That very discovery, the dread of which had shaken the good doctor's firm nerves, had forced Alban to exclude from his confidence the woman whom he loved, and had driven the faithful old servant from the bedside of her dying mistress that very discovery Emily had now made, with a face which never changed color, and a heart which beat at ease.
Not one of them, at the first glance, perceived the inmates of the chamber, who were at the right of their entrance, by the angle of the wall and in shadow. But out came Darrell's calm voice: "Alban! Lionel! welcome always; but what brings you hither at such an hour, with such clamour? Armed too!" The three men stood petrified.
I must go and relieve her mind." "And bring her hither," cried Darrell, "to receive my gratitude. Stay, Alban; while you leave me with her, you will speak aside to Mills; tell him that you heard there was an attempt to be made on the house, and came to frustrate it, but that your fears were exaggerated; the man was more a half-insane mendicant than a robber.
If I had not been so half frozen, the consciousness that I was actually on the outskirts of the Eternal City, that I saw the Campagna and the aqueducts, that yonder were the Alban Hills, and that every foot of soil on which I looked was saturated with history, would have excited me.
The siege of Veii lasted ten years, and during the last the Alban lake filled to an unusual height, although the summer was very dry. One of the Veian soldiers cried out to the Romans half in jest, "You will never take Veii till the Alban lake is dry." It turned out that there was an old tradition that Veii should fall when the lake was drained.
The reign of informers and proscriptions recommenced, and many illustrious men were executed for insufficient reasons. The Christians were persecuted, and the philosophers were banished, and yet he received the most fulsome flattery from the poet Martial. The tyrant lived in seclusion, in his Alban villa, and was finally assassinated, after a reign of fifteen years, A.D. 96.
A cunning foresight, added to a fecund imagination and a fine taste for all chroniques scandaleuses, led him to determine that Alban Kennedy might yet inherit the bulk of Gessner's fortune and become the plumpest of all possible pigeons. Should this be the case, those who had been the young man's friends in the beginning might well remain so to the end.
Having read what Mirabel had written to her, Emily looked up, and saw that Alban was on the point of following Cecilia into the conservatory. He had noticed something in Francine's face which he was at a loss to understand, but which made her presence in the room absolutely hateful to him. Emily followed and spoke to him. "I am going back to the rose garden," she said.
The lowest remembers the rungs of the ladder he has descended. Alban had lighted one of the cigars and he smoked it stoically, wondering again why the caves attracted him and what there was in this company which should not have made him ashamed of such associations. That he was not ashamed admitted of no question. In very truth, the humanities were conquering him in spite of inherited prejudice.
In half an hour more, Miss Ladd joined Alban on the little plot of grass behind the cottage. "I bring Emily's reply to your letter," she said. "Read it, before you speak to me." Alban read it: "Don't suppose you have offended me and be assured that I feel gratefully the tone in which your note is written. I try to write forbearingly on my side; I wish I could write acceptably as well.