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PAGE 6

The Parson’s Daughter Of Oxney Colne
by [?]

Patience knew exactly the hour at which he must arrive at the station at Newton Abbot, and the time also which it would take to travel over those twelve uphill miles from the station to Oxney. It need hardly he said that she paid no visit to Miss Le Smyrger’s house on that afternoon; but she might have known something of Captain Broughton’s approach without going thither. His road to the Combe passed by the parsonage-gate, and had Patience sat even at her bedroom window she must have seen him. But on such a morning she would not sit at her bedroom window–she would do nothing which would force her to accuse herself of a restless longing for her lover’s coming. It was for him to seek her. If he chose to do so, he knew the way to the parsonage.

Miss Le Smyrger–good, dear, honest, hearty Miss Le Smyrger, was in a fever of anxiety on behalf of her friend. It was not that she wished her nephew to marry Patience–or rather that she had entertained any such wish when he first came,–among them. She was not given to match- making, and moreover thought, or had thought within herself, that they of Oxney Colne could do very well without any admixture from Eaton Square. Her plan of life had been that, when old Mr. Woolsworthy was taken away from Dartmoor, Patience should live with her; and that when she also shuffled off her coil, then Patience Woolsworthy should be the maiden mistress of Oxney Combe–of Oxney Combe and Mr. Cloysey’s farm– to the utter detriment of all the Broughtons. Such had been her plan before nephew John had come among them–a plan not to be spoken of till the coming of that dark day which should make Patience an orphan. But now her nephew had been there, and all was to be altered. Miss Le Smyrger’s plan would have provided a companion for her old age; but that had not been her chief object. She had thought more of Patience than of herself, and now it seemed that a prospect of a higher happiness was opening for her friend.

“John,” she said, as soon as the first greetings were over, “do you remember the last words that I said to you before you went away?” Now, for myself, I much admire Miss Le Smyrger’s heartiness, but I do not think much of her discretion. It would have been better, perhaps, had she allowed things to take their course.

“I can’t say that I do,” said the Captain. At the same time the Captain did remember very well what those last words had been.

“I am so glad to see you, so delighted to see you, if–if–if -,” and then she paused, for with all her courage she hardly dared to ask her nephew whether he had come there with the express purpose of asking Miss Woolsworthy to marry him.

To tell the truth, for there is no room for mystery within the limits of this short story,–to tell, I say, at a word the plain and simple truth, Captain Broughton had already asked that question. On the day before he left Oxney Come, he had in set terms proposed to the parson’s daughter, and indeed the words, the hot and frequent words, which previously to that had fallen like sweetest honey into the ears of Patience Woolsworthy, had made it imperative on him to do so. When a man in such a place as that has talked to a girl of love day after day, must not he talk of it to some definite purpose on the day on which he leaves her? Or if he do not, must he not submit to be regarded as false, selfish, and almost fraudulent? Captain Broughton, however, had asked the question honestly and truly. He had done so honestly and truly, but in words, or, perhaps, simply with a tone, that had hardly sufficed to satisfy the proud spirit of the girl he loved. She by that time had confessed to herself that she loved him with all her heart; but she had made no such confession to him. To him she had spoken no word, granted no favour, that any lover might rightfully regard as a token of love returned. She had listened to him as he spoke, and bade him keep such sayings for the drawing-rooms of his fashionable friends. Then he had spoken out and had asked for that hand,–not, perhaps, as a suitor tremulous with hope,–but as a rich man who knows that he can command that which he desires to purchase.