same day, and which took me completely by surprise, added greatly to the sense of uneasiness that was now weighing on my mind.
I was sent for to see Sir Percival in the library. The Count, who was with him when I went in, immediately rose and left us alone together. Sir Percival civilly asked me to take a seat; and then, to my great astonishment, addressed me in these terms:
"I want to speak to you, Mrs. Michelson, about a matter which I decided on some time ago, and which I should have mentioned before, but for the sickness and trouble in the house. In plain words, I have reasons for wishing to break up my establishment immediately at this place—leaving you in charge, of course, as usual. As soon as Lady Glyde and Miss Halcombe can travel, they must both have change of air. My friends, Count Fosco and the Countess, will leave us, before that time, to live in the neighbourhood of London. And I have reasons for not opening the house to any more company, with a view to economising as carefully as I can. I don't blame you—but my expenses here are a great deal too heavy. In short, I shall sell the horses, and get rid of all the servants, at once. I never do things by halves, as you know; and I mean to have the house clear of a pack of useless people by this time to-morrow."
I listened to him, perfectly aghast with astonishment.
"Do you mean, Sir Percival, that I am to dismiss the indoor servants, under my charge, without the usual month's warning?" I asked.
"Certainly, I do. We may all be out of the house before another month; and I am not going to leave the servants here in idleness, with no master to wait on."
"Who is to do the cooking, Sir Percival, while you are still staying here?"
"Margaret Porcher can roast and boil—keep her. What do I want with a cook, if I don't mean to give any dinner-parties?"
"The servant you have mentioned is the most unintelligent servant in the house, Sir Percival——"
"Keep her, I tell you; and have a woman in from the village to do the cleaning, and go away again. My weekly expenses must and shall be lowered immediately. I don't send for you to make objections, Mrs. Michelson—I send for you to carry out my plans of economy. Dismiss the whole lazy pack of indoor servants to-morrow, except Porcher. She is as strong as a horse—and we'll make her work like a horse."