Leaving him in this mode, Mrs. Stuart hurried to the cottage where Montague had taken up his abode.
The young captain received her kindly. Having learned from Corrie all about the friendship that existed between the widow and Gascoyne, he listened with the utmost consideration to her.
“It is impossible,” said he, shaking his head; “I cannot set him free.”
“Do his late services weigh nothing with you?” pleaded the widow.
“My dear madam,” replied Montague, sorrowfully, “you forget that I am not his judge. I have no right to weigh the circumstances of his case. He is a convicted and self-acknowledged pirate. My only duty is to convey him to England, and hand him over to the officers of justice. I sympathize with you, indeed I do; for you seem to take his case to heart very much; but I cannot help you. I must do my duty. The Foam will be ready for sea in a few days. In it I shall convey Gascoyne to England.”
“O Mr. Montague! I do take his case to heart, as you say, and no one on this earth has more cause to do so. Will it interest you more in Gascoyne, and induce you to use your influence in his favor, if I tell you that—that—he is my husband?”
“Your husband!” cried Montague, springing up, and pacing the apartment with rapid strides.
“Aye,” said Mrs. Stuart, mournfully, covering her face with her hands. “I had hoped that this secret would die with me and him; but in the hope that it may help, ever so little, to save his life, I have revealed it to you.”
“Believe me, the secret shall be safe in my keeping,” said Montague, tenderly, as he sat down again, and drew his chair near to that of Mrs. Stuart. “But, alas! I do not see how it is possible for me to help your husband. I will use my utmost influence to mitigate his sentence; but I cannot, I dare not set him free.”
The poor woman sat pale and motionless while the captain said this. She began to perceive that all hope was gone, and felt despair settling down on her heart.
“What will be his doom,” said she, in a husky voice, “if his life is spared?”
“I do not know. At least I am not certain. My knowledge of criminal law is very slight, but I should suppose it would be transportation for—”
Montague hesitated, and could not find it in his heart to add the word “life.”
Without uttering a word, Mrs. Stuart rose, and, staggering from the room, hastened with a quick, unsteady step toward her own cottage.
A PECULIAR CONFIDANT—MORE DIFFICULTIES, AND VARIOUS PLANS TO OVERCOME THEM.
When Alice Mason was a little child, there was a certain tree near her father’s house to which, in her hours of sorrow, she was wont to run and tell it all the grief of her overflowing heart. She firmly believed that this tree heard and understood and sympathized with all that she said. There was a hole in the stem into which she was wont to pour her complaints; and when she had thus unburdened her heart to her silent confidant, she felt comforted, as one feels when a human friend has shared one’s sorrows.