his lips, and he turned his back on John and made to leave the pavilion.  

‘Sherlock!’ cried John. ‘Pray do not go! I have spoken hastily – God – I have accused your bright and shining mind falsely - I am unworthy of you!’

Sherlock hesitated at the entrance. ‘Sherlock, my own love! Pray, forgive me – the thought of going from you for ever – I cannot command myself!’ Sherlock looked back at John – he stood, bereft, arms at his sides, the deepest anguish writ across his face. With stumbling tread, Sherlock fell across the room to John’s breast, to have his body encased in the arms of him who would be his protector.

‘My Sherlock’ said John mournfully, fingers tightly wound in his beloved’s hair. ‘What shall we do?’

‘I am, indeed I am, unequal to this moment,' replied Sherlock with a shuddering breath. ‘I do not know how to command this situation.  I cannot go with you; I cannot go with my brother and his husband. But yet I must’.

Sherlock stayed safe in John’s embrace for some time, hearing only the rhythm of his heart beat and the gentle tides of his breathing.  After some time he became aware that this rhythm had changed; his heart gained speed and his breathing shallowed.  Sherlock considered, carefully shifted his body against John’s, and was rewarded with a gasp.

‘You will forgive me again’ said John in an unsteady voice. ‘I have already told you I cannot command myself – you see again the evidence before you’.

‘Or feel it, in this case’. Sherlock looked down upon John’s head, the blond hair silvery—grey in the moon-light.

'If we could command our time, my John, it should not be thus….hasty; we must submit to circumstances.'

John’s eyes were dark and wild when he looked at Sherlock, who could do naught but nod before John claimed his lips with ferocious passion, mesmerised as John pulled the clothes from his own body then laid Sherlock down upon them, his body quivering as John exposed his skin to the sultry air of the night.  John was marble in the moon-light, the planes of his chest shadowy and strong, the jagged knot on his shoulder visible even in the darkness; Sherlock’s head was thrown back as kisses were laved upon his neck, his back arched as John’s mouth swept over his chest and stomach before pausing over the dark grove between his legs where Sherlock trembled for John’s touch.  Sherlock’s hand explored the soft curve of John’s cheek, his ear, his head; it was as the swelling of a gentle hill against the sharp lines of the elevated peaks of Sherlock’s spread knees.   

Sherlock gasped a breath round the meat of his palm as John’s mouth was upon him, his gasps echoed in the shiver of the leaves in the night, only stopped once John’s mouth was upon his own again, claiming his cries as he felt the strong, sure, hand of John around him; around them both, driving him to the heights of the sublimest ecstasy.  His body trembled and shook, he was undone, he was entire, he was shattering apart under the body of his lover, he was coalescing and reforming under the moon-light and the cry of the nightingale.

‘O my Sherlock’ said John after a time, voice muffled in his lover’s throat ‘Now—I gaze upon that countenance, now I hold you in my arms! a little while, and all this will appear a dream. I shall look, and cannot see you; I shall reach for you, but cannot hold you’. He bent his head and Sherlock cried out as John’s mouth brought the blood to the surface.

‘We must part’ said Sherlock simply. ‘The dawn will soon be upon us’.

They walked slowly back to the chateau, the sky purpling as surely as the bruise on Sherlock’s throat. At the end of the grove near the house, John pressed Sherlock to his heart.  John struggled to assume a composed air. 'Farewell, my love!' said he, in a voice of solemn tenderness—'trust me we shall meet again—meet for each other—meet to part no more!'

With a kiss that spoke the anguish of his heart, John seemed to force himself from the spot; he passed hastily up the avenue, and Sherlock, as he moved slowly towards the chateau, heard his distant steps. He listened to the sounds, as they sunk fainter and fainter, till the melancholy stillness of night alone remained; and then hurried to his chamber, to seek silence and solitude.

Chapter Text

 Where'er I roam, whatever realms I see,

 My heart untravell'd still shall turn to thee.

     GOLDSMITH

The carriages were at the gates at an early hour; the bustle of the domestics, passing to and fro in the galleries, awakened Sherlock from harassing slumbers: his unquiet mind had, during the night, presented him with terrific images and obscure circumstances, concerning his lover and his future life. He now endeavoured to chase away the impressions they had left on his fancy; but from imaginary evils he awoke to the consciousness of real ones. Recollecting that he had parted with John, perhaps for ever, his heart sickened as memory revived. But he tried to dismiss the dismal forebodings that crowded on his mind, and to restrain the sorrow which he could not subdue; efforts which diffused over the settled melancholy of his countenance an expression of tempered resignation, as a thin veil, thrown over the features of beauty, renders them more interesting by a partial concealment.

Monsieur Mycroft observed it; he told his brother that he had been indulging in fanciful sorrows, and begged he would have more regard for decorum, than to let the world see that Sherlock could not renounce an improper attachment; at which Sherlock's pale cheek became flushed with crimson, the blush both of pride and the knowledge of what had passed between he and John in the pavilion, and he made no answer. Soon after, Moriarty entered the breakfast room, spoke little, and seemed impatient to be gone.

The baggage being at length adjusted, the travellers entered their carriages, and Sherlock would have left the chateau without one sigh of regret, had it not been situated in the neighbourhood of John's residence.

From a little hill he looked back upon Tholouse, and the far-seen plains of Gascony, beyond which the broken summits of the Pyrenees appeared on the distant horizon, lighted up by a morning sun. The trees, that impended over the high banks of the road and formed a line of perspective with the distant country, now threatened to exclude the view of them; but the blueish mountains still appeared beyond the dark foliage, and Sherlock continued to lean from the coach window, till at length the closing branches shut them from sight.

Another object soon caught his attention. He had scarcely looked at a person who walked along the bank, with his hat, in which was the military feather, drawn over his eyes, before, at the sound of wheels, he suddenly turned, and he perceived that it was John himself, who waved his hand, sprung into the road, and through the window of the carriage put a letter into Sherlock’s hand. He endeavoured to smile through the despair that overspread his countenance as the carriage passed on. The remembrance of that smile seemed impressed on Sherlock's mind for ever. He leaned from the window, and saw him on a knoll of the broken bank, leaning against the high trees that waved over him, and pursuing the carriage with his eyes. He waved his hand, and Sherlock continued to gaze till distance confused John’s figure, and at length another turn of the road entirely separated John from his sight.

Having stopped to take up Signor Douglas at a chateau on the road, the travellers, of whom Sherlock was disrespectfully seated with Monsieur Moriarty's maidservant in a second carriage, pursued their way over the plains of Languedoc. The presence of this servant restrained Sherlock from reading John's letter, for he did not choose to expose the emotions it might occasion to the observation of any person. Yet such was his wish to read this last communication, that his trembling hand was every moment on the point of breaking the seal.

At length they reached the village, where they staid only to change horses, without alighting, and it was not till they stopped to dine, that Sherlock had an opportunity of reading the letter. Though he had never doubted the sincerity of John's affection, the fresh assurances he now received of it revived his spirits; he looked over his letter in tenderness, laid it by to be referred to when he should be particularly saddened, and then thought of John with much less anguish than he had done since they parted. Among some other requests, which were expressive of John’s tenderness, John entreated Sherlock would always think of him at sunset. 'You will then meet me in thought,' said he; 'I shall constantly watch the sun-set, and I shall be happy in the belief, that your eyes are fixed upon the same object with mine, and that our minds are conversing. You know not, Sherlock, the comfort I promise myself from these moments; but I trust you will experience it.'

It is unnecessary to say with what emotion Sherlock, on this evening, watched the declining sun, over a long extent of plains, on which he saw it set without interruption, and sink towards the province which John inhabited. After this hour his mind became far more tranquil and resigned, than it had been since the marriage of Moriarty and his brother.

During several days the travellers journeyed over the plains of Languedoc; and then entering Dauphiny, and after winding for some time among the mountains of that romantic province, they began to ascend the Alps. And here such scenes of sublimity opened upon them as no colours of language must dare to paint! Sherlock's mind was even so much engaged with new and wonderful images, that they sometimes banished the idea of John, though they more frequently revived it. These brought to him recollection the prospects among the Pyrenees, which they had admired together, and had believed nothing could excel in grandeur. How often did he wish to express to John the new emotions which this astonishing scenery awakened, and that he could partake of them! Sometimes too he endeavoured to anticipate John’s remarks, and almost imagined him present.

With what emotions did he meet John in thought, at the customary hour of sun-set, when, wandering among the Alps, he watched the glorious orb sink amid their summits, his last tints die away on their snowy points, and a solemn obscurity steal over the scene! And when the last gleam had faded, he turned his eyes from the west with somewhat of the melancholy regret that is experienced after the departure of a beloved friend; while these lonely feelings were heightened by the spreading gloom, and by the low sounds, heard only when darkness confines attention, which make the general stillness more impressive—leaves shook by the air, the last sigh of the breeze that lingers after sun-set, or the murmur of distant streams.

As Sherlock descended on the Italian side, the precipices became still more tremendous, and the prospects still more wild and majestic, over which the shifting lights threw all the pomp of colouring. Sherlock delighted to observe the snowy tops of the mountains under the passing influence of the day, blushing with morning, glowing with the brightness of noon, or just tinted with the purple evening.

Sherlock, as he travelled among the clouds, watched in silent awe their billowy surges rolling below; sometimes, wholly closing upon the scene, they appeared like a world of chaos, and, at others, spreading thinly, they opened and admitted partial catches of the landscape—the torrent, whose astounding roar had never failed, tumbling down the rocky chasm, huge cliffs white with snow, or the dark summits of the pine forests, that stretched mid-way down the mountains. But who may describe Sherlock’s rapture, when, having passed through a sea of vapour, he caught a first view of Italy; when, from the ridge of one of those tremendous precipices that hang upon Mount Cenis and guard the entrance of that enchanting country, he looked down through the lower clouds, and, as they floated away, saw the grassy vales of Piedmont at his feet, and, beyond, the plains of Lombardy extending to the farthest distance, at which appeared, on the faint horizon, the doubtful towers of Turin?

Monsieur Mycroft only shuddered as he looked down precipices near whose edge the chairmen trotted lightly and swiftly, almost, as the chamois bounded; but Sherlock experienced various emotions of fascination, delight, such admiration, astonishment, and awe, as he had never experienced before.

Monsieur Mycroft, meantime, as he looked upon Italy, was contemplating in imagination the splendour of palaces and the grandeur of castles, such as he believed he was going to be master of at Venice and in the Apennine, and he became, in idea, little less than a prince. Being no longer under the alarms which had deterred him from giving entertainments to the beauties of Tholouse, he determined to give concerts, though he had neither ear nor taste for music; conversazioni, though he had no talents for conversation; and to outvie, if possible, in the gaieties of his parties and the magnificence of his liveries, all the noblesse of Venice. This blissful reverie was somewhat obscured, when he recollected the Signor, his husband, who, though he was not averse to the profit which sometimes results from such parties, had always shewn a contempt of the frivolous parade that sometimes attends them; till Mycroft considered that Moriarty’s pride might be gratified by displaying, among his own friends, the wealth which he had neglected in France; and Mycroft courted again the splendid illusions that had charmed him before.

The travellers, as they descended, gradually, exchanged the region of winter for the genial warmth and beauty of spring. The sky began to assume that serene and beautiful tint peculiar to the climate of Italy; patches of young verdure, fragrant shrubs and flowers looked gaily among the rocks, often fringing their rugged brows, or hanging in tufts from their broken sides; and the buds of the oak and mountain ash were expanding into foliage. Descending lower, the orange and the myrtle, every now and then, appeared in some sunny nook, with their yellow blossoms peeping from among the dark green of their leaves, and mingling with the scarlet flowers of the pomegranate and the paler ones of the arbutus, that ran mantling to the crags above; while, lower still, spread the pastures of Piedmont, where early flocks were cropping the luxuriant herbage of spring.

In the present scenes his fancy often gave him the figure of John, whom he saw on a point of the cliffs, gazing with awe and admiration on the imagery around him; or wandering pensively along the vale below, frequently pausing to look back upon the scenery, and then, his countenance glowing with the poet's fire, pursuing his way to some overhanging heights. When Sherlock again considered the time and the distance that were to separate them, that every step he now took lengthened this distance, his heart sunk, and the surrounding landscape charmed no more. To the hours, the months, he was to pass under the dominion of Moriarty, he looked with apprehension; while those which were departed he remembered with regret and sorrow.

The travellers, passing Novalesa, reached, after the evening had closed, the small and ancient town of Susa, which had formerly guarded this pass of the Alps into Piedmont. The heights which command it had, since the invention of artillery, rendered its fortifications useless; but these romantic heights, seen by moon-light, with the town below, surrounded by its walls and watchtowers, and partially illumined, exhibited an interesting picture to Sherlock. Here they rested for the night at an inn, which had little accommodation to boast of; but the travellers brought with them the hunger that gives delicious flavour to the coarsest viands, and the weariness that ensures repose. 

Monsieur Moriarty was exceedingly rejoiced to be once more on level ground; and, after giving a long detail of the various terrors he had suffered, which he forgot that he was describing to the companions of these dangers, he added a hope, that he should soon be beyond the view of these horrid mountains, 'which all the world,' said he, 'should not tempt me to cross again.'

As Sherlock sat after supper at a little window, that opened upon the country, observing an effect of the moon-light on the broken surface of the mountains, and remembering that on such a night as this he once had sat with his father and John, resting upon a cliff of the Pyrenees, he played long-drawn notes upon his violin, of such tone and delicacy of expression, as harmonized exactly with the tender emotions he was indulging. The sweet and plaintive strains soon lulled him into a reverie, from which he was very unwillingly roused by Molly, Mycroft’s maidservant, who came to inform Sherlock that Moriarty had given orders to have the carriages ready at an early hour on the following morning; and added, that he meant to dine at Turin.

Chapter Text

 TITANIA.  If you will patiently dance in our round,

  And see our moon-light revels, go with us.

     MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Early on the following morning, the travellers set out for Turin. The luxuriant plain, which extends from the feet of the Alps to that magnificent city, covered with plantations of olives, mulberry and palms, festooned with vines; through which the rapid Po, after its descent from the mountains, wandered to meet the humble Doria at Turin. As they advanced towards this city, the Alps, seen at some distance, began to appear in all their awful sublimity; chain rising over chain in long succession, their higher points darkened by the hovering clouds, sometimes hid, and at others seen shooting up far above them; while their lower steeps, broken into fantastic forms, were touched with blue and purplish tints, which, as they changed in light and shade, seemed to open new scenes to the eye. To the east stretched the plains of Lombardy, with the towers of Turin rising at a distance; and beyond, the Apennines, bounding the horizon.

The general magnificence of that city, with its vistas of churches and palaces, branching from the grand square, each opening to a landscape of the distant Alps or Apennines, was not only such as Sherlock had never seen in France, but almost beyond the means of his deduction.

Moriarty, who had been often at Turin, and cared little about views of any kind, did not comply with his husband's request, that they might survey some of the palaces; but staying only till the necessary refreshments could be obtained, they set forward for Venice with all possible rapidity. Moriarty's manner, during this journey, was grave, and even haughty; and towards Monsieur Mycroft he was more especially reserved; but it was not the reserve of respect so much as of pride and discontent. Towards Sherlock he looked with interest, but spoke not a word. With Douglas his conversations were commonly on political or military topics, such as the convulsed state of the country rendered at this time particularly interesting, Sherlock observed, that, at the mention of any daring exploit, Moriarty's eyes lost their sullenness, and seemed instantaneously to gleam with fire; yet they still retained somewhat of a lurking cunning, and he sometimes thought that their fire partook more of the glare of malice than the brightness of valour.

On entering the Milanese, the gentlemen exchanged their French hats for the Italian cap of scarlet cloth, embroidered; and Sherlock observed, that Moriarty added to his the military plume, while Douglas retained only the feather: which was usually worn with such caps: but he at length concluded, that Moriarty assumed this ensign of a soldier for convenience, as a means of passing with more safety through a country over-run with parties of the military.

Over the beautiful plains of this country the devastations of war were frequently visible. Where the lands had not been suffered to lie uncultivated, they were often tracked with the steps of the spoiler; the vines were torn down from the branches that had supported them, the olives trampled upon the ground, and even the groves of mulberry trees had been hewn by the enemy to light fires that destroyed the hamlets and villages of their owners.

The travellers frequently distinguished troops of soldiers moving at a distance; and they experienced, at the little inns on the road, the scarcity of provision and other inconveniences, which are a part of the consequence of intestine war; but they had never reason to be much alarmed for their immediate safety, and they passed on to Milan with little interruption of any kind, where they staid not to survey the grandeur of the city, or even to view its vast cathedral, which was then building.

Beyond Milan, the country wore the aspect of a ruder devastation; and though every thing seemed now quiet, the repose was like that of death, spread over features, which retain the impression of the last convulsions.

It was not till they had passed the eastern limits of the Milanese, that the travellers saw any troops, when, as the evening was drawing to a close, they saw what appeared to be an army winding onward along the distant plains, whose spears and other arms caught the last rays of the sun. As the column advanced through a part of the road, contracted between two hillocks, some of the commanders, on horseback, were distinguished on a small hill, pointing and making signals for the march; while several of the officers were riding along the line directing its progress, according to the signs communicated by those above; and others, separating from the vanguard, which had emerged from the pass, were riding carelessly along the plains at some distance to the right of the army.

As they drew nearer, Moriarty, distinguishing the feathers that waved in their caps, and the banners and liveries of the bands that followed them, thought he knew this to be the small army commanded by the famous captain Utaldo, with whom, as well as with some of the other chiefs, he was personally acquainted. He, therefore, gave orders that the carriages should draw up by the side of the road, to await their arrival, and give them the pass. A faint strain of martial music now stole by, and, gradually strengthening as the troops approached, Sherlock distinguished the drums and trumpets, with the clash of cymbals and of arms, that were struck by a small party, in time to the march.

Moriarty being now certain that these were the bands of the victorious Utaldo, leaned from the carriage window, and hailed their general by waving his cap in the air; which compliment the chief returned by raising his spear, and then letting it down again suddenly, while some of his officers, who were riding at a distance from the troops, came up to the carriage, and hailed Moriarty as an old acquaintance. The captain himself soon after arriving, his bands halted while he conversed with Moriarty, whom he appeared much uneasy to see; and from what he said, Sherlock understood that this was a victorious army, returning into their own principality; while the numerous waggons, that accompanied them, contained the rich spoils of the enemy, their own wounded soldiers, and the prisoners they had taken in battle, who were to be ransomed when the peace, then negotiating between the neighbouring states, should be ratified. The chiefs on the following day were to separate, and each, taking his share of the spoil, was to return with his own band to his castle. This was therefore to be an evening of uncommon and general festivity, in commemoration of the victory they had accomplished together, and of the farewell which the commanders were about to take of each other.

The travellers proceeded without any further interruption; but it was some hours after sun-set before they arrived at Verona, whose beautiful environs were therefore not seen by Sherlock till the following morning; when, leaving that pleasant town at an early hour, they set off for Padua, where they embarked on the Brenta for Venice. Here the scene was entirely changed; no vestiges of war, such as had deformed the plains of the Milanese, appeared; on the contrary, all was peace and elegance. The verdant banks of the Brenta exhibited a continued landscape of beauty, gaiety, and splendour. Sherlock gazed with interest on the villas of the Venetian noblesse, with their cool porticos and colonnades, overhung with poplars and cypresses of majestic height and lively verdure; on their rich orangeries, whose blossoms perfumed the air, and on the luxuriant willows, that dipped their light leaves in the wave, and sheltered from the sun the cheery parties whose music came at intervals on the breeze. The Carnival did, indeed, appear to extend from Venice along the whole line of these enchanting shores; the river was gay with boats passing to that city, exhibiting the fantastic diversity of a masquerade in the dresses of the people within them; and, towards evening, groups of dancers frequently were seen beneath the trees.

Douglas, meanwhile, informed Sherlock of the names of the noblemen to whom the several villas they passed belonged, adding light sketches of their characters, such as served to amuse rather than to inform, exhibiting his own wit instead of the delineation of truth. Sherlock was frustrated by his conversation; and Douglas’ gaiety did not entertain Monsieur Mycroft, as it had formerly done; he was frequently grave, and Moriarty retained his usual reserve.

Nothing could exceed Sherlock's admiration on his first view of Venice, with its islets, palaces, and towers rising out of the sea, whose clear surface reflected the tremulous picture in all its colours. The sun, sinking in the west, tinted the waves and the lofty mountains of Friuli, which skirt the northern shores of the Adriatic, with a saffron glow, while on the marble porticos and colonnades of St. Mark were thrown the rich lights and shades of evening. As they glided on, the grander features of this city appeared more distinctly: its terraces, crowned with airy yet majestic fabrics, touched, as they now were, with the splendour of the setting sun, appeared as if they had been called up from the ocean by the wand of an enchanter, rather than reared by mortal hands.

The sun, soon after, sinking to the lower world, the shadow of the earth stole gradually over the waves, and then up the towering sides of the mountains of Friuli, till it extinguished even the last upward beams that had lingered on their summits, and the melancholy purple of evening drew over them, like a thin veil. How deep, how beautiful was the tranquillity that wrapped the scene! All nature seemed to repose; the finest emotions of the soul were alone awake. Sherlock's eyes filled with tears as he raised them over the sleeping world to the vast heavens, and heard the notes of solemn music, that stole over the waters from a distance. He listened in still rapture, and no person of the party broke the charm by an enquiry. The sounds seemed to grow on the air; for so smoothly did the barge glide along, that its motion was not perceivable, and the fairy city appeared approaching to welcome the strangers. They now distinguished a female voice, accompanied by a few instruments, singing a soft and mournful air; and its fine expression, as sometimes it seemed pleading with the impassioned tenderness of love, and then languishing into the cadence of hopeless grief, declared, that it flowed from no feigned sensibility. Ah! thought Sherlock, as he sighed and remembered John, those strains come from the heart!

He looked round, with anxious enquiry; the deep twilight, that had fallen over the scene, admitted only imperfect images to the eye, but, at some distance on the sea, Sherlock thought he perceived a gondola: a chorus of voices and instruments now swelled on the air—so sweet, so solemn! it seemed like the hymn of angels descending through the silence of night! Now it died away, and fancy almost beheld the holy choir reascending towards heaven; then again it swelled with the breeze, trembled awhile, and again died into silence.

The deep stillness, that succeeded, was as expressive as the strain that had just ceased. It was uninterrupted for several minutes, till a general sigh seemed to release the company from their enchantment. Sherlock, however, long indulged the pleasing sadness, that had stolen upon her spirits; but the gay and busy scene that appeared, as the barge approached St. Mark's Place, at length roused her attention. The rising moon, which threw a shadowy light upon the terraces, and illumined the porticos and magnificent arcades that crowned them, discovered the various company, whose light steps, soft guitars, and softer voices, echoed through the colonnades.

The music they heard before now passed Moriarty's barge, in one of the gondolas, of which several were seen skimming along the moon-light sea, full of gay parties, catching the cool breeze. Most of these had music, made sweeter by the waves over which it floated, and by the measured sound of oars, as they dashed the sparkling tide. Sherlock gazed, and listened, and thought himself in a fairy scene; even Monsieur Mycroft was pleased; Moriarty congratulated himself on his return to Venice, which he called the first city in the world, and Douglas was more gay and animated than ever.

The barge passed on to the grand canal, where Moriarty's mansion was situated. And here, other forms of beauty and of grandeur, such as his imagination had never painted, were unfolded to Sherlock in the palaces of Sansovino and Palladio, as he glided along the waves. The air bore no sounds, but those of sweetness, echoing along each margin of the canal, and from gondolas on its surface, while groups of masks were seen dancing on the moon-light terraces, and seemed almost to realize the romance of fairyland.

The barge stopped before the portico of a large house, from whence a servant of Moriarty crossed the terrace, and immediately the party disembarked. From the portico they passed a noble hall to a stair-case of marble, which led to a saloon, fitted up in a style of magnificence that surprised Sherlock. The walls and ceilings were adorned with historical and allegorical paintings, in fresco; silver tripods, depending from chains of the same metal, illumined the apartment, the floor of which was covered with Indian mats painted in a variety of colours and devices; the couches and drapery of the lattices were of pale green silk, embroidered and fringed with green and gold. Balcony lattices opened upon the grand canal, whence rose a confusion of voices and of musical instruments, and the breeze that gave freshness to the apartment. Sherlock, considering the gloomy temper of Moriarty, looked upon the splendid furniture of this house with suspicion, and remembered the report of his being a man of broken fortune.

Monsieur Mycroft seemed to assume the air of a prince; but Moriarty was restless and discontented, and did not even observe the civility of bidding his husband welcome to his new home.

Soon after his arrival, Moriarty ordered his gondola, and, with Douglas, went out to mingle in the scenes of the evening. Mycroft then became serious and thoughtful. Sherlock, who was intrigued with every thing he saw, endeavoured to speak to his brother; but reflection had not, with Mycroft, subdued caprice and ill-humour, and his answers discovered so much of both, that Sherlock gave up the attempt of speaking, and withdrew to the balcony, to amuse himself with the scene without, so new and so enchanting.

The first object that attracted his notice was a group of dancers on the terrace below, led by a guitar and some other instruments. The girl, who struck the guitar, and another, who flourished a tambourine, passed on in a dancing step, and with a light grace and gaiety of heart, that would have subdued the goddess of spleen in her worst humour. After these came a group of fantastic figures, some dressed as gondolieri, others as minstrels, while others seemed to defy all description. They sung in parts, their voices accompanied by a few soft instruments.

Sherlock, as he listened, caught the pensive enthusiasm; his mind bore him far away to France and to John. Each succeeding sonnet, more full of charming sadness than the last, seemed to bind the spell of melancholy: with extreme regret he saw the musicians move on, and his attention followed the strain till the last faint warble died in air.

Other sounds soon awakened his attention: it was the solemn harmony of horns, that swelled from a distance; and, observing the gondolas arrange themselves along the margin of the terraces, he leaned over the balcony till he could discern in the distant perspective of the canal, something like a procession, floating on the light surface of the water: as it approached, the horns and other instruments mingled sweetly, and soon after the fabled deities of the city seemed to have arisen from the ocean; for Neptune, with Venice personified as his queen, came on the undulating waves, surrounded by tritons and sea-nymphs. Sherlock looked upon the bare-chested sea-king, muscled and masculine, but ‘he is of no comparison to my own lover’, Sherlock decided.

The fantastic splendour of this spectacle, together with the grandeur of the surrounding palaces, appeared like the vision of a poet suddenly embodied, and the images of John, and of what they might do when reunited, which it awakened in Sherlock's mind, lingered there long after the procession had passed away.

He was recalled from this reverie to a mere mortal supper, and could not forbear smiling at the fancies he had been indulging, and at his conviction of the serious displeasure, which Mycroft would have expressed, could he have been made acquainted with them.

After supper, his brother sat late, but Moriarty did not return, and he at length retired to rest. If Sherlock had admired the magnificence of the saloon, he was not less surprised, on observing the half-furnished and forlorn appearance of the apartments he passed in the way to his chamber, whither he went through long suites of noble rooms, that seemed, from their desolate aspect, to have been unoccupied for many years. On the walls of some were the faded remains of tapestry; from others, painted in fresco, the damps had almost withdrawn both colours and design.

At length he reached his own chamber, spacious, desolate, and lofty, like the rest, with high lattices that opened towards the Adriatic. It brought gloomy images to his mind, but the view of the Adriatic soon gave others more pleasant, among which was that of John as the sea-king, whose delights he had before amused himself with picturing; and, when in his bed, imagined them until he reached the climax of his own delight.

Chapter Text

 He is a great observer, and he looks

 Quite through the deeds of men:  he loves no plays,

     he hears no music;

 Seldom he smiles; and smiles in such a sort,

 As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit

 that could be mov'd to smile at any thing.

 Such men as he be never at heart's ease,

 While they behold a greater than themselves.

     JULIUS CAESAR

Moriarty and his companion did not return home till many hours after the dawn had blushed upon the Adriatic. The airy groups, which had danced all night along the colonnade of St. Mark, dispersed before the morning, like so many spirits. Moriarty delighted in the energies of the passions; the difficulties and tempests of life, which wreck the happiness of others, roused and strengthened all the powers of his mind, and afforded him the highest enjoyments, of which his nature was capable. Of this kind was the habit of gaming, and in this occupation he had passed the night with Douglas and a party of young men, who had more money than rank, and more vice than either.

Moriarty despised the greater part of these for the inferiority of their talents, rather than for their vicious inclinations, and associated with them only to make them the instruments of his purposes. Among these, however, were some of superior abilities, and a few whom Moriarty admitted to his intimacy, but even towards these he still preserved a decisive and haughty air, which, while it imposed submission on weak and timid minds, roused the fierce hatred of strong ones. He had, of course, many and bitter enemies; but the rancour of their hatred proved the degree of his power; and, as power was his chief aim, he gloried more in such hatred, than it was possible he could in being esteemed.

Among the few whom he distinguished, were the Signors Bertolini, Verezzi, and the Signorina Morstan. The first was a man of cheerful temper, strong passions, dissipated, and of unbounded extravagance, but generous, brave, and unsuspicious.  Verezzi was a man of some talent, of fiery imagination, yet had neither perseverance or true courage, and was meanly selfish in all his aims. Proud and impetuous, he revolted against all subordination; yet those who were acquainted with his character, and watched the turn of his passions, could lead him like a child. The Signorina Morstan had a perfect command of feature and of his passions, of which she had scarcely any, but pride, revenge and avarice; and, in the gratification of these, few considerations had power to restrain her, few obstacles to withstand the depth of her stratagems. This woman was the chief favourite of Moriarty.

Such were the friends whom Moriarty introduced to his family and his table, on the day after his arrival at Venice. There were also of the party a Venetian nobleman, Count Sebastian Wilkes, and a Signora Livona, whom Moriarty had introduced to his husband, as a lady of distinguished merit, and who, having called in the morning to welcome him to Venice, had been requested to be of the dinner party.

Monsieur Mycroft received with a very ill grace, the compliments of the Signors. He disliked them, because they were the friends of his husband; hated them, because he believed they had contributed to detain him abroad till so late an hour of the preceding morning; and envied them, since, conscious of his own want of influence, he was convinced, that Moriarty preferred their society to his own. The rank of Count Wilkes procured him that attention which Mycroft refused to the rest of the company. The haughty sullenness of Mycroft’s countenance and manner, and the ostentatious extravagance of his dress, were strikingly contrasted by the beauty, elegance and simplicity of Sherlock, who observed, with more interest than pleasure, the party around him.

In the cool of the evening the party embarked in Moriarty's gondola, and rowed out upon the sea. The red glow of sun-set still touched the waves, and lingered in the west, where the melancholy gleam seemed slowly expiring, while the dark blue of the upper aether began to twinkle with stars. Sherlock sat, given up to pensive and sweet emotions. As he listened to the measured sound of the oars, and to the remote warblings that came in the breeze, his softened mind returned to the memory of his departed parents and to John, and tears stole to his eyes.

The last strain of distant music now died in air, for the gondola was far upon the waves, and the party determined to have music of their own. The Count Wilkes, who sat next to Sherlock, and who had been observing him for some time in silence, snatched up a violin, and played with the finger of harmony herself, then later his voice, a fine tenor, sang in a rondeau full of tender sadness.  

When he had concluded, he gave the violin to Sherlock, who, to avoid any appearance of affectation, immediately began to play. He played a melancholy little air, one of the popular songs of his native province, with a simplicity and pathos that made it enchanting. But its well-known melody brought so forcibly to his heart the scenes and the persons, among which he had often heard it, that his spirits were overcome, and the bow of the violin was moved with a disordered hand; till, ashamed of the emotion he had betrayed, he suddenly passed on to a song so gay and airy, that the steps of the dance seemed almost to echo to the notes. BRAVISSIMO! burst instantly from the lips of his delighted auditors, and Sherlock was compelled to repeat the air. Among the compliments that followed, those of the Count were not the least audible, and they had not concluded, when Sherlock gave the instrument to Signora Livona.

Meanwhile, Moriarty, who was weary of this harmony, was considering how he might disengage himself from his party, or withdraw with such of it as would be willing to play, to a Casino. In a pause of the music, he proposed returning to shore, a proposal which Morstan eagerly seconded, but which the Count and the others as warmly opposed. However, shortly the gondolieri of an empty boat, returning to Venice, hailed them, and without troubling himself longer about an excuse, Moriarty seized this opportunity of going thither, and, committing his husband to the care of his friends, departed.

Meanwhile, the remainder party removed into the Count’s gondola which he had summoned, and which was embellished with all that taste and wealth could bestow. While they partook of a collation of fruits and ice, the band played the most sweet and enchanting strains, and the Count, who had again seated himself by Sherlock, paid him unremitted attention, and sometimes, in a low but impassioned voice, uttered compliments which Sherlock could not misunderstand. To avoid them he conversed with Signora Livona, and his manner to the Count assumed a strong reserve, but the Count would not be repressed: he could see, hear, and speak to no person, but Sherlock.

They landed at St. Mark's, where the gaiety of the colonnades and the beauty of the night, made Mycroft willingly submit to the Count's solicitations to join the promenade, and afterwards to take a supper with the rest of the party, at his Casino. It was fitted up with infinite taste, and a splendid banquet was prepared; but here Sherlock's reserve made the Count perceive, that it was necessary for him interest to win the favour of Monsieur Mycroft, which, from the condescension he had already shewn, appeared to be an achievement of no great difficulty. He transferred, therefore, part of his attention from Sherlock to his brother, who felt too much flattered by the distinction even to disguise his emotion; and before the party broke up, Sebastian Wilkes had entirely engaged Mycroft’s esteem. Whenever he addressed him, Mycroft’s ungracious countenance relaxed into smiles, and to whatever Count Wilkes proposed, Mycroft assented. The Count invited him, with the rest of the party, to take coffee, in his box at the opera, on the following evening, and Sherlock heard the invitation accepted, with strong anxiety, concerning the means of excusing himself from accompanying them thither.

It was very late before their gondola was ordered, and Sherlock's surprise was extreme, when, on quitting the Casino, he beheld the broad sun rising out of the Adriatic, while St. Mark's Place was yet crowded with company. Unusually, sleep had long weighed heavily on his eyes, but now the fresh sea-breeze revived him, and he would have quitted the scene with regret, had not the Count been present, performing the duty, which he had imposed upon herself, of escorting them home. There they heard that Moriarty was not yet returned; and his husband retired in displeasure.

Moriarty came home late in the morning, in a very ill humour, having lost considerably at play, and, before he withdrew to rest, had a private conference with Douglas, whose manner, on the following day, seemed to tell, that the subject of it had not been pleasing to him.

In the evening Douglas joined the brothers, but Moriarty had other engagements; and they embarked in the gondola for St. Mark's, where the same gay company seemed to flutter as on the preceding night. The cool breeze, the glassy sea, the gentle sound of its waves, and the sweeter murmur of distant music; the lofty porticos and arcades, and the happy groups that sauntered beneath them; these, with every feature and circumstance of the scene, united to interest Sherlock in practicing his deductions, no longer plagued by the officious attentions of Count Wilkes. But, as he looked upon the moon-light sea, undulating along the walls of St. Mark, and, lingering for a moment over those walls, caught the sweet and melancholy song of some gondolier as he sat in his boat below, Sherlock’s mind returned to the memory of his home, and of John, both, perhaps; lost to him forever.

Some weeks passed in the course of customary visits, during which nothing remarkable occurred. Sherlock was amused by the manners and scenes that surrounded him, so different from those of France, but where Count Wilkes, too frequently for his comfort, contrived to introduce himself. His manner, figure and accomplishments, which were generally admired, Sherlock would, perhaps, have admired also, had the Count forborne to persecute Sherlock with officious attentions, during which he deduced some traits in Sebastian’s character, that prejudiced Sherlock against whatever might otherwise be good in it.

Sherlock had observed that, since they left France, Moriarty had not even affected kindness towards his brother, and that, after treating him, at first, with neglect, he now met him with uniform disdain and aggravation. Sherlock had never supposed, that his brother's foibles could have escaped the discernment of Moriarty, or that his mind or figure were of a kind to deserve Moriarty’s attention. His surprise, therefore, at this match, had been great; but since he had made the choice, Sherlock did not anticipate that he would so easily have discovered Moriarty’s contempt of it. But Moriarty, who had been allured by the seeming wealth of Monsieur Mycroft, was now severely disappointed by his comparative poverty, and highly exasperated by the deceit he had employed to conceal it, till concealment was no longer necessary. He had been deceived in an affair, wherein he meant to be the deceiver; out-witted by the superior cunning of a man, whose understanding he despised, and to whom he had sacrificed his pride and his liberty, without saving himself from the ruin, which had impended over his head. Monsieur Mycroft had contrived to have the greatest part of what he really did possess, settled upon himself: what remained, though it was totally inadequate both to his husband's expectations, and to his necessities, Moriarty had converted into money, and brought with him to Venice, that he might a little longer delude society, and make a last effort to regain the fortunes he had lost.

The hints which had been thrown out to John, concerning Moriarty's character and condition, were too true; but it was now left to time and occasion, to unfold the circumstances, both of what had, and of what had not been hinted, and to time and occasion we commit them.

Monsieur Mycroft was not of a nature to bear injuries with meekness, or to resent them with dignity: his exasperated pride displayed itself with regularity. He would not acknowledge, even to himself, that he had in any degree provoked contempt by his own duplicity, but persisted in believing, that he alone was to be pitied, and Moriarty alone to be censured. His vanity had already been severely shocked by a discovery of Moriarty's contempt; it remained to be farther reproved by a discovery of his circumstances. His mansion at Venice, though its furniture discovered a part of the truth to unprejudiced persons, told nothing to those who were blinded by a resolution to believe whatever they wished. Mycroft still thought himself little less than a prince, possessing a palace at Venice, and a castle among the Apennines. To the castle di Musgrovio, indeed, Moriarty sometimes talked of going for a few weeks to examine into its condition, and to receive some rents; for it appeared that he had not been there for two years, and that, during this period, it had been inhabited only by an old servant, whom he called his steward.

Sherlock listened to the mention of this journey with pleasure, for he not only expected from it new ideas, but a release from the persevering assiduities of Count Wilkes. In the country, too, he would have leisure to think of John, and to indulge the melancholy, which his image awakened. The ideal scenes were dearer, and more soothing to his heart, than all the splendour of fabulous assemblies; they were a kind of talisman that expelled the poison of temporary evils, and supported his barely acknowledged hope of happy days: they appeared like a beautiful landscape, lighted up by a gleam of sun-shine, and seen through a perspective of dark and rugged rocks.

But Count Wilkes did not long confine himself to silent assiduities; Sebastian declared his passion to Sherlock, and made proposals to Moriarty, who encouraged, though Sherlock rejected, him: with Moriarty for his friend, and an abundance of vanity to delude him, he did not despair of success. Sherlock was astonished and highly disgusted at this perseverance, after he had explained his sentiments with a frankness that would not allow the Count to misunderstand them, especially when they were accompanied by some rather mortifying deductions.

Count Wilkes now passed the greater part of his time at Moriarty's, dining there almost daily, and attending Mycroft and Sherlock wherever they went; and all this, notwithstanding the uniform rudeness of Sherlock, whose brother seemed as anxious as Moriarty to promote this marriage; and would never dispense with his attendance at any assembly where the Count proposed to be present.

Moriarty now said nothing of his intended journey, of which Sherlock waited impatiently to hear; and he was seldom at home but when the Count, or Signora Morstan, was there, for between himself and Douglas a coolness seemed to subsist, though the latter remained in his house. With Morstan, Moriarty was frequently closeted for hours together, and, whatever might be the business, upon which they consulted, it appeared to be of consequence, since Moriarty often sacrificed to it his favourite passion for play, and remained at home the whole night. There was somewhat of privacy, too, in the manner of Morstan's visits, which had never before occurred, and which excited not only surprise, but some degree of alarm in Sherlock's mind, who had deduced much of her character when he had most endeavoured to disguise it. After these visits, Moriarty was often more thoughtful than usual; sometimes the deep workings of his mind entirely abstracted him from surrounding objects, and threw a gloom over his visage that rendered it terrible; at others, his eyes seemed almost to flash fire, and all the energies of his soul appeared to be roused for some great enterprise. Sherlock observed these written characters of his thoughts with deep interest, and not without some degree of awe, when he considered that he was entirely in Moriarty’s power.

A letter from M. Anderson announced the arrival of himself and his lady at the Villa Miarenti; stated several circumstances of his good fortune, respecting an inheritance that had brought him into Italy; and concluded with an earnest request to see Moriarty, his husband and nephew, at his new estate.

Sherlock received, about the same period, a much more interesting letter, and which soothed for a while every anxiety of his heart. John, hoping Sherlock might be still at Venice, had trusted a letter to the ordinary post, that told of his health, and of his unceasing and anxious affection. He had lingered at Tholouse for some time after Sherlock’s departure, that he might indulge the melancholy pleasure of wandering through the scenes where he had been accustomed to behold his lover, and had thence gone to his brother's chateau, which was in the neighbourhood of Bakersfield. Having mentioned this, he added, 'If the duty of attending my regiment did not require my departure, I know not when I should have resolution enough to quit the neighbourhood of a place which is endeared by the remembrance of you. The vicinity to Bakersfield has alone detained me thus long at Estuviere: I frequently ride thither early in the morning, that I may wander, at leisure, through the day, among scenes, which were once your home, where I have been accustomed to see you, and to hear you converse. I have renewed my acquaintance with the good old Mrs. Hudson, who rejoiced to see me, that she might talk of you: I need not say how much this circumstance attached me to her, or how eagerly I listened to her upon her favourite subject. You will guess the motive that first induced me to make myself known to Mrs. Hudson: it was, indeed, no other than that of gaining admittance into the chateau and gardens, which my Sherlock had so lately inhabited: here, then, I wander, and meet your image under every shade: but chiefly I love to sit beneath the spreading branches of your favourite plane, where once, Sherlock, we sat together; where I first ventured to tell you, that I loved.'

In another part of his letter he wrote thus. 'You see my letter is dated on many different days, and, if you look back to the first, you will perceive, that I began to write soon after your departure from France. To write was, indeed, the only employment that withdrew me from my own melancholy, and rendered your absence supportable, or rather, it seemed to destroy absence; for, when I was conversing with you on paper, and telling you every sentiment and affection of my heart, you almost appeared to be present. This employment has been from time to time my chief consolation, and I have deferred sending off my packet, merely for the comfort of prolonging it, though it was certain, that what I had written, was written to no purpose till you received it. Whenever my mind has been more than usually depressed I have come to pour forth its sorrows to you, and have always found consolation; and, when any little occurrence has interested my heart, and given a gleam of joy to my spirits, I have hastened to communicate it to you, and have received reflected satisfaction. Thus, my letter is a kind of picture of my life and of my thoughts for the last month, and thus, though it has been deeply interesting to me, while I wrote it, and I dare hope will, for the same reason, be not indifferent to you.'

'I have just heard of a circumstance, which entirely destroys all my fairy paradise of ideal delight, and which will reconcile me to the necessity of returning to my regiment, for I must no longer wander beneath the beloved shades, where I have been accustomed to meet you in thought.—Bakersfield is let! I have reason to believe this is without your knowledge, from what Mrs. Hudson told me this morning, and, therefore, I mention the circumstance. She shed tears, while she related, that she was going to leave the service of her dear master, and the chateau where she had lived so many happy years; and all this, added she, without even a letter from you to soften the news; but it is all Mons. Anderson's doings!'

'Mrs. Hudson added, That she had received a letter from him, informing her the chateau was let, and that, as her services would no longer be required, she must quit the place, on that day week, when the new tenant would arrive.'

Towards the conclusion of his letter, which dated a week after this sentence, John adds, 'I have received a summons from my regiment, and I join it without regret, since I am shut out from the scenes that are so interesting to my heart. I rode to Bakersfield this morning, and heard that the new tenant was arrived, and that Mrs. Hudson was gone. I should not treat the subject thus familiarly if I did not believe you to be uninformed of this disposal of your house; for your satisfaction I have endeavoured to learn something of the character and fortune of your tenant, but without success. He is a gentleman, they say, and this is all I can hear. The place, as I wandered round the boundaries, appeared more melancholy to my imagination, than I had ever seen it. O Sherlock! surely we are not separated for ever—surely we shall live for each other!'

This letter brought many emotions to Sherlock’s heart; it was full of tenderness and satisfaction on learning that John was well, and that time and absence had in no degree effaced his image from John’s heart. However, the intelligence concerning Bakersfield had the opposite effect.  That Mons. Anderson should let it, without even consulting him on the measure, both angered and shocked him, particularly as it proved the absolute authority Anderson thought himself entitled to exercise in Sherlock’s affairs. It appeared, also, that he had not even condescended to inform Moriarty of the step he had taken, since no motive was evident for Moriarty's concealing the circumstance from Sherlock, if it had been made known to him: this both displeased and surprised him; but the chief subjects of his anger were—the temporary disposal of Bakersfield, and the dismission of her father's old and faithful servant.—'Poor Mrs. Hudson,' said Sherlock, 'thou had not saved much in thy servitude, for thou wast always tender towards the poor, and believed thy would die in the family, where thy best years had been spent. Poor Mrs. Hudson!—now thou art turned out in thy old age to seek thy bread!'

Sherlock cursed bitterly as these thoughts passed over his mind, and he determined to consider what could be done for Mrs. Hudson, and to talk very explicitly to M. Anderson on the subject; but Sherlock rather anticipated that his cold heart could feel only for itself. He determined also to enquire whether Anderson had made any mention of these affairs, in his letter to Moriarty, who soon gave him the opportunity he sought, by desiring that he would attend him in his study. He had little doubt, that the interview was intended for the purpose of communicating a part of M. Anderson's letter concerning the transactions at Bakersfield, so Sherlock went immediately. Moriarty was alone.

'I have just been writing to Mons. Anderson,' said he when Sherlock appeared, 'in reply to the letter I received from him a few days ago, and I wished to talk to you upon a subject that occupied part of it.'

'I also wished to speak with you on this topic, sir,' said Sherlock.

'It is a subject of some interest to you, undoubtedly,' rejoined Moriarty, 'and I think you must see it in the light that I do; indeed it will not bear any other. I trust you will agree with me, that any objection founded on sentiment, as they call it, ought to yield to circumstances of solid advantage.'

Sherlock felt caught.  Indeed, was it only sentiment that attached him to the notion of his home remaining unoccupied and inviolate? Ought he to reject this emotion?

Not arguing the point, Sherlock continued. 'But I fear it is now too late to deliberate upon this plan, and I must regret, that it is no longer in my power to reject it.'

'It is too late,' said Moriarty; 'but since it is so, I am pleased to observe, that you submit to reason and necessity without indulging useless complaint. When you are older you will look back with gratitude to the friends who assisted in rescuing you from the romantic illusions of sentiment, and will perceive, that they are only the snares of childhood, and should be vanquished the moment you escape from the nursery. I have not closed my letter, and you may add a few lines to inform your uncle of your acquiescence. You will soon see him, for it is my intention to take you, with Madame Moriarty, in a few days to Miarenti, and you can then talk over the affair.' So saying, he presented Sherlock with the reverse side of the paper he had been writing on, and Sherlock wrote as follows:

'It is now useless, sir, for me to remonstrate upon the circumstances

of which Signor Moriarty informs me that he has written. I could

have wished, at least, that the affair had been concluded with

less precipitation, that I might have been involved in these transactions

which concern my future prosperity. In point of prudence nothing

can be objected; but, though I submit, I have yet much  to say on some

other points of the subject, when I shall have the honour of seeing you.

In the meantime I entreat you will take care of Mrs. Hudson.

     Your nephew,

     SHERLOCK HOLMES.'

Moriarty smiled satirically at what Sherlock had written, but did not object to it, and Sherlock withdrew to his own apartment, where he sat down to begin a letter to John, in which he related the particulars of his journey, and his arrival at Venice, described some of the most striking scenes in the passage over the Alps; his emotions on the first view of Italy; the manners and characters of the Venetians, and some few circumstances of Moriarty's conduct. But he avoided even naming Count Wilkes, much more the declaration he had made, not wishing to give John even the slightest reason for believing he had a rival.

On the following day Count Wilkes dined again at Moriarty's. He was in an uncommon flow of spirits, and Sherlock thought there was somewhat of exultation in his manner of addressing him, which he had never observed before. He endeavoured to repress this by more than usual reserve, but the cold civility of his air now seemed rather to encourage than to depress the Count. He appeared watchful of an opportunity of speaking with Sherlock alone, and more than once solicited this; but Sherlock always replied, that he could hear nothing from the Count which he would be unwilling to repeat before the whole company.

In the evening, Madame Moriarty and the party went out upon the sea, and as the Count led Sherlock to his zendaletto, he kissed Sherlock’s hand, and thanked him for the condescension he had shown. Sherlock, in extreme surprise and displeasure, hastily withdrew his hand, and turned back into the house with a hasty tread. The Count followed to expostulate and entreat, and Moriarty, who then came out, rendered solicitation unnecessary, for, without condescending to speak, he took Sherlock’s elbow and propelled him towards the zendaletto. Sherlock was not silent; he exclaimed his wish not to board, he entreated Moriarty, to consider the impropriety of these circumstances. Moriarty, however, was inflexible.

'This caprice is intolerable,' said he, 'and shall not be indulged: there is no impropriety in the case' and with a flick of his wrist, pushed Sherlock into the Counts’ boat.

At this moment, Sherlock's dislike of Count Wilkes rose to abhorrence. That he should, with undaunted assurance, thus pursue him, notwithstanding all Sherlock had expressed on the subject of his addresses, and think, as it was evident he did, that Sherlock’s opinion of him was of no consequence, so long as his pretensions were sanctioned by Moriarty, added indignation to the disgust which he had felt towards the Count. It appeared that Moriarty was to be of the party, who seated himself on one side of Sherlock, while Wilkes placed himself on the other. Sherlock sat mutely and crossed his arms over his chest.

'I have been impatient,' said the Count, addressing Sherlock, 'to express my gratitude; to thank you for your goodness; but I must also thank Signor Moriarty, who has allowed me this opportunity of doing so.'

Sherlock regarded the Count with a look of mingled astonishment and displeasure.

'Why,' continued the Count, 'should you wish to diminish the delight of this moment by that air of cruel reserve?—Why seek to throw me again into the perplexities of doubt, by teaching your eyes to contradict the kindness of your late declaration? You cannot doubt the sincerity, the ardour of my passion; it is therefore unnecessary, charming Sherlock! surely unnecessary, any longer to attempt a disguise of your sentiments.'

'If I ever had disguised them, sir,' said Sherlock, with recollected spirit, 'it would certainly be unnecessary any longer to do so. I had hoped, sir, that you would have spared me any farther necessity of alluding to them; but, since you do not grant this, hear me declare, and for the last time, that your perseverance has deprived you even of the esteem, which I was inclined to believe you merited.'

'Astonishing!' drawled Moriarty: 'this is beyond even my expectation! But you will observe, Monsieur Sherlock, that I am no lover, though Count Wilkes is, and that I will not be made the amusement of your capricious moments. You shall adhere to the declaration, which you have made me an agent to convey to the Count.'

'I must certainly mistake you, sir,' said Sherlock; 'my answers on the subject have been uniform; it is unworthy of you to accuse me of caprice. If you have condescended to be my agent, it is an honour I did not solicit. I myself have constantly assured Count Wilkes, and you also, sir, that I never can accept these proposals, and I now repeat the declaration.'

The Count looked with an air of surprise and enquiry at Moriarty. 'Here is confidence, as well as caprice!' said the latter. 'Will you deny your own words, young man?'

Sherlock merely stared at Moriarty, a dreadful suspicion beginning to unfold in his mind.

'Speak to the point,' rejoined Moriarty, in a voice of increasing vehemence, though his eyes sparkled with glee. 'Will you deny your own words; will you deny, that you acknowledged, only a few hours ago, that it was too late to recede from your engagements, and that you accepted the Count's hand?'

'I will deny all this, for no words of mine ever imported it.'

'Astonishing! Will you deny what you wrote to Mons. Anderson, your uncle? if you do, your own hand will bear testimony against you. What have you now to say?' continued Moriarty.

'I now perceive, sir, that you are under a very great error, and that I have been equally mistaken.'

'How is this, Signor?' cried Count Wilkes, with trembling emotion.

'Suspend your judgment, my man,' replied Moriarty, 'the wiles of this boy’s heart are unsearchable. Now, young man, your EXPLANATION.'

'Let me lead to it then, by asking a question’ said Sherlock, his mind racing.

'As many as you please,' said Moriarty, contemptuously.

'What, then, was the subject of your letter to Mons. Anderson?'

'The same that was the subject of your note to him, certainly. You did well to stipulate for my confidence before you demanded that question.'

'I must beg you will be more explicit, sir; what was that subject?'

'What could it be, but the noble offer of Count Wilkes,' said Moriarty, pressing his thigh against Sherlock’s.

'Then, sir, we entirely misunderstood each other,' replied Sherlock, at a loss, for to move away from Moriarty was to move closer to the Count.

'We entirely misunderstood each other too, I suppose,' rejoined Moriarty, 'in the conversation which preceded the writing of that note? I must do you the justice to own, that you are very ingenious at this same art of misunderstanding.'

'Allow me, sir, to explain myself fully, or to be wholly silent.'

'The explanation may now be dispensed with; it is anticipated. If Count Wilkes still thinks one necessary, I will give him an honest one—You have changed your intention since our last conversation; and, if he can have patience and humility enough to wait till to-morrow, he will probably find it changed again: but as I have neither the patience or the humility, which you expect from a lover, I warn you of the effect of my displeasure!'

'Moriarty, you are too precipitate,' said the Count, who had listened to this conversation in extreme agitation and impatience;—'Signor Holmes, I entreat your own explanation of this affair!'

'Signor Moriarty has said justly,' replied Sherlock, 'that all explanation may now be dispensed with; after what has passed I cannot suffer myself to give one. It is sufficient for me, and for you, that I repeat my late declaration; let me hope this is the last time it will be necessary for me to repeat it—I never can wish for our alliance.'

'Charming Sherlock!' exclaimed the Count in an impassioned tone, 'let not resentment make you unjust; let me not suffer for the offence of Moriarty!—Revoke—'

'Offence!' interrupted Moriarty—'Count, this language is ridiculous, this submission is childish!—speak as becomes a nobleman, not as the slave of a pretty tyrant.'

'You distract me, Signor; suffer me to plead my own cause; you have already proved insufficient to it.'

'All conversation on this subject is worse than useless’, said Sherlock impatiently ‘since it can bring only pain to each of us: if you would oblige me, pursue it no farther.'

A gleam of moonlight that fell upon Wilkes's countenance, revealed the strong emotions of his soul; and, glancing on Moriarty discovered the dark resentment, which contrasted his features.

'By heaven this is too much!' suddenly exclaimed the Count; 'Signor Moriarty, you treat me ill; it is from you that I shall look for explanation.'

'From me, sir! you shall have it;' muttered Moriarty, 'if your discernment is indeed so far obscured by passion, as to make explanation necessary. And for you, young man, you should learn, that a man of honour is not to be trifled with, though you may, perhaps, with impunity, treat a BOY like a puppet.'

This allusion roused the pride of Sherlock, who could no longer be silent. He explained the whole subject upon which he had mistaken Moriarty in the morning, declaring, that he understood him to have consulted him solely concerning the disposal of Bakersfield, and concluding with entreating, that he would write immediately to M. Anderson, and rectify the mistake.

But Moriarty either was, or affected to be, still incredulous; and Count Wilkes was still entangled in perplexity. Moriarty desired the Count would order his servants to row back to Venice, that he might have some private conversation; and Wilkes, eager to examine into the full extent of his difficulties, complied.

The zendaletto stopped at Moriarty's mansion, and the Count kissed Sherlock’s hand in farewell, notwithstanding Sherlock's efforts to disengage it that nearly toppled them both into the canal, and, wishing him a good evening, with an accent and look he could not misunderstand, returned to the zendaletto with Moriarty.

Sherlock, in his own apartment, considered with intense anxiety all the unjust and tyrannical conduct of Moriarty, the dauntless perseverance of Wilkes, and his own desolate situation, removed from his friends and country. He looked in vain to John, confined by his profession to a distant kingdom, as a protector; but it gave him comfort to know, that there was, at least, one person in the world, who would sympathize in his afflictions, and whose wishes would fly eagerly to release him.

The approaching interview with his uncle Anderson he regarded with some degree of hope, for he determined to represent to him the distresses of this situation, and to entreat that he would allow Sherlock to return to France with him and Madame Anderson. Then, suddenly remembering that beloved Bakersfield, his only home, was no longer at his command, his heart trembled anew, and he feared that he had little pity to expect from a man who, like M. Anderson, could dispose of it without deigning to consult with him, and could dismiss an aged and faithful servant, destitute of either support or asylum. But, though it was certain, that he had himself no longer a home in France, and few, very few friends there, he determined to return, if possible, that he might be released from the power of Moriarty, whose particularly oppressive conduct towards himself, and general character as to others, were justly terrible to his imagination.

He had no wish to reside with his uncle, M. Anderson, since the man was an idiot; and further, his behaviour to Sherlock’s late father and to himself, had been uniformly such as to convince him, that in appealing to him all that could be obtained was an exchange of oppressors.  He considered again consenting to the proposal of John for an immediate marriage, though this would give him a lawful and a generous protector; but the chief reasons which had swayed his mind against it still existed.

One asylum, however, would still be open to him France. He thought that he could board in the monastery adjacent to the convent that contained the remains of his late father. Here he could remain in safety and tranquillity, till the term, for which Bakersfield might be let, should expire; or, till the arrangement of M. Motteville's affairs enabled him so far to estimate the remains of his fortune, as to judge whether it would be prudent for Sherlock to reside there.

Concerning Moriarty's conduct with respect to his letters to M. Anderson, he had many doubts; and fully believed that Moriarty wilfully persevered in his error, as a means of intimidating him into compliance with his wishes of uniting him to Count Wilkes. All considered, Sherlock looked forward with a mixture of impatience, hope and fear, to the approaching visit.

On the following day Mycroft, being alone with Sherlock, introduced the mention of Count Wilkes, by expressing his surprise, that Sherlock had not joined the party on the water the preceding evening, and at his abrupt departure to Venice. Sherlock then related what had passed, expounded on what he called a ‘mutual mistake’ that had occurred between Moriarty and himself, and solicited his brother’s offices in urging him to give a decisive denial to the count's further addresses; but he soon perceived, that Mycroft had not been ignorant of the late conversation, when he introduced the present.

'You have no encouragement to expect from me,' said his brother, 'in these notions. I have already given my opinion on the subject, and think Signor Moriarty right in enforcing, by any means, your consent. If young persons will be blind to their interest, and obstinately oppose it, why, the greatest blessings they can have are friends, who will oppose their folly. Pray what pretensions of any kind do you think you have to such a match as is now offered you?'

'Not any whatever, Sir,' replied Sherlock, 'and, therefore, at least, suffer me to be happy in my humility.'

'Nay, brother mine, it cannot be denied, that you have pride enough; your father, had his share of pride too; though, let me add, his fortune did not justify it.'

Sherlock, inflamed by indignation which this malevolent allusion to his father excited, hesitated for some moments, in a confusion, which highly gratified his brother. At length he said, 'My father's pride, Sir, had a noble object—the happiness which he knew could be derived only from science, knowledge and charity. As it never consisted in his superiority, in point of fortune, to some persons, it was not humbled by his inferiority, in that respect, to others. My father despised persons, who, with the opportunities of wealth, rendered themselves miserable by vanity, ignorance, stupidness and cruelty. I shall think it my highest glory to emulate such pride.'

Mycroft was about to continue, but Sherlock quitted the room, and retired to his own, where the little spirit he had lately exerted yielded to grief and vexation, and left him collapsed upon the sofa. From every review of his situation he could derive, indeed, only new sorrow. To the discovery, which had just been confirmed, of Moriarty's unworthiness, he had now to add, that of the cruel vanity, for the gratification of which his brother was about to sacrifice him; of the effrontery and cunning, with which, at the time that he meditated the sacrifice, he insulted and offended his victim.

During the few days that intervened between this conversation and the departure for Miarenti, Moriarty did not once address himself to Sherlock. His looks sufficiently declared his amusement at Sherlock’s distress; but that he should forbear to renew a mention of the subject of it, exceedingly surprised Sherlock, who was no less astonished, that, during three days, Count Wilkes neither visited Moriarty, nor was named by him. Several conjectures arose in Sherlock’s mind. Sometimes he thought that the dispute between them had ended in a duel fatal to the Count. Sometimes he was inclined to hope, that weariness of the rejection of his proposal had induced him to relinquish it; and, at others, he suspected that the Count had now recourse to stratagem, and half expected to be abducted when he ventured outside.

Thus passed the time in vain conjecture, and alternate hopes and fears, till the day arrived when Moriarty was to set out for the villa of Miarenti, which, like the preceding ones, neither brought the Count, or the mention of him.

Moriarty having determined not to leave Venice, till towards evening, that he might avoid the heats, and catch the cool breezes of night, embarked about an hour before sun-set, with his family, in a barge, for the Brenta. Sherlock sat alone near the stern of the vessel, and, as it floated slowly on, watched the gay and lofty city lessening from his view, till its palaces seemed to sink in the distant waves, while its loftier towers and domes, illumined by the declining sun, appeared on the horizon, like those far-seen clouds which, in more northern climes, often linger on the western verge, and catch the last light of a summer's evening. Soon after, even these grew dim, and faded in distance from his sight; but he still sat gazing on the vast scene of cloudless sky, and mighty waters, and listening to the deep-sounding waves.

As Sherlock approached the shores of Italy he began to discriminate the rich features and varied colouring of the landscape—the purple hills, groves of orange pine and cypress, shading magnificent villas, and towns rising among vineyards and plantations. The noble Brenta, pouring its broad waves into the sea, now appeared, and, when he reached its mouth, the barge stopped, that the horses might be fastened which were now to tow it up the stream. This done, Sherlock gave a last look to the Adriatic, and the barge began to slowly glide between the green and luxuriant slopes of the river. The grandeur of the Palladian villas, that adorn these shores, was considerably heightened by the setting rays, which threw strong contrasts of light and shade upon the porticos and long arcades, and beamed a mellow lustre upon the orangeries and the tall groves of pine and cypress, that overhung the buildings. The scent of oranges, of flowering myrtles, and other scented plants was diffused upon the air, and often, from these embowered retreats, a strain of music stole on the calm, and 'softened into silence.'

The sun now sunk below the horizon, twilight fell over the landscape, and Sherlock, wrapt in musing silence, continued to watch its features gradually vanishing into obscurity. He remembered many happy evenings, when with Holmes he had observed the shades of twilight steal over a scene as beautiful as this, from the gardens of Bakersfield.  It did not cheer him -  it now seemed to his oppressed mind, that he had taken leave of home, and of John, for ever, and that the countries, which separated them, would never more be re-traced by him. Though he knew, that neither Wilkes's solicitations, nor Moriarty's commands had lawful power to enforce his obedience, he regarded both with a superstitious dread, that they would finally prevail.

Lost in this melancholy reverie, Sherlock was at length roused by Moriarty, and he followed to the cabin, where refreshments were spread, and his brother was seated alone. The countenance of Mycroft was inflamed with resentment, that appeared to be the consequence of some conversation he had held with his husband, who regarded Mycroft with a kind of sullen disdain, and both preserved, for some time, a haughty silence. Moriarty then spoke to Sherlock of Mons. Anderson: 'You will not, I hope, persist in disclaiming your knowledge of the subject of my letter to him?'

'I had hoped, sir, that it was no longer necessary for me to disclaim it,' said Sherlock, ‘I had hoped, from your silence, that you were convinced of your error.'

'You have hoped impossibilities then,' replied Moriarty, with a grim smile.

Sherlock was silent; his deduction that no mistake had been committed was confirmed; it was evident, that Moriarty's conduct had been by design.  With fresh energy Sherlock, anticipated his reception by Mons. Anderson; considered what he should say on the subject of Bakersfield; and how best to introduce his plan of seeking board in a religious house.

As his thoughts were so occupied, the barge stopped at a flight of marble steps, which led up the bank to a lawn. Lights appeared between some pillars beyond the portico. Moriarty sent forward his servant, and then disembarked with his family. They found Mons. and Madame Anderson, with a few friends, seated on sofas in the portico, enjoying the cool breeze of the night, and eating fruits and ices, while some of their servants at a little distance, on the river's bank, were performing a simple serenade. Sherlock was now accustomed to the way of living in this warm country, and was not surprised to find Mons. and Madame Anderson in their portico, two hours after midnight.

The usual salutations being over, the company seated themselves in the portico, and refreshments were brought them from the adjoining hall, where a banquet was spread, and servants attended. Sherlock was struck with the beauty of the hall, so perfectly accommodated to the luxuries of the season. It was of white marble, and the roof, rising into an open cupola, was supported by columns of the same material. Two opposite sides of the apartment, terminating in open porticos, admitted to the hall a full view of the gardens, and of the river scenery; in the centre a fountain continually refreshed the air, and seemed to heighten the fragrance, that breathed from the surrounding orangeries, while its dashing waters gave an agreeable and soothing sound. Etruscan lamps, suspended from the pillars, diffused a brilliant light over the interior part of the hall, leaving the remoter porticos to the softer lustre of the moon.

Mons. Anderson talked apart to Moriarty of his own affairs, in his usual strain of self-importance; boasted of his new acquisitions, and then affected to pity some disappointments, which Moriarty had lately sustained. Meanwhile, the latter, whose pride at least enabled him to despise such vanity as this, and whose discernment at once detected under this assumed pity, the frivolous malignity of Anderson's mind, listened to him in contemptuous silence, till he named Sherlock, and then they left the portico, and walked away into the gardens.

Sherlock viewed them with dismay, for he was sat between Mycroft and Madame Anderson and could not follow.  Madame Anderson, who, when she was in France, had talked with rapture of Italy, now, that she was in Italy, talked with equal praise of France, and endeavoured to excite the wonder and the envy of her auditors by accounts of places, which they had not been happy enough to see.

Sherlock listened in vain hope for the name of John. Mycroft spoke in his turn of the delights of Venice, and of the pleasure he expected from visiting the fine castle of Moriarty, on the Apennine; which latter mention, at least, was merely a retaliating boast, for Sherlock well knew, that his brother had no taste for solitary grandeur, and, particularly, for such as the castle of Musgrovio promised. Thus the party continued to converse, and, as far as civility would permit, to torture each other by mutual boasts, while they reclined on sofas in the portico, and were environed with delights both from nature and art, by which any honest minds would have been tempered to benevolence, and happy imaginations would have been soothed into enchantment.

The dawn, soon after, trembled in the eastern horizon, and the light tints of morning, gradually expanding, shewed the beautifully declining forms of the Italian mountains and the gleaming landscapes, stretched at their feet. Then the sun-beams, shooting up from behind the hills, spread over the scene that fine saffron tinge, which seems to impart repose to all it touches. The landscape no longer gleamed; all its glowing colours were revealed, except that its remoter features were still softened and united in the mist of distance, whose sweet effect was heightened to Sherlock by the dark verdure of the pines and cypresses, that over-arched the foreground of the river.

When Moriarty and M. Anderson re-joined them, the party left the portico for the gardens, where the charming scenery soon withdrew Sherlock's thoughts from painful subjects. The majestic forms and rich verdure of cypresses he had never seen so perfect before: groves of cedar, lemon, and orange, the spiry clusters of the pine and poplar, the luxuriant chesnut and oriental plane, threw all their pomp of shade over these gardens; while bowers of flowering myrtle and other spicy shrubs mingled their fragrance with that of flowers, whose vivid and various colouring glowed with increased effect beneath the contrasted umbrage of the groves. The air also was continually refreshed by rivulets, which, with more taste than fashion, had been suffered to wander among the green recesses.

Moriarty and Anderson spoke only in generalties, so Sherlock often lingered behind the party, to contemplate the distant landscape, that closed a vista, or that gleamed beneath the dark foliage of the foreground;—the spiral summits of the mountains, touched with a purple tint, broken and steep above, but shelving gradually to their base; the open valley, marked by no formal lines of art; and the tall groves of cypress, pine and poplar, sometimes embellished by a ruined villa, whose broken columns appeared between the branches of a pine, that seemed to droop over their fall.

The sun was now gaining fast upon the sky, and the party quitted the gardens, and retired to repose.

Chapter Text

 And poor Misfortune feels the lash of Vice.

     THOMSON

Sherlock seized the first opportunity of conversing alone with Mons. Anderson, concerning Bakersfield. His answers to Sherlock’s enquiries were concise, and delivered with the air of a man, who is conscious of possessing absolute power and impatient of hearing it questioned. He declared, that the disposal of the place was a necessary measure; and that Sherlock might consider himself indebted to M. Anderson’s prudence for even the small income that remained. 'But, however,' added he, 'when this Venetian Count (I have forgot the name) marries you, your present disagreeable state of dependence will cease. As a relation to you I rejoice in the circumstance, which is so fortunate for you, and, I may add, so unexpected by your friends.' For some moments Sherlock was chilled into silence by this speech; and, when he attempted to undeceive his uncle, concerning the purport of the note he had inclosed in Moriarty's letter, Anderson appeared to have some private reason for disbelieving the assertion, and, for a considerable time, persevered in accusing Sherlock of capricious conduct. Being, at length, however, convinced that he really disliked Wilkes and had positively rejected his suit, Anderson’s resentment was extravagant, and he expressed it in terms equally pointed and inhuman; for, secretly flattered by the prospect of a connection with a nobleman, whose title he had affected to forget, he was incapable of feeling pity for whatever sufferings of his nephew might stand in the way of his ambition. Sherlock’s inopportune deductions about the state of his knee-breeches served to further inflame him, and Anderson declared, that, if Sherlock persisted in this folly, both himself and Moriarty would abandon him to the contempt of the world.

This did not make for a convivial supper party; whilst the others were taking ices and coffee and calmly enjoying the beautiful evening; Sherlock, when he looked at the snow-capt Apennines, ascending in the distance, thought of Moriarty's castle, and suffered some terror, lest he should be conveyed thither, for the purpose of enforcing his obedience; but the thought vanished, when he considered, that he was as much in Moriarty’s power at Venice as he could be elsewhere.

Presently, a barge stopped at the steps that led into the gardens, and, soon after, he distinguished the voices of Moriarty and Anderson, and then that of the Count Wilkes, who, in the next moment, appeared. His compliments Sherlock received in silence, and his cold air seemed at first to discompose him; but Wilkes soon recovered his usual gaiety of manner.

When Sherlock could retire to his own apartment, his mind almost involuntarily dwelt on the most probable means of prevailing with the Count to withdraw his suit, and none appeared more probable, than that of acknowledging a prior attachment (and Sherlock blushed over how to phrase the experience between John and himself) and appeal to the Counts’ generosity for a release. When, however, on the following day, he renewed his addresses, Sherlock shrunk from the adoption of the plan he had formed. There was something so repugnant to his pride, in laying open the secret of his heart to such a person as Wilkes, and in appealing to him for compassion, that he impatiently rejected this design and wondered, that he could have paused upon it for a moment. The rejection of the Counts’ proposal he repeated in the most decisive terms he could select, mingling with it a severe censure of his conduct; but, the Count persevered in the most ardent professions of admiration, till he was interrupted and Sherlock released by the presence of Madame Anderson.

During his stay at this pleasant villa, Sherlock was thus rendered miserable by the assiduities of Wilkes, together with the cruelly exerted authority of M. Anderson and Moriarty, who, with his brother, seemed now more resolutely determined upon this marriage than they had even appeared to be at Venice. M. Anderson, finding, that both argument and menace were ineffectual in enforcing an immediate conclusion to it, at length relinquished his endeavours, and trusted to the power of Moriarty and to the course of events at Venice. Sherlock, indeed, looked to Venice with hope, for there he would be relieved in some measure from the persecution of Wilkes, who would no longer be an inhabitant of the same house, and from that of Moriarty, whose engagements would not permit him to be continually at home. But amidst the pressure of his own misfortunes, he did not forget those of poor Mrs. Hudson, for whom he pleaded with to Anderson, who promised, in slight and general terms, that she should not be forgotten.

Moriarty, in a long conversation with M. Anderson, arranged the plan to be pursued respecting Sherlock, and M. Anderson proposed to be at Venice, as soon as he should be informed, that the nuptials were concluded.

The moment in which Sherlock took leave of M. and Madame Anderson, was, perhaps, the only satisfactory one he had known in their presence. On the following day they returned to Venice, and Moriarty, in a short conversation, which he held with Sherlock, informed him, that he would no longer be TRIFLED with, and that the marriage with the should be celebrated without further delay, and, if that was necessary, without his consent.

Sherlock was horrified, and enquired by what right Moriarty exerted this unlimited authority over him?   'By what right!' cried Moriarty, with a malicious smile, 'by the right of my will! I now remind you, for the last time, that you are a stranger, in a foreign country, and that it is your interest to make me your friend; you know the means; if you compel me to become your enemy—I will venture to tell you, that the punishment shall exceed your expectation. You are not friendless – but I can ensure that you will be.  Your servant, Mrs Hudson; the young chevalier Watson – do not think me ignorant of their existence and the means of terminating it.  You may know I am not to be trifled with.'

Sherlock continued, for some time after Moriarty had left him, in a state of despair, or rather stupefaction; a consciousness of misery was all that remained in his mind. In this situation Mycroft found him, at the sound of whose voice Sherlock looked up, and his brother, somewhat softened by the expression of despair, that fixed his countenance, spoke in a manner more kind than he had ever yet done. Sherlock's heart was softened, and he endeavoured to interest Mycroft in his behalf, and related the villainous threats made. But, though the compassion of his brother had been surprised, his ambition was not to be overcome, and his present object was to be the brother of a Count. Sherlock's efforts, therefore, were as unsuccessful as they had been with Moriarty, and he withdrew to his apartment to think alone. How often did he remember the parting scene with John, and wish, that the Italian had mentioned Moriarty's character with less reserve!

When his mind, however, had recovered from the first shock, he considered, that it would be impossible for Moriarty to compel his alliance with Wilkes, if he persisted in refusing to repeat any part of the marriage ceremony.  He thought of John, and of Mrs Hudson, and the threat against them, for he did not doubt Moriarty’s sincerity, and he had no way of warning them to fly to shelter and safety.

An affair, however, soon after occurred, which somewhat called off Moriarty's attention from Sherlock. The mysterious visits of Mary Morstan were renewed with more frequency since the return of the former to Venice. There were others, also, besides Morstan, admitted to these midnight councils, and among them Douglas and Verezzi. Moriarty became more reserved and austere in his manner than ever; and Sherlock perceived with horror, that something extraordinary was working in his mind.

One night, on which a council was not held, Morstan came in great agitation of spirits, and dispatched his confidential servant to Moriarty, who was at a Casino, desiring that he would return home immediately; but charging the servant not to mention her name. Moriarty obeyed the summons, and, on meeting Morstan, was informed of the circumstances that occasioned her visit.

A Venetian nobleman, who had, on some late occasion, provoked the hatred of Morstan, had been way-laid and stabbed by hired assassins: and, as the murdered person was of the first connections, the Senate had taken up the affair. One of the assassins was now apprehended, who had confessed, that Morstan was his associate in the atrocious deed; and the latter, informed of her danger, had now come to Moriarty to consult on the measures necessary to favour her escape. She knew, that, at this time, the officers of the police were upon the watch for her, all over the city; to leave it, at present, therefore, was impracticable, and Moriarty consented to secrete her for a few days till the vigilance of justice should relax, and then to assist her in quitting Venice.

While Morstan remained concealed in his house, Moriarty was unwilling to attract public observation by the nuptials of Count Wilkes; but this obstacle was, in a few days, overcome by the departure of his criminal visitor, and he then informed Sherlock, that Morstan was to visit some mutual acquaintance; and further that his marriage was to be celebrated on the following morning. To Sherlock’s repeated assurances, that it should not take place, he replied only by a malignant smile; and, telling him that the Count and a priest would be at the house, early in the morning, he advised him to not endanger his friends, by continued opposition. 'I am now going out for the evening,' said he, 'remember, that I shall give your hand to Count Wilkes in the morning.'

Sherlock, having, ever since his late threats, expected, that events would at length arrive to this crisis, was less shocked by the declaration, that he otherwise would have been, and he endeavoured to support himself by the belief, that the marriage could not be valid, so long as he refused before the priest to repeat any part of the ceremony. Yet, as the moment of trial approached, his long-harassed spirits shrunk almost equally from the encounter of Moriarty’s vengeance; as from the hand of Count Wilkes. He was not even perfectly certain of the legal consequence of a steady refusal at the altar, and he trembled, more than ever, at the power of Moriarty, for he knew, that Moriarty would not scruple to transgress any law, if, by so doing, he could accomplish his project.  With Morstan freed from Venice Sherlock saw his hopes dwindling; for these mutual acquaintance must have surely meant Mrs Hudson and John; even now Morstan must be making her way towards them.

He remained alone in his apartment, sometimes yielding to the influence of grief and terror, and, at others, endeavouring to fortify his mind against them, and to prepare himself to meet, with composed courage, the scene of the following morning, when all the stratagem of Wilkes and the violence of Moriarty would be united against him.

The evening was far advanced, when Mycroft came to his chamber with some wedding ornaments, which the Count had sent to Sherlock. He had, this day, purposely avoided his brother; perhaps, because his usual insensibility failed, or possibly, his conscious now reproached him with his conduct to an orphan child, whose happiness had been entrusted to his care by a dying father.

Sherlock could not look at these presents, and made a last, though almost hopeless, effort to interest the compassion of Mycroft, who, if he did feel any degree of pity, or remorse, successfully concealed it, and reproached his brother with folly in being miserable, concerning a marriage, which ought only to make him happy. 'I am sure,' said he, 'if I was unmarried, and the Count had proposed to me, I should have been flattered by the distinction: and if I should have been so, I am sure, little brother, you, who have no fortune, ought to feel yourself highly honoured, and shew a proper gratitude and humility towards the Count, for his offer. I can assure you, Sherlock, you will not meet with many such suitors as the Count: every other person would have turned upon their heel, and left you to repent at your leisure, long ago.'

'O that the Count had resembled every other person, then!' said Sherlock bitterly.

'I see you are still thinking of Mons. Watson’ said his brother. ‘Pray get rid of all those fantastic notions about love,  they are nothing to the purpose—for your marriage with the Count takes place tomorrow, you know, whether you approve it or not.'

Sherlock made no attempt to reply to this speech; he knew it would be useless. Mycroft laid the Count's presents upon the table, on which Sherlock was leaning, and then, desiring he would be ready early in the morning, bade him good-night. For some time Sherlock sat so lost in thought, as to be wholly unconscious where he was; at length, raising his head, and looking round the room, he retired to an armchair; not to sleep, for that was scarcely possible, but to try, at least, to quiet his mind, to think of the friends whose life he was saving through his sacrifice, and thus to collect strength of spirits sufficient to bear him through the scene of the approaching morning.

Chapter Text

 Dark power! with shudd'ring, meek submitted thought

 Be mine to read the visions old

 Which thy awak'ning bards have told,

 And, lest they meet my blasted view,

 Hold each strange tale devoutly true.

     COLLINS' ODE TO FEAR

Sherlock was recalled from a kind of slumber, into which he had, at length, sunk, by a quick knocking at his chamber door. He started up in terror, for Moriarty and Count Wilkes instantly came to his mind; but, recognizing the voice of Molly, he rose and opened the door.

'Dear Sherlock!' said Molly, 'do not look so pale. I am quite frightened to see you. Here is a fine bustle below stairs, all the servants running to and fro, and none of them fast enough! Here is a bustle, indeed, all of a sudden, and nobody knows for what!'

'Who is below besides them?' said Sherlock, 'Molly, do not trifle with me!'

'Not for the world, I would not trifle for the world; but one cannot help making one's remarks, and there is the Signor in such a bustle, as I never saw him before; and he has sent me to tell you, monsieur, to get ready immediately.'

'Good God support me!' cried Sherlock, almost fainting, 'Count Wilkes is below, then!'

'No, monsieur, he is not below that I know of,' replied Molly, 'only his excellenza sent me to desire you would get ready directly to leave Venice, for that the gondolas would be at the steps of the canal in a few minutes: but I must hurry back to Monsieur Mycroft, who is just at his wits end, and knows not which way to turn for haste.'

'Explain, Molly, explain the meaning of all this before you go,' said Sherlock, so overcome with surprise and timid hope, that he had scarcely breath to speak, let alone the energy to deduce these circumstances.

'Nay, that is more than I can do. I only know that the Signor is just come home in a very ill humour, that he has had us all called out of our beds, and tells us we are all to leave Venice immediately.'

'Is Count Wilkes to go with the signor?' said Sherlock, 'and whither are we going?'

'I know neither for certain; but I heard Hopkins say something about going, after we get to terra-firma, to the signor's castle among some mountains, that he talked of.'

'The Apennines!' said Sherlock, with a groan, 'O! then I have little to hope!'

'That is the very place, monsieur. But cheer up, and do not take it so much to heart, and think what a little time you have to get ready in, and how impatient the Signor is. Holy St. Mark! I hear the oars on the canal; and now they come nearer, and now they are dashing at the steps below; it is the gondola, sure enough.'

Molly hastened from the room; and Sherlock prepared for this unexpected flight, as fast as his trembling hands would permit, not perceiving, that any change in his situation could possibly be for the worse. He had scarcely thrown his books and clothes into the travelling trunk, when, receiving a second summons, he went down to his brother’s dressing-room, where he found Moriarty impatiently reproving his husband for delay. He went out, soon after, to give some further orders to his people, and Sherlock then enquired the occasion of this hasty journey; but Mycroft appeared to be as ignorant also, and to undertake the journey with more reluctance.

The family at length embarked, but neither Count Wilkes, nor Douglas, was of the party. Somewhat revived by observing this, Sherlock, when the gondolieri dashed their oars in the water, and put off from the steps of the portico, felt like a criminal, who receives a short reprieve. His heart beat yet lighter, when they emerged from the canal into the ocean, and lighter still, when they skimmed past the walls of St. Mark, without having stopped to take up Count Wilkes.

The dawn now began to tint the horizon, and to break upon the shores of the Adriatic. Sherlock did not venture to ask any questions of Moriarty, who sat, for some time, in gloomy silence, and then rolled himself up in his cloak, as if to sleep, while Mycroft did the same; but Sherlock, who could not sleep, undrew one of the little curtains of the gondola, and looked out upon the sea. The rising dawn now enlightened the mountain-tops of Friuli, but their lower sides, and the distant waves, that rolled at their feet, were still in deep shadow. Sherlock, sunk in tranquil melancholy, watched the strengthening light spreading upon the ocean, shewing successively Venice and her islets, and the shores of Italy, along which boats, with their pointed latin sails, began to move.

The gondolieri were frequently hailed, at this early hour, by the market-people, as they glided by towards Venice, and the lagune soon displayed a gay scene of innumerable little barks, passing from terra-firma with provisions. Sherlock gave a last look to that splendid city, but his mind was then occupied by considering the probable events, that awaited him, and with conjectures, concerning the motive of this sudden journey. It appeared, upon calmer consideration, that Moriarty was removing him to this secluded castle, because he could there, with more probability of success, attempt to terrify Sherlock into obedience; or, that, should its gloomy and sequestered scenes fail of this effect, his forced marriage with the Count could there be solemnized with the secrecy, which was necessary to the honour of Moriarty. The little spirit, which this reprieve had recalled, now began to fail, and, when Sherlock reached the shore, his mind had sunk into all its former depression.

Moriarty did not embark on the Brenta, but pursued his way in carriages across the country, towards the Apennine; during which journey, his manner to Sherlock was so particularly severe, that this alone would have confirmed this deduction, had any such confirmation been necessary. Sherlock’s senses were now dead to the beautiful country through which he travelled. Sometimes he was compelled to smile at the naivete of Molly, in her remarks on what she saw, and sometimes to sigh, as a scene of peculiar beauty recalled John to his thoughts, who was indeed seldom absent from them, and of whom he could never hope to hear in the solitude, to which he was hastening.

At length, the travellers began to ascend among the Apennines. The immense pine-forests, which, at that period, overhung these mountains, and between which the road wound, excluded all view but of the cliffs aspiring above, except, that, now and then, an opening through the dark woods allowed the eye a momentary glimpse of the country below. The gloom of these shades, their solitary silence, except when the breeze swept over their summits, the tremendous precipices of the mountains, that came partially to the eye, each assisted to sink the solemnity of Sherlock's feelings into the deepest gloom. He was going he scarcely knew whither, under the dominion of a person, from whose arbitrary disposition he had already suffered so much, to marry, perhaps, a man who possessed neither his affection, nor esteem; or to endure, beyond the hope of succour, whatever punishment revenge might dictate. The more he considered what might be the motive of the journey, the more he became convinced, that it was for the purpose of concluding the nuptials with Count Wilkes, with that secrecy, which his absolute resistance had made necessary to the honour of Moriarty. From the deep solitudes, into which he was descending, and from the gloomy castle, of which he had heard some mysterious hints, his sick heart recoiled in despair.

As the travellers still ascended among the pine forests, steep rose over steep, the mountains seemed to multiply, as they went, and what was the summit of one eminence proved to be only the base of another. At length, they reached a little plain, where the drivers stopped to rest the mules, whence a scene of such extent and magnificence opened below, as drew even from Monsieur Mycroft a note of admiration. Sherlock lost, for a moment, his sorrows, in the immensity of nature. Beyond the amphitheatre of mountains, that stretched below, whose tops appeared as numerous almost, as the waves of the sea, and whose feet were concealed by the forests—extended the campagna of Italy, where cities and rivers, and woods and all the glow of cultivation were mingled in bright confusion. The Adriatic bounded the horizon, into which the Po and the Brenta, after winding through the whole extent of the landscape, poured their fruitful waves. Sherlock gazed long on the splendours of the world he was quitting, of which the whole magnificence seemed thus given to his sight only to increase his regret on leaving it; for him, John alone was in that world; to him alone Sherlock’s heart turned, and for him alone fell his bitter tears.

From this sublime scene the travellers continued to ascend among the pines, till they entered a narrow pass of the mountains, which shut out every feature of the distant country, and, in its stead, exhibited only tremendous crags, impending over the road, where no vestige of humanity, or even of vegetation, appeared, except here and there the trunk and scathed branches of an oak, that hung nearly headlong from the rock, into which its strong roots had fastened. This pass, which led into the heart of the Apennine, at length opened to daylight, and a scene of mountains stretched in long perspective, as wild as any the travellers had yet passed.

Towards the close of day, the road wound into a deep valley. Mountains, whose shaggy steeps appeared to be inaccessible, almost surrounded it. To the east, a vista opened, that exhibited the Apennines in their darkest horrors; and the long perspective of retiring summits, rising over each other, their ridges clothed with pines, exhibited a stronger image of grandeur, than any that Sherlock had yet seen. The sun had just sunk below the top of the mountains he was descending, whose long shadow stretched over the valley, but his sloping rays, shooting through an opening of the cliffs, touched with a yellow gleam the summits of the forest, that hung upon the opposite steeps, and streamed in full splendour upon the towers and battlements of a castle, that spread its extensive ramparts along the brow of a precipice above. The splendour of these illumined objects was heightened by the contrasted shade, which involved the valley below.

'There,' said Moriarty, speaking for the first time in several hours, 'is Musgrovio.'

Sherlock gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy object. As he gazed, the light died away on its walls, leaving a melancholy purple tint, which spread deeper and deeper, as the thin vapour crept up the mountain, while the battlements above were still tipped with splendour. From those, too, the rays soon faded, and the whole edifice was invested with the solemn duskiness of evening. Silent, lonely, and terrifying, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign. As the twilight deepened, its features became more awful in obscurity, and Sherlock continued to gaze, till its clustering towers were alone seen, rising over the tops of the woods, beneath whose thick shade the carriages soon after began to ascend.

The extent and darkness of these tall woods awakened terrific images in his mind, and he almost expected to see banditti start up from under the trees. At length, the carriages emerged upon a heathy rock, and, soon after, reached the castle gates, where the deep tone of the portal bell, which was struck upon to give notice of their arrival, increased the fearful emotions, that had assailed Sherlock. While they waited till the servant within should come to open the gates, he anxiously surveyed the edifice: but the gloom, that overspread it, allowed him to distinguish little more than a part of its outline, with the massy walls of the ramparts, and to know, that it was vast, ancient and dreary. From the parts he saw, he judged of the heavy strength and extent of the whole. The gateway before him, leading into the courts, was of gigantic size, and was defended by two round towers, crowned by overhanging turrets, embattled, where, instead of banners, now waved long grass and wild plants, that had taken root among the mouldering stones, and which seemed to sigh, as the breeze rolled past, over the desolation around them. The towers were united by a thick wall, pierced and embattled also, below which appeared the pointed arch of a huge portcullis, surmounting the gates: from these, the walls of the ramparts extended to other towers, overlooking the precipice, whose shattered outline, appearing on a gleam, that lingered in the west, told of the ravages of war.  Beyond these, all was lost in the obscurity of evening.

While Sherlock gazed despondent upon the scene, footsteps were heard within the gates, and the undrawing of bolts; after which an ancient servant of the castle appeared, forcing back the huge folds of the portal, to admit his lord. As the carriage-wheels rolled heavily under the portcullis, Sherlock's heart sunk, and he seemed, as if he was going into prison; the gloomy court served to confirm the idea, and his imagination suggested even more terrors, than his reason could justify.

Another gate delivered them into the second court, grass-grown, and more wild than the first, where, as he surveyed through the twilight its desolation—its lofty walls, overtopt with briony, moss and nightshade, and the embattled towers that rose above,—long-suffering and murder came to his thoughts. One of those instantaneous and unaccountable convictions, which sometimes conquer even strong minds, impressed with its horror. The sentiment was not diminished, when he entered an extensive gothic hall, obscured by the gloom of evening, which a light, glimmering at a distance through a long perspective of arches, only rendered more striking. As a servant brought the lamp nearer partial gleams fell upon the pillars and the pointed arches, forming a strong contrast with their shadows, that stretched along the pavement and the walls.

The sudden journey of Moriarty had prevented his people from making any other preparations for his reception, than could be had in the short interval, since the arrival of the servant, who had been sent forward from Venice; and this, in some measure, may account for the air of extreme desolation, that everywhere appeared.

The servant, who came to light Moriarty, bowed in silence. Moriarty noticed the salutation by a slight motion of his hand, and passed on, while his husband, following, and looking round with a degree of surprise and discontent, which he seemed fearful of expressing, and Sherlock, surveying the extent and grandeur of the hall in timid wonder, approached a marble stair-case. The arches here opened to a lofty vault, from the centre of which hung a tripod lamp, which a servant was hastily lighting; and the rich fret-work of the roof, a corridor, leading into several upper apartments, and a painted window, stretching nearly from the pavement to the ceiling of the hall, became gradually visible.

Having crossed the foot of the stair-case, and passed through an ante-room, they entered a spacious apartment, whose walls, wainscoted with black larch-wood, the growth of the neighbouring mountains, were scarcely distinguishable from darkness itself. 'Bring more light,' said Moriarty, as he entered.

While he paced the room with thoughtful steps, and Mycroft sat silently on a couch, at the upper end of it, waiting till the servant returned, Sherlock was observing the singular solemnity and desolation of the apartment, viewed, as it now was, by the glimmer of the single lamp, placed near a large Venetian mirror, that duskily reflected the scene, with the figure of Moriarty passing slowly along.

From the contemplation of this scene, Sherlock's mind proceeded to the apprehension of what he might suffer in it, till the remembrance of John, far, far distant! came to his heart, and softened it into sorrow. A heavy sigh escaped him: but, trying to conceal his emotion, he walked away to one of the high windows, that opened upon the ramparts, below which, spread the woods he had passed in the approach to the castle. But the night-shade sat deeply on the mountains beyond, and their indented outline alone could be faintly traced on the horizon, where a red streak yet glimmered in the west. The valley between was sunk in darkness.

The scene within was scarcely less gloomy. The old servant, who had received them at the gates, now entered, bending under a load of pine-branches, while two of Moriarty's Venetian servants followed with lights.

'Your excellenza is welcome to the castle,' said the old man, as he raised himself from the hearth, where he had laid the wood: 'it has been a lonely place a long while; but you will excuse it, Signor, knowing we had but short notice. It is near two years, come next feast of St. Mark, since your excellenza was within these walls.'

'You have a good memory, old Carlo,' said Moriarty: 'it is there-about; and how hast thou contrived to live so long?'

'A-well-a-day, sir, with much ado; the cold winds, that blow through the castle in winter, are almost too much for me; and I thought sometimes of asking your excellenza to let me leave the mountains, and go down into the lowlands. But I don't know how it is—I am loth to quit these old walls I have lived in so long.'

'Well, how have you gone on in the castle, since I left it?' said Moriarty.

'Why much as usual, Signor, only it wants a good deal of repairing. There is the north tower—some of the battlements have tumbled down, and had liked one day to have knocked my poor wife (God rest her soul!) on the head. Your excellenza must know'—

'Well, but the repairs,' interrupted Moriarty.

'Aye, the repairs,' said Carlo: 'a part of the roof of the great hall has fallen in, and all the winds from the mountains rushed through it last winter, and whistled through the whole castle so, that there was no keeping one's self warm, be where one would. There, my wife and I used to sit shivering over a great fire in one corner of the little hall, ready to die with cold, and'—

'But there are no more repairs wanted,' said Moriarty, impatiently.

'O Lord! Your excellenza, yes—the wall of the rampart has tumbled down in three places; then, the stairs, that lead to the west gallery, have been a long time so bad, that it is dangerous to go up them; and the passage leading to the great oak chamber, that overhangs the north rampart—one night last winter I ventured to go there by myself, and your excellenza'—

'Well, well, enough of this,' said Moriarty, with quickness: 'I will talk more with thee to-morrow.'

The fire was now lighted; Carlo swept the hearth, placed chairs, wiped the dust from a large marble table that stood near it, and then left the room.  At length, in a tremulous voice, Sherlock said, 'May I ask the motive of this sudden journey?'—After a long pause, he recovered sufficient courage to repeat the question.

'It does not suit me to answer enquiries,' said Moriarty.  Sherlock rose to withdraw. 'Good night, brother,' he said, with assumed composure.  'Good night, brother mine,' said Mycroft, in a tone of kindness, which his brother had never before heard from him, and summonsed the servant to show Sherlock his room.

'Do you know which is my room?' said Sherlock to Molly, as they crossed the hall.

'Yes, I believe I do, but this is such a strange rambling place! I have been lost in it already: they call it the double chamber, over the south rampart, and I went up this great stair-case to it. My lord's room is at the other end of the castle.'

Sherlock ascended the marble staircase, and came to the corridor, as they passed through which, Molly resumed her chat—'What a wild lonely place this is, monsieur! I shall be quite frightened to live in it. How often have I wished myself in France again! I little thought, when I came with my lord to see the world, that I should ever be shut up in such a place as this! This way, down this turning. I can almost believe in ghosts again, and such like, for this is just like one of their castles; and, some night or other, I suppose I shall see goblins too, hopping about in that great old hall, that looks more like a church, with its huge pillars, than any thing else.'

'Yes,' said Sherlock, smiling, and glad to escape from more serious thought, 'if we come to the corridor, about midnight, and look down into the hall, we shall certainly see it illuminated with a thousand lamps, and the fairies tripping in gay circles to the sound of delicious music; for it is in such places as this, you know, that they come to hold their revels. But I am afraid, Molly, if once they hear your voice, the whole scene will vanish in an instant.'

'Well, monsieur, that is saying more than I expected of you: but I am not so much afraid of fairies, as of ghosts, and they say there are a plentiful many of them about the castle: now I should be frightened to death, if I should chance to see any of them. But hush! Walk softly! I have thought, several times, something passed by me.'

'Ridiculous!' said Sherlock, 'you must not indulge such fancies.'

'O! They are not fancies, for aught I know; Benedetto says these dismal galleries and halls are fit for nothing but ghosts to live in; and I verily believe, if I LIVE long in them I shall turn to one myself!  Down this passage, sir, this leads to a back stair-case. O! if I see any thing, I shall be frightened out of my wits!'

'That will scarcely be possible,' muttered Sherlock, as he followed the winding of the passage, which opened into another gallery: and then Molly, perceiving that she had missed her way, while she had been so eloquently haranguing on ghosts and goblins, wandered about through other passages and galleries, till, at length, frightened by their intricacies and desolation, she called aloud for assistance: but they were beyond the hearing of the servants, who were on the other side of the castle, and Sherlock now opened the door of a chamber on the left.

'O! do not go in there, monsieur,' said Molly, 'you will only lose yourself further.'

'Bring the light forward,' said Sherlock, 'we may possibly find our way through these rooms.'

Molly stood at the door, in an attitude of hesitation, with the light held up to shew the chamber, but the feeble rays spread through not half of it. 'Why do you hesitate?' said Sherlock, 'let me see whither this room leads.'

Molly advanced reluctantly. It opened into a suite of spacious and ancient apartments, some of which were hung with tapestry, and others wainscoted with cedar and black larch-wood. What furniture there was, seemed to be almost as old as the rooms, and retained an appearance of grandeur, though covered with dust, and dropping to pieces with the damps, and with age.

'How cold these rooms are, ma'amselle!' said Molly: 'nobody has lived in them for many, many years, they say. Do let us go.'

'They may open upon the great stair-case, perhaps,' said Sherlock, passing on till he came to a chamber, hung with pictures, and took the light to examine that of a soldier on horseback in a field of battle.—He was thrusting his spear upon a man, who lay under the feet of the horse, and who held up one hand in a supplicating attitude. The soldier, whose visor was up, regarded him with a look of vengeance, and the countenance, with that expression, struck Sherlock as resembling Moriarty. He shuddered, and turned from it. Passing the light hastily over several other pictures, he came to one concealed by a veil of black silk. The singularity of the circumstance was striking, and Sherlock stopped before it, wishing to remove the veil, and examine what was so carefully concealed, but somewhat wanting courage. 'Holy Virgin! what can this mean?' exclaimed Molly. 'This is surely the picture they told me of at Venice.'

'What picture?' said Sherlock. 'Why a picture—a picture,' replied Molly, hesitatingly—'but I never could make out exactly what it was about, either.'

'Remove the veil, Molly.'

'What! I, monsieur!—I! not for the world!' Sherlock, turning round, saw Molly's countenance grow pale. 'And pray, what have you heard of this picture, to terrify you so?' said he. 'Nothing, monsieur: I have heard nothing, only let us find our way out.'

'Certainly: but I wish first to examine the picture; take the light, Molly, while I lift the veil.' Molly took the light, and immediately walked away with it, disregarding Sherlock's call to stay, who, now unable to see the picture at all, at length followed her. 'What is the reason of this, Molly?' said Sherlock, when he overtook her, 'what have you heard concerning that picture, which makes you so unwilling to stay when I bid you?'

'I don't know what is the reason, sir’, replied Molly, 'nor any thing about the picture, only I have heard there is something very dreadful belonging to it—and that it has been covered up in black EVER SINCE—and that nobody has looked at it for a great many years—and it somehow has to do with the owner of this castle before Signor Moriarty came to the possession of it—and'—-

'Well, Molly,' said Sherlock, smiling, 'I perceive it is as you say—that you know nothing about the picture.'

'No, nothing, indeed, ma'amselle, for they made me promise never to tell:—but'—

'Well,' rejoined Sherlock, who observed that she was struggling with apprehension for the consequence of revealing her secret, 'I will enquire no further'—-

'No, pray, monsieur, do not.'

'Lest you should tell all,' interrupted Sherlock.

Molly blushed, and Sherlock smiled, and they passed on to the extremity of this suite of apartments, and found themselves, after some further perplexity, once more at the top of the marble stair-case, where Molly left Sherlock, while she went to call one of the servants of the castle to shew them to the chamber, for which they had been seeking.

While he was absent, Sherlock's thoughts returned to the picture; an unwillingness to expose Molly, his single friend in the castle, to the vengeance of Moriarty, had checked his enquiries on this subject. He was now, however, inclined to go back to the apartment and examine the picture; but the loneliness of the hour and of the place, with the melancholy silence that reigned around him, conspired with a certain degree of dread, excited by the mystery attending this picture, to prevent him. He determined, however, when day-light should have re-animated his spirits, to go thither and remove the veil.

A servant now appeared with Molly, and conducted Sherlock to his chamber, which was in a remote part of the castle, and at the very end of the corridor, from whence the suite of apartments opened, through which they had been wandering. The lonely aspect of his room made Sherlock unwilling that Molly should leave immediately, and the dampness of it chilled him with more than fear. Sherlock directed Caterina, the servant of the castle, to bring some wood and light a fire.

'Aye, young sir, it's many a year since a fire was lighted here,' said Caterina.

'You need not tell us that, good woman,' said Molly; 'every room in the castle feels like a well. I wonder how you contrive to live here; for my part, I wish myself at Venice again.' Sherlock waved his hand for Caterina to fetch the wood.

'I wonder, ma'am, why they call this the double chamber?' said Molly, while Sherlock surveyed it in silence and saw that it was lofty and spacious, like the others he had seen, and, like many of them, too, had its walls lined with dark larch-wood. The bed and other furniture was very ancient, and had an air of gloomy grandeur, like all that he had seen in the castle. One of the high casements, which he opened, overlooked a rampart, but the view beyond was hid in darkness.

Caterina now brought the wood, and its bright blaze dispelled, for a while, the gloom of the chamber. She told Molly, that Mycroft had enquired for her, and Sherlock was once again left to his own sad reflections.  To call off his attention from subjects, that pressed heavily on his spirits, he rose and again examined the room and its furniture. As she walked round it, he passed a door, that was not quite shut, and, perceiving, that it was not the one, through which he entered, he brought the light forward to discover whither it led. He opened it, and, going forward, nearly fell down a steep, narrow stair-case that wound from it, between two stone walls. Sherlock wished to know to what it led, and was the more anxious, since it communicated so immediately with his apartment; but, in the present state of his spirits, he wanted courage to venture into the darkness alone. Closing the door, therefore, he endeavoured to fasten it, but, upon further examination, perceived, that it had no bolts on the chamber side, though it had two on the other. By placing a heavy chair against it, he in some measure remedied the defect; yet he was still alarmed at the thought of sleeping in this remote room alone, with a door opening he knew not whither, and which could not be perfectly fastened on the inside.

His gloomy reflections were, soon after, interrupted by a footstep in the corridor, and he was glad to see Molly enter with some supper, little though he felt like eating. When their little repast was over, Molly drew her chair upon the hearth, nearer to Sherlock, and said—'Did you ever hear, monsieur, of the strange accident, that made the Signor lord of this castle?'

'What wonderful story have you now to tell?' said Sherlock, concealing the curiosity, occasioned by the mysterious hints he had formerly heard on that subject.

'I have heard all about it' said Molly, looking round the chamber and drawing closer to Sherlock; 'Benedetto told it me as we travelled together: says he, "Molly, you don't know about this castle here, that we are going to?" No, says I, Mr. Benedetto, pray what do you know? But, ma'amselle, you can keep a secret, or I would not tell it you for the world; for I promised never to tell, and they say, that the Signor does not like to have it talked of.'

'I certainly shall keep it as faithful as yourself, Molly’ said Sherlock, repressing a desire to roll his eyes.

'This castle, you must know, is very old, and very strong, and has stood out many sieges as they say. Now it was not Signor Moriarty's always, nor his father's; no; but, by some law or other, it was to come to the Signor, if the lady died unmarried.'

'What lady?' said Sherlock.

'I am not come to that yet,' replied Molly, 'it is the lady I am going to tell you about, monsieur: but, as I was saying, this lady lived in the castle, and had everything very grand about her, as you may suppose. The Signor Moriarty used often to come to see her, and was in love with her, and offered to marry her; for, though he was somehow related, that did not signify. But she was in love with somebody else, and would not have him, which made him very angry. Perhaps she saw him in a passion, and was frightened, and therefore would not have him. But, as I was saying, she was very melancholy and unhappy, and all that, for a long while, and—Holy Virgin! what noise is that? did not you hear a sound, monsieur?'

'It was only the wind,' said Sherlock, 'but do come to the end of your story.'

'As I was saying—O, where was I?—as I was saying—she was very melancholy and unhappy a long while, and used to walk about upon the terrace, there, under the windows, by herself, and cry so! it would have done your heart good to hear her. That is—I don't mean good, but it would have made you cry too, as they tell me.'

'Well, but, Molly, do tell me the substance of your tale.'

'All in good time, ma'am; all this I heard before at Venice, but what is to come I never heard till to-day. This happened a great many years ago, when Signor Moriarty was quite a young man. The lady—they called her Signora Irene, was very handsome, but she used to be in great passions, too, sometimes, as well as the Signor. Finding he could not make her listen to him—what does he do, but leave the castle, and never comes near it for a long time! but it was all one to her; she was just as unhappy whether he was here or not, till one evening, Holy St. Peter! Monsieur,' cried Molly, 'look at that lamp, see how blue it burns!' She looked fearfully round the chamber. 'Ridiculous girl!' said Sherlock, 'why will you indulge those fancies? Pray let me hear the end of your story, I am weary.'

Molly still kept her eyes on the lamp, and proceeded in a lower voice. 'It was one evening, they say, at the latter end of the year, this grand lady walked out of the castle into the woods below, as she had often done before, all alone. The wind blew cold, and strewed the leaves about, and whistled dismally among those great old chestnut trees, that we passed, monsieur, as we came to the castle—for Benedetto shewed me the trees as he was talking—the wind blew cold, and her woman would have persuaded her to return: but all would not do, for she was fond of walking in the woods, at evening time, and, if the leaves were falling about her, so much the better.

'Well, they saw her go down among the woods, but night came, and she did not return: ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock came, and no lady! Well, the servants thought to be sure, some accident had befallen her, and they went out to seek her. They searched all night long, but could not find her, or any trace of her; and, from that day to this she has never been heard of.'

'Is this true, Molly?' said Sherlock, with great scepticism.

'True, ma'am!' said Molly, with a look of horror, 'yes, it is true, indeed. But they do say,' she added, lowering her voice, 'they do say, that the Signora has been seen, several times since, walking in the woods and about the castle in the night: several of the old servants, who remained here some time after, declare they saw her; and, since then, she has been seen by some of the vassals, who have happened to be in the castle, at night. Carlo, the old steward, could tell such things, they say, if he would.'

'How contradictory is this, Molly!' said Sherlock, 'you say nothing has been since known of her, and yet she has been seen!'

'But all this was told me for a great secret,' rejoined Molly 'and I am sure, ma'am, you would not hurt either me or Benedetto, so much as to go and tell it again.' Sherlock remained silent, and Molly repeated her last sentence.

'You have nothing to fear from my indiscretion,' replied Sherlock, 'and let me advise you, be discreet yourself, and never mention what you have just told me to any other person. Signor Moriarty, as you say, may be angry if he hears of it. But what inquiries were made concerning the lady?'

'O! a great deal, indeed, monsieur, for the Signor laid claim to the castle directly, as being the next heir, and they said, that is, the judges said, he could not take possession of it till so many years were gone by, and then, if, after all, the lady could not be found, why she would be as good as dead, and the castle would be his own; and so it is his own. But the story went round, and many strange reports were spread, so very strange, monsieur, that I shall not tell them.'

'But, when Signora Irene was afterwards seen in the castle, did nobody speak to her?'

'Speak—speak to her!' cried Molly, with a look of terror; 'no, to be sure.'

'And why not?' rejoined Sherlock, willing to hear further.

'Holy Mother! speak to a spirit!'

'But what reason had they to conclude it was a spirit, unless they had approached, and spoken to it?'

'I cannot tell. How can you ask such shocking questions? But nobody ever saw it come in, or go out of the castle; and it was in one place now, and then the next minute in quite another part of the castle; and then it never spoke, and, if it was alive, what should it do in the castle if it never spoke? Several parts of the castle have never been gone into since, they say, for that very reason.'

'What, because it never spoke?' said Sherlock, trying to laugh away the fears that began to steal upon him.—'No, monsieur, no;' replied Molly, rather angrily, 'but because something has been seen there. They say, too, there is an old chapel adjoining the west side of the castle, where, any time at midnight, you may hear such groans!—it makes one shudder to think of them!—and strange sights have been seen there—'

'Pr'ythee, Molly, no more of these silly tales,' said Sherlock.

'Silly tales! O, but I will tell you one story about this, if you please, that Caterina told me. It was one cold winter's night that Caterina (she often came to the castle then, she says, to keep old Carlo and his wife company, and so he recommended her afterwards to the Signor, and she has lived here ever since) Caterina was sitting with them in the little hall, says Carlo, "I wish we had some of those figs to roast, that lie in the store-closet, but it is a long way off, and I am loath to fetch them; do, Caterina," says he, "take the lamp, and mind, as you go up the great stair-case, that the wind, through the roof, does not blow it out." So, with that, Caterina took the lamp—Hush! monsieur, I surely heard a noise!'

Sherlock, whom Molly had now infected with her own terrors, listened attentively; but every thing was still, and Molly proceeded:

'Caterina went to the north-gallery, that is the wide gallery we passed, ma'am, before we came to the corridor, here. As she went with the lamp in her hand, thinking of nothing at all—There, again!' cried Molly suddenly—'I heard it again!—it was not fancy, monsieur!'

'Hush!' said Sherlock, trembling. They listened, and, continuing to sit quite still, Sherlock heard a low knocking against the wall. It came repeatedly. Molly then screamed loudly, and the chamber door slowly opened.—It was Caterina, come to tell Molly, that Mycroft wanted her. Sherlock, though he now perceived who it was, could not immediately overcome his terror; while Molly, half laughing, half crying, scolded Caterina heartily for thus alarming them; and was also terrified lest what she had told had been overheard.

When he was alone, Sherlock’s thoughts recurred to the strange history of Signora Irene and then to his own strange situation, in the wild and solitary mountains of a foreign country, in the castle, and the power of a man, of whose character Sherlock now regarded, with a degree of terror, apparently justified by the fears of others. Sherlock knew, that Moriarty had invention equal to the conception and talents to the execution of any project, and a heart too void of feeling to oppose the perpetration of whatever his interest might suggest.

Sherlock remembered all that John had told him, on the eve of his departure from Languedoc, respecting Moriarty, and all that he had said to dissuade him from venturing on the journey. His fears had often since appeared prophetic—now they seemed confirmed. Sherlock mourned in vain regret, but reason soon came with a consolation which, though feeble at first, acquired vigour from reflection. He considered, that, whatever might be his sufferings, he had withheld from involving John in misfortune, and that, whatever his future sorrows could be, he was, at least, free from self-reproach.

His melancholy was assisted by the hollow sighings of the wind along the corridor and round the castle. The cheerful blaze of the wood had long been extinguished, and he sat with eyes fixed on the dying embers, till a loud gust, that swept through the corridor, and shook the doors and casements, alarmed him, for its violence had moved the chair he had placed as a fastening, and the door, leading to the private stair-case stood half open. His curiosity and fears were again awakened. Sherlock took the lamp to the top of the steps, and stood hesitating whether to go down; but again the profound stillness and the gloom of the place intimidated him, and, determining to enquire further, when day-light might assist the search, he closed the door, and placed against it a stronger guard.

He now retired to bed, leaving the lamp burning on the table; but its gloomy light, instead of dispelling fear, assisted it; for, by its uncertain rays, he almost fancied he saw shapes flit past the curtains and glide into the remote obscurity of the room.—The castle clock struck three before he closed his eyes to sleep.

Chapter Text

      I think it is the weakness of mine eyes,

 That shapes this monstrous apparition.

 It comes upon me!

      JULIUS CAESAR

Daylight dispelled from Sherlock's mind the glooms of superstition, but not those of apprehension. The Count Wilkes was the first image, that occurred to his waking thoughts, and then came a train of anticipated evils, which he could neither conquer, nor avoid.  He rose, and, to relieve his mind from the busy ideas, that tormented it, compelled himself to notice external objects and to attempt some deductions. From his casement he looked out upon the wild grandeur of the scene, closed nearly on all sides by alpine steeps, whose tops, peeping over each other, faded from the eye in misty hues, while the promontories below were dark with woods, that swept down to their base, and stretched along the narrow vallies. The rich pomp of these woods was particularly impressive to Sherlock; and he viewed with astonishment the fortifications of the castle spreading along a vast extent of rock, and now partly in decay, the grandeur of the ramparts below, and the towers and battlements and various features of the fabric above. From these his sight wandered over the cliffs and woods into the valley, along which foamed a broad and rapid stream, seen falling among the crags of an opposite mountain, now flashing in the sun-beams, and now shadowed by over-arching pines, till it was entirely concealed by their thick foliage. Again it burst from beneath this darkness in one broad sheet of foam, and fell thundering into the vale.

When he turned from the casement, his eyes glanced upon the door he had so carefully guarded, on the preceding night, and he now determined to examine whither it led; but, on advancing to remove the chairs, he perceived, that they were already moved a little way. His surprise cannot be easily imagined, when, in the next minute, he perceived that the door was fastened.  The door of the corridor was locked as he had left it, but this door, which could be secured only on the outside, must have been bolted, during the night. He became seriously uneasy at the thought of sleeping again in a chamber, thus liable to intrusion, so remote, too, as it was from the family and from the servants, and he determined to request a change.

After some perplexity he found his way into the great hall, and to the room where breakfast was spread.  His brother was alone, for Moriarty had been walking over the environs of the castle, examining the condition of its fortifications, and talking for some time with Carlo. Sherlock observed that Mycroft had been weeping, and his heart softened towards him, with an affection, that shewed itself in his manner, rather than in words.  Still, Sherlock seized the opportunity of Moriarty's absence to mention the circumstance of the door, to request that he might be allowed another apartment, and to enquire again, concerning the occasion of their sudden journey. On the first subject his brother referred him to Moriarty, positively refusing to interfere in the affair; on the last, he professed utter ignorance.

This discourse was, however, interrupted by the entrance of Moriarty, and Mycroft’s countenance immediately assumed a mingled expression of fear and resentment as Moriarty seated himself at the breakfast-table, as if unconscious of there being any person but himself in the room.

Sherlock, as he observed him in silence, saw, that his countenance was darker and sterner than usual. Their breakfast passed in silence, till Sherlock requested his wish that another apartment might be allotted to him.

'I have no time to attend to these idle whims,' said Moriarty, 'that chamber was prepared for you, and you must rest contented with it. It is not probable, that any person would take the trouble of going to that remote stair-case, for the purpose of fastening a door. If it was not fastened, when you entered the chamber, the wind, perhaps, shook the door and made the bolts slide. But I know not why I should undertake to account for so trifling an occurrence.'

This explanation was by no means satisfactory to Sherlock, who had observed, that the bolts were rusted, and consequently could not be thus easily moved; but this deduction was not well received.

'If you will not release yourself from the slavery of these fears,' said Moriarty, sternly, 'at least forbear to torment others by the mention of them. Conquer such whims, and endeavour to strengthen your mind. No existence is more contemptible than that, which is embittered by fear.' As he said this, his eye glanced upon Mycroft, who coloured highly, but was still silent.  The breakfast party broke up shortly after; Moriarty, went out to examine further into the state of the castle; while Monsieur Mycroft withdrew to his dressing-room.

Sherlock endeavoured to obtain an understanding of the castle. Through a folding door he passed from the great hall to the ramparts, which extended along the brow of the precipice, round three sides of the edifice; the fourth was guarded by the high walls of the courts, and by the gateway, through which he had passed, on the preceding evening. The grandeur of the broad ramparts, and the changing scenery they overlooked, excited Sherlock’s admiration; for the extent of the terraces allowed the features of the country to be seen in such various points of view, that they appeared to form new landscapes. He often paused to examine the gothic magnificence of Musgrovio, its proud irregularity, its lofty towers and battlements, its high-arched casements, and its slender watch-towers, perched upon the corners of turrets. Then he would lean on the wall of the terrace, and measure with his eye the precipice below, till the dark summits of the woods arrested it. Wherever he turned, appeared mountain-tops, forests of pine and narrow glens, opening among the Apennines and retiring from the sight into inaccessible regions.

While he thus leaned, Moriarty, followed by two men, appeared, ascending a winding path, cut in the rock below. He stopped upon a cliff, and, pointing to the ramparts, turned to his followers, and talked with much eagerness of gesticulation.—Sherlock perceived, that one of these men was Carlo, the chief servant; the other was in the dress of a peasant, and he alone seemed to be receiving the directions of Moriarty.

Sherlock heard at a distance the sound of carriage wheels, and then the loud bell of the portal, when it instantly occurred to him, that Count Wilkes was arrived. As he hastily passed the folding doors from the terrace, towards his own apartment, several persons entered the hall by an opposite door. He saw them at the extremities of the arcades, and immediately retreated; but the agitation of his spirits, and the extent and duskiness of the hall, had prevented him from distinguishing the persons of the strangers. His fears, however, had but one object, and they had called up that object to his fancy:—he believed that he had seen Count Wilkes.

When he thought that they had passed the hall, Sherlock ventured again to the door, and proceeded, unobserved, to creep in the direction they had gone, but found he had lost the trail. At length, hearing voices on the rampart, he hastened to a window, and observed Moriarty, with Signor Douglas, walking below, conversing earnestly, and often stopping and turning towards each other, at which time their discourse seemed to be uncommonly interesting.

Of the several persons who had appeared in the hall, here was Douglas alone: but Sherlock's alarm was soon after heightened by the steps of some one in the corridor, who, he apprehended, brought a message from the Count. In the next moment, Molly appeared.

'Ah! monsieur,' said she, 'here is the Signor Douglas  and Signor Verezzi arrived! and who do you think besides?'

'Well, then,' said Sherlock, with assumed composure, 'it is—Count Wilkes, I suppose.'

'Holy Virgin!' cried Molly, 'are you ill, monsieur? you are going to faint! let me get some water.'

Sherlock sunk into a chair. 'Stay, Molly,' commanded he, 'do not leave me—The Count, you say—he is come, then?'

'Who, I!—the Count! No, I did not say so.' 'He is NOT come then?' said Sherlock eagerly. 'No, monsieur.'

'You are sure of it?'

'O yes, quite sure of that. Why, I was looking out through the grate in the north turret, when the carriages drove into the court-yard.  Hopkins's come! You remember Hopkins,—a tall, handsome young woman—Signor Douglas's lacquey—who always wears her cloak with such a grace, thrown round her left arm, and her hat set on so smartly, all on one side, and—'

'No,' said Sherlock, who was wearied by Molly’s loquacity.

'What, monsieur, don't you remember Hopkins—who rowed the Cavaliero's gondola, at the last regatta, and won the prize? And who used to sing such sweet verses under my lattice, in the west portico, on the moon-light nights at Venice? O! I have listened to her!'—-

'I fear, to thy peril, my good Molly,' said Sherlock; 'for it seems her verses have stolen thy heart. But let me advise you; if it is so, keep the secret; never let her know it.'

'Ah—now, Sherlock!—how can one keep such a secret as that?'

'Well, Molly, I am now so much better, that you may leave me.'

'O, but, monsieur, I forgot to ask—how did you sleep in this dreary old chamber last night?'—'As well as usual.'—'Did you hear no noises?'—'None.'—'Nor see anything?'—'Nothing.'—'Well, that is surprising!'—'Not in the least: and now I deduce that you have something to tell me about these  chambers, Molly, so pray come out with the story.'

'O Lord! they say the room is haunted, and has been so these many years.'

'It is by a ghost, then, who can draw bolts,' said Sherlock, endeavouring to laugh away his apprehensions; 'for I left the door open, last night, and found it fastened this morning.'

Molly turned pale, and said not a word.

'Do you know whether any of the servants fastened this door in the morning, before I rose?'

'No, that I will be bound they did not; but I don't know: shall I go and ask, monsieur?' said Molly, moving hastily towards the corridor.

'Stay, Molly, I have another question to ask; tell me what you have heard concerning this room, and whither that stair-case leads.'

'I will go and ask it all directly, monsieur; besides, I am sure your brother wants me. I cannot stay now, indeed, monsieur.'

She hurried from the room, without waiting Sherlock's reply. 

Sherlock leaned against the window and thought on this new intelligence of Molly’s.   'How can I suffer myself to be deluded by hope,' said Sherlock, 'and, because Count Wilkes is not yet arrived, feel a momentary happiness? Alas! That he will come is certain—it is weakness to doubt.'

To withdraw his thoughts, however, from the subject of his misfortunes, he attempted to read, but his attention wandered from the page, and, at length, he threw aside the book, and determined to explore the adjoining chambers of the castle. His imagination was pleased with the view of ancient grandeur, and an emotion of melancholy awe awakened all its powers, as he walked through rooms, obscure and desolate, where no footsteps had passed probably for many years, and remembered the strange history of the former possessor of the edifice. This brought to his recollection the veiled picture, which had attracted his curiosity, on the preceding night, and he resolved to examine it. As he passed through the chambers, that led to this, he found himself somewhat agitated; its connection with the late lady of the castle, and the conversation of Molly, together with the circumstance of the veil, throwing a mystery over the subject, that excited a faint degree of terror.

Attempting to outreason these fears, Sherlock passed on with faltering steps, and having paused a moment at the door, before he attempted to open it, he then hastily entered the chamber, and went towards the picture, which appeared to be enclosed in a frame of uncommon size, that hung in a dark part of the room. He paused again, and then, with a timid hand, lifted the veil; but instantly let it fall—perceiving that what it had concealed was no picture, and, before he could leave the chamber, he dropped senseless on the floor!

When he recovered his recollection, it was to the sound of approaching footsteps.  He had scarcely strength to remove from the room, and regain his own; and, when arrived there, wanted courage to remain alone. Horror occupied his mind, and excluded, for a time, all sense of past, and dread of future misfortune.  When his spirits had recovered their tone, he considered, whether he should mention what he had seen to Monsieur Mycroft; but he was aware of the terrible consequences, which such a communication might lead to; and, dreading the indiscretion of his brother, at length, endeavoured to arm himself with resolution to observe a profound silence, on the subject. Moriarty and Verezzi soon after passed under the casement, speaking cheerfully, and their voices revived him to full sensibility.

Presently he descended for dinner, and there he  met the gentlemen lately arrived, who had a kind of busy seriousness in their looks, which was somewhat unusual with them, while their thoughts seemed too much occupied by some deep interest, to suffer them to bestow much attention either on Sherlock, or Madame Moriarty. They spoke little, and Moriarty less. Sherlock, as he now looked on him, shuddered. The horror of the chamber rushed on his mind. Several times the colour faded from his cheeks, and he feared, that illness would betray his emotions ; but fortunately recollected his habitual silence would shield him from further comment.

It was a comfortless and silent meal. After dinner, when the servants had withdrawn, Sherlock learned from Verezzi’s gossip, that the cavalier, who had drawn upon himself the vengeance of Morstan, had since died of his wounds, and that strict search was still making for his murderer. Angry at this idle talk of his associates, Moriarty sent Mycroft and Sherlock from the table, who both then passed from the hall to the ramparts, and walked, for some time, in silence, which Sherlock did not interrupt. A strange kind of presentiment frequently, on this day, occurred to him;—it seemed as if his fate rested here, and was by some invisible means connected with this castle.

'What action can I take? Is it for me to accelerate my fate?,' said he to himself: 'for whatever I may be reserved, let me, at least, avoid self-reproach.'  As he looked on the massy walls of the edifice, his melancholy spirits represented it to be a prison; how far distant he was from his native country, from his little peaceful home, and from his only friend—how remote was hope of happiness, how feeble the expectation of again seeing him!

While he leaned on the wall of the rampart, some peasants, at a little distance, were seen examining a breach, before which lay a heap of stones, as if to repair it, and a rusty old cannon, that appeared to have fallen from its station above. Mycroft stopped to speak to the men, and enquired what they were going to do. 'To repair the fortifications, sir,' said one of them; a labour which he was somewhat surprised, that Moriarty should think necessary, particularly since he had never spoken of the castle, as of a place, at which he meant to reside for any considerable time.  Sherlock looked out across the deep valley below, to see winding along the woody descent of a distant mountain, a long troop of horse and foot, whom he deduced to be soldiers, only by the glitter of their pikes and other arms. As he gazed, the vanguard issued from the woods into the valley, but the train still continued to pour over the remote summit of the mountain, in endless succession; while, in the front, the military uniform became distinguishable, and the commanders, riding first, and seeming, by their gestures, to direct the march of those that followed, at length, approached very near to the castle.

Such a spectacle, in these solitary regions, both surprised and alarmed Mycroft, and he hastened towards some peasants, who were employed in raising bastions before the south rampart. These men could give no satisfactory answers to his enquiries, but, being roused by them, gazed in stupid astonishment upon the long cavalcade. Mycroft, then thinking it necessary to communicate further the object of this alarm, sent Sherlock to say, that he wished to speak to Moriarty; an errand his brother did not relish, but obeyed, considering he may come upon some useful information in this task.

As Sherlock drew near the apartment, in which Moriarty sat with his guests, he heard them in earnest and loud dispute, and he paused, listening. In the next, their voices sunk all together; after some moments of fruitless listening, Sherlock then ventured to open the door, and, while Moriarty turned hastily and looked at him, Sherlock delivered his message.

'Tell your brother I am engaged,' said he, with a disdainful sneer.

Sherlock, with a small twist of his mouth, then thought it proper to mention the subject of the alarm. Moriarty and his companions rose instantly and went to the windows, but, these not affording them a view of the troops, they at length proceeded to the ramparts, where Douglas conjectured it to be a legion of condottieri, on their march towards Modena.

One part of the cavalcade now extended along the valley, and another wound among the mountains towards the north, while some troops still lingered on the woody precipices, where the first had appeared, so that the great length of the procession seemed to include an whole army. While Moriarty and his family watched its progress, they heard the sound of trumpets and the clash of cymbals in the vale, and then others, answering from the heights. Sherlock listened to the shrill blast, that woke the echoes of the mountains, and Moriarty explained the signals, with which he appeared to be well acquainted, and which meant nothing hostile. The uniforms of the troops, and the kind of arms they bore, confirmed to sherlock the conjecture of Douglas, and the troop in due course passed by. Moriarty did not, however, leave the rampart, till the bases of the mountains had shut them from his view, and the last murmur of the trumpet floated away on the wind. Douglas and Verezzi were inspirited by this spectacle, which seemed to have roused all the fire of their temper; Moriarty turned into the castle in thoughtful silence.

Sherlock's mind had not yet sufficiently recovered from its late shock, to endure the loneliness of his chamber, and he remained upon the ramparts; for he had lost all wish to explore the gloomy and mysterious recesses of the castle. The ramparts, therefore, were almost his only retreat, and here he lingered, till the gray haze of evening was again spread over the scene.

With light and hasty steps Sherlock passed through the long galleries, while the feeble glimmer of the lamp he carried only shewed the gloom around him, and the passing air threatened to extinguish it. The lonely silence, that reigned in this part of the castle, oppressed him; now and then, indeed, he heard a faint peal of laughter rise from a remote part of the edifice, where the servants were assembled, but it was soon lost, and a kind of breathless stillness remained. As he passed the suite of rooms which he had visited in the morning, his eyes glanced fearfully on the door, and he almost fancied he heard murmuring sounds within, but paused not a moment to enquire.

Having reached his own apartment, where no blazing wood on the hearth dissipated the gloom, he sat down with a book till Molly should come, and a fire could be kindled. He continued to read till the light was nearly expired, but Molly did not appear. Gloomy and fantastic images came to his mind. He looked towards the door of the stair-case, and then, examining whether it was still fastened, found that it was so. Unable to conquer the uneasiness he felt at the prospect of sleeping again in this remote and insecure apartment, which some person seemed to have entered during the preceding night, his impatience to see Molly, whom he had bidden to enquire concerning this circumstance, became extremely painful. He wished also to question her, as to the object, which had excited so much horror in his own mind, and which Molly on the preceding evening had appeared to be in part acquainted with, though her words were very remote from the truth, and it appeared plainly to Sherlock, that the girl had been purposely misled by a false report: above all he was surprised, that the door of the chamber, which contained it, should be left unguarded. Such an instance of negligence almost surpassed belief. A thousand deductions tormented his strained mind; he clutched his hands to his hair. But his light was now expiring; the faint flashes it threw upon the walls called up all the terrors of fancy, and he rose to find his way to the habitable part of the castle, before it was quite extinguished. As he opened the chamber door, he heard remote voices, and, soon after, saw a light issue upon the further end of the corridor, which Molly and another servant approached. 'I am glad you are come,' said Sherlock: 'what has detained you so long? Pray light me a fire immediately.'

'My master wanted me, monsieur,' replied Molly in some confusion; 'I will go and get the wood.'

'No,' said Caterina, 'that is my business,' and left the room instantly, while Molly would have followed; but, being called back, she began to talk very loud, and laugh, and seemed afraid to trust a pause of silence.

Caterina soon returned with the wood, and then, when the cheerful blaze once more animated the room, and this servant had withdrawn, Sherlock asked Molly, whether she had made the enquiry bade her. 'Yes, ma'amselle,' said Molly, 'but not a soul knows any thing about the matter: and old Carlo—I watched him well, for they say he knows strange things—old Carlo looked so as I don't know how to tell, and he asked me again and again, if I was sure the door was ever unfastened. Lord, as for me, I am all astounded, and would no more sleep in this chamber, than I would on the great cannon at the end of the east rampart.'

'And what objection have you to that cannon, more than to any of the rest?' said Sherlock, ‘the best would be rather a hard bed.'

'Yes, monsieur, any of them would be hard enough for that matter; but they do say, that something has been seen in the dead of night, standing beside the great cannon, as if to guard it.'

'Well! my good Molly, the people who tell such stories, are happy in having you for an auditor, for I perceive you believe them all.'

'Dear sir! I will shew you the very cannon; you can see it from these windows!'

'Well,' said Sherlock, 'but that does not prove, that an apparition guards it.'

'Dear me’, said Molly, vexed. ‘You will believe nothing.'

'Nothing probably upon this subject, but what I see,' said Sherlock. Molly frowned and began to talk upon some idle topic – the regattas of Venice.

'Aye, those rowing matches,' said Molly, 'and the fine moon-light nights, are all that are worth seeing in Venice. To be sure the moon is brighter than any I ever saw; and then to hear such sweet music, too, as Hopkins has often and often sung under the lattice by the west portico! Monsieur, it was Hopkins, that told me about that picture, which you wanted so to look at last night, and—-'

'What picture?' said Sherlock sharply.

'O! that terrible picture with the black veil over it.'

'You never saw it, then?' said Sherlock.

'Who, I!—No, I never did. But this morning,' continued Molly, lowering her voice, and looking round the room, 'this morning, as it was broad daylight, do you know, ma'am, I took a strange fancy to see it, as I had heard such odd hints about it, and I got as far as the door, and should have opened it, if it had not been locked!'

Sherlock, endeavouring to conceal the emotion this circumstance occasioned, enquired at what hour Molly went to the chamber, and found, that it was soon after he himself had been there. His further questions convinced him, that Molly, and probably her informer, were ignorant of the terrible truth, though in Molly's account something very like the truth, now and then, mingled with the falsehood. Sherlock now began to suspect that his visit to the chamber had been observed, since the door had been closed, so immediately after his departure; and dreaded lest this should draw upon him the vengeance of Moriarty. His anxiety, also, was excited to know whence, and for what purpose, the delusive report, which had been imposed upon Molly, had originated, since Moriarty could only have wished for silence and secrecy. He stared at the dying embers of the fire as, at a distance, the thundering sound of the hall doors, as they were shut for the night. Molly began to hint that she should be gone, but at this instant, the great bell of the portal sounded. They listened in fearful expectation, when, after a long pause of silence, it sounded again. Soon after, they heard the noise of carriage wheels in the court-yard. Sherlock started up in his chair; 'It is the Count,' said he.

'What, at this time of night!' said Molly: 'no, my dear sir. But, for that matter, it is a strange time of night for any body to come!'

'Nay, pr'ythee, good Molly, stay not talking,' said Sherlock in a voice of agony—‘we must go, and see who it is.'

Sherlock took up the sputtering light, and he and Molly crept down the corridor and proceeded through twists and turns to the main gates, in almost total darkness. Voices were now heard, and Sherlock thought he distinguished those of Count Wilkes, and Moriarty. Soon after, he heard steps approaching, and peered cautiously past a pillar on an upper balcony, where they were secreted.  ‘It is the Count, sure enough’ whispered Molly, peering over Sherlock’s head. 

Sherlock made a sign for silence, and looked upon the bustle of the Count’s arrival, he and another chevalier in his carriage, with several men on horseback lighting the scene with torches.  Moriarty received his guests only briefly before disappearing back into the gloomy recesses of the castle. When all the visitors had withdrawn, Sherlock and Molly retreated back into the gloom of the adjoining chamber. 

'You must go to the servants’ hall’ said Sherlock, ‘and see what you can hear regarding the Count’s intention of staying at the castle’.  'Yes, sir,' said Molly with readiness; 'but how am I to find the way, if I leave the lamp with you?'

Sherlock said he would light her, and they immediately quitted the chamber. When they had reached the top of the great stair-case, Sherlock recollected, that he might be seen by the Count, and, to avoid the great hall, Molly conducted them through some private passages to a back stair-case, which led directly to that of the servants.

As he returned towards his chamber, Sherlock began to fear, that he might again lose himself in the intricacies of the castle, and, though he was already perplexed by the numerous turnings, he feared to open one of the many doors that offered. While he stepped thoughtfully along, he fancied, that he heard a low moaning at no great distance, and, having paused a moment, heard it again and distinctly. Several doors appeared on the right hand of the passage. Sherlock advanced, and listened. When he came to the second, he heard a voice, apparently in complaint, within, to which he continued to listen, afraid to open the door, and unwilling to leave it. Convulsive sobs followed, and then the piercing accents of an agonizing spirit burst forth. Sherlock stood appalled, and looked through the gloom, that surrounded him, in fearful expectation. He set down the lamp in the passage and gently opened the door, within which all was dark, except that from an inner apartment a partial light appeared; and he stepped softly on. Before he reached it, the appearance of Mycroft, leaning on his dressing-table, weeping, and with a handkerchief held to his eyes, struck Sherlock, and he paused.

Some person was seated in a chair by the fire, but who it was he could not distinguish. He spoke, now and then, in a low voice, that did not allow Sherlock to hear what was uttered, but Sherlock thought, that Mycroft, at those times, wept the more. He was too much occupied by his own distress, to observe Sherlock, while the latter, though anxious to know what occasioned this, and who was the person admitted at so late an hour to his brother’s dressing-room, forbore to add to his sufferings by being discovered. He, therefore, stepped softly back, and, after some further difficulty, found the way to his own chamber, where nearer interests, at length, excluded the surprise and concern he had felt, respecting Monsieur Mycroft.

Molly, however, returned without satisfactory intelligence, for the servants, among whom she had been, were either entirely ignorant, or affected to be so, concerning the Count's intended stay at the castle. They could talk only of the steep and broken road they had just passed, and of the numerous dangers they had escaped and express wonder how their lord could choose to encounter all these, in the darkness of night; for they scarcely allowed, that the torches had served for any other purpose but that of shewing the dreariness of the mountains.

'But in the way I met Hopkins, and he told me that the Signor Wilkes was up, counselling with Moriarty and the other Signors, in the room at the end of the north gallery; and Hopkins held up her finger, and laid it on her lips, as much as to say—There is more going on, than you think of, Molly, but you must hold your tongue. And so I did hold my tongue, Sherlock, and came away to tell you directly.'

Sherlock enquired who the cavalier was, that accompanied the Count, but Molly could not inform her.

'But, before you go,' rejoined Sherlock, 'let me ask you - Have you been in my brother's dressing-room, since you left me?'

'No, monsieur, I called at the door as I passed, but it was fastened; so I thought my master was gone to bed.'

'Who, then, was with your master just now?'

'Nobody, I believe' replied Molly, 'nobody has been with him, I believe, since I left you.'

Sherlock dismissed Molly for the night, and sat then, musing upon his own circumstances and those of Monsieur Mycroft, till his eye rested on the miniature picture, which he had found, after his father's death, among the papers he had enjoined him to destroy. It was open upon the table, having, with some loose drawings, been taken out of a little box by Sherlock, some hours before. The sight of it called up many interesting reflections, but the melancholy sweetness of the countenance soothed the emotions, which these had occasioned. It was the same style of countenance as that of her late father, and, while he gazed on it on this account, he even fancied a resemblance in the features. But this tranquillity was suddenly interrupted, when he recollected the words in the manuscript, that had been found with this picture, and which had formerly occasioned him so much doubt and horror. At length, he roused herself from the deep reverie, into which this remembrance had thrown him; but, when he rose to undress, the silence and solitude, to which he was left, at this midnight hour, for not even a distant sound was now heard, conspired to make him wary in the extreme. Molly's hints, too, concerning this chamber, simple as they were, had not failed to affect him, since they followed a circumstance of peculiar horror, which he himself had witnessed, and since the scene of this was a chamber nearly adjoining his own.

The door of the stair-case was, perhaps, a subject of more reasonable alarm, and Sherlock now began to apprehend, such was the aptitude of his fears, that this stair-case had some private communication with the apartment, which he shuddered even to remember. Determined not to undress, he lay down on the bed in his clothes, with his late father's dog, the faithful Redbeard, at the foot of the bed, whom he considered as a kind of guard.

Thus circumstanced, he tried to banish reflection, but his busy mind would still hover over the subjects of his interest, and he heard the clock of the castle strike two, before he closed his eyes.

From the disturbed slumber, into which he then sunk, he was soon awakened by a noise, which seemed to arise within his own chamber; but the silence, that prevailed, as he fearfully listened, inclined him to believe, that the most rational explanation was that he had been alarmed by such sounds as sometimes occur in dreams, and thus comforted, he laid his head again upon the pillow.

A return of the noise again disturbed him; it seemed to come from that part of the room, which communicated with the private stair-case, and he instantly remembered the odd circumstance of the door having been fastened, during the preceding night, by some unknown hand. His late alarming deduction, concerning its destination, also occurred to him. Sherlock’s heart became faint with terror. Gently drawing aside the curtain, he looked towards the door of the stair-case, but the lamp, that burnt on the hearth, spread so feeble a light through the apartment, that the remote parts of it were lost in shadow. The noise, however, which, he was convinced, came from the door, continued. It seemed like that made by the undrawing of rusty bolts, and often ceased, and was then renewed more gently, as if the hand, that occasioned it, was restrained by a fear of discovery.

While Sherlock kept his eyes fixed on the spot, he saw the door move, and then slowly open, and perceived something enter the room, but the extreme duskiness prevented him distinguishing what it was. Distracted by terror, Sherlock had yet sufficient command over himself, to check the yell, that was threatening to escape from his lips, and, letting the curtain drop from his hand, continued to observe in silence the motions of the mysterious form he saw. It seemed to glide along the remote obscurity of the apartment, then paused, and, as it approached the hearth, he perceived, in the stronger light, what appeared to be a human figure. The figure remained for some time motionless, but then, advancing slowly towards the bed, stood silently at the feet, where the curtains, being a little open, allowed him still to see it; terror, however, had now deprived him of the power of discrimination, as well as of that of utterance.

Having continued there a moment, the form retreated towards the hearth, when it took the lamp, held it up, surveyed the chamber, for a few moments, and then again advanced towards the bed. The light at that instant awakening the dog, that had slept at Sherlock's feet, Redbeard barked loudly, and, jumping to the floor, flew at the stranger, who struck the animal smartly with a sheathed sword, and Sherlock discovered—Count Wilkes!

He gazed at him for a moment in speechless affright, while Wilkes threw himself upon the bed at Sherlock, who scrambled back in haste, drawing himself upright against the bedpost.  Wilkes besought Sherlock to fear nothing, and, having thrown down his sword, clung to Sherlock’s leg, thankfully clad still in the sturdy breeches, which surely a kind of prophetic apprehension had prevented him, on this night, from throwing aside.

With a mighty leap Sherlock sprung free and made for the nearest door, which was the one by which Wilkes had entered.  Wilkes caught his hand, but not before Sherlock had discovered, by the gleam of a lamp, another man half-way down the steps.  He now choked back a sob of despair, and, believing himself given up by Moriarty, saw, indeed, no possibility of escape.

The Count, who still held his hand, led him back into the chamber.

'Why all this terror?' said he, in a tremulous voice. 'Hear me, Sherlock: I come not to alarm you; no, by Heaven! I love you too well—too well for my own peace.'

Sherlock looked at him for a moment, in incredulity.

'Then leave me, sir,' said he, drawing himself up to his full height, 'leave me instantly.'

'Hear me, Sherlock,' resumed Wilkes, 'hear me! I love, and am in despair—yes—in despair. How can I gaze upon you, and know, that it is, perhaps, for the last time, without suffering all the frenzy of despair? But it shall not be so; you shall be mine, in spite of Moriarty and all his villany.'

'In spite of Moriarty!' cried Sherlock eagerly: 'what is it I hear?'

'You hear, that Moriarty is a villain,' exclaimed Wilkes with vehemence,—'a villain who would have sold you to my love!—Who—-'

'And is he less, who would have bought me?' said Sherlock, fixing on the Count an eye of calm contempt. 'Leave the room, sir, instantly,' he continued, 'or I will alarm the family, and you will receive Moriarty’s terrible vengeance.' But Sherlock knew, that he was beyond the hearing of those, who might assist him.

'You can never hope any thing from Moriarty,' said Wilkes, 'he has used me infamously, and my vengeance shall pursue him. And for you, Sherlock, for you, he has new plans more profitable than the last, no doubt.' The gleam of freedom, which the Count's former speech had revived, was now nearly extinguished; and, while Sherlock's countenance betrayed the emotions of his mind, Wilkes endeavoured to take advantage of the discovery.

'I lose time,' said he: 'I came not to exclaim against Moriarty; I came to solicit, to plead—to Sherlock; to tell you all I suffer, to entreat you to save me from despair, and yourself from destruction. Sherlock! the schemes of Moriarty are insearchable, but, I warn you, they are terrible; he has no principle, when interest, or ambition leads. Can I love you, and abandon you to his power? Fly, then, fly from this gloomy prison, with a lover, who adores you! I have bribed a servant of the castle to open the gates, and, before tomorrow's dawn, you shall be far on the way to Venice.'

Sherlock now thought he saw destruction surround him on every side. That Moriarty had formerly sold him to Wilkes, was very probable; that he had now withdrawn his consent to the marriage, was evident from the Count's present conduct; and it was nearly certain, that a scheme of stronger interest only could have induced the selfish Moriarty to forego a plan, which he had hitherto so strenuously pursued. These reflections made him tremble at the hints, which Wilkes had just given, which he did not hesitate to believe; and, while he shrunk from the new scenes of misery and oppression, that might await him in the castle of Musgrovio, he was compelled to observe, that almost his only means of escaping them was by submitting himself to the protection of this man, and all the horrors that would be visited upon his body and soul that would entail; so that these evils more certain and not less terrible appeared,—evils, upon which he could not endure to pause for an instant.

His silence, though it was that of agony, encouraged the hopes of Wilkes, who watched with impatience, took again the resisting hand he had withdrawn, and, as he pressed it to his heart, again encouraged Sherlock to leave immediately. 'Every moment we lose, will make our departure more dangerous,' said he: 'these few moments lost may enable Moriarty to overtake us.'

'I beseech you, sir, be silent,' said Sherlock: 'Leave me—I command you, leave me.'

'Never!' cried the Count vehemently: 'let me perish first! You cannot be ignorant of Moriarty's character, you may be ignorant of his schemes—nay, you must be so, or you would not hesitate between my love and his power.'

'Nor do I hesitate,' said Sherlock.

'Let us go, then,' said Wilkes, eagerly grabbing Sherlock’s hand, and attempting to kiss it despite Sherlock’s struggle to reclaim it, and rising, 'my carriage waits, below the castle walls.'

'You mistake me, sir,' said Sherlock. 'Allow me to decide by my own choice. I shall remain under the protection of Signor Moriarty.'

'Under his protection!' exclaimed Wilkes, proudly, 'his PROTECTION! Sherlock, why will you suffer yourself to be thus deluded? I have already told you what you have to expect from his PROTECTION.  You trifle with my patience and my distress!' continued Wilkes. 'Is a marriage with a man, who adores you, so very terrible in your eyes, that you would prefer to it all the misery, to which Moriarty may condemn you in this remote prison? Some wretch must have stolen those affections, which ought to be mine, or you would not thus obstinately persist in refusing an offer, that would place you beyond the reach of oppression.' Wilkes walked about the room, with quick steps, and a disturbed air.

'This discourse, Count Wilkes, sufficiently proves, that my affections ought not to be yours,' said Sherlock sharply, 'and this conduct, that I should not be placed beyond the reach of oppression, so long as I remained in your power. If you wish me to believe otherwise, cease to oppress me any longer by your presence. If you refuse this, you will compel me to expose you to the resentment of Signor Moriarty.'

'Yes, let him come,' cried Wilkes furiously, 'and brave MY resentment! Let him dare to face once more the man he has injured; danger shall teach him morality, and vengeance justice—let him come, and receive my sword in his heart!'  His darkened countenance expressed all the rage of jealousy and revenge; and a person, who had seen his features under the smile of overwhelming tenderness, which he so lately assumed, would now scarcely have believed them to be the same.

'Count Wilkes,' said Sherlock, ‘though you are a fool, pray listen to reason. You have equally misplaced your love, and your hatred.—I never could have returned your affection, and certainly have never encouraged it; neither has Signor Moriarty injured you, for you must have known, that he had no right to dispose of my hand, had he even possessed the power to do so. Leave, then, leave the castle, while you may with safety. Spare yourself the dreadful consequences of Moriarty’s revenge, and the remorse of having prolonged to me these moments of suffering.'

‘Yes, I will leave the castle; but it shall not be alone!’ exclaimed Wilkes in a voice of the utmost passion. ‘I have trifled too long. Since my prayers and my sufferings cannot prevail, force shall. I have people in waiting, who shall convey you to my carriage. Your voice will bring no succour; it cannot be heard from this remote part of the castle; submit, therefore, in silence, to go with me.'

This was an unnecessary injunction, at present; for Sherlock was too certain, that his call would avail of nothing; and terror disordered his thoughts that as Wilkes grabbed him roughly by the waist, attempting to haul him down the passage. With a fervent push, Sherlock burst from his grasp and jumped upon the casement.

'Count Wilkes! You think me now in your power; but you will observe, that this is not the conduct which can win the esteem you appear so solicitous to obtain, and that you are preparing for yourself a load of remorse, in the miseries of a friendless orphan, prepared now to destroy himself, which can never leave you. Do you believe your heart to be, indeed, so hardened, that you can look without emotion on my lifeless corpse, smashed on the battlements below?'—-

Sherlock was interrupted by the growling of the dog, who now came again from the bed, and Wilkes looked towards the door of the stair-case, where no person appearing, he called aloud, 'Cesario!'

'Sherlock,' said the Count, 'why will you reduce me to adopt this conduct? How much more willingly would I persuade, than compel you to become my husband! but, by Heaven! I will not leave you to be sold by Moriarty nor to destroy yourself. Yet a thought glances across my mind, that brings madness with it. I know not how to name it. It is preposterous—it cannot be.—Yet you tremble—you grow pale! It is! it is so;—you—you—love Moriarty!' cried Wilkes, grasping Sherlock's legs.

An involuntary air of surprise appeared on Sherlock’s countenance. 'If you have indeed believed so,' said Sherlock, attempting to prise his legs free, 'believe so still.'

'That look, those words confirm it,' exclaimed Wilkes, furiously. 'No, no, no, Moriarty had a richer prize in view, than gold. But he shall not live to triumph over me!—This very instant—-'

He was interrupted by the loud barking of the dog.

'Stay, Count Wilkes,' said Sherlock, teetering on the casement, 'I will save you from this error before you have us both over the edge, you colossal idiot.—Of all men, Signor Moriarty is not your rival; though, if I find all other means of saving myself vain, I will try whether my voice may not arouse his servants to my succour.'

'Assertion,' replied Wilkes, 'at such a moment, is not to be depended upon. How could I suffer myself to doubt, even for an instant, that he could see you, and not love?—But my first care shall be to convey you from the castle. Cesario! ho,—Cesario!'

A man now appeared at the door of the stair-case, and other steps were heard ascending. Sherlock uttered a loud yell and leapt from the casement towards the main door, as at the same moment, a loud noise was heard from the corridor. The Count paused an instant, as if his mind was suspended between love and the desire of vengeance; and, in that instant, the door gave way, and Moriarty, followed by the old steward and several other persons, burst into the room.

'Draw!' cried Moriarty to the Count, who did not pause for a second bidding, but, shoving Sherlock into the hands of the people, that appeared from the stair-case, turned fiercely round. 'This in thine heart, villain!' said he, as he made a thrust at Moriarty with his sword, who parried the blow, and aimed another, while some of the persons, who had followed him into the room, endeavoured to part the combatants, and others assisted Sherlock in delivering himself from the hands of Wilkes's servants.

'Was it for this, Count Wilkes,' said Moriarty, in a cool sarcastic tone of voice, 'that I received you under my roof, and permitted you, though my declared enemy, to remain under it for the night? Was it, that you might repay my hospitality with the treachery of a fiend, and rob me of my family?'

'Who talks of treachery?' said Wilkes, in a tone of unrestrained vehemence. 'Let him that does, shew an unblushing face of innocence. Moriarty, you are a villain! If there is treachery in this affair, look to yourself as the author of it. IF—do I say? I—whom you have wronged with unexampled baseness, whom you have injured almost beyond redress! But why do I use words?—Come on, coward, and receive justice at my hands!'

'Coward!' cried Moriarty, bursting from the people who held him, and rushing on the Count, when they both retreated into the corridor, where the fight continued so desperately, that none of the spectators dared approach them, Moriarty swearing, that the first who interfered, should fall by his sword.

Jealousy and revenge lent all their fury to Wilkes, while the superior skill and the temperance of Moriarty enabled him to wound his adversary, whom his servants now attempted to seize, but he would not be restrained, and, regardless of his wound, continued to fight. He seemed to be insensible both of pain and loss of blood, and alive only to the energy of his passions. Moriarty, on the contrary, persevered in the combat, with a fierce, yet guarded, valour; he received the point of Wilkes's sword on his arm, but, almost in the same instant, severely wounded and disarmed him. The Count then fell back into the arms of his servant, while Moriarty held his sword over him, and bade him ask his life. Wilkes, sinking under the anguish of his wound, had scarcely replied by a gesture, and by a few words, feebly articulated, that he would not—when he fainted; and Moriarty was then going to have plunged the sword into his breast, as he lay senseless, but his arm was arrested by Douglas. To the interruption he yielded without much difficulty, but his complexion changed almost to blackness, as he looked upon his fallen adversary, and ordered, that he should be carried instantly from the castle before striding away.

The Count's servants having declared, that they would not move him till he revived, Moriarty's stood inactive, Douglas remonstrating, and Sherlock, abusing Wilke’s servants as the densest of fools, bade them bind up his wound if they wished their master to survive the night.  

The Count, meanwhile, having slowly recovered, the first object he saw, on raising his eyes, was Sherlock, bending over him. Wilkes surveyed him with a look of anguish.

'I have deserved this,' said he, 'but not from Moriarty. It is from you, Sherlock, that I have deserved punishment, yet I receive only pity!' He paused, for he had spoken with difficulty. After a moment, he proceeded. 'I must resign you, but not to Moriarty. Forgive me the sufferings I have already occasioned you! But for THAT villain—his infamy shall not go unpunished. Carry me from this place,' said he to his servants. 'I am in no condition to travel: you must, therefore, take me to the nearest cottage, for I will not pass the night under his roof, although I may expire on the way from it.’  Cesario was now going to call up the carriage to the great gate, but the Count forbade him. 'I cannot bear the motion of a carriage,' said he: 'call some others of my people, that they may assist in bearing me in their arms.'

Sherlock, disgusted with this show of dramatics, was about to withdraw from the corridor, when a message from Moriarty commanded him to do so, and also that the Count, if he was not already gone, should quit the castle immediately. Indignation flashed from Wilkes's eyes, and flushed his cheeks.

'Tell Moriarty,' said he, 'that I shall go when it suits my own convenience; that I quit the castle, he dares to call his, as I would the nest of a serpent, and that this is not the last he shall hear from me. Tell him, I will not leave ANOTHER murder on his conscience, if I can help it.'

'Count Wilkes! do you know what you say?' said Douglas.

'Yes, Signor, I know well what I say, and he will understand well what I mean. His conscience will assist his understanding, on this occasion.'

'Count Wilkes,' said Moran, who had hitherto silently observed him, 'dare again to insult my friend, and I will plunge this sword in your body.'

'It would be an action worthy the friend of a villain!' said Wilkes, as the strong impulse of his indignation enabled him to raise himself from the arms of his servants; but the energy was momentary, and he sunk back, before turning again to Sherlock.

‘I am going from here – perhaps for ever from this world.  I would ask you, Sherlock, sometimes to think of me, and, forgetting my offence, to remember only the passion which occasioned it. I would ask, alas! impossibilities: I would ask you to love me! At this moment, when I am about to part with you, and that, perhaps, for ever, I am scarcely myself. Sherlock—may you never know the torture of a passion like mine! What do I say? O, that, for me, you might be sensible of such a passion!'

Sherlock looked impatient to be gone. 'I entreat you, Count, to consult your own safety,' said he in a bored tone, 'and linger here no longer.'

Wilkes's face was overspread with a momentary crimson, his eyes sparkled, but he seemed endeavouring to conquer his emotion, and replied in a calm voice, 'Since you are interested for my safety, I will regard it, and be gone. But, before I go, let me you say, that you wish me well,' said he, fixing on her an earnest and mournful look.

'You have my forgiveness, then,' said Sherlock, with a view to expedite his departure, 'and my wishes for your recovery.'

'And only for my recovery?' said Wilkes, with a sigh. 'For your……. general welfare,' added Sherlock.

He turned to go, when a second message arrived from Moriarty; and he again directed Wilkes, as he valued his life, to quit the castle immediately. Wilkes regarded him in silence, with a look of fixed despair. But Sherlock had no time left to participate in histrionics, and, not daring to disobey the second command of Moriarty, he left the corridor, to attend him.

Moriarty was in the cedar parlour, that adjoined the great hall, laid upon a couch, and suffering a degree of anguish from his wound, which few persons could have disguised, as he did. His countenance, which was stern, but calm, expressed the dark passion of revenge, but no symptom of pain; bodily pain, indeed, he had always despised, and had yielded only to the strong and terrible energies of the soul. He was attended by old Carlo and by Signor Bertolini, but Monsieur Mycroft was not with him.

Sherlock as he received his severe rebuke, for not having obeyed his first summons; perceived, also, that Moriarty attributed his stay in the corridor to a motive, that had not even occurred to Sherlock.

'This is an instance of your caprice,' said Moriarty, 'which I ought to have foreseen. Count Wilkes, whose suit you obstinately rejected, so long as it was countenanced by me, you favour, it seems, since you find I have dismissed him.'

'I fear, sir, it was a more than common interest, that detained me,' said Sherlock calmly; 'for of late I have been inclined to think, that of compassion is an uncommon one.'

'You add hypocrisy to caprice,' said Moriarty, frowning, 'and an attempt at satire, to both; but, before you undertake to regulate the morals of other persons, you should learn and practise the virtue, which is indispensable to a young man dependant on others—uniformity of obedience.'

Sherlock, felt the sting of Moriarty’s insult but did not make any further reply. Turning to a servant who had lately entered the room, Moriarty asked whether Wilkes had quitted the castle. The man answered, that his servants were then removing him, on a stretcher, to a neighbouring cottage. Moriarty seemed somewhat appeased, on hearing this; and, when Hopkins appeared, a few moments after, and said, that Wilkes was gone, Sherlock was dismissed.

He withdrew willingly from his presence; but the thought of passing the remainder of the night in a chamber, which the door from the stair-case made liable to the intrusion of any person, now alarmed him more than ever, and he determined to call at Mycroft’s room, and request, that Molly might be permitted to be with him.

On reaching the great gallery, he heard voices seemingly in dispute, and, pausing, soon distinguished some words of Douglas and Moran, and hid himself behind the doorframe. They were alone. Moran, still flushed with rage, was protesting, that he would instantly inform Moriarty of the insult, which Wilkes had thrown out against him, and above all, that, wherein he had accused him of murder.

'There is no answering,' said Douglas, 'for the words of a man in a passion; little serious regard ought to be paid to them. If you persist in your resolution, the consequences may be fatal to both. We have now more serious interests to pursue, than those of a petty revenge.'

Douglas’ arguments appeared to be effective, and they, at length, prevailed so far, as that Moran consented to retire, without seeing Moriarty. Deep in thought, Sherlock proceeded to his brother’s apartment.

It may be remembered, that it was by a door leading into the bedroom from a back passage, that Sherlock had secretly entered a few hours preceding. He now deduced, by the calmness of Mycroft’s air, that he was not apprised of the accident, which had befallen his husband, and was beginning to inform him of it, when Mycroft interrupted by saying, he was acquainted with the whole affair.

Sherlock knew indeed, that his brother had little reason to love Moriarty, but could scarcely have believed Mycroft capable of such perfect apathy, as he now displayed towards his husband; having obtained permission, however, for Molly to sleep in his chamber, he went thither immediately.

A track of blood appeared along the corridor, leading to it; and on the spot, where the Count and Moriarty had fought, the whole floor was stained. When he reached the apartment, he instantly determined, since the door of the stair-case had been left open, and that Molly was now with him, to explore whither it led,—a circumstance now materially connected with his own safety. Molly accordingly, half curious and half afraid, proposed to descend the stairs; but, on approaching the door, they perceived, that it was already fastened without, and their care was then directed to the securing it on the inside also, by placing against it as much of the heavy furniture of the room, as they could lift. Molly then retired to bed, and Sherlock continued on a chair by the hearth, where some feeble embers remained.

Chapter Text

 Of aery tongues, that syllable men's names

 On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.

      MILTON

It is now necessary to mention some circumstances, which could not be related amidst the events of Sherlock's hasty departure from Venice, or together with those, which so rapidly succeeded to his arrival in the castle.

On the morning of his journey, Count Wilkes had gone at the appointed hour to the mansion of Moriarty, to demand his bridegroom. When he reached it, he was somewhat surprised by the silence and solitary air of the portico, where Moriarty's lacqueys usually loitered; but surprise was soon changed to astonishment, and astonishment to the rage of disappointment, when the door was opened by an old woman, who told his servants, that her master and his family had left Venice, early in the morning, for terra-firma. Scarcely believing what his servants told, he left his gondola, and rushed into the hall to enquire further. The old woman, who was the only person left in care of the mansion, persisted in her story, which the silent and deserted apartments soon convinced him was no fiction. He then seized her with a menacing air, as if he meant to wreak all his vengeance upon her, at the same time asking her twenty questions in a breath, so that the woman told him all she knew of the affair, which was, indeed, very little, but enough to enable Wilkes to discover, that Moriarty was gone to his castle on the Apennine.

Thither he followed, as soon as his servants could complete the necessary preparation for the journey, accompanied by a friend, and attended by a number of his people, determined to obtain Sherlock, or a full revenge on Moriarty. When his mind had recovered from the first effervescence of rage, and his thoughts became less obscured, his conscience hinted to him certain circumstances, which, in some measure, explained the conduct of Moriarty: but how the latter could have been led to suspect an intention, which, he had believed, was known only to himself, he could not even guess. On this occasion, however, he had been partly betrayed by that sympathetic intelligence, which may be said to exist between bad minds, and which teaches one man to judge what another will do in the same circumstances. Thus it was with Moriarty, who had now received indisputable proof of a truth, which he had some time suspected—that Wilkes's circumstances, instead of being affluent, as he had been bidden to believe, were greatly involved.

Moriarty had been interested in his suit, by motives entirely selfish, those of avarice and pride; the last of which would have been gratified by an alliance with a Venetian nobleman, the former by Sherlock's estate in Gascony, which he had stipulated, as the price of his favour, should be delivered up to him from the day of marriage. In the meantime, he had been led to suspect the consequence of the Count's boundless extravagance; but it was not till the evening, preceding the intended nuptials, that Moriarty obtained certain information of his distressed circumstances. He did not hesitate then to infer, that Wilkes designed to defraud him of Sherlock's estate; and in this supposition he was confirmed, and with apparent reason, by the subsequent conduct of the Count, who, after having appointed to meet him on that night, for the purpose of signing the instrument, which was to secure to him his reward, failed in this engagement.

By hastening to Musgrovio he intended to remove Sherlock from the reach of Wilkes, as well as to break off the affair: if the Count meant what he called honourably, he would doubtless follow Sherlock, and sign the writings in question. If this was done, so little consideration had Moriarty for Sherlock’s welfare, that he would not have scrupled to sacrifice him to a man of ruined fortune, since by that means he could enrich himself; and he forbore to mention the motive of his sudden journey, lest the hope it might revive should render Sherlock more intractable, when submission would be required.

With these considerations, he had left Venice; and, with others totally different, Wilkes had, soon after, pursued his steps across the rugged Apennines. When his arrival was announced at the castle, Moriarty did not believe, that he would have presumed to shew himself, unless he had meant to fulfil his contractual engagement, and he, therefore, readily admitted him; but the enraged countenance and expressions of Wilkes, as he entered the apartment, instantly undeceived him; and Moriarty then banished Wilkes from his sight.

When, however, in the silence of his own apartment, Wilkes determined not to neglect the present possibility of obtaining Sherlock by other means. To his confidential valet he told his design of carrying away Sherlock, and sent him back to Moriarty's servants to find out one among them, who might enable him to execute it. The choice of this person he entrusted to the fellow's own discernment, and not imprudently; for he discovered a man, whom Moriarty had, on some former occasion, treated harshly, and who was now ready to betray him. This man conducted Cesario round the castle, through a private passage, to the stair-case, that led to Sherlock's chamber; then shewed him a short way out of the building, and afterwards procured him the keys, that would secure his retreat. The man was well rewarded for his trouble; how the Count was rewarded for his treachery, has already appeared.

Meanwhile, old Carlo had overheard two of Wilkes's servants, who had been ordered to be in waiting with the carriage, beyond the castle walls, expressing their surprise at their master's sudden, and secret departure, for the valet had entrusted them with no more of Wilkes's designs, than it was necessary for them to execute. They, however, indulged themselves in surmises, and in expressing them to each other; and from these Carlo had drawn a just conclusion. He then raised the alarm to Moriarty, and thus rescued Sherlock from the designs of the Count.

Moriarty, on the following morning, appeared as usual, except that he wore his wounded arm in a sling; he went out upon the ramparts; overlooked the men employed in repairing them; gave orders for additional workmen, and then came into the castle to give audience to several persons, who were just arrived, and who were shewn into a private apartment, where he communicated with them, for near an hour.

Meanwhile, the Count remained in a cottage in the skirts of the woods below, suffering under bodily and mental pain, and meditating deep revenge against Moriarty. His servant, whom he had dispatched for a surgeon to the nearest town, which was, however, at a considerable distance, did not return till the following day, when, his wounds being examined and dressed, the practitioner refused to deliver any positive opinion, concerning the degree of danger attending them; but giving his patient a composing draught and ordering him to be quiet, remained at the cottage to watch the event.

Sherlock, for the remainder of the late eventful night, had fallen into an exhausted sleep; when his mind recovered from the confusion of slumber, remembered, that he was now released from the addresses of Count Wilkes, his spirits were suddenly relieved from a part of the terrible anxiety, that had long oppressed them; that which remained, arose chiefly from a recollection of Wilkes's assertions, concerning the schemes of Moriarty. Wilkes had said, that plans of the latter, concerning Sherlock, were insearchable, yet that he knew them to be terrible. At the time he uttered this, Sherlock almost believed it to be designed for the purpose of prevailing with him to throw himself into the Count’s protection, and he still thought it might be chiefly so accounted for; but his assertions had left an impression on Sherlock’s mind, which a consideration of the character and former conduct of Moriarty did not contribute to do away with.

To assist in his thinking he took up his violin and stood by the window. As he was thus employed, he saw, walking on the rampart below, the men, who had so lately arrived at the castle. The sight of strangers surprised him, but still more, of strangers such as these. There was a singularity in their dress, and a certain fierceness in their air, that fixed all Sherlock’s attention. He put down the instrument and withdrew from the casement, while they passed, but soon returned to observe them further.

In the next moment old Carlo appeared with Moriarty, who was anxious to discover by what servant the keys of the castle had been delivered to Wilkes, on the preceding night. But this man, though he was too faithful to his master quietly to see him injured, would not betray a fellow-servant even to justice; he, therefore, pretended to be ignorant who it was, that had conspired with Count Wilkes, and related, as before, that he had only overheard some of the strangers describing the plot.

Moriarty's suspicions naturally fell upon the porter, whom he ordered now to attend. Carlo hesitated, and then with slow steps went to seek him. Barnardine, the porter, denied the accusation with a countenance so steady and undaunted, that Moriarty could scarcely believe him guilty, though he knew not how to think him innocent. At length, the man was dismissed from his presence, and, though the real offender, escaped detection.

Moriarty then went to his husband's apartment, whither Sherlock was summoned soon after, and found them in high dispute.—'You shall be a witness,' said Mycroft to Sherlock, 'of my opposition. Now, sir, repeat the command, I have so often refused to obey.'

Moriarty turned, with a stern countenance, to Sherlock, and bade him quit the apartment, while his husband persisted in desiring, that Sherlock would stay. Sherlock scarcely knew which action would serve best his interests, when 'Leave the room,' said Moriarty, in a voice of crazed threat. Sherlock obeyed, and, walking down to the rampart, which the strangers had now left, continued to meditate on the unhappy marriage of Mycroft, and on his own desolate situation, occasioned by the ridiculous imprudence of his brother, whom he had wished to respect and love. Monsieur Mycroft’s conduct had, indeed, rendered it impossible for Sherlock to do either.

As he sauntered on the rampart, Molly appeared at the hall door, looked cautiously round, and then advanced to meet Sherlock.

'Sherlock, I have been looking for you all over the castle,' said she. 'If you will step this way, I will shew you a picture.'

'A picture!' exclaimed Sherlock, and shuddered.

'Yes, sir, a picture of the late lady of this place. Old Carlo just now told me it was her, and I thought you would be curious to see it. As to my master, you know, one cannot talk about such things to him.'—

'And so,' said Sherlock smilingly, 'as you must talk of them to somebody—'

'Why, yes, Sherlock; what can one do in such a place as this, if one must not talk? But come, we lose time—let me shew you to the picture.'

'Are you sure it is a picture?' said Sherlock, 'Have you seen it?—Is it veiled?'

'Holy Maria! Yes, no, yes. I am sure it is a picture—I have seen it, and it is not veiled!'

The tone and look of surprise, with which this was uttered, recalled Sherlock's prudence; who controlled his expression once more, and bade Molly lead him to the picture. It was in an obscure chamber, adjoining that part of the castle, allotted to the servants. Several other portraits hung on the walls, covered, like this, with dust and cobweb.

'That is it, sir,' said Molly, in a low voice, and pointing. Sherlock advanced, and surveyed the picture. It represented a lady in the flower of youth and beauty; her features were handsome and noble, full of strong expression. It was a countenance, which spoke the language of passion, rather than that of sentiment; a haughty impatience of misfortune.

'How many years have passed, since this lady disappeared, Molly?' said Sherlock.

'Twenty years, sir, or thereabout, as they tell me; I know it is a long while ago.' Sherlock continued to gaze upon the portrait.

'I think,' resumed Molly, 'the Signor would do well to hang it in a better place, than this old chamber. Now, in my mind, he ought to place the picture of a lady, who gave him all these riches, in the handsomest room in the castle. But he may have good reasons for what he does: and some people do say that he has lost his riches, as well as his gratitude.'

'Let us leave this chamber,' said Sherlock: 'and let me caution you again, Molly; be guarded in your conversation, and never tell, that you know any thing of that picture.'

'Holy Mother!' exclaimed Molly, 'it is no secret; why all the servants have seen it already!'

Sherlock started. 'How is this?' said he—'Have seen it! When?—how?'

'What! There is nothing surprising in that!'

'I thought you told me, the door was kept locked?' said Sherlock.

'If that was the case, sir,' replied Molly, looking about her, 'how could we get here?'

'Oh, you mean THIS picture,' said Sherlock, with returning calmness. 'Well, Molly, here is nothing more to engage my attention; we will go.'

Sherlock, as he passed to his own apartment, turned into his brother’s dressing-room, whom he found weeping and alone, grief and resentment struggling on his countenance. Pride had hitherto restrained complaint. Judging of Sherlock's disposition from his own, and from a consciousness of what his treatment of his younger brother deserved, Mycroft had believed, that his griefs would be cause of triumph to his brother, rather than of sympathy; that he would despise, not pity him. But he knew not the tenderness and benevolence of Sherlock's true heart, having pushed it away from him always.

Monsieur Mycroft’s sufferings, at length, rose above his pride, and he poured forth all his complaints to his brother.

'O Sherlock!' he exclaimed, 'I am the most wretched of men—I am indeed cruelly treated! Who, with my prospects of happiness, could have foreseen such a wretched fate as this?—who could have thought, when I married such a man as the Signor, I should ever have to bewail my lot? But there is no judging what is for the best—there is no knowing what is for our good! The most flattering prospects often change—the best judgments may be deceived—who could have foreseen, when I married the Signor, that I should ever repent my GENEROSITY?'

Sherlock thought he might have foreseen it.

'Ungrateful man!' said Mycroft, 'he has deceived me in every respect; and now he has taken me from my country and friends, to shut me up in this old castle; and, here he thinks he can compel me to do whatever he designs! But he shall find himself mistaken, he shall find that no threats can alter—But who would have believed! who would have supposed, that a man of his family and apparent wealth had absolutely no fortune?—no, scarcely a sequin of his own! I did all for the best; I thought he was a man of consequence, of great property, or I am sure I would never have married him,—ungrateful, artful man!' He paused to take breath.

'I see’ said Sherlock, with a glance at the state of his brother’s dressing table.  ‘That he has ruined his own fortune by gambling, and that he has since lost the money that you brought to the union?’

His brother looked at him with displeasure, but wanted the relief of complaint too much to stop talking.

'Now he would compel me to sign away my settlement (it was well I had the chief of my property settled on myself!) that he may lose this also, or throw it away in wild schemes, which nobody can understand but himself? And so he has treated me with neglect, with cruelty, because I refused to relinquish my settlements, and, instead of being frightened by his menaces, resolutely defied him, and upbraided him with his shameful conduct? But I bore all meekly,—you know, brother, I never uttered a word of complaint, till now; no! That such a disposition as mine should be so imposed upon! That I, whose only faults are too much kindness, too much generosity, should be chained for life to such a vile, deceitful, cruel monster!'

Want of breath compelled Monsieur Mycroft to stop. If any thing could have made Sherlock smile in these moments, it would have been this speech of his brother, delivered in a voice very little below a scream, and with a vehemence of gesticulation and of countenance, that turned the whole into burlesque. Sherlock, thinking this over, was silent; while Mycroft mistook this for the silence of indifference, or of contempt, and reproached Sherlock with want of duty and feeling.

'O! You are a horrid boy!' said he; 'Do you have either duty, or affection, for your relations, who have treated you like their own son?'

Sherlock merely looked at his brother expressively.

'Well, well, brother, I will not dispute with you. But, as I said, Moriarty threatens me with violence, if I any longer refuse to sign away my settlements, and this was the subject of our contest, when you came into the room before. Now, I am determined no power on earth shall make me do this. Neither will I bear all this tamely. He shall hear his true character from me; I will tell him all he deserves, in spite of his threats and cruel treatment.'

Sherlock seized a pause of Mycroft’s voice, to speak. 'Dear sir,' said he, 'but will not this serve to irritate the Signor? will it not provoke the harsh treatment you dread?'

'I do not care,' replied Mycroft, 'it does not signify: I will not submit to such usage. You would have me give up my settlements, too, I suppose!'

'No, sir, I do not exactly mean that.'

'What is it you do mean then?'

'Your situation is, perhaps, not so desperate' said Sherlock, 'as you may imagine. The Signor may represent his affairs to be worse than they are, for the purpose of pleading a stronger necessity for his possession of your settlement. Besides, so long as you keep this, you may look forward to it as a resource, at least, that will afford you a competence, should the Signor's future conduct compel you to sue for separation.'

Mycroft impatiently interrupted him. 'Unfeeling, cruel boy!' said he, 'and so you would persuade me, that I have no reason to complain; that the Signor is in very flourishing circumstances, that my future prospects promise nothing but comfort, and that my griefs are as fanciful and romantic as your own! Is it the way to console me, to endeavour to persuade me out of my senses and my feelings, because you happen to have no feelings yourself? I thought I was opening my heart to a person, who could sympathize in my distress, but I find, that you can feel for nobody but yourself! You may retire to your chamber.'

Sherlock, without replying, immediately left the room, with a mingled emotion of pity and contempt, and hastened to his own, where he yielded to the mournful reflections, which a knowledge of his brother’s situation had occasioned. The conversation of the Italian with John, in France, again occurred to him. His hints, respecting the broken fortunes of Moriarty, were now completely justified; those, also, concerning his character, appeared not less so, though the particular circumstances, connected with his fame, to which the stranger had alluded, yet remained to be explained. Notwithstanding, that his own observations and the words of Count Wilkes had convinced him, that Moriarty's situation was not what it formerly appeared to be, the intelligence he had just received from Mycroft on this point, struck with great interest, when he considered the present style of Moriarty's living, the number of servants he maintained, and the new expences he was incurring, by repairing and fortifying his castle. Sherlock’s anxiety for his brother and for himself increased with reflection. Several assertions of Wilkes, which, on the preceding night, he had believed were prompted either by interest, or by resentment, now returned to his mind with the strength of truth. He could not doubt, that Moriarty had formerly agreed to give him to the Count, for a pecuniary reward;—his character, and his distressed circumstances justified the belief; these, also, seemed to confirm Wilkes's assertion, that he now designed to dispose of Sherlock, more advantageously for himself, to a richer suitor.

Amidst the reproaches, which Wilkes had thrown out against Moriarty, he had said—he would not quit the castle HE DARED TO CALL HIS, nor willingly leave ANOTHER murder on his conscience—hints, which might have no other origin than the passion of the moment: but Sherlock was now inclined to account for them more seriously. At length, considering, that reflection could neither release him from her melancholy situation, or enable him to bear it with greater fortitude, he tried to divert anxiety, and took down from his little library a favourite apiological volume; but the insects could not divert him.

He now put aside the book, and took his violin, for it was seldom that his sufferings refused to yield to the magic of sweet sounds; when they did so, he was oppressed by sorrow, that came from excess of tenderness and regret; and there were times, when music had increased such sorrow to a degree, that was scarcely endurable; when, if it had not suddenly ceased, he might have lost his reason. Such was the time, when she mourned for her father, and heard the midnight strains, that floated by her window near the convent in Languedoc, on the night that followed his death.

He continued to play, till Molly brought dinner into the chamber, at which Sherlock was surprised, and enquired whose order she obeyed. 'My master’s,' replied Molly: 'the Signor ordered his dinner to be carried to his own apartment, and so your brother has sent you yours. There have been sad doings between them, worse than ever, I think.'

Sherlock sat down to the little table, that was spread for him and gestured Molly to sit also. While Molly ate, she told of the arrival of the men, whom Sherlock had observed on the ramparts, and expressed much surprise at their strange appearance, as well as at the manner, in which they had been attended by Moriarty's order. 'Do they dine with the Signor, then?' said Sherlock.

'No, they dined long ago, in an apartment at the north end of the castle, but I know not when they are to go, for the Signor told old Carlo to see them provided with every thing necessary. They have been walking all about the castle, and asking questions of the workmen on the ramparts. I never saw such strange-looking men in my life; I am frightened whenever I see them.'

Molly had also heard of Count Wilkes, but only that he was lodged in a cottage in the wood below, and that every body said he must die.

'Enough of him,' said Sherlock; so Molly returned to a mention of the disagreement between Moriarty, and her master. 'It is nothing new,' said she: 'we saw and heard enough of this at Venice, though I never told you of it, sir.'

'Well, Molly’, said Sherlock, bored by this subject ‘it was very prudent of you not to mention it then: be as prudent now; the subject is an unpleasant one.'

'Ah dear sir!—to see now how considerate you can be about some folks, who care so little about you! I cannot bear to see you so deceived, and I must tell you. But it is all for your own good, and not to spite my master, though, to speak truth, I have little reason to love him. I have often, and often, heard the Signor and him talking over your marriage with the Count, and he always advised the Signor Moriarty never to give up to your foolish whims, as he was pleased to call them, but to be resolute, and compel you to be obedient, whether you would, or no. And I am sure, my heart has ached a thousand times, and I have thought, when he was so unhappy himself, he might have felt a little for other people, and—'

'I thank you for your pity, Molly,' said Sherlock, interrupting her; 'You may take away, Molly, I have done.'

'Dear sir, you have eat nothing at all! Do try, and take a little bit more. And at Tholouse too I have heard my master talking of you and Mons. Watson to Madame Merveille and Madame Vaison, often and often, in a very ill-natured way, as I thought, telling them what a deal of trouble he had to keep you in order, and what a fatigue and distress it was, and that he believed you would run away with Mons. Watson, if he was not to watch you closely; and that you connived at his coming about the house at night, and—'

'Good God!' exclaimed Sherlock, blushing deeply, 'it is surely impossible my brother could thus have represented me!'

'Indeed, ma'am, I say nothing more than the truth, and not all of that. But I thought, myself, he might have found something better to discourse about, than the faults of his own brother, even if you had been in fault, monsieur; but I did not believe a word of what he said. But my master does not care what she says against any body, for that matter.'

'Is this, then, the reward of my ingenuousness?' said Sherlock, when he was alone; 'the treatment I am to receive from a relation—a brother—who ought to have been the guardian, not the slanderer of my reputation,—who, as a man, ought to have respected the delicacy of honour, and, as a relation, should have protected mine! But, to utter falsehoods on such a subject—to repay the propriety of my conduct (or at least the conduct that he was aware of), with slanders—required a depravity of heart, such as I could scarcely have believed existed, such as I weep to find in a relation'.

Sherlock threw his coat about him, and went down to walk upon the ramparts, the only walk, indeed, which was open to him, though he often wished, that he might be permitted to ramble among the woods below, and still more, that he might sometimes explore the sublime scenes of the surrounding country. But, as Moriarty would not suffer him to pass the gates of the castle, he looked only upon the romantic views beheld from the walls. The peasants, who had been employed on the fortifications, had left their work, and the ramparts were silent and solitary. Their lonely appearance, together with the gloom of a lowering sky, assisted the musings of his mind, and threw over it a kind of melancholy tranquillity, such as he often indulged. He turned to observe a fine effect of the sun, as his rays, suddenly streaming from behind a heavy cloud, lighted up the west towers of the castle, while the rest of the edifice was in deep shade, except, that, through a lofty gothic arch, adjoining the tower, which led to another terrace, the beams darted in full splendour, and shewed the three strangers he had observed in the morning. Perceiving them, he started, and a momentary fear came over him, as he looked up the long rampart, and saw no other persons. While he hesitated, they approached. They looked earnestly at him, and spoke to each other in bad Italian, of which Sherlock caught only a few words; but the fierceness of their countenances, now that he was near enough to discriminate them, struck him yet more than the wild singularity of their air and dress had formerly done. It was the countenance and figure of him, who walked between the other two, that chiefly seized his attention, which expressed a sullen haughtiness and a kind of dark watchful villany, that gave a thrill of horror to Sherlock’s heart. All this was so legibly written on his features, as to be seen by a single glance, for he passed the group swiftly. Having reached the terrace, he stopped, and perceived the strangers standing in the shadow of one of the turrets, gazing after him, and seemingly, by their action, in earnest conversation. Sherlock immediately left the rampart, and retired to his apartment.

In the evening, Moriarty sat late, carousing with his guests in the cedar chamber. His recent triumph over Count Wilkes, or, perhaps, some other circumstance, contributed to elevate his spirits to an unusual height. He filled the goblet often, and gave a loose to merriment and talk. The gaiety of Douglas, on the contrary, was somewhat clouded by anxiety. He kept a watchful eye upon Verezzi, whom, with the utmost difficulty, he had hitherto restrained from exasperating Moriarty further against Wilkes, by a mention of his late taunting words.

One of the company exultingly recurred to the event of the preceding evening. Verezzi's eyes sparkled. The mention of Wilkes led to that of Sherlock, of whom they were all profuse in the praise, except Moriarty, who sat silent, and then interrupted the subject.

When the servants had withdrawn, Moriarty and his friends entered into close conversation, amidst which one of them imprudently introduced again the name of Wilkes; and Verezzi, now more heated by wine, disregarded the expressive looks of Douglas, and gave some dark hints of what had passed on the preceding night. These, however, Moriarty did not appear to understand, for he continued silent in his chair, without discovering any emotion, while, the irritation of Verezzi increasing with the apparent insensibility of Moriarty, he at length told the suggestion of Wilkes, that this castle did not lawfully belong to him, and that he would not willingly leave another murder on his conscience.

'Am I to be insulted at my own table, and by my own friends?' said Moriarty, with a countenance pale in anger. 'Why are the words of that madman repeated to me?' Verezzi, who had expected to hear Moriarty's indignation poured forth against Wilkes, and answered by thanks to himself, looked with astonishment at Douglas, who enjoyed his confusion. 'Can you be weak enough to credit the assertions of a madman?' rejoined Moriarty, 'or, what is the same thing, a man possessed by the spirit of vengeance? But he has succeeded too well; you believe what he said.'

'Signor,' said Verezzi, 'we believe only what we know.'—'How!' interrupted Moriarty, sternly: 'produce your proof, or die by my hand.'

'We believe only what we know,' repeated Verezzi, 'and we know nothing of what Wilkes asserts.' Moriarty seemed to recover himself. 'I am hasty, my friends,' said he, 'with respect to my honour; no man shall question it with impunity!’

'It much surprises me, Signor,' said Bertolini, anxious to dispel the frightening tension, that you have so long neglected this castle; it is a noble edifice.'

'It suits our purpose,' replied Moriarty, with a mercurial change of mood, 'and IS a noble edifice. You know not, it seems, by what mischance it came to me.'

'It was a lucky mischance, be it what it may, Signor,' replied Bertolini, smiling. 'I would, that one so lucky had befallen me.'

Moriarty looked at him with a wild cast to his features. 'If you will attend to what I say,' he resumed, 'you shall hear the story.'

'It is now near twenty years,' said Moriarty, 'since this castle came into my possession. I inherit it by the female line. The lady, my predecessor, was only distantly related to me; I am the last of her family. She was beautiful and rich; I wooed her; but her heart was fixed upon another, and she rejected me. It is probable, however, that she was herself rejected of the person, whoever they might be, on whom she bestowed her favour, for a deep and settled melancholy took possession of her; and I have reason to believe she put a period to her own life. I was not at the castle at the time; but, as there are some singular and mysterious circumstances attending that event, I shall repeat them.'

'Repeat them!' said a voice.

Moriarty was silent; the guests looked at each other, to know who spoke; but they perceived, that each was making the same enquiry. Moriarty, at length, recovered himself. 'We are overheard,' said he: 'we will finish this subject another time. Pass the goblet.'

The cavaliers looked round the wide chamber.

'Here is no person, but ourselves,' said Verezzi: 'pray, Signor, proceed.'

'Did you hear any thing?' said Moriarty.

'We did,' said Bertolini.

'It could be only fancy,' said Verezzi, looking round again. 'We see no person besides ourselves; and the sound I thought I heard seemed within the room. Pray, Signor, go on.'

Moriarty paused a moment, and then proceeded in a lowered voice, while the cavaliers drew nearer to attend.

'Ye are to know, Signors, that the Lady Irene had for some months shewn symptoms of a dejected mind, nay, of a disturbed imagination. Her mood was very unequal; sometimes she was sunk in calm melancholy, and, at others, as I have been told, she betrayed all the symptoms of frantic madness. It was one night in the month of October, after she had recovered from one of those fits of excess, and had sunk again into her usual melancholy, that she retired alone to her chamber, and forbade all interruption. It was the chamber at the end of the corridor, Signors, where we had the affray, last night. From that hour, she was seen no more.'

'How! seen no more!' said Bertolini, 'was not her body found in the chamber?'

'Were her remains never found?' cried the rest of the company all together.

'Never!' replied Moriarty.

'What reasons were there to suppose she destroyed herself, then?' said Bertolini.—'Aye, what reasons?' said Verezzi.—'How happened it, that her remains were never found? Although she killed herself, she could not bury herself.' Moriarty looked indignantly at Verezzi, who began to apologize. 'Your pardon, Signor,' said he: 'I did not consider, that the lady was your relative, when I spoke of her so lightly.'

Moriarty accepted the apology.

'But the Signor will oblige us with the reasons, which urged him to believe, that the lady committed suicide.'

'Those I will explain hereafter,' said Moriarty: 'at present let me relate a most extraordinary circumstance. This conversation goes no further, Signors. Listen, then, to what I am going to say.'

'Listen!' said a voice.

They were all again silent, and the countenance of Moriarty changed. 'This is no illusion of the fancy,' said Douglas, at length breaking the profound silence.—'No,' said Bertolini; 'I heard it myself, now. Yet here is no person in the room but ourselves!'

'This is very extraordinary,' said Moriarty, suddenly rising. 'This is not to be borne; here is some deception, some trick. I will know what it means.'

All the company rose from their chairs in confusion.

'It is very odd!' said Bertolini. 'Here is really no stranger in the room. If it is a trick, Signor, you will do well to punish the author of it severely.'

The servants were now summoned, and the chamber was searched, but no person was found. The surprise and consternation of the company increased. Moriarty was discomposed. 'We will leave this room,' said he, 'and the subject of our conversation also; it is too solemn.' His guests were equally ready to quit the apartment; but the subject had roused their curiosity, and they entreated Moriarty to withdraw to another chamber, and finish it; no entreaties could, however, prevail with him. Notwithstanding his efforts to appear at ease, he was visibly and greatly disordered.

'I am not superstitious,' said Moriarty, regarding his companions with stern displeasure, 'though I know how to despise the common-place sentences, which are frequently uttered against superstition. I will enquire further into this affair.' He then left the room; and his guests, separating for the night, retired to their respective apartments.

Chapter Text

 He wears the rose of youth upon his cheek.

     SHAKESPEARE

We now return to John, who, it may be remembered, remained at Tholouse, some time after the departure of Sherlock, restless and miserable. Each morrow that approached, he designed should carry him from thence; yet to-morrow and to-morrow came, and still saw him lingering in the scene of his former happiness.

There, as he walked, or leaned from the window of the building, he would endeavour to recollect all they had said, on that night; to catch the tones of Sherlock’s voice, as they faintly vibrated on his memory, and to remember the exact expression of his countenance in ecstasy, which sometimes came suddenly to John’s fancy, like a vision; that beautiful countenance, which awakened, as by instantaneous magic, all the tenderness of his heart, and seemed to tell with irresistible eloquence—that Sherlock was lost forever! The character of Moriarty, such as he had received from hints, and such as his fears represented it, would rise to his view, together with all the dangers it seemed to threaten to Sherlock and to his love. He blamed himself, that he had not urged these more forcibly, while it might have been in his power to detain Sherlock by him, and that he had suffered an absurd and criminal delicacy, as he termed it, to conquer so soon the reasonable arguments he had opposed to this journey. Any evil, that might have attended their marriage, seemed so inferior to those, which now threatened their love, or even to the sufferings, that absence occasioned, that he wondered how he could have ceased to urge his suit; and he would certainly now have followed Sherlock to Italy, if he could have been spared from his regiment for so long a journey. His regiment, indeed, soon reminded him, that he had other duties to attend, than those of love.

Shortly John was summoned to join his brother officers, and he accompanied a battalion to Paris; where a scene of novelty and gaiety opened upon him, such as, till then, he had only a faint idea of. But gaiety disgusted, and company fatigued, his troubled mind; and he became an object of unceasing raillery to his companions, from whom, whenever he could steal an opportunity, he escaped, to think of Sherlock. The scenes around him, however, and the company with whom he was obliged to mingle, engaged his attention, though they failed to amuse his fancy, and thus gradually weakened the habit of yielding to lamentation. Among his brother-officers were many, who added to the ordinary character of a French soldier's gaiety some of those fascinating qualities, which too frequently throw a veil over folly, and sometimes even soften the features of vice into smiles. To these men the reserved and thoughtful manners of John were a kind of tacit censure on their own, for which they rallied him when present, and plotted against him when absent; they gloried in the thought of reducing him to their own level, and, considering it to be a spirited frolic, determined to accomplish it.

John was a stranger to the gradual progress of scheme and intrigue, against which he could not be on his guard. He had not been accustomed to receive ridicule, and he could ill endure its sting; he resented it, and this only drew upon him a louder laugh. To escape from such scenes, he fled into solitude, and there the image of Sherlock met him, and revived the pangs of love and despair. To forget himself and the grief and anxiety, which the idea of Sherlock then recalled, he would quit his solitude, and again mingle in the crowd—glad of a temporary relief, and rejoicing to snatch amusement for the moment.

Thus passed weeks after weeks, time gradually softening his sorrow, and habit strengthening his desire of amusement, till the scenes around him seemed to awaken into a new character, and John, to have fallen among them from the clouds.

His figure and address made him a welcome visitor, wherever he had been introduced, and he soon frequented the most gay and fashionable circles of Paris. Among these, was the assembly of the Countess Sawyer, a woman of eminent beauty and captivating manners. Her suppers were the most tasteful of any in Paris, and were frequented by many of the second class of literati. She was fond of music, was herself a scientific performer, and had frequently concerts at her house. John, who passionately loved music, and who sometimes assisted at these concerts, admired her execution, but remembered with a sigh the eloquent simplicity of Sherlock's songs and the natural expression of his manner, which found its way at once to the heart.

The Countess had often deep play at her house, which she affected to restrain, but secretly encouraged; and it was well known among her friends, that the splendour of her establishment was chiefly supplied from the profits of her tables. The drink flowed as fast and as deeply as the play, and here John spent many dangerous hours.

Thus John he was set down in the midst of Paris, in the pride of youth, with an open, unsuspicious temper and ardent affections, without one friend, to warn him of the dangers, to which he was exposed. Sherlock, who, had he been present, would have saved him from these evils by awakening his heart, and engaging him in worthy pursuits, now only increased his danger;—it was to lose the grief, which his remembrance occasioned, that John first sought amusement; and for this end he pursued it, till habit made it an object of abstract interest.

The gaiety of the most splendid court in Europe, the magnificence of the palaces and entertainments which surrounded him,—conspired to dazzle his imagination, and re-animate his spirits, and the example and liquors of his military associates to delude his mind. Sherlock's image, indeed, still lived there; but it was no longer the friend, the monitor, that saved him from himself, and to which he retired to weep the sweet, yet melancholy, tears of tenderness. When John had recourse to it, it assumed a countenance of mild reproach, that wrung his soul, and called forth tears of unmixed misery; his only escape from which was to forget the object of it, and he endeavoured, therefore, to think of Sherlock as seldom as he could.

Thus dangerously circumstanced was John, at the time, when Sherlock was suffering at Venice, from the persecuting addresses of Count Wilkes, and the unjust authority of Moriarty; at which period we leave him.

Chapter Text

 The image of a wicked, heinous fault

 Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his

 Does shew the mood of a much-troubled breast.

     KING JOHN

Leaving the gay scenes of Paris, we return to those of the gloomy Apennine, where Sherlock's thoughts were still faithful to John. Looking to John as his only hope, he recollected, with jealous exactness, every assurance and every proof he had witnessed of John’s affection; read again and again the few letters he had received; weighed, with intense anxiety, the force of every word, that spoke of his attachment; and trusted in his truth.

Moriarty, meanwhile, had made strict enquiry concerning the strange circumstance of his alarm, without obtaining information; and was, at length, obliged to account for it by the reasonable supposition, that it was a mischievous trick played off by one of his domestics. His disagreements with Mycroft, on the subject of his settlements, were now more frequent than ever; he even confined Mycroft entirely to his own apartment, and did not scruple to threaten him with much greater severity, should he persevere in a refusal.

Wholly confined to the solitude of his apartment, Mycroft was now reduced to solicit the society he had lately rejected; for Sherlock was the only person, except Molly, with whom he was permitted to converse.

Reason, had Mycroft consulted it, would now have perplexed him in the choice of a conduct to be adopted. It would have pointed out the danger of irritating by further opposition a man, such as Moriarty had proved himself to be, and to whose power he had so entirely committed himself; and it would also have told him, of what extreme importance to his future comfort it was, to reserve for those possessions, which would enable him to live independently of Moriarty, should he ever escape from his immediate control. But Mycroft was directed by a more decisive guide than reason—the spirit of revenge, which urged him to oppose violence to violence, and obstinacy to obstinacy.

The scenes of terrible contention, to which Sherlock was frequently compelled to be witness, exhausted his spirits. The gentleness and goodness of his parents often stole on his mind, like the visions of a higher world; while the characters and circumstances, now passing beneath his eye, excited both terror and surprise. His present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror.

The works about the castle and the ramparts continued, and Sherlock observed and pondered its meaning.  Moriarty received plenty of strange visitors, but Sherlock could not deduce what they were about, and nor could Molly hear from the servants in the castle. 

One evening, Sherlock was playing upon his violin, when he was alarmed by a strange and loud knocking at his chamber door, and then a heavy weight fell against it, that almost burst it open. He called to know who was there, and receiving no answer, repeated the call; but a chilling silence followed. It occurred to him—for, at this moment, he could not reason on the probability of circumstances—that some one of the strangers, lately arrived at the castle, had discovered his apartment, and was come with such intent, as their looks rendered too possible—to assault, perhaps to murder!  He went to the gallery door, and then, fearing to open it, lest some person might be silently lurking without, he stopped, but with eyes fixed in expectation upon the opposite door of the stair-case. As thus he stood, he heard a faint breathing near him, and became convinced, that some person was on the other side of the door, which was already locked. Sherlock sought for other fastening, but there was none.

While he yet listened, the breathing was distinctly heard, and his terror was not soothed, when, looking round his wide and lonely chamber, he again considered his remote situation. At length, he determined to call loudly for assistance from the casement, and was advancing to it, when, whether the terror of his mind presented sounds, or that real ones did come, he thought footsteps were ascending the private stair-case; and, expecting to see its door unclose, he forgot all other cause of alarm, and retreated towards the corridor. Here he endeavoured to make an escape, but, on opening the door, was very near falling over a person, who lay on the floor without. Sherlock stifled his cries, fear yielded to surprise, for he recognised the features of Molly. He instantly set about reviving her.

When Molly recovered, she was helped by Sherlock into the chamber, but was still unable to speak, and looked round her, as if her eyes followed some person in the room. In time Molly affirmed, and with a solemnity of conviction, that almost staggered the incredulity of Sherlock, that she had seen an apparition, as she was passing to the bedroom, through the corridor.

'I had heard strange stories of that chamber before,' said Molly: 'but as it was so near yours, that I would not tell them to you, because they would frighten you. The servants had told me, often and often, that it was haunted, and that was the reason why it was shut up: nay, for that matter, why the whole string of these rooms, here, are shut up. I quaked whenever I went by, and I must say, I did sometimes think I heard odd noises within it. But, as I said, as I was passing along the corridor, and not thinking a word about the matter, or even of the strange voice that the Signors heard the other night, all of a sudden comes a great light, and, looking behind me, there was a tall figure, (I saw it as plainly, as I see you at this moment), a tall figure gliding along (Oh! I cannot describe how!) into the room, that is always shut up, and nobody has the key of it but the Signor, and the door shut directly.'

'Then it doubtless was the Signor,' said Sherlock.

'O no, it could not be him, for I left him busy a-quarrelling in my master's dressing-room!'

'You bring me strange tales, Molly,' said Sherlock: 'Was it the chamber where the black veil hangs?'. 'O! no, sir, it was one nearer to this. What shall I do, to get to my room? I would not go out into the corridor again, for the whole world!' Sherlock, whose spirits had been severely shocked, and who, therefore, did not like the thought of passing the night alone, told her she might sleep where she was. 'O, no, indeed!' replied Molly, 'I would not sleep in the room, now, for a thousand sequins!'

Wearied and disappointed, Sherlock first ridiculed, though he shared, Molly’s fears, and then tried to sooth them; but neither attempt succeeded, and the girl persisted in believing and affirming, that what she had seen was nothing human. It was not till some time after Sherlock had recovered his composure, that he recollected the steps he had heard on the stair-case.

Early on the following morning, as Sherlock crossed the hall to the ramparts, he heard a noisy bustle in the court-yard, and the clatter of horses' hoofs. Such unusual sounds excited his curiosity; and, instead of going to the ramparts, he went to an upper casement, from whence he saw, in the court below, a large party of horsemen, dressed in a singular, but uniform, habit, and completely, though variously, armed. They wore a kind of short jacket, composed of black and scarlet, and several of them had a cloak, of plain black, which, covering the person entirely, hung down to the stirrups. As one of these cloaks glanced aside, he saw, beneath, daggers, apparently of different sizes, tucked into the horseman's belt. He further observed, that these were carried, in the same manner, by many of the horsemen without cloaks, most of whom bore also pikes, or javelins. On their heads, were the small Italian caps, some of which were distinguished by black feathers. Whether these caps gave a fierce air to the countenance, or that the countenances they surmounted had naturally such an appearance, Sherlock thought he had never, till then, seen an assemblage of faces so savage. He discovered, among the band, some of the strangers he had lately seen at the castle.  While Sherlock gazed, he almost fancied himself surrounded by banditti; and a deduction came to his mind—that Moriarty was the captain of the group, and that this castle was to be the place of rendezvous.

While he continued gazing, Douglas, Verezzi, and Bertolini came forth from the hall, habited like the rest, except that they wore hats, with a mixed plume of black and scarlet, and that their arms differed from those of the rest of the party. Moriarty then appeared at the hall door, but un-accoutred. Having carefully observed the horsemen, conversed awhile with the cavaliers, and bidden them farewell, the band wheeled round the court, and, led by Verezzi, issued forth under the portcullis; Moriarty following to the portal, and gazing after them for some time. Sherlock then retired from the casement, and went to walk on the ramparts, from whence he soon after saw the party winding among the mountains to the west, appearing and disappearing between the woods, till distance confused their figures, consolidated their numbers, and only a dingy mass appeared moving along the heights.

That evening Sherlock again had been summoned to his brother, who was again disputing with Moriarty.

 'I insist upon knowing this instant, Signor, what all this means:' said his husband—'what are all these armed men, whom they tell me of, gone out about?' Moriarty answered him only with a look of scorn.  'I will know’ continued Mycroft; ‘and I will know, too, what the castle has been fortified for.'

'Come, come,' said Moriarty, 'other business brought me here. I must be trifled with no longer. I have immediate occasion for what I demand—those estates must be given up, without further contention; or I may find a way—'

'They never shall be given up,' interrupted Mycroft: 'they never shall enable you to carry on your wild schemes;—but what are these? I will know. Do you expect the castle to be attacked? Do you expect enemies? Am I to be shut up here, to be killed in a siege?'

'Sign the writings,' said Moriarty, 'and you shall know more.'

'What enemy can be coming?' continued his husband. 'Have you entered into the service of the state? Am I to be blocked up here to die?'

'That may possibly happen,' said Moriarty, 'unless you yield to my demand: for, come what may, you shall not quit the castle till then.' Mycroft burst into loud lamentation, which he as suddenly checked, considering, that his husband's assertions might be only artifices, employed to extort consent. He hinted this suspicion, and, in the next moment, told him also, that his designs were not so honourable as to serve the state, and that Mycroft believed he had only commenced a captain of banditti, to join the enemies of Venice, in plundering and laying waste the surrounding country.

Moriarty looked at him for a moment with a steady and stern countenance; while Sherlock held his breath, and his husband, for once, thought he had said too much. 'You shall be removed, this night,' said Moriarty, 'to the east turret: there, perhaps, you may understand the danger of offending a man, who has an unlimited power over you.'

Mycroft grabbed at the cloak of his husband, bewailing his cruelty. Moriarty, however, soon interrupted these entreaties with a horrible oath; and, as he burst from his husband, leaving his cloak, in his hand, he struck Sherlock, who fell to the floor, with a force, that occasioned him a severe blow on the forehead. Sherlock’s attention was called from himself, by a deep groan from Monsieur Mycroft, who continued otherwise unmoved in his chair, and Sherlock saw his eyes rolling, and his features convulsed.

Having spoken to his brother, without receiving an answer, he attempted to bring him water; but the increasing convulsions soon compelled Sherlock to seek assistance. On his way through the hall, in search of Molly, he met Moriarty, whom he told what had happened, who then turned silently away, with a look of indifference, and went out upon the ramparts. At length Sherlock’s calls roused old Carlo and Molly, and they hastened to follow Sherlock to the dressing-room, where Mycroft had fallen on the floor, and was lying in strong convulsions. With great difficulty they lifted him into the adjoining room, and laid him on the bed, the force of his disorder still made all their strength necessary to hold him, while Molly trembled and sobbed, and old Carlo looked silently and piteously on, as his feeble hands grasped those of his master, till, turning his eyes upon Sherlock, he exclaimed, 'Good God! What is the matter?'

Sherlock looked calmly at him, and saw Carlo’s enquiring eyes fixed on him: and Molly, looking up, screamed loudly; for Sherlock's face was stained with blood, which continued to fall slowly from his forehead: but his attention had been so entirely occupied that he had felt no pain from the wound. Sherlock continued to watch Monsieur Mycroft, the violence of whose convulsions was abating, till at length they ceased, and left him in a kind of stupor.

'My brother must remain quiet,' said Sherlock. 'Go, good Carlo; if we should want your assistance, I will send for you.'

Sherlock and Molly continued watching silently, till Mycroft uttered a low sigh, when Sherlock took his hand, and attempted to speak soothingly; but the former gazed with unconscious eyes, and it was long before he knew his brother. His first words then enquired for Moriarty; to which Sherlock replied by an entreaty, that he would compose himself, and consent to be kept quiet, adding, that, if he wished any message to be conveyed to him, Sherlock would himself deliver it. 'No,' said his brother faintly, 'no—I have nothing new to tell him. Does he persist in saying I shall be removed from my chamber?'

Sherlock tried to divert Mycroft’s attention to some other topic; but his brother seemed to be inattentive to what he said, and lost in secret thoughts. Sherlock now left him to the care of Molly, and went in search of Moriarty, whom he found on a remote part of the rampart, conversing among a group. They stood round him with fierce, yet subjugated, looks, while he, speaking earnestly, and pointing to the walls, did not perceive Sherlock, who remained at some distance. Some few words of Moriarty then passed in the east wind; and, as the men were separating, Sherlock heard him say, 'This evening, then, begin the watch at sun-set.'

'At sun-set, Signor,' replied one or two of them, and walked away; while Sherlock approached Moriarty. Sherlock endeavoured to intercede for his brother and represented to his sudden illness. 'He suffers by his own folly,' said Moriarty, 'and is not to be pitied;—he knows how she may avoid these sufferings in future—if he is removed to the turret, it will be his own fault. Let him be obedient, and sign the writings you heard of, and I will think no more of it.'

At length, Moriarty, who seemed amused by Sherlock’s tale, dismissed him with this concession—That he would not remove Monsieur Mycroft tonight, but allow him till the next to consider, whether he would resign the settlements, or be imprisoned in the east turret of the castle, 'where he shall find,' Moariarty added, 'a punishment he may not expect.'

Sherlock then hastened to inform his brother of this short respite, to which the latter made no reply, but appeared thoughtful. Sherlock, at length, recommended, as his brother’s only means of safety, that he should submit to Moriarty's demand. 'You know not what you advise,' said Mycroft. 'Do you understand, that these estates will descend to you at my death, if I persist in a refusal?'

'I was ignorant of that circumstance, sir,' replied Sherlock, 'but the knowledge of it cannot with-hold me from advising you to adopt the conduct, which not only your peace, but, I fear, your safety requires, and I entreat, that you will not suffer a consideration comparatively so trifling, to make you hesitate a moment in resigning them.'

'Are you sincere, brother mine?' 'Is it possible you can doubt it?' Mycroft appeared to be affected. 'You are not unworthy of these estates, brother,' said he: 'I would wish to keep them for your sake—you shew a virtue I did not expect.'

'Here is no exertion of virtue,' rejoined Sherlock, 'for here is no temptation to be overcome.'

'Yet Monsieur Watson'—said his brother, before drifting into silence, and sinking into a restless slumber; saving Sherlock, he thought, from a hard effort in maintaining his own silence; and so he departed for his own chamber.

At that hour, the castle was perfectly still, and every inhabitant of it, except himself, seemed to have retired to rest. As he passed along the wide and lonely galleries, dusky and silent, he felt forlorn and apprehensive of—he scarcely knew what; but when, entering the corridor, he recollected the incident of the preceding night, a dread seized him, lest a subject of alarm, similar to that, which had befallen Molly, should occur to him, and which, whether real, or ideal, would, he felt, have an almost equal effect upon his weakened spirits. The chamber, to which Molly had alluded, he did not exactly know, but understood it to be one of those he must pass in the way to his own; and, sending a fearful look forward into the gloom, he stepped lightly and cautiously along, till, coming to a door, from whence issued a low sound, he hesitated and paused; and, during the delay of that moment, his fears so much increased, that he had no power to move from the spot. Believing, that he heard a human voice within, he was somewhat revived; but, in the next moment, the door was opened, and a person, whom he conceived to be Moriarty, appeared, who instantly started back, and closed it, though not before Sherlock had seen, by the light that burned in the chamber, another person, sitting in a melancholy attitude by the fire. His terror vanished, but his astonishment only began, which was now roused by the mysterious secrecy of Moriarty's manner, and by the discovery of a person, whom he thus visited at midnight, in an apartment, which had long been shut up, and of which such extraordinary reports were circulated.

While Sherlock thus continued hesitating, strongly prompted to watch Moriarty's motions, yet fearing to irritate him by appearing to notice them, the door was again opened cautiously, and as instantly closed as before.

Having waited in silent expectation for a few minutes, with his eyes fixed on the door, it was again opened, and the same person appeared, whom he now knew to be Moriarty. He looked cautiously round, without perceiving Sherlock, then, stepping forward, closed the door, and left the corridor. Soon after, Sherlock heard the door fastened on the inside, and he withdrew to his chamber, wondering at what he had witnessed.

It was now twelve o'clock. As he closed the casement, he heard footsteps on the terrace below, and saw imperfectly, through the gloom, several persons advancing, who passed under the casement. He then heard the clink of arms, and, in the next moment, the watch-word; when, recollecting the command he had overheard from Moriarty, and the hour of the night, he understood, that these men were, for the first time, relieving guard in the castle. Having listened till all was again still, Sherlock retired to the bed.

Chapter Text

And shall no lay of death

 With pleasing murmur sooth

 Her parted soul?

 Shall no tear wet her grave?

     SAYERS

On the following morning, Sherlock went early to the apartment of Monsieur Mycroft, who had slept well, and was much recovered. His spirits had also returned with his health, and his resolution to oppose Moriarty's demands revived, though it yet struggled with his fears.

Mycroft, as has been already shewn, had a disposition, which delighted in contradiction, and which taught him, when unpleasant circumstances were offered to his understanding, not to enquire into their truth, but to seek for arguments, by which he might make them appear false. Long habit had so entirely confirmed this natural propensity, that he was not conscious of possessing it. Sherlock's representations, therefore, roused his pride, instead of alarming, or convincing his judgment, and Mycroft still relied upon the discovery of some means, by which he might yet avoid submitting to the demand of his husband.

While he thus sat, Moriarty entered the room, and, without noticing his husband's indisposition, said, that he came to remind him of the impolicy of trifling with him, and that he gave Mycroft only till the evening to determine, whether he would consent to his demand, or be removed to the east turret. Moriarty added, that a party of cavaliers would dine with him, that day, and that he expected that Mycroft would sit at the head of the table, where Sherlock, also, must be present. His command struck Sherlock with surprise and apprehension, who shrank from the thought of being exposed to the gaze of strangers, and the words of Count Wilkes, now again recollected, did not sooth his fears.

When he withdrew to prepare for dinner, he dressed himself with even more simplicity than usual, that he might escape observation—a policy, which did not avail him, for, as he returned to Mycroft’s apartment, he was met by Moriarty, who censured what he called Sherlock’s prudish appearance, and insisted, that he should wear the most splendid clothing he had, even that, which had been prepared for the intended nuptials with Count Wilkes, and which, it now appeared, his brother had carefully brought with him from Venice. This was made, not in the Venetian, but, in the Neapolitan fashion, so as to set off the shape and figure, to the utmost advantage.

The simplicity of a better taste than Monsieur Moriarty's, was conspicuous in this attire, splendid as it was, and Sherlock's unaffected beauty never had appeared more captivatingly. He had now only to hope, that Moriarty's order was prompted, not by any extraordinary design, but by an ostentation of displaying his family, richly attired, to the eyes of strangers; yet nothing less than his absolute command could have prevailed on Sherlock to wear such attire, that had been designed for such an offensive purpose, much less to have worn it on this occasion. As he descended to dinner, the emotion of his mind threw a faint blush over his countenance, and heightened its interesting expression. When he entered the hall, in which a kind of state dinner was spread, Moriarty and his guests were already seated at the table. Sherlock was then going to place himself by Mycroft; but Moriarty waved his hand, and two of the cavaliers rose, and seated him between them.

The eldest of these was a tall man, with strong Italian features, an aquiline nose, and dark penetrating eyes, that flashed with fire, when his mind was agitated, and, even in its state of rest, retained somewhat of the wildness of the passions. His visage was long and narrow, and his complexion of a sickly yellow.

The other, who appeared to be about forty, had features of a different cast, yet Italian, and his look was slow, subtle and penetrating; his eyes, of a dark grey, were small, and hollow; his complexion was a sun-burnt brown, and the contour of his face, though inclined to oval, was irregular and ill-formed.

Eight other guests sat round the table, who were all dressed in uniform, and had all an expression, more or less, of wild fierceness, of subtle design, or of licentious passions. As Sherlock surveyed them, he remembered the scene of the preceding morning, and again believed himself surrounded by banditti; then, looking back to the tranquillity of his early life, he felt scarcely less astonishment, than grief, at his present situation. The scene, in which they sat, assisted the illusion; it was an antient hall, gloomy from the style of its architecture, from its great extent, and because almost the only light it received was from one large gothic window, and from a pair of folding doors, which, being open, admitted likewise a view of the west rampart, with the wild mountains of the Apennine beyond.

During dinner, the conversation was chiefly on war and politics. They talked with energy of the state of Venice, its dangers, the character of the reigning Doge and of the chief senators; and then spoke of the state of Rome. When the repast was over, they rose, and, each filling his goblet with wine from the gilded ewer, that stood beside him, drank 'Success to our exploits!' Moriarty was lifting his goblet to his lips to drink this toast, when suddenly the wine hissed, rose to the brim, and, as he held the glass from him, it burst into a thousand pieces.

To him, who constantly used that sort of Venice glass, which had the quality of breaking, upon receiving poisoned liquor, a suspicion, that some of his guests had endeavoured to betray him, instantly occurred, and he ordered all the gates to be closed, drew his sword, and, looking round on them, who stood in silent amazement, exclaimed, 'Here is a traitor among us; let those, that are innocent, assist in discovering the guilty.'

Indignation flashed from the eyes of the cavaliers, who all drew their swords; and Mycroft, terrified at what might ensue, was hastening from the hall, when his husband commanded him to stay; but his further words could not now be distinguished, for the voice of every person rose together. His order, that all the servants should appear, was at length obeyed, and they declared their ignorance of any deceit—a protestation which could not be believed; for it was evident, that, as Moriarty's liquor, and his only, had been poisoned, a deliberate design had been formed against his life, which could not have been carried so far towards its accomplishment, without the connivance of the servant, who had the care of the wine ewers.

This man, with another, whose face betrayed either the consciousness of guilt, or the fear of punishment, Moriarty ordered to be chained instantly, and confined in a strong room, which had formerly been used as a prison. Thither, likewise, he would have sent all his guests, had he not foreseen the consequence of so bold and unjustifiable a proceeding. As to those, therefore, he contented himself with swearing, that no man should pass the gates, till this extraordinary affair had been investigated, and then sternly bade his husband retire to his apartment, whither he sent Sherlock also.

In about half an hour, he followed to the dressing-room; and Sherlock observed, with horror, his dark countenance and quivering lip, and heard him denounce vengeance on his brother.

'It will avail you nothing,' said Moriarty to his husband, 'to deny the fact; I have proof of your guilt. Your only chance of mercy rests on a full confession;—there is nothing to hope from sullenness, or falsehood; your accomplice has confessed all.'

Sherlock's spirits were roused by astonishment, as he heard his brother accused of the crime. Meanwhile Mycroft’s agitation did not permit him to reply; alternately his complexion varied from livid paleness to a crimson flush; and he trembled,—but, whether with fear, or with indignation, it were difficult to decide.

'Spare your words,' said Moriarty, seeing him about to speak, 'your countenance makes full confession of your crime.—You shall be instantly removed to the east turret.'

'This accusation,' said Mycroft, speaking with difficulty, 'is used only as an excuse for your cruelty; I disdain to reply to it. You do not believe me guilty.'

Whether Moriarty was hardened by a conviction of Mycroft’s guilt, or that a bare suspicion of it made him eager to exercise vengeance, he was totally and alike insensible to the distress of his husband, and to the shocked looks of Sherlock, and was vehemently menacing both, when he was called out of the room by some person at the door. As he shut the door, Sherlock heard him turn the lock and take out the key; so that he and his brother were now prisoners; and he saw that Moriarty’s designs became more and more terrible.

Sherlock, again looked round, in search of a possibility of escape from the castle, and conversed with Mycroft on the subject, who was now willing to encounter any hazard, though Sherlock forbore to encourage a hope in his brother, which he himself did not admit. How strongly the edifice was secured, and how vigilantly guarded, he knew too well; and trembled to commit their safety to the caprice of the servant, whose assistance they must solicit. Old Carlo was compassionate, but he seemed to be too much in his master's interest to be trusted by them; Molly could of herself do little, and Sherlock knew Hopkins only from her report. At present, however, these considerations were useless, Mycroft and Sherlock both being shut up from all intercourse, even with the persons, whom there might be these reasons to reject.

In the hall, confusion and tumult still reigned. Sherlock, as he listened anxiously to the murmur, that sounded along the gallery, sometimes fancied he heard the clashing of swords, and, when he considered the nature of the provocation, given by Moriarty, and his impetuosity, it appeared probable, that nothing less than arms would terminate the contention. Mycroft, having exhausted all expressions of indignation, remained silent, in that kind of breathless stillness, which, in nature, often succeeds to the uproar of conflicting elements; a stillness, like the morning, that dawns upon the ruins of an earthquake.

An uncertain kind of terror pervaded Sherlock's mind; the circumstances of the past hour still came dimly and confusedly to his memory; and his thoughts were various and rapid, without decisive conclusions.

From this state he was recalled by a knocking at the chamber-door, and, enquiring who was there, heard the whispering voice of Molly.

'Dear sir, let me come in, I have a great deal to say,' said the poor girl.

'The door is locked,' answered Myscroft.

'Yes, sir, but do pray open it.'

'The Signor has the key,' Mycroft replied.

'O blessed Virgin! what will become of us?' exclaimed Molly.

'Assist us to escape,' said Mycroft. 'Where is Hopkins?'

'Below in the hall, ma'am, amongst them all, fighting with the rest of them!'

'Fighting! Who are fighting?'

'Why the Signor, sir, and all the Signors, and a great many more —there they lie bleeding, and the swords are clashing, and—O holy saints! Do let me in, they are coming this way—I shall be murdered!'

'Fly!' cried Sherlock, 'fly! we cannot open the door.'

Molly repeated, that they were coming, and in the same moment fled.

'Be calm, sir,' said Sherlock, turning to his brother, 'I entreat you to be calm, I am not frightened—not frightened in the least, do not you be alarmed.'

'You are a terrible liar,' replied his brother.  'Merciful God! what is it they mean to do with us?'

Sherlock was silent, unable to form a reply.

'They are coming!' cried Mycroft—'I hear their steps—they are at the door!'

Sherlock turned his eyes to the door, but terror deprived him of utterance. The key sounded in the lock; the door opened, and Moriarty appeared, followed by three ruffian-like men. 'Execute your orders,' said he, turning to them, and pointing to his husband, who shrieked, but was immediately carried from the room; while Sherlock was restrained by one, who roughly threw Sherlock towards the couch, where he struck his head once more upon the furniture and was senseless for a time. When he recovered, he was alone, and looked wildly round the apartment, as if in search of some means of intelligence, concerning his brother, while neither his own danger, nor an idea of escaping from the room, immediately occurred.

When his recovery was more complete, he raised himself and went, but with only a faint hope, to examine whether the door was unfastened. It was so, and he then stepped cautiously out into the gallery, but paused there, uncertain which way he should proceed. His first wish was to gather some information, as to his brother, and more broadly to the state of the fighting within the castle, and Sherlock, at length, turned his steps to go to the lesser hall, where Molly and the other servants usually waited.

Every where, as he passed, he heard, from a distance, the uproar of contention, and the figures and faces, which he met, hurrying along the passages, struck his mind with dismay. At length, he reached the lesser hall, which was silent and deserted. The total stillness of this place was as awful as the tumult, from which he had escaped: but he had now time to recall his scattered thoughts, to remember his personal danger, and to consider of some means of safety. He perceived, that it was useless to seek Mycroft, through the wide extent and intricacies of the castle, now, too, when every avenue seemed to be beset by ruffians; in this hall he could not resolve to stay, for he knew not how soon it might become their place of rendezvous; and, though he wished to go to his chamber, he dreaded again to encounter them on the way.

Thus he sat, wiping the blood from his eyes, dript there from the wound on his forehead, when a distant murmur broke on the silence, and grew louder and louder, till he distinguished voices and steps approaching. Sherlock then rose to go, but the sounds came along the only passage, by which he could depart, and he was compelled to await in the hall, the arrival of the persons, whose steps he heard. As these advanced, he distinguished groans, and then saw a man borne slowly along by four others. The bearers, being too busily occupied to detain, or even notice Sherlock, so he made his escape.

Towards his chamber he now hastened, as fast as his steps would bear him, for he still perceived the sounds of confusion at a distance, and he endeavoured, by taking his way through some obscure rooms, to avoid encountering the persons, whose looks had terrified him before, as well as those parts of the castle, where the tumult might still rage.

At length, he reached his chamber, and, having secured the door of the corridor, felt himself, for a moment, in safety. A profound stillness reigned in this remote apartment, which not even the faint murmur of the most distant sounds now reached. He gathered his dog to him and sat down near one of the casements, and, as he gazed on the mountain-view beyond, the deep repose of its beauty struck him with all the force of contrast, and he could scarcely believe herself so near a scene of savage discord. The contending elements seemed to have retired from their natural spheres, and to have collected themselves into the minds of men, for there alone the tempest now reigned.

Sherlock tried to tranquillize his spirits, but anxiety made him constantly listen for some sound, and often look out upon the ramparts, where all, however, was lonely and still. As a sense of his own immediate danger had decreased, his apprehension concerning Mycroft heightened, who, he remembered, had been fiercely threatened with confinement in the east turret, and it was possible, that his husband had satisfied his present vengeance with this punishment. Sherlock, therefore, determined, when night should return, and the inhabitants of the castle should be asleep, to explore the way to the turret, which, as the direction it stood in was mentioned, appeared not very difficult to be done. He knew, indeed, that although his brother might be there, there was little possibility of affording him effectual assistance, but it might give Mycroft some comfort even to know, that he was discovered; for himself, any certainty, concerning his brother’s fate, appeared more tolerable, than this exhausting suspense.

Meanwhile, Molly did not appear, and Sherlock was surprised, and somewhat alarmed for her, whom, and it was improbable, that she would have failed to come to her apartment, unless something unfortunate had happened.

Thus the hours passed in solitude, in silence, and in anxious conjecturing. Being not once disturbed by a message, or a sound, it appeared, that Moriarty had wholly forgotten him, and it gave him some comfort to find, that he could be so unnoticed. Molly did not appear; Sherlock was alarmed for her, to whom in the confusion of the late scene, various accidents might have befallen. Sherlock endeavoured to withdraw his thoughts from the anxiety, that preyed upon them, but they refused controul; he could neither read, or draw, and the tones of the violin were so utterly discordant with the present state of his feelings, that he could not endure them for a moment.

The sun, at length, set behind the western mountains; his fiery beams faded from the clouds, and then a dun melancholy purple drew over them, and gradually involved the features of the country below. Soon after, the sentinels passed on the rampart to commence the watch.

Twilight had now spread its gloom over every object; the dismal obscurity of his chamber recalled fearful thoughts, but he remembered, that to procure a light he must pass through a great extent of the castle, and, above all, through the halls, where he had already experienced so much horror. Darkness, indeed, in the present state of his spirits, made silence and solitude terrible; it would also prevent the possibility of his finding the way to the turret, and condemn him to remain in suspense, concerning the fate of his brother.

Continuing at the casement, that he might catch the last lingering gleam of evening, a thousand vague images of fear floated on his fancy. 'What if some of these ruffians,' said he, 'should find out the private stair-case, and in the darkness of night steal into my chamber!' Then, recollecting the mysterious inhabitant of the neighbouring apartment, his terror changed its object. 'He is not a prisoner, though he remains in one chamber, for Moriarty did not fasten the door, when he left it; the unknown person himself did this; it is certain, therefore, he can come out when he pleases.'

Sherlock paused, for, notwithstanding the terrors of darkness, he considered it to be very improbable, whoever he was, that he could have any interest in intruding upon Sherlock; and again the subject of his emotion changed, when, remembering her nearness to the chamber, where the veil had formerly disclosed a dreadful spectacle, he doubted whether some passage might not communicate between it and the insecure door of the stair-case.

It was now entirely dark, and Sherlock left the casement. As he sat with his eyes fixed on the hearth, he thought he perceived there a spark of light; it twinkled and disappeared, and then again was visible. At length, with much care, he fanned the embers of a wood fire, that had been lighted in the morning, into flame, and, having communicated it to a lamp, which always stood in the room, felt a satisfaction not to be conceived. His first care was to guard the door of the stair-case, for which purpose he placed against it all the furniture he could move, and he was thus employed, for some time.

Thus heavily moved the hours till midnight, when he counted the sullen notes of the great clock, as they rolled along the rampart, unmingled with any sound, except the distant foot-fall of a sentinel, who came to relieve guard. Sherlock now thought he might venture towards the turret, and, having gently opened the chamber door to examine the corridor, and to listen if any person was stirring in the castle, found all around in perfect stillness. Yet no sooner had he left the room, than he perceived a light flash on the walls of the corridor, and, without waiting to see by whom it was carried, he shrunk back, and closed the door. No one approaching, he conjectured, that it was Moriarty going to pay his mid-night visit to her unknown neighbour, and he determined to wait, till he should have retired to his own apartment.

When the chimes had tolled another half hour, he once more opened the door, and, perceiving that no person was in the corridor, hastily crossed into a passage, that led along the south side of the castle towards the stair-case, whence he believed he could easily find her way to the turret. Often pausing on the way, listening apprehensively to the murmurs of the wind, and looking fearfully onward into the gloom of the long passages, he, at length, reached the stair-case; but there more perplexity began. Two passages appeared, of which he could not deduce the correct way, and was compelled, at last, to decide by chance. That he entered, opened first into a wide gallery, along which he passed lightly and swiftly; for the lonely aspect of the place awed him, and he started at the echo of her own steps.

On a sudden, he thought he heard a voice, and, not distinguishing from whence it came, hesitated to proceed, or to return. For some moments, he stood in an attitude of listening expectation, scarcely daring to look round. The voice came again, and Sherlock thought, however, that it was the voice of complaint, and his belief was soon confirmed by a low moaning sound, that seemed to proceed from one of the chambers, opening into the gallery. It instantly occurred to her, that Mycroft might be there confined, and he advanced to the door to speak, but was checked by considering, that he was, perhaps, going to commit himself to a stranger, who might discover him to Moriarty; for, though this person, whoever it was, seemed to be in affliction, it did not follow, that he was a prisoner.

While these thoughts passed over his mind, and left him still in hesitation, the voice spoke again, and, calling 'Hopkins,' he then perceived it to be that of Molly; on which, no longer hesitating, he went in haste to answer her.

'Hopkins!' cried Molly, sobbing—'Hopkins!'

'It is not Hopkins, it is I, Sherlock.'

Molly ceased sobbing, and was silent.

'If you can open the door, let me in,' said Sherlock, 'here is no person to hurt you.'

'Hopkins!—O, Hopkins!' cried Molly.

Sherlock now lost his patience, and his fear of being overheard increasing, he was even nearly about to leave the door, when he considered, that Molly might, possibly, know something of the situation of Mycroft, or direct him to the turret. At length, he obtained a reply, though little satisfactory, to his questions, for Molly knew nothing of his brother, and only conjured Sherlock to tell her what was become of Hopkins. Of Hopkins he had no information to give, and again asked who had shut Molly up.

'Hopkins,' said the poor girl, 'Hopkins shut me up. When I ran away from the dressing-room door to-day, I went I scarcely knew where, for safety; and, in this gallery, here, I met Hopkins, who hurried me into this chamber, and locked me up to keep me out of harm, as she said. But she was in such a hurry, she hardly spoke ten words, but she told me she would come, and let me out, when all was quiet, and she took away the key with him. Now all these hours are passed, and I have neither seen, or heard a word of her; they have murdered her—I know they have!'

Sherlock suddenly remembered the wounded person, whom he had seen borne into the servants' hall, and scarcely doubted, that it was Hopkins, but he concealed the circumstance from Molly, and endeavoured to comfort her. Then, impatient to be on his way, he again enquired the way to the turret.

'O! you are not going, sir,' said Molly, 'for Heaven's sake, do not go, and leave me here by myself.'

'Nay, Molly, you do not think I can wait in the gallery all night,' replied Sherlock. 'Direct me to the turret; in the morning I will endeavour to release you.'

'O holy Sebastian!' exclaimed Molly, 'am I to stay here by myself all night! I shall be frightened out of my senses, and I shall die of hunger; I have had nothing to eat since dinner!'

Sherlock could scarcely forbear smiling at the various distresses of Molly, though he sincerely pitied them, and said what he could to sooth her. At length, he obtained something like a direction to the east turret, and quitted the door, from whence, after many intricacies and perplexities, he reached the steep and winding stairs of the turret, at the foot of which he stopped to rest, and to re-animate his courage with a sense of her duty. As he surveyed this dismal place, he perceived a door on the opposite side of the stair-case, and, anxious to know whether it would lead him to Mycroft, he tried to undraw the bolts, which fastened it. A fresher air came to his face, as he unclosed the door, which opened upon the east rampart, and the sudden current had nearly extinguished the light, which he now removed to a distance; and again, looking out upon the obscure terrace, perceived only the faint outline of the walls and of some towers, while, above, heavy clouds, borne along the wind, seemed to mingle with the stars, and wrap the night in thicker darkness. As he gazed, now willing to defer the moment of certainty, from which he expected only confirmation of evil, a distant footstep reminded him, that he might be observed by the men on watch, and, hastily closing the door, he took her lamp, and passed up the stair-case. To his melancholy fancy this seemed to be a place of death, and the chilling silence, that reigned, confirmed its character. His spirits faltered. 'Perhaps,' said he, 'I am come hither only to learn a dreadful truth, or to witness some horrible spectacle; I feel that my senses would not survive such an addition of horror.'

The image of his brother murdered—murdered, perhaps, by the hand of Moriarty, rose to his mind; he trembled, gasped for breath, clutched at the wound on his head. But, after he had paused a few minutes, the consciousness of duty returned, and he went on. Still all was silent. At length a track of blood, upon a stair, caught his eye; and instantly he perceived, that the wall and several other steps were stained. He paused, again struggled to support himself, and the lamp almost fell from his trembling hand. Still no sound was heard, no living being seemed to inhabit the turret; a thousand times he wished herself again in his chamber; dreaded to enquire farther—dreaded to encounter some horrible spectacle, and yet could not resolve, now that he was so near the termination of his efforts, to desist from them. Having again collected courage to proceed, after ascending about half way up the turret, he came to another door, but here again he stopped in hesitation; listened for sounds within, and then, summoning all his resolution, unclosed it, and entered a chamber, which, as the lamp shot its feeble rays through the darkness, seemed to exhibit only dew-stained and deserted walls. As he stood examining it, in fearful expectation of discovering Mycroft’s mortal remains, he perceived something lying in an obscure corner of the room, and, struck with an horrible conviction, he became, for an instant, motionless and nearly insensible. Then, with a kind of desperate resolution, he hurried towards the object that excited his terror, when, perceiving the clothes of some person, on the floor, he caught hold of them, and found in his grasp the old uniform of a soldier, beneath which appeared a heap of pikes and other arms! Scarcely daring to trust his sight, he continued, for some moments, to gaze on the object of her late alarm, and then left the chamber, so giddy from this incident, that he was going to descend the turret, without enquiring farther; when, on turning to do so, he observed upon some steps on the second flight an appearance of blood, and remembering, that there was yet another chamber to be explored, he again followed the windings of the ascent. Still, as he ascended, the track of blood glared upon the stairs.

It led Sherlock to the door of a landing-place, that terminated them, but he was unable to follow it farther. Now that he was so near the sought-for certainty, he dreaded to know it, even more than before, and had not fortitude sufficient to speak, or to attempt opening the door.

Having listened, in vain, for some sound, that might confirm, or destroy his fears, he, at length, laid his hand on the lock, and, finding it fastened, called on Mycroft; but only a chilling silence ensued.

'He is dead!' Sherlock muttered to himself,—'murdered!—his blood is on the stairs!'

Sherlock grew very faint; could support himself no longer, and had scarcely presence of mind to set down the lamp, and place himself on a step.

When his recollection returned, he spoke again at the door, and again attempted to open it, and, having lingered for some time, without receiving any answer, or hearing a sound, he descended the turret, and, with all the swiftness his feebleness would permit, sought his own apartment.

As he turned into the corridor, the door of a chamber opened, from whence Moriarty came forth; but Sherlock, more terrified than ever to behold him, shrunk back into the passage soon enough to escape being noticed, and heard him close the door, which he had perceived was the same he formerly observed. Having here listened to his departing steps, till their faint sound was lost in distance, he ventured to her apartment, and, securing it once again, leaving the lamp burning on the hearth. But sleep was fled from his exhausted and harassed mind, to which images of horror alone occurred. He endeavoured to think it possible, that Mycroft had not been taken to the turret; but, when he recollected the former menaces of his husband and the terrible spirit of vengeance, which he had displayed on a late occasion; when Sherlock remembered his general character, the looks of the men, who had forced Mycroft from the apartment, and the written traces on the stairs of the turret—she could not doubt, that his brother had been carried thither, and could scarcely hope, that he had not been carried to be murdered.

The grey of morning had long dawned through his casements, before Sherlock closed his eyes in exhausted slumber; when wearied nature, at length, yielded him a respite from suffering.

Chapter Text

 Who rears the bloody hand?

     SAYERS

Sherlock remained in his chamber, on the following morning, without receiving any notice from Moriarty, or seeing a human being, except the armed men, who sometimes passed on the terrace below. It was certain, from the absence of Molly, that some accident had befallen Hopkins, and that she was still in confinement; Sherlock, therefore, resolved also to visit the chamber, where he had spoken to her, on the preceding night, and, if the poor girl was yet there, to procure her liberty.

It was unnecessary to call Molly, whose lamentations were audible upon the first approach to the gallery, and who, bewailing her own and Hopkins's fate, told Sherlock, that she should certainly be starved to death, if she was not let out immediately. Sherlock replied, that he was going to beg her release of Carlo; but the terrors of hunger now yielded to those of Moriarty, and, when Sherlock left her, she was loudly entreating, that her place of refuge might be concealed from him.

As Sherlock drew near the great hall, the sounds he heard and the people met in the passages renewed his alarm. The latter, however, were peaceable, and did not interrupt him, though they looked earnestly at him, as he passed, and sometimes spoke. On crossing the hall towards the cedar room, where Moriarty usually sat, he perceived, on the pavement, fragments of swords, some tattered garments stained with blood, and almost expected to have seen among them a dead body; but from such a spectacle he was, at present, spared. As he approached the room, the sound of several voices issued from within, and a dread of appearing before many strangers, as well as of irritating Moriarty by such an intrusion, made him pause. The voices within were not in contention, though he distinguished those of several of the guests of the preceding day; when, as he turned from the door to search for a servant, it was suddenly opened by Moriarty himself.

All the terrors of Moriarty’s countenance unfolded themselves as he accused Sherlock of eavesdropping, of which he had not been guilty, and sternly questioned what he had overheard, Sherlock assured him he had not come thither with an intention to listen to his conversation, but to entreat his compassion for his brother, and for Molly. Moriarty seemed to doubt this assertion, for he regarded him with a scrutinizing look; and the doubt evidently arose from no trifling interest. He looked upon Sherlock only with a malignant smile, which instantaneously confirmed his worst deductions of his brother’s fate.

'For Molly,' said he,—'if you go to Carlo, he will release the girl; the foolish woman, who shut her up, died yesterday.' Sherlock shuddered.—'But my brother, Signor'—said he, 'O tell me of my brother!'

'He is taken care of,' replied Moriarty hastily, 'I have no time to answer idle questions.'

He went to pass on, but in the next moment, the sound of heavy gates of the portal opening was heard, and then the clattering of horses' hoofs in the court, with the confusion of many voices. Sherlock stood for a moment hesitating whether he should follow Moriarty, who, at the sound of the trumpet, had passed through the hall, and saw through the door, that opened beyond a long perspective of arches into the courts, a party of horsemen, whom he judged, as well as the distance would allow, to be the same he had seen depart, a few days before. But he staid not to scrutinize, for, when the trumpet sounded again, the chevaliers rushed out of the cedar room, and men came running into the hall from every quarter of the castle. Sherlock once more hurried for shelter to the hall’s balcony, and thence in pursuit of old Carlo, who he found bearing some fruit and wine for his master.

Sherlock renewed enquiries, concerning Mycroft, but Carlo had been employed at the other end of the castle, during the time, that he was removed, and he had heard nothing since, concerning the matter.

While he spoke, Sherlock looked steadily at him, for he scarcely knew whether he was really ignorant, or concealed his knowledge of the truth from a fear of offending his master. To several questions, concerning the contentions of yesterday, he gave very limited answers; but told, that the disputes were now amicably settled, and that the Signor believed himself to have been mistaken in his suspicions of his guests. 'The fighting was about that, sir,' said Carlo; 'but I trust I shall never see such another day in this castle, though strange things are about to be done.'

On Sherlock enquiring his meaning, 'Ah, Signor!' added he, 'it is not for me to betray secrets, or tell all I think, but time will tell.'

Sherlock then desired him to release Molly, and, having described the chamber in which the poor girl was confined, Carlo promised to do so immediately, and was departing, when he remembered to ask who were the persons just arrived. His late conjecture was right; it was Verezzi, with his party.

An hour passed before Molly appeared at Sherlock’s chamber, who then came weeping and sobbing. 'O Hopkins—Hopkins!' cried she.

'My poor Molly!' said Sherlock, and made her sit down.

'Who could have foreseen this? O miserable, wretched, day—that ever I should live to see it!' and she continued to moan and lament, till Sherlock thought it necessary to check her excess of grief. 'We are continually losing dear friends by death,' said he, with a sigh, that came from his heart. Tears, alas! cannot recall the dead!'

Molly took the handkerchief from her face.

'You will meet Hopkins in a better world, I hope,' added Sherlock.

'Yes—yes—,' sobbed Molly, 'but I hope I shall meet her again in this—though she is so wounded!'

'Wounded!' exclaimed Sherlock, 'does she live?'

'Yes, but—but she has a terrible wound, and could not come to let me out. They thought her dead, at first, and she has not been rightly herself, till within this hour.'

'Well, Molly, I rejoice to hear she lives.'

'Lives! Holy Saints! why she will not die, surely!'

Sherlock said he hoped not, but this expression of hope Molly thought implied fear, and her own increased in proportion, as Sherlock endeavoured to encourage her.

Two following days passed in anxiety, unmarked by any occurrence, during which Sherlock obtained no information of Mycroft. On the evening of the second, staring at the dying embers of the fire as he idly plucked upon the violin, his mind became haunted by the most dismal images, such as his long anxiety, concerning his brother, suggested; and, unable to forget himself, for a moment, or to vanquish the phantoms, that tormented him, he went to one of the casements of the chamber, to breathe a freer air.

All without was silent and dark, unless that could be called light, which was only the faint glimmer of the stars, shewing imperfectly the outline of the mountains, the western towers of the castle and the ramparts below, where a solitary sentinel was pacing. What an image of repose did this scene present! The fierce and terrible passions, too, which so often agitated the inhabitants of this edifice, seemed now hushed in sleep;—those mysterious workings, that rouse the elements of man's nature into tempest—were calm. Sherlock's heart was not so.

The air refreshed him, and he continued at the casement, looking on the shadowy scene, over which the planets burned with a clear light, amid the deep blue aether, as they silently moved in their destined course. He remembered how often he had gazed on them with his dear father, how often he had pointed out their way in the heavens, and explained their laws; and these reflections led to others, which, in an almost equal degree, awakened Sherlock’s grief and astonishment.

They brought a retrospect of all the strange and mournful events; the terrible discoveries and suspicions which had taken root in his mind; which had occurred since he lived in peace with his parents. And to Sherlock, who had been so tenderly educated, so tenderly loved, who once knew only goodness and happiness—to him, the late events and his present situation—in a foreign land—in a remote castle—surrounded by vice and violence—seemed more like the visions of a distempered imagination, than the circumstances of truth.

While he raised wet eyes to heaven, he observed the same planet, which he had seen in Languedoc, on the night, preceding his father's death, rise above the eastern towers of the castle, while he remembered the conversation, which has passed, concerning the probable state of departed souls; remembered, also, the solemn music she had heard, and to which the tenderness of his spirits had, in spite of reason, given a superstitious meaning. He continued musing, when suddenly the notes of sweet music passed on the air. A superstitious dread stole over him; he stood listening, for some moments, in trembling expectation, and then endeavoured to re-collect his thoughts, and to reason himself into composure; but human reason cannot establish laws on subjects, lost in the obscurity of imagination, any more than the eye can ascertain the form of objects, that only glimmer through the dimness of night.

Sherlock’s surprise, on hearing such soothing and delicious sounds, was, at least, justifiable; for it was long—very long, since he had listened to any thing like melody. The fierce trumpet and the shrill fife of war were the only instruments he had heard, since his arrival at Musgrovio.

He of course tried to ascertain from what quarter the sounds proceeded, and thought they came from below; but whether from a room of the castle, or from the terrace, he could not with certainty judge. Fear and surprise now yielded to the enchantment of a strain, that floated on the silent night, with the most soft and melancholy sweetness. Suddenly, it seemed removed to a distance, trembled faintly, and then entirely ceased.

He continued to listen, sunk in that pleasing repose, which soft music leaves on the mind—but it came no more. Upon this strange circumstance his thoughts were long engaged, for strange it certainly was to hear music at midnight, when every inhabitant of the castle had long since retired to rest, and in a place, where nothing like harmony had been heard before, probably, for many years. Long-suffering had made his spirits peculiarly sensible to terror, and liable to be affected by the illusions of superstition.—It now seemed to Sherlock, as if his dead father had spoken to him in that strain, to inspire him with comfort and confidence, on the suspicions which had then occupied his mind. Yet reason told him, that this was a wild conjecture, and he was inclined to dismiss it; but, with the inconsistency so natural, when imagination guides the thoughts, he then wavered towards a belief as wild. He remembered the singular event, connected with the castle, which had given it into the possession of its present owner; and, when he considered the mysterious manner, in which its late possessor had disappeared, and that she had never since been heard of, Sherlock’s mind was impressed with an high degree of solemn awe; so that, though there appeared no clue to connect that event with the late music, he was inclined fancifully to think they had some relation to each other. At this conjecture, a sudden chillness ran through his frame; he looked with apprehension upon the duskiness of the chamber, and the dead silence, that prevailed therein.

At length, he left the casement, but his steps faltered, as he approached the bed, and he stopped and looked round. The single lamp, that burned in the spacious chamber, was expiring; for a moment, he shrunk from the darkness beyond; and then, ashamed of the weakness, which, however, he could not wholly conquer, went forward to the bed, where his mind did not soon know the soothings of sleep. Sherlock still mused on the late occurrence, and looked with anxiety to the next night, when, at the same hour, he determined to watch whether the music returned. 'If those sounds were human,' said he, 'I shall probably hear them again.'

Chapter Text

   Then, oh, you blessed ministers above,

 Keep me in patience; and, in ripen'd time,

 Unfold the evil which is here wrapt up

 In countenance.

     SHAKESPEARE

 

Molly came almost breathless to Sherlock's apartment in the morning. 'O sir!' said she, in broken sentences, 'what news I have to tell! I have found out who the prisoner is—but she was no prisoner, neither;—she that was shut up in the chamber I told you of. I must think her a ghost, forsooth!'

'Who was the prisoner?' enquired Sherlock, while his thoughts glanced back to the circumstance of the preceding night.

'You mistake, sir,' said Molly; 'she was not a prisoner, after all.'

'Who is the person, then?'

'Holy Saints!' rejoined Molly; 'How I was surprised! I met her just now, on the rampart below, there. I never was so surprised in my life! Ah! this is a strange place! I should never have done wondering, if I was to live here an hundred years. But, as I was saying, I met her just now on the rampart, and I was thinking of nobody less than of her.'

'This trifling is insupportable,' said Sherlock; 'prythee, Molly, do not torture my patience any longer.'

'Nay, sir, guess—guess who it was; it was somebody you know very well.'

In that moment it was apparent; ‘it is Signora Morstan, then’.

Molly was all amazement.  'Yes, Signora Morstan, herself, who caused that Venetian gentleman to be killed, and has been popping about from place to place, ever since, as I hear.'

'Interesting!' exclaimed Sherlock, considering this intelligence; 'and is SHE come to Musgrovio! She does well to endeavour to conceal herself.'

'Yes, sir, but if that was all, this desolate place would conceal her, without her shutting herself up in one room. Who would think of coming to look for him here? I am sure I should as soon think of going to look for any body in the other world.'

'There is some truth in that,' said Sherlock, who would now have concluded it was Morstan's music, which he had heard, on the preceding night, had he not known, that she had neither taste, or skill in the art. But, though he was unwilling to add to the number of Molly's surprises, by mentioning the subject of his own, she enquired, whether any person in the castle played on a musical instrument?

'O yes, sir! there is Benedetto plays the great drum to admiration; and then, there is Launcelot the trumpeter; nay, for that matter, Hopkins can play on the trumpet;—but she is ill now. I remember once'—

Sherlock interrupted her; 'Have you heard no other music since you came to the castle—none last night?'

'Why, did YOU hear any last night, sir?'

Sherlock evaded this question, by repeating his own.

'Why, no, ma'am,' replied Molly; 'I never heard any music here, I must say, but the drums and the trumpet; and, as for last night, I did nothing but dream I saw my late master's ghost.'

'Your LATE master's,' said Sherlock in a hasty voice; 'you have heard more, then. Tell me—tell me all, Molly, I entreat; tell me it at once.'

'Nay, sir, you know the worst already.'

'I know nothing,' said Sherlock.

'Yes, you do, sir; you know, that nobody knows any thing about Monsieur Mycroft; and it is plain, therefore, he is gone, the way of the first lady of the castle—nobody ever knew any thing about her.'

The remark of Molly had revived Sherlock's terrible suspicion, concerning Mycroft’s fate; and he resolved to make another effort to obtain certainty on this subject, by applying to Moriarty once more.

When Molly returned, a few hours after, she told Sherlock, that the porter of the castle wished very much to speak with him, for that he had something of importance to say. This message from the porter, when his first surprise was over, made Sherlock suspicious of some lurking danger, perhaps, because he had frequently remarked the unpleasant air and countenance of this man. He now hesitated, whether to speak with him, considering that perhaps this request was only a pretext to draw him into some danger.

'I will speak to him, Molly,' said he; 'desire him to come to the corridor immediately.'

Molly departed, and soon after returned.

'Barnardine, ma'amselle,' said she, 'dare not come to the corridor, lest he should be discovered, it is so far from his post; and he dare not even leave the gates for a moment now; but, if you will come to him at the portal, through some roundabout passages he told me of, without crossing the courts, he has that to tell, which will surprise you. But you must not come through the courts, lest the Signor should see you.'

Sherlock, now full of suspicion and neither approving these 'roundabout passage,' nor the other part of the request, now positively refused to go. 'Tell him,' said he, 'if he has any thing of consequence to impart, I will hear him in the corridor, whenever he has an opportunity of coming thither.'

Molly went to deliver this message, and was absent a considerable time. When she returned, 'It won't do, ma'amselle,' said she. 'Barnardine has been considering all this time what can be done, for it is as much as his place is worth to leave his post now. But, if you will come to the east rampart in the dusk of the evening, he can, perhaps, steal away, and tell you all he has to say.'

Sherlock was surprised and alarmed, at the secrecy which this man seemed to think so necessary, and hesitated whether to meet him, till, considering, that he might scarcely be in more danger from the meeting, resolved to go.

'Soon after sun-set,' said he, 'I will be at the end of the east rampart. Tell Barnardine,' he added, 'to be punctual to the time; for that I, also, may be observed by Signor Moriarty. Where is the Signor? I would speak with him.'

'He is in the cedar chamber, ma'am, counselling with the other Signors. He is going to give them a sort of treat to-day, to make up for what passed at the last, I suppose; the people are all very busy in the kitchen.'

Sherlock now enquired, if Moriarty expected any new guests? and Molly believed that he did not. 'Poor Hopkins!' added she, 'she would be as merry as the best of them, if she was well; but she may recover yet. Count Wilkes was wounded as bad, as he, and he is got well again, and is gone back to Venice.'

'Is he so?' said Sherlock, 'when did you hear this?'

'I heard it, last night, monsieur, but I forgot to tell it.'

Sherlock asked some further questions, and then, desiring Molly would deliver this message to Barnardine, he was left alone again. His thoughts dwelt often on the message of the porter, and were employed in conjecturing the subject, that occasioned it, which he sometimes imagined concerned the fate of Monsieur Mycroft; at others, that it related to some personal danger, which threatened himself. The cautious secrecy which Barnardine observed in his conduct, inclined him to believe the latter.

As the hour of appointment drew near, his impatience increased. At length, the sun set; Sherlock descended out on to the first terrace, where the sentinels demanded who passed; and having answered, walked on to the east rampart, at the entrance of which he was again stopped; and, having again replied, was permitted to proceed. He stepped hastily on in search of Barnardine. He was not yet come. Sherlock leaned pensively on the wall of the rampart, and waited for the porter. The gloom of twilight sat deep on the surrounding objects, blending in soft confusion the valley, the mountains, and the woods, whose tall heads, stirred by the evening breeze, gave the only sounds, that stole on silence, except a faint, faint carousing of distant voices, that arose from within the castle.

'Good God!' thought Sherlock, 'can Moriarty’s heart be so light, when he has made another being so wretched; if, indeed, my brother is yet alive to feel his wretchedness?'

He looked up, with a sensation of horror, to the east turret, near which he then stood; a light glimmered through the grates of the lower chamber, but those of the upper one were dark. Presently, he perceived a person moving with a lamp across the lower room; but this circumstance revived no hope, concerning Mycroft, whom he had vainly sought in that apartment, which had appeared to contain only soldiers' accoutrements. Sherlock, however, determined to attempt the outer door of the turret, as soon as Barnardine should withdraw; and, if it was unfastened, to make another effort to discover his brother.

The moments passed, but still Barnardine did not appear; and Sherlock, becoming uneasy, hesitated whether to wait any longer. It was now almost dark, and a melancholy streak of red, that still lingered in the west, was the only vestige of departed day. The strong interest, however, which Barnardine's message had awakened, overcame other apprehensions, and still detained him.

While he was conjecturing what could thus occasion his absence, he heard a key turn in the lock of the gate near them, and presently saw a man advancing. It was Barnardine, of whom Sherlock hastily enquired what he had to communicate, and desired, that he would tell it quickly.

He was silent a moment, as if considering, and then said,—

'That which would cost me my place, at least, if it came to the Signor's ears. You must promise, young sir, that nothing shall ever make you tell a syllable of the matter; I have been trusted in this affair, and, if it was known, that I betrayed my trust, my life, perhaps, might answer it. But I was concerned for you, and I resolved to tell you.' He paused.—

Sherlock thanked him, assured him that he might be assured of his discretion, and entreated him to dispatch.

'I can tell you,' said Barnardine, and paused.—

Sherlock looked expressively at his informant.

'I CAN tell you,' resumed Barnardine,—'but'—

'But what?' exclaimed Sherlock, becoming exasperated.

'I CAN tell you,' repeated the porter,—'but I know not how—you was afflicted before.'—

'I am prepared for the worst, my friend,' said Sherlock, in a firm and solemn voice. 'I can support any certainty better than this suspense.'

'Well, if that is the case, you shall hear.—You know, I suppose, that the Signor and his husband used sometimes to disagree. It is none of my concerns to enquire what it was about, but I believe you know it was so.'

'Well,' said Sherlock, 'proceed.'

'The Signor, it seems, had lately been very wrath against Monsieur Mycroft. I saw all, and heard all,—a great deal more than people thought for; but it was none of my business, so I said nothing. A few days ago, the Signor sent for me. "Barnardine," says he, "you are—an honest man, I think I can trust you." I assured his excellenza that he could. "Then," says he, as near as I can remember, "I have an affair in hand, which I want you to assist me in."—Then he told me what I was to do; but that I shall say nothing about—it concerned only the Monsieur.'

'O Heavens!' exclaimed Sherlock—'what have you done?'

Barnardine hesitated, and was silent.

'What fiend could tempt him, or you, to such an act!' cried Sherlock, chilled with horror.

'It was a fiend,' said Barnardine in a gloomy tone of voice. They were now both silent;—Sherlock had not courage to enquire further, and Barnardine seemed to shrink from telling more. At length he said, 'It is of no use to think of the past; the Signor was cruel enough, but he would be obeyed. What signified my refusing? He would have found others, who had no scruples.'

'You have murdered my brother, then!' said Sherlock, in a hollow and inward voice—'I am talking with a murderer!' Barnardine stood silent; while Sherlock turned from him, and attempted to leave the place.

'Stay, young man!' said he, 'You deserve to think so still—since you can believe me capable of such a deed.'

'If you are innocent, tell me quickly,' demanded Sherlock.

'I will tell you no more,' said he, and walked away. Sherlock scare knew how to support himself and began walking slowly up the rampart, till he heard steps behind him. It was Barnardine again.

'Stay,' said he, 'and I will tell you more.'

'Speak then,' said Sherlock; 'what you have to say, I will hear.'

'Monsieur Mycroft is alive,' said he, 'for me. He is my prisoner, though; his excellenza has shut him up in the chamber over the great gates of the court, and I have the charge of him. I was going to have told you, you might see him—but now—'

Sherlock, relieved from an unutterable load of anguish by this speech, had now only to ask that he would let him visit his brother.

Barndardine complied with less reluctance, than he expected, and told him, that, if he would repair, on the following night, when the Signor was retired to rest, to the postern-gate of the castle, he should, perhaps, see Monsieur Mycroft.

Amid all the thankfulness, which Sherlock felt for this concession, he thought he observed a malicious triumph in the porter’s manner, when he pronounced the last words; but, in the next moment, he assured him that he would be punctual to the appointment, Sherlock bade him good night, and retired, unobserved, to his chamber. Seated on the bed, he reflected that his brother was yet the prisoner of a man, to whose vengeance, or avarice, he might fall a sacrifice; and, when he further considered the savage aspect of the person, who was appointed to guard Mycroft, his doom appeared to be already sealed, for the countenance of Barnardine, he had deduced, certainly bore the stamp of a murderer. These reflections brought to his remembrance the tone of voice, in which Barnardine had promised to grant the request to see his prisoner; and Sherlock mused upon it long in uneasiness and doubt. It struck him, that Mycroft might be already murdered, and that this ruffian was appointed to decoy Sherlock to some secret place, where his life also was to be sacrificed to the avarice of Moriarty, who then would claim securely the contested estates in Languedoc. From these subjects, his thoughts, at length, passed to others; and, as the evening advanced, he remembered, with somewhat more than surprise, the music he had heard, on the preceding night, and now awaited its return, with more than curiosity.

He distinguished, till a late hour, the distant carousals of Moriarty and his companions—the loud contest, the dissolute laugh and the choral song, that made the halls re-echo. At length, he heard the heavy gates of the castle shut for the night, and those sounds instantly sunk into a silence, which was disturbed only by the whispering steps of persons, passing through the galleries to their remote rooms. Sherlock now judging it to be about the time, when he had heard the music, on the preceding night, and gently opened the casement to watch for its return. The planet he had so particularly noticed, at the recurrence of the music, was not yet risen; but, with superstitious weakness, he kept his eyes fixed on that part of the hemisphere, where it would rise, almost expecting, that, when it appeared, the sounds would return. At length, it came, serenely bright, over the eastern towers of the castle. Every thing, however, remained still; he heard only the solitary step of a sentinel, and the lulling murmur of the woods below, and he again leaned from the casement, and again looked, as if for intelligence, to the planet, which was now risen high above the towers.

Sherlock continued to listen, but no music came. 'Those were surely no mortal sounds!' said he, recollecting their entrancing melody. 'No inhabitant of this castle could utter such; and, where is the feeling, that could modulate such exquisite expression? My dear father himself, once said, that, soon after my mother's death, as he lay watchful in grief, sounds of uncommon sweetness called him from his bed; and, on opening his window, he heard lofty music pass along the midnight air. It soothed him, he said; he looked up with confidence to heaven, and resigned her to his God.'

Sherlock paused to consider this recollection, which he lamented, was tinged with terrible superstition given rise from his father’s burnt letters. 'Perhaps,' resumed he, 'perhaps, those strains I heard were sent to comfort,—to encourage me! Never shall I forget those I heard, at this hour, in Languedoc! Perhaps, my father watches over me, at this moment!' Thus passed the hour in watchfulness and solemn thought; but no sounds returned; and, after remaining at the casement, till the light tint of dawn began to edge the mountain-tops and steal upon the night-shade, he reluctantly concluded, that they would not return.

 

---END OF VOLUME TWO---

Chapter Text

 I will advise you where to plant yourselves;

 Acquaint you with the perfect spy o' the time,

 The moment on 't; for 't must be done to-night.

     MACBETH

Sherlock was somewhat surprised, on the following day, to find that Molly had heard of Monsieur Mycroft's confinement in the chamber over the portal, as well as of his purposed visit there, on the approaching night. That the circumstance, which Barnardine had so solemnly enjoined him to conceal, he had himself told to so indiscreet an hearer as Molly, appeared very improbable, though he had now charged her with a message, concerning the intended interview. He requested, that Sherlock would meet him, unattended, on the terrace, at a little after midnight; a proposal, of which Sherlock immediately shrunk, for a thousand suspicions darted to his mind, such as had tormented him on the preceding night, and which he neither knew how to trust, or to dismiss. It frequently occurred to him, that Barnardine might have deceived him, concerning Mycroft, whose murderer, perhaps, he really was; and that he had deceived him by order of Moriarty, the more easily to draw him into some of the desperate designs of the latter. The terrible suspicion, that his brother no longer lived, thus came, accompanied by one not less dreadful for himself. Unless the crime, by which the brother had suffered, was instigated merely by resentment, unconnected with profit, a motive, upon which Moriarty did not appear very likely to act, its object must be unattained, till the younger brother was also dead, to whom Moriarty knew that his husband's estates must descend. Sherlock remembered the words, which had informed him, that the contested estates in France would devolve to him, if Mycroft died, without consigning them to his husband, and the former obstinate perseverance of his brother made it too probable, that he had, to the last, withheld them. At this instant, recollecting Barnardine's manner, on the preceding night, Sherlock now believed with certainty that it expressed malignant triumph. So Sherlock shrunk from the thought of meeting Barnardine, on the terrace, at midnight; and still the wish to be relieved from this terrible suspense, concerning his brother, made him hesitate what to do.

'Yet how is it possible, Molly, I can pass to the terrace at that hour?' said he, recollecting himself, 'the sentinels will stop me, and Signor Moriarty will hear of the affair.'

'O sir! that is well thought of,' replied Molly. 'That is what Barnardine told me about. He gave me this key, and bade me say it unlocks the door at the end of the vaulted gallery, that opens near the end of the east rampart, so that you need not pass any of the men on watch. He bade me say, too, that his reason for requesting you to come to the terrace was, because he could take you to the place you want to go to, without opening the great doors of the hall, which grate so heavily.'

Sherlock's spirits were somewhat calmed by this explanation, which seemed to be honestly given to Molly. 'But why did he desire I would come alone, Molly?' said he.

'Why that was what I asked him myself. Says I, Why is my young sir to come alone?—Surely I may come with him!—What harm can I do? But he said "No—no—I tell you not," in his gruff way. Then I went so far as to offer him a beautiful new sequin, that Hopkins gave me for a keep sake, and I would not have parted with it for all St. Marco's Place; but even that would not do! Now what can be the reason of this? But I know who you are going to see.'

'Pray did Barnardine tell you this?'

'He! No, sir, that he did not.'

Sherlock enquired who did, but Molly shewed, that she COULD keep a secret.

During the remainder of the day, Sherlock's mind was agitated with doubts and fears and contrary determinations, on the subject of meeting this Barnardine on the rampart, and submitting himself to his guidance, he scarcely knew whither. Pity for his brother and anxiety for himself alternately swayed his determination, and night came, before he had decided. He heard the castle clock strike eleven—twelve—and yet his mind wavered. The time, however, was now come, when he could hesitate no longer: and then the interest he felt for his brother overcame other considerations, and he descended from the chamber. The castle was perfectly still, and the great hall, where so lately he had witnessed a scene of dreadful contention, now returned only the whispering footsteps of Sherlock’s solitary figure gliding cautiously between the pillars. He reached, however, the vaulted gallery, without interruption, but unclosed its outer door with a trembling hand, and stepped out upon the dark terrace. Every thing was so still, that he feared, lest his own light steps should be heard by the distant sentinels, and he walked cautiously towards the spot, where he had before met Barnardine, listening for a sound, and looking onward through the gloom in search of him. At length, he was startled by a deep voice, that spoke nearby. After chiding him for not coming sooner, and saying, that he had been waiting nearly half an hour, Barnardine desired Sherlock, who made no reply, to follow him to the door, through which he had entered the terrace.

He then took up the torch, and led her along the passage, at the extremity of which he unlocked another door, whence they descended, a few steps, into a chapel, which, as Barnardine held up the torch, Sherlock observed to be in ruins, and he immediately recollected a former conversation of Molly, concerning it, with very unpleasant emotions. He looked with apprehension on the almost roofless walls, green with damps, and on the gothic points of the windows, where the ivy and the briony had long supplied the place of glass, and ran mantling among the broken capitals of some columns, that had once supported the roof. Barnardine stumbled over the broken pavement, and his voice, as he uttered a sudden oath, was returned in hollow echoes, that made it more terrific. Sherlock's heart sunk; but he still followed him, and he turned out of what had been the principal aisle of the chapel. 'Down these steps, sir,' said Barnardine, as he descended a flight, which appeared to lead into the vaults; but Sherlock paused on the top, and demanded, in the strongest tone he could muster, whither he was being conducted.

'To the portal,' said Barnardine.

'Cannot we go through the chapel to the portal?' said Sherlock.

'No, that leads to the inner court, which I don't choose to unlock. This way, and we shall reach the outer court presently.'

Sherlock still hesitated; fearing deception, but, since he had gone thus far, decided to proceed.

From the steps, they proceeded through a passage, adjoining the vaults, the walls of which were dropping with unwholesome dews, and the vapours, that crept along the ground, made the torch burn so dimly, that Sherlock expected every moment to see it extinguished, and Barnardine could scarcely find his way. As they advanced, these vapours thickened, and Barnardine, believing the torch was expiring, stopped for a moment to trim it. As he then rested against a pair of iron gates, that opened from the passage, Sherlock saw, by uncertain flashes of light, the vaults beyond, and, near him, heaps of earth, that seemed to surround an open grave. Such an object, in such a scene, would, at any time, have disturbed him; but now he was shocked by an instantaneous deduction, that this was the grave of his brother, and that the treacherous Barnardine was leading him to destruction. The obscure and terrible place, to which he had conducted him, seemed to justify the thought; it was a place suited for murder, a receptacle for the dead, where a deed of horror might be committed, and no vestige appear to proclaim it. Sherlock was so overwhelmed with terror, that, for a moment, he was unable to determine what conduct to pursue. He then considered, that it would be vain to attempt an escape from Barnardine, by flight, since the length and the intricacy of the way he had passed would soon enable him to be overtaken by the porter, who was better acquainted with the turnings, and who carried the only light. Sherlock feared equally to irritate him by a disclosure of his suspicions, which a refusal to accompany him further certainly would do; and, since he was already as much in his power as it was possible he could be, if he proceeded, he, at length, determined to suppress, as far as he could, the appearance of apprehension, and to follow silently whither he designed to lead. Pale with horror and anxiety, he now waited till Barnardine had trimmed the torch, and, as his sight glanced again upon the grave, he could not forbear enquiring, for whom it was prepared. Barnardine took his eyes from the torch, and fixed them upon Sherlock’s face without speaking. He repeated the question, but the man moved on; and Sherlock followed to a second flight of steps, having ascended which, a door delivered them into the first court of the castle. As they crossed it, the light shewed the high black walls around them, fringed with long grass and dank weeds, that found a scanty soil among the mouldering stones; the heavy buttresses, with, here and there, between them, a narrow grate, that admitted a freer circulation of air to the court, the massy iron gates, that led to the castle, whose clustering turrets appeared above, and, opposite, the huge towers and arch of the portal itself. In this scene the large, uncouth person of Barnardine, bearing the torch, formed a characteristic figure. This Barnardine was wrapt in a long dark cloak, which scarcely allowed the kind of half-boots, or sandals, that were laced upon his legs, to appear, and shewed only the point of a broad sword, which he usually wore, slung in a belt across his shoulders. On his head was a heavy flat velvet cap, somewhat resembling a turban, in which was a short feather; the visage beneath it shewed strong features, and a countenance furrowed with the lines of cunning and darkened by habitual discontent.

The view of the court, however, reanimated Sherlock, who, as he crossed silently towards the portal, began to hope, that his own fears, and not the treachery of Barnardine, had deceived her. He looked anxiously up at the first casement, that appeared above the lofty arch of the portcullis; but it was dark, and he enquired, whether it belonged to the chamber, where Monsieur Mycroft was confined. Barnardine, perhaps, did not hear the question, for he returned no answer; and they, soon after, entered the postern door of the gate-way, which brought them to the foot of a narrow stair-case, that wound up one of the towers.

'Up this stair-case the Monsieur lies,' said Barnardine.

'Lies!' repeated Sherlock faintly, as he began to ascend.

'He lies in the upper chamber,' said Barnardine.

As they passed up, the wind, which poured through the narrow cavities in the wall, made the torch flare, and it threw a stronger gleam upon the grim and sallow countenance of Barnardine, and discovered more fully the desolation of the place—the rough stone walls, the spiral stairs, black with age, and a suit of antient armour, with an iron visor, that hung upon the walls, and appeared a trophy of some former victory.

Having reached a landing-place, 'You may wait here, sir,' said he, applying a key to the door of a chamber, 'while I go up, and tell the Monsieur you are coming.'

'That ceremony is unnecessary,' replied Sherlock, 'my brother will rejoice to see me.'

'I am not so sure of that,' said Barnardine, propelling Sherlock to the room he had opened: 'Get in here, while I step up.'

Sherlock now was given a small lamp that Barnardine lit from his torch and directed into a large old chamber, and he closed the door. As he listened anxiously to his departing steps, he thought he descended, instead of ascending, the stairs; but the gusts of wind, that whistled round the portal, would not allow him to hear distinctly any other sound. Still, however, he listened, and, perceiving no step in the room above, where he had affirmed Mycroft to be, his anxiety increased, though he considered, that the thickness of the floor in this strong building might prevent any sound reaching him from the upper chamber. The next moment, in a pause of the wind, he distinguished Barnardine's step descending to the court, and then thought he heard his voice; but, the rising gust again overcoming other sounds, Sherlock, to be certain on this point, moved softly to the door, which, on attempting to open it, he discovered was fastened. All the horrid apprehensions, that had lately assailed him, returned at this instant with redoubled force, and no longer appeared like the exaggerations of a timid spirit, but seemed to have been sent to warn him of his doom. Sherlock now did not doubt, that Mycroft had been murdered, perhaps in this very chamber; or that he himself was brought hither for the same purpose. The countenance, the manners and the recollected words of Barnardine, when he had spoken of his brother, confirmed these fears.

Still he listened, but heard footsteps neither on the stairs, or in the room above; he thought, however, that he again distinguished Barnardine's voice below, and went to a grated window, that opened upon the court, to enquire further. Here, he plainly heard his hoarse accents, mingling with the blast, that swept by, but they were lost again so quickly, that their meaning could not be interpreted; and then the light of a torch, which seemed to issue from the portal below, flashed across the court, and the long shadow of a man, who was under the arch-way, appeared upon the pavement. Sherlock concluded it to be that of Barnardine; but other deep tones, which passed in the wind, soon was evidence that Barnardine was not alone, and that his companion was not a person very liable to pity.

Sherlock now held up the lamp to examine, if the chamber afforded a possibility of an escape. It was a spacious room, whose walls, wainscoted with rough oak, shewed no casement but the grated one, which Sherlock had left, and no other door than that, by which he had entered. The feeble rays of the lamp, however, did not allow him to see at once its full extent; he perceived no furniture, except, indeed, an iron chair, fastened in the centre of the chamber, immediately over which, depending on a chain from the ceiling, hung an iron ring. He gazed upon these with wonder and horror, next observing iron bars below, made for the purpose of confining the feet, and on the arms of the chair were rings of the same metal. As he continued to survey them, he concluded, that they were instruments of torture, and it struck him, that some poor wretch had once been fastened in this chair, and had there been starved to death. He was chilled by the thought; but, what was his agony, when, in the next moment, it occurred to him, that his brother might have been one of these victims, and that he might be the next! An acute pain seized his head, he was scarcely able to hold the lamp, and, looking round for support, was seating himself, unconsciously, in the iron chair itself; but suddenly perceiving where he was, he started from it in horror, and sprung towards a remote end of the room. Here again he looked round for a seat, and perceived only a dark curtain, which, descending from the ceiling to the floor, was drawn along the whole side of the chamber. Ill as he was, the appearance of this curtain struck him, and he paused to gaze upon it, in apprehension.

It seemed to conceal a recess of the chamber; he wished, yet dreaded, to lift it, and to discover what it veiled: twice he was withheld by a recollection of the terrible spectacle his daring hand had formerly unveiled in an apartment of the castle, till, suddenly conjecturing, that it concealed the body of his murdered brother, he seized it, in a fit of desperation, and drew it aside. Beyond, appeared a corpse, stretched on a kind of low couch, which was crimsoned with human blood, as was the floor beneath. The features, deformed by death, were ghastly and horrible, and more than one livid wound appeared in the face. Sherlock, bending over the body, gazed, for a moment, with an eager, frenzied eye; but, in the next, the lamp dropped from his hand, and he fell senseless at the foot of the couch.

When his senses returned, he found himself surrounded by men, among whom was Barnardine, who were lifting him from the floor, and then bore him along the chamber. He was sensible of what passed, but the extreme disorientation of his mind prevented him from making any effectual resistance. They carried him down the stair-case, by which he had ascended; when, having reached the arch-way, they stopped, and one of the men, taking the torch from Barnardine, opened a small door, that was cut in the great gate, and, as he stepped out upon the road, the light he bore shewed several men on horseback, in waiting. Whether it was the freshness of the air, that revived Sherlock, or that the objects he now saw roused the spirit of alarm, he suddenly shouted, and made an renewed effort to disengage himself from the grasp of the ruffians.

Barnardine, meanwhile, called loudly for the torch, while distant voices answered, and several persons approached, and, in the same instant, a light flashed upon the court of the castle. Again he vociferated for the torch, and the men hurried Sherlock through the gate. At a short distance, under the shelter of the castle walls, Sherlock perceived the fellow, who had taken the light from the porter, holding it to a man, busily employed in altering the saddle of a horse, round which were several horsemen, looking on, whose harsh features received the full glare of the torch; while the broken ground beneath them, the opposite walls, with the tufted shrubs, that overhung their summits, and an embattled watch-tower above, were reddened with the gleam, which, fading gradually away, left the remoter ramparts and the woods below to the obscurity of night.

'What do you waste time for, there?' said Barnardine with an oath, as he approached the horsemen. 'Dispatch—dispatch!'

'The saddle will be ready in a minute,' replied the man who was buckling it, at whom Barnardine now swore again, for his negligence, and Sherlock, calling for help, was hurried towards the horses, while the ruffians disputed on which to place him, the one so designed not being ready. At this moment a cluster of lights issued from the great gates, and Sherlock heard the shrill voice of Molly above those of several other persons, who advanced. In the same moment, he distinguished Moriarty and Douglas, followed by a number of ruffian-faced fellows, to whom he no longer looked with terror, but with hope, for, at this instant, he did not tremble at the thought of any dangers, that might await him within the castle, whence so lately, and so anxiously, he had wished to escape. Those, which threatened him from without, had engrossed all his apprehensions.

A short contest ensued between the parties, in which that of Moriarty, however, were presently victors, and the horsemen, perceiving that numbers were against them, and being, perhaps, not very warmly interested in the affair they had undertaken, galloped off, while Barnardine had run far enough to be lost in the darkness, and Sherlock was led back into the castle. As he re-passed the courts, the remembrance of what he had seen in the portal-chamber came, with all its horror, to his mind; and when, soon after, he heard the gate close, that shut him once more within the castle walls, and almost forgot the danger he had escaped, could scarcely think, that any thing less precious than liberty and peace was to be found beyond them.

Moriarty ordered Sherlock to await him in the cedar parlour, whither he soon followed, and then sternly questioned him on this mysterious affair. Though Sherlock now viewed him with horror, as the murderer of his brother, and scarcely knew what he said in reply to his impatient enquiries, his answers and manner convinced Moriarty, that Sherlock had not taken a voluntary part in the late scheme, and he dismissed Sherlock to question his servants, and discover those, who had been accomplices in it.

Sherlock had been some time in his apartment, before the tumult of his mind allowed him to reflect upon several of the past circumstances. Then, again, the dead form, which the curtain in the portal-chamber had disclosed, came to his fancy, and he uttered a groan, which terrified Molly the more, as Sherlock forbore to satisfy her curiosity, on the subject of it, for he feared to trust her with so fatal a secret, lest her indiscretion should call down the immediate vengeance of Moriarty.

Thus compelled to bear within his own mind the whole horror of the secret, that oppressed it, Sherlock’s reason seemed to totter under the intolerable weight. He often fixed a wild and vacant look on Molly, and, when she spoke, either did not hear her, or answered from the purpose. Long fits of abstraction succeeded; Molly spoke repeatedly, but her voice seemed not to make any impression on the sense of the long agitated Sherlock, who sat fixed and silent.

Terrified at this condition, Molly, at length, left the room, to inform Moriarty of it, who had just dismissed his servants, without having made any discoveries on the subject of his enquiry. The wild description, which this girl now gave of Sherlock, induced him to follow her immediately to the chamber.

At the sound of his voice, Sherlock turned his eyes, and a gleam of recollection seemed to shoot athwart his mind, for he immediately rose from the seat, and moved slowly to a remote part of the room. Moriarty spoke to him in accents somewhat softened from their usual harshness, but Sherlock regarded him with a kind of half curious, half terrified look, and answered only 'yes,' to whatever he said.

Of this disorder Molly could give no explanation, and Moriarty, having attempted, for some time, to persuade Sherlock to talk, retired, after ordering Molly to remain during the night, and to inform him, in the morning, of Sherlock’s condition.

When he was gone, Sherlock again came forward, and asked who it was, that had been there to disturb him. Molly said it was the Signor-Signor Moriarty. Sherlock repeated the name after her, several times, as if he did not recollect it, and then suddenly groaned, and relapsed into abstraction.

With some difficulty, Molly led him to the bed, which Sherlock examined with an eager, frenzied eye, before he lay down, and then, pointing, turned with shuddering emotion, to Molly, who, now more terrified, went towards the door, that she might bring one of the servants to pass the night with them; but Sherlock, observing her going, called her by name, and then in a soft and plaintive tone of voice, begged, that she, too, would not forsake him.—'For since my father died,' added he, sighing, 'every body forsakes me.'

'Your father, sir!' said Molly, 'he was dead before you knew me.'

'He was, indeed!' rejoined Sherlock, and tears began to steal upon his cheeks. He now wept silently and long, after which, becoming quite calm, he at length sunk to sleep. Molly, affectionate and loyal, lost in these moments all her former fears of remaining in the chamber, and watched alone by Sherlock, during the whole night.

Chapter Text

What worlds, or what vast regions, hold

 Th' immortal mind, that hath forsook

 Her mansion in this fleshly nook!

     IL PENSEROSO

Sherlock's mind was refreshed by sleep. On waking in the morning, he looked with surprise on Molly, who sat sleeping in a chair beside the bed, and then endeavoured to recollect himself; but the circumstances of the preceding night were swept from his memory, which seemed to retain no trace of what had passed, and he was still gazing with surprise on Molly, when the latter awoke.

'O dear sir! do you know me?' cried she.

'Know you! Certainly,' replied Sherlock, 'you are Molly; but why are you sitting by me thus?'

'O you have been very ill, sir,—very ill indeed! and I am sure I thought—'

'This is very strange!' said Sherlock, still trying to recollect the past.—'Perhaps I have deleted it?’ he said questioningly, looking at Molly.

‘What?’ gasped Molly. ‘Delete the memory of you being seized by ruffians!’

‘Good God!' Sherlock, suddenly clasping at his head—'surely it was nothing more than a dream!'

He fixed a terrified look upon Molly, who, intending to quiet him, said 'Yes, sir, it was more than a dream, but it is all over now.'

'My brother IS murdered, then!' said Sherlock in an inward voice, and shuddering instantaneously. Sherlock, recollecting the attempt that had been made to carry him off, asked if the contriver of it had been discovered. Molly replied, that he had not, though he might easily be guessed at; and then told Sherlock he might thank her for deliverance.  'I was determined to be even with Barnardine for refusing to tell me the secret, by finding it out myself; so I watched you, on the terrace, and, as soon as he had opened the door at the end, I stole out from the castle, to try to follow you; for, says I, I am sure no good can be planned, or why all this secrecy? So, sure enough, he had not bolted the door after him, and, when I opened it, I saw, by the glimmer of the torch, at the other end of the passage, which way you were going. I followed the light, at a distance, till you came to the vaults of the chapel, and there I was afraid to go further, for I had heard strange things about these vaults.’

‘But then, again, I was afraid to go back, all in darkness, by myself; so by the time Barnardine had trimmed the light, I had resolved to follow you, and I did so, till you came to the great court, and there I was afraid he would see me; so I stopped at the door again, and watched you across to the gates, and, when you was gone up the stairs, I whipt after. There, as I stood under the gate-way, I heard horses' feet without, and several men talking; and I heard them swearing at Barnardine for not bringing you out, and just then, he had like to have caught me, for he came down the stairs again, and I had hardly time to get out of his way. But I had heard enough of his secret now, and I determined to be even with him, and to save you, too, for I guessed it to be some new scheme of Count Wilkes. I ran into the castle, but I had hard work to find my way through the passage under the chapel! Luckily the Signor and Signor Douglas were up, so we had soon a train at our heels, sufficient to frighten that Barnardine and his rogues, all together.'

Molly ceased to speak, but Sherlock still appeared to listen. At length he said, suddenly, 'I think I will go to him myself;—where is he?'

Molly asked who was meant.

'Signor Moriarty,' replied Sherlock. 'I would speak with him;' and Molly, now remembering the order he had given, on the preceding night, respecting Sherlock’s condition, rose, and said she would seek him herself.

This honest girl's suspicions of Count Wilkes were perfectly just; Sherlock, too, when he thought on the scheme, had attributed it to him; and Moriarty, who had not a doubt on this subject, also, began to believe, that it was by the direction of Wilkes, that poison had formerly been mingled with his wine.

The professions of repentance, which Wilkes had made to Sherlock, under the anguish of his wound, was sincere at the moment he offered them; but he had mistaken the subject of his sorrow, for, while he thought he was condemning the cruelty of his late design, he was lamenting only the state of suffering, to which it had reduced him. As these sufferings abated, his former views revived, till, his health being re-established, he again found himself ready for enterprise and difficulty. The porter of the castle, who had served him, on a former occasion, willingly accepted a second bribe; and, so Wilkes publicly left the hamlet, whither he had been carried after the affray, and withdrew with his people to another at several miles distance. From thence, on a night agreed upon by Barnardine, who had discovered from the enquiries made by Molly, the most probable means of decoying Sherlock, the Count sent back his servants to the castle, while he awaited Sherlock’s arrival at the hamlet, with an intention of carrying him immediately to Venice. How this, his second scheme, was frustrated, has already appeared; but the violent, and various passions with which this lover was now agitated, on his return to that city, can only be imagined.

Molly having made her report to Moriarty of Sherlock's health and of his request to see him, Moriarty replied, that Sherlock might attend him in the cedar room, in about an hour. It was on the subject, that pressed so heavily on his mind, that Sherlock wished to speak to him, yet he did not distinctly know what good purpose this could answer, and sometimes he even recoiled in horror from the expectation of his presence. He wished, also, to petition, though he scarcely dared to believe the request would be granted, that he would permit him, since his brother was no more, to return to his native country.

While he waited for the appointed hour, a message was brought, importing, that Moriarty could not see him, till the next day. Molly said, she fancied the Chevaliers were going out to the wars again, for the court-yard was filled with horses, and she heard, that the rest of the party, who went out before, were expected at the castle. 'And I heard one of the soldiers, too,' added she, 'say to his comrade, that he would warrant they'd bring home a rare deal of booty.—So, thinks I, if the Signor can, with a safe conscience, send his people out a-robbing—why it is no business of mine. I only wish I was once safe out of this castle; and, if it had not been for poor Hopkins's sake, I would have let Count Wilkes's people run away with us both!'  Sherlock was silent, inattentive, absorbed in thought, and passed the whole of this day in a kind of solemn tranquillity, such as is often the result of faculties overstrained by suffering.

When night returned, Sherlock recollected the mysterious strains of music, that he had lately heard, in which he still felt some degree of interest, and of which he hoped to hear again the soothing sweetness. The influence of superstition now gained on the weakness of his long-harassed mind; he looked, with enthusiastic expectation, to the guardian spirit of his father, and determined to watch alone for the sounds to return. It was not yet, however, near the time when he had heard the music on a former night, and anxious to call off his thoughts from distressing subjects, he sat down with one of the few books, that he had brought from France; but his mind, refusing controul, became restless and agitated, and he went often to the casement to listen for a sound. Once, he thought he heard a voice, but then, every thing without the casement remaining still, he concluded, that his fancy had deceived.

Thus passed the time, till twelve o'clock, soon after which the distant sounds, that murmured through the castle, ceased, and sleep seemed to reign over all. Sherlock then seated himself at the casement, where he was soon recalled from the reverie, into which he sunk, by very unusual sounds, not of music, but like the low mourning of some person in distress. As he listened, he became convinced, that the former sound was more than imaginary. There were several rooms underneath, adjoining the rampart, which had been long shut up, and, as the sound probably rose from one of these, he leaned from the casement to observe, whether any light was visible there. The chambers, as far as he could perceive, were quite dark, but, at a little distance, on the rampart below, he thought he saw something moving.

Presently, it advanced along the rampart, towards his window, and Sherlock then distinguished something like a human form, but the silence, with which it moved, convinced him it was no sentinel. As it drew near, he hesitated whether to retire; a thrilling curiosity inclined him to stay, but a dread of he scarcely knew what warned him to withdraw.

While he paused, the figure came opposite to his casement, and was stationary. Everything remained quiet; he had not heard even a foot-fall; and the solemnity of this silence, with the mysterious form he saw, subdued his spirits, so that Sherlock was moving away from the casement, when, on a sudden, he observed the figure start away, and glide down the rampart, after which it was soon lost in the obscurity of night. Sherlock continued to gaze, for some time, on the way it had passed, and then retired within his chamber, musing on this strange circumstance, and scarcely doubting, that he had witnessed a supernatural appearance.

Looking again to the reason he had been instructed in his youth, Sherlock strove for some other explanation. Remembering what he had heard of the daring enterprises of Moriarty, it occurred to him, that he had just seen some unhappy person, who, having been plundered by his banditti, was brought hither a captive; and that the music he had formerly heard, came from him. Yet, if they had plundered him, it still appeared improbable, that they should have brought him to the castle, and it was also more consistent with the manners of banditti to murder those they rob, than to make them prisoners. But what, more than any other circumstance, contradicted the supposition, that it was a prisoner, was that it wandered on the terrace, without a guard: a consideration, which made him dismiss immediately his first surmise.

Afterwards, he was inclined to deduce, that Count Wilkes had obtained admittance into the castle; but he soon recollected the difficulties and dangers, that must have opposed such an enterprise, and that, if he had so far succeeded, to come alone and in silence to his casement at midnight was not the conduct he would have adopted, particularly since the private stair-case, communicating with his apartment, was known to him; neither would he have uttered the dismal sounds he had heard.

Another suggestion represented, that this might be some person, who had designs upon the castle; but the mournful sounds destroyed, also, that probability. Thus, enquiry only perplexed him. Who, or what, it could be that haunted this lonely hour, complaining in such doleful accents and in such sweet music (for he was still inclined to believe, that the former strains and the late appearance were connected,) he had no means of ascertaining.

He determined, however, to watch on the following night, when his doubts might, perhaps, be cleared up; and he at length resolved to address the figure, if it should appear again.

Chapter Text

 Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp,

 Oft seen in charnel-vaults and sepulchres,

 Lingering, and sitting, by a new-made grave.

     MILTON

On the following day, Moriarty sent a second excuse to Sherlock, who was surprised at the circumstance.  'His conscience tells him the purport of my visit, and he defers it, to avoid an explanation' thought Sherlock. 

Towards evening, the second part of the band, which had made the first excursion among the mountains, returned to the castle, where, as they entered the courts, Sherlock, in his remote chamber, heard their loud shouts and strains of exultation, like the orgies of furies over some horrid sacrifice. He even feared they were about to commit some barbarous deed; before making the more rational deduction that they were only exulting over the plunder they had brought with them. This circumstance still further confirmed him in the belief, that Moriarty had really commenced to be a captain of banditti, and meant to retrieve his broken fortunes by the plunder of travellers! Indeed, when Sherlock considered all the circumstances of his situation—in an armed, and almost inaccessible castle, retired far among the recesses of wild and solitary mountains, along whose distant skirts were scattered towns, and cities, whither wealthy travellers were continually passing—this appeared to be the situation of all others most suited for the success of schemes of rapine, and he was sure in the conjecture, that Moriarty was become a captain of robbers. His character also, unprincipled, dauntless, cruel and enterprising, seemed to fit him for the situation. Delighting in the tumult and in the struggles of life, he was equally a stranger to pity and to fear; his very courage was a sort of animal ferocity; not the noble impulse of a principle, such as inspirits the mind against the oppressor, in the cause of the oppressed; but a constitutional hardiness of nerve, that cannot feel, and that, therefore, cannot fear.

On the return of night, Sherlock resumed his station at the casement. There was now a moon; and, as it rose over the tufted woods, its yellow light served to shew the lonely terrace and the surrounding objects, more distinctly, than the twilight of the stars had done, and promised Sherlock to assist his observations, should the mysterious form return. On this subject, he again wavered in conjecture, and hesitated whether to speak to the figure.

'If this is a person who has designs upon the castle,' said he, 'my curiosity may prove fatal to me; yet the mysterious music, and the lamentations I heard, must surely have proceeded from him: if so, he cannot be an enemy.'

He then thought of his unfortunate brother, and, shuddering with grief and horror, the suggestions of imagination seized his mind with all the force of truth, and he believed, that the form he had seen was supernatural. He trembled, breathed with difficulty, an icy coldness touched his cheeks, and fears for a while overcame his judgment for a time, before he with difficulty calmed himself.

Thus the time passed, as he sat at his casement, awed by expectation, and by the gloom and stillness of midnight; for he saw obscurely in the moon-light only the mountains and woods, a cluster of towers, that formed the west angle of the castle, and the terrace below; and heard no sound, except, now and then, the lonely watch-word, passed by the sentinels on duty, and afterwards the steps of the men who came to relieve guard, whom he knew at a distance on the rampart by their pikes, that glittered in the moonbeam, and then, by the few short words, in which they hailed their fellows of the night. It was now very late, he was bored with watching, and began to doubt the reality of what he had seen on the preceding night; but he still lingered at the window, for his mind was too perturbed to admit of sleep. The moon shone with a clear lustre, that afforded a complete view of the terrace; but he saw only a solitary sentinel, pacing at one end of it; and, at length, tired with expectation, he withdrew.

The next day Sherlock was granted an audience with Moriarty. Sherlock called up all his fortitude to support the shock of his presence and the dreadful recollections it enforced. Moriarty was with several of his officers, in the cedar room; on observing whom Sherlock paused. He was beginning to go, when Moriarty's voice arrested him. 'These are my friends,' he said with a challenging look to Sherlock, 'whatever you would say, they may hear.'

Sherlock, without replying, turned from the rude gaze of the chevaliers, and Moriarty then followed him to the hall, whence he dragged him to a small room, of which he shut the door with violence. Sherlock then told him, that he wished to return to France, and came to beg, that he would permit him to do so— Moriarty looked surprised, and enquired for the motive of the request.  

'I can no longer remain here, sir,' said he, 'and I may be allowed to ask, by what right you detain me.'

'It is my will that you remain here,' said Moriarty, laying his hand on the door to go; 'let that suffice you.'

Sherlock, considering that he had no appeal from this will, forbore to dispute his right. 'While my brother lived, sir,' said he, 'my residence here was not improper; but now, that he is no more, I may surely be permitted to depart. My stay cannot benefit you, sir, and will only distress me.'

'Who told you, that Monsieur Mycroft was dead?' said Moriarty, with an inquisitive eye. Sherlock hesitated, for nobody had told him so, and he did not dare to avow the having seen that spectacle in the portal-chamber, which had compelled him to the belief.

'Who told you so?' he repeated, more sternly.

'Indeed! I know it too well,' replied Sherlock: 'spare me your taunts!'

'If you wish to see him' said Moriarty, 'you may; he lies in the east turret.'

Moriarty now left the room, without awaiting a reply, and returned to the cedar chamber, where such of the chevaliers as had not before seen Sherlock, began to rally him, on the discovery they had made; but Moriarty did not appear disposed to bear this mirth, and they changed the subject.

Sherlock, meanwhile, stunned by the last words of Moriarty, forgot, for the moment, his declaration, that he should continue in the castle, while he thought of his unfortunate brother, who, he had said, was laid in the east turret. In suffering the remains of his husband to lie thus long unburied, there appeared a degree of brutality more shocking than he had suspected even Moriarty could practise.

After a struggle, he determined to accept this permission to visit the turret, and to take a last look of his ill-fated brother.  When he saw the track of blood on the stair of the turret, which he had before observed, his spirits faltered, and he almost determined to proceed no further. The pause of a few moments restored his resolution, and he went on.

As he drew near the landing-place, upon which the upper chamber opened, he remembered, that the door was formerly fastened, and apprehended, that it might still be so. In this expectation, however, he was mistaken; for the door opened at once, into a dusky and silent chamber, round which he looked with apprehension, and then slowly advanced, when a hollow voice spoke. Sherlock, who was unable to speak, or to move from the spot, uttered no sound of terror. The voice spoke again; and, then, thinking that it resembled that of Monsieur Mycroft, Sherlock's spirits were instantly roused; he rushed towards a bed, that stood in a remote part of the room, and drew aside the curtains. Within, appeared a pale and emaciated face. He started back, then again advanced, shuddered as he took up the skeleton hand, that lay stretched upon the quilt; then let it drop, and then viewed the face with a long, unsettled gaze. It was that of Mycroft, though so changed by illness, that the resemblance of what it had been, could scarcely be traced in what it now appeared. He was still alive, and, raising heavy eyes, he turned them on his younger brother.

'Where have you been so long?' said he, in the same hollow tone, 'I thought you had forsaken me.'

'Do you indeed live,' said Sherlock, at length, 'or is this but a terrible apparition?' he received no answer, and again he took up the hand. 'This is substance,' he exclaimed, 'but it is cold—cold as marble!' He let it fall.

'I do live,' replied Mycroft, 'but—I feel that I am about to die.'

Moriarty, when he removed his husband to the turret under the improbable suspicion of having attempted his life, had ordered the men employed on the occasion, to observe a strict secrecy. To this he was influenced by a double motive. He meant to debar Mycroft from the comfort of Sherlock's visits, and to secure an opportunity of privately dispatching him, should any new circumstances occur to confirm the present suggestions of his suspecting mind. With his consciousness of the hatred he deserved, it was natural enough that he should at first led him to attribute to Mycroft the attempt that had been made upon his life; and, though there was no other reason to believe that he was concerned in that atrocious design, his suspicions remained; he continued to confine him in the turret, under a strict guard; and, without pity or remorse, had suffered his husband to lie, forlorn and neglected, under a raging fever, till it had reduced him to the present state.

The track of blood, which Sherlock had seen on the stairs, had flowed from the unbound wound of one of the men employed to carry Monsieur Mycroft, and which he had received in the late affray. At night these men, having contented themselves with securing the door of their prisoner's room, had retired from guard; and then it was, that Sherlock, at the time of his first enquiry, had found the turret so silent and deserted.

When he had attempted to open the door of the chamber, Mycroft was slipping out of consciousness, and this occasioned the silence, which had contributed to delude Sherlock into a belief, that his brother was no more; yet had his terror permitted him to persevere longer in the call, he would probably have awakened Mycroft, and have been spared much suffering. The spectacle in the portal-chamber, which afterwards confirmed Sherlock's horrible suspicion, was the corpse of a man, who had fallen in the affray, and the same which had been borne into the servants' hall, where he took refuge from the tumult. This man had lingered under his wounds for some days; and, soon after his death, his body had been removed on the couch, on which he died, for interment in the vault beneath the chapel, through which Sherlock and Barnardine had passed to the chamber.

Sherlock, after making sense of his jumble of thoughts, left his brother and sought Moriarty. ‘Your husband is now dying, sir,' said Sherlock, as soon as he saw him—'Your resentment, surely will not pursue him to the last moment! Suffer him to be removed from that forlorn room to his own apartment, and to have necessary comforts administered.'

'Of what service will that be, if he is dying?' said Moriarty, with apparent indifference.

'The service, at leave, of saving you, sir, from a few of those pangs of conscience you must suffer, when you shall be in the same situation,' said Sherlock, with imprudent indignation.

During this day, Sherlock did not again leave his brother, except to order the preparation of such little nourishing things as he judged necessary to sustain Mycroft, and which he received with quiet acquiescence, though he seemed sensible that they could not save him from approaching dissolution, and scarcely appeared to wish for life. Sherlock meanwhile watched over him with solicitude, no longer seeing his imperious brother in the poor object before him, but the child of his late beloved mother, in a situation that called for all the compassion and kindness he had learnt from that estimable woman.

Soon after midnight, having enjoined Molly to be wakeful, and to call him, should any change appear for the worse, Sherlock withdrew to his chamber. His spirits were more than usually depressed by the piteous condition of his brother, whose recovery he could not expect. To his own misfortunes he saw no end, inclosed as he was, in a remote castle, beyond the reach of any friends, had he possessed such, and beyond the pity even of strangers; while he knew himself to be in the power of a man capable of any action, which his interest, or his ambition, might suggest.

Occupied by melancholy reflections and by anticipations as sad, he did not retire to rest, but leaned thoughtfully on his open casement. The scene before him of woods and mountains, reposing in the moon-light, formed a regretted contrast with the state of his mind; but the lonely murmur of these woods, and the view of this sleeping landscape, gradually soothed his emotions, which found relief in quiet tears.

For some time he was lost to every thing. When he, at length, roused himself, he perceived, before him, on the terrace below, the figure he had formerly observed, which stood fixed and silent, immediately opposite to his casement. On perceiving it, he started back, and terror for some time overcame curiosity;—at length, he returned to the casement, and still the figure was before it, which he now compelled himself to observe, but was utterly unable to speak, as he had formerly intended. The moon shone with a clear light, and it was, perhaps, the agitation of his mind, that prevented him distinguishing, with any degree of accuracy, the form before him. It was still stationary, and he began to doubt, whether it was really animated.

Sherlock’s scattered thoughts were now so far returned as to remind him, that the light exposed him to observation likewise, and he was stepping back to remove it, when he perceived the figure move, and then wave what seemed to be its arm, as if to beckon him; and, while he gazed, fixed in surprise, it repeated the action. He now attempted to speak, but the words died on his lips; as he was doing which, he heard, from without, a faint groan. Listening, he presently heard it repeated.

'That groan was surely human!' said he. 'I WILL speak.' 'Who is it,' cried Sherlock in a faint voice, 'that wanders at this late hour?'

The figure raised its head but suddenly started away, and glided down the terrace. He watched it, for a long while, passing swiftly in the moon-light, but heard no footstep, till a sentinel from the other extremity of the rampart walked slowly along. The man stopped under his window, and, looking up, called Sherlock by name and asked if he had seen any thing pass. On him answering in confusion, that he had; the sentinel said no more, but walked away down the terrace, Sherlock following him with his eyes, till he was lost in the distance.

Soon after, his voice was heard, at a distance, calling loudly; and then a voice still more distant answered, and, in the next moment, the watch-word was given, and passed along the terrace. As the soldiers moved hastily under the casement, he called to enquire what had happened, but they passed without responding.

Sherlock's thoughts returning to the figure he had seen, 'It cannot be a person, who has designs upon the castle,' said he; 'such a one would conduct himself very differently. He would not venture where sentinels were on watch, nor fix himself opposite to a window, where he perceived he must be observed; much less would he beckon, or utter a sound of complaint. Yet it cannot be a prisoner, for how could he obtain the opportunity to wander thus?'

While he mused, two sentinels walked up the rampart in earnest conversation, of which he caught a few words, and learned from these, that one of their comrades had fallen down senseless. Soon after, three other soldiers appeared slowly advancing from the bottom of the terrace, but he heard only a low voice, that came at intervals. As they drew near, he perceived this to be the voice of him, who walked in the middle, apparently supported by his comrades; and he again called to them, enquiring what had happened. At the sound of his voice, they stopped, and looked up, while he repeated her question, and was told, that Roberto, their fellow of the watch, had been seized with a fit, and that his cry, as he fell, had caused a false alarm.

'Is he subject to fits?' said Sherlock.

'Yes' replied Roberto; 'but if I had not, what I saw was enough to have frightened the Pope himself.'

'Was it the person, whom you followed down the rampart, that has occasioned you this alarm?' said Sherlock, endeavouring to conceal his own.

'Person!' exclaimed the man,—'it was the devil, and this is not the first time I have seen him!'

'Nor will it be the last,' observed one of his comrades, laughing.

'Well,' rejoined Roberto, 'you may be as merry now, as you please; you was none so jocose the other night, Sebastian, when you was on watch with Launcelot.'

'Launcelot need not talk of that,' replied Sebastian, 'let him remember how he stood trembling, and unable to give the WORD, till the man was gone, If the man had not come so silently upon us, I would have seized him, and soon made him tell who he was.'

'What man?' enquired Sherlock.

'It was no man, lady,' said Launcelot, who stood by, 'but the devil himself, as my comrade says. What man, who does not live in the castle, could get within the walls at midnight? Why, I might just as well pretend to march to Venice, and get among all the Senators, when they are counselling; and I warrant I should have more chance of getting out again alive, than any fellow, that we should catch within the gates after dark. So I think I have proved plainly enough, that this can be nobody that lives out of the castle; and now I will prove, that it can be nobody that lives in the castle—for, if he did—why should he be afraid to be seen? No, I say again, by holy Pope! it was the devil, and Sebastian, there, knows this is not the first time we have seen him.'

'When did you see the figure, then, before?' said Sherlock half smiling, who, though he thought the conversation somewhat inane, felt an interest, which would not permit him to conclude it.

'About a week ago, sir,' said Sebastian, taking up the story.

'And where?'

'On the rampart, higher up.'

'Did you pursue it, that it fled?'

'No, forsooth. Launcelot and I were on watch together, and every thing was so still, you might have heard a mouse stir, when, suddenly, Launcelot says—Sebastian! do you see nothing? I turned my head a little to the left, and then thought I did see something move; but there being no light, but what the stars gave, I could not be certain. We stood quite silent, to watch it, and presently saw something pass along the castle wall just opposite to us!'

'Why did you not seize it, then?' cried a soldier.

'Aye, why did you not seize it?' said Roberto.

'You should have been there to have done that,' replied Sebastian. 'You would have been bold enough to have taken it by the throat, though it had been the devil himself; we could not take such a liberty, perhaps, because we are not so well acquainted with him, as you are! But, as I was saying, it stole by us so quickly, that we had not time to get rid of our surprise, before it was gone. We kept constant watch all that night, but we saw it no more.'

'Where did you lose it, friend?' said Sherlock to Roberto.

'When I left you, sir,' replied the man, 'you might see me go down the rampart, but it was not till I reached the east terrace, that I saw any thing. Then, the moon shining bright, I saw something like a shadow flitting before me, as it were, at some distance. I stopped, when I turned the corner of the east tower, where I had seen this figure not a moment before,—but it was gone! As I stood, looking through the old arch, which leads to the east rampart, and where I am sure it had passed, I heard, all of a sudden, such a sound!—it was not like a groan, or a cry, or a shout, or any thing I ever heard in my life. I heard it only once, and that was enough for me; for I know nothing that happened after, till I found my comrades, here, about me.'

'Come,' said Sebastian, 'let us go to our posts—the moon is setting.'

'Aye, let us go,' rejoined Roberto. 'Good night, sir.'

'Good night' said Sherlock quietly, as he closed his casement and retired to reflect upon the strange circumstance that had just occurred, connecting which with what had happened on former nights, he endeavoured to derive from the whole something more positive, than conjecture. But his imagination was inflamed, while his judgment was not enlightened, and the terrors of superstition again pervaded his mind.

Chapter Text

     There is one within,

 Besides the things, that we have heard and seen,

 Recounts most horrid sights, seen by the watch.

     JULIUS CAESAR

In the morning, Sherlock found Mycroft nearly in the same condition, as on the preceding night; he had slept little, and that little had not refreshed him; he spoke only a few words, and never named Moriarty, who, however, soon after, entered the room. His husband, when he understood that he was there, appeared much agitated, but was entirely silent.

The visit of Moriarty was not to sooth his husband, whom he knew to be dying, or to console, or to ask forgiveness, but to make a last effort to procure that signature, which would transfer Mycroft’s estates in Languedoc, after his death, to him rather than to Sherlock. This was a scene, that exhibited, on his part, his usual inhumanity, and, on that of Monsieur Mycroft, a persevering spirit, contending with a feeble frame; while Sherlock rebuked Moriarty that the last hours of his brother should be disturbed by contention. Moriarty, however, did not leave the room, till his husband, exhausted by the obstinate dispute, had fainted, and he lay so long insensible, that Sherlock began to fear that the spark of life would be extinguished. At length, Mycroft revived, and, looking feebly up at his brother, made an effort to speak, but his words were unintelligible. After a time, however, he recovered his speech, and, being somewhat restored by a cordial, conversed for a considerable time, on the subject of his estates in France, with clearness and precision. He directed Sherlock where to find some papers relative to them, which he had hitherto concealed from the search of Moriarty, and earnestly charged Sherlock never to suffer these papers to escape him.

Soon after this conversation, Mycroft sunk into a doze, and continued slumbering, till evening, when he seemed better than he had yet been. After midnight, Sherlock gave Molly the same injunction, as on the preceding night, and withdrew to his own apartment. But his spirits were wakeful and agitated, and, finding it impossible to sleep, he determined to watch, once more, for the mysterious appearance, that had so much interested and alarmed him.

It was now the second watch of the night, and about the time when the figure had before appeared. The moon gave a faint and uncertain light, for heavy vapours surrounded it, and, often rolling over the disk, left the scene below in total darkness. It was in one of these moments of obscurity, that he observed a small and luminous flame, moving at some distance on the terrace. While he gazed, it disappeared, and, the moon again emerging from the lurid and heavy thunder clouds, Sherlock turned his attention to the heavens, where the vivid lightnings darted from cloud to cloud, and flashed silently on the woods below. He loved to catch, in the momentary gleam, the gloomy landscape. Sometimes, a cloud opened its light upon a distant mountain, and, while the sudden splendour illumined all its recesses of rock and wood, the rest of the scene remained in deep shadow; at others, partial features of the castle were revealed by the glimpse—the antient arch leading to the east rampart, the turret above, or the fortifications beyond; and then, perhaps, the whole edifice with all its towers, its dark massy walls and pointed casements would appear, and vanish in an instant.

Sherlock, looking again upon the rampart, perceived the flame he had seen before; it moved onward; and, soon after, he thought he heard a footstep. The light appeared and disappeared frequently, while, as he watched, it glided under the casements, and, at the same instant, he was certain, that a footstep passed, but the darkness did not permit him to distinguish any object except the flame. It moved away, and then, by a gleam of lightning, he perceived some person on the terrace. All the anxieties of the preceding night returned. This person advanced, and the playing flame alternately appeared and vanished. Sherlock, summoning his courage, demanded who passed.

'A friend,' replied a voice.

'What friend?' said Sherlock, somewhat encouraged. 'Who are you, and what is that light you carry?'

'I am Anthonio, one of the Signor's soldiers,' replied the voice.

'And what is that tapering light you bear?' said Sherlock, 'see how it darts upwards,—and now it vanishes!'

'This light, sir,' said the soldier, 'has appeared to-night as you see it, on the point of my lance, ever since I have been on watch; but what it means I cannot tell.'

'This is very strange!' said Sherlock.

'My fellow-guard,' continued the man, 'has the same flame on his arms; he says he has sometimes seen it before. I never did; I am but lately come to the castle, for I have not been long a soldier.'

'How does your comrade account for it?' said Sherlock.

'He says it is an omen, and bodes no good.'

'And what harm can it bode?' rejoined Sherlock.

'He knows not so much as that.'

Whether Sherlock deduced a rational cause for this phenomena, or not, he certainly was relieved from much terror by discovering this man to be only a soldier on duty, and it immediately occurred to him, that it might be the mysterious figure, who had occasioned so much alarm on the preceding night. There were, however, some circumstances, that still required explanation. As far as he could judge by the faint moon-light, that had assisted his observation, the figure he had seen did not resemble this man either in shape or size; besides, he was certain it had carried no weapons. The silence of its steps, if steps it had, the moaning sounds, too, which it had uttered, and its strange disappearance, were circumstances of mysterious import, that did not apply, with probability, to a soldier engaged in the duty of his guard.

Sherlock now enquired of the sentinel, whether he had seen any person besides his fellow watch, walking on the terrace, about midnight; and then briefly related what he had observed.

'I was not on guard that night,' replied the man, 'but I heard of what happened. There are some amongst us, who believe strange things. Strange stories, too, have long been told of this castle, but it is no business of mine to repeat them.'

'I commend your prudence,' said Sherlock, while feeling the opposite; and then closing the casement to put an end to the discourse.

When the sentinel was gone, he opened it again, listened with a gloomy pleasure to the distant thunder, that began to murmur among the mountains, and watched the arrowy lightnings, which broke over the remoter scene. The pealing thunder rolled onward, and then, reverbed by the mountains, other thunder seemed to answer from the opposite horizon; while the accumulating clouds, entirely concealing the moon, assumed a red sulphureous tinge, that foretold a violent storm.

Sherlock remained at the casement, watching as the vivid lightning, that now, every instant, revealed the wide horizon and the landscape below.  The tremendous sounds of the thunder seemed to shake the castle to its foundation; and the wind and rain lashed his skin as he stood gazing.

He had continued thus for a considerable time, when, amidst the uproar of the storm, he thought he heard a voice, and, raising himself, saw the chamber door open, and Molly enter with a countenance of wild affright.

'He is dying, monsieur, my master is dying!' said she.

Sherlock started up, and ran to Monsieur Mycroft’s room. When he entered, his brother appeared to have fainted, for he was quite still, and insensible; and Sherlock with great strength of mind applied every means that seemed likely to restore him. But the last struggle was over—he was gone for ever.

When Sherlock perceived, that all his efforts were ineffectual, he interrogated the terrified Molly, and learned, that Monsieur Mycroft had fallen into a doze soon after Sherlock's departure, in which he had continued, until a few minutes before his death.

After some deliberation, Sherlock determined that Moriarty should not be informed of this event till the morning. With Molly alone, therefore, he performed some of the last solemn offices for the dead, and compelled himself to watch during the night, by the body of his deceased brother. The tremendous storm raged around the castle as Sherlock performed this mournful duty for his brother, as he had so recently for his mother and father.

Chapter Text

 The midnight clock has toll'd; and hark, the bell

 Of Death beats slow! heard ye the note profound?

 It pauses now; and now, with rising knell,

 Flings to the hollow gale its sullen sound.

     MASON

When Moriarty was informed of the death of his husband, and considered that he had died without giving him the signature so necessary to the accomplishment of his wishes, no sense of decency restrained the expression of his resentment.  Sherlock could not avoid musing upon the strange infatuation that had proved so fatal to his brother, and had involved him in a labyrinth of misfortune, from which he saw no means of escaping,—the marriage with Moriarty.

Moriarty not only avoided the chamber, where the remains of his husband were laid, but that part of the castle adjoining to it; as if he had apprehended a contagion in death. He seemed to have given no orders respecting the funeral, and Sherlock began to fear he meant to offer a new insult to his deceased relation; but from this apprehension he was relieved, when, on the evening of the second day, Molly informed him, that the interment was to take place that night.

Sherlock prepared the corpse for interment; and, having wrapt it in sheets, watched beside it, till past midnight, when he heard the approaching footsteps of the men, who were to lay it in its earthy bed. Sherlock masked his emotion, when, the door of the chamber being thrown open, their gloomy countenances were seen by the glare of the torch they carried, and two of them, without speaking, lifted the body on their shoulders, while the third preceding them with the light, descended through the castle towards the grave, which was in the lower vault of the chapel within the castle walls.

They had to cross two courts, towards the east wing of the castle, which, adjoining the chapel, was, like it, in ruins: but the silence and gloom of these courts had now little power over Sherlock's mind, occupied as it was, with more mournful ideas; and he scarcely heard the low and dismal hooting of the night-birds, that roosted among the ivyed battlements of the ruin, or perceived the still flittings of the bat, which frequently crossed the way. But, when, having entered the chapel, and passed between the mouldering pillars of the aisles, the bearers stopped at a flight of steps, that led down to a low arched door, and, their comrade having descended to unlock it, he saw imperfectly the gloomy abyss beyond;—saw the corpse of his last relation carried down these steps, and the ruffian-like figure, that stood with a torch at the bottom to receive it—all his fortitude was lost in emotions of inexpressible grief and terror. He lingered so long on the summit of the flight, that the gleam of the torch began to die away on the pillars of the chapel, and the men were almost beyond view. Then, the gloom around him awakening other fears, he descended to the vaults, following the echo of footsteps and the faint ray, that pierced the darkness, till the harsh grating of a distant door, that was opened to receive the corpse, again appalled him.

After the pause of a moment, he went on, and, as he entered the vaults, saw between the arches, at some distance, the men lay down the body near the edge of an open grave, where stood another of Moriarty's men and a priest, whom he did not observe, till he began the burial service; then, lifting his eyes from the ground, he saw the venerable figure of the friar, and heard him in a low voice, equally solemn and affecting, perform the service for the dead. The fierce features and wild dress of the condottieri, bending with their torches over the grave, into which the corpse was descending, were contrasted by the venerable figure of the monk, wrapt in long black garments, his cowl thrown back from his pale face, on which the light gleaming strongly shewed the lines of affliction softened by piety, and the few grey locks, which time had spared on his temples: while, beside him, stood the softer form of Sherlock, his face half averted; and his ethereal countenance fixed in grief so solemn as admitted not of tears, while he thus saw committed untimely to the earth his last relative and friend. The gleams, thrown between the arches of the vaults, where, here and there, the broken ground marked the spots in which other bodies had been recently interred, and the general obscurity beyond were circumstances, that alone would have led on the imagination of a spectator to scenes more horrible, than even that, which was pictured at the grave of the misguided and unfortunate Monsieur Mycroft.

When the service was over, the friar regarded Sherlock with attention and surprise, and looked as if he wished to speak to him, but was restrained by the presence of the condottieri, who, as they now led the way to the courts, amused themselves with jokes upon his holy order, which he endured in silence, demanding only to be conducted safely to his convent.  The appearance of the friar had interested Sherlock, who, though it was at his own request, that Moriarty had consented to allow a priest to perform the last rites for his deceased husband, knew nothing concerning this person, till Molly later informed him, that he belonged to a monastery, situated among the mountains at a few miles distance. The Superior, who regarded Moriarty and his associates, not only with aversion, but with terror, had probably feared to offend him by refusing his request, and had, therefore, ordered a monk to officiate at the funeral, who, as the chapel was built on consecrated ground, had not objected to commit to it the remains of the late unhappy Monsieur Mycroft.

Several days passed with Sherlock in total seclusion. He, at length, determined to make other efforts to persuade Moriarty to permit his return to France. Why he should wish to detain him, was a simple deduction: the estates, which had occasioned so much contention, were now his, and he then feared Moriarty was about to employ some stratagem for obtaining them, and that he would detain him as his prisoner, till he succeeded. This thought, instead of overcoming him with despondency, roused all the latent powers of his fortitude into action; and he resolved, that no common sufferings should ever compel him to give them to Moriarty. For John's sake also he determined to preserve these estates, since they would afford that competency, by which he hoped to secure the comfort of their future lives. As he thought of this, he anticipated the delight of that moment, when, with affectionate generosity, he might tell him that their future was secure. Sherlock saw the smile, that lighted up his features—the affectionate regard, which spoke at once his joy and thanks; imagined being swept into John’s arms in transports of joy and tenderness; and, at this instant, Sherlock believed he could brave any suffering, which the evil spirit of Moriarty might be preparing for him. Remembering the papers relative to the estates in question, he determined to search for them, as soon as the interview with Moriarty was over.

With these resolutions Sherlock met Moriarty at the appointed time, and waited to hear his intention before he renewed his request. With Moriarty were Moran and another officer, and both were standing near a table, covered with papers, which he appeared to be examining.

'I sent for you, Sherlock,' said Moriarty, raising his head, 'that you might be a witness in some business, which I am transacting with my friend Moran. All that is required of you will be to sign your name to this paper:' he then took one up, hurried unintelligibly over some lines, and, laying it before him on the table, offered him, a pen. Sherlock took it, and was going to write—when the design of Moriarty came upon his mind like a flash of lightning; he let the pen fall, and refused to sign what he had not read. Moriarty affected to laugh at his scruples, and, taking up the paper, again pretended to read; but Sherlock, who now perceived his danger, positively refused to sign any paper whatever. Moriarty, when he perceived that Sherlock understood his design, abruptly changed his manner.  He told him, that he had been willing to spare himself the trouble of useless contest, in an affair, where his will was justice, and where Sherlock should find it law; and had, therefore, endeavoured to persuade, rather than to compel, him to the practice of this duty.

'I, as the husband of the late Monsieur Mycroft,' he added, 'am the heir of all he possessed; the estates, therefore, which he refused to me in his life-time, can no longer be withheld, and, for your own sake, I would undeceive you, respecting a foolish assertion he once made to you in my hearing—that these estates would be yours, if he died without resigning them to me. He knew at that moment, he had no power to withhold them from me, after his decease; and I think you have more sense, than to provoke my resentment by advancing an unjust claim.'

'Judging as I do,' resumed Moriarty, 'I cannot believe you will oppose, when you have not justice on your side. I think it proper, however, to acquaint you with the alternative. If you have a just opinion of the subject in question, you shall be allowed a safe conveyance to France, within a short period; but, if you are so unhappy as to be misled by the late assertion of the Monsieur, you shall remain my prisoner, till you are convinced of your error.'

Sherlock calmly said,

'I am not so ignorant, Signor, of the laws on this subject, as to be misled by the assertion of any person. The law, in the present instance, gives me the estates in question, and my own hand shall never betray my right!'

'I have been mistaken in my opinion of you, it appears,' rejoined Moriarty, sternly. 'You speak boldly, and presumptuously, upon a subject, which you do not understand.  If you persist in this strain—you have every thing to fear from my justice.'

'You may find, perhaps, Signor,' said Sherlock, with dignity, 'that the strength of my mind is equal to the justice of my cause; and that I can endure with fortitude, when it is in resistance of oppression.'

'You speak like the hero of a story,' said Moriarty, contemptuously; 'we shall see whether you can suffer like one.'

Sherlock was silent, and he left the room.

Recollecting, that it was for John's sake he had thus resisted, he now smiled complacently upon the threatened sufferings, and finding the spot, which his brother had described as the repository of the papers, relative to the estates; and, since he knew of no better place of concealment, than this, returned them there.

To his own solitary chamber he once more returned, and there thought again of the late conversation with Moriarty, and of the evil he might expect from opposition to his will. But his power did not appear so terrible to Sherlock’s imagination, as it had formerly: a sacred pride was in his heart, that taught it to swell against the pressure of injustice, and almost to glory in the quiet sufferance of ills, in a cause, which had also the interest of John for its object. For the first time, Sherlock felt the full extent of his own superiority to Moriarty, and despised the authority, which, till now, he had only feared.

As he sat musing, a peal of laughter rose from the terrace, and, on going to the casement, he saw, with inexpressible surprise, two ladies and a young man, dressed in the gala habit of Venice, walking with several gentlemen below. He gazed in an astonishment, till the group passed under his casement; and, one of the strangers looking up, he perceived the features of Signora Livona, with whose manners he had been so much charmed, the day after his arrival at Venice, and who had been there introduced at the table of Moriarty. This discovery gave Sherlock some perplexity - there was something so extraordinary in her being at this castle, circumstanced as it now was, and evidently, by the gaiety of her air, with her own consent, that a very painful deduction arose, concerning her character.

On Molly's appearance, however, he enquired, concerning these strangers; and the former was as eager to tell, as Sherlock was to learn.

'They are just come, monsieur,' said Molly, ‘What can they mean by coming here? They must surely be stark mad to come freely to such a place as this! Yet they do come freely, for they seem merry enough, I am sure. I remember one of them very well at Venice: she came two or three times, to the Signor's you know, and it was said, that the Signor liked her better than he should do. Then why, says I, bring her to my master? Very true, said Hopkins; but she looked as if she knew more, too.'

In the evening, not choosing to venture down to the ramparts, where he would be exposed to the rude gaze of Moriarty's associates, Sherlock walked for air in the gallery, adjoining his chamber; on reaching the further end of which he heard distant sounds of merriment and laughter. It was the wild uproar of riot, not the cheering gaiety of tempered mirth; and seemed to come from that part of the castle, where Moriarty usually was. Such sounds, at this time, when his brother had been so few days dead, distressed Sherlock, consistent though it might be with the late conduct of Moriarty.

As he listened, he distinguished female voices mingling with the laughter, and this confirmed his deduction, concerning the character of Signora Livona and her companions. It was evident, that they had not been brought hither by compulsion, but by profit; and he beheld himself in the remote wilds of the Apennine, surrounded by men, whom he considered to be criminals, and their worst associates. It was at this moment, when the scenes of the present and the future opened to his imagination, that the image of John failed in its influence, and his resolution shook with dread. He thought he understood all the horrors, which Moriarty was preparing for him, and shrunk from an encounter with such remorseless vengeance, as he could inflict.

He continued walking in the gallery, till evening threw its melancholy twilight through the painted casements, and deepened the gloom of the oak wainscoting around him; while the distant perspective of the corridor was so much obscured, as to be discernible only by the glimmering window, that terminated it.

Along the vaulted halls and passages below, peals of laughter echoed faintly, at intervals, to this remote part of the castle, and seemed to render the succeeding stillness more dreary. Sherlock, however, unwilling to return to his more forlorn chamber, still paced the gallery. As he passed the door of the apartment, where he had once dared to lift the veil, which discovered to him a spectacle so horrible, that he had never after remembered it, but with emotions of indescribable awe, this remembrance suddenly recurred. It now brought with it reflections more terrible, than it had yet done, which the late conduct of Moriarty occasioned; and, hastening to quit the gallery, while he had power to do so, he heard a sudden step behind him.—It might be that of Molly; but, turning to look, he saw, through the gloom, a tall figure following. In the next moment, he found himself clasped in the arms of some person, and heard a deep voice murmur in his ear.

Gasping in fright and indignation, Sherlock demanded who detained him.

'It is I,' replied the voice—'Why are you thus alarmed?'

He looked on the face of the person who spoke, but the feeble light, that gleamed through the high casement at the end of the gallery, did not permit him to distinguish the features.

'Whoever you are,' said Sherlock, attempting to shake off the man, 'for heaven's sake let me go!'

'My charming Sherlock,' said the man, 'why will you shut yourself up in this obscure place, when there is so much gaiety below? Return with me to the cedar parlour, where you will be the fairest ornament of the party;—you shall not repent the exchange.'

Sherlock disdained to reply, and still endeavoured to liberate himself.

'Promise, that you will come,' he continued, 'and I will release you immediately; but first give me a reward for so doing’ as one hand slipped down Sherlock’s back.

'Who are you?' demanded Sherlock, in a tone of mingled terror and outrage, while he still struggled for liberty—'who are you, that have the impudence thus to insult me?'

'Why call me impudent?' said the man, 'I would remove you from this dreary solitude to a merry party below. Do you not know me?'

Sherlock now faintly remembered, that he was one of the officers who were with Moriarty when he attended him in the morning. 'I wish for nothing so much as that you would leave me.'

'Charming Sherlock!' said he, 'give up this foolish whim for solitude, and come with me to the company, and eclipse the beauties who make part of it; you, only, are worthy of my love.' He attempted to kiss him, but the strong impulse of Sherlock’s resentment gave him power to liberate himself, and landing a handy blow upon the officer, he fled towards the chamber. He closed the door, before he reached it, having secured which, he sunk in a chair, while outside he heard his assailant’s voice, and his attempts to open the door.

At length, Sherlock perceived his assailant’s departure, and had remained, listening, for a considerable time, and was somewhat revived by not hearing any sound, when suddenly he perceived, that Moriarty had already commenced his scheme of vengeance, by withdrawing his protection, and Sherlock was exposed to the rapacious designs of the castle offices.

Having sat in darkness for some hours, his ear suddenly caught the notes of distant music, to which he listened attentively, and, soon perceiving this to be the instrument he had formerly heard at midnight, he rose, and stepped softly to the casement, to which the sounds appeared to come from a lower room.

In a few moments, their soft melody was accompanied by a voice so full of pathos, that it evidently sang not of imaginary sorrows. Its sweet and peculiar tones he thought he had somewhere heard before; yet, if this was not fancy, it was, at most, a very faint recollection. His emotion can scarcely be imagined, when he heard sung, with the taste and simplicity of true feeling, one of the popular airs of his native province, to which he had so often listened with delight, when a child, and which he had so often heard his father repeat! To this well-known song, never, till now, heard but in his native country, his heart melted, while the memory of past times returned. The pleasant, peaceful scenes of Gascony, the tenderness and goodness of his parents, the taste and simplicity of his former life—all rose to his fancy, and formed a picture, so sweet and glowing, so strikingly contrasted with the scenes, the characters and the dangers, which now surrounded him—that his mind could not bear to pause upon the retrospect, and shrunk at the acuteness of its own sufferings.

He could no longer listen to the strain, that had so often charmed him to tranquillity, and he withdrew from the casement to a remote part of the chamber. But he was not yet beyond the reach of the music; he heard the measure change, and the succeeding air called him again to the window, for he immediately recollected it to be the same he had formerly heard in the fishing-house in Gascony. Assisted, perhaps, by the mystery, which had then accompanied this strain, it had made so deep an impression on his memory, that he had never since entirely forgotten it; and the manner, in which it was now sung, convinced Sherlock, however unaccountable the circumstances appeared, that this was the same voice he had then heard. Surprise soon yielded to other emotions; a thought darted, like lightning, upon his mind, which discovered a train of hopes, that revived all his spirits.

Yet these hopes were so new, so unexpected, so astonishing, that he did not dare to trust, though he could not resolve to discourage them. He sat down by the casement, breathless, and overcome with the alternate emotions of hope and fear; then rose again, leaned from the window, that he might catch a nearer sound, listened, now doubting and then believing. Yes, it was possible, that John was near him, and he recollected circumstances, which confirmed the deduction that John was near him once more. Sherlock remembered John had more than once said that the fishing-house, where he had formerly listened to this voice and air, and where he had seen pencilled sonnets, addressed to himself, had been John’s favourite haunt, before he had been made known to Sherlock; there, too, he had himself unexpectedly met him. It appeared, from these circumstances, more than probable, that John was the musician, who had formerly charmed his attention, and the author of the lines, which had expressed such tender admiration;—who else, indeed, could it be? Sherlock was unable, at that time, to form a conjecture, as to the writer, but, since his acquaintance with John, whenever he had mentioned the fishing-house to have been known to him, he had not scrupled to believe that John was the author of the sonnets.

As these considerations passed over Sherlock’s mind, joy, fear and tenderness contended at his heart; he leaned again from the casement to catch the sounds, which might confirm, or destroy his hope, though he did not recollect to have ever heard John sing; but the voice, and the instrument, now ceased.

He considered for a moment how to proceed: then, not choosing, lest it should endanger his love, to mention his name, and yet too much interested to neglect the opportunity of enquiring, he called from the casement, 'Is that song from Gascony?' His anxious attention was not cheered by any reply; every thing remained silent. Sherlock’s impatience increasing with his fears, he repeated the question; but still no sound was heard, except the sighings of the wind among the battlements above; and he endeavoured to console himself with a belief, that the stranger, whoever he was, had retired, before he had spoken, beyond the reach of his voice, which certainly, had John heard and recognized, he would instantly have replied to. Presently, however, Sherlock considered, that a motive of prudence, and not an accidental removal, might occasion his silence; but the surmise, that led to this reflection, suddenly changed his hope and joy to terror and grief; for, if John were in the castle, it was assured that he was here a prisoner, taken with some of his countrymen, many of whom were at that time engaged in the wars of Italy, or intercepted in some attempt to reach Sherlock. Had he even recollected Sherlock's voice, he would have feared, in these circumstances, to reply to it, in the presence of the men, who guarded his prison.

He remained listening at the casement, till the air began to freshen, and one high mountain in the east to glimmer with the morning; when, wearied with anxiety, he retired to the couch, where joy, tenderness, doubt and apprehension, distracted him.  Still Molly did not appear; Sherlock’s apprehension was increased. Never did hours appear to move so heavily, as those of this anxious night.