‘He is in prison no longer.’
‘They have let him escape?’
‘The Queen has pardoned him because he was not guilty.’
’The Queen! As though she could know whether he be guilty or innocent. What can the Queen know of the manner of his life in foreign parts,—before he had taken my girl away from me?’
’He never married the woman. Let there be no more said about it. He never married her.’
But Mrs. Bolton, though she was not victorious, was not to be silenced by a single word. No more about it, indeed! There must be very much more about it. ‘If she was not his wife, she was worse,’ she said.
‘He has repented of that.’
‘Repented!’ she said, with scorn. What very righteous person ever believed in the repentance of an enemy?
‘Why should he not repent?’
‘He has had leisure in jail.’
’Let us hope that he has used it. At any rate he is her husband. There are not many days left to me here. Let me at least see my daughter during the few that remain to me.’
‘Do I not want to see my own child?’
’I will see her and her boy;—and I will have them called by the name which is theirs. And he shall come,—if he will. Who are you, or who am I, that we shall throw in his teeth the sins of his youth?’ Then she became sullen and there was not a word more said between them that morning. But after breakfast the old gardener was sent into town for a fly, and Mr. Bolton was taken to the bank.
‘And what are we to do now?’ asked Mrs. Robert Bolton of her husband, when the tidings were made known to her also at her breakfast-table.
‘We must take it as a fact that she is his wife.’
’Of course, my dear. If the Secretary of State were to say that I was his wife, I suppose I should have to take it as a fact.’
‘If he said that you were a goose it might be nearer the mark.’
‘Really! But a goose must know what she is to do.’
’You must write her a letter and call her Mrs. Caldigate. That will be an acknowledgment.’
‘And what shall I say to her?’
‘Ask her to come here, if you will.’
’And him, too. The fact is we have got to swallow it all. I was sure that he had married that woman, and then of course I wanted to get Hester away from him. Now I believe that he never married her, and therefore we must make the best of him as Hester’s husband.’
‘You used to like him.’
’Yes;—and perhaps I shall again. But why on earth did he pay twenty thousand pounds to those miscreants? That is what I could not get over. It was that which made me sure he was guilty. It is that which still puzzles me so that I can hardly make up my mind to be quite sure that he is innocent. But still we have to be sure. Perhaps the miracle will be explained some day.’