‘I don’t think, child, you are the best judge of that. Go, and amend.’ And with a displeased look he pointed to the door. My heart swelled with the sense of wrong, and as I reached the door I turned to say another word, but I could not, and only burst into tears.
’There—don’t cry, little Maud—only let us do better for the future. There—there—there has been enough.’
And he kissed my forehead, and gently put me out and closed the door.
In the school-room I took courage, and with some warmth upbraided Madame.
‘Wat wicked cheaile!’ moaned Madame, demurely. ’Read aloud those three—yes, those three chapters of the Bible, my dear Maud.’
There was no special fitness in those particular chapters, and when they were ended she said in a sad tone—
’Now, dear, you must commit to memory this pretty priaire for umility of art.’
It was a long one, and in a state of profound irritation I got through the task.
Mrs. Rusk hated her. She said she stole wine and brandy whenever the opportunity offered—that she was always asking her for such stimulants and pretending pains in her stomach. Here, perhaps, there was exaggeration; but I knew it was true that I had been at different times despatched on that errand and pretext for brandy to Mrs. Rusk, who at last came to her bedside with pills and a mustard blister only, and was hated irrevocably ever after.
I felt all this was done to torture me. But a day is a long time to a child, and they forgive quickly. It was always with a sense of danger that I heard Madame say she must go and see Monsieur Ruthyn in the library, and I think a jealousy of her growing influence was an ingredient in the detestation in which honest Mrs. Rusk held her.
A WALK IN THE WOOD
Two little pieces of by-play in which I detected her confirmed my unpleasant suspicion. From the corner of the gallery I one day saw her, when she thought I was out and all quiet, with her ear at the keyhole of papa’s study, as we used to call the sitting-room next his bed-room. Her eyes were turned in the direction of the stairs, from which only she apprehended surprise. Her great mouth was open, and her eyes absolutely goggled with eagerness. She was devouring all that was passing there. I drew back into the shadow with a kind of disgust and horror. She was transformed into a great gaping reptile. I felt that I could have thrown something at her; but a kind of fear made me recede again toward my room. Indignation, however, quickly returned, and I came back, treading briskly as I did so. When I reached the angle of the gallery again. Madame, I suppose, had heard me, for she was half-way down the stairs.
’Ah, my dear Cheaile, I am so glad to find you, and you are dress to come out. We shall have so pleasant walk.’