The Circular Study
The Circular Study
CHAPTER I. THE SECRET OF THE CADWALADERS.
Thomas Cadwalader suggested rather than told his story. We dare not imitate him in this, nor would it be just to your interest to relate these facts with all the baldness and lack of detail imposed upon this unhappy man by the hurry and anxiety of the occasion. Remarkable tragedies have their birth in remarkable facts, and as such facts are but the outcome of human passions, we must enter into those passions if we would understand either the facts or their appalling consequences. In this case, the first link of the chain which led to Felix Adams's violent death was forged before the birth of the woman who struck him. We must begin, then, with almost forgotten days, and tell the story, as her pleader did, from the standpoint of Felix and Thomas Cadwalader.
Thomas Cadwalader--now called Adams--never knew his mother; she died in his early infancy. Nor could he be said to have known his father, having been brought up in France by an old Scotch lawyer, who, being related to his mother, sometimes spoke of her, but never of his father, till Thomas had reached his fifteenth year. Then he put certain books into his hands, with this remarkable injunction:
"Here are romances, Thomas. Read them; but remember that none of them, no matter how thrilling in matter or effect, will ever equal the story of your father's bitterly wronged and suffering life."
"My father!" he cried; "tell me about him; I have never heard."
But his guardian, satisfied with an allusion which he knew must bear fruit in the extremely susceptible nature of this isolated boy, said no more that day, and Thomas turned to the books. But nothing after that could ever take his mind away from his father. He had scarcely thought of him for years, but now that that father had been placed before him in the light of a wronged man, he found himself continually hunting back in the deepest recesses of his memory for some long-forgotten recollection of that father's features calculated to restore his image to his eyes. Sometimes he succeeded in this, or thought he did; but this image, if image it was, was so speedily lost in a sensation of something strange and awe-compelling enveloping it, that he found himself more absorbed by the intangible impressions associated with this memory than by the memory itself. What were these impressions, and in what had they originated? In vain he tried to determine. They were as vague as they were persistent. A stretch of darkness--two bars of orange light, always shining, always the same--black lines against these bars, like the tops of distant gables--an inner thrill--a vague affright--a rush about him as of a swooping wind--all this came with his father's image, only to fade away with it, leaving him troubled, uneasy, and perplexed. Finding these impressions persistent, and receiving no explanation of them in his own mind, he finally asked his guardian what they meant. But that guardian was as ignorant as himself on this topic; and satisfied with having roused the boy's imagination, confined himself to hints, dropped now and then with a judiciousness which proved the existence of a deliberate purpose, of some duty which awaited him on the other side of the water, a duty which would explain his long exile from his only parent and for which he must fit himself by study and the acquirement of such accomplishments as render a young man a positive power in society, whether that society be of the Old World or the New. He showed his shrewdness in thus dealing with this pliable and deeply affectionate nature. From this time forth Thomas felt himself leading a life of mystery and interest.
To feel himself appointed for a work whose unknown character only heightened its importance gave point to every effort now made by this young man, and lent to his studies that vague to