The truth, beyond a doubt. Pale face, showing now the thinness which it had not wholly outgrown, the inheritance from miserable childhood; no face of a stern heroine, counting as idle all the natural longings of the heart, consecrated to a lifelong combat with giant wrongs. Nothing better nor worse than the face of one who can love and must be loved in turn.
She came to herself, and at the same moment Michael went from the room.
‘There now; there now,’ crooned Bessie, with much patting of the hands and stroking of the checks. ’Why, what’s come to you, Jane? Cry away; don’t try to prevent yourself; it’ll do you good to cry a bit. Of course, here comes Sam with all sorts of things, when there’s no need of him, He’s always either too soon or too late, is Sam. Just look at him, Jane; now if he don’t make you laugh, nothing will!’
Mr. Byass retired, shamefaced. Leaning against Bessie’s shoulder, Jane sobbed for a long time, sobbed in the misery of shame. She saw that her grandfather had gone away. How should she ever face him after this? It was precious comfort to feel Bessie’s sturdy arms about her, and to hear the foolish affectionate words, which asked nothing but that she should take them kindly and have done with her trouble.
‘Did grandfather tell you how it was?’ she asked, with a sudden fear lest Bessie should have learnt her pitiful weakness.
‘Why, no; how did it come?’
’I don’t know. We were talking. I can stand up now, Mrs. Byass, thank you. I’ll go up to my room. I’ve forgotten the time; is it late?’
It was only nine o’clock. Bessie would have gone upstairs with her, but Jane insisted that she was quite herself. On the stairs she trod as lightly as possible, and she closed her door without a sound. Alone, she again gave way to tears. Michael’s face was angry in her memory; he had never looked at her in that way before, and now he would never look with the old kindness. What a change had been wrought in these few minutes!
And Sidney never anything but her friend—cold, meaning. less word! If he knew how she had fallen, would that be likely to bring him nearer to her? She had lost both things, that was all.
THE DEBT REPAID
She rose early, in the murky cola of the winter morning. When, at eight o’clock, she knocked as usual at her grandfather’s door his answer made her tremble.
’I shall be down in a few minutes, Jane; I’ll have breakfast with you.’
It was long since he had risen at this hour. His voice sounded less like that of an old man, and, in spite of his calling her by her name, she felt the tone to be severe. When he reached the parlour he did not offer to take her hand, and she feared to approach him. She saw that his features bore the mark of sleeplessness. Hers, poor girl! were yet more woeful in their pallor.