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Two on a Tower

Chapter 12
On the afternoon of the next day Mr. Torkingham, who occasionally dropped in to
see St. Cleeve, called again as usual; after duly remarking on the state of the
weather, congratulating him on his sure though slow improvement, and
answering his inquiries about the comet, he said, 'You have heard, I suppose, of
what has happened to Lady Constantine?'
'No! Nothing serious?'
'Yes, it is serious.' The parson informed him of the death of Sir Blount, and of the
accidents which had hindered all knowledge of the same,--accidents favoured by
the estrangement of the pair and the cessation of correspondence between them
for some time.
His listener received the news with the concern of a friend, Lady Constantine's
aspect in his eyes depending but little on her condition matrimonially.
'There was no attempt to bring him home when he died?'
'O no. The climate necessitates instant burial. We shall have more particulars in
a day or two, doubtless.'
'Poor Lady Constantine,--so good and so sensitive as she is! I suppose she is
quite prostrated by the bad news.'
'Well, she is rather serious,--not prostrated. The household is going into
mourning.'
'Ah, no, she would not be quite prostrated,' murmured Swithin, recollecting
himself. 'He was unkind to her in many ways. Do you think she will go away from
Welland?'
That the vicar could not tell. But he feared that Sir Blount's affairs had been in a
seriously involved condition, which might necessitate many and unexpected
changes.
Time showed that Mr. Torkingham's surmises were correct.
During the long weeks of early summer, through which the young man still lay
imprisoned, if not within his own chamber, within the limits of the house and
garden, news reached him that Sir Blount's mismanagement and eccentric
behaviour were resulting in serious consequences to Lady Constantine; nothing
less, indeed, than her almost complete impoverishment. His personalty was
swallowed up in paying his debts, and the Welland estate was so heavily
charged with annuities to his distant relatives that only a mere pittance was left
for her. She was reducing the establishment to the narrowest compass
compatible with decent gentility. The horses were sold one by one; the carriages
also; the greater part of the house was shut up, and she resided in the smallest
rooms. All that was allowed to remain of her former contingent of male servants
were an odd man and a boy. Instead of using a carriage she now drove about in
a donkey- chair, the said boy walking in front to clear the way and keep the
animal in motion; while she wore, so his informants reported, not an ordinary
widow's cap or bonnet, but something even plainer, the black material being
drawn tightly round her face, giving her features a small, demure, devout cast,
very pleasing to the eye.
 
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