At that moment the door of my father’s study opened, and Mrs. Rusk, with her dark energetic face very much flushed, stepped out in high excitement.
’The Master says you may have the brandy-bottle, Madame and I’m glad to be rid of it—I am.’
Madame courtesied with a great smirk, that was full of intangible hate and insult.
‘Better your own brandy, if drink you must!’ exclaimed Mrs. Rusk. ’You may come to the store-room now, or the butler can take it.’
And off whisked Mrs. Rusk for the back staircase.
There had been no common skirmish on this occasion, but a pitched battle.
Madame had made a sort of pet of Anne Wixted, an underchambermaid, and attached her to her interest economically by persuading me to make her presents of some old dresses and other things. Anne was such an angel!
But Mrs. Rusk, whose eyes were about her, detected Anne, with a brandy-bottle under her apron, stealing up-stairs. Anne, in a panic, declared the truth. Madame had commissioned her to buy it in the town, and convey it to her bed-room. Upon this, Mrs. Rusk impounded the flask; and, with Anne beside her, rather precipitately appeared before ‘the Master.’ He heard and summoned Madame. Madame was cool, frank, and fluent. The brandy was purely medicinal. She produced a document in the form of a note. Doctor Somebody presented his compliments to Madame de la Rougierre, and ordered her a table-spoonful of brandy and some drops of laudanum whenever the pain of stomach returned. The flask would last a whole year, perhaps two. She claimed her medicine.
Man’s estimate of woman is higher than woman’s own. Perhaps in their relations to men they are generally more trustworthy—perhaps woman’s is the juster, and the other an appointed illusion. I don’t know; but so it is ordained.
Mrs. Rusk was recalled, and I saw, as you are aware, Madame’s procedure during the interview.
It was a great battle—a great victory. Madame was in high spirits. The air was sweet—the landscape charming—I, so good—everything so beautiful! Where should we go? this way?
I had made a resolution to speak as little as possible to Madame, I was so incensed at the treachery I had witnessed; but such resolutions do not last long with very young people, and by the time we had reached the skirts of the wood we were talking pretty much as usual.
’I don’t wish to go into the wood, Madame.
‘And for what?’
‘Poor mamma is buried there.’
‘Is there the vault?’ demanded Madame eagerly.
’My faith, curious reason; you say because poor mamma is buried there you will not approach! Why, cheaile, what would good Monsieur Ruthyn say if he heard such thing? You are surely not so unkain’, and I am with you. Allons. Let us come—even a little part of the way.’
And so I yielded, though still reluctant.