“Now for it!” cried Jack, as the couple entered the room: “the coast’s clear.”
Thames was about to follow, when he felt a gentle grasp upon his arm. He turned, and beheld Winifred.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I shall be back presently,” replied Thames, evasively.
“Don’t go, I beg of you!” she implored. “You’re in danger. I overheard what Mr. Kneebone said, just now.”
“Death and the devil! what a cursed interruption!” cried Jack, impatiently. “If you loiter in this way, old Wood will catch us.”
“If you stir, I’ll call him!” rejoined Winifred. “It’s you, Jack, who are persuading my brother to do wrong. Thames,” she urged, “the errand, on which you’re going, can’t be for any good, or you wouldn’t be afraid of mentioning it to my father.”
“He’s coming!” cried Jack, stamping his foot, with vexation. “Another moment, and it’ll be too late.”
“Winny, I must go!” said Thames, breaking from her.
“Stay, dear Thames!—stay!” cried the little girl. “He hears me not! he’s gone!” she added, as the door was opened and shut with violence; “something tells me I shall never see him again!”
When her father, a moment afterwards, issued from the parlour to ascertain the cause of the noise, he found her seated on the stairs, in an agony of grief.
“Where’s Thames?” he hastily inquired.
Winifred pointed to the door. She could not speak.
“Gone too,” sobbed his daughter.
Mr. Wood uttered something like an imprecation.
“God forgive me for using such a word!” he cried, in a troubled tone; “if I hadn’t yielded to my wife’s silly request, this wouldn’t have happened!”
Brother and Sister.
On the same evening, in a stately chamber of a noble old mansion of Elizabeth’s time, situated in Southampton Fields, two persons were seated. One of these, a lady, evidently a confirmed invalid, and attired in deep mourning, reclined upon a sort of couch, or easy chair, set on wheels, with her head supported by cushions, and her feet resting upon a velvet footstool. A crutch, with a silver handle, stood by her side, proving the state of extreme debility to which she was reduced. It was no easy matter to determine her age, for, though she still retained a certain youthfulness of appearance, she had many marks in her countenance, usually indicating the decline of life, but which in her case were, no doubt, the result of constant and severe indisposition. Her complexion was wan and faded, except where it was tinged by a slight hectic flush, that made the want of colour more palpable; her eyes were large and black, but heavy and lustreless; her cheeks sunken; her frame emaciated; her dark hair thickly scattered with gray. When younger, and in better health, she must have been eminently lovely; and there were still the remains of great beauty about her. The expression, however, which would chiefly have interested a beholder, was that of settled and profound melancholy.