’Mrs. Rusk, I think, ordered this dress. I and Mary Quince planned it. I thought it very nice. We all like it very well.’
There was something, I dare say, very whimsical about it, probably very absurd, judged at least by the canons of fashion, and old Cousin Monica Knollys, in whose eye the London fashions were always fresh, was palpably struck by it as if it had been some enormity against anatomy, for she certainly laughed very heartily; indeed, there were tears on her cheeks when she had done, and I am sure my aspect of wonder and dignity, as her hilarity proceeded, helped to revive her merriment again and again as it was subsiding.
‘There, you mustn’t be vexed with old Cousin Monica,’ she cried, jumping up, and giving me a little hug, and bestowing a hearty kiss on my forehead, and a jolly little slap on my cheek. ’Always remember your cousin Monica is an outspoken, wicked old fool, who likes you, and never be offended by her nonsense. A council of three—you all sat upon it—Mrs. Rusk, you said, and Mary Quince, and your wise self, the weird sisters; and Austin stepped in, as Macbeth, and said, ‘What is’t ye do?’ you all made answer together, ’A something or other without a name!’ Now, seriously, my dear, it is quite unpardonable in Austin—your papa, I mean—to hand you over to be robed and bedizened according to the whimsies of these wild old women—aren’t they old? If they know better, it’s positively fiendish. I’ll blow him up—I will indeed, my dear. You know you’re an heiress, and ought not to appear like a jack-pudding.’
’Papa intends sending me to London with Madame and Mary Quince, and going with me himself, if Doctor Bryerly says he may make the journey, and then I am to have dresses and everything.’
‘Well, that is better. And who is Doctor Bryerly—is your papa ill?’
’Ill; oh no; he always seems just the same. You don’t think him ill-looking ill, I mean?’ I asked eagerly and frightened.
’No, my dear, he looks very well for his time of life; but why is Doctor What’s-his-name here? Is he a physician, or a divine, or a horse-doctor? and why is his leave asked?’
‘I—I really don’t understand.’
‘Is he a what d’ye call’em—a Swedenborgian?’
‘I believe so.’
’Oh, I see; ha, ha, ha! And so poor Austin must ask leave to go up to town. Well, go he shall, whether his doctor likes it or not, for it would not do to send you there in charge of your Frenchwoman, my dear. What’s her name?’
‘Madame de la Rougierre.’
LADY KNOLLYS REMOVES A COVERLET
Lady Knollys pursued her enquiries.
’And why does not Madame make your dresses, my dear? I wager a guinea the woman’s a milliner. Did not she engage to make your dresses?’
’I—I really don’t know; I rather think not. She is my governess—a finishing governess, Mrs. Rusk says.’