It is a pity you take on so, Miss Briggs, the young lady said, with a cool, slightly sarcastic, air.
My dearest friend is so ill, and wooont see me, gurgled out Briggs in an agony of renewed grief.
Shes not very ill any more. Console yourself, dear Miss Briggs. She has only overeaten herselfthat is all. She is greatly better. She will soon be quite restored again. She is weak from being cupped and from medical treatment, but she will rally immediately. Pray console yourself, and take a little more wine. But why, why wont she see me again? Miss Briggs bleated out. Oh, Matilda, Matilda, after three-and- twenty years tenderness! is this the return to your poor, poor Arabella?
Dont cry too much, poor Arabella, the other said (with ever so little of a grin); she only wont see you, because she says you dont nurse her as well as I do. Its no pleasure to me to sit up all night. I wish you might do it instead.
Have I not tended that dear couch for years? Arabella said, and now
Now she prefers somebody else. Well, sick people have these fancies, and must be humoured. When shes well I shall go.
Never, never, Arabella exclaimed, madly inhaling her salts-bottle.
Never be well or never go, Miss Briggs? the other said, with the same provoking good-nature. Poohshe will be well in a fortnight, when I shall go back to my little pupils at Queens Crawley, and to their mother, who is a great deal more sick than our friend. You need not be jealous about me, my dear Miss Briggs. I am a poor little girl without any friends, or any harm in me. I dont want to supplant you in Miss Crawleys good graces. She will forget me a week after I am gone: and her affection for you has been the work of years. Give me a little wine if you please, my dear Miss Briggs, and let us be friends. Im sure I want friends.
The placable and soft-hearted Briggs speechlessly pushed out her hand at this appeal; but she felt the desertion most keenly for all that, and bitterly, bitterly moaned the fickleness of her Matilda. At the end of half an hour, the meal over, Miss Rebecca Sharp (for such, astonishing to state, is the name of her who has been described ingeniously as the person hitherto), went upstairs again to her patients rooms, from which, with the most engaging politeness, she eliminated poor Firkin. Thank you, Mrs. Firkin, that will quite do; how nicely you make it! I will ring when anything is wanted. Thank you; and Firkin came downstairs in a tempest of jealousy, only the more dangerous because she was forced to confine it in her own bosom.
Could it be the tempest which, as she passed the landing of the first floor, blew open the drawing-room door? No; it was stealthily opened by the hand of Briggs. Briggs had been on the watch. Briggs too well heard the creaking Firkin descend the stairs, and the clink of the spoon and gruel-basin the neglected female carried.
Well, Firkin? says she, as the other entered the apartment. Well, Jane?
Wuss and wuss, Miss B., Firkin said, wagging her head.
Is she not better then?
She never spoke but once, and I asked her if she felt a little more easy, and she told me to hold my stupid tongue. Oh, Miss B., I never thought to have seen this day! And the water-works again began to play.
What sort of a person is this Miss Sharp, Firkin? I little thought, while enjoying my Christmas revels in the elegant home of my firm friends, the Reverend Lionel Delamere and his amiable lady, to find a stranger had taken my place in the affections of my dearest, my still dearest Matilda!
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