“Place it on the table,” she said. “I shall be ready soon.”
He did so, and retired to the door; when, however, he perceived that she did not move he came back a few steps.
“Let me hold it to you, if you don’t wish to get up,” said Charley. He brought the tray to the front of the couch, where he knelt down, adding, “I will hold it for you.”
Eustacia sat up and poured out a cup of tea. “You are very kind to me, Charley,” she murmured as she sipped.
“Well, I ought to be,” said he diffidently, taking great trouble not to rest his eyes upon her, though this was their only natural position, Eustacia being immediately before him. “You have been kind to me.”
“How have I?” said Eustacia.
“You let me hold your hand when you were a maiden at home.”
“Ah, so I did. Why did I do that? My mind is lost—it had to do with the mumming, had it not?”
“Yes, you wanted to go in my place.”
“I remember. I do indeed remember—too well!”
She again became utterly downcast; and Charley, seeing that she was not going to eat or drink any more, took away the tray.
Afterwards he occasionally came in to see if the fire was burning, to ask her if she wanted anything, to tell her that the wind had shifted from south to west, to ask her if she would like him to gather her some blackberries; to all which inquiries she replied in the negative or with indifference.
She remained on the settee some time longer, when she aroused herself and went upstairs. The room in which she had formerly slept still remained much as she had left it, and the recollection that this forced upon her of her own greatly changed and infinitely worsened situation again set on her face the undetermined and formless misery which it had worn on her first arrival. She peeped into her grandfather’s room, through which the fresh autumn air was blowing from the open window. Her eye was arrested by what was a familiar sight enough, though it broke upon her now with a new significance.
It was a brace of pistols, hanging near the head of her grandfather’s bed, which he always kept there loaded, as a precaution against possible burglars, the house being very lonely. Eustacia regarded them long, as if they were the page of a book in which she read a new and a strange matter. Quickly, like one afraid of herself, she returned downstairs and stood in deep thought.
“If I could only do it!” she said. “It would be doing much good to myself and all connected with me, and no harm to a single one.”
The idea seemed to gather force within her, and she remained in a fixed attitude nearly ten minutes, when a certain finality was expressed in her gaze, and no longer the blankness of indecision.
She turned and went up the second time—softly and stealthily now—and entered her grandfather’s room, her eyes at once seeking the head of the bed. The pistols were gone.