I called after her, but no answer; I pursued, but she was running too; and I quite lost her at the cross galleries.
I did not see her at tea, nor before going to bed; but after I had fallen asleep I was awakened by Milly, in floods of tears.
‘Cousin Maud, will ye forgi’ me—you’ll never like me again, will ye? No—I know ye won’t—I’m such a brute—I hate it—it’s a shame. And here’s a Banbury cake for you—I sent to the town for it, and some taffy—won’t ye eat it? and here’s a little ring—’tisn’t as pretty as your own rings; and ye’ll wear it, maybe, for my sake—poor Milly’s sake, before I was so bad to ye—if ye forgi’ me; and I’ll look at breakfast, and if it’s on your finger I’ll know you’re friends wi’ me again; and if ye don’t, I won’t trouble you no more; and I think I’ll just drown myself out o’ the way, and you’ll never see wicked Milly no more.’
And without waiting a moment, leaving me only half awake, and with the sensations of dreaming, she scampered from the room, in her bare feet, with a petticoat about her shoulders.
She had left her candle by my bed, and her little offerings on the coverlet by me. If I had stood an atom less in terror of goblins than I did, I should have followed her, but I was afraid. I stood in my bare feet at my bedside, and kissed the poor little ring and put it on my finger, where it has remained ever since and always shall. And when I lay down, longing for morning, the image of her pale, imploring, penitential face was before me for hours; and I repented bitterly of my cool provoking ways, and thought myself, I dare say justly, a thousand times more to blame than Milly.
I searched in vain for her before breakfast. At that meal, however, we met, but in the presence of Uncle Silas, who, though silent and apathetic, was formidable; and we, sitting at a table disproportionably large, under the cold, strange gaze of my guardian, talked only what was inevitable, and that in low tones; for whenever Milly for a moment raised her voice, Uncle Silas would wince, place his thin white fingers quickly over his ear, and look as if a pain had pierced his brain, and then shrug and smile piteously into vacancy. When Uncle Silas, therefore, was not in the talking vein himself—and that was not often—you may suppose there was very little spoken in his presence.
When Milly, across the table, saw the ring upon my finger, she, drawing in her breath, said, ‘Oh!’ and, with round eyes and mouth, she looked so delighted; and she made a little motion, as if she was on the point of jumping up; and then her poor face quivered, and she bit her lip; and staring imploringly at me, her eyes filled fast with tears, which rolled down her round penitential cheeks.
I am sure I felt more penitent than she. I know I was crying and smiling, and longing to kiss her. I suppose we were very absurd; but it is well that small matters can stir the affections so profoundly at a time of life when great troubles seldom approach us.