Harry looked more than half inclined to be very angry; however he resumed his seat, and took short sulky puffs at his pipe.
The doctor sat by her side until she awoke, which was not for some time, and when she did so she was calmer and more composed. He then talked to her very soothingly, but did not enter into any of the details of her husband's death, beyond the fact that it was the result of an accident, and that he had died at Rochester, and would be buried there; that he had sent for him, and that he had been with him to the end, and that her name had been the last word on his lips. The doctor told her he would return again in a few days to see her, and that she must not disquiet herself about the future, for that he would take care of her and her child as if they were his own.
"I should think," I said, "that Mr. Harmer was shown this secret hiding-place at the time when he first knew of the chamber itself; that is, when he went into it as a boy with his father."
Suddenly she paused in the midst of her devotions; for amidst the roar and shriek of the wind she thought she heard the wild cry of a person in distress. She listened awhile; there was no repetition of the sound, and again she knelt, and tried to continue her prayers; but tried in vain: she could not divest herself of the idea that it was a human cry, and she again rose to her feet. Stories she had heard of burglaries and robbers came across her. She knew that there was a good deal of valuable plate in the house; and then the thought, for the first time, occurred to her, that perhaps it was her sister's voice that she had heard. She did not hesitate an instant now, but went to a table placed against the bed on which lay two pistols: curious articles to be found in a lady's bedroom, and that lady more than seventy years old. But Miss Harmer was prepared for an emergency like this. For the last year Father Eustace had been warning her of the danger of it; not perhaps that he had any idea that a burglary would actually be attempted, but he wished to be resident in the house, and to this, with her characteristic obstinacy when she had once made up her mind to anything, she refused to assent. The Harmers' chaplains she said never had been resident; there was a house in the village belonging to them, which they had built specially for their chaplains to reside in, and which they had so inhabited for more than a hundred years, and she did not see why there should be any change now. Father Eustace had urged that the sisters slept in a part of the building far removed from the domestics, and that if the house were entered by burglars they might not be heard even if they screamed ever so loud.
It was to me an evening of enchantment. The opera was "Lucrezia Borgia," with Alboni as Orsini, and I had never before conceived it possible that the human voice was capable of producing such exquisite full liquid notes as those which poured from her, seemingly without the slightest effort. It was marvellous, and I was literally enchanted; and even between the acts I did not recover sufficiently from the effect it produced on me to listen to Ada, who wanted to talk, and tell me who every one was in the different boxes.
"Did you take anything?"
"Yes, Miss, she has just come down into the drawing-room."
I told him all about what I had been doing, where I had gone, and everything I could think of likely to amuse him, and was still in the middle of my story when Miss Harmer came in.