‘I don’t know who it is that is big in this matter.’
’You are big at any rate by comparison. But now it must go on. The house has been taken, and my fears are over as regards you. What you observe in mamma is only the effect, not yet quite worn out, of what I said before you came. You may be quite sure of this that we neither of us believe a word against you. Your position is a very unfortunate one; but if it can be remedied by your staying here with us, pray stay with us.’
‘It cannot be remedied,’ said Emily; ’but we could not be anywhere more comfortable than we are here.’
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT IT IN THE CLOSE
When Miss Stanbury, in the Close at Exeter, was first told of the arrangement that had been made at Nuncombe Putney, she said some very hard words as to the thing that had been done. She was quite sure that Mrs Trevelyan was no better than she should be. Ladies who were separated from their husbands never were any better than they should be. And what was to be thought of any woman, who, when separated from her husband, would put herself under the protection of such a Paladin as Hugh Stanbury. She heard the tidings of course from Dorothy, and spoke her mind even to Dorothy plainly enough; but it was to Martha that she expressed herself with her fullest vehemence.
‘We always knew,’ she said, ’that my brother had married an addle-pated, silly woman, one of the most unsuited to be the mistress of a clergyman’s house that ever a man set eyes on; but I didn’t think she’d allow herself to be led into such a stupid thing as this.’
’I don’t suppose the lady has done anything amiss any more than combing her husband’s hair, and the like of that,’ said Martha.
‘Don’t tell me! Why, by their own story, she has got a lover.’
’But he ain’t to come after her down here, I suppose. And as for lovers, ma’am, I’m told that the most of ’em have ’em up in London. But it don’t mean much, only just idle talking and gallivanting.’
’When women can’t keep themselves from idle talking with strange gentlemen, they are very far gone on the road to the devil. That’s my notion. And that was everybody’s notion a few years ago. But now, what with divorce bills, and woman’s rights, and penny papers, and false hair, and married women being just like giggling girls, and giggling girls knowing just as much as married women, when a woman has been married a year or two she begins to think whether she mayn’t have more fun for her money by living apart from her husband.’
‘Miss Dorothy says—’
’Oh, bother what Miss Dorothy says! Miss Dorothy only knows what it has suited that scamp, her brother, to tell her. I understand this woman has come away because of a lover; and if that’s so, my sister-in-law is very wrong to receive her. The temptation of the Clock House has been too much for her. It’s not my doing; that’s all.’