When young minds are set upon a distant object, they scarcely live for anything about them. The drive to the station and the parting with Robert, the journey to London, which had latterly seemed to her secretly-distressed anticipation like a sunken city—a place of wonder with the waters over it—all passed by smoothly; and then it became necessary to call a cabman, for whom, as he did her the service to lift her box, Rhoda felt a gracious respect, until a quarrel ensued between him and her uncle concerning sixpence;—a poor sum, as she thought; but representing, as Anthony impressed upon her understanding during the conflict of hard words, a principle. Those who can persuade themselves that they are fighting for a principle, fight strenuously, and maybe reckoned upon to overmatch combatants on behalf of a miserable small coin; so the cabman went away discomfited. He used such bad language that Rhoda had no pity for him, and hearing her uncle style it “the London tongue,” she thought dispiritedly of Dahlia’s having had to listen to it through so long a season. Dahlia was not at home; but Mrs. Wicklow, Anthony’s landlady, undertook to make Rhoda comfortable, which operation she began by praising dark young ladies over fair ones, at the same time shaking Rhoda’s arm that she might not fail to see a compliment was intended. “This is our London way,” she said. But Rhoda was most disconcerted when she heard Mrs. Wicklow relate that her daughter and Dahlia were out together, and say, that she had no doubt they had found some pleasant and attentive gentleman for a companion, if they had not gone purposely to meet one. Her thoughts of her sister were perplexed, and London seemed a gigantic net around them both.
“Yes, that’s the habit with the girls up here,” said Anthony; “that’s what fine bonnets mean.”
Rhoda dropped into a bitter depth of brooding. The savage nature of her virgin pride was such that it gave her great suffering even to suppose that a strange gentleman would dare to address her sister. She half-fashioned the words on her lips that she had dreamed of a false Zion, and was being righteously punished. By-and-by the landlady’s daughter returned home alone, saying, with a dreadful laugh, that Dahlia had sent her for her Bible; but she would give no explanation of the singular mission which had been entrusted to her, and she showed no willingness to attempt to fulfil it, merely repeating, “Her Bible!” with a vulgar exhibition of simulated scorn that caused Rhoda to shrink from her, though she would gladly have poured out a multitude of questions in the ear of one who had last been with her beloved. After a while, Mrs. Wicklow looked at the clock, and instantly became overclouded with an extreme gravity.
“Eleven! and she sent Mary Ann home for her Bible. This looks bad. I call it hypocritical, the idea of mentioning the Bible. Now, if she had said to Mary Ann, go and fetch any other book but a Bible!”