Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife is a Webnovel made by Charlotte M. Yonge.
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Read WebNovel Heartsease; Or, The Brother’s Wife Part 111
Violet felt the same; and in fear and trembling begged Theodora to call Percy. She knew herself to be responsible for the danger, but saw the impossibility of preventing the interview without still greater risk.
Indeed, while Theodora delayed Percy with cautions, impatience, and the fear of being disappointed, were colouring each sunken cheek with a spot of burning red, the hands were shaking uncontrollably, and the breath was shorter than ever, so that she was on the point of going to hasten the visitor, when he knocked at the door.
She signed to him at once to turn to Arthur, who held out his hand, and met his greeting with an anxious, imploring gaze, as if to ask whether, after all, he brought him hope.
‘Well,’ said Percy, cheerfully, ‘I think it is settled.’
Arthur relaxed that painful tension of feature, and lay back on his pillows, with a relieved though inquiring look.
‘Begging your pardon for being meddlesome,’ continued Percy, ‘I thought I saw a way of being even with that scoundrel. Your papers had got into my pocket, and, as I had nothing else to do, I looked them over after parting with you, and saw a way out of the difficulty. I was coming in the morning to return them and propound my plan, but finding that you could not be seen, I ventured to take it on myself at once, for fear he should get out of reach.’
He paused, but Arthur’s eyes asked on.
‘I had reason to think him gone to Paris. I followed him thither, and found he was making up to Mrs. Finch. I let him know that I was aware of this villainy, and of a good deal more of the same kind, and threatened that, unless he came in to my terms, I would expose the whole to his cousin, and let her know that he is at this moment engaged to Miss Brandon. She is ready to swallow a good deal, but that would have been too much, and he knew it. He yielded, and gave me his authority to break up the affair.’
As Arthur was still attentive and anxious, Percy went on to explain that he had next gone to the man who kept the horses, and by offers of ready money and careful inspection of his bills, had reduced his charge to a less immoderate amount. The money had been advanced for a portion of Arthur’s share of the debts, and a purchaser was ready for the horses, whose price would clear off the rest; so that nothing more was wanted but Arthur’s authority for the completion of the sale, which would free him from all present danger of pressure upon that score.
‘Supposing you do not disavow me, said Percy, ‘I must ask pardon for going such lengths without permission.’
A clutch of the hand was the answer, and Percy then showed him the accounts only waiting for his signature.
The money advanced was nearer five thousand pounds than four; and Arthur, pointing to the amount, inquired, by look and gesture, ‘Where does it come from?’
‘Never mind; it was honestly come by. It is a lot that has acc.u.mulated out of publishing money, and was always bothering me with railway shares. It will do as well in your keeping.’
‘It is throwing it into a gulf.’
‘In your father’s, then. I will take care of myself, and speak when I want it. Don’t trouble your father about it till he sees his way.’
‘I must give you my bond.’
‘As you please, but there is no hurry.’
Arthur, however, was bent on giving his signature at once, and, as he looked towards his wife and child, said, ‘For their sakes, thank you.’
‘I did it for their sakes,’ said Percy, gruffly, perhaps to check Arthur’s agitation; but as if repenting of what sounded harsh, he took the infant in his arms, saying to Violet, ‘You have a fine fellow here!
Eyes and forehead–his father all over!’
Arthur held out his hand eagerly. ‘Let him be your G.o.dson–make him like any one but me.’
Percy took two turns in the room before he could answer. ‘My G.o.dson, by all means, and thank you; but you will have the making of him yourself.
You are much better than I expected.’
Arthur shook his head; but Violet, with a look, sufficient reward for anything, said, ‘It is you that are making him better.’
He replied by inquiries about the christening. The baby was a day less than four weeks old, and Violet was anxious to have him baptized; so that it was arranged that it should take place immediately on Percy’s return from Worthbourne, whither he was to proceed that same afternoon, having hitherto been delayed by Arthur’s affairs. This settled, he took leave. Arthur fervently pressed his hand, and, as Violet adjusted the pillows, sank his head among them as if courting rest, raising his eyes once more to his ‘friend in need,’ and saying, ‘I shall sleep now.’
Violet only hoped that Mr. Fotheringham understood what inexpressible grat.i.tude was conveyed in those words, only to be appreciated after watching those six wakeful, straining days and nights.
Meantime, Theodora waited in fear, too great at first to leave s.p.a.ce for other thoughts; but as time past, other memories returned. On coming to summon Percy she had found him standing before the little stuffed owl, and she could not but wonder what thoughts it might have excited, until suddenly the recollection of Jane dissipated her visions with so violent a revulsion that she was shocked at herself, and perceived that there was a victory to be achieved.
‘It shall be at once,’ said she. ‘I WILL mention her. To be silent would show consciousness. Once done, it is over. It is easier with my altered looks. I am another woman now.’
She heard him coming down, and almost hoped to be spared the meeting, but, after a moment’s pause, he entered.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I hope I have done him no harm. I think better of him now than when I came home. He looks to me as if the worst was over.’
They were the first words of hope, and spoken in that hearty, cheery voice, they almost overset her weakened spirits, and the struggle with tears would not let her answer.
‘You have had a most trying time,’ said he, in the kind way that stirred up every old a.s.sociation; but that other thought made her guarded, and she coldly hurried out the words–
‘Yes; this is the first time my father has been out. He went in search of you, to ask how you met poor Arthur, who has been able to give no account of himself.’
‘We met on board the steamer. He had been obliged to leave Boulogne without finishing his business there, and I went back to settle it for him.’
‘And the papers he had lost?’
‘I had them: it is all right.’
‘And his mind relieved?’
‘I hope it is.’
‘Oh! then, we may dare to hope!’ cried she, breathing freely.
‘I trust so; but I must go. Perhaps I may meet Lord Martindale.’
With a great effort, and a ‘now-or-never’ feeling, she abruptly said, ‘I hope Jane is well.’
He did not seem to understand; and confused, as if she had committed an over familiarity of t.i.tle, she added, ‘Mrs. Fotheringham.’
She was startled and hurt at his unconstrained manner.
‘Very well, I believe. I shall see her this evening at Worthbourne.’
‘Has she been staying there long?’ said Theodora, going on valiantly after the first plunge.
‘Ever since the summer. They went home very soon after the marriage.’
A new light broke in on Theodora. She was tingling in every limb, but she kept her own counsel, and he proceeded. ‘I saw them at Paris, and thought it did very well. She is very kind to him, keeps him in capital order, and has cured him of some of his ungainly tricks.’
‘How did it happen? I have heard no particulars.’
‘After his mother’s death poor Pelham was less easily controlled: he grew restless and discontented, and both he and my uncle fell under the influence of an underbred idle youth in the neighbourhood, who contrived at last to get Sir Antony’s consent to his taking Pelham abroad with him as his pupil. At Florence they met with these ladies, who made much of their cousin, and cajoled the tutor, till this marriage was effected.’
‘She must be nearly double his age.’
‘She will manage him the better for it. There was great excuse for her.
The life she was obliged to lead was almost an apology for any way of escape. If only it had been done openly, and with my uncle’s consent, no one could have had any right to object, and I honestly believe it is a very good thing for all parties.’
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