Arthur opened the long low window, and looked out upon the old blasted and blackened forest of chimneys, and the old red glare in the sky, which had seemed to him once upon a time but a nightly reflection of the fiery environment that was presented to his childish fancy in all directions, let it look where it would.
He drew in his head again, sat down at the bedside, and looked on at Affery Flintwinch making the bed.
'Affery, you were not married when I went away.'
She screwed her mouth into the form of saying 'No,' shook her head, and proceeded to get a pillow into its case.
'How did it happen?'
'Why, Jeremiah, o' course,' said Affery, with an end of the pillow- case between her teeth.
'Of course he proposed it, but how did it all come about? I should have thought that neither of you would have married; least of all should I have thought of your marrying each other.'
'No more should I,' said Mrs Flintwinch, tying the pillow tightly in its case.
'That's what I mean. When did you begin to think otherwise?'
'Never begun to think otherwise at all,' said Mrs Flintwinch.
Seeing, as she patted the pillow into its place on the bolster, that he was still looking at her as if waiting for the rest of her reply, she gave it a great poke in the middle, and asked, 'How could I help myself?'
'How could you help yourself from being married!'
'O' course,' said Mrs Flintwinch. 'It was no doing o' mine. I'D never thought of it. I'd got something to do, without thinking, indeed! She kept me to it (as well as he) when she could go about, and she could go about then.' 'Well?'
'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch. 'That's what I said myself. Well! What's the use of considering? If them two clever ones have made up their minds to it, what's left for me to do? Nothing.'
'Was it my mother's project, then?'
'The Lord bless you, Arthur, and forgive me the wish!' cried Affery, speaking always in a low tone. 'If they hadn't been both of a mind in it, how could it ever have been? Jeremiah never courted me; t'ant likely that he would, after living in the house with me and ordering me about for as many years as he'd done. He said to me one day, he said, "Affery," he said, "now I am going to tell you something. What do you think of the name of Flintwinch?" "What do I think of it?" I says. "Yes," he said, "because you're going to take it," he said. "Take it?" I says. "Jere-MI-ah?" Oh! he's a clever one!'
Mrs Flintwinch went on to spread the upper sheet over the bed, and the blanket over that, and the counterpane over that, as if she had quite concluded her story. 'Well?' said Arthur again.
'Well?' echoed Mrs Flintwinch again. 'How could I help myself? He said to me, "Affery, you and me must be married, and I'll tell you why. She's failing in health, and she'll want pretty constant attendance up in her room, and we shall have to be much with her, and there'll be nobody about now but ourselves when we're away from her, and altogether it will be more convenient. She's of my opinion," he said, "so if you'll put your bonnet on next Monday morning at eight, we'll get it over."' Mrs Flintwinch tucked up the bed.
'Well?' repeated Mrs Flintwinch, 'I think so! I sits me down and says it. Well!--Jeremiah then says to me, "As to banns, next Sunday being the third time of asking (for I've put 'em up a fortnight), is my reason for naming Monday. She'll speak to you about it herself, and now she'll find you prepared, Affery." That same day she spoke to me, and she said, "So, Affery, I understand that you and Jeremiah are going to be married. I am glad of it, and so are you, with reason. It is a very good thing for you, and very welcome under the circumstances to me. He is a sensible man, and a trustworthy man, and a persevering man, and a pious man." What could I say when it had come to that? Why, if it had been--a smothering instead of a wedding,' Mrs Flintwinch cast about in her mind with great pains for this form of expression, 'I couldn't have said a word upon it, against them two clever ones.'
'In good faith, I believe so.' 'And so you may, Arthur.'
'Affery, what girl was that in my mother's room just now?'
'Girl?' said Mrs Flintwinch in a rather sharp key.