“Good night, Harry dear,” she said rising, and, putting her arms around his neck, she laid her cheek to his. “Good night, dear. Harry darling, don’t worry about the work. Do it like a brave, true man; it will make father so happy.”
There was a sudden catching sob in Harry Vine’s throat, as like a flash, the memory of old happy boy and girl days came back. He caught his sister to his breast, and held her tightly there as he kissed her passionately again and again.
“My darling brother!” cried Louise as she tightened her grasp about his neck. “And you will try for all our sakes.”
“Yes, yes,” he said in a hoarse whisper.
“Never mind what poor aunt says. Be a man—a frank, honourable man, Harry. It is the order of the true haute noblesse after all. You will try?”
“Please God, yes, Lou—so hard—ah, so hard.”
“That’s like my dear brother once again,” she cried, fondling him. “There, darling, I’m speaking to you like our mother would. Let me be your mother to you as well as sister. You will begin again?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” he whispered hoarsely; “from this moment, Lou, I will.”
“May I say more?” she said gently, as her hand played about his brow.
“Yes, anything, Lou; anything. I’ve been a fool, but that’s all over now.”
“Then about Mr Pradelle?”
“Curse Mr Pradelle,” he cried passionately. “I wish I had never brought him here.”
“Don’t curse, dear,” said Louise, with a sigh of relief. “Yes, there has been an ugly cloud over this house, but it is lifting fast, Harry dear, and we are all going to be very happy once again. Good night.”
He could not speak; something seemed to choke him; but he strained her to his heart, and ran out of the room.
“Oh!” ejaculated Louise; and throwing herself into a chair, she burst into a passion of weeping; but her tears were those of joy, and a relief to her overburdened heart.
“Is it too late?” said Harry to himself, as a cold chilly hand seemed to grasp his heart. “No; I can keep my own secret, and I will turn over a new leaf now, and old Crampton shall rule it for me. What an idiot I have been!”
He shuddered as he recalled the scene in Van Heldre’s office, and involuntarily held his hands close to the landing-lamp.
“Poor old fellow!” he said, as his hand involuntarily went towards his vest; “but he’ll soon get over that. He couldn’t have known me in the dark. I—My locket!”
He turned like ice as he gazed down to see that the gold locket he wore at his watch-chain had been torn off.
“No, no; I lost it when I threw myself down on the shingle,” he muttered, as he fingered the broken link. “I could not have lost it there.”
Just then he started, for there was a faint cough on his left.
“Then he has come back,” he cried hastily; and going a few steps along the passage he tapped sharply, and entered Pradelle’s room...
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