’You shall join my daughter at the Pension, in France; Madame de la Rougierre shall accompany you,’ said my uncle, delivering his directions with the stern monotony and the measured pauses of a person dictating an important despatch to a secretary.’ Old Mrs. Quince shall follow with me, or, if alone, in a week. You shall pass to-night in London; to-morrow night you proceed thence to Dover, and cross by the mail-packet. You shall now sit down and write a letter to your cousin Monica Knollys, which I will first read and then despatch. Tomorrow you shall write a note to Lady Knollys, from London, telling her how you have got over so much of your journey, and that you cannot write from Dover, as you must instantly start by the packet on reaching it; and that until my affairs are a little settled, you cannot write to her from France, as it is of high importance to my safety that no clue should exist as to our address. Intelligence, however, shall reach her through my attorneys, Archer and Sleigh, and I trust we shall soon return. You will, please, submit that latter note to Madame de la Rougierre, who has my directions to see that it contains no libels upon my character. Now, sit down.’
So, with those unpleasant words tingling in my ears, I obeyed.
‘Write,’ said he, when I was duly placed. ’You shall convey the substance of what I say in your own language. The immiment danger this morning announced of an execution—rememher the word,’ and he spelled it for me—’being put into this house either this afternoon or to-morrow, compels me to anticipate my plans, and despatch you for France this day. That you are starting with an attendant.’ Here an uneasy movement from Madame, whose dignity was perhaps excited. ‘An attendant,’ he repeated, with a discordant emphasis; ’and you can, if you please—but I don’t solicit that justice—say that you have been as kindly treated here as my unfortunate circumstances would permit. That is all. You have just fifteen minutes to write. Begin.’
I wrote accordingly. My hysterical state had made me far less combative than I might have proved some months since, for there was much that was insulting as well as formidable in his manner. I completed my letter, however, to his satisfaction in the prescribed time; and he said, as he laid it and its envelope on the table—
’Please to remember that this lady is not your attendant only, but that she has authority to direct every detail respecting your journey, and will make all the necessary payments on the way. You will please, then, implicitly to comply with her directions. The carriage awaits you at the hall-door.’
Having thus spoken, with another grim bow, and ’I wish you a safe and pleasant journey,’ he receded a step or two, and I, with an undefinable kind of melancholy, though also with a sense of relief, withdrew.