‘You know a great deal about her, Cousin Monica, but you won’t tell me.’
’Nothing I should like better, if I were at liberty, little rogue; but you know, after all, I don’t really say whether I do know anything about her or not, or what sort of knowledge it is. But tell me what you mean by ghosty, and all about it.’
So I recounted my experiences, to which, so far from laughing at me, she listened with very special gravity.
‘Does she write and receive many letters?’
I had seen her write letters, and supposed, though I could only recollect one or two, that she received in proportion.
‘Are you Mary Quince?’ asked my lady cousin.
Mary was arranging the window-curtains, and turned, dropping a courtesy affirmatively toward her.
‘You wait on my little cousin, Miss Ruthyn, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’m,’ said Mary, in her genteelest way.
‘Does anyone sleep in her room?’
‘Yes,’m, I—please, my lady.’
‘And no one else?’
‘No,’m—please, my lady.’
’Not even the governess, sometimes?
‘No, please, my lady.’
‘Never, you are quite sure, my dear?’ said Lady Knollys, transferring the question to me.
‘Oh, no, never,’ I answered.
Cousin Monica mused gravely, I fancied even anxiously, into the grate; then stirred her tea and sipped it, still looking into the same point of our cheery fire.
‘I like your face, Mary Quince; I’m sure you are a good creature,’ she said, suddenly turning toward her with a pleasant countenance. ’I’m very glad you have got her, dear. I wonder whether Austin has gone to his bed yet!’
’I think not. I am certain he is either in the library or in his private room—papa often reads or prays alone at night, and—and he does not like to be interrupted.’
‘No, no; of course not—it will do very well in the morning.’
Lady Knollys was thinking deeply, as it seemed to me.
‘And so you are afraid of goblins, my dear,’ she said at last, with a faded sort of smile, turning toward me; ’well, if I were, I know what I should do—so soon as I, and good Mary Quince here, had got into my bed-chamber for the night, I should stir the fire into a good blaze, and bolt the door—do you see, Mary Quince?—bolt the door and keep a candle lighted all night. You’ll be very attentive to her, Mary Quince, for I—I don’t think she is very strong, and she must not grow nervous: so get to bed early, and don’t leave her alone—do you see?—and—and remember to bolt the door, Mary Quince, and I shall be sending a little Christmas-box to my cousin, and I shan’t forget you. Good-night.’
And with a pleasant courtesy Mary fluttered out of the room.
A CURIOUS CONVERSATION
We each had another cup of tea, and were silent for awhile.