Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 21

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THE SILVER CORD.

BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.



CHAPTER XLIII.

The agitation which Bertha had been suffering, since the hour when she was roused that morning to hear Henderson’s version of Adair’s summons, had been so severe that it could receive little addition from a new interview with her rebellious servant. The latter, conscious of her power, had expected that when called to the presence of her mistress in the little bed-room where Mrs. Lygon had achieved her victory over Henderson, she should find Mrs. Urquhart eager to make atonement for the roughness of her husband. But if it is unsafe to calculate upon the acts of strong persons, it is almost as difficult to estimate the endurance of weak ones, and Henderson, to her surprise, found her mistress more than usually self-possessed, and by no means in a penitent state of mind. There was no actual resolution in Bertha, but she had resigned herself to float with a stream that was too strong for her, and she now indulged a vague hope of being safely landed.

“Mr. Urquhart has told you that he wishes you to leave, Henderson,” she said, “and of course his will is law. I am very sorry to part with you, as you know, and I shall be glad to do everything for you, and to help you to any new situation. I shall have no hesitation in recommending you strongly to any one. And Mr. Urquhart is ready to behave with the greatest liberality as to wages.”

For a few moments Henderson’s indignation was so blended with her surprise, that she could not decide upon her reply, and she stood angrily crushing and rubbing a corner of her apron. Then she answered, breathing hard and fast.

“I am to go, Madame?”

“You heard what your master said, Henderson?”

“Yes, Madame, I did. But 1 took the great liberty to answer, Madame, that gentlemen did not always understand everything, and it was very far from my expectation, Madame, to hear you speak what you have done. I supposed, Madame, that you would make Mr. Urquhart understand that I was not to be turned out of the house like a dog.”

“What could I say to Mr. Urquhart in the state of mind in which you saw him, Henderson?”

“It is not for a poor servant to counsel or advise her mistress what she ought to say to her master, Madame,” returned Henderson, with elaborate affectation of humility; “it is quite enough for her to answer when she is asked questions.”

“Mr. Urquhart’s determination is very distressing, no doubt, Henderson,” said Bertha, “and I am sure as much so to me as to you, for you suit me exceedingly well, and how I shall be able to replace you, I have not the least idea in the world. But who can say anything to him when he has made up his mind?”

“If I did not take that liberty, Madame, it wasn’t because I had not anything to say, or was afraid to say it, but because I thought and hoped that you would say it much better than me. Is Mr. Urquhart gone out, Madame?”

“No, he is not,” said Bertha; “but what do you mean by asking?”

“My character, Madame, is as dear to me as any lady’s is to her, and perhaps more so, as she has everything in the world, and I have got nothing but my good name. And though Mr. Urquhart’s tongue is very rough, he has a good heart, and he will do what is just and right.”

“I tell you that he is ready to make you compensation for your going away hastily, and I will do a good deal besides.”

“You don’t understand me, Madame, or you don’t want to understand me, but it is not about money I was speaking, after such words as were said to me in the drawing-room, and which I never thought to hear said to me, least of all in your house, Madame; and I know right well that if such words had been unjustly used to a poor girl in the service of Mrs. Lygon, she would never have rested until they were called back, and it is not a gentleman’s angry voice and black looks that would have frighted her.”

“I do not see why you should speak of Mrs. Lygon, Henderson. You are perfectly aware of the trouble which has come to us all by her visit to France, and I heartily wish that it had not happened.”

Henderson’s anger suddenly gave way to a feeling of superiority, which it became impossible for her not to manifest by a smile of exceeding insolence.

“What I may know about Mrs. Lygon, Madame, and what I may not know, and what she may have thought proper to tell me, or not to tell me, is not the business now. I only meant to say that she would have stood by a servant that had stood by her, and would have saved her from the disgrace and shame of being turned out of doors.”

“There is no turning out of doors,” said the humiliated Bertha, “and everything is done to si-are your feelings. Of course you would not think of repeating to Silvain the angry nonsense which Mr. Urquhart told you to repeat to him, and you will be able to show him the proof that you were well thought of here. If you like, you can say that you left of your own accord.”

It was not in the Hendersonian nature to abstain from trampling on a defeated antagonist.

“Thanking you very much for your advice, Madame, I beg your pardon if I choose to say to Silvain what I choose to say to him. It is for ladies and gentlemen to have secrets between one another, and tell one another the thing that is not, but poor persons are taught that man and wife is one flesh, and that what concerns one concerns the other. Humbly thanking you for your advice, Madame, I don’t intend to deceive a man who never deceived me.”

Yet, in this speech, Bertha—a woman—heard but a woman’s taunt, and a woman’s ungovernable tongue, and was saved by instinct from feeling the full force of words that might have shamed her to the soul.

“Your indignation at being sent away makes you very angry, Henderson, but you ought to feel that you have no cause of complaint against me. I have always treated you with the greatest kindness; and trusted you.”

“Yes, Madame, and you have trusted me with things that have brought me to this, and for aught I know may ruin me, with poor Silvain. It is a pretty state of things when a lady’s conduct not only puts herself in danger, but destroys people about her, who can’t help themselves. I don’t want to say too much, Madame, for I pity you very sincerely, but I can’t have my comfort and happiness broken to pieces because a lady that I live with chooses to play a dangerous game, and has not got the wisdom to play it properly.”

“What do you want to do, Henderson—what do you want me to do?” said Bertha, quailing.

“I don’t see what you can do, Madame, though I should be ashamed of myself if I was afraid to say anything to my husband—when he had no proof against me.”

Bertha gazed, with mixed feelings of fear and of insulted womanhood, upon the inferior who dared address such words to her.

“I think you had better go and consult with Mrs. Lygon before you take any step at all,” said Mrs. Urquhart.

“And if it is not making too bold to ask, Madame, what would you like me to say to Mrs. Lygon? I am not a great coward, Madame, but I should shiver in my shoes to stand up before that sweet lady, and tell her what I think, or, I may say, what I know.”

“And what do you know, Henderson?” cried the persecuted Bertha, recklessly.

“At least, Madame, I know this much, that one lady is kindly making herself the scape-goat for another lady, but does not think what a wicked burden is being laid upon the scape-goat’s back,” said Henderson, making, in her lofty anger, au unusual diversion into the regions of imagery.

“My sister knows her own business,” said Bertha, in a low voice. “All I say is, that I think you had better consult with her before doing yourself any harm.”

The word was not well chosen.

“I am not afraid of doing myself any harm.” retorted Henderson. “It is only because I should wish to save other people from harm that I don’t set myself right in two minutes; but if Madame is much afraid of my coming to harm, she will, perhaps, be so good as to favour me with her leave to go and speak to Mr. Urquhart.”

“Henderson,” said poor Bertha, “Mrs. Lygon likes you very much, and I am sure would take you to England with her. Why should you not go with her, and Silvain could set up a shop in London, where he would be sure to succeed.”

“Begging your pardon, Madame, that will not suit. And if I was to be handed over to Mrs. Lygon, (and I don’t say that it wouldn’t be a pride and an honour to be with her,) if her character is to be taken away in France, I don’t see what place she could offer a respectable girl in England.”

“Would you like to marry Silvain, and I could assist you from time to time with money.” Such was Bertha’s next piteous proposal.

“It is very good, I am sure,” replied the inexorable Henderson, “for a lady to take so much thought about the welfare of poor people like me and Silvain; but if it is all the same, we should prefer to take care of ourselves in our own way. But if I might ask a favour of Madame, if I am not making too free—” she added.

“What can I do for you, Henderson?” asked Bertha, eagerly.

“It is not so much for me, Madame, as for yourself. I think if you was to go and see Mrs. Lygon, and tell her what has happened, it might be a good thing.”

The tone in which the last words were said, implied so much, that Mrs. Urquhart saw that this was what Henderson intended her to do.

“Yes, I might do that,” said Bertha, slowly. And even in that hour of trouble she instinctively cast a look into the mirror that was nearest to her.

“It would be a very good thing,” said Henderson. And in a moment she darted to a basketed flask of eau-de-Cologne that stood on a table, moistened her mistress’s handkerchief, and was bathing Mrs. Urquhart’s forehead and eyes as gently and sedulously as if the relations of mistress and maid had been of the most kindly character.

“Do you know Mrs. Lygon’s lodgings?” said Bertha, entirely surrendering.

“Quite well, Madame. I will show them to you.”

“Yes, but I must not be missed. In the temper in which Mr. Urquhart—”

“I understand, Madame. But we shall not be very long—and—I think you said that you would have no objection to give me a character.”

“Of course I will.”

“Mr. Urquhart has no objection to that, Madame?”

“On the contrary, he thinks that I have spoiled you a little, and the last thing he said was, that he did not wish to be hard.”

“I am sure he is very kind, Madame. Well, Madame, I do know an old French lady, who was brought up in England, and who would like to have an English girl who could read to her, and remind her of young days, and I think that she would take me. But, poor thing, she cannot come out of her room, to ask about my character. It would be a great thing for me, if Madame would have the condescension to visit her; and if I am to turn out of the house to-night, it would be necessary to see her at once. Mr. Urquhart would have no objection to that?”

The tale was told so glibly, that Bertha doubted for a moment whether it were not a true one. She did not repeat it quite so glibly to Robert Urquhart, but told it quite well enough to satisfy a man who was naturally unsuspecting, and who, at this moment, was almost resolutely so—for woman’s choicest time to deceive man is when he is generously regretful for having been harsh—and in half an hour Bertha was following Henderson, who, some distance in advance of her mistress, led the way to the lodging of Mrs. Lygon.

“I expected that,” said Ernest Adair to himself, as he observed Henderson moving down upon the house he was watching from a window. “And here is my lady, walking as fearlessly as if she were a Sister of Charity. I fear that I have undervalued her intellects, or have not pursued the best method of developing them. The woman who, after that pleasant scene to-day, calmly walks off to see the other woman, has shown either marvellous tact or unequalled courage, and I had not credited my poor Bertha with any extraordinary quantity of either. I am truly glad that I determined to be her guardian angel—I shall conduct her to a better destiny than I expected. So, the old lady of the house has no lady staying there—no lodger in the world, never let lodgings—I can see the lies, though I can’t hear them. Quite indignant, actually—her departed saint of a husband left her quite enough to live upon without turning lodging-letter—how the old head nods. But the advanced guard closes with the enemy, wants to say a word, enters, and the door closes—my lady looks doubtful, but she will not have to wait long—door re-opens, and Mrs. Urquhart is received with a kindly smile—Madame is up-stairs, and will be delighted to see her, and my lady enters—the old lady stands at the door—I wonder why. No, I see. Because that possibly holy, and certainly dirty, priest is coming by. To be sure; and she receives his benediction, and smiles thankfully—blessed are they that tell the truth, when it is quite convenient, for they shall be allowed to lie when it is not—did he mumble that beatitude to her? Now then, how long shall I give the amiable sisters for their interview?”

 

CHAPTER XLIV.

It was a quiet, neat little chamber in which Laura received her sister. The single window looked upon the street, but creepers had been trained upon wires that were drawn from the sill to the eaves of the two-storeyed house, and a pleasant light came through the green leaves, and a pleasant perfume from some flowers that showed among them.

“I had expected you sooner, dear Bertha; but I suppose that it was impossible for you to escape. Did you come alone?” said Laura, embracing her.

Mrs. Lygon had been writing, and several sheets covered with manuscript lay upon the table. As she put them together, Bertha suddenly turned away her eyes, as if some recollection had come upon her. Mrs. Lygon misconceived the action.

“These are scarcely secrets, dear, and you know them.”

“I wish I did not,” said Bertha, seating herself.

It was a childish exclamation, and produced only a look of calm pity from her sister, who, having placed her writing in a drawer near her, sat down opposite to Bertha.

“Have you any news to tell me?” asked Laura.

A simple question, to elicit such an answer as Bertha might have given. But, in truth, she had come with the hope that, though at the bidding of Henderson, she would be compelled to tell her sister of the girl’s discharge, and perhaps of the earlier portion of the scene that had led to it, the more terrible revelation might be spared. If any sort of a peace should be made with Henderson, and if Laura should be induced to leave France, Bertha would have temporised to her heart’s content.

“Yes,” said Bertha, “two or three things have happened, but I hoped that you would take my advice, and go home.”

“Your advice, dear?”

“Yes, I wrote to you to go home. You had my note in the garden, I know, for Henderson told me that she had delivered it into your hand.”

“My dear Bertha, you need not be energetic on such a matter. Of course I had your note, and I have not gone home.”

“It is very easy for you to be calm, but if you had to go through the scenes that I experience, you would not be quite so composed. Are you going to stay here?”

“That may depend upon what you have to tell me.”

“I do not know why it should,” replied Bertha, “because what I have to tell you does not concern yourself, but me.”

“And I came to France on my own concerns, not yours?”

“If you are going to reproach me with that, I wish that I had not come to you,” said Bertha. “It is too much that I should be attacked on all sides in the way I am.”

“Bertha,” said her sister, calmly, “if you consider the circumstances under which I left the house of your husband, and yet think that this is a tone which you ought to use to me, I too, shall be compelled to wish you had not come. But do not cry, dear. I know your nature, and I do not reproach you that while you think nothing of the sacrifices others make for you—sacrifices you can scarcely understand, Bertha, the smallest affliction to yourself makes you petulant. You are my sister, and I am true to you in spite of all. Now, tell me your news.”

“Well, Robert has taken a strong dislike to Henderson.”

“I am not surprised at that. Of course he thinks that she was party to my returning to the house, and even if he thinks that she was not to blame,—a man does not like the presence of any one who reminds him that he has been deceived. We must not let her suffer.”

“That is what I told her; and I said that I thought you would take her to England with you.”

“You must make no engagements for me. I know not what my course may be, but we can do something for her.”

“It must be done soon, for Robert insists on her leaving.”

“When did he tell you so?”

“To-day,” said Bertha.

“Then it is Henderson’s affairs that have brought you, not mine or your own, and yet you knew that I was here, Bertha.”

“What good could I do by coming?” replied Bertha, “and then I was afraid of exciting Robert’s suspicions, after what had happened. But what can be done for Henderson?” she persisted, anxious to evade any closer inquiry.

“You must try and find her another place.”

“But there is no time. Robert is so resolved on her leaving, and she is naturally unhappy about it.”

“But he does not wish to discharge her at a moment’s notice—surely we have much more pressing matters to consider than what is to be done with Henderson.”

“Yes—but you don’t know her,” said Bertha, reddening. “She is afraid for her character, and something must be done.”

“She brought you here, did she not?” said Mrs. Lygon.

“Yes.”

“Henderson!” said Mrs. Lygon, opening the door quickly.

The girl was seated at the foot of the stair leading up to the room. Laura might have been excused for supposing that Henderson had been pursuing her trade of listener, but even Tasso’s Erminia could hardly have “precipitated” from the door to the spot which Henderson occupied.

“I am here, m’m,” said the girl, springing up. “You might think, m’m,” she hastened to say, “that I was listening at the door, but far from that, m’m, if you’ll believe me, I was determined that nobody else should listen.”

“I did not suspect you, Henderson,” replied Mrs. Lygon, quietly. “Come in. We were speaking of you. Mrs. Urquhart tells me,” said Laura, resuming her seat, “that Mr. Urquhart does not wish you to continue in his service.”

Henderson darted a quick glance at her mistress.

“Those are the quiet words in which ladies put things, m’m. Mr. Urquhart has turned me out of his house.”

“No, no, not that,” said Bertha.

“I am ordered to be out of the house, to-night, m’m,” said Henderson, addressing Laura, “which is one and the same thing.”

“I did not understand you, Bertha, to say that the discharge was so immediate.”

“I said there was no time to lose,” stammered Bertha.

Mrs. Lygon looked at her even more piercingly than Henderson had done.

“Did Mr. Urquhart himself order you away?” Laura said, turning to the girl.

“Yes, m’m,” she replied, compressing her lips.

“When?”

“This morning, I told you,” interposed Bertha.

“As soon as M. Adair had left the house,” added Henderson.

Laura started—turned deadly pale—and gazed on Bertha without speaking. A pause, and then a thought sent the blood to Mrs. Lygon’s face, and it was almost breathlessly that she asked—

“Whom did M. Adair see?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Urquhart, m’m.”

Once more, pale as a marble statue, and as motionless, Laura sat gazing intently upon Bertha.

Neither spoke, but Bertha made convulsive movements with her hands, and gave other evidence that she was fearfully ill at ease.

Laura continued to gaze upon her sister. But the eyes of the latter were averted, and it needed a subtler interpreter than the girl to say what was denoted by that rigid expression on Mrs. Lygon’s beautiful features.

Henderson could bear the suspense no longer.

“I know I ought not to speak until I am spoken to, m’m,” she said, “but those who are at all, ought to be trusted altogether, and though I ought not to give my opinion,” she added, (again using the curious plea by which the inferior classes conceive that they have excused themselves for doing wrong—the avowal of a full knowledge that they know they are not doing right), “between two ladies who are sisters there ought to be no secrets.”

“Henderson,” said Mrs. Lygon, suddenly arousing, “it is not for you to say anything to me which your mistress has not ordered you to say. Remember that.”

“Begging your pardon, m’m, a hundred times, and a thousand at the back of that, if needful, what you say is quite right, and it is a liberty in me to say whether it is right or wrong. But Mrs. Urquhart is not my mistress now, being, as I am, discharged—”

“Mrs. Urquhart is my sister, Henderson,” said Mrs. Lygon, firmly.

“Then let her behave as a sister,” burst out Henderson, breaking through all propriety, and forgetting even her respect for Mrs. Lygon, in the resolve to make a revelation. “Things have happened in our house which you ought to know, m’m, and out of it also.”

Mrs. Lygon rose, and pointed to the door, but the gesture had not its effect.

“And I could run out at that door, and hide my head, m’m, for presuming to speak in such a way, but I feel that I must speak, and I will . Mr. Adair has been in prison, m’m, and master found Mrs. Urquhart in the prison too, and how they have worked upon master I don’t know; but if you’ll take my opinion, the lady that left our house because she was too proud to say that she had a right to stay in it, that lady has been given up to save her sister who won’t even tell her the truth.”

“If we are ever to speak again in this world, Henderson,” said Mrs. Lygon, when the impetuous rush of words ceased, and the girl stood with swelling nostril, yet with eyes ready to run over with tears, “you will instantly ask pardon of Mrs. Urquhart, and of myself, for your having dared to speak as you have done.”

Down, actually on her knees, fell once more the excitable Henderson, and poured out apology, thick and fast, but, (with the pertinacity of her nature,) interwoven and interlaced with her petition for forgiveness, reiterations of the story she had been telling so volubly. There was no escaping from her assurances that Mrs. Lygon had been wronged, or from her prayers to be pardoned for having revealed the wrong; and in the most effectual way she forced her narrative, over and over again, upon the ears of her to whom she seemed to be suing for grace. And when she was almost silenced, Laura knew far more than had passed the lips of the girl.

“Go down-stairs,” said Laura, still preserving her calmness.

“This moment, m’m,” said Henderson, springing to her feet; “and now, m’m, never heed me, or what is going to happen to me and mine, for that’s of no account now. Do justice to yourself, m’m, for the dear love of those who are left behind you in England—do that, m’m,” cried the girl, tearing open the door, and rather plunging from the room than leaving it.

Mrs. Lygon secured the door.

“Now, Bertha, the truth?”

“O, don’t torment me; don’t, don’t,” said the miserable Bertha, wringing her hands, and writhing on her chair.

“Have done with that folly,” returned her sister, almost sternly. “It will not avail you here, to-day. Tell me what you have done, or permitted to be done, with my name and fame.”

“I cannot tell you—you have heard from her—Robert believes that you are not—not good.”

“He believed that when he took my hand from yours, and I, your sister, from sisterly love bore that we should change places, that I should be led away from you for fear I should dishonour you by my touch. I bore that—and now I would know how you have repaid me.”

“What could I do?”

“I ask you what you have done? Did you go to the prison and meet this man?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“He sent for me,” gasped Bertha, “at least I thought it was better that I should go.”

“Better than what?”

“Better than you.”

“He sent for me, then? Ah!—I can have the truth by a word to her; but do not you humiliate yourself any more. But I will have the truth.”

“Yes, he sent for you, and I went, and Robert found me there.”

“And you had to give a reason for being in that man’s company in a prison, and you said—”

Bertha was silent, but weeping hysterically.

Her sister took her hands from her face, as one might deal with a rebellious child.

“And you said— If you do not answer I will have him fetched.”

“I said nothing,” sobbed Bertha, in her sister’s grasp. “I had no words and no voice. But he spoke. Was it my fault that he said what he did.”

“Your fault! What did he say?”

“That I had come to beg him not to injure a certain person.”

“He made no such weak, foolish speech; and if he had made it, Robert would have given him the lie. He said that you had come to beg safety for me—me—he named me?”

“Could I prevent it?”

“Am I accusing you? And you listened, and confirmed his falsehood by your silence?”

“It was not quite a falsehood.”

“Bertha!”

“I had been begging him on my knees not to do anything at all. I had told him that we were trying to get the money for him, and that we should do so very soon, and I was imploring him not to ruin us both—this was when Robert came in.”

“There is no quarrel between you and Robert. I could see that by a glance at your face. The shame—the guilt—has been transferred to me. Do not dare to deny it—let me know all—give me a chance for my life, Bertha.”

“Do not speak so. O! why did you not go to England?” said Bertha, crying bitterly.

“I will go to England,” replied Mrs. Lygon, in a strange tone, “only I must know exactly how I stand with friends and enemies. Perhaps I will go to-night.”

“O! do, do.”

“Then there is a reason why I should go at once—escape.”

“Yes—at least there may be—I do not know what Robert will do. He may send for—”

“Do not you mention that name,” replied Laura. “Tell me what passed between your husband and that man.”

“He is a bad man, a very cruel man—”

“I know what he is—say what he did.”

“He had a book of letters.”

“Letters!” gasped Mrs. Lygon, her face once more becoming ashy white.

“And he gave them to Robert to read. O! do not look so dreadfully.”

“Never mind my looks,” said Mrs. Lygon, with a distorting smile. “So he gave Mr. Urquhart a book of letters?”

“A book, yes,” said Bertha. “You have seen the book, then?”

“I have seen it—yes, I have seen it,” repeated Mrs. Lygon, slowly, and gazing intently into the eyes of her sister. “And you saw Robert read it?”

“He read every word.”

“Then he said—what? Do not fear to tell me exactly.”

“He called me to him, and showed me some of the—the letters.”

“And you read them?”

“A few words, here and there, only, Laura.”

“And you said—what did you say for your sister, Bertha?”

“What could I say, with those letters before my eyes?”

“True—very true—what could you say with those letters before your eyes,” repeated Mrs. Lygon, slowly. “What could be said? There was no one to dash the book on the ground, and cry out that wickedness was at work, and that God was just—no one to speak for me, and to demand that I should be heard before I was judged. A sister was there, but there was no one to do this.”

“O, Laura, Laura, remember who was in the room.”

“Yes, Ernest Adair was there. And Robert Urquhart was there. And I will tell you who else was there. A wife, who, if her husband had laid his strong hand upon Ernest Adair, and had sworn to kill him on the spot, as he would have done, had he known all—a wife was there, who even now keeps a place in her heart for that villain, and would have tried to stay her husband’s hand, at the price of her sister’s honour.”

“It is false that I care for Ernest Adair,” said Bertha, terrified, and crying.

“It is true,” replied her sister. “I was not long in discovering that. You were wearied with his importunities, and frightened at his menaces, and you would gladly have been separated from him by some shift, some accident. But the moment that you found this could only be done with peril to him, old, evil feelings came back, and you would have saved him.”

Bertha flushed angrily under these words, and angrily she replied.

“It is not for you to speak to me thus. You had better think of your own position, and escape to England as soon as you can. Mr. Urquhart intends to write to Mr. Lygon to-night, and you know best whether you wish to meet him.”

“Was this what you came to tell me, Bertha?” said Mrs. Lygon, calmly. “I heard nothing of this from you until that girl had been with us.”

“It is not pleasant to tell such things, but I have told you now.”

“It is not pleasant. No, you are quite right, Bertha. Let us speak of something else. Let us speak of your position.”

“Leave me alone. I must manage for myself, as I have done before, and as I suppose I can do again.”

“You wish for no further assistance from mo?”

“I do not know what assistance I have had. You have made every day a terror to me, and I have wished myself dead a thousand times.”

“You may have to wish it again, poor child, before all is over. Do you suppose that such men as your husband and—Mr. Lygon—are likely to leave this terrible story where it is? Do you think that Ernest Adair will not sacrifice you, when he is pressed, and the time comes?”

“No, he will not,” said Bertha, promptly. “I am not defending him—”

“Yes, defend him; why not? You have already saved his life—will you shrink from doing him a smaller service! Why should you not defend him—he will need defenders soon.”

“Then you are going to persevere in your plans,” said Bertha. “I think that it is very wicked and very unwomanly, and in spite of all that has taken place, you are not justified in such revenge.”

“Revenge! How little do you know of me. But I must not talk with you upon this. Even now, while you are almost hating me in your heart, you need my help. What do you intend to do with Henderson? She is not your sister—she has no pity for your weakness and folly, and she does not recollect being one of two children walking about a great garden with their arms round one another’s neck, and talking innocently of love and marriage, but vowing to one another never to be separated—she is enraged with you, and at all events she has her own battle to fight.”