Now it so happened that, looking for one thing, she found another which gave her great hopes and courage. And then the sight of Alfred's misery tried her patience, and then he was beginning half to suspect her of stopping his letters. Passion, impatience, pity, and calculation, all drove her the same road, and led to an extraordinary scene, so impregnated with the genius of the madhouse--a place where the passions run out to the very end of their tether--that I feel little able to describe it. I will try and indicate it.
One fine Sunday afternoon, then, she asked Alfred languidly would he like to walk in the country.
"Would I like? Ah, don't trifle with a prisoner," said he sorrowfully.
She shook her head. "No, no, it will not be a happy walk. Rooke, who hates you, is to follow us with that terrible mastiff, to pull you down if you try to escape. I could not get Dr. Wolf to consent on any other terms. Alfred, let us give up the idea. I fear your rashness."
"No, no, I won't try to escape--from you. I have not seen a blade of grass this six months."
The accomplished dissembler hesitated, yielded. They passed through the yard and out at the back door, which Alfred had so often looked wistfully at; and by-and-by reached a delicious pasture. A light golden haze streamed across it. Nature never seemed so sweet, so divine, to Alfred before; the sun as bright as midsummer, though not the least hot, the air fresh, yet genial, and perfumed with Liberty and the smaller flowers of earth. Beauty glided rustling by his side, and dark eyes subdued their native fire into softness whenever they turned on him; and scarce fifty yards in the rear hung a bully and a mastiff ready to tear him down if he should break away from beauty's light hand, that rested so timidly on his. He was young, and stout-hearted, and relished his peep of liberty and nature, though blotted by Vulcan and Rooke. He chatted to Mrs. Archbold in good spirits. She answered briefly, and listlessly.
At last she stopped under a young chestnut-tree as if overcome with a sudden reflection, and turning half away from him leaned her head and hand upon a bough, and sighed. The attitude was pensive and womanly. He asked her with innocent concern what was the matter; then faintly should he take her home. All her answer was to press his hand with hers that was disengaged, and, instead of sighing, to cry.
The novice in woman's wiles set himself to comfort her--in vain; to question her--in vain at first; but by degrees she allowed him to learn that it was for him she mourned; and so they proceeded on the old, old plan, the man extorting from the woman bit by bit just so much as she wanted all along to say, and would have poured in a stream if let quite alone.