Miss Benson loitered in her seat, divided between the consciousness that she, as locum tenens for the minister's wife, was expected to be at the door to receive the kind greetings of many after her absence from home, and her unwillingness to disturb Ruth, who was evidently praying, and, by her quiet breathing, receiving grave and solemn influences into her soul. At length she rose up, calm and composed even to dignity. The chapel was still and empty; but Miss Benson heard the buzz of voices in the chapel-yard without. They were probably those of people waiting for her; and she summoned courage, and taking Ruth's arm in hers, and holding her hand affectionately, they went out into the broad daylight. As they issued forth, Miss Benson heard Mr. Bradshaw's strong bass voice speaking to her brother, and winced, as she knew he would be wincing, under the broad praise, which is impertinence, however little it may be intended or esteemed as such.
"Oh, yes!--my wife told me yesterday about her--her husband was a surgeon; my father was a surgeon too, as I think you have heard. Very much to your credit, I must say, Mr. Benson, with your limited means, to burden yourself with a poor relation. Very creditable indeed."
Miss Benson glanced at Ruth; she either did not hear or did not understand, but passed on into the awful sphere of Mr. Bradshaw's observation unmoved. He was in a bland and condescending humour of universal approval, and when he saw Ruth he nodded his head in token of satisfaction. That ordeal was over, Miss Benson thought, and in the thought rejoiced.
"After dinner, you must go and lie down, my dear," said she, untying Ruth's bonnet-strings, and kissing her. "Sally goes to church again, but you won't mind staying alone in the house. I am sorry we have so many people to dinner; but my brother will always have enough on Sundays for any old or weak people, who may have come from a distance, to stay and dine with us; and to-day they all seem to have come, because it is his first Sabbath at home.