He turned to look at the clock.
She had asked him for five. He had ordered his horse accordingly, the only beast still left in the Flood stables, and his chief means of escape during a dreary fortnight from his peevish co-executor, who was of little or no service, and had allowed himself already to say unpardonable things about his dead brother, even to that brother’s son.
It was too soon to start, but he pushed his papers aside impatiently. The mere prospect of seeing Constance Bledlow provoked in him a dumb and troubled excitement. Under its impulse he left the library, and began to walk aimlessly through the dreary and deserted house, for the mere sake of movement. The pictures were still on the walls, for the sale of them had not yet been formally sanctioned by the court; but all Lady Laura’s private and personal possessions had been removed to London, and dust-sheets covered the furniture. Some of it indeed had been already sold, and workmen were busy packing in the great hall, amid a dusty litter of paper and straw. All the signs of normal life, which make the character of a house, had gone; what remained was only the debris of a once animated whole. Houses have their fate no less than books; and in the ears of its last Falloden possessor, the whole of the great many-dated fabric, from its fourteenth century foundations beneath the central tower, to the pseudo-Gothic with which Wyatt had disfigured the garden front, had often, since his father’s death, seemed to speak with an almost human voice of lamentation and distress.
But this afternoon Falloden took little notice of his surroundings. Why had she written to him?
Well, after all, death is death, and the merest strangers had written to him—letters that he was now wearily answering. But there had been nothing perfunctory in her letter. As he read it he had seemed to hear her very voice saying the soft, touching things in it—things that women say so easily and men can’t hit upon; and to be looking into her changing face, and the eyes that could be so fierce, and then again so childishly sweet and sad—as he had seen them, at their last meeting on the moor, while she was giving him news of Radowitz. Yet there was not a word in the letter that might not have been read on the house-tops—not a