I dreamed one night that she led me, all the time whispering something so very fast that I could not understand her, into the library, holding a candle in her other hand above her head. We walked on tiptoe, like criminals at the dead of night, and stopped before that old oak cabinet which my father had indicated in so odd a way to me. I felt that we were about some contraband practice. There was a key in the door, which I experienced a guilty horror at turning, she whispering in the same unintelligible way, all the time, at my ear. I did turn it; the door opened quite softly, and within stood my father, his face white and malignant, and glaring close in mine. He cried in a terrible voice, ‘Death!’ Out went Madame’s candle, and at the same moment, with a scream, I waked in the dark—still fancying myself in the library; and for an hour after I continued in a hysterical state.
Every little incident about Madame furnished a topic of eager discussion among the maids. More or less covertly, they nearly all hated and feared her. They fancied that she was making good her footing with ‘the Master;’ and that she would then oust Mrs. Rusk—perhaps usurp her place—and so make a clean sweep of them all. I fancy the honest little housekeeper did not discourage that suspicion.
About this time I recollect a pedlar—an odd, gipsified-looking man—called in at Knowl. I and Catherine Jones were in the court when he came, and set down his pack on the low balustrade beside the door.
All sorts of commodities he had—ribbons, cottons, silks, stockings, lace, and even some bad jewellry; and just as he began his display—an interesting matter in a quiet country house—Madame came upon the ground. He grinned a recognition, and hoped ‘Madamasel’ was well, and ’did not look to see her here.’
‘Madamasel’ thanked him. ‘Yes, vary well,’ and looked for the first time decidedly ‘put out.’
‘Wat a pretty things!’ she said. ’Catherine, run and tell Mrs. Rusk. She wants scissars, and lace too—I heard her say.’
So Catherine, with a lingering look, departed; and Madame said—
’Will you, dear cheaile, be so kind to bring here my purse, I forgot on the table in my room; also, I advise you, bring your.’
Catherine returned with Mrs. Rusk. Here was a man who could tell them something of the old Frenchwoman, at last! Slyly they dawdled over his wares, until Madame had made her market and departed with me. But when the coveted opportunity came, the pedlar was quite impenetrable. ’He forgot everything; he did not believe as he ever saw the lady before. He called a Frenchwoman, all the world over, Madamasel—that wor the name on ’em all. He never seed her in partiklar afore, as he could bring to mind. He liked to see ’em always, ‘cause they makes the young uns buy.’
This reserve and oblivion were very provoking, and neither Mrs. Rusk nor Catherine Jones spent sixpence with him;—he was a stupid fellow, or worse.