Next morning Mrs. Costello and Lucia prepared to return to the Cottage. They were to remain there till the following evening, and then Mr. Bellairs proposed to drive them down to the first village below Cacouna at which the steamboats called, that they might there embark for Moose Island, instead of being obliged to do so at the Cacouna wharf, where they were certain to meet inquisitive acquaintances. But a short time before they were to leave their friends, Doctor Hardy called.
He asked to see Mrs. Costello, and was taken into the small room where Mrs. Bellairs usually passed her mornings. No one else was present, and he told her at once that he had called to ask her assistance in an affair which he feared would be painful to her.
She smiled gravely. “I am too grateful to you, doctor,” she said, “not to be pleased that you should have anything to ask.”
“I don’t know,” he went on, “whether Mr. Bellairs has told you the details of Clarkson’s death—I mean as to what appeared to influence him in making his confession?”
“No,” she answered, rather wondering what this could have to do with her.
“I think,” the doctor proceeded, “that for all his brutality in other respects, Clarkson was a good husband, and as fond of his wife and children as if he had been a model of virtue. At all events, his last thought was of his wife; and I rashly promised to see that she did not suffer on his account. But I can’t keep my promise without help.”
He paused, not at all sure how Mrs. Costello might feel on the subject; and whether all that she and her husband had suffered might have completely embittered her towards the whole family of the murderer.
“Certainly,” she answered, “it would be very hard to punish the innocent for the guilty; and I have heard nothing but good of Mrs. Clarkson.”
The doctor felt relieved.
“I believe there is nothing but good that could be told of her,” he said warmly. “I have known something of her for a long time, and there is not a more decent, respectable woman in the township. It is a mystery how she ever married that wretched fellow; but after she had married him she was a good wife, and did what little she could to keep him out of mischief. What is strangest of all, however, is, that she is almost heart broken, poor soul, not for his wickedness, but for his death.”
“Poor thing! But the circumstances of his death must have made it more horrible to her?”
“It is a mercy that she does not seem to have understood that. She is very ill, and seems not to have had time to think yet—except that she has a vague idea that her children will starve.”
“They shall not do that. You shall tell me what to do for them—that is my affair.”
“Thank you. I thought you would feel for her. But the plan I have in my mind depends chiefly on Mrs. Morton, and I feel that it is asking a great deal to expect her to do anything.”