At this unexpected revelation Grace Carden kissed him, and wept on his shoulder. Then they went sadly home again.
Doctor Amboyne now gave up all hopes of Henry, and his anxiety was concentrated on Mrs. Little. How on earth was he to save her from a shock likely to prove fatal in her weak condition? To bring her to Hillsborough in her present state would be fatal. He was compelled to leave her in Wales, and that looked so like abandoning her. He suffered torture, the torture that only noble minds can know. At midnight, as he lay in bed, and revolved in his mind all the difficulties and perils of this pitiable situation, an idea struck him. He would try and persuade Mrs. Little to marry him. Should she consent, he could then take her on a wedding-tour, and that tour he could easily extend from place to place, putting off the evil time until, strong in health and conjugal affection, she might be able to endure the terrible, the inevitable blow. The very next morning he wrote her an eloquent letter; he told her that Henry had gone suddenly off to Australia to sell his patents; that almost his last word had been, "My mother! I leave her to you." This, said the doctor, is a sacred commission; and how can I execute it? I cannot invite you to Hillsborough, for the air is fatal to you. Think of your half-promise, and my many years of devotion, and give me the right to carry out your son's wishes to the full.
Mrs. Little replied to this letter, and the result of the correspondence was this: she said she would marry him if she could recover her health, but THAT she feared she never should until she was reconciled to her brother.
Meantime Grace Carden fell into a strange state: fits of feverish energy; fits of death-like stupor. She could do nothing, yet it maddened her to be idle. With Bolt's permission, she set workmen to remove all the remains of the chimney that could be got at--the water was high just then: she had a barge and workmen, and often watched them, and urged them by her presence. Not that she ever spoke; but she hovered about with her marble face and staring eyes, and the sight of her touched their hearts and spurred them to exertion.
Sometimes she used to stand on a heap of bricks hard by, and peer, with dilated eyes into the dark stream, and watch each bucket, or basket, as it came up with bricks, and rubbish, and mud, from the bottom.
At other times she would stand on the bridge and lean over the battlements so far as if she would fly down and search for her dead lover.
One day as she hung thus, glaring into the water, she heard a deep sigh. She looked up, and there was a face almost as pale as her own, and even more haggard, looking at her with a strange mixture of pain and pity. This ghastly spectator of her agony was himself a miserable man, it was Frederick Coventry. His crime had brought him no happiness, no hope of happiness.
At sight of him Grace Carden groaned, and covered her face with her hands.