Down the glen, all the way to the ruined windmill, sauntered Charles Fairfield, before he put his rod together and adjusted his casting line. Very nervous he was, almost miserable. But he was not a man instinctively to strike out a course on an emergency, or to reduce his resolves promptly to action; neither was he able yet to think very clearly on his situation. Somehow his brother Harry was constantly before him in a new and dismal light. Had there not peeped out today, instead of the boot of that horsey, jolly fellow, the tip of a cloven hoof that cannot be mistaken? Oh, Harry, brother! Was he meditating treason and going to take arms in the cause of the murderer of his peace? He was so cunning and so energetic, that Charles stood in awe of him, and thought if his sword were pointed at his breast, that he might as well surrender and think no more of safety. Harry had been too much in his confidence, and had been too often in conference with that evil person whom he called “the old soger,” to be otherwise than formidable as an enemy. An enemy he trusted he never would see him. An unscrupulous one in his position could work fearful mischief to him by a little colouring and perversion of things that had occurred. He would not assume such a transformation possible.
But always stood before him Harry in his altered mien and estranged looks, as he had seen him, sullen and threatening, that day.
What would he not have given to be sure that the wicked person whom he now dreaded more than he feared all other powers, had formed no actual design against him? If she had, what was the agency that had kindled her evil passions and excited her activity? He could not fancy Harry such a monster.
What were her plans? Did she mean legal proceedings? He would have given a good deal for light, no matter what it may disclose, anything but suspense, and the phantasmal horrors with which imagination peoples darkness.
Never did harassed brain so need the febrifuge of the angler’s solace, and quickly his cares and agitations subsided in that serene absorption.
One thing only occurred for a moment to divert his attention from his tranquillising occupation. Standing on a flat stone near midway in the stream, he was throwing his flies over a nook where he had seen a trout rise, when he heard the ring of carriage wheels on the road that passes round the base of the old windmill, and pierces the dense wood that darkened the glen of Carwell.
Raising his eyes he did see a carriage following that unfrequented track. A thin screen of scattered trees prevented his seeing this carriage very distinctly. But the road is so little a thoroughfare that except an occasional cart, few wheeled vehicles ever traversed it. A little anxiously he watched this carriage till it disappeared totally in the wood. He felt uncomfortably that its destination was Carwell Grange, and at that point conjecture failed him.
This little incident was, I think, the only one that for a moment disturbed the serene abstraction of his trout-fishing.
And now the sun beginning to approach the distant hills warned him that it was time to return. So listlessly he walked homeward, and as he ascended the narrow and melancholy track that threads the glen of Carwell, his evil companions, the fears and cares that tortured him, returned.
Near Carwell Grange the road makes a short but steep ascent, and a slight opening in the trees displays on the eminence a little platform on the verge of the declivity, from which a romantic view down the glen and over a portion of the lower side unfolds itself.
Here for a time he paused, looking westward on the sky already glowing in the saddened splendours of sunset. From this miserable rumination he carried away one resolution, hard and clear. It was painful to come to it—but the torture of concealment was more dreadful. He had made up his mind to tell Alice exactly how the facts were. One ingredient, and he fancied just then, the worst in his cup of madness, was the torture of secrecy, and the vigilance and the uncertainties of concealment. Poor little Alice, he felt, ought to know. It was her right. And the attempt longer to conceal it would make her much more miserable, for he could not disguise his sufferings, and she would observe them, and be abandoned to the solitary anguish of suspense.
As he entered the Grange he was reminded of the carriage which he had observed turning up the narrow Carwell road, by actually seeing it standing at the summit of the short and steep ascent to the Grange.
Coming suddenly upon this object, with its natty well-appointed air, contrasting with the old-world neglect and homeliness of all that surrounded, he stopped short with an odd Robinson Crusoe shyness and surveyed the intruding vehicle.
This survey told him nothing. He turned sharply into the back entrance of the Grange, disturbed, and a good deal vexed.
It could not be an invasion of the enemy. Carriage, harness, and servants were much too smart for that. But if the neighbours had found them out, and that this was the beginning of a series of visits, could anything in a small way be more annoying, and even dangerous? Here was a very necessary privacy violated, with what ulterior consequences who could calculate.
This was certainly Alice’s doing. Women are such headstrong, silly creatures!
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11