“Drink up your beef-tea, missy,” said Hannah. “Please, Mr. Noel, sir, will you hold the cup for little miss? Oh, my heart alive, what—what is that?”
“I don’t see anything,” said Noel, “what has frightened you, Hannah?”
But Hannah had grown white, and looked very queer, and a moment after she hurried out of the room.
“I never knew your servant was nervous,” said Noel to Daisy.
“Nervous?” she repeated, laughing merrily. “Is it Hannah? why she always says she hasn’t a nerve in her whole body. She’s sometimes almost cross with me for being nervous, Mr. Prince.”
Noel stayed some little time longer with the sisters, and then returned to Rosebury in time to catch the evening train to London. When he got there he went straight to Mrs. Ellsworthy’s house. That little lady was anxiously expecting him, and plied him with many questions on the spot.
“How is she taking it, Arthur?” she asked. “I have been forming and maturing my plans, and I now think a resident governess at Shortlands would be the nicest arrangement for the girls. They cannot be parted, that is very evident, and as Primrose must be more than eighteen she would not care to go to school. Yes, a resident governess seems the plan of plans. I would take them up to London early in the spring, and give them the advantage of the very best masters.”
“Primrose seems very unhappy about it,” replied Noel. “She may in the end consent to some scheme for perfecting her education, but I’m quite sure she will not go, nor allow her sisters to go to Shortlands to live a life of simple luxury. I am sorry for you, Mrs. Ellsworthy, but I know Primrose will never consent to that.”
“I don’t think you are sorry for me, Arthur,” answered the pretty little lady. “In your heart of hearts you quite agree with that naughty, bad Primrose. You had rather the girls lived in their attic, and encountered another dreadful Mr. Dove, and fell into the hands of another designing publisher, than have them safe and happy at Shortlands. Oh, it is a plot between you all to deprive me of my great pleasure. Oh, why will girls, and young men, too, be so perverse?”
“I am sorry for both you and Primrose,” he said. “I am convinced she will never agree to your present scheme, although she may allow you to help her to perfect her education.”
Daisy was quite right when she said that Hannah was not subject to nervous attacks. Hannah scorned nerves, and did not believe in them. When she was told that the human body was as full of nerves as an electric battery was full of electricity, that nerves, in short, were like numberless telegraphic-wires, prevailing the whole human frame, she stared at the speakers, and pronounced them slightly daft.
Yet Hannah went out of her own little sitting-room on that summer afternoon with, as she expressed it, trembling sensations running down her back, and causing her fingers to shake when she handled her cups and saucers.