It was now plainly very near indeed, and I heard the voice of our mild and shaky butler evidently remonstrating with the distressed damsel.
‘I’ll see her,’ she continued, pouring a torrent of vile abuse upon me, which stung me with a sudden sense of anger. What had I done to be afraid of anyone? How dared anyone in my uncle’s house—in my house—mix my name up with her detestable scurrilities?
‘For Heaven’s sake, Miss, don’t ye go out,’ cried poor Quince; ’it’s some drunken creature.’
But I was very angry, and, like a fool as I was, I threw open the door, exclaiming in a loud and haughty key—
‘Here is Miss Ruthyn of Knowl. Who wants to see her?’
A pink and white young lady, with black tresses, violent, weeping, shrill, voluble, was flouncing up the last stair, and shook her dress out on the lobby; and poor old Giblets, as Milly used to call him, was following in her wake, with many small remonstrances and entreaties, perfectly unheeded.
The moment I looked at this person, it struck me that she was the identical lady whom I had seen in the carriage at Knowl Warren. The next moment I was in doubt; the next, still more so. She was decidedly thinner, and dressed by no means in such lady-like taste. Perhaps she was hardly like her at all. I began to distrust all these resemblances, and to fancy, with a shudder, that they originated, perhaps, only in my own sick brain.
On seeing me, this young lady—as it seemed to me, a good deal of the barmaid or lady’s-maid species—dried her eyes fiercely, and, with a flaming countenance, called upon me peremptorily to produce her ’lawful husband.’ Her loud, insolent, outrageous attack had the effect of enhancing my indignation, and I quite forget what I said to her, but I well remember that her manner became a good deal more decent. She was plainly under the impression that I wanted to appropriate her husband, or, at least, that he wanted to marry me; and she ran on at such a pace, and her harangue was so passionate, incoherent, and unintelligible, that I thought her out of her mind: she was far from it, however. I think if she had allowed me even a second for reflection, I should have hit upon her meaning. As it was, nothing could exceed my perplexity, until, plucking a soiled newspaper from her pocket, she indicated a particular paragraph, already sufficiently emphasised by double lines of red ink at its sides. It was a Lancashire paper, of about six weeks since, and very much worn and soiled for its age. I remember in particular a circular stain from the bottom of a vessel, either of coffee or brown stout. The paragraph was as follows, recording an event a year or more anterior to the date of the paper:—
’MARRIAGE.—On Tuesday, August 7, 18—, at Leatherwig Church, by the Rev. Arthur Hughes, Dudley R. Ruthyn, Esq., only son and heir of Silas Ruthyn, Esq., of Bartram-Haugh, Derbyshire, to Sarah Matilda, second daughter of John Mangles, Esq., of Wiggan, in this county.’