Story 2 | Chapter VI | A Sudden Change | The Golden Incubus

Story 2—Chapter VI.

If any one says I played spy, I am ready to speak up pretty strongly in my self-defence, for my aim always was to do my duty by Sir John my master; but I could not help seeing two or three things during the next fortnight, and they all had to do with a kind of telegraphing going on from our house to the one over the way, where Miss Adela generally appeared to be on the watch; and her looks always seemed to me to say: “No; you mustn’t think of such a thing,” and to be inviting him all the time. Then, all at once I thought I was wrong, for I went up as usual at half-past seven to take Mr Barclay’s boots and his clothes which had been brought down the night before, after he had dressed for dinner. I tapped and went in, just as I’d always done ever since he was a boy, and went across to the window and drew the curtains. “Nice morning, Master Barclay,” I said. “Half-past—” There I stopped, and stared at the bed, which all lay smooth and neat, as the housemaid had turned it down, for no one had slept in it that night. I was struck all of a heap, and didn’t know what to think. To me it was just like a silver spoon or fork being missing, and setting one’s head to work to think whether it was anywhere about the house.

He hadn’t stopped to take his wine with Sir John after dinner; but that was nothing fresh, for they’d been very cool lately. Then I hadn’t seen him in the drawing-room; but that was nothing fresh neither, for he had avoided Miss Virginia for some little time.

“It is very strange,” I thought, for I had not seen him go out; and then, all at once I gave quite a start, for I felt that he must have done what Sir John had told him to do—gone.

“That won’t do,” I said directly after. “He wouldn’t have gone like that;” and I went straight to Sir John’s room and told him, as in duty bound, what I had found out, for Mr Barclay was not the young man to be fast and stop out of nights and want the servants to screen him. There was something wrong, I felt sure, and so I said.

“No,” said the old gentleman, as he sat up in bed, and then began to dress; “he wouldn’t go at my wish; but that girl over the way is playing with him, and he is too proud to stand it any longer, besides being mortified at making such an ass of himself. There’s nothing wrong, Burdon. He has gone, and a good job too.”

Of course, I couldn’t contradict my master; but I went up and examined Mr Barclay’s room, to find nothing missing, not so much as a shirt or a pair of socks, only his crush-hat, and the light overcoat from the brass peg in the front hall; and I shook my head.

Miss Virginia looked paler than ever at breakfast; but nothing more was said up-stairs. Of course, the servants gossiped; and as it was settled that Mr Barclay had done what his father had told him, a week passed away, and matters settled down with Miss Adela Mimpriss sitting at the window just as usual, doing worsted-work, and the old house looking as grim as ever, and as if a bit of paint and a man to clean the windows would have been a blessing to us all.

Every time the postman knocked, Miss Virginia would start; and her eyes used to look so wild and large, that when I’d been to the little box and found nothing from Mr Barclay, I used to give quite a gulp; and many’s the time I’ve stood back in the dining-room and shook my fist at Miss Adela sitting so smooth and handsome at the opposite house, and wished she’d been at the world’s end before she came there.