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- Sylvia's Lovers - 50/104 -


There's nought between yo' and her, is there, Philip?'

'I ha' telled thee many a time that she and me is like brother and sister. She's no more thought on me nor I have for her. So be content wi't, for I'se not tell thee again.'

'Don't be vexed, Philip; if thou knew what it was to be in love, thou'd be always fancying things, just as I am.'

'I might be,' said Philip; 'but I dunnut think I should be always talking about my fancies.'

'I wunnot talk any more after this once, if thou'll just find out fra' thysel', as it were, what it is she has again' me. I'd go to chapel for iver with her, if that's what she wants. Just ask her, Philip.'

'It's an awkward thing for me to be melling wi',' said Hepburn, reluctantly.

'But thou said thee and she were like brother and sister; and a brother would ask a sister, and niver think twice about it.'

'Well, well,' replied Philip, 'I'll see what I can do; but, lad, I dunnot think she'll have thee. She doesn't fancy thee, and fancy is three parts o' love, if reason is t' other fourth.'

But somehow Philip could not begin on the subject with Hester. He did not know why, except that, as he said, 'it was so awkward.' But he really liked Coulson so much as to be anxious to do what the latter wished, although he was almost convinced that it would be of no use. So he watched his opportunity, and found Alice alone and at leisure one Sunday evening.

She was sitting by the window, reading her Bible, when he went in. She gave him a curt welcome, hearty enough for her, for she was always chary in her expressions of pleasure or satisfaction. But she took off her horn spectacles and placed them in the book to keep her place; and then turning more fully round on her chair, so as to face him, she said,--

'Well, lad! and how does it go on? Though it's not a day for t' ask about worldly things. But I niver see thee now but on Sabbath day, and rarely then. Still we munnot speak o' such things on t' Lord's day. So thee mun just say how t' shop is doing, and then we'll leave such vain talk.'

'T' shop is doing main an' well, thank ye, mother. But Coulson could tell yo' o' that any day.'

'I'd a deal rayther hear fra' thee, Philip. Coulson doesn't know how t' manage his own business, let alone half the business as it took John and Jeremiah's heads--ay, and tasked 'em, too--to manage. I've no patience with Coulson.'

'Why? he's a decent young fellow as ever there is in Monkshaven.'

'He may be. He's noane cut his wisdom-teeth yet. But, for that matter, there's other folks as far fra' sense as he is.'

'Ay, and farther. Coulson mayn't be so bright at all times as he might be, but he's a steady-goer, and I'd back him again' any chap o' his age i' Monkshaven.'

'I know who I'd sooner back in many a thing, Philip!' She said it with so much meaning that he could not fail to understand that he himself was meant, and he replied, ingenuously enough,--

'If yo' mean me, mother, I'll noane deny that in a thing or two I may be more knowledgeable than Coulson. I've had a deal o' time on my hands i' my youth, and I'd good schooling as long as father lived.'

'Lad! it's not schooling, nor knowledge, nor book-learning as carries a man through t' world. It's mother-wit. And it's noane schooling, nor knowledge, nor book-learning as takes a young woman. It's summat as cannot be put into words.'

'That's just what I told Coulson!' said Philip, quickly. 'He were sore put about because Hester had gi'en him the bucket, and came to me about it.'

'And what did thou say?' asked Alice, her deep eyes gleaming at him as if to read his face as well as his words. Philip, thinking he could now do what Coulson had begged of him in the neatest manner, went on,--

'I told him I'd help him all as I could---'

'Thou did, did thou? Well, well, there's nought sa queer as folks, that a will say,' muttered Alice, between her teeth.

'--but that fancy had three parts to do wi' love,' continued Philip, 'and it would be hard, may-be, to get a reason for her not fancying him. Yet I wish she'd think twice about it; he so set upon having her, I think he'll do himself a mischief wi' fretting, if it goes on as it is.'

'It'll noane go on as it is,' said Alice, with gloomy oracularness.

'How not?' asked Philip. Then, receiving no answer, he went on, 'He loves her true, and he's within a month or two on her age, and his character will bear handling on a' sides; and his share on t' shop will be worth hundreds a year afore long.'

Another pause. Alice was trying to bring down her pride to say something, which she could not with all her efforts.

'Maybe yo'll speak a word for him, mother,' said Philip, annoyed at her silence.

'I'll do no such thing. Marriages are best made wi'out melling. How do I know but what she likes some one better?'

'Our Hester's not th' lass to think on a young man unless he's been a-wooing on her. And yo' know, mother, as well as I do--and Coulson does too--she's niver given any one a chance to woo her; living half her time here, and t' other half in t' shop, and niver speaking to no one by t' way.'

'I wish thou wouldn't come here troubling me on a Sabbath day wi' thy vanity and thy worldly talk. I'd liefer by far be i' that world wheere there's neither marrying nor giving in marriage, for it's all a moithering mess here.' She turned to the closed Bible lying on the dresser, and opened it with a bang. While she was adjusting her spectacles on her nose, with hands trembling with passion, she heard Philip say,--

'I ask yo'r pardon, I'm sure. I couldn't well come any other day.'

'It's a' t' same--I care not. But thou might as well tell truth. I'll be bound thou's been at Haytersbank Farm some day this week?'

Philip reddened; in fact, he had forgotten how he had got to consider his frequent visits to the farm as a regular piece of occupation. He kept silence.

Alice looked at him with a sharp intelligence that read his silence through.

'I thought so. Next time thou thinks to thyself, 'I'm more knowledgeable than Coulson,' just remember Alice Rose's words, and they are these:--If Coulson's too thick-sighted to see through a board, thou'rt too blind to see through a window. As for comin' and speakin' up for Coulson, why he'll be married to some one else afore t' year's out, for all he thinks he's so set upon Hester now. Go thy ways, and leave me to my Scripture, and come no more on Sabbath days wi' thy vain babbling.'

So Philip returned from his mission rather crestfallen, but quite as far as ever from 'seeing through a glass window.'

Before the year was out, Alice's prophecy was fulfilled. Coulson, who found the position of a rejected lover in the same house with the girl who had refused him, too uncomfortable to be endured, as soon as he was convinced that his object was decidedly out of his reach, turned his attention to some one else. He did not love his new sweetheart as he had done Hester: there was more of reason and less of fancy in his attachment. But it ended successfully; and before the first snow fell, Philip was best man at his partner's wedding.

CHAPTER XXII

DEEPENING SHADOWS

But before Coulson was married, many small events happened--small events to all but Philip. To him they were as the sun and moon. The days when he went up to Haytersbank and Sylvia spoke to him, the days when he went up and she had apparently no heart to speak to any one, but left the room as soon as he came, or never entered it at all, although she must have known that he was there--these were his alternations from happiness to sorrow.

From her parents he always had a welcome. Oppressed by their daughter's depression of spirits, they hailed the coming of any visitor as a change for her as well as for themselves. The former intimacy with the Corneys was in abeyance for all parties, owing to Bessy Corney's out-spoken grief for the loss of her cousin, as if she had had reason to look upon him as her lover, whereas Sylvia's parents felt this as a slur upon their daughter's cause of grief. But although at this time the members of the two families ceased to seek after each other's society, nothing was said. The thread of friendship might be joined afresh at any time, only just now it was broken; and Philip was glad of it. Before going to Haytersbank he sought each time for some little present with which to make his coming welcome. And now he wished even more than ever that Sylvia had cared for learning; if she had he could have taken her many a pretty ballad, or story-book, such as were then in vogue. He did try her with the translation of the _Sorrows of Werther_, so popular at the time that it had a place in all pedlars' baskets, with Law's


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