This was a great deal from Lady Knollys, who had a taste for advising her friends and managing their affairs.
’I’ve a great respect for instinct. I believe, Austin, it is truer than reason, and yours and Maud’s are both against me, though I know I have reason on my side.’
My father’s brief wintry smile answered, and Cousin Monica kissed me, and said—
’I’ve been so long my own mistress that I sometimes forget there are such things as fear and jealousy; and are you going to your governess, Maud?’
I was going to my governess, as Lady Knollys said; and so I went. The undefinable sense of danger that smote me whenever I beheld that woman had deepened since last night’s occurrence, and was taken out of the region of instinct or prepossession by the strange though slight indications of recognition and abhorrence which I had witnessed in Lady Knollys on that occasion.
The tone in which Cousin Monica had asked, ’are you going to your governess?’ and the curious, grave, and anxious look that accompanied the question, disturbed me; and there was something odd and cold in the tone as if a remembrance had suddenly chilled her. The accent remained in my ear, and the sharp brooding look was fixed before me as I glided up the broad dark stairs to Madame de la Rougierre’s chamber.
She had not come down to the school-room, as the scene of my studies was called. She had decided on having a relapse, and accordingly had not made her appearance down-stairs that morning. The gallery leading to her room was dark and lonely, and I grew more nervous as I approached; I paused at the door, making up my mind to knock.
But the door opened suddenly, and, like a magic-lantern figure, presented with a snap, appeared close before my eyes the great muffled face, with the forbidding smirk, of Madame de la Rougierre.
‘Wat you mean, my dear cheaile?’ she inquired with a malevolent shrewdness in her eyes, and her hollow smile all the time disconcerting me more even than the suddenness of her appearance; ’wat for you approach so softly? I do not sleep, you see, but you feared, perhaps, to have the misfortune of wakening me, and so you came—is it not so?—to leesten, and looke in very gentily; you want to know how I was. Vous etes bien aimable d’avoir pense a moi. Bah!’ she cried, suddenly bursting through her irony. ’Wy could not Lady Knollys come herself and leesten to the keyhole to make her report? Fi donc! wat is there to conceal? Nothing. Enter, if you please. Every one they are welcome!’ and she flung the door wide, turned her back upon me, and, with an ejaculation which I did not understand, strode into the room.
’I did not come with any intention, Madame, to pry or to intrude—you don’t think so—you can’t think so—you can’t possibly mean to insinuate anything so insulting!’