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´╗┐Title: Deerbrook
Author: Martineau, Harriet, 1802-1876
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Deerbrook" ***

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Deerbrook, by Harriet Martineau.

________________________________________________________________________
Harriet Martineau was the daughter of a Norwich textile manufacturer of
Huguenot descent--hence the name and trade.  In 1829 the bank in which
she, her mother and her sisters, had placed their money, failed and she
was forced to earn a living through writing, at which she was very
talented, particularly on political issues, such as the poverty facing a
family on the death of the wage-earner.  In 1839, after her travels in
America, she wrote two long novels, of which Deerbrook was one, and a
book about Toussaint L'Ouverture the other.

This book, therefore gives great insight into the lives of upper middle
class families of the mid nineteenth century.  No one in families these
days talks to the rest of the family in the polite, perhaps over-polite,
terms used in this book.  For this reason, though it was not meant to be
taken as such, this book is a true social document.

________________________________________________________________________
DEERBROOK, BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.



CHAPTER ONE.

AN EVENT.

Every town-bred person who travels in a rich country region, knows what
it is to see a neat white house planted in a pretty situation,--in a
shrubbery, or commanding a sunny common, or nestling between two
hills,--and to say to himself, as the carriage sweeps past its gate, "I
should like to live there,"--"I could be very happy in that pretty
place."  Transient visions pass before his mind's eye of dewy summer
mornings, when the shadows are long on the grass, and of bright autumn
afternoons, when it would be luxury to saunter in the neighbouring
lanes; and of frosty winter days, when the sun shines in over the
laurustinus at the window, while the fire burns with a different light
from that which it gives in the dull parlours of a city.

Mr Grey's house had probably been the object of this kind of
speculation to one or more persons, three times a week, ever since the
stage-coach had begun to pass through Deerbrook.  Deerbrook was a rather
pretty village, dignified as it was with the woods of a fine park, which
formed the background to its best points of view.  Of this pretty
village, Mr Grey's was the prettiest house, standing in a field, round
which the road swept.  There were trees enough about it to shade without
darkening it, and the garden and shrubbery behind were evidently of no
contemptible extent.  The timber and coal yards, and granaries, which
stretched down to the river side, were hidden by a nice management of
the garden walls, and training of the shrubbery.

In the drawing-room of this tempting white house sat Mrs Grey and her
eldest daughter, one spring evening.  It was rather an unusual thing for
them to be in the drawing-room.  Sophia read history and practised her
music every morning in the little blue parlour which looked towards the
road; and her mother sat in the dining-room, which had the same aspect.
The advantage of these rooms was, that they commanded the house of Mr
Rowland, Mr Grey's partner in the corn, coal, and timber business, and
also the dwelling of Mrs Enderby, Mrs Rowland's mother, who lived just
opposite the Rowlands.  The drawing-room looked merely into the garden.
The only houses seen from it were the greenhouse and the summerhouse;
the latter of which now served the purpose of a schoolroom for the
children of both families, and stood on the boundary-line of the gardens
of the two gentlemen of the firm.  The drawing-room was so dull, that it
was kept for company; that is, it was used about three times a-year,
when the pictures were unveiled, the green baize removed, and the
ground-windows, which opened upon the lawn, thrown wide, to afford to
the rare guests of the family a welcome from birds and flowers.

The ground-windows were open now, and on one side sat Mrs Grey, working
a rug, and on the other Sophia, working a collar.  The ladies were
evidently in a state of expectation--a state exceedingly trying to
people who, living at ease in the country, have rarely anything to
expect beyond the days of the week, the newspaper, and their dinners.
Mrs Grey gave her needle a rest every few minutes, to listen! and rang
the bell three times in a quarter of an hour, to make inquiries of her
maid about the arrangements of the best bedroom.  Sophia could not
attend to her work, and presently gave information that Fanny and Mary
were in the orchard.  She was desired to call them, and presently Fanny
and Mary appeared at the window,--twins of ten years old, and very
pretty little girls.

"My dears," said Mrs Grey, "has Miss Young done with you for to-day?"

"Oh yes, mamma.  It is just six o'clock.  We have been out of school
this hour almost."

"Then come in, and make yourselves neat, and sit down with us.  I should
not wonder if the Miss Ibbotsons should be here now before you are
ready.  But where is Sydney?"

"Oh, he is making a pond in his garden there.  He dug it before school
this morning, and he is filling it now."

"Yes," said the other; "and I don't know when he will have done, for as
fast as he fills it, it empties again, and he says he cannot think how
people keep their ponds filled."

"He must have done now, however," said his mother.  "I suppose he is
tearing his clothes to pieces with drawing the water-barrel, and wetting
himself to the skin besides."

"And spoiling his garden," said Fanny.  "He has dug up all his hepaticas
and two rose-bushes to make his pond."

"Go to him, my dears, and tell him to come in directly, and dress
himself for tea.  Tell him I insist upon it.  Do not run.  Walk quietly.
You will heat yourselves, and I do not like Mrs Rowland to see you
running."

Mary informed her brother that he was to leave his pond and come in, and
Fanny added that mamma insisted upon it.  They had time to do this, to
walk quietly, to have their hair made quite smooth, and to sit down with
their two dolls on each side the common cradle, in a corner of the
drawing-room, before the Miss Ibbotsons arrived.

The Miss Ibbotsons were daughters of a distant relation of Mr Grey's.
Their mother had been dead many years; they had now just lost their
father, and were left without any nearer relation than Mr Grey.  He had
invited them to visit his family while their father's affairs were in
course of arrangement, and till it could be discovered what their means
of living were likely to be.  They had passed their lives in Birmingham,
and had every inclination to return to it, when their visit to their
Deerbrook relations should have been paid.  Their old schoolfellows and
friends all lived there: and they thought it would be easier and
pleasanter to make the smallest income supply their wants in their
native town, than to remove to any place where it might go further.
They had taken leave of their friends as for a very short time, and when
they entered Deerbrook, looked around them as upon a place in which they
were to pass a summer.

All Deerbrook had been informed of their expected arrival--as it always
was of everything which concerned the Greys.  The little Rowlands were
walking with their mother when the chaise came up the street; but being
particularly desired not to look at it, they were not much benefited by
the event.  Their grandmamma, Mrs Enderby, was not at the moment under
the same restriction; and her high cap might be seen above the green
blind of her parlour as the chaise turned into Mr Grey's gate.  The
stationer, the parish clerk, and the milliner and her assistant, had
obtained a passing view of sundry boxes, the face of an elderly woman,
and the outline of two black bonnets,--all that they could boast of to
repay them for the vigilance of a whole afternoon.

Sophia Grey might be pardoned for some anxiety about the reception of
the young ladies.  She was four years younger than the younger of them;
and Hester, the elder, was one-and-twenty,--a venerable age to a girl of
sixteen.  Sophia began to think she had never been really afraid of
anything before, though she remembered having cried bitterly when first
left alone with her governess; and though she had always been remarkable
for clinging to her mother's side on all social occasions, in the
approaching trial her mother could give her little assistance.  These
cousins would be always with her.  How she should read history, or
practise music with them in the room, she could not imagine, nor what
she should find to say to them all day long.  If poor Elizabeth had but
lived, what a comfort she would have been now; the elder one would have
taken all the responsibility!  And she heaved a sigh once more, as she
thought, to the memory of poor Elizabeth.

Mr Grey was at a market some miles off; and Sydney was sent by his
mother into the hall, to assist in the work of alighting, and causing
the luggage to alight.  As any other boy of thirteen would have done, he
slunk behind the hall door, without venturing to speak to the strangers,
and left the business to the guests and the maids.  Mrs Grey and Sophia
awaited them in the drawing-room, and were ready with information about
how uneasy they had all been about the rain in the morning, till they
remembered that it would lay the dust, and so make the journey
pleasanter.  The twins shouldered their dolls, and looked on from their
stools, while Sydney stole in, and for want of some better way of
covering his awkwardness, began rocking the cradle with his foot, till
he tilted it over.

Sophia found the first half-hour not at all difficult to surmount.  She
and Margaret Ibbotson informed each other of the precise number of miles
between Deerbrook and Birmingham.  She ascertained fully to her
satisfaction that her guests had dined.  She assisted them in the
observation that the grass of the lawn looked very green after the
streets of Birmingham; and she had to tell them that her father was
obliged to attend the market some miles off, and would not be home for
an hour or two.  Then the time came when bonnets were to be taken off,
and she could offer to show the way to the spare-room.  There she took
Hester and Margaret to the window, and explained to them what they saw
thence; and, as it was necessary to talk, she poured out what was most
familiar to her mind, experiencing a sudden relief from all the unwonted
shyness which had tormented her.

"That is Mr Rowland's house--papa's partner, you know.  Isn't it an
ugly place, with that ridiculous porch to it?  But Mrs Rowland can
never be satisfied without altering her house once a year.  She has made
Mr Rowland spend more money upon that place than would have built a new
one of twice the size.--That house opposite is Mrs Enderby's, Mrs
Rowland's mother's.  So near as she lives to the Rowlands, it is
shocking how they neglect her.  There could be no difficulty in being
properly attentive to her, so near as she is, could there?  But when she
is ill we are obliged to go and see her sometimes, when it is very
inconvenient, because Mrs Rowland has never been near her all day.  Is
not it shocking?"

"I rather wonder she should complain of her family," observed Margaret.

"Oh, she is not remarkable for keeping her feelings to herself, poor
soul!  But really it is wonderful how little she says about it, except
when her heart is quite full,--just to us.  She tries to excuse Mrs
Rowland all she can; and she makes out that Mrs Rowland is such an
excellent mother, and so busy with her children, and all that.  But you
know that is no excuse for not taking care of her own mother."

"Those are the Verdon woods, are they not?" said Hester, leaning out of
the window to survey the whole of the sunny prospect.  "I suppose you
spend half your days in those woods in summer."

"No; mamma goes out very little, and I seldom walk beyond the garden.
But now you are come, we shall go everywhere.  Ours is considered a very
pretty village."

The sisters thought it so beautiful, that they gazed as if they feared
it would melt away if they withdrew their eyes.  The one discovered the
bridge, lying in shadow; the other the pointed roof of the building
which surmounted the spring in the park woods.  Sophia was well pleased
at their pleasure; and their questions, and her descriptions, went on
improving in rapidity, till a knock at the door of the room cut short
the catechism.  It was Morris, the Miss Ibbotsons' maid; and her
appearance gave Sophia a hint to leave her guests to refresh themselves.
She glanced over the room, to see that nothing was wanting; pointed out
the bell, intimated that the washstands were mahogany, which showed
every splash, and explained that the green blinds were meant to be
always down when the sun shone in, lest it should fade the carpet.  She
then withdrew, telling the young ladies that they would find tea ready
when they came down.

"How very handsome Hester is!" was the exclamation of both mother and
daughter, when Sophia had shut the drawing-room door behind her.

"I wonder," said Mrs Grey, "that nobody ever told us how handsome we
should find Hester.  I should like to see what fault Mrs Rowland can
find in her face."

"It is rather odd that one sister should have all the beauty," said
Sophia.  "I do not see anything striking in Margaret."

"Mrs Rowland will say she is plain; but, in my opinion, Margaret is
better looking than any of the Rowlands are ever likely to be.  Margaret
would not be thought plain away from her sister.--I hope they are not
fine ladies.  I am rather surprised at their bringing a maid.  She looks
a very respectable person; but I did not suppose they would keep a maid
till they knew better what to look forward to.  I do not know what Mr
Grey will think of it."

When Hester and Margaret came down, Mrs Grey was ready with an account
of the society of the place.

"We are as well off for society," said she, "as most places of the size.
If you were to ask the bookseller at Blickley, who supplies our club,
he would tell you that we are rather intellectual people: and I hope you
will see, when our friends have called on you, that though we seem to be
living out of the world, we are not without our pleasures.  I think,
Sophia, the Levitts will certainly call."

"Oh, yes, mamma, to-morrow, I have no doubt."

"Dr Levitt is our rector," observed Mrs Grey to her guests.  "We are
dissenters, as you know, and our neighbour, Mrs Rowland, is very much
scandalised at it.  If Mr Rowland would have allowed it, she would have
made a difficulty on that ground about having her children educated with
mine.  But the Levitts' conduct might teach her better.  They make no
difference on account of our being dissenters.  They always call on our
friends the first day after they arrive,--or the second, at furthest.  I
have no doubt we shall see the Levitts to-morrow."

"And Mrs Enderby, I am sure," said Sophia, "if she is at all able to
stir out."

"Oh, yes, Mrs Enderby knows what is right, if her daughter does not.
If she does not call to-morrow, I shall think that Mrs Rowland
prevented her.  She can keep her mother within doors, as we know, when
it suits her purposes."

"But Mr Philip is here, mamma, and Mrs Enderby can do as she likes
when she has her son with her.--I assure you he is here, mamma.  I saw
the cobbler's boy carry home a pair of boots there this morning."

Sydney had better evidence still to produce.  Mr Enderby had been
talking with him about fishing this afternoon.  He said he had come down
for a fortnight's fishing.  Fanny also declared that Matilda Rowland had
told Miss Young to-day, that uncle Philip was coming to see the new
schoolroom.  Mrs Grey was always glad, on poor Mrs Enderby's account,
when she had her son with her: but otherwise she owned she did not care
for his coming.  He was too like his sister to please her.

"He is very high, to be sure," observed Sophia.

"And really there is no occasion for that with us," resumed Mrs Grey.
"We should never think of mixing him up with his sister's proceedings,
if he did not do it himself.  No one would suppose him answerable for
her rudeness; at least, I am sure such a thing would never enter my
head.  But he forces it upon one's mind by carrying himself so high."

"I don't think he can help being so tall," observed Sydney.

"But he buttons up, and makes the most of it," replied Sophia.  "He
stalks in like a Polish count."

The sisters could not help smiling at this proof that the incursions of
the Poles into this place were confined to the book club.  They happened
to be well acquainted with a Polish count, who was short of stature and
did not stalk.  They were spared all necessity of exerting themselves in
conversation, for it went on very well without the aid of more than a
word or two from them.

"Do you think, mamma, the Andersons will come?" asked Sophia.

"Not before Sunday, my dear.  The Andersons live three miles off," she
explained, "and are much confined by their school.  They may possibly
call on Saturday afternoon, as Saturday is a half-holiday; but Sunday
after church is a more likely time.--We do not much approve of Sunday
visits; and I dare say you feel the same: but this is a particular
case,--people living three miles off, you know, and keeping a school.
And being dissenters, we do not like to appear illiberal to those who
are not of our own way of thinking: so the Andersons sometimes come in
after church; and I am sure you will accept their call just as if it was
made in any other way."

Hester and Margaret could only say that they should be happy to see Mr
and Mrs Anderson in any mode which was most convenient to themselves.
A laugh went through the family, and a general exclamation of "Mr and
Mrs Anderson!"  "The Andersons" happened to be two maiden sisters, who
kept a young ladies' school.  It was some time before Mrs Grey herself
could so far command her countenance as to frown with becoming severity
at Fanny, who continued to giggle for some time, with intervals of
convulsive stillness, at the idea that "the Andersons" could mean Mr
and Mrs Anderson.  In the midst of the struggle, Mr Grey entered.  He
laid a hand on the head of each twin, observed that they seemed very
merry, and asked whether his cousins had been kind enough to make them
laugh already.  To these cousins he offered a brief and hearty welcome,
remarking that he supposed they had been told what had prevented his
being on the spot on their arrival, and that he need not trouble them
with the story over again.

Sydney had slipped out as his father entered, for the chance of riding
his horse to the stable,--a ride of any length being in his opinion
better than none.  When he returned in a few minutes, he tried to
whisper to Sophia, over the back of her chair, but could not for
laughing.  After repeated attempts, Sophia pushed him away.

"Come, my boy, out with it!" said his father.  "What you can tell your
sister you can tell us.  What is the joke?"

Sydney looked as if he had rather not explain before the strangers; but
he never dared to trifle with his father.  He had just heard from little
George Rowland, that Mrs Rowland had said at home, that the young
ladies at Mr Grey's, who had been made so much fuss about, were not
_young_ ladies, after all: she had seen the face of one, as they passed
her in the chaise, and she was sure the person could not be less than
fifty.

"She saw Morris, no doubt," said Hester, amidst the general laugh.

"I hope she will come to-morrow, and see some people who are very little
like fifty," said Mrs Grey.  "She will be surprised, I think," she
added, looking at Hester, with a very meaning manner of admiration.  "I
really hope, for her own sake, she will come, though you need not mind
if she does not.  You will have no great loss.  Mr Grey, I suppose you
think she will call?"

"No doubt, my dear.  Mrs Rowland never omits calling on our friends;
and why should she now?"  And Mr Grey applied himself to conversation
with his cousins, while the rest of the family enjoyed further merriment
about Mrs Rowland having mistaken Morris for one of the Miss Ibbotsons.

Mr Grey showed a sympathy with the sisters, which made them more at
home than they had felt since they entered the house.  He knew some of
their Birmingham friends, and could speak of the institutions and
interests of the town.  For a whole hour he engaged them in brisk
conversation, without having once alluded to their private affairs or
his own, or said one word about Deerbrook society.  At the end of that
time, just as Mary and Fanny had received orders to go to bed, and were
putting their dolls into the cradle in preparation, the scrambling of a
horse's feet was heard on the gravel before the front door, and the
house-bell rang.

"Who can be coming at this time of night?" said Mrs Grey.

"It is Hope, I have no doubt," replied her husband.  "As I passed his
door, I asked him to go out to old Mr Smithson, who seems to me to be
rather worse than better, and to let me know whether anything can be
done for the old gentleman.  Hope has come to report of him, no doubt."

"Oh, mamma, don't send us to bed if it is Mr Hope!" cried the little
girls.  "Let us sit up a little longer if it is Mr Hope."

"Mr Hope is a great favourite with the children,--with us all,"
observed Mrs Grey to the sisters.  "We have the greatest confidence in
him as our medical man; as indeed every one has who employs him.  Mr
Grey brought him here, and we consider him the greatest acquisition our
society ever had."

The sisters could not be surprised, at this when they saw Mr Hope.  The
only wonder was, that, in the description of the intellectual society of
Deerbrook, Mr Hope had not been mentioned first.  He was not handsome;
but there was a gaiety of countenance and manner in him, under which the
very lamp seemed to burn brighter.  He came, as Mr Grey had explained,
on business; and, not having been aware of the arrival of the strangers,
would have retreated when his errand was done; but, as opposition was
made to this by both parents and children he sat down for a quarter of
an hour, to be taken into consultation about how the Miss Ibbotsons were
to be conducted through the process of seeing the sights of Deerbrook.

With all sincerity, the sisters declared that the woods of the park
would fully satisfy them,--that they had been accustomed to a life so
quiet, that excursions were not at all necessary to their enjoyment.
Mr Grey was determined that they should visit every place worth seeing
in the neighbourhood, while it was in its summer beauty.  Mr Hope was
exactly the right person to consult, as there was no nook, no hamlet, to
which his tastes or his profession had not led him.  Sophia put paper
before him, on which he was to note distances, according to his and Mr
Grey's computations.  Now, it was one peculiarity of Mr Hope that he
could never see a piece of paper before him without drawing upon it.
Sophia's music-books, and any sheet of blotting-paper which might ever
have come in his way, bore tokens of this: and now his fingers were as
busy as usual while he was talking and computing and arranging.  When,
as he said, enough had been planned to occupy a month, he threw down his
pencil, and took leave till the morning, when he intended to make a call
which should be less involuntary.

The moment he was gone, the little girls laid hands on the sheet of
paper, on which he had been employed.  As they expected, it was covered
with scraps of sketches; and they exclaimed with delight, "Look here!
Here is the spring.  How fond Mr Hope is of drawing the spring!  And
here is the foot-bridge at Dingleford!  And what is this?  Here is a
place we don't know, papa."

"I do not know how you should, my dears.  It is the Abbey ruin down the
river, which I rather think you have never seen."

"No, but we should like to see it.  Are there no faces this time, Fanny?
None anywhere?  No funny faces this time!  I like them the best of Mr
Hope's drawings.  Sophia, do let us show some of the faces that are on
your music-books."

"If you will be sure and put them away again.  But you know if Mr Hope
is ever reminded of them, he will be sure to rub them out."

"He did old Owen fishing so that he can't rub it out if he would," said
Sydney.  "He did it in ink for me; and that is better than any of your
sketches, that will rub out in a minute."

"Come, children," said their father, "it is an hour past your bedtime."

When the children were gone, and Sophia was attending the sisters to
their apartment, Mrs Grey looked at her husband over her spectacles.
"Well, my dear!" said she.

"Well, my dear!" responded Mr Grey.

"Do not you think Hester very handsome?"

"There is no doubt of it, my dear.  She is very handsome."

"Do not you think Mr Hope thinks so too?"

It is a fact which few but the despisers of their race like to
acknowledge, and which those despisers of their race are therefore apt
to interpret wrongly, and are enabled to make too much of--that it is
perfectly natural,--so natural as to appear necessary,--that when young
people first meet, the possibility of their falling in love should occur
to all the minds present.  We have no doubt that it always is so; though
we are perfectly aware that the idea speedily goes out again, as
naturally as it came in: and in no case so speedily and naturally as in
the minds of the parties most nearly concerned, from the moment that the
concern becomes very near indeed.  We have no doubt that the minds in
Mr Grey's drawing-room underwent the common succession of ideas,--
slight and transient imaginations, which pass into nothingness when
unexpressed.  Probably the sisters wondered whether Mr Hope was
married, whether he was engaged, whether he was meant for Sophia, in the
prospect of her growing old enough.  Probably each speculated for half a
moment, unconsciously, for her sister, and Sophia for both.  Probably
Mr Grey might reflect that when young people are in the way of meeting
frequently in country excursions, a love affair is no very unnatural
result.  But Mrs Grey was the only one who fixed the idea in her own
mind and another's by speaking of it.

"Do not you think Mr Hope thinks Hester very handsome, Mr Grey?"

"I really know nothing about it, my dear.  He did not speak on the
subject as he mounted his horse; and that is the only opportunity he has
had of saying anything about the young ladies."

"It would have been strange if he had then, before Sydney and the
servants."

"Very strange indeed."

"But do you not think he must have been struck with her?  I should like
very well to have her settled here; and the corner-house of Mr
Rowland's might do nicely for them.  I do not know what Mrs Rowland
would think of Mr Hope's marrying into our connection so decidedly."

"My dear," said her husband, smiling, "just consider!  For anything we
know, these young ladies may both be attached and engaged.  Hope may be
attached elsewhere--."

"No; that I will answer for it he is not.  I--"

"Well, you may have your reasons for being sure on that head.  But he
may not like the girls; they may not like him:--in short, the only thing
that has happened is, that they have seen each other for one quarter of
an hour."

"Well! there is no saying what may come of it."

"Very true: let us wait and see."

"But there is no harm in my telling you whatever comes into my head!"

"None in the world, unless you get it so fixed there that somebody else
happens to know it too.  Be careful, my dear.  Let no one of these young
people get a glimpse of your speculation.  Think of the consequence to
them and to yourself."

"Dear me, Mr Grey! you need not be afraid.  What a serious matter you
make of a word or two!"

"Because a good many ideas belong to that word or two, my dear."



CHAPTER TWO.

MOONLIGHT TO TOWNSFOLK.

The moment the door closed behind Sophia, as she left the sisters in
their apartment, Hester crossed the room with a step very like a dance,
and threw up the window.

"I had rather look out than sleep," said she.  "I shall be ashamed to
close my eyes on such a prospect.  Morris, if you are waiting for us,
you may go.  I shall sit up a long while yet."

Morris thought she had not seen Hester in such spirits since her
father's death.  She was unwilling to check them, but said something
about the fatigues of the journey, and being fresh for the next day.

"No fear for to-morrow, Morris.  We are in the country, you know, and I
cannot fancy being tired in the fields, and in such a park as that.
Good-night, Morris."

When she too was gone, Hester called Margaret to her, put her arm round
her waist, and kissed her again and again.

"You seem happy to-night, Hester," said Margaret's gentle voice.

"Yes," sighed Hester; "more like being happy than for a long time past.
How little we know what we shall feel!  Here have I been dreading and
dreading this evening, and shrinking from the idea of meeting the Greys,
and wanting to write at the last moment to say that we would not come;--
and it turns out--Oh, so differently!  Think of day after day, week
after week of pure country life!  When they were planning for us
to-night, and talking of the brook, and lanes, and meadows, it made my
very heart dance."

"Thank God!" said Margaret.  "When your heart dances, there is nothing
left to wish."

"But did not yours?  Had you ever such a prospect before,--such a
prospect of delicious pleasure for weeks together,--except perhaps when
we caught our first sight of the sea?"

"Nothing can ever equal that," replied Margaret.  "Do not you hear now
the shout we gave when we saw the sparkles on the horizon,--heaving
sparkles,--when we were a mile off, and mamma held me up that I might
see it better; and baby,--dear baby,--clapped his little hands?  Does it
not seem like yesterday?"

"Like yesterday: and yet, if baby had lived, he would now have been our
companion, taking the place of all other friends to us.  I thought of
him when I saw Sydney Grey; but he would have been very unlike Sydney
Grey.  He would have been five years older, but still different from
what Sydney will be at eighteen--graver, more manly."

"How strange is the idea of having a brother!" said Margaret.  "I never
see girls with their brothers but I watch them, and long to feel what it
is, just for one hour.  I wonder what difference it would have made
between you and me, if we had had a brother."

"You and he would have been close friends--always together, and I should
have been left alone," said Hester, with a sigh.  "Oh, yes," she
continued, interrupting Margaret's protest, "it would have been so.
There can never be the same friendship between three as between two."

"And why should you have been the one left out?" asked Margaret.  "But
this is all nonsense--all a dream," she added.  "The reality is that
baby died--still a baby--and we know no more of what he would have been,
than of what he is.  The real truth is, that you and I are alone, to be
each other's only friend."

"It makes me tremble to think of it, Margaret.  It is not so long since
our home seemed full.  How we used all to sit round the fire, and laugh
and play with papa, as if we were not to separate till we had all grown
old: and now, young as we are, here we are alone!  How do we know that
we shall be left to each other?"

"There is only one thing we can do, Hester," said Margaret, resting her
head on her sister's shoulder.  "We must make the most of being together
while we can.  There must not be the shadow of a cloud between us for a
moment.  Our confidence must be as full and free, our whole minds as
absolutely open, as--as I have read and heard that two minds can never
be."

"Those who say so do not know what may be," exclaimed Hester.  "I am
sure there is not a thought, a feeling in me, that I could not tell you,
though I know I never could to any one else."

"If I were to lose you, Hester, there are many, many things that would
be shut up in me for ever.  There will never be any one on earth to whom
I could say the things that I can tell to you.  Do you believe this,
Hester?"

"I do.  I know it."

"Then you will never again doubt me, as you certainly have done
sometimes.  You cannot imagine how my heart sinks when I see you are
fancying that I care for somebody else more than for you; when you think
that I am feeling differently from you.  Oh, Hester, I know every change
of your thoughts by your face; and indeed your thoughts have been
mistaken sometimes."

"They have been wicked, often," said Hester, in a low voice.  "I have
sometimes thought that I must be hopelessly bad, when I have found that
the strongest affection I have in the world has made me unjust and cruel
to the pet son I love best.  I have a jealous temper, Margaret; and a
jealous temper is a wicked temper."

"Now you are unkind to yourself, Hester.  I do believe you will never
doubt me again."

"I never will.  And if I find a thought of the kind rising in me, I will
tell you the moment I am aware of it."

"Do, and I will tell you the moment I see a trace of such a thought in
your face.  So we shall be safe.  We can never misunderstand each other
for more than a moment."

By the gentle leave of Heaven, all human beings have visions.  Not the
lowest and dullest but has the coarseness of his life relieved at
moments by some scenery of hope rising through the brooding fogs of his
intellect and his heart.  Such visitations of mercy are the privilege of
the innocent, and the support of the infirm.  Here were the lonely
sisters sustained in bereavement and self-rebuke, by the vision of a
friendship which should be unearthly in its depth and freedom; they were
so happy for the hour, that nothing could disturb them.

"I do not see," observed Hester, "that it will be possible to enjoy any
intimate intercourse with this family.  Unless they are of a different
order from what they seem, we cannot have much in common; but I am sure
they mean to be kind, and they will let us be happy in our own way.  Oh,
what mornings you and I will have together in those woods!  Did you ever
see anything so soft as they look--in this light?"

"And the bend of the river glittering there!  Here, a little more this
way, and you will see it as I do.  The moon is not at the full yet; the
river will be like this for some nights to come."

"And these rides and drives,--I hope nothing will prevent our going
through the whole list of them.  What is the matter, Margaret?  Why are
you so cool about them?"

"I think all the pleasure depends upon the companionship, and I have
some doubts about that.  I had rather sit at work in a drawing-room all
day, than go among mountains with people--"

"Like the Mansons; Oh, that spreading of shawls, and bustle about the
sandwiches, before they could give a look at the waterfall!  I am afraid
we may find something of the same drawback here."

"I am afraid so."

"Well, only let us get out into the woods and lanes, and we will manage
to enjoy ourselves there.  We can contrive to digress here and there
together without being missed.  But I think we are judging rather
hastily from what we saw this evening even about this family; and we
have no right to suppose that all their acquaintance are like them."

"No, indeed; and I am sure Mr Hope, for one, is of a different order.
He dropped one thing, one little saying, which proved this to my mind."

"I know what you mean--about the old man that is to be our guide over
that heath they were talking of--about why that heath is a different and
more beautiful place to him than to us, or to his former self.  Is it
not true, what he said?"

"I am sure it is true.  I have little to say of my own experience, or
wisdom, or goodness, whichever it was that he particularly meant as
giving a new power of sight to the old man; but I know that no tree
waves to my eye as it did ten years ago, and the music of running water
is richer to my ear as every summer comes round."

"Yes; I almost wonder sometimes whether all things are not made at the
moment by the mind that sees them, so wonderfully do they change with
one's mood, and according to the store of thoughts they lay open in
one's mind.  If I lived in a desert island (supposing one's intellect
could go on to grow there), I should feel sure of this."

"But not here, where it is quite clear that the village sot (if there be
one), and Mr Hope, and the children, and we ourselves all see the same
objects in sunlight and moonlight, and acknowledge them to be the same,
though we cannot measure feelings upon them.  I wish Mr Hope may say
something more which may lead to the old man on the heath again.  He is
coming to-morrow morning."

"Yes; we shall see him again to-morrow."



CHAPTER THREE.

MAKING ACQUAINTANCE.

The sisters were not so fatigued with their journey but that they were
early in the open air the next morning.  In the shrubbery they met the
twins, walking hand in hand, each with a doll on the disengaged arm.

"You are giving your dolls an airing before breakfast," said Hester,
stopping them as they would have passed on.

"Yes; we carry out our dolls now because we must not run before
breakfast.  We have made arbours in our own gardens for our dolls, where
they may sit when we are swinging."

"I should like to see your arbours and your gardens," said Margaret,
looking round her.  "Will you take me to them?"

"Not now," answered they; "we should have to cross the grass, and we
must not go upon the grass before breakfast."

"Where is your swing?  I am very fond of swinging."

"Oh! it is in the orchard there, under that large tree.  But you
cannot--"

"I see; we cannot get to it now, because we should have to cross the
grass."  And Margaret began to look round for any place where they might
go beyond the gravel-walk, on which they stood.  She moved towards the
greenhouse, but found it was never unlocked before breakfast.  The
summerhouse remained, and a most unexceptionable path led to it.  The
sisters turned that way.

"You cannot go there," cried the children; "Miss Young always has the
schoolroom before breakfast."

"We are going to see Miss Young," explained Hester, smiling at the
amazed faces with which the children stared from the end of the path.
They were suddenly seen to turn, and walk as fast as they could, without
its being called running, towards the house.  They were gone to their
mother's dressing-room door, to tell her that the Miss Ibbotsons were
gone to see Miss Young before breakfast.

The path led for some little way under the hedge which separated Mr
Grey's from Mr Rowland's garden.  There were voices on the other side,
and what was said was perfectly audible.  Uneasy at hearing what was not
meant for them, Hester and Margaret gave tokens of their presence.  The
conversation on the other side of the hedge proceeded; and in a very
short time the sisters were persuaded that they had been mistaken in
supposing that what was said was not meant for them.

"My own Matilda," said a voice, which evidently came from under a lady's
bonnet which moved parallel with Hester's and Margaret's; "My own
Matilda, I would not be so harsh as to prevent your playing where you
please before breakfast.  Run where you like, my love.  I am sorry for
little girls who are not allowed to do as they please in the cool of the
morning.  My children shall never suffer such restriction."

"Mother," cried a rough little person, "I'm going fishing with Uncle
Philip to-day.  Sydney Grey and I are going, I don't know how far up the
river."

"On no account, my dear boy.  You must not think of such a thing.  I
should not have a moment's peace while you are away.  You would not be
back till evening, perhaps; and I should be fancying all day that you
were in the river.  It is out of the question, my own George."

"But I must go, mother.  Uncle Philip said I might; and Sydney Grey is
going."

"That is only another reason, my dear boy.  Your uncle will yield to my
wishes, I am sure, as he always does.  And if Mrs Grey allows her son
to run such risks, I am sure I should not feel myself justified.  You
will stay with me, love, won't you?  You will stay with your mother, my
own boy."

George ran roaring away, screaming for Uncle Philip; who was not at
hand, however, to plead his cause.

"My Matilda," resumed the fond mother, "you are making yourself a sad
figure.  You will not be fit to show yourself at breakfast.  Do you
suppose your papa ever saw such a frock as that?  There! look--dripping
wet!  Pritchard, take Miss Matilda, and change all her clothes directly.
So much for my allowing her to run on the grass while the dew is on!
Lose no time, Pritchard, lest the child should catch cold.  Leave Miss
Anna with me.  Walk beside me, my Anna.  Ah! there is papa.  Papa, we
must find some amusement for George today, as I cannot think of letting
him go out fishing.  Suppose we take the children to spend the morning
with their cousins at Dingleford?"

"To-morrow would suit me better, my love," replied the husband.  "Indeed
I don't see how I can go to-day, or you either."  And Mr Rowland
lowered his voice, so as to show that he was aware of his liability to
be overheard.

"Oh, as to that, there is no hurry," replied the lady, aloud.  "If I had
nothing else to do, I should not make that call to-day.  Any day will do
as well."

As Hester and Margaret looked at each other, they heard the gentleman
softly say "Hush!"  But Mrs Rowland went on as audibly as ever.

"There is no reason why I should be in any hurry to call on Mrs Grey's
friends, whoever and whatever they may be.  Any day will do for that, my
dear."

Not having been yet forbidden to run before breakfast, Hester and
Margaret fled to the summer-house, to avoid hearing any more of the
domestic dialogues of the Rowland family.

"What shall we do when that woman calls?" said Hester.  "How will it be
possible to speak to her?"

"As we should speak to any other indifferent person," replied Margaret.
"Her rudeness is meant for Mrs Grey, not for us; for she knows nothing
about us: and Mrs Grey will never hear from us what has passed.--Shall
we knock?"

In answer to the knock, they were requested to enter.  Miss Young rose
in some confusion when she found her visitors were other than her
pupils: but she was so lame that Hester made her sit down again, while
they drew seats for themselves.  They apologised for breaking in upon
her with so little ceremony, but explained that they were come to be
inmates at Mr Grey's for some months, and that they wished to lose no
time in making themselves acquainted with every resort of the family, of
which they considered themselves a part.  Miss Young was evidently
pleased to see them.  She closed her volume, and assured them they were
welcome to her apartment; "For," said she, "everybody calls it my
apartment, and why should not I?"

"Do you spend all your time here?" asked Hester.

"Almost the whole day.  I have a lodging in the village; but I leave it
early these fine mornings, and stay here till dark.  I am so lame as to
make it inconvenient to pass over the ground oftener than is necessary;
and I find it pleasanter to see trees and grass through every window
here, than to look out into the farrier's yard,--the only prospect from
my lodging.  The furnace and sparks are pretty enough on a winter's
evening, especially when one is too ill or too dismal to do anything but
watch them; but at this season one grows tired of old horse-shoes and
cinders; and so I sit here."

To the sisters there seemed a world of desolation in these words.  They
were always mourning for having no brother.  Here was one who appeared
to be entirely alone.  From not knowing exactly what to say, Margaret
opened the book Miss Young had laid aside.  It was German--Schiller's
Thirty Years' War.  Every one has something to say about German
literature; those who do not understand it asking whether it is not very
mystical, and wild, and obscure; and those who do understand it saying
that it is not so at all.  It would be a welcome novelty if the two
parties were to set about finding out what it is to be mystical,--a
point which, for aught that is known to the generality, is not yet
ascertained.  Miss Young and her visitors did not enter upon precise
definitions this morning.  These were left for a future occasion.
Meantime it was ascertained that Miss Young had learned the German
language by the aid of dictionary and grammar alone, and also that if
she should happen to meet with any one who wished to enjoy what she was
enjoying, she should be glad to afford any aid in her power.  Hester was
satisfied with thanking her.  She was old enough to know that learning a
new language is a serious undertaking.  Margaret was somewhat younger,
and ready for any enterprise.  She thought she saw before her hours of
long mornings, when she should be glad to escape from the work-table to
Miss Young's companionship and to study.  The bright field of German
literature seemed to open before her to be explored.  She warmly thanked
Miss Young, and accepted her offered assistance.

"So you spend all your days alone here," said she, looking round upon
the rather bare walls, the matted floor, the children's desks, and the
single shelf which held Miss Young's books.

"Not exactly all the day alone," replied Miss Young; "the children are
with me five hours a day, and a set of pupils from the village comes to
me besides, for a spare hour of the afternoon.  In this way I see a good
many little faces every day."

"And some others too, I should hope; some besides little faces?"

Miss Young was silent.  Margaret hastened on--

"I suppose most people would say here what is said everywhere else about
the nobleness and privilege of the task of teaching children.  But I do
not envy those who have it to do.  I am as fond of children as any one;
but then it is having them out to play on the grass, or romping with
them in the nursery, that I like.  When it becomes a matter of desks and
school-books, I had far rather study than teach."

"I believe everybody, except perhaps mothers, would agree with you,"
said Miss Young, who was now, without apology, plying her needle.

"Indeed! then I am very sorry for you."

"Thank you; but there's no need to be sorry for me.  Do you suppose that
one's comfort lies in having a choice of employments?  My experience
leads me to think the contrary."

"I do not think I could be happy," said Hester, "to be tied down to an
employment I did not like."

"Not to a positively disgusting one.  But I am disposed to think that
the greatest number of happy people may be found busy in employments
that they have not chosen for themselves, and never would have chosen."

"I am afraid these very happy people are haunted by longings to be doing
something else."

"Yes: there is their great trouble.  They think, till experience makes
them wiser, that if they were only in another set of circumstances, if
they only had a choice what they would do, a chance for the exercise of
the powers they are conscious of, they would do such things as should be
the wonder and the terror of the earth.  But their powers may be
doubted, if they do not appear in the conquest of circumstances."

"So you conquer these giddy children, when you had rather be conquering
German metaphysicians, or ---, or ---, what else?"

"There is little to conquer in these children," said Miss Young; "they
are very good with me.  I assure you I have much more to conquer in
myself, with regard to them.  It is but little that I can do for them;
and that little I am apt to despise, in the vain desire to do more."

"How more?"

"If I had them in a house by myself, to spend their whole time with me,
so that I could educate, instead of merely teaching them.  But here I am
doing just what we were talking of just now,--laying out a
pretty-looking field of duty, in which there would probably be as many
thorns as in any other.  Teaching has its pleasures,--its great
occasional, and small daily pleasures, though they are not to be
compared to the sublime delights of education."

"You must have some of these sublime delights mixed in with the humbler.
You are, in some degree, educating these children while teaching them."

"Yes: but it is more a negative than a positive function, a very humble
one.  Governesses to children at home can do little more than stand
between children and the faults of the people about them.  I speak quite
generally."

"Is such an occupation one in which anybody can be happy?"

"Why not, as well as in making pins' heads, or in nursing sick people,
or in cutting square blocks out of a chalk pit for thirty years
together, or in any other occupation which may be ordained to prove to
us that happiness lies in the temper, and not in the object of a
pursuit?  Are there not free and happy pin-makers, and sick-nurses, and
chalk-cutters?"

"Yes: but they know how much to expect.  They have no idea of pin-making
in itself being great happiness."

"Just so.  Well: let a governess learn what to expect; set her free from
a hankering after happiness in her work, and you have a happy
governess."

"I thought such a thing was out of the order of nature."

"Not quite.  There have been such, though there are strong influences
against it.  The expectations of all parties are unreasonable; and those
who are too humble, or too amiable, to be dissatisfied with others, are
discontented with themselves, when the inevitable disappointment comes.
There is a great deal said about the evils of the position of a
governess--between the family and the servants--a great deal said that
is very true, and always will be true, while governesses have proud
hearts, like other people: but these are slight evils in comparison with
the grand one of the common failure of the relation.--There! do you hear
that bell?"

"What is it?  The breakfast bell?"

"Yes.  You must go.  I would not be understood as inviting you here; for
it is not, except upon sufferance, my room; and I have no inducement to
offer.  But I may just say, that you will always be welcome."

"Always?" said Margaret.  "In and out of school hours?"

"In and out of school hours, unless your presence should chance to turn
my pupils' heads.  In that case, you will not be offended if I ask you
to go away."

Mary and Fanny had just reported in the breakfast-parlour, that the Miss
Ibbotsons had been "such a time with Miss Young!" when Hester and
Margaret entered.  The testimony there was all in favour of Miss Young.
Mr Grey called her a most estimable young woman; and Mrs Grey declared
that, though she could not agree with her on all points, and decidedly
thought that she overrated Matilda Rowland's talents, she was convinced
that her children enjoyed great advantages under her care.  Sophia
added, that she was very superior,--quite learned.  Mrs Grey further
explained that, though now so much at ease on the subject of her
daughters' education, no one could have an idea of the trouble she had
had in getting the plan arranged.  It had seemed a pity that the
Rowlands and her children should not learn together: it was such an
advantage for children to learn together!  But Mrs Rowland had made a
thousand difficulties.  After breakfast, she would show her young
friends the room which she had proposed should be the schoolroom,--as
airy and advantageous in every way as could be imagined: but Mrs
Rowland had objected that she could not have Matilda and George come out
in all weathers,--as if they would have had to walk a mile, instead of
just the sweep of the gravel-walk!  Mrs Rowland had proposed that her
back-parlour should be the schoolroom: but really it was not to be
thought of--so small and close, and such a dull room for Miss Young!
The gentlemen had been obliged to take it up at last.  Nobody could ever
find out which of them it was that had thought of the summerhouse,
though she was satisfied in her own mind that Mr Rowland was not in the
habit of having such clever ideas; but, however, it was soon settled.
The summer-house was so exactly on the boundary-line between the two
gardens, that really no objection had been left for Mrs Rowland to
make.  She came as near to it as she could, however; for she had had the
walk covered in at great expense from her garden door to the
summer-house, when everybody knew she did not mind her children getting
wet at other times on the grass before the dew was off.

"And the covered way is quite an eyesore from the drawing-room windows,"
added Sophia.

"Quite," said Mrs Grey; "and it can be seen from ours, as I dare say
you observed last night.  But I have no doubt that entered into her
calculations when she had it made."

Mr Grey inquired about the arrangements for the morning, and whether he
could be of any service.  It happened to be a leisure morning with him,
and he did not know when he might have another at command.  Sophia
reminded her father that it would be impossible for the ladies of the
family to go out, when they were expecting the neighbours to call: and
this brought on another speculation as to who would call,--and
especially when the Rowlands might be looked for.  Hester and Margaret
believed they could have settled this matter; but they forbore to speak
of what they had overheard.  They began to wonder whether the subject of
Mrs Rowland was to be served up with every meal, for a continuance; and
Hester found her anticipations of delight in a country life somewhat
damped, by the idea of the frowning ghost of the obnoxious lady being
for ever present.



CHAPTER FOUR.

MORNING CALLS.

The little girls had been dismissed to the schoolroom before Mr Grey
had finally pushed away his tea-cup.  Not being wanted by the ladies, he
walked off to his timber-yard, and his wife followed to ask him some
question not intended for the general ear.  Sophia was struck with a
sudden panic at being left alone with the strangers, and escaped by
another door into the store-room.  As the last traces of the breakfast
things vanished, Hester exclaimed--

"So we may please ourselves, it seems, as to what we are to do with our
morning!"

"I hope so," said Margaret.  "Do let us get down to the meadow we see
from our window--the meadow that looks so flat and green!  We may very
well take two hours' grace before we need sit down here in form and
order."

Hester was willing, and the bonnets were soon on.  As Margaret was
passing down stairs again, she saw Mrs Grey and Sophia whispering in a
room, the door of which stood open.  She heard it shut instantly, and
the result of the consultation soon appeared.  Just as the sisters were
turning out of the house, Sophia ran after them to say that mamma wished
they would be so good as to defer their walk; mamma was afraid that if
they were seen abroad in the village, it would be supposed that they did
not wish to receive visitors: mamma would rather that they should stay
within this morning.  There was nothing for it but to turn back; and
Hester threw down her bonnet with no very good grace, as she observed to
her sister that, to all appearance, a town life was more free than a
country one, after all.

"Let us do our duty fully this first morning," said Margaret.  "Look, I
am going to carry down my work-bag; and you shall see me sit on the same
chair from this hour till dinner-time, unless I receive directions to
the contrary."

The restraint did not amount to this.  Hester's chair was placed
opposite to Mrs Grey, who seemed to have pleasure in gazing at her, and
in indulging in audible hints and visible winks and nods about her
beauty, to every lady visitor who eat near her.  Margaret might place
herself where she pleased.  In the intervals of the visits of the
morning, she was treated with a diversity of entertainments by Sophia,
who occasionally summoned her to the window to see how Matilda Rowland
was allowed to run across the road to her grandmamma's, without so much
as a hat upon her head,--to see Jim Bird, the oldest man in the parish
(believed to be near a hundred), who was resting himself on the bank of
the hedge,--to see the peacock which had been sent as a present from Sir
William Hunter to Mr James, the lawyer, and which was a great nuisance
from its screaming,--to say whether the two little Reeves, dropping
their curtseys as they went home from school, were not little
beauties,--and, in short, to witness all the village spectacles which
present themselves before the windows of an acute observer on a fine
spring morning.  The young ladies had to return to their seats as often
as wheels were heard, or the approach of parasols was discerned.

Among the earliest visitors were Mrs Enderby and her redoubtable son,
Mr Philip.  Mrs Enderby was a bright-eyed, brisk, little old lady, who
was rather apt to talk herself quite out of breath, but who had
evidently a stronger tendency still; and that was, to look on the bright
side of everything and everybody.  She smiled smiles full of meaning and
assent in return for Mrs Grey's winks about Hester's beauty; and really
cheered Hester with accounts of how good everybody was at Deerbrook.
She was thankful that her maid Phoebe was better; she knew that Mrs
Grey would not fail to inquire; really Phoebe was very much better; the
influenza had left sad effects, but they were dispersing.  It would be a
pity the girl should not quite recover, for she was a most invaluable
servant--such a servant as is very rarely to be met with.  The credit of
restoring her belonged to Mr Hope, who indeed had done everything.  She
supposed the ladies would soon be seeing Mr Hope.  He was extremely
busy, as everybody knew--had very large practice now; but he always
contrived to find time for everything.  It was exceedingly difficult to
find time for everything.  There was her dear daughter, Priscilla (Mrs
Rowland, whose husband was Mr Grey's partner); Priscilla devoted her
life to her children (and dear children they were); and no one who knew
what she did for her children would expect anything more from her; but,
indeed, those who knew best, she herself, for instance, were fully
satisfied that her dear Priscilla did wonders.  The apology for Mrs
Rowland, in case she should not call, was made not without ingenuity.
Hester fully understood it; and Mrs Grey showed by her bridling that it
was not lost upon her either.

Mr Enderby, meanwhile, was behaving civilly to Margaret and Sophia;
that is to say, he was somewhat more than merely civil to Margaret, and
somewhat less to Sophia.  It was obviously not without reason that
Sophia had complained of his hauteur.  He could not, as Sydney had
pleaded, help being tall; but he might have helped the excessive
frigidity with which he stood upright till invited to sit down.  The
fact was, that he had reason to believe that the ladies of Mr Grey's
family made very free with his sister's name and affairs; and though he
would have been sorry to have been obliged to defend all she said and
did, he felt some very natural emotions of dislike towards those who
were always putting the worst construction upon the whole of her
conduct.  He believed that Mr Grey's influence was exerted on behalf of
peace and good understanding, and he thought he perceived that Sydney,
with the shrewdness which some boys show very early, was more or less
sensible of the absurdity of the feud between the partners' wives and
daughters; and towards these members of the Grey family, Mr Enderby
felt nothing but good-will; he talked politics with Mr Grey in the
shrubbery after church on Sunday, executed commissions for him in
London, and sent him game: and Sydney was under obligations to him for
many a morning of sport, and many a service such as gentlemen who are
not above five-and-twenty and its freaks can render to boys entering
their teens.  Whatever might be his opinion of women generally, from the
particular specimens which had come in his way, he had too much sense
and gentlemanly feeling to include Mrs Grey's guests in the dislike he
felt towards herself, or to suppose that they must necessarily share her
disposition towards his relations.  Perhaps he felt, unknown to himself
some inclination to prepossess them in favour of his connections; to
stretch his complaisance a little, as a precaution against the
prejudices with which he knew Mrs Grey would attempt to occupy their
minds.  However this might be, he was as amicable with Margaret as his
mother was with her sister.

He soon found out that the strangers were more interested about the
natural features of Deerbrook than about its gossip.  He was amused at
the earnestness of Margaret's inquiries about the scenery of the
neighbourhood, and he laughingly promised that she should see every nook
within twenty miles.

"People always care least about what they have just at hand," said he.
"I dare say, if I were to ask you, you have never seen a glass-bottle
blown, or a tea-tray painted?"

"If I have," said Margaret, "I know many ladies in Birmingham who have
not."

"You will not be surprised, then, if you find some ladies in Deerbrook
who do not ride, and who can tell you no more of the pretty places near
than if they had been brought up in Whitechapel.  They keep their best
sights for strangers, and not for common use.  I am, in reality, only a
visitor at Deerbrook.  I do not live here, and never did; yet I am
better able to be your guide than almost any resident.  The ladies,
especially, are extremely domestic: they are far too busy to have ever
looked about them.  But I will speak to Mr Grey, and--"

"Oh, pray, do not trouble Mr Grey!  He has too much business on his
hands already; and he is so kind, he will be putting himself out of his
way for us; and all we want is to be in the open air in the fields."

"`All you want!' very like starlings in a cage;" and he looked as if he
was smiling at the well-known speech of the starling; but he did not
quote it.  "My mother is now saying that Mr Hope finds time for
everything: and she is right.  He will help us.  You must see Hope, and
you must like him.  He is the great boast of the place, next to the new
sign."

"Is the sign remarkable, or only new?"

"Very remarkable for ingenuity, if not for beauty.  It is `The Bonnet so
Blue:'--a lady's bonnet of blue satin, with brown bows, or whatever you
may call the trimming when you see it; and we are favoured besides with
a portrait of the milliner, holding the bonnet so blue.  We talk nearly
as much of this sign as of Mr Hope; but you must see them both, and
tell us which you like best."

"We have seen Mr Hope.  He was here yesterday evening."

"Well, then, you must see him again; and you must not think the worse of
him for his being praised by everybody you meet.  It is no ordinary case
of a village apothecary."

Margaret laughed; so little did Mr Hope look like the village
apothecary of her imagination.

"Ah, I see you know something of the predilection of villagers for their
apothecary,--how the young people wonder that he always cures everybody;
and how the old people could not live without him; and how the poor
folks take him for a sort of magician; and how he obtains more knowledge
of human affairs than any other kind of man.  But Hope is, though a very
happy man, not this sort of privileged person.  His friends are so
attached to him that they confide to him all their own affairs; but they
respect him too much to gossip at large to him of other people's.  I see
you do not know how to credit this; but I assure you, though the
inhabitants of Deerbrook are as accomplished in the arts of gossip as
any villagers in England, Hope knows little more than you do at this
moment about who are upon terms and who are not."

"My sister and I must learn his art of ignorance," said Margaret.  "If
it be really true that the place is full of quarrels, we shall be afraid
to stay, unless we can contrive to know nothing about them."

"Oh, do not suppose we are worse than others who live in villages.
Since our present rector came, we have risen somewhat above the rural
average of peace and quiet."

"And the country has always been identical with the idea of peace and
quiet to us town-bred people!" said Margaret.

"And very properly, in one sense.  But if you leave behind the din of
streets for the sake of stepping forth from your work-table upon a soft
lawn, or of looking out upon the old church steeple among the trees,
while you hear nothing but bleating and chirping, you must expect some
set-off against such advantages: and that set-off is the being among a
small number of people, who are always busy looking into one another's
small concerns."

"But this is not a necessary evil," said Margaret.  "From what you were
saying just now, it appears that it may be avoided."

"From what I was saying about Hope.  Yes; such an one as Hope may get
all the good out of every situation, without its evils; but--"

"But nobody else," said Margaret, smiling.  "Well, Hester and I must try
whether we cannot have to do with lawns and sheep for a few months,
without quarrelling or having to do with quarrels."

"And what if you are made the subject of quarrels?" asked Mr Enderby.
"How are you to help yourselves, in that case?"

"How does Mr Hope help himself in that case?"

"It remains to be seen.  As far as I know, the whole place is agreed
about him at present.  Every one will tell you that never was society so
blessed in a medical man before;--from the rector and my mother, who
never quarrel with anybody, down to the village scold.  I am not going
to prepossess you against even our village scold, by telling her name.
You will know it in time, though your first acquaintance will probably
be with her voice."

"So we are to hear something besides bleating and chirping?"

A tremendous knock at the door occurred, as if in answer to this.  All
the conversation in the room suddenly stopped, and Mr and Mrs Rowland
walked in.

"This is my sister, Mrs Rowland," observed Mr Enderby to Margaret.

"This is my daughter Priscilla, Mrs Rowland," said Mrs Enderby to
Hester.

Both sisters were annoyed at feeling timid and nervous on being
introduced to the lady.  There is something imposing in hearing a mere
name very often, in the proof that the person it belongs to fills a
large space in people's minds: and when the person is thus frequently
named with fear and dislike, an idea is originated of a command over
powers of evil which makes the actual presence absolutely awful.  This
seemed now to be felt by all.  Sophia had nothing to say: Mrs Grey's
head twitched nervously, while she turned from one to another with
slight remarks: Mrs Enderby ran on about their having all happened to
call at once, and its being quite a family party in Mrs Grey's parlour;
and Mr Philip's flow of conversation had stopped.  Margaret thought he
was trying to help laughing.

The call could not be an agreeable one.  The partners' ladies quoted
their own children's sayings about school and Miss Young, and Miss
Young's praise of the children; and each vied with the other in eulogium
on Miss Young, evidently on the ground of her hopes of Fanny and Mary on
the one hand, and of Matilda, George, and Anna, on the other.  Mrs
Enderby interposed praises of all the children, while Mr Rowland
engaged Hester's attention, calling off her observation and his own from
the sparring of the rival mothers.  Philip informed Margaret at length,
that George was a fine little fellow, who would make a good sportsman.
There was some pleasure in taking such a boy out fishing.  But Mr
Philip had lighted on a dangerous topic, as he soon found.  His sister
heard what he was saying, and began an earnest protest against little
boys fishing, on account of the danger, and against any idea that she
would allow her George to run any such risks.  Of course, this made Mrs
Grey fire up, as at an imputation upon her care of her son Sydney; and
before the rest of the company could talk down the dispute, it bore too
much of the appearance of a recrimination about the discharge of
maternal duties.  Margaret thought that, but for the relationship, Mrs
Rowland might fairly be concluded to be the village scold alluded to by
Mr Enderby.  It was impossible that he could have been speaking of his
sister; but Deerbrook was an unfortunate place if it contained a more
unamiable person than she appeared at this moment.  The faces of the two
ladies were still flushed with excitement when Mr Hope came in.  The
sisters thought he appeared like a good genius, so amiable did the party
grow on his entrance.  It seemed as if he was as great a favourite with
the Rowlands as with the other family; so friendly was the gentleman,
and so gracious the lady; while Mr Hope was, to all appearance,
unconscious of the existence of any unpleasant feelings among his
neighbours.  The talk flowed on about the concerns of personages of the
village, about the aspect of public affairs, about the poets of the age,
and what kind of poetry was most read in Deerbrook, and how the Book
Society went on, till all had grown cordial, and some began to propose
to be hospitable.  Mrs Rowland hoped for the honour of seeing the Miss
Ibbotsons one day the next week, when Mr Rowland should have returned
from a little excursion of business.  Mrs Enderby wondered whether she
could prevail on all her young friends to spend an evening with her
before her son left Deerbrook; and Mrs Grey gave notice that she should
shortly issue her invitations to those with whom she wished her young
cousins to become better acquainted.

All went right for the rest of the morning.  When the Enderbys and
Rowlands went away, the Levitts came.  When Dr Levitt inquired about
the schools of Birmingham, it could not but come out that Hester and
Margaret were dissenters.  Yet, as they were desired to observe, he did
not seem in the least shocked, and his manner was just as kind to them
after this disclosure as before.  He was pronounced a very liberal man.
Mr Hope was asked to stay to dinner, and Mrs Grey complacently related
the events of the morning to her husband as he took his place at table.
Deerbrook had done its duty to Hester and Margaret pretty well for the
first day.  Everybody of consequence had called but the Andersons, and
they would no doubt come on Sunday.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE MEADOWS.

The afternoon was the time when Miss Young's pupils practised the
mysteries of the needle.  Little girls are not usually fond of sewing.
Till they become clever enough to have devices of their own, to cut out
a doll's petticoat, or contrive a pin-cushion to surprise mamma, sewing
is a mere galling of the fingers and strain upon the patience.  Every
wry stitch shows, and is pretty sure to be remarked upon: the seam or
hem seems longer the oftener it is measured, till the little work-woman
becomes capable of the enterprise of despatching a whole one at a
sitting; after which the glory is found to ameliorate the toil, and
there is a chance that the girl may become fond of sewing.

Miss Young's pupils had not arrived at this stage.  It was a mystery to
them that Miss Young could sit sewing, as fast as her needle could fly,
for the whole afternoon, and during the intervals of their lessons in
the morning.  It was in vain that she told them that some of her
pleasantest hours were those which she passed in this employment: and
that she thought they would perhaps grow as fond of work as their sister
Sophia before they were as old as she.  With languid steps did the twins
return to the house this afternoon for another pair of shirt-sleeves,
and to show mamma the work they had finished.  Hand in hand, as usual,
and carrying up for judgment their last performance, they entered the
house.  In a very different mood did they return.  Running, skipping,
and jumping, they burst again into the summer-house.

"Miss Young, oh, Miss Young, we are to have a holiday!"

"Mamma sends her compliments to you, Miss Young, and she hopes you will
give us a holiday.  It is a fine afternoon, she thinks, and my cousins
have never gathered cowslips; and we are all going into the meadow for a
cowslip-gathering; and Mr Hope will come to us there.  He has to go
somewhere now, but he will come to us before we have half done."

Matilda Rowland looked fall of dismay till she was told that Mrs Grey
hoped she would be of the party, and begged that she would, go directly
and ask her mamma's leave.

"What a quantity of cowslips we shall get!" observed Mary, as she took
down Fanny's basket from the nail on which it hung, and then her own.
"We are each to have a basket, mamma says, that we may not quarrel.
What shall we do with such a quantity of cowslips?"

"Make tea of them, to be sure," replied Fanny.  "We may dry them in this
window, may not we, Miss Young?  And we will give you some of our
cowslip-tea."

Miss Young smiled and thanked them.  She did not promise to drink any of
the promised tea.  She had a vivid remembrance of the cowslip-drying of
her young days, when the picked flowers lay in a window till they were
laced all over with cobwebs; and when they were at length popped into
the teapot with all speed, to hide the fact that they were mouldy.  She
remembered the good-natured attempts of her father and mother to swallow
a doll's cupful of her cowslip-tea, rather than discourage the spirit of
enterprise which, now that she had lost those whom she loved, was all
that she had to trust to.

"Fanny," said Mary, with eyes wide open, "cannot we have a feast here
for my cousins, when we make our cowslip-tea?"

"A feast!  Oh, that would be grand!" replied Fanny.  "I have a shilling,
and so have you; and we could buy a good many nice things for that: and
Matilda Rowland will lend us her doll's dishes to put with ours.  Miss
Young, will you let us have our feast here, one afternoon?  We will ask
my cousins, without telling them anything; and they will be so
surprised!"

Miss Young promised everything, engaged not to tell, smoothed their
hair, tied their bonnets, and sent them away quite happy with their
secret.

Such a holiday as this was one of Miss Young's few pleasures.  There
were several occasions in the year when she could make sure beforehand
of some hours to herself.  Her Sundays were much occupied with the
Sunday-school, and with intercourse with poor neighbours whom she could
not meet on any other day: but Christmas-day, the day of the annual fair
of Deerbrook, and two or three more, were her own.  These were, however,
so appropriated, long before, to some object, that they lost much of
their character of holidays.  Her true holidays were such as the
afternoon of this day,--hours suddenly set free, little gifts of leisure
to be spent according to the fancy of the moment.  Let none pretend to
understand the value of such whose lives are all leisure; who take up a
book to pass the time; who saunter in gardens because there are no
morning visits to make; who exaggerate the writing of a family letter
into important business.  Such have their own enjoyments: but they know
nothing of the paroxysm of pleasure of a really hardworking person on
hearing the door shut which excludes the business of life, and leaves
the delight of free thoughts and hands.  The worst part of it is the
having to decide how to make the most of liberty.  Miss Young was not
long in settling this point.  She just glanced up at her shelf of books,
and down upon her drawing-board, and abroad through the south window,
and made up her mind.  The acacia with its fresh bunches of blossoms was
waving above the window, casting in flickering shadows upon the floor:
the evergreens of the shrubbery twinkled in the sun, as the light breeze
swept over them: the birds were chirruping all about, and a yellow
butterfly alighted and trembled on the window-sill at the moment.  It
was one of the softest and gayest days of spring; and the best thing was
to do nothing but enjoy it.  She moved to the south window with her
work, and sewed or let the wind blow upon her face as she looked out.

The landscape was a wide one.  Far beyond, and somewhat below the garden
and shrubberies in which the summerhouse stood, flat meadows stretched
to the brink of the river, on the other side of which were the park
woods.  All was bathed in the afternoon sunshine, except where a tree
here and there cast a flake of shadow upon the grass of the meadows.

"It is a luxury," thought the gazer, "for one who cannot move about to
sit here and look abroad.  I wonder whether I should have been with the
party if I had not been lame.  I dare say something would have taken off
from the pleasure if I had.  But how well I can remember what the
pleasure is! the jumping stiles--the feel of the turf underfoot,--the
running after every flower,--the going wherever one has a fancy to go,--
how well I remember it all!  And yet it gives me a sort of surprise to
see the activity of these children, and how little they are aware of
what their privilege is.  I fancy, however, the pleasure is more in the
recollection of all such natural enjoyments than at the moment.  It is
so with me, and I believe with everybody.  This very landscape is more
beautiful to me in the dark night when I cannot sleep, than at this very
moment, when it looks its best and brightest: and surely this is the
great difference between that sort of pleasures and those which come
altogether from within.  The delight of a happy mood of mind is beyond
everything at the time; it sets one above all that can happen; it steeps
one in heaven itself; but one cannot recall it: one can only remember
that it was so.  The delight of being in such a place as those woods is
generally more or less spoiled at the time by trifles which are
forgotten afterwards;--one is hungry, or tired, or a little vexed with
somebody, or doubtful whether somebody else is not vexed; but then the
remembrance is purely delicious,--brighter in sunshine, softer in
shade,--wholly tempered to what is genial.  The imagination is a better
medium than the eye.  This is surely the reason why Byron could not
write poetry on Lake Leman, but found he must wait till he got within
four walls.  This is the reason why we are all more moved by the
slightest glimpses of good descriptions in books than by the amplitude
of the same objects before our eyes.  I used to wonder how that was,
when, as a child, I read the openings of scenes and books in `Paradise
Lost.'  I saw plenty of summer sunrises; but none of them gave me a
feeling like the two lines:--

  "`Now morn, her rosy steps in the eastern clime
  Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl.'

"If all this be so, our lot is more equalised than is commonly thought.
Once having received pictures into our minds, and possessing a clear eye
in the mind to see them with, the going about to obtain more is not of
very great consequence.  This comforts one for prisoners suffering
_carcere duro_, and for townspeople who cannot often get out of the
streets; and for lame people like me, who see others tripping over
commons and through fields where we cannot go.  I wish there was as much
comfort the other way,--about such as suffer from unhappy moods of mind,
and know little of the joy of the highest.  It would be a small gain to
them to fly like birds,--to see like the eagle itself.--Oh, there are
the children!  So that is their cowslip meadow!  How like children they
all look together, down on the grass!--gathering cowslips, I suppose.
The two in black are more eager about it than Sophia.  She sits on the
stile while they are busy.  The children are holding forth to their
cousins,--teaching them something, evidently.  How I love to overlook
people,--to watch them acting unconsciously, and speculate for them!  It
is the most tempting thing in the world to contrast the little affairs
one sees them busy about, with the very serious ones which await them,--
which await every one.  There are those two strangers busy gathering
cowslips, and perhaps thinking of nothing beyond the fresh pleasure of
the air and the grass, and the scent of their flowers,--their minds
quite filled with the spirit of the spring, when who knows what may be
awaiting them!  Love may be just at hand.  The tempest of passion may be
brewing under this soft sunshine.  They think themselves now as full of
happiness as possible; and a little while hence, upon a few words
spoken, a glance exchanged, they may be in such a heaven of bliss that
they will smile at their own ignorance in being so well pleased to-day.
Or--but I pray they may escape the other chance.  Neither of them knows
anything of that misery yet, I am confident.  They both look too young,
too open, too free to have really suffered.--I wonder whether it is
foolish to fancy already that one of them may be settled here.  It can
hardly be foolish, when the thought occurs so naturally: and these great
affairs of life lie distinctly under the eye of such as are themselves
cut off from them.  I am out of the game, and why should not I look upon
its chances?  I am quite alone; and why should I not watch for others?
Every situation has its privileges and its obligations.--What is it to
be alone, and to be let alone, as I am?  It is to be put into a post of
observation on others: but the knowledge so gained is anything but a
good if it stops at mere knowledge,--if it does not make me feel and
act.  Women who have what I am not to have, a home, an intimate, a
perpetual call out of themselves, may go on more safely, perhaps,
without any thought for themselves, than I with all my best
consideration: but I, with the blessing of a peremptory vocation, which
is to stand me instead of sympathy, ties and spontaneous action,--I may
find out that it is my proper business to keep an intent eye upon the
possible events of other people's lives, that I may use slight occasions
of action which might otherwise pass me by.  If one were thoroughly wise
and good, this would be a sort of divine lot.  Without being at all
wiser or better than others,--being even as weak in judgment and in
faith as I am,--something may be made of it.  Without daring to meddle,
one may stand clear-sighted, ready to help.--How the children are flying
over the meadow towards that gentleman who is fastening his horse to the
gate!  Mr Hope, no doubt.  He is the oldest cowslip gatherer of them
all, I fancy.  If one could overhear the talk in every house along the
village, I dare say some of it is about Mr Hope winning one of these
young ladies.  If so, it is only what I am thinking about myself.  Every
one wishes to see Mr Hope married,--every one, even to the servants
here, who are always disputing whether he will not have Miss Sophia, or
whether Miss Sophia is not to make a grander match.  Sophia will not do
for him; but it is very possible that one of these girls may.  And the
other--but I will not think about that to-day.--How yellow the glow is
upon those woods!  What heavenly hues hang about the world we live in!
but how strange is the lot of some in it!  One would wonder why, when
all are so plainly made to feel and act together, there should be any
one completely solitary.  There must be a reason: I would fain know it;
but I can wait till we may know all."

Such were some of Maria Young's natural and unchecked thoughts.  There
was not much of common holiday spirit in them: but to Maria, liberty and
peace were holiday, and her mind was not otherwise than peaceful.  She
was serious, but not sad.  Any one who could at the moment have seen her
face, would have pronounced her cheerful at heart; and so she was.  She
had been so long and so far banished from ordinary happiness, that her
own quiet speculations were material enough for cheerfulness.  The
subject on which she would not think to-day, was the possibility of one
of the sisters attaching Mr Enderby.  Maria Young had not always been
solitary, and lame, and poor.  Her father had not been very long dead;
and while he lived, no one supposed that his only child would be poor.
Her youth passed gaily, and her adversity came suddenly.  Her father was
wont to drive her out in his gig, almost every summer day.  One evening,
the horse took fright, and upset the gig on a heap of stones by the
road-side.  Mr Young was taken up dead, and Maria was lamed for life.
She had always known the Enderbys very well; and there had been some
gossip among their mutual acquaintance, about the probability that
Philip would prove to be Maria's lover, when he should be old enough to
think of marrying.  It never went further than this,--except in Maria's
own heart.  She had, indeed, hoped--even supposed--that in Philip's mind
the affair had at least been entertained thus far.  She could never
settle to her own satisfaction whether she had been weak and mistaken,
or whether she had really been in any degree wronged.  There had been
words, there had been looks,--but words and looks are so easily
misinterpreted!  The probability was that she had no one to blame but
herself--if fault there was.  Perhaps there was no fault anywhere: but
there was misery, intense and long.  During her illness, no tidings came
of Philip.  He was in another part of the country when the accident
happened; and it was not till long after it had been made known that Mr
Young had died insolvent,--not till after Maria had recovered, as far as
recovery was possible,--not till she had fallen into the habit of
earning her bread, that Philip reappeared, and shook hands with her, and
told her with how much concern he had heard of her sufferings.  This
interview gave her entire possession of herself:--so she believed.  She
got through it calmly, and it left her with one subject at least of
intense thankfulness,--that her mind was known only to herself.
Whatever might be her solitary struggles, she might look without shame
into the face of every human being.  She could bear being pitied for her
poverty, for her lameness, for her change of prospects, when the
recollection of this came across any of her acquaintance.  If it had
been necessary, she could probably have borne to be pitied for having
loved without return; but she could not be too thankful that it was not
necessary.

Maria was right in her supposition that the village was speculating upon
the newly-arrived young ladies.  The parish clerk had for some years,
indeed ever since the death of the late stationer and dispenser of
letters, carried on a flirtation with the widow, notwithstanding the
rumours which were current, as to the cause to which her late husband
owed his death.  It was believed that poor Harry Plumstead died of
exhaustion from his wife's voice; for she was no other than the village
scold, of whose existence Margaret had been warned by Mr Enderby.  Some
thought that Owen was acting a politic part in protracting this
flirtation,--keeping her temper in check by his hold upon her
expectations; and such had little doubt that the affair would linger on
to the end, without any other result than Owen's exemption meanwhile
from the inflictions of her tongue, to which, in the discharge of his
office, he might otherwise become frequently liable.  Others wished to
see them married, believing that in Owen, a Welshman sufficiently
irascible, Mrs Plumstead would at last meet her match.  This afternoon,
an observer would have thought the affair was proceeding to this point.
Mrs Plumstead, looking particularly comely and gracious, was putting up
an unclaimed letter at the window for display, when Owen stopped to ask
if she had seen the pretty young ladies who had come to Deerbrook.  He
remarked that, to be sure, they might have gone to some place where they
were more wanted, for Deerbrook was not without pretty faces of its own
before: and, as he said so, he smiled hard in the widow's face.  He
should not wonder if some work for the rector should rise up before
long, for, where there were pretty faces, weddings might be looked for.
He even asked Mrs Plumstead if she did not think so: and added
something so ambiguous about his own share in the work for the rector
which was to arise, that the widow could not make out whether he spoke
as her admirer or as parish clerk.  In the milliner's workroom there was
a spirited conversation between Miss Nares and her assistant, on the
past wedding dresses of Deerbrook, arising out of the topic of the
day,--the Miss Ibbotsons.  Mrs Howell, who, with her shopwoman, Miss
Miskin, dispensed the haberdashery of the place, smiled winningly at
every customer who entered her shop, and talked of delightful
acquisitions, and what must be felt about Mr Hope, in the midst of such
charming society, and what it must be hoped would be felt; and how gay
the place was likely to be with riding parties, and boating parties, and
some said, dances on the green at Mrs Enderby's; and how partners in a
dance have been known to become partners for life, as she had been
jocosely told when her poor dear Howell prevailed on her to stand up
with him,--the first time for twenty years,--at his niece's wedding.
Hester's beauty, and what Mrs Grey had said about it to her maid, were
discussed, just at the moment when Hester, passing the shop, was
entreated by Sophia to look at a new pattern of embroidery which had
lately arrived from London, and was suspended at the window.  Mrs
Howell and her gossips caught a glimpse of the face of the young lady,
through the drapery of prints and muslins, and the festoons of ribbons;
and when the party proceeded down the street, there was a rush to the
door, in order to obtain a view of her figure.  She was pronounced
beautiful; and it was hoped that some gentleman in the village would
find her irresistible.  It was only rather strange that no gentleman was
in attendance on her now.

If the gossips could have followed the party with their eyes into the
meadow, they would soon have been satisfied; for it was not long before
Mr Hope joined them there.  On leaving Mr Grey's table, he was as
little disposed to go and visit his patient, as medical men are when
they are called away from the merriest company, or at the most
interesting moment of a conversation.  The liability to this kind of
interruption is one of the great drawbacks of the profession, to which
Mr Hope belonged; another is, the impossibility of travelling,--the
being fixed to one place for life, without any but the shortest
intervals of journeying.  Mr Hope had been settled for five years at
Deerbrook; and, during that time, he had scarcely been out of sight of
its steeple.  His own active and gladsome mind had kept him happy among
his occupations.  There was no one in the place with whom he could hold
equal converse; but, while he had it not, he did not feel the pressing
want of it.  He loved his profession, and it kept him busy.  His kind
heart was ever full of interest for his poorer patients.  Seeing the
best side of everybody, he could be entertained, though sometimes vexed,
by his intercourse with the Greys and Rowlands.  Then there was the
kindly-tempered and gentlemanly rector; and Philip Enderby often came
down for a few weeks; and Mr Hope had the chief management of the Book
Society, and could thus see the best new books; and his professional
rides lay through a remarkably pretty country.

He kept up a punctual and copious correspondence with the members of his
own family,--with his married sisters, and with his only brother, now
with his regiment in India,--relating to them every important
circumstance of his lot, and almost every interesting feeling of his
heart.  With this variety of resources, life had passed away cheerily,
on the whole, with Mr Hope, for the five years of his residence at
Deerbrook; though there were times when he wondered whether it was to be
always thus,--whether he was to pass to his grave without any higher or
deeper human intercourses than he had here.  If it had been possible, he
might, like other men as wise as himself, have invested some one of the
young ladies of Deerbrook with imaginary attributes, and have fallen in
love with a creature of his own fancy.  But it really was not possible.
There was no one of the young ladies of Deerbrook who was not so far
inferior to the women of Hope's own family,--to the mother he had lost,
and the sisters who were settled far away,--as to render this commonest
of all delusions impossible to him.

To such a man, so circumstanced, it may be imagined how great an event
was the meeting with Hester and Margaret.  He could not be in their
presence ten minutes without becoming aware of their superiority to
every woman he had seen for five years past.  The beauty of the one, the
sincerity and unconsciousness of the other, and the general elevation of
both, struck him forcibly the first evening.  His earliest thought the
next morning was of some great event having taken place; and when he
left Mr Grey's door after dinner, it was with an unwillingness which
made him spur himself and his horse on to their business, that he might
the sooner return to his new-found pleasure.  His thoughts already
darted forward to the time when the Miss Ibbotsons would be leaving
Deerbrook.  It was already a heavy thought how dull Deerbrook would be
without them.  He was already unconsciously looking at every object in
and around the familiar place with the eyes of the strangers,
speculating on how the whole would appear to them.  In short, his mind
was full of them.  There are, perhaps, none who do not know what this
kind of impression is.  All have felt it, at some time or other,--many
have felt it often,--about strangers whom they have been predisposed to
like, or with whom they have been struck at meeting.  Nine times out of
ten, perhaps, the impression is fleeting; and when it is gone, there is
an unwillingness to return to it, from a sense of absurdity in having
been so much interested about one who so soon became indifferent: but
the fact is not the less real and general for this.  When it happens
between two young people who are previously fancy-free, and
circumstances favour the impression till it sinks deeper than the fancy,
it takes the name of love at first sight.  Otherwise it passes away
without a name, without a record:--for the hour it is a secret: in an
after time it is forgotten.

Possessed unconsciously with this secret, Hope threw himself from his
horse at the entrance of the meadow where the cowslip-gatherers were
busy, fastened his steed to the gate, and joined the party.  The
children ran to him with the gleanings of intelligence which they had
acquired since he saw them last, half an hour before:--that it was well
they did not put off their gathering any longer, for some of the flowers
were beginning to dry up already: that cousins had never tasted
cowslip-tea;--(was not this _very_ odd?)--that cousin Hester would not
help to pick the flowers for drying,--she thought it such a pity to pull
the blossom out of the calyx: that Sophia would not help either, because
it was warm: that cousin Margaret had gathered a great many, but she had
been ever so long watching a spider's nest,--a nasty large spider's nest
that Matilda was just going to break into, when cousin Margaret asked
her not to spoil it?

Margaret was indeed on her knees, prying into the spider's nest.  When
duly laughed at, she owned to having seen cobwebs before, but maintained
that cobwebs in a closet were a very different affair from a spider's
nest in a field.

"I rather think, however," said she, "the word `nest' itself has
something to do with my liking, for what I have been looking at.  Some
of your commonest country words have a charm to the ear and imagination
of townspeople that you could not understand."

"But," said Mr Hope, "I thought nests were very common in Birmingham.
Have you not nests of boxes, and nests of work-tables?"

"Yes, and so we have stacks of chimneys; but yet we do not think of
hay-making when we see the smoke of the town.--I rather think country
words are only captivating as relating to the country; but then you
cannot think how bewitching they are to people who live in streets."

"The children might have found you a prettier sort of nest to indulge
your fancy with, I should think.  There must be plenty of creatures
besides spiders in this wide meadow."

Mr Hope called out to the little girls, that whoever should find any
sort of a nest in the meadow, for Miss Margaret Ibbotson, should have a
ride on his horse.  Away flew the children; and Hester and Sophia came
from the water-side to know what all the bustle was about.  Fanny
returned to inquire whether the nests must be _in_ the meadow; whether
just outside would not do.  She knew there was an ants' nest in the
bank, just on the other side of the hedge.  The decision was that the
ants' nest would do only in case of her not being able to find any other
within bounds.  Sophia looked on languidly, probably thinking all this
very silly.  It put her in mind of an old schoolfellow of hers who had
been called very clever before she came to school at nine years old.
Till she saw her, Sophia had believed that town children were always
clever: but no later than the very first day, this little girl had got
into disgrace with the governess.  Her task was to learn by heart
Goldsmith's Country Clergyman, in the `Deserted Village.'  She said it
quite perfectly, but, when questioned about the meaning, stopped short
at the first line,--"Near yonder copse where once a garden smiled."  She
persisted that she did not know what a copse was: the governess said she
was obstinate, and shut her up in the play hours between morning and
afternoon school.  Sophia never could make out whether the girl was
foolish or obstinate in persisting that she did not know what a copse
was: but her cousin Margaret now put her in mind of this girl, with all
her town feelings, and her fuss about spiders' nests.

"How is old Mr Smithson to-day?"  Sophia inquired of Mr Hope, by way
of introducing something more rational.

"Not better: it is scarcely possible that he should be," was the reply.

"Papa thought last night he must be dying."

"He is dying."

"Have you just come from a patient who is dying?" asked Hester, with a
look of anxiety, with which was mixed some surprise.

"Yes: from one who cannot live many days."

Sophia observed that Mr James had been sent for early this morning--no
doubt to put the finish to the will: but nobody seemed to know whether
the old gentleman would leave his money to his nephew or his step-son,
or whether he would divide it between them.  Hester and Margaret showed
no anxiety on this point, but seemed so ready to be interested about
some others as to make Mr Hope think that they were only restrained by
delicacy from asking all that he could tell about his patient's state.
They knew enough of the profession, however, to be aware that this kind
of inquiry is the last which should be addressed to a medical man.

"You are surprised," said he, "that I am come from a dying patient to
play with the children in the fields.  Come, acknowledge that this is in
your minds."

"If it is, it is an unreasonable thought," said Margaret.  "You must see
so many dying people, it would be hard that in every case you should be
put out of the reach of pleasure."

"Never mind the hardship, if it be fitting," said Hope.  "Hard or not
hard, is it natural,--is it possible?"

"I suppose witnessing death so often does lessen the feelings about it,"
observed Hester.  "Yet I cannot fancy that one's mind could be at
liberty for small concerns immediately after leaving a house full of
mourners, and the sight of one in pain.  There must be something
distasteful in everything that meets one's eyes,--in the sunshine
itself."

"True.  That is the feeling in such cases: but such cases seldom occur.
Yes: I mean what I say.  Such cases are very rare.  The dying person is
commonly old, or so worn out by illness as to make death at last no
evil.  When the illness is shorter, it is usually found that a few hours
in the sick room do the work of months of common life, in reconciling
the minds of survivors."

"I am sure that is true," observed Margaret.

"It is so generally the case that I know no set of circumstances in
which I should more confidently reckon on the calmness, forethought, and
composure of the persons I have to deal with than in the family of a
dying person.  The news comes suddenly to the neighbours: all the
circumstances rush at once into their imaginations: all their
recollections and feelings about the sufferer agitate them in quick
succession; and they naturally suppose the near friends must be more
agitated, in proportion to their nearness."

"The watchers, meanwhile," said Hester, "have had time in the long night
to go over the past and the future, again and again; and by morning all
seems so familiar, that they think they can never be surprised into
grief again."

"So familiar," said Mr Hope, "that their minds are at liberty for the
smallest particulars of their duty.  I usually find them ready for the
minutest directions I may have to give."

"Yes: the time for surprise,--for consternation,--is long afterwards,"
said Hester, with some emotion.  "When the whole has become settled and
finished in other minds, the nearest mourners begin to wake up to their
mourning."

"And thus," said Margaret, "the strongest agitation is happily not
witnessed."

"Happily not," said Mr Hope.  "I doubt whether anybody's strongest
agitations ever are witnessed.  I doubt whether the sufferer himself is
often aware of what are really his greatest sufferings; and he is so
ashamed of them that he hides them from himself when it is possible.  I
cannot but think that any grief which reveals itself is very endurable."

"Is not that rather hard?" asked Margaret.

"How does it seem to you hard?  Is it not merciful that we can keep our
worst sorrows,--that we are disposed, as it were forced, to keep them
from afflicting our friends?"

"But is it not saying that bereavement of friends is not the greatest of
sorrows, while all seem to agree that it is?"

"Is it, generally speaking, the greatest of sorrows?  I think not, for
my own part.  There are cases in which the loss is too heavy to bear
being the subject of any speculation, almost of observation; for
instance, when the happiest married people are separated, or when a
first or only child dies: but I think there are many sorrows greater
than a separation by death of those who have faith enough to live
independently of each other, and mutual love enough to deserve, as they
hope, to meet again hereafter.  I assure you I have sometimes come away
from houses unvisited, and unlikely to be visited by death, with a heart
so heavy as I have rarely or never brought from a deathbed."

"I should have thought that would be left for the rector to say,"
observed Hester.  "I should have supposed you meant cases of guilt or
remorse."

"Cases of guilt or remorse," continued Mr Hope, "and also of infirmity.
People may say what they will, but I am persuaded that there is
immeasurably more suffering endured, both in paroxysms and for a
continuance, from infirmity, tendency to a particular fault, or the
privation of a sense, than from the loss of any friend upon earth,
except the very nearest and dearest; and even that case is no exception,
when there is the faith of meeting again, which almost every mourner
has, so natural and welcome as it is."

"Do you tell your infirm friends the high opinion you have of their
sufferings?" asked Margaret.

"Why, not exactly; that would not be the kindest thing to do, would it?
What they want is, to have their trouble lightened to them, not made the
worst of;--lightened, not by using any deceit, of course, but by simply
treating their case as a matter of fact."

"Then surely you should make light of the case of the dying too: make
light of it even to the survivors.  Do you do this?"

"In one sense I do; in another sense no one can do it.  Not regarding
death as a misfortune, I cannot affect to consider it so.  Regarding the
change of existence as a very serious one, I cannot, of course, make
light of it."

"That way of looking at it regards only the dying person; you have not
said how you speak of it to survivors."

"As I speak of it to you now, or to myself when I see any one die; with
the added consideration of what the survivors are about to lose.  That
is a large consideration certainly; but should not one give them credit
for viewing death as it is, and for being willing to bear their own loss
cheerfully, as they would desire to bear any other kind of loss?
especially if, as they say, they believe it to be only for a time."

"This as looking on the bright side," observed Hester, in a low voice;
but she was overheard by Mr Hope.

"I trust you do not object to the bright side of things," said he,
smiling, "as long as there is so much about us that is really very
dark?"

"What can religion be for," said Margaret, "or reason, or philosophy,
whichever name you may call your faith by, but to show us the bright
side of everything--of death among the rest?  I have often wondered why
we seem to try to make the most of that evil (if evil it be), while we
think it a duty to make the least of every other.  I had some such
feeling, I suppose, when I was surprised to hear that you had come
hither straight from a deathbed: I do not wonder at all now."

"Mr Smithson will not be much missed," observed Sophia, who felt
herself relieved from the solemnity of the occasion, by what had passed,
and at liberty to speak of him as freely as if he was no nearer death
than ever.  "He has never been a sociable neighbour.  I always thought
him an odd old man, from the earliest time I can remember."

"Some few will miss him," said Mr Hope.  "He is a simple-hearted, shy
man, who never did himself justice, except with two or three who saw
most of him.  Their affection has been enough for him--enough to make
him think now that his life has been a very happy one.  There!" cried
Hope, as a lark sprang up almost from under the feet of the
party--"There is another member of Deerbrook society, ladies, who is
anxious to make your acquaintance."  There were two or three larks
hovering above the meadow at this moment, and others were soaring
further off.  The air was full of lark music.  The party stood still and
listened.  Looking up into the sunny sky, they watched one little
warbler, wheeling round, falling, rising again, still warbling, till it
seemed as if it could never be exhausted.  Sophia said it made her head
ache to look up so long; and she seemed impatient for the bird to have
done.  It then struck her that she also might find a nest, like her
sisters; and she examined the place whence the lark had sprung.  Under a
thick tuft of grass, in a little hollow, she found a family of infant
larks huddled together, and pointed them out to her cousins.

The children came upon being called.  They were damped in spirits.  They
did not see how they were to find any nests, if the ants' nest would not
do; unless, indeed, Mr Hope would hold them up into the trees or hedges
to look; but they could not climb trees, Mr Hope knew.  They were
somewhat further mortified by perceiving that they might have found a
nest by examining the ground, if they had happened to think of it.
Margaret begged they would not be distressed at not finding nests for
her; and Mr Hope proposed to try his luck, saying, that if he
succeeded, every one who wished should have a ride on his horse.

To the surprise of the children, he turned towards the water, and walked
along the bank.  The brimming river was smooth as glass; and where it
stood in among the rushes, and in every tiny inlet, it was as clear as
the air, and alive with small fish, which darted at the flies that
dimpled the surface.  A swan, which had been quietly sailing in the
middle of the stream, changed its deportment as the party proceeded
along the bank.  It ruffled its breast feathers, arched back its neck
till the head rested between the erect wings, and drove through the
water with a speed which shivered the pictures in it as a sweeping gale
would have done.

"What is the matter with the creature?" asked Margaret; "I never saw a
swan behave so."

The children seemed rather afraid that the bird would come on shore and
attack them.  Mr Hope took the opportunity of its being at some little
distance, to open the rushes, and show where a fine milk-white egg lay
in a large round nest.

"Oh, Mr Hope, you knew!" cried the children, "you knew there was a
swan's nest near."

"Yes; and did not you, when you saw how the swan behaved?  But I was
aware of this nest before.  Tom Creach has the care of the park swans;
he made this nest, and he told me where it was.  Let your cousins have a
peep; and then we will go, before the poor swan grows too much
frightened.  And now, who will have a ride on my horse?"

All the children chose to ride; and, while Mr Hope was coursing with
them in turn, round and round the meadow, the young ladies proceeded
along the bank.  A quarter of a mile further on, they fell in with
Sydney Grey and his friend Mr Philip.  They had been successful in
their sport.  Mr Enderby had had enough of it, and was stretched on the
grass reading, while Sydney stood on the roots of an old oak, casting
his line into the pool beneath its shadow.

"So, here you are, quite safe!" said Sophia; "George Rowland might have
come after all.  Poor boy!  I am glad he is not with us, he would be so
mortified to see all the fish you have caught without him!"

"How many times have we been in the river, Sydney?  Can you remember?"
asked Mr Enderby.

"I have seen no fish big enough to pull us in," said Sydney; "and I do
not know any other way of getting a wetting at this sport.  Mrs Rowland
should have seen George and me climbing the old oak at the two-mile
turning.  I dared George to it, and there he hung over the water, at the
end of the branch, riding up and down like a see-saw.  She would think
nothing of letting him go fishing after that."

"If the branch had broken," said Mr Enderby, "what would you have done
then?"

"Oh, it is not often that a branch breaks."

"Old oaks are apt to break, sooner or later; and, the next time you dare
George to see-saw over the river, I would advise you to consider
beforehand how you would get him out, in case of his dropping in."

"Oh, he is not afraid.  One day lately, when the water was low, he
offered to cross the weir at Dingleford.  I did not persuade him to
that; but he pulled off his shoes and stockings, and got over and back,
safe enough."

"Indeed! and you tried it too, I suppose?"

"Yes; it would be a shame if I could not do what George can.  It was
almost as easy as walking along this bank."

"I shall talk to Master George, however, before he goes to Dingleford
again, or he may chance to find it easier some day to miss his footing
than to hold it."

"I wonder Mrs Rowland is afraid to let George go out with you," said
Sophia, "considering what things he does when you are not with him."

"She does not know of these pranks, or she would feel as you do; and I
hope every one here will be kind enough not to tell her.  It would only
be making her anxious to no purpose, whenever the boy is out of her
sight.  It would be a pity to make a coward of him; and I think I can
teach him what is mischief, and what is not, without disturbing her.
Come, ladies, suppose you rest yourselves here; you will find a pleasant
seat on this bank: at least, I fell asleep on it just now, as if I had
been on a sofa."

"I wish you would all go to sleep, or else walk off," said Sydney.  "You
make so much noise I shall never catch any fish."

"Suppose you were to go somewhere else," said Mr Enderby.

"Would not that be rather more civil than sending us all away?"

Sydney thought he would find another place: there were plenty along the
bank.  He gathered up bait and basket, and trudged off.  There was an
amusement, however, which he liked better even than fishing; and for
which he now surrendered it.  He was presently seen cantering round the
meadow on Mr Hope's horse.

Mr Enderby hoped the Miss Ibbotsons were able to say "No" with
decision.  If not, he did not envy them their supper this evening; for
Sydney would certainly ask them to eat all the fish he had caught--bream
and dace and all.  The first pleasure of young anglers is to catch these
small fry; and the next is, to make their sisters and cousins eat them.
Sophia solemnly assured her cousins that mamma never allowed Sydney's
fish to come to table, at least in the house.  If the children liked to
get the cook to boil them for their dolls' feasts in the schoolroom,
they might.

"And then Miss Young is favoured with a share, I suppose?" said
Margaret.

"Have you made acquaintance with Miss Young yet?" inquired Mr Enderby.

"Oh, yes!  I had the pleasure of knowing Miss Young long before I knew
you."

"Long! how long?  I was not aware that you had ever met.  Where did you
meet?"

"In the schoolroom, before breakfast,--full four hours before you called
this morning."

"Oh, that is all you mean!  I wondered how you should know her."

Sophia asked whether Margaret and Miss Young were not going to study
together: Margaret assented.  Miss Young was kind enough to promise to
help her to read German.

"And you?" said Mr Enderby to Hester.

"Why, no; I am rather afraid of the undertaking."

"And you, Miss Grey?"

"No.  Mamma says, I have enough to do with my history and my music;
especially while my cousins are here.  I began German once, but mamma
thought I was growing awry, and so I left it off.  I find Mrs Rowland
means Matilda to learn German."

"We are all disposed to have my little nieces learn whatever Miss Young
will be kind enough to teach them; they will gain nothing but good from
her."

"She is very learned, to be sure," observed Sophia.

"And something more than learned, I should think," said Hester; "I fancy
she is wise."

"How can you have discovered that already?" asked Mr Enderby, whose
fingers were busy dissecting a stalk of flowering grass.

"I hardly know; I have nothing to quote for my opinion.  Her
conversation leaves a general impression of her being very sensible."

"Sensible, as she is a woman," observed Margaret; "if she were a man,
she would be called philosophical."

"She _is_ very superior," observed Sophia.  "It was mamma's doing that
she is the children's governess."

"Philosophical!" repeated Mr Enderby.  "It is a happy thing that she is
philosophical in her circumstances, poor thing!"

"As she happens to be unprosperous," said Margaret, smiling.  "If she
were rich, and strong, and admired, her philosophy would be laughed at;
it would only be in the way."

Mr Enderby sighed, and made no answer.  Before any one spoke again, Mr
Hope and his little companions came up.

"How quiet you all are!" exclaimed Sydney.  "I've a good mind to come
and fish here again, if you will only go on to be so drowsy."

Sophia declared that they had been talking, up to the last minute, about
Miss Young, and learning German, and being philosophical.

"And which of the party have you made out to be the most philosophical?"
inquired Mr Hope.

"We have not so much as made out what philosophy is for," said Hester;
"can you tell us?"

As she looked up at Mr Hope, who was standing behind her, Sydney
thought her question was addressed to him.  Swinging his fishing-rod
round, he replied doubtfully that he thought philosophy was good to know
how to do things.  What sort of things?  Why, to make phosphorus lights,
and electrify people, as Dr Levitt did, when he made Sophia jump off
the stool with glass legs.  Sophia was sure that any one else would have
jumped off the stool as she did.  She should take good care never to
jump on it again.  But she wondered Sydney did not know any better than
that what philosophy was for.  Her cousins said Miss Young was
philosophical, and she had nothing to do with phosphorus or electrical
machines.

Mr Enderby explained to Mr Hope that he had said what he was ready to
maintain; that it was a happy thing for any one who, like Miss Young,
was not so prosperous as she had been, to be supported by philosophy.

"And, granting this," said Margaret, "it was next inquired whether this
same philosophy would have been considered equally admirable, equally a
matter of congratulation, if Miss Young had not wanted it for solace."

"A question as old as the brigg at Stirling," replied Mr Hope; "older,
older than any bridges of man's making."

"Why Stirling brigg?  What do you mean?"

"I mean--do not you know the story?--that an old woman wanted to cross
the Forth, and some ferrymen would have persuaded her to go in their
boat when she was confident that a tempest was coming on, which would
have made the ferry unsafe.  They told her at last that she must trust
to Providence.  `Na, na,' said she, `I will ne'er trust to Providence
while there is a brigg at Stirling.'  The common practice is, you know,
with the old woman.--We will not trust to the highest support we profess
to have, till nothing else is left us.  We worship philosophy, but never
think of making use of it while we have prosperity as well."

"The question is whether such practice is wise," said Margaret: "we all
know it is common."

"For my part," said Mr Enderby, "I think the old Scotchwoman was right;
Providence helps those that help themselves, and takes care of those who
take care of themselves."

"Just so," said Hope.  "Her error was in supposing that the one course
was an alternative from the other,--that she would not be trusting in
Providence as much in going by the bridge as in braving the tempest.  I
think we are in the same error when we set up philosophy and prosperity
in opposition to each other, taking up with the one when we cannot get
the other, as if philosophy were not over all, compassing our life as
the blue sky overarches the earth, brightening, vivifying, harmonising
all, whether we look up to see whence the light comes or not."

"You think it a mistake, then," said Margaret, "not to look up to it
till all is night below, and there is no light to be seen but by gazing
overhead?"

"I do not see why we should miss seeing the white clouds and blue depths
at noon because we may reckon upon moon and stars at midnight.  Then
again, what is life at its best without philosophy?"

"I can tell you, as well as anybody," said Mr Enderby, "for I never had
any philosophy,--no, neither wisdom, nor the love of wisdom, nor
patience, nor any of the things that philosophy is understood to mean."

"Oh, Mr Enderby!" cried Sydney, "what pains you took to teach me to
fish, and to make me wait patiently for a bite!  _You_ say you are not
patient!"

"My account of life without philosophy," said Mr Enderby, proceeding as
if he did not hear the children testifying to his patience with
them,--"my account of life without philosophy is, that it slips away
mighty easily, till it is gone, you scarcely know where or how."

"And when you call upon philosophy at last to give an account of it,
what does she say?" asked Margaret.

"I do not understand how life can slip away so," said Hester.  "Is there
ever a day without its sting?--without doubt of somebody, disappointment
in oneself or another, dread of some evil, or weariness of spirit?
Prosperity is no more of a cure for these than for sickness and death.
If philosophy is--"

"Well!" exclaimed Mr Hope, with strong interest, "if philosophy is--"

"Happy they that have her, for all need her."

"Hear a testimony at least as candid as your own, Enderby.  If you
really find life steal away as easily as you now fancy, depend upon it
you are more of a philosopher than you are aware of."

"What is philosophy?" asked Matilda of Sydney in a loud whisper, which
the boy was not in any hurry to take notice of, so little was there in
the conversation which seemed to bear upon phosphorus and electricity.

"A good question," observed Mr Enderby.  "Hope, will you tell us
children what we are talking about,--what philosophy is all this while?"

"You gave us a few meanings just now, which I should put into one.  Call
it enlargement of views, and you have wisdom, and the love of wisdom,
and patience, all at once: ay, Sydney, and your kind of philosophy
too:--It was by looking far and deep into nature that men found
electricity."

"Did Dr Levitt find it out?" asked Matilda: "he is so very
short-sighted!  I don't believe he would see those fish snapping up the
flies, if he sat where I do.  What was that that fell on my bonnet?  Is
it raining?"

Sydney, tired of fishing, had climbed into the oak, and was sending down
twigs and leaves upon the heads of the party.  Sophia desired him to
come down, and even assured him that if he did not, she should be angry.
He replied, that he would only stay to see whether she would be angry
or not.  The experiment was cut short by the whole party rising, and
moving homewards.  The sun was setting, and the picked cowslips must not
have any dew upon them.

As the group passed up the street, Sydney in advance, with his rod and
basket, on Mr Hope's horse, Mr Hope himself following with Hester, and
the tall Mr Enderby, with Sophia and Margaret on either arm, all, like
the little girls, laden with cowslips, the gossips of Deerbrook were
satisfied that the stranger ladies must have enjoyed their walk in the
meadows.



CHAPTER SIX.

THE SCHOOL-ROOM.

Mrs Rowland was mortified that the Greys had been beforehand with her
in the idea of a cowslip-gathering.  From the moment of Matilda's asking
leave to accompany them, she resolved to have such an expedition from
her house as her neighbours should not be able to eclipse.  Like Lear,
she did not yet know what her deed was to be; but it should be the
wonder and terror of the place: she would do such things as should
strike the strangers with admiration.  When she heard an account of it
from her little daughter, she found this had been a very poor
beginning,--a mere walk in the meadows, and home again to tea;--no
boiling the kettle in the woods,--not even a surprise of early
strawberries.  She could not call this being forestalled; it could not
give the young ladies any idea of a proper country excursion, with four
or five carriages, or a boat with an awning.  As soon as Mr Rowland
came home in the evening, she consulted him about the day, the place,
the mode, and the numbers to be invited.  Mr Rowland was so well
pleased to find his lady in the mood to be civil to her neighbours, that
he started no difficulties, and exerted himself to overcome such as
could not be overlooked.  All the planning prospered so well, that notes
to the Grey family and to the Miss Ibbotsons lay on Mr Grey's
breakfast-table the next morning, inviting the whole party to dine with
Mrs Rowland in Dingleford woods, that day week--the carriages to be at
the door at ten o'clock.

The whole village rang with the preparations for this excursion; and the
village was destined to ring with other tidings before it took place.
Mrs Rowland often said that she had the worst luck in the world; and it
seemed as if all small events fell out so as to plague her.  She had an
unusual fertility in such sensible suppositions and reasonable
complaints; and her whole diversity of expressions of this kind was
called into play about this expedition to Dingleford woods.  The hams
were actually boiled, and the chicken-pies baked, when clouds began to
gather in the sky; and on the appointed morning, pattens clinked in the
village street, Miss Young's umbrella was wet through in the mere
transit from the farrier's gate to the schoolroom; the gravel-walk
before Mr Grey's house was full of yellow pools, and the gurgling of
spouts or drips from the trees was heard on every side.  The worst of it
was, this rain came after a drought of many weeks, which had perilled
the young crops, and almost destroyed the hopes of hay; the ladies and
children had been far from sufficiently sorry to hear that some of the
poorer wheat lands in the county had been ploughed up, and that there
was no calculating what hay would be a ton the next winter.  They were
now to receive the retribution of their indifference; rain had set in,
and the farmers hoped that it might continue for a month.  It would not
be wise to fix any country excursion for a few weeks to come.  Let the
young people enjoy any fine afternoon that they might be able to turn to
the account of a walk, or a drive, or a sail on the river; but picnic
parties must be deferred till settled weather came.  There was every
hope that the middle of the summer would be fine and seasonable, if the
rains came down freely now.

This course of meteorological events involved two great vexations to
Mrs Rowland.  One was, that the neighbours, who could pretend to
entertain the strangers only in a quiet way at home, took the
opportunity of the rainy weather to do so, hoping, as they said, not to
interfere with any more agreeable engagements.  Mrs Rowland really
never saw anything so dissipated as the Greys; they were out almost
every evening when they had not company at home.  It was impossible that
Sophia's studies could go on as they ought to do.  What with taking a
quiet cup of tea with one acquaintance, and being at a merry reading
party at another's, and Mrs Enderby's little dance, and dinner at the
Levitts', there were few evenings left; and on those few evenings they
were never content to be alone.  They were always giving the young men
encouragement to go in.  Mr Hope made quite a home house of Mr Grey's;
and as for Philip, he seemed now to be more at Mr Grey's than even at
his own mother's or Sister's.  Mrs Grey ought to remember how bad all
this was for a girl of Sophia's age.  It would completely spoil the
excursion to Dingleford woods.  The young people knew one another so
well by this time, that the novelty was all worn off, and they would
have nothing left to say to each other.  It was provoking that Mr
Rowland had promised that the excursion should take place whenever the
weather should be settled enough.  It might so fairly have been given
up! and now it must be gone on with, when every one was tired of the
idea, and the young people must almost be weary of one another, from
being always together!

The other vexation was, that there were frequent short intervals of fine
weather, which were immediately taken advantage of for a drive, or a
walk, or a sail; and it came out one day from the children, who had
learned it in the schoolroom, that the Miss Ibbotsons had been in
Dingleford woods.  There had been no such intention when the party set
out; they had not designed to go nearly so far; but they had been
tempted on by the beauty of the evening and of the scenery, till they
had found it the shortest way to come home through the Dingleford woods.
Mrs Rowland pronounced this abominable; and she was not appeased by
hearing that her brother had been the proposer of this mode of return,
and the guide of the party.  Philip forgot everything, she declared, in
his fancy for these girls; it was always his fault that he was carried
away by the people he was with: he had got the name of a flirt by it,
and a flirt he was; but she had never known him so possessed as he
seemed to be by these strangers.  She must speak to Mr Rowland about
it; the matter might really become serious; and if he should ever be
entrapped into marrying into the Grey connections, among people so
decidedly objectionable, it would be a terrible self-reproach to her as
long as she lived, that she had not interfered in time.  She should
speak to Mr Rowland.

Meanwhile she kept a watchful eye on her brother's proceedings.  She
found from the children that their Uncle Philip had fulfilled his
promise of going to see the schoolroom, and had been so much better than
his word, that he had been there very often.  When he went, it was
always when the Miss Ibbotsons were there, learning German, or drawing,
or talking with Miss Young.  It was impossible to pick a quarrel with
Miss Young about this; for she always sent her visitors away the moment
the clock struck the school hour.  The summer-house was Mr Grey's
property, too; so that Mrs Rowland could only be angry at the studies
which went on in it, and had no power to close the doors against any of
the parties.

The rainy weather had indeed been very propitious to the study of
German.  For a fortnight Margaret had spent some hours of each day with
Miss Young; and over their books they had learned so much of one
another's heart and mind, that a strong regard had sprung up between
them.  This new friendship was a great event to Miss Young;--how great,
she herself could scarcely have believed beforehand.  Her pupils found
that Miss Young was now very merry sometimes.  Mr Grey observed to his
wife that the warmer weather seemed to agree with the poor young woman,
as she had some little colour in her cheeks at last; and Margaret
herself observed a change in the tone of the philosophy she had admired
from the beginning.  There was somewhat less of reasoning in it, and
more of impulse; it was as sound as ever, but more genial.  While never
forgetting the constancy of change in human affairs, she was heartily
willing to enjoy the good that befell her, while it lasted.  It was well
that she could do so; for the good of this new friendship was presently
alloyed.

She was not aware, and it was well that she was not, that Hester was
jealous of her, almost from the hour of Margaret's learning what a vast
number of irregular verbs there is in the German.  Each sister
remembered the conversation by the open window, on the night of their
arrival at Deerbrook.  Remembering it, Margaret made Hester a partaker
in all her feelings about Maria Young; her admiration, her pity, her
esteem.  Reserving to herself any confidence which Maria placed in her
(in which, however, no mention of Mr Enderby ever occurred), she kept
not a thought or feeling of her own from her sister.  The consequence
was, that Hester found that Maria filled a large space in Margaret's
mind, and that a new interest had risen up in which she had little
share.  She, too, remembered the conversation, but had not strength to
act up to the spirit of it.  She had then owned her weakness, and called
it wickedness, and fancied that she could never mistrust her sister
again.  She was now so ashamed of her own consciousness of being once
more jealous, that she strove to hide the fact from herself; and was not
therefore likely to tell it to Margaret.  She struggled hourly with
herself, rebuking her own temper, and making appeals to her own
generosity.  She sat drawing in the little blue parlour, morning after
morning, during Sophia's reading or practising, telling herself that
Margaret and Miss Young had no secrets, no desire to be always
_tete-a-tete_; that they had properly invited her to learn German; and
that she had only to go at any moment, and offer to join them, to be
joyfully received.  She argued with herself,--how mean it would be to do
so; to agree to study at last, in order to be a sort of spy upon them,
to watch over her own interests; as if Margaret--the most sincere and
faithful of living beings--were not to be trusted with them.  She had
often vowed that she would cure the jealousy of her temper; now was the
occasion, and she would meet it; she would steadily sit beside Sophia or
Mrs Grey every morning, when Margaret was not with her, and never let
her sister know how selfish she could be.

This was all very well; but it could not make Margaret suppose her
sister happy when she was not.  She could not be certain what was the
matter, but she saw that something was wrong.  At times, Hester's manner
was so unboundedly affectionate, that it was impossible to suppose that
unkind feelings existed towards herself; though a few pettish words were
at other times let drop.  Hester's moods of magnanimity and jealousy
were accounted for in other ways by her sister.  Margaret believed,
after a course of very close observation, that she had discovered, in
investigating the cause of Hester's discomposure, a secret which was
unknown to her sister herself.  Margaret was not experienced in love,
nor in watching the signs of it; but here was the mind she understood
best, discomposed without apparent cause--more fond, more generous to
herself than ever, yet not reposing its usual confidence in her--and
subject to those starts of delight and disappointment which she had
heard and could understand to be the moods of love.  She was confirmed
in her suspicion by observing that the merits of Mr Hope were becoming
daily a less common subject of conversation between them, while it was
certain that he had in no degree lost favour with either.  They had been
charmed with him from the beginning, and had expressed to each other the
freest admiration of his truth, his gaiety, his accomplishments, and
great superiority to the people amidst whom he lived.  He was now spoken
of less every day, while his visits grew more frequent, longer, and,
Margaret could not but think, more welcome to her sister.  The hours
when he was sure not to come happened to be those which she spent with
Miss Young--the hours in which gentlemen are devoted to their business.
Margaret thus witnessed all that passed; and if her conjecture about
Hester was right, she could have wished to see Mr Hope's manner rather
different from what it was.  He was evidently strongly attracted to the
house; and there was some reason to think that Mrs Grey believed that
Hester was the attraction.  But Margaret had no such impression.  She
saw that Mr Hope admired her sister's beauty, listened to her
conversation with interest, and was moved at times by the generosity of
her tone of moral feeling; but this, though much, was not enough for the
anxious sister's full satisfaction; and the one thing besides which she
would fain have discerned she could not perceive.  These were early days
yet, however; so early that, in the case of any one whom she knew,
except her sister, she should have supposed her own conjectures wild and
almost improper; but Hester's was one of those natures to which time and
circumstance minister more speedily and more abundantly than to the
generality.  By the strength of her feelings, and the activity of her
affections, time was made more comprehensive, and circumstance more
weighty than to others.  A day would produce changes in her which the
impressions of a week would not effect in less passionate natures; and
what were trifling incidents to the minds about her, were great events
to her.

Margaret began to consider what was to be done.  The more she thought,
the more plainly she perceived that there was nothing to be done but to
occupy Hester, simply and naturally, with as many interests as possible.
This was safe practice, be the cause of her occasional discomposure
what it might.  It was particularly desirable that she should not
continue the habit of sitting in silence for a considerable part of
every morning.

One day, just after the voices of the children had been heard in the
hall, giving token that school was over, Hester, sitting in the little
blue parlour alone, with her head on her hand, was apparently
contemplating the drawing on her board, but really considering that
Margaret was now beginning to be happy with her friend, and asking why
Margaret should not be happy with her friend, when Margaret herself
entered.

"Do you want Sophia?" said Hester.  "She is up-stairs."

"No; I want you."

"Indeed!"

There was an ironical tone of surprise in the one word she spoke, which
let fall a weight upon Margaret's heart;--an old feeling, but one to
which she had made no progress towards being reconciled.

"I cannot help you with your German, you know.  How can you pretend to
want me?"

"It is not about the German at all that I want you.  Maria has found a
Spenser at last, and I am going to read her the `Hymn of Heavenly
Beauty,' I know you never can hear that often enough; so come!"

"Perhaps Miss Young had rather not.  I should be sorry to intrude myself
upon her.  But, however," continued she, observing Margaret's look of
surprise, "I will come.  Do not wait for me, dear.  I will come the
moment I have put up my drawing."

Margaret did wait, running over the keys of the open piano meanwhile.

"Shall I call Sophia too?" asked Hester, as she took up her work-bag.
"I dare say she never read any of Spenser."

"I dare say not," replied Margaret; "and she would not care about it
now.  If you think we ought, we will call her.  If not--"

Hester smiled, nodded, and led the way to the schoolroom without calling
Sophia.  She had not been two minutes in the cordial presence of her
sister and Maria, before she felt the full absurdity of the feelings
which had occupied her so lately, and was angry with herself to her own
satisfaction.  Her companions looked at each other with a smile as they
observed at the same moment the downcast attitude of her moistened eyes,
the beautiful blush on her cheek, and the expression of meek emotion on
her lips.  They thought that it was the image of heavenly beauty which
moved her thus.

Before they had quite finished the Hymn, the door was burst open, and
the children entered, dragging in Mr Enderby.  Mr Enderby rebuked
them, good-naturedly, for introducing him with so little ceremony, and
declared to the ladies that Matilda had promised to knock before she
opened the door.  Hester advised Mary and Fanny to be more quiet in
their mode of entrance, observing that they had made Miss Young start
with their hurry.

Matilda was glad her uncle remembered to come sometimes.  He had
promised it several weeks before he came at all; even when he said he
was going away in a fortnight.

"And if I had gone away in a fortnight," said he, "I should not have
seen your schoolroom.  But this is not the first time I have seen it, as
you remember very well.  I have been here often lately."

"But you never attend to me here, uncle!  And I want so to show you my
desk, where I keep my copy-book, and the work-box you gave me on my
birthday."

"Well, you can show me now, cannot you?  So, this is your desk!  It
seems convenient enough, whatever we may think of its beauty.  I suppose
it will hold all the knowledge you will want to have put into your head
for some time to come.  Now show me which is George's desk, and which
Fanny's; and now Mary's,--a nice row of desks!  Now," whispering to her,
"can you show me which is Miss Margaret's desk?"

The little girl giggled as she answered, that Miss Margaret was too old
to be a school-girl.

"So she is: but she learns of Miss Young, and I know she keeps some of
her books here.  Can you show me where?"

There was a desk rather larger than the rest, the lid of which now
happened to be standing open.  Matilda slyly pointed to it.  While the
ladies were engaged with the other children, Mr Enderby cast a glance
into this desk, saw a book which he knew to be Margaret's, laid
something upon it from his pocket, and softly closed the lid; the whole
passing, if it was observed at all, as a survey of the children's desks.
He then pretended to look round for the rod.

"No rod!" said he to the laughing children.  "Oh, I should like to learn
here very much, if there is no rod.  Miss Margaret, do you not find it
very pleasant learning here?"

The children were shouting, "Miss Young, Miss Young, do let uncle Philip
come and learn with us.  He says he will be a very good boy,--won't you,
uncle Philip?  Miss Young, when may uncle Philip come and learn his
lessons?"

Margaret saw that there was constraint in the smile with which Maria
answered the children.  Little as she knew, it struck her that in his
fun with the children, Mr Enderby was relying quite sufficiently on the
philosophy he had professed to admire in Miss Young.  Mr Enderby drew a
chair to the window round which the ladies were sitting, and took up the
volume Margaret had just laid down.

"Go, go, children!" said he; "run away to your gardens!  I cannot spare
you any more play to-day."

"Oh, but uncle, we want to ask you a question."

"Well, ask it."

"But it is a secret.  You must come into the corner with Fanny, and
Mary, and me."

For peace and quiet he went into the corner with them, and they
whispered into each ear a question, how many burnt almonds and
gingerbread-buttons, and how much barley-sugar, two shillings and
threepence halfpenny would buy?  The cowslips were now ready to make tea
of, and the feast on the dolls' dishes might be served any day.  Mr
Enderby promised to inquire at the confectioner's, and not to tell
anybody else; and at last the children were got rid of.

"Now that we have done with mysteries," said he, as he resumed his seat
by the window, "that is, with children's mysteries that we can see to
the bottom of, let us look a little into the poet's mysteries.  What
were you reading?  Show me, and I will be your reader.  Who or what is
this Heavenly Beauty?  We have not done with mysteries yet, I see."

"I was wondering," said Margaret smiling, "whether you take up Spenser
because you are tired of mysteries.  In such a case, some other poet
might suit you better."

"What other?"

"Some one less allegorical, at least."

"I do not know that," said Hester.  "The most cunning allegory that ever
was devised is plain and easy in comparison with the simplest true
story,--fully told: and a man is a poet in proportion as he fully tells
a simple true story."

"A story of the mind, you mean," said Mr Enderby, "not of the mere
events of life?"

"Of the mind, of course, I mean.  Without the mind the mere life is
nothing."

"Is not allegory a very pretty way of telling such a story of the mind,
under the appearance of telling a story of a life?"

"Yes," said Margaret; "and that is the reason why so many like allegory.
There is a pleasure in making one's way about a grotto in a garden; but
I think there is a much higher one in exploring a cave on the sea-shore,
dim and winding, where you never know that you have come to the end,--a
much higher pleasure in exploring a life than following out an
allegory."

"You are a true lover of mystery, Miss Margaret.  You should have lived
a thousand years ago."

"Thank you: I am very glad I did not.  But why so long ago?  Are there
not mysteries enough left?"

"And will there not be enough a thousand years hence?" said Hester.

"I am afraid not.  You and I cannot venture to speak upon what the
Germans may be doing.  But these two ladies can tell us, perhaps,
whether they are not clearing everything up very fast;--making windows
in your cave, Miss Margaret, till nobody will be afraid to look into
every cranny of it."

"And then our complaint," said Miss Young, "will be like Mrs Howell's,
when somebody told her that we were to have the Drummond light on every
church steeple.  `Oh dear, ma'am!' said she, `we shall not know how in
the world to get any darkness.'"

"You speak as if you agreed that the Germans really are the makers of
windows that Mr Enderby supposes them," observed Margaret; "but you do
not think we are any nearer the end of mysteries than ever, do you?"

"Oh, no; not till we have struck our stone to the bottom of the
universe, and walked round it: and I am not aware that the Germans
pretend to be able to do that, any more than other people.  Indeed, I
think there are as many makers of grottoes as explorers of caves among
them.  What do you want, my dear?"

This last was addressed to George, whose round face, red with exertion,
appeared at a back window.  The little girls were hoisting him up, that
he might call out once more, "Uncle Philip, be sure you remember not to
tell."

"It would be a pity that mysteries should come to an end," observed Mr
Enderby, "when they seem to please our human tastes so well.  See there,
how early the love of mystery begins! and who can tell where it ends?
Is there one of your pupils, Miss Young, in whom you do not find it?"

"Not one; but is there not a wide difference between the love of making
mysteries, and a taste for finding them out?"

"Do you not find both in children, and up into old age?"

"In children, one usually finds both: but I think the love of
mystery-making and surprises goes off as people grow wiser.  Fanny and
Mary were plotting all last week how to take their sister Sophia by
surprise with a piece of India-rubber, a token of fraternal affection,
as they were pleased to call it; and you see George has a secret to-day:
but they will have fewer hidings and devices every year: and, if they
grow really wise, they will find that, amidst the actual business of
life, there is so much more safety, and ease, and blessing in perfect
frankness than in any kind of concealment, that they will give
themselves the liberty and peace of being open as the daylight.  Such is
my hope for them.  But all this need not prevent their delighting in the
mysteries which are not of man's making."

"They will be all the more at leisure for them," said Margaret, "from
having their minds free from plots and secrets."

"Surely you are rather hard upon arts and devices," said Philip.
"Without more or fewer of them, we should make our world into a Palace
of Truth,--see the Veillees du Chateau, which Matilda is reading with
Miss Young.  Who ever read it, that did not think the Palace of Truth
the most disagreeable place in the world?"

"And why?" asked Margaret.  "Not because the people in it spoke truth;
but because the truth which they spoke was hatred, and malice, and
selfishness."

"And how much better," inquired Hester, "is the truth that we should
speak, if we were as true as the daylight?  I hope we shall always be
allowed to make mysteries of our own selfish and unkind fancies.  There
would be little mutual respect left if these things were told."

"I think there would be more than ever," said Margaret, carefully
avoiding to meet her sister's eye.  "I think so many mistakes would be
explained, so many false impressions set right, on the instant of their
being made, that our mutual relations would go on more harmoniously than
now."

"And what would you do with the affairs now dedicated to mystery?" asked
Mr Enderby.  "How would you deal with diplomacy, and government, and
with courtship?  You surely would not overthrow the whole art of wooing?
You would not doom lovers' plots and devices?"

The ladies were all silent.  Mr Enderby, however, was determined to
have an answer.  He addressed himself particularly to Margaret.

"You do not disapprove of the little hidden tokens with which a man may
make his feelings secretly known where he wishes them to be
understood;--tokens which may meet the eye of one alone, and carry no
meaning to any other!  You do not disapprove of a more gentle and
mysterious way of saying, `I love you,' than looking full in one
another's face, and declaiming it like a Quaker upon affirmation?  You
do not disapprove--"

"As for disapproving," said Margaret, who chanced to perceive that
Maria's hand shook so that she could not guide her needle, and that she
was therefore apparently searching for something in her work-box,--"as
for disapproving, I do not pretend to judge for other people--"

She stopped short, struck with the blunder she had made.  Mr Enderby
hastened to take advantage of it.  He said, laughing:

"Well, then, speak for yourself.  Never mind other people's case."

"What I mean," said Margaret, with grave simplicity, "is, that all
depends upon the person whose regard is to be won.  There are silly
girls, and weak women, who, liking mysteries in other affairs, are best
pleased to be wooed with small artifices;--with having their vanity and
their curiosity piqued with sly compliments--"

"Sly compliments!  What an expression!"

"Such women agree, as a matter of course, in the old notion,--suitable
enough five centuries ago,--that the life of courtship should be as
unlike as possible to married life.  But I certainly think those much
the wisest and the happiest, who look upon the whole affair as the
solemn matter that it really is, and who desire to be treated, from the
beginning, with the sincerity and seriousness which they will require
after they are married."

"If the same simplicity and seriousness were common in this as are
required in other grave transactions," said Hester, "there would be less
of the treachery, delusion, and heart-breaking, which lie heavy upon the
souls of many a man and many a woman."

Mr Enderby, happening to be looking out of the window here, as if for
something to say, caught the eye of his sister, who was walking in her
garden.  She beckoned to him, but he took no notice, not desiring to be
disturbed at present.  Turning again to Margaret, he said:

"But you would destroy all the graces of courtship: you would--"

"Nay," said Hester, "what is so graceful as the simplicity of entire
mutual trust?--the more entire the more graceful."

"I wish you had left out the word `trust.'  You have spoiled something
that I was going on to say about the simplicity of drawing lots like the
Moravians,--the most sincere courtship of all: but that word `trust'
puts my illustration aside.  You need not protest.  I assure you I am
not so dull as not to understand that you think love necessary to the
wooing which seems graceful in your eyes;--Oh, yes: love, and mutual
knowledge, and mutual reverence, and perfect trust!  Oh, yes, I
understand it all."

"Philip!" cried a soft, sentimental voice under the window:

"Brother, I want your arm for a turn in the shrubbery."

Mrs Rowland's bonnet was visible as she looked up to the window.  She
saw the braids of the hair of the young ladies, and her voice was rather
less soft as she called again, "Philip, do you hear?  I want you."

It was impossible to seem not to hear.  Mr Enderby was obliged to go:
but he left his hat behind him, as a sort of pledge that he meant to
limit himself to the single turn proposed.

For various reasons, the young ladies were all disinclined to speak
after he had left them.  Miss Young was the first to move.  She rose to
go to her desk for something,--the desk in which Margaret kept the books
she used in this place.  Ever on the watch to save Maria the trouble of
moving about, which was actual pain to her, Margaret flew to see if she
could not fetch what was wanted: but Miss Young was already looking into
the desk.  Her eye caught the pretty new little volume which lay there.
She took it up, found it was a volume of Tieck, and saw on the fly-leaf,
in the well-known handwriting, "From PE."  One warm beam of hope shot
through her heart:--how could it be otherwise,--the book lying in her
desk, and thus addressed?  But it was only one moment's joy.  The next
instant's reflection, and the sight of Margaret's German exercise, on
which the book had lain, revealed the real case to her.  In sickness of
heart, she would, upon impulse, have put back the book, and concealed
the incident: but she was not sure but that Margaret had seen the
volume, and she _was_ sure of what her own duty was.  With a smile and a
steady voice she held out the book to Margaret, and said:

"Here is something for you, Margaret, which looks a little like one of
the hidden, and gentle, and mysterious tokens Mr Enderby has been
talking about.  Here it is, lying among your books; and I think it was
not with them when you last left your seat."

Margaret blushed with an emotion which seemed to the one who knew her
best to be too strong to be mere surprise.  She looked doubtful for a
moment about the book being meant for her.  Its German aspect was
conclusive against its being designed for Hester: but Miss Young,--was
it certain that the volume was not hers?  She asked this; but Maria
replied, as her head was bent over her desk:

"There is no doubt about it.  I am sure.  It is nobody's but yours."

Some one proposed to resume the reading.  The `Hymn to Heavenly Beauty'
was finished, but no remark followed.  Each was thinking of something
else.  More common subjects suited their present mood better.  It was
urged upon Hester that she should be one of the daily party; and, her
lonely fancies being for the hour dispersed, she agreed.

"But," she observed, "other people's visits alter the case entirely.  I
do not see how study is to go on if any one may come in from either
house, as Mr Enderby did to-day.  It is depriving Miss Young of her
leisure, too, and making use of her apartment in a way that she may well
object to."

"I am here, out of school hours, only upon sufferance," replied Miss
Young.  "I never call the room mine without this explanation."

"Besides," said Margaret, "it is a mere accident Mr Enderby's coming in
to-day.  If he makes a habit of it, we have only to tell him that we
want our time to ourselves."

Miss Young knew better.  She made no reply; but she felt in her inmost
soul that her new-born pleasures were, from this moment, to be turned
into pains.  She knew Mr Enderby; and knowing him, foresaw that she was
to be a witness of his wooings of another, whom she had just begun to
take to her heart.  This was to be her fate if she was strong enough for
it,--strong enough to be generous in allowing to Margaret opportunities
which could not without her be enjoyed, of fixing the heart of one whom
she could not pronounce to have been faulty towards herself.  His
conversation today had gone far to make her suppose him blameless, and
herself alone in fault; so complete had seemed his unconsciousness with
regard to her.  Her duty then was clearly to give them up to each other,
with such spirit of self-sacrifice as she might be capable of.  If not
strong enough for this, the alternative was a daily painful retreat to
her lodging, whence she might look out on the heaps of cinders in the
farrier's yard, her spirit abased the while with the experience of her
own weakness.  Neither alternative was very cheering.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

FAMILY CONFIDENCE.

"When do you leave us, Philip?" inquired Mrs Rowland, putting her arm
within her brother's, and marching him up the gravel-walk.

"Do you wish me to go?" replied he, laughing.  "Is this what you were so
anxious to say?"

"Why, we understood, six weeks since, that you meant to leave Deerbrook
in a fortnight: that is all."

"So I did: but my mother is kind enough to be pleased that I am staying
longer; and since I am equally pleased myself, it is all very well.  I
rather think, too, that the children consider Uncle Philip a good boy,
who deserves a holiday."

"My mother!  Oh, she always supposes everything right that you do; and
that is the reason why Mr Rowland and I--"

"The reason why Rowland and I agree so well," interrupted the brother.
"Yes, that is one reason, among many.  Rowland's wish is to see the old
lady happy; and she is naturally happiest when she has both her children
with her; and for every merry hour of hers, your good husband looks the
more kindly upon me."

"Of course; all that is a matter of course; though you are not aware,
perhaps, of the fatigue it is to my mother to have any one with her too
long a time.  She will not tell _you_; but you have no idea how low she
is for some time after you go away, if you have stayed more than a few
days, from exhaustion--from pure exhaustion.  Ah! you do not perceive
it, because the excitement keeps her up while you are here; and she
naturally makes an effort, you know.  But if you were to see her as we
do after you are gone;--you cannot think how it sets the Greys talking
about her low spirits."

"Poor soul!  I wish I could be always with her.  I will try whether I
cannot; for some time to come, at least.  But, sister, how does it
happen that neither you nor Rowland ever told me this before?"

"Oh, we would not distress you unnecessarily.  We knew it was an
unavoidable evil.  You cannot always be here, and you must--"

"Yes, I must sometimes come: that is an unavoidable evil; and always
will be, sister, while I have a good old mother living here."

"My dear Philip, how you do misunderstand one!  I never heard anything
so odd."

"Why odd?  Have you not been giving me to understand, all this time,
that you do not wish to have me here,--that you want me to go away?  If
not this, I do not know what you have been talking about."

"What an idea!  My only brother!  What can you be thinking of?  Why upon
earth should I wish you anywhere else?"

"That you may manage my mother and her affairs all your own way, I
imagine."

Mrs Rowland had nothing to oppose to this plain speech but
exclamations.  When she had exhausted all she could muster, she avowed
that the only consideration which could reconcile her to the sacrifice
of her dear brother's society was anxiety for his happiness.

"Then, supposing I am happiest here, we are all satisfied."  And Uncle
Philip would have made a diversion from the path to give George his
favourite swing, quite up to the second branch of the great pear-tree.

"Pray let George swing himself for once, brother.  Hold your tongue,
George!  You are a very troublesome boy, and your uncle and I are busy.
It is about your own affairs, brother, that I want to open my mind to
you.  As for your always remaining here, as you kindly hinted just
now--"

"I did not mean to hint," said Philip; "I thought I had spoken quite
plainly."

"Well, well.  We all know how to appreciate the kindness of your
intentions, I am sure: but your happiness must not be sacrificed to the
good of any of us here.  We can take care of one another: but, as it is
impossible that you should find a companion for life here, and as it is
time you were thinking of settling, we must not be selfish, and detain
you among us when you should be creating an interest elsewhere.  Mr
Rowland and I are extremely anxious to see you happily married, brother;
and indeed we feel it is time you were thinking about it."

"I am glad of that, sister.  I am somewhat of the same opinion myself."

"I rejoice to hear it," replied the lady, in a rather uneasy tone.  "We
have been delighted to hear of these frequent visits of yours to the
Buchanans'.  There is a strong attraction there, I fancy, Philip."

"Joe Buchanan is the attraction to me there.  If you mean Caroline, she
has been engaged these three years to her brother's friend, Annesley."

"You do not say so!  But you did not know it?"

"I have known it these two years, under the seal of secrecy.  Ah!
sister, I have had many an hour's amusement at your schemes on my behalf
about Caroline Buchanan."

"I have been quite out, I see.  When do you go to the Bruces', to make
the visit you were disappointed of at Christmas?"

"When they return from the Continent, where they are gone for three
years.  Miss Mary is out of reach for three years, sister."

"Out of reach!  You speak as if Paris,--or Rome, if you will,--was in
Australia.  And even in Australia one can hardly speak of people being
out of reach."

"If one wishes to overtake them," said Mr Enderby: "whereas, I can wait
very well for the Bruces till they come home again.  Now, no more,
sister!  I cannot stand and hear the young ladies of my acquaintance
catalogued as a speculation for my advantage.  I could not look them in
the face again after having permitted it."

"There is somebody in the schoolroom, I declare!" cried the lady, as if
astonished.  And she stood looking from afar at the summer-house, in
which three heads were distinctly visible.

"Were you not aware of that before?  Did you suppose I was asleep there,
or writing poetry all alone, or what?  The Miss Ibbotsons are there, and
Miss Young."

"You remind me," said the lady, "of something that I declared to Mr
Rowland that I would speak to you about.  My dear brother, you should
have some compassion on the young ladies you fall in with."

"I thought your great anxiety just now was that the young ladies should
have compassion upon me."

"One, Philip; the right one.  But you really have no mercy.  You are too
modest to be aware of the mischief you may be doing.  But let me entreat
you not to turn the head of a girl whom you cannot possibly think
seriously of."

"Whom do you mean?"

"You may be making even more mischief than flattering the poor girl with
vain hopes.  If you once let it get into the heads of the Greys that any
one belonging to us could think of marrying into their connection, you
do not know the trouble you will impose upon Mr Rowland and me."

"Does Rowland say so?"

"Does he say so? one would think--Dear me! brother, there is nothing one
might not think from your manner.  You terrify me."

"Have you a pocket-mirror about you?" asked Philip.  "I should like to
see what this terrible manner of mine is like."

"Now, pray, no joking, Philip.  I declare my nerves will not bear it.
But I tell you what, Philip: if you let your old admiration of beauty
carry you away, and make you forget yourself so far as to dream of
marrying into that connection, you will repent it as long as you live.
I shall never forgive you; and you will kill our poor dear mother."

"I will ask her whether she thinks so," said Philip, "and I give you my
word of honour that I will not kill my mother."

"Girls seem to think that beauty is everything," continued the angry
lady, "and so do their connections for them.  I declare Mrs Grey sits
winking at my mother when Miss Ibbotson has a colour, as if nobody ever
saw a good complexion before.  I declare it makes me sick.  Now, Philip,
you have been fairly warned; and if you fall into the trap, you will not
deserve any consideration from me."

"I have let you lay down the law to me, sister, in your own way, because
I know your way.  Say what you please to me of myself and my affairs,
and a joke is the worst that will come of it.  But I tell you gravely,
that I will not hear of traps--I will not hear imputations like those
you have just spoken against these young ladies or their connections,
without rebuke.  You can know nothing of the Miss Ibbotsons which can
justify this conversation."

"I shall soon believe you are in love," cried the lady, in high
resentment.

"Only take care what grounds you go upon before you speak and act,
sister.  In my turn, I give you fair warning how you take any measures
against them, even in your own inmost mind, without being quite sure
what you are about."

"You do not say now that you do not mean to have that girl?" cried Mrs
Rowland, fixing her fiery eyes upon her brother's face.

"Why should I?  You have not set about obtaining my confidence in any
way which could succeed.  If I am in love, it would not be easy to own
it upon such unwarrantable pressure.  If I am not in love--"

"Ah!  If you are not--"

"In that case I am disinclined to make my not caring for them the
condition, on which those young ladies may receive your civilities.
These civilities are due to them, whatever I may feel or intend; and my
respect for them is such that I shall keep my mind to myself."

"At least," said the lady, somewhat humbled, "do not be so much with
them.  For my sake, do not go into the schoolroom again."

"I am sorry I cannot oblige you," said he, smiling, "but I must go at
this moment:--not to sit down,--not to speak five words, however,--but
only to get my hat.  I have to go into the village, on an errand for the
children.  Can I do anything for you in the village?"

"She thinks only of Hester, it is plain," thought he.  "If I am to have
any more lectures and advice, I hope they will proceed on the same
supposition: it will make my part easier, and save my being driven to
assert my own will, and so plunging poor Priscilla into hysterics.  I
can bear her interference, as long as Margaret's name is not on her
lips.  The moment she casts an evil eye on her, I shall speak to
Rowland; which I had much rather avoid.  It would be delicious, too, to
be _her_ protector, without her knowing it,--to watch over her as she
walks in her bright innocence,--to shield her--but from whom?  From my
own sister?  No! no! better keep her out of suspicion: better let it
pass that it is really Hester.  Hester has plenty of friends to stand by
her.  The Greys are so proud of her beauty, they have no eyes or ears
but for her.  People who meddle with concerns they have no business
with, are strangely blind,--they make odd mistakes, from running away
with notions of their own, prepared beforehand.  Here is everybody
determined that we shall all fall in love with Hester.  Priscilla has
jumped to her conclusion at once,--perhaps in emulation of Mrs Grey.
Mrs Grey has clearly given Hester to Hope, in her own mind.  I rather
think Hope would be obliged to her if she would not show so plainly what
is in her thoughts.  I fear so,--I may be jealous,--but I am afraid Hope
and I are too much of the same mind about these girls.  I will stand up
for Mrs Grey, as long as I live, if she proves right here.  She shall
wink and nod for evermore, and I will justify her, if Hope turns out to
be in love with Hester.  I will be the first to congratulate him, if he
succeeds with her: and really he would be a happy fellow.  She is a
lovely creature; and how she will love whenever she does love!  She
would be a devoted wife.  Why cannot he see the matter so, and leave my
Margaret to me?  Now, how will she look up as I go in?"

His vision of Margaret's looks remained a vision.  No one was in the
schoolroom but Miss Young, writing a letter.

"They are not here!" said Mr Enderby.

"No; they are gone with Mrs Grey into the village, I believe."

"Oh, well, I only came for my hat.  You are in the children's secret, of
course, Miss Young?"

"About their feast.  Yes, I believe I know all about it."

"I am going to ask some important questions for them at the
confectioner's.  You will not object to my bringing them a few good
things?"

"I?  Oh, no."

"I would not act in so serious a matter without asking you.  Can I be of
any use to you in the village?  Or perhaps you may want some pens mended
before I go?"

"No, I thank you."

"Then I will not interrupt your letter any longer.  Good morning."

It was a wonder that the letter was written at all.  When Maria had done
leaning back in her chair, and had taken up her pen again, she was
disturbed by painful sounds from Mrs Rowland's garden.  The lady's own
Matilda, and precious George, and darling Anna, were now pronounced to
be naughty, wilful, mischievous, and, finally, to be combined together
to break their mamma's heart.  It was clear that they were receiving the
discharge of the wrath which was caused by somebody else.  Now a wail,
now a scream of passion, went to Maria's heart.  She hastened on with
her letter, in the hope that Mrs Rowland would presently go into the
house, when the little sufferers might be invited into the schoolroom,
to hear a story, or have their ruffled tempers calmed by some other such
simple means.

"What a life of discipline this is!" thought Maria.  "We all have it,
sooner or later.  These poor children are beginning early.  If one can
but help them through it!  There she goes in, and shuts the door behind
her!  Now I may call them hither, and tell them something or another
about Una and her lion."

At the well-known sound of Miss Young's lame step, the little ones all
came about her.  One ashamed face was hid on her shoulder; another was
relieved of its salt tears; and the boy's pout was first relaxed, and
then forgotten.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE.

From the time of the great event of the arrival of the Miss Ibbotsons,
Mr Hope had longed to communicate all connected with it to his family.
As often as Hester looked eminently beautiful, he wished his sisters
could see her.  As often as he felt his spirit moved and animated by his
conversations with Margaret, he thought of Frank, and wished that the
poor fellow could for a day exchange the heats and fatigues, and vapid
society, of which he complained as accompaniments of service in India,
for some one of the wood and meadow rambles, or garden frolics, which
were the summer pleasures of Deerbrook, now unspeakably enhanced by the
addition lately made to its society.  Frank wrote that the very names of
meadows and kine, of cowslips, trout, and harriers, were a refreshment
to a soldier's fancy, when the heats, and the solitude of spirit in
which he was compelled to live, made him weary of the novelties which
had at first pleased him in the East.  He begged that Edward would go on
to write as he did of everything that passed in the village--of
everything which could make him for a whole evening fancy himself in
Deerbrook, and repose himself in its shacks and quietness.  Mr Hope had
felt, for a month past, that such a letter was by this time due to
Frank, and that he had, for once, failed in punctuality: but he now, for
the first time, found it difficult to get time to write.  He never
dreamed of sending Frank letters, which would be esteemed by others of a
moderate length.  When he did write, it was an epistle indeed: and
during this particular May and June, there was always something
happening which prevented his having his hours to himself.  In other
words, he was always at the Greys' when not engaged in his professional
duties.  The arrival of a letter from Frank one day gave him the
necessary stimulus, and he sat down on the instant to open his heart to
his brother.

Frank was his younger and only brother, and the person in the world most
deeply indebted to him.  Their parents being dead, it was Edward who had
been Frank's dependence as he grew up.  It was Edward who had, at great
cost and pains, gratified his wish to go into the army, and had procured
him the best educational advantages in preparation for a military life.
It was Edward who had always treated him with such familiar friendship,
that he had scarcely felt as if he wanted any other intimate, and who
seemed to forget the five years' difference of age between them at all
times but when it afforded a reason for pressing kindness and assistance
upon him.  The confidence between them was as familiar and entire as if
they had been twin-brothers.  The epistle which Frank was to have the
benefit of, on the present occasion, was even longer than usual, from
the delay which had caused an accumulation of tidings and of thoughts.

  "Deerbrook, _June 20th_, 18--.

  "Dear Frank,--Your letter of December last has arrived to remind me
  how far I am past my time in writing to you.  I make no apologies for
  my delay, however, and I do not pretend to feel any remorse about it.
  We never write to one another from a mere sense of duty; and long may
  it be before we do so!  Unless we write because we cannot help it,
  pray let us let it alone.  As for the reasons why my inclination to
  talk to you has not overpowered all impediments till now,--you shall
  have them by-and-by.  Meanwhile, here, before your eyes, is the proof
  that I cannot but spend this June evening with you.

  "You ask about your grandfather; and I have somewhat to say to you
  about him.  He is still living,--very infirm, as you may suppose, but,
  I think, as clear in mind as I have ever known him.  He sent for me
  two months ago, as you will have heard from the letter I find he
  caused to be written to you about the business which then occupied his
  mind.  My share in that business he would represent to you as it
  appeared to him: but I must give you an account of it as it appears to
  myself.  He sent for me to take leave of me, as he said; but, in my
  opinion, to receive my acknowledgments for his latest disposition of
  his property by will.  The new arrangements did not please me at all;
  and I am confident that you would have liked them no better than I;
  and I wished not a little that you were nearer, that we might have
  acted together.  I know that he once intended to divide his property
  equally among us four; but of late, from some unaccountable feeling of
  indifference about Emily and Anne, or, as is more likely, from some
  notion about women not wanting money, and not knowing how to manage
  it, he has changed his mind, and destined his money for you and me,
  leaving my sisters only a hundred pounds each as a remembrance.  He
  informed me of this, as soon as I arrived.  I thought him quite well
  enough to hear reason, and I spoke my mind plainly to him.  I had no
  right to answer for you, any further than for your sense of Justice,
  and your affection for your sisters.  The way in which the matter was
  settled at last, therefore, with great pains and trouble, was, that
  you and our sisters share equally, and that I have the legacy of 100
  pounds, which was destined for one of them.  The reasons why I
  declined a fourth part of the property were sufficient to my mind, and
  will be so, I doubt not, to yours.  Out of this property I have had my
  professional education, while you and my sisters have received nothing
  at all.  This professional education has enabled me to provide
  sufficiently for myself, so far, and this provision will in all
  probability go on to increase; while my sisters want as much as can
  fairly be put into their hands.  Their husbands are not likely ever to
  be rich men, and will probably be poor for some years to come.  Their
  children have to be educated; and in short, there is every reason why
  Emily and Anne should have this money, and none why I should.  I am
  afraid the old gentleman is not very well pleased with my way of
  receiving what he intended for kindness; but that cannot be helped.
  If he falls back into his previous state of mind, and leaves the
  whole, after all, to you and me, I shall set the matter right, as far
  as I can, by dividing my portion between my sisters: and I feel
  confident that you will do the same; but I earnestly hope this will
  not happen.  It will be a very different thing to my sisters receiving
  this money by their grandfather's will as their due, and from our
  hands as a gift--(the way in which they will look at it).  The letter
  to you was sent off without delay, in order that, in case of any
  dissatisfaction whatever on your part, your wishes might have the
  better chance of being made known to us during the old gentleman's
  life.  I doubt not that your thoughts, whatever they may be, will be
  on the way to me before this reaches you; and I can have as little
  doubt what they are.  You know Mr Blunt says, that men are created to
  rob their sisters,--a somewhat partial view of the objects and
  achievements of mortal existence, it must be owned, and a statement
  which I conceive the course of your life, for one, will not go to
  confirm; but a man must have had a good deal of experience, of what he
  is talking of, before he could make so sweeping a generalisation from
  the facts of life; and I am afraid Mr Blunt has some reason for what
  he says.  Medical men receive many confidences in sick rooms, you
  know; and some, among others, which had better be reserved for the
  lawyer.  What I have seen in this way leads me to imagine that my
  grandfather's notion is a very common one,--that women have little
  occasion for money, and do not know how to manage it; and that their
  property is to be drawn upon to the very last, to meet the
  difficulties and supply the purposes of their brothers.  On the utter
  injustice and absurdity of such a notion there can be no disagreement
  between you and me; nor, I imagine, in our actions with regard to it.

  "I heard from Emily yesterday.  The letter is more than half full of
  stories about the children, and accounts of her principles and plans
  with regard to them.  She writes on the same subjects to you, no
  doubt, for her heart is full of them.  Her husband finds the post of
  consul at a little Spanish port rather a dull affair, as we
  anticipated, and groans at the mention of Bristol or Liverpool
  shipping, he says.  But I like the tone of his postscript very well.
  He is thankful for the honest independence his office affords him, and
  says he can tolerate his Spanish neighbours (though they are as
  ignorant as Turkish ladies), for the sake of his family, and of the
  hope of returning, sooner or later, to live in his own country, after
  having discharged his duty to his children.  Theirs must be an irksome
  life enough, as much of it as is passed out of their own doors: but
  they seem to be finding out that it is not so much the _where_ and the
  _how_, as the _what_ people are, that matters to their peace of mind;
  and I suppose those who love each other, and have settled what they
  are living for, can attain what they most want, nearly so well in one
  place as another.

  "Poor Anne wrote to _you_, I know, after the death of her infant--her
  little Highlandman, as she proudly called him in her last letter
  before she lost him.  Gilchrist talked last year of bringing her and
  his boy south this summer, and I had some hopes of seeing them all
  here: but I have not been able to get them to speak again of
  travelling, and I give it up for this year.  I hope your letters and
  theirs fall due seasonably; that your reports of all your devices to
  cool yourself, reach them in the depth of their Caithness winter; and
  that all they say to you of their snow-drifts and freshets is
  acceptable when you are panting in the hottest of your noons.  Anne
  writes more cheerfully than she did, and Gilchrist says she is
  exerting herself to overcome her sorrow.  Their love must be passing
  strange in the eyes of all such as despised Anne's match.  It is such
  as should make Anne's brothers feel very cordially towards Gilchrist.
  We have drifted asunder in life rather strangely, when one comes to
  think of it; and our anchorage grounds are pretty far apart.  Who
  would have thought it, when we four used to climb the old apple-tree
  together, and drop down from the garden wall?  I wonder whether we
  shall ever contrive to meet in one house once more, and whether I may
  be honoured by my house being the place?  It is possible; and I spend
  certain of my dreams upon the project.  Do you not find that one
  effect of this wide separation is, to make one fancy the world smaller
  than one used to think it?  You, on the other side of it, probably
  waked up to this conviction long ago.  It is just opening upon me,
  shut up in my nook of our little island.  When I have a letter from
  you, like that which lies before me, spiced with an old family joke or
  two, and a good many new ones of your own, all exactly like yourself,
  I am persuaded you cannot be very far off; and I should certainly call
  you from my window to come in to tea, but from a disagreeable
  suspicion that I should get no answer.  But do tell me in your next
  whether our globe has not been made far too much of its children, and
  whether its oceans do not look very like ponds, when you cast your eye
  over them to that small old apple-tree I mentioned just now.

  "But you want news,--this being the place of all others to send to
  from the other side of the world for news.  Deerbrook has rung with
  news and rumours of news since winter.  The first report after the ice
  broke up in March was, that I was going to be married to Deborah
  Giles.  `Who is Deborah Giles?' you will ask.  She is not going to be
  a relation of yours, in the first place.  Secondly, she is the
  daughter of the boatman whose boats Enderby and I are wont to hire.
  The young lady may be all that ever woman was, for aught I know, for I
  never spoke to her in my life, except that I one day asked her for
  something to bale the boat with: but I heard that the astonishment of
  Deerbrook was, that I was engaged to a woman who could not read or
  write.  So you see we of Deerbrook follow our old pastime of first
  inventing marvels, and then being scarcely able to believe them.  I
  rather suspect that we have some wag among us who fabricates news, to
  see how much will be received and retailed: but perhaps these rumours,
  even the wildest of them, rise `by natural exhalation' from the nooks
  and crevices of village life.  My five years' residence has not
  qualified me to pronounce absolutely upon this.

  "Old Smithson is dead.  You could not have seen him half-a-dozen times
  when you were here; but you may chance to recollect him,--a short old
  man, with white hair, and deep-set grey eyes.  He is less of a loss to
  the village than almost any other man would be.  He was so shy and
  quiet, and kept so much within his own gate, that some fancied he must
  be a miser: but though he spent little on himself, his money made its
  way abroad, and his heirs are rather disappointed at finding the
  property no larger than when he came into it.  He is much missed by
  his household, and, I own, by myself.  I was not often with him: but
  it was something to feel that there was one among us who was free from
  ambition and worldly cares, content to live on in the enjoyment of
  humble duties and simple pleasures,--one who would not have changed
  colour at the news of a bequest of ten thousand pounds, but could be
  very eager about his grand-nephew's prize at school, and about the
  first forget-me-not of the season beside his pond, and the first
  mushroom in his meadow.  During the fortnight of his illness, the
  village inquired about him; but when it was all over, there was not
  much to forget of one so little known, and we hear of him no more.

  "The Greys and Rowlands go on much as usual, the gentlemen of the
  family agreeing very well, and the ladies rather the reverse.  The
  great grievance this spring has been, that Mrs Rowland has seen fit
  to enlarge her hall, and make a porch to her door.  Her neighbours are
  certain that, in the course of her alterations, every principal beam
  of her house has been cut through, and that the whole will fall in.
  No such catastrophe has yet occurred, however.  I have not been called
  in to set any broken bones; and I have not much expectation of an
  accident, as Mr Rowland understands building too well to allow his
  house to be cut down over his head.  As for the porch, I do not
  perceive what can be alleged to its disadvantage, but that some people
  think it ugly.

  "Here I must cease my gossip.  I regularly begin my letters with the
  intention of telling you all that I hear and see out of my profession
  but I invariably stop short, as I do now, from disgust at the nonsense
  I should have to write.  It is endurable enough to witness; for one
  thing quickly dismisses another, and some relief occurs from the more
  amiable or intellectual qualities of the parties concerned: but I hate
  detail in writing; and I never do get through the whole list of
  particulars that I believe you would like to have.  You must excuse me
  now, and take my word for it, in the large, that we are all pretty
  much what we were when you saw us three years ago, except of course,
  being three years older, and some few of us three years wiser.  It
  will be a satisfaction to you also to know that my practice has made a
  very good growth for the time.  You liked my last year's report of it.
  It has increased more since that time than even during the preceding
  year; and I have no further anxiety about my worldly prospects.  I am
  as well satisfied with my choice of an occupation in life as ever.
  Mine has its anxieties, and _desagremens_, as others have: but I am
  convinced I could not have chosen better.  You saw, when you were with
  me, something of the anxiety of responsibility; what it is, for
  instance, to await the one or the other event of a desperate case: and
  I could tell you a good deal that you do not and cannot know of the
  perils, and troubles attendant upon being the depository of so much
  domestic and personal confidence as my function imposes upon me the
  necessity of receiving.  I sometimes long to be able to see nothing
  but what is apparent to all in society; to perceive what is
  ostensible, and to dream of nothing more,--not exactly like children,
  but like the members of large and happy families, who carry about with
  them the purity and peace of their homes, and therefore take
  cognisance of the pure and peaceful only whom they meet abroad; but it
  is childish, or indolent, or cowardly, to desire this.  While there is
  private vice and wretchedness, and domestic misunderstanding, one
  would desire to know it, if one can do anything to cure or alleviate
  it.  Dr Levitt and I have the same feeling about this; and I
  sometimes hope that we mutually prepare for and aid each other's work.
  There is a bright side to our business, as I need not tell you.  The
  mere exercise of our respective professions, the scientific as well as
  the moral interest of them, is as much to us as the theory of your
  business to you; and that is saying a great deal.  You will not
  quarrel with the idea of the scientific interest of Dr Levitt's
  profession in his hands; for you know how learned he is in the complex
  science of Humanity.  You remember the eternal wonder of the Greys at
  his liberality towards dissenters.  Of that liberality he is
  unconscious: as it is the natural, the inevitable result of his
  knowledge of men,--of his having been `hunting the waterfalls' from
  his youth up,--following up thought and prejudice to their fountains.
  When I see him bland and gay amongst us, I feel pretty confident that
  his greatest pleasure is the same as mine,--that of reposing in the
  society of the innocent, the single-hearted, the unburdened, after
  having seen what the dark corners of social life are.  It is like
  coming out of a foetid cave into the evening sunshine.  Of late, we
  have felt this in an extraordinary degree.  But I must tell you in an
  orderly way what has happened to us.  I have put off entering upon the
  grand subject, partly from the pleasure of keeping one's best news for
  the last, and partly from shyness in beginning to describe what it is
  impossible that you should enter into.  I am well aware of your powers
  of imagination and sympathy: but you have not lived five years within
  five miles of a country village; and you can no more understand our
  present condition than we can appreciate your sherbet and your
  mountain summer-house.

  "There are two ladies here from Birmingham, so far beyond any ladies
  that we have to boast of, that some of us begin to suspect that
  Deerbrook is not the Athens and Arcadia united that we have been
  accustomed to believe it.  You can have no idea how our vanity is
  mortified, and our pride abased, by finding what the world can produce
  out of the bounds of Deerbrook.  We bear our humiliation wonderfully,
  however.  Our Verdon woods echo with laughter; and singing is heard
  beside the brook.  The voices of children, grown and ungrown, go up
  from all the meadows around; and wit and wisdom are wafted over the
  surface of our river at eventide.  The truth is, these girls have
  brought in a new life among us, and there is not one of us, except the
  children, that is not some years younger for their presence.  Mr Grey
  deserts his business for them, like a school-boy; and Mr Rowland
  watches his opportunity to play truant in turn.  Mrs Enderby gives
  dances, and looks quite disposed to lead off in person.  Mrs
  Plumstead has grown quite giddy about sorting the letters, and her
  voice has not been heard further than three doors off since the
  arrival of the strangers.  Dr Levitt is preaching his old sermons.
  Mrs Grey is well-nigh intoxicated with being the hostess of these
  ladies, and has even reached the point of allowing her drawing-room to
  be used every afternoon.  Enderby is a fixture while they are so.
  Neither mother, sister, friend, nor frolic, ever detained him here
  before for a month together.  He was going away in a fortnight when
  these ladies came: they have been here six weeks, and Enderby has
  dropped all mention of the external world.  If you ask, as you are at
  this moment doing in your own heart, how I stand under this influence,
  I really cannot tell you.  I avoid inquiring too closely.  I enjoy
  every passing day too much to question it, and I let it go; and so
  must you.

  "`But who are they?' you want to know.  They are distant cousins of
  Mr Grey's,--orphans, and in mourning for their father.  They are just
  above twenty, and their name is Ibbotson.  `Are they handsome?' is
  your next question.  The eldest, Hester, is beautiful as the evening
  star.  Margaret is very different.  It does not matter what she is as
  to beauty, for the question seems never to have entered her own mind.
  I doubt whether it has often occurred to her whether she can be this,
  or that, or the other.  She _is_, and there is an end of the matter.
  Such pure _existence_, without question, without introspection,
  without hesitation or consciousness, I never saw in any one above
  eight years old.  Yet she is wise; it becomes not me to estimate how
  wise.  You will ask how I know this already.  I knew it the first day
  I saw them; I knew it by her infinite simplicity, from which all
  selfishness is discharged, and into which no folly can enter.  The
  airs of heaven must have been about her from her infancy, to nourish
  such health of the soul.  What her struggle is to be in life I cannot
  conceive, for not a morbid tendency is to be discerned.  I suppose she
  may be destined to make mistakes,--to find her faith deceived, her
  affections rebuked, her full repose delayed.  If, like the rest of us,
  she be destined to struggle, it must be to conflict of this kind; for
  it is inconceivable that any should arise from herself.  Yet is she as
  truly human as the weakest of us,--engrossed by affection, and
  susceptible of passion.  Her affection for her sister is a sort of
  passion.  It has some of the features of the serene guardianship of
  one from on high; but it is yet more like the passionate servitude--of
  the benefited to a benefactor, for instance--which is perhaps the most
  graceful attitude in which our humanity appears.  Where are the words
  that can tell what it is to witness, day by day, the course of such a
  life as this?--to see, living and moving before one's eyes, the very
  spirit that one had caught glimpses of, wandering in the brightest
  vistas of one's imagination, in the holiest hours of thought!  Yet is
  there nothing fearful, as in the presence of a spirit; there is
  scarcely even a sense of awe, so childlike is her deportment.  I go,
  grave and longing to listen; I come away, and I find I have been
  talking more than any one; revealing, discussing, as if I were the
  teacher and not the learner,--you will say the worshipper.  Say it if
  you will.  Our whole little world worships the one or the other.
  Hester is also well worthy of worship.  If there were nothing but her
  beauty, she would have a wider world than ours of Deerbrook at her
  feet.  But she has much more.  She is what you would call a true
  woman.  She has a generous soul, strong affections, and a
  susceptibility which interferes with her serenity.  She is not exempt
  from the trouble and snare into which the lot of women seems to drive
  them,--too close a contemplation of self, too nice a sensitiveness,
  which yet does not interfere with devotedness to others.  She will be
  a devoted wife: but Margaret does not wait to be a wife to be devoted.
  Her life has been devotedness, and will be to the end.  If she were
  left the last of her race, she would spend her life in worshipping the
  unseen that lay about her, and would be as unaware of herself as now.

  "What a comfort it is to speak freely of them!  This is the first
  relief of the kind I have had.  Every one is praising them; every one
  is following them: but to whom but you can I speak of them?  Even to
  you, I filled my first sheet with mere surface matter.  I now wonder
  how I could.  As for the `general opinion' of Deerbrook on the
  engrossing subject of the summer, you will anticipate it in your own
  mind,--concluding that Hester is most worshipped, on account of her
  beauty, and that Margaret's influence must be too subtle and refined
  to operate on more than a few.  This is partly, but not wholly the
  case.  It has been taken for granted from the beginning, by the many,
  that Hester is to be exclusively the adored; and Enderby has, I fancy,
  as many broad hints as myself of this general conclusion.  But I
  question whether Enderby assents, any more than myself.  Margaret's
  influence may be received as unconsciously as it is exerted, but it is
  not, therefore, the less real, while it is the more potent.  I see old
  Jem Bird raise himself up from the churchyard bench by his staff, and
  stand uncovered as Hester passes by; I see the children in the road
  touch one another, and look up at her; I see the admiration which
  diffuses itself like sunshine around her steps: all this homage to
  Hester is visible enough.  But I also see Sydney Grey growing manly,
  and his sisters amiable, under Margaret's eye.  I fancy I perceive
  Enderby--But that is his own affair.  I am sure I daily witness one
  healing and renovating process which Margaret is unconsciously
  effecting.  There is no one of us so worthy of her, so capable of
  appreciating her, as Maria Young: they are friends, and Maria Young is
  becoming a new creature.  Health and spirit are returning to that poor
  girl's countenance: there is absolutely a new tone in her voice, and a
  joyous strain in her conversation, which I, for one, never recognised
  before.  It is a sight on which angels might look down, to see
  Margaret, with her earnest face, listening humbly, and lovingly
  serving the infirm and much-tried friend whom she herself is daily
  lifting up into life and gladness.  I have done with listening to
  abuse of life and the world.  I will never sit still under it again.
  If there are two such as these sisters, springing out of the bosom of
  a busy town, and quietly passing along their path of life, casting
  sanctity around them as they go,--if there are two such, why not more?
  If God casts such seeds of goodness into our nook, how do we know but
  that he is sowing the whole earth with it?  I will believe it
  henceforth.

  "You will wonder, as I have wondered many a time within the last six
  weeks, what is to become of us when we lose these strangers.  I can
  only say, `God help us!'  But that time is far off.  They came for
  several months, and no one hints at their departure yet.  They are the
  most unlearned creatures about country life that you can conceive,
  with a surpassing genius for country pleasures.  Only imagine the
  charm of our excursions!  They are never so happy as when in the
  fields or on the river; and we all feel ourselves only too blest in
  being able to indulge them.  Our mornings are all activity and
  despatch, that our afternoons may be all mirth, and our evenings
  repose.  I am afraid this will make you sigh with mingled envy and
  sympathy; but whatever is that can be told, you may rely upon it that
  I shall tell you, trusting to your feeling both pleasure and pain in
  virtuous moderation.

  "I have done my story; and now I am going to look what o'clock it is--
  a thing I have refrained from, in my impulse to tell you all.  The
  house is quite still, and I heard the church clock strike something
  very long just now; but I would not count.  It is so.  It was midnight
  that the clock struck.  I shall seal this up directly.  I dare not
  trust my morning--my broad daylight mood with it.  Now, as soon as you
  have got thus far, just take up your pen, and answer me, telling me as
  copiously of your affairs as I have written of ours.  Heaven bless
  you.

  "Yours ever,

  "Edward Hope."

It was not only Mr Hope's broad daylight mood which was not to be
trusted with this letter.  In this hour of midnight a misgiving seized
upon him that it was extravagant.  He became aware, when he laid down
his pen, that he was agitated.  The door of his room opened into the
garden.  He thought he would look out upon the night.  It was the night
of the full moon.  As he stood in the doorway, the festoons of creepers
that dangled from his little porch waved in the night breeze; long
shadows from the shrubs lay on the grass; and in the depth of one of
these shadows glimmered the green spark of a glow-worm.  It was
deliciously cool and serene.  Mr Hope stood leaning against the
door-post, with his arms folded, and was not long in settling the
question whether the letter should go.

"Frank will think that I am in love," he considered.  "He will not
understand the real state of my feeling.  He will think that I am in
love.  I should conclude so in his place.  But what matters it what he
infers and concludes?  I have written exactly what I thought and felt at
the moment, and it is not from such revelations that wrong inferences
are usually drawn.  What I have written is true; and truth carries
safely over land and sea--more safely than confidence compounded with
caution.  Frank deserves the simplest and freshest confidence from me.
I am glad that no hesitation occurred to me while I wrote.  It shall
go--every word of it."

He returned to his desk, sealed and addressed the letter, and placed it
where it was sure to be seen in the morning, and carried to the
post-office before he rose.



CHAPTER NINE.

CHILD'S PLAY.

The afternoon arrived when the children were to have their feast in the
summer-house.  From the hour of dinner the little people were as busy as
aldermen's cooks, spreading their table.  Sydney thought himself too old
for such play.  He was hard at work, filling up the pond he had dug in
his garden, having tried experiments with it for several weeks, and
found that it never held water but in a pouring rain.  While he was
occupied with his spade, his sisters and the little Rowlands were
arranging their dishes, and brewing their cowslip-tea.

"Our mamma is coming," said Fanny to Matilda: "is yours?"

"No; she says she can't come--but papa will."

"So will our papa.  It was so funny at dinner.  Mr Paxton came in, and
asked whether papa would ride with him; and papa said it was out of the
question; it must be to-morrow; for he had an engagement this
afternoon."

"A very particular engagement, he said," observed Mary: "and he smiled
at me so, I could not help laughing.  Fanny, do look at Matilda's dish
of strawberries!  How pretty!"

"There's somebody coming," observed little Anna, who, being too young to
help, and liable to be tempted to put her fingers into the good things,
was sent to amuse herself with jumping up and down the steps.

"There now!  That is always the way, is not it, Miss Young?" cried
Fanny.  "Who is it, George?  Mr Enderby?  Oh, do not let him come in
yet!  Tell him he must not come this half-hour."

Mr Enderby chose to enter, however, and all opposition gave way before
him.

"Pray don't send me back," said he, "till you know what I am come for.
Now, who will pick my pockets?"

Little Anna was most on a level with the coat pocket.  She almost buried
her face in it as she dived, the whole length of her arm, to the very
bottom.  George attacked its fellow, while the waistcoat pockets were at
the mercy of the taller children.  A number of white parcels made their
appearance, and the little girls screamed with delight.

"Miss Young!" cried Fanny, "do come and help us to pick Mr Enderby's
pockets.  See what I have got--the very largest of all!"

When every pocket had been thoroughly picked without Miss Young's
assistance, the table did indeed show a goodly pile of white
cornucopia,--that most agitating form of paper to children's eyes.  When
opened, there was found such a store of sweet things as the little girls
had seldom before seen out of the confectioner's shop.  Difficulties are
apt to come with good fortune; and the anxious question was now asked,
how all these dainties were to be dished up.  Miss Young was, as usual,
the friend in need.  She had before lent two small china plates of her
own; and she now supplied the further want.  She knew how to make pretty
square boxes out of writing-paper; and her nimble scissors and neat
fingers now provided a sufficiency of these in a trice.  Uncle Philip
was called upon, as each was finished, to admire her skill; and admire
he did, to the children's entire content.

"Is this _our_ feast, Mr Enderby?" inquired Mary, finally, when Anna
had been sent to summon the company.  "May we say it is ours?"

"To be sure," cried Fanny.  "Whose else should it be?"

"It is all your own, I assure you," said Mr Enderby.  "Now, you two
should stand at the head of the table, and Matilda at the foot."

"I think I had better take this place," said Sydney, who had made his
appearance, and who thought much better of the affair now that he saw
Mr Enderby so much interested in it.  "There should always be a
gentleman at the bottom of the table."

"No, no, Sydney," protested Mr Enderby; "not when he has had no cost
nor trouble about the feast.  March off.  You are only one of the
company.  Stand there, Matilda, and remember you must look very polite.
I shall hide behind the acacia there, and come in with the ladies."

A sudden and pelting shower was now falling, however; and instead of
hiding behind a tree, Mr Enderby had to run between the house and the
schoolroom, holding umbrellas over the ladies' heads, setting clogs for
them, and assuring Mrs Grey at each return that the feast could not be
deferred, and that nobody should catch cold.  Mr Grey was on the spot;
to give his arm to Mrs Enderby, who had luckily chanced to look in,--a
thing which "she really never did after dinner."  Mr Hope had been seen
riding by, and Mrs Grey had sent after him to beg he would come in.
Mr Rowland made a point of being present: and thus the summer-house was
quite full,--really crowded.

"I am glad Mrs Rowland keeps away," whispered Mrs Grey to Sophia.
"She would say it is insufferably hot."

"Yes; that she would.  Do not you think we might have that window open?
The rain does not come in on that side.  Did you ever see such a feast
as the children have got?  I am sure poor Elizabeth and I never managed
such a one.  It is really a pity Mrs Rowland should not see it.  Mr
Rowland should have made her come.  It looks so odd, her being the only
one to stay away!"

The room resounded with exclamations, and admiration, and grave jokes
upon the children.  Notwithstanding all Uncle Philip could do, the
ingenuous little girls answered to every compliment--that Mr Enderby
brought his, and that that and the other came out of Uncle Philip's
pocket.  They stood in their places, blushing and laughing, and served
out their dainties with hands trembling with delight.

Maria's pleasure was, as usual, in observing all that went on.

She could do this while replying, quite to the purpose, to Mrs
Enderby's praise of her management of the dear children, and to George's
pressing offers of cake; and to Mr Rowland's suspicions that the
children would never have accomplished this achievement without her, as
indeed he might say of all their achievements; and to Anna's entreaty
that she would eat a pink comfit, and then a yellow one, and then a
green one; and to Mrs Grey's wonder where she could have put away all
her books and things, to make so much room for the children.  She could
see Mr Hope's look of delight when Margaret declined a cup of
chocolate, and said she preferred tasting some of the cowslip-tea.  She
saw how he helped Mary to pour out the tea, and how quietly he took the
opportunity of getting rid of it through the window behind Margaret,
when she could not pretend to say that she liked it.  She observed Mr
Rowland's somewhat stiff politeness to Hester, and Mr Enderby's equal
partition of his attentions between the two sisters.  She could see Mrs
Grey watching every strawberry and sugar-plum that went down the throats
of the little Rowlands, and her care, seconded by Sophia's, that her own
children should have an exactly equal portion of the good things.  She
believed, but was not quite sure, that she saw Hester's colour and
manner change as Mr Hope came and went, in the course of his service
about the table; and that once, upon receiving some slight attention
from him, she threw a hasty glance towards her sister, and turned quite
away upon meeting her eye.

The rain had not prevented the servants from trying to amuse themselves
with witnessing the amusement of the family.  They were clustered
together under umbrellas at the window nearest the stables, where they
thought they should be least observed.  Some commotion took place among
them, at the same moment that an extraordinary sound became audible,
from a distance, above the clatter of plates, and the mingling of
voices, in the summer-house.

"What in the world is that noise?" asked Margaret.

"Only somebody killing a pig," replied Sydney, decidedly.

"Do not believe him," said Mr Enderby.  "The Deerbrook people have
better manners than to kill their pigs in the hearing of ladies on
summer afternoons."

"But what is it?  It seems coming nearer."

"I once told you," said Mr Enderby, "that we possess an inhabitant,
whose voice you might know before her name.  I suspect it is that same
voice which we hear now."

"A human voice!  Impossible!"

"What is the matter, Alice?"  Mrs Grey asked of her maid out of the
window.

"Oh, ma'am, it is Mrs Plumstead!  And she is coming this way, ma'am.
She will be upon us before we can get to the house.  Oh, ma'am, what
shall we do?"

Mrs Grey entreated permission of the ladies to allow the maid-servants
to come into the summer-house.  Their caps might be torn from their
heads before they could defend themselves, she said, if they remained
outside.  Of course, leave was given instantly, and the maids crowded
in, with chattering teeth and many a tale of deeds done by Mrs
Plumstead, in her paroxysms of rage.

The children shared the panic, more or less: and not only they.  Mr
Grey proposed to put up the shutters of the windows nearest to the scene
of action; but it was thought that this might draw on an attack from the
virago, who might let the party alone if she were left unnoticed by
them.  She was now full in sight, as, with half Deerbrook at her heels,
she pursued the object of her rage through the falling shower, and
amidst the puddles in front of the stables.  Her widow's cap was at the
back of her head, her hair hanging from beneath it, wet in the rain: her
black gown was splashed to the shoulders; her hands were clenched; her
face was white as her apron, and her vociferations were dreadful to
hear.  She was hunting a poor terrified young countrywoman, who, between
fright and running, looked ready to sink.

"We must put a stop to this," cried Mr Grey and Mr Rowland, each
speaking to the other.  It ended with their issuing forth together,
looking as dignified as they could, and placing themselves between the
scold and her victim.  It would not do.  They could not make themselves
heard; and when she shook her fist in their faces, they retired
backwards, and took refuge among their party, bringing the victim in
with them, however.  Mr Enderby declared this retreat too bad, and was
gone before the entreaties of his little nieces could stop him.  He held
his ground longer; and the dumb show he made was so energetic as to
cause a laugh in the summer-house, in the midst of the uneasiness of his
friends, and to call forth shouts of mirth from the crowd at the
virago's heels.

"That will not do.  It will only exasperate her the more," said Mr
Hope, pressing his way to the door.  "Let me pass, will you?"

"Oh, Mr Hope!  Oh, sir!" said Alice, "don't go!  Don't think of going,
sir!  She does not mind killing anybody, I assure you, sir."

"Oh, Mr Hope, don't go!" cried almost everybody.  Maria was sure she
heard Hester's voice among the rest.  The young countrywoman and the
children grasped the skirts of his coat; but he shook them off,
laughing, and went.  Little Mary loved Mr Hope very dearly.  She shot
out at the door with him, and clasped her hands before Mrs Plumstead,
looking up piteously, as if to implore her to do Mr Hope no harm.
Already, however, the vixen's mood had changed.  At the first glimpse of
Mr Hope, her voice sank from being a squall into some resemblance to
human utterance.  She pulled her cap forward, and a tinge of colour
returned to her white lips.  Mr Enderby caught up little Mary and
carried her to her mamma, crying bitterly.  Mr Hope might safely be
left to finish his conquest of the otherwise unconquerable scold.  He
stood still till he could make himself heard, looking her full in the
face; and it was not long before she would listen to his remonstrance,
and even at length take his advice, to go home and compose herself.  He
went with her, to ensure the good behaviour of her neighbours, and had
the satisfaction of seeing her lock herself into her house alone before
he returned to his party.

"It is as you told me," said Margaret to Mr Enderby; "Mr Hope's power
extends even to the temper of the Deerbrook scold.  How she began to
grow quiet directly!  It was like magic."

Mr Enderby smiled; but there was some uneasiness in his smile.

The countrywoman was commended to the servants, to be refreshed, and
dismissed another way.  There was no further reason for detaining her
when it appeared that she really could give no account of how she had
offended Mrs Plumstead in selling her a pound of butter.  It remained
to console little Mary, who was still crying,--more from grief for Mrs
Plumstead than from fear, Maria thought, though Mrs Grey was profuse in
assurances to the child that Mrs Plumstead should not be allowed to
frighten her any more.  All the children seemed so depressed and
confounded, that their guests exerted themselves to be merry again, and
to efface, as far as was possible, the impression of the late scene.
When Mr Hope returned, he found Mr Grey singing his single ditty,
about Dame Dumshire and her crockery-ware, amidst great mirth and
unbounded applause.  Then Mrs Enderby was fluttered, and somewhat
flattered, by an entreaty that she would favour the company with one of
the ballads, for which she had been famous in her time.  She could not
refuse on such an occasion,--if indeed she had ever been able to refuse
what she was told would give pleasure.  She made her son choose for her
what she should sing; and then followed a wonderful story of Giles
Collins, who loved a lady: Giles and the lady both died of true love;
Giles was laid in the lower chancel, and the lady in the higher; from
the one grave grew a milk-white rose, and from the other a briar, both
of which climbed up to the church top, and there tied themselves into a
true-lover's knot, which made all the parish admire.  At this part, Anna
was seen looking up at the ceiling; but the rest had no eyes but for
Mrs Enderby, as she gazed full at the opposite wall, and the shrill,
quavering notes of the monotonous air were poured out, and the words
were as distinct as if they were spoken.

"Is that true, grandmamma?" asked Anna, when all was over.

"You had better ask the person who made the song, my dear.  I did not
make it."

"But did you ever see that church with the briar growing in it, before
the sexton cut it down?"

"Do not let us talk any more about it," said Philip, solemnly.  "I
wonder grandmamma dares sing such a sad song."

"Why, you asked her, Uncle Philip."

"Oh, ay, so I did.  Well, we are much obliged to her; and now we will
have something that is not quite so terrible.--Miss Grey, you will
favour us with a song?"

Sophia's music-books were all in the house, and she could not sing
without.  Mr Enderby would fetch some, if she would give him directions
what to bring.  No; she could not sing without the piano.  As it was
clearly impossible to bring that, Philip feared the company must wait
for the pleasure of hearing Miss Grey till another time.  Mr Grey would
have Hester and Margaret sing; and sing they did, very simply and
sweetly, and much to the satisfaction of all present.  One thing led on
to another; they sang together,--with Mr Grey,--with Mr Enderby; Mr
Hope listening with an unlearned eagerness, which made Mrs Grey wink at
her husband, and nod at Sophia, and exchange smiles with Mrs Enderby.
They proceeded to catches at last; and when people really fond of music
get to singing catches in a summer-house, who can foresee the end?

"`Fair Enslaver!'" cried Mr Enderby.  "You must know `Fair Enslaver:'
there is not a sweeter catch than that.  Come, Miss Ibbotson, begin;
your sister will follow, and I--"

But it so happened that Miss Ibbotson had never heard `Fair Enslaver.'
Margaret knew it, she believed; but she did not.  With a gay eagerness,
Mr Enderby turned round to Maria, saying that he knew she could sing
this catch; and everybody was aware that when she had the power of doing
a kindness, she never wanted the will;--he remembered that she could
sing `Fair Enslaver.'  He might well remember this, for often had they
sung it together.  While several of the company were saying they did not
know Miss Young could sing, and the children were explaining that she
often sang at her work, Mr Enderby observed some signs of agitation in
Maria, and hastened to say,--"You had rather not, perhaps.  Pray do not
think of it.  I will find something else in a moment.  I beg your
pardon: I was very inconsiderate."

But Maria thought she had rather not accept the consideration; and
besides, the children were anxious that she should sing.  She bore her
part in a way which made Mr Rowland and Mrs Grey agree that she was a
very superior young woman indeed; that they were singularly fortunate to
have secured her for their children; and that she was much to be pitied.

"I think Miss Young has got a little cold, though," observed Sydney.
"Her voice is not in the least husky when she sits singing here by
herself.--Father! look there! there are all the servants huddled
together under the window again, to listen to the singing."

This was true; and the rain was over.  It was presently settled that the
schoolroom should be evacuated by the present party; that the children
should be allowed to invite the servants in, to dispense to them the
remains of the feast; and that Miss Young must favour Mrs Grey with her
company this evening.

Mr Rowland was obliged to return home to business; but, before his
friends dispersed, he must just say that Mrs Rowland and he had never,
for a moment, given up the hope of the pleasure of entertaining them at
dinner in the Dingleford woods; and, as the rains were now daily
abating, he might perhaps be allowed to name Wednesday of the next week
as the day of the excursion.  He hoped to see the whole of the present
company, from the oldest to the youngest,--bowing, as he spoke, to Mrs
Enderby and to his own little daughter Anna.  This was one of Mr
Rowland's pieces of independent action.  His lady had given him no
commission to bring the affair to an issue; and he returned home,
involuntarily planning what kind of an unconcerned face and manner he
should put on, while he told her what he had done.



CHAPTER TEN.

A PARTY OF PLEASURE.

Mr Rowland hoped "to see the whole of the present company, from the
oldest to the youngest."  This was the best part of his speech to the
ears of the children; it made an impression also upon some others.  Two
or three days afterwards, Sydney burst, laughing, into the dining-room,
where his mother and her guests were at work, to tell them that he had
seen Mr Hope riding a pony in the oddest way, in the lane behind his
lodgings.  He had a side-saddle, and a horse-cloth put on like a lady's
riding-habit.  He rode the pony in and out among the trees, and made it
scramble up the hill behind, and it went as nicely as could be, wherever
he wanted it to go.  Mr Hope's new way of riding was easily explained,
the next time he called.  Miss Young was certainly included in the
invitation to Dingleford woods: it was a pity she should not go; and she
could not walk in wild places:--the pony was training for her.  Mrs
Grey quite agreed that Miss Young ought to go, but thought that Mr Hope
was giving himself much needless trouble; there would be room made for
her in some carriage, of course.  No doubt; but no kind of carriage
could make its way in the woods; and, but for this pony, Miss Young
would have to sit in a carriage, or under a tree, the whole time that
the rest of the party were rambling about; whereas, this quiet active
little pony would take care that she was nowhere left behind.  It could
do everything but climb trees.  It was to be taken over to Dingleford
the evening before, and would be waiting for its rider on the verge of
the woods, when the party should arrive.

Miss Young was touched, and extremely pleased with Mr Hope's attention.
In the days of her prosperity she had been accustomed to ride much, and
was very fond of it; but since her misfortunes she had never once been
in the saddle--lame as she was, and debarred from other exercise.  To be
on a horse again, and among the woods, was a delicious prospect; and
when a few misgivings had been reasoned away--misgivings about being
troublesome, about being in the way of somebody's pleasure or
convenience--Maria resigned herself to the full expectation of a most
delightful day, if the weather would only be fine.  The children would
be there; and they were always willing to do anything for her.  Sydney
would guide her pony in case of need, or show her where she might stay
behind by herself, if the others should exhibit a passion for
impracticable places.  She knew that Margaret would enjoy the day all
the more for her being there; and so would Mr Hope, as he had amply
proved.  Maria was really delighted to be going, and she and the
children rejoiced together.

This great pleasure involved some minor enjoyments too, in the way of
preparation.  On Sunday Mr Hope told her, that he believed the pony was
now fully trained; but he should like that she should try it, especially
as she had been long out of the habit of riding.  She must take a ride
with him on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, for practice.  The Monday's
ride was charming; through Verdon woods, and home over the heath from
Crossley End.  The circuit, which was to have been three miles, had
extended to ten.  She must be moderate, she said to herself, the next
day, and not let Mr Hope spend so much of his time upon her; and
besides, the pony had to be sent over to Dingleford in the evening,
after she had done with it, to be in readiness for her on Wednesday
morning.

The ride on Tuesday was happily accomplished, as that of Monday: but it
was much shorter.  Mr Hope agreed that it should be short, as he had a
patient to visit on the Dingleford road, so near the hamlet that he
might as well take the pony there himself.  It would trot along beside
his horse.  Sydney saved him part of the charge.  Sydney would at all
times walk back any distance for the sake of a ride out, on whatever
kind of saddle, or almost any kind of quadruped.  He was in waiting at
the farrier's gate, when Miss Young returned from her ride; and having
assisted her into the house, he threw himself upon her pony, and rode
three miles and a half on the Dingleford road before he would dismount,
and deliver his bridle into Mr Hope's hand.  Tea was over, and the
tea-things removed, before he appeared at home, heated and delighted
with his expedition.  He ran to the dairy for a basin of milk, and
declared that his being hot and tired did not matter in the least, as he
had no lessons to do--the next day being a holiday.

It was about two hours after this, when Hester and Margaret were singing
to Sophia's playing, that Mr Grey put his head in at the door, and
beckoned Mrs Grey out of the room.  She remained absent a considerable
time; and when she returned, the singers were in the middle of another
duet.  She wandered restlessly about the room till the piece was
finished, and then made a sign to Sophia to follow her into the
storeroom, the double door of which the sisters could hear carefully
closed.  They were too much accustomed to the appearance of mystery
among the ladies of the Grey family, to be surprised at any number of
secret conferences which might take place in the course of the day.  But
evening was not the usual time for these.  The family practice was to
transact all private consultations in the morning, and to assemble round
the work-table or piano after tea.  The sisters made no remark to each
other on the present occasion, but continued their singing, each
supposing that the store-room conference related to some preparation for
the next day's excursion.

It was too dark to distinguish anything in the room before their hostess
re-entered it.  Margaret was playing quadrilles; Hester was standing at
the window, watching the shadows which the risen moon was flinging
across the field, and the lighting up of Mrs Enderby's parlour behind
the blinds; and Sydney was teasing his twin sisters with rough play on
the sofa, when Mrs Grey returned.

"You are all in the dark," said she, in a particularly grave tone.
"Why, did you not ring for lights, my dears?" and she rang immediately.
"Be quiet, children!  I will not have you make so much noise."

The little girls seemed to wish to obey; but their brother still forced
them to giggle; and their struggling entreaties were heard--"Now don't,
Sydney; now pray, Sydney, don't!"

"Mary and Fanny, go to bed," said their mother, decidedly, when lights
were brought.  "Sydney, bid your cousins good-night, and then come with
me; I want to ask you a question."

"Good-night already, mother!  Why, it is not time yet this half-hour."

"It is enough that I choose you to go to bed.  Wish your cousins
good-night, and come with me."

Mrs Grey led the way once more into the store-room, followed, rather
sulkily, by Sydney.

"What can all this be about?" whispered Hester to Margaret.  "There is
always something going on which we are not to know."

"Some affair of fruit, or wine, or bonbons, perhaps, which are all the
better for making their appearance unexpectedly."

At this moment Sophia and her mother entered by opposite doors.
Sophia's eyes were red; and there was every promise in her face that the
slightest word spoken to her would again open the sluices of her tears.
Mrs Grey's countenance was to the last degree dismal: but she talked--
talked industriously, of everything she could think of.  This was the
broadest possible hint to the sisters not to inquire what was the
matter; and they therefore went on sewing and conversing very diligently
till they thought they might relieve Mrs Grey by offering to retire.
They hesitated only because Mr Grey had not come in; and he so
regularly appeared at ten o'clock, that they had never yet retired
without having enjoyed half an hour's chat with him.

"Sophia, my dear," said her mother, "are the night candles there?  Light
your cousins' candles.--I am sure they are wishing to go; and it is
getting late.  You will not see Mr Grey to-night, my dears.  He has
been sent for to a distance."

At this moment, the scrambling of a horse's feet was heard on the gravel
before the front door.  Sophia looked at her mother, and each lighted a
candle precipitately, and thrust it into a hand of each cousin.

"There, go, my dears," said Mrs Grey.  "Never mind stopping for Mr
Grey.  I will deliver your good-night to him.  You will have to be
rather early in the morning, you know.  Good-night, good-night."

Thus Hester and Margaret were hurried up-stairs, while the front door
was in the act of being unbarred for Mr Grey's entrance.  Morris was
despatched after them, with equal speed, by Mrs Grey's orders, and she
reached their chamber-door at the same moment that they did.

Hester set down her candle, bade Morris shut the door, and threw herself
into an armchair with wonderful decision of manner, declaring that she
had never been so treated;--to be amused and sent to bed like a baby, in
a house where she was a guest!

"I am afraid something is the matter," said Margaret.

"What then? they might have told us so, and said plainly that they had
rather be alone."

"People must choose their own ways of managing their own affairs, you
know: and what those ways are cannot matter to us, as long as we are not
offended at them."

"Do you take your own way of viewing their behaviour, then, and leave me
mine," said Hester hastily.

Morris feared there was something amiss; and she believed Alice knew
what it was: but she had not told either cook or housemaid a syllable
about it.  By Morris's account, Alice had been playing the mysterious in
the kitchen as her mistress had in the parlour.  Mr Grey had been
suddenly sent for, and had saddled his horse himself, as his people were
all gone, and there was no one on the premises to do it for him.  A
wine-glass had also been called for, for Miss Sophia, whose weeping had
been overheard.  Master Sydney had gone to his room very cross,
complaining of his mother's having questioned him overmuch about his
ride, and then sent him to bed half an hour before his usual time.

A deadly fear seized upon Margaret's heart, when she heard of Sydney's
complaint of being overmuch questioned about his ride,--a deadly fear
for Hester.  If her suspicion should prove true, it was out of pure
consideration that they had been "amused and sent to bed like babies."
A glance at Hester showed that the same apprehension had crossed her
mind.  Her eyes were closed for a moment, and her face was white as
ashes.  It was not for long, however.  She presently said, with
decision, that whatever was the matter, it must be some entirely private
affair of the Greys'.  If any accident had happened to any one in the
village,--if bad news had arrived of any common friend,--there would be
no occasion for secrecy.  In such a case, Mrs Grey would have given
herself the comfort of speaking of it to her guests.  It must certainly
be some entirely private, some family affair.--Hester was sincere in
what she said.  She knew so little of the state of her own heart, that
she could not conceive how some things in it could be divined or
speculated upon by others.  Still only on the brink of the discovery
that she loved Mr Hope, she could never have imagined that any one else
could dream of such a thing,--much less act upon it.  She was angry with
herself for letting her fears now point for a moment to Mr Hope; for,
if this bad news had related to him, her sister and she would, of
course, have heard of it the next moment after the Greys.  Margaret
caught her sister's meaning, and strove to the utmost to think as she
did; but Sydney's complaint of being "overmuch questioned about his
ride" was fatal to the attempt.  It returned upon her incessantly during
the night; and when, towards morning, she slept a little, these words
seemed to be sounding in her ear all the while.  Before undressing, both
she and Hester had been unable to resist stepping out upon the stairs to
watch for signs whether it was the intention of the family to sit up or
go to rest.  All had retired to their rooms some time before midnight;
and then it was certain that nothing more could be learned before
morning.

Each sister believed that the other slept; but neither could be sure.
It was an utterly wretched night to both, and the first which they had
ever passed in misery, without speaking to each other.  Margaret's
suffering was all from apprehension.  Hester was little alarmed in
comparison; but she this night underwent the discovery which her sister
had made some little time ago.  She discovered that nothing could happen
to her so dreadful as any evil befalling Mr Hope.  She discovered that
he was more to her than the sister whom she could have declared, but a
few hours before, to be the dearest on earth to her.  She discovered
that she was for ever humbled in her own eyes; that her self-respect had
received an incurable wound: for Mr Hope had never given her reason to
regard him as more than a friend.  During the weary hours of this night,
she revolved every conversation, every act of intercourse, which she
could recall; and from all that she could remember, the same impression
resulted--that Mr Hope was a friend, a kind and sympathising friend--
interested in her views and opinions, in her tastes and feelings;--that
he was this kind friend, and nothing more.  He had in no case
distinguished her from her sister.  She had even thought, at times, that
Margaret had been the more important of the two to him.  That might be
from her own jealous temper, which, she knew, was apt to make her fancy
every one preferred to herself: but she _had_ thought that he liked
Margaret best, as she was sure Mr Enderby did.  Whichever way she
looked at the case, it was all wretchedness.  She had lost her
self-sufficiency and self-respect, and she was miserable.

The first rays of morning have a wonderful power of putting to flight
the terrors of the darkness, whether their causes lie without us or
within.  When the first beam of the midsummer sunshine darted into the
chamber, through the leafy limes which shaded one side of the apartment,
Hester's mood transiently changed.  There was a brief reaction in her
spirits.  She thought she had been making herself miserable far too
readily.  The mystery of the preceding evening might turn out a trifle:
she had been thinking too seriously about her own fancies.  If she had
really been discovering a great and sad secret about herself, no one
else knew it, nor need ever know it.  She could command herself; and, in
the strength of pride and duty, she would do so.  All was not lost.
Before this mood had passed away, she fell asleep, with prayer in her
heart, and quiet tears upon her cheek.  Both sisters were roused from
their brief slumbers by a loud tapping at their door.  All in readiness
to be alarmed, Margaret sprang up, and was at the door to know who was
there.

"It is us--it is we, Fanny and Mary, cousin Margaret," answered the
twins, "come to call you.  It is such a fine morning, you can't think.
Papa does not believe we shall have a drop of rain to-day.  The baker's
boy has just carried the rolls,--such a basket-full!--to Mrs Rowland's:
so you must get up.  Mamma is getting up already."

The sisters were vexed to have been thrown into a terror for nothing;
but it was a great relief to find Mr Grey prophesying fine weather for
the excursion.  Nothing could have happened to cast a doubt over it.
Margaret, too, now began to think that the mystery might turn out a
trifle; and she threw up the sash, to let in the fresh air, with a
gaiety of spirits she had little expected to feel.

Another tap at the door.  It was Morris, with the news that it was a
fine morning, that the whole house was astir, and that she had no
further news to tell.

Another tap before they were half-dressed.  It was Mrs Grey, with a
face quite as sorrowful as on the preceding evening, and the peculiar
nervous expression about the mouth--which served her instead of tears.

"Have you done with Morris yet, my dears?"

"Morris, you may go," said Hester, steadily.

Mrs Grey gazed at her with a mournful inquisitiveness, while she spoke;
and kept her eyes fixed on Hester throughout, though what she said
seemed addressed to both sisters.

"There is something the matter, Mrs Grey," continued Hester, calmly.
"Say what it is.  You had better have told us last night."

"I thought it best not to break your sleep, my dears.  We always think
bad news is best told in the morning."

"Tell us," said Margaret.  Hester quietly seated herself on the bed.

"It concerns our valued friend, Mr Hope," said Mrs Grey.  Hester's
colour had been going from the moment Mrs Grey entered the room: it was
now quite gone; but she preserved her calmness.

"He was safe when Sydney lost sight of him, on the ridge of the hill, on
the Dingleford road; but he afterwards had an accident."

"What kind of accident?" inquired Margaret.

"Is he killed?" asked Hester.

"No, not killed.  He was found insensible in the road.  The miller's boy
observed his horse, without a rider, plunge into the river below the
dam, and swim across; and another person saw the pony Sydney had been
riding, grazing with a side-saddle on, on the common.  This made them
search, and they found Mr Hope lying in the road insensible, as I told
you."

"What is thought of his state?" asked Margaret.

"Two medical men were called immediately from the nearest places, and
Mr Grey saw them last night; for the news reached us while you were at
the piano, and we thought--"

"Yes but what do the medical men say?"

"They do not speak very favourably.  It is a concussion of the brain.
They declare the case is not hopeless, and that is all they can say.  He
has not spoken yet; only just opened his eyes: but we are assured the
case is not quite desperate; so we must hope for the best."

"I am glad the case is not desperate," said Hester.  "He would be a
great loss to you all."

Mrs Grey looked at her in amazement, and then at Margaret.  Margaret's
eyes were full of tears.  She comprehended and respected the effort her
sister was making.

"Oh, Mrs Grey!" said Margaret, "must we go to-day?  Surely it is no
time for an excursion of pleasure."

"That must be as you feel disposed, my dears.  It would annoy Mrs
Rowland very much to have the party broken up; so much so, that some of
us must go: but my young people will do their best to fill your places,
if you feel yourselves unequal to the exertion."  She looked at Hester
as she spoke.

"Oh, if anybody goes, we go, of course," said Hester.  "I think you are
quite right in supposing that the business of the day must proceed.  If
there was anything to be done by staying at home,--if you could make us
of any use, Mrs Grey, it would be a different thing: but--"

"Well, if there is nothing in your feelings which--if you believe
yourselves equal to the exertion--"

Margaret now interposed.  "One had rather stay at home and be quiet,
when one is anxious about one's friends: but other people must be
considered, as we seem to be agreed,--Mr and Mrs Rowland, and all the
children.  So we will proceed with our dressing, Mrs Grey.  But can you
tell us, before you go, how soon--How soon we shall know;--when this
case will probably be decided?"

It might be a few hours, or it might be many days, Mrs Grey said.  She
should stay at home to-day, in case of anything being sent for from the
farmhouse where Mr Hope was lying.  He was well attended--in the hands
of good nurses--former patients of his own: but something might be
wanted; and orders had been left by Mr Grey that application should be
made to his house for whatever could be of service: so Mrs Grey could
not think of leaving home.  Mr Grey would make inquiry at the farmhouse
as the party went by to the woods: and he would just turn his horse back
in the middle of the day, to inquire again: and thus the Rowlands' party
would know more of Mr Hope's state than those who remained at home.
Having explained, Mrs Grey quitted the room, somewhat disappointed that
Hester had received the disclosure so well.

The moment the door was closed, Hester sank forward on the bed, her face
hidden, but her trembling betraying her emotion.

"I feared this," said Margaret, looking mournfully at her sister.

"You feared what?" asked Hester, quickly, looking up.

"I feared that some accident had happened to Mr Hope."

"So did I."

"And if," said Margaret, "I feared something else--Nay, Hester, you must
let me speak.  We must have no concealments, Hester.  You and I are
alone in the world, and we must comfort each other.  We agreed to this.
Why should you be ashamed of what you feel?  I believe that you have a
stronger interest in this misfortune than any one in the world; and
why--"

"How do you mean, a stronger interest?" asked Hester, trying to command
her voice.  "Tell me what you mean, Margaret."

"I mean," said Margaret, steadily, "that no one is so much attached to
Mr Hope as you are."

"I think," said Margaret, after a pause, "that Mr Hope has a high
respect and strong regard for you."  She paused again, and then added,
"If I believed anything more, I would tell you."

When Hester could speak again, she said, gently and humbly, "I assure
you, Margaret, I never knew the state of my own mind till this last
night.  If I had been aware--"

"If you had been aware, you would have been unlike all who ever really
loved, if people say true.  Now that you have become aware, you will act
as you _can_ act--nobly--righteously.  You will struggle with your
feelings till your mind grows calm.  Peace will come in time."

"Do you think there is no hope?"

"Consider his state."

"But if he should recover?  Oh, Margaret, how wicked all this is!  While
he lies there, we are grieving about me!  What a selfish wretch I am!"

Margaret had nothing to reply, there seemed so much truth in this.  Even
she reproached herself with being exclusively anxious about her sister,
when such a friend might be dying; when a life of such importance to
many was in jeopardy.

"I could do anything, I could bear anything," said Hester, "if I could
be sure that nobody knew.  But you found me out, Margaret, and
perhaps--"

"I assure you, I believe you are safe," said Margaret.  "You can hide
nothing from me.  But, Mrs Grey--and nobody except myself, has watched
you like Mrs Grey--has gone away, I am certain, completely deceived.
But, Hester! my own precious sister, bear with one word from me!  Do not
trust too much to your pride."

"I do trust to _my_ pride, and I will," replied Hester, her cheeks in a
glow.  "Do you suppose I will allow all in this house, all in the
village, to be pitying me, to be watching how I suffer, when no one
supposes that he gave me cause?  It is not to be endured, even in the
bare thought.  No.  If you do not betray me--"

"I betray you?"

"Well, well!  I know you will not: and then I am safe.  _My_ pride I can
trust to, and I will."

"It will betray you," sighed Margaret.  "I do not want you to parade
your sorrow, God knows!  It will be better borne in quiet and secrecy.
What I wish for you is, that you should receive this otherwise than as a
punishment, a disgrace in your own eyes for something wrong.  You have
done nothing wrong, nothing that you may not appeal to God to help you
to endure.  Take it as a sorrow sent by Him, to be meekly borne, as what
no earthly person has any concern with.  Be superior to the opinions of
the people about us, instead of defying them.  Pride will give you no
peace: resignation will."

"I am too selfish for this," sighed Hester.  "I hate myself, Margaret.
I have not even the grace to love _him_, except for my own sake; and
while he is dying, I am planning to save my pride!  I do not care what
becomes of me.  Come, Margaret, let us dress and go down.  Do not
trouble your kind heart about me: I am not worth it."

This mood gave way a little to Margaret's grief and endearments; but
Hester issued from her chamber for the day in a state of towering pride,
secretly alternating with the anguish of self-contempt.

It was a miserable day, as wretched a party of pleasure as could be
imagined.  Mrs Rowland was occupied in thinking, and occasionally
saying, how strangely everything fell out to torment her, how something
always occurred to cross every plan of hers.  She talked about this to
her mother, Sophia, and Hester, who were in the barouche with her, till
the whole cavalcade stopped, just before reaching the farmhouse where
Mr Hope lay, and to which Mr Grey rode on to make inquiries.  Margaret
was with Mr Rowland in his gig.  It was a breathless three minutes till
Mr Grey brought the news.  Margaret wondered how Hester was bearing it:
it would have pleased her to have known that Mrs Rowland was holding
forth so strenuously upon her disappointment about a dress at the last
Buckley ball, and about her children having had the measles on the only
occasion when Mr Rowland could have taken her to the races in the next
county, that Hester might sit in silence, and bear the suspense
unobserved.  Mr Grey reappeared, quite as soon as he could be looked
for.  There might have been worse news.  Mr Hope was no longer in a
stupor: he was delirious.  His medical attendants could not pronounce
any judgment upon the case further than that it was not hopeless.  They
had known recovery in similar cases.  As Mr Grey bore his report from
carriage to carriage, every one strove to speak cheerfully, and to make
the best of the case; and those who were not the most interested really
satisfied themselves with the truth that the tidings were better than
they might have been.

The damp upon the spirits of the party was most evident, when all had
descended from the carriages, and were collected in the woods.  There
was a general tremor about accidents.  If one of the gentlemen had gone
forward to explore, or the children had lagged behind for play, there
was a shouting, and a general stop, till the missing party appeared.
Miss Young would fain have declined her pony, which was duly in waiting
for her.  It was only because she felt that no individual could well be
spared from the party that she mounted at all.  Mr Hope was to have had
the charge of her; and though she had requested Sydney to take his
place, as far as was necessary, Mr Enderby insisted on doing so; a
circumstance which did not add to her satisfaction.  She was not
altogether so heart-sick as her friends, the Ibbotsons; but even to her,
everything was weariness of spirit:--the landscape seemed dull; the
splendid dinner on the grass tiresome; the sunshine sickly; and even the
children, with their laughter and practical jokes, fatiguing and
troublesome.  Even she could easily have spoken sharply to each and all
of the little ones.  If she felt so, what must the day have been to
Hester?  She bore up well under any observation that she might suppose
herself the object of; but Margaret saw how laboriously she strove, and
in vain, to eat; how welcome was the glass of wine; how mechanical her
singing after dinner; and how impatient she was of sitting still.  The
strangest thing was to see her walking in a dim glade, in the afternoon,
arm-in-arm with Mrs Rowland,--as if in the most confidential
conversation,--Mrs Rowland apparently offering the confidence, and
Hester receiving it.

"Look at them!" said Mr Enderby.  "Who would believe that my sister
prohibited solitary walks and _tete-a-tetes_, only three hours ago, on
the ground that every one ought to be sociable to-day?  I shall go and
break up the conference."

"Pray do not," said Margaret.  "Let them forget rules, and pass their
time as they like best."

"Oh! but here is news of Hope.  Mr Grey has now brought word that he is
no worse.  I begin to think he may get through, which, God knows I had
no idea of this morning."

"Do you really think so?  But do not tell other people, unless you are
quite confident that you really mean what you say."

"I may be wrong, of course: but I do think the chances improve with
every hour that he does not get worse; and he is certainly not worse.  I
have a strong presentiment that he will struggle through."

"Go, then; and tell as many people as you choose: only make them
understand how much is presentiment."

The _tete-a-tete_ between the ladies, being broken off by Mr Enderby
with his tidings, was not renewed.  Hester walked beside Miss Young's
pony, her cheek flushed, and her eye bright.  Margaret thought there was
pride underneath, and not merely the excitement of renewed hope, so
feeble as that hope must yet be, and so nearly crushed by suspense.

Before the hour fixed for the carriages to be in readiness, the party
had given up all pretence of amusing themselves and each other.  They
sat on a ridge, watching the spot where the vehicles were to assemble;
and message after message was sent to the servants, to desire them to
make haste.  The general wish seemed to be, to be getting home, though
the sun was yet some way from its setting.  When the first sound of
wheels was heard, Hester whispered to her sister--"I cannot be in the
same carriage with that woman.  No; you must not either.  I cannot now
tell you why.  I dare say Miss Young would take my place, and let me go
with the children in the waggon."

"I will do that; and you shall return in Mr Rowland's gig.  You can
talk or not as you please with him; and he is very kind.  He is no more
to be blamed for his wife's behaviour, you know, than her mother or her
brother.  It shall be so.  I will manage it."

Margaret could manage what she pleased, with Maria and Mr Enderby both
devoted to her.  Hester was off with Mr Rowland, and Margaret with one
child on her lap, and the others rejoicing at having possession of her,
before Mrs Rowland discovered the shifting of parties which had taken
place.  Often during the ride she wanted to speak to her brother: three
times out of four he was not to be had, so busy was he joking with the
children, as he trotted his horse beside the waggon; and when he did
hear his sister's call he merely answered her questions, said something
to make his mother laugh, and dropped into his place beside the waggon
again.  It struck Maria that the waggon had not been such an attraction
in going, though the flowers with which it was canopied had then been
fresh, and the children more merry and good-humoured than now.

The report to be carried home to Deerbrook was, that Mr Hope was still
no worse: it was thought that his delirium was somewhat quieter.  Mrs
Grey was out on the steps to hear the news, when the carriage
approached.  As it happened, the gig arrived first, and Hester had to
give the relation.  She spoke even cheerfully, declaring Mr Enderby's
opinion, that the case was going on favourably, and that recovery was
very possible.  Mrs Grey, who had had a wretchedly anxious day by
herself, not having enjoyed even the satisfaction of being useful,
nothing having been sent for from the farmhouse, was truly cheered by
seeing her family about her again.

"I have been watching for you this hour," said she; "and yet I hardly
expected you so soon.  As it grew late, I began to fancy all manner of
accidents that might befall you.  When one accident happens, it makes
one fancy so many more!  I could not help thinking about Mr Grey's
horse.  Does that horse seem to you perfectly steady, Hester?  Well, I
am glad of it: but I once saw it shy from some linen on a hedge, and it
was in my mind all this afternoon.  Here you are, all safe, however: and
I trust we may feel more cheerfully now about our good friend.  If he
goes on to grow better, I shall get Mr Grey to drive me over soon to
see him.  But, my dears, what will you have after your ride?  Shall I
order tea, or will you have something more substantial?"

"Tea, if you please," said Hester.  Her tongue was parched: and when
Margaret followed her up-stairs, she found her drinking water, as if she
had been three days deep in the Great Desert.

"Can you tell me now," asked Margaret, "what Mrs Rowland has been
saying to you?"

"No, not at present: better wait.  Margaret! what do you think now?"

"I think that all looks brighter than it did this morning; but what a
wretched day it has been!"

"You found it so, did you?  Oh, Margaret, I have longed every hour to
lie down to sleep in that wood, and never wake again!"

"I do not wonder: but you will soon feel better.  The sleep from which
you will wake to-morrow morning will do nearly as well.  We must sleep
to-night, and hope for good news in the morning."

"No good news will ever come to me again," sighed Hester.  "No, no; I do
not quite mean that.  You need not look at me so.  It is ungrateful to
say such a thing at this moment.  Come: I am ready to go down to tea.
It is really getting dark.  I thought this day never would come to an
end."

The evening was wearisome enough.  Mrs Grey asked how Mrs Rowland had
behaved, and Sophia was beginning to tell, when her father checked her,
reminding her that she had been enjoying Mrs Rowland's hospitality.
This was all he said, but it was enough to bring on one of Sophia's
interminable fits of crying.  The children were cross with fatigue: Mrs
Grey thought her husband hard upon Sophia; and, to complete the
absurdity of the scene, Hester's and Margaret's tears proved
uncontrollable.  The sight of Sophia's set them flowing; and though they
laughed at themselves for the folly of weeping from mere sympathy, this
did not mend the matter.  Mrs Grey seemed on the verge of tears
herself, when she observed that she had expected a cheerful evening
after a lonely and anxious day.  A deep sob from the three answered to
this observation, and they all rose to go to their apartments.  Hester
was struck by the peculiar tender pressure of the hand given her by Mr
Grey, as she offered him her mute good-night.  It caused her a fresh
burst of grief when she reached her own room.

Margaret was determined not to go to rest without knowing what it was
that Mrs Rowland had said to her sister.  She pressed for it now,
hoping that it would rouse Hester from more painful thoughts.

"Though I have been enjoying that woman's hospitality, as Mr Grey
says," declared Hester, "I must speak of her as I think, to you.  Oh,
she has been so insolent!"

"Insolent to you!  How?  Why?"

"Nay: you had better ask her why.  Her confidence was all about her
brother.  She seems to think,--she did not say so, or I should have
known better how to answer her, but she seems to think that her brother
is--(I can hardly speak it even to you, Margaret!)--is in some way in
danger from me.  Now, you and I know that he cares no more for me than
for any one of the people who were there to-day; and yet she went on
telling me, and I could not stop her, about the views of his family for
him!"

"What views?"

"Views which, I imagine, it by no means follows that he has for himself.
If she has been impertinent to me, she has been even more so to him.  I
wonder how she dares meddle in his concerns as she does."

"Well, but what views?" persisted Margaret.

"Oh, about his marrying:--that he is the darling of his family,--that
large family interests hang upon his marrying,--that all his relations
think it is time he was settling, and that he told her last week that he
was of that opinion himself:--and then she went on to say that there was
the most delightful accordance in their views for him;--that they did
not much value beauty,--that they should require for him something of a
far higher order than beauty, and which indeed was seldom found with
it--"

"Insolent creature!  Did she say that to you?"

"Indeed she did: and that her brother's wife must be of a good family,
with a fortune worthy of his own; and, naturally, of a county family."

"A county family!" said Margaret, half laughing.  "What matters county
or city, when two people are watching over one another for life and
death, and for hereafter?"

"With such people as Mrs Rowland," said Hester, "marriage is a very
superficial affair.  If family, fortune, and equipage are but right, the
rest may be left to Providence.  Temper, mind, heart--.  The worst of
all, however, was her ending--or what was made her ending by our being
interrupted."

"Well! what was her finish?"

"She put her face almost under my bonnet, as she looked smiling at me,
and said there was a young lady--she wished she could tell me all about
it--the time would come when she might--there was a sweet girl, beloved
by them all for many years, from her very childhood, whom they had hopes
of receiving, at no very distant time, as Philip's wife."

"I do not believe it," cried Margaret.  After a pause, she added, "Do
you believe it, Hester?"

"I am sure I do not know.  I should not rate Mrs Rowland's word very
highly: but this would be such a prodigious falsehood!  It is possible,
however, that she may believe it without its being true.  Or, such a
woman might make the most, for the occasion, of a mere suspicion of her
own."

"I do not believe it is true," repeated Margaret.

"At all events," concluded Hester, "nothing that Mrs Rowland says is
worth regarding.  I was foolish to let myself be ruffled by her."

Margaret tried to take the lesson home, but it was in vain.  She was
ruffled; and, in spite of every effort, she did believe in the existence
of the nameless young lady.  It had been a day of trouble; and thus was
it ending in fresh sorrow and fear.

Morris came in, hesitated at the door, was told she might stay, and
immediately busied herself in the brushing of hair and the folding of
clothes.  Many tears trickled down, and not a word was spoken, till all
the offices of the toilet were finished.  Morris then asked, with a
glance at the book-shelf, whether she should go or stay.

"Stay, Morris," said Hester, gently.  "You shall not suffer for our
being unhappy to-night.  Margaret, will you, can you read?"

Margaret took the volume in which it was the sisters' common practice to
read together, and with Morris at night.  While Morris took her seat,
and reverently composed herself to hear, Margaret turned to the words
which have stilled many a tempest of grief, from the moment when they
were first uttered to mourners, through a long course of centuries, "Let
not your heart be troubled."  "Believe in God; believe in me."  Morris
sometimes spoke on these occasions.  She loved to hear of the many
mansions in the House of the Father of all; and she said that though it
might seem to her young ladies that their parents had gone there full
soon, leaving them to undergo trouble by themselves, yet she had no
doubt they should all be at peace together, sooner or later, and their
passing troubles seem as nothing.  Even this simple and obvious remark
roused courage in the sisters.  They remembered what their father had
said to them about his leaving them to encounter the serious business
and trials of life, and how they had promised to strive to be wise and
trustful, and to help each other.  This day the serious business and
trials of life had manifestly begun: they must strengthen themselves and
each other to meet them.  They agreed upon this, and in a mood of faith
and resolution fell asleep.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

MEDIATION.

Mr Hope's case turned out more favourably than any of his attendants
and friends had ventured to anticipate.  For some days the symptoms
continued as alarming as at first; but from the hour that he began to
amend, his progress towards recovery was without drawback, and unusually
rapid.  Within a month, the news circulated through the village, that he
had been safely brought home to his own lodgings; and the day after, the
ladies at Mr Grey's were startled by seeing him alight from a gig at
the door, and walk up the steps feebly, but without assistance.  He
could not stay away any longer, he declared.  He had been above a month
shut up in a dim room, without seeing any faces but of doctor, nurse,
and Mrs Grey, and debarred from books; now he was well enough to
prescribe for himself; and he was sure that a little society, and a
gradual return to his usual habits of life, would do him more good than
anything.

Mrs Grey kept all her own children out of sight during this first
visit, that Mr Hope might not see too many faces at once.  She admitted
only Hester and Margaret, and Alice, who brought him some refreshment.
The girl made him a low curtsey, and looked at him with an expression of
awe and pleasure, which brought tears into the eyes of even her
mistress.  Mr Hope had been a benefactor to this girl.  He had brought
her through a fever.  She had of late little expected ever to see him
again.  Mr Hope replied to her mute looks:

"Thank you, Alice, I am much better.  I hope to be quite well soon.  Did
not you make some of the good things Mrs Grey has been kind enough to
bring me?--I thought so.  Well, I'm much obliged to you; and to
everybody who has been taking pains to make me well.  I do not know how
it is," he continued, when Alice had left the room, "but things do not
appear as they used to do.  Perhaps my eyes are dim still; but the room
does not seem bright, and none of you look well and merry."

Mrs Grey observed that she had drawn the blinds down, thinking he would
find it a relief after the sunshine.  Margaret said ingenuously--

"We are all well, I assure you; but you should not wonder if you find us
rather grave.  Much has happened since we met.  We have been thinking of
you with great anxiety for so long, that we cannot on a sudden talk as
lightly as when you used to come in every day."

"Ah!" said he, "I little thought, at one time, that I should ever see
any of you again in this world."

"We have thought of you as near death," said Margaret; "and since that,
as having a sick-room experience, which we respect and stand in awe of;
and that is reason enough for our looking grave."

"You feel as if you had to become acquainted with me over again.  Well,
we must lose no time; here is a month gone that I can give no account
of."

Hester felt how differently the case stood with her.  The last month had
been the longest she had ever known,--tedious as to the state captive,
serving his noviciate to prison life.  She would have been thankful to
say that she could give no account of the past month.  She inquired how
the accident happened; for this was still a mystery to everybody.  Mr
Hope could not clear up the matter: he remembered parting with Sydney,
and trotting, with the bridle of the pony in his hand, to the top of the
ascent,--the point where Sydney lost sight of him: he had no distinct
remembrance of anything more,--only a sort of impression of his horse
rearing bolt upright.  He had never been thrown before; and his
supposition was, that a stone cast from behind the hedge might have
struck his horse: but he really knew no more of the affair than any one
else.  The ladies all trusted he would not ride the same horse again;
but this he would not promise: his horse was an old friend; and he was
not in a hurry to part with old friends.  He was glad to find that Miss
Young had not laid the blame on the pony, but had ridden it through the
woods as if nothing had happened.

"Not exactly so," said Margaret, smiling.

"The young folks did not enjoy their excursion very much, I fancy," said
Mrs Grey, smiling also.  "Mrs Rowland was quite put out, poor soul!
You know she thinks everything goes wrong, on purpose to plague her."

"I think she had some higher feelings on that occasion," said Mr Hope,
gently, but gravely.  "I am indebted to her for a very anxious concern
on my account, and for kind offices in which perhaps none of my many
generous friends have surpassed her."

Mrs Grey, somewhat abashed, said that Mrs Rowland had some good
qualities: it was only a pity that her unhappy temper did not allow them
fair play.

"It is a pity," observed Mr Hope; "and it is at the same time, an
appeal to us to allow her the fair play she does not afford herself.
That sofa looks delightfully comfortable, Mrs Grey."

"Oh, you are tired; you are faint, perhaps?"

"Shall I ring?" said Hester, moving to the bell.

"No, no," said he, laughing; "I am very well at present.  I only mean
that I should like to stay all day, if you will let me.  I am sure that
sofa is full as comfortable as my own.  I may stay, may I not?"

"No, indeed you shall not, this first day.  If you will go away now
before you are tired, and if I find when I look in upon you this
evening, that you are not the worse for this feat, you shall stay longer
to-morrow.  But I assure you it is time you were at home now.  My dears,
just see whether the gig is at the door."

"So I only get sent away by begging to stay," said Mr Hope.  "Well, I
have been giving orders to sick people for so many years, that I suppose
it is fairly my turn to obey now.  May I ask you to send to Widow Rye's
to-day?  I looked in as I came; and her child is in want of better food,
better cooked, than she is able to give him."

"I will send him a dinner from our table.  You are not going to see any
more patients to-day, I hope?"

"Only two that lie quite in my road.  If you send me away, you must take
the consequences.  Farewell, till tomorrow."

"Mr Grey and I shall look in upon you this evening.  Now do not look
about you out of doors, to catch anybody's eye, or you will be visiting
a dozen patients between this house and your own."

There were, indeed, many people standing about, within sight of Mr
Grey's door, to see Mr Hope come out.  All Mr Grey's children and
servants were peeping through the shrubbery.  Mrs Enderby waved her
hand from a lower, and her two maids looked out from an upper window.
The old man of a hundred years, who was sunning himself on the bank, as
usual, rose and took off his hat: and the little Reeves and their
schoolfellows stood whispering to one another that Mr Hope looked
rarely bad still.  Mrs Plumstead dropped a low curtsey, as she stood
taking in the letter-bag, at her distant door.  Mrs Grey observed to
Hester on the respect which was paid to Mr Hope all through the place,
as if Hester was not feeling it in her heart of hearts at the moment.

Mrs Grey flattered herself that Mr Hope was thinking of Hester when he
said his friends did not look well.  She had been growing thinner and
paler for the last month, and no doubt remained in Mrs Grey's mind
about the cause.  Hester had commanded herself, to her sister's
admiration; but she could not command her health, and that was giving
way under perpetual feelings of anxiety and humiliation.  Mrs Grey
thought all this had gone quite far enough.  She was more fond and proud
of Hester every day, and more impatient that she should be happy, the
more she watched her.  She spoke to Margaret about her.  Margaret was
prepared for this, having foreseen its probability; and her answers,
while perfectly true and sincere, were so guarded, that Mrs Grey drew
from them the comfortable inference that she alone penetrated the
matter, and understood Hester's state of mind.  She came to the
resolution at last of making the young people happy a little sooner than
they could have managed the affair for themselves.  She would help them
to an understanding, but it should be with all possible delicacy and
regard to their feelings.  Not even Mr Grey should know what she was
about.

Opportunities were not wanting.  When are opportunities wanting to
match-makers?  If such do not find means of carrying their points, they
can construct them.  Few match-makers go to work so innocently and
securely as Mrs Grey; for few can be so certain of the inclinations of
the parties as she believed herself.  Her own admiration of Hester was
so exclusive, and the superiority of Hester's beauty so unquestionable,
that it never occurred to her that the attraction which drew Mr Hope to
the house could be any other than this.  About the state of Hester's
affections she felt justly confident; and so, in her view, nothing
remained to be done but to save her from further pining by bringing
about an explanation.  She was frequently with Mr Hope at his lodgings,
during his recovery, seeing that he took his afternoon rest, and
beguiling a part of his evenings; in short, watching over him as over a
son, and declaring to Hester that he was no less dear to her.

One evening, when she was spending an hour in Mr Hope's parlour, where
Mr Grey had deposited her till nine o'clock, when he was to call for
her, she made the same affectionate declaration to Mr Hope himself,--
that he was as dear to her as if he had been her own son; "and," she
continued, "I shall speak to you with the same freedom as I should use
with Sydney, and may, perhaps, ten years hence."

"Pray do," said Mr Hope.  "I shall be glad to hear anything you have to
say.  Are you going to find fault with me?"

"Oh dear, no!  What fault should I have to find with you? unless,
indeed, it be a fault or a folly to leave your own happiness and that of
another person in needless uncertainty."

Mr Hope changed colour, quite to the extent of her wishes.

"I know," continued she, "that your illness has put a stop to
everything; and that it has left you little nerve for any explanation of
the kind: but you are growing stronger every day now, and the case is
becoming so serious on the other side that I own I dread the
consequences of much further delay.  You see I speak openly."

She had every encouragement to do so, for Mr Hope's countenance was
flushed with what appeared to her to be delight.  "You observed,
yourself, you know, that Hester did not look well; and indeed the few
weeks after your accident were so trying to her,--the exertions she made
to conceal her feelings were so--.  But I must spare her delicacy.  I
trust you are quite assured that she has not the most remote idea of my
speaking to you thus.  Indeed, no human being is in the least aware of
it."

"Hester!  Miss Ibbotson!  Pray, Mrs Grey, do not say another word.  Let
us talk of something else."

"Presently; when I have finished.  You must have seen that I love this
dear girl as a daughter; and there is not a thought of her heart that
she can conceal from me, though her delicacy is so great that I am
confident she thinks me unaware of her state of mind at this moment.
But I saw how the affair was going from the very beginning; and the
failure of her health and looks since your accident have left me no
doubt whatever, and have made me feel it my duty to give you the
encouragement your modesty requires, and to confide to you how wholly
her happiness lies in your hands."

"Hester!  Miss Ibbotson!  I assure you, Mrs Grey, you must be
completely mistaken."

"I beg your pardon: I am not so easily mistaken as some people.  There
is Mrs Rowland, now!  I am sure she fancies that her brother is in love
with Hester, when it is plain to everybody but herself that he and my
other young cousin are coming to a conclusion as fast as need be.
However, I know you do not like to hear me find fault with Mrs Rowland;
and, besides, I have no right to tell Margaret's secrets; so we will say
no more about that."

Mr Hope sighed heavily.  These remarks upon Enderby and Margaret
accorded but too well with his own observations.  He could not let Mrs
Grey proceed without opposition; but all he was capable of was to repeat
that she was entirely mistaken.

"Yes, that is what men like you always say,--in all sincerity, of
course.  Your modesty always stands in the way of your happiness for a
while: but you are no losers by it.  The happiness is all the sweeter
when it comes at last."

"But that is not what I mean.  You have made it difficult for me to
explain myself.  I hardly know how to say it; but it must be said.  You
have mistaken my intentions,--mistaken them altogether."

It was now Mrs Grey's turn to change colour.  She asked in a trembling
voice:

"Do you mean to say, Mr Hope, that you have not been paying attentions
to Hester Ibbotson?"

"I do say so; that I have paid no attentions of the nature you suppose.
You compel me to speak plainly."

"Then I must speak plainly too, Mr Hope.  If any one had told me you
would play the part you have played, I should have resented the
imputation as I resent your conduct now.  If you have not intended to
win Hester's affections, you have behaved infamously.  You have won her
attachment by attentions which have never varied, from the very first
evening that she entered our house, till this afternoon.  You have
amused yourself with her, it seems; and now you are going to break her
heart."

"Stop, stop, Mrs Grey!  I cannot hear this."

"There is not a soul in the place that does not think as I do.  There is
not a soul that will not say--."

"Let us put aside what people may say.  If, by any imprudence of my own,
I have brought blame upon myself, I must bear it.  The important point
is--.  Surely, Mrs Grey, it is possible that you may be in error about
Miss Ibbotson's--Miss Ibbotson's state of mind."

"No, Mr Hope, it is not possible."  And being in for it, as she said,
Mrs Grey gave such a detail of her observations, and of unquestionable
facts, as left the truth indeed in little doubt.

"And Margaret," said Mr Hope, in a troubled voice: "do you know
anything of her views of my conduct?"

"Margaret is not so easily seen through as Hester," said Mrs Grey: an
assertion from which Mr Hope silently dissented; Margaret appearing to
him the most simple-minded person he had ever known; lucid in her
sincerity, transparent in her unconsciousness.  He was aware that Mrs
Grey had been so occupied with Hester as not to have been open to
impression from Margaret.

"Margaret is not so easily seen through as Hester, you know; and she and
I have never talked over your conduct confidentially: but if Margaret
does not perceive the alteration in her sister, and the cause of it, it
can only be because she is occupied with her own concerns."

"That is not like Margaret," thought Mr Hope.

"However, she does see it, I am sure; for she has proposed their return
to Birmingham,--their immediate return, though their affairs are far
from being settled yet, and they do not know what they will have to live
upon.  They promised to stay till October, too; and we are only half
through August yet.  Margaret can hardly have any wish to leave us on
her own account, considering whom she must leave behind.  It is for
Hester's sake, I am confident.  There is no doubt of the fact, Mr Hope.
Your honour is involved.  I repeat, you have won this dear girl's
affections; and now you must act as a man of conscience, which I have
always supposed you to be."

Mr Hope was tempted to ask for further confirmation, from the opinions
of the people who were about Hester; but he would not investigate the
degree of exposure which might have taken place.  Even if no one agreed
with Mrs Grey, this would be no proof that her conviction was a wrong
one; it might happen through Hester's successful concealment of what she
must be striving to suppress.

Mrs Grey urged him about his honour and conscience more closely than he
could bear.  He faintly begged her to leave him.  He obtained from her a
promise that she would inform no person of what had been said; and she
again assured him that neither Hester, nor any one else, had the
remotest idea of her speaking as she had done this evening.  On his
part, Mr Hope declared that he should reflect on what had passed, and
act with the strictest regard to duty.  As, in Mrs Grey's eyes, his
duty was perfectly clear, this declaration was completely satisfactory.
She saw the young people, with her mind's eye, settled in the corner
house which belonged to Mr Rowland, and was delighted that she had
spoken.  As soon as she was gone, Mr Hope would discover, she had
little doubt, that he had loved Hester all this time without having been
conscious what the attraction had really been; and in a little while he
would be thankful to her for having smoothed his way for him.  With
these thoughts in her mind, she bade him good-night, just as Mr Grey
drove up to the door.  She whispered once more, that he was as dear to
her as a son, and that this was the reason of her having spoken so
plainly.

"How are you this evening, Hope?" said Mr Grey, from the doorway.  "On
the sofa, eh? don't rise for me, then.  Rather done up, eh?  Ah!  I was
afraid you were for getting on too fast.  Bad economy in the end.  You
will be glad to be rid of us: so I shall not come in.  Take care of
yourself, I beg of you.  Good-night."

In what a state of mind was Hope left!  His plain-speaking motherly
friend little guessed what a storm she had raised in a spirit usually as
calm as a summer's morning.  There was nothing to him so abhorrent as
giving pain; nothing so intolerable in idea as injuring any human being:
and he was now compelled to believe that through some conduct of his
own, some imprudence, in a case where imprudence is guilt, he had broken
up the peace of a woman whom, though he did not love, he respected and
warmly regarded!  His mind was in too tumultuous a state for him to
attempt to settle with himself the degree of his culpability.  He only
knew that he was abased in his own sense of deep injury towards a
fellow-creature.  In the same breath came the destruction of his
hopes,--hopes, of which, till the moment, he had been scarcely
conscious,--with regard to the one on whom his thoughts had been really
fixed.  He had pledged himself to act strictly according to his sense of
duty.  His consolation, his refuge in every former trial of life, since
the days of childhood, had been in resolving to abide faithfully by the
decisions of duty.  In this he had found freedom; in this he had met
strength and repose, so that no evil had been intolerable to him.  But
what was his duty now?  Amidst the contradictions of honour and
conscience in the present case, where should he find his accustomed
refuge?  At one moment he saw clearly the obligation to devote himself
to her whose affections he had gained,--thoughtlessly and carelessly, it
is true, but to other eyes purposely.  At the next moment, the sin of
marrying without love,--if not while loving another,--rose vividly
before him, and made him shrink from what, an instant before, seemed
clear duty.  The only hope was in the possibility of mistake, which
might yet remain.  The whole could not be mistake, about Hester, and
Enderby, and Margaret, and all Mrs Grey's convictions.  Some of all
this must be true.  The probability was that it was all true: and if
so,--he could almost repine that he had not died when his death was
expected.  Then he should not have known of all this injury and woe;
then he should not have had to witness Margaret's love for another: then
Hester's quiet grief would have melted away with time, unembittered by
reproach of him.  No one had, till this hour, loved and relished life
more than he; yet now this gladsome being caught himself mourning that
he had survived his accident.  He roused himself from this; but all was
fearful and confused before him.  He could see nothing as it was, and as
it ought to be: he could decide upon nothing.  He must take time: he
must be deliberate upon this, the most important transaction of his
life.

Thus he determined, as the last remains of twilight faded away in his
apartment, and the night air blew in chill from the open window.  He was
so exhausted by his mental conflict as to be scarcely able to rise to
close the window, and retire to rest.  There was one hope, familiar as
the sunshine to his eyes, but unusually feeble, still abiding in his
mind for comfort,--that he should, sooner or later, clearly discern what
it was his duty to do.  All was at present dark; but this light might
flow in.  He would wait: he would not act till it did.

He did wait.  For many days he was not seen in any of the haunts, to
which he had begun to return.  The answer to inquiries was that Mr Hope
was not so well, and wished for entire quiet.  Everyone was anxious.
Hester was wretched, and Mrs Grey extremely restless and uneasy.  She
made several attempts to see him; but in no instance did she succeed.
She wrote him a private note, and received only a friendly verbal
answer, such as all the world might hear.

Mr Hope did wait for his duty to grow clear in the accumulating light
of thought.  He decided at length how to act; and he decided wrong;--not
for want of waiting long enough, but because some considerations
intruded themselves which warped his judgment, and sophisticated his
feelings.  He decided upon making the great mistake of his life.

Nothing had ever been clearer to his mind than the guilt of marrying
without love.  No man could have spoken more strongly, more solemnly
than he, on the presumption, the dishonourableness, the profligacy, of
such an act: but he was unaware how a man may be betrayed into it while
he has neither presumption, nor treachery, nor profligacy in his
thoughts.  Hope went through a world of meditation during the days of
his close retirement; some of his thoughts were superficial, and some
deceived him.  He considered Margaret lost to him: he glanced forwards
to his desolation when he should lose the society of both sisters--an
event likely to happen almost immediately, unless he should so act as to
retain them.  He dwelt upon Hester's beauty, her superiority of mind to
every woman but one whom he had known, her attachment to himself; her
dependence upon him.  He pondered these things till the tone of his mind
was lowered, and too many superficial feelings mingled with the
sacredness of the transaction, and impaired its integrity.  Under their
influence he decided what to do.

He had no intention, all this while, of taking Mrs Grey's word for the
whole matter, without test or confirmation.  From the beginning, he was
aware that his first step must be to ascertain that she was not
mistaken.  And this was his first step.

There were two obvious methods of proceeding.  One was to consult Mr
Grey, who stood in the place of guardian to these girls, as to the
probability of his success with Hester, in case of his proposing himself
to her.  The other was to ask the same question of Margaret.  The
advantage of speaking to Mr Grey was, that he might not be bound to
proceed, in case of Mr Grey differing from his lady's view of the case;
but then, Mr Grey was perhaps unaware of the real state of Hester's
mind.  From Margaret there was certainty of hearing nothing but the
truth, however little of it her feelings for her sister might allow her
to reveal; but such a conversation with her would compel him to proceed:
all retreat would be cut off after it; and he naturally shrank from
conversing with Margaret, of all people, on this subject.  But Hope was
equal to any effort which he thought a matter of duty; and he resolved
not to flinch from this.  He would speak first to Mr Grey; and if Mr
Grey did not undertake to answer for Hester's indifference, he would
seek an interview with Margaret.  If Margaret should encourage his
advances on her sister's behalf; the matter was decided.  He should have
a wife who might be the pride of any man,--whom it would be an honour to
any man to have attached.  If, as was still just possible, Margaret
should believe that her sister felt no peculiar regard for him, he
thought he might intimate so much of the truth as, without offending her
feelings on her sister's account, would secure for him freedom to
reconsider his purposes.  No man disliked more than he so circuitous a
method of acting in the most important affair of life.  He had always
believed that, in the case of a genuine and virtuous attachment, there
can or ought to be nothing but the most entire simplicity of conduct in
the parties,--no appeal to any but each other,--no seeking of an
intervention, where no stranger ought to intermeddle with the joy: but
the present affair, though perpetually brightening before Hope's fancy,
could not for a moment be thought of as of this kind: and here the
circuitous method, which had always appeared disgusting to his
imagination, was a matter of necessity to his conscience.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

A TURN IN THE SHRUBBERY.

Mr Grey looked extremely pleased when asked whether he supposed Hester
might be won.  His reply was simple enough.  He was not in his young
cousin's confidence: he could not undertake to answer for the state of
mind of young ladies; but he knew of no other attachment,--of nothing
which need discourage his friend Hope, who would have his hearty good
wishes if he should persevere in his project.  Yes, yes; he fully
understood: it was not to be spoken of;--it was to rest entirely between
themselves till Hope should have felt his way a little.  He knew it was
the fashion in these days to feel the way a little more than was thought
necessary or desirable in his time: but he liked that all should follow
their own method in an affair which concerned themselves so much more
than any one else: so the matter should be a perfect secret, as Mr Hope
desired; though he did not fancy it would have to be kept so close for
any great length of time.

This was over.  Now for the interview with Margaret, which had become
necessary.

His reappearance in the family party at Mr Grey's, under the
inquisitive eyes of Mrs Grey herself, must be an awkward business at
the best, while he remained in uncertainty.  The only way was to put an
end to the uncertainty as soon as possible.  He would go this very
afternoon, and ascertain his fate before the day was over.  He went
boldly up to the door and rang.  "The family were all out in the garden
after dinner," Alice said: "would Mr Hope join them there, or would he
rest himself while she told them he had arrived?"  Alice's anxiety about
his looks was not yet satisfied.

"I will step in here," said he, the door of the blue parlour being open.
"Send Morris to me," Morris at that moment crossing the hall.  "Morris,
I want to see Miss Margaret.  Will you just tell her that some one
wishes to speak with her?  I know she will excuse my asking the favour
of her to come in."

"Miss Margaret, sir?"

"Yes."

"I am sure, sir, you look more fit to sit here than to be gathering
apples with them all in the orchard.  Did you say Miss Margaret, sir?"

"Yes."

"Whatever else may be in Morris's mind," thought Hope, "it is clear that
she is surprised at my wanting to see Margaret.--Here she comes."

He was not sorry that the step paused in the hall,--that there was a
delay of some seconds before Margaret appeared.  He felt as weak at the
moment as on first rising from his bed after his accident; but he
rallied his resolution before he met her eye,--now timid and shrinking
as he had never seen it before.  Margaret was very grave, and as nearly
awkward as it was possible for her to be.  She shook hands with him,
however, and hoped that he was better again.

"I am better, thank you.  Will you sit down, and let me speak to you for
a few minutes?"

It was impossible to refuse.  Margaret sank down, while he shut the
door.

"I hear," said he, "that you are already thinking of returning to
Birmingham.  Is this true?"

"Yes: we shall go home in a few days."

"Then, before you leave us, will you allow me to ask your advice--?"

At the word "advice" a glow of pleasure passed over Margaret's face, and
she could not quite suppress a sigh of relief.  She now looked up freely
and fearlessly.  All this was good for Mr Hope: but it went to his
heart, and for a moment checked his speech.  He soon proceeded, however.

"I want your advice as a friend, and also some information which you
alone can give me.  What I have to say relates to your sister."

Margaret's ecstasy of hope was scarcely controllable.  For her sister's
sake she hung her head upon her bosom, the better to conceal her joy.
It was a bitter moment for him who could not but note and rightly
interpret the change in her countenance and manner.

"I wish to know, if you have no objection to tell me, whether your
sister is disengaged."

"I have no objection to say," declared Margaret, looking up cheerfully,
"that my sister is not engaged."

"That is the information I wished for.  Now for the opinion which I
venture to ask of you, as of the one to whom your sister's mind is best
known.  Do you believe that, if I attempt it, I am likely to win her?"

Margaret was silent.  It was difficult to answer the question with
perfect truth, and with due consideration to her sister.

"I see," said Hope, "that you do not approve my question: nor do I
myself.  Rather tell me whether you suppose that she prefers any one to
me,--that she had rather I should not seek her,--whether, in short, you
would advise me to withdraw."

"By no means," said Margaret.  "I cannot say anything tending to deter
you.  I know of nothing which need discourage you; and I assure you, you
have my best wishes that you may succeed."

She looked at him with the bright expression of sincerity and regard
which had touched his heart oftener and more deeply than all Hester's
beauty.  He could not have offered to shake hands at the moment; but she
held out hers, and he could not but take it.  The door burst open at the
same instant, and Mr Enderby entered.  Both let drop the hand they
held, and looked extremely awkward and grave.  A single glance was
enough to send Mr Enderby away, without having spoken his errand, which
was to summon Margaret to the orchard, for the final shake of the
apple-tree.  When he was gone, each saw that the face of the other was
crimson: but while Hope had a look of distress which Margaret wondered
at, remembering how soon Mr Enderby would understand the nature of the
interview, she was struggling to restrain a laugh.

"Thank you for your truth," said Mr Hope.  "I knew I might depend upon
it from you."

"I have told you all I can," said Margaret rising; "and it will be best
to say no more at present.  It is due to my sister to close our
conversation here.  If she should choose," continued she, gaily, "to
give us leave to renew it hereafter, I shall have a great deal to say to
you on my own part.  You have done me the honour of calling me `friend.'
You have my friendship, I assure you, and my good wishes."

Hope grasped her hand with a fervour which absolved him from the use of
words.  He then opened the door for her.

"I must return to the orchard," said she.  "Will you go? or will you
repose yourself here till we come in to tea?"

Mr Hope preferred remaining where he was.  The die was cast, and he
must think.  His hour of meditation was salutary.  He had never seen
Margaret so--he dared not dwell upon it: but then, never had her
simplicity of feeling towards him, her ingenuous friendship, unmixed
with a thought of love, been so clear.  He had made no impression upon
her, except through her sister, and for her sister.  He recalled the
stiffness and fear with which she had come when summoned to a
_tete-a-tete_; her sudden relief on the mention of her sister; and her
joyous encouragement of his project.

"I ought to rejoice--I do rejoice at this," thought he.  "It seems as if
everyone else would be made happy by this affair.  It must have been my
own doing; there must have been that in my manner and conduct which
authorised all this expectation and satisfaction,--an expectation and
satisfaction which prove to be no fancy of Mrs Grey's.  I have brought
upon myself the charge of Hester's happiness.  She is a noble woman,
bound to me by all that can engage my honour, my generosity, my
affection.  She shall be happy from this day, if my most entire devotion
can make her so.  Margaret loves Enderby: I am glad I know it.  I made
him dreadfully jealous just now; I must relieve him as soon as possible.
I do not know how far matters may have gone between them; but Margaret
is not at liberty to explain what he saw till I have spoken to Hester.
There must be no delay: I will do it this evening.  I cannot bring
myself to communicate with Mrs Grey.  If Mr Grey is at home, he will
make the opportunity for me."

Mr Grey was at home, and on the alert to take a hint.  "I guessed how
it was," said he.  "Margaret has been trying to keep down her spirits,
but not a child among them all flew about the orchard as she did, when
Mr Enderby had been to look for her, and she followed him back.  I
thought at first it was something on her own account; but Enderby looked
too dull and sulky for that.  I have no doubt he is jealous of you.  He
found you together, did he?  Well, he will soon know why, I trust.  Oh,
you have a hearty well-wisher in Margaret, I am sure!  Now, you see they
are setting Sophia down to the piano; and I think I can find for you the
opportunity you want, if you really wish to bring the business to a
conclusion this evening.  I will call Hester out to take a turn with me
in the shrubbery, as she and I often do, these fine evenings; and then,
if you choose, you can meet us there."

Hester was not at all sorry to be invited by Mr Grey to the turn in the
shrubbery, which was one of the best of her quiet pleasures,--a solace
which she enjoyed the more, the more she became attached to kind Mr
Grey: and she did much respect and love him.  This evening she was glad
of any summons from the room.  Margaret had fully intended not to speak
to her of what had passed, thinking it best for her sister's dignity,
and for Mr Hope's satisfaction, that he should not be anticipated.  All
this was very wise and undeniable while she was walking back to the
orchard: but it so happened that Hester's hand hung by her side, as she
stood looking up at the apple-tree, unaware that Margaret had left the
party.  Margaret could not resist seizing the hand, and pressing it with
so much silent emotion, such a glance of joy, as threw Hester into a
state of wonder and expectation.  Not a syllable could she extort from
Margaret, either on the spot or afterwards, when summoned to tea.
Whether it was on account of Mr Hope's return to the house, she could
not satisfy herself.  She had sat, conscious and inwardly distressed, at
the tea-table, where nothing remarkable had occurred; and was glad to
escape from the circle where all that was said appeared to her excited
spirit to be tiresome, or trifling, or vexatious.

How different was it all when she returned to the house!  How she loved
the whole world, and no one in it was dull, and nothing was trifling,
and it was out of the power of circumstances to vex her!  Life had
become heaven: its doubts, its cares, its troubles, were gone, and all
had given place to a soul-penetrating joy.  She should grow perfect now,
for she had one whom she believed perfect to lead her on.  Her pride,
her jealousy, would trouble her no more: it was for want of sympathy--
perfect sympathy always at hand--that she had been a prey to them.  She
should pine no more, for there was one who was her own.  A calm,
nameless, all-pervading bliss had wrapped itself round her spirit, and
brought her as near to her Maker as if she had been his favoured child.
There needs no other proof that happiness is the most wholesome moral
atmosphere, and that in which the immortality of man is destined
ultimately to thrive, than the elevation of soul, the religious
aspiration, which attends the first assurance, the first sober
certainty, of true love.  There is much of this religious aspiration
amidst all warmth of virtuous affections.  There is a vivid love of God
in the child that lays its cheek against the cheek of its mother, and
clasps its arms about her neck.  God is thanked (perhaps unconsciously)
for the brightness of his earth, on summer evenings, when a brother and
sister, who have long been parted, pour out their heart stores to each
other, and feel their course of thought brightening as it runs.  When
the aged parent hears of the honours his children have won, or looks
round upon their innocent faces as the glory of his decline, his mind
reverts to Him who in them prescribed the purpose of his life, and
bestowed its grace.  But, religious as is the mood of every good
affection, none is so devotional as that of love, especially so called.
The soul is then the very temple of adoration, of faith, of holy purity,
of heroism, of charity.  At such a moment the human creature shoots up
into the angel: there is nothing on earth too defiled for its charity--
nothing in hell too appalling for its heroism--nothing in heaven too
glorious for its sympathy.  Strengthened, sustained, vivified by that
most mysterious power, union with another spirit, it feels itself set
well forth on the way of victory over evil, sent out conquering and to
conquer.  There is no other such crisis in human life.  The philosopher
may experience uncontrollable agitation in verifying his principle of
balancing systems of worlds, feeling, perhaps, as if he actually saw the
creative hand in the act of sending the planets forth on their
everlasting way; but this philosopher, solitary seraph, as he may be
regarded, amidst a myriad of men, knows at such a moment no emotions so
divine as those of the spirit becoming conscious that it is beloved--be
it the peasant girl in the meadow, or the daughter of the sage, reposing
in her father's confidence, or the artisan beside his loom, or the man
of letters musing by his fireside.  The warrior, about to strike the
decisive blow for the liberties of a nation, however impressed with the
solemnity of the hour, is not in a state of such lofty resolution as
those who, by joining hearts, are laying their joint hands on the whole
wide realm of futurity for their own.  The statesman who, in the moment
of success, feels that an entire class of social sins and woes is
annihilated by his hand, is not conscious of so holy and so intimate a
thankfulness as they who are aware that their redemption is come in the
presence of a new and sovereign affection.  And these are many--they are
in all corners of every land.  The statesman is the leader of a nation--
the warrior is the grace of an age--the philosopher is the birth of a
thousand years; but the lover--where is he not?  Wherever parents look
round upon their children, there he has been--wherever children are at
play together, there he will soon be--wherever there are roofs under
which men dwell--wherever there is an atmosphere vibrating with human
voices, there is the lover, and there is his lofty worship going on,
unspeakable, but revealed in the brightness of the eye, the majesty of
the presence, and the high temper of the discourse.  Men have been
ungrateful and perverse; they have done what they could to counteract,
to debase, this most heavenly influence of their life; but the laws of
their Maker are too strong, the benignity of their Father is too patient
and fervent, for their opposition to withstand: and true love continues,
and will continue, to send up its homage amidst the meditations of every
eventide, and the busy hum of noon, and the song of the morning stars.

Hester, when she re-entered the house, was full of the commonest feeling
of all in happy lovers,--a wonder that such intense happiness should be
permitted to her.  Margaret was lingering about the stair-head in the
dusk, and met her sister at the door of their own apartment.

"May I come in?" said she.

"May you come in?  Oh, Margaret!  I want you."

"All is right: all is well; is it, Hester?  And I was quite wrong
throughout.  I grieve now that I helped to make you miserable: but,
indeed, I was miserable myself.  I saw no hope; I was completely
mistaken."

"We were both mistaken," said Hester, resting her head at Margaret's
shoulder.  "Mistaken in judgment,--blinded by anxiety.  But all that is
over now.  Margaret, what have I done that I should be so happy?"

"You have loved one who deserves such a love as yours," said Margaret,
smiling.  "That is what you have done: and you will have the blessings
of all who know you both.  You have mine, dearest."

"What an ungrateful wretch shall I be, if I do not make every one happy
that is within my reach!" cried Hester.  "Margaret, I will never grieve
his heart as I have grieved yours.  I will never grieve yours again."

"But how is it?" asked Margaret.  "You have not told me yet.  Is it all
settled?"

A silent embrace told that it was.

"I may shake hands with you upon it, then.  Oh, Hester, after all our
longings for a brother, you are going to give me one!  We are not alone
in the world.  My father,--our mother,--where are they?  Do they know?
Have they foreseen while we have been suffering so?  Do they now foresee
for us?"

"There was not one word of his," said Hester, "that I should not have
gloried in their hearing.  So gentle, Margaret! so noble! so calm!"

"And you?" said Margaret, softly.  "Did you speak--speak openly?"

"Yes: it was no time for pride.  With him I have no pride.  I could not
have believed how I should tell him all: but he was so noble,--spoke so
gloriously,--that it would have been an insult to use any disguise.  He
knows all that you know, Margaret,--and I am not ashamed."

"I honour you," said Margaret.  "Thank God, all is right!  But where is
Mr Hope all this time?"

"He went away when I came in.  You will see him in the morning."

"Can you go down this evening?  If you think you can--."

"Go down!  Yes:--this moment.  I feel as if I could face the whole
world."

"Let me ask one thing.  May I tell Maria in the morning?  She will be so
pleased! and no one but you understands my feelings so well.  Everybody
will rejoice with me; but I can say anything to her.  May I tell her all
in the morning?"

"Dear Maria!  Oh, yes: tell her from me, with my love.  I know I shall
have her blessing.  Now let us go down."

"But we must just settle how matters are to proceed," said Margaret.
"Are the family to know or not?"

"Oh, let all that take its chance!" said Hester.  "I am sure I do not
care.  Let it be as it happens, for to-night at least."

"For to-night at least," agreed Margaret.

All was going on as usual below-stairs.  The working of collars and of
rugs was proceeding, as the family sat round the lamp.  On the
appearance of Hester and Margaret, the book, with the Society's cover on
it, was produced; and it was requested that some one would read aloud,
as it was necessary that forty pages a day should be gone through, to
get the volume done by the time it must be sent to Mrs Enderby.  Sophia
asked whether some one else would be so good as to read this evening, as
she thought she could finish her collar by keeping steadily to it till
bedtime.

Margaret took the book, and was surprised to find how easy a process it
is to read aloud passably without taking in a word of the sense.
Fortunately the Greys were not much given, to make remarks on what they
read.  To have gone through the books that came from the Society was
enough; and they could not have accomplished the forty pages an evening
if they had stopped to talk.  The only words spoken during the lecture,
therefore, were occasional remarks that the reader seemed hoarse, and
that some one else had better take the book; and whispered requests
across the table for scissors, thread, or the adjustment of the light.
Such being the method of literary exercise in the family, Hester and
Margaret were able to think of anything they pleased with impunity.

"There! here comes papa!" said Sophia; "and I do not believe we have
read nearly forty pages.  Where did you begin, Margaret?"

Margaret resigned the volume to her to have the place found, and was
told that she should not have shifted the marker till the evening
reading was done, unless she at once set it forward forty pages: it made
it so difficult to find the place.  Sophia was detained only five
minutes from her collar, however, before she discovered that they had
read only eight-and-twenty pages.  Mrs Grey observed that Mr Grey was
coming in rather earlier than usual to-night; and Sophia added, that her
cousins had been a good while in their own room.

Hester was conscious that Mr Grey cast a rapid, penetrating glance upon
her as he drew his chair, and took his seat at her elbow.

"What a clever book this is!" said Mrs Grey.

"Very entertaining," added Sophia.

"What is your opinion of it?" asked Mr Grey of Hester.

She smiled, and said she must read more of it before she could judge.

"It is such a relief," said Mrs Grey, "to have a book like this in hand
after the tiresome things Mr Rowland orders in!  He consults Mrs
Rowland's notions about books far too much; and she always takes a fancy
to the dullest.  One would almost think it was on purpose."

Sydney liked the sport of knocking on the head charges against the
Rowlands.  He showed, by a reference to the Society's list, that the
book just laid down was ordered by the Rowlands.

"Dear me!  Sophia," said her mother, "you made quite a mistake.  You
told us it was ordered in by Mr Hope.  I am sure, I thought so all this
time."

"Well, I dare say we shall not be able to finish it," said Sophia.  "We
have read only eight-and-twenty pages this evening.  Papa! how
shockingly Mr Hope looks still, does not he?  I think he looks worse
than when he was here last."

"And I trust he will look better when we see him next.  I have the
strongest hopes that he will now gain ground every day."

"I am sure he seems to have gained very little yet."

"Oh, yes, he has; as I trust you will soon see."

Sophia was about to bewail Mr Hope's sickly looks again, when her
mother trod on her foot under the table; and, moreover, winked and
frowned in a very awful way, so that Sophia felt silenced, she could not
conceive for what reason.  Not being able to think of anything else to
say, to cover her confusion, she discovered that it was bedtime,--at
least for people who had been gathering apples.

Once more Mrs Grey gazed over her spectacles at her husband, when the
young people were gone.

"My dear," said she, "what makes you think that Mr Hope is gaining
ground every day?"

"My dear, what made you tread on all our toes when I said so?"

"Dear me, I only gave Sophia a hint, to prevent her saying dismal things
before people.  One does not know what may be passing in their minds,
you know."

"And so you kindly show what is passing in yours.  However, these young
ladies may soon be able, perhaps, to tell us more about Hope than we can
tell them."

"My dear, what do you mean?"

"I saw a glance between them, a smile, when you were silencing Sophia.
I believe you may prepare yourself for some news, my dear."

"I have no doubt of Hester's state of mind--"

"And I feel confident of Hope's; so here is the case, pretty well made
out between us."

Mrs Grey was in raptures for a moment; but she then resumed her system
of mysterious tokens.  She shook her head, and owned that she had reason
to think her husband was mistaken.

"Well, just observe them the next time they are together; that is all."

"And my poor Hester looks wretchedly, Mr Grey.  It really makes my
heart ache to see her."

"How differently people view things!  I was just thinking that I never
saw her so lovely, with such a sprightliness, such a glow in her face,
as five minutes ago."

"Just this evening, she does not look so pale; but she is sadly
altered--grievously changed indeed.  Seeing this, is the only thing
which reconciles me to parting with her.  Now, Mr Grey, I should like
to know what sets you smiling in that manner at the poor girl."

"I was smiling to think how, as young ladies have been known to change
their minds, it may be possible that we may have the pleasure of seeing
Hester pick up her good looks again here, in spite of all that Morris
says about her native air.  I should not wonder that we may persuade her
to stay yet."

Mrs Grey shook her head decisively.  She should have been very glad, a
little while since, to hear her husband's opinion that Mr Hope's views
were fixed upon Hester; but now--.  But men were always so positive; and
always the most positive where they knew the least!  A deep sigh from
the one party, and a broad smile from the other, closed the
conversation.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SOPHIA IN THE VILLAGE.

Deerbrook was not a place where practical affairs could be long kept
secret, even where the best reasons for secrecy existed.  About Hester's
engagement there was no reason whatever for concealment; and it was
accordingly made known to every one in Deerbrook in the course of the
next day.--Margaret shut herself up with Maria before breakfast, and
enjoyed an hour of hearty sympathy from her, in the first place.  As
they were both aware that this communication was a little out of
order,--Mr and Mrs Grey having a clear title to the earliest
information,--Maria had to be discreet for nearly three hours--till she
heard the news from another quarter.

Immediately after breakfast, Mr Hope called on Mr Grey at the office,
and informed him.  Mr Grey stepped home, and found Margaret
enlightening his wife.  Sophia was next called in, while Morris was
closeted with her young ladies.  Sophia burst breathless into the
summer-house to tell Miss Young, which she did in whispers so loud as to
be overheard by the children.  Matilda immediately found she had left
her slate-pencil behind her, and ran into the house to give her mamma
the news, just at the moment that Mr Grey was relating it to his
partner in the office.  On returning, Sophia found her mother putting on
her bonnet, having remembered that it was quite time she should be
stepping across the way to hear how poor Mrs Enderby was, after the
thunder-storm of three days ago.  This reminded Sophia that she ought to
be inquiring about the worsteds which Mrs Howell must have got down
from London by this time, to finish Mrs Grey's rug.  Mrs Grey could
not trust her eyes to match shades of worsteds; and Sophia now set out
with great alacrity to oblige her mother by doing it for her.  On the
way she met Dr Levitt, about to enter the house of a sick parishioner.
Dr Levitt hoped all at home were well.  All very well, indeed, Sophia
was obliged to him.  Her only fear was that the excitement of present
circumstances might be too much for mamma.  Mamma was so very much
attached to cousin Hester, and it would be such a delightful thing to
have her settled beside them!  Perhaps Dr Levitt had not heard that
Hester and Mr Hope were going to be married.  No, indeed, he had not.
He wondered his friend Hope had not told him of his good fortune, of
which he heartily wished him joy.  How long had this happy affair been
settled?  Not long, he fancied?  Not very long; and perhaps Mr Hope did
not consider that it was quite made public yet: but Sophia thought that
Dr Levitt ought to know.  Dr Levitt thanked her, and said he would try
and find Hope in the course of the morning, to congratulate him; and he
and Mrs Levitt would give themselves the pleasure of calling on the
ladies, very shortly.

"Ritson, how is your wife?" said Sophia, crossing over to speak to a
labourer who was on his way up the street.

"A deal better, Miss.  She's coming about right nicely!"

"Ah! that is Mr Hope's doing.  He attends her, of course."

"Oh, yes, Miss; he's done her a sight o' good."

"Ah! so he always does: but Ritson, if he should not be able to attend
to her quite so closely as usual, just now, you will excuse it, when you
hear how it is."

"Lord, Miss! the wonder is that he has come at all, so ill as he has
been hisself."

"I don't mean that: you will soon see him very well now.  He is going to
be married, Ritson--"

"What, is he?  Well--"

"To my cousin, Miss Ibbotson.  He will be more at our house, you know,
than anywhere else."  And with a wink which was a very good miniature of
her mother's Sophia passed on, leaving Ritson to bless Mr Hope and the
pretty young lady.

She cast a glance into the butcher's shop as she arrived opposite to it;
and her heart leaped up when she saw Mrs James, the lawyer's wife,
watching the weighing of a loin of veal.

"You will excuse my interrupting you, Mrs James," said she, from the
threshold of the shop: "but we are anxious to know whether Mr James
thinks Mrs Enderby really altered of late.  We saw him go in last week,
and we heard it was to make an alteration in her will."

"I often wonder how things get abroad," said Mrs James, "My husband
makes such a particular point of never speaking of such affairs; and I
am sure no one ever hears them from me."

"I believe Mrs Enderby told mamma that about the will herself."

"Well, that is as she pleases, of course," said Mrs James, smiling.
"What is the weight with the kidney, Mr Jones?"

"We should like so to know," resumed Sophia, "whether Mr James
considers Mrs Enderby much altered of late."

"I should think you would be better able to judge than he, Miss Grey; I
believe you see her ten times to his once."

"That is the very reason: we see her so often, that a gradual change
would be less likely to strike us."

"Mr Hope will give you satisfaction: he must be a better judge than any
of us."

"Oh, yes; but we cannot expect him to have eyes for any person but one,
at present, you know."

"Oh, so he is going to marry Deborah Giles, after all?"

"Deborah Giles!"

"Yes; was he not said to be engaged to her, some time ago?"

"Deborah Giles! the boatman's daughter!  I declare I never heard of such
a place as this for gossip!  Why, Deborah Giles can barely read and
write; and she is beneath Mr Hope in every way.  I do not believe he
ever spoke to her in his life."

"Oh, well; I do not pretend to know.  I heard something about it.
Eleven and threepence.  Can you change a sovereign, Mr Jones?  And,
pray, send home the chops immediately."

"It is my cousin, Miss Ibbotson, that Mr Hope is engaged to," said
Sophia, unable to refrain from disclosures which she yet saw were not
cared for:--"the beautiful Miss Ibbotson, you know."

"Indeed: I am sure somebody said it was Deborah Giles.  Then you think,
Mr Jones, we may depend upon you for game when the season begins?"

Mr Jones seemed more interested in the news than his customer; he
wished Mr Hope all good luck with his pretty lady.

Sophia thought herself fortunate when she saw Mr Enderby turn out of
the toy-shop with his youngest nephew, a round-faced boy, still in
petticoats, perched upon his shoulder.  Mr Enderby bowed, but did not
seem to heed her call: he jumped through the turnstile, and proceeded to
canter along the church lane amidst the glee of the child so rapidly,
that Sophia was obliged to give up the hope of being the first to tell
him the news.  It was very provoking: she should have liked to see how
he would look.

She was sure of a delighted listener in Mrs Howell, to whom no
communication ever came amiss: but there was a condition to Mrs
Howell's listening--that she should be allowed to tell her own news
first.  When she found that Sophia wanted to match some worsteds, she
and her shop-woman exchanged sympathetic glances--Mrs Howell sighing,
with her head on the right side, and Miss Miskin groaning, with her head
on the left side.

"Are you ill, Mrs Howell?" asked Sophia.

"It shook me a little, I confess, ma'am, hearing that you wanted
worsteds.  We have no relief, ma'am, from ladies wanting worsteds."

"No relief, day or night," added Miss Miskin.

"Day or night!  Surely you do not sell worsteds in the night-time?" said
Sophia.

"Not sell them, ma'am; only match them.  The matching them is the trial,
I assure you.  If you could only hear my agent, ma'am--the things he has
to tell about people in my situation--how they are going mad, all over
the country, with incessantly matching of worsteds, now that that kind
of work is all the fashion.  And nothing more likely, ma'am, for there
is no getting one's natural rest.  I am for ever matching of worsteds in
my dreams; and when I wake, I seem to have had no rest: and, as you see,
directly after breakfast, ladies come for worsteds."

"And Miss Anderson's messenger left a whole bundle of skeins to be
matched for her young ladies, as early as eight this morning," declared
Miss Miskin: "and so we go on."

"It will not be for long, I dare say, Mrs Howell.  It is a fashionable
kind of work, that we may soon grow tired of."

"Dear me, ma'am, think how long former generations went on with it!
Think of our grandmothers' work, ma'am, and how we are treading in their
steps.  We have the beautifulest patterns now, I assure you.  Miss
Miskin will confirm that we sold one, last week, the very day we had
it--the interior of Abbotsford, with Sir Walter, and the furniture, and
the dogs, just like life, I assure you."

"That was beautiful," said Miss Miskin, "but not to compare--"

"Oh, dear, no! not to compare, Miss Grey, with one that we were just
allowed the sight of--not a mere pattern, but a finished specimen--and I
never saw anything so pathetic.--I declare I was quite affected, and so
was Miss Miskin.  It was `By the Rivers of Babylon,' most sweetly done!
There were the harps all in cross-stitch, ma'am, and the willows all in
tent-stitch--I never saw anything so touching."

"I don't think mamma will trouble you for many more worsteds for some
time to come, Mrs Howell.  When there is going to be a wedding in the
family, there is not much time for fancy-work, you know."

"Dear me, a wedding!" smiled Mrs Howell.

"A wedding!  Only think!" simpered Miss Miskin.

"Yes: Mr Hope and my cousin Hester are going to be married.  I am sure
they will have your best wishes, Mrs Howell?"

"That they will, ma'am, as I shall make a point of telling Mr Hope.
But Miss Grey, I should think it probable that your mamma may think of
working a drawing-room screen, or perhaps a set of rugs, for the young
folks; and I assure you, she will see no such patterns anywhere as my
agent sends down to me; as I have no doubt you will tell her.  And pray,
ma'am, where are Mr Hope and his lady to live?  I hope they have
pleased their fancy with a house?"

"That point is not settled yet.  It is a thing which requires some
consideration, you know."

"Oh, dear, ma'am! to be sure it does: but I did not mean to be
impertinent in asking, I am sure.  Only you mentioned making
wedding-clothes, Miss Grey."

"I did not mean that we have exactly set about all that yet.  I was only
looking forward to it."

"And very right too, ma'am.  My poor dear Howell used to say so to me,
every time he found so much difficulty in inducing me to listen to
future projects--about the happy day, you know, ma'am.  He was always
for looking forward upon principle, dear soul! as you say, ma'am.  That
is the very brown, ma'am--no doubt of it.  Only two skeins, ma'am?"

Here ended Sophia's pleasures in this kind.  She could not summon
courage to face Mrs Plumstead, without knowing what was the mood of the
day; and the half-door of the little stationery shop was closed, and no
face was visible within.  All her father's household, and all whom she
had told, were as busy as herself; so that by the time she walked down
the street again, nobody remained to be informed.  She could only go
home, put off her bonnet, and sit with her mother, watching who would
call, and planning the external arrangements which constitute the whole
interest of a wedding to narrow minds and apathetic hearts.

No one in Deerbrook enjoyed the news more than Mr Enderby.  When he
evaded Sophia in the street, he little knew what pleasure she had it in
her power to afford him.  It was only deferred for a few minutes,
however; for, on his returning his little nephew to mamma's side, he
found his mother and sister talking the matter over.  Mrs Grey's visit
to Mrs Enderby had been unusually short, as she could not, on so busy a
day, spare much time to one person.  The moment she was gone, the old
lady rang for her calash and shawl, and prepared to cross the way,
telling the news meanwhile to her maid Phoebe.  It was a disappointment
to find Mrs Rowland already informed: but then came Philip, ignorant
and unconscious as could be desired.

The extreme graciousness of his sister guided him in his guess when he
was desired to say who was going to be married; but there was a
trembling heart beneath his light speech.  It was more difficult to
disguise his joy when he heard the truth.  He carried it off by romping
with the child, who owed several rides from corner to corner of the room
to the fact that Mr Hope was going to be married to Hester.

"I am delighted to see Philip take it in this way," observed Mrs
Rowland.

"I was just thinking the same thing," cried Mrs Enderby; "but I believe
I should not have said so if you had not.  I was afraid it might be a
sad disappointment to poor Philip; and this prevented my saying quite so
much as I should have done to Mrs Grey.  Now I find it is all right, I
shall just call in, and express myself more warmly on my way home."

"I beg Philip's pardon, I am sure," said Mrs Rowland, "for supposing
for a moment that he would think of marrying into the Grey connexion.  I
did him great injustice, I own."

"By no means," said Philip.  "Because I did not happen to wish to marry
Miss Ibbotson, it does not follow that I should have been wrong if I
had.  It was feeling this, and a sense of justice to her and myself,
which made me refuse to answer your questions, some weeks ago, or to
make any promises."

"Well, well: let us keep clear of Mrs Grey's connexions, and then you
may talk of them as you please," said the sister, in the complaisance of
the hour.

Philip remembered his pledge to himself to uphold Mrs Grey as long as
he lived, if she should prove right about Mr Hope and Hester.  He began
immediately to discharge his obligations to her, avowing that he did not
see why her connexion was not as good as his own; that Mrs Grey had
many excellent points; that she was a woman of a good deal of sagacity;
that she had shown herself capable of strong family attachments; that
she had been gracious and kind to himself of late in a degree which he
felt he had not deserved; and that he considered that all his family
were obliged to her for her neighbourly attentions to his mother.  Mrs
Enderby seized the occasion of her son's support to say some kind thing
of the Greys.  It gave her frequent pain to hear them spoken of after
Mrs Rowland's usual fashion; but when she was alone with her daughter,
she dared not object.  Under cover of Mr Rowland's presence
occasionally, and to-day of Philip's, she ventured to say that she
thought the Greys a very fine family, and kind neighbours to her.

"And much looked up to in Deerbrook," added Philip.

"And a great blessing to their poor neighbours," said his mother.

"Dr Levitt respects them for their conscientious dissent," observed
Philip.

"And Mr Hope, who knows them best, says they are a very united family
among themselves," declared Mrs Enderby.

Mrs Rowland looked from one to the other as each spoke, and asked
whether they were both out of their senses.

"By no means," said Philip; "I never was more in earnest in my life."

"I have always thought just what I now say," protested Mrs Enderby.

"Yes, my dear ma'am," said the daughter, scornfully, "we are all aware
of your ways of thinking on some points--of your--"

"Of my mother's love of justice and neighbourly temper," said Philip,
giving his little nephew a glorious somerset from his shoulder.  "I
believe, if we could find my mother's match, the two would be an
excellent pair to put into Eddystone lighthouse.  They would chat away
for a twelvemonth together without ever quarrelling."

"Philip, do let that poor boy alone," said mamma.  "You are shaking him
to pieces."

"We have both had enough for the present, eh, Ned?  Mother, I am at your
service, if you are going to call at the Greys."

Mrs Enderby rose with great alacrity.

"Come to me, my pet," cried mamma.  "Poor Ned shall rest his head in
mamma's lap.  There, there, my pet!"

Mamma's pet was not the most agreeable companion to her when they were
left alone: he was crying lustily after uncle Philip, for all mamma
could say about uncle Philip always tiring him to death.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

PREPARING FOR HOME.

The affair proceeded rapidly, as such affairs should do where there is
no reason for delay.  There was no more talk of Birmingham.  The journey
which was to have been taken in a few days was not spoken of again.  The
external arrangements advanced well, so many as there were anxious about
this part of the matter, and accomplished in habits of business.  Mr
Rowland was happy to let the corner-house to Mr Hope, not even taking
advantage, as his lady advised, of its being peculiarly fit for a
surgeon's residence, from its having a door round the corner (made to be
a surgery-door!), to raise the rent.  Mr Rowland behaved handsomely
about everything, rent, alterations, painting, and papering, and laying
out the garden anew.  Mr Grey bestirred himself to get the affairs at
Birmingham settled; and he was soon enabled to inform Mr Hope that
Hester's fortune was ascertained, and that it was smaller than could
have been wished.  He believed his cousins would have seventy pounds
a-year each, and no more.  It was some compensation for the mortifying
nature of this announcement, that Mr Hope evidently did not care at all
about the matter.  He was not an ambitious, nor yet a luxurious man: his
practice supplied an income sufficient for the ease of young married
people, and it was on the increase.

No one seemed to doubt for a moment that Margaret would live with her
sister.  There was no other home for her; she and Hester had never been
parted; there seemed no reason for their parting now, and every
inducement for their remaining together.  Margaret did not dream of
objecting to this: she only made it a condition that fifty pounds of her
yearly income should go into the family-stock, thus saving her from
obligation to any one for her maintenance.  Living was so cheap in
Deerbrook, that Margaret was assured that she would render herself quite
independent by paying fifty pounds a-year for her share of the household
expenses, and reserving twenty for her personal wants.

Both the sisters were surprised to find how much pleasure they took in
the preparations for this marriage.  They could not have believed it,
and, but that they were too happy to feel any kind of contempt, they
would have despised themselves for it.  But such contempt would have
been misplaced.  All things are according to the ideas and feelings with
which they are connected; and if, as old George Herbert says, dusting a
room is an act of religious grace when it is done from a feeling of
religious duty, furnishing a house is a process of high enjoyment when
it is the preparation of a home for happy love.  The dwelling is hung
all round with bright anticipations, and crowded with blissful thoughts,
spoken by none, perhaps, but present to all.  On this table, and by this
snug fireside, will the cheerful winter breakfast go forward, when each
is about to enter on the gladsome business of the day; and that sofa
will be drawn out, and those window-curtains will be closed, when the
intellectual pleasures of the evening--the rewards of the laborious
day--begin.  Those ground-windows will stand open all the summer noon,
and the flower stands will be gay and fragrant; and the shaded parlour
will be the cool retreat of the wearied husband, when he comes in to
rest from his professional toils.  There will stand the books destined
to refresh and refine his higher tastes; and there the music with which
the wife will indulge him.  Here will they first feel what it is to have
a home of their own--where they will first enjoy the privacy of it, the
security, the freedom, the consequence in the eyes of others, the
sacredness in their own.  Here they will first exercise the graces of
hospitality, and the responsibility of control.  Here will they feel
that they have attained the great resting-place of their life--the
resting-place of their individual lot, but only the starting-point of
their activity.  Such is the work of furnishing a house once in a
lifetime.  It may be a welcome task to the fine lady, decking her
drawing-room anew, to gratify her ambition, or divert her _ennui_--it
may be a satisfactory labour to the elderly couple, settling themselves
afresh when their children are dispersed abroad, and it becomes
necessary to discard the furniture that the boys have battered and
spoiled--it may be a refined amusement to the selfish man of taste,
wishing to prolong or recall the pleasures of foreign travel; but to
none is it the conscious delight that it is to young lovers and their
sympathising friends, whether the scene be the two rooms of the hopeful
young artisan, about to bring home his bride from service; or the palace
of a nobleman, enriched with intellectual luxuries for the lady of his
adoration; or the quiet abode of an unambitious professional man, whose
aim is privacy and comfort.

Margaret's delight in the process of preparation was the most intense of
all that was felt, except perhaps by one person.  Mrs Grey and Sophia
enjoyed the bustle, and the consequence, and the exercise of their
feminine talents, and the gossip of the village, and the spitefulness of
Mrs Rowland's criticisms, when she had recovered from her delight at
her brother's escape from Hester, and had leisure to be offended at Mr
Hope's marrying into the Grey connexion so decidedly.  The children
relished the mystery of buying their presents secretly, and hiding them
from their cousins, till the day before the wedding.  Sydney was proud
to help Margaret in training the chrysanthemums, putting the garden into
winter trim, and in planting round the walls of the surgery with large
evergreens.  Mr Grey came down almost every evening to suggest and
approve; and Morris left her needle (now busy from morning till night in
Hester's service) to admire, and to speak her wishes, when desired,
about the preparations in her department.  Morris, another maid, and a
foot-boy, were the only servants; and Morris was to have everything as
she liked best for her own region.  But Margaret was as eager and
interested as all the rest together.  Her heart was light for her
sister; and for the first time since she was capable of thought, she
believed that Hester was going to be happy.  Her own gain was almost too
great for gratitude: a home, a brother, and relief from the
responsibility of her sister's peace--as often as she thought of these
blessings, she looked almost as bright as Hester herself.

How was Mr Hope, all this while?  Well, and growing happier every day.
He believed himself a perfectly happy man, and looked back with wonder
to the struggle which it had cost him to accept his present lot.  He was
not only entirely recovered from his accident before the rich month of
October came in, but truly thankful for it as the means of bringing to
his knowledge, sooner at least, the devoted affection which he had
inspired.  It cannot but be animating, flattering, delightful to a man
of strong domestic tendencies, to know himself the object of the
exclusive attachment of a strong-minded and noble-hearted woman: and
when, in addition to this, her society affords the delight of mental
accomplishment and personal beauty, such as Hester's, he must be a churl
indeed if he does not greatly enjoy the present, and indulge in sweet
anticipations for the future.  Hope also brought the whole power of his
will to bear upon his circumstances.  He dwelt upon all the happiest
features of his lot; and, in his admiration of Hester, thought as little
as he could of Margaret.  He had the daily delight of seeing how he
constituted the new-born happiness of her whose life was to be devoted
to him: he heard of nothing but rejoicings and blessings, and fully
believed himself the happy man that every one declared him.  He dwelt on
the prospect of a home full of domestic attachment, of rational pursuit,
of intellectual resource; and looked forward to a life of religious
usefulness, of vigorous devotedness to others, of which he trusted that
his first act of self-sacrifice and its consequences were the earnest
and the pledge.  He had never for a moment repented what he had done;
and now, when he hastily recurred to the struggle it had cost him, it
was chiefly to moralise on the short-sightedness of men in their wishes,
and to be grateful for his own present satisfaction.  A few cold
misgivings had troubled him, and continued to trouble him, if Hester at
any time looked at all less bright and serene than usual: but he
concluded that these were merely the cloud-shadows which necessarily
chequer all the sunshine of this world.  He told himself that when two
human beings become closely dependent on each other, their peace must
hang upon the variations in one another's moods; and that moods must
vary in all mortals.  He persuaded himself that this was a necessary
consequence of the relation, and to be received as a slight set-off
against the unfathomable blessings of sympathy.  He concluded that he
had deceived himself about his feelings for Margaret: he must have been
mistaken; for he could now receive from her the opening confidence of a
sister; he could cordially agree to the arrangement of her living with
them; he could co-operate with her in the preparation for the coming
time, without any emotion which was inconsistent with his duty to
Hester.  With unconscious prudence, he merely said this to himself, and
let it pass, reverting to his beautiful, his happy, his own Hester, and
the future years over which her image spread its sunshine.  The one
person who relished the task of preparation more than Margaret herself
was Hope.  Every advance in the work seemed to bring him nearer to the
source of the happiness he felt.  Every day of which they marked the
lapse appeared to open wider the portals of that home which he was now
more than ever habituated to view as the sanctuary of duty, of holiness,
and of peace.  All remarked on Mr Hope's altered looks.  The shyness
and coldness with which he had seemed to receive the first
congratulations on his engagement, and which excited wonder in many, and
uneasiness in a few, had now given place to a gaiety only subdued by a
more tender happiness.  Even Mrs Grey need no longer watch his
countenance and manner, and weigh his words with anxiety, and try to
forget that there was a secret between them.

One ground of Mr Hope's confidence was Hester's candour.  She had truly
told her sister, she felt it was no time for pride when he offered
himself to her.  Her pride was strong; but there was something in her as
much stronger in force than her pride as it was higher in its nature;
and she had owned her love with a frankness which had commanded his
esteem as much as it engaged his generosity.  She had made a no less
open avowal of her faults to him.  She had acknowledged the
imperfections of her temper (the sorest of her troubles) both at the
outset of their engagement, and often since.  At first, the confession
was made in an undoubting confidence that she should be reasonable, and
amiable, and serene henceforth for ever, while she had him by her side.
Subsequent experience had moderated this confidence into a hope that, by
his example, and under his guidance, she should be enabled to surmount
her failings.  He shared this hope with her; pledged himself to her and
to himself to forbear as he would be forborne; to aid her, and to honour
her efforts; and he frequently declared, for his own satisfaction and
hers, that all must be safe between them while such generous candour was
the foundation of their intercourse,--a generosity and candour in whose
noble presence superficial failings of temper were as nothing.  He
admitted that her temper was not perfect; and he must ever remember his
own foreknowledge of this: but he must also bear in mind whence this
foreknowledge was derived, and pay everlasting honour to the greatness
of soul to which he owed it.

An early day in December was fixed for the marriage, and no cause of
delay occurred.  There happened to be no patients so dangerously ill as
to prevent Mr Hope's absence for his brief wedding trip; the
work-people were as nearly punctual as could be expected, and the house
was all but ready.  The wedding was really to take place, therefore,
though Mrs Rowland gave out that in her opinion the engagement had been
a surprisingly short one; that she hoped the young people knew what they
were about, while all their friends were in such a hurry; that it was a
wretched time of year for a wedding; and that, in her opinion, it would
have been much pleasanter to wait for fine spring weather.

As it happened, the weather was finer than it had been almost any day of
the preceding spring.  The day before the wedding was sunny and mild as
an October morning, and the fires seemed to be blazing more for show
than use.  When Mr Hope dropped in at the Greys', at two o'clock, he
found the family dining.  It was a fancy of Mrs Grey's to dine early on
what she considered busy days.  An early dinner was, with her, a
specific for the despatch of business.  On this day, the arrangement was
rather absurd; for the great evil of the time was, that everything was
done, except what could not be transacted till the evening; and the
hours were actually hanging heavy on the hands of some members of the
family.  Morris had packed Hester's clothes for her little journey, and
put out of sight all the mourning of both sisters, except what they
actually had on.  Sophia's dress for the next morning was laid out, in
readiness to be put on, and the preparations for the breakfast were as
complete as they could be twenty hours beforehand.  It only remained to
take a final view of the house in the evening (when the children's
presents were to be discovered), and to cut the wedding-cake.  In the
interval, there was nothing to be done.  Conversation flagged; every one
was dull; and it was a relief to the rest when Mr Hope proposed to
Hester to take a walk.

Mrs Rowland would have laughed at the idea of a walk on a December
afternoon, if she had happened to know of the circumstance; but others
than lovers might have considered it pleasant.  The sun was still an
hour from its setting; and high in the pale heaven was the large moon,
ready to shine upon the fields and woods, and shed a milder day.  No
frost had yet bound up the earth; it had only stripped the trees with a
touch as gentle as that of the fruit-gatherer.  No wintry gusts had yet
swept through the woods; and all there was this day as still as in the
autumn noon, when the nut is heard to drop upon the fallen leaves, and
the light squirrel is startled at the rustle along its own path.  As a
matter of course, the lovers took their way to the Spring in the Vernon
woods, the spot which had witnessed more of their confidence than any
other.  In the alcove above it they had taken shelter from the summer
storm and the autumn shower; they had sat on its brink for many an hour,
when the pure depths of its rocky basin seemed like coolness itself in
the midst of heat, and when falling leaves fluttered down the wind, and
dimpled the surface of the water.  They now paused once more under
shelter of the rock which overhung one side of the basin, and listened
to the trickle of the spring.  If "aside the devil turned for envy" in
the presence of the pair in Paradise, it might be thought that he would
take flight from this scene also; from the view of this resting of the
lovers on their marriage eve, when the last sun of their separate lives
was sinking, and the separate business of their existence was finished,
and their paths had met before the gate of their paradise, and they were
only waiting for the portal to open to them.  But there was that on
Hester's brow which would have made the devil look closer.  She was
discomposed, and her replies to what was said were brief, and not much
to the purpose.  After a few moments' silence, Mr Hope said gaily--

"There is something on our minds, Hester.  Come, what is it?"

"Do not say `our minds.'  You know you never have anything on yours.  I
believe it is against your nature; and I know it is against your
principles.  Do not say `our minds.'"

"I say it because it is true.  I never see you look grave but my heart
is as heavy--.  But never mind that.  What is the matter, love?"

"Nothing," sighed Hester.  "Nothing that any one can help--.  People may
say what they will, Edward: but there can be no escape from living alone
in this world, after all."

"What _do_ you mean?"

"I mean what no one, not even you, can gainsay.  I mean that `the heart
knoweth its own bitterness;' that we have disappointments, and
anxieties, and remorse, and many, many kinds of trouble that we can
never tell to any human being--that none have any concern with--that we
should never dare to tell.  We must be alone in the world, after all."

"Where is your faith, while you feel so?" asked Edward, smiling.  "Do
you really think that confidence proceeds only while people believe each
other perfect,--while they have not anxieties, and disappointments, and
remorse?  Do you not feel that our faults, or rather our failures, bind
us together?"

"Our faults bind us together!" exclaimed Hester.  "Oh how happy I should
be, if I could think that!"

"We cannot but think it.  We shall find it so, love, every day.  When
our faith fails, when we are discouraged, instead of fighting the battle
with our faithlessness alone, we shall come to one another for courage,
for stimulus, for help to see the bright, the true side of everything."

"That supposes that we can do so," said Hester, sadly.  "But I cannot.
I have all my life intended to repose entire confidence, and I have
never done it yet."

"Yes: you have in me.  You cannot help it.  You think that you cannot,
only because you mean more by reposing confidence than others do.  Your
spirit is too noble, too ingenuous, too humble for concealment.  You
cannot help yourself, Hester: you have fully confided in me, and you
will go on to do so."

Hester shook her head mournfully.  "I have done it hitherto with you,
and with you only," said she: "and the mason has been--you know the
reason--the same which made me own all to you, that first evening in the
shrubbery.  Ah!  I see you think that this is a lasting security; that,
as you will never change, I never shall: but you do not understand me
wholly yet.  There is something that you do not know,--that I cannot
make you believe: but you will find it true, when it is too late.  No
good influence is permanent with me; many, all have been tried; and the
evil that is in me gets the better of them all at last."

She snatched her hand from her lover's, and covered her face to hide her
tears.

"I shall not contradict you, Hester," said he, tenderly, "because you
will only abase yourself the more in your own eyes.  But tell me again--
where is your faith, while you let spectres from the past glide over
into the future, to terrify you?  I say `you' and not `us,' because I am
not terrified.  I fear nothing.  I trust you, and I trust Him who
brought us together, and moved you to lay open your honest heart to me."

"My sick heart, Edward.  It is sick with fear.  I thought I had got over
it.  I thought you had cured it; and that now, on this day, of all days,
I should have been full of your spirit--of the spirit which made me so
happy a few weeks ago, that I was sure I should never fall back again.
But I am disappointed in myself, Edward--wholly disappointed in myself.
I have often been so before, but this time it is fatal.  I shall never
make you happy, Edward."

"Neither God nor man requires it of you, Hester.  Dismiss it--."

"Oh, hear me!" cried Hester, in great agitation.  "I vowed to devote
myself to my father's happiness, when my mother died; I promised to
place the most absolute confidence in him.  I failed.  I fancied
miserable things.  I fancied he loved Margaret better; and that I was
not necessary to him; and I was too proud, too selfish, to tell him so:
and when he was dying, and commended Margaret and me to each other--Oh,
so solemnly!--I am sure it was in compassion to me--and I shrank from
it, even at that moment.  When we came here, and Margaret and I felt
ourselves alone among strangers, we promised the same confidence I vowed
to my father.  The next thing was--perhaps you saw it--I grew jealous of
Margaret's having another friend, though Maria was as ready to be my
friend as hers, if I had only been worthy of it.  Up to this hour--at
this very moment, I believe I am jealous of Maria--and with Margaret
before my eyes--Margaret, who loves me as her own soul, and yet has
never felt one moment's jealousy of you, I am certain, if her heart was
known."

"We will rejoice, then, in Margaret's peace of mind, the reward of her
faith."

"Oh, so I do!  I bless God that she is rewarded, better than by me.  But
you see how it is.  You see how I poison every one's life.  I never made
anybody happy!  I never shall make anyone happy!"

"Let us put the thought of making happiness out of our minds
altogether," said Hope.  "I am persuaded that half the misery in the
world comes of straining after happiness."

"After our own," said Hester.  "I could give up my own.  But yours!  I
cannot put yours out of my thoughts."

"Yes, you can; and you will when you give your faith fair play.  Why
cannot you trust God with my happiness as well as your own?  And why
cannot you trust me to do without happiness, if it be necessary, as well
as yourself?"

"I know," said Hester, "that you are as willing to forego all for me as
I am for you; but I cannot, I dare not, consent to the risk.  Oh,
Edward! if ever you wished to give me ease, do what I ask now!  Give me
up!  I shall make you wretched.  Give me up, Edward!"

Hope's spirit was for one instant wrapped in storm.  He recoiled from
the future, and at the moment of recoil came this offer of release.  One
moment's thought of freedom, one moment's thought of Margaret convulsed
his soul; but before he could speak the tempest had passed away.
Hester's face, frightfully agitated, was upraised: his countenance
seemed heavenly to her when he smiled upon her, and replied--

"I will not.  You are mine; and, as I said before, all our failures, all
our heart-sickness, must bind us the more to each other."

"Then you must sustain me--you must cure me--you must do what no one has
ever yet been able to do.  But above all, Edward, you must never, happen
what may, cast me off."

"That is, as you say, what no one has ever been able to do," said he,
smiling.  "Your father's tenderness was greatest at the last; and
Margaret loves you, you know, as her own soul.  Let us avoid promises,
but let us rest upon these truths.  And now," continued he, as he drew
nearer to her, and made his shoulder a resting-place for her throbbing
head, "I have heard your thoughts for the future.  Will you hear mine?"

Hester made an effort to still her weeping.

"I said just now, that I believe half the misery in our lives is owing
to straining after happiness; and I think, too, that much of our sin is
owing to our disturbing ourselves too much about our duty.  Instead of
yielding a glad obedience from hour to hour, it is the weakness of many
of us to stretch far forward into the future, which is beyond our
present reach, and torment ourselves with apprehensions of sin, which we
should be ashamed of if they related to pain and danger."

"Oh, if you could prove to me that such is my weakness!" cried Hester.

"I believe that it is yours, and I know that it is my own, my Hester.
We must watch over one another.  Tell me, is it not faithless to let our
hearts be troubled about _any_ possible evil which we cannot, at the
moment of the trouble, prevent?  And are we not sacrificing, what is, at
the time, of the most importance--our repose of mind, the holiness, the
religion of the hour?"

"I know I have defiled the holiness of this hour," said Hester, humbly.
"But as my thoughts were troubled, was it not better to speak them?  I
could not but speak them."

"You cannot but do and speak what is most honourable, and true, and
generous, Hester; and that is the very reason why I would fain have you
trust, for the future as well as the present, to the impulse of the
hour.  Surely, love, the probation of the hour is enough for the
strength of every one of us."

"Far, far too much for me."

"At times, too much for all.  Well, then, what have we to do?  To rest
the care of each other's happiness upon Him whose care it is: to be
ready to do without it, as we would hold ourselves ready to do without
this, or that, or the other comfort, or supposed means of happiness.
Depend upon it, this happiness is too subtle and too divine a thing for
our management.  We have nothing to do with it but to enjoy it when it
comes.  Men say of it--`Lo! it is here!'--`Lo! there!'--but never has
man laid hold of it with a voluntary grasp."

"But we can banish it," said Hester.

"Alas! yes: and what else do we do at the very moment when we afflict
ourselves about the future?  Surely our business is to keep our hearts
open for it--holy and at peace, from moment to moment, from day to day."

"And yet, is it not our privilege--said at least to be so--to look
before and after?  I am not sure, however, that I always think this a
privilege.  I long sometimes to be any bird of the air, that I might
live for the present moment alone."

"Let us be so far birds of the air--free as they, neither toiling nor
spinning out anxious thoughts for the future: but why, with all this,
should we not use our human privilege of looking before and after, to
enrich and sanctify the present?  Should we enjoy the wheat-fields in
June as we do if we knew nothing of seed-time, and had never heard of
harvest?  And how should you and I feel at this moment, sitting here, if
we had no recollection of walks in shrubberies, and no prospect of a
home, and a lifetime to spend in it, to make this moment sacred?  Look
at those red-breasts: shall we change lots with them?"

"No, no: let us look forward; but how?  We cannot persuade ourselves
that we are better than we are, for the sake of making the future
bright."

"True: and therefore it must be God's future, and not our own, that we
must look forward to."

"That is for confessors and martyrs," said Hester.  "They can look
peacefully before and after, when there is a bright life and a world of
hopes lying behind; and nothing around and before them but ignominy and
poverty, or prison, or torture, or death.  They can do this: but not
such as I.  God's future is enough for them--the triumph of truth and
holiness; but--."

"And I believe it would be enough for you in their situation, Hester.  I
believe you could be a martyr for opinion.  Why cannot you and I brave
the suffering of our own faults as we would meet sickness or bereavement
from Heaven, and torture and death from men?"

"Is this the prospect in view of which you marry me?"

"It is the prospect in view of which all of us are ever living, since we
are all faulty, and must all suffer.  But marriage justifies a holier
and happier anticipation.  The faults of human beings are temporary
features of their prospect: their virtues are the firm ground under
their feet, and the bright arch over their heads.  Is it not so?"

"If so, how selfish, how ungrateful have I been in making myself and you
so miserable!  But I do so fear myself!"

"Let us fear nothing, but give all our care to the day and the hour.  I
am confident that this is the true obedience, and the true wisdom.  If
the temper of the hour is right, nothing is wrong."

"And I am sure, if the temper of the hour is wrong, nothing is right.
If one could always remember this--."

"If we could always remember this, we should perhaps find ourselves a
little above the angels, instead of being, like the serene, the Fenelons
of our race, a little below them.  We shall not always remember it,
love; but we must remind each other as faithfully as may be."

"You must bring me here, when I forget," said Hester.  "This spring will
always murmur the truth to me--`If the temper of the hour is right
nothing is wrong.'  How wrong has my temper been within this hour!"

"Let it pass, my Hester.  We are all faithless at times, and without the
excuse of meek and anxious love.  Is it possible that the moon casts
that shadow?"

"The dark, dark hour is gone," said Hester, smiling as she looked up,
and the moon shone on her face.  "Nothing is wrong.  Who would have
believed, an hour ago, that I should now say so?"

"When you would have given me up," said Hope, smiling.  "Oh, let us
forget it all!  Let us go somewhere else.  Who will say this is winter?
Is it October, or `the first mild day of March?'  It might be either."

"There is not a breath to chill us; and these leaves--what a soft autumn
carpet they make!  They have no wintry crispness yet."

There was one inexhaustible subject to which they now recurred--Mr
Hope's family.  He told over again, what Hester was never weary of
hearing, how his sisters would cherish her, whenever circumstances
should allow them to meet--how Emily and she would suit best, but how
Anne would look up to her.  As for Frank--.  But this representation of
what Frank would say, and think, and do, was somewhat checked and
impaired by the recollection that Frank was just about this time
receiving the letter, in which Margaret's superiority to Hester was
pretty plainly set forth.  The answer to that letter would arrive, some
time or other, and the anticipated awkwardness of that circumstance
caused some unpleasant feelings at this moment, as it had often done
before, during the last few weeks.  Nothing could be easier than to set
the matter right with Frank, as was already done with Emily and Anne;
the first letter might occasion some difficulty.  Frank was passed over
lightly, and the foreground of the picture of family welcome was
occupied by Emily and Anne.

It was almost an hour from their leaving the Spring before the lovers
reached home.  They were neither cold nor tired; they were neither merry
nor sad.  The traces of tears were on Hester's face; but even Margaret
was satisfied when she saw her leaning on Edward's arm, receiving the
presents of the children where alone the children would present them--in
the new house.  There was no fancy about the arrangements, no ceremony
about the cake and the ring, to which Hester did not submit with perfect
grace.  Notwithstanding the traces of her tears, she had never looked so
beautiful.

The same opinion was repeated the next morning by all the many who saw
her in church, or who caught a glimpse of her, in her way to and from
it.  No wedding was ever kept a secret in Deerbrook; and Mr Hope's was
the one in which concealment was least of all possible.  The church was
half full, and the path to the church-door was lined with gazers.  Those
who were obliged to remain at home looked abroad from their doors; so
that all were gratified more or less.  Every one on Mr Grey's premises
had a holiday--including Miss Young, though Mrs Rowland did not see why
her children should lose a day's instruction, because a distant cousin
of Mr Grey's was married.  The marriage was made far too much a fuss of
for her taste; and she vowed that whenever she parted with her own
Matilda, there should be a much greater refinement in the mode.  Every
one else appeared satisfied.  The sun shone; the bells rang; and the
servants drank the health of the bride and bridegroom.  Margaret
succeeded in swallowing her tears, and was, in her inmost soul, thankful
for Hester and herself.  The letters to Mr Hope's sisters and brother,
left open for the signatures of Edward and Hester Hope, were closed and
despatched; and the news was communicated to two or three of the
Ibbotsons' nearest friends at Birmingham.  Mr and Mrs Grey agreed, at
the end of the day, that a wedding was, to be sure, a most fatiguing
affair for quiet people like themselves; but that nothing could have
gone off better.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MARIA AND MARGARET.

Mr Hope's professional duties would not permit him to be long absent,
even on such an occasion as his wedding journey.  The young couple went
only to Oxford, and were to return in a week.  Margaret thought that
this week never would be over.  It was not only that she longed for rest
in a home once more, and was eager to repose upon her new privilege of
having a brother: she was also anxious about Hester,--anxious to be
convinced, by the observation of the eye and the hearing of the ear,
that her sister was enjoying that peace of spirit which reason seemed to
declare must be hers.  It would be difficult to determine how much
Margaret's attachment to her sister was deepened and strengthened by the
incessant solicitude she had felt for her, ever since this attachment
had grown out of the companionship of their childhood.  She could
scarcely remember the time when she had not been in a state of either
hope or fear for Hester;--hope that, in some new circumstances, she
would be happy at last; or dread lest these new circumstances should
fail, as all preceding influences had failed.  If Hester had been less
candid and less generous than she was, her sister's affection might have
given way under the repeated trials and disappointments it had had to
sustain; and there were times when Margaret's patience _had_ given way,
and she had for a brief while wished, and almost resolved, that she
could and would regard with indifference the state of mind of one who
was not reasonable, and who seemed incapable of being contented.  But
such resolutions of indifference dissolved before her sister's next
manifestations of generosity, or appeals to the forgiveness of those
about her.  Margaret always ended by supposing herself the cause of the
evil; that she had been inconsiderate; that she could not allow
sufficiently for a sensitiveness greater than her own; and above all,
that she was not fully worthy of such affection as Hester's--not
sufficient for such a mind and heart.  She had looked forward, with
ardent expectation when she was happiest, and with sickly dread when she
was depressed, to the event of Hester's marriage, as that which must
decide whether she could be happy, or whether her life was to be
throughout the scene of conflict that its opening years had been.
Hester's connexion was all that she could have desired, and far beyond
her utmost hopes.  This brother-in-law was one of a thousand--one whom
she was ready to consider a good angel sent to shed peace over her
sister's life: and during the months of her engagement, she had kept
anxiety at bay, and resigned herself to the delights of gratitude and of
sweet anticipations, and to the satisfaction of feeling that her own
responsibilities might be considered at an end.  She had delivered
Hester's happiness over into the charge of one who would cherish it
better and more successfully than she had done; and she could not but
feel the relief of the freedom she had gained: but neither could she
repress her anxiety to know, at the outset, whether all was indeed as
well as she had till now undoubtingly supposed that it would be.

Margaret's attachment to her sister would have been in greater danger of
being worn out but for the existence of a closer sympathy between them
than any one but themselves, and perhaps Morris, was aware of.  Margaret
had a strong suspicion that in Hester's place her temper would have been
exactly what Hester's was in its least happy characteristics.  She had
tendencies to jealousy; and if not to morbid self-study, and to
dissatisfaction with present circumstances, she was indebted for this,
she knew, to her being occupied with her sister, and yet more to the
perpetual warning held up before her eyes.  This conviction generated no
sense of superiority in Margaret--interfered in no degree with the
reverence she entertained for Hester, a reverence rather enhanced than
impaired by the tender compassion, with which she regarded her mental
conflicts and sufferings.  Every movement of irritability in herself
(and she was conscious of many) alarmed and humbled her, but, at the
same time, enabled her better to make allowance for her sister; and
every harsh word and unreasonable mood of Hester's, by restoring her to
her self-command and stimulating her magnanimity, made her sensible that
she owed much of her power over herself to that circumstance which kept
the necessity of it perpetually before her mind.  For the same reason
that men hate those whom they have injured, Margaret loved with unusual
fervour the sister with whom she had to forbear.  For the same reason
that the children, even the affectionate children, of tyrannical or lax
parents, love liberty and conscientiousness above all else, Margaret was
in practice gentle, long-suffering, and forgetful of self.  For the same
reason that the afflicted are looked upon by the pure-minded as sacred,
Margaret regarded her sister with a reverence which preserved her
patience from being spent, and her attachment from wasting away.

The first letter from her brother and sister had been opened in great
internal agitation.  All was well, however.  It was certain that all was
well; for, while Hester said not one word about being happy, she was
full of thought for others.  She knew that Margaret meant to take
possession of the corner-house, to "go home," a few days before the
arrival of the travellers, in order to make all comfortable for them.
Hester begged that she would take care to be well amused during these
few days.  Perhaps she might induce Maria Young to waive the ceremony of
being first invited by the real housekeepers, and to spend as much time
as she could with her friend.  "Give my kind regards to Maria," said the
letter, "and tell her I like to fancy you two passing a long evening by
that fireside where we all hope we shall often have the pleasure of
seeing her."  Six months ago Hester would not have spoken so freely and
so kindly of Maria: she would not have so sanctioned Margaret's intimacy
with her.  All was right, and Margaret was happy.

Maria came, and, thanks to the holiday spirit of a wedding week, for a
long day.  Delicious are the pleasures of those whose appetite for them
is whetted by abstinence.  Charming, wholly charming, was this day to
Maria, spent in quiet, free from the children, free from the observation
of other guests, passed in all external luxury, and in sister-like
confidence with the friend to whom she had owed some of the best
pleasures of the last year.  Margaret was no less happy in indulging
her, and in opening much more of her heart to her than she could to any
one else since Hester married--which now, at the end of six days, seemed
a long time ago.

Miss Young came early, that she might see the house, and everything in
it, before dark; and the days were now at their shortest.  She did not
mind the fatigue of mounting to the very top of the house.  She must see
the view from the window of Morris's attic.  Yesterday's fall of snow
had made the meadows one sheet of white; and the river looked black, and
the woods somewhat frowning and dismal; but those who knew the place so
well could imagine what all this must be in summer; and Morris was
assured that her room was the pleasantest in the house.  Morris
curtseyed and smiled, and did not say how cold and dreary a wide
landscape appeared to her, and how much better she should have liked to
look out upon a street, if only Mr Hope had happened to have been
settled in Birmingham.  She pointed out to Maria how good Miss Hester
had been, in thinking about the furnishing of this attic.  She had taken
the trouble to have the pictures of Morris's father and mother, which
had always hung opposite her bed at Birmingham, brought hither, and
fixed up in the same place.  The bed-hangings had come, too; so that,
except for its being so much lighter, and the prospect from the window
so different, it was almost like the same room she had slept in for
three-and-twenty years before.  When Maria looked at "the pictures"--
silhouettes taken from shadows on the wall, with numerous little
deformities and disproportions incident to that method of taking
likenesses--she appreciated Hester's thoughtfulness; though she fully
agreed in what Margaret said, that if Morris was willing to leave a
place where she had lived so many years, for the sake of remaining with
Hester and her, it was the least they could do to make her feel as much
at home as possible in her new abode.

Margaret's own chamber was one of the prettiest rooms in the house, with
its light green paper, its French bed and toilet at one end, and the
book-case, table and writing-desk, footstool and armchair, at the other.

"I shall spend many hours alone here in the bright summer mornings,"
said Margaret.  "Here I shall write my letters, and study, and think."

"And nod over your books, perhaps," said Maria.  "These seem comfortable
arrangements for an old or infirm person; but I should be afraid they
would send you to sleep.  You have had little experience of being alone:
do you know the strong tendency that solitary people have to napping?"

Margaret laughed.  She had never slept in the daytime in her life,
except in illness.  She could not conceive of it, in the case of a young
person, full of occupation, with a hundred things to think about, and
twenty books at a time that she wanted to read.  She thought that
regular daily solitude must be the most delightful, the most improving
thing in the world.  She had always envied the privilege of people who
could command solitude; and now, for the first time in her life, she was
going to enjoy it, and try to profit by it.

"You began yesterday, I think," said Maria.  "How did you like it?"

"It was no fair trial.  I felt restless at having the house in my
charge; and I was thinking of Hester perpetually; and then I did not
know but that some of the Greys might come in at any moment: and
besides, I was so busy considering whether I was making the most of the
precious hours, that I really did next to nothing all day."

"But you looked sadly tired at night, Miss Margaret," said Morris.  "I
never saw you more fit for bed after any party or ball."

Maria smiled.  She knew something of the fatigues, as well as the
pleasures, of solitude.  Margaret smiled too; but she said it would be
quite another thing when the family were settled, and when it should
have become a habit to spend the morning hours alone; and to this Maria
fully agreed.

Morris thought that people's liking or not liking to be alone depended
much on their having easy or irksome thoughts in their minds.  Margaret
answered gaily, that in that case, she was pretty sure of liking
solitude.  She was made grave by a sigh and a shake of the head from
Morris.

"Morris, what do you mean?" said Margaret, apprehensively.  "Why do you
sigh and shake your head?  Why should not I have easy thoughts as often
as I sit in that chair?"

"We never know, Miss Margaret, my dear, how things will turn out.  Do
you remember Miss Stevenson, that married a gentleman her family all
thought a great deal of, and he turned out a swindler, and--?"

The girls burst out a-laughing, and Maria assured Morris that she could
answer for no accident of that kind happening with regard to Mr Hope.
Morris laughed too, and said she did not mean that, but only that she
never saw anybody more confident of everything going right than Miss
Stevenson and all her family; and within a month after the wedding, they
were in the deepest distress.  That was what she meant: but there were
many other ways of distress happening.

"There is death, my dears," she said.  "Remember death, Miss Margaret."

"Indeed, Morris, I do," said Margaret.  "I never thought so much of
death as I have done since Mr Hope's accident, when I believed death
was coming to make us all miserable; and the more I have since recoiled
from it, the oftener has the thought come back."

"That is all right, my dear: all very natural.  It does not seem natural
to undertake any great new thing in life, without reminding one's self
of the end that must come to all our doings.  However, I trust my master
and mistress, and you, have many a happy year to live."

"I like those words, Morris.  I like to hear you speak of your master
and mistress, it has such a domestic sound!  Does it not make one feel
at home, Maria?  Yes, Morris, there I shall sit, and feel so at ease! so
at home, once more!"

"But there may be other--."  Morris stopped, and changed her mood.  She
stepped to the closet, and opened the door, to show Miss Young the
provision of shelves and pegs; and pointed out the part of the room
where she had hoped there would be a sofa.  She should have liked that
Miss Margaret should have had a sofa to lie down on when she pleased.
It seemed to her the only thing wanting.  Margaret gaily declared that
nothing was wanting.  She had never seen a room more entirely to her
taste, though she had inhabited some that were grander.

By the time the little breakfast-room had been duly visited, and it had
been explained that the other small parlour must necessarily be kept for
a waiting-room for Mr Hope's patients, and the young ladies had
returned to the drawing-room, Maria was in full flow of sympathy with
the housekeeping interests and ideas which occupied, or rather amused,
her companion.  Women do inevitably love housekeeping, unless
educational or other impediments interfere with their natural tastes.
Household management is to them the object of their talents, the subject
of their interests, the vehicle of their hopes and fears, the medium
through which their affections are manifested, and much of their
benevolence gratified.  If it be true, as has been said, that there is
no good quality of a woman's heart and mind which is not necessary to
perfect housekeeping, it follows that there is no power of the mind or
affection of the heart which may not be gratified in the course of its
discharge.  As Margaret and her guest enjoyed their pheasant, their
table drawn close to the sofa and the fire, that Maria might be saved
the trouble of moving, their talk was of tradespeople, of shopping at
Deerbrook, and the market at Birmingham; of the kitchen and store-room,
and the winter and summer arrangements of the table.  The foot-boy, whom
Margaret was teaching to wait, often forgot his function, and stood
still to listen, and at last left the room deeply impressed with the
wisdom of his instructor and her guest.  When the dinner and the wine
were gone, they sang, they gossiped, they quizzed.  The Greys were
sacred, of course; but many an anecdote came out, told honestly and with
good-nature, of dear old Mrs Enderby, and her talent for being pleased;
of Mrs Rowland's transactions abroad and at home--all regulated by the
principle of eclipsing the Greys; and of Mrs Howell's and Miss Miskin's
fine sentiments, and extraordinary pieces of news.  Margaret produced
some of her brother-in-law's outlines, which she had picked up and
preserved--sketches of the children, in the oddest attitudes of
children--of Dr Levitt, resting his book on the end of his nose, as he
read in his study-chair--of Mrs Plumstead, exasperated by the arrival
of an illegible letter--of almost every oddity in the place.  Then out
came the pencils, and the girls supplied omissions.  They sketched Mr
Hope himself; listening to an old woman's theory of her own case; they
sketched each other.  Mr Enderby was almost the only person omitted
altogether, in conversation and on paper.

"Where can I have hidden my work bag?" asked Maria, after tea.

"You laid it beside you, and I put it away," said Margaret.  "I wanted
to see whether you could spend a whole afternoon without the feel of
your thimble.  You shall have it again now, for you never once asked for
it between dinner and tea."

"I forgot it: but now you must give it me.  I must finish my collar, or
I shall not duly honour your sister in my first call.  We can talk as
well working as idle."

"Cannot I help you?  Our affairs are all in such dreadfully perfect
order, that I have not a stitch of work to do.  I see a hole in your
glove: let me mend it."

"Do; and when you have done that, there is the other.  Two years hence,
how you will wonder that there ever was a time when you had not a stitch
of work in the house!  Wedding clothes last about two years, and then
they all wear out together.  I wish you joy of the work you will have to
do then--if nothing should come between you and it."

"What should come between us and it?" said Margaret, struck by the tone
in which Maria spoke the last words.  "Are you following Morris's lead?
Are you going to say,--`Remember death, Miss Margaret?'"

"Oh, no; but there are other things which happen sometimes besides
death.  I beg your pardon, Margaret, if I am impertinent--"

"How should you be impertinent?  You, the most intimate friend but one
that I have in the world!  You mean marriage of course; that I may marry
within these same two years?  Any one may naturally say so, I suppose,
to a girl whose sister is just married: and in another person's case it
would seem to me probable enough, but I assure you, Maria, I do not feel
as if it was at all likely that I should marry."

"I quite believe you, Margaret.  I have no doubt you feel so, and that
you will feel so till--.  But, dear, you may one day find yourself
feeling very differently without a moment's warning; and that day may
happen within two years.  Such things have been known."

"If there was any one--" said Margaret, simply--"if I had ever seen any
one for whom I could fancy myself feeling as Hester did--"

"If there was any one!"--repeated Maria, looking up in some surprise.
"My dear Margaret, do you mean to say there is no one?"

"Yes, I do; I think so.  I know what you mean, Maria.  I understand your
face and your voice.  But I do think it is very hard that one cannot
enjoy a pleasant friendship with anybody without seeing people on the
watch for something more.  It is so very painful to have such ideas put
into one's mind, to spoil all one's intercourse--to throw restraint over
it--to mix up selfishness with it!  It is so wrong to interfere between
those who might and would be the most useful and delightful companions
to each other, without having a thought which need put constraint
between them!  Those who so interfere have a great deal to answer for.
They do not know what mischief they may be doing--what pain they may be
giving while they are gossiping, and making remarks to one another about
what they know nothing at all about.  I have no patience with such
meddling!"

"So I perceive, indeed," replied Maria, somewhat amused.  "But,
Margaret, you have been enlarging a good deal on what I said.  Not a
syllable was spoken about any remarks, any observations between any
people; or even about reference to any particular person.  I alone must
be subject to all this displeasure, and even I did not throw out a
single hint about any friend of yours."

"No, you did not; that is all very true," said Margaret, blushing: "but
neither was I vexed with you;--at least, not so much as with some
others.  I was hasty."

"You were, indeed," said Maria, laughing.  "I never witnessed such an
outburst from you before."

"And you shall not see such another; but I was answering less what you
said than what I have reason to suppose is in the minds of several other
people."

"In their minds?  They have not told you their thoughts, then.  And
_several_ other people, too!  Why, Margaret, I really think it is not
very reasonable in you to find fault with others for thinking something
which they have not troubled you to listen to, and which is so natural,
that it has struck `several' of them.  Surely, Margaret, you must be a
little, just a very little, touchy upon the matter."

"Touchy!  What should make me touchy?"

"Ay, what?"

"I do assure you, Maria, nothing whatever has passed between that person
and me which has anything more than the commonest--No, I will not say
the commonest friendship, because I believe ours is a very warm and
intimate friendship; but indeed it is nothing more.  You may be sure
that, if it had been otherwise, I should not have said a word upon the
whole matter, even to you; and I would not have allowed even you to
speak ten words to me about it.  Are you satisfied now?"

"I am satisfied that you any what you think."

"Oh, Maria! what a sigh!  If you have no objection, I should like to
know the meaning of that sigh."

"I was thinking of `the course of true love.'"

"But not that it `never does run smooth.'  That is not true.  Witness
Hester's."

"Dear Margaret, be not presumptuous!  Consider how early the days of
that love are yet."

"And that love in their case has only just leaped out of the fountain,
and can hardly be said to have begun its course.  Well! may Heaven smile
on it!  But tell me about that course of love which made you sigh as you
did just now."

"What can I tell you about it?  And yet, you shall know, if you like,
how it appears to me."

"Oh, tell me!  I shall see whether you would have understood Hester's
case."

"The first strange thing is, that every woman approaches this crisis of
her life as unawares as if she were the first that ever loved."

"And yet all girls are brought up to think of marriage as almost the
only event in life.  Their minds are stuffed with thoughts of it almost
before they have had time to gain any other ideas."

"Merely as means to ends low enough for their comprehension.  It is not
marriage--wonderful, holy, mysterious marriage--that their minds are
full of, but connection with somebody or something which will give them
money, and ease, and station, and independence of their parents.  This
has nothing to do with love.  I was speaking of love--the grand
influence of a woman's life, but whose name is a mere empty sound to her
till it becomes, suddenly, secretly, a voice which shakes her being to
the very centre--more awful, more tremendous, than the crack of doom."

"But why?  Why so tremendous?"

"From the struggle which it calls upon her to endure, silently and
alone;--from the agony of a change of existence which must be wrought
without any eye perceiving it.  Depend upon it, Margaret, there is
nothing in death to compare with this change; and there can be nothing
in entrance upon another state which can transcend the experience I
speak of.  Our powers can but be taxed to the utmost.  Our being can but
be strained till not another effort can be made.  This is all that we
can conceive to happen in death; and it happens in love, with the
additional burden of fearful secrecy.  One may lie down and await death,
with sympathy about one to the last, though the passage hence must be
solitary; and it would be a small trouble if all the world looked on to
see the parting of soul and body: but that other passage into a new
state, that other process of becoming a new creature, must go on in the
darkness of the spirit, while the body is up and abroad, and no one must
know what is passing within.  The spirit's leap from heaven to hell must
be made while the smile is on the lips, and light words are upon the
tongue.  The struggles of shame, the pangs of despair, must be hidden in
the depths of the prison-house.  Every groan must be stifled before it
is heard: and as for tears--they are a solace too gentle for the case.
The agony is too strong for tears."

"Is this true love?" asked Margaret, in agitation.

"This is true love; but not the whole of it.  As for what follows--"

"But is this what every woman has to undergo?"

"Do you suppose that every woman knows what love really is?  No; not
even every unmarried woman.  There are some among them, though I believe
but few, who know nothing of what love is; and there are, undoubtedly, a
multitude of wives who have experienced liking, preference, affection,
and taken it for love; and who reach their life's end without being
aware that they have never loved.  There are also, I trust, a multitude
of wives who have really loved, and who have reaped the best fruits of
it in regeneration of soul."

"But how dreadful is the process, if it be as you say!"

"I said I had alluded to only a part of it.  As for what follows,
according as it is prosperous or unreturned love, heaven ensues upon
this purgatory, or one may attain a middle region, somewhat dim, but
serene.  You wish me to be plainer?"

"I wish to hear all you think--all you know.  But do not let us go on
with it if it makes you sigh so."

"What woman ever spoke of love without sighing?" said Maria, with a
smile.  "You sighed yourself, just now."

"I was thinking of Hester, I believe.  How strange, if this process
really awaits women--if it is a region through which their path of life
must stretch--and no one gives warning, or preparation, or help!"

"It is not so strange as at first sight it seems.  Every mother and
friend hopes that no one else has suffered as she did--that her
particular charge may escape entirely, or get off more easily.  Then
there is the shame of confession which is involved: some conclude, at a
distance of time, that they must have exaggerated their own sufferings,
or have been singularly rebellious and unreasonable.  Some lose the
sense of the anguish in the subsequent happiness; and there are not a
few who, from constitution of mind, forget altogether `the things that
are behind.'  When you remember, too, that it is the law of nature and
providence that each should bear his and her own burden, and that no
warning would be of any avail, it seems no longer so strange that while
girls hear endlessly of marriage, they are kept wholly in the dark about
love."

"Would warning really be of no avail?"

"Of no more avail than warning to a pilgrim in the middle of the desert
that he will suffer from thirst, and be deluded by the mirage, before he
gets into green fields again.  He has no longer the choice whether to be
a pilgrim in the desert or to stay at home.  No one of us has the choice
to be or not to be; and we must go through with our experience, under
its natural conditions."

"`To be or not to be,'" said Margaret, with a grave smile.  "You remind
one that the choice of suicide remains: and I almost wonder--Surely
suicide has been committed from dread of lighter woes than you have
described."

"I believe so: but in this case there is no dread.  We find ourselves in
the midst of the struggle before we are aware.  And then--"

"Ay, and then--"

"He, who appoints the struggles of the spirit, supplies aids and
supports.  I fully believe that this time of conflict is that in which
religion first becomes to many the reality, for which they ever
afterwards live.  It may have been hitherto a name, a fancy, a dim
abstraction, or an intermitting though bright influence: and it may yet
be resorted to merely as a refuge for the spirit which can find no
other.  But there is a strong probability that it may now be found to be
a wonderful reality; not only a potent charm in sorrow, but the life of
our life.  This is with many the reason why, and the mode in which, the
conflict is endured to the end."

"But the beginning," said Margaret; "what can be the beginning of this
wonderful experience?"

"The same with that of all the most serious of our experiences--levity,
unconsciousness, confidence.  Upon what subject in the world is there a
greater accumulation of jokes than upon love and marriage; and upon what
subject are jokes so indefatigably current?  A girl laughs at her
companions, and blushes or pouts for herself; as girls have done for
thousands of years before her.  She finds, by degrees, new, and sweet,
and elevated ideas of friendship stealing their way into her mind, and
she laments and wonders that the range of friendship is not wider--that
its action is not freer--that girls may not enjoy intimate friendship
with the companions of their brothers, as well as with their own.  There
is a quick and strong resentment at any one who smiles at, or speculates
upon, or even observes the existence of such a friendship."

"Oh, Maria!" exclaimed Margaret, throwing down her work, and covering
her face with her hands.

"This goes on for a while," proceeded Maria, as if she did not observe
her companion, "this goes on for a while, smoothly, innocently,
serenely.  Mankind are then true and noble, the world is passing fair,
and God is tender and bountiful.  All evil is seen to be tending to
good; all tears are meant to be wiped away; the gloom of the gloomy is
faithless; virtue is easy and charming; and the vice of the vicious is
unaccountable.  Thus does young life glide on for a time.  Then there
comes a day--it is often a mystery why it should be that day of all
days--when the innocent, and gay, and confident young creature finds
herself in sudden trouble.  The film on which she lightly trod has burst
and she is in an abyss.  It seems a mere trifle that plunged her there.
Her friend did not come when she looked for him, or he is gone
somewhere, or he has said something that she did not expect.  Some such
trifle reveals to her that she depends wholly upon him--that she has for
long been living only for him, and on the unconscious conclusion that he
has been living only for her.  At the image of his dwelling anywhere but
by her side, of his having any interest apart from hers, the universe
is, in a moment, shrouded in gloom.  Her heart is sick, and there is no
rest for it, for her self-respect is gone.  She has been reared in a
maidenly pride, and an innocent confidence: her confidence is wholly
broken-down; her pride is wounded and the agony of the wound is
intolerable.  We are wont to say, Margaret, that everything is endurable
but a sense of guilt.  If there be an exception, this is it.  This
wounding of the spirit ought not perhaps to be, but it is very like the
sting of guilt; and a `wounded spirit who can bear?'"

"How is it borne--so many as are the sufferers, and of a class usually
thought so weak?"

"That is a mistake.  There is not on earth a being stronger than a woman
in the concealment of her love.  The soldier is called brave who
cheerfully bears about the pain of a laceration to his dying day; and
criminals, who, after years of struggle, unbosom themselves of their
secret, give tremendous accounts of the sufferings of those years; but I
question whether a woman whose existence has been burdened with an
unrequited love, will not have to unfold in the next world a more
harrowing tale than either of these."

"It ought not to be so."

"It ought not, where there is no guilt.  But how noble is such power of
self-restraint!  Though the principle of society may be to cultivate our
pride to excess, what fortitude grows out of it!  There are no bounds to
the horror, disgust, and astonishment expressed when a woman owns her
love to its object unasked--even urges it upon him; but I acknowledge my
surprise to be the other way--that the cases are so rare.  Yet, fancying
the case one's own--"

"Oh, dreadful!" cried Margaret.

"No woman can endure the bare thought of the case being her own; and
this proves the strong natural and educational restraint under which we
all lie: but I must think that the frequent and patient endurance proves
a strength of soul, a vigour of moral power, which ought to console and
animate us in the depth of our abasement, if we could but recall it then
when we want support and solace most."

"It can be little estimated--little understood," said Margaret, "or it
would not be sported with as it is."

"Do not let us speak of that, Margaret.  You talk of my philosophy
sometimes; I own that that part of the subject is too much for any
philosophy I have."

"I see nothing philosophical," said Margaret, "in making light of the
deepest cruelty and treachery which is transacted under the sun.  A man
who trifles with such affections, and abuses such moral power, and calls
his cruelty flirtation--"

"Is such an one as we will not speak of now.  Well! it cannot be but
that good--moral and intellectual good--must issue from such exercise
and discipline as this; and such good does issue often, perhaps
generally.  There are sad tales sung and told everywhere of brains
crazed, and graves dug by hopeless love: and I fear that many more sink
down into disease and death from this cause, than are at all suspected
to be its victims: but not a few find themselves lifted up from their
abyss, and set free from their bondage of pride and humiliation.  They
marry their loves and stand amazed at their own bliss, and are truly the
happiest people upon earth, and in the broad road to be the wisest.  In
my belief, the happiest are ever so."

"Bless you for that, for Hester's sake!  And what of those who are not
thus released?"

"They get out of the abyss too; but they have to struggle out alone.
Their condition must depend much on what they were before the conflict
befell them.  Some are soured, and live restlessly.  Some are weak, and
come out worldly, and sacrifice themselves, in marriage or otherwise,
for low objects.  Some strive to forget, and to become as like as
possible to what they were before; and of this order are many of the
women whom we meet, whose minds are in a state of perpetual and
incurable infancy.  It is difficult to see the purpose of their
suffering, from any effects it appears to have produced: but then there
is the hope that their griefs were not of the deepest."

"And what of those whose griefs are of the deepest?"

"They rise the highest above them.  Some of these must be content with
having learned more or less, of what life is, and of what it is for, and
with reconciling themselves to its objects and conditions."

"In short, with being philosophical," said Margaret, with an inquiring
and affectionate glance at her friend.

"With being philosophical," Maria smilingly agreed.  "Others, of a
happier nature, to whom philosophy and religion come as one, and are
welcomed by energies not wholly destroyed, and affections not altogether
crushed, are strong in the new strength which they have found, with
hearts as wide as the universe, and spirits the gayest of the gay."

"You never told me anything of all this before," said Margaret; "yet it
is plain that you must have thought much about it--that it must have
been long in your mind."

"It has; and I tell it to you, that you may share what I have learned,
instead of going without the knowledge, or, alas! gathering it up for
yourself."

"Oh, then, it is so--it is from your own--"

"It is from my own experience that I speak," said Maria, without looking
up.  "And now, there is some one in the world who knows it beside
myself."

"I hope you do not--I hope you never will repent having told me," said
Margaret, rising and taking her seat on the sofa, beside her friend.

"I do not, and I shall not repent," said Maria.  "You are faithful: and
it will be a relief to me to have sympathy--to be able to speak
sometimes, instead of having to deny and repress my whole heart and
soul.  But I can tell you no more--not one word."

"Do not.  Only show me how I can comfort--how I can gratify you."

"I need no special comfort now," said Maria, smiling.  "I _have_
sometimes grievously wanted a friend to love and speak with--and if I
could, to serve.  Now I have a friend."  And the look with which she
gazed at her companion brought the tears into Margaret's eyes.

"Come, let us speak of something else," said Maria, cheerfully.  "When
do you expect your friend, Mr Enderby, at Deerbrook again?"

"His sister says nobody knows; and I do not think he can tell himself.
You know he does not live at Deerbrook."

"I am aware of that; but his last visit was such a long one--"

"Six days," said Margaret, laughing.

"Ah!  I did not mean his last week's appearance, or any of his pop
visits.  I was thinking of his summer visitation.  It was so long, that
some people began to look upon him as a resident."

"If his mother does not grow much better soon, we shall see him again,"
said Margaret.  "It is always her illness that brings him.--Do you not
believe me, Maria?"

"I believe, as before, that you say what you think.  Whether you are
mistaken is another question, which I cannot pretend to answer."

"I hope, Maria, that as you have placed so much confidence in me, you
will not stop short at the very point which is of the greatest
importance to me."

"I will not, dear.  What I think on the subject of Mr Enderby, in
relation to you, is, that some of your friends believe that you are the
cause of his stay having been so long in the summer, and of his coming
so often since.  I know no more than this.  How should I?"

"Then I will tell you something more, that I might as well have
mentioned before.  When Mrs Rowland had an idea that Mr Enderby might
think of Hester, she told Hester--that miserable day in Dingleford
woods--that his family expected he would soon marry a young lady of
family and fortune, who was a great favourite with all his connections."

"Who may this young lady be?"

"Oh, she did not say; some one too high for our acquaintance, if we are
to believe what Mrs Rowland declared."

"And do you believe it?"

"Why--.  Do you?"

"I dare say Mrs Rowland may believe it herself; but she may be
mistaken."

"That is exactly what Hester said," observed Margaret, eagerly.  "And
that was more than five months ago, and we have not heard a syllable of
the matter since."

"And so intimate a friendship as yours and Mr Enderby's is," said
Maria, smiling,--"it is scarcely probable that his mind should be full
of such an affair, and that he should be able to conceal it so perfectly
from you."

"I am glad you think so," said Margaret, ingenuously.  "You cannot
imagine how strange it is to see Mrs Grey and others taking for granted
that he is free, when Hester and I could tell them in a moment what Mrs
Rowland said.  But if you think Mrs Rowland is all wrong, what do you
really suppose about his coming so much to Deerbrook?"

"I have little doubt that those friends of yours--Mrs Grey and the
others--are right.  But--."

"But what?"

"Just this.  If I might warn you by myself; I would caution you, not
only against dwelling much upon such a fact, but against interpreting it
to mean more than it possibly may.  This is my reason for speaking to
you upon the matter at all.  I do it because you will be pretty sure to
hear how the fact itself is viewed by others, while no one else would be
likely to give you the caution.  Mr Enderby _may_ come, as you suppose,
entirely to see his mother.  He may come to see you: but, supposing he
does, if he is like other men, he may not know his own mind yet: and,
there is another possible thing--a thing which is possible, Margaret,
though he is such a dear and intimate friend--that he may not know
yours--all its strength of affection, all its fidelity, all its trust
and power of self-control."

"Oh, stop; pray stop," said Margaret.  "You frighten me with the
thoughts of all you have been saying this evening, though I could so
entirely satisfy you as to what our intercourse has been--though I know
Mr Enderby so much better than you do.  You need warn me no more.  I
will think of what you have said, if I find myself doubting whether he
comes to see his mother--if I find myself listening to what others may
suppose about his reasons.  Indeed, I will remember what you have said."

"Then I am glad I ventured to say it, particularly as you are not angry
with me this time."

"I am not at all angry: how could I be so?  But I do not agree with you
about the fact."

"I know it, and I may be mistaken."

"Now tell me," said Margaret, "what you suppose Morris meant when she
said what you heard about the pleasure of solitude depending on one's
thoughts being happy or otherwise.  I know it is a common old idea
enough; but Morris does not know that; and I am sure she had some
particular instance in view.  Morris does not make general propositions,
except with a particular case in her mind's eye; and she is a wise
woman; and we think her sayings are weighty."

"It struck me that she had a real probability in her mind; but I did not
think it related to Mr Enderby, or to anything so exclusively your own
concern."

"No; I hope not: but what then?"

"I think that Morris knows more of life and the world than you, and that
she does not anticipate quite so much happiness from Hester's marriage
as you do.  Do not be distressed or alarmed.  She means no mistrust of
anybody, I imagine; but only that there is no perfect happiness in this
life, that nobody is faultless; and no home, not even where her young
ladies live, is quite free from care and trouble.  It would not hurt
you, surely, if she was to say this outright to you?"

"Oh, no; nor a good deal more of the same tendency.  She might come much
nearer to the point, good soul! without hurting me.  Suppose I ask her
what it was she did mean, to-night or to-morrow, when she and I are
alone?"

"Well! if she is such a wise woman--.  But I doubt whether you could get
her nearer to the point without danger of hurting her.  Can she bring
herself to own that either of you have faults?"

"Oh, yes: she has never spared us, from the time we were two feet high."

"What can make you so anxious as to what she meant?"

"I really hardly know, unless it be that where one loves very much, one
fears--Oh, so faithlessly!  I know I ought to fear less for Hester than
ever; and yet--."

The door burst open, and the foot-boy entered with his jingling tray,
and news that the sedan for Miss Young was at the door.  What sedan?
Margaret had asked Mrs Grey for hers, as the snow had fallen heavily,
and the streets were not fit for Maria's walking.  Maria was very
thankful.

Here was an end of Maria's bright holiday.  Mr Grey's porters must not
be kept waiting.  The friends assured each other that they should never
forget this day.  It was little likely that they should.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

HOME.

Margaret had an unconscious expectation of seeing her sister altered.
This is an irresistible persuasion in almost every case where an
intimate friend is absent, and is under new influences, and amidst new
circumstances.  These accessories alter the image of the beloved one in
our minds; our fancy follows it, acting and being acted upon in ways in
which we have no share.  Our sympathy is at fault, or we conceive it to
be so; and doubt and trouble creep over us, we scarcely know why.
Though the letters which come may be natural and hearty, as of old,
breathing the very spirit of our friend, we feel a sort of surprise at
the handwriting being quite familiar.  We look forward with a kind of
timidity to meeting, and fear there may be some restraint in it.  When
the hour of meeting comes, there is the very same face, the line of the
cheek, the trick of the lip, the glance of the eye; the rise and fall of
the voice are the same; and the intense familiarity makes our very
spirit swim in joy.  We are amazed at our previous fancy--we laugh at
the solemn stiffness in which our friend stood before our mind's eye,
and to relieve which we had striven to recall the ludicrous situations
and merry moods, in which that form and that face had been seen; and
perhaps we have no peace till we have acknowledged to the beloved one
the ingenuity of our self-tormentings.  Is there a girl whose heart is
with her brother at college, who does not feel this regularly as the
vacation comes round?  Is there a parent whose child is reaping honours
in the field of life, and returning childlike from time to time, to rest
in the old country-home--is there such a parent who is not conscious of
the misgiving and the re-assurance, as often as the absence and the
re-union occur?  Is there even the most trustful of wives, whose husband
is on the other side of the globe, that is wholly undisturbed by the
transmutation of the idol in her mind?  When the husband is returning,
and her hungry heart is feasting on the anticipation of his appearance,
she may revel in the thought--

  "And will I see his face again,
  And will I hear him speak?"

But it is not till that vivid face and that piercing voice thrill her
sight and her ear again that all misgiving vanishes.  There is nothing
in life that can compensate for long partings.  There ought to be few or
no insurmountable obstacles to the frequent meetings, however short, of
those who love each other.  No duties and no privileges can be of more
importance than the preservation, in all their entireness, of domestic
familiarity and faith.

A very short separation will afford the experience of a long one, if it
be full of events, or if the image of the absent one be dwelt upon, from
hour to hour, with laborious strivings of the fancy.  It has been said
that this week of Hester's absence was the longest that Margaret had
ever known.  Besides this, she felt that she had forgotten her sister
further than she could have supposed possible after a ten years'
separation.  On the evening when she was expecting the travellers home,
her heart was sick with expectation; and yet she was conscious of a
timidity which made her feel as if alone in the world.  Again and again
she looked round her, to fancy what would be the aspect, of everything
to Hester's eye.  She wandered about the house to see once more that all
was in its right place, and every arrangement in due order.  She watched
the bright drawing-room fire nervously, and made herself anxious about
the tea-table, and sat upright on the sofa, listening for the sound of
horses' feet in the snowy street, as if it had been a solemn stranger
that she was expecting, instead of her own sister Hester, with whom she
had shared all her heart, and spent all her days.  But a small part of
this anxiety was given to Mr Hope: she retained her image of him
unperplexed, as a treasure of a brother, and a man with a mind so
healthy that he was sure to receive all things rightly, and be pleased
and satisfied, happen what might.

They came; and Hester's spring from the carriage, and her husband's way
of rubbing his hands over the fire, put all Margaret's anxieties to
flight.  How sweet was the welcome!  How delicious the contest about
which was to give the welcome to this, the lasting home of the three--
whether she who had put all in order for them, or they who claimed to
have the charge of her!  Margaret's eyes overflowed when Hester led her
to Edward for his brotherly kiss.  Mr Hope's mind was disturbed for one
single moment that he had not given this kiss with all the heartiness
and simplicity of a brother; but the feeling was gone almost before he
was conscious of it.

The fire crackled, the kettle sang, Hester took her own place at once at
the tea-board, and her husband threw himself on the sofa, after
ascertaining that there were no family letters for him.  He knew that it
was impossible that there should be any in answer to the announcement of
his marriage.  Even Anne's could not arrive these four or five days yet.
He desired Margaret not to tell him at present if there were any
messages for him; for, if all Deerbrook had colds, he had no inclination
to go out to-night to cure them.  There was a long list of messages,
Margaret said, but they were in the surgery; and the pupil there might
bring them in, if he thought proper: they should not be sent for.  This
one evening might be stolen for home and comfort.  Their journey had
been delightful.  Oxford was more splendid than Hester had had an idea
of.  Every facility had been afforded them for seeing it, and Mr Hope's
acquaintances there had been as kind as possible.  The fall of snow had
not put them in any danger, and the inconveniences it had caused were
rather stimulating to people who had travelled but little.  Hester had
had to get out of the carriage twice; and once she had walked a mile,
when the driver had been uncertain about the road; but as Mrs Grey had
had the foresight to cause a pair of snow boots to be put into the
carriage at the last moment, no harm had happened,--not even to the
wetting of feet; only enough inconvenience to make them glad to be now
by their snug fireside.  Hester was full of mirth and anecdote.  She
seemed to have been pleased with everybody and awake to everything.  As
her sister looked upon her brow, now open as a sleeping child's, upon
the thick curl of glossy brown hair, and upon the bright smile which
lighted up her exquisite face, she was amazed at herself for having
perplexed such an image with apprehensive fancies.

How had Margaret spent her week?  Above all, it was to be hoped she had
not fatigued herself in their service.  There were four days' grace yet
for preparation, before they should receive their company.  Margaret
should not have worked so hard.  Had Maria Young come yesterday?  Dear
Maria! she must often come.  Should not the Greys be asked to dine in a
quiet way, before any one else was admitted into the house?  Was it not
due to them?  But could the footboy wait at table?  Would it be possible
to bring him into such training as would prevent Mrs Grey's being too
much shocked at their way of getting through dinner?  Or was there any
one in Deerbrook who went out as a waiter?  Morris must be consulted;
but they must have the Greys to dinner before Monday.  How was Mrs
Enderby?  Was her illness really thought serious, or was it only Mrs
Rowland's way of talking, which was just the same, whether Mrs Enderby
had a twinge of rheumatism or one of her frightful attacks?  Was Mr
Enderby coming?--that was the chief point.  If he did not appear, it was
certain that he could not be feeling uneasy about his mother.  Margaret
blushed when she replied that she had not heard of Mr Enderby's being
expected.  She could not but blush; for the conversation with Maria came
full into her mind.  Mr Hope saw the blush, and painfully wondered that
it sent trouble through his soul.

How were Morris and the new maid likely to agree?  Did Morris think the
girl promising?  Surely it was time to take some notice of the servants.
Edward would ring the bell twice, the signal for Morris; and Morris
should introduce the other two into the parlour.  They came, Morris in
her best gown, and with her wedding ribbon on.  When she had shaken
hands with her master and mistress, and spoken a good word for her
fellow-servants, as she called them, the ruddy-faced girl appeared, her
cheeks many shades deeper than usual, and her cap quillings standing off
like the rays on a sign-post picture of the sun.  Following her came the
boy, feeling awkward in his new clothes, and scraping with his left leg
till the process was put a stop to by his master's entering into
conversation with him.  Hester's beauty was really so striking, as with
a blushing bashfulness, she for the first time enacted the mistress
before her husband's eyes, that it was impossible not to observe it.
Margaret glanced towards her brother, and they exchanged smiles.  But
the effect of Margaret's smile was that Mr Hope's died away, and left
him grave.

"Brother!" said Margaret; "what is the true story belonging to that
great book about the Polar Sea, that you see lying there?"

"How do you mean?  Is there any story belonging to it at all?"

"Three at least; and Deerbrook has been so hot about it--"

"You should send round the book to cool them.  It is enough to freeze
one to look at the plates of those polar books."

"Sending round the book is exactly the thing I wanted to do, and could
not.  Mrs Rowland insists that Mrs Enderby ordered it in; and Mrs
Grey demands to have it first; and Mr Rowland is certain that you
bespoke it before anybody else.  I was afraid of the responsibility of
acting in so nice a case.  An everlasting quarrel might come out of it:
so I covered it, and put in the list, all ready to be sent at a moment's
warning; and then I amused myself with it while you were away.  Now,
brother, what will you do?"

"The truth of the matter is, that I ordered it in myself, as Mr Rowland
says.  But Mrs Enderby shall have it at once, because she is ill.  It
is a fine large type for her; and she will pore over the plates, and
forget Deerbrook and all her own ailments, in wondering how the people
will get out of the ice."

"Do you remember, Margaret," said Hester, "how she looked one summer
day,--like a ghost from the grave,--when she came down from her books,
and had even forgotten her shawl?"

"Oh, about the battle!" cried Margaret, laughing.

"What battle?" asked Hope.  "An historical one, I suppose, and not that
of the Rowlands and Greys.  Mrs Enderby is of a higher order than the
rest of us Deerbrook people: she gets most of her news, and all her
battles, out of history."

"Yes: she alighted among us to tell us that such a great, such a
wonderful battle had been fought, at a place called Blenheim, by the
Duke of Marlborough, who really seemed a surprisingly clever man: it was
such a good thought of his to have a swamp at one end of his line, and
to put some of his soldiers behind some bushes, so that the enemy could
not get at them! and he won the battle."

"This book will be the very thing for her," said Margaret.  "It is only
a pity that it did not come in at Midsummer instead of Christmas.  I am
afraid she will sympathise so thoroughly that Phoebe will never be able
to put on coals enough to warm her."

"Nay," said Mr Hope, "it is better as it is.  She must be told now, at
all events: whereas, if this book came to her at Midsummer, it would
chill her whole month of July.  She would start every time she looked
out of her window, and saw the meadows green."

"I hope she is not really very ill," said Hester.

"You were thinking the same thought that I was," said her husband,
starting up from the sofa.  "It is certainly my business to go and see
her to-night, if she wishes it.  I will step down into the surgery, and
learn if there is any message from her."

"And if there is not from her, there will be from some one else," said
Hester, sorrowfully.  "What a cold night for you to go out, and leave
this warm room!"

Mr Hope laughed as he observed what an innocent speech that was for a
surgeon's wife.  It was plain that her education in that capacity had
not begun.  And down he went.

"Here are some things for you, cards and notes," said Margaret to her
sister, as she opened a drawer of the writing-table: "one from Mrs
Grey, marked `Private.'  I do not suppose your husband may not see it;
but that is your affair.  My duty is to give it you privately."

"One of the Grey mysteries, I suppose," said Hester, colouring, and
tearing open the letter with some vehemence: "These mysteries were
foolish enough before; they are ridiculous now.  So, you are going out?"
cried she, as her husband came in with his hat on.

"Yes; the old lady will be the easier for my seeing her this evening;
and I shall carry her the Polar Sea.  Where is pen and ink, Margaret?
We do not know the ways of our own house yet."

Margaret brought pen and ink; and while Mr Hope wrote down the dates in
the Book Society's list, Hester exclaimed against Mrs Grey for having
sent her a letter marked "Private," now that she was married.

"If you mean it not to be private, you shall tell me about it when I
come back," said her husband.  "If I see Mrs Enderby to-night, I must
be gone."

It was not twenty minutes before he was seated by his own fireside
again.  His wife looked disturbed; and was so; she even forgot to
inquire after Mrs Enderby.

"There is Mrs Grey's precious letter!" said she.  "She may mean to be
very kind to me: I dare say she does: but she might know that it is not
kindness to write so of my husband."

"I do not see that she writes any harm of me, my dear," said he, laying
the letter open upon the table.  "She only wants to manage me a little:
and that is her way, you know."

"So exceedingly impertinent!" cried Hester, turning to Margaret.  "She
wants me to use my influence, quietly, and without betraying her, to
make my husband--," she glanced into her husband's face, and checked her
communication.  "In short," she said, "Mrs Grey wants to be meddling
between my husband and one of his patients."

"Well, what then?" said Margaret.

"What then?  Why, if she is to be interfering already in our affairs--if
she is to be always fancying that she has anything to do with Edward,--
and we living so near,--I shall never be able to bear it."

And Hester's eyes overflowed with tears.

"My dear! is it possible?" cried Edward.  "Such a trifle--."

"It is no trifle," said Hester, trying to command her voice; "it can
never be a trifle to me that any one shows disrespect to you.  I shall
never be able to keep terms with any one who does."

Margaret believed that nothing would be easier than to put a stop to any
such attempts--if indeed they were serious.  Mrs Grey was so fond of
Hester that she would permit anything from her; and it would be easy for
Hester to say that, not wishing to receive any exclusively private
letters, she had shown Mrs Grey's to her husband, though to no one
else: and that it was to be the principle of the family not to
interfere, more or less, with Mr Hope's professional affairs.

"Or, better still, take no notice of the matter in any way whatever,
this time," said Mr Hope.  "We can let her have her way while we keep
our own, cannot we?  So, let us put the mysterious epistle into the
fire--shall we?  I wait your leave," said he, laughing, as he held the
letter over the flame.

"It is your property."

Hester signed to have it burned; but she could not forget it.  She
recurred to Mrs Grey, again and again.  "So near as they lived," she
said--"so much as they must be together."

"The nearer we all live, and the more we must be with our neighbours,"
said her husband, "the more important it is that we should allow each
other our own ways.  You will soon find what it is to live in a village,
my love; and then you will not mind these little trifles."

"If they would meddle only with me," said Hester, "I should not mind.  I
hope you do not think I should care so much for anything they could say
or do about me.  If they only would let you alone--"

"That is the last thing we can expect," said Margaret.  "Do they let any
public man alone?  Dr Levitt, or Mr James?"

"Or the parish clerk?" added Mr Hope.  "It was reported lately that
steps were to be taken to intimate to Owen, that it was a constant habit
of his to cough as he took his seat in the desk.  I was told once
myself, that it was remarked throughout Deerbrook that I seemed to be
half whistling as I walked up the street in the mornings; and that it
was considered a practice too undignified for my profession."

Hester's colour rose again.  Margaret laughed, and asked:

"What did you do?"

"I made my best bow, and thought no more about the matter, till events
brought it to mind again at this moment.  So, Hester, suppose we think
no more of Mrs Grey's hints?"  Seeing that her brow did not entirely
clear, he took his seat by her, saying:

"Supposing, love, that her letter does not show enough deference to my
important self to satisfy you, still it remains that we owe respect to
Mrs Grey.  She is one of my oldest, and most hospitable, and faithful
friends here; and I need say nothing of her attachment to you.  Cannot
we overlook in her one little error of judgment?"

"Oh, yes, certainly," said Hester, cheerfully.  "Then I will say nothing
to her unless she asks; and then tell her, as lightly as I may, what
Margaret proposed just now.  So be it."

And all was bright and smooth again--to all appearance.  But this little
cloud did not pass away without leaving its gloom in more hearts than
one.  As Margaret set down her lamp on her own writing-table, and sank
into the chair of whose ease she had bidden Maria make trial, she might
have decided, if she had happened at the moment to remember the
conversation, that the pleasure of solitude does depend much on the ease
of the thoughts.  She sat long, wondering how she could have overlooked
the obvious probability that Hester, instead of finding the habit of
mind of a lifetime altered by the circumstances of love and marriage,
would henceforth suffer from jealousy for her husband in addition to the
burden she had borne for herself.  Long did Margaret sit there, turning
her voluntary musings on the joy of their meeting, and the perfect
picture of comfort which their little party had presented; but
perpetually recurring, against her will, to the trouble which had
succeeded, and following back the track of this cloud, to see whether
there were more in the wind--whether it did not come from a horizon of
storm.

Yet hers was not the most troubled spirit in the house.  Hester's
vexation had passed away, and she was unconscious, as sufferers of her
class usually are, of the disturbance she had caused.  She presently
slept and was at peace.  Not so her husband.  A strange trouble--a
fearful suspicion had seized upon him.  He was amazed at the return of
his feelings about Margaret, and filled with horror when he thought of
the days, and months, and years of close domestic companionship with
her, from which there was no escape.  There was no escape.  The peace of
his wife, of Margaret--his own peace in theirs--depended wholly on the
deep secrecy in which he should preserve the mistake he had made.  It
was a mistake.  He could scarcely endure the thought; but it was so.
For some months, he had never had a doubt that he was absolutely in the
road of duty; and, if some apprehension about his entire happiness had
chilled him, from time to time, he had cast them off, as inconsistent
with the resolution of his conscience.  Now he feared, he felt he had
mistaken his duty.  As, in the stillness of the night, the apprehension
assailed him, that he had thrown away the opportunity and the promise of
his life--that he had desecrated his own home, and doomed to withering
the best affections of his nature, he for the moment wished himself
dead.  But his was a soul never long thrown off its balance.  He
convinced himself, in the course of a long sleepless night, that
whatever might have been his errors, his way was now clear, though
difficult.  He must devote himself wholly to her whose devotion to him
had caused him his present struggles; and he must trust that, if
Margaret did not ere long remove from the daily companionship which must
be his sorest trial, he should grow perpetually stronger in his
self-command.  Of one thing he was certain--that no human being
suspected the real state of his mind.  This was a comfort and support.
Of something else he felt nearly certain--that Margaret loved Philip.
This was another comfort, if he could only feel it so; and he had little
doubt that Philip loved her.  He had also a deep conviction, which he
now aroused for his support--that no consecration of a home is so holy
as that of a kindly, self-denying, trustful spirit in him who is the
head and life of his house.  If there was in himself a love which must
be denied, there was also one which might be indulged.  Without
trammelling himself with vows, he cheered his soul with the image of the
life he might yet fulfil, shedding on all under his charge the blessings
of his activity, patience, and love; and daily casting off the burden of
the day, leaving all care for the morrow to such as, happier than
himself, would have the future the image of the present.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

FIRST HOSPITALITY.

The Greys needed only to be asked to come and dine before the rest of
the world could have an opportunity of seeing the bride and bridegroom.
They had previously settled among themselves that they should be
invited, and the answer was given on the instant.  The only doubt was
how far down in the family the pleasure ought to extend.  Sydney was
full of anxiety about it.  His mother decided that he ought to be asked,
but that perhaps he had better not go, as he would be in the way; and
Sophia was sure it would be very dull for him; a sentence which made
Sydney rather sulky.  But Hester insisted on having him, and pleaded
that William Levitt would come and meet him, and if the lads should find
the drawing-room dull, there was the surgery, with some very curious
things in it, where they might be able to amuse themselves.  So Sydney
was to take up his lot with the elderly ones, and the little girls were
to be somewhat differently entertained another day.

Oh, the anxieties of a young wife's first dinner-party!  If remembered,
they become laughable enough when looked back upon from future years;
but they are no laughing matter at the time.  The terror lest there
should be too little on the table, and the consequent danger of there
being too much: the fear at once of worrying the cook with too many
directions, and leaving any necessary thing unsaid: the trembling doubt
of any power of entertainment that may exist in the house; the
anticipation of a yawn on the part of any guest, or of such a silence as
may make the creaking of the footboy's shoes heard at dinner, or the
striking of the hall clock in the evening--these are the apprehensions
which make the young wife wish herself on the other side of her first
dinner-party, and render alluring the prospect of sitting down next day
to hash or cold fowl, followed by odd custards and tartlets, with a
stray mince-pie.  Where a guest so experienced and so vigilant as Mrs
Grey is expected, the anxiety is redoubled, and the servants are sure to
discover it by some means or other.  Morris woke, this Saturday morning,
with the feeling that something great was to happen that day; and Sally
began to be sharp with the footboy as early as ten o'clock.  Hester and
Margaret were surprised to find how soon there was nothing more left for
them to do.  The wine was decanted, the dessert dished up in the little
storeroom, and even the cake cut for tea, soon enough to leave almost
the whole morning to be spent as usual.  Margaret sat down to study
German, and Hester to read.  She had just observed that they could not
expect to see Edward for some hours, as he had been sent for to the
almshouses, and meant to pay a country visit which would cost him a
circuit on his return.  These almshouses were six miles off; and when
Mr Hope was sent for by one of the inmates, nearly all the rest were
wont to discover that they ailed more or less; so that their medical
guardian found it no easy matter to get away, and his horse had learned,
by practice, to stand longer there than anywhere else without fidgeting.
Knowing this, Margaret fully agreed to her sister's proposition, that
it must be some hours before Edward could appear.  In a little while,
however, Hester threw down her book, and took up her work, laying her
watch just under her eyes upon the table.

"Do you mean to do that for life, when your husband takes a country
ride?" said Margaret, laughing.

"I hate these everlasting country rides!" cried Hester.  "I do wish he
would give up those almshouses."

"Give them up!"

"Yes: they are nothing but trouble and anxiety.  The old folks are never
satisfied, and never would be, if he lived among them, and attended to
nobody else.  And as often as he goes there, he is sure to be more
wanted here than at any other time.  There is another knock.  There have
been two people wanting him within this hour; and a country gentleman
has left word that he shall call with his daughter at one o'clock."

"Well, let them come.  If he is home, well and good; if not, they must
wait till he arrives."

Hester started up, and walked about the room.

"I know what is in your mind," said Margaret.  "The truth is, you are
afraid of another accident.  I do not wonder at it; but, dearest Hester,
you must control this fear.  Consider; supposing it to be Heaven's
pleasure that you and he should live for forty or fifty years together,
what a world of anxiety you will inflict on yourself if you are to
suffer in this way every time he rides six miles out and back again!"

"Perhaps I shall grow used to it: but I do wish he would give up those
almshouses."

"Suppose we ask him to give up practice at once," said Margaret, "that
we may have him always with us.  No, no, Hester; we must consider him
first, and ourselves next, and let him have his profession all to
himself, and as much of it as he likes."

"Ourselves!" cried Hester, contemptuously.

"Well, yourself, then," said Margaret, smiling.  "I only put myself in
that I might lecture myself at the same time with you."

"Lecture away, dear," said Hester, "till you make me as reasonable as if
I had no husband to care for."

Margaret might have asked whether Hester had been reasonable when she
had had neither husband nor lover to care for; but, instead of this, she
opened the piano, and tempted her sister away from her watch to practise
a duet.

"I will tell you what I am thinking of," cried Hester, breaking off in
the middle of a bar of the second page.  "Perhaps you thought me hasty
just now; but you do not know what I had in my head.  You remember how
late Edward was called out, the night before last?"

"To Mrs Marsh's child?  Yes; it was quite dark when he went."

"There was no moon.  Mr Marsh wanted to send a servant back with him as
far as the high-road: but he was sure he knew the way.  He was riding
very fast, when his horse suddenly stopped, and almost threw him over
its head.  He spurred in vain; the animal only turned round and round,
till a voice called from somewhere near, `Stop there, for God's sake!
Wait till I bring a light.'  A man soon came with a lantern, and where
do you think Edward found himself?  On the brink of a mill-dam!  Another
step in the dark night, and he might have been heard of no more!"

Margaret was not at all surprised that Hester covered her face with her
hands at the end of this very disagreeable anecdote.

"It is clear," said she, "that Edward is the person who wants lecturing.
We must bid him not ride very fast on dark nights, on roads that he
does not know.  But I have a high opinion of this horse of his.  One of
the two is prudent; and that is a great comfort.  And, for the present,
there is the consolation that there are no mill-dams in the way to the
almshouses, and that it is broad daylight.  So let us go on with our
duet,--or shall we begin again?"

Hester played through the duet, and then sighed over a new
apprehension--that some of those old invalids would certainly be taking
Mr Hope away from home on the two mornings when their neighbours were
to pay the wedding visit.  "And what shall we do then?" she inquired.

"We shall see when the time comes," replied Margaret.  "Meanwhile we are
sure of one good thing,--that Edward will not be called away from the
dinner-table to-day by the almshouse people.  Come! let us play this
over once more, that it may be ready for Mr Grey in the evening."

Sooner than he was looked for--sooner than it was supposed possible that
he could have come--Edward appeared.

"Safe!" cried he, laughing: "what should prevent my being safe?  What
sort of a soldier's or sailor's wife would you have made?" he asked,
looking in Hester's happy face.

"She would be crazed with every gale, and die at `rumours of wars,'"
said Margaret: "mill-dams are horror enough for her--and, to say the
truth, brother, for other people, too, while you ride as you do."

"That was an accident which cannot recur," observed Hope.  "I am sorry
Mr Marsh's man mentioned it.  But Hester--."

"I see what you would say," sighed Hester; "your mention of soldiers'
and sailors' wives reminds me.  I have no faith, I know: and I thought I
should when--.  Oh, I wonder how those old crusaders' wives endured
their lives!  But, perhaps, seven years' suspense was easier to bear
than seven hours'."

Hester joined in the laugh at this speech, and Edward went to see his
patients in a place where there was really no danger--in the
waiting-room.  Yet Hester was a little ruffled when the Greys appeared.
So many messages had arrived for Edward, that the country gentleman and
his daughter had been kept waiting, and a livery servant had called
twice, as if impatient.  She was afraid that people would blame Edward--
that he would never manage to satisfy them all.  Her colour was raised,
and her brow slightly bent, when her guests entered; but all was right
when Edward followed, looking perfectly at leisure, and stood talking
before the fire, as if he had been a man of no profession.

Mr Hope had caused his feelings to be so well understood on one
important subject, that it was necessary to respect them; and no mention
of the Rowlands was made, either before dinner or in the presence of the
servants.  Nor was there any need of the topic.  There was abundance to
be said, without having recourse to doubtful subjects; and Margaret
became so far relieved from all apprehension on this account, by the
time the cheese appeared, that she assured herself that the day was
passing off extremely well.  There had not been a single pause left to
be filled up with the clatter of knives and forks.  Mrs Grey pronounced
the room delightfully warm; Sophia protested that she liked having the
fire at her back; and Mr Grey inquired where Hope got his ale.  The
boys, who had looked for the first half-hour as if they could not speak
for the stiffness of their collars, were now in a full career of jokes,
to judge by their stifled laughter.  Hester blushed beautifully at every
little circumstance that occurred, and played the hostess very
gracefully.  The day was going off extremely well.

The approaching county election was the principal topic at dinner, as it
was probably at every dinner-table in Deerbrook.  Mrs Grey first told
Hope, at the bottom of the table, all about her wonder at seeing seven
or eight gentlemen on horseback entering their field.  She was
exceedingly surprised to observe such a troop approaching the door: and
she hardly knew what to make of it when the servant came in to say that
the gentlemen wished to see her, as Mr Grey was at a distance--at
market that day.  It was strange that she should so entirely forget that
there was to be an election soon.  To be sure, it might have occurred to
her that the party came to canvass Mr Grey: but she did not happen to
remember at first; and she thought the gentleman who was spokesman
excessively complimentary, both about the place and about some other
things, till he mentioned his name, and that he was candidate for the
county.  Such a highly complimentary strain was not to her taste, she
acknowledged; and it lost all its value when it was made so common as in
this instance.  This gentleman had kissed the little Rowlands all round,
she had since been assured:--not that she wished to enlarge on that
subject; but it only showed what gentlemen will do when they are
canvassing.  The other candidate, Mr Lowry, seemed a very high
personage indeed.  When he found Mr Grey was not at home, he and all
his party rode straight on, without inquiring for the ladies.  Everyone
seemed to think that Mr Lowry was not likely to carry his election, his
manners were so extremely high.

Meanwhile, Mr Grey was observing to his hostess that he was sorry to
find there was an election impending.  People in a small place like
Deerbrook were quite apt enough to quarrel, day by day;--an election
threw the place into an uproar.

"`How delightful!' those boys are thinking," said Hester, laughing.

"I am sure," said Sophia, "it is anything but delightful to me.  I
remember, last time, Sydney brought some squibs into the garden, and let
them off while mamma and I were in the shrubbery; and we could none of
us get to sleep till after midnight for the light of the bonfire down
the street."

"They should manage those things more quietly," observed Mr Grey.
"This time, however, there will be only a little effusion of joy, and
then an end; for they say Ballinger will carry every vote in the place."

"Why, father!" cried Sydney, "are you going to vote for Ballinger this
time?"

"No, my boy.  I did not say so.  I shall not vote at all," he added,
observing that he was expected to explain himself.  No remark being
made, he continued--"It will not be convenient to me to meddle in
election matters this time; and it would be of no use, as Lowry has not
the slightest chance.  One gets nothing but ill-will and trouble by
meddling.  So, my dear," turning to Hester, "your husband and I will
just keep quiet, and let Deerbrook have its own way."

"I believe you may speak for yourself," replied Hester, her eyes
sparkling.  "Edward has no idea--."  Then, remembering that she was
speaking to a guest, she cut short her assurance that Edward had no idea
of neglecting his duty when it was wanted most, for such a reason as
that it was then most irksome.

"There is no occasion in the world for your husband to come forward,"
observed Mr Grey, with kind anxiety.  "I was saying, Hope, that you are
quite absolved from interfering in politics.  Nobody expects it from a
medical man.  Everyone knows the disadvantage to a professional man,
circumstanced like you, of taking any side in a party matter.  You might
find the consequences very serious, I assure you."

"And nobody expects it of a medical man," echoed Mrs Grey.

Mr Hope did not reply, that he voted for other reasons than that it was
expected of him.  He had argued the subject with Mr Grey before, and
knew that they must agree to differ.  He quietly declared his intention
of voting for Mr Lowry, and then asked Sophia to take wine.  His manner
left no resource to Mrs Grey but to express her feelings to his wife in
the drawing-room, after dinner.

She there drew Hester's arm within her own, and kindly observed what
pleasure it gave her to see her anticipations so fulfilled.  She had had
this home, fitted up and inhabited as it now was, in her mind's eye for
a longer time than she should choose to tell.  Elderly folks might be
allowed to look forward, and Mr Grey could bear witness that she had
done so.  It was delightful to look round and see how all had come to
pass.

"Everybody is so interested!" observed Sophia.  "Mrs Howell says, some
have observed to her what a pity it is that you are dissenters, so that
you will not be at church on Sunday.  Everybody would be sure to be
there: and she says she is of opinion that, considering how many friends
wish to see you make your first appearance, you ought to go, for once.
She cannot imagine what harm it could do you to go for once.  But,
whatever you may think about that, it shows her interest, and I thought
you would like to know it.  Have you seen Mrs Howell's window?"

"My dear! how should they?" exclaimed her mother.

"I forgot they could not go out before Sunday.  But, Margaret you must
look at Mrs Howell's window the first thing when you can get out.  It
is so festooned with purple and white, that I told Miss Miskin I thought
they would be obliged to light up in the daytime, they have made the
shop so dark."

"And they have thrust all the green and orange into the little side
window, where nobody can see it!" cried Sydney.

"You managed to see it, I perceive," said Hester; Sydney having at the
moment mounted a cockade, and drawn out his green and orange
watch-ribbon into the fullest view.  William Levitt lost no time in
going through the same process with his purple and white.

"You will be the ornaments of Deerbrook," said Margaret, "if you walk
about in that gay style.  I hope I shall have the pleasure of meeting
you both in the street, that I may judge of the effect."

"They will have lost their finery by that time," said Sophia.  "We had a
terrible snatching of cockades last time."

"Snatching! let them try to snatch mine, and see what they'll get by
it!" cried Sydney.

"What would they get but the ribbons?" asked Margaret.  Sydney drew her
to the light, opened the bows of his cockade, and displayed a
corking-pin stuck upright under each bow.

"Isn't it horrid?" said Sophia.

"Horrid!  It is not half so horrid as fish-hooks."

And Sydney related how fish-hooks had actually been used during the last
election, to detain with their barbs the fingers of snatchers of
cockades.  "Which do you use?" he asked of William Levitt.

"Neither.  My father won't let me do anything more than just wear a
cockade and watch-ribbon.  I have got a watch-guard too, you see, for
fear of losing my watch.  But you won't get my cockade off a bit the
sooner for my having no spikes under it.  I have a particular way of
fastening it on.  Only try, any day.  I defy you to it."

"Hush, hush, boys! don't talk of defiance," said Mrs Grey.  "I am sure,
I wish there were no such things as elections--in country places, at
least.  They make nothing but mischief.  And, indeed, Hester, my dear,
it is a great pity that those should meddle who can keep out of them, as
your husband fairly may.  Whichever way he might vote, a great many
disagreeable remarks would be made; and if he votes as he says, for Mr
Lowry, I really think, and so does Mr Grey, that it will be a serious
injury to him in his profession."

Hester replied, with some gravity, that people could never do their
whole duty without causing disagreeable remarks; and seldom without
suffering serious injury.

"But why should he vote?" persisted Mrs Grey.

"Because he considers it his duty, which is commonly his reason for
whatever he does."

"An excellent reason too: but I rather thought--I always fancied he
defended acting from impulse.  But I beg your pardon, my dear:" and she
nodded and winked towards the young people, who were trying the
impression of a new seal at the centre table, heeding nothing about
either duty or impulse.  Margaret had fixed the attention of the boys
upon this curious seal of hers, in order to obviate a snatching of
cockades, or other political feud, upon the spot.

"It seems as if I could speak about nothing but your husband, my dear,"
continued Mrs Grey, in a whisper: "but you know I feel towards him as
towards a son, as I have told him.  Do you think he has quite, entirely,
got over his accident?"

"Entirely, he thinks.  He calls himself in perfect health."

"Well, he ought to know best; but--"

"But what?" asked Hester, anxiously.

"It has occurred to us, that he may still want watching and care.  It
has struck both Mr Grey and me, that he is not quite the same that he
was before that accident.  It is natural enough.  And yet I thought in
the autumn that he was entirely himself again: but there is still a
little difference--a little flatness of spirits sometimes--a little more
gravity than used to be natural to him."

"But you do not think he looks ill?  Tell me just what you think."

"Oh, no, not ill; rather delicate, perhaps; but I am sure it is
wonderful that he is so well after such an accident.  He calls himself
perfectly well, does he?"

"Perfectly."

"Oh, then, we may be quite easy; for he must know best.  Do not let
anything that I have said dwell upon your mind, my dear.  I only just
thought I would ask."

How common it is for one's friends to drop a heavy weight upon one's
heart, and then desire one not to let it dwell there!  Hester's spirits
were irrecoverably damped for this evening.  Her husband seemed to be an
altered man, flat in spirits, and looking delicate, and she told not to
be uneasy!  She was most eager for the entrance of the gentlemen from
the dining-room, that she might watch him and, till they came, she had
not a word of amusement to furnish to her guests.  Margaret perceived
that something had gone wrong and talked industriously till reinforced
from the dining-room.

Sophia whispered a hint to her mother to inquire particularly about Mrs
Enderby's health.  At the mention of her name Mr Hope took his seat on
the sofa beside Mrs Grey, and replied gravely and fully--that he
thought Mrs Enderby really very unwell--more so than he had ever known
her.  She was occasionally in a state of great suffering, and any
attention that her old friends could show her in the way of a quiet call
would be a true kindness.  Had he alarmed her family?  There was quite
hint enough for alarm, he said, in the state in which her relations saw
her at times.  But Mrs Rowland was always trying to make out that
nothing was the matter with her mother: was it not so?  Not exactly so.
Mrs Rowland knew that there was no immediate danger--that her mother
might live many months, or even a few years; but Mr Hope believed
neither Mrs Rowland, nor any one else, could deny her sufferings.

"They say Mr Philip is coming," observed Mr Grey.

"Oh, I hope he is!" cried Sydney, turning round to listen.

"Some people say that he is otherwise occupied," observed Sophia, "If
all accounts be true--" She caught her mother's eye, and stopped
suddenly and awkwardly.

Mr Hope involuntarily glanced at Margaret, as one or two others were
doing at the same time.  Nothing was to be discerned, for she was
stooping over the volume of engravings that she was showing to William
Levitt; and she remained stooping for a long while.

When the proper amount of playing and singing had been gone through, and
Mrs Grey's sedan was announced the cloaked and muffled guest left
behind a not very happy party.  Margaret's gaiety seemed exhausted, and
she asked if it was not late.  Hester was gazing at her husband.  She
saw the perspiration on his brow.  She put her arm within his, and
anxiously inquired whether he was not unwell.  She was sure he had never
fully recovered his strength: she had not taken care enough of him: why
did he not tell her when he was weary and wanted nursing?

Mr Hope looked at her with an unaffected surprise, which went far to
console her, and assured her that he was perfectly well; and that,
moreover, he was so fond of indulgence that she would be sure to hear of
it, if ever he could find a pretence for getting upon the sofa.

Hester was comforted, but said that his spirits were not always what
they had been: and she appealed to Margaret.  Margaret declared that any
failure of spirits in Edward was such a new idea, that she must consider
before she gave an answer.  She thought that he had been too busy to
draw so many caricatures as usual lately; but she had observed no deeper
signs of despondency than that.

"Do not let us get into the habit of talking about spirits," said Hope.
"I hear quite enough about that away from home; and I can assure you,
professionally, that it is a bad subject to dwell upon.  Every one who
lives has variations of spirits: they are like the sunshine, or like Dr
Levitt's last sermon, of which Mrs Enderby says every Sunday in the
church porch--`It is to be felt, not talked about.'"

"But, as a sign of health--" said Hester.

"As a sign of health, my dear, the spirits of all this household may be
left to my professional discrimination.  Will you trust me, my dear?"

"Oh, yes!" she uttered, with a sigh of relief.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

GRANDMAMMA IN RETREAT.

"I am better now, Phoebe," said Mrs Enderby, sinking back faintly in
her easy-chair, after one of her attacks of spasms.  "I am better now;
and if you will fan me for a minute or two, I shall be quite fit to see
the children--quite delighted to have them."

"I declare," said the maid, "here are the drops standing upon your face
this cold day, as if it was August!  But if the pain is cone, never mind
anything else!  And I, for one, won't say anything against your having
the children in; for I'm sure the seeing your friends has done you no
harm, and nothing but good."

"Pray, draw up the blind, Phoebe, and let me see something of the
sunshine.  Bless me! how frosty the field looks, while I have been
stifled with heat for this hour past!  I had better not go to the
window, however, for I begin to feel almost chilly already.  Thank you,
Phoebe; you have fanned me enough.  Now call the children, Phoebe."

Phoebe wrapped a cloak about her mistress's knees, pinned her shawl up
closer around her throat, and went to call the children in from the
parlour below.  Matilda drew up her head and flattened her back, and
then asked her grandmamma how she did.  George looked up anxiously in
the old lady's face.

"Ah, George," said she, smiling; "it is an odd face to look at, is not
it?  How would you like your face to look as mine does?"

"Not at all," said George.

Mrs Enderby laughed heartily, and then told him that her face was not
unlike his once--as round, and as red, and as shining in frosty weather.

"Perhaps if you were to go out now into the frost, your face would look
as it used to do."

"I am afraid not.  When my face looked like yours, it was when I was a
little girl, and used to slide and make snowballs as you do.  That was a
long time ago.  My face is wrinkled now, because I am old; and it is
pale, because I am ill."

George heard nothing after the word "snowballs."  "I wish some more snow
would come," he observed.  "We have plenty of ice down in the meadows,
but there has been only one fall of snow, and that melted almost
directly."

"Papa thinks there will be more snow very soon," observed Matilda.

"If there is, you children can do something for me that I should like
very much," said grandmamma.  "Shall I tell you what it is?"

"Yes."

"You can make a snow-man in that field.  I am sure Mr Grey will give
you leave."

"What good will that do you?" asked Matilda.

"I can sit here and watch you; and I shall like that exceedingly.  I
shall see you gathering the snow, and building up your man: and if you
will turn about and shake your hand this way now and then, I shall be
sure to observe it, and I shall think you are saying something kind to
me."

"I wish the snow would come," cried George, stamping with impatience.

"I do not believe mamma will let us," observed Matilda.  "She prohibits
our going into Mr Grey's field."

"But she shall let us, that one time," cried George.  "I will ask papa,
and Mr Grey, and Sydney, and Uncle Philip, and all.  When will Uncle
Philip come again?"

"Some time soon, I dare say.  But, George, we must do as your mamma
pleases about my plan, you know.  If she does not wish you to go into
Mr Grey's field, you can make your snow-man somewhere else."

"But then you won't see us.  But I know what I will do.  I will speak to
Sydney, and he and Fanny and Mary shall make you a snow-man yonder,
where we should have made him."

Mrs Enderby pressed the boy to her, and laughed while she thanked him,
but said it was not the same thing seeing the Greys make a snow-man.

"Why, George!" said Matilda, contemptuously.

"When _will_ Uncle Philip come?" asked the boy, who was of opinion that
Uncle Philip could bring all things to pass.

"Why, I will tell you how it is, my dear.  Uncle Philip is very busy
learning his lessons."

The boy stared.

"Yes: grown-up people who mean to be great lawyers, as I believe Uncle
Philip does, have to learn lessons like little boys, only much longer
and much harder."

"When will he have done them?"

"Not for a long while yet: but he will make a holiday some time soon,
and come to see us.  I should like to get well before that.  Sometimes I
think I shall, and sometimes I think not."

"Does he expect you will?"

"He expects nothing about it.  He does not know that I am ill.  I do not
wish that he should know it, my dears; so, when I feel particularly
well, and when I have heard anything that pleases me, I ask Phoebe to
bring me the pen and ink, and I write to Uncle Philip."

"And why does not mamma tell him how you are?"

"Ah! why, indeed," muttered Phoebe.

"She knows that I do not wish it.  Uncle Philip writes charming long
letters to me, as I will show you.  Bring me my reticule.  Here--here is
a large sheet of paper, quite full, you see--under the seal and all.
When will you write such long letters, I wonder?"

"I shall when I am married, I suppose," said Matilda, again drawing up
her little head.

"You married, my love!  And pray when are you to be married?"

"Mamma often talks of the time when she shall lose me, and of what
things have to be done while she has me with her."

"There is a great deal to be done indeed, love, before that day, if it
ever comes."

"There are more ways than one of losing a child," observed Phoebe, in
her straightforward way.  "If Mrs Rowland thinks so long beforehand of
the one way, it is to be hoped she keeps Miss Matilda up to the thought
of the other, which must happen sooner or later, while marrying may
not."

"Well, Phoebe," said the old lady, "we will not put any dismal thoughts
into this little head: time enough for that: we will leave all that to
Miss Young."  Then, stroking Matilda's round cheek, she inquired, "My
love, did you ever in your life feel any pain?"

"Oh, dear, yes, grandmamma: to be sure I have; twice.  Why, don't you
remember, last spring, I had a dreadful pain in my head for nearly two
hours, on George's birthday?  And last week, after I went to bed, I had
such a pain in my arm, I did not know how to bear it."

"And what became of it?"

"Oh, I found at last I could bear it no longer, and I began to think
what I should do.  I meant to ring the bell, but I fell asleep."

Phoebe laughed with very little ceremony, and grandmamma could not help
joining.  She supposed Matilda hoped it might be long enough before she
had any more pain.  In the night-time, certainly, Matilda said.  And not
in the daytime?  Is not pain as bad in the daytime?  Matilda
acknowledged that she should like to be ill in the daytime.  Mamma took
her on her lap when she was ill; and Miss Young was so very sorry for
her; and she had something nice to drink.

"Then I am afraid, my dear, you don't pity me at all," said grandmamma.
"Perhaps you think you would like to live in a room like this, with a
sofa and a screen, and Phoebe to wait upon you, and whatever you might
fancy to eat and drink.  Would you like to be ill as I am?"

"Not at present," said Matilda: "not till I am married.  I shall enjoy
doing as I like when I am married."

"How the child's head runs upon being married!" said Phoebe.  "And to
suppose that being ill is doing as one likes, of all odd things!"

"I should often like to fly all over the world," said Mrs Enderby, "and
to get anywhere out of this room--I am so tired of it: but I know I
cannot: so I get books, and read about all the strange places, far off,
that Mungo Park tells us about, and Gulliver, and Captain Parry.  And I
should often like to sleep at night when I cannot; and then I get up
softly, without waking Phoebe, and look out at the bright stars, and
think over all we are told about them--about their being all full of men
and women.  Did you know that, George?" asked she--George being now at
the window.

"Oh, yes," answered Matilda for him, "we know all about those things."

"Are falling stars all full of men and women?" asked George.

"There were none on a star that my father saw fall on the Dingleford
road," observed Phoebe.  "It wasn't big enough to hold men and women."

"Did it fall in the middle of the road?" asked George, turning from the
window.  "What was it like?"

"It was a round thing, as big as a house, and all bright and crystal
like," said Phoebe, with absolute confidence.  "It blocked up the road
from the great oak that you may remember, close by the second milestone,
to the ditch on the opposite side."

"Phoebe, are you sure of that?" asked Mrs Enderby, with a face full of
anxious doubt.

"Ma'am, my father came straight home after seeing it fall, and he let my
brother John and me go the next morning early, to bring home some of the
splinters."

"Oh, well," said Mrs Enderby, who always preferred believing to
doubting; "I have heard of stones falling from the moon."

"This was a falling star, ma'am."

"Can you show me any of the splinters?" asked George, eagerly.

"There was nothing whatsoever left of them," said Phoebe, "by the time
John and I went.  We could not find a piece of crystal so big as my
thimble.  My father has often laughed at John and me since, for not
having been there in time, before it was all gone."

"It is a good thing, my dears, depend upon it, as I was saying,"
observed Mrs Enderby, "to know all such things about the stars, and so
on, against the time when you cannot do as you like, and go where you
please.  Matilda, my jewel, when you are married, as you were talking
about, and can please yourself, you will take great care to be kind to
your mamma, my dear, if poor mamma should be old and ill.  You will
always wish to be tender to your mother, love, I am sure; and that will
do her more good than anything."

"Perhaps mamma won't be ill," replied Matilda.

"Then if she is never ill, she will certainly be old, some day; and then
you will be as kind to her as ever you can be,--promise me, my love.
Your mamma loves you dearly, Matilda."

"She says I dance better than any girl in Miss Anderson's school,
grandmamma.  I heard her tell Mrs Levitt so, yesterday."

"Here comes mamma," said George, from the window.

"Your mamma, my dear?  Phoebe, sweep up the hearth.  Hang that curtain
straight.  Give me that letter,--no, not that,--the large letter.
There! now put it into my knitting-basket.  Make haste down, Phoebe, to
be ready to open the door for Mrs Rowland.  Don't keep her waiting a
moment on the steps."

"She has not got to the steps yet," said George.  "She is talking to
Mrs Grey.  Mrs Grey was coming here, and mamma went and spoke to her.
Oh, Matilda, come and look how they are nodding their bonnets at each
other!  I think Mrs Grey is very angry, she wags her head about so.
There! now she is going away.  There she goes across the road! and mamma
is coming up the steps."

After a minute or two of silent expectation, Mrs Rowland entered her
mother's room.  She brought with her a draught of wintry air, which, as
she jerked aside her ample silk cloak, on taking her seat on the sofa,
seemed to chill the invalid, though there was now a patch of colour on
each withered cheek.

"How much better you look, ma'am!" was the daughter's greeting.  "I
always thought it would be a pity to disturb Philip about you: and now,
if he were to see you, he would not believe that you had been ill.  Mr
Rowland would be satisfied that I am right, I am sure, if he were to
come in."

"My mistress is noways better," said Phoebe, bluntly.  "She is not the
better for that flush she has got now, but the worse."

"Never mind, Phoebe!  I shall do very well, I dare say," said Mrs
Enderby, with a sigh.  "Well, my dear, how do you all go on at home?"

"Much as usual, ma'am.  But that reminds me--Matilda, my own love, Miss
Young must be wanting you for your lesson on objects.  Go, my dear."

"I hoped Matilda was come for the day," said Mrs Enderby.  "I quite
expected she was to stay with me to-day.  Do let me have her, my dear:
it will do me so much good."

"You are very kind, ma'am, but it is quite impossible.  It is totally
out of the question, I assure you.  Matilda, my love, go this instant.
We make a great point of the lessons on objects.  Pray, Phoebe, tie Miss
Rowland's bonnet, and make haste."

Phoebe did so, taking leave to observe that little girls were likely to
live long enough to know plenty of things after they had no grandmammas
left to be a comfort to.

Mrs Enderby struggled to say, "Hush, Phoebe;" but she found she could
not speak.  George was desired to go with his sister, and was scarcely
allowed time to kiss his grandmamma.  While Phoebe was taking the
children down stairs, Mrs Rowland wondered that some people allowed
their servants to take such liberties as were taken; and gave notice
that though she tolerated Phoebe, because Phoebe's mistress had taken a
fancy to her, she could not allow her family plans to be made a subject
of remark to her mother's domestics.  Mrs Enderby had not quite decided
upon her line of reply, when Phoebe came back, and occupied herself in
supplying her mistress, first with a freshly-heated footstool, and then
with a cup of arrowroot.

"Where do you get your arrowroot, ma'am?" asked Mrs Rowland.  "I want
some extremely for my poor dear Anna; and I can procure none that is at
all to compare with yours."

"Mrs Grey was so kind as to send me some, my dear; and it really is
excellent.  Phoebe, how much of it is there left?  I dare say there may
be enough for a cup or two for dear little Anna."

Phoebe replied, that there was very little left--not any more than her
mistress would require before she could grow stronger.  Mrs Rowland
would not take the rest of the arrowroot on any account: she was only
wondering where Mrs Grey got it, and how it was that the Greys always
contrived to help themselves to the best of everything.  Phoebe was
going to observe that they helped their neighbours to good things as
well as themselves; but a look from her mistress stopped her.  Mrs
Enderby remarked that she had no doubt she could learn from Mrs Grey or
Sophia, the next time she saw either of them, where they procured their
arrowroot.  "It is a long time since I saw Mrs Grey," she observed,
timidly.

"My dear ma'am, how can you think of seeing any one in your present
state?" inquired the daughter.  "One need but see the flush in your
face, to know that it would be highly improper for you to admit company.
I could not take the responsibility of allowing it."

"But Mrs Grey is not company, my love."

"Any one is company to an invalid.  I assure you I prevented Mr
Rowland's coming for the reason I assign.  He was coming yesterday, but
I would not let him."

"I should like to see him, however.  And I should like to see Mrs Grey
too."

Under pretence of arranging her mistress's shawl, Phoebe touched the old
lady's shoulder, in token of intelligence.  Mrs Enderby was somewhat
flurried at the liberty which she felt her maid had taken with her
daughter; but she could not notice it now; and she introduced another
subject.  Had everybody done calling on the Hopes?  Were the wedding
visits all over?  Oh, yes, Mrs Rowland was thankful to say; that fuss
was at an end at last.  One would think nobody had ever been married
before, by the noise that had been made in Deerbrook about this young
couple.

"Mr Hope is such a favourite!" observed Mrs Enderby.

"He has been so; but it won't last.  I never saw a young man so gone off
as he is.  He has not been like the same man since he connected himself
with the Greys so decidedly.  Surely, ma'am, you must perceive that."

"It had not occurred to me, my dear.  He comes very often, and he is
always extremely kind and very entertaining.  He brought his bride with
him yesterday, which I thought very attentive, as I could not go and pay
my respects to her.  And really, Priscilla, whether it was that I had
not seen her for some time, or that pretty young ladies look prettiest
in an old woman's sick-room, I thought she was more beautiful than
ever."

"She is handsome," admitted Mrs Rowland.  "Poor thing! it makes one
sorry for her, when one thinks what is before her."

"What is before her?" ask Mrs Enderby, alarmed.

"If she loves her husband at all, she must suffer cruelly in seeing him
act as he persists in doing; and she must tremble in looking forward to
the consequences.  He is quite obstinate about voting for Mr Lowry,
though there is not a soul in Deerbrook to keep him in countenance; and
everybody knows how strongly Sir William Hunter has expressed himself in
favour of Mr Ballinger.  It is thought the consequences will be very
serious to Mr Hope.  There is his almshouse practice at stake, at all
events; and I fancy a good many families will have no more to do with
him if he defies the Hunters, and goes against the opinions of all his
neighbours.  His wife must see that he has nobody with him.  I do pity
the poor young thing!"

"Dear me!" said the old lady, "can nothing be done, I wonder.  I declare
I am quite concerned.  I should hope something may be done.  I would
take the liberty of speaking to him myself, rather than that any harm
should happen to him.  He has always been so very kind to me, that I
think I could venture to say anything to him.  I will turn it over in my
mind, and see what can be done."

"You will not prevail with him, ma'am, I am afraid.  If Mr Grey speaks
in vain (as I know he has done), it is not likely that any one else will
have any influence over him.  No, no; the wilful must be left to their
own devices.  Whatever you do, ma'am, do not speak to the bride about
it, or there is no knowing what you may bring upon yourself."

"What could I bring upon myself, my dear?"

"Oh, those who do not see the vixen in that pretty face of hers, have
not such good eyes as she has herself.  For God's sake, ma'am, do not
offend her!"

Mrs Enderby was now full of concern; and being as unhappy as she could
be made for the present, her daughter took her leave.  The old lady
looked into the fire and sighed, for some minutes after she was left
alone.  When Phoebe re-entered, her mistress declared that she felt
quite tired out, and must lie down.  Before she closed her eyes, she
raised her head again, and said--

"Phoebe, I am surprised at you--"

"Oh, ma'am, you mean about my taking the liberty to make a sign to you.
But, ma'am, I trust you will excuse it, because I am sure Mr Hope would
have no objection to your seeing Mrs Grey; and, to my thought, there is
no occasion to consult with anybody else; and I have no doubt Mrs Grey
will be calling again some day soon, just at a time when you are fit to
see her.  Is not there any book, or anything, ma'am, that I could be
carrying over to Mrs Grey's while you are resting yourself, ma'am?"

"Ah! do so, Phoebe.  Carry that book,--it is not quite due, but that
does not signify; carry that book over, and give my regards, and beg to
know how Mrs Grey and all the family are.  And if Mrs Grey _should_
come in this evening," she continued, in excuse to herself for her
devices, "I shall be able to find out, in a quiet way, where she gets
her arrowroot; and Priscilla will be glad to know."

Whatever it might be that Phoebe said to Alice, and that brought Mrs
Grey out into the hall to speak herself to Phoebe, the result was that
Mrs Grey's lantern was ordered as soon as it grew dark, and that she
arrived in Mrs Enderby's apartment just as the old lady had waked from
her doze, and while the few tears that had escaped from under her
eyelids before she slept were yet scarcely dried upon her cheeks.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

HOME AT "THE HOPES'."

The evil consequences of Mr Hope's voting for Lowry had not been
exaggerated in the anticipations of his friends and vigilant neighbours;
and these consequences were rather aggravated than alleviated by the
circumstance that Mr Lowry won the election.  First, the inhabitants of
Deerbrook were on the watch for any words which might fall from Sir
William or Lady Hunter; and when it was reported that Sir William had
frowned, and sworn an oath at Mr Hope, on hearing how he had voted, and
that Lady Hunter had asked whether it was possible that Mr Hope had
forgotten under whose interest he held his appointment to attend the
almshouses and the neighbouring hamlet, several persons determined to be
beforehand with their great neighbours, and to give the benefit of their
family practice to some one of better politics than Mr Hope.  In
another set of minds, a real fear of Mr Hope, as a dangerous person,
sprang up under the heat of the displeasure of the influential members
of society.  Such were slow to have recourse to another medical
attendant, and undertook the management of the health of their own
families, till they could find an adviser in whom they could perfectly
confide.  When Mr Lowry gained the contest, the population of Deerbrook
was electrified, and the unpleasantness of their surprise was visited
upon the only supporter of Mr Lowry whom the place contained.  Wise
folks were not wanting who talked of the skill which some persons had in
keeping on the winning side,--of reasons which time sometimes revealed
for persons choosing to be singular,--and some remarkable incidents were
reported of conversations between Mr Lowry and Mr Hope in the lanes,
and of certain wonderful advantages which had lately fallen to one or
another of Mr Hope's acquaintances, through some strong political
interest.  Mr Rowland doubted, at his own table, all the news he heard
on the subject, and said everywhere that he did not see why a man should
not vote as he pleased.  Mr Grey was very sorry about the whole affair;
he was sorry that there had been any contest at all for the county, as
it disturbed the peace of Deerbrook; he was sorry that the candidate he
preferred had won, as the fact exasperated the temper of Deerbrook; he
was sorry that Hope had voted, to the detriment of his name and rising
fortunes; and he was sorry that he himself had been unable at last to
vote for Lowry, to keep his young friend in countenance: it was truly
unlucky that he should have passed his promise early to Sir William
Hunter not to vote.  It was a sad business altogether.  It was only to
be hoped that it would pass out of people's minds; that things would
soon get into their usual train; and that it might be seven years before
there was another election.

Hester complained to her husband and sister of the manner in which she
was treated by the tradespeople of the place.  She had desired to put
herself on a footing of acquaintanceship with them, as neighbours, and
persons with whom there must be a constant transaction of business for
life.  She saw at once the difference in the relation between
tradespeople and their customers in a large town like Birmingham, and in
a village where there is but one baker, where the grocer and hatter are
the same personage, and where you cannot fly from your butcher, be he
ever so much your foe.  Hester therefore made it her business to
transact herself all affairs with the village tradesmen.  She began her
housekeeping energetically, and might be seen in Mr Jones's open shop
in the coldest morning of January, selecting her joint of meat; or
deciding among brown sugars at Tucker's, the grocer's.  After the
election, she found some difference in the manner of most of the
shop-people towards her; and she fancied more than there was.  With some
of these persons, there was no more in their minds than the
consciousness of having discussed the new family and Mr Hope's vote,
and come to a conclusion against his "principles."  With others, Mrs
Rowland's influence had done deeper mischief.  A few words dropped by
herself, or reports of her sayings, circulated by her servants,
occasioned dislike or alarm which Hester's sensitiveness apprehended at
once, and forthwith exaggerated.  She complained to her husband that she
could not go to the shops with any comfort, and that she thought she
must turn over the housekeeping to Morris.  Margaret remonstrated
against this; and, by being her sister's constant companion in her walks
of business as well as pleasure, hoped to be able to keep the peace, and
to preserve or restore, if need were, a good understanding between
parties who could most materially promote or injure each other's
comfort.  The leisure hours to which she had looked forward with such
transport were all chequered with anxiety on this subject, in the
intervals of speculation on another matter, to which she found her mind
constantly recurring, in spite of her oft-repeated conviction that it
was no concern of hers,--where Mr Enderby was,--what he was doing,--and
when he would come.  Day by day, as she spread her books before her, or
began to write, she wondered at her own listlessness about employments
to which she had looked forward with so much eagerness; and when she
detected herself gazing into the fire by the half-hour together, or
allowing the ink to dry in her suspended pen, she found that she was as
far as ever from deciding whether Hester was not now in the way to be
less happy than ever, and how it was that, with all her close friendship
with Philip Enderby, of which she had spoken so confidently to Maria,
she was now in perfect ignorance of his movements and intentions.  The
whole was very strange, and, in the experience, somewhat dreary.

Her great comfort was Edward: this was a new support and a strong one:
but even here she was compelled to own herself somewhat disappointed.
This brotherly relation, for which she had longed all her life, did not
bring the fulness of satisfaction which she had anticipated.  She had
not a fault to find with Edward: she was always called upon by his daily
conduct for admiration, esteem, and affection; but all this was not of
the profit to her which she had expected.  He seemed altered: the flow
of his spirits was much moderated; but perhaps this was no loss, as his
calmness, his gentle seriousness, and domestic benevolence were brought
out more strikingly than ever.  Margaret's disappointment lay in the
intercourse between themselves.  That Edward was reserved--that beneath
his remarkable frankness there lay an uncommunicativeness of
disposition--no one could before his marriage have made her believe: yet
it certainly was so.  Though Hester and she never discussed Edward's
character, more or less--though Hester's love for him, and Margaret's
respect for that love, rendered all such conversation unpossible,
Margaret was perfectly well aware that Hester's conviction on this
particular point was the same as her own--that Hester had discovered
that she had not fully understood her husband, and that there remained a
region of his character into which she had not yet penetrated.  Margaret
was obliged to conclude that all this was natural and right, and that
what she had heard said of men generally was true even of Edward Hope--
that there are depths of character where there are not regions of
experience, which defy the sympathy and sagacity of women.  However
natural and right all this might be, she could not but be sorry for it.
It brought disappointment to herself, and, as she sadly suspected, to
Hester.  While continually and delightedly compelled to honour and
regard him more and more, and to rely upon him as she had never before
relied, she felt that he did not win, and even did not desire, any
intimate confidence.  She found that she could still say things to Maria
which she could not say to him; and that, while their domestic
conversation rarely flagged--while it embraced a boundless range of
fact, and all that they could ascertain of morals, philosophy, and
religion--the greatest psychological events, the most interesting
experiences of her life might go forward without express recognition
from Edward.  Such was her view of the case; and this was the
disappointment which, in the early days of her new mode of life, she had
to acknowledge to herself, and to conceal from all others.

One fine bright morning towards the end of January, the sisters set out
for their walk, willingly quitting the clear crackling fire within for
the sharp air and sparkling pathways without.

"Which way shall we go?" asked Margaret.

"Oh, I suppose along the high-road, as usual.  How provoking it is that
we are prevented, day after day, from getting to the woods by my
snow-boots not having arrived!  We will go by Mrs Howell's for the
chance of their having come."

Mrs Howell had two expressions of countenance--the gracious and the
prim.  Till lately, Hester had been favoured with the first exclusively.
She was now to be amused with variety, and the prim was offered to her
contemplation.  Never did Mrs Howell look more inaccessible than
to-day, when she scarcely rose from her stool behind the counter, to
learn what was the errand of her customer.

"You guess what I am come for, Mrs Howell, I dare say.  Have my boots
arrived yet?"

"I am not aware of their having arrived, ma'am.  But Miss Miskin is now
occupied in that department."

"Only consider how the winter is getting on, Mrs Howell! and I can walk
nowhere but in the high-road, for want of my boot."

Mrs Howell curtsied.

"Can you not hasten your agent, or help me to my boots, one way or
another?  Is there no one in Deerbrook whom you could employ to make me
a pair?"

Mrs Howell cast up her hands and eyes.

"How do other ladies manage to obtain their boots before the snow comes,
instead of after it has melted?"

"Perhaps you will ask them yourself ma'am: I conceive you know all the
ladies in Deerbrook.  You will find Miss Miskin in that department,
ladies, if you wish to investigate."

Hester invaded the domain of Miss Miskin--the shoe-shop behind the other
counter--in the hope of finding something to put on her feet, which
should enable her to walk where she pleased.  While engaged in turning
over the stock, without any help from Miss Miskin, who was imitating
Mrs Howell's distant manner with considerable success, a carriage drove
up to the door, which could be no other than Sir William Hunter's; and
Lady Hunter's voice was accordingly heard, the next minute, asking for
green sewing-silk.  The gentle drawl of Mrs Howell's tone conveyed that
her countenance had resumed its primary expression.  She observed upon
the horrors of the fire which had happened at Blickley the night before.
Lady Hunter had not heard of it; and the relation therefore followed
of: the burning down of a house and shop in Blickley, when a nursemaid
and baby were lost in the flames.

"I should hope it is not true," observed Lady Hunter.  "Last night, did
you say?--Early this morning?  There has scarcely been time for the news
to arrive of a fire at Blickley early this morning."

"It is certainly true, however, my lady.  No doubt whatever of the
catastrophe, I am grieved to say."  And Mrs Howell's sighs were
sympathetically responded to by Miss Miskin in the back shop.

"But how did you hear it?" asked Lady Hunter.

There was no audible answer.  There were probably signs and intimations
of something; for Lady Hunter made a circuit round the shop, on some
pretence, and stared in at the door of the shoe-parlour, just at the
right moment for perceiving, if she so pleased, the beautiful smallness
of Hester's foot.  Some low, murmuring, conversation then passed at Mrs
Howell's counter, when the words "black servant" alone met Margaret's
ear.

Hester found nothing that she could wear.  The more she pressed for
information and assistance about obtaining boots, the more provokingly
cool Miss Miskin grew.  At last Hester turned to her sister with a hasty
inquiry what was to be done.

"We must hope for better fortune before next winter, I suppose," said
Margaret, smiling.

"And wet my feet every day this winter," said Hester; "for I will not be
confined to the high-road for any such reason as this."

"Dear me, ma'am, you are warm!" simpered Miss Miskin.

"I warm!  What do you mean, Miss Miskin?"

"You are warm, ma'am:--not that it is of any consequence; but you are a
little warm at present."

"Nobody can charge that upon you, Miss Miskin, I must say," observed
Margaret, laughing.

"No, ma'am, that they cannot, nor ever will.  I am not apt to be warm,
and I hope I can excuse...  Good morning, ladies."

Mrs Howell treated her customers with a swimming curtsey as they went
out, glancing at her shop-woman the while.  Lady Hunter favoured them
with a full stare.

"What excessive impertinence!" exclaimed Hester.  "To tell me that I was
warm, and she hoped she could excuse!  My husband will hardly believe
it."

"Oh, yes, he will.  He knows them for two ignorant, silly women; worth
observing, perhaps, but not worth minding.  Have you any other shop to
go to?"

Yes, the tinman's, for a saucepan or two of a size not yet supplied, for
which Morris had petitioned.

The tinman was either unable or not very anxious to understand Hester's
requisitions.  He brought out everything but what was wanted; and was so
extremely interested in observing something that was going on over the
way, that he was every moment casting glances abroad between the
dutch-ovens and fenders that half-darkened his window.  The ladies at
last looked over the way too, and saw a gig containing a black footman
standing before the opposite house.

"A stranger in Deerbrook!" observed Margaret, as they issued from the
shop.  "I do not wonder that Mr Hill had so little attention to spare
for us."

The sisters had been so accustomed, during all the years of their
Birmingham life, to see faces that they did not know, that they could
not yet sympathise with the emotions caused in Deerbrook by the
appearance of a stranger.  They walked on, forgetting in conversation
all about the gig and black servant.  Hester had not been pleased by the
insufficient attention she had met with in both the shops she had
visited, and she did not enjoy her walk as was her wont.  As they trod
the crisp and glittering snow, Margaret hoped the little Rowlands and
Greys were happy in making the snow-man which had been the vision of
their imaginations since the winter set in: but Hester cast longing eyes
on the dark woods which sprang from the sheeted meadows, and thought
nothing could be so delightful as to wander among them, and gather
icicles from the boughs, even though the paths should be ankle-deep in
snow.

Just when they were proposing to turn back, a horseman appeared on the
ridge of the rising ground, over which the road passed.  "It is Edward!"
cried Hester.  "I had no idea we should meet him on this road."  And she
quickened her pace, and her countenance brightened as if she had not
seen him for a month.  Before they met him, however, the gig with the
black footman, now containing also a gentleman driving, overtook and
slowly passed them--the gentleman looking round him, as if in search of
some dwelling hereabouts.  On approaching Hope, the stranger drew up,
touched his hat, and asked a question; and on receiving the answer,
bowed, turned round, and repassed Hester and Margaret.  Hope joined his
wife and sister, and walked his horse beside the path.

"Who is that gentleman, Edward?"

"I believe it is Mr Foster, the surgeon at Blickley."

"What did he want with you?"

"He wanted to know whether he was in the right road to the Russell
Taylors."

"The Russell Taylors!  Your patients!"

"Once my patients, but no longer so.  It seems they are Mr Foster's
patients now."

Hester made no reply.

"Can you see from your pathway what is going on below there in the
meadow?  I see the skaters very busy on the ponds.  Why do not you go
there, instead of walking here every day?"

Margaret had to explain the case about the snow-boots, for Hester's face
was bathed in tears.  Edward rallied her gently; but it would not do.
She motioned to him to ride on, and he thought it best to do so.  The
sisters proceeded in silence, Hester's tears flowing faster and faster.
Instead of walking through Deerbrook, she took a back road homewards,
and drew down her veil.  As ill luck would have it, however, they met
Sophia Grey and her sisters, and Sophia would stop.  She was about to
turn back with them, when she saw that something was the matter, and
then she checked herself awkwardly, and wished her cousins good morning,
while Fanny and Mary were staring at Hester.

"One ought not to mind," said Margaret, half laughing: "there are so
many causes for grown people's tears! but I always feel now as I did
when I was a child--a shame at being seen in tears, and an excessive
desire to tell people that I have not been naughty."

"You could not have told Sophia so of me, I am sure," said Hester.

"Yes, I could; you are not crying because you have been naughty, but you
are naughty because you cry; and that may be cured presently."

It was not presently cured, however.  During the whole of dinner-time,
Hester's tears continued to flow; and she could not eat, though she made
efforts to do so.  Edward and Margaret talked a great deal about skating
and snow-men, and about the fire at Blickley; but they came to a stand
at last.  The foot-boy went about on tiptoe, and shut the door as if he
had been in a sick-room; and this made Hester's short sobs only the more
audible.  It was a relief when the oranges were on the table at last,
and the door closed behind the dinner and the boy.  Margaret began to
peel an orange for her sister, and Edward poured out a glass of wine; he
placed it before her, and then drew his chair to her side, saying--

"Now, my dear, let us get to the bottom of all this distress."

"No, do not try, Edward.  Never mind me!  I shall get the better of
this, by-and-by: only let me alone."

"Thank you!" said Hope, smiling.  "I like to see people reasonable!  I
am to see you sorrowing in this way, and for very sufficient cause, and
I am neither to mind your troubles nor my own, but to be as merry as if
nothing had happened!  Is not this reasonable, Margaret?"

"For very sufficient cause!" said Hester, eagerly.

"Yes, indeed; for very sufficient cause.  It must be a painful thing to
you to find my neighbours beginning to dislike me; to have the
tradespeople impertinent to you on my account; to see my patients leave
me, and call in somebody from a distance, in the face of all Deerbrook.
It must make you anxious to think what is to become of us, if the
discontent continues and spreads: and it must be a bitter disappointment
to you to find that to be my wife is not to be so happy as we expected.
Here is cause enough for tears."

In the midst of her grief, Hester looked up at her husband with an
expression of gratitude and tenderness which consoled him for her.

"I will not answer for it," he continued, "but that we may all three sit
down to weep together, one of these days."

"And then," said Margaret, "Hester will be the first to cheer up and
comfort us."

"I have no doubt of it," replied Hope.  "Meantime, is there anything
that you would have had done otherwise by me?  Was I right or not to
vote? and was there anything wrong in my manner of doing it?  Is there
any cause whatever for repentance?"

"None, none," cried Hester.  "You have been right throughout.  I glory
in all you do."

"To me it seems that you could not have done otherwise," observed
Margaret.  "It was a simple, unavoidable act, done with the simplicity
of affairs which happen in natural course.  I neither repent it for you,
nor glory in it."

"That is just my view of it, Margaret.  And it follows that the
consequences are to be taken as coming in natural course too.  Does not
this again simplify the affair, Hester?"

"It lights it up," replied Hester.  "It reminds me how all would have
been if you had acted otherwise than as you did.  It is, to be sure,
scarcely possible to conceive of such a thing,--but if you had not
voted, I should have--not despised you in any degree,--but lost
confidence in you a little."

"That is a very mild way of putting it," said Hope, laughing.

"Thank Heaven, we are spared that!" exclaimed Margaret.  "But, brother,
tell us the worst that you think can come of this displeasure against
you.  I rather suspect, however, that we have suffered the worst
already, in discovering that people can be displeased with you."

"That being so extremely rare a lot in this world, and especially in the
world of a village," replied Hope, "I really do not know what to expect
as the last result of this affair, nor am I anxious to foresee.  I never
liked the sort of attachment that most of my neighbours have testified
for me.  It was to their honour in as far as it showed kindness of
heart, but it was unreasonable: so unreasonable that I imagine the
opposite feelings which are now succeeding may be just as much in
excess.  Suppose it should be so, Hester?"

"Well, what then?" she asked, sighing.

"Suppose our neighbours should send me to Coventry, and my patients
should leave me so far as that we should not have enough to live on?"

"That would be persecution," cried Hester, brightening.  "I could bear
persecution,--downright persecution."

"You could bear seeing your husband torn by lions in the amphitheatre,"
said Margaret, smiling, "but..."

"But a toss of Mrs Howell's head is unendurable," said Hope, with
solemnity.

Hester looked down, blushing like a chidden child.

"But about this persecution," said she.  "What made you ask those
questions just now?"

"I find my neighbours more angry with me than I could have supposed
possible, my dear.  I have been treated with great and growing rudeness
for some days.  In a place like this, you know, offences seldom come
alone.  If you do a thing which a village public does not approve, there
will be offence in whatever else you say and do for some time after.
And I suspect that is my case now.  I may be mistaken, however; and
whatever happens, I hope, my love, we shall all be to the last degree
careful not to see offence where it is not intended."

"Not to do the very thing we are suffering under ourselves," observed
Margaret.

"We will not watch our neighbours, and canvass their opinions of us by
our own fireside," said Hope.  "We will conclude them all to be our
friends till they give us clear evidence to the contrary.  Shall it not
be so, love?"

"I know what you mean," said Hester, with some resentment in her voice
and manner.  "You cannot trust my temper in your affairs: and you are
perfectly right.  My temper is not to be trusted."

"Very few are, in the first agonies of unpopularity; and such faith in
one's neighbours as shall supersede watching them ought hardly to be
looked for in the atmosphere of Deerbrook.  We must all look to
ourselves."

"I understand you," said Hester.  "I take the lesson home, I assure you.
It is clear to me through your cautious phrase,--the `we,' and `all of
us,' and `ourselves.'  But remember this,--that people are not made
alike, and are not able, and not intended to feel alike; and if some
have less power than others over their sorrow, at least over their
tears, it does not follow that they cannot bear as well what they have
to bear.  If I cannot sit looking as Margaret does, peeling oranges and
philosophising, it may not be that I have less strength at my heart, but
that I have more at stake,--more--"

Hope started from her side, and leaned against the mantelpiece, covering
his face with his hands.  At this moment, the boy entered with a message
from a patient in the next street, who wanted Mr Hope.

"Oh, do not leave me, Edward!  Do not leave me at this moment!" cried
Hester.  "Come back for five minutes!"

Hope quietly said that he should return presently, and went out.  When
the hall door was heard to close behind him, Hester flung herself down
on the sofa.  Whatever momentary resentment Margaret might have felt at
her sister's words, it vanished at the sight of Hester's attitude of
wretchedness.  She sat on a footstool beside the sofa, and took her
sister's hand in hers.

"You are kinder to me than I deserve," murmured Hester: "but, Margaret,
mind what I say! never marry, Margaret!  Never love, and never marry,
Margaret!"

Margaret laid her hand on her sister's shoulder, saying,--"Stop here,
Hester!  While I was the only friend you had, it was right and kind to
tell me all that was in your heart.  But now that there is one nearer
and dearer, and far, far worthier than I, I can hear nothing like this.
Nor are you fit just now to speak of these serious things: you are
discomposed--"

"One would think you were echoing Miss Miskin, Margaret,--`You are warm,
ma'am.'  But you must hear this much.  I insist upon it.  If you would
have heard me, you would have found that I was not going to say a word
about my husband inconsistent with all the love and honour you would
have him enjoy.  I assure you, you might trust me not to complain of my
husband.  I have no words in which to say how noble he is.  But, oh! it
is all true about the wretchedness of married life!  I am wretched,
Margaret."

"So I see," said Margaret, in deep sorrow.

"Life is a blank to me.  I have no hope left.  I am neither wiser, nor
better, nor happier for God having given me all that should make a woman
what I meant to be.  What can God give me more than I have?"

"I was just thinking so," replied Margaret, mournfully.

"What follows then?"

"Not that all married people are unhappy because you are."

"Yes, oh, yes! all who are capable of happiness: all who can love.  The
truth is, there is no perfect confidence in the world: there is no rest
for one's heart.  I believed there was, and I am disappointed: and if
you believe there is, you will be disappointed too, I warn you."

"I shall not neglect your warning; but I do believe there is rest for
rational affections--I am confident there is, if the primary condition
is fulfilled--if there is repose in God together with human love."

"You think that trust in God is wanting in me?"

"Do let us speak of something else," said Margaret.  "We are wrong to
think and talk of ourselves as we do.  There is something sickly about
our state while we do so, and we deserve to be suffering as we are.
Come! let us be up and doing.  Let me read to you; or will you practise
with me till Edward comes back?"

"Not till you have answered my question, Margaret.  Do you believe that
my wretchedness is from want of trust in God?"

"I believe," said Margaret, seriously, "that all restless and passionate
suffering is from that cause.  And now, Hester, no more."

Hester allowed Margaret to read to her; but it would not do.  She was
too highly wrought up for common interests.  The reading was broken off
by her hysterical sobs; and it was clear that the best thing to be done
was to get her to bed, under Morris's care, that all agitating
conversation might be avoided.  When Mr Hope returned, he found
Margaret sitting alone at the tea-table.  If she had had no greater
power of self-control than her sister, Edward might have been made
wretched enough, for her heart was full of dismay: but she felt the
importance of the duty of supporting him, and he found her, though
serious, apparently cheerful.

"I have sent Hester to bed," said she, as he entered.  "She was worn
out.  Yes: just go and speak to her; but do not give her the opportunity
of any more conversation till she has slept.  Tell her that I am going
to send her some tea; and by that time yours will be ready."

"Just one word upon the events of to-day," said Hope, as he took his
seat at the tea-table, after having reported that Hester was tolerably
composed:--"just one word, and no more.  We must avoid bringing emotions
to a point--giving occasion for--"

"I entirely agree with you," said Margaret.  "She requires to be drawn
out of herself.  She cannot bear that opening of the sluices, which is a
benefit and comfort to some people.  Let us keep them shut, and when it
comes to acting, see how she will act!"

"Bless you for that!" was on Hope's lips; but he did not say it.  Tea
was soon dismissed, and he then took up the newspaper; and when that was
finished, he found he could not read to Margaret--he must write:--he had
a case to report for a medical journal.

"I hope I have not spoiled your evening," said Hester, languidly, when
her sister went to bid her good-night.  "I have been listening; but I
could not hear you either laughing or talking."

"Because we have been neither laughing nor talking.  My brother has been
writing--"

"Writing!  To whom?  To Emily, or to Anne?"

"To a far more redoubtable person than either: to the editor of some one
of those green and blue periodicals that he devours, as if they were
poetry.  And I have been copying music."

"How tired you look!"

"Well, then, good-night!"

Margaret might well look tired; but she did not go to rest for long.
How should she rest, while her soul was sick with dismay, her heart
weighed down with disappointment, her sister's sobs still sounding in
her ear, her sister's agonised countenance rising up from moment to
moment, as often as she closed her eyes?  And all this within the sacred
enclosure of home, in the very sanctuary of peace!  All this where love
had guided the suffering one to marriage--where there was present
neither sickness, nor calamity, nor guilt, but the very opposites of all
these!  Could it then be true, that the only sanctuary of peace is in
the heart? that while love is the master passion of humanity, the
main-spring of human action, the crowning interest of human life--while
it is ordained, natural, inevitable, it should issue as if it were
discountenanced by Providence, unnatural, and to be repelled?  Could it
be so?  Was Hester's warning against love, against marriage, reasonable,
and to be regarded?  That warning Margaret thought she could never put
aside, so heavily had it sunk upon her heart, crushing--she knew not
what there.  If it was not a reasonable warning, whither should she turn
for consolation for Hester?  If this misery arose out of an incapacity
in Hester herself for happiness in domestic life, then farewell sisterly
comfort--farewell all the bright visions she had ever indulged on behalf
of the one who had always been her nearest and dearest?  Instead of
these, there must be struggle and grief, far deeper than in the anxious
years that were gone; struggle with an evil which must grow if it does
not diminish, and grief for an added sufferer--for one who deserved
blessing where he was destined to receive torture.  This was not the
first time by a hundred that Hester had kept Margaret from her pillow,
and then driven rest from it; but never had the trial been so great as
now.  There had been anxiety formerly; now there was something like
despair, after an interval of hope and comparative ease.

Mankind are ignorant enough, Heaven knows, both in the mass, about
general interests, and individually, about the things which belong to
their peace: but of all mortals, none perhaps are so awfully
self-deluded as the unamiable.  They do not, any more than others, sin
for the sake of sinning; but the amount of woe caused by their selfish
unconsciousness is such as may well make their weakness an equivalent
for other men's gravest crimes.  There is a great diversity of
hiding-places for their consciences--many mansions in the dim prison of
discontent: but it may be doubted whether, in the hour when all shall be
uncovered to the eternal day, there will be revealed a lower deep than
the hell which they have made.  They, perhaps, are the only order of
evil ones who suffer hell without seeing and knowing that it is hell.
But they are under a heavier curse even than this; they inflict
torments, second only to their own, with an unconsciousness almost
worthy of spirits of light.  While they complacently conclude themselves
the victims of others, or pronounce, inwardly or aloud, that they are
too singular, or too refined, for common appreciation, they are putting
in motion an enginery of torture whose aspect will one day blast their
minds' sight.  The dumb groans of their victims will sooner or later
return upon their ears from the depths of the heaven, to which the
sorrows of men daily ascend.  The spirit sinks under the prospect of the
retribution of the unamiable, if all that happens be indeed for
eternity, if there be indeed a record--an impress on some one or other
human spirit--of every chilling frown, of every querulous tone, of every
bitter jest, of every insulting word--of all abuses of that tremendous
power which mind has over mind.  The throbbing pulses, the quivering
nerves, the wrung hearts, that surround the unamiable--what a cloud of
witnesses is here! and what plea shall avail against them?  The terror
of innocents who should know no fear--the vindictive emotions of
dependants who dare not complain--the faintness of heart of life-long
companions--the anguish of those who love--the unholy exultation of
those who hate,--what an array of judges is here! and where can appeal
be lodged against their sentence?  Is pride of singularity a rational
plea?  Is super-refinement, or circumstance of God, or uncongeniality in
man, a sufficient ground of appeal, when the refinement of one is a
grace granted for the luxury of all, when circumstance is given to be
conquered, and uncongeniality is appointed for discipline?  The
sensualist has brutified the seraphic nature with which he was endowed.
The depredator has intercepted the rewards of toil, and marred the image
of justice, and dimmed the lustre of faith in men's minds.  The imperial
tyrant has invoked a whirlwind, to lay waste, for an hour of God's
eternal year, some region of society.  But the unamiable--the domestic
torturer--has heaped wrong upon wrong, and woe upon woe, through the
whole portion of time which was given into his power, till it would be
rash to say that any others are more guilty than he.  If there be hope
or solace for such, it is that there may have been tempers about him the
opposite of his own.  It is matter of humiliating gratitude that there
were some which he could not ruin; and that he was the medium of
discipline by which they were exercised in forbearance, in divine
forgiveness and love.  If there be solace in such an occasional result,
let it be made the most of by those who need it; for it is the only
possible alleviation to their remorse.  Let them accept it as the free
gift of a mercy which they have insulted, and a long-suffering which
they have defied.

Not thus, however, did Margaret regard the case of her sister.  She had
but of late ceased to suppose herself in the wrong when Hester was
unhappy: and though she was now relieved from the responsibility of her
sister's peace, she was slow to blame--reluctant to class the case lower
than as one of infirmity.  Her last waking thoughts (and they were very
late) were of pity and of prayer.

As the door closed behind Margaret, Hope had flung down his pen.  In one
moment she had returned for a book; and she found him by the fireside,
leaning his head upon his arms against the wall.  There was something in
his attitude which startled her out of her wish for her book, and she
quietly withdrew without it.  He turned, and spoke, but she was gone.

"So this is home!" thought he, as he surveyed the room, filled as it was
with tokens of occupation, and appliances of domestic life.  "It is home
to be more lonely than ever before--and yet never to be alone with my
secret!  At my own table, by my own hearth, I cannot look up into the
faces around me, nor say what I am thinking.  In every act and every
word I am in danger of disturbing the innocent--even of sullying the
pure, and of breaking the bruised reed.  Would to God I had never seen
them!  How have I abhorred bondage all my life! and I am in bondage
every hour that I spend at home.  I have always insisted that there was
no bondage but in guilt.  Is it so?  If it be so, then I am either
guilty, or in reality free.  I have settled this before.  I am guilty;
or rather, I have been guilty; and this is my retribution.  Not guilty
towards Margaret.  Thank God, I have done her no wrong!  Thank God, I
have never been in her eyes--what I must not think of!  Nor could I ever
have been, if...  She loves Enderby, I am certain, though she does not
know it herself.  It is a blessing that she loves him, if I could but
always feel it so.  I am not guilty towards her, nor towards Hester,
except in the weakness of declining to inflict that suffering upon her
which, fearful as it must have been, might perhaps have proved less
than, with all my care, she must undergo now.  There was my fault.  I
did not, I declare, seek to attach her.  I did nothing wrong so far.
But I dared to measure suffering--to calculate consequences
presumptuously and vainly: and this is my retribution.  How would it
have been, if I had allowed them to go back to Birmingham, and had been
haunted with the image of her there?  But why go over this again, when
my very soul is weary of it all?  It lies behind, and let it be
forgotten.  The present is what I have to do with, and it is quite
enough.  I have injured, cruelly injured myself; and I must bear with
myself.  Here I am, charged with the duty of not casting my shadow over
the innocent, and of strengthening the infirm.  I have a clear duty
before me--that is one blessing.  The innocent will soon be taken from
under my shadow--I trust so--for my duty there is almost too hard.  How
she would confide in me, and I must not let her, and must continually
disappoint her, and suffer in her affection.  I cannot even be to her
what our relation warrants.  And all the while her thoughts are my
thoughts; her...  But this will never do.  It is enough that she trusts
me, and that I deserve that she should.  This is all that I can ever
have or hope for; but I have won thus much; and I shall keep it.  Not a
doubt or fear, not a moment's ruffle of spirits, shall she ever
experience from me.  As for my own poor sufferer--what months and years
are before us both!  What a discipline before she can be at peace!  If
she were to look forward as I do, her heart would sink as mine does, and
perhaps she would try...  But we must not look forward: her heart must
not sink.  I must keep it up.  She has strength under her weakness, and
I must help her to bring it out and use it.  There ought to be, there
must be, peace in store for such generosity of spirit as lies under the
jealousy, for such devotedness, for such power.  Margaret says, `When it
comes to acting, see how she will act.'  Oh, that it might please Heaven
to send such adversity as would prove to herself how nobly she can act!
If some strong call on her power, would come in aid of what I would fain
do for her, I care not what it is.  If I can only witness my own wrong
repaired--if I can but see her blessed from within, let all other things
be as they may!  The very thought frees me, and I breathe again!"



CHAPTER TWENTY.

ENDERBY NEWS.

"Mamma, what do you think Fanny and Mary Grey say?" asked Matilda of her
mother.

"My dear, I wish you would not tease me with what the Greys say.  They
say very little that is worth repeating."

"Well, but you must hear this, mamma.  Fanny and Mary were walking with
Sophia yesterday, and they met Mrs Hope and Miss Ibbotson in Turn-stile
Lane; and Mrs Hope was crying so, you can't think."

"Indeed!  Crying!  What, in the middle of the day?"

"Yes; just before dinner.  She had her veil down, and she did not want
to stop, evidently, mamma.  She--."

"I should wonder if she did," observed Mr Rowland from the other side
of the newspaper he was reading.  "If Dr and Mrs Levitt were to come
in the next time you cry, Matilda, you would not want to stay in the
parlour, evidently, I should think.  For my part, I never show my face
when I am crying."

"You cry, papa!" cried little Anna.  "Do you ever cry?"

"Have you never found me behind the deals, or among the sacks in the
granary, with my finger in my eye?"

"No, papa.  Do show us how you look when you cry."

Mr Rowland's face, all dolefulness, emerged from behind the newspaper,
and the children shouted.

"But," said Matilda, observing that her mother's brow began to lower, "I
think it is very odd that Mrs Hope did not stay at home if she wanted
to cry.  It is so very odd to go crying about the streets!"

"I dare say Deerbrook is very much obliged to her," said papa.  "It will
be something to talk about for a week."

"But what could she be crying for, papa?"

"Suppose you ask her, my dear?  Had you not better put on your bonnet,
and go directly to Mr Hope's, and ask, with our compliments, what Mrs
Hope was crying for at four o'clock yesterday afternoon?  Of course she
can tell better than anybody else."

"Nonsense, Mr Rowland," observed his lady.  "Go, children, it is very
near school-time."

"No, mamma; not by--"

"Go, I insist upon it, Matilda.  I will have you do as you are bid.  Go,
George: go, Anna.--Now, my love, did I not tell you so, long ago?  Do
not you remember my observing to you, how coldly Mr Hope took our
congratulations on his engagement in the summer?  I was sure there was
something wrong.  They are not happy, depend upon it."

"What a charming discovery that would be!"

"You are very provoking, Mr Rowland!  I do believe you try to imitate
Mr Grey's dry way of talking to his wife."

"I thought I had heard you admire that way, my dear."

"For her, yes: it does very well for a woman like her: but I beg you
will not try it upon me, Mr Rowland."

"Well, then, Mrs Rowland, I am going to be as serious as ever I was in
my life, when I warn you how you breathe such a suspicion as that the
Hopes are not happy.  Remember you have no evidence whatever about the
matter.  When you offered Mr Hope your congratulations, he was feeble
from illness, and probably too much exhausted at the moment to show any
feeling, one way or another.  And as for this crying fit of Mrs Hope's,
no one is better able than you, my dear, to tell how many causes there
may be for ladies' tears besides being unhappily married."

"Pray, Mr Rowland, make yourself easy, I beg.  Whom do you suppose I
should mention such a thing to?"

"You have already mentioned it to yourself and me, my dear, which is
just two persons too many.  Not a word more on the subject, if you
please."

Mrs Rowland saw that this was one of her husband's authority days;--
rare days, when she could not have her own way, and her quiet husband
was really formidable.  She buckled on her armour, therefore, forthwith.
That armour was--silence.  Mr Rowland was sufficiently aware of the
process now to be gone through, to avoid speaking, when he knew he
should obtain no reply.  He finished his newspaper without further
remark, looked out a book from the shelves, half-whistling all the
while, and left the room.

Meantime, the children had gone to the schoolroom, disturbing Miss Young
nearly an hour too soon.  Miss Young told them she was not at liberty;
and when she heard that their mamma had sent them away from the
drawing-room, she asked why they could not play as usual.  It was so
cold!  How did George manage to play?  George had not come in with the
rest.  If he could play, so could they.  The little girls had no doubt
George would present himself soon: they did not know where he had run;
but he would soon have enough of the cold abroad, or of the dullness of
the nursery.  In another moment Miss Young was informed of the fact of
Hester's tears of yesterday; and, much as she wanted the time she was
deprived of; she was glad the children had come to her, that this piece
of gossip might be stopped.  She went somewhat at length with them into
the subject of tears, showing that it is very hasty to conclude that any
one has been doing wrong, even in the case of a child's weeping; and
much more with regard to grown people.  When they had arrived at
wondering whether some poor person had been begging of Mrs Hope, or
whether one of Mr Hope's patients that she cared about was very ill, or
whether anybody had been telling her an affecting story, Miss Young
brought them to see that they ought not to wish to know;--that they
should no more desire to read Mrs Hope's thoughts than to look over her
shoulder while she was writing a letter.  She was just telling them a
story of a friend of hers who called on an old gentleman, and found him
in very low spirits, with his eyes all red and swollen; and how her
friend did not know whether to take any notice; and how the truth came
out,--that the old gentleman had been reading a touching story:--she was
just coming to the end of this anecdote, when the door opened and
Margaret entered, holding George by the hand.  Margaret looked rather
grave, and said--

"I thought I had better come to you first, Maria, for an explanation
which you may be able to give.  Do you know who sent little George with
a message to my sister just now?  I concluded you did not.  George has
been calling at my brother's door, with his papa's and mamma's
compliments, and a request to know what Mrs Hope was crying for
yesterday, at four o'clock."

Maria covered her face with her hands, with as much shame as if she had
been in fault, while "Oh, George!" was reproachfully uttered by the
little girls.

"Matilda," said Miss Young, "I trust you to go straight to your papa,
without saying a word of this to any one else, and to ask him to come
here this moment.  I trust you, my dear."

Matilda discharged her trust.  She peeped into the drawing-room, and
popped out again without speaking, when she saw papa was no longer
there.  She found him in the office, and brought him, without giving any
hint of what had happened.  He was full of concern, of course; said that
he could not blame George, though he was certainly much surprised; that
it would be a lesson to him not to use irony with children, since even
the broadest might be thus misunderstood; and that a little family scene
had thus been laid open, which he should hardly regret if it duly
impressed his children with the folly and unkindness of village gossip.
He declared he could not be satisfied without apologising,--well, then,
without explaining, to Mrs Hope how it had happened; and he would do it
through the medium of Mr Hope; for, to say the truth, he was ashamed to
face Mrs Hope till his peace was made.  Margaret laughed at this, and
begged him to go home with her; but he preferred stepping over to Mrs
Enderby's, where Mr Hope had just been seen to enter.  Mr Rowland
concluded by saying, that he should accept it as a favour in Miss
Ibbotson, as well as Miss Young, if she would steadily refuse to gratify
any impertinent curiosity shown by his children, in whatever direction
it might show itself.  They were exposed to great danger from example in
Deerbrook, like most children brought up in small villages, he supposed:
and he owned he dreaded the idea of his children growing up the scourges
to society that he considered foolish and malignant gossips to be.

"Do sit down, Margaret," said Maria.  "I shall feel uncomfortable when
you are gone, if you do not stay a minute to turn our thoughts to
something pleasanter than this terrible mistake of poor George's."

"I cannot stay now, however," said Margaret, smiling.  "You know I must
go and turn my sister's thoughts to something pleasanter.  There she is,
sitting at home, waiting to know how all this has happened."

"Whether she has not been insulted?  You are right, Margaret.  Make
haste back to her, and beg her pardon for us all.  Shall she not,
children, if she will be so kind?"

Margaret was overwhelmed with the petitions for pardon she had to carry;
and not one of the children asked what Mrs Hope had been crying for,
after all.

Hester looked up anxiously as Margaret entered the drawing-room at home.

"It is all a trifle," said Margaret, gaily.

"How can it be a trifle?"

"The little Greys told what they saw yesterday, of course; and one of
the little Rowlands wondered what was the reason;--(children can never
understand what grown people, who have no lessons to learn, can cry for,
you know); and Mr Rowland, to make their gossip ridiculous to
themselves, told them they had better come and ask; and poor George, who
cannot take a joke, came without any one knowing where he was gone.
They were all in great consternation when I told them, and there is an
ample apology coming to you through Edward.  That is the whole story,
except that Mr Rowland would have come himself to you, instead of going
to your husband, but that he was ashamed of his joke.  So there is an
end of that silly matter, unless it be to make George always ask
henceforth whether people are in joke or in earnest."

"I think Mr Rowland might have come to me," observed Hester.  "Are you
sure Mrs Rowland had nothing to do with it?"

"I neither saw her nor heard of her.  You had better not go out to-day,
it is so like snow.  I shall be back soon; but as I have my bonnet on, I
shall go and see Johnny Rye and his mother.  Can I do anything for you?"

"Oh, my snow-boots!  But I would not have you go to Mrs Howell's while
she is in such a mood as she was in yesterday.  I would not go myself."

"Oh!  I will go.  I am not afraid of Mrs Howell; and we shall have to
encounter her again, sooner or later.  I will buy something, and then
see what my diplomacy will effect about the boots."

Mr Hope presently came in, and found his wife prepared for the apology
he brought from Mr Rowland.  But it was obvious that Hope's mind was
far more occupied with something else.

"Where is Margaret?"

"She is gone out to Widow Rye's, and to Mrs Howell's."

"No matter where, as long as she is out.  I want to consult you about
something."  And he drew a chair to the fire, and told that he had
visited Mrs Enderby, whom he found very poorly, apparently from
agitation of spirits.  She had shed a few tears on reporting her health,
and had dropped something which he could not understand, about this
being almost the last time she should be able to speak freely to him.
Hester anxiously hoped that the good old lady was not really going to
die.  There was no near probability of this, her husband assured her.
He thought Mrs Enderby referred to some other change than dying; but
what, she did not explain.  She had gone on talking in rather an excited
way, and at last hinted that she supposed she should not see her son for
some time, as Mrs Rowland had intimated that he was fully occupied with
the young lady he was going to be married to.  Mrs Enderby plainly said
that she had not heard this from Philip himself; but she seemed to
entertain no doubt of the truth of the information she had received.
She appeared to be struggling to be glad at the news; but it was clear
that the uppermost feeling was disappointment at having no immediate
prospect of seeing her son.

"Now, what are we to think and do?" said Hope.

"This agrees with what Mrs Rowland told me in Dingleford woods, six
months ago," said Hester; "and I suppose what she then said may have
been true all this time."

"How does that agree with his conduct to Margaret?  Or am I mistaken in
what I have told you I thought about that?  Seriously--very seriously--
how do you suppose the case stands with Margaret?"

"I know no more than you.  I think he went further than he ought, if he
was thinking of another; and, but for his conduct since, I should have
quite concluded, from some observations that I made, that he was
attached to Margaret."

"And she--?"

"And she certainly likes him very well; but I can hardly fancy her
happiness at stake.  I have thought her spirit rather flat of late."

Hope sighed deeply.

"Ah! you may well sigh," said Hester, sighing herself, and sinking back
in her chair.  "You know what I am going to say.  I thought I might be
the cause of her being less gay than she should be.  I have disappointed
her expectations, I know.  But let us talk only of her."

"Yes: let us talk only of her, till we have settled what is our duty to
her.  Ought we to tell her of this or not?"

Both considered long.  At length Hester said--

"I think she ought to hear it quietly at home first (whether it be true
or not), to prepare her for anything that may be reported abroad.
Perhaps, if you were to drop, as we sit together here, what Mrs Enderby
said--"

"No, no; not I," said Hope, quickly.  He went on more calmly: "Her
sister and bosom friend is the only person to do this--if, indeed, it
ought to be done.  But the news may be untrue; and then she need perhaps
never hear it.  Do not let us be in a hurry."

Hester thought that if Margaret felt nothing more than friendship for
Enderby, she would still consider herself ill-used; for the friendship
had been so close an one that she might reasonably expect that she
should not be left to learn such an event as this from common report.
But was it certain, Hope asked, that she had anything new to learn?  Was
it certain that she was not in his confidence all this time--that she
had not known ten times as much as Mrs Rowland from the beginning?
Certainly not from the beginning, Hester said; and she had a strong
persuasion that Margaret was as ignorant as themselves of Enderby's
present proceedings and intentions.

At this moment, a note was brought in.  It was from Mrs Enderby to Mr
Hope, written hurriedly, and blistered with tears.  It told that she had
been extremely wrong in mentioning to him prematurely what was uppermost
in her mind about a certain family affair, and begged the great favour
of him to keep to himself what she had divulged, and, if possible, to
forget it.  Once more, Mr Hope unconsciously sighed.  It was at the
idea that he could forget such a piece of intelligence.

"Poor old lady!" said Hester; "she has been taken to task, I suppose,
for relieving her mind to you.  But, Edward, this looks more and more as
if the news were true.  My darling Margaret!  How will it be with her?
Does it not look too like being true, love?"

"It looks as if Enderby's family all believed it, certainly.  This note
settles the matter of our duty, however.  If the affair is so private
that Mrs Enderby is to be punished for telling me, it is hardly likely
that Margaret will hear it by out-door chance.  You are spared the task
for the present at least, my dear!"

"I should like to be sure that Margaret does not love--that she might
pass through life without loving," said Hester, sighing, "But here she
comes!  Burn the note!"

The note curled in the flames, was consumed, and its ashes fluttered up
the chimney, and Margaret did not enter.  She had gone straight
up-stairs.  She did not come down till dinner was on the table.  She was
then prepared with the announcement that the snow-boots might be looked
for very soon.  She told of her visit to Widow Rye's, and had something
to say of the probability of snow; but she was rather absent, and she
took wine.  These were all the circumstances that her anxious sister
could fix upon, during dinner, for silent comment.  After dinner, having
eaten an orange with something like avidity, Margaret withdrew for a
very few minutes.  As the door closed behind her, Hester whispered--

"She has heard.  She knows.  Is it not so?"

"There is no question about it," replied Hope, examining the screen he
held in his hand.

"I wonder who can have told her."

"Tellers of bad news are never wanting, especially in Deerbrook," said
Hope, with a bitterness of tone which Hester had never heard from him
before.

Margaret took up the other screen when she returned, and played with it
till the table was cleared, so that she could have the use of her
work-box.  It was Morris who removed the dessert.

"Morris," said Mr Hope, as she was leaving the room, "I want Charles:
pray send him."

"Charles is out, sir."

"Out! when will he be back?"

"He will be back presently," said Margaret.  "I sent him with a note to
Maria."

As she leant over her work again, Hester and her husband exchanged
glances.

An answer from Maria soon arrived.  Margaret read it as she sat, her
brother and sister carefully withdrawing their observation from her.
Whatever else might be in the note, she read aloud the latter part--two
or three lines relating to the incident of the morning.  Her voice was
husky, but her manner was gay.  During the whole evening she was gay.
She insisted on making tea, and was too quick with the kettle for Edward
to help her.  She proposed music, and she sang--song after song.  Hester
was completely relieved about her; and even Edward gave himself up to
the hope that all was well with her.  From music they got to dancing.
Margaret had learned, by sitting with Maria during the children's
dancing-lesson, a new dance which had struck her fancy, and they must be
ready with it next week at Dr Levitt's.  Alternately playing the dance
and teaching it, she ran from the piano to them, and from them to the
piano, till they were perfect, and her face was as flushed as it could
possibly be at Mrs Levitt's dance next week.  But in the midst of this
flush, Hope saw a shiver: and Hester remarked, that during the teaching,
Margaret had, evidently without being aware of it, squeezed her hand
with a force which could not have been supposed to be in her.  These
things made Hope still doubt.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

CONSCIOUSNESS TO THE UNCONSCIOUS.

Mr Hope might well doubt.  Margaret was not gay but desperate.  Yes,
even the innocent may be desperate under circumstances of education and
custom, by which feelings natural and inevitable are made occasions of
shame; while others, which are wrong and against the better nature of
man, bask in daylight and impunity.  There was not a famishing wretch
prowling about a baker's door, more desperate than Margaret this day.
There was not a gambler setting his teeth while watching the last turn
of the die, more desperate than Margaret this day.  If there was a
criminal standing above a sea of faces with the abominable executioner's
hands about his throat, Margaret was, for the time, as wretched as he.

If any asked why--why it should be thus with one who has done no wrong,
the answer is--Why is there pride in the human heart?--why is there a
particular nurture of this pride into womanly reserve?--Why is it that
love is the chief experience, and almost the only object, of a woman's
life?  Why is it that it is painful to beings who look before and after
to have the one hope of existence dashed away--the generous faith
outraged--all self-confidence overthrown--life in one moment made dreary
as the desert--Heaven itself overclouded--and death all the while
standing at such a weary distance that there is no refuge within the
horizon of endurance?  Be these things right or wrong, they are: and
while they are, will the woman who loves, unrequited, feel desperate on
the discovery of her loneliness--and, the more pure and proud, innocent
and humble, the more lonely.

For some little time past, Margaret had been in a state of great
tranquillity about Philip--a tranquillity which she now much wondered
at--now that it was all over.  She had had an unconscious faith in him;
and, living in this faith, she had forgotten herself, she had not
thought of the future, she had not felt impatient for any change.  Often
as she wished for his presence, irksome as she had sometimes felt it to
know nothing of him from week to week, she had been tacitly satisfied
that she was in his thoughts as he was in hers; and this had been enough
for the time.  What an awakening from this quiescent state was hers this
day!

It was from no other than Dr Levitt that she had heard in the morning
that Mr Enderby was shortly going to be married to Miss Mary Bruce.
Dr Levitt was at Widow Rye's when Margaret went, and had walked part of
the way home with her.  During the walk, this piece of news had dropped
out, while they were talking of Mrs Enderby's health.  All that Dr
Levitt knew of Miss Mary Bruce was, that she was of sufficiently good
family and fortune to make the Rowlands extremely well satisfied with
the match; that Mrs Enderby had never seen her, and that it would be
some time before she could see her, as the whole family of the Bruces
was at Rome for the winter.  When Dr Levitt parted from Margaret at the
gate of the churchyard, these last words contained the hope she clung
to--a hope which might turn into the deepest reason for despair.  Philip
had certainly not been abroad.  Was it likely that he should lately have
become engaged to any young lady who had been some time in Rome?  It was
not likely: but then, if it was true, he must have been long engaged: he
must have been engaged at the time of his last visit of six days, when
he had talked over his views of life with Margaret, and been so anxious
to obtain hers:--he must surely have been engaged in the summer, when
she found Tieck in the desk, and when he used to spend so many evenings
at the Greys'--certainly not on Hester's account.  At one moment she was
confident all this could not be; she was relieved; she stepped lightly.
The next moment, a misgiving came that it was all too true; the weight
fell again upon her heart, she lost breath, and it was intolerable to
have to curtesy to Mrs James, and to answer the butcher's inquiry about
the meat that had been ordered.  If these people would only go on with
their own business, and take no notice of her!  Then, again, the thought
occurred, that she knew Philip better than any,--than even his own
family; and that, say what they might, he was all her own.  In these
changes of mood, she had got through dinner; the dominant idea was then
that she must, by some means or other, obtain certainty.  She thought of
Maria.  Maria was likely to know the facts, from her constant
intercourse with the Rowlands, and besides, there was certainly a
something in Maria's mind in relation to Philip,--a keen insight, which
might be owing to the philosophical habit of her mind, or to something
else,--but which issued in information about him, which it was
surprising that she could obtain.  She seldom spoke of him; but when she
did, it was wonderfully to the purpose.  Margaret thought she could
learn from Maria, in a very simple and natural way, that which she so
much wished to know: and when she left the room after dinner, it was to
write the note which might bring certainty.

  "Dear Friend,--I saw Dr Levitt this morning while I was out, and he
  told me, with all possible assurance, that Mr Enderby is going to be
  married very shortly to a young lady at Rome,--Miss Mary Bruce.  Now,
  this is true or it is not.  If true, you are as well aware as we are
  that we are entitled to have known it otherwise and earlier than by
  common report.  If not true, the rumour should not be allowed to
  spread.  If you know anything certainly, one way or the other, pray
  tell us.

  "Yours affectionately,

  "Margaret Ibbotson."

The "we" and "us" were not quite honest; but Margaret meant to make them
as nearly so as possible by _ex-post-facto_ communication with her
brother and sister: a resolution so easily made, that it did not occur
to her how difficult it might be to execute.  While her messenger was
gone, she wrought herself up to a resolution to bear the answer,
whatever it might be, with the same quietness with which she must bear
the whole of her future life, if Dr Levitt's news should prove to be
founded in fact.  The door opening seemed to prick the nerves of her
ears: her heart heaved to her throat at the sight of the white paper:
yet it was with neatness that she broke the seal, and with a steady hand
that she held the note to read it.  The handwriting was only too
distinct: it seemed to burn itself in upon her brain.  All was over.

  "Dear Margaret,--I do not know where Dr Levitt got his news; but I
  believe it is true.  Mrs Rowland pretends to absolute certainty about
  her brother's engagement to Miss Bruce; and it is from this that
  others speak so positively about it.  Whatever are the grounds that
  Mrs R. goes upon, there are others which afford a strong presumption
  that she is right.  Some of these may be known to you.  They leave no
  doubt in my mind that the report is true.  As to the failure of
  confidence in his friends,--what can be said?--unless by way of
  reminder of the old truth that, by the blessing of Heaven, wrongs--be
  they but deep enough--may chasten a human temper into something
  divine.

  "George has been very grave for the last three hours, pandering, I
  fancy, what irony can be for.  Your sister will not grudge him his
  lesson, though afforded at her expense.

  "Yours affectionately,

  "Maria Young."

"Wrongs!" thought she;--"Maria goes too far when she speaks of wrongs.
There was nothing in my note to bring such an expression in answer.  It
is going too far."

This was but the irritability of a racked soul, needing to spend its
agony somewhere.  The remembrance of the conversation with Maria, held
so lately, and of Maria's views of Philip's relation to her, returned
upon her, and her soul melted within her.  She, felt that Maria had
understood her better than she did herself; and was justified in the
words she had used.  Under severe calamity, to be endured alone, evil
thoughts sometimes come before good ones.  Margaret was, for an hour or
two, possessed with the bad spirit of defiance.  Her mind sank back into
what it had been in her childhood, when she had hidden herself in the
lumber-room, or behind the water-tub, for many hours, to make the family
uneasy, because she had been punished,--in the days when she bore every
infliction that her father dared to try, with apparent unconcern, rather
than show to watchful eyes that she was moved,--in the days when the
slightest concession would dissolve her stubbornness in an instant, but
when, to get rid of a life of contradiction, she had had serious
thoughts of cutting her throat, had gone to the kitchen door to get the
carving-knife, and had been much disappointed to find the servants at
dinner, and the knife-tray out of reach.  This spirit, so long ago
driven out by the genial influences of family love, by the religion of
an expanding intellect, and the solace of appreciation, now came back to
inhabit the purified bosom which had been kept carefully swept and
garnished.  It was the motion of this spirit, uneasy in its unfit abode,
that showed itself by the shiver, the flushed cheek, the clenching hand,
and the flashing eye.  It kept whispering wicked things,--"I will baffle
and deceive Maria: she shall withdraw her pity, and laugh at it with
me."  "I defy Edward and Hester: they shall wonder how it is that my
fancy alone is free, that my heart alone is untouched, that the storms
of life pass high over my head, and dare not lower."  "I will humble
Philip, and convince him..."  But, no; it would not do.  The abode was
too lowly and too pure for the evil spirit of defiance: the demon did
not wait to be cast out; but as Margaret sat down in her chamber, alone
with her lot, to face it as she might, the strange inmate escaped, and
left her at least herself.

Margaret was in agonised amazement at the newness of the misery she was
suffering.  She really fancied she had sympathised with Hester that
dreadful night of Hope's accident: she had then actually believed that
she was entering into her sister's feelings.  It had been as much like
it as seeing a picture of one on the rack is like being racked.  But
Hester had not had so much cause for misery, for she never had to
believe Edward unworthy.  Her pride had been wounded at finding that her
peace was no longer in her own power; but she had not been trifled
with--duped.  Here again Margaret refused to believe.  The fault was all
her own.  She had been full of herself, full of vanity; fancying,
without cause, that she was much to another when she was little.  She
was humbled now, and she no doubt deserved it.  But how ineffably weak
and mean did she appear in her own eyes!  It was this which clouded
Heaven to her at the moment that earth had become a desert.  She felt so
debased, that she durst not ask for strength where she was wont to find
it.  If she had done one single wrong thing, she thought she could bear
the consequences cheerfully, and seek support, and vigorously set about
repairing the causes of her fault; but here it seemed to her that her
whole state of mind had been low and selfish.  It must be this sort of
blindness which had led her so far in so fearful a delusion.  And if the
whole condition of her mind had been low and selfish, while her
conscience had given her no hint of anything being amiss, where was she
to begin to rectify her being?  She felt wholly degraded.

And then what a set of pictures rose up before her excited fancy!
Philip going forth for a walk with her and Hester, after having just
sealed a letter to Miss Bruce, carrying the consciousness of what he had
been saying to the mistress of his heart, while she, Margaret, had
supposed herself the chief object of his thought and care!  Again,
Philip discussing her mind and character with Miss Bruce, as those of a
friend for whom he had a regard! or bestowing a passing imagination on
how she would receive the intelligence of his engagement!  Perhaps he
reserved the news till he could come down to Deerbrook, and call and
tell her himself, as one whose friendship deserved that he should be the
bearer of his own tidings.  That footstep, whose spring she had
strangely considered her own signal of joy, was not hers but another's.
That laugh, the recollection of which made her smile even in these
dreadful moments, was to echo in another's home.  She was stripped of
all her heart's treasure, of his tones, his ways, his thoughts,--a
treasure which she had lived upon without knowing it; she was stripped
of it all--cast out--left alone--and he and all others would go on their
ways, unaware that anything had happened!  Let them do so.  It was hard
to bear up in solitude when self-respect was gone with all the rest; but
it must be possible to live on--no matter how--if to live on was
appointed.  If not, there was death, which was better.

These thoughts were not beneath one like Margaret--one who was religious
as she.  It requires time for religion to avail anything when
self-respect is utterly broken-down.  A devout sufferer may surmount the
pangs of persecution at the first onset, and wrestle with bodily pain,
and calmly endure bereavement by death; but there is no power of faith
by which a woman can attain resignation under the agony of unrequited
passion otherwise than by conflict, long and terrible.

Margaret laid down at last, because her eyes were weary of seeing; and
she would fain have shut out all sounds.  The occasional flicker of a
tiny blaze, however, and the fall of a cinder in the hearth, served to
lull her senses, and it was not long before she slept.  But, oh, the
horrors of that sleep!  The lines of Maria's note stared her in the
face--glaring, glowing, gigantic.  Sometimes she was trying to read
them, and could not, though her life depended on them.  Now Mrs Rowland
had got hold of them; and now they were thrown into the flames, but
would not burn, and the letters grew red-hot.  Then came the image of
Philip; and that horror was mixed up with whatever was most ludicrous.
Once she was struggling for voice to speak to him, and he mocked her
useless efforts.  Oh, how she struggled! till some strong arm raised
her, and some other voice murmured gently in her throbbing ear.

"Wake, my dear!  Wake up, Margaret!  What is it, dear?  Wake!"

"Mother! is it you?  Oh, mother! have you come at last?" murmured
Margaret, sinking her head on Morris' shoulder.

It was some moments before Margaret felt a warm tear fall upon her
cheek, and heard Morris say:

"No, my dear: not yet.  Your mother is in a better place than this,
where we shall all rest with her at last, Miss Margaret."

"What is all this?" said Margaret, raising herself, and looking round
her.  "What did I mean about my mother?  Oh, Morris, my head is all
confused, and I think I have been frightened.  They were laughing at me,
and when somebody came to help me, I thought it must be my mother.  Oh,
Morris, it is a long while--I wish I was with her."

Morris did not desire to hear what Margaret's dream had been.  The
immediate cause of Margaret's distress she did not know; but she had for
some time suspected that which only one person in the world was aware of
besides herself.  The terrible secret of this household was no secret to
her.  She was experienced enough in love and its signs to know, without
being told where love was absent, and where it rested.  She had not
doubted, up to the return from the wedding-trip, that all was right; but
she had never been quite happy since.  She had perceived no sign that
either sister was aware of the truth; the continuance of their sisterly
friendship was a proof that neither of them was: but she wished to avoid
hearing the particulars of Margaret's dream, and all revelations which,
in the weakness and confusion of an hour like this, she might be tempted
to make.  Morris withdrew from Margaret's clasp, moved softly across the
room, gently put the red embers together in the grate, and lighted the
lamp which stood on the table.

"I hope," whispered Margaret, trying to still her shivering, "that
nobody heard me but you.  How came you to think of coming to me?"

"My room being over this, you know, it was easy to hear the voice of a
person in an uneasy sleep.  I am glad I happened to be awake: so I put
on my cloak and came."

Morris did not say that Edward had heard the stifled cry also, and that
she had met him on the stairs coming to beg that she would see what
could be done.  Hester having slept through it, Margaret need never know
that other ears than Morris' had heard her.  Thus had Hope and Morris
tacitly agreed.

"Now, my dear, when I have warmed this flannel, to put about your feet,
you must go to sleep again.  I will not leave you till daylight--till
the house is near being astir: so you may sleep without being afraid of
bad dreams.  I will rouse you if I see you disturbed.  Now, no more
talking, or we shall have the house up; and all this had better be
between you and me."

To satisfy Margaret, Morris lay down on the outside of the bed, warmly
covered; and the nurse once more, as in old days, felt her favourite
child breathing quietly against her shoulder: once more she wiped away
the standing tears, and prayed in her heart for the object of her care.
If her prayer had had words, it would have been this:--

"Thou hast been pleased to take to thyself the parents of these dear
children; and surely thou wilt be therefore pleased to be to them as
father and mother, or to raise up or spare to them such as may be so.
This is what I would ask for myself; that I may be that comfort to them.
Thou knowest that a strange trouble hath entered this house--thou
knowest, for thine eye seeth beneath the face into the heart, as the sun
shines into a locked chamber at noon.  Thou knowest what these young
creatures know not.  Make holy to them what thou knowest.  Let thy
silence rest upon that which must not be spoken.  Let thy strength be
supplied where temptation is hardest.  Let the innocence which has come
forth from thine own hand be kept fit to appear in all the light of thy
countenance.  Oh! let them never be seen sinking with shame before thee.
Father, if thou hast made thy children to love one another for their
good, let not love be a grief and a snare to such as these.  Thou canst
turn the hearts even of the wicked: turn the hearts of these thy dutiful
children to love, where love may be all honour and no shame, so that
they may have no more mysteries from each other, as I am sure they have
none from thee.  All who know them have doubtless asked thy blessing on
their house, their health, their basket and store: let me ask it also on
the workings of their hearts, since, if their hearts be right, all is
well--or will be in thine own best time."

When Margaret entered the breakfast-room in the morning, she found her
brother sketching the skaters of Deerbrook, while the tea was brewing.
Hester was looking over his shoulder, laughing, as she recognised one
after another of her neighbours in the act of skating--this one by the
stoop--that by the formality--and the other by the coat-flaps flying out
behind.  No inquiries were made--not a word was said of health or
spirits.  It seems strange that sufferers have not yet found means to
stop the practice of such inquiries--a practice begun in kindness, and
carried on in the spirit of hospitality, but productive of great
annoyance to all but those who do not need such inquiries--the healthful
and the happy.  There are multitudes of invalids who can give no
comfortable answer respecting their health, and who are averse from
giving an uncomfortable one, and for whom nothing is therefore left but
evasion.  There are only too many sufferers to whom it is irksome to be
questioned about their hours of sleeplessness, or who do not choose to
have it known that they have not slept.  The unpleasant old custom of
pressing people to eat has gone out: the sooner the other observance of
hospitality is allowed to follow it, the better.  All who like to tell
of illness and sleeplessness can do so; and those who have reasons for
reserve upon such points, as Margaret had this morning, can keep their
own counsel.

At the earliest possible hour that the etiquette of Deerbrook would
allow, there was a knock at the door.

"That must be Mrs Rowland," exclaimed Hester.  "One may know that
woman's temper by her knock--so consequential, and yet so sharp.
Margaret, love, you can run upstairs--there is time yet--if you do not
wish to see her."

"Why should I?" said Margaret, looking up with a calmness which
perplexed Hester.

"This is either ignorance," thought she, "or such patience as I wish I
had."

It _was_ Mrs Rowland, and she _was_ come to tell what Hester feared
Margaret might not be able to bear to hear.  She was attended only by
the little fellow who was so fond of riding on Uncle Philip's shoulder.
It was rather lucky that Ned came, as Margaret was furnished with
something to do in taking off his worsted gloves, and rubbing his little
red hands between her own.  And then she could say a great many things
to him about learning to slide, and the difficulty of keeping on the
snow-man's nose, and about her wonder that they had not thought of
putting a pipe into his mouth.  Before this subject was finished, Mrs
Rowland turned full round to Margaret, and said that the purpose of her
visit was to explain fully something that her poor mother had let drop
yesterday to Mr Hope.  Her mother was not what she had been--though,
indeed, she had always been rather apt to let out things that she should
not.  She found that Mr Hope had been informed by her mother of her
brother Philip's engagement to a charming young lady, who would indeed
be a great ornament to the connexion.

"I assure you," said Margaret, "my brother is very careful, and always
remembers that he is upon honour as to what he hears in a sick-room.  He
has not mentioned it."

"Oh! then it is safe.  We are much obliged to Mr Hope, I am sure.  I
said to my mother--`My dear ma'am,'--"

"But I must mention," said Margaret, "that the news was abroad before...
I must beg that you will not suppose my brother has spoken of it, if
you should find that everybody knows it.  I heard it from Dr Levitt
yesterday, about the same time, I fancy, that Mr Hope was hearing it
from Mrs Enderby."

Hester sat perfectly still, to avoid all danger of showing that this was
news to her.

"How very strange!" exclaimed the lady.  "I often say there is no
keeping anything quiet in Deerbrook.  Do you know where Dr Levitt got
his information?"

"No," said Margaret, smiling.  "Dr Levitt generally knows what he is
talking about.  I dare say he had it from some good authority.  The
young lady is at Rome, I find."

"Are you acquainted with Miss Bruce?" asked Hester, thinking it time to
relieve Margaret of her share of the conversation.

Margaret started a little on finding that her sister had heard the news.
Was it possible that her brother and sister had been afraid to tell
her?  No: it was a piece of Edward's professional discretion.  His wife
alone had a right to the news he heard among his patients.

"Oh, yes!" replied Mrs Rowland; "I have long loved Mary as a sister.
Their early attachment made a sister of her to me an age ago."

"It has been a long engagement, then," said Hester, glad to say anything
which might occupy Mrs Rowland, as Margaret's lips were now turning
very white.

"Not now, my dear," Margaret was heard to say to little Ned, over whom
she was bending her head as he stood by her side.  "Stand still here,"
she continued, with wonderful cheerfulness of tone; "I want to hear your
mamma tell us about Uncle Philip."  With the effort her strength
rallied, and the paleness was gone before Mrs Rowland had turned round.

"How long the engagement has existed," said the lady, "I cannot venture
to say.  I speak only of the attachment.  Young people understand their
own affairs, you know, and have their little mysteries, and laugh behind
our backs, I dare say, at our ignorance of what they are about.  Philip
has been sly enough as to this, I own: but I must say I had my
suspicions.  I was pretty confident of his being engaged from the day
that he told me in the summer, that he fully agreed with me that it was
time he was settled."

"How differently some people understood that!" thought Hester and
Margaret at the same moment.

"Is Mr Enderby at Rome now?" asked Hester.

"No: he is hard at work, studying law.  He is really going to apply to a
profession now.  Not that it would be necessary, for Mary has a very
good fortune.  But Mary wishes so much that he should--like a sensible
girl as she is."

"It is what I urged when he consulted me," thought Margaret.  She had
had little idea whose counsel she was following up.

"We shall soon hear of his setting off for the Continent, however, I
have no doubt," said the lady.

"To bring home his bride," observed Margaret, calmly.

"Why, I do not know that.  The Bruces will be returning early in the
spring; and I should like the young people to marry in town, that we may
have them here for their wedding trip."

"How you do hug me!" cried the laughing little boy, around whom
Margaret's arm was passed.

"Have I made you warm at last?" asked Margaret.  "If not, you may go and
stand by the fire."

"No, indeed; we must be going," said mamma.  "As I find this news is
abroad, I must call on Mrs Grey.  She will take offence at once, if she
hears it from anybody but me.  So much for people's husbands being
partners in business!"

Margaret was now fully qualified to comprehend her sister's
irritability.  Every trifle annoyed her.  The rustle of Mrs Rowland's
handsome cloak almost made her sick; and she thought the hall clock
would never have done striking twelve.  When conscious of this, she put
a strong check upon herself.

Hester stood by the mantelpiece, looking into the fire, and taking no
notice of their mutual silence upon this piece of news.  At last she
muttered, in a soliloquising tone--

"Do not know--but I am not sure this news is true, after all."

After a moment's pause, Margaret replied--"I think that is not very
reasonable.  What must one suppose of everybody else, if it is not
true?"

Hester was going to say, "What must we think of him, if it is?" but she
checked herself.  She should not have said what she had; she felt this,
and only replied--

"Just so.  Yes; it must be true."

Margaret's heart once more sank within her at this corroboration of her
own remark.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE MEADOWS IN WINTER.

Hester was tired of her snow-boots before she saw them.  She had spent
more trouble on them than they were worth; and it was three weeks yet
before they came.  It was now past the middle of February--rather late
in the season for snow-boots to arrive: but then there was Margaret's
consolatory idea, that they would be ready for next year's snow.

"It is not too late yet," said Mr Hope.  "There is skating every day in
the meadow.  It will soon be over; so do not lose your opportunity.
Come! let us go to-day."

"Not unless the sun shines out," said Hester, looking with a shiver up
at the windows.

"Yes, to-day," said Edward, "because I have time to-day to go with you.
You have seen me quiz other skaters: you must go and see other skaters
quiz me."

"What points of your skating do they get hold of to quiz?" asked
Margaret.

"Why, I hardly know.  We shall see."

"Is it so very good, then?"

"No.  I believe the worst of my skating is, that it is totally devoid of
every sort of expression.  That is just the true account of it," he
continued, as his wife laughed.  "I do not square my elbows, nor set my
coat flying, nor stoop, nor rear; but neither is there any grace.  I
just go straight on; and, as far as I know, nobody ever bids any other
body look at me."

"So you bid your own family come and look at you.  But how are your
neighbours to quiz you if they do not observe you?"

"Oh, that was only a bit of antithesis for effect.  My last account is
the true one, as you will see.  I shall come in for you at twelve."

By twelve the sun had shone out, and the ladies, booted, furred, and
veiled, were ready to encounter the risks and rigours of the ice and
snow.  As they opened the hall door they met on the steps a young woman,
who was just raising her hand to the knocker.  Her errand was soon told.

"Please, ma'am, I heard that you wanted a servant."

"That is true," said Hester.  "Where do you come from?--from any place
near, so that you can call again?"

"Surely," said Margaret, "it is Mrs Enderby's Susan."

"Yes, miss, I have been living with Mrs Enderby.  Mrs Enderby will
give me a good character, ma'am."

"Why are you leaving her, Susan?"

"Oh, ma'am, only because she is gone."

"Gone!--where?--what do you mean?"

"Gone to live at Mrs Rowland's, ma'am.  You didn't know?--it _was_ very
sudden.  But she moved yesterday, ma'am, and we were paid off--except
Phoebe, who stays to wait upon her.  I am left in charge of the house,
ma'am: so I can step here again, if you wish it, some time when you are
not going out."

"Do so; any time this evening, or before noon to-morrow."

"Did you know of this, Edward?" said his wife, as they turned the
corner.

"Not I.  I think Mrs Rowland is mistaken in saying that nothing can be
kept secret in Deerbrook.  I do not believe anybody has dreamed of the
poor old lady giving up her house."

"Very likely Mrs Rowland never dreamed of it herself; till the day it
was done," observed Margaret.

"Oh, yes, she did," said Mr Hope.  "I understand now the old lady's
agitation, and the expressions she dropped about `last times' nearly a
month ago."

"By-the-by, that was the last time you saw her--was it not?"

"Yes; the next day when I called I was told that she was better, and
that she would send when she wished to see me again, to save me the
trouble of calling when she might be asleep."

"She has been asleep or engaged every time I have inquired at the door
of late," observed Margaret.  "I hope she is doing nothing but what she
likes in this change of plan."

"I believe she finds most peace and quiet in doing what her daughter
likes," said Mr Hope.  "Here, Margaret, where are you going?  This is
the gate.  I believe you have not learned your way about yet."

"I will follow you immediately," said Margaret: "I will only go a few
steps to see if this can really be true."

Before the Hopes had half crossed the meadow, Margaret joined them,
perfectly convinced.  The large bills in the closed windows of Mrs
Enderby's house bore "To be Let or Sold" too plainly to leave any doubt.

As the skating season was nearly over, all the skaters in Deerbrook were
eager to make use of their remaining opportunities, and the banks of the
brook and of the river were full of their wives, sisters, and children.
Sydney Grey was busy cutting figures-of-eight before the eyes of his
sisters, and in defiance of his mother's careful warnings not to go
here, and not to venture there, and not to attempt to cross the river.
Mr Hope begged his wife to engage Mrs Grey in conversation, so that
Sydney might be left free for a while, and promised to keep near the boy
for half an hour, during which time Mrs Grey might amuse herself with
watching other and better performers further on.  As might have been
foreseen, however, Mrs Grey could talk of nothing but Mrs Enderby's
removal, of which she had not been informed till this morning, and which
she had intended to discuss in Hester's house, on leaving the meadows.

It appeared that Mrs Enderby had been in agitated and variable spirits
for some time, apparently wishing to say something that she did not say,
and expressing a stronger regard than ever for her old friends--a
regular sign that some act of tyranny or rudeness might speedily be
expected from Mrs Rowland.  The Greys were in the midst of their
speculations, as to what might be coming to pass, when Sydney burst in,
with the news that Mrs Enderby's house was to be "Let or Sold."  Mrs
Grey had mounted her spectacles first, to verify the fact, and then sent
Alice over to inquire, and had immediately put on her bonnet and cloak,
and called on her old friend at Mrs Rowland's.  She had been told at
the door that Mrs Enderby was too much fatigued with her removal to see
any visitors.  "So I shall try again to-morrow," concluded Mrs Grey.

"How does Mr Hope think her spasms have been lately?" asked Sophia.

"He has not seen her for nearly a month; so I suppose they are better."

"I fear that does not follow, my dear," said Mrs Grey, winking.  "Some
people are afraid of your husband's politics, you are aware; and I know
Mrs Rowland has been saying and doing things on that score which you
had better not hear about.  I have my reasons for thinking that the old
lady's spasms are far from being better.  But Mrs Rowland has been so
busy crying up those drops of hers, that cure everything, and praising
her maid, that I have a great idea your husband will not be admitted to
see her till she is past cure, and her daughter thoroughly frightened.
Mr Hope has never been forgiven, you know, for marrying into our
connection so decidedly.  And I really don't know what would have been
the consequence, if, as we once fancied likely, Mr Philip and Margaret
had thought of each other."

Margaret was happily out of hearing.  A fresh blow had just been struck.
She had looked to Mrs Enderby for information on the subject which for
ever occupied her, and on which she felt that she must know more or
sink.  She had been much disappointed at being refused admission to the
old lady, time after time.  Now all hope of free access and private
conversation was over.  She had set it as an object before her to see
Mrs Enderby, and learn as much of Philip's affair as his mother chose
to offer: now this object was lost, and nothing remained to be done or
hoped--for it was too certain that Mrs Enderby's friends would not be
allowed unrestrained intercourse with her in her daughter's house.

For some little time Margaret had been practising the device, so
familiar to the unhappy, of carrying off mental agitation by bodily
exertion.  She was now eager to be doing something more active than
walking by Mrs Grey's side, listening to ideas which she knew just as
well without their being spoken.  Mrs Grey's thoughts about Mrs
Rowland, and Mrs Rowland's ideas of Mrs Grey, might always be
anticipated by those who knew the ladies.  Hester and Margaret had
learned to think of something else, while this sort of comment was
proceeding, and to resume their attention when it came to an end.
Margaret had withdrawn from it now, and was upon the ice with Sydney.

"Why, cousin Margaret, you don't mean that you are afraid of walking on
the ice?" cried Sydney, balancing himself on his heels.  "Mr Hope, what
do you think of that?" he called out, as Hope skimmed past them.
"Cousin Margaret is afraid of going on the ice!"

"What does she think can happen to her?" asked Mr Hope, his last words
vanishing in the distance.

"It looks so grey, and clear, and dark, Sydney."

"Pooh!  It is thick enough between you and the water.  You would have to
get down a good way, I can tell you, before you could get drowned."

"But it is so slippery!"

"What of that?  What else did you expect with ice?  If you tumble, you
can get up again.  I have been down three times this morning."

"Well, that is a great consolation, certainly.  Which way do you want me
to walk?"

"Oh, any way.  Across the river to the other bank, if you like.  You
will remember next summer, when we come this way in a boat, that you
have walked across the very place."

"That is true," said Margaret.  "I will go if Sophia will go with me."

"There is no use in asking any of them," said Sydney.  "They stand
dawdling and looking, till their lips and noses are all blue and red,
and they are never up to any fun."

"I will try as far as that pole first," said Margaret.  "I should not
care if they had not swept away all the snow here, so as to make the ice
look so grey and slippery."

"That pole!" said Sydney.  "Why, that pole is put up on purpose to show
that you must not go there.  Don't you see how the ice is broken all
round it?  Oh, I know how it is that you are so stupid and cowardly
to-day.  You've lived in Birmingham all your winters, and you've never
been used to walk on the ice."

"I am glad you have found that out at last.  Now, look--I am really
going.  What a horrid sensation!" she cried, as she cautiously put down
one foot before the other on the transparent floor.  She did better when
she reached the middle of the river, where the ice had been ground by
the skates.

"Now, you would get on beautifully," said Sydney, "if you would not look
at your feet.  Why can't you look at the people, and the trees
opposite?"

"Suppose I should step into a hole."

"There are no holes.  Trust me for the holes.  What do you flinch so
for?  The ice always cracks so, in one part or another.  I thought you
had been shot."

"So did I," said she, laughing.  "But, Sydney, we are a long way from
both banks."

"To be sure: that is what we came for."

Margaret looked somewhat timidly about her.  An indistinct idea flitted
through her mind--how glad she should be to be accidentally, innocently
drowned; and scarcely recognising it, she proceeded.

"You get on well," shouted Mr Hope, as he flew past, on his return up
the river.

"There, now," said Sydney, presently; "it is a very little way to the
bank.  I will just take a trip up and down, and come for you again, to
go back; and then we will try whether we can't get cousin Hester over,
when she sees you have been safe there and back."

This was a sight which Hester was not destined to behold.  Margaret had
an ignorant partiality for the ice which was the least grey; and, when
left to herself, she made for a part which looked less like glass.
Nobody particularly heeded her.  She slipped, and recovered herself: she
slipped again, and fell, hearing the ice crack under her.  Every time
she attempted to rise, she found the place too slippery to keep her
feet; next, there was a hole under her; she felt the cold water--she was
sinking through; she caught at the surrounding edges--they broke away.
There was a cry from the bank, just as the death-cold waters seemed to
close all round her, and she felt the ice like a heavy weight above her.
One thought of joy--"It will soon be all over now"--was the only
experience she was conscious of.

In two minutes more, she was breathing the air again, sitting on the
bank, and helping to wring out her clothes.  How much may pass in two
minutes!  Mr Hope was coming up the river again, when he saw a bustle
on the bank, and slipped off his skates, to be ready to be of service.
He ran as others ran, and arrived just when a dark-blue dress was
emerging from the water, and then a dripping fur tippet, and then the
bonnet, making the gradual revelation to him who it was.  For one
instant he covered his face with his hands, half-hiding an expression of
agony so intense that a bystander who saw it, said, "Take comfort, sir:
she has been in but a very short time.  She'll recover, I don't doubt."
Hope leaped to the bank, and received her from the arms of the men who
had drawn her out.  The first thing she remembered was hearing, in the
lowest tone she could conceive of--"Oh, God! my Margaret!" and a groan,
which she felt rather than heard.  Then there were many warm and busy
hands about her head--removing her bonnet, shaking out her hair, and
chafing her temples.  She sighed out, "Oh, dear!" and she heard that
soft groan again.  In another moment she roused herself, sat up, saw
Hope's convulsed countenance, and Sydney standing motionless and deadly
pale.

"I shall never forgive myself," she heard her brother exclaim.

"Oh, I am very well," said she, remembering all about it.  "The air
feels quite warm.  Give me my bonnet.  I can walk home."

"Can you?  The sooner the better, then," said Hope, raising her.

She could stand very well, but the water was everywhere dripping from
her clothes.  Many bystanders employed themselves in wringing them out;
and in the meanwhile Margaret inquired for her sister, and hoped she did
not know of the accident.  Hester did not know of it, for Margaret
happened to be the first to think of any one but herself.

Sydney was flying off to report, when he was stopped and recalled.

"You must go to her, Edward," said Margaret, "or she will be frightened.
You can do me no good.  Sydney will go home with me, or any one here, I
am sure."  Twenty people stepped forward at the word.  Margaret parted
with her heavy fur tippet, accepted a long cloth cloak from a poor
woman, to throw over her wet clothes, selected Mr Jones, the butcher,
for her escort, sent Sydney forward with directions to Morris to warm
her bed, and then she set forth homeward.  Mr Hope and half a dozen
more would see her across the ice; and by the time she had reached the
other bank, she was able to walk very much as if nothing had happened.

Mr Hope had perfectly recovered his composure before he reached the
somewhat distant pond where Hester and the Greys were watching sliding
as good as could be seen within twenty miles.  It had reached
perfection, like everything else, in Deerbrook.

"What! tired already?" said Hester to her husband.  "What have you done
with your skates?"

"Oh, I have left them somewhere there, I suppose."  He drew her arm
within his own.  "Come, my dear, let us go home.  Margaret is gone."

"Gone!  Why?  Is not she well?  It is not so very cold."

"She has got wet, and she has gone home to warm herself."  Hester did
not wait to speak again to the Greys when she comprehended that her
sister had been in the river.  Her husband was obliged to forbid her
walking so fast, and assured her all the way that there was nothing to
fear.  Hester reproached him for his coolness.

"You need not reproach me," said he.  "I shall never cease to reproach
myself for letting her go where she did."  And yet his heart told him
that he had only acted according to his deliberate design of keeping
aloof from all Margaret's pursuits and amusements that were not shared
with her sister.  And as for the risk, he had seen fifty people walking
across the ice this very morning.  Judging by the event, however, he
very sincerely declared that he should never forgive himself for having
left her.

When they reached home, Margaret was quite warm and comfortable, and her
hair drying rapidly under Morris's hands.  Hester was convinced that
everybody might dine as usual.  Margaret herself came down-stairs to
tea; and the only consequence of the accident seemed to be, that Charles
was kept very busy opening the door to inquirers how Miss Ibbotson was
this evening.

It made Hope uneasy to perceive how much Margaret remembered of what had
passed around her in the midst of the bustle of the morning.  If she was
still aware of some circumstances that she mentioned, might she not
retain others--the words extorted from him, the frantic action which he
now blushed to remember?

"Brother," said she, "what _was_ the meaning of something that I heard
some one say, just as I sat up on the bank?  `There's a baulk for the
doctor!  He is baulked of a body in his own house.'"

"Oh, Margaret," cried her sister, who sat looking at her all the evening
as if they had been parted for ten years, "you dreamed that.  It was a
fancy.  Think what a state your poor head was in!  It may have a few
strange imaginations left in it still.  May it not, Edward?"

"This is not one," he replied.  "She heard very accurately."

"What did they mean?"

"There is a report abroad about me, arising out of the old prejudice
about dissection.  Some of my neighbours think that dissecting is the
employment and the passion of my life, and that I rob the churchyard as
often as anybody is buried."

"Oh, Edward! how frightful! how ridiculous!"

"It is very disagreeable, my dear.  I am taunted with this wherever I
go."

"What is to be done?"

"We must wait till the prejudices against me die out: but I see that we
shall have to wait some time; for before one suspicion is given up,
another rises."

"Since that unhappy election," said Hester, sighing.  "What a strange
thing it is that men like you should be no better treated!  Here is Mrs
Enderby taken out of your hands, and your neighbours suspecting and
slandering you, whose commonest words they are not worthy to repeat."

"My dear Hester!" said he, in a tone of serious remonstrance.  "That is
rather a wife-like way of putting the case, to be sure," said Margaret,
smiling: "but, in as far as it is true, the matter surely ceases to be
strange.  Good men do not come into the world to be what the world calls
fortunate, but to be something far better.  The best men do not use the
means to be rich, to be praised by their neighbours, to be out of the
way of trouble; and if they will not use the means, it does not become
them--nor their wives--to be discouraged at losing their occupation, or
being slandered, or suspected as dangerous people."

Edward's smile thanked her, and so did her sister's kiss.  But Hester
looked grave again when she said--"I suppose we shall know, sooner or
later, why it is that good people are not to be happy here, and that the
more they love one another, the more struggles and sorrows they have to
undergo."

"Do we not know something of it already?" said Hope, after a pretty long
pause.  "Is it not to put us off from the too vehement desire of being
what we commonly call happy?  By the time higher things become more
interesting to us than this, we begin to find that it is given to us to
put our own happiness under our feet, in reaching forward to something
better.  We become, by natural consequence, practised in this (forgetful
of the things that are behind); and if the practice be painful, what
then?  We shall not quarrel with it, surely, unless we are willing to
exchange what we have gained for money, and praise, and animal spirits,
shutting in an abject mind."

"Oh, no, no!" said Hester; "but yet there are troubles--" She stopped
short on observing Margaret's quivering lip.

"There are troubles, I own, which it is difficult to classify and
interpret," said her husband.  "We can only struggle through them,
taking the closest heed to our innocence.  But these affairs of ours--
these mistakes of my neighbours--are not of that sort.  They are
intelligible enough, and need not therefore trouble us much."

Hope was right in his suspicion of the accuracy of Margaret's memory.
His tones, his words, had sunk deep into her heart--her innocent heart--
in which everything that entered it became safe and pure as itself.  "Oh
God! my Margaret!" sounded there like music.

"What a heart he has!" she thought.  "I was very selfish to fancy him
reserved; and I am glad to know that my brother loves me so.  If it is
such a blessing to be his sister, how happy must Hester be--in spite of
everything!  God has preserved my life, and He has given these two to
each other!  And, oh, how He has shown me that they love me!  I will
rouse myself, and try to suffer less."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

MOODS OF THE MIND.

Hester's sleeping as well as waking thoughts were this night full of
solicitude as to her feelings and conduct towards her sister.  A
thousand times before the morning she had said to herself, in dreams and
in meditation, that she had failed in this relation--the oldest, and,
till of late, the dearest.  She shuddered to think how nearly she had
lost Margaret; and to imagine what her state of mind would have been, if
her sister had now been beyond the reach of the voice, the eye, the
hand, which she was resolved should henceforth dispense to her nothing
but the love and the benefits she deserved.  She reflected that to few
was granted such a warning of the death of beloved ones: to few was it
permitted to feel, while it was yet not too late, the agony of remorse
for pain inflicted, for gratifications withheld; for selfish neglect,
for insufficient love.  She remembered vividly what her emotions had
been as a child, on finding her canary dead in its cage;--how she had
wept all day, not so much for its loss as from the recollection of the
many times when she had failed to cheer it with sugar, and groundsel,
and play, and of the number of hours when she had needlessly covered up
its cage in impatience at its song, shutting out its sunshine, and
changing the brightest seasons of its little life into dull night.  If
it had been thus with her sister!  Many a hasty word, many an unjust
thought, came back now to wring her heart, when she imagined Margaret
sinking in the water,--the soft breathing on which our life so
marvellously hangs, stopped without struggle or cry.  How near--how very
near, had Death, in his hovering, stooped towards their home!  How
strange, while treading thus precariously the film which covers the
abyss into which all must some day drop, and which may crack under the
feet of any one at any hour,--how strange to be engrossed with petty
jealousies, with selfish cares, and to be unmindful of the great
interests of existence, the exercises of mutual love and trust!  Thank
God! it was not too late.  Margaret lived to be cherished, to be
consoled for her private griefs, as far as consolation might be
possible; to have her innocent affections redeemed from the waste to
which they now seemed doomed,--gathered gradually up again, and knit
into the interests of the home life in which she was externally bearing
her part.  Full of these thoughts, and forgetting how often her best
feelings had melted away beneath the transient heats kindled by the
little provocations of daily life, Hester now believed that Margaret
would never have to suffer from her more,--that their love would be
henceforth like that of angels,--like that which it would have been if
Margaret had really died yesterday.  It was yet early, when, in the full
enjoyment of these undoubting thoughts, Hester stood by her sister's
bedside.

Margaret was still sleeping, but with that expression of weariness in
her face which had of late become too common.  Hester gazed long at the
countenance, grieving at the languor and anxiety which it revealed.  She
had not taken Margaret's suffering to heart,--she had been unfeeling,--
strangely forgetful.  She would minister to her now with reverent care.
As she thus resolved, she bent down, and kissed her forehead.  Margaret
started, shook off sleep, felt quite well, would rise;--there was no
reason why she should not rise at once.

When she entered the breakfast-room, Hester was there, placing her chair
by the fire, and inventing indulgences for her, as if she had been an
invalid.  It was in vain that Margaret protested that no effects of the
accident remained,--not a single sensation of chill: she was to be taken
care of; and she submitted.  She was touched by her sister's gentle
offices, and felt more like being free and at peace, more like being
lifted up out of her woe, than she had yet done since the fatal hour
which rendered her conscious and wretched.  Breakfast went on
cheerfully.  The fire blazed bright: the rain pelting against the
windows gave welcome promise of exemption from inquiries in person, and
from having to relate, many times over, the particulars of the event of
yesterday.  Hester was beautiful in all the glow of her sensibilities,
and Edward was for this morning in no hurry.  No blue or yellow backed
pamphlet lay beside his plate; and when his last cup was empty, he still
sat talking as if he forgot that he should have to go out in the rain.
In the midst of a laugh which had prevented their hearing a premonitory
knock, the door opened, and Mrs Grey's twin daughters entered, looking
half-shy, half-eager.  Never before had they been known to come out in
heavy rain: but they were so very desirous to see cousin Margaret after
she had been in the water!--and Sydney had held the great gig umbrella
over himself and them, as papa would not hear of Sydney not coming:--he
was standing outside the door now, under the large umbrella, for he said
nothing should make him come in and see cousin Margaret--he would never
see her again if he could help it.  Sydney had said another thing,--such
a wicked thing!  Mamma was quite ashamed of him.  Mr Hope thought they
had better not repeat anything wicked that any one had said: but Hester
considered it possible that it might not appear so wicked if spoken as
if left to the imagination.  What Sydney had said was, that if cousin
Margaret had been really drowned, he would have drowned himself before
dinner-time.  Mary added that she heard him mutter that he was almost
ready to do it now.  Mr Hope thought that must be the reason why he was
standing out at present, to catch all this rain, which was very nearly
enough to drown anybody; and he went to bring him in.  But Sydney was
not to be caught.  He was on the watch; and the moment he saw Mr Hope's
coat instead of his sisters' cloaks, he ran off with a speed which
defied pursuit, and was soon out of sight with the large umbrella.

His cousins were sorry that he felt the event so painfully, and that he
could not come in and confide his trouble of mind to them.  Hope
resolved not to let the morning pass without seeing him, and, if
possible, bringing him home to dinner, with William Levitt to take off
the awkwardness.

"What are we to do?" exclaimed Sydney's little sisters.  "He has carried
off the great umbrella."

"I cannot conveniently send you, just at present," said Hester; "so you
had better put off your cloaks, and amuse yourselves here till the rain
abates, or some one comes for you.  We will speak to Miss Young to
excuse your not being with her."

"Oh, cousin Margaret," said the children, "if you will speak to Miss
Young, she will give us any sort of a holiday.  She minds everything you
say.  She will let us stop all day, and dine here, if you ask her."

Hester said she could not have them stay all day,--she did not mean to
have them to dinner: and the little girls both looked up in her face at
once, to find out what made her speak so angrily.  They saw cousin
Margaret glancing the same way too.

"Do you know, Mary," said Fanny, "you have not said a word yet of what
Miss Young bade you say?"

Mary told cousin Margaret, that Miss Young was wishing very much to see
her, and would be pleased if Margaret would mention what evening she
would spend with her,--a nice long evening, Mary added, to begin as soon
as it grew dark, and on till--nobody knew when.

"Maria had better come here," observed Hester, quickly; "and then some
one else besides Margaret may have the benefit of her conversation.  She
seems to forget that anybody cares for her besides Margaret.  Tell Miss
Young she had better fix an evening to come here."

"I do not think she will do that," said both the little girls.

"Why not?"

"She is very lame now," replied Mary, "and she cannot walk further than
just to school and back again."

"And, besides," remarked Fanny, "she wants to talk with cousin Margaret
alone, I am sure.  They have such a great deal of talk to do whenever
they are together!  We watch them sometimes in the schoolroom, through
the window, when we are at play in the garden; and their heads nod at
one another in this way.  I believe they never leave off for a minute.
We often wonder what it can be all about."

"Ah, my dears, you and I had better not ask," said Hester.  "I have no
doubt it is better that we should not know."

Margaret looked beseechingly at her sister.  Hester replied to her look:

"I mean what I say, Margaret.  You cannot but be aware how much more you
have to communicate to Maria than to me.  Our conversation soon comes to
a stand: and I must say I have had much occasion to admire your great
talent for silence of late.  Maria has still to learn your
accomplishments in that direction, I fancy."

Margaret quietly told the little girls that she would write a note to
Maria, with her answer.

"You must not do that," said Fanny.  "Miss Young said you must not.
That was the reason why she sent you a message instead of a note--that
you might not have to write back again, when a message would do as
well."

Margaret, nevertheless, sat down at the writing-table.

"You go to-day, of course," said Hester, in the voice of forced calmness
which Margaret knew so well.  "The little girls may as well stay and
dine, after all, as I shall otherwise be alone in the evening."

"I shall not go to-day," said Margaret, without turning her head.

"You will not stay away on my account, of course."

"I have said that I shall go on Thursday."

"Thursday! that is almost a week hence.  Now, Margaret, do not be
pettish, and deny yourself what you know you like best.  Do not be a
baby, and quarrel with your supper.  I had far rather you should go
to-night, and have done with it, than that you should wait till
Thursday, thinking all day long till then that you are obliging me by
staying with me.  I cannot bear that."

"I wish I knew what you could bear," said Margaret, in a voice which the
children could not hear.  "I wish I knew how I could save you pain."

The moment the words were out, Margaret was sorry for them.  She was
aware that the best kindness to her sister was to take as little notice
as possible of her discontents--to turn the conversation--to avoid
scenes, or any remarks which could bring them on.  It was hard--
sometimes it seemed impossible--to speak calmly and lightly, while every
pulse was throbbing, and every fibre trembling with fear and
wretchedness; but yet it was best to assume such calmness and lightness.
Margaret now asked the little girls, while she sealed her note, how
their patchwork was getting on--thus far the handsomest patchwork quilt
she had ever seen.

"Oh, it will be far handsomer before it is done.  Mrs Howell has found
up some beautiful pieces of print for us--remnants of her first
morning-gown after she was married, and of her poor dear Howell's last
dressing-gown, as she says.  We were quite sorry to take those; but she
would put them up for us; and she is to see the quilt sometimes in
return."

"But Miss Nares's parcel was the best, cousin Margaret.  Such a quantity
of nankeen for the ground, and the loveliest chintz for the centre
medallion!  Is not it, Mary?"

"Oh, lovely!  Do you know, cousin Margaret, Miss Nares and Miss Flint
both cried when they heard how nearly you were drowned!  I am sure, I
had no idea they would have cared so much."

"Nor I, my dear.  But I dare say they feel kindly towards anyone saved
from great danger."

"Not everybody," said Fanny; "only you, because you are a great
favourite.  Everybody says you are a great favourite.  Papa cried last
night--just a little tear or two, as gentlemen do--when he told mamma
how sorry everybody in Deerbrook would have been if you had died."

"There! that will do," said Hester, struggling between her better and
worse feelings--her remorse of this morning, and her present jealousy--
and losing her temper between the two.  "You have said quite enough
about what you do not understand, my dears.  I cannot have you make so
free with your cousin's name, children."

The little girls looked at each other in wonder; and Hester thought she
detected a lurking smile.

"I see what you are thinking, children.  Yes, look, the rain is nearly
over; and then you may go and tell Mrs Howell and Miss Nares, and all
the people you see on your way home, that they had better attend to
their own concerns than pretend to understand what would have been felt
if your cousin had been drowned.  I wonder at their impertinence."

"Are you in earnest, cousin Hester?  Shall we go and tell them so?"

"No; she is not in earnest," said Margaret.  "But before you go, Morris
shall give you some pieces for your quilt--some very pretty ones, such
as she knows I can spare."

Margaret rang, and Morris took the children up-stairs, to choose for
themselves out of Margaret's drawer of pieces.  When the door had closed
behind them, Margaret said--"Sister, do not make me wish that I had died
under the ice yesterday."

"Margaret, how dare you say anything so wicked?"

"If it be wicked, God forgive me!  I was wretched enough before--I would
fain have never come to life again: and now you almost make me believe
that you would have been best pleased if I never had."

At this moment Hope entered.  He had left them in a far different mood:
it made him breathless to see his wife's face of passion, and Margaret's
of woe.

"Hear her!" exclaimed Hester.  "She says I should have been glad to have
lost her yesterday!"

"Have mercy upon me!" cried Margaret, in excessive agitation.  "You
oppress me beyond what I can bear.  I cannot bear on as I used to do.
My strength is gone, and you give me none.  You take away what I had!"

"Will you hear me spoken to in this way?" cried Hester, turning to her
husband.

"I will."

Margaret's emotion prevented her hearing this, or caring who was by.
She went on--"You leave me nothing--nothing but yourself--and you abuse
my love for you.  You warn me against love--against marriage--you chill
my very soul with terror at it.  I have found a friend in Maria; and you
poison my comfort in my friendship, and insult my friend.  There is not
an infant in a neighbour's house but you become jealous of it the moment
I take it in my arms.  There is not a flower in your garden, not a book
on my table, that you will let me love in peace.  How ungenerous--while
you have one to cherish and who cherishes you, that you will have me
lonely!--that you quarrel with all who show regard to me!--that you
refuse me the least solace, when my heart is breaking with its
loneliness!  Oh, it is cruel!"

"Will you hear this, Edward?"

"I will, because it is the truth.  For once, Hester, you must hear
another's mind; you have often told your own."

"God knows why I was saved yesterday," murmured Margaret; "for a more
desolate creature does not breathe."

Hope leaned against the wall.  Hester relieved her torment of mind with
reproaches of Margaret.

"You do not trust me," she cried; "it is you who make me miserable.  You
go to others for the comfort you ought to seek in me.  You place that
confidence in others which ought to be mine alone.  You are cheered when
you learn that the commonest gossips in Deerbrook care about you, and
you set no value on your own sister's feelings for you.  You have faith
and charity for people out of doors, and mistrust and misconstruction
for those at home.  I am the injured one, Margaret, not you."

"Margaret," said Hope, "your sister speaks for herself.  I think that
you are the injured one, as Hester herself will soon agree.  So far from
having anything to reproach you with, I honour your forbearance,--
unremitting till this hour,--I mourn that we cannot, if we would,
console you in return.  But whatever I can do shall be done.  Your
friendships, your pursuits, shall be protected.  If we persecute your
affections at home, I will take care that you are allowed their exercise
abroad.  Rely upon me, and do not think yourself utterly lonely while
you have a brother."

"I have been very selfish," said Margaret, recovering herself at the
first word of kindness; "wretchedness makes me selfish, I think."

She raised herself up on the sofa, and timidly held out her hand to her
sister.  Hester thrust it away.  Margaret uttered a cry of agony, such
as had never been heard from her since her childhood.  Hope fell on the
floor--he had fainted at the sound.

Even now there was no one but Morris who understood it.  Margaret
reproached herself bitterly for her selfishness--for her loss of the
power of self-control.  Hester's remorse, however greater in degree, was
of its usual kind, strong and brief.  She repeated, as she had done
before, that she made her husband wretched--that she should never have
another happy moment--that she wished he had never seen her.  For the
rest of the day she was humbled, contrite, convinced that she should
give way to her temper no more.  Her eyes filled when her husband spoke
tenderly to her, and her conduct to Margaret was one act of
supplication.  But a lesser degree of this same kind of penitence had
produced no permanent good effect before; and there was no security that
the present paroxysm would have a different result.

Morris had seen that the children were engaged up-stairs when she came
down at Margaret's silent summons, to help to revive her master.  When
she saw that there had been distress before there was illness, she took
her part.  She resolved that no one but herself should hear his first
words, and sent the ladies away when she saw that his consciousness was
returning.  All the world might have heard his first words.  He
recovered himself with a vigorous effort, swallowed a glass of wine, and
within a few minutes was examining a patient in the waiting-room.  There
the little girls saw him as they passed the half-open door, on their way
out with their treasure of chintz and print; and having heard some
bustle below, they carried home word that they believed Mr Hope had
been doing something to somebody which had made somebody faint; and
Sophia, shuddering, observed how horrid it must be to be a surgeon's
wife.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

WARNINGS.

Maria Young's lodging at the farrier's had one advantage over many
better dwellings;--it was pleasanter in Winter than in Summer.  There
was little to find fault with in the tiny sitting-room after candles
were lighted.  The fire burned clear in the grate; and when the screen
was up, there were no draughts.  This screen was quite a modern
improvement.  When Fanny and Mary Grey had experienced the pleasure of
surprising Sophia with a token of sisterly affection, in the shape of a
piece of India-rubber, and their mother with a token of filial
affection, in the form of a cotton-box, they were unwilling to stop, and
looked round to see whether they could not present somebody with a token
of some other sort of affection.  Sophia was taken into their counsels;
and she, being aware of how Miss Young's candle flared when the wind was
high, devised this screen.  The carpenter made the frame; Sydney covered
it with canvas and black paper for a ground; and the little girls pasted
on it all the drawings and prints they could muster.  Here was the
Dargle, an everlasting waterfall, that looked always the same in the
sunny-coloured print.  There was Morland's Woodcutter, with his tall
figure, his pipe, his dog, and his faggot, with the snow lying all
around him.  Two or three cathedrals were interspersed; and, in the
midst of them, and larger than any of them, a silhouette of Mr Grey,
with the eyelash wonderfully like, and the wart upon his nose not to be
mistaken.  Then there was Charles the First taking leave of his family;
and, on either side of this, an evening primrose in water-colours, by
Mary, and a head of Terror, with a square mouth and starting eyes, in
crayon, by Fanny.  Mrs Grey produced some gay border which the
paper-hanger had left over when the attics were last furnished; and
Sydney cut out in white paper a huntsman with his whip in the air, a
fox, a gate, and two hounds.  Mr Grey pleaded, that, having contributed
his face, he had done all that could be expected of him: nevertheless,
he brought home one day, on his return from market, a beautiful Stream
of Time, which made the children dance round their screen.  It was
settled at first that this would nobly ornament the whole of one side;
but it popped into Sydney's head, just as he was falling asleep one
night, how pretty it would be to stick it round with the planets.  So
the planets were cut out in white, and shaded with Indian ink.  There
was no mistaking Saturn with his ring, or Jupiter with his moons.  At
length, all was done, and the cook was glad to hear that no more paste
would be wanted, and the little girls might soon leave off giggling when
Miss Young asked them, in the schoolroom, why they were jogging one
another's elbows.  Mr Grey spared one of his men to deposit the
precious piece of handiwork at Miss Young's lodging; and there, when she
went home one cold afternoon, she found the screen standing between the
fire and the door, and, pinned on it, a piece of paper, inscribed, "A
Token of friendly Affection."

This was not, however, the only, nor the first, gift with which Maria's
parlour was enriched.  Amidst all the bustle of furnishing the Hopes'
house, Margaret had found time to plan and execute a window-curtain for
her friend's benefit; and another person--no other than Philip Enderby--
had sent in a chaise-longue, just the right size to stand between the
fire and the table.  It had gone hard with Maria to accept this last
gift; but his nephew and nieces were Philip's plea of excuse for the
act; and this plea cut her off from refusing: though in her heart she
believed that neither the children nor ancient regard were in his
thoughts when he did it, but rather Margaret's affection for her.  For
some time, this chaise-longue was a couch of thorns; but now affairs had
put on a newer aspect still, and Maria forgot her own perplexities and
troubles in sympathy with her friend.

There was nothing to quarrel with in the look of the chaise-longue, when
Margaret entered Maria's room in the twilight, in the afternoon of the
appointed Thursday.

"Reading by fire-light?" said Margaret.

"I suppose I am: but it had not occurred to me--the daylight went away
so softly.  Six o'clock, I declare!  The days _are_ lengthening, as we
say every year.  But we will have something better than firelight, if
you will be so kind as to set those candles on the table."

The time was long put when Maria thought of apologising for asking her
friend to do what her lameness rendered painful to herself.  Margaret
laid aside her bonnet and cloak behind the screen, lighted the candles,
put more coals on the fire, and took her seat--not beside Maria, but in
a goodly armchair, which she drew forward from its recess.

"Now," said she, "we only want a cat to be purring on the rug to make us
a complete winter picture.  The kettle will be coming soon to sing on
the hob: and that will do nearly as well.  But, Maria, I wonder _you_
have no cat.  We have set up a cat.  I think I will send you a kitten,
some day, as a token of neighbourly affection."

"Thank you.  Do you know, I was positively assured lately that I had a
cat?  I said all I could in proof that I had none; but Mrs Tucker
persisted in her inquiries after its health, notwithstanding."

"What did she mean?"

"She said she saw a kitten run into the passage, and that it never came
out again: so that it followed of course that it must be here still.
One day, when I was in school, she came over to satisfy herself; and
true enough, there had been a kitten.  The poor thing jumped from the
passage window into the yard, and went to see what they were about at
the forge.  A hot horse-shoe fell upon its back, and it mewed so
dolefully that the people drowned it.  So there you have the story of my
cat, as it was told to me."

"Thank you, it is a good thing to know.  But what does Mrs Grey say to
your setting up a cat?"

"When she heard Mrs Tucker's first inquiries, she took them for an
imputation, and was vexed accordingly.  `Miss Young!' said she, `You
must be mistaken, Mrs Tucker.  Miss Young cannot afford to keep a
kitten!'"

"Oh, for shame!" said Margaret, laughing.  "But what is the annual
expense of a kitten--can you tell us?  I am afraid we never considered
that."

"Why, there is the breast of a fowl, once a year or so, when your cook
forgets to shut the larder-door behind her.  Cats never take the
drumsticks when there is a breast, you are aware.  You know best how Mr
Hope looks, when the drumsticks and side bones come to table, with an
empty space in the middle of the dish where the breast ought to have
been."

"I will tell you, the first time it happens."  And Margaret sank into an
absent fit, brought on by the bare suggestion of discontent at home.
Hester had made her uncomfortable, the last thing before she left the
house, by speaking sharply of Maria, without any fresh provocation.
Undisciplined still by what had happened so lately, she had wished Maria
Young a hundred miles off.  Margaret meditated and sighed.  It was some
time before Maria spoke.  When she did, she said:

"Margaret, do not you think people had better not persuade themselves
and their very intimate friends that they are happy when they are not?"

"They had better not think, even in their own innermost minds, whether
they are happy or not, if they can help it."

"True: but there are times when that is impossible--when it is far
better to avoid the effort.  Come--I suspect we may relieve each other
just now, by allowing the truth.  I will own, if you will, that I am
very unhappy to-night.  Never mind what it is about."

"I will, if you will," replied Margaret, faintly smiling.

"There now, that's right!  We shall be all the better for it.  We have
quite enough of seeming happy, God knows, beyond these doors.  We can
talk there about kittens and cold fowl.  Here we will not talk at all,
unless we like; and we will each groan as much as we please."

"I am sorry to hear you speak so," said Margaret, tenderly.  "Not that I
do not agree with you.  I think it is a terrible mistake to fancy that
it is religious to charm away grief, which, after all, is rejecting it
before it has done its work; and, as for concealing it, there must be
very good reasons indeed for that, to save it from being hypocrisy.  But
the more I agree with you, the more sorry I am to hear you say just what
I was thinking.  I am afraid you must be very unhappy, Maria."

"I'm in great pain to-night; and I do not find that pain becomes less of
an evil by one's being used to it.  Indeed, I think the reverse happens;
for the future comes into the consideration."

"Do you expect to go on to suffer this same pain?  Can nothing cure it?
Is there no help?"

"None, but in patience.  There are intermissions, happily, and pretty
long ones.  I get through the summer very well; but the end of the
winter--this same month of February--is a sad aching time; and so it
must be for as many winters as I may have to live.  But I am better off
than I was.  Last February I did not know you.  Oh, Margaret, if they
had not brought you up from under the ice, the other day, how different
would all have been to-night!"

"How strange it seems to think of the difference that hung on that one
act!" said Margaret, shivering again at the remembrance of her icy
prison.  "What, and where, should I have been now?  And what would have
been the change in this little world of ours?  You would have missed me,
I know; and on that account I am glad it ended as it did."

"And on no other?" asked Maria, looking earnestly at her friend.

"My sister would have grieved sadly at first--you do not know what care
she takes of me--how often she is thinking of my comfort.  And Edward is
fond of me too: I know he is; but they live for each other, and could
spare every one else.  You and Morris would have been my mourners, and
you two are enough to live for."

"To say nothing of others who may arise."

"I hope nothing more will arise in my life, Maria.  I want no change.  I
have had enough of it."

"You think so now.  I understand your feeling very well.  But yet I can
fancy that when you are twice as old as you are--when a few grey hairs
peep out among all that brown--when this plump little hand grows thin,
and that girlish figure of yours looks dignified and middle-aged, and
people say that nobody thought when you were young that you would turn
out a handsome woman--I can fancy that when all this has happened, you
may be more disposed to look forward, and less disinclined to change,
than you feel at this moment.  But there is no use in saying so now.
You shake your head, and I nod mine.  You say, `No,' and I say, `Yes,'
and there is an end of it."

"Where will you be then, I wonder?"

"I do not wish to know, nor even to inquire of my own judgment.  My
health is very bad--worse than you are aware of.  I cannot expect to be
able to work always; some of my present pupils are growing very tall;
and no strangers will take me if I do not get much better; which is, I
believe, impossible.  The future, therefore, is all a mystery; and so
let it remain.  I am not anxious about that."

"But I am."

"Here comes tea.  Now you will be doing a finer thing in making us a
good cup of tea, than in settling my future ever so satisfactorily--
seeing that you cannot touch it with so much as your little finger.  The
tea is wholly in your power."

"You look forward to other people's grey hair and sedateness of face,
though you will not to your own."

"Mere grey hair is as certain as futurity itself; and I will allow you
to prophesy that much for me or for anybody."

"Why should we not prophesy about your pupils too?  They seem to be
improving very much."

"They certainly are; and I am glad you have lighted upon the pleasantest
subject I ever think about.  Oh, Margaret, you do not know what
encouragement I have about some of those children!  Their lot is and
will be a hard one, in many respects.  It will be difficult for them to
grow kindly, and liberal, and truthful, with such examples as they have
before their eyes.  They advance like the snail on the wall, creeping
three inches on in the day, and falling back two at night.  They get out
of a pretty mood of mind in the morning, and expand and grow interested
in things out of Deerbrook; and then, in the evening, the greater part
of this is undone, and they go to bed with their heads full of small,
vile notions about their neighbours."

"And when they grow too wise to have their heads so filled, their hearts
will be heavy for those who are not rising like themselves."

"That is unavoidable, and they must bear the sorrow.  We must hope that
they will disperse from Deerbrook, and find their way into a more genial
society than they can ever know here.  I must keep the confidence of my
children sacred even from you, Margaret: but you may believe me when I
tell you, that if you knew all that we have to say to one another, you
would find some of these children animated with really noble thoughts,
and capable of really generous acts."

"`Some of them.'  Mary, in particular, I venture to conjecture to be in
your thoughts."

"Yes: Mary in particular; but she had always a more gentle and generous
temper than her sisters.  Fanny, however, is improving remarkably."

"I am delighted to hear it, and I had begun to suspect it.  Fanny, I
observe, lays fewer informations than she did; and there is more of
thought, and less of a prying expression, in her face.  She is really
growing more like Mary in countenance.  The little Rowlands--the younger
ones--seem simple enough; but Matilda, what a disagreeable child she
is!"

"The most that can be done with her is to leave her only a poor
creature--to strip her of the conceit and malice with which her mother
would overlay her feeble intellect.  This sounds deplorably enough; but,
as parents will not speak the plain truth to themselves about their
charge, governesses must.  There is, perhaps, little better material in
Fanny: but I trust we may one day see her more lowly than she can at
present relish the idea of being, and with energy enough to improve
under the discipline of life, when she can no longer have that of
school.  She and Mary have been acknowledging to-day a fine piece of
experience.  Mr Grey is pleased with their great Improvement in Latin.
He finds they can read, with ease and pleasure, some favourite classical
scraps which he used to talk about without exciting any interest in
them.  They honestly denied having devoted any more time to Latin than
before, or having taken any more pains; and no new methods have been
tried.  Here was a mystery.  To-day they have solved it.  They find that
all is owing to their getting up earlier in the morning to teach those
little orphans, the Woods, to read and sew."

"Not a very circuitous process," said Margaret; "love and kind interest,
energy and improvement--whether in Latin or anything else.  But what did
you mean just now about truth?  What should make the Greys otherwise
than truthful?"

"Oh, not the Greys!  I was thinking of the other family when I said
that.  But that is a large subject: let us leave it till after tea.
Will you give me another cup?"

"Now; shall we begin upon our large subject?" said she, as the door
closed behind the tea-tray and kettle, and Margaret handed her her
work-bag.

"I am aware that I asked for it," replied Margaret; "but it is a
disagreeable topic, and perhaps we had better avoid it."

"You will take me for a Deerbrook person, if I say we will go into it,
will not you?"

"Oh, no: you have a reason, I see.  So, why should not the little
Rowlands be truthful?"

"Because they have so perpetual an example of falsehood before them at
home.  I have made some painful discoveries there lately."

"Is it possible you did not know that woman long ago?"

"I knew her obvious qualities, which there is no need to specify: but
the depth of her untruth is a new fact to me."

"Are you sure of it, now?"

"Quite sure of it in some particulars, and strongly suspecting it in
others.  Do not tell your sister anything of what I am going to say,
unless you find it necessary for the direction of her conduct.  Let your
disclosures be rather to Mr Hope.  That is settled, is it?  Well, Mrs
Rowland's ruling passion just now is hatred to your household."

"I suspected as much.  But--the untruth."

"Wait a little.  She dislikes you, all and severally."

"What, my brother?"

"Oh, yes; for marrying into the Grey connection so decidedly.  Did you
ever hear that before?"

Margaret laughed; and her friend went on--

"This capture and imprisonment of her mother (for the poor old lady is
not allowed to see whom she pleases) is chiefly to get her from under
Mr Hope's care.  I fancy, from her air, and from some things she has
dropped, that she has some grand _coup-de-theatre_ in reserve about that
matter; but this is merely suspicion: I will now speak only of what I
know to exist.  She is injuring your brother to an extent that he is
not, but ought to be, aware of."

"What does she say?  She shudders at his politics, I know."

"Yes; that might be ignorance merely, and even conscientious ignorance:
so we will let that pass.  She also hints, very plainly and extensively,
that your brother and sister are not happy together."

"She is a wicked woman," said Margaret, with a deep sigh.  "I half
suspected what you tell me, from poor George's errand that unhappy day."

"Right.  Mr Rowland's irony was intended to stop his wife's
insinuations before the children.  She says the most unwarrantable
things about Mrs Grey's having made the match--and she intimates that
Hester has several times gone to bed in hysterics, from Mr Hope having
upbraided her with taking him in."

"What _is_ to be done?" cried Margaret, throwing down her work.

"Your brother will decide for himself whether to speak to Mr Rowland,
or to let the slander pass, and live it down.  Our duty is to give him
information; and I feel that it is a duty.  And now, have you been told
anything about Mr Hope's practice of dissection?"

Margaret related what she had heard on the bank of the river, and Hope's
explanation of it.

"He knows more than he told you, I have no doubt," replied Maria.  "The
beginning of it was, your brother's surgery-pupil having sent a great
toe, in a handsome-looking sealed packet, to some lad in the village,
who happened to open it at table.  You may imagine the conjectures as to
where it came from, and the revival of stories about robbing
churchyards, and of prejudices about dissection.  Mrs Rowland could not
let such an opportunity as this pass by; and her neighbours have been
favoured with dark hints, as to what has been heard under the churchyard
wall, and what she herself has seen from her window in sleepless nights.
Now, Mr Hope must take notice of this.  It is too dangerous a subject
to be left quietly to the ignorance and superstitions of such a set of
people as those among whom his calling lies.  No ignorance on earth
exceeds that of the country folks whom he attends."

"But they worship him," cried Margaret.

"They have worshipped him; but you know, worship easily gives place to
hatred among the extremely ignorant; and nothing is so likely to quicken
the process as to talk about violating graves.  Do not be frightened; I
tell you this to prevent mischief, not to prophesy it.  Mr Hope will
take what measures he thinks fit: and I shall tell Mr Rowland, tomorrow
morning, that I am the source of your information.  I was just going to
warn him to-day that I meant to speak to you in this way; but I left it
till to-morrow, that I might not be prevented."

"Dear Maria, this will cost you your bread."

"I believe not; but this consideration belongs to that future of time on
which, as I was saying, we cannot lay our little fingers.  The present
is clear enough--that Mr Hope ought to know his own case."

"He shall know it.  But, Maria, do you mean that Mrs Rowland talks of
all these affairs before her children?"

"When Mr Rowland is not present to check it.  And this brings me to
something which I think ought to be said, though I have no proof to
bring.  Having found of late what things Mrs Rowland can say for a
purpose--how variously and how monstrously untrue--and seeing that all
her enterprises are at present directed against the people who live in a
pleasant little corner-house--"

"But why?  You have not yet fully accounted for this enmity."

"I have not, but I will now.  I think she joins your name with her
brother's, and that she accordingly hates you now as she once hated
Hester.  But mind, I am not sure of this."

"But how--?  Why--?"

"You will divine that I have changed my opinion about Mr Enderby's
being engaged to Miss Bruce, since you asked me for my judgment upon it.
I may very possibly be mistaken: but as Mr Enderby lies under censure
for forming and carrying on such an arrangement in strange concealment
from his most intimate friends, I think it due to him at least to put
the supposition that he may not be guilty."

Margaret could not speak, though a thousand questions struggled in her
heart.

"I am aware," continued Maria, "with what confidence she has everywhere
stated the fact of this engagement, and that Mrs Enderby fully believes
it.  But I have been struck throughout with a failure of particularity
in Mrs Rowland's knowledge.  She cannot tell when her brother last saw
Miss Bruce, nor whether he has any intention of going to Rome.  She does
not know, evidently, whether he was engaged when he was last here; and I
cannot get rid of the impression, that his being engaged now is a matter
of inference from a small set of facts, which will bear more than one
interpretation."

"Surely she would not dare--."  Margaret paused.

"It is a bold stroke (supposing me right), but she would strike boldly
to make a quarrel between her brother and his friends in the
corner-house: and if the device should fail at last, she has the
intermediate satisfaction of making them uncomfortable."

"Horrid creature!" said Margaret, feeling, however, that she would
forgive all the horridness for the sake of finding that Mrs Rowland had
done this horrid thing.

"We must not forget," said Maria, "that there is another side to the
question.  Young men have been known to engage themselves mysteriously,
and without sufficient respect to the confidence of intimate friends."

"This must be ascertained, Maria;" and again Margaret stopped short with
a blush of shame.

"By time, Margaret; in no other way.  I cannot, of course, speak to Mr
Rowland, or any one, on so private an affair of the family; nor, under
the circumstances, can Mr Hope stir in it.  We must wait; but it cannot
be for long.  Some illumination must reach Deerbrook soon--either from
Mr Enderby's going to Rome, or coming here to see his mother."

"Mrs Rowland said he would come here, she hoped, for his wedding
journey."

"She did say so, I know.  And she has told plenty of people that her
brother is delighted that Mrs Enderby is settled with her; whereas some
beautiful plants arrived this morning for Mrs Enderby's conservatory,
by his orders (the Rowlands have no conservatory you know).  The
children were desired not to mention the arrival of these plants to
grandmamma; and Mrs Rowland wrote by return of post--I imagine to
inform him for the first time of his mother's removal."

Margaret thought these things were too bad to be true.

"I should have said so, too, some time ago: and as I cannot too
earnestly repeat, I may be wrong now.  But I have done my duty in giving
you reason for suspending your judgment of Mr Enderby.  This being
done, we will talk of something else.--Now, do not you think there may
be some difficulty in preserving my pupils from a habit of untruth?"

"Yes, indeed."

But the talking of something else did not operate so well as it sounded.
The pauses were long after what had passed.  At length, when Margaret
detected herself in the midst of the speculation, "if he is not engaged
to Miss Bruce, it does not follow--," she roused herself, and
exclaimed--

"How very good it is of you, Maria, to have laid all this open to me!"

Maria hung her head over her work, and thought within herself that her
friend could not judge of the deed.  She replied--

"Thank you!  I thought I should get some sympathy from you in the end,
to repay me for the irksomeness of exposing such a piece of social vice
as this poor lady's conduct."

"Yes, indeed, I ought to have acknowledged it before, as I feel it; but
you know there is so much to think over! it is so wonderful--so almost
inconceivable!"

"It is so."

"Is it quite necessary, Maria--yes, I see it is necessary that you
should speak to Mr Rowland to-morrow?  You are bound in honesty to do
so; but it will be very painful.  Can we not help you?  Can we not in
some way spare you?"

"No, you cannot, thank you.  For Mr Rowland's sake, no one must be by;
and none of you can testify to the facts.  No; leave me alone.  By this
time to-morrow night it will be done.  What knock is that?  No one ever
knocks on my account.  Surely it cannot be your servant already.  It is
only now half-past eight."

"I promised Hester I would go home early."

"She cannot want you half so much as I do.  Stay another hour."

Margaret could not.  Hester made a point of her returning at this time.
When the cloaking and final chat were done, and Margaret was at the
door, Maria called her.  Margaret came skipping back to hear her
friend's whisper.

"How is your wretchedness, Margaret?"

"How is yours?" was Margaret's reply.

"Much better.  The disburdening of it is a great comfort."

"And the pain--the aching?"

"Oh, never mind that!"

Margaret shook her head; she could not but mind it--but wish that she
could take it upon herself sometimes.  She had often thought lately,
that she should rather enjoy a few weeks of Maria's pain, as an
alternative to the woe under which she had been suffering; but this, if
she could have tried the experiment, she would probably have found to be
a mistake.  When she saw her friend cover her eyes with her hand, as if
for a listless hour of solitude, she felt that she had been wrong in
yielding to her sister's jealousy of her being so much with Maria; and
she resolved that, next time, Maria should appoint the hour for her
return home.

When Maria was thus covering her eyes with her hand, she was
thinking--"Now, half this task is over.  The other half to-morrow--and
then the consequences!"

When Margaret entered the drawing-room at home, where her brother was
reading aloud to Hester, he exclaimed--

"We beat all Deerbrook for early visiting, I think.  Here are you home;
and I dare say Mr Tucker has still another pipe to smoke, and the wine
is not mulled yet at the Jameses."

"It is quite time Margaret was giving us a little of her company, I am
sure," said Hester.  "You forget how early she went.  If it was not for
the school, I think she and Maria would spend all their time together.
I have every wish not to interfere: but I cannot think that this
friendship has made Maria less selfish."

"It would, I dare say, my dear, but that there was no selfishness to
begin upon.  I am afraid she is very unwell, Margaret?"

"In much pain, I fear."

"I will go and see if I can do her any good.  You can glance over what
we have read, and I shall be back in a quarter of an hour, to go on with
it."

"I wonder you left Maria, if she is so poorly."

"I determined that I would not, another time; but this time I had
promised."

"Pray, do not make out that I am any restraint upon your intercourse
with Maria.  And yet--it is not quite fair to say that, either."

"I do not think it is quite fair."

"But you should warn me--you should tell me, if I ask anything
unreasonable.  When are you going again?  An old patient of my husband's
has sent us a quarter of a chest of very fine oranges.  We will carry
Maria a basketful of oranges to-morrow."



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

LONG WALKS.

The unhappy are indisposed to employment: all active occupations are
wearisome and disgusting in prospect, at a time when everything, life
itself, is full of weariness and disgust.  Yet the unhappy must be
employed, or they will go mad.  Comparatively blessed are they, if they
are set in families, where claims and duties abound, and cannot be
escaped.  In the pressure of business there is present safety and
ultimate relief.  Harder is the lot of those who have few necessary
occupations, enforced by other claims than their own harmlessness and
profitableness.  Reading often fails.  Now and then it may beguile; but
much oftener the attention is languid, the thoughts wander, and
associations with the subject of grief are awakened.  Women who find
that reading will not do, will obtain no relief from sewing.  Sewing is
pleasant enough in moderation to those whose minds are at ease the
while; but it is an employment which is trying to the nerves when long
continued, at the best; and nothing can be worse for the harassed, and
for those who want to escape from themselves.  Writing is bad.  The pen
hangs idly suspended over the paper, or the sad thoughts that are alive
within write themselves down.  The safest and best of all occupations
for such sufferers as are fit for it, is intercourse with young
children.  An infant might beguile Satan and his peers the day after
they were couched on the lake of fire, if the love of children chanced
to linger amidst the ruins of their angelic nature.  Next to this comes
honest, genuine acquaintanceship among the poor; not mere
charity-visiting, grounded on soup-tickets and blankets, but intercourse
of mind, with real mutual interest between the parties.  Gardening is
excellent, because it unites bodily exertion with a sufficient
engagement of the faculties, while sweet, compassionate Nature is
ministering cure in every sprouting leaf and scented blossom, and
beckoning sleep to draw nigh, and be ready to follow up her benignant
work.  Walking is good,--not stepping from shop to shop, or from
neighbour to neighbour; but stretching out far into the country, to the
freshest fields, and the highest ridges, and the quietest lanes.
However sullen the imagination may have been among its griefs at home,
here it cheers up and smiles.  However listless the limbs may have been
when sustaining a too heavy heart, here they are braced, and the lagging
gait becomes buoyant again.  However perverse the memory may have been
in presenting all that was agonising, and insisting only on what cannot
be retrieved, here it is first disregarded, and then it sleeps and the
sleep of the memory is the day in Paradise to the unhappy.  The mere
breathing of the cool wind on the face in the commonest highway, is rest
and comfort which must be felt at such times to be believed.  It is
disbelieved in the shortest intervals between its seasons of enjoyment:
and every time the sufferer has resolution to go forth to meet it, it
penetrates to the very heart in glad surprise.  The fields are better
still; for there is the lark to fill up the hours with mirthful music;
or, at worst, the robin and flocks of fieldfares, to show that the
hardest day has its life and hilarity.  But the calmest region is the
upland, where human life is spread out beneath the bodily eye, where the
mind roves from the peasant's nest to the spiry town, from the
school-house to the churchyard, from the diminished team in the patch of
fallow, or the fisherman's boat in the cove, to the viaduct that spans
the valley, or the fleet that glides ghost-like on the horizon.  This is
the perch where the spirit plumes its ruffled and drooping wines, and
makes ready to let itself down any wind that Heaven may send.

No doubt Margaret found the benefit of exercise, and the solitary
enjoyment of the country; for, during the last few weeks, walking seemed
to have become a passion with her.  Hester was almost out of patience
about it, when for a moment she lost sight of what she well knew must be
the cause of this strong new interest.  Every doubtful morning, Margaret
was at the window exploring the clouds.  Every fine day she laid her
watch on the table before her, impatiently waiting the approach of the
hour when her brother was to come in for Hester, and when she might set
off by herself, not to return till dinner-time.  She became renowned in
Deerbrook for the length of her excursions.  The grocer had met her far
out in one direction, when returning from making his purchases at the
market town.  The butcher had seen her in the distant fields, when he
paid a visit to his grazier in the pastures.  Dr Levitt had walked his
horse beside her in the lane which formed the limit of the longer of his
two common rides; and many a neighbour or patient of Mr Hope's had been
surprised at her declining a cast in a taxed-cart or gig, when there was
only a long stretch of plain road before her, and the lanes and fields
were too miry to enable her to seek any variety in them, in her way
home.

These were, in fact, Margaret's times of refreshing--of practical
worship.  These were the times when she saw what at other moments she
only repeated to herself--that all things are right, and that our
personal trials derive their bitterness from our ignorance and spiritual
inexperience.  At these times she could not only pity all who suffered,
but congratulate all who enjoyed, and could afford feelings of
disinterested regard to Philip, and of complacency to Miss Bruce.  She
remembered that Miss Bruce was unconscious of having injured her--was
possibly unaware even of her existence; and then she enjoyed the luxury
of blessing her rival, and of longing for an opportunity to serve her
secretly and silently, as the happy girl's innocence of all wrong
towards her deserved.

Margaret's desire for a long solitary walk was as strong as ever, the
day after she had visited Maria.  No opportunity had occurred of
speaking to her brother without alarming Hester; and she had almost
determined merely to refer him to Maria, instead of telling the story
herself.  She should not see him again till dinner.  He was gone into
the country: the day was gloomy and cold, and Hester was not disposed to
leave the fireside: so Margaret issued forth, with thick shoes,
umbrella, and muff--guarded against everything that might occur overhead
and under foot.  She had generally found hope, or at least comfort,
abroad; to-day, when she ought to have been much happier, she found
anxiety and fear.  The thought, the very words, would incessantly recur,
`If he is not engaged to Miss Bruce, it does not follow...'  Then she
seriously grieved for her brother, and the troubles which she feared
awaited him; and then she reproached herself with not grieving enough--
not having attention enough to spare from her own concerns.  While she
was walking along on the dry causeway, looking straight before her, but
thinking of far other things than the high-road, she was startled by the
stroke of a horse's foot against a stone close by her side, and a voice
speaking almost in her ear.  It was only Edward.  He was going a couple
of miles forward, and he brought his horse beside the raised causeway,
so that they could converse as if walking together.

"There is nobody to overhear us, I think," said Margaret, looking round.
"I have been wanting, since yesterday evening, to speak to you alone--
about something very disagreeable, which I would not disturb Hester
with.  You, of course, can do as you please about telling her."

She related to him the whole story of Mrs Rowland's imputations and
proceedings--her reports of the hysterics and their origin, the
body-snatching, and the cause and mode of Mrs Enderby's removal.
Margaret had always considered her brother as a man of uncommon nerve;
and her surprise was therefore great at seeing him change colour as he
did.

"We shall agree," said she, "that the worst of all this is, that there
is some truth at the bottom part of it."

"Oh, Heavens!" thought Hope, "is it possible that Mrs Grey can have
told the share she had in my marriage?"  It was but a momentary fear.
Margaret went on.

"I have never hoped--I never hoped at Birmingham, and much less here--
that Hester could escape the observation of her neighbours--that her
occasional agitation of spirits should not excite remark and
speculation.  As we are not quite whole and sound in our domestic
peace--(I must speak plainly, brother, at such a time as this) I should
think it would be better to take no notice of that set of imputations.
I trust we shall live them down."

"You gave me great comfort in a few words once," said Hope.  "Do you
remember saying, `When the time for acting comes, see how she will act!'
You know her well, and you judge her rightly: and you will, perhaps, be
the less sorry to hear that the time seems coming when we may all have
to act--I scarcely see how--but against adversity."

"She will come out nobly then.  I fear nothing for her but too much
prosperity."

"There is no fear of that, I assure you," said Hope, smiling somewhat
sadly.

"You find the effect of this woman's slanders?"

"My situation has, from one cause or more, totally changed since you
first knew me.  It would break Hester's heart to hear what I am
subjected to in the discharge of my daily business.  I tell her a trifle
now and then, to prepare her for what may happen; but she and you do not
know a tenth part, of what is inflicted upon me."

"And what may happen?"

"I cannot see the extent of it myself: but I am losing my practice every
day.  No; not through any failure; not through any of the accidents
which will happen in all medical practice.  There are reports of such
abroad, I believe; but nothing is commoner than those reports.  The
truth is, no patient of mine has died, or failed to do well, for an
unusually long space of time.  The discontent with me is from other
causes."

"From Mrs Rowland's tongue, I doubt not, more than from your politics."

"The ignorance of the people about us is the great evil.  Without this,
neither Mrs Rowland, nor any one else, could persuade them that I rob
the churchyard, and vaccinate children to get patients, and draw good
teeth to sell again."

"Oh, monstrous!" said Margaret, who yet could not help laughing.  "You
never draw teeth, do you?"

"Sometimes; but not when I can get people to go to the dentist at
Blickley.  Mrs Grey used to boast to you of my popularity; but I never
liked it much.  I had to be perpetually on the watch to avoid
confidences; and you see how fast the stream is at present running the
contrary way.  I can hardly get on my horse now, without being insulted
at my own door."

"Must you submit to all this?"

"By no means.  I have called two or three men to account, and shaken my
whip over one or two more--with excellent effect.  If there were none
but bullies among my enemies, I could easily deal with them."

"But cannot we go away, and settle somewhere else?"

"Oh, no!  Wherever I might go, it would soon be understood that I had
been obliged to leave Deerbrook, from being detected in body-snatching
and the like.  I owe it to myself to stay.  We must remain, and live
down all imputations whatever, if we can."

"And if we cannot?"

"Then we shall see what to do when the time comes."

"And having managed the bullies, how do you propose to manage Mrs
Rowland?  What do you think of speaking to Mr Grey?"

"I shall not do that.  The Greys have no concern with it; but they will
think they have.  Then there will be a partisan warfare, with me for the
pretext, and the two families have had quite warfare enough for a
lifetime already.  No, I shall not bring the Greys into it.  I am sorry
enough for Mr Rowland, for I am sure he has no part in all this.  I
shall go to him to-day.  I should confront the lady at once, and call
her to account, but that Miss Young must be considered.  The more
courageous and disinterested she is, the more care we must take of her."

"Perhaps she is at this moment telling Mr Rowland what we talked about
last night.  How very painful!  Do you know she thinks--(it is right to
tell the whole for other people's sake)--she thinks that what Mrs
Rowland says is not to be trusted, in any case where she feels enmity.
Maria even doubts whether Mr Enderby has treated you and his other
friends so very negligently--whether he is engaged to Miss Bruce, after
all."

Mr Hope was so much engaged about one of his stirrups while Margaret
said this, that he could not observe where and how she was looking.

"Very likely," replied Hope, at length.  "Hester has thought all along
that this was possible.  We shall know the truth from Enderby himself,
one of these days, by act or word.  Meantime, I, for one, shall wait to
hear his own story."

There was another pause, at the end of which Mr Hope clapped spurs to
his horse, and said he must be riding on.  Margaret called him back for
a moment, to ask what he wished her to do about informing Hester of the
state of affairs.  Mr Hope was disposed to tell her the whole, if
possible; but not till he should have come to some issue with Mr
Rowland.  He hated mysteries--any concealments in families; and it was
due both to Hester and to himself that there should be no concealment of
important affairs from her.  The only cautions to be observed were, to
save her from suspense, to avoid the appearance of a formal telling of
bad news, and to choose an opportunity when she might have time, before
seeing any of the Rowlands, to consider the principles which should
regulate her conduct to them, that she might do herself honour by the
consistency and temper, of which she was capable under any
circumstances, when she was only allowed time.

This was settled, and he rode off with almost his usual gaiety of air.

He saw Mr Rowland before night.  The next day but one, a
travelling-carriage from Blickley was seen standing at Mr Rowland's
door; and before the clock struck nine, it was loaded with trunks and
band-boxes, and crowded with people.  As it drove down the village
street, merry little faces appeared at each carriage window.  Mr
Rowland was on the box.  He was going to take his family to Cheltenham
for the spring months.  Miss Rowland was rather delicate, and Deerbrook
was cold in March.  Mrs Enderby was left behind; but there was Phoebe
to take care of her; and Mr Rowland was to return as soon as he had
settled his family.  It seemed rather a pity, to be sure, that the old
lady had been moved out of her own house just before she was to be left
alone in her new residence; but, between Mr Rowland and her maid, she
would be taken good care of; and the family would return when the warm
weather set in.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

DISCLOSURES.

The whole village seemed relieved by the departure of the Rowlands.
Mrs Grey, who had always been refused admission to her old friend on
one pretence or another, was joyfully welcomed by Phoebe, and was
plunged into all the delights of neighbourly chat before the clock
struck twelve, on the very first morning, Fanny and Mary Grey
voluntarily offered to go to Miss Young, now that they were her only
pupils, to save her the trouble of the walk to the schoolroom.  This was
a great relief to Maria, and her little parlour held the three very
nicely; and when the girls had sufficiently admired the screen over
again,--their father's profile, the planets, and the Dargle, they
settled quite as well as at home.  There was still a corner left for
cousin Margaret, when she chose to come with her German books, or her
work, and her useful remarks on what they were doing.  No immediate
consequences had happened to Maria from her plain-dealing with Mr
Rowland; and she was quite ready to enjoy the three months of freedom,
without looking too anxiously towards the end of them.  The very
gardener at the Rowlands' seemed to bestir himself with unusual alacrity
to put the garden into spring trim; and the cook and housemaid might be
seen over the hedge, walking arm-in-arm on the gravel-walks, smelling at
the mezereon, and admiring Miss Anna's border of yellow crocuses, as the
gardener said, as much as if they had been fine plants out of a
conservatory.  The birds themselves seemed to begin their twittering in
the trees, and the cows their lowing in the meadow, from the hour that
Mrs Rowland went away.  In other words, there were many whom that event
left free and at ease to observe the harmonies of nature, who were
usually compelled to observe only the lady, and the discords of her
household.

It was only the second day after the departure of the family that
Margaret took her seat in the offered corner of Maria's parlour.  She
laid down her book, and took up her work, when the question arose, which
has probably interested all intelligent school-girls for many a year--
What made so many Athenians,--so many, that there must have been some
wise and good men among them,--treat such a person as Socrates in the
way they did?  Margaret was quite occupied in admiring the sort of
Socratic method, with which Maria drew out from the minds of her pupils
some of the difficult philosophy of Opinion, and the liberality with
which she allowed for the distress of heathen moralists at having the
sanction of Custom broken up.  Margaret was thus quite occupied with the
delight of seeing a great subject skilfully let down into young minds,
and the others were no less busy with the subject itself, when Mary
started, and said it made her jump to see Sydney bring Fairy close up to
the window.  Fanny imperiously bade her mind what she was about, and let
Sydney alone: but yet, in a minute or two, Fanny's own eyes were
detected wandering into the yard where Sydney still remained.  "He is
getting Fairy shod," she said in a soliloquising tone.  Every one
laughed,--the idea of shoeing a fairy was so ridiculous!--and some
witticisms, about Bottom the Weaver, and his ass's head, were sported.
It was evident that Socrates had no more chance this day, and Maria
changed the subject.

"Sydney looks very much as if he wanted to come in," observed Mary.

Sydney did particularly wish to come in; but he saw that cousin Margaret
was there: and he had felt an unconquerable awe of cousin Margaret ever
since the day of his conveying her over the ice.  So he stood
irresolutely watching, as nail after nail was driven into Fairy's hoof,
casting glances every minute at the window.

"Shall I see what he wants?" asked Margaret, perceiving that lessons
would not go on till Sydney had got out what he wished to say.  "May I
open the window for a moment, Maria, to speak to him?"

"What do you think?" cried Sydney, taking instant advantage of the
movement, and carrying off his awkwardness by whipping the window-sill
while he spoke.  "What _do_ you think?  Mr Enderby is come by the coach
this morning.  I saw him myself; and you might have met our Ben carrying
his portmanteau home, from where he was put down, half an hour ago.
We'll have rare sport, if he stays as long as he did last summer.  I do
believe," he continued, leaning into the room, and speaking with a touch
of his mother's mystery, "he would have come long since if Mrs Rowland
had not been here.  I wish she had taken herself off two months ago, and
then I might have had a run with the harriers with him, as he promised I
should."

"Now you have said just a little too much, Sydney; so you may go," said
Maria.  "Shut down the window, will you?"

It was well for Margaret that there was the recess of the window to lean
in.  There she stood, not speaking a word.  It was not in nature for
Maria to refrain from casting a glance at her,--which glance grew into a
look of intelligence.

"You do not quite wink as mamma does," observed Fanny, "but I know very
well what you mean, Miss Young."

"So people always fancy when they observe upon nothing, or upon what
they know nothing about, Fanny.  But I thought you were convinced, some
time ago, that you should not watch people's countenances, to find out
what they are thinking, any more than--"

"I should read a letter they are writing," interrupted Fanny.  "Well, I
beg your pardon, Miss Young; but I really thought I saw you looking at
cousin Margaret's face.  However, I dare say everybody supposes the
same,--that Mr Enderby would not have been here now if Mrs Rowland had
not gone away.  You need not mind Mary and me, Miss Young; you know we
hear all about Mrs Rowland at home."

"I know you are apt to fancy that you understand all about Mrs Rowland,
my dear; but perhaps Mrs Rowland herself might happen to differ from
you, if she could look into your mind.  It is for you to settle with
yourself, whether you think she would be satisfied that you have done by
her as you would have her do by you.  This is your own affair, Fanny; so
now, without any one trying to see in your face what you think of
yourself, we will go to our business."

The scratching of pens in the exercise-books, and the turning over of
the dictionary, now proceeded for some time in profound silence, in the
midst of which Margaret stole back to her corner.

"There goes twelve!" softly exclaimed Mary.  "Mamma said we might go
with her to call at cousin Hester's, if we were home and ready by
half-past twelve.  We shall not have nearly done, Miss Young."

Miss Young did not take the hint.  She only said--

"Is your mamma going to call on Mrs Hope?  Then, Margaret, do not let
us detain you here.  You will wish to be at home, I am sure."

Never, as Maria supposed, had Margaret more impatiently desired to be at
home.  Though accustomed to go in and out of Maria's abode, with or
without reason assigned, she had not now ventured to move, though the
little room felt like a prison.  An awkward consciousness had fixed her
to her seat.  Now, however, she made haste to depart, promising to visit
her friend again very soon.  The little girls wanted her to arrange to
come every morning, and stay all the time of lessons: but Margaret
declined making any such engagement.

As she went home, she scarcely raised her eyes, for fear of seeing
_him_; and yet she lingered for an instant at her brother's door, from a
feeling of disappointment at having met no one she knew.

She had fully and undoubtingly intended to tell Hester of Philip's
arrival; but when she had taken off her bonnet, and settled herself
beside her sister in the drawing-room, she found that it was quite
impossible to open the subject.  While she was meditating upon this, the
entrance of the Greys seemed to settle the matter.  She supposed they
would make the disclosure for her: but she soon perceived that they had
not heard the news.  Mrs Grey went on quoting Mrs Enderby and Phoebe,
and Sophia remarked on the forsaken condition of the old lady, in a way
which was quite incompatible with any knowledge of the new aspect which
affairs had assumed this morning.  It was a great relief to Margaret to
be spared the discussion of a fact, on which so much was to be said; but
lo! in the midst of a flow of talk about fomentations, and the best kind
of night-light for a sick room, there was a knock at the door, every
stroke of which was recognised to a certainty by Margaret.  While the
other ladies were pushing back their chairs, to break up the appearance
of a gossip, and make room for another party of visitors, Margaret was
wholly occupied with contriving to sit upright, notwithstanding the
dimness that came over her sight.

It was he.  He entered the room quickly, looked taller than ever, as
Sophia thought to herself, and more than ever like a Polish Count, now
that his blue great-coat was buttoned up to the chin.  He stopped for
half a moment on seeing ladies in cloaks and bonnets, and then came
forward, and shook hands with everybody.  Hester observed that he looked
full at Margaret as he held out his hand to her; but Margaret did not
see this, for, though she commanded herself wonderfully, she could not
meet his eye.  Of course, he was asked when he arrived, and had to
answer the question, and also the remarks which were made on the length
of his absence, and on the expectations of everybody in Deerbrook that
he would have visited the old place at Christmas or New Year.  He was
then pitied on account of the state of his mother's health.  To this he
made no reply whatever; but when Mrs Grey inquired how he found Mrs
Enderby, he briefly--somewhat abruptly--answered that he thought her
very ill.  It was equally impossible for Margaret to sit totally silent
while all this was going on, and to address herself to him: she
therefore kept some conversation with Sophia on the greenhouse, and the
fate of the evergreens in the shrubbery, in consequence of the severity
of the frost in January--which laurestinus had been lost, and how the
arbutus had suffered, and how long it would be before the laurels on the
grass could grow up to their former size and beauty.  While Sophia was
telling that the greenhouse occupied a great deal of time, and that she
had therefore turned over her interest in it to Sydney, and begged the
little girls to divide her garden between them, Mr Enderby was seen to
take Hester into the window, and after remarking upon the snowdrops
beneath, to speak privately to her.  Margaret was afraid Mrs Grey would
take the hint, and go away.  Her presence now appeared a sort of
protection, which Margaret exerted herself to retain, by not allowing
the conversation to flag.  She need not have feared; Mrs Grey was
turning over in her mind how she might best introduce her
congratulations on Mr Enderby's engagement, and her inquiries after
Miss Bruce's welfare--topics on which she conceived that good manners
required her to enter.  Meantime, Mr Enderby had been saying to Hester:

"You will excuse the offer of my good wishes on your settlement here
being briefly and hastily made; but I am at this moment in great
anxiety.  Is Hope at home?"

"No: he is some miles off in the country."

"Then I must charge you with a message to him.  I think my mother very
ill; and I find it is some time since Hope has seen her.  Will you beg
him to come to her without loss of time, when he returns?"

"Certainly; he will be home within two or three hours, I have no doubt."

"And then ask him whether he will not prescribe a visit from you to my
mother.  It will do her good, I am confident.  You know she is all alone
now with her maid."

"I am aware of that.  It is not from negligence or disinclination, I
assure you, that we have seen so little of Mrs Enderby for some time
past."

"I know it, I know it," said he, shaking his head.  Then, after a
pause--"Shall you be at home this evening?"

"Yes."

"And alone?"

"Yes.  Will you come?"

"Thank you; I will come in for an hour.  I shall then hear Hope's report
of my mother; and--between ourselves--I want a few words with your
sister.  Can you manage this for me?"

"No doubt."

He was gone in another moment, with a bow to the whole party.

"Gone!" cried Mrs Grey; "and I have not said a word to him about his
engagement and Miss Bruce!  How very odd he must think us, Sophia!"

"There will be plenty of time for all we have to say," observed Hester.
"He is so uneasy about his mother, I see, that he will not leave her yet
awhile."

Margaret was sure she perceived in her sister's beautiful eye and lip
the subtle expression of amusement that they bore when a gay thought was
in her mind, or when her neighbours were setting off in speculation on a
wrong scent.

"But half the grace of one's good wishes is in their being offered
readily," said Mrs Grey, "as I was saying to Sophia, the other day,
when we were considering whether Mr Grey should not write to Mr
Enderby with our congratulations.  _We_ should not like to appear
backward on such an occasion, for many reasons.  Well now, my dears; one
thing more.  You must come to tea with us this evening.  It will be a
mild evening, I have no doubt; and I have sent to Miss Young, to say
that my sedan will bring her at six o'clock.  We have quite set our
hearts upon having you for a sociable evening."

"Thank you," said Hester: "we would come with great pleasure, but that
we are engaged."

"Engaged, my dear!  Margaret has just told us that you have no
engagement."

"So Margaret thought: but we are engaged.  A friend of Mr Hope's is
coming to spend the evening, and I promised that we would be at home."

"Dear!" said Sophia; "and we had quite set our hearts upon your coming."

"Cannot you bring the gentleman with you, my dear?  I am sure Mr Grey
will be happy to see any friend of Mr Hope's."

"Thank you; but he is coming on business."

"Oh, well!  But Margaret can be spared, surely.  I suppose you must stay
and make tea, my dear.  It would not do, I know, for you to appear to
neglect your husband's country patients--particularly in the present
state of affairs.  But Margaret can come, surely.  Sydney shall step for
her, a little before six."

"Oh, yes," said Sophia; "Margaret can come.  The gentleman can have no
business with her, I suppose."

Margaret was again puzzled with the fun that lurked in the eye and lip.
She had been passive till now; but seeing Hester's determination that
she should not go, she said very decidedly that she should much prefer
coming some evening when her brother and sister need not be left behind.

"Mrs Grey is not very well pleased," observed Margaret, when their
visitors were gone.  "Could not you have been a little more explicit as
to this gentleman, whoever he may be?"

"I thought it better not to say more," said Hester, now unable to help
stealing a glance at her sister.  "Our visitor is to be Mr Enderby.  He
is so uneasy about his mother, that my husband is to see her this
afternoon; and Mr Enderby offers to come in the evening, to discuss her
case."  After a slight pause, Hester continued--"Sophia was very
positive about its being impossible that our visitor could have any
business with you--was not she?"

"Oh, Hester!" said Margaret, imploringly, with her eyes full of tears.

"Well, well," said Hester, remembering how cruel this speech might
appear to her sister, "I ought not to speak to you from my own habitual
disbelief of Mrs Rowland's news.  I will go away, dear; only just
saying, first, that I like Philip's looks very well.  He does not seem
happier than he ought to be, while his mother is so ill: nor does he act
as if he felt he had neglected us, his old friends.  As my husband says,
we must hear his own story before we judge him."

When she left the room, Margaret could not have settled with herself
whether there was most pain or pleasure in the prospect of this evening.
Five minutes before, she had believed that she should spend it at the
Greys'--should hear the monotonous hiss of the urn, which seemed to take
up its song, every time she went, where it had left off last--should see
Mrs Grey's winks from behind it--should have the same sort of cake, cut
by Sophia into pieces of exactly the same size--should hear Sydney told
to be quiet, and the little girls to go to bed--should have to play Mrs
Grey's favourite waltz, and sing Mr Grey's favourite song--and at last,
to refuse a glass of sherry three times over, and come away, after
hearing much wonder expressed that the evening was gone already.  Now,
instead of this, there was to be the fear and constraint of Philip's
presence, so unlike what that had ever been before!--no longer gay,
easy, and delightful, but all that was awkward.  No one would be sure of
what the others were feeling; or whether there was any sufficient reason
for their mutual feelings being so changed.  Who would find the
conversation?  What could be talked about which would not bring one or
another into collision with Mrs Rowland or Miss Bruce?  But yet, there
would be his presence, and with it, bliss.  There would be his very
voice; and something of his thoughts could not but come out.  She was
better pleased than if his evening was to be spent anywhere else.

Dinner passed, she did not know how, except that her brother thought
Mrs Enderby not materially worse than when he saw her last.  The
tea-tray came and stood an hour--Mr Hope being evidently restless and
on the watch.  He said at last that it would be better to get tea over
before Enderby came; and Margaret repeated in her own mind that it _was_
less awkward; and yet she was disappointed.  The moment the table was
cleared, _his_ knock was heard.  He would not have tea: he had been
making his mother's tea, and had had a cup with her.  And now, what was
Hope's judgment on her state of health?

The gentlemen had scarcely entered upon the subject when a note was
brought in for Margaret.  Everything made her nervous; but the purport
of this note was merely to ask for a book which she had promised to lend
Mrs Levitt.  As she went up to her room for it, she was vexed that the
interruption had occurred now; and was heartily angry with herself that
she could command herself no better, and be no more like other people
than she fancied she had been this day.  "There is Hester," thought she,
"looking nothing less than merry, and talking about whatever occurs, as
if nothing had happened since we met him last; while I sit, feeling like
a fool, with not a word to say, and no courage to say it if I had.  I
wonder whether I have always been as insignificant and dull as I have
seen myself to be to-day.  I do not believe I ever thought about the
matter before: I wish I could forget it now."  Notwithstanding her
feeling of insignificance in the drawing-room, however, she was so
impatient to be there again that her hands trembled with eagerness in
doing up the parcel for Mrs Levitt.

When she re-entered the drawing-room, Philip was there alone--standing
by the fire.  Margaret's first impulse was to retreat; but her better
judgment prevailed in time to intercept the act.  Philip said:

"Mr and Mrs Hope have, at my desire, given me the opportunity of
speaking to you alone.  You must not refuse to hear what I have to say,
because it is necessary to the vindication of my honour;--and it is also
due to another person."

Of course, Margaret sat down.  She seemed to intend to speak, and Philip
waited to hear her; but no words came, so he went on.

"You have been told, I find, that I have been for some time engaged to a
lady who is now at Rome--Miss Bruce.  How such a notion originated, we
need not inquire.  The truth is, that I am but slightly acquainted with
Miss Bruce, and that nothing has ever occurred which could warrant such
a use of that lady's name.  I heard nothing of this till to-day, and--"

"Is it possible?" breathed Margaret.

"I was shocked to hear of it from my poor mother; but infinitely more
shocked--grieved to the very soul, to find that you, Margaret, believed
it."

"How could we help it?  It was your sister who told us."

"What does my sister know of me compared with you?  I thought--I hoped--
but I see now that I was presumptuous--I thought that you knew me
enough, and cared for me enough, to understand my mind, and trust my
conduct through whatever you might hear of me from others.  I have been
deceived--I mean I have deceived myself, as to the relation in which we
stand.  I do not blame you, Margaret--that is, I will not if I can help
it--for what you have given credit to about me; but I did not think you
would have mortified me so deeply."

"You are partly wrong now; you are unjust at this moment," replied
Margaret, looking up with some spirit.  "I do not wish to speak of Mrs
Rowland--but remember, your mother never doubted what your sister said;
the information was given in such a way as left almost an impossibility
of disbelief.  There was nothing to set against the most positive
assurances--nothing from you--not a word to any of your old friends--"

"And there was I, working away on a new and good plan of life, living
for you, and counting the weeks and days between me and the time when I
might come and show you what your power over me had enabled me to do--
and you were all the while despising or forgetting me, allowing me no
means of defending myself, yielding me up to dishonour with a mere shake
of the head, as if I had been an acquaintance of two or three
ball-nights.  It is clear that you knew my mind no better than I now
find I knew yours."

"What would you have had me do?" asked Margaret, with such voice as she
had.

"I believe I had not thought of that," said Philip, half laughing.  "I
only felt that you ought to have trusted me--that you must have known
that I loved neither Miss Bruce, nor any one but you; and that I could
not be engaged to any one while I loved you.--Tell me at once,
Margaret--did I not deserve this much from you?"

"You did," said Margaret, distinctly.  "But there is another way of
viewing the whole, which does not seem to have occurred to you.  I have
been to blame, perhaps; but if you had thought of the other
possibility--"

"What other?  Oh! do speak plainly."

"I must, at such a time as this.  If I could not think you guilty, I
might fancy myself to have been mistaken."

"And did you fancy so?  Did you suppose I neither loved you, nor meant
you to think that I did?"

"I did conclude myself mistaken."

"Oh, Margaret!  I should say--if I dared--that such a thought--such
humility, such generosity--could come of nothing but love."

Margaret made no reply.  They understood one another too completely for
words.  Even in the first gush of joy, there was intense bitterness in
the thought of what Margaret must have suffered; and Philip vowed, in
the bottom of his soul, that his whole life should be devoted to make
her forget it.  He could have cursed his sister with equal energy.

There was no end to what had to be said.  Philip was impatient to tell
what he had been doing, and the reasons of the whole of his conduct.
Margaret's views had become his own, as to the desultoriness of the life
he had hitherto led.  He had applied himself diligently to the study of
the law, intending to prove to himself and to her, that he was capable
of toil, and of a steady aim at an object in life, before he asked her
to decide what their relation to each other was henceforth to be.

"Surely," said he, "you might have discovered this much from my letters
to my mother."

"And how were we to know what was in your letters to your mother?"

"Do you mean that you have not read or heard them all this time?"

"Not a word for these three months.  We have scarcely seen her for many
weeks past; and then she merely showed us what long letters you wrote
her."

"And they were all written for you!  She told me, the last time I was
here, that she could keep nothing from you: and, relying upon her words,
I have supposed this to be a medium of communication between us
throughout.  I could have no other, you know.  When did my mother leave
off reading my letters to you?"

"From the week you went away last.  Mrs Rowland came in while we were
in the midst of one; and the consequence was--"

"That you have been in the dark about me ever since.  You saw that I did
write?"

"Yes.  I have seen most of the post-marks--and the interiors--upside
down.  But Mrs Rowland was always there--or else Phoebe."

"And have you really known nothing about me whatever?"

"Little George told me that you had lessons to learn, very hard and very
long, and, if possible, more difficult than his."

"And did not you see then that I was acting upon your views?"

"I supposed Miss Bruce might have had them first."

"Miss Bruce!" he cried, in a tone of annoyance.  "I know nothing of Miss
Bruce's views on any subject.  I cannot conceive how my sister got such
a notion into her head--why she selected her."

Margaret was going to mention the "sisterly affection" which had long
subsisted between Miss Bruce and Mrs Rowland, according to the latter;
but it occurred to her that it was just possible that Philip might not
be altogether so indifferent to Miss Bruce as Miss Bruce was to him; and
this thought sealed her lips.

"I wonder whether Rowland believed it all the time," said Philip: "and
Hope?  It was unworthy of Hope's judgment--of his faith--to view the
case so wrongly."

"I am glad you are beginning to be angry with somebody else," said
Margaret.  "Your wrath seemed all to be for me: but your old friends,
even to your mother, appear to have had no doubt about the matter."

"There is an excuse for them which I thought you had not.  I am an
altered man, Margaret--you cannot conceive how altered since I began to
know you.  They judged of me by what I was once...  We will not say how
lately."

"I assure you I do not forget the accounts you used to give of
yourself."

"What accounts?"

"Of how you found life pleasant enough without philosophy and without
anything to do... and other wise sayings of the kind."

"It is by such things that those who knew me long ago have judged me
lately--a retribution which I ought not to complain of.  If they
believed me fickle, idle, selfish, it is all fair.  Oh!  Margaret, men
know nothing of morals till they know women."

"Are you serious?"

"I am solemnly persuaded of it.  Happy they who grow up beside mothers
and sisters whom they can revere!  But for this, almost all men would be
without earnestness of heart--without a moral purpose--without
generosity, while they are all the while talking of honour.  It was so
with me before I knew you.  I am feeble enough, and selfish enough yet,
God knows! but I hope still to prove that you have made a man of me, out
of a light, selfish...  But what right have I, you may think, to ask you
to rely upon me, when I have so lately been what I tell you.  I did not
mean to ask you yet.  This very morning, nothing could be further from
my intentions.  I do not know how long I should have waited before I
should have dared.  My sister has rendered me an inestimable service
amidst all the mischief she did me.  I thank her.  Ah!  Margaret, you
smile!"

Margaret smiled again.  The smile owned that she was thinking the same
thing about their obligations to Mrs Rowland.

"Whatever you might have said to me this evening," continued Philip, "if
your regard for me had proved to have been quite overthrown--if you had
continued to despise me, as you must have done at times--I should still
have blessed you, all my life--I should have worshipped you, as the
being who opened a new world to me.  You lifted me out of a life of
trifling--of trifling which I thought very elegant at the time--trifling
with my own time and faculties--trifling with other people's serious
business--trifling with something more serious still, I fear--with their
feelings.  As far as I remember, I thought all this manly and refined
enough: and but for you, I should have thought so still.  You early
opened my eyes to all the meanness and gross selfishness of such a life:
and if you were never to let me see you again, I believe I could not
fall back into the delusion.  But if you will be the guide of my life--"

Margaret sighed deeply.  Even at this moment of vital happiness, her
thoughts rested on her sister.  She remembered what Hester's
anticipations had been, in prospect of having Edward for the guide of
her life.

"I frighten you, I see," said Philip, "with my confessions; but, be the
consequences what they may, I must speak, Margaret.  If you despise me,
I must do you the justice, and give myself the consolation, of
acknowledging what I have been, and what I owe to you."

"It is not that," said Margaret.  "Let the past go.  Let it be forgotten
in reaching forward to better things.  But do not let us be confident
about the future.  I have seen too much of that.  We must not provide
for disappointment.  Let us leave it till it comes.  Surely," she added,
with a gentle smile, "we have enough for the present.  I cannot look
forward yet."

"How you must have suffered!" cried Philip, in a tone of grief.  "You
have lost some of your confidence, love.  You did not cling to the
present, and shrink from the future when...  Oh, it is bitter, even now,
to think, that while I was working on, in hope and resolution, you were
suffering here, making it a duty to extinguish your regard for me, I all
the time toiling to deserve it--and there was no one to set us right,
and the whole world in league to divide us."

"That is all over now."

"But not the consequences, Margaret.  They have shaken you: they have
made you know doubt and fear."

"We are both changed, Philip.  We are older, and I trust it will appear
that we are wiser than we were.  Yes, older.  There are times in one's
life when days do the work of years and our days have been of that kind.
You have discovered a new life, and my wishes and expectations are much
altered.  They may not be fewer, or less bright, but they are very
different."

"If they were pure from fears--"

"They are pure from fears.  At this moment I can fear nothing.  We have
been brought together by the unquestionable Providence which rules our
lives; and this is enough.  The present is all right; and the future,
which is to come out of it, will be all right in its way.  I have no
fear--but I do not want to anticipate.  This hour with its
satisfactions, is all that I can bear."

Notwithstanding this, and Philip's transport in learning it, they did go
back, again and again, into the past; and many a glance did they cast
into the future.  There was no end to their revelations of the
circumstances of the last two months, and of the interior history which
belonged to them.  At last, the burning out of one of the candles
startled them into a recollection of how long their conversation had
lasted, and of the suspense in which Edward and Hester had been kept.
Enderby offered to go and tell them the fact which they must be
anticipating: and, after having agreed that no one else should know at
present--that Miss Bruce's name should be allowed to die out of
Deerbrook speculations, for Mrs Rowland's sake, before any other was
put in its place, Philip left his Margaret, and went into the
breakfast-room, where his presence was not wholly unexpected.

In five minutes, Margaret heard the hall door shut, and, in another
moment, her brother and sister came to her.  Hester's face was all
smiles and tears: her mind all tumult with the vivid recollection of her
own first hours of happy hopeful love, mingled with the griefs which
always lay heavy within her, and with that warm attachment to her sister
which circumstances occasionally exalted into a passion.

"We ought to rejoice with nothing but joy, Margaret," said she: "but I
cannot see how we are to spare you.  I do not believe I can live without
you."

Her husband started at this echo of the thoughts for which he was at the
moment painfully rebuking himself.  He had nothing to say; but gave his
greeting in a brotherly kiss, like that which he had offered on his
marriage with her sister, and on his entrance upon his home.

"How quiet, how very quiet she is!" exclaimed Hester, an Margaret left
the room, after a few words on the events of the evening, and a calm
good-night.  "I hope it is all right.  I hope she is quite satisfied."

"Satisfied is the word," said her husband.  "People are quiet when they
are relieved--calm when they are satisfied--people like Margaret.  It is
only great minds, I believe, which feel real satisfaction."

Hester gave him pain by a deep sigh.  She was thinking how seldom, and
for how short a time, she had ever felt real satisfaction.

"And how often, and for how long," she asked, "do great minds find
themselves in that heaven?"

"By the blessing of God, not seldom, I trust," replied he; "though not
so often as, by obeying their nature, they might.  Intellectual
satisfaction is perhaps not for this world, except in a few of the
inspired hours of the Newtons and the Bacons, who are sent to teach what
the human intellect is.  But as often as a great mind meets with full
moral sympathy--as often as it is loved in return for love--as often as
it confides itself unreservedly to the good Power which bestowed its
existence, and appointed all its attributes, I imagine it must repose in
satisfaction."

"Then satisfaction ought to be no new feeling to Margaret," said Hester.
"She always loves every one: she meets with sympathy wherever she
turns; and I believe she has faith enough for a martyr, without knowing
it.  Ought not she--must not she, have often felt real satisfaction?"

"Yes."

"I wonder you dole out your words so sparingly about such a being as
Margaret," said Hester, resentfully.  "I can tell you, Edward, though
you take so coolly the privilege of having such a one so nearly
connected with you, you might search the world in vain for her equal.
You little know the wealth of her heart and soul, Edward.  I ask you
whether she does not deserve to feel full satisfaction of conscience and
affections, and you just answer `Yes,' with as much languor as if I had
asked you whether the clock has struck eleven yet!  I can tell you
this--I have said in my own heart, and just to Morris, for years, that
the happiest man of his generation will be he who has Margaret for a
wife: and here you, who ought to know this, give me a grudging `Yes,' in
answer to the first question, arising out of my reverence for Margaret,
that I ever asked you!"

"You mistake me," replied Hope, in a tone of gentleness which touched
her very soul.  "One's words may be restrained by reverence as well as
by want of heart.  I regard Margaret with a reverence which I should not
have thought it necessary to put into words for your conviction."

"Oh, I am wrong--as I always am!" cried Hester.  "You must forgive me
again, as you do far, far too often.  But tell me, Edward, ought not
Margaret's husband to be the happiest man living?"

"Yes," said Edward, with a smile.  "Will that do this time?"

"Oh, yes, yes," replied she--the thought passing through her mind, that,
whether or not her husband excepted himself as a matter of course, she
should not have asked a question to which she could not bear all
possible answers.  Even if he meant that Margaret's husband might be a
happier man than himself, it was only too true.  As quick as lightning
these thoughts passed through her mind, and, apparently without a pause,
she went on, "And now, as to Enderby--is he worthy to be this happy
husband?  Does he deserve her?"

Mr Hope did pause before he replied:

"I think we had better dwell as little as we can on that point of the
story--not because I am afraid--(do not take fright and suppose I mean
more than I say)--not because I am afraid, but because we can do
nothing, discern nothing, about it.  Time must show what Enderby is--or
rather, what he has the power of becoming.  Meanwhile, the thing is
settled.  They love and have promised, and are happy.  Let us shun all
comparison of the one with the other of them, and hope everything from
him."

"There will be some amusement," said Hester, after a smiling reverie,
"in having this secret to ourselves for a time, while all the rest of
Deerbrook is so busy with a different idea and expectation.  How _will_
Mrs Rowland bear it?"

"Mrs Grey might have said that," said Hope, laughing.

"Well, but is it not true?  Will it not be very amusing to see the
circulation of stories about Miss Bruce, given `from the best
authority,' and to have all manner of news told us about Philip; and to
watch how Mrs Rowland will get out of the scrape she is in?  Surely,
Edward, you are not above being amused with all this?"

"I shall be best pleased when it is all over.  I have lived some years
longer than you in Deerbrook, and have had more time to get tired of its
mysteries and mistakes."

"For your comfort, then, it cannot be long before all is open and
rightly understood.  We need only leave Mrs Rowland time to extricate
herself, I suppose.  I wonder how she will manage it."

"We shall be taken by surprise with some clever device, I dare say.  It
is a pity so much ingenuity should be wasted on mischief."



CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.

A MORNING IN MARCH.

Margaret was as calm as she appeared to be.  To a nature like hers,
blissful repose was congenial, and anxiety both appeared and felt
unnatural.  In her there was no weak wonder that Providence had blessed
her as she felt she was blessed.  While she suffered, she concluded with
certainty that the suffering was for some good purpose; but no degree of
happiness took her by surprise, or seemed other than a natural influence
shed by the great Parent into the souls of his children.  She had of
late been fearfully shaken,--not in her faith, but in her serenity.  In
a moment this experience appeared like a sick dream, and her present
certainty of being beloved spread its calm over her lately-troubled
spirit, somewhat as her nightly devotions had done from her childhood
upwards.  Even now, it was little that she thought of herself: her
recovered Philip filled her mind--he who had been a stranger--who had
been living in a world of which she could conceive nothing--who had
suddenly vanished from her companionship, as if an earthquake had
swallowed him up--and who was now all her own again, by her side, and to
be lived for.  Amidst this security, this natural and delightful state
of things, that restless uneasiness--now jealousy, and now
self-abasement--which she had called her own vanity and selfishness,
disappeared, and she felt like one who has escaped from the horrors of a
feverish bed into the cool fragrant airs and mild sunshine of the early
morning.  Anxieties soon arose--gentle doubts expressing themselves in
soft sighs, which were so endeared by the love from which they sprang
that she would not have banished them if she could--anxieties lest she
should be insufficient for Philip's happiness, lest he should overrate
the peace of home, which she now knew was not to be looked for in full
measure there, any more than in other scenes of human probation.  Gentle
questionings like these there were; but they tended rather to preserve
than to disturb her calmness of spirit.  Misery had broken her sleep by
night, and constrained her conduct by day.  Happy love restored her at
once to her natural mood, lulling her to the deepest rest when she
rested, and rendering her free and self-possessed in all the employments
and intercourses of life.

There was one person who must not be kept waiting for this intelligence
till Mrs Rowland's return--as Margaret told Philip--and that was Maria.
Philip's heart was now overflowing with kindness towards all whom
Margaret loved; and he spoke with strong interest of Maria, of her
virtues, her misfortunes, and the grace and promise which once bloomed
in her.

"You knew her before her misfortunes then?"

"To be sure I did:--that was the time when I did know her; for, as you
may perceive, there is not much opportunity now.  And, besides, she is
so totally changed, that I do not feel sure that I understand her
feelings--I am too much in awe of them to approach her very nearly.  Oh
yes, I knew Maria Young once, much better than I know her now."

"She never told me so.  How very strange!"

"Does she ever speak of any other circumstance of her prosperous days?"

"That is true, only incidentally."

"Time was," said Philip, "when some boyish dreams connected themselves
with Maria Young--only transiently, and quite at the bottom of my own
fancy.  I never spoke of them to any one before, nor fully acknowledged
them to myself.  She was the first sensible woman I ever knew--the first
who conveyed to me any conception of what the moral nature of a woman
may be, under favourable circumstances.  For this I am under great
obligations to her; and this is all the feeling that I brought out of
our intercourse.  It might possibly have come to more, but that I
disliked her father excessively, and left off going there on that
account.  What a selfish wretch I was in those days!  I can hardly
believe it now; but I distinctly remember rejoicing, on hearing of her
accident, that my esteem for her had not passed into a warmer feeling,
as I should then have suffered so much on her account."

"Is it possible?" cried Margaret, who, in the midst of the unpleasant
feeling excited by this fact, did not fail to remark to herself that
there could have been no love in such a case.

"I ought, for my own sake, however, Margaret, to say that Maria Young
had not the slightest knowledge of her influence over me--superficial
and transient as it was.  I never conveyed it to her by word or act; and
I am thankful I did not--for this reason among many--that I am now
perfectly free to show her all the kindness she deserves, both from her
own merits, and from her being a beloved friend of yours."

Margaret had no doubt of Philip's full conviction of what he was saying;
but she was far from certain that he was not mistaken--that looks and
tones might not have communicated what words and acts had been forbidden
to convey.  She thought of Maria's silence about her former acquaintance
with Philip, of her surprising knowledge of his thoughts and ways,
betraying itself to a vigilant observer through the most trivial
conversation, and of her confession that there had been an attachment to
some one: and, thinking of these things, her heart melted within her for
her friend.  She silently resolved upon the only method she could think
of, to spare her feelings.  She would write the news of this engagement,
instead of going to tell it, as she had intended.  She was confident
that it would be no surprise to Maria; but Maria should have time and
solitude in which to reconcile herself to it.

What was to be done about Mrs Enderby?  She had been told at once, on
Philip's arrival, that it was all a mistake about Miss Bruce; and she
had appeared relieved when freed from the image of an unknown
daughter-in-law.  Philip and Margaret agreed that they must deny
themselves the pleasure of revealing the rest of the truth to her, till
it had been inflicted upon Mrs Rowland.  Mrs Enderby would never be
able to keep it from the Greys; and she would be disturbed and alarmed
in the expectation of the scenes which might ensue, when Mrs Rowland
should discover that her brother meant to choose his wife for himself,
instead of taking one of her selection.  Margaret must go and see his
mother as often as possible, but her new interest in her old friend must
be concealed for the present.  How Margaret--motherless for so many long
years--felt her heart yearn towards the old lady, who seemed to be
everybody's charge, but whom she felt now to be a sacred object of her
care!

The lovers immediately experienced some of the evils attendant on
concealment, in the difficulty of meeting as freely as they wished.
There was the breakfast-room at Mr Hope's for them; and, by a little
management on the part of brother and sister, a branching off in country
walks, out of sight of the good people of Deerbrook.  In company, too,
they were always together, and without awkwardness.  True lovers do not
want to talk together in company; they had rather not.  It is enough to
be in mutual presence; and they have nothing to say at such times, and
prefer joining in what everybody else is saying.  When Philip had once
put a stop to all congratulations about Miss Bruce, by earnestly and
most respectfully, though gaily, releasing that lady's name from all
connection with his own, no further awkwardness remained.  He treated
the affair as one of the false reports which are circulating every day,
and left it for his sister to explain how she had been misled by it.  It
was amusing to the corner-house family to see that Mrs Grey and Sophia
insisted on believing that either Mr Enderby was a rejected lover of
Miss Bruce's, or that it had been an engagement which was now broken
off, or that it would soon be an engagement.  The gay state of Enderby's
spirits accorded best with the latter supposition; but this gaiety might
be assumed, to cover his mortification.  Margaret was daily made a
listener to one or other of these suppositions.

One bright, mild, March day, Hester and Margaret were accompanying
Philip to Mr Rowland's to call on Mrs Enderby, when they met Mr
Rowland in the street,--returned the evening before from Cheltenham.

"Ladies, your most obedient!" said he, stopping up the path before them.
"I was on my way to call on you; but if you will step in to see Mrs
Enderby, we can have our chat there."  And he at once offered his arm to
Margaret, bestowing a meaning smile on Hester.  As soon as they were
fairly on their way, he entered at once on the compliments it had been
his errand to pay, but spoke for himself alone.

"I did not write," said he, "because I expected to deliver my good
wishes in person so soon; but they are not the less hearty for being a
little delayed.  I find, however, that I am still beforehand with my
neighbours--that even Mrs Enderby does not know, nor my partner's
family.  All in good time: but I am sorry for this mistake about the
lady.  It is rather awkward.  I do not know where Mrs Rowland got her
information, or what induced her to rely so implicitly upon it.  All I
can say is, that I duly warned her to be sure of her news before she
regularly announced it.  But I believe such reports--oftener unfounded
than true--have been the annoyance of young people ever since there has
been marriage and giving in marriage.  We have all suffered in our turn,
I dare say, though the case is not always so broad an one as this.--
Come, Mr Philip, what are you about?  Standing there, and keeping the
ladies standing! and I do believe you have not knocked.  Our doors do
not open of themselves, though it be to let in the most welcome guests
in the world.  Now, ladies, will you walk in?  Philip will prepare Mrs
Enderby to expect you up-stairs; and, meanwhile, let me show you what a
splendid jonquil we have in blow here."

The day was so mild, and the sun shone into the house so pleasantly,
that Mrs Enderby had been permitted to leave her chamber, and establish
herself for the day in the drawing-room.  There she was found in a
flutter of pleasure at the change of scene.  Matilda's canary sang in
the sunshine; Philip had filled the window with flowering plants for his
mother, and the whole room was fragrant with his hyacinths.  The little
Greys had sent Mrs Enderby a bunch of violets; Phoebe had made bold,
while the gardener was at breakfast, to abstract a bough from the almond
tree on the grass; and its pink blossoms now decked the mantelpiece.
These things were almost too much for the old lady.  Her black eyes
looked rather too bright, and her pale thin face twitched when she
spoke.  She talked a great deal about the goodness of everybody to her,
and said it was almost worth while being ever so ill to find one's self
so kindly regarded.  It rejoiced her to see her friends around her again
in this way.  It was quite a meeting of friends again.  If only her dear
Priscilla, and the sweet children, had been here!--it was a great
drawback, certainly, their being away, but she hoped they would soon be
back; if they had been here, there would have been nothing left to wish.
Hester asked if Mr Hope had visited her this morning.  She had rather
expected to meet him here, and had brought something for him which he
had wished very much to have--a letter from his brother in India.  She
was impatient till it was in his hands.  Had he made his call, or might
she expect him presently?  Mrs Enderby seemed to find difficulty in
comprehending the question; and then she could not recollect whether Mr
Hope had paid his visit this morning or not.  She grew nervous at her
own confusion of mind--talked faster than ever; and, at last, when the
canary sang out a sudden loud strain, she burst into tears.

"We are too much for her," said Hester; "let us go, we have been very
wrong."

"Yes, go," said Philip, "and send Phoebe.  You will find your way into
the garden, and I will join you there presently.  Rowland, you will go
with them."

Margaret cast a beseeching look at Philip, and he gratefully permitted
her to stay.  Hester carried off the canary.  Margaret drew down the
blinds, and then kneeled by Mrs Enderby, soothing and speaking
cheerfully to her, while tears, called up by a strange mixture of
emotions, were raining down her cheeks.  Philip stood by the
mantelpiece, weeping without restraint; the first time that Margaret had
ever seen tears from him.

"I am a silly old woman," said Mrs Enderby, half laughing in the midst
of her sobs.  "Here comes Phoebe--Phoebe, I have been very silly, and I
hardly know what about, I declare.  My dear!" she exclaimed as she felt
tears drop upon the hand which Margaret was chafing--"my dear Miss
Ibbotson--"

"Oh! call me Margaret!"

"But, my dear, I am afraid there is something the matter, after all.
Something has happened."

"Oh, dear, no, ma'am!" said Phoebe.  "Only we don't like to see you in
this way."

"There is nothing the matter, I assure you," said Margaret.  "We were
too much for you; we tired you; and we are very sorry--that is all.  But
the room will be kept quite quiet now, and you will soon feel better."

"I am better, my dear, thank you.  How are you sitting so low?  Bless
me! you are kneeling.  Pray, my dear, rise.  To think of your kneeling
to take care of me!"

"Give me one kiss, and I will rise," said Margaret, bending over her.
It was a hearty kiss which Mrs Enderby gave her, for the old lady put
all her energy into it.  Margaret rose satisfied; she felt as if she had
been accepted for a daughter.

As soon as Mrs Enderby appeared disposed to shut her eyes and lie
quiet, Philip and Margaret withdrew, leaving her to Phoebe's care.
Arm-in-arm they sauntered about the walks, till they came upon Hester
and Mr Rowland, who were sitting in the sun, under the shelter of an
evergreen hedge.

"Have you heard nothing of my husband yet?" asked Hester.  "I do wish he
would come, and read this letter from Frank."

"Her anxiety is purely disinterested," said Margaret to Philip.  "There
can be nothing about her in that letter.  His greetings to her will come
in the next."

"Edward enjoys Frank's letters above everything," observed Hester.

"Suppose you go in next door, and we will send Hope to you when he
comes," said Philip, intending thus to set Mr Rowland free, to dismiss
Hester, and have Margaret to himself for a garden walk.

"The Greys are all out for the day," observed Mr Rowland; "my partner
and all; and this must be my excuse to you, ladies, for wishing you a
good morning.  There is a lighter at the wharf down there, whose lading
waits for me."

"Ay, go," said Philip: "we have detained you long enough.  We will find
our way by some means into the Greys' grounds, and amuse ourselves
there.  If you will bid one of your people call us when Hope comes, we
shall hear."

By the help of an overturned wheelbarrow, and some activity, and at the
expense of a very little detriment to the hedge, the ladies were
presently landed on Mr Grey's territories.  By common consent, the
three directed their steps towards the end of the green walk, whence
might be seen the prospect of which the sisters were never tired.  A
purple and golden crocus peeped up here and there from the turf of this
walk; there was a wilderness of daffodils on either side, the blossoms
just bursting from their green sheaths; the periwinkle, with its starry
flowers and dark shining sprays, overran the borders; and the hedge
which bounded the walk was red with swollen buds.  As the gazers leaned
on this close-clipped, compact hedge, they overlooked a wide extent of
country.  They stood on a sort of terrace, and below them was the field
where the Greys' pet animals were wont to range.  The old pony trotted
towards the terrace, as if expecting notice.  Fanny's and Mary's lambs
approached and looked up, as awaiting something good.  Philip amused
himself and them with odd noises, but had nothing better for them; and
so they soon scampered off, the pony throwing out his hind legs as if in
indignation at his bad entertainment.  Beyond this field, a few white
cottages, in the rear of the village, peeped out from the lanes, and
seemed to sit down to rest in the meadows, so profound was the repose
which they seemed to express.  The river wound quietly through the green
level, filling its channel, and looking pearly under the light spring
sky; and behind it the woods uprose, their softened masses and outlines
prophesying of leafy summer shades.  Near at hand the air was alive with
twitterings: afar off, nature seemed asleep, and nothing was seen to
move but the broad sail of a wherry, and a diminished figure of a man
beside his horse, bush-harrowing in a distant green field.

Hester judged rightly that the lovers would like to have this scene to
themselves; and having surveyed it with that sigh of delight with which
Spring causes the heart to swell, she softly stole away, and sauntered
down the green walk.  She proceeded till she reached a bench, whence she
could gaze upon the grey old church tower, rising between the
intervening trees, and at the same time overlook Mr Rowland's garden.
She had not sat many minutes before her husband leaped the hedge, and
bounded over the grass towards her.

"What news?" cried he.  "There is good news in your face."

"There is good news in my bag, I trust."  And she produced the large
square epistle, marked "Ship letter" in those red characters which have
a peculiar power of making the heart beat.  She did not wonder that her
husband changed colour as she held up the letter.  She knew that the
arrival of news from Frank was a great event in life to Edward.  She
gloried in being, for the first time, the medium through which this rare
pleasure reached him; and she longed to share, for the first time, the
confidence of a brother.  Margaret had for some months reposed upon the
possession of a brother: she was now to have the same privilege.  She
made room upon the bench for her husband, and proposed to lose no time
in reading the letter together.  But Hope did not sit down, though, from
his agitation, she would have supposed him glad of a seat.  He said he
would read in the shrubbery, and walked slowly away, breaking the seal
as he went.  Hester was rather disconcerted; but she suppressed her
disappointment, begged him to take advantage of the bench, and herself
retired into the orchard while he read his epistle.  There, as she stood
apparently amusing herself by the pond, wiping away a tear or two which
would have way, she little imagined what agony her husband was enduring
from this letter, which she was supposing must make his heart overflow
with pleasure.  The letter was half full of reply to Edward's account of
Margaret, in his epistle of last June--of raillery about her, of
intreaty that Edward would give him such a sister-in-law, and of
intimations that nothing could be more apparent than that the whole rich
treasure of his heart's love was Margaret's own.  Hope's soul sickened
as he read, with that deadly sickness which he had believed was past:
but last June, with its delights and opening love, was too suddenly, and
too vividly, re-awakened in his memory and imagination.  The Margaret of
yesterday, of last month, he trusted he had arrived at regarding as a
sister: not so the Margaret of last summer.  In vain he repeated, again
and again, to himself, that he had expected this--that he always knew it
must come--that this was the very thing, and no more, that he had been
dreading for half a year past--that it was over now--that he ought to
rejoice that he held in his hand the last witness and reminder of the
mistake of his life.  In vain did he repeat to himself these reasonable
things--these satisfactory truths.  They did not still the throbbing of
his brain, or relieve the agony of his spirit;--an agony under which he
could almost have cursed the hilarity of his brother as levity, and his
hearty affection as cruel mockery.  He recovered some breath and
composure when he read the latter half of Frank's volume of
communication, and, before he had finished it, the sound of distant
footsteps fell upon his excited ear.  He knew they were coming--the
three who would be full of expectation as to what he should have to tell
them from India.  It was they, walking very slowly, as if waiting for
the news.

"Come!" said he, starting up, and going to meet them.  "Now, to the
green walk--we shall be quiet there--and I will read you all about
Frank."

He did read them all about Frank--all the last half of the letter--
Hester hanging on his arm, and Philip and Margaret listening, as if they
were taking in their share of family news.  When it was done, and some
one said it was time to be turning homewards, Hope disengaged his arm
from Hester, and ran off, saying that he would report of Mrs Enderby to
Mr Rowland in the office, and meet them before they should be out of
the shrubbery.  He did so: but he first took his way round by a fence
which was undergoing the operation of tarring, thrust Frank's letter
into the fire over which the tar was heating, and saw every inch of it
consumed before he proceeded.  When he regained his party, Hester took
his arm, and turned once more towards the shrubbery, saying--

"We have plenty of time, and I am not at all tired: so now read me the
rest."

"My love, I have read you all I can."

Hester stopped short, and with flashing eyes, whose fire was scarcely
dimmed by her tears, cried--

"Do you mean to give me no more of your confidence than others?  Is your
wife--"

"My dear, it is not my confidence: it is Frank's."

"And is not Frank my brother?  He is nothing to them."

"He was not your brother when this letter was written, nor did he know
that he should ever be so.  Consider this letter as one of old time--as
belonging to the antiquity of our separate lives.  I hope there will
never be another letter from Frank, or anybody else (out of the range of
my professional affairs) whose contents will not be as much yours as
mine.  This must satisfy you now, Hester; for I can tell you no more.
This ought to satisfy you."

"It does not satisfy me.  I never will be satisfied with giving all, and
having nothing in return.  I have given you all.  Not a thought has
there been in my heart about Margaret, from the day we married, that I
have not imparted to you.  Has it not been so?"

"I believe it, and I thank you for it."

"And what is it to you to have a sister--you who have always had
sisters--what is it to you, in comparison with my longing to have a
brother?  And now you make him no more mine than he is Margaret's and
Philip's.  He himself, if he has the heart of a brother, would cry out
upon you for disappointing me."

"I can allow for your feelings, Hester.  I have known too well what
disappointment is, not to feel for you.  But here the fault is not
mine."

"Whose is it then?  It is to be charged upon Providence, I suppose, like
most of our evils."

"No, Hester; I charge it upon you.  The disappointment was unavoidable;
but the sting of it lies in yourself.  You are unreasonable.  It is at
your own request that I remind you to be reasonable."

"And when was that request made?  When I believed that you would hold me
your friend--that no others were to come near my place in your
confidence--that all you cared for was to be equally mine--that your
brother himself was to be my brother.  It was when you promised me these
things that I put my conscience and my feelings into your charge.  But
now all that is over.  You are as much alone in your own soul as ever,
and I am thrust out from it as if you were like other men...  Oh!" she
cried, covering her face with her hands, "call me your housekeeper at
once--for I am not your wife--and breathe not upon my conscience--look
not into my heart--for what are they to you?  I reclaim from you, as
your servant, the power I gave you over my soul, when I supposed I was
to be your wife."

"Now you must hear me, Hester.  Sit down; for you cannot stand under the
tempest of your own feelings.  Now, what are the facts out of which all
this has arisen?  I have had a letter, written before we were known to
be engaged, containing something which is confided to my honour.  We had
both rather that such had not been the case.  Would you now have me
violate my honour?  Let us have done.  The supposition is too
ridiculous."

"But the manner," pleaded Hester.  "It is not curiosity about the
letter.  I care nothing if it contained the affairs of twenty nations.
But, oh! your manner was cruel.  If you loved me as you once did, you
could not treat me exactly as you treat Margaret and Philip.  You do not
love me as you once did...  You do not answer me," she continued in a
tone of wretchedness.  "Nay, do not answer me now.  It will not satisfy
me to hear you say upon compulsion that you love me.  Ah!  I had
Margaret once; and once I had you.  Philip has taken my Margaret from
me; and if you despise me, I will lie down and die."

"Fear not!" said Hope, with great solemnity.  "While I live you shall be
honoured, and have such rest as you will allow to your own heart.  But
do you not see that you have now been distrusting me--not I you?  Shall
I begin to question whether you love me?  Could you complain of
injustice if I did, when you have been tempting my honour, insulting my
trust in you, and wounding my soul?  Is this the love you imagine I
cannot estimate and return?  This is madness, Hester.  Rouse yourself
from it.  Waken up the most generous part of yourself.  We shall both
have need of it all."

"Oh, God! what do you intend?  Consider again, before you break my
heart, if you mean to say that we must...  Edward! forgive me, Edward!"

"I mean to say that we must support each other under troubles of God's
sending, instead of creating woes of our own."

"Support each other!  Thank Heaven!"

"I see how your spirit rouses itself at the first sound of threatening
from without.  I knew it would.  Rough and trying times are coming,
love, and I must have your support.  Trouble is coming--daily and hourly
annoyance, and no end of it that I can see: and poverty, perhaps,
instead of the ease to which we looked forward when you married me.  I
do not ask you whether you can bear these things, for I know you can.  I
shall look to you to help me to keep my temper."

"Are you not mocking me?" doubtfully whispered Hester.

"No, my love," her husband replied, looking calmly in her face.  "I know
you to be a friend made for adversity."

"Let it come, then!" exclaimed she.  And she felt herself on the
threshold of a new life, in which all the past might yet be redeemed.

They soon rejoined Margaret, and went home to relate and to hear what
new threats the day had disclosed.



CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.

DEERBROOK COMMOTIONS.

Among many vague threats, there was one pretty definite menace which had
encountered Hope from various quarters of late.  By whose agency, and by
what means, he did not know, but he apprehended a design to supplant him
in his practice.  There was something more meant than that Mr Foster
from Blickley appeared from time to time in the village.  Hope imagined
that there was a looking forward to somebody else, who was to cure all
maladies as soon as they appeared, and keep death at a distance from
Deerbrook.  It seemed to be among the poor people chiefly that such an
expectation prevailed.  Philip was sure that Mr Rowland knew nothing of
it, nor Mrs Enderby.  Mr Grey, when spoken to, did not believe it, but
would quietly and discreetly inquire.  Mrs Grey was sure that the
Deerbrook people would not venture to discountenance altogether any one
who had married into their connection so decidedly.  Her young folks
were to hear nothing of the matter, as it would not do to propagate an
idea which might bring about its own accomplishment.

At the almshouses to-day, the threat had been spoken plainly enough; and
Hope had found his visit there a very unpleasant one.  It had been
wholly disagreeable.  When within a mile and a half of the houses, a
stone had been thrown at him from behind a hedge.  It narrowly missed
him.  A little further on, there was another, from the opposite side of
the road.  This indication was not to be mistaken.  Hope leaped his
horse over a gate, and rode about the field, to discover who had
attacked him.  For some time he could see no one; but, on looking more
closely to the fence, he saw signs in one part that hedging was going
on.  As he approached the spot, a labourer rose up from the ditch, and
was suddenly very busy at his work.  He looked stupid, and denied having
thrown any stones, but admitted that there was nobody else in the field
that he knew of.  Further on, more stones were thrown: it was evidently
a conspiracy; but Hope could find no one to call to account for it, but
an old woman in one case, and two boys in another.--As he rode up to the
almshouses, the aged inmates came out to their doors, or looked from
their fanciful Gothic windows, with every indication of displeasure in
their faces and manner.  The old women shook their heads at him, and
some their fists; the old men shook their sticks at him.  He stopped to
speak to one man of eighty-three, who was sitting in the sun at his
door; but he could get no answer out of him, nothing but growls about
the doctor being a pretty doctor not to have mended his patient's
eye-sight yet.  Not a bit better could he see now than he could a year
ago, with all the doctoring he had had: and now the gentleman would not
try anything more!  A pretty doctor, indeed!  But it would not be long
before there would be another who would cure poor people's eyes as if
they were rich: and poor people's eyes were as precious to them as rich
people's.--He next went into a house where an aged woman was confined to
bed with rheumatism; but her gossips stopped him in the middle of the
room, and would not let him approach her, for fear he should be her
death.  As she had been lying awake the night before, she had heard her
deceased husband's shoes dance of their own accord in the closet; and
this was a sign that something was going to happen to somebody.  She
thought of the doctor at the time, and prayed that he might be kept from
coming near her; for she knew he would be the death of her, somehow, as
he had been of other folks.  So Hope was obliged to leave her and her
rheumatism to the gossips.  The particular object of his visit to the
place to-day, however, was a little girl, a grandchild of one of the
pensioners, admitted by special favour into the establishment.  This
girl had small-pox, and her case was a severe one.  Hope was admitted
with unwillingness even to her, and was obliged to assume his ultimate
degree of peremptoriness of manner with her nurses.  He found her
muffled up about the head with flannel, and with a slice of fat bacon,
folded in flannel, tied about her throat,--a means considered a specific
for small-pox in some regions.  The discarding of the flannel and bacon,
of course, caused great offence; and there was but too much reason to
fear that all his directions as to the management of the girl would be
observed by contraries, the moment his back was turned.  He had long ago
found explanation and argument to be useless.  All that he could do was,
to declare authoritatively, that if his directions were not followed,
the girl would die, and her death would lie at the door of her nurses;
that, in that case, he expected some of the people about her would be
ill after her; but that if he was obeyed, he trusted she might get
through, and nobody else be the worse.  Almost before he was out of the
house, another slice of fat bacon was cut, and the flannels put to the
fire to heat again.

Hope mounted his horse to depart, just at the hour when the labourers
were at their dinners in all the cottages around.  They poured out to
stare at him, some shouting that they should not have him long to look
at, as they would get a better doctor soon.  Some sent their dogs
yelping at his horse's heels, and others vented wrath or jokes about
churchyards.  Soon after he had left the noise behind him, he met Sir
William Hunter, riding, attended by his groom.  Hope stopped him, making
it his apology that Sir William might aid in saving the life of a
patient, in whom he was much interested.  He told the story of the
small-pox, of the rural method of treating it with which he had to
contend, and proposed that Sir William should use his influence in
securing for the patient a fair chance of her life.  Sir William
listened coolly, would certainly call at the almshouses and make
inquiry; but did not like to interfere with the notions of the people
there: made a point indeed of leaving them pretty much to their own
ways; owned that it would be a pity the girl should die, if she really
might be got through; would call, therefore, and inquire, and see
whether Lady Hunter could not send down anything from the Hall.  He
smiled rather incredulously when assured that it was not anything that
could be sent down from the Hall that was wanted by the patient, but
only the use of the fresh air that was about her, and the observance of
her doctor's simple directions.  Sir William next began to make his
horse fidget, and Hope took the hint.

"This has been my business with you at present," said he.  "At some more
convenient time, I should be glad of a little conversation with you on
other matters connected with these almshouses."

Sir William Hunter bowed, put spurs to his horse, and galloped off, as
if life or death depended on his reaching the Hall in three minutes and
a half.

These hints of "another doctor"--"a better doctor"--"a new man"--met
Hope in other directions.  Mrs Howell was once quoted as a whisperer of
the fact; and the milliner's young lady was known to have speculated, on
whether the new doctor would prove to be a single man.  No one turned
away from such gossip with more indifference than Hope; but it came to
him in the form of inquiries which he was supposed best able to answer.
He now told Hester of them all; warned her of the probable advent of a
rival practitioner; and at the same time urged upon her a close economy
in the management of the house, as his funds were rapidly failing.  If
his practice continued to fall off as it was now doing, he scarcely saw
how they were to keep up their present mode of living.  It grieved him
extremely to have to say this to his wife in the very first year of
their marriage.  He had hoped to have put larger means in her power,
from year to year; but at present he owned his way was far from being
clear.  They had already descended to having no prospect at all.

For all this Hester cared little.  She had never known the pinchings of
poverty, any more than the embarrassments of wealth.  She could not
conceive of such a thing, as being very anxious about what they should
eat, and what they should drink, and wherewith they should be clothed;
though, if she had looked more narrowly at her own imaginations of
poverty, she would perhaps have discovered on the visionary table always
a delicate dish for her husband--in the wardrobe, always a sleek black
coat--and in his waiting-room, a clear fire in winter; while the rest of
the picture was made up of bread and vegetables, and shabby gowns for
herself, and devices to keep herself warm without burning fuel.  Her
imagination was rather amused than alarmed with anticipations of this
sort of poverty.  It was certainly not poverty that she dreaded.  A more
serious question was, how she could bear to see her husband supplanted,
and, in the eyes of others, disgraced.  This question the husband and
wife now often asked each other, and always concluded by agreeing that
time must show.

The girl at the almshouses died in a fortnight.  Some pains were taken
to conceal from the doctor the time and the precise spot of her
burial-points which the doctor never thought of inquiring about, and of
which it was therefore easy to keep him in ignorance.  A few of the
neighbouring cottagers agreed to watch the grave for ten nights, to save
the body from the designs of evil surgeons.  One of the watchers
reported, after the seventh night, that he had plainly heard a horse
coming along the road, and that he rather thought it stopped opposite
the churchyard.  He had raised himself up, and coughed aloud, and that
was no doubt the reason why nobody came: the horse must have turned back
and gone away, whoever might be with it.  This put people on the watch;
and on the eighth night two men walked about the churchyard.  They had
to tell that they once thought they had caught the doctor in the fact.
They had both heard a loud whistle, and had stood to see what would come
of it (they could see very well, for it had dawned some time).  A person
came through the turnstile with a sack, which seemed to leave his
intentions in no doubt.  They hid themselves behind two opposite trees,
and both sprang out upon him at once: but it was only the miller's boy
on his way to the mill.  On the ninth and tenth nights nothing happened;
the neighbours began to feel the want of their regular sleep; and the
querulous grandmother, who seemed more angry that they meant to leave
the poor girl's body to itself now, than pleased that it had been
watched at all, was compelled to put up with assurances that doctors
were considered to wish to cut up bodies within the first ten days, if
at all, and were not apt to meddle with them afterwards.

It was full three weeks from this time when Hope was sent for to the
almshouses, after a longer interval than he had ever known to elapse
without the old folks having some complaint to make.  The inmate who was
now ill was the least aged, and the least ignorant and unreasonable
person, in the establishment.  He was grateful to Hope for having
restored him from a former illness; and, though now much shaken in
confidence, had enough remaining to desire extremely to see his old
friend, when he found himself ill and in pain.  His neighbours wondered
at him for wishing to court destruction by putting himself again into
the hands of the suspicious doctor: but he said he could have no ease in
his mind, and was sure he should never get well till he saw the
gentleman's face again; and he engaged an acquaintance to go to
Deerbrook and summon him.  This acquaintance spread the fact of his
errand along the road as he went; and therefore, though Hope took care
to choose his time, so as not to ride past the cottage-doors while the
labourers were at dinner, his visit was not more private or agreeable
than on the preceding occasion.

The first symptom of his being expected on the road was, that Sir
William Hunter, riding, as before, with his groom behind him, fell in
with Hope, evidently by design.

Sir William Hunter's visit to the almshouses had produced the effect of
making him acquainted with the discontents of the people, and had
afforded him a good opportunity of listening to their complaints of
their surgeon, without being troubled with the answers.  Since the
election, he had been eager to hear whatever could be said against Hope,
whose vote, given contrary to Sir William's example and influence, was
regarded by the baronet as an unpardonable impertinence.

"So you lost your patient down there, I find," said Sir William, rudely.
"The girl slipped through your fingers, after all.  However, I did my
duty by you.  I told the people they ought to allow you a fair chance."

"I requested your interference on the girl's account, and not on my
own," said Hope.  "But as you allude to my position among these people,
you will allow me to ask, as I have for some time intended, whether you
are aware of the treatment to which I am subjected, in your
neighbourhood, and among your dependants?"

"I find you are not very popular hereabouts, indeed, sir," replied the
baronet, with a half-smile, which was immediately reflected in the face
of the groom.

"With your leave, we will have our conversation to ourselves," said
Hope.

The baronet directed his groom to ride on slowly.  Hope continued:

"The extreme ignorance of the country people has caused some absurd
stories against me to be circulated and believed.  If those who are not
in this state of extreme ignorance will do me justice, and give me, as
you say, a fair chance, I have no fear but that I shall live down
calumnies, and, by perseverance in my professional duty, recover the
station I lately held here.  This justice, this fair chance, I claim,
Sir William, from all who have the intelligence to understand the case,
and rightly observe my conduct.  I have done my best in the service of
these pensioners of yours; and excuse my saying that I must be protected
in the discharge of my duty."

"Ay, there's the thing, Mr Hope.  That can't be done, you see.  If the
people do not like you, why then the only thing is for you to stay
away."

"Then what is to become of the sick?"

"Ay, there's the thing, Mr Hope.  If they do not like one, you see, why
then they must try another.  That is what we have been thinking.  Now,
if you take my advice, you will not go forward to-day.  You will repent
it if you do, depend upon it.  They do not like you, Mr Hope."

"I need no convincing of that.  You do not seem disposed to stir, Sir
William, to improve the state of things; so I will go and try what I can
do by myself."

"I advise you not, sir.--Mr Hope!" shouted Sir William, as Hope rode
rapidly forward, "take care what you are about.  They do not want to see
you again.  The consequences may be serious."

"And this man is a magistrate, and he fancies himself my patron!"
thought Hope, as he rode on.  "He wants me to throw up the appointment;
but I will not, till I see that the poor old creatures can be consigned
to care as good as my own.  If he chooses to dismiss me, he may, though
we can ill afford the loss just now."

For one moment he had thought of turning back, as Sir William's caution
had seemed to foretell some personal risk in proceeding; but the
remembrance of Hester's parting look inspired him afresh.  Instead of
the querulous anxiety which had formerly harassed him from its
groundlessness and apparent selfishness, it was now an anxiety worthy of
the occasion that flushed her cheek.  So far from entreating him to
remain with her, she had bidden him go where his duty led him.  She had
calculated the probable length of his absence, and the watch was laid on
the table as formerly: but she had used the utmost expedition in sewing
on the ring of his umbrella, and had kissed her hand to him from the
window with a smile.  He would not return to her without having fully
discharged his errand.  "She might be a soldier's or sailor's wife,
after all," thought he.

The hours of his absence were indeed very anxious ones to the family at
home.  For nearly two hours, the sisters amused themselves and one
another as well as they could: but it was a great relief when Philip
came in.  He would not believe anything they said, however, about their
reasons for fear.  It was nonsense--it was Deerbrook talk.  What harm
could a dozen old men and women, at almost a hundred years apiece, do to
Hope?--and the country people, the labourers round, they had their own
business to attend to: they would just swear an oath at him, and let him
pass; and if they ventured to lay a finger on his bridle, Hope knew how
to use his whip.  He would come home, and get his dinner, and be very
dull, they would see, from having nothing to tell.--Before Philip had
finished his picture of the dull dining they might expect, Morris
entered, and shut the door before she came forward to the table and
spoke.  She said she did not like to make mysteries, out of fear of
frightening people; and she hoped there would be nothing to be really
afraid of now: but if Mr Enderby thought he could contrive to meet her
master out on the road, and get him to leave his horse somewhere, and
come walking home by Turnstile Lane, she thought it would be best, and
save some bad language, at least.  Charles had brought in word that
people--angry people--were gathering at the other end of the street, and
her master could quite disappoint them by coming home on foot the back
way.--How many angry people were there!--and what sort of people?--They
were mostly countrymen out of the places round--more of those than of
Deerbrook folks.  There were a good many of them--so many as nearly to
block up the street at one part.  If the ladies would step up into the
boy's attic, they would see something of what was going on, from the
little window there, without being seen.

Philip snatched his hat, and said he would soon bring them news.  He
hoped they would go up to the attic, and amuse themselves with the show:
for a mere show it would end in being, he was confident.  He observed,
however, that it would be as well to keep Charles at home, in case, as
was possible, of a messenger being wanted.  He himself would soon be
back.

Charles was called up into the drawing-room, and questioned.  Never
before having been of so much importance, he was very grand in his
statements, and made the most of all he had to say.  Still, however, it
was a story which no telling could have made other than an unpleasant
one.  Some of the people who had come in from the country had
pitchforks.  Two or three of the shopkeepers had put up their shutters.
Many strangers were in the churchyard, peeping about the new graves: and
others had set scouts on the road, to give notice when master was
coming.  Mrs Plumstead was very busy scolding the people all round; but
it did not do any good, for they only laughed at her.

"You may go, Charles; but do not set foot out of the house till you are
bid," said Hester, when she found the boy had told all he knew, and
perhaps something more.  Morris left the room with him, in order to keep
her eye upon him.

"Oh, Margaret, this is very terrible!" said Hester.

"Most disagreeable.  We must allow something for Charles's way of
telling the story.  But yet--is there anything we can do, Hester?"

"Mr Grey will surely be here, presently.  Do not you think so?"

"Either he or Mr Rowland, no doubt."

"Dr Levitt is a magistrate: but this is Saturday, and he is so deep in
his sermon, he could not be made to understand and believe till it would
be too late.--Do you go up to the attic, Margaret, and I will keep the
hall door.  I shall hear his horse sooner than any one, and I shall
stand ready to open to him in an instant.  Hark now!"

It was only the boy with the post-bags, trotting slowly to Mrs
Plumstead's, amusing himself by the way with observations on the unusual
animation of Deerbrook.

"It is too soon yet, by half an hour," said Margaret.  "He cannot
possibly be here for this half-hour, I think.  Do not wear yourself out
with standing in the hall so long.  I must just say one thing, love, I
fear all kinds of danger less for Edward than for almost any one else in
the world: he does always what is most simple and right; and I think he
could melt anybody's heart if he tried."

"Thank you," said Hester, gratefully.  "I agree and trust with you: but
what hearts have these people? or, how can you get at them, through such
heads?  But yet he will triumph, I feel."

When Margaret went up-stairs to the attic window, Hester moved a chair
into the hall, softly opened the window a little, to facilitate her
hearing whatever passed outside, and took her seat by it, listening
intently.  There was soon but too much to listen to.  Shuffling feet
multiplied about the door; and some of the grumbling voices seemed to
come from men who had stationed themselves on the steps.  Hester rose,
and, with the utmost care to avoid noise, put up the chain of the house
door.  While she was doing this, Morris came from the kitchen, for the
same purpose.  She feared there was an intention to surround the house:
she wished her master would keep away, for a few hours at least; she
could not think where all the gentlemen of the place were, that they did
not come and see after her young ladies.  Before the words were uttered,
there was a loud rap at the door.  Morris made her mistress keep back,
while she found out who it was, before letting down the chain.  Hester
knew it was not her husband's knock; and it turned out to be Mr Grey's.
Margaret came flying down, and they all exclaimed how glad they were to
see him.

"I wish I could do you any good," said he; "but this is really a sad
business, my dears."

"Have you heard anything, sir?"

"Nothing about your husband.  Enderby bade me tell you that he is gone
out to meet him, and to stir up Sir William Hunter, who may be said to
be the cause of all this, inasmuch as he never attempted to stop the
discontent when he might.  But that unlucky vote, my dear, that was much
to be deplored."

"No use casting that up now, surely," observed Morris.

"Yes, Morris, there is," said her mistress; "it gives me an opportunity
of saying that I glory in the vote; and I would have my husband give it
again to-day, if he had to pass through yonder crowd to go up to the
poll."

"My dear," remonstrated Mr Grey, "be prudent.  Do not urge your husband
on into danger: he has quite enthusiasm enough without; and you see what
comes of it.--But I am here to say that my wife hopes you and Margaret
will retire to our house, if you can get round without bringing any of
these troublesome people with you.  We think you might slip out from the
surgery, and along the lane, and through the Rowlands' garden door, and
over the hedge which they tell me you managed to climb one day lately
for pleasure.  By this way, you might reach our house without any one
being the wiser."

"On no account whatever," said Hester.  "I shall not leave home, under
any circumstances."

"You are very kind," said Margaret; "but we are expecting my brother
every moment."

"But he will follow you by the same road."

Both wife and sister were sure he would do no such thing.  They thought
the kindest thing Mr Grey could do would be to go out the back way, and
see that the constable was kept up to his duty.  He promised to do so;
and that he would speak to Dr Levitt, to have some of Grey and Rowlands
men sworn in as special constables, if such a measure should appear to
be desirable.

"I do not know how to believe all this now," said Margaret; "it seems so
causeless and ridiculous!  In Birmingham we could never have given
credit to the story of such a riot about nothing."

Morris was not sure of this.  In large towns there were riots sometimes
for very small matters, or on account of entire mistakes.  She had
always heard that one of the worst things about living in a village is,
that when the people once get a wrong idea into their heads, there is no
getting it out again; and that they will even be violent upon it against
all reason; but such things she knew to happen occasionally in towns.

Another knock.  It was Mr Rowland, and Hester's heart turned sick at
there being no news of her husband.  Mr Rowland had every expectation,
of course, that Mr Hope would be quite safe, and that this would turn
out a disturbance of very slight consequence: but he would just ask
whether it would not be advisable to close the window-shutters.  If
stones should find their way into the parlours, it might be disagreeable
to the ladies.--There was no doubt of that: but would not closing the
shutters be a hint to the people outside to throw stones?--Well, perhaps
so.  He only thought he would offer the suggestion, and see if he could
be of any service to the ladies.

"Morris, go up to the attic and watch; and Margaret, do you stay here.
Yes, Mr Rowland," said Hester, fixing her glorious eyes full on him;
"you can be of service to us, if my husband outlives this day.  You
ought to pray that he may; for if not, it is your wife who has murdered
him."

Mr Rowland turned as pale as ashes.

"We know well that you have no share in all this injury: we believe that
you respect my husband, and have friendly feelings towards us all.  I
will spare you what I might say--what Mrs Rowland should sink to the
earth to hear, if she were standing where you stand.  I look upon you as
no enemy--"

"You do me only justice," said Mr Rowland, leaning upon the chair which
Hester had brought for herself.

"I wish to do you justice; and therefore I warn you that if you do not
procure complete protection for my husband--not only for this day--but
for the future;--if you do not cause your wife to retract her
slanders--"

"Stop, Mrs Hope! this is going too far," said Mr Rowland, drawing
himself up, and putting on an air of offended dignity.

"It is not going too far.  You cannot, you dare not, pretend to be
offended with what I say, when you know that my noble husband has been
injured in his character and his prospects, attacked in his domestic
peace, and now exposed to peril of his life, by the falsehoods your wife
has told.  I tell you that we do not impute her crimes to you.  If this
is justice, you will prove it by doing your full duty to my husband.  If
you decline any part of this duty--if you countenance her slanders--if
you shrink from my husband's side in whatever we may have to go
through--if you do not either compel your wife to do us right, or do it
yourself in opposition to her--you are her partner in guilt, as well as
in life and lot."

"Consider what a situation you place me in!--But what would you have me
do?"

"I would have you see that every false charge she has brought is
retracted--every vile insinuation recanted.  You must make her say
everywhere that my husband has not stolen dead bodies; that he is not a
plotter against the peace and order of society; that he has not poisoned
a child by mistake, or cut off a sound limb for the sake of practice and
amusement.  Your wife has said these things, and you know it; and you
must make her contradict them all."

"Consider what a situation you place me in!" said Mr Rowland again.

"Be generous, Hester!" said Margaret.

"Do not trample on a wretched man!" cried Mr Rowland, covering his face
with his hands.

"`Consider!'  `Be generous!'" exclaimed Hester in a softened tone.  "I
might well say, Consider what a situation my husband is placed in! and
that I must see justice done to him before I can be generous to others;
but I have such a husband that I can afford to spare the wretched, and
be generous to the humbled.  Go now and do _your_ duty by us: and the
next time you hear your wife say that we do not love and are not happy,
tell her that if we forbear to crush her, it is because we are too
strong for her--too strong in heart, however weak in fortunes:--because
we are strong in a peace which she cannot poison, and a love which she
will never understand."

Even at a moment like this, and while feeling that she could not have
said the things that Hester said, Margaret's eyes swam in tears of joy.
Here was her sister, in a moment of that high excitement when nothing
but truth ventures upon utterance, acknowledging herself blessed in
peace which could not be poisoned, and love which the vile could not
understand.  The day, whatever might be its events, was worth enduring
for this.

Mr Rowland walked once or twice up and down the hall, wiped his brows,
and then, evidently unable to endure Hester's presence, said he would
let himself out, and there await Mr Hope's arrival, or anything else
that might occur.

Oh! would he ever come?  It seemed to Hester like a week since she had
given him his umbrella, and seen him ride away.

Hark!  Surely this must be--it certainly was his horse this time.  Yes--
there was Morris calling from the stairs that her master was fighting
his way down the street!  There was Charles giving notice that the crowd
was running round from the back to the front of the house!  There was
the noise among the people outside, the groaning, the cries!

"Now, ma'am!" said Morris, breathless with the haste she had made down
stairs.  Morris supposed her mistress would softly let down the chain,
open the door just wide enough for Hope to slip in, and shut, bolt, and
chain it again.  This was what Hester had intended; but her mood was
changed.  She bade the servants all step out of sight, and then threw
the door wide open, going forth herself upon the steps.  The people had
closed round Hope's horse; but Philip was pushing his in between the mob
and their object, and riding round and round him with a sort of
ludicrous gravity, which lowered the tone of the whole affair to
Margaret's mind, and gave her great relief.  Mr Rowland was shaking
hands with Hope with one hand, and holding the bridle of the uneasy
horse with the other.  Hope himself was bespattered with mud from head
to foot, and his umbrella was broken to pieces.  He nodded cheerfully to
Hester when she threw open the door.  When she held out her hand to him
with a smile as he ascended the steps, the noise of the crowd was
suddenly hushed.  They understood rather more of what they saw than of
anything that could be said to them.  They allowed Charles to come out,
and lead the horse away round the corner to the stable.  They stood
stock-still, gaping and staring, while Hope invited Mr Rowland in, and
Mr Rowland declined entering; while that gentleman shook hands with the
ladies, spoke with Mr Enderby, mounted Mr Enderby's horse, and rode
off.  They saw Philip turn slowly into the house with the family party,
and the door closed, before they thought of giving another groan.

"Well, love!" said Hester, looking anxiously at her husband.

"You made good battle," said Philip.

"Yes, I had a pretty hard fight of it, from the toll-bar hither," said
Hope, stretching vigorously.  "They wrenched my whip out of my hand--
five hands to one; but then I had my umbrella.  I broke it to pieces
with rapping their knuckles."

"Which are as hard as their pates," observed Philip.  "What are we to do
next?"

"If they do not disperse presently, I will go and speak to them; but I
dare say they have had enough of the show for to-day: Mrs Plumstead
must have satisfied them with oratory.  That poor woman's face and voice
will haunt me when I have forgotten all the rest.  One had almost rather
have her against one, than that such screaming should be on one's
behalf.  Now, my love, how has the morning gone with you?"

"Very pleasantly, I would answer for it from her looks," said Philip.
And Hester's face was certainly full of the beauty of happiness.

"Thank God, the morning is over!  That is all I have to say about it,"
replied she.

"Surely those people outside are growing more noisy!" observed Margaret.

"I must change my clothes, in case of its being necessary to speak to
them," said Hope.  "I look too like a victim at present."

While he and Hester were out of the room, Philip told Margaret how her
brother had been treated at the almshouses.  He had narrowly escaped
being pulled from his horse and thrown into the pond.  He had been
followed half-way to Deerbrook by a crowd, throwing stones and
shrieking; and just when he had got beyond their reach, he had met
Philip, and learned that he had the same thing to go through, at the
other extremity of his journey.  Finding that both his doors were
surrounded, he had judged it best to make for the front, coming home as
nearly as possible in his usual manner.  He had kept his temper
admirably, joking with his detainers, while dealing his blows upon their
hands.

"Where will all this end?" cried Margaret.

"With some going to dinner, and others to supper, I imagine," replied
Philip, stepping to the window.  "From what I see, that seems likely to
be the upshot; for here is Sir William Hunter talking to the people.  I
had rather he should do it than Hope; and, Margaret, I had rather set my
mischievous sister to do it than either.  This uproar is all of her
making, I am afraid."

"Hester has been telling Mr Rowland so, this morning."

"I am glad of it.  He must help me to work upon her fears, if there is
nothing better left to operate upon."

"You will not succeed," said Margaret.  "Your sister is as strong a
heroine in one direction as mine is in another."

"She shall yield, however.  She may be thankful that she is not here
to-day.  If she was, I would have her out upon the steps, and make her
retract everything; and if she should not be able to speak, I would
stand by her and say it for her."

"Oh, Philip! what a horrible idea!"

"Not half so horrible as the mischief she has done.  Why, Margaret, if
you were one-tenth part as guilty as Priscilla is, I should require you
to make reparation."

"Indeed, I hope you would: or rather, that--"

"But do not let us conjure up such dreadful images, my Margaret.  You
never wronged any one, and you never will."

"Edward never did, I am sure," said Margaret.

"Not even by poisoning children, nor cutting off limbs for sport?  Are
you quite sure, love?  What is Sir William doing here, with only his
groom?  He and the people look in high good-humour with each other, with
all this shaking of hands, and nodding and laughing.  I cannot conceive
what he can be saying to them, for there are not three faces among the
whole array that look as if they belonged to rational creatures."

"Never mind," said Margaret.  "If what he says sends them away, I care
for nothing else about it."

"Oh, but I do.  One would like to be favoured with a specimen of this
kind of rural oratory.  I ought to benefit by all the oratory that comes
in my way, you know: so I shall just open the window an inch or two, now
he is drawing hitherward, and take a lesson."

It seemed as if Sir William Hunter desired that his powers of persuasion
should be expended on none but the immediate objects of them: for
whatever he said was spoken as he bent from his horse, and with the air
of a mystery.  Many a plump red face was thrust close up to his--many a
pair of round staring eyes was puckered up with mirth as he spoke: the
teamster in his olive-coloured smock, the hedger in his shirt-sleeves,
and the little bumpkins who had snatched a holiday from scaring the
crows, all seemed, by their delight, to be capable of entering into the
baronet's method of argumentation.  All this stimulated Philip's
curiosity to learn what the speechifying tended to.  He could catch only
a few words, and those were about "a new man,"--"teach him to take
himself off,"--"all bad things come to an end,"--"new state of things,
soon."  Philip was afraid there was treachery here.  Margaret had no
other expectation from the man--the tyrannical politician, who bore a
grudge against a neighbour for having used his constitutional liberty
according to his conscience.

Some spectacle now drew the attention of the crowd another way.  It was
Lady Hunter, in her chariot and greys, statelily pacing through the
village.  She had heard that there was some commotion in Deerbrook; and,
as sights are rare in the country, she thought she would venture to come
to the village to shop, rather than wait for Sir William's account of
the affair in the evening, over their wine and oranges, and before he
dropped off into his nap.  She rightly confided in the people, that they
would respect her chariot and greys, and allow her to pass amidst them
in safety and honour.  She had never seen a person mobbed.  Here was a
good opportunity.  It was even possible that she might catch a glimpse
of the ladies in their terrors.  At all events, she should be a great
person, and see and hear a great deal: so she would go.  Orders were
given that she should be driven quickly up to the milestone beyond the
toll-bar, and then very slowly through Deerbrook to Mrs Howell's.  Her
servants were prompt, for they, too, longed to see what was going
forward; and thus they arrived, finding a nice little mob ready-made to
their expectations, and no cause of regret but that they arrived too
late to see Mr Hope get home.  There were no ladies in terror within
sight: but then there was the affecting spectacle of Sir William's
popularity.  In full view of all the mob, Lady Hunter put a corner of
her embroidered handkerchief to each eye, on witnessing the affection of
his neighbours to her husband, shown by the final shaking of hands which
was now gone through.  Sir William then rode slowly up to the
carriage-door, followed by his groom, who touched his hat.  Orders were
given to drive on; and then Lady Hunter's servants touched their hats.
The carriage resumed its slow motion, and Sir William rode beside it,
his hand on the door, and his countenance solemn as if he was on the
bench, instead of on horseback.  The great blessing of the arrangement
was that everybody followed.  Lady Hunter having come to see the mob,
the mob now, in return, went to see Lady Hunter: and while they were
cherishing their mutual interest, the family in the corner-house were
left in peace to prosecute their dinners.  Philip threw up the window
which looked into the garden, and then ran down to bring Margaret some
flowers to refresh her senses after the hurry of the morning.  Margaret
let down the chain of the hall door; and Morris laid the cloth, as she
had sent Charles to sweep down the steps and pavement before the house,
that all things might wear as much as possible their usual appearance.
Hester ordered up a bottle of her husband's best ale, and the servants
went about with something of the air peculiar to a day of frolic.

"Dear heart!  Lady Hunter!  Can it be your ladyship?" exclaimed Mrs
Howell, venturing to show her face at the door of her darkened shop, and
to make free entrance for her most exalted customer.

"Good heavens! your ladyship!  Who would have thought of seeing your
ladyship here on such a day?" cried Miss Miskin.

"Where's Bob, Miss Miskin?  Do, Miss Miskin, send Bob to take down the
shutters:--that is, if your ladyship thinks that Sir William would
recommend it.  If Sir William thinks it safe,--that is my criterion."

"I hope we are all safe, now, Mrs Howell," replied the lady.  "Sir
William's popularity is a most fortunate circumstance for us all, and
for the place at large."

"Oh dear, your ladyship! what should we be, not to estimate Sir William?
We have our faults, like other people: but really, if we did not know
how to value Sir William--"

"Thank Heaven!" said Miss Miskin, "we have not fallen so low as that.
Now your ladyship can see a little of our goings on--now the shutters
are down: but, dear heart! your ladyship would not have wondered at our
putting them up.  I am sure I thought for my part, that that middle
shutter never would have gone up.  It stuck, your ladyship--"

"Oh!" cried Mrs Howell, putting her hands before her face, as if the
recollection was even now too much for her, "the middle shutter stuck--
Bob had got it awry, and jammed it between the other two, and there,
nothing that Bob could do would move it!  And there we heard the noise
at a distance--the cries, your ladyship--and the shutter would not go
up!  And Miss Miskin ran out, and so did I--"

"Did you really?  Well, I must say I admire your courage, Mrs Howell."

"Oh, your ladyship, in a moment of desperation, you know...  If anybody
had seen Miss Miskin's face, I'm sure, as she tugged at the shutter--it
was as red... really scarlet!"

"And I'm sure so was yours, Mrs Howell, downright crimson."

"And after all," resumed Mrs Howell, "we should never have got the
shutter up, if Mr Tucker had not had the politeness to come and help
us.  But we are talking all this time, and perhaps your ladyship may be
almost fainting with the fright.  Would not your ladyship step into my
parlour, and have a little drop of something?  Let me have the honour--a
glass of mulled port wine, or a drop of cherry-bounce.  Miss Miskin--you
will oblige us--the cherry-bounce, you know."

Miss Miskin received the keys from the girdle with a smile of readiness;
but Lady Hunter declined refreshment.  She explained that she felt more
collected than she might otherwise have done, from her not having been
taken by surprise.  She had been partly aware, before she left the Hall,
of what she should have to encounter.

"Dear heart! what courage!"

"Goodness! how brave!"

"I could not be satisfied to remain safe at the Hall, you know, when I
did not know what might be happening to Sir William; so I ordered the
carriage, and came.  It was a very anxious ride, I assure you, Mrs
Howell.  But I found, when I got here, that I need not have been under
any alarm for Sir William.  He has made himself so beloved, that I
believe we have nothing to fear for him under any circumstances.  But
what can we think, Mrs Howell, of those who try to create such danger?"

"What, indeed, ma'am!  Any one, I'm sure, who would so much as dream of
hurting a hair of Sir William's head...  As I said to Miss Miskin, when
Mr Tucker told us Sir William was come among them--`that's the
criterion,' said I."

"As it happens, Sir William is in no danger, I believe; but no thanks to
those who are at the bottom of this disturbance.  It is no merit of
theirs that Sir William is so popular."

"No, indeed, your ladyship.  We may thank Heaven for that, not them.
But what _is_ to be done, your ladyship?  I declare it is not safe to go
on in this way.  It makes one think of being burnt in one's bed."  And
all the three shuddered.

"Sir William will take the right measures, you need not doubt, Mrs
Howell.  Sir William looks forward--Sir William is very cautious,
though, from his intrepidity, some might doubt it.  The safety of
Deerbrook may very well be left to Sir William."

"No doubt, your ladyship, no doubt!  We should be really afraid to go to
our beds, if we had not Sir William to rely on, as Miss Miskin said to
me only this morning.  But, dear heart! what can Sir William, or an
angel from heaven do, in some sorts of dangers?  If one might ask, for
one's confidential satisfaction, what does Sir William think of this
affair of the church-door?"

Amidst shrugs and sighs, Miss Miskin drew quite near, to hear the fate
of Deerbrook revealed by Lady Hunter.  But Lady Hunter did not know the
facts about the church-door, on which the inquiry was based.  This only
showed how secret some people could be in their designs.  There was no
saying what Lady Hunter might think of it; it really seemed as if
Deerbrook, that had had such a good character hitherto, was going to be
on a level with Popish places--a place of devastation and conflagration.
Lady Hunter looked excessively grave when she heard this; and, if
possible, graver than ever, when she was told that not only had a
lantern been found in the churchyard with a bit of candle left in the
socket, but that a piece of charred stick, full three inches long, had
been picked up close by the church-door.  After hearing this, Lady
Hunter would not commit herself any further.  She asked for some
hair-pins, with a dignified and melancholy air.  While she was selecting
the article, she let Mrs Howell talk on about the lantern and the
stick--that no one wondered about the lantern, knowing what practices
went on in the churchyard when quiet people were asleep; but that the
charred stick was too alarming: only that, to be sure, anybody might be
aware that those who would go into churchyards for one bad purpose would
be ready enough for another; and that Heaven only knew how long the
churches of the land would be safe while Lowrys were sent to Parliament,
and those that sent them there were all abroad.  Lady Hunter sighed
emphatically, whispered her desire that the hair-pins should be set down
in her account, and went away, amidst deep and mournful curtseys from
those whom she left behind.

Under certain circumstances, the mind becomes so rapidly possessed of an
idea, is enabled to assimilate it so completely and speedily, that the
possessor becomes unaware how very recently the notion was received, and
deals with it as an old-established thought.  This must be Lady Hunter's
excuse (for no other can be found) for speaking of the plot for burning
Deerbrook church as one of the signs of the times which had alarmed Sir
William and herself of late.  She had so digested Mrs Howell's fact by
the time she had reached Mr Tucker's shop, that she thus represented
the case of the charred stick to Mr Tucker without any immediate sting
of conscience for telling a lie.  She felt rather uncomfortable when Mr
Jones, the butcher, who had stepped in at Tucker's to discuss the event
of the morning, observed, with deference, but with much decision, that
he was sorry to hear Sir William was made uneasy by the circumstance of
the charred stick having been found, as it seemed to him a very simple
matter to account for.  Several of the boys of the village--his own son
John for one--had lately taken to the old sport of whirling round a
lighted stick at the end of a string, to make a circle of fire in the
dark.  Sometimes it happened that a spark caught the string; and then
the stick was apt to fly off, nobody knew where.  It was an unsafe
sport, certainly; and as such he had forbidden it to his son John: but
there was no doubt in his mind (without defending the sport), that the
stick in question had jerked itself over the churchyard wall, and had
not been put there by anybody;--to say nothing of its having lain so far
from the door (and in the grass, too), that it was difficult to see what
could be expected to catch fire from it.  Jones took up his hat from the
counter, saying, that as Sir William was close at hand, he would step
and tell him what he thought would ease his mind about this affair.
This movement laid open to Lady Hunter's mind the enormity of her fib:
and remembering that, as far as she knew, her husband had never heard of
the charred stick, she vigorously interfered to keep Mr Jones where he
was, averring that Sir William had rather hear the explanation from her
than from any person actually resident in Deerbrook.  He had his
reasons, and she must insist.  Mr Jones bowed; her alarm ceased, and
her compunction gradually died away.

When Mr Tucker had received his orders about the fire-guard (which
occasioned his whispering that there had never been so much need in
Deerbrook of guards against fire as now), Lady Hunter's footman came
into the shop to say that his master was in the carriage.  Sir William
had sent his horse home, and would return in the chariot with his lady.
She hastened away, to prevent any chat between Sir William and Mr
Jones.  But, once in the carriage, in all the glory of being surrounded
and watched by a number of gaping clowns and shouting boys, she could
not resolve to bury herself in the seclusion of the Hall, without
enjoying the bustle a little longer.  She therefore suddenly discovered
that she wanted to order a morning cap at Miss Nares'; and the carriage
drew up in state before the milliner's door.  Miss Flint, whose hair had
come out of curl, from her having leaned out of an upper window to watch
the commotion, now flew to the glass to pull off her curl-papers; Miss
Nares herself hastily drew out of drawers and cupboards the smart things
which had been huddled away under the alarm about the sacking of
Deerbrook; and then threw a silk handkerchief over the tray, on which
stood the elder wine and toast with which she and her assistant had been
comforting themselves after the panic of the morning.  All the caps were
tried on with mysterious melancholy, but with some haste.  Sir William
must not be kept long waiting: in times like these, a magistrate's
moments were valuable.  Sir William was reading the newspaper, in order
to convey the impression that he considered the affair of this morning a
trifling one; but--

"These are strange times, Miss Nares."

"Very alarming, my lady.  I am sure I don't know when we shall recover
from the fright.  And no further back than six weeks, I had that person
in, my lady, to attend Miss Flint in a sore throat.  So little were we
aware!"

"I am thankful enough it was not for a broken arm," observed Miss Flint,
in accents of devout gratitude.

"Yes, indeed, my dear," observed Miss Nares, "it would have ruined all
your prospects in life if he had done by you as he did by the Russell
Taylors' nursemaid.  Have you never heard that, my lady?  Well!  I am
astonished!  I find the story is in everybody's mouth.  Mrs Russell
Taylor's nursemaid was crossing the court, with the baby in her arms,
when she tripped over the string of Master Hampden Taylor's kite.  Well,
my lady, she fell; and her first thought, you know, was to save the
baby; so she let all her weight go on the other arm--the right--and, as
you may suppose, broke it.  It snapped below the elbow.  The gentleman
in the corner-house was sent for immediately, to set it.  Now they say
(you, my lady, know all about it, of course,) that there are two bones
in that part of one's arm, below the elbow."

"There are so.  Quite correct.  There are two bones."

"Well, my lady, all the story depends upon that.  The gentleman in
question did set the bones; but he set them across, you see,--as it
might be so."  And Miss Nares arranged four pieces of whalebone on the
table in the shape of a long, narrow letter X; there could not have been
a better exemplification.  "The consequence was, my lady, that the poor
girl's hand was found, when she had got well, to be turned completely
round: and, in fact, it is all but useless."

"When her hands are in her lap," observed Miss Flint, "the palm of the
right lies uppermost.  Ugh!"

"When she beckons the children with that hand," observed Miss Nares,
"they think she means them to go further off.  A girl who has to earn
her bread, my lady!  It is in everybody's mouth, I assure you."

"What has become of the girl?" asked Lady Hunter.

"Oh, she was got rid of--sent away--to save the credit of the gentleman
in the corner-house.  But these things will come out, my lady.  You are
aware that the Russell Taylors have for some time been employing Mr
Foster, from Blickley?"

"Ah, true!  I had heard of that."

With unrelaxed gravity, Lady Hunter returned to her equipage, carrying
with her Miss Nares's newest cap and story.

As the carriage drew near the corner-house, the driver, as if
sympathising with his lady's thoughts, made his horses go their very
slowest.  Lady Hunter raised herself, and leaned forward, that she might
see what she could see in this dangerous abode.  The spring evening
sunshine was streaming in at the garden window at the back of the house;
so that the party in the room was perfectly visible, in the thorough
light, to any one who could surmount the obstacle of the blind.  Lady
Hunter saw four people sitting at dinner, and somebody was waiting on
them.  She could scarcely have told what it was that surprised her; but
she exclaimed to Sir William--

"Good heavens! they are at dinner!"

Sir William called out angrily to the coachman to drive faster, and
asked whether he meant to keep everybody out till midnight.

The Hopes were far less moved by seeing the baronet and his lady driving
by, than the baronet and his lady were by seeing the Hopes dining.  They
had not the slightest objection to the great folks from the Hall
deriving all the excitement and amusement they could from an airing
through the village; and they were happily ignorant of the most
atrocious stories about Hope which were now circulating from mouth to
mouth, all round Deerbrook.

It was not long, however, before they found that they had been indebted
to the great folks from the Hall for a certain degree of protection,
partly from the equipage having drawn off the attention of some of the
idlers, and partly from the people having been unwilling to indulge all
their anger and impertinence in the presence of a magistrate.  Scarcely
half an hour had elapsed after the sound of the carriage wheels had died
away, before a face was seen surmounting the blind of the windows
towards the street.  Presently another appeared, and another.  Men below
were hoisting up boys, to make grimaces at the family, and see what was
going on.  The shutters were closed rather earlier than usual.  Philip
went out to make a survey.  He and Mr Grey soon returned, to advise
that the ladies should quit the house, and that a guard should enter it.
The first proposition was refused; the second accepted.  Mr Grey
carried off all the money and small valuables.  Hester and Margaret
bestirred themselves to provide refreshments for Messrs. Grey and
Rowland's men, who were to be ready to act in their defence.  They
scarcely knew what to expect; but they resolved to remain where Edward
was, and to fear nothing from which he did not shrink.

There was much noise round the house--a multitude of feet and of voices.
Messengers were sent off to the Hall and to Dr Levitt, who must now be
disturbed, whatever might become of his sermon.  Philip brought in Mr
Rowland's men, and declared he should not leave the premises again if
the ladies would not be persuaded to go.  He took up his station in the
hall, whence he thought he could learn most of what it was that the
people had intended to do, and be most ready to act as occasion might
require.  No one could imagine what was designed, or whether there was
any design at all on foot.  The only fact at present apparent was, that
the crowd was every moment increasing.

Hester was stooping over the cellaret in the room where they had dined,
when a tremendous crash startled her, and a stone struck down the light
which stood beside her, leaving her in total darkness.  Philip came to
her in a moment.  No one had thought of closing the shutters of the back
windows; and now the garden was full of people.  The house was besieged
back and front; and, in ten minutes from the entrance of this first
stone, not a pane of glass was left unbroken in any of the lower
windows.  Hope ran out, his spirit thoroughly roused by these insults;
and he was the first to seize and detain one of the offenders; but the
feat was rather too dangerous to bear repetition.  He was recognised,
surrounded, and had some heavy blows inflicted upon him.  He succeeded
in bringing off his man; but it was by the help of a sally of his
friends from the house; and having locked up his prisoner in his
dressing-room, he found it best to await the arrival of a magistrate
before he went forth again.

The surgery was the most open to attack; and this being the place where
the people expected to find the greatest number of dead bodies, their
energies were directed towards the professional part of the premises.
The pupil took flight, and left the intruders to work their pleasure.
They found no bodies, and were angry accordingly.  When the crashing of
all the glass was over, the shelves and cases were torn down, and, with
the table and chairs, carried out into the street, and cast into a heap.
Other wood was brought; and it was owing to the pertinacity of the mob
in front of the house, in attacking the shutters, that the rioters met
with no opposition in the surgery.  Hope, Enderby, and their assistants,
had more on their hands than they could well manage, in beating off the
assailants in front.  If the shutters were destroyed, the whole
furniture of the house would go, and no protection would remain to
anybody in it.  The surgery must be left to take its chance, rather than
this barrier between the women and the mob be thrown down.  Whatever
offensive warfare was offered from the house was from the servants, from
the upper window.  The women poured down a quick succession of pails of
water; and Charles returned, with good aim, such stones as had found
their way in.  The gentlemen were little aware, for some time, that the
cries of vexation or ridicule, which were uttered now and then, were
caused by the feats of their own coadjutors overhead: and it was in
consequence of seeing Hester and Margaret laughing in the midst of their
panic that the fact became known to them.

Soon after, a bright light was visible between the crevices of the
shutters, and a prodigious shout arose outside.  The bonfire was
kindled.  Hester and Margaret went to the upper windows to see it; and
when the attacks upon the shutters seemed to have ceased, Enderby joined
them.  There were very few faces among the crowd that were known even to
Charles, whose business it was, in his own opinion, to know everybody.
Mr Tucker was evidently only looking on from a distance.  Mrs
Plumstead had been on the spot, but was gone--terrified into quietness
by the fire, into which the rioters had threatened to throw her, if she
disturbed their proceedings.  She had professed to despise the idea of a
ducking in the brook; but a scorching in the fire was not to be braved;
so no more was heard of her this night.  Three or four of the
frequenters of the public-house were on the spot; but though they lent a
hand to throw fresh loads of fuel on the fire, they did not take their
pipes from their mouths, nor seem to be prime movers in the riot.  The
yellow blaze lighted up a hundred faces, scowling with anger or grinning
with mirth, but they were all strange--strange as the incidents of the
day.  A little retired from the glare of the fire, was a figure,
revealed only when the flame shot up from being freshly fed--Sir William
Hunter on horseback with his immovable groom behind him.  How long he
had been there, nobody in the house could tell; nor whether he had
attempted to do anything in behalf of peace and quiet.  There he sat, as
if looking on for his amusement, and forgetting that he had any business
with the scene.

It was no wonder that Dr Levitt was not yet visible.  If he should
arrive by dawn, that was all that could be expected.  But where were Mr
Grey and Sydney?  Where was Mr Rowland?  Like some of Mr Hope's other
neighbours, who ought to have come to his aid on such an occasion, these
gentlemen were detained at home by the emotions of their families.
Sydney Grey was locked up by his tender mother as securely as Mr Hope's
prisoner; and all the boy's efforts to break the door availed only to
bruise him full as seriously as the mob would have done.  His father was
detained by the tremors of his wife, the palpitations of Sophia, and the
tears and sobs of the twins, all of which began with the certainty of
the first stone having been thrown, and were by no means abated by the
sight of the reflection of the flames on the sky.  Mr Grey found it
really impossible to leave his family, as he afterwards said.  He
consoled himself with the thought that he had done the best he could, by
sending his men.  These things were exactly what his partner said.  He,
too, had done the best he could, in sending his men.  He, too, found it
impossible to leave his family.  In the dusk of the evening, when the
first stones had begun to fly, the carriage which was heard, in the
intervals of the crashes, to roll by, contained Mrs Rowland and her
children, and some one else.  It may easily be imagined that it was made
impossible to Mr Rowland to leave his family, to go to the assistance
of the people in the corner-house.

A fresh shout soon announced some new device.  A kind of procession
appeared to be advancing up the street, and some notes of rude music
were heard.  A party was bringing an effigy of Mr Hope to burn on the
pile.  There was the odious thing--plain enough in the light of the
fire--with the halter round its neck, a knife in the right hand, and a
phial--a real phial out of Hope's own surgery, in the left!

"This is too bad to be borne," cried Enderby; while Hope, who had come
up to see what others were seeing, laughed heartily at the
representative of himself.  "This is not to be endured.  Morris, quick!
Fetch me half a dozen candles!"

"Candles, sir?"

"Yes, candles.  I will put this rabble to flight.  I wish I had thought
of it before."

"Oh, Philip!" said Margaret, apprehensively.

"Fear nothing, Margaret.  I am going to do something most eminently
safe, as you will see."

He would not let any one go with him but Charles and Morris.  It was
some minutes before any effect from his absence was perceived; but, at
length, just when the effigy had been sufficiently insulted, and was
about to be cast into the flames, and Hester had begged her husband not
to laugh at it any more, a roar of anguish and terror was heard from the
crowd, which began to disperse in all directions.  The ladies ventured
to lean out of the window, to see what was the cause of the uproar.
They understood it in a moment.  Mr Enderby had possessed himself of
the skeleton which hung in the mahogany case in the waiting-room, had
lighted it up behind the eyes and the ribs, and was carrying it aloft
before him, approaching round the corner, and thus confronting the
effigy.  The spectre moved steadily on, while the people fled.  It made
straight for Sir William Hunter, who now seemed for the first time
disposed to shift his place.  He did so with as much slowness and
dignity as were compatible with the urgency of the circumstances, edging
his horse further and further into the shade.  When he found, however,
that the spectre continued to light its own path towards him, there was
something rather piteous in the tone of his appeal:--"I am Sir William
Hunter!  I am--I am Sir William Hunter!"  The spectre disregarding even
this information, there was nothing for the baronet to do but to gallop
off--his groom for once in advance of him.  When they were out of sight,
the spectre turned sharp round, and encountered Dr Levitt, who was now
arriving just when every one else was departing.  He started, as might
have been expected, spoke angrily to the "idle boy" whom he supposed to
be behind the case of bones, and laughed heartily when he learned who
was the perpetrator, and what the purpose of the joke.  He entered
Hope's house, to learn the particulars of the outrage, and order off the
prisoner into confinement elsewhere, his ideas being too extensively
discomposed to admit of any more sermon-writing this night.  Charles had
already captured the effigy, and set it up in the hall: a few more
pailsful of water extinguished the fire in the street; and in a quarter
of an hour the neighbourhood seemed to be as quiet as usual.

"Where are you to sleep after all this fatigue?" said Hope to his wife
and sister, when Dr Levitt and Philip were gone, and the men were at
their supper below.  "I do not believe they have left you a room which
is not open to the night air.  What a strange home to have put you in!
Who would have thought it a year ago?"

Hester smiled, and said she was never less sleepy.  Morris believed that
not a pane of glass was broken in the attics, and her ladies could sleep
there, if they preferred remaining at home to stepping to Mr Grey's.
They much preferred remaining where they were: and, on examination, it
was found that Margaret's room was also entire.  Hope proposed to take
possession of Charles's attic, for once; and Charles enjoyed the novelty
of having a mattress laid down for him in a corner of the upper landing.
Morris tempted the ladies and her master to refresh themselves with
tea.  She piled up the fire to a Christmas height, to compensate for the
draughts which blew in from the broken windows.  Hope soon grew
discontented with her plan.

"This will never do," said he, shivering.  "You will all be ill: and
nobody must be ill now, for I have no medicines left."

Morris murmured a wish that the physic had been forced down the people's
throats.

"It is better where it is, Morris," said her master; "and we will
forgive these poor people; shall we not?  They are lamentably ignorant,
you see."

Morris thought forgiveness was always pretty sure to come in time but it
was not very easy at the moment.  She thought she could get over their
robbing her master of any amount of property; but she could not excuse
their making him ridiculous before his lady's own eyes.

"They cannot make him ridiculous, Morris," said Hester, cheerfully.

"People who are persecuted are considered great, you know, Morris," said
Margaret.

"Bravo, ladies!" cried Hope.  "You keep up your own spirits, and my
complacency, bravely.  But seriously, Morris," he continued, perceiving
that the vulgarity of the present affliction weighed down the good
woman's heart; "is it not true that few of our trials--none of those
which are most truly trials--seem dignified at the time?  If they did,
patience would be easier than it is.  The death of martyrs to their
faith is grand to look back upon; but it did not appear so to the best
of the martyrs at the time.  This little trial of ours looks provoking,
and foolish, and mean, to us to-night; but whether it really is so, will
depend on how we bear it; and whatever it may bring after it, grand or
mean, all we have to do is to be good-humoured with it, Morris."

Morris curtsied low.

"And now, to your rooms," resumed Hope: "this place is growing too
chilly for you, notwithstanding Morris's capital fire."

"One thing more," said Margaret.  "I am a little uneasy about Maria.
Has any one thought of her?  She must be anxious about us."

"I will go this moment," said Hope.  "Nay, my love, it is early yet; no
one in Deerbrook is gone to rest yet, but the children.  I can be back
in ten minutes, and the street is empty."

"Let him go," said Margaret.  "It will be a great kindness; and surely
there is no danger now."

Hope was gone.  He did not come back in ten minutes, nor in half an
hour.  Even Margaret heartily repented having urged him to leave home.
During his absence she thus repented, but no longer when he returned.
He brought news which made her hasten to dress herself for the open air,
when she was quite ready to retire to rest.  It was well that her
brother had gone.  Maria had been thrown down by the crowd, which had
overtaken her as she was walking homewards, and she had broken her leg.
The limb was set, the case was a simple and promising one; but she was
in pain, and Margaret must go and pass the night with her.  How thankful
were they all now, that some one had thought of Maria!  She had been in
extreme anxiety for them; and she would not certainly have sent for aid
before the morning.  It was indeed a blessing that some one had thought
of Maria.



CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.

COMING TO AN UNDERSTANDING.

Mr Enderby was too angry with his sister to see her that night.  He
went straight to his room, at his mother's old house, and did not
breakfast with the Rowlands.  He knocked at their door when breakfast
was finished, and sent to request Mrs Rowland's presence in the
drawing-room.  All this had given the lady time to prepare her mood, and
some very clever and bold sayings but when the interview was over, she
was surprised to find how some of these sayings had gone out of her
mind, and how others had remained there, for want of opportunity to
speak them; so that she had not made nearly so good a figure as she had
intended.

There was all due politeness in Enderby's way of inducing his sister to
sit down, and of asking after the health of herself and her children.

"We are all wonderfully improved, thank you, brother.  Indeed I have
hopes that we shall all enjoy better health henceforward than we have
ever known.  Mr Walcot's care will be new life to us."

"Whose care?"

"Mr Walcot's.  We brought him with us last night; and he is to go at
once into my mother's house.  He is a surgeon of the first degree of
eminence.  I think myself extremely fortunate in having secured him.
The chief reason, however, of my inviting him here was, that my poor
mother might be properly taken care of.  Now I shall be at peace on her
account, which I really never was before.  Now that she will be in good
hands, I shall feel that I have done my duty."

"And, pray, does Rowland know of your having brought this stranger
here?"

"Of course.  Mr Walcot is our guest till his own house can be prepared
for him.  As I tell you, he arrived with me, last night."

"And now let me tell you, sister, that either Mr Walcot is not a man of
honour, or you have misinformed him of the true state of affairs here: I
suspect the latter to be the case.  It is of a piece with the whole of
your conduct, towards Mr Hope--conduct unpardonable for its
untruthfulness, and hateful for its malice."

Not one of Mrs Rowland's prepared answers would suit in this place.
Before she could think of anything to say, Enderby proceeded:--

"It is a dreadful thing for a brother to have to speak to a sister as I
now speak to you; but it is your own doing.  Mr Hope must have justice,
and you have no one to blame but yourself that justice must be done at
your expense.  I give you fair notice that I shall discharge my duty
fully, in the painful circumstances in which you have contrived to place
all your family."

"Do what you will, Philip.  My first duty is to take care of the health
of my parent and my children; and if, by the same means, Deerbrook is
provided with a medical man worthy of its confidence, all Deerbrook will
thank me."

"Ignorant and stupid as Deerbrook is about many things, Priscilla, it is
not so wicked as to thank any one for waging a cowardly war against the
good, for disparaging the able and accomplished, and fabricating and
circulating injurious stories against people too magnanimous for the
slanderer to understand."

"I do not know what you mean, Philip."

"I mean that you have done all this towards the Hopes.  You do not know
that he and his wife are not happy.  You know that Hope is an able and
most humane man in his profession, and that he does not steal dead
bodies.  You know the falsehood of the whole set of vulgar stories that
you have put into circulation against him.  You know, also, that my
mother has entire confidence in him, and that it will go near to break
her heart to have him dismissed for any one else.  This is the meaning
of what I say.  As for what I mean to do--it is this.  I shall speak to
Mr Walcot at once, before his intention to settle here is known."

"You are too late, my dear sir.  Every one in Deerbrook knows it as well
as if Dr Levitt was to give notice of it from the pulpit to-day."

"So much the worse for you, Priscilla.  I shall explain the whole of
Hope's case to Mr Walcot, avoiding, if possible, all exposure of
you--."

"Oh, pray do not disturb yourself about that.  Mr Walcot knows me very
well.  I am not afraid."

"Avoiding, if possible, all exposure of you," resumed Enderby, "but not
shrinking from the full statement of the facts, if that should prove
necessary to Hope's justification.  If this gentleman be honourable, he
will decline attending my mother, and go away more willingly than he
came.  I shall bear testimony to my friend with equal freedom everywhere
else; and I will never rest till the wrongs you have done him are
repaired--as far as reparation is possible."

"You take the tone of defiance, I see, Philip.  I have not the slightest
objection.  We defy each other, then."

"I cannot but take that tone for a purpose which, I conceive, is the
kindest which, under the circumstances, can be entertained towards you,
sister.  I do it in the hope that, before it is too late, you will
yourself do the justice which I vow shall be done.  I give you
peremptory warning, leaving you opportunity to retrieve yourself, to
repair the mischief you have done, and to alleviate the misery which I
see is coming upon you."

"You are very good: but I know what I am about, and I shall proceed in
my own way.  I mean to get rid of these Hopes; and, perhaps, you may be
surprised to see how soon I succeed."

"The Hopes shall remain as long as they wish to stay, if truth can
prevail against falsehood.  I am sorry for you, if you cannot endure the
presence of neighbours whose whole minds and conduct are noble and
humane, and known by you to be so.  This desire to get rid of them is a
bad symptom, Priscilla--a symptom of a malady which neither Hope nor Mr
Walcot, nor any one but yourself, can cure.  I would have you look to
it."

"Is your sermon ended?  It is time I was getting ready to hear Dr
Levitt's."

"What I have to say is not finished.  I desire to know what you mean by
telling everybody that I am engaged to Miss Mary Bruce."

"I said so, because it is true."

The cool assurance with which she said this was too much for Enderby's
gravity.  He burst out a-laughing.

"If not precisely true when I said it, it was sure to be so soon; which
is just the same thing.  I mean that it shall be true.  I have set my
heart upon your marrying, and upon your marrying Mary Bruce.  I know she
would like it, and--"

"Stop there!  Not another word about Miss Bruce!  I will not have you
take liberties with her name to me; and this is not the first time I
have told you so.  It is not true that she would like it--no more true
than many other things that you have said: and if you were to repeat it
till night, it would make no sort of impression upon me.  Miss Bruce
knows little, and cares less, about me; and beware how you say to the
contrary!--And now for the plain fact.  I am engaged elsewhere."

"No; you are not."

"Yes; I am."

"You will marry no one but Mary Bruce at last, you will see, whatever
you may think now."

"For Heaven's sake, Priscilla, if you have any of the regard you profess
to have for Miss Bruce, treat her name with some respect!--I am accepted
by Margaret Ibbotson!"

"I dare say you are?  Margaret Ibbotson!  So this is at the bottom of
all your energy about the Hopes!"

"I admired Hope before I ever saw Margaret, with sufficient energy to
prompt me to anything I mean to do in his support.  But Margaret has
certainly exalted my feelings towards him, as she has towards everything
morally great and beautiful."

"I hope you will all make yourselves happy with your greatness and your
beauty: for these friends of yours seem likely to have little else left
to comfort themselves with."

"They will be happy with their greatness and loveliness, sister; for it
is Heaven's decree that they should.  Why will you not let yourself be
happy in witnessing it, Priscilla?  Why will you not throw off the
restraint of bad feelings, and do magnanimous justice to this family,
and, having thus opened and freed your mind, glory in their goodness--
the next best thing to being as good as they?  You have power of mind to
do this: the very force with which you persist in persecuting them shows
that you have power for better things.  Believe me, they are full of the
spirit of forgiveness.  Do but try--"

"Thank you.  I am glad you are aware of my power.  If they forgive me
for anything, it shall be for my power."

"That is not for you to determine, happily.  To what extent they forgive
is between God and themselves.  You lie under their forgiveness, whether
you will or not.  I own, Priscilla, I would fain bestow on Margaret a
sister whom she might respect rather than forgive."

"Pray how many persons have you persuaded that Margaret Ibbotson is to
be my sister-in-law?"

"Very few; for your sake, scarcely any.  We have been willing to allow
you your own time and methods for extricating yourself from the
difficulties you have made for yourself by your inconsiderate talk about
Miss Bruce.  I own I cannot conceive how you could originate and carry
on such a device.  You must now get out of the scrape in your own way."

"I am glad you have told so few people of your entanglement.  It makes
it an easier matter to help you.  I shall deny the engagement
everywhere."

"That will hardly avail against my testimony."

"It will, when you are gone.  The Deerbrook people always attend to the
last speaker.  Indeed, I think I have the majority with me now, as the
events of last night pretty plainly show."

"Hope is not the first good man who has been slandered and suffered
violence.  Oh, Priscilla, I am unwilling to give you up!  Let me hope,
that the pride, the insane pride of this morning, is but the reaction of
your internal suffering from witnessing the results of your influence in
the outrages of last night.  Confide this to me now, and give yourself
such ease as you yet can."

"Thank you: but you are quite mistaken.  I was extremely glad to arrive
when I did.  It satisfied me as to the necessity of getting rid of these
people; and it proved to Mr Walcot, as I observed to him at the time,
how much he was wanted here.  Now, if you have nothing more to say to
me, I must go.  I shall deny your engagement everywhere."

Philip fixed his eyes upon her with an earnestness from which, for one
moment, she shrank; but she instantly rallied, and returned him a stare
which lasted till she reached the door.

"There is something almost sublime in audacity like this," thought he.
"But it cannot last.  It comes from internal torture--a thing as
necessarily temporary as faith (the source of the other kind of
strength) is durable.  Not the slightest compunction has she for having
caused the misery she knows of: and not a whit would she relent, if she
could become aware (which she never shall) of what she made Margaret
suffer.  I fear my Margaret has still much to endure from her.  I will
watch and struggle to ward off from her every evil word and thought.
This is the only comfort under the misery of her being exposed to the
malice of any one belonging to me.  No; not the only comfort.  She does
not suffer from these things as she did.  She says she has a new
strength; and, thank God!  I believe it.  Now for Mr Walcot!  I must
catch him as he comes out of church, and see what I can make of him.  If
he is an honourable man, all may turn out well.  If not--Rowland and I
must see what can be done next."



CHAPTER THIRTY.

CONDOLENCE.

The family in the corner-house thought this the strangest Sunday morning
they had ever looked upon.  Outside their premises, all was like a May
sabbath.  The gardens sent up their fragrance into the warm, still air:
the cottage windows were open, and early roses and late hyacinths
appeared within the casements.  The swallows were skimming and dipping
about the meadows; and the swans steered their majestic course along the
river, rippling its otherwise unbroken surface.  The men of the village
sat on the thresholds of their doors, smoking an early pipe! and their
tidy children, the boys with hair combed straight, and the girls with
clean pinafores, came abroad; some to carry the Sunday dinner to the
baker's, and others to nurse the baby in the sunshine, or to snatch a
bit of play behind a neighbour's dwelling.  The contrast within the
corner-house was strange.  Morris and the boy had been up early to
gather the stones, and sweep up the fragments of glass from the floors,
to put the effigy out of sight, and efface the marks of feet in the hall
and parlours.  The supper had been cleared away in the kitchen, and the
smell of spirits and tobacco got rid of: but this was all that the most
zealous servants could do.  The front shutters must remain closed, and
the garden windows empty of glass.  The garden itself was a mournful
spectacle,--the pretty garden, which had been the pride and pleasure of
the family all this spring; part of the wall was thrown down; the ivy
trailed on the earth.  Of the shrubs, some were pulled up, and others
cut off at the roots.  The beds were trodden into clay, and the grass,
so green and sunny yesterday, was now trampled black where it was not
hidden with fragments of the wood-work of the surgery, and with the
refuse of the broken glasses and spilled drugs.  Hope had also risen
early.  He had found his scared pupil returned, and wandering about the
ruins of his abode,--the surgery.  They set to work together, to put out
of sight whatever was least seemly of the scattered contents of the
professional apartment; but, with all their pains, the garden looked
forlorn and disagreeable enough when Hester came down, shawled, to make
breakfast in the open air of the parlour, and her husband thought it
time to go and see how Maria had passed the night, and to bring Margaret
home.

Hester received from her husband and sister a favourable report of
Maria.  She had slept, and Margaret had slept beside her.  Maria carried
her philosophy into all the circumstances of her lot, and she had been
long used to pain and interruption of her plans.  These things, and the
hurry of an accident in the street, might dismay one inexperienced in
suffering, but not her.  When not kept awake by actual pain, she slept;
and when assured that her case was perfectly simple, and that there was
every probability of her being as well as usual in a few weeks, all her
anxieties were for the Hopes.  No report of them could have satisfied
her so well as Mr Hope's early visit,--as his serene countenance and
cheerful voice.  She saw that he was not sad at heart; and warmly as she
honoured his temper, she could hardly understand this.  No wonder for
she did not know what his sufferings had previously been from other
causes, nor how vivid was his delight at the spirit in which Hester
received their present misfortunes.  Margaret saw at once that all was
well at home, and made no inquiries about her sister.

"Here is a letter for you, with a magnificent seal," said Hester, as
they entered.  "And here is tea as hot, I believe, as if we were still
blessed with glass windows."

The letter had just been left by Sir William Hunter's groom.  It was
from the Baronet, and its contents informed Mr Hope that his attendance
would not be required at the almshouses in future, as their inmates were
placed under the medical superintendence of Mr Walcot.

"I am glad," said Hester.  "No more danger and insult from that
quarter!"

"Nor funds either, my dear.  It is pleasant enough to have no insult and
danger to apprehend; but what will you say to having no funds?"

"We shall see when that time comes, love.  Meantime, here is breakfast,
and the sweet Sunday all before us?"

The pressure of her hand by her husband effaced all woes, present and
future.

"Who is Mr Walcot?" asked Margaret.

"Somebody from Blickley, I suppose," said Hester.

"No," replied Hope.  "Mr Walcot is a surgeon, last from Cheltenham, who
settled in Deerbrook at seven o'clock yesterday evening, and who has
already swept the greater part of the practice of the place, I suspect.
He is, no doubt, the `better doctor,' `the new man,' of whom we have
heard so much of late."

Hester changed colour, and Margaret too, while Hope related the arrival
of Mrs Rowland and her party, as he had heard it from his pupil early
this morning.--What sort of man was Mr Walcot?  Time must show.  His
coming to settle in this manner, at such a conjuncture of circumstances,
did not look very well, Hope said; but it should be remembered that he
must necessarily be extremely prejudiced against the family in the
corner-house, if his information about Deerbrook was derived from Mrs
Rowland.  He ought not to be judged till he had had time and opportunity
to learn for himself what was the real state of affairs in the place.
He must have fair play; and it was very possible that he might turn out
a man who would give others fair play.

At the next knock, Hester started, thereby showing that she was moved.
Mr Jones had called to know how the family were; and, after satisfying
himself on this point, had left a delicate sweetbread, with his
respects, and wishes that Mrs Hope might relish it after her fright.
This incident gave the little family more pleasure than Mr Walcot had
yet caused them pain.  Here was sympathy,--the most acceptable offering
they could receive.

Next came a message of inquiry from Dr and Mrs Levitt, with an
intimation that they would call, if not inconvenient to the family,
after church.  This was pleasant too.

While it was being agreed that a nurse must be found immediately for
Maria, and that the glazier at Blickley must have notice to send people
to mend the windows as early as possible to-morrow morning, a letter was
brought in, which looked longer, but less grand, than Sir William
Hunter's.  It was from Mr Rowland.

  "(Private.)

  "My Dear Sir, _Sunday Morning, 7 o'clock_.

  "During the greater part of an anxious night, my mind was full of the
  intention of calling on you this morning, for some conversation on a
  topic which must be discussed between us; but the more I dwell upon
  what must be said, the more I shrink from an interview which cannot
  but be extremely painful to each party; and I have at length come to
  the conclusion that, for both our sakes, it is best to write what I
  have to say.  It is painful enough, God knows, to write it!

  "Your position here, my dear sir, must have been anything but pleasant
  for some time past.  I regret that its uneasiness should have been
  augmented, as I fear it has, by the influence of any one connected
  with myself.  My respect for you has been as undeviating as it is
  sincere; and I have not to reproach myself with having uttered a word
  concerning you or your family which I should be unwilling to repeat to
  yourselves: but I am aware that the same cannot be said, with regard
  to every one for whom I am in a manner answerable.  In relation to
  this unpleasant fact I can only say, that I entreat you to accept the
  assurance of my deep regret and mortification.

  "A new aspect of affairs has presented itself,--to me very suddenly,
  as I trust you will believe, on my word of honour.  A gentleman of
  your profession, named Walcot, arrived last night, with a view to
  settling in Deerbrook.  The first inducement held out to him was the
  medical charge of Mrs Enderby, and of the whole of my family: but, of
  course, it is not probable that his expectations of practice among
  your patients stop here; and the present unfortunate state of the
  public mind of Deerbrook regarding yourself, makes it too probable
  that his most sanguine expectations will be realised.  I write this
  with extreme pain; but I owe it to you not to disguise the truth,
  however distasteful may be its nature.

  "These being the circumstances of the case, it appears to me hopeless
  to press the departure of Mr Walcot.  And if he went away to-day, I
  should fear that some one would arrive to-morrow to occupy his
  position.  Yet, my dear sir, justice must be done to you.  After
  protracted and anxious consideration, one mode of action has occurred
  to me, by which atonement may be made to you, for what has passed.
  Let me recommend it to your earnest and favourable consideration.

  "Some other place of residence would, I should hope, yield you and
  your family the consideration and comfort of which you have here been
  most unjustly deprived.  Elsewhere you might ensure the due reward of
  that professional ability and humanity which we have shown ourselves
  unworthy to appreciate.  If you could reconcile yourself to removing,
  with your family, I believe that the peace of our society would be
  promoted, that unpleasant collisions of opinions and interests would
  be avoided, and that that reparation would be made to you which I fear
  would be impracticable here.  All difficulty about the process of
  removal might and should be obviated.  To speak frankly, I should, in
  that case, consider myself your debtor to such an amount as, by a
  comparison of your losses and my means, should appear to us both to be
  just.  I believe I might venture to make myself answerable for so much
  as would settle you in some more favourable locality, and enable you
  to wait a moderate time for that appreciation of your professional
  merits which would be certain to ensue.

  "I need not add that, in case of your acceding to my proposition, all
  idea of _obligation_ would be misplaced.  I offer no more than I
  consider actually your due.  The circumstance of the father of a large
  and rising family offering to become responsible to such an extent,
  indicates that my sense of your claim upon me is very strong.  I
  should be glad to be relieved from it: and I therefore, once more,
  beseech your best attention to my proposal,--_the latter particulars
  of which have been confided to no person whatever_,--nor shall they
  be, under any circumstances, unless you desire it.

  "I shall await your reply with anxiety--yet with patience, as I am
  aware that such a step as I propose cannot be decided on without some
  reflection.

  "I rejoice to find that your family have not suffered materially from
  the outrages of last night.  It was matter of sincere regret to me
  that the unexpected arrival of my family at the very time prevented my
  hastening to offer my best services to you and yours.  The magistracy
  will, of course, repair all damages; and then I trust no evil
  consequences will survive.

  "I beg my best compliments to Mrs Hope and Miss Ibbotson, and entreat
  you to believe me, my dear sir,

  "With the highest respect,

  "Your obedient servant,

  "H. Rowland."

For one moment Hester looked up in her husband's face, as he read this
letter in a subdued voice--for one moment she hoped he would make haste
to live elsewhere--in some place where he would again be honoured as he
once was here, and where all might be bright and promising as ever: but
that moment's gaze at her husband changed her thoughts and wishes.  Her
colour rose with the same feelings which drew a deep seriousness over
his countenance.

"Mr Rowland means well," said Margaret; "but surely this will never
do."

"I hardly know what you would consider meaning well," replied Hope.
"Rowland would buy himself out of an affair which he has not the courage
to manage by nobler means.  He would give hush-money for the concealment
of his wife's offences.  He would bribe me from the assertion of my own
character, and would, for his private ends, stop the working out of the
question between Deerbrook and me.  This is, to my mind, the real aspect
of his proposal, however persuaded he himself may be that he intends
peace to his neighbours, and justice to me.  This letter," he continued,
waving it before him, "is worthy only of the fire, where I would put it
this moment, but that I suppose prudence requires that we should retain
in our own hands all evidence whatever relating to the present state of
our affairs."

"I do not exactly see what is to become of us," said Hester, cheerfully.

"Nor do I, love: but is not all the world in the same condition?  How
much does the millionaire know of what is to intervene between to-day
and his death?"

"And the labouring classes," observed Margaret--"that prodigious
multitude of toiling, thinking, loving, trusting beings!  How many of
them see further than the week which is coming round?  And who spends
life to more purpose than some of them?  They toil, they think, they
love, they obey, they trust; and who will say that the most secure in
worldly fortune are making a better start for eternity than they?  They
see duty around them and God above them; and what more need they see?"

"You are right," said Hester.  "What I said was cowardly.  I wish I had
your faith."

"You have it," said her husband.  "There was faith in your voice, and
nothing faithless in what you said.  It is a simple truth, that we
cannot see our way before us.  We must be satisfied to discern the duty
of the day, and for the future to do what we ought always to be
doing--`to walk by faith and not by sight.'  Now, as to this present
duty, it seems to me very clear.  It is my duty to offer moral
resistance to oppression, and to make a stand for my reputation.  When
it pleases God that men should be overwhelmed by calumny, it is a
dreadful evil which must be borne as well as it may; but not without a
struggle.  We must not too hastily conclude that this is to be the issue
in our case.  We must stay and struggle for right and justice--struggle
for it, by living on with firm, patient, and gentle minds.  This is
surely what we ought to do, rather than go away for the sake of ease,
leaving the prejudices of our neighbours in all their virulence, because
we have not strength to combat them, and letting the right succumb to
the wrong, for want of faith and constancy to vindicate it."

"Oh, we will stay!" cried Hester.  "I will try to bear everything, and
be thankful to have to bear, for such reasons.  It is all easy, love,
when you lay open your views of our life--when you give us your insight
into the providence of it.  I believe I should have looked at it in this
way before, if you had been suffering in any great cause--any cause
manifestly great, because the welfare of many others was involved in it.
I see now that the principle of endurance and the duty of steadfastness
are the same, though--."  And yet she paused, and bit her lip.

"Though the occasion looks insignificant enough," said her husband.
"True.  Some might laugh at our having to appeal to our faith because we
have been mobbed on pretences which make us blush to think what nonsense
they are, and because a rival has come to supplant me in my profession.
But with all this we have nothing to do.  The truth to us is, that we
are living in the midst of malice and hatred, and that poverty stares us
in the face.  If these things are quite enough for our strength (and I
imagine we shall find they are so), we have no business to quarrel with
our trial because it is not of a grander kind.  Well! wife and sister,
we stay.  Is it not so?  Then I will go and write to Mr Rowland."

The sisters were silent for some moments after he had left them.
Margaret was refreshing her flowers--the flowers which Philip had
brought in from the garden the day before.  How precious were they now,
even above other flowers brought by the same hand--for not another
blossom was left in the desolate garden!  Margaret was resolving
silently that she would keep these alive as long as she could, and then
dry them in memory of the place they came from, in its wedding trim.
Hester presently showed the direction her thoughts had taken, by
saying--

"I should think that it must be always possible for able and industrious
people, in health, to obtain bread."

"Almost always possible, provided they can cast pride behind them."

"Ah!  I suspect that pride is the real evil of poverty--of gentlefolks'
poverty.  I could not promise for my own part, to cast pride behind me:
but then, you know, it has pleased God to give me something to be proud
of, far different from rank and money.  I could go to jail or the
workhouse with my husband without a blush.  The agony of it would not be
from pride."

"Happily, we are sure of bread, mere bread," said Margaret, "for the
present, and for what we call certainty.  What you and I have is enough
for bread."

"What I have can hardly be called sufficient for even that," said
Hester: "and you--I must speak my thankfulness for that--you will soon
be out of the reach of such considerations."

"Not soon: and I cannot separate my life from yours--I cannot fancy it.
Do not let us fancy it just now."

"Well, we will not.  I am glad Susan has warning from me to go.  It is
well that we began retrenching so soon.  We must come to some full
explanation with Morris, that we may see what can best be done for her."

"She will never leave you while you will let her stay."

"It may be necessary to dismiss Charles.  But we will wait to talk that
over with my husband.  He will tell us what we ought to do.  Was that a
knock at the door?"

"I rather think it was a feeble knock."

It was Mrs Grey, accompanied by Sydney.  Mrs Grey's countenance wore
an expression of solemn misery, with a little of the complacency of
excitement under it.  The occasion was too great for winks: mute grief
was the mood of the hour.  Sydney was evidently full of awe.  He seemed
hardly to like to come into the parlour.  Margaret had to go to the
door, and laugh at him for his shyness.  His mother's ideas were as much
deranged as his own, by the gaiety with which Hester received them,
boasting of the thorough ventilation of the room, and asking whether
Sophia did not think their bonfire surpassed the famous one at the last
election but one.  Sophia had not seen anything of the fire of last
night.  She had been so much agitated, that the whole family, Mr Grey
and all, had been obliged to exert themselves to compose her spirits.
Much as she had wished to come this morning, to make her inquiries in
person, she had been unable to summon courage to appear in the streets;
and indeed her parents could not press it--she had been so extremely
agitated!  She was now left in Alice's charge.

Hester and Margaret hoped that when Sophia found there was nothing more
to fear, and that her cousins were perfectly well, she would be able to
spare Alice for some hours, to wait upon Miss Young.  Maria's hostess
was with her now, and Margaret would spend the night with her again, if
a nurse could not be procured before that time.  Mrs Grey had not
neglected Maria in her anxiety for her cousins.  She was just going to
propose that Alice should be the nurse to-night, and had left word at
Miss Young's door that she herself would visit her for the hour and half
that people were in church.  Her time this morning was therefore short.
She was rejoiced to see her young friends look so much like themselves--
so differently from what she had dared to expect.  And Mr Hope--it was
not fair perhaps to ask where he was;--he had probably rather not have
it known where he might be found: (and here the countenance relaxed into
a winking frame).  Not afraid to show himself abroad!  Had been out
twice! and without any bad consequences!  It would be a cordial to
Sophia to hear this, and a great relief to Mr Grey.  But what courage!
It was a fine lesson for Sydney.  If Mr Hope was really only writing,
and could spare a minute, it would be a comfort to see him.  Hester went
for him.  He had just finished his letter.  She read and approved it,
and sat down to take a copy of it while her husband occupied her seat
beside Mrs Grey.

The wife let fall a few tears--tears of gentle sorrow and proud love,
not on her husband's letter (for not for the world would she have had
that letter bear a trace of tears), but on the paper on which she wrote.
The letter appeared to her very touching; but others might not think
so: there was so much in it which she alone could see!  It took her only
a few minutes to copy it; but the copying gave her strength for all the
day.  The letter was as follows:--

  "My Dear Sir--Your letter expresses, both in its matter and phrase,
  the personal regard which I have always believed you to entertain
  towards me and mine.  I cannot agree with you, however, in thinking
  that the proceeding you propose involves real good to any of the
  parties concerned in it.  The peace of society in Deerbrook is not
  likely to be permanently secured by such deference to ignorant
  prejudice as would be expressed by the act of my departure; nor would
  my wrongs be repaired by my merely leaving them behind me.  I cannot
  take money from your hands as the price of your tranquillity, and as a
  commutation for my good name, and the just rewards of my professional
  labours.  My wife and I will not remove from Deerbrook.  We shall
  stay, and endeavour to discharge our duty, and to bear our wrongs,
  till our neighbours learn to understand us better than they do.

  "You will permit to say, with the respect which I feel, that we
  sympathise fully in the distress of mind which you must be
  experiencing.  If you should find comfort in doing us manful justice,
  we shall congratulate you yet more than ourselves: if not, we shall
  grieve for you only the more deeply.

  "My wife joins me in what I have said, and in kindly regards.

  "Yours sincerely,

  "Edward Hope."

Edward had left his seal with Hester.  She sealed the letter, rang for
Charles, and charged him to deliver it into Mr Rowland's own hands,
placed the copy in her bosom to show to Margaret, and returned to the
parlour.  Mrs Grey, who was alone with Hope, stopped short in what she
was saying.

"Go on," said Hope.  "We have no secrets here, and no fears of being
frightened--for one another any more than for ourselves.  Mrs Grey was
saying, my dear, that Mr Walcot is very popular here already; and that
everybody is going to church to see him."

Mrs Grey had half-a-dozen faults or oddities of Mr Walcot's to tell of
already; but she was quietly checked in the middle of her list by Mr
Hope, who observed that he was bound to exercise the same justice
towards Mr Walcot that he hoped to receive from him--to listen to no
evil of him which could not be substantiated: and it was certainly too
early yet for anything to be known about him by strangers, beyond what
he looked like.

"To go no deeper than his looks, then," continued Mrs Grey, "nobody can
pretend to admire them.  He is extremely short.  Have you heard how
short he is?"

"Yes; that inspired me with some respect for him, to begin with.  I have
heard so much of my being too tall, all my life, that I am apt to feel a
profound veneration for men who have made the furthest escape from that
evil.  By the way, my dear, I should not wonder if Enderby is disposed
in Walcot's favour by this, for he is even taller than I."

"I am surprised that you can joke on such a subject, Mr Hope.  I assure
you, you are not the only sufferers by this extraordinary circumstance
of Mr Walcot's arrival.  It is very hard upon us, that we are to have
him for an opposite neighbour--in Mrs Enderby's house, you know.
Sophia and I have been in the habit of observing that house, for the old
lady's sake, many times in a day.  We scarcely ever looked out, but we
saw her cap over the blind, or some one or another was at the door,
about one little affair or another.  It has been a great blank since she
was removed--the shutters shut, and the bills up, and nobody going and
coming.  But now we can never look that way."

"I am afraid you will have to get Paxton to put up a weathercock for you
on his barn, so that you may look in the opposite direction for the
wind."

"Nay, Edward, it is really an evil," said Hester, "to have an unwelcome
stranger settled in an opposite house, where an old friend has long
lived.  I can sympathise with Mrs Grey."

"So can I, my dear.  It is an evil: but I should, under any
circumstances, hold myself free to look out of my window in any
direction--that is all.  Do, Mrs Grey, indulge yourself so far."

"We cannot possibly notice him, you know.  It must be distinctly
understood, that we can have nothing to say to an interloper like Mr
Walcot.  Mr Grey is quite of my opinion.  You will have our support in
every way, my dear sir; for it is perfectly plain to our minds, that all
this would not have happened but for your having married into our
connection so decidedly.  But this intruder has been thought, and talked
about, by us more than he is worth.  I want to hear all you can tell me
about the riot, Hester, love.  Your husband has been giving me some idea
of it, but...  Bless me! there is the first bell for church; and I ought
to have been at Miss Young's by this time.  We must have the whole
story, some day soon; and, indeed, Sophia would quarrel with me for
hearing it when she is not by.  Where is Sydney?"

Sydney and Margaret were in the garden, consulting about its
restoration.  Sydney declared he would come and work at it every day
till it was cleared and planted.  He would begin to-morrow with the
cairn for the rock-plants.

"I am glad the Levitts are to call after church," observed Mrs Grey.
"They always do what is proper, I must say; and not less towards
dissenters than their own people.  I suppose Dr Levitt will consult
with you about the damages."

"Sooner or later, I have no doubt."

"Come, Sydney, we must be gone.  You hear the bell.  Sophia will be
quite revived by what I shall tell her, my dears.  No--do not come out
to the door--I will not allow it, on my account.  There is no knowing
what I might have to answer for, if you let yourself be seen at the door
on my account.  I am sorry you will not come in this evening.  Are you
quite determined?  Well, perhaps Mr Grey will say you are right not to
leave your premises in the evening, at present.  No; you must not say
anything about _our_ coming just now.  We have not courage, really, for
that.  Now hold your tongue, Sydney.  It is out of the question--your
being out of our sight after dark.  Good morning, my love."

As soon as Charles returned home, after having delivered the letter into
Mr Rowland's own hands, Mr Hope gathered his family together, for
their Sunday worship.  The servants entered the room with countenances
full of the melancholy which they concluded, notwithstanding all
evidence to the contrary, that their master and mistress must be
experiencing: but, when service was over, they retired with the feeling
that the family-worship had never been more gladsome.



CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.

KEEPING SUNDAY.

Mr Enderby was in the churchyard when the congregation poured out from
the porch.  Group after group walked away, and he saw no signs of the
party he was waiting for.  Mrs Rowland lingered in the aisle, with the
intention of allowing all Deerbrook time to look at Mr Walcot.  When
none but the Levitts remained, the lady issued forth from the porch,
leaning on Mr Walcot's arm, and followed by four of her children, who
were walking two and two, holding up their heads, and glancing round to
see how many people were observing the new gentleman they had brought
with them from Cheltenham.  Mr Enderby approached the family party, and
said--

"Sister, will you introduce me to Mr Walcot?"

"With the greatest pleasure, my dear brother.  Mr Walcot, my brother,
Mr Enderby.  Brother, my friend, Mr Walcot."

Mr Walcot blushed with delight, looked as if he longed to shake hands
if he dared, and said something of his joy at becoming acquainted with
the brother of so kind a friend as Mrs Rowland.

"There is not much to be apprehended here," thought Mr Enderby.  "How
perfectly unlike what I had fancied!  This dragon, which was to devour
the Hopes, seems a pretty harmless creature.  Why he looks a mere boy,
and with hair so light, one can't see it without spectacles.  What will
he do with himself in my mother's good house?  Fanny Grey's bird-cage
would suit him better;--and then he might hang in Rowland's hall, and be
always ready for use when the children are ill.  I must have out what I
mean to say to him, however; and, from his looks, I should fancy I may
do what I please with him.  He will go away before dinner, if I ask him,
I have little doubt.  I wonder that, while she was about it, Priscilla
did not find out somebody who had the outside of a professional man at
least.  This youth looks as if he would not draw one's tooth for the
world, because it would hurt one so!  How he admires the rooks and the
green grass on the graves, because the children do!--Sister," he
continued aloud, "I am sorry to deprive you of your companion; but it is
absolutely necessary that Mr Walcot and I should have some conversation
together immediately.  The children will go home with you; and we will
follow presently."

Mrs Rowland looked thunder and lightning at her brother; but Mr Walcot
appeared so highly pleased, that she considered it safest to acquiesce
in the present arrangement, trusting to undo Philip's work in the course
of the afternoon.  So she sailed away with the children.

"This is no time for ceremony," observed Enderby, as he led the way to
the walk under the trees.  "I have used none with my sister, as you
perceive; and I shall use none with you."

"Thank you, sir.  My dear parents have always taught me that there could
be no occasion for ceremony where people feel kindly, and mean only what
is right.  They will be pleased to hear that you do not think ceremony
necessary between us."

"The circumstances are too urgent for it in the present case;--that is
what I mean," said Philip.  "I am confident, Mr Walcot, from what you
say about feeling kindly and meaning rightly, that you cannot be aware
what is the real state of affairs in Deerbrook, or you could not have
been induced to think of settling here."

"Oh, I assure you, sir, you are mistaken.  Mrs Rowland herself was the
person who told me all about it; and I repeated all she said to my
parents.  They strongly advised my coming; and I am sure they would
never recommend me to do anything that was not right."

"Then, if I tell you what I know to be the true state of the case here,
will you represent it fully to your parents, and see what they will say
then?"

"Certainly.  I can have no objection to that.  They will be very sorry,
however, if any difficulty should arise.  I had a letter from them this
very morning, in which they say that they consider me a fortunate youth
to have fallen in with such a friend as Mrs Rowland, who promises she
will be a mother, or rather, I should say, a sister to me, and to have
stepped at once into such practice as Mrs Rowland says I shall
certainly have here.  They say what is very true, that it is a singular
and happy chance to befall a youth who has only just finished his
education."

"That is so true, that you ought not to be surprised if it should turn
out that there is something wrong at the bottom of the affair.  I am
going to show you what this wrong is, that you may take warning in time,
and not discover, when it is too late, that you have been injuring an
honourable man, who has been too hardly treated already."

"I should be sorry to do that: but I cannot think what you can mean."

"I dare say not.  Pray have you been told of a Mr Hope who lives here?"

"Oh, yes; we saw the people breaking his windows as we drove past,
yesterday evening.  He must be a very improper, disagreeable man.  And
it is very hard upon the ladies and gentlemen here to have no one to
attend them but that sort of person."

"That is one account of Mr Hope: now you must hear the other."  And Mr
Enderby gave a full statement of Hope's character, past services, and
present position, in terms which he conceived to be level with the
capacity of the young man.  He kept his sister out of the story, as far
as it was possible, but did not soften the statement of her calumnies,
though refraining from exhibiting their origin.  "Now," said he, at the
end of his story, "have I not shown cause for consideration, as to
whether you should settle here or not?"

"For consideration, certainly.  But, you see, it is so difficult to know
what to think.  Here is Mrs Rowland telling me one set of things about
Mr Hope, and you tell me something quite different."

"Well, what do you propose to do?"

"I shall consult my parents, of course."

"Had not you better set off by the coach to-morrow morning, and tell
your parents all about it before you commit yourself?"

"I do not see how I could do that very well, as I have engaged to go
over and see these people in Sir William Hunter's almshouses, that I am
to have the charge of.  No; I think my best way will be this.  I will
write fully to my parents first.  I will do that this afternoon.  Then,
considering that I have said I shall stay here, and that the house is
going to be got ready for me,--and considering how hard it is upon the
ladies and gentlemen here to have nobody to attend them but a person
they do not like,--and considering, too, that I cannot tell for myself
what Mr Hope really is, while people differ so about him, I think I had
better wait here (just as I should have done if you had not told me all
this) till Mrs Rowland, and you, and Sir William Hunter, and everybody,
have settled whether Mr Hope is really a good man or not: and then, you
know, I can go away, after all, if I please."

Philip thought that Dr Levitt must have been preaching to his new
parishioner to join the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of
the dove.  Mr Walcot himself seemed quietly satisfied with his own
decision, for he adhered to it, repeating it in answer to every appeal
that Philip could devise.

"I think it right to warn you," said Philip, "that if the prospect of
being my mother's medical attendant has been part of your inducement to
settle here, you have been misled in relying on it.  My mother is much
attached to Mr Hope and his family; she prefers him to every other
medical attendant; and I shall take care that she has her own way in
this particular."

"While I am in Mrs Rowland's house, I shall, of course, attend Mrs
Rowland's family," replied Mr Walcot.

"Her children, if she pleases; but not necessarily her mother."

"Yes; her mother too, as I dare say you will see."

"You will allow Mrs Enderby to choose her own medical attendant, I
presume?"

"Oh, yes: and I have no doubt she will choose me.  Mrs Rowland says
so."

"Here comes a gentleman with whom I want to speak," said Philip, seeing
Mr Grey approaching from a distance.  "He is as warm a friend and
admirer of Mr Hope as I am; and--"

"Mr Hope married into his family,--did not he?"

"Yes; but Mr Grey and Mr Hope were friends long before either of them
was acquainted with Mrs Hope.  The friendship between the gentlemen was
more likely to have caused the marriage than the marriage the
friendship."

"Ah! that does happen sometimes, I know."

"What I was going to say is this, Mr Walcot, that Mr Hope's friends
have determined to see justice done him; and that if, in the prosecution
of this design, you should imagine that you are remarkably coolly
treated,--by myself, for instance,--you must remember that I fairly
warned you from the beginning that I shall give no countenance to any
one who comes knowingly to establish himself on the ruins of a traduced
man's reputation.  You will remember this, Mr Walcot."

"Oh, certainly.  I am sure I shall expect nothing from anybody; for
nobody here knows me.  It is only through Mrs Rowland's kindness that I
have any prospect here at all."

"I will just give you one more warning, as you seem a very young man.
The Deerbrook people are apt to be extremely angry when they are angry
at all.  What would you think of it, if they should break your windows,
as they broke Mr Hope's last night, when they find that you have been
thriving upon his practice, while they were under a mistake concerning
him which you were fully informed of?"

"I do not think I should mind it.  I might get over it, you know, as Mr
Hope would then have done.  Or I might go away, after all, if I pleased.
But you want to speak to that gentleman; so I will wish you good
morning."

"You will represent to your parents all I have said?  Then, pray, do not
omit the last,--about what dreadful people the Deerbrook people are when
they are angry; and how likely it is that they may be very angry with
you some day.  I advise you by all means to mention this."

"Yes, certainly; thank you.  I shall write this afternoon."

"I wish Mrs Rowland joy of her fledgling," said Enderby, as he joined
Mr Grey.

"I was just thinking, as you and he came up, that a few lessons from the
drill-sergeant at Blickley would do him no harm.  Perhaps, however, your
sister will teach him to hold up his head better.  I rather think he is
a little scared with the rooks, is not he?  What in the world is your
sister to do with him, now she has got him here?"

"I hope little Anna will lend him her cup and ball on rainy days."

"Do you find him a simpleton?"

"I hardly know.  One must see him more than once to be quite sure.  But
enough of him for the present.  I have just come from the corner-house;
but I am not going to talk about the Hopes either: and yet I have
something out of the common way to say to you, my good friend."

"I am glad you call me by that name," observed Mr Grey, kindly.  "I
never could see, for the life of me, why men should look askance upon
one another, because their relations, (no matter on which side, or
perhaps on both), happen to be more or less in the wrong."

"And there are other reasons why you and I should beware of being
affected by the faults and weaknesses of our connections, Mr Grey,--and
that is what I have now to say.  I mean, because we may become connected
ourselves.  How will you like me for a relation, I wonder."

"It is so, then?"

"It is so: and it is by Margaret's desire that I inform you of it now,
before the circumstance becomes generally known.  If you think Mrs Grey
will be gratified by early information, I believe I must beg that you
will go home and tell her directly.  We are as fully aware as you can
be, of the absurdity of this way of talking: but circumstances compel us
to--"

"I know, I understand.  People here have been persuaded that you were
engaged to some other lady; and you will have no help in contradicting
this from your own family, who may not like your marrying into our
connection so decidedly--as I have heard the ladies say about our friend
Hope."

"Just so."

"Well, my opinion is, that it is of little consequence what your friends
may say now, when time is so sure to justify your choice.  There is no
need for me to tell you that you are a happy man, Mr Enderby.  There is
not a more amiable girl living than that cousin Margaret of mine.  I
charge you to make her happy, Enderby.  I do not mean that I have any
doubt of it: but I charge you to make her happy."

Philip did not like to speak (any more than to do other things) without
being pretty sure of doing it well.  He was silent now because he could
not well speak.  He was anything but ashamed of his attachment to
Margaret; but he could not open his lips upon it.

"I trust there is the better chance of her being happy," continued Mr
Grey, "that she is going to marry a man of somewhat less enthusiasm than
her sister has chosen, Mr Enderby."

"Do not speak of that, Mr Grey.  We might not agree.  I can only say
that I am so fully sensible of my immeasurable inferiority to Hope, I
know I am hardly worthy to appreciate him...  I cannot give you an idea
of my sense of his superiority...  And to hear him set below me...

"Do not mistake me, my dear friend.  No one can value Mr Hope more than
I do, as indeed I have every reason to do.  Only you see the effects of
that unfortunate vote of his.  That is just what I mean, now.  If you
had been in his place, I rather think you would have done what was
prudent--you would not have run into anything so useless as giving that
vote, when there was not another person in Deerbrook to vote the same
way.  You would not, Enderby."

"I trust I should, if I had had Margaret to keep me up to my duty."

"Well, well; I may be wrong; but it vexes me to see anxiety and sorrow
in my cousin Hester's beautiful face; and that is the truth of it.  But,
indeed, her husband is a fine fellow, and I respect him from the bottom
of my soul; and it makes me extremely happy to hear that Margaret has
met with one whom I can as cordially approve.  You have my hearty good
wishes, I assure you.  Now, when may I see my cousin, to wish her joy?
I must go home now, and let my family know about it, you say?"

"If you please; for I must tell Margaret how kindly you have received
what I had to communicate.  She will be waiting anxiously."

"Why, she could not doubt my good will, surely?  How should I be
otherwise than pleased?  Nor have I any doubt of my wife's feeling.  You
stand very high in her good graces, Enderby, I can assure you.  I was
not fully aware of this myself, till I saw how vexed she was at hearing
that you were engaged to that lady abroad.  She never could make out
what Margaret was feeling about that; but she used to say to me when we
were by ourselves, that if Margaret was not hurt and angry, she was.
But I suppose the little gipsy was laughing at us and all Deerbrook all
the time; though she kept her gravity wonderfully."

Philip was not disposed to throw any light on this part of the affair;
and the gentlemen parted at the turnstile.  After a few steps, Philip
heard himself called.  Mr Grey was hastening after him, to know whether
this matter was to be spoken of, or to remain quiet, after Mrs Grey had
been informed.  He had perfectly understood that all Deerbrook was soon
to know it; but it was a different question whether his family were to
be authorised to tell it.  Mr Enderby desired they would follow their
own inclinations entirely.  Margaret's only wish was, that her kind
relations should be informed directly from herself before anybody else
but her friend, Miss Young: and his own only desire was, that, on
Margaret's account, every one should understand that his engagement was
to her, and not to any lady at Rome or elsewhere.  Virtual provision
having thus been made for the enlightenment of all Deerbrook in the
course of the day, the gentlemen once more went their respective ways.

In her present mood of amiability, Mrs Rowland determined on giving the
Greys the pleasure of a call from Mr Walcot.  In the afternoon, when
Fanny was saying her catechism to her mamma, and Mary was repeating a
hymn to Sophia, Mrs Rowland's well-known knock was heard, and any
religious feelings which might have been aroused in the minds of the
little girls were put to flight by the sound.  Sophia turned her feet
off the sofa, where she had been lying all day, that Mrs Rowland might
not suspect that she had suffered from the mobbing of the Hopes.  The
children were enjoined not to refer to it, and were recommended to avoid
the subject of Miss Young also, if possible.

The amazement and wrath of the party at hearing Mr Walcot announced was
beyond expression.  Mrs Grey was sufficiently afraid of her neighbour
to confine herself to negative rudeness.  She did the most she dared in
not looking at Mr Walcot, or asking him to sit down.  He did not appear
to miss her attentions, but seated himself beside her daughter, and
offered remarks on the difference between Deerbrook and Cheltenham.
Sophia made no intelligible replies, and looked impenetrably reserved;
he therefore tried another subject, enlarged upon Mrs Rowland's extreme
kindness to him, and said that his parents wrote that they considered
him a fortunate youth in having met with a friend who would be a mother
or sister to him, now that he was no longer under the parental wing.
Sophia had intended to be quite distant and silent, but his long-winded
praises of all the Rowlands were too much for her.  She observed that it
was generally considered that there was nobody in Deerbrook to compare
with the family in the corner-house--the Hopes and Miss Ibbotson.  From
this moment, the _tete-a-tete_ became animated; the speakers alternated
rapidly and regularly; for every virtue in a Rowland there was a noble
quality in a Hope; for every accomplishment in Matilda and Anna, there
was a grace in "our dear Mr Hope" or "our sweet Hester."  Fanny and
Mary listened with some amusement to what they heard on either side of
their pair of low stools.  As sure as they were desired particularly to
avoid any subject with the Rowlands, they knew that their mother would
presently be in the midst of it.  The prohibition showed that her mind
was full of it: and whatever her mind was full of was poured out upon
Mrs Rowland.  The two ladies were presently deep in the riot, and
almost at high words about Miss Young.  The girls looked at each other,
and strove to keep the corners of their mouths in order.  In the midst
of the conflict of sentiment on these two subjects, Mrs Rowland's ear
caught what Sophia was saying--that there was one person in the same
house with Mr Walcot who properly estimated the Hopes--Mr Enderby, who
was engaged to Margaret Ibbotson.  While Mr Walcot was carefully
explaining that Mr Enderby was not in the same house, Mr Enderby
having a bed at his mother's house still, though that house was already
preparing for the reception of himself, its new tenant, Mrs Rowland
leaned forward with her most satirical air, and begged to assure Miss
Grey that she had been misinformed--that what she had just been saying
was a mistake.

Sophia looked at her mother in absolute terror, lest they should have
adopted a joke of her father's for earnest.  But Mrs Grey was positive.
Mrs Rowland laughed more and more provokingly: Mrs Grey grew more and
more angry; and at last sent the little girls to see whether their
father was at home, that he might bear his testimony.  He came; and in
reply to his astonishment about what she could mean, Mrs Rowland said
that she did not deny that there was some present entanglement; but that
she warned Margaret's connections not to suppose that her brother would
ever be married to Miss Ibbotson.  Mr Grey observed that time would
show, and inquired after Mrs Enderby.  The report of her was very
flattering indeed.  She was to be quite well now soon.  Mr Walcot's
opinion of her case was precisely what Mrs Rowland had always held.
Mrs Enderby's complaints were nervous--nervous altogether.  With
retirement from common acquaintances, and the society of the dear
children, and the attendance of a servant (most highly recommended) who
would not humour her fancies as Phoebe had done; and, above all, with a
medical attendant under the same roof for the present, she was to be
quite well immediately.  Mr Walcot's countenance wore an expression of
perfect delight at the prospect, and Mr Grey's of the blackest
displeasure.

When the visitors were gone, Mr Walcot being allowed to find his way
out as he could, the little girls heard them discussed in the way which
might be expected, and were then desired to finish their catechism and
hymn.  Mamma and Sophia were still flushed and agitated with what they
had been hearing and saying, when the low serious voices of Fanny and
Mary recited--the one an abjuration of all envy, malice, hatred, and
uncharitableness; and the other--

  "Teach me to feel for others' woe,
  To hide the faults I see;
  The mercy I to others show,
  That mercy show to me."

"You have a warning, my dear," said Mrs Grey to Fanny, "in the lady who
was here just now--a terrible warning against malice and all those
faults.  You see how unhappy she makes every one about her, by her
having indulged her temper to such a degree.  You see--"

"Mary, my darling," said Mr Grey, "repeat that hymn to me again:--

  "`Teach me to feel for others' woe,
  To hide the faults I see.'

"Let us have that hymn over again, my dear child."



CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.

GOING TO REST.

Mr Walcot had arrived nearly at the end of his letter to his parents,
when summoned to attend Mrs Rowland to call on the Greys.  He was
afterwards glad that he had left room to put in that perhaps what Mr
Enderby had said about Deerbrook ought to be the less regarded, from its
having come out that he was in an entanglement with the sister-in-law of
this Mr Hope, when he had rather have been engaged to another person--
being actually, indeed, attached to a lady now abroad.  He represented
that Mrs Rowland evidently paid very little regard to her brother's
views of Deerbrook affairs, now that his mind was in a state of
distraction between his proper attachment and his new entanglement.  So
Mr Enderby's opinion ought not to go for more than it was worth.

The letter was still not quite finished when he was called to Mrs
Enderby.  She was very ill, and Mr Rowland and Phoebe were alarmed.
Philip was at the corner-house.  Mrs Rowland was gone to see Miss
Young, to convince her that she must put herself into Mr Walcot's hands
immediately--to declare, indeed, that she should send her own medical
man to attend her dear children's governess.  The argument occupied some
time, and Mrs Rowland's absence was protracted.  Mrs Enderby had been
extremely terrified, the evening before, at the noises she had heard,
and the light of the bonfire upon the sky.  The children were permitted
to carry to her all the extravagant reports that were afloat about Mr
Hope being roasted in the fire, the ladies being in the hands of the
mob, and so forth; and though her son-in-law had seen her before she
settled for the night, and had assured her that everybody was safe, she
could not be tranquillised.  She thought he was deceiving her for her
good, and that the children were probably nearest the truth.  She was
unable to close her eyes, and in the middle of the night told Phoebe
that she could not be satisfied--she should not have a moment's peace--
till she had seen some one of the dear people from the corner-house, to
know from themselves that they were quite safe.  Phoebe had found it
difficult to persuade her that it was now two o'clock in the morning,
and that they were all, no doubt, sleeping in their beds.  She passed a
wretched night; and the next day, after Philip had succeeded in
composing her, a strange gentleman was brought to her to prescribe for
her.  This revived her terrors.  She said she would ask no more
questions, for all were in league to deceive her.  Then she cried
because, she had said so harsh a thing, and begged that Phoebe would not
expose it.  Her weeping continued till Phoebe's heart was almost broken.
The infallible drops failed; arrowroot was in vain; the children were
sent away as soon as they came in, as it would hurt their spirits, their
mother thought, to see distress of this kind.  In the afternoon quiet
was prescribed by the authorities, and the old lady was left alone with
Phoebe.  To the weeping succeeded the spasms, so violent that little
George was despatched with all speed to summon his uncle, and Mr Walcot
was called away from crossing the ends of his letter.  No one but he
proposed sending for Mrs Rowland; and his hint to that effect was not
taken.

Philip arrived in a shorter time than could have been supposed possible.
Mr Rowland then immediately disappeared.  He had formed the heroic
resolution of bringing Margaret into the house, on his own
responsibility, for Mrs Enderby's relief and gratification and he was
gone to tell Margaret that he considered her now as Mrs Enderby's
daughter, and was come to summon her to the sick bed.  Philip presently
discovered that the presence of some one from the Hopes would be the
best cordial that could be administered; and he set forth on the same
errand--to bring Margaret, that she might have his protection in case of
his sister returning before her arrival.  Mrs Rowland did return: and
the two gentlemen, having taken different roads to the corner-house (it
being a matter of old dispute which was the shortest) missed each other.
Margaret was gone with Mr Rowland before Philip arrived.

"Here I will leave you," said Mr Rowland to Margaret, on the steps of
his own house.  "You will find Philip and Phoebe upstairs, and Mr
Walcot.  I must go in search of Mr Hope, and beg the favour of him to
tell me whether we are proceeding rightly with our patient.  She is too
ill for ceremony."

Margaret wondered why, if this was the case, Mr Rowland did not bring
Edward to the patient at once; but she had her wonder to herself, for
her escort was gone.  The servant did not more than half-open the door,
and seemed unwilling to let Margaret enter; but she passed in, saying
that she must see Phoebe for a moment.  She soon found that she was to
be left standing on the mat; for no person appeared, though she thought
she heard whispers upstairs.  Ned coming to peep from the study-door,
she beckoned him to her, and asked to be shown to where Phoebe was.  The
child took her hand, and led her upstairs.  At the top of the first
flight she met the lady of the house, who asked her, with an air of
astonishment, what she wanted there?  Margaret replied that Mr Rowland
had brought her to see Mrs Enderby.  That was impossible, the lady
replied.  Mr Rowland knew that Mrs Enderby was too ill to receive
visitors.  She herself would send for Miss Ibbotson whenever it should
be proper for Mrs Enderby to admit strangers.  Margaret replied that
she must see Phoebe--that she should not retire till she had spoken to
her, or till Mr Rowland's return.  Mrs Rowland sent Ned to desire the
servant to open the door for Miss Ibbotson; and Margaret took her seat
on a chair on the landing, saying that, relying on her title to be
admitted to Mrs Enderby, at the desire of her old friend herself, and
of all the family but Mrs Rowland, she should wait till she could
obtain admittance.

How rejoiced was she, at this moment, to hear the house door open, to
hear the step she knew so well, to see Philip, and to have her arm drawn
within his!

"Let us pass," said he to his sister, who stopped the way.

"Rest a moment," said Margaret.  "Recover your breath a little, or we
shall flurry her."

"She is flurried to death already," said Philip, in his deepest tone of
emotion.  "Priscilla, our mother is dying; it is my belief that she is
dying.  If you have any humanity,--if you have any regard for your own
future peace of mind, conduct yourself decently now.  Govern your own
family as you will, when you have lost your mother; but hold off your
hand from her last hours."

"Your own last hours are to come," said Margaret.  "As you would have
Matilda be to you then, be you to your mother now."

"I must ascertain one thing, Philip," said Mrs Rowland.  "Does my
mother know of what you call your engagement to Miss Ibbotson?"

"She does not; and the sole reason is, that I would not subject her to
what you might say and do.  I wished, for her own sake, to keep the
whole affair out of her thoughts, when once I had removed the false
impressions you had given her.  But Margaret and I may see fit to tell
her now.  I may see fit to give her the comfort of a daughter who will
be to her what you ought to have been."

He gently drew his sister aside, to make way for Margaret to pass.

"In my own house!" exclaimed Mrs Rowland, in a tone of subdued rage.

"We should have been in the house over the way," replied her brother;
"and we act as if we were there.  Come, my Margaret, we are doing
right."

"We are," replied Margaret; but yet she trembled.

"I must go in first, and tell her that I have brought you," said Philip.
"And yet I do not like to leave you, even for a moment."

"Oh, never mind!  I am not to be shaken now."

Mrs Rowland did not appear during the two long minutes that Margaret
was left by herself in the dressing-room.  When Philip came for her, he
said:

"You must not leave her again.  You will stay, will not you?  You shall
be protected: but you must stay.  I shall tell her how we stand to each
other,--we will tell her,--carefully, for she cannot bear much
emotion.--You are tired,--you must be tired," he continued, looking at
her with anxiety: "but--"

"Do not speak of it.  I did sleep last night, and there will be time
enough for sleep when duty is done,--the duty for which I have longed
ever since I knew what duty was."  And her eyes swam in tears.

Phoebe's face was a dismal sight,--too dismal for the sickroom, for so
many hours had she been in tears.  She was dismissed to refresh herself
with a turn in the garden.  It was Philip's doing that she was at hand
at all.  Mrs Rowland had ordained that she should go; but Philip had
supported the girl in her resolution to bear anything, rather than leave
her mistress while it was essential to her mistress's comfort that she
should stay.

Mrs Enderby was in great pain; but yet not suffering too much to be
comforted by finding that all were safe and well in the corner-house.
She even smiled when the others laughed at the ridiculous stories with
which the children had assaulted her imagination.  She thought it was
very wrong for people to fabricate such things, and tell them to
children:--they might chance to put some extremely old ladies into a
terrible fright.--She was soothed in the very midst of a spasm, by
hearing that Margaret would stay with her as long as she liked, if it
would be of any comfort to her.  In answer to her surprise and almost
alarm at such a blessing, Philip said that Margaret wished it as a
pleasure, and asked it as a sort of right.  Now, could she not guess any
reason why it was a sort of right of Margaret's to attend upon her like
a daughter?  Yes,--it was so indeed!  Margaret was to be her daughter--
some time or other,--when her big boy should have learned all his
lessons, as little George would say.

"I am thankful!  Indeed I _am_ thankful, my dears, to hear this.  But,
my loves, that will be too late for me.  I rejoice indeed; but it will
be too late for me."

"Well, then, let me be your daughter now."

The old lady clasped her arms about Margaret, and endured her next
paroxysm with her head upon her young friend's shoulder.

"I have a daughter already," said she, when she revived a little: "but I
have room in my heart for another: and I always had you in my heart, my
love, from the first moment I saw you."

"You hold all the world in your heart, I think."

"Ah! my love, you flatter me.  I mean I took to you particularly from
the very hour I saw you.  You have always been so kind and gentle with
me!"

Margaret's heart swelled at the thought that any one could ever have
been otherwise than kind and gentle to one so lowly and so loving.

Nothing more could be done than was done for the sufferer.  Hope saw
her, at Mr Rowland's desire, and said this.  He left directions with
Margaret, and then declined staying where his presence could be of no
use, and caused much annoyance.  Mrs Enderby was sinking rapidly.  The
probability was, that a few hours would end the struggle.  Mrs Rowland
was much alarmed and shocked.  She went and came between the
drawing-room and her mother's chamber, but talked of the claims of her
children at such a time, and persuaded herself that her duty lay chiefly
with them.  Others wanted no persuasion about the matter.  They were too
glad to have her dispose herself where she would be out of her mother's
way.  Mrs Enderby looked round now and then, and seemed as if on the
point of asking for her, but that her courage failed.  At last, about
eight in the evening, when Mrs Rowland had come in softly, and Phoebe
had met her at the door, to say something very unceremonious, Mrs
Enderby's voice was heard.

"Phoebe, I hope you are not preventing any person from coming in.  I
should wish to see my daughter.  Priscilla, my dear, let me see you.
Come to me, my dear."

Mrs Rowland's face was very pale, and her brow told of a dreadful
headache.  There was a dark expression in her countenance, but the
traces of irritability were gone.  She was subdued for the hour.

"My dear daughter," said Mrs Enderby, "I may not be able at another
time to thank you as I should like for all the care you have taken of
me:--nor can I now do it as I could wish: but I thank you, my love."

Mrs Rowland involuntarily cast a glance at her brother and Margaret, to
see how they took this: but their eyes were fixed on her mother.

"And I can only say," continued Mrs Enderby, "that I am aware that you
must have had many things to bear from me.  I must have been much in
your way, and often--"

Margaret and Philip implored her to say nothing of this kind; they could
not bear it from one who was all patience herself, and gave no cause for
forbearance in others.  Mrs Rowland did not speak--perhaps because she
could not.

"Well, well; I will not dwell upon these things.  You are all very kind.
I only wanted to say that I was sensible of--of many things.
Priscilla--"

"Mother!" said she, starting.

"This dear young friend of ours,--she calls herself my daughter, bless
her!--is to be your sister, my love.  Philip has been telling me--.  Let
me see--.  Give me the pleasure of seeing--"

Margaret could have opened her arms to any spectre from the pale
kingdoms at a moment like this, and under the imploring eye of Mrs
Enderby.  She disengaged her hand from that of her old friend, and took
Mrs Rowland's, offering to kiss her cheek.  Mrs Rowland returned the
kiss, with some little visible agitation.

"Thank you, my dears!" said Mrs Enderby, in a strong voice of
satisfaction.  She had made a great effort.  Her speech now failed her;
but they thought she would have said something about the children.

"The children--" said Mrs Rowland, rather eagerly.  She turned, and
went slowly out of the room.  The moment the door was shut, there was a
heavy fall.  She had fainted on the outside.

Her mother heard it not.  When Mrs Rowland was found to be reviving,
the children were brought to their grandmamma's room.  They quietly
visited the bed, one by one, and with solemnity kissed the wasted
cheek,--the first time they had ever kissed grandmamma without return.
The baby made its remark upon this in its own way.  As it had often done
before, it patted the cheek rather roughly: several hands were instantly
stretched out to stop its play; it set up a cry, and was hurried out of
the room.

By the middle of the night, Margaret was longing to be at home and
alone.  It was all over.  She was ashamed to think of her own share of
the loss while witnessing Philip's manly grief, or even while seeing how
Phoebe lamented, and how Mr Rowland himself was broken-down; but not
the less for this was her heart repeating, till it was sick of itself,
"I have lost another mother."

She did not see Mrs Rowland again.

In the earliest grey of the morning, Mr Rowland took Margaret home.  As
they stood on the steps, waiting to be let in, she observed that the
morning star was yellow and bright in the sky.  As soon as the sun had
risen, the toll of the church bell conveyed to every ear in Deerbrook
the news that Mrs Enderby was dead.  Perhaps there might have been
compunction in the breasts of some who had been abroad on Saturday
night, on hearing the universal remark that it must have been rather
sudden at last.



CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.

MOVING ONWARD.

The world rolls on, let what may be happening to the individuals who
occupy it.  The sun rises and sets, seed-time and harvest come and go,
generations arise and pass away, law and authority hold on their course,
while hundreds of millions of human hearts have stirring within them
struggles and emotions eternally new,--an experience so diversified as
that no two days appear alike to any one, and to no two does any one day
appear the same.  There is something so striking in this perpetual
contrast between the external uniformity and internal variety of the
procedure of existence, that it is no wonder that multitudes have formed
a conception of Fate,--of a mighty unchanging power, blind to the
differences of spirits, and deaf to the appeals of human delight and
misery; a huge insensible force, beneath which all that is spiritual is
sooner or later wounded, and is ever liable to be crushed.  This
conception of Fate is grand, is natural, and fully warranted to minds
too lofty to be satisfied with the details of human life, but which have
not risen to the far higher conception of a Providence, to whom this
uniformity and variety are but means to a higher end, than they
apparently involve.  There is infinite blessing in having reached the
nobler conception; the feeling of helplessness is relieved; the craving
for sympathy from the ruling power is satisfied; there is a hold for
veneration; there is room for hope: there is, above all, the stimulus
and support of an end perceived or anticipated; a purpose which steeps
in sanctity all human experience.  Yet even where this blessing is the
most fully felt and recognised, the spirit cannot but be at times
overwhelmed by the vast regularity of aggregate existence,--thrown back
upon its faith for support, when it reflects how all things go on as
they did before it became conscious of existence, and how all would go
on as now, if it were to die to-day.  On it rolls,--not only the great
globe itself, but the life which stirs and hums on its surface,
enveloping it like an atmosphere;--on it rolls; and the vastest tumult
that may take place among its inhabitants can no more make itself seen
and heard above the general stir and hum of life, than Chimborazo or the
loftiest Himalaya can lift its peak into space above the atmosphere.
On, on it rolls; and the strong arm of the united race could not turn
from its course one planetary mote of the myriads that swim in space: no
shriek of passion nor shrill song of joy, sent up from a group of
nations on a continent, could attain the ear of the eternal Silence, as
she sits throned among the stars.  Death is less dreary than life in
this view--a view which at times, perhaps, presents itself to every
mind, but which speedily vanishes before the faith of those who, with
the heart, believe that they are not the accidents of Fate, but the
children of a Father.  In the house of every wise parent may then be
seen an epitome of life,--a sight whose consolation is needed at times,
perhaps, by all.  Which of the little children of a virtuous household
can conceive of his entering into his parent's pursuits, or interfering
with them?  How sacred are the study and the office, the apparatus of a
knowledge and a power which he can only venerate!  Which of these little
ones dreams of disturbing the course of his parent's thought or
achievement?  Which of them conceives of the daily routine of the
household--its going forth and coming in, its rising and its rest--
having been different before his birth, or that it would be altered by
his absence?  It is even a matter of surprise to him when it now and
then occurs to him that there is anything set apart for him,--that he
has clothes and couch, and that his mother thinks and cares for him.  If
he lags behind in a walk, or finds himself alone among the trees, he
does not dream of being missed; but home rises up before him as he has
always seen it--his father thoughtful, his mother occupied, and the rest
gay, with the one difference of his not being there.  Thus he believes,
and has no other trust than in his shrieks of terror, for being ever
remembered more.  Yet, all the while, from day to day, from year to
year, without one moment's intermission, is the providence of his parent
around him, brooding over the workings of his infant spirit, chastening
its passions, nourishing its affections,--now troubling it with salutary
pain, now animating it with even more wholesome delight.  All the while
is the order of household affairs regulated for the comfort and profit
of these lowly little ones, though they regard it reverently because
they cannot comprehend it.  They may not know of all this,--how their
guardian bends over their pillow nightly, and lets no word of their
careless talk drop unheeded, hails every brightening gleam of reason,
and records every sob of infant grief; and every chirp of childish
glee,--they may not know this, because they could not understand it
aright, and each little heart would be inflated with pride, each little
mind would lose the grace and purity of its unconsciousness: but the
guardianship is not the less real, constant, and tender, for its being
unrecognised by its objects.  As the spirit expands, and perceives that
it is one of an innumerable family, it would be in danger of sinking
into the despair of loneliness if it were not capable of:--

  "Belief
  In mercy carried infinite degrees
  Beyond the tenderness of human hearts,"

while the very circumstance of multitude obviates the danger of undue
elation.  But, though it is good to be lowly, it behoves every one to be
sensible of the guardianship, of which so many evidences are around all
who breathe.  While the world and life roll on and on, the feeble reason
of the child of Providence may be at times overpowered with the vastness
of the system amidst which he lives; but his faith will smile upon his
fear, rebuke him for averting his eyes, and inspire him with the
thought, "Nothing can crush me, for I am made for eternity.  I will do,
suffer and enjoy, as my Father wills and let the world and life roll
on!"

Such is the faith which supports, which alone can support, the many who,
having been whirled in the eddying stream of social affairs, are
withdrawn, by one cause or another, to abide, in some still little
creek, the passage of the mighty tide.  The broken-down statesman, who
knows himself to be spoken of as politically dead, and sees his
successors at work building on his foundations, without more than a
passing thought on who had laboured before them, has need of this faith.
The aged who find affairs proceeding at the will of the young and
hardy, whatever the grey-haired may think and say, have need of this
faith.  So have the sick, when they find none but themselves disposed to
look on life in the light which comes from beyond the grave.  So have
the persecuted, when, with or without cause, they see themselves pointed
at in the streets; and the despised, who find themselves neglected,
whichever way they turn.  So have the prosperous, during those moments
which must occur to all, when sympathy fails, and means to much desired
ends are wanting, or when satiety makes the spirit roam abroad in search
of something better than it has found.  This universal, eternal, filial
relation is the only universal and eternal refuge.  It is the solace of
royalty weeping in the inner chambers of its palaces, and of poverty
drooping beside its cold hearth.  It is the glad tidings preached to the
poor, and in which all must be poor in spirit to have part.  If they be
poor in spirit, it matters little what is their external state, or
whether the world which rolls on beside or over them be the world of a
solar system, or of a conquering empire, or of a small-souled village.

It now and then seemed strange to Hope, his wife and sister--now and
then, and for a passing moment--that while their hearts were full of
motion and their hands occupied with the vicissitudes of their lot, the
little world around them, which was wont to busy itself so strenuously
with their affairs, should work its yearly round as if it heeded them
not.  As often as they detected themselves in this thought, they smiled
at it; for might not each neighbour say the same of them as constituting
a part of the surrounding world? there a cottage where some engrossing
interest did not defy sympathy; where there was not some secret joy,
some heart-sore, hidden from every eye; some important change, while all
looked as familiar as the thatch and paling, and the faces which
appeared within them?  Yet there seemed something wonderful in the
regularity with which affairs proceeded.  The hawthorn hedges blossomed,
and the corn was green in the furrows: the saw of the carpenter was
heard from day to day, and the anvil of the blacksmith rang.  The
letter-carrier blew his horn as the times came round; the children
shouted in the road; and their parents bought and sold, planted and
delved, ate and slept, as they had ever done, and as if existence were
as mechanical as the clock which told the hours without fail from the
grey steeple.  Amidst all this, how great were the changes in the
corner-house!

In the early spring, the hearts of the dwellers in that house had been,
though far less dreary than in the winter, still heavy at times with
care.  Hester thought that she should never again look upon the palm
boughs of the willow, swelling with sap, and full of the hum of the
early bees, or upon the bright green sprouts of the gooseberry in the
cottage gardens, or upon the earliest primrose of the season on its
moist bank, without a vivid recollection of the anxieties of this first
spring season of her married life.  The balmy month of May, rich in its
tulips, and lilacs, and guelder roses, was sacred to Margaret, from the
sorrow which it brought in the death of Mrs Enderby.  She wandered
under the hedgerows with Philip, during the short remainder of his stay,
and alone when he was gone; and grew into better acquaintance with her
own state of heart and mind, and into higher hope for the future of all
whom she loved most.  When the mowers were in the field, and the
chirping fledgelings had become birds of the air, and the days were at
the longest, her country rambles became more precious, for they must
henceforth be restricted;--they must be scarcer and shorter.  In the
place of the leisure and solitude for books in her own room and for
meditation in the field--leisure and solitude which had been to this day
more dreamed of than enjoyed, she must now betake herself to more active
duty.  The maid Susan was discharged at Midsummer: and not only Susan.
After ample consultation with Morris, it was decided that Charles must
go too, his place being in part supplied by a boy of yet humbler
pretensions out of the house, who should carry out the medicines from
the surgery, and do the errands of the family.  Morris spoke cheerfully
enough of these changes, smiled as if amused at the idea of her leaving
her young ladies; and did not doubt but that, if Miss Margaret would
lend her a helping hand sometimes, she should be able to preserve the
credit of the family.

There was something more to be done than to lend this helping hand in
the lighter domestic offices.  Their Midsummer remittance had been
eagerly looked for by the sisters, not only because it was exceedingly
wanted for the current expenses of the household, but because it was
high time that preparations were begun for the great event of the
autumn--the birth of Hester's little one.  During this summer, Margaret
was up early, and was busy as Morris herself about the house till
breakfast, and for some time after Hope had gone forth on his daily
round--now so small that he soon returned to his books and his pen in
the study.  The morning hours passed pleasantly away, while Hester and
Margaret sat at work by the window which looked into their garden, now,
by Sydney's care, trimmed up into a state of promise once more.  Hester
was so much happier, so reasonable, so brave, amidst her sinking
fortunes, that Margaret could scarcely have been gayer than in plying
her needle by her side.  Their cares lay chiefly out of doors now: the
villagers behaved rudely to Edward, and cherished Mr Walcot; Mrs
Rowland took every opportunity of insulting Margaret, and throwing
discredit on her engagement; and the Greys caused their cousins much
uneasiness by the spirit, in which they conducted their share of the
great controversy of the place.  These troubles awaited the corner-house
family abroad; but their peace was perpetually on the increase at home.
Morris and they were so completely in one interest, Edward was so easily
pleased, and they were so free from jealous dependants, that they could
carry their economy to any extent that suited their conscience and
convenience.  One superfluity after another vanished from the table;
every day something which had always been a want was discovered to be a
fancy; and with every new act of frugality, each fresh exertion of
industry, their spirits rose with a sense of achievement, and the
complacency proper to cheerful sacrifice.  In the evenings of their busy
days, the sisters went out with Edward into their garden, or into the
meadows, or spent an hour in the Greys' pretty shrubbery.  Maria often
saw them thus, and thought how happy are they who can ramble abroad, and
find their cares dispersed by the breeze, or dissolved in the sunshine
of the fields.  The little Rowlands sometimes met them in the lanes: and
the younger ones would thrust upon them the wild flowers which Mr
Walcot had helped them to gather, while Mrs Rowland and Matilda would
draw down their black crape veils, and walk on with scarcely a passing
salutation.  Every such meeting with the lady, every civil bow from Mr
Walcot, every tale which Mrs Grey and Sophia had to tell against the
new surgeon, seemed to do Hester good, and make her happier.  These
things were appeals to her magnanimity; and she could bear for Edward's
sake many a trial which she could not otherwise have endured.  All this
told upon the intercourse at home; and Morris's heart was often cheered,
as she pursued her labours in kitchen or chamber, with the sound of such
merry laughter as had seldom been heard in the family, during the
anxious winter that had gone by.  It seemed as if nothing depressed her
young ladies now.  There was frequent intelligence of the going over of
another patient to Mr Walcot; the summer was not a favourable one, and
everybody else was complaining of unseasonable weather, of the certainty
of storms in the autumn, of blight, and the prospect of scarcity; yet,
though Mr Grey shook his head, and the parish clerk could never be seen
but with a doleful prophecy in his mouth, Morris's young master and
mistresses were gay as she could desire.  She was piously thankful for
Margaret's engagement; for she concluded that it was by means of this
that other hearts were working round into their true relation, and into
a peace which the world, with all its wealth and favours, can neither
make nor mar.

In one of Margaret's hedgerow rambles with Philip, a few days after his
mother's funeral, she had been strongly urged to leave Deerbrook and its
troubles behind her--to marry at once, and be free from the trials from
which he could not protect her, if she remained in the same place with
Mrs Rowland.  But Margaret steadily refused.

"You will be wretched," said Philip; "you will be wretched--I know you
will--the moment I am gone."

"I never was less likely to be wretched.  Mrs Rowland cannot make me
so, and other people will not.  I have every expectation of a happy
summer, which I mention for your sake; for I do not like to indulge in
that sort of anticipation without some such good reason as comforting
you."

"You cannot be happy here.  Priscilla will never let you have an easy
day, while she fancies she can separate us.  When I think of the
pertinacity with which she disowns you, the scorn with which she speaks
about you, even in my presence, I see that nothing will do but your
being mine at once."

"That would not mend the matter.  Our haste and imprudence would go to
countenance the scandal she spreads.  Why cannot we rather live it
down?"

"Because your spirit will be broken in the mean time.  Margaret, I must
be your guardian.  This is my first duty, and an absolute necessity.  If
you will not go with me, I will not leave this place: and if my plan of
life is broken up, you will be answerable for it.  It was your plan, and
you may demolish it if you choose."

"I have a plan of life, too," said Margaret.  "It is to do the duty that
lies nearest at hand; and the duty that lies nearest at hand is, to keep
you up to yours.  After this, there is one which lies almost as close, I
cannot leave Hester and Edward till this crisis in their fortunes is
past.  I am bound to them for the present."

"What are their claims to mine?"

"Nothing, if they were fortunate, as I trust they yet may be;--nothing,
if you had followed your plan of life up to the point when we may carry
it out together.  We are wrong, Philip, in even thinking of what you
say.  You must go and study law, and you must go without me.  Indeed, I
could not be happy to join you yet.  Your good name would suffer from
what Mrs Rowland might then say.  Your future prospects would suffer
from the interruption of your preparation for your profession.  I should
feel that I had injured you, and deserted my own duty.  Indeed, Philip,
I could not be happy."

"And how happy do you imagine we shall be apart?"

Margaret gave him a look which said what words could not--what it was to
be assured of his love.  What, it seemed to ask, could all the evil
tongues in the world do to poison this joy?

"Besides," said she, "I have the idea that I could not be spared; and
there is great pleasure in that vanity.  Edward and Hester cannot do
without me at present."

"You may say so at any future time."

"No: when the right time comes, they will not want me.  Oh, Philip! you
are grieved for them, and you long to see them prosperous.  Do not tempt
me to desert them now.  They want my help; they want the little money I
have; they want my hands and head.  Let this be your share of the
penalty Mrs Rowland imposes upon us all--to spare me to them while
their adversity lasts."

"I would not be selfish, Margaret--I would not trespass upon your wishes
and your duty, but the truth is, I sometimes fear that I may have some
heavier penalty even than this to pay for Priscilla's temper.  Ah! you
wonder what can be heavier.  Remember she has put misunderstanding
between us before."

"But she never can again.  Ours was then merely a tacit understanding.
Now, supposing me ever to hear what she may hint or say, do you imagine
I should give the slightest heed to it?  I would not believe her news of
a person I had never seen; and do you think she can make the slightest
impression on me with regard to you."

"It seems unreasonable at this moment; but yet, I have a superstitious
dread of the power of spirits of evil."

"Superstitious, indeed!  I defy them all, now that we have once
understood each other.  If she were able to do far more than she can--if
she could load the winds with accusations against you--if she could
haunt my dreams, and raise you up in visions mocking at me--I believe
she could not move me now.  Before, I blamed myself--I thought I was
lost in vanity and error: now that I have once had certainty, we are
safe."

"You are right, I trust--I believe it.  But there is a long hard battle
to be fought yet.  It fills me with shame to think how she treats you in
every relation you have.  She is cruel to Maria Young.  She hopes to
reach you through her.  Ah! you will hear nothing of it from Maria, I
dare say; but she spoke infamously to her this morning, before Mrs
Levitt.  Mrs Levitt happened to be sitting with Maria, when Priscilla
and one or two of the children went in.  Mrs Levitt spoke of us:
Priscilla denied our engagement: Maria asserted it--very gently, but
quite decidedly.  Priscilla reminded her of her poverty and infirmities,
spoke of the gratitude she owed to those from whom she derived her
subsistence, and reproached her with having purposes of her own to
answer, in making matches in the families of her employers."

"And Maria?"

"Maria trembled excessively, the children say, weak and reduced by pain
as she is.  One can hardly conceive of temper carrying any woman into
such cruelty!  Mrs Levitt rose, in great concern and displeasure, to
go: but Maria begged her to sit down again, sent one of the children for
me, and appealed to me to declare what share she had had in my
engagement with you.  I set her right with Mrs Levitt, who, I am
convinced, sees how the matter stands.  But it was really a distressing
scene."

"And before the children, too!"

"That was the worst part of it.  They stood looking from the furthest
corner of the room in utter dismay.  It would have moved any one but
Priscilla to see the torrent of tears Maria shed over them, when they
came timidly to wish her good morning, after Mrs Levitt was gone.  She
said she could do nothing more for them: they had been taught to despise
her, and her relation to them was at an end."

"It is; it must be," exclaimed Margaret.  "Is there no way of stopping a
career of vice like this?  While Mrs Plumstead gets a parish boy
whipped for picking up her hens' eggs from among the nettles, is Maria
to have no redress for slander which takes away her peace and her
bread?"

"She shall have redress.  For the children's sake, as well as her own,
her connection with them must go on.  I do not exactly see how; but the
thing must be done.  I dread speaking to poor Rowland about any of these
things; I know it makes him so wretched: but the good and the innocent
must not be sacrificed.  If these poor children must despise somebody,
their contempt must be made to fall in the right place, even though it
be upon their mother."

"Let us go and see Maria," said Margaret, turning back.  "If there is a
just and merciful way of proceeding in this case, she will point it out.
I wish you had told me all this before.  Here have we been rambling
over the grass and among the wild-flowers, where, at the best, Maria can
never go; and she lies weeping all alone, looking for me, I dare say,
every moment!  Let us make haste."

Philip made all the haste that was compatible with gathering a handful
of wild hyacinth and meadow narcissus for poor Maria.  He found himself
farther from success than ever, when he would have again urged Margaret
to marry at once.  A new duty seemed to have sprung up to keep her at
Deerbrook.  Maria wanted her.  Her summer work lay clear before her.
She must nurse and cheer Maria, she must ply her needle for Hester, and
play the housewife, spending many of her hours in the business of
living; a business which is often supposed to transact itself, but,
which in reality requires all the faculties which can be brought to it,
and all the good moral habits which conscience can originate.  The most
that Philip could obtain was, permission to come when his duties would
fairly allow it, and a promise that he should be summoned, if Margaret
found herself placed in any difficulty by Mrs Rowland.

Maria was not now literally alone; nor did she depend on her hostess or
on Margaret for nursing and companionship.  It occurred to all the
kindest of her friends, immediately after Mrs Enderby's death, that
Phoebe might be her attendant.  Phoebe was not, just then, the most
cheerful of nurses, so truly did she mourn her good old mistress; but
she was glad of occupation, glad to be out of Mrs Rowland's way, glad
to be useful: and she was an inestimable comfort to Maria.

Nothing could be done about placing the children again under Maria's
care, when she had recovered.  Mr Rowland was naturally unwilling to
stir in the business, and saw that the best chance for his children was
to send them to school at a distance from Deerbrook: and Maria had been
too grossly insulted in the presence of her pupils to choose to resume
her authority.  The Greys took her up with double zeal, as the Rowlands
let her down.  They assured her that her little income should not suffer
for her being able to devote all her time to Fanny and Mary.  The money,
indeed, was nothing to Mrs Grey, in comparison with the pleasure it
procured her.  It put her upon equal terms with Mrs Rowland, at last.
She did not know how it was, but it was very difficult to patronise Mr
Hope.  He always contrived to baffle her praise.  But here was an
unconnected person thrown upon her care: and if Mrs Rowland had a young
surgeon to push, Mrs Grey had an incomparable governess, now all to
herself.



CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.

OLD AND YOUNG.

One of the characteristics of this summer at Deerbrook was the rival
parties of pleasure with which the village was entertained.  There had
been rival parties of pleasure the preceding year; but from what a
different cause!  Then, all were anxious to do honour to Hester and
Margaret, or to show off in their eyes: now, the efforts made were, on
the one hand, to mortify, and on the other, to sustain them.  The
Rowlands had a carriage party to the woods one week, and the Greys a
cavalcade to the flower-show at Blickley the next.  The Rowlands gave a
dinner to introduce Mr Walcot to more and more of their country
neighbours; and the Greys had a dance in the green walk for the young
people of the village.  The Rowlands went to a strawberry gathering at
Sir William Hunter's; and the Greys, with all their faction, as Mrs
Rowland called it, were invited to a syllabub under the cow, at the Miss
Andersons' breaking-up for the holidays.

All pretence of a good understanding between the two families was now at
an end.  They ceased to invite each other, and scrambled for their
mutual acquaintances.  The best of their mutual acquaintances saw no
reason for taking part in the quarrel, and preserved a strict
neutrality; and the worst enjoyed being scrambled for.  The Levitts
visited both families, and entertained everybody in return, as if
nothing was happening.  Sir William and Lady Hunter ate their annual
dinner with each, and condescended to pay two or three extra visits to
Mrs Rowland, without making a point of a full moon.  Every circumstance
that happened afforded occasion for comment, of course.  Mrs Grey
thought it very improper in the Rowlands to indulge in all this gaiety
while they were in deep mourning.  It was painful to her feelings, she
owned, to hear the children shouting with laughter, while they were all
bombazine and crape from head to foot: she had hoped to see the memory
of her dear old friend treated with more respect.  In vain did Mr Hope
plead Mrs Enderby's delight in the mirth of children, and that their
innocent gaiety would cheer her in her grave, if it could reach her
there.  In vain did Hester urge the danger and sin of training the
little creatures to hypocrisy--a probable result, if they were to be
kept solemn and unamused to the day when they might put off their
mourning.  Mrs Grey felt herself only the more called upon by all this
to furnish the amount of sighs and tears which she believed to be due to
Mrs Enderby's memory.  Margaret rather sided with her--it was so sweet
to her to hear Philip's mother mourned.

Mrs Grey's tears were, however, interspersed with smiles.  On the day
of the Rowlands' great dinner-party, when all was to be so stately for
the Hunters, when the new dessert service was procured from
Staffordshire, the fish had not arrived from London.  This was certainly
a fact; the fish had come by the coach the next morning.  And what was
still more remarkable, it had not occurred to Mrs Rowland that such an
accident might happen--was very likely to happen; and, as if she had
been an inexperienced housekeeper, she had not any dish in reserve, in
case of the non-arrival of the fish.  It was said that Mrs Rowland had
sat down to table with a face perfectly crimson with anxiety and
vexation.  To such a temper as hers, what a vexation it must have been!
There was a counterpart to this story for Mrs Rowland.  She fancied
that Mrs Grey's friends, the Andersons, must have looked rather foolish
on occasion of their great syllabub party.  She hoped the Miss Andersons
trained their pupils better than their cows: they had a sad obstreperous
cow, she understood.  Some of the young ladies had lured it up the lawn
with a potato, and got it to stand still to be milked; but, when
somebody began to sing (she had no doubt it was Miss Ibbotson who sang)
the poor animal found the music was not to its taste, and, of course, it
kicked away the china bowl, and pranced down the lawn again.  There was
a dirge sung over the syllabub, no doubt.  The poor Miss Andersons must
have been terribly annoyed.

The good understanding of the gentlemen seemed all this time to be
uninterrupted.  They had much to put up with at home on this account;
but their good-humour towards each other remained unbroken.  Mr
Rowland's anxious face, and his retirement within the enclosure of his
own business, told his neighbours something of what he had to go through
at home.  Mrs Grey was vexed with her husband that he did not visit
Hope's misfortunes upon Mr Rowland, and call the husband to account for
the mischief the wife had caused; and Hester more than once expressed
some resentment against her relation for not espousing Edward's cause
more warmly.  Hope told her this was not reasonable.

"Remember," said he, as they sauntered in their garden, one evening,
"that these gentlemen must be more weary than we are (which is saying a
great deal) of these perpetual squabbles; and they must earnestly desire
to have peace in the counting-house.  God forbid that their dominions
should be invaded for our sake!"

"Not for our sake only, but for the sake of justice."

"Everything depends on the sort of men you have to deal with, in such
cases as this.  You must not expect too much.  Here are two kind-hearted
men, bound to each other by mutual good will and mutual interest.  There
is no other resemblance between them, except that they are both
overpowered--made rather cowardly by the circumstances of their
environment.  Once departing from their plan of keeping the peace, they
would be plunged into quarrel.  They view things so differently, from
the differences of their minds, that their only safety is in avoiding
altogether all subjects of Deerbrook contention.  If you expect the
heroism of devoted friendship, or of an enthusiastic sense of justice
from such men, you will not find it.  We must take them as they are."

"And humbly accept such countenance as they choose to bestow?"

"Take it or leave it, as you will.  There is no use in quarrelling with
them for not being what they are not--that is all.  Be generous with
them; and do not expect from them the conduct which they have a right to
expect from you."

"I rather wonder," observed Margaret, "that they have had the courage to
go so far as they do, in bearing testimony in your favour."

"They have been very handsome in their conduct on the whole; and it
would grieve me sincerely if they were to suffer further than they have
already done on my account.  I am afraid Mr Rowland is wretched now,
because I will accept no assistance from him.  He told me, the other
day, that he should receive no rent for this house while Walcot occupies
the other.  He was beyond measure mortified when I positively declined
being under any such obligation to any landlord.  If Mr Rowland
steadily refuses to turn us out of our house, and goes on offering
favours that I cannot accept, that is all we can expect from him."

"It never occurred to me that he can turn us out," said Hester, "that we
are tenants at will.  Oh! how sorry I should be to go!" she continued,
as she surveyed the place.  "I should grieve to quit our first home."

"There is no danger I believe: Mr Rowland will be firm on that head."

"And there is no danger, I should think," said Margaret, "but that the
Greys would find us something better the next day.  Oh, I do not know
where or how; but it would be such a splendid opportunity for patronage,
that they would work miracles rather than let it slip.  How far this ivy
has trailed over the wall already!  I should be sorry to leave this
garden now that it promises to look like itself so soon again.  Sydney
despises me for my admiration of it at present.  He looks melancholy
about the blight.  It is a pity certainly.  Look at this rose-bush, how
curled and withered it is!"

"Sydney is doing like every one else in looking grave about the blight,"
observed Hope.  "So bad a season has not been known since I came to
Deerbrook.  I see care in the face of many an one who does not stand
anything like our chance of want.  Here comes Sydney, with news of every
ill-looking field for five miles round, I doubt not."

"And Mr and Mrs Grey, and Sophia," said Hester, quitting her husband's
arm, and hastening to meet her friends.

The Greys pronounced it so pleasant an evening, that they had no wish to
sit down within doors; they preferred walking in the garden.  They
seemed to come for two purposes--to offer an invitation, and to relate
that Mr Walcot was gone to dine at Sir William Hunter's to-day, and
that Sir William had sent the carriage for him.  Mr Walcot had not been
ready for full five minutes after the carriage had driven up to the
door.  This delay was no doubt intended to give all Deerbrook time to
observe the peculiar consideration, with which Mr Walcot was treated by
Sir William and Lady Hunter, who were by no means in the habit of
sending their carriage for their Deerbrook guests.

"Did you ever hear of such a thing," said Sophia, "as sending a carriage
for a young man?  I have no doubt it is because he cannot ride."

"There you are out, Sophy," cried Sydney.  "Mr Walcot rides as well as
Mr Hope, every bit."

"I cannot think what has happened to Sydney," observed his mother.  "He
does nothing but stand up for Mr Walcot in the most unaccountable way!
I hope you will forgive it, Mr Hope.  Boys take strange fancies, you
know.  You must forgive it, my dears, in consideration of the rest of
us."

"Instead of forgiving it," said Hope, "I shall take leave rather to
admire it.  There is a fine chivalrous spirit shown in fighting Mr
Walcot's battles with our friends and relations."

"There, now!" cried Sydney, triumphantly.  "But I can't help it, you
see.  Mr Walcot can ride, and he does ride well; and he is very civil
to me, and asks me to go fishing with him; and I am sure he always
inquires very respectfully after the rest of them.  I never said any
more than that in praise of him; and I can't say less, can I, when they
are all abusing him for whatever he does?"

"I think not.  I believe we may spare him that much credit without
grudging."

"But, Sydney, you know it is not pleasant to us to hear you speak in
praise of Mr Walcot under present circumstances; and you should have a
little consideration for us."

"Well, mother, if you will not speak of him at all, no more will I."
And he glanced up into his mother's face, to see how the proposition was
taken.  "That is fair, is not it?" he inquired of Mr Hope.

"Excellent in theory, Sydney; but who likes to be tied down not to speak
on any subject, especially one which is turning up every hour?  Your
plan will not answer."

"I will ask you because I said I would--and all the more because you are
not cross about Mr Walcot--"

"Hold your tongue, Sydney!" said the mother.

"Do not be ridiculous, Sydney," advised the sister.

"Mr Hope will say whether it is ridiculous, Sophy.  Now, Mr Hope,
would not you, and cousin Hester, and Margaret, go down the water with
us to the abbey, just the same if Mr Walcot was with us?"

"With any guest of your father's and mother's, Sydney.  We have no
quarrel with Mr Walcot.  The truth is, we feel, after all we have
heard, that we know very little about him.  We have not the slightest
objection to meet Mr Walcot."

"Neither wish nor objection," said Hester, calmly.  "We are perfectly
indifferent about him."

Sydney vehemently beckoned his father, who left the apricot he and
Margaret were examining by the surgery wall, and came to see what he was
wanted for.

"You see," said he to Hope, when the matter was explained, "I have
naturally been rather anxious to bring this about this meeting between
you and the young man.  In a small place like this, it is painful to
have everybody quarrelling, and not to be able to get one's friends
about one, for fear they should brawl in one's very drawing-room.  Mr
Rowland is of my mind there; and I know it would gratify him if I were
to take some notice of this young man.  I really could hardly refuse,
knowing how handsomely Mr Rowland always speaks of you and yours, and
believing Mr Walcot to be a very respectable, harmless young man.  If I
thought it would injure your interests in the least, I would see him at
Cape Horn before I would invite him, of course: you must be aware of
that.  And I should not think of asking you to meet Mrs Rowland; that
would be going too far.  But Mrs Grey wishes that your wife and
Margaret should visit these ruins that we were always prevented from
getting to last year: and Mr Walcot is anxious to see them too; and he
has been civil to Sydney; and, in short, I believe that Sydney half
promised that he should go with us."

"Say no more," replied Hope.  "You will have no difficulty with us.  I
really know nothing against Mr Walcot.  He had a perfect right to
settle where he pleased.  Whether the manner of doing it was handsome or
otherwise, is of far more consequence to himself than to me, or to any
one else."

"I wish we all viewed the matter as you do.  If the ladies had your
temper, we should have a heaven upon earth.  But they take things up so
warmly, you see, when their feelings are interested for anybody; Mrs
Rowland for one, and my wife for another.  I hardly know what she will
say to the idea of our having Walcot with us.  Let us go and see."

"I have a word to say to you first.  Do you know of any one who wants a
horse?  I am going to dispose of mine."

"Mr Walcot wants a horse," said Sydney, delighted at the idea of
solving a difficulty.

Hope smiled, and told Mr Grey that he had rather sell his horse at a
distance.  Mr Walcot had already hired the boy Charles, whom Hope had
just dismissed; and if he obtained the horse too, the old servant who
knew his way to every patient's door, all the country round--it really
would look too like the unpopular man patronising his opponent.
Besides, it would be needlessly publishing in Deerbrook that the horse
was given up.

"What is the fault of your horse?" asked Mr Grey, rousing himself from
an absent fit.

"Merely that he eats, and therefore is expensive.  I cannot afford now
to keep a horse," he declared, in answer to Mr Grey's stare of
amazement.  "I have so few patients now out of walking reach, that I
have no right to keep a horse.  I can always hire, you know, from
Reeves."

"Upon my soul, I am sorry to hear this--extremely sorry to hear it.
Matters must have gone further than I had any idea of.  My dear fellow,
we must see how we can serve you.  You must let me accommodate you--
indeed you must--rather than give up your horse."

"Do not speak of it.  You are very kind; but we need no help, I do
assure you.  My mind is quite made up about the horse.  It would only be
an incumbrance now.  And, to satisfy you, I will mention that I have
declined repeated offers of accommodation--offers very strongly urged.
All I need ask of you is, to help me to dispose of my horse, somewhere
out of Deerbrook."

"I will manage that for you, the next time I go to market; and--" In the
emotion of the moment, Mr Grey was on the point of offering the use of
his own horse when it should be at home: but he stopped short on the
verge of his rash generosity.  He was very particular about no one
riding his horse but himself and the man who groomed it: he remembered
his friend Hope's rapid riding and `enthusiasm' and suspected that he
should sooner or later repent the offer: so he changed it into, "I will
get your horse disposed of to the best advantage, you may depend upon
it.  But I am very sorry--very sorry, indeed."

It is probable that nothing could have reconciled the ladies of Mr
Grey's family to the idea of admitting Mr Walcot into their party, but
the fact that they had of late cut rather a poor figure in contrast to
Mrs Rowland.  That lady had the advantage of novelty in the person of
Mr Walcot, and her `faction' was by far the larger of the two.  The
Greys found fault with all its elements; but there was no denying its
superiority of numbers.  It was a great hardship to have Mr Walcot
forced upon them; but they reflected that his presence might bring a
reinforcement--that some neighbours would perhaps come to meet him, who
would be otherwise engaged to the Rowlands, for the very day on which
they were wanted; for Mrs Rowland had the art of pre-engaging just the
people the Greys intended to have.  Sophia observed that Mr Walcot's
presence would be less of a restraint in a boat, and at tea among the
ruins, than in the drawing-room: there was always something to be said
about the banks and the woods; and there was singing; and in a boat
people were not obliged to talk unless they liked.  She should not
wonder if he would rather relish a little neglect; he had been made much
of lately at such a ridiculous rate.

"If we do our part, my love," said Mrs Grey to Hester, in a mysterious
low voice, "I think you should exert yourselves a little.  Nothing can
be done without a little exertion in this world, you know.  Sophia and I
were agreeing that it is a long time since you had any of your friends
about you."

"Very few since your wedding company," observed Sophia.

"We remember you had all your acquaintance in the winter, my dear.  It
was very proper, I am sure, all you did then: but it is now the middle
of July, you know; and our neighbours if Deerbrook always expect to be
invited twice a year."

"I should be happy to see them, I assure you," said Hester, "but it
happens to be not convenient."

"Not convenient, my dear!"

"Just so.  We shall always be glad to see you and yours; but we have no
hospitality to spare for the common world just now.  We have no
servants, you know, but Morris; and we are spending as little as we
can."

"Tea company costs so very little!" said Sophia.  "At this time of the
year, when you need not light candles till people are going away, and
when fruit is cheap and plentiful--"

"And we will take care of the cake," interposed Mrs Grey.  "Sophia will
make you some of her vicarage-cake, and a batch of almond biscuits; and
Alice shall come and wait.  We can manage it very easily."

"You are extremely kind: but if our acquaintance are to eat your cake,
it had better be at your house.  It does not suit our present
circumstances to entertain company."

"But it costs so very little!" persisted Sophia.  "Mr Russell Taylor's
father used to give a general invitation to all his friends to come to
tea in the summer, because, as he said, they then cost him only
twopence-halfpenny a-head."

"I am afraid we are not such good managers as Mr Russell Taylor's
father," replied Hester, laughing.  "And if we were, it is not
convenient to spend even twopence-halfpenny a-head upon our common
acquaintance at present.  If we grow richer, we will get our friends
about us, without counting the cost so closely as that."

"That time will soon come, Sophia, my dear," said her mother, winking at
Hester.  "In every profession, you know, there are little ups and downs,
and particularly in the medical.  I dare say, if the truth were told,
there is scarcely any professional man, without private fortune, who has
not, at some time of his life, broken into his last guinea without
knowing where he is to get another.  But professional people generally
keep their difficulties to themselves, I fancy, Hester: they are not
often so frank as you.  Mind that, Sophia.  You will be discreet,
Sophia."

"We have no intention of proclaiming in the streets that we are poor,"
said Hester.  "But we owe it to you, dear Mrs Grey, to give our reasons
for not doing all that we and you might wish.  We are not dissatisfied:
we want no help or pity: but we must live as we think right--that is
all."

"Indeed, my dear, I must say you do not look as if anything was amiss.
You look charmingly, indeed."

"Charmingly, indeed," echoed Sophia.  "And Mrs Levitt was saying, that
Margaret seems to have grown quite handsome, this summer.  I fancy Mrs
Rowland gets very few to agree with her as to Margaret being so very
plain."

"No, indeed.  Margaret's countenance is so intelligent and pleasant that
I always said, from the beginning, that nobody but Mrs Rowland could
call her plain.  I suppose we shall soon be losing her, Hester."

"Oh, no; not soon.  She has no thought of leaving us at present.  She
would not go in the spring, and sit beside Philip while he was learning
his lessons; and now, they will wait, I believe, till the lessons are
finished."

"She would not!  Well, that shows what love will do.  That shows what
her power over Mr Enderby is.  We used to think--indeed, everybody used
to say it of Mr Enderby, that he always managed to do as he liked--he
carried all his points.  Yet even he is obliged to yield."

"Margaret has a way of carrying her points too," said Hester: "the best
way in the world--by being always right."

"Mind that, Sophia.  But, my dear Hester, I am really anxious about you.
I had no idea, I am sure--.  I hope you get your natural rest."

"Perfectly, I assure you.  Mrs Howell might envy me, if she still
`cannot sleep for matching of worsteds.'  The simple truth is, Mrs
Grey, we never were so happy in our lives.  This may seem rather
perverse; but so it is."

Mrs Grey sighed that Mrs Rowland could not be aware of this.  Hester
thought it was no business of Mrs Rowland's; but Mrs Grey could not
but feel that it would be a great satisfaction that she should know that
those whom she hated, slept.  She heard Margaret and Sydney saying
something in the middle of the grass-plot about the Milky Way: looking
up, she was surprised to perceive how plain it was, and how many stars
were twinkling in the sky.  She was sure Hester must be dreadfully tired
with sauntering about so long.  They had been very inconsiderate, and
must go away directly.  Sydney must call his father.

"They are delightful young people, really," observed Mrs Grey to her
husband, during their walk home.  "One never knows how to get away.
Lady Hunter little supposes what she loses in not cultivating them.  Go
on before us, Sophia.  Make haste home with your sister, Sydney.  But,
my dear, they speak in a very poor way of their affairs."

"Oh, Hester spoke to you, did she?  Hope told me he must part with his
horse.  So Hester spoke to you?"

"Yes: not at all in a melancholy way, however.  She keeps up her spirits
wonderfully, poor girl!  We really must push them, Mr Grey.  I see
nothing but ruin before them, if we do not push them."

"Ah! there is the difficulty: that is where that little enthusiasm of
Hope's comes in.  I have a great respect for him; but I own I should
like to see him a little more practical."

"I really am pleased to hear you say so.  It is just what I think; and I
always fancied you did not agree with me.  It really puts me almost out
of patience to hear him speak of Mr Walcot--encouraging Sydney in his
notions!  It is unnatural: it looks a little like affectation--all that
sort of feeling about Mr Walcot."

"I do not object to that, I confess.  His thinking fairly of Walcot can
do no harm, and may save mischief, and it looks honourable and well.  I
do not regret that, I own.  But I think he is clearly wrong in selling
his horse in such a hurry.  All Deerbrook will know it directly, and it
will not look well.  I offered him such accommodation as would enable
him to keep it; but he is quite obstinate.  Some enthusiastic notion of
honour, I suppose--.  But I told them that there is no profession or
business in the world that has not its ups and downs."

"Exactly what I told Hester, when she declined having any parties at
present--in the very crisis, in my opinion, when it is of great
consequence that they should get their friends about them.  Sophia would
have made the cake, and Alice would have waited at tea.  But the fact
is, Mr Hope has put some of his spirit into his wife, and they must
take their own way, I suppose."

"He gave me his reasons, however," observed Mr Grey.  "He regards this
as something more than one of the slack times common in his profession.
He will not accept obligation, while he sees no clear prospect of being
able to discharge it.  I could not prevail upon him.  However, they must
have enough: they cannot be actually pinched.  I never saw him in better
spirits.  There can be no occasion for our doing anything more than just
being on the look-out to serve them."

"We must push them--that is all we can do.  They cannot really be
wanting anything, as you say, such fine spirits as they are in.  Hester
looks sweetly.  The first game that we have to spare this season shall
go to them: and I shall bear them in mind when we gather our apples."

"If you find we have any apples to gather, my dear.  I doubt it."

"Do you really?  It will be unfortunate for our young friends, if prices
rise next winter, as you seem to expect.  There goes ten o'clock, I
declare; and there are the children looking out for us, as well they
may.  But those are really delightful young people.  There is no getting
away from them."



CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.

BOATING.

Mr Walcot was delighted with the invitation to the water-party, but was
fully engaged for the next three weeks.  Mr Grey decreed that he was to
be waited for.  Then the lady moon had to be waited for another ten
days; so that it was past the middle of August before Mrs Grey and
Sophia were called upon to endure Mr Walcot's society for six hours.
The weather was somewhat dubious when the day arrived: but in so bad a
season as the present, it would never do to let a doubt put a stop to an
excursion which had been planned above a month.  One of Mr Grey's men
was sent round among the ladies in the morning, to request to be the
bearer of their cloaks, as it was thought they would be cold on the
water without all the wraps they had.  Hester sent as many warm things
as she thought Margaret could possibly wear.  She was not going herself.
She wished it much; but it was decided on all hands that it would be
imprudent, as there was no calculating the amount of fatigue which each
might have to incur.

At three o'clock the party assembled on the wharf on Messrs. Grey and
Rowland's premises, everyone having dined at home.  Mrs Rowland had
tried to persuade Mr Walcot that he ought not to be out of the way,
after what Lady Hunter had said in a note about her terrible headache of
yesterday.  It might be the beginning of a feverish attack; and it would
be unfortunate if he should be six miles down the river--not expected
home till nine or ten at night, when a messenger should arrive from the
Hall.  But Mr Walcot had seen few water-parties in the course of his
life, and he was resolved to go.

Margaret and her brother repaired in gay spirits to the water-side.  In
the days of poverty, trifles become great events, and ease is luxury.
Hope felt himself clear of the world to-day.  He had received the money
from the sale of his horse; and after paying for its corn, there was
fifteen pounds left to be put by for his rent.  Hester had bidden adieu
to the horse with a sort of glee, as she had never been able to overcome
her panic during her husband's long country rides; and Hope found that
he hung more and more upon Hester's smiles: they cheered him, from
whatever cause they arose.  Margaret was gay from discourse with Philip.
She had just despatched a letter to him--a letter which had
acknowledged that it was, indeed, long since they had met--that it was
almost time that he was coming to Deerbrook again.

The party they joined looked less merry than themselves.  The two boats
which lay at the wharf were gay enough--the one with crimson cushions,
and the other with blue.  A servant-maid was to go in each, to take care
of the provisions, and provide tea at the ruins; and Alice and her
companion were alert and smiling.  But Mrs Grey wore a countenance of
extraordinary anxiety; and the twitching of her face showed that
something had gone very seriously wrong.  Sophia nearly turned her back
upon Mr Walcot, who continued to address her with patient diligence.
Maria was sitting on some deals, waiting to be called to enter the boat;
and some of the people of the village were staring at her from a little
distance.  Margaret immediately joined her.

"What are those people looking at you for?"

"I cannot conceive.  I fancied that while I was sitting I looked pretty
much like other people."

"To be sure you do.  I will ask Mr Grey.  I am sure there is some
meaning in their gaze--so ridiculously compassionate."

"Do not you know?" said Mr Grey.  "Do not you know the story they have
got up about Miss Young's case.  They say Mr Hope set her limb so badly
that he had to break it again twice.  I have been asked several times
whether he did not get me to help him: and they will not believe me when
I deny the whole."

Maria laughed; and Margaret observed that they would presently see how
much better Maria could walk now than she did before her last accident,
such being the effect of the long and complete rest which had been
enforced upon her.

"Nothing like seeing for themselves," observed Mr Grey, surveying the
company.  "All come but Dr Levitt now, I think.  It really goes to my
heart not to take some of my partner's children.  There they are,
peeping at us, one head behind another, from that gate.  There is room
for two or three, from the Jameses failing us at the last.  The little
things might as well go; but I suppose there would be no use in saying
anything about it.  I must have a word with my daughter before we
embark.  Sophia, my dear!  Sophia!"

Sophia came, and Margaret overheard her father say to her, that every
person present was his guest, and to be treated with the civility and
attention due to him as such.  Sophia looked rather sulky at hearing
this, and walked far away from Mr Walcot to devote herself to Miss
Anderson.

By dint of sending a messenger to Dr Levitt's a quarter of an hour
before the time, his presence was secured a quarter of an hour after it.
He made his usual approach--looking bland and gentlemanly, and fearing
he was late.

The party were ordered into the boats as if they had been going to
dinner.  Mr Walcot was appointed to hand Margaret in; but he showed,
amidst great simplicity, an entire determination to be Sophia's
companion.  Hope was approaching Maria's seat, to give her his arm, when
some bustle was heard at the gate where the little Rowlands were
clustered.

"There is my partner!  He will go with us, after all," said Mr Grey.
"Come, my dear sir, we have plenty of room."

"So much the better for my brother-in-law.  You have room for Enderby,
have you?  He will be delighted to join you, I have no doubt.  Room for
me too?  I really think I must indulge myself.  Yes; Enderby took us
quite by surprise this morning: but that is his way, you know."

Philip here, and without notice!  Margaret thought she was dreaming the
words she heard.  She felt much oppressed--as if there must be something
wrong in so sudden and strange a proceeding.  At the very moment of
suspense, she caught Mrs Grey's eye fixed upon her with the saddest
expression she thought she had ever seen.

Philip was come--it was no dream.  He was presently in the midst of the
party, making his compliments--compliments paid to Margaret in a manner
scarcely different in the eyes of others from those which were shared by
all: but to her, a world of wonder and of horror was revealed by the
glance of the eye and the quiver of the lip, too slight to be detected
by any eye less intently fixed than hers.  Margaret stood alone, as the
others were stepping into the boats; but Philip did not approach her.
He interfered between Hope and Maria Young.  Maria looked agitated and
uncertain; but she thought she had no right to cause any delay or
difficulty; and she took his arm, though she felt herself unable to
conceal her trembling.  Hope saw that Margaret was scarcely able to
support herself.

"I cannot go," she said, as he drew her arm within his.  "Leave me
behind.  They will not miss me.  Nobody will miss me."

The agonised tone of these last words brought back the colour which Hope
had lost in the tempest of emotions, in which anger was uppermost.  He
was no longer deadly pale when he said:

"Impossible.  I cannot leave you.  You must not stay behind.  It is of
the utmost consequence that you should go.  Cannot you?  Do try.  I will
place you beside Mrs Grey.  Cannot you make the effort?"

She did make the effort.  With desperate steadiness she stepped into the
boat where Mrs Grey was seated.  She was conscious that Philip watched
to see what she would do, and then seated Maria and himself in the other
boat.  Hope followed Margaret.  If he had been in the same boat with
Enderby, the temptation to throw him overboard would have been too
strong.

Till they were past the weir and the lock, and all the erections
belonging to the village, and to the great firm which dignified it, the
boats were rowed.  Conversation went on.  The grey church steeple was
pronounced picturesque, as it rose above the trees; and the children
looked up at Dr Levitt, as if the credit of it by some means belonged
to him, the rector.  Sydney desired his younger sisters not to trail
their hands through the water, as it retarded the passage of the boat.
The precise distance of the ruins from Deerbrook ferry was argued, and
Dr Levitt gave some curious traditions about the old abbey they were
going to see.  Then towing took the place of rowing, and the party
became very quiet.  The boat cut steadily through the still waters, the
slight ripple at the bows being the only sound which marked its
progress.  Dr Levitt pointed with his stick to the "verdurous wall"
which sprang up from the brink of the river, every spray of the beech,
every pyramid of the larch, every leaf of the oak, and the tall column
of the occasional poplar, reflected true as the natural magic of light
and waters could make them.  Some then wished the sun would come out,
without which it could scarcely be called seeing the woods.  Others
tried to recognise the person who stood fishing under the great ash; and
it took a minute or two to settle whether it was a man or a boy; and two
minutes more to decide that it was nobody belonging to Deerbrook.
Margaret almost wondered that Edward could talk on about these things as
he did--so much in his common tone and manner.  But for his ease and
steadiness in small talk, she should suppose he was striving to have her
left unnoticed, to look down into the water as strenuously as she
pleased.  She little knew what a training he had had in wearing his
usual manner while his heart was wretched.

"There, now!" cried Fanny, "we have passed the place--the place where
cousin Margaret fell in last winter.  We wanted to have gone directly
over it."

Margaret looked up, and caught Sydney's awe-struck glance.  He had not
yet recovered from that day.

"If you had mentioned it sooner," said Margaret, "I could have shown you
the very place.  We did pass directly over it."

"Oh, why did you not tell us?  You should have told us."

Dr Levitt smiled as he remarked that he thought Miss Ibbotson was
likely to be the last person to point out that spot to other people, as
well as to forget it herself.  Margaret had indeed been far from
forgetting it.  She had looked down into its depths, and had brought
thence something that had been useful to her--something on which she was
meditating when Fanny spoke.  She had been saved, and doubtless for a
purpose.  If it was only to suffer for her own part, and to find no rest
and peace but in devoting herself to others--this was a high purpose.
Maria could live, and was thankful to live, without home, or family, or
prospect.  But it was not certain that this was all that was to be done
and enjoyed in life.  Something dreadful had happened: but Philip loved
her: he still loved her--for nothing but agonised love could have
inspired the glance which yet thrilled through her.  There was some
mistake--some fearful mistake; and the want of confidence in her which
it revealed--the fault of temper in him--opened a long perspective of
misery; but yet, he loved her, and all was not over.  At times she felt
certain that Mrs Rowland was at the bottom of this new injury: but it
was inconceivable that Philip should be deluded by her, after his
warnings, and his jealous fears lest his Margaret should give heed to
any of his sister's misrepresentations.  No light shone upon the
question, from the cloudy sky above, or the clear waters beneath; but
both yielded comfort through that gentle law by which things eminently
real--Providence, the mercy of death, and the blessing of godlike life,
are presented or prophesied to the spirit by the shadows amidst which we
live.  When Margaret spoke, there was a calmness in her voice, so like
an echo of comfort in her heart, that it almost made Edward start.

The party in the other boat were noisier, whether or not they were
happier, than those in whose wake they followed.  Mr Walcot had begun
to be inspired as soon as the oars had made their first splash, and was
now reciting to Sophia some "Lines to the Setting Sun," which he had
learned when a little boy, and had never forgotten.  He asked her
whether it was not a sweet idea--that of the declining sun being like a
good man going to his rest, to rise again to-morrow morning.  Sophia was
fond of poetry that was not too difficult; and she found little
disinclination in herself now to observe her father's directions about
being civil to Mr Walcot.  The gentleman perceived that he had won some
advantage; and he persevered.  He next spoke of the amiable poet,
Cowper, and was delighted to find that Miss Grey was acquainted with
some of his writings; that she had at one time been able to repeat his
piece on a Poplar Field, and those sweet lines beginning--

  "The rose had been washed, just washed in a shower."

But she had never heard the passage about "the twanging horn o'er yonder
bridge," and "the wheeling the sofa round," and "the cups that cheer but
not inebriate;" so Mr Walcot repeated them, not, as before, in a high
key, and with his face turned up towards the sky, but almost in a
whisper, and inclining towards her ear.  Sophia sighed, and thought it
very beautiful, and was sorry for people who were not fond of poetry.  A
pause of excited feeling followed, during which they found that the
gentlemen were questioning a boatman, who was awaiting his turn to tow,
about the swans in the river.

"The swans have much increased in number this season, surely.  Those are
all of one family, I suppose--those about the island," observed Mr
Grey.

"Yes, sir; they can't abide neighbours.  They won't suffer a nest within
a mile."

"They fight it out, if they approach too near, eh?" said Enderby.

"Yes, sir; they leave one another for dead.  I have lost some of the
finest swans under my charge in that way."

"Do you not part them when they fight?" asked Walcot.

"I would.  I always part little boys whom I see fighting in the streets,
and tell them they should not quarrel."

"You would repent meddling with the swans, sir, if you tried.  When I
knew no better, I meddled once, and I thought I should hardly get away
alive.  One of the creatures flapped my arm so hard, that I thought more
than once it was broken.  I would advise you, sir, never to go near
swans when they are angry."

"You will find ample employment for your peace-making talents among the
Deerbrook people, Mr Walcot," said Philip.  "They may break your
windows, and perhaps your heart; but they will leave you your eyes and
your right arm.  For my part, I do not know but I had rather do battle
with the swans."

"Better not, sir," said the boatman.  "I would advise you never to go
near swans when they are angry."

"Look!" said Sophia, anxiously.  "Is not this one angry?  Yes, it is: I
am sure it is!  Did you ever see anything like its feathers? and it is
coming this way, it is just upon us!  Oh, Mr Walcot!"

Sophia threw herself over to the other side of the boat, and Mr Walcot
started up, looking very pale.

"Sit down!" cried Mr Grey, in his loudest voice.  Mr Walcot sat down
as if shot; and Sophia crept back to her place, with an anxious glance
at the retreating bird.  Of course, the two young people were
plentifully lectured about shifting their places in a boat without
leave, and were asked the question, more easily put than answered, how
they should have felt if they had been the means of precipitating the
whole party into the water.  Then there was a calling out from the other
boat to know what was the matter, and an explanation; so that Sophia and
Mr Walcot had to take refuge in mutual sympathy from universal censure.

"The birds always quarrel with the boats--boats of this make," explained
the boatman; "because their enemies go out in skiffs to take them.  They
let a lighter pass without taking any notice, while they always scour
the water near a skiff; but I never heard of their flying at a pleasure
party in any sort of boat."

"Where are the black swans that a sea-captain brought to Lady Hunter?"
asked Philip.  "I see nothing of them."

"The male died; choked, sir,--with a crust of bread a stranger gave him.
But for that, he would have been now in sight, I don't doubt; for he
prospered very well till that day."

"Of a crust of bread!  What a death!" exclaimed Philip.  "And the
other?"

"She died, sir, by the visitation of God," replied the boatman,
solemnly.

It was obviously so far from the man's intention that any one should
laugh, that nobody did laugh.  Maria observed to her next neighbour
that, to a keeper of swans, his birds were more companionable, and quite
as important, as their human charge to coroners and jurymen.

The boat got aground amongst the flags, at a point where the tow-rope
had to be carried over a foot-bridge at some little distance inland.
One of the men, in attempting to leap the ditch, had fallen in, and
emerged dripping with mud.  Ben jumped ashore to take his turn at the
rope, and Enderby pushed the boat off again with an oar, with some
little effort.  Mr Walcot had squeezed Sophia's parasol so hard, during
the crisis, as to break its ivory ring.  The accident, mortifying as it
was to him, did not prevent his exclaiming in a fervour of gratitude,
when the vibration of the boat was over, and they were once more
afloat--

"What an exceedingly clever man Mr Enderby is!"

"Extremely clever.  I really think he can do everything."

"Ah! he would not have managed to break the ring of your parasol, as I
have been so awkward as to do.  But I will see about getting it mended
to-morrow.  If I were as clever as Mr Enderby now, I might be able to
mend it myself."

"You will not be able to get another ring in Deerbrook.  But never mind.
I beg you will not feel uncomfortable about it.  I can fasten it with a
loop of green ribbon and a button till the next time I go to Blickley.
Pray do not feel uncomfortable."

"How can I help it?  You say there is no ring in Deerbrook.  Not any
sort of ring?  My dear Miss Grey, if I cannot repair this sort of
ring--"

Sophia was a good deal flurried.  She begged he would think no more of
the parasol; it was no manner of consequence.

"Do not be too good to me," whispered he.  "I trust.  I know my duty
better than to take you at your word.  From my earliest years, my
parents have instilled into me the duty of making reparation for the
injuries we cause to others."

Sophia gave him an affecting look of approbation, and asked with much
interest where his parents lived, and how many brothers and sisters he
had; and assured him, at last, that she saw he belonged to a charming
family.

"It does not become me to speak proudly of such near relations," said
he; "and one who has so lately left the parental roof is, perhaps,
scarcely to be trusted to be impartial; but I will say for my family
that, though not perhaps so clever as Mrs Rowland and Mr Enderby--"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, do not name them together!"

Mr Walcot saw that he had broken the charm: he hastened to repair the
mischief which one unhappy name had caused.

"It is natural, I know, that you should take the most interest in that
member of the family who is to be your relation.  You consider him in
that light, I believe?"

"Of course.  He is to be our cousin."

"The parties wish it to be kept a secret, I conclude," said he, glancing
at Enderby, and then stretching back as far as he thought safe, to look
at the other boat.

"Oh dear, no!  There is no secret about the matter."

"I should not have supposed them to be engaged, by their manner to each
other.  Perhaps it is off," said he, quickly, fixing his eyes upon her.

"Off!  What an odd idea!  Who ever thought of such a thing?"

"Such things have been heard of as engagements going off, you know."

Both had raised their voices during the last few eager sentences.
Sophia became aware that they had been overheard, by seeing the deep
flush which overspread Miss Young's pale face.  Philip looked at Mr
Walcot as if he would have knocked him down, if they had only been on
land.  The young man took off his hat, and ran his fingers through his
white hair, for the sake of something to do: replaced his hat, and shook
his head manfully, as if to settle his heart in his breast, as well as
his beaver on his crown.  He glanced down the river, in hopes that the
abbey was not yet too near.  It was important to him that the wrath of
so extremely clever a man as Mr Enderby should have subsided before the
party went on shore.

It would have been a strange thing to have known how many of that
company were dreading to reach the object of their excursion.  A thrill
passed through many hearts when the ruins, with their overshadowing ivy,
were at length discerned, seated in the meadow to which the boats seemed
approaching far too rapidly.  In the bustle of landing, however, it was
easy for those who wished to avoid one another to do so.

Most of the guests walked straight up to the abbey walls, to examine all
that was left of them.  Mrs Grey and her maids went to the little
farmhouse which was at one corner of the old building, and chiefly
constructed out of its ruins; and while the parties on whom the cares of
hospitality devolved were consulting with the farmer's wife about
preparations for tea, any stray guest might search for wood-plants in
the skirts of the copse on the hill behind, or talk with the children
who were jumping in and out of an old saw-pit in the wood, or if
contemplative, might watch the minnows in the brook, which was here
running parallel with the river.

Mrs Grey obviously considered that Margaret was her peculiar charge.
She spoke little to her; but when Philip was off somewhere, she took her
arm, and seemed to insist on her company when she proceeded to her
treaty with the dame of the farm.  Margaret stood for some time
patiently, while they discussed whether it should be tea in the
farmhouse parlour, which was too small--or tea in the meadow, which
might be damp--or tea in the ruins, where there might be draughts, and
the water could not be supplied hot.  Before this matter was settled,
Margaret saw that her friend Maria was seated on a log beside the brook,
and gazing wistfully at her.  Margaret tried to disengage her arm from
Mrs Grey; Mrs Grey objected.

"Wait a moment, my dear.  I will not detain you five minutes.  You must
not go anywhere without me, my dear child."

Never before had Mrs Grey spoken to Margaret with tenderness like this.
Margaret was resolved to know why now; but she would first speak to
Maria.  She said she would return presently: she wished to return: but
she must speak to Maria.

"Margaret, what is all this?" said Maria, in a voice whose agitation she
could not control.  "Have I been doing wrong?  Am I now thinking what is
wrong?  I did not know whether to be angry with him or not.  I was
afraid to speak to him, and afraid not to speak to him.  How is it? tell
me, Margaret."

"I wish I could," said Margaret, in a tone calmer than her friend's.  "I
am in a miserable dream.  I wrote to him this morning."

"To London?"

"Yes, to London.  He must have been in Deerbrook while I was writing it.
I heard from him, as usual, three days ago; and since then, I have
never had a line or a word to prepare me for this.  There is some
dreadful mistake."

"The mistake is not his, I fear," said Maria, her eyes filling as she
spoke.  "The mistake is yours, Margaret, and mine, and everybody's who
took a selfish man of the world for a being with a heart and a
conscience."

"You are wrong, Maria.  You go too far.  You will find that you are
unjust.  He is as wretched as I am.  There is some mistake which may be
explained: for he... he loves me, I am certain.  But I wish I was
anywhere but here--it is so wretched!"

"I am afraid I have done wrong in speaking with him at all," said Maria.
"I longed for three words with you; for I did not know what I ought to
do.  We must learn something before we return.  Your friends must act
for you.  Where is Mr Hope?"

"I do not know.  Everybody deserts me, I think."

"I will not.  It is little I can do; but stay by me: do not leave me.  I
will watch for you."

Margaret fell into the common error of the wretched, when she said these
last words.  Her brother was at work on her behalf.  Hope had gone
towards the ruins with the rest of the party, to keep his eye on
Enderby.  Sophia hung on his arm, which she had taken that she might
relieve herself of some thoughts which she could not so well speak to
any one of the strangers of the party.

"Oh, Mr Hope!" cried she, "how very much mistaken we have been in Mr
Walcot all this time!  He is a most delightful young man--so refined!
and so domestic!"

"Indeed!  You will trust Sydney's judgment more readily another time."

"Yes, indeed.  But I could not help telling you.  I know you will not be
offended; though some people, perhaps, would not venture to speak so to
you; but I know you will excuse it, and not be offended."

"So far from being offended, I like what you now say far better than the
way I have heard you sometimes speak of Mr Walcot.  I have thought
before that you did not allow him fair play.  Now, in my turn, I must
ask you not to be offended with me."

"Oh, I never could be offended with you; you are always so good and
amiable.  Mamma seemed a little vexed when you encouraged Sydney to
praise Mr Walcot: but she will be delighted at your opinion of him,
when she finds how accomplished he is--and so refined!"

"You speak of my opinion.  I have no opinion about Mr Walcot yet,
because I do not know him.  You must remember that, though all Deerbrook
has been busy about him since May, I have scarcely heard him say five
words.  I do not speak as having any opinion of him, one way or another.
How dark this place looks to-day!--that aisle--how gloomy!"

"I think it is the weather.  There is no sun; and the ivy tosses about
strangely.  What do you think of the weather?"

"I think we shall have the least possible benefit of the moon.  How like
a solid wall those clouds look, low down in the sky!--Here comes Mr
Walcot.  Suppose you let him take you after the rest of the party?  You
will not like the gloom of that aisle where I am going."

Both Sophia and Mr Walcot much preferred each other's company to the
damp and shadow of the interior of the abbey.  They walked off together,
and gathered meadow flowers, and admired poetry and poets till all were
summoned, and they were compelled to join the groups who were converging
from copse, brook, poultry-yard, and cloister, towards the green before
the farmhouse, where, after all, the long tea-table was spread.

The reason of Hope's anxiety to consign Sophia to Mr Walcot's charge
was, that he saw Enderby pacing the aisle alone with rapid steps, his
face hung with gloom as deep as darkened the walls about him.

"Enderby, are you mad?" cried Hope, hastening in to him.

"I believe I am.  As you are aware, no man has better cause."

"I wait your explanation.  Till I have it, your conduct is a perfect
mystery.  To Margaret, or to me for her, you must explain yourself, and
that immediately.  In the mean time, I do not know how to address you--
how to judge you."

"Then Mrs Grey has not told you of our conversation of this morning?"

"No," said Hope, his heart suddenly failing him.

"The whole dreadful story has become known to me; and I am thankful that
it is revealed before it is too late.  My sister is sometimes right,
however she may be often wrong.  She has done me a cruel kindness now.
I know all, Hope;--how you loved Margaret;--how, when it was too late,
you discovered that Margaret loved you;--how, when I burst in upon you
and her, she was (Oh, why did I ever see her again?) she was learning
from you the absurd resolution which Mrs Grey had been urging upon you,
by working upon your false sense of honour--a sense of honour of which I
am to have none of the benefit, since, after marrying the one sister out
of compassion and to please Mrs Grey, you turn the other over to me--
innocent in soul and conscience, I know, but no longer with virgin
affections--you give her to me for your mutual security and
consolation."

"Enderby! you _are_ mad," cried Hope, his strength being roused by this
extent of accusation from the depression caused by the mixture of truth
in the dreadful words Philip had just spoken.  "But mad, deluded, or
wicked--however you may have been wrought into this state of mind, there
are two things which must be said on the instant, and regarded by you in
all coming time.  These charges, as they relate to myself, had better be
spoken of at another opportunity, and when you are in a calmer state of
mind: but meanwhile I, as a husband, forbid you to speak lightly of my
beloved and honoured wife: and I also charge you, as you revere the
purity of Margaret's soul--of the innocent soul and conscience of which
you speak--that you do not convey to her, by the remotest intimation,
any conception of the horrible tale with which some wretch has been
deluding you.  She never loved any one but you.  If you pollute and
agonise her imagination with these vile fancies of your sister's, (for
from whom else can such inventions come?) remember that you peril the
peace of an innocent family; you poison the friendship of sisters whom
bereavement has bound to each other; and deprive Margaret of all that
life contains for her.  You will not impair my wife's faith in me, I am
confident; but you may turn Margaret's brain, if you say to her anything
like what passed your lips just now.  It seems but a short time,
Enderby, since we committed Margaret's happiness to your care; and now I
have to appeal on her behalf to your honour and conscience."

"Mrs Grey, Mrs Grey," Enderby repeated, fixing his eyes upon Hope's
countenance.

"The quarrel between you and me shall be attended to in its turn,
Enderby.  I must first secure my wife and Margaret from any rashness on
your part.  If you put distrust between them, and pollute their home by
the wildest of fancies, it would be better for you that these walls
should fall upon us, and bury us both."

"Oh, that they would!" cried Philip.  "I am sick of living in the midst
of treachery.  Life is a waste to a man treated as I have been."

"Answer me, Enderby--answer me this instant," Hope cried, advancing to
place himself between Enderby and Margaret, whom he saw now entering the
ruin, and rapidly approaching them.

"You are right," said Enderby, aloud.  "You may trust me."

"Philip, what am I to think?" said Margaret, walking quite up to him,
and looking intently in his face.  "I hardly know whether we are living,
and in our common world."  Hope shuddered to see the glance she cast
round the dreary place.  Philip half turned away and did not speak.

"Why will not you speak?  What reason can there be for this silence?
When you last left me, you feared your sister might make mischief
between us; and then I promised that if such a thing could happen as
that I should doubt you, I would tell you my doubt as soon as I was
aware of it myself; and now you are angry with me--you would strike me
dead this moment, if you dared--and you will not speak."

"Go now, Margaret," said Hope, gently.  "He cannot speak to you now:
take my word for it that he cannot."

"I will not go.  I will take nobody's word.  What are you, Edward,
between me and him?  It is my right to know how I have offended him.  I
require no more than my right.  I do not ask him to love me; nor need I,
for he loves me still--I know it and feel it."

"It is true," said Enderby, mournfully gazing upon her agitated
countenance, but retreating as he gazed.

"I do not ask to be yours, any farther than I am now--now when our
affections are true, and our word is broken.  But I do insist upon your
esteem, as far as I have ever possessed it.  I have done nothing to
forfeit it; and I demand your reasons for supposing that I have."

"Not now," said Philip, faintly, shrinking in the presence of the two
concerning whom he entertained so painful a complexity of feelings.
There stood Hope, firm as the pillar behind him.  There stood Margaret,
agitated, but unabashed as the angels that come in dreams.  Was it
possible that these two had loved?  Could they then stand before him
thus?  But Mrs Grey--what she admitted!--this, in confirmation with
other evidence, could not be cast aside.  Yet Philip dared not speak,
fearing to injure beyond reparation.

"Oh, Margaret, not now!" he faintly repeated.  "My heart is almost
broken!  Give me time."

"You have given me none.  Let that pass, however.  But I cannot give you
time.  I cannot hold out--who can hold out, under injurious secrecy--
under mocking injustice--under torturing doubt from the one who is
pledged to the extreme of confidence?  Let us once understand one
another, and we will never meet more, and I will endure whatever must be
endured, and we shall have time--Oh, what a weary time!--to learn to
submit.  But not till you have given me the confidence you owe--the last
I shall ever ask from you--will I endure one moment's suspense.  I will
not give you time."

"Yes, Margaret, you will--you must," said Hope.  "It is hard, very hard;
but Enderby is so far right."

"God help me, for every one is against me!" cried Margaret, sinking down
among the long grass, and laying her throbbing head upon the cold stone.
"He comes without notice to terrify me by his anger--me whom he loves
above all the world; he leaves my heart to break with his unkindness in
the midst of all these indifferent people; he denies me the explanation
I demand; and you--you of all others, tell me he is right!  I will do
without protection, since the two who owe it forsake me: but God is my
witness how you wrong me."

"Enderby, why do not you go?" said Hope, sternly.  Almost before the
words were spoken, Enderby had disappeared at the further end of the
aisle.

"Patience, Margaret!  A little patience, my dear sister.  All may be
well; all must be well for such as you; but I mean that I trust all may
be repaired.  He has been wrought upon by some bad influence--"

"Then all is over.  If, knowing me as he did--.  But, Edward, do not
speak to me.  Go: leave me!  I cannot speak another word now--"

"I cannot leave you here.  This is no place for you.  Think of your
sister, Margaret.  You will do nothing to alarm her.  If she were to see
you now--."

Margaret raised herself; took her brother's arm, and went out into the
air.  No one was near.

"Now leave me, brother.  I must be alone.  I will walk here, and think
what I must do.  But how can I know, when all is made such a mystery?
Oh, brother, tell me what I ought to do!"

"Calm yourself now.  Command yourself; for this day.  You, innocent as
you are, may well do so.  If I had such a conscience as yours--if I were
only in your place, Margaret--if I had nothing to bear but wrongs, I
would thank Heaven as Heaven was never yet thanked."

"You, Edward!"

"If the universe heaped injuries upon me, they should not crush me.  If
I had a self-respect like yours, I would lift my head to the stars."

"You, Edward!"

"Margaret, wretched as you are, your misery is nothing to mine.  Have
pity upon me, and command yourself.  For my sake and your sister's, look
and act like yourself, and hope peacefully, trust steadily, that all
will yet be right."

"It cannot be that you have wronged me, brother.  You sent him from me,
I know; and that was unkind: but you could never really wrong any one."

"I never meant it.  I honour you, and would protect you--I will protect
you as a brother should.  Only do not say again that you are forsaken.
It would break our hearts to hear you say that again."

"I will not.  And I will try to be for to-day as if nothing had
happened: but I promise no more than to endeavour--I am so bewildered!"

"Then I will leave you.  I shall not be far off.  No one shall come to
disturb you."

There is, perhaps, no mood of mind in which it is impossible for the
sweet ministrations of nature to be accepted.  Even now, as Margaret
stood on the river-bank, the influences of the scene flowed in upon her.
The operations of thought were quickened, and she was presently
convinced that the next time she saw Philip she should learn all--she
might even find him repentant for having been weak and credulous.
Edward's self-reproach was the most inexplicable mystery of all.  In his
brotherly grief he had no doubt exaggerated some slight carelessness of
speech, some deficiency of watchfulness and zeal.  Hester must never
know of these sorrowful things that Edward had said.  There was
substantial comfort in other of his words.  It was true that she was
only wronged.  In her former season of wretchedness, it had been far
worse: there was not only disappointment, but humiliation; loss, not
only of hope, but of self-respect.  Now, she was innocent of any wrong
towards Philip and herself; and, in this consciousness, any lot must be
supportable.  While thus musing, she walked slowly along, sighing away
some of her oppression.  Her heart and head throbbed less.  Her eye was
caught by the little fish that leaped out of the water after the evening
flies: she stood to watch them.  The splash of a water-rat roused her
ear, and she turned to track him across the stream.  Then she saw a fine
yellow iris, growing among the flags on the very brink, and she must
have it for Maria.  To reach it without a wetting required some skill
and time.  She tried this way--she tried that; but the flower was just
out of reach.  She went to the next alder-bush for a bough, which
answered her purpose; and she had drawn the tuft of flags towards her,
and laid hold of the iris, when Sydney shouted her name from a distance,
and summoned her to tea.

Maria was seated at the table, amidst the greater proportion of the
party, when Margaret arrived, escorted by Sydney, and followed at a
little distance by Mr Hope.  Never had flower been more welcome to
Maria than this iris, offered to her with a smile.  Pale as the face
was, and heavy as were the eyes, there was a genuine smile.  Maria had
kept a place for Margaret, which she took, though Mrs Grey kept gazing
at her, and assured her that she must sit beside her.  Mr Enderby was
not to be seen.  Frequent proclamation was made for him; but he did not
appear; and it was settled that if he preferred wood-ranging to good
cheer, he must have his own way.

Tea passed off well enough.  Dr Levitt and Mr Hope went over the
subject of the abbey again, for the benefit of the rearward portion of
the company, who had not heard it before.  Mr Rowland and the farmer
discussed the bad crops.  Sophia spilled her tea, from Mr Walcot having
made her laugh when she was carrying the cup to her lips; and Sydney
collected a portion of every good thing that was on the table for Mr
Enderby to enjoy on his return.

Mr Enderby did not return till it was quite time to be gone.  Mr Grey
had long been hurrying the servants in their business of packing up
plates and spoons.  He even offered help, and repeated his cautions to
his guests not to stray beyond call.  The farmer shook his head as he
looked up at the leaden-coloured sky, across which black masses of
cloud, like condensed smoke, were whirled, and prophesied a stormy
night.  There was no time to be lost.  The boatmen came bustling out of
the farm-kitchen, still munching; and they put the boats in trim with
all speed, while the ladies stood on the bank quite ready to step in.
Mrs Grey assorted the two parties, still claiming Margaret for her own
boat, but allowing Maria to enter instead of Sydney.  Hope chose to
remain with them; so Dr Levitt exchanged with Sophia.  Mr Walcot
thought there was a lion in his path either way--Mr Hope, his
professional rival, in one boat, and Mr Enderby, whom he fancied he had
offended, in the other.  He adhered to Sophia, as a sure ally.

"Mr Enderby!  Where can he be?" was the exclamation, when all were
seated, and the boatmen stood ready to start, with the tow-rope about
their shoulders; when the dame of the farm had made her parting curtsey,
and had stepped a few paces backward, after her swimming obeisance.  The
farmer was running over the meadow towards the copse in search of the
missing gentleman, and Sydney would have sprung out of the boat to join
in the chase, when his father laid a strong hand on him, and said that
one stray member of a party on a threatening evening was enough.  He
could not have people running after one another till the storm came on.
Mr Rowland was full of concern, and would have had Sydney throw away
the basketful of good things he had hoarded for his friend.  If Enderby
chose to absent himself for his own enjoyments, Mr Rowland said, he
could not expect to share other people's.  Hope was standing up in the
first boat, gazing anxiously round, and Margaret's eyes were fixed on
his face, when every body cried out at once, "Here he is! here he
comes!" and Enderby was seen leaping through a gap in the farthest
hedge, and bounding over the meadow.  He sprang into the boat with a
force which set it rocking, and made the ladies catch at whatever could
be grasped.

"Your hat!" exclaimed several voices.

"Why, Mr Enderby, where is your hat?" cried Sydney, laughing.  Enderby
clapped his hand on the top of his head, and declared he did not know.
He had not missed his hat till this moment.

Hope called from the first boat to the farmer, and asked him to look in
the aisle of the abbey for the gentleman's hat.  It was brought thence;
and Fanny and Mary laughed at Mr Hope for being such a good guesser as
to fancy where Mr Enderby's hat might be, when Mr Enderby did not know
himself.  The moment the hat was tossed into the lap of its owner, Mr
Grey's voice was heard shouting to the men--

"Start off, and get us home as soon as you can."

The men gave a glance at the sky, and set forth at a smart pace.  Mr
Grey saw that the umbrellas lay at his hand, ready for distribution, and
advised each lady to draw her cloak about her, as the air felt to him
damp and chill.

A general flatness being perceptible, some one proposed that somebody
else should sing.  All declined at first, however, except Maria, whose
voice was always most ready when it was most difficult to sing--when the
party was dull, or when no one else would begin.  She wanted to prevent
Margaret's being applied to, and she sang, once and again, on the
slightest hint.  Sophia had no music-books, and could not sing without
the piano, as every one knew beforehand she would say.  Mrs Grey
dropped a tear to the memory of Mrs Enderby, whose ballad was never
wanting on such occasions as these.  Sydney concluded that it was the
same thought which made Mr Enderby bury his head in his hat between his
knees while Miss Young was singing.  It could not surely be all from
shame at having kept the party waiting.

It was with some uncertainty and awe that he whispered in his friend's
ear--

"Don't you think you could sing your new song that cousin Margaret is so
fond of?  Do: we are all as flat as flounders, and everybody will be
asleep presently if we don't do something.  Can't you get over a thing
or two, and sing for us?"

"I am sure I would if I only could."

Enderby shook his head without raising it from his knees.

Mr Walcot had no idea of refusing when he was asked.  He could sing the
Canadian Boat Song; but he was afraid they might have heard it before.

"Never mind that.  Let us have it," said everybody.

"But there should be two: it is a duet, properly, you know."

Sophia believed she could sing that--just that--without the piano.  She
would try the first part, if he would take the second.  Mr Grey thought
to himself that his daughter seemed to have adopted his hint about
civility to his guests very dutifully.  But Mr Walcot could sing only
the first part, because he had a brother at home who always took the
second.  He could soon learn it, he had no doubt, but he did not know it
at present: so he had the duet all to himself; uplifting a slender voice
in a very odd key, which Fanny and Mary did not quite know what to make
of.  They looked round into all the faces in their boat to see whether
anyone was going to laugh: but everybody was immoveable, except that
Sophia whispered softly to Miss Young, that Mr Walcot was a most
delightful young man, after all--so accomplished and so refined!

Mr Walcot's song ended with a quaver, from a large, cold, startling
drop of rain falling on his nose, as he closed his eyes to draw out his
last note.  He blushed at having started and flinched from a drop of
rain, and so spoiled his conclusion.  Some of his hearers supposed he
had broken-down, till assured by others that he had finished.  Then
everybody thanked him, and agreed that the rain was really coming on.

There were now odd fleeces of white cloud between the lead colour and
the black.  They were hurried about in the sky, evidently by counter
currents.  The river was almost inky in its hue, and every large drop
made its own splash and circle.  Up went the umbrellas in both boats;
but almost before they were raised, some were turned inside out, and all
were dragged down again.  The gust had come, and brought with it a pelt
of hail--large hailstones, which fell in at Fanny's collar behind, while
she put down her head to save her face, and which almost took away
Mary's breath, by coming sharp and fast against her cheeks.  Then
somebody descried a gleam of lightning quivering in the grey roof of the
sky; and next, every one saw the tremendous flash which blazed over the
surface of the water, all round about.  How Mr Walcot would have
quavered if he had been singing still.  But a very different voice was
now to be heard--the hoarse thunder rolling up, like advancing
artillery; first growling, then roaring, and presently crashing and
rattling overhead.  The boatmen's thoughts were for the ladies, exposed
as they were, without the possibility of putting up umbrellas.  It felt
almost dark to those in the boats, as they cut rapidly--more and more
rapidly--through the water which seethed about the bows.  The men were
trotting, running.  Presently it was darker still: the bent heads were
raised, and it appeared that the boats were brought to, under the wide
branches of two oaks which overhung the water.  The woods were reached
already.

"Shelter for the ladies, sir," said the panting boatmen, touching their
hats, and then taking them off to wipe their brows.  Mr Grey looked
doubtful, stood up to survey, and then asked if there was no farm, no
sort of house anywhere near.  None nearer than you village where the
spire was, and that was very little nearer than Deerbrook itself.  The
ladies who were disposed to say anything, observed that they were very
well as they were: the tree kept off a great deal of the hail, and the
wind was not felt quite so much as on the open river.  Should they sit
still, or step on shore?  Sit still, by all means.  Packed closely as
they were, they would be warmer and drier than standing on shore; and
they were now ready to start homewards as soon as the storm should
abate.  It did not appear that there was any abatement of the storm in
five minutes, nor in a quarter of an hour.  The young people looked up
at the elder ones, as if asking what to expect.  Several of the party
happened to be glancing in the same direction with the boatmen, when
they saw a shaft of lightning strike perpendicularly from the upper
range of cloud upon the village spire, and light it up.

"Lord bless us!" exclaimed Mr Grey, as the spire sent its smoke up like
a little volcano.

Fanny burst out a-crying, but was called a silly child, and desired not
to make a noise.  Everyone was silent enough now; most hiding their
faces, that they might not see what happened next.  Half way between the
river and the smoking church, in the farther part of the opposite
meadow, was a fine spreading oak, under which, as might just be seen, a
flock of sheep were huddled together for shelter.  Another fiery dart
shot down from the dark canopy, upon the crown of this oak.  The tree
quivered and fell asunder, its fragments lying in a circle.  There was a
rush forth of such of the sheep as escaped, and a rattle of thunder
which would have overpowered any ordinary voices, but in the midst of
which a scream was heard from the first boat.  It was a singular thing
that, in talking over this storm in after-days at home, no lady would
own this scream.

"I'm thinking, sir," said Ben, as soon as he could make himself heard,
"we are in a bad place here, as the storm seems thickening this way.  We
had best get from under the trees, for all the hail."

"Do so, Ben; and make haste."

When the first boat was brought a little out into the stream, in order
to clear it of the flags, Margaret became aware that Philip was gazing
earnestly at her from the other boat.  She alone of the ladies had sat
with face upraised, watching the advance of the storm.  She alone,
perhaps, of all the company, had enjoyed it with pure relish.  It had
animated her mind, and restored her to herself.  When she saw Philip
leaning back on his elbow, almost over the edge of the boat, to
contemplate her, she returned his gaze with such an expression of
mournful wonder and composed sorrow, as moved him to draw his hat over
his eyes, and resolve to look no more.

The storm abated, but did not cease.  Rain succeeded to hail, lightning
still hovered in the air, and thunder continued to growl afar off.  But
the umbrellas could now be kept up, and the ladies escaped with a slight
wetting.

Before the party dispersed from the wharf Hope sought Philip, and had a
few moments' conversation with him, the object of which was to agree
upon further discourse on the morrow.  Hope and Margaret then
accompanied Maria to her lodging, and walked thence silently home.

Hester was on the watch for them--a little anxious lest they should have
suffered from the storm, and ready with some reflections on the
liabilities of parties of pleasure; but yet blithe and beaming.  Her
countenance fell when she saw her sister's pale face.

"Margaret! how you look!" cried she.  "Cold, wet, and weary: and ill,
too, I am sure."

"Cold, wet, and weary," Margaret admitted.  "Let me make haste to bed.
And do you make tea for Edward, and send some up to me.  Good-night!  I
cannot talk now.  Edward will tell you."

"Tell me what?"  Hester asked her husband, when she found that Margaret
had really rather have no attendance.

"That Margaret is unhappy, love, from some misunderstanding with
Enderby.  Some busy devil--I have no doubt the same that has caused so
much mischief already--has come between him and Margaret."

He then told the story of Philip's sudden appearance, and his conduct
throughout the day, omitting all hint that any conversation with himself
had taken place.  He hoped, in conclusion, that all would be cleared up,
and the mutual faith of the lovers restored.

Hester thought this impossible.  If Philip could be prejudiced against
Margaret by any man or woman on earth, or any devil in hell, there must
be an instability in his character to which Margaret's happiness must
not be committed.  Hope was not sure of this.  There were circumstances
of temptation, modes of delusion, under which the faith of a seraph
might sink.  But worse still, Hester said, was his conduct of to-day,
torturing Margaret's affection, wounding her pride, insulting her
cruelly, in the presence of all those among whom she lived.  Hope was
disposed to suspend his judgment even upon this.  Enderby was evidently
half-frantic.  His love was undiminished, it was clear.  It was the soul
of all the madness of to-day.  Margaret had conducted herself nobly.
Her innocence, her faith, must triumph at last.  They might bring her
lover to her side again, Hester had little doubt: but she did not see
what could now render Philip worthy of Margaret.  This had always been
her apprehension.  How, after the passions of this day, could they ever
again be as they had been?  And tears, as gentle and sorrowful as
Margaret had ever shed for her, now rained from Hester's eyes.

"Be comforted, my Hester--my generous wife, be comforted.  You live for
us--you are our best blessing, my love, and we can never bear to see you
suffer for her.  Be comforted, and wait.  Trust that the retribution of
this will fall where it ought; and that will never be upon our Margaret.
Pray that the retribution may fall where it ought, and that its
bitterness may be intense as the joy which Margaret and you deserve."

"I never knew you so revengeful, Edward," said his wife, taking the hand
he held before his eyes.  "Shall I admonish you for once?  Shall I give
you a reproof for wishing woe to our enemies?  Shall I remind you to
forgive--fully, freely, as you hope to be forgiven?"

"Yes, love; anything for the hope of being forgiven."

"Ah! how deep your sorrow for Margaret is!  Grief always humbles us in
our own eyes.  Such humiliation is the test of sorrow.  Bless you, love,
that you grieve so for Margaret!"



CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.

THE NEXT DAY.

The hours of a sleepless night were not too long for Hope to revolve
what he must say and do on the morrow.  He must meet Enderby; and the
day would probably decide Margaret's fate.  That this decision would
implicate his own happiness or misery was a subordinate thought.  It was
not till after he had viewed Margaret's case in every light, in which
apprehension could place it, that he dwelt upon what the suffering to
himself must be of seeing Margaret, day by day, living on, in meek
patience, amidst the destruction of hope and happiness which his
attachment had caused.  When he did dwell upon it, his heart sank within
him.  All that had made him unhappy seemed of late to have passed away.
For many months he had seen Margaret satisfied in her attachment to
another; he had seen Hester coming out nobly from the trial of
adversity, in which all her fine qualities had been exercised, and her
weaknesses almost subdued.  She had been not only the devoted wife, but
patient and generous towards her foes, full of faith and cheerfulness in
her temper, and capable of any degree of self-denial in the conduct of
her daily life.  She had been of late all that in the days of their
engagement--in the days when he had dealt falsely with his own mind--he
had trusted she would be.  A friendship, whose tenderness was life
enough for them both, had grown up in his soul, and he had been at
peace.  It had been a subject of incessant thankfulness to him, that the
evil of what he could now hardly consider as a false step had been
confined to himself--that his struggles, his strivings, the dreadful
solitary conflicts of a few months, had not been in vain; that he had
fulfilled the claims of both relations, and marred no one's peace.  Now,
he was plunged into the struggle again.  The cause was at an end; but
consequences, of perhaps endless wretchedness, remained to be borne.
His secret was known, and made the basis of untruths to which the whole
happiness of his household, so victoriously struggled for, so carefully
cherished by him, and so lately secured, must be sacrificed.  Again and
again he turned from the fearful visions of Margaret cast off, of the
estrangement of the sisters, of the possible loss of some of their fair
fame--from these harrowing thoughts he turned again and again to
consider what must be done.--The most certain thing was, that he must
not by word, look, pause, or admission, countenance to Enderby himself
the supposition that he had not preferred Hester at the time she became
his wife.  In the present state of their attachment, this was the merest
justice to her.  Nothing that it was in Mrs Grey's power to reveal bore
a relation to any time later than his early, and, it might be assumed,
superficial, intercourse with the sisters and, as far as he knew, no one
else, unless it were Frank (by this time in possession of the facts),
had ever conceived of the true state of the case.  He must decline all
question about his domestic relations, except as far as Margaret was
concerned.  Beyond this, he would allow of no inquisition, and would
forbid all speculation.  For Margaret's sake, no less than Hester's,
this was necessary.  If she should ever be Enderby's wife, it was of the
utmost importance that Enderby should not, in his most secret soul, hold
this information, however strongly he might be convinced that Margaret
was in ignorance of it, and had never loved any but himself.  There must
be no admission to Enderby of that which had been truth, but which would
become untruth by being first admitted now.  There must be entire
silence upon the whole subject of himself.--As to Margaret, he did not
see what could be done, but to declare his true and perfect belief that
she had never loved any but Enderby.  But alas! what chance was there of
this testimony being received; the very point of Enderby's accusation
being, that they both looked, perhaps in self-delusion, at the
connection with him as their security from the consequences of Hope's
weakness in marrying Hester?  It was all confused--all wretched--all
nearly hopeless.  Margaret would be sacrificed without knowing why--
would have her heart wrung with the sense of injury in addition to her
woe.

From reflections and anticipations, Hope rose early to the great duty of
the day.  He told Hester that he was going to meet Enderby in the
meadows, to receive a full explanation of his conduct of the preceding
day; and that it was probable that he should bring home whatever tidings
it might be Margaret's lot to hear.

He found, during the long and anxious conversation in the meadow, that
he had need of all the courage, calmness, and discretion he could
command.  It was a cruel trial to one whose wont it had been from his
childhood to converse in "simplicity and godly sincerity,"--it was a
cruel trial to hear evidence, upon evidence brought of what he knew to
have been fact, and to find connected with this, revolting falsehoods,
against which he could only utter the indignation of his soul.  When he
afterwards reflected how artfully the facts and falsehoods were
connected, he could no longer wonder at Enderby's convictions, nor at
the conduct which proceeded from them.  There was in Enderby this
morning no undue anger, no contempt which could excite anger in
another;--no doubt cast by him upon Hope's honour, or Margaret's purity
of mind, as the world esteems purity.  However this might have been
before their meeting of yesterday, it was now clear that, though
immoveably convinced of their mutual attachment, he supposed it to have
been entertained as innocently as it was formed;--that Hope had been
wrought upon by Mrs Grey, and by a consciousness of Hester's love; that
he had married from a false sense of honour, and then discovered his
mistake;--that he had striven naturally, and with success, to persuade
himself that Margaret loved his friend, while Margaret had made the same
effort, and would have married that friend for security and with the
hope of rest in a home of her own, with one whom she might possibly love
and to whom she was bound by his love of herself.

As for the evidence on which his belief was founded, there seemed to be
no end to it.  Hope could do little but listen to the detail.  If he had
been sitting in judgment on the conduct of an imputed criminal, he would
have wrestled with the evidence obstinately and long; but what could he
do, when it was the lover of his sister-in-law who was declaring why his
confidence in her was gone, and he must resume his plighted faith?  None
but those who had done the mischief could repair it; and least of all,
Hope himself.  He could only make one single, solemn protestation of his
belief that Margaret had loved none but Enderby, and deny the truth of
every statement that was inconsistent with this.

The exhibition of the evidence showed how penetrating, how sagacious, as
well as how industrious, malice can be.  There seemed to be no
circumstance connected with the sisters and their relation to Mr Hope,
that Mrs Rowland had not laid hold of.  Mrs Grey's visit to Hope
during his convalescence; his subsequent seclusion, and his depression
when he reappeared--all these were noted; and it was these which sent
Enderby to Mrs Grey for an explanation, which she had not had courage
or judgment to withhold--which, indeed, she had been hurried into
giving.  She had admitted all that had passed between herself and Mr
Hope--his consternation at finding that it was Hester who loved him, and
whom he must marry, and the force with which Mrs Grey had felt herself
obliged to urge that duty upon him.  Enderby connected with this his own
observations and feelings at the time; his last summer's conviction that
it was Margaret whom Hope loved; his rapturous surprise on hearing of
the engagement being to Hester; and his wonder at the coldness with
which his friend received his congratulations.  He now thought that he
must have been doomed to blindness not to have discerned the truth
through all this.--Then there was his own intrusion during the interview
which Hope had with Margaret;--their countenances had haunted him ever
since.  Hope's was full of constraint and anxiety;--he was telling his
intentions:--Margaret's face was downcast, and her attitude motionless;
she was hearing her doom.--Then, after Hope was married, all Deerbrook
was aware of his failure of spirits; and of Margaret's no less.  It was
a matter of common remark, that there must be something amiss--that all
was not right at home.  They had, then, doubtless discovered that the
attachment was mutual; and they might well be wretched.--Those who ought
to know best had been convinced of this at an earlier stage of the
intercourse.  Mrs Rowland had met at Cheltenham a young officer, an
intimate friend of Mr Hope's family, who would not be persuaded that it
was not to the younger sister that Mr Hope was married.  He declared
that he knew, from the highest authority, that Hope was attached to
Margaret, and that the attachment was returned.  It was not till Mrs
Rowland had shown him the announcement of the marriage in an old
Blickley newspaper, which she happened to have used in packing her
trunk, that he would believe that it was the elder sister who was Hope's
wife.--There was one person, however, who had known the whole, Enderby
said; perhaps she was the only person who had been aware of it all: and
that was his mother.

In answer to Hope's exclamations upon the absurdity of this, Enderby
said, that a thousand circumstances rose up to confirm Mrs Rowland's
statement that her mother had known all, and had learned it from
Margaret herself.  Margaret had confided in her old friend as in a
mother; and nothing could be more natural--nothing probably more
necessary to an overburdened heart.  This explained his mother's never
having shown his letters to Margaret--the person for whom, as she knew,
they were chiefly written.  This explained the words of concern about
the domestic troubles of the Hopes, which, now and then during her long
confinement, she had dropped in Phoebe's hearing, and even in her
letters to her son.  She had repeatedly regretted that Margaret would
not leave her sister's house, and return to Birmingham--saying that
income and convenience were not to be thought of for a moment, in
comparison with some other considerations.  In fact she had--it was
weakness, perhaps, but one not to be too hardly judged under the
circumstances--she had revealed the whole to her daughter under
injunctions to secrecy, which had been strictly observed while she
lived, and broken now only for a brother's sake, and after a long
conflict between obligations apparently contradictory.  When, from her
deathbed, she had welcomed Margaret as a daughter-in-law, it was in the
gratitude which it was natural for a mother to feel, on finding the
attachment of an only son at length appreciated and rewarded.  When she
had implored Mrs Rowland to receive Margaret as a sister, and had seen
them embrace, her generous spirit had rejoiced in her young friend's
conquest of an unhappy passion; and she had meant to convey to Priscilla
an admonition to bury in oblivion what had become known to her, and to
forgive Margaret for having loved any one but Philip.  Priscilla could
not make a difficulty at such a time, and in such a presence; she had
submitted to the embrace, but her soul had recoiled from it; she had
actually fainted under the shock: and ever since, she had declared to
her brother, with a pertinacity which he had been unable to understand--
which, indeed, had looked like sheer audacity, that he would never marry
Margaret Ibbotson.  Philip was now convinced that he had done his sister
much wrong.  Her temper and conduct were in some instances indefensible;
but since he had learned all this, and become aware how much of what he
had censured had been said and done out of affection for himself, he had
been disposed rather to blame her for the lateness of her explanations,
than for any excess of zeal on his account,--zeal which he admitted had
carried her a point or two beyond the truth in some of her aims.  These
statements about the condition of Margaret's mind were borne out by
circumstances known to others.  When Margaret had been rescued from
drowning, Hope was heard to breathe, as he bent over her, "Oh God! my
Margaret!" and it was observed that she rallied instantly on hearing the
exclamation, and repaid him with a look worthy of his words.  This had
been admitted to Enderby himself by the one who heard it, and who might
be trusted to speak of it to no one else.  Then, it was known that when
Margaret was in the habit of taking long walks alone, towards the end of
the winter, she was met occasionally by her brother-in-law in his
rides--naturally enough.  Their conversation had been overheard, once at
least, when they consulted about the peace of their home--how much of a
certain set of circumstances they should communicate to Mrs Hope, and
whether or not Mr Enderby was engaged to a lady abroad.  Without these
testimonies, Enderby felt that he had only to recur to his own
experience to be convinced that Margaret had never loved him, though
striving to persuade herself, as well as him, that she did.  The
calmness with which she had received his avowals that first evening last
winter, struck him with admiration at the time: he now understood it
better.  He wondered he had felt so little till now the coldness of the
tone of her correspondence.  The first thing which awakened him to an
admission of it, was her refusal to marry him in the spring.  She
shrank, as she avowed, from leaving her present residence--she might
have said, from quitting those she loved best.

It was clear that in marrying she was to make a sacrifice to duty--to
secure innocence and safety for herself and those who were dearest to
her; and that, when the time drew near, she recoiled from the effort.
Enderby was thankful that all had become clear in time for her release
and his own.

The horror with which Hope listened to this was beyond what he had
prepared himself for--beyond all that he had yet endured.  Enderby
seemed quite willing to hear him; but what could be said?  Only that
which he had planned.  His protest against the truth of certain of the
statements, and the justice of some of the constructions of facts, was
strong.  He declared that, in his perfect satisfaction with his domestic
state, his happiness with his beloved and honoured wife, he would admit
of no question about his family affairs, as far as he and Hester were
concerned.  He denied at once and for ever, all that went to show that
Margaret had for a moment regarded him otherwise than as a friend and a
brother; and declared that the bare mention to her of the idea which was
uppermost in Enderby's mind would be a cruelty and insult which could
never be retrieved.  He was not going to plead for her.  Bitterly as she
must suffer, it was from a cause which lay too deep for cure--from a
want of faith in her in one who ought to know her best, but from whom
she would be henceforth best separated, if what he had been saying was
his deliberate belief and judgment.--Enderby declaring that it was so,
and that it was his intention to release Margaret from her engagement,
gently and carefully, without useless explanation and without reproach,
there was nothing more to be said or done.  Hope prophesied, in parting,
that, of all the days of Enderby's life, this was perhaps that of which
he would one day most heartily repent; and while he spoke, he felt that
this same day was the one which he might himself find the most difficult
to endure.  He left Enderby still pacing the meadow, and walked
homewards with a heart weighed down with grief--a grief which yet he
would fain have increased to any degree of intensity by taking
Margaret's upon himself.

Margaret was at the breakfast-table with her sister when he entered.
Her eyes were swollen, but her manner was gentle and composed.  She
looked up at Edward, when he appeared, with an expression of timid
expectation in her face, which went to his soul.  A few words passed--a
very few, and then no more was said.

"Yes; I have seen him.  He is very wretched.  He will not come, but we
shall hear something, I have no doubt.  A strange persuasion which I
cannot remove, of a prior attachment--of a want of frankness and
confidence.  He will explain himself presently.  But his persuasion is
irremoveable."

Hester had much to say of him out of her throbbing heart; but she looked
at Margaret, and restrained herself.  What must there be in _that_
heart?  To utter one word would be irreverent.  The breakfast passed in
an almost unbroken silence.

It had not been long over when the expected letter came.  Hope never saw
it; but there was no need: he perfectly anticipated its contents, while
to her for whom they were written they were incomprehensible.

  "I spare you and myself the misery of an interview.  It must be
  agonising to you, and there would be dishonour as well as pain to me,
  in witnessing that agony.  If, as I fully believe, you have been
  hitherto blind to the injustice of your connecting yourself with me,
  from a sense of duty and expediency, when you had not a first genuine
  love to give, I think you will see it now; and I pity your suffering
  in the discovery.  There is only one point on which I wish or intend
  to hang any reproach.  Why did you not, when I had become entitled to
  your confidence, lay your heart fully open to me?  Did I not do so by
  you?  Did I not reveal to you even the transient fancy which I
  entertained long ago, and which I showed my faith in you, her friend,
  by revealing?  If you had only done the same--if you had only let me
  know, without a hint as to the object, that you had been attached, and
  that you believed I might succeed to your affections in time--if you
  had done this, I do not say that we should then have been what I so
  lately trusted we were to be, for my soul is jealous--has been made so
  by what I thought you--and will bear none but a first, and an entire,
  and an exclusive love: but in that case I should have cherished you in
  my inmost heart, as all that I have believed you to be, though not
  destined for me.

  "But I do not blame you.  You have done what you meant to be right;
  though, from too great regard to one set of considerations, you have
  mistaken the right, and have sacrificed me.  I make allowance for your
  difficulty, and, for my own part, pardon you, and testify most
  sincerely and earnestly to the purity of your mind and intentions.  Do
  not reject this parting testimony.  I offer it because I would not
  have you think me harsh, or suppose that passion has made me unjust.
  I love you too deeply to do more than mourn.  I have no heart to
  blame, except for your want of confidence.  Of that I have a right to
  complain: but, for the rest, spare yourself the effort of
  self-justification.  It is not needed.  I do not accuse you.  You were
  right in saying yesterday that I love you still.  I shall ever love
  you, be our separate lives what they may.  God bless you!

  "PE."

"Will you not wait, my dearest Margaret?" said Hester, when, within half
an hour of the arrival of Enderby's letter, she met her sister on the
stairs, with the reply in her hand, sealed, and ready to be sent.  "Why
such haste?  The events of your life may hang on this day, on this one
letter.  Can it be right to be so rapid in what you think and do?"

"The event of my life is decided," she replied, "unless--No--the event
of my life _is_ decided.  I have nothing more to wait for.  I have
written what I think, and it must go."

It was as follows:--

  "I have nothing to say in reply to your letter, for I cannot
  understand it.  Yet I wonder less at your letter than at your having
  written it instead of coming to me, to say all that is in your mind.
  At some moments I still think that you will--I feel that you are on
  your way hither, and I fancy that this dreadful dream of your
  displeasure will pass away.  It is the first time in my life that any
  one has been seriously and lastingly displeased with me; and, though I
  feel that I have not deserved it, I am very wretched that you, of all
  others, should blame me, and cease to trust me.  There ought to be
  some comfort in the thought that your anger is without cause: but I
  cannot find such comfort; for I feel that though I could endure your
  loss by long absence or death, I cannot live in the spirit in which I
  should wish to live, without your esteem.

  "It is useless, alas! to entreat of you to come and explain yourself,
  or in some other way to put me in possession of the cause of your
  anger.  If you could resist the claims I had upon you for confidence
  before I knew what was going to befall me--if you could resist the
  demand I made yesterday, I fear there is little use in imploring you
  to do me justice.  If I thought there was any chance, I would submit
  to entreat, though I would not have you, any more than myself, forget
  that I have a right to demand.  But indeed I would yield everything
  that I dare forego, to have you awakened from this strange delusion
  which makes us both wretched.  It is no time for pride now.  I care
  not how fully you know what I feel.  I only wish that you could see
  into my soul as into your own; for then you would not misjudge me as
  you do.  I care not what any one may think of my throwing myself upon
  the love which I am certain you feel for me, if I can only persuade
  you to tell me what you mean, and to hear what I shall then have to
  say.  What can I now say?  I will not reproach you, for I know you
  must be even, if possible, more miserable than I: but yet, how can I
  help feeling that you have been unjust and harsh with me?  Yes; though
  the tone of your letter seems to be gentle, and you clearly mean it to
  be so, I feel that you have been very harsh to me.  Nothing that you
  can do shall ever make me so cruel to you.  You may rest satisfied
  that, if we should not meet again, I will never be unjust to you.  To
  every one about me it will appear that you are fickle and
  dishonourable--that you have acted towards me as it is in the nature
  of some men to act towards the women whose affections they possess; in
  the nature of some men, but not in yours.  I know you to be incapable
  of anything worse than error and mistrust (and, till yesterday, I
  could not have believed you capable of this much wrong): and you may
  trust me to impute to you nothing worse than this.  Suffering as I now
  am, as we both are, under this error and mistrust, may I not implore
  you, for your own sake (for mine it is too late), to nourish the weak
  part of yourself, to question your own unworthy doubts, and to study
  the best parts of the minds you meet, till you grow assured (as a
  religious man ought to be) that there can be no self-interest, and
  much less falsehood, mixed up with any real affection--with any such
  affection as has existed between us two?

  "I must not write more; for I do not know, I cannot conjecture, how
  you may receive what I have written, thinking of me as you now do.  It
  seems strange to remember that at this time yesterday, in this very
  chair, I was writing to you.  Oh how differently!  Is it possible that
  it was only yesterday--such a world of misery as we have lived through
  since?  But I can write no more.  It may be that you will despise me
  in every line as you read: after what has happened, I cannot tell.
  Notwithstanding all I have said about trusting, I feel at this moment
  as if I could never depend on anything in this world again.  If you
  should come within this hour and explain all, how could I be sure that
  the same thing might not happen again?  But do not let this weigh a
  moment with you, if indeed you think of coming.  If I do not see you
  to-day, I shall never see you.  I will then bear in mind, as you
  desire, and as I cannot help, that you love me still; but how little
  comfort is there in such love, when trust is gone!  God comfort us
  both!

  "Margaret Ibbotson."

Mrs Rowland was crossing the hall at the moment that her maid Betsy
opened the door to Mr Hope's errand-boy, and took in this letter.

"Where are you carrying that letter?" said she, as Betsy passed her.

"To the study, ma'am, against Mr Enderby comes in.  It is for Mr
Enderby, ma'am."

"Very well."

The letter was placed on the study mantelpiece; the place of deposit for
letters for absent members of the family.  Mrs Rowland meantime resumed
her seat in the drawing-room, where the nursemaid was amusing the baby.
Mamma took the baby, and sent the maid away.  She had a strong belief
that her brother might be found somewhere in the shrubbery, though some
feeling had prevented her telling the servant so when the letter was
taken in.  She went, with the baby in her arms, into the study, to see
whether Philip was visible in any part of the garden that could be seen
thence.  But she stopped short of the window.  The handwriting on the
address of the letter troubled her sight.  More than half-persuaded, as
she was, of the truth of much that she had told her brother, strenuously
as she had nourished the few facts she was in possession of, till she
had made them yield a double crop of inferences, she was yet conscious
of large exaggerations of what she knew, and of huge additions to what
she believed to be probabilities, and had delivered as facts.  There was
in that handwriting a prophecy of detection: and, like other cowards,
she began to tamper with her reason and conscience.

"There is great mischief in letters at such times," she thought.  "They
are so difficult to answer! and it is so possible to produce any effect
that may be wished by them!  As my husband was reading the other
day--`It is so easy to be virtuous, to be perfect, upon paper!'  Nothing
that the girl can say ought to alter the state of the case: it can only
harass Philip's feelings, and perhaps cause all the work to be gone over
again.  His letter was meant to be final, I am confident, from his
intending to go away this evening.  There should have been no answer.
This letter is a pure impertinence, and ought to be treated as such.  It
is a sort of duty to use it as it deserves.  Many parents (at least I
know old Mr Boyle did) burn letters which they know to contain offers
to daughters whom they do not wish to part with.  Mr Boyle had no
scruple; and I am sure this is a stronger case.  Better end the whole
affair at once; and then Philip will be free to form a better
connection.  He will thank me one day for having broken off this."

She carried the letter into the drawing-room, slowly contemplating it as
she went.  She thought, for one fleeting instant, of reading it.  She
was not withheld by honour, but by fear.  She shrank from encountering
its contents.  She glanced over the mantelpiece, and saw that the
lucifer-matches were at hand.  To make the letter burn quickly, it was
necessary to unfold it.  She put the child down upon the rug--a
favourite play-place, for the sake of the gay pink and green shavings
which, at this time of the year, curtained the grate.  While baby
crawled, and gazed quietly and contentedly there, Mrs Rowland broke the
seal of Margaret's letter, turning her eyes from the writing, laid the
blistered sheet in the hearth, and set fire to it.  The child set up a
loud crow of delight at the flame.  At that moment, even this simple and
familiar sound startled its mother out of all power of self-control.
She snatched up the child with a vehemence which frightened it into a
shrill cry.  She feared the nursemaid would come before all the sparks
were out; and she tried to quiet the baby by dancing it before the
mirror over the mantelpiece.  She met her own face there, white as
ashes; and the child saw nothing that could amuse it, while its eyes
were blinded with tears.  She opened the window to let it hearken to the
church clock; and the device was effectual.  Baby composed its face to
serious listening, before the long succession of strokes was finished,
and allowed the tears to be wiped from its cheeks.

One thing more remained to be done.  Mrs Rowland heard a step in the
hall, and looked out: it was Betsy's.

"I thought it was you.  Pray desire cook to send up a cup of broth for
Miss Rowland's lunch; and be sure and let Miss Rowland know, the moment
it is ready.  Mr Enderby is in the shrubbery, I think."

"Yes, ma'am; seeing he was there, I was coming to ask about the letter,
ma'am, to carry it to him."

"Oh, that letter--I sent it to him.  He has got it.  Tell cook directly
about the broth."

At lunch-time, one of the children was desired to summon Uncle Philip.
Mrs Rowland took care to meet him at the garden door.  She saw him cast
a wistful eye towards the study mantelpiece, as he passed the open door.
His sister observed that she believed it was past post time for this
half-week.  He sighed deeply; and she felt that no sigh of his had ever
so gone to her heart before.

"Why, mamma! do look!" cried George, as well as a mouthful of bread
would allow.  "Look at the chimney!  Where are all the shavings gone?
There is the knot at the top that they were tied together with, but not
a bit of shaving left.  Have they blown up the chimney?"

"What will poor baby say?" exclaimed Matilda.  "All the pretty pink and
green gone!"

"There is some tinder blowing about," observed George.  "I do believe
they have been burnt."

"Shut the window, George, will you?  There is no bearing this draught.
There is no bearing Betsy's waste either.  She has burned those shavings
somehow in cleaning the grate.  Her carelessness is past endurance."

"Make her buy some new shavings, mamma, for baby's sake."

"Do be quiet, and get your lunch.  Hand your uncle the dish of
currants."

Philip languidly picked a few bunches.  He had noticed nothing that had
passed, as his sister was glad to observe.  Besides being too much
accustomed, to hear complaints of the servants to give any heed to them,
he was now engrossed with his own wretched thoughts.  Every five minutes
that passed without bringing a reply from Margaret, went to confirm his
most painful impressions.

Margaret meantime was sitting alone in her chamber, enduring the long
morning as she best might.  Now plying her needle as if life depended on
her industry, and now throwing up her employment in disgust, she
listened for the one sound she needed to hear, till her soul was sick of
every other.  "I must live wholly within myself now," she thought, "as
far as he is concerned.  I can never speak of him, or allow Hester and
Maria to speak of him to me; for they will blame him.  Every one will
blame him: Maria did yesterday.  No one will do him justice.  I cannot
ask Mrs Grey, as I intended, anything of what she may have seen and
heard about all this.  I have had my joy to myself: I have carried about
my solitary glory and bliss in his being mine; and now I must live alone
upon my grief for him; for no one person in the world will pity and
justify him but myself.  He has done me no wrong that he could help.
His staying away to-day is to save me pain, as he thinks.  I wish I had
not said in my letter that he has been harsh to me.  Perhaps he would
have been here by this time if I had not said that.  How afraid he was,
that day in the spring when he urged me so to marry at once--(Oh! if I
had, all this would have been saved! and yet I thought, and I still
think, I was right.)  But how afraid he was of our parting, lest evil
should come between us!  I promised him it should not, for my own part:
but who could have thought that the mistrust would be on his side?  He
had a superstitious feeling, he said, that something would happen--that
we should be parted: and I would not hear of it.  How presumptuous I
was!  How did I dare to make so light of what has come so dreadfully
true?--Oh! why are we so made that we cannot see into one another's
hearts?  If we are made to depend on one another so absolutely as we
are, so that we hold one another's peace to cherish or to crush, why is
it such a blind dependence?  Why are we left so helpless?  Why, with so
many powers as are given us, have we not that one other, worth all the
rest, of mutual insight?  If God would bestow this power for this one
day, I would give up all else for it for ever after.  Philip would trust
me again then, and I should understand him; and I could rest afterwards,
happen what might--though then nothing would happen but what was good.
But now, shut in, each into ourselves, with anger and sorrow all about
us, from some mistake which a moment's insight might remove--it is the
dreariest, the most tormenting state!  What are all the locks, and bars,
and fetters in the world to it?  So near each other too!  When one look,
one tone, might perhaps lead to the clearing up of it all!  There is no
occasion to bear this, however.  So near as we are, nothing should
prevent our meeting--nothing shall prevent it."

She started up, and hastily put on her bonnet and gloves: but when her
hand was on the lock of her door, her heart misgave her.  "If it should
fail!" she thought.  "If he should neither look at me nor speak to me--
if he should leave me as he did yesterday!  I should never get over the
shame.  I dare not store up such a wretched remembrance, to make me
miserable as often as I think of it, for as long as I live.  If he will
not come after reading my letter, neither would he hear me if I went to
him.  Oh! he is very unjust!  After all his feats of my being influenced
against him, he might have distrusted himself.  After making me promise
to write, on the first doubt that any one might try to put into my mind,
he might have remembered to do the same by me, instead of coming down in
this way, not to explain, but to overwhelm me with his displeasure,
without giving me a moment's time to justify myself.  Edward seems
strangely unkind too," she sighed, as she slowly untied her bonnet and
put it away, as if to avoid tempting herself with the sight of it again.
"I never knew Edward unjust or unkind before; but I heard him ask
Philip why he staid to hear me in the abbey yesterday; and though he has
been with Philip this morning, he does not seem to have made the
slightest attempt to bring us together.  When such as Edward and Philip
do so wrong, one does not know where to trust, or what to hope.  There
is nothing to trust, but God and the right.  I will live for these, and
no one shall henceforth hear me complain, or see me droop, or know
anything of what lies deepest in my heart.  This must be possible; it
has been done.  Many nuns in their convents have carried it through: and
missionaries in heathen countries, and all the wisest who have been
before their age; and some say--Maria would say--almost every person who
has loved as I have: but I do not believe this: I do not believe that
many--that any can have felt as I do now.  It is not natural and right
that any should live as I mean to do.  We are made for confidence, not
for such solitude and concealment.  But it may be done when
circumstances press as they do upon me; and, if God gives me strength, I
will do it.  I will live for Him and his; and my heart, let it suffer as
it may, shall never complain to human ear.  It shall be as silent as the
grave."

The resolution held for some hours.  Margaret was quiet and composed
through dinner, though her expectation, instead of dying out, grew more
intense with every hour.  After dinner, Hope urged his wife to walk with
him.  It had been a fine day, and she had not been out.  There was still
another hour before dark.  Would not Margaret go too?  No; Margaret
could not leave home.

When Hester came down, equipped for her walk, she sat beside her sister
on the sofa for a minute or two, while waiting for Edward.

"Margaret," said she, "will you let me say one word to you?"

"Anything, Hester, if you will not be hard upon any one whom you cannot
fully understand."

"I would not for the world be hard, love.  But there was once a time,
above a year ago, when you warned me, kindly warned me, though I did not
receive it kindly, against pride as a support.  You said it could not
support me; and you said truly.  May I say the same to you now?"

"Thank you.  It is kind of you.  I will consider; but I do not think
that I have any pride in me to-day.  I feel humbled enough."

"It is not for you to feel humbled, love.  Reverence yourself; for you
may.  Nothing has happened to impair your self-respect.  Admit freely to
your own mind, and to us, that you have been cruelly injured, and that
you suffer as you must and ought.  Admit this freely, and then rely on
yourself and us."

Margaret shook her head.  She did not say it, but she felt that she
could not rely on Edward, while he seemed to stand between her and
Philip.  He came in at the moment, and she averted her eyes from him.
He felt her displeasure in his heart's core.

When they returned, sooner than she had expected, from their walk, they
had bad news for her, which they had agreed it was most merciful not to
delay.  They had seen Enderby in Mr Rowland's gig on the Blickley road.
He had his carpet-bag with him; and Mr Rowland's man was undoubtedly
driving him to Blickley, to meet the night coach for London.

"It is better to save you all further useless expectation," observed
Edward.  "We keep nothing from you."

"You keep nothing from me!" said Margaret, now fixing her eyes upon him.
"Then what is your reason for not having brought us together, if indeed
you have not kept us apart?  Do you suppose I did not hear you send him
from me yesterday?  And how do I know that you have not kept him away
to-day?"

"My dear Margaret!" exclaimed Hester: but a look from her husband, and
the recollection of Margaret's misery, silenced her.  For the first time
Hester forgave on the instant the act of blaming her husband.

"Whatever I have done, whether it appears clear to you or not," replied
Hope, "it is from the most tender respect for your feelings.  I shall
always respect them most tenderly; and not the less for their being hurt
with me."

"I have no doubt of your meaning all that is kind, Edward: but surely
when two people misunderstand each other, it is best that they should
meet.  If you have acted from a regard to what you consider my dignity,
I could wish that you had left the charge of it to myself."

"You are right: quite right."

"Then why--.  Oh!  Edward, if you repent what you have done, it may not
yet be too late!"

"I do not repent.  I have done you no wrong to-day, Margaret.  I grieve
for you, but I could not have helped you."

"Let us never speak on this subject again," said Margaret, stung by the
consciousness of having so soon broken the resolution of the morning,
that her suffering heart should be as silent as the grave.  "It is not
from pride, Hester, that I say so; but let us never again speak of all
this."

"Let us know but one thing, Margaret," said Edward;--"that yours is the
generous silence of forgiveness.  I do not mean with regard to him--for
I fear you will forgive him sooner than we can do.  I do not mean him
particularly, nor those who have poisoned his ear; but all.  Only tell
us that your silence is the oblivion of mercy, so mourning for the
erring that, for its own sake, it remembers their transgressions no
more."

Margaret looked up at them both.  Though her eyes swam in tears, there
was a smile upon her lips as she held out her hand to her brother, and
yielded herself to Hester's kiss.



CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.

THE CONQUEROR.

Mrs Rowland did not find herself much the happier for being borne out
by the whole world in her assertions, that Philip and Margaret were not
engaged.  She knew that, with regard to this, she now stood justified in
the eyes of all Deerbrook, that almost everyone there now believed that
it had been an entanglement from which she had released her brother.
From selfish fear, from dread of the consequences of going so far as to
be again sent by her husband to Cheltenham, or by the Levitts to
Coventry; from foresight of the results which would ensue from her
provoking an inquiry into the domestic concerns of the Hopes--an inquiry
which might end in the reconciliation of Philip and Margaret, and in
some unpleasant discoveries about herself--she was very guarded
respecting the grand accusation by which she had wrought on her brother.
No hint of it got abroad in Deerbrook: nothing was added to the ancient
gossip about the Hopes not being very happy together.  Mrs Rowland knew
that affairs stood in this satisfactory state.  She knew that Margaret
was exposed to as much observation and inquiry as a country village
affords, respecting her disappointed attachment--that the Greys were
very angry, and praised Margaret to every person they met--that Mr
Walcot eulogised Mrs Rowland's discernment to all Mrs Rowland's
party--that Mrs Howell and Miss Miskin lifted up their eyes in
thankfulness at Mr Enderby's escape from such a connection--that Mr
Hope was reported to be rather flat in spirits--and that Margaret was
certainly looking thin: she knew of all this success, and yet she was
not happier than six months ago.  The drawback on such successes is,
that they are never complete.  There is always some Mordecai sitting at
the gate to mar the enjoyment.  Mrs Rowland was aware of Mrs James
having dropped that she and her husband had nothing to do with anybody's
family quarrels; that there was always a great deal to be said on both
sides in such cases; and that they had never seen anything but what was
amiable and pleasant in Miss Ibbotson and her connections.  She knew
that Dr Levitt called on the Hopes full as often as at any house in
Deerbrook; and that Mrs Levitt had offered to take some of Margaret's
plants into her greenhouse, to be nursed through the winter.  She was
always hearing that Miss Young and Margaret were much together, and that
they were happy in each other's society; and she alternately fancied
them talking about her, exposing to each other the injuries she had
wrought to both, and enjoying an oblivion of their cares in her despite.
She could never see Maria taking an airing in the Greys' shrubbery,
leaning on Margaret's arm, or Margaret turning in at the farrier's gate,
without feeling her colour rise.  She knew that Mr Jones was apt to
accommodate Miss Ibbotson with a choice of meat, in preference to his
other customers; and that Mrs Jones had spoken indignantly to a
neighbour about fine gentlemen from London that think little of breaking
one young heart after another, to please their own vanity, and never
come back to look upon the eyes that they have made dim, and the cheeks
that grow pale for them.

All these things Mrs Rowland knew; and they ate into her heart.  In
these days of her triumph she moved about in fear; and no hour passed
without troubling her victory.  She felt that she could not rest till
the corner-house family was got rid of.  They did not seem disposed to
move of their own accord.  She incessantly expressed her scorn of the
want of spirit of a professional man who would live on in a place where
he had lost his practice, and where a rival was daily rising upon his
ruins: but the Hopes staid on still.  Week after week they were to be
met in the lanes and meadows--now gleaning in the wake of the
harvest-wain, with Fanny and Mary, for the benefit of widow Rye; now
blackberry gathering in the fields; now nutting in the hedgerows.  The
quarterly term came round, and no notice that he might look out for
another tenant reached Mr Rowland.  If they would not go of their own
accord, they must be dislodged; for she felt, though she did not fully
admit the truth to herself; that she could not much longer endure their
presence.  She looked out for an opportunity of opening the subject
advantageously with Mr Rowland.

The wine and walnuts were on the table, and the gentleman and lady were
amusing themselves with letting Anna and Ned try to crack walnuts (the
three elder children being by this time at school at Blickley), when
Mrs Rowland began her attack.

"My dear," said she, "is the corner-house in perfectly good repair at
present?"

"I believe so.  It was thoroughly set to rights when Mr Hope went into
it, and again after the riot; and I have heard no complaint since."

"Ah! after the riot; that is what I wanted to know.  The surgery is well
fitted up, is it?"

"No doubt.  The magistrates took care that everything should be done
handsomely.  Mr Hope was fully satisfied."

"He was: then there seems no doubt that Mr Walcot had better remove to
the corner-house when the Hopes go away.  It is made to be a surgeon's
residence: and I own I do not like to see those blinds of Mr Walcot's,
with that staring word `Surgery,' upon them, in the windows of my poor
mother's breakfast-room."

"Nor I: but the Hopes are not going to remove."

"I believe they will be leaving Deerbrook before long."

"I believe not."

"My dear Mr Rowland, I have reason for what I say."

"So have I.  Take care of that little thumb of yours, my darling, or you
will be cracking it instead of the walnut."

"What is your reason for thinking that the Hopes will not leave
Deerbrook, Mr Rowland?"

"Mr Hope told me so himself."

"Ah! that is nothing.  You will be about the last person he will inform
of his plans.  Mr Walcot's nearest friends will be the last to know, of
course."

"Pray, do not make me out one of Mr Walcot's nearest friends, my dear.
I have a very slight acquaintance with the young gentleman, and do not
intend to have more."

"You say so now to annoy me, my love: but you may change your mind.  If
you should see Mr Walcot your son-in-law at some future day, you will
not go on to call him a slight acquaintance, I suppose?"

"My son-in-law!  Have you been asking him to marry Matilda?"

"I wait, Mr Rowland, till he asks it himself; which I foresee he will
do as soon as our dear girl is old enough to warrant his introducing the
subject.  Her accomplishments are not lost upon him.  He has the
prophetic eye which sees what a wonderful creature she must become.  And
if we are permitted to witness such an attachment as theirs will be, and
our dear girl settled beside us here, we shall have nothing left to
wish."

"To speak of something more nearly at hand, I beg, my dear, that you
will hold out no expectation of the corner-house to Mr Walcot, as it is
not likely to be vacated."

"Has the rent been regularly paid, so far?"

"To be sure it has."

"By Mr Grey's help, I have no doubt.  My dear, I know what I am saying.
The Hopes are as poor as the rats in your granary; and it is not to be
supposed that Mr Grey will long go on paying their rent for them, just
for the frolic of sustaining Mr Hope against Mr Walcot.  It is paying
too dear for the fancy.  The Hopes are wretchedly pinched for money.
They have dropped their subscription to the book club."

"I am very sorry to hear it.  I would give half I am worth that it were
otherwise."

"Give it them at once, then, and it will be otherwise."

"I would, gladly; but they will not take it."

"I advise you to try, however; it would make such a pretty romantic
story!--Well, Mr Grey is extremely mortified at their withdrawing from
the book club.  He remonstrated very strongly indeed."

"That does not agree very well with his paying their rent for them."

"Perfectly well.  He thinks that if he undertakes the large thing, for
the sake of their credit, they might have managed the small.  This is
his way of viewing the matter, no doubt.  He sees how their credit will
suffer by their giving up the book club.  He sees how everybody will
remark upon it."

"So do they, I have no doubt."

"And the matter will not be mended by Sophia Grey's nonsense.  What
absurd things that girl does!  I wonder her mother allows it,--only
that, to be sure, she is not much wiser herself.  Sophia has told some
of her acquaintance, and all Deerbrook will hear it before long, that
her cousins have withdrawn from the book club on account of Hester's
situation; that they are to be so busy with the baby that is coming,
that they will have no time to read."

"As long as the Hopes are above false pretences, they need not care for
such as are made for them.  There! show mamma what a nice plump walnut
you have cracked for her."

"Nicely done, my pet.  But, Mr Rowland, the Hopes cannot hold out.
They cannot possibly stay here.  You will not get their rent at
Christmas, depend upon it."

"I shall not press them for it, I assure you."

"Then you will be unjust to your family.  You owe it to your children,
to say nothing of myself, to look after your property."

"I owe it to them not to show myself a harsh landlord to excellent
tenants.  But we need not trouble ourselves about what will happen at
Christmas.  It may be that the rent will make its appearance on the
morning of quarter-day."

"Then, if not, you will give them notice that the house is let from the
next quarter, will you not?"

"By no means, my dear."

"If you do not like to undertake the office yourself, perhaps you will
let me do it.  I have a good deal of courage about doing disagreeable
things, on occasion."

"You have, my dear; but I do not wish that this should be done.  I mean,
I desire that it be not done.  The Hopes shall live in that house of
mine as long as they please.  And if," continued Mr Rowland, not liking
the expression of his lady's eye,--"if any one disturbs them in their
present abode--the consequence will be that I shall be compelled to
invite them here.  I shall establish them in this very house, sooner
than that they shall be obliged to leave Deerbrook against their will;
and then, my dear, you will have to be off to Cheltenham again."

"What nonsense you talk, Mr Rowland!  Who should disturb them, if you
won't be open to reason, so as to do it yourself?  I thought you knew
enough of what it is to be ridden by poor tenants, to wish to avoid the
plague, if warned in time.  But some people can never take warning."

"Let us see that you can, my love.  You will remember what I have said
about the Hopes being disturbed, I have no doubt.  And now we have done
with that, I want to tell you--"

"Presently, when we have really done with this subject, my dear.  I have
other reasons--"

"Which you will spare me the hearing.  My dear Priscilla, there are no
reasons on earth which can justify me in turning this family out of
their house, or you in asking me to do it.  Let us hear no more about
it."

"But you must hear.  I will be heard on a subject in which I have such
an interest, Mr Rowland."

"Ring the bell, my little fellow.  Pull hard.  That's it--Candles in the
office immediately."

And Mr Rowland tossed off the last half of his glass of port, kissed
the little ones, and was gone.  The lady remained to compassionate
herself; which she did very deeply, that she could find no means of
ridding herself of the great plague of her life.  These people were
always in her way, and no one would help her to dislodge them.  Her own
husband was against her--quite unmanageable and perverse.



CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.

THE VICTIMS.

If Mrs Rowland was dissatisfied with her success, while seeing that
some resources of comfort remained to the Hopes and Margaret, a view of
the interior of the corner-house would probably have affected her
deeply, and set her moralising on the incompleteness of all human
triumphs.  There was peace there which even she could not invade--could
only, if she had known it, envy.  Her power was now exhausted, and her
work was unfinished.  For many weeks, she had made Margaret as miserable
as she had intended to make her.  Margaret had suffered from an
exasperating sense of injury; but that was only for a few hours.  Hers
was not a nature which could retain personal resentment for any length
of time.  She needed the relief of compassionate and forgiving feelings;
and she cast herself into them for solace, as the traveller, emerging
from the glaring desert, throws himself down beside the gushing spring
in the shade.  From the moment that she did this, it became her chief
trouble that Philip was blamed by others.  Her friends said as little as
they could in reference to him, out of regard for her feelings; but she
could not help seeing that Maria's indignation was strong, and that
Hester considered that her sister had had a happy escape from a man
capable of treating her as Philip had done.  If it had been possible to
undertake his defence, Margaret would have done so.  As there were no
means of working upon others to forgive her wrongs, she made it her
consolation to forgive them doubly herself; to cheer up under them; to
live for the aim of being more worthy of Philip's love, the less he
believed her to be so.  Her lot was far easier now than it had been in
the winter.  She had been his; and she believed that she still occupied
his whole soul.  She was not now the solitary, self-despising being she
had felt herself before.  Though cut off from intercourse with him as if
the grave lay between them, she knew that sympathy with her heart and
mind existed.  She experienced the struggles, the moaning efforts, of
affections doomed to solitude and silence; the shrinking from a whole
long life of self-reliance, of exclusion from domestic life; the
occasional horror of contemplating the waste and withering of some of
the noblest parts of the immortal nature,--a waste and withering which
are the almost certain consequence of violence done to its instincts and
its laws.  From these pains and terrors she suffered; and from some of
smaller account,--from the petty insults, or speculations of the more
coarse-minded of her neighbours, and the being too suddenly reminded by
passing circumstances of the change which had come over her expectations
and prospects; but her love, her forgiveness, her conviction of being
beloved, bore her through all these, and saved her from that fever of
the heart, in the paroxysms of which she had, in her former and severer
trial, longed for death, even for non-existence.

She could enjoy but little of what had been her favourite solace at that
time.  She had but few opportunities now for long solitary walks.  She
saw the autumn fading away, melting in rain and cold fog, without its
having been made use of.  It had been as unfavourable a season as the
summer,--dreary, unproductive, disappointing in every way; but there had
been days in the latter autumn when the sun had shown his dim face, when
the dank hedges had looked fresh, and the fallen leaves in the
wood-paths had rustled under the tread of the squirrel; and Margaret
would on such days have liked to spend the whole morning in rambles by
herself.  But there were reasons why she should not.  Almost before the
chilliness of the coming season began to be felt, hardship was
complained of throughout the country.  The prices of provisions were
inordinately high; and the evil consequences which, in the rural
districts, follow upon a scarcity, began to make themselves felt.  The
poachers were daring beyond belief; and deep was the enmity between the
large proprietors and the labourers around them.  The oldest men and
women, and children scarcely able to walk, were found trespassing day by
day in all plantations, with bags, aprons, or pinafores, full of
fir-cones, and wood snapped off from the trees, or plucked out of the
hedges.  There was no end to repairing the fences.  There were
unpleasant rumours, too, of its being no longer safe to walk singly in
the more retired places.  No such thing as highway robbery had ever
before been heard of at Deerbrook, within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant; the oldest of the inhabitants being Jim Bird, the man of a
hundred years.  But there was reason now for the caution.  Mr Jones's
meat-cart had been stopped on the high-road, by two men who came out of
the hedge, and helped themselves to what the cart contained.  An
ill-looking fellow had crossed the path of Mrs James and her young
sister in the Verdon woods, evidently with the intention of stopping the
ladies; but luckily the jingling of a timber-wain was heard below, and
the man had retreated.  Mr Grey had desired that the ladies of his
family would not go further without his escort than a mile out and back
again on the high-road.  They were not to attempt the lanes.  The Miss
Andersons no longer came into Deerbrook in their pony-chaise; and Mrs
Howell reported to all her customers that Lady Hunter never walked in
her own grounds without a footman behind her, two dogs before her, and
the game-keeper within hearing of a scream.  Mr Walcot was advised to
leave his watch and purse at home when he set forth to visit his country
patients; and it did not comfort him much to perceive that his
neighbours were always vigilant to note the hour and minute of his
setting forth, and to learn the precise time when he might be looked for
at home again.  It was observed, that he was generally back half-an-hour
sooner than he was expected, with a very red face, and his horse all in
a foam.

In addition to these grounds of objection to solitary walks, Margaret
had strong domestic reasons for denying herself the rambles she
delighted in.  As the months rolled on, poverty pressed closer and
closer.  When the rent was secured, and some of the comforts provided
which Hester must have in her confinement, so little was left that it
became necessary to limit the weekly expenses of the family to a sum
small enough to require the nicest management, and the most strenuous
domestic industry, to make it suffice.  Hope would not pledge his credit
while he saw so little prospect of redeeming it.  His family were of one
mind as to purchasing nothing which they were not certainly able to pay
for.  This being his principle, he made every effort to increase his
funds.  A guinea or two dropped in now and then, in return for
contributions to medical periodicals.  Money was due to him from some of
his patients.  To these he sent in his bills again, and even made
personal application.  From several he obtained promises; from two or
three the amount of whose debt was very small, he got his money,
disgraced by smiles of wonder and contempt.  From the greater number he
received nothing but excuses on account of the pressure of the times.
The small sums he did recover were of a value which none of the three
had ever imagined that money could be to them.  Every little extra
comfort thus obtained,--the dinner of meat once oftener in the week, the
fire in the evening, the new gloves for Hope, when the old ones could no
longer, by any mending, be made to look fit for him,--what a luxury it
was!  And all the more for being secretly enjoyed.  No one out of the
house had a suspicion how far their poverty had gone.  Mr Grey had
really been vexed at them for withdrawing from the book club; had
attributed this instance of economy to the "enthusiasm" which was, in
his eyes, the fault of the family; and never dreamed of their not dining
on meat, vegetables, and pudding, with their glass of wine, every day.
The Greys little knew what a blessing they were conferring on their
cousins, when they insisted on having them for a long day once more
before Hester's confinement, and set them down to steaming soup, and a
plentiful joint, and accompaniments without stint.  The guests laughed,
when they were at home again, over the new sort of pleasure they had
felt, the delight at the sight of a good dinner, to which nothing was
wanting but that Morris should have had her share.  Morris, for her
part, had been very happy at home.  She had put aside for her mistress's
luncheon next day, the broth which she had been told was for her, and
had feasted on potatoes and water, and the idea of the good dinner her
young ladies were to enjoy.  While their affairs were in this state, it
was a great luxury in the family to have any unusual comfort which
betokened that Hope had been successful in some of his errands,--had
received a fee, or recovered the amount of a bill.  One day, Morris
brought in a goose and giblets, which had been bought and paid for by
Mr Hope, the messenger said.  Another morning, came a sack of apples,
from the orchard of a country patient who was willing to pay in kind.
At another time Edward emptied his pockets of knitted worsted stockings
and mittens, the handiwork of a farmer's dame, who was flattered by his
taking the produce of her evening industry instead of money, which she
could not well spare at the present season.  There was more mirth, more
real gladness in the house, on the arrival of windfalls like these, than
if Hope had daily exhibited a purse full of gold.  There was no sting in
their poverty; no adventitious misery belonging to it.  They suffered
its genuine force, and that was all.

What is Poverty?  Not destitution, but poverty?  It has many shapes,--
aspects almost as various as the minds and circumstances of those whom
it visits.  It is famine to the savage in the wilds; it is hardship to
the labourer in the cottage; it is disgrace to the proud; and to the
miser despair.  It is a spectre which "with dread of change perplexes"
him who lives at ease.  Such are its aspects: but what is it?  It is a
deficiency of the comforts of life,--a deficiency present and to come.
It involves many other things; but this is what it is.  Is it then worth
all the apprehension and grief it occasions?  Is it an adequate cause
for the gloom of the merchant, the discontent of the artisan, the
foreboding sighs of the mother, the ghastly dreams which haunt the
avaricious, the conscious debasement of the subservient, the humiliation
of the proud?  These are severe sufferings; are they authorised by the
nature of poverty?  Certainly not, if poverty induced no adventitious
evils, involved nothing but a deficiency of the comforts of life,
leaving life itself unimpaired.  "The life is more than food, and the
body than raiment;" and the untimely extinction of the life itself would
not be worth the pangs which apprehended poverty excites.  But poverty
involves woes which, in their sum, are far greater than itself.  To a
multitude it is the loss of a pursuit which they have yet to learn will
be certainly supplied.  For such, alleviation or compensation is in
store, in the rising up of objects new, and the creation of fresh hopes.
The impoverished merchant, who may no longer look out for his argosies,
may yet be in glee when he finds it "a rare dropping morning for the
early colewort."  To another multitude, poverty involves loss of rank,--
a letting down among strangers whose manners are ungenial, and their
thoughts unfamiliar.  For these there may be solace in retirement, or
the evil may fall short of its threats.  The reduced gentlewoman may
live in patient solitude, or may grow into sympathy with her neighbours,
by raising some of them up to herself, and by warming her heart at the
great central fire of Humanity, which burns on under the crust of
manners as rough as the storms of the tropics, or as frigid as polar
snows.  The avaricious are out of the pale of peace already, and at all
events.  Poverty is most seriously an evil to sons and daughters, who
see their parents stripped of comfort, at an age when comfort is almost
one with life itself: and to parents who watch the narrowing of the
capacities of their children by the pressure of poverty,--the impairing
of their promise, the blotting out of their prospects.  To such mourning
children there is little comfort, but in contemplating the easier life
which lies behind, and (it may be hoped) the happier one which stretches
before their parents, on the other side the postern of life.  If there
is sunshine on the two grand reaches of their path, the shadow which
lies in the midst is necessarily but a temporary gloom.  To grieving
parents it should be a consoling truth, that as the life is more than
food, so is the soul more than instruction and opportunity, and such
accomplishments as man can administer: that as the fowls are fed and the
lilies clothed by Him whose hand made the air musical with the one, and
dressed the fields with the other, so is the human spirit nourished and
adorned by airs from heaven, which blow over the whole earth, and light
from the skies, which no hand is permitted to intercept.  Parents know
not but that Providence may be substituting the noblest education for
the misteaching of intermediate guardians.  It may possibly be so; but
if not, still there is appointed to every human being much training,
many privileges, which capricious fortune can neither give nor take
away.  The father may sigh to see his boy condemned to the toil of the
loom, or the gossip and drudgery of the shop, when he would fain have
beheld him the ornament of a university; but he knows not whether a more
simple integrity, a loftier disinterestedness, may not come out of the
humbler discipline than the higher privilege.  The mother's eyes may
swim as she hears her little daughter sing her baby brother to sleep on
the cottage threshold,--her eyes may swim at the thought how those wild
and moving tones might have been exalted by art.  Such art would have
been in itself a good; but would this child then have been, as now,
about her Father's business, which, in ministering to one of his little
ones, she is as surely as the archangel who suspends new systems of
worlds in the furthest void?  Her occupation is now earnest and holy;
and what need the true mother wish for more?

What is poverty to those who are not thus set in families?  What is it
to the solitary, or to the husband and wife who have faith in each
other's strength?  If they have the higher faith which usually
originates mutual trust, mere poverty is scarcely worth a passing fear.
If they have plucked out the stings of pride and selfishness, and
purified their vision by faith, what is there to dread?  What is their
case?  They have life, without certainty how it is to be nourished.
They do without certainty, like "the young ravens which cry," and work
for and enjoy the subsistence of the day, leaving the morrow to take
care of what concerns it.  If living in the dreariest abodes of a town,
the light from within shines in the dark place, and, dispelling the
mists of worldly care, guides to the blessing of tending the sick, and
sharing the food of to-day with the orphan, and him who has no help but
in them.  If the philosopher goes into such retreats with his lantern,
there may he best find the generous and the brave.  If, instead of the
alleys of a city, they live under the open sky, they are yet lighter
under their poverty.  There, however blank the future may lie before
them, they have to-day the living reality of lawns and woods, and flocks
in "the green pasture and beside the still waters," which silently
remind them of the Shepherd, under whom they shall not want any real
good thing.  The quiet of the shady lane is theirs, and the beauty of
the blossoming thorn above the pool.  Delight steals through them with
the scent of the violet, or the new mown hay.  If they have hushed the
voices of complaint and fear within them, there is the music of the
merry lark for them, or of the leaping waterfall, or of a whole
orchestra of harps, when the breeze sweeps through a grove of pines.
While it is not for fortune to "rob them of free nature's grace," and
while she leaves them life and strength of limb and soul, the certainty
of a future, though they cannot see what, and the assurance of
progression, though they cannot see how,--is poverty worth, for
themselves, more than a passing doubt?  Can it ever be worth the torment
of fear, the bondage of subservience?--the compromise of free thought,--
the sacrifice of free speech,--the bending of the erect head, the
veiling of the open brow, the repression of the salient soul?  If;
instead of this, poverty should act as the liberator of the spirit,
awakening it to trust in God and sympathy for man, and placing it aloft,
fresh and free, like morning on the hill-top, to survey the expanse of
life, and recognise its realities from beneath its mists, it should be
greeted with that holy joy before which all sorrow and sighing flee
away.

Their poverty, which had never afflicted them very grievously, was
almost lost sight of by the corner-house family, when Hester's infant
was born.  They were all happy and satisfied then, though there were
people in Deerbrook who found fault with their arrangements, and were
extremely scandalised when it was found that no nurse had arrived from
Blickley, and that Morris took the charge of her mistress upon herself.
The Greys pronounced by their own fireside that it was a strange fancy--
carrying an affection for an old servant to a rather romantic extreme--
that it was a fresh instance of the "enthusiasm" which adversity had not
yet moderated in their cousins, as might have been wished.
Out-of-doors, however, Sophia vaunted the attachment of Morris to her
young mistress--an attachment so strong, as that she would have been
really hurt if any one else had been allowed to sit up with Hester; and
indeed no one could have filled her place half so much to the
satisfaction of the family--Morris had had so much experience, and was
as fond of her charge as a mother could be.  No one knew what a treasure
her cousins had in Morris.  All of which was true in its separate
particulars, though altogether it did not constitute the reason why
Hester had no nurse from Buckley.

They were happy and satisfied.  Yes, even Margaret.  This infant opened
up a spring of consolation in her heart, which she could not have
believed existed there.  On this child she could pour out some of her
repressed affections, and on him did she rest her baffled hopes.  He
beguiled her into the future, from which she had hitherto recoiled.
That helpless, unconscious little creature, cradled on her arm, and
knowing nothing of its resting-place, was more powerful than sister,
brother, or friend--than self-interest, philosophy, or religion, in
luring her imagination onward into future years of honour and peace.
Holy and sweet was the calm of her mind, as, forgetting herself and her
griefs, she watched the first efforts of this infant to acquaint himself
with his own powers, and with the world about him; when she smiled at
the ungainly stretching of the little limbs, and the unpractised
movement of his eyes seeking the light.  Holy and sweet were the tears
which swelled into her eyes when she saw him at his mother's breast, and
could not but gaze at the fresh and divine beauty now mantling on that
mother's face, amidst the joy of this new relation.  It was a delicious
moment when Hope came in, the first day that Hester sat by the fireside,
when he stopped short for a brief instant, as if arrested by the beauty
of what he saw; and then glanced towards Margaret for sympathy.  It was
a delicious moment to her--the moment of that full, free, unembarrassed
glance, which she had scarcely met since the first days of their
acquaintance.

It was a pleasure to them all to see Hester well provided with luxuries.
Maria, knowing that her surgeon would not accept money from her, took
this opportunity of sending in wine.  Oh, the pleasure of finding the
neglected corkscrew, and making Morris take a glass with them!  The
Greys brought game, and Hester's little table was well served every day.
With what zeal did Margaret apply herself, under Morris's teaching, to
cook Hester's choice little dinners!  Yes, to cook them.  Margaret was
learning all Morris's arts from her; for, of two troubles which somewhat
disturbed this season of comfort, one was that it appeared too certain
that Morris must go, as Susan and Charles had gone before her.  No one
had expressly declared this: it was left undiscussed, apparently by
common consent, till it should be ascertained that baby was healthy and
Hester getting strong; but the thought was in the minds of them all, and
their plans involved preparation for this.

The other trouble was, that with peace and comfort, some slight, very
slight symptoms recurred of Hester's propensity to self-torment.  It
could not be otherwise.  The wonder was, that for weeks and months she
had been relieved from her old enemy to the extent she had been.  The
reverence with which her husband and sister regarded the temper, in
which she had borne unbounded provocation, and most unmerited adversity,
sometimes beguiled them into a hope that her troubles from within were
over for ever; but a little reflection, and some slight experience,
taught them that this was unreasonable.  They remembered that the
infirmity of a lifetime was not to be wholly cured in half-a-year; and
that they must expect some recurrence of her old malady at times when
there was no immediate appeal to her magnanimity, and no present cause
for anxiety for those in whom she forgot herself.

The first time that Hester was in the drawing-room for the whole day,
Morris was laying the cloth for dinner, and Margaret was walking up and
down the room with the baby on her arm, when Hope came in.  Hester
forgot everybody and everything else when her husband appeared--a fact
which Morris's benevolence was never weary of noting and commenting upon
to herself.  She often wondered if ever lady loved her husband as her
young mistress did; and she smiled to herself to see the welcome that
beamed upon Hester's whole face when Hope came to take his seat beside
her on the sofa.  This was in her mind to-day, when her master presently
said:

"Where is my boy?  I have not seen him for hours.  Why do you put him
out of his father's way?  Oh, Margaret has him!  Come, Margaret, yield
him up.  You can have him all the hours that I am away.  You do not
grudge him to me, do you?"

"My master won't have to complain, as many gentlemen do," said Morris,
"or as many gentlemen feel, if they don't complain, that he is neglected
for the sake of his baby."

"If you enjoy your dinner to-day, love," said Hester, "you must not give
me the credit of it.  You and I are to sit down to our pheasant
together, they tell me.  Margaret and Morris will have it that they have
both dined."

"There is little in getting a comfortable dinner ready," said Morris,
"whether it is the lady herself, or another, that looks to a trifle like
that.  It is the seeing his wife so full of care and thought about her
baby as to have none to spare for him, that frets many an one who does
not like to say anything about it.  Fathers cannot be so taken with a
very young baby as the mothers are, and it is mortifying to feel
themselves neglected for a newcomer.  I have often seen that, my dears;
but I shall never see it here, I find."

"I do not know how you should, Morris," said Hester, in something of the
old tone, which made her sister's heart throb almost before it reached
her ear.  "Margaret will save me from any such danger.  Margaret takes
care that nobody shall be engrossed with the baby but herself.  She has
not a thought to spare for any of us while she has baby in her arms.
The little fellow has cut us all out."

Margaret quickly transferred the infant to her brother's arm, and left
the room.  She thought it best; for her heart was very full, and she
could not speak.  She restrained her tears, and went into the kitchen to
busy herself about the dinner she had cooked.

"'Tis a fine pheasant, indeed, Miss Margaret, my dear, and beautifully
roasted, I am sure: and I hope you will go up and see them enjoy it.  I
am so sorry, my dear, for what I said just now.  I merely spoke what
came up in my mind when I felt pleased, and never thought of its
bringing on any remark.  Nor was anything intended, I am sure, that
should make you look so sad: so do you go up, and take the baby again,
when they sit down to dinner, as if nothing had been said.  Do, my dear,
if I may venture to say so.  I will follow you with the dinner in a
minute."

"I wonder how it is, my love," said Hope, in a voice which spoke all the
tenderness of his heart; "I wonder how it is that you can endure wrong
so nobly, and that you cannot bear the natural course of events.  Tell
me how it is, Hester, that you have sustained magnanimously all the
injuries and misfortunes of many months, and that you now quarrel with
Margaret's affection for our child."

"Ah why, indeed, Edward?" she replied, humbly.  "Why, but that I am
unworthy that such an one as Margaret should love me and my child."

"Enough, enough.  I only want to show you how I regard the case about
this new love of Margaret's.  Do you not see how much happier she has
been since this little fellow was born?"

"Oh, yes."

"One may now fancy that she may be gay again.  Let us remember what an
oppressed heart she had, and what it must be to her to have a new
object, so innocent and unconscious as this child, to lavish her
affection upon.  Do not let us grudge her the consolation, or poison the
pleasure of this fresh interest."

"I am afraid it is done," cried Hester, in great distress.  "I was
wicked--I was more cruel than any of our enemies, when I said what I
did.  I may well bear with them; for, God knows, I am at times no better
than they.  I have robbed my Margaret of her only comfort--spoiled her
only pleasure."

"No, no.  Here she comes.  Look at her."

Margaret's face was indeed serene, and she made as light of the matter
as she could, when Hester implored that she would pardon her hasty and
cruel words, and that she would show her forgiveness by continuing to
cherish the child.  He must not begin to suffer already for his mother's
faults, Hester said.  There could be no doubt of Margaret's forgiveness,
nor of her forgetfulness of what had been said, as far as forgetfulness
was possible.  But the worst of such sayings is, that they carry in them
that which prevents their being ever quite forgotten.  Hester had
effectually established a constraint in her sister's intercourse with
the baby, and imposed upon Margaret the incessant care of scrupulously
adjusting the claims of the mother and the child.  The evils arising
from faulty temper may be borne, may be concealed, but can never be
fully repaired.  Happy they whose part it is to endure and to conceal,
rather than to inflict, and to strive uselessly to repair!

Margaret's part was the easiest of the three, as they sat at the table--
she with the baby in her arms, and all agreeing that the time was come
for an explanation with Morris--for depending on themselves for almost
all the work of the house.

"Come, Morris," said Hester, when the cloth was removed; "you must spare
us half-an-hour.  We want to consult with you.  Come and sit down."

Morris came, with a foreboding heart.

"It will be no news to you," said Hope, "that we are very poor.  You
know nearly as much of our affairs as we do ourselves, as it is right
that you should.  We have not wished to make any further change in our
domestic plans till this little fellow was born.  But now that he is
beginning to make his way in the world, and that his mother is well and
strong, we feel that we must consider of some further effort to spend
still less than we do now."

"There are two ways in which this may be done, we think, Morris," said
Hester.  "We may either keep the comfort of having you with us, and
pinch ourselves more as to dress and the table--"

"Oh! ma'am, I hope you will not carry that any further."

"Well, if we do not carry that any further, the only thing to be done, I
fear, is to part with you."

"Is there no other way, I wonder," said Morris, as if thinking aloud.
"If it must be one of these ways, it certainly seems to me to be better
for ladies to work hard with good food, than to have a servant, and
stint themselves in health and strength.  But who would have thought of
my young ladies coming to this?"

"It is a situation in which hundreds and thousands are placed, Morris;
and why not we, as well as they?"

"May be so, ma'am: but it grieves one, too."

"Do not grieve.  I believe we all think that this parting with you is
the first real grief that our change of fortune has caused us.  Somehow
or other, we have been exceedingly comfortable in our poverty.  If that
had been all, we should have had a very happy year of it."

"One would desire to say nothing against what is God's will, ma'am; but
one may be allowed, perhaps, to hope that better times will come."

"I do hope it, and believe it," said her master.

"And if better times come, Morris, you will return to us.  Will you
not?"

"My dear, you know nothing would make me leave you now (as you say I am
a comfort to you) if I had any right to say I would stay.  I could live
upon as little as anybody, and could do almost without any wages.  But
there is my poor sister, you know, ladies.  She depends upon me for
everything, now that she cannot work herself: and I must earn money for
her."

"We are quite aware of that," said Margaret.  "It is for your sake and
hers, quite as much as for our own, that we think we must part."

"We wish to know what you would like to do," said Hester.  "Shall we try
to find a situation for you near us, or would you be happier to go down
among your old friends?"

"I had better go where I am sure of employment, ma'am.  Better go down
to Birmingham at once.  I should never have left it but for my young
ladies' sakes.  But I should be right glad, my dears, to leave it again
for you, if you can at any time write to say you wish for me back.
There is another way I have thought of sometimes; but, of course, you
cannot have overlooked anything that could occur to me.  If you would
all go to Birmingham, you have so many friends there, and my master
would be valued as he ought to be; which there is no sign of his being
in this place.  I do not like this place, my dears.  It is not good
enough for you."

"We think any place good enough for us where there are men and women
living," said Hope, kindly but gravely.  "Others have thought as you do,
Morris, and have offered us temptations to go away; but we do not think
it right.  If we go, we shall leave behind us a bad character, which we
do not deserve.  If we stay, I have very little doubt of recovering my
professional character, and winning over our neighbours to think better
of us, and be kind to us again.  We mean to try for it, if I should have
to hire myself out as a porter in Mr Grey's yards."

"Pray, don't say that, sir.  But, indeed, I believe you are so far right
as that the good always conquers at last."

"Just so, Morris: that is what we trust.  And for the sake of this
little fellow, if for nothing else, we must stand by our good name.  Who
knows but that I may leave him a fine flourishing practice in this very
place, when I retire or die?--always supposing he means to follow his
father's profession."

"Sir, that is looking forward very far."

"So it is, Morris.  But however people may disapprove of looking forward
too far, it is difficult to help it when they become parents.  Your
mistress could tell you, if she would own the truth, that she sees her
son's manly beauty already under that little wry mouth, and that odd
button of a nose.  Why may not I just as well fancy him a young
surgeon?"

"Morris would say, as she once said to me," observed Margaret,
"`Remember death, my dear; remember death.'"

"We will remember it," said Morris, "but we must remember at the same
time God's mercy in giving life.  He who gave life can preserve it: and
this shall be my trust for you all, my dears, when I am far away from
you.  There is a knock!  I must go.  Oh!  Miss Margaret, who will there
be to go to the door when I am gone, but you?"

Mr Jones had knocked at the door, and left a letter.  These were its
contents:--

  "Sir,--I hope you will excuse the liberty I take in applying to you
  for my own satisfaction.  My wife and I have perceived with much
  concern that we have lost much of your custom of late.  We mind little
  the mere falling off of custom in any quarter, in comparison with
  failing to give satisfaction.  We have always tried, I am sure, to
  give satisfaction in our dealings with your family, sir; and if there
  has been any offence, I can assure you it is unintentional, and shall
  feel obliged by knowing what it is.  We cannot conceive, sir, where
  you get your meat, if not from us; and if you have the trouble of
  buying it from a distance, I can only say we should be happy to save
  you the trouble, if we knew how to serve you to your liking; for, sir,
  we have a great respect for you and yours.

  "Your obedient servants,

  "John Jones,

  "Mary Jones."

"The kind soul!" cried Hester.  "What must we say to them?"

"We must set their minds at ease about our good-will to them.  How that
little fellow stares about him, like a child of double his age!  I do
believe I could make him look wise at my watch already.  Yes, we must
set the Joneses at ease, at all events."

"But how?  We must not tell them that we cannot afford to buy of them as
we did."

"No; that would be begging.  We must trust to their delicacy not to
press too closely for a reason, when once assured that we respect them
as highly as they possibly can us."

"You may trust them," said Margaret, "I am convinced.  They will look in
your face, and be satisfied without further question; and my advice,
therefore, is, that you do not write, but go."

"I will; and now.  They shall not suffer a moment's pain that I can save
them.  Good-night, my boy!  What! you have not learned to kiss yet.
Well, among