And now Richard Hardie, like his son, wanted to be alone, and think over this new peril that had risen in the bosom of his own family, and, for once, the company of his favourite child was irksome: he made an excuse and strolled out in his turn into the silent night. It was calm and clear: the thousand holy eyes, under which men prefer to do their crimes--except when they are in too great a hurry to wait--looked down and seemed to wonder anything can be so silly as to sin; and beneath their pure gaze the man of the world pondered with all his soul. He tormented himself with conjectures: through what channel did Alfred suspect him? Through the Dodds? Were they aware of their loss? Had the pocket-book spoken? If so, why had not Mrs. Dodd or her son attacked him? But then perhaps Alfred was their agent: they wished to try a friendly remonstrance through a mutual friend before proceeding to extremities; this accorded with Mrs. Dodd's character as he remembered her.
The solution was reasonable; but he was relieved of it by recollecting what Alfred had said, that he had not entered the house since the bank broke.
On this he began to hope Alfred's might be a mere suspicion he could not establish by any proof; and at all events, he would lock it in his own breast like a good son: his never having given a hint even to his sister favoured this supposition.
Thus meditating, Mr. Hardie found himself at the gate of Albion Villa.
Yet he had strolled out with no particular intention of going there. Had his mind, apprehensive of danger from that quarter, driven his body thither?
He took a look at the house, and the first thing he saw was a young lady leaning over the balcony, and murmuring softly to a male figure below, whose outline Mr. Hardie could hardly discern, for it stood in the shadow. Mr. Hardie was delighted.
"Aha, Miss Juliet," said he, "if Alfred does not visit you, some one else does. You have soon supplied your peevish lover's place." He then withdrew softly from the gate, not to disturb the intrigue, and watched a few yards off; determined to see who Julia's nightly visitor was, and give Alfred surprise for surprise.
He had not long to wait: the man came away directly, and walked, head erect, past Mr. Hardie, and glanced full in his face, but did not vouchsafe him a word. It was Alfred himself.