« ZurückWeiter »
away, and so Kate has got Mrs. Sniggs to ask Mr. Kittington to play the dirge, because there is nobody else in Blissfold who can play the organ, and he can."
"Umph!" said Wells; "a dancing-master do a dirge in my church! But, my dear child, I have heard nothing of all this: somewhat of these arrangements depends upon me."
"I don't know," said Jane; "all I tell you is in Kate's letter."
Wells and I exchanged glances; but we spake not. I confess I looked at Jane with feelings far different from those which I had previously entertained towards her. It was evident from the first, that, although to a certain extent under her influence, and spoiled by an association with her, she was of a very superior order of girl to Kate. She felt the difficulty and delicacy, or rather indelicacy, of leaving Ashmead contrary to the wish of the mistress of the house, and without some qualifying consent of its master, who was so nearly connected with her.
VOL. II. L
Not so Kate. Off she went, delighted at an excuse to get out, and convinced that, in order to smooth away the difficulty of the dirge, she could prevail upon the unconscious Mrs. Sniggs to call upon Mr. Kittington to make the necessary arrangements for his performance of that much desired, although not usual, piece of solemnity.
The thing that annoyed me most, and it rankled—and what a fool I must have been to let it rankle—was the absence of Sniggs himself. His lady wife muttered something about his patients—absurdity! when four days before, he was satisfied to leave all he had—and such an all!—to the care of a friend or an assistant. No; it was too clear: he was aware of the exact state of my power and importance, and (as I before thought) of the probability that the days of my residence at Ashmead were numbered. He was to come up in the afternoon—so his message said —but how different was this formally announced visit from the constant hoppaboutishness, as Mrs. Nubley called it, with which he previously paged our heels and anticipated our slightest wishes!
"Well," said I, " there is one consolation; the fault is not my own."
"Now," said Wells, " I will go home, and having fortified myself with your support, tell Fanny the course I think we ought to pursue. She loves her father, Gilbert, as I hope and believe all my girls do; and the Lieutenant could not have taken a surer mode of curing her of her affection for him, than by unjustly and coarsely impugning my character or conduct. I will go to her directly, and most probably we shall come up here in the course of the afternoon. The walk 'will do her good; besides, I will not suffer her to hide away from the eyes of the two-and-twenty' public of Blissfold; she has done nothing unbecoming or improper, and she shall not seem cast down by the misbehaviour of this extremely ill-conducted man."
And away went Wells in exactly that sort of humour in which I wished to see him, resolved to stand up manfully against a most unjustifiable proceeding, conscious that nobody could, or would, or, if they would, should misrepresent the conduct of either himself or his family.
When he left me I asked Jane if she would like to come up with me to her aunt's room. I was anxious to tell Harriet how deeply I felt the difference between her conduct and that of her sister, and to tell her so in the girl's presence. While Kate was with her and exercised her control over her, Jane giggled, and laughed, and made faces, and did ten thousand unseemly things, less, as I believe, from entering into the views and principles of her elder sister, than because she was really afraid of incurring her displeasure by affecting a diffidence which her senior would call dissimulation, or practising a propriety which she would pronounce prudery. When she was out of her presence she was gentle, calm, and rational.
I saw that Harriet was surprised at my being so accompanied, but when I explained to her the excursion of Miss Kitty, and the reasons why the quiet Jenny declined to accompany her, my wife's coldly set features—for she could not look regularly cross—relaxed into an agreeable expression of complacency, which was followed shortly after by a beckoning invitation to Jenny to come and sit by her on the sofa. I saw that Jenny felt this mark of kindness. Harriet till then had made no great distinction in her attentions to the sisters; the change had a great effect upon a tender heart—a heart which seemed to me worth saving from the wreck which threatened that of Kate.
Having made up this little treaty of peace, I thought it right to seek out the Nubleys, who generally retired to their room about noon to talk over their business with regard to Chittagong; for although Nubley had been now two whole days and part of a third located within walking distance of the concern, he had never yet ventured to take any steps to ascertain how the Thompsons were actually comporting themselves in his chateau.- Before I reached their apartment, they were, however, both absent, and