“Ah, Maria! then she knows nothing?”
“Yes, there is Maria and myself. But never mind that. Philip will, I suppose, be back in a few hours—oh, yes! he will be back,” and his eyes glinted unpleasantly, “and what shall you do then? what course do you intend to take?”
“I intend to claim my rights, to force him to acknowledge me here where he suffered his engagement to another woman to be proclaimed, and then I intend to leave him. He has killed my respect; I will not live with him again. I can earn my living in Germany. I have done with him; but, sir, do not you be hard upon him. It is a matter between me and him. Let him not suffer on my account.”
“My dear, pray confine yourself to your own affairs, and leave me to settle mine. There shall be no harshness; nobody shall suffer more than they deserve. There, don’t break down, go and rest, for there are painful scenes before you.”
He rang the bell, and sent for the housekeeper. She came presently, a pleasant-looking woman of about thirty years of age, with a comely face and honest eyes.
“This lady, Pigott,” said the old squire, addressing her, “is Mrs. Philip Caresfoot, and you will be so kind as to treat her with all respect. Don’t open your eyes, but attend to me. For the present, you had best put her in the red room, and attend to her yourself. Do you understand?”
“Oh, yes, sir! I understand,” Pigott replied, curtseying. “Will you be pleased to come along with me, ma’am?”
Hilda rose and took Pigott’s arm. Excitement and fatigue had worn her out. Before she went, however, she turned, and with tears in her eyes thanked the old man for his kindness to a friendless woman.
The hard eyes grew kindly as he stooped and kissed the broad, white brow, and said in his stately way—
“My dear, as yet I have shown you nothing but the courtesy due to a lady. Should I live, I hope to bestow on you the affection I owe to a much-wronged daughter. Good-by.”
And thus they parted, little knowing where they should meet again.
“A woman I respect—well, English or German, the blood will tell”—he said as soon as the door had closed. “Poor thing—poor Maria too. The scoundrel!—ah! there it is again;” and he pressed his hand to his heart. “This business has upset me, and no wonder.”
The pang passed, and sitting down he wrote a letter that evidently embarrassed him considerably, and addressed it to Miss Lee. This he put in the post-box, and then, going to a secretaire, he unlocked it, and taking out a document he began to puzzle over it attentively.
Presently Simmons announced that Mr. Bellamy was waiting.
“Show him in at once,” said the old man briskly.
It was some minutes past seven that evening when the lawyer left, and he had not been gone a quarter of an hour before a hired gig drove up to the door containing Philip, who had got back from town in the worst of bad tempers, and, as no conveyance was waiting for him, had been forced to post over from Roxham. Apparently his father had been expecting his arrival, for the moment the servant opened the door he appeared from his study, and addressed him in a tone that was as near to being jovial as he ever went.