‘I must, papa.’
’I tell you that it is not right. You have a home in which everybody will respect you. For the present you should remain here.’
’I cannot, papa. He told me to go back to-morrow. I would not disobey him now,—not now,—were it ever so.’ Then the old man paused as though he were going on with the argument, but finding that he had said all that he had to say, he slowly made his way upstairs.
‘Good-night, mamma,’ said Hester, returning only to the door of the sitting-room.
‘Good-night, my love.’ As the words were spoken they both felt that there was something wrong,—much that was wrong. ’I do not think they will do that,’ said Hester to herself, as she went up the stairs to her chamber.
It had been arranged at Folking, before Hester had started, that Caldigate himself should drive the waggonette into Cambridge to take her back on the Wednesday, but that he would bring a servant with him who should drive the carriage up to the Grange, so that he, personally, should not have to appear at the door of the house. He would remain at Mr. Seely’s, and then the waggonette should pick him up. This had been explained to Mrs. Bolton. ’John will remain in town, because he has so much to do with Mr. Seely,’ Hester had said; ’and Richard will call here at about twelve.’ All her plans had thus been made known, and Mrs. Bolton was aware at what hour the bolts must be drawn and the things removed.
But, as the time drew nearer, her dislike to a sudden commencement of absolute hostilities became stronger,—to hostilities which would seem to have no sanction from Mr. Bolton himself, because he would then be absent. And he too, though as he lay awake through the dreary hours of the long night he said no word about the plan, felt, and felt more strongly as the dawn was breaking, that it would be mean to leave his daughter with a farewell kiss, knowing as he would do that he was leaving her within prison-bars, leaving her to the charge of jailers. The farewell kiss would be given as though he and she were to meet no more in her old home till this terrible trial should be over, and some word appropriate to such a parting would then be spoken. But any such parting word would be false, and the falsehood would be against his own child! ‘Does she expect it?’ he said, in a low voice, when his wife came up to him as he was dressing.
’She expects nothing. I am thinking that perhaps you would tell her that she could not go to-day.’
‘I could not say “to-day.” If I tell her anything, I must tell her all.’
‘Will not that be best?’ Then the old man thought it all over. It would be very much the best for him not to say anything about it if he could reconcile it to his conscience to leave the house without doing so. And he knew well that his wife was more powerful than he,—gifted with greater persistence, more capable of enduring a shower of tears or a storm of anger. The success of the plan would be more probable if the conduct of it were left entirely to his wife, but his conscience was sore within him.