’"But you’ll ask about my mysterious dame in the new bonnet and velvet mantle; she was sitting on a stool at the counter, not buying, but evidently selling a quantity of stones and trinkets which she had in a card-box, and the man was picking them up one by one, and, I suppose, valuing them. I was near enough to see such a darling little pearl cross, with at least half a dozen really good pearls in it, and had begun to covet them for my set, when the lady glanced over my shoulder, and she knew me—in fact, we knew one another—and who do you think she was? Well—you’ll not guess in a week, and I can’t wait so long; so I may as well tell you at once—she was that horrid old Mademoiselle Blassemare whom you pointed out to me at Elverston; and I never forgot her face since—nor she, it seems, mine, for she turned away very quickly, and when I next saw her, her veil was down."’
’Did not you tell me, Maud, that you had lost your pearl cross while that dreadful Madame de la Rougierre was here?’
’I know; but what has she to do with Mademoiselle de Blassemare, you were going to say—they are one and the same person.’
‘Oh, I perceive,’ answered I, with that dim sense of danger and dismay with which one hears suddenly of an enemy of whom one has lost sight for a time.
’I’ll write and tell Georgie to buy that cross. I wager my life it is yours,’ said Lady Knollys, firmly.
The servants, indeed, made no secret of their opinion of Madame de la Rougierre, and frankly charged her with a long list of larcenies. Even Anne Wixted, who had enjoyed her barren favour while the gouvernante was here, hinted privately that she had bartered a missing piece of lace belonging to me with a gipsy pedlar, for French gloves and an Irish poplin.
‘And so surely as I find it is yours, I’ll set the police in pursuit.’
‘But you must not bring me into court,’ said I, half amused and half alarmed.
‘No occasion, my dear; Mary Quince and Mrs. Rusk can prove it perfectly.’
‘And why do you dislike her so very much?’ I asked.
Cousin Monica leaned back in her chair, and searched the cornice from corner to corner with upturned eyes for the reason, and at last laughed a little, amused at herself.
’Well, really, it is not easy to define, and, perhaps, it is not quite charitable; but I know I hate her, and I know, you little hypocrite, you hate her as much as I;’ and we both laughed a little.
‘But you must tell me all you know of her history.’
‘Her history?’ echoed she. ’I really know next to nothing about it; only that I used to see her sometimes about the place that Georgina mentions, and there were some unpleasant things said about her; but you know they may be all lies. The worst I know of her is her treatment of you, and her robbing the desk’—(Cousin Monica always called it her robbery)—’and I think that’s enough to hang her. Suppose we go out for a walk?’