The house was so still that I heard the girls light step up-stairs. On her return, she brought a message, to the effect that Mrs. Steerforth was an invalid and could not come down; but, that if I would excuse her being in her chamber, she would be glad to see me. In a few moments I stood before her.
She was in his room; not in her own. I felt, of course, that she had taken to occupy it, in remembrance of him; and that the many tokens of his old sports and accomplishments, by which she was surrounded, remained there, just as he had left them, for the same reason. She murmured, however, even in her reception of me, that she was out of her own chamber because its aspect was unsuited to her infirmity; and with her stately look repelled the least suspicion of the truth.
At her chair, as usual, was Rosa Dartle. From the first moment of her dark eyes resting on me, I saw she knew I was the bearer of evil tidings. The scar sprang into view that instant. She withdrew herself a step behind the chair, to keep her own face out of Mrs. Steerforths observation; and scrutinised me with a piercing gaze that never faltered, never shrank.
I am sorry to observe you are in mourning, Sir, said Mrs. Steerforth.
I am unhappily a widower, said I.
You are very young to know so great a loss, she returned. I am grieved to hear it. I am grieved to hear it. I hope Time will be good to you.
I hope Time, said I, looking at her, will be good to all of us. Dear Mrs. Steerforth, we must all trust to that, in our heaviest misfortunes.
The earnestness of my manner, and the tears in my eyes, alarmed her. The whole course of her thoughts appeared to stop, and change.
I tried to command my voice in gently saying his name, but it trembled. She repeated it to herself, two or three times, in a low tone. Then, addressing me, she said, with enforced calmness
My son is ill.
You have seen him?
Are you reconciled?
I could not say Yes, I could not say No. She slightly turned her head towards the spot where Rosa Dartle had been standing at her elbow, and in that moment I said, by the motion of my lips, to Rosa, Dead!
That Mrs. Steerforth might not be induced to look behind her, and read, plainly written, what she was not yet prepared to know, I met her look quickly; but I had seen Rosa Dartle throw her hands up in the air with vehemence of despair and horror, and then clasp them on her face.
The handsome ladyso like, Oh so like!regarded me with a fixed look, and put her hand to her forehead. I besought her to be calm, and prepare herself to bear what I had to tell; but I should rather have entreated her to weep, for she sat like a stone figure.
When I was last here, I faltered, Miss Dartle told me he was sailing here and there. The night before last was a dreadful one at sea. If he were at sea that night, and near a dangerous coast, as it is said he was; and if the vessel that was seen should really be the ship which
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