Imagens da página

She's considered so, I have no doubt,” said Mrs. Varden, . I was prepared for that ; it's natural ; it's of a piece with the rest. When you taunt me as you do to my face, how can I wonder that you taunt her behind her back !. And here the incoherence coming on very strong, Mrs. Varden wept, and laughed, and sobbed, and shivered, and hiccoughed, and choaked; and said she knew it was very foolish, but she couldn't help it; and that when she was dead and gone, perhaps they would be sorry for it- which really under the circumstances did not appear quite so probable as she seemed to think --with a great deal more to the same effect. In a word, she passed with great decency through all the ceremonies incidental to such occasions ; and being supported up-stairs, was deposited in a highly spasmodic state on her own bed, where Miss Miggs shortly afterwards flung herself upon the body.

The philosophy of all this was, that Mrs. Varden wanted to go to Chigwell ; that she did not want to make any concession or explanation ; that she would only go on being implored and entreated so to do ; and that she would accept no other terms. Accordingly, after a vast amount of moaning and crying up-stairs, and much damping of foreheads, and vinegaring of temples, and hartshorning of noses, and so forth; and after most pathetic adjurations from Miggs, assisted by warm brandy-and-water not over weak, and divers other cordials, also of a stimulating quality, administered at first in teaspoonsful and afterwards in increasing doses, and of which Miss Miggs herself partook as a preventive measure (for fainting is infectious); after all these remedies, and many more too numerous to mention, but not to take, had been applied ; and many verbal consolations, moral, religious, and miscellaneous, had been superadded thereto; the locksmith humbled himself, and the end was gained.

« If it's only for the sake of peace and quietness, father," said Dolly, urging him to go up-stairs. Oh, Doll, Doll, » said her good-natured father.

. If you ever have a husband of your own"

Dolly glanced at the glass. 1-Well, when you have," said the locksmith, « never faint,

my darling. More domestic unhappiness has come of easy fainting, Doll, than from all the greater passions put together. Remember that, my dear, if you would be really happy, which you never can be, if your husband isn't. And a word in your ear, my precious. Never have a Miggs about you ! »

With this advice he kissed his blooming daughter on the cheek, and slowly repaired to Mrs. Varden's room; where that lady, lying all pale and languid on her couch, was refreshing herself with a sight of her last new bonnet, which Miggs, as a means of calming her scattered spirits, displayed to the best advantage at her bedside.

« Here's master, mim," said Miggs. «Oh, what a happiness it is when man and wife come round again! Oh gracious, to think that him and her should ever have a word together! » In the energy of these sentiments, which were uttered as an apostrophe to the Heavens in general, Miss Miggs perched the bonnet on the top of her own head, and folding her hands, turned on her tears.

«I can't help it, » cried Miggs. I couldn't, if I was to be drownded in 'em. She has such a forgiving spirit! She'll forget all that has passed, and go along with you, sir-Oh, if it was to the world's end, she'd go along with you.»

Mrs. Varden with a faint smile gently reproved her attendant for this enthusiasm, and reminded her at the same time that she was far too unwell to venture out that day.,

« Oh no, you're not, mim, indeed you're not, » said Miggs; I repeal to master; master knows you're not, mim. The hair, and motion of the shay, will do you good, mim, and you must not give way, you must not give way, you must not raly. She must keep up, mustn't she, sir, for all our sakes? I was a telling her that, just now. She must remember us; even if she forgets herself. Master will persuade you, mim, I'm sure. There's Miss Dolly's a going you know, and master, and you, and all so happy and so comfortable. Oh!». cried Miggs , turning on the tears again, previous to quitting the room in great emotion, « I never see such a blessed one as she is for the forgiveness of her spirit, I never, never, never did. No more, did masler neither; no, nor no one-never! »

[ocr errors]

For five minutes or thereabouts, Mrs. Varden remained mildly opposed to all her husband's prayers that she would oblige him by taking a day's pleasure, but relenting at length, she suffered herself to be persuaded, and granting him her free forgiveness (the merit whereof, she meekly said, rested with the Manual and not with her), desired that Miggs might come and help her to dress. The handmaid attended promptly, and it is but justice to their joint exertions to record that, when the good lady came down-stairs in course of time, completely decked out for the journey, she really looked as if nothing had bappened, and appeared in the very best health imaginable.

As to Dolly, there she was again, the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry-coloured mantle, with a hood of the same drawn over her head, and

the top of that head a little straw hat trimmed with cherrycoloured ribbons, and worn the merest trifle on one side-just enough in short to make it the wickedest and most provoking head-dress that ever malicious milliner devised. And not to speak of the manner in which these cherry-coloured decorations brightened her eyes, or vied with her lips, or shed a new bloom on her face, she wore such a cruel little muff, and such a heart-rending pair of shoes, and was so surrounded and hemmed in, as it were, by aggravations of all kinds, that when Mr. Tappertit, holding the horse's head, saw her come out of the house alone, such impulses came over him to decoy her into the chaise and drive off like mad, that he would unquestionably bave done it, but for certain uneasy doubts besetting him as to the shortest way to Gretna Green; whether it was up the street or down, or up the right-hand turning or the left ; and whether, supposing all the turnpikes to be carried by storm, the blacksmith in the end would marry them on credit; which by reason of his clerical office appeared, even to his excited imagination, so unlikely, that he hesitated. And while he stood hesitating, and looking post-chaises-and-six at Dolly, out came his master and his mistress, and the constant Miggs, and the opportunity was gone for ever. For now the chaise creaked upon its springs, and Mrs. Varden was inside; and now it creaked again, and more than ever, and the locksmith was inside ; and now it bounded once, as if its heart beat lightly, and Dolly was inside ; and now it was gone and its place was empty, and he and that dreary Miggs were standing in the street together.


In course of time they arrived upon the skirts of the Forest, and riding pleasantly on among the trees, came at last to the Maypole, where the locksmith's cheerful . Yoho!. speedily brought to the porch old John, and after him young Joe, both of whom were so transfixed at sight of the ladies, that for a moment they were perfectly unable to give them any welcome, and could do nothing but stare.

It was only for a moment, however, that Joe forgot himself, for speedily reviving he thrust his drowsy father aside - to Mr. Willet's mighty and inexpressible indignation--and darting out, stood ready to help them to alight. It was necessary for Dolly to get out first. Joe had her in his arms ;yes, though for a space of time no longer than you could count one in, Joe had her in his arms. Here was a glimpse of happiness!

It would be difficult to describe what a flat and commonplace affair the helping Mrs. Varden out afterwards was, but Joe did it, and did it too with the best grace in the world. Then old John, who, entertaining a dull and foggy sort of idea that Mrs. Varden wasn't fond of him, had been in some doubt whether she might not have come for purposes of assault and battery, took courage, hoped she was well, and offered to conduct her into the house. This tender being amicably received, they marched in together ; Joe and Dolly followed, arm-in-arm, (happiness again !) and Varden brought up the rear,

Old John would have it that they must sit in the bar, and nobody objecting, into the bar they went. All bars are snug places, but the Maypole's was the very snuggest, cosiest, and completest bar, that ever the wit of man devised.

It is a poor heart that never rejoices – it must have been the poorest, weakest , and most watery heart that ever beat , which would not have warmed towards the Maypole bar. Mrs. Varden's did directly. She could no more have reproached



John Willet among those household gods, the kegs and bottles, lemons, pipes, and cheese, than she could have stabbed him with his own bright carving-knife. The order for dinner too

-it might have soothed a savage. «A bit of fish, » said John to the cook, and some lamb chops (breaded, with plenty of ketchup), and a good salad, and a roast spring chicken, with a dish of sausages and mashed potatoes, or something of that sort.. Something of that sort! The resources of these inns! To talk carelessly about dishes, which in themselves were a first-rate holiday kind of dinner, suitable to one's wedding day, as v something of that sort : » meaning, if you can't get a spring chicken, any other trifle in the way of poultry will do --such as a Peacock, perhaps !

Dolly in the meanwhile, whose gay heart and head ran upon other matters , passed out at the garden door, and glancing back now and then (but of course not wondering whether Joe saw her), tripped away by a path across the fields with which she was well acquainted , to discharge her mission at the Warren.


The proud consciousness of her trust, and the great importance she derived from it, might have advertised it to all the house if she had had to run the gauntlet of its inhabitants : but as Dolly had played in every dull room and passage many and many a time, when a child, and had ever since been the humble friend of Miss Håredale, whose foster-sister she was, she was as free of the building as the young lady herself. So, using no greater precaution than holding her breath and walking on tiptoe as she passed the library door, she went straight to Emma's room as a privileged visitor.

It was the liveliest room in the building. The chamber was sombre like the rest for the matter of that, but the presence of youth and beauty would make a prison cheerful ( saving, alas! that confinement withers them), and lend some charms of their own to the gloomiest scene. Birds, flowers, books, drawing, music, and a hundred such graceful tokens of feminine

« AnteriorContinuar »