'Not till the night coach, surely? I was to take you and Mistress Dorothy to see Mr Benjamin West, the king's painter.'
''Let kings and painters alone lad; I be going home to my Dolly.'
'Mr Everest used many arguments, gay and grave, upon which I hung with earnest conviction and hope. He made things so clear always; he was a man of much brighter parts than my father, and had great influence over him.
''Dorothy,' he whispered, 'help me to persuade the Doctor. It is so little time I beg for, only a few hours; and before so long a parting.' Ay, longer than he thought, or I.
''Children,' cried my father at last, 'you are a couple of fools. Wait till you have been married twenty years. I must go to my Dolly. I know there is something amiss at home.'
'I should have felt alarmed, but I saw Mr Everest smile; and besides, I was yet glowing under his fond look, as my father spoke of our being 'married twenty years'.
''Father, you have surely no reason for thinking this? If you have, tell us.'
'My father just lifted his head, and looked me woefully in the face.
''Dorothy, last night, as sure as I see you now, I saw your mother.'
''Is that all?' cried Mr Everest, laughing; 'why, my good sir, of course you did; you were dreaming.'
''I had not gone to sleep.'
''How did you see her?'
''Coming into the room just as she used to do in the bedroom at home, with the candle in her hand and the baby asleep on her arm.'
''Did she speak?' asked Mr Everest, with another and rather satirical smile; 'remember, you saw Hamlet last night. Indeed, sir -- indeed, Dorothy -- it was a mere dream. I do not believe in ghosts; it would be an insult to common sense, to human wisdom -- nay, even to Divinity itself.'
'Edmond spoke so earnestly, so justly, so affectionately, that perforce I agreed; and even my father became to feel rather ashamed of his own weakness. He, a physician, the head of a family, to yield to a mere superstitious fancy, springing probably from a hot supper and an overexcited brain! To the same cause Mr Everest attributed the other incident, which somewhat hesitatingly I told him.
''Dear, it was a bird; nothing but a bird. One flew in at my window last spring; it had hurt itself, and I kept it, and nursed it, and petted it. It was such a pretty, gentle little thing, it put me in mind of Dorothy.'
''Did it?' said I.
''And at last it got well and flew away.'
''Ah! that was not like Dorothy.'
'Thus, my father being persuaded, it was not hard to persuade me. We settled to remain till evening. Edmond and I, with my maid Patty, went about together, -- chiefly in Mr West's Gallery, and in the quiet shade of our favourite Temple Gardens. And if for those four stolen hours, and the sweetness in them, I afterwards suffered untold remorse and bitterness, I have entirely forgiven myself, as I know my dear mother would have forgiven me, long ago.'
Mrs MacArthur stopped, wiped her eyes, and then continued -- speaking more in the matter-of-fact way that old people speak than she had been lately doing.
'Well, my dear, where was I?'
'In the Temple Gardens.'
'Yes, yes. Well, we came home to dinner. My father always enjoyed his dinner, and his nap afterwards; he had nearly recovered himself now: only looked tired from loss of rest. Edmond and I sat in the window, watching the barges and wherries down the Thames; there were no steam-boats then, you know.
'Some one knocked at the door with a message for my father, but he slept so heavily he did not hear. Mr Everest went to see what it was; I stood at the window. I remember mechanically watching the red sail of a Margate hoy that was going down the river, and thinking with a sharp pang how dark the room seemed, in a moment, with Edmond not there.
'Re-entering, after a somewhat long absence, he never looked at me, but went straight to my father.
''Sir, it is almost time for you to start' (oh! Edmond). 'There is a coach at the door; and, pardon me, but I think you should travel quickly.'
'My father sprang to his feet.
''Dear sir, indeed there is no need for anxiety now; but I have received news. You have another little daughter, sir, and --'