At the same time it appeared to be desirable, for Blanche’s sake, to keep her in ignorance, for the present at least, of what had happened. Sir Patrick met this difficulty with characteristic ingenuity and readiness of resource.
He wrote a telegram to Arnold, expressed in the following terms:
“Your letter and inclosures received. Return to Ham Farm as soon as you conveniently can. Keep the thing still a secret from Blanche. Tell her, as the reason for coming back, that the lost trace of Anne Silvester has been recovered, and that there may be reasons for her returning to England before any thing further can be done.”
Duncan having been dispatched to the station with this message, Duncan’s master proceeded to calculate the question of time.
Arnold would in all probability receive the telegram at Baden, on the next day, September the seventeenth. In three days more he and Blanche might be expected to reach Ham Farm. During the interval thus placed at his disposal Sir Patrick would have ample time in which to recover himself, and to see his way to acting for the best in the alarming emergency that now confronted him.
On the nineteenth Sir Patrick received a telegram informing him that he might expect to see the young couple late in the evening on the twentieth.
Late in the evening the sound of carriage-wheels was audible on the drive; and Sir Patrick, opening the door of his room, heard the familiar voices in the hall.
“Well!” cried Blanche, catching sight of him at the door, “is Anne found?”
“Not just yet, my dear.”
“Is there news of her?”
“Am I in time to be of use?”
“In excellent time. You shall hear all about it to-morrow. Go and take off your traveling-things, and come down again to supper as soon as you can.”
Blanche kissed him, and went on up stairs. She had, as her uncle thought in the glimpse he had caught of her, been improved by her marriage. It had quieted and steadied her. There were graces in her look and manner which Sir Patrick had not noticed before. Arnold, on his side, appeared to less advantage. He was restless and anxious; his position with Miss Silvester seemed to be preying on his mind. As soon as his young wife’s back was turned, he appealed to Sir Patrick in an eager whisper.
“I hardly dare ask you what I have got it on my mind to say,” he began. “I must bear it if you are angry with me, Sir Patrick. But—only tell me one thing. Is there a way out of it for us? Have you thought of that?”
“I can not trust myself to speak of it clearly and composedly to-night,” said Sir Patrick. “Be satisfied if I tell you that I have thought it all out—and wait for the rest till to-morrow.”