The doctor looked at him curiously.
“Mrs. Costello is my patient also,” he said; “I am half inclined to forbid her coming.”
“She is your patient, doctor! How is that? I thought she was looking ill, though she denies it.”
“She is not ill; but as you are an old friend and adviser, I don’t mind telling you that her health is in a critical state, and that I have forbidden her all excitement and fatigue.” ‘Much use,’ he added to himself, in a parenthesis.
Mr. Strafford looked troubled.
“She must come here, nevertheless,” he said. “Even if it were possible to keep her away, it would do no good. She would excite herself still more.”
“Mr. Strafford,” said the doctor, “If I thought that Mrs. Costello was coming here out of mere charity, I should tell her that charity begins at home, and that she had more reason to think of herself and her daughter than of any prisoner in the world. However, I don’t think it; and, therefore, all I have to say is, if you have any regard for her or for Miss Costello, don’t let her do more than is absolutely necessary. Good morning.”
And the busy little man hurried off, and left Mr. Strafford with a new uneasiness in his mind.
Mrs. Elton, who came in and out at intervals to see if Christian wanted anything, made her appearance immediately after, and he took the opportunity of leaving. He hurried straight to Mrs. Bellairs’ house, where he found the two friends but just arrived. Mrs. Costello was preparing to start for the jail, but he contrived to give a hint to Mrs. Bellairs, and they together persuaded her to take an hour’s rest before doing so.
Mrs. Costello had begged Mrs. Bellairs to tell Bella the secret which she herself had just heard; and to do so without loss of time; but she did not wish to be present, or to go through another agitating scene that day. The two sisters, therefore, left her to rest, and to consult with Mr. Strafford, while Bella, already excited and disturbed by the revelations of the preceding day, heard this new and still more surprising intelligence. It did not, certainly, take many minutes to tell; but there was so much beyond the mere facts; so many recollections of words or looks that had been passed by unnoticed at the time; so much wonder at the courage with which both mother and daughter had faced the cruel difficulties of their position, that it was nearly an hour before the conversation ended, and they came back to their guests.
Mr. Strafford was glad to be left alone with Mrs. Costello. He had been considering seriously what he had heard from the doctor, and what he had himself seen of Christian’s state, and had come to a decision which must be carried out at once.