On one point, however, Angela’s efforts failed completely; she could make no headway with her father. He shrank more than ever from her society, and at last asked her to oblige him by allowing him to follow his own path in peace. Of Arthur’s death he had never spoken to her, or she to him, but she knew that he had heard of it.
Philip had heard of it thus. On that Christmas afternoon he had been taking his daily exercise when he met Lady Bellamy returning from the Abbey House. The carriage stopped, and she got out to speak to him.
“Have you been to the Abbey House to pay a Christmas visit?” he asked. “It is very kind of you to come and see us so soon after your return.”
“I am the bearer of bad news, so I did not loiter.”
“Bad news! what was it?”
“Mr. Heigham is dead,” she answered, watching his face narrowly.
“He died of enteric fever at Madeira. I have just been to break the news to Angela.”
“Oh, indeed, she will be pained; she was very fond of him, you know.”
Lady Bellamy smiled contemptuously.
“Did you ever see any one put to the extremest torture? If you have, you can guess how your daughter was ‘pained.’”
“Well, I can’t help it, it is no affair of mine. Good-bye,” and then, as soon as she was out of hearing; “I wonder if she lies, or if she has murdered him. George must have been putting on the screw.”
Into the particulars of Arthur Heigham’s death, or supposed death, he never inquired. Why should he? It was no affair of his; he had long ago washed his hands of the whole matter, and left things to take their chance. If he was dead, well and good, he was very sorry for him; if he was alive, well and good also. In that case, he would no doubt arrive on the appointed date to marry Angela.
But, notwithstanding all this unanswerable reasoning, he still found it quite impossible to look his daughter in the face. Her eyes still burnt him, ay, even more than ever did they burn, for her widowed dress and brow were agony to him, and rent his heart, not with remorse but fear. But still his greed kept the upper hand, though death by mental torture must result, yet he would glut himself with his desire. More than ever he hungered for those wide lands which, if only things fell out right, would become his at so ridiculous a price. Decidedly Arthur Heigham’s death was “no affair of his.”
About six weeks before Angela’s conversation with Mr. Fraser which ended in her undertaking parish work, a rumour had got about that George Caresfoot had been taken ill, very seriously ill. It was said that a chill had settled on his lungs, which had never been very strong since his fever, and that he had, in short, gone into a consumption.
Of George, Angela had neither seen nor heard anything for some time— not since she received the welcome letter in which he relinquished his suit. She had, indeed, with that natural readiness of the human mind to forget unpleasant occurrences, thought but little about him of late, since her mind had been more fully occupied with other and more pressing things. Still she vaguely wondered at times if he was really so ill as her father thought.