Madame Midas was seated now at the small table in the centre of the room, poring over a bewildering array of figures, and the soft glow of the lamp touched her smooth hair and white dress with a subdued light.
Archie sat by the fire, half asleep, and there was a dead silence in the room, only broken by the rapid scratching of Madame’s pen or the click of Selina’s needles. At last Mrs Villiers, with a sigh of relief, laid down her pen, put all her papers together, and tied them neatly with a bit of string.
‘I’m afraid I’ll have to get a clerk, Archie,’ she said, as she put the papers away, ‘the office work is getting too much for me.’
’’Deed, mem, and ‘tis that same I was thinkin’ o’,’ returned Mr McIntosh, sitting bolt upright in his chair, lest the imputation of having been asleep should be brought against him. ’It’s ill wark seein’ ye spoilin’ your bonny eyes owre sic a muckle lot o’ figures as ye hae there.’
‘Someone must do it,’ said Madame, resuming her seat at the table.
‘Then why not get a body that can dae it?’ retorted Archie; ’not but what ye canna figure yersel’, mem, but really ye need a rest, and if I hear of onyone in toun wha we can trust I’ll bring him here next week.’
‘I don’t see why you shouldn’t,’ said Madame, musingly; ’the mine is fairly under way now, and if things go on as they are doing, I must have someone to assist me.’
At this moment a knock came to the front door, which caused Selina to drop her work with a sudden start, and rise to her feet.
‘Not you, Selina,’ said Madame, in a quiet voice; ’let Archie go; it may be some tramp.’
‘’Deed no, mem,’ replied Archie, obstinately, as he arose from his seat; ’’tis verra likely a man fra the warks saying he wants to go. There’s mair talk nor sense aboot them, I’m thinkin’—the yattering parrots.’
Selina resumed her knitting in a most phlegmatic manner, but Madame listened intently, for she was always haunted by a secret dread of her husband breaking in on her, and it was partly on this account that McIntosh stayed in the house. She heard a murmur of voices, and then Archie returned with two men, who entered the room and stood before Madame in the light of the lamp.
‘’Tis two men fra that wudden-legged gowk o’ a Slivers,’ said Archie, respectfully. ‘Ain o’ them has a wee bit letter for ye’— turning to receive same from the foremost man.