Page:The Woman in White.djvu/291

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"To Mr. Fairlie," I said. "Your uncle is your nearest male relative, and the head of the family. He must and shall interfere."

Laura shook her head sorrowfully.

"Yes, yes," I went on; "your uncle is a weak, selfish, worldly man, I know. But he is not Sir Percival Glyde; and he has no such friend about him as Count Fosco. I expect nothing from his kindness, or his tenderness of feeling towards you, or towards me. But he will do anything to pamper his own indolence, and to secure his own quiet. Let me only persuade him that his interference, at this moment, will save him inevitable trouble and wretchedness and responsibility hereafter, and he will bestir himself for his own sake. I know how to deal with him, Laura—I have had some practice."

"If you could only prevail on him to let me go back to Limmeridge for a little while, and stay there quietly with you, Marian, I could be almost as happy again as I was before I was married!"

Those words set me thinking in a new direction. Would it be possible to place Sir Percival between the two alternatives of either exposing himself to the scandal of legal interference on his wife's behalf, or of allowing her to be quietly separated from him for a time, under pretext of a visit to her uncle's house? And could he, in that case, be reckoned on as likely to accept the last resource? It was doubtful—more than doubtful. And yet, hopeless as the experiment seemed, surely it was worth trying? I resolved to try it, in sheer despair of knowing what better to do.

"Your uncle shall know the wish you have just expressed," I said, "and I will ask the lawyer's advice on the subject, as well. Good may come of it—and will come of it, I hope."

Saying that, I rose again; and again Laura tried to make me resume my seat.

"Don't leave me," she said uneasily. "My desk is on that table. You can write here."

It tried me to the quick to refuse her, even in her own interests. But we had been too long shut up alone together already. Our chance of seeing each other again might entirely depend on our not exciting any fresh suspicions. It was full time to show myself, quietly and unconcernedly, among the wretches who were, at that very moment, perhaps, thinking of us, and talking of us down-stairs. I explained the miserable necessity to Laura; and prevailed on her to recognise it, as I did.

"I will come back again, love, in an hour or less," I said.