“Except a fool’s head—humph!”
The sound of a carriage here set all ears on full stretch, and presently the well-known pea-green drew up.
“Dear me! Bless me! Goodness me!” shrieked the three ladies at once. “Surely, Lady Maclaughlan, you can’t—you don’t—you won’t; this must be a mistake.”
“There’s no mistake in the matter, girls,” replied their friend, with her accustomed sang froid. “I’m going home; so I ordered the carriage; that’s all—humph!”
“Going home!” faintly murmured the disconsolate spinsters.
“What! I suppose you think I ought to stay here and have another petticoat spoiled; or lose another half-crown at cards; or have the finishing stroke put to Sir Sampson—humph!”
“Oh! Lady Maclaughlan!” was three times uttered in reproachful accents.
“I don’t know what else I should stay for; you are not yourselves, girls; you’ve all turned topsy-turvy. I’ve visited here these twenty years, and I never saw things in the state they are now—humph!”
“I declare it’s very true,” sighed Miss Grizzy; “we certainly are a little in confusion, that can’t be denied.”
“Denied! Why, can you deny that my petticoat’s ruined?” Can you deny that my pocket was picked of half-a-crown for nothing? Can you deny that Sir Sampson has been half-poisoned? And—–”
“My Lady Maclaughlan,” interrupted the enraged husband, “I—I—I am surprised—I am shocked! Zounds, my Lady, I won’t suffer this! I cannot stand it;” and pushing his tea-cup away, he arose, and limped to the window. Philistine here entered to inform his mistress that “awthing was ready.” “Steady, boys, steady! I always am ready,” responded the Lady in a tone adapted to the song. “Now I am ready; say nothing, girls—you know my rules. Here, Philistine, wrap up Sir Sampson, and put him in. Get along, my love. Good-bye, girls; and I hope you will all be restored to your right senses soon.”
“Oh, Lady Maclaughlan!” whined the weeping Grizzy, as she embraced her friend, who, somewhat melted at the signs of her distress, bawled out from the carriage, as the door was shut, “Well, God bless you, girls, and make you what you have been; and come to Lochmarlie Castle soon, and bring your wits along with you.”
The carriage then drove off, and the three disconsolate sisters returned to the parlour to hold a cabinet council as to the causes of the late disasters.
“If there be cure or charm
To respite or relieve, or slack the pain
Of this ill mansion.”
TIME, which generally alleviates ordinary distresses, served only to augment the severity of Lady Juliana’s, as day after day rolled heavily on, and found her still an inmate of Glenfern Castle. Destitute of very resource in herself, she yet turned with contempt from the scanty sources of occupation or amusement that were suggested by others; and Mrs. Douglas’s attempts to teach her to play at chess and read Shakespeare were as unsuccessful as the endeavours of the good aunts to persuade her to study Fordyce’s Sermons and make baby linen.