Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

her communication the very air of purpose she was so anxious to avoid. So she waited, though impatiently, fearing Clarissa might return; until, at last, Mr. Weatherill moved, turned towards her, and made some remark opon the vigorous manner in which the day was being celebrated.

"There is very little demonstration, I am told, in Westhaven," she replied. “The authorities have been very strict since, a few years ago, a little girl was shot by some boys letting off a cannon, and died on her way to the Infirmary.

“Sad for her parents,” remarked Edward, and he seemed about to resame his attitude of silent thought.

She saw that she must speak at once. “ This is a good likeness of Mrs. Weatherill,” she said, taking ap the Album, " at least for a photograph. They are rather expressionless things; not like portraits taken by the living hand and guided by the appreciative mind. How inferior to that portrait of Mrs. Weatherill in her young girlhood.” Mrs. Lumley had taken up her needles and was knitting vigorously

"I hardly know to what likeness you can refer," he replied ; " the attempt at portrait-taking hanging in the breakfast-room is a miserable affair. I think the little silhouette over the mantel-piece is far more characteristic.”

" Oh, no; not these. I was thinking of that admirable painting at Westhaven. You did not know, of course, that I could have seen it. Really that picture ought to belong to you."

She looked up furtively; there was a look of awakening curiosity and surprise on his face, but he said nothing.

It was rather strange," she went on, " that I should have accidently lighted on the picture of such a near friend ; I almost wonder Mrs. Weatherill never told me anything about it. But yon see in the spring Thomas thought proper to be ill, and it was to Dr. Marston we were directed ;

!; and when I called to pay the bill, a short time ago, I was asked into the dining-room, and the first thing I saw was the picture. I could not but know who it was. And then, you know, Mrs. Marston told me all about its belonging to the little girl, Irene, that dear Mrs. Weatherill is so kind as to maintain, and its being painted by her father."

Mrs. Lumley had continued her knitting while she was speaking, and had not looked directly at Mr. Weatherill, bat she could see him reflected in a mirror; and she had seen his pale face grow paler, his thin lips compressing themselves more tightly, and at the mention of Irene's name there had been a start, and a clenching of the hands one on the other. Then he did not know ! She bed thought not.

“How opset you must have been last August, when the child ran away," she recommenced. “I never saw any one more agitated than poor Mrs. Weatherill. I don't know whether she told you that she had met me. Not that she told me what had brought her to Westhaven; of course she did not want to spread anything to the discredit of any one she felt so much interested in. She could hardly have looked more distressed if it had been dear Alice lost; it made my heart ache to see her, though not knowing what was the matter. There, Mr. Weatherill, I am hindering your study of the newspaper, and the planning of the great Kingsport campaign against Toryism, by my woman's chatter. You must give us the franchise, you know, and that will broaden oar views ;” and she resumed the book which she had been reading.

“Eventually that reform will come, I do not doubt,” he said, taking up the newspaper. There was the accustomed precision in his words and manner of utterance, but his voice sounded hoarse and dry. Mrs. Lumley only affected to be reading ; she was really watching the effect of her words. Mr. Weatherill's face was entirely concealed by the paper, but she saw that the sheets trembled, that the thin fingers which held them looked cold and livid, and that the arm of the chair was tightly clutched by the other hand. There was to her a strange excitement, a keen, halfpainful delight in seeing this cold, calm, prond man thus inwardly writhing ander the torture she had inflicted, and yet striving to repress all outward sign of suffering.

And Edward Weatherill not only held the paper; he read. Paragraph after paragraph he forced himself to go through; and not wholly mechanically, but with some attention given; with such measure as should for the moment divert his thoughts, steady his mind, and enable him to maintain an external calm. He was thus ceading when Clarissa re-entered the room. She looked towards her husband, but, seeing him so engrossed, did not speak. Mrs: Lumley received her with a smile.

“You are very fond of reading, I know,” Clarissa said, “but I fear you may be tired. Kindly excase me a few minutes more; my letter is nearly finished."

When it was completed, Mr. Weatherill rose and said, “I am going out; I will post the letter." There was something in his voice which made his wife look ap bastily, and she would have said, “Dear husband, how ill you look!” only she knew that sach remarks were always distasteful to him.

“Do not wait sapper, or remain up. I shall be late. Goodevening, Mrs. Lumley,” he said, and he went out too quickly for any expressions of regret to reach him.

"My husband looks ill to-night, does he not?” remarked Clarissa. “He is very anxious about this election. You see he

can't always get people who work with him to see things just in the right way, as he always does; and so things go wrong, and the good cause suffers. It is such a pity.”

“Leaders by right are not invariably followed as they should be," answered Mrs. Lumley.

At the accustomed hour Clarissa retired to rest, as she always did when her husband said, “Do not remain up.” Once or twice in their early married life she had ventured to disregard this direction, wishing that on his late return he might have the comfort of a brightly-kept-up fire, a loving smile, a wifely attendance. But she had found that obedience was, in Edward's eyes, better than any service, and thenceforth she always yielded to this wish when expressed.

“ Clarissa, are you awake?” he asked, as he entered the chamber.

“Yes, dear; there have been rather too many bangs and explosions to allow of sleeping. It ought not to be kept up so late. Raise the gas; it will not disturb me in the least."

"I prefer it as it is. Clarissa, Mrs. Lumley talks of leaving tomorrow. Do not ask her to remain longer, nor renew the invitation."

“Certainly not, if that is your wish,” she said, surprised. “I believe her to be an unreal, insincere woman.”

Dear me; how strange !” exclaimed Clarissa. Elizabeth said the same thing last spring. I hope not. I can't think it; she seems to me so nice."

A woman capable of duplicity, of any kind of deception, is to me perfectly hateful." His tone was intensely bitter. “I will not disturb you any longer.”

And Clarissa knew that her husband desired conversation to cease; and accordingly, though wakeful, she remained silent. Three days later Mrs. Lumley received the following note :

“Kingsport, Nov. 7th, 18% “Madam,—I desire that never to myself or to any

other

person whatsoever you mention the matter of which you spoke to me on the 5th inst.

“ You may inquire of your husband whether a direction of mine can be safely disregarded.

“ EDWARD WEATHERILL." And Mrs. Lumley had sufficient knowledge of her husband's affairs to feel herself compelled to silence.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXIII.—“THE SWORD REACHETH UNTO THE Soul."

Two days had passed. On the morning following her disclosures to Mr. Weatherill, Mrs. Lumley left Kingsport. It was trying to Clarissa's hospitable, friendly nature neither to press her guest to remain longer nor renew the invitation. She could not keep herself from saying that she was very pleased to have seen her, and regretted that her stay had been so brief. And then she was troubled, feeling she had departed, if not from the letter, yet from the spirit, of her husband's directions.

Throughout the day Edward spoke very little; bat she was not unused to silent moods, and she attributed his present preoccupation of manner to an absorption of thought and feeling in the impending political contest. And when in the evening he told her that he should be leaving home early the next morning, and should be absent throughout the day, she concluded that the unexpected journey must have reference to this one engrossing interest.

The day of Edward's absence was that appointed for the funeral of the late member, which took place in the village church near his country-seat. But in Kingsport the bells tolled, many shops were partially closed, and on public baildings flags were halfmasted.

This general mournfulness in addition to the absence of Edward and of Alice, would have made the day pass heavily for Clarissa, bad she not filled it with much occupation. Taking advantage of being up betimes, her husband's train leaving at seven o'clock, she busied herself in various household matters not belonging exactly to daily routine, and had then gone into the town, visited two or three poor persons, and a school on the committee of which she stood, had made some purchases, and called on a lady for a charitable subscription. Tea she had taken with Elizabeth and Sarah Weatherill, and the brief interval which elapsed between her late dinner and setting out for their home, was enlivened by a letter received from her sister Muly; as usual, not very long, but as ever, sensible, good, and loving.

So the day had passed not anpleasantly, and Clarissa's face was both tranquil and bright as she awaited her husband's return, in the well-lighted room, with the fire glowing cheerily and the cloth laid in readiness for supper.

Just as the church-bell tolled nine the latch-key sounded in the door, and as she hastily rose and came forward, Edward entered the room.

“Oh, Edward, what is the matter?" she exclaimed, as she looked ap into his white face.

“You will know in time,” he said quietly, “not now. To-morrow active election-work will begin. I place public duty before private griefs. You must harass me with no questions. The election over, you will know.” And thus enjoined she asked nothing, and the meal passed almost in silence; it troubled her that he had not kissed her.

Very drearily to Clarissa passed the succeeding days. Her husband was from home nearly from morning to night; not engaged in ordinary business, which was almost at a standstill, but in the committee-rooms of the Liberal candidate, attending public meetings, making speeches, canvassing, &c. when at home he was mostly in his study, employing his caustic pen in electioneering literature, though never descending to purposed misrepresentation, dishonest innuendo, or personal abuse.

And Clarissa tried to take an interest in what was so absorbing to her husband. She placed the card of the candidate in conspicuous places in every sitting-room, she bought yards of red riband and made them up into rosettes to be worn on the day of polling, and asked Edward daily what appeared to be the prospects of success. And he gave the information she requested, but in a cold, hard voice. What was the matter? What was the grief of which she should hear when all this weary excitement was over? For all her efforts to be interested in the contest resulted in little more than outward appearance, the disclosure to be made after was ever in her mind. What could it be? Was it business embarrassment; heavy pecuniary loss ? Could the affairs of Locke and Weatherill be going wrong? Yet that could hardly be, she had seen Mr. Locke a day or two before, and he looked as cheery as ever, and a few words on business which had passed in her hearing were certainly not of failare. Could Edward have engaged in rash speculation, made an unfortunate investment ? And there came to mind memories, frightening though somewhat vague, of what she had somewhere read of a bank failare—the hopeless loss, the pitiless calls demanding the last shilling, dragging down from aflaence to atter poverty.

Was that it ? Would she have to leave her pleasant home, see her cherished possessions scattered and sold to indifferent strangers ? Oh, that would be hard--very hard! Yet she could bear it for herself; she could be happy anywhere, in the humblest homo with Edward and Alice. But Edward—would be have to sink to a lower position ? And Alice--must they give up the good education they had planned for her; and must she, by-and-by, go forth into the rough world and earn her bread in the hard life of a governess or companion ?

Or was it—and she turned pale and cold at the thought—that Edward had become aware of some malady hitherto concealed ? He looked ill, very ill! How could she endure to see himalways so strong and active-brought down to agonised weakness ? How could she bear to lose him? Oh, no! she hoped, she prayed, it might be anything but that! And in her conjecturing she sometimes lighted on the truth. Was it anything she had done

« AnteriorContinuar »