Alfred rose, pale and defiant. "That is _her_ notion of justice," said he bitterly; "pray is it yours, you two?"
"Well, since you ask my opinion," said Edward, "I think it was rather presumptuous of you to undertake the care of my father: and, having undertaken it, you ought not to have left him a moment out of your sight."
"Oh, that is your opinion, is it? And you, dear Julia?"
Julia made no reply, but hid her face in her hands and sighed deeply.
"I see," said Alfred sorrowfully. "Even you are against me at heart. You judge by the event, not the motive. There is no justice in this world for me. I'm sick of life. I have no right to keep the mistress of the house out of her own room: there, I'll go, my heart is broken. No, it is not, and never shall be, by anything that breathes. Thank Heaven, I have got one friend left in this bitter world: and I'll make her the judge whether I have deserved this last injustice. _I'll go to my sister._"
He jumped up and hobbled slowly across the room, while Julia and Edward sat chilled to the bone by those five little words, so simple, so natural, yet so incredible, and to the hearers so awful. They started, they shuddered, they sat petrified, staring at him, while he hobbled across the room to go to his sister.
As he opened the door to go out he heard stout Edward groan and Julia utter a low wail. He stood confounded a moment. Then he hobbled down a stair or two. But, ere he had gone far, there was a hasty whispering in the drawing-room, and Edward came after him in great agitation, and begged him to return; Julia must speak with him. He turned, and his face brightened. Edward saw that, and turned his own face away and stammered out, "Forget what I said to you. I am your friend, and always must be for her sake. No, no, I cannot go into that room with you; I'll go and comfort mamma. Hardie, old fellow, we are very unhappy, all of us. We are too unhappy to quarrel."
These kind words soothed Alfred's sore heart. He brightened up and entered the drawing-room. He found Julia standing in the middle of it, the colour of ashes. Alfred was alarmed. "You are unwell, dearest," he cried; "you will faint. What have I done with my ungoverned temper?" He moved towards her with a face full of concern.