“Oh! I can’t—I can’t go to the window, I can’t, indeed.”
“I’ll open the window and speak to the people,” said Miss Dragwell; and she threw up the sash, informing the gaping multitude that Mrs Forster was quite out of her senses, but perfectly harmless.
“Perfectly harmless, after killing a man!” observed one of the party below.
“They won’t believe me, Mrs Forster; come, you must, or you will certainly be hanged.”
Urged by her fears, Mrs Forster approached the window, and showed herself to the astonished crowd. “Curtsey to them,” said Miss Dragwell, holding her handkerchief before her mouth.
Mrs Forster curtsied.
“Smile upon them,” continued the malicious young lady.
Mrs Forster grinned horribly.
“Now dance your cat.”
Mrs Forster obeyed the injunction.
“Now give a loud shriek, and toss the cat out of window.”
Mrs Forster uttered a hideous yell, and threw the animal at the heads of the spectators, who retreated with alarm in every direction.
“Now burst into a fit of laughter, curtsey to them, and wave your hand, and that will be sufficient.”
Mrs Forster obeyed the last order, and Miss Dragwell shut the window. In a few minutes the report spread that Mrs Forster had gone out of her senses; and the murder of Mr Spinney—a topic which was nearly exhausted—was dismissed for the time to dwell and comment upon the second catastrophe.
“Mad as the sea and wind, when both
contend which is the mightier.”
“So far we have succeeded, my dear Mrs Forster,” said Miss Dragwell; “I will now return home, and come back as soon as I can with the post-chaise. Mr Ramsden’s servant shall come with me to conduct you to the asylum, and I trust in a quarter of an hour to see you clear of these foolish people of Overton, who think that you are the party in fault: you had better remain in your room, and not appear again at the window; the crowd will disperse when they are tired of watching: good-bye, my dear Mrs Forster, good-bye.”
Mrs Forster was in too sulky a humour to vouchsafe an answer; and Miss Dragwell quitted the house. Betsy had taken advantage of the turmoil and the supposed lunacy of her mistress to gossip in the neighbourhood. Nicholas Forster was in the shop, but took no notice of Miss Dragwell as she passed through. He appeared to have forgotten all that had occurred, and was very busy filing at his bench. There we must leave him, and follow the motions of the mischief-loving Miss Dragwell.
Upon her return, the party collected at the parsonage considered that they had proceeded far enough; but Miss Dragwell thought otherwise; she had made up her mind that Mrs Forster should pass a day or two in the Lunatic Asylum; and she felt assured that Mr Ramsden, through whose assistance her intention must be accomplished, would not venture to dispute her wishes.