I will spend all I have, and thankfully, to procure it. Sir Leicester will do his best, the whole family will do their best. I--I know something, my dear; and will make my own appeal, as his mother parted from him all these years, and finding him in a jail at last."
The extreme disquietude of the old housekeeper's manner in saying this, her broken words, and her wringing of her hands make a powerful impression on Mrs. Bagnet and would astonish her but that she refers them all to her sorrow for her son's condition. And yet Mrs. Bagnet wonders too why Mrs. Rouncewell should murmur so distractedly, "My Lady, my Lady, my Lady!" over and over again.
The frosty night wears away, and the dawn breaks, and the post- chaise comes rolling on through the early mist like the ghost of a chaise departed. It has plenty of spectral company in ghosts of trees and hedges, slowly vanishing and giving place to the realities of day. London reached, the travellers alight, the old housekeeper in great tribulation and confusion, Mrs. Bagnet quite fresh and collected--as she would be if her next point, with no new equipage and outfit, were the Cape of Good Hope, the Island of Ascension, Hong Kong, or any other military station.
But when they set out for the prison where the trooper is confined, the old lady has managed to draw about her, with her lavender- coloured dress, much of the staid calmness which is its usual accompaniment. A wonderfully grave, precise, and handsome piece of old china she looks, though her heart beats fast and her stomacher is ruffled more than even the remembrance of this wayward son has ruffled it these many years.
Approaching the cell, they find the door opening and a warder in the act of coming out. The old girl promptly makes a sign of entreaty to him to say nothing; assenting with a nod, he suffers them to enter as he shuts the door.
So George, who is writing at his table, supposing himself to be alone, does not raise his eyes, but remains absorbed. The old housekeeper looks at him, and those wandering hands of hers are quite enough for Mrs. Bagnet's confirmation, even if she could see the mother and the son together, knowing what she knows, and doubt their relationship.
Not a rustle of the housekeeper's dress, not a gesture, not a word betrays her. She stands looking at him as he writes on, all unconscious, and only her fluttering hands give utterance to her emotions. But they are very eloquent, very, very eloquent. Mrs. Bagnet understands them. They speak of gratitude, of joy, of grief, of hope; of inextinguishable affection, cherished with no return since this stalwart man was a stripling; of a better son loved less, and this son loved so fondly and so proudly; and they speak in such touching language that Mrs. Bagnet's eyes brim up with tears and they run glistening down her sun-brown face.
"George Rouncewell! Oh, my dear child, turn and look at me!"
The trooper starts up, clasps his mother round the neck, and falls down on his knees before her. Whether in a late repentance, whether in the first association that comes back upon him, he puts his hands together as a child does when it says its prayers, and raising them towards her breast, bows down his head, and cries.
"My George, my dearest son! Always my favourite, and my favourite still, where have you been these cruel years and years? Grown such a man too, grown such a fine strong man. Grown so like what I knew he must be, if it pleased God he was alive!"
She can ask, and he can answer, nothing connected for a time. All that time the old girl, turned away, leans one arm against the whitened wall, leans her honest forehead upon it, wipes her eyes with her serviceable grey cloak, and quite enjoys herself like the best of old girls as she is.
"Mother," says the trooper when they are more composed, "forgive me first of all, for I know my need of it."
Forgive him! She does it with all her heart and soul. She always has done it. She tells him how she has had it written in her will, these many years, that he was her beloved son George.