he thought of the pain his disgrace would inflict on his
At four o'clock they were in the train. They spoke to each other but little on the way; their hearts were too full of dire forebodings to talk about nothings. But, when they were in the fly at Aberystwith, going from the station to Mrs. Little's lodgings, Grace laid her head on her friend's shoulder and said, "Oh, doctor, it has come to this; I hope he loved his mother better than me." Then came a flood of tears--the first.
They went to Mrs. Little's lodgings. The landlady had retired to bed, and, on hearing their errand, told them, out of the second- floor window, that Mrs. Little had left her some days ago, and gone to a neighboring village for change of air.
Grace and Dr. Amboyne drove next morning to that village, and soon learned where Mrs. Little was. Dr. Amboyne left Grace at the inn, for he knew the sight of her would at once alarm Mrs. Little; and in a matter so uncertain as this, he thought the greatest caution necessary. Grace waited for him at the inn in an agony of suspense. She watched at the window for him, and at last she saw him coming toward her. His head was down, and she could not read his face, or she could have told in a moment whether he brought good news or bad.
She waited for him, erect but trembling. He opened the door, and stood before her, pale and agitated--so pale and agitated she had never seen him before.
He faltered out, "She knows nothing. She must know nothing. She is too ill and weak, and, indeed, in such a condition that to tell her the fatal news would probably have killed her on the spot. All I dared do was to ask her with assumed indifference if she had heard from Henry lately. No, Grace, not for these three days."
"You love the son," said he, "but I love the mother: loved her years before you were born."
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.