"Oh! many little things. It was her odd way of ducking her head about, as if to catch a good view of Ruth's left hand, that made me think of the wedding-ring; and once, yesterday, when I thought I had made up quite a natural speech, and was saying how sad it was for so young a creature to be left a widow she broke in with 'widow be farred!' in a very strange, contemptuous kind of manner."
"If she suspects, we had far better tell her the truth at once. She will never rest till she finds it out, so we must make a virtue of necessity."
"Well, brother, you shall tell her then, for I am sure I daren't. I don't mind doing the thing, since you talked to me that day, and since I have got to know Ruth; but I do mind all the clatter people will make about it."
"Oh, I see it must be done; she'll talk as much as all the other persons put together, so that's the reason I call her 'people.' Shall I call her?" (For the house was too homely and primitive to have bells.)
Sally came, fully aware of what was now going to be told her, and determined not to help them out in telling their awkward secret, by understanding the nature of it before it was put into the plainest language. In every pause, when they hoped she had caught the meaning they were hinting at, she persisted in looking stupid and perplexed, and in saying, "Well," as if quite unenlightened as to the end of the story. When it was all complete and before her, she said, honestly enough--
"It's just as I thought it was; and I think you may thank me for having had the sense to put her into widow's caps, and clip off that bonny brown hair that was fitter for a bride in lawful matrimony than for such as her. She took it very well, though. She was as quiet as a lamb, and I clipped her pretty roughly at first. I must say, though, if I'd ha' known who your visitor was, I'd ha' packed up my things and cleared myself out of the house before such as her came into it. As it's done, I suppose I must stand by you, and help you through with it; I only hope I sha'n't lose my character--and me a parish-clerk's daughter!"
"O Sally! people know you too well to think any ill of you," said Miss Benson, who was pleased to find the difficulty so easily got over; for, in truth, Sally had been much softened by the unresisting gentleness with which Ruth had submitted to the "clipping" of the night before.
"If I'd been with you, Master Thurstan, I'd ha' seen sharp after you, for you're always picking up some one or another as nobody else would touch with a pair of tongs. Why, there was that Nelly Brandon's child as was left at our door, if I hadn't gone to th' overseer we should have had that Irish tramp's babby saddled on us for life; but I went off and told th' overseer, and the mother was caught."