’Quite true. He may have the right to cut down trees at Bartram-Haugh. At all events, I am sure he thinks he has,’ I echoed.
The fact was, that I would not avow to myself a suspicion of Uncle Silas. Any falsehood there opened an abyss beneath my feet into which I dared not look.
’And now, dear girls, good-night. You must be tired. We breakfast at a quarter past nine—not too early for you, I know.’
And so saying, she kissed us, smiling, and was gone.
I was so unpleasantly occupied, for some time after her departure, with the knaveries said to be practised among the dense cover of the Windmill Wood, that I did not immediately recollect that we had omitted to ask her any particulars about her guests.
‘Who can Mary be?’ asked Milly.
’Cousin Monica says she’s engaged to be married, and I think I heard the Doctor call her Lady Mary, and I intended asking her ever so much about her; but what she told us about cutting down the trees, and all that, quite put it out of my head. We shall have time enough to-morrow, however, to ask questions. I like her very much, I know.’
‘And I think,’ said Milly, ‘it is to Mr. Carysbroke she’s to be married.’
‘Do you?’ said I, remembering that he had sat beside her for more than a quarter of an hour after tea in very close and low-toned conversation; ’and have you any particular reason?’ I asked.
’Well, I heard her once or twice call him “dear,” and she called him his Christian name, just like Lady Knollys did—Ilbury, I think—and I saw him gi’ her a sly kiss as she was going up-stairs.’
‘Well, Milly,’ I said, ’I remarked something myself, I thought, like confidential relations; but if you really saw them kiss on the staircase, the question is pretty well settled.’
‘You’re not to say lass.’
’Well, Maud, then. I did see them with the corner of my eye, and my back turned, when they did not think I could spy anything, as plain as I see you now.’
I laughed again; but I felt an odd pang—something of mortification—something of regret; but I smiled very gaily, as I stood before the glass, un-making my toilet preparatory to bed.
’Maud—Maud—fickle Maud!—What, Captain Oakley already superseded! and Mr. Carysbroke—oh! humiliation—engaged.’ So I smiled on, very much vexed; and being afraid lest I had listened with too apparent an interest to this impostor, I sang a verse of a gay little chanson, and tried to think of Captain Oakley, who somehow had become rather silly.
NEWS AT BARTRAM GATE
Milly and I, thanks to our early Bartram hours, were first down next morning; and so soon as Cousin Monica appeared we attacked her.
‘So Lady Mary is the fiancee of Mr. Carysbroke,’ said I, very cleverly; ’and I think it was very wicked of you to try and involve me in a flirtation with him yesterday.’