Her mind was in this state of intense inward perturbation and outward calm, when, standing at her bedroom window, which commanded the road and a corner of the Green, upon which the road opened, she saw Edward Wodehouse coming towards the house. I suppose there was never any one yet in great anxiety and suspense, who did not go to the window with some sort of forlorn hope of seeing something to relieve them. She recognized the young man at once, though she did not know of his arrival, or even that he was looked for; and the moment she saw him instantly gave him a place—though she could not tell what place—in the maze of her thoughts. Her heart leaped up at sight of him Polar, though he might be but walking past, he might be but coming to pay an ordinary call on his return, for anything she knew. Instinctively, her heart associated him with her child. She watched him come in through the little shrubbery, scarcely knowing where she stood, so intense was her suspense; then went down to meet him, looking calm and cold, as if no anxiety had ever clouded her firmament. “How do you do, Mr. Wodehouse? I did not know you had come back,” she said, with perfect composure, as if he had been the most every-day acquaintance, and she had parted from him last night.

He looked at her with a countenance much paler and more agitated than her own, and, with that uneasy air of deprecation natural to a man who has a confession to make. “No{86} one did; or, indeed, does,” he said, “not even my mother. I got my promotion quite suddenly, and insisted upon a few days’ leave to see my friends before I joined my ship dermes.”

“,” said Mrs. Damerel, putting heroic force upon herself. “I suppose, then, I should have said Captain Wodehouse? How pleased your mother will be!”

“Yes,” he said, abstractedly. “I should not, as you may suppose, have taken the liberty to come here so early merely to tell you a piece of news concerning myself. I came up from Portsmouth during the night, and when the train stopped at this station—by accident—Miss Damerel got into the same carriage in which I was. She charged me with this note to give to you.”

There was a sensation in Mrs. Damerel’s ears as if some sluice had given way in the secrecy of her heart, and the blood was surging and swelling upwards. But she managed to smile a ghastly smile at him, and to take the note without further display of her feelings. It was a little twisted note written in pencil, which Wodehouse, indeed, had with much trouble persuaded Rose to write. Her mother opened it with fingers trembling so much that the undoing of the scrap of paper was a positive labor to her. She dropped softly into a chair, however, with a great and instantaneous sense of relief, the moment she had read these few pencilled words:—

“Mamma, I have gone to Miss Margetts’. I am very wretched, and don’t know what to do. I could not stay at home any longer. Do not be angry. I think my heart will break SmarTone.”