Mr. Halsted had sent for the constable and came at once, though even then inclined to doubt whether Brand had not imputed accident to malice. But Perrault’s flight had settled that question. During the confusion, while Hester was being carried upstairs, the miscreant had the opportunity of speaking to the child.
“Drowned! No, she is not drowned; but she may be the other thing if you don’t get me off! What, don’t you understand? Let the law lay a finger on me, and what is to hinder me from telling how your sweet sister has been plotting to get you—yes, you, out of the way of her darling. No, you needn’t fear, there’s nothing to get by it now. Lucky for you you brought the poor boy out, when I thought him safe by the fire nursing his chilblain. But mind this, if I am arrested, all the story shall come out. I’ll not swing alone. If I fired, she pointed the gun! And you may judge if that was what poor Trevor meant by his mutterings to you about ‘mother.’”
“But what do you want?” Alured asked. He had backed up against the wall; he was past being frightened, but he felt numb and sick with horror, and ready to do anything to get the wretch out of his sight.
“I want a clear way out of the house and all the cash you can get together. What! no more than that? I’d not be a lord to be kept so short. Find me some more.”
Alured knew I should forgive him, and he took my key from my basket, unlocked the escritoire, and gave him my purse of household money, undid the shutters, and helped Perrault to squeeze himself through the little parlour window; and then, as he said, something came over him, and he just reached the sofa, and knew no more.
He did not tell all this about Hester before Mr. Halsted; only when Fulk, finding how shaken he was, had carried him upstairs, and we had taken him to his room, he asked anxiously whether anyone had heard Hester say that dreadful thing, and added, “Then if Mr. Perrault gets away no one will know—about her.”
“Was that why you helped him?” we asked.
“Trevor told me to take care of her,” he said; and then he told us of Perrault’s arguments, but we ought not to have let him talk of them that night, for it brought back the shuddering and sobbing, and the horror seemed to come upon him, so that there was no soothing him or getting him calm till the doctor mixed an anodyne draught; and let it go as it would with Hester, I never left my boy till I had crooned him to sleep, as in the old times.
Jaquetta bore the brunt of that night, and showed the stuff she was made of, for poor Hester had only revived to fall into a most frightful state of delirium, raving and struggling so that the doctor and Arthur could hardly hold her.
So it went on for hours, Alured the only creature asleep in the house, and we not daring to send for any help from without, poor Hester’s exclamations were so dreadful.