“Here’s the whole parish saying that Barbara Hare can’t be married, that nobody will have her, on account of—of—of that cursed stain left by——, I won’t trust myself to name him, I should go too far. Now, don’t you think that’s a pretty disgrace, a fine state of things?”
“But it is not true,” said Barbara; “people do ask me.”
“But what’s the use of their asking when you say ‘No?’” raved the justice. “Is that the way to let the parish know that they ask? You are an ungrateful, rebellious, self-willed daughter, and you’ll never be otherwise.”
Barbara’s tears flowed freely. The justice gave a dash at the bell handle, to order the tea things carried away, and after their removal the subject was renewed, together with Barbara’s grief. That was the worst of Justice Hare. Let him seize hold of a grievance, it was not often he got upon a real one, and he kept on at it, like a blacksmith hammering at his forge. In the midst of a stormy oration, tongue and hands going together, Mr. Carlyle came in.
Not much altered; not much. A year and three-quarters had gone by and they had served to silver his hair upon the temples. His manner, too, would never again be careless and light as it once had been. He was the same keen man of business, the same pleasant, intelligent companion; the generality of people saw no change in him. Barbara rose to escape.
“No,” said Justice Hare, planting himself between her and the door; “that’s the way you like to get out of my reach when I am talking to you. You won’t go; so sit down again. I’ll tell you of your ill-conduct before Mr. Carlyle, and see if that will shame you.”
Barbara resumed her seat, a rush of crimson dyeing her cheeks. And Mr. Carlyle looked inquiringly, seeming to ask an explanation of her distress. The justice continued after his own fashion.
“You know, Carlyle, that horrible blow that fell upon us, that shameless disgrace. Well, because the parish can’t clack enough about the fact itself, it must begin about Barbara, saying that the disgrace and humiliation are reflected upon her, and that nobody will come near her to ask her to be his wife. One would think, rather than lie under the stigma and afford the parish room to talk, she’d marry the first man that came, if it was the parish beadle—anybody else would. But now, what are the facts? You’ll stare when you know them. She has received a bushel of good offers—a bushel of them,” repeated the justice, dashing his hand down on his knee, “and she says ‘No!’ to all. The last was to-day, from Major Thorn, and, my young lady takes and puts the stopper upon it, as usual, without reference to me or her mother, without saying with your leave or by your leave. She wants to be kept in her room for a week upon bread and water, to bring her to her senses.”
Mr. Carlyle glanced at Barbara. She was sitting meekly under the infliction, her wet eyelashes falling on her flushed cheeks and shading her eyes. The justice was heated enough, and had pushed his flaxen wig nearly hind-part before, in the warmth of his argument.