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Agnes Grey

12.
The Shower
THE next visit I paid to Nancy Brown was in the second week in March: for,
though I had many spare minutes during the day, I seldom could look upon an
hour as entirely my own; since, where everything was left to the caprices of Miss
Matilda and her sister, there could be no order or regularity. Whatever occupation
I chose, when not actually busied about them or their concerns, I had, as it were,
to keep my loins girded, my shoes on my feet, and my staff in my hand; for not to
be immediately forthcoming when called for, was regarded as a grave and
inexcusable offence: not only by my pupils and their mother, but by the very
servant, who came in breathless haste to call me, exclaiming, 'You're to go to the
schoolroom directly, mum, the young ladies is waiting!!' Climax of horror! actually
waiting for their governess!!!
But this time I was pretty sure of an hour or two to myself; for Matilda was
preparing for a long ride, and Rosalie was dressing for a dinner-party at Lady
Ashby's: so I took the opportunity of repairing to the widow's cottage, where I
found her in some anxiety about her cat, which had been absent all day. I
comforted her with as many anecdotes of that animal's roving propensities as I
could recollect. 'I'm feared o' th' gamekeepers,' said she: 'that's all 'at I think on. If
th' young gentlemen had been at home, I should a' thought they'd been setting
their dogs at her, an' worried her, poor thing, as they did many a poor thing's cat;
but I haven't that to be feared on now.' Nancy's eyes were better, but still far from
well: she had been trying to make a Sunday shirt for her son, but told me she
could only bear to do a little bit at it now and then, so that it progressed but
slowly, though the poor lad wanted it sadly. So I proposed to help her a little,
after I had read to her, for I had plenty of time that evening, and need not return
till dusk. She thankfully accepted the offer. 'An' you'll be a bit o' company for me
too, Miss,' said she; 'I like as I feel lonesome without my cat.' But when I had
finished reading, and done the half of a seam, with Nancy's capacious brass
thimble fitted on to my finger by means of a roll of paper, I was disturbed by the
entrance of Mr. Weston, with the identical cat in his arms. I now saw that he
could smile, and very pleasantly too.
'I've done you a piece of good service, Nancy,' he began: then seeing me, he
acknowledged my presence by a slight bow. I should have been invisible to
Hatfield, or any other gentleman of those parts. 'I've delivered your cat,' he
continued, 'from the hands, or rather the gun, of Mr. Murray's gamekeeper.'
'God bless you, sir!' cried the grateful old woman, ready to weep for joy as she
received her favourite from his arms.
'Take care of it,' said he, 'and don't let it go near the rabbit- warren, for the
gamekeeper swears he'll shoot it if he sees it there again: he would have done so
 
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