’Why, you romantic little child, people in that rank of life think absolutely nothing of a broken head,’ answered Uncle Silas, in the same way.
‘But is it not horrible brutality, uncle?’
’To be sure it is brutality; but then you must remember they are brutes, and it suits them,’ said he.
I was disappointed. I had fancied that Uncle Silas’s gentle nature would have recoiled from such an outrage with horror and indignation; and instead, here he was, the apologist of that savage ruffian, Dickon Hawkes.
‘And he is always so rude and impertinent to Milly and to me,’ I continued. ’Oh! impertinent to you—that’s another matter. I must see to that. Nothing more, my dear child?’
‘Well, there was nothing more.’
’He’s a useful servant, Hawkes; and though his looks are not prepossessing, and his ways and language rough, yet he is a very kind father, and a most honest man—a thoroughly moral man, though severe—a very rough diamond though, and has no idea of the refinements of polite society. I venture to say he honestly believes that he has been always unexceptionably polite to you, so we must make allowances.’
And Uncle Silas smoothed my hair with his thin aged hand, and kissed my forehead.
’Yes, we must make allowances; we must be kind. What says the Book?—“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Your dear father acted upon that maxim—so noble and so awful—and I strive to do so. Alas! dear Austin, longo intervalle, far behind! and you are removed—my example and my help; you are gone to your rest, and I remain beneath my burden, still marching on by bleak and alpine paths, under the awful night.
O nuit, nuit douloureuse! O toi,
Viens-tu? vas-tu venir? es-tu bien loin encore?
And repeating these lines of Chenier, with upturned eyes, and one hand lifted, and an indescribable expression of grief and fatigue, he sank stiffly into his chair, and remained mute, with eyes closed for some time. Then applying his scented handkerchief to them hastily, and looking very kindly at me, he said—
‘Anything more, dear child?’
’Nothing, uncle, thank you, very much, only about that man, Hawkes; I dare say that he does not mean to be so uncivil as he is, but I am really afraid of him, and he makes our walks in that direction quite unpleasant.’
’I understand quite, my dear. I will see to it; and you must remember that nothing is to be allowed to vex my beloved niece and ward during her stay at Bartram—nothing that her old kinsman, Silas Ruthyn, can remedy.’
So with a tender smile, and a charge to shut the door ’perfectly, but without clapping it,’ he dismissed me. Doctor Bryerly had not slept at Bartram, but at the little inn in Feltram, and he was going direct to London, as I afterwards learned.
‘Your ugly doctor’s gone away in a fly,’ said Milly, as we met on the stairs, she running up, I down.