Chapter 49Arabella was preparing breakfast in the downstairs back room of this small, recently hired tenement of her father's. She put her head into the little pork-shop in front, and told Mr. Donn it was ready. Donn, endeavouring to look like a master pork-butcher, in a greasy blue blouse, and with a strap round his waist from which a steel dangled, came in promptly.
`You must mind the shop this morning,' he said casually. `I've to go and get some inwards and half a pig from Lumsdon, and to call elsewhere. If you live here you must put your shoulder to the wheel, at least till I get the business started!'
`Well, for to-day I can't say.' She looked deedily into his face. `I've got a prize upstairs.'
`Oh? What's that?'
`A husband - almost.'
`Yes. It's Jude. He's come back to me.'
`Your old original one? Well, I'm damned!'
`Well, I always did like him, that I will say.'
`But how does he come to be up there?' said Donn, humour-struck, and nodding to the ceiling.
`Don't ask inconvenient questions, Father. What we've to do is to keep him here till he and I are - as we were.'
`How was that?'
`Ah.... Well it is the rummest thing I ever heard of - marrying an old husband again, and so much new blood in the world! He's no catch, to my thinking. I'd have had a new one while I was about it.'
`It isn't rum for a woman to want her old husband back for respectability, though for a man to want his old wife back - well, perhaps it is funny, rather!' And Arabella was suddenly seized with a fit of loud laughter, in which her father joined more moderately.
`Be civil to him, and I'll do the rest,' she said when she had recovered seriousness. `He told me this morning that his head ached fit to burst, and he hardly seemed to know where he was. And no wonder, considering how he mixed his drink last night. We must keep him jolly and cheerful here for a day or two, and not let him go back to his lodging. Whatever you advance I'll pay back to you again. But I must go up and see how he is now, poor deary.'
Arabella ascended the stairs, softly opened the door of the first bedroom, and peeped in. Finding that her shorn Samson was asleep she entered to the bedside and stood regarding him. The fevered flush on his face from the debauch of the previous evening lessened the fragility of his ordinary appearance, and his long lashes, dark brows, and curly back hair and beard against the white pillow completed the physiognomy of one whom Arabella, as a woman of rank passions, still felt it worth while to recapture, highly important to recapture as a woman straitened both in means and in reputation. Her ardent gaze seemed to affect him; his quick breathing became suspended, and he opened his eyes.
`How are you now, dear?' said she. `It is I - Arabella.'
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