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Recovering his voice, his anger took a new direction. "'Bergan Arling,' indeed!" he muttered,—"I suppose he was ashamed of the 'Harry,' though he could put it at the end of his note,—smooth-faced hypocrite that he is! Where is he?" he went on, lifting his voice. "Why don't he come out, and face me, like a man? Must I go in and drag him out, by the nape of the neck,—the mean, sneaking, insulting puppy!"
Bergan looked down, and the color rose to his brow. Without seeking to know the merits of the quarrel between his two uncles, he nevertheless felt that the abject submission, the complete surrender of principle and will, expected of him by Major Bergan, was simply impossible; and he began to wonder if it were not his wisest course to place himself at once on tenable ground, by saying that, while he should always be glad of his uncle's advice, and ready to give all due and respectful consideration to his wishes, yet, in matters involving questions of right and duty, the final appeal must needs be to his own conscience. Something of this sort was upon his lips, when the Major spoke again, and in a more amiable tone.
“I have called you together, not to ask your advice, but to inform you that to-morrow I shall attack Marshal Daun. I am aware that he occupies a strong position, but it is one from which he can not escape. If I beat him, all his army must be taken prisoners or drowned in the Elbe. If we are beaten, we must all perish. This war is become tedious. You must all find it so. We will, if we can, finish it to-morrow. General Ziethen, I confide to you the right wing of the army. Your object must be, in marching straight to Torgau, to cut off the retreat of the Austrians when I shall have beaten them, and driven them from the heights of Siptitz.”
Scarcely were the insulting words spoken ere Bergan felt, with a thrill of dismay, a hot tingling sensation in all his veins, as if the blood in them had suddenly been turned to fire. Too well he knew what it meant. The "black Bergan temper," which had been the one, great sorrow and struggle of his life, thus far, and which he had believed to be completely tamed, was stirring within him in a way to show that, if it were not instantly controlled, it would carry him, in its headlong fury, he knew not whither. Every other feeling, every other thought, were, for the moment, swallowed up in the instinct of self-preservation. He would submit to his uncle's imperious dictation, not that he either prized his love or feared his anger, but because that treacherous demon within must at once feel a firm foot upon its neck, and be shown that it could expect no indulgence, and no quarter.
Feeling as if he were walking in a mist, which everywhere eluded his grasp, while it blinded his eyes, and chilled his heart, he rose to go.
Thus excluded from the only society for which he cared, Bergan did not, as a weaker character might have done, betake himself for consolation to the lower circles of vice and dissipation that would have welcomed him rapturously. He could better afford to stand alone, he thought, than to throw himself into arms whose embrace would soil, and whose seeming support was an insidious undermining. Besides, it was much more in accordance with his character to regard the exclusion from which he suffered as a challenge to be answered, an adversary to be overcome, rather than a verdict to be acquiesced in. He would prove to the world that it had been mistaken.
Rue did not immediately answer. It was only after some moments that she said, earnestly;—
For fifteen years she had been a mourning widow. Her husband had died on the 18th of August. The 18th day of every month had since then been a day of solitary prayer. On the 18th of every August she descended into the tomb, and sat for560 a season engaged in prayer by the side of the mouldering remains of her spouse.