A little bunch of red and white cows, knee-deep in the water, were swishing off the flies with the wet tufts of their tails. Hester watched their every movement. She was no longer afraid of cows. Presently, as if with one consent, they all made up their minds to relieve the tedium of the contemplative life by an exhibition of humor, and, scrambling out of the water, proceeded to canter along the bank with stiff raised tails, with an artificial noose sustained with difficulty just above the tuft.
“How like James and the Pratts!” Hester said to herself, watching the grotesque gambols and nudgings of the dwindling humorists. “It must be very fatiguing to be so comic.”
Hester had been up since five o’clock, utilizing the quiet hours before the house was astir. She was tired out. A bumblebee was droning sleepily near at hand. The stream talked and talked and talked about what he was going to do when he was a river. “How tired the banks must be of listening to him!” thought Hester, with closed eyes.
And the world melted slowly away in a delicious sense of well-being, from which the next moment, as it seemed to her, she was suddenly awakened by Mr. Gresley’s voice near at hand.
“Hester! Hester! HESTER!”
“Here! here!” gasped Hester, with a start, upsetting her lapful of letters as she scrambled hastily to her feet.
The young vicar drew near, and looked over the church-yard wall. A large crumb upon his upper lip did not lessen the awful severity of his countenance.
“We have nearly finished luncheon,” he observed. “The servants could not find you anywhere. I don’t want to be always finding fault, Hester, but I wish, for your own sake as well as ours, you would be more punctual at meals.”
Hester had never been late before, but she felt that this was not the moment to remind her brother of that fact.
“I beg pardon,” she said, humbly. “I fell asleep.”
“You fell asleep!” said Mr. Gresley, who had been wrestling all the morning with platitudes on “Thy will be done.” “All I can say, Hester, is that it is unfortunate you have no occupation. I cannot believe it is for the good of any of us to lead so absolutely idle a life that we fall asleep in the morning.”
Hester made no reply.
It is as useless to
fight against the interpretations of ignorance
as to whip the fog.—GEORGE ELIOT.
The children, who had reached the pear stage, looked with round, awed eyes at “Auntie Hester” as she sat down at the luncheon-table beside the black bottle which marked her place. The Gresleys were ardent total abstainers, and were of opinion that Hester’s health would be greatly benefited by following their example. But Hester’s doctor differed from them—he was extremely obstinate—with the result that the Gresleys were obliged to tolerate the obnoxious bottle on their very table. It was what Mrs. Gresley called a “cross,” and Mr. Gresley was always afraid that the fact of its presence might become known and hopelessly misconstrued in Warpington and the world at large.