NEWS

It was the beginning of September, as we have said, and the course of
individual history slid aside as it were for the moment, and lost itself
in the general web. Brownlows became full of people–friends of Jack’s,
friends of Mr. Brownlow, even friends of Sara–for ladies came of course
to break the monotony of the shooting-party–and in the press of
occupation personal matters had to be put aside. Mr. Brownlow himself
almost forgot, except by moments when the thought came upon him with a
certain thrill of excitement, that the six weeks were gliding
noiselessly on, and that soon his deliverance would come. As for Sara,
she did not forget the agitating little scene in which she had been only
a passive actor, but which had woven a kind of subtle link between her
and the man who had spoken to her in the voice of real passion. The
sound of it had scared and perplexed her at first, and it had roused her
to a sense of the real difference, as well as the real affinities,
between them; but whatever she might feel, the fact remained that there
was a link between them–a link which she could no more break than the
Queen could–a something that defied all denial or contradiction. She
might never see him again, but–he loved her. When a girl is fancy-free,
there is no greater charm; and Sara was, or had been, entirely
fancy-free, and was more liable than most girls to this attraction. When
the people around her were stupid or tiresome, as to be sure the best of
people are sometimes, her thoughts would make a sudden gleam like
lightning upon the man who had said he would never see her face again.
Perhaps he might have proved tiresome too, had he gone out in the
morning with his gun, and come home tired to dinner; but he was absent;
and there are times when the absent have the best of it, notwithstanding
all proverbs. She was much occupied, and by times sufficiently well
amused at home, and did not feel it in the least necessary to summon
Powys to her side; but still the thought of him came in now and then,
and gave an additional zest to her other luxuries. It was a supreme odor
and incense offered up to her, as he had thought it would be–a flower
which she set her pretty foot upon, and the fragrance of which came up
poignant and sweet to her delicate nostril. If any body had said as much
to Sara it would have roused her almost to fury; but still such were the
facts of the case.

Jack, for his part, was less excusable if he was negligent, and he was
rather negligent just then, in the first fervor of the partridges, it
must be allowed–not that he cared a straw for the ladies of the party,
and their accomplishments, and their pretty dresses, and their wiles,
poor Pamela believed in her heart. Apart from Pamela, Jack was a stoic,
and wasted not a thought on womankind; but when a man is shooting all
day, and is surrounded by a party of fellows who have to be dined and
entertained in the evening, and is, besides, quite confident in his mind
that the little maiden who awaits him has no other seductive voice to
whisper in her ear, he may be pardoned for a little carelessness or
unpunctuality–at least Jack thought he ought to be pardoned, which
comes very much to the same thing. Thus the partridges, if they did not
affect the affairs of state, as do their Highland brethren the grouse,
at least had an influence upon the affairs of Brownlows, and put a stop,
as it were, to the undivided action of its private history for the time.

It was during this interval that the carrier’s cart once more deposited
a passenger on the Brownlows road. She did not get down at the gate,
which, she already knew, was a step calculated to bring upon her the
eyes of the population, but was set down at a little distance, and came
in noiselessly, as became her mission. It was a September afternoon,
close and sultry. The sky was a whitish blue, pale with the blaze that
penetrated and filled it. The trees looked parched and dusty where they
overhung the road. The whole landscape round Brownlows beyond the line
of these dusty trees was yellow with stubble, for the land was rich, and
there had been a heavy crop. The fields were reaped, and the kindly
fruits of earth gathered in, and there seemed no particular need for all
that blaze of sunshine. But the sun blazed all the same, and the
pedestrian stole slowly on, casting a long oblique shadow across the
road. Every thing was sleepy and still. Old Betty’s door and windows
were open, but the heat was so great as to quench even curiosity; or
perhaps it was only that the stranger’s step was very stealthy, and
until it suddenly fell upon a treacherous knot of gravel, which
dispersed under her weight and made a noise, had given no sign of its
approach. Betty came languidly to her door when she heard this sound,
but she went in again and dropped back into her doze upon her big chair
when she saw it was but the slow and toiling figure of a poor woman, no
way attractive to curiosity. “Some poor body a-going to Dewsbury,” she
said to herself; and thus Nancy stole on unnoticed. The blind was down
in the parlor window of Mrs. Swayne’s neighbor, and her door closed, and
Mrs. Swayne herself was out of the way for the moment, seeing to the
boiling of the afternoon kettle. Nancy crept in, passing like a vision
across Mrs. Preston’s open window. Her step made no appreciable sound
even in the sleepy stillness of the house, and the sole preface they had
to her appearance in the parlor was a shadow of something black which
crossed the light, and the softest visionary tap at the door. Then the
old woman stood suddenly before the mother and the daughter, who were
sitting together dull enough. Mrs. Preston was still poorly, and
disturbed in her mind. And as for Pamela, poor child, it was a trying
moment for her. As from a watch-tower, she could see what was going on
at Brownlows, and knew that they were amusing themselves, and had all
kinds of pleasant parties, in which Jack, who was hers and no other
woman’s, took the chief part; and that amid all these diversions he had
no time to come to see her though she had the only right to him, and
that other girls were by, better born, better mannered, better dressed,
and more charming than her simple self. Would it be his fault if he were
fickle? How could he help being fickle with attractions so much greater
around him? This was how Pamela was thinking as she sat by the sofa on
which her mother lay. It was not weather for much exertion, and in the
peculiar position of affairs, it was painful for these two to run the
risk of meeting anybody from Brownlows; therefore they did not go out
except furtively now and then at night, and sat all day in the house,
and brooded, and were not very cheerful. Every laugh she heard sounding
down the avenue, every carriage that drove out of or into the gates,
every stray bit of gossip about the doings at the great house, and the
luncheon parties at the cover-side, and the new arrivals, sounded to
poor little Pamela like an injury. She had meant to be so happy and she
was not happy. Only the sound of the guns was a little comfort to her.
To be sure when he was shooting he was still amusing himself away from
her; but at the same time he was not near the fatal beauties whom every
evening Pamela felt in her heart he must be talking to, and smiling
upon, and growing bewitched by. Such was the tenor of her thoughts as
she sat by the sofa working, when old Nancy came in so suddenly at the
door.

Pamela sprang up from her seat. Her nerves were out of order, and even
her temper, poor child! and all her delicate organization set on edge
“It is _her_ again! and oh, what do you want?” said Pamela, with a
little shriek. As for Mrs. Preston, she too sat bolt upright on the sofa
and started not without a certain fright, at the sudden apparition.
“Nancy Christian!” she said, clasping her hands together; “Nancy
Christian! Is this _you_?”

“Yes, it’s me,” said Nancy; “I said I would come, and here I am, and
I’ve a deal to say. If you don’t mind, I’ll take a chair, for it’s a
long way walking in this heat, all the way from Masterton.” This she
said without a blush, though she had been set down not fifty yards off
from the carrier’s cart.

“Sit down,” said Mrs. Preston, anxiously, herself rising from the sofa.
“It is not often I lie down,” (though this was almost as much a fiction
as Nancy’s), “but the heat gets the better of one. I remember your name
as long as I remember any thing; I always hoped you would come back.
Pamela, if there is any thing that Nancy would like after her long
walk–”

“A cup of tea is all as I care for,” said Nancy. “It’s a many years
since we’ve met, and you’ve changed, ma’am,” she added, with a
cordiality that was warmer than her sincerity; “but I could allays see
as it was you.”

“I have reason to be changed,” said Mrs. Preston. “I was young when you
saw me last, and now I’m an old woman. I’ve had many troubles. I’ve had
a hard fight with the world, and I’ve lost all my children but this one.
She’s a good child, but she can’t stand in the place of all that I’ve
lost–And oh, Nancy Christian, you’re a woman that can tell me about my
poor old mother. Many a thought I have had of her, and often, often it
seemed a judgment that my children should be taken from me. If you could
but tell me she forgave me before she died!”

Nancy made no direct answer to this appeal, but she looked at Pamela,
and then at her mother, with a significant gesture. The two old women
had their world to go back into of which the young creature knew
nothing, and where there were many things which might not bear her
inspection; while she, on the other hand, was absorbed in her own new
world, and scarcely heard or noticed what they were saying. She stood
between them in her youth, unaware of the look they exchanged, unaware
that she was in the way of their confidences–thinking, in fact, nothing
of much importance in the world except what might be going on in the
great house over the way.

“Pamela,” said Mrs. Preston, “go and see about the tea, and run out to
the garden, dear, and get a breath of air; for I have a deal to ask, and
Nancy has a deal to tell me; and there will be no one passing at this
time of the day.”

“If they were all passing it would not matter to me,” said Pamela, and
she sighed, and put down her languid work, and went away to make the
tea. But she did not go out to the garden; though she said it did not
matter, it did matter mightily. She went up stairs to the window and sat
down behind the curtain, and fixed her hungry eyes upon the gate and the
avenue beyond; and then she made little pictures to herself of the
ladies at Brownlows, and how Jack must be enjoying himself, and gathered
some big bitter tears in her eyes, and felt herself forsaken. It was
worse than the Peri at the gate of Eden. So long as Jack had come to the
cottage, it mattered little to Pamela who was at the great house. In
those days she could think, “They are finer than I am, and better off,
and even prettier, but he likes me best;” but now this was all
changed–the poor little Peri saw the blessed walking in pairs and
pleasant companies, and her own young archangel, who was the centre of
the Paradise, surrounded and taken possession of by celestial sirens–if
such things can be. To be sure Jack Brownlow was not much like an
archangel, but that mattered little. What a change it was! and all to
come about in a week or two. She, too, was like the flower upon which
the conqueror set his foot; and Pamela was not passive, but resisted and
struggled. Thus she was not curious about what old Nancy could be saying
to her mother. What could it be? some old gossip or other, recollections
of a previous state of existence before any body was born–talk about
dead things and dead people that never could affect the present state of
being. If Pamela thought of it at all, she was half glad that poor mamma
should have some thing to amuse her, and half jealous that her mother
could think of any thing except the overwhelming interest of her own
affairs. And she lingered at the window unawares, until the tea was
spoiled oblivious of Nancy’s fatigue; and saw the gentlemen come in from
their shooting, with their dogs and guns and keepers, and the result of
their day’s work, and was aware that Jack lingered, and looked across
the road, and waited till everybody was gone; then her heart jumped up
and throbbed loudly as he came toward the house. She was about to rush
down to him, to forget her griefs, and understand how it was and that he
could not help it. But Pamela was a minute too late. She was on her way
to the door, when suddenly her heart stood still and the color went out
of her face, and she stopped short like one thunderstruck. He was going
away again, astonished, like a man in a dream, with the birds in his
hand which he had been bringing as a peace-offering. And Pamela heard
her mother’s voice, sharp and harsh, speaking from the door. “I am much
obliged to you, Mr. Brownlow, but I never eat game, and we are both very
much engaged, and unable to see any one to-day;” these were the words
the poor girl heard; and then the door, which always stood open–the
fearless hospitable cottage door, was closed sharply, and with a
meaning. Pamela stood aghast, and saw him go away with his rejected
offering; and then the disappointment and wonder and quick change of
feeling came raining down from her eyes in big tears. Poor Jack! It was
not his fault–he was not unfaithful nor careless–but her own; and her
mother to send him away! It all passed, in a moment, and she had not
time or self-possession to throw open the window and hold out her hands
to him and call him back, but only stood speechless and watched him
disappearing, himself speechless with amazement, crossing the road
backward with his birds in his hand. Then Pamela’s dreams came suddenly
to an end. She dried her eyes indignantly–or rather the sudden hot
flush on her cheeks dried them without any aid–and smoothed back her
hair, and went down flaming in youthful wrath to call her mother to
account. But Mrs. Preston too was a changed creature. Pamela did not
know what to make of it when she went into the little parlor. Old Nancy
was sitting on a chair by the wall, just as she had done when she came
in, and looking the same; but as for Mrs. Preston, she was a different
woman. If wings had suddenly budded at her shoulders the revolution
could scarcely have been greater. She stood upright near the window,
with no stoop, no headache, no weariness–ten years younger at
least–her eyes as bright as two fires, and even her black dress hanging
about her in different folds. Pamela’s resentment and indignation and
rebellious feelings came to an end at this unwonted spectacle. She could
only stand before her mother and stare at her, and wonder what it could
mean.

“It is nothing,” said Mrs. Preston. “Mr. Brownlow, who brought us some
game–you know I don’t care for game; and then people change their minds
about things. Sit down, Pamela, and don’t stare at me. I have been
getting too languid about every thing, and when one rouses up every body
wonders what one means.”

“Mamma,” said Pamela, too much astonished to know what to answer, “you
sent him away!”

“Yes, I sent him away; and I will send any one away that I think
mercenary and selfish,” said Mrs. Preston. Was it she who spoke? Could
it be her mild uncertain lips from which such words came; and then what
could it mean? How could he be mercenary–he who was going to give up
every thing for his love’s sake? No words could express Pamela’s
consternation. She sat down weak with wonder, and gazed at her mother.
The change was one which she could not in any way explain to herself.

“Old Mrs. Fennell was very rude to me,” said Mrs. Preston. “I fear you
have not a very comfortable place, Nancy Christian; but we can soon
change that. You that were so faithful to my poor mother, you may be
sure you’ll not be forgotten. You are not to think of walking back to
Masterton. If I had known you were coming I would have spoken to Hobson
the carrier. I never was fond of the Fennells from the earliest I
remember; though Tom, you know, poor fellow–but he was a great deal
older than me.”

“He was nigh as old as your mother,” said Nancy; “many’s the time I’ve
heard her say it. ‘He wanted my daughter,’ she would say; ‘her a slip of
a girl, and him none so much younger than I am myself; but now he’s
catched a tartar;’ and she would laugh, poor old dear; but when she knew
as they were after what she had–that’s what drove her wild you may
say–”

“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Preston; “yes, yes; you need say no more Nancy; I
see it all–I see it all. Wherever there’s money it’s a snare, and no
mortal that I can see escapes. If I had but known a month ago! but after
this they shall see they can’t do what they please with me. No; though
it may be hard upon us–hard upon us. Oh, Nancy Christian,” she said,
flinging up her arms into the air, “if you had but come to tell me a
month ago!”

Pamela listened to this conversation with gradually increasing dismay.
She did not know what it meant; but yet by some instinctive sense, she
knew that it concerned herself–and Jack. She rose up and went to her
mother with vague terrors in her heart. “Mamma, what is it? tell me what
it is,” she said, putting two clinging hands around her arm.

At these words Mrs. Preston suddenly came to herself. “What is what?”
she said. “Sit down, Pamela, and don’t ask foolish questions; or rather
go and see after the tea. It has never come, though I told you Nancy was
tired. If you left it by Mrs. Swayne’s fire it will be boiled by this
time; and you know when it stands too long I can’t bear it. Go, dear,
and get the tea.”

“But, mamma,” said Pamela, still clinging to her, and speaking in her
ear, “mamma! I know there must be something. Why did you send him away?”

Mrs. Preston gave her child a look which Pamela, driven to her wits’
end, could not interpret. There was pity in it and there was defiance,
and a certain fierce gleam as of indignation. “Child, you know nothing
about it,” she said, with suppressed passion; “nothing; and I can’t tell
you now. Go and get us the tea.”

Pamela gazed again, but she could make nothing of it. It was, and yet it
was not her mother–not the old, faded, timid, hesitating woman who had
nothing in the world but herself; but somebody so much younger, so much
stronger–with those two shining, burning eyes, and this sudden
self-consciousness and command. She gave a long look, and then she
sighed and dropped her mother’s arm, and went away to do her bidding. It
was the first appeal she had ever made in vain, and naturally it filled
her with a painful amaze. It was such a combination of events as she
could not understand. Nancy’s arrival, and Jack’s dismissal and this
curious change in Mrs. Preston’s appearance. Her little heart had been
full of pain when she left the room before, but it was pain of a very
different kind. Now the laggard had come who was all the cause of the
trouble then, and he had been sent away without reason or explanation,
and what could it mean? “If I had but known a month ago!” What could it
be that she had heard? The girl’s heart took to beating again very loud
and fast, and her imagination began to work, and it is not difficult to
divine what sort of theories of explanation rose in her thoughts. The
only thing that Pamela could think of as raising any fatal barrier
between herself and Jack was unfaithfulness or a previous love on his
part. This, without doubt, was Nancy’s mission. She had come to tell of
his untruthfulness; that he loved somebody else; perhaps had pledged
himself to somebody else; and that between him and his new love, instant
separation, heartbreak, and despair must ensue. “He need not have been
afraid to tell me,” Pamela said to herself, with her heart swelling till
it almost burst from her breast. All her little frame, all her sensitive
nerves, thrilled with pain and pride. This was what it was. She was not
so much stunned by the blow as roused up to the fullest consciousness.
Her lip would have quivered sadly had she been compelled to speak; her
voice might have broken for any thing she could tell, and risen into
hard tones and shrieks of pain. But she was not obliged to speak to any
one, and so could shut herself in and keep it down. She went about
mechanically, but with nervous haste and swiftness, and covered the
little table with its white cloth, and put bread on it, and the tea for
which Nancy and her mother sighed; and she thought they looked at her
with cruel coldness, as if it was they who were concerned and not she.
As if it could be any thing to any body in comparison to what it was to
her! As if she must not be at all times the principal in such a matter!
Thus they sat down at the little round table. Nancy, who was much in her
ordinary, ate, drank and was very comfortable, and pleased with the
country cream in her tea; but the mother and the daughter neither ate
nor drank. Mrs. Preston sat, saying now and then a word or two to Nancy
which Pamela could not understand, but mostly was silent, pondering and
full of thoughts, while Pamela, with her eyes cast down, and a burning,
crimson color on her cheeks, sat still and brooded over the cruelty she
thought they were showing her. Nancy was the only one who “enjoyed,” as
she said, “her tea.”

“You may get a drop of what’s called cream in a town, but it ain’t
cream,” said Nancy. “It’s but skim-milk frothed up, and you never get
the taste of the tea. It’s a thing as I always buys good. It’s me as
lays in all the things, and when there ain’t a good cup o’ tea at my age
there ain’t nothing as is worth in life. But the fault’s not in the tea.
It’s the want of a drop of good cream as does it. It’s that as brings
out the flavor, and gives it a taste. A cup o’ good tea’s a cheering
thing; but I wouldn’t say as you was enjoying it, Mrs. Preston, like
me.”

“I have other things in my mind,” said Mrs. Preston; “you’ve had a long
walk, and you must want it. As for me, my mind’s all in a ferment. I
don’t seem to know if it’s me, or what has happened. You would not have
come and told me all this if you had not been as sure as sure of what
you had to say!”

“Sure and sure enough,” said Nancy. “I’ve knowed it from first to last,
and how could I go wrong! If you go to London, as you say, you can judge
for yourself, and there won’t be nothing for me to tell; but you’ll
think on as I was the first–for your old mother’s sake–”

“You’ll not be forgot,” said Mrs. Preston; “you need not fear. I am not
the one to neglect a friend–and one that was good to my poor mother;
you may reckon on me.” She sat upright in her chair, and every line in
her face had changed. Power, patronage, and protection were in her
tone–she who had been herself so poor and timid and anxious. Her very
words were uttered more clearly, and with a distincter intonation. And
Pamela listened with all her might, and grew more and more bewildered,
and tried vainly to make out some connection between this talk and the
discovery which she supposed must have been made. But what could Jack’s
failure in good faith have to do with any body’s old mother! It was only
Nancy who was quite at her ease. “I will take another cup, if you
please, Miss Pamela,” said Nancy, “and I hope as I’ll live to see you in
your grandeur, feasting with lords and ladies, instead of pouring out an
old woman’s tea–for them as is good children is rewarded. Many’s the
day I’ve wished to see you, and wondered how many of you there was. It’s
sad for your mother as there’s only you; but it’s a fine thing for
yourself, Miss Pamela–and you must always give your mind to do what
your mamma says.”

“How should it be a fine thing for me!” said Pamela; “or how should I
ever feast with lords and ladies? I suppose you mean to make fun of us.
As for doing what mamma says, of course I always do–and she never tells
me to do any thing unreasonable,” the girl added, after a momentary
pause, looking doubtfully at her mother. If she were told to give up
Jack, Pamela felt that it would be something unreasonable, and she had
no inclination to pledge herself. Mrs. Preston was changed from all her
daughter’s previous knowledge of her; and it might be that her demands
upon Pamela’s obedience would change too.

“It’s nigh my time to go,” said Nancy. “I said to the carrier as he was
to wait for me down the road. I wouldn’t be seen a-getting into the
wagon here. Folks talks awful when they’re so few; and thank you kindly,
Mrs. Preston, for the best cup of tea as I’ve tasted for ten years. Them
as can get cream like that, has what I calls some comfort in this life.”

“Pamela,” said Mrs. Preston, “you can walk along with Nancy as far as
Merryfield Farm, and give my compliments; and if they’d put a drop of
their best cream in a bottle–It’s all I can do just now, Nancy
Christian; but I am not one that forgets my friends, and the time may
come–”

“The time _will_ come, ma’am,” said Nancy, getting up and making her
patroness a courtesy, “and I’m none afraid as you’ll forget; and thank
you kindly for thinking o’ the cream–if it ain’t too much trouble to
Miss Pamela. If you go up there, as you think to do, and find all as I
say, you’ll be so kind as to let me know?”

“I’ll let you know, you may be sure,” said Mrs. Preston, in her short
decisive tones of patronage. And then the girl, much against her will,
had to put on her hat and go with Nancy. She did it, but it was with an
ill grace; for she was longing to throw herself upon her mother and have
an explanation of all this–what had happened, and what it meant. The
air had grown cool, and old Betty had come out to her door, and Mrs.
Swayne was in the little garden watering the mignonnette. And it was not
easy to pass those two pairs of eyes and preserve a discreet incognito.
To do her justice, Nancy tried her best; but it was a difficult matter
to blind Mrs. Swayne.

“I thought as it was you,” said that keen observer. “I said as much to
Swayne when he told me there was a lady to tea in the parlor. I said,
‘You take my word it’s her as come from Masterton asking after them.’
And I hope, mum, as I see you well. Mrs. Preston has been but poorly;
and you as knows her constitootion and her friends–”

“She knows nothing about us,” said Pamela, with indignation; “not now; I
never saw her in my life before. And how can she know about mamma’s
constitution, or her friends either? Nancy, come along; you will be too
late for Hobson if you stand talking here.”

“It’s never no loss of time to say a civil word, Miss Pamela,” said
Nancy. “It’s years and years since I saw her, and she’s come through a
deal since then. And having a family changes folks’ constitootions. If
it wasn’t asking too much, I’d ask for a bit o’ mignonnette. Town folks
is terrible greedy when they comes to the country–and it’s that sweet
as does one’s heart good. Nice cream and butter and new-laid eggs, and a
bit o’ lad’s love, or something as smells sweet–give me that, and I
don’t ask for none o’ your grandeurs. That’s the good o’ the country to
me.”

“They sends all that country stuff to old Mrs. Fennell, don’t they?”
said Betty, who in the leisure of the evening had crossed the road. “I
should have thought you’d been sick of all them things–and the fruit
and the partridges as I see packed no later then this very afternoon. I
should have said you had enough for six, if any one had asked me.”

“When the partridges is stale and the fruit rotten,” said Nancy,
shrugging her shoulders; “and them as has such plenty, where’s the merit
of it? I suppose there’s fine doings at the house, with all their
shootings and all the strangers as is about–”

“They was at a picnic to-day,” said Betty. “Mr. John, he’s the one! He
makes all them ladies leave their comfortable lunch, as is better than
many a dinner, and down to the heath with their cold pies and their
jellies and such like. Give me a bit of something ’ot. But they think
he’s a catch, being the only son; and there ain’t one but does what he
says.”

Pamela had been standing plucking a bit of mignonnette to pieces,
listening with tingling ears. It was not in human nature not to listen;
but she roused herself when Betty’s voice ceased, and went softly on,
withdrawing herself from the midst of them. Her poor little heart was
swelling and throbbing, and every new touch seemed to add to its
excitement; but pride, and a sense of delicacy and dignity, came to her
aid. Jack’s betrothed, even if neglected or forsaken, was not in her fit
place amid this gossip. She went on quietly, saying nothing about it,
leaving her companion behind. And the three women gave each other
significant glances as soon as she had turned her back on them. “I told
’em how it would be,” said Mrs. Swayne, under her breath, “it’s allays
the way when a girl is that mad to go and listen to a gentleman.” And
Betty, though she sneered at her employers with goodwill, had an idea of
keeping up their importance so far as other people were concerned. “Poor
lass!” said Betty, “she’s been took in. She thought Mr. John was one as
would give up every thing for the like of her; but he has her betters to
choose from. He’s affable like, but he’s a deal too much pride for
that.”

“Pride goes afore a fall,” said Nancy, with meaning; “and the Brownlows
ain’t such grand folks after all. Nothing but attorneys, and an old
woman’s money to set them up as wasn’t a drop’s blood to them. I don’t
see no call for pride.”

“The old squires was different, I don’t deny,” said Betty, with candor;
“but when folks is bred gentlefolks, and has all as heart can desire–”

“There’s gentlefolks as might do worse,” said Nancy, fiercely; “but it
ain’t nothing to you nor me–”

“It ought to be a deal to both of you,” said Mrs. Swayne, coming in as
moderator, “eating their bread as it were, and going on like that. And
both of you with black silks to put on of a Sunday, and sure of your
doctor and your burial if you was to fall ill. I wouldn’t be that
ungrateful if it was me.”

“It’s no use quarreling,” said Nancy; “and I’ll say good-night, for I’ve
a long way to go. If ever you should want any thing in Masterton, I’d do
my best to serve you. Miss Pamela’s a long way on, and walking fast
ain’t for this weather; so I’ll bid you both good-night. We’ll have time
for more talk,” she added significantly, “next time I come back; and I’d
like a good look at that nice lodge you’ve got.” Old Betty did not know
what the woman meant, but those black eyes “went through and through
her,” she said; and so Nancy’s visit came to an end.

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