But if she had despaired in truth, what use to look at all? Yet according to the epigram made by a good Blundellite,—

Despair was never yet so deep
   In sinking as in seeming;
Despair is hope just dropped asleep
   For better chance of dreaming.

And mother’s dream was a happy one, when she knew my step at a furlong distant; for the night was of those that carry sound thrice as far as day can. She recovered herself, when she was sure, and even made up her mind to scold me, and felt as if she could do it. But when she was in my arms, into which she threw herself, and I by the light of the moon descried the silver gleam on one side of her head (now spreading since Annie’s departure), bless my heart and yours therewith, no room was left for scolding. She hugged me, and she clung to me; and I looked at her, with duty made tenfold, and discharged by love. We said nothing to one another; but all was right between us.

Even Lizzie behaved very well, so far as her nature admitted; not even saying a nasty thing all the time she was getting my supper ready, with a weak imitation of Annie. She knew that the gift of cooking was not vouchsafed by God to her; but sometimes she would do her best, by intellect to win it. Whereas it is no more to be won by intellect than is divine poetry. An amount of strong quick heart is needful, and the understanding must second it, in the one art as in the other. Now my fare was very choice for the next three days or more; yet not turned out like Annie’s. They could do a thing well enough on the fire; but they could not put it on table so; nor even have plates all piping hot. This was Annie’s special gift; born in her, and ready to cool with her; like a plate borne away from the fireplace. I sighed sometimes about Lorna, and they thought it was about the plates. And mother would stand and look at me, as much as to say, ‘No pleasing him’; and Lizzie would jerk up one shoulder, and cry, ‘He had better have Lorna to cook for him’; while the whole truth was that I wanted not to be plagued about any cookery; but just to have something good and quiet, and then smoke and think about Lorna.

Nevertheless the time went on, with one change and another; and we gathered all our harvest in; and Parson Bowden thanked God for it, both in church and out of it; for his tithes would be very goodly. The unmatched cold of the previous winter, and general fear of scarcity, and our own talk about our ruin, had sent prices up to a grand high pitch; and we did our best to keep them there. For nine Englishmen out of every ten believe that a bitter winter must breed a sour summer, and explain away topmost prices. While according to my experience, more often it would be otherwise, except for the public thinking so. However, I have said too much; and if any farmer reads my book, he will vow that I wrote it for nothing else except to rob his family.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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