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The Unclassed (Chapter34)

2006-08-22 22:51

  Chapter XXXIV. A Late Revenge

  Ida clung to the possibility of Waymark's paying his usual visit on the Sunday, but she was disappointed. This absence had no reason beyond Waymark's choice. It was the last Sunday but one of the month; a week more, and he must keep his word with Mr. Woodstock. The evil day had been put off, and to what purpose? There had been some scarcely confessed hope. Maud's sudden departure from England, and her strange letter, might perhaps mean a change in her which would bring about his freedom; he himself might possibly be driven by his wretchedness to the point of writing to her in a way which would hasten her decision, if indeed she were doubting.

  All was over between Ida and himself, so why undergo the torment of still seeing her. In sending his note to Mr. Woodstock, he was on the point of surrendering the week that remained, and begging that Ida might be told at once, but his hand refused to write the words. Through the week that ensued he had no moment's rest. At night he went to places of amusement, to seek distraction; he wished and dreaded the coming of the Sunday. How would Ida receive the revelation? Should he write to her and try to make her understand him? Yet in that he could scarcely succeed, and failure would bring upon him her contempt. The only safety lay in never seeing or communicating with her again.

  Even on Saturday night he had not made up his mind how to act. He went to the theatre, but left before the play was half over, and walked slowly homewards. As he drew near to his lodgings, some one hastened towards him with both hands held out. It was Maud Enderby.

  “Oh, I have waited so long! I wanted to see you to-night.” She was exhausted with fatigue and distress, and still held his hands, as if needing their support. To Waymark, in his then state of mind, she came like an apparition. He could only look at her in astonishment.

  “Last night,” she said, “I had a telegram from father. He told me to come back at once; he had had to leave, and mother was alone. I was to call for a letter at a place in the city. I was in time to catch the night boat, and when I got his letter it told me dreadful things. Something has happened which compelled him to leave England at once. He could do nothing, make no arrangements. Mother, he said, had a little money; we must sell everything and manage to live somewhere for a little; he would try to send us what he could. Then I went home. There was a police-officer in the house, and mother had gone away, I can't tell where. Father has done something, and—— Oh, what shall I do? You can help me, can't you?”

  Waymark, whom this news overwhelmed with blank despair, could at first say nothing; but the very greatness of the blow gradually produced in him the strength to bear it. He saw that fate had taken the future out of his hands; there was no longer even the appearance of choice. To Maud he must now devote himself, aiding her with all his strength in the present and through the days to come.

  “Shall I go back home with you?” he asked, pressing her hands to comfort her, and speaking with the calmness of one who had made up his mind.

  “Yes; perhaps mother will have returned. But what shall we do? What will happen to father? Do you know anything of all this?”

  “Nothing whatever. Walk with me to the top of the street, and we will take a cab.”

  She hung upon his arm, trembling violently; and during the drive to Paddington, she lay back with her eyes closed, holding Waymark's hands in her own, which burned with fever. On alighting, they found that Mrs. Enderby had indeed returned; the servant told them so, and at the same time whispered something to Maud. They went up into the drawing-room, and there found Mrs. Enderby lying upon the couch. She could not understand when she was spoken to, but nodded her head and looked at them with large, woebegone, wandering eyes. Every effort to rouse her was vain.

  It was a dre

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