Gloomy and doubtful were the looks cast on Aurelia by the housekeeper, but all unseen by the wondering, bewildered, remorseful eyes fixed on the white face on the pillow, heedless of its perfect symmetry of feature, and knowing only that this was he who had thrilled her heart with his tender tones, who had loved her so dearly, and dared so much for her sake, but whom her impatience and distrust had so cruelly injured. Had she seen him strong, well, and ardent, as she had so lately heard him, her womanhood would have recoiled indignantly at the deception which had stolen her vows; but the spectacle of the young senseless face and prostrate form filled her with compassion, tenderness, and remorse, for having yielded to her sister’s persuasions. With intense anxiety she watched, and assisted in the fomentations, longing for Mr. Belamour’s return; but time passed on and still he came not. No words passed, only a few faint sighs, and one of the hands closed tight on Aurelia’s.
Straight down she ran
. . . . and fatally did vow
To wreake her on the mayden messenger
Whom she had caused be kept as prisonere.
Hark! there was the trampling of horses and thundering of wheels at the door! Could the doctor be come already, and in such a fashion?
Jumbo hurried to admit him, and Mrs. Aylward moved to arrange matters, but the clasp that was on Aurelia’s hand would not let her go.
Presently there came, not Dr. Hunter’s tread, but a crisp, rustling sound, and the tap of high heels, and in the doorway stood, tall, erect, and terrible, Lady Belamour, with a blaze of wrath in her blue eyes, and concentrated rage in her whole form, while in accents low, but coming from between her teeth, she demanded, “Miserable boy, what means this?”
“Oh! madam, take care! he is sadly hurt!” cried Aurelia, with a gesture as if to screen him.
“I ask what this means?” repeated Lady Belamour, advancing, and seeming to fill the room with her majestic figure, in full brocaded dress, with feathers waving in her hair.
“His Honour cannot answer you, my Lady,” said Mrs. Aylward. “He has had a bad fall, and Mr. Belamour is gone to send for the doctor.”
“This is the housekeeping in my absence!” said Lady Belamour, showing less solicitude as to her son’s condition than indignation at the discovery, and her eyes and her diamonds glittering fearfully.
“My Lady,” said Mrs. Aylward, with stern respectfulness, “I knew nothing of all this till this lady called me an hour ago telling me Sir Amyas was hurt. I found him as you see. Please your Ladyship, I must go back to him.”
“Speak then, you little viper,” said Lady Belamour, turning on Aurelia, who had risen, but was held fast by the hand upon hers. “By what arts have you well nigh slain my son? Come here, and tell me.”