Page:What will he do with it.djvu/194

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


"Yes, yes, yet still—"

"Still, if you love her so dearly, would you blunt her conscience and love of truth? Were you not an impostor tonight? Would you ask her to reverence and imitate and pray for an impostor?"

"I never saw it in that light!" faltered Waife, struck to the soul; "never, never, so help me Heaven!"

"I felt sure you did not," said the Mayor; "you saw but the sport of the thing; you took to it as a schoolboy. I have known many such men, with high animal spirits like yours. Such men err thoughtlessly; but did they ever sin consciously, they could not keep those high spirits! Good night, Mr. Chapman, I shall hear from you again."

The door closed on the form of the visitor; Waife's head sank on his breast, and all the deep lines upon brow and cheek stood forth, records of mighty griefs revived,—a countenance so altered, now its innocent arch play was gone, that you would not have known it. At length he rose very quietly, took up the candle, and stole into Sophy's room. Shading the light with careful hand, he looked on her face as she slept. The smile was still upon the parted lip: the child was still in the fairyland of dreams. But the cheek was thinner than it had been weeks ago, and the little hand that rested on the coverlet seemed wasted. Waife took that hand noiselessly into his own! it was hot and dry. He dropped it with a look of unutterable fear and anguish, and, shaking his head piteously; stole back again. Seating himself by the table at which he had been caught counting his gains, he folded his arms, and rooted his gaze on the floor; and there, motionless, and as if in stupefied suspense of thought itself, he sat till the dawn crept over the sky,—till the sun shone into the windows. The dog, crouched at his feet, sometimes started up and whined as to attract his notice: he did not heed it. The clock struck six; the house began to stir. The chambermaid came into the room. Waife rose and took his hat, brushing its nap mechanically with his sleeve. "Who did you say was the best here?" he asked with a vacant smile, touching the chambermaid's arm.

"Sir! the best—what?"

"The best doctor, ma'am; none of your parish apothecaries,—the best physician,—Dr. Gill,—did you say Gill? Thank you; his address, High Street. Close by, ma'am." With his grand bow,—such is habit!—Gentleman Waife smiled graciously, and left the room. Sir Isaac stretched himself and followed.