In the parlour, meanwhile, many things were discussed. Mrs. Bellairs assured her friend that the necessary arrangements for Christian’s release had already been commenced, and that Mr. Bellairs would see that there was not a moment’s delay which could be avoided. On the other hand, however, there was strong in Mrs. Costello’s mind the doubt whether her husband would live to be removed. The utmost she now hoped for, with any certainty, was to have liberty to be with him constantly till the end. Finally, she told Mrs. Bellairs of her intention of going to the jail that day and announcing her claim to the first place by the prisoner’s sick bed. Mrs. Bellairs thought a little over this plan, then she said,
“It is impossible that in this weather you can be constantly going backwards and forwards between here and the jail. At our house you would be scarcely three minutes’ drive away, and there is always the sleigh and Bob. You and Lucia must come and stay with us.”
And to this plan after much opposition and argument they were all obliged to give in; Mr. Strafford and Lucia were called into council, but Mrs. Bellairs was resolved.
“You shall see nobody,” she said. “You shall be exactly as much at liberty as if you were at home, and it will spare you both time and strength for your nursing. It will do Bella good, too; and if we can be of any use or comfort to you, it will seem a kind of reparation.”
The end of the conference was that Mr. Strafford started alone for the jail, while Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Bellairs went together to Mr. Leigh, to explain to him the new state of affairs; and after that, drove back to Cacouna, whither Lucia also was to follow later. Mr. Strafford could at that time spare but one day for his friends. He was to leave by the evening’s boat; and the Cottage was for the present to be deserted, except by Margery.
Mr. Strafford was admitted with, if possible, even less hesitation than usual to Christian’s room. Every one understood now that the prisoner was entirely innocent, and in the revulsion of feeling, every one was disposed to treat with all tenderness and honour as a martyr the very man who, if he had never been falsely accused, they would probably have regarded only with disgust or contempt.
Not that there was room for either feeling now. It was as if this man’s history had been written from beginning to end, and then the ink washed from all the middle pages. What memory he had left, went back to the days when he had been a pupil of the Jesuit priests, and the traces of that time remained with him, and were evident to all. But all was blank from those days to these, when he lay in the wintry sunshine dying, and scarcely conscious that he was dying in a prison. When a voice out of that forgotten past spoke to him, his recollection seemed to revive for a moment, and he answered in