“Such a shame!” returned Lady Temple. “They acquitted the dreadful man, and the poor woman, whom he drove to it, has a year’s imprisonment and hard labour!”
“Acquitted! What, is he off?”
“Oh, no, no! he is safe, and waiting for the Assizes, all owing to the Colonel and little Rose.”
“He is committed for the former offence,” said Colonel Keith; “the important one.”
“That’s right! Good night! And how,” he added, reining back his horse, “did your cousin get through it?”
“Oh, they were so hard on her!” cried Lady Temple. “I could hardly bring myself to speak to Sir Edward after it! It was as if he thought it all her fault!”
“Her evidence broke down completely,” said Colonel Keith. “Sir Edward spared her as much as he could; but the absurdity of her whole conduct was palpable. I hope she has had a lesson.”
Alick’s impatient horse flew on with him, and Colin muttered to Alison under his mufflers,—“I never could make out whether that is the coolest or the most sensitive fellow living!”
THE AFTER CLAP
“I have read in the marvellous heart of
That strange and mystic scroll,
That an army of phantoms vast and wan
Beleaguer the human soul.
“Encamped beside life’s rushing
In Fancy’s misty light,
Gigantic shapes and shadows gleam
Portentous through the night.”
The Beleaguered City, Longfellow.
A dinner party at the Deanery in the sessions week was an institution, but Rachel, lying on the sofa in a cool room, had thought herself exempt from it, and was conscious for the time of but one wish, namely, to be let alone, and to be able to shut her eyes, without finding the lids, as it were, lined with tiers of gazing faces, and curious looks turned on her, and her ears from the echo of the roar of fury that had dreadfully terrified both her and her mother, and she felt herself to have merited! The crush of public censure was not at the moment so overwhelming as the strange morbid effect of having been the focus of those many, many glances, and if she reflected at all, it was with a weary speculating wonder whether one pair of dark grey eyes had been among those levelled at her. She thought that if they had, she could not have missed either their ironical sting, or perchance some kindly gleam of sympathy, such as had sometimes surprised her from under the flaxen lashes.
There she had lain, unmolested and conscious of a certain relief in the exceeding calm; the grey pinnacle of the cathedral, and a few branches of an elm-tree alone meeting her eye through the open window, and the sole sound the cawing of the rooks, whose sailing flight amused and attracted her glance from time to time with dreamy interest. Grace had gone into court to hear Maria Hatherton’s trial, and all was still.