‘Lawk! what brings you here?’ cried Milly, nearly as much startled as I at the intrusion.
‘What brings you here, miss?’ whistled L’Amour through her gums.
‘We’re looking where Charke cut his throat,’ replied Milly.
‘Charke the devil!’ said the old woman, with an odd mixture of scorn and fury. ’’Tisn’t his room; and come ye out of it, please. Master won’t like when he hears how you keep pulling Miss Maud from one room to another, all through the house, up and down.’
She was gabbling sternly enough, but dropped a low courtesy as I passed her, and with a peaked and nodding stare round the room, the old woman clapped the door sharply, and locked it.
’And who has been a talking about Charke—a pack o lies, I warrant. I s’pose you want to frighten Miss Maud here’ (another crippled courtesy) ‘wi’ ghosts and like nonsense.’
’You’re out there: ’twas she told me; and much about it. Ghosts, indeed! I don’t vally them, not I; if I did, I know who’d frighten me,’ and Milly laughed.
The old woman stuffed the key in her pocket, and her wrinkled mouth pouted and receded with a grim uneasiness.
‘A harmless brat, and kind she is; but wild—wild—she will be wild.’
So whispered L’Amour in my ear, during the silence that followed, nodding shakily toward Milly over the banister, and she courtesied again as we departed, and shuffled off toward Uncle Silas’s room.
The Governor is queerish this evening,’ said Milly, when we were seated at our tea. ‘You never saw him queerish, did you?’
’You must say what you mean, more plainly, Milly. You don’t mean ill, I hope?’
’Well! I don’t know what it is; but he does grow very queer sometimes—you’d think he was dead a’most, maybe two or three days and nights together. He sits all the time like an old woman in a swound. Well, well, it is awful!’
‘Is he insensible when in that state?’ I asked, a good deal alarmed.
’I don’t know; but it never signifies anything. It won’t kill him, I do believe; but old L’Amour knows all about it. I hardly ever go into the room when he’s so, only when I’m sent for; and he sometimes wakes up and takes a fancy to call for this one or that. One day he sent for Pegtop all the way to the mill; and when he came, he only stared at him for a minute or two, and ordered him out o’ the room. He’s like a child a’most, when he’s in one o’ them dazes.’
I always knew when Uncle Silas was ‘queerish,’ by the injunctions of old L’Amour, whistled and spluttered over the banister as we came up-stairs, to mind how we made a noise passing master’s door; and by the sound of mysterious to-ings and fro-ings about his room.
I saw very little of him. He sometimes took a whim to have us breakfast with him, which lasted perhaps for a week; and then the order of our living would relapse into its old routine.