A Tale of a Lonely Parish eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 399 pages of information about A Tale of a Lonely Parish.

“Sit down,” she said, pointing to a chair.  “Are you hungry?” His sunken eyes sparkled.  She brought food and ale and set them before him.  He ate and drank voraciously in silence.  She sat at the opposite side of the table—­the solitary candle between them, and shading her eyes with one hand she gazed at his face.

Walter Goddard was a man at least forty years of age.  He had been thought very handsome once.  He had light blue eyes and a fair skin with flaxen hair—­now cropped short and close to his head.  There was nearly a fortnight’s growth of beard upon his face, but it was not yet sufficient to hide his mouth and chin.  He had formerly worn a heavy moustache and it was chiefly the absence of it which now made it hard for his wife to recognise him.  A battered hat, drenched and dripping with rain, shaded his brows.  Possibly he was ashamed to remove it.  His mouth was small and weak and his jaw was pointed.  His whole expression was singularly disagreeable—­his hands were filthy, and his face was not clean.  About his neck was twisted a ragged woollen comforter, and he wore a smock-frock which was now soaked with water and clung to his thin figure.  He devoured the food his wife had brought him, shivering from time to time as though he were still cold.

Mrs. Goddard watched him in silence.  She had done mechanically according to her first instinct, had led him in and had given him food.  But she had not recovered herself sufficiently from her first horror and astonishment to realise her situation.  At last she spoke.

“How did you escape?” she asked.  He bent lower than before, over his plate and would not look at her.

“Don’t ask me,” he answered shortly.

“Why did you do it?” she inquired again.  Goddard laughed harshly; his voice was hoarse and cracked.

“Why did I do it!” he repeated.  “Did you ever hear of any one who would not escape from prison if he had the chance?  Don’t look at me like that, Mary—­”

“I am sorry for you,” she said.

“You don’t seem very glad to see me,” he answered roughly.  “I might have known it.”

“Yes, you might have known it.”

It seemed a very hard and cruel thing to say, and Mary Goddard was very far from being a cruel woman by nature; but she was stunned by fear and disgust and horrified by the possibilities of harm suddenly brought before her.

Goddard pushed his plate away and leaned his elbows upon the table supporting his chin in his hands.  He scowled at her defiantly.

“You have given me a warm reception, after nearly three years of—­separation.”  There was a bitter sneer in the word.

“I am horrified to see you here,” she said simply.  “You know very well that I cannot conceal you—­”

“Oh, I don’t expect miracles,” said Goddard contemptuously.  “I don’t know that, when I came here, I expected to cause you any particularly agreeable sensation.  I confess, when a woman has not seen her beloved husband for three years, one might expect her to show a little feeling—­”

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A Tale of a Lonely Parish from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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