’I’m afraid it would not do for me to go to the house and fetch your clothes,’ said Mrs. Raynor.
’O no, no! I must stay quietly here while you two go to church. I will be Mrs. Pettifer’s maid, and get the dinner ready for her by the time she comes back. Dear good woman! She was so tender to me when she took me in, in the night, mother, and all the next day, when I couldn’t speak a word to her to thank her.’
The servants at Dempster’s felt some surprise when the morning, noon, and evening of Saturday had passed, and still their mistress did not reappear.
‘It’s very odd,’ said Kitty, the housemaid, as she trimmed her next week’s cap, while Betty, the middle-aged cook, looked on with folded arms. ’Do you think as Mrs. Raynor was ill, and sent for the missis afore we was up?’
‘O,’ said Betty, ‘if it had been that, she’d ha’ been back’ards an’ for’ards three or four times afore now; leastways, she’d ha’ sent little Ann to let us know.’
‘There’s summat up more nor usual between her an’ the master, that you may depend on,’ said Kitty. ‘I know those clothes as was lying i’ the drawing-room yesterday, when the company was come, meant summat. I shouldn’t wonder if that was what they’ve had a fresh row about. She’s p’raps gone away, an’s made up her mind not to come back again.’
‘An’ i’ the right on’t, too,’ said Betty. ‘I’d ha’ overrun him long afore now, if it had been me. I wouldn’t stan’ bein’ mauled as she is by no husband, not if he was the biggest lord i’ the land. It’s poor work bein’ a wife at that price: I’d sooner be a cook wi’out perkises, an’ hev roast, an’ boil, an’ fry, an’ bake, all to mind at once. She may well do as she does. I know I’m glad enough of a drop o’ summat myself when I’m plagued. I feel very low, like, tonight; I think I shall put my beer i’ the saucepan an’ warm it.’
‘What a one you are for warmin’ your beer, Betty! I couldn’t abide it—nasty bitter stuff!’
‘It’s fine talkin’; if you was a cook you’d know what belongs to bein’ a cook. It’s none so nice to hev a sinkin’ at your stomach, I can tell you. You wouldn’t think so much o’ fine ribbins i’ your cap then.’
’Well, well, Betty, don’t be grumpy. Liza Thomson, as is at Phipps’s, said to me last Sunday, “I wonder you’ll stay at Dempster’s,” she says, “such goins-on as there is.” But I says, “There’s things to put up wi’ in ivery place, an’ you may change, an’ change, an’ not better yourself when all’s said an’ done.” Lors! why, Liza told me herself as Mrs. Phipps was as skinny as skinny i’ the kitchen, for all they keep so much company; and as for follyers, she’s as cross as a turkey-cock if she finds ’em out. There’s nothin’ o’ that sort i’ the missis. How pretty she come an’ spoke to Job last Sunday! There isn’t a good-natur’der woman i’ the world, that’s my belief—an’ hansome too. I al’ys think there’s nobody looks half so well as the missis when she’s got her ’air done nice. Lors! I wish I’d got long ’air like her—my ‘air’s a-comin’ off dreadful.’