'Yes, to be sure. This is my husband, if you please. Ben, my dear Ben, run to Miss Grace - run to Mr. Alfred - run somewhere, Ben! Bring somebody here, directly!'
'Stay!' said Michael Warden, quietly interposing himself between the door and Britain. 'What would you do?'
'Let them know that you are here, sir,' answered Clemency, clapping her hands in sheer agitation. 'Let them know that they may hear of her, from your own lips; let them know that she is not quite lost to them, but that she will come home again yet, to bless her father and her loving sister - even her old servant, even me,' she struck herself upon the breast with both hands, 'with a sight of her sweet face. Run, Ben, run!' And still she pressed him on towards the door, and still Mr. Warden stood before it, with his hand stretched out, not angrily, but sorrowfully.
'Or perhaps,' said Clemency, running past her husband, and catching in her emotion at Mr. Warden's cloak, 'perhaps she's here now; perhaps she's close by. I think from your manner she is. Let me see her, sir, if you please. I waited on her when she was a little child. I saw her grow to be the pride of all this place. I knew her when she was Mr. Alfred's promised wife. I tried to warn her when you tempted her away. I know what her old home was when she was like the soul of it, and how it changed when she was gone and lost. Let me speak to her, if you please!'
He gazed at her with compassion, not unmixed with wonder: but, he made no gesture of assent.
'I don't think she CAN know,' pursued Clemency, 'how truly they forgive her; how they love her; what joy it would be to them, to see her once more. She may be timorous of going home. Perhaps if she sees me, it may give her new heart. Only tell me truly, Mr. Warden, is she with you?'
'She is not,' he answered, shaking his head.
This answer, and his manner, and his black dress, and his coming back so quietly, and his announced intention of continuing to live abroad, explained it all. Marion was dead.
He didn't contradict her; yes, she was dead! Clemency sat down, hid her face upon the table, and cried.
At that moment, a grey-headed old gentleman came running in: quite out of breath, and panting so much that his voice was scarcely to be recognised as the voice of Mr. Snitchey.
'Good Heaven, Mr. Warden!' said the lawyer, taking him aside, 'what wind has blown - ' He was so blown himself, that he couldn't get on any further until after a pause, when he added, feebly, 'you here?'
'An ill-wind, I am afraid,' he answered. 'If you could have heard what has just passed - how I have been besought and entreated to perform impossibilities - what confusion and affliction I carry with me!'
'I can guess it all. But why did you ever come here, my good sir?' retorted Snitchey.
'Come! How should I know who kept the house? When I sent my servant on to you, I strolled in here because the place was new to me; and I had a natural curiosity in everything new and old, in these old scenes; and it was outside the town. I wanted to communicate with you, first, before appearing there. I wanted to know what people would say to me. I see by your manner that you can tell me. If it were not for your confounded caution, I should have been possessed of everything long ago.'
'Our caution!' returned the lawyer, 'speaking for Self and Craggs - deceased,' here Mr. Snitchey, glancing at his hat-band, shook his head, 'how can you reasonably blame us, Mr. Warden? It was understood between us that the subject was never to be renewed, and that it wasn't a subject on which grave and sober men like us (I made a note of your observations at the time) could interfere. Our caution too! When Mr. Craggs, sir, went down to his respected grave in the full belief - '
'I had given a solemn promise of silence until I should return, whenever that might be,' interrupted Mr. Warden; 'and I have kept it.'
'Well, sir, and I repeat it,' returned Mr. Snitchey, 'we were bound to silence too.