All were arranged in due and systematic order; of whatever age, each bore a careful superscription, giving in brief the contents of the paper written by his own exact hand. Beside this, each document was numbered and placed in sequence. Verily, it was most methodically done, so any child could read and understand.
It was with much misgiving I approached the task of making myself familiar with my old friend's secret. Had he committed some youthful crime which weighed heavily upon his trembling age, and had driven him to these savage shores, where, shut out from all companionship with his kind, he did a lonely penance? If so, I preferred to remain in ignorance, for his was a friendship so dear, so pure, I desired not to taint it with the odor of guilt.
He had, however, made his request in such urgent terms, even pathetic, I could not disregard it, and putting aside the reluctance I felt, I took up the paper which lay on top, directed to myself, and began its perusal. It was as follows:
My dear Placide:
The great feebleness of my worn-out frame warns me again that time for me is almost past. It may be, when you recross the seas, I shall have gone to final judgment. * * * remember my request, and carry on to the end that work which generations of cowards have left undone. * * * All is here contained in these papers, except some recent news I have of the Pasquiers from the northern colonies.
Possibly if you went to Quebec and sought out the Cure of St. Martin's (who wrote this last letter, No. 32) you may right it all, and give to my soul its eternal peace. * * * With the strong