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“Thank you, my kind Theresa,” he said ; “I believe I ought to follow your advice, for the dreadful blank caused by the loss of her, so justly dear to me, is sometimes almost more than I can bear. I cannot enter that dressingroom without missing her sweet smile. It appears as if I were alone in the world.”
He then left the room; but a few days afterwards told me, that he had made up his mind to go abroad for three months, and that he should let his seat in the country for a year. He begged me to take charge of his town house, with the servants necessary to leave in it.
Of course I readily consented to any arrangement that could contribute to his comfort, and in three months after the death of Mrs. D'Arcy I found myself superirftendent of the house in — Street, with a cook, kitchen and housemaid, together with the porter and his son, a lad of fifteen, under my directions and at my disposal.
The plate was sent to the bankers, therefore I felt no fear, though it was but a dreary sort of life I led; and as nothing could be more monotonous, I need not dwell upon the uninteresting four months I passed there.
At the end of that time I received a few lines from Colonel D'Arcy, saying that he intended returning to England in about a fortnight, and as he should be accompanied by Sir Howell and Lady Gwynne, with their children, he begged that I would give orders to have every thing prepared for their reception. He added that he wished the plate to be sent for, and got ready in the course of a week, and said that he had written to his bankers to desire it to be given up to my order.
I commenced operations accordingly, and got my friend, Mrs. Davies, to look out for such proper female servants as would be required by the time that Colonel D'Arcy and his friends should arrive.
I informed the faithful old porter of the day on which I should wish him to go for the plate, and with the three female servants I began to set the rooms in order.
The day before the one in which I had ordered the plate to be brought from the bankers,
I had been busy arranging and dusting the books in the library; and as evening approached, being very tired, I seated myself, as it grew dark, in a recess of one of the windows, and had nearly dropped asleep, when I was roused by a kind of hoarse whispering on the pavement. I started up, and peeping through the Venetian blinds, saw two very ill-favoured fellows looking anxiously through the iron rails into the area beneath.
As they seemed watching, or waiting for some one in the house, I determined to observe them. After loitering about for some minutes, one of the men said to the other, loud enough for me to hear, as 'the window was open, “I can't think where the deuce she can be, I wonder she don't see us.”
“If she can't see, we must make her hear," said the other, and he began whistling.
This had the desired effect, for in a short time I heard some one running very fast down stairs, and in a few minutes the housemaid appeared hurrying up the area steps.
As the fellows, who had evidently summoned her, bore so suspicious an aspect, I determined to watch the party, and it was well I did so. The first thing I heard was one of the men, in a harsh under-tone, saying, “ What the d— 1 did you keep us waiting here so long for?”
" Why I didn't expect you before eight o'clock," said the woman; “ but it's no use your coming to-night at all, as the silver is not to be brought till to-morrow evening."
“ Are you sure of that?” said the men both at once.
“Yes, quite sure," replied the woman; “and you must not come then till after it has struck twelve, for she won't be in bed before that.”
“So much the better,” said one of the ruffians. “Then there is only the old porter and his boy to deal with ; and as to the women, dose their drink at supper, and if that won't make them sleep, we'll manage them."
“I must let you in at the hall door, remember,” said the housemaid ;“ for the key you had made for that fits exactly; but the area key won't do at all.”