“Well, I have finished your dress,” she said, as she came to the table.
“And you are nearly tired to death,” said Mr. Owen. “Susan, you ought not to have allowed Miss Graystone to overwork herself.”
Clemence protested it was nothing, and that a cup of their good tea would rest her, and the worthy couple immediately set about loading her plate with food enough to have satisfied the appetite of a plough-boy. And as soon as she could slip away, she left the table.
Her hostess soon followed her, to try on the new dress. It was a pretty, soft-tinted muslin, and made the round, plump figure look more nearly approaching to attractiveness than it had ever done before.
“Well, I declare,” said the farmer, surveying her with satisfaction, “that does look nice and tidy. Now, if we could always have you, Miss Graystone, to select my wife’s dresses, and cut and fit them, and afterwards tell her how to put them on, she would look, positively, respectable.”
“Here is a collar that I brought for you,” said Clemence, pretending not to have heard this doubtful compliment, and the delighted little woman forthwith burst forth into a profusion of exaggerated acknowledgements of her kindness and generosity.
“There, Amos Owen,” she exclaimed, blushing with pleasure, “what do you think of your wife, now? You can see by this time that she ain’t the one to be kept down forever, and drudge her life away. She was born for better things.” And stepping backwards, with a self-complacent smile and toss of her head, the little creature, unfortunately unused to fineries of any kind, planted her foot, which was by no means a small one, upon the delicate fabric and made an awkward rent.
Clemence was ready to cry with vexation. Plainly, here was, at least, another half hour’s work for her tired fingers.
Mr. Owen gave a long, low whistle, and then a shout of derisive laughter, as he turned and went out of the house. Clemence feared that her cause was being irreparably ruined, instead of helped along, as she so ardently desired, by this untoward event.
“Deary me!” said Mrs. Owen, “what shall I do? I wish I’d never tried to dress up at all. Just think how much that cost, and it’s only a stringy thing after all, and a great big rent in it before its ever worn at all. I wish now, I’d got that calico that I wanted to. I should, if you hadn’t persuaded me not to.”
If a few tears fell among the pale, pink rosebuds, with which the condemned article was dotted as plentifully as May blossoms, it is hardly to be wondered at. Tired, overworked, and a good deal discouraged, the pale young teacher might be pardoned for any signs of weakness, though she needed to gather up all her sinking courage for the future, that lay before her lost in shadow.