“Do you think,” he said at once, “that it would be safe to tell him good news?”
She looked at him eagerly, and he in turn was startled by the passionate interest that flashed into her face.
“What news?” She asked in a quick vehement whisper.
“That he is proved innocent; that the murderer has confessed.”
“Is it true?”
“It is perfectly true. I have just left Mr. Bayne, who heard the confession.”
She felt her limbs giving way, and caught at the corner of the table for support, but would have fallen if Mr. Bellairs had not prevented it, and laid her on a sofa which had been lately brought into the room.
He hurried to the door, and just outside it met Mrs. Elton, who came to Mrs. Costello’s assistance. It was very long, however, before the faintness could be overcome, and when that was at last accomplished, Christian had fallen asleep; they waited then for his waking, and meanwhile Mrs. Costello heard from Mr. Bellairs the outline of what had happened.
At last Christian awoke, and Mrs. Costello begged herself to tell him as much of the truth as it might be safe for him to hear, but she found it extremely difficult to make him understand. If she could have said to him, “You are free, and I am going to take you away from here,” it would have been easy; as it was, she even doubted whether he at last understood that the accusation which had caused his imprisonment was removed. But to herself the joy was infinite. The last few weeks had taught her to look at things in a new aspect, and the removal of the last horrible burden which had been laid upon her made all the rest seem light.
Mr. Bellairs, much wondering at her agitation, wished to accompany her home, but she longed to be alone, and sending for a sleigh, she left the jail, and reached home at last with her happy tidings.
Mrs. Costello leaned back in her chair, and Mr. Strafford watched her from under the shadow of his hand. Since the winter set in she had taken to wear a soft white shawl, and her caps were of a closer, simpler make than they used to be—perhaps these changes made her look older. It was impossible, too, that she should have passed through the trouble of the last few months without showing its effects to some degree, and yet it seemed to her old friend that there was more alteration than he could see occasion for. Her face had a weary, worn-out look, and the hand that lay listlessly on the arm of her chair was terribly thin. Those fainting fits, too, of which Lucia had told him, and the one which she had had that day, were alarming. He knew the steady self-command which she had been used to exert in the miseries of her married life, and judged that her long endurance must have weakened her physical powers no little before she was so far conquered by emotion. He consoled himself, however, with the idea that her sufferings must be now nearly at an end, and that she was so young still that she could only need rest and happiness to recover. He said this to himself, and yet meantime he watched her uneasily, and did not feel at all so sure of her recovery as he tried to persuade himself he did.