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nervous and uncomfortable, and she invariably disclaimed any knowledge of watching her husband.
I think it was about a week after my arrival, when one morning at the breakfast-table Fairfax declared his resolution of joining the shooting party that day. He had never been out with us before—somewhat to my surprise ; for I had gathered from his conversation that he was an experienced sportsman. As he made the announcement, my eyes were unconsciously directed towards his wife. She turned deadly pale, and for a moment I thought she would have fainted. No one observed her change of countenance except myself; and her face so soon resumed its ordinary hue and expression, that I did not think much of the circumstance. After a moment or two, she said, addressing her husband, “Reginald, I want you to ride
I with me to-day.” He replied abruptly that he could not, for he had just completed arrangements for joining the sportsmen that morning. There the matter dropped until breakfast was over; and the lady's demeanour remained as cold and impassive as usual.
We had risen from the table, and I was standing looking from the window, when I was suddenly startled by an exclamation uttered with so much intensity, that I hurried hastily round. At a little distance Mrs. Fairfax was standing with her husband. She wrung both his hands in hers as she said, “For God's sake, Reginald, do not go !" There was such an agony
of supplication in the tones, that I was startled out of all propriety, and remained gazing on the pair till Fairfax perceived me. With his customary adroitness he addressed me at once, and, in a strain of lively badinage, begged me to assist in allaying his wife's fears. She had, he said, an invincible antipathy to gunpowder—in fact, that it was this very antipathy of hers which had caused him to sell out of the army. She also turned to me, and confessed, with a wan, painful smile, that she had an absolute dread of firearms. I do not know why, but I felt excessively uncomfortable; I could not believe that those tones of intense agony could spring from the mere pretty affected fear of a woman. However, her supplication had no effect on her husband: he joined the party of sportsmen, and during the whole morning-I being one of the number—he was almost constantly at my side. He was more amusing than ever: he kept up a continual flow of brilliant conversation, replete with bon-mot and anecdote; and at our pic-nic luncheon his sallies were so irresistible, that the merriment of our party became almost uproarious, and even the stolid gamekeeper's boy relaxed into a broad grin. As to his morning's work, it was something wonderful: were I to reckon up the amount of game which he bagged, it would be considered incredible.
We returned to the Manor House to a late dinner —all of us, except him, more or less fatigued; but he was more lively than usual. Mrs. Fairfax, that evening, for once aroused herself into sociality. I talked with her for some time, and was surprised to find that she could be agreeable She had much of
the vivacity of her sister, though it appeared slightly forced; and there was a pervading tone of bitterness in her style of thought, which betrayed itself in a quick reply or a sudden repartee. It seemed to me that she wished to remove any impression which the incident of the morning might have left upon my mind. She did not, however, succeed: the thrilling tone of her voice, the wringing of her husband's hands, her whole attitude, haunted me; and I was before long an unintentional witness of another scene which indelibly enfixed both itself and the former one upon my memory.
I have said that the upper part of the Manor House was of a most rambling and labyrinthine description. My chamber was situated in a long narrow gallery which communicated with the chief flight of stairs through four if not five tortuous passages. I had hitherto managed to thread these mazes with tolerable accuracy, and, to say truth, rather plumed myself on my knowledge of localities, when one forenoon, having occasion to seek my room for some article or other which I wanted, I did not take time enough to consider my plan of operations, and suddenly became aware of the unpleasant fact that I was lost. After wandering blindly for some moments in the strangest places which the imagination of man can conceive, I emerged into a gallery which was the counterpart of that in. which my room was situated. There was one door which bore exactly the features of my own, and which I at once proceeded to, and opened. The first object
which caught my sight was Mrs. Fairfax, kneeling by the bedside, her hands clasped, her pale face upturned, her dry-strained eyes full of an expression of he most unutterable agony. She was as still and as silent as marble. The whole figure betrayed the most total abandonment to despair. I caught but a single glimpse of her before I retired, and yet to this day I have a more vivid remembrance of that upturned face than of anything which I have seen through my whole life. By some means I found my way to my own room, and I stayed there for some time before I descended. When I re-entered the drawing-room, I found Mrs. Fairfax seated at her embroidery, with her usual cold, constrained demeanour. It was evident she had not noticed my entrance into her chamher, and it need scarcely be said that I offered no apologies. I saw plainly that there was some mystery about the lady which I racked my brain vainly to discover.
The circumstances I have related so worked upon my imagination, that I became nervous and uneasy, until I seemed to be under some horrible fascination. I was seated one evening tête-à-tête with Mrs. Thornton (we had now, perhaps through my long friendship with her husband, become great friends), when she said, “I cannot think what is the matter with Clara." She alluded to her sister, who was sitting alone at some distance, gazing at her husband, who stood talking to a lady more in our neighbourhood.
66 Have you observed anything peculiar in her manner?" she
continued. I was at a loss how to answer; so, as is not unusual, I believe, on such occasions, I descended to a compliment, and murmured, “All ladies cannot be Lady Adelines; there must be some Aurora Haly's, if only for the contrast.” She went on with the topic, and I found that she was really uneasy about her sister. She said she was so different to what she had ever been before; that she used to be as mobile and vivacious as she was now cold and impassive. She seemed anxious to know whether I had observed any peculiarity about Mrs. Fairfax, hoping, I thought, to find that there was nothing strange in her sister to one who had not known her before, although the change was sufficiently evident to herself. I answered vaguely; but I think she perceived that I was uneasy on the subject, and that I did not speak what I thought. During our conversation, Mr. Fairfax had joined us unobserved. With anxiety depicted on his face, he came and seated himself between us, saying with a sorrowful smile, “You must admit me into your consultation. I think that I am at least as much interested in it as you.” Then turning to Mrs. Thornton, he frankly owned that he had overheard part of what we had been saying. I arose, that I might leave them together; but he laid his hand upon my arm, and begged me to resume my seat. “I can trust my friend,” he said, “even on so delicate a topic' as this.” He went on to say, that the melancholy of his wife was a subject of much concern to himself, and that he was glad of the opportunity of