“Are you a Catholic, Mrs. Bread?” he asked.
“No, sir; I’m a good Church-of-England woman, very Low,” she answered. “But I thought I should be safer in here than outside. I was never out in the evening before, sir.”
“We shall be safer,” said Newman, “where no one can hear us.” And he led the way back into the castle court and then followed a path beside the church, which he was sure must lead into another part of the ruin. He was not deceived. It wandered along the crest of the hill and terminated before a fragment of wall pierced by a rough aperture which had once been a door. Through this aperture Newman passed and found himself in a nook peculiarly favorable to quiet conversation, as probably many an earnest couple, otherwise assorted than our friends, had assured themselves. The hill sloped abruptly away, and on the remnant of its crest were scattered two or three fragments of stone. Beneath, over the plain, lay the gathered twilight, through which, in the near distance, gleamed two or three lights from the chateau. Mrs. Bread rustled slowly after her guide, and Newman, satisfying himself that one of the fallen stones was steady, proposed to her to sit upon it. She cautiously complied, and he placed himself upon another, near her.
“I am very much obliged to you for coming,” Newman said. “I hope it won’t get you into trouble.”
“I don’t think I shall be missed. My lady, in these days, is not fond of having me about her.” This was said with a certain fluttered eagerness which increased Newman’s sense of having inspired the old woman with confidence.
“From the first, you know,” he answered, “you took an interest in my prospects. You were on my side. That gratified me, I assure you. And now that you know what they have done to me, I am sure you are with me all the more.”
“They have not done well—I must say it,” said Mrs. Bread. “But you mustn’t blame the poor countess; they pressed her hard.”
“I would give a million of dollars to know what they did to her!” cried Newman.
Mrs. Bread sat with a dull, oblique gaze fixed upon the lights of the chateau. “They worked on her feelings; they knew that was the way. She is a delicate creature. They made her feel wicked. She is only too good.”
“Ah, they made her feel wicked,” said Newman, slowly; and then he repeated it. “They made her feel wicked,—they made her feel wicked.” The words seemed to him for the moment a vivid description of infernal ingenuity.