Oh! Uncle Silas, tremendous figure in the past, burning always in memory in the same awful lights; the fixed white face of scorn and anguish! It seems as if the Woman of Endor had led me to that chamber and showed me a spectre.
Dudley had not left Bartram-Haugh when a little note reached me from Lady Knollys. It said—
’DEAREST MAUD,—I have written by this post to Silas, beseeching a loan of you and my Cousin Milly. I see no reason your uncle can possibly have for refusing me; and, therefore, I count confidently on seeing you both at Elverston to-morrow, to stay for at least a week. I have hardly a creature to meet you. I have been disappointed in several visitors; but another time we shall have a gayer house. Tell Milly—with my love—that I will not forgive her if she fails to accompany you.
’Believe me ever your affectionate cousin,
Milly and I were both afraid that Uncle Silas would refuse his consent, although we could not divine any sound reason for his doing so, and there were many in favour of his improving the opportunity of allowing poor Milly to see some persons of her own sex above the rank of menials.
At about twelve o’clock my uncle sent for us, and, to our great delight, announced his consent, and wished us a very happy excursion.
ELVERSTON AND ITS PEOPLE
So Milly and I drove through the gabled high street of Feltram next day. We saw my gracious cousin smoking with a man like a groom, at the door of the ‘Plume of Feathers.’ I drew myself back as we passed, and Milly popped her head out of the window.
‘I’m blessed,’ said she, laughing, ’if he hadn’t his thumb to his nose, and winding up his little finger, the way he does with old Wyat—L’Amour, ye know; and you may be sure he said something funny, for Jim Jolliter was laughin’, with his pipe in his hand.’
’I wish I had not seen him, Milly. I feel as if it were an ill omen. He always looks so cross; and I dare say he wished us some ill,’ I said.
’No, no, you don’t know Dudley: if he were angry, he’d say nothing that’s funny; no, he’s not vexed, only shamming vexed.’
The scenery through which we passed was very pretty. The road brought us through a narrow and wooded glen. Such studies of ivied rocks and twisted roots! A little stream tinkled lonely through the hollow. Poor Milly! In her odd way she made herself companionable. I have sometimes fancied an enjoyment of natural scenery not so much a faculty as an acquirement. It is so exquisite in the instructed, so strangely absent in uneducated humanity. But certainly with Milly it was inborn and hearty; and so she could enter into my raptures, and requite them.