Thus and soforth did good Mary Quince declaim, and at last she did impress me a little, and I began to think that I had, perhaps, been making too much of Madame’s visit. But still imagination, that instrument and mirror of prophecy, showed her formidable image always on its surface, with a terrible moving background of shadows.
In a few minutes there was a knock at my door, and Madame herself entered. She was in walking costume. There had been a brief clearing of the weather, and she proposed our making a promenade together.
On seeing Mary Quince she broke into a rapture of compliment and greeting, and took what Mr. Richardson would have called her passive hand, and pressed it with wonderful tenderness.
Honest Mary suffered all this somewhat reluctantly, never smiling, and, on the contrary, looking rather ruefully at her feet.
’Weel you make a some tea? When I come back, dear Mary Quince, I ’av so much to tell you and dear Miss Maud of all my adventures while I ’av been away; it will make a you laugh ever so much. I was—what you theenk?—near, ever so near to be married!’ And upon this she broke into a screeching laugh, and shook Mary Quince merrily by the shoulder.
I sullenly declined going out, or rising; and when she had gone away, I told Mary that I should confine myself to my room while Madame stayed.
But self-denying ordinances self-imposed are not always long observed by youth. Madame de la Rougierre laid herself out to be agreeable; she had no end of stories—more than half, no doubt, pure fictions—to tell, but all, in that triste place, amusing. Mary Quince began to entertain a better opinion of her. She actually helped to make beds, and tried to be in every way of use, and seemed to have quite turned over a new leaf; and so gradually she moved me, first to listen, and at last to talk.
On the whole, these terms were better than a perpetual skirmish; but, notwithstanding all her gossip and friendliness, I continued to have a profound distrust and even terror of her.
She seemed curious about the Bartram-Haugh family, and all their ways, and listened darkly when I spoke. I told her, bit by bit, the whole story of Dudley, and she used, whenever there was news of the Seamew, to read the paragraph for my benefit; and in poor Milly’s battered little Atlas she used to trace the ship’s course with a pencil, writing in, from point to point, the date at which the vessel was ‘spoken’ at sea. She seemed amused at the irrepressible satisfaction with which I received these minutes of his progress; and she used to calculate the distance;—on such a day he was two hundred and sixty miles, on such another five hundred; the last point was more than eight hundred—good, better, best—best of all would be those ’deleecious antipode, w’ere he would so soon promener on his head twelve thousand mile away;’ and at the conceit she would fall into screams of laughter.