Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

"Mrs. Dale and the girls are going to leave the Small House; they're going into Guestwick to live."

Mrs. Dale going away; nonsense!" said the vicar.

What

on earth should take her into Guestwick? She doesn't pay a shilling of rent where she is."

"I can assure you it's true, my dear. I was with Mrs. Hearn just now, and she had it direct from Mrs. Dale's own lips. Mrs. Hearn said she'd never been taken so much aback in her whole life. There's been some quarrel, you may be sure of that."

Mr. Boyce sat silent, pulling off his dirty shoes preparatory to his dinner. Tidings so important, as touching the social life of his parish, had not come to him for many a day, and he could hardly bring himself to credit them at so short a notice. "Mrs. Hearn says that Mrs. Dale spoke ever so firmly about it, as though determined that nothing should change her." "And did she say why?

[ocr errors]

'Well, not exactly.

But Mrs. Hearn said she could understand there had been words between her and the squire. It couldn't be anything else, you know. Probably it had something to do with that man, Crosbie."

66

They'll be very pushed about money," said Mr. Boyce, thrusting his feet into his slippers.

"That's just what I said to Mrs. Hearn. And those girls have never been used to anything like real economy. What's to become of them I don't know;" and Mrs. Boyce, as she expressed her sympathy for her dear friends, received considerable comfort from the prospect of their future poverty. It always is so, and Mrs. Boyce was not worse than her neighbours. "You'll find they'll make it up before the time comes," said Mr. Boyce, to whom the excitement of such a change in affairs was almost too good to be true.

"I am afraid not," said Mrs. Boyce; "I'm afraid not. They are both so determined. I always thought that riding and giving the girls hats and habits was injurious. It was treating them as though they were the squire's daughters, and they were not the squire's daughters."

"It was almost the same thing."

"But now we see the difference," said the judicious Mrs. Boyce. "I often said that dear Mrs. Dale was wrong, and it turns out that I was right. It will make no difference to me, as regards calling on them and that sort of thing."

"Of course it won't."

"Not but what there must be a difference, and a very great

difference too. It will be a terrible come down for poor Lily, with the loss of her fine husband and all."

After dinner, when Mr. Boyce had again gone forth upon his labours, the same subject was discussed between Mrs. Boyce and her daughters, and the mother was very careful to teach her children that Mrs. Dale would be just as good a person as ever she had been, and quite as much a lady, even though she should live in a very dingy house at Guestwick; from which lesson the Boyce girls learned plainly that Mrs. Dale, with Bell and Lily, were about to have a fall in the world, and that they were to be treated accordingly.

From all this, it will be discovered that Mrs. Dale had not given way to the squire's arguments, although she had found herself unable to answer them. As she had returned home she had felt herself to be almost vanquished, and had spoken to the girls with the air and tone of a woman who hardly knew in which course lay the line of her duty. But they had not seen the squire's manner on the occasion, nor heard his words, and they could not understand that their own purpose should be abandoned because he did not like it. So they talked their mother into fresh resolves, and on the following morning she wrote a note to her brother-in-law, assuring him that she had thought much of all that he had said, but again declaring that she regarded herself as bound in duty to leave the Small House. To this he had returned no answer, and she had communicated her intention to Mrs. Hearn, thinking it better that there should be no secret in the matter.

"I am sorry to hear that your sister-in-law is going to leave us," Mr. Boyce said to the squire that same afternoon.

"Who told you that?" asked the squire, showing by his tone that he by no means liked the topic of conversation which the parson had chosen.

[ocr errors]

Well, I had it from Mrs. Boyce, and I think Mrs. Hearn told her."

"I wish Mrs. Hearn would mind her own business, and not spread idle reports."

The squire said nothing more, and Mr. Boyce felt that he had been very unjustly snubbed.

Dr. Crofts had come over and pronounced as a fact that it was scarlatina. Village apothecaries are generally wronged by the doubts which are thrown upon them, for the town doctors when they come always confirm what the village apothecaries have said.

There can be no doubt as to its being scarlatina," the doctor declared; "but the symptoms are all favourable.”

There was, however, much worse coming than this. Two days afterwards Lily found herself to be rather unwell. She endeavoured to keep it to herself, fearing that she should be brought under the doctor's notice as a patient; but her efforts were unavailing, and on the following morning it was known that she had also taken the disease. Dr. Crofts declared that everything was in her favour. The weather was cold. The presence of the malady in the house had caused them all to be careful, and, moreover, good advice was at hand at once. The doctor begged Mrs. Dale not to be uneasy, but he was very eager in begging that the two sisters might not be allowed to be together. "Could you not send Bell into Guestwick,-to Mrs. Eames's?" said he. But Bell did not choose to be sent to Mrs. Eames's, and was with great difficulty kept out of her mother's bedroom, to which Lily as an invalid was transferred.

If you will allow me to say so," he said to Bell, on the second day after Lily's complaint had declared itself, "you are wrong to stay here in the house."

I certainly shall not leave mamma, when she has got so much upon her hands," said Bell.

But if you should be taken ill she would have more on her hands," pleaded the doctor.

If I were taken over

"I could not do it," Bell replied. to Guestwick, I should be so uneasy that I should walk back to Allington the first moment that I could escape from the house." "I think your mother would be more comfortable without you."

[ocr errors]

And I think she would be more comfortable with me. I don't ever like to hear of a woman running away from illness; but when a sister or a daughter does so, it is intolerable." So Bell remained, without permission indeed to see her sister, but performing various outside administrations which were much needed.

And thus all manner of trouble came upon the inhabitants of the Small House, falling upon them as it were in a heap together. It was as yet barely two months since those terrible tidings had come respecting Crosbie; tidings which, it was felt at the time, would of themselves be sufficient to crush them; and now to that misfortune other misfortunes had been added, -one quick upon the heels of another. In the teeth of the doctor's kind prophecy Lily became very ill, and after a few

days was delirious. She would talk to her mother about Crosbie, speaking of him as she used to speak in the autumn that was passed. But even in her madness she remembered that they had resolved to leave their present home; and she asked the doctor twice whether their lodgings at Guestwick were ready for them.

It was thus that Crofts first heard of their intention. Now, in these days of Lily's worst illness, he came daily over to Allington, remaining there, on one occasion, the whole night. For all this he would take no fee;-nor had he ever taken a fee from Mrs. Dale. "I wish you would not come so often," Bell said to him one evening, as he stood with her at the drawingroom fire, after he had left the patient's room; you are overloading us with obligations." On that day Lily was over the worst of the fever, and he had been able to tell Mrs. Dale that he did not think that she was now in danger.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

It will not be necessary much longer," he said; the worst of it is over."

"It is such a luxury to hear you say so. I suppose we shall owe her life to you; but nevertheless

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Oh, no; scarlatina is not such a terrible thing now as it used to be."

[ocr errors]

Then why should you have devoted your time to her as you have done? It frightens me when I think of the injury we must have done you."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'My horse has felt it more than I have," said the doctor, laughing. My patients at Guestwick are not so very numerous." Then, instead of going, he sat himself down. "And it is really true," he said, that you are all going to leave this

house?"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Quite true. We shall do so at the end of March, if Lily is well enough to be moved."

[ocr errors]

Lily will be well long before that, I hope; not, indeed, that she ought to be moved out of her own rooms for many weeks to come yet."

[ocr errors]

Unless we are stopped by her we shall certainly go at the end of March.” Bell now had also sat down, and they both remained for some time looking at the fire in silence.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

You have a right to ask any question about us," she said. My uncle is very kind. He is more than kind; he is generous. But he seems to think that our living here gives him a right to

interfere with mamma. We don't like that, and, therefore, we are going."

The doctor still sat on one side of the fire, and Bell still sat opposite to him; but the conversation did not form itself very freely between them. It is bad news," he said, at last.

[ocr errors]

At any rate, when we are ill you will not have so far to come and see us."

[ocr errors]

'Yes, I understand. That means that I am ungracious not to congratulate myself on having you all so much nearer to me; but I do not in the least. I cannot bear to think of you as living anywhere but here at Allington. Dales will be out of their place in a street at Guestwick."

"That's hard upon the Dales, too."

[ocr errors]

It is hard upon them. It's a sort of offshoot from that very tyrannical law of noblesse oblige. I don't think you ought to go away from Allington, unless the circumstances are very imperative."

[ocr errors]

66

But they are very imperative."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"In that case, indeed! And then again he fell into silence. Have you never seen that mamma is not happy here? she said, after another pause. "For myself, I never quite understood it all before as I do now; but now I see it."

[ocr errors]

And I have seen it;-have seen at least what you mean. She has led a life of restraint; but then, how frequently is such restraint the necessity of a life? I hardly think that your mother would move on that account."

No. It is on our account. But this restraint, as you call it, makes us unhappy, and she is governed by seeing that. My uncle is generous to her as regards money; but in other things, -in matters of feeling,-I think he has been ungenerous." "Bell," said the doctor; and then he paused. She looked up at him, but made no answer. He had always called her by her Christian name, and they two had ever regarded each other as close friends. At the present moment she had forgotten all else besides this, and yet she had infinite pleasure in sitting there and talking to him.

[ocr errors]

I am going to ask you a question which perhaps I ought not to ask, only that I have known you so long that I almost feel that I am speaking to a sister."

[ocr errors]

You may

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ask me what you please," said she.

It is about your cousin Bernard."

About Bernard!" said Bell.

It was now dusk; and as they were sitting without other

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »