IT was a thunderbolt. Alfred hung his head, and said humbly, "I did but go upstairs for one moment to wash my hands for dinner; and he was gone."
Mrs. Dodd went on in her low stern voice, almost as if he had not answered her at all: "By what right did you assume the charge of him? Did I authorise you to take him from the place where he was safe, and under my eye?"
Alfred replied sullenly: "He was not very safe, for he was almost burnt to death. The fire liberated him, not I. After the fire I ran away from him: he followed me; and then what could I do? I made the best of it; and gave up my own desires to try and cure him. He longed for the sea: I tried to indulge him: I hoped to bring him back to you sane: but fate was against me. I am the most unfortunate of men."
"Mr. Hardie," said Mrs. Dodd, "what you have done was the act of a madman; and, if I believed you to be anything but a madman, the sight of you would be intolerable to me; for you have made me a widow, and my children orphans."
With this she gave a great shudder, and retired in tears.
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?"