“Then he should not act as no true woman can endure.”
“And it would hurt him.”
“Tut, tut, child; if the lightning did not harm him how can this flash? I tell you no man has a right to trifle with you in this manner, and it is your duty to yourself and all of us to find out the truth. Some young rake may have bribed the black, and be personating him; and some day you may find yourself carried off you know not where.”
“Harriet, if you only knew either Mr. Belamour or Jumbo, you would know that you are saying things most shocking!”
“Convince me, then! Look here, Aurelia, if you cannot write to me and explain this double-faced or double-voiced husband of yours, I vow to you that I shall speak to Mr. Arden, and write to my father.”
“Oh! do not, do not, sister! Remember, it is of no use unless this temper of affection be on him, and I have not heard it this fortnight, no, nor more.”
“Promise me, then, that you will make the experiment. See, here is a little chain-stitch pouch—poor Peggy Duckworth’s gift to me—with two pockets. Let me fasten it under your dress, and then you will always have it about you.”
“If the bottle broke as I rode home!”
“Impossible; it is a scent-bottle of strong glass.”
Here Mr. Arden knocked at the door, regretting to interrupt their confidences, but dinner awaited them; and as, immediately after, Mrs. Hunter brought her husband in his best wig to call on Madame Belamour and her relations, the sisters had no more time together, till the horses were at the door, and they went to their room together to put on their hats.
A whole mass of refusals and declarations of perfect confidence were on Aurelia’s tongue, but Harriet cut them all short by saying, “Remember, you are bound for your own honour and ours, to clear up this mystery!”
Then they rode off their several ways, Madame Belamour towards Bowstead, Mr. and Mrs. Arden on their sturdy roadster towards Lea Farm.
CHAPTER XXII. A FATAL SPARK.
And so it chanced; which in those
And fireless halls was quite amazing,
Did we not know how small a spark
Can set the torch of love ablazing.
Aurelia rode home in perplexity, much afraid of the combustibles at her girdle, and hating the task her sister had forced on her. She felt as if her heedless avowals had been high treason to her husband; and yet Harriet was her elder, and those assurances that as a true woman she was bound to clear up the mystery, made her cheeks burn with shame, and her heart thrill with the determination to vindicate her husband, while the longing to know the face of one who so loved her was freshly awakened.
She was strongly inclined to tell him all, indeed she knew herself well enough to be aware that half a dozen searching questions would draw out the whole confession of her own communication and Harriet’s unworthy suspicions; and humiliating as this would be, she longed for the opportunity. Here, however, she was checked in her meditations by a stumble of her horse, which proved to have lost a shoe. It was necessary to leave the short cut, and make for the nearest forge, and when the mischief was repaired, to ride home by the high road.