I think, if my mind had been less anxiously excited on the subject of his visit, or if I had not disliked him so much, I should not have found courage to accost him as I did. There was something sly, I thought, in his dark, lean face; and he looked so low, so like a Scotch artisan in his Sunday clothes, that I felt a sudden pang of indignation, at the thought that a great gentleman, like my father, should have suffered under his influence, and I stopped suddenly, instead of passing him by with a mere salutation, as he expected, ‘May I ask a question, Doctor Bryerly?’
‘Are you the friend whom my father expects?’
‘I don’t quite see.’
’The friend, I mean, with whom he is to make an expedition to some distance, I think, and for some little time?’
‘No,’ said the Doctor, with a shake of his head.
‘And who is he?’
‘I really have not a notion, Miss.’
‘Why, he said that you knew,’ I replied.
The Doctor looked honestly puzzled.
‘Will he stay long away? pray tell me.’
The Doctor looked into my troubled face with inquiring and darkened eyes, like one who half reads another’s meaning; and then he said a little briskly, but not sharply—
’Well, I don’t know, I’m sure, Miss; no, indeed, you must have mistaken; there’s nothing that I know.’
There was a little pause, and he added—
‘No. He never mentioned any friend to me.’ I fancied that he was made uncomfortable by my question, and wanted to hide the truth. Perhaps I was partly right.
’Oh! Doctor Bryerly, pray, pray who is the friend, and where is he going?’
‘I do assure you,’ he said, with a strange sort of impatience, ’I don’t know; it is all nonsense.’
And he turned to go, looking, I think, annoyed and disconcerted.
A terrific suspicion crossed my brain like lightning.
‘Doctor, one word,’ I said, I believe, quite wildly. ’Do you—do you think his mind is at all affected?’
‘Insane?’ he said, looking at me with a sudden, sharp inquisitiveness, that brightened into a smile. ’Pooh, pooh! Heaven forbid! not a saner man in England.’
Then with a little nod he walked on, carrying, as I believed, notwithstanding his disclaimer, the secret with him. In the afternoon Doctor Bryerly went away.
For many days after our quarrel, Madame hardly spoke to me. As for lessons, I was not much troubled with them. It was plain, too, that my father had spoken to her, for she never after that day proposed our extending our walks beyond the precincts of Knowl.
Knowl, however, was a very considerable territory, and it was possible for a much better pedestrian than I to tire herself effectually, without passing its limits. So we took occasionally long walks.