A knock at the door interrupted them. The Reverend Mr. Fairweather rose and went towards it. As he passed the table, his coat caught something, which came rattling to the floor. It was a crucifix with a string of beads attached. As he opened the door, the Milesian features of Father McShane presented themselves, and from their centre proceeded the clerical benediction in Irish-sounding Latin, Pax vobiscum!
The Reverend Doctor Honeywood rose and left the priest and his disciple together.
The Spider on his thread.
There was nobody, then, to counsel poor Elsie, except her father, who had learned to let her have her own way so as not to disturb such relations as they had together, and the old black woman, who had a real, though limited influence over the girl. Perhaps she did not need counsel. To look upon her, one might well suppose that she was competent to defend herself against any enemy she was like to have. That glittering, piercing eye was not to be softened by a few smooth words spoken in low tones, charged with the common sentiments which win their way to maidens’ hearts. That round, lithe, sinuous figure was as full of dangerous life as ever lay under the slender flanks and clean-shaped limbs of a panther.
There were particular times when Elsie was in such a mood that it must have been a bold person who would have intruded upon her with reproof or counsel. “This is one of her days,” old Sophy would say quietly to her father, and he would, as far as possible, leave her to herself. These days were more frequent, as old Sophy’s keen, concentrated watchfulness had taught her, at certain periods of the year. It was in the heats of summer that they were most common and most strongly characterized. In winter, on the other hand, she was less excitable, and even at times heavy and as if chilled and dulled in her sensibilities. It was a strange, paroxysmal kind of life that belonged to her. It seemed to come and go with the sunlight. All winter long she would be comparatively quiet, easy to manage, listless, slow in her motions; her eye would lose something of its strange lustre; and the old nurse would feel so little anxiety, that her whole expression and aspect would show the change, and people would say to her, “Why, Sophy, how young you’re looking!”
As the spring came on, Elsie would leave the fireside, have her tiger-skin spread in the empty southern chamber next the wall, and lie there basking for whole hours in the sunshine. As the season warmed, the light would kindle afresh in her eyes, and the old woman’s sleep would grow restless again,—for she knew, that, so long as the glitter was fierce in the girl’s eyes, there was no trusting her impulses or movements.