Rachel sat for hours looking before her, without caring to do anything. To think that this should be the end of all her hopes! Was it, then, impossible to find a man with courage in his heart, and blood in his veins? She felt that she was precluded from any line of action that would really satisfy her, condemned as she was to a life of daily drudgery; but her thoughts became more and more embittered, first against him who had deceived her, and finally against the whole human race.
Madeleine, on the contrary, had no feelings of this nature; but she had a feeling of dread, which seemed daily to increase. She felt that the duplicity of her friend was so great, so enormous, that it quite passed her imagination; and then the thought that it must be he—he, to whom alone, among all this world of strangers, she felt herself attracted on the very ground of his sincerity! Again and again these thoughts arose within her and tortured her. She felt as if her foothold must be insecure for evermore. A stain of impurity seemed to have passed over her life, which made her timid and apprehensive of all these so-called friends who had thus misunderstood and deceived her.
The morning after that night she was awakened by Fanny, who came into her room in her dressing-gown before it was quite light. The truth was, Fanny had not slept very soundly, tormented as she was the whole time by her fears, and by wondering from whence the warning came. It was quite certain that it must have proceeded either from Miss Cordsen or Madeleine, for the windows of both rooms were open. If it were Madeleine, the plot had become so involved that she did not dare to think of it. If it were Miss Cordsen, it was bad enough, but still not so desperate. From the sound she guessed that it must be a glass of water, or something of that sort, and as soon as day began to dawn she got up and left her room in the hope of clearing up the mystery. Madeleine sat up as she heard Fanny come in.
“I beg pardon, Madeleine. I came to see if you could give me a glass of water. There is a spider in our water-bottle.”
She drew back the curtains, and there, sure enough, stood the water-bottle with its glass. Fanny gave a sigh of relief, and left Madeleine still gazing in astonishment. It was more than she could understand.
The autumn rains had now begun in earnest. Day after day the water came down in streams, and at night it could be heard pattering on the window-panes, and dripping from the eaves, every time one woke.
At first the rain came for a long time from the south-west, but there was nothing wonderful in that, for the south-west is a rainy quarter. But when it rained for a whole fortnight with a north wind, people who were weatherwise maintained that if it once began to rain steadily from the north, there would be no end to it.
One morning the wind ceased, but the clouds lay heavy and lowering overhead; and now the weatherwise averred, with much shaking of heads, that it would be worse than ever. The morning, however, actually passed without rain, and the air grew lighter and clearer; but just as the aspect began to improve, the drizzle again commenced.