“Poor Maria, who could have thought of such frightful barbarity?” sighed Alison. “I knew she was a passionate girl, but this is worse than one can bear to believe.”
She ceased, for she had been inexpressibly shocked, and her heart still yearned towards every Beauchamp school child.
“I suppose we must tell Ermine,” she added; “indeed, I know I could not help it.”
“Nor I,” he said, smiling, “though there is only too much fear that nothing will come of it but disappointment. At least, she will tell us how to meet that.”
THE BREWST SHE BREWED.
“Unwisely, not ignobly, have
Timon of Athens.
Under the circumstances of the Curtis family, no greater penance could have been devised than the solemn dinner party which had to take place only an hour after the investigation was closed. Grace in especial was nearly distracted between her desire to calm her mother and to comfort her sister, and the necessity of attending to the Grey family, who repaid themselves for their absence from the scene of action by a torrent of condolences and questions, whence poor Grace gathered to her horror and consternation that the neighbourhood already believed that a tenderer sentiment than philanthropy had begun to mingle in Rachel’s relations with the secretary of the F. U. E. E. Feeling it incumbent on the whole family to be as lively and indifferent as possible, Grace, having shut her friends into their rooms to perform their toilette, hurried to her sister, to find her so entirely engrossed with her patient as absolutely to have forgotten the dinner party. No wonder! She had had to hunt up a housemaid to make up a bed for Lovedy in a little room within her own, and the undressing and bathing of the poor child had revealed injuries even in a more painful state than those which had been shown to Mr. Grey, shocking emaciation, and most scanty garments. The child was almost torpid, and spoke very little. She was most unwilling to attempt to swallow; however, Rachel thought that some of her globules had gone down, and put much faith in them, and in warmth and sleep; but incessantly occupied, and absolutely sickened by the sight of the child’s hurts, she looked up with loathing at Grace’s entreaty that she would, dress for the dinner.
“Impossible,” she said.
“You must, Rachel dear; indeed, you must.”
“As if I could leave her.”
“Nay, Rachel, but if you would only send—”
“Nonsense, Grace; if I can stay with her I can restore her far better than could an allopathist, who would not leave nature to herself. O Grace, why can’t you leave me in peace? Is it not bad enough without this?”
“Dear Rachel, I am very sorry; but if you did not come down to dinner, think of the talk it would make.”
“Let them talk.”
“Ah, Rachel, but the mother! Think how dreadful the day’s work has been to her; and how can she ever get through the evening if she is in a fright at your not coming down?”