Indeed that little lawn at Myrtlewood was a battle-field, of which Alison used to carry her sister amusing and characteristic sketches. The two leading players were Miss Keith and Mr. Touchett, who alone had any idea of tactics; but what she did by intuition, sleight of hand or experience, he effected by calculation and generalship, and even when Conrade claimed the command of his own side, the suggestions of the curate really guided the party. Conrade was a sort of Murat on the croquet field, bold, dashing, often making wonderful hits, but uncertain, and only gradually learning to act in combination. Alison was a sure-handed, skilful hitter, but did not aspire to leadership. Mamma tried to do whatever her boys commanded, and often did it by a sort of dainty dexterity, when her exultation, was a very pretty sight, nor was Grace's lady-like skill contemptible, but having Francis as an ally was like giving a castle; and he was always placed on the other side from Conrade, as it was quite certain that he would do the very reverse of whatever his brother advised. Now and then invitations were given for Rose Williams to join the game, but her aunts never accepted them. Ermine had long ago made up her mind against intimacies between her niece and any pupils of Alison's, sure that though starts of pleasure might result, they would be at the cost of ruffling, and, perhaps, perturbing the child's even stream of happiness—even girl-friendships might have been of doubtful effect where circumstances were so unequal; but Lady Temple's household of boys appeared to Ermine by no means a desirable sphere for her child to be either teased or courted in. Violetta, Colinette, and Augustus were safer comrades, and Rose continued to find them sufficient, varied with the rare delight of now and then sharing her aunt's drive, and brightened by many a kind message in Colonel Keith's letters to her aunt, nay, occasionally a small letter to herself, or an enclosure of some pretty photograph for her much-loved scrap book, or some article for Colinette's use, sometimes even a new book! She was never forgotten in his letters, and Ermine smiled her strange pensive smile of amusement at his wooing of the unconscious Rose.
CHAPTER X. THE PHILANTHROPIST.
"Scorn not the smallness of daily endeavour, Let the great meaning ennoble it ever, Droop not o'er efforts expended in vain, Work, as believing, that labour is gain." Queen Isabel, &c. by S. M.
The sturdy recusant against Myrtlewood croquet continued to be Rachel Curtis, and yet it was not a testimony against the game so much as real want of time for it. She was always full of occupation, even while her active mind craved for more definite and extended labour; and when she came upon the field of strategy, it was always either with some business before her, or else so late that the champions were only assisting their several lags to bring the battle to an end.
If there had been a will there would have been a way, but, as she said, she saw enough to perceive that proficiency could only be attained at the cost of much time and study, and she did not choose to be inferior and mediocre. Also, she found occupations open to her elsewhere that had long been closed or rendered unpleasant. Mr. Touchett had become wonderfully pacific and obliging of late, as if the lawn tactics absorbed his propensities for offence and defence, he really seemed obliged for one or two bits of parish work that she attended to; finding that between him and his staff of young ladies they were getting omitted. Somehow, too, an unaccountable blight was passing over the activity of those curatolatresses, as Rachel had been wont to call them; they were less frequently to be met with popping out of the schools and cottages, and Rachel, who knew well all the real poor, though refusing the bonds of a district, was continually detecting omissions which she more often supplied than reported. There was even a smaller sprinkling at the weekly services, and the odd thing was that the curate never seemed to remark or be distressed by the change, or if any one spoke of the thin congregation he would say, winter was the Avonmouth season, which was true enough, but the defaulters were mostly his own peculiar followers, the female youth of the professional and mercantile population.
Rachel did not trouble herself about the cause of all this, indeed she was too much occupied with the gradual gliding into somewhat of her original activity and importance in the field thus left open to her. None the less, however, did she feel the burden of life's problems; the intercourse she had enjoyed with Colonel Keith had excited her for a time, but in the reaction, the old feelings returned painfully that the times were out of joint; the heavens above became obscure and misty as before, the dark places of the earth looked darker than ever, and those who lived at ease seemed to be employed either in sport upon the outside of the dungeon where the captives groaned, or in obstructing the way of those who would fain have plunged in to the rescue.
Her new acquaintance, Mr. Mauleverer, was an example of such prevention, which weighed much on her mind. He had been perfectly unobtrusive, but Mrs. Curtis meeting him on the second day of his sketching, had naturally looked at his drawing, and admired it so much that she brought her daughters to see it when in course of completion the next day. He had then asked whether there would be any objection to his making use of the sketches in the way of remunerative sale. Mrs. Curtis looked rather taken aback, it hardly agreed with her exclusive notions of privacy, and he at once apologized with such humility that she was touched, and felt herself doing him a wrong, whilst Rachel was angry at her scruple, yet uncomfortably thought of "that landscape painter," then said in her decided way, "you did not mean to object, mother?"
"Oh, not for a moment, pray don't think of it," returned Mr. Mauleverer, in haste. "I would not think of the intrusion. It is only that these poor trifles are steps to one of the few means by which I can still hope to do even a little for my fellow creatures; the greatest solace that remains to me."
"My mother did not mean to prevent anything," said Rachel eagerly; "least of all any means of doing good."
"Indeed, I cannot but be aware that Miss Curtis is the last individual who would do so, except indeed by the good works she herself absorbs."
"You are too good, sir," returned Mrs. Curtis; "I am sure I did not mean to object to anything for good. If it is for a charity, I am sure some of our friends would be very glad to take some sketches of our scenery; they have been begging me this long time to have it photographed. I should like to have that drawing myself, it would please your aunt so much, my dear, if we sent it to her."
Mr. Mauleverer bowed, but Rachel was not sure whether he had not been insulted.
Next day he left at the door the drawing handsomely mounted, and looking so grand and meritorious that poor Mrs. Curtis became much troubled in mind whether its proper price might not be five or even ten guineas, instead of the one for which she had mentally bargained, or if this might not be the beginning of a series; "which would be quite another thing, you know, my dear."
Rachel offered to go and talk to the artist, who was sketching in full view from the windows, and find out what value he set upon it.
"Perhaps, but I don't know, my dear. Won't it be odd? Had you not better wait till Grace comes in, or till I can come down with you?"
"No need at all, mother, I can do it much better alone, and at my age—"
So Rachel took a parasol and stepped out, looked at the outline newly produced, thanked and praised the drawing that had been received, adding that her mother would be glad to know what price Mr. Mauleverer set upon it. She was met by a profession of ignorance of its value, and of readiness to be contented with whatever might be conferred upon his project; the one way in which he still hoped to be of service to his fellow creatures, the one longing of his life.
"Ah!" said Rachel, greatly delighted with this congenial spirit, and as usual preferring the affirmative to the interrogative. "I heard you had been interesting yourself about Mrs Kelland's lace school. What a miserable system it is!"
"My inquiries have betrayed me then? It is indeed a trying spectacle."
"And to be helpless to alleviate it," continued Rachel. "Over work, low prices and middle-men perfectly batten on the lives of our poor girls here. I have thought it over again and again, and it is a constant burden on my mind."
"Yes, indeed. The effects of modern civilization are a constant burden on the compassion of every highly constituted nature."
"The only means that seems to me likely to mitigate the evil," continued Rachel, charmed at having the most patient listener who had ever fallen to her lot, "would be to commence an establishment where some fresh trades might be taught, so as to lessen the glut of the market, and to remove the workers that are forced to undersell one another, and thus oblige the buyers to give a fairly remunerative price."
"Precisely my own views. To commence an establishment that would drain off the superfluous labour, and relieve the oppressed, raising the whole tone of female employment."
"And this is the project you meant?"
"And in which, for the first time, I begin to hope for success, if it can only receive the patronage of some person of influence."
"Oh, anything I can do!" exclaimed Rachel, infinitely rejoiced. "It is the very thing I have been longing for for years. What, you would form a sort of industrial school, where the children could be taught some remunerative labour, and it might soon be almost self-supporting?"
"Exactly; the first establishment is the difficulty, for which I have been endeavouring to put a few mites together."
"Every one would subscribe for such a purpose!" exclaimed Rachel.
"You speak from your own generous nature, Miss Curtis; but the world would require patronesses to recommend."
"There could be no difficulty about that!" exclaimed Rachel; but at this moment she saw the Myrtlewood pony carriage coming to the door, and remembering that she had undertaken to drive out Ermine Williams in it, she was obliged to break off the conversation, with an eager entreaty that Mr. Mauleverer would draw up an account of his plan, and bring it to her the next day, when she would give her opinion on it, and consider of the means.
"My dear," said her mother, on her return, "how long you have been; and what am I to give for the water-colour?"
"Oh, I forgot all about the water-colour; but never mind what we give, mamma, it is all to go to an asylum for educating poor girls, and giving them some resource beyond that weary lace-making—the very thing I have always longed for. He is coming to settle it all with me to-morrow, and then we will arrange what to give."
"Indeed, my dear, I hope it will be something well managed. I think if it were not for those middle-men, lace-making would not be so bad. But you must not keep poor Miss Williams waiting."
Ermine had never seen Rachael in such high spirits as when they set out through the network of lanes, describing her own exceeding delight in the door thus opening for the relief of the suffering over which she had long grieved, and launching out into the details of the future good that was to be achieved. At last Ermine asked what Rachel knew of the proposer.
"Captain Keith, heard he was a distinguished professor and essayist."
"Then I wonder we have not heard his name," said Ermine. "It is a remarkable one; one might look in the 'Clergy List' at Villars's."
"Villars called him a clerical gentleman," mused Rachel.
"Then you would be sure to be able to find out something about him before committing yourself."
"I can see what he is," said Rachel, "a very sensible, accomplished man, and a great deal more; not exactly a finished gentleman. But that is no objection to his doing a great work."
"None at all," said Ermine, smiling; "but please forgive me. We have suffered so much from trusting too implicitly, that I never can think it safe to be satisfied without thorough knowledge of a person's antecedents."
"Of course," said Rachel, "I shall do nothing without inquiry. I will find out all about him, but I cannot see any opening for distrust. Schemes of charity are not compatible with self-seeking and dishonesty."
"But did I not hear something about opinions?"
"Oh, as to that, it was only Villars. Besides, you are a clergyman's daughter, and your views have a different colouring from mine. Modern research has introduced so many variations of thought, that no good work would be done at all if we required of our fellow-labourers perfect similarity of speculative belief."
"Yet suppose he undertook to teach others?"
"The simple outlines of universal doctrine and morality which are required by poor children are not affected by the variations to which investigation conducts minds of more scope."
"I am afraid such variations may often reach the foundation."
"Now, Miss Williams, I am sure you must often have heard it observed how when it comes to real practical simple teaching of uninstructed people, villagers or may be heathens, the details of party difference melt away, and people find themselves in accordance."
"True, but there I think party differences in the Church, and even the variations between Christian sects are concerned, both being different ways of viewing the same truth. These may, like the knights in the old fable, find that both were right about the shield, both have the same foundation. But where the foundation is not the same, the results of the teaching will not agree."
"Every one agrees as to morality."
"Yes, but do all give a motive sufficient to enforce the self-denial that morality entails? Nay, do they show the way to the spiritual strength needful to the very power of being moral?"
"That is begging the question. The full argument is whether the full church, say Christian system, exactly as you, as we hold it, is needful to the perfection of moral observance. I don't say whether I assent, but the present question is whether the child's present belief and practice need be affected by its teacher's dogmatic or undogmatic system."
"The system for life is generally formed in childhood. Harvest depends on seed time."
"And after all," added Rachel, "we have no notion whether this poor man be not precisely of your own opinions, and from their fruits I am sure you ought to claim them."
"Their blossoms if you please," laughed Ermine. "We have not seen their fruits yet."
"And I shall take care the fruits are not nipped with the blight of suspicion," said Rachel, good-humouredly.
However, after driving Ermine home, and seeing her lifted out and carried into the house by her sister, Rachel did send the carriage back by the groom and betake herself to Villars's shop, where she asked for a sight of the "Clergy List." The name of Mauleverer caught her eye, but only one instance of it appeared, and he was a cathedral canon, his presentation dated in 1832, the time at which, judging from appearances, the object of her search might have been born; besides, he rejoiced in the simple name of Thomas. But Rachel's search was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the issue of Mr. Mauleverer himself from the reading-room within the shop. He bowed and passed by, but Rachel for the life of her could not hinder a burning colour from spreading to the very tips of her ears; so certain did she feel that she was insulting him by her researches, and that he perceived them. She felt absolutely ashamed to see him the next day, and even in her dreams was revolving speeches that might prove that though cautious and clear-sighted, she was neither suspicious nor narrow-minded.
He came when some morning visitors were at the Homestead, prosy neighbours whose calls were always a penance to Rachel, and the butler, either from the manner of the inquiry or not regarding him as drawing-room company, put him into the dining-room and announced, "Mr. Mauleverer to see Miss Rachel." Up jumped Miss Rachel, with "You'll excuse me, it is on business;" and went off highly satisfied that "the mother" was hindered by politeness from making any attempt at chaperonage either personally or through Grace, so unnecessary at her age, for since Colonel Keith's departure, Rachel's age had begun to grow on her again. She held out her hand as if to atone for her search, but she found at once that it had been remarked.
"You were doing me the honour to look for my name in the 'Clergy List,' Miss Curtis," he said.
"Yes, one is apt—," faltered Rachel, decidedly out of countenance.
"I quite appreciate the motive. It is exactly in accord with Miss Curtis's prudence and good sense. I should wish to be fully explicit before any arrangements are made. I am unhappily not in orders, Miss Curtis. I know your liberality will regard the cause with leniency."
"Indeed," said Rachel, sufficiently restored to recall one of her premeditated reassurances. "I can fully appreciate any reluctance to become stringently bound to dogmatic enunciations, before the full powers of the intellect have examined into them."
"You have expressed it exactly, Miss Curtis. Without denying an iota of them, I may be allowed to regret that our formularies are too technical for a thoughtful mind in the present age."
"Many have found it so," returned Rachel, thoughtfully, "who only needed patience to permit their convictions to ripen. Then I understand you, it was a rejection on negative not positive grounds?"
"Precisely; I do not murmur, but it has been the blight of my life."
"And yet," said Rachel, consolingly, "it may enable you to work with more freedom."
"Since you encourage me to believe so, Miss Curtis, I will hope it, but I have met with much suspicion."
"I can well believe it," said Rachel; "even some of the most superior persons refuse to lay their hands to any task unless they are certified of the religious opinions of their coadjutors, which seems to me like a mason's refusing to work at a wall with a man who liked Greek architecture when he preferred Gothic!"
If Rachel had been talking to Ermine she might have been asked whether the dissimilarity might not be in the foundations, or in the tempering of the mortar, but Mr. Mauleverer only commended her liberal spirit, and she thought it high time to turn from this subject to the immediate one in hand. He had wished to discuss the plan with her, he said, before drawing it up, and in effect she had cogitated so much upon it that her ideas came forth with more than her usual fluency and sententiousness. The scheme was that an asylum should be opened under the superintendence of Mr. Mauleverer himself, in which young girls might be placed to learn handicrafts that might secure their livelihood, in especial, perhaps, wood engraving and printing. It might even be possible, in time, to render the whole self-supporting, suppose by the publication of a little illustrated periodical, the materials for which might be supplied by those interested in the institution.
If anything could add to Rachel's delight it was this last proposition. In all truth and candour, the relief to the victims to lace-making was her primary object, far before all besides, and the longing desire of her heart for years seemed about to be fulfilled; but a domestic magazine, an outlet to all the essays on Curatocult, on Helplessness, on Female Folly, and Female Rights, was a development of the plan beyond her wildest hopes! No dull editor to hamper, reject or curtail! She should be as happy, and as well able to expand as the Invalid herself.
Mr. Mauleverer had brought a large packet of letters with him, in all manner of hands. There were some testimonials from a German university, and letters from German professors in a compromise between English and German hand, looking impossible to read, also the neat writing and thin wavy water-marked paper of American professors and philanthropists in high commendation of his ability and his scheme, and a few others that he said were of too private a nature to do more than show Miss Curtis in confidence, but on which she recognised some distinguished names of persons interested in Social Science. She would not wound his feelings by too close an inquiry, but she felt armed at all points against cavillers. Really, she began to think, it was a great pity Colonel Keith should cross her path again, she had so much on her hands that it would be a public misfortune if any one man's private domestic love should monopolize her; and yet, such was this foolish world, the Honourable Mrs. Colin Keith would be a more esteemed lady patroness than Miss Rachel Curtis, though the Curtises had been lords of the soil for many generations, and Colonel Keith was a mere soldier of fortune.
One disappointment Rachel had, namely, that Mr. Mauleverer announced that he was about to return to St. Herbert's, the very large and fashionable watering-place in the next indentation of the coast. He had duties there, he said, and he had only come to Avonmouth for a brief holiday, a holiday that was to result in such happy effects. He lived in an exceedingly retired way, he said, being desirous of saving his small private means for his great object, and he gave Rachel his address at the chief printseller's of the place, where his letters were left for him, while he made excursions from time to time to study the picturesque, and to give lectures on behalf of philanthropical subjects. He offered such a lecture at Avonmouth, but Mr. Touchett would not lend either school-room, and space was nowhere else available. In the meantime a prospectus was drawn up, which Rachel undertook to get printed at Villars's, and to send about to all her friends, since a subscription in hand was the first desideratum.
Never since she had grown up to be a thinking woman had Rachel been so happy as with this outlet to her activity and powers of managing, "the good time coming at last." Eagerly she claimed sympathy, names and subscriptions. Her own immediate circle was always easily under her influence, and Lady Temple, and Mrs. Curtis supplied the dignity of lady patronesses; Bessie Keith was immensely diverted at the development of "that landscape painter," and took every opportunity of impressing on Rachel that all was the result of her summons to the rescue. Ermine wished Rachel had found out who was the bishop's chaplain who rejected him, but allowed that it would have been an awkward question to ask, and also she wondered if he were a university man; but Mr. Touchett had been at a Hall, and never knew anybody, besides being so firmly convinced that Mr. Mauleverer was a pestiferous heretic, that no one, except Lady Temple, could have obtained a patient answer from him on that head—and even with her he went the length of a regret that she had given the sanction of her name to an undertaking by a person of whose history and principles nothing satisfactory was known. "Oh!" said Fanny, with her sweet look of asking pardon, "I am so sorry you think so; Rachel wished it so much, and it seems such a nice thing for the poor children."
"Indeed," said Mr. Touchett, well nigh disarmed by the look, "I am quite sensible of the kindness of all you do, I only ventured to wish there had been a little more delay, that we were more certain about this person."
"When Colonel Keith comes back he will find out all about him, I am sure," said Fanny, and Mr. Touchett, to whom seemed to have been transferred Rachel's dislike to the constant quoting of Colonel Keith, said no more.
The immediate neighbourhood did not very readily respond to the appeal to it in behalf of the lace-makers. People who did not look into the circumstances of their neighbours thought lace furnished a good trade, and by no means wished to enhance its price; people who did care for the poor had charities of their own, nor was Rachel Curtis popular enough to obtain support for her own sake; a few five-pound notes, and a scanty supply of guineas and half-guineas from people who were ready at any cost to buy off her vehement eyes and voice was all she could obtain, and with a subscription of twenty pounds each from her mother, Lady Temple, and Grace, and all that she could scrape together of her own, hardly seemed sufficient to meet the first expenses, and how would the future be provided for? She calculated how much she could spare out of her yearly income, and actually, to the great horror of her mother and the coachman, sold her horse.
Bessie Keith was the purchaser. It was an expense that she could quite afford, for she and her brother had been left very well off by their father—a prudent man, who, having been a widower during his Indian service, had been able to live inexpensively, besides having had a large amount of prize money. She had always had her own horse at Littleworthy, and now when Rachel was one day lamenting to her the difficulty of raising money for the Industrial Asylum, and declaring that she would part with her horse if she was sure of its falling into good hands, Bessie volunteered to buy it, it was exactly what would suit her, and she should delight in it as a reminder of dear Avonmouth. It was a pang, Rachel loved the pretty spirited creature, and thought of her rides with the Colonel; but how weigh the pleasure of riding against the welfare of one of those hard-worked, half-stifled little girls, and besides, it might be best to have done with Colonel Keith now that her mission had come to find her. So the coachman set a purposely unreasonable value upon poor Meg, and Rachel reduced the sum to what had been given for it three years before; but Bessie begged her brother to look at the animal and give his opinion.
"Is that what you are after?" he exclaimed.
"Indeed, Alick, I thought it was the greatest kindness I could do her; she is so very eager about this plan, and so anxious to find poor Meg a good home."
"Purely to oblige her?"
"Of course, Alick, it was much more convenient to her than if she had had to send about to horse-dealers or to advertise. I doubt if she could have done it at all; and it is for her asylum, you know."
"Then give the coachman's sixty guineas at once."
"Ah, Alick, that's your infatuation!" and she put on a droll gesture of pity. "But excuse me, where would be the fine edge of delicacy in giving a manifestly fancy price? Come and look at her."
"I never meddle with horse-dealing."
"Stuff, as if you weren't the best-mounted man in the regiment. I shall send a note to Captain Sykes if you won't; he knows how to drive a bargain."
"And give a fancy price the other way. Well, Bessie, on one condition I'll go, and that is, that Meg goes to Bishopsworthy the day she is yours. I won't have her eating Lady Temple's corn, and giving her servants trouble."
"As if I should think of such a thing."
Captain Keith's estimate of the value of the steed precisely agreed with Rachel's demand of the original price. Bessie laughed, and said there was collusion.
"Now seriously, Alick, do you think her worth so much? Isn't it a pity, when you know what a humbug poor Rachel is going to give it to?" and she looked half comical, half saucy.
"If she were going to throw it into the sea, I don't see what difference that would make."
"Ah! you are far too much interested. Nothing belonging to her can bear a vulgar price."
"Nothing belonging to me is to gain profit by her self-denial," said Alick, gravely. "You cannot do less than give her what she gave for it, if you enter on the transaction at all."
"You mean that it would look shabby. You see we womankind never quite know the code of the world on such matters," she said, candidly.
"There is something that makes codes unnecessary, Bessie," he said.
"Ah! I can make allowances. It is a cruel stroke. I don't wonder you can't bear to see any one else on her palfrey; above all as a sacrifice to the landscape painter."
"Then spare my feelings, and send the mare to Bishopsworthy," said Alick, as usual too careless of the imputation to take the trouble to rebut it or to be disconcerted.
Bessie was much tickled at his acceptance, and laughed heartily.
"To be sure," she said, "it is past concealment now. You must have been very far gone, indeed, to have been taken in to suppose me to be making capital of her 'charitable purposes.'"
"Your acting is too like life," he said, not yet induced to laugh, and she rattled on with her droll, sham sentimental air. "Is it the long words, Alick, or is it 'the great eyes, my dear;' or is it—oh, yes, I know what is the great attraction—that the Homestead doesn't possess a single spot where one could play at croquet!"
"Quite irresistible!" replied Alick, and Bessie retreated from the colloquy still not laughing at but with him; that is, if the odd, quaint, inward mirth which only visibly lengthened his sleepy eyes, could be called a laugh.
Next time Captain Keith rode to Avonmouth he met the riding party on the road, Bessie upon Rachel's mare, and it appeared that Lady Temple had considered it so dreadful that Meg should not share her hospitality, that it had been quite impossible to send her away. "So, Alick, your feelings must endure the dreadful spectacle."
Meanwhile Rachel was hard at work with the subscribers to the "Christian Knowledge Society." Beginning with the A's, and working down a page a day, she sent every member a statement of the wrongs of the lacemakers, and the plans of the industrial establishment, at a vast expense of stamps; but then, as she calculated, one pound thus gained paid for two hundred and forty fruitless letters.
"And pray," said Alick, who had ridden on to call at the Homestead, "how do you reconcile yourself to the temptation to the postmen?"
"They don't see what my letters are about?"
"They must be dull postmen if they don't remark on the shower of envelopes that pass through their hands—ominous money-letters, all with the same address, and no detection remember. You don't know who will answer and who will not."
"I never thought of that," said Rachel; "but risks must be run when any great purpose is in hand."
"The corruption of one postman versus the rescue of—how many children make a postman?" asked Captain Keith, with his grave, considering look.
"The postman would be corrupt already," said Grace, as Rachel thought the last speech too mocking to be worthy of reply, and went on picking up her letters.
"There is another objection," added Captain Keith, as he watched her busy fingers. "Have you considered how you are frightening people out of the society? It is enough to make one only subscribe as Michael Miserly or as Simon Skinflint, or something equally uninviting to applications."
"I shall ask you to subscribe by both names!" said Rachel, readily. "How much for Simon Skinflint?"
"Ten pounds. Stop—when Mr. Mauleverer gives him a reference."
"That's ungenerous. Will Michael Miserly make up for it?"
"Yes, when the first year's accounts have been audited."
"Ah! those who have no faith to make a venture can never effect any good."
"You evidently build on a great amount of faith from the public. How do you induce them to believe—do you write in your own name?"
"No, it makes mamma unhappy. I was going to put R. C., but Grace said people would think it meant Roman Catholic. Your sister thought I had better put the initials of Female Union for Lacemaker's Employment."
"You don't mean that Bessie persuaded you to put that?" exclaimed Alick Keith, more nearly starting up than Rachel had ever seen him.
"Yes. There is no objection, is there?"
"Oh, Rachel, Rachel, how could we have helped thinking of it?" cried Grace, nearly in a state of suffocation.
Rachel held up her printed appeal, where subscriptions were invited to the address of F. U. L. E., the Homestead, Avonmouth.
"Miss Curtis, though you are not Scottish, you ought to be well read in Walter Scott."
"I have thought it waste of time to read incorrect pictures of pseudo-chivalry since I have been grown up," said Rachel. "But that has nothing to do with it."
"Ah, Rachel, if we had been more up in our Scotch, we should have known what F. U. L. E. spells," sighed Grace.
A light broke in upon Rachel. "I am sure Bessie never could have recollected it," was her first exclamation. "But there," she continued, too earnest to see or stumble at straws, "never mind. It cannot be helped, and I dare say not one person in ten will be struck by it."
"Stay," said Grace, "let it be Englishwoman's Employment. See, I can very easily alter the L into an E."
Rachel would hardly have consented, but was forced to yield to her mother's entreaties. However, the diligent transformation at L's did not last long, for three days after a parcel was left at the Homestead containing five thousand printed copies of the appeal, with the E rightly inserted. Bessie laughed, and did not disavow the half reluctant thanks for this compensation for her inadvertence or mischief, whichever it might be, laughing the more at Rachel's somewhat ungrateful confession that she had rather the cost had gone into a subscription for the F. U. E. E. As Bessie said to herself, it was much better and more agreeable for all parties that it should so stand, and she would consider herself in debt to Alick for the amount. Indeed, she fully expected him to send her in the bill, but in the meantime not one word was uttered between the brother and sister on the subject. They understood one another too well to spend useless words.
Contrary to most expectation, there was result enough from Rachel's solicitations to serve as justification for the outlay in stamps. The very number of such missives that fly about the world proves that there must be a great amount of uninquiring benevolence to render the speculation anything but desperate, and Rachel met with very tolerable success. Mr. Mauleverer called about once a week to report progress on his side, and, in his character of treasurer, to take charge of the sums that began to accumulate. But Rachel had heard so much on all sides of the need of caution in dealing with one so entirely a stranger, that she resolved that no one should blame her for imprudence, and therefore retained in her own name, in the Avoncester Bank, all the sums that she received. Mr. Mauleverer declared himself quite contented with this arrangement, and eagerly anticipated the apologies that Rachel was ashamed even to make to him.
Enough was collected to justify a beginning on a small scale. A house was to be taken where Mr. Mauleverer and a matron would receive the first pupils, teach them wood engraving, and prepare the earlier numbers of the magazine. When a little more progress had been made, the purchase of a printing-press might be afforded, and it might be struck off by the girls themselves, but in the meantime they must be dependent on the regular printer. On this account Mr. Mauleverer thought it best to open the establishment, not at Avonmouth, but at St. Herbert's, where he had acquaintance that would facilitate the undertaking.
Rachel was much disappointed. To be in and out constantly, daily teaching and watching the girls, and encouraging them by learning the employment herself, had been an essential portion of her vision. She had even in one of her most generous moods proposed to share the delight with the Williamses, and asked Ermine if she would not, if all things suited, become the resident matron. However, Mr. Mauleverer said that there was an individual of humbler rank, the widow of a National Schoolmaster, so anxious to devote herself to the work, that he had promised she should share it whenever he was in a condition to set the asylum on foot; and he assured Rachel that she would find this person perfectly amenable to all her views, and ready to work under her. He brought letters in high praise of the late school master, and recommendations of his widow from the clergyman of the parish where they had lived; and place and name being both in the "Clergy List," even Ermine and Alison began to feel ashamed of their incredulity, whilst as to Grace, she had surrendered herself completely to the eager delight of finding a happy home for the little children in whom she was interested. Grace might laugh a little at Rachel, but in the main her trust in her sister's superiority always led her judgment, and in the absence of Colonel Keith, Fanny was equally willing to let Rachel think for her when her own children were not concerned.
Rachel did not give up her hopes of fixing the asylum near her till after a considerable effort to get a house for it at Avonmouth, but this was far from easy. The Curtises' unwillingness to part with land for building purposes enhanced the price of houses, and in autumn and winter the place was at its fullest, so that she could not even rent a house but at a ruinous price. It would be the best way to build on Homestead land, but this would be impracticable until spring, even if means were forthcoming, as Rachel resolved they should be, and in the meantime she was obliged to acquiesce in Mr. Mauleverer's assurance that a small house in an overbuilt portion of St. Norbert's would be more eligible than one in some inland parish. Anything was better than delay. Mr. Mauleverer was to superintend from his lodgings.
Rachel went with Grace and her mother to St. Norbert's, and inspected the house, an ordinary cheap one, built to supply lodgings for the more economical class of visitors. It was not altogether what Rachel wished, but must serve till she could build, and perhaps it would be best to form her experience before her plans. Mr. Mauleverer's own lodgings were near at hand, and he could inspect progress. The furniture was determined upon—neat little iron beds for the dormitories, and all that could serve for comfort and even pleasure, for both Mr. Mauleverer and Rachel were strong against making the place bare and workhouse-like, insulting poverty and dulling the spirit.
Grace suggested communication with the clergyman of the parish; but the North Hill turned out not to belong to St. Norbert's proper, being a part of a great moorland parish, whose focus was twelve miles off. A district was in course of formation, and a church was to be built; but in the meantime the new houses were practically almost pastorless, and the children and their matron must take their chance on the free seats of one of the churches of St. Norbert's. The staff of clergy there were so busy that no one liked to add extra parochial work to their necessary duties, and there was not sufficient acquaintance with them to judge how they would view Mr. Mauleverer's peculiarities. Clerical interference was just what Rachel said she did not want; it was an escape that she did not call it meddling.
One bit of patronage at least she could exercise; a married pair of former Homestead servants had set up a fuel store at St. Norbert's, receiving coal from the ships, and retailing it. They were to supply the F. U. E. E. with wood, coal, and potatoes; and this was a great ingredient in Mrs. Curtis's toleration. The mother liked anything that brought custom to Rossitur and Susan.
The establishment was at present to consist of three children: the funds were not sufficient for more. One was the child of the matron, and the other two were Lovedy Kelland and the daughter of a widow in ill health, whose family were looking very lean and ill cared for. Mrs. Kelland was very unwilling to give Lovedy up, she had always looked to receiving the apprentice fee from the Burnaby bargain for her as soon as the child was fourteen, and she had a strong prejudice against any possible disturbance to the lace trade; but winter would soon come and her sale was uncertain; her best profit was so dependent on Homestead agency that it was impolitic to offend Miss Curtis; and, moreover, Lovedy was so excited by the idea of learning to make pictures to books that she forgot all the lace dexterity she had ever learnt, and spoilt more than she made, so that Mrs. Kelland was reduced to accept the kind proposal that Lovedy should be Lady Temple's nominee, and be maintained, by her at the F. U. E. E. at seven shillings a week.
Fanny, however, asked the clergyman's consent first, telling him, with her sweet, earnest smile, how sorry she was for the little girl, and showing him the high testimonials to Mrs. Rawlins. He owned that they were all that could be wished, and even said at her request that he would talk to Mr. Mauleverer. What the talk amounted to they never knew; but when Fanny said "she hoped he had found nothing unsatisfactory, the poor man must be so glad to be of use;" Mr. Touchett replied with, "Indeed, it is an unfortunate situation;" and his opposition might therefore be considered as suspended.
"Of course," cried Bessie, "we know by what witchery!" But Alison Williams, her listener, turned on her such great eyes of wilful want of comprehension, that she held her peace.
Rachel and Grace united in sending Mary Morris, the other child; they really could do nothing more, so heavily had their means been drawn upon for the first expenses; but Rachel trusted to do more for the future, and resolved that her dress should henceforth cost no more than Alison Williams's; indeed, she went through a series of assertions by way of examining Alison on the expenses of her wardrobe.
The house was taken from Michaelmas, and a few days after, the two little victims, as Bessie laughingly called them, were taken over to St. Norbert's in the Homestead carriage, Lady Temple chaperoning the three young ladies to see the inauguration, and the height of Rachel's glory.
They were received by Mr. Mauleverer at the door, and slightly in the rear saw the matron, Mrs. Rawlins, a handsome pale woman, younger than they expected, but whose weeds made Fanny warm to her directly; but she was shy and retiring, and could not be drawn into conversation; and her little Alice was only three years old, much younger than Rachel had expected as a pupil, but a very pretty creature with great black eyes.
Tea and cake were provided by way of an inauguration feast, and the three little girls sat up in an atmosphere of good cheer, strongly suggestive of school feasts, and were left in the midst, with many promises of being good, a matter that Lovedy seemed to think would be very easy in this happy place, with no lace to make.
Mrs. Rawlins, whose husband had been a trained schoolmaster, was to take the children to church, and attend to their religious instruction; indeed, Mr. Mauleverer was most anxious on this head, and as Rachel already knew the scruples that withheld him from ordination were only upon the absolute binding himself to positive belief in minor technical points, that would never come in the way of young children.
Altogether, the neat freshness of the room, the urbanity of Mr. Mauleverer, the shy grief of the matron, all left a most pleasant impression. Rachel was full of delight and triumph, and Grace and Fanny quite enthusiastic; the latter even to the being sure that the Colonel would be delighted, for the Colonel was already beginning to dawn on the horizon, and not alone. He had written, in the name of his brother, to secure a cottage of gentility of about the same calibre as Myrtlewood, newly completed by a speculator on one of the few bits of ground available for building purposes. A name was yet wanting to it; but the day after the negotiation was concluded, the landlord paid the delicate compliment to his first tenant by painting "Gowanbrae" upon the gate-posts in letters of green. "Go and bray," read Bessie Keith as she passed by; "for the sake of the chief of my name, I hope that it is not an omen of his occupations here."
The two elder boys were with her; and while Francis, slowly apprehending her meaning in part, began to bristle up with the assurance that "Colonel Keith never brayed in his life," Conrade caught the point with dangerous relish, and dwelt with colonial disrespect, that alarmed his mother, on the opinion expressed by some unguarded person in his hearing, that Lord Keith was little better than an old donkey. "He is worse than Aunt Rachel," said Conrade, meditatively, "now she has saved Don, and keeps away from the croquet."
Meantime Rachel studied her own feelings. A few weeks ago her heart would have leapt at the announcement; but now her mission had found her out, and she did not want to be drawn aside from it. Colonel Keith might have many perfections, but alike as Scotsman, soldier, and High-Churchman, he was likely to be critical of the head of the F. U. E. E., and matters had gone too far now for her to afford to doubt, or to receive a doubting master. Moreover, it would be despicable to be diverted from a great purpose by a courtship like any ordinary woman; nor must marriage settlements come to interfere with her building and endowment of the asylum, and ultimate devotion of her property thereunto. No, she would school herself into a system of quiet discouragement, and reserve herself and her means as the nucleus of the great future establishment for maintaining female rights of labour.
CHAPTER XI. LADY TEMPLE'S TROUBLES.
"The pheasant in the falcon's claw, He scarce will yield, to please a daw."—SCOTT.
Early in the afternoon of a warm October day, the brothers arrived at Avomnouth, and ten minutes after both were upon the lawn at Myrtlewood, where croquet was still in progress. Shouts of delight greeted the Colonel, and very gracefully did Bessie Keith come to meet him, with the frank confiding sweetness befitting his recent ward, the daughter of his friend. A reassuring smile and monosyllable had scarcely time to pass between him and the governess before a flood of tidings was poured on him by the four elder boys, while their mother was obliged to be mannerly, and to pace leisurely along with the elder guest, and poor Mr. Touchett waited a little aloof, hammering his own boot with his mallet, as if he found the enchanted ground failing him. But the boys had no notion of losing their game, and vociferated an inquiry whether the Colonel knew croquet. Yes, he had several times played with his cousins in Scotland. "Then," insisted Conrade, "he must take mamma's place, whilst she was being devoured, and how surprised she would be at being so helped on!"
"Not now, not to-day," he answered. "I may go to your sister, Ailie? Yes, boys, you must close up your ranks without me."
"Then please," entreated Hubert, "take him away," pointing to the engrosser of their mother.
"Do you find elder brothers so easily disposed of, Hubert?" said the Colonel. "Do you take Conrade away when you please?"
"I should punch him," returned Francis.
"He knows better," quoth Conrade in the same breath, both with infinite contempt for Hubert.
"And I know better," returned Colonel Keith; "never mind, boys, I'll come back in—in reasonable time to carry him off," and he waved a gay farewell.
"Surely you wish to go too," said Bessie to Alison, "if only to relieve them of the little girl! I'll take care of the boys. Pray go."
"Thank you," said Alison, surprised at her knowledge of the state of things, "but they are quite hardened to Rose's presence, and I think would rather miss her."
And in fact Alison did not feel at all sure that, when stimulated by Bessie's appreciation of their mischief, her flock might not in her absence do something that might put their mother in despair, and make their character for naughtiness irretrievable; so Leoline and Hubert were summoned, the one from speculations whether Lord Keith would have punched his brother, the other from amaze that there was anything our military secretary could not do, and Conrade and Francis were arrested in the midst of a significant contraction of the nostrils and opening of the mouth, which would have exploded in an "eehaw" but for Bessie's valiant undertaking to be herself and Lady Temple both at once.
Soon Colonel Keith was knocking at Ermine's door, and Rose was clinging to him, glowing and sparkling with shy ecstasy; while, without sitting down again after her greeting, Rachel resolutely took leave, and walked away with firm steps, ruminating on her determination not to encourage meetings in Mackarel Lane.
"Better than I expected!" exclaimed Colonel Keith, after having ushered her to the door in the fulness of his gratitude. "I knew it was inevitable that she should be here, but that she should depart so fast was beyond hope!"
"Yes," said Ermine, laughing, "I woke with such a certainty that she would be here and spend the first half hour in the F. U. E, E. that I wasted a great deal of resignation. But how are you, Colin? You are much thinner! I am sure by Mrs. Tibbie's account you were much more ill than you told me."
"Only ill enough to convince me that the need of avoiding a northern winter was not a fallacy, and likewise to make Tibbie insist on coming here for fear Maister Colin should not be looked after. It is rather a responsibility to have let her come, for she has never been farther south than Edinburgh, but she would not be denied. So she has been to see you! I told her you would help her to find her underlings. I thought it might be an opening for that nice little girl who was so oppressed with lace-making."
"Ah! she has gone to learn wood-cutting at the F. U. E. E.; but I hope we have comfortably provided Tibbie with a damsel. She made us a long visit, and told us all about Master Colin's nursery days. Only I am afraid we did not understand half."
"Good old body," said the Colonel, in tones almost as national as Tibbie's own. "She was nursery girl when I was the spoilt child of the house, and hers was the most homelike face that met me. I wish she may be happy here. And you are well, Ermine?"
"Very well, those drives are so pleasant, and Lady Temple so kind! It is wonderful to think how many unlooked-for delights have come to us; how good every one is;" and her eyes shone with happy tears as she looked up at him, and felt that he was as much her own as ever. "And you have brought your brother," she said; "you have been too useful to him to be spared. Is he come to look after you or to be looked after!"
"A little of both I fancy," said the Colonel, "but I suspect he is giving me up as a bad job. Ermine, there are ominous revivifications going on at home, and he has got himself rigged out in London, and had his hair cut, so that he looks ten years younger."
"Do you think he has any special views!"
"He took such pains to show me the charms of the Benorchie property that I should have thought it would have been Jessie Douglas, the heiress thereof, only coming here does not seem the way to set about it, unless be regards this place as a bath of youth and fashion. I fancy he has learnt enough about my health to make him think me a precarious kind of heir, and that his views are general. I hope he may not be made a fool of, otherwise it is the best thing that could happen to us."
"It has been a dreary uncomfortable visit, I much fear," said Ermine.
"Less so than you think. I am glad to have been able to be of use to him, and to have lived on something like brotherly terms. We know and like each other much better than we had a chance of doing before, and we made some pleasant visits together, but at home there are many things on which we can never be of one mind, and I never was well enough at Gowanbrae to think of living there permanently."
"I was sure you had been very unwell! You are better though?"
"Well, since I came into Avonmouth air," said he, "I fear nothing but cold. I am glad to have brought him with me, since he could not stay there, for it is very lonely for him."
"Yet you said his daughter was settled close by."
"Yes; but that makes it the worse. In fact, Ermine, I did not know before what a wretched affair he had made of his daughters' marriages. Isabel he married when she was almost a child to this Comyn Menteith, very young too at the time, and who has turned out a good-natured, reckless, dissipated fellow, who is making away with his property as fast as he can, and to whom Keith's advice is like water on a duck's back. It is all rack and ruin and extravagance, a set of ill-regulated children, and Isabel smiling and looking pretty in the midst of them, and perfectly impervious to remonstrance. He is better out of sight of them, for it is only pain and vexation, an example of the sort of match he likes to make. Mary, the other daughter, was the favourite, and used to her own way, and she took it. Keith was obliged to consent so as to prevent an absolute runaway wedding, but he has by no means forgiven her husband, and they are living on very small means on a Government appointment in Trinidad. I believe it would be the bitterest pill to him that either son-in-law should come in for any part of the estate."
"I thought it was entailed."
"Gowanbrae is, but as things stand at present that ends with me, and the other estates are at his disposal."
"Then it would be very hard on the daughters not to have them."
"So hard that the death of young Alexander may have been one of the greatest disasters of my life, as well as of poor Keith's. However, this is riding out to meet perplexities. He is most likely to outlive me; and, moreover, may marry and put an end to the difficulty. Meantime, till my charge is relieved, I must go and see after him, and try if I can fulfil Hubert's polite request that I would take him away. Rosie, my woman, I have hardly spoken to you. I have some hyacinth roots to bring you to-morrow."
In spite of these suspicions, Colonel Keith was not prepared for what met him on his return to Myrtlewood. On opening the drawing-room door, he found Lady Temple in a low arm-chair in an agony of crying, so that she did not hear his approach till he stood before her in consternation. Often had he comforted her before, and now, convinced that something dreadful must have befallen one of the children, he hastily, though tenderly, entreated her to tell him which, and what he could do.
"Oh, no, no!" she exclaimed, starting up, and removing her handkerchief, so that he saw her usually pale cheeks were crimson—"Oh, no," she cried, with panting breath and heaving chest. "It is all well with them as yet. But—but—it's your brother."
He was at no loss now as to what his brother could have done, but he stood confounded, with a sense of personal share in the offence, and his first words were—"I am very sorry. I never thought of this."
"No, indeed," she exclaimed, "who could? It was too preposterous to be dreamt of by any one. At his age, too, one would have thought he might have known better."
A secret sense of amusement crossed the Colonel, as he recollected that the disparity between Fanny Curtis and Sir Stephen Temple had been far greater than that between Lady Temple and Lord Keith, but the little gentle lady was just at present more like a fury than he had thought possible, evidently regarding what had just passed as an insult to her husband and an attack on the freedom of all her sons. In answer to a few sympathising words on the haste of his brother's proceeding, she burst out again with indignation almost amusing in one so soft—"Haste! Yes! I did think that people would have had some respect for dear, dear Sir Stephen," and her gush of tears came with more of grief and less of violence, as if she for the first time felt herself unprotected by her husband's name.
"I am very much concerned," he repeated, feeling sympathy safer than reasoning. "If I could have guessed his intentions, I would have tried to spare you this; at least the suddenness of it. I could not have guessed at such presumptuous expectations on so short an acquaintance."
"He did not expect me to answer at once," said Fanny. "He said he only meant to let me know his hopes in coming here. And, oh, that's the worst of it! He won't believe me, though I said more to him than I thought I could have said to anybody! I told him," said Fanny, with her hands clasped over her knee to still her trembling, "that I cared for my dear, dear husband, and always shall—always—and then he talked about waiting, just as if anybody could leave off loving one's husband! And then when he wanted me to consider about my children, why then I told him"—and her voice grew passionate again—"the more I considered, the worse it would be for him, as if I would have my boys know me without their father's name; and, besides, he had not been so kind to you that I should wish to let him have anything to do with them! I am afraid I ought not to have said that," she added, returning to something of her meek softness; "but indeed I was so angry, I did not know what I was about. I hope it will not make him angry with you."
"Never mind me," said Colonel Keith, kindly. "Indeed, Lady Temple, it is a wonderful compliment to you that he should have been ready to undertake such a family."
"I don't want such compliments! And, oh!" and here her eyes widened with fright, "what shall I do? He only said my feelings did me honour, and he would be patient and convince me. Oh, Colonel Keith, what shall I do?" and she looked almost afraid that fate and perseverance would master her after all, and that she should be married against her will.
"You need do nothing but go on your own way, and persist in your refusal," he said in the calm voice that always reassured her.
"Oh, but pray, pray never let him speak to me about it again!"
"Not if I can help it, and I will do my best. You are quite right, Lady Temple. I do not think it would be at all advisable for yourself or the children, and hardly for himself," he added, smiling. "I think the mischief must all have been done by that game at whist."
"Then I'll never play again in my life! I only thought he was an old man that wanted amusing—." Then as one of the children peeped in at the window, and was called back—"O dear! how shall I ever look at Conrade again, now any one has thought I could forget his father?"
"If Conrade knew it, which I trust he never will, he ought to esteem it a testimony to his mother."
"Oh, no, for it must have been my fault! I always was so childish, and when I've got my boys with me, I can't help being happy," and the tears swelled again in her eyes. "I know I have not been as sad and serious as my aunt thought I ought to be, and now this comes of it."
"You have been true, have acted nothing," said Colonel Keith, "and that is best of all. No one who really knew you could mistake your feelings. No doubt that your conduct agrees better with what would please our dear Sir Stephen than if you drooped and depressed the children."
"Oh, I am glad you say that," she said, looking up, flushed with pleasure now, and her sweet eyes brimming over. "I have tried to think what he would like in all I have done, and you know I can't help being proud and glad of belonging to him still; and he always told me not to be shy and creeping into the nursery out of every one's way."
The tears were so happy now that he felt that the wound was healed, and that he might venture to leave her, only asking first, "And now what would you like me to do? Shall I try to persuade my brother to come away from this place?"
"Oh, but then every one would find out why, and that would be dreadful! Besides, you are only just come. And Miss Williams—"
"Do not let that stand in your way."
"No, no. You will be here to take care of me. And his going now would make people guess; and that would be worse than anything."
"It would. The less disturbance the better; and if you upset his plans now, he might plead a sort of right to renew the attempt later. Quiet indifference will be more dignified and discouraging. Indeed, I little thought to what I was exposing you. Now I hope you are going to rest, I am sure your head is aching terribly."
She faintly smiled, and let him give her his arm to the foot of the stairs.
At first he was too indignant for any relief save walking up and down the esplanade, endeavouring to digest the unfairness towards himself of his brother's silence upon views that would have put their joint residence at Avonmouth on so different a footing; above all, when the Temple family were his own peculiar charge, and when he remembered how unsuspiciously he had answered all questions on the money matters, and told how all was left in the widow's own power. It was the more irritating, as he knew that his displeasure would be ascribed to interested motives, and regarded somewhat as he had seen Hubert's resentment treated when Francis teased his favourite rabbit. Yet not only on principle, but to avoid a quarrel, and to reserve to himself such influence as might best shield Lady Temple from further annoyance, he must school himself to meet his brother with coolness and patience. It was not, however, without strong effort that he was able to perceive that, from the outer point of view, one who, when a mere child, had become the wife of an aged general, might, in her early widowhood, be supposed open to the addresses of a man of higher rank and fewer years, and the more as it was not in her nature to look crushed and pathetic. He, who had known her intimately throughout her married life and in her sorrow, was aware of the quiet force of the love that had grown up with her, so entirely a thread in her being as to crave little expression, and too reverent to be violent even in her grief. The nature, always gentle, had recovered its balance, and the difference in years had no doubt told in the readiness with which her spirits had recovered their cheerfulness, though her heart remained unchanged. Still, retired as her habits were, and becoming as was her whole conduct, Colin began to see that there had been enough of liveliness about her to lead to Lord Keith's mistake, though not to justify his want of delicacy in the precipitation of his suit.
These reflections enabled him at length to encounter his brother with temper, and to find that, after all, it had been more like the declaration of an intended siege than an actual summons to surrender. Lord Keith was a less foolish and more courteous man than might have been gathered from poor Fanny's terrified account; and all he had done was to intimate his intention of recommending himself to her, and the view with which he had placed himself at Avonmouth; nor was he in the slightest degree disconcerted by her vehemence, but rather entertained by it, accepting her faithfulness to her first husband's memory as the best augury of her affection for a second. He did not even own that he had been precipitate.
"Let her get accustomed to the idea," he said with a shrewd smile. "The very outcry she makes against it will be all in my favour when the turn comes."
"I doubt whether you will find it so."
"All the world does not live on romance like you, man. Look on, and you will see that a pretty young widow like her cannot fail to get into scrapes; have offers made to her, or at least the credit of them. I'd lay you ten pounds that you are said to be engaged to her yourself by this time, and it is no one's fault but your own that you are not. It is in the very nature of things that she will be driven to shelter herself from the persecution, with whoever has bided his time."
"Oh, if you prefer being accepted on such terms—"
He smiled, as if the romance of the exclamation were beneath contempt, and proceeded—"A pretty, gracious, ladylike woman, who has seen enough of the world to know how to take her place, and yet will be content with a quiet home. It is an introduction I thank you for, Colin."
"And pray," said Colin, the more inwardly nettled because he knew that his elder brother enjoyed his annoyance, "what do you think of those seven slight encumbrances?"
"Oh, they are your charge," returned Lord Keith, with a twinkle in his eye. "Besides, most of them are lads, and what with school, sea, and India, they will be easily disposed of."
"Certainly it has been so in our family," said Colin, rather hoarsely, as he thought of the four goodly brothers who had once risen in steps between him and the Master.
"And," added Lord Keith, still without direct answer, "she is so handsomely provided for, that you see, Colin, I could afford to give you up the Auchinvar property, that should have been poor Archie's, and what with the farms and the moor, it would bring you in towards three hundred a year for your housekeeping."
Colin restrained himself with difficulty, but made quiet answer. "I had rather see it settled as a provision on Mary and her children."
Lord Keith growled something about minding his own concerns.
"That is all I desire," responded the Colonel, and therewith the conference ended. Nor was the subject recurred to. It was observable, however, that Lord Keith was polite and even attentive to Ermine. He called on her, sent her grouse, and though saying nothing, seemed to wish to make it evident that his opposition was withdrawn, perhaps as no longer considering his brother's affairs as his own, or else wishing to conciliate him. Lady Temple was not molested by any alarming attentions from him. But for the proclamation, the state of siege might have been unsuspected. He settled himself at the southern Gowanbrae as if he had no conquest to achieve but that of the rheumatism, and fell rapidly into sea-side habits—his morning stroll to see the fishing-boats come in, his afternoon ride, and evening's dinner party, or whist-club, which latter institution disposed of him, greatly to Colin's relief. The brothers lived together very amicably, and the younger often made himself helpful and useful to the elder, but evidently did not feel bound to be exclusively devoted to his service and companionship. All the winter residents and most of the neighbouring gentry quickly called at Gowanbrae, and Lord Keith, in the leisure of his present life, liked society where he was the man of most consequence, and readily accepted and gave invitations. Colin, whose chest would not permit him to venture out after sunset, was a most courteous assistant host, but necessarily made fewer acquaintances, and often went his own way, sometimes riding with his brother, but more frequently scarcely seeing him between breakfast and twilight, and then often spending a solitary evening, which he much preferred either to ecarte or to making talk.
The summer life had been very different from the winter one. There was much less intercourse with the Homestead, partly from Rachel being much engrossed with the F. U. E. E., driving over whenever the coachman would let her, to inspect progress, and spending much of her time in sending out circulars, answering letters, and writing a tale on the distresses of Woman, and how to help them, entitled "Am I not a Sister?" Tales were not much in Bachel's line; she despised reading them, and did not love writing them, but she knew that she must sugar the cup for the world, and so she diligently applied herself to the piece de resistance for the destined magazine, heavily weighting her slender thread of story with disquisitions on economy and charity, and meaning to land her heroines upon various industrial asylums where their lot should be far more beatific than marriage, which was reserved for the naughty one to live unhappy in ever after. In fact, Rachel, in her stern consistency, had made up her mind to avoid and discourage the Colonel, and to prevent her own heart from relenting in his favour, or him from having any opportunity of asking an explanation, and with this determination she absented herself both from Ermine's parlour and Lady Temple's croquet ground; and if they met on the esplanade or in a morning call, took care never to give the chance of a tete-a-tete, which he was evidently seeking.
The croquet practice still survived. In truth, Fanny was afraid to ride lest Lord Keith should join her, and was glad to surround herself with companions. She could not see the enemy without a nervous trepidation, and was eager to engross herself with anybody or thing that came to hand so as to avoid the necessity of attending to him. More than once did she linger among her boys "to speak to Mr. Touchett," that she might avoid a ten minutes' walk with his lordship; and for nothing was she more grateful than for the quiet and ever ready tact with which Bessie Keith threw herself into the breach. That bright damsel was claimed by Lord Keith as a kinswoman, and, accepting the relationship, treated him with the pretty playfulness and coquetry that elderly men enjoy from lively young girls, and thus often effected a diversion in her friend's favour, to the admiration both of the Colonel and of Lady Temple herself; all, however, by intuition, for not a word had been hinted to her of what had passed during that game at croquet. She certainly was a most winning creature; the Colonel was charmed with her conversation in its shades between archness and good sense, and there was no one who did not look forward with dread to the end of her visit, when after a short stay with one of her married cousins, she must begin her residence with the blind uncle to whose establishment she, in her humility, declared she should be such a nuisance. It was the stranger that she should think so, as she had evidently served her apprenticeship to parish work at Bishopsworthy; she knew exactly how to talk to poor people, and was not only at home in clerical details herself, but infused them into Lady Temple; so that, to the extreme satisfaction of Mr. Touchett, the latter organized a treat for the school-children, offered prizes for needlework, and once or twice even came to listen to the singing practice when anything memorable was going forward. She was much pleased at being helped to do what she felt to be right and kind, though hitherto she had hardly known how to set about it, and had been puzzled and perplexed by Rachel's disapproval, and semi-contempt of "scratching the surface" by the commonplace Sunday-school system.
CHAPTER XII. A CHANGE AT THE PARSONAGE.
"What could presumptuous hope inspire."—Rokeby.
There had been the usual foretaste of winter, rather sharp for Avonmouth, and though a trifle to what it was in less sheltered places, quite enough to make the heliotropes sorrowful, strip the fig-trees, and shut Colonel Keith up in the library. Then came the rain, and the result was that the lawn of Myrtlewood became too sloppy for the most ardent devotees of croquet; indeed, as Bessie said, the great charm of the sport was that one could not play it above eight months in the year.
The sun came back again, and re-asserted the claim of Avonmouth to be a sort of English Mentone; but drying the lawn was past its power, and Conrade and Francis were obliged to console themselves by the glory of taking Bessie Keith for a long ride. They could not persuade their mother to go with them, perhaps because she had from her nursery-window sympathized with Cyril's admiration of the great white horse that was being led round to the door of Gowanbrae.
She said she must stay at home, and make the morning calls that the charms of croquet had led her to neglect, and in about half an hour from that time she was announced in Miss Williams' little parlour, and entered with a hurried, panting, almost pursued look, a frightened glance in her eyes, and a flush on her cheek, such as to startle both Ermine and the Colonel.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, as if still too much perturbed to know quite what she was saying, "I—I did not mean to interrupt you."
"I'm only helping Rose to change the water of her hyacinths," said Colonel Keith, withdrawing his eyes and attention to the accommodation of the forest of white roots within the purple glass.
"I did not know you were out to-day," said Lady Temple, recovering herself a little.
"Yes, I came to claim my walking companion. Where's your hat, Rosie?"
And as the child, who was already equipped all but the little brown hat, stood by her aunt for the few last touches to the throat of her jacket, he leant down and murmured, "I thought he was safe out riding."
"Oh no, no, it is not that," hastily answered Lady Temple, a fresh suffusion of crimson colour rustling over her face, and inspiring an amount of curiosity that rendered a considerable effort of attention necessary to be as supremely charming a companion as Rose generally found him in the walks that he made it his business to take with her.
He turned about long before Rose thought they had gone far enough, and when he re-entered the parlour there was such an expectant look on his face that Ermine's bright eyes glittered with merry mischief, when she sent Rose to take off her walking dress. "Well!" he said.
"Well? Colin, have you so low an opinion of the dignity of your charge as to expect her to pour out her secrets to the first ear in her way?"
"Oh, if she has told you in confidence."
"No, she has not told me in confidence; she knew better."
"She has told you nothing?"
"Nothing!" and Ermine indulged in a fit of laughter at his discomfiture, so comical that he could not but laugh himself, as he said, "Ah! the pleasure of disappointing me quite consoles you."
"No; the proof of the discretion of womanhood does that! You thought, because she tells all her troubles to you, that she must needs do so to the rest of the world."
"There is little difference between telling you and me."
"That's the fault of your discretion, not of hers."
"I should like to know who has been annoying her. I suspect—"
"So do I. And when you get the confidence at first hand, you will receive it with a better grace than if you had had a contraband foretaste."
He smiled. "I thought yours a more confidence-winning face, Ermine."
"That depends on my respect for the individual. Now I thought Lady Temple would much prefer my looking another way, and talking about Conrade's Latin grammar, to my holding out my arms and inviting her to pour into my tender breast what another time she had rather not know that I knew."
"That is being an honourable woman," he said, and Rose's return ended the exchange of speculations; but it must be confessed that at their next meeting Ermine's look of suppressed inquiry quite compensated for her previous banter, more especially as neither had he any confidence to reveal or conceal, only the tidings that the riders, whose coalition had justified Lady Temple's prudence, had met Mr. Touchett wandering in the lanes in the twilight, apparently without a clear idea of what he was doing there. And on the next evening there was quite an excitement, the curate looked so ill, and had broken quite down when he was practising with the choir boys before church; he had, indeed, gone safely through the services, but at school he had been entirely at a loss as to what Sunday it was, and had still more unfortunately forgotten that to be extra civil to Miss Villars was the only hope of retaining her services, for he had walked by her with less attention than if she had been the meanest scholar. Nay, when his most faithful curatolatress had offered to submit to him a design for an illumination for Christmas, he had escaped from her with a desperate and mysterious answer that he had nothing to do with illumination, he hoped it would be as sombre as possible.
No wonder Avonmouth was astonished, and that guesses were not confined to Mackarel Lane.
"Well, Colin," said Ermine, on the Tuesday, "I have had a first-hand confidence, though from a different quarter. Poor Mr. Touchett came to announce his going away."
"Yes. In the very nick of time, it seems, Alick Keith has had a letter from his uncle's curate, asking him to see if he could meet with a southern clergyman to exchange duties for the winter with a London incumbent who has a delicate wife, and of course. Mr. Touchett jumped at it."
"A very good thing—a great relief."
"Yes. He said he was very anxious for work, but he had lost ground in this place within the last few months, and he thought that he should do better in a fresh place, and that a fresh person would answer better here, at least for a time. I am very sorry for him, I have a great regard for him."
"Yes; but he is quite right to make a fresh beginning. Poor man! he has been quite lifted off his feet, and entranced all this time, and his recovery will be much easier elsewhere. It was all that unlucky croquet."
"I believe it was. I think there was at first a reverential sort of distant admiration, too hopeless to do any one any harm, and that really might have refined him, and given him a little of the gentleman-like tone he has always wanted. But then came the croquet, and when it grew to be a passion it was an excuse for intimacy that it would have taken a stronger head than his to resist."
"Under the infection of croquet fever."
"It is what my father used to say of amusements—the instant they become passions they grow unclerical and do mischief. Now he used, though not getting on with the Curtises, to be most successful with the second-rate people; but he has managed to offend half of them during this unhappy mania, which, of course, they all resent as mercenary, and how he is ever to win them back I don't know. After all, curatocult is a shallow motive—Rachel Curtis might triumph!"
"The higher style of clergyman does not govern by curatocult. I hope this one may be of that description, as he comes through Mr. Clare. I wonder if this poor man will return?"
"Perhaps," said Ermine, with a shade of mimicry in her voice, "when Lady Temple is married to the Colonel. There now, I have gone and told you! I did try to resolve I would not."
"And what did you say?"
"I thought it due to Lady Temple to tell him exactly how she regarded you."
"Yes, Ermine, and it is due to tell others also. I cannot go on on these terms, either here or at Myrtlewood, unless the true state of the case is known. If you will not let me be a married man, I must be an engaged one, either to you or to the little Banksia."
This periphrasis was needful, because Rose was curled up in a corner with a book, and her accessibility to outward impressions was dubious. It might be partly for that reason, partly from the tone of fixed resolve in his voice, that Ermine made answer, "As you please."
It was calmly said, with the sweet, grave, confiding smile that told how she trusted to his judgment, and accepted his will. The look and tone brought his hand at once to press hers in eager gratitude, but still she would not pursue this branch of the subject; she looked up to him and said gently, but firmly, "Yes, it may be better that the true state of the case should be known," and he felt that she thus conveyed that he must not press her further, so he let her continue, "At first I thought it would do him good, he began pitying us so vehemently; but when he found I did not pity myself, he was as ready to forget our troubles as—you are to forget his," she added, catching Colin's fixed eye, more intent on herself than on her narrative.
"I beg his pardon, but there are things that come more home."
"So thought he," said Ermine.
"Did you find out," said Colin, now quite recalled, "what made him take courage?"
"When he had once come to the subject, it seemed to be a relief to tell it all out, but he was so faltering and agitated that I did not always follow what he said. I gather, though, that Lady Temple has used him a little as a defence from other perils."
"Yes, I have seen that."
"And Miss Keith's fun has been more encouragement than she knew; constantly summoning him to the croquet-ground, and giving him to understand that Lady Temple liked to have him there. Then came that unlucky day, it seems, when he found Bessie mounting her horse at the door, and she called out that it was too wet for croquet, but Lady Temple was in the garden, and would be glad to see him. She was going to make visits, and he walked down with her, and somehow, in regretting the end of the croquet season, he was surprised into saying how much it had been to him. He says she was exceedingly kind, and regretted extremely that anything should have inspired the hope, said she should never marry again, and entreated him to forget it, then I imagine she fled in here to put an end to it."
"She must have been much more gentle this time than she was with Keith. I had never conceived her capable of being so furious as she was then. I am very sorry, I wish we could spare her these things."
"I am afraid that can only be done in one way, which you are not likely at present to take," said Ermine with a serious mouth, but with light dancing in her eyes.
"I know no one less likely to marry again," he continued, "yet no one of whom the world is so unlikely to believe it. Her very gentle simplicity and tenderness tell against her! Well, the only hope now is that the poor man has not made his disappointment conspicuous enough for her to know that it is attributed to her. It is the beginning of the fulfilment of Keith's prediction that offers and reports will harass her into the deed!"
"There is nothing so fallacious as prophecies against second marriages, but I don't believe they will. She is too quietly dignified for the full brunt of reports to reach her, and too much concentrated on her children to care about them."
"Well, I have to see her to-morrow to make her sign some papers about her pension, so I shall perhaps find out how she takes it."
He found Fanny quite her gentle composed self, as usual uncomprehending and helpless about her business affairs, and throwing the whole burthen on him of deciding on her investments; but in such a gracious, dependent, grateful way that he could not but take pleasure in the office, and had no heart for the lesson he had been meditating on the need of learning to act for herself, if she wished to do without a protector. It was not till she had obediently written her "Frances Grace Temple" wherever her prime minister directed, that she said with a crimson blush, "Is it true that poor Mr. Touchett is going away for the winter?"
"I believe he is even going before Sunday."
"I am very glad—I mean I am very sorry. Do you think any one knows why it is?"
"Very few are intimate enough to guess, and those who are, know you too well to think it was otherwise than very foolish on his part."
"I don't know," said Fanny, "I think I must have been foolish too, or he never could have thought of it. And I was so sorry for him, he seemed so much distressed."
"I do not wonder at that, when he had once allowed himself to admit the thought."
"Yes, that is the thing. I am afraid I can't be what I ought to be, or people would never think of such nonsense," said Fanny, with large tears welling into her eyes. "I can't be guarding that dear memory as I ought, to have two such things happening so soon."
"Perhaps they have made you cherish it all the more."
"As if I wanted that! Please will you tell me how I could have been more guarded. I don't mind your knowing about this; indeed you ought, for Sir Stephen trusted me to you, but I can't ask my aunt or any one else. I can't talk about it, and I would not have them know that Sir Stephen's wife can't get his memory more respected."
She did not speak with anger as the first time, but with most touching sadness.
"I don't think any one could answer," he said.
"I did take my aunt's advice about the officers being here. I have not had them nearly as much as Bessie would have liked, not even Alick. I have been sorry it was so dull for her, but I thought it could not be wrong to be intimate with one's clergyman, and Rachel was always so hard upon him."
"You did nothing but what was kind and right. The only possible thing that could have been wished otherwise was the making a regular habit of his playing croquet here."
"Ah! but the boys and Bessie liked it so much. However, I dare say it was wrong. Alick never did like it."
"Not wrong, only a little overdone. You ladies want sometimes to be put in mind that, because a clergyman has to manage his own time, he is not a whit more really at liberty than a soldier or a lawyer, whose hours are fixed for him. You do not do him or his parish any kindness by engrossing him constantly in pastimes that are all very well once in a way, but which he cannot make habitual without detriment to his higher duties."
"But I thought he would have known when he had time."
"I am afraid curates are but bits of human nature after all."
"And what ought I to have done?"
"If you had been an exceedingly prudent woman who knew the world, you would have done just as you did about the officers, been friendly, and fairly intimate, but instead of ratifying the daily appointments for croquet, have given a special invitation now and then, and so shown that you did not expect him without one."
"I see. Oh, if I had only thought in time, I need not have driven him away from his parish! I hope he won't go on being unhappy long! Oh, I wish there may be some very nice young lady where he is going. If he only would come back married!"
"We would give him a vote of thanks."
"What a wedding present I would make her," proceeded Fanny, brightening perceptibly; "I would give her my best Indian table, only I always meant that for Ermine. I think she must have the emu's egg set in Australian gold."
"If she were to be induced by the bribe," said Colonel Keith, laughing, "I think Ermine would be sufficiently provided for by the emu's egg. Do you know," he added, after a pause, "I think I have made a great step in that direction."
She clasped her hands with delighted sympathy. "She has given me leave to mention the matter," he continued, "and I take that as a sign that her resistance will give way."
"Oh, I am very glad," said Fanny, "I have so wished them to know at the Homestead," and her deepened colour revealed, against her will, that she had not been insensible to the awkwardness of the secrecy.
"I should rather like to tell your cousin Rachel myself," said the Colonel; "she has always been very kind to Ermine, and appreciated her more than I should have expected. But she is not easily to be seen now."
"Her whole heart is in her orphan asylum," said Fanny. "I hope you will soon go with us and see it; the little girls look so nice."
The brightening of his prospects seemed to have quite consoled her for her own perplexities.
That Avonmouth should have no suspicion of the cause of the sudden change of pastor could hardly be hoped; but at least Lady Temple did not know how much talk was expended upon her, how quietly Lord Keith hugged himself, how many comical stories Bessie detailed in her letters to her Clare cousins, nor how Mrs. Curtis resented the presumption; and while she shrank from a lecture, more especially as she did not see how dear Fanny was to blame, flattered herself and Grace that, for the future, Colonel Keith and Rachel would take better care of her.
Rachel did not dwell much on the subject, it was only the climax of conceit, croquet, and mere womanhood; and she was chiefly anxious to know whether Mr. Mitchell, the temporary clergyman, would support the F. U. E. E., and be liberal enough to tolerate Mr. Mauleverer. She had great hopes from a London incumbent, and, besides, Bessie Keith knew him, and spoke of him as a very sensible, agreeable, earnest man.
"Earnest enough for you, Rachel," she said, laughing.
"Is he a party man?"
"Oh, parties are getting obsolete! He works too hard for fighting battles outside."
The Sunday showed a spare, vigorous face, and a voice and pronunciation far more refined than poor Mr. Touchett's; also the sermons were far more interesting, and even Rachel granted that there were ideas in it. The change was effected with unusual celerity, for it was as needful to Mrs. Mitchell to be speedily established in a warm climate, as it was desirable to Mr. Touchett to throw himself into other scenes; and the little parsonage soon had the unusual ornaments of tiny children with small spades and wheelbarrows.
The father and mother were evidently very shy people, with a great deal beneath their timidity, and were much delighted to have an old acquaintance like Miss Keith to help them through their introductions, an office which she managed with all her usual bright tact. The discovery that Stephana Temple and Lucy Mitchell had been born within two days of one another, was the first link of a warm friendship between the two mammas; and Mr. Mitchell fell at once into friendly intercourse with Ermine Williams, to whom Bessie herself conducted him for his first visit, when they at once discovered all manner of mutual acquaintance among his college friends; and his next step was to make the very arrangement for Ermine's church-going, for which she had long been wishing in secret, but which never having occurred to poor Mr. Touchett, she had not dared to propose, lest there should be some great inconvenience in the way.
Colonel Keith was the person, however, with whom the new comers chiefly fraternized, and he was amused with their sense of the space for breathing compared with the lanes and alleys of their own district. The schools and cottages seemed to them so wonderfully large, the children so clean, even their fishiness a form of poetical purity, the people ridiculously well off, and even Mrs. Kelland's lace-school a palace of the free maids that weave their thread with bones. Mr. Mitchell seemed almost to grudge the elbow room, as he talked of the number of cubic feet that held a dozen of his own parishioners; and needful as the change had been for the health of both husband and wife, they almost reproached themselves for having fled and left so many pining for want of pure air, dwelling upon impossible castles for the importation of favourite patients to enjoy the balmy breezes of Avonmouth.
Rachel talked to them about the F. U. E. E., and was delighted by the flush of eager interest on Mrs. Mitchell's thin face. "Objects" swarmed in their parish, but where were the seven shillings per week to come from? At any rate Mr. Mitchell would, the first leisure day, come over to St. Herbert's with her, and inspect. He did not fly off at the first hint of Mr. Mauleverer's "opinions," but said he would talk to him, and thereby rose steps untold in Rachel's estimation. The fact of change is dangerously pleasant to the human mind; Mr. Mitchell walked at once into popularity, and Lady Temple had almost conferred a public benefit by what she so little liked to remember. At any rate she had secured an unexceptionable companion, and many a time resorted to his wing, leaving Bessie to amuse Lord Keith, who seemed to be reduced to carry on his courtship to the widow by attentions to her guest.
CHAPTER XIII. THE FOX AND THE CROW.
"She just gave one squall, When the cheese she let fall, And the fox ran away with his prize." JANE TAYLOR.
"My dear," said Mrs. Curtis, one Monday morning, "I offered Colonel Keith a seat in the carriage to go to the annual book-club meeting with us. Mr. Spicer is going to propose him as a member of the club, you know, and I thought the close carriage would be better for him. I suppose you will be ready by eleven; we ought to set out by that time, not to hurry the horses."
"I am not going," returned Rachel, an announcement that electrified her auditors, for the family quota of books being quite insufficient for her insatiable appetite, she was a subscriber on her own account, and besides, this was the grand annual gathering for disposing of old books, when she was relied on for purchasing all the nuts that nobody else would crack. The whole affair was one of the few social gatherings that she really tolerated and enjoyed, and her mother gazed at her in amazement.
"I wrote to Mrs. Spicer a month ago to take my name off. I have no superfluous money to spend on my selfish amusement."
"But Rachel," said Grace, "did you not particularly want—oh! that fat red book which came to us uncut?"
"I did, but I must do without it."
"Poor Mr. Spicer, he reckoned on you to take it; indeed, he thought you had promised him."
"If there is anything like a promise, I suppose it must be done, but I do not believe there is. I trust to you, Grace, you know I have nothing to waste."
"You had better go yourself, my dear, and then you would be able to judge. It would be more civil by the society, too."
"No matter, indeed I cannot; in fact, Mr. Mauleverer is coming this morning to give his report and arrange our building plans. I want to introduce him to Mr. Mitchell, and fix a day for going over."
Mrs. Curtis gave up in despair, and consulted her eldest daughter in private whether there could have been any misunderstanding with Colonel Keith to lead Rachel to avoid him in a manner that was becoming pointed. Grace deemed it nothing but absorption into the F. U. E. E., and poor Mrs. Curtis sighed over this fleeting away of her sole chance of seeing Rachel like other people. Of Mr. Mauleverer personally she had no fears, he was in her eyes like a drawing or music-master, and had never pretended to be on equal terms in society with her daughters, and she had no doubts or scruples in leaving Rachel to her business interview with him, though she much regretted this further lapse from the ordinary paths of sociability.
Rachel, on the other hand, felt calmly magnanimous in the completion of a veritable sacrifice, for those books had afforded her much enjoyment, and she would much like to have possessed many of those that would be tossed aside at a cheap rate. But the constant small expenses entailed by the first setting on foot such an establishment as the F. U. E. E. were a heavy drain on her private purse, as she insisted on all accounts being brought to her, and then could not bear that these small nondescript matters should be charged upon the general fund, which having already paid the first half-year's rent in advance, and furnished the house, must be recruited by some extraordinary supply before she could build. The thing could not be done at all but by rigid economy, and she was ready to exercise it, and happy in so doing. And the Colonel? She thought the pain of her resolution was passing. After all, it was not so dreadful as people would have one believe, it was no such wrench as novels described to make up one's mind to prefer a systematically useful life to an agreeable man.