After the first breathless look round, a low exclamation of disappointment broke from each of us. There was no box or chest of any kind to be seen. The room was a mere cell, a little more than six feet high, eight feet long, and six wide. The walls were of rough stone, which had been whitewashed at no very distant time. The only furniture in it was a small table and an easy chair, both quite modern; indeed, the chair was the fellow to one I remembered in Mr. Harmer's library. On the table stood an inkstand, some pens and paper, and there were some torn scraps of paper on the floor; on picking up one of which I perceived words in Mr. Harmer's well-known handwriting. On the table, too, were placed two or three of his scientific books, and a half-consumed cigar lay beside them.
The evening after Christmas Day I received a note from Sarah, saying, that that morning, she had, in feeling up the chimney, found a projecting knob immediately behind the mantelpiece; that on pressing this it went into the wall, and that every time it did so, she could hear a click, but that she could not find that anything else moved.
"I have come down, Agnes," Percy said, solemnly, "to renew and confirm my engagement to you. I have come down, that you may hear me swear before God that I will never marry any other woman but you."
"I am much obliged to you for calling so speedily," he said, after they had seated themselves. "I have a question which weighs much upon my mind, and which is to me an inexpressibly painful one. Yet it is one which I must ask, and you are the only person of whom I can ask it. I may be mistaken altogether. I may be agitating myself under some wretched misconception; God grant it may be so; and yet I must arrive at the truth. Do you know any young person in the village by the name of Madge? how old is she, who are her parents, and what character does she bear?"
While I was dressing a small parcel was brought up, which had been left at the door for me. It contained a note and a small jewel-box. The note was from Messrs. Hunt and Roskell, saying, "That they had received orders from Mr. Harmer, of Canterbury, to send me a cross, the choice of which he had left with them, and a small chain to suspend it round my neck. That they trusted the jewel would give me satisfaction; but that, if I wished, they would exchange it for any other in their shop, if I would favour them with a call." The contents of the case were a small cross, composed entirely of very large diamonds, of the value of which I had no idea, but which looked very lovely, and a small chain to hang it round my neck. I said nothing to Ada, although the door was open, as I wished to surprise her.
"My dear Sophy, we do not blame you. That was all over long ago; nor could you, at any rate, have possibly foreseen that my children could have been injured by anything you might have done to displease Mr. Harmer. Humanly speaking, the contrary effect might have been anticipated. I only say that great changes have taken place. Your little friend Polly has grown into a very dear, lovable, clever woman; while Agnes has suffered very much. Her engagement with Mr. Desborough has been broken off, and she has been very ill. However, by God's mercy, she has been spared to us, but she is still in a sadly weak state."