But Mrs Crawley did not give the nod of assent. With her face still averted, while the tears were still running down her cheeks, she muttered but a word or two. ’I could not do that, Lady Lufton; I could not do that.’
’You know at any rate what my wishes are, and as you become calmer you will think of it. There is quite time enough, and I am speaking of an alternative which may never happen. My dear friend Mrs Robarts, who is now with your daughter, wishes Miss Crawley to go over to Framley Parsonage while this inquiry among the clergymen is going on. They all say it is the most ridiculous thing in the world—this inquiry. But the bishop you know is so silly! We all think that if Miss Crawley would go for a week or so to Framley Parsonage, that it will show how happy we all are to receive her. It should be while Mr Robarts is employed in his part of the work. What do you say, Mrs Crawley? We at Framley are all clearly of the opinion that it will be best that it should be known that the people in the county uphold your husband. Miss Crawley would be back, you know, before the trial comes on. I hope you will let her come, Mrs Crawley?’
But even to this proposition Mrs Crawley could give no assent, though she expressed no direct dissent. As regarded her own feelings, she would much preferred to have been left to live through her misery alone; but she could not but appreciate the kindness which endeavoured to throw over and hers in their trouble the aegis of first-rate county respectability. She was saved from the necessity of giving a direct answer to this suggestion by the return of Mrs Robarts and Grace herself. The door was opened slowly, and they crept into the room as though they were aware that their presence would be hardly welcomed.
‘Is the carriage there, Fanny?’ said Lady Lufton. ’It is almost time for us to think of returning home.’
Mrs Robarts said that the carriage was standing within twenty yards of the door.
‘Then I think we will make a start,’ said Lady Lufton. ’Have you succeeded in persuading Miss Crawley to come over to Framley in April?’
Mrs Robarts made no answer to this, but looked at Grace; and Grace looked down upon the ground.
‘I have spoken to Mrs Crawley,’ said Lady Lufton, ’and they will think of it.’ Then the two ladies took their leave, and walked out to their carriage.
‘What does she say about your plan?’ Mrs Robarts asked.
‘She is too broken-hearted to say anything.’ Lady Lufton answered. ’Should it happen that he is convicted, we must come over and take her. She will have no power to resist us in anything.’
MRS DOBBS BROUGHTON PILES HER FAGGOTS