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There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Hamlet.
When Mrs. Elton left the breakfast table, she went straight to Miss Cameron's room to inquire after her, expecting to find her maid with her. But when she knocked at the door, there was no reply.
She went therefore to her own room, and sent her maid to find Euphra's maid.
"Is your mistress going to get up to-day, Jane?" asked Mrs. Elton.
"I don't know, ma'am. She has not rung yet."
"Have you not been to see how she is?"
"How was it you brought that message at breakfast, then?"
Jane looked confused, and did not reply.
"Jane!" said Mrs. Elton, in a tone of objurgation.
"Well, ma'am, she told me to say so," answered Jane.
"How did she tell you?"
Jane paused again.
"Through the door, ma'am," she answered at length; and then muttered, that they would make her tell lies by asking her questions she couldn't answer; and she wished she was out of the house, that she did.
Mrs. Elton heard this, and, of course, felt considerably puzzled.
"Will you go now, please, and inquire after your mistress, with my compliments?"
"I daren't, ma'am."
"Daren't! What do you mean?"
"Well, ma'am, there is something about my mistress--" Here she stopped abruptly; but as Mrs. Elton stood expectant, she tried to go on. All she could add, however, was--"No, ma'am; I daren't."
"But there is no harm in going to her room."
"Oh, no, ma'am. I go to her room, summer and winter, at seven o'clock every morning," answered Jane, apparently glad to be able to say something.
"Why won't you go now, then?"
"Why--why--because she told me--" Here the girl stammered and turned pale. At length she forced out the words--"She won't let me tell you why," and burst into tears.
"Won't let you tell me?" repeated Mrs. Elton, beginning to think the girl must be out of her mind. Jane looked hurriedly over her shoulder, as if she expected to see her mistress standing behind her, and then said, almost defiantly:
"No, she won't; and I can't."
With these words, she hurried out of the room, while Mrs. Elton turned with baffled bewilderment to seek counsel from the face of Margaret. As to what all this meant, I am in doubt. I have recorded it as Margaret told it to Hugh afterwards--because it seems to indicate something. It shows evidently enough, that if Euphra had more than a usual influence over servants in general, she had a great deal more over this maid in particular. Was this in virtue of a power similar to that of Count Halkar over herself? And was this, or something very different, or both combined, the art which he had accused her of first exercising upon him? Might the fact that her defeat had resulted in such absolute subjection, be connected with her possession of a power similar to his, which she had matched with his in vain? Of course I only suggest these questions. I cannot answer them.
At one o'clock, the carriage came round to the door; and Hugh, in the hope of seeing Euphra alone, was the first in the hall. Mrs. Elton and Lady Emily presently came, and proceeded to take their places, without seeming to expect Miss Cameron. Hugh helped them into the carriage; but, instead of getting in, lingered, hoping that Euphra was yet going to make her appearance.
"I fear Miss Cameron is unable to join us," said Mrs. Elton, divining his delay.
"Shall I run up-stairs, and knock at her door?" said Hugh.
"Do," said Mrs. Elton, who, after the unsatisfactory conversation she had held with her maid, had felt both uneasy and curious, all the morning.
Hugh bounded up-stairs; but, just as he was going to knock, the door opened, and Euphra, appeared.
"Dear Euphra! how ill you look!" exclaimed Hugh.
She was pale as death, and dark under the eyes; and had evidently been weeping.
"Hush! hush!" she answered. "Never mind. It is only a bad headache. Don't take any notice of it."
"The carriage is at the door. Will you not come with us?"
"Lady Emily and Mrs. Elton."
"I am sick of them."
"I am going, Euphra."
"Stay with me."
"I must go. I promised to take care of them."
"Oh, nonsense! What should happen to them? Stay with me."
"No. I am very sorry. I wish I could."
"Then I must go with you, I suppose." Yet her tone expressed annoyance.
"Oh! thank you," cried Hugh in delight. "Make haste. I will run down, and tell them to wait."
He bounded away, and told the ladies that Euphra would join them in a few minutes.
But Euphra was cool enough to inflict on them quite twenty minutes of waiting; by which time she was able to behave with tolerable propriety. When she did appear at last, she was closely veiled, and stepped into the carriage without once showing her face. But she made a very pretty apology for the delay she had occasioned; which was certainly due, seeing it had been perfectly intentional. She made room for Hugh; he took his place beside her; and away they drove.
Euphra scarcely spoke; but begged indulgence, on the ground of her headache. Lady Emily enjoyed the drive very much, and said a great many pleasant little nothings.
"Would you like a glass of milk?" said Mrs. Elton to her, as they passed a farm-house on the estate.
"I should--very much," answered Lady Emily.
The carriage was stopped, and the servant sent to beg a glass of milk. Euphra, who, from riding backward with a headache, had been feeling very uncomfortable for some time, wished to get out while the carriage was waiting. Hugh jumped out, and assisted her. She walked a little way, leaning on his arm, up to the house, where she had a glass of water; after which she said she felt better, and returned with him to the carriage. In getting in again, either from the carelessness or the weakness occasioned by suffering, her foot slipped from the step, and she fell with a cry of alarm. Hugh caught her as she fell; and she would not have been much injured, had not the horses started and sprung forward at the moment, so that the hind wheel of the carriage passed over her ankle. Hugh, raising her in his arms, found she was insensible.
He laid her down upon the grass by the roadside. Water was procured, but she showed no sign of recovering.--What was to be done? Mrs. Elton thought she had better be carried to the farm-house. Hugh judged it better to take her home at once. To this, after a little argument, Mrs. Elton agreed.
They lifted her into the carriage, and made what arrangements they best could to allow her to recline. Blood was flowing from her foot; and it was so much swollen that it was impossible to guess at the amount of the injury. The foot was already twice the size of the other, in which Hugh for the first time recognised such a delicacy of form, as, to his fastidious eye and already ensnared heart, would have been perfectly enchanting, but for the agony he suffered from the injury to the other. Yet he could not help the thought crossing his mind, that her habit of never lifting her dress was a very strange one, and that it must have had something to do with the present accident. I cannot account for this habit, but on one of two suppositions; that of an affected delicacy, or that of the desire that the beauty of her feet should have its full power, from being rarely seen. But it was dreadful to think how far the effects of this accident might permanently injure the beauty of one of them.
Hugh would have walked home that she might have more room, but he knew he could be useful when they arrived. He seated himself so as to support the injured foot, and prevent, in some measure, the torturing effects of the motion of the carriage. When they had gone about half-way, she opened her eyes feebly, glanced at him, and closed them again with a moan of pain.
He carried her in his arms up to her own room, and laid her on a couch. She thanked him by a pitiful attempt at a smile. He mounted his horse, and galloped for a surgeon.
The injury was a serious one; but until the swelling could be a little reduced, it was impossible to tell how serious. The surgeon, however, feared that some of the bones of the ankle might be crushed. The ankle seemed to be dislocated, and the suffering was frightful. She endured it well, however--so far as absolute silence constitutes endurance.
Hugh's misery was extreme. The surgeon had required his assistance; but a suitable nurse soon arrived, and there was no pretext for his further presence in the sick chamber. He wandered about the grounds. Harry haunted his steps like a spaniel. The poor boy felt it much; and the suffering abstraction of Hugh sealed up his chief well of comfort. At length he went to Mrs. Elton, who did her best to console him.
By the surgeon's express orders, every one but the nurse was excluded from Euphra's room.
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