Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/34

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24
OUT OF DUE TIME.

as there was nobody in sight. I understood that his whip which he waved towards me, indicated a bell that hung outside the door under a tiny pent-house. After that he drove on into what I judged to be a paved stable-yard from the clattering noise that followed. I tried the stiff, rusty chain of the bell, but with no result. I put down my bag—it was really Mary's, lent to me because it was new and smart—and I tried again with both hands. There was again no result. A chink of the front door was open. I pushed it timidly, and got a glimpse of a large dark room, old oak benches and some distorted human figures in grey-green tapestry on the walls. I dared not go in, so I went back to the bell. To ring must be the only right and conventional method of effecting an entrance. I was getting red with my exertions when a shrill voice behind me said, "The bell has not been rung since Adam or Eve put it there". I turned round and saw before me a tallish, stoutish young woman, of about my own age or a couple of years older. I had a general impression of a dark complexion, dark eyes, and black hair rising high above the forehead; on her head hung awry a pink cotton bonnet with long strings, and she wore a loose shapeless yet shapely yellow cotton blouse. Blouses were not worn then, and it looked to me more like a housemaid's morning cotton than it would now. She had a short stuff brown petticoat, and the whole of her attire was gathered and kept together in almost classic simplicity by a leather belt. Her feet were bare. She wore large gauntlet gloves, and she carried a pail of milk.

"Are you Mademoiselle d'Etranges?" I stammered stupidly.

"Yes," she said curtly, and her black eyes looked hostile. "You are of course Miss Fairfax."

Somehow the "of course" conveyed to me that the fact was a most uninteresting one.

"You will be tired," she said, leading me into the low,