“Yes, my love,” replied Nicholas, confused, “yes, my dear, by-and-bye as soon as you’re—”
Mrs Forster darted towards her husband with the ferocity of a mad cat. Hilton, perceiving the danger of his host, put out his leg so as to trip her up in her career, and she fell flat upon her face on the floor. The violence of the fall was so great, that she was stunned. Newton raised her up; and, with the assistance of his father (who approached with as much reluctance as a horse spurred towards a dead tiger), carried her upstairs, and laid her on her bed.
Poor Mr Spinney was now raised from the floor. He still remained stupefied with the blow, although gradually recovering. Betsy came in to render assistance. “O dear, Mr Curate, do you think that he’ll die?”
“No, no; bring some water, Betsy, and throw it in his face.”
“Better take him home as he is,” replied Betsy, “and say that he is killed; when Missis hears it, she’ll be frightened out of her life. It will keep her quiet for some time at least.”
“An excellent idea, Betty; we will punish her for her conduct,” replied Hilton. The curate was delighted at the plan. Mr Spinney was placed in an arm-chair, covered over with a table-cloth, and carried away to the parsonage by two men, who were provided by Betsy before Nicholas or Newton had quitted the room where Mrs Forster lay in a deplorable condition; her sharp nose broken, and twisted on one side; her eyebrow cut open to the bone, and a violent contusion on her forehead. In less than half-an-hour it was spread through the whole town that Spinney had been murdered by Mrs Forster, and that his brains were bespattered all over the shop windows!
she is mad, ’tis true: ’tis true,
And pity ’tis, ’tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
Mad let us grant her then; and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect.”
Mr Dragwell has already made honourable mention of his wife; it will therefore only be necessary to add that he had one daughter, a handsome lively girl, engaged to a Mr Ramsden, the new surgeon of the place, who had stepped into the shoes and the good-will of one who had retired from forty years’ practice upon the good people of Overton. Fanny Dragwell had many good qualities, and many others which were rather doubtful. One of the latter had procured her more enemies than at her age she had any right to expect. It was what the French term “malice,” which bears a very different signification from the same word in our own language. She delighted in all practical jokes, and would carry them to an excess, at the very idea of which others would be startled; but it must be acknowledged that she generally selected as her victims those who from their conduct towards