After he had gone, she hurried to the backdoor furtively. His retreating figure was already mounting the grey upland field. Presently, beyond him, she perceived her uncle, emerging through the paddock gate. She ran across the poultry yard, and mounting a tub, stood watching the two figures as they moved towards one another along the brow, Anthony vigorously trudging, with his hands thrust deep in his pockets; her uncle, his wideawake tilted over his nose, hobbling, and leaning stiffly on his pair of sticks. They met; she saw Anthony take her uncle’s arm: the two, turning together, strolled away towards the fell.
She went back into the house. Anthony’s dog came towards her, slinking along the passage. She caught the animal’s head in her hands, and bent over it caressingly, in an impulsive outburst of almost hysterical affection.
The two men returned towards the vicarage. At the paddock gate they halted, and the old man concluded:
’I could not have wished a better man for her, Anthony. Mabbe the Lord’ll not be minded to spare me much longer. After I’m gone Rosa’ll hev all I possess. She was my poor brother Isaac’s only child. After her mother was taken, he, poor fellow, went altogether to the bad, and until she came here she mostly lived among strangers. It’s been a wretched sort of childhood for her—a wretched sort of childhood. Ye’ll take care of her, Anthony, will ye not? ... Nay, but I could not hev wished for a better man for her, and there’s my hand on ‘t.’
‘Thank ee, Mr. Blencarn, thank ee,’ Anthony answered huskily, gripping the old man’s hand.
And he started off down the lane homewards.
His heart was full of a strange, rugged exaltation. He felt with a swelling pride that God had entrusted to him this great charge—to tend her; to make up to her, tenfold, for all that loving care, which, in her childhood, she had never known. And together with a stubborn confidence in himself, there welled up within him a great pity for her—a tender pity, that, chastening with his passion, made her seem to him, as he brooded over that lonely childhood of hers, the more distinctly beautiful, the more profoundly precious. He pictured to himself, tremulously, almost incredulously, their married life—in the winter, his return home at nightfall to find her awaiting him with a glad, trustful smile; their evenings, passed together, sitting in silent happiness over the smouldering logs; or, in summer-time, the midday rest in the hay-fields when, wearing perhaps a large-brimmed hat fastened with a red ribbon, beneath her chin, he would catch sight of her, carrying his dinner, coming across the upland.
She had not been brought up to be a farmer’s wife: she was but a child still, as the old parson had said. She should not have to work as other men’s wives worked: she should dress like a lady, and on Sundays, in church, wear fine bonnets, and remain, as she had always been, the belle of all the parish.