Lady Audley's Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 33

The Bearer of the Tidings.

It was very late the next morning when Lady Audley emerged from her dressing-room, exquisitely dressed in a morning costume of delicate muslin, delicate laces, and embroideries; but with a very pale face, and with half-circles of purple shadow under her eyes. She accounted for this pale face and these hollow eyes by declaring that she had sat up reading until a very late hour on the previous night.

Sir Michael and his young wife breakfasted in the library at a comfortable round table, wheeled close to the blazing fire; and Alicia was compelled to share this meal with her step-mother, however she might avoid that lady in the long interval between breakfast and dinner.

The March morning was bleak and dull, and a drizzling rain fell incessantly, obscuring the landscape and blotting out the distance. There were very few letters by the morning post; the daily newspapers did not arrive until noon; and such aids to conversation being missing, there was very little talk at the breakfast table.

Alicia looked out at the drizzling rain drifting against the broad window-panes.

“No riding to-day,” she said; “and no chance of any callers to enliven us, unless that ridiculous Bob comes crawling through the wet from Mount Stanning.”

Have you ever heard anybody, whom you knew to be dead, alluded to in a light, easy going manner by another person who did not know of his death — alluded to as doing that or this, as performing some trivial everyday operation — when you know that he has vanished away from the face of this earth, and separated himself forever from all living creatures and their commonplace pursuits in the awful solemnity of death? Such a chance allusion, insignificant though it may be, is apt to send a strange thrill of pain through the mind. The ignorant remark jars discordantly upon the hyper-sensitive brain; the King of Terrors is desecrated by that unwitting disrespect. Heaven knows what hidden reason my lady may have had for experiencing some such revulsion of feeling on the sudden mention of Mr. Audley’s name, but her pale face blanched to a sickly white as Alicia Audley spoke of her cousin.

“Yes, he will come down here in the wet, perhaps,” the young lady continued, “with his hat sleek and shining as if it had been brushed with a pat of fresh butter, and with white vapors steaming out of his clothes, and making him look like an awkward genie just let out of his bottle. He will come down here and print impressions of his muddy boots all over the carpet, and he’ll sit on your Gobelin tapestry, my lady, in his wet overcoat; and he’ll abuse you if you remonstrate, and will ask why people have chairs that are not to be sat upon, and why you don’t live in Figtree Court, and —”

Sir Michael Audley watched his daughter with a thoughtful countenance as she talked of her cousin. She very often talked of him, ridiculing him and inveighing against him in no very measured terms. But perhaps the baronet thought of a certain Signora Beatrice who very cruelly entreated a gentleman called Benedick, but who was, it may be, heartily in love with him at the same time.

“What do you think Major Melville told me when he called here yesterday, Alicia?” Sir Michael asked, presently.

“I haven’t the remotest idea,” replied Alicia, rather disdainfully. “Perhaps he told you that we should have another war before long, by Ged, sir; or perhaps he told you that we should have a new ministry, by Ged, sir, for that those fellows are getting themselves into a mess, sir; or that those other fellows were reforming this, and cutting down that, and altering the other in the army, until, by Ged, sir, we shall have no army at all, by-and-by — nothing but a pack of boys, sir, crammed up to the eyes with a lot of senseless schoolmasters’ rubbish, and dressed in shell-jackets and calico helmets. Yes, sir, they’re fighting in Oudh in calico helmets at this very day, sir.”

“You’re an impertinent minx, miss,” answered the baronet. “Major Melville told me nothing of the kind; but he told me that a very devoted admirer of you, a certain Sir Harry Towers, has forsaken his place in Hertfordshire, and his hunting stable, and has gone on the continent for a twelvemonths’ tour.”

Miss Audley flushed up suddenly at the mention of her old adorer, but recovered herself very quickly.

“He has gone on the continent, has he?” she said indifferently. “He told me that he meant to do so — if — if he didn’t have everything his own way. Poor fellow! he’s a, dear, good-hearted, stupid creature, and twenty times better than that peripatetic, patent refrigerator, Mr. Robert Audley.”

“I wish, Alicia, you were not so fond of ridiculing Bob,” Sir Michael said, gravely. “Bob is a good fellow, and I’m as fond of him as if he’d been my own son; and — and — I’ve been very uncomfortable about him lately. He has changed very much within the last few days, and he has taken all sorts of absurd ideas into his head, and my lady has alarmed me about him. She thinks —”

Lady Audley interrupted her husband with a grave shake of her head.

“It is better not to say too much about it as yet awhile,” she said; “Alicia knows what I think.”

“Yes,” replied Miss Audley, “my lady thinks that Bob is going mad, but I know better than that. He’s not at all the sort of person to go mad. How should such a sluggish ditch-pond of an intellect as his ever work itself into a tempest? He may move about for the rest of his life, perhaps, in a tranquil state of semi-idiotcy, imperfectly comprehending who he is, and where he’s going, and what he’s doing — but he’ll never go mad.”

Sir Michael did not reply to this. He had been very much disturbed by his conversation with my lady on the previous evening, and had silently debated the painful question, in his mind ever since.

His wife — the woman he best loved and most believed in — had told him, with all appearance of regret and agitation, her conviction of his nephew’s insanity. He tried in vain to arrive at the conclusion he wished most ardently to attain; he tried in vain to think that my lady was misled by her own fancies, and had no foundation for what she said. But then, again, it suddenly flashed upon him, that to think this was to arrive at a worse conclusion; it was to transfer the horrible suspicion from his nephew to his wife. She appeared to be possessed with an actual conviction of Robert’s insanity. To imagine her wrong was to imagine some weakness in her own mind. The longer he thought of the subject the more it harassed and perplexed him. It was most certain that the young man had always been eccentric. He was sensible, he was tolerably clever, he was honorable and gentlemanlike in feeling, though perhaps a little careless in the performance of certain minor social duties; but there were some slight differences, not easily to be defined, that separated him from other men of his age and position. Then, again, it was equally true that he had very much changed within the period that had succeeded the disappearance of George Talboys. He had grown moody and thoughtful, melancholy and absent-minded. He had held himself aloof from society, had sat for hours without speaking; had talked at other points by fits and starts; and had excited himself unusually in the discussion of subjects which apparently lay far out of the region of his own life and interests. Then there was even another region which seemed to strengthen my lady’s case against this unhappy young man. He had been brought up in the frequent society of his cousin, Alicia — his pretty, genial cousin — to whom interest, and one would have thought affection, naturally pointed as his most fitting bride. More than this, the girl had shown him, in the innocent guilelessness of a transparent nature, that on her side at least, affection was not wanting; and yet, in spite of all this, he had held himself aloof, and had allowed others to propose for her hand, and to be rejected by her, and had still made no sign.

Now love is so very subtle an essence, such an indefinable metaphysical marvel, that its due force, though very cruelly felt by the sufferer himself, is never clearly understood by those who look on at its torments and wonder why he takes the common fever so badly. Sir Michael argued that because Alicia was a pretty girl and an amiable girl it was therefore extraordinary and unnatural in Robert Audley not to have duly fallen in love with her. This baronet, who close upon his sixtieth birthday, had for the first time encountered that one woman who out of all the women in the world had power to quicken the pulses of his heart, wondered why Robert failed to take the fever from the first breath of contagion that blew toward him. He forgot that there are men who go their ways unscathed amidst legions of lovely and generous women, to succumb at last before some harsh-featured virago, who knows the secret of that only philter which can intoxicate and bewitch him. He had forgot that there are certain Jacks who go through life without meeting the Jill appointed for them by Nemesis, and die old bachelors, perhaps, with poor Jill pining an old maid upon the other side of the party-wall. He forgot that love, which is a madness, and a scourge, and a fever, and a delusion, and a snare, is also a mystery, and very imperfectly understood by everyone except the individual sufferer who writhes under its tortures. Jones, who is wildly enamored of Miss Brown, and who lies awake at night until he loathes his comfortable pillow and tumbles his sheets into two twisted rags of linen in his agonies, as if he were a prisoner and wanted to wind them into impromptu ropes; this same Jones who thinks Russell Square a magic place because his divinity inhabits it, who thinks the trees in that inclosure and the sky above it greener and bluer than other trees or sky, and who feels a pang, yes, an actual pang, of mingled hope, and joy, and expectation, and terror, when he emerges from Guilford street, descending from the hights of Islington, into those sacred precincts; this very Jones is hard and callous toward the torments of Smith, who adores Miss Robinson, and cannot imagine what the infatuated fellow can see in the girl. So it was with Sir Michael Audley. He looked at his nephew as a sample of a very large class of young men, and his daughter as a sample of an equally extensive class of feminine goods, and could not see why the two samples should not make a very respectable match. He ignored all those infinitesimal differences in nature which make the wholesome food of one man the deadly poison of another. How difficult it is to believe sometimes that a man doesn’t like such and such a favorite dish. If at a dinner-party, a meek looking guest refuses early salmon and cucumbers, or green peas in February, we set him down as a poor relation whose instincts warn him off those expensive plates. If an alderman were to declare that he didn’t like green fat, he would be looked upon as a social martyr, a Marcus Curtius of the dinner-table, who immolated himself for the benefit of his kind. His fellow-aldermen would believe in anything rather than an heretical distaste for the city ambrosia of the soup tureen. But there are people who dislike salmon, and white-bait, and spring ducklings, and all manner of old-established delicacies, and there are other people who affect eccentric and despicable dishes, generally stigmatized as nasty.

Alas, my pretty Alicia, your cousin did not love you! He admired your rosy English face, and had a tender affection for you which might perhaps have expanded by-and-by into something warm enough for matrimony, that every-day jog-trot species of union which demands no very passionate devotion, but for a sudden check which it had received in Dorsetshire. Yes, Robert Audley’s growing affection for his cousin, a plant of very slow growth, I am fain to confess, had been suddenly dwarfed and stunted upon that bitter February day on which he had stood beneath the pine-trees talking to Clara Talboys. Since that day the young man had experienced an unpleasant sensation in thinking of poor Alicia. He looked at her as being in some vague manner an incumbrance upon the freedom of his thoughts; he had a haunting fear that he was in some tacit way pledged to her; that she had a species of claim upon him, which forbade to him the right of thinking of another woman. I believe it was the image of Miss Audley presented to him in this light that goaded the young barrister into those outbursts of splenetic rage against the female sex which he was liable to at certain times. He was strictly honorable, so honorable that he would rather have immolated himself upon the altar of truth and Alicia than have done her the remotest wrong, though by so doing he might have secured his own comfort and happiness.

“If the poor little girl loves me,” he thought, “and if she thinks that I love her, and has been led to think so by any word or act of mine, I’m in duty bound to let her think so to the end of time, and to fulfill any tacit promise which I may have unconsciously made. I thought once — I meant once to — to make her an offer by-and-by when this horrible mystery about George Talboys should have been cleared up and everything peacefully settled — but now —”

His thoughts would ordinarily wander away at this point of his reflections, carrying him where he never had intended to go; carrying him back under the pine-trees in Dorsetshire, and setting him once more face to face with the sister of his missing friend, and it was generally a very laborious journey by which he traveled back to the point from which he strayed. It was so difficult for him to tear himself away from the stunted turf and the pine-trees.

“Poor little girl!” he would think on coming back to Alicia. “How good it is of her to love me, and how grateful ought I to be for her tenderness. How many fellows would think such a generous, loving heart the highest boon that earth could give them. There’s Sir Harry Towers stricken with despair at his rejection. He would give me half his estate, all his estate, twice his estate, if he had it, to be in the shoes which I am anxious to shake off my ungrateful feet. Why don’t I love her? Why is it that although I know her to be pretty, and pure, and good, and truthful, I don’t love her? Her image never haunts me, except reproachfully. I never see her in my dreams. I never wake up suddenly in the dead of the night with her eyes shining upon me and her warm breath upon my cheek, or with the fingers of her soft hand clinging to mine. No, I’m not in love with her, I can’t fall in love with her.”

He raged and rebelled against his ingratitude. He tried to argue himself into a passionate attachment for his cousin, but he failed ignominiously, and the more he tried to think of Alicia the more he thought of Clara Talboys. I am speaking now of his feelings in the period that elapsed between his return from Dorsetshire and his visit to Grange Heath.

Sir Michael sat by the library fire after breakfast upon this wretched rainy morning, writing letters and reading the newspapers. Alicia shut herself in her own apartment to read the third volume of a novel. Lady Audley locked the door of the octagon ante-chamber, and roamed up and down the suit of rooms from the bedroom to the boudoir all through that weary morning.

She had locked the door to guard against the chance of any one coming in suddenly and observing her before she was aware — before she had had sufficient warning to enable her to face their scrutiny. Her pale face seemed to grow paler as the morning advanced. A tiny medicine-chest was open upon the dressing-table, and little stoppered bottles of red lavender, sal-volatile, chloroform, chlorodyne, and ether were scattered about. Once my lady paused before this medicine-chest, and took out the remaining bottles, half-absently, perhaps, until she came to one which was filled with a thick, dark liquid, and labeled “opium — poison.”

She trifled a long time with this last bottle; holding it up to the light, and even removing the stopper and smelling the sickly liquid. But she put it from her suddenly with a shudder. “If I could!” she muttered, “if I could only do it! And yet why should I now?”

She clinched her small hands as she uttered the last words, and walked to the window of the dressing-room, which looked straight toward that ivied archway under which any one must come who came from Mount Stanning to the Court.

There were smaller gates in the gardens which led into the meadows behind the Court, but there was no other way of coming from Mount Stanning or Brentwood than by the principal entrance.

The solitary hand of the clock over the archway was midway between one and two when my lady looked at it.

“How slow the time is,” she said, wearily; “how slow, how slow! Shall I grow old like this, I wonder, with every minute of my life seeming like an hour?”

She stood for a few minutes watching the archway, but no one passed under it while she looked, and she turned impatiently away from the window to resume her weary wandering about the rooms.

Whatever fire that had been which had reflected itself vividly in the black sky, no tidings of it had as yet come to Audley Court. The day was miserably wet and windy, altogether the very last day upon which even the most confirmed idler and gossip would care to venture out. It was not a market-day, and there were therefore very few passengers upon the road between Brentwood and Chelmsford, so that as yet no news of the fire, which had occurred in the dead of the wintry night, had reached the village of Audley, or traveled from the village to the Court.

The girl with the rose-colored ribbons came to the door of the anteroom to summon her mistress to luncheon, but Lady Audley only opened the door a little way, and intimated her intention of taking no luncheon.

“My head aches terribly, Martin,” she said; “I shall go and lie down till dinner-time. You may come at five to dress me.”

Lady Audley said this with the predetermination of dressing at four, and thus dispensing with the services of her attendant. Among all privileged spies, a lady’s-maid has the highest privileges; it is she who bathes Lady Theresa’s eyes with eau-de-cologne after her ladyship’s quarrel with the colonel; it is she who administers sal-volatile to Miss Fanny when Count Beaudesert, of the Blues, has jilted her. She has a hundred methods for the finding out of her mistress’ secrets. She knows by the manner in which her victim jerks her head from under the hair-brush, or chafes at the gentlest administration of the comb, what hidden tortures are racking her breast — what secret perplexities are bewildering her brain. That well-bred attendant knows how to interpret the most obscure diagnosis of all mental diseases that can afflict her mistress; she knows when the ivory complexion is bought and paid for — when the pearly teeth are foreign substances fashioned by the dentist — when the glossy plaits are the relics of the dead, rather than the property of the living; and she knows other and more sacred secrets than these; she knows when the sweet smile is more false than Madame Levison’s enamel, and far less enduring — when the words that issue from between gates of borrowed pearl are more disguised and painted than the lips which help to shape them — when the lovely fairy of the ball-room re-enters the dressing-room after the night’s long revelry, and throws aside her voluminous burnous and her faded bouquet, and drops her mask, and like another Cinderella loses the glass-slipper, by whose glitter she has been distinguished, and falls back into her rags and dirt, the lady’s maid is by to see the transformation. The valet who took wages from the prophet of Korazin must have seen his master sometimes unveiled, and must have laughed in his sleeve at the folly of the monster’s worshipers.

Lady Audley had made no confidante of her new maid, and on this day of all others she wished to be alone.

She did lie down; she cast herself wearily upon the luxurious sofa in the dressing-room, and buried her face in the down pillows and tried to sleep. Sleep! — she had almost forgotten what it was, that tender restorer of tired nature, it seemed so long now since she had slept. It was only about eight-and-forty hours perhaps, but it appeared an intolerable time. Her fatigue of the night before, and her unnatural excitement, had worn her out at last. She did fall asleep; she fell into a heavy slumber that was almost like stupor. She had taken a few drops out of the opium bottle in a glass of water before lying down.

The clock over the mantelpiece chimed the quarter before four as she woke suddenly and started up, with the cold perspiration breaking out in icy drops upon her forehead. She had dreamt that every member of the household was clamoring at the door, eager to tell her of a dreadful fire that had happened in the night.

There was no sound but the flapping of the ivy-leaves against the glass, the occasional falling of a cinder, and the steady ticking of the clock.

“Perhaps I shall be always dreaming these sort of dreams,” my lady thought, “until the terror of them kills me!”

The rain had ceased, and the cold spring sunshine was glittering upon the windows. Lady Audley dressed herself rapidly but carefully. I do not say that even in her supremest hour of misery she still retained her pride in her beauty. It was not so; she looked upon that beauty as a weapon, and she felt that she had now double need to be well armed. She dressed herself in her most gorgeous silk, a voluminous robe of silvery, shimmering blue, that made her look as if she had been arrayed in moonbeams. She shook out her hair into feathery showers of glittering gold, and, with a cloak of white cashmere about her shoulders, went down-stairs into the vestibule.

She opened the door of the library and looked in. Sir Michael Audley was asleep in his easy-chair. As my lady softly closed this door Alicia descended the stairs from her own room. The turret door was open, and the sun was shining upon the wet grass-plat in the quadrangle. The firm gravel-walks were already very nearly dry, for the rain had ceased for upward of two hours.

“Will you take a walk with me in the quadrangle?” Lady Audley asked as her step-daughter approached. The armed neutrality between the two women admitted of any chance civility such as this.

“Yes, if you please, my lady,” Alicia answered, rather listlessly. “I have been yawning over a stupid novel all the morning, and shall be very glad of a little fresh air.”

Heaven help the novelist whose fiction Miss Audley had been perusing, if he had no better critics than that young lady. She had read page after page without knowing what she had been reading, and had flung aside the volume half a dozen times to go to the window and watch for that visitor whom she had so confidently expected.

Lady Audley led the way through the low doorway and on to the smooth gravel drive, by which carriages approached the house. She was still very pale, but the brightness of her dress and of her feathery golden ringlets, distracted an observer’s eyes from her pallid face. All mental distress is, with some show of reason, associated in our minds with loose, disordered garments and dishabilled hair, and an appearance in every way the reverse of my lady’s. Why had she come out into the chill sunshine of that March afternoon to wander up and down that monotonous pathway with the step-daughter she hated? She came because she was under the dominion of a horrible restlessness, which, would not suffer her to remain within the house waiting for certain tidings which she knew must too surely come. At first she had wished to ward them off — at first she had wished that strange convulsions of nature might arise to hinder their coming — that abnormal winter lightnings might wither and destroy the messenger who carried them — that the ground might tremble and yawn beneath his hastening feet, and that impassable gulfs might separate the spot from which the tidings were to come and the place to which they were to be carried. She wished that the earth might stand still, and the paralyzed elements cease from their natural functions, that the progress of time might stop, that the Day of Judgment might come, and that she might thus be brought before an unearthly tribunal, and so escape the intervening shame and misery of any earthly judgment. In the wild chaos of her brain, every one of these thoughts had held its place, and in her short slumber on the sofa in her dressing-room she had dreamed all these things and a hundred other things, all bearing upon the same subject. She had dreamed that a brook, a tiny streamlet when she first saw it, flowed across the road between Mount Stanning and Audley, and gradually swelled into a river, and from a river became an ocean, till the village on the hill receded far away out of sight and only a great waste of waters rolled where it once had been. She dreamt that she saw the messenger, now one person, now another, but never any probable person, hindered by a hundred hinderances, now startling and terrible, now ridiculous and trivial, but never either natural or probable; and going down into the quiet house with the memory of these dreams strong upon her, she had been bewildered by the stillness which had betokened that the tidings had not yet come.

And now her mind underwent a complete change. She no longer wished to delay the dreaded intelligence. She wished the agony, whatever it was to be, over and done with, the pain suffered, and the release attained. It seemed to her as if the intolerable day would never come to an end, as if her mad wishes had been granted, and the progress of time had actually stopped.

“What a long day it has been!” exclaimed Alicia, as if taking up the burden of my lady’s thoughts; “nothing but drizzle and mist and wind! And now that it’s too late for anybody to go out, it must needs be fine,” the young lady added, with an evident sense of injury.

Lady Audley did not answer. She was looking at the stupid one-handed clock, and waiting for the news which must come sooner or later, which could not surely fail to come very speedily.

“They have been afraid to come and tell him,” she thought; “they have been afraid to break the news to Sir Michael. Who will come to tell it, at last, I wonder? The rector of Mount Stanning, perhaps, or the doctor; some important person at least.”

If she could have gone out into the leafless avenues, or onto the high road beyond them; if she could have gone so far as that hill upon which she had so lately parted with Phoebe, she would have gladly done so. She would rather have suffered anything than that slow suspense, that corroding anxiety, that metaphysical dryrot in which heart and mind seemed to decay under an insufferable torture. She tried to talk, and by a painful effort contrived now and then to utter some commonplace remark. Under any ordinary circumstances her companion would have noticed her embarrassment, but Miss Audley, happening to be very much absorbed by her own vexations, was quite as well inclined to be silent as my lady herself. The monotonous walk up and down the graveled pathway suited Alicia’s humor. I think that she even took a malicious pleasure in the idea that she was very likely catching cold, and that her Cousin Robert was answerable for her danger. If she could have brought upon herself inflammation of the lungs, or ruptured blood-vessels, by that exposure to the chill March atmosphere, I think she would have felt a gloomy satisfaction in her sufferings.

“Perhaps Robert might care for me, if I had inflammation of the lungs,” she thought. “He couldn’t insult me by calling me a bouncer then. Bouncers don’t have inflammation of the lungs.”

I believe she drew a picture of herself in the last stage of consumption, propped up by pillows in a great easy-chair, looking out of a window in the afternoon sunshine, with medicine bottles, a bunch of grapes and a Bible upon a table by her side, and with Robert, all contrition and tenderness, summoned to receive her farewell blessing. She preached a whole chapter to him in that parting benediction, talking a great deal longer than was in keeping with her prostrate state, and very much enjoying her dismal castle in the air. Employed in this sentimental manner, Miss Audley took very little notice of her step-mother, and the one hand of the blundering clock had slipped to six by the time Robert had been blessed and dismissed.

“Good gracious me!” she cried, suddenly —“six o’clock, and I’m not dressed.”

The half-hour bell rung in a cupola upon the roof while Alicia was speaking.

“I must go in, my lady,” she said. “Won’t you come?”

“Presently,” answered Lady Audley. “I’m dressed, you see.”

Alicia ran off, but Sir Michael’s wife still lingered in the quadrangle, still waited for those tidings which were so long coming.

It was nearly dark. The blue mists of evening had slowly risen from the ground. The flat meadows were filled with a gray vapor, and a stranger might have fancied Audley Court a castle on the margin of a sea. Under the archway the shadows of fastcoming night lurked darkly, like traitors waiting for an opportunity to glide stealthily into the quadrangle. Through the archway a patch of cold blue sky glimmered faintly, streaked by one line of lurid crimson, and lighted by the dim glitter of one wintry-looking star. Not a creature was stirring in the quadrangle but the restless woman who paced up and down the straight pathways, listening for a footstep whose coming was to strike terror to her soul. She heard it at last! — a footstep in the avenue upon the other side of the archway. But was it the footstep? Her sense of hearing, made unnaturally acute by excitement, told her that it was a man’s footstep — told even more, that it was the tread of a gentleman, no slouching, lumbering pedestrian in hobnailed boots, but a gentleman who walked firmly and well.

Every sound fell like a lump of ice upon my lady’s heart. She could not wait, she could not contain herself, she lost all self-control, all power of endurance, all capability of self-restraint, and she rushed toward the archway.

She paused beneath its shadow, for the stranger was close upon her. She saw him, oh, God! she saw him in that dim evening light. Her brain reeled, her heart stopped beating. She uttered no cry of surprise, no exclamation of terror, but staggered backward and clung for support to the ivied buttress of the archway. With her slender figure crouched into the angle formed by the buttress and the wall which it supported, she stood staring at the new-comer.

As he approached her more closely her knees sunk under her, and she dropped to the ground, not fainting, or in any manner unconscious, but sinking into a crouching attitude, and still crushed into the angle of the wall, as if she would have made a tomb for herself in the shadow of that sheltering brickwork.

“My lady!”

The speaker was Robert Audley. He whose bedroom door she had double-locked seventeen hours before at the Castle Inn.

“What is the matter with you?” he said, in a strange, constrained manner. “Get up, and let me take you indoors.”

He assisted her to rise, and she obeyed him very submissively. He took her arm in his strong hand and led her across the quadrangle and into the lamp-lit hall. She shivered more violently than he had ever seen any woman shiver before, but she made no attempt at resistance to his will.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31