As I was making my hurried toilet, she entertained me now and then with more strictly personal criticisms.
‘Your hair’s a shade darker than mine—it’s none the better o’ that though—is it? Mine’s said to be the right shade. I don’t know—what do you say?’
I conceded the point with a good grace.
’I wish my hands was as white though—you do lick me there; but it’s all gloves, and I never could abide ’em. I think I’ll try though—they are very white, sure.’
’I wonder which is the prettiest, you or me? I don’t know, I’m sure—which do you think?’
I laughed outright at this challenge, and she blushed a little, and for the first time seemed for a moment a little shy.
‘Well, you are a half an inch longer than me, I think—don’t you?’
I was fully an inch taller, so I had no difficulty in making the proposed admission.
’Well, you do look handsome! doesn’t she, Quinzy, lass? but your frock comes down almost to your heels—it does.’
And she glanced from mine to hers, and made a little kick up with the heel of the navvy boot to assist her in measuring the comparative distance.
‘Maybe mine’s a thought too short?’ she suggested. ’Who’s there? Oh! it’s you, is it?’ she cried as Mother Hubbard appeared at the door. ’Come in, L’Amour—don’t you know, lass, you’re always welcome?’
She had come to let us know that Uncle Silas would be happy to see me whenever I was ready; and that my cousin Millicent would conduct me to the room where he awaited me.
In an instant all the comic sensations awakened by my singular cousin’s eccentricities vanished, and I was thrilled with awe. I was about to see in the flesh—faded, broken, aged, but still identical—that being who had been the vision and the problem of so many years of my short life.
I thought my odd cousin was also impressed with a kind of awe, though different in degree from mine, for a shade overcast her face, and she was silent as we walked side by side along the gallery, accompanied by the crone who carried the candle which lighted us to the door of that apartment which I may call Uncle Silas’s presence chamber.
Milly whispered to me as we approached—
’Mind how you make a noise; the governor’s as sharp as a weasel, and nothing vexes him like that.’
She was herself toppling along on tiptoe. We paused at a door near the head of the great staircase, and L’Amour knocked timidly with her rheumatic knuckles.
A voice, clear and penetrating, from within summoned us to enter. The old woman opened the door, and the next moment I was in the presence of Uncle Silas.
At the far end of a handsome wainscoted room, near the hearth in which a low fire was burning, beside a small table on which stood four waxlights, in tall silver candlesticks, sat a singular-looking old man.