On reaching the little apartment which was our sitting-room, however, I found that she was mistaken; for Doctor Bryerly, with his hat and a great pair of woollen gloves on, and an old Oxford grey surtout that showed his lank length to advantage, buttoned all the way up to his chin, had set down his black leather bag on the table, and was reading at the window a little volume which I had borrowed from my uncle’s library.
It was Swedenborg’s account of the other worlds, Heaven and Hell.
He closed it on his finger as I entered, and without recollecting to remove his hat, he made a step or two towards me with his splay, creaking boots. With a quick glance at the door, he said—
‘Glad to see you alone for a minute—very glad.’
But his countenance, on the contrary, looked very anxious.
A MIDNIGHT DEPARTURE
’I’m going this minute—I—I want to know’—another glance at the door—’are you really quite comfortable here?’
‘Quite,’ I answered promptly.
‘You have only your cousin’s company?’ he continued, glancing at the table, which was laid for two.
‘Yes; but Milly and I are very happy together.’
’That’s very nice; but I think there are no teachers, you see—painters, and singers, and that sort of thing that is usual with young ladies. No teachers of that kind—of any kind—are there?’ ’No; my uncle thinks it better I should lay in a store of health, he says.’
’I know; and the carriage and horses have not come; how soon are they expected?’
’I really can’t say, and I assure you I don’t much care. I think running about great fun.’
‘You walk to church?’
‘Yes; Uncle Silas’s carriage wants a new wheel, he told me.’
’Ay, but a young woman of your rank, you know, it is not usual she should be without the use of a carriage. Have you horses to ride?’
I shook my head.
’Your uncle, you know, has a very liberal allowance for your maintenance and education.’
I remembered something in the will about it, and Mary Quince was constantly grumbling that ‘he did not spend a pound a week on our board.’
I answered nothing, but looked down.
Another glance at the door from Doctor Bryerly’s sharp black eyes.
‘Is he kind to you?’
‘Very kind—most gentle and affectionate.’
’Why doesn’t he keep company with you? Does he ever dine with you, or drink tea, or talk to you? Do you see much of him?’
’He is a miserable invalid—his hours and regimen are peculiar. Indeed I wish very much you would consider his case; he is, I believe, often insensible for a long time, and his mind in a strange feeble state sometimes.’
’I dare say—worn out in his young days; and I saw that preparation of opium in his bottle—he takes too much.’