The servant withdrew.
Mrs. Linley’s chair happened to be near one of the windows, which commanded a view of the drive leading to the main entrance of the house. A carriage had just arrived bringing holiday travelers to visit that part of Mount Morven which was open to strangers. She watched them as they got out, talking and laughing, and looking about them. Still shrinking instinctively from the first doubt of Herbert that had ever entered her mind, she found a refuge from herself in watching the ordinary events of the day. One by one the tourists disappeared under the portico of the front door. The empty carriage was driven away next, to water the horses at the village inn. Solitude was all she could see from the windows; silence, horrible silence, surrounded her out of doors and in. The thoughts from which she recoiled forced their way back into her mind; the narrative of the nursemaid’s discovery became a burden on her memory once more. She considered the circumstances. In spite of herself, she considered the circumstances again. Her husband and Sydney Westerfield together in the shrubbery—and Sydney crying. Had Mrs. Presty’s abominable suspicion of them reached their ears? or?—No! that second possibility might be estimated at its right value by any other woman; not by Herbert Linley’s wife.
She snatched up the newspaper, and fixed her eyes on it in the hope of fixing her mind on it next. Obstinately, desperately, she read without knowing what she was reading. The lines of print were beginning to mingle and grow dim, when she was startled by the sudden opening of the door. She looked round.
Her husband entered the room.
Kitty Feels the Heartache.
Linley advanced a few steps—and stopped.
His wife, hurrying eagerly to meet him, checked herself. It might have been distrust, or it might have been unreasoning fear—she hesitated on the point of approaching him.
“I have something to say, Catherine, which I’m afraid will distress you.”
His voice faltered, his eyes rested on her—then looked away again. He said no more.
He had spoken a few commonplace words—and yet he had said enough. She saw the truth in his eyes, heard the truth in his voice. A fit of trembling seized her. Linley stepped forward, in the fear that she might fall. She instantly controlled herself, and signed to him to keep back. “Don’t touch me!” she said. “You come from Miss Westerfield!”
That reproach roused him.
“I own that I come from Miss Westerfield,” he answered. “She addresses a request to you through me.”
“I refuse to grant it.”
“Hear it first.”
“Hear it—in your own interest. She asks permission to leave the house, never to return again. While she is still innocent—”