`I have been busy,' I said, for an apology was evidently demanded.
`Busy!' repeated he, derisively.
`Yes; you know I've been getting in my hay: and now the harvest is beginning.'
Just then my mother came in, and created a diversion in my favour by her loquacious and animated welcome of the reverend guest. She regretted deeply that he had not come a little earlier, in time for tea, but offered to have some immediately prepared, if he would do her the favour to partake of it.
`Not any for me, I thank you,' replied he; `I shall be at home in a few minutes.'
`Oh, but do stay and take a little! it will be ready in five minutes.'
But he rejected the offer with a majestic wave of the hand.
`I'll tell you what I'll take, Mrs Markham,' said he: `I'll take a glass of your excellent ale.'
`With pleasure!' cried my mother, proceeding with alacrity to pull.the bell and order the favoured beverage.
`I thought,' continued he, `I'd just look in upon you as I passed, and taste your home-brewed ale. I've been to call on Mrs Graham.'
`Have you indeed?'
He nodded gravely, and added with awful emphasis--
I thought it incumbent upon me to do so.'
`Really!' ejaculated my mother.
`Why so, Mr Millward?' asked I. He looked at me with some severity, and turning again to my mother, repeated--
`I thought it incumbent upon me!' and struck his stick on the floor again. My mother sat opposite, an awe-struck but admiring auditor.
`"Mrs Graham," said I,' he continued, shaking his head as he spoke, `"these are terrible reports!" "What sir?" says she, affecting to be ignorant of my meaning. "It is my--duty--as--your pastor," said I, "to tell you both everything that I myself see reprehensible in your conduct, and all I have reason to suspect, and what others tell me concerning you"--So I told her!'
`You did sir?' cried I, starting from my seat, and striking my fist on the table. He merely glanced towards me, and continued--addressing his hostess:
`It was a painful duty, Mrs Markham--but I told her!'
`And how did she take it?' asked my mother.
`Hardened, I fear--hardened!' he replied, with a despondent shake of the head; `and at the same time, there was a strong display of unchastened, misdirected passions. She turned white in the face, and drew her breath through her teeth in a savage sort of way;--but she offered no extenuation or defence; and with a kind of shameless calmness--shocking indeed to witness, in one so young--as good as told me that my remonstrance was unavailing, and my pastoral advice quite thrown away upon her--nay, that my very presence was displeasing while I spoke such things. And I withdrew at length, too plainly seeing
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