‘I hope not,’ said Lady Knollys, drily, a little pale, and still looking with a dark sort of wonder upon the flushed face and forehead of the governess, who was looking downward, straight before her, very sulkily and disconcerted.
’I suppose you have explained everything satisfactorily to Mr. Ruthyn, in whose house I find you?’ said Cousin Monica.
’Yes, certainly, everything he requires—in effect there is nothing to explain. I am ready to answer to any question. Let him demand me.’
‘Very good, Mademoiselle.’
‘Madame, if you please.’
‘I forgot—Madame—yes, I shall apprise him of everything.’
Madame turned upon her a peaked and malign look, smiling askance with a stealthy scorn.
’For myself, I have nothing to conceal. I have always done my duty. What fine scene about nothing absolutely—what charming remedies for a sick person! Ma foi! how much oblige I am for these so amiable attentions!’
’So far as I can see, Mademoiselle—Madame, I mean—you don’t stand very much in need of remedies. Your ear and head don’t seem to trouble you just now. I fancy these pains may now be dismissed.’
Lady Knollys was now speaking French.
’Mi ladi has diverted my attention for a moment, but that does not prevent that I suffer frightfully. I am, of course, only poor governess, and such people perhaps ought not to have pain—at least to show when they suffer. It is permitted us to die, but not to be sick.’
’Come, Maud, my dear, let us leave the invalid to her repose and to nature. I don’t think she needs my chloroform and opium at present.’
’Mi ladi is herself a physic which chases many things, and powerfully affects the ear. I would wish to sleep, notwithstanding, and can but gain that in silence, if it pleases mi ladi.’
‘Come, my dear,’ said Lady Knollys, without again glancing at the scowling, smiling, swarthy face in the bed; ’let us leave your instructress to her concforto.’
‘The room smells all over of brandy, my dear—does she drink?’ said Lady Knollys, as she closed the door, a little sharply.
I am sure I looked as much amazed as I felt, at an imputation which then seemed to me so entirely incredible.
‘Good little simpleton!’ said Cousin Monica, smiling in my face, and bestowing a little kiss on my cheek; ’such a thing as a tipsy lady has never been dreamt of in your philosophy. Well, we live and learn. Let us have our tea in my room—the gentlemen, I dare say, have retired.’
I assented, of course, and we had tea very cosily by her bedroom fire.
‘How long have you had that woman?’ she asked suddenly, after, for her, a very long rumination.
‘She came in the beginning of February—nearly ten months ago—is not it?’
‘And who sent her?’
’I really don’t know; papa tells me so little—he arranged it all himself, I think.’