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which had displeased him ? Conld it be that he had found oat about Irene? If he had, he would be angry--angry that she had not at once told him all, and he would think-though that would not be so, hardly so, at least that she had told him direct, deliberate falsehoods.
Yet it was not at all likely that he should have heard anything. He had no communication with Mrs. Walton or Miss Ingram or the Rivers' family, and they were the only people who were aware of the extent of her care for the child. Mrs. Lumley only knew that she corresponded with a child of that name, and this Edward knew himself. Oh, she did wish she had told all from the first; how foolish she had been, and how unfortunate that letter should have missed.
Yet she hardly thought that was the trouble. What coulil it be?
So the days passed, and all the more heavily because she had to bear the anxiety alone. She did not mention the matter to his sisters. He wished not to be troubled by questions, and she knew his will was not law to them as it was to her; questions they would ask, and so she kept silence.
At length the day of election came. The Ballot Act had not then passed, giving to the day of polling something of flatness and anti-climax; so little to be seen, nothing to be known--a day spent in a sort of repressed deferred excitement, antil the laborions counting nears completion, and the vast crowd gathers in the centre of the city, and waits on in the night-darkness; and at length, amid breathless silence, the numbers are read out, and a great shout rises, and again and again; and the noise is heard even afar off, by the eager listeners tarrying at home.
But these were the days of open voting, of wooden booths erected in the streets, each the centre of noisy excitement, of changefal elation and dejection, as the state of the poll was posted up hour by hour, of brief waiting for the final resalt, which could seldom come as a surprise.
Restless at home, and unwilling to seem more indifferent than on former occasions, Clarissa went to the house of a friend, and took her place with others at a window commanding a view of one of the polling booths. There she sat, with heavy heart and weary eyes looking down on the commotion below-the coming and the going, the loud talking, shoats, and rough jokes of the idle crowd ; the grave faces and eager gesticulation of men standing in groups ; the grotesque vagaries of street archins, and the running to and fro and sharp barking of carions-minded dogs, determined to have their share in the general hubbub; the rushing by of cabs, some placarded with red and some with blue, driving furiously ap and back again, filled with noisy electors brandishing their cards as they met and passed; the slow-moving vehicle bringing up some feeble voter from his sick-room; the steady tramp of men, by threes and fours, coming to vote, and walking arm in arm; the loud harrahs, the waving of hats and handkerchiefs, as the favourite candidate in carriage and pair with postillion, drives through the crowd bowing and smiling. How amused she had been by it all three years ago, and how dreary it seemed to her now!
At one o'clock the Liberal candidate headed the poll with a majority of fifty-one, and Clarissa smiled, and tried to feel glad. At two this majority had seriously diminished ; at three Sir Astley Marriott, Conservative, took the lead by twenty-one; and she was really sorry If the day were lost Edward would be so grieved. Bat the fortunes of the party might be retrieved in the final hoar. Four o'clock! All was over now, the fortunes of the day decided ; wbich way? A half-hoar of impatient waiting, during which careful shopkeepers pat ap their shatters, in case exultation or chagrin should find vent in window-smashing, and then a horseman came galloping down the street, holding a piece of paper triumphantly aloft. Yos! he had a blue card in bis hat; then the Liberals had been again defeated—Sir Astley Marriott was member for Kingsport. All wearers of blue favours shouted; and then there was some fighting and throwing of stones, and Clarissa hastily left the window. “Oh, I hope no one will be hurt,” she said ; "and I am so sorry we have lost ; Edward will take it so much to heart. It is too bad; after be has worked, night and day." And when the tumult had somewhat subsided, her friend's stalwart son saw her safely to her home, and there she awaited her husband's retarn.
At length he entered, pale and worn, and she looked up with eyes full of love and sympathy, but hardly knowing what to say. She had an instinctive feeling that under the mortification of political defeat condolence is seldom acceptable. “Lost,” he said, “by divided counsels and base disloyalty." And he went to his private room and locked the door.
Through the evening Clarissa sat wearily alone, attempting no occupation, disturbed now and then by rude noises from the street, although Snow Hill was, to a great degree, exempt from the rough tarbulence which disgraced the town below. To-morrow she should know what was the trouble impending over them. What conld it be ? she asked again and again, with sickening anxiety and dread.
“Clarissa, you can come into the study,” Edward said the next morning, directly the almost silent breakfast was ended. With beating heart she followed him apstairs. When they had entered the room, he shut the door and locked it. “You can sit there,” he said, pointing to a chair beside the fire, and he took his station on the other side, his arm resting on the high mantelpiece.
“Oh, Edward ! what is the matter? what has happened ?”
"The worst calamity which could have befallen me," he said, fixing his eyes apon ber. I believed my wife to be faithful, true, and good." There was the slighteet trembling in his voice as he spoke these words, but the next were uttered in coldly-measured accents—"I have been living in a fool's paradise. You are an untrue wife, a deceitful woman.'
“Oh, Edward, Edward! what have I done? What have you heard? Is it about Irene?”
“You allowed me to suppose,” he went on, paying no attention to her interruption, “that you felt some interest in the child, wrote to her occasionally, and sent her a birthday present. You were maintaining her. When she left her home a telegram was sent to yon, as to the one person most nearly concerned ; you told me that you had received a letter from a friend, requesting your presence because of some trouble of her own. You accounted for this occasional correspondence, these trifling presents, by saying you had known and loved the child's mother in early days.” He paased, then spoke again in a yet lower, intenser tone—"It was not her mother that
knew !" “Edward, I did intend to tell you all ; indeed I did,” she said, bursting into tears, "and I did tell everything in that letter. Oh, if it had only not been lost ! ”
Her husband still gave no attention to what she said, but went on. “I do not judge you to have been guilty of this concealment and deceit from the mere love of lying; there must have been a motive."
“It was only putting off," she interrupted ; “indeed, indeed it was only that. I intended telling you when yoa came home, and then you were always out, or busy, and the fire happened, and you were ill, and I was ill, and so it got pat off ; and I was afraid you would be angry because I had not told sooner; and then Elizabeth said about a school friend, and I did not say "No!' I am very, , very sorry. Oh, I wish I had told at first. May I try and tell now? It was all told in that letter.”
"In what letter?” asked her husband, impatiently.
“Don't you remember,” she spoke eagerly, “ when you came home from New York, two years ago, sooner than you expected, and had the letters that came after you sailed sent on home, and there was one from me, that never came back? It was in that letter that I told everything; indeed I did !"
Her husband smiled ; a bitter, incredulous smile.
“ You have written me letters many enough, and long enough, when I have been away; we have been together, by day and by night, when I was at home. Do you expect me to believe that the
trath which you might have told at any moment, but for which you voluntarily substituted falsehoods, was contained in that one letter which happened to be lost ? I might once have beiieved anything as improbable as that, on your testimony, Clarissa—but not now."
“Oh, if it could only, only be found,” she said, barsting into fresh tears.
His scornful lip curled again. “Do not irritate me by foolishness,” he said. “I wish you to listen, and not to talk ”—and she tried to stay her tears, and to attend quietly, as he spoke again. “It was to Westhaven I went that day, and there I learned facts in the place of the fictions you have dealt in. Bat-attend to this. Regard for your reputation, and my own honoar, led me to make the inquiries, so that no one was aware that the information obtained was information to me; no one was allowed to saspect that I suffered the disgrace of being anited to an unreal, deceitful woman.”
“That was kind," she said, and said sincerely; for though the misery of having incurred her husband's displeasure almost swallowed up every other feeling, yet there had been a pang in the thought of her folly and prevarication being known to her friends at Westhaven.
“I bade you be silent,” he continued, sternly. “Because of this desire to shield your reputation, my questions were few; and, regarding the full meaning of the facts ascertained, I have no direct evidence. I leave it. That you have deliberately deceived me, lied to me, I know. That is enough. What yet darker infamy may lark behind, I leave to your own conscience. No mere love of lying could have prompted to this course of deception ;,a strong motive there mast have been.”
Edward, what can you mean?” Clarissa said, starting up. “What do you charge me with ?
“I have defiled my lips with no charge, save that of lying ; that is enough,” he answered, in the same hard, cold voice; but the words came to his wife's ears only as an indistinct sound, and she sank back into the chair, murmuring feebly, “I am so very faint."
Her husband went to the table, filled a glass with water, and held it to her lips. “Fainting will do no good,” he said ; “I desire you do not faint," and she drank of the water, and by a strong effort conquered, in a measure, the faintness. “Thank you," she said ; “I am better.”
“ Then come to the table; ” and weak and trembling she rose and came.
As she did so he turned to a desk standing in a recess, and opened a drawer.
A thrill of terror passed through her. There flashed on her mind
something she had read in the paper the night before of a deed of death wrought in a moment of jealous anger; for in that drawer there lay, though she had never known it loaded, an old-fashioned pistol. Yet it seemed to her at the time, and in thinking of it afterwards, that had he taken the deadly weapon in his hand, she mast have stood without power to resist his will, motionless, and uttering no cry. But it was only a book-a curions old copy of the New Testament—he laid upon the table; then he said, “Clarissa, there is only one thing you can now do that may, in a small degree, lessen my most jast anger, and make the pain you have inflicted a little less intolerable.”
“Ob, what is it? I promise to do it,” she said hastily ; then her heart sank. Would he ask her to give up all future care för the child ? " Simply to keep silence. Promise me that
will never mention this subject to any one
“I promise that willingly, gladly,” she interposed, mach relieved ; for Clarissa was by nature, and intellectual habit, slow in perceiving consequences.
“That never at any time, to any one; not to relatives of your own; not to relatives of mine, nor to any friend or any stranger, you will reveal one word of this cause of estrangement between us."
“I promise faithfully."
“Weak minds require sanctions. Lay your hand on this Testament,” he said, and she laid it.
“Now repeat after me. 'I, Clarissa Weatherill, solemnly declare,'” and she repeated the words after him, “ that I will never to any person whatsoever'”—again her voice followed his ". reveal the cause of the estrangement between my husband and myself.'” At the word estrangement a sob interrupted her utterance, but after a moment's pause she completed the sentence.
Then there followed the solemn words of adjaration, which she repeated in a low voice, tremblingly.
“Now yon may sit down, here,” he said, placing a chair beside the table. “Clarissa,” he went on, “I do not at present desire your society. I suppose there would be no difficulty in your visiting Northallerton for a few weeks ? ”
Her heart sank lower and lower, and her tears flowed afresh, as she answered, meekly, “No, Edward, none. In her last letter Mary said how she wished I could come; she could receive me at any time. But, Edward,” she pleaded, “you will not want me to stay away very long? You will forgive me and send for me back? I may write and tell you all about it, like I did in that letter, and you will forgive me?"