The following Sunday, the morning being rainy, it was determined that the family should not go to Cumbermoor Church as usual, but that Mr. Gilfil, who had only an afternoon service at his curacy, should conduct the morning service in the chapel.
Just before the appointed hour of eleven, Caterina came down into the drawing-room, looking so unusually ill as to call forth an anxious inquiry from Lady Cheverel, who, on learning that she had a severe headache, insisted that she should not attend service, and at once packed her up comfortably on a sofa near the fire, putting a volume of Tillotson’s Sermons into her hands—as appropriate reading, if Caterina should feel equal to that means of edification.
Excellent medicine for the mind are the good Archbishop’s sermons, but a medicine, unhappily, not suited to Tina’s case. She sat with the book open on her knees, her dark eyes fixed vacantly on the portrait of that handsome Lady Cheverel, wife of the notable Sir Anthony. She gazed at the picture without thinking of it, and the fair blonde dame seemed to look down on her with that benignant unconcern, that mild wonder, with which happy self-possessed women are apt to look down on their agitated and weaker sisters.
Caterina was thinking of the near future—of the wedding that was so soon to come—of all she would have to live through in the next months.
‘I wish I could be very ill, and die before then,’ she thought. ’When people get very ill, they don’t mind about things. Poor Patty Richards looked so happy when she was in a decline. She didn’t seem to care any more about her lover that she was engaged to be married to, and she liked the smell of the flowers so, that I used to take her. O, if I could but like anything—if I could but think about anything else! If these dreadful feelings would go away, I wouldn’t mind about not being happy. I wouldn’t want anything—and I could do what would please Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel. But when that rage and anger comes into me, I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel the ground under me; I only feel my head and heart beating, and it seems as if I must do something dreadful. O! I wonder if any one ever felt like me before. I must be very wicked. But God will have pity on me; He knows all I have to bear.’
In this way the time wore on till Tina heard the sound of voices along the passage, and became conscious that the volume of Tillotson had slipped on the floor. She had only just picked it up, and seen with alarm that the pages were bent, when Lady Assher, Beatrice, and Captain Wybrow entered, all with that brisk and cheerful air which a sermon is often observed to produce when it is quite finished.
Lady Assher at once came and seated herself by Caterina. Her ladyship had been considerably refreshed by a doze, and was in great force for monologue.