“I can’t think what you mean.”
“I will not disturb your happy innocence, my love. It is enough for your uncle and me to be awake, to counteract any machinations. Ah! I see your astonishment! You are so simple, my dear child, and you have been studiously kept in the dark.”
“I can’t think what you are driving at,” said Elvira, impatiently. “Mrs. Brownlow would never let any harm happen to me, nor Allen either. Do let me go.”
“One moment, my darling. I must love you through all, and you will know your true friends one day. Are you-let me ask the question out of my deep, almost maternal, solicitude-are you engaged to Mr. Brownlow?”
“Of course I am!”
“Of course, as you say. Most ingenuous! Ah? well, may it not be too late!”
“Don’t be so horrid, Lisette! Allen is not half a bad fellow, and frightfully in love with me.”
“Exactly, my dear unsuspicious dove. There! I see you are impatient. You will know the truth soon enough. One kiss, for your mother’s sake.”
But Elvira broke from her, and rejoined Allen.
“I have sounded the child,” said Lisette to her husband that evening, “and she is quite in the dark, though the very servants in the house are better informed.”
“Better informed than the fact, may be,” said Mr. Gould (for a man always scouts a woman’s gossip).
“No, indeed. Poor dear child, she is blinded purposely. She never guessed why she was sent to Kencroft while the old Colonel was called in, and they all agreed that the will should be kept back till the wedding with Mr. Allen should be over, and he could make up the rest. So now the child is to be sent to town, and surrounded with Mrs. Brownlow’s creatures to prey upon her innocence. But you have no care for your own niece-none!”
CHAPTER XXIX. FRIENDS AND UNFRIENDS.
Ay, and, I think,
One business doth command us all; for mine
Timon of Athens.
Before the door of one of the supremely respectable and aristocratic but somewhat gloomy-looking houses in Cavendish Square, whose mauve plate-glass windows and link-extinguishers are like fossils of a past era of civilisation, three riding horses were being walked up and down, two with side-saddles and one for a gentleman. They were taken aside as a four-wheel drove up, while a female voice exclaimed-
“Ah! we are just it time!”
Cards and a note were sent in with a request to see Miss Menella.
Word came back that Miss Menella was just going out riding; but on the return of a message that the visitors came from Mrs. Brownlow on important business, they were taken up-stairs to an ante-room.
They were three-Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Gould, and, to the great discontentment of the former, Mrs. Gould likewise. Fain would he have shaken her off; but as she truly said, who could deprive her of her rights as kinswoman, and wife to the young lady’s guardian?