withdraw that interference to-morrow. Sir Percival has already dismissed Fanny, because she is a quick-witted girl, and devotedly attached to you; and has chosen a woman to take her place who cares nothing for your interests, and whose dull intelligence lowers her to the level of the watch-dog in the yard. It is impossible to say what violent measures he may take next, unless we make the most of our opportunities while we have them."
"What can we do, Marian? Oh, if we could only leave this house, never to see it again!"
"Listen to me, my love—and try to think that you are not quite helpless so long as I am here with you."
"I will think so—I do think so. Don't altogether forget poor Fanny, in thinking of me. She wants help and comfort, too."
"I will not forget her. I saw her before I came up here; and I have arranged to communicate with her to-night. Letters are not safe in the post-bag at Blackwater Park—and I shall have two to write to-day, in your interests, which must pass through no hands but Fanny's."
"I mean to write first, Laura, to Mr. Gilmore's partner, who has offered to help us in any fresh emergency. Little as I know of the law, I am certain that it can protect a woman from such treatment as that ruffian has inflicted on you to-day. I will go into no details about Anne Catherick, because I have no certain information to give. But the lawyer shall know of those bruises on your arm, and of the violence offered to you in this room—he shall, before I rest to-night!"
"But think of the exposure, Marian!"
"I am calculating on the exposure. Sir Percival has more to dread from it than you have. The prospect of an exposure may bring him to terms, when nothing else will."
I rose as I spoke; but Laura entreated me not to leave her.
"You will drive him to desperation," she said, "and increase our dangers tenfold."
I felt the truth—the disheartening truth—of those words. But I could not bring myself plainly to acknowledge it to her. In our dreadful position there was no help and no hope for us, but in risking the worst. I said so, in guarded terms. She sighed bitterly—but did not contest the matter. She only asked about the second letter that I had proposed writing. To whom was it to be addressed?