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“I think you go a little too far," ven- outside. The proximate cause for this tured Mrs. Frankton.
change of posture must have been the Her visitor stooped, and laid one yel- approaching footsteps of a servant or low kid finger on the faded geranium. the departing ones of Mr. Rashleigh,
“The thing is—are we to notice her?” or perhaps both, since the expression of
Mrs. Haye's tone was solemn and Mrs. Rashleigh's face was not one which impressive, and the speech altogether would have borne the scrutiny of serhad a magnificent sound. Underneath vants' eyes. it there was an uneasy, resentful doubt She listened to the noisy removal of lest, in the innumerable divisions which the breakfast service, and once or twice do so singularly intersect the classes had an impulsive desire to beg for less with lines difficult to comprehend, the violent demonstrations on the remover's new Mrs. Rashleigh should think her- part; but she restrained herself. It is self above her neighbors in the social a humiliating fact for a mistress to conscale.
fess, but Mrs. Rashleigh was afraid of Something of this must have cropped her servants. This morning she was out; for Mrs. Frankton, looking upon afraid of everything. She was so lonethe yellow kid finger, broke into a laugh ly, and wretched, and low-spirited, that of genuine amusement.
it was hard to keep back the tears, and * At any rate,” she said, “ as we have gulp down the lump in her throat, a bitherto been very good friends with giving way to which would, she reflectMr. Rashleigh, I suppose we shall be ed, be so very childish. She scolded neighborly enough to call."
herself, instead of thus giving way. Some unhappy thread had surely got What did she want? Had she pot all, entangled in the fabric of poor Gertrude's and more than all, that could possibly fate, and had been enwoven with it. be desired ? Was not ber husband Prejudice had crept on before her, and kindness itself; and had she ever heard was already doing her incalculable mis- a harsh word from his lips ? Never! chief. If these gossippers would only Perhaps it was early days for that yet; have stopped to consider the actual and perhaps also, in the midst of her foundation for their decisions! But that self-scolding, the shutting of the distant is a thing seldom done.
door of his laboratory fell upon her ear “Oh! I dare say she will be trying to with a blank, chilly reminder of the desvisit at Sir James Field's, and possibly olate and aimless day before her. A day with Lord Cavendish himself. We can- like yesterday, and the day before, and, not keep up with that sort of thing, you oh! so many days before, that she could know."
hardly remember when they began, and Again Mrs. Frankton laughed. certainly could not look forward to the
“ Upon my word,” she said, “I am time when they would end. quite tired of Mrs. Noel Rashleigh be And then her thoughts wandered back fore I have seen her. She has had more to the first few days of her life in this than could be compressed into nine ordi- new home. How happy they were ! nary days already. How do you think How constantly Noel had been with my rose-hedge looks ?”
her! What pleasant walks they had
taken together about the fields, and CHAPTER IV.
down under the willows by the riverside. And he had started the project
of a boat, in which he was to row her It was a somewhat dreary morning to the ruins of an old abbey a few miles in November, that month which is so lower down the river; and George was unfairly maligned as suicidal, and which to go with them and make a pic-nic of is so often one of the mildest and most it. And the cooing of wood - pigeons agreeable months in the latter half of was in her ear again; the rippling of
the clear beautiful water, as the willow Gertrude Rashleigh left her seat at branches kissed it; and she saw again the breakfast-table with some haste, and the great pink beds of wild geranium, knelt down at a low window which she and the wild yellow iris, the foxgloves, threw open, leaning over the stone sill forget-me-nots, and countless wild flow
ers growing in the coverts by the river. It seemed to have been a series of In the fields, too, the startled pheasants false or unfortunate steps, from which ran from the path, scarcely fearing her those neighbors whom she was so anxsufficiently to fly outright. And then ious to conciliate drew, without of the rabbits and hares, and the thousands course meaning to be cruel, cruel conof birds with their marvellous songs, clusions. all new to her! But, above all, Noel She remembered her first Sunday at had been there.
church, where everything was so differAnd the wife of a few months rousedent from what she had been accustomed herself, for a great hot tear had fallen to, that, but for the novelty, it would on her hand, and more threatened to have made her miserable at once. come a shower more like July than The better part of the congregation November; hot and thundery.
came in as they would have entered a “I won't do it," said Mrs. Rashleigh, concert-room, or any other place of pubpassionately. “I will not - it's wick- lic entertainment ; speaking over the ed.”
seats to their friends, some even shaking And so tear after tear fell, and was hands, and then taking a deliberate sur. wiped away with angry vehemence, and vey of all those who had been previousstill they persisted in coming.
ly seated, before they settled themselves “ Aunt Jean, Aunt Jean, what would for the performance (sic). The word you say to me now? Oh, I wish I had must be excused; it was one which some one to scold me for being so wick- occurred with an almost hysterical af. ed and ungrateful!"
fection of remorse to the bride herself, But Aunt Jean would never come un- who sat in a shady corner of her ugly invited, and how was it possible to in- square pew, shrinking from all those vite her, when she would see and know eyes which were turned so mercilessly all ? All what?
It would have been difficult for Ger Then came those lower in the social trude to answer that. And it seemed scale, and they strolled in by twos and useless to try to rouse herself from these threes, and took their places stolidly musings, since there was nothing at all, with open mouths and staring eyes, as that she knew of, for her to do. though they had no very exact idea of
She had got tired of those long, ram- what was about to take place, but whatbling walks which had been rather ever it might be, they were not to be pleasant when first Noel began to turn shaken from their heavy blankness of towards that ugly door and leave her indifference. to berself; besidés it was not the season Moreover, so that the arrivals were for them.
over before the sermon began, it did not What could she do? Something must seem to matter much about the other be wrong in herself; what was it? parts of the service; and the constant
Mrs. Rashleigh drew a stool to the disturbance of those clanking iron-heelwindow and took a piece of work from ed country boots — in rustic parlance her work table. She was going to be donkey-shod—and the heavy, swaying good and useful. But, alas ! she could gait which seemed to bring each foot have found few better misery accelera- down with the whole weight of the body tors than the needle. There were so above it, all had a perfectly novel and many associations connected with it; so bewildering effect upon Mrs. Rashleigh. many of Aunt Jean's dry remarks as to Also, it was her unhappy fate to be her niece's long stitches and short prog- musical ; and the dreadfully ornate chants
The needle was very bright at and long dreary hymns, all in that infirst, but it grew dim; she could not imitable nasal twang of Sunday-school see it at all: then it split into a dozen children, which must be heard to be apneedles. And she threw down the work preciated, tried her sorely. and set herself to think.
During the sermon some one snored We may as well go back with her very audibly behind her, and taking along her brief experience of married courage to glance round, a vision of life, since we know as yet nothing about open mouths and closed eyes caused
her to turn again quickly and keep close
in her corner. The wonder was that | Rashleigh. Also she had given it as Noel sat so gravely composed and tran- her impression that many of the poorer quil at her side; but then he was used people seemed to go to church more for to it.
the actual change and variety than from Her comments on the subject after any love for the service itself. wards struck him as so novel and amus “ Her impression!" ing that he encouraged them; and here There is absolutely no word to express again_fortune was surely inimical to the intense contempt with which a her Mrs. Rashleigh. For after her appear- impression!” was flung at the unfortuance at church, the little village world nate young lady, from all parts of the began to call upon her. It was very parish, till it became a household word, awful; worse a great deal than she bad and small ladies and gentlemen used it expected.
in their nursery quarrels to extinguish a The visitors, already prejudiced, were belligerent nurse. 80 stiff and angular and utterly unap Mrs. Rashleigh of course did not know proachable, that Gertrude began to what she had done; she only knew that think society in the country must be a she was wofully disappointed in these very starched affair indeed, and to reflect neighbors, from whose companionship with dismay upon her former ideas of she had hoped so much. Their bearing the cordial way in which she was to re- and conversation when she did happen ceive her neighbors' advances. There to meet them gave her some vague undid not seem to be any advances to re-easy idea of fencing, and roused more ceive. Mrs. Rashleigh, young, inexpe- than once the angry color to her face, rienced, and fearful of not pleasing, got and something like defiance to her eye. nervous in the awful pauses, and rushed They were either very disagreeable peomadly into a subject which she thought ple, or else something was wrong in hermust surely be common ground. The self. At any rate, their calls must be necessity of improvement in the church returned, and perhaps they would be music, and the dreary way in which the different by-and-by. service was conducted.
But by this time Noel Rashleigh's holUnhappy blindness that possessed iday-making was over, and he had begun her! Why could she not see the vil. to busy himself again with his old occulage crest erecting itself; growing red pations, and leave his wife to herself. and defiant; rising higher and higher She could not go alone to visit these against her? So, that was the way in people, even if it were proper she should which the lady intended to commence do so. In the boldness of this propriety her leadership! She was going to re- she had once taken her husband by storm, form the church services, and the vicar and inveigled him into accompanying of course; and perhaps she would tune her upon one of these visits of ceremony. the organ and
the singing. If she could have heard the sigh with Really, the parish had not seen before which he shut himself up in his study how very faulty it was ; there was hope on his return, she might have known how for it, however, now that it possessed a hopeless it would be to try again. She Mrs. Noel Rashleigh! It would soon did not know it, however; nevertheless improve. A child like that to come and it was not without a little misgiving that preach, indeed! As if it was not bad she ventured to knock at that door which enough that she had angled for and some instinct warned her was intended caught the best match in the parish; to shut her husband from the outer world, and now she, an interloper, a conceited and to be respected accordingly. Her school-girl, must set up her opinion about knock produced no result, and she turned the services, which were not good the handle and said gently, “Noel !" enough for her!
Not to this either did she get any anAnd she had actually laughed at the swer. The door yielded to her hand, organist, and called him a “country and she went in. She had a confused practitioner!”
perception of some pungent odor in the Of course it was easy to make use of room; of incomprehensible vessels and low wit. Anything could be turned instruments lying about; of wonderful into ridicale - except, of course, Mrs. I dusty volumes, on one of which she put
her hand absently; and of her husband, her heart the conviction that he did not absorbed and inaccessible, never even want her; it was a kiss of bribery, to turning to look at her.
send her away. This room and its conShe would not go back. It was a mis- tents were more to him than his wife; take to be there, perhaps, but being there if she was to be an incumbrance why she told her errand bravely, seeing at had he married her? With a womanly the same time, with eyes that read the instinct of having at least one trial bewords mechanically, the title of the vol fore confessing herself a secondary obume under her hand, Theatrum Chemi- ject to her husband, she turned steadily cum Britannicum.
away from all these unknown rivals and A feeling of some grim significance in saw only him. And in turning, the hand the words came over her. What busi- which had rested on that Theatrum ness had her small requirements to ob- Chemicum struck it from her with an trude themselves into an atmosphere impetuous angry movement. such as this? What chance had she of “Don't get a pony carriage, Noel. I winning Noel's ear?
don't want it; I should not like it. I When he did look up at her he was, want nothing—but you." as usual at such times, like a man half “Well,” he said smiling, “ you have awake, and he was muttering, with his got me, haven't you ?” finger on a page to keep his place, some Still Gertrude shut out everything in thing about the fairy of Paracelsus, and that room, against which a passionate the hypothesis of Dr. Girtanner, of Got- sensation of jealousy was rising up, and tingen.
saw only him. And she knew that she Gertrude spoke again, hesitatingly this must yield. time, and with that strange new feeling
“ You will do without me this mornof incongruity and hopelessness tinging ing, Gertrude ?” her speech.
'Yes, Noel.” “ What is it?" said Noel, dimly. And then he drew her down and kissed “Why, my dear girl, I never do go out; her forehead. never did, you know. It is impossible.” “ That's a good little wife. So now
“But, Noel, these people have called go and do these troublesome calls, and upon us, and they will be offended." make haste back to tell me all about “ What about ?”
them.” “If we do not return their calls." Gertrude went away heavily. And
Mr. Rashleigh passed his hand through the walk was very hot, and the birds his hair confusedly, and his book, relieved were very tiresome, for they would
per: of the finger, closed. He had lost his sist in singing almost as though it bad place, and was getting impatient. still been summer, while in reality it was,
“Can't you do it, Gertrude ?" autumn; time for the trees to begin to “ Alone!"
wither, as her hopes were withering. Noel was at his wits' end. He was She said so to herself, for there was a very fond of his wife; but what were sort of relief in saying it. his neighbors to him? Had marriage “He told me to make haste back to brought upon him any necessity to study tell him all about it. And by this time their convenience more than his own? he has forgotten that he has a wife. It Gertrude was the dearest little wife in will be always the same, I suppose; the world, but that she should expect always sublimates.' And I shall have him to do such violence to his nature as to like this. If I could do anything for this was very terrible.
bim I wouldn't care. I meant to try so “I'll tell you what, Gerty,” he said hard to make him happy, and now he is briskly. “I'll get you a pony carriage, happy without me. And then these and then Joseph can drive you anywhere dreadful people! Why should I trouble you want to go. That is, I'll reckon up myself to conciliate them if Noel doesn't? and see if I can afford it.”
I care only for him, and they are rude Gertrude put her hand on his shoulder and disagreeable. I have a great mind timidly, and he took it in his own and to go back.” kissed it; but the movement was not But at this juncture, toying irresoreässuring. It drove down deeper into lutely with the gate that led to Mrs.
Haye's residence, Gertrude caught sight not dare to persevere. It was true that of that lady in a strong-minded bonnet, she might have applied to the vicar, but huge gardening gloves, and carrying a then she was shy; moreover, he might garden fork. And Gertrude could not not see her anxiety for work in the right go back, for Mrs. Haye came forward to light. He was a very good man, but he meet lier, with a back so very straight was also very old and infirm, and he and stiff that half a dozen pokers might had possessed enemies, which he did not have been fixed in it.
-at least in his own parish—they might But Mrs. Rashleigh, out of sorts and have accused him of a sort of sleepy, dismal already, neither made nor received apathetic dulness in the monotonous any more favorable impression than usu- round of duties which he went through al; and she was glad to get back, hot now just as he had gone through them and tired, to her own room, and think forty years ago. As for her brother, it about Noel.
was quite useless to appeal to him. Hle Reaction had begun already, and she was still new in the parish, and was not was blaming herself. She had been be liked. Although not gifted with a brilhaving like a spoiled child, not like a liant intellect, such talents as he had were sensible wife. She must and would alter devoted to his calling, and his fault in this. She would see about the house the beginning had been over plain speakkeeping, and be useful somewhere. ing wherever he saw abuses. The curate
So her next venture was an irruption whom he succeeded had been a hunter, into the kitchen, where a red-armed shooter, fisher, cricketer, athlete; not, woman faced her defiantly, holding a perhaps, one of Mr. Kingsley's muscular spit in her hand, as though the little priests, since these are not supposed to lady had been a joint of meat just ready neglect their duties, as he did. Neverfor impaling. The red-armed woman theless, inasmuch as he gave to the poor had lived cook and housekeeper also with a free-handed generosity, which Mr. with the master too long to be put upon Chester, being poor himself, could not by his new plaything of a wife. Let her emulate, comparisons were drawn bekeep to her pianner and her tattering tween the two considerably to the adand thingamies, and not bring airs into vantage of the former curate, and to the the kitchen, where everybody knew she depreciation of the present one. was as ignorant as a babe unborn.
But all this has nothing to do with The cook did not say this aloud, of Mrs. Rashleigh's troubles; neither did course; but as she stood like a bull her retrospect on this dreary November making up his mind for a rush, shaking day, in which the sun positively declined his head and snorting, Gertrude read it to come out, help her, except to this conas plainly as thongh it had been spoken. clusion : she had wronged Noel in her And her heart sank, for she was ignorant. marriage with him. He had expected She was also totally incapable of dealing a wife able to discharge all the duties with this woman; and the thought of a head of the house, and she was crossed her mind that Noel, being aware nothing but a child after all, who dared of this incapacity, might have helped not speak to her servants. her. She dismissed the thought as dis- At night she sat down to the piano. loyal. She must never blame Noel any And by-and-by the door of that distant more. Everything was her own fault. study opened, and Noel came in and sat She should have taken Aunt Jean's ad- | down just where she had been sitting vice, and put herself into training. Her over her work. idea of being useful in housekeeping de Gertrude played on-music that seemtails was, then, a failure; her own ser-ed to grow spontaneously under her vant treated her with a deference that fingers out of the hope that at least was galling from its assumption of supe- now she was doing something to please rior wisdom, and she was nobody in her bim. own house.
And she played till her fingers ached, She had also made a feeble attempt in and the church clock struck, causing the direction of the schools, but the mis- her to wonder at the lateness of the tress thereof had shown herself so deci- hour. Then she rose and went up to dedly cantankerous that Gertrude did | her husband. Noel was asleep.