“Well, if you like, I will take her that ring. I think that is a very generous offer on my part, for I do not like the responsibility.”
“But what is the use of taking her the ring?”
“It is something that there can be no mistake about, that is all, a speaking message from yourself. But don’t give it me if you do not like; perhaps you had rather not!”
“I don’t like parting with it at all, I confess, but I should dearly like to send her something. I suppose that you would not take a letter?”
“You would not write one, Mr. Heigham!”
“No, of course, I forget that accursed promise. Here, take the ring, and say all you can to Angela with it. You promise that you will?”
“Certainly, I promise that I will say all I can.”
“You are very good and kind. I wish to Heaven that I were going to Marlshire with you. If you only knew how I long to see her again. I think that it would break my heart if anything happened to separate us,” and his lips quivered at the thought.
Lady Bellamy turned her sombre face upon him—there was compassion in her eyes.
“If you bear Angela Caresfoot so great a love, be guided by me and shake it off, strangle it—be rid of it anyhow; for fulfilled affection of that nature would carry a larger happiness with it than is allowed in a world planned expressly to secure the greatest misery of the greatest number. There is a fate which fights against it; its ministers are human folly and passion. You have seen many marriages, tell me, how many have you known, out of a novel, where the people married their true loves? In novels they always do, it is another of society’s pleasant fictions, but real life is like a novel without the third volume. I do not want to alarm you, Mr. Heigham; but, because I like you, I ask you to steel your mind to disappointment, so that, if a blow comes, it may not crush you.”
“What do you mean, Lady Bellamy, do you know of any impending trouble?”
“I? Certainly not. I only talk on general principles. Do not be over-confident, and never trust a woman. Come, let us get home.”
Next morning, when Arthur came down to breakfast, the Bellamys had sailed. The mail had come in from the Cape at midnight, and left again at dawn, taking them with it.
The departure of the Bellamys left Arthur in very low spirits. His sensations were similar to those which one can well imagine an ancient Greek might have experienced who, having sent to consult the Delphic oracle, had got for his pains a very unsatisfactory reply, foreshadowing evils but not actually defining them. Lady Bellamy was in some way connected with the idea of an oracle in his mind. She looked oracular. Her dark face and inscrutable eyes, the stamp of power upon her brow, all suggested that she was a mistress of the black arts. Her words, too, were mysterious, and fraught with bitter wisdom and a deep knowledge distilled from the poisonous weeds of life.