"Here, Ruth," said Mr. Benson, coming in from the garden, "here's a rose or two for you. I am sorry there are no more; I hoped I should have had my yellow rose out by this time, but the damask and the white are in a warmer corner, and have got the start."
Miss Benson and Leonard stood at the door, and watched her down the little passage-street till she was out of sight.
She had hardly touched the bell at Mr. Bradshaw's door, when Mary and Elizabeth opened it with boisterous glee.
"We saw you coming--we've been watching for you--we want you to come round the garden before tea; papa is not come in yet. Do come!"
She went round the garden with a little girl clinging to each arm. It was full of sunshine and flowers, and this made the contrast between it and the usual large family room (which fronted the north-east, and therefore had no evening sun to light up its cold, drab furniture) more striking than usual. It looked very gloomy. There was the great dining-table, heavy and square; the range of chairs, straight and square; the work-boxes, useful and square; the colouring of walls, and carpets, and curtains, all of the coldest description; everything was handsome, and everything was ugly. Mrs. Bradshaw was asleep in her easy-chair when they came in. Jemima had just put down her work, and, lost in thought, she leaned her cheek on her hand. When she saw Ruth she brightened a little, and went to her and kissed her. Mrs. Bradshaw jumped up at the sound of their entrance, and was wide awake in a moment.
"Oh! I thought your father was here," said she, evidently relieved to find that he had not come in and caught her sleeping.
"Thank you, Mrs. Denbigh, for coming to us to-night," said she, in the quiet tone in which she generally spoke in her husband's absence. When he was there, a sort of constant terror of displeasing him made her voice sharp and nervous; the children knew that many a thing passed over by their mother when their father was away was sure to be noticed by her when he was present, and noticed, too, in a cross and querulous manner, for she was so much afraid of the blame which on any occasion of their misbehaviour fell upon her. And yet she looked up to her husband with a reverence and regard, and a faithfulness of love, which his decision of character was likely to produce on a weak and anxious mind. He was a rest and a support to her, on whom she cast all her responsibilities; she was an obedient, unremonstrating wife to him; no stronger affection had ever brought her duty into conflict with any desire of her heart. She loved her children dearly, though they all perplexed her very frequently. Her son was her especial darling, because he very seldom brought her into any scrapes with his father; he was so cautious and prudent, and had the art of "keeping a calm sough" about any difficulty he might be in. With all her dutiful sense of the obligation, which her husband enforced upon her, to notice and tell him everything that was going wrong in the household, and especially among his children, Mrs. Bradshaw, somehow, contrived to be honestly blind to a good deal that was not praiseworthy in Master Richard.
Mr. Bradshaw came in before long, bringing with him Mr. Farquhar. Jemima had been talking to Ruth with some interest before then; but, on seeing Mr. Farquhar, she bent her head down over her work, went a little paler; and turned obstinately silent. Mr. Bradshaw longed to command her to speak; but even he had a suspicion that what she might say, when so commanded, might be rather worse in its effect than her gloomy silence; so he held his peace, and a discontented, angry kind of peace it was. Mrs. Bradshaw saw that something was wrong, but could not tell what; only she became every moment more trembling, and nervous, and irritable, and sent Mary and Elizabeth off on all sorts of contradictory errands to the servants, and made the tea twice as strong, and sweetened it twice as much as--usual, in hopes of pacifying her husband with good things.
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