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Harry Joscelyn: Volume 2

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Pages: 206

Published: 4 months ago

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“MOTHER, I wish you would not make such a fuss. It is only Harry quarrelling with father; I am sure you ought to be used to that by this time. It is just as sure to happen when they get together as that night will come after day.” “I never can be used to it if I should live a hundred years,” said the mother thus addressed. She was walking up and down a long low room, wringing her hands as she walked, her brow contracted with anxiety and alarm. Her daughter sat tranquilly knitting, following her with eyes full of calm disapproval as her figure crossed the glow of the firelight, and went and came into the gloom on either side. The occasional sound of their low voices, the faint rustle of the elder woman’s movements, the crackle of the fire burning brightly, with now and then a small explosion and sudden blaze, were all the sounds that broke the quiet here; and this made all the more apparent a growl of deep-voiced talk in an adjoining room, with now and then a high word, almost audible, quite comprehensible in its excited tone. Father and son were in the dining-room, mother and daughter were in the parlour, a pleasant division one might have thought. Outside the wind was blowing down the valley with a force which might have suggested storm in other localities, but was natural and ordinary here. It was April, but scarcely spring as yet in the north country. “As the day lengthens the cold strengthens,” is the rule under the Shap Fells. Joan Joscelyn, the elder daughter of the house, was seated near the fire with her knitting. She was quite still save for the twinkle of her knitting needles, which caught the firelight, and her eyes, with which she watched her mother without turning her head. Her shadow upon the drawn curtains behind her was as still as though cut out of paper. She was not very young nor had she any traces of beauty in the somewhat worn and very fixed and steady lines of her face. Her dark hair was very smooth, her dress very neat, everything about her orderly and calm. A slight look of restrained impatience in her eyes, impatience mingled with disapproval, and that sort of faint contempt which children so often feel for their parents, was the only sign which the calm daughter of a nervous mother gave of her feelings. “I wish you would not make such a fuss, you ought to be used to it by this time,” was written all over her, and perhaps there was in her aspect something of that conscientious superiority felt by Mrs. Hardcastle in the play when she said, “See me, how calm I am;” but all subdued by the natural spectatorship of her position. What could she do one way or another? Then why should she excite herself for nothing? This was Joan’s sensible conclusion—and why her mother could not adopt it too was a thing she could not understand. Mrs. Joscelyn was a pale woman of a very different aspect. She was, people thought at the first glance, not so old as her daughter, notwithstanding the advantage which a calm temperament is supposed to have over an excitable one. But it is not always true that the sensitive and self-tormenting grow old sooner than their more tranquil companions. Joan had never been young at all, so to speak.

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