my services. It was settled that I should give Sir Percival's solicitor a week's notice before I left: and that he was to undertake the necessary arrangements for appointing my successor. The matter was discussed in very few words. At its conclusion, Sir Percival abruptly turned on his heel, and left me free to join Mrs. Rubelle. That singular foreign person had been sitting composedly on the door-step, all this time, waiting till I could follow her to Miss Halcombe's room.
I had hardly walked half-way towards the house, when Sir Percival, who had withdrawn in the opposite direction, suddenly stopped, and called me back.
"Why are you leaving my service?" he asked.
The question was so extraordinary, after what had just passed between us, that I hardly knew what to say in answer to it.
"Mind! I don't know why you are going," he went on. "You must give a reason for leaving me, I suppose, when you get another situation. What reason? The breaking up of the family? Is that it?"
"There can be no positive objection, Sir Percival, to that reason——"
"Very well! That's all I want to know. If people apply for your character, that's your reason, stated by yourself. You go in consequence of the breaking up of the family."
He turned away again, before I could say another word, and walked out rapidly into the grounds. His manner was as strange as his language. I acknowledge he alarmed me.
Even the patience of Mrs. Rubelle was getting exhausted, when I joined her at the house door.
"At last!" she said, with a shrug of her lean foreign shoulders. She led the way into the inhabited side of the house, ascended the stairs, and opened with her key the door at the end of the passage, which communicated with the old Elizabethan rooms—a door never previously used, in my time, at Blackwater Park. The rooms themselves I knew well, having entered them myself, on various occasions, from the other side of the house. Mrs. Rubelle stopped at the third door along the old gallery, handed me the key of it, with the key of the door of communication, and told me I should find Miss Halcombe in that room. Before I went in, I thought it desirable to make her understand that her attendance had ceased. Accordingly, I told her in plain words that the charge of the sick lady henceforth devolved entirely on myself.
"I am glad to hear it, ma'am," said Mrs. Rubelle. "I want to go very much."