|Chapter Title||MRS. BROWN'S FAILURE.|
|Newspaper Title||Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953)|
|Trove Title||Christmas at Thompson Hall|
THE NOVEILIST. CHRISTMAS AT THOMP; SON' HALL. ' BY ANTHONY TROLLOPE.' (From the Sydnh y Mail.) Continucd. CHAPT.ER II. inns. IUO5WN'8 FAILURE. With her eye still fixed upon lidr Sbrdea, she glanced up at the number of the door-333. She had been determined all through not to forget that. Then she urned thbo latch and crept in.' Thechasmber osli irvas'drk after the gaslight on the stairs, but that was so much the ' better. She herself had put out the two candles on the dressing-table before she had left her husband. As shie was closing the door behind her she paused, and could hear that he was sleeping. ,She was well aware that she had been long absent--quite lonhg.enouglh fota a' tkn to fall ilto slumber who was given that way. She must havo been gone, she thouglht, fully an hour. There brid been no end to' that turning over of .eapkins which oho had so well known to be altogether vain. She paused at the centre table of the room, still leaking at the mustard, which she nos delicately dritd from :off her. hand. She had had ust idea that it would have been so difficult to carry so light and do mall an affair. But there it was, and nothing had been lost. She took some small . initrument. from the washing-stand, and with the handle collected the flowing fragments into the centre. Then the question occur fed to .her whether, as her husband was sleeping so' sweetly, it would ;be well to disturb him.' She listened again, and felt that .the slight murmur of a'snbre, with whdch her earis wetr iegaled was altogetlioe freeo from any 'eal malady in the throat. Then it c6urred to her that, after all, fatigue perhaps had only made him 'cross. She bethought herself how,;during the *hole journey, :she- hIadi'failed' to believe in his illness. What meals ho had eaten I How thoroughly he had been able to enjoy his full complement of cigars And 'then 'thit glass"of 'brandy, against; which she had raised her voice slightly-In feminino opposi lion. And nowhlie wad sleojiig ttere like an infant, with fisl!,round, 'pbr. footed, almost sonorous workings of the throat. Who does not know that sound, almost of two rusty bits of iron scratching against each other,-wIii?eli come from:.a :sufferilg :wiud.pipoI? There wi.s n'rd 'seblahco bf*'linit iered. Why disturb.. him ', iweie !be was so thoroughly" enjoyiig ilie r~st' whichli more certainly than 'nylhing else, would fit him-for the fatigue of the iorrow's journey ? -. . I think that, after all her labour, she M*ould have left the pungeont ctaplasnm on the table, and have crept geontly into bed beside him,- had not a thought suddenly struck her of the great injury he had. been doing hess.if he were not really ill. ¶to send her, down therB;tln i strange hotel, 1vandeaing among. the passages, in theo middle of the night, subject to: the contduroly of aiiyinei who might eeet her, oht a commission which, if it were-: not sanctified by absolute necessity; ifould.. lio. so thoroughly objectlioable'l '` At. "this inoment she hardly'did believe that he had ever really been ill. Let him have the cetaplanm ) if not as a remedy, then ass punishment. It eodld, lt any i;ate, do him no harm. t It ~ as with an ideloa of avenging rather than. of justifying the past Inbours of the night that she proceeded at once to quick action. Leaving the eandle on the tshlo so that sho might steady hIer right hand with her left, she hurried stealthily to the cidsidle. Even though hie ,iws behaving badlly to hue, sheo Willld not cause hiim' discomfoi't Iby waking him roughly. She wonuihl ,do a wilou's duty to him as a British lt nulu'o shoulld. She would not ouly' put the waurm mixture on his ceck, but would sit carefully by him for twenty minutes, so that ahe might relieve lilm fromis it
when the proper period should have come for removing the countor.irri tation from his thront. There 'would doubtless be some little difficulty in Ihls,-in collecting the mustard after it have served her purpose. Had she been at home, surrounded by her .own comforts, the application would have been made with some delicatoe liron bag, througli" which the pungency of the spice would have penetrated with strength sutielont for the purpose. ,But the circumstance of the occasiont had not admitted 'this. 8lte bad, she felt, done wonders in achieving so much succeie as this which she hand obtained. If the e'should'Ue anything disagreeableo in the operation he must submit' to 'it. He had asked for mustard for his throat, and mustard lie .shouldhavo. As these thoughts "passed quiciekly through her mind, leading over him in the dark," with her eye fixed on the mixture lest it should slip, shea gently, raised' his flowing beard with her loeft hand, and, with her 'othe'r inverted rapidly,' steadily but ver'y softly fixed the handkerchief on his throat. From the bottom of his chin to to the spot at which the collar bones meeting together formn the orifice ofT the chest it covered the whole noble expanse; ' There was batrely time for a glance, but never had she been more corsoious.of the grand proportionsoof that mainly'- throat. A' sweet feelilg' 6f pity came upon her, ecausing hIorto deter mine !tohrelieve his sufferings in the shorter space 'of fifteen 'minutes. He had been-lying on his back, with his lips' apart,. and as she held back his beard,., that and her hand nearly, covered the features of his faice. iut 'he made no violent effort to free him. self from the encounter. He did not even move an arm or a leg. He simply emitted a snore louder than any that had come before. She was aware that it was not his wont to be so loud-thlat there was generally something more delicate and perhaps more querulous in his nocturnal voice, but then the presentc.:circumstacese were except tional. Sihe dropped the beard very softly-antd there oerth. pillow before hoer lay the face of a stranger. She had put the o.mustard plaster on the wrong mah. -Not Priam wakened in' the dead of night, not.Dido when first she learned that JEucas had fled, not Othello when he 'leairned that Dosdemonos 'had' been chaste, not Medea when she becumbr conscious of' her slaughtered children, could have been more struck with horror than was this lBritislrmatron as she stood for a moment gating with awe on that stranger's'bed. One vain, half-completed, . snatching grasp sithe made .at tire handkerchief, and then drew back her hand. If she were to touch him would he snot wake at once, and find her stanuding there in his bed. room? And .then how could shoe ex plain it? By what words could she so quickly make him' know the' circurm stanees of that strange occurrence that he should accept it all before he had said a word that might offend her? For a moment site stood all but para Ived after that faint ineffectual move. eant ofher arm.. Thouen he stirred his head uneasily on the pillow, opened wider his lips, and twice in rapid' sue. aossion snored louddrr than before. She started" back a couple of paces, andt with her body placed between him and the candle, with her face averted, but with her hand still resting ois the, foot of the bed, she endeavourod to .think what duty required of he',. She had' injured the man. Though she had done it most unwittingly, there could be 'no doubt but thlat she had injured ;him. If for.a moment 'she could be' brave, the injury might ir 'truth . be 'little; but ihowl disastrdus miglt.be the censeeluchces if she were now ins her cowardice to leave him, who could tell? Applied for fifteen or tisiety, minutes a mustard plaster may be .the isalvitilon of ai throat ill at case, but if left;througllout the night upon the neck of a strong mAn, ailing' ioth. ing, only too prone 'in his strength to selumber sounidly, ho eand, how painful, for auiglit sihe knew how dangerous, might be the effdctsl And surely it was-an 'error which any man with a heartl in his bosom would pardon! Judging from what little she had seos of hllm she thought that lhe must have a heart in his bosom. Was it notl her duty to wake him, and then quietly to extricato hhnim from the oembarrassmont whtlsh she had brought upon him? Buet in doing this " whatv words should she use? Ilow should sihe wiake himP? Iow shoull shle' maike him understandl her' goodnerss, her benefllence, hot seieso.of dirty, before ho should have jumped frnm the bed and.rushed io thiu bull, and have sum. inoiled all above and all below t to the rescue? ' Si' sir, tdo riot move, do not stir, 1do' not s?ri'enle.. I harvo liput it niusiard-pjaster on your throat, thinlk. ing 'tlia you .were my lhsbhrndl. As yet le harmr Ihnas bee done. Ltut mo take it bo, an.l thein holt your pence I for evert.' Where is the man of sulch nativeo coritarscy and grace of spirit that, at tub first mrmeornt of waking with a shock, hIe couhli hear tlhese wordrls frontlho mouth of an unknown womlrn bIy 'hiie bodalidel , ad at once noy thein to tie letter? Wolnhl lie silr uriely jump lionm his bed, with that horridi toipoeund filling nbout fieoi' whlichli there crlhl tie noi corn. pilete rlief Iiunils he wnehr1 keeCOp hils present ttlttludi without a motion, 'r.he picturio which presented itself to
hemind nos to his: probable conduct was so terrible that she: found herself unable to incur the risk. Then an.idea presented itself to her mind. We all know how'in a moment quick tlhoughths will courec tlhrough the subtle brain. Slhe wsOld find that poter and senti' him to explain it all. There shlould be o econcealment now. She woold tell the story and would bid him to find the neoissary.nid. Alast as shel told herself that site would do so, she knew well.. that sie wan' only running from the danger which'it was her duty to encounnter. Once again site put out hlier liand as thougl to re turn along the bed. Then thrice he snorted louder than befdro, and'moved up' his knee uneasily beneath, the clothes, as though the shatrpness of the mustard. were already working upon his skin. She watched him for a momenit'longer, and then, with the iandle in lier hand, she fled.' Poor humran nature! iHad': he been an'old man, even a middle-aged man, she would not have left him to his unmerited su'fferings. ' I' it was, though lshe completely recognised lier duty. and ktlew what justice and good ness demanded of her,'eho could, not do.it. But thereo was still loft to her that plan of' sending ithe :iigli't.porter to himn. It was not till shi was out of. the room and had gently closed the door behind her that site began to think herself h'owws'liad mlmadelo lth mistake With a..glane of:.ier eye site looked'up, and then saw the nuam ber on the door-353. Remarking to herself, with, t .Briten's ,tiiatural critieism:ion things Firence, thaf those horrid foreigners do not know how to make their figures, shlre scudded rather than ran along the corridor, and then down sortho stairs and dloeng anotheor passage,-so that, she, might .not'! be found' in the oneighbourlioed should the poor wman', is .:his agony rush rapidly' from )is bed, : ::: In 'thu confusion' of her:first escape site had hitttdly ventuied' to look for, her own passage,-nor did ele .in the least know how sio: had lost her way when .shie came. upstairs with the mustard inll her hand. But at the present moment her chief object was the night-porter.' .She went on. de scending till site came again to that vastlbule, and'looking up, at the clock saw. that it was now past 1. It was not' yet, midigighut whens, sheo left her husband, but sthe risas 'not nt' all as tonished .nat 'thel Ipse of!:time. It seemed to her n though. she., had passed a niight amonlg' these miseries. And, oh what a night! But there was yet much to b' done. Site must flud' that porter, and ithen roturn to her-own suffering busband. Ah--what now should she say to him! If ho should really be ill, how should shte assuage him? 'And yet htow more than ever necessary was it that. they should leavethat hotel early in the morning -that they should leave Paris by the very earliost and quickest train that would, take them as ,fugitives from their present dangers!. The door.of the salon. was. open, but:abe had no courage to go .in search of a second supply. Silo would have lcklied strength' to carry it up the stairs. Where now, eli, where,-was.that man? From the' .vestibule she made. her way into theo hall, but: everything seemed to be deserted. Through. tlte glass she could see a' light in the court beyond, bt siheo could not bring herself to endeavour even, ..to open the hall doors. And now sihe was very cotld-chilled to her very bones. 'All thin had been' done at Chi'istnas, autl' during suich severity of :weather as' had never before been experienced by living Parisianst. A feeling of great pity for herseolf gradually came upon lher. What wrong had . she done that sho should be so' grivnnouly 'punished? Why uhoulda she be drison to wander about In this way till her jlimbe were failing her? : Ad then, so absolutely important as it was that hlit' strength should 'support lier in the motiiufg I The man wvould not die oven though he were left there without aid, to rid IIhnself of the eatnpliasm as best'he might. ' Was it absolutely necccsosry thAntsehoshould disgrace herself? But'sho could not even procuro'the mtenue, of disgracing herself, if that lelling her' story to lioe night-porter woulltha ve beet n idisgrnoe. She did not fld him, and at last. resolved to make her way back to her own roan without further quest. Silo began to 'think si had dun all thaClint she tould tie. No uail was ever killed by a mustard plaster on his throIt. Ilis discomfint' at the worst wouit not ho worse than hienrs had been-or too pro bhably than that of her poor husbltul. So salo went back tip the stairs anti tlolng the passages, and made lher wsay oil this occasion to the door of Iiet: room without any dilliculty. .The way was so well.known to her that sihl could not but wonder tlhit she hod failed before, But now her hltndshadi been empty, tltd her eyoes ittl been at full command. She looketld p, autd there was the tunttllt or, tIanifost tuo' this occnsiont-333. She olptnedl tlhe dtoor most oilntly, thittilng titlt liar ltnutslsnd mtight lbue sleelping is aounltly its tlhat otlttr Itnn hltad sllt, Iandl' she crept into the roomul. Dllrling an exalminationi, a me'tdicil studnltt beillg naskedt tile questiUoii, L" Whe?II doels mortillention ct liln" roploed " WVhel voUt pop tie tsqueetioll and are answeroedl "No."