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   Chapter 7 No.7

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 5849

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Next morning about eleven the mummer took off his hat in his very largest manner to the ladies, and the bow was so deferential, and seemed to betoken so much respect for the sex, that even Mrs. Ede could not help thinking that Mr. Lennox was very polite. Ralph too was impressed, as well he might be, so attentively did Dick listen to him, just as if nothing in the world concerned him as much as this last attack of asthma, and it was not until Mrs. Ede mentioned that they would be late for church that it occurred to Dick that his chance of catching the eleven o'clock train was growing more and more remote. With a hasty comment on his dilatoriness, he caught up a parcel and rug and shook hands with them all.

The cab rattled away, and Ralph proceeded up the red, silent streets towards the Wesleyan church, walking very slowly between his womankind.

'There's no doubt but that Mr. Lennox is a very nice man,' he said, after they had gone some twenty or thirty paces-'a very nice man indeed; you must admit, mother, that you were wrong.'

'He's polite, if you will,' replied Mrs. Ede, who for the last few minutes had been considering the ungodliness of travelling on a Sunday.

'Don't walk so fast,' Ralph cried.

'Well, then, we shall be late for church!'

'Which, then, is the most important in your eyes-Mr. Peppencott's sermon or my breath?'

'I'm not thinking of Mr. Peppencott's sermon.'

'Then of his voice in the prayer. Lennox may be no better than an actor,' he continued, 'but he's more fellow-feeling than you have. You saw yourself how interested he was in my complaint, and I shall try the cigarettes that used to give his mother relief.' He appealed to Kate, who answered him that it would be as well to try the cigarettes, and her thoughts floated away into a regret that Mr. Lennox had not been able to come to church with them, for she was reckoned to have a good voice. It may have been a memory of Dick that enabled her to pour her voice into the hymn, singing it more lustily than Mrs. Ede ever heard her sing it before. It seemed to Mrs. Ede that only God's grace could enable anyone to sing as Kate was singing, and when the minister began to preach and Kate sat down, her eyes fixed, Mrs. Ede rejoiced. 'The word of God has reached her at last,' she said. 'Never have I seen her listen so intently before to Mr. Peppencott.' Kate sat quite still, almost unconscious of the life around her, remembering that it was on her way from the potteries that she had learnt that there is a life within us deeper and more intense than the life without us. Dick's kisses had angered her at the moment, but in recollection they were inexpressibly dear to her. Her fear had been that time would dim her recollection of them, and her great joy was to discover that this was not so, and that she could recall the intonations of his voice and the colour of his eyes and the words he spoke to h

er, reliving them in imagination more intensely than while she was actually in his arms just before that terrible fall or in the shop and frightened lest Mrs. Ede or Ralph should come in and surprise them. But in imagination she was secure from interruption and hindrance, and could taste over and over again the words that he had spoken: 'I shall be back in three months, dear one.'

A great part of her happiness was in the fact that it was all within herself, that none knew of it; had she wished to communicate it, she could not have done so. It was a life within her life, a voice in her heart which she could hear at any moment, and it was a voice so sweet and intense that it could close her ears to her husband and her mother-in-law, who during dinner fell into one of their habitual quarrels.

Ralph, who had not forgotten his mother's lack of sympathy on their way to church, maintained the favourable opinion he had formed of Mr. Lennox. 'It's unchristian,' he said, 'to condemn a man because of the trade or profession he follows,' and somewhat abashed, his mother answered: 'I've always been taught to believe that people who don't go to church lead godless lives.'

Sunday was kept strictly in this family. Three services were attended regularly. Kate hoped to recover the sensations of the morning, and attended church in the afternoon. But the whole place seemed changed. The cold white walls chilled her; the people about her appeared to her in a very small and miserable light, and she was glad to get home. Her thoughts went back to the book she had fallen asleep over last Sunday night when she sat by her husband's bedside, and when the house was quiet she went upstairs and fetched it. But after reading a few pages the heat of the house seemed to her intolerable. There was no place to go to for a walk except St. John's Road, and there, turning listlessly over the pages of the old novel, the time passed imperceptibly. It was like sitting on the sea-shore; the hills extended like an horizon, and as the sea dreamer strives to pierce the long illimitable line of the wave and follows the path of the sailing ship, so did Kate gaze out of the sweeping green line that enclosed all she knew of the world, and strove to look beyond into the country to where her friend was going.

Northwood, with its hundreds of sharp roofs and windows, seemed to be dropping into a Sunday doze, under pale salmon-coloured tints, and the bells of its church sounded clearer and clearer at each peal. Warm airs passed over the red roofs of Southwark, and below in the vast hollow of the valley all was still, all seemed abandoned as a desert; no whiff of white steam was blown from the collieries; no black cloud of smoke rolled from the factory chimneys, and they raised their tall stems like a suddenly dismantled forest to a wan, an almost colourless sky. The hills alone maintained their unchangeable aspect.

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