The object of her visit--so far as she explained it at the outset--appeared to be to offer her congratulations on my recovery. Even those commonplace words were made interesting by her delicious voice. But, however sensitive to sweet sounds a man may be, there are limits to his capacity for deceiving himself--especially when he happens to be enlightened by experience of humanity within the walls of a prison. I had, it may be remembered, already doubted the lady's good temper, judging from her husband's overwrought description of her virtues. Her eyes looked at me furtively; and her manner, gracefully self-possessed as it was, suggested that she had something of a delicate, or disagreeable nature, to say to me, and that she was at a loss how to approach the subject so as to produce the right impression on my mind at the outset. There was a momentary silence between us. For the sake of saying something, I asked how she and the Minister liked their new place of residence.
"Our new place of residence," she answered, "has been made interesting by a very unexpected event--an event (how shall I describe it?) which has increased our happiness, and enlarged our family circle."
There she stopped; expecting me, as I fancied, to guess what she meant. A woman, and that woman a mother, might have fulfilled her anticipations. A man, and that man not listening attentively, was simply puzzled.
"Pray excuse my stupidity," I said; "I don't quite understand you."
The lady's temper looked at me out of the lady's shifting eyes, and hid itself again in a moment. She set herself right in my estimation by taking the whole blame of our little misunderstanding on her own innocent shoulders.
"I ought to have spoken more plainly, she said. "Let me try what I can do now. After many years of disappointment in my married life, it has pleased providence to bestow on me the happiness--the inexpressible happiness--of being a mother. My baby is a sweet little girl, and my one regret is that I cannot nurse her myself."
My languid interest in the Minister's wife was not stimulated by the announcement of this domestic event.
I felt no wish to see the "sweet little girl;" I was not even reminded of another example of long-deferred maternity, which had occurred within the limits of my own family circle. All my sympathies attach to the sad little figure of the adopted child. I remembered the poor baby