’Allow me, my dear Miss Ruthyn, while expressing my regret that we are to lose you from among our little flock—though I trust but for a short, a very short time—to say how I rejoice at the particular arrangement indicated by the will we have just heard read. My curate, William Fairfield, resided for some years in the same spiritual capacity in the neighbourhood of your, I will say, admirable uncle, with occasional intercourse with whom he was favoured—may I not say blessed?—a true Christian Churchman—a Christian gentleman. Can I say more? A most happy, happy choice.’ A very low bow here, with eyes nearly closed, and a shake of the head. ’Mrs. Clay will do herself the honour of waiting upon you, to pay her respects, before you leave Knowl for your temporary sojourn in another sphere.’
So, with another deep bow—for I had become a great personage all at once—he let go my hand cautiously and delicately, as if he were setting down a curious china tea-cup. And I courtesied low to him, not knowing what to say, and then to the assembly generally, who all bowed. And Cousin Monica whispered, briskly, ‘Come away,’ and took my hand with a very cold and rather damp one, and led me from the room.
I HEAR FROM UNCLE SILAS
Without saying a word, Cousin Monica accompanied me to the school-room, and on entering she shut the door, not with a spirited clang, but quietly and determinedly.
‘Well, dear,’ she said, with the same pale, excited countenance, ’that certainly is a sensible and charitable arrangement. I could not have believed it possible, had I not heard it with my ears.’
‘About my going to Bartram-Haugh?’
’Yes, exactly so, under Silas Ruthyn’s guardianship, to spend two—three—of the most important years of your education and your life under that roof. Is that, my dear, what was in your mind when you were so alarmed about what you were to be called upon to do, or undergo?’
’No, no, indeed. I had no notion what it might be. I was afraid of something serious,’ I answered.
’And, my dear Maud, did not your poor father speak to you as if it was something serious?’ said she. ’And so it is, I can tell you, something serious, and very serious; and I think it ought to be prevented, and I certainly will prevent it if I possibly can.’
I was puzzled utterly by the intensity of Lady Knollys’ protest. I looked at her, expecting an explanation of her meaning; but she was silent, looking steadfastly on the jewels on her right-hand fingers, with which she was drumming a staccato march on the table, very pale, with gleaming eyes, evidently thinking deeply. I began to think she had a prejudice against my uncle Silas.
‘He is not very rich,’ I commenced.
‘Who?’ said Lady Knollys.
‘Uncle Silas,’ I replied.