‘Oh!’ exclaimed Camilla.
‘Ah!’ exclaimed Arabella.
‘That would make a difference,’ said Mr Gibson.
’But for a married woman to have her name mentioned at all with a gentleman it is so bad; is it not, Mr Gibson?’ And then Arabella also had her whisper into the clergyman’s ear very closely. ’I’m afraid there’s not a doubt about the Colonel. I’m afraid not. I am indeed.’
‘Two by honours and the odd, and it’s my deal,’ said Miss Stanbury, briskly, and the sharp click with which she put the markers down upon the table was heard all through the room. ’I don’t want anybody to tell me,’ she said, ’that when a young woman is parted from her husband, the chances are ten to one that she has been very foolish.’
‘But what’s a woman to do, if her husband beats her?’ said Mrs Crumbie.
‘Beat him again,’ said Mrs MacHugh.
‘And the husband will be sure to have the worst
of it,’ said Mr
Crumbie. ’Well, I declare, if you haven’t turned up an honour again,
‘It was your wife that cut it to me, Mr Crumbie.’ Then they were again at once immersed in the play, and the name neither of Trevelyan nor Osborne was heard till Miss Stanbury was marking her double under the candlestick; but during all the pauses in the game the conversation went back to the same topic, and when the rubber was over they who had been playing it lost themselves for ten minutes in the allurements of the interesting subject. It was so singular a coincidence that the lady should have gone to Nuncombe Putney of all villages in England, and to the house of Mrs Stanbury of all ladies in England. And then was she innocent, or was she guilty; and if guilty, in what degree? That she had been allowed to bring her baby with her was considered to be a great point in her favour. Mr Crumbie’s opinion was that it was ’only a few words’. Mrs Crumbie was afraid that she had been a little light. Mrs MacHugh said that there was never fire without smoke. And Miss Stanbury, as she took her departure, declared that the young women of the present day didn’t know what they were after. ’They think that the world should be all frolic and dancing, and they have no more idea of doing their duty and earning their bread than a boy home for the holidays has of doing lessons.’
Then, as she went home with Dorothy across the Close, she spoke a word which she intended to be very serious. ’I don’t mean to say anything against your mother for what she has done as yet. Somebody must take the woman in, and perhaps it was natural. But if that Colonel what’s-his-name makes his way down to Nuncombe Putney, your mother must send her packing, if she has any respect either for herself or for Priscilla.’