“I do hope, Miss Trelawny, that you understand that I am willing— frankly and unequivocally willing—to do anything I can, within the limits of my power, to relieve your distress. But your Father had, in all his doings, some purpose of his own which he did not disclose to me. So far as I can see, there is not a word of his instructions that he had not thought over fully. Whatever idea he had in his mind was the idea of a lifetime; he had studied it in every possible phase, and was prepared to guard it at every point.
“Now I fear I have distressed you, and I am truly sorry for it; for I see you have much—too much—to bear already. But I have no alternative. If you want to consult me at any time about anything, I promise you I will come without a moment’s delay, at any hour of the day or night. There is my private address,” he scribbled in his pocket-book as he spoke, “and under it the address of my club, where I am generally to be found in the evening.” He tore out the paper and handed it to her. She thanked him. He shook hands with her and with me and withdrew.
As soon as the hall door was shut on him, Mrs. Grant tapped at the door and came in. There was such a look of distress in her face that Miss Trelawny stood up, deadly white, and asked her:
“What is it, Mrs. Grant? What is it? Any new trouble?”
“I grieve to say, miss, that the servants, all but two, have given notice and want to leave the house today. They have talked the matter over among themselves; the butler has spoken for the rest. He says as how they are willing to forego their wages, and even to pay their legal obligations instead of notice; but that go today they must.”
“What reason do they give?”
“None, miss. They say as how they’re sorry, but that they’ve nothing to say. I asked Jane, the upper housemaid, miss, who is not with the rest but stops on; and she tells me confidential that they’ve got some notion in their silly heads that the house is haunted!”
We ought to have laughed, but we didn’t. I could not look in Miss Trelawny’s face and laugh. The pain and horror there showed no sudden paroxysm of fear; there was a fixed idea of which this was a confirmation. For myself, it seemed as if my brain had found a voice. But the voice was not complete; there was some other thought, darker and deeper, which lay behind it, whose voice had not sounded as yet.
The first to get full self-command was Miss Trelawny. There was a haughty dignity in her bearing as she said:
“Very well, Mrs. Grant; let them go! Pay them up to today, and a month’s wages. They have hitherto been very good servants; and the occasion of their leaving is not an ordinary one. We must not expect much faithfulness from any one who is beset with fears. Those who remain are to have in future double wages; and please send these to me presently when I send word.” Mrs. Grant bristled with smothered indignation; all the housekeeper in her was outraged by such generous treatment of servants who had combined to give notice: