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Chapter 21
 The servants at Dempster’s felt some surprise when the morning, noon, and evening of Saturday had passed, and still their mistress did not reappear.  
‘It’s very odd,’ said Kitty, the housemaid, as she trimmed her next week’s cap, while Betty, the middle-aged1 cook, looked on with folded arms. ‘Do you think as Mrs. Raynor was ill, and sent for the missis afore we was up?’
‘O,’ said Betty, ‘if it had been that, she’d ha’ been back’ards an’ for’ards three or four times afore now; leastways, she’d ha’ sent little Ann to let us know.’
‘There’s summat up more nor usual between her an’ the master, that you may depend on,’ said Kitty. ‘I know those clothes as was lying i’ the drawing-room yesterday, when the company was come, meant summat. I shouldn’t wonder if that was what they’ve had a fresh row about. She’s p’raps gone away, an’s made up her mind not to come back again.’
‘An’ i’ the right on’t, too,’ said Betty. ‘I’d ha’ overrun him long afore now, if it had been me. I wouldn’t stan’ bein’ mauled as she is by no husband, not if he was the biggest lord i’ the land. It’s poor work bein’ a wife at that price: I’d sooner be a cook wi’out perkises, an’ hev roast, an’ boil, an’ fry, an’ bake, all to mind at once. She may well do as she does. I know I’m glad enough of a drop o’ summat myself when I’m plagued. I feel very low, like, to-night; I think I shall put my beer i’ the saucepan an’ warm it.’
‘What a one you are for warmin’ your beer, Betty! I couldn’t abide2 it—nasty bitter stuff!’
‘It’s fine talkin’; if you was a cook you’d know what belongs to bein’ a cook. It’s none so nice to hev a sinkin’ at your stomach, I can tell you. You wouldn’t think so much o’ fine ribbins i’ your cap then.’
‘Well, well, Betty, don’t be grumpy. Liza Thomson, as is at Phipps’s, said to me last Sunday, “I wonder you’ll stay at Dempster’s,” she says, “such goins-on as there is.” But I says, “There’s things to put up wi’ in ivery place, an’ you may change, an’ change, an’ not better yourself when all’s said an’ done.” Lors! why, Liza told me herself as Mrs. Phipps was as skinny as skinny i’ the kitchen, for all they keep so much company; and as for follyers, she’s as cross as a turkey-cock if she finds ’em out. There’s nothin’ o’ that sort i’ the missis. How pretty she come an’ spoke3 to Job last Sunday! There isn’t a good-natur’der woman i’ the world, that’s my belief—an’ hansome too. I al’ys think there’s nobody looks half so well as the missis when she’s got her ’air done nice. Lors! I wish I’d got long ’air like her—my ’air’s a-comin’ off dreadful.’
‘There’ll be fine work to-morrow, I expect,’ said Betty, ‘when the master comes home, an’ Dawes a-swearin’ as he’ll niver do a stroke o’ work for him again. It’ll be good fun if he sets the justice on him for cuttin’ him wi’ the whip; the master’ll p’raps get his comb cut for once in his life!’
‘Why, he was in a temper like a fiend this morning,’ said Kitty. ‘I daresay it was along o’ what had happened wi’ the missis. We shall hev a pretty house wi’ him if she doesn’t come back—he’ll want to be leatherin’ us, I shouldn’t wonder. He must hev somethin’ t’ ill-use when he’s in a passion.’
‘I’d tek care he didn’t leather me—no, not if he was my husban’ ten times o’er; I’d pour hot drippin’ on him sooner. But the missis hasn’t a sperrit like me. He’ll mek her come back, you’ll see; he’ll come round her somehow. There’s no likelihood of her coming back to-night, though; so I should think we might fasten the doors and go to bed when we like.’
On Sunday morning, however, Kitty’s mind became disturbed by more definite and alarming conjectures5 about her mistress. While Betty, encouraged by the prospect6 of unwonted leisure, was sitting down to continue a letter which had long lain unfinished between the leaves of her Bible, Kitty came running into the kitchen and said,—‘Lor! Betty, I’m all of a tremble; you might knock me down wi’ a feather. I’ve just looked into the missis’s wardrobe, an’ there’s both her bonnets8. She must ha’ gone wi’out her bonnet7. An’ then I remember as her night-clothes wasn’t on the bed yisterday mornin’; I thought she’d put ’em away to be washed; but she hedn’t, for I’ve been lookin’. It’s my belief he’s murdered her, and shut her up i’ that closet as he keeps locked al’ys. He’s capible on’t.’
‘Lors-ha’-massy, why you’d better run to Mrs. Raynor’s an’ see if she’s there, arter all. It was p’raps all a lie.’
Mrs. Raynor had returned home to give directions to her little maiden9, when Kitty, with the elaborate manifestation10 of alarm which servants delight in, rushed in without knocking, and, holding her hands on her heart as if the consequences to that organ were likely to be very serious, said,—‘If you please ’m, is the missis here?’
‘No, Kitty; why are you come to ask?’
‘Because ’m, she’s niver been at home since yesterday mornin’, since afore we was up; an’ we thought somethin’ must ha’ happened to her.’
‘No, don’t be frightened, Kitty. Your mistress is quite safe; I know where she is. Is your master at home?’
‘No ’m; he went out yesterday mornin’, an’ said he shouldn’t be back afore to-night.’
‘Well, Kitty, there’s nothing the matter with your mistress. You needn’t say anything to any one about her being away from home. I shall call presently and fetch her gown and bonnet. She wants them to put on.’
Kitty, perceiving there was a mystery she was not to inquire into, returned to Orchard11 Street, really glad to know that her mistress was safe, but disappointed nevertheless at being told that she was not to be frightened. She was soon followed by Mrs. Raynor in quest of the gown and bonnet. The good mother, on learning that Dempster was not at home, had at once thought that she could gratify Janet’s wish to go to Paddiford Church.
‘See, my dear,’ she said, as she entered Mrs. Pettifer’s parlour; ‘I’ve brought you your black clothes. Robert’s not at home, and is not coming till this evening. I couldn’t find your best black gown, but this will do. I wouldn’t bring anything else, you know; but there can’t be any objection to my fetching clothes to cover you. You can go to Paddiford Church, now, if you like; and I will go with you.’
‘That’s a dear mother! Then we’ll all three go together. Come and help me to get ready. Good little Mrs. Crewe! It will vex12 her sadly that I should go to hear Mr. Tryan. But I must kiss her, and make it up with her.’
Many eyes were turned on Janet with a look of surprise as she walked up the aisle13 of Paddiford Church. She felt a little
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