There are some days on which all ills gather together as at a meeting. This is one. Barbara is prostrated by a violent headache, and is in such thorough physical pain that even she cannot sympathize with me. Mr. Musgrave never makes his now daily appearance—he comes, as I jubilantly notice, as regularly as the postman—until late in the afternoon. All day, therefore, I must refrain myself and be silent. And I am never one for brooding with private dumbness over my woes. I much prefer to air them by expression and complaint. About noon it strikes me that, faute de mieux, I will go and see Mrs. Huntley, tell her suddenly that Roger is not coming back, and see if she looks vexed or confused or grieved. Accordingly, soon after luncheon, I set off in the pony-carriage. It is a quiet sultry-looking unclouded day. One uniform livery of mist clothes sky and earth, dimming the glories of the dying leaves, and making them look dull and sodden. Every thing has a drenched air: each crimson bramble-leaf is clothed in rain-drops, and yet it is not raining. The air is thick and heavy, and one swallows it like something solid, but it is not raining: in fact, it is an English fine day.
Under the delusive idea that it is warm, or at least not cold, I have protected my face with no veil, my hands with no mittens; so that, long before I reach the shelter of the Portugal laurels that warmly hem in and border Mrs. Huntley’s little graveled sweep, the end of my nose feels like an icy promontory at a great distance from me, and my hands do not feel at all. Mrs. Huntley is at home. Wise woman! I knew that she would be. I suppose that I follow on the footsteps of the butler more quickly than is usual, for, as the door opens, and before I can get a view of the inmate or inmates, I hear a hurried noise of scrambling, as of some one suddenly jumping up. For a little airy woman who looks as if one could blow her away—puff!—like a morsel of thistle-down or a snowball, what a heavy foot Mrs. Huntley has! The next moment, I am disabused. Mrs. Huntley has clearly not moved. It was not she that scrambled. She is lying back in a deep arm-chair, her silky head gently denting the flowered cushion, the points of two pretty shoes slightly advanced toward the fire, and a large feather fan leisurely waving to and fro, in one white hand. Beyond the fan movement she is not doing any thing that I can detect.
“How do you do?” say I, bustling in, in a hurry to reach the fire. “How comfortable you look! how cold it is!—Algy!” For the enigma of the noise is solved. It was Algy who shuffled and scuffled—yes, scuffled up from the low stool which he has evidently been sharing with the pretty shoes—at Mrs. Huntley’s feet, on to his long legs, on which he is now standing, not at all at ease. He does not answer.
“ALGY!” repeat I, in a tone of the profoundest, accentedest surprise, involuntarily turning my back upon my hostess and facing my brother.