was not possible to see his face plainly enough, from the open side of the bed, to arrive at any definite conclusion as to what was passing in his mind. After having been awake for some hours during the earlier part of the night he had enjoyed a long and undisturbed sleep. "I feel stronger this morning," he said, "and I wish to speak to you while my mind is clear."
If the quiet tone of his voice was not an assumed tone, he was surely ignorant of all that had passed between his daughter and myself.
" Eunice will be here soon," he proceeded, "and I ought to explain why I have sent for her to come and meet you. I have reasons, serious reasons, mind, for wishing you to compare her personal appearance with Helena's personal appearance. Wait and hear why! I want you to observe them carefully and then to tell me which of the two, on a fair comparison, looks the oldest. Pray bear in mind that I attach the greatest importance to the conclusion at which you may arrive."
He spoke more clearly and collectedly than I had heard him speak yet. Here and there I detected hesitations and repetitions, which I have purposely passed over. The substance of what he said to me is all that I shall present in this place. Careful as I have been to keep my record of events within strict limits, I have written at a length which I was far indeed from contemplating when I accepted Mr. Gracedieu's invitation.
Having promised to comply with the strange request which he had addressed to me, I ventured to remind him of the past occasions on which he had alluded to his daughters, and had pointedly abstained, when the subject presented itself, from speaking of their ages. "You have left it to my discretion," I added, "to decide a question in which you are seriously interested, relating to these two young ladies. Have I no excuse for regretting that I have not been admitted to your confidence a little more freely?"
"You have every excuse," he answered. "But you trouble me all the same. There was something else that I had to say to you--and your curiosity gets in the way."
He said this with a sullen emphasis. In my position the worst of evils was suspense. I told him that my curiosity could wait, and I begged that he would relieve his mind of what was pressing on it at the moment.
"Let me think a little," he said.