There was a portrait of Janet’s mother, a grey-haired, dark-eyed old woman, in a neatly fluted cap, hanging over the mantelpiece. Surely the aged eyes take on a look of anguish as they see Janet—not trembling, no! it would be better if she trembled—standing stupidly unmoved in her great beauty while the heavy arm is lifted to strike her. The blow falls —another—and another. Surely the mother hears that cry—’O Robert! pity! pity!’
Poor grey-haired woman! Was it for this you suffered a mother’s pangs in your lone widowhood five-and-thirty years ago? Was it for this you kept the little worn morocco shoes Janet had first run in, and kissed them day by day when she was away from you, a tall girl at school? Was it for this you looked proudly at her when she came back to you in her rich pale beauty, like a tall white arum that has just unfolded its grand pure curves to the sun?
The mother lies sleepless and praying in her lonely house, weeping the difficult tears of age, because she dreads this may be a cruel night for her child.
She too has a picture over her mantelpiece, drawn in chalk by Janet long years ago. She looked at it before she went to bed. It is a head bowed beneath a cross, and wearing a crown of thorns.
It was half-past nine o’clock in the morning. The midsummer sun was already warm on the roofs and weathercocks of Milby. The church-bells were ringing, and many families were conscious of Sunday sensations, chiefly referable to the fact that the daughters had come down to breakfast in their best frocks, and with their hair particularly well dressed. For it was not Sunday, but Wednesday; and though the Bishop was going to hold a Confirmation, and to decide whether or not there should be a Sunday evening lecture in Milby, the sunbeams had the usual working-day look to the haymakers already long out in the fields, and to laggard weavers just ‘setting up’ their week’s ‘piece’. The notion of its being Sunday was the strongest in young ladies like Miss Phipps, who was going to accompany her younger sister to the confirmation, and to wear a ‘sweetly pretty’ transparent bonnet with marabout feathers on the interesting occasion, thus throwing into relief the suitable simplicity of her sister’s attire, who was, of course, to appear in a new white frock; or in the pupils at Miss Townley’s, who were absolved from all lessons, and were going to church to see the Bishop, and to hear the Honourable and Reverend Mr. Prendergast, the rector, read prayers—a high intellectual treat, as Miss Townley assured them. It seemed only natural that a rector, who was honourable, should read better than old Mr. Crewe, who was only a curate, and not honourable; and when little Clara Robins wondered why some clergymen were rectors and others not, Ellen Marriott assured her with great confidence that it was only the clever men who were