Chapter 42In the afternoon Sue and the other people bustling about Kennetbridge fair could hear singing inside the placarded hoarding farther down the street. Those who peeped through the opening saw a crowd of persons in broadcloth, with hymn-books in their hands, standing round the excavations for the new chapel-walls. Arabella Cartlett and her weeds stood among them. She had a clear, powerful voice, which could be distinctly heard with the rest, rising and falling to the tune, her inflated bosom being also seen doing likewise.
It was two hours later on the same day that Anny and Mrs. Cartlett, having had tea at the Temperance Hotel, started on their return journey across the high and open country which stretches between Kennetbridge and Alfredston. Arabella was in a thoughtful mood; but her thoughts were not of the new chapel, as Anny at first surmised.
`No - it is something else,' at last said Arabella sullenly. `I came here to-day never thinking of anybody but poor Cartlett, or of anything but spreading the Gospel by means of this new tabernacle they've begun this afternoon. But something has happened to turn my mind another way quite. Anny, I've heard of un again, and I've seen her!'
`I've heard of Jude, and I've seen his wife. And ever since, do what I will, and though I sung the hymns wi' all my strength, I have not been able to help thinking about 'n; which I've no right to do as a chapel member.'
`Can't ye fix your mind upon what was said by the London preacher to-day, and try to get rid of your wandering fancies that way?'
`I do. But my wicked heart will ramble off in spite of myself!'
`Well - I know what it is to have a wanton mind o' my own, too! If you on'y knew what I do dream sometimes o' nights quite against my wishes, you'd say I had my struggles!' (Anny, too, had grown rather serious of late, her lover having jilted her.)
`What shall I do about it?' urged Arabella morbidly.
`You could take a lock of your late-lost husband's hair, and have it made into a mourning brooch, and look at it every hour of the day.'
`I haven't a morsel! - and if I had 'twould be no good.... After all that's said about the comforts of this religion, I wish I had Jude back again!'
`You must fight valiant against the feeling, since he's another's. And I've heard that another good thing for it, when it afflicts volupshious widows, is to go to your husband's grave in the dusk of evening, and stand a long while a-bowed down.'
`Pooh! I know as well as you what I should do; only I don't do it!'
They drove in silence along the straight road till they were within the horizon of Marygreen, which lay not far to the left of their route. They came to the junction of the highway and the cross-lane leading to that village, whose church-tower could be seen athwart the hollow. When they got yet farther on, and were passing the lonely house in which Arabella and Jude had lived during the first months of their marriage, and where the pig-killing had taken place, she could control herself no longer.
`He's more mine than hers!' she burst out. `What right has she to him, I should like to know! I'd take him from her if I could!'
`Fie, Abby! And your husband only six weeks gone! Pray against it!'
|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.|