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STEWART ROUTH was as hard a man as could
readily be found, but his hardness was not
proof against his meeting with George Dallas,
and he showed Harriet how great a trial it was
to him, and how much he feared his own
constancy, when he told her he thought she had
better not be present at their meeting. The
curse of an unholy alliance had fallen upon
these two, and was now beginning to make
itself felt. Each was desirous to conceal from
the other the devices to which they were
compelled to resort, in order to keep up the false
appearances to which they were condemned; in
all their life there was no time in which they
were free from restraint, except in solitude.
But, though the effect was in each case the
same, the origin was widely different. Harriet
suffered for her husband's sake; he, entirely for
his own. He had calculated that if anything in
his appearance, voice, and manner, should escape
his control, George would be certain to impute
it to the natural feelings of horror and regret
with which he would have received the intelligence
conveyed to him by Harriet, of George's
discovery of the identity of the murdered man.

"You had better remain up-stairs until I
call you," Routh had said to Harriet, "when
Dallas comes to dinner. It will be easier for
you," he added. Harriet was sitting listlessly
by her dressing-table while he spoke, and he
stood behind her chair, and looked gloomily at
the reflexion of her face in the glass.

She smiled faintly. "Thank you, Stewart,"
she said; "it will be easier." Then, after a brief
pause, "Would you very much mind my not
going down to dinner at all?"

So far from minding it, Routh instantly felt
that her absence would be a great relief. It
would enable him to sound George thoroughly,
to scheme upon whatever discoveries he should
make concerning his future plans; and then,
Harriet had done all the hard work, had
prepared the way for him, had got over the
difficulty and the danger. A little unpleasantness,
some disagreeable emotion, must indeed be
encountered, that was inevitable, but everything
might go off well, and if so, Harriet's restraining
presence, Harriet's face, with its constant
reminder in it, would be much better out of sight.

"Not at all," he answered. "Stay up-stairs
if you like. I'll tell Dallas you are a little
knocked up, but will be all right in the morning."

"He will not be surprised, I dare say," she
replied, "though it was not my way to be
knocked up, formerly."

"Nor to be always harping on one string,
either; and I can't say there's a change for the
better," said Routh, roughly. Once or twice
of late the innate ruffianism of the man had
come out towards her, from whom it had once
been so scrupulously concealed. But she did not
heed it; not a quiver crossed the drooping rigid
face, at which Routh once more glanced covertly
before he left the room. It would have been
impossible to tell whether she had even heard him.

Routh went down to the well-appointed dining-
room, so different to the scene of the dinners
of which George had formerly partaken, in the
character of his guest. Wherever Harriet was,
neatness and propriety never were absent, but
there was something more than neatness and
propriety in Routh's house now. Nevertheless,
the look which the master of the house
cast upon the well-laid, well-lighted table, with
its perfect, unobtrusive, unpretentious appointments,
was full of gloom. He wished he had
not come down so soon; the inevitable meeting
assumed a more portentous aspect with every
minute that it was delayed; he wished he had
not told Harriet to remain in her room. The
fact was, Routh was staggered by the first
failure of his plans. Everything had gone so
right with him; his calculations had been
fulfilled so exactly, so unfailingly, until now, and
this unexpected accident had befallen through
a blunder of his own. True, Harriet had met
it with amazing tact, and had so treated it, that
if only it could be further dexterously managed,
it might be turned to ultimate advantage, and
an incalculable strengthening of his position.
Let him keep his thoughts to that view of the
question, and keep his nerves still. Were they
going to play him false now, his nerves, which
had never failed him before? So Mr. Stewart
Routh passed a very unpleasant quarter of an
hour before his expected guest arrived. He
had just had recourse, as much in weakness as
in nervousness, to a flask of brandy which stood
on the sideboard, and had drank off half a glassful,