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Her husband answered nothing, but placed paper and ink before her. " Then write at once.
Say you will be there to-morrow; leaving here by the 8 o'clock train, arriving at Fenley Junction 4.40."
“To-morrow! Oh, Edward ! not to-morrow. I do so want to see Alice; it seems so long since we parted.”
“Better parted. She is better anywhere than in the society of a deceitfal mother. You will say to-morrow. Write at once."
With trembling fingers Clarissa wrote a short note, largely at her husband's dictation; for she could hardly command her thonghts sufficiently to express herself intelligibly.
“Edward,” she said, as he affixed the stamp, “Mary will ask, and your sisters, when I wish them good-bye, the cause of this sudden journey; what shall I tell them ? ”
“Whatever you please, outside your promise. If you cared for veracity you might mention my displeasure as the cause, without further explanation; but probably the account which departs the farthest from truth will commend itself most to your taste and habits.”
“You are very hard on me," she said, piteously.
“Not unjustly so," he replied. “I will post this at once, and you must commence packing."
A day of hurry, confusion of mind, misery, had to be passed through as best it might; the flurried packing, which would never have been completed without Susan's thoughtful aid, the struggle to steady her mind sufficiently to make arrangements for the comfort of her household, the hasty visit to the Misses Weatherill and evasive answers to their surprised questions, with the vain struggle to keep back her tears-all this had to be followed by a night of sleepless wretchedness; and the final harry of the morning; the basty, silent breakfast, and the cording of the boxes. Then the cab came to the door, the laggage was put ap; Edward handed her in and took his seat opposite. Not a word was spoken. Clarissa dared not speak, she would not willingly reach the station weeping.
"You will be better in the waiting-room," he said, not unkindly. “You are cold.” And he placed a chair before the blazing fire. “I will see to everything, and call you when the train is ready to start. I will see that you have a foot-warmer. You can get it changed at Winhamstowe.'
So she waited, almost unconscious of the coming and going and talking around her in the waiting-room, of the voices and hurried steps withoat. Her eyes were fixed upon the door, watching for Edward's re-appearance.
At length he came. " Come at once,” he said ; and as she followed his quick steps she saw that the passengers were seated and the carriage doors were being locked. The door of a firstclass stood open. Her husband handed her in, an official locked the door, shouted “Right," and the train slowly moved. There was no time for a good-bye; but she looked eagerly out of the window, and she saw Edward standing, his hand tightly clutching a railing, almost as if he needed it for support; and over the asually stern, unmoved face was passing a spasm of strong pain.
She was alone in the compartment; until the next station should be reached, in a solitade as assared as on the loneliest mountain. top. It was a relief. The fear alike of attracting the attention of the servants and of increasing her husband's displeasure had enforced much repression of her feelings.
Now she gave expression to her grief with passionate unrestraint. Yet the comforting thought came, “He was affected in parting from me. When I write and explain all, surely he will forgive me and send for me home again. He does love me still. He would not have looked like that if he did not love me still.”
Northallerton was very little changed since the Mortens had left it for Westhaven eighteen years before. It seemed then to Clarissa the dullest of towns, and so it seemed to her now. It stood on a dead level; the streets were straight, and neither cheerfally broad nor picturesquely narrow.
The houses of the wealthier townspeople were large and substantial, bat nowise handsome or attractive; the abodes of the poor were simply plain and ugly, making no appeal to the imagination in the way of either the grotesque or the tragic. Its pubilc buildings possessed neither the dignity of venerable antiquity nor the freshness and suggestiveness of progress exhibited by new erections; and the steady-going tradesmen failed to enliven the business streets by grand shop-fronts or any display in their windows of startling novelties. No onflowing river brought to mind the restless ocean and the commerce of nations ; not even a canal or a single-line railway kept up communication between Northallerton and the centres of busier life.
So the town lived by itself, keeping its own traditions ; standing still, uncanght by the strong tide of rapid change which at safe distance rashed past it, on the right hand and on the left. Clarissa's sister, Mary, lived in the High Street, her husband, Mr. Brownslow, being the proprietor of a hosiery and haberdashery basiness, which had descended to bim from his father and his grandfather. The people of Northallerton and the country round who now bought stockings, wools, yarns, cotton, tape, at 47, High Street, were largely descendants of those who had purchased similar articles at the same place eighty years ago; thoagh new-comers to the neighbourhood were brought thither by the reported excellence of the commodities, and by the certainty of fair dealing.
The shop, which was warm and comfortable, but quite anornanamental in its appointments, was very dark, and bad changed in its appearance wonderfully little in those eighty years. It was altogether a solemn establishment, the gravity of Mr. Brownslow's manner being reproduced fourfold in that of the grey-haired assistant, who had held the same position when the present proprietor was a boy; and the apprentice wore a grieved expression of countenance, as if he felt the selling of a pair of stockings to be a very mournful ceremony.
The family resided in the dwelling-house over the shop, office, and store-rooms. It had never once occurred to Mr. Brownslow that it would be in any way desirable to forsake his familiar home for a villa in the suburbs, and his wife felt no wish for such a change. She was quite satisfied with the spacious and comfortable, though somewhat gloomy, rooms which were kept in good order by a domestic of staid and silent manner, who had served in the Brownslow family long before Mary's arrival. Very methodical were the habits of the household. Punctually at eight Mr. Brownslow descended to the shop, and as ponctually at one, unless inevitably detained, he reascended to the dining-room, accompanied by the assistant, to be followed, on their return below, by the apprentice, who handled the carving-knife, and helped himself to the newly-brought-in potatoes with the same air of resigned melancholy with which he tied up packots of hosiery and matched worsted and knitting cotton. Tea was brought in exactly as the old eight-day clock on the landing strack five, and as its sonorous tones, denoting nine, ceased, there was heard the patting-up of shutters; for “early closing ” was an innovation unthought of ia this town of old ideas.
At Christmas time, year by year, Mr. and Mrs. Brownslow proceeded to London on a ten days' visit to Mr. Brownslow's elder brother. Twice since her marriage Mary had visited her sister in Kingsport, and bad occasionally left her own home for that of some relative of her husband's; but these expeditions to London were the only regular breaks in the unaltering routine of daily life; the good people of Northallerton, not at all believing in the necessity of a yearly visit to the sea-side, which, indeed, was not easy of access from their far inland, isolated town.
To Clarissa her sister's life seemed oppressively monotonous, and though she felt respect and all kindness for her brother-in-law, she
could not quite repress the feeling that he was a very uninteresting man-80 unlike Edward. Bat Mary was content and happy, and felt that she bad every reason for being so. True, she still shed tears now and then over some memento of a little life which had come and gone, but there was nothing in them of bitterness or repining. With so peaceful a home, so good and kind a husband, it would be, she said, very ungrateful to marmar because of this one loss and unsatisfied desire; she ought to be thankful and happy, and so she was.
“I am so glad to have you with me, Kitty, once more,” Mary said, as she placed her in the arm-chair beside the glowing fire; "but, dear, you do not look well; is it only the long journey and the cold?”
"I have been much tried lately,” Clarissa said, the tears gathering in her eyes.
Mary was yet more fully convinced that Mr. Weatherill must be a very trying husband, than was Clarissa that Mr. Brownslow was a somewhat dull one. She strongly suspected that her sister's trials were connected with her husband's “
very bad temper,” as Mary called it; but knowing that only very cautious allusions to “dear Edward's pecaliarities” (Clarissa's phrase) was permissible, she said no more on the subject, but contented her anxious affection by attending lovingly to her sister's comfort, and seeing that a good fire was burning in the spare bedroom where she was to sleep. A dull chamber it was by day, with no view at all, yet it looked pleasant as Clarissa entered it; the raddy firelight playing on the crimson carpet, and on the heavy draperies round the handsome four-post bed and over the narrow windows; on the low ceiling, with the great beam across, and the old-fashioned papering on the walls; while the toilet-table, with its large glass and beaded mats and pincushion, looked fair and bright under the steady radiance of the wax taper.
"I could be very happy here with Mary for a little time," she thought, “ if I could only know that Edward would soon forgive me, and send for me back again.”
And when she was in bed, Mary came and tucked the clothes round her, and kissed her, as she had so often done when she herself was a young girl, and her sister a little child. Then Clarissa's tears could no longer be restrained.
"What is it, dear?" Mary asked tenderly. "You are in trouble. I know you are. Tell me all about it;” and she seated herself beside the bed.
"O Mary, I wish, I wish I could ! Edward is so very angry with me, and it makes me so anhappy."
“ Is be? I am very sorry,” Mary said ; she thought, “ The
more shame for him, the ill-tempered man that he is ;” and though she repressed any such remark, possibly something of what was in her mind was visible in her face, for the wifely instinct of defence was aroused in her sister.
“ It was my own fault; indeed it was-partly,” she said. don't wonder that Edward was angry ; and yet it was not very wrong-not wrong at all, itself, at first; and I never intended She stopped saddenly, fearing if she went on she should say too much.
“ Tell me all about it, from the very beginning everything, jast as it happened."
“But I can't, Mary ; that is jast what I can't do," she said, with a helpless, appealing look. “Oh, if only I could !
Why cannot you, dear?” asked Mary, perplexed. “ Edward made me promise that I never would never to any
He made me promise faithfully, solemnly." She could not bring herself to speak of the oath administered. " And, Mary, I am quite sure he does not understand it rightly ; he thinks things that are not true ; he would not let me explain ; he would not hear a word.”
“ That was not just,” Mary said decisively, anable any longer to repress her opinion. "To refuse to listen himself to explanations, to forbid your receiving the advice and assistance of others in clearing yourself from blame, is unworthy of an honourable minded man, to say nothing of a kind one."
“Oh, no ; yon must not say that,” protested Clarissa ; " Edward is stern sometimes, but he is the soul of honour.”
“ I am not at all certain whether a promise so unreasonable," Mary went on thoughtfully, not heeding the interruption, "and given under coercion, need be binding on your conscience. I cannot but think you might confide in me, without doing wrong."
Oh no, I cannot, I dare not; and then Edward would never forgive me, I know he never would. But I am going to write to. morrow and explain all he would not listen to, and when he has
letter I really think he will see I was not so very wrong as he fancies. But it was very, very foolish, yes, wrong-I know it was. Ob, Mary, I do not mean what, perhaps, you may think I mean," and a distressed flush spread over her face ; " it was not jealousy ; it is so hard not to be able to tell."
“ It is hard,” said Mary. " It was a most unjustifiable thing in Mr. Weatherill to extort sach a promise, and, Kitty darling, rather weak in you to give it. But now you cannot do better than, as you say, write an explanation, fully, with perfect frankness; he will be sure to read to the end, though he would not listen. And, dear," she added after a pause, you know there is One to whom you