I have some business there that must be looked to directly," Mrs. Rouncewell answers.
"Will you see my mother safe there in a coach, Mrs. Bagnet? But of course I know you will. Why should I ask it!"
Why indeed, Mrs. Bagnet expresses with the umbrella.
"Take her, my old friend, and take my gratitude along with you. Kisses to Quebec and Malta, love to my godson, a hearty shake of the hand to Lignum, and this for yourself, and I wish it was ten thousand pound in gold, my dear!" So saying, the trooper puts his lips to the old girl's tanned forehead, and the door shuts upon him in his cell.
No entreaties on the part of the good old housekeeper will induce Mrs. Bagnet to retain the coach for her own conveyance home. Jumping out cheerfully at the door of the Dedlock mansion and handing Mrs. Rouncewell up the steps, the old girl shakes hands and trudges off, arriving soon afterwards in the bosom of the Bagnet family and falling to washing the greens as if nothing had happened.
My Lady is in that room in which she held her last conference with the murdered man, and is sitting where she sat that night, and is looking at the spot where he stood upon the hearth studying her so leisurely, when a tap comes at the door. Who is it? Mrs. Rouncewell. What has brought Mrs. Rouncewell to town so unexpectedly?
"Trouble, my Lady. Sad trouble. Oh, my Lady, may I beg a word with you?"
What new occurrence is it that makes this tranquil old woman tremble so? Far happier than her Lady, as her Lady has often thought, why does she falter in this manner and look at her with such strange mistrust?
"What is the matter? Sit down and take your breath."
"Oh, my Lady, my Lady. I have found my son--my youngest, who went away for a soldier so long ago. And he is in prison."
"Oh, no, my Lady; I would have paid any debt, and joyful."
"For what is he in prison then?"
"Charged with a murder, my Lady, of which he is as innocent as--as I am. Accused of the murder of Mr. Tulkinghorn."
What does she mean by this look and this imploring gesture? Why does she come so close? What is the letter that she holds?
"Lady Dedlock, my dear Lady, my good Lady, my kind Lady! You must have a heart to feel for me, you must have a heart to forgive me. I was in this family before you were born. I am devoted to it. But think of my dear son wrongfully accused."
"I do not accuse him."
"No, my Lady, no. But others do, and he is in prison and in danger. Oh, Lady Dedlock, if you can say but a word to help to clear him, say it!"
What delusion can this be? What power does she suppose is in the person she petitions to avert this unjust suspicion, if it be unjust? Her Lady's handsome eyes regard her with astonishment, almost with fear.
"My Lady, I came away last night from Chesney Wold to find my son in my old age, and the step upon the Ghost's Walk was so constant and so solemn that I never heard the like in all these years. Night after night, as it has fallen dark, the sound has echoed through your rooms, but last night it was awfullest. And as it fell dark last night, my Lady, I got this letter."
"What letter is it?"
"Hush! Hush!" The housekeeper looks round and answers in a frightened whisper, "My Lady, I have not breathed a word of it, I don't believe what's written in it, I know it can't be true, I am sure and certain that it is not true. But my son is in danger, and you must have a heart to pity me. If you know of anything that is not known to others, if you have any suspicion, if you have any clue at all, and any reason for keeping it in your own breast, oh, my dear Lady, think of me, and conquer that reason, and let it be known! This is the most I consider possible. I know you are not a hard lady, but you go your own way always without help, and you are not familiar with your friends; and all who admire you--and all do --as a beautiful and elegant lady, know you to be one far away from themselves who can't be approached close. My Lady, you may have some proud or angry reasons for disdaining to utter something that you know; if so, pray, oh, pray, think of a faithful servant whose whole life has been passed in this family which she dearly loves, and relent, and help to clear my son! My Lady, my good Lady," the old housekeeper pleads with genuine simplicity, "I am so humble in my place and you are by nature so high and distant that you may not think what I feel for my child, but I feel so much that I have come here to make so bold as to beg and pray you not to be scornful of us if you can do us any right or justice at this fearful time!"
Lady Dedlock raises her without one word, until she takes the letter from her hand.