‘No, certainly; he’s in debt,’ she answered. ’But then, how very highly Doctor Clay spoke of him!’ I pursued.
’Don’t talk of Doctor Clay. I do think that man is the greatest goose I ever heard talk. I have no patience with such men,’ she replied.
I tried to remember what particular nonsense Doctor Clay had uttered, and I could recollect nothing, unless his eulogy upon my uncle were to be classed with that sort of declamation.
’Danvers is a very proper man and a good accountant, I dare say; but he is either a very deep person, or a fool—I believe a fool. As for your attorney, I suppose he knows his business, and also his interest, and I have no doubt he will consult it. I begin to think he best man among them, the shrewdest and the most reliable, is that vulgar visionary in the black wig. I saw him look at you, Maud, and I liked his face, though it is abominably ugly and vulgar, and cunning, too; but I think he’s a just man, and I dare say with right feelings—I’m sure he has.’
I was quite at a loss to divine the gist of my cousin’s criticism.
’I’ll have some talk with Dr. Bryerly; I feel convinced he takes my view, and we must really think what had best be done.’
‘Is there anything in the will, Cousin Monica, that does not appear?’ I asked, for I was growing very uneasy. ’I wish you would tell me. What view do you mean?’
’No view in particular; the view that a desolate old park, and the house of a neglected old man, who is very poor, and has been desperately foolish, is not the right place for you, particularly at your years. It is quite shocking, and I will speak to Doctor Bryerly. May I ring the bell, dear?’
‘Certainly;’ and I rang it.
‘When does he leave Knowl?’
I could not tell. Mrs. Rusk, however, was sent for, and she could tell us that he had announced his intention of taking the night train from Drackleton, and was to leave Knowl for that station at half-past six o’clock.
‘May Rusk give or send him a message from me, dear?’ asked Lady Knollys.
Of course she might.
’Then please let him know that I request he will be so good as to allow me a very few minutes, just to say a word before he goes.’
‘You kind cousin!’ I said, placing my two hands on her shoulders, and looking earnestly in her face; ’you are anxious about me, more than you say. Won’t you tell me why? I am much more unhappy, really, in ignorance, than if I understood the cause.’
’Well, dear, haven’t I told you? The two or three years of your life which are to form you are destined to be passed in utter loneliness, and, I am sure, neglect. You can’t estimate the disadvantage of such an arrangement. It is full of disadvantages. How it could have entered the head of poor Austin—although I should not say that, for I am sure I do understand it,—but how he could for any purpose have directed such a measure is quite inconceivable. I never heard of anything so foolish and abominable, and I will prevent it if I can.’