The Rosery FolkŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďLetís go on the water, then; a row would do you good.Ē
Lady Scarlett darted an imploring look at the doctor; but if intended to stay his speech it came too late.
ďRow? No!Ē said Scarlett with a shudder. ďI never go on the water now. My left wrist is so weak, I am afraid I have somehow sprained one of the tendons. Donít ask me to row.Ē
Lady Scarlett darted a second imploring look at the doctor, and he read it, as it seemed to him, to say: ďPray, donít allude to the water;Ē but it was part of his endeavour to probe his friendís mental wound to the quick, and he went on: ďLaziness, you sybaritish old humbug! Very well, then; Iíll give up the rowing, and weíll have the punt, and go and fish.Ē
ďImpossible; the water is too thick, and I donít think there are any baits ready.Ē
ďHow tiresome!Ē said the doctor. ďI had made up my mind for a try at the barbel before I went back.Ē
ďBefore you went back?Ē cried Scarlett excitedly; and he caught his friend by the arm Ė ďbefore you went back! What do you mean?Ē
ďMean, old fellow? Why, before I went back to London.Ē
ďWhy, youíre not thinking of going back Ė of leaving me here alone Ė of leaving me Ė me Ė er Ė Ē He trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished, and stood looking appealingly at his friend.
ďWhy, my dear boy, what nonsense you are talking,Ē replied Scales. ďLeave you Ė alone? Why, man, youíve your aunt and your relatives. Thereís your cousin out there now.Ē
ďYes, yes Ė of course Ė I know. But donít go, Jack. Iím Ė Iím ill. I Ė I want you to set.†Ė to set me right. Donít Ė donít go and leave me, Jack.Ē
ďNow, thereís a wicked old impostor for you, Lady Scarlett!Ē cried the doctor, going close up to his friend, catching him by both shoulders, giving him a bit of a shake, and then patting him on the chest and back. ďNot so stout as he was, but sound as a roach. Lungs without a weak spot. Heart pumping like a steam-engine Ė eyes clear Ė skin as fresh as a daisy Ė and tongue as clean. Get out, you sham Abram! pretending a pain to get me to stay!Ē
ďYes, of course Iím quite well Ė quite well, Jack; but a trifle Ė just a trifle low. I thought youíd stop with me, and take Ė take care of me a bit and put me right. Iím Ė Iím so lonely down here now.Ē
Lady Scarlett did not speak; but there was a quiver of the lip, and a look in her eyes as she turned them upon the doctor, that disarmed him.
ďShe does care for him,Ē he said to himself. ďShe must care for him.Ē
ďI tell you what it is,Ē he said aloud; ďyouíve been overdoing it in those confounded greenhouses of yours. Too much hot air, moist carbonic acid gas, and that sort of thing.†Ė Lady Scarlett, he has been thinking a deal more of his melons than of his health.Ē
ďYes; he does devote a very, very great deal of attention to them,Ē assented Lady Scarlett eagerly.
ďTo be sure, and it is not good for him.†Ė You must go up to town more and attend to business.Ē
ďYes, of course; I mean to Ė soon,Ē said Scarlett, with his eyes wandering from one to the other.
ďHere, you must beg off with Lady Scarlett, and come up with me.Ē
ďWith you? What! to town?Ē
ďTo be sure; and weíll have a regular round of dissipation: Monday pops; the opera; and Saturday concerts at the Crystal Palace.
What do you say?Ē
ďNo!Ē said Scarlett, in a sharp, harsh, peremptory way. ďI am not going to town again Ė at present.Ē
ďNonsense, man I Ė Tell him he may come, Lady Scarlett.Ē
ďOh yes, yes; I should be glad for him to go!Ē cried Lady Scarlett eagerly; and then she shrank and coloured as she saw the doctorís searching look.
ďThere, you hear.Ē
ďYes, I hear; but I cannot go. The glass-houses could not be left now.Ē
ďWhat, not to our old friend Monnick?Ē
ďNo; certainly not; no,Ē cried Scarlett hastily. ďCome out now Ė in the garden, Jack. Iíll show you.†Ė Are you very busy in town Ė much practice?Ē
ďPractice?Ē cried Scales, laughing, and thoroughly off his guard as to himself. ďNot a bit, my dear boy. Iím a regular outcast from professional circles. No practice for me.Ē
ďThen there is nothing to take you back,Ē cried Scarlett quickly, ďand you must stay.†Ė Kate, do you hear? I say he must stay!Ē
There was an intense irritation in his manner as he said these words, and his wife looked up in a frightened way.
ďYes, yes, dear. Of course Doctor Scales will stay.Ē
ďThen why donít you ask him?Ē he continued in the same irritable manner. ďA man wonít stop if the mistress of the house slights him.Ē
ďBut, my dear James,Ē cried Lady Scarlett, with the tears in her eyes, ďI have not slighted Doctor Scales. On the contrary, I was begging that he would stay when you came in.Ē
ďWhy?†Ė why?Ē exclaimed Scarlett, with increasing excitement. ďYou must have had some reason. Do you hear? Why did you ask him to stay?Ē
ďBecause I knew you wished it,Ē said Lady Scarlett meekly; ďand I thought it would do you good to have him with you for a time, dear.Ē
ďDo me good! Such sickly nonsense! Just as if I were ill. You put me out of patience, Kate; you do indeed. How can you be so childish!†Ė Come into the garden, Jack. Iíll be back directly Iíve got my cigar-case.Ē
ďShall I fetch it, dear?Ē asked Lady Scarlett eagerly.
ďNo; of course not. Any one would think I was an invalid;Ē and he left the room.
ďLady Scarlett,Ē said the doctor, as soon as they were alone, ďI will stay.Ē
ďGod bless you!Ē she cried, with a burst of sobbing; and she hurried away.
Volume One Ė Chapter Sixteen.
Brother William at Home
Brother William went very regularly to the Scarletts, and took Fannyís magazines, handing them to her always with an air of disgust, which resulted in their being snatched angrily away. Then he would sit down, and in due time partake of tea, dwelling over it, as it were, in a very bovine manner Ė the resemblance being the stronger whenever there was watercress or lettuce upon the table. In fact, there was something remarkably ruminative in Brother Williamís slow, deliberate, contemplative way; while, to carry on the simile, there was a something almost in keeping in the manners of Martha Betts Ė a something that while you looked at the well-nurtured, smooth, pleasant, quiet woman, set the observer thinking of Lady Scarlettís gentle Jersey cows, that came up, dewy lipped and sweet breathed, to blink and have their necks patted and ears pulled by those they knew.
Injustice to Martha Betts, it must be said that she never allowed her neck to be patted nor her ears pulled by Brother William; and what was more, that stout yeoman farmer would never for a moment have thought of presuming to behave so to the lady of his choice; for that she was the lady of his choice he one day showed. It was a pleasant afternoon, and Brother William had been greatly enjoying a delicious full-hearted lettuce that John Monnick had brought in expressly for the servantsí tea. Perhaps it was the lettuce which inspired the proposal that was made during the temporary absence of Fanny from the tea-table.
ďPretty girl, Fanny; ainít she, Martha?Ē
ďVery; but I would not tell her so. She knows it quite enough.Ē
ďShe do,Ē said Brother William; ďand itís a pity; but Iím used to it. She always was like that, from quite a little un; and it frets me a bit when I get thinking about her taking up with any one. You donít know of any one, do you?Ē
ďNot that sheís taken with,Ē said Martha, in the quietest way. ďThereís the ironmongerís young man, and Colonel Sturtís Scotch gardener; but Fanny wonít notice them.Ē
ďNo,Ē said Brother William, biting a great half-moon out of a slice of bread-and-butter, and then looking at it regretfully, as much as to say: ďSee what havoc I have made.Ē Ė ďNo, she wouldnít. I donít expect sheíll have any one at all.Ē
ďOh, thereís no knowing,Ē said Martha, refilling the visitorís cup.
ďNo; thereís no knowing,Ē assented Brother William; and there was silence for a few minutes.
ďYouíve never been over to see my farm, Martha Betts,Ē said Brother William, then.
ďNo; I have never been,Ē assented Martha in her quiet way.
ďI should like you to come over alone, and see it,Ē said Brother William; ďbut I know you wouldnít.Ē
ďNo; I would not,Ē said Martha.†Ė ďWas your last cup sweet enough?Ē
ďJust right,Ē said Brother William thoughtfully.†Ė ďBut you would come along with Fanny, and have tea, and look round at the beasts and the crops?Ē
ďYes,Ē said Martha, in the most matter-of-fact manner, as if the proposal had not the least interest for her. ďBut Fanny would not care to come.Ē
ďIíll make her,Ē said Brother William quietly; and he went on ruminating and gazing sleepily at the presiding genius of the tea-table. Then Fanny came back, took a magazine from her pocket, and went on reading and partaking of her tea at the same time, till Brother William said suddenly: ďFanny, Iíve asked Martha Betts and you to come over to tea oí Friday, at the farm. Be in good time. Iíll walk back with you both.Ē
Fanny looked up sharply, and was about to decline the honour, when a thought that made her foolish little heart beat, and a quiet but firm look from her brotherís eye, altered her intention, and she, to Marthaís surprise, said calmly: ďOh, very well. We will be over by four Ė if we can get leave.Ē
There was no difficulty about getting leave, for Fanny took the first opportunity of asking her mistress, and that first opportunity was one day when Lady Scarlett was busy in the study with Arthur Prayle.
Lady Scarlett looked up as the girl paused and hesitated, after taking in a letter; and Arthur Prayle also looked up and gazed calmly at the changing colour in the handsome face.
ďWhat is it, Fanny?Ē said Lady Scarlett.
ďI was going to ask, maíam, if I might go with Martha Ė on Friday Ė to my brotherís farm Ė to tea. My brother would bring us back by ten; or if you liked, maíam, I could come back alone much sooner, if you wanted me.Ē
ďOh, certainly, Fanny. You can go. I like you to have a change sometimes.Ē
ďAnd shall I come back, maíam Ė about nine?Ē said the girl eagerly.
ďO no; certainly not,Ē replied Lady Scarlett. ďCome back with Martha, under your brotherís charge. I donít think you ought to come back alone.Ē
Lady Scarlett inadvertently turned her face in the direction of Prayle, as she spoke, and found his eyes fixed upon her gravely, as he rested his elbows on the table and kept his finger-tips together.
ďCertainly not,Ē he said softly. ďYou are quite right, I think;Ē and he bowed his head in a quiet serious manner, as if giving the matter his entire approval.
Fanny said, ďThank you, maíam;Ē and it might have been supposed that this extension of time would have afforded her gratification; but an analyst of the human countenance would have said that there was something almost spiteful in the look which she bestowed upon Arthur Prayle, as she was about to leave the room.
In due time the visit was paid, Fanny and Martha bestowing no little attention on their outward appearance; and upon crossing the bridge and taking the meadow-path, they were some little distance from the farm, when Brother William encountered them, with a very shiny face, as if polished for the occasion, and a rose in the button-hole of his velveteen coat.
ďHow are you, Martha Betts?Ē he said, with a very bountiful smile; and he shook hands almost too heartily to be pleasant, even to one whose fingers were pretty well hardened with work.†Ė ďHow are you, Fanny, lass?Ē he continued; and he was about to bestow upon the graceful well-dressed little body a fraternal hug and a kiss, but she repelled him.
ďNo; donít, William. There that will do. Iím very glad to see you; but I wish you wouldnít be such a bear.Ē
ďBear, eh?Ē said Brother William, with a disappointed look. ďWhy, I was only going to kiss you, lass. All right,Ē he said, smiling again. ďBut she mustnít think of having a sweetheart, Martha Betts, or heíll be wanting to hug her too.Ē
Brother Williamís face was a study as he let off this, to his way of thinking, very facetious remark. His bountiful smile expanded into an extremely broad grin, and he looked to Martha Betts for approval, but only to encounter so stern and grave a look, that his smile grew stiff, then hard, then faded away into an expression of pain, which in turn gave way to one that was stolid solemnity frozen hard.
ďItís a nice day, ainít it?Ē he said at last, to break the unpleasant silence that had fallen upon the little group, as they walked on between hedges bright with wild-roses, and over which the briony twined its long strands and spread its arrowy leaves. There was the scent of the sweet meadow-plant as it raised its creamy blossoms from every moist ditch; and borne on the breeze came the low sweet music of the weir.
But somehow these various scents, sights, and sounds had grown common to the little party, or else their thoughts were on other matters, for Fanny the pretty seemed to be looking eagerly across the meadow towards the river and down every lane, as if expecting to see some one on the way towards them. From time to time she hung back, to pick and make little bouquets of wild-flowers, but only to throw them pettishly away, as she found that her brother and fellow-servant kept coming to a full stop till she rejoined them, when they went on once more.
As for Brother William and Martha, they diligently avoided looking at one another, while their conversation was confined to a few words, and those were mostly from Brother William, who said on each of these occasions: ďHadnít we best wait for Fanny?Ē
To which Martha Betts responded: ďWell, I suppose we had.Ē
Martha seemed in nowise delighted with the appearance of the pretty cottage farm, with its low thick thatch and dense ivy, which covered the walls like a cloak. Neither was she excited by the sight of the old-fashioned garden, gay with homely flowers; but she did accept a rosebud, and a sprig of that pleasant herbaceous plant which Brother William called ďOld Man,Ē pinning them tightly at the top of her dress with a very large pin, which her host took out of the edge of his waistcoat.
ďThat is a pretty dress,Ē he said admiringly. ďOne oí my favourite colours. Thereís nowt like laylock and plum.Ē
ďIím glad you like it,Ē said Martha quietly; and she then followed Brother William into the clean, homely keeping-room, where Joeís wife Ė Joe being one of Brother Williamís labourers Ė who did for him, as he expressed it, had prepared the tea, which was spread upon one of the whitest of cloths. Beside the ordinary preparations for the infusion of the Chinese leaf, there was an abundance of country delicacies Ė ham of the hostís own growing and curing; rich moist radishes; the yellowest of butter, so sweetly fresh as to be scented; the brownest of loaves, and the thickest of cream.
Martha looked round at the bright homely furniture of the room, the beesí-waxed chairs, the polished bureau of walnut inlaid with brass, the ancient eight-day clock, and the side-table with its grey-and-red check cotton cover, highly decorated tea-tray, set up picture-fashion, and a few books.
ďAh,Ē said Brother William, seeing the direction of his visitorís eyes, ďI havenít got many books. Thatís the owd Bible. Got mine and Fannyís birthdays in. Thatís motherís owd hymn-book; and hereís a book here, if you like. If Fanny would lay that up by heart, ístead oí reading them penny gimcracks, sheíd be a-doing herself some good.Ē As he spoke, he took up a well-used old book in a brown cover, which opened easily in his hand. ďThatís Bowcroftís Farmerís Compendium, that is. Iíll lend it to you, if you like. Stodge-full of receipts for cattle-drinks and sheep-dressings; and thereís a gardenerís calendar in it too. I wouldnít take fií pound for that book, Martha. There ainít many like it, even up at Sir James Scarlettís, Iíll be bound. Thatís litrichur, that is.Ē
Fanny did not enter with them. She preferred to have a good look at the garden, she said; and she lingered there for some time, her ďgood look at the gardenĒ taking in a great many protracted looks up and down the lane, each of which was followed by a disappointed frown and a sigh.
ďWonít you take off your bonnet and jacket, Martha Betts?Ē said Brother William. ďYou can go up to Fannyís old bedroom, or you can hang íem up behind the door on the Peg.Ē
Martha thought she would hang them up on the peg that was behind the door; and Brother William looked stolidly on, but in an admiring way, as he saw the quick deft manner in which his visitor divested herself of these outdoor articles of garb, made her hair smooth with a touch, and then brought out an apron from her pocket, unrolled it, and from within, neatly folded so that it should not crease, one of those natty little scraps of lace that are pinned upon the top of the head and called by courtesy a cap.
ďHah!Ē said Brother William, as the cap was adjusted and the apron fastened on; ďthe kettle is byling, but we may as well look round before you make the tea.Ē
ďThank you,Ē said Martha calmly.
ďThis is the washus,Ē said Brother William, opening a door to display a particularly clean whitewashed place, with red Ė brick floor. There was a copper in one corner; at one side, a great old-fashioned open fireplace with clumsy iron dogs, and within this fireplace, in what should have been the chimney corner, an iron door, nearly breast high.
ďThatís the brick oven,Ē said Brother William, noticing the bent of his visitorís eyes. ďWe burn fuzz in it mostly; but any wood does. Them hooks is when we kill a pig. The water in that there pump over the sinkís soft: thereís a big tank outside. That other pump you see through the windowís the drinking-water. It never gets dry. Nice convenient washus; isnít it?Ē
ďVery,Ē said Martha quietly; ďonly there ought to be a board put down front of the sink, for a body to stand on.Ē
ďThere is one outside. Mrs Badley must haí left it there when she cleaned up,Ē cried Brother William eagerly; and Martha said ďOh!Ē
Then he led the way back into the keeping-room, and opened a second door, while Marthaís quick eyes were taking in everything, not an article of furniture escaping her gaze; not that she was admiring or calculating their quality or value, but as if she were in search of some particular thing that so far she had found absent; this object being a spot of dirt.
ďThis hereís the dairy,Ē said Brother William, entering, and holding open the double doors of the cool, dark, shady place Ė brick-floored, like the washhouse, but with a broad erection of red-brick all round like a rough dresser, upon which stood rows of white-lined pans, with a large white table in the middle, and the churn, scales, and beaters, and other utensils used in the preparation of the butter, along with the milk-pails at one end.
Marthaís wandering eyes were as badly off as Noahís dove in the early days after the flood; they could find no place to rest, for everything was scrupulously clean. The cream looked thick and heavy and almost tawny in its yellowness; and upon two large dishes were a couple of dozen rolls of delicious-looking butter, reposing beneath a piece of while muslin, ready for taking to market on the following day.
ďMyste and cool, isnít it?Ē said Brother William. ďYou see itís torst the north, and Iíve got elder-trees to shade the window as well.Ē
Martha nodded, and continued her search for that spot of dirt which her reason told her must be somewhere; but certainly it was not hiding there.
ďThereís four cows in full milk now, Martha. Creamís rich; isnít it? Wait a moment.Ē
ďWhere do you get your hot-water to scald the churn and things?Ē said Martha sharply, checking Brother William as he was moving towards the open door.
ďThereís a big byler in the kitchen,Ē said Brother William, eager to make the best of things; and then, as Martha said no more, but went on with her dirt quest, he left the dairy, and came back directly after with an old-fashioned, much worn, silver tablespoon.
ďI thought you wouldnít mind tasting the cream, Martha. This here is íbout the freshest,Ē he said, going to one of the broad shallow pans, inserting the spoon, which, Martha had seen at a glance, was beautifully clean, and gently drawing the cream sidewise, so that it crinkled all over, so thick was it and rich, and the spoon came out piled up as it were with the luscious produce of the little farm.
Marthaís face was perfectly solemn, as she watched Brother Williamís acts, and she did not move a muscle till he spoke.
ďOpen your mouth,Ē he said seriously Ė ďWide.Ē
Martha obeyed, and did open her mouth Ė wide, for it was rather a large mouth; but the lips were well shaped and red, and the teeth within were even and white.
Brother William carefully placed the spoonful of cream within; and Martha closed her lips, solemnly imbibing the luscious spoonful, when, as a small portion was left visible at one corner, Brother William carefully removed it with an orange silk pocket-handkerchief; and Martha quietly said: ďThank you.Ē
ďWould you like to look at the cows now, or have tea?Ē said Brother William; whereupon Martha opined that it would be better to have tea, as Fanny would be expecting them.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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