I thanked him through my tears very earnestly.
’But, Maud, beware of prejudice; women are unjust and violent in their judgments. Your family has suffered in some of its members by such injustice. It behoves us to be careful not to practise it.’
That evening in the drawing-room my father said, in his usual abrupt way—
’About my departure, Maud: I’ve had a letter from London this morning, and I think I shall be called away sooner than I at first supposed, and for a little time we must manage apart from one another. Do not be alarmed. You shall not be in Madame de la Rougierre’s charge, but under the care of a relation; but even so, little Maud will miss her old father, I think.’
His tone was very tender, so were his looks; he was looking down on me with a smile, and tears were in his eyes. This softening was new to me. I felt a strange thrill of surprise, delight, and love, and springing up, I threw my arms about his neck and wept in silence. He, I think, shed tears also.
’You said a visitor was coming; some one, you mean, to go away with. Ah, yes, you love him better than me.’
‘No, dear, no; but I fear him; and I am sorry to leave you, little Maud.’
‘It won’t be very long,’ I pleaded.
‘No, dear,’ he answered with a sigh.
I was tempted almost to question him more closely on the subject, but he seemed to divine what was in my mind, for he said—
’Let us speak no more of it, but only bear in mind, Maud, what I told you about the oak cabinet, the key of which is here,’ and he held it up as formerly: ’you remember what you are to do in case Doctor Bryerly should come while I am away?’
His manner had changed, and I had returned to my accustomed formalities.
It was only a few days later that Dr. Bryerly actually did arrive at Knowl, quite unexpectedly, except, I suppose, by my father. He was to stay only one night.
He was twice closeted in the little study up-stairs with my father, who seemed to me, even for him, unusually dejected, and Mrs. Rusk inveighing against ‘them rubbitch,’ as she always termed the Swedenborgians, told me ’they were making him quite shaky-like, and he would not last no time, if that lanky, lean ghost of a fellow in black was to keep prowling in and out of his room like a tame cat.’
I lay awake that night, wondering what the mystery might be that connected my father and Dr. Bryerly. There was something more than the convictions of their strange religion could account for. There was something that profoundly agitated my father. It may not be reasonable, but so it is. The person whose presence, though we know nothing of the cause of that effect, is palpably attended with pain to anyone who is dear to us, grows odious, and I began to detest Doctor Bryerly.
It was a grey, dark morning, and in a dark pass in the gallery, near the staircase, I came full upon the ungainly Doctor, in his glossy black suit.