In the afternoon Martha and Dorothy started together for Exeter, Brooke and Priscilla accompanying them as far as Mrs Crocket’s, where the Lessboro’ fly was awaiting them. Dorothy said little or nothing during the walk, nor, indeed, was she very communicative during the journey into Exeter. She was going to her aunt, instigated simply by the affection of her full heart; but she was going with a tale in her mouth which she knew would be very unwelcome. She could not save herself from feeling that, in having accepted Brooke, and in having not only accepted him but even fixed the day for her marriage, she had been ungrateful to her aunt. Had it not been for her aunt’s kindness and hospitality, she would never have seen Brooke Burgess. And as she had been under her aunt’s care at Exeter, she doubted whether she had not been guilty of some great fault in falling in love with this man, in opposition as it were to express orders. Should her aunt still declare that she would in no way countenance the marriage, that she would still oppose it and use her influence with Brooke to break it off, then would Dorothy return on the morrow to her mother’s cottage at Nuncombe Putney, so that her lover might be free to act with her aunt as he might think fit. And should he yield, she would endeavour, she would struggle hard, to think that he was still acting for the best. ’I must tell her myself, Martha,’ said Dorothy, as they came near to Exeter.
‘Certainly, miss, only you’ll do it tonight.’
‘Yes at once. As soon after I get there as possible.’
DOROTHY RETURNS TO EXETER
Miss Stanbury perfectly understood that Martha was to come back by the train reaching Exeter at 7 p.m., and that she might be expected in the Close about a quarter-of-an-hour after that time. She had been nervous and anxious all day, so much so that Mr Martin had told her that she must be very careful. ‘That’s all very well,’ the old woman had said, ‘but you haven’t got any medicine for my complaint, Mr Martin.’ The apothecary had assured her that the worst of her complaint was in the east wind, and had gone away begging her to be very careful. ’It is not God’s breezes that are hard to any one,’ the old lady had said to herself ‘but our own hearts.’ After her lonely dinner she had fidgeted about the room, and had rung twice for the girl, not knowing what order to give when the servant came to her. She was very anxious about her tea, but would not have it brought to her till after Martha should have arrived. She was half-minded to order that a second cup and saucer should be placed there, but she had not the courage to face the disappointment which would fall upon her, should the cup and saucer stand there for no purpose. And yet, should she come, how nice it would be to shew her girl that her old aunt had been ready for her. Thrice she went to the window after the cathedral clock had struck seven,