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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 478 pages of information about Uncle Silas.

’Finishing fiddle!  Hoity-toity! and my lady’s too grand to cut out your dresses and help to sew them?  And what does she do?  I venture to say she’s fit to teach nothing but devilment—­not that she has taught you much, my dear—­yet at least.  I’ll see her, my dear; where is she?  Come, let us visit Madame.  I should so like to talk to her a little.’

‘But she is ill,’ I answered, and all this time I was ready to cry for vexation, thinking of my dress, which must be very absurd to elicit so much unaffected laughter from my experienced relative, and I was only longing to get away and hide myself before that handsome Captain returned.

‘Ill! is she? what’s the matter?’

‘A cold—­feverish and rheumatic, she says.’

‘Oh, a cold; is she up, or in bed?’

‘In her room, but not in bed.’

’I should so like to see her, my dear.  It is not mere curiosity, I assure you.  In fact, curiosity has nothing on earth to do with it.  A governess may be a very useful or a very useless person; but she may also be about the most pernicious inmate imaginable.  She may teach you a bad accent, and worse manners, and heaven knows what beside.  Send the housekeeper, my dear, to tell her that I am going to see her.’

‘I had better go myself, perhaps,’ I said, fearing a collision between Mrs. Rusk and the bitter Frenchwoman.

‘Very well, dear.’

And away I ran, not sorry somehow to escape before Captain Oakley returned.

As I went along the passage, I was thinking whether my dress could be so very ridiculous as my old cousin thought it, and trying in vain to recollect any evidence of a similar contemptuous estimate on the part of that beautiful and garrulous dandy.  I could not—­quite the reverse, indeed.  Still I was uncomfortable and feverish—­girls of my then age will easily conceive how miserable, under similar circumstances, such a misgiving would make them.

It was a long way to Madame’s room.  I met Mrs. Rusk bustling along the passage with a housemaid.

‘How is Madame?’ I asked.

‘Quite well, I believe,’ answered the housekeeper, drily.  ’Nothing the matter that I know of.  She eat enough for two to-day.  I wish I could sit in my room doing nothing.’

Madame was sitting, or rather reclining, in a low arm-chair, when I entered the room, close to the fire, as was her wont, her feet extended near to the bars, and a little coffee equipage beside her.  She stuffed a book hastily between her dress and the chair, and received me in a state of langour which, had it not been for Mrs. Rusk’s comfortable assurances, would have frightened me.

‘I hope you are better, Madame,’ I said, approaching.

’Better than I deserve, my dear cheaile, sufficiently well.  The people are all so good, trying me with every little thing, like a bird; here is cafe—­Mrs. Rusk-a, poor woman, I try to swallow a little to please her.’

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