“How?” he said to himself. “That’s the question. How?”
He went indoors again, and rang the bell. The servant-girl who answered it started back at the sight of him. His florid color was all gone. His eyes looked at her without appearing to see her. The perspiration was standing on his forehead in great heavy drops.
“Are you ill, Sir?” said the girl.
He told her, with an oath, to hold her tongue and bring the brandy. When she entered the room for the second time, he was standing with his back to her, looking out at the night. He never moved when she put the bottle on the table. She heard him muttering as if he was talking to himself.
The same difficulty which had been present to his
mind in secret under
Anne’s window was present to his mind still.
How? That was the problem to solve. How?
He turned to the brandy, and took counsel of that.
CHAPTER THE FIFTIETH.
WHEN does the vain regret find its keenest sting? When is the doubtful future blackened by its darkest cloud? When is life least worth having, and death oftenest at the bedside? In the terrible morning hours, when the sun is rising in its glory, and the birds are singing in the stillness of the new-born day.
Anne woke in the strange bed, and looked round her, by the light of the new morning, at the strange room.
The rain had all fallen in the night. The sun was master in the clear autumn sky. She rose, and opened the window. The fresh morning air, keen and fragrant, filled the room. Far and near, the same bright stillness possessed the view. She stood at the window looking out. Her mind was clear again—she could think, she could feel; she could face the one last question which the merciless morning now forced on her—How will it end?
Was there any hope?—hope for instance, in what she might do for herself. What can a married woman do for herself? She can make her misery public—provided it be misery of a certain kind—and can reckon single-handed with Society when she has done it. Nothing more.
Was there hope in what others might do for her? Blanche might write to her—might even come and see her—if her husband allowed it; and that was all. Sir Patrick had pressed her hand at parting, and had told her to rely on him. He was the firmest, the truest of friends. But what could he do? There were outrages which her husband was privileged to commit, under the sanction of marriage, at the bare thought of which her blood ran cold. Could Sir Patrick protect her? Absurd! Law and Society armed her husband with his conjugal rights. Law and Society had but one answer to give, if she appealed to them—You are his wife.
No hope in herself; no hope in her friends; no hope any where on earth. Nothing to be done but to wait for the end—with faith in the Divine Mercy; with faith in the better world.