Fulk and the dissenting minister were the only friends the poor man had, and the latter Hester would not let into her house. As to Perrault, he loathed and shrank from him as the real destroyer of all his peace, and still the most dangerous influence about his wife. He never said so, but we felt it.
I think the poor man’s happiest hours were spent here; and, now and then in a press of work, or to show how a thing ought to be done, he put his own hand to axe, lever, or hay-fork, and toiled with that cruelly-wasted alert strength.
Fulk always says there never was anyone who taught him so much as Joel Lea, and he means deeper things than farming.
Sometimes Mr. Lea brought his little boy. I was vexed at first; but Alured, who had hardly spoken to a child before, was in ecstasies, as if a new existence had come upon him; and Trevor Lea was really a very nice little boy. He was only half a year the elder; and they were so much alike that strangers did not know them apart, dressed alike, as they were; or they were taken for twins, and it made people laugh to find they were uncle and nephew.
And I must allow the nephew was the best behaved, though it made me savage to hear Fulk say so. But our Ally’s was not real naughtiness--only the consequence of our not being able to keep up discipline, while we lived in dread of that seventh year that might rob us of our darling—always sweet and loving.
A change or two began to creep into our life. One afternoon, as Jaquetta, in her pretty pink gingham and white apron, with her black hair in the Grecian coil we used to wear when our heads were allowed to be of their own proper size, was gathering crimson apples from the quarrendon tree close to the river, a voice came over the water—
“Oh, my good girl, if you would but stand so a minute, and allow me to sketch you!”
Jaquetta started round and laughed. No doubt she was looking like an Arcadian; but I—as from under the trees I saw two gentlemen on the other side of the little stream, and jumped up to come to her defence—I must have looked more like a displeased if not draggle-tailed duchess, for there was an immediate disconcerted begging of our pardons, and a hasty departure.
Jaquetta made a very funny account of my spring forward in awful dignity, so horribly affronted at her being called a good girl! and she made Fulk laugh heartily. The gloom did seem to be lightening on him now.
Walking tourists, we supposed, though one we thought was a clergyman; and on Sunday we saw him in the desk and the draughtsman in the parsonage pew; and we discovered that these were the proposed new curate, Mr. Cradock, and his younger brother. Our rector was a canon who had bad health and never came near us, and the poor old curate was past work, and, indeed, died a week or two after he had given up.