« ZurückWeiter »
tion from Cuthbert or his familiar—not a line to me: this might be nothing—but not a line to Kitty—that was something, and I could not satisfy myself of the reality of the circumstance, without renewing my inquiries as to the receipt of the letter-bag, and whether it had been opened, before it was brought to me, as was sometimes the case, when the young ladies were what they then called "at home;" but no—the key had not been removed from the place where I always kept it, and the servants were perfectly sure nobody had touched the bag.
When once suspicion is excited, however gently, confidence ends; and I confess it was rather by the evident mystification of the girls themselves at breakfast, at not having heard from Cuthbert, or the busy B., that 1 was satisfied that no tricks had been played with the letters, than by any other part of the history.
It was not long, however, before I was enlightened. I had observed, since Sniggs's return from Montpelier, a sort of shyness—a disinclination to be so much about Ashmead; indeed, I minuted it down at the time, and drew my conclusions therefrom. Every hour of his absence, and his unwillingness to come to a house out of which it was previously difficult to keep him, satisfied me that my first suspicions were well grounded, and that he felt his ultimate success in his attacks upon Cuthbert's pocket very much depended on an ostensible abandonment of me and mine; nor did I doubt that his latent dislike for Mrs. Wells—for a share of which I of course came in, because at her suggestion, or rather command, I had invited Dr. Downey (whom he hated, because he envied) to supplant him when Harriet was confined— gave a very considerable additional weight to my poor brother's injunctions to him, which, as I felt it, delivered over to him the entire charge and arrangement of every proceeding consequent upon Tom's death.
The arrival shortly after breakfast, not of Sniggs, but of the putty-faced urchin in the glazed hat, with a letter directed not to me, but to Kitty, entirely justified my suspicions. The pacquet was delivered to the young lady, with an announcement that Mr. Sniggs's servant waited.
Kitty upon receiving the letter begged to retire, and suiting the action to the word, quitted the breakfast-room, followed by Jane. The interesting young creatures remained absent about half an hour, when Jane returned, bringing me the following letter, addressed by Sniggs— by Sniggs, recollect—to Kate :—
"My dear Miss Falwasser—I have received the inclosed for you from Mrs. Brandyball, who tells me she writes in the name of dear Mr. Cuthbert — who is too much exhausted to write to you himself. I send you also a letter which I have received, and which you will be good enough to show to Mr. Gilbert Gurney. Make my compliments to him, and say, that, knowing his dread of infection, I consider it, under existing circumstances, more prudent to abstain from visiting Ash mead for the present. I shall be glad to hear from you and your sister as to your wishes with regard to the contents of Mrs. Brandyball's letter, of which, as you will see by the letter, which you will be good enough to show your uncle, I am in some degree aware. Pray present my best respects to Mr. Gilbert Gurney and his lady, and believe me, dear Miss Falwasser,
"Your obedient servant,
« S. Sniggs."
"Well," said I, "and where is this letter which I am to be favoured with a sight of?"
"Here, dear," said Jane.
"Montpelier, Feb. —, .
"Dear Mr. Sniggs—The devoted attentions which you were kind enough to bestow upon the dear departed have so entirely gained—I will not only say, the esteem—but the affection of Mr. Gurney, that he would again and again have expressed his gratitude in writing had he the power to exert himself sufficiently: as it is, I am deputed to perform the pleasing office of conveying to you his renewed expressions of esteem.
"Mr. Gilbert Gurney's peculiar situation with regard to his newborn child, and the dread which his wife entertains of infection, induce Mr. Gurney to address himself direct to you as to the necessary instructions for the interment of the dear boy, instead of creating any alarm in their family. He wishes the funeral to be in the highest degree respectable, but free from ostentatious display, and leaves it entirely to you to decide whether the dear children should attend it; the main point being, the question whether any danger to themselves is likely to impend. This will however all rest with you, to whom he entirely confides the whole arrangement.
"I have written at length to Miss Falwasser, but as you are considered responsible by Mr. Gurney for the conduct of this business, and as he is so very strongly impressed with your kindness and activity in hastening hither from