Also, they studiously guarded their words and looks in the presence of any third person.
Yet Elsie, the tender mother, with eyes sharpened by affection, had already perceived that all was not right. She had noted Zoe’s disturbed look when Edward seemed specially interested in Miss Deane’s talk or Miss Fleming’s music, and had silently determined not to ask them to prolong their stay at Ion.
The supper-bell rang as Edward and Zoe descended the stairs together, and they obeyed its summons without going into the drawing-room.
Violet’s place at the table was vacant as well as that of Max, and Lulu and Gracie bore the traces of tears about their eyes.
These things reminded Zoe of Max’s trouble, forgotten for a time in her own, and she thought pityingly of him in his imprisonment, wondered if he would be put upon prison fare, and determined to find out, and if he were, to try to procure him something better.
She made an errand to her own rooms soon after leaving the table, went to his door and knocked softly.
“Who’s there?” he asked in a voice half choked with sobs.
“It is I, Maxie,” she said in an undertone at the keyhole, “Zoe, you know. I want to say I’m ever so sorry for you, and always ready to do anything I can to help you.”
“Thank you,” he said, “but I mustn’t see anybody, so can’t open the door; and, indeed,” with a heavy sob, “I’m not fit company for you or any of the rest.”
“Yes, you are, you’re as good as I am. But why can’t you open the door? are you locked in?”
“No; but—papa said I—I must stay by myself for a week if—if I did what I have done to-day. So please don’t stay any longer, though it was ever so good in you to come.”
“Good-by, then,” and she moved away.
“High minds of native
pride and force
Most deeply feel thy pangs, remorse!
Fear of their scourge mean villains have;
Thou art the torture of the brave.”
Max sat before his writing-table, his folded arms upon it, and his face hidden upon them. He was in sore distress of mind. How he had fallen before temptation! into what depths of disgrace and sin! sin that in olden times would have been punished with death, even as the horrible crime of murder, and that must still be as hateful as ever in the sight of an unchangeable God.
And not only that sin, of which he had thought he had so truly and deeply repented, but another which he had always been taught was a very low and degrading vice. Oh, could there be forgiveness for him?
And how would his dear honored father feel when the sad story should reach his ears? would it indeed break his heart as Grandpa Dinsmore had said? The boy’s own heart was overwhelmed with grief, dismay, and remorse as he asked himself these torturing questions.