’Of Doctor Bryerly, I know that he is sly, that he loves money, was born poor, and makes nothing by his profession. But he possesses many thousand pounds, under my poor brother’s will, of your money; and he has glided with, of course a modest “nolo episcopari,” into the acting trusteeship, with all its multitudinous opportunities, of your immense property. That is not doing so badly for a visionary Swedenborgian. Such a man must prosper. But if he expected to make money of me, he is disappointed. Money, however, he will make of his trusteeship, as you will see. It is a dangerous resolution. But if he will seek the life of Dives, the worst I wish him is to find the death of Lazarus. But whether, like Lazarus, he be borne of angels into Abraham’s bosom, or, like the rich man, only dies and is buried, and the rest, neither living nor dying do I desire his company.’
Uncle Silas here seemed suddenly overtaken by exhaustion. He leaned back with a ghastly look, and his lean features glistened with the dew of faintness. I screamed for Wyat. But he soon recovered sufficiently to smile his odd smile, and with it and his frown, nodded and waved me away.
QUESTION AND ANSWER
My uncle, after all, was not ill that day, after the strange fashion of his malady, be it what it might. Old Wyat repeated in her sour laconic way that there was ‘nothing to speak of amiss with him.’ But there remained with me a sense of pain and fear. Doctor Bryerly, notwithstanding my uncle’s sarcastic reflections, remained, in my estimation, a true and wise friend. I had all my life been accustomed to rely upon others, and here, haunted by many unavowed and ill-defined alarms and doubts, the disappearance of an active and able friend caused my heart to sink.
Still there remained my dear Cousin Monica, and my pleasant and trusted friend, Lord Ilbury; and in less than a week arrived an invitation from Lady Mary to the Grange, for me and Milly, to meet Lady Knollys. It was accompanied, she told me, by a note from Lord Ilbury to my uncle, supporting her request; and in the afternoon I received a message to attend my uncle in his room.
’An invitation from Lady Mary Carysbroke for you and Milly to meet Monica Knollys; have you received it?’ asked my uncle, so soon as I was seated. Answered in the affirmative, he continued—
’Now, Maud Ruthyn, I expect the truth from you; I have been frank, so shall you. Have you ever heard me spoken ill of by Lady Knollys?’
I was quite taken aback.
I felt my cheeks flushing. I was returning his fierce cold gaze with a stupid stare, and remained dumb.
‘Yes, Maud, you have.’
I looked down in silence.
‘I know it; but it is right you should answer; have you or have you not?’
I had to clear my voice twice or thrice. There was a kind of spasm in my throat.