‘It is not pleasant, you know,’ I said.
‘No, it is not pleasant,’ said Lady Knollys, very gloomily.
And just then Milly joined us, shouting to us to look at the herons flying; so Cousin Monica did, and smiled and nodded in thanks to Milly, and was again silent and thoughtful as we walked on.
‘You are to come to me, mind, both of you girls,’ she said, abruptly;’ you shall. I’ll manage it.’
When silence returned, and Milly ran away once more to try whether the old gray trout was visible in the still water under the bridge, Cousin Monica said to me in a low tone, looking hard at me—
’You’ve not seen anything to frighten you, Maud? Don’t look so alarmed, dear,’ she added with a little laugh, which was not very merry, however. ’I don’t mean frighten in any awful sense—in fact, I did not mean frighten at all. I meant—I can’t exactly express it—anything to vex, or make you uncomfortable; have you?’
’No, I can’t say I have, except that room in which Mr. Charke was found dead.’
’Oh! you saw that, did you?—I should like to see it so much. Your bedroom is not near it?’
’Oh, no; on the floor beneath, and looking to the front. And Doctor Bryerly talked a little to me, and there seemed to be something on his mind more than he chose to tell me; so that for some time after I saw him I really was, as you say, frightened; but, except that, I really have had no cause. And what was in your mind when you asked me?’
’Well, you know, Maud, you are afraid of ghosts, banditti, and everything; and I wished to know whether you were uncomfortable, and what your particular bogle was just now—that, I assure you, was all; and I know,’ she continued, suddenly changing her light tone and manner for one of pointed entreaty, ’what Doctor Bryerly said; and I implore of you, Maud, to think of it seriously; and when you come to me, you shall do so with the intention of remaining at Elverston.’
’Now, Cousin Monica, is this fair? You and Doctor Bryerly both talk in the same awful way to me; and I assure you, you don’t know how nervous I am sometimes, and yet you won’t, either of you, say what you mean. Now, Monica, dear cousin, won’t you tell me?’
’You see, dear, it is so lonely; it’s a strange place, and he so odd. I don’t like the place, and I don’t like him. I’ve tried, but I can’t, and I think I never shall. He may be a very—what was it that good little silly curate at Knowl used to call him?—a very advanced Christian—that is it, and I hope he is; but if he is only what he used to be, his utter seclusion from society removes the only check, except personal fear—and he never had much of that—upon a very bad man. And you must know, my dear Maud, what a prize you are, and what an immense trust it is.’
Suddenly Cousin Monica stopped short, and looked at me as if she had gone too far.
’But, you know, Silas may be very good now, although he was wild and selfish in his young days. Indeed I don’t know what to make of him; but I am sure when you have thought it over, you will agree with me and Doctor Bryerly, that you must not stay here.’