for warning the major or for exposing Miss Gwilt. The one available weapon in
Mrs. Milroy's hands was the weapon furnished by her own returned letter, and the
one question to decide was how to make the best and speediest use of it.
The longer she turned the matter over in her mind, the more hasty and premature
seemed the exultation which she had felt at the first sight of the Post-office
circular. That a lady acting as reference to a governess should have quitted her
residence without leaving any trace behind her, and without even mentioning an
address to which her letters could be forwarded, was a circumstance in itself
sufficiently suspicious to be mentioned to the major. But Mrs. Milroy, however
perverted her estimate of her husband might be in some respects, knew enough of
his character to be assured that, if she told him what had happened, he would
frankly appeal to the governess herself for an explanation. Miss Gwilt's quickness
and cunning would, in that case, produce some plausible answer on the spot,
which the major's partiality would be only too ready to accept; and she would at
the same time, no doubt, place matters in train, by means of the post, for the due
arrival of all needful confirmation on the part of her accomplice in London. To
keep strict silence for the present, and to institute (without the governess's
knowledge) such inquiries as might be necessary to the discovery of undeniable
evidence, was plainly the only safe course to take with such a man as the major,
and with such a woman as Miss Gwilt. Helpless herself, to whom could Mrs.
Milroy commit the difficult and dangerous task of investigation? The nurse, even
if she was to be trusted, could not be spared at a day's notice, and could not be
sent away without the risk of exciting remark. Was there any other competent and
reliable person to employ, either at Thorpe Ambrose or in London? Mrs. Milroy
turned from side to side of the bed, searching every corner of her mind for the
needful discovery, And searching in vain. "Oh, if I could only lay my hand on
some man I could trust!" she thought, despairingly. "If I only knew where to look
for somebody to help me!"
As the idea passed through her mind, the sound of her daughter's voice startled
her from the other side of the door.
"May I come in?" asked Neelie.
"What do you want?" returned Mrs. Milroy, impatiently.
"I have brought up your breakfast, mamma."
"My breakfast?" repeated Mrs. Milroy, in surprise. "Why doesn't Rachel bring it
up as usual?" She considered a moment, and then called out, sharply, "Come in!"