Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 15

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THE SILVER CORD.

BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.


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CHAPTER XXX.

Acting under orders, of the most explicit character, from his imperious mistress, M. Silvain abstained from paying a reconciliatory visit to Adair, lest so prompt an offer of the olive branch should excite the suspicion of the enemy, but the Frenchman sought an opportunity of meeting Ernest as if by accident. Chance favoured him, and he encountered Adair in one of the roads leading to Versailles, a solitary road, and so narrow that no two acquaintances could pass without recognition. M. Silvain played his little part well, and seemed disconcerted at seeing his late antagonist, and as if inclined to turn and avoid him. Adair, however, hastened to hold out his hand, and press it upon the apparently reluctant Frenchman.

“Why,” said Ernest, retaining the hand of the other while speaking, “you surely do not bear any malice, Silvain. Life is too short for such folly.”

“It is impossible for me to forget in a moment,” said Silvain (their conversation being in French, as before), “that at our last meeting you used language, Monsieur, which——

“Which was perfectly justified, Silvain. Not by anything you said or did, except by your unfortunately coming at a time when I was in the highest state of irritation about some matters which, if you knew them, you would allow to be an excuse for anything. I was in a white heat of rage, and your persistence in talking about things which seemed comparatively trifling made me a brute.”

“I believe that I found you reading a novel,” said Silvain.

“Trying to read it, my friend, trying whether somebody else’s nonsense would take me out of my own trouble. I cannot tell you what this was, but be generous, and believe what I say.”

“I have no right to doubt the word of a man of honour.”

“Pooh, pooh, don’t stand on stilts, there’s a good man. I am not a man of honour, in the world’s sense, as you know perfectly well. But I am a good fellow, when people trust me and treat me well; and I have not behaved badly to you in serious matters. As for anything I said, I only know that I was in a demon’s temper, and I heartily apologise to you for every word. What more can I say?”

“I do not claim to ask so much.”

“Come, Silvain, you are not so brave a man as I believed you, if that little affair with the foils rankles in your mind. You are a much better fencer than I am, but that day I suppose the devil that was in my heart did me the favour to help my hand, in the hope that I might do a friend some deadly harm. But I was luckier than Faust.”

“There is an end of the affair, M. Adair.”

“That is well,” said the other, again shaking hands, “and now walk with me, or I will walk with you—where are you going?”

“I was returning home; but I have no errand of importance.”

“Then come my way, for a stroll. And before we say any more, I feel that you were so right in your anger at my hasty conduct to Matilde, that I do not know what amends to make. I can only say that though I knew you were paying her attention, I had no idea that it was an affair of heart, or I should have respected it. Make my peace with her, and trust to my good behaviour for the future.”

“I will endeavour to do so, Monsieur.”

“Very well,” replied Adair, “and we will drop the question. I hate to quarrel with anybody, but my impulses are always leading me into scrapes. If I ask how business prospers, you will construe it into an indiscretion.”

“No, Monsieur, not after your frank assurances. I am glad to say that the business is satisfactory. I have just had a handsome order from the house of M. Urquhart.”

“I am glad to hear it. But that you owe, of course, to the good offices of Mademoiselle.”

“I should be proud to owe her anything,” said Silvain, “but I do not think I am her debtor in this case.”

“No. Come, don’t look so mysterious. Have we made an impression in a higher quarter? Ah, Silvain, what chances our profession has.”

“I dare not flatter myself to that extent,” said Silvain, with a smile. “And the lady who has honoured me with her commands is an acquaintance of your own—the lady from England.”

“Eh,” said Adair, quickly. “Madame Lygon.”

“A charming lady.”

“So she is, very charming, worth a dozen of her sitter. So—she has given you a handsome order. I see,” said Ernest.

And he smiled, for a moment, as one who imagines himself to be detecting the spring of a device against him.

“A hundred and fifty francs, or more,” said Silvain, complacently.

“What caprice! Have not Atkinson’s and Rimmel’s, scent-men of London, better than all the sweet waters of Paris?” said Adair, with one of his favourite irreverences of memory. “But I rejoice in a friend’s luck. And perhaps you may owe it to me,” he added.

“How so?”

“Madame knows that we are acquainted, and may mean a delicate attention to me,” said the other, eyeing Silvain keenly.

“I should be glad to think so,” said Silvain, “but nothing of the kind was said to me.”

“Of course,” said Ernest. “Women can, sometimes, hold their tongues at the proper time. Come, my dear Silvain, this is a noble proof of your loyalty to me. You understand the object of the lady’s order just as well as I do, and you tell me of it. That is a brave forgiveness of wrongs.”

“You pay me an unmerited compliment, M. Adair.”

“I will not hear you say so. Mrs. Lygon knows of our intimacy, and favours you with this order to ensure your giving Mademoiselle exact information as to anything I may do. Well, you will not be party to any scheme against your friend, and you reveal the fact of the bribe. You shall be rewarded for your devotion, and you shall earn more orders.”

“How you see through everything,” said Silvain, with a look of admiration. “I swear to you that I did not regard the matter in that way. Ah! you are happy to have interested such a creature as Madame.”

“We will not be vain,” said Adair, caressing his moustache, and taking a sharp side-glance at his companion.

“I never saw a better excuse for vanity,” said Silvain.

“Come, come, my friend. I am going to be jealous. Do not be so earnest on the beauty of Madame. What would Mademoiselle say?”

Silvain shrugged his shoulders.

“Mademoiselle, however, admires her as much as you do,” continued Ernest. “Regards her as an angel.”

“I have reason to believe to the contrary,” said Silvain.

Again the keen eye was turned upon him, but j the Frenchman affected to look inscrutable.

“Does not admire her?” said Ernest.

“You can conceive that I am not at liberty to repeat anything that Mademoiselle may have confided to me, and I might injure her with Madame Urquhart by indiscretion. But I have a right to form an impression of my own.”

“Which is that Matilde does not like Madame.”

“I will not say that. But the coldness with which she received my praises of the English lady, and I swear to you, M. Adair,” said Silvain, with well acted warmth, “that she is divine—this astonished me in a young person of good taste—”

“For she had eyes and chose you,” quoted Ernest.

“And,” said Silvain, “this left me to draw an inference, which I will reserve until I know more of the matter.”

“You are too honest and honourable a fellow to be a good deceiver,” said Ernest Adair, “and you are not deceiving me. Matilde has told you something about Madame Lygon.”

“It may be so, but Matilde has made some mistake, has misconceived some words. Madame Lygon is an angel.”

“This is a good deal of homage for a hundred and fifty francs, my dear Silvain, unless I take the more flattering view of the case, and suppose that you are praising the lady to please me.”

“I speak from my heart,” said Silvain, impressively. “I am grieved that Mademoiselle’s estimate of her differs from my own, but I retain my own, nevertheless. But I must say no more on that subject.”

“Well, we may talk of something better than women, I dare say,” said Ernest. “I will pour out some of my sorrows to you, but of course, in the strictest confidence. Nay, I don’t mean that I doubt you, but when a man has a serious affair of the heart, he gets very untrustworthy, for the time. I don’t know a more demoralising thing than falling in love—it destroys all a man’s ideas of the sacredness of friendship, and makes him sacrifice anything and everything in the hope of pleasing somebody who is laughing at him all the time, and whom he will heartily hate in twelve months.”

“Frightful creed!” said Silvain. “Do not trust me.”

“Yes, I will, because you have a brain as well as a heart.” What have they been telling this ass, thought Ernest. Surely nothing of the truth—three women in council would know better than that.

“My dear Silvain,” he said, linking his arm in that of his companion, “I am so glad that you don’t play.”

“Why, I never could afford it in the days when I desired to play, and now that I can afford it, I don’t care about it. So I have no merit.”

“I wish I had as much, on that head. I have been most unlucky.”

“Lately?”

“Yes, this week. I have been constantly losing. I have been into Paris three nights running, and every night I have come away with just enough to bring me back. Another visit, and I shall be without a napoleon. Pooh, my dear fellow, take your hand out of your pocket. I do not speak literally, and certainly I would not plunder a man who is making arrangements for marriage. Besides, you could not do what I want. I owe a good deal, and, in fact, I must instantly apply to a certain source which I hate to trouble, but one must live.”

“You are fortunate in having friends.”

“Yes, I have two friends who will do a good deal for me, though not with any good will. But it will not do to be fastidious.”

There, thought Ernest, if you are what I suppose, take that information back with you for the delight of those who hire you.

“You reject my purse?” said Silvain. “If you took it, you would give me a better proof of your friendship.”

“Then I will take it,” said Ernest, laying hand something abruptly on the porte-monnaie produced by Silvain, and dropping it into a coat pocket. There was a touch of humour on his part in the transaction, and perhaps a touch of ill-humour, or at all events of surprise on that of M. Silvain, who might not have expected to be taken so promptly at his word.

“I will take it,” continued Ernest, gazing kindly on Silvain, “but chiefly to show how completely I consider any little differences between us adjusted for ever. There cannot be much here, and very much is needed for my immediate wants, but whatever is here I will repay to the last centime before I leave France.”

“Do not speak of repayment,”said Silvain, with a very good grace. “If I ask you to return the purse itself, it is only because—”

“Ah, I should have thought of that,” said Ernest, taking it out. And he deliberately removed the entire contents of the purse,—somi seven or eight napoleons and some silver—am: pocketed them solemnly. He then handed the porte-monnaie to his companion.

“A gage d’amour. May it be luckier to you than anything of the kind which I have ever had.”

“Do you mean to abandon play, M. Adair?” asked Silvain.

“Why should I? It is true that I lose; but then, as I have told you, I possess friends who have sufficient good feeling to minister to my needs, though not enough to do so graciously. No, I have no other happiness, and I shall not deny myself that single solace.”

“No other happiness,” repeated M. Silvain, “and you are appreciated in a certain quarter?”

What have they made him believe, thought Ernest again. “Ah, my dear Silvain, if you knew all.”

“I know nothing. But I have my surmises.”

“They make me a happier man than I am,” said Ernest, in the tone in which men of his class say that which they wish should be disbelieved. And M. Silvain, understanding this, again shrugged his shoulders, and thus was performed the little drama, talk and pantomime, in which a thousand honours have been lied away, and so will be many a thousand more, until that drama comes on for damnation. But, in this case, the actors were differently circumstanced, the one playing the part of a scoundrel, the other but affecting credulity. He would have liked to fight Ernest again, for the tone in which he had spoken, and, like a man with his feelings under proper control, he made a very different proposition.

“If instead of going again to Paris to-night, you care to come and smoke in my little apartment—” he said.

“Well, I will, and re-baptise our friendship in your excellent cognac. You could not please me more than by the proposal. Shall we be alone?”

“Unless you wish it otherwise.”

“I would sooner talk to you than anybody else, my dear Silvain. But then I would also sooner rob anybody else than you, my dear Silvain. So if you happen to meet any one who has a taste for écarté, and a few Napoleons to justify such an indulgence, I should be happy to afford him any amusement in my power.”

“You have met a few persons of that kind at my house,” said M. Silvain, archly.

“I have; and if they preserve as pleasant recollections of me, as I do of them, there is a good deal of agreeable reminiscence scattered about the world. But fresh faces are almost as necessary to one as fresh air, dear Silvain.”

Connu,” responded his companion. “I will do my best. But you will not be proud, and if my friend should not quite come up to your standard of elegance—”

“What are we that we should be proud,” said Adair, relapsing into his old bantering manner. “Worms, dust, ashes,—what does it matter with whom we play at écarté, if he have money in his purse?”

“I think that I can manage an agreeable introduction, and not an unprofitable one.”

“Expect me at eight, then, prepared, if you succeed, to show my sense of your hospitality, and if you do not, to favour you with some more of my troubles. And you will make me very happy, if I find you are able to tell me that I am forgiven by Mademoiselle.”

“I shall not see her to-day,” said Silvain.

“Miserable man—and yet great man, for even your own distress you can take thought for the advantage of your friend. Jonathan and Pythias were but types of you, my dear Silvain.”

The Frenchman had heard of Pythias, though never of Jonathan, and made fitting reply.

When they had separated, Ernest Adair soliloquised after his usual fashion.

“I am a clear gainer by this transaction. I have got those napoleons, francs, and half-francs, and I have got the information that they think it necessary to watch me, and therefore have planted their spy. That’s fair enough. But, in revenge, I have sent a bombshell into the camp of the enemy, and it will be lighted there by their own man. I will not be driven into spoiling a good game by hurrying it; the true artist takes his time, and never permits himself to grow impatient—but there is reason in all things,f they are plotting to get money for me, and merely wish to keep me amused while they are doing it, that is a considerateness for which I kiss their hands. And if they are growing nervous while the delay occurs, and wish to know how am conducting myself, and therefore employ M. Silvain, I can only feel complimented at the bought they bestow upon me. Therefore, pleased, and thankful for all mercies, let us prepare ourselves by a quiet dinner, for showing M. Silvain’s new friend the art of turning up the king, or rather let us remember that ars est celare artem.”

CHAPTER XXXI.

When Robert Urquhart had seen the train in motion, and had waved his farewell to Lygon, the Scotsman, for the first time perhaps in his busy life, walked off in a slow and sauntering manner, and took any streets that came in his way, whether they were also in the way to the hotel or not. He was greatly troubled in his mind, and nearly trod many sprawling children to death in his elephantine progress, answering the shrill remonstrances of the mothers with a growl, and a bit of exceedingly plain Scotch nomenclature.

For though in his heart he believed what he had called upon Lygon to believe, and he doubted not that the problem of Mrs. Lygon’s journey to France would be solved by some revelation of feminine absurdity, committed under the influence of feminine terror, both of which attributes of woman Mr. Urquhart held in considerable disesteem, he had a double reason for being much displeased at Laura’s conduct. In the first place he had strong Scottish views of the marriage tie, and of the extreme impropriety of a wife’s ever presuming to act without the sanction of him whom the Scripture declares her Head; and in the second place, he had a keener insight into the character of Arthur Lygon than might have been supposed by an indifferent spectator of the almost rough passages in their second interview. On the former point Urquhart might have felt that he should have little to say, should Arthur Lygon choose to take an indulgent view of Laura’s proceedings, but Robert Urquhart had his own reasons for believing it more than doubtful whether Lygon would really take that view, and whether what the Scot considered a very wrong, not to say wicked step on the part of the wife, might not permanently alienate the affections of the husband. It was in this doubt, and from Urquhart’s most earnest desire to prevent evil and estrangement, that he had laid so much stress upon the assurances which he gave Lygon of the absolute certainty of Laura’s coming with honour from the ordeal; but Robert Urquhart was very, very far from feeling towards her, when he began to reflect upon the circumstances, anything like the cordiality he had expressed when endeavouring to work upon the heart of Lygon. Urquhart had said, truly enough, that nothing should have induced him to try to defend Laura, were he not convinced of her innocence, but when he had done with the defence, and had parted with his friend, and had leisure to weigh her conduct in the balance, he pronounced it greatly wanting. Indeed the more he reflected upon it, the more harshly he felt disposed to judge her, and as for the kindly thought and suggested kiss with which he had closed his appeal, these he utterly retracted, and became as little inclined to deal gently with her, as ever Knox showed himself with regard to the unfortunate Queen of Scots. Nor was this severity merely the result of a habit of placing a severe interpretation on the words of the marriage-bond.

Urquhart, as we have said, knew Arthur Lygon well. They had been a good deal thrown together in earlier life, and although their natures differed, there was in them that amount of difference and that amount of resemblance which, in union, draw together those whom the world is surprised to see closely attached. On the special features in the character of each it may not be necessary to dwell, until these are developed by subsequent incidents, but upon a single point it is desirable to say enough to explain the state of mind in which Urquhart found himself. Intimately acquainted with the nature of Lygon, Urquhart trembled for the future of Laura’s husband from the first moment when he had doubted her. Devoted, thoughtful, cheerful, proud of his wife as well as earnestly attached to her, affectionate in his manner as well as in his heart, and, in brief, what is rightly considered the model of a husband, Arthur Lygon, blessed with health, energy, and worldly prosperity, seemed a man destined to a long life of tranquil but not stagnant happiness. But Urquhart, who knew all this, knew more. He knew that Lygon, admirably and lovingly as he estimated his wife, was by no means unconscious of his own high qualifications, and that though nothing could be more removed from his nature than a vulgar self-complacency, Arthur Lygon placed on himself as just and liberal an estimate as he formed of another. He was proud of himself, of his successes, of his good fortune, and though he had far too much taste to permit this pride to appear, it was not the less potent for being latent. He was thoroughly sensible of, and we may add grateful for the numerous advantages of his lot, but he was not hypocrite enough to affect to say that he had not deserved them, and that they were not the legitimate reward of intellect and resolute will. Among the prizes of his life the chiefest was the beautiful woman whom he had loved and won, and for whom he retained so warm an affection; but beautiful, and gifted, and good as Laura was, her husband did not esteem himself rewarded above his deserts in possessing the first and only love of that pure and gentle heart. I do not say that this self appreciation was a fault, but it is needful to heed that it was a characteristic, and Robert Urquhart was well aware of its existence.

From this habit of mind would naturally arise—should circumstances evoke it—a sense of wrong done to himself, should aught that appertained to Arthur Lygon in the way of love, friendship, good fortune, deteriorate—or seem to be deteriorated—by any of the events of life. Having made up his mind, or rather holding an instinctive belief that he deserved all that he had obtained, the diminution of this wealth, by one jot or tittle, was depriving him of a portion of his deserts. And, thought Robert Urquhart, as he moodily pondered over the story, and wished that he had used even stronger or more reiterated arguments, when Arthur Lygon shall have had all this strange business explained to him, when he shall have declared himself satisfied, and gently rebuked Laura for not having at once confided in him, and their hands and lips have again met in token of perfect reconciliation, will he be again the happy, confiding husband of other days? Reason would bid him resume his old, calm happiness; but when did reason ever make the heart hear her? Rather, thought Urquhart, will Lygon become thoughtful and moody. He will mentally cast up a private balance-sheet of his dealings with Providence, and he will convince himself that in one of the items he has not been fairly dealt by. The wife who was supposed to be all love, frankness, prudence, has wounded and mystified him, and has done one of those weak, wild things that might be expected from a romantic school girl, not a thoughtful matron. He has had nights of sorrow, days of harassing travel and search, and he was sent home to England in a state of doubt and gloom. This wife is not what she was taken for, and the admirable husband has been grievously wronged. When that is the form taken by a husband’s meditations, she must be a wife strong indeed in her love and truth who can lay such ghosts—for they are not mere fantastic phantoms, but the spectres of things that were.

Not in words like these, but in his own shrewd language did Robert Urquhart mutter his forebodings, and he ended by saying:

“I doubt he’ll never quite forgive her. They’ll never be quite one again.”

He had business in Paris, and determined to remain there another night, so he sent on Lygon’s letter to Bertha, putting a word or two on the cover, to intimate that Mrs. Urquhart was not to expect him. And then he should have gone about his business, but Laura was still uppermost in his thoughts, and it was in vain that he essayed to work out, in his head, the calculations which were at other times so easy to his cool intellect. After three or four attempts, and as many discoveries that he was not doing himself justice, he resolved, with characteristic caution, to postpone the interview he had desired, which was one of importance. “For I’ll be sure to forget some point,” he said, “and then the beggars will have an advantage over me. I’ll see them when we are on even terms.”

Nor was his own wife entirely omitted in his consideration of the circumstances. He had nothing to lay to her charge, except that she had not written and told him that Laura had arrived, and as there was a general understanding between himself and Bertha that he was to hold no news to be good news, and not to be troubled with letters, which he hated, except in case of necessity; and as, moreover, he had been moving from place to place, and might easily have missed a letter, he really had not much ground for complaint. Doubtless Bertha would have plenty to tell him next day. But as regarded Laura, his wrath against her became hotter and hotter the more he meditated on her conduct, and I fear that with some adhesion to the doctrine of special judgments, as understood in the north, he brought himself to say, with an ominous shake of the head, that it would be but meet and right if, when she reached her own door, she found one of her children almost at that of death. But he grew more placable as he realised this image, and thought of what he had seen of the idolatrous affection of Laura for her little ones. “I hope that the woman is with them,” he growled. “Perhaps they will plead for her with Arthur better than I could do myself,” a supposition which mothers may not consider irrational.

The letter from Lygon was duly delivered in the avenue, but Bertha, though in some measure recovered from her bewilderments and terrors, was unable to comprehend its meaning, and sought counsel of her sister.

Laura was in the secluded apartment that has been described, and was writing.

“A letter from Arthur, but I cannot tell what it means.”

Laura hastily took the letter, and her heart throbbed as the well-known handwriting met the wife’s eyes.

“There! See how you wronged him,” she said, her face in a glow.

“I wronged him?” said Bertha.

“Yes. You were afraid that he might, by accident or design, say something to Robert that would compromise you. Not only has he not done so, but in all his own trouble he has had thoughtfulness enough to plan a letter that should tell you exactly how much it has been necessary to say. He is kindness itself, Bertha.”

“But what does he tell me?” said Bertha. “Please to explain, for I cannot understand him.”

“You really do not deserve the pains which is taken for you, Bertha,” said her sister, impetuously. “No, I don’t mean that, dear, but how can you fail to see his object? You told a story about papa having got into difficulties here, and this he has passed on to Robert—Heaven knows whether Arthur was deceived or not—but he writes to let you know that such is the story Robert is prepared to hear.”

“Oh, does it mean that?”

“Of course, and you had better consider how to tell the same thing to your husband.”

“To-morrow will do for that,” said Bertha.

“It may,” said her sister, looking compassionately at her.

Laura used the word without much intention in it, but some hours later it was recalled to her recollection.

She was still occupied in writing when Mrs. Urquhart came hurrying down the little staircase.

“He is come—he is come,” said she in a tremble.

“Who—Arthur returned?” said Laura, starting up in almost as much agitation. “My husband?”

“No, Robert.”

“Well—well, dear child,” said Mrs. Lygon, recovering her breath, and her firmness, after a moment or two of pause, “now you must be calm, and very likely you will find that there is nothing to be feared. You have not spoken to Robert.”

“No; I saw him from the window, and darted down here.”

“What madness! Go up and receive him.”

“I told Henderson to say I was out walking. There, do not look so displeased. The sight of his face drove all my thoughts out of my head, and I know that if I had attempted to talk to him, I should have betrayed you.”

“HI were certain that Arthur had returned to England,” said Mrs. Lygon, “I would confront Robert myself.”

“Oh, if you could!” said Bertha.

“I dare not run that risk,” said her sister, turning pale.

The two women remained together, and the heavy footsteps of Robert Urquhart were heard, as he paced the apartments above. Henderson had, no doubt, answered him as satisfactorily as might be, and would have the sense to come down, in due course, with bonnet and shawl, and manage that her mistress should appear as from a walk. Meantime Laura did her best to re-assure her sister, and to impress upon her by every argument in the world that the secret which Arthur had learned, Arthur had kept. But that a more immediate and encircling terror hemmed herself round, Laura would have been in an agony over the fatal addition to their sorrows, but her heart had its own bitterness, and aught that was more remote menaced her in vain.

After some time, Robert Urquhart, weary of waiting in the rooms above, descended to his own large room on the ground floor, and the sisters could hear him trampling to and fro, and apparently in no amiable mood, clearing a table, and sending a clattering cataract of miscellaneous articles down to the floor. Then they heard him execrating the dust, and vigorously opening the window, to let in ventilation. All was then comparatively silent, and he might be supposed to be laying a sheet of drawing-paper, and preparing to sketch.

“Henderson should come now,” said Mrs. Lygon, in a low voice. “He is drawing, and you might go into the room. Indeed, I think you had better do so without waiting for her—go upstairs, and it will seem that you had taken your things off.”

“I am afraid,” said Bertha. “No, let us wait for Henderson.”

“Are you sure that you have a coherent story?” said Laura. “I am sadly afraid that you will fail. I am sure that you will fail. If I were only assured that Arthur had gone to England, and had not merely evaded Robert, and returned to search for me!”

“Robert can answer that.”

“How can Robert do so? Even if he saw him off, as most likely he did, what is to hinder Arthur from getting out at the first station, and coming back? Well, dear, you must do your best, and we must trust to be delivered. There, listen, Robert is whistling at his work. Now, go up-stairs, and then run down to him. Such a way of receiving him will take away much of your flurry, he will be so glad.”

“Stop, I hear Henderson, I think.”

“Never mind her. Go up.”

Bertha, however, listened for a few moments, and the next sound she heard was a dissatisfied exclamation from Urquhart, and something dashed on the floor. Then Laura and Bertha heard him say in a loud voice:

“There’s no seeing anything in this d—d dark room. I’ll have those trees cut down, every one of them. Eh! I’m a fool. There’s a capital west light in yon room.”

He made three strides to the door between the two rooms. It was locked, and the key was not in the door. There was an angry exclamation, and an exertion of a strong man’s power, and in another moment the door had given way, and Robert Urquhart stood in the presence of Bertha and Laura.

Bertha uttered a faint cry as her husband entered. His look of surprise, as he perceived her, had nothing of an alarming character about it, and had she been alone, Robert would have seen nothing in the incident, and would have supposed a mistake by the servant, who might have believed that her mistress was out. But the next moment he turned to see who was her companion—a lady whose face was towards the window. The recognition was, of course, instantaneous. The Scot’s countenance at once assumed that stern scowl which had come upon it during the interview with Lygon. He looked at Laura for a moment, and then, without a word, left the room.