Imagens das páginas

woman, she had not been so far behind her matronly friends. It was not one glass or two either that would go to Honor's head; she need not try to make a fool of them by coming over them with a pretence of growing proper all of a sudden.

It would have been the last thought which would have entered Lady Thwaite's mind to pretend to be other than the wild reckless woman she was. She did not require the goading and taunting which met her on all sides from her coarse, stupid, envious cronies, to display herself in her worst colours, to defy all implied opposition, including her husband's.

If these riotous tempters had known it, they had a powerful ally in Lady Thwaite's breast. She was not dull as they were; she was not book-learned, but she had plenty of motherwit, as well as an overweening pride and a passionate temper. She had been accustomed, in the days which seemed far off now, when she had sprung up from a neglected little girl into a strong, capable woman, to be a person of importance in her family and circle. She had not thought often of Sir William's condescending to her, from the evening of the

hay-making. Since he had told her his story, her thought had been to stand by him and atone to him for the injustice which had been done to him, and the burden thrust upon him of having to put up with fine folk who were not of his kind. Her heart had grown soft to him; she had been very happy in those September and October days in the woods and fields.

But for that very reason Honor had been quick to detect the slightest sign of what she must regard as recantation and rue on his side. She had been galled by the faintest token of disapprobation and disappointment from her husband. In place of seeking to submit to his judgment and to suit herself to his tastes, she flourished her independence and opposition in his face and in the faces of her friends.

He remonstrated with a reservation, because he knew in his heart what she suspected, while the suspicion was driving her mad, that he had no true love and fond admiration for her in his heart, such as might have caused him to overlook her faults, or to win her from them, by patient devotion. Her conduct was offending and incensing him, and

the more he grew offended and incensed the more contumacious and audacious she became.

The couple took to going their different ways; rather Sir William sulked and sat alone in his topsy-turvy, disorderly house of Whitehills, while Lady Thwaite roamed abroad and pursued her vagaries wherever the vagabond impulse of the moment drove her. The result was that she was from home at all hours, and was frequently to be found in any coinpany to which he had an objection. When called in question for her behaviour, she either asserted her right to do as she chose, or lied and made a feint of deceiving her husband. But she did the last with so brazen a face and so carelessly, that it looked and sounded as if she either told falsehoods and cheated for the mere pleasure of the thing, or sought to put a fresh insult on Sir William.

The roar and surge of domestic discord rising and swelling filled the ears of the principals in the strife, even of the minor performers in the household contest, so that they could not distinguish the loud, vehement condemnation of the world without.

Old Abe remonstrated anxiously: ‘Lass, what are you about? Be you going to spoil

your luck and waste your fine fortune? Is there an evil spirit in you? No man born will long stand the treatment you are giving he. I have seed a man take a stick or a poker to his wife, and break her head or go nigh to brain her, for a deal less.

'Never mind, father; Sir William will not break my head or brain me. I can take care of myself, and I'll do what I like. Maybe there is a devil in me— leastways I'll not stand his cold looks and sour fault-findings. Who axed him to leave the fine cattle he consorted with? Let him go back to them, if he will have them and their ways.

The crisis could not be long deferred, when a house only built the other day was already shaking to its sandy foundation.

· VOL. II.




LADY THWAITE's last transgression had been to walk over to Hawley Scrub, before the wintry daybreak, to meet and warn a brother of the dead Hughie Guild's, whom even the shuffling Abe did not countenance, and whom Sir William had been roused to threaten he would hunt out of his plantations and bring before the justices.

Hughie Guild had perished in his comparatively innocent youth, or he might have been the best of his race—anyhow the remaining Guilds were well known to be the worst livers in the parish; women as well as men of them were abandoned to shameless vice. It was only lately that Lady Thwaite had renewed her acquaintance with the Guilds, and Sir William had sworn she should not enter their house, or he would know what to do.

« AnteriorContinuar »