My letter, I afterwards found, reached Lady Knollys, accompanied by one from Uncle Silas, who said—’Dear Maud apprises me that she has written to tell you something of our movements. A sudden crisis in my miserable affairs compels a break-up as sudden here. Maud joins my daughter at the Pension, in France. I purposely omit the address, because I mean to reside in its vicinity until this storm shall have blown over; and as the consequences of some of my unhappy entanglements might pursue me even there, I must only for the present spare you the pain and trouble of keeping a secret. I am sure that for some little time you will excuse the girl’s silence; in the meantime you shall hear of them, and perhaps circuitously, from me. Our dear Maud started this morning en route for her destination, very sorry, as am I, that she could not enjoy first a flying visit to Elverston, but in high spirits, notwithstanding, at the new life and sights before her.’
At the door my beloved old friend, Mary Quince, awaited me.
‘Am I going with you, Miss Maud?’
I burst into tears and clasped her in my arms.
‘I’m not,’ said Mary, very sorrowfully; ’and I never was from you yet, Miss, since you wasn’t the length of my arm.’
And kind old Mary began to cry with me.
‘Bote you are coming in a few days, Mary Quince,’ expostulated Madame. ’I wonder you are soche fool. What is two, three days? Bah! nonsense, girl.’
Another farewell to poor Mary Quince, quite bewildered at the suddenness of her bereavement. A serious and tremulous bow from our little old butler on the steps. Madame bawling through the open window to the driver to make good speed, and remember that we had but nineteen minutes to reach the station. Away we went. Old Crowle’s iron grille rolled back before us. I looked on the receding landscape, the giant trees—the palatial, time-stained mansion. A strange conflict of feelings, sweet and bitter, rose and mingled in the reverie. Had I been too hard and suspicious with the inhabitants of that old house of my family? Was my uncle justly indignant? Was I ever again to know such pleasant rambles as some of those I had enjoyed with dear Millicent through the wild and beautiful woodlands I was leaving behind me? And there, with my latest glimpse of the front of Bartram-Haugh, I beheld dear old Mary Quince gazing after us. Again my tears flowed. I waved my handkerchief from the window; and now the park-wall hid all from view, and at a great pace, throught the steep wooded glen, with the rocky and precipitous character of a ravine, we glided; and when the road next emerged, Bartram-Haugh was a misty mass of forest and chimneys, slope and hollow, and we within a few minutes of the station.
Waiting for the train, as we stood upon the platform, I looked back again toward the wooded uplands of Bartram; and far behind, the fine range of mountains, azure and soft in the distance, beyond which lay beloved old Knowl, and my lost father and mother, and the scenes of my childhood, never embittered except by the sibyl who sat beside me.