“No, of course not,” said Mrs. Garth, with a curl of the lip. “What I want doing I must do myself. Always has been so, and always will be.”
“I wish it were true, mother,” muttered Joe in a voice scarcely audible.
“I’ll go over to Shoulth’et to-morrow,” purred Mrs. Garth. “If the old man made no will, I’ll maybe have summat to say as may startle them a gay bit.”
The woman grunted to herself at the prospect. “Ey, ey,” she mumbled, “it’ll stop their match-makin’. Ey, ey, and what’s mair, what’s mair, it’ll bring yon Ralph back helter-skelter.”
“Mother, mother,” cried the blacksmith, “can you never leave that ugly thing alone?”
MRS. GARTH AT SHOULTHWAITE.
The next day or two passed by with Rotha like a dream. Her manners had become even gentler and her voice even softer than before, and the light of self-consciousness had stolen into her eyes. Towards the evening of the following day Liza Branthwaite ran up to the Moss to visit her. Rotha was in the dairy at the churn, and when Liza pushed open the door and came unexpectedly upon her she experienced a momentary sense of confusion which was both painful and unaccountable. The little lady was herself flushed with a sharp walk, and muffled up to the throat from a cutting wind.
“Why, Rotha, my girl, what ever may be the matter with you?” said Liza, coming to a pause in the middle of the floor, and, without removing the hands that had been stuffed up her sleeves from the cold, looking fixedly in her face.
“I don’t know, Liza; I wish you could tell me, lass,” said Rotha, recovering enough self-possession to simulate a subterfuge.
“Here I’ve been churning and churning since morning, and don’t seem much nigher the butter yet.”
“It’s more than the butter that pests you,” said Liza, with a wise shake of the head.
“Yes; it must be the churn. I can make nothing of it.”
“Shaf on the churn, girl! You just look like Bessie MacNab when they said Jamie o’ the Glen had coddled her at the durdum yon night at Robin Forbes’s.”
“Hush, Liza,” said Rotha, stooping unnecessarily low to investigate the progress of her labors, and then adding, from the depths of the churn, “why, and how did Bessie look?”
“Look? look?” cried Liza, with a tip of the chin upwards, as though the word itself ought to have been sufficiently explicit,—“look, you say? Why,” continued Liza, condescending at length to be more definite as to the aforesaid young lady’s appearance after a kiss at a country dance, “why, she looked just for the world like you, Rotha.”
Then throwing off her thick outer garment without waiting for any kind of formal invitation, Liza proceeded to make herself at home in a very practical way.
“Come, let me have a turn at the churn,” she said, “and let us see if it is the churn that ails you—giving you two great eyes staring wide as if you were sickening for a fever, and two cheeks as red as the jowls of ’Becca Rudd’s turkey.”