Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

had left the house, and feared to ring the bell lest she should appear. He opened the door and slowly and silently groped his way upstairs to his bedroom.

Mrs. Daunt had not left the house; she was sitting in the kitchen with her bonnet and shawl on, ready for instant departure, but meant to have another interview with her master before putting her threat into execution, though it may be doubted whether she had really any intention of carrying matters to such an extreme. She heard his footstep on the stairs, and looked after him as he mounted.

"He's that feeble," she said to herself—"that feeble, he can hardly lift himself along. There's nobody in the house but me and the gell. He'll ring his bell presently, and then I'll go to him. He may be as proud and angry as he pleases, but he will have to bring himself to it. He'll come round after a bit, and it will be the best thing for him too. I could bring an action and get damages enough to live comfortable upon all the rest of my days, but matrimony is more respectable. I shall be very kind to him, and make him comfortable as long as he lives, poor old gentleman!”

Mrs. Daunt sent Betsy to bed, and put a bit more coal upon the kitchen fire, and resolved to sit up for an hour or two, at all events, in case she should be wanted. She put the kettle on and made herself a cup of tea, and, feeling low, as she told herself, brought a bottle out of the cupboard, where it was kept under lock and key, and put a little of the contents into her cup. “He calls it brandy,” she said ; " but if it is it's British, and I half believe it's only common spirits from the lamp shop. It is better than none, but we will have something superior to this when I have the ordering of it."

Contrary to Mrs. Daunt's expectation, Mr. Strafford did not ring his bell until the following morning, and then he desired that Mrs. Ayres, the gamekeeper's wife, might be sent for. He

[graphic][merged small]

was poorly, he said, and did not mean to get up till late in the day. But he could not bear to have Mrs. Daunt to wait upon him, and told her plainly that he thought she had left the house, and the sooner she went the better. Mrs. Daunt concealed her vexation, and persevered in her attentions, to which the squire, feeling himself too ill and feeble for argument or expostulation, was at last fain to submit.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH IT ?

W

Thou art old;
Thou hast no need of so much gold.
These grains of gold are not grains of wheat;
These bars of silver thou canst not eat;
These jewels and pearls and precious stones
Cannot cure the aches in thy bones,
Nor keep the feet of death one hour
From climbing the stairway of thy tower.

Longfellow.
HEN Tom Howard called the next morning, according to

his promise, to inquire after Mr. Strafford, he was told that the old gentleman was not up, and could not see any one.

Mrs. Daunt, who opened the front door to him, after much clattering of chains and bolts and bars, was not communicative, and refused to take any message upstairs. "The squire was a-bed,” she said ; "he had hurt himself with that fall he had yesterday in the yard, and at his period it was no wonder.”

“I am very sorry," Tom said; “I wish you would tell him so.”

“You may well be sorry,” she replied; "it was all along of you that he got the hurt.”

U

“Yes,” said Tom, "I was afraid so, though I could not help it.”

"And so I think,” Mrs. Daunt continued, “that it would be better for you not to come here any more when you see the consequences."

"I promised to come,” Tom answered ; "Mr. Strafford asked me to come, and I said I would. I shall come again until he sends me a message himself.”

Before Mrs. Daunt could reply, a bell was heard to ring violently in the house. “You had better go,” she said to Tom, and shut the door in his face. The bell continued to sound, and Tom, fearing something might be the matter, remained where he was, intending presently to make another attempt to gain admittance, when suddenly the casement of one of the upstair rooms was thrown open, and Mr. Strafford showed himself at the window, muffled up in a yellow flannel dressinggown.

“Stop!” said he; “I'm coming down directly; don't go away."

*How are you, Mr. Strafford ?” Tom asked.

“ Better. Come in and wait a few minutes. I'll be down immediately.”

Tom promised he would do so, and waited for half an hour or more, until the old man appeared at the door and opened it. He led the way to the parlour and sat down, giving Tom a chair opposite to his own, and near it. It did not seem that he had much to say to him at first, for he sat still, with his eyes fixed upon the boy's face, only removing them from time to time to look beyond him, as it seemed, while his lips kept moving as if both sight and speech were occupied with distant objects or events beyond their natural scope.

“I hope you are not much the worse for your fall,” Tom said, after an interval of silence.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »