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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 28. Mrs. Brattle's Journey
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 28. Mrs. Brattle's Journey Post by :robbud Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :3682

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 28. Mrs. Brattle's Journey

CHAPTER XXVIII. MRS. BRATTLE'S JOURNEY

Mrs. Brattle was waiting at the stile opposite to Mr. Gilmore's gate as Mr. Fenwick drove up to the spot. No doubt the dear old woman had been there for the last half-hour, thinking that the walk would take her twice as long as it did, and fearing that she might keep the Vicar waiting. She had put on her Sunday clothes and her Sunday bonnet, and when she climbed up into the vacant place beside her friend she found her position to be so strange that for a while she could hardly speak. He said a few words to her, but pressed her with no questions, understanding the cause of her embarrassment. He could not but think that of all his parishioners no two were so unlike each other as were the miller and his wife. The one was so hard and invincible;--the other so soft and submissive! Nevertheless it had always been said that Brattle had been a tender and affectionate husband. By degrees the woman's awe at the horse and gig and strangeness of her position wore off, and she began to talk of her daughter. She had brought a little bundle with her, thinking that she might supply feminine wants, and had apologised humbly for venturing to come so laden. Fenwick, who remembered what Carry had said about money that she still had, and who was nearly sure that the murderers had gone to Pycroft Common after the murder had been committed, had found a difficulty in explaining to Mrs. Brattle that her child was probably not in want. The son had been accused of the murder of the man, and now the Vicar had but little doubt that the daughter was living on the proceeds of the robbery. "It's a hard life she must be living, Mr. Fenwick, with an old 'ooman the likes of that," said Mrs. Brattle. "Perhaps if I'd brought a morsel of some'at to eat--"

"I don't think they're pressed in that way, Mrs. Brattle."

"Ain't they now? But it's a'most worse, Mr. Fenwick, when one thinks where it's to come from. The Lord have mercy on her, and bring her out of it!"

"Amen," said the Vicar.

"And is she bright at all, and simple still? She was the brightest, simplest lass in all Bull'ompton, I used to think. I suppose her old ways have a'most left her, Mr. Fenwick?"

"I thought her very like what she used to be."

"'Deed now, did you, Mr. Fenwick? And she wasn't mopish and slatternly like?"

"She was tidy enough. You wouldn't wish me to say that she was happy?"

"I suppose not, Mr. Fenwick. I shouldn't ought;--ought I, now? But, Mr. Fenwick, I'd give my left hand she should be happy and gay once more. I suppose none but a mother feels it, but the sound of her voice through the house was ever the sweetest music I know'd on. It'll never have the same ring again, Mr. Fenwick."

He could not tell her that it would. That sainted sinner of whom he had reminded Mr. Puddleham, though she had attained to the joy of the Lord,--even she had never regained the mirth of her young innocence. There is a bloom on the flower which may rest there till the flower has utterly perished, if the handling of it be sufficiently delicate;--but no care, nothing that can be done by friends on earth, or even by better friendship from above, can replace that when once displaced. The sound of which the mother was thinking could never be heard again from Carry Brattle's voice. "If we could only get her home once more," said the Vicar, "she might be a good daughter to you still."

"I'd be a good mother to her, Mr. Fenwick;--but I'm thinking he'll never have it so. I never knew him to change on a thing like that, Mr. Fenwick. He felt it that keenly, it nigh killed 'im. Only that he took it out o' hisself in thrashing that wicked man, I a'most think he'd a' died o' it."

Again the Vicar drove to the Bald-faced Stag, and again he walked along the road and over the common. He offered his arm to the old woman, but she wouldn't accept it; nor would she upon any entreaty allow him to carry her bundle. She assured him that his doing so would make her utterly wretched, and at last he gave up the point. She declared that she suffered nothing from fatigue, and that her two miles' walk would not be more than her Sunday journey to church and back. But as she drew near to the house she became uneasy, and once asked to be allowed to pause for a moment. "May be, then," said she, "after all, my girl'd rather that I wouldn't trouble her." He took her by the arm and led her along, and comforted her,--assuring her that if she would take her child in her arms Carry would for the moment be in a heaven of happiness. "Take her into my arms, Mr. Fenwick? Why,--isn't she in my very heart of hearts at this moment? And I won't say not a word sharp to her;--not now, Mr. Fenwick. And why would I say sharp words at all? I suppose she understands it all."

"I think she does, Mrs. Brattle."

They had now reached the door, and the Vicar knocked. No answer came at once; but such had been the case when he knocked before. He had learned to understand that in such a household it might not be wise to admit all comers without consideration. So he knocked again,--and then again. But still there came no answer. Then he tried the door, and found that it was locked. "May be she's seen me coming," said the mother, "and now she won't let me in." The Vicar then went round the cottage, and found that the back door also was closed. Then he looked in at one of the front windows, and became aware that no one was sitting, at least in the kitchen. There was an upstairs room, but of that the window was closed.

"I begin to fear," he said, "that neither of them is at home."

At this moment he heard the voice of a woman calling to him from the door of the nearest cottage,--one of the two brick tenements which stood together,--and from her he learned that Mrs. Burrows had gone into Devizes, and would not probably be home till the evening. Then he asked after Carry, not mentioning her name, but speaking of her as the young woman who lived with Mrs. Burrows. "Her young man come and took her up to Lon'on o' Saturday," said the woman.

Fenwick heard the words, but Mrs. Brattle did not hear them. It did not occur to him not to believe the woman's statement, and all his hopes about the poor creature were at once dashed to the ground. His first feeling was no doubt one of resentment, that she had broken her word to him. She had said that she would not go within a month without letting him know that she was going; and there is no fault, no vice, that strikes any of us so strongly as falsehood or injustice against ourselves. And then the nature of the statement was so terrible! She had gone back into utter degradation and iniquity. And who was the young man? As far as he could obtain a clue, through the information which had reached him from various sources, this young man must be the companion of the Grinder in the murder and robbery of Mr. Trumbull. "She has gone away, Mrs. Brattle," said he, with as sad a voice as ever a man used.

"And where be she gone to, Mr. Fenwick? Cannot I go arter her?" He simply shook his head and took her by the arm to lead her away. "Do they know nothing of her, Mr. Fenwick?"

"She has gone away; probably to London. We must think no more about her, Mrs. Brattle--at any rate for the present. I can only say that I am very, very sorry that I brought you here."

The drive back to Bullhampton was very silent and very sad. Mrs. Brattle had before her the difficulty of explaining her journey to her husband, together with the feeling that the difficulty had been incurred altogether for nothing. As for Fenwick, he was angry with himself for his own past enthusiasm about the girl. After all, Mr. Chamberlaine had shown himself to be the wiser man of the two. He had declared it to be no good to take up special cases, and the Vicar as he drove himself home notified to himself his assent with the Prebendary's doctrine. The girl had gone off the moment she had ascertained that her friends were aware of her presence and situation. What to her had been the kindness of her clerical friend, or the stories brought to her from her early home, or the dirt and squalor of the life which she was leading? The moment that there was a question of bringing her back to the decencies of the world, she escaped from her friends and hurried back to the pollution which, no doubt, had charms for her. He had allowed himself to think that in spite of her impurity, she might again be almost pure, and this was his reward! He deposited the poor woman at the spot at which he had taken her up, almost without a word, and then drove himself home with a heavy heart. "I believe it will be best to be like her father, and never to name her again," said he to his wife.

"But what has she done, Frank?"

"Gone back to the life which I suppose she likes best. Let us say no more about it,--at any rate for the present. I'm sick at heart when I think of it."

Mrs. Brattle, when she got over the stile close to her own home, saw her husband standing at the mill door. Her heart sank within her, if that could be said to sink which was already so low. He did not move, but stood there with his eyes fixed upon her. She had hoped that she might get into the house unobserved by him, and learn from Fanny what had taken place; but she felt so like a culprit that she hardly dared to enter the door. Would it not be best to go to him at once, and ask his pardon for what she had done? When he spoke to her, which he did at last, his voice was a relief to her. "Where hast been, Maggie?" he asked. She went up to him, put her hand on the lappet of his coat and shook her head. "Best go in and sit easy, and hear what God sends," he said. "What's the use of scouring about the country here and there?"

"There has been no use in it to-day, feyther," she said.

"There arn't no use in it,--not never," he said; and after that there was no more about it. She went into the house and handed the bundle to Fanny, and sat down on the bed and cried. On the following morning Frank Fenwick received the following letter:--


London, Sunday.

HONOURED SIR,

I told you that I would write if it came as I was going
away, but I've been forced to go without writing. There
was nothing to write with at the cottage. Mrs. Burrows
and me had words, and I thought as she would rob me, and
perhaps worse. She is a bad woman, and I could stand it no
longer, so I just come up here, as there was nowhere else
for me to find a place to lie down in. I thought I'd just
write and tell you, because of my word; but I know it
isn't no use.

I'd send my respects and love to father and mother, if I
dared. I did think of going over; but I know he'd kill me,
and so he ought. I'd send my respects to Mrs. Fenwick,
only that I isn't fit to name her;--and my love to sister
Fanny. I've come away here, and must just wait till I die.

Yours humbly, and most unfortunate,

CARRY.

If it's any good to be sorry, nobody can be more sorry
than me, and nobody more unhappy. I did try to pray when
you was gone, but it only made me more ashamed. If there
was only anywhere to go to, I'd go.

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