MOTHER AND SON
Lady Dunborough stood, as if turned to stone by the news. In the great hall below, a throng of servants, the Pitt livery prominent among them, were hurrying to and fro, with a clatter of dishes and plates, a ceaseless calling of orders, a buzz of talk, and now and then a wrangle. But the lobby and staircase of the west wing, on the first floor of which she stood—and where the great man lay, at the end of a softly lighted passage, his door guarded by a man and a woman seated motionless in chairs beside it—were silent by comparison; the bulk of the guests were still at supper or busy in the east or inferior wing; and my lady had a moment to think, to trace the consequences of this inopportune arrival, and to curse, now more bitterly than before, the failure of her attempt to eject the girl from the house.
However, she was not a woman to lie down to her antagonists, and in the depth of her stupor she had a thought. Her brow relaxed; she clutched the maid’s arm. ‘Quick,’ she whispered, ’go and fetch Mr. Thomasson—he is somewhere below. Bring him here, but do not let Mr. Dunborough see you as you pass! Quick, woman—run!’
The maid flew on her errand, leaving her mistress to listen and fret on the stairs, in a state of suspense almost unbearable. She caught her son’s voice in the entrance hall, from which stately arched doorways led to the side lobbies; but happily he was still at the door, engaged in railing at a servant; and so far all was well. At any moment, however, he might stride into the middle of the busy group in the hall; and then if he saw Thomasson before the tutor had had his lesson, the trick, if not the game, was lost. Her ladyship, scarcely breathing, hung over the balustrade, and at length had the satisfaction of seeing Thomasson and the woman enter the lobby at the foot of the stairs. In a trice the tutor, looking scared, and a trifle sulky—for he had been taken from his meat—stood at her side.
Lady Dunborough drew a breath of relief, and by a sign bade the maid begone. ‘You know who is below?’ she whispered.
Mr. Thomasson nodded. ‘I thought it was what you wished,’ he said, with something in his tone as near mutiny as he dared venture. ’I understood that your ladyship desired to overtake him and reason with him.’
‘But with the girl here?’ she muttered. And yet it was true. Before she had seen this girl, she had fancied the task of turning her son to be well within her powers. Now she gravely doubted the issue; nay, was inclined to think all lost if the pair met. She told the tutor this, in curt phrase; and continued: ’So, do you go down, man, at once, and meet him at the door; and tell him that I am here—he will discover that for himself—but that the hussy is not here. Say she is at Bath or—or anywhere you please.’
Mr. Thomasson hesitated. ‘He will see her,’ he said.