The Queen of Hearts, by Wilkie Collins

The Seventh Day.

FINE enough for our guest to go out again. Long, feathery lines of white cloud are waving upward in the sky, a sign of coming wind.

There was a steamer telegraphed yesterday from the West Indies. When the next vessel is announced from abroad, will it be George’s ship?

I don’t know how my brothers feel to-day, but the sudden cessation of my own literary labors has left me still in bad spirits. I tried to occupy my mind by reading, but my attention wandered. I went out into the garden, but it looked dreary; the autumn flowers were few and far between — the lawn was soaked and sodden with yesterday’s rain. I wandered into Owen’s room. He had returned to his painting, but was not working, as it struck me, with his customary assiduity and his customary sense of enjoyment.

We had a long talk together about George and Jessie and the future. Owen urged me to risk speaking of my son in her presence once more, on the chance of making her betray herself on a second occasion, and I determined to take his advice. But she was in such high spirits when she came home to dinner on this Seventh Day, and seemed so incapable, for the time being, of either feeling or speaking seriously, that I thought it wiser to wait till her variable mood altered again with the next wet day.

The number drawn this evening was Eight, being the number of the story which it had cost Owen so much labor to write. He looked a little fluttered and anxious as he opened the manuscript. This was the first occasion on which his ability as a narrator was to be brought to the test, and I saw him glance nervously at Jessie’s attentive face.

“I need not trouble you with much in the way of preface,” he said. “This is the story of a very remarkable event in the life of one of my brother clergymen. He and I became acquainted through being associated with each other in the management of a Missionary Society. I saw him for the last time in London when he was about to leave his country and his friends forever, and was then informed of the circumstances which have afforded the material for this narrative.”

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30