“They shan’t come!” screamed Miss Carlyle. “Do you think I’ll be poisoned with tobacco smoke from a dozen pipes?”
“You need not sit in the room.”
“Nor they either. Clean curtains are just put up throughout the house, and I’ll have no horrid pipes to blacken them.”
“I’ll buy you some new curtains, Cornelia, if their pipes spoil these,” he quietly replied. “And now, Cornelia, I really must beg you to leave me.”
“When I have come to the bottom of this affair with Barbara Hare,” resolutely returned Miss Corny, dropping the point of the contest as to the pipes. “You are very clever, Archie, but you can’t do me. I asked Barbara what she came here for; business for mamma, touching money matters, was her reply. I ask you: to hear your opinion about the scrape the bench have got into, is yours. Now, it’s neither one nor the other; and I tell you, Archibald, I’ll hear what it is. I should like to know what you and Barbara do with a secret between you.”
Mr. Carlyle knew her and her resolute expression well, and he took his course, to tell her the truth. She was, to borrow the words Barbara had used to her brother with regard to him, true as steel. Confide to Miss Carlyle a secret, and she was trustworthy and impervious as he could be; but let her come to suspect that there was a secret which was being kept from her, and she would set to work like a ferret, and never stop until it was unearthed.
Mr. Carlyle bent forward and spoke in a whisper. “I will tell you, if you wish, Cornelia, but it is not a pleasant thing to hear. Richard Hare has returned.”
Miss Carlyle looked perfectly aghast. “Richard Hare! Is he mad?”
“It is not a very sane proceeding. He wants money from his mother, and Mrs. Hare sent Barbara to ask me to manage it for her. No wonder poor Barbara was flurried and nervous, for there’s danger on all sides.”
“Is he at their house?”
“How could he be there and his father in it? He is in hiding two or three miles off, disguised as a laborer, and will be at the grove to-night to receive this money. I have invited the justices to get Mr. Hare safe away from his own house. If he saw Richard, he would undoubtedly give him up to justice, and—putting graver considerations aside—that would be pleasant for neither you nor for me. To have a connection gibbeted for a willful murder would be an ugly blot on the Carlyle escutcheon, Cornelia.”
Miss Carlyle sat in silence revolving the news, a contraction on her ample brow.
“And now you know all, Cornelia, and I do beg you to leave me, for I am overwhelmed with work to-day.”
RICHARD HARE, THE YOUNGER.
The bench of justices did not fail to keep their appointment; at seven o’clock they arrived at Miss Carlyle’s, one following closely upon the heels of another. The reader may dissent from the expression “Miss Carlyle’s,” but it is the correct one, for the house was hers, not her brother’s; though it remained his home, as it had been in his father’s time, the house was among the property bequeathed to Miss Carlyle.