6. The Events Of Eighteen Days
1. AUGUST THE SEVENTEENTH
The time of day was four o'clock in the afternoon. The place was the lady's study
or boudoir, Knapwater House. The person was Miss Aldclyffe sitting there alone,
clothed in deep mourning.
The funeral of the old Captain had taken place, and his will had been read. It was
very concise, and had been executed about five years previous to his death. It
was attested by his solicitors, Messrs. Nyttleton and Tayling, of Lincoln's Inn
Fields. The whole of his estate, real and personal, was bequeathed to his
daughter Cytherea, for her sole and absolute use, subject only to the payment of
a legacy to the rector, their relative, and a few small amounts to the servants.
Miss Aldclyffe had not chosen the easiest chair of her boudoir to sit in, or even a
chair of ordinary comfort, but an uncomfortable, high, narrow-backed, oak framed
and seated chair, which was allowed to remain in the room only on the ground of
being a companion in artistic quaintness to an old coffer beside it, and was never
used except to stand in to reach for a book from the highest row of shelves. But
she had sat erect in this chair for more than an hour, for the reason that she was
utterly unconscious of what her actions and bodily feelings were. The chair had
stood nearest her path on entering the room, and she had gone to it in a dream.
She sat in the attitude which denotes unflagging, intense, concentrated thought--
as if she were cast in bronze. Her feet were together, her body bent a little
forward, and quite unsupported by the back of the chair; her hands on her knees,
her eyes fixed intently on the corner of a footstool.
At last she moved and tapped her fingers upon the table at her side. Her pent-up
ideas had finally found some channel to advance in. Motions became more and
more frequent as she laboured to carry further and further the problem which
occupied her brain. She sat back and drew a long breath: she sat sideways and
leant her forehead upon her hand. Later still she arose, walked up and down the
room--at first abstractedly, with her features as firmly set as ever; but by degrees
her brow relaxed, her footsteps became lighter and more leisurely; her head rode
gracefully and was no longer bowed. She plumed herself like a swan after
'Yes,' she said aloud. 'To get HIM here without letting him know that I have any
other object than that of getting a useful man-- that's the difficulty--and that I think
I can master.'
She rang for the new maid, a placid woman of forty with a few grey hairs.
'Ask Miss Graye if she can come to me.'
Cytherea was not far off, and came in.
'Do you know anything about architects and surveyors?' said Miss Aldclyffe
'Know anything?' replied Cytherea, poising herself on her toe to consider the
compass of the question.
'Yes--know anything,' said Miss Aldclyffe.