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about her, they'll send and take her off to the Union for the night.”
“ That they will not,” said his wife, decisively. “No decent body should be took there from my house for want of one night's lodging, let alone a lady like she is.”
“So be she's off her head,” remonstrated the husbanå. may murder us all in the night, or set the hou se a-tire; or, maybe, 'tis the fever she's got.”
“Go along ! what cowards you men are," she retorted with feminine contempt. “She's as gentle as a lamb; and it's not losers we shall be, I reckon,” she added, guessing by what arguments his relactance would be best overcome; "she's well to do I can see."
“Well, there's sense in that,” he admitted, taking off his cap and coming.in.
“ Now, make haste with your tea, then you can be off; and don't be staring at the lady and asking of her questions."
So Jim slouched into the room, eyeing askance the stranger seated by his fireside, and still holding his baby on her knee, and he mumbled a half-inarticolate “Good arternoon, mem," to which Clarissa responded courteously, and asked if she were occupying his accustomed seat.
“ You bide where ye be, mem," he said, seating himself at the table where the children were already placed, and on which teathings, an ample loaf and a roll of the sweetest batter, were arranged; while his wife fetched from an inner room—the par. lour where all elegances the small domicile could boast were concentrated-a little table, and, placing it beside her guest, brought delicately-cut bread-and-butter and tea in the cherished best china on a soperb-looking waiter.
“ How kind you are,” said Clarissa, gratefully. “I shall be better able after to think how to get home," and she drank the tea eagerly.
“Where's you come from, mem?” asked the man, disregarding his wife's directions.
“From Westhaven, friend; and I must get back," she answered, pleasantly.
“Finley Junction or 'Illsbridge Station was it you got out at?" persisted the man, in spite of a warning look from his wife.
“Ob, not by rail, I walked ; and I am very tired," she answered, wearily.
“Walked, mem! that's a good an! Why, then, Wes'haven is a nigh two hundred ; ” but a menacing frown and a knock on his arm reduced him to silence.
“You must please excuse my husband, ma'am ; men will be a. contradicting !"
Ob, yes,” said Clarissa ; "it was very natural; it was a very, very long walk. Do you think a conveyance could be hired here to take me back ?”
Another frown kept the husband silent while the wife answered. It would be best, I am sure. My busband will go out directly he has had his tea and make inquiries."
“Oh, thank yon. I don't think I could walk, and it's quite dark now.
They will be in a way at home.” "Could you write your address ? ” Mrs. Manly asked ; and with some difficulty a piece of writing-paper was found, and a search commenced for pen and ink.
“I think I have a pencil," Clarissa said ; and, as she drew from her pocket a silver pencil-case, a scrap of thin paper fell out, of which the woman, anobserved, possessed herself. In a weak, trembling hand she wrote, “Miss Clarissa Morton, 17, Hanover Square, Westhaven." And then, as if the exertion had been almost too great, she rested her head on her hand, and sank into a kind of stupor.
“Tim, come in here," his wife said when her husband had finished his tea ; and taking a light into the onter kitchen she showed him the piece of paper, which she had herself before examined. It was a shop bill of some small purchases made, and bore the heading, “Healey and Sons, Drapers, 43, High Street, Northallerton." “ Tlat's where she walked from, I tako it, Northallerton; nigh ten miles off-poor lady! I don't wonder she's done op. Yon'd better show that paper at the station, and the other; and tell what she's like ; quite a lady, mind; not very tall, about thirty-five or forty, black and white plaid dress, cloth mantle with fur, velvet bonnet. And don't stop about, there's a good man ; make haste home again.”
So the husband set out for town, and the wife put away the teathings, undressed the baby, and presently told Johnny that he most see Tim into bed to-night. Then the boys, one by one, knelt by their mother's knee and said their prayers, and Clarissa raised her head a little and whispered, Amen," when the prayers were ended.
“Good-night, dears," she said as the children were going apstairs.
“Go and wish the lady good-night," their mother said ; and Johnny went and said, “ Good-night ma'am," rather shyly; but Tim threw his arms round her neck and kissed her lovingly. Then she sank again into lethargy, and the mother sat by the fire silently, and presently began listening for her husband's return.
At length she heard his step along the road, and then at the back of the house, and she went to meet him. “Well?" she asked, as he came in.
“ There ain't been any inquiries made ; but one of the county force seed her atween this and Failand, on the Nor'allerten Road; and they say them things were bought on Friday, it's on the paper, and its there she comed from, most like. They'll get inquiries made ; but that there town is so awk’ard; no rail, nor nothing! I telled em we should expect summat handsome for a keeping & crazy 'oman in the house all night."
“Now Jim, you jest keep out o' the way a bit; go round to Jack's till sapper time. You don't mean no harm, but you
ain't jest the man as knows the right way with a lady."
So Jim, thus dismissed, went not unwillingly to his brother's, while his wife made her preparations for the night, lighting a fire in the parlour; and with pillows and cashions, and linen clean and sweet, making up a bed on the wide sofa.
Then she roused her guest as gently as she could, who yet started and looked round as if bewildered. “My husband has sent to let your friends know where yoa are,” she said. “ It will not be possible to get home to-night. Now your friends are sent to, would you much mind staying the night here with me."
“Oh no; I should like to be at home, but I shall be very comfortable with you; you are so kind ! and I might feel better lying down.”
“ Then perhaps you would let me help you to bed now;" and Clarissa rose like a docile child, and feebly walked into the inner
The fire was burning cheerily, a square of brightly coloured carpet lay on the boarded-floor, books were arranged on the polished table, ornaments many and varions crowded the mantelpiece, prints hung round the walls; in a corner capboard china and glass were displayed, and on the sofa was the extemporary bed, covered with snowy sheets and patchwork counterpane.
“I thought you would be more comfortable here than upstairs, the hostess explained,
our rooms open so one into another. It is all nice and clean and well aired.”
“Oh; I am sure of that; bat I have given yoa so very much trouble;" and she suffered herself to be assisted in undressing and lay down wearily; and in a little time there was brought to her carefully prepared food, which with gentle persuasion she was induced to take.
“ Thank you, I am very comfortable,” she said, “only my head feels so strange, it may be better if I sleep;" and she closed
As the cottager solicitously arranged the bedclothes, she could not resist the impulse—stranger as the lady was, and divided from her by social rank—to stoop and kiss the white weary face; and Clarissa smiled as if pleased, though she did not speak.
“She'll be out at the door, or setting the place a-fire or sommat,” said the husband when he returned, and his wife explained the arrangement.
“You don't think I'm a coming up to bed do you, Jim ? I shall do
very well in the chair by the fire, and look in on her now and again. It's not the first time I've sat up with a sick body, nor the last I hope, so be I live.”
And in another hour there was quiet within the cottage home; and, without and all around, the perfect stillness and darkness which broods over country places through the long hours of a moonless winter night.
CHAPTER XXVI.-A JUST Man!
It was nearly noon on the next day when a conveyance stopped in the broad roadway, where on the one side stood the ample seat under the lime trees, and on the other the cottage in which Mrs. Weatherill was sojourning. Many times during the morning had Mrs. Manly's eyes turned towards the window, hoping for such arrival; now she quietly closed the door of the inner room where her sick gnest was, and went out to meet, before they should reach the door, the gentleman and lady who were descending from the carriage.
“Is this where the lady, my sister, is ? ” asked Mrs. Brownslow, hastily advancing.
“Yes, ma'am, it is. I think, perhaps, she may be asleep."
Mary comprehended the hint conveyed in the woman's words. “ Perhaps it would be better for me to go in alone first, if you would not mind,” she said to her husband, stepping very softly and speaking low. Mr. Brownslow at once assented.
“ How is she? what seems the matter?” she asked, eagerly.
“She is very weak, ma'am; she is dressed, bat lying down, and -her mind wanders rather. Is she used to it, ma'am ?"
“Oh, no; she was quite well when I left home on Friday ; quite well, I believe, yesterday morning. She has had some shock. But where is she? I want to see her,” Mrs. Brownslow said, almost impatiently, entering the cottage.
“Perhaps I had better go in and tell her you are here; maybe it would startle her less," said Mrs. Manly; and the sister stood back in the outer rooom while the stranger went within ; a first faint taste of a grief which in deepening bitterness was yet to be.
“The lady you spoke of, ma'am, your sister, is come, and has brought a conveyance that you may get home easy,” Mary heard the woman say.
“Oh, I am so glad !” It was Clarissa's voice, but sounded weak and strange. “ Bat does she seem very vexed with me?” “Oh, no, I am sure not; why should she be?” was answe
Then Mary could forbear no longer, but went in.
“Dear Mary, I am so glad ; it was so kind to come. But is father angry?” asked Clarissa, sitting up.
Mary started and changed countenance; but, quickly recovering herself, said, “No, dearest; no one was angry,” aud she kissed her fondly.
But you were all; frightened, I'm afraid ; I am so sorry. I don't know how it happened. I seemed to know something about it yesterday, but I can't remember now; my head feels very strange. Why did not Bessy come with you? It seems so long since I saw Bessy, and yet it was only yesterday morning. I'll come home now; I shall be all right when I'm at home, I dare say." And Mary assisted her to rise.
“I have been taken so mach kind care of here; you could hardly have been kinder yourself,” she said, as Mrs. Manly brought the mantle; and Mary, with some self-denial, allowed her to arrange and fasten it.
“I should like to kiss baby before I go," Clarissa said ; and as the mother brought the child, Mrs. Brownslow slipped a piece of gold into her hand.
“Thank you, ma'am,” she said, with a courtesy; “bat, indeed, I did not do it for that."
“I know it," replied Mary, for she saw tears rising to the kindly eyes.
“Good-bye, and thank yoa mach," Clarissa said as they went out of the cottage, herself leaning heavily on her sister's arm.
“Perhaps I will come in the summer and see you with Bessy." Mr. Brownslow came forward to meet them.
“I do not know this gentleman. Thank you, sir,” she said, as lie assisted, almost lifted, her into the carriage.
Then the door was shut, the window drawn op; and Mrs. Manly stood at the gate; and Johnny, who had been kept near at band in case of need, came and stood beside his mother, and together they watched the carriage rolling smoothly and slowly along the level road in the direction of Failand and Northallerton.
Stiller than ever grew the quiet house in High Street, and thick tan, laid before it in the broadway, deadened the sound of traffic in that never very noisy thoroughfare. For “perfect quiet " was the order of the doctor burriedly called in, and “perfect quiet" was repeated by the physician summoned the following day.
“James," Mary said, a few hours after the melancholy home