George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk

Lets go on the water, then; a row would do you good.

Lady Scarlett darted an imploring look at the doctor; but if intended to stay his speech it came too late.

Row? No! said Scarlett with a shudder. I never go on the water now. My left wrist is so weak, I am afraid I have somehow sprained one of the tendons. Dont ask me to row.

Lady Scarlett darted a second imploring look at the doctor, and he read it, as it seemed to him, to say: Pray, dont allude to the water; but it was part of his endeavour to probe his friends mental wound to the quick, and he went on: Laziness, you sybaritish old humbug! Very well, then; Ill give up the rowing, and well have the punt, and go and fish.

Impossible; the water is too thick, and I dont think there are any baits ready.

How tiresome! said the doctor. I had made up my mind for a try at the barbel before I went back.

Before you went back? cried Scarlett excitedly; and he caught his friend by the arm before you went back! What do you mean?

Mean, old fellow? Why, before I went back to London.

Why, youre not thinking of going back of leaving me here alone of leaving me me er He trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished, and stood looking appealingly at his friend.

Why, my dear boy, what nonsense you are talking, replied Scales. Leave you alone? Why, man, youve your aunt and your relatives. Theres your cousin out there now.

Yes, yes of course I know. But dont go, Jack. Im Im ill. I I want you to set. to set me right. Dont dont go and leave me, Jack.

Now, theres a wicked old impostor for you, Lady Scarlett! 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. Not so stout as he was, but sound as a roach. Lungs without a weak spot. Heart pumping like a steam-engine eyes clear skin as fresh as a daisy and tongue as clean. Get out, you sham Abram! pretending a pain to get me to stay!

Yes, of course Im quite well quite well, Jack; but a trifle just a trifle low. I thought youd stop with me, and take take care of me a bit and put me right. Im Im so lonely down here now.

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.

She does care for him, he said to himself. She must care for him.

I tell you what it is, he said aloud; youve been overdoing it in those confounded greenhouses of yours. Too much hot air, moist carbonic acid gas, and that sort of thing. Lady Scarlett, he has been thinking a deal more of his melons than of his health.

Yes; he does devote a very, very great deal of attention to them, assented Lady Scarlett eagerly.

To be sure, and it is not good for him. You must go up to town more and attend to business.

Yes, of course; I mean to soon, said Scarlett, with his eyes wandering from one to the other.

Here, you must beg off with Lady Scarlett, and come up with me.

With you? What! to town?

To be sure; and well have a regular round of dissipation: Monday pops; the opera; and Saturday concerts at the Crystal Palace.

What do you say?

No! said Scarlett, in a sharp, harsh, peremptory way. I am not going to town again at present.

Nonsense, man I Tell him he may come, Lady Scarlett.

Oh yes, yes; I should be glad for him to go! cried Lady Scarlett eagerly; and then she shrank and coloured as she saw the doctors searching look.

There, you hear.

Yes, I hear; but I cannot go. The glass-houses could not be left now.

What, not to our old friend Monnick?

No; certainly not; no, cried Scarlett hastily. Come out now in the garden, Jack. Ill show you. Are you very busy in town much practice?

Practice? cried Scales, laughing, and thoroughly off his guard as to himself. Not a bit, my dear boy. Im a regular outcast from professional circles. No practice for me.

Then there is nothing to take you back, cried Scarlett quickly, and you must stay. Kate, do you hear? I say he must stay!

There was an intense irritation in his manner as he said these words, and his wife looked up in a frightened way.

Yes, yes, dear. Of course Doctor Scales will stay.

Then why dont you ask him? he continued in the same irritable manner. A man wont stop if the mistress of the house slights him.

But, my dear James, cried Lady Scarlett, with the tears in her eyes, I have not slighted Doctor Scales. On the contrary, I was begging that he would stay when you came in.

Why? why? exclaimed Scarlett, with increasing excitement. You must have had some reason. Do you hear? Why did you ask him to stay?

Because I knew you wished it, said Lady Scarlett meekly; and I thought it would do you good to have him with you for a time, dear.

Do 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! Come into the garden, Jack. Ill be back directly Ive got my cigar-case.

Shall I fetch it, dear? asked Lady Scarlett eagerly.

No; of course not. Any one would think I was an invalid; and he left the room.

Lady Scarlett, said the doctor, as soon as they were alone, I will stay.

God bless you! she cried, with a burst of sobbing; and she hurried away.

Volume One Chapter Sixteen.
Brother William at Home

Brother William went very regularly to the Scarletts, and took Fannys 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 the resemblance being the stronger whenever there was watercress or lettuce upon the table. In fact, there was something remarkably ruminative in Brother Williams slow, deliberate, contemplative way; while, to carry on the simile, there was a something almost in keeping in the manners of Martha Betts a something that while you looked at the well-nurtured, smooth, pleasant, quiet woman, set the observer thinking of Lady Scarletts 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 servants tea. Perhaps it was the lettuce which inspired the proposal that was made during the temporary absence of Fanny from the tea-table.

Pretty girl, Fanny; aint she, Martha?

Very; but I would not tell her so. She knows it quite enough.

She do, said Brother William; and its a pity; but Im 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 dont know of any one, do you?

Not that shes taken with, said Martha, in the quietest way. Theres the ironmongers young man, and Colonel Sturts Scotch gardener; but Fanny wont notice them.

No, 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: See what havoc I have made. No, she wouldnt. I dont expect shell have any one at all.

Oh, theres no knowing, said Martha, refilling the visitors cup.

No; theres no knowing, assented Brother William; and there was silence for a few minutes.

Youve never been over to see my farm, Martha Betts, said Brother William, then.

No; I have never been, assented Martha in her quiet way.

I should like you to come over alone, and see it, said Brother William; but I know you wouldnt.

No; I would not, said Martha. Was your last cup sweet enough?

Just right, said Brother William thoughtfully. But you would come along with Fanny, and have tea, and look round at the beasts and the crops?

Yes, said Martha, in the most matter-of-fact manner, as if the proposal had not the least interest for her. But Fanny would not care to come.

Ill make her, 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: Fanny, Ive asked Martha Betts and you to come over to tea o Friday, at the farm. Be in good time. Ill walk back with you both.

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 brothers eye, altered her intention, and she, to Marthas surprise, said calmly: Oh, very well. We will be over by four if we can get leave.

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.

What is it, Fanny? said Lady Scarlett.

I was going to ask, maam, if I might go with Martha on Friday to my brothers farm to tea. My brother would bring us back by ten; or if you liked, maam, I could come back alone much sooner, if you wanted me.

Oh, certainly, Fanny. You can go. I like you to have a change sometimes.

And shall I come back, maam about nine? said the girl eagerly.

O no; certainly not, replied Lady Scarlett. Come back with Martha, under your brothers charge. I dont think you ought to come back alone.

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.

Certainly not, he said softly. You are quite right, I think; and he bowed his head in a quiet serious manner, as if giving the matter his entire approval.

Fanny said, Thank you, maam; 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.

How are you, Martha Betts? 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. How are you, Fanny, lass? 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.

No; dont, William. There that will do. Im very glad to see you; but I wish you wouldnt be such a bear.

Bear, eh? said Brother William, with a disappointed look. Why, I was only going to kiss you, lass. All right, he said, smiling again. But she mustnt think of having a sweetheart, Martha Betts, or hell be wanting to hug her too.

Brother Williams 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.

Its a nice day, aint it? 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: Hadnt we best wait for Fanny?

To which Martha Betts responded: Well, I suppose we had.

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 Old Man, 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.

That is a pretty dress, he said admiringly. One o my favourite colours. Theres nowt like laylock and plum.

Im glad you like it, said Martha quietly; and she then followed Brother William into the clean, homely keeping-room, where Joes wife Joe being one of Brother Williams labourers 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 ham of the hosts 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 bees-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.

Ah, said Brother William, seeing the direction of his visitors eyes, I havent got many books. Thats the owd Bible. Got mine and Fannys birthdays in. Thats mothers owd hymn-book; and heres a book here, if you like. If Fanny would lay that up by heart, stead o reading them penny gimcracks, shed be a-doing herself some good. As he spoke, he took up a well-used old book in a brown cover, which opened easily in his hand. Thats Bowcrofts Farmers Compendium, that is. Ill lend it to you, if you like. Stodge-full of receipts for cattle-drinks and sheep-dressings; and theres a gardeners calendar in it too. I wouldnt take fi pound for that book, Martha. There aint many like it, even up at Sir James Scarletts, Ill be bound. Thats litrichur, that is.

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 good look at the garden taking in a great many protracted looks up and down the lane, each of which was followed by a disappointed frown and a sigh.

Wont you take off your bonnet and jacket, Martha Betts? said Brother William. You can go up to Fannys old bedroom, or you can hang em up behind the door on the Peg.

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.

Hah! said Brother William, as the cap was adjusted and the apron fastened on; the kettle is byling, but we may as well look round before you make the tea.

Thank you, said Martha calmly.

This is the washus, said Brother William, opening a door to display a particularly clean whitewashed place, with red 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.

Thats the brick oven, said Brother William, noticing the bent of his visitors eyes. We 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 sinks soft: theres a big tank outside. That other pump you see through the windows the drinking-water. It never gets dry. Nice convenient washus; isnt it?

Very, said Martha quietly; only there ought to be a board put down front of the sink, for a body to stand on.

There is one outside. Mrs Badley must ha left it there when she cleaned up, cried Brother William eagerly; and Martha said Oh!

Then he led the way back into the keeping-room, and opened a second door, while Marthas 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.

This heres the dairy, said Brother William, entering, and holding open the double doors of the cool, dark, shady place 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.

Marthas wandering eyes were as badly off as Noahs 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.

Myste and cool, isnt it? said Brother William. You see its torst the north, and Ive got elder-trees to shade the window as well.

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.

Theres four cows in full milk now, Martha. Creams rich; isnt it? Wait a moment.

Where do you get your hot-water to scald the churn and things? said Martha sharply, checking Brother William as he was moving towards the open door.

Theres a big byler in the kitchen, 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.

I thought you wouldnt mind tasting the cream, Martha. This here is bout the freshest, 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.

Marthas face was perfectly solemn, as she watched Brother Williams acts, and she did not move a muscle till he spoke.

Open your mouth, he said seriously Wide.

Martha obeyed, and did open her mouth 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: Thank you.

Would you like to look at the cows now, or have tea? said Brother William; whereupon Martha opined that it would be better to have tea, as Fanny would be expecting them.

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