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Lady Thwaite, after she had got Zacchary Guild out of danger, denied that she had been near the Guilds' house, and announced her intention of visiting her most intimate friend at the Quarries, where Sir William no longer offered to accompany her.
In Honor's refuge she was plied with jeers and sneers at Sir William as a patterncard, a great hulking reformed water-drinker, and she was taunted with her subjection to him. She defended him hotly for a time:
You are not to say ill of my man Sir William. He's a deal too good for you and the likes of you. You are not fit, the best of you, to hold a candle to him. He have come of gentlefolks, and he was hand and glove with gentlefolks so long as he chose, but he liked his freedom and he liked me.'
She did not care that anybody should blame him save herself ; she only changed her tone when some persons hinted broadly that he must have altered his mind, and could not think very much of her after all. She was to be pitied, with a husband at once a squire, and not a roystering squire, but a nonsuch. As for the speakers, whatever their men were -poor quarrymen, never out of the ale-house —at least they were no better than their wives, and could not indulge in despising them.
Honor cried out she was as good as Will Thwaite any day, she was no man's slave; and she began to drink and shout, gossip and sing snatches of songs. When she returned to Whitehills it was with an unsteady step, a blazing face, and clouded eyes.
Sir William sat waiting for her in the comfortless room, without the vestige of a woman's presence in it-not a bit of darning, or an ironing blanket, or a screen hung over with white clothes, such as had marked his sister Jen's home. He had discovered by this time that though Honor had not been at the Guilds' house, she had gone out at break of day. to keep an appointment with the scoundrel Zacchary Guild.
The husband was at his post in a white heat of fury, meaning to charge her with a violation of all duty to him, and utter disregard of his credit and her own. But the sight of her, as she stumbled into the room, gazed at him with half-blank eyes, and broke into senseless laughter, stopped him. He stared at her in return with such a look of wild
despair as to penetrate even her dazed faculties ; then she made some foolish excuse and left him.
When Sir William Thwaite was by himself he clenched his fists and rose to his feet, quivering with passion.
'It is all over,' he said aloud ; peace and credit are both done for. I did not mean it when I said I would return to the ranks of working-men ; and when I married that woman I thought she was true as steel, and would help to keep me true to myself and her. But I have seen it coming, and now there is not a grain of hope left. If you were here, Jen, you would release me from my word, and pray to God to forgive me. For now, as I am a sinner and mated to a sinner, there is nought remaining to me but to drown care, and drink myself blind and deaf and dead to what I have made of my life.
He staggered to the door as if he were drunk already, went out into the darkness, walked to the nearest ale-house, which was shut up for the night, and thundered at the door there till the amazed and alarmed landlord granted him admittance. Then, against law and gospel and Will Thwaite's word to his
dead sister, he sat pouring out and emptying glass after glass of fiery spirits faster than he had ever done in his wild youth, till he was past thinking, past feeling.
Before the week was over the hue and cry rose that Sir William Thwaite, who had disappeared from. church and market, was never out of one ale-house or another; that he was drinking himself into a lunatic asylum or the grave, in the lowest company; that he had become a common brawler, with whom the police would soon be compelled to interfere. This was what had come of his not being able to drink his glass of port like a Christian gentleman and Squire. Many people had pointed out what such unbecoming extravagant abstinence portended, what had been its origin and what would be its end. It was but an interlude between a drunken scamp's fits of debauchery. After the low marriage he had tumbled into, what further chance was there of his keeping his pledge, or promise, or whatever it might be ? : Lady Thwaite was subdued for a time.
What's come over you, Will ?' she asked almost timidly—you who would not taste drink, to take to it all of a sudden, and like a fish. But you needn't go to them ale-houses and taverns where you are a marked man. Have your liquor here, where nobody has any right to forbid you, and you'll have nobody to quarrel with in your cups.''
What! you don't think I should quarrel with you, my lady, not though we were two at a trade ?' he said savagely. Ah, you don't know me yet. Besides, I prefer taking my sprees on my own account, and not at home. We have not pulled so well together of late that we should risk keeping company when wit is out. I am not come to the lowest pass that I should sit in my own house of Whitehills—the old Thwaites' house, confound them, and drink in company with my wife till we quarrel, and fight, and agree again like the vilest wretches in the barracks.
'It was only once, Will,' she said with strange humility for her. "Did you ever hear of me or know me as a drunken drab am I like it?'
But he broke away from her, and she desisted from all further expostulation with him. Nay, in place of seeking to reclaim and restrain him, it appeared as if she were