Moth and Rust

Mary Cholmondeley

Moth and Rust
by Mary Cholmondeley
Chapter 1
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."
The Vicar gave out the text, and proceeded to expound it. The little congregation settled down peacefully to 'listen. Except four of their number, the "quality" in the carved Easthope pew, none of them had much treasure on earth. Their treasure for the greater part consisted of a pig, that was certainly being "laid up" to meet the rent at Christmas. But there would hardly be time for moth and rust to get into it before its secluded life should migrate into flitches and pork pies. Not that the poorest of Mr. Long's parishioners had any fear of such an event, for they never associated his sermons with anything to do with themselves, except on one occasion when the good man had preached earnestly against drunkenness, and a respectable widow had ceased to attend divine service in consequence, because, as she observed, she was not going to be spoken against like that by any one, be they who they may, after all the years she had been "on the teetotal."
Perhaps the two farmers who had driven over resplendent wives in dogcarts had treasure on earth. They certainly had money in the bank at Mudbury, for they were to be seen striding in gaiters on market-day to draw it out. But then it was well known that thieves did not break through into banks and steal. Banks sometimes broke of themselves, but not often.
On the whole, the congregation was at its ease. It felt that the text was well chosen, and that it applied exclusively to the four occupants of "the Squire's" pew.
The hard-worked Vicar certainly had no treasure on earth, if you excepted his principal possessions, namely, his pale wife and little flock of rosy children, and these, of course, were only encumbrances. Had they not proved to be so? For his cousin had promised him the family living, and would certainly have kept that promise when it became vacant, if the wife he had married in the interval had not held such strong views as to a celibate clergy.
The Vicar was a conscientious man, and the conscientious are seldom concise.
"He held with all his tedious might,
The mirror to the mind of God."
There was no doubt he was tedious, and it was to be hoped that the portion of the Divine mind not reflected in the clerical mirror would compensate somewhat for His more gloomy attributes as shown therein.
Mrs. Trefusis, "Squire's" mother, an old woman with a thin, knotted face like worn-out elastic, sat erect throughout the service. She had the tight-lipped, bitter look of one who has coldly appropriated as her due all the good things of life, who has fiercely rebelled against every untoward event, and who now in old age offers a passive, impotent resistance to anything that suggests a change. She had had an easy, comfortable existence, but her life had gone hard with her, and her face showed it.
Near her were the two guests who were staying at Easthope. The villagers looked at the two girls with deep interest. They had made up their minds that "the old lady had got 'em in to see if Squire could fancy one of 'em."
Lady Anne Varney, who sat next to Mrs. Trefusis, was a graceful, small-headed woman of seven-and-twenty, delicately featured, pale, exquisitely dressed, with the indefinable air of a finished woman of the world, and with the reserved, disciplined manner of a woman accustomed to conceal her feelings from a world in which she had lived too much, in which she has been knocked about too much, and which has not gone too well with her. If Anne attended to the sermon--and she appeared to do so--she was the only person in the Easthope pew who did.
No; the other girl, Janet Black, was listening too, now and then, catching disjointed sentences with no sense in them, as one hears a few shouted words in a high wind.
Ah me! Janet was beautiful. Even Mrs. Trefusis was obliged to own it, though she did so grudgingly, and added bitterly that the girl had no breeding. It was true. Janet had none. The beauty rested upon her as it rests on a dove's neck, varying with every movement, every turn of the head. She was quite motionless now, her rather large, ill-gloved hands in her lap. Janet was a still woman. She had no nervous movements. She did not twine her muff-chain round her fingers as Anne did. Anne looked at her now and then, and wondered whether she--Anne--would have been more successful in life if she had entered the arena armed with such beauty as Janet's.
There was a portrait of Janet in the
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