pursue them.' One of those men is beyond mortal reach. The other remains, and my resolution remains."
Her eyes lit up—her colour rose. She said nothing, but I saw all her sympathies gathering to mine in her face.
"I don't disguise from myself, or from you," I went on, "that the prospect before us is more than doubtful. The risks we have run already are, it may be, trifles compared with the risks that threaten us in the future, but the venture shall be tried, Marian, for all that. I am not rash enough to measure myself against such a man as the Count before I am well prepared for him. I have learnt patience—I can wait my time. Let him believe that his message has produced its effect—let him know nothing of us, and hear nothing of us—let us give him full time to feel secure—his own boastful nature, unless I seriously mistake him, will hasten that result. This is one reason for waiting, but there is another more important still. My position, Marian, towards you and towards Laura ought to be a stronger one than it is now before I try our last chance."
She leaned near to me, with a look of surprise.
"How can it be stronger?" she asked.
"I will tell you," I replied, "when the time comes. It has not come yet—it may never come at all. I may be silent about it to Laura for ever—I must be silent now, even to YOU, till I see for myself that I can harmlessly and honourably speak. Let us leave that subject. There is another which has more pressing claims on our attention. You have kept Laura, mercifully kept her, in ignorance of her husband's death——"
"Oh, Walter, surely it must be long yet before we tell her of it?"
"No, Marian. Better that you should reveal it to her now, than that accident, which no one can guard against, should reveal it to her at some future time. Spare her all the details—break it to her very tenderly, but tell her that he is dead."
"You have a reason, Walter, for wishing her to know of her husband's death besides the reason you have just mentioned?"
"A reason connected with that subject which must not be mentioned between us yet?—which may never be mentioned to Laura at all?"
She dwelt on the last words meaningly. When I answered her in the affirmative, I dwelt on them too.