During my waiting for the summons to Mr. Trelawny's room, which I knewwould come, the time was long and lonely. After the first few momentsof emotional happiness at Margaret's joy, I somehow felt apart andalone; and for a little time the selfishness of a lover possessed me.But it was not for long. Margaret's happiness was all to me; and inthe conscious sense of it I lost my baser self. Margaret's last wordsas the door closed on them gave the key to the whole situation, as ithad been and as it was. These two proud, strong people, though fatherand daughter, had only come to know each other when the girl was grownup. Margaret's nature was of that kind which matures early.
The pride and strength of each, and the reticence which was theircorollary, made a barrier at the beginning. Each had respected theother's reticence too much thereafter; and the misunderstanding grew tohabit. And so these two loving hearts, each of which yearned forsympathy from the other, were kept apart. But now all was well, and inmy heart of hearts I rejoiced that at last Margaret was happy. WhilstI was still musing on the subject, and dreaming dreams of a personalnature, the door was opened, and Mr. Trelawny beckoned to me.
"Come in, Mr. Ross!" he said cordially, but with a certain formalitywhich I dreaded. I entered the room, and he closed the door again. Heheld out his hand, and I put mine in it. He did not let it go, butstill held it as he drew me over toward his daughter. Margaret lookedfrom me to him, and back again; and her eyes fell. When I was close toher, Mr. Trelawny let go my hand, and, looking his daughter straight inthe face, said:
"If things are as I fancy, we shall not have any secrets between us.Malcolm Ross knows so much of my affairs already, that I take it hemust either let matters stop where they are and go away in silence, orelse he must know more. Margaret! are you willing to let Mr. Ross seeyour wrist?"
She threw one swift look of appeal in his eyes; but even as she did soshe seemed to make up her mind. Without a word she raised her righthand, so that the bracelet of spreading wings which covered the wristfell back, leaving the flesh bare. Then an icy chill shot through me.
On her wrist was a thin red jagged line, from which seemed to hang redstains like drops of blood!
She stood there, a veritable figure of patient pride.
Oh! but she looked proud! Through all her sweetness, all her dignity,all her high-souled negation of self which I had known, and which neverseemed more marked than now--through all the fire that seemed to shinefrom the dark depths of her eyes into my very soul, pride shoneconspicuously. The pride that has faith; the pride that is born ofconscious purity; the pride of a veritable queen of Old Time, when tobe royal was to be the first and greatest and bravest in all highthings. As we stood thus for some seconds, the deep, grave voice of herfather seemed to sound a challenge in my ears:
"What do you say now?"
My answer was not in words. I caught Margaret's right hand in mine asit fell, and, holding it tight, whilst with the other I pushed back thegolden cincture, stooped and kissed the wrist. As I looked up at her,but never letting go her hand, there was a look of joy on her face suchas I dream of when I think of heaven. Then I faced her father.
"You have my answer, sir!" His strong face looked gravely sweet. Heonly said one word as he laid his hand on our clasped ones, whilst hebent over and kissed his daughter:
We were interrupted by a knock at the door. In answer to an impatient"Come in!" from Mr. Trelawny, Mr. Corbeck entered. When he saw usgrouped he would have drawn back; but in an instant Mr. Trelawny hadsprung forth and dragged him forward. As he shook him by both hands,he seemed a transformed man. All the enthusiasm of his youth, of whichMr. Corbeck had told us, seemed to have come back to him in an instant.
"So you have got the lamps!" he almost shouted. "My reasoning wasright after all. Come to the library, where we will be alone, and tellme all about it! And while he does it, Ross," said he, turning to me,"do you, like a good fellow, get the key from the safe deposit, so thatI may have a look at the lamps!"
Then the three of them, the daughter lovingly holding her father's arm,went into the library, whilst I hurried off to Chancery Lane.
When I returned with the key, I found them still engaged in thenarrative; but Doctor Winchester, who had arrived soon after I left,was with them. Mr. Trelawny, on hearing from Margaret of his greatattention and kindness, and how he had, under much pressure to thecontrary, steadfastly obeyed his written wishes, had asked him toremain and listen. "It will interest you, perhaps," he said, "to learnthe end of the story!"
We all had an early dinner together. We sat after it a good while, andthen Mr. Trelawny said:
"Now, I think we had all better separate and go quietly to bed early.We may have much to talk about tomorrow; and tonight I want to think."
Doctor Winchester went away, taking, with a courteous forethought, Mr.Corbeck with him, and leaving me behind. When the others had gone Mr.Trelawny said:
"I think it will be well if you, too, will go home for tonight. I wantto be quite alone with my daughter; there are many things I wish tospeak of to her, and to her alone. Perhaps, even tomorrow, I will beable to tell you also of them; but in the meantime there will be lessdistraction to us both if we are alone in the house." I quiteunderstood and sympathised with his feelings; but the experiences ofthe last few days were strong on me, and with some hesitation I said:
"But may it not be dangerous? If you knew as we do--" To my surpriseMargaret interrupted me:
"There will be no danger, Malcolm. I shall be with Father!" As shespoke she clung to him in a protective way. I said no more, but stoodup to go at once. Mr. Trelawny said heartily:
"Come as early as you please, Ross. Come to breakfast. After it, youand I will want to have a word together." He went out of the roomquietly, leaving us together. I clasped and kissed Margaret's hands,which she held out to me, and then drew her close to me, and our lipsmet for the first time.
I did not sleep much that night. Happiness on the one side of my bedand Anxiety on the other kept sleep away. But if I had anxious care, Ihad also happiness which had not equal in my life--or ever can have.The night went by so quickly that the dawn seemed to rush on me, notstealing as is its wont.
Before nine o'clock I was at Kensington. All anxiety seemed to floataway like a cloud as I met Margaret, and saw that already the pallor ofher face had given to the rich bloom which I knew. She told me thather father had slept well, and that he would be with us soon.
"I do believe," she whispered, "that my dear and thoughtful Father haskept back on purpose, so that I might meet you first, and alone!"
After breakfast Mr. Trelawny took us into the study, saying as hepassed in:
"I have asked Margaret to come too." When we were seated, he saidgravely: