“I am obliged to say, Mrs. Errington, that you really must leave the office. I am very sorry, but I am responsible in Mr. Errington’s absence, and I cannot allow you to turn everything topsy-turvy here in this way. There has been trouble enough by your coming here already.”
“Trouble enough! Who says so? Who is troubled?”
“Mr. Errington is troubled, and I am troubled, and—in short, it’s altogether out of rule.”
“Then he confesses, does he, that he is afraid of my coming here to make discoveries about him? Why should he be troubled if he had nothing to conceal?”
Castalia spoke with trembling eagerness and excitement. She had thrown all semblance of dignity or reserve to the winds. She would have spoken as she was speaking at that moment in Whitford market-place. Gibbs looked at her, and a doubt came into his mind as to whether his suspicions, and other people’s suspicions, about her were quite so well-founded as he had thought. She was terribly violent, jealous, insolent, unconverted, full of the leaven of unrighteousness—but was she a practised hypocrite, a woman experienced in dishonesty? For the life of him, Obadiah Gibbs could not feel so sure of this as he had felt, now that he looked into her poor, haggard face, and met her eyes, and heard her utterly incautious and vehement speeches.
“As to me not telling you the truth, Mrs. Errington,” he said, “I suppose you know the truth as to why your visits here bring trouble on everybody?”
“Tell it me, you!”
“Well, I—oh you must be aware of it, I suppose. And if I was to tell you, you would only be more angry and offended with me than ever, though what I have done to excite your displeasure I don’t know.”
“Tell me this truth that I know so well! Do you think I should seriously care for anything you could say, except as it concerned my husband?”
“Mrs. Errington, I don’t know whether you are feigning or not. But, anyway, I think it my duty to answer you with Christian sincerity. It is borne in upon me that I ought to do so.”
“Go on, go on, go on!” cried Castalia, drumming with restless fingers on the table and looking up at the clerk with eyes that blazed with excitement and impatience.
“You are aware that there have been unpleasant circumstances at the post-office—letters lost—money-letters lost. Well, your name has been mentioned in connection with those losses. It is known in Whitford that you come haunting the office at all hours when your husband is away. A little while ago you paid a bill with some notes that were endorsed in a peculiar way. People ask where you got those notes. I thought it my duty to mention the subject to Mr. Errington the other day. He was greatly distressed, of course. He said he should interrogate you about the notes. My advice to you is—in all sincerity and charity, as the Lord sees me—to tell your husband the truth, whatever it is.”
He ended his speech with a tremor of compassion in his voice, and with a sudden breakdown of his rhetorical manner, for Castalia’s face changed so piteously, so terribly, as he spoke, that the man’s heart was deeply touched by it. She grew ashy pale. The quick fingers that had been tapping impatiently on the table seemed turned to lead. They lay there heavy and motionless. Her mouth was half open, and her eyes stared straight before her at the blank wall of the yard, as though they saw a spectre.
“Lord have mercy on us, she is guilty!” thought Obadiah Gibbs. And at that moment if he could have hidden her crime from the eyes of all men, I believe he would have done it at the cost of a lie.
“Of course you’re not bound to say anything to me, you know, Mrs. Errington,” he went on, after a short pause. And as he spoke he bent nearer to her, to rouse her, for she seemed neither to hear nor to see him. “You’d better go home now at once, you don’t seem very strong.”
Still she did not move.
“Look here, Mrs. Errington, I—you may rely upon my not breaking a word—not one syllable to anybody else, if you—if you will try to make things straight again as far as in your power lies. Go home now, pray do!”
Still she did not move.
“You don’t look much able to walk, I fear. Shall I send the boy for a fly? Let me send for a fly?”
He softly touched her shoulder as he spoke, and she immediately turned her head and answered with a composure that startled him, “Yes; get me a fly.” Then she sat quite still again, staring at the wall as before.
Gibbs went out into the outer office and sent the boy for a vehicle. There he remained, pen in hand, behind his desk until the jingle of the fly was heard at the door. He went back himself to the private office to call Castalia, and found her sitting in exactly the same place and attitude. She rose mechanically to her feet when he told her the fly was ready, but as she began to walk towards the door she staggered and caught at Gibbs’s arm. He supported her with a sort of quiet gravity;—much as if he had been her old servant, and she a cripple whose infirmity was a matter of course,—which showed much delicacy of feeling, and as they neared the door he said in her ear, “Take my advice, ma’am, and tell your husband the truth.” She turned her eyes on him with a singular look, but said nothing. “Tell him the truth! and—and look upward. Lift your heart in prayer. There is a fountain of grace and love ready for all who seek it!”
“Not for me,” she answered in a very low but distinct voice.
“Oh, my poor soul, don’t say so! Don’t think so!”
By this time she was in the carriage, having been almost lifted into it by Gibbs. She was perfectly quiet and tearless, and as the vehicle drove away, and Gibbs stood watching it disappear, he said to himself that her face was as the face of a corpse.
Castalia was driven home, and walked up the path of the tiny garden in front of Ivy Lodge with a step much like her ordinary one. She went into the drawing-room and looked about her curiously, as if she were a stranger seeing the place for the first time. Then she sat down for a minute, still in her bonnet and shawl. But she got up again quickly from the sofa, holding her hand to her throat as if she were choking, and went out to the garden behind the house, and from thence to the meadows near the river. There was at the bottom of the garden, and outside of it, a miserable, dilapidated wooden shed, euphoniously called a 佛山桑拿技师论坛 summer-house. There was a worm-eaten wooden bench in it looking towards the Whit, and commanding a view of the wide meadows on the other side of it, of a turn in the river, now lead-coloured beneath a dreary sky, and of the distant spire of Duckwell Church rising beyond the hazy woods of Pudcombe. No one ever entered this summer-house. It was rotting to pieces with damp and decay, and was inhabited by a colony of insects and a toad that squatted in one corner. In this wretched place Castalia sat down, being indeed unable to walk farther, but feeling a sensation of suffocation at the mere thought of returning to the house. She fancied she could not breathe there. A steaming mist was rising from the river and the damp meadows beyond it. The grey clouds seemed to touch the grey horizon. It was cold, and the last brown leaf or two,佛山桑拿论坛888 hanging, as it seemed, by a thread on the boughs of a tree just within sight from the summer-house, twirled, and shook, and shuddered in the slight gusts of wind that arose now and again. There was not a sound to be heard except the mournful lowing of some cattle in a distant field, until all at once a movement of the air brought from Whitford the sound of the old chimes muffled by the heavy atmosphere. There sat Castalia and stared at the river, and the mist, and the brown withered leaves, much as she had stared at the blank yard wall in the office.
“My heart is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me!”
She heard a voice saying these words distinctly. She did not start. She scarcely felt surprise. The direful lamentation 佛山夜生活桑拿论坛 was in harmony with all she saw, and heard, and felt.
Again the voice spoke: “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee and were delivered; they trusted in thee and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people!”
Castalia heard, scarcely listening. The words flowed by her like a tune that brings tears to the eyes by mere sympathy with its sad sound.
Presently a man passed before her, walking with an unequal pace—now quick, now slow, now stopping outright. He had his hands clasped at the back of his neck; his head was bent down, and he was talking aloud to himself.
“Aye, there have been such. The lot has fallen upon me. I know it with a sure knowledge. It is borne in upon me with a certainty that pierces through bone and 佛山南海按摩 marrow. I am of the number of those that go down to the pit. Why, O Lord—Nay! though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him. For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.”
He stopped in his walk; stood
still for a second or two, and then turned to pace back again. In so doing he saw Castalia. She also looked full at him, and recognised the Methodist preacher. David Powell went up to her without hesitation. He remembered her at once; and he remembered, too, in a confused way, something of what Mrs. Thimbleby had been recently telling him about dissensions between this woman and her husband; of unhappiness and quarrels; and—what was that the widow had said of young Mrs. Errington being jealous of Rhoda? Ah, yes! He had it all now.
The time had been when David Powell would have had 佛山桑拿按摩洗浴中心 to wrestle hard with indignation against anyone who should have spoken evil of Rhoda. He would have felt a hot, human flush of anger; and would have combated it as a stirring of the unregenerate man within him. But all such feelings were over with him. No ray from the outside world appeared able to pierce the gloom which had gathered thicker and thicker in his own mind, unless it touched his sense of sympathy with suffering. He was still sensitive to that, as certain chemicals are to the light.
He went close up to Castalia, and said, without any preliminary or usual greeting, “You are in affliction. Have you called upon the Lord? Have you cast your burthen upon him? He is a good shepherd. He will carry the weary and footsore of his flock lest they faint by the way and perish utterly.”
It was noticeable when he spoke that 佛山桑拿按摩飞机场 his voice, which had been of such full sweetness, was now hoarse, and even harsh here and there, like a fine instrument that has been jarred. This did not seem to be altogether due to physical causes; for there still came out of his mouth every now and then a tone that was exquisitely musical. But the discord seemed to be in the spirit that moved the voice, and could not guide it with complete freedom and mastery.
Castalia shook her head impatiently, and turned her eyes away from him. But she did not do so with any of her old hauteur and intimation of the vast distance which separated her from her humbler fellow-creatures. Pain of mind had familiarised her with the conception that she held her humanity in common with a very heterogeneous multitude. Had Powell been a sleek, smug personage like Brother Jackson, veiling profound self-complacency under the technical announcement 佛山桑拿按摩 of himself as a miserable sinner, she might have turned from him in disgust. As it was, she felt merely the unwillingness to be disturbed, of a creature in whom the numbness of apathy has succeeded to acute anguish. She wanted to be rid of him. He looked at her with the yearning pity which was so fundamental a part of his nature. “Pray!” he said, clasping his hands together. “Go to your Father, which is in Heaven, and He shall give you rest. Oh, God loves you—he loves you!”
“No one loves me,” returned Castalia, with white rigid lips. Then she got up from the bench, and went back into her own garden and into the house, with the air of a person walking in sleep.
Powell looked after her sadly. “If she would but pray!” he murmured. “I would pray for her. I would wrestle with the Lord on her behalf. But—of late I have feared more and more that my prayers are not acceptable; that 佛山夜生活桑拿论坛 my voice is an abomination to the Lord.”
He resumed his walk along the river bank, speaking aloud, and gesticulating to himself as he went.
Meanwhile, Castalia wandered about her own house “like a ghost,” as the servants said. She went from the little dining-room to the drawing-room, and then she painfully mounted the steep staircase to her bed-room, opened the door of her husband’s little dressing-closet, shut it again, and went downstairs once more. She could not sit still; she could not read; she could not even think. She could only suffer, and move about restlessly, as if with a dim instinctive idea of escaping from her suffering. Presently she began to open the drawers of a little toy cabinet in the drawing-room, and examine their contents, as if she had never seen them before. From that she went to a window-seat, made hollow, and with a cushioned lid, so that it served as a seat and a box, and began to rummage among its contents. These consisted chiefly of valueless scraps, odds and ends, put there to be hidden and out of the way. Among them were some of poor Mrs. Errington’s wedding-presents to her son and daughter-in-law. Castalia’s maid, Slater, had unceremoniously consigned these to oblivion, together with a few other old-fashioned articles, under the generic name of “rubbish.” There was a pair of hand-screens elaborately embroidered in silk, very faded and out of date. Mrs. Errington declared them to be the work of her grand-aunt, the beautiful Miss Jacintha Ancram, who made such a great match, and became a Marchioness. There was an ancient carved ivory fan, yellow with age, brought by a cadet of the house of Ancram from India, as a present to some forgotten sweetheart. There was a little cardboard box, covered with fragments of raised rice-paper, arranged in a pattern. This was the work of Mrs. Errington’s own hands in her school-girl days, and was of the kind called then, if I mistake not, “filagree work.” Castalia took these and other things out of the window-seat, and examined them and put them back, one by one, moving exactly like an automaton figure that had been wound up to perform those motions. When she came to the filagree box, she opened that too. There was a Tonquin bean in it, filling the box with its faint sweet odour. There was a pair of gold buckles, that seemed to be attenuated with age; and a garnet-brooch, with one or two stones missing. And then at the bottom of the box was something flat, wrapped in silver paper. She unwrapped it and looked at it.