"You ought to remember that it was on the last day of[Pg 192] the year I left this house," said Isola, in her low, depressed voice, as of one weary unto death. "You said enough about it at the time."
With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
"Will she go—will she stay—go—stay—go—stay?" he muttered, as the petals fluttered to the ground."Go and talk," she said, waving her hand to Isola and Hulbert; and then she clambered up a bank opposite that tower of other days to get a vantage ground for her sketch.
"As if Burlington House were any more public than that big school at St. John's Wood, my dear illogical brother: and yet we women are the only people who are said to be wanting in the logical faculty."
"I don't believe in them a bit," he said, lifting himself into a sitting position, and addressing himself to her with increasing earnestness, "not now that I have you here safe within reach of my hand—so," taking her hand in his, and keeping it clasped in both his own; "but I had a dream about you in Burmah, which kept me in a fever of anxiety for nearly a month. I should have telegraphed to ask if all was right with you, only I told myself that if anything was wrong Tabitha would instantly telegraph to me. I made her promise that before I left England. It was almost my last injunction. And to think that she left you half a year ago, and that anything might have happened to you after that, and that there was no one—no one——"
Mrs. Baynham's conversation at one of her own dinners was apt to be somewhat distracted and inconsecutive in substance, although she maintained a smiling and delighted air all the time, whatever anxieties might be wearing her spirit—anxieties about the cooking and the attendance—angry wonder at the prolonged absence of the parlour-maid—distress at seeing the lobster sauce dragging its slow length along when people had nearly finished the turbot—agonizing fears lest the vol au vent should not last out after that enormous help taken by Captain Pentreath, in sheer absence of mind, perhaps, since he only messed it about on his plate, while he bored Miss Crowther with a prosy account of his latest victory over an obstinate demon of the Jack family—"such a devil of a fellow, three feet long, and with jaws like a crocodile."
"I'm afraid Major Disney won't care much about the old place. He is a native of these parts, and must have been here often in my father's time. I shall hope to receive you both, if I am here next October for the shooting—but there is no need to postpone your inspection of the house to the remote future. Come on the first fine morning that you have nothing better to do. Mrs. Mayne is always at home; and I am almost always out of doors in the morning. You can have the house to yourselves, and talk about ghosts to your hearts' content."They walked into Fowey by that pathway which Isola had trodden so often in the year that was gone—not always alone. The pleasure steamer was waiting in the little haven, where the two rivers part under the cloven hills. Out seaward the air blew fresh and free, and the spray was dashing up against the rocks, and Polruan's grey roofs were wrapped in morning shadows while Fowey laughed in the sunshine.
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She went out to walk down her depression before teatime, if possible. She went along a narrow path by the river, then[Pg 4] turned into a road that skirted those green pastures which rose sheer till the ragged edge of the topmost boundary seemed to touch the dim, grey sky. She passed the village inn, deadly quiet at this season and at this hour. She passed the half-dozen decent cottages, and the three or four genteeler houses, each in its neatly kept garden, and she walked with quick, light step along the wet road, her useful tailor-gown well clear of the mud, her stick striking the hedgerow now and then, as she swung it to and fro in dreamy thought.Isola was called upon for her signature as one of the witnesses. She signed in a bold, clear hand, without one tremulous line, her husband looking over her shoulder as she wrote.
A footman in dark green livery and rice powder opened the door. Mrs. Hazelrigg was at home. He led the way to one of those dismal rooms which are to be found in most fine houses—a room rarely used by the family—a kind of pound for casual visitors. Sometimes the pound is as cold and cheerless as a vestry in a new Anglican church; sometimes it affects a learned air, lines its walls with books that no one ever reads, and calls itself a library. Whatever form or phase it may take, it never fails to chill the visitor.He had been attentive and polite to her, offering her the papers, ordering tea for her at Exeter, doing all that a courteous husband ought to do; but he had made no attempt at conversation—nor had she. This question about the book was wrung from him by the intensity of his irritation.详情
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