"I think I had better just look in upon her before any of the ladies go," said Colonel Dent.
"Tell her, Sam, a gentleman is coming."
Sam went and returned.
"She says, sir, that she'll have no gentlemen; they need not trouble themselves to come near her; nor," he added, with difficulty suppressing a titter, "any ladies either, except the young, and single."
"By Jove, she has taste!" exclaimed Henry Lynn.
Miss Ingram rose solemnly; "I go first," she said, in a tone which might have befitted the leader of a forlorn hope, mounting a breach in the van of his men.
"Oh, my best! oh, my dearest! pause—reflect!" was her mama's cry; but she swept past her in stately silence, passed through the door which Colonel Dent held open, and we heard her enter the library.
A comparative silence ensued. Lady Ingram thought it "le cas" to wring her hands; which she did accordingly. Miss Mary declared she felt, for her part, she never dared venture. Amy and Louisa Eshton tittered under their breath, and looked a little frightened.
The minutes passed very slowly; fifteen were counted before the library-door again opened. Miss Ingram returned to us through the arch.
Would she laugh? Would she take it as a joke? All eyes met her with a glance of eager curiosity, and she met all eyes with one of rebuff and coldness; she looked neither flurried nor merry. She walked stiffly to her seat, and took it in silence.
"Well, Blanche?" said Lord Ingram.
"What did she say, sister?" asked Mary.
"What did you think? How do you feel?—Is she a real fortune-teller?" demanded the Misses Eshton.
"Now, now, good people," returned Miss Ingram, "don't press upon me. Really your organs of wonder and credulity are easily excited. You seem, by the importance of you all—my good mama included—ascribe to this matter, absolutely to believe we have a genuine witch in the house, who is in close alliance with the old gentleman. I have seen a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell. My whim is gratified; and now I think Mr. Eshton will do well to put the hag in the stocks tomorrow morning, as he threatened."
Miss Ingram took a book, leant back in her chair, and so declined further conversation. I watched her for nearly half-an-hour; during all that time she never turned a page, and her face grew momently darker, more dissatisfied, and more sourly expressive of disappointment. She had obviously not heard anything to her advantage; and it seemed to me, from her prolonged fit of gloom and taciturnity, that she herself, not-