’To think of a young fellow like that, and his wife, poor thing, not dead a year—maybe she’s got money?’
’I don’t know—I don’t care—perhaps, Mrs. Rusk, you mistook Madame. I will go down; I am going out.’
Madame had a basket in her hand. She held it quietly by her capacious skirt, at the far side, and made no allusion to the preparation, neither to the direction in which she proposed walking, and prattling artlessly and affectionately she marched by my side.
Thus we reached the stile at the sheep-walk, and then I paused.
’Now, Madame, have not we gone far enough in this direction?—suppose we visit the pigeon-house in the park?’
‘Wat folly! my dear a Maud—you cannot walk so far.’
‘Well, towards home, then.’
’And wy not a this way? We ave not walk enough, and Mr. Ruthyn he will not be pleased if you do not take proper exercise. Let us walk on by the path, and stop when you like.’
‘Where do you wish to go, Madame?’
‘Nowhere particular—come along; don’t be fool, Maud.’
‘This leads to Church Scarsdale.’
’A yes indeed! wat sweet place! bote we need not a walk all the way to there.’
‘I’d rather not walk outside the grounds to-day, Madame.’
‘Come, Maud, you shall not be fool—wat you mean, Mademoiselle?’ said the stalworth lady, growing yellow and greenish with an angry mottling, and accosting me very gruffly.
’I don’t care to cross the stile, thank you, Madame. I shall remain at this side.’
‘You shall do wat I tell you!’ exclaimed she.
‘Let go my arm, Madame, you hurt me,’ I cried.
She had griped my arm very firmly in her great bony hand, and seemed preparing to drag me over by main force.
‘Let me go,’ I repeated shrilly, for the pain increased.
‘La!’ she cried with a smile of rage and a laugh, letting me go and shoving me backward at the same time, so that I had a rather dangerous tumble.
I stood up, a good deal hurt, and very angry, notwithstanding my fear of her.
‘I’ll ask papa if I am to be so ill-used.’
‘Wat av I done?’ cried Madame, laughing grimly from her hollow jaws; I did all I could to help you over—’ow could I prevent you to pull back and tumble if you would do so? That is the way wen you petites Mademoiselles are naughty and hurt yourself they always try to make blame other people. Tell a wat you like—you think I care?’
‘Very well, Madame.’
‘Are a you coming?’
She looked steadily in my face and very wickedly. I gazed at her as with dazzled eyes—I suppose as the feathered prey do at the owl that glares on them by night. I neither moved back nor forward, but stared at her quite helplessly.
’You are nice pupil—charming young person! So polite, so obedient, so amiable! I will walk towards Church Scarsdale,’ she continued, suddenly breaking through the conventionalism of her irony, and accosting me in savage accents. ’You weel stay behind if you dare. I tell you to accompany—do you hear?’