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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Missing, by Mrs. Humphry WardThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: MissingAuthor: Mrs. Humphry WardRelease Date: July 14, 2004 [eBook #12908]Language: English***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MISSING***E-text prepared by Andrew Templeton, Juliet Sutherland, Graeme Mackreth, and Project Gutenberg DistributedProofreadersMISSINGbyMRS. HUMPHRY WARDAuthor of "Robert Elsmere," "Lady Rose's Daughter,""The Mating of Lydia," etc.Frontispiece in Colour by C. Allan Gilbert[Illustration: Deeply regret to inform you your husband reported wounded and missing]PART IMISSINGCHAPTER I'Shall I set the tea, Miss?'Miss Cookson turned from the window.'Yes—bring it up—except the tea of course—they ought to be here at any time.''And Mrs. Weston wants to know what time supper's to be?'The fair-haired girl speaking was clearly north-country. She pronounced the 'u' in 'supper,' as though it were the German'u' in Suppe.Miss Cookson shrugged her shoulders.'Well, they'll settle that.'The tone was sharp and off-hand. And the maid-servant, as she went downstairs, decided for the twentieth time thatafternoon, that she didn't like Miss Cookson, and she hoped her sister, Mrs. Sarratt, would be nicer. Miss Cookson hadbeen poking ...

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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Missing, by Mrs.
Humphry Ward
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at
no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.
You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the
terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: Missing
Author: Mrs. Humphry Ward
Release Date: July 14, 2004 [eBook #12908]
Language: English
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG
EBOOK MISSING***
E-text prepared by Andrew Templeton, Juliet
Sutherland, Graeme Mackreth, and Project
Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders
MISSINGby
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Author of "Robert Elsmere," "Lady Rose's
Daughter,"
"The Mating of Lydia," etc.
Frontispiece in Colour by C. Allan Gilbert
[Illustration: Deeply regret to inform you your
husband reported wounded and missing]PART I
MISSINGCHAPTER I
'Shall I set the tea, Miss?'
Miss Cookson turned from the window.
'Yes—bring it up—except the tea of course—they
ought to be here at any time.'
'And Mrs. Weston wants to know what time
supper's to be?'
The fair-haired girl speaking was clearly north-
country. She pronounced the 'u' in 'supper,' as
though it were the German 'u' in Suppe.
Miss Cookson shrugged her shoulders.
'Well, they'll settle that.'
The tone was sharp and off-hand. And the maid-
servant, as she went downstairs, decided for the
twentieth time that afternoon, that she didn't like
Miss Cookson, and she hoped her sister, Mrs.
Sarratt, would be nicer. Miss Cookson had been
poking her nose into everything that afternoon,
fiddling with the rooms and furniture, and
interfering with Mrs. Weston. As if Mrs. Weston
didn't know what to order for lodgers, and how to
make them comfortable! As if she hadn't had
dozens of brides and bridegrooms to look after
before this!—and if she hadn't given them allsatisfaction, would they ever have sent her all them
picture-postcards which decorated her little parlour
downstairs?
All the same, the house-parlourmaid, Milly by
name, was a good deal excited about this
particular couple who were now expected. For Mrs.
Weston had told her it had been a 'war wedding,'
and the bridegroom was going off to the front in a
week. Milly's own private affairs—in connection
with a good-looking fellow, formerly a gardener at
Bowness, now recently enlisted in one of the
Border regiments—had caused her to take a
special interest in the information, and had perhaps
led her to put a bunch of monthly roses on Mrs.
Sarratt's dressing-table. Miss Cookson hadn't
bothered herself about flowers. That she might
have done!—instead of fussing over things that
didn't concern her—just for the sake of ordering
people about.
When the little red-haired maid had left the room,
the lady she disliked returned to the window, and
stood there absorbed in reflections that were not
gay, to judge from the furrowed brow and pinched
lips that accompanied them. Bridget Cookson was
about thirty; not precisely handsome, but at the
same time, not ill-looking. Her eyes were large and
striking, and she had masses of dark hair, tightly
coiled about her head as though its owner felt it
troublesome and in the way. She was thin, but
rather largely built, and her movements were quick
and decided. Her tweed dress was fashionably cut,
but severely without small ornament of any kind.She looked out upon a beautiful corner of English
Lakeland. The house in which she stood was built
on the side of a little river, which, as she saw it,
came flashing and sparkling out of a lake beyond,
lying in broad strips of light and shade amid green
surrounding fells. The sun was slipping low, and
would soon have kindled all the lake into a white
fire, in which its islands would have almost
disappeared. But, for the moment, everything was
plain:—the sky, full of light, and filmy grey cloud,
the fells with their mingling of wood and purple
crag, the shallow reach of the river beyond the
garden, with a little family of wild duck floating upon
it, and just below her a vivid splash of colour, a
mass of rhododendron in bloom, setting its rose-
pink challenge against the cool greys and greens of
the fell.
But Bridget Cookson was not admiring the view. It
was not new to her, and moreover she was not in
love with Westmorland at all; and why Nelly should
have chosen this particular spot, to live in, while
George was at the war, she did not understand.
She believed there was some sentimental reason.
They had first seen him in the Lakes—just before
the war—when they two girls and their father were
staying actually in this very lodging-house. But
sentimental reasons are nothing.
Well, the thing was done. Nelly was married, and in
another week, George would be at the front.
Perhaps in a fortnight's time she would be a widow.
Such things have happened often. 'And then what
shall I do with her?' thought the sister, irritably,—recoiling from a sudden vision of Nelly in sorrow,
which seemed to threaten her own life with even
greater dislocation than had happened to it
already. 'I must have my time to myself!—freedom
for what I want'—she thought to herself,
impatiently, 'I can't be always looking after her.'
Yet of course the fact remained that there was no
one else to look after Nelly. They had been left
alone in the world for a good while now. Their
father, a Manchester cotton-broker in a small way,
had died some six months before this date, leaving
more debts than fortune. The two girls had found
themselves left with very small means, and had
lived, of late, mainly in lodgings—unfurnished
rooms—with some of their old furniture and
household things round them. Their father, though
unsuccessful in business, had been ambitious in an
old-fashioned way for his children, and they had
been brought up 'as gentlefolks'—that is to say
without any trade or profession.
But their poverty had pinched them disagreeably—
especially Bridget, in whom it had produced a kind
of angry resentment. Their education had not been
serious enough, in these days of competition, to
enable them to make anything of teaching after
their Father's death. Nelly's water-colour drawing,
for instance, though it was a passion with her, was
quite untrained, and its results unmarketable.
Bridget had taken up one subject after another,
and generally in a spirit of antagonism to her
surroundings, who, according to her, were always
'interfering' with what she wanted to do,—with herserious and important occupations. But these
occupations always ended by coming to nothing;
so that, as Bridget was irritably aware, even Nelly
had ceased to be as much in awe of them as she
had once been.
But the elder sister had more solid cause than this
for dissatisfaction with the younger. Nelly had really
behaved like a little fool! The one family asset of
which a great deal might have been made—should
have been made—was Nelly's prettiness. She was
very pretty—absurdly pretty—and had been a
great deal run after in Manchester already. There
had been actually two proposals from elderly men
with money, who were unaware of the child's
engagement, during the past three months; and
though these particular suitors were perhaps
unattractive, yet a little time and patience, and the
right man would have come along, both acceptable
in himself, and sufficiently supplied with money to
make everything easy for everybody.
But Nelly had just wilfully and stubbornly fallen in
love with this young man—and wilfully and
stubbornly married him. It was unlike her to be
stubborn about anything. But in this there had been
no moving her. And now there was nothing before
either of them but the same shabbiness and
penury as before. What if George had two hundred
and fifty a year of his own, besides his pay?—a
fact that Nelly was always triumphantly brandishing
in her sister's eyes.
No doubt it was more than most young subalternshad—much more. But what was two hundred and
fifty a year? Nelly would want every penny of it for
herself—and her child—or children. For of course
there would be a child—Bridget Cookson fell into
profound depths of thought, emerging from them,
now as often before, with the sore realisation of
how much Nelly might have done with her 'one
talent,' both for herself and her sister, and had not
done.
The sun dropped lower; one side of the lake was
now in shadow, and from the green shore beneath
the woods and rocks, the reflections of tree and
crag and grassy slope were dropping down and
down, unearthly clear and far, to that inverted
heaven in the 'steady bosom' of the water. A little
breeze came wandering, bringing delicious scents
of grass and moss, and in the lake the fish were
rising.
Miss Cookson moved away from the window. How
late they were! She would hardly get home in time
for her own supper. They would probably ask her
to stay and sup with them. But she did not intend
to stay. Honeymooners were much better left to
themselves. Nelly would be a dreadfully
sentimental bride; and then dreadfully upset when
George went away. She had asked her sister to
join them in the Lakes, and it was taken for granted
that they would resume living together after
George's departure. But Bridget had fixed her own
lodgings, for the present, a mile away, and did not
mean to see much of her sister till the bridegroom
had gone.