“I think, sir,” said I, with a very painful air, “that it will be necessary we two should have an explanation.”
“There is nothing amiss?” he asked. “My agent, Mr. Sprott—”
“For God’s sake moderate your voice!” I cried. “She must not hear till we have had an explanation.”
“She is in this place?” cries he.
“That is her chamber door,” said I.
“You are here with her alone?” he asked.
“And who else would I have got to stay with us?” cries I.
I will do him the justice to admit that he turned pale.
“This is very unusual,” said he. “This is a very unusual circumstance. You are right, we must hold an explanation.”
So saying, he passed me by, and I must own the tall old rogue appeared at that moment extraordinary dignified. He had now, for the first time, the view of my chamber, which I scanned (I may say) with his eyes. A bit of morning sun glinted in by the window pane, and showed it off; my bed, my mails, and washing dish, with some disorder of my clothes, and the unlighted chimney, made the only plenishing; no mistake but it looked bare and cold, and the most unsuitable, beggarly place conceivable to harbour a young lady. At the same time came in on my mind the recollection of the clothes that I had bought for her; and I thought this contrast of poverty and prodigality bore an ill appearance.
He looked all about the chamber for a seat, and finding nothing else to his purpose except my bed, took a place upon the side of it; where, after I had closed the door, I could not very well avoid joining him. For however this extraordinary interview might end, it must pass if possible without waking Catriona; and the one thing needful was that we should sit close and talk low. But I can scarce picture what a pair we made; he in his great coat which the coldness of my chamber made extremely suitable; I shivering in my shirt and breeks; he with very much the air of a judge; and I (whatever I looked) with very much the feelings of a man who has heard the last trumpet.
“Well?” says he.
And “Well” I began, but found myself unable to go further.
“You tell me she is here?” said he again, but now with a spice of impatiency that seemed to brace me up.
“She is in this house,” said I, “and I knew the circumstance would be called unusual. But you are to consider how very unusual the whole business was from the beginning. Here is a young lady landed on the coast of Europe with two shillings and a penny halfpenny. She is directed to yon man Sprott in Helvoet. I hear you call him your agent. All I can say is he could do nothing but damn and swear at the mere mention of your name, and I must fee him out of my own pocket even to receive the custody of her effects, You speak of unusual circumstances, Mr. Drummond, if that be the name you prefer. Here was a circumstance, if you like, to which it was barbarity to have exposed her.”