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82. CHAPTER LXXXII (continued)
"No, Ernest," said Theobald excitedly, "the matter cannot rest here, I must know that this is all open and above board."
This had the true Theobald ring and instantly brought the whole train of ideas which in Ernest's mind were connected with his father. The surroundings were the old familiar ones, but the surrounded were changed almost beyond power of recognition. He turned sharply on Theobald in a moment. I will not repeat the words he used, for they came out before he had time to consider them, and they might strike some of my readers as disrespectful; there were not many of them, but they were effectual. Theobald said nothing, but turned almost of an ashen colour; he never again spoke to his son in such a way as to make it necessary for him to repeat what he had said on this occasion. Ernest quickly recovered his temper and again asked after his mother. Theobald was glad enough to take this opening now, and replied at once in the tone he would have assumed towards one he most particularly desired to conciliate, that she was getting rapidly worse in spite of all he had been able to do for her, and concluded by saying she had been the comfort and mainstay of his life for more than thirty years, but that he could not wish it prolonged.
The pair then went upstairs to Christina's room, the one in which Ernest had been born. His father went before him and prepared her for her son's approach. The poor woman raised herself in bed as he came towards her, and weeping as she flung her arms around him, cried: "Oh, I knew he would come, I knew, I knew he could come."
Ernest broke down and wept as he had not done for years.
"Oh, my boy, my boy," she said as soon as she could recover her voice. "Have you never really been near us for all these years? Ah, you do not know how we have loved you and mourned over you, papa just as much as I have. You know he shows his feelings less, but I can never tell you how very, very deeply he has felt for you. Sometimes at night I have thought I have heard footsteps in the garden, and have got quietly out of bed lest I should wake him, and gone to the window to look out, but there has been only dark or the greyness of the morning, and I have gone crying back to bed again. Still I think you have been near us though you were too proud to let us know--and now at last I have you in my arms once more, my dearest, dearest boy."
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