A Rogue's Life
her off. Questioning my informant about Alicia next, I found that he knew very
little about her relations with her father in later years. That she must long since
have discovered him to be not quite so respectable a man as he looked, and that
she might suspect something wrong was going on in the house at the present
time, were, in Old File's opinion, matters of certainty; but that she knew anything
positively on the subject of her father's occupations, he seemed to doubt. The
doctor was not the sort of man to give his daughter, or any other woman, the
slightest chance of surprising his secrets.
These particulars I gleaned during one long month of servitude and imprisonment
in the fatal red-brick house.
During all that time not the slightest intimation reached me of Alicia's
whereabouts. Had she forgotten me? I could not believe it. Unless the dear
brown eyes were the falsest hypocrites in the world, it was impossible that she
should have forgotten me. Was she watched? Were all means of communicating
with me, even in secret, carefully removed from her? I looked oftener and oftener
into the doctor's study as those questions occurred to me; but he never quitted it
without locking the writing-desk first--he never left any papers scattered on the
table, and he was never absent from the room at any special times and seasons
that could be previously calculated upon. I began to despair, and to feel in my
lonely moments a yearning to renew that childish experiment of crying, which I
have already adverted to, in the way of confession. Moralists will be glad to hear
that I really suffered acute mental misery at this time of my life. My state of
depression would have gratified the most exacting of Methodists; and my
penitent face would have made my fortune if I could only have been exhibited by
a reformatory association on the platform of Exeter Hall.
How much longer was this to last? Whither should I turn my steps when I
regained my freedom? In what direction throughout all England should I begin to
look for Alicia?
Sleeping and walking--working and idling--those were now my constant thoughts.
I did my best to prepare myself for every emergency that could happen; I tried to
arm myself beforehand against every possible accident that could befall me.
While I was still hard at work sharpening my faculties and disciplining my
energies in this way, an accident befell the doctor, on the possibility of which I
had not dared to calculate, even in my most hopeful moments.