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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 268 pages of information about Sisters.

She was in a high fever and delirious on her wedding night, and a week later at death’s door.  When she came out of her illness, reconciled to her family, meekly obedient to her husband, she was a wreck of herself —­a prisoner for life, bound hand and foot, more pitiable than she would have been as a dead body fished out of the dam.

The tragic disproportion between crimes and punishments in this world!

CHAPTER XII.

Mrs Goldsworthy was reconciled to her relations through her illness—­ the greatest peacemaker in families, save death; and for her sake they made a show of tolerating her husband, after they had given him some bad hours behind her back.  But the whole affair was like a blight on Redford, which was never the same place again.  Mr Pennycuick had a slight “stroke” on hearing all the bad news at once.  It was light enough to be passed over and hushed up, but his vigour and faculties declined from that hour with a rapidity that could be marked from day to day.  “A changed man,” observed his neighbours, one to another.  At the same time, they hinted that other things were not as they used to be—­that the old man had had losses—­that Redford was heavily burdened—­that the proud Pennycuicks, already humbled, were likely to experience a further fall.  Certainly, the governess was dispensed with, and the dashing four-in-hand withdrawn from the local racecourses and agricultural show-grounds, of which it had long been the constant and conspicuous ornament, to be sold at public auction, without reason given.  The great, hospitable house got a character for dullness for the first time in its history.  No lights or laughter flowed from the windows of the big drawing-room of an evening; the lawns lay dark and still, while downstairs a rubber of whist or a hand at cribbage with Jim Urquhart or Mr Thornycroft represented what was left of the gaieties of the past.  These men—­these old fogies, as fretful Frances styled them both—­were not of those who shunned Redford because it had grown dull; on the contrary, they now—­according to Frances again—­virtually lived there.  And it was the absent pleasure-seekers, her true kindred, for whom her soul longed.

He who most openly resented the change, having (next to Mary) been most instrumental in causing it, was Deborah’s lover, Claud Dalzell.

He had been none too gracious a lover—­although graceful enough, when all was well—­seeing that he had continued his bachelor life, with all its social obligations, after as before his engagement, and had allowed this to run to nearly two years, without coming to any effective understanding about the wedding-day; but when, in the thick of her troubles, he descended upon Redford merely to denounce the Goldsworthy marriage as a personal affront, and, as it were, to tax her with it, then her loving indulgence did not suffice to excuse him.

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