that the foundation-stone of the chapel about to be erected would be laid that afternoon at three o'clock by a London preacher of great popularity among his body.
Having ascertained thus much the immensely weeded widow retraced her steps, and gave herself leisure to observe the movements of the fair. By and by her attention was arrested by a little stall of cakes and ginger-breads, standing between the more pretentious erections of trestles and canvas. It was covered with an immaculate cloth, and tended by a young woman apparently unused to the business, she being accompanied by a boy with an octogenarian face, who assisted her.
`Upon my - senses!' murmured the widow to herself. `His wife Sue - if she is so!' She drew nearer to the stall. `How do you do, Mrs. Fawley?' she said blandly.
Sue changed colour and recognized Arabella through the crape veil.
`How are you, Mrs. Cartlett?' she said stiffly. And then perceiving Arabella's garb her voice grew sympathetic in spite of herself. `What? - you have lost - - '
`My poor husband. Yes. He died suddenly, six weeks ago, leaving me none too well off, though he was a kind husband to me. But whatever profit there is in public-house keeping goes to them that brew the liquors, and not to them that retail 'em.... And you, my little old man! You don't know me, I expect?'
`Yes, I do. You be the woman I thought wer my mother for a bit, till I found you wasn't,' replied Father Time, who had learned to use the Wessex tongue quite naturally by now.
`All right. Never mind. I am a friend.'
`Juey,' said Sue suddenly, `go down to the station platform with this tray - there's another train coming in, I think.'
When he was gone Arabella continued: `He'll never be a beauty, will he, poor chap! Does he know I am his mother really?'
`No. He thinks there is some mystery about his parentage - that's all. Jude is going to tell him when he is a little older.'
`But how do you come to be doing this? I am surprised.'
`It is only a temporary occupation - a fancy of ours while we are in a difficulty.'
`Then you are living with him still?'
`And another coming soon, I see.'
Sue writhed under the hard and direct questioning, and her tender little mouth began to quiver.
`Lord - I mean goodness gracious - what is there to cry about? Some folks would be proud enough!'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|