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Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/The silver cord - Part 3




As if by tacit understanding, the friends spoke no more on the subject nearest their hearts. During the short drive back to the lodge, Arthur Lygon was mentally occupied in reviewing such incidents of his early life as he could upon the moment summon to his recollection, but, as usual, memory, often so unwelcomely pertinacious in voluntarily presenting her panorama, painted with pitiless exactness, would, when peremptorily called upon, yield up little but disjointed fragments, recurring again and again like the ægri sonmia. Nevertheless, his strong consciousness that there was nothing which he could in reason charge against himself as a wrong to his wife, afforded to Lygon an honest consolation, though that conviction in no degree tended to diminish the mystery that lay before him. It was perhaps for the best that Mr. Berry had guided the husband’s thoughts in a given direction, and concentrated them, for the time at least, within a certain limit, for nothing perhaps is more prostrating to the courage of the mind than its being incessantly sent forth in pursuit of a phantom enemy. In the meantime, Mr. Berry’s own thoughts had to pursue a far subtler and more dangerous track, and the manifestation which Arthur Lygon had made of an earnest and loyal faith in her whom he had lost, impressed his friend more and more deeply each time he recurred to it with a sense of the terrible consequences that would attend a false step on the part of his adviser.

His adviser made one false step at the very threshold, for he permitted Mr. Lygon, unsupported, to encounter a lady whose suspicious and jealous nature had already made her half an enemy, and who needed but little provocation to become a determined though undeclared one. Mr. Berry set down Arthur at the porch, and drove round to the stables.

Clara was with Mrs. Berry in the dining-room, the little girl having, much to her unexpressed discontent, been withdrawn from the pleasures of the garden, and set down, in a half-darkened apartment, to amuse herself with the pictures in Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Privately, Clara probably considered herself entitled to a place in the collection.

Mrs. Berry was about to rise and question Lygon as to what he had done, and get him to commit himself before Mr. Berry’s arrival. Then it occurred to her to use a proxy to entrap him.

“There is your papa, Clara! Run and ask him whether he has sent off his message all right.”

Too happy to escape the fires of Smithfield and their distorted occupants, Clara bounded away to her father, and asked the question.

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