The girl remained where she had stood, wiping the blood off roughly with the palm of her hand, and looking at it before she rubbed it on her apron. ‘My poor girl,’ I said, ’you must not cry. I’ll speak to my uncle about you.’
But she was not crying. She raised her head, and looked at us a little askance, with a sullen contempt, I thought.
‘And you must have these apples—won’t you?’ We had brought in our basket two or three of those splendid apples for which Bartram was famous.
I hesitated to go near her, these Hawkeses, Beauty and Pegtop, were such savages. So I rolled the apples gently along the ground to her feet.
She continued to look doggedly at us with the same expression, and kicked away the apples sullenly that approached her feet. Then, wiping her temple and forehead in her apron, without a word, she turned and walked slowly away.
’Poor thing! I’m afraid she leads a hard life. What strange, repulsive people they are!’
When we reached home, at the head of the great staircase old L’Amour was awaiting me; and with a courtesy, and very respectfully, she informed me that the Master would be happy to see me.
Could it be about my evidence as to the arrival of the mysterious chaise that he summoned me to this interview? Gentle as were his ways, there was something undefinable about Uncle Silas which inspired fear; and I should have liked few things less than meeting his gaze in the character of a culprit.
There was an uncertainty, too, as to the state in which I might find him, and a positive horror of beholding him again in the condition in which I had last seen him.
I entered the room, then, in some trepidation, but was instantly relieved. Uncle Silas was in the same health apparently, and, as nearly as I could recollect it, in precisely the same rather handsome though negligent garb in which I had first seen him.
Doctor Bryerly—what a marked and vulgar contrast, and yet, somehow, how reassuring!—sat at the table near him, and was tying up papers. His eyes watched me, I thought, with an anxious scrutiny as I approached; and I think it was not until I had saluted him that he recollected suddenly that he had not seen me before at Bartram, and stood up and greeted me in his usual abrupt and somewhat familiar way. It was vulgar and not cordial, and yet it was honest and indefinably kind. Up rose my uncle, that strangely venerable, pale portrait, in his loose Rembrandt black velvet. How gentle, how benignant, how unearthly, and inscrutable!
’I need not say how she is. Those lilies and roses, Doctor Bryerly, speak their own beautiful praises of the air of Bartram. I almost regret that her carriage will be home so soon. I only hope it may not abridge her rambles. It positively does me good to look at her. It is the glow of flowers in winter, and the fragrance of a field which the Lord hath blessed.’