Chiverton's tall frame, though very stately, was very bony, and her little head and pale, classical face, her brown hair not abundant, and eyes too cold and close together, with that expression of intense pride which is a character in itself, required a taste cultivated amidst statuary to appreciate. This taste Mr. Chiverton possessed, and his wife satisfied it perfectly. Bessie looked at Mr.
Chiverton's encumbered writing-table, between the fire and the window, and heard her discourse with infinite patience. Bessie was too moderate ever to join the sisterhood of active reformers, but she had no objection to their activity while herself safe from assaults. But when she was invited to sign papers pledging herself to divers serious convictions she demurred. Mrs.
Bessie was too much gratified by this reminiscence to think of asking what the discouragements were that caused Harry to wish for her. The next day Mrs. Chiverton's portrait was begun, and the artist was as happy as the day was long. His temper was excellent unless he were interrupted at his work, and this Mr. Chiverton took care should not happen when he was at home.
Chiverton exclaimed; and they entered on a discussion of some plan proposed between them for the abolition of Morte. "I can answer for Mr. Chiverton's consent. Mr. Gifford is the impracticable person. And of course it is Blagg's interest to oppose us. Can we buy Blagg out?" said the lady. "No, no; that would be the triumph of iniquity. We must starve him out," said the clergyman.
Chiverton's example, and let the whole place be cleared of its more respectable inhabitants at one blow, he would lose that inducement." Mr. Gifford laughed, amazed at this suggestion so like a woman, as he afterwards said. "Blagg has served me many years I have the highest respect for him. I cannot see that I am called on to conspire against his interests." Mrs.
Miss Burleigh said, "Lady Latimer is another of our ambitious women. Miss Fairfax fancies women can have no ambition on their own account, Cecil. I have been telling her of Mrs. Chiverton." "And what does Miss Fairfax say of Mrs. Chiverton's ambition?" asked Mr. Cecil Burleigh. "Nothing," rejoined Bessie. But her delicate lip and nostril expressed a great deal.
Chiverton's service, who spends all her available strength in his service herself, ought not to be dependent on parish relief. I put it to him one day with the query, Why God had given him such great wealth?
Forbes begged to know what Miss Fairfax herself would do under such circumstances. Bessie considered a minute with her pretty chin in the air, and then said, "I would not wear my diamonds. Oh, I would find out a way to bring him to reason!" A delicate color suffused Mrs. Chiverton's face, and she looked proudly at Bessie, standing in her bright freedom before her.
"Yes, ma'am, my poor sister has lived in this place for sixteen years, and paid the rent regularly, three pounds a year: I've sent her the money since she lost her husband," said the retired servant, in reply to some question of Mrs. Chiverton's. "Blagg is such a miser that he won't spend a penny on his places; it is promise, promise for ever. And what can my poor sister do?
Bessie, her beaming comeliness notwithstanding, could assume in an instant a touch-me-not air, and gave her hand only, though that with a kind frankness; and then they sat down and talked of Caen. Mrs. Chiverton's report as a woman of extraordinary beauty and virtue had preceded her into her husband's country, but to the general observer Miss Fairfax was much more pleasing.