Mrs Varden having cut in, looked at a box upon the mantelshelf, painted in imitation of a very red-brick dwelling-house, with a yellow roof; having at top a real chimney, down which voluntary subscribers dropped their silver, gold, or pence, into the parlour; and on the door the counterfeit presentment of a brass plate, whereon was legibly inscribed 'Protestant Association:'--and looking at it, said, that it was to her a source of poignant misery to think that Varden never had, of all his substance, dropped anything into that temple, save once in secret--as she afterwards discovered--two fragments of tobacco-pipe, which she hoped would not be put down to his last account. That Dolly, she was grieved to say, was no less backward in her contributions, better loving, as it seemed, to purchase ribbons and such gauds, than to encourage the great cause, then in such heavy tribulation; and that she did entreat her (her father she much feared could not be moved) not to despise, but imitate, the bright example of Miss Miggs, who flung her wages, as it were, into the very countenance of the Pope, and bruised his features with her quarter's money.
'Oh, mim,' said Miggs, 'don't relude to that. I had no intentions, mim, that nobody should know. Such sacrifices as I can make, are quite a widder's mite. It's all I have,' cried Miggs with a great burst of tears--for with her they never came on by degrees--'but it's made up to me in other ways; it's well made up.'
This was quite true, though not perhaps in the sense that Miggs intended. As she never failed to keep her self-denial full in Mrs Varden's view, it drew forth so many gifts of caps and gowns and other articles of dress, that upon the whole the red-brick house was perhaps the best investment for her small capital she could possibly have hit upon; returning her interest, at the rate of seven or eight per cent in money, and fifty at least in personal repute and credit.
'You needn't cry, Miggs,' said Mrs Varden, herself in tears; 'you needn't be ashamed of it, though your poor mistress IS on the same side.'
Miggs howled at this remark, in a peculiarly dismal way, and said she knowed that master hated her. That it was a dreadful thing to live in families and have dislikes, and not give satisfactions. That to make divisions was a thing she could not abear to think of, neither could her feelings let her do it. That if it was master's wishes as she and him should part, it was best they should part, and she hoped he might be the happier for it, and always wished him well, and that he might find somebody as would meet his dispositions. It would be a hard trial, she said, to part from such a missis, but she could meet any suffering when her conscience told her she was in the rights, and therefore she was willing even to go that lengths. She did not think, she added, that she could long survive the separations, but, as she was hated and looked upon unpleasant, perhaps her dying as soon as possible would be the best endings for all parties. With this affecting conclusion, Miss Miggs shed more tears, and sobbed abundantly.
'Can you bear this, Varden?' said his wife in a solemn voice, laying down her knife and fork.
'Why, not very well, my dear,' rejoined the locksmith, 'but I try to keep my temper.'
'Don't let there be words on my account, mim,' sobbed Miggs. 'It's much the best that we should part. I wouldn't stay--oh, gracious me!--and make dissensions, not for a annual gold mine, and found in tea and sugar.'
Lest the reader should be at any loss to discover the cause of Miss Miggs's deep emotion, it may be whispered apart that, happening to be listening, as her custom sometimes was, when Gabriel and his wife conversed together, she had heard the locksmith's joke relative to the foreign black who played the tambourine, and bursting with the spiteful feelings which the taunt awoke in her fair breast, exploded in the manner we have witnessed. Matters having now arrived at a crisis, the locksmith, as usual, and for the sake of peace and quietness, gave in.