“Oh! Mr. Laurence’s wife!” said Mrs. Betts in a quite changed tone. “I never pitied a gentleman more. Folks who don’t know ladies fancy they speak and behave pretty always, but that lady would grind her teeth in her rages, and make us fly before her—him too. She would throw whatever was in her reach. She was a deal madder and more dangerous in her fits of passion than poor Mrs. Frederick: she, poor dear! had a delusion that she was quite destitute and dependent on charity, and when she could get out she would go to the cottages and beg a bit of bread. A curious delusion, miss, but it did not distress her, for she called herself one of God’s poor, and was persuaded He would take care of her. But it was very distressing to those she belonged to. Twice she was lost. She wandered away so far once that it was a month and over before we got her back. She was found in Edinburgh. After that Mr. Frederick consented to her being taken care of: he never would before.”
“Oh, Mrs. Betts, don’t tell me any more, or it will haunt me.”
“Life’s a sorrowful tale, miss, at best, unless we have love here and a hope beyond.”
A MORNING AT BRENTWOOD.
Brentwood was a comfortable house to stay in for visitors who never wanted a moment’s repose. Lady Angleby lived in the midst of her guests—must have their interest, their sympathy in all her occupations, and she was never without a press of work and correspondence. Bessie Fairfax by noon next day felt herself weary without having done anything but listen with folded hands to tedious dissertations on matters political and social that had no interest for her. Since ten o’clock Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Mr. Fairfax had withdrawn themselves, and were gone into Norminster, and Miss Burleigh sat, a patient victim, with two dark hollows under her eyes—bearing up with a smile while ready to sink with fatigue. The gentlemen did not return to luncheon, but a caller dropped in—a clergyman, Mr. Jones; and Miss Burleigh took the opportunity of his entrance to vanish, making a sign to Miss Fairfax to come too. They went into the garden, where they were met by a vivacious, pretty old lady, Miss Hague, a former governess of Miss Burleigh, who now acted as assistant secretary to Lady Angleby.
“Your enemy, Mr. Jones, is in the drawing-room with my aunt,” Miss Burleigh told her. “Quite by chance—he was not asked.”
“Oh, let him stay. It is a study to see him amble about her ladyship with the airs and graces of a favorite, and then to witness his condescension to inferior persons like me,” said Miss Hague. “I’ll go to your room, Mary, and take off my bonnet.”
“Do, dear. We have only just escaped into the fresh air, and are making the most of our liberty.”
Miss Hague lodged within a stone’s throw of Brentwood, and Lady Angleby was good in bidding her go to luncheon whenever she felt disposed. She was disposed as seldom as courtesy allowed, for, though very poor, she was a gentlewoman of independent spirit, and her ladyship sometimes forgot it. She was engaged seeking some report amongst her papers when Miss Hague entered, but she gave her a nod of welcome. Mr. Jones said, “Ah, Miss Hague,” with superior affability, and luncheon was announced.