Chapter 11

WHEN the last of the guests had driven away, I went back into the inner hall and found Samuel at the side-table, presiding over the brandy and soda-water. My lady and Miss Rachel came out of the drawing- room, followed by the two gentlemen. Mr. Godfrey had some brandy and soda-water. Mr. Franklin took nothing. He sat down, looking dead tired; the talking on this birthday occasion had, I suppose, been too much for him.

My lady, turning round to wish them good night, looked hard at the wicked Colonel's legacy shining in her daughter's dress.

`Rachel,' she asked, `where are you going to put your Diamond to-night?'

Miss Rachel was in high good spirits, just in that humour for talking nonsense, and perversely persisting in it as if it was sense, which you may sometimes have observed in young girls, when they are highly wrought up, at the end of an exciting day. First, she declared she didn't know where to put the Diamond. Then she said, `on her dressing-table, of course, along with her other things.' Then she remembered that the Diamond might take to shining of itself, with its awful moony light in the dark--and that would terrify her in the dead of night. Then she bethought herself of an Indian cabinet which stood in her sitting- room; and instantly made up her mind to put the Indian diamond in the Indian cabinet, for the purpose of permitting two beautiful native productions to admire each other. Having let her little flow of nonsense run on as far as that point, her mother interposed and stopped her.

`My dear! your Indian cabinet has no lock to it,' says my lady.

`Good Heavens, mamma!' cried Miss Rachel, `is this an hotel? Are there thieves in the house?'

Without taking notice of this fantastic way of talking, my lady wished the gentlemen good night. She next turned to Miss Rachel, and kissed her. `Why not let me keep the Diamond for you to-night?' she asked.

Miss Rachel received that proposal as she might, ten years since, have received a proposal to part her from a new doll. My lady saw there was no reasoning with her that night. `Come into my room, Rachel, the first thing to-morrow morning,' she said. `I shall have something to say to you.' With those last words she left us slowly; thinking her own thoughts, and, to all appearance, not best pleased with the way by which they were leading her.

Miss Rachel was the next to say good night. She shook hands first with Mr. Godfrey, who was standing at the other end of the hall, looking at a picture. Then she turned back to Mr. Franklin, still sitting weary and silent in a corner.

What words passed between them I can't say. But standing near the old oak frame which holds our large looking-glass, I saw her reflected in it, slyly slipping the locket which Mr. Franklin had given to her, out of the bosom of her dress, and showing it to him for a moment, with a smile which certainly meant something out of the common, before she tripped off to bed. This incident staggered me a little in the reliance I had previously felt on my own judgment. I began to think that Penelope might be right about the state of her young lady's affections, after all.

As soon as Miss Rachel left him eyes to see with Mr. Franklin noticed me. His variable humour, shifting about everything, had shifted about the Indians already.

`Betteredge,' he said, `I'm half inclined to think I took Mr. Murthwaite too seriously, when we had that talk in the shrubbery. I wonder whether he has been trying any of his traveller's tales on us? Do you really mean to let the dogs loose?'

`I'll relieve them of their collars, sir,' I answered, `and leave them free to take a turn in the night, if they smell a reason for it.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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