In very early youth we do not appreciate the restraints which act upon malignity, or know how effectually fear protects us where conscience is wanting. Quite alone, in this solitary spot, detected and overtaken with an awful instinct by my enemy, what might not be about to happen to me at that moment?
‘Frightened as usual, Maud,’ she said quietly, and eyeing me with a sinister smile, ’and with cause you think, no doubt. Wat ’av you done to injure poor Madame? Well, I think I know, little girl, and have quite discover the cleverness of my sweet little Maud. Eh—is not so? Petite carogne—ah, ha, ha!’
I was too much confounded to answer.
‘You see, my dear cheaile,’ she said, shaking her uplifted finger with a hideous archness at me, ’you could not hide what you ’av done from poor Madame. You cannot look so innocent but I can see your pretty little villany quite plain—you dear little diablesse.
’Wat I ’av done I ’av no reproach of myself for it. If I could explain, your papa would say I ’av done right, and you should thank me on your knees; but I cannot explain yet.’
She was speaking, as it were, in little paragraphs, with a momentary pause between each, to allow its meaning to impress itself.
’If I were to choose to explain, your papa he would implore me to remain. But no—I would not—notwithstanding your so cheerful house, your charming servants, your papa’s amusing society, and your affectionate and sincere heart, my sweet little maraude.
’I am to go to London first, where I ’av, oh, so good friends! next I will go abroad for some time; but be sure, my sweetest Maud, wherever I may ’appen to be, I will remember you—ah, ha! Yes; most certainly, I will remember you.
’And although I shall not be always near, yet I shall know everything about my charming little Maud; you will not know how, but I shall indeed, everything. And be sure, my dearest cheaile, I will some time be able to give you the sensible proofs of my gratitude and affection—you understand.
’The carriage is waiting at the yew-tree stile, and I must go on. You did not expect to see me—here; I will appear, perhaps, as suddenly another time. It is great pleasure to us both—this opportunity to make our adieux. Farewell! my dearest little Maud. I will never cease to think of you, and of some way to recompense the kindness you ‘av shown for poor Madame.’
My hand hung by my side, and she took, not it, but my thumb, and shook it, folded in her broad palm, and looking on me as she held it, as if meditating mischief. Then suddenly she said—
’You will always remember Madame, I think, and I will remind you of me beside; and for the present farewell, and I hope you may be as ’appy as you deserve.’
The large sinister face looked on me for a second with its latent sneer, and then, with a sharp nod and a spasmodic shake of my imprisoned thumb, she turned, and holding her dress together, and showing her great bony ankles, she strode rapidly away over the gnarled roots into the perspective of the trees, and I did not awake, as it were, until she had quite disappeared in the distance.