‘How delightful! you darling,’ cried I, embracing and kissing her; ’for my part, I should be ready in five minutes; what do you say, Milly?’
Poor Milly’s wardrobe, I am afraid, was more portable than handsome; and she looked horribly affrighted, and whispered in my ear—
‘My best petticoat is away at the laundress; say in a week, Maud.’
‘What does she say?’ asked Lady Knollys.
‘She fears she can’t be ready,’ I answered, dejectedly.
‘There’s a deal of my slops in the wash,’ blurted out poor Milly, staring straight at Lady Knollys.
‘In the name of wonder, what does my cousin mean?’ asked Lady Knollys.
‘Her things have not come home yet from the laundress,’ I replied; and at this moment our wondrous old butler entered to announce to Lady Knollys that his master was ready to receive her, whenever she was disposed to favour him; and also to make polite apologies for his being compelled, by his state of health, to give her the trouble of ascending to his room.
So Cousin Monica was at the door in a moment, over her shoulder calling to us, ‘Come, girls.’
’Please, not yet, my lady—you alone; and he requests the young ladies will be in the way, as he will send for them presently.’
I began to admire poor ‘Giblets’ as the wreck of a tolerably respectable servant.
’Very good; perhaps it is better we should kiss and be friends in private first,’ said Cousin Knollys, laughing; and away she went under the guidance of the mummy.
I had an account of this tete-a-tete afterwards from Lady Knollys.
‘When I saw him, my dear,’ she said, ’I could hardly believe my eyes; such white hair—such a white face—such mad eyes—such a death-like smile. When I saw him last, his hair was dark; he dressed himself like a modern Englishman; and he really preserved a likeness to the full-length portrait at Knowl, that you fell in love with, you know; but, angels and ministers of grace! such a spectre! I asked myself, is it necromancy, or is it delirium tremens that has reduced him to this? And said he, with that odious smile, that made me fancy myself half insane—
’"You see a change, Monica.”
’What a sweet, gentle, insufferable voice he has! Somebody once told me about the tone of a glass flute that made some people hysterical to listen to, and I was thinking of it all the time. There was always a peculiar quality in his voice.
’"I do see a change, Silas,” I said at last; “and, no doubt, so do you in me—a great change.”
’"There has been time enough to work a greater than I observe in you since you last honoured me with a visit,” said he.
’I think he was at his old sarcasms, and meant that I was the same impertinent minx he remembered long ago, uncorrected by time; and so I am, and he must not expect compliments from old Monica Knollys.
’"It is a long time, Silas; but that, you know, is not my fault,” said I.