“You can imagine my answer, Ellen. I would do anything, sacrifice anything, except my fidelity to my husband. Heaven knows I would have given twenty years of my life to escape from that dismal place, with the mere chance of being able to get back to my husband; but I would not take a false oath; I could not perjure myself, as that man would have made me perjure myself, in order to win my release. I knelt at his feet and clung about him, beseeching him with all the power I had to set me free; but he was harder than iron. Just at the end, when he had the door open, and was leaving me, telling me that I had lost my last chance, and would never see him again, I clung about him with one wild desperate cry. He flung me back into the room violently, and shut the door in my face. I fancied afterwards that that cry must have been heard, and that, if there had been any creature in the house inclined to help me, there would have come an end to my sufferings. But the time passed, and there was no change; only the long dreary days, the wretched sleepless nights.”
This was all. There were details of her sufferings which Marian told her faithful friend by-and-by, when her mind was calmer, and they had leisure for tranquil talk; but the story was all told; and Marian lay down to rest in the familiar room, unspeakably grateful to God for her rescue, and only eager that her husband should be informed of her safety. She had not yet been told that he had crossed the Atlantic in search of her, deluded by a false scent. Ellen feared to tell her this at first; and she had taken it for granted that John Saltram was still in London. It was easy to defer any explanation just yet, on account of Marian’s weakness. The exertion of telling the brief story of her sufferings had left her prostrate; and she was fain to obey her friendly nurse.
“We will talk about everything, and arrange everything, by-and-by, dear Mrs. Holbrook,” Ellen said resolutely; “but for the present you must rest, and you must take everything that I bring you, and be very good.”
And with that she kissed and left her, to perform another and less agreeable duty—the duty of attendance by her husband’s sick-bed.
MR. WHITELAW MAKES HIS WILL.
They had carried Stephen Whitelaw to the Grange; and he lay a helpless creature, beyond hope of recovery, in one of the roomy old-fashioned bed-chambers.
The humble Crosber surgeon had done his best, and had done it skilfully, being a man of large experience amongst a lowly class of sufferers; and to the aid of the Crosber surgeon had come a more prosperous practitioner from Malsham, who had driven over in his own phaeton; but between them both they could make nothing of Stephen Whitelaw. His race was run. He had been severely burnt; and if his actual injuries were not enough to kill him, there was little chance that he could survive the shock which his system had received. He might linger a little; might hold out longer than they expected; but his life was a question of hours.