Then the rattle of the glass door on to the garden as it shut. In the room a listening stillness, a great all-invading emptiness. Finally Hordle, with the tea-tray, and—
“Mrs. Cooper, if it isn’t troubling you, Miss, would be glad to have the house-books to pay, as she’s walking up the village after tea.”
CONCERNING A SERMON WHICH NEVER WAS PREACHED AND OTHER MATTERS OF LOCAL INTEREST
Before passing on to more dignified matters, that period of nine days demands to be noted during which the inhabitants of Deadham, all very much agog, celebrated the wonder of Miss Bilson’s indisputable disappearance and Damaris Verity’s reported adventure.
Concerning the former, Dr. Horniblow, good man, took himself seriously to task, deploring his past action and debating his present duty.
“It is no use, Jane,” he lamented to his wife. The two had retired for the night, darkness and the bedclothes covering them. “I am very much worried about my share in the matter.”
“But, my dear James, you really are overscrupulous. What share had you?”
The clerical wife does not always see eye to eye with her spouse in respect of his female parishioners, more particularly, perhaps, the unmarried ones. Mrs. Horniblow loved, honoured, and—within reasonable limits—obeyed her James; but this neither prevented her being shrewd, nor knowing her James, after all, to be human. Remembrance of Theresa, heading the Deadham procession during the inspection of Harchester Cathedral, sandwiched in between him and the Dean, still rankled in her wifely bosom.
“I overpersuaded Miss Bilson to accompany us on the choir treat. I forgot she must not be regarded as an entirely free agent. She has shown interest in parish work and really proved very useful and obliging. Her acquaintance with architecture—the technical terms, too—is unusually accurate for a member of your sex.”
“Her business is teaching,” said the lady.
“And I can’t but fear I have been instrumental in her loss of an excellent position.”
“If her learning is as remarkable as you consider it, she will doubtless soon secure another.”
“Ah! you’re prejudiced, my love. One cannot but be struck, at times, by the harshness with which even women of high principle, like yourself, judge other women.”
“Possibly the highness of my principles may be accountable for my judgments—in some cases.”
“Argument is very unrestful,” the vicar remarked, turning over on his side.
“But there would be an end of conversation if I always agreed with you.”
“Tut—tut,” he murmured. Then with renewed plaintiveness—“I cannot make up my mind whether it is not my duty, my chivalrous duty, to seek an interview with Sir Charles Verity and explain—put the aspects of the case to him as I see them.”