‘You will not forget?’
Madame reminded me twice, in the course of the evening, of my promise. She was very eager on this point. But it is a world of disappointment, influenza, and rheumatics; and next morning Madame was prostrate in her bed, and careless of all things but flannel and James’s powder.
Madame was desolee; but she could not raise her head. She only murmured a question.
’For ‘ow long time, dear, will Lady Knollys remain?’
‘A very few days, I believe.’
’Helas! ’ow onlucky! maybe to-morrow I shall be better Ouah! my ear. The laudanum, dear cheaile!’
And so our conversation for that time ended, and Madame buried her head in her old red cashmere shawl.
Punctually Lady Knollys arrived. She was accompanied by her nephew, Captain Oakley.
They arrived a little before dinner; just in time to get to their rooms and dress. But Mary Quince enlivened my toilet with eloquent descriptions of the youthful Captain whom she had met in the gallery, on his way to his room, with the servant, and told me how he stopped to let her pass, and how ’he smiled so ‘ansom.’
I was very young then, you know, and more childish even than my years; but this talk of Mary Quince’s interested me, I must confess, considerably. I was painting all sort of portraits of this heroic soldier, while affecting, I am afraid, a hypocritical indifference to her narration, and I know I was very nervous and painstaking about my toilet that evening. When I went down to the drawing-room, Lady Knollys was there, talking volubly to my father as I entered—a woman not really old, but such as very young people fancy aged—energetic, bright, saucy, dressed handsomely in purple satin, with a good deal of lace, and a rich point—I know not how to call it—not a cap, a sort of head-dress—light and simple, but grand withal, over her greyish, silken hair.
Rather tall, by no means stout, on the whole a good firm figure, with something kindly in her look. She got up, quite like a young person, and coming quickly to meet me with a smile—
‘My young cousin!’ she cried, and kissed me on both cheeks. ’You know who I am? Your cousin Monica—Monica Knollys—and very glad, dear, to see you, though she has not set eyes on you since you were no longer than that paper-knife. Now come here to the lamp, for I must look at you. Who is she like? Let me see. Like your poor mother, I think, my dear; but you’ve the Aylmer nose—yes—not a bad nose either, and, come I very good eyes, upon my life—yes, certainly something of her poor mother—not a bit like you, Austin.’
My father gave her a look as near a smile as I had seen there for a long time, shrewd, cynical, but kindly too, and said he—
‘So much the better, Monica, eh?’