I left more apologies in course of delivery behind, me, and followed this strange creature--limping on before me, faster and faster--down the slope of the beach. She led me behind some boats, out of sight and hearing of the few people in the fishing-village, and then stopped, and faced me for the first time.
`Stand there,' she said, `I want to look at you.'
There was no mistaking the expression on her face. I inspired her with the strongest emotions of abhorrence and disgust. Let me not be vain enough to say that no woman had ever looked at me in this manner before. I will only venture on the more modest assertion that no woman had ever let me perceive it yet. There is a limit to the length of the inspection which a man can endure, under certain circumstances. I attempted to direct Limping Lucy's attention to some less revolting object than my face.
`I think you have got a letter to give me,' I began. `Is it the letter there, in your hand?'
`Say that again,' was the only answer I received.
I repeated the words, like a good child learning its lesson.
`No,' said the girl, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes still mercilessly fixed on me. `I can't find out what she saw in his face. I can't guess what she heard in his voice.' She suddenly looked away from me, and rested her head wearily on the top of her crutch. `Oh, my poor dear!' she said, in the first soft tones which had fallen from her, in my hearing. `Oh, my lost darling! what could you see in this man?' She lifted her head again fiercely, and looked at me once more. `Can you eat and drink?' she asked.
I did my best to preserve my gravity, and answered, `Yes."
`Can you sleep?'
`When you see a poor girl in service, do you feel no remorse?'
`Certainly not. Why should I?'
She abruptly thrust the letter (as the phrase is) into my face.
`Take it!' she exclaimed furiously. `I never set eyes on you before. God Almighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again.'
With those parting words she limped away from me at the top of her speed. The one interpretation that I could put on her conduct has, no doubt, been anticipated by everybody. I could only suppose that she was mad.
Having reached that inevitable conclusion, I turned to the more interesting object of investigation which was presented to me by Rosanna Spearman's letter. The address was written as follows:--`For Franklin Blake, Esq. To be given into his own hands (and not to be trusted to anyone else), by Lucy Yolland.'
I broke the seal. The envelope contained a letter: and this, in its turn, contained a slip of paper. I read the letter first:--
`SIR,--If you are curious to know the meaning of my behaviour to you, whilst you were staying in the
house of my mistress, Lady Verinder, do what you are told to do in the memorandum enclosed with
this--and do it without any person being present to overlook you. Your humble servant,
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