“Do not!” cry I, eagerly, catching at his wrists in detention, “it was not his fault! he could not help it; but” (mopping first one eye and then the other, and finishing by a dolorous blast on my nose) “but I am so disappointed, every thing is so changed, and I know I shall miss him so much!” I end with a break in my voice, and a long whimper.
“Miss him! miss whom?”
“The ge-general!” reply I, indistinctly, from the recesses of a drenched pocket-handkerchief.
“But what is going to happen to him? where is he going to? I wish that you would be a little more intelligible,” cry they all, impatiently.
“He is going to the West Indies, to Antigua,” reply I, lifting my face and speaking with a slow dejection.
“To Antigua I” cries Algy; “but what in the world is going to take him there?”
“Perhaps,” says Bobby, in a loud aside to Tou Tou, “perhaps he has got another wife out there—a black one—and he thinks it is her turn now!”
Barbara says, “Hush!” and Tou Tou is beginning to embark on a long argument to prove that a man cannot have more than one wife at a time, when she is summarily hustled into silence, for I speak again.
“He has some property in the West Indies—I knew he had before—” (with a passing flash of pride in my superior information)—“I dare say you did not—and he has to go out there to look after it.”
“By himself, worse luck!” reply I, despondently, reinterring my countenance in my pocket-handkerchief.
“And you decline to accompany him? Well, I think you are about right!” says Algy, rising, lounging over to the empty hearth, and looking at his face with a glance of serious fondness in the glass that hangs above the mantelshelf.
“I do nothing of the kind!” cry I, indignantly, “I have not the chance! he will not take me!”
I am not looking-at him, nor, indeed, in his direction at all; but I am aware that Bobby is giving Tou Tou a private and severe nudge, which means “Attend! here is confirmation of my theory for you!” and that the idea of the hypothetical black lady is again traversing his ingenuous mind.
“I hope he will bring us some Jamaica ginger,” he says, presently.
“I wish you would mention it, Nancy! the suggestion would come best from you, would not it?”
“And you are to be left alone at Tempest? Is that the plan?” asks Algy, turning his eyes from his own face, and fixing them on the less interesting object of mine.
It may be my imagination, but I cannot help fancying that there is a tone of slight and repressed exultation in his voice; and also that a look of hope and bright expectation is passing from one to another of the faces round me. All but Barbara’s! Barbara always understands.
“All alone?” cries Tou Tou, opening her ugly little eyes to their widest stretch. “Nobody but the servants in the house with you? Will not you be very much afraid of ghosts?”