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A BITTER LIFE.
By the end of the week, Norah knew the names and histories of nearly every one in Clack, being indebted to Miss Clacker for the information"; and she would repeat all to her sisters, with such an exact imitation of Crocodilla's manner, that no one would imagine, who heard their frequent peals of laughter, that they had lately had a fall in the world. Bell imitated Mr. Theodore just as exactly, and the two were for ever inventing new scenes and dialogues for the display of their powers of mimicry.
Mr. Murkitroyd had called and seen the whole family—a very quiet, demure set of young ladies they seemed during that first visit; but no one else had been, it not being
etiquette for Clackites to call until the new comers had shown themselves in church.
This matter of who should visit them, and who should not, was meantime a subject of much doubt and anxiety. The chief tradespeople were rather afraid of venturing to take the liberty; and the professionals hardly liked opening their ranks to trade. Miss Wright, the surgeon's granddaughter, lately home from a finishing school in York, had neither doubt nor scruple. “Poor things!” she said, with kindly patronage; “I am sure I will do my best to reconcile them. I was longing for some companions ; they can't help living over a shop, I am sure; I don't mind visiting there if they are nice girls.” Mr. Murkitroyd, in whose presence she said this, smiled a peculiar smile, but made no remark; while others of Miss Wright's friends complimented her on her goodness.
"To be sure they are Shruggs,” said Mrs. Clark, the lawyer's wife ; “but Mrs. Francis isn't a Yorkshirewoman, and hadn't any fortune. We must be careful about her, you know ; south country people are generally poor, weak, silly creatures. I shan't make up my mind to call till I've had a look at them. I wonder if the Dales will notice them on Sunday.”
“Mr. Dale must, I should say,” said the Wesleyan parson's wife ; “for he and Mr. Francis were almost brought up together; but you can't expect Mrs. Dale to,-eh? I almost wish I was a churchwoman, just to see all next Sunday.”
Miss Wright, who on account of her liberal education was considered rather an authority on points of etiquette, here smilingly interposed. “Oh, yes !” she said ; “ Mrs. Dale will very likely be introduced, and will bow to them all kindly; but of course she won't have them at The Chase, nor shake hands when she meets them ; she'll behave to them as you and I behave to our tradesfolks' wives, with affability; nothing more.”.
“ There's that young John Dale,” the lawyer's wife continued : “they say he's very fond of a pretty face. They'd better mind, he doesn't get over friendly.”
Again Miss Wright smiled, “ Mr. John Dale must be well accustomed to pretty faces,” she exclaimed. “I shouldn't think any of these are pretty, either,—London girls seldom are. You've seen them,” she added, turning to Mr. Murkitroyd ; "are they nice looking ?”
Mr. Murkitroyd's eyes always seemed to acquire a mischievous expression when he looked at Miss Wright; and now they had a very roguish twinkle. “Are they pretty?” he said. “Well, I shouldn't call them pretty, exactly.”
Miss Wright shook her curls in triumph. “ Ah!” she exclaimed. “I thought I was right; London girls always look washed out and sickly, but our Yorkshire air will improve them. I'm sure I hope so, poor things!”
Totally unconscious of this sensation, the
Shrugg family went to church to be stared at furtively by the élite, and gazed at openly by the vulgar.
Mr. Theodore was in a narrow pew, immediately behind the large, high, square pew belonging to the old dower house; and when his connections entered, he stood up beaming with smiles to usher them in, as it were. A delicious odour of lavender water was wafted from him; and he dropped a packet of lozenges over for the young ladies' refreshment during the service. He was on the alert too to see if they had the right hymn; and every now and then he looked across the aisle to where Mr. Murkitroyd sat—and it was an unusual circumstance for that gentleman to go to morning service—with a triumphant air, as if to challenge his opinion of the fair sisterhood kneeling before him. Good Mr. Church, reverently praying in the reading-desk, might have been altogether silent for any attention given by the majority of the congregation