And thus she literally hurried him out of the room, leaving me in a state of amazement and confusion, not able to review my decision—unsatisfied, but still unable to recall it.
I stood where they had left me, looking after them, I suppose, like a fool.
Lady Knollys returned in a few minutes. If I had been a little cooler I was shrewd enough to perceive that she had sent poor Doctor Bryerly away upon his travels, to find board and lodging half-way to Bartram, to remove him forthwith from my presence, and thus to make my decision—if mine it was—irrevocable.
‘I applaud you, my dear,’ said Cousin Knollys, in her turn embracing me heartily. ’You are a sensible little darling, and have done exactly what you ought to have done.’
‘I hope I have,’ I faltered.
‘Hope? fiddle! stuff! the thing’s as plain as a pikestaff.’
And in came Branston to say that dinner was served.
HOW THE AMBASSADOR FARED
Lady Knollys, I could plainly see, when we got into the brighter lights at the dinner table, was herself a good deal excited; she was relieved and glad, and was garrulous during our meal, and told me all her early recollections of dear papa. Most of them I had heard before; but they could not be told too often.
Notwithstanding my mind sometimes wandered, often indeed, to the conference so unexpected, so suddenly decisive, possibly so momentous; and with a dismayed uncertainly, the question—had I done right?—was always before me.
I dare say my cousin understood my character better, perhaps, after all my honest self-study, then I do even now. Irresolute, suddenly reversing my own decisions, impetuous in action as she knew me, she feared, I am sure, a revocation of my commission to Doctor Bryerly, and thought of the countermand I might send galloping after him.
So, kind creature, she laboured to occupy my thoughts, and when one theme was exhausted found another, and had always her parry prepared as often as I directed a reflection or an enquiry to the re-opening of the question which she had taken so much pains to close.
That night I was troubled. I was already upbraiding myself. I could not sleep, and at last sat up in bed, and cried. I lamented my weakness in having assented to Doctor Bryerly’s and my cousin’s advice. Was I not departing from my engagement to my dear papa? Was I not consenting that my Uncle Silas should be induced to second my breach of faith by a corresponding perfidy?
Lady Knollys had done wisely in despatching Doctor Bryerly so promptly; for, most assuredly, had he been at Knowl next morning when I came down I should have recalled my commission.
That day in the study I found four papers which increased my perturbation. They were in dear papa’s handwriting, and had an indorsement in these words—’Copy of my letter addressed to ——, one of the trustees named in my will.’ Here, then, were the contents of those four sealed letters which had excited mine and Lady Knollys’ curiosity on the agitating day on which the will was read.