justice of her husband's conduct, left me no other alternative than to give my opinion, for her sake, as soon as I was asked for it.
"Excuse me, Sir Percival," I said—"but as one of the witnesses to the signature, I venture to think that I HAVE something to do with the matter. Laura's objection seems to me a perfectly fair one, and speaking for myself only, I cannot assume the responsibility of witnessing her signature, unless she first understands what the writing is which you wish her to sign."
"A cool declaration, upon my soul!" cried Sir Percival. "The next time you invite yourself to a man's house, Miss Halcombe, I recommend you not to repay his hospitality by taking his wife's side against him in a matter that doesn't concern you."
I started to my feet as suddenly as if he had struck me. If I had been a man, I would have knocked him down on the threshold of his own door, and have left his house, never on any earthly consideration to enter it again. But I was only a woman—and I loved his wife so dearly!
Thank God, that faithful love helped me, and I sat down again without saying a word. SHE knew what I had suffered and what I had suppressed. She ran round to me, with the tears streaming from her eyes. "Oh, Marian!" she whispered softly. "If my mother had been alive, she could have done no more for me!"
"Come back and sign!" cried Sir Percival from the other side of the table.
"Shall I?" she asked in my ear; "I will, if you tell me."
"No," I answered. "The right and the truth are with you—sign nothing, unless you have read it first."
"Come back and sign!" he reiterated, in his loudest and angriest tones.
The Count, who had watched Laura and me with a close and silent attention, interposed for the second time.
"Percival!" he said. "I remember that I am in the presence of ladies. Be good enough, if you please, to remember it too."
Sir Percival turned on him speechless with passion. The Count's firm hand slowly tightened its grasp on his shoulder, and the Count's steady voice quietly repeated, "Be good enough, if you please, to remember it too."
They both looked at each other. Sir Percival slowly drew his shoulder from under the Count's hand, slowly turned his face away from the Count's eyes, doggedly looked down for a little while at the parchment on the table, and then spoke,