“She, too,” she murmured, “my arch-enemy! Oh, my God, help me to bear it—help me to keep the horrible truth from the husband I love! She will not tell him. She knows he would never endure her from the hour she would make the revelation; and that thought alone restrains her. It will kill me—this agonizing fear and horror! And better so—better to die now, while he loves me, than live to be loathed when he discovers the truth!”
Sir Everard Kingsland, riding home in the yellow, wintery sunset, found my lady lying on a lounge in her boudoir, her maid beside her, bathing her forehead with eau-de-Cologne.
“Headache again, Harrie?” he said. “You are growing a complete martyr to that feminine malady of late. I had hoped to find you dressed and ready to accompany me to The Grange.”
“I am sorry, Everard, but this evening it is impossible. Make my excuses to her ladyship, and tell her I hope to see her soon.”
She did not look up as she said it, and her husband, stooping, imprinted a kiss on the colorless cheek.
“My poor, pale girl! I will send Edwards with an apology to The Grange, and remain at home with you.”
“No!” Harriet cried, hastily; “not on any account. You must not disappoint your mother, Everard; you must go. There, good-bye! It is time you were dressing. Don’t mind me; I will be better when you return.”
“I feel as though I ought not to leave you to-night,” he said. “It seems heartless, and you ill. I had better send Edwards and the apology.”
“You foolish boy!” She looked up at him and smiled, with eyes full of tears. “I will be better alone and quiet. Sleep and solitude will quite restore me. Go! Go! You will be late, and my lady dislikes being kept waiting.”
He kissed her and went, casting one long, lingering backward look at the wife he loved. And with a pang bitterer than death came the remembrance afterward of how she had urged him to leave her that night.
Thus they parted—to look into each other’s eyes no more, in love and trust for a dark and tragic time.
Sybilla Silver, standing at the house door, was gazing out, at the yellow February sun sinking pale and watery into the livid horizon tine, as the baronet ran down-stairs, drawing on his gloves. He paused, with his usual courtesy, to speak to his dependent as he went by.
“The sky yonder looks ominous,” he said, “and this wailing, icy blast is the very desolation of desolation. There is a storm brewing.”
Miss Silver’s black eyes gleamed, and her white teeth showed in a sinister smile.
“A storm?” she repeated. “Yes, I think there is, and you will be caught in it, Sir Everard, if you stay late.”
AT NIGHT IN THE BEECH WALK.
The instant Sir Everard was out of sight Sybilla ran up to her chamber, and presently reappeared, dressed for a walk.