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´╗┐Title: Friends I Have Made
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
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 "Friends I Have Made" ***

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Friends I have made
By George Manville Fenn
Published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co, London, Paris, New York.
This edition dated 1883.

Friends I have made, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________
This version was made from a set of scans that were actually defective.
Two sets of sixteen pages were missing, resulting in the absence of
chapters 10, 11 and 16.  In addition some text is missing from chapters
15 and 18.  Since the book consists of a collection of almost unrelated
anecdotes it was felt worth our while to make available as much as we
can, as it is certain that a better set of scans of this book may become
available, for instance from the microfilmed set held by Cambridge
University.  There are 21 chapters, of which we present 16 in full,
and two with a few paragraphs missing.
________________________________________________________________________
FRIENDS I HAVE MADE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

MY LIFE.

May I ask your patience while I introduce myself--the writer of the
following chapters?  I am sitting before the looking-glass at the end of
my room as I write, I not from any vanity, you will readily perceive
that as you read on--but so that I may try and reflect with my ink the
picture that I wish to present to you of a rather sad--I only say
_rather_, for, upon the whole, I am very cheerful,--thin, pale,
careworn-looking woman, with hair that has long been scant and grey--
whiter, perhaps, than that of many people at eight-and-forty.

Eight-and-forty!  What a great age that seems to the young; and yet how
few the years, save in one period of my life, have appeared to me!  At
times I can hardly realise that I am decidedly elderly, so busy has been
my life, so swiftly has it glided away, thinking so much as I have of
other people and their lives as well as of my own.

I never knew how it was, but, somehow, those with whom I came in contact
always seemed to look upon me, because I had had trouble, as one in whom
they could confide.  I never sought their confidence, but when some
weary wayfarer in life's journey has held out a hand to me, asking help
or advice, it has grown into my pleasure to try and aid or counsel as
far as in me lay.  And it is strange how relieved some have been, what a
quiet solace it has seemed, to pour out into my sympathetic ear the
salient passages of their troubled lives.  "You have suffered, so you
can feel," has always seemed to be the thought, expressed or
unexpressed, of their hearts, and hence, without being inquisitive, I
have been made the storehouse, so to speak, of that which I without any
breach of confidence propose to tell.

I should first, though, tell you of myself, for why should I lay bare
the sorrows of others without prefacing them with my own?

A strangely quiet, uneventful life mine has been; its incidents simple,
its troubles many, and its pleasures--I was about to say few, but that
would be false, for its pleasures have been great.  They have not been
the boisterous joys that fall to the lot of some; but, feeling, as I do
most thoroughly now, that the greatest delights, the purest and most
unalloyed are those which are unselfish, I can think and believe that my
pleasures have been many.

I will, then, tell you my own little history first, slight as it is, and
you may, in reading, find that it is the key-note to the simple chords
that I afterwards strike in passing, and perhaps it will explain why
others have come to me to tell me what they knew.

It is a tale of early sorrow, but you shall hear, and you will bear with
me when I tell you that the wound has never healed, and if I put my hand
above it, the place still throbs, even as it will beat and ache till
kindly nature says to me, "Sleep, poor weary one, and rest."  And then
peacefully, trustingly, and with a simple hope of forgiveness, may I
sleep that long sleep which they say so flippantly has no end; but which
has a waking, as every lesson which we learn in life persists in
teaching.

You will smile, perhaps, when I tell you that I was once what people
call pretty--that this pale, lined face was once plump and rosy, these
sad eyes bright, and this grey scant hair golden-brown, long, and
flowing.  But why should I think you would smile?  Do I not know that
you must have seen the gay young plant putting out its tender leaves in
spring, growing green and luxuriant of foliage in summer, ripe and ruddy
in autumn, and grey, bent, and withered in age?  And should I be pitied
because I have but followed in the way of nature?  Surely not.  It is
not for that I ask your sympathy, but for the blight that fell upon the
young plant, and seared and scathed it so that it seemed for months as
if it would die; but it lived, as I have lived to tell you this.

Do you know that wondrous feeling which comes in the early year, and
that strange sense of keen delight, that elasticity of spirit, when,
full of youth and hope, the very tears of joyous sensibility start to
the eyes as you wander amidst the trees and flowers in spring?  I
remember how I felt, oh! so well, even though it is now thirty years
ago, and I was but eighteen.

Jack and I were engaged.  It was all such a simple, homely affair.  We
had known one another for years--the children of neighbouring farmers.
Jack--I still call him by the simple old pet name of those days--Jack
had been away at a good school, and being bright, and shrewd, and
clever, he had won his way on, taking to engineering instead of his
father's farm life; and now it had come to this, that he had been
staying at home for a month, previous to going out to a good appointment
in Melbourne.

That month in spring, how it passed!  We had met again and again, and in
his honest, manly way he had asked me to be his wife.

"You know, Grace, that I have always loved you," he said; "and now I
have hopes and prospects, it cannot be wrong to ask you for your
promise."

We were walking by the river-side as he said this, and how well I can
picture it all--the soft gliding water mirroring the trees on the
opposite bank, the young green buds just breaking from their cases, and,
above all, the soft tender blue of the spring sky--the blue, he had told
me, that was like my eyes.

"Do you want me to promise, Jack?"  I said, simply, as I looked up in
his face.

"No, darling; I am satisfied," he cried, as his strong arms held me to
his broad breast, and that was all.  No oaths could have bound me more
tightly to him.  I felt that I was his wife when he should come to claim
me some day--when?

We were late that evening, and entered the house shyly, for there had
been so much to talk of and plan.  In a month's time Jack was to sail
for Melbourne; then he was to work very hard for three years, and come
and fetch me to be his wife.

That month glided by, and the last day had come.  It was, as I told you,
spring-time--joyous spring-time, with the hawthorn's snowy blossoms, the
apple-trees pink; and the pear-trees pearly with their pyramids of
flowers.  Every meadow I passed was starred with golden buttercups, and
from every spray the birds trilled or jerked forth their merry songs of
hope and love.

I could not feel sad, even though I was going to meet Jack for the last
walk before he went away; but mingled with the feeling of ecstasy there
was a strange tearfulness of eye, and my breath would come at times with
a sob.

He was by the stile, waiting for me--the stile down by the long mead,
half-way between the two farms--and as he took my hand in his, we
neither of us spoke, but stood gazing away over woodland and meadow, all
clad in their wondrous beauty, and listened to the birds.  Now it was
the soft tender coo of the stock-dove from the wood, now the jerked-out
twittering song of the linnets; then, soft and mellow, from the thick
hedgerows floated towards us the fluty notes of the blackbird, while far
on high trilled away the larks, singing one against the other to their
mates, sitting in the tall grass of the golden meads.

We could not talk, our hearts were too full, for Jack was to be off at
daybreak the next morning.  But there was no need for words.  We loved
each other in the simple nature-taught way that has been since the world
began, and we knew that every joyous song around that thrilled upon our
ears meant love, and even in our sorrow we were happy.

"Only three years, darling," Jack whispered to me, "and then--"

The tears rose to my eyes as I tried to answer him, but I could not
speak a word.

"And you will let me find a long letter when I get there?" he said
tenderly.

"Yes, Jack, I promise," I said, and then it was time to return, for the
hours had glided by, how we could not tell.

Jack spent the evening with us at home, and then he left us hurriedly,
for our farewells had been said in the wood, and it was one hearty kiss,
given and taken before the old people, and then good-bye.

But I saw him pass soon after daybreak, and he saw me, and waved his
hand, for I had sat by the window all night, lest I might let him go by,
and I asleep.

And then time glided on sadly, but pleasantly as well.  Mine was a busy
life, for soon my father took to his bed, ill--a bed he never left
again, for he gradually bank and died, leaving my poor mother in very
indifferent circumstances.

It was a hard blow for us both, for he had been one of the kindest and
truest of men; but while poor mother pined and waited, I had my hopeful
days in view, and from time to time letters from dear Jack, all so frank
and honest, and full of trust in the future, that I felt as if I could
not repine, even when greater troubles fell upon me.

For at the end of two years I was standing by the bedside where lay poor
mother sinking fast.  She had had no particular ailment, but had
literally pined and wasted away.  The bird had lost its mate of many
years, and when at last she kissed me, and said, "Good-bye," it seemed
to me to be in a quiet rest-seeking spirit, and she spoke like one
looking hopefully forward to the meeting with him who had gone before.

But she could think of me even then, and almost the last whispered words
were--

"Only eleven months, Grace, and then he will be back to fetch you."

Poor mother! she would not have passed so peacefully away if she had
known that which I withheld--namely, the news that had come to me from
our lawyer.  For, through the failure of the enterprise in which my
father's savings had been invested, and which brought us a little income
of sixty pounds a year, I was left penniless--so poor, in fact, that the
furniture of the cottage in the little town, to which we had moved when
we left the farm, had to be sold to defray the funeral expenses.

It was very hard to bear, and for a month I was terribly depressed; but
there was that great hopeful time ever drawing near--the end of the
three years, when Jack would come to fetch me to be his wife.

It was now for the first time that I remember feeling particular about
my personal appearance, and I studied my glass to see if Jack would find
me looking careworn and thin, and my glass told me truly--yes.

But I had to be up and doing, and before another month was over, through
the kindness of people whom we had known, I was placed where I could
work contentedly for the bread I must earn till Jack should come to
fetch me away.

It was at a large West-end dressmaker's, and it was hard work to get
used to the hurry and excitement of the place, where there were twelve
girls living in the house, and as many more came every day.

There were all kinds of petty pieces of tyranny to submit to at first,
and I suppose some of the foolish girls were jealous of me and my looks,
so much so that I found they nick-named me "The Beauty."  Poor girls!
If they had only known how little store I set by my looks, they would
have behaved at first as they did later on.

The first thing that won them to me was when Mary Sanders was taken ill
with a terrible fever.  Madame Grainger was for sending her away at
once, on account of her business, and the infection; but the doctor who
was called in, a young, impetuous, but very clever man, told her that it
would be at her peril if she did so, for Mary Sanders' life was in
danger.  So the poor girl was shut up in her bedroom, without a soul to
go near her except a hired nurse, and after the first night this woman
stayed away.

No one dared go near the poor girl then, so I timidly asked leave to
nurse her, for I felt no fear of the infection, and it seemed so hard
for her to be left there alone.

I obtained leave, and went upstairs, staying with her till she
recovered; and from that day there was always a kind look for me, and a
kiss from every girl in the place.

What was more, oddly enough, perhaps because I was so quiet and
restrained, first one girl and then another came to make me the
confidante of her love-secrets, and ask my advice.

I gave it, such as it was, though heartsore myself, for Jack's letters
to me had suddenly ceased.  We had corresponded so regularly; but it had
struck me that his last two letters had been formal and constrained;
they were full of business matters too, and he had hinted at its being
possible that he should not be able to keep time about the three years,
in consequence of some contract.

I did not think this when I first read these letters, for then I had
kissed and cried over them; but when no reply came to my last, I re-read
them, and the coldness seemed apparent.

But I waited and waited, and then news came from the country.  Jack's
father, a widower, had died suddenly; and I said to myself, with
throbbing heart, as I longed to be at his side to try and comfort him in
his affliction, "Poor Jack, he will come home now."

But he did not come, neither did I get any reply to my last two letters.
Another month, and the three years would be up; and as I sat over some
work one spring morning by the open window, with a bunch of violets that
one of the girls had brought me in a glass, the soft breeze that came
floating over the chimney-pots and sooty roofs, wafted to me the scent
of the humble little blossoms, and my eyes became full of tears, for in
an instant the busy work-room had passed away, and I was down home by
the river-side, listening to dear Jack, as he asked me to be his wife.

Only a month! only a month! my pulses seemed to beat; and as it happened
we were all busy upon a large wedding order, and I was stitching away at
the white satin skirt intended for the bride.

I tried so hard to bear it, but I could not, the rush of feelings was
too great.  Another month, and he was to have fetched me to be his wife,
and I had not had an answer to my last fond and loving letters.

As I said, I tried so hard to bear it, but I could not, and stifling a
sob, I hurried out of the work-room to reach my attic, threw myself upon
my knees by the bed, and burying my face in my hands, I sobbed as if my
heart would break.

For the terrible thought would come now, fight against it as I
would--"Jack has grown tired of waiting, and has married another."

I fought so hard with the disloyal thought, but it would come, and I was
sobbing passionately, when I felt a soft arm steal round my neck, a
tender cheek laid to mine, and I found my poor tear-dewed face drawn
down upon the bosom of Mary Sanders, who had stolen out of the
work-room, and come up to try and comfort me.

"Pray, pray, don't fret, my darling," she whispered.  "Madame will be so
cross.  Those wedding things must be in by to-night, and they want you
to help try them on."

I don't know how I got through that day and night, but I believe I did
such duties as were expected from me mechanically, or as if I had been
in a dream, and at night I lay wakeful and weary, with aching eyes and
heart, thinking of that dreadful idea that was trying to force itself
upon me.

I waited till the three years had expired, and then, with what anguish
of heart no words could tell, I wrote to Jack again--my fourth letter--
begging him, imploring him to answer me, if but to tell me he was weary
of his promise, and wished to be set free; and then, making a superhuman
effort over myself, I waited, waited, month by month, for an answer,
though I knew that it must be at least six months before one could come.

I had given up expecting one in the interim, and I was too proud to send
to his relatives--distant ones, whom I had never seen, and who had
probably never heard of me.  The thought had taken root now, and grown
to a feeling of certainty: but I waited for my answer.

Three months--six months--nine months passed away, and hope was dead
within my heart.  They said I had grown much older and more careworn.
Madame said I worked too hard, and the sharp business woman became quite
motherly in her attentions to me.  It was then I learned for the first
time how good and true a woman was she whom I served.  Her battle with
the world had made her keen and firm in her dealings with her
work-girls, for hers was no life of ease.  The ladies she had to toil
for were exacting and thoughtless to a degree, and constant business
worries had made her at times most cold and strict, but she was always a
lady, and more than once I felt that she must have moved in a sphere
superior to my own.  She had of late become most kind to me and pressed
me to have a holiday.  But I would not take any change, for work was
like balm, it blunted my thoughts; and knowing that I was daily growing
pale and thin, I still waited.

I knew the girls used to whisper together about me, and think me
strange, but no one knew my secret--not even Madame, who had more than
once sought my confidence; and so twelve months passed away--four years
since Jack had left me.

It was not to a day, but very nearly to the time when he had parted from
me, and it was almost two years since I had heard from him.  I was
trying hard to grow patient and contented with my lot, for Madame
Grainger had gradually taken to me, and trusted me, making me more and
more her companion, when one glorious spring morning, as I was coming
out of the breakfast-room to go upstairs to work, she called me into her
little room, where she sat as a rule and attended to her customers'
letters, for she had an extensive _clientele_, and carried on business
in a large private mansion in Welbeck Street.

"Grace, my dear," she said, taking me in her arms, and kissing me, "it
worries me to see you look so ill.  Now, what do you say to a fortnight
in the country?"

A fortnight in the country! and at her busiest time, with the London
season coming on.

I thought of that, and then, as I glanced round at the flowers and
inhaled their scents, the bright fields near Templemore Grange floated
before my dimming eyes, a feeling of suffocation came upon me, and the
room seemed to swing round.  I believe that for the first time in my
life I should have fainted, so painful were the memories evoked by her
words, when a sharp knock and ring at the door echoed through the house,
following instantly upon the dull fall of a letter, and the sharp click
of the letter-box.

It was like an electric shock to me, and without a word I darted into
the hall, panting with excitement, and my hand at my throat to tear away
the stifling sensation.

But it was a letter.  I could see it through the glass in the
letter-box, and I seized it with trembling hands, inspired as it were by
some strange power.

"Jack! dear Jack at last!"  I gasped as I turned it over, and saw it was
a strange, blue, official-looking letter, formally directed to me.

Even that did not surprise me.  It was from Jack, I knew, and I tore
open the blue envelope.

Yes, I knew it!  The inner envelope was covered with Australian
post-marks, and, ignorant as I might be of its contents, I was raising
it to my lips to cover it with passionate kisses, when I saw it was
open.

Then a mist came over my mental vision for a time, but only to clear
away as, half stupefied, I turned the missive over and over, held it
straight for a moment; and then, with a sigh of misery and despair, I
stood mute, and as if turned to stone.

"Grace, my child!  In mercy's name tell me--"

It was Madame, who passed her arm round me, and looked horror-stricken
at my white face and lips.  The next moment I dimly remember she had
caught the letter--his letter--my letter--from my hand, and read it
aloud: "Mr John Braywood, Markboro, R. County Melbourne," and then, in
her excitement, the great official sentence-like brand upon it--"Dead!"



CHAPTER TWO.

THE SORROWS OF MADAME GRAINGER.

I tried so hard to bear up, to keep secret my loss, but it was all in
vain.  My long days of waiting for that answer had weakened and
undermined my constitution, so that I had not strength to bear up
against the shock, and the result was a very serious illness during
which I was given over by the doctors, but somehow they were wrong.  The
change was long in coming, but it came, and by degrees I was
convalescent, but only the shadow of my former self.

Poor Madame, as we always called her, the French title as she laughingly
used to tell me, bringing her ten times as many customers as would have
fallen to her lot had she called herself Mrs Grainger, she tended me
through my long illness as if she had been my mother, and I believe she
loved me dearly.  At times I had hinted at being sent away; at the
expense and trouble I must be, but she used to lay her hand upon my lips
and kiss my forehead.

"Don't be silly, my child," she said.  "You know I make money fast, and
how could I spend what little you cost better than in taking care of
you.

"Grace, my child," she said one night, after a feeble protest on my
part, "sorrow brings people closer together.  You are a widow now like I
am, although you never were a wife.  We two, my dear, must never part."

I could only kiss her hand and cry silently, as I lay back in my easy
chair, thankful that if I could live my lot would be made less hard to
bear.  For all through my weak and weary illness, when I was not
thinking of dear Jack, the thought that I must be up and doing was for
ever intruding itself, and that thought of going out to battle with the
world once more seemed to keep me back.

I need not have troubled about my future, for that was to be my home.
With returning health came greater intimacy, and by degrees I learned
that Madame Grainger's troubles had been greater, perhaps, than mine,
for after a brief spell of married happiness her husband, a clergyman,
had succumbed to poverty and overwork, leaving her almost penniless, to
drift at last into the life she had led and become a busy thriving
woman.

"Yes," she said to me more than once, "I have often regretted the
society in which I used to move, but it is better to depend upon
oneself, Grace, than to be a burden upon one's friends.  I offended many
by taking to this life, but I should have ceased to respect myself had I
remained a poverty-stricken widow existing on the charity of those who
blame me the most for my course."

"You must have had a hard fight," I said.

"I did, my child," she replied, "a very hard fight, and it was at a time
when I used to think that it would have been better to have lain down
and died, as just one year before, my poor husband had closed his eyes."

"How well lean recall it all," she said dreamily, "long as it is ago.
You told me your little life Grace, let me tell you mine.  Did I ever
say to you that Mr Grainger was a clergyman?"

"Yes," I said, watching her intently, "you told me so."

"Poor fellow!" she said with a sigh, "he asked me quite suddenly one day
to be his wife.

"I was astounded, and yet pleased, and in a moment I had said quietly
that it was impossible.

"Mr Grainger rose from his seat, looking inexpressibly pained, and
walked slowly up and down the room, while I sat back in my chair by the
window, with my heart beating violently, and a sense of suffocation upon
me that was absolutely painful.  But I was pained, too, for him: grieved
that he should ever have asked me--more than grieved to have caused him
sorrow.  For in his suffering he looked so calm and gentle--he, the
tall, stalwart man, with his fast-greying hair, and countenance marked
with the lines printed by maturing age and thought.  He had been so kind
and friendly, too, ever since he had been at the parsonage, and in our
daily work we had been drawn so imperceptibly together, that I had hoped
ours was to be a firm and lasting friendship; and now this meeting
seemed to have brought it to an abrupt conclusion.  Suddenly he stopped
before me again, and stood looking down, while I crouched there almost
fascinated by his gaze.

"`Miss Denison--Laura,' he said, in a low soft voice, `you must forgive
me, and if you cannot accede to my proposal, let us be as we have been
during the past happy year.'

"I tried to speak, but he held up his hand.

"`Hear me out, dear friend,' he said, `and let me speak again, for I
still hope that I may have taken you by surprise.  I have known you now
for a year.'

"I tried to speak once more--to beg of him that he would let me leave
the room--that he would bring our interview to an end; but my heart went
on still with its heavy beat, and the suffocating sensation was still at
my throat, so that I half lay there with my eyes closed, listening to
his words, every one of which seemed to wake an echo, and increase the
heavy throbbing of my heart.

"`I had a love-dream once,' he said; and his voice became very rich and
soft.  `I was tutor in a noble house.  There was a daughter there whom I
could have loved, had I but dared.  Honour, position, all forbade it.
She was heiress to thirty thousand pounds, and I was the young tutor to
whose care the education of her brother had been trusted.  She never
knew my fancy, and I saw her married to a nobleman--happily, I hoped--
while I--I returned to my books.'

"He paused again, and I sat up watching his half-averted face, as in
those few words--so few but so pregnant of meaning--he laid bare to me
his heart; and as he sighed, the heavy throbbing in my breast began to
subside, and a strange feeling of pity for him to grow.

"`I thought it but fair to tell you this,' he said sadly, `to show you
that I have no youthful first love to lay before you; but I felt that
here, in this village, if your lot were joined to mine, the down-hill of
life would be made happy for me, as God knows I would try to make it
ever green and pleasant for you, while those around us should be taught
to bless us for the help we gave.  It is no romantic offer,' he said,
more cheerfully.  `It is very matter-of-fact, I know, but it was upon
these grounds, dear friend, that I asked you to be my wife.'

"He looked down at me once again, and as our eyes met, something within
me seemed to say, `Withdraw your refusal, and lay those trembling hands
in his, for he is a man that you could love.'  But I only shook my head
sadly, as I murmured--

"`No, it could never be!'

"`You are agitated,' he said tenderly, as he took my hand and reverently
kissed it.  `I will leave you now.  Mine is too solemn a proposal for us
both to be replied to without consideration.  Let all be as it was for a
month, and then I will renew my suit.  If, after this lapse of time, you
shall think as you do now, believe me, I will never pain the woman whom
I hope to retain as my best and dearest friend, by the faintest allusion
to that which we will agree to bury in the past.'

"`No,' I said, with a firmness which surprised myself.  `Stay Mr
Grainger.  Let me speak.'

"He bowed his head in his old pleasant manner and took his seat once
more.

"`I must undeceive you now--at once,' I faltered.  `It would be cruel to
you--to us both, to let this rest only to be renewed at the month's
end,'

"He bowed his head still lower, and my heart gave a throb of gratitude
as I saw the tender consideration with which he averted his gaze from my
agitated face.

"There was again a terrible silence in the room, broken only by the
distant murmur of the sunlit sea, as it broke upon the fine shingle
three hundred feet below.  There was a soft rustle, too, amongst the
leaves around the window, and--I remember it so well--the pale pink
petals of a rose kept falling slowly, fluttering down like the withered
hopes of my past sad life, as I struggled hard for the calmness that
should enable me to speak.

"There was no other man living to whom I could have made this
confession, and not even to him an hour before; but after the way in
which he had bared the secrets of his own heart to my gaze, a bond of
sympathy seemed to have joined us, and something within me forced me to
speak--agitatedly at first, but with a growing calmness, that was even
piteous to me, as I seemed to listen to my own words, and once more
grieved over my sorrows, as if they had been those of another.

"`Ten years ago,' I said, `when I was in my nineteenth year, my mother
in her widowhood and sorrow took this quiet cottage by the sea, to end
her days in calmness and repose.'

"`Yes,' he said, `I know, she died two years ago, beloved by all.'  This
in a tone of sympathy that seemed to give me strength.

"`When we first came, we found that there were frequent mistakes made,
for at the great house there was another family named Denison, and
little confusions arose about our letters.'

"`Yes, I have heard of them,' he said pleasantly.  `I have studied up
the past history of the village.  They were very wealthy, and there was
a beautiful daughter, an heiress.'

"`Yes,' I said, `you are quite right, she was very beautiful and very
rich.  She used to call on me, and we were very friendly, for she was
not spoiled by her position, and would have been my inseparable
companion but for the duties I owed to my mother.

"As it was, we used to sit for hours in the nooks of the cliff, reading,
or she would spend her evenings at the cottage, till Mr Denison fetched
her himself, and playfully bantered me, telling me how jealous he was of
her affection for the cottage and its occupants.

"Those were very bright and happy days, and the Isle seemed to us both a
very Eden, though it is as beauteous now as it was then.  But our dream
was to be broken, for in consequence of Mr Denison's failing health,
their medical men ordered a change to a more bracing atmosphere, and the
family left to spend a few months in Scotland.

"On the morning when I parted from Julia, I was so low-spirited that it
was hard work to keep back my tears; but I fought with my folly, and
getting the better of my trouble, I took some work and a book to go
along the cliff path, and sit in one of our favourite nooks far above
the sea.

"It was a dangerous place, inasmuch as the way was along a narrow
sheep-track, and the slope down to the beach was very steep; but we were
so accustomed to the giddy cliffs that the idea of danger never crossed
our minds any more than it did those of the village children, who would
run along the edges or scramble down the rock-face where there seemed
hardly foothold for a goat.

"I suppose I must have been there about two hours, not reading or
working, but thinking of how long the time would be before Julia Denison
returned, and there I sat watching the passing vessels far out on the
blue water where it seemed to melt into the sky.

"My musing came to a sudden end, for I felt that it was neglectful of me
to stay away so long, and I began to hurry back.

"To reach the road above, after climbing a zig-zag path, I had to pass
round a bold bluff of chalky rock which projected from the cliff, and
effectually concealed the path on the other side.

"I was so used to the way that I almost ran round, when to my horror and
astonishment I came roughly in contact with a gentleman walking in the
opposite direction.

"I hardly know how it occurred, but partly from the collision, partly in
consequence of my hasty step back, my foot slipped over the edge of the
path, the crumbling stones gave way, and I fell.

"It would have been no very terrible fall, only a severe scratching and
a sprain, for the cliff there was only a steep slope; but I was saved by
the gentleman catching my wrist, and at the expense of a severe wrench,
dragging me back to the path; and before I could recover from the
surprise and the sick faint feeling that came over me, he was carrying
me along the path to a grassy slope, where he tenderly laid me down, and
poured between my lips a few drops of spirit from a flask.

"`Lie still,' he said, in a low, sympathetic voice.  `Thank Heaven, my
poor child, you are safe!'

"There was such a tone of command in his voice, and he seemed to imply
that I had been saved from such a terrible danger, that in my weak state
I accepted it all, and with a girl's romantic folly began to feel
gratitude to my preserver, as I lay there blushingly glancing at the
handsome face so full of solicitude that was hanging over me.

"There was something in his words that went to my heart every time he
spoke, and at his wish I did not attempt to move for some time, till he
yielded to my solicitations, and agreed that I was sufficiently
recovered to walk home.

"`You are more hurt than you think, you brave little woman,' he said
tenderly.  `There take my arm and I will see you home.'

"`Indeed I can walk,' I said, but a faint cry of pain escaped me as I
tried, for my ankle was slightly sprained, and I was glad to lean upon
him, and accept his escort home.

"`Am I right in thinking I am speaking to Miss Denison?' he said on the
way.

"`Yes,' I said, surprised at the knowledge on the part of a stranger;
`but how did you know?'

"`Know!' he said laughing; `did you suppose that in this little Isle of
Wight a beautiful flower could blossom without its fame reaching through
its length and breadth?'

"I started, hardly knowing whether to feel pleased or annoyed, and my
replies were in monosyllables, till we reached the cottage, greatly to
mamma's surprise and alarm.  Here, with the most gentlemanly
consideration, my companion took his leave, and I was helped to the
sofa, where my little sprains were seen to, and the pain soon forgotten.

"Recollect I was but nineteen, and such attentions were quite new to me.
I think, then, I may be excused for listening the next day with
fluttering pulses to a voice that I heard through the open window,
inquiring after my health; then feeling something very near akin to pain
as I heard the retiring footsteps; while when mamma took from the
servant a card and read aloud, `Captain Hansleigh, Raypark Barracks,' a
vivid blush overspread my cheeks, only to deepen as I caught her
searching gaze and heard her sigh.

"I know now how foolish I was to let my weak young heart go forth to the
first fowler that laid for it his snares, but I was innocent and
unskilled then.  I was but a girl in ways and thoughts, and the brave,
handsome young officer, who had been in India, and bore a scar upon his
forehead, made the poor weak heart beat whenever he approached.  For
what was I--was my argument--that this man, who could pick and choose in
society, should be ever coming over to our cottage to seek me out?

"Then I was, as I said, but young and vain, and in a few short weeks
Julia was almost forgotten in this new, strange, wondrous feeling of
love."

Mr Grange's head went down upon his hand, but I hardly noticed it as I
proceeded, wound up now by a strange desire to tell him all, even though
my heart was torn by the old recollections that were so vivid as I
recalled them from the past.

"Captain Hansleigh was constantly calling.  His manner won mamma to his
side, and at, last he told her that he was but a poor officer who loved
his profession and hoped to rise, as he begged her leave to tell me how
he loved me.

"How he loved me!  He had already told me a score of times, and I, weak
child, believed and loved again with all my fond young heart, sitting
day after day book in hand, pretending to read, but understanding never
a word, as I listened by the open window for the easy, careless step on
the gravel beneath the vine-clad verandah, till he came by in his easy
_nonchalant_ way, perhaps pretending not to see me as he passed on
towards the door.

"I used to think afterwards that what befel me was a punishment for my
selfish happiness.  For I was happy then, listening to the music of his
words, while we wandered along the cliff.  The sea with its rich deep
undertones seemed to sing of endless love and joy; there was music in
the very air, sweet music that filled my heart with delight, and I was
blind to all else but the one belief that I breathed in thankfulness
with my prayers from my knees at night, again as my eyes unclosed to the
bright morning, and felt ever beating in every throb of my pulses--`He
loves me! he loves me! he loves me!'

"Three months fled like magic, and still my dream was unbroken.  He had
left me, as he won from me my confession that I would be his, and his
alone--that I loved him with all my heart--and then I had in the sorrow
of my parting gone down upon my knees, to thank God for giving me the
love of that great, strong, brave man.

"His regiment was called away to another part, but he had said that he
would be always near in thought, and had questioned me about our family,
and papa, who had died so suddenly; though I did not think it was
strange then, and the recollection of it all did not come to me till
long afterwards.

"His head-quarters were two hundred miles away; but letters would
constantly be passing to and fro, and as soon as the bitterness of the
parting was over I began to look forward to our next meeting, and to
write down my loving thoughts; besides which, I felt how neglectful I
had of late been towards mamma and my ordinary duties.  I redoubled then
my efforts, and in these busy occupations the time glided on.

"I wrote almost daily, covering page after page with my fond happiness,
feeling disappointed that the replies were few and short, but reading
the words and investing them with rainbow hues, as I treasured each
expression of fondness, and excused him on the score of his military
duties.  `And besides,' I said, `men never write as a woman does; it is
not right they should.'

"It was long before distrust crept into the heart so full of love.
There was no room for other than loyal thoughts.  Letters grew fewer and
more brief, but there were always excuses ready, and I wrote to him the
more.  But at last constant sapping began to undermine, and though I
fought long and hard, till my cheek was sunken and pale with my
sleepless nights, distrust and doubt carried the citadel one day, when I
had written many letters in a month, and only had one brief reply,
telling me in answer to my agonised inquiries that he was quite well,
but busy.  Those two enemies to my peace carried the citadel at last,
for the question now in my mind was--`Does he love me?'

"I could not bear it at first, and an agonising week passed by, during
which I wrote to him again, and then again, imploring him to come to me
if he could, or else to write to me at length, or my heart would break.

"Another week of misery passed away, during which my heart seemed to
sink and wither, while the fount of my tears, long since drained, dried
up.  I went about the place like a ghost, or sat watching the lane
through which the postman came.

"At last a letter; I knew that there was one, for seeing me at the
window, instead of looking another way as had been his custom of late,
as soon as he came in sight the postman gave me a friendly nod, and the
next moment waved a letter in the air.

"I darted out to meet him, with feverish haste, caught the letter from
him, and saw that it was in the well-known hand.  My mother was in the
passage as I rushed in.

"`From Arthur, mamma, from Arthur!'  I panted joyously, and I hurried
into the little parlour, kissing the paper with delight, as I told
myself that here was balm for my sore aching heart--and then a strange
fit of trembling came over me, and I felt cold and as if seized by a
chill.

"I did not dare for a time to open my letter, but at last with my eyes
dim, and dread feeling of sickness upon me, I made the effort and tore
open the envelope.  How my thin white fingers trembled as I took out the
enclosure!  But my strength came back with the effort I made, and I read
the few lines it contained in the midst of what seemed to be a deadly
calm, wherein feeling and sound were frozen up, and I was as it were
alone.

"The words were very few, saying in measured terms that it would be
better that the engagement should be at an end, for it had been
commenced in error, and could never end in happiness for me.  In short,
he had during his absence tried his heart and found that he did not love
me as it would be his duty, and therefore the present course would be
the best for both.

"I remember that I gave a hysterical laugh as I finished the heartless
lines, and then I mocked at myself.  But that hard feeling passed away,
and I sank down by the window softened--broken--and as my head went down
upon my hand, I asked for help to bear the bitter, bitter blow that had
bruised and beaten me to the earth.

"I fell into a dreamy state then, from which I was aroused by my poor
mother, who came and knelt beside me.  I was quite calm, and placed the
letter in her hands with a sad smile, rising when she had read it, and
kissing her before sitting down and taking up my work.

"I was not ill, but for the next month seemed dull and stunned, trying
to bear all patiently; the greatest pang being when I heard from Julia
Denison that the error of Captain Hanleigh had been that he had mistaken
me for the heiress, to whom he afterwards proposed, and was indignantly
refused."

"That is my story, Mr Grange," I said, rising and standing flushed and
trembling before the second suitor of my bitter life.  "It was right
that you should know; and now, good-bye!"

The strength that had sustained me through my narrative was fleeting
fast, and my heart had resumed its painful throbbings, as he stood
before me and took my hand.

"I knew that there must have been some terrible grief," he said in a low
voice full of emotion; "but, Laura, can you tell me truly, for your own
future happiness, and for mine, that this gentle heart can never love
again?"

A thousand thoughts flashed through my mind of endless loving-kindness,
of gentleness to the suffering, of watchful nights by sick couches, of
the many acts of this man for whom the deadliest diseases had no terror
even when others fled.  I knew him to be the soul of truth and honour,
and he, had told me of his love.  Could I then say that this heart could
never love again, when in spite of sadness, sorrow, and the past, it had
leapt to him even as it had leapt once before?  I struggled hard asking
myself if this was not self-deceit, but there was none, and I knew that
if I said no it would be a lie.

He saw it all and knew, for a calm sweet smile of ineffable joy
overspread his face, and the next moment I was sobbing gently on his
breast.

"My dream of happiness was more than fulfilled, Grace," continued Madame
Grainger, "but it was too joyous to last.  Two years glided away and
then I was alone once more with a future before me that was one weary
blank.  Ah!  Grace, how little the world knows of others' sorrows, and
what histories are hidden often behind a smiling face."



CHAPTER THREE.

MY LITTLE HERO.

It was not long after that Madame Grainger gave up business on account
of her ill-health, and the kindness she had rendered to me I was able to
return, nursing her constantly, till one sad day when I found myself
alone--a very dear friend had passed away, almost her last coherent
words being an assurance that I was beyond want; and so I afterwards
found when her solicitors told me that she had left me all of which she
died possessed.

It was some time before I could realise the fact that I possessed an
independence; and at times I hesitated as to whether I should not refuse
to accept what was to me a fortune, but a little consideration showed me
how I could be, as it were, the steward of that which I held in trust,
and there were plenty of ways in which I might dispense help to those
around.

One of my first friends who seemed to ask was little Bill, a boy I used
to meet in my visits to the solicitor's in the City.  He was a
diminutive, sharp-faced boy, carrying a bit of stick covered with
india-rubber rings, which, in a shrill, piping voice, he called at a
penny a dozen.

I knew Bill, not personally, but well; and for quite two years we had
often encountered, and sometimes done a little business together.  For
Bill had not always sold india-rubber rings, but was engaged in a good
many commercial transactions in our big city, while trying very hard to
solve that most difficult of problems: Given a mouth: how to fill it.
It was Bill who used to shriek after me, "Box o' lyats," and would not
believe that I never smoked and had no use for the cascarilla scented
vesuvians.  It was Bill who used to make me nervous to see him in front
of the Mansion House at three o'clock of an afternoon, paddling
barefooted in and out of coach, carriage, cab, and 'bus, like a muddy
imp; now under a wheel almost, now amongst the horses' legs, now nearly
run over, and taking it as a matter of course; but ever fearless and
busy, darting in and out to vend the newspapers beneath his arm.

Up on 'bus steps, beside Hansoms, splashed, earnest, and busy, it was
Bill that was eagerly seeking to earn the universal penny--that
foundation of fortunes.  It was Bill that set up an opposition box, and
shrieked, "Clean yer boots, sir.  Hey, ear yer are, sir," till the
competition and ferocity of the brigade proved too much for him.  It was
Bill who used to run about with three oranges in his hand till they were
sold for a penny.  In short, it was Bill, who puzzled me to count up the
sum of his commercial transactions, or the many phases in which he had
presented himself to my notice.

Yes, we were old friends, Bill and I, and to do him justice, I never saw
the boy idle.  An old-fashioned boy was he--quite a man in his way.
Used to knocking about, and being knocked about in the streets, his
experience of London life was something startling.  Living so much in
the mud and amongst the dregs of our busy city, he always reminded me of
an eel, and well he acted up to his part--little, lissome, and quick, he
would wind in and out of a crowd, no matter how dense, and somehow or
another Bill grew to be one of the "common objects of the shore" of that
busy sea of life--London.

A quiet, earnest, pale face, sharp, dark eyes, and an old, careworn
look, that seemed to whisper of the pinchings of hunger, while--yes,
there certainly was more dirt than looked good for him.

I had dealt with little Bill several times before we became intimate
enough for questioning, but at last, after a purchase, I asked him where
he lived.

"Down by Brick Lane, mum, and mother does mangling.  Three brothers and
two sisters, and they're all younger nor me.  I'm the only one as goes
out to work."

"And what does your father do?"  I asked.

"Father, mum?  Ah, he's dead, mum.  Fell off a scaffle, and they took
him to the 'osspital, where mother and me used to go to see him till one
day, when I had to take mother back, for she said she was blind, and
held her head down and kept her hands over her face till I got her home,
when she did nothing but cry for three days.  It was then as mother got
the mangle, and Tommy and Sam helps turn, only they're such little
chaps, and don't do much good.  I always turns when I gets home o'
nights, and have had my tea, and that's after I've done selling the
papers."

"I've got my living for three years now, and never makes less than
sixpence a day, and sometimes I've cleared a shilling; and mother says
it's so useful, for the t'others eat so much bread that a quartern
loaf's gone directly.  But mother says she reckons that what I bring
home always pays the rent and keeps me--which helps, you know."

And this was all said with such a quiet ease, free from want or desire
to show up the family troubles to a stranger: though being perhaps
something more, almost one of a familiar face, Bill did not scruple to
talk of the family affairs and his own prospects.

"I'm going to have a barrer some day, when I gets big enough to manage
one.  That's a fine trade, you know; selling all them beautiful fruits
round about the 'Change--waiting and stopping when you gets a chance,
for the pleece won't let you stay anywhere.  There's Harry Sanders makes
ever so much, only he's a big married man, wife and two little 'uns and
a dawg.  Sometimes it's pineapples his barrer's full off, then it's
cherries, or plums, or peaches, or apples, or pears; at early times,
strawberries or sparrowgrass, and all done up nicely in baskets or
bundles, so as the big City gents will buy them to take home down in the
country.  But mother says I must wait ever so long yet, 'cos I'm so
little for my age."

"Might I come and see you, Bill?"  I asked.

"You can cum if you like mum, only our room ain't werry comfortable, and
the mangle skreeks so, whilst the two littlest often cries a deal, and
makes a noise because Sally don't mind 'em well.  How old is she?  Oh,
Sally's six, only she ain't a useful gal, and always was fond of
slipping out and playing in the court with the other gals and boys, as
always comes up to play because there's no carts and 'busses coming by.
You'll come some day, then, mum?  Don't you go when I ain't at home.
Good-bye, mum.  Don't want another indy-rubber ring, do you?"

Another day and I was looking out near the Mansion House for my little
hero, when my heart sank at the sight of a gathering crowd, generally a
danger signal, in that busy way.

"What's the matter, my man?"

"Matter?  Why it's a wonder it don't happen five hundred times a day.
That's what it is--a runnin', an' a dodgin', an' a bobbin' about in
amongst the 'osses' feet, and a gettin' runned over, as a matter o'
course, at last."

Yes, at last, as I found on elbowing my way through the gaping crowd,
feasting their eyes upon the sight of a little muddied bundle of
clothes, above which appeared a little, old-looking, scared, quivering,
and pain-wrung countenance, while two muddy hands tightly clutched a
dirty parcel of evening papers to his breast.

"He ain't much hurt, bless you," said a policeman.  "You're all right,
ain't yer, old man?  Now then, try and get on yer legs."

The little muddy object stared wildly round at the many faces, and his
lips moved, but no sound came; while as the policeman tried to lift him
up, a low, sobbing, heart-wrung cry came from the poor child's breast,
and drew a compassionate murmur from the crowd.

"It's them Hansoms, you see," said a man beside me; "they cuts along
full roosh; and one of 'em caught the poor little chap, threw him down,
and the wheel went right over him."

"Well, where does it hurt, eh?" said the policeman, not unkindly.

The dim eyes were turned up to the speaker; the papers clutched tightly
to the muddy breast; the poor child's lip quivered for a moment, and
then Nature was kind to the little sufferer, and he fainted.

"Fetch a cab," I said, kneeling down beside the little fellow, and
gently touching the leg which showed the mark of the cab wheel.

"Is it broke, mum?" said the policeman.

I nodded; the cab came up; and there, with the little fellow supported
between us, the policeman and I were rumbling over the stones, and on
our way to Guy's Hospital.  But it is no such easy task to make your way
amidst the dense throng of vehicles crowding the bridge, and some time
elapsed--time enough for the poor boy to revive a bit, and look about
him in a confused, half-stunned way, as if not able to realise his
position.  At last he spoke:

"I hadn't sold 'arf of 'em," he cried, looking at his dirty newspapers,
"and no one won't buy 'em, now;" when the mental pain proved harder to
bear than the bodily, and the boy began to cry.

"There, don't do that," said the policeman; "that won't do no good.  But
here we are."

"Does it hurt you much, Bill?"  I said gently, and the boy looked
wonderingly at me, as if asking how I knew his name.

"Not so werry much," he said, with the bottom lip still quivering; "but
mother will be in such a way.  Don't let them hurt me any more."

Bore it like a hero he did, and then I left him bright and cheerful,
asking a nurse how long it would be before he could run again and sell
his papers, while to me he said: "Tell her it ain't bad, mum please, and
that she ain't to cry much, and as soon as I get better I'll sell twice
as many papers to makeup for it; and you'll give her that sixpence I
took out of my trousers, and I think I must have lost a penny when I
got--knock--knock--"

The quivering of the lip began once more, for the recollection of the
accident was too strong for the little fellow's fortitude, and soon
after I was once more amongst the hurrying footsteps on my way to
execute my sorrowful commission by Brick Lane.

A thickly-inhabited part--thickly inhabited by our poorer brethren, by
disease engendering smells, by fogs, by smoke, by misery and
wretchedness unutterable.  Dirty butchers' shops, dirty bakers' shops,
open shops where wretched vegetables are vended, shops for sheep's heads
and faggots, tripe and sausage shops, brokers' so replete with dirty,
time-worn furniture that chairs and tables and stump bedsteads are
belched forth upon the narrow pave.  Here was a chair with a crick in
its back, there a lame table; higher up a cracked looking-glass, while
lower down was a wash-tub and four rusty flat-irons.  Great Eastern
carts and waggons were blocking the way, and now and then side streets
revealed the busy mysteries of the goods department.  Now I put my foot
into an old iron tray full of rusty keys.  Extricating myself, I kicked
against some jangling iron work, and then hurried on past the shop where
the best price was given for old bones; and now I came to a small red
board, hung by a string to the bolt of a parlour window-shutter.  There
was a painting in yellow upon the board--a painting of a very
gouty-legged, heavy-bodied mangle; while beneath it was the legend:--

"Mangling Done Here."

At the door a bottomless chair was laid sideways to restrain the
inquiring dispositions of a treacly-faced child, playing with an old
brass candlestick, which it ever and anon sucked with great apparent
relish; while upon my knocking loudly, the child howled furiously until
a woman, with crimply white hands and steaming, soap-suddy arms, made
her appearance.

"Does Mrs Perks reside here?"  I said.

"Oh, bother; no, she don't," was the answer; and then I stood alone.

I was wrong, for I had evidently hit upon a rival establishment where
mangling was done; but a little more searching brought me to where I
could hear the creaking and groaning of the stone-burdened machine as it
slowly rolled backwards and forwards in sight of the passer-by, and I
soon had a pale face, clean-looking window sobbing bitterly as I told of
the mishap.

"But you're not deceiving of me; he's not worse than you say?  Oh, my
poor, poor boy!"

There was the mother spoke in those last words--the mother's heart
asserting itself, and showing that the love of the poorest and most
uneducated is, after all, but the same as may be found amongst the
greatest of our land.

"You see, he is so good, and old, and kind, and earns so much, that
since my poor husband died he's been such a stay.  And now for him, too,
to be in a 'osspital it does seem so hard!  I can't help taking on a
bit, about it; for he never seemed like other boys, playing and liking
to run about the streets; for all he thinks about is to earn money and
bring it home.  Once he brought me five shillings and three-pence
halfpenny in one week, as much as I can make myself some times with the
mangle; and then, poor boy, he'd pull off his jacket and wet soppy
boots, and turn away at that handle, after tramping about through the
cold muddy streets all day.  He's never tired, he says, and he lights my
bit of fire of a morning, and helps wash his brothers, and now--oh! what
shall I do?"

But the thought of her boy's suffering made the poor woman dry her eyes,
and by the time she was composed we were back again in the street where
Guy's Hospital stands, and then, after muttering a hope that Sammy would
mind his brother Pete didn't set his pinafore a fire, the mother entered
the building, and we parted.

"And how's the leg, Bill?"  I asked him some time later.

"A'most well, mum, ony I can't get it quite straight yet, being a bit
drawn; but it never hurts now."

"Down by Brick Lane still?"

"No, ma'am; mother lives close by Camberwell, in one o' them streets out
o' Walworth Road, and does clear starching now; and as soon as the leg
gets quite well I'm a-going to have a barrer."

But his ambition was never gratified, for soon after the little hero was
in a respectable situation and doing well.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A MORNING WITH MISERY.

I give these as so many random recollections of my life or narratives
related to me from time to time, and I have, as being more in keeping
with the mood in which they are written, naturally given prominence to
those which lean towards the sad and pathetic side of life.  My dealings
with little Bill encouraged me to visit here and there in the poorer
portions of London, at first in fear and trembling, for the rougher men
that hung about the entrances to the courts and often blocked the way
inspired me with horror and dread, but somehow before long I found that
I had become known, and I and my basket were welcome visitors in many a
dark home, and at last I had no hesitation in penetrating the worst
portions of that doleful district, back of Drury Lane and the portion
swept away to make room for the Courts of Justice.

I remember well one morning that I had with misery in its haunts and my
search for a house of whose occupants I had been told.  I had been
considering for some few minutes rather at fault, when I came upon a
group of boys engaged in a game of buttons upon the pavement, and my
inquiring for Burt's Buildings created quite a little scene of
excitement.

"Burt's Buildings, ma'am?" said one, as all rose to stare at me.  "It's
first turning to the left after you gets down Popper's Court."

"No 'tain't now," cried another, "you let me tell the lady.  It's the
first turning to the left past old Blacke's where the lamp hangs as Jim
Pikehurst broke; and then you goes--"

"No you don't ma'am, it's up this way, ma'am.  He means Burt's Court,
where they're pulling down.  I'll show you ma'am."

"But are you sure you know?"  I said.

"No, ma'am," cried half-a-dozen in chorus, "he don't know, ma'am, not a
bit."

Here there was a threatening gesture from my would be guide, and a
defiant war-whoop in reply, but uttered in retreat, and the next minute
I was standing amongst the rags of one of the inns of court, in company
with a little sallow skinned boy about ten, dressed in a great deal of
trousers and very little shirt.  The weather being warm, this completed
his costume, if I except the dirt with which he was largely decorated.

In company with a similarly costumed boy of his own age, he was now
making a light repast off a piece of black, gristly stuff which they
called "fungus;" but whose odour announced it to be the composition of
glue and treacle used by printers for their ink-rollers.  My boy--that
is to say, the one who became my guide--was at the same time forming
designs upon the broken pavement by placing one of his bare feet in the
black gutter, full of unutterable abominations, and then printing the
foot--heel, sole, and toes--upon various dry spots.  Now he would
contract his toes, now expand them, and then seem to derive much
pleasure from making the foul black mud of the gutter ooze up between
them in little gushes which met and formed a dirty stream upon his
instep.

Whose house did I want?  Well, I only wanted leading to the place
itself; and after divers wanderings in and out, I stood in Burt's
Buildings, and looked about, with more than one curious pair of eyes
watching me.  On my right were a couple of uninhabited tenements--
tenements untenable--the grating in front rusty and worn, the walls foul
with mud, every window that could be reached by stick or stone broken,
every available ledge loaded with an assortment of stones, bones,
cabbage-stumps, oyster shells mingled with those of the cockle,
periwinkle, and whelk; while the remaining eight or nine houses in the
court were at first sight in the same predicament, though the second
glance told that all their windows were not broken, while further
inspection showed that attempts had been made in a variety of ways to
repair the breaches made by time and the smaller builders of the place.
Paper seemed much in favour in some sashes; wood and pieces of slate in
others; one gashly breach was stopped by an old rusty tea tray, which
well covered four broken squares; while rags, straw, and a variety of
articles which would have required analysation to catalogue, displayed
themselves obtrusively at every turn.

By slow degrees little signs showed that, although the inhabitants
presented themselves but little, yet there were dwellers here.  At one
window a bright red and yellow tulip grew in an old black teapot, whose
nose and handle evidently helped to form the rubbish heap down one of
the gratings.  At another window there was a small bird-cage--such a
small cage for the restless linnet within, which breasted the wires
incessantly, ever twittering and bringing thoughts of far-off
blue-arched campaigns, where the trees were delicate with their bright
golden green, and the emerald turf was spangled with the flowers of
spring.  Again, at another window, two or three articles of washed
clothing had been hung out to dry, and secured by shutting the window
down upon them.  While the next instant came a whoop and a yell, and a
troop of children swept back into the before silent court, from which
they had evidently been drawn by some foreign attraction.  The babies
were there, tied in the customary drabby, washed-out shawl, swaying in
the most top-heavy manner.  The mothers were there now, at door and
window, to shriek out warning or threat; while now appeared the first
male inhabitant in the shape of a closely-cropped man, with a bull head
and a black pipe, a villainous countenance, and a little dog which he
nursed as he looked out of one of the windows, and stopped at intervals
to spit upon one particular broken slab in the court below.

"This here's Burt's Buildings," said my guide; who then spun the penny I
gave him into the air, caught at it, struck it upon the edge, when down
it fell, and rolled to the grating of an empty house and was gone; but
hardly quicker than the little boy had leaped forward and thrown himself
down upon his face, to peer between the rusty bars.

Who could have resisted the dismay and misery of that boy's face as he
raised it to mine? or have failed to enjoy the sudden change to hope and
delight as the hand which went to a pocket placed another coin in his
hand, to send him turning the wheel along the court till he had
disappeared; while half a score of the young builders formed themselves
into a committee of inspection, and wedged their noses down between the
bars in their endeavour to catch a glimpse of the lost coin.

And now I was at Burt's Buildings, for what had I come, but to see
misery; and I saw her, gaunt, and foul, and wan, looking at me from
every landing as I slowly ascended step by step the creaking old stairs,
which threatened to give way once and for all beneath my weight, as they
hung to the wall, while the balustrade seemed to have disappeared a bit
at a time for firewood.  I saw misery looking out at me from the dark
eyes of a woman, who coughed painfully at intervals, as she told me of
how she found bread for herself and three children.

"It came hard on me, you see, ma'am, when my poor master died.  We were
out of the country, and come up here for work, and very good work he got
till the accident that laid him up for six weeks.  Out-patient of the
hospital he was, and they were very kind to him; and though he never
took regularly to his bed, he seemed to dwindle away, and he was took.
Don't think me hard-hearted because I don't cry about it, ma'am; I've
cried till the tears seem as if they would not come any more, and what
one has to do for a bit of bread is so trying at times that one has no
time to be fretting.

"You see, children are so thoughtless, and yet you can't wonder at it--
but as long as they have their meal's victuals that's all they think
about.  But then they're very young, you see, and don't know any better.
That big one's seven, and she minds the two others while I go out, and
I always manage not to be gone more than three hours at a time, though
it hinders me a good deal from taking longer beats, for you see I'm out
now-a-days in this pleasant spring weather with flowers.  I'd do
needlework, so as to be at home with them, but, oh! it's heart-breaking
work.  It was hard enough, I dare say, before there were sewing
machines, but it's dreadful now, and you may work day and night almost
to live.  Just fancy being paid so many farthings for making a garment
that has taken hours, while the poor children have been fretful and
miserably cooped up in this one room--half-a-crown a week I pay for it,
because it's one of the most decent, and I like being up at the top of
the house, here, for one seems to get a little more fresh air, even if
it's smoky.  The poor bairns didn't seem to breathe down below there,
and grew more white and pasty-looking every day till I got them up here.

"I'm not particular what I sell as long as it is in season and people
will buy.  But it's no matter what one takes to, there's scores about
selling the very same thing, and it's quite a fight sometimes for the
next penny.  Flowers always did, and I suppose always will, sell well,
and I do the best I can with mine by sprinkling and keeping them fresh,
and setting them out as tasty as I can, so as to catch people's eyes.
There's very few people, no matter how hard they are, but what you can
make the way to their hearts with a pretty, sweet-smelling blossom or
two.  I suppose as God made them, He's given them that power, and I've
had your hard City men, who make money all the day long, stop in front
of my basket with the lines softening out of their faces, and a
brightness coming into their eyes that seems to stop for long enough;
and if they buy, say, a bunch of violets or a few wallflowers, they'll
stop about them, not picking and choosing and beating you down, but
pretending to, so that they may hang about the basket, and smell them,
and look at their simple beauty.

"I keep at flowers all I can, for it's a good trade for a poor woman
like me; and even in that one gets one's regular customers.  One
simple-looking boy comes and buys rosebuds of me; and I smile to myself,
sadly enough though, for it reminds me of old times, when one's eyes
were bright, and one's face was smooth and fresh-coloured, and Tom used
to say--Well, never mind, ma'am, I won't bother you with that nonsense;
but this customer of mine buys those rosebuds to give to some proud
girl, I feel sure--one as will never look at him; and the poor fellow
always sighs when he buys his roses.  One gentleman buys a bunch
regularly to take home to his wife; another for his children; and
work-girls love them dearly, to keep them in water in their rooms.  I
call regular at one house, and somehow I always make up my best bunch
for there.  You see, it's for a sick girl who has been lying months and
months, and they tell me she will never get better; while the thought of
her seems to remind me of my own trouble, and I feel sorry for her; and
after the servant has taken the sweet, fresh bunch, and paid me for it,
I seem to picture it all--the poor invalid smiling and brightening up at
the sight of the pretty flowers, as she holds out her poor, thin, white
hands for them, and perhaps kisses them, and holds them to her poor pale
face.  I don't know that she does--I only seem to fancy it is so.

"Rich and poor, ma'am, all alike, and ready to be customers for a few
flowers; and I often felt cut to see the eager looks some poor creatures
give at them, and how ready they are to part with almost their last coin
to get hold of them.  Why, I've known boys who had perhaps a penny to
get a bit of bread-and-butter for their tea come and spend it with me;
and once, bad off as I was myself, I could not take the longing little
fellow's penny, but gave him the flowers.

"You see, it seems to come into the hearts of all God's creatures, I
think, to love the bright country; and when tiny bits of it like are
held before them, it sets them longing, and makes them eager to get
them.  But it's hard work at times to know what to do, for flowers fade
and die, and after one has come down to the lavender, and cried that
round the streets, it's getting a hard matter to know what to sell.
I've come home here o' nights before now, and gone down on my knees by
that bit of a bed and cried to be taught what to do next to get a bit of
bread for the little ones, whom I've found huddled together fast
asleep--after crying, perhaps, for long enough because mother did not
come home.  And shall I tell you why mother did not come home, ma'am?
Well, it was because she had tramped hour after hour, street after
street, to find a customer, and then came home disappointed and
heart-sick.  Then, perhaps it would be the crying, or perhaps better
thoughts came into one's ignorant heart; but I've got up better, and
somehow the sun would shine a bit for me the next day, so that I could
make a few pence; and one way and another we manage to live, while
others starve."

Was it one's heart that had grown heavier with listening to the widow's
sorrows?  Perhaps so; for certainly the stairs creaked more loudly as I
went down past misery staring from more than one lair, hollow-eyed and
gaunt, as though speaking as the flower-selling widow; and then I stood
once more in the court, threaded my way past the children that flocked
there, several of whom were fishing with bits of string for the lost
coin, and, on reaching the _embouchure_, encountered young Trousers, who
grinned a welcome as I passed, and ceased printing black feet upon the
pavement.

"I ain't spint that there copper," he shouted after me.

"Haven't you?"  I said.  "What shall you do with it, my man?"

"Give it to mother," said the grimy young rascal, with an earnestness
that there was no mistaking; and I passed on, thinking what a fine lad
that little fellow would have made if planted in different soil with
some one to carefully watch him and tend.



CHAPTER FIVE.

RUTH'S STEPFATHER.

I feel a shrinking--a strange kind of hesitation in narrating some of
these adventures lest the reader should think me full of egotism, and
that I told of my little charities as if proud of what I had done.  Pray
chase any such idea from your minds, for I can honestly say that no
feeling of vanity ever existed in mine.  I am merely relating the
pleasures of my life, my rambles amongst weeds and flowers--the weeds
and sad lined blossoms of our town.

I was much troubled in my mind as to how I could most help the widow of
Burt's Buildings, and I knew that I could best assist her by helping her
to help herself.  One of her great troubles was that she had to leave
her little ones so long, and a strange sense of pain had shot through me
as she spoke of finding them huddled together as they had cried
themselves to sleep.  What could I do then?

The thought came: A sewing machine! that which had been her enemy to be
now her friend; and the next morning I was in one of our busiest streets
in front of a large establishment within whose plate-glass doors I saw a
pretty lady-like young woman, busy winding thread upon one of some dozen
of the ingenious little pieces of mechanism, and upon stating my wants
she led me up to a bluff, sharp-looking, grey man whose face seemed to
soften as she spoke before returning to her task.

"Sewing machine ma'am, eh?" he said, eyeing me very sharply.  "Own use?"

"No," I said, "I want it for a poor woman to enable her to earn her
living."

"Instalments, ma'am," he said sharply.

"I beg your pardon."

"Want to pay for it by instalments?" he said.

"Oh! no, I will pay for it at once, and you can deliver it to her."

"Oh," he said smiling, "that's twenty per cent, discount."

I looked at him wonderingly, for I did not know what twenty per cent
discount might be.

"I always take twenty per cent discount off these machines," he said,
and I left pleasurably impressed by his ways and those of the young girl
he introduced to me as his daughter, and that little new machine was the
first of several in which I had Mr Smith's kind co-operation and advice
in what were doubtful cases.

The result was a warm intimacy, in the course of which he told me his
little history and that of his daughter--stepdaughter he called her--
Ruth.

"Mine's a curious trade to have taken to," he said, "and I had plenty of
up-hill work, but it has grown to be profitable.  Things were at a low
ebb with me when I took it up, while now--"

There, I won't boast, only say that I'm thankful for it.  Poverty comes
in at the door, and love flies out of the window, so they say; but
that's all nonsense, or else your poor people would be always miserable,
while according to my experience your poor man is often more
lighthearted than the man with thousands.

I was at my wits' end for something to do, and sat nibbling my nails one
day, and grumbling horribly.

"Don't go on like that, Tom," says my wife; "things might be worse."

"How?"  I said.

"Why, we might have Luke at home, and he is doing well."

Luke's our boy, you know, and we had got him into a merchant's office,
where he seemed likely to stay; but I was in a grumbling fit then, and
there was a clickety-click noise going on in the next room which
fidgeted me terribly.

"Things can't be worse," I said angrily; and I was going to prove myself
in the wrong by making my wife cry, when there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," I said, and a fellow-lodger put in his head.

"Are you good at works, Mr Smith?" he said.

"What works?"  I said; "fireworks--gasworks?"

"No, no; I mean works of things as goes with wheels and springs."

"Middling," I said, for I was fond of pulling clocks to pieces, and
trying to invent.

"I wish you'd come and look at this sewing machine of mine, for I can't
get it to go."

Sewing machines were newish in those days, and I got up to have a look
at it, and after about an hour's fiddling about, I began to see a bit
the reason why--the purpose, you know, of all the screws and cranks and
wheels; I found out too why our neighbour's wife--who was a dressmaker,
and had just started one--could not get it to go; and before night, by
thinking, and putting this and that together, had got her in the way of
working it pretty steadily, though with my clumsy fingers I couldn't
have done it myself.

I had my bit of dinner and tea with those people, and they forced
half-a-crown upon me as well, and I went back feeling like a new man, so
refreshing had been that bit of work.

"There," said my wife, "I told you something would come."

"Well, so you did," I said; "but the something is rather small."

But the very next day--as we were living in the midst of people who were
fast taking to sewing machines--if the folks from the next house didn't
want me to look at theirs; and then the news spreading, as news will
spread, that there was somebody who could cobble and tinker machinery,
without putting people to the expense that makers would, if the jobs
didn't come in fast, so that I was obliged to get files and drills and a
vice--regular set of tools by degrees; and at last I was as busy as a
bee from morning to night, and whistling over my work as happy as a
king.

Of course every now and then I got a breakage, but I could generally get
over that by buying a new wheel, or spindle, or what not.  Next we got
to supplying shuttles, and needles, and machine cotton.  Soon after I
bought a machine of a man who was tired of it.  Next week I sold it at a
good profit; bought another, and another, and sold them; then got to
taking them and money in exchange for new ones; and one way and the
other became a regular big dealer, as you see.

Hundred?  Why, new, second-hand, and with those being repaired upstairs
by the men, I've got at least three hundred on the premises, while if
anybody had told me fifteen years ago that I should be doing this, I
should have laughed at him.

That pretty girl showing and explaining the machine to a customer?
That's Ruth, that is.  No, not my daughter--yet, but she soon will be.
Poor girl, I always think of her and of bread thrown upon the waters at
the same time.

Curious idea that, you will say, but I'll tell you why.

In our trade we have strange people to deal with.  Most of 'em are poor,
and can't buy a machine right off, but are ready and willing to pay so
much a week.  That suits them, and it suits me, if they'll only keep the
payments up to the end.

You won't believe me, perhaps, but some of them don't do that.  Some of
them leave their lodgings, and I never see them again: and the most
curious part is that the sewing machine disappears with them, and I
never see that again.  Many a one, too, that has disappeared like that,
I do see again--perhaps have it brought here by some one to be repaired,
or exchanged for a bigger, or for one of a different maker; for if you
look round here, you'll see I've got all kinds--new and old, little
domestics and big trades--there, you name any maker, and see if I don't
bring you out one of his works.

Well, then I ask these people where they got the machine--for I always
know them by the number--it turns out that they've bought it through an
advertisement, or at a sale-room, or maybe out of a pawnbroker's shop.

But I've had plenty of honest people to deal with too--them as have come
straightforward, and told me they couldn't keep up their payments, and
asked me to take their machine back, when I'd allow them as much as I
thought fair, and 'twould be an end of a pleasant transaction.

The way I've been bitten though, by some folks, has made me that
case-hardened that sometimes I've wondered whether I'd got any heart
left, and the wife's had to interfere, telling me I've been spoiled with
prosperity, and grown unfeeling.

It was she made me give way about Ruth, for one day, after having had my
bristles all set up by finding out that three good sound machines, by
best makers, had gone nobody knew where, who should come into the shop
but a lady-like woman in very shabby widow's weeds.  She wanted a
machine for herself and daughter to learn, and said she had heard that I
would take the money by instalments.  Now just half-an-hour before, by
our shop clock, I had made a vow that I'd give up all that part of the
trade, and I was very rough with her--just as I am when I'm cross--and
said, "No."

"But you will if the lady gives security," says my wife hastily.

The poor woman gave such a woe-begone look at us that it made me more
out of temper than ever, for I could feel that if I stopped I should
have to let her have one at her own terms.  And so it was; for, there,
if I didn't let her have a first-class machine, as good as new, she only
paying seven and six down, and undertaking to pay half-a-crown a week,
and no more security than nothing!

To make it worse, too, if I didn't send the thing home without charge!--
Luke going with it, for he was back at home now keeping my books, being
grown into a fine young fellow of five-and-twenty; and I sat and growled
the whole of the rest of the day, calling myself all the weak-minded
idiots under the sun, and telling the wife that business was going to
the dogs, and I should be ruined.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Tom," she said.

"So I am," says I.  "I didn't think I could be such a fool."

"Such a fool as to do a good kind action to one who was evidently a lady
born, and come down in the world!"

"Yes," I says, "to living in Bennett's Place, where I've sunk no less
than ten machines in five years."

"Yes," says the wife, "and cleared hundreds of pounds.  Tom, I'm ashamed
of you--you a man with twenty workmen busy upstairs, a couple of
thousand pounds' worth of stock, and in the bank--"

"Hold your tongue, will you!"  I said roughly, and went out into the
shop to try and work it all off.

Luke came back just after, looking very strange, and I was at him
directly.

"Where's the seven and six," I said, angrily.

He didn't answer, but put three half-crowns down on the desk, took out
the book, made his entries--date of delivery, first payment, when the
other's due, and all the rest of it--and was then going into the house.

"Mind," I says, sharply, "those payments are to be kept up to the day;
and to-morrow you go to Rollys, who live nearly opposite to 'em, and
tell 'em to keep an eye on the widow, or we shall lose another machine."

"You needn't be afraid, father," he says coldly; "they're honest enough,
only poor."

I was just in that humour that I wanted to quarrel with somebody, and
that did it.

"When I ask you for your opinion, young man, you give it me; and when I
tell you to do a thing, you do it," I says, in as savage a way as ever I
spoke to the lad.  "You go over to-morrow and tell Rollys to keep a
strict look-out on those people--do you hear?"

"Father," he says, looking me full in the face, "I couldn't insult them
by doing such a thing," when without another word he walked quietly out
of the shop, leaving me worse than ever.

For that boy had never spoken to me like that before, and I should have
gone after him feeling mad like, only some people came in, and I didn't
see him again till evening, and a good thing too, for I'm sure I should
have said all sorts of things to the boy, that I should have been sorry
for after.  And there I was fuming and fretting about, savage with
everybody, giving short answers, snapping at the wife, and feeling as a
man does feel when he knows that he has been in the wrong and hasn't the
heart to go and own it.

It was about eight o'clock that I was sitting by the parlour fire, with
the wife working and very quiet, when Luke came in from the workshop
with a book under his arm, for he had been totting up the men's
piecework, and what was due to them; and the sight of him made me feel
as if I must quarrel.

He saw it too, but he said nothing, only put the accounts away and began
to read.

The wife saw the storm brewing, and she knew how put out I was, for I
had not lit my pipe, nor yet had my evening nap, which I always have
after tea.  So she did what she knew so well how to do--filled my pipe,
forced it into my hand, and just as I was going to dash it to pieces in
the ashes, she gave me one of her old looks, kissed me on the forehead,
as with one hand she pressed me back into my chair, and then with the
other she lit a splint and held it to my tobacco.

I was done.  She always gets over me like that; and after smoking in
silence for half-an-hour, I was lying back, with my eyes closed,
dropping off to sleep, when my wife said--what had gone before I hadn't
heard--

"Yes, he's asleep now."

That woke me up of course, and if I didn't lie there shamming and heard
all they said in a whisper!

"How came you to make him more vexed than he was, Luke?" says the wife;
and he told her.

"I couldn't do it, mother," he said, excitedly.  "It was heart-breaking.
She's living in a wretched room there with her daughter; and, mother,
when I saw her I felt as if--there, I can't tell you."

"Go on, Luke," she said.

"They're half-starved," he said in a husky way.  "Oh, mother! it's
horrible.  Such a sweet, beautiful girl, and the poor woman herself
dying almost with some terrible disease."

The wife sighed.

"They told me," he went on, "how hard they had tried to live by ordinary
needlework, and failed, and that as a last resource they had tried to
get the machine."

"Poor things!" says the wife; "but are you sure the mother was a lady?"

"A clergyman's widow," says Luke hastily; "there isn't a doubt about it.
Poor girl! and they've got to learn to use it before it will be of any
use."

"Poor _girl_, Luke?" says the wife softly; and I saw through my
eyelashes that she laid a hand upon his arm, and was looking curiously
at him, when if he didn't cover his face with his hands, rest his elbows
on the table, and give a low groan!  Then the old woman got up, stood
behind his chair, and began playing with and caressing his hair like the
foolish old mother would.

"Mother," he says suddenly, "will you go and see them?"

She didn't answer for a minute, only stood looking down at him, and then
said softly--

"They paid you the first money?"

"No," he says hotly.  "I hadn't the heart to take it."

"Then that money you paid was yours, Luke?"

"Yes, mother," he says simply; and those two stopped looking one at the
another, till the wife bent down and kissed him, holding his head
afterwards, for a few moments, between her hands; for she always did
worship that chap, our only one; and then I closed my eyes tight, and
went on breathing heavy and thinking.

For something like a new revelation had come upon me.  I knew Luke was
five-and-twenty, and that I was fifty-four, but he always seemed like a
boy to me, and here was I waking up to the fact that he was a grown man,
and that he was thinking and feeling as I first thought and felt when I
saw his mother, nigh upon eight-and-twenty years ago.

I lay back, thinking and telling myself I was very savage with him for
deceiving me, and that I wouldn't have him and his mother laying plots
together against me, and that I wouldn't stand by and see him make a
fool of himself with the first pretty girl he sets eyes on, when he
might marry Maria Turner, the engineer's daughter, and have a nice bit
of money with her, to put into the business, and then be my partner.

"No," I says; "if you plot together, I'll plot all alone," and then I
pretended to wake up, took no notice, and had my supper.

I kept rather gruff the next morning, and made myself very busy about
the place, and I dare say I spoke more sharply than usual, but the wife
and Luke were as quiet as could be; and about twelve I went out, with a
little oil-can and two or three tools in my pocket.

It was not far to Bennett's Place, and on getting to the right house I
asked for Mrs Murray, and was directed to the second-floor, where, as I
reached the door, I could hear the clicking of my sewing machine, and
whoever was there was so busy over it that she did not hear me knock; so
I opened the door softly, and looked in upon as sad a scene as I shall
ever, I dare say, see.

There in the bare room sat, asleep in her chair, the widow lady who came
about the machine, and I could see that in her face which told plainly
enough that the pain and suffering she must have been going through for
years would soon be over; and, situated as she was, it gave me a kind of
turn.

"It's no business of yours," I said to myself roughly; and I turned then
to look at who it was bending over my machine.

I could see no face, only a slight figure in rusty black; and a pair of
busy white hands were trying very hard to govern the thing, and to learn
how to use it well.

"So that's the gal, is it?"  I said to myself.  "Ah!  Luke, my boy,
you've got to the silly calf age, and I dare say--"

I got no farther, for at that moment the girl started, and turned upon
me a timid, wondering face, that made my heart give a queer throb, and I
couldn't take my eyes off her.

"Hush!" she said softly, holding up her hand; and I saw it was as thin
and transparent as if she had been ill.

"My name's Smith," I said, taking out a screwdriver.  "My machine: how
does it go?  Thought I'd come and see."

Her face lit up in a moment, and she came forward eagerly.

"I'm so glad you've come," she said, "I can't quite manage this."

She pointed to the thread regulator, and the next minute I was showing
her that it was too tight, and somehow, in a gentle timid way, the
little witch quite got over me, and I stopped there two hours helping
her, till her eyes sparkled with delight, as she found out how easily
she could now make the needle dart in and out of some hard material.

"Do you think you can do it now?"  I said.

"Oh, yes, I think so; I am so glad you came."

"So am I," says I gruffly; "it will make it all the easier for you to
earn the money, and pay for it."

"And I will work so hard," she said earnestly.

"That you will, my dear," I says in spite of myself, for I felt sure it
wasn't me speaking, but something in me.  "She been ill long?"  I said,
nodding towards her mother.

"Months," she said, with the tears starting in her pretty eyes; "but,"
she added brightly, "I shall have enough with this to get her good
medicines and things she can fancy;" and as I looked at her, something
in me said--

"God bless you, my dear!  I hope you will;" and the next minute I was
going downstairs, calling myself an old fool.

They thought I didn't know at home, but I did.  There was the wife going
over and over again to Bennett's Place; and all sorts of little nice
things were made and taken there.  I often used to see them talking
about it, but I took no notice; and that artful scoundrel, my boy Luke,
used to pay the half-crown every week out of his own pocket, after
pretending to go and fetch it from the widow's.

And all the time I told myself I didn't like it, for I could see that
Luke was changed, and always thinking of that girl--a girl not half good
enough for him.  I remembered being poor myself, and I hated poverty,
and I used to speak harshly to Luke and the wife, and feel very bitter.

At last came an afternoon when I knew there was something wrong.  The
wife had gone out directly after dinner, saying she was going to see a
sick woman--I knew who it was, bless you!--and Luke was fidgeting about,
not himself; and at last he took his hat and went out.

"They might have confided in me," I said bitterly, but all the time I
knew that I wouldn't let them.  "They'll be spending money--throwing it
away.  I know they've spent pounds on them already."

At last I got in such a way that I called down our foreman, left him in
charge, and took my hat and went after them.

Everything was very quiet in Bennett's Place, for a couple of dirty
dejected-looking women, one of whom was in arrears to me, had sent the
children that played in the court right away because of the noise, and
were keeping guard so that they should not come back.

I went up the stairs softly, and all was very still, only as I got
nearer to the room I could hear a bitter wailing cry, and then I opened
the door gently and went in.

Luke was there, standing with his head bent by the sewing machine; the
wife sat in a chair, and on her knees, with her face buried in the
wife's lap, was the poor girl, crying as if her little heart would
break; while on the bed, with all the look of pain gone out of her face,
lay the widow--gone to meet her husband where pain and sorrow are no
more.

I couldn't see very plainly, for there was a mist-like before my eyes;
but I know Luke flushed up as he took a step forward, as if to protect
the girl, and the wife looked at me in a frightened way.

But there was no need, for something that wasn't me spoke, and that in a
very gentle way, as I stepped forward, raised the girl up, and kissed
her pretty face before laying her little helpless head upon my shoulder,
and smoothing her soft brown hair.

"Mother," says that something from within me, "I think there's room in
the nest at home for this poor, forsaken little bird.  Luke, my boy,
will you go and fetch a cab?  Mother will see to what wants doing here."

My boy gave a sob as he caught my hand in his, and the next moment he
did what he had not done for years--kissed me on the cheek--before
running out of the room, leaving me with my darling nestling in my
breast.

I said "my darling," for she has been the sunshine of our home ever
since--a pale, wintry sunshine while the sorrow was fresh, but spring
and summer now.

Why, bless her! look at her.  I've felt ashamed sometimes to think that
she, a lady by birth, should come down to such a life, making me--well,
no, it's us now, for Luke's partner--no end of money by her clever ways.
But she's happy, thinking her husband that is to be the finest fellow
under the sun; and let me tell you there's many a gentleman not so well
off as my boy will be, even if the money has all come out of a queer
trade.



CHAPTER SIX.

A BIRD IN A CAGE.

My visits to Burt's Buildings resulted in others to the neighbourhood
where I made the acquaintance of Uncle Bill, as he was generally called
by the swarming children about the place; not from any relationship, in
fact for no reason at all that I could discover.  One woman said it was
because he was lame; another thought he was like an uncle, but all the
same the little man often met me on my rounds, at first to look at me
very dubiously, but ever after to pull his pipe out of his mouth, tap
the bowl upon the pavement and thrust it into his pocket, out of
compliment to me as a lady who might not like smoke.

"'Taint in a woman's natur', mum, to like smoke," he said, when I hinted
that he need not put out his pipe, and no matter when we met I always
received from him this bit of politeness.

Rumour reached me one morning, after a short visit to the country, that
a dilapidated tenement or two, in this deplorable neighbourhood had
fallen down, and on making my way to the place, the first person I
encountered was Uncle Bill, pipe in mouth, and with a half-quartern loaf
in one hand, and a rasher of bacon in the other.

Before I could say a word the badly wrapped up rasher was thrust into
his coat pocket, the pipe extinguished, and thrust in after it, and a
smile and nod of recognition were awarded to me.

"Houses falling, mum?  Oh! yes, it's as fact as fact.  Come down without
a moment's warning, afore you know'd where you were, I can tell you.  I
had a narrow escape."

"What, were you there?"

"To be sure I was.  Where should I be if I warn't at home.  It was at my
old house.  I'm in here, now," he continued, pointing.

"There was the house up, as may be, lars night, and then, in the
morning, it was a tumble-down heap o' smash, with broken bedsteads, and
chairs, and chesties of drawers, and all sorts, tumbled together into a
mash, with bricks and mortar, and laths and plaster, and beams.  It's a
mussy as no more wasn't killed; for there was, counting myself,
four-and-twenty people as lived in that house, and many had to run out
for their lives.  People think that houses will stand for ever; and when
a house ain't fit for nothing else but pulling down, some one buys the
lease, puts a little whitewash on, and then lets all the rooms out at
four or five shillings a week to poor people, while the old house groans
and grumbles, and shakes on its pins awful.  To-night, perhaps, Braggs,
the cobbler in the back room, will have a row with his wife, and they'll
be tearing about till the place shivers again.  Night afore, perhaps it
was Dennis Murphy and his missus getting a bit excited over a quartern
of gin, and then they must get dancing up in their attic till other
people's heads get plastered with hits o' whitewash as falls off the
ceilings--only 'taint whitewash now, because it's turned t'other colour.
Then the old house begins to show its sore places, and you can see an
elbow shoving out here, and a crack there; first-floor winder sill's
down on one side, and Mrs Tibbs out of the second-floor back, when she
pays her rent, tells the landlord as her door sticks so that she can't
open and shet it; and then, as soon as Mrs Sykes in the second-floor
front knows as her neighbour has spoken, she tells the landlord as her
window won't move.  Then the first-floors say as there's a crack across
their ceiling, and black dust falls out inter the bread and butter.  And
then what d'yer think the landlord does--eh?  Get it all seen to, and
shored up, and so on--eh?  You'd think so, now, wouldn't you?  But he
don't; for I'll tell you what he does--he swears, that's what he does,
and says as soon as ever people will pay up their rent and make all
square, he'll do the house up.

"That's a thing as he can promise safe enough, for there's no fear of
that coming to pass; for they're all more or less behind, bless you, and
he holds 'em as tight as wax.  `Tell you what it is,' he says, one day,
`them as don't like the place had better leave it, and if I have any
more complaints I'll raise the rent.'

"That was a quieter directly, you see; for they were all more or less in
his power from being behindhand.  Houses and lodgings for poor people
are dreadful scarce in London, and landlords and tenants knows it; and
folks will put up with anything sooner than have to move.  And that's
just how it was in this house--people grumbled and bore it; till one
morning down it came with a rush, and three or four were killed dead,
and ever so many cut up all sorts of ways.  But, there, that ain't
nothing new, bless you.  We are used to that sort of thing in these
courts.

"It was about seven o'clock in the morning, I should say, and
fortunately some had got up and gone to work; but working at home on the
piece, I wasn't so particular to half an hour; but I was lying there
thinking of rousing out, when all at once I heard a sharp, loud crack,
and then another and another, followed by a curious rushing noise, and
by a shriek or two.  For a moment or two I thought it was thunder, and I
lay quite still; then came a rattling down of rubbish, and I saw the end
wall of my room seem to bulge gently out, when there was a fierce
rumbling crash, and I was hanging to a broken beam sticking out of the
wall, clinging to it with bleeding hands, ready to drop each moment on
to the jagged pile of ruins underneath me--a good thirty feet, and from
which now came slowly up a thick cloud of dust, and from out of it every
now and then a shriek or a groan.

"I dare say, you know, at another time I could have hung there some
minutes, but now a terrible sort of fear came over me which made me
weak; and after looking about as well as I could for help, to see
nothing but the dust rising from the heap under me, as I hung over the
gap where the house had stood a few minutes before--after looking round
once or twice, I seemed to shudder like, and then down I went crash on
to the ruins, to be one of the first picked up.

"I lay there, though, for some time, waiting for help; nobody daring to
come, till one man crept through the window of the next house on to the
heap of rubbish, though he had to dart back once or twice; for now one
of the joists left sticking in the wall up above would fall, then a few
tiles and some bricks that had been lingering in their places for a few
minutes, came down to make matters worse.  The end of one joist caught
me right on the side of the head, and sent what little sense there was
left in flying out; and the next time I opened my eyes it was in the
hospital, with some one doing something to my head, and me feeling sick,
and dull, and sleepy as could be.

"But it was a terrible sight to see: first one and then another poor
bruised and cut creature dragged out of the ruins as fast as they could
clear away the rubbish; and there were the poor things half naked, and
with the few bits of furniture belonging to them all in one ruinous
smash.  I did not see it, you know, but plenty of the neighbours did;
and I could find you a dozen ready to go over the whole story again and
again, up to the finding of Mrs Molloy and her little gal, her as lives
now with her father, top of Number 16--pretty little gal she is, and so
much like her mother as was killed.  They tell me the people on both
sides came suddenly out of their houses, as if it was an earthquake;
and, you know, really an earthquake would not be much worse so far as
one house was concerned.  You wouldn't think it, though, but I saved all
my birds as was left hanging against the walls.

"Everybody was very sorry, of course, as soon as it was known; and the
papers wrote about it, and people talked of it, and then there were a
few pounds put together for the benefit of the sufferers; but you know
what a sight of pounds it would take to make it all right for that poor
little gal up there as lost her mother.  Poor little thing, she don't
feel the loss much; but it's a sad job for her.

"Hark! don't you hear?  That's her bird.  It's on'y a finch, but he
whistles well, and it pleases her.  I give it her, you know; and when
her father's out I goes up and feeds it, and gives it water, because
she's too little to do it.  She calls me `Uncle Bill,' and I like to
hear her; for, you see, being a cripple, I ain't like other men, and
somehow or other I always was fond of little children.

"Well, then, if _you_ don't mind, I don't; so come along, and then
p'r'aps we can see her."

Up flight after flight of groaning stairs, to a landing spun across and
across with a string web, upon whose intricacies scraps of white rag
took the place of flies; and now came the twittering of many birds, and
the restless tap, tap, scraping noise of sharp beaks upon wire and
perch.  My lame guide opened the attic door, after muttering a warning
about my head; and there I stood on the top floor of the house in one of
those rooms where fancy brought up visions of stern-faced old Huguenot
silk weavers bending over their looms, and sending backwards and
forwards the busy shuttle, as bright warp crossed the glistening woof.

But there was no loom here, only the long range of lead casement along
one side of the room, filtering the rays of light as they entered dyed
of a smoky hue--rays of light, though, so joyous that the dozens of
little prisoners ranged about the room grew excited, and fluttered, and
sang and twittered loudly.

My guide smiled proudly as I walked from cage to cage, and then,
evidently with a thought for the bare shelf in the open cupboard, threw
off his coat, unfastened his vest, loosened his collar, and then placed
a circlet of greasy old black ribbon round his not too tidy black hair,
as he seated himself upon his bench and dived into the mysteries of
boot-closing.

"I can talk too, you know," he said; "that's the best of my trade.  Nice
birds some of them, ain't they?  Seems a shame to keep 'em behind wires;
but then we all have to work behind wires, more or less, for other
folks's pleasure.  They sings--we works; don't you see?"

But I had finished my inspection of mealy linnets and goldfinches,
pegging finches and larks; and had taken in at a glance the one bare
room, with its whitewashed walls, decorated here with pictures cut from
the _Illustrated London News_ and _Punch_, and there with glass Florence
flasks filled with chintz flowers and salt, _potichomanie_ fashion, as
performed by our grandmothers; the rusty, broken-barred grate, with its
heaped-up ashes; and the general untidiness of the bachelor place, made
worse by the plentiful sprinkling of tobacco _debris_ and the many
broken craters in which the weed had been consumed.  I had seen all I
could in a hasty glance, and was now looking out of the open window at
another bird in a cage; for at the casement opposite, her little bright
eyes glittering through a tangle of long brown hair, was the child of
whom Uncle Bill had spoken.  Her red lips were apart, and as I looked
she shouted in across the court to the lame boot-closer, in a gleeful,
childish treble; while he turned his sallow face to me with a smile of
gratified pride upon it that told--oh! how plainly--of the true heart,
unspoiled by the misery of a London court.

"That's her," he said--and his voice seemed to jar discordantly,
sounding of the streets, streety; while the proud look upon his face had
in it a tinge of the something greater as planted in all hearts by a
great Hand--"that's her.  She stands at that window for hours while I'm
at work; and I sing to her, as she claps her hands; and, you know, her
father leaves her locked up there like that for long enough while he
goes out, and I know the little thing would be hungry if--but she ain't,
you know."  (Nods many here.) "I wish he'd let me have her altogether;
for he's a bad sort, is her father, and it worries me as to what's to
become of the little thing.  I'm not much account, you see, myself; but,
being such a pretty little thing, I should like to see her taken care
of, and one daren't hardly speak to the child when he's at home, and he
won't hardly let any of the women in the house go near his room at all.

"No, I say--don't you go near the window, or you'll frighten her away."

I kept back in the room so as to look on unseen, and then started
forward; for the bright look of pleasure upon the child's face turned to
one of pain, as a rough hand seized her by the shoulder, drew her back,
and then the window was dragged in, and fastened so sharply that one of
the little panes was jarred out, and fell tinkling far below into the
court.

My next glance was at Uncle Bill, who was bending over his work with set
teeth, and the sweat standing in drops upon his grimy forehead.

"There, don't speak to me," he said, huskily.  "I'm a bit put out now;
hook it, and see me agen some other time, please."

I could hear the birds twittering as I went down from landing to
landing, meeting no unkindly looks; but, like Uncle Bill, one could not
help feeling "a bit put out" concerning the future of the little bird I
saw in its cage.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

A GREAT TROUBLE.

In my strange, reticent way I had a great objection to making friends
unless they were people who needed my aid; then I seemed drawn to them,
and an intimacy was sure to follow.  There was one family, though, whom
I came to know through Ruth Smith and her husband Luke, and from the
very first they interested me--more, though, from the troubles through
which they had passed than anything else.

Mr Hendrick was a clerk in some great firm, and as our intimacy
increased, and he saw the interest I took in his daughters, each of whom
was a well educated young girl, just of an impressionable age, he used
to speak very plainly of their future.

"I shall not be sorry," he said, "to see them the wives of good earnest
men, I don't want them to make wealthy matches; but money is useful, of
course."

"They have never been from home?"  I said.

"Oh, yes, both of them.  But governesses, poor children, have not a
happy time.  Of course there are houses where there is a good sensible
woman at the head, and the governess finds a home; but in too many cases
she does not fare any too well."

"Yours have had some unpleasant experiences, then?"

"Oh, yes," he said, smiling.  "Ah, that was a hard time."  It was just
after my long illness, when I was laid by for six months.

"Of course, it was not reasonable to expect different treatment from the
great firm with whom I had been for so many years; but it came like a
sharp pang when one morning at breakfast, just as I had made up my mind
to go up to town and try again, the postman left a letter.

"It was very kindly written, and enclosed a cheque for fifty pounds; but
that did not seem to balance the intimation that the heads of the City
place had filled up my post by promoting one of their employes; for they
said that it was quite evident I should not be in a condition to do
active business for some months to come, and they advocated perfect rest
and a sojourn at the sea side.

"I could not complain, for twice over I had been back, telling myself I
was strong enough to go on, but each time I had broken down, and on the
last occasion had to be sent home in a fly.

"The disease, you see, had left me so dreadfully nervous; and directly I
had attempted to think and direct, and plunge generally into the regular
bustle of business, I had become confused and flurried, ending by
sitting down miserably helpless, and obliged to confess myself beaten.

"`This is the worst cut of all,' I said with a groan, as I let the
envelope and its enclosures fall to the ground; `God help us! what is to
become of us?'

"`Oh, come, come!' exclaimed my wife--bless her for a dear little woman
who always thinks a looking-glass has two bright sides!--`come, come! we
shall manage right enough, dear, only wait and grow strong.'

"`Seven of us, and no income--nothing to look forward to in this weary,
weary world,' I groaned; and I sank back and covered my face with my
hands.

"`And as I did so I felt my little woman rest her forehead on my hands,
and in a whisper she repeated those lines of Longfellow's--'

"`Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun
still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all: Into each life some
rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.'

"I knew the truth of the words--very favourite ones of mine, which I had
often quoted about other people's sorrows--but now I could only moan in
my weakness, and think of the future as a cloudy, rainy time, which no
sunshine could ever pierce.

"What was to become of our two girls, Hetty and Marie, of whom we had
been so proud, and whom we had educated and trained with such care that
while domestic in every way, they were ladies in the truest sense of the
word--girls of eighteen and twenty?  What was to become of the little
ones?

"For with my large family I had never been able to put much aside, but
had trusted to insurance.  What little I had saved had been swept away
by the expenses of my long illness; and now I had fifty pounds, a few
debts, the insurance-money to keep up, my health was shattered, and no
prospective income.

"I can scarcely think about it all now without a strange swelling coming
in my throat, for events followed one another pretty quickly then.  Of
course, I know that I had no business to repine; but I was in so weak
and helpless a state that I did and said things very different to the
thoughts and acts of a man in robust health.

"The next morning my eldest boy, a lad of fourteen then, sat perfectly
still after breakfast, and looked preternaturally solemn.  I did not see
it then, but there was evidently a conspiracy afloat.

"`Time you had gone to school, my boy,' I said.

"`Not going to-day, father,' was the answer; and then it came out that
the schoolmaster's brother had undertaken to receive the boy into his
office, without premium--he was a land agent and surveyor, and the boy
was to reside with him.

"I was stunned almost.  I knew it was a blessing in disguise--one hearty
boy well provided for--but I was too full of repining to see it then.

"Dick went the next day; and this seemed a new trouble.

"Four days later Marie came to tell me that she was going to be nursery
governess at the rectory; and though she was only going to be a mile
away, that was another bitter pang; and I fear that I did no little
towards sending the poor girl to her new home low-spirited and dejected.

"`Our home's being broken up now, dear,' I said to my wife the evening
after Marie had gone; and she gave such a sigh, and began to sob so
violently, that I knew there was something being kept back, and taxed
her with it.

"`Tell me this instant,' I said excitedly.  `What is it?'

"`Pray, pray don't be excited,' she cried tenderly; `you know how it
depresses you afterwards.'

"`Then tell me all about what has been done.  Oh! it's cruel, cruel,
cruel, while I am prostrate here, to be deceiving me as you all are.'

"`Harry, darling,' my poor little wife sobbed, `indeed, indeed we have
been doing all for the best, and to help you in our difficulties.'

"`Yes, yes; I know, I know,' I said, laying my hand upon her head as she
knelt there by my bedside; `it is I who am so pitifully mean and weak
with my illness.  Tell me all, dear; I can bear it now.'

"And I did try so hard; though the weak tears would come rolling from
beneath my closed eyelids as she told me that Hetty, my darling, the
flower of the flock, with her sweet earnest grey eyes, fair face, and
golden-brown hair, had nobly determined, too, to obtain a situation as
governess; had, unknown even to her mother, advertised; had received an
answer, and obtained an appointment in a merchant's family at a salary
of eight pounds per annum.

"`Yes; and isn't it lucky, father?' exclaimed her bright, cheerful,
young voice; for she had been standing at the door.

"`Oh, my darling!  I can't part with you,' I groaned.

"`Only for a little while, father dear,' she said nestling to me.  `And
eight pounds a year; that will be two pounds for me for dress--must
dress well, dear--and six for you and mamma.  That will nearly half pay
one quarter's rent, you know; and think! there will be three less to
keep, and I do eat so heartily.'

"I tried very hard to follow in the same spirit of gaiety; but in those
days I was such a wet blanket that I soon led the way, and it ended in
our all sobbing together at the thought of the coming separation.

"This may sound very simple to some people; but by those who have lived
in the circle of a united family, happy in their own modest way, I dare
say it will be understood.

"The day of parting came so quickly, and my wife took my place, going up
to town with Hetty, and seeing her safely installed, while I lay tossing
feverishly on my bed, bemoaning my inability to act, and looking with
envy through the open window at the labourer toiling in the hot sun with
his pickaxe, mending the road.

"`It's not much I ask!'  I groaned, in an agony of supplication, as I
lay there, and stretched out my thin and trembling hands; `only that I
may have strength--strength to work.  I care not how hard, how humble it
may be, only give me back my strength.'

"Perhaps it was from exhaustion, but I felt and thought differently
after that; for it seemed to me then, as I lay there, that my prayer was
heard, and a sweet restful sleep fell upon me, from which I awakened at
last to find it was quite sunset, while, on looking round, there sat my
wife watching by the bedside.

"`Back,' I said, `so soon?'

"`Soon, dear?' she said; `I have been sitting here an hour.  It is seven
o'clock, and they say you fell asleep before twelve.  It was so sweet
and sound a sleep that I would not wake you.'

"I lay there quite still for a few minutes, holding her hand in mine,
and then I said quite calmly--

"`Lizzie, I'm going to get strong now.'

"`Yes, yes; of course, dear,' she said; and I saw the hopeless tears
gathering in her eyes.

"I smiled.  She told me afterwards that I had not smiled with such a
calm contented look on my countenance for many, many months, and it
frightened her; for she thought it might be the precursor of a terrible
change.

"`Yes,' I said, `get strong;' and I patted the little transparent hand
that had grown with anxiety and watching as thin as my own.  `Yes,' I
repeated again, `get strong.  I can feel it now.  What is to-morrow?'

"`Friday,' she said; and her eyes dilated with fear.

"`Then get a few things ready, and on Saturday we will go down to one of
those little villages near Dover for a month.  The sea-air will give me
the strength I want, and then to work once more.  Thank God the worst is
past!'

"`Harry, Harry, dear Harry!' she sobbed, flinging her arms wildly round
me, and drawing my head to her bosom.  `Oh, speak to me--speak again!
You are worse--much worse.  No, no; let go, let go,' she cried
frantically, as she struggled to get away, `let me ring.'

"`What for? what for, little woman?'  I said, holding her more tightly
to my breast.

"`To get help--to send for the doctor,' she cried wildly.

"`Hush, hush!'  I said.  `Look at me--look in my eyes--do I seem worse?'

"`N-no,' she faltered, gazing at me with her poor face all drawn and
haggard; `but--but--'

"`Lay your head on my arm, darling, and listen,' I said calmly.  `There,
there, I tell you calmly and sanely that I am better.  I know I am
better.  The old weary feeling has gone; and I believe--yes, I believe
that my prayer has been heard.'

"Poor little weary heart, that had been so tortured for my sake!  It was
long enough before I could calm her to the same belief as mine; but at
last she sat there with her head resting on the pillow nearest mine, and
she answered my questions about her journey to town with Hetty.

"`A nice house?'  I said.

"`Yes; a large pretentious place in a new square.'

"`And the people?'

"`I only saw the mistress and children.'

"`Nice?'

"`Ye-es.'

"`Wife a little pompous, perhaps?'

"`Yes; I could not help thinking so,' she faltered.

"`And the children rude and disagreeable?'  I said, smiling.

"`I'm--I'm afraid so,' she faltered.

"`Never mind, never mind,' I said cheerfully.  `It shan't be for long,
little woman.  I shall never rest till I have a comfortable home for our
darlings once again; and Hetty, God bless her! she has a way and
disposition that must make every one love her.  Mistress, children,
servants, they will all love and respect her; so we must be patient for
a while--only be patient.'

"These words frightened my poor wife again, but my calm quiet smiles
reassured her; and that evening I eat up and had tea with those who were
left--the two little ones--by the open window of my bedroom, and a sweet
sense of calmness and content was over me, such as I had not known for
many weary months.

"I was down in the garden the next morning before the sun was hot.  I
had always loved my bit of garden, and by the help of a hoe walked all
round it, feeling a little sad to see how it had gone to ruin, but
already making plans for the future.

"`Ah, Mr Hendrick!' said a cheery voice, and I recognised a neighbour
with whom I had often ridden up to business of a morning; `glad to see
you so much better.'

"`Thank you, I am much better,' I said, catching the extended hand, and
feeling a warm glow at my heart in the friendly grasp.

"`By the way don't be offended,' he said, `but are you going to leave
your house?'

"`I am thinking of doing so,' I said sadly.

"`I don't mean that,' he said hastily.  `I mean for a month or six
weeks.  An old friend of mine, a country lawyer, wants a furnished
residence for self and family for a time, handy to town, where he has a
big railway case on.  I thought, perhaps if you were going to the sea
side for a bit--you know--he's well off--ask stiff rent, and that sort
of thing--eh?--think it over.'

"`I--I will,' I said, gasping for breath; for this new piece of good
fortune was almost too much for me.

"Suffice it that I promised to send him word, and the result was that,
though it delayed my going for a few days, before the next week was over
I was down in a pleasant cottage by the sea side, with not only enough
for current expenses, but a good surplus coming from the rent of our own
house, for my neighbour had secured for me a far higher sum than I
should have asked; and there was no occasion to touch the fifty pounds,
with which I cleared off all my debts.

"That was a calm and delicious time, when with the sweet sense of
returning strength I lay upon the sands, drawing in the iodine-laden
sea-breeze, and seeming to feel a change day by day.  We had the most
cheerful letters from the girls and our boy, telling us of their
success, and Hetty's were above all long and affectionate.

"But I was not satisfied; there seemed to me to be a forced gaiety about
Hetty's letters that troubled me, and I could not think them real, for
it seemed to me as if she wrote these notes solely for the sake of
making me cheerful, and they had the opposite result.  In fact, I would
at that time far rather have heard that she was uncomfortable, and
longing for the time when she might return home.

"Meanwhile, as the weeks slipped by, I grew so well that I felt almost
like my former self; and had anything been wanting to complete my cure,
it was a visit from a former partner of the firm I had served.  He had
left them years before to commence business for himself, and had thriven
so that his establishment was as large as that from which he had split.

"We had always been on civil terms, but I never thought he had noticed
me.  Now, however, on finding out that I was disengaged, he came to me
with a most brilliant offer--at least it seemed so to me then.

"`I always longed to have your clear head to depend on,' he said, `but,
of course, honour forbade any negotiations while you were with the old
firm.  Now you are free, I shall be very glad if you will join me.'

"`I'm afraid my clear head has gone for ever,' I said sadly.

"`Pooh, nonsense, man!' he said, laughing.  `You've had a nasty attack,
but that's all gone, and you'll be your own man in another week.  Come,
say the word, you'll join me, and I won't make promises, but come to me
and let me feel that I've always somebody at the house that I can trust
and depend on while I'm away, and perhaps some day we'll talk about a
junior partnership.'

"I could not thank him, but I gave him my hand, and he left me,
evidently congratulating himself on having done a good stroke of
business; while I--I felt as if I could never atone for my repinings
under affliction.

"But my great trouble was to come.

"We were sitting at breakfast the next morning, talking about how it
would be quite unnecessary now to give up the house, when a letter came.

"It was a strange hand, from London, and somehow with a sense of
impending evil I began slowly turning it over, and telling my wife that
it had been down to the old house, and re-directed here, so that it was
over a day old.

"At last I opened it, read it, and it dropped from my hands.

"I caught it up again though, the next moment, and read it out to my
wife.  It was as follows:--

  "`50, Woodmount Square.'

  "`Wednesday.'

  "`Sir,--It is an unpleasant task, but as I have had your daughter
  living beneath my roof, I feel it to be my duty to inform you that two
  days ago she left here in a clandestine manner, and has not thought
  proper to return.  It is, of course, a very painful admission to make,
  especially to her father, but as it is a duty, I do not shrink
  therefrom.  Your daughter's conduct has given Mrs Saint Ray great
  cause for anxiety from the first, as it has been flighty, and not at
  all lady-like.  We should very shortly have dismissed her, as we do
  not approve of gentlemen visiting the instructress of our children.
  As she has, however, taken this step, I have no more to say, and
  feeling that I have done my duty,'

  "`I am,'

  "`Your obedient Servant,'

  "`Alexander Saint Ray.'

  "`Mr Hendrick.'

"If I had any remnant of my old weakness hanging about before, it was
all cleared away now, as I stood tearing the letter to fragments.

"`It's a lie--a wicked, atrocious lie!'  I exclaimed, stamping on the
pieces.  `Our darling has been driven away, or there is something wrong.
She would never act like this.'

"`Never, Harry,' exclaimed my wife, who stood there flushed and angry
one moment, pale as ashes the next.  `But stop! what are you going to
do?'

"`Going to do?'  I roared, `going to seek for our child.'

"`But you are not strong enough--the agitation--'

"`Strong! agitation!'  I exclaimed, catching her so tightly by the arm
that she winced.  `Look at me, Lizzy; I never felt stronger in my life.'

"In less than an hour I was being whirled up to town by the train, and
on reaching the station, the cab that took me on to Woodmount Square
seemed to crawl.

"I thundered so at the knocker, and dragged so fiercely at the visitors'
bell, that the footman in a tawdry livery stared at me aghast as he
opened the door, and I strode in.

"`Tell your master I want to see him,' I said hastily.

"`Ain't at home, sir,' he said, recovering himself.

"`Your mistress, then,' I cried fiercely.

"`She ain't--'

"`Confound you!'  I roared, catching him by the collar, to the
disarrangement of his white cravat; `tell her--there, there!'  I said,
cooling down and slipping a couple of florins in the man's hand.  `Here,
show me in directly to either of them; I am Miss Hendrick's father.'

"The man's frightened, angry face changed on the instant, and he showed
me at once into a garish drawing-room, where a coarse, florid woman was
lying back on a lounge, fanning herself.

"`Mrs Saint Ray,' I said hastily, `my name is Hendrick.  I have come up
in answer to your husband's letter.'

"`You must see him, my good man,' she exclaimed angrily.  `I told Thomas
not to admit any one.'

"`But this is life or death to me, madam--my child's honour.  Tell me, I
beg of you, all you know.'

"`You people should bring your children up better,' was the reply.
`It's very dreadful--very shocking! and my poor darlings have had a most
narrow escape.'

"`Did it never occur to you, madam, that other people have darlings whom
they love?'  I exclaimed, unable to control my anger.  `But there, tell
me, what steps have you taken to find out where she went?'

"`Steps!  I take steps?  Absurd!  My good man, you must be mad.'

"`I shall be soon,' I muttered, then aloud--

"`But you have done something, madam, surely?'

"`I desired Mr Saint Ray to write to you, and of course you are the
proper person to take steps, as you term it,' said the lady
contemptuously.

"`Tell me when she left and how.  Give me some information, I beg of
you,' I exclaimed.

"`My good man, I cannot touch the subject at all.  It is too painful--
too dreadful.  See Mr Saint Ray.  When I think of having harboured so
dreadfully shameless a creature, I feel faint--it turns me sick.'

"I dared not speak--I dared not give utterance to the rage still
struggling in my breast, for this was only a woman, and such a woman,
that I dashed out of the room, and the door banged heavily behind me.

"As I left the room I nearly fell over the footman, who had evidently
been listening, and I caught a glimpse of two female heads disappearing
at a doorway as I hurried down the stairs.

"`Here, my man,' I said, `tell me all you know,' and I thrust my hand
once more into my meagrely filled pocket.

"`Oh, it's all right, sir, I don't want paying,' said the footman
hastily.  `It's my belief she drove poor Miss Hendrick away with her
temper.  She's a wunner,' he continued in a whisper, `reg'lar tiger-cat,
and the young ones is reg'lar tiger-kittens--beasts,' he added, half
savagely.

"`Tell me when she went.'

"`Well, sir, it was the night afore the night afore last as she went
out, and didn't come back.  I'm going, too, and so's two of the maids.'

"`Did she take her box?'

"`Lor', no, sir, nothing at all; and when she didn't come back, we down
in the servants' 'all said as she had been driven away, and gone home.'

"`But,' I said, and I felt the blood come into my face as I asked the
question about my own child, `but did she go alone?'

"`Oh, yes, I think so, sir.'

"`And,'--I was choking as I asked the question--`what gentlemen came to
see her?'

"`Gentlemen--to see her?'

"`Yes; your master said so in his letter.'

"`Why, what a whopper!' exclaimed the man indignantly.  `Nobody never
came to see her once.  Stop! yes, they did.'

"My heart seemed to stand still at his words.

"`Yes, there was an old gentleman called one afternoon--grey-headed old
gentleman--a parson, of course--so there was.  It was while I was out
with the carriage.  Hann let him in, and fetched Miss Hendrick down, and
she saw him in the dining-room.  I remember Hann told me all about it.
To be sure; and that little cat, Miss Celia, kicked up a row because
Hann wouldn't let her go into the dining-room while the gentleman was
here, and she said she'd tell her mar.  Miss Hendrick ain't been home,
then, sir?'

"`No, my man, no.'

"`Then I should go bang to the pleece station, sir.  They'd find out.'

"I took the man's advice, and went to the nearest station, where I saw a
sergeant, and stated my case, while he made notes in a book.

"`Lady young?' he said.

"`Twenty.'

"I saw the man tighten his lips.

"`Pretty?'

"`Very pretty,' I said, emphatically.

"The man's lips tightened still more, and I saw a faint smile as he
spoke again.

"`We'll do our best, sir, but this is a detective case.  I should go to
Scotland Yard if I was you.  Young ladies will do these sort of things.
Gets led away, you know.'

"`What is it, Thomson?' said an officer whom I saw to be an inspector;
and his coming stopped an indignant exclamation on my lips.

"`Young lady missing,' said the sergeant.

"`What description?' said the inspector, going to the desk.

"I repeated it hastily, and the inspector turned sharply round to his
subordinate and spoke to him in a low tone.  He then turned to me.

"`I'm very sorry, sir,' he said kindly.  `Just take a seat.  Any
relative?'

"`Daughter,' I panted; and then I read that in the man's eyes which made
the whitewashed office seem to swim round; a deathly sickness overcame
me, and all was blank.

"The next thing I remember is feeling cold water splashing my face, and
a kindly voice saying--

"`Come, come! hold up, sir.  It's not so bad as that.  There, drink some
of this.'

"I drank some of the water the inspector held to my lips, and two
constables who had been supporting me drew back.

"`I've been very ill,' I stammered, `and I am weak; but tell me, pray
tell me the worst.'

"`Well, sir, the worst is that the young lady's getting better, I hope.
That was the last report, if it's the same.  She was knocked down by a
van on the fifteenth; concussion of the brain; small bone of arm broken;
no means of identification; taken to Saint George's Hospital; last news,
still insensible, but doctors hopeful.'

"This principally read to me from a book which the inspector consulted.

"`A cab, please, quick!'  I faltered.

"`Cab directly, Thomson,' said the inspector.--`There, I'll go with
you.'

"That inspector holds a place in my heart amongst those to whom I owe
gratitude, for he was very kind.  He took me, trembling and agitated, to
the hospital, and there, after a short delay, we were taken to a bedside
in a small, beautifully clean, and airy ward, where a doctor was sitting
by my darling, who lay there very feeble, but with the light of reason
beginning to shine once more from her gentle eyes.

"She recognised me, but her voice was quite a whisper, and I could see
that she was confused and puzzled as to her presence there.

"I need not tell you of her rapid strides back to convalescence, nor
more of her accident than that all she recollected was a warning cry as
she crossed the road, and then seeming to wake in the hospital with me
standing at her side.

"Our sojourn by the sea lasted another month for her sake, but by then I
was busy once again, and working easily and well.

"Need I say that my darlings were both soon back in their old home,
never to leave us again?"

"I could not refrain from smiling.

"`Why do you laugh?' he said.

"`I was only thinking,' I said, sadly, as I could not help comparing the
young happy maidenhood of the two girls with my own.  I did not know
that I smiled.

"Oh, I see your meaning," he said, laughing.  "Well, yes, perhaps you
are right: young birds will make nests elsewhere, and there may be fresh
partings; for the son of our old clergyman, who called upon Hetty in
Woodmount Square, spends a great deal of his spare time here."

"Yes," I said, "and I thought Marie blushed very vividly the other day
when I saw her here with that lad Edwards."

"Ah, yes," he said, nodding his head thoughtfully.  "I knew John
Edwards' father at school.  He's a good young fellow, and as you say, or
rather as you think, we may lose our darlings after all."

"And that was your great trouble?"  I said.

"Yes," he replied, "sunshine and rain.  I had both, though I could not
see clearly through the storm."

"Your failing was that of many," I said sadly; "and it is so, that
whatever rain falls into each life, God sends his sunshine to dry those
tears."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

AS COMPANION TO A LADY.

The governess question was discussed more than once at the Hendricks--
the position of governesses and companions, Mrs Hendrick and her
daughters agreeing with me that some poor girls suffered a martyrdom at
the hands of their employers, especially where there was a family of
spoilt children, but at the same time we acknowledged that there was
often a want of tact on the part of the young people who undertook the
duties of governesses.

On the last occasion it was in the presence of a quiet subdued lady, who
seemed to be about four or five-and-thirty, who had formed a friendship
for Hetty while she was at Mrs Saint Ray's, and had continued the
acquaintance since.  There was something about her that attracted me at
the first occasion of our meeting, and by degrees our friendly feeling
strengthened, but it was not until after the evening when she spoke that
my heart truly warmed to her, for there was a similarity in her career
to mine that seemed to act as a bond.

On the evening in question Agnes Laurie had been listening quietly to
the conversation, and at last said:--

"I believe, of course, that there is a great deal of ill-treatment of
governesses, but my experience has been as companion to a lady, and I
have found nothing but kindness.  It is many years ago, now over ten,
since I came from the country, and I can recall, only too well, the
morning when my landlady came into the room upon a very unpleasant
errand.

"`I'm very sorry Miss,' she exclaimed, `and I'm very sorry you're not
well off; but I'm only a poor woman myself, and if you can't pay the
rent of this room, I don't see as you can afford the rent of the one
upstairs.'

"Here my landlady rubbed her nose viciously upon her apron, and stared
straight out of the very dirty window.

"As this was evidently a challenge to me to reply, I said, as firmly as
I could, a few words which brought out the reason for the woman's visit
that morning.

"`Am I to understand, then, that you wish me to leave.'

"`If you please, miss, at the end of the week, for there's the gent on
the first floor would like to have this bedroom.'

"`Very well, Mrs Ruddock,' I said, `I will find a room elsewhere.'

"`Thanky, miss,' she said sharply; and giving her nose another vicious
rub, she left me to my thoughts--and my tears.

"For I was weak, faint, and heart-sick, and the coins in my purse had
dwindled down, so that if I did not succeed in obtaining an engagement
in a very few days, I had no resource but to creep back to the country
and avow my failure.

"Just three months since, and we were all so happy in the little country
vicarage; and then, in visiting one of his people, my poor father caught
a dangerous fever, while in tending him my dear mother was stricken with
the same complaint, and ere three weeks had passed Minna and I sat in
the little study alone, in deep black; for the struggle had been brief,
and those we loved lay together in the green churchyard, and we were
only intruders now in the vicarage that had been our home.

"We were nearly penniless, too, but a brother clergyman of my father's,
quite as poor, came forward and offered us a temporary home till, as he
said, some opening should occur for us.

"I gladly accepted it for Minna; but, for myself, I was determined to
try great London and, unaided, fight my way.  In two years John Murray
was to come back from Australia to fetch me for his wife, and till then
I would be independent.  So the day came at last when, with many tears,
we two girls had to separate, and with aching heart I left the old
Lincolnshire home, and reached the great dreary void of London early one
afternoon.

"I was not long in finding a place where I could stay in the shape of a
second-floor front room in one of those heart-aching streets near the
Foundling--streets that echo from morning to night with mournful cries
uttered by vendors whose goods it is impossible to surmise, and with the
dismal echoing tones of the various organs.  So painful were these last
to me, that often of an evening, when I have returned from a weary,
disheartening search for an engagement, and sat alone and hungry,
fearing to spend my money in anything beyond the tea and
bread-and-butter upon which I existed, these doleful strains--cheering,
perhaps, to some--have had such an effect upon me that I have sat and
sobbed till, utterly worn out, I have fallen asleep, to wake, perhaps
hours after, to find it very late, and crawl shivering off to bed.

"As the weeks passed on, and my advertisements and fees paid to the
various registry offices had been without effect, I used to crawl back
to my room, growing more and more disheartened.  I was always a plain
sallow-looking girl, and now in my fast-wearing black I began to feel
that I was day by day growing more shabby and weary-looking, and that my
feeble chances of obtaining a post were growing less and less.

"I used to sit and ask myself whether I had tried hard, and I knew I
had; but there was only one result.  Whether I advertised for a
situation as governess, or went from a registry office to offer myself
as companion to a lady, it was always the same; I noticed a look of
disappointment as soon as I entered the room, for I was neither pretty
nor bright-looking, and my mournful black helped to sadden my aspect.
It was, I say, always the same--the lady did not think I should suit
her; and in blank despair I had to go away.

"And now it had come to this: that my landlady had grown as tired of me
as the people at the registry offices, where I had more than once been
rudely told that I was not likely to get a place as governess or
companion, but had better look lower in the scale.  That afternoon,
evidently suspicious of my ability to pay, and perhaps disgusted with my
miserable way of living, and afraid that I should be left an invalid
upon her hands, she had--rudely, it seemed to me--requested me to leave.

"In my present circumstances I was utterly prostrated by the news, for I
dared not take lodgings elsewhere; and I could see no prospect now but
to sell a portion of my scanty wardrobe, and go back to beg for
assistance from my father's friend.

"What a change! and how soon had my hopes of independent action been
blighted!  I was heartsore as I felt how that in that great city there
was wealth being squandered and luxury around me while I was literally
starving; for my poor living was telling upon me fast.  What should I
do?  What should I do?

"It was with weary iteration I had said those words, and wept till tears
came no more, and a dull, stolid feeling of despair had come upon me.  I
had almost shrunk away in the streets from the bright-faced, happy girls
I passed; and at times I found myself asking what was my sin that I
should be punished as I had been.

"I lay awake that night for many hours watching the light from the
street lamp playing upon my ceiling, and at last, towards morning, the
remembrance of words I had often heard came to me with a calm sense of
repose, trust, and restfulness, and I believe I fell asleep at last with
a smile upon my lips, repeating a portion of that comforting sentence
ending, `Are ye not much better than they?'

"It was a bright, sunshiny morning when I awoke, to hear some one
knocking at my door; and hurrying on a few things, I answered.

"`Ah!  I was just a-going to take 'em down again,' said my landlady
harshly.  `Some folks can afford to lie in bed all day; I can't.  Here's
two letters for you.  And mind this.  Miss Laurie: I never bargained to
come tramping up to the top of the house with letters and messages for
you.'

"`I'm very much obliged, Mrs Ruddock,' I said gently, as I took the
letters with trembling hands, while, muttering and complaining, their
bearer went down stairs.  It seemed very hard then, but I believe it was
the woman's habit, and that she was not bad at heart, but warped and
cankered by poverty, hard work, and ill-usage from a drunken husband,
whom she entirely kept.

"One letter I saw at a glance was from Minna, the other was in a strange
crabbed hand; and I longed to read them; but exercising my self-denial,
I dressed, lit my fire, and prepared my very frugal breakfast before
sitting down and devouring Minna's news.

"What right had I to murmur as I did last night?  I asked myself, when
she was evidently so happy and contented; and then I opened, with
fluttering hand, the other letter, and was puzzled by it at first; but
at last I recalled the fact that three weeks before I had answered an
advertisement in the _Times_ where a lady wanted a companion.

"The note was very brief and curt, and ran as follows:--

"If Miss Laurie is not engaged, she can call upon Mrs Langton Porter,
47, Morton Street, Park Village South, at eleven o'clock to-morrow--
Thursday."

"`At last!'  I said to myself, joyfully; and with beating heart I
prepared myself for my journey, for the appointment was for that
morning.

"Just as I had pretty well timed myself for my walk, a sudden squall
came on, the sky was darkened, snow fell heavily, and in place of a
morning in spring we seemed to have gone back into winter, for in a very
short time the snow lay thickly, and the branches of the trees were
whitened in the squares.

"Weak as I was, this disheartened me, but I fought my way bravely on,
and just at eleven rang timidly at the door of an important-looking
house, and was superciliously shown, by a stout tall footman in drab
livery, into a handsomely-furnished room.  Everything in the place I
noticed was rich and good: heavy curtains hung by window and door; skins
and Eastern rugs lay on the polished wood floor; a tremendous fire
blazed in a great brass fire place, and the flames danced and were
reflected from the encaustic tiles with which it was surrounded.

"`I'll take your note in,' said the footman, as I handed it.  `You can
sit down.'

"I preferred to stand, and as soon as I was alone I shivered with fear
and cold, as I caught a glance of my pale, sallow face in a great
mirror.  Every moment I expected to see the owner of the place, but I
remained standing wearily for an hour, and then I sighed and turned
wistfully to look at the door, wondering whether the footman had taken
in the note which I had given him as my passport.

"I started, for close behind me, having entered unheard, was a rather
plump tall lady in black.  She was dressed as if for going out, and well
wrapped in furs.

"`Oh! you are waiting,' she said harshly; and a shade of displeasure
crossed her face, as she looked full at me till my eyes dropped.
`There, Miss--Miss--Miss!'

"`Laurie,' I suggested.

"`Yes, yes; I know,' she said sharply; `it is in my note.  Pray, why in
the name of common sense did you not sit down?  Take that chair.  Now
then, have you been companion to a lady before?'

"`No, ma'am,' I replied; and then, in answer to her questions, all very
sharply given, I told her so much as was necessary of my story.

"`I don't think you will suit me,' she said; `I've had misery enough,
and I want some one cheerful and agreeable, a lady whom I can trust, and
who will be a pleasant companion.  There, I'm sure there is not such a
body in London, for the way I've been imposed upon is dreadful!  I've
had six in six months, and the number of applications I have had nearly
drove me out of my senses.  I've had one since you wrote to me--a
creature whose sole idea was herself.  I want one who will make me her
first consideration.  I don't mind what I pay, but I want some one tall
and lady-like, and you are not pretty, you know.'

"I shook my head sadly.

"`Humph!  Well,' she went on, `you won't be so giddy, and be always
thinking of getting married.  There, you need not blush like that; it's
what all the companions I have had seem to think about.  You don't I
suppose?'

"`I am engaged to be married,' I said, hanging down my head, `in a
couple of years.'

"`Ho!  Well, he mustn't come here, for I'm a very selfish pragmatical
old woman; and if I engaged you--which I don't think I shall do--I
should want you all to myself.  What is he?'

"`A surgeon--abroad,' I faltered.

"`Ho!  That's better; and perhaps he'll settle there altogether without
you.'

"I looked at her indignantly, and she laughed.

"`Ah!  I know, my good girl.  I haven't lived to eight-and-forty for
nothing.  How old are you?'

"`Twenty,' I said, shivering, for her rough way repelled me, and I
longed to bring the interview to an end.

"`Why, the girl's cold,' she said roughly.  `H'm, twenty!  Here, go up
to the fire, and have a good warm; it's dreadful weather.  There, pull
off your bonnet and jacket.  Put them on that chair, and go closer to
the fire; I've a deal to say to you yet, for I'm not going to engage
another young person and have to change directly.'

"I obeyed her, trembling the while, for I was very weak; and she went on
asking me questions and making comments.

"`I don't like your appearance at all: you look pale and unhealthy.  Not
a bit like a girl from the country.'

"`I'm very sorry,' I said; `but indeed, ma'am, I have excellent health.'

"`Then your face tells stories about you.  You play, of course?'

"`Yes, ma'am.'

"`You're warm now.  Go and play something.  Can you sing?'

"`Yes, ma'am.'

"`Then sing too; and look here, Miss--Miss--Miss--'

"I was about to tell her my name, but remembering the last rebuff, I was
silent.

"`Now, look here, my good young lady, how am I to remember your dreadful
name?  What is it?'

"`Laurie, ma'am,' I replied.

"`Of course it is: I remember it quite well.  Now go and play and sing
something; and mind, I don't want my ears deafened with fireworks, and
the drums split with parrot-shriek bravuras.  Sing something sweet and
simple and old-fashioned--if you can,' she added, ungraciously.

"I crossed the room and sat down to the magnificent piano, and for the
next five minutes I seemed to be far away, down in the old home, as I
forgot where I was, in singing my poor dead father's favourite old
ballad, `Robin Adair;' while, as I finished, I had hard work to keep
back the tears.

"`Ro--bin A--dair,' she sang, as I rose, in a not unpleasing voice.
`Now let me hear you read.  I always make my companion read to me a
great deal; and mind this, I hate to hear any one drone like a
school-girl.  Go over there into the corner of the window, and stand
there.  Take that book; you'll find the mark left in where Miss
Belleville--bah!  I believe her name was Stubbs, and her father a
greengrocer--left off.  Now then, begin!'

She pushed a lounge-chair close up to the window, and sat down with her
hands in her muff, while I stood there, feeling like a school-girl, and
ready to drone, as I began to read with faltering voice what happened to
be Thackeray's most beautiful chapter--The Death of poor old Colonel
Newcome.  I know my voice trembled at times, and a strange sense of
choking came upon me as I went on, battling--oh! so hard--to read those
piteous heart-stirring lines; but I was weak and suffering, I was faint
with hunger and exertion, sick with that despair of hope deferred, and
at last the room, with its costly furniture, seemed to swim round before
me, a cold perspiration bathed my face, and with a weary sigh I caught
feebly at the curtains, and then fell heavily upon the polished floor.

"I have some faint memory of being lifted, and wheeled in a chair whose
castors I heard chirrup, to the front of the fire, and then, as my
senses began to return, I seemed to feel arms round me, and a pleasant
voice saying, half aloud:

"And she just lost her poor father too--to set her to read such a thing
as that!  I declare I'm about the wickedest, most thoughtless, and
unfeeling old woman under the sun."

"Then there was the refreshing odour of a vinaigrette, and the sick
feeling began to pass away.

"`I--I beg pardon,' I faltered, trying to rise.

"`I beg yours, my dear,' she said, tenderly.  `Sit still, sit still.
Now then, try and drink that.'

"Some sherry was held to my lips, and then I was almost forced to eat a
biscuit.  They, however, rapidly revived me, and I found Mrs Porter had
torn off her bonnet and mantle, and was kneeling by my side.

"That's better, my dear," she said, smiling at me, as she passed her arm
round my waist, and drew me nearer to her, and kissed me in a gentle,
motherly way.  This was too much, for I was very weak and hysterical.  I
could fight against harshness, but her tender words and ways unlocked
the flood-gates of my grief, and I laid my head down and sobbed as if my
heart would break.

"An hour later, after she had literally forced me to partake of the
breakfast that was ordered up, she sat beside me, holding my hand, and
more than once I saw the tears steal down her pleasant face as she won
from me, bit by bit, the story of my troubles and my bitter struggles
here in town.

"At last I rose to go, trembling and expectant.  Would she engage me?
It was more than I dared to hope.

"`Sit still, my child,' she said, tenderly, `and stay with me; we shall
be the best of friends.'

"I stayed--stayed to know her real worth and to win her motherly love--
stayed to find, when John Murray returned, that his love was greater for
my sister than for me, and patiently resigned my love to her, and then
battled with a long illness when they had gone together to the far-off
home.  But every day gave me a new lesson on not judging too hastily.
That is ten years since; and I am still in my peaceful, happy home,
though only as companion to a lady."



CHAPTER NINE.

MY OLD SERGEANT.

I have visited the sick a good deal in my time, and have ever found that
a serious illness is one of the greatest softeners of a rugged nature.
I have noticed it in workhouse and in hospital as well as in the dreary
habitations that are occupied by the poor.  Perhaps it is more
noticeable in men than in women, and in many cases it has seemed to me
to bring forth nature's gentility where it has for years, perhaps, been
encrusted with rude, rugged ways.

One of my most genuine gentlemen by nature was a quaint old sergeant of
dragoons, living in ill-health upon his little pension, and at the wish
of some people in the country near our old home, I sought him out, and
found him, after some trouble, in one of the little streets of Walworth,
and imparted to him my mission, namely, to inquire if he could tell me
the whereabouts of one John Morris and his wife, relatives of the
farming people who asked me to inquire.

I found the sergeant, a stern, rugged old fellow, in his lodgings, and
he looked surlily at me, being, as I afterwards found, in pain, and he
saluted me with a harsh "Well, ma'am, what's for you?  I'm not in the
humour for visitors now."

"I will not keep you long," I said, and stated my business.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" he said.  "I thought you came to preach at me,
and tell me what a wicked old man I am.  There, bless your heart, I
knowed it well enough, none better.  John Morris, eh?"

"Yes, and his wife, do you know where they are?"

"Dead, ma'am, dead, both of them: gone to where there's rest and peace,
and no more sorrow; `where the wicked cease from troubling, and the
weary--' You know the rest.  Know them!  Of course.  John Morris was in
my troop--B troop, 20th Dragoon Guards; smart, fresh-coloured, honest
Lincolnshire lad--a good lad; without any of the general rough ways of a
soldier: for there's good sort of fellows among us, as well as the
sweepings of towns and villages; and I loved that lad as if he'd been my
own son.  Why?  Because he was a thorough soldier, every inch of him.
He came to me to 'list--I was recruiting sergeant then.  `Think twice of
it, my lad,' I says; `ours is a rough life;' for from his talk I found
he'd been having some tiff at home; so `think twice of it, my lad,' I
says: for I did not want to see a fine young fellow throw himself away.
And it is that, you know, though it don't sound loyal of me, as an old
troop-sergeant-major, to say so; and feeling this--though I knew I
should make a profit of the young fellow--I did not like to see him
'list, when a `rough' would have done just as well.  But he would do it;
he was set upon it; and told me that if I didn't take him, he would join
the foot-regiment quartered in the town.  So seeing how things stood,
and sooner than he should do that, I gave him the shilling, and he
entered one of the smartest heavy cavalry regiments in the service.

"I always liked him for his frank, honest, open manner, and the way he
set to work to learn his duties--riding-school, foot-drill,
sword-exercise,--no matter what it was, he worked at it; learned quietly
and cheerfully; and in a wonderfully short time made himself a smart
soldier.  You never heard him snubbed for dirty belts or rusty
accoutrements; everything belonging to him shone like silver or gold;
while his horse was groomed till its skin was like satin.  The men
called him `Model Jack;' for whenever some one on parade was having it
for want of smartness, without pausing for a moment, the captain, or
major, would shout, `Rein back, John Morris,' tell the one in trouble to
look at him and his traps, and then order so much punishment-drill.

"But we all liked John Morris; and there was not a man in the troop
would have said a word against him, or done him an ill turn; for wasn't
he always ready to help a mate who was sick, or do a turn for a young
beginner?  But he was only a weak man, and he must do what no soldier
who has any respect for a woman should do--he must get in love with a
nice pretty little body, who was foolish enough to take a fancy to the
fine smart young fellow.  Seeing what a superior sort of lass she was,
if it had been any other man in the troop, I'd have done what I could to
stop it; but knowing the lad's character--no smoker, no drinker; but one
who spent all his spare time in the barrack reading-room--I couldn't say
a word; and so matters went on till we got the route, and were to be
shifted from Edinburgh to Hounslow.

"Next time I saw John Morris, I knew there was something the matter; and
after stable he comes to me, and in a blunt, straightforward way, he
says--

"`Sergeant, I want to be married.  Will you speak to the officers for
me?'

"`No, my lad,' I says, `I won't.'

"He started, and looked surprised; for I was gruff; while as a rule I
was always as friendly to him as I could be to a private--though there
wasn't a man in the troop who speaking honestly would tell you I was
ever a bully.

"`Look here, my lad,' I says: `if you respect that little lass, you'll
just say good-bye to her kindly, and for good; or else tell her to wait
till you can buy yourself out, and go into something civilian.'

"`But--' he began.

"`There, hold your tongue, my lad; and just go up to the married men's
quarters, and look at the want of common comforts in the accommodation;
look at the misery of their life; and then, if you're not satisfied, go
and look at the poor women who are not on the strength of the regiment--
married without leave, you know--and see whether you'd like to see your
little maid brought down to that.'

"`But I've always done my duty, sergeant, and the colonel would give me
leave to be married, and I'd do more to make her comfortable than--'

"`Major Ellis wants Sergeant Rollin,' shouts some one; and, seeing that
was me, I jumped up.

"`But you'll ask for me, sergeant?' says John Morris, getting hold of my
hand as he looked in my face.

"`Be off with you, sir, to your duty,' I roared fiercely; and he went
away, and so did I, and, as a matter of course--stupidly, as I told
myself--I spoke to the major, and he said he'd speak to the colonel; but
it was no use, for there were three more men married than there should
have been by rights, and they could not have so many women and children
in barracks.

"I told Morris afterwards, and he thanked me, and went about his duties
till the day for marching came, and then I found out that John had
married without leave, and, of course, punishment must follow as soon as
it was known.  I would not see it; but it was reported by another
sergeant, and, as a matter of course, the poor weak lad was placed in
arrest.  I say wreak; but, there, I don't know--the poor things loved
one another very dearly; and the official orders, though they're strong,
ain't so strong as human nature.

"He never grumbled or said anything about his punishment, but bore it
all like a man, though he was anxious enough about his little wife, who
travelled by parly train as far as their money would go, and walked the
rest of the way up to Hounslow.  And then there was the regular misery
and struggle for the next few years: the poor little lass not being
acknowledged by the regiment as one of the soldiers' wives and having to
lodge out of barracks, and live as best she could upon the beggarly
pittance her husband could give her, helped out by what she, poor little
thing, with her baby, could earn.

"I wasn't going to jump upon a fallen man, but I know John Morris
thought deeply upon my words as he saw the smart pleasant-faced little
body sinking day by day into a drudge.  I never said a word about it to
him, nor he to me; but I did what I could to help him, though that
wasn't much.

"Then came another shift of quarters, and Mary Morris had a hundred and
sixty miles to tramp to the next town we were stationed at; but she did
it without a murmur, and a few days after we reached our quarters I saw
her at the barrack-gate.

"We were not there very long, but had to make a fresh start, and this
time it was with two little children that Mary Morris tramped after the
regiment, to reach her husband nearly a fortnight after we had settled
down--she looking worn out and haggard with trouble and her long
journey.  To have seen her now, no one would have known her for the
bonnie little lass whom I had seen resting so lovingly upon the lad's
arm in Edinburgh town.  But there, it was the usual lot of a soldier's
wife who is not on the strength; and from town to town the poor girl
followed us about till the very last; and so long as she could be near
her husband I believe the little thing was happy.

"I said till the last; for there came a day when I stood at the
barrack-gate with tears in my eyes, that I was quite ashamed of, to see
John Morris, the fine stalwart dragoon, in full marching order, leaning
down from his horse, his gauntlet glove off, holding his little wife's
hand tightly clasped, as he gazed into her loving eyes--eyes as brimful
of tears and affection as were those of the captain's sister, leaning
out of her carriage-window, and waving her handkerchief to her brother.

"Then came the trumpet-calls, and we were off, leaving many a tearful
eye behind.  But Mary Morris turned up again at the port where we were
to embark; for it was only the sea that could stay the faithful little
woman from following her husband.  But there was the sea now; and we
were ordered abroad for ten years, to a country that would be the grave
of many of us, as I well knew.

"I'm not sure, but I think that was Mary Morris's face I saw, all pale
and drawn, in one of the boats just pushed off; but it soon faded from
sight as the steam-tug drew our great ship down the river; and then, as
I turned away, heavy-hearted and dull at leaving the old country, I met
the eyes of poor John Morris, when he must have thought of my words
before his marriage, for he groaned, and, poor fellow, his head went
down upon his arms on the bulwarks, and I could see his great, broad
chest heaving as he sobbed and cried like a little child.

"Time went on, and up the country we had our work cut out.  I'm no lover
of butchery, but I'm a soldier by trade, and always tried to do my duty.
More than one battle I had been in, to come out scathless--the last
time owing to a swinging sabre-cut given to a Sikh who was about to
shoot me down, and it was not my hand that gave that sabre-cut, but the
hand of John Morris.

Then came another fierce engagement, when, worn out with heat and
thirst, the order came to charge.  The moment before, the men were
drooping and listless; but as the trumpet rang out, eyes lit up, bronzed
faces flushed a deeper hue, and we trotted steadily, knee to knee, over
the plain, nearing the enemy at every stride.  John Morris was on my
left, and I could not help smiling to think what a good man and true I
had by my side; when the trumpet call again rang out `gallop,' and on we
went until within a hundred yards of the foe, when again came the loud
blast; spurs were used, and with a dash like a thunderbolt we were upon
them.  I recollect the sharp, ringing volley they gave us as we came
down, and about the air bearing a strange, shrill cry; after which it
was one wild, fierce struggle, till I found myself breathless and faint,
trying to free myself from my horse, who was down, pinning me to the
ground.  A violent drag set me at liberty, just as the poor beast made
its last effort to rise, and fell back dead.

"I will not sicken you with the scene around me, one that I tried to
leave behind; but I had not limped many paces before a faint voice cried
after me, `Sergeant!' and turning, there, raising himself upon his
elbow, was poor John Morris, with a look that I shall never forget upon
his face.  There were plenty of horrors about, but I had eyes only for
the poor fellow before me, and kneeling down, I supported his head and
tried to stanch his wounds.

"`No good! no good!' he whispered.  `I'm cut to pieces.  Done my duty,
sergeant, though it was hard work not to desert when I had to leave her.
Find her; tell her I was true to the last, and--Cowards!' he cried.

"At the same moment, almost, I started up, but half-a-dozen horsemen
were upon me, and I was cut down and knew no more.

"It was years after when I saw England again, and tried to find out poor
Mary--the weak, simple-hearted girl who had been left behind.  I tried
hard, but for a long time without any result, till one day I met by
chance another woman who had been in the same plight.

"`Can I tell you where she is?' she said, `yes; come with me and I'll
show you.'

"I hung back for a moment, thinking of the sad news I had to tell; but
duty's duty, and I followed the woman from street to street, for quite
half an hour, during which time I'd made up the words I meant to say,
and was ready with my message, meaning, too, to tell poor Mary where she
could draw the pay due to her husband.  But I never delivered my
message, for turning to the woman I said, `is it much farther?'

"`No,' she said, `close here; and I'd have been with her, but for the
hope that my poor boy would some day come back.'

"I hung back again, but she took hold of my arm as she stopped by an
iron gate, and pointed to a multitude of green mounds, saying--

"`They laid her there, somewhere, two years ago now, but I don't know
which was the grave; for poor folks die fast, and people don't put
stones up for soldiers' wives.'

"`Do you know what she died of?'  I said, softly, for I was shocked and
surprised.

"`Died of?' said the woman bitterly; `what I should have died of, only I
was too hard--died because her husband was dragged away, and her little
ones went one after the other: died of a broken heart! a poor, gentle
thing, praying that they might meet again.'

"Yes; that mark was left when the Sikh cut me down, as I held poor John
Morris's head; and now if you please, ma'am, we'll change the subject,
for when I get talking about other people's sorrows that old wound
begins to throb."



CHAPTER TEN.

>122-->



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

>130-->

"But I have," he said, "and she has gone home."

"Quite cured?"  I said.

"Quite cured!  Bah!  It was easy enough.  My doctoring was no good, what
she wanted was to see the gentleman again whom she believed to have
slighted her.  I set people to work to find him.  They found him, and
the poor child has recovered rapidly and I don't believe she well can
have a relapse.  It was all a mistake or a misunderstanding that was
all, and now matters are as happy as the day is long."

I could not help wishing then that he might as easily solve the cause of
so many others' terrible state; but when I hinted at such a thing he
shook his head.

"Such cases as hers are easy to manage, Miss Stoneleigh; I wish I could
deal with my other patients as well."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

SOMEBODY DEAD.

Going about the streets of London on errands of mercy, naturally makes
one observant of everything that seems in any way connected with trouble
or sorrow.  If I see a family moving, with all the discomforts of
leaving one home for another, I immediately begin to wonder whether it
is a voluntary affair or whether it is the result of misfortune.  Again,
a funeral always takes my attention and I find myself wondering whether
the mourners could be helped or comforted by me, and I note whether the
dead is young or old by the funeral trappings, and too often see that it
is some tender child, though the grief is as great or greater when it is
some dear wife or mother, or may be the father--the stay of some family.

My friends ought to consider me a doleful miserable person but they do
not, and they never think it eccentric of me to take so much interest in
houses with the window blinds drawn or shutters up, but rather give me
their sympathy and help.

Noticing such matters it will be no cause for surprise that I had often
marked the black crape band worn upon the arm of their uniform coats by
soldiers and volunteers.  The first time then that I saw driver after
driver of the omnibuses along a busy line of route with a tiny black
crape bow fastened on his whip I naturally became eager to know why this
was, or rather who might be the important personage to whom the sign of
respect was paid.

I felt as if I could give anything for an hour's chat with one of the
drivers, but how was it to be obtained?  I knew they were for long hours
upon the box, and that during the short time they were at home it would
be hard work to get either of them to tell me what I wanted, so I set to
and pondered.

I don't know that I should have felt any compunction in taking a seat
outside an omnibus, though now-a-days it would seem a very out of the
way place for a lady in London streets.  But I thought that if I could
find one going out through the suburbs to some pleasant village it would
be no more extraordinary than for a lady to take a seat upon a stage
coach for a ride through one of the outlying districts beyond the reach
of the rail.

The difficulty was solved, for I thought of the Richmond omnibuses, and
making my way to the White Horse Cellar, in Piccadilly, I found no
difficulty, for a ladder was placed for me, and I was able to climb to
the vacant seat beside the driver, who looked at me askant as if
suspicious of me.  I saw him give a peculiar look at the conductor, and
I smiled to myself as I nestled beneath the great tarpaulin apron, and
watched the care with which he guided his two stout well-fed horses
through the maze of conveyances, the crape bow like a strange black
butterfly seeming to flit to and fro before my eyes.

Nothing to him is the task, as through narrow channels he steers his
way, pouncing upon a passenger here, another there; rarely using his
whip, never in collision, but stopping short now in obedience to a
"ting" from the conductor's bell; started again by the same means; and
seeming to have that huge, heavily-laden vehicle, with twenty-eight
people in and upon it, as much under control as if he sat a few inches
from the ground in a pony-drawn basket carriage, driving in a country
road.

But here it was again and again, a crape bow upon whip after whip, and
many of those whip handles, and their holders' elbows, raised in the
well-known salute to my driver, though it seems strange that when
drivers salute each other they should always do it in that singular
elbowish way, their eyes being all the while carefully inspecting their
fellow's horses.

Somebody important must be dead for there to be so general a display of
mourning, and I soon found out that I was right.  Somebody of
consequence had passed away.

No one of the Royal Family, surely?  No.  Not an eminent statesman, or
the papers would have recorded the fact.  Man of science,
philanthropist, preacher, teacher, author, actor, musician?  No, none of
these.  Somebody of importance?  Yes; somebody of importance.

To the world?

Yes, to his own little world.

Who might it be then?

An omnibus driver.

But you said a man of importance!

Yes; a man of importance--the father of a family, the man whose patient
toil produced, Saturday night by Saturday night, the sum of money that
should keep respectably his wife and six little ones;--the man who had
no rest on Sundays; but seven days a week--hail, rain, sunshine, or
bitter frost--goes on his monotonous journeys for fourteen, fifteen,
sixteen hours per day, with hardly time allowed him to supply the wants
of nature--a rough-looking, weather-stained, hoarse-voiced, ignorant
man; but a true, faithful husband, a loving father, and a patient
toiler--the sole prop, stay, support of the weeping ones at home.

A man of importance called away from this busy, competitive, stirring
world--somebody of importance dead, gainsay it who will.

So I found from my driver, who, after being exceedingly gruff and
distant for a time, gradually seemed to thaw, and, as I asked question
after question, became quite loquacious, as he made the black crape
butterfly flit from side to side in the act of caressing his horses with
the whip.  I did not see him lash them once; and at last he spoke out as
if he had known me for years.

"Seems a sort of mark of respect for the poor chap, and we generally do
it.  Worth nothing, of course, for a kind thought and an honest tear in
memory of an old friend's worth, to my way of thinking, all the crape
and black feathers and velvet palls, and hearses and mourning coaches,
in the world.  Don't say I'm right, ma'am; and though I talk of tears I
don't say that I drop em.  I leave that for the women to do, but I've
had a few thoughts about poor Sam, who got off his box come Sunday three
weeks dead beat, poor chap."

No, my driver did not seem at all the man given to tears, but in
consequence of the cutting wind blowing right into our faces, there was
a slight humidity in his eyes, and he sniffed twice very loudly, and
then put his whip in the hand that held the reins, took off his hat, and
fished out a red cotton handkerchief, with which he blew his nose
loudly.

"Strange bad colds we ketches up on the box here sometimes," he said
apologetically.  "It's enough to kill anybody--the hours are so long;
but then, it's no use to grumble--not a bit.  If you don't like it you
can go, and there's hundreds of men who can handle the ribbons ready to
pop into your seat.  It's a precious sight easier to get out of collar
than it is to get in again, I can tell you; so I don't grumble, but keep
on.

"Look healthy? well, pr'aps I do; but all this red colour in one's face
ain't fresh air and weather.  One's drops have something to do with it,
for some chaps may stand it, I dare say, but I can't, and I find a drop
of beer with some gin in it warms you better than most things.  I like
temperance as well as any man, but I really can't do without a drop in
the bitter weather, and those who can must be made of different stuff to
me.

"Now, take one of our London winter days--which you like--a regular keen
frost, or a yaller fog, or a soaking rain, or one of those cold, mizzly,
clinging, go-through-your-very-marrow sort of days.  Get your breakfast
in a hurry, and be off to the yard and get on the box.  All's ready for
us, for we don't clean horses or 'busses; there's men on purpose to do
that.  Well, I'm well wrapped up, and I get on my box at eight o'clock
in the morning, and begin my City journey.  There we are all times; we
mustn't go no faster, nor we mustn't go no slower; time's time, and we
have to keep it if we can, but sometimes we can't, and do what we will,
we're late--with extra passengers, or a block, or something wrong with a
horse, or one thing or another; and then, if it happens to be near
dinner time, we have to start back as usual, and often and often, I
haven't got off the box, but swallowed a mouthful of something where I
sat, and been off again.

"Drive, drive, and pull up, all the afternoon, with about five or six
minutes for my tea, and then up and at it again, hour after hour, till
the last journey's done, and then I've got off the box hardly able to
stand, I've been so cramped; while scarcely ever before eleven, and
generally twelve, I've got home, worn out, to my bit of supper.  Fifteen
or sixteen hours, Sunday and weekday, is too much of a good thing, ain't
it?  And on such days as I've been talking about, when you can't feel
your feet, and your hands won't hardly hold rein or whip, and the cold
goes through and through you, don't you think as one wants something to
comfort one a bit? because if you don't, I should like them as grumbles
to try it on for a month and see.

"Coats, of course, keeps out a deal, but the coat ain't been made that
will keep out all the cold and wet.  Oilskins and macintoshes always
acts on me rheumatically, and gives me pains all over in the jynts; so I
puts on as many reg'lar coats and weskits as I can get on one above
another, and wraps up my legs.  But in all that long time, it's no use,
the cold creeps in somewhere like the thin edge of a wedge, and lets in
ever so much more, and though we mostly gets a shilling or so a day more
than the conductors, I don't know but what I'd rather have their life,
on account of the jumping up and down.

"I get very tired of it by the time night comes; but a good sleep and
the little bit of home comfort one gets seems to put one right before
morning, though, I'm blest if I think a sea captain could know much less
of his children than we 'bus drivers do of ours.  But there, it can't
last for ever, and I s'pose some day I shall be lifted off my box as Sam
was.  Couldn't get down, poor chap, for he stuck to it right to the very
last, though his missis wanted him to lay up long before.

"`Just for a few days, Sam,' she says, but he shook his head, poor chap,
thinking of pay night, and not wanting to go on his club; and so she
used to wait at a corner for him, and bring him drops of warm broth and
cups of tea, and little things she thought he'd fancy, for the poor
fellow was like a horse off his feed; but it was all of no use.

"I used to drive mostly the 'bus that went afore his and used to see
her, pale-faced and anxious, waiting at the corner till he came, which
was only ten minutes after mine--this being a busy time, you know; and
Sam and I having been friends, I used to nod to her, for it's no use to
come the reg'lar s'loot with the whip you know.  But, as I said afore,
it was all no use; and Sam got worse and worse--reg'lar touched, poor
chap--and one night, as he was coming back off his last journey, pulls
up sudden like aside the road gives the office with his whip to the
conductor, and then drops the reins.  Held out to the very last he had,
like a Briton, and then as I said they had to lift him down, when the
conductor sent him home in a cab, collected the fares, then got up and
drove the rest of the journey himself.

"Terrible bad Sam was, poor chap, and first one and then another of us
went to sit up with him, for he was delirious best part of the time.  My
turn came twice over, and I went after I'd had a bit of supper--tripe
and onions, and a drop o' dog's nose we had that night, and out and out
it was, too, for my missus said that them as sat up with sick people
ought allus to have something supporting--which I say, you know, just to
show that we didn't have tripe and onions every night; for, you know,
the wages wouldn't run to it.

"So I gets there and finds all made comfortable and him bedded down for
the night--for his missus was as good a sort as ever a driver married:
snug bit of fire; kettle singing on the hob; easy chair aside the fire,
Sam's medicine on a little table, ready to give him when he woke up; one
of his rugs to wrap round me when I got shivery towards morning; and my
medicine on the chimney-piece--drop of gin, tumbler, teaspoon, and
sugar, with half a lemon on a plate.

"`I'll come down about five, and make you a cup of tea,' says Sam's
wife.

"`No you won't,' I says gruffly.  `I'll call you about seven,' I says,
`for I must be off then; so you'd better get a good-night's rest.'

"She didn't say much, for, poor thing! she'd got into a way then of
breaking down and crying at the least word; but she went and
straightened Sam's bed a bit, just as you've seen a woman do when the
bed don't want touching; then she leaned over and kissed him, and went
off upstairs with the children.

"Plain furnished place theirs was; but, bless you, it was like a little
palace, for Sam's wife had a knack of making things show off to the best
advantage, and that, too, without being one of them horrible cleaning
women, who seems to think as furniture and carpets was made a purpose to
be rubbed up and shook, while floors wasn't for nothing else but
scrubbing.

"Sam seemed fast asleep, and after giving a look at him I made myself as
comfortable as I could in the easy chair, with the rug, in front of the
fire, and sat there thinking about the onions I had for supper.  Not as
I wanted to, you know, but onions is things as will make you think about
'em afterwards, and that ain't the worst of it, for they takes precious
good care that every one else shall know you've had 'em.  About
half-past two I had a weak mixing of gin and water, and all that time
poor Sam hadn't stirred; but just as I'd finished my glass, which was
about three, for I took time over it and smoked a pipe, sending all the
smoke up the chimney--just as I'd done I heard Sam stir and say
something; but he was quiet again directly, and my orders were to wait
till he asked for his medicine.  So all I had to do was to sit still and
wait.

"It was hard work keeping awake between four and five, but I managed it;
for I took off my boots, and walked up and down the room softly, trying
to count up how many streets I passed on the near side from Piccadilly
to the Mansion House and how many coming back again; and though I tried
at it for an hour, I never got it right, for the streets seemed to dodge
from one side to the other, and bothered me; but I kept awake, and sat
down at five o'clock, feeling rather shivery, to another taste of gin
and water, and all that time poor Sam never moved--only breathed softly
when I went to listen.

"Seven o'clock came at last by Sam's watch, standing in the little
sand-castle on the chimney-piece; and then I called his wife gently, and
in a few minutes more she was down, and wanted to get me some breakfast;
but I said `No!' for I knew it would be ready at home; and I was just
going when I heard her give a shriek by the bedside, and down she went
upon the floor--fainted dead away.

"He never give more than a sigh, mum, or I must have heerd him; for my
eyes never closed that night, and though p'raps last time I looked I
ought to have seen it, yet, not thinking of anything, my sight being not
so keen as that of his own wife, who, poor woman!  I lifted into a
chair, and called for help.

"That's what the bits of crape are for, mum, it's a way we have with us.
What complaint?  Well, I only have my ideas, and thinks that if you run
a hoss too hard he's soon wore out, and I fancy as men can be run too
hard as well.  It seems to me as Natur' never meant men to keep on day
after day all them hours at a stretch; and though it ain't like hard
labour, yet you're at it all the time; and, besides, what were Sundays
made for if not for a rest?  Seems to me, mum, that if a day of rest
hadn't been wanted, Sunday would have been left out altogether, and we
should have gone right on from Saturday to Monday at once.

"P'raps 'tain't for me to complain; but I have my own ideas about poor
Sam."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

HAVING PATIENCE.

Much living in London and the constant unvarying round of life does tell
upon the constitution as in the case of the poor driver, and I was
feeling heavy and sad beyond my wont in a way that excited the notice of
my friends.  The Hendricks were the first to speak about it, and with
affectionate solicitude Mr Hendrick begged that I would listen to his
advice.

"You know how bad I was," he said, "and what the country did for me.  Go
and spend a month or two by the seaside."

"And what is to become of my London friends and my poor?"  I said.

"What is to become of your London friends and your poor," he said
quickly, "if you droop from over work, take to your bed, and die.  Come,
take my advice.  Why, Hetty," he said, "how would it be if she went and
stayed with the Ross's in Cornwall?"

"Cornwall?"  I exclaimed, "so far away?"

"So far away," he said laughing, "why no part of England's far away now.
You can start from Paddington at mid-day and be there the same night.
Besides, John Ross is a medical man and a sensible fellow.  He is a dear
friend of mine, and I'll be bound to say he and his wife and the Cornish
air will send you back better than ever."

"Are--are they very grand people," I faltered.

"Grand? no.  They've a nice place and garden and are doing well, but
they've known what it was to struggle, and are simplicity itself.  I
know them as well almost as I know myself.  We went down and stayed with
them when we were married and very welcome the sum we paid for board and
lodging was to them then.  They kept nothing from us and I remember well
the poor fellow's struggles and despair.

"`Don't take on about it darling don't, pray,' little Mrs Ross would
whisper.  `Have patience and all will be well,' and she'd leave her
untouched breakfast and kneel at her husband's feet so that she could
lay her hands upon his breast and let her blue eyes look up appealingly
in his.

"`How can I be patient?' he exclaimed angrily, and frowning as he spoke.
But his anger was not such but that he could caressingly rest one hand
upon the soft wavy hair, and draw the loving head closer to his bosom.
`But there; go and sit down: it's eleven now, and we shall never have
done breakfast.  Give me another cup of tea.'

"`But you have not drunk that, dear,' said Mrs Ross gently, as she
returned to her seat at the breakfast-table.

"`Haven't I?' said her husband absently.  `Oh! no, of course not.  But,
there; I don't want any breakfast, this constant anxiety frets away
appetite.'

"`But you will have something for that case last night, love?  You were
there from twelve till five.'

"Mr Ross smiled, as he replied, `Yes, I shall have something--thanks,
and blessings, and that sort of payment.  The people were too poor to go
to old Tomkins--too proud to go to the union--so they came to me, and of
course I went.  That was right, was it not?'

"`Of course, love,' replied Mrs Ross.  `How could you stay away, when
you had it in your power to do good to a fellow-creature?  But will the
man live, do you think?'

"Mr Ross shook his head.  `I'm afraid not.  He may linger on for
months; but the foundation has been sapped by excess.'

"`God help his poor family,' murmured Mrs Ross, and then she rose and
crossed the room to where her husband was irritably walking up and down
before the window.  The breakfast, with its thin tea and rank butter,
lay untasted still, and a child-like little servant-girl appearing at
the door, Mrs Ross gave her a nod, and the untouched meal was removed.

"Once more alone, that anxious wife softly stole one little hand beneath
her husband's arm, and creeping closer and closer, walked with him up
and down the worn drugget, till he stopped short as if gazing from the
window, but really looking inward at his own position, his wife
refraining from speaking a word, as she anxiously watched the working of
his countenance.

"For the Ross folks, as people in Elmouth called them were in sad
straits.  Some two years before, with a little money in hand, John Ross
had come to settle with his young wife in the pleasant seaside town,
having made his calculations that he would get no practice as the new
doctor for the first year--at least none to signify--but that he could
furnish his house quietly, and live decently for that first year; while
what little he did earn would go to his remaining stock of cash, and add
to what he gained during the second year, which he hoped would be
something, if not considerable, at least enough to enable them to what
he called `rub along.'

"But John Ross did not know the ignorance and prejudices of small
country towns, and he soon found that he was looked down upon with
contempt by the old practitioner; not known by those who considered
themselves the gentry of the place; and viewed generally with suspicion
by the poorer and middle classes.  He might have possessed the skill of
the Royal College of Surgeons condensed into one man, but the people of
Elmouth would still have shaken their heads at him.  And knowing all
this, Tomkins, the old surgeon, used to chuckle and rub his hands,
killing some, curing others, and year by year growing richer, telling
himself that the new man would soon grow tired and go, for after all
said and done, it was a great piece of impudence to come and set up in
Elmouth without his leave.  Why, did not Cheeseman, his assistant, set
up in opposition after a quarrel, and go to the dogs in three months?
At least that was what old Tomkins said, for Cheeseman's going to the
dogs was really going back to London to his friends, till he could
obtain another situation as assistant.

"But things had gone very crookedly with the Ross people, and in spite
of every exertion, John Ross found himself at the end of two years and
some months penniless, and without a chance of bettering his position.
It seemed as if the people would have none of him, and again and again
he was for trying some other place.  But after a long discussion his
wife and he always bore in mind the old proverb of a rolling stone
gathering no moss, and knowing that it would be like going through their
troubles again, without money, they concluded that it would be better to
fight on hopefully, keeping their poverty hidden as much as possible,
and waiting patiently for better days.

"But though it was easy enough to talk of keeping their poverty hidden,
that is no slight matter in a country town; and if John Ross and his
wife could have known all, they would have found that the Elmouth people
generally knew the extent of their wardrobes; how much to a shilling
they owed baker and butcher; how that their landlord fully expected they
would give him notice from quarter to quarter, and had promised the
first offer of the house to some one else.  In short, their affairs were
made out to be so bad, that people used to shake their heads, and wonder
how folks could be so proud, and keep up appearances as them Ross's did,
when they were almost starving, Lord bless you!

"John Ross would never take any notice of the small tattling of the
people, or he might have resented the fact that Tomkins had spoken very
disparagingly of his ability.  But he was too wise a man.  He hoped that
times would mend, and gave every spare minute to the study of his
profession, working late into every night, and merely taking such
exercise as was absolutely necessary for his health.

"But it must not be imagined that no practice fell to his share, for the
poor flocked to him in spite of the ill success that attended his
efforts in the first year of his coming.  In fact, Tomkins made great
capital out of the death of a fever patient whom Mr Ross was called in
to attend, when the young surgeon had told his wife that he was
convinced that no human power could have saved the stricken one.
However, people would talk and shake their heads, and say what a pity it
was such an inexperienced person had been called in, _et cetera_; and it
was not until the young surgeon had performed several clever cures in
advice gratis cases that the poorer people favoured him with their
patronage, giving him much trouble, few thanks, and seldom any pay.

"`Look at that,' said John Ross one day, as two nurses passed the window
in charge of a perambulator fitted with an awning, and containing a
fine-looking boy of some twelve months old--`look at that,' he said
bitterly.  `Why, I should think what is spent upon that child in nurses
and dress would be a comfortable income for us.  It is enough to make
any man envious to see how unequally money is distributed.  There are
those people, the Westerns, rolling in wealth, and without labour to
gain it, while the more I fight and struggle, the worse off I am.  What
do they know of trouble?  Hetty, my girl,' he cried passionately, `I
wish I had never married you, to drag you down to this poverty!'

"`Hush! oh, hush, darling!' sobbed Mrs Ross, the tears streaming down
her cheeks.  `Have we not been happy through it all, and have I ever
seemed to mind?  Be patient, and times will brighten; but please--
please--don't--speak--'

Mrs Ross could say no more, for her sobs choked her utterance.  Her
husband's words had seemed to cut her to the heart, for of late he had
grown more bitter and less hopeful.  Instead of flying to his books for
comfort, and studying hard, he had grown moody and peevish in spite of
her loving attentions; and many a night while he slept had her pillow
been wet with tears as she vainly tried to pierce the cloud of gloom
that seemed to close them in on every side.

"His wife's tears were not without effect, and the next moment John Ross
was kissing them away, vowing that he would be hopeful and contented,
fighting out the battle till the very last; for, as he said, the tide
must turn some time.

"`What a bear I am, darling,' he cried, `to mope and growl as I do,
envying, hating, and maliciously regarding my neighbours because they
make money and I don't.  There, never mind!  I'll make old Tomkins want
me for partner yet, and--there! if you haven't sent out the breakfast
things again, and I'm as hungry as a hunter.'

"It was of no use, John Ross would not own to its being pretence.  He
insisted upon the breakfast things being brought back, and ate
bread-and-butter, and drank weak tea, insisting at the same time upon
his wife partaking of the piece of toast he made for her himself.

"An hour after he was making notes, and eagerly studying up a case
reported in the medical journals, now shaking his head and calling his
wife's attention to what he considered fallacies, or great blunders, and
pointing out what would have been his course under the circumstances--
not dwelling upon it with any show of assumption, but proving all he
said step by step from the experience of those learned in the great
science of medicine.

"And in spite of her aching heart, and their poverty, Mrs Ross's eye
lighted up, and her nostrils dilated with pride as, letting her
needlework fall in her lap, she gazed upon the high, slightly bald
forehead, and deep thoughtful eye of her husband, as wrapped in the case
before him, his whole being seemed to dilate, and he in fancy performed
some great cure.

"`If he had had opportunity,' she thought to herself, and then sighing
resumed her task, one that betokened a change at hand in their little
household, with helplessness and expense attendant, and she sighed
again, but only to check herself, and look anxiously to see whether her
husband had noticed her despondency.

"But John Ross was too busily intent upon his studies, toiling on
eagerly till called to visit some unremunerative patient, from whom he
returned weary and worn to renew his work.

"Work was his only resource; and but for his constant application, life
would have been almost a burden, from the hope deferred that maketh the
heart sick.

"Two months had glided by, and their affairs were at such a low ebb that
John Ross would have given way utterly to despair, had he been alone.
But he dared not, for now it was his turn to solace and comfort.
Complaining for so long of his poverty, he had been unaware that it had
pleased heaven to make him rich--a wealth that in his blindness he could
not see, until he had thrown himself sobbing upon his knees by his
wife's bedside to pray forgiveness for his murmurings, and that heaven
would be merciful and not take away the spirit then flickering,
hovering, as it were, between this world and that which is to come.

"For there had been a bitter struggle in that little poorly-furnished
chamber, and more than once John Ross had felt that he would be left to
fight the battle alone.  But the change that came had been for the
better, and now, pale and tottering when she tried to cross the room,
Hetty Ross was once more down, able no longer to give consolation, but
glad to take it herself.

"Her face was very, very pale, but at times it would light up with such
a smile of ineffable joy, that her husband would forget his studies, and
sit breathlessly watching the young mother's countenance, as in the
pride of first maternity, her gaze lingered where, in its cradle, there
was something whose breathing gently raised and let fall the warm
coverlid.  Then the parents' eyes would meet, and with the husband at
the wife's feet, all worldly trouble would be forgotten in that
happiness given to all that are true of heart.

"Another month glided by, and by some means or other John Ross still
struggled on, even hopefully, for his wife had grown almost strong
again, and her strength gave energy to him in his efforts.

"They were seated at breakfast once more, when Mrs Ross spoke.

"`Such sad news, dear.'

"`What is it?' said her husband, not raising his eyes from the paper.

"`You remember saying that the Westerns, with their wealth, did not know
care?'

"`Ah--yes! one says plenty of stupid and bitter things when in trouble,'
said John Ross.  `But what is it?'

"`Jane tells me their little boy is dying.'

"`Never!' exclaimed Mr Ross, starting.  `What, that fine little fellow
that looked heartiest of the hearty?'

"`I fear so.  Jane heard it from one of the nurses, who says the
Westerns are almost heart-broken, and the poor woman sobbed herself as
she spoke of it.  It seems that they wanted to have more advice, but Mr
Tomkins said it was not necessary, and now it seems it is too late.'

"`Poor little chap!' exclaimed Mr Ross, dropping his paper, and gazing
towards the cradle where his own child lay, by whose side Mrs Ross was
now kneeling, to assure herself of its safety.  `Poor little chap!' he
muttered again, and then aloud, `God forgive me, Hetty!  What blind
fools we are! and I was envious of those people.'

"Father and mother were bending over the cradle, when there came the
rattle of wheels, a horse was dragged upon his haunches at the gate, the
bell rang furiously, and as Mr Ross hurriedly opened the door, the rich
Mr Western seized him by both hands.

"`For mercy's sake, Mr Ross, pray come!  My poor boy's dying--half
murdered by that man,' and before he could recover from his surprise the
surgeon was hurried hatless into a brougham, thrust in almost by the
excited father, the horse was flogged, and John Ross just had time to
wave an adieu to his wife at the window before the carriage was turned,
and they were going at full gallop through the town towards the Hall.

"On their way Mr Ross learned all the particulars he could respecting
the child's illness; how the family attendant had treated it as of
little moment, and the child had gradually sunk, till as he finished his
account Mr Western exclaimed, in a voice choked with emotion.

"`And now I fear we are too late.  Oh, that I had come last night!'

"`Calm yourself,' said Mr Ross.  `It may be that I could do no more
than your regular attendant.'

"`Don't tell me, sir!' exclaimed the father angrily.  `My child has been
neglected--shamefully neglected.  That man came to my house last night
from some public dinner, and I feel sure now, though I did not detect it
then, that he was ignorant of what he was doing.  But quick, sir, follow
me!'

"In another minute John Ross was in the chamber before the little
sufferer, lying pale and wasted upon its weeping mother's knees.  For a
moment the young surgeon was almost unmanned, when, looking to him as
her last hope, the weeping woman raised her red eyes, and joined her
hands supplicatingly, as if to say, `Oh, save--oh, save my child!'

"Wealth was there, glancing from every article of furniture in the
handsome room, but the cold grim shade that visits the palace with the
same stern justice as the lowly cottage, seemed to be also there waiting
for a few brief moments ere he claimed his own.

"For a moment John Ross thought he was too late, and his brow knit with
disappointment; but the next instant he drew a long breath, and as if
nerving himself to the struggle with the destroyer, he threw off his
coat, knelt down, and softly lifted one blue lid, to gaze in the
contracted pupil of the child's eye, and listened to its faint, sighing
breath.

"`Cold water--towels--vinegar,' he then said, in quick, firm tones.
`Now brandy.  What have you there, arrowroot?  Yes; good.  Now the
brandy--quick!'

"Father and servants flew to execute his commands, and in a few seconds
the tightly-closed lips were parted, and with difficulty a little brandy
and arrowroot was swallowed.  Towels saturated with vinegar and water
were wrapped round the little golden head, and extemporising a fan from
an open book, the young surgeon placed the father at his child's head to
keep up a sharp agitation of the air, and ran himself to throw open the
window.

"Directly after he was back, and watching the child with an earnestness
barely equalled by its parents, as at intervals he spoke, after drawing
out his watch and referring to it from time to time.

"`Look,' he said, in short, peremptory tones: `the eyes are unclosing,
the pupils dilate already, there is a little more pulsation--that sigh
was stronger.  Keep up the fanning, sir; now another towel, and colder
water.'

Fresh applications were made, and then another anxious interval ensued,
during which the dark shadow of death seemed to fade, and in a wondrous
manner light--the faintest dawn of life--seemed to return into the
child's face.

"`Good, so far!' exclaimed Mr Ross, while father and mother watched him
with an aspect almost approaching to the veneration that must have
beamed in the face of the Shunammite woman when the `Man of God' raised
her child from the dead.  And truly this seemed almost a miracle--the
miracle of science given by the Great Creator to those who will study
and learn His wonders.

"But now Mr Ross was at a table, hurriedly writing out a prescription
on a leaf of his pocket book.

"`Take that,' he said to Mr Western--`take it yourself to my wife, and
bring back what she prepares.'

"`To your wife?' stammered the father.

"`Yes, to my wife,' said the young surgeon.  `There, man, I'd trust my
life to her accuracy, so do not be afraid.'

"With the obedience of a servant, Mr Western hurried from the room, and
in a few minutes more the sound of hoofs was heard upon the drive, as he
galloped off himself to fetch the medicine.

"In less than half an hour Mr Western was back, to find that the poor
child had shown further signs of returning animation; the horrible
convulsed look had left its countenance; its breathing was more regular,
and already, with tears of gratitude, the mother was whispering her
thanks.  But Mr Ross only shook his head, saying that the danger had
been staved off for awhile, but that it was still imminent.

"Then taking the medicine from its bearer, he tasted, nodded his head in
token of satisfaction, and with his own hands administered a small
portion.

"`Now, Mr Western,' he then said, fanning the child's head furiously
the while he spoke, `we have done all we can do for the present, the
rest must follow, and all depends upon good nursing.  With your lady's
consent, then, we will divide that between us; but I feel it to be my
duty to tell you that the child is in very, very great danger, and
likely to be for some time.  What we have to do now, is to try and make
up for the waste of nature that has already taken place.'

"Then followed instructions for preparing the juice of meat, arrowroot,
and that an ample supply of brandy should be at hand; when, just as Mr
Ross was in the act of administering a little in the arrowroot, the door
opened, and in walked the great practitioner, expressing great
astonishment at seeing his fellow professional there.

"`You here, sir?' he exclaimed.  `This seems to be a most astounding
breach of etiquette.  Perhaps you will step with me into the next room.'

"`Mr Tomkins!' exclaimed the father angrily, `I entrusted the life of
my sick child in your hands.  You neglected that trust--whether from
ignorance or carelessness I will not say--'

"`Oh, indeed!' blustered the surgeon loudly, `I can see through the
trick; charlatans and pretenders are always waiting to seize their
opportunity; and--good heavens!' he ejaculated as if in horror--`a
dessert spoonful of strong brandy to a tender child like that.'

"Mr Ross turned upon him fiercely, but recollected himself directly
after, and kneeling down by his little patient, he proceeded to pour the
diluted spirit, drop by drop, between the parted lips, watching eagerly
the effect; every tiny drop that trickled down seeming to brighten the
eye, and give new life; even as when the effect passed off, the eye grew
dim, and that life seemed slowly sinking away.

"The old surgeon made some further remark, but Mr Western sternly
ordered him to leave the room, when Mr Ross rose from his knees.

"`I could not speak before that man, sir,' he said, `for he has heaped
too many insults upon me since I have been in Elmouth; but I think that
now, with careful watching and treatment, there may be some hope for the
little one; and if you would prefer that your old attendant should take
my place, I will directly leave.'

"As Mr Ross spoke, his eye lighted for an instant upon Mrs Western's
face, in which consternation was painted most plainly, but her husband
took the young doctor's hand, and in a broken voice said something
respecting gratitude, and thanks, which he could not finish, for, worn
out with watching and anxiety, he sank into a chair and wept like a
child.

"Anxious hours followed, life appearing to be sustained by the strong
spirit administered at intervals of ten or fifteen minutes, when the
flame seemed to spring up vigorously, but only to slowly decline, and
then begin to flicker and tremble, as if waiting for some stronger blast
of air than usual to extinguish it for ever.

"And so on at every quarter-hour the little sufferer seemed to be
snatched back, as it were, from the hands of death--all that day, all
that night, and again the next day; and during that space the young
surgeon never left the child's side.  Next night he lay down upon a sofa
in the room for a few hours, but only to be awakened at four o'clock by
the anxious father, who dreaded that some change for the worse had taken
place.

"But the alarm was needless, though Mr Ross once more took his place at
the side of the little cot, working incessantly at his task with the
earnestness of a man whose soul was in his profession.  No night seemed
too long, no watching too tedious, in his efforts to get the better of
the great enemy with whom he was contending.  If he was away for ten
minutes he was restless to return, lest any change should take place in
his absence, and truly it seemed that, but for the incessant care and
attention, death would have gained the victory.

"But science conquered; and from incessant watching, Mr Ross's
attention was reduced to visits three times, twice, and then only once a
day.  From the inanimate pale face the dark shadow had been effectually
chased, and divers signs of amendment set in, one succeeding the other
rapidly, till danger was quite at an end.

"And now the change had taken place; for instead of sitting at home hour
after hour, neglected, and longing for a patient, the demands upon Mr
Ross's time grew incessant, till with a pout on her lips, but joy in her
heart, Mrs Ross declared that she could never be sure of her husband
from one hour to another.

"For the fame of the cure had gone forth, with all the exaggerations
common to a country place, and wealthy old Tomkins grew at last fat, as
he sat at home gnawing his nails with annoyance at seeing his practice
become less year by year, till a call grew to be something unusual; and
making a virtue of necessity, he told a crony, one evening in
confidence, that with so many new-fangled ideas in medicine the
profession was going to the dogs, and he was glad to say he was not
called out now one night in a month; while as to meeting that upstart,
Ross, in consultation, he would not do it to save his life--and he might
have added, anybody else's.

"But John Ross was not proud in his prosperity, and would at any time
have stretched out the hand of good fellowship to the old doctor, could
he have been sure that it would have been taken.

"The Ross family found fast friends in the Westerns; and it was at one
of the dinner parties at the Hall, that after seriously speaking to his
friends of the debt of obligation he was under to Mr Ross, and thanking
him again as the instrument, under God's providence, of giving them back
their child to life, that, to give a livelier tone to the conversation,
the squire related an anecdote he professed to have heard a few days
before, in an encounter which took place between the sexton of the old
church, and the old gentleman doing duty at the new.

"`Ah!' said the first old man, chuckling with triumph, `you don't have
half so many funerals in your yard as I do in mine.'

"`No,' said the other, `and somehow they seem to be falling off year by
year.  My place isn't hardly worth holding now.  The town gets a deal
too healthy.'

"`It does so,' said the first speaker.  `I'm nearly ruined, and can't
make it out anyhow--can you?'

"`No,' said the other, `it's past me'--`and then the two old fellows
went chattering and grumbling off,' continued Mr Western; `and if any
one wishes to know the reason of the falling away, he must ask our
friend the doctor there; though he will be sure to deny that he has had
anything to do with it.'

"`There's the bell again, dear,' said Mrs Ross one day, `and if it
wasn't for knowing that you are wanted for some poor suffering creature,
I believe I should exclaim against it as being a perfect nuisance.  You
never now seem to get a meal in peace.'

"`Oh! yes, I do,' said Mr Ross smiling.  `The bell does its share of
work, though, certainly.  By the way though, my dear, you never feel any
dread in having the bell answered now, do you?'

"`Dread? no; what a question!' said Mrs Ross.  `What made you say
that?'

"`I was only thinking of a few years ago, when a ring at the bell
sometimes caused one's heart to beat, lest it should be some hungry
creditor.'

"Mrs Ross sighed, and then smiled, saying, `and all the rest has come
of patience.'

"`And work,' said her husband.

"`But I don't think,' she whispered, creeping closer to his side, and
drawing one strong arm around her as if for protection--`I don't think,
dear, you will ever again say that the rich have no trouble.'

"John Ross was silent for awhile, as he recalled the loss he had so
nearly sustained, and the scene at the Hall, when the hope of two fond
parents lay a-dying, and then he answered softly--

"`God forbid!'"



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

PENGELLY'S WEAKNESS.

These were the people the Hendricks wished me to go and visit, and in
due course I went down to Elmouth to pass two of the most delicious
months of rest and peace, growing stronger day by day, and finding ample
food for thought in what I saw and heard.

I had left London with a feeling that one great interest of my life
would be for the time in abeyance, but I soon found upon mixing with the
simple-hearted fishing and mining folks, that though the locality was
changed, the pleasures and pains of people were just the same, and that
care and suffering came to Cornwall hand-in-hand as often as elsewhere.

One of my great friends here was Old Pengelly, the Ross's gardener, and
often in a dreamy pleasant day have I sat in the old rugged garden, made
in a niche of the great granite rocks with a view of the restless
changing sea.

Old Pengelly always had an idea that I was too weak to walk, and showed
me the tenderest solicitude as he moved my chair more into the shade,
fetched my sunshade or book; but his great delight was to kneel down and
weed some bed close by me, and talk about the past, and no sooner did he
find that he had hit upon some subject that seemed to interest me, than
he would go steadily on, only rising up and straightening himself now
and then, to get rid of a pain in his back.

"Ah-h-h!" he would say, "don't take no notice of my groaning ma'am,
that's my back that is, and all along of mowing, and digging, and
sweating, and lifting about them lumps of granite stone to make the
missus's rockeries; master don't seem to do it a bit of good."

"Doesn't he, Pengelly?"  I said, as I could not help smiling as I
thought of the fine sturdy old man's age, for he was seventy-five.

"No, ma'am; you see it's rheumatiz just in the small, through the rain
on it sometimes, and the sun on it sometimes, and the perspiration on it
always, along o' that bit o' lawn swade.  Nice bit o' green swade,
though, as any in the county--spongy, and springy, and clean.  Deal o'
worrit though, to get it to rights, what with the worms a-throwing up
their casties, and them old starlings pegging it about and tearing it to
rags, and then the daisies coming up all over it in all directions.
There ain't nothing like daisies: cut their heads off, and they like it;
spud 'em up, and fresh tops come; stop 'em in one place, and they comes
up in another.  I can't get riddy of 'em.  That bit o' lawn would be
perfect if it wasn't for the daisies; but they will come up, and like
everything else in this life, that there lawn ain't perfect.  They will
come, you know: they will live, and you can't kill 'em.  They ain't like
some things in this life that won't live, do all you can to make 'em.

"There, don't you take no notice of them; they ain't tears, they ain't;
that isn't crying, that's a sort o' watery weakness in the eyes through
always being a gardener all your life, and out in the wet.  Only, you
know, when I get talking about some things living do all you can to kill
'em--such as weeds, you know, and daisies; and of some things not
living, do all you can to make 'em, like balsams in frosty springs, you
know--I think about my boy, as was always such a tender plant, do all I
would, and about all the plans I'd made for him, and all cut short by
one o' the sharp frosts as the good Master of all sends sometimes in
every garden, whether it's such a one as this, with good shelter, and a
south aspeck, and plenty of warm walls for your trained trees, or the
big garden of life, with the different human trees a-growing in it; some
fair plants growing to maturity, and sending out fine green leaves, well
veined and strong, well-shaped blossoms of good colour and sweet smell,
fair to look upon, and doing good in this life; sturdy, well-grown trees
of men, and bright-hued, tender, loving plants of women; some with
tendrils and clinging ways--the fruitful vines upon your house--and many
clustering blossoms of children; and bad weeds, and choking thorns, and
poison-berries, and all.  Life's just one big garden, and when I stick
my spade in like this here, and rest my foot on it, and my elber on the
handle, and my chin on my hand, I get thinking about it all in a very
strange way, oftens and oftens.

"Say I get a bit of ground ready, and put seed in.  That's faith, ain't
it?  I put those little tiny brown grains in, and I know in all good
time, according as the great God has ordained, those tiny grains will
come up, and blow, and seed in their turns.  Not all though; some gets
nipped, and never comes to anything, spite of all your care, some slowly
shrivels away, and those that do are generally the best.

"That's the watery weakness again.  Don't you take no notice of that;
only, you know, whatever I get talking about seems, somehow or other, to
work round to my poor boy as we've laid in the earth over yonder by the
old church--a human seed, sowed in corruption, to be raised in
incorruption, eh?  Those are the words, ain't they, ma'am?  And that's
faith, too, you'll say.

"We were quite old folks when we married, you see, not being able to
afford it early in life, and when that boy was born, being an odd,
old-fashioned gardener of a man, I was always looking upon him as a sort
of plant sent to me to bring up to as near perfection as we can get
things in a garden that isn't Eden.  And there I used to sit at dinner
hours or teas having my pipe, as made the little thing sneeze, but kept
away blight, you know: and then I used to plot and plan as to how I'd
work him; how, every now and then, I should, as he grew, carefully
loosen all the earth about his tender young fibres, and give him some of
the best, well-mixed, rich soil when I repotted him, shaking it well in
amongst his roots, giving him room to grow, every now and then, by
putting him in a larger pot, watching carefully for blight, taking away
all green moss, giving him proper light and air, and all the time while
it was nursery gardening, treating him as his tender nature required.

"Light, rich, loamy soil I meant him to have as soon as he was fit to go
on a border, and then I meant to train him; ah, that I did!  I'd made up
my mind that no one else should touch him, but that I'd train him
myself.  A weed shouldn't come near him, nor slug, nor snail neither, if
I knew it, but I'd cover him over, and shelter him from all frosts, and
then watch him grow and grow in the light and warmth of God's beautiful
sunshine.  And let me tell you that you people who live in your big
towns don't know the real pleasure there is in seeing a young plant grow
day by day, putting forth its wonderful leaves from out some tiny bud,
where they have lain snugly shut up from the winter's frosts, then the
beautifully-painted flowers with their sweet scents.  There, when I go
to bed every night, in my humble fashion I thank God that I was made a
gardener, with the chance through life of watching His wondrous works,
and how He has ordained that man, by industry and skill, can change the
wild, worthless weed or tree into the healthy, life-supporting vegetable
or fruit.  And yet I don't know but what I'm doing you town-dwellers a
wrong, for I've seen many a pale face in your close, crowded courts
watching patiently over some sickly, sun-asking flower in a broken pot,
watering it, maybe, with a cracked jug, and then I've longed to put that
pale face down in such a place as my garden here--I call it mine, you
know, though it's master's--to watch it brighten, and see, as I've often
seen before now, the tears of joy come into the eyes of that pale face
because things were so beautiful.

"There's nothing like gardens, ma'am, to make people good and
pure-hearted, for there's something about flowers that leads the
thoughts up and up, higher and higher.  I pity you folks in London.
There's religion in gardens, and I think if you put beautiful flowers
within reach of people, you do them more good than by showing them grand
buildings and sights.  There's a something in flowers that makes its way
to the heart--not only in the grandest blossoms, but in the simplest;
and I ain't going to set up for a prophetic person, but I mean to say
that as long as this world lasts there will always be a tender love in
every human heart for the little, gentle, sweet-scented violets.  I've
lived in big towns myself, and seen the girls with their baskets full of
fresh-gathered blossoms, nestling amongst green leaves, with the water
lying upon them in big, bright beads, and when, being only a poor man,
I've spent my penny in a bunch of the fragrant little blossoms, and held
it to my face, what have I breathed in?--just the scent of a violet?
Oh, no! but God's bright country--far away from the smoke, and bricks,
and mortar--and health and strength, and then it would be that a great
longing would come on me to be once again where the wind blew free and
the sun shone brightly.

"That was, you know, when I went up to London to better myself, and
didn't; thinking, you know, to get to be gardener to some great man, or
in one of the societies, but there wasn't room for me.

"I've heard about some poet saying something about a man to whom a
primrose by the river's brim was a yellow primrose, and nothing more.  I
wonder what sort of a man that was, who could look upon the simplest
flower that grows, and not see in it wonder, majesty, grandeur--a
handiwork beside which the greatest piece of machinery made by man seems
as it were nothing.  But there, that's always the way with violets and
primroses, they always have a tendency towards bringing on that watery
weakness.  They do it with hundreds, bless you, if given at the right
times.  They're so mixed up with one's early life, you see, and with
days when everything looked so bright and sunny; and with some people, I
suppose, that is the reason why they act so upon them; while with me,
you see, there's something else, for when I think of them, I can always
see two little bunches lying upon a little breast, with never a breath
to stir them,--bright blossoms, smelling of the coming spring-time, but
soon to be shut from the light of heaven, and buried deep, deep with
that seed to be raised where chill winds never come, where the flowers
are never-fading, and where the light of love shines ever upon those
thought worthy to enter into that garden of life everlasting, amen!

"For it was all in vain, it was not to be.  I made all my plans, I took
all the care I could, I meant to train and prune and cut out all
foreright and awkward growths, I meant that boy to be something to be
proud of; but it was not to be: he was not to blossom here,--this did
not seem to be his climate; and though I wouldn't see it, there was the
plain fact, that there was a canker somewhere out of sight where it
could not be got at; and though I tried, and the doctor tried, all we
knew, it was of no use, and at last I was obliged to own that my little
fellow was slowly withering away.  I used to have him in his little
chair in a sheltery spot, where there was sunshine, and give him a bunch
of flowers to play with; but at last he grew too weak to be taken out,
so I used to take him some flowers home, and it was always the same, he
would hold them in his hand till they withered away, and then cry to see
how they were faded.

"And at last there came a day when he did not seem any worse than usual.
It was one of those soft, bright, warm spring days, that come in all at
once, setting the buds bursting, the birds building, and your heart
seeming to drink in a kind of joy from the soft breeze.  I'd been to
dinner, and was going back to the garden, to finish a bit of nailing in
over there upon the south wall, that ought to have been done long
before.  Well, I'd got to the door, when my poor little fellow burst out
crying to go with me; and at last, seeing how bright and warm it was,
and how sheltered he would be there, under the sunny wall, we wrapped
him up, and I took him in his little chair to the warmest spot I could
find, gave him some violets and primroses, and a crocus and snowdrop or
two, and then I was soon up on my ladder, nailing away, laying in young
wood there, moving a branch here, and, being fond of my work, and soon
interested, I was sometimes a quarter of an hour together without
looking at our little fellow; but I was down four times to pick him a
fresh flower or two and the last time I was down I thought he seemed a
little drowsy.

"At last I got off to move my ladder, and had my foot on the round to
get up again, when I looked at the little chair, and started to see that
my boy was lying fast asleep, when, for fear of cold, I caught him up,
and carried him towards our cottage; but I had not gone half-way, before
a strange shudder seemed to run through me, and I stopped short to look
in the little face, saying something that I knew would make him smile if
he heard it; and then, hardly knowing what I did, I rushed home with my
light burden, whose little hands were tightly holding some of God's
early gifts of spring against the little breast now growing colder and
colder.

"No, he didn't hear me; but there was just the faint dawning of a smile
about his little mouth: for God is very kind to some of those he loves,
and there was no sign of pain there as he went to sleep.  And I can't
think that I'm wrong, in always fancying my boy where never-fading
flowers bloom, for he was too young to have ever angered his Maker; and
besides, did he not say, `Suffer little children to come unto me,' and
`Of such is the kingdom of heaven?'

"Don't you take no notice of me, that's a watery weakness; but, now,
just look there, I went over every bit of that lawn reg'lar, last week,
and then there wasn't a bit of daisy to be seen; while now, here they
are coming up in a bunch.  But it really is the case with flowers, that
those you want to kill and get rid of won't die, while those you wish to
save--There, don't take no notice of me, it's only a watery weakness."

Poor old Pengelly went away, for the weakness seemed disposed to
increase, and for long enough he was busy weeding a nook of the garden
far away from where I sat.  He was very reticent afterwards, for days to
come, and when at last he grew more sociable his face was hard, rugged
and weather-stained, and he seemed the last man to have been influenced
by a tender sympathetical thought.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

SALT TEARS.

That rugged exterior and tenderness of heart of the Cornish people
render them marked amongst their fellows.  It is questionable whether
you would find in any part of England so respectable and religious a
body of men as those of Cornwall.  Whether fishers or miners it is the
same, they are quiet, temperate, and God fearing, and certainly more
intelligent than the men of many counties.  I have often sat in the
Ross's garden of an evening listening to the singing of the fishermen
upon the cliff, not the roaring of some sailors' chorus, but the sweetly
blended parts of some old hymn, or glee--for part singing lingers still
amongst these Western folks.

Then as to education, I have been surprised at their amount of knowledge
and reading.  One fair ruddy sturdy old fellow, the corners of whose
lips were not free from the stains of tobacco, used to take me out
occasionally in his boat and showed me the various rocks and caves, and
he surprised me by his reading.  The first time I was out with him I
found that his boat was called _The Chemorne_, and I naturally enough
asked why he had given it so quaint a name.

"Oh, it means _Birch Canoe_," he said, and when I asked further, he told
me that he had found the name in _Hiawatha_, when he was reading
Longfellow's poems.

One of my greatest intimates though amongst the fishermen, was a quiet
stern-faced middle-aged man, who seemed to have some great trouble upon
his mind; and one evening when he had rowed me out beyond the headland,
and lay upon his oars, he began talking to me about the sorrow of his
life, the death of the woman he had loved and who was to have been his
wife.

"Yes," he said, "I behaved bad to her ma'am, and all through blind
obstinacy and want of faith.

"I've seen that same face of hers scores of times since, and though it
makes me shudder, and nips me to the heart, I always go and have a good
long earnest look at it, and come away a better man.  You may see that
face yourself--as much like as if it had been taken from her sad,
anxious looks--you may see it at the picture-shop windows, and it's of a
woman tying a handkerchief round a man's arm, and she looks up at him
pitifully, and it's called `The Huguenot.'  That's like the look, and
the face that gazed up into mine after she'd told me what I know now was
the truth; and I--yet I'm most ashamed to own it--I flung her away from
me, and wouldn't believe what she said.  There was a tear upon each
cheek, and the bright drops were brimming in her eyes, and ready to
fall; but I was hard and bitter, and whispered to myself that they were
false tears, put on to cheat me, and I ran out of her father's house,
swearing that I'd enter it again no more.

"Speaking as a fisherman, and one who was brought up with the sound of
the sea always in his ears, I may say we rowed well together in the same
boat, Mary and I.  I had a long fight of it before I could persuade her
that it would be best for her future that she should take me for pilot,
and not Harry Penellyn; but I did persuade her at last, and we were to
be married down at the little fishermen's church at the head of the
cove.  So we worked and waited.

"Two years of as happy a life then fell to my lot as could fall to that
of any man in this life, I believe.  My ways were rough, and hers were
not those of a lady, but they suited our stations in life, and what more
would you have?  I look back upon that bright bit of life as if it was
some dream; and though I can't settle to go back to the old place, I
cling to the fish, and look upon those days when a Lozarne boat comes
in, as days worth recollecting; for they bring the blood in one's cheek,
and a bit of light into one's eye.

"I can see it all now as plain as can be: the little fishing village
under the cliff; the stout granite pier running out so as to form a
harbour for the fishing-boats; and the blue sea, stretching away far as
eye could reach.  Down by its edge, too, the weed-fringed rocks, piled
high in places, with the sea foaming amongst the crevices, and again
forming little rock-pools where the bright sea growths flourished; and
as the tide came in, with its fresh cooling waters, you saw the limpets
and sea flowers wakening again to life, while many a spider-crab and
shell-fish crept out of the nook or crack where it had hidden from the
warm sun.  I can see it all now at any time, though I am growing grey,
and nigh a score of years have passed since; but brighter than all seem
to stand out those two mournful eyes, with the same tearful look they
gave me as I flung out of the door and saw them for the last time; for
when next I looked upon that face the eyes were fast closed, and could I
have opened them the lustre would have been gone.

"A west country fisherman's life is one which takes him a deal from
home, for sometimes we go off for perhaps three months at a time to the
north coast, or to Ireland when the herring season is on; and, like the
rest, I used to be off in my boat, sorry enough to leave home--happy
enough to return after a busy season, till one year, when I took it into
my head to think it strange that Harry Penellyn, Mary's old beau, should
spin his illness out so long and stop ashore, time after time, when the
boats went out, and him seeming to be well and strong as any of us.
There had been a heavy gale on the coast some weeks before, and, as we
always do at such times, we had run in for the harbour as soon as we saw
it coming; but, through bad seamanship, Penellyn's boat came inside the
rocks, when she should have come outside, and then, through their not
having water enough, she grounded, lifted again, caught by the stern,
and then swung round broadside to the waves, which swept her half deck,
while a regular chorus of shrieks rose from the women standing ashore.

"It was a rough time, for even our boats that were in the harbour were
groaning and grinding together, while every now and then the sea washed
over so as to threaten to fill them, and sweeping the pier from end to
end.  In an ordinary way we made a custom of laughing at the crew of a
boat who, from bungling, got her on the rocks, for born as we were in
the bay, with our fathers fishers before us, we knew every stone along
the coast, and could almost have steered our boat to them blindfold; but
this was no time to jeer, for now the poor fellows were being swept one
by one from their hold, and borne struggling through the surf to the
rocks, where they were in danger of being dashed to pieces, for ours was
no smooth, sandy beach.  Some were swimming, some beating the water
frantically; and clad as our men are, in their thick cloth trousers,
heavy sea boots, and stout Guernsey shirts, they stand a poor chance of
keeping long afloat, for the weight of their boots is enough to drag
them down.

"There was every one in a state of excitement; some running out as far
as they could and throwing ropes--men shouting orders that nobody
attended to--women tossing their arms up and crying, while first one and
then another of the boat's crew was dragged ashore, and carried half
drowned up to the cottages.

"I was standing looking on, with Mary by my side, for she was out on the
cliff when my boat ran into the little harbour, while her hand was the
first to clasp mine when I got ashore, thankful for the escape we had
had, for the sea had risen wonderfully quick.  I had taken no part in
trying to save the boat's crew, for there were plenty of willing hands,
and there being but little standing-room down below the cliff, I had
thought I should be in the way; but now it seemed to me that one poor
fellow would be lost with the efforts they were making to save him, for
he was too weak to cling to the ropes thrown out, and as fast as he was
swept in by the waves, they sucked him back.

"I had not seen who it was, but just then, as I made a start as if to go
down, Mary clutched, my arm, and there was a wild look in her face as
she said aloud, `Harry Penellyn.'

"The excitement of the moment carried almost everything before it, but I
had a strange feeling shoot through my heart, and something seemed to
say, `Keep back;' but the next minute I was fighting with the waves,
with the noose of a rope round my body, and plenty of stout mates ashore
fast hold of the end.  Then, after a strangling battle, I got tight hold
of Penellyn, and we were drawn ashore, and both of us carried up to
Mary's father's cottage, though I tried hard to get upon my feet and
walk, but I might have known that our fellows would not have let me on
any account.

"Well, Harry Penellyn lay there three or four days, and Mary tended him,
and all that time I had to fight against a strange, ungenerous, cowardly
feeling that would creep over me, and seemed at times to make me mad,
till I got myself in a corner and asked myself questions, to all of
which I could only answer the same word--nothing.  Then Penellyn got
better, and went to his mother's house; and time went on, till I grew
bitter, and harsh, and morose, and was always haunted by a suspicion
that I would not put into words, while now the question came again and
again--`Why doesn't Harry Penellyn go to sea?'

"But no answer came to my question; and though he seemed to be well and
strong as ever, he always kept at home while we went out; and in my then
state of mind this troubled me, and I kept feeling glad that we were
only out now on the short trips of a few days in length.  I grew angry
with myself and with all around.  Ay, and I grow angry even now, when I
think that a few earnest words of explanation--a few questions that I
know would have been answered freely--would have set all right, and
perhaps saved the life of as good and loving a woman as ever lived in
the light.

"But it was not to be so; and I went on wilfully blinding my eyes to
everything--placing a wrong construction upon every look and word, and
making those true eyes gaze at me again and again in wonder; whilst
Harry Penellyn, who had never before shown me much goodwill, now that I
had saved his life, would have been friends, only I met his every
advance with a black scowl, when he always turned off and avoided me.

"One evening it had come to the lot of my boat to run into harbour with
the fish of several other boats; for the takes had been very light, and
somehow or another I felt more bright and happy than I had done for
weeks.  I got ashore, left my mates tending the mackerel, and ran up to
Old Carne's cottage to find Mary out.

"This did not trouble me at first; but after a few minutes' fidgeting
about, I felt a flush come in my face, and hurrying out, I made an
excuse at Mrs Penellyn's, and got to know that Harry was out too.

"The hot blood rose from my cheeks to my forehead, and seemed to blind
me; then a strange singing sensation came in my ears; but the next
minute I was tearing along the cove in the dark of the evening, so as to
get away where I might be alone with my thoughts, for that vile
suspicion that was struggling with me before, had now conquered and
beaten me down, so that I was its slave, and for the time a regular
madman.

"I had run about half a mile, when I stopped panting, and began to walk
slowly along beneath the trees close beside the fern-hung rocky bank,
while it was now too dark to see far before me.  But the next instant I
was standing with my breath held, and one hand resting on my side, for
as I crouched close to the bank I heard Penellyn's voice, talking
earnestly as he passed a few yards from me, with his arm tightly
clasping a woman's waist, and just as they had passed they stopped, and
there was light enough for me to see him bend over her, and without
stopping to think, I leaped from where I was hid, and, as the woman
shrieked and fled, I had Penellyn by the throat, and we joined in a
fierce struggle.

"If an angel had told me I was deceived, I should not have believed him
then in my blind fury; and it was not until, having dashed his head
against the ground again and again, and felt my enemy's hold relax, that
I leaped up, kicked him savagely, and then ran back.

"Just as I expected, Mary was at home, looking hot and flushed, but she
jumped up with a smile, and hurried to me, saying--

"`I was down at Mrs Trevere's, dear; but I heard your boat had come,
and--'

"She stopped short, half frightened by my wild looks and disordered
clothes, and half by the savage curse I gnashed out at her as I seized
her arms; while, as the..."  [two pages missing here.]



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

>188-->



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE EMPTY HOUSE.

Some pages are missing here... place, what electro or veneer is to the
precious metal or solid wood.  There were plate-glass windows, but the
frames had warped; handsome balustrades to green shrunken stairs; the
floor-boards had shrunk one from another and curled up; the ceilings had
cracked; and where the rain had found its way in, through defective
spouts at the side, or bad slating and plumbing of the roof, the walls
told tales, in the unpleasant-smelling efflorescence of microscopic
fungi, that, in place of good honest sand-mixed mortar, the house had
been built, by a scamping contractor, with rubbish ground up with a dash
of lime stuff, that is good for two or three years, and then crumbles
away.

From room to room of the desolate place we went, to find every window
closely shut.  There was the pleasant prospect, beyond the tiny square
of grass-grown earth called a garden, of the blank end wall of the row
of houses in the next street.  Over the wall, next door, an attempt had
been made to brighten the prospect; but the plants looked melancholy,
and a Virginia creeper that ought to have been displaying its gorgeous
autumnal tints was evidently suffering from a severe bilious attack, due
to low spirits, bad drainage, and a clay soil.  The very sparrows on the
ledges were moulting, and appeared depressed; and on going higher up,
there was a blank hideous cistern in one of the attics, that looked so
much like a sarcophagus on a humid principle, and suggested such horrors
of some day finding a suicidal servant-maid within, that any lingering
ideas of recommending the house vanished like dirty snow-crystals before
a pelting rain.

"It's a very convenient house," said the old gentleman.

"And will let some day at a far higher rent," piped the old lady.

"You'd better come down to the breakfast-room now," said the old
gentleman.

"And see the kitchen too," echoed the old lady.

So I went down--to find, as I expected, the breakfast-room showing a
cloudy mountainous line of damp on the paper for about two feet above
the wainscot; and here again the window was closely shut, and the
strange mephitic odour of damp and exhausted air stronger than ever.

This apartment was the one utilised by the old couple for bed and
sitting-room combined, and their spare furniture was spread neatly over
it, according to the homely old rule of "making the most of things."

I finished my inspection, with the old folks most eager in their praise
of all, and when I pointed to the damp the old gentleman exclaimed--

"Oh! you'll find that in all the houses about here.  It rises up the
wall, you see."

"Yes, from bad building," I answered.

"But it's much worse at the house opposite," said the old lady.

"Where the tenant died?"  I said.

"Yes," she answered innocently enough.

"Why, you seem anxious to let the house," I said smiling.

"Well, yes," said the old gentleman, combing his few hairs with one end
of his spectacles.  "You see, the agents like us to let the houses; and
if we're in one very long--"

"He don't like it," said the old lady.

"Then you often have to change?"

"It all depends; sometimes we've been in houses where they've been let
in a week."

"Not in new neighbourhoods," said the old lady; "people's shy of coming
to the very new places.  You see they're only just run up, and the roads
ain't made."

"Ah!" said the old gentleman, "sometimes the roads ain't made till the
houses are all let."

"And people often won't take the houses till the roads are made," said
the old lady.

"So sometimes we're a year or two in a place.  People are so particular
about damp, you see," said the old gentleman.

"And many of the houses are damp?"  I asked inquiringly.

"Well, ma'am, what can you expect," he replied confidentially, "seeing
how things goes?  Here's, say, a field here to-day, and the surveyor
marks it out into roads.  Then one speculative builder runs up a lot of
carcases on it, and fails.  Then another buys the carcases, and finishes
'em in a showy, flashy way; and then they put them at very low rents, to
tempt people to take 'em."

"And raises the rents as soon as one or two tenants have been in them,"
said the old lady.

"It tempts people like," continued the old gentleman; "they see nice
showy-looking houses in an open place, and they think they're healthy."

"And they're not?"  I said.

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

"Healthy?  No!" cried the old lady.  "How can they be healthy, with the
mortar and bricks all wet, and the rain perhaps been streaming into them
for months before they were finished?  Why, if you go and look in some
of those big half-finished houses, just two streets off, you see the
water lying in the kitchens and breakfast-rooms a foot deep.  That's how
he got his rheumatics."  Here she nodded at her husband.

"Don't bother the lady about that, Mary," said the old man, mildly.

"You've lived in some of these very new damp places, then?"

"Well," said the old gentleman smiling, "beggars mustn't be choosers,
you see.  We have to take the house the agent has on hand."

"You take charge of a house, then, on condition of living rent-free?"

"Yes, ma'am, that's it," said the old lady smiling.

"And how long have you lived in this way?"

"Oh! close upon fifteen years, ma'am," replied the old gentleman; "but
things are not so good as they were.  More than once I've nearly had to
take a place--much building as there is going on."

"Yes, and pay rent," said the old lady.

"You see it's the police," the old gentleman went on.

"The police?"

"Yes, the police," said the old lady.  "The boys do so much mischief."

"Boys, you see, from the thick parts of London," said the old gentleman
explaining.  "Rough lads on Sundays.  They get amongst the empty and
unfinished houses, troops of them, to play pitch-and-toss, and they
throw stones and break windows and slates."

"And knock down the plaster and bricks," added the old lady.

"Ah! they most levelled one wall close by," said the old gentleman.

"They're so fond of making seesaws of the wood, too," said the old lady.

"And splashing about in the pools of water," said the old gentleman.

"And the agents, on account of this, have took to having the police,"
said the old lady.

"To keep the boys away?"  I asked.

"Yes; you see, it's the married police and their wives take charge of
the houses, and when the boys know that there's policemen about, why, of
course they stay away."

"But it makes it very bad for such as we," said the old lady.

"Fifteen years is a long time to live rent-free," I said smiling.

"Yes, ma'am, it is, and you see we have a deal to do for it.  We have
lots of people come to look at the houses before one's let."

"Specially women," chimed in the old gentleman.  "There's some come
regular, and do it, I s'pose, because they likes it.  They look at all
the houses in the neighbourhood, same as some other ladies always go to
sales.  They never buy anything; and _they_ never mean to take a house;
but they come and look at 'em, all the same."

"But we always know them," said the old lady.

"Yes, they're easy enough to tell," chuckled the old man.  And then,
seeing me look inquiringly at him, he went on, "They finds fault with
everything, ma'am.  The hall's too narrow, or else too broad, and the
staircase isn't the right shape.  Then they want folding doors to the
dining-room; or they don't want folding doors.  Sometimes six bed-rooms
is too many; some times eight ain't enough.  And they always finds fault
with the kitchen."

"And they always want a fresh paper in the dining-room," said the old
lady chiming in; "and the drawing-room paper's too light; and we don't
mind them a bit."

"No," chuckled the old gentleman; "we're used to them.  We know, bless
you!"

"And I suppose you felt that I did not want a house, eh?"

"No, that we didn't," said the old lady; "you see, you came with an
order from the agent; while people as don't want houses never takes the
trouble to get that, but drops in promiskus where they see the bills
up."

"One gets to understand people in fifteen years," said the old
gentleman, in a quiet subdued way; "and we don't mind.  We say all we
can for a house, as in dooty bound, for the agent; but it goes against
one, same time."

"You could not conscientiously recommend this house, then, for a
family?"  I asked.

The old gentleman tightened his lips, and looked at his wife; and the
old lady tightened hers, and looked at her husband; but neither spoke.

"I see," I said; then, turning the conversation, "you have been at this
for years?"

"Fifteen ma'am," said the old lady.  "You see, when our poor--"

"Don't trouble the lady about that," said the old man, with appeal in
his voice; but the old lady liked to talk, and went on--

"When our poor Mary died--aged nineteen, ma'am, and as beautiful a girl
as ever you saw, and used to help us in the business, keeping the books
and writing letters--all seemed to go wrong, and at last we sold out for
the best we could make of it, and that just paid our debts--"

"All but Tompkins' bill," said the old man correcting.

"Yes, all but Tompkins' bill," said the old lady; "but that we paid
afterwards.  We should have had to go to the parish, only an aunt of
mine died and left us a bit of property that brings us in ten shillings
a week; which is enough for us so long as we don't pay rent and taxes."

"That's how we came to be here," said the old gentleman, smiling sadly
at his wife, "and we've seen some strange changes since; living in
houses where people died of fevers; in old houses; in new houses that
ought to be knocked down by Act of Parliament, they're so bad; in houses
where the people's been extravagant, and gone to ruin.  But there, it
does for us while we're here."

He looked at his wife on this, and the old lady placed her thin veiny
hand on his arm, telling, by that one action, of trust, love, and faith
in her old companion over a very stony path; and I left them together
trying very hard to close the front door, the old man's last words
being--

"It sticks so, on account of the wood warping, and that great crack"--
the said crack being one from the first to the second-floor.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

MY FRIEND IN HOSPITAL.

I was more successful during the next few days, and had a list of four
houses for Mr Ross to see, one of which he selected for his brother.

For my part I was very busy, having many people to see, and being on one
occasion in Hammersmith, where the omnibus driver had told me he lived,
I made a point of finding his house in a very humble street, and after
rather a distant reception from his wife, the poor creature opened her
heart to me, and told me that she was in trouble: her husband had had an
accident, been kicked by one of his horses, and was in the hospital very
ill.

I said what I could by way of comforting the poor thing, and on leaving
said that I would go and see him, when the woman's face flushed with
joy.

"You will, ma'am," she cried.

"To be sure I will," I said quietly, and I left her seeming the happier
for my few words of sympathy and hope.

The next day I was on my way up Gower Street, the long dull, and dreary,
where the cabs roll echoing along, and in the silent night the echoes
sound like the rumbling in some huge water-pipe.  Up Gower Street, where
the dismal grinding of the organ sharpens every nerve, and sends the
horrors throbbing through every vein and artery--music no longer, but a
loud, long wail, sobbing in the windows, and beating for entrance at the
doors; up Gower Street, where the dwellers grow hardened to sad sights--
where they know the brougham of the great physician or surgeon--the cab
conveying the out-patient, or that which bears the in-patient to his
couch of suffering; where the face of the pale student who has not yet
ceased to shudder at the sufferings of his fellow-man is as familiar as
that of the reckless or studious one to whom a groan or heart-wrung
agonised cry is part of the profession; where weeping relations--poor,
common people, who have left their dear ones in the great hall, or
perhaps been to spend an hour by their bedsides--are but everyday sights
such as may be seen near each great hospital.

Up Gower Street there's a crowd, which in London is but another word for
a magnet which draws to itself the sharp needles of the streets; ay, the
blunt and broken ones, too--everything steely clings to it, while the
softer material falls away.

Only a woman crying!  Not much that.  We may see that every day in our
streets, and in most cases turn shuddering away, thinking of the dear
ones at home--wife and daughters--sisters or betrothed, and saying to
ourselves, "Can this be a woman!"  But here we can stand with pitying
feelings welling up from our hearts.  Only a woman crying! but with such
tears gushing from her eyes as Rachel shed when mourning for her
children, and refusing to be comforted because they were not.  A poor,
untutored, unlettered woman, who has not learned the art of controlling
her feelings.  She has just come out of the great, gaunt, cheerless
building; staggered along for some distance, blinded with tears; and at
last, oblivious of all but her own bitterness, sunk down upon a doorstep
sobbing wildly, for she has been to see the stalwart son who was to have
been the prop and stay of her old age, and they have shown her a gaunt,
pale, wild-eyed figure that knew her not; and she has come away
brokenhearted, and, unlike Joseph of old, too forgetful of self to seek
a place where she might weep.

Rocking herself to and fro, and moaning bitterly, till a friendly arm is
offered, and she is led away, the crowd parting to let her pass, with
many a rough, sympathising word uttered; and then with her burden of
sorrow she slowly totters along the gloomy street, followed by a
straggling crew of children, ragged boys, girls top-heavy with babies
tied up in shawls, and wonderful above all other things for their
vitality.  To see them day by day, and the risks they run, the only
wonder is that their babyhood does not form their shroud, and cover them
effectually from further advance towards adolescence.

And now a cab drawn at a foot's pace towards the great door of the
hospital--to so many the jaws of death.  A little crowd here even, to
see the patient carried in by the two stout porters.  A little crowd
here, when it might be a case of fever or something else--infectious,
contagious.  But no; this is no fever case, but one for our skilled
surgeons; for the poor lad is bleeding, bound up, and fainting.  Injured
by machinery.  His finger was caught by the cogs of a machine--the hand,
the arm drawn in, and crushed right up to above the elbow, so that, what
with loss of blood and the shock to the system, it will be a clever
surgeon that can save his life.

But he will have the best of skill here, and every appliance that
surgery can devise to allay his sufferings--everything but the tender
hands of those he loves; while it will take all his hopefulness to fight
against the sorrowful thoughts of his maimed and helpless future.  He, a
poor wounded one of the great army fighting for life--battling day by
day with poverty, from childhood to old age; and he early stricken down
in the contest.

And now another carriage stops the way; and the porters are not wanted,
for the occupant steps out, evidently with his wife, upon whose arm he
leans slightly as they go up the steps.  To a casual observer there does
not seem much the matter, for he smiles as he speaks cheerily to his
companion; but somehow his lip seems to be quivering, and he stops at
the last step to give one look round, and not at the dull brick and
mortary street, but upwards at the bright sky flecked with fleecy
clouds, and there is an agony of longing in that look, which tells of
the panting of the soul for health, and of a shadow hovering above him
which seems to hide the future from his hopeful gaze.  As he still looks
up, loth to enter, his glance seems to have within it something of that
we see upon the emigrant's face when on shipboard with the anchor
a-peak, and the sails shaking out--it seems to say "Farewell."

But he has returned to the present, and with his lips quivering, he
enters the great portal, and the door swings to behind him; while who
can say how he will quit the place--alive and hopeful, past the great
danger, and with some wondrous operation performed by skilful hands; or
merely the lifeless clay, with the spirit returned to its Maker?

An out-door patient creeping up by the aid of a stick--one who cannot
summon the fortitude to quit his home, though he would be better in the
hospital--better in body perhaps, but worse in spirit; for he would be
homesick, and suffering in mind for the homely comforts and the
familiar, ministering hands.

And now another pallid, quivering object, leaning upon the arm of friend
or relative.  He can hardly walk, and must be suffering from some severe
internal disease; but he has been by three times, and though his hand
grasps the order for admission, he dares not enter, but muttering "Not
yet, not yet," draws his companion away, and totters on until he is fain
to rest upon a step.  But who can wonder that he should flinch and
shrink back when the dread moment arrives?  How many who enter the
hospital feel that for them there is written above the portal, "Who
enter here leave hope behind?"  The great gloomy building has by them
been considered as a forlorn hope to try when every other means has
failed; and with shattered nerves, and mind and body worn by disease,
they may well shudder and turn from the building, when the robust in
health could hardly enter such an abode of pain and sorrow without a
clutching at the heart.  And then, too, who is he that seeks a home
within the English Maison Dieu but the poor man, perhaps the bread
winner of a large family? and he enters, perhaps, with the knowledge
that while he is battling with disease those at home are fighting
against the wolf poverty, who has lain down at their door.

But the poor fellow has nerved himself at last, and slowly crawls up the
steps, takes one glance round as his fellow-sufferer did some quarter of
an hour ago, and the portal has closed upon him.

Next comes the rattling of wheels, and a cab turns the corner at as near
an approach to a gallop as the shambling horse can manage.  Emergency
here; and as the cab dashes up, a man springs off the box, and runs up
the steps; and then come the porters with their chair to lift out of the
vehicle, a groaning mass of charred humanity, wrapped in a blanket, and
whose cries on being touched thrill through one's very marrow, till the
door swings to once more.

Again a cab driven up, with this time a policeman on the box, to jump
down and fetch out those iron-nerved men whose aid is so frequently
sought.

No brand from the burning this time; but another one fallen in the fight
with poverty--another wounded--no! hush! they say he is slain, and
hesitate before lifting the nerveless, flaccid, collapsing form into the
chair.

But he is carried in, and I follow to know the truth and learn it in a
few minutes; for the poor fellow, a painter, has fallen from an upper
window, with a fearful crash, upon the cruel spikes of the area
railings, from which, the newspapers tell us next day, with hideous
perspicuity, "he was lifted with great difficulty the spikes having
entered his body."

Guy's, Saint Thomas's, Saint Bartholomew's, Saint George's, Middlesex,
King's College, University, round all of their doors such dread horrors
still abound, and to an extent that almost staggers belief.  Sorrow,
pain, poverty, despair, all seem to join hands and revel around the
suffering wretches; but even to these dismal shadows--these clouds of
life--there are silver linings.  Hope is there; faith is there; mercy is
there; and pity mourns over the suffering poor.  It is the collecting
together of scenes of misery--the gazing upon so many sufferers at once;
and for the moment we forget that suffering is inevitable--that more or
less mental or bodily, it must fall to each one's share; and as we turn
shuddering away, we forget that these great institutions are an honour
to our country, and glance but at one side of the question.  We forget
the quiet, gentlemanly men of iron nerve and determination--the heroes
who might wear the palms borne by our warriors--the men who engage face
to face with disease, and pluck full many a victim from the grim
dragon's jaws.  We think not of these calm unassuming men walking
quietly into houses plague-stricken, and shunned by all but the
mercenary nurse; we forget that such a thing is unknown as a doctor
shrinking from facing the worst fever, and leaving the sufferer unaided.
Well, there are honours more to be desired than empty titles; and in
the love, respect and reverence of their fellow men our doctors must
revel, for ours is a strange country.  We are not given to showy
uniforms, and crosses and ribbons.  Perhaps it is as well; for the
uniforms and decorations tarnish and fade, while the name once honoured
grows brighter with the lapse of years.

The figures seem startling--nay, they are staggering to the belief; but
doubtless the statistician had good grounds for declaring that more fall
by accidents in the streets of London than suffer upon the whole of the
railways in our kingdom.  Truly, there is good cause for the boards of
much abused directors to smile and rub their hands upon hearing such a
statement, for it must be gratifying to their sense of self esteem.  But
leaving out those who suffer in private, what incredible scenes are
witnessed by those who make a tour of a hospital!  In addition to the
street accidents, what else have we to show of the ills to which mortal
flesh is heir?  Burnings and scaldings, domestic and from manufactories;
falls, including sprains, bruises, dislocations, and simple and compound
fractures; cuts, so fearful that one turns away shuddering, and
wondering that life has not escaped through the awful gash; limbs
crushed, torn or shattered by machinery; wounds from blows, enough to
fill any hospital with horrors, without stopping to consider that cruel,
insidious enemy disease, mining and burrowing its way through the human
system, and battling step by step with the science brought to bear upon
it.  And in what forms does it present itself?  Many common enough, and
whose names are sad household words among us, while others are of so
complicated a nature that one turns away from the pale, suffering,
distorted face with a shudder.

Saddening, most saddening is that aspect of a hospital ward, and the
most moving sight is that anxious face of the trembling, suffering
patient, before in his extreme horror Nature is merciful to him and
draws the veil of insensibility before his starting eyes.  "What is it
to be?" seems written upon every line of his haggard countenance.  Life,
to complete some darling scheme--life, to which we all so tenaciously
cling; or the cold silent grave?  Who will tell him, nurse or doctor?
And even then does he not look them through and through doubtingly?  If
they whisper to him of life, he dares hardly believe it, fancying that
'tis but to rouse his flagging energies; while if they refuse to answer
his anxiously reiterated questions does he not feel that they give him
up, and set it down to ignorance--for he will not die.

I walk between the rows of beds, some empty, some occupied; and then how
the frailty of our hold upon life is forced upon me--how insecure seems
the tenure!  And then more and more how it comes home to the feelings
what a trivial matter is our own poor life to the great world at large;
how little we should be missed, and how little the busy frequenters of
our street think of the sufferers within these bleak, blank walls.

My companion stops with me at last by the bed where lies my friend of
the crape butterfly, and as he lies there, very pale but evidently clean
and comfortable, his face lights up with pleasure, and he holds out his
hand in welcome to me as I take the chair by his side.

"What?" he said, "you never came o' purpose to see me, ma'am?"

I assure him that I have, and the poor fellow is so taken aback by this
simple little act of kindness that all he can say is, "I'm blessed!" and
that he keeps on repeating.

By degrees, though, we are in full conversation, and I have told him
about seeing his wife and given her message of love, and then he has
told me with the greatest exactness all about the way in which that
nearside horse let out at him with his off hoof, and caught him in the
leg.  There are no bones broken, but it has been very painful, and how
that he should have been at Saint George's or Charing Cross Hospital
only a doctor who lived at Richmond and often rode up and down on his
omnibus wanted him to come into his hospital, University College.

"And precious kind he's been to me, that he has.  Why, if I'd been his
own brother he couldn't have done for me better."

And so he chatted on about himself, his wife and children, and lastly,
as he found a willing listener, about horses, the one that kicked him,
and horses in general.

"I don't think as the poor creetur did it out of spite again me ma'am,"
he said, "for I'm always pretty gentle with horses, for I likes 'em.  He
let out at me because, perhaps, a fly touched him or out of fidgetiness
or something; but anyhow I got it.

"You'd hardly think it, lying wrapped up warm here, but being weak I
s'pose has brought out my rheumatics horrid.

"Wonderful trying thing to a man's constitution is 'bus driving;
particular when them cold winds and biting rains are on.  Then's the
time one suffers from the rheumatics.  Don't know what they are, I
s'pose?  Good job for you, ma'am.  Take my advice, and keep them at a
distance, for they're a sort of poor relation as will stick to you; and
so sure as you fancy you've got rid of them, back they comes first rainy
day as there is.  Rainy day, you knows, just the time as poor relations
comes down on you; though, p'raps, you ain't got any poor relations.
Some people ain't--leastwise, none as they knows.  Well, first rainy day
you're a bit out o' sorts they comes back again, the rheumatics does,
and you know it, and no mistake.

"I got 'em through getting wet, and being obliged to sit on the box all
day.  A raw nip of brandy would have kept 'em off p'raps, but raw nips
of brandy tell upon a man, and I promised Sairey I wouldn't have so
many, for she's werry particular about my personal appearance, and she
said as the brandy got in the end of my nose and stopped there; so I sat
it out that day without a raw nip, though I was having nips enough
anyhow.

"That night I could hardly get off my box; next day I was a bit better,
but next night I had to be helped down; and though I fought it out, day
after day, knowing as giving up meant stopping the bread and cheese, it
got to be so that there was no bearing it, and I couldn't sit, nor
stand, nor sleep without having some drops out of a bottle of stuff as
the old woman bought at the chemist's.  Why, it was like toothache
beginning in your hip and running right down in your boot, only twice as
bad.

"`Have the doctor,' says the missus, after I'd been at home two days.

"`I won't,' I says; `what's the good of doctors?'

"`What's the good of lying there suffering?' she says.

"I didn't know, so I didn't tell her; and at last, after I'd been
twisting about early one morning like a skinned eel, she sent for the
doctor, and he came.

"Curious thing, pain, ain't it?  I often think, that it would do some of
these fellers as ill-use horses good if they had a sharp twist or two of
right down real, genuine agony.  I ain't going to say that I never hits
a horse, because I do, you know, when he's a bit lazy or troublesome;
but I never lay the whip on him unless it's necessary, and I'll do as
much with my horses with kindness, as you will with kicks, and blows,
and swearing.

"Well, I beg your pardon, you know, when I say _you_ will by swearing,
and kicks, and blows, I do not mean you yourself, you know, but people
in general as handles the ribbins.

"Of course the best way to a horse's affections is feeding him, but it's
wonderful what sense there is in the poor dumb beasts; and talking about
pain puts me in mind of one 'oss as I used to drive.  He was a chestnut
'oss, he was, as pretty a creature as ever you saw.  Been a carriage
'oss, but the hair was taken off one of his shoulders, and through that
blemish he came in our service.  Never touched him with the whip, I
didn't, not to hit him; give him a gentle stroke down to take off the
flies, or to lay his hair straight, I would, and he'd never flinch nor
move, he knew my ways so well, and when I spoke he'd turn his head round
and look at me, if his head was free enough, with them two great
sensible eyes of his, so that we was quite friends.

"I've done what I never told anyone before--I've given the stableman who
had him in charge more than one shilling so as no other driver should
get `my chestnut,' as I got to call him; and off and on I drove him
three years, till one morning Wispey Joe, as he had him in charge, says
to me, he says: `Chestnut's rough.  Got the staggers, I think.'

"I went into the stable in a hurry, for I was a bit late, and there,
sure enough, was the poor 'oss with his legs stretched out like those of
a stool, and his head down; but as soon as he heard my voice he
whinnied, and roused up, making his halter rattle through the ring as he
turned round to me, and I went up and patted him, and found that he
hadn't touched his corn, while he was all of a sweat.

"`Come, old feller,' I says; and I stirred his food up a bit, and, as if
understanding me, he put his nose in the manger, but he only blew the
meat about--good bruised oats and chopped meat it was, too--and then he
looks up at me again, as much as to say, `It's no good--I can't feed.'

"So I took a handful of stuff out and held it to him, stroking his
forelock with t'other hand, and he made a try at it, and then gave a
regular sigh, and hung down his poor old head.

"Well, I was obliged to go, for time was up; so I gave him a pat or two,
and Wispey Joe a pint of beer to take care of him, and then, werry
heavy-hearted and sad, I went on to the box, thinking a good deal about
that there horse, for we seemed to have got to be such friends.  `Tst,'
I'd say, and them willing old shoulders of his would shoot into the
collar till I checked him.  He _was_ willing, and always seemed to be
trying to show me how he could pull.

"It was quarter-past eleven that night when I turned into the yard and
got off the box.  `How's the chestnut?'  I says to Joe.  `Good as gone,'
he says.  `The vet's with him now, and one of the foremen.'

"I goes into the stable, along past the heels of a dozen horses, to
where there was a lanthorn burning, and as I got up I saw my poor
chestnut rear, strike his head against the roof, and then fall down on
his side, kicking and moaning as if in pain, and lifting his pore head
up and letting it fall again upon the heap of straw they had put in his
stall.  Poor old fellow! they'd put plenty of straw in to keep him from
hurting himself as he lay there on his side throwing out his heels, and
beating against the wooden side of the place with his hoofs.  It was a
pitiful sight, and I soon learnt that the veterinary surgeon had done
all he could, but had very little hopes of him.  He said it was some
kind of inflammation with a long name; but I was taking more notice of
my poor horse than of what he said.

"`You'd best not go near him,' he said, `the poor thing is dangerous.'
But before he'd finished speaking I was down on my knees in the straw
with that faithful old head on my arm; and as I spoke, the poor thing
turned up its muzzle and whinnied at me so pitifully, and let it fall
again, that to have saved my life, ma'am, I couldn't have helped it, but
leaned down over him, and the nat'ral softness of the man came dripping
from my eyes, hot and fast, as it seemed to me that I was going to lose
my poor old chestnut.

"Of course it was very weak and childish, but then we are all weak and
childish sometime or another; and you know it was almost in the dark,
while I had my back to the two men looking on, besides being ever so far
inside the stall.  So for about a minute I went on like that, and then I
said a few words to the poor thing again; and as often as I did so he
tried to raise his head and whinny, and let it fall again.

"I never saw so pitiful a sight before; and I couldn't have believed in
a dumb beast being so human in its actions; for there were the poor
strained dim eyes lifted up to mine in that quiet sensible way in which
a horse can look, and then he'd whinny again, when he'd seem to have a
fit of agony come on, and kick at the side of the stall, but not near
me, for I was behind his head.  Then several times the poor thing
staggered up to his feet, and reared again and again, striking his head
against the roof; and at such times I had to get out of his way, or he
might have fallen on me; but the greater part of the time he was lying
on his side upon the straw, with his old head on my arm.  Perhaps it's
foolish of me--perhaps it ain't--but I fancy he was easier with his head
there, and when the fits of pain came on and he kicked, he did it more
quietly.  However, I know one thing, and that is, that whenever I spoke
to him, right up to the last, he tried to answer me after his fashion,
and turned his muzzle towards me.

"I forgot all about being tired that night, and as it was necessary that
someone should sit up, why, I let Wispey go and lie down in the loft
while I stopped with the chestnut.  It was a strange night, that was, to
pass there in that stable by the light of a lanthorn; and it's wonderful
how being here in this hospital has put me in mind of it over and over
again.  Now and then a horse would be fidgeting his halter in the rings;
but mostly all was quiet but my poor horse moaning gently, and it soon
came home to me that he was getting weaker and weaker.  He seldom got up
now, and when he kicked out it was feebly, while more than once he
turned his head round as if to see whether I was there.

"I don't want to pass such another night, ma'am; it was too much like
being with a fellow-creature; and I'm afraid I shouldn't have felt it
any more deeply if it had been with a relation.  I know it sounds stupid
and unnatural, but poor men haven't many friends, and that chestnut
horse was one of mine.

"It was just getting towards daylight when the poor thing, as had been
very quiet for some time, began to get restless, and throw out its legs
again as it laid on its side, just as if it was galloping, and then it
lay still again and only moaned.  I spoke to him and he lifted his head
just a little way, but it fell back, and after a few minutes, during
which I felt as I had never felt before--as it, even with this poor
beast, there was something awful about to take place--I spoke to him
again, just as I had been used to do, while one hand was under his head,
me kneeling behind him in the straw, and the other hand resting on his
nose--I spoke to him again, and I could feel him try to lift his head,
but he didn't.  Then the light shining on his great staring eyes, I
either saw, or fancied I did, the tears rolling out of them--but I'm not
sure, for I could not see clear just then; while, after a few minutes'
silence, I half started to my feet, frightened like, for the chestnut
gave a wild hollow cry, that you could have heard all through the mews,
and then there was a shivering run through him, and it was all over.
Not as I knew it though, till Wispey Joe spoke to me, for the horse's
cry had woke him up.

"He was a good horse, and I hope he's gone where there's pleasant green
pastures and clear flowing rivers, such as I used to hear about when I
had a chance of going to a place of worship.  Perhaps it's wrong to
think such things as that there's a place after this life for poor dumb
beasts; but many of 'em almost seems to need something to look forward
to, for they gets a sorry time of it here, what with blows, and kicks,
and bad living; and I don't care, but a man who'd be wilfully a brute to
a dumb animal wouldn't be worry partickler about being a brute to his
brother man.  I offended one of our drivers one day, after he'd been a
thrashing a horse, by asking some one which was the brute--the horse or
the man.

"And that's all about that poor old chestnut, and I daresay you'll laugh
at me for being so soft about him, but we all have strange feelings at
times, and I hope as everyone as puts on a bit of crape for one as is
gone to his long home, feels his loss as truly as I did that of my poor
old 'oss.

"`Here have I been fidgetted to death about you,' the missus says.
`Come, sit down, and have a bit of breakfast.  Can't eat?  Nonsense!
What?'

"`The poor old chestnut's dead,' I says; and she never pressed me no
more.

"But, lor' ma'am, only to think of it.  I began telling you about my
rheumatics coming on again here, and went right off about the old
chestnut horse."

"Poor horse!"  I said, and rose to go.

"Must you go so soon, ma'am," he said; "well, yes, I suppose so, but
time does seem so long here listening to other fellows who are ill and
groaning, and your coming did cheer me up so it made my tongue run like
anything.  Good bye, ma'am, good bye."

And now, once more out in dreary Gower Street, and even as I went along
some one was being taken towards the hospital in a cab, but I had not
the heart then to look within.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

MY OLD BOOKSELLER.

It was some six months after, that, finding myself in the neighbourhood,
I made a point of going down the North London road so as to call on the
old couple, who had had charge of the house.

But the substantial and eligible residence had been let, while half a
dozen rain soaked carcases had been plastered up; and seeing a board
with an attractive notice I concluded that they would be there and I was
right: they were in charge of a wretchedly damp place.

They smiled a welcome to me as they answered the door together, and,
learning that I was not house-seeking but a visitor, I was soon sitting
chatting to them, and found that they were only too willing to
communicate their affairs to me, though the old lady was suffering from
a touch of pleurisy, and she was very quiet.

That visit was one of several, and during one of them the old man told
me how he had been a bookseller, but had failed.  Then he had gone into
the second-hand book trade, and done pretty well for a time, but at last
he had failed over that.

"He used to give too good prices for the old books," said the old lady,
smiling.

"Well, yes, I was a bit too easy," he said.  "It was very pleasant
though, and I liked it, and some of the happiest days of my life were
spent in my dusty shop."

"Yes," said the old lady with a sigh, "we were happy enough there, but
you used to give too much for the old books."

"Ah! perhaps so," said the old man, "but look at the advantages we
enjoyed of a constantly changing, ebbing and flowing library, filled
with works of all dates, from the shabby, fingered copy of a year old,
right back to black-letter times, and even beautifully clear illuminated
manuscript works, perfect marvels of neatness and labour.

"Then, too, we had a wonderful chance of studying human nature--not only
from the buying side like your new booksellers, but from the selling
side; and let me tell you that the purchasers of our books were not your
light, flippant people who buy a volume for its gilt back and showy
binding, but those who want books for their contents.  Why it's a study
alone to sit watching the books outside, so as to be on the alert for
those bibliomaniacs who take copies off the outer stall and forget to
replace them.  It's a perfect study, I assure you, to see people stop
and take up first one and then another volume, till they happen on
something which takes their interest, and then to see the play of their
countenances, as forgetful of the lapse of time, they read on and on
till the book is either laid down with a sigh, or purchased--more often
the former than the latter.

"But it is from the selling side that we see most, or else I have always
paid more heed to this class; and a strange one it is too, for we buy of
some curious customers at times.  Now by chance one buys a whole library
belonging to some one deceased--now a lot of a broker who has purchased
the whole effects of some one in trouble, or about to move a great
distance; but more often we get our stock in trade from people who bring
little lots of half-a-dozen or a dozen books at a time, and are glad
enough to take anything for them.  For they know well enough that old
books possess a very different value to the same works at the
publishers.  Of course there are some which are always valuable; but the
generality of your light frothy works come down so that I could get any
number of three-volume, guinea-and-a-half sets of novels at from
ninepence to eighteenpence the set.

"Most of your selling customers are reckless, and dab down a score of
old books with a `What'll you give me for these?'  But sometimes we had
people come who had seen better days; and then it becomes painful, and I
hated to offer them the current value of the works they had brought
themselves to part with most unwillingly.  They were generally books
they had bought in happier days, or had presented to them; and perhaps
after making some calculation at home as to the amount they can raise
upon these works, the look of stony despair that came over their faces
was something pitiful; for, you see, trade is trade, and when things
have a current value in the market, however well one may feel disposed
towards those in trouble, one is obliged to be hard-hearted, and to
think of the business part alone.

"But I couldn't always do it; there are times when things go home to
your feelings, and a case occurred to me once when I was sorely put out.
You see, one day I was sitting in my old shabby dusty coat amongst my
books, taking a peep here, and a dip there, just as it was my custom to
do, when a tall, pale girl, dressed in shabby black, entered the shop
with a large moreen bag containing four great quarto volumes.  These she
placed upon the counter, with the request that I would give her as much
for them as they were worth.

"I looked at the books, then at my visitor, then at the books again, and
I felt in a manner that I would much rather they had been taken
elsewhere.  I was not romantic--all the romance was rubbed off my
character like so much silver plating sixty years ago, to leave only the
copper quite bare; but I knew well enough that my first words would give
a lady who was in distress great pain, and, therefore, I dreaded to
speak; for it was all plain enough written in that poor girl's face--
beaten-down pride, struggle with poverty, the desire to keep up
appearances, and all compelled to give way to the hunger which would
take no denial.

"But business was business; she had come in obedience to urgent need,
and I knew it was cruelty to keep her in suspense.

"`How much do you ask for these, ma'am?'  I said.

"`I would much rather you made me an offer,' was the timid reply--one
that I half dreaded to hear; for I knew that any offer I could make must
pain her terribly; so I backed out, telling her it was not the custom,
and so on, when, after much hesitation, she asked me to give her a pound
for them, which I could have declared was only about half what she hoped
to obtain, yet dared not ask.  And yet the sum was more than double what
I ought to give for such a work, though most likely it was published at
seven or eight pounds--seven pounds ten, I am nearly sure, was the
published price."

"He always would give too much for the books," said the old lady.

"What was I to do?  I felt sorry for the poor girl; but then I couldn't
afford to feel sorry, and to sympathise in a solid fashion with
everybody who came to me to sell books on account of being in distress;
and at last of all I let business win the day, declaring that I could
not afford such a price, and telling myself that I was giving
half-a-crown too much in offering ten shillings.

"She said nothing, merely passed the books over towards me, and as I
took four half-crowns out of my till and placed them on the counter, I
saw the little fingers, all sore and worn with needlework, trembled as
they picked the money up, and a half-suppressed sigh the poor girl gave
seemed to go right to my heart.

"The next moment she had glided from the shop, leaving me fighting with
feelings that were rather strange to me, till I was obliged to give in,
and confess that I was wanting in sympathy and humanity towards one sore
in distress.

"`You ought to have given what she asked,' whispered Conscience, `and
you would not have felt the loss.'

"`But business--trade--current prices,' I muttered in defence.

"`Go and take her the other ten shillings,' said Conscience; and,
without another word of defence, I took the money from the till, locked
it, and hurried out of the shop, leaving no one to mind it, for my wife
was out, and ran down the street, looked up this turning, along that, in
every direction I could think of; but in vain; the poor girl was gone.

"I felt more disappointed than I could have thought possible as I turned
back; but I consoled myself with the thought that she would come again;
for when people of a decent class once began to sell me books, they came
again and again, many times over; and I have remarked that they mostly
began with a few shabby old worthless volumes, and gradually got on to
those which were more valuable, though this was not the case here.

"I hurried back to the shop, when, as a matter of course, there was some
one there; for though you may often wait all day for a customer, most
likely if you get out of the way for five minutes, somebody comes.  In
this case it was an old clergyman, who had taken up one of the four
quarto volumes, and just giving me a nod, he stood there reading for, I
should think, quite a quarter of an hour, and then asked the price of
the books.

"`Two pounds,' I said, for I seemed to fancy that he would try to beat
me down to half.  But no; he pulled out his old net purse, shook out a
couple of sovereigns, put two volumes under one arm and two under the
other, and marched out of the shop.

"`This is a curious sort of day,' I thought to myself; and somehow or
other I felt so put out, that when my boy came back from an errand,
after being not more than twice as long gone as he should have been, I
boxed his ears--both of them--with the first and second volumes of an
abridged Froissart, and then threw a pocket Nugent at him for snuffling
and muttering in the corner.

"For I was really put out and hurt and annoyed; and I know I once called
myself a wretched old miser.

"Well, a week passed, during which I had a fight with myself as to how
much of these two pounds I ought to give to that poor girl if she called
again.  Business said I should be very generous if I gave her ten
shillings; but my heart seemed to say, would it not be better to give it
all?  However, I could not settle it either one way or the other, even
though I turned it over and over in bed at night, and let it half rob me
of my rest; and when one day I was dipping into an old copy of Chaucer I
had just bought, in came my fair young customer to find me as undecided
as ever.

"`Let me see,' I said, turning red as a found out schoolboy, `I don't
think, ma'am, we made a correct settlement over those last books, which
I have just sold;' and in a clumsy, awkward fashion I laid down a
sovereign and a half, in a way, in fact, that looked so like offering
charity, that my visitor's pale face became suffused in an instant, and
she replied coldly--

"`You paid me the price you offered for the books, sir, and are
evidently labouring under some mistake.'

"I felt more like one found out than ever; and I believe that if my boy
had been within reach I should have kicked him severely, as I blundered,
and asked, in a confused, stupid way, what were her commands, when she
laid half a dozen volumes before me.

"`If you won't take it one way, you shall another,' I muttered, as I
seemed to recover myself a bit; for I could see that she looked more
pinched and haggard than at the last visit.  So I took up the books,
turned them over, examined the binding, the title-pages, the _finis_,
put them down and took a pinch of snuff--every moment growing more
confident, and chuckling to myself as I thought of what I meant to do.
I shook my head at one volume, as I began to go over them again; screwed
up my mouth at another; made a wry face at a third; and pitched a fourth
contemptuously aside, watching her out of the corner of my eye the
while; and I could see her face working, and a tear drop down upon her
dress.

"`Weak, poor soul,' I muttered; and I went on turning the books over,
and keeping her on the rack, expecting every moment that she would
speak.  Then I muttered something about the date and edition, laid them
all together, and held them up to examine the backs; and once more laid
them on the counter, and took snuff, with my under lip thrust out,
shaking my head the while.

"`Perhaps I could bring you some other books that would be more
saleable,' she said, at last; and I could hardly keep up my acting as I
listened to the poor child's trembling voice, and watched her quivering
lips.

"`They're saleable enough,' I said, `at a price, though--at a price;'
and I stared at her very hard.

"`I only want what you consider to be the value of them,' she answered
sadly, `I--'

"She stopped short, having evidently been about to say something of
which she repented.

"`Well,' I said coolly, `I'm afraid that I can't give you more than a
couple of pounds for them,' and I pushed them across the counter, as if
expecting her to snatch them away and hurry out of the shop.

"`Two--two pounds,' she stammered, and then her eyes rested upon me so
pitifully, that if I had not had spectacles on, I could not have kept up
my character.  But I kept on looking her full in the face, seeing her
flush a little as if resenting what I said, then turn paler than before,
as she seemed to be unable to comprehend whether I was in earnest, or
merely seeking an excuse for helping her.  In a few moments she appeared
to decide that the latter was the case, and drawing herself up proudly,
she took the books, but only to clutch the next moment at the counter,
as the place swam before her eyes, and I had hardly time to open the
flap and catch her in my arms before she had fainted dead away.

"I carried her into my little back room and laid her upon the sofa
there, with bookshelves all around, and my wife bathed her poor pale
face, and chafed her hands till she gave two or three sighs, and her
eyes began slowly to open, and she gazed up at the ceiling in a strange
vacant way, till her gaze fell upon our withered old faces, when
catching my hands in hers, she kissed them and began to sob bitterly.

"There was no pride now; she had seen plainly enough my motive, and I
could keep it up no longer, for being a weak, childish old fellow, whose
thoughts would go back to some one who, had she lived, might have been
just such a tall, graceful girl, my spectacles got so that I could not
see through them, and when I spoke and tried to soothe her, it was in a
cracked choking voice that I did not know for mine.

"She left us at last, taking the money I had obtained for the first four
volumes, and leaving me the others to sell for her--that was how we
settled it was to be; and I'm afraid there was a little deceit about
those last books when she came again.  And that time I went home with
her to the one room she occupied with her mother, and I wanted no
telling, it was all plain enough what they had suffered, and that when
the poor girl came to me she was weak and faint for want of food.

"Her mother was lying upon a sort of sofa-bed when I went, and it had
been arranged that I was to have come about some books; for the old
lady, though she lay there in pain, worn to a shadow, and was busily
sewing together little scraps of skins for the furriers, was that proud
that she would have resented anything she could have called charity; so
I was very respectful and quiet, and went away again with a couple of
books, after asking leave to call again for more.

"Sometimes I think the poor lady must have seen through it all; but she
made no sign, but kept it up till one day, surprised that I had not seen
the daughter for a week, I called to find her kneeling by the side of
the couch; for the furriers had lost one of their assistants, and the
poor lady had gone to a happier home.

"This all seems as if I were talking about how I did this, and how I did
that; but being so mixed up with it as I was, I can't tell it all and
leave myself out.  The poor lady was laid to her rest, and after a deal
of persuasion, her daughter consented to come and stay with us--to help
make up a catalogue of my books, for until I thought of that, she would
not hear of it.  And in the long winter evenings I got to know a good
deal about her and her family; for the father had been a pensioned
officer of the Indian army, who had died three years before, leaving his
widow and child to exist on the sale of their furniture, and such money
as they could earn by their needles.

"But I learned, too, that there was some one expected home from
somewhere; and he came one day, to be almost angry, at first, to find
her in such condition; but only to make us uncomfortable afterwards with
his thanks for the little we had done.

"He took her away at last, and she came to see us again and again as his
bonny wife--God bless her! and then we went to see them many times, till
they went away, over the seas, thousands of miles from here; but I often
picture her pale fair face, and her gentle ways, and feel again the kiss
she gave me when she left; and those thoughts seem to brighten up the
present and make some of our dullest days a bit more cheery.  And then
we sit and think about the sorrows of this life, and the goodness by
which they are assuaged; and wonder whether it may please God that we
should see her face again--a face that seems to us like that of a dear
child, for we should like to look upon it once again before we die."

But the old people never set eyes upon her again for at the end of a
couple of months the damp place and the cold paving had been too much
for the old bookseller, and he had died; while from the wife of a
policeman in charge of the next house I learned how prophetic had been
my thoughts respecting them at our first meeting.  I recalled the simple
act that I had seen--how the poor old lady had laid her hand
affectionately upon her husband's arm--just, too, as at our last
meeting, when sick herself, she had listened quietly to her old
companion's words, and smilingly upbraided him for being too generous in
his trade.

"They found her kneeling down, ma'am," said the policeman's wife, "just
aside the bed, with her cheek upon his dead hand--she dead and cold too;
and no wonder neither--the place was damp enough to kill a horse."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

KATE'S ORDEAL.

I have mentioned Mary Sanders to you as the dear friend drawn to my side
by a trifling act of kindness during her illness.  Some were good enough
to say that I risked my life in attending her; but I don't know: I fancy
the risk of catching a complaint is as great to those who take endless
care as to those who take scarcely any.  Ninety-nine precautions are
taken, and the hundredth window is left open through which the disease
enters unawares.

Be that as it may, I tended her, and we became great friends.

I have in my memory a little incident in her life, which I will
endeavour to repeat almost in her own words as she told me one evening
as we sat together.  It was a story of her childhood--of what she called
her baby days--before she had to go out into the world.

"`Ah, those were good old times,' she said, with a sigh, `when dear old
Sally, our maid, used to scold us so.  Then it used to be--and I
remember one occasion well--the day Kate came down to us--There, you're
banging that door again, Miss Mary.  I declare to goodness you children
would worrit the patience out of a saint.'

"`Oh, never mind, Sally,' I said, panting, after a race to get into the
house first--a race I had won, for Lil and Cissy were yards behind.

"`Never mind, indeed!' cried Sally, `and there's your fine cousin coming
down to-day from London.  I wonder what she will say when she sees you
racing about the meadow like so many wild colts, and your arms all brown
and scratched, and the hooks off your dress.  I never see such children,
never.'

"`But you like us, Sally,' I said, getting hold of her rough, fat, red
arm, and laying my cheek against it.

"`I don't, I declare I don't,' she cried impetuously; and to show her
dislike she threw her arms round me, and squeezed my nose nearly flat
against the piece of hard wood she used to wear inside her dress.

"Sally was our housemaid, parlour-maid, and nursemaid all in one; and it
used to seem to me that she spent all her leisure time in quarrelling
with the cook and snubbing us; but, for all that, one of my principal
recollections, during the fever I had so long, was waking at all times
to see Sally's red face watching by my bedside; and I know she did all
cook's work for six weeks as well as her own, when the poor thing had
such a sad accident and cut her hand.

"We three--Lil, Cissy, and I--had a long discussion about cousin Kate
and her visit; and we all felt what dreadful little ragamuffins we
should seem to her, for I'm afraid we had been running wild; though papa
only used to laugh about it, and would come into the school-room when
mamma was busy with us over our lessons, whenever it was a fine morning,
and cry, `Now then, girls, the sun shines and the birds are calling.
Out with you!  Learn lessons when it rains.'

"I knew afterwards why this was.  Papa had a horrible nervous dread of
our growing up weak and sickly, for his was a delicate family; and I had
heard that our cousins were often very ill.

"`I can guess why cousin Kate's coming to stay with us,' said Lil.

"`I _know_ why she's coming,' I said.

"`It's because she's ill,' shouted Lil, for fear I should show my
knowledge first.

"`Sally will take her up new warm milk and an egg in it before she gets
out of bed in the morning,' said Cissy solemnly; `that will soon make
her well.'

"`She shall have all the eggs Speckle lays,' said Lil, `and Mary will
take her every morning to the old garden-seat under the trees.  She's
sure to get well there.'

"And so we did, for cousin Kate came that afternoon--a tall, pale girl,
with a sad weary look in her face, as she gazed wistfully from one to
the other.

"We three girls stood back, quite in awe of the well-dressed,
fashionable-looking body, who was so different from what we had
expected, while mamma went up to welcome her, and took her in her arms
in a tender affectionate way, saying, `My dear child, we are so glad to
see you.'

"Cousin Kate threw her arms round mamma's neck and burst into a fit of
sobbing, hiding her face from our sight.

We girls did not see any more of our cousin Kate that day; but our young
interest was deeply excited, and somehow, perhaps, fostered by dark
hints dropped by Sally--who was a blighted flower, having been crossed
in a love affair with the horse-keeper at a neighbouring farm--we girls
got to think of our cousin's illness as a kind of mystery connected in
some way, how we did not know, with the heart.

"Our awe of the sweet gentle cousin fell off the very next day, when we
took possession of her, and led her round our dear old country home,
with its wilderness of an orchard, great garden, shrubberies, and
pleasant meadow.

"Her coming seemed to mark an epoch in our young lives, for, seeing how
weak and delicate she was, we used to vie one with the other in being
quiet and gentle, waiting upon her in the most unnecessary way, like
slaves, and always ready to rush off most willing messengers to
forestall any little wants she expressed.

"This came natural to us; but on my part it was increased by a few words
which I heard pass between mamma and papa, mamma saying that she did not
think poor Kate would ever grow strong again, but slowly wither away.  I
gave a great gulp as I heard those words, and then burst out sobbing
violently.

"`You here, Mary!' said mamma.  `Well, my dear, as you have heard what
we said, it must be your secret too.  Never let your poor cousin know
what we think, and never behave to her as if you thought she could not
recover.'

"I promised readily, and at fourteen the possession of that secret
seemed to make me more womanly than my sisters, as I redoubled my
tenderness to the suffering girl.

"The invalid was twenty-one--a great age in our estimation--and I used
to look up to her with veneration, gazing in her soft sweet face and
wistful eyes, wondering why she was so ill, and what was the great
sorrow that had come upon her like a blight upon one of the roses round
our porch.

"Cousin Kate came to us in the spring, and the months flew by till it
was the height of summer; and many and many a night had I turned my face
to the wall, so that Lil should not know, and cried silently till my
pillow was wet.  For I knew so well that Kate was weaker, much weaker
than when she came, a walk across the lawn to the old garden-seat in the
shade being as much now as she could bear.

"`Cousin Kate,' I said, one day when we were alone, Lil and Cissy having
rushed off to get some flowers, `couldn't any doctor make you well?'

"She looked at me with a wild strange gaze which almost startled me,
before she replied, and then in a way that made my heart beat she sobbed
out--

"`Only one--only one!' and then as if to herself, in a low whisper, she
added, `and before he can come I shall be dead--dead!'

"She did not know I heard her last words, and I sat chilled and
frightened, gazing at her till my sisters came back, when, as we
frequently did, we sat down about her; Lil got upon the seat, Cissy sat
on the grass with her head against one of Kate's hands, which hung
listlessly from the corner where she leaned, and I threw myself on the
grass at her feet, so as to look up in her gentle face, which had now
become calm with its old weary look.

"`Cousin Kate,' said Lil, `tell us another story.'

"`No, no,' I said, `don't ask; she isn't so well to-day.'

"`Yes,' she said quietly, raising her head and looking at me, `I am
better to-day.'

"`Tell us one, then,' cried Cissy eagerly,--`one you've never told us
before.'

"There was silence then for a few minutes, and as I gazed up in Kate's
face I saw her eyes close, and a sort of spasm twitch her lips; but the
next minute she was quite calm, and then with the leaves whispering
round us, and the twittering of the birds coming now and again from the
distance, she said in a low, sweet, musical voice--

"`Once upon a time, in the days of long ago, when people were very, very
happy on this earth, there lived a prince who was young, and handsome,
and true.  Nearly every one loved him, he was so manly and yet so
gentle.'

"`And he loved a beautiful princess,' put in Cissy.

"I saw the spasm cross cousin Kate's face again, but it was calm
directly after, and she went on.

"`No, dear,' she said, `he did not love a beautiful princess, but a poor
simple girl who loved him too, with all her heart, and they were so, so
happy.  When the flowers blossomed they seemed to blossom only for them,
and the birds sang their sweetest songs for them in the bright sunshiny
days.'

"`Yes, and they were married, and lived happy ever after,' cried Cissy.
`Go on.'

"There was once more that piteous look upon cousin Kate's face, seen
only by me; but it passed off, and she went on.

"`No, Cissy, they were not, for the poor, handsome young prince had
enemies--cruel, bitter enemies--who slandered him, and said that he had
made false keys, and opened the treasure-chests of a great man, and
stolen away his gold and precious stones.'

"`Oh!' whispered Cissy, now deeply interested.

"`And,' continued Kate, `they took the poor prince, and there was a
great trial, and though he declared he was innocent, the wicked people
who slandered him and bare false witness against him prevailed; and the
great judge said that he was to be cast into prison, and wear heavy
chains, and be kept there for long and weary years.'

"`Oh!' cried Lil.

"`Yes,' said Cissy, `I know, and then the simple young girl, who loved
him, went and unlocked the prison gates, and struck off his chains and
set him free.'

"`No--no,' cried cousin Kate, and her voice altered terribly, so that I
was alarmed, though I could do nothing but gaze up in the wild face
before me, for now a change came over it.  `No,' she cried, `the poor
girl could do nothing but sit and weep, and feel her broken heart beat--
beat--beat, in its own prison, wearing itself out till--till she died,
and--Oh, Frank!  Frank! what have we done that we should suffer this?'

"I leaped up to throw my arms round her, while my sisters shrank away
alarmed; for cousin Kate turned from us with a bitter wail, buried her
face in her hands, and threw herself half over the arm of the old
garden-seat, sobbing in a wild hysterical way, such as I had never seen
before.  `Kate, dear cousin Kate,' I sobbed; but even as I spoke there
was a hasty step on the gravel, the bushes were dashed aside, and the
shadow of a tall man was cast over us.

"`Kate--darling!' he cried, catching her in his arms, as I was thrust
rudely aside, `I am innocent and free.'

"She did not hear him, for she gave a faint gasp and sank back
insensible.

"We three girls were almost stunned; but we saw the tall, thin,
pale-looking stranger hastily lift poor Kate from the seat, and
literally run with her to the house, while we followed more slowly.

"As we reached the porch it was to meet papa running out, and in a very
short time he returned with the doctor.  But this doctor was the wrong
one; the right one had come to us at the garden-seat, and it was his
words that brought dear cousin Kate back to life, and in the course of a
few months to health.

"For Frank Roberts was reinstated in the Government offices from which
he fell--in a higher post, one which gave him the confidence of the
chief officials; while the man through whose treachery poor Frank had
suffered a year and a half before, died confessing that he had been the
guilty party alone.

"Oh! those happy days when the roses were coming back day by day into
cousin Kate's cheek, and when Frank, who was down at the old place every
Saturday to stay till Monday, used to be sent to play and romp with us
girls.  I can hardly believe that twenty years have glided by since
then, but so it is; and to this day we call dear old grey-whiskered
Frank, `Kate's Prince.'"

"You never told me, Mary," I said, "how it was that you came to be with
Madame."

"Did I not?" she said.  "Oh, it was the old story--misfortunes at home,
and the determination to go out into the world and try to earn my own
living, so as to cease to be a burden upon my parents.  It is a good
thing that efforts are being made to find work for women."

"Yes," I said, "it has been a vexed question for years, and it comes
very hard upon us, that there are so few openings.  Still matters are
improving year by year, and I think we may venture to hope for better
things ere long."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

COBWEB'S FATHER.

Remembering as you will my unhappy lot, you will not feel surprised that
I should take a deep interest in what people call the love affairs of
the young, but which I look upon as something too great and holy to be
spoken of with anything but reverence and respect.  For that attraction
that draws youth to youth in the bright spring-time of their lives, what
is it but a heaven-implanted instinct that leads the stronger to take
the weaker under his protection, and joins two hearts in a compact of
love for life, giving to each a true counsellor, a tender companion, and
a shield of strength to bear the troubles of this world?

It has been in no busy, old-maidish, envious spirit that I have watched
these affairs.  I have never been one to hurry into a church to see a
wedding, for I was never present at one in my life; but I have felt a
kind of joy that I cannot express when I have seen some fine manly young
fellow grow softened in his manner, and gradually become chivalrous and
attentive to some sweet maiden, for it has revived old memories of the
past, and set me dreaming of what might have been had it not been
otherwise willed.

One thing has often struck me, and that is the natural selfishness that
is brought out in a father, and the feeling of half-dislike with which
he looks upon the man who comes, as it were, to rob him of the soft
sweet maiden whom he has had growing closer and closer round his heart.
I have often tried to put myself in his place, and when I have so done I
have easily felt how painful it must be to draw the line between the two
natural affections there are in the girl's heart--the love of her father
and that for the man who seeks to make her his wife.

The selfish feeling is but natural, and the father must feel heart-wrung
as he fancies that his child's love is going from him fast, and he
trembles with dread at the thought that his little ewe lamb is about to
be taken away from the fold, to be plunged into endless trouble and
care; to encounter storms from which he has shielded her heretofore; and
he wonders how she would bear such troubles as have fallen to his and
her mother's lot, forgetting that every life must inevitably be one of
storm and calm.

"I noted all this particularly in the case of a friend of the Smiths, a
Mr Burrows, with whom and his family I became very intimate.  He was a
successful City man, who had engaged with great shrewdness in trade, and
amassed a considerable amount of money.  He and Mr Smith were great
friends, and were wont to advise each other, Mr Burrows placing great
faith in the sturdy sewing-machine dealer in most things; but there had
been a great deal of difference in the two men, the selfishness of which
I have spoken and jealousy about his daughter being the predominant
points in Mr Burrows, who was lavish with his money, while Smith, who
had had a far harder struggle to get on, always seemed to have an
intense affection for his banking account.

"It was long after the change had taken place in Mr Burrows that I came
to know so much as I did, and it was during one or other of my pleasant
little runs down to his home in Sussex, where he passes all the time
that he can persuade himself to steal from the City.

"Come, Miss Stoneleigh," he used to say, "have a run down amongst the
buttercups and daisies.  I'm going to steal three days.  Come down with
me."

"Steal!"  I said smiling, "I wonder you don't give up business and live
altogether in the country."

"Why?" he said wonderingly.

"Report says that you are very wealthy."

"Report's a stupid old woman!" he said sharply; "and I suppose, if the
truth was known, Report was that money-grubbing, tight-fisted old
screw--Smith.  Confess now: wasn't it?"

"Well, yes; I've heard Mr Smith say so, among others," I replied.

"Yes, of course," he said sturdily.  "But look here, Miss Stoneleigh,
you don't think I'm scraping and saving--"

"I never said you scrape and save, Mr Burrows," I said; "I always
thought you generous to a fault.  Why, look at the money you've given me
for my poor peo--"

"Stuff--nonsense--hosh!" he exclaimed.  "There, if you say another word,
I'll button up my cheque-book tight, and never give you a farthing
again."

"I am Silence personified," I exclaimed.

"I don't want to go to the City," he exclaimed, taking hold of my sleeve
and speaking very earnestly, in his desire that I should not think him
mercenary; "but suppose I didn't go on making money, and anything
happened to Grantly--how then?"

"My dear Mr Burrows," I said, "never let us try to meet troubles
half-way."

"Yes," he said, "that's all very well, but then look at the ants and
bees, you know.  You must make preparations for the worst.  Grantly's a
fine fellow, and makes a lot of money by his pictures; but he don't
save, and I've got to think of those two little ones.  I say," he cried,
the hard look going out of his face to give way to one of bright genuine
pleasure, "you must come down.  You never saw such a pair of young
tyrants in your life.  I can't get rid of them.  They hang on to me all
day long.  I have to go up and kiss them in bed, or else they won't go;
and I'm woke up every morning by one or the other of them climbing into
mine.  I tell Cobweb I shall stop away."

"And she will not believe it," I said smiling.

"Humph!  No: I suppose she won't.  But, I say; little Cobweb got her
tiny arms round my neck the other morning, and her soft little cheek
rested up against my rough old phiz, and she says, in her little silvery
voice--`Oh! granpa, dear, I do yove oo so!' and then little Frank kicked
and screamed to get to me to tell me he loved me too, ever so much.
They pretty nearly tear me to pieces."

"Poor man!"  I said, as I looked at his softened face and kind nature
breaking through the hard City crust.

"That's right," he said, "laugh at me.  Regular old gander ain't I.
Never mind: you come down and see if the two young tyrants don't soon
take you about in chains."

"Daisy chains?"  I said, laughing.

"Yes, if you like," he said; "but they are chains you can't break.  Ah!"
he continued, as he thoughtfully stirred the cup of tea I had had made
for him, "it only seems but yesterday that I went home and said to
Cobweb, `I've found the place, my dear.'

"`You have papa?' she said.

"`I have.'

"`Not a dreadful detached villa or _cottage ornee_, papa?'

"`Oh, no.'

"`With admirably planned kitchen and flower gardens?'

"`No,' said I, laughing.

"`With an extensive view of the Surrey Hills?'

"`Why, any one would think you were a house agent, Cobweb,' I said,
smiling.

"`No wonder, papa, when I've been reading so many advertisements.  But
do tell me; have you really found the place at last?'

"`I have really, my dear--at least, I think so.'

"`Is it a real, old-fashioned country house?'

"`Yes.'

"`Smothered in clematis and roses and honeysuckle?'

"`Yes, and swarming with birds' nests and insects.'

"`And with a regular great wilderness of a garden?'

"`Yes.'

"`In which you can lose yourself?'

"`Yes, and in the wood too.'

"`What! is there a wood?'

"`Acres of it.'

"`And plenty of fruit and flowers?'

"`Plenty to make you ill and to litter the house.'

"`And purply plums, and ruddy apples, and soft downy peaches, and great
rich Morello cherries?'

"`Yes, yes, yes, and cabbages, and turnips, and 'tatoes, and beans, and
brockylo enough to supply a greengrocer's shop,' I cried testily.

"`And it doesn't look new, and stiff, and bricky; and isn't overlooked
by the neighbours, who hang out washing; and there are no organs, nor
cabs, nor street-singers?'

"`No, no, no, no, child.  It's just what you asked me to get--old, and
rugged, and picturesque, and inconvenient, and damp, and littered with
leaves, and four miles from any railway-station; and now I hope you're
happy.'

"`Oh, I am, dear, dear, dear father!' she cried, seating herself on my
knee, and nestling her head on my shoulder.

"`There, hold up your head,' I said, `and look at me.  Now tell me
frankly, did you ever see such a weak, stupid old man in your life?'

"`I like weak, stupid old men,' she said archly; and her eyes twinkled
with merriment, and then softened with the tears that stole into them.

"`Yes,' I said, `because you can tyrannise over them, and do what you
please with them, and make them your slaves like you do me.  A pretty
rig I've been running this last two months to find a place you like--
just as if Bryanston Square wouldn't do.  I tell you what, my lady,
you'll have to take pains to make me comfortable down there, for I shall
be as dull and as heavy as lead.'

"`No, you will not, pa dear,' she said, laughing, and then laying her
cheek to mine.  `I am so glad.  You've made me so happy, for I was very
tired of London.'

"I did not answer, but sat looking down on the smooth peachy cheek that
one of my hands would keep stroking, and at the long yellow hair that
hung down over the shoulders in waves, and, in spite of myself, a sigh
escaped my lips.

"Ruth--Cobweb, as I always called her, because she was so soft and
downy--started up, gazing earnestly in my face, and then kissed me very,
very fondly.

"`Don't think about the past, dear father,' she said softly--she always
called me father when she was serious.

"`Can't help it, child,' I said mournfully; and then, seeing the tears
gather in her eyes, I tried to be cheerful, and smiled as I added, `I
have the future as well as the past to make me sad, my dear.'

"She looked at me wonderingly, but did not speak, and I sat there
holding her little hand to my heart as I thought of the past, and how
ten years before, just as business was beginning to prosper with me, I
was left alone with a little fair-haired girl of eight, who found it so
hard to believe that her mother had been taken away never to return,
only to live in our memories.  And I thought, too, of how the years had
fled away, and I had become a wealthy man, whose sole thought had been
of the child I had seen grow up to maidenhood, making a very idol of
her, yielding to her every whim, and doing the most I could to spoil one
who never would be spoiled.  For, with all the accomplishments I had
lavished upon her, Ruth had grown up to be a notable little housewife,
who disgusted our cooks by insisting upon going down into the kitchen
and making my favourite puddings and tarts with her own hands, and
generally behaving in what the servants called an unladylike way.

"And then I thought of my other sorrow--the future--and pictured, with
an agony I cannot describe, the day when I should have to resign my
claims to another, and be left alone, a desolate, broken old man.

"I am naturally a very common, hard, and businesslike fellow, and
terribly selfish.  Cobweb had woven herself so round my heart, that in
my peevish, irritable way, I was never happy when home from the City
without she was waiting on me--filling my pipe, mixing my one nightly
glass of grog, upon which the butler frowned--in fact, he had once
suggested to me that his late master of an evening always took port.

"Cobweb was very quiet as she glided down from my knee to her hassock at
my feet, and was evidently thinking as much as I; and at last I
brightened up, for a thought had come to me with a selfish kind of
comfort.

"`She'll be quite away from all temptations to leave me, there, anyhow,'
I said to myself, as I thought of the `at-homes' and halls to which she
was so often receiving invitations.

"This set me talking--fishing, as I called it in my great cunning--to
see if there were one of the rocks ahead of which I was in dread.

"`How shall you be able to leave all your fine friends--parties--and
set-outs?'  I said.

"`Oh, I'm tired of them all!' she said clapping her hands.

"`And gay cavaliers, with dandy airs and moustaches, and programmes.'

"`Ha, ha, ha!' she laughed merrily; and then, as it seemed to me in my
jealous watchfulness, turning the subject, she began to talk about the
country place I had taken.

"A fortnight later and we were settled down; and really, spite of all my
London notions, I began to find the calm and repose of the country
delicious.  Cobweb was delighted, and constantly dragging me somewhere
or another into the grounds of the pretty old place, where she arranged
garden-seats in the snuggest, shadiest spots for my especial behoof.

"As I have said, there was a wilderness of a wood adjoining the garden,
which the former possessor had left in a state of nature, saving that he
had had the old footpaths and tracks widened in their old winding ways,
carefully turfed, and dotted with a chair here and there.

"This was Cobweb's favourite place, and if I missed her out in the
garden, I knew I should find her here, with the sun raining a shower of
silver beams through the network of leaves overhead, to dance and flash
among the waving tresses of her long golden hair.

"One day I found her leaning on a dead bough which crossed an opening in
the wood, where all seemed of a delicate twilight green.  She was
listening intently to the song of a bird overhead, and as I stopped
short, gazing at the picture before me, I said to myself with a sigh--

"`All that's bright must fade!  My darling, I wish I had your likeness
as you stand.  Time flies.'  I muttered, `and the winter comes at last,
with bare trees to the woods--grey hairs and wrinkles to the old.'

"She caught sight of me directly, and the scene was changed, for I was
listening the next moment to her merry, happy voice.

"A day or two later I was in the City, where I always went twice a
week--for I could not give up business, it was part of my life--when old
Smith dropped in, and in the course of conversation he said--

"`By the way, Burrows, why don't you have your portrait painted?'

"`Bah! stuff!  What for?'  I said.

"`Well,' he said, laughing, `I don't know, only that it would give a
poor artist of my acquaintance a job; and, poor fellow, he wants it
badly enough.'

"`Bah!  I'm handsome enough without being painted,' I said gruffly.
Then as a thought flashed through my mind--for I saw again the picture
in the wood with Cobweb leaning on the branch--`Stop a minute.  Can he
paint well?'

"`Gloriously.'

"`And is terribly hard up?'

"`Horribly, poor fellow.'

"`How's that?'

"`Don't know.  He's poor and proud, and the world has dealt very hardly
with him.  It isn't so smooth with every one, Jack, as it is with us.'

"`True, Tom, old fellow,' I said, `true.  Well, look here: I'll give him
a job.  Would he come down and stay at my place?'

"`Oh, yes, if you treat him well; but, as I tell you, he's poor and
proud, and quite a gentleman.'

"`Well, I'm not,' I said testily.  `I'll give him enough to eat, and a
good bed to sleep on; and he'll have to put up with me dropping my
"h's."  But,' I added, slapping my pocket, `I can pay him like a
gentleman.'

"`Get out, you purse-proud old humbug!' said Smith, laughing, as he
clapped me on the shoulder.  `But there, I'm obliged to you.  Have him
down, and I'll thank you.  He's a gentleman, and a man of honour.'

"`Oh, I'm not afraid he'll steal the spoons,' I said, laughing.

"`No,' he said dryly, `no fear of that.  But you'll make a good
picture.'

"`Stuff!'  I said.  `Do you think I'm going to be painted?'

"`Why, what are you going to do, then?' he asked in an astonished way.

"`Let him paint little Cobweb,' I said, chuckling, and rubbing my hands.

"Smith gave a long whistle, and his fingers twitched as if he were
mending a sewing machine, and after a few more words he left.

"It did not strike me then, but I remarked afterwards that he seemed
disposed to draw back from his proposal; but I was now so wrapped up in
my plans that I could think of nothing but the picture in the wood, and
I went home full of it, meaning it for a surprise.

"Two days later one of the servants announced a Mr Grantly on business,
and, on his being shown in, I found myself face to face with a handsome,
grave-looking man of about thirty.  He was rather shabbily dressed, and
looked pale and ill as he bowed to Cobweb and myself, ending by staring
at my child, as I thought, in rather a peculiar way.

"This annoyed me--a stout, choleric, elderly man--for no one had a right
to look at my Cobweb but me and I spoke rather testily as I said--

"`Now, sir, when you please, I am at your service.'

"`I beg your pardon,' he said, in a low voice.  `Miss Burrows, I
presume.  One moment, please--don't move.'

"Cobweb was sitting in the bay-window, and, to my utter astonishment, he
quickly drew one of the curtains, and then half closed another, so that
the light fell strongly upon her hair.

"I could not speak for the passion bubbling up in my throat, and as I
stood gasping, he came and took my arm, led me aside, and then, pointing
to where Cobweb sat, as astounded as myself, he said--

"`That would be admirable, sir.  We could not improve that natural
pose.'

"`What the dickens--Are you mad, sir?  What do you mean?'

"`I beg your pardon,' he said, flushing, and speaking hastily.  `I am so
wrapped up in my profession.  I thought you understood.  Mr Smith said
you wished me to paint this young lady's portrait.  Am I mistaken?'

"`Chut!'  I ejaculated, cooling on the instant.  `I beg your pardon.
Sit down, sir, sit down.  You're hungry, of course.  How stupid of me!--
Cobweb, my dear, order some lunch into the dining-room.'

"He smiled, returned the pressure of my hand in a frank, honest way that
I liked, and then looked after my darling in a way that I did not like;
for this was not what I meant, and my jealousy was aroused.  I expected
some snuffy-looking old painter, not a grave handsome young fellow.  But
I remembered Tom Smith's words--`He is a gentleman, and a man of
honour'--and casting away my suspicious thoughts, I entered into the
subject at once.

"`I'd half forgotten it,' I said.  `She'll make a good picture, eh?'

"`Admirable, sir.  That position struck me at once as I entered.'

"`I'll show you a better one than that, my boy,' I chuckled.  `But I'm a
business man: what's your figure--the price, eh?'

"He hesitated, and his lip quivered as he said--

"`Would--fifteen guineas be too much?'

"`Fifteen!'  I said.

"`I should take great pains with it--it will be a long task,' he said
eagerly; and there was trouble in the wrinkles of his forehead.  `But if
you think it too much--'

"`I think it an absurd price, sir,' I said testily, for Smith had said
he was very poor.  `Why, my friend Wilson gave four hundred for a bit of
a scrap of canvas--'

"`By a very clever artist, sir,' he said, with a grave smile.

"`Look here,' I said, `Mr--Mr--Grantly.  You make a good picture of
it, and I'll give you fifty guineas.'

"He flushed, and look pained.

"`Less than half would pay me well, sir,' he said.

"`Tut, tut! stuff man!  Smith told me you were poor and hard up.  You
always will be if you are not more of a man of business.'

"`Sir!' he exclaimed, rising and looking at me angrily, `I came here
expecting the treatment--'

"He stopped short, reeled, sank into his chair, and covered his face
with his hands.

"`My dear sir--I--really--I--I didn't mean--'

"I stammered, perspiring at every pore, for the position was most
painful.

"`No, no,' he said hastily, `I beg your pardon.  But--but,' he
continued, striving manfully to master his emotion, `I have been very
ill, sir, and I am weak.  I have been unfortunate--almost starving at
times.  I have not broken bread since yesterday morning--I could not
without selling my colours.  I--I am much obliged--forgive me--let me go
back to town.  Oh, my God! has it come to this?'

"He sank back half fainting, but started as I roared out, `Go away!' for
Cobweb was coming into the room.

"`Thank you,' he said, softly as he saw what I had done.  `It was kind
of you.'

"`My dear fellow,' I said, `this is terrible;' and I mopped my face.
`There, sit still--back directly.'

"I ran out to find Cobweb in the hall.

"`Oh, you dear, good father!' she cried, with tears in her eyes.  `What
a kind surprise!  But is anything wrong?'

"`Artist little faint,' I said.  `Here, the sherry--biscuits.  Stop away
a bit.'

"I ran back with them, and made him take some wine; and, thus revived,
he rose and thanked me.

"`What are you going to do?'  I said, staring.

"`I'm going back to town, sir,' he said quietly, but with his lower lip
trembling.  `I am not fit to undertake the task.  I thank you, but it is
too late.  I am not well.'

"I looked at him with business eyes, and in that brief glance, as in a
revelation, I saw the struggles of a poor proud man of genius, who could
not battle with the world.  I saw the man who had sold, bit by bit,
everything he owned, in his struggle for daily bread; and as I looked at
him I felt ashamed that I should be so rich, and fat, and well.

"`Mr Grantly,' I said, offering my hand, `I am a rough man, and spoiled
by bullying people, and having my own way.  I beg your pardon for what I
have said, and am going to say.  You came down here, sir, to paint my
little girl's portrait, and you are going to paint it before you go back
to town; and when you do go, you are going to have fifty guineas in your
pocket.  Hush! not a word, sir.  My old friend Tom Smith told me that
you were a gentleman and a man of honour.  Tom Smith is never deceived.
Now, sir, please come into the dining-room and have some lunch.  Not a
word, please.  If good food won't bring you round, you shall have the
doctor; for, as the police say,' I continued, laughing, `you're my
prisoner--but on parole.'

"He tried to speak, but could not, and turned away.

"`All right,' I said, `all right;' and I patted him on the shoulder, and
walked away to the window for a few minutes before I turned back to find
him more composed.

"That afternoon we all three went out into the wood, and I made Cobweb
stand as I had seen her on that day.

"Grantly was delighted, and insisted upon making a sketch at once; and
then the days wore on, with the painting progressing slowly, but in a
way that was a wonder to me, so exquisite was every touch, for the
artist's whole soul was in his work.

"Those were delightful days, but there was a storm coming.  I quite took
to the young fellow, though, and by degrees heard from him his whole
story--how, young and eager, he had, five years before, come to town to
improve in his art, and how bitter had been his struggle, till, just
before he had encountered Smith, he had been really, literally dying of
sickness and want.

"It was a happy time, that, for when the painting was over for the
morning we gardened, or strolled in the country--our new friend being an
accomplished botanist, and a lover of every object that we saw.  I used
to wonder how he had learned so much, and found time to paint as well.

"I say it was a happy time for the first three weeks, and then there
were clouds.

"Cobweb was changed.  I knew it but too well.  I could see it day by
day.  Grantly was growing distant too, and strange, and my suspicions
grew hour by hour, till I was only kept from breaking out by the
recollection of Tom Smith's words--`He is a gentleman and a man of
honour.'

"`Tom Smith never was wrong,' I said one morning, as I sat alone, `and
for a man like that, after my kindness, to take advantage of his
position to win that girl's love from me, would be the act of the
greatest scoun--'

"`May I come in, Mr Burrows?' said the voice of the man of whom I was
thinking.

"`Yes, come in,' I said; and there we stood looking in one another's
eyes.

"`He's come to speak to me,' I said, and my heart grew very hard, but I
concealed my feelings till he spoke, and then I was astounded.

"`Mr Burrows,' he said, `I've come to say good-bye.'

"`Good-bye!'  I said.

"`Yes, sir: good-bye.  I have wakened from a dream of happiness to a
sense of misery of which I cannot speak.  Let me be brief, sir, and tell
you that I shall never forget your kindness.'

"`But you haven't finished the picture.'

"`No, sir, and never shall,' he said bitterly.  `Mr Burrows, I cannot
stay.  I--that is--I need not be ashamed to own it, I love your child
with all my heart.'

"`I knew it,' I said bitterly.

"`And you think I have imposed on your kindness.  No, sir, I have not,
for I have never shown by word or look--'

"`No, you scoundrel,' I said to myself, `but she knows it all the same.'

"`And, sir, such a dream as mine could never be fulfilled--it is
impossible.'

"`Yes,' I said, in a cold hard voice, `it is impossible.'

"`God bless you, sir!  Good-bye.'

"`You will not say good-bye to her?'  I said harshly.

"He shook his head, and as I stood there, hard, selfish, and jealous of
him, I saw him go down the path, and breathed more freely, for he was
gone.

"Gone, but there was a shadow on my home.  Cobweb said not a word, and
expressed no surprise, never even referring to the picture, but went
about the house slowly, drooping day after day, month after month, till
the summer time came round again, and I knew that in my jealous
selfishness I was breaking her young heart.

"She never complained, and was as loving as ever; but my little Cobweb
was broken, and the tears spangled it like dew whenever it was alone.

"It was as nearly as could be a year after, that I, feeling ten years
older, went to seek her one afternoon, and found her as I expected, in
the little wood, standing dreamy and sad in her old position leaning
upon the tree, listening to no bird-song now, but with a far-off longing
look in her eyes, that swept away the last selfish thought from my
heart.

"I did not let her see me, but went straight up to Smith's, learned what
I wanted, and a short time after I was in a handsome studio in Saint
John's Wood, staring at the finished picture of my child--painted, of
course, from memory--framed, against the wall.

"As I stood there, I heard the door open, and turning stood face to face
with Grantly.

"We looked in each other's eyes for a few moments without speaking, and
then in a trembling, broken voice, I said--

"`Grantly, I've come as a beggar now.  My poor darling--God forgive
me!--I've broken her heart!'

"It was my turn to sit down, trembling and weak, while my dear boy tried
to comfort me--telling me too with pride how he had worked and become
famous, and in a few more months had meant to come down and ask my
consent.

"But there, I'm mixing it up.  Of course he told me that as we were
rushing along, having just had time to catch the express; and on
reaching the station there was no conveyance, and we had to walk.

"That scoundrel would not wait, but ran on without me, and when I got
there, panting and hot, I found my darling's heart was mended with all
of that belonging to the man from whose arms she ran to hide her rosy
blushes on my breast.

"I'm not the selfish old fellow that I was about Cobweb, for there, in
the old place, where they've let me stay with them, I pass my time with
those two flossy-haired little tyrants, Cobweb the Second, and the
Spider, as we call little Frank.

"Ah!  Miss Stoneleigh, it's a funny thing this love.  You've been lucky.
As for me, I bring up a sweet girl, whom I love with all my heart, and
soon learn that she is not mine, for the first fellow that comes down
and pretends that he loves her, it's `Snip!' says one `Snap!' says the
other; the old father's nowhere, and his darling's gone."

"Leaving him a miserable, unhappy man for life," I said quietly; while
he stared at me as if he could not understand my drift,--"one who takes
no pleasure in his daughter's new-born happiness; in his new son's pride
in his sweet young wife; and who, above all, utterly detests his little
grandchildren."

"No; I'm blest if he does," he cried warmly; "for of all the pretty
little flossy-haired tyrants that ever made a poor old fellow do as they
like, they're about the worst.  I say, do come down, Miss Stoneleigh.  I
want you to hear little Cobweb sing `Buttercups and Daisies.'  It's
fine, ma'am--it's fine!"

"I'll come down, Mr Burrows," I said, with a dreamy feeling of
restfulness coming over me as I pictured myself again in the pretty
rustic home amidst the sweet scenes and heaven-born sights of the
country.  How true, indeed, are those words, that man made the town, but
God made the country!  I often think of the words of a pale, sallow,
thin girl I met once at a friend's.  She turned upon me quite in
surprise as I said I should prefer living always in the country.

"Oh, really!" she exclaimed, in a pitiful tone.  "The country is so
dreadfully slow.  I never know how people can manage to exist there."

"And yet," I thought, "they do, and are happier and healthier amidst its
innocent pleasures.  They miss concert, ball, and party, but they see
such sights as are never dreamed of in town.  I could enumerate many,
but there is no need."

Mr Burrows rose and left me, promising to call for me later on, and I
spent a fortnight in the pleasant country home, to come back refreshed
and ready for my old task of trying to help and comfort those amongst
whom I may be thrown.  Sadness comes over me at times when I think of
the past, but I chase the gloomy feelings away, telling myself that I am
ungrateful for the calm and peaceful life it has been my fate to lead.
Friends I have many, and the more I may be with the humble people of our
great city, the more I find beneath the hard crust grown upon them in
their rough contest with the world, how many good and generous feelings
exist.  I have noted that if a beggar, with a piteous tale of woe or a
mournful ballad, wishes to make money, it is not sought for amongst the
homes of the wealthy, but from the hard toiling poor; and, what is more,
I have seen that the surest blows that are struck at the vices and
miseries that exist, are those which aim at giving the thronging
thousands of our denser places better homes.  There can be no doubt that
much of the moral as well as physical disease that disgraces our great
city is caused by overcrowding, and every step taken to give low-priced
wholesome dwellings, does more to ameliorate these plagues than even
education and the spread of knowledge.

I think as one who has mingled with the poorer classes day by day, and
though my experience may not be great, surely it is of some little
value--contains some germs of truth.

And now my pleasant task is ended--a pleasant one indeed; for it has
served to bring up recollections of scenes--some sad, some tinged with
happiness; and as I have placed scene and word on paper, I have been
once more amongst the speakers, and stood with them in their homes.  If
the reader can only realise these scenes, fancy he hears the speeches
one-tenth part as vividly as I, my task will not have been without its
reward.

THE END.





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