“Halloo! Home in time to see the pretty Amabel arrested?” Phrases like these met him at more than one corner; but he eluded them all, stopping only to put one hesitating question. Was his mother well?
Home fears had made themselves felt with his near approach to that humble cottage door.
Had Batsy lived!
WHAT FOLLOWED THE STEIKING OF THE CLOCK
It was the last day of the inquest, and to many it bade fair to be the least interesting. All the witnesses who had anything to say had long ago given in their testimony, and when at or near noon Sweetwater slid into the inconspicuous seat he had succeeded in obtaining near the coroner, it was to find in two faces only any signs of the eagerness and expectancy which filled his own breast to suffocation. But as these faces were those of Agnes Halliday and Amabel Page, he soon recognised that his own judgment was not at fault, and that notwithstanding outward appearances and the languid interest shown in the now lagging proceedings, the moment presaged an event full of unseen but vital consequence.
Frederick was not visible in the great hall; but that he was near at hand soon became evident from the change Sweetwater now saw in Amabel. For while she had hitherto sat under the universal gaze with only the faint smile of conscious beauty on her inscrutable features, she roused as the hands of the clock moved toward noon, and glanced at the great door of entrance with an evil expectancy that startled even Sweetwater, so little had he really understood the nature of the passions labouring in that venomous breast.
Next moment the door opened, and Frederick and his father came in. The air of triumphant satisfaction with which Amabel sank back into her seat was as marked in its character as her previous suspense. What did it mean? Sweetwater, noting it, and the vivid contrast it offered to Frederick’s air of depression, felt that his return had been well timed.
Mr. Sutherland was looking very feeble. As he took the chair offered him, the change in his appearance was apparent to all who knew him, and there were few there who did not know him. And, startled by these evidences of suffering which they could not understand and feared to interpret even to themselves, more than one devoted friend stole uneasy glances at Frederick to see if he too were under the cloud which seemed to envelop his father almost beyond recognition.
But Frederick was looking at Amabel, and his erect head and determined aspect made him a conspicuous figure in the room. She who had called up this expression, and alone comprehended it fully, smiled as she met his eye, with that curious slow dipping of her dimples which had more than once confounded the coroner, and rendered her at once the admiration and abhorrence of the crowd who for so long a time had had the opportunity of watching her.