I thought, ’Perhaps he blames himself for having tolerated Dudley’s suit—for having urged it on grounds of personal distress—for having altogether lowered, though under sore temptation, both himself and his office; and he thinks that he has forfeited my respect.’
Such was my analysis; but in the coup-d’oeil of that white face that dazzled me in darkness, and haunted my daily reveries with a faded light, there was an intangible character of the insidious and the terrible.
IN SEARCH OF MR. CHARKE’S SKELETON
On the whole, however, I was unspeakably relieved. Dudley Ruthyn, Esq., and Mrs. D. Ruthyn, were now skimming the blue waves on the wings of the Seamew, and every morning widened the distance between us, which was to go on increasing until it measured a point on the antipodes. The Liverpool paper containing this golden line was carefully preserved in my room; and like the gentleman who, when much tried by the shrewish heiress whom he had married, used to retire to his closet and read over his marriage settlement, I used, when blue devils haunted me, to unfold my newspaper and read the paragraph concerning the Seamew.
The day I now speak of was a dismal one of sleety snow. My own room seemed to me cheerier than the lonely parlour, where I could not have had good Mary Quince so decorously.
A good fire, that kind and trusty face, the peep I had just indulged in at my favourite paragraph, and the certainty of soon seeing my dear cousin Monica, and afterwards affectionate Milly, raised my spirits.
‘So,’ said I, ’as old Wyat, you say, is laid up with rheumatism, and can’t turn up to scold me, I think I’ll run up stairs and make an exploration, and find poor Mr. Charke’s skeleton in a closet.’
‘Oh, law, Miss Maud, how can you say such things!’ exclaimed good old Quince, lifting up her honest grey head and round eyes from her knitting.
I had grown so familiar with the frightful tradition of Mr. Charke and his suicide, that I could now afford to frighten old Quince with him.
’I am quite serious. I am going to have a ramble up-stairs and down-stairs, like goosey-goosey-gander; and if I do light upon his chamber, it is all the more interesting. I feel so like Adelaide, in the “Romance of the Forest,” the book I was reading to you last night, when she commenced her delightful rambles through the interminable ruined abbey in the forest.’
‘Shall I go with you, Miss?’
’No, Quince; stay there; keep a good fire, and make some tea. I suspect I shall lose heart and return very soon;’ and with a shawl about me, cowl fashion, over my head, I stole up-stairs.