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The Heir of Redclyffe

Chapter 24
Is there a word, or jest, or game,
But time encrusteth round
With sad associate thoughts the same?
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
Among the persons who spent a forlorn autumn was Mr. Ross, though his troubles were
not quite of the same description as those of his young parishioners. He missed his
daughter very much; all his household affairs got out of order; the school-girls were
naughty, and neither he, nor Miss Edmonstone, nor the mistress, could discover the
culprits; their inquiries produced nothing but a wild confusion of mutual accusations,
where the truth was undistinguishable. The cook never could find anything to make broth
of, Mr. Ross could, never lay his hands on the books he wanted for himself or anybody
else; and, lastly, none of his shirts ever had their buttons on.
Mary, meanwhile, had to remain through a whole course of measles, then to greet the
arrival of a new nephew, and to attend his christening: but she had made a vow that she
would be at home by Christmas, and she kept it.
Mr. Ross had the satisfaction of fetching her home from the station the day before
Christmas Eve, and of seeing her opposite to him, on her own side of the table, in the
evening, putting on the buttons, and considering it an especial favour and kindness, for
which to be for ever grateful, that he had written all his Christmas sermons beforehand,
so as to have a whole evening clear before her. He was never a great letter-writer, and
Mary had a great deal to hear, for all that had come to her were the main facts, with very
few details.
'I have had very few letters, even from Hollywell,' said she. 'I suppose it is on account of
Charles's illness. You think him really better?'
'Yes, much better. I forgot to tell you, you are wanted for their Christmas party to-
morrow night.'
'Oh! he is well enough for them not to put it off! Is he able to be out of bed?'
'No, he lies perfectly flat, and looks very thin. It has been a very severe illness. I don't
think I ever knew him suffer so much; but, at the same time, I never knew him behave so
well, or show so much patience, and consideration for other people, I was the more
surprised, because at first he seemed to have relapsed into all the ways he thought he had
shaken off; he was so irritable and fretful, that poor Mrs. Edmonstone looked worn out;
but it seems to have been only the beginning of the illness; it was very different after he
was laid up.'
'Has he had you to see him?'
 
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