FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
16. CHAPTER XVI
We found my lady with no light in the room but the reading-lamp.
The shade was screwed down so as to overshadow her face.
Instead of looking up at us in her usual straightforward way,
she sat close at the table, and kept her eyes fixed obstinately on
an open book.
"Officer," she said, "is it important to the inquiry you are conducting,
to know beforehand if any person now in this house wishes to leave it?"
"Most important, my lady."
"I have to tell you, then, that Miss Verinder proposes going
to stay with her aunt, Mrs. Ablewhite, of Frizinghall.
She has arranged to leave us the first thing to-morrow morning."
Sergeant Cuff looked at me. I made a step forward to speak to my mistress--
and, feeling my heart fail me (if I must own it), took a step back again,
and said nothing.
"May I ask your ladyship WHEN Miss Verinder informed you that she
was going to her aunt's?" inquired the Sergeant.
"About an hour since," answered my mistress.
Sergeant Cuff looked at me once more. They say old people's hearts
are not very easily moved. My heart couldn't have thumped much
harder than it did now, if I had been five-and-twenty again!
"I have no claim, my lady," says the Sergeant, "to control
Miss Verinder's actions. All I can ask you to do is to put
off her departure, if possible, till later in the day.
I must go to Frizinghall myself to-morrow morning--and I shall
be back by two o'clock, if not before. If Miss Verinder can
be kept here till that time, I should wish to say two words
to her--unexpectedly--before she goes."
My lady directed me to give the coachman her orders, that the carriage
was not to come for Miss Rachel until two o'clock. "Have you more to say?"
she asked of the Sergeant, when this had been done.