Page:Court Royal.djvu/228

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‘I know what is what,’ answered Joanna, looking him full in the face.

‘You have plenty of natural cleverness, I can see,’ said the surgeon. ‘Now attend to me. I will give you instructions that must be closely followed.’

‘Hadn’t that lady better go first? she bothers me and Ra—— I mean the sick woman.’

‘I agree with you.’ The surgeon dismissed the actress.

‘Now,’ said Joanna, ‘say what you will, I will not go from it a hair’s-breadth.’

After receiving her instructions she said gravely, ‘Tell me frankly: is there hope?’

‘Where there is life there is hope,’ he answered.

She looked at him with her shrewd eyes, and standing between the light and the window, held up one arm.

Lord Saltcombe paced the street hour after hour throughout the night. He could not leave it. Rest was impossible. One by one the lights in the houses were extinguished, but the window of Palma’s room remained illumined. Within lay the woman—the sole woman—he had ever loved, and he had loved her with all the passion in his nature. Carried away by that passion he had committed a great wrong, a wrong which rankled in his heart. His conscience never acquitted him; it judged and condemned him daily. If he had loved innocently he might have shaken off his passion, or been spared by it to make himself a name, to become great and good among his fellow-men. But this guilty incident had morally maimed him. He had not the energy, the courage, after that, to face his fellow-men. There are some who rise after a fall, stronger than they were before. Their fall has taught them caution, has deepened their character, has inspired them with earnestness. There are others who, when once tripped up, lie prostrate the rest of their days. Such was Lord Saltcombe. He had not the moral vigour to efface the past by active well-doing.

The clock of St. Andrew’s Church chimed after the stroke of three, and still the Marquess was in the street. He was cold and tired. An icy perspiration covered his brow. He had seen the sign at the window three or four hours before; it had not given him much hope. A gnawing pain was at his heart. Was this the first manifestation in him of that disease which sapped the life and activity of his father? Had his present great emotion provoked it to warn him of its presence?