It was a dreary habitation, that London lodging, after the gardens and woods of Arden, the luxurious surroundings and innumerable prettinesses which Mr. Granger’s wealth had provided for the wife of his love; dreary after the holiday brightness of Paris; dreary beyond expression to Clarissa in the long quiet evenings when she sat alone, trying to face the future — the necessity for immediate action being over, and the world all before her.
She had her darling. That was the one fact which she repeated to herself over and over again, as if the words had been a charm — an amulet to drive away guilty thoughts of the life that might have been, if she had listened to George Fairfax’s prayer.
It was not easy for her to shut that image out of her heart, even with her dearest upon earth beside her. The tender pleading words, the earnest face, came back to her very often. She thought of him wandering about those hilly streets in Brussels, disappointed and angry: thought of his reproaches, and the sacrifices he had made for her.
And then from such weak fancies she was brought suddenly back by the necessities of every-day life Her money was very nearly gone; the journeys had cost so much, and she had been obliged to buy clothing for Jane and Lovel and herself at Brussels. She had spent a sovereign on colours and brushes and drawing-paper at Winsor and Newton’s — her little stock-in-trade. She looked at her diamond rings meditatively as she sat brooding in the March twilight, with as vague an idea of their value as a child might have had. The time was very near when she would be obliged to turn them into money.
Fortunately the woman of the house was friendly, and the rooms were clean. But the airs of Soho are not as those breezes which come blowing over Yorkshire wolds and woods, with the breath of the German Ocean; nor had they the gay Tuileries garden and the Bois for Master Lovel’s airings. Jane Target was sorely puzzled where to take the child. It was a weary long way to St. James’s Park on foot; and the young mother had a horror of omnibuses — in which she supposed smallpox and fever to be continually raging. Sometimes they had a cab, and took the boy down to feed the ducks and stare at the soldiers. But in the Park Clarissa had an ever-present terror of being seen by some one she knew. Purposeless prowlings with baby in the streets generally led unawares into Newport-market, from which busy mart Mrs. Granger fled aghast, lest her darling should die of the odour of red herrings and stale vegetables. In all the wider streets Clarissa was afflicted by that perpetual fear of being recognised; and during the airings which Lovel enjoyed with Jane alone the poor mother endured unspeakable torments. At any moment Mr. Granger, or some one employed by Mr. Granger, might encounter the child, and her darling be torn from her; or some accident might befall him. Clarissa’s inexperience exaggerated the perils of the London streets, until every paving-stone seemed to bristle with dangers. She longed for the peace and beauty of the country; but not until she had found some opening for the disposal of her sketches could she hope to leave London. She worked on bravely for a fortnight, painting half a dozen hours a day, and wasting the rest of her day in baby worship, or in profound plottings and plannings about the future with Jane Target. The girl was thoroughly devoted, ready to accept any scheme of existence which her mistress might propose. The two women made their little picture of the life they were to lead when Clarissa had found a kindly dealer to give her constant employment: a tiny cottage, somewhere in Kent or Surrey, among green fields and wooded hills, furnished ever so humbly, but with a garden where Lovel might play. Clarissa sketched the ideal cottage one evening — a bower of roses and honeysuckle, with a thatched roof and steep gables. Alas, when she had finished her fortnight’s work, and carried half a dozen sketches to a dealer in Rathbone-place, it was only to meet with a crushing disappointment. The man admitted her power, but had no use for anything of that kind. Chromolithographs were cheap and popular — people would rather buy a lithograph of some popular artist’s picture than a nameless water-colour. If she liked to leave a couple of her sketches, he would try to dispose of them, but he could not buy them — and giving her permanent employment was quite out of the question.
“Do you know anything about engraving?” he asked.
Clarissa shook her head sadly.
“Can you draw on the wood?”
“I have never tried, but I daresay I could do that.”
“I recommend you to turn your attention that way. There’s a larger field for that sort of thing. You might exhibit some of your sketches at the next Water–Colour Exhibition. They would stand a chance of selling there.”
“Thanks. You are very good, but I want remunerative employment immediately.”
She wandered on — from dealer to dealer, hoping against hope always with the same result — from Rathbone-place to Regent-street, and on to Bond-street, and homewards along Oxford-street, and then back to her baby, broken-hearted.
“It is no use, Jane,” she sobbed. “I can understand my brother’s life now. Art is a broken reed. We must get away from this dreadful London — how pale my Lovel is looking! — and go into some quiet country-place, where we can live very cheaply. I almost wish I had stayed in Belgium — in one of the small out-of-the-way towns, where we might have been safely hidden. We must go down to the country, Jane, and I must take in plain needle-work.”
“I’m a good un at that, you know, mum,” Jane cried with a delighted grin.
And then they began to consider where they should go. That was rather a difficult question. Neither of them knew any world except the region surrounding Arden Court. At last Clarissa remembered Beckenham. She had driven through Beckenham once on her way to a garden-party. Why should they not go to Beckenham? — the place was so near London, could be reached with so little expense, and yet was rustic.
“We must get rid of one of the rings, Jane,” Clarissa said, looking at it doubtfully.
“I’ll manage that, mum — don’t you fidget yourself about that. There’s a pawnbroker’s in the next street. I’ll take it round there in the evening, if you like, mum.”
Clarissa shuddered. Commerce with a pawnbroker seemed to her inexperience a kind of crime — something like taking stolen property to be melted down.
But Jane Target was a brave damsel, and carried the ring to the pawnbroker with so serene a front, and gave her address with so honest an air, that the man, though at first inclined to be doubtful, believed her story; namely, that the ring belonged to her mistress, a young married lady who had suffered a reverse of fortune.
She went home rejoicing, having raised fifteen pounds upon a ring that was worth ninety. The pawnbroker had a notice that it would never be redeemed — young married ladies who suffer reverse of fortune rarely recover their footing, but generally slide down, down, down to the uttermost deeps of poverty.
They were getting ready for that journey to Beckenham, happy in the idea of escaping from the monotonous unfriendly streets, and the grime and mire and general dinginess of London life, when an unlooked-for calamity befell them, and the prospect of release had, for the time at least, to be given up. Young Lovel fell ill. He was “about his teeth,” the woman of the house said, and tried to make light of the evil. These innocents are subject to much suffering in this way. He had a severe cold, with a tiresome hacking cough which rent Clarissa’s heart. She sent for a doctor immediately — a neighbouring practitioner recommended by the landlady — and he came and saw the child lying in his mother’s lap, and the mother young and beautiful and unhappy, and was melted accordingly, and did all he could to treat the matter lightly. Yet he was fain, after a few visits, and no progress for the better, to confess that these little lives hang by a slender thread.
“The little fellow has a noble frame and an excellent constitution,” he said; “I hope we shall save him.”
Save him! An icy thrill went through Clarissa’s veins. Save him! Was there any fear of losing him? O God, what would her life be without that child? She looked at the doctor, white to the lips and speechless with horror.
“I don’t wish to alarm you,” he said gently, “but I am compelled to admit that there is danger. If the little one’s father is away,” he added doubtfully, “and you would like to summon him, I think it would be as well to do so.”
“O, my flower, my angel, my life!” she cried, flinging herself down beside the child’s bed; “I cannot lose you!”
“I trust in God you will not,” said the surgeon. “We will make every effort to save him.” And then he turned to Jane Target, and murmured his directions.
“Is there any one else,” said Clarissa in a hoarse voice, looking up at the medical man —“anyone I can send for besides yourself — any one who can cure my baby?”
“I doubt whether it would be of any use. The case is such a simple one. I have fifty such in a year. But if you would like a physician to see the little fellow, there is Dr. Ormond, who has peculiar experience in children’s cases. You might call him in, if you liked.”
“I will send for him this minute. — Jane, dear, will you go?”
“I don’t think it would be any use, just now. He will be out upon his rounds. There is no immediate danger. If you were to send to him this evening — a note would do — asking him to call to-morrow — that would be the best way. Remember, I don’t for a moment say the case is hopeless. Only, if you have any anxiety about the little one’s father, and if he is within a day’s journey, I would really advise you to send for him.”
Clarissa did not answer. She was hanging over the bed, watching every difficult breath with unutterable agony. The child had only begun to droop a week ago, had been positively ill only four days.
All the rest of that day Clarissa was in a kind of stupor. She watched the child, and watched Jane administering her remedies, and the landlady coming in now and then to look at the boy, or to ask about him with a friendly anxiety. She tried to help Jane sometimes, in a useless tremulous way, sometimes sat statue-like, and could only gaze. She could not even pray — only now and then, she whispered with her dry lips, “Surely God will not take away my child!”
At dusk the doctor came again, but said very little. He was leaving the room, when Clarissa stopped him with a passionate despairing cry. Until that moment she had seemed marble.
“Tell me the truth,” she cried. “Will he be taken away from me? He is all the world to me — the only thing on earth I have to love. Surely God will not be so pitiless! What difference can one angel more make in heaven? and he is all the world to me.”
“My dear lady, these things are ordered by a Wisdom beyond our comprehension,” the doctor answered gently. That picture of a disconsolate mother was very common to him — only Clarissa was so much lovelier than most of the mothers, and her grief had a more romantic aspect and touched him a little more than usual. “Believe me, I shall make every effort to pull the little fellow through,” he added with the professional air of hopefulness. “Have you written to Dr. Ormond?”
“Yes, my letter was posted an hour after you called.”
“Then we shall hear what he says to-morrow. You can have no higher opinion. And now pray, my dear Mrs. Graham”— Clarissa had called herself Graham in these Soho lodgings —“pray keep up your spirits; remember your own health will suffer if you give way — and I really do not think you are strong.”
He looked at her curiously as he spoke. She was deadly pale, and had a haggard look which aged her by ten years: beauty less perfect in its outline would have been obscured by that mental anguish — hers shone through all, ineffaceable.
“Do not forget what I said about the little one’s father,” urged the doctor, lingering for a minute on the threshold. “There is really too great a responsibility in keeping him ignorant of the case, if he is anywhere within reach.”
Clarissa smiled for the first time since her boy’s illness — a strange wan smile. She was thinking how Daniel Granger had threatened her with separation from her child; and now Death had come between them to snatch him from both.
“My son!” She remembered the proud serenity, the supreme sense of possession, with which she had pronounced those words.
And the child would die perhaps, and Daniel Granger never look upon his face again. A great terror came into her mind at that thought. What would her husband say to her if he came to claim his boy, and found him dead? For the first time since she had left him — triumphant in the thought of having secured this treasure — the fact that the boy belonged to him, as well as to herself, came fully home to her. From the day of the baby’s birth she had been in the habit of thinking of him as her own — hers by a right divine almost — of putting his father out of the question, as it were — only just tolerating to behold that doating father’s fond looks and caresses — watching all communion between those two with a lurking jealousy.
Now all at once she began to feel what a sacred bond there was between the father and son, and how awful a thing it would be, if Daniel Granger should find his darling dead. Might he not denounce her as the chief cause of his boy’s death? Those hurried journeys by land and sea — that rough shifting to and fro of the pampered son and heir, whose little life until that time had been surrounded with such luxurious indulgences, so guarded from the faintest waft of discomfort — who should say that these things had not jeopardised the precious creature? And out of her sin had this arisen. In that dread hour by her darling’s sick-bed, what unutterably odious colours did her flirtation with George Fairfax assume — her dalliance with temptation, her weak hankering after that forbidden society! She saw, as women do see in that clear after-light which comes with remorse, all the guilt and all the hatefulness of her sin.
“God gave me my child for my redemption,” she said to herself, “and I went on sinning.”
What was it the doctor had said? Again and again those parting words came back to her. The father should be summoned. But to summon him, to reveal her hiding-place, and then have her darling taken from her, saved from the grasp of death only to be torn from her by his pitiless unforgiving father! No thought of what Daniel Granger had been to her in all the days of her married life arose to comfort or reassure her. She only thought of him as he had been after that fatal meeting in her brother’s painting-room; and she hoped for no mercy from him.
“And even if I were willing to send for him, I don’t know where he is,” she said at last helplessly.
Jane Target urged her to summon him.
“If you was to send a telegraft to the Court, mum, Miss Granger is pretty sure to be there, and she’d send to her pa, wherever he was.”
Clarissa shivered. Send to Miss Granger! suffer those cold eyes to see the depth of her humiliation! That would be hard to endure. Yet what did anything in the world matter to her when her boy was in jeopardy?
“We shall save him, Jane,” she said with a desperate hopefulness, clasping her hands and bending down to kiss the troubled little one, who had brief snatches of sleep now and then in weary hours of restlessness. “We shall save him. The doctor said so.”
“God grant we may, mum! But the doctor didn’t say for certain — he only said he hoped; and it would be so much better to send for master. It seems a kind of crime not to let him know; and if the poor dear should grow worse —”
“He will not grow worse!” cried Clarissa hysterically. “What, Jane! are you against me? Do you want me to be robbed of him, as his father would rob me without mercy? No, I will keep him, I will keep him! Nothing but death shall take him from me.”
Later in the evening, restless with the restlessness of a soul tormented by fear, Clarissa began to grow uneasy about her letter to Dr. Ormond. It might miscarry in going through the postoffice. She was not quite sure that it had been properly directed, her mind had been so bewildered when she wrote it. Or Dr. Ormond might have engagements next morning, and might not be able to come. She was seized with a nervous anxiety about this.”
“If there were any one I could send with another note,” she said.
Jane shook her head despondently. In that house there was no messenger to be procured. The landlady was elderly, and kept no servant — employing only a mysterious female of the charwoman species, who came at daybreak, dyed herself to the elbows with blacking or blacklead before breakfast, and so remained till the afternoon, when she departed to “do for” a husband and children — the husband and children passing all the earlier part of the day in a desolate and un-“done-for” condition.
“There’s no one to take a letter, mum,” said Jane, looking wistfully at her mistress, who had been watching without rest or slumber for three days and three nights. “But why shouldn’t you go yourself, mum? Cavendish Square isn’t so very far. Don’t you remember our going there one morning with baby? It’s a fine evening, and a little fresh air would do you good.”
Clarissa was quite willing to go on the errand herself. It would be doing something at least. She might see the physician, and obtain his promise to come to her early next day; and beside that sick-bed she was of so little use. She could only hold her darling in her lap, when he grew weary of his bed, or carry him up and down the room sometimes. Jane, whose nerves were as steady as a rock, did all the rest.
She looked at the bed. It was hard to leave that tender little sufferer even for half an hour.
“If he should grow worse while I am away?” she said doubtfully.
“No fear of that,” replied Jane. “He’s sleeping better now than he has slept for ever so long. God grant he’s upon the turn!”
“God grant it! And you won’t forget the medicine at half-past eight?”
“Lor’, mum, as if I should forget!”
“Then I’ll go,” said Clarissa.
She put on her bonnet and shawl, startled a little by the white face that looked at her from the glass. The things she had worn when she left Paris were the darkest and plainest in her wardrobe. They had grown shabby by this time, and had a very sombre look. Even in these garments the tall slim figure had a certain elegance; but it was not a figure to be remarked at nightfall, in the London streets. The mistress of Arden Court might have been easily mistaken for a sempstress going home from her work.
Just at first the air made her giddy, and she tottered a little on the broad pavement of the quiet cul-de-sac. It seemed as if she had not been out of doors for a month. But by degrees she grew more accustomed to the keen March atmosphere and the noise of Oxford-street, towards which she was hastening, and so hurried on, thinking only of her errand. She made her way somehow to Cavendish-square. How well she remembered driving through it in the summer gloaming, during the brief glory of her one season, on her way to a commercial magnate’s Tusculum in the Regent’s-park! It had seemed remote and out of the world after Mayfair — a locality which one might be driven by reverse of fortune to inhabit, not otherwise. But to-night the grave old square had an alarming stateliness of aspect after slipshod Soho.
She found Dr. Ormond’s house, and saw his butler, a solemn bald-headed personage, who looked wise enough to prescribe for the most recondite diseases of humanity. The doctor himself was dining out, but the butler pledged himself for his master’s appearance at Clarissa’s lodgings between eleven and two to-morrow.
“He never disappints; and he draws no distinctions,” said the official, with an evident reference to the humility of the applicant’s social status. “There’s not many like him in the medical perfession.”
“And you think he is sure to come?” urged Clarissa anxiously.
“Don’t you be afraid, mum. I shall make a particular pint of it myself. You may be quite easy about his comin’.”
Clarissa thanked the man, and surprised him with half-a-crown gently slipped into his fat palm. She had not many half-crowns now; but the butler seemed to pity her, and might influence his master to come to her a little sooner than he would come in the ordinary way.
Her errand being done, she turned away from the house with a strange sinking at the heart. An ever-present fear of his illness coming to a fatal end, and a guilty sense of the wrong she was doing to Daniel Granger, oppressed her. She walked in a purposeless way, took the wrong turning after coming out of the square, and so wandered into Portland-place. She came to a full stop suddenly in that wide thoroughfare, and looking about her like an awakened sleep-walker, perceived that she had gone astray — recognised the place she was in, and saw that she was within a few doors of Lady Laura Armstrong’s house.
Although the London season had begun, there was an air of stillness and solitude in this grave habitation of splendours that have for the most part vanished. At one door there was a carriage waiting; here and there lighted windows shone out upon the night; but the general aspect was desolation. If there were gaiety and carousing anywhere, closed shutters hid the festival from the outer world. The underground world of Egypt could scarcely have seemed more silent than Portland-place.
Clarissa went on to the familiar corner house, which was made conspicuous to the stranger by encaustic tiled balconies, or glass fern and flower cases at every available window, and by a certain colour and glitter which seemed almost a family likeness to Lady Laura herself. There were lights burning dimly in the two last windows on the drawing-room floor looking into the side street. Clarissa remembered the room very well — it was Lady Laura’s own especial sanctum, the last and smallest of four drawing-rooms — a nest lined with crimson silk, and crowded with everything foolish in the way of ebony and ormolu, Venetian glass and Sèvres china, and with nothing sensible in it except three or four delicious easy-chairs of the pouff species, immortalised by Sardou. Alas for that age of pouff which he satirised with such a caustic pen! To what dismal end has it come! End of powder and petroleum, and instead of beauty, burning!
The lonely wanderer, so sorely oppressed with cares and perplexities, looked wistfully up at those familiar windows. How often she had loitered away the twilight with Lady Laura, talking idly in that flower-laden balcony! As she looked at it to-night, there came into her mind a foolish wonder that life could have had any interest for her in those days, before the birth of her son.
“If I were to lose him now, I should be no poorer than I was then,” she thought; and then, after a moment’s reflection, “O yes, yes, a thousand times poorer, once having had him.”
She walked a little way down the street, and then came back again and lingered under those two-windows, with an unspeakable yearning to cast herself upon her friend in this hour of shipwreck. She had such bitter need of sympathy from some one nearer her own level than the poor honest faithful Yorkshire girl.
“She was once my friend,” she said to herself, still hovering there irresolute, “and seemed very fond of me. She could advise me, knowing the world so well as she does; and I do not think she would betray me. She owes me something, too. But for my promise to her, I might have been George Fairfax’s wife, and all this trouble might have been avoided.”
George Fairfax’s wife! What a strange dreamlike fancy it seemed! And yet it might have been; it had needed only one little word from herself to make the dream a fact.
“I tried to do my duty,” she thought, “and yet ruin and sorrow have come upon me.” And then the small still voice whispered, “Tried to do your duty, but not always; sometimes you left off trying, and dared to be happy in your own way. Between the two roads of vice and virtue, you tried to make a devious pathway of your own, not wholly on one side or the other.”
Once having seen that light, feeling somehow that there was sympathy and comfort near, she could not go away without making some attempt to see her friend. She thought with a remorseful pang of times and seasons during her wedded life when Laura Armstrong’s too solicitous friendship had seemed to her something of a bore. How different was it with her now!
She summoned up resolution at last, and in a half desperate mood, went round to the front door and knocked — a tremulous conscience-stricken knock, as of some milliner’s apprentice bringing home a delayed bonnet. The man who opened the door; looked involuntarily for her basket.
“What is it?” he asked dubiously, scenting a begging-letter writer in the tall slim figure and closely-veiled face, and being on principle averse from gentility that did not ride in its carriage. “What is it, young woman?”
“Can I see Lady Laura Armstrong? I want to see her very particularly.”
“Have you got an appointment?”
“No; but I wish to see her.”
“You’re from Madame Lecondre’s, I suppose. You can see my lady’s maid; but it’s quite out of the question for you to see my lady herself, at this time of night.”
“Will you take a message to her, on a slip of paper? I am almost sure she will see me.” And again Clarissa opened her slender purse, and slipped a florin into the man’s hand, by way of bribe.
He was somewhat melted by this, but yet had an eye to the portable property in the hall.
“You can come in,” he said, pointing with a lofty air to a table whereon were pens and paper, “and write your message.” And then rang an electric bell, which summons brought a second powdered footman, who was, as it were, a Corsican Brother or Siamese Twin, without the ligature, to the first.
Clarissa scrawled a few hasty lines on a sheet of paper, and folded it.
“Be so kind as to take that to your mistress,” she said. “I am sure she will see me.”
The second footman was that superior young man, Norris, whom Hannah Warman had praised. He stared aghast, recognising Mrs. Granger’s voice and bearing, in spite of the thick veil folded over her face, in spite of her shabby garments.
“My lady shall have your note immediately, ma’am,” he said with profound respect, and sped off as if to carry the message of a cabinet minister, much to the bewilderment of his brother officer, who did not know Mrs. Granger.
He reappeared in about two minutes, and ushered Clarissa duly up the broad staircase — dimly lighted to-night, the family being in Portland-place, in a kind of semi-state, only newly arrived, and without so much as a hall-porter — through the corridor, where there were velvet-cushioned divans against the walls, whereon many among Lady Laura’s guests considered it a privilege to sit on her great reception nights, content to have penetrated so far, and with no thought of struggling farther, and on to the white-and-gold door at the farther end, which admitted the elect into my lady’s boudoir.
Laura Armstrong was sitting at an ebony writing-table, with innumerable little drawers pulled out to their utmost extent, and all running over with papers, a chaotic mass of open letters before her, and a sheet of foolscap scrawled over with names. She had been planning her campaign for the season — so many dinners, so many dances, alternate Thursdays in May and June; and a juvenile fancy ball, at which a Pompadour of seven years of age could lead off the Lancers with a Charles the Twelfth of ten, with an eight-year-old Mephistopheles and a six-year-old Anna Boleyn for their vis-à-vis.
As the footman opened the door, and ushered in Mrs. Granger, there was a faint rustling of silk behind the portière dividing Lady Laura’s room from the next apartment; but Clarissa was too agitated to notice this.
Laura Armstrong received her with effusion.
“My dearest girl,” she exclaimed, rising, and grasping both Clarissa’s hands, as the man closed the door, “how glad I am to see you! Do you know, something told me you would come to me? Yes, dear; I said to myself ever so many times, ‘That poor misguided child will come to me.’ O, Clary, Clary, what have you been doing! Your husband is like a rock. He was at Arden for a few days, about a fortnight ago, and I drove over to see him, and entreated him to confide in me; but he would tell nothing. My poor, poor child! how pale, how changed!”
She had thrown back Clarissa’s veil, and was scrutinising the haggard face with very womanly tenderness.
“Sit down, dear, and tell me everything. You know that you can trust me. If you had gone ever so wrong — and I don’t believe it is in you to do that — I would still be your friend.”
Clarissa made a faint effort to speak, and then burst into tears. This loving welcome was quite too much to bear.
“He told me he was going to take my boy away from me,” she sobbed, “so I ran away from him, with my darling — and now my angel is dying!”
And then, with many tears, and much questioning and ejaculation from Lady Laura, she told her pitiful story — concealing nothing, not even her weak yielding to temptation, not even her love for George Fairfax.
“I loved him always,” she said; “yes — always, always, always — from that first night when we travelled together! I used to dream of him sometimes, never hoping to see him again, till that summer day when he came suddenly upon me in Marley Wood. But I kept my promise; I was true to you, Lady Laura; I kept my promise.”
“My poor Clary, how I wish I had never exacted that promise! It did no good; it did not save Geraldine, and it seems to have made you miserable. Good gracious me,” cried Lady Laura with sudden impetuosity, “I have no patience with the man! What is one man more than another, that there should be so much fuss about him?”
“I must go home to Lovel,” Clarissa said anxiously. “I don’t know how long I have been away from him. I lost my head, almost; and I felt that I must come to you.”
“Thank God you did come, you poor wandering creature! Wait a few minutes, Clary, while I send for a cab, and put on my bonnet. I am coming with you.”
“You, Lady Laura?”
“Yes, and I too,” said a calm voice, that Clarissa remembered very well; and looking up at the door of communication between the two rooms, she saw the portière pushed aside, and Geraldine Challoner on the threshold.
“Let me come and nurse your baby, Mrs. Granger,” she said gently; “I have had a good deal of experience of that sort of thing.”
“You do not know what an angel she is to the poor round Hale,” said Lady Laura; “especially to the children. And she nursed three of mine, Maud, Ethel, and Alick — no; Stephen, wasn’t it?” she asked, looking at her sister for correction —“through the scarlatina. Nothing but her devotion could have pulled them through, my doctor assured me. Let her come with us, Clary.”
“O, yes, yes! God bless you, Lady Geraldine, for wanting to help my darling!”
“Norris, tell Fosset to bring me my bonnet and shawl, and fetch a cab immediately; I can’t wait for the carriage.”
Five minutes afterwards, the three women were seated in the cab, and on their way to Soho.
“You have sent for Mr. Granger, of course,” said Lady Laura.
“No, not yet. I trust in God there may be no necessity; my darling will get well; I know he will! Dr. Ormond is to see him to-morrow.”
“What, Clarissa! you have not sent for your husband, although you say that his boy is in danger?”
“If I let Mr. Granger know where I am, he will come and take my son away from me.”
“Nonsense, Clary; he can’t do that. It is very shameful of you to keep him in ignorance of the child’s state.” And as well as she could, amidst the rattling of the cab, Lady Laura tried to awaken Clarissa to a sense of the wrong she was doing. Jane Target stared in amazement on seeing her mistress return with these two ladies.
“O, ma’am, I’ve been, so frightened!” she exclaimed. “I couldn’t think what was come of you.”
Clarissa ran to the bed.
“He has been no worse?” she asked eagerly.
“No, ma’am. I do think, if there’s any change, it is for the better.”
“O thank God, thank God!” cried Clarissa hysterically, falling on her knees by the bed. “Death shall not rob me of him! Nobody shall take him from me!” And then, turning to Laura Armstrong, she said, “I need not send for my husband, you see; my darling will recover.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50