People say, on the other hand, that superior prowess, even in such barbarous contests, inspires in our sex an interest akin to admiration. I can positively say in my case it was quite the reverse. Dudley Ruthyn stood lower than ever in my estimation; for though I feared him more, it was by reason of these brutal and cold-blooded associations.
After this I lived in constant apprehension of being summoned to my uncle’s room, and being called on for an explanation of my meeting with Captain Oakley, which, notwithstanding my perfect innocence, looked suspicious, but no such inquisition resulted. Perhaps he did not suspect me; or, perhaps, he thought, not in his haste, all women are liars, and did not care to hear what I might say. I rather lean to the latter interpretation.
The exchequer just now, I suppose, by some means, was replenished, for next morning Dudley set off upon one of his fashionable excursions, as poor Milly thought them, to Wolverhampton. And the same day Dr. Bryerly arrived.
Milly and I, from my room window, saw him step from his vehicle to the court-yard.
A lean man, with sandy hair and whiskers, was in the chaise with him. Dr. Bryerly descended in the unchangeable black suit that always looked new and never fitted him.
The Doctor looked careworn, and older, I thought, by several years, than when I last saw him. He was not shown up to my uncle’s room; on the contrary, Milly, who was more actively curious than I, ascertained that our tremulous butler informed him that my uncle was not sufficiently well for an interview. Whereupon Dr. Bryerly had pencilled a note, the reply to which was a message from Uncle Silas, saying that he would be happy to see him in five minutes.
As Milly and I were conjecturing what it might mean, and before the five minutes had expired, Mary Quince entered.
‘Wyat bid me tell you, Miss, your uncle wants you this minute.’
When I entered his room, Uncle Silas was seated at the table, with his desk before him. He looked up. Could anything be more dignified, suffering, and venerable?
‘I sent for you, dear,’ he said very gently, extending his thin, white hand, and taking mine, which he held affectionately while he spoke, ’because I desire to have no secrets, and wish you thoroughly to know all that concerns your own interests while subject to my guardianship; and I am happy to think, my beloved niece, that you requite my candour. Oh, here is the gentleman. Sit down, dear.’
Doctor Bryerly was advancing, as it seemed, to shake hands with Uncle Silas, who, however, rose with a severe and haughty air, not the least over-acted, and made him a slow, ceremonious bow. I wondered how the homely Doctor could confront so tranquilly that astounding statue of hauteur.
A faint and weary smile, rather sad than comtemptuous, was the only sign he showed of feeling his repulse.