Miss Neale was anxious not to contradict Biddy just as she seemed to be coming round again, and she was really not quite sure on the point.
‘I can’t say, my dear,’ she replied. ’It does look as if you could—but still——’
‘There now,’ said Biddy to Celestina contemptuously, ’Miss Neale’s bigger than you, and she thinks you can; don’t you, Miss Neale?’
‘Yes, yes, my dear,’ Miss Neale, who was on some little way in front with Alie, replied hastily; ‘but come on—what does it matter?’
But Biddy’s tone had roused Celestina, gentle as she was.
‘I know you can’t,’ she said, ’and whether a big or a little person says you can, I just know you can’t,’ and she turned from Biddy and walked on fast to join the others. Seeing her coming, Rosalys called to her.
‘Celestina, I want to ask you something,’ and in a moment the two were talking together busily.
‘It’s only the secret, Biddy,’ said Alie laughingly; she did not know of Biddy’s new ill-humour. ‘You mustn’t mind.’
Down came the black curtain thicker and thicker over Bridget’s rosy face; firmly she settled herself on her unmanageable steed.
‘I don’t care,’ she said to herself as she trudged along in silence beside Miss Neale; ’they’re horrid to me—horrid. And I’ll be as horrid as I can be to them. But I’ll let that nasty Celestina see I’m right and she’s wrong. I will.’
’And Dick, though pale
as any ghost,
Had only said to me,
“We’re all right now, old lad."’
Author of ’John Halifax.’
Miss Neale was rather in a hurry to get home that afternoon, so she and Celestina did not linger at the tea-table as they sometimes did. By half-past four they had gone, for on Miss Neale’s account tea had been ordered half an hour earlier than usual.
Rosalys disappeared—mamma wanted her, she said. So Bridget was left alone, for Rough had begun school some time ago. He rode over every morning, and got home again about six.
‘I wonder if papa is in,’ thought Biddy idly, for a moment or two half inclined to see if she might pay him a visit in the study. But then she remembered that he had been out all day, and that he was not expected home till dinner-time. There were not many very poor people at Seacove, but there were a great many young men and boys always about the wharf, and some fishermen and their families living half-way between the little town and a fishing village called Portscale, some way along the coast. At Portscale there was a beautiful old church, and a vicar younger and much more active than Dr. Bunton. Mr. Vane and he had made friends at once, and to-day they had arranged to visit some of these outlying neighbours together, for even though Mr. Vane was not at all strong and had come to Seacove for a rest, he was far too good and energetic not to do all he possibly could.