While in the act of rising she had drawn the cloak with which, like the other ladies, she was provided more closely over her shoulders—Sambo seemed to have caught some new idea from this action, for furtively touching Henry Grantham, who sat immediately before him, and on the right of Miss Montgomerie, he leaned forward and whispered a few sentences in his ear.
Meanwhile Miss Montgomerie was not a little rallied on the extreme susceptibility which had led her as it were to identify herself with the scene. Gerald remarked that on recovering her presence of mind, she at first looked as if she fancied herself the subject of sarcasm, and would have resented the liberty; but finding there was nothing pointed in the manner of those who addressed her, finished by joining, yet with some appearance of constraint, in the laugh against herself.
“I confess,” she said coloring, “that the strange incident which Mr. Grantham has related, and which he has so well described, has caused me to be guilty of a ridiculous emotion. I am not usually startled into the expression of strong feeling, but there was so much to excite and surprise in his catastrophe that I could not avoid in some measure identifying myself with the scene.”
“Nay, Miss Montgomerie,” remarked Julia D’Egville, “there can be no reason why such emotion should either be disavowed or termed ridiculous. For my part, I own that cannot sufficiently express my horror of the wretch who could thus deliberately attempt the life of another. How lucky was it Gerald that you arrived at that critical moment; but have you no idea—not the slightest—of the person of the assassin or of his intended victim?”
“Not the slightest—the disguise of the person was too effectual to be penetrated, and the face I had not once an opportunity of beholding.”
“Yet,” observed Miss Montgomerie, “from your previous description of the figure, it is by no means a matter of certainty that it was not a woman you pursued, instead of a man—or, was there any thing to betray the vacillation of purpose which would naturally attend one of our sex in an enterprize of the kind.”
“What! a woman engage in so unnatural a deed,” remarked Henry Grantham—“surely Miss Montgomerie,” for he always spoke rather at, than to her “cannot seek to maintain a supposition so opposed to all probability—neither will she be so unjust towards herself as to admit the existence of such monstrous guilt in the heart of another of her sex.”
“Impossible,” said Gerald. “Whatever might have been my impression when I first saw the figure in the merchantman —that is to say, if I had then a doubt in regard to the sex, it was entirely removed, when later I beheld the unfaltering energy with which it entered upon its murderous purpose. The hand of woman never could have been armed with such fierce and unflinching determination as was that hand.”
“The emergency of the occasion, it would seem, did not much interfere with your study of character,” again observed Miss Montgomerie, with a faint smile—“but you say you fired—was it—with intent to kill the killer?”