Ruth murmured acquiescence; the young girl (about Ruth's own age, but who was the mistress of the little establishment owing to her mother's death) made tea, and brought Ruth a cup to the sofa where she lay. Ruth was feverish and thirsty, and eagerly drank it off, although she could not touch the bread and butter which the girl offered her. She felt better and fresher, though she was still faint and weak.
"Thank you," said Ruth. "Don't let me keep you, perhaps you are busy. You have been very kind, and the tea has done me a great deal of good."
The girl left the room. Ruth became as hot as she had previously been cold, and went and opened the window, and leant out into the still, sweet, evening air, The bush of sweet-brier underneath the window scented the place, and the delicious fragrance reminded her of her old home. I think scents affect and quicken the memory more than either sights or sound; for Ruth had instantly before her eyes the little garden beneath the window of her mother's room with the old man leaning on his stick watching her, just as he had done not three hours before on that very afternoon.
"Dear old Thomas! he and Mary would take me in, I think; they would love me all the more if I were cast off. And Mr. Bellingham would, perhaps, not be so very long away; and he would know where to find me if I stayed at Milham Grange. Oh, would it not be better to go to them? I wonder if he would be very sorry! I could not bear to make him sorry, so kind as he has been to me; but I do believe it would be better to go to them, and ask their advice, at any rate. He would follow me there; and I could talk over what I had better do, with the three best friends I have in the world--the only friends I have.
She put on her bonnet, and opened the parlour-door; but then she saw the square figure of the landlord standing at the open house-door, smoking his evening pipe, and looming large and distinct against the dark air and landscape beyond. Ruth remembered the cup of tea she had drunk; it must be paid for, and she had no money with her. She feared that he would not let her quit the house without paying. She thought that she would leave a note for Mr. Bellingham, saying where she was gone, and how she had left the house in debt, for (like a child) all dilemmas appeared of equal magnitude to her; and the difficulty of passing the landlord while he stood there, and of giving him an explanation of the circumstances (as far as such explanation was due to him), appeared insuperable, and as awkward and fraught with inconvenience as far more serious situations. She kept peeping out of her room, after she had written her little pencil-note, to see if the outer door was still obstructed. There he stood, motionless, enjoying his pipe, and looking out into the darkness which gathered thick with the coming night. The fumes of the tobacco were carried by the air into the house, and brought back Ruth's sick headache. Her energy left her; she became stupid and languid, and incapable of spirited exertion; she modified her plan of action, to the determination of asking Mr. Bellingham to take her to Milham Grange, to the care of her humble friends, instead of to London. And she thought, in her simplicity, that he would instantly consent when he had heard her reasons.
She started up. A carriage dashed up to the door. She hushed her beating heart, and tried to stop her throbbing head, to listen. She heard him speaking to the landlord, though she could not distinguish what he said heard the jingling of money, and in another moment he was in the room, and had taken her arm to lead her to the carriage.
"Oh, sir, I want you to take me to Milham Grange," said she, holding back; "old Thomas would give me a home."
"Well, dearest, we'll talk of all that in the carriage; I am sure you will listen to reason. Nay, if you will go to Milham, you must go in the carriage," said he hurriedly. She was little accustomed to oppose the wishes of any one; obedient and docile by nature, and unsuspicious and innocent of any harmful consequences. She entered the carriage, and drove towards London.