This ill-timed intruder was Miss Tilney’s maid, sent
by her mistress to be of use to Miss Morland; and though
Catherine immediately dismissed her, it recalled her to the
sense of what she ought to be doing, and forced her, in spite
of her anxious desire to penetrate this mystery, to proceed
in her dressing without further delay.
Her progress was not quick, for her thoughts and her eyes were still bent on the object so well calculated to interest and alarm; and though she dared not waste a moment upon a second attempt, she could not remain many paces from the chest. Her resolute effort threw back the lid, and gave to her astonished eyes the view of a white cotton counterpane, properly folded, reposing at one end of the chest in undisputed possession!
She was gazing on it with the first blush of surprise when
Miss Tilney, anxious for her friend’s being ready, entered
the room, and to the rising shame of having harboured for
some minutes an absurd expectation, was then added the
shame of being caught in so idle a search. ‘That is a curious
old chest, is not it?’ said Miss Tilney, as Catherine hastily
closed it and turned away to the glass.
‘It is impossible to say how many generations it has been here. How it came to be first put in this room I know not, but I have not had it moved, because I thought it might sometimes be of use in holding hats and bonnets. The worst of it is that its weight makes it difficult to open. In that corner, however, it is at least out of the way.’
To be continued
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