I felt myself blushing to the roots of my hair as I went on:
"The duty of delicacy in her defenceless position; my respect for herfather--I did not know you then, sir, as yourself, but only as herfather--restrained me. But even had not these barriers existed, Ishould not have dared in the presence of such grief and anxiety to havedeclared myself. Mr. Trelawny, I assure you on my word of honour thatyour daughter and I are as yet, on her part, but friends and nothingmore!" Once again he held out his hands, and we clasped each otherwarmly. Then he said heartily:
"I am satisfied, Malcolm Ross. Of course, I take it that until I haveseen her and have given you permission, you will not make anydeclaration to my daughter--in words," he added, with an indulgentsmile. But his face became stern again as he went on:
"Time presses; and I have to think of some matters so urgent and sostrange that I dare not lose an hour. Otherwise I should not have beenprepared to enter, at so short a notice and to so new a friend, on thesubject of my daughter's settlement in life, and of her futurehappiness." There was a dignity and a certain proudness in his mannerwhich impressed me much.
"I shall respect your wishes, sir!" I said as I went back and openedthe door. I heard him lock it behind me.
When I told Mr. Corbeck that Mr. Trelawny had quite recovered, he beganto dance about like a wild man. But he suddenly stopped, and asked meto be careful not to draw any inferences, at all events at first, whenin the future speaking of the finding of the lamps, or of the firstvisits to the tomb. This was in case Mr. Trelawny should speak to meon the subject; "as, of course, he will," he added, with a sidelonglook at me which meant knowledge of the affairs of my heart. I agreedto this, feeling that it was quite right. I did not quite understandwhy; but I knew that Mr. Trelawny was a peculiar man. In no case couldone make a mistake by being reticent. Reticence is a quality which astrong man always respects.
The manner in which the others of the house took the news of therecovery varied much. Mrs. Grant wept with emotion; then she hurriedoff to see if she could do anything personally, and to set the house inorder for "Master", as she always called him. The Nurse's face fell:she was deprived of an interesting case. But the disappointment wasonly momentary; and she rejoiced that the trouble was over. She wasready to come to the patient the moment she should be wanted; but inthe meantime she occupied herself in packing her portmanteau.
I took Sergeant Daw into the study, so that we should be alone when Itold him the news. It surprised even his iron self-control when I toldhim the method of the waking. I was myself surprised in turn by hisfirst words:
"And how did he explain the first attack? He was unconscious when thesecond was made."
Up to that moment the nature of the attack, which was the cause of mycoming to the house, had never even crossed my mind, except when I hadsimply narrated the various occurrences in sequence to Mr. Trelawny.The Detective did not seem to think much of my answer:
"Do you know, it never occurred to me to ask him!" The professionalinstinct was strong in the man, and seemed to supersede everything else.
"That is why so few cases are ever followed out," he said, "unless ourpeople are in them. Your amateur detective neer hunts down to thedeath. As for ordinary people, the moment things begin to mend, andthe strain of suspense is off them, they drop the matter in hand. Itis like sea-sickness," he added philosophically after a pause; "themoment you touch the shore you never give it a thought, but run off tothe buffet to feed! Well, Mr. Ross, I'm glad the case is over; forover it is, so far as I am concerned. I suppose that Mr. Trelawnyknows his own business; and that now he is well again, he will take itup himself. Perhaps, however, he will not do anything. As he seemed toexpect something to happen, but did not ask for protection from thepolice in any way, I take it that he don't want them to interfere withan eye to punishment. We'll be told officially, I suppose, that it wasan accident, or sleep-walking, or something of the kind, to satisfy theconscience of our Record Department; and that will be the end. As forme, I tell you frankly, sir, that it will be the saving of me. Iverily believe I was beginning to get dotty over it all. There weretoo many mysteries, that aren't in my line, for me to be reallysatisfied as to either facts or the causes of them. Now I'll be ableto wash my hands of it, and get back to clean, wholesome, criminalwork. Of course, sir, I'll be glad to know if you ever do light on acause of any kind. And I'll be grateful if you can ever tell me howthe man was dragged out of bed when the cat bit him, and who used theknife the second time. For master Silvio could never have done it byhimself. But there! I keep thinking of it still. I must look out andkeep a check on myself, or I shall think of it when I have to keep mymind on other things!"
When Margaret returned from her walk, I met her in the hall. She wasstill pale and sad; somehow, I had expected to see her radiant afterher walk. The moment she saw me her eyes brightened, and she looked atme keenly.
"You have some good news for me?" she said. "Is Father better?"
"He is! Why did you think so?"
"I saw it in your face. I must go to him at once." She was hurryingaway when I stopped her.
"He said he would send for you the moment he was dressed."
"He said he would send for me!" she repeated in amazement. "Then he isawake again, and conscious? I had no idea he was so well as that! OMalcolm!"
She sat down on the nearest chair and began to cry. I felt overcomemyself. The sight of her joy and emotion, the mention of my own namein such a way and at such a time, the rush of glorious possibilitiesall coming together, quite unmanned me. She saw my emotion, and seemedto understand. She put out her hand. I held it hard, and kissed it.Such moments as these, the opportunities of lovers, are gifts of thegods! Up to this instant, though I knew I loved her, and though Ibelieved she returned my affection, I had had only hope. Now, however,the self-surrender manifest in her willingness to let me squeeze herhand, the ardour of her pressure in return, and the glorious flush oflove in her beautiful, deep, dark eyes as she lifted them to mine, wereall the eloquences which the most impatient or exacting lover couldexpect or demand.
No word was spoken; none was needed. Even had I not been pledged toverbal silence, words would have been poor and dull to express what wefelt. Hand in hand, like two little children, we went up the staircaseand waited on the landing, till the summons from Mr. Trelawny shouldcome.
I whispered in her ear--it was nicer than speaking aloud and at agreater distance--how her father had awakened, and what he had said;and all that had passed between us, except when she herself had beenthe subject of conversation.
Presently a bell rang from the room. Margaret slipped from me, andlooked back with warning finger on lip. She
went over to her father'sdoor and knocked softly.
"Come in!" said the strong voice.
"It is I, Father!" The voice was tremulous with love and hope.
There was a quick step inside the room; the door was hurriedly thrownopen, and in an instant Margaret, who had sprung forward, was claspedin her father's arms. There was little speech; only a few brokenphrases.
"Father! Dear, dear Father!"
"My child! Margaret! My dear, dear child!"
"O Father, Father! At last! At last!"
Here the father and daughter went into the room together, and the doorclosed.