In reality, Mr. Irwine proposed this journey to Stoniton for Adam’s own sake. Movement, with some object before him, was the best means of counteracting the violence of suffering in these first hours.
“You will go with me to Stoniton, Adam?” he said again, after a moment’s pause. “We have to see if it is really Hetty who is there, you know.”
“Yes, sir,” said Adam, “I’ll do what you think right. But the folks at th’ Hall Farm?”
“I wish them not to know till I return to tell them myself. I shall have ascertained things then which I am uncertain about now, and I shall return as soon as possible. Come now, the horses are ready.”
The Bitter Waters Spread
Mr. Irwine returned from Stoniton in a post-chaise that night, and the first words Carroll said to him, as he entered the house, were, that Squire Donnithorne was dead—found dead in his bed at ten o’clock that morning—and that Mrs. Irwine desired him to say she should be awake when Mr. Irwine came home, and she begged him not to go to bed without seeing her.
“Well, Dauphin,” Mrs. Irwine said, as her son entered her room, “you’re come at last. So the old gentleman’s fidgetiness and low spirits, which made him send for Arthur in that sudden way, really meant something. I suppose Carroll has told you that Donnithorne was found dead in his bed this morning. You will believe my prognostications another time, though I daresay I shan’t live to prognosticate anything but my own death.”
“What have they done about Arthur?” said Mr. Irwine. “Sent a messenger to await him at Liverpool?”
“Yes, Ralph was gone before the news was brought to us. Dear Arthur, I shall live now to see him master at the Chase, and making good times on the estate, like a generous-hearted fellow as he is. He’ll be as happy as a king now.”
Mr. Irwine could not help giving a slight groan: he was worn with anxiety and exertion, and his mother’s light words were almost intolerable.
“What are you so dismal about, Dauphin? Is there any bad news? Or are you thinking of the danger for Arthur in crossing that frightful Irish Channel at this time of year?”
“No, Mother, I’m not thinking of that; but I’m not prepared to rejoice just now.”
“You’ve been worried by this law business that you’ve been to Stoniton about. What in the world is it, that you can’t tell me?”
“You will know by and by, mother. It would not be right for me to tell you at present. Good-night: you’ll sleep now you have no longer anything to listen for.”
Mr. Irwine gave up his intention of sending a letter to meet Arthur, since it would not now hasten his return: the news of his grandfather’s death would bring him as soon as he could possibly come. He could go to bed now and get some needful rest, before the time came for the morning’s heavy duty of carrying his sickening news to the Hall Farm and to Adam’s home.