Judging by the sour glance she threw on me as she said this, I concluded that I represented those ‘late changes’ to which all the sorrows of the house were referred.
I felt unhappy under the ill-will even of this odious old woman, being one of those unhappily constructed mortals who cannot be indifferent when they reasonably ought, and always yearn after kindness, even that of the worthless.
‘I must go. I wish you’d come wi’ me, Maud, I’m so afraid all alone,’ said Milly, imploringly.
‘Certainly, Milly,’ I answered, not liking it, you may be sure; ’you shan’t sit there alone.’
So together we went, old Wyat cautioning us for our lives to make no noise.
We passed through the old man’s sitting-room, where that day had occurred his brief but momentous interview with me, and his parting with his only son, and entered the bed-room at the farther end.
A low fire burned in the grate. The room was in a sort of twilight. A dim lamp near the foot of the bed at the farther side was the only light burning there. Old Wyat whispered an injunction not to speak above our breaths, nor to leave the fireside unless the sick man called or showed signs of weariness. These were the directions of the doctor, who had been there.
So Milly and I sat ourselves down near the hearth, and old Wyat left us to our resources. We could hear the patient breathe; but he was quite still. In whispers we talked; but our conversation flagged. I was, after my wont, upbraiding myself for the suffering I had inflicted. After about half an hour’s desultory whispering, and intervals, growing longer and longer, of silence, it was plain that Milly was falling asleep.
She strove against it, and I tried hard to keep her talking; but it would not do—sleep overcame her; and I was the only person in that ghastly room in a state of perfect consciousness.
There were associations connected with my last vigil there to make my situation very nervous and disagreeable. Had I not had so much to occupy my mind of a distinctly practical kind—Dudley’s audacious suit, my uncle’s questionable toleration of it, and my own conduct throughout that most disagreeable period of my existence,—I should have felt my present situation a great deal more.
As it was, I thought of my real troubles, and something of Cousin Knollys, and, I confess, a good deal of Lord Ilbury. When looking towards the door, I thought I saw a human face, about the most terrible my fancy could have called up, looking fixedly into the room. It was only a ‘three-quarter,’ and not the whole figure—the door hid that in a great measure, and I fancied I saw, too, a portion of the fingers. The face gazed toward the bed, and in the imperfect light looked like a livid mask, with chalky eyes.
I had so often been startled by similar apparitions formed by accidental lights and shadows disguising homely objects, that I stooped forward, expecting, though tremulously, to see this tremendous one in like manner dissolve itself into its harmless elements; and now, to my unspeakable terror, I became perfectly certain that I saw the countenance of Madame de la Rougierre.