She and her father seldom exchanged a word. The latter was experiencing human emotion, but at the same time he had no little anxiety regarding his material interests. It was ten days since he had learnt that there was no longer the least fear of a marriage between Jane and Sidney, seeing that Kirkwood was going to marry some one else—a piece of news which greatly astonished him, and confirmed him in his judgment that he had been on the wrong tack in judging Kirkwood’s character. At the same time he had been privily informed by Scawthorne of an event which had ever since kept him very uneasy—Michael’s withdrawal of his will from the hands of the solicitors. With what purpose this had been done Scawthorne could not conjecture; Mr. Percival had made no comment in hi. hearing. In all likelihood the will was now in this very room. Joseph surveyed every object again and again. He wondered whether Jane knew anything of the matter, but not all his cynicism could persuade him that at the present time her thoughts were taking the same direction as his own.
The day waned. Its sombre close was unspeakably mournful in this haunted chamber. Jane could not bear it; she hid her face and wept.
When the doctor came again, at six o’clock, he whispered to Joseph that the end was nearer than he had anticipated. Near, indeed; less than ten minutes after the warning had been given Michael ceased to breathe.
Jane knelt by the bed, convulsed with grief, unable to hear the words her father addressed to her. He sat for five minutes, then again spoke. She rose and replied.
‘Will you come with us, Jane, or would rather stay with Mrs. Byass?’
‘I will stay, please, father.’
He hesitated, but the thought that rose was even for him too ignoble to be entertained.
’As you please, my dear. Of course no one must enter your rooms but Mrs. Byass. I must go now, but I shall look in again to-night.’
She spoke mechanically. He had to lead her from the room, and, on quitting the house, left her all but unconscious in Bessie’s arms.
‘And you mean to say,’ cried Clem, when she was in the cab with her husband speeding back to Burton Crescent—’you mean to say as you’ve left them people to do what they like?’
‘I suppose I know my own business,’ re plied Joseph, wishing to convey the very impression which in fact he did—that he had the will in his pocket.
On reaching home he sat down at once and penned a letter to Messrs. Percival & Peel, formally apprising them of what had happened. Clem sat by and watched him. Having sealed the envelope, he remarked:
‘I’m going out for a couple of hours.’
‘Then I shall go with you.’
’You’ll do nothing of the kind. Why, what do you mean, you great gaping fool?’ The agitation of his nerves made him break into unaccustomed violence. ’Do you suppose you’re going to follow me everywhere for the next week? Are you afraid I shall run away? If I mean to do so, do you think you can stop me? You’ll just wait here till I come back, which will be before ten o’clock. Do you hear?’