Man and Wife HTML version
better of the domestic crisis? or would the domestic crisis get the better of Sir Patrick?
The domestic crisis was backed, at two to one, to win.
Punctually at the expiration of the quarter of an hour, Sir Patrick reappeared. The
domestic crisis had betrayed the blind confidence which youth and inexperience had
placed in it. Sir Patrick had won the day.
"Things are settled and quiet, gentlemen; and I am able to accompany you," he said.
"There are two ways to the shooting-cottage. One--the longest--passes by the inn at Craig
Fernie. I am compelled to ask you to go with me by that way. While you push on to the
cottage, I must drop behind, and say a word to a person who is staying at the inn."
He had quieted Lady Lundie--he had even quieted Blanche. But it was evidently on the
condition that he was to go to Craig Fernie in their places, and to see Anne Silvester
himself. Without a word more of explanation he mounted his horse, and led the way out.
The shooting-party left Windygates.
SECOND SCENE.--THE INN.
"YE'LL just permit me to remind ye again, young leddy, that the hottle's full--exceptin'
only this settin'-room, and the bedchamber yonder belonging to it."
So spoke "Mistress Inchbare," landlady of the Craig Fernie Inn, to Anne Silvester,
standing in the parlor, purse in hand, and offering the price of the two rooms before she
claimed permission to occupy them.
The time of the afternoon was about the time when Geoffrey Delamayn had started in the
train, on his journey to London. About the time also, when Arnold Brinkworth had
crossed the moor, and was mounting the first rising ground which led to the inn.
Mistress Inchbare was tall and thin, and decent and dry. Mistress Inchbare's unlovable
hair clung fast round her head in wiry little yellow curls. Mistress Inchbare's hard bones
showed themselves, like Mistress Inchbare's hard Presbyterianism, without any
concealment or compromise. In short, a savagely-respectable woman who plumed herself
on presiding over a savagely-respectable inn.
There was no competition to interfere with Mistress Inchbare. She regulated her own
prices, and made her own rules. If you objected to her prices, and revolted from her rules,
you were free to go. In other words, you were free to cast yourself, in the capacity of
houseless wanderer, on the scanty mercy of a Scotch wilderness. The village of Craig
Fernie was a collection of hovels. The country about Craig Fernie, mountain on one side
and moor on the other, held no second house of public entertainment, for miles and miles
round, at any point of the compass. No rambling individual but the helpless British
Tourist wanted food and shelter from strangers in that part of Scotland; and nobody but
Mistress Inchbare had food and shelter to sell. A more thoroughly independent person
than this was not to be found on the face of the hotel-keeping earth. The most universal of
all civilized terrors--the terror of appearing unfavorably in the newspapers--was a
sensation absolutely unknown to the Empress of the Inn. You lost your temper, and
threatened to send her bill for exhibition in the public journals. Mistress Inchbare raised
no objection to your taking any course you pleased with it. "Eh, man! send the bill whar'