Petronella herself had been much vexed at Armine’s three days’ defection, which was ascribed to the worldly and anti-ecclesiastical influences of the rest of the family. She wanted her brother to preach a sermon about Lot’s wife; but Jemmie, as she called him, had on certain occasions a passive force of his own, and she could not prevail. She regretted it the less when Armine and Babie duly did the work they had undertaken in the Sunday-school, though they would not come in for any intermediate meals.
“What did Mrs. Brownlow tell you in her note?” she asked of her brother while giving him his tea before the last service.
“That in a few days she shall be able to answer me.”
“Ah, well! Do you know there is a belief in the parish that something has happened-that a claim is to be set up to the whole property, and that the whole family will be reduced to beggary?”
“I never heard of an estate to which there was not some claimant in obscurity.”
“But this comes from undoubted authority.” Mr. Parsons smiled a little. “One can’t help it if servants will hear things. Well! any way it will be overruled for good to that dear boy-though it would be a cruel stroke on the parish.”
It was the twilight of a late spring evening when the congregation streamed out of Church, and Elvira, who had managed hitherto to avoid all intercourse with the River Hollow party, found herself grappled by Lisette without hope of rescue. “My dear, this is a pleasure at last; I have so much to say to you. Can’t you give us a day?”
“I am going to town to-morrow,” said Elvira, never gracious to any Gould.
“To-morrow! I heard the family had put off their migration.”
“I go with Lucas. I am to stay with Mrs, Evelyn, Lord Fordham’s mother, you know, who is to present me at the Drawing-room,” said Elvira, magnificently.
“Oh! if I could only see you in your court dress it would be memorable,” cried Mrs. Gould. “A little longer, my dear, our paths lie together.”
“I must get home. My packing-”
“And may I ask what you wear, my dear? Is your dress ordered?”
“O yes, I had it made at Paris. It is white satin, with lilies-a kind of lily one gets in Algiers.” And she expatiated on the fashion till Mrs. Gould said-
“Well, my love, I hope you will enjoy yourself at the Honourable Mrs. Evelyn’s. What is the address, in case I should have occasion to write?”
“I shall have no time for doing commissions.”
“That was not my meaning,” was the gentle answer; “only if there be anything you ought to be informed of-”
“They would write to me from home. Why, what do you mean?” asked the girl, her attention gained at last.
“Did it never strike you why you are sent up alone?”
“Only that Mrs. Brownlow is so cut up about Janet.”
“Ah! youth is so sweetly unconscious. It is well that there are those who are bound to watch for your interests, my dear.”