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Title: Phoebe, Junior
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret), 1828-1897
Language: English
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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 "Phoebe, Junior" ***

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Chronicles of Carlingford

PHOEBE, JUNIOR

MRS OLIPHANT



CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                               PAGE

      I. THE PASTOR'S PROGRESS            1

     II. THE LEADING MEMBER               9

    III. MR. COPPERHEAD'S BALL           16

     IV. A COUNTRY PARTY                 26

      V. SELF-DEVOTION                   31

     VI. A MORNING CALL                  38

    VII. SHOPPING                        45

   VIII. THE DORSETS                     52

     IX. COMING HOME                     59

      X. PAPA                            67

     XI. PHŒBE'S PREPARATIONS            74

    XII. GRANGE LANE                     81

   XIII. THE TOZER FAMILY                88

    XIV. STRANGERS                       96

     XV. A DOMESTIC CRISIS              104

    XVI. THE NEW GENTLEMAN              113

   XVII. A PUBLIC MEETING               119

  XVIII. MR. MAY'S AFFAIRS              127

    XIX. THE NEW CHAPLAIN               134

     XX. THAT TOZER GIRL!               142

    XXI. A NEW FRIEND                   148

   XXII. A DESPERATE EXPEDIENT          155

  XXIII. TIDED OVER                     164

   XXIV. A VISIT                        169

    XXV. TEA                            177

   XXVI. THE HALL                       185

  XXVII. A PAIR OF NATURAL ENEMIES      192

 XXVIII. THE NEW PUPIL                  200

   XXIX. URSULA'S ENTRÉES               209

    XXX. SOCIETY AT THE PARSONAGE       217

   XXXI. SOCIETY                        224

  XXXII. LOVE-MAKING                    230

 XXXIII. A DISCLOSURE                   236

  XXXIV. AN EXTRAVAGANCE                244

   XXXV. THE MILLIONNAIRE               251

  XXXVI. FATHER AND SON                 258

 XXXVII. A PLEASANT EVENING             267

XXXVIII. AN EXPEDITION                  273

  XXXIX. A CATASTROPHE                  281

     XL. THE SINNED-AGAINST             287

    XLI. A MORNING'S WORK               298

   XLII. A GREAT MENTAL SHOCK           307

  XLIII. THE CONFLICT                   312

   XLIV. PHŒBE'S LAST TRIAL             326

    XLV. THE LAST                       336



PHŒBE, JUNIOR.

A Last Chronicle of Carlingford.



CHAPTER I.

THE PASTOR'S PROGRESS.


Miss Phoebe Tozer, the only daughter of the chief deacon and leading
member of the Dissenting connection in Carlingford, married, shortly
after his appointment to the charge of Salem Chapel, in that town, the
Reverend Mr. Beecham, one of the most rising young men in the
denomination. The marriage was in many ways satisfactory to the young
lady's family, for Mr. Beecham was himself the son of respectable people
in a good way of business, and not destitute of means; and the position
was one which they had always felt most suitable for their daughter, and
to which she had been almost, it may be said, brought up. It is,
however, scarcely necessary to add that it was not quite so agreeable to
the other leading members of the congregation. I should be very sorry to
say that each family wished that preferment for its own favourite
daughter; for indeed there can be no doubt, as Mrs. Pigeon asserted
vigorously, that a substantial grocer, whose father before him had
established an excellent business, and who had paid for his pew in Salem
as long as any one could recollect, and supported every charity, and
paid up on all occasions when extra expense was necessary, was in every
way a more desirable son-in-law than a poor minister who was always
dependent on pleasing the chapel folks, and might have to turn out any
day. Notwithstanding, however, the evident superiority of the
establishment thus attained by Maria Pigeon, there is a certain
something attached to the position of a clerical caste, even among such
an independent body as the congregation at Salem Chapel, which has its
own especial charms, and neither the young people who had been her
companions nor the old people who had patronized and snubbed her, felt
any satisfaction in seeing Phoebe thus advanced over them to the honours
and glories inalienable from the position of minister's wife. All her
little airs of bridal vanity were considered as so many offensive
manifestations of delight and exultation in her rise in life. Her
_trousseau_, though pronounced by all competent judges not half so
abundant or fine as Maria Pigeon's, still called forth comments which
nobody ventured to indulge in, in respect to the grocer's blooming
bride. A grocer's lady has a right to anything her parents can afford;
but to see a minister's wife swelling herself up, and trying to ape the
quality, filled the town with virtuous indignation. The sight of young
Mrs. Beecham walking about with her card-case in her hand, calling on
the Miss Hemmingses, shaking hands with Mrs. Rider the doctor's wife,
caused unmitigated disgust throughout all the back streets of
Carlingford; and "_that_ Phoebe a-sweeping in as if the chapel belonged
to her," was almost more than the oldest sitter could bear. Phoebe, it
must be added, felt her elevation to the full, and did not spare her
congregation. Sometimes she would have the audacity to walk from the
vestry to the pew, as if she were an office-bearer, instead of coming in
humbly by the door as became a woman. She would sit still ostentatiously
until every one had gone, waiting for her husband. She quite led the
singing, everybody remarked, paying no more attention to the choir than
if it did not exist; and once she had even paused on her way to her
seat, and turned down the gas, which was blazing too high, with an air
of proprietorship that nobody could endure.

"Does Salem belong to them Tozers, I should like to know?" said Mrs.
Brown. "Brown would never be outdone by him in subscriptions you may be
sure, nor Mr. Pigeon neither, if the truth was known. I never gave my
money to build a castle for the Tozers."

Thus the whole congregation expressed itself with more or less
eloquence, and though the attendance never diminished, everybody being
too anxious to see "what they would do next," the feeling could not be
ignored. Phoebe herself, with a courage which developed from the moment
of her marriage, took the initiative.

"It never answers," she said, solemnly, "to marry one of the flock; I
knew it, Henery, and I told you so; and if you would be so infatuated,
and marry me when I told you not, for your own interests--"

"They're all jealous of you, my pet, that's what it is," said Mr.
Beecham, and laughed. He could bear the annoyance in consideration of
that sweet consciousness of its cause which stole over all his being.
Phoebe laughed, too, but not with so delicious a gratification. She felt
that there were people, even in Salem, who might be jealous of him.

"The end of it all is, we must not stay here," she said. "You must find
another sphere for your talents, Henery, and I'm sure it will not be
difficult. If you get put on that deputation that is going down to the
North, suppose you take a few of your best sermons, dear. That can never
do any harm--indeed it's sure to do good, to some poor benighted soul at
least, that perhaps never heard the truth before. And likewise, perhaps,
to some vacant congregation. I have always heard that chapels in the
North were very superior to here. A different class of society, and
better altogether. These Pigeons and Browns, and people are not the sort
of society for you."

"Well, there's truth in that," said Mr. Beecham, pulling up his
shirt-collar. "Certainly it isn't the sort of thing one was accustomed
to." And he lent a serious ear to the suggestion about the sermons. The
consequence was that an invitation followed from a chapel in the North,
where indeed Mrs. Phoebe found herself in much finer society, and grew
rapidly in importance and in ideas. After this favourable start, the
process went on for many years by which a young man from Homerton was
then developed into the influential and highly esteemed pastor of an
important flock. Things may be, and probably are, differently managed
now-a-days. Mr. Beecham had unbounded fluency and an unctuous manner of
treating his subjects. It was eloquence of a kind, though not of an
elevated kind. Never to be at a loss for what you have to say is a
prodigious advantage to all men in all positions, but doubly so to a
popular minister. He had an unbounded wealth of phraseology. Sentences
seemed to melt out of his mouth without any apparent effort, all set in
a certain cadence. He had not, perhaps, much power of thought, but it is
easy to make up for such a secondary want when the gift of expression is
so strong. Mr. Beecham rose, like an actor, from a long and successful
career in the provinces, to what might be called the Surrey side of
congregational eminence in London; and from thence attained his final
apotheosis in a handsome chapel near Regent's Park, built of the whitest
stone, and cushioned with the reddest damask, where a very large
congregation sat in great comfort and listened to his sermons with a
satisfaction no doubt increased by the fact that the cushions were soft
as their own easy-chairs, and that carpets and hot-water pipes kept
everything snug under foot.

It was the most comfortable chapel in the whole connection. The seats
were arranged like those of an amphitheatre, each line on a slightly
higher level than the one in front of it, so that everybody saw
everything that was going on. No dimness or mystery was wanted there;
everything was bright daylight, bright paint, red cushions, comfort and
respectability. It might not be a place very well adapted for saying
your prayers in, but then you could say your prayers at home--and it was
a place admirably adapted for hearing sermons in, which you could not do
at home; and all the arrangements were such that you could hear in the
greatest comfort, not to say luxury. I wonder, for my own part, that the
poor folk about did not seize upon the Crescent Chapel on the cold
Sunday mornings, and make themselves happy in those warm and ruddy pews.
It would be a little amusing to speculate what all the well-dressed
pew-holders would have done had this unexpected answer to the appeal
which Mr. Beecham believed himself to make every Sunday to the world in
general, been literally given. It would have been extremely embarrassing
to the Managing Committee and all the office-bearers, and would have, I
fear, deeply exasperated and offended the occupants of those family
pews; but fortunately this difficulty never did occur. The proletariat
of Marylebone had not the sense or the courage, or the profanity, which
you will, to hit upon this mode of warming themselves. The real
congregation embraced none of the unwashed multitude. Its value in mere
velvet, silk, lace, trinkets, and furs was something amazing, and the
amount these comfortable people represented in the way of income would
have amounted to a most princely revenue. The little Salems and
Bethesdas, with their humble flocks, could not be supposed to belong to
the same species; and the difference was almost equally marked between
such a place of worship as the Crescent Chapel and the parish churches,
which are like the nets in the Gospel, and take in all kinds of fish,
bad and good. The pew-holders in the Crescent Chapel were universally
well off; they subscribed liberally to missionary societies, far more
liberally than the people in St. Paul's close by did to the S. P. G.
They had everything of the best in the chapel, as they had in their
houses. They no more economized on their minister than they did on their
pew-cushions, and they spent an amount of money on their choir which
made the singing-people at St. Paul's gnash their teeth. From all this
it will be seen that the atmosphere of the Crescent Chapel was of a
very distinct and individual kind. It was a warm, luxurious air,
perfumy, breathing of that refinement which is possible to mere wealth.
I do not say there might not be true refinement besides, but the surface
kind, that which you buy from upholsterers and tailors and dressmakers,
which you procure ready made at schools, and which can only be kept up
at a very high cost, abounded and pervaded the place. Badly dressed
people felt themselves out of place in that brilliant sanctuary; a muddy
footprint upon the thick matting in the passages was looked at as a
crime. Clean dry feet issuing out of carriage or cab kept the aisles
unstained, even on the wettest day. We say cab, because many of the
people who went to the Crescent Chapel objected to take out their own
carriages or work their own horses on Sunday; and there were many more
who, though they did not possess carriages, used cabs with a freedom
incompatible with poverty. As a general rule, they were much better off
than the people at St. Paul's, more universally prosperous and
well-to-do. And they were at the same time what you might safely call
well-informed people--people who read the newspapers, and sometimes the
magazines, and knew what was going on. The men were almost all liberal
in politics, and believed in Mr. Gladstone with enthusiasm; the women
often "took an interest" in public movements, especially of a charitable
character. There was less mental stagnation among them probably than
among many of their neighbours. Their life was not profound nor high,
but still it was life after a sort. Such was the flock which had invited
Mr. Beecham to become their pastor when he reached the climax of his
career. They gave him a very good salary, enough to enable him to have a
handsome house in one of the terraces overlooking Regent's Park. It is
not a fashionable quarter, but it is not to be despised in any way. The
rooms were good-sized and lofty, and sometimes have been known to
suffice for very fine people indeed, a fact which the Beechams were well
aware of; and they were not above the amiable weakness of making it
known that their house was in a line with that of Lady Cecilia Burleigh.
This single fact of itself might suffice to mark the incalculable
distance between the Reverend Mr. Beecham of the Crescent Chapel, and
the young man who began life as minister of Salem in Carlingford. And
the development outside was not less remarkable than the development
within.

It is astonishing how our prejudices change from youth to middle age,
even without any remarkable interposition of fortune; I do not say
dissipate, or even dispel, which is much more doubtful--but they
change. When Mr. and Mrs. Beecham commenced life, they had both the
warmest feeling of opposition to the Church and everything churchy. All
the circumstances of their lives had encouraged this feeling. The
dislike of the little for the great, the instinctive opposition of a
lower class towards the higher, intensified that natural essence of
separatism, that determination to be wiser than one's neighbour, which
in the common mind lies at the bottom of all dissent. In saying this we
no more accuse Dissenters in religion than Dissenters in politics, or in
art, or in criticism. The first dissenter in most cases is an original
thinker, to whom his enforced departure from the ways of his fathers is
misery and pain. Generally he has a hard struggle with himself before he
can give up, for the superlative truth which has taken possession of
him, all the habits, the pious traditions of his life. He is the real
Nonconformist--half martyr, half victim, of his convictions. But that
Nonconformity which has come to be the faith in which a large number of
people are trained is a totally different business, and affects a very
different kind of sentiments. Personal and independent conviction has no
more to do with it than it has to do with the ardour of a Breton peasant
trained in deepest zeal of Romanism, or the unbounded certainty of any
other traditionary believer. For this reason we may be allowed to
discuss the changes of feeling which manifested themselves in Mr. and
Mrs. Beecham without anything disrespectful to Nonconformity. Not being
persons of original mind, they were what their training and
circumstances, and a flood of natural influences, made them. They began
life, feeling themselves to be of a hopelessly low social caste, and
believing themselves to be superior to their superiors in that
enlightenment which they had been brought up to believe distinguished
the connection. The first thing which opened their minds to a dawning
doubt whether their enlightenment was, in reality, so much greater than
that of their neighbours, was the social change worked in their position
by their removal from Carlingford. In the great towns of the North,
Dissent attains its highest social elevation, and Chapel people are no
longer to be distinguished from Church people except by the fact that
they go to Chapel instead of Church, a definition so simple as to be
quite overwhelming to the unprepared dissenting intelligence, brought up
in a little Tory borough, still holding for Church and Queen. The
amazing difference which this made in the sentiments of Mrs. Phoebe
Beecham, _née_ Tozer, it is quite impossible to describe. Her sudden
introduction to "circles" which Mrs. Pigeon had never entered, and to
houses at the area-door of which Mr. Brown, the dairyman, would have
humbly waited, would have turned the young woman's head, had she not
felt the overpowering necessity of keeping that organ as steady as
possible, to help her to hold her position in the new world. Phoebe was a
girl of spirit, and though her head went round and round, and everything
felt confused about her, she did manage desperately to hold her own and
to avoid committing herself; but I cannot attempt to tell how much her
social elevation modified her sectarian zeal. Phoebe was only a woman, so
that I am free to assign such motives as having a serious power over
her. Let us hope Mr. Beecham, being a man and a pastor, was moved in a
more lofty, intellectual, and spiritual way.

But however that may be, the pair went conjugally together in this
modification of sentiment, and by the time they reached the lofty
eminence of the Crescent Chapel, were as liberal-minded Nonconformists
as heart could desire. Mr. Beecham indeed had many friends in the Low,
and even some in the Broad Church. He appeared on platforms, to promote
various public movements, along with clergymen of the Church. He spoke
of "our brethren within the pale of the Establishment" always with
respect, sometimes even with enthusiasm. "Depend upon it, my dear Sir,"
he would even say sometimes to a liberal brother, "the Establishment is
not such an unmitigated evil as some people consider it. What should we
do in country parishes where the people are not awakened? They do the
dirty work for us, my dear brother--the dirty work." These sentiments
were shared, but perhaps not warmly, by Mr. Beecham's congregation, some
of whom were hot Voluntaries, and gave their ministers a little trouble.
But the most part took their Nonconformity very quietly, and were
satisfied to know that their chapel was the first in the connection, and
their minister justly esteemed as one of the most eloquent. The
Liberation Society held one meeting at the Crescent Chapel, but it was
not considered a great success. At the best, they were no more than
lukewarm Crescent-Chapelites, not political dissenters. Both minister
and people were Liberal, that was the creed they professed. Some of the
congregations Citywards, and the smaller chapels about Hampstead and
Islington, used the word Latitudinarian instead; but that, as the
Crescent Chapel people said, was a word always applied by the bigoted
and ignorant to those who held in high regard the doctrines of Christian
charity. They were indeed somewhat proud of their tolerance, their
impartiality, their freedom from old prejudices. "That sort of thing
will not do now-a-days," said Mr. Copperhead, who was a great railway
contractor and one of the deacons, and who had himself a son at Oxford.
If there had been any bigotry in the Crescent, Mr. Copperhead would have
had little difficulty in transferring himself over the way to St. Paul's
Church, and it is astonishing what an effect that fact had upon the mind
of Mr. Beecham's flock.

Mr. Beecham's house was situated in Regent's Park, and was constructed
on the ordinary model of such houses. On the ground-floor was a handsome
dining-room, a room which both Mr. and Mrs. Beecham twenty years before
would have considered splendid, but which now they condescended to, as
not so large as they could wish, but still comfortable. The drawing-room
above was larger, a bright and pleasant room, furnished with
considerable "taste." Behind the dining-room, a smaller room was Mr.
Beecham's study, or the library, as it was sometimes called. It was
lined with book-cases containing a very fair collection of books, and
ornamented with portraits (chiefly engravings) of celebrated ministers
and laymen in the connection, with a bust of Mr. Copperhead over the
mantelpiece. This bust had been done by a young sculptor whom he
patronized, for the great man's own house. When it was nearly completed,
however, a flaw was found in the marble, which somewhat detracted from
its perfection. The flaw was in the shoulder of the image, and by no
means serious; but Mr. Copperhead was not the man to pass over any such
defect. After a long and serious consultation over it, which made the
young artist shake in his shoes, a solution was found for the
difficulty.

"Tell you what, Sir," said Mr. Copperhead; "I'll give it to the
minister. It'll look famous in his little study. Works of art don't
often come his way; and you'll get a block of the best, Mr.
Chipstone--the very best, Sir, no expense spared--and begin another for
me."

This arrangement was perfectly satisfactory to all parties, though I
will not say that it was not instrumental in bringing about certain
other combinations which will be fully discussed in this history. The
Beechams were mightily surprised when the huge marble head, almost as
large as a Jupiter, though perhaps not otherwise so imposing, arrived at
the Terrace; but they were also gratified.

"It is quite like receiving us into his own family circle," Mrs. Beecham
said with a glance at her daughter, Phoebe, junior, who, with all her
pink fingers outspread, was standing in adoration before that image of
wealth and fabulous luxury.

"What a grand head it is!" cried the young enthusiast, gazing rapt upon
the complacent marble whisker so delightfully curled and bristling with
realistic force.

"It looks well, I must say, it looks well," said Mr. Beecham himself,
rubbing his hands, "to receive such a token of respect from the leading
member of the flock." And certainly no more perfect representation of a
bell-wether ever adorned any shepherd's sanctuary.



CHAPTER II.

THE LEADING MEMBER.


Mr. Copperhead, to whom so much allusion has been made, was a well-known
man in other regions besides that of the Crescent Chapel. His name,
indeed, may be said to have gone to the ends of the earth, from whence
he had conducted lines of railway, and where he had left docks, bridges,
and light-houses to make him illustrious. He was one of the greatest
contractors for railways and other public works in England, and, by
consequence, in the world. He had no more than a very ordinary
education, and no manners to speak of; but at the same time he had that
kind of faculty which is in practical work what genius is in literature,
and, indeed, in its kind is genius too, though it neither refines nor
even (oddly enough) enlarges the mind to which it belongs. He saw the
right track for a road through a country with a glance of his eye; he
mastered all the points of nature which were opposed to him in the
rapidest survey, though scientifically he was great in no branch of
knowledge. He could rule his men as easily as if they were so many
children; and, indeed, they were children in his hands. All these gifts
made it apparent that he must have been a remarkable and able man; but
no stranger would have guessed as much from his appearance or his talk.
There were people, indeed, who knew him well, and who remained
incredulous and bewildered, trying to persuade themselves that his
success must be owing to pure luck, for that he had nothing else to
secure it. The cause of this, perhaps, was that he knew nothing about
books, and was one of those jeering cynics who are so common under one
guise or another. Fine cynics are endurable, and give a certain zest
often to society, which might become too civil without them; but your
coarse cynic is not pleasant. Mr. Copperhead's eye was as effectual in
quenching emotion of any but the coarsest kind as water is against
fire. People might be angry in his presence--it was the only passion he
comprehended; but tenderness, sympathy, sorrow, all the more generous
sentiments, fled and concealed themselves when this large, rich, costly
man came by. People who were brought much in contact with him became
ashamed of having any feelings at all; his eye upon them seemed to
convict them of humbug. Those eyes were very light grey, prominent, with
a jeer in them which was a very powerful moral instrument. His own
belief was that he could "spot" humbug wherever he saw it, and that
nothing could escape him; and, I suppose, so much humbug is there in
this world that his belief was justified. But there are few more awful
people than those ignoble spectators whose jeer arrests the moisture in
the eye, and strangles the outcry on their neighbour's lip.

Mr. Copperhead had risen from the ranks; yet not altogether from the
ranks. His father before him had been a contractor, dealing chiefly with
canals and roads, and the old kind of public works; a very rough
personage indeed, but one to whose fingers gold had stuck, perhaps
because of the clay with which they were always more or less smeared.
This ancestor had made a beginning to the family, and given his son a
name to start with. _Our_ Mr. Copperhead had married young, and had
several sons, who were all in business, and all doing well; less
vigorous, but still moderately successful copies of their father. When,
however, he had thus done his duty to the State, the first Mrs.
Copperhead having died, he did the only incomprehensible action of his
life--he married a second time, a feeble, pretty, pink-and-white little
woman, who had been his daughter's governess; married her without rhyme
or reason, as all his friends and connections said. The only feasible
motive for this second union seemed to be a desire on Mr. Copperhead's
part to have something belonging to him which he could always jeer at,
and in this way the match was highly successful. Mrs. Copperhead the
second was gushing and susceptible, and as good a butt as could be
imagined. She kept him in practice when nobody else was at hand. She was
one of those naturally refined but less than half-educated, timid
creatures who are to be found now and then painfully earning the bread
which is very bitter to them in richer people's houses, and preserving
in their little silent souls some fetish in the shape of a scrap of
gentility, which is their sole comfort, or almost their sole comfort.
Mrs. Copperhead's fetish was the dear recollection that she was "an
officer's daughter;" or rather this had been her fetish in the days when
she had nothing, and was free to plume herself on the reflected glory.
Whether in the depths of her luxurious abode, at the height of her good
fortune, she still found comfort in the thought, it would be hard to
tell. Everybody who had known her in her youth thought her the most
fortunate of women. Her old school companions told her story for the
encouragement of their daughters, as they might have told a fairy tale.
To see her rolling in her gorgeous carriage, or bowed out of a shop
where all the daintiest devices of fashion had been placed at her feet,
filled passers-by with awe and envy. She could buy whatever she liked,
festoon herself with finery, surround herself with the costliest
knick-knacks; the more there were of them, and the costlier they were,
the better was Mr. Copperhead pleased. She had everything that heart
could desire. Poor little woman! What a change from the
governess-chrysalis who was snubbed by her pupil and neglected by
everybody! and yet I am not sure that she did not--so inconsistent is
human nature--look back to those melancholy days with a sigh.

This lady was the mother of Clarence Copperhead, the young man who was
at Oxford, her only child, upon whom (of course) she doted with the
fondest folly; and whom his father jeered at more than at any one else
in the world, more even than at his mother, yet was prouder of than of
all his other sons and all his possessions put together. Clarence, whom
I will not describe, as he will, I trust, show himself more effectually
by his actions, was like his mother in disposition, or so, at least, she
made herself happy by thinking; but by some freak of nature he was like
his father in person, and carried his mouse's heart in a huge frame,
somewhat hulking and heavy-shouldered, with the same roll which
distinguished Mr. Copperhead, and which betrayed something of the
original navvy who was the root of the race. He had his father's large
face too, and a tendency towards those demonstrative and offensive
whiskers which are the special inheritance of the British Philistine.
But instead of the large goggle eyes, always jeering and impudent, which
lighted up the paternal countenance, Clarence had a pair of mild brown
orbs, repeated from his mother's faded face, which introduced the oddest
discord into his physiognomy generally. In the family, that is to say
among the step-brothers and step-sisters who formed Mr. Copperhead's
first family, the young fellow bore no other name than that of the
curled darling, though, indeed, he was as far from being curled as any
one could be. He was not clever; he had none of the energy of his race,
and promised to be as useless in an office as he would have been in a
cutting or a yard full of men. I am not sure that this fact did not
increase secretly his father's exultation and pride in him. Mr.
Copperhead was fond of costly and useless things; he liked them for
their cost, with an additional zest in his sense of the huge vulgar use
and profit of most things in his own life. This tendency, more than any
appreciation of the beautiful, made him what is called a patron of art.
It swelled his personal importance to think that he was able to hang up
thousands of pounds, so to speak, on his walls, knowing all the time
that he could make thousands more by the money had he invested it in
more useful ways. The very fact that he could afford to refrain from
investing it, that he could let it lie there useless, hanging by so many
cords and ribbons, was sweet to him. And so also it was sweet to him to
possess a perfectly useless specimen of humanity, which had cost him a
great deal, and promised to cost him still more. He had plenty of useful
sons as he had of useful money. The one who was of no use was the apex
and glory of the whole.

But these three made up a strange enough family party, as may be
supposed. The original Copperheads, the first family, who were all of
the same class and nature, would have made a much noisier, less
peaceable household; but they would have been a much jollier and really
more harmonious one. Mr. Copperhead himself somewhat despised his elder
sons, who were like himself, only less rich, less vigorous, and less
self-assertive. He saw, oddly enough, the coarseness of their manners,
and even of their ways of thinking; but yet he was a great deal more
comfortable, more at his ease among them, than he was when seated
opposite his trembling, deprecating, frightened little wife, or that
huge youth who cost him so much and returned him so little. Now and
then, at regular periodical intervals, the head of the family would go
down to Blackheath to dine and spend the night with his son Joe, the
second and the favourite, where there were romping children and a
portly, rosy young matron, and loud talk about City dinners, contracts,
and estimates. This refreshed him, and he came home with many chuckles
over the imperfections of the family.

"My sons buy their wives by the hundred-weight," he would say jocularly
at breakfast the day after; "thirteen stone if she is a pound, is Mrs.
Joe. Expensive to keep up in velvet and satin, not to speak of mutton
and beef. Your mother comes cheap," he would add aside to Clarence, with
a rolling laugh. Thus he did not in the least exempt his descendants
from the universal ridicule which he poured on all the world; but when
he sat down opposite his timid little delicate wife, and by his
University man, who had very little on the whole to say for himself,
Mr. Copperhead felt the increase in gentility as well as the failure in
jollity. "You are a couple of ghosts after Joe and his belongings, you
two. Speak louder, I say, young fellow. You don't expect me to hear that
penny-whistle of yours," he would say, chuckling at them, with a mixture
of pride and disdain. They amused him by their dulness and silence, and
personal awe of him. He was quite out of his element between these two,
and yet the very fact pleasantly excited his pride.

"I speak as gentlemen generally speak," said Clarence, who was sometimes
sullen when attacked, and who knew by experience that his father was
rarely offended by such an argument.

"And I am sure, dear, your papa would never wish you to do otherwise,"
said anxious Mrs. Copperhead, casting a furtive frightened glance at her
husband. He rolled out a mighty laugh from the head of the table where
he was sitting. He contemplated them with a leer that would have been
insulting, had he not been the husband of one and the father of the
other. The laugh and the look called forth some colour on Mrs.
Copperhead's cheek, well as she was used to them; but her son was less
susceptible, and ate his breakfast steadily, and did not care.

"A pretty pair you are," said Mr. Copperhead. "I like your gentility.
How much _foie gras_ would you eat for breakfast, I wonder, my lad, if
you had to work for it? Luckily for you, I wasn't brought up to talk, as
you say, like a gentleman. I'd like to see you managing a field of
navvies with that nice little voice of yours--ay, or a mob before the
hustings, my boy. You're good for nothing, you are; a nice delicate
piece of china for a cupboard, like your mother before you. However,
thank Heaven, we've got the cupboard," he said with a laugh, looking
round him; "a nice big 'un, too, well painted and gilded; and the time
has come, through not talking like a gentleman, that I can afford you.
You should hear Joe. When that fellow talks, his house shakes.
Confounded bad style of house, walls like gingerbread. How the boards
don't break like pie-crust under Mrs. Joe's fairy foot, I can't make
out. By Jove, ma'am, one would think I starved you, to see you beside
your daughter-in-law. Always had a fine healthy appetite had Mrs. Joe."

There was nothing to answer to this speech, and therefore a dead silence
ensued. When the master of the house is so distinctly the master,
silence is apt to ensue after his remarks. Mrs. Copperhead sipped her
tea, and Clarence worked steadily through his breakfast, and the head of
the family crumpled the Times, which he read at intervals. All sorts of
jokes had gone on at Joe's table the morning before, and there had been
peals of laughter, and Mrs. Joe had even administered a slap upon her
husband's ruddy cheek for some pleasantry or other. Mr. Copperhead, as
he looked at his son and his wife, chuckled behind the Times. When they
thought he was occupied they made a few gentle remarks to each other.
They had soft voices, with that indescribable resemblance in tone which
so often exists between mother and son. Dresden china; yes, that was the
word; and to see his own resemblance made in that delicate _pâte_, and
elevated into that region of superlative costliness, tickled Mr.
Copperhead, and in the most delightful way.

"How about your ball?" was his next question, "or Clarence's ball, as
you don't seem to take much interest in it, ma'am? You are afraid of
being brought in contact with the iron pots, eh? You might crack or go
to pieces, who knows, and what would become of me, a wretched widower."
Mr. Copperhead himself laughed loudly at this joke, which did not excite
any mirth from the others, and then he repeated his question, "How about
the ball?"

"The invitations are all sent out, Mr. Copperhead; ninety-five--I--I
mean a hundred and thirty-five. I--I beg your pardon, they were in two
lots," answered the poor woman nervously. "A hundred and
thirty-eight--and there is--a few more--"

"Take your time, ma'am, take your time, we'll get at the truth at last,"
said her husband; and he laid down his paper and looked at her. He was
not angry nor impatient. The twinkle in his eye was purely humorous. Her
stumblings amused him, and her nervousness. But oddly enough, the most
furious impatience could not have more deeply disconcerted her.

"There are a few more--some old friends of mine," she went on, confused.
"They were once rather--kind--took an interest; that is--"

"Oh, the baronet and his daughters," said Mr. Copperhead, "by all means
let's have the baronet and his daughters. Though as for their taking an
interest--if you had not been a rich man's wife, ma'am, living in a
grand house in Portland Place--"

"It was not now," she said, hurriedly. "I do not suppose that any one
takes an interest--in me now--"

Mr. Copperhead laughed, and nodded his head. "Not many, ma'am, I should
think--not many. You women must make up your minds to that. It's all
very well to take an interest in a pretty girl; but when you come to a
certain age--Well, let's proceed, the baronet--"

"And his two girls--"

"Ah, there's two girls! that's for you, Clarence, my boy. I thought
there must be a motive. Think that fellow a good _parti_, eh? And I
would not say they were far wrong if he behaves himself. Make a note of
the baronet's daughter, young man. Lord, what a world it is!" said Mr.
Copperhead, reflectively. "I should not wonder if you had been scheming,
too."

"I would not for the world!" cried the poor little woman, roused for
once. "I would not for anything interfere with a marriage. That is the
last thing you need fear from me. Whether it was a girl I was fond of,
or a girl I disliked--so long as she was Clarence's choice. Oh, I know
the harm that is done by other people's meddling--nothing, nothing,
would induce me to interfere."

Mr. Copperhead laid down his paper, and looked at her. I suppose,
however little a man may care for his wife, he does not relish the idea
that she married him for anything but love. He contemplated her still
with amused ridicule, but with something fiercer in his eyes. "Oh--h!"
he said, "you don't like other people to interfere? not so much as to
say, it's a capital match, eh? You'll get so and so, and so and so, that
you couldn't have otherwise--carriages perhaps, and plenty of money in
your pocket (which it may be you never had in your life before), and
consideration, and one of the finest houses in London, let us say in
Portland Place. You don't like that amount of good advice, eh? Well, I
do--I mean to interfere with my son, to that extent at least--you can do
what you like. But as you're a person of prodigious influence, and
strong will, and a great deal of character, and all that," Mr.
Copperhead broke out with a rude laugh, "I'm afraid of you, I am--quite
afraid."

Fortunately, just at this moment his brougham came round, and the great
man finished his coffee at a gulp, and got up. "You look out for the
baronet's daughters, then--" he said, "and see all's ready for this ball
of yours; while I go and work to pay the bills, that's my share. You do
the ornamental, and I do the useful, ha, ha! I'll keep up my share."

It was astonishing what a difference came upon the room the moment he
disappeared. Somehow it had been out of harmony. His voice, his look,
his heavy person, even his whiskers had been out of character. Now the
air seemed to flutter after the closing of the door like water into
which something offensive has sunk, and when the ripples of movement
were over the large handsome room had toned down into perfect accord
with its remaining inhabitants. Mrs. Copperhead's eyes were rather
red--not with tears, but with the inclination to shed tears, which she
carefully restrained in her son's presence. He still continued to eat
steadily--he had an admirable appetite. But when he had finished
everything on his plate, he looked up and said, "I hope you don't mind,
mamma; I don't suppose you do; but I don't like the way my father speaks
to you."

"Oh, my dear!" cried the mother, with an affected little smile, "why
should I mind? I ought to know by this time that it's only your papa's
way."

"I suppose so--but I don't like it," said the young man, decisively. He
did not notice, however, as after second thoughts he returned to the
game-pie, that his mother's eyes were redder than ever.



CHAPTER III.

MR. COPPERHEAD'S BALL.


This ball was an event, not only in Mr. Copperhead's household, but even
in the connection itself, to which the idea of balls, as given by
leading members of the flock, was somewhat novel. Not that the young
people were debarred from that amusement, but it was generally attained
in a more or less accidental manner, and few professing Christians
connected with the management of the chapel had gone the length of
giving such an entertainment openly and with design. Mr. Copperhead,
however, was in a position to triumph over all such prejudices. He was
so rich that any community would have felt it ought to extend a certain
measure of indulgence to such a man. Very wealthy persons are like
spoilt children, their caprices are allowed to be natural, and even when
we are angry with them we excuse the vagaries to which money has a
right. This feeling of indulgence goes a very great way, especially
among the classes engaged in money-making, who generally recognize a
man's right to spend, and feel the sweetness of spending more acutely
than the hereditary possessors of wealth. I do not believe that his
superior knowledge of the best ways of using money profitably ever
hinders a money-making man from lavish expenditure; but it gives him a
double zest in spending, and it makes him, generally, charitable towards
the extravagances of persons still richer than himself. A ball, there
was no doubt, was a worldly-minded entertainment, but still, the chapel
reflected, it is almost impossible not to be a little worldly-minded
when you possess such a great share of the world's goods, and that, of
course, it could not be for himself that Mr. Copperhead was doing this,
but for his son. His son, these amiable casuists proceeded, was being
brought up to fill a great position, and no doubt society did exact
something, and as Mr. Copperhead had asked all the chief chapel people,
his ball was looked upon with very indulgent eyes. The fact that the
minister and his family were going staggered some of the more particular
members a little, but Mr. Beecham took high ground on the subject and
silenced the flock. "The fact that a minister of religion is one of the
first persons invited, is sufficient proof of the way our friend means
to manage everything," said the pastor. "Depend upon it, it would be
good for the social relations of the country if your pastors and
teachers were always present. It gives at once a character to all the
proceedings." This, like every other lofty assertion, stilled the
multitude. Some of the elder ladies, indeed, groaned to hear, even at
the prayer-meetings, a whisper between the girls about this ball and
what they were going to wear; but still it was Christmas, and all the
newspapers, and a good deal of the light literature which is especially
current at that season, persistently represented all the world as in a
state of imbecile joviality, and thus, for the moment, every objection
was put down.

To nobody, however, was the question, what to wear, more interesting
than to Phoebe, junior, who was a very well-instructed young woman, and
even on the point of dress had theories of her own. Phoebe had, as her
parents were happy to think, had every advantage in her education. She
had possessed a German governess all to herself, by which means, even
Mr. Beecham himself supposed, a certain amount of that philosophy which
Germans communicate by their very touch must have got into her, besides
her music and the language which was her primary study. And she had
attended lectures at the ladies' college close by, and heard a great
many eminent men on a great many different subjects. She had read, too,
a great deal. She was very well got up in the subject of education for
women, and lamented often and pathetically the difficulty they lay under
of acquiring the highest instruction; but at the same time she
patronized Mr. Ruskin's theory that dancing, drawing, and cooking were
three of the higher arts which ought to be studied by girls. It is not
necessary for me to account for the discrepancies between those two
systems, in the first place because I cannot, and in the second place,
because there is in the mind of the age some ineffable way of
harmonizing them which makes their conjunction common. Phoebe was
restrained from carrying out either to its full extent. She was not
allowed to go in for the Cambridge examinations because Mr. Beecham felt
the connection might think it strange to see his daughter's name in the
papers, and, probably, would imagine he meant to make a schoolmistress
of her, which he thanked Providence he had no need to do. And she was
not allowed to educate herself in the department of cooking, to which
Mrs. Beecham objected, saying likewise, thank Heaven, they had no need
of such messings; that she did not wish her daughter to make a slave of
herself, and that Cook would not put up with it. Between these two
limits Phoebe's noble ambition was confined, which was a "trial" to her.
But she did what she could, bating neither heart nor hope. She read
Virgil at least, if not Sophocles, and she danced and dressed though she
was not allowed to cook.

As she took the matter in this serious way, it will be understood that
the question of dress was not a mere frivolity with her. A week before
the ball she stood in front of the large glass in her mother's room,
contemplating herself, not with that satisfaction which it is generally
supposed a pretty young woman has in contemplating her own image. She
was decidedly a pretty young woman. She had a great deal of the hair of
the period, nature in her case, as (curiously, yet very truly) in so
many others, having lent herself to the prevailing fashion. How it comes
about I cannot tell, but it is certain that there does exist at this
present moment, a proportion of golden-haired girls which very much
exceeds the number we used to see when golden hair had not become
fashionable--a freak of nature which is altogether independent of dyes
and auriferous fluid, and which probably has influenced fashion
unawares. To be sure the pomades of twenty years ago are, Heaven be
praised! unknown to this generation, and washing also has become the
fashion, which accounts for something. Anyhow, Phoebe, junior, possessed
in perfection the hair of the period. She had, too, the complexion which
goes naturally with those sunny locks--a warm pink and white, which, had
the boundaries between the pink and the white been a little more
distinct, would have approached perfection too. This was what she was
thinking when she looked at herself in her mother's great glass. Mrs.
Beecham stood behind her, more full-blown and more highly-coloured than
she, but very evidently the rose to which this bud would come in time.
Phoebe looked at her own reflection, and then at her mother's, and sighed
such a profound sigh as only lungs in the most excellent condition could
produce.

"Mamma," she said, with an accent of despair, "I am too pink, a great
deal too pink! What am I to do?"

"Nonsense, my pet," said Mrs. Beecham; "you have a lovely complexion;"
and she threw a quantity of green ribbons which lay by over her child's
hair and shoulders. A cloud crossed the blooming countenance of Phoebe,
junior. She disembarrassed herself of the ribbons with another sigh.

"Dear mamma," she said, "I wish you would let me read with you now and
then, about the theory of colours, for instance. Green is the
complementary of red. If you want to bring out my pink and make it more
conspicuous than ever, of course you will put me in a green dress. No,
mamma, dear, not that--I should look a fright; and though I dare say it
does not matter much, I object to looking a fright. Women are, I
suppose, more ornamental than men, or, at least, everybody says so; and
in that case it is our duty to keep it up."

"You are a funny girl, with your theories of colour," said Mrs. Beecham.
"In my time, fair girls wore greens and blues, and dark girls wore reds
and yellows. It was quite simple. Have a white tarlatan, then; every
girl looks well in that."

"You don't see, mamma," said Phoebe, softly, suppressing in the most
admirable manner the delicate trouble of not being understood, "that a
thing every girl looks well in, is just the sort of thing that no one
looks _very_ well in. White shows no invention. It is as if one took no
trouble about one's dress."

"And neither one ought, Phoebe," said her mother. "That is very true. It
is sinful to waste time thinking of colours and ribbons, when we might
be occupied about much more important matters."

"That is not my opinion at all," said Phoebe. "I should like people to
think I had taken a great deal of trouble. Think of all the trouble that
has to be taken to get up this ball!"

"I fear so, indeed; and a great deal of expense," said Mrs. Beecham,
shaking her head. "Yes, when one comes to think of that. But then, you
see, wealth has its duties. I don't defend Mr. Copperhead--"

"I don't think he wants to be defended, mamma. I think it is all
nonsense about wasting time. What I incline to, if you won't be shocked,
is black."

"Black!" The suggestion took away Mrs. Beecham's breath. "As if you were
fifty! Why, I don't consider myself old enough for black."

"It is a pity," said Phoebe, with a glance at her mother's full colours;
but that was really of so much less importance. "Black would throw me
up," she added seriously, turning to the glass. "It would take off this
pink look. I don't mind it in the cheeks, but I am pink all over; my
white is pink. Black would be a great deal the best for both of us. It
would tone us down," said Phoebe, decisively, "and it would throw us up."

"But for you, a girl under twenty, my dear--"

"Mamma, what does it matter? The question is, am I to look my best?
which I think is my duty to you and to Providence; or am I just," said
Phoebe, with indignation, "to look a little insipidity--a creature with
no character--a little girl like everybody else?"

The consequence of this solemn appeal was that both the Phoebes went to
Mr. Copperhead's ball in black; the elder in velvet, with Honiton lace
(point, which Phoebe, with her artistic instincts, would have much
preferred, being unattainable); the younger in tulle, flounced to
distraction, and largely relieved with blue. And the consequence of this
toilette, and of the fact that Phoebe did her duty by her parents and by
Providence, and looked her very best, was that Clarence Copperhead fell
a hopeless victim to her fascinations, and scarcely could be induced to
leave her side all night. The ball was about as remarkable a ball as
could have been seen in London. The son of the house had contemplated
with absolute despair the list of invitations. He had deprecated the
entertainment altogether. He had said, "We know nobody," with a
despairing impertinence which called forth one of his father's roars of
laughter. And though Mr. Copperhead had done all he could to assume the
position of that typical Paterfamilias who is condemned to pay for those
pleasures of his family which are no pleasure to him, yet common-sense
was too much for him, and everybody felt that he was in reality the
giver and enjoyer of the entertainment. It was Mr., not Mrs.
Copperhead's ball. It was the first of the kind which had ever taken
place in his house; the beginning of a new chapter in his social
existence. Up to this moment he had not shown any signs of being smitten
with that craze for "Society," which so often and so sorely affects the
millionnaire. He had contented himself hitherto with heavy and showy
dinners, costing Heaven knows how much a head (Mr. Copperhead knew, and
swelled visibly in pride and pleasure as the cost increased), which he
consumed in company with twenty people or so of kindred tastes to
himself, who appreciated the cost and understood his feelings. On such
people, however, his Dresden china was thrown away. Joe and Mrs. Joe
were much more in their way than the elegant University man and the
well-bred mother, who was "a poor little dowdy," they all said.
Therefore the fact had been forced upon Mr. Copperhead that his circle
must be widened and advanced, if his crowning glories were to be
appreciated as they deserved.

The hunger of wealth for that something above wealth which the
bewildered rich man only discovers the existence of when he has
struggled to the highest pinnacle of advancement in his own way, began
to seize this wealthy neophyte. To be sure, in this first essay, the
company which he assembled in his fine rooms in Portland Place, to see
all his fine things and celebrate his glory, was not a fine company, but
they afforded more gratification to Mr. Copperhead than if they had been
ever so fine. They were people of his own class, his old friends,
invited to be dazzled, though standing out to the utmost of their power,
and refusing, so far as in them lay, to admit how much dazzled they
were. It was a more reasonable sort of vanity than the commoner kind,
which aims at displaying its riches to great personages, people who are
not dazzled by any extent of grandeur, and in whose bosoms no jealousy
is excited towards the giver of the feast. Mr. Copperhead's friends had
much more lively feelings; they walked about through the great rooms,
with their wives on their arms, in a state of semi-defiance, expressing
no admiration, saying to each other, "This must have cost Copperhead a
pretty penny," as they met in doorways; while the ladies put their
flowery and jewelled heads together and whispered, "Did you ever see
such extravagance? And what a dowdy _she_ is with it all!" This was the
under-current of sentiment which flowed strong in all the passages, and
down the rapids of the great staircase; a stream of vigorous human
feeling, the existence of which was as deeply gratifying to the
entertainer as the sweetest flattery. The lord and the ladies who might
have been tempted to his great house would not have had a thought to
spare for Mr. Copperhead; but the unwilling applause of his own class
afforded him a true triumph.

Amid this throng of people, however, there could be little doubt that
the one young lady who attracted his son was the least eligible person
there, being no other than Phoebe Beecham, the pastor's daughter. Almost
the only other utterly ineligible girl was a pale little maiden who
accompanied Sir Robert Dorset and his daughters, and who was supposed to
be either their governess or their humble companion. The Dorsets were
the only people who had any pretensions to belong to "society," in all
those crowded rooms. They were distantly related to Mrs. Copperhead,
and had been, she gratefully thought, kind to her in her youth, and
they had no particular objection to be kind to her now that she was
rich, though the Baronet, as Mr. Copperhead always called him, winced at
so rampant a specimen of wealth, and "the girls" did not see what good
it was to keep up relations with a distant cousin, who though so
prodigiously rich was of no possible use, and could neither make parties
for them, nor chaperon them to the houses of the great. When they had
received her present invitation, they had accepted it with surprise and
hesitation. Chance only had brought them to London at that time of the
year, the most curious time surely to choose for a ball, but convenient
enough as affording a little amusement at a season when little amusement
was ordinarily to be had. Sir Robert had consented to go, as a man with
no occupation elsewhere might consent to go to the Cannibal Islands, to
see how the savages comported themselves. And little Ursula May, another
poor relative on the other side of the house, whom they had charitably
brought up to town with them, might go too, they decided, to such a
gathering. There was no Lady Dorset, and the girls were "girls" only by
courtesy, having passed the age to which that title refers. Such good
looks as they had were faded, and they were indifferently dressed. This
last circumstance arose partly from the fact that they never dressed
very well, and partly because they did not think it necessary to put
themselves to much trouble for poor Mrs. Copperhead's ball. Their little
companion, Ursula, was in a white frock, the sort of dress which Phoebe
had rebelled against. She was all white and had never been to a ball
before. This little party, which represented the aristocracy at the
Copperhead's ball, went to the entertainment with a little expectation
in their minds: What sort of people would be there? Would they be
"frights?" They were not likely to be interesting in any other way, the
Miss Dorsets knew; but to little Ursula a ball was a ball, and meant
delight and glory she was aware, though she did not quite know how. The
expectations of the party, however, were strangely disappointed. Instead
of being "a set of frights," Mrs. Copperhead's guests were found to be
resplendent in toilette. Never, even under a ducal roof, had these
ladies found themselves in such a gorgeous assembly, and never before,
perhaps, even at the Duchess's grandest receptions, had they been unable
to discover a single face they knew. Sir Robert was even more appalled
by this discovery than his daughters were. He put up his glass and
peered more and more wistfully into the crowd. "Don't know a soul," he
repeated at intervals. Poor Sir Robert! he had not thought it possible
that such an event could happen to him within the four seas. Accordingly
the Dorsets clung, somewhat scared, to Mrs. Copperhead's side, and
Ursula along with them, who looked at the crowd still more wistfully
than Sir Robert did, and thought how nice it would be to know somebody.
Unfortunately the Miss Dorsets were not attractive in personal
appearance. Clarence Copperhead, though he was not indifferent to a
baronet, was yet not sufficiently devoted to the aristocracy to do more
than dance once, as was his bounden duty, with each of the sisters. "It
seems so strange not to know any one," these ladies said. "Isn't it?"
said Clarence. "_I_ don't know a soul." But then he went off and danced
with Phoebe Beecham, and the Miss Dorsets stood by Mrs. Copperhead,
almost concealing behind them the slight little snow-white figure of
little Ursula May.

Clarence was a very well-behaved young man on the whole. He knew his
duty, and did it with a steady industry, working off his dances in the
spirit of his navvy forefather. But he returned between each duty dance
to the young lady in black, who was always distinguishable among so many
young ladies in white, and pink, and green, and blue. The Miss Dorsets
and Ursula looked with interest and something like envy at that young
lady in black. She had so many partners that she scarcely knew how to
manage them all, and the son of the house returned to her side with a
pertinacity that could not pass unremarked. "Why should one girl have so
much and another girl so little?" Ursula said to herself; but, to be
sure, she knew nobody, and the young lady in black knew everybody. On
the whole, however, it became evident to Ursula that a ball was not
always a scene of unmixed delight.

"It is very kind of you to remember what old friends we are," said
Phoebe. "But, Mr. Clarence, don't be more good to me than you ought to
be. I see your mother looking for you, and Mr. Copperhead might not like
it. Another time, perhaps, we shall be able to talk of old days."

"There is no time like the present," said the young man, who liked his
own way. I do not mean to say that it was right of Phoebe to dance with
him, especially dances she had promised to other people. But he was the
personage of the evening, and that is a great temptation. Mr. Copperhead
himself came up to them more than once, with meaning in his eyes.

"Don't be too entertaining, Miss Phoebe," he said; for he saw no reason
why he should not speak plainly in his own house, especially to the
minister's daughter. "Don't be too entertaining. This is Clarence's
ball, and he ought to be civil to other people too."

"Oh, please go away!" cried Phoebe, after this admonition. But Clarence
was sullen, and stood his ground.

"We are going to have our waltz out," he said. "It is not my ball a
bit--let him entertain his people himself. How should I know such a set
of guys? I know nobody but you and the Dorset girls, who are in society.
Parents are a mistake," said the young man, half rebellious, half
sullen, "they never understand. Perhaps you don't feel that, but I
should think girls must see it sometimes as well as men."

"Girls don't use such strong expressions," said Phoebe, smiling, as they
flew off in the uncompleted waltz. She danced very well, better than
most of the ladies present, and that was the reason Clarence assigned to
his mother for his preference of her. But when Mr. Copperhead saw that
his remonstrance was unheeded by the young people, he went up to Mrs.
Beecham, with a rich man's noble frankness and courage. "I am delighted
to see you here, ma'am, and I hope you have remarked how well Miss Phoebe
is entertaining my boy. Do you see them dancing? She's been away from
you a long time, Mrs. Beecham, as girls will when they get hold of
somebody that pleases them. Shouldn't you like me to go and fetch her
back?" Mrs. Beecham, with cheeks that were very full blown indeed, and
required a great deal of fanning, called back her child to her side at
the end of that dance. She scolded Phoebe behind her fan, and recalled
her to a sense of duty. "A pastor's daughter has to be doubly
particular," she said; "what if your poor papa was to get into trouble
through your thoughtlessness?"

"I was not thoughtless, mamma; forgive me for answering back," said
Phoebe, very meekly; and she showed no signs of sulkiness, though
Clarence was carried off and kept from approaching her again.

Unfortunately, however, when Clarence was removed from Phoebe, he fell
into still greater peril. The eldest Miss Dorset and her mother, both of
them with equally benevolent intentions, introduced him simultaneously
to Ursula May. "The poor little girl has not danced once," Mrs.
Copperhead, who had recollections of standing by herself for a whole
evening, unnoticed, whispered in his ear, and Miss Dorset spoke to him
still more plainly. "We brought her," she said, "but I cannot get her
partners, for I don't know anybody." And what could Clarence do but
offer himself? And Ursula, too, was a good dancer, and very pretty--far
prettier than Phoebe.

"Confound him! there he is now for ever with that girl in white," said
his father to himself, with great rage. Dozens of good partners in pink
and blue were going about the room. What did the boy mean by bestowing
himself upon the two poor ones, the black and the white. This disturbed
Mr. Copperhead's enjoyment, as he stood in the doorway of the ball-room,
looking round upon all the splendour that was his, and feeling disposed,
like Nebuchadnezzar, to call upon everybody to come and worship him. He
expanded and swelled out with pride and complacency, as he looked round
upon his own greatness, and perceived the effect made upon the
beholders. When that effect did not seem sufficiently deep, he called
here and there upon a lingerer for applause. "That's considered a very
fine Turner," he said, taking one of them into a smaller room. "Come
along here, you know about that sort of thing--I don't. I should be
ashamed to tell you how much I gave for it; all that money hanging there
useless, bringing in nothing! But when I do buy anything I like it to be
the very best that is to be had."

"I'd as soon have a good chromo," said the person addressed, "which
costs a matter of a five-pound note, and enough too, to hang up against
a wall. But you can afford it, Copperhead. You've the best right of any
man I know to be a fool if you like."

The great man laughed, but he scarcely liked the compliment. "I am a
fool if you like," he said, "the biggest fool going. I like a thing that
costs a deal, and is of no use. That's what I call luxury. My boy,
Clarence, and my big picture, they're dear; but I can afford 'em, if
they were double the price."

"If I were you," said his friend, "I wouldn't hang my picture in this
little bit of a hole, nor let my boy waste his time with all the
riff-raff in the room. There's Smith's girl and Robinson's niece, both
of them worth a cool hundred thousand; and you leave him to flourish
about all over the place with a chit in a white frock, and another in a
black one. I call that waste, not luxury, for my part."

"I don't want to sell either the boy or the picture," said the rich man,
with a laugh. But nevertheless he was annoyed that his son should be
such an ass. Miss Smith and Miss Robinson were as fine as their
milliners could make them. The first of these ladies had an emerald
locket almost as big as a warming-pan, and Miss Robinson's pearls were a
little fortune in themselves; but the chosen objects of that young
idiot's attentions wore nothing but trumpery twopenny-halfpenny
trinkets, and gowns which had been made at home for all Mr. Copperhead
knew. Confound him! the father breathed hotly to himself. Thus it will
be seen that unmixed pleasure is not to be had in this world, even in
the midst of envious friends and the most splendid entertainment which
money could supply.



CHAPTER IV.

A COUNTRY PARTY.


"Very funny, now," said Sir Robert. "I don't know that such a thing ever
happened to me before. Give you my word for it, I didn't know a single
soul, not one; and there must have been a couple of hundred or so there.
Jove! I never thought there were as many people in England that I didn't
know."

"How could you know Mr. Copperhead's friends?" said Sophy Dorset. "What
I wonder is, that she should have asked us. Not but that it was amusing
enough, once in a way, just to see how such people look."

"They looked very much like other people, my dear. Finer, though. I
haven't seen so many jewels at an evening party for ages. Very much like
other people. Fatter, perhaps, the men, but not the women. I notice,"
said Sir Robert, who himself was spare, "that City men generally have a
tendency to fat."

"They are so rich," said Miss Dorset, with gentle disgust.

She was the quiet one, never saying much. Sophy, who was lively,
conducted the conversation. They were all seated at breakfast, later
than usual, on the morning after the Copperheads' ball. It was a hazy
morning, and the party were seated in a large sitting-room in the "very
central" locality of Suffolk Street, looking down that straight little
street upon the stream of carriages and omnibuses in the foggy distance.
It was not for pleasure that this country party had come to London. Sir
Robert's second son, who was in India, had sent his eldest children home
to the care of his father and sisters. They were expected at Portsmouth
daily, and the aunts, somewhat excited by the prospect of their charge,
had insisted upon coming to town to receive them. As for Ursula May, who
was a poor relation on the late Lady Dorset's side, as Mrs. Copperhead
had been a poor relation on Sir Robert's, London at any season was a
wonder and excitement to her, and she could not sufficiently thank the
kind relations who had given her this holiday in her humdrum life. She
was the daughter of a poor clergyman in the little town of Carlingford,
a widower with a large family. Ursula was the eldest daughter, with the
duties of a mother on her much burdened hands; and she had no special
inclination towards these duties, so that a week's escape from them was
a relief to her at any time. And a ball! But the ball had not been so
beatific as Ursula hoped. In her dark blue serge dress, close up to the
throat and down to the wrists, she did not look so pale as she had done
in her snow-white garments on the previous night; but she was at the
best of times a shadowy little person, with soft, dark brown hair, dark
brown eyes, and no more colour than the faintest of wild rose tints; but
the youthfulness, and softness, and roundness of the girl showed to full
advantage beside the more angular development of the Miss Dorsets, who
were tall, and had lost the first smooth curves of youth. To Ursula, not
yet twenty, these ladies looked very mature, almost aged, being one of
them ten, and the other eight years older than herself. She looked up to
them with great respect; but she felt, all the same--how could she help
it?--that in some things, though the Miss Dorsets were her superiors, it
was best to be Ursula May.

"Poor Clara!" said Sir Robert. "She was always a frightened creature.
When I recollect her, a poor little governess, keeping behind backs at
the nursery parties--and to see her in all her splendour now!"

"She would keep behind backs still, if she could," said Miss Dorset.

"Think of that, Ursula," cried Sophy; "there is an example for you. She
was a great deal worse off than you are; and to see her now, as papa
says! You may have a house in Portland Place too, and ask us to balls,
and wear diamonds. Think of that! Though last night you looked as
frightened as she."

"Don't put such demoralizing ideas into the child's head. How it is that
girls are not ruined," said Miss Dorset, shaking her head, "ruined! by
such examples, I cannot tell. They must have stronger heads than we
think. As poor as Cinderella one day, and the next as rich as the
Queen--without any merit of theirs, all because some chance man happens
to take a fancy to them."

"Quite right," said Sir Robert; "quite right, my dear. It is the natural
course of affairs."

Miss Dorset shook her head. She went on shaking her head as she poured
out the tea. She was not given to eloquence, but the subject inspired
her.

"Don't think of it, Ursula; it is not the sort of thing that good girls
ought to think of," and the elder sister made signs to Sophy, who was
reckless, and did not mind the moral effect of the suggestion.

"Poor Mrs. Copperhead! I shall never have a house in Portland Place, nor
any diamonds, except Aunt Mary's old brooch. I shall live and die an old
maid, and nobody will waste a thought upon me," said Sophy, who made
this prophecy at her ease, not expecting it to come true; "but I don't
envy poor Clara, and if you marry such a man as Mr. Copperhead, though I
shall admire you very much, Ursula, I shan't envy you."

"Is young Mr. Copperhead as bad as his father?" said Ursula, simply.

She was so far from thinking what meaning could be attached to her
words, that she stopped and looked, wondering, from one to another when
they laughed.

"Ha! ha! ha!" said Sir Robert; "not so bad, either!"

Poor Ursula was extremely serious. She turned with relief to Miss
Dorset, who was serious too.

"My dear, we don't know much about Clarence; he is a heavy young man. I
don't think he is attractive. Have you had a letter from the Parsonage
this morning?" said Anne Dorset, with a very grave face; and as it
turned out that Ursula had a letter, Miss Dorset immediately plunged
into discussion of it. The girl did not understand why the simple little
epistle should be so interesting, nor did she perceive yet what the
laughter was about. To tell the truth, Ursula, who was not clever, had
thought young Mr. Copperhead very _nice_. He had asked her to dance when
nobody else did; he had talked to her as much as he could have talked to
Sophy Dorset herself. He had rehabilitated her in her own eyes after the
first disappointment and failure of the evening, and she was prepared to
think, whatever might be said about the father, that the son was "very
kind" and very agreeable. Why should they laugh? Ursula concluded that
there must be some private joke of their own about Clarence (what a
pretty, interesting, superior name Clarence was!) which she could not be
permitted to know.

"If you talk like that," said Anne Dorset to Sophy, "you will set her
little head afloat about good matches, and spoil her too."

"And a very good thing," said Sophy. "If you had put the idea into my
head, I should not be Sophy Dorset now. Why shouldn't she think of a
good match? Can she live there for ever in that dreadful Parsonage,
among all those children whom she does not know how to manage? Don't be
absurd, Anne; except an elder daughter like you here and there, you
know, girls must marry if they are to be of any consequence in the
world. Let them get it into their heads; we can't change what is the
course of nature, as papa says."

"Oh, Sophy! it is so unwomanly."

"Never mind; when a man chuckles and jeers at me because I am unmarried,
I think it is unmanly; but they all do it, and no one finds any fault."

"Not all surely; not near _all_."

"Don't they? Not to our faces, perhaps; but whenever they write,
whenever they speak in public. When men are so mean, why should we train
girls up to unnatural high-mindedness? Why, that is the sort of girl who
ought to make a good marriage; to 'catch' somebody, or have somebody
'hooked' for her. She is pretty, and soft, and not very wise. I am doing
the very best thing in the world for her, when I laugh at love and all
that nonsense, and put a good match into her mind."

Miss Dorset turned away with a sigh, and shook her head. It was all she
could do. To encounter Sophy in argument was beyond her power, and if it
had not been beyond her power, what would have been the good of it?
Sophy had a story which, unfortunately, most people knew. She had been
romantic, and she had been disappointed. Five or six years before, she
had been engaged to a clergyman, who, finding that the good living he
was waiting for in order to marry was not likely to come through Sir
Robert's influence, intimated to his betrothed his serious doubt whether
they were likely to be happy together, and broke off the engagement. He
married somebody else in six months, and Sophy was left to bear the
shame as she might. To be sure, a great many people were highly
indignant with him at the moment; his sin, however, was forgotten long
ago, so far as he was concerned; but nobody forgot that Sophy had been
jilted, and she did not forget it herself, which was worse. Therefore
Miss Dorset attempted no argument with her sister. She shook her gentle
head, and said nothing. Anne was the elder sister born, the
maiden-mother, who is a clearly defined type of humanity, though rare,
perhaps, like all the finer sorts. She resolved in her own mind to take
private means for the fortification and preservation of Ursula, whose
position, as elder sister of a motherless family, interested her
especially as being like her own; but Anne owned within herself that
she had never been so young as little Ursula May.

Ursula, for her part, thought very little about the question which had
thus moved her cousins. She thought Mr. Clarence Copperhead was very
nice, and that if she had but known as many people, and had as many
partners as that young lady in black, she would have enjoyed the ball
very much. After all, now that it was over, she felt that she had
enjoyed it. Three dances were a great deal better than none at all, and
to have that pretty white frock given to her by Sir Robert was no small
matter. Besides, for in this as in other things the uses of adversity
are sometimes sweet, the pretty dress, which no doubt would have been
torn and crumpled had she danced much, was almost quite fresh now, and
would do very well at Carlingford if there should be any balls
there--events which happened occasionally, though Ursula had never been
lucky enough to go to any of them. And Cousin Sophy had given her a set
of Venetian beads and Cousin Anne a bracelet. This good fortune was
quite enough to fill her mind with satisfaction, and prevent any undue
meditation upon good matches or the attentions of Clarence Copperhead.
Ursula was as different as possible from Phoebe Beecham. She had no
pretensions to be intellectual. She preferred the company even of her
very smallest brothers and sisters to the conversation of her papa,
though he was known to be one of the most superior men in the diocese.
Even when her elder brother Reginald, of whom she was very fond, came
home from college, Ursula was more than indifferent to the privileged
position of elder sister, by which she was permitted to sit up and
assist at the talks which were carried on between him and his father.
Reginald was very clever too; he was making his own way at the
university by means of scholarships, the only way in which a son of Mr.
May's was likely to get to the university at all, and to hear him talk
with his father about Greek poetry and philosophy was a very fine thing
indeed; how Phoebe Beecham, if the chance had been hers, would have
prized it; but Ursula did not enjoy the privilege. She preferred a
pantomime, or the poorest performance in a theatre, or even Madame
Tussaud's exhibition. She preferred even to walk about the gay streets
with Miss Dorset's maid, and look into the shop-windows and speculate
what was going to be worn next season. Poor little girl! with such
innocent and frivolous tastes, it may be supposed she did not find her
position as elder sister and housekeeper a very congenial one. Her
father was no more than Incumbent of St. Roque, an old perpetual curacy
merged in a district church, which was a poor appointment for an
elderly man with a family; he was very clever and superior, but not a
man who got on, or who did much to help his children to get on; and had
Ursula been of the kind of those who suffer and deny themselves by
nature, she would have had her hands full, and abundant opportunity
afforded her to exercise those faculties. But she was not of this frame
of mind. She did what she was obliged to do as well as time and
opportunity permitted; but she did not throw herself with any enthusiasm
into her duties. To keep seven children in good condition and discipline
in a small house, on a small income, is more, it must be allowed, than
most girls of twenty are equal to; only enthusiasm and self-devotion
could make such a task possible, and these qualifications poor little
Ursula did not possess. Oh! how glad she was to get away from it all,
from having to think of Janey and Johnny, and Amy and little Robin. She
was not anxious about how things might be going on in her absence, as
kind Miss Dorset thought she must be. The happiness of escaping was
first and foremost in her thoughts.



CHAPTER V.

SELF-DEVOTION.


"Mr. Copperhead's manner is not pleasant sometimes, that is quite true.
We must make allowances, my dear. Great wealth, you know, has its
temptations. You can't expect a man with so much money and so many
people under him to have the same consideration for other people's
feelings. He says to this man go and he goeth, and to that man come and
he cometh."

"That is all very well," said Phoebe; "but he has no right, that I can
think of, to be rude to mamma and me."

"He was not exactly rude, my dear," said Mrs. Beecham. "We must not say
he was rude. Clarence ought to have divided his attentions more equally,
we must admit, and his father was annoyed--for the moment. I have no
doubt he has forgotten all about it long ago, and will be as pleasant as
ever next time we meet."

"I am quite sure of it," said the pastor, "and at the worst it was but
his manner--only his manner. In short, at the committee meeting
yesterday nothing could have been nicer. He went even out of his way to
send, as it were, a kind message to Phoebe. 'I needn't ask if Miss Phoebe
enjoyed herself,' he said. Depend upon it, my dear, if there was a
temporary annoyance it is both forgotten and forgiven, so far as Mr.
Copperhead is concerned."

"Forgiven!" Phoebe said to herself; but she thought it wiser to say
nothing audible on the subject. Her father and mother, it was evident,
were both disposed to extend any amount of toleration to the leading
member. It was he who was the best judge as to what he had a right to be
annoyed about. The family party were in Mr. Beecham's study, where the
large bust of Mr. Copperhead stood on the mantelpiece, the chief
decoration. How could any one be so wicked as to rebel against the
influence of so great a personage? Phoebe had her own ideas, but she was
wise and kept them to herself.

"And now," said Mrs. Beecham, solemnly, "what is to be done, my dear,
about this letter from my good papa?"

Phoebe was standing in front of a book-case, apparently looking for a
book. She said nothing; but it was easy to perceive by the erectness of
her shoulders, and the slight movement that ran through her, that her
attention was fully engaged.

"Ah, yes indeed, what about it?" the pastor said. He put down the pen,
which he had been holding in his hand by way of symbol that, amiable as
he was, his attention to his woman-kind was an encroachment upon time
which might be more usefully employed. But this was a serious question;
he had no suggestion to offer, but he sat and twiddled his thumbs, and
looked at his wife with interest suddenly aroused.

"There is a great deal to be thought of," said Mrs. Beecham, "it is not
a simple matter of family devotion. Of course if I had no other ties,
nor other duties, everything would be easy. I should go at once to my
poor suffering mamma."

Mrs. Beecham was a clever woman, but she had not been able to get it out
of her mind, owing to the imperfections of her education in youth, that
it was a vulgar thing to say father and mother. "But in the present
circumstances," she continued, her husband having given his assent to
this speech, "it is clear that I cannot do what I wish. I have you to
think of, my dear, and the children, and the duties of my position. On
the other hand, of course I could not wish, as poor mamma's only
daughter, to have my sister-in-law called in. She is not the kind of
person; she is underbred, uneducated. Of course she would be thinking of
her own children, and what would be best for them. My parents have done
all that ought to be expected from them for Tom. Considering all things,
what they have to dispose of ought to go to Phoebe and Tozer. But Mrs.
Tom would not see that."

"It is very true, my dear; I don't suppose she would," said Mr. Beecham,
with an anxious air.

"Mrs. Tom," said his wife, with some heat, "would think her own had the
first claim. She maintained it to my very face, and after that what have
we to expect? It's us that are Tozers," she said; "as for you, Phoebe,
you belong to another family. I put it in my own language of course, not
in her vulgar way."

"It is a very serious question altogether," said the pastor, with some
solemnity. "I don't see how you can get away, and I don't know what is
to be done."

"Whatever is to be done, I won't leave poor mamma in the hands of Mrs.
Tom," cries Mrs. Beecham, "not whatever it costs me. She's capable of
anything, that woman is. To have her in the same town is bad enough, but
in the same house nursing poor mamma! You and I would never see a penny
of the money, Henery, nor our children--not a penny! besides the
vexation of seeing one's own parents turned against one. I know very
well how it would be."

Mr. Beecham ceased twiddling his thumbs. The crisis was too serious for
that indulgence. "The position is most difficult," he said, "I see it
all. It is easy to see it for that matter, but to decide what are we to
do is not easy. To go back to Carlingford after so many changes, would
it be good for you?"

"It would kill me," said Mrs. Beecham, with energy, "you know it would
kill me. Envy drove us out, and envy would bring me to the grave. I
don't deceive myself, that is what I see before me, if I tear myself
from all my duties and go. But on the other hand----"

"Listen, mamma!" cried Phoebe, turning round suddenly; "if grandmamma is
ill, and you are afraid to leave her alone, why not send me?"

Both her parents turned towards Phoebe, as she spoke; they listened to
her with wonder and consternation, yet with admiring looks. Then they
looked at each other consulting, alarmed. "You!" said Mrs. Beecham, and
"You!" echoed the pastor, repeating in his great astonishment what his
wife said.

"Yes, indeed, me--why not me? it would be only my duty," said Phoebe,
with great composure. "And there is nothing to keep me from going. I
almost think I should like it--but anyhow, mamma, if you think it
necessary, whether I like it or not--"

"Phoebe, my darling, you are the best child in the world," cried her
mother, rising up, and going to her hastily. She gave her a kiss of
maternal enthusiasm, and then she looked at her husband. "But should we
take advantage of it?" she said.

"You see, my dear," said Mr. Beecham, hesitating, "you might find many
things different from what you are used to. Your grandpapa Tozer is an
excellent man--a most excellent man--"

"Yes, yes," said his wife, with some impatience. She was as conscious as
he was of the great elevation in the social scale that had occurred to
both of them since they left Carlingford, and knew as well as he did
that the old people had remained stationary, while the younger ones had
made such advances; but still she did not like to hear her husband
criticize her father. What there was to be said, she preferred to say
herself. "Yes, yes," she said, "Phoebe knows there is a difference; they
are old-fashioned folks, and don't live quite as we live. Some things
would strike you very strangely, my dear, some things you would not
like; and then Phoebe may be, for anything I can tell, at a turning-point
in her own life."

"If you mean about the Copperheads, mamma, dismiss that from your mind,"
said Phoebe. "There is no sort of hurry. We may be thrown together in
after-life, and of course no one can tell what may happen, but in the
mean time there is nothing of the sort in my mind--nor in any one
else's. Do not think of that for a moment. I am at no turning-point. I
am quite ready and quite willing to go wherever you please."

Once more the parent pair looked at each other. They had been very
careful not to bring their children into contact, since they were
children, with the homelier circumstances of the life in which they
themselves had both taken their origin. They had managed this really
with great skill and discretion. Instead of visiting the Tozers at
Carlingford, they had appointed meetings at the sea-side, by means of
which the children were trained in affectionate acquaintance with their
grandparents, without any knowledge of the shop. And Mr. Tozer, who was
only a butterman at Carlingford, presented all the appearance of an old
Dissenting minister out of it--old-fashioned, not very refined perhaps,
as Mrs. Beecham allowed, but very kind, and the most doting of
grandfathers. The wisp of white neckcloth round his neck, and his black
coat, and a certain unction of manner all favoured the idea.
Theoretically, the young people knew it was not so, but the impression
on their imagination was to this effect. Mrs. Tozer was only
"grandmamma." She was kind too, and if rather gorgeous in the way of
ribbons, and dressing generally in a manner which Phoebe's taste
condemned, yet she came quite within the range of that affectionate
contempt with which youth tolerates the disadvantages of its seniors.
But the butterman's shop! and the entire cutting off from everything
superior to the grocers and poulterers of Carlingford--how would Phoebe
support it? This was what Mr. and Mrs. Beecham asked each other with
their eyes--and there was a pause. For the question was a tremendous
one, and neither knew in what way to reply.

"Phoebe, you are a very sensible girl--" said her father at last,
faltering.

"I beg your pardon, papa. I don't think you are treating me as if I were
sensible," said Phoebe. "I know well enough that grandpapa is in
business--if that is what you are afraid of--"

"Has been in business," said Mrs. Beecham. "Your grandpapa has retired
for some time. To be sure," she added, turning to her husband, "it is
only Tom that has the business, and as I consider Mrs. Tom
objectionable, Phoebe need not be brought in contact--"

"If Phoebe goes to Carlingford," said the pastor, "she must not be
disagreeable to any one. We must make up our minds to that. They must
not call her stuck up and proud."

"Henery," said Mrs. Beecham, "I can put up with a great deal; but to
think of a child of mine being exposed to the tongues of those Browns
and Pigeons and Mrs. Tom, is more than I can bear. What I went through
myself, you never knew, nor any one breathing--the looks they gave me,
the things they kept saying, the little nods at one another every time I
passed! Was it my fault that I was better educated, and more refined
like, than they were? In Mr. Vincent's time, before you came, Henery, he
was a very gentleman-like young man, and he used to come to the ----
High Street constantly to supper. It wasn't my doing. I never asked
him--no more than I did you!"

"Your father used to ask me," said Mr. Beecham, doubtfully. "It was very
kind. A young pastor expects it in a new place; and a great many things
arise, there is no doubt, in that way."

"Not by my doing," said the lady; "and when we were married, Henery, the
things I did to please them! Thank Heaven, they know the difference now;
but if they were to set themselves, as I could quite expect of them,
against my child--"

"Mamma," said Phoebe, tranquilly, "I think you forget that it is me you
are talking of. I hope I know what a pastor's daughter owes to herself.
I have had my training. I don't think you need be frightened for me."

"No; I think Phoebe could manage them if any one could," said her father,
complacently.

She smiled with a gracious response to this approval. She had a book in
her hand, which of itself was a proof of Phoebe's pretensions. It was, I
think, one of the volumes of Mr. Stuart Mill's "Dissertations." Phoebe
was not above reading novels or other light literature, but this only in
the moments dedicated to amusement, and the present hour was morning, a
time not for amusement, but for work.

"Phoebe don't know Carlingford, nor the folks there," said Mrs. Beecham,
flushed by the thought, and too much excited to think of the elegancies
of diction. She had suffered more than her husband had, and retained a
more forcible idea of the perils; and in the pause which ensued, all
these perils crowded into her mind. As her own ambition rose, she had
felt how dreadful it was to be shut in to one small circle of very small
folks. She had felt the injurious line of separation between the
shopkeepers and the rest of the world; at least she thought she had felt
it. As a matter of fact, I think it very doubtful whether Phoebe Tozer
had felt anything of the kind; but she thought so now; and then it was a
fact that she was born Phoebe Tozer, and was used to that life, whereas
Phoebe Beecham had no such knowledge. She had never been aware of the
limitations of a small Dissenting community in a small town, and though
she knew how much the Crescent congregation thought of a stray
millionnaire like Mr. Copperhead (a thing which seemed too natural to
Miss Beecham to leave any room for remark), her mother thought that it
might have a bad effect upon Phoebe's principles in every way, should she
find out the lowly place held by the connection in such an
old-fashioned, self-conceited, Tory town as Carlingford. What would
Phoebe think? how would she manage to associate with the Browns and the
Pigeons? Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Tozer had retired from the shop; but
the shop was still there, greasy and buttery as ever, and Mrs. Beecham's
own respected papa was still "the butterman." How would Phoebe bear it?
This was the uppermost thought in her mind.

"You know, my darling," she said afterwards, when they had left the
study, and were seated, talking it over, in the drawing-room, "there
will be a great deal to put up with. I am silly; I don't like even to
hear your papa say anything about dear old grandpapa. He is my own, and
I ought to stand up for him; but even with grandpapa, you will have a
great deal to put up with. They don't understand our ways. They are
used to have things so different. They think differently, and they talk
differently. Even with your sense, Phoebe, you will find it hard to get
on."

"I am not at all afraid, I assure you, mamma."

"You are not afraid, because you don't know. I know, and I am afraid.
You know, we are not great people, Phoebe. I have always let you know
that--and that it is far finer to elevate yourself than to be born to a
good position. But when you see really the place which poor dear
grandpapa and grandmamma think so much of, I am sure I don't know what
you will say."

"I shall not say much. I shall not say anything, mamma. I am not
prejudiced," said Phoebe. "So long as an occupation is honest and
honourable, and you can do your duty in it, what does it matter? One
kind of work is just as good as another. It is the spirit in which it is
done."

"Oh, honest!" said Mrs. Beecham, half relieved, half affronted. "Of
course, it was all that. Nothing else would have answered papa. Your
uncle Tom has the--business now. You need not go there, my dear, unless
you like. I am not fond of Mrs. Tom. We were always, so to speak, above
our station; but she is not at all above it. She is just adapted for it;
and I don't think she would suit you in the least. So except just for a
formal call, I don't think you need go there, and even that only if
grandmamma can spare you. You must be civil to everybody, I suppose; but
you need not go further; they are not society for you. You will hear
people talk of me by my Christian name, as if we were most intimate; but
don't believe it, Phoebe. I always felt aspirations towards a very
different kind of life."

"Oh, don't be afraid, mamma," said Phoebe, calmly; "I shall be able to
keep them at a distance. You need not fear."

"Yes, my dear," said the anxious mother; "but not too much at a distance
either. That is just what is so difficult. If they can find an excuse
for saying that my child is stuck up! Oh! nothing would please them more
than to be able to find out something against my child. When you have
apparently belonged to that low level, and then have risen," said Mrs.
Beecham, with a hot colour on her cheek, "there is nothing these kind of
people will not say."

These conversations raised a great deal of thought in Phoebe's mind; but
they did not change her resolution. If it was necessary that some one
should go to look after her grandmamma, and keep all those vulgar people
at bay, and show to the admiring world what a Dissenting minister's
daughter could be, and what a dutiful daughter was, then who so fit as
herself to be the example? This gave her even a certain tragical sense
of heroism, which was exhilarating, though serious. She thought of what
she would have to "put up with," as of something much more solemn than
the reality; more solemn, but alas! not so troublesome. Phoebe felt
herself something like a Joan of Arc as she packed her clothes and made
her preparations. She was going among barbarians, a set of people who
would not understand her, probably, and whom she would have to "put up
with." But what of that? Strong in a sense of duty, and superior to all
lesser inducements, she felt herself able to triumph. Mrs. Beecham
assisted with very divided feelings at the preparations. It was on her
lips to say, "Never mind the evening dresses; you will not want them."
But then the thought occurred to her that to let the Carlingford folks
see what her daughter had been used to, even if she had no use for such
things, would be sweet.

"No, Henery; she shall take them all," she said to her husband. "They
shall see the kind of society my child is in; very different from their
trumpery little teas! They shall see that you and I, we grudge nothing
for Phoebe--and I dare be sworn there is not one of them like her, not
even among the quality! I mean," said Mrs. Beecham, hastily, with a
flush of distress at her own failure in gentility, "among those who
think themselves better than we are. But Phoebe will let them see what a
pastor's family is out of their dirty little town. She will bring them
to their senses. Though I hesitated at first when it was spoken of, I am
very glad now."

"Yes; Phoebe is a girl to find her level anywhere," said the pastor,
complacently. And they forgot what she would have to put up with in
their satisfaction and admiration for herself.



CHAPTER VI.

A MORNING CALL.


Sir Robert Dorset and his daughter called, as in duty bound, upon their
relation two days after her ball. "You had better come with us, Ursula,"
said Miss Dorset. "Sophy does not care about visits, and Mrs. Copperhead
asked a great many questions about you. She is very tender-hearted to
the ---- young." Anne had almost said to the poor, for it is difficult
to remember always that the qualifications by which we distinguish our
friends when they are not present, are not always satisfactory to their
own ears. "She was like you once, you know," she added, half
apologetically. Ursula, who was not in the least disposed to take
offence, did not ask how, but assented, as she would have assented had
Cousin Anne told her to get ready to go to the moon. She went upstairs
and put on her little felt hat, which had been made handsome by the long
drooping feather bestowed upon her by Sophy, and the blue serge jacket
which corresponded with her dress. She had not any great opinion of her
own good looks, but she hoped that she was "lady-like," notwithstanding
the simplicity of her costume. This was her only aspiration. In her
heart she admired the tall straight angular kind of beauty possessed by
her cousins, and did not think much of her own roundness and softness,
which seemed to Ursula a very inferior "style;" but yet if she looked
lady-like that was always something, and both Sir Robert and his
daughter looked at her approvingly as she stood buttoning her gloves,
waiting for them.

"If there are other city gentlemen there mind you make yourself very
agreeable, Ursula," said Cousin Sophy, which vexed the girl a little.
Whether the people were city gentlemen or not, of course, she said to
herself, she would try to be _nice_--was not that a girl's first duty?
She tried for her part to be _nice_ to everybody, to talk when she
could, and receive the recompense of pleased looks. To walk with her
friends up the long line of Regent Street, with many a sidelong glance
into the shop-windows, was very pleasant to Ursula. Sometimes even
Cousin Anne would be tempted to stop and look, and point things out to
her father. Unfortunately, the things Miss Dorset remarked were chiefly
handsome pieces of furniture, beautiful carpets, and the like, which
were totally out of Ursula's way.

"There is just the kind of carpet I want for the drawing-room," Anne
said, looking at something so splendid that Ursula thought it was good
enough for the Queen. But Sir Robert shook his head.

"The drawing-room carpet will do very well," he said. "It will last out
my day, and your brother will prefer to please himself."

This brought a little cloud upon Anne Dorset's placid face, for she too,
like Mr. Beecham, had a brother whose wife it was not agreeable to think
of as mistress in the old house. She went on quickly after that looking
in at no more shops. Perhaps she who could buy everything she wanted (as
Ursula thought) had on the whole more painful feelings in looking at
them, than had the little girl beside her, whose whole thoughts were
occupied by the question whether she would have enough money left to buy
her sister Janey one of those new neckties which were "the fashion."
Janey did not often get anything that was the fashion. But at any rate
Ursula made notes and laid up a great many things in her mind to tell
Janey of--which would be next best.

Mrs. Copperhead was seated in a corner of her vast drawing-room when her
visitors arrived, and her pale little countenance brightened at sight of
them. They were the nearest approach to "her own people" that the poor
soul possessed. She received their compliments upon her ball with
deprecating looks.

"I am sure you are very good--very good to say so. I am afraid it was
not much amusement to you. They were not the kind of people--"

"I scarcely knew a soul," said Sir Robert; "it was a curious sensation.
It does one good now and then to have a sensation like that. It shows
you that after all you are not such a fine fellow as you thought
yourself. Once before I experienced something of the same feeling. It
was at a ball at the Tuileries--but even then, after a while, I found
English people I knew, though I didn't know the French grandees; but, by
Jove! except yourself and Mr. Copperhead, Clara, I knew nobody here."

Mrs. Copperhead felt the implied censure more than she was intended to
feel it.

"Mr. Copperhead does not care about cultivating fashionable people," she
said, with a little spirit. "He prefers his old friends."

"That is very nice of him," cried Anne, "so much the kindest way. I
liked it so much. At most balls we go to, people come and ask me to
dance for duty, pretending not to see that my dancing days are over."

"She talks nonsense," said Sir Robert. "Clara, I must trust to you to
put this notion out of Anne's head. Why should her dancing days be over?
I am not a Methuselah, I hope. She has no right to shelve herself so
early, has she? I hope to see her make a good match before I die."

"So long as she is happy--" said Mrs. Copperhead, faltering. She was not
any advocate for good matches. "Oh, there is Mr. Copperhead!" she added,
with a little start, as a resounding knock was heard. "He does not often
come home so early; he will be very glad to see you, Sir Robert. Are you
going to stay long in town, Miss May?"

"Not long, only till the children arrive," said Anne, looking
compassionately at the rich man's nervous wife. She had been quiet
enough, so long as she was alone. Now a little fever seemed to be
awakened in her. She turned to Ursula and began to talk to her quickly--

"Do you like being in town? It is not a good time of the year. It is
nicer in May, when everything looks cheerful; but I always live in
London. You will come back for the season, I suppose?"

"Oh no," said Ursula. "I never was in London before. Cousin Anne brought
me for a great pleasure. I have been twice to the theatre, and at the
ball here."

"Oh yes, I forgot, you were at the ball--and you danced, did you dance?
I cannot remember. There were so many people. Oh yes, I recollect. I
spoke to Clarence--"

"I danced three times," said Ursula. "I never was at a ball before. It
was very nice. Mr. Copperhead was so kind--"

"What is that about Mr. Copperhead being kind? Was I kind? I am always
kind--ask my wife, she will give me a good character," said the master
of the house, coming up to them. "Ah, the Baronet! how do you do, Sir
Robert? I don't often see you in my house."

"You saw us the other evening," said Sir Robert, courteously, "and we
have just come, Anne and I, to let Clara know how much we enjoyed
it. It was really splendid. I don't know when I have seen so
much--um--luxury--so great a display of--of--beautiful things--and--and
wealth."

"Glad to hear you were pleased," said Mr. Copperhead, "no expense was
spared at least. I don't often throw away my money in that way, but when
I do I like things to be regardless of expense. That is our way in the
city; other people have to make a deal of gentility go a long way, but
with us, who don't stand on our gentility--"

"It is not much to stand upon, certainly, in the way of giving balls,"
said Sir Robert. "I quite agree with you that money should not be spared
when a good effect is to be produced. Anne, my dear, if you have said
all you have to say to Clara, you must recollect that we have a great
deal to do--"

"You are not going the moment I come in," said Mr. Copperhead. "Come, we
must have some tea or something. Not that I care very much for tea, but
I suppose you'll be shocked if I offer you anything else in the
afternoon. Haven't you ordered tea, Mrs. Copperhead? I can't teach my
wife hospitality, Sir Robert--not as I understand it. She'd see you come
and go a dozen times, I'll be bound, without once thinking of offering
anything. That ain't my way. Tea! and directly, do you hear."

"Yes," said Mrs. Copperhead, in a nervous tremor; "bring tea, Burton,
please. It is rather early, but I do so hope you will stay." She gave
Miss Dorset an appealing glance, and Anne was too kind to resist the
appeal.

"To be sure they'll stay," said Mr. Copperhead. "Ladies never say no to
a cup of tea, and ours ought to be good if there's any virtue in money.
Come and look at my Turner, Sir Robert. I ain't a judge of art, but it
cost a precious lot, if that is any test. They tell me it's one of the
best specimens going. Come this way."

"You won't mind?" said poor Mrs. Copperhead. "He is very hospitable, he
cannot bear that any one should go without taking something. It is
old-fashioned, but then Mr. Copperhead--"

"It is a most kind fashion, I think," said Anne Dorset, who had a
superstitious regard for other people's feelings, "and Mr. Copperhead is
quite right, I never say no to a cup of tea."

Just then Clarence came in with his hands in his pockets, so curiously
like his father in his large somewhat loose figure, as unlike him in
aspect and expression, that even the gentle Anne could scarcely help
smiling. When he had shaken hands with Miss Dorset he dropped naturally
into a seat beside Ursula, who, dazzled by his position as son of the
house, and flattered by what she called his "kindness," was as much
pleased by this sign of preference as if Clarence Copperhead had been a
hero.

"I hope you have recovered my father's ball," he said.

"Recovered! Mr. Copperhead."

"Yes, you think it uncivil; but I myself have scarcely recovered yet.
The sort of people he chose to collect--people whom nobody knew."

"But, Mr. Copperhead," said Ursula, "if it was his old friends, as your
mother says, how much more noble of him than if they had been fine
people he did not care for! As for me, I don't know any one anywhere. It
was all the same to me."

"That was very lucky for you," said the young man. "My good cousins did
not take it so easily. They are your cousins, too?"

"Oh, yes--they are so good," cried Ursula. "Cousin Sophy laughs at me
sometimes, but Cousin Anne is as kind as an angel. They have always been
good to us all our lives."

"You live near them, perhaps? Sir Robert has been kind enough to ask me
to the Hall."

"No, not near. We live at Carlingford. It is not a place like the
Dorsets'; it is a poor little town where papa is one of the clergymen.
We are not county people like them," said Ursula, with anxious honesty,
that he might not have a false idea of her pretensions. "I have never
been anywhere all my life, and that is why they brought me here. It was
by far the most beautiful party I ever saw," she added, with a little
enthusiasm. "I never was at a real dance before."

"I am glad you thought it pretty," said Clarence. "I suppose it was
pretty; when the rooms are nice," and he looked round the handsome room,
not without a little complacency, "and when there is plenty of light and
flowers, and well-dressed people, I suppose no dance can help being a
pretty sight. That was about all. There was no one worth pointing out."

"Oh, there were some very pretty people," said Ursula; "there was a
young lady in black. She was always dancing. I should have liked to know
her. You danced with her a great many times, Mr. Copperhead."

"Ah!" said Clarence. He was not more foolish than his neighbours, but it
flattered him that his dancing with one person should have been noticed,
especially by a pretty creature, who herself had attracted him and
shared the privilege. "That was Miss Beecham. I did not dance with her
above three or four times. Of course," he said, apologetically, "we are
old friends."

Ursula did not know why he should apologize. She did not intend to
flirt, not having any knowledge of that pastime as yet. She was quite
simple in her mention of the other girl, who had attracted her
attention. Now having said all she could remember to say, she stopped
talking, and her eyes turned to the elder Mr. Copperhead, who came back,
followed by Sir Robert. There was a largeness about the rich man, which
Ursula, not used to rich men, gazed at with surprise. He seemed to
expand himself upon the air, and spread out his large person, as she had
never known any one else do. And Sir Robert, following him, looked so
strangely different. He was very reluctant to be so led about, and, as
it were, patronized by the master of the house, and his repugnance took
a curious form. His nose was slightly drawn up, as if an odour of
something disagreeable had reached him. Ursula, in her innocence,
wondered what it was.

"Here's the Baronet, Clarence," said Mr. Copperhead, who was slightly
flushed; "and he doubts the Turner being genuine. My Turner! Go off at
once to those picture people, Christie, whatever you call them, and tell
them I want proofs that it's genuine. I am not the sort of man, by
George! to be cheated, and they ought to know that. They have had many a
hundred pounds of my money, but they shall never have another penny if I
don't get proofs. It ain't pleasant, I can tell you, to hear the
Baronet, or any one else for that matter, running down my pictures."

"I did not run it down," said Sir Robert, with another little curl of
his nostrils. (What could there be in this grand big house that could
make a disagreeable smell?) "I only said that I had seen copies that
were so wonderfully good that none but an expert could tell the
difference; that was all. I don't say that yours is one of them."

"No; nor no one shall!" cried Mr. Copperhead. "We shall have the
experts, as you call them, and settle it. By George! there shall be
nothing uncertain in my house. You can tell the men it is Sir Robert
Dorset who suggested it. There's nothing like a title (even when it
isn't much of a title) to keep people up to their work. Not meaning any
disrespect to Sir Robert, I could buy him and his up five times over.
But I ain't Sir Robert, and never will be. Say Sir Robert, Clarence, my
boy; that'll bear weight."

"It was an unfortunate observation on my part," said Sir Robert,
stiffly. "I have a picture myself, which I bought for a Correggio, and
which is a mere copy, I believe, though a very nice one. I hold my
tongue on the subject, and nobody is the wiser. Anne, my dear, I think
we must go now."

"That would never suit me," said the rich man; "holding my tongue ain't
my way, is it, Mrs. Copperhead? What! going, after all, without your
tea? I am afraid, ma'am, the Baronet is touchy, and doesn't like what I
said. But nobody minds me, I assure you. I say what I think, but I don't
mean any harm."

"Oh, no," said Anne, drawing herself up, while her father took leave of
poor little tremulous Mrs. Copperhead. "We really must go; we have
stayed longer than we meant to stay. Ursula--"

"Your little companion?" said Mr. Copperhead. "Ah; you should take care,
Miss Dorset, of these little persons. They stand in the way of the young
ladies themselves often enough, I can tell you. And so can Mrs.
Copperhead; she knows."

He laughed, and both Anne and Ursula became aware that something
offensive was meant; but what it was, neither of them could make out.
Mrs. Copperhead, whose intelligence had been quickened on that point,
perceived it, and trembled more and more.

"Good-bye, dear," she said to Ursula in an agony. "Though we are not
cousins, we are connections, through your kind Cousin Anne; for she lets
me call her my Cousin Anne too. Perhaps you will come and pay me a visit
sometimes, if--if you can be spared."

"Oh, yes; I should be very glad," said Ursula, confused.

She did not understand why Sir Robert should be in such a hurry, when
both young Mr. Copperhead and his mother were so kind. As for the other
Mr. Copperhead, he did not interest Ursula. But he went down to the door
with them in an excess of civility, offering Anne his arm, which she was
obliged to take, much against her will; and even Ursula felt a passing
pang of humiliation when the footman threw open the great door before
them, and no carriage was visible.

"Oh, you are walking!" said Mr. Copperhead, with one of his big laughs.

After all, a laugh could hurt nobody. Why was it that they all felt
irritated and injured? Even Sir Robert grew scarlet, and when they were
outside on the broad pavement turned almost angrily upon his daughter.

"I tell you what, Anne," he said; "not if it was to save my life, shall
I ever enter that brute's doors again."

"Oh, papa; poor Mrs. Copperhead!" cried kind Anne, with a wail in her
voice. That was all the reply she made.



CHAPTER VII.

SHOPPING.


Next day a telegram came from Southampton, announcing the arrival of the
little Dorsets, which Ursula rejoiced over with the rest, yet was
dreadfully sorry for in her heart. "Now we shall be able to get home,"
the sisters said, and she did her best to smile; but to say that she was
glad to leave London, with all its delights, the bright streets and the
shop-windows, and the theatres, and the excitement of being "on a
visit," would be a great deal more than the truth. She was glad,
sympathetically, and to please the others; but for herself, her heart
fell. It was still winter, and winter is not lively in Carlingford; and
there was a great deal to do at home, and many things "to put up with."
To be sure, that was her duty, this was only her pleasure; but at
twenty, pleasure is so much more pleasant than duty. Ursula did not at
all rebel, nor did she make painful contrasts in her mind, as so many
young people do; asking why are others so well off, and I so badly off?
but her heart sank. All the mendings, all the keepings in order, the
dinners to be invented with a due regard for the butcher's bill, the
tradespeople to be kept in good humour, the servant to be managed, and
papa, who was more difficult than the servant, and more troublesome than
the children! If Ursula sighed over the prospect, I don't think the
severest of recording angels would put a very bad mark against her. She
had been free of all this for ten wonderful days. No torn frocks, no
unpleasant baker, no hole in the carpet, no spoiled mutton-chops, had
disturbed her repose. All these troubles, no doubt, were going on as
usual at home, and Janey and the maid were struggling with them as best
they could. Had Ursula been very high-minded and given up to her duty,
no doubt she would have been too much moved by the thought of what her
young sister might be enduring in her absence, to get the good of her
holiday; but I fear this was not how she felt it. Janey, no doubt, would
get through somehow; and it was very sweet to escape for ever so short a
time, and have a real rest. Therefore, it must be allowed that, when
Ursula went to her bed-room after this news arrived, she relieved
herself by "a good cry." Two or three days longer, what difference could
that have made to those children? But after her headache was relieved in
this way, the cloud dispersed a little. The thought of all she had to
tell Janey consoled her. She counted over the spare contents of her
purse, and calculated that, after all, she would have enough to buy the
necktie; and she had all her presents to exhibit; the ball-dress, that
unhoped-for acquisition; the Venetian beads; the bracelet, "Which is
really good--_good_ gold; fancy!" said Ursula to herself, weighing it in
her hand. How Janey would be interested, how she would be dazzled! There
was a great deal of consolation in this thought. In the afternoon her
cousins took her out "shopping," an occupation which all young girls and
women like. They bought a great many things "for the spring," and "for
the children," while Ursula looked on with admiration. To be able to buy
things three months in advance, three months before they could possibly
be wanted, what luxury! and yet the Dorsets were not rich, or so, at
least, people said.

"Now, Ursula," said Cousin Anne, "we have made all our purchases.
Suppose you choose frocks for the children at home."

"Oh, me?" cried poor Ursula, forgetting grammar. She blushed very red,
and looked, not without indignation, into Anne Dorset's mild eyes. "You
know I have not any money; you know we can't afford it!" she cried, with
starting tears.

"But I can," said Cousin Anne; "at least, I have some money just now.
Money always goes, whether one buys things or not," she added, with a
little sigh. "It runs through one's fingers. When one has something to
show for it, that is always a satisfaction. Come, this would be pretty
for little Amy; but it is you who must choose."

"But, Cousin Anne! Dresses! If it was a necktie or a ribbon; but
frocks--"

"Frocks would be most useful, wouldn't they? One for Amy, and one for
Janey. I suppose Robin does not wear frocks now?"

"He has been in knickerbockers these two years," said Ursula, half
proud, half sorry; "and the worst of it is, they can't be made at home.
Papa says, boys' clothes made at home are always spoiled, and the tailor
is so dear. Oh, Cousin Anne, are you really, really going to be so very,
very good--!"

Mrs. Copperhead came into the shop while they were choosing. Poor little
woman! she who trembled so in her own house, how everybody bowed down
before her at Messrs. Margrove and Snelcher's! It was all she could do
to extricate herself from a crowd of anxious officials, all eager to
supply her with everything that heart could desire, when she saw the
little party. She came up to them, almost running in her eagerness, her
small pale face flushed, and leaned on Anne Dorset's chair and whispered
to her.

"You will not be angry, dear kind Anne. You are always so good to
everybody. Oh, forgive me! forgive me!"

Ursula could not help hearing what she said.

"There is nothing to forgive _you_, Mrs. Copperhead."

"Oh, dear Anne! But I am more than myself, you know! He does not mean
it; he never was brought up to know better. He thinks that is how people
behave--"

"Please don't say anything, dear Mrs. Copperhead."

"Not if you will forgive--not if you will promise to forgive. Poor
Clarence is heart-broken!" cried the poor woman. "He is so frightened
for what you must think."

"We don't think anything," said Sophy, breaking in; "it is one of our
good qualities as a family that we never think. Come and help us; we are
choosing frocks for Ursula's sisters. She has two. What are their ages,
Ursula? You, who live in town, and know the fashions, come and help us
to choose."

And how respectful all the shopmen grew when the nameless country party
was joined by the great Mrs. Copperhead--or rather the great Mr.
Copperhead's wife, at whose command was unlimited credit, and all the
contents of the shop if she chose. One hurried forward to give her a
chair, and quite a grand personage, a "head man," came from another
counter to take the charge of pleasing such a customer. Ursula could not
but look upon the whole transaction with awe. Mrs. Copperhead was a very
humble, timid woman, and Mr. Copperhead was not nice; but it was
something to command the reverence of all the people in such a grand
shop--a shop which Ursula by herself would scarcely have ventured to
enter, and in which she felt timid and overwhelmed, saying, "Sir" to the
gentleman who was so good as to ask what she wanted. But here Mrs.
Copperhead was not afraid. She gave herself up with her whole heart to
the delightful perplexity of choice, and when that matter was settled,
looked round with searching eyes.

"Don't they want something else?" she said, "it is so long since I have
bought any children's things. It reminds me of the days when Clarence
was little, when I took such pride in his dress. Come with me into the
cloak room, my dear, I am sure they must want jackets or something."

Ursula resisted with pitiful looks at Cousin Anne, and Sophy whispered
into Mrs. Copperhead's ear an explanation, which, instead of quenching
her ardour, brought it up instantly to boiling point. Her pale little
languid countenance glowed and shone. She took both Ursula's hands in
hers, half smiling, half crying.

"Oh, my dear," she said, "you can give me such a pleasure, if you will!
You know we are connections, almost relations. Let me send them
something. Dear children, I wish I could see them. Come and look at the
little jackets and mantles. I have often thought, if Providence had
given me a little girl, what pleasure I should have had in dressing her.
Hats too! I am sure they must want hats. Come, my dear, come and look at
them." Ursula did not know what to do. A little pride and a great deal
of shyness kept her back, but Mrs. Copperhead was too much in earnest to
be crossed. She bought a couple of very smart little upper garments for
Amy and Janey, and then, clandestinely taking no one into her
confidence, for Ursula herself, and gave secret orders to have them all
sent to the Dorsets' lodgings that night. She was quite transformed so
long as this transaction lasted. Her languid countenance grew bright,
her pale eyes lighted up.

"You have given me such a pleasure," she said, holding Ursula's hands,
and standing up on tip-toe to kiss her. "I am so much obliged to you. I
could almost think that Clarence was little again, or that he had got a
little sister, which was always my heart's desire. Ah, well! often,
often, it seems better for us not to have our heart's desire, my dear;
at least I suppose that is how it must be."

"I do not know how to thank you," said Ursula, "you have been so
kind--so very kind."

"I have been kind to myself," said Mrs. Copperhead, "I have so enjoyed
it; and, my dear," she added, with some solemnity, still holding Ursula
by the hands, "promise you will do me one favour more. It will be such a
favour. Whenever you want anything for yourself or your sister will you
write to me? I am always in London except in autumn, and I should so
like to do your commissions. People who live in London know how to get
bargains, my dear. You must promise to let me do them for you. It will
make me so happy. Promise!" cried the little woman, quite bright in her
excitement. Ursula looked at the two others who were looking on, and did
not know what to say.

"She thinks you are too expensive an agent for her," said Sophy Dorset,
"and I think so too."

Mrs. Copperhead's face faded out of its pleasant glow.

"There are two things I have a great deal too much of," she said, "money
and time. I am never so happy as when I am buying things for children,
and I can see that she will trust me--won't you, my dear? Must we say
good-bye now? Couldn't I take you anywhere? Look at that big carriage,
all for me alone, a little light woman. Let me take you somewhere. No!
Ah, Cousin Anne, you have not forgiven us for all you said."

"We have some other things to do," said Anne, drawing back. As for
Ursula, she would not at all have objected to the splendour of the
carriage. And her heart was melted by the lonely little woman's pathetic
looks. But the other ladies stood out. They stood by while poor Mrs.
Copperhead got into the carriage and drove off, her pale reproachful
little face looking at them wistfully from the window. It was afternoon
by this time, getting dark, and it was a tolerably long walk along the
lighted, crowded streets.

"Cousin Anne, I am afraid we have hurt her feelings," said Ursula; "why
wouldn't you go?"

"Go!" cried mild Anne Dorset; "get into that man's carriage after
yesterday? Not for the world! I can put up with a great deal, but I
can't go so far as that."

"She never did any harm," said Sophy, "poor little soul! You see now,
Ursula, don't you, how fine it is to marry a rich man, and have
everything that your heart can desire?"

Ursula looked at her wondering. To tell the truth, Mrs. Copperhead's
eagerness to buy everything she could think of for the unknown children
at Carlingford, the manner with which she was regarded in the great
shop, her lavish liberality, her beautiful carriage, and all the fine
things about her, had brought Ursula to this very thought, that it was
extremely fine to marry a rich man. Sophy's irony was lost upon her
simple-minded cousin, and so indeed was Mrs. Copperhead's pathos. That
she was very kind, and that she was not very happy, were both apparent,
but Ursula did not connect the unhappiness with the fact that she was a
rich man's wife. Mr. Copperhead certainly was not very _nice_; but when
people got so old as that, they never were very happy, Ursula thought,
and what had the money to do with it? She looked confused and puzzled at
Sophy, wondering what she meant. Yes, indeed, to marry a rich man, to be
able to buy presents for everyone, to make the children at home
perfectly happy without any trouble to one's self! Could any one doubt
that it was very nice? Alas! Ursula did not think it at all likely that
this would ever be in her power.

"Poor Mrs. Copperhead!" said Anne, as they made their way along the
crowded street, where it was difficult for them to walk together, much
less to maintain any conversation. And presently Ursula, keeping as
close as possible to her cousin's side, but compelled to make way
continually for other passers-by, lost herself in a maze of fancies, to
which the misty afternoon atmosphere, and the twinkling lights, and the
quickly passing crowds lent a confused but not unpleasing background.
She was glad that the noise made all talk impossible, and that she could
dream on quietly as they glided and pressed their way through the
current of people in Oxford Street and Regent Street, as undisturbed as
if she had been shut up in her own room--nay, more so--for the external
sights and sounds which flitted vaguely by her, disguised those dreams
even from herself. Mrs. Copperhead had once been poorer than she was, a
poor little governess. What if somewhere about, in some beautiful house,
with just such a carriage at the door, a beautiful young hero should be
waiting who would give all those dazzling delights to Ursula? Then what
frocks she would buy, what toys, what ornaments! She would not stop at
the girls, but drive to the best tailor's boldly, and bid him send down
some one to take Johnnie's measure, and Robin's, and even Reginald's;
and then she would go to the toy-shop, and to the bookseller, and I
can't tell where besides; and finally drive down in the fairy chariot
laden with everything that was delightful, to the very door. She would
not go in any vulgar railway. She would keep everything in her own
possession, and give each present with her own hands--a crowning delight
which was impossible to Mrs. Copperhead--and how clearly she seemed to
see herself drawing up, with panting horses, high-stepping and splendid,
to the dull door of the poor parsonage, where scarcely anything better
than a pony-carriage ever came! How the children would rush to the
window, and "even papa," out of his study; and what a commotion would
run through Grange Lane, and even up into the High Street, where the
butcher and the baker would remember with a shiver how saucy they had
sometimes been--when they saw what a great lady she was.

A dreamy smile hovered upon Ursula's face as she saw all the little
scenes of this little drama, mixed up with gleams of the shop-windows,
and noises of the streets, and great ghosts of passing omnibuses, and
horses steaming in the frosty air. How many girls, like her, go dreaming
about the prosaic streets? It was not, perhaps, a very elevated or
heroic dream, but the visionary chariot full of fine things for the
children, was better than Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, or many another
chariot of romance. Her cousins, who were so much her elders, and who
shuddered in their very souls at the thought of poor Mrs. Copperhead,
and who were talking earnestly about the children they expected next
morning, and what was to be done with them, had no clue to Ursula's
thoughts. They did not think much of them, one way or another, but took
great care not to lose her from their side, and that she should not be
frightened by the crowding, which, after all, was the great matter. And
they were very glad to get back to the comparative quiet of Suffolk
Street, and to take off their bonnets and take their cup of tea. But
Ursula, for her part, was sorry when the walk was over. She had enjoyed
it so much. It was half Regent Street and half Carlingford, with the
pleasure of both mixed up together; and she was half little Ursula May
with her head in the air, and half that very great lady in the
dream-chariot, who had it in her power to make everybody so happy.
Between poor Mrs. Copperhead, who was the most miserable, frightened
little slave in the world, with nothing, as she said, but time and
money, and Ursula without a penny, and who always had so much to do,
what a gulf there was! a gulf, however, which fancy could bridge over so
easily. But the dream was broken when she got indoors; not even the
quiet of her own little room could bring back in all their glory the
disturbed images that had floated before her in the street.

This was Ursula's last day in town, and there can be no doubt that it
was of a nature, without any aid from Sophy's suggestion, to put a great
many ideas into her mind.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DORSETS.


Next day the little Dorsets came, an odd little pair of shivering
babies, with a still more shivering Ayah. It was the failing health of
the little exotic creatures, endangered by their English blood, though
they had never seen England, and talked nothing but Hindostanee, which
had brought them "home" at this inhospitable time of the year; and to
get the rooms warm enough for them became the entire thought of the
anxious aunts, who contemplated these wan babies with a curious mixture
of emotions, anxious to be "very fond" of them, yet feeling difficulties
in the way. They were very white, as Indian children so often are, with
big blue veins meandering over them, distinct as if traced with colour.
They were frightened by all the novelty round them, and the strange
faces, whose very anxiety increased their alarming aspect; they did not
understand more than a few words of English, and shrank back in a little
heap, leaning against their dark nurse, and clinging to her when their
new relations made overtures of kindness. Children are less easily
conciliated in real life than superficial observers suppose. The
obstinate resistance they made to all Anne Dorset's attempts to win
their confidence, was enough to have discouraged the most patient, and
poor Anne cried over her failure when those atoms of humanity, so
strangely individual and distinct in their utter weakness, helplessness,
and dependence, were carried off to bed, gazing distrustfully at her
still with big blue eyes; creatures whom any moderately strong hand
could have crushed like flies, but whose little minds not all the power
on earth could command or move. Strange contrast! Anne cried when they
were carried off to bed. Sir Robert had escaped from the hot room, which
stifled him, long before; and Sophy, half angry in spite of herself,
had made up her mind to "take no notice of the little wretches."

"Fancy!" she said; "shrinking at Anne--Anne, of all people in the world!
There is not a little puppy or kitten but knows better. Little
disagreeable things! Oh, love them! Why should I love them? They are
John's children, I believe; but they are not a bit like him; they must
be like their mother. I don't see, for my part, what there is in them to
love."

"Oh, much, Sophy," said Anne, drying her eyes; "they are our own flesh
and blood."

"I suppose so. They are certainly Mrs. John's flesh and blood; at least,
they are not a bit like us, and I cannot love them for being like her,
can I?--whom I never saw?"

The illogicality of this curious argument did not strike Anne.

"I hope they will get to like us," she said. "Poor little darlings!
everything strange about them, new faces and places. I don't wonder that
they are frightened, and cry when any one comes near them. We must trust
to time. If they only knew how I want to love them, to pet them--"

"I am going to help little Ursula with her packing," said Sophy hastily;
and she hurried to Ursula's room, where all was in disorder, and threw
herself down in a chair by the fire, "Anne is too good to live," she
cried. "She makes me angry with her goodness. Little white-faced things
like nobody I know of, certainly not like our family, shrinking away and
clinging to that black woman as if Anne was an ogre--_Anne!_ why, a
little dog knows better--as I said before."

"I don't think they are very pretty children," said Ursula, not knowing
how to reply.

"Why should we be supposed to be fond of them?" said Sophy, who was
relieving her own mind, not expecting any help from Ursula. "The whole
question of children is one that puzzles me; a little helpless wax image
that does not know you, that can't respond to you, and won't perhaps
when it can; that has nothing interesting in it, that is not amusing
like a kitten, or even pretty. Well! let us suppose the people it
belongs to like it by instinct--but the rest of the world--"

"Oh, Cousin Sophy!" cried Ursula, her eyes round with alarm and horror.

"You think I ought to be fond of them because they are my brother's
children? We are not always very fond even of our brothers, Ursula.
Don't scream; at your age it is different; but when they marry and have
separate interests--if these mites go on looking at me with those big
scared eyes as if they expected me to box their ears, I shall do it some
day--I know I shall; instead of going on my knees to them, like Anne,
to curry favour. If they had been like our family, why, that would have
been some attraction. Are you pleased to go home, or would you prefer to
stay here?"

"In London?" said Ursula, with a long-drawn breath, her hands
involuntarily clasping each other. "Oh! I hope you won't think me very
silly, but I do like London. Yes, I am pleased--I have so many presents
to take to them, thanks to you and to Cousin Anne, and to Mrs.
Copperhead. I am ashamed to be carrying away so much. But Carlingford is
not like London," she added, with a sigh.

"No, it is a pretty soft friendly country place, not a great
cold-hearted wilderness."

"Oh, Cousin Sophy!"

"My poor little innocent girl! Don't you think it is desolate and
cold-hearted, this great sea of people who none of them care one straw
for you?"

"I have seen nothing but kindness," said Ursula, with a little heat of
virtuous indignation; "there is you, and Mrs. Copperhead; and even the
gentlemen were kind--or at least they meant to be kind."

"The gentlemen?" said Sophy, amused. "Do you mean the Copperheads?
Clarence perhaps? He is coming to Easton, Ursula. Shall I bring him into
Carlingford to see you?"

"If you please, Cousin Sophy," said the girl, simply. She had not been
thinking any thoughts of "the gentlemen" which could make her blush, but
somehow her cousin's tone jarred upon her, and she turned round to her
packing. The room was littered with the things which she was putting
into her box, that box which had grown a great deal too small now,
though it was quite roomy enough when Ursula left home.

"Ursula, I think you are a good little thing on the whole--"

"Oh, Cousin Sophy, forgive me! No, I am not good."

"Forgive you! for what? Yes, you are on the whole a good little thing;
not a saint, like Anne; but then you have perhaps more to try your
temper. We were always very obedient to her, though we worried her, and
papa always believed in her with all his heart. Perhaps you have more to
put up with. But, my dear, think of poor Mrs. Copperhead, for example--"

"Why do you always call her poor Mrs. Copperhead? she is very rich. She
can make other people happy when she pleases. She has a beautiful house,
and everything--"

"And a bear, a brute of a husband."

"Ah! Does she mind very much?" asked Ursula, with composure. This
drawback seemed to her insignificant, in comparison with Mrs.
Copperhead's greatness. It was only Sophy's laugh that brought her to
herself. She said with some haste, putting in her dresses, with her back
turned, "I do not mean to say anything silly. When people are as old as
she is, do they mind? It cannot matter so much what happens when you are
old."

"Why? but never mind, the theory is as good as many others," said Sophy.
"You would not mind then marrying a man like that, to have everything
that your heart could desire?"

"Cousin Sophy, I am not going to--marry any one," said Ursula, loftily,
carrying her head erect. "I hope I am not like that, thinking of such
things. I am very, very sorry that you should have such an opinion of
me, after living together ten days."

She turned away with all the forlorn pride of injury, and there were
tears in her voice. Sophy, who dared not laugh in reply, to make the
young heroine more angry, hastened to apologize.

"It was a silly question," she said. "I have a very good opinion of you,
Ursula. Ten days is a long time, and I know you as if we had been
together all your life. I am sure you do not think anything a nice girl
ought not to think; but I hope you will never be deceived and persuaded
to marry any one who is like Mr. Copperhead. I mean who is not nice and
young, and good, like yourself."

"Oh, no!" cried the girl, with energy. "But most likely I shall not
marry any one," she added, with a half sigh; "Janey may, but the eldest
has so much to do, and so much to think of. Cousin Anne has never
married."

"Nor Cousin Sophy either." Sophy's laugh sounded hard to the girl.
"Never mind, you will not be like us. You will marry, most likely, a
clergyman, in a pretty parsonage in the country."

"I do not think I am very fond of clergymen," said Ursula, recovering
her ease and composure. "They are always in and about, and everything
has to be kept so quiet when they are studying; and then the parish
people are always coming tramping upstairs with their dirty feet. When
you have only one servant it is very, very troublesome. Sir Robert never
gives any trouble," she said, once more, with a soft little sigh.

"Papa?" said Sophy, somewhat surprised; "but you would not--" she was
going to say, marry papa; but when she looked at Ursula's innocent
gravity, her absolute unconsciousness of the meanings which her chance
words might bear, she refrained. "I think I must send Seton to help
you," she said, "you can not get through all that packing by yourself."

"Oh yes, I am not tired. I have put in all my old things. The rest are
your presents. Oh, Cousin Sophy!" said the girl, coming quickly to her
and stealing two arms round her, "you have been so good to me! as if it
was not enough to give me this holiday, the most delightful I ever had
in my life--to send me home loaded with all these beautiful things! I
shall never forget it, never, never, if I were to live a hundred years!"

"My dear!" cried Sophy, startled by the sudden energy of this embrace.
Sophy was not emotional, but her eyes moistened and her voice softened
in spite of herself. "But you must let me send Seton to you," she said,
hurrying away. She was excited by the day's events, and did not trust
herself to make any further response; for if she "gave way" at all, who
could tell how far the giving way might go? Her brother John had been
married at the time when Sophy too ought to have been married, had all
gone well--and, perhaps, some keen-piercing thought that she too might
have had little children belonging to her, had given force and sharpness
to her objections to the pale little distrustful Indian children who had
shrunk from her overtures of affection. She went to her room and bathed
her eyes, which were hot and painful, and then she went back to Anne in
the sitting-room, who had opened the window to reduce the temperature,
and was resting in an easy chair, and pondering what she could do to
make the children love her, and to be a mother to them in the absence of
Mrs. John.

"I have been talking to Ursula, who is always refreshing," said Sophy.
"I wonder whom that child will marry. She gave me to understand, in her
awkward, innocent way, that she preferred papa. A laugh does one good,"
Sophy added, slightly rubbing her eyes. Anne made no immediate answer.
She scarcely heard indeed what her sister said.

"I think we shall get on after a while," she said, softly. "They said
their prayers very prettily, poor darlings, and let me kiss them without
crying. After a while we shall get on, I don't fear."

"Anne!" cried Sophy, "you are too much for mere human nature: you are
too bad or too good for anything. I begin to hate these little wretches
when I hear you speak of them so."

"Hush!" said Anne, "I know you don't mean it. Easton will be very
strange to them at first. I could not go to India for my part. A crust
of bread at home would be better. Think of parting with your children
just when they come to an age to understand?"

"John, I suppose, did not take children into consideration when he went
away. You speak as if children were all one's life."

"A great part of it," said Anne, gently. "No, dear, I am not clever like
you, and perhaps it is what you will call a low view; but after all it
runs through everything. The flowers are used for the seed, and
everything in the world is intended to keep the world going. Yes, even
I, that is the good of me. I shall never be a mother, but what does that
matter? There are so many children left on the world whom somebody must
bring up."

"And who are brought to you when they need you, and taken from you when
they need you no longer," said Sophy, indignantly; "you are left to bear
the trouble--others have the recompense."

"It is so in this world, my dear, all the way down, from God himself.
Always looking for reward is mean and mercenary. When we do nothing,
when we are of no use, what a poor thing life is," said Anne, with a
little colour rising in her cheeks, "not worth having. I think we have
only a right to our existence when we are doing something. And I have my
wages; I like to be of a little consequence," she said, laughing.
"Nobody is of any consequence who does not do something."

"In that case, the ayah, the housemaid is of more consequence than you."

"So be it--I don't object," said Anne; "but I don't think so, for they
have to be directed and guided. To be without a housemaid is dreadful.
The moment you think of that, you see how important the people who work
are; everything comes to a stand-still without Mary, whereas there are
ladies whose absence would make no difference."

"I, for instance."

"You are very unkind to say so, Sophy; all the same, if you were to do
more, you would be happier, my dear."

"To do what? go on my knees to those wax dolls, and entreat them to let
me pet them and make idols of them--as you will do?"

"Well, how are you getting on now?" said Sir Robert, coming in. "Ah! I
see, you have the window open; but the room is still very warm. When
they get to Easton they will have their own rooms of course. I don't
want to reflect upon John, but it is rather a burden this he has saddled
us with. Mrs. John's mother is living, isn't she? I think something
might have been _said_ at least, on her part, some offer to take her
share."

Sophy gave her sister a malicious glance, but promptly changed her tone,
and took up her position in defence of the arrangement, with that ease
which is natural in a family question.

"Of course," she said, "your grandchildren, Dorsets, and the heir,
probably, as Robert has no boy, could go nowhere, papa, but to us. It
may be a bore, but at least John showed so much sense; for nothing else
could be----"

"John does not show very much sense in an ordinary way. What did he want
with a wife and children at his age? The boy is five, isn't he? and the
father only thirty--absurd! I did not marry till I was thirty, though I
had succeeded before that time, and was the only son and the head of the
family. John was always an ass," said Sir Robert, with a crossness which
sprang chiefly from the fact that the temperature of the room was higher
than usual, and the habits of his evening interfered with. He was
capable of sacrificing something of much more importance to his family,
but scarcely of sacrificing his comfort, which is the last and most
painful of efforts.

"That may be very true," said Sophy, "but all the same, it is only right
that the children should be with us. Mrs. John's people are not well
off. Her mother has a large family of her own. The little things would
have been spoiled, or they would have been neglected; and after all,
they are Dorsets, though they are not like John."

"Well, well, I suppose you are right," said Sir Robert, grumbling, "and,
thank Heaven, to-morrow we shall be at home."

Anne had scarcely said a word, though it was she who was most deeply
concerned about the children. She gave her sister a hug when Sir Robert
relapsed into the evening paper, and then stole upstairs to look at the
poor babies as they lay asleep. She was not a mother, and never would
be. People, indeed, called her an old maid, and with reason enough,
though she was little over thirty; for had she been seventy, she could
not have been more unlikely to marry. It was not her vocation. She had
plenty to do in the world without that, and was satisfied with her life.
The sad reflection that the children whom she tended were not her own,
did not visit her mind, as, perhaps, it had visited Sophy's, making her
angry through the very yearning of nature. Anne was of a different
temperament, she said a little prayer softly in her heart for the
children and for her sister as she stooped over the small beds. "God
bless the children--and, oh, make my Sophy happy!" she said. She had
never asked for nor thought of happiness to herself. It had come to her
unconsciously, in her occupations, in her duties, as natural as the soft
daylight, and as little sought after. But Sophy was different. Sophy
wanted material for happiness--something to make her glad; she did not
possess it, like her sister, in the quiet of her own heart. And from the
children's room Anne went to Ursula's, where the girl, tired with her
packing, was brushing her pretty hair out before she went to bed.
Everything was ready, the drawers all empty, the box full to
overflowing, and supplemented by a large parcel in brown paper; and what
with the fatigue and the tumult of feeling in her simple soul, Ursula
was ready to cry when her cousin came in and sat down beside her.

"I have been so happy, Cousin Anne. You have been so good to me," she
said.

"My dear, everybody will be good to you," said Miss Dorset, "so long as
you trust everybody, Ursula. People are more good than bad. I hope when
you come to Easton you will be still happier."

Ursula demurred a little to this, though she was too shy to say much.
"Town is so cheerful," she said. It was not Sir Robert's way of looking
at affairs.

"There is very little difference in places," said Anne, "when your heart
is light you are happy everywhere." Ursula felt that it was somewhat
derogatory to her dignity to have her enjoyment set down to the score of
a light heart. But against such an assertion what could she say?



CHAPTER IX.

COMING HOME.


The party which set out from Suffolk Street next morning was a mighty
one; there were the children, the ayah, the new nurse whom Anne had
engaged in town, to take charge of her little nephews as soon as they
got accustomed to their new life; and Seton, the ancient serving-woman,
whom the sisters shared between them; and Sir Robert's man, not to speak
of Sir Robert himself and the Miss Dorsets and Ursula. Easton was within
a dozen miles of Carlingford, so that they all travelled together as far
as that town. The Dorset party went farther on to the next station, from
which they had still six miles to travel by carriage. They set down
Ursula on the platform with her box and her parcel, and took leave of
her, and swept out of the station again, leaving her rather forlorn and
solitary among the crowd. "Disgraceful of May not to send some one to
meet the child. I suppose he knew she was coming," said Sir Robert. And
Ursula had something of the same feeling, as she stood looking wistfully
about her. But as soon as the train was gone, her name was called in a
somewhat high-pitched voice, and turning round she found herself hugged
by Janey, while Johnnie, fresh from school, seized her bag out of her
hand by way of showing his satisfaction.

"We didn't come up till we could make sure that the Dorsets were out of
the way," said Janey, "and, oh, is it really you? I am so glad to get
you home."

"Why didn't you want to see the Dorsets? They are the kindest friends we
have in the world," said Ursula. "How is papa? Is he in a good humour?
And the rest? Why did not some more come to meet me? I made sure there
would be four at least."

"Amy and Robin have gone out to tea--they didn't want to go; but papa
insisted. Oh, he is very well on the whole. And Reginald is at home, of
course, but I thought you would like me best. Johnnie came to carry the
bag," said Janey with a natural contempt for her younger brother. "What
a big parcel! You must have been getting quantities of presents, or else
you must have packed very badly, for I am sure there was lots of room in
the trunk when you went away."

"Oh, Janey, if you only knew what I have got there!"

"What?" said Janey, with quiet but composed interest. It never occurred
to her that she could have any individual concern in the contents of the
parcels. She was a tall girl who had outgrown all her frocks, or rather
did outgrow them periodically, with dark elf locks about her shoulders,
which would not curl or _crêper_, or do anything that hair ought to do.
She had her thoughts always in the clouds, forming all sorts of
impossible plans, as was natural to her age, and was just the kind of
angular, jerky school-girl, very well intentioned, but very maladroit,
who is a greater nuisance to herself and everybody else than even a
school-boy, which is saying a good deal. Things broke in her hands as
they never broke in anybody else's; stuffs tore, furniture fell to the
ground as she passed by. Ursula carefully kept her off the parcel and
gave it to Johnnie. One of the railway porters, when all the rest of the
passengers were disposed of, condescended to carry her trunk, and thus
they set out on their way home. The parsonage was close to St. Roque, at
the other end of Grange Lane. They had to walk all the way down that
genteel and quiet suburban road, by the garden walls over which, at
this season, no scent of flowers came, or blossomed branches hung forth.
There were red holly-berries visible, and upon one mossy old tree a gray
bunch of mistletoe could be seen on the other side of the street. But
how quiet it was! They scarcely met a dozen people between the station
and St. Roque.

"Oh, Janey, is everybody dead?" said Ursula. "How dull it is! You should
see London----"

"Ursula," said Janey firmly, "once for all, I am not going to stand this
London! A nasty, smoky, muddy place, no more like Carlingford than--I am
like you. You forget I have been in London; you are not speaking to
ignorant ears," said Janey, drawing herself up, "and your letters were
quite bad enough. You are not going to talk of nothing but your
disagreeable London here. Talk to people who have never seen it!" said
the girl, elevating her shoulders with the contempt of knowledge.

"That time you were at the dentist's--" said Ursula, "and call that
seeing London! Cousin Anne and Cousin Sophy took me everywhere. We went
to drive in the Park. We went to the Museum and the National Gallery.
And, oh! Janey, listen! we went to the theatre: think of that!"

"Well, I should like to go to the theatre," said Janey, with a sigh.
"But you told me in your letter. That's what comes of being the eldest.
Unless you get married, or something, nobody will ever think of taking
_me_."

"You are five years younger than I am," said Ursula, with dignity.
"Naturally, people don't think of a girl at your age. You must wait till
you are older, as I have had to do. Janey! guess what is in _that_?"

"Your new dress--your ball-dress. If it isn't crumpled as you said, you
can't have danced very much. I know my dress will be in tatters if I
ever go to a ball."

"I danced as much as I wished. I did not know many people," said Ursula,
drawing herself up. "Of course at this time of the year nobody is in
town, and we hardly knew any one--and of course--"

"Of course, you only knew the fashionable people who are out of town in
winter," cried Janey, with a laugh which echoed along the street. Ursula
had not come home from London to be laughed at by her younger sister,
she who had been petted by the Dorsets, and whose opinion even Sir
Robert had asked on various occasions. She felt this downfall all the
more deeply that she had been looking forward to so many long talks with
Janey, and expected to live all her brief ten days' holiday over again,
and to instruct her young sister's mind by the many experiences acquired
in that momentous time. Poor Ursula! ten days is quite long enough to
form habits at her age, and she had been taken care of, as young ladies
are taken care of in society; accompanied or attended wherever she went,
and made much of. To find herself thus left to arrive and get home as
she pleased, with nobody but Janey to meet her, was a terrible
falling-off; and to be laughed at by Janey was the last step of all.
Tears filled her eyes, she turned her shoulder to her companion,
averting her head; and this was all poor Ursula had to look to. The
dreary Carlingford street, papa finding fault, everything going wrong,
and Janey laughing at her! To be Cousin Anne's maid, or governess to the
little Indian children would be better than this. For five minutes more
she walked on in offended silence, saying nothing, though Janey, like
the school-girl she was, made frequent use of her elbow to move her
sister.

"Ursula!" the girl said at last, with a more potent nudge, "what's the
matter? won't you speak to me?" And Janey, who had her own
disappointment too, and had expected to be received with enthusiasm,
burst out crying, regardless of appearances, in the middle of the
street.

"Janey, for Heaven's sake--people will see you! I am sure it is I who
should cry, not you," said Ursula, in sudden distress.

"I don't care who sees me," sobbed Janey. "You have been enjoying
yourself while we have stayed at home, and instead of being pleased to
come back, or glad to see us--Oh, how can you be so cold-hearted?" she
said with a fresh burst of tears.

Here the other side of the question suddenly dawned upon Ursula. She had
been enjoying herself while the others stayed at home. It was quite
true. Instead of feeling the shock of difference she should have thought
of those who had never been so lucky as she was, who had never seen
anything out of Carlingford. "Don't be so foolish, Janey," she said, "I
_am_ glad;--and I have brought you such beautiful presents. But when you
do nothing but laugh----"

"I am sure I didn't laugh to hurt. I only laughed for fun!" cried Janey,
drying her eyes not without a little indignation; and thus peace was
made, for indeed one was dying to tell all that happened, and the other
dying to hear. They walked the rest of the way with their heads very
close together, so absorbed that the eldest brother, coming out of the
gate as they approached, stood looking at them with a smile on his face
for some time before they saw him. A slight young man, not very tall,
with dark hair, like Ursula's, and a somewhat anxious expression, in
correct English clerical dress.

"Has it all begun already?" he said, when they came close up to him, but
without perceiving him, Ursula's face inspired with the pleasure of
talking, as Janey's was with the eager delight of listening. The house
was built in the ecclesiastical style, with gables and mullioned
windows, which excluded the light, at least, whether or not they
inspired passers-by with a sense of correct art, as they were intended
to do. It was next door to the church, and had a narrow strip of
shrubbery in front, planted with somewhat gloomy evergreens. The gate
and door stood always open, except when Mr. May himself, coming or
going, closed them momentarily, and it cannot be denied that there were
outward and visible signs of a large, somewhat unruly family inside.

"Oh, Reginald!" cried Ursula. "You have come home!"

"Yes--for good," he said with a half-laugh, half-sigh. "Or for bad--who
can tell? At all events, here I am."

"Why should it be for bad?" cried Janey, whose voice was always audible
half-way up the street. "Oh, Ursula, something very nice has happened.
He is to be warden of the old college, fancy! That _is_ being provided
for, papa says; and a beautiful old house."

"Warden of the old college! I thought it was always some old person who
was chosen."

"But papa says he can live at home and let the house," cried Janey.
"There is no reason why it should be an old gentleman, papa thinks; it
is nice, because there is no work--but look at Reginald, he does not
like it a bit; he is never satisfied, I am sure, I wish it was me--"

"Come in," said Reginald hastily, "I don't want all my affairs, and my
character besides, to be proclaimed from the house-tops." Janey stopped
indignant, to make some reply, and Ursula, grasping her arm, as she
feared, with an energetic pinch, went in quickly. Little Amy had been
playing in the little square hall, which was strewed with doll's
clothes, and with two or three dolls in various stages of dilapidation.
Some old, ragged school-books lay in a corner, the leaves out of one of
which were blowing about in the wind. Even ten days of Anne Dorset's
orderly reign had opened Ursula's eyes to these imperfections.

"Oh, what a muddle!" she cried; "I don't wonder that Reginald does not
care for living at home."

"Oh, I wish papa heard you!" cried Janey loudly, as Ursula led the way
into the drawing-room, which was not much tidier than the hall. There
was a basket-full of stockings to be mended, standing on the old
work-table. Ursula felt, with a sinking of the heart, that they were
waiting for her arrival, and that Janey had done nothing to them. More
toys and more old school-books were tossed about upon the faded old
carpet. The table-cover hung uneven, one end of it dragging upon the
floor. The fire was burning very low, stifled in dust and white ashes.
How dismal it looked! not like a place to come home to. "Oh, I don't
wonder Reginald is vexed to be made to live at home," she said once
again to herself, with tears in her eyes.

"I hope you have enjoyed yourself," her brother said, as she dropped
wearily into the old easy-chair. "We have missed you very much; but I
don't suppose you missed us. London was very pleasant, I suppose, even
at this time of the year?"

"Oh, pleasant!" said Ursula. "If you had been with me, how you would
have liked it! Suffolk Street is only an inn, but it is a very nice inn,
what they call a private hotel. Far better than the great big places on
the American principle, Sir Robert says. But we dined at one of those
big places one day, and it was very amusing. Scores of people, and great
mirrors that made them look hundreds. And such quantities of lights and
servants; but Sir Robert thought Suffolk Street very much the best. And
I went to two theatres and to a ball. They were so kind. Sophy Dorset
laughs at me sometimes, but Anne is an angel," said Ursula fervently. "I
never knew any one so good in my life."

"That is not saying much," said Janey, "for none of us are very good,
and you know nobody else. Anne Dorset is an old maid."

"Oh, Janey! how dare you?"

"And, for that matter, so is Sophy. Papa says so. He says she was
jilted, and that she will never get a husband."

"Hold your tongue," said Reginald fiercely, "if we are to hear what my
father says at second hand through an imp like you--"

"Oh, yes," said Janey, mocking, "that is because you are not friends
with papa."

"Janey, come and help me to take off my things," said Ursula, seeing
that Reginald would probably proceed to strong measures and box his
sister's ears. "If you were older, you would not talk like that," she
said, with dignity, as they went upstairs. "Oh, dear Janey, you can't
think how different Cousin Anne and Sophy are, who are not girls, like
us. They never talk unkindly of other people. You would get to think it
childish, as I do, if you had been living with Cousin Anne."

"Stuff!" said Janey. "Papa is not childish, I hope. And it was he who
said all that. I don't care what your fine Cousin Anne does."

Notwithstanding, the reproof thus administered went to Janey's heart;
for to a girl of fifteen, whose next sister is almost twenty, the
reproach of being childish is worse than any other. She blushed
fiery-red, and though she scoffed, was moved. Besides, though it suited
her to quote him for the moment, she was very far from putting any
unbounded faith in papa.

"Just wait a moment! See what Cousin Anne, whom you think so little of,
has sent you," said Ursula, sitting down on the floor with the great
parcel in her lap, carefully undoing the knots; for she had read Miss
Edgeworth's stories in her youth, and would not have cut the strings for
the world; and when the new dresses, in all their gloss and softness,
were spread out upon the old carpet, which scarcely retained one trace
of colour, Janey was struck dumb.

"Is that," she said, faltering and conscience-stricken, "for _me_?"

"This is for you; though you think them old maids--and that they will
never get husbands," said Ursula, indignantly. "What a thing for a girl
to say! And, indeed, I don't think Cousin Anne will ever get a husband.
There is not one in the world half good enough for her--not one! Yes,
this is for you. They went themselves, and looked over half the things
in the shop before they could get one to please them. They did not say,
'Janey is an unkind little thing, that will repeat all she hears about
us, and does not care for us a bit.' They said, 'Ursula, we must choose
frocks for Janey and Amy. Come and help us to get what they will like
best.'"

Janey's lips quivered, and two very big tears came into her eyes. She
was stricken with the deepest compunction, but her pride did not permit
her to give in all at once.

"I dare say you told her how badly off we were," she said.

"I told her nothing about it, and she did not say a word--not a word, as
if it were a charity--only to please you--to let you see that you were
remembered; but I dare say it is quite true after all," said Ursula,
with lofty irony, "that Cousin Anne will never get a husband, and that
they are old maids."

"Oh, you know I didn't mean it!" said Janey, giving way to her tears.

Then Ursula got up and took off her hat and smoothed her hair, feeling
satisfied with her success, and went downstairs again to Reginald, who
was seated on the dingy sofa waiting for her, to answer her questions
about the great event which had happened since she had been away.
Ursula's mind was full of the shock of the sharp impression made by her
return, though the impression itself began to wear away.

"I can understand why you don't care about living at home," she said.
"Oh I wonder if I could do anything to mend it! I am so glad you have
got something, Reginald. If you have a good servant, you might be quite
comfortable by yourself, and we could come and see you. I should not
feel it a bit--not a single bit; and it would be so much nicer for you."

"You are mistaken," said her brother. "It is not staying at home I
object to. We are not very tidy or very comfortable, perhaps, but we all
belong to each other, at least. It is not that, Ursula."

"What is it, then? Janey says," said Ursula, drawing a long breath of
awe and admiration, "that you are to have two hundred and fifty pounds a
year."

"For doing nothing," he said.

"For doing nothing?" She looked up at him a little bewildered, for his
tone struck Ursula as not at all corresponding with the delightful
character of the words he said. "But, Reginald, how nice, how very nice
it sounds! How lucky you must have been! How could it happen that such a
delightful thing should come to one of us? We are always so unlucky,
papa says."

"If you think this luck--" said Reginald. "He does, and he is quite
pleased; but how do you suppose I can be pleased? Thrust into a place
where I am not wanted--where I can be of no use. A dummy, a practical
falsehood. How can I accept it, Ursula? I tell you it is a sinecure!"

Ursula looked at him with eyes round with wonder. He seemed to be
speaking in some different language of which she understood nothing.
"What is a sinecure?" she said.



CHAPTER X.

PAPA.


"Ursula has come back!" cried the little ones, who had returned from
their tea-party, running to meet their father at the door.

Mr. May was very good, except by moments, to his younger children. He
was not, indeed, an unkind father to any of them; but he had never
forgiven Providence for leaving him with his motherless family upon his
hands, a man so utterly unfit for the task. Perhaps he did not put this
exactly into words, but he felt it deeply, and had never got over it.
There were so many things that he could have done better, and there were
so many people who could have done this better; and yet it was precisely
to him, not a person adapted to the charge of children, that it had been
given to do it! This seemed to argue a want of judgment in the
regulation of mortal affairs, which irritated him all the more because
he was a clergyman, and had to persuade other people that everything
that happened to them was for the best. He was a man of some culture,
and literary power, and wrote very pleasant "thoughtful" papers for some
of the Church magazines; but these compositions, though very easy to
read, were only brought into the world by elaborate precautions on the
part of the family, which scarcely dared to speak above its breath when
papa was "writing;" for on such occasions he could be very savage, as
the occasional offender knew. He was a man with an imposing person,
good-looking, and of very bland and delightful manners, when he chose.
But yet he had never made friends, and was now at fifty-five the
incumbent of St. Roque, with a small income and a humble position in the
church hierarchy of Carlingford. He preached better than any other of
the Carlingford clergymen, looked better, had more reputation out of the
place; and was of sufficiently good family, and tolerably well
connected. Yet he never got on, never made any real advance in life.
Nobody could tell what was the cause of this, for his opinions were
moderate and did not stand in his way--indeed within the limits of
moderation he had been known to modify his principles, now inclining
towards the high, then towards the low, according as circumstances
required, though never going too far in either direction. Such a man
ought to have been successful, according to all rules, but he was not.
He was generally in debt and always needy. His eldest son, James, was in
India, doing well, and had often sent a contribution towards the comfort
of the family, and especially to help Reginald at College. But James had
married a year before, and accordingly was in a less favourable position
for sending help. And indeed these windfalls had never produced much
effect upon the family, who heard of James' gifts vaguely without
profiting by them. All this _donna à penser_ to the elder children.
Having no softening medium of a mother's eyes to look at their father
through, they were more bold in judging him than, perhaps, they ought to
have been; and he did not take pains to fascinate his children, or throw
the glamour of love into their eyes. He took it for granted, frankly and
as a part of nature, that he himself was the first person to be
considered in all matters. So he was, of course--so the father, the
bread-winner, the head of the family, ought to be; and when he has a
wife to keep him upon that pedestal, and to secure that his worship
shall be respected, it becomes natural, and the first article of the
family creed; but somehow when a man has to set forth and uphold this
principle himself, it is less successful; and in Mr. May's case it was
not successful at all. He was not severe or tyrannical, so that they
might have rebelled. He only held the conviction quite honestly and
ingeniously, that his affairs came first, and were always to be attended
to. Nothing could be said against this principle--but it tells badly in
the management of a family unless, indeed, as we have said, it is
managed through the medium of the mother, who takes away all imputation
of selfishness by throwing an awful importance and tender sanctity over
all that happens to be desirable or necessary for "papa."

Mr. May had no wife to watch over the approaches of his study, and talk
of him with reverential importance to her children. This was not his
fault, but his misfortune. Bitterly had he mourned and resented the blow
which took her from him, and deeply felt the loss she was to him. This
was how he spoke of it always, the loss to him; and probably poor Mrs.
May, who had adored and admired her husband to the last day of her life,
would have been more satisfied with this way of mourning for her than
any other; but naturally Ursula, who thought of the loss to herself and
the other children, found fault with this limitation of the misfortune.
A man who has thus to fight for himself does not appear in an amiable
aspect to his family, to whom, as to all young creatures, it seemed
natural that _they_ should be the first objects; and as they were a
great trouble and burden to him, perhaps the children did not always
bear their most amiable aspect to their father. Both looked selfish to
the other, and Mr. May, no doubt, could have made out quite as good a
case as the children did. He thought all young people were selfish,
taking everything they could, trying to extract even the impossible from
the empty purse and strained patience of their elders; and they thought
that he was indifferent to them, thinking about himself, as it is a
capital sin in a parent to do; and both of them were right and both
wrong, as indeed may be said in every case to which there are two sides.

"Ursula has come!" cried the two little ones. Amy and Robin could read
their father's face better than they could read those instruments of
torture called printed books, and they saw that he was in a good humour,
and that they were safe to venture upon the playful liberty of seizing
him, one by each hand, and dragging him in. He was a tall man, and the
sight of him triumphantly dragged in by these imps, the youngest of whom
was about up to his knees, was pretty, and would have gone to the heart
of any spectator. He was not himself unconscious of this, and when he
was in a good humour, and the children were neat and tolerably dressed,
he did not object to being seen by the passers-by dragged up his own
steps by those two little ones. The only passers-by, however, on this
occasion were a retired shopkeeper and his wife, who had lately bought
one of the oldest houses in Grange Lane, and who had come out for a walk
as the day was fine. "Mark my words, Tozer," the lady was saying,
"that's a good man though he's a church parson. Them as children hangs
onto like that, ain't got no harm in them."

"He's a rum un, he is," said Mr. Tozer in reply. It was a pity that the
pretty spectacle of the clergyman with his little boy and girl should
have been thus thrown away upon a couple of Dissenters, yet it was not
without its effect. Amy pulled one arm and Robin pulled the other. They
were dark-haired children like all the Mays, and as this peculiarity is
rare among children, it gave these two a certain piquancy.

"Well, well," he said, "take me to Ursula," and after he had kissed his
newly-arrived daughter, he sat down in the faded drawing-room with much
geniality, and took one child on each knee.

"I hope you have enjoyed yourself, Ursula," he said; "of course, we have
missed you. Janey has done her best, but she is not very clever at
housekeeping, nor does she understand many things that people require,
as you have learned to do."

"Oh, I am so glad you have missed me!" said Ursula, "I mean sorry; I
have enjoyed myself very, very much. The Dorsets were so kind, kinder
than anybody ever was before."

"And, papa, they have sent me a new dress."

"And me too, papa," chirruped little Amy on his knee.

"You too, Mouse! it was very kind of them; and you went to the Tower and
did all the lions, Ursula? that is the lot of country cousins, and the
Dorsets would spare you nothing, I suppose."

"We went to much better things," said Ursula, producing her theatres and
her ball as she had done before. "And, oh, papa, I like them so much. I
wish we lived a little nearer. Those poor little Indian children, I fear
they will be too much for Cousin Anne; they look so pale and so peevish,
not like our children here."

"Well, they are not pale at all events," said Mr. May, putting them
down; "run and play like good children. You will have heard that we have
had something happening to us, even in this quiet place, while you were
away."

"Oh, I was so astonished," said Ursula, "but Reginald doesn't seem to
like it. That is so odd; I should have thought he would have been
overjoyed to get something. He used to talk so about having no
interest."

"Reginald is like a great many other people. He does not know his own
mind," said Mr. May, his countenance overcasting. Ursula knew that sign
of coming storms well enough, but she was too much interested to
forbear.

"What is a sinecure, papa?" she asked, her brother's last word still
dwelling in her mind.

"A piece of outrageous folly," he cried, getting up and striding about
the room, "all springing from the foolish books boys read now-a-days,
and the nonsense that is put into their minds. Mean! it means that your
brother is an ass, that is what it means. After all the money that has
been spent upon him--"

"But, papa, we have not spent much, have we? I thought it was his
scholarship?" said Ursula with injudicious honesty. Her father turned
upon her indignantly.

"I am not aware that I said we. _We_ have nothing to spend upon any one,
so far as I know. I said I--the only person in the house who earns any
money or is likely to do so, if Reginald goes on in this idiotical way."

Ursula grew red. She was Mr. May's own daughter, and had a temper too.
"If I could earn any money I am sure I would," she cried, "and only too
glad. I am sure it is wanted badly enough. But how is a girl to earn any
money? I wish I knew how."

"You little fool, no one was thinking of you. Do a little more in the
house, and nobody will ask you to earn money. Yes, this is the shape
things are taking now-a-days," said Mr. May, "the girls are mad to earn
anyhow, and the boys, forsooth, have a hundred scruples. If women would
hold their tongues and attend to their own business, I have no doubt we
should have less of the other nonsense. The fact is everything is
getting into an unnatural state. But if Reginald thinks I am going to
maintain him in idleness at his age--"

"Papa, for Heaven's sake don't speak so loud, he will hear you!" said
Ursula, letting her fears of a domestic disturbance overweigh her
prudence.

"He will hear me? I wish him to hear me," said Mr. May, raising his
voice. "Am I to be kept from saying what I like, how I like, in my own
house, for fear that Reginald should hear me, forsooth! Ursula, I am
glad to have you at home; but if you take Reginald's part in his folly,
and set yourself against the head of the family, you had better go back
again and at once. _He_ may defy me, but I shall not be contradicted by
a chit of a girl, I give you my word for that."

Ursula was silent; she grew pale now after her redness of hasty and
unconsidered self-defence. Oh, for Cousin Anne to shield and calm her;
what a difference it made to plunge back again thus into trouble and
strife.

"He thinks it better to be idle at his father's expense than to do a
little work for a handsome salary," said Mr. May; "everything is right
that is extracted from his father's pocket, though it is contrary to a
high code of honour to accept a sinecure. Fine reasoning that, is it
not? The one wrongs nobody, while the other wrongs you and me and all
the children, who want every penny I have to spend; but Reginald is much
too fine to think of that. He thinks it quite natural that I should go
on toiling and stinting myself."

"Papa, it may be very wrong what he is doing; but if you think he wants
to take anything from you--"

"Hold your tongue," said her father; "I believe in deeds, not in words.
He has it in his power to help me, and he chooses instead, for a
miserable fantastic notion of his own, to balk all my care for him. Of
course the hospital was offered to him out of respect for me. No one
cares for _him_. He is about as much known in Carlingford as--little Amy
is. Of course it is to show their respect to me. And here he comes with
his fantastic nonsense about a sinecure! Who is he that he should make
such a fuss? Better men than he is have held them, and will to the end
of the chapter. A sinecure! what does he call a sinecure?"

"That is just what I want to know," said Ursula under her breath, but
her father did not, fortunately, hear this ejaculation. Reginald had
gone out, and happily was not within hearing, and Mr. May calmed down by
degrees, and told Ursula various circumstances about the parish and the
people which brought him down out of his anger and comforted her after
that passage of arms. But the commotion left him in an excitable state,
a state in which he was very apt to say things that were disagreeable,
and to provoke his children to wrath in a way which Ursula thought was
very much against the scriptural rule.

"Things in the parish are going on much as usual," he said, "Mrs. Sam
Hurst is as kind as ever."

"Indeed!" said Ursula with a suppressed snort of anger. Mr. May gave the
kind of offensive laugh, doubly offensive to every woman, which men give
when their vanity is excited, and when there is, according to the common
expression, a lady in the case.

"Yes, she is very kind," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "She has had
the children to tea a great many times since you have been away. To show
my sense of her kindness, you must ask her one of these days. A woman
who understands children is always a valuable friend for a man in my
position--and also, Ursula, for a girl in yours."

"She may understand children, but they are not fond of her," said
Ursula, with a gleam of malice which restored her father to good humour.
He had no more idea of marrying a second time than of flying. He was
tenderly attached in his way to his wife's memory, and quite
sufficiently troubled by the number of dwellers in his house already;
but he rather liked, as a good-looking man in his wane generally does,
to think that he could marry if he pleased, and to hold the possibility
over the heads of his household, as a chastisement of all their sins
against him which he could use at any time. All the Mays grew hot and
angry at the name of Mrs. Sam Hurst, and their fear and anger delighted
their father. He liked to speak of her to provoke them, and partly for
that, partly for other reasons of his own, kept up a decorous
semi-flirtation with his neighbour who lived next door, and thus excited
the apprehensions and resentment of the girls every day of their lives.
When Ursula thought of Mrs. Sam Hurst she wished for the Dorsets no
more. It was above all things, she felt, her duty to be here on the spot
to defend the family from that woman's machinations. The idea put energy
into her. She ceased to be tired, ceased to feel herself, "after her
journey," capable of nothing but sitting still and hearing of all that
had been done since she went away.

In the course of the evening, however, Ursula took advantage of a quiet
moment to look into the dictionary and make herself quite safe about the
meaning of the word sinecure. It was not the first time she had heard
it, as may be supposed. She had heard of lucky people who held
sinecures, and she had heard them denounced as evil things, but without
entering closely into the meaning. Now she had a more direct interest in
it, and it must be confessed that she was not at all frightened by the
idea, or disposed to reject it as Reginald did. Ursula had not learnt
much about public virtue, and to get a good income for doing nothing, or
next to nothing, seemed to her an ideal sort of way of getting one's
livelihood. She wished with a sigh that there were sinecures which could
be held by girls. But no, in that as in other things "gentlemen" kept
all that was good to themselves; and Ursula was disposed to treat
Reginald's scruples with a very high hand. But she did not choose that
her father should attack him with all these disagreeable speeches about
maintaining him in idleness, and taunts about the money that had been
spent on his education. That was not the way to manage him, the girl
felt; but Ursula resolved to take her brother in hand herself, to argue
with him how foolish it was, to point out to him that if he did not take
it some one else would, and that the country would not gain anything
while he would lose, to laugh at his over delicacy, to show him how
delightful it would be if he was independent, and what a help to all his
brothers and sisters. In short, it seemed quite simple to Ursula, and
she felt her path mapped out before her, and triumphed in every stage of
her argument, inventing the very weakest replies for Reginald to make.
Full of the inspiration of this purpose, she felt that it was in every
way well that she had come home. With Reginald settled close by, going
away no longer, standing by her in her difficulties, and even perhaps,
who could tell? taking her to parties, and affording her the means now
and then of asking two or three people to tea, the whole horizon of her
life brightened for Ursula. She became reconciled to Carlingford. All
that had to be done was to show Reginald what his duty was, and how
foolish he was to hesitate, and she could not allow herself to suppose
that _when it was put before him properly_ there could long remain much
difficulty upon that score.



CHAPTER XI.

PHŒBE'S PREPARATIONS.


A few days after Ursula's return home, another arrival took place in
Carlingford. Phoebe Beecham, after considering the case fully, and
listening with keen interest to all the indications she could pick up as
to the peculiarities of her grandfather's house, and the many things in
life at Carlingford which were "unlike what she had been used to," had
fully made up her mind to dare the difficulties of that unknown
existence, and to devote herself in her mother's place to the care of
her grandmother and the confusion of Mrs. Tom. This was partly
undertaken out of a sense of duty, partly out of that desire for change
and the unknown, which has to content itself in many cases with the very
mildest provision, and partly because Phoebe's good sense perceived the
necessity of the matter. She was by no means sure what were the special
circumstances that made "Mrs. Tom" disagreeable to her mother, but she
was deeply sensible of the importance of preventing Mrs. Tom from
securing to herself and her family all that Mr. and Mrs. Tozer had to
leave. Phoebe was not mercenary in her own person, but she had no idea of
giving up any "rights," and she felt it of the utmost importance that
her brother, who was unfortunately by no means so clever as herself,
should be fully provided against all the contingencies of life. She was
not concerned about herself in that particular. Phoebe felt it a matter
of course that she should marry, and marry well. Self-confidence of this
assured and tranquil sort serves a great many excellent purposes--it
made her even generous in her way. She believed in her star, in her own
certain good-fortune, in herself; and therefore her mind was free to
think and to work for other people. She knew very well by all her mother
said, and by all the hesitations of both her parents, that she would
have many disagreeable things to encounter in Carlingford, but she felt
so sure that nothing could really humiliate _her_, or pull her down from
her real eminence, that the knowledge conveyed no fears to her mind.
When this confidence in her own superiority to all debasing influences
is held by the spotless princess in the poem, it is the most beautiful
of human sentiments, and why it should not be equally elevated when
entertained by a pink and plump modern young woman, well up in all
nineteenth century refinements, and the daughter of the minister of the
Crescent Chapel, it would be hard to say. Phoebe held it with the
strongest faith.

"Their ways of thinking, perhaps, and their ways of living, are not
those which I have been used to," she said; "but how does that affect
me? I am myself whatever happens; even if poor dear grandmamma's habits
are not refined, which I suppose is what you mean, mamma, that does not
make me unrefined. A lady must always be a lady wherever she is--Una,"
she continued, using strangely enough the same argument which has
occurred to her historian, "is not less a princess when she is living
among the satyrs. Of course, I am not like Una--and neither are they
like the wild people in the wood."

Mrs. Beecham did not know much about Una, except that she was somebody
in a book; but she kissed her daughter, and assured her that she was "a
real comfort," and devoted herself to her comfort for the few days that
remained, doing everything that it was possible to do to show her love,
and, so to speak, gratitude to the good child who was thus throwing
herself into the breach. The Beechams were in no want of money to buy
what pleased them, and the mother made many additions to Phoebe's
wardrobe which that young lady herself thought quite unnecessary, not
reflecting that other sentiments besides that of simple love for herself
were involved.

"They shall see that my daughter is not just like one of their
common-looking girls," Mrs. Beecham said to her husband; and he shared
the feeling, though he could not but think within himself that her
aspect was of very much more importance than the appearance of Phoebe
Tozer's child could possibly be as _his_ daughter.

"You are quite right, my dear," he replied, "vulgar people of that sort
are but too ready to look down upon a pastor's family. They ought to be
made to see the difference."

The consequence of this was that Phoebe was fitted out like a young
princess going on her travels. Ursula May would have been out of her
wits with delight, had half these fine things come her way; but Phoebe
took them very calmly.

"I have never undervalued dress," she said, "as some girls do; I think
it is a very important social influence. And even without that, mamma,
so long as it pleases you--" So with this mixture of philosophy and
affection all went well.

"We must call on Mrs. Copperhead before you go; they would think it
strange, after all the interest they have shown in us."

"Have they shown an interest in us?" said Phoebe. "Of course we must
call--and Mrs. Copperhead is a lady, but as for Mr. Copperhead, mamma--"

"Hush! he is the leading member, and very influential in the connection.
A pastor's family must not be touchy, Phoebe. We must put up with a great
many things. There ought to be peace among brethren, you know, and
harmony is the first thing that is essential in a church--"

"I wonder if harmony would be as essential, supposing Mr. Copperhead to
come to grief, mamma."

"Phoebe! slang from you--who have always set your face against it."

"What can one talk but slang when one thinks of such a person?" said
Phoebe gravely; and thus saying she opened the door for her mother, and
they went out in their best gowns to pay their visit. Mrs. Copperhead
was very civil to the pastor's family. It was not in her to be uncivil
to any one; but in her soft heart she despised them a little, and
comported herself to them with that special good behaviour and dignified
restraint which the best natured people reserve for their inferiors. For
though she went to chapel, taken there by Mr. Copperhead, she was
"church" at heart. The interest which Mrs. Beecham took in everything,
and the praises she bestowed on the ball, did not relax her coldness.
They were too well off, too warm and silken to call forth her
sympathies, and there was little in common between them to afford any
ground for meeting.

Yes, Mr. Copperhead was quite well--she was quite well--her son was
quite well. She hoped Mr. Beecham was well. She had heard that most
people were pleased with the ball, thank you. Oh, Miss Beecham was going
away--indeed! She hoped the weather would be good; and then Mrs.
Copperhead sat erect upon her sofa, and did not try to say any more.
Though she had not the heart of a mouse, she too could play the great
lady when occasion served. Clarence, however, was much more hospitable
than his mother. He liked Phoebe, who could talk almost as if she was in
society, as girls talk in novels. He knew, of course, that she was not
in society, but she was a girl whom a fellow could get on with, who had
plenty to say for herself, who was not a lay figure like many young
ladies; and then she was pretty, pink, and golden, "a piece of colour"
which was attractive to the eye. He soon found out where she was going,
and let her know that he himself intended a visit to the neighbourhood.

"The Dorsets live near," he said. "Relations of my mother. You saw them
at the ball. I dare say you will meet them somewhere about." This, it
is to be feared, Clarence said in something of his mother's spirit, with
a warm sense of superiority, for he knew that the pastor's daughter was
very unlikely to meet the Dorsets. Phoebe, however, was equal to the
occasion.

"I am not at all likely to meet them," she said with a gracious smile.
"For one thing, I am not going to enjoy myself, but to nurse a sick
person. And sick people don't go to parties. Besides, you know the
foolish prejudices of society, properly so called. I think them foolish
because they affect me," said Phoebe, with engaging frankness. "If they
did not affect me, probably I should think them all right."

"What foolish prejudices?" said Clarence, thinking she was about to say
something about her inferior position, and already feeling flattered
before she spoke.

"About Dissenters, you know," she said; "of course, you must be aware
that we are looked down upon in society. It does not matter, for when
people have any sense, as soon as they know us they do us justice; but
of course you must be aware that the prejudice exists."

Clarence did know, and with some bitterness; for Mr. Copperhead, though
he did not care much, perhaps, about religion, cared for his chapel, and
stood by it with unswerving strictness. His son, who was an Oxford man,
and respectful of all the prejudices of society, did not like this. But
what could he do against the obstinate dissentership of his father?
This, as much as anything else, had acted upon the crowd the night of
the ball, and made them all nobodies. He hesitated to make any reply,
and his face flushed with shame and displeasure. Phoebe felt that she had
avenged upon Clarence his mother's haughty politeness. She had brought
home to him a sense of the social inferiority which was common to them
both. Having done this, she was satisfied, and proceeded to soften the
blow.

"It cannot fall upon you, who are in so much better a position, as it
does upon us," said Phoebe. "We are the very head and front of the
offending, a Dissenting minister's family!--Society and its charms are
not for us. And I hope we know our place," she said, with mock humility;
"when people have any sense and come to know us it is different; and for
the foolish ones I don't care. But you see from that, I am not likely to
meet your cousins, am I?" she added with a laugh.

"If you mean that they are among the foolish ones----"

"Oh, no; I don't. But you can't suppose they will take the trouble to
find _me_ out. Why should they? People entirely out of my range, and
that have nothing to do with me. So you may be quite sure I am right
when I say we sha'n't meet."

"Well," said Clarence, piqued, "I am going to Easton, and I shall see
you, if Mrs. Beecham will give me permission to call."

"She will give you the address along with that; but till then,
good-bye," said Phoebe. To tell the truth, she had no desire to see
Clarence Copperhead in Carlingford. Perhaps he meant something, perhaps
he did not--at this stage of the proceedings it was a matter of
indifference to Phoebe, who certainly had not allowed "her affections" to
become engaged. If he did mean anything, was it likely that he could
support unmoved the grandfather and grandmother who were, or had been,
"in trade?" On the other hand, was it not better that he should know the
worst? Phoebe was no husband-hunter. She contemplated the issue with calm
and composure, however it might turn out.

"He asked me if he might call," said Mrs. Beecham, in some excitement.
"I don't care much to have you seen, my darling, out of your own
father's house."

"Just as you please, mamma--just as it suits best," said Phoebe,
dismissing the subject. She was not anxious. A good deal depended on
whether he meant anything or nothing, but even that did not conclude the
subject, for she had not made up her own mind.

"Why didn't you tell them about the Mays?" said Clarence, as the two
ladies went out. "They live in Carlingford, and I should think it would
be pleasant on both sides."

"My dear boy, you forget the difference of position," said Mrs.
Copperhead. "They are Dissenters."

"Oh, I like that," cried Clarence, half angry, as himself sharing the
disadvantages of the connection. "A needy beggar like May has a great
deal to stand upon. I like that."

"But it is true all the same," said Mrs. Copperhead, shaking her head.
"And you can see the difference at once. I dare say Miss Beecham is a
very clever young woman, but between her and Miss May what a difference
there is! Any one can see it--"

"I am afraid then I am stupid, for I can't see it, mother. They are both
pretty girls, but for amusing you and that sort of thing give me Phoebe.
She is worth twenty of the other. As sharp as a needle, and plenty to
say for herself. This is the kind of girl I like."

"I am very sorry for it. I hope that is not the kind of wife you will
like," said Mrs. Copperhead, with a sigh.

"Oh, wife! they haven't a penny, either the one or the other," said
Clarence, with delightful openness, "and we may be sure that would not
suit the governor even if it suited me."

In the mean time Mrs. Beecham and Phoebe were walking up the broad
pavement of Portland Place towards their home.

"It is pleasant to see the mother and the son together," said Mrs.
Beecham, who was determined to see everything in the best light that
concerned the Copperheads. "They are so devoted to each other, and,
Phoebe, dear--I don't like to talk in this way to a sensible girl like
you, but you must see it with your own eyes. You have certainly made a
great impression upon Clarence Copperhead. When he said he hoped to see
you in Carlingford, and asked, might he call? it was exactly like asking
my permission to pay you his addresses; it is very flattering, but it is
embarrassing as well."

"I do not feel particularly flattered, mamma; and I think if I were you
I would not give him the address."

Mrs. Beecham looked anxiously in her daughter's face.

"Is it from prudence, Phoebe, or is it that you don't like him, that you
wouldn't have him if he asked you?"

"We must wait till he does ask me," said Phoebe, decisively. "Till then I
can't possibly tell. But I don't want him at Carlingford. I know that
grandpapa and grandmamma are--in trade."

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Beecham, in a subdued voice.

"Dissenters, and in trade; and he is going to stay with the Dorsets,
fine county people. Don't give him the address; if we meet by chance,
there is no harm done. I am not ashamed of any one belonging to me. But
you can say that you don't think his father would like him to be
visiting me at Carlingford--which I am sure would be quite true."

"Indeed he might go much farther without finding any one so well worth
visiting," said the mother, indignant, to which Phoebe nodded her head in
tranquil assent.

"That is neither here nor there," she said; "you can always tell him so,
and that will please Mr. Copperhead, if ever he comes to hear of it. He
thought at one time that I was too entertaining. One knows what that
means. I should like him to see how little I cared."

"But, my dear, Clarence Copperhead would be worth--a little attention.
He could give a girl--a very nice position," Mrs. Beecham faltered,
looking at her daughter between every word.

"I am not saying anything against Clarence Copperhead," said Phoebe, with
composure, "but I should like his dear papa to know how little I care,
and that you have refused him my address."

This was all she said on the subject. Phoebe was quite ready to allow
that Clarence was everything that her mother had said, and she had fully
worked out her own theory on marriage, which will probably be hereafter
expounded in these pages, so that she was not at all shocked by having
his advantages thus pointed out to her. But there was no hurry, she said
to herself. If it was not Clarence Copperhead, it would be some one
else, and why should she, at this early stage of her career, attempt to
precipitate the designs of Providence? She had plenty of time before
her, and was in no hurry for any change; and a genuine touch of nature
in her heart made her anxious for an opportunity of showing her
independence to that arrogant and offensive "leading member," who made
the life of the office-bearers in the Crescent a burden to them. If she
could only so drive him into a corner, that he should be obliged to come
to her in his despair, and beg her to accept his son's hand to save him
from going off in a galloping consumption, that would have been a
triumph after Phoebe's heart. To be sure this was a perfectly vain and
wildly romantic hope--it was the only bit of wild and girlish romance in
the bosom of a very well-educated, well-intentioned, and sensible young
woman. She had seen her parents put up with the arrogance of the
millionnaire for a long time without rebelling any more than they did;
but Mr. Copperhead had gone further than Phoebe could bear; and
thoroughly as she understood her own position, and all its interests,
this one vain fancy had found a footing in her mind. If she could but
humble him and make him sue to her. It was not likely, but for such a
triumph the sensible Phoebe would have done much. It was the one point on
which she was silly, but on that she was as silly as any cynic could
desire.

And thus with a huge trunk full of charming dresses, a dressing-case fit
for any bride, the prettiest travelling costume imaginable, and
everything about her fit, Mrs. Beecham fondly thought, for a duke's
daughter, Phoebe junior took her departure, to be the comfort of her
grandmamma, and to dazzle Carlingford. Her fond parents accompanied her
to the station and placed her in a carriage, and fee'd a guard heavily
to take care of and watch over her. "Not but that Phoebe might be safely
trusted to take care of herself anywhere," they said. In which
expression of their pride in their daughter, the observant reader may
see a proof of their own origin from the humbler classes. They would
probably have prided themselves on her timidity and helplessness had
they been a little better born.



CHAPTER XII.

GRANGE LANE.


Mr. and Mrs. Tozer had retired from business several years before. They
had given up the shop with its long established connection, and all its
advantages, to Tom, their son, finding themselves to have enough to live
upon in ease, and indeed luxury; and though Mrs. Tozer found the house
in Grange Lane shut in by the garden walls to be much duller than her
rooms over the shop in High Street, where she saw everything that was
going on, yet the increase in gentility was unquestionable. The house
which they were fortunate enough to secure in this desirable locality
had been once in the occupation of Lady Weston, and there was
accordingly an aroma of high life about it, although somebody less
important had lived in it in the mean time, and it had fallen into a
state of considerable dilapidation, which naturally made it cheaper. Mr.
Tozer had solidly repaired all that was necessary for comfort, but he
had not done anything in those external points of paint and decoration,
which tells so much in the aspect of a house. Lady Weston's taste had
been florid, and the walls continued as she had left them, painted and
papered with faded wreaths, which were apt to look dissipated, as they
ought to have been refreshed and renewed years before. But outside,
where the wreaths do not fade, there was a delightful garden charmingly
laid out, in which Lady Weston had once held her garden parties, and
where the crocuses and other spring bulbs, which had been put in with a
lavish hand, during Lady Weston's extravagant reign, had already begun
to blow. The violets were peeping out from among their leaves on a
sheltered bank, and Christmas roses, overblown, making a great show with
their great white stars, in a corner. Tozer himself soon took a great
interest in this little domain out of doors, and was for ever pottering
about the flowers, obeying, with the servility of ignorance, the
gardener's injunctions. Mrs. Tozer, however, who was in weak health, and
consequently permitted to be somewhat cross and contradictory, regretted
the High Street.

"Talk of a garden," she said, "a thing as never changes except according
to the seasons! Up in the town there was never a day the same, something
always happening--Soldiers marching through, or Punch and Judy, or a
row at the least. It is the cheerfullest place in the whole world, I do
believe; shut up here may do for the gentry, but I likes the streets and
what's going on. You may call me vulgar if you please, but so I do."

Tozer prudently said nothing to such outbursts except a soothing
exhortation to wait till summer, when she would find the benefit of the
fresh air, not to speak of the early vegetables; and he himself found
the garden an unspeakable resource. At first, indeed, he would stroll up
to the shop of a morning, especially if any new consignment of
first-rate York hams, or cheese, was coming in, which he loved to turn
over and test by smell and touch; but by and by the ancient butterman
made a discovery, such as we are all apt to make when we get old and
step out of the high road of life. He found out that his son did not
appreciate his advice, and that Mrs. Tom cared still less for his
frequent appearances. Indeed, he himself once saw her bounce out of the
shop as he entered, exclaiming audibly, "Here's that fussy old man
again." Tozer was an old man, it is true, but nobody (under eighty)
cares to have the epithet flung in his teeth; and to be in the way is
always unpleasant. He had self-command enough to say nothing about it,
except in a very modified shape to his wife, who was ready enough to
believe anything unpleasant about Mrs. Tom; but he took to gardening
with ardour from that day; and learned all about the succession of the
flowers, and how long one set lasted, and which kind should be put into
the ground next. He would even take off his coat and do a tolerable
day's work under the gardener's direction, to the great advantage of his
health and temper, while Mrs. Tozer grumbled upstairs. She was getting
more and more helpless about the house, unable to see after the stout
maid-of-all-work, who in her turn grumbled much at the large house, for
which one maid was not enough. Many altercations took place in
consequence between the mistress and servant.

"The ungrateful hussy hasn't even as many rooms to do as she had in the
High Street, when there was the 'prentices' beds to make," Mrs. Tozer
said indignantly to her husband; but Jane on her side pointed to the
length of passage, the stairs, the dining and drawing-rooms, where there
had once only been a parlour.

"Cook and 'ousemaid's little enough," said Jane; "there did ought to be
a man in this kind of 'ouse; but as there's only two in family,
shouldn't say nothing if I had a girl under me."

Things were gravitating towards this girl at the time of Phoebe's
arrival; but nothing had as yet been finally decided upon. Jane,
however, had bestirred herself to get the young lady's room ready with
something like alacrity. A young person coming to the house promised a
little movement and change, which was always something, and Jane had no
doubt that Phoebe would be on her side in respect to the "girl." "She'll
want waiting upon, and there'll always be sending of errands," Jane said
to herself. She knew by experience "what young 'uns is in a house."

There was something, perhaps, in all the preparations for her departure
which had thrown dust in Phoebe Beecham's eyes. She had been too
sharp-sighted not to see into her mother's qualms and hesitations about
her visit to Carlingford, and the repeated warnings of both parents as
to the "difference from what she had been accustomed to;" and she
thought she had fully prepared herself for what she was to encounter.
But probably the elaborate outfit provided by her mother and the
importance attached to her journey had to some degree obliterated this
impression, for it is certain that when Phoebe saw an old man in a shabby
coat, with a wisp of a large white neckcloth round his throat, watching
anxiously for the arrival of the train as it came up, she sustained a
shock which she had not anticipated. It was about five years since she
had seen her grandfather, an interval due to hazard rather than purpose,
though, on the whole, the elder Beechams had not been sorry to keep
their parents and their children apart. Phoebe, however, knew her
grandfather perfectly well as soon as she saw him, though he had not
perceived her, and was wandering anxiously up and down in search of her.
She held back in her corner for the moment, to overcome the shock. Yes,
there could be no doubt about it; there he was, he whom she was going to
visit, under whose auspices she was about to appear in Carlingford. He
was not even like an old Dissenting minister, which had been her
childish notion of him. He looked neither more nor less than what he
was, an old shopkeeper, very decent and respectable, but a little shabby
and greasy, like the men whose weekly bills she had been accustomed to
pay for her mother. She felt an instant conviction that he would call
her "Ma'am," if she went up to him, and think her one of the quality.
Poor Phoebe! she sat back in her corner and gave a gasp of horror and
dismay, but having done this, she was herself again. She gave herself a
shake, like one who is about to take a plunge, rose lightly to her feet,
took up her bag, and stepped out of the carriage, just as Mr. Tozer
strolled anxiously past for the third time.

"Grandpapa!" she cried with a smile. Mr. Tozer was almost as much taken
aback by this apparition as Phoebe herself had been. He knew that his
daughter had made great strides in social elevation, and that her
children, when he had seen them last, had been quite like "gentlefolk's
children;" but to see this young princess step forth graciously out of a
first-class carriage, and address him as "grandpapa," took away his
breath.

"Why--why--why, Miss! you ain't little Phoebe?" he cried, scared out of
his seven senses, as he afterwards said.

"Yes, indeed, I am little Phoebe," she said, coming up and kissing him
dutifully. She was half-disgusted, he half-frightened; but yet it was
right, and Phoebe did it. "I have only two boxes and a bag," she said,
"besides my dressing-case. If you will get a cab, grandpapa, I will go
and see after the luggage."

Old Tozer thought he could have carried the bag himself, and left the
boxes to follow; but he succumbed humbly and obeyed.

"She don't seem a bit proud," he said to himself; "but, good Lord,
what'll she ever say to my old woman?"

He saw the contrast very clearly between his wife and this splendid
grandchild. It did not strike him so much in his own case.

"How is grandmamma?" said Phoebe, blandly; "better, I hope? Mamma was so
sorry not to come herself; but you know, of course, she has a great many
things to do. People in town are obliged to keep up certain appearances.
You are a great deal better off in the country, grandpapa."

"Lord bless you, my dear, do you call Carlingford the country?" said Mr.
Tozer. "That is all you know about it. Your granny and I are humble
folks, but the new minister at Salem is one as keeps up appearances with
the best. Your mother was always inclined for that. I hope she has not
brought you up too fine for the likes of us."

"I hope not, indeed," said Phoebe. "No fear of my being too fine for my
duty, grandpapa. Do you live down this nice road? How pretty it is! how
delightful these gardens must be in summer. I beg your pardon for
calling it the country. It is so quiet and so nice, it seems the country
to me."

"Ah, to be sure; brought up in the London smoke," said Mr. Tozer. "I
don't suppose, now, you see a bit of green from year's end to year's
end? Very bad for the 'ealth, that is; but I can't say you look poorly
on it. Your colour's fresh, so was your mother's before you. To be sure,
she wasn't cooped up like you."

"Oh, we do get a little fresh air sometimes--in the parks, for
instance," said Phoebe. She was somewhat piqued by the idea that she was
supposed to live in London smoke.

"Ah, the parks are always something; but I suppose it takes you a day's
journey to get at them," said Mr. Tozer, shaking his head. "You mustn't
mind your grandmother's temper just at first, my dear. She's old, poor
soul, and she ain't well, and she's sometimes cross above a bit. But
she'll be that proud of you, she won't know if she's on her 'eels or 'er
'ead; and as for a cross word now and again, I hope as you won't mind--"

"I shan't mind anything, grandpapa," said Phoebe, sweetly, "so long as I
can be of use."

And these were, indeed, the dutiful sentiments with which she made her
entry upon this passage in her life, not minding anything but to be of
use. The first glimpse of old Tozer, indeed, made it quite evident to
Phoebe that nothing but duty could be within her reach. Pleasure,
friends, society, the thought of all such delights must be abandoned.
And as for Clarence Copperhead and the Miss Dorsets, the notion of
meeting or receiving them was too absurd. But Duty remained, and Phoebe
felt herself capable of the sacrifice demanded from her. That confidence
in herself which we have already indicated as a marked feature in her
character, gave her the consoling certainty that she could not suffer
from association with her humble relations. Whosoever saw her must do
her justice, and that serene conviction preserved her from all the
throes of uneasy pride which afflict inferior minds in similar
circumstances. She had no wish to exhibit her grandfather and
grandmother in their lowliness, nor to be ostentatious of her homely
origin, as some people are in the very soreness of wounded pride; but if
hazard produced the butterman in the midst of the finest of her
acquaintances, Phoebe would still have been perfectly at her ease. She
would be herself, whatever happened.

In the mean time, however, it was apparent that Duty was what she had to
look to; Duty, and that alone. She had come here, not to amuse herself,
not to please herself, but to do her duty; and having thus concluded
upon her object, she felt comparatively happy, and at her ease.

Mrs. Tozer had put on her best cap, which was a very gorgeous creation.
She had dressed herself as if for a party, with a large brooch,
enclosing a curl of various coloured hair cut from the heads of her
children in early life, which fastened a large worked collar over a
dress of copper-coloured silk, and she rustled and shook a good deal as
she came downstairs into the garden to meet her grandchild, with some
excitement and sense of the "difference" which could not but be felt on
one side as well as on the other. She, too, was somewhat frightened by
the appearance of the young lady, who was her Phoebe's child, yet was so
unlike any other scion of the Tozer race; and felt greatly disposed to
curtsey and say "Ma'am" to her.

"You've grown a deal and changed a deal since I saw you last," she said,
restraining this impression, and receiving Phoebe's kiss with gratified,
yet awe-struck feeling; and then her respectful alarm getting too much
for her, she added, faltering, "You'll find us but humble folks; perhaps
not altogether what you've been used to--"

Phoebe did not think it expedient to make any reply to this outburst of
humility.

"Grandmamma, I am afraid you have over-exerted yourself, coming
downstairs to meet me," she said, taking the old lady's hand, and
drawing it within her arm. "Yes, I have grown; I am tall enough to be of
some use; but you must not treat me as if I were a stranger. No, no;
never mind my room. I am not tired; the journey is nothing. Let me take
you back to your chair and make you comfortable. I feel myself quite at
home already. The only odd thing is that I have never been here before."

"Ah, my dear, your mother thought too much of you to send you to the
likes of us; that's the secret of it. She was always fond of fine folks,
was my Phoebe; and I don't blame her, bringing you up quite the lady as
she's done."

"You must not find fault with mamma," said Phoebe, smiling. "What a nice
cozy room! This is the dining-room, I suppose; and here is your cushion,
and your footstool at this nice window. How pleasant it is, with the
crocuses in all the borders already! I am not at all tired; but I am
sure it must be tea-time, and I should so like a cup of tea."

"We thought," said Mrs. Tozer, "as perhaps you mightn't be used to tea
at this time of day."

"Oh, it is the right time; it is the fashionable hour," said Phoebe;
"everybody has tea at five. I will run upstairs first, and take off my
hat, and make myself tidy. Jane--is that her name?--don't trouble,
grandmamma; Jane will show me the way."

"Well?" said Mr. Tozer to Mrs. Tozer, as Phoebe disappeared. The two old
people looked at each other with a little awe; but she, as was her
nature, took the most depressing view. She shook her head.

"She is a deal too fine for us, Tozer," she said. "She'll never make
herself 'appy in our quiet way. Phoebe's been and brought her up quite
the lady. It ain't as her dress is much matter. I'd have given her a
silk myself, and never thought of it twice; and something lively like
for a young person, 'stead of that gray stuff, as her mother might wear.
But all the same, she ain't one of our sort. She'll never make herself
'appy with you and me."

"Well," said Tozer, who was more cheerful, "she ain't proud, not a bit;
and as for manners, you don't pay no more for manners. She came up and
give me a kiss in the station, as affectionate as possible. All I can
say for her is as she ain't proud."

Mrs. Tozer shook her head; but even while she did so, pleasanter dreams
stole into her soul.

"I hope I'll be well enough to get to chapel on Sunday," she said, "just
to see the folk's looks. The minister needn't expect much attention to
his sermon. 'There's Phoebe Tozer's daughter!' they'll all be saying, and
a-staring, and a-whispering. It ain't often as anything like her is seen
in chapel, that's a fact," said the old lady, warming into the
exultation of natural pride.

Phoebe, it must be allowed, had a good cry when she got within the
shelter of her own room, which had been very carefully prepared for her,
with everything that was necessary for comfort, according to her
grandmother's standard; but where the "tent" bed hung with old-fashioned
red and brown chintz, and the moreen curtains drooping over the window,
and the gigantic flowers on the carpet, made Phoebe's soul sick within
her. Notwithstanding all her courage, her heart sank. She had expected
"a difference," but she had not looked for her grandfather's greasy coat
and wisp of neckcloth, or her grandmother's amazing cap, or the
grammatical peculiarities in which both indulged. She had a good hot fit
of crying, and for the moment felt so discouraged and depressed, that
the only impulse in her mind was to run away. But her temperament did
not favour panics, and giving in was not in her. If somebody must do it,
why should not she do it? she said to herself. How many times had she
heard in sermons and otherwise that no one ought to look for the sweet
without the bitter, and that duty should never be avoided or refused
because it is unpleasant? Now was the time to put her principles to the
test; and the tears relieved her, and gave her something of the feeling
of a martyr, which is always consolatory and sweet; so she dried her
eyes, and bathed her face, and went downstairs cheerful and smiling,
resolved that, at all costs, her duty should be done, however
disagreeable it might be. What a good thing the new fashion of five
o'clock tea is for people who have connections in an inferior path of
life who make tea a meal, and don't dine, or dine in the middle of the
day! This was the thought that passed through Phoebe's mind as she went
into the dining-room, and found the table covered, not to say groaning
under good things. She took her place at it, and poured out tea for the
old people, and cut bread-and-butter with the most gracious philosophy.
Duchesses did the same every day; the tea-table had renewed its ancient
sway, even in fashionable life. It cannot be told what a help and
refreshment this thought was to Phoebe's courageous heart.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE TOZER FAMILY.


When Phoebe woke next morning, under the huge flowers of the old
fashioned cotton drapery of her "tent" bed, to see the faint daylight
struggling in through the heavy curtains which would not draw back from
the window, the discouragement of her first arrival for a moment
overpowered her again--and with even more reason--for she had more fully
ascertained the resources of the place in which she found herself. There
were no books, except some old volumes of sermons and a few back numbers
of the Congregational Magazine, no visitors, so far as she could make
out, no newspaper but the Carlingford Weekly Gazette, nothing but her
grandmother's gossip about the chapel and Mrs. Tom to pass the weary
hours away. Even last night Mrs. Tozer had asked her whether she had not
any work to beguile the long evening, which Phoebe occupied much more
virtuously, from her own point of view, in endeavouring to amuse the old
people by talking to them. Though it was morning, and she ought to have
been refreshed and encouraged by the repose of the night, it was again
with a few hot tears that Phoebe contemplated her prospects. But this was
only a passing weakness. When she went down to breakfast, she was again
cheerful as the crocuses that raised their heads along the borders with
the promise of summer in them. The sun was shining, the sky was frosty,
but blue. After all, her present sufferings could not endure for ever.
Phoebe hurried to get dressed, to get her blue fingers warned by the
dining-room fire. It is needless to say that there was no fire, or
thought of a fire in the chilly room, with its red and brown hangings,
in which Mrs. Tozer last night had hoped she would be happy. "No fear of
that, grandmamma," she had answered cheerfully. This was as much a lie,
she felt, as if it had been said with the wickedest intentions--was it
as wrong? How cold it was, and yet how stifling! She could scarcely
fasten the ribbon at her neck, her fingers were so cold.

"Yes, grandpapa, it is brighter than in London. We don't live in the
city, you know. We live in rather a pretty neighbourhood looking out on
Regent's Park, but it is seldom so bright as the country. Sometimes the
fog blows up our way, when the wind is in the east; but it is warmer, I
think," said Phoebe, with a little shiver, stooping over the dining-room
fire.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Tozer, shaking her head, "it's your mother as has spoilt
you, I don't make no doubt, with fires and things. That takes the
hardiness out of young folks. A little bit of cold is wholesome, it
stirs up the blood. Them as is used to fires is always taking cold. One
good fire in the sitting-room, that's always been my principle, and them
as is cold if they can't warm theirselves with movin' about, which is
far the best, let them come and warm their fingers when they please--as
you may be doing now."

"Perhaps it is a very good principle, grandmamma," said Phoebe, "when one
is used to it; but the country is colder than town. Where there are
fires on every side you must have more warmth than in a detached house
like this. But it is only my hands after all. Shall I make the tea?"

"You should wear mittens like me--I always did in the High Street,
especial when I was going and coming to the shop, helping serve, when
the children were young and I had the time for it. Ah! we've done with
all that now. We're more at our ease, but I can't say as we're much
happier. A shop is a cheerful sort of thing. I dare say your mother has
told you--"

"No," said Phoebe, under her breath; but the reply was not noticed. She
nearly dropped the teapot out of her hand when she heard the word--Shop!
Yes, to be sure, that was what being "in trade" meant, but she had never
quite realized it till now. Phoebe was going through a tremendous piece
of mental discipline in these first days. She writhed secretly, and
moaned to herself--why did not mamma tell me? but she sat quite still
outside, and smiled as if it was all quite ordinary and natural, and
she had heard about the shop all her life. It seemed cruel and unkind to
have sent her here without distinct warning of what she was going to
meet. But Phoebe was a good girl, and would not blame her father and
mother. No doubt they meant it "for the best."

"Is Uncle Tom," she said, faltering somewhat, "in the--shop now?"

"If I'm able," said Mrs. Tozer, "I'll walk that far with you this
morning--or Tozer, I mean your grandfather, will go. It's a tidy house
o' business, though I say it as shouldn't, seeing it was him and me as
made it all; though I don't hold with Mrs. Tom's nonsense about the new
windows. Your Uncle Tom is as innocent as innocent, but as for her, she
ain't no favourite of mine, and I makes no bones about saying so, I
don't mind who hears."

"She ain't so bad as you make her out," said Tozer. "She's kind enough
in her way. Your grandmother is a-going to show you off--that's it, my
dear. She can't abide Tom's wife, and she wants to show her as you're
far finer than her girls. I don't say no. It's nat'ral, and I'm not one
as stands against nature; but don't you be prejudiced by my old woman
there. She _is_ a prejudiced one. Nothing in the world will make her
give up a notion when she's took it into her head."

"No, nothing; and ain't I always right in the end? I should think you've
proved that times enough," said the old woman. "Yes, I'll take a little,
my dear, since you press me so pretty. Folks take many a thing when
they're pressed as they wouldn't touch if there was no one to say, take
a bit. Tozer, he never thinks of that; he's always had the best o'
appetites; but as for me, if I get's a cup o' tea that's all as I cares
for. You'll see as she'll take my view, when she's once been to the High
Street. She's her mother's daughter, and Phoebe can't abide that woman,
no more than me."

"Have they got many children?" said Phoebe. "I know there are two girls,
but as I have never seen them--Are they as old as I am?" she asked, with
a tremulous feeling at her heart. If there were girls in the shop in the
High Street, with whom she would have to be on familiar terms, as her
cousins and equals, Phoebe did not feel that she could put up with that.

"The eldest, Polly, is only twelve," said Tozer; "but never you mind, my
dear, for you shan't be without company. There's a deal of families with
daughters like yourself. Your grandmother won't say nothing against it;
and as for me, I think there's nought so cheery as young folks. You
shall have a fire in the drawing-room, and as many tea-parties as you
like. For the young men, I can't say as there's many, but girls is
plenty, and as long as you're content with that--"

Mrs. Tozer regarded him with withering contempt across the table.

"You're clever ones, you men," she said. "Families with daughters! Do
you think the Greens and the Robbins is company for _her_? I dare say as
you've heard your mother speak of Maria Pigeon, my dear? She married
John Green the grocer, and very well to do and respectable they may be,
but nobody but the likes of your grandfather would think of you and them
making friends."

"Indeed I don't care for making friends," said Phoebe, "you must remember
that I came not for society, but to wait upon you, dear grandmamma. I
don't want young friends. At home I always go out with my mother; let me
take walks with you, when you are able. I am glad Uncle Tom's children
are little. I don't want company. My work--and the garden--and to sit
with grandmamma, that is all I care for. I shall be as happy as the day
is long," said this martyr, smiling benignly over the aches in her
heart.

Her grandparents looked at her with ever-growing pride. Was not this the
ideal young woman, the girl of the story-books, who cared about nothing
but her duty?

"That's very nice of you, my dear; but you ain't going to hide yourself
up in a corner," said Tozer. And, "Never fear, I'll take her wherever
it's fit for her to go to," his wife added, looking at her with pride.
Phoebe felt, in addition to all the rest, that she was to be made a show
of to all the connection, as a specimen of what the Tozer blood could
come to, and she did not even feel sure that something of the same
feeling had not been in her mother's bosom when she fitted her out so
perfectly. Phoebe Tozer had left contemporaries and rivals in
Carlingford, and the thought of dazzling and surpassing them in her
offspring as in her good fortune had still some sweetness for her mind.
"Mamma meant it too!" Phoebe junior said to herself with a sigh.
Unfortunately for her, she did everybody credit who belonged to her, and
she must resign herself to pay the penalty. Perhaps there was some
compensation in that thought.

And indeed Phoebe did not wonder at her grandmother's pride when she
walked up with her to High Street, supporting her on her arm. She
recognised frankly that there were not many people like herself about,
few who had so much the air of good society, and not one who was so well
dressed. There were excuses to be made then for the anxiety of the old
people to produce her in the little world which was everything to them,
and with her usual candour and good sense she acknowledged this, though
she winced a little when an occasional acquaintance drifted across Mrs.
Tozer's path, and was introduced with pride to "my granddaughter," and
thrust forth an ungloved hand, with an exclamation of, "Lord bless us,
Phoebe's eldest! I hope I see you well, Miss." Phoebe continued urbane,
though it cost her many a pang. She had to keep on a perpetual argument
with herself as she went along slowly, holding up her poor grandmother's
tottering steps. "If this is what we have really sprung from, this is my
own class, and I ought to like it; if I don't like it, it must be my
fault. I have no right to feel myself better than they are. It is not
position that makes any difference, but individual character," Phoebe
said to herself. She got as much consolation out of this as is to be
extracted from such rueful arguments in general; but it was after all
indifferent comfort, and had not her temperament given her a strong hold
of herself, and power of subduing her impulses, it is much to be feared
that Phoebe would have dropped her grandmother's arm as they approached
the station, and run away. She did waver for a moment as she came in
sight of it. On that side lay freedom, comfort, the life she had been
used to, which was not very elevated indeed, but felt like high rank in
comparison with this. And she knew her parents would forgive her and
defend her if she went back to them, unable to support the martyrdom
which she had rashly taken upon herself. But then how weak that would
be, Phoebe thought to herself, drawing Mrs. Tozer's arm more tightly
within her own--how small! how it would hurt the feelings of the old
people, how it would vex and embarrass her father and mother! Lastly, it
might peril her brother's interests and her own, which, to do her
justice, was the last thing she thought of, and yet was not undeserving
of notice in its way.

"Lean on me more heavily, grandmamma," she said at last, finally
concluding and throwing off this self-discussion. She could not prolong
it further. It was unworthy of her. Hence-forward she had made up her
mind to set her face like a flint, and no longer leave the question of
her persistence in her domestic mission an open question. Whatever she
might have "to put up with," it was now decided once for all.

"Bless us all, if this ain't grandmamma," said Mrs. Tom. It was not
often, as she herself said with pride, that she required to be in the
shop, which was very much improved now from its old aspect. Ill luck,
however, brought her here to-day. She stood at the door which led from
the shop to the house, dividing the counter, talking to a lady who was
making a complaint upon the quality of cheese or butter. Mrs. Tozer had
led Phoebe that way in order to point out to her the plate-glass windows
and marble slabs for the cheese, of which, though they were one of her
grievances against Mrs. Tom, she was secretly proud.

"I don't deny but what they've done a deal," said the old woman, "show
and vanity as I call it. I wish they may do as well for themselves with
all their plate-glass as me and Tozer did without it; but it ain't often
as you'll see a handsomer shop," she added, contemplating fondly the
scene of her early labours. If a squire looks fondly at his land, and a
sailor at his ship (when ships were worth looking at), why should not a
shopkeeper regard his shop with the same affectionate feelings? Mrs. Tom
Tozer had just taken leave of her remonstrant customer with a curtsey,
and an assurance that the faults complained of should be remedied, when
she caught sight of the infirm old woman leaning on Phoebe's arm, and
made the exclamation already quoted.

"Lord bless us all! if it ain't grandmamma, and Phoebe's daughter along
o' her, I'll lay you sixpence," said Mrs. Tom in the extremity of her
surprise, and at the highest pitch of her voice. The lady customer was
still in the shop, and when she heard this she turned round and gave the
new-comers a stare. (It was not very wonderful, Phoebe allowed to herself
with secret anguish). She gave old Mrs. Tozer a familiar nod. "This is
quite a long walk for you now-a-days," she said, gazing at Phoebe, though
she addressed the old woman.

"Thank ye, ma'am, I am a deal better," said Mrs. Tozer, "especially as
I've got my granddaughter to take care of me."

"Oh! is this young--person your granddaughter," said the customer with
another stare, and then she nodded again and went away wondering.
"Well," Phoebe said to herself, "one little sting more or less what did
it matter?" and she went on through the shop supporting her grandmother,
keenly sensible of the looks that encountered her on every side. Mrs.
Tom stood leaning against the counter, waiting for them without making
any advance. She was smart and good-looking, with a malicious gleam in a
pair of bright black beady eyes.

"How are you, granny?" she said, "I declare you're looking quite young
again, and as spry as twenty. Come in and rest; and this young lady as
is with you, I don't think as I need ask her name, the likeness speaks
for itself. It's Phoebe Beecham, ain't it? Bless us all! I'd have known
her anywhere, I would; the very moral of her mother, and of you too,
granny. As you stand there now, you're as like as two peas."

Unconsciously Phoebe cast a look upon her grandmother. She did not think
she was vain. To be unconscious that she had some personal advantages
would, of course, be impossible; but a thrill crept through her when she
looked at the old woman by her side, wrinkled and red, in her
copper-coloured gown. As like as two peas! was that possible? Phoebe's
heart sank for the moment to her shoes, and a pitiful look of restrained
pain came to her face. This was assailing her in her tenderest point.

"Am I so like you, grandmamma?" she said, faltering; but added quickly,
"then I cannot be like mamma. How do you do? My mother wished me to come
at once, to bring her kind regards. Is my uncle at home?"

"No, Miss, your uncle ain't at home," said Mrs. Tom, "but you might be
civil, all the same, and put a name to me, more nor if I was a dog. I'm
your aunt, I am--and I likes all my titles, I do--and proper respect."

"Surely," said Phoebe, with a bow and a gracious smile--but she did not
add that name. She was pleased to think that "Tom's wife" was her
mother's favourite aversion, and that a dignified resistance to her
claims was, so to speak, her duty. It even amused her to think of the
ingenuity required throughout a long conversation for the clever and
polite eluding of this claim.

"I hope as you mean to let us in, Amelia," said Mrs. Tozer, "for it
ain't often as I takes so long a walk. I would never have thought of it
but for Phoebe--Phoebe junior, as Tozer calls her. She's been used to
things very different, but I'm thankful to say she ain't a bit proud.
She couldn't be more attentive to me if I was the queen, and talks of
your children as pretty as possible, without no nonsense. It ain't often
as you see that in a girl brought up like she's been."

"I don't pretend to know nothing of how she's been brought up," said
Mrs. Tom, "and I don't think as there's no occasion for pride here.
We're all well-to-do, and getting on in the world--thanks to Him as
gives the increase. I don't see no opening for pride here. Me and your
mother were never very good friends, Phoebe, since that's your name; but
if there's anything I can do for you, or my family, you won't ask twice.
Grandmother's ain't a very lively house, not like mine, as is full of
children. Come in, Granny. I'm always speaking of making the stairs
wider, and a big window on the landing; but folks can't do everything
at once, and we'll have to do with it a bit longer. We've done a deal
already to the old place."

"More than was wanted, or was thought upon in my time," said the old
lady, to whom this was as the trumpet of battle. "The stairs did well
enough for me, and I can't think what Tom can want changing things as
he's been used to all his life."

"Oh, it ain't Tom," said his wife, her face lighting up with
satisfaction. "Tom wouldn't mind if the place was to come to bits about
our ears. He's like you, granny, he's one of the stand-still ones. It
ain't Tom, it's me."

This little passage of arms took place as they were going upstairs,
which cost poor Mrs. Tozer many pantings and groaning, and placed Phoebe
for once on Mrs. Tom's side, for a window on the landing would have been
a wonderful improvement, there was no denying. When, at last, they had
toiled to the top, fighting their way, not only through the obscurity,
but through an atmosphere of ham and cheese which almost choked Phoebe,
the old lady was speechless with the exertion, though the air was to her
as the air of Paradise. Phoebe placed her on a chair and undid her
bonnet-strings, and for a minute was really alarmed. Mrs. Tom, however,
took it with perfect equanimity.

"She's blown a bit; she ain't as young as she was, nor even as she
thinks for," said that sympathetic person. "Come, Granny, cheer up. Them
stairs ain't strange to you. What's the good of making a fuss? Sit down
and get your breath," she went on, pulling forward a chair; then turning
to Phoebe, she shrugged her shoulders and raised her eyebrows. "She's
breaking fast, that's what it is," said Mrs. Tom under her breath, with
a nod of her head.

"This is the room as your mother spent most of her life in when she was
like you," said Mrs. Tozer, when she regained her breath. "It was here
as she met your father first. The first time I set my eyes on him,
'That's the man for my Phoebe,' I said to myself; and sure enough, so it
turned out."

"You didn't miss no way of helping it on, neither, granny, if folks do
you justice," said Mrs. Tom. "Mothers can do a deal when they exerts
themselves; and now Phoebe has a daughter of her own, I dare be sworn
she's just as clever, throwing the nice ones and the well-off ones in
her way. It's a wonder to me as she hasn't gone off yet, with all her
opportunities--two or three and twenty, ain't you, Miss Phoebe? I should
have thought you'd have married long afore now."

"I stall be twenty my next birthday," said Phoebe. "My cousins are a
great deal younger, I hear; are they at school? I hope I shall see them
before I go."

"Oh, you'll see 'em fast enough," said their mother, "they're 'aving
their music lesson. I don't hold with sending girls to school. I likes
to keep them under my own eye. I suppose I needn't ask you now if you
play?"

"A very little," said Phoebe, who rather piqued herself upon her music,
and who was learned in Bach and Beethoven, and had an opinion of her own
about Wagner. Mrs. Tom brightened visibly, for her girls played not a
little, but a great deal.

"And draw?--but I needn't ask, for living in London, you've got masters
at your very door."

"Not at all, I am sorry to say," said Phoebe, with a pathetic tone of
regret in her voice.

"Lord bless us! Now who'd have thought it? I think nothing a sacrifice
to give mine the best of education," said Mrs. Tom.



CHAPTER XIV.

STRANGERS.


"Well, Ursula, how do you do?" said Mrs. Sam Hurst, meeting her young
neighbour with outstretched hands. She was a portly good-looking woman
with an active mind, and nothing, or next to nothing to do, and instead
of being affronted as some persons might have been, she was amused, and
indeed flattered, by the suspicion and alarm with which all the young
Mays regarded her. Whether she had the least intention of ever giving
any justification to their alarms it would be impossible to say, for
indeed to a sensible woman of forty-five, well to do and comfortable, a
husband with "a temper of his own," and a large poor unruly family, was,
perhaps, not so tempting as he appeared to be to his jealous children.
Anyhow she was not at all angry with them for being jealous and afraid
of her. She was cordial in her manner to the Mays as to everybody she
knew. She asked how Ursula had enjoyed herself, where she had been, what
she had seen, and a hundred questions more.

"It is quite delightful to see somebody who has something to tell," she
said when the interrogation was over. "I ask everybody what news, and
no one has any news, which is dreadful for me."

"How can you care for news?" said Ursula, "news! what interest can there
be in mere news that doesn't concern us?"

"You are very foolish, my dear," said Mrs. Hurst; "what's to become of
you when you're old, if you don't like to hear what's going on? I'm
thankful to say I take a great deal, of interest in my fellow-creatures
for my part. Now listen, I'll tell you a piece of news in return for all
your information about London. When I was in Tozer's shop to-day--I
always go there, though they are Dissenters; after all, you know, most
tradespeople are Dissenters; some are sorry for it, some think it quite
natural that gentle-people and tradespeople should think differently in
religious matters; however, what I say is, you can't tell the difference
in butter and bacon between church and dissent, can you now? and Tozer's
is the best shop in the town, certainly the best shop. So as I was in
Tozer's as I tell you, who should come in but old Mrs. Tozer, who once
kept it herself--and by her side, figure my astonishment, a young lady!
yes, my dear, actually a young lady, in appearance, of course--I mean in
appearance--for, as you shall hear, it could be no more than that. So
nicely dressed, nothing vulgar or showy, a gown that Elise might have
made, and everything to correspond, in perfect taste. Fancy! and you may
imagine how I stared. I could not take my eyes off her. I was so
astonished that I rubbed up my old acquaintance with the old woman, and
asked her how her rheumatism was. I _hope_ it is rheumatism. At all
events I called it so, and then she told me as proud as a peacock that
it was her granddaughter; fancy, her granddaughter! did you ever hear of
such a thing? The other woman in the shop, the present Tozer, called out
to her by name. Phoebe they called her. Poor girl, I was so sorry for
her. A lady in appearance, and to have to submit to that!"

"Oughtn't ladies to be called Phoebe?" asked Janey. "Why not? It's rather
a pretty name."

"That is so like Janey," said Mrs. Hurst; "I know she is the clever one;
but she never can see what one means. It is not being called Phoebe, it
is because of her relations that I am sorry for her. Poor girl!
educating people out of their sphere does far more harm than good, I
always maintain. To see that nice-looking, well-dressed girl in Tozer's
shop, with all the butter boys calling her Phoebe--"

"The butter boys are as good as any one else," cried Janey, whose
tendencies were democratic. "I dare say she likes her relations as well
as we like ours, and better, though they do keep a shop."

"Oh, Janey!" cried Ursula, whose feelings were touched; then she
remembered that her sympathies ought not to flow in the same channel
with those of Mrs. Sam Hurst, and continued coldly, "If she had not
liked them she need not have come to see them."

"That is all you know, you girls. You don't know the plague of
relations, and how people have got to humble themselves to keep money in
the family, or keep up appearances, especially people that have risen in
the world. I declare I think they pay dear for rising in the world, or
their poor children pay dear--"

"You seem to take a great deal of interest in the Tozers," said Ursula,
glad to administer a little correction; "even if they came to St.
Roque's I could understand it--but Dissenters!" This arrow struck home.

"Well," said Mrs. Hurst, colouring, "of all people to take an interest
in Dissenters I am the last; but I was struck, I must admit, to see that
old Mrs. Tozer, looking like an old washerwoman, with a girl in a
twenty-guinea dress, you may take my word for it, though as plain as
that little brown frock of yours, Ursula. That was a sight to wake any
one up."

Ursula looked down at the little brown frock thus contemptuously
referred to, with mingled offence and consciousness of inferiority. It
had not cost as many shillings, and had been made up at home, and was
not a shining example of the dressmaker's art. "If you value people
according to what their dress costs--"

"I can't know much about her moral qualities, can I?" said Mrs. Hurst,
"and I don't suppose she has any position, being old Tozer's grandchild.
But she wasn't amiss in her looks, and I declare I should have taken her
for a lady if I had met her in the street. It shows how one may be taken
in. And this is a lesson for you, young girls; you must never trust to
appearances. I confess I'd like to find out some more about her. Going
in, Ursula? Well, my dear, perhaps I'll step in for a talk in the
evening. You must be dull after your gaiety. Tell your dear papa," said
Mrs. Hurst with a laugh, "that I am coming to sit with you after tea.
Now mind you give him my message. He does not like to miss me when I
come to the Parsonage, does he now? Good-bye for the present. Till eight
o'clock."

"Oh, how I hate her," cried Janey, "except sometimes when she makes me
laugh and I feel tempted to like her; but I always resist it. Do you
think really, Ursula, that papa could be--such a--stupid--"

"Oh, please don't ask me," cried Ursula. "How can I tell? I don't know
what he may do; but if he does--and if she does--oh, then, Janey--"

"Yes, indeed, then!" said Janey, breathing hard. This mysterious threat
seemed very horrible to both of them, though what they meant by it, it
would have been very hard for either of them to tell. They waited within
the little shrubbery whispering to each other till they heard Mrs. Hurst
close her own door, for they did not want any more of her society,
though they had no intention of going in. When she was safe out of the
way, they stole out and continued their walk in the opposite direction.

"I wanted to have gone into the town," said Ursula. "It _is_ hard to
have that woman next door; one can't go anywhere or do anything! I
wanted some braid for your new frock, Janey, and twist to make the
button-holes; but if we had said we were going up into Carlingford, she
would have come too. Never mind; a walk is better than nothing. Walk
fast, and let us try how far we can go before tea."

Upon this idea the two girls set out walking as if for a race, which did
them all the good in the world, quickening the blood in their veins,
sending the colour to their cheeks, and dispersing all the cobwebs from
their minds, since they soon got into the spirit of the race, and
pursued it with eagerness, with little outbursts of laughter, and
breathless adjurations to each other to keep within the proper pace, and
not to run. It was not a very inviting road along which they took their
walk. Beyond St. Roque the land was divided into allotments for the
working people, not very tidily kept, and rough with cut cabbages,
plants, and dug-up potatoes. Beyond this lay a great turnip-field,
somewhat rank in smell, and the east wind swept chill along the open
road, which was not sheltered by a single tree, so that the attractions
of the way soon palled upon pedestrians. Looking back to Grange Lane,
the snug and sheltered look of that genteel adjunct to the town was
comforting to behold. Even Grange Lane was not gay; a line of garden
walls, however they may shelter and comfort the gardens within, are not
lovely without; but yet the trees, though leafless, waved over the red
lines of brick, and the big laurels hung out bushes of dark verdure and
long floating sprays of ivy.

"Let's turn back; perhaps she may not be at the window," cried Ursula.
"It is so dull here."

Janey stopped short in the heat of the walk, objecting for the moment.

"I wish you had not gone to London. You never used to care for the
streets and the shops; now a regular good walk is too much for you,"
cried Janey.

"With a turnip-field on one side and a potato-field on the other!" said
Ursula, in high disdain.

"I tell you what!" cried Janey. "I don't think I like you since you came
back. The Dorsets are fine people, and we are not fine. There are no
grand parties, nor theatres, nor balls at Carlingford. When we go out
here, we go to walk, not to see things, as you have been used to doing.
I don't know what you mean by it; nineteen years with us, and one
fortnight with them! and the fortnight counts for more than all the
years!"

Janey was not in the habit of restraining her voice any more than
anything else about her, and she spoke this out with loud school-girl
tones, reckless who might hear her. In most cases she might have done
this with the utmost impunity, and how was she to know, as she said to
her sister afterwards, in self-defence, that any one, especially any
gentleman, could be lurking about, spying upon people, among those nasty
allotments? There was some one there, however, who came down the muddy
path, all cut up by the wheel-barrows, with a smile upon his face. A
gentleman? Janey called him so without a doubt on the subject; but
Ursula, more enlightened and slightly irritated, had her doubts. He was
dressed, not with any care of morning costume, but wore a black
frock-coat of the most formal description, with a white cravat
carelessly tied, semi-clerical, and yet not clerical. He had a smile on
his face, which, on the whole, was rather a handsome face, and looked at
them, showing evident signs of having heard what Janey said. To be sure,
he did not say anything, but Ursula felt that his look was just the same
as if he had spoken, and coloured high, resenting the intrusion. By this
stranger's side was one of the men who had been working at the
allotments, whose hands were not clean, and whose boots were heavy with
the clinging, clayey soil. When they had nearly reached the road, the
gentleman turned round and shook hands with his companion, and then
walked on towards Carlingford, throwing another look towards the girls
as he passed. It would be hard to say whether curiosity or anger was
strongest in Ursula. In Janey, the former sentiment carried everything
before it.

"Oh, I wonder who he is?" she cried, low, but eager, in her sister's
ear. "Who can he be, Ursula, who can he be? We know all the men about
here, every one, as well as we know Reginald. Oh, Ursula, who do you
think he can be?"

"He is very impertinent," cried Ursula, with an angry blush. "How should
I know? And oh! how very silly of you, Janey, to talk so loud, and make
impudent men stare at us so."

"Impudent!" cried Janey. "I didn't talk loud. He looked rather nice, on
the contrary. Why, he laughed! Do you call that impudent? It can't be
anybody from the town, because we know everybody; and did you see him
shaking hands with that man? How very funny! Let us run in and tell Mrs.
Sam Hurst, and ask her who she thinks he is. She is sure to know."

"Janey," said Ursula, severely, "if you live very long, you will be as
great a gossip and as fond of news as Mrs. Sam Hurst herself."

"I don't care," cried Janey; "you're just as fond of news as I am, only
you won't confess it. I am dying to know who he is. He is quite
nice-looking, and tall and grand. A new gentleman! Come, quick, Ursula;
let us get back and see where he goes."

"Janey!" cried the elder sister. She was half curious herself, but
Ursula was old enough to know better, and to be ashamed of the other's
naïve and undisguised curiosity. "Oh, what would Cousin Anne say! A girl
running after a gentleman (even if he is a gentleman), to see where he
goes!"

"Well!" cried Janey, "if she wants to know, what else is she to do? Who
cares for Cousin Anne? She is an old maid. Why, if it had been a lady, I
shouldn't have minded. There are so many ladies; but a new gentleman! If
you won't come on, I will run by myself. How pleased Mrs. Sam Hurst will
be!"

"I thought you hated Mrs. Sam Hurst?"

"So I do when I think of papa; but when there's anything going on, or
anything to find out, I like her dearly. She's such fun! She never
shilly-shallies, like you. She's not an old maid like your Cousin Anne
that you are always talking of. Come along! if anybody else finds out
who he is before we do," cried Janey, with almost despairing energy, "I
shall break my heart!"

Ursula stoically resisted the tug upon her, but she went back to Grange
Lane, to which, indeed, she had turned her face before they met the
stranger, and she could not help seeing the tall black figure in front
of her which Janey watched so eagerly. Ursula was not eager, but she
could not help seeing him. He walked up the street quickly, not as if he
thought himself of interest to any one, but when he had got half way up
Grange Lane, crossed to speak to somebody. This filled Janey with
consternation.

"He is not such a stranger after all," she cried. "He knows some one. He
will not be quite a discovery. Who is it he is talking to, I wonder? He
is standing at one of the doors, but it is not Miss Humphreys, nor Miss
Griffiths, nor any of the Charters. Perhaps she is a stranger too. If he
is married he won't be half so interesting, for there are always plenty
of ladies. Perhaps he has just come by the railway to spend the day--but
then there is nothing to see in Carlingford, and how did he know that
man at the lots? Oh, Ursula, why don't you answer me? why don't you say
something? have you no feeling? I am sure it don't matter a bit to me,
for I am not out; I am never asked to parties--but I take an interest
for you other girls' sake."

Before this time, however, Ursula had found a new object of interest.
She had not been quite so unmoved as Janey supposed. A new gentleman was
a thing to awaken anybody who knew Carlingford, for, indeed, gentlemen
were scarce in the society of the little town, and even at the most mild
of tea-parties it is ludicrous to see one man (and that most likely a
curate) among a dozen ladies--so that even when she appeared to Janey to
wonder, she felt that her sister's curiosity was not unjustifiable. But
while thus engaged in the enterprise of discovering "a new gentleman"
for the good of society, Ursula's eyes and her attention were caught by
another interest. The stranger had crossed the street to talk to a lady,
who had been walking down the Lane, and whom Ursula felt she had seen
somewhere. Who was it? Certainly not Miss Humphreys, nor Miss Griffiths,
nor any other of the well-known young ladies of Grange Lane. The setting
sun, which had come out suddenly after a dull day, threw a slanting,
long-drawn ray up the street, which fell upon the strangers, as they
stood talking. This ray caught the young lady's hair, and flashed back a
reflection out of the shining coils which looked to Ursula (being dark
herself, she admired golden hair more than anything) as bright as the
sunshine. And in the light she caught the out-line of a pretty head, and
of a nose slightly "tip-tilted," according to the model which the
Laureate has brought into fashion. Where had she seen her before? She
remembered all at once with a rush of bewildered pleasure.

"Janey! Oh, Janey!" she cried, "Listen! This is too extraordinary. There
is the young lady in black!"

Janey, as may be supposed, had heard every detail of Mrs. Copperhead's
ball, and knew what Ursula meant as well as Ursula herself did. She grew
pale with excitement and curiosity. "No!" she said, "you can't mean it.
Are you sure, are you quite sure? Two new people in one day! Why,
everybody must be coming to Carlingford. It makes me feel quite
strange!" said this susceptible young woman; "the young lady in black!"

"Oh, yes, there can't be any mistake," said Ursula, hurrying on in her
excitement, "I looked at her so much. I couldn't mistake her. Oh, I
wonder if she will know me, I wonder if she will speak to me! or if she
is going to see the Dorsets, or what has brought her to Carlingford.
Only fancy, Janey, the young lady in black whom I have talked so much
of; oh, I wonder, I do wonder what has brought her here."

They were on the opposite side of the lane, so that their hurried
approach did not startle the strangers; but Phoebe, looking up at the
sound of the footsteps, saw a face she knew looking wistfully, eagerly
at her, with evident recognition. Phoebe had a faculty quite royal of
remembering faces, and it took but a moment to recall Ursula's to her.
Another moment was spent in a rapid discussion with herself, as to
whether she should give or withhold the salutation which the girl
evidently sought. But what harm could it do? and it would be pleasant to
know some one; and if on finding out who she was, Miss Dorset's little
relation shrank from her acquaintance, why then, Phoebe said to herself,
"I shall be no worse than before." So she sent a smile and a bow across
the road and said, "How do you do?" in a pause of her conversation.
Ursula was too shy to feel on equal terms with the young lady in black,
who was so much more self-possessed than she was. She blushed and
smiled, answered, "Quite well, thank you," across the lane like a child,
and notwithstanding a great many pokes from Janey's energetic elbow,
went on without further response.

"Oh, why can't you run across and speak to her?" cried Janey, "oh, how
funny you are, and how disagreeable! would _I_ pass any one I knew, like
that!"

"You don't understand, you are only a child," said Ursula, frightened
and agitated, yet full of dignity, "we have only met--in society. When
you are introduced to any one in society it does not count. Perhaps they
might not want to know you; perhaps--but anyhow you can't rush up to
them like two girls at school. You have to wait and see what they will
do."

"Well, I declare!" cried Janey; "then what is the good of society? You
know them, and yet you mustn't know them. I would never be such a fool
as that. Fancy looking at her across the lane and saying 'quite well,
thank you,' after she had begun to speak. I suppose that's Cousin Anne's
way? I should have rushed across and asked where she was staying, and
when she would come to see us. Ursula, oh," cried Janey, suddenly
changing her tone, and looking at her sister with eyes which had widened
to twice their natural size with the grandeur of the idea, "you will
have to ask her to tea!"

"Oh, you silly girl, do you think she would come? you should have seen
her at the ball. She knew everybody, and had such quantities of
partners. Mr. Clarence Copperhead was always dancing with her. Fancy her
coming to tea with us." But Ursula herself was somewhat breathless with
the suggestion. When a thing has been once said, there is always a
chance that it may be done, and the two girls walked up very quickly
into the High Street after this, silent, with a certain awe of
themselves and their possibilities. It might be done, now that it had
been said.



CHAPTER XV.

A DOMESTIC CRISIS.


The interest shown by the two girls in the stranger whom they had noted
with so much attention was not destined to meet with any immediate
reward. Neither he, nor "the young lady in black," whom he hurried
across the street to meet, could be heard of, or was seen for full two
days afterwards, to the great disappointment of the young Mays. Ursula,
especially, who had been entertaining vague but dazzling thoughts of a
companionship more interesting than Janey's, more novel and at the same
time more equal than that which was extended to her by the Miss
Griffiths in Grange Lane, who were so much better off and had so much
less to do than she. Ursula did not recollect the name of the fortunate
girl who was so much in the ascendant at Mr. Copperhead's ball, though
Phoebe had been introduced to her; but she did recollect her popularity
and general friendliness, and the number of partners she had, and all
those delightful signs of greatness which impress a poor little
stranger, to whom her first dance is not unmingled pleasure. She
whispered to Janey about her even in the drawing-room when all the
family were assembled.

"Do you think she will call?" said Ursula, asking counsel even of
Janey's inexperience, of which she was so contemptuous on other
occasions.

"Call! how can she, if she is a stranger?" said Janey.

"As if you knew anything about it!" Ursula retorted with great
injustice.

"If I don't know, then why do you ask me?" complained Janey with reason.
The room looked more cheerful since Ursula had come home. The fire, no
longer choked with cinders, burned clear and red. The lamp, though it
was a cheap one, and burned paraffin oil, did not smell. The old
curtains were nicely drawn, and the old covers smoothed over the chairs.
All this did not make them look less old; but it made their antiquity
natural and becoming. Johnnie, the school-boy, was learning his lessons
on the rug before the fire. Reginald sat writing, with a candle all to
himself, at a writing-table in a corner. Ursula and Janey were working
at the centre table by the light of the lamp. They had no time, you may
imagine, for fancy-work. Janey, with many contortions of her person,
especially of her mouth, with which she seemed to follow the movements
of her needle, was stitching up a sleeve of her new frock which Miss
Dorset had sent her, and which a poor dress-maker, who "went out," was
at this moment making up in the schoolroom; while Ursula was still busy
with the basket of stockings which she had found awaiting her on their
return. What Reginald was doing at the writing-table was probably a
great deal less useful, but the girls respected his occupation as no one
ever thought of respecting theirs, and carried on their conversation
under their breath, not to interrupt him. The little children had gone
to bed, tea was over, and several hours of the long winter evening still
before them. Janey had given over lessons, partly because there was no
one to insist upon her doing them. Once in a week or so her father gave
her a lecture for her ignorance, and ordered her into his study to do a
long sum in arithmetic out of the first old "Colenso" that could be
picked up; and about once a week too, awakening suddenly to a sense of
her own deficiencies, she would "practise" energetically on the old
piano. This was all that was being done for Janey in the way of
education. She was fifteen, and as Johnnie, and Amy, and Robin were at
an age when school is a necessity, the only retrenchment possible was to
keep Janey at home. Ursula had got what education she possessed in the
same irregular way. It was not much. Besides reading and writing, she
had pretty manners, which came by nature like those other gifts. A girl
is not so badly off who can read and write and has pretty manners. Janey
possessed the two first faculties, but neither had nor apparently could
acquire the third. The two dark brown heads were close together as they
worked--Ursula's shining and neat, and carefully arranged, Janey's rough
with elf-locks; but they were more interesting than Reginald, though he
was so much better informed. As for Johnnie, he lay extended on the rug,
his head slightly raised on his two hands, his book on a level with the
rest of his person, saying over his lesson to himself with moving lips.
And now and then, when the girls' whispered chatter was silent, the
sound of Reginald's pen scratching across the paper would fill up the
interval; it was a sound which filled them all with respect.

This peaceful domestic scene was broken in upon by the entry of Mr. May.
From the moment that he closed the hall-door behind him, coming in, a
little thrill ran through the family party. The girls looked at each
other when they heard that sound, and Johnnie, without stopping his
inward repetition, shifted himself and his book adroitly, with the
cleverness of practice, to the side instead of the front of the fire.
Reginald's pen stopped its scratching, and he wheeled round on his chair
to give an appealing glance at his sisters.

"What is it now?" he said hurriedly. Every one knew that when the door
was closed like that it meant something like a declaration of war. But
they had not much time to wait and wonder. Mr. May came in, pushing the
door wide open before him, and admitting a gust of chill air of the
January night. He looked at the peaceable domestic scene with a "humph"
of dissatisfaction, because there was nothing to find fault with, which
is as great a grievance as another when one is in the mood for
grievances. He had come in cross and out of sorts, with a private cause
for his ill-temper, which he did not choose to reveal, and it would have
been a relief to him had he found them all chattering or wasting their
time, instead of being occupied in this perfectly dutiful way--even
Johnnie at his lessons, repeating them over under his breath. What was
the world coming to? Mr. May was disappointed. Instead of leading up to
it gradually by a general _battue_ of his children all round, he had to
open upon his chief subject at once, which was not nearly so agreeable a
way.

"What are you doing, Reginald?" he asked, roughly, pulling his chair to
the other side of the fire, opposite the corner to which Johnnie had
scuffled out of the way. "I have come in especially to speak to you. It
is time this shilly-shallying was done with. Do you mean to accept the
College chaplaincy or not? an answer must be given, and that at once.
Are you so busy that you can't attend to what I say?"

"I am not busy at all, sir," said Reginald, in a subdued voice, while
his sisters cast sympathetic looks at him. Both the girls, it is true,
thought him extremely foolish, but what of that? Necessarily they were
on his side against papa.

"I thought as much; indeed it would be hard to say what you could find
to be busy at. But look here, this must come to an end one way or
another. You know my opinion on the subject."

"And you know mine, sir," said Reginald, rising and coming forward to
the fire. "I don't say anything against the old College. For an old man
it might be quite a justifiable arrangement--one who had already spent
his strength in work--but for me--of course there is nothing in the
world to do."

"And two hundred and fifty a year for the doing of it--not to speak of
the house, which you could let for fifty more."

"Father! don't you see that is just the very thing that I object to, so
much for nothing."

"You prefer nothing for nothing," said Mr. May, with a smile; "well, I
suppose that is more fair, perhaps--to the public;--but how about me? A
son of three-and-twenty depending upon me for everything, useless and
bringing in nothing, does not suit me. You are all the same," he said,
"all taking from me, with a thousand wants, education, clothes,
amusement--"

"I am sure," said the irrepressible Janey, "it is not much clothes we
get, and as for amusements--and education!"

"Hold your tongue," cried her father. "Here are six of you, one more
helpless than another, and the eldest the most helpless of all. I did
not force you into the Church. You might have gone out to James if you
had liked--but you chose an academical career, and then there was
nothing else for it. I gave you a title to orders. You are my curate
just now--so called; but you know I can't pay a curate, and you know I
can't afford to keep you. Providence--" said Mr. May, sitting up in his
chair, with a certain solemnity, "Providence itself has stepped in to
make your path clear. Here is better than a living, a provision for you.
I don't bid you take it for life; take it for a year or two till you can
hear of something better. Now what on earth is your objection to this?"

The girls had both turned their faces towards their brother. Janey,
always the first in action, repeated almost unconsciously. "Yes, what
on earth, Reginald, can be your objection to this?"

Reginald stood in the middle of the room and looked helplessly at them.
Against his father alone he might have made a stand--but when the united
family thus gazed at him with inquiring and reproachful looks, what was
he to say?

"Objection!" he faltered, "you know very well what my objection is. It
is not honest work--it is no work. It is a waste of money that might be
better employed; it is a sinecure."

"And what do you call your nominal curateship," said his father, "is not
that a sinecure too?"

"If it is," said Reginald, growing red, but feeling bolder, for here the
family veered round, and placed itself on his side, "it is of a contrary
kind. It is _sine_ pay. My work may be bad, though I hope not, but my
pay is nothing. I don't see any resemblance between the two."

"Your pay nothing!" cried the father, enraged; "what do you call your
living, your food that you are so fastidious about, your floods of beer
and all the rest of it--not to speak of tailors' bills much heavier than
mine?"

"Which are never paid."

"Whose fault is it that they are never paid? yours and the others who
weigh me down to the ground, and never try to help or do anything for
themselves. Never paid! how should I have gone on to this period and
secured universal respect if they had never been paid? I have had to pay
for all of you," said Mr. May, bitterly, "and all your vagaries;
education, till I have been nearly ruined; dresses and ribbons, and a
hundred fooleries for these girls, who are of no use, who will never
give me back a farthing."

"Papa!" cried Ursula and Janey in one breath.

"Hold your tongues! useless impedimenta, not even able to scrub the
floors, and make the beds, which is all you could ever be good for--and
you must have a servant forsooth to do even that. But why should I speak
of the girls?" he added, with a sarcastic smile, "they can do nothing
better, poor creatures; but you! who call yourself a man--a University
man, save the mark--a fine fellow with the Oxford stamp upon you,
twenty-three your next birthday. It is a fine thing that I should still
have to support you."

Reginald began to walk up and down the room, stung beyond bearing--not
that he had not heard it all before, but to get accustomed to such
taunts is difficult, and it is still more difficult for a young and
susceptible mind to contradict all that is seemly and becoming in
nature, and to put forth its own statement in return. Reginald knew that
his education had in reality cost his father very little, and that his
father knew this. He was aware, too, much more distinctly than Mr. May
knew, of James's remittances on his account; but what could he say? It
was his father who insulted him, and the young man's lips were closed;
but the effort was a hard one. He could not stand still there and face
the man who had so little consideration for his feelings. All he could
do was to keep his agitation and irritation down by that hurried
promenade about the room, listening as little as he could, and answering
not at all.

"Oh, papa! how can you?" cried Janey, seizing the first pause. Janey was
not old enough to understand the delicacy that closed Reginald's lips,
and the impulse of self-defence was stirring in her; "how dare you talk
to Ursula so? I mayn't be much use, but Ursula! nice and comfortable you
were when she was away! as if you didn't say so ten times in a morning;
to be sure that was to make me feel uncomfortable. Scrub floors!" cried
Janey, in the violence of her resentment. "I'll go out and be a
maid-of-all-work whenever you please. I am sure it would be much happier
than here."

"Hold your tongue," said Mr. May, "you scolding and Ursula crying;
that's the beauty of the feminine element in a house. I ought to be very
thankful, oughtn't I, that I have girls to furnish this agreeable
variety? But as for you, Reginald," his father added, "mark my words, if
you determine to reject this windfall that Providence has blown into
your hands, it must be done at once. No further play of I would and I
would not, if you please, here; and if it does not suit you, you will
please to understand that I have no further need for a curate that suits
me still less. I want your room. If nothing else can be done, I must try
to take a pupil to add a little to the income which has so many claims
upon it; and I don't mean to go on keeping you--this is plain enough, I
hope."

"Very plain, sir," said Reginald, who had grown as pale as he was red
before.

"I am glad to hear it; you will write to the Corporation at once,
accepting or rejecting at your pleasure; but this must be done to-night.
I must insist on its being done to-night; and if you find yourself
sufficiently bold to reject an income," said Mr. May with emphasis, "and
go off into the world without a penny in your pocket, I wash my hands of
it; it is nothing to me."

Then there was a pause. The father of the family sat down in his chair,
and looked round him with the happy consciousness that he had made
everybody miserable. The girls were both crying, Reginald pale and
desperate, coming and going through the room. No one had escaped but
Johnnie, who, happy in insignificance, lay all his length on the other
side of the fire, and lifted his face from his book to watch the
discomfiture of the others. Johnnie had no terrors on his own account.
He had done nothing to call forth the paternal wrath. Mr. May could not
resist this temptation.

"Is that a way to learn lessons as they ought to be learnt?" he cried
suddenly, throwing one of his darts at the unthinking boy. "Get up this
moment, and sit down to a table somewhere. Your own room, where there is
nobody to disturb you, is better than amid the chit-chat here; do you
hear me? get up, sir, and go."

Johnnie stumbled to his feet appalled; he was too much startled to say
anything. He took his books across the room to the writing-table which
Reginald had abandoned in a similar way. But by the time he reached that
haven, he came to himself, and recovering his courage muttered something
about the hardship to which he was thus exposed, as boys have a way of
doing; upon which Mr. May got suddenly up, seized him by the shoulders
and turned him out of the drawing-room. "I said your own room, sir,"
cried this impartial father, distributing to all alike an equal share of
his urbanities. When he had accomplished this, he stood for a moment and
looked at the rest of his confused and uncomfortable family. "There is
not much cheerful society to be had here this evening, I perceive," he
said. "It is pleasant to come in from one's cares and find a reception
like this, don't you think? Let some one bring me some coffee to my
study. I am going to write."

"Whose fault is it that he gets such a reception?" burst forth Janey,
the moment her father had closed the door. "Who does it all, I wonder?
Who treats us like a set of wretches without any feeling? I can't hush,
I won't hush! Oh, shouldn't I be glad to go out as a housemaid, to do
anything!"

"Oh, Janey, hush! we can't help ourselves, we are obliged to put up with
it," said Ursula; "but Reginald, he is not obliged, he can save himself
when he likes. Oh, I know, I know papa is unreasonable; but, Reginald,
aren't you a little bit unreasonable too?"

"Don't you begin to reproach me," cried the young man, "I have had
enough for one day. Have I been such a charge upon him, Ursula? What has
he spent upon me? Next to nothing. That tailor's bill he spoke of, he
knew as well as I do that I paid it by the tutorship I had in the
vacation. It is his bill that is not paid, not mine. And then James's
money--"

"Oh, never mind that, never mind the past," cried Ursula, "think of the
present, that's what you ought to do. Oh, Reginald, think; if _I_ had
the chance of two hundred and fifty pounds a year! there is nothing I
would not do for it. I would scrub floors, as he said, I would do
anything, the dirtiest work. You will be independent, able to do what
you please, and never to ask papa for anything. Reginald, think! Oh,
dear, dear, I wish I knew how to talk to you. To be independent, able to
please yourself!"

"I shall be independent anyhow after to-night," he said. "Ursula, you
will help me to pack my things, won't you? It is leaving you here, you
girls, with nobody to stand up for you; it is that I feel most."

"Oh, Reginald, don't go and leave us," cried Janey, leaning on the back
of his chair; "what can we do without you? When he comes in, in a rage
like to-night, as long as you are here one can bear it. Oh, Reginald,
can't you, can't you take the chaplaincy? Think what it would be for
us."

"Yes, I will pack your things," said Ursula, "I will help you to get out
of it, though we must stay and put up with it all, and never, never
escape. But where will you go? You have no money, not enough scarcely to
pay your railway fare. You would have to take to teaching; and where are
you to go?"

"I have some friends left," cried Reginald, his lips quivering, "some
people care for me still and would hold out a hand. I am--not--quite so
badly off as he thinks; I could go to town, or to Oxford--or--"

"You don't know where; and here is a nice old-fashioned house all ready
for you to step into, and an income," cried Ursula, her tone deepening
to mark the capital letter; "an Income, quite sure and ready--without
any difficulty, without any trouble, all if you say yes. Oh, only think
what a comfort for us all to be able to rush to you when we are in
trouble! Think of Johnnie and Robin; and that delightful wainscoted room
for your study, with the book-cases all ready--and plenty of money to
buy books." This being the highest point to which Ursula could reach,
she dropped down after it into an insinuating half whisper, "And plenty
of work to do; dear Reginald, plenty of work in the parish, you may be
sure, if you will only help the Rector; or here where you are working
already, and where you may be sure nobody will think of paying you. Oh,
Reginald, there is plenty, plenty of work."

The young man was already beginning to melt. "Do you think so?" he
said.

"Think!" cried Janey, "I am sure you may do all papa's work for him and
welcome, if that is all. For my part I think you are very silly, both
Ursula and you. Work! Pay is far better if you weren't such a pair of
simpletons. After all, he has a little reason to be angry. Good
gracious! why shouldn't you take it? Some one else will, if you won't. I
would in a minute, and so would Ursula if we could. And why should you
be so much grander than anybody else? I think it is quite childish for
my part."

"Reginald, never mind her, she is only a child and doesn't understand
('Child yourself,' cried Janey). I don't understand very well, but still
I can see what you want. Oh, you might find such quantities of work,
things nobody is ever found to do. What do the fellows do at Oxford that
they get that money for? I have heard you say you would be very glad to
get a fellowship--"

"That is different, that is a reward of scholarship."

"Well, and so is this too," said Ursula; "it is (I am sure) because the
old men knew you were one that would be kind. You were always kind,
Reginald, that is what it is for."

"The old men have nothing to do with it," he said, shaking his head, "it
is the Corporation, and they are--"

"Very rich men, Reginald dear, a great many of them, very sensible! what
does it matter about their education? And then you would be a really
educated man, always ready to do anything that was wanted in
Carlingford. Don't you see that was their meaning? They pay you for that
which is not work, but they will find you plenty of work they don't pay
for. That is what they mean; and oh, Reginald, to run over to you there
in that pretty wainscoted room, and to have you coming in to us every
day, and to know that you were there to stand by us!"

Here once more Ursula began to cry. As for Janey, she made a dash at the
writing-table and brought him paper and pens and ink, "Say yes, say
yes," she cried; "oh, Reginald, if it was only to spite papa!"



CHAPTER XVI.

THE NEW GENTLEMAN.


It seems difficult to imagine what connection there could be between
Phoebe Beecham's appearance in Grange Lane and the interview which took
place there between her and the "new gentleman," and Mr. May's sudden
onslaught upon his family, which ended in Reginald's acceptance of the
chaplaincy. But yet the connection was very distinct. Not even the Mays,
in their excitement over the appearance of a stranger in Carlingford,
could be more surprised than Phoebe was when her solitary walk was
interrupted by the apparition across the street of a known person, a
face familiar to her in other regions. "Mr. Northcote!" she cried, with
a little start of surprise. As for the stranger, he made but two steps
across Grange Lane in his delight at the sight of her. Not that he was
Phoebe's lover, or possessed by any previous enthusiasm for the girl whom
he had met about half-a-dozen times in his life, and of whom he knew
little more than that she was the daughter of a "brother clergyman;" for
both Mr. Beecham and he were in the habit of using that word, whether
appropriate or inappropriate. This was the explanation of the white
necktie and the formal dress which had puzzled Ursula.

Horace Northcote was not of Mr. Beecham's class. He was not well-to-do
and genial, bent upon keeping up his congregation and his popularity,
and trying to ignore as much as he could the social superiority of the
Church without making himself in any way offensive to her. He was a
political Nonconformist, a vigorous champion of the Disestablishment
Society, more successful on the platform than in the pulpit, and
strenuously of opinion in his heart of hearts that the Church was the
great drawback to all progress in England, an incubus of which the
nation would gladly be rid. His dress was one of the signs of his
character and meaning. Strong in a sense of his own clerical position,
he believed in uniform as devoutly as any Ritualist, but he would not
plagiarise the Anglican livery and walk about in a modified soutane and
round hat like "our brethren in the Established Church," as Mr. Beecham
kindly called them. To young Northcote they were not brethren, but
enemies, and though he smiled superior at the folly which stigmatised
an M.B. waistcoat, yet he scorned to copy. Accordingly his frock coat
was not long, but of the extremest solemnity of cut and hue, his white
tie was of the stiffest, his tall hat of the most uncompromising
character. He would not veil for a day in easier and more ordinary
habiliments the distinct position he assumed as clerical, yet not of the
clergy; a teacher of men, though not a priest of the Anglican
inspiration. He could not help feeling that his appearance, as he moved
about the streets, was one which might well thrill Anglican bosoms with
a flutter of terror. He was the Church's avowed enemy, and upon this he
stood as his claim to the honour of those who thought with him. This was
very different from the views held by the pastor of the Crescent Chapel,
who was very willing to be on the best terms with the Church, and would
have liked to glide into closer and closer amity, and perhaps finally to
melt away altogether in her broad bosom, like a fat raindrop
contributing noiselessly to swell the sea. It was not, however, any
feeling of this difference which made Phoebe draw herself back
instinctively after the first start of recognition. Across her mind,
even while she held out her hand to the stranger, there flashed a sudden
recollection of her grandmother and her grandfather, and all the homely
belongings which he, a minister of the connection, could not be kept in
ignorance of. It was but a momentary pang. Phoebe was not so foolish as
to shrink before the inevitable, or to attempt by foolish expedients to
stave off such a danger. She shrank for a second, then drew herself up
and shook off all such ignoble cares. "I am myself whatever happens,"
was her reflection; and she said with something like security:

"I am so glad to meet you, Mr. Northcote; what an unexpected pleasure to
see you here!"

"It is a most unexpected pleasure for me, I assure you," he said, "and a
very great one." He spoke with unaffected honesty; for indeed his plunge
into the society of Salem Chapel had given him a shock not easily got
over, and the appearance of a being of his own species, among all these
excellent poulterers and grocers, was a relief unspeakable; and then he
added, "May I walk with you, if you are going to walk?"

"Surely," said Phoebe with momentary hesitation, and it was just at this
moment that she perceived Ursula on the other side of the road, and,
glad of the diversion, waved her hand to her, and said, "How do you do?"

"A friend of yours?" said Mr. Northcote, following her gesture with his
eyes, and feeling more and more glad that he had met her. "I passed
those young ladies just now, and heard some of their conversation,
which amused me. Do they belong to our people? If you will not be angry,
Miss Beecham, I must say that I should be glad to meet somebody
belonging to us, who is not--who is more like--the people one meets
elsewhere."

"Well," said Phoebe, "we are always talking of wanting something
original; I think on the whole I am of your opinion; still there is
nothing very great or striking about most of the people one meets
anywhere."

"Yes; society is flat enough," said the young man. "But--it is strange
and rather painful, though perhaps it is wrong to say so--why, I wonder,
are all our people of one class? Perhaps you have not seen much of them
here? All of one class, and that--"

"Not an attractive class," said Phoebe, with a little sigh. "Yes, I
know."

"Anything but an attractive class; not the so-called working men and
such like. One can get on with them. It is very unpleasant to have to
say it; buying and selling now as we have it in Manchester does not
contract the mind. I suppose we all buy and sell more and less. How is
it? When it is tea and sugar--"

"Or butter and cheese," said Phoebe with a laugh, which she could not
quite keep from embarrassment. "I must be honest and tell you before you
go any further. You don't know that I belong to the Tozers, Mr.
Northcote, who are in that line of business. Don't look so dreadfully
distressed. Perhaps I shouldn't have told you, had you not been sure to
find out. Old Mr. Tozer is my grandfather, and I am staying there. It is
quite simple. Papa came to Carlingford when he was a young clergyman,
newly ordained. He was pastor at Salem Chapel, and married mamma, who
was the daughter of one of the chief members. I did not know myself when
I came to Carlingford that they actually kept a shop, and I did not like
it. Don't apologize, please. It is a very difficult question," said
Phoebe philosophically, partly to ease herself, partly to set him at his
ease, "what is best to do in such a case. To be educated in another
sphere and brought down to this, is hard. One cannot feel the same for
one's relations; and yet one's poor little bit of education, one's petty
manners, what are these to interfere with blood relationships? And to
keep everybody down to the condition they were born, why, that is the
old way--"

"Miss Beecham, I don't know what to say. I never meant--I could not
tell. There are excellent, most excellent people in all classes."

"Exactly so," said Phoebe, with a laugh. "We all know that; one man is as
good as another--if not better. A butterman is as good as a lord; but--"
she added, with a little elevation of her eyebrows and shrug of her
shoulders, "not so pleasant to be connected with. And you don't say
anything about my difficulty, Mr. Northcote. You don't realize it
perhaps, as I do. Which is best: for everybody to continue in the
position he was born in, or for an honest shopkeeper to educate his
children and push them up higher until they come to feel themselves
members of a different class, and to be ashamed of him? Either way, you
know, it is hard."

Northcote was at his wit's end. He had no fellow-feeling for this
difficulty. His friends were all much better off than he was as a poor
minister. They were Manchester people, with two or three generations of
wealth behind them, relations of whom nobody need be ashamed; and he was
himself deeply humiliated and distressed to have said anything which
could humiliate Phoebe, who rose immeasurably in his estimation in
consequence of her bold avowal, though he himself would have sacrificed
a great deal rather than put himself on the Tozer level. He did not know
what to say.

"Miss Beecham, you know as well as I do, how falsely our opinions are
formed in this respect, how conventional we are. What is position after
all? To a grand Seigneur, for instance, the difference between his
steward and his laquais seems nothing, but to the steward it is a great
gulf. I--I mean--the whole question is conventional--position, or
station, or rank--"

Phoebe smiled. "I don't think that is quite the question," she said, "but
never mind. I suppose you are here on some mission? You would not come
to Carlingford for pleasure."

"Nay," said Northcote, with a reproachful tone. "I should have thought
you must have heard of our Meeting. It is for to-night. I have come from
the Disestablishment Society with some other friends; but it has been my
fate to come on before to make the arrangements. The others come
to-day."

"A hard fate, Mr. Northcote."

"I thought so this morning. I have not been much in the way of the
country congregations. I was confounded; but, Miss Beecham, I no longer
think my fate hard since I have met you. Your noble simplicity and
frankness have taught me a lesson."

"It is not noble at all," said Phoebe; "if I had not been sure you must
find out I should have said nothing about it. Now I fear I must turn
back."

"But you will come to the Meeting," he said, turning with her. He felt
it necessary to be obsequious to Phoebe, after the terrible mistake he
had made.

"Not unless grandpapa insists. I should like to hear your speech," said
Phoebe; "but I don't object to the Established Church as you do, neither
does papa when you push him hard. I don't think England would be much
nicer if we were all Dissenters. To be sure we might be more civil to
each other."

"If there were no Dissenters, you mean."

"It comes to much the same thing; congregations are not pleasant
masters, are they, Mr. Northcote? I know some people--one at least,"
said Phoebe, "who is often very insolent to papa; and we have to put up
with it--for the sake of peace, papa says. I don't think in the Church
that any leading member could be so insolent to a clergyman."

"That is perhaps rather--forgive me--a narrow, personal view."

"Wait till you get a charge, and have to please the congregation and the
leading members!" cried Phoebe. "I know what you are thinking: it is just
like a woman to look at a public question so. Very well; after all women
are half the world, and their opinion is as good as another."

"I have the greatest respect for your opinion," said young Northcote;
"but we must not think of individual grievances. The system, with all
its wrongs, is what occupies me. I have heard something--even here--this
very day--What is it, my good friend? I am busy now--another time; or if
you want me, my lodgings are--"

A glance, half of pain, half of fun, came into Phoebe's eyes. "It is
grandpapa!" she said.

"You shouldn't speak in that tone, sir, not to your elders, and maybe
your betters," said Tozer, in his greasy old coat. "Ministers take a
deal upon them; but an old member like me, and one as has stood by the
connection through thick and thin, ain't the one to be called your good
friend. Well, if you begs pardon, of course there ain't no more to be
said; and if you know our Phoebe--Phoebe, junior, as I calls her. What of
the meeting, Mr. Northcote? I hope you'll give it them Church folks 'ot
and strong, sir. They do give themselves airs, to be sure, in
Carlingford. Most of our folks is timid, seeing for one thing as their
best customers belong to the Church. That don't touch me, not
now-a-days," said Tozer, with a laugh, "not that I was ever one as
concealed my convictions. I hope you'll give it 'em 'ot and strong."

"I shall say what I think," said the young man bewildered. He was by no
means broken into the ways of the connection, and his pride rebelled at
the idea of being schooled by this old shopkeeper; but the sight of
Phoebe standing by not only checked his rebellious sentiments, but filled
him with a sympathetic thrill of feeling. What it must be for that girl
to own this old man, to live with him, and feel herself shut into his
society and friends of his choosing--to hear herself spoken of as Phoebe,
junior! The idea made him shiver, and this caught old Tozer's always
hospitable eye.

"You're chilly," he said, "and I don't wonder after the dreadful weather
we've had. Few passes my door without a bite or a sup, specially at
tea-time, Mr. Nor'cote, which is sociable time, as I always says. Come
in and warm yourself and have a cup of tea. There is nothing as pleases
my old woman so much as to get out her best tea-things for a minister;
she 'as a great respect for ministers, has Mrs. Tozer, sir; and now
she's got Phoebe to show off as well as the chiney. Come along, sir, I
can't take no refusal. It's just our time for tea."

Northcote made an unavailing attempt to get away, but partly it appeared
to him that to refuse the invitation might look to Phoebe like a pretence
of superiority on his part, and partly he was interested in herself, and
was very well aware he should get no company so good in Carlingford,
even with the drawback of the old shop-people among whom she lived. How
strange it was to see her in the dress of which Mrs. Sam Hurst had
raved, and of which even the young Nonconformist vaguely divined the
excellence, putting her daintily-gloved hand upon old Tozer's greasy
sleeve, walking home with the shuffling old man, about whose social
position no one could make the least mistake! He turned with them, with
a sensation of thankfulness that it was in Grange Lane, Carlingford,
where nobody knew him. As for Phoebe, no such comfort was in her mind;
everybody knew her here, or rather, everybody knew old Tozer. No
disguise was possible to her. The only way to redeem the position was to
carry it with a high hand, as she did, holding her head erect, and
playing her part so that all the world might see and wonder. "I think
you had better come, Mr. Northcote, and have some tea," she said
graciously, when the awe-stricken young man was floundering in efforts
to excuse himself. Old Tozer chuckled and rubbed his hands.

"Take Phoebe's advice," he said, "Phoebe's the sensiblest girl I know; so
was her mother before her, as married one of the most popular preachers
in the connection, though I say it as shouldn't. My old woman always
said as our Phoebe was cut out for a minister's wife. And Phoebe junior's
just such another," cried the admiring grandfather. Heavens above! did
this mean traps and snares for himself, or did the old shopkeeper think
of him, Horace Northcote, as another possible victim? If he had but
known with what sincere compassionate toleration Phoebe regarded him, as
a young man whom she might be kind to, he might have been saved all
alarm on this point. The idea that a small undistinguished Dissenting
minister should think her capable of marrying him, was a humiliation
which did not enter into Phoebe's head.



CHAPTER XVII.

A PUBLIC MEETING.


Phoebe's philosophy, however, was put to the test when, after the young
pastor had taken tea and got himself away from the pressing
hospitalities of the Tozers, her grandfather also disappeared to put on
his best coat in order to attend the Meeting. Mrs. Tozer, left alone
with her granddaughter, immediately proceeded to evolve her views as to
what Phoebe was expected to do.

"I never see you out o' that brown thing, Phoebe," she said; "ain't you
got a silk dress, child, or something that looks a bit younger-looking?
I'd have thought your mother would have took more pride in you. Surely
you've got a silk dress."

"Oh, yes, more than one," said Phoebe, "but this is considered in better
taste."

"Taste, whose taste?" cried the old lady; "my Phoebe didn't ought to care
for them dingy things, for I'm sure she never got no such example from
me. I've always liked what was bright-looking, if it was only a print. A
nice blue silk now, or a bright green, is what you'd look pretty in with
your complexion. Go now, there's a dear, and put on something very nice,
something as will show a bit; you're going with your grandfather to this
Meeting."

"To the Meeting? oh, I hope not," said Phoebe with fervour.

"And why should you hope not? isn't it natural as a young creature like
you should get out a bit when she can, and see what's to be seen? I
don't hold with girls moping in a house. Besides, it's very instructive,
as I've always heard: and you as is clever, of course you'll understand
every word. Mr. Northcote is a nicish-looking sort of young man.
Ministers mayn't be much," said Mrs. Tozer, "though just see how your
papa has got on, my dear. Nobody else as Phoebe could have married would
have got up in the world like that; you may make a deal more money in
trade, but it ain't so genteel, there's always that to be said. Now it's
just as well as you should have your chance with the rest and let
yourself be seen, Phoebe. Run, there's a darling, and put on something
bright, and a nice lace collar. You can have mine if you like. I
shouldn't grudge nothing, not a single thing I've got, to see you
looking as nice as the best there; and so you will if you take a little
pains. I'd do up my hair a bit higher if I was you; why, Phoebe, I
declare! you haven't got a single pad. Now what is the use of neglecting
yourself, and letting others get ahead of you like that?"

"Pads are going out of fashion, grandmamma," said Phoebe gravely, "so are
bright colours for dresses. You can't think what funny shades we wear in
town. But must I go to this Meeting? I should not like to leave you
alone. It is so much nicer for me to be here."

"You _are_ a good girl, you are," said Mrs. Tozer admiringly, "and me as
was frightened for a fine lady from London! But Tozer would say as it
was my doing. He would say as it wasn't natural for a young creature;
and, bless you, they'll all be there in their best--that Pigeon and the
others, and Mrs. Tom. I just wish I could go too, to see you outshine
'em all, which you'll do if you take pains. Take a little more pains
with your hair, Phoebe, mount it up a bit higher, and if you want
anything like a bit of lace or a brooch or that, just you come to me. I
should like Mrs. Tom to see you with that brooch as she's always wanting
for Minnie. Now why should I give my brooch to Minnie? I don't see no
reason for it, for my part."

"Certainly not, grandmamma," said Phoebe, "you must wear your brooches
yourself, that is what I like a great deal better than giving them
either to Minnie or me."

"Ah, but there ain't a many like you, my sweet," cried the old woman,
wiping her eyes. "You're my Phoebe's own daughter, but you're a touch
above her, my darling, and us too, that's what you are. Run now and
dress, or I don't know what Tozer will say to me. He's set his heart on
showing you off to-night."

Thus adjured, Phoebe went away reluctantly. It is unnecessary to say that
her disinterestedness about her grandmother's brooch was not perhaps so
noble as it appeared on the outside. The article in question was a kind
of small warming-pan in a very fine solid gold mount, set with large
pink topazes, and enclosing little wavy curls of hair, one from the head
of each young Tozer of the last generation. It was a piece of jewelry
very well known in Carlingford, and the panic which rose in Phoebe's
bosom when it was offered for her own personal adornment is more easily
imagined than described. She went upstairs feeling that she had escaped,
and took out a black silk dress at which she looked lovingly.

"But grandmamma would think it was no better than this," she said to
herself, and after much searchings of heart she chose a costume of
Venetian blue, one soft tint dying into another like the lustre on a
piece of old glass, which in her own opinion was a great deal too good
for the occasion. "Some one will tread on it to a certainty, and the
colours don't show in candle-light; but I must try to please
grandmamma," she said heroically. When it was put on with puffings of
lace such as Mrs. Tozer had never seen, and was entirely ignorant of the
value of, at the throat and sleeves, Phoebe wrapt a shawl round her in
something of the same dim gorgeous hue, covered with embroidery, an
Indian rarity which somebody had bestowed upon Mrs. Beecham, and which
no one had used or thought of till Phoebe's artistic eye fell upon it. It
was a great deal too fine for Carlingford. An opera-cloak bought in
Oxford Street for a pound or two would have much more impressed the
assembly to which Phoebe was bound. Mrs. Tozer inspected her when she
went downstairs, with awe, yet dissatisfaction.

"I dare say as it's all very fine, and it ain't like other folks,
anybody can see; but I'd dress you different, my dear, if you was in my
hands," said the old woman, walking round and round her. As for Tozer,
he too showed less admiration than if he had known better.

"I got a fly, thinking as you'd have some fallal or other on you; but,
bless my heart, you could have walked in that gown," he said. So that
Phoebe's toilette, which would have been mightily admired in a London
drawing-room, could not be said to be a success. She was somewhat
discouraged by this, notwithstanding that she knew so very much better;
and accordingly set out in the fly with her grandfather in his best
coat, feeling, generally, in a depressed condition.

"It is clear that I must take to the pinks and blues to please them,"
she said to herself with a sigh. She could triumph over the slight that
might be shown to herself in consequence of her relations; but those
sneers at her dress went to Phoebe's heart.

The Music Hall was full of a miscellaneous crowd when Phoebe, following
her grandfather, went in; and the seats allotted to these important
people were on the platform, where, at least, Tozer's unacknowledged
object of showing her off could be amply gratified. This arrangement did
not, on the whole, displease Phoebe. Since she must be exhibited, it
seemed better, on the whole, to be exhibited there, than in a less
distinguished place; and all the speakers knew her, which was something.
She sat down with some complaisance, and let her Indian scarf droop from
her shoulders, and her pretty dress show itself.

"I declare if that isn't Phoebe, junior," said Mrs. Tom audibly, in the
middle of the hall, "making a show of herself; but, Lord bless us, for
all their grandeur, how she do dress, to be sure. A bit of a rag of an
old shawl, and a hat on! the same as she wears every day. I've got more
respect for them as comes to instruct us than that."

And, indeed, Mrs. Tom was resplendent in a red _sortie de bal_, with a
brooch almost as big as that envied one of Mrs. Tozer's stuck into her
gown, and a cap covered with flowers upon her head. This was the usual
fashion of the Salem ladies on such rare occasions. The meeting of the
Disestablishment Society was to them what a ball is to worldly-minded
persons who frequent such vanities. The leading families came out _en
masse_ to see and to be seen. It would be wrong to say that they did not
enter into all the arguments and recognise the intellectual feast set
before them; no doubt they did this just as well as if they had come in
their commonest attire; but still the seriousness of the occasion was,
no doubt, modified by being thus made into a dissipation. The men were
not so fine, perhaps, because it is more difficult for men to be
fine--but they were all in their Sunday clothes; and the younger ones
were in full bloom of coloured satin cravats and fine waistcoats. Some
of them were almost as fine a sight as the ladies in their ribbons and
flowers.

"I suppose by the look of them this must be an influential
community--people of some pretensions," said an obese elderly minister,
who had seated himself by Phoebe, and whose eyes were dazzled by the
display. "I never expected all this dress in a quiet country place."

"Oh, yes! they are people of much pretension," said Phoebe gravely.

And then the proceedings began. Old Mr. Green, the grocer, whose son had
married Maria Pigeon, and who had long been retired from business,
occupying a house in the country and "driving his carriage," was in the
chair; and the proceedings went on according to the routine of such
assemblies, with differing degrees of earnestness on the part of the
speakers. To most of these gentlemen it was the ordinary occupation of
their lives; and they made their hearers laugh at well-known stories,
and enjoyed their own wit, and elicited familiar cheers, and made hits
such as they had made for years on the same subject, which was a
comfortable _cheval de bataille_, not at all exciting to themselves,
though they were quite willing to excite their audience, if that
audience would allow itself to be excited. Things jogged on thus for the
first hour very pleasantly! the Meeting was not excited, but it was
amused and enjoyed itself. It was an intellectual treat, as Pigeon said
to Brown, and if the younger people did not like it so well as they
would have liked a ball, the elder people liked it a great deal better,
and the hall rang with applause and with laughter as one speaker
succeeded another. It was pleasant to know how unstable "the Church" was
on her foundation; that aristocratical Church which looked down upon
Dissent, and of which the poorest adherent gave himself airs much above
Chapel folks; and how much loftier a position the Nonconformist held,
who would have nothing to say to State support.

"For my part," said one of the speakers, "I would rather abandon my
sacred calling to-morrow, or make tents as St. Paul did in its exercise,
than put on the gilded fetters of the State, and pray or preach as an
Archbishop told me; nay, as a Cabinet Council of godless worldlings
directed. There are many good men among the clergy of the Church of
England; but they are slaves, my friends, nothing but slaves, dragged at
the chariot wheels of the State; ruled by a caste of hard-headed
lawyers; or binding themselves in the rotten robes of tradition. It is
we only who can dare to say that we are free!"

At this sentiment, the Meeting fairly shouted with applause and delight
and self-complacency; and the speaker, delighted too, and tasting all
the sweetness of success, gave place to the next, and came and sat down
by Phoebe, to whose society the younger men were all very glad to escape.

"Miss Beecham, you are fashionably calm," whispered the orator, "you
don't throw yourself, like the rest of us, into this great agitation."

"Have you a leading member?" whispered Phoebe back again; "and does he
never drag you at his chariot wheels? Have you deacons that keep you up
to the mark? Have you people you must drink tea with when they ask you,
or else they throw up their sittings? I am thinking, of course, of
papa."

"Have I deacons? Have I leading members? Miss Beecham, you are cruel--"

"Hush!" said Phoebe, settling herself in her chair. "Here is somebody who
is in dreadful earnest. Don't talk, Mr. Northcote is going to speak."

Thus it will be seen that the Minister's daughter played her _rôle_ of
fine lady and _bel esprit_ very fairly in an atmosphere so unlike the
air that fine ladies breathe. Phoebe paid no more attention to the
discomfited man at her elbow. She gathered up her shawl in her hand with
a seeming careless movement, and let it drop lightly across her knee,
where the gold threads in the embroidery caught the light; and she took
off her hat, which she had thought proper to wear to show her sense that
the Meeting was not an evening party; and prepared herself to listen.
Her complexion and her hair, and the gold threads in the rich Indian
work, thus blazed out together upon the startled audience. Many of them
were as much struck by this as by the beginning of Mr. Northcote's
speech, though it was very different from the other speeches. The others
had been routine agitation, this was fiery conviction, crude, and
jumping at conclusions, but still an enthusiasm in its way. Mr.
Northcote approached his subject gradually, and his hearers, at first
disappointed by the absence of their familiar watch-words, were dull,
and bestowed their attention on Phoebe; but before he had been speaking
ten minutes Phoebe was forgotten even by her uncle and aunt, the two
people most interested in her. It would be dangerous to repeat to a
reader, probably quite uninterested in the controversy, Mr. Northcote's
speech, in which he laid hold of some of those weak points which the
Church, of course, has in common with every other institution in the
world. Eloquence has a way of evaporating in print, even when the report
is immediate. But his peroration was one which startled his hearers out
of a calm abstract interest to all that keen personal feeling which
accompanies the narrative of facts known to an audience, and affecting
people within their own locality.

"I have only been in this place three days," said the speaker, "but in
that short time I have heard of one of the most flagrant abuses which I
have been indicating to you. There is in this town, as you all know, an
institution called the College; what was its original object I do not
know. Nests of idle pauperism, genteelly veiled under such a name, do
exist, I know, over all the country; but it is at least probable that
some educational purpose was in the mind of the pious founder who
established it. The pious founder! how immense are the revenues, how
incalculable the means of doing good, which have been locked up in
uselessness, or worse than uselessness, by men who have purchased a pass
into the kingdom of heaven at the last moment by such gifts, and become
pious founders just before they ceased to be miserable sinners! Whatever
may have been the original intention of the College, however, it is
clear that it was meant for something more than the pitiful use it is
put to now. This old foundation, ladies and gentlemen, which might
provide half the poor children in Carlingford with a wholesome
education, is devoted to the maintenance of six old men, need I say
Churchmen?" (here the speaker was interrupted by mingled hisses and
ironical "hear, hears")--"and a chaplain to say their prayers for them.
Six old men: and one able-bodied parson to say their prayers for them.
What do you think of this, my friends? I understand that this heavy and
onerous duty has been offered--not to some other mouldy old gentleman,
some decayed clergyman who might have ministered in peace to the decayed
old burghers without any interference on my part: for a refuge for the
aged and destitute has something natural in it, even when it is a wrong
appropriation of public money. No, this would have been some faint
approach perhaps to justice, some right in wrong that would have closed
our mouths. But no! it is given to a young gentleman, able-bodied, as I
have said, who has appeared more than once in the cricket-field with
your victorious Eleven, who is fresh from Oxford, and would no more
condescend to consider himself on a footing of equality with the humble
person who addresses you, than I would, having the use of my hands,
accept a disgraceful sinecure! Yes, my friends, this is what the State
Church does. She so cows the spirit and weakens the hearts of her
followers that a young man at the very beginning of his career, able to
teach, able to work, able to dig, educated and trained and cultured, can
stoop to accept a good income in such a position as this. Think of it!
Six old men, able surely, if they are good for anything, to mumble their
prayers for themselves somehow; yet provided with an Oxford scholar, an
able-bodied young man, to read the service for them daily! He thinks it
very fine, no doubt, a good income and a good house for life, and
nothing to do but to canter over morning and evening prayer at a
swinging pace, as we have all heard it done: morning prayer, let us see,
half an hour--or you may throw in ten minutes, in case the six should
mumble their Amens slowly--and twenty minutes for the evening, one hour
a day. Here it is under your very eyes, people of Carlingford, a
charming provision for the son of one of your most respected clergymen.
Why, it is in your newspaper, where I read it! Can I give a more
forcible instance of the way in which a State Church cuts honesty and
honour out of men's hearts."

A great many people noticed that when Mr. Northcote ended this with a
thundering voice, some one who had been listening near the door in an
Inverness cape, and hat over his brows, gave himself a sudden impetuous
shake which shook the crowd, and turning round made his way out, not
caring whom he stumbled against. The whole assembly was in a hubbub when
the orator ceased, and whispers ran freely round among all the groups in
the front. "That's young May he means." "In course it's young May.
Infernal job, as I've always said." "Oh hush, Pigeon, don't swear! but
it do seem a black burning shame, don't it?" "Bravo, Mr. Nor'cote!"
called out old Tozer, on the platform, "that's what I call giving forth
no uncertain sound. That's laying it into them 'ot and 'ot."

This was the climax of the Meeting. Everything else was flat after such
a decided appeal to personal knowledge. Phoebe alone gave a frigid
reception to the hero of the evening.

"I dislike personalities," she said, pointedly. "They never do a cause
any good; and it isn't gentlemanly; don't you think so, Mr. Sloely;" and
she turned away from Northcote, who had come to speak to her, and
devoted herself to the man at her elbow, whom she had snubbed a little
while before. Mr. Northcote said to himself that this was untrue, and
brought up a hundred very good reasons why he should have employed such
an example, but the reproof stung him to the quick, for to be
ungentlemanly was the reproach of all others most calculated to go to
his heart.

But nobody knew how Mr. May went home in his Inverness cape, breathing
fire and flame, nor of the execution he did thereupon.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MR. MAY'S AFFAIRS.


Mr. May went into his study and closed the door. He poked the fire--he
put himself into his easy-chair--he drew his writing-book towards him,
and opened it at where a half-written sheet lay waiting. And then he
paused, rubbed his hands softly together, and falling back again,
laughed quietly to himself.

Yes; he who had stormed out of the drawing-room like a whirlwind, having
discomfited everybody, leaving the girls in tears, and the boys in a
white heat of passion, when he reached the profoundest depths of his own
retirement, laughed. What did it mean? Of all the people in the world,
his children would have been most entirely thunderstruck by this
self-betrayal. They could not have understood it. They were acquainted
with his passions, and with his moments of good temper. They knew when
he was amiable, and when he was angry, by instinct, by the gleam of his
eye, by the way in which he shut the door; but this was something
totally unknown to them. The truth was that Mr. May, like many other
people, having a naturally bad temper, which he indulged freely when he
pleased, had attained the power of using it when it suited him to use
it, without being suspected by anybody. A bad temper is a possession
like another, and may be made skilful use of like other things which,
perhaps, in themselves, are not desirable. He could work himself up into
fury, and launch the doom he felt disposed to launch, like a burning and
fizzing thunder-bolt from a hand which was, in reality, not at all
excited; and like most other people who possess such an unrevealed
power, it pleased him very much when he persuaded his surroundings that
it was an impulse of rage which moved him. He had been at the Meeting at
the Music Hall, "to hear what those fellows had to say for themselves."
Contempt, unbounded but wrathful, was the feeling in his mind towards
"those fellows;" but he felt that young Northcote's eloquence, reported
in next day's papers, was quite enough to quash for ever all hopes of
his son's acceptance of the chaplaincy. So he walked home as fast as his
legs would carry him, and burst into his house, as we have seen, with a
semblance of passion so perfect as to deceive his entire family and
fill the place with anger and tears. Upon which, withdrawing from the
scene of conflict, he threw himself down in his easy-chair and chuckled,
recovering his composure by slow degrees.

When, however, this private indulgence was over, Mr. May's face grew
dark enough. He pushed his writing away from him, and pulling out a
drawer in his writing-table, which was full of papers of a very
unliterary aspect, betook himself to the consideration of them, with
anything but laughter in his looks, or in his mind. Letters upon blue
paper in straight up and down handwriting--other papers, also blue, with
ruled lines and numerals, for which Mr. May was more frightened than he
would have been for a charge of cavalry. These were the very
unattractive contents of this drawer. He brought two or three of them
out in a bundle and read them over, one after another, with contracted
brows. Debt is an idiosyncrasy like other things. Some people keep clear
of it miraculously, some seem to drop into it without cause or meaning,
and to spend all their lives afterwards in vain attempts to get out. Mr.
May was one of these unfortunate men. He could not tell himself where
his money went to. Poor man! it was not so much he had, and there was a
large family to be fed and clothed, and schooled after a sort. But still
other people on incomes as small as his had managed to maintain their
families without dropping into this hopeless condition. He had been in
debt since ever he could remember; and to be sure it was not the pain
and trouble to him that it is to many people. So long as, by hook or by
crook, he could manage to stave off the evil day, so long was he happy
enough, and he had managed this by all sorts of semi-miraculous
windfalls up to the present time. James's remittances had been like
heavenly dew to him. It is true that these remittances had been intended
to keep Reginald at Oxford, and perhaps something of the special
hardness with which he regarded Reginald arose from the fact that he had
done him wrong in this respect, and had appropriated what was intended
for him. But after all, he had said to himself, the maintenance of the
house in comfort, the keeping clean of the family name, and the staving
off disagreeable revelations of the family's poverty, were more, for
even Reginald's comfort, than a little more money in his pocket, which
everybody knew was very dangerous for a young man.

Mr. May had always a bill coming due, which James's remittances arrived
just in time to meet. Indeed, this was the normal condition of his life.
He had always a bill coming due--a bill which some good-humoured banker
had to be coaxed into renewing, or which was paid at the last moment by
some skilful legerdemain in the way of pouring out of one vessel into
another, transferring the debt from one quarter to another, so that
there may have been said to be always a certain amount of quite
fictitious and visionary money floating about Mr. May, money which
existed only in the shape of symbol, and which, indeed, belonged to
nobody--which was borrowed here to-day, and paid there to-morrow, to be
re-borrowed and repaid in the same way, never really reaching anybody's
pocket, or representing anything but that one thing which money is
supposed to be able to extinguish--debt. When human affairs reach this
very delicate point, and there is nothing at any moment, except a
semi-miraculous windfall, to keep a man going, the crisis is very
serious. And it was no wonder that Mr. May was anxious to drive his son
into accepting any possible appointment, and that he occasionally railed
unreasonably at his family. Unless a hundred pounds or so fell down from
the skies within the next ten days, he saw nothing before him but ruin.
This, it is needless to say, is very far from being a comfortable
position. The _sourde_ agitation, excitement, feverish hope and fear of
the sufferer might well affect his temper. If he could not get a hundred
pounds within ten days, he did not know what he was to do.

And nobody could say (he thought to himself) that he was an expensive
man; he had no expensive habits. He liked good living, it is true, and a
glass of good wine, but this amount of regard for the table does not
ruin men. He liked books also, but he did not buy them, contenting
himself with such as the library could afford, and those which he could
obtain by the reviews he wrote for the Church Magazines. How then was it
that he never could get rid of that rapidly maturing bill? He could not
tell. Keeping out of debt is one thing, and getting rid of it when you
have once taken its yoke upon your neck is another. His money, when he
had any, "slipped through his fingers," as people say. When James's
remittance or any other piece of good fortune gave him enough to pay
that hundred pounds without borrowing elsewhere, he borrowed elsewhere
all the same. It was a mysterious fatality, from which he seemed unable
to escape. In such circumstances a crisis must come sooner or later, and
it appeared to him that now at least, after many hairbreadth escapes,
the crisis had come.

What was he to do? There was no chance, alas! of money from James, and
even if Reginald accepted the chaplaincy, and was willing at once to
come to his father's aid, there was no hope that he would have anything
for some time--for chaplains incomes are not, any more than other
people's, generally paid in advance. He leaned back in his chair and
went over again, for the hundredth time, the list of all the people he
could borrow from, or who would "back" a bill for him, and he was still
employed in this melancholy and hopeless enumeration, when a low knock
came to the door, and a maid-of-all-work, pushing it open, thrust in a
homely little man in a dusty-brown coat, who put up a hand to his
forehead as he came in with a salutation which was half charity
school-boy, half awkward recruit. Beyond this there was no ceremony
about his entrance, no leave asked or question made. Betsy knew very
well that he was to come in when he pleased, and that her master did not
deny himself to Cotsdean. Mr. May received him with a familiar nod, and
pointed hastily to a chair. He did not even take the trouble to put away
those blue papers, which he would have done if any other individual,
even if one of his children had come into the room.

"Good evening, Cotsdean," he said, in a friendly tone. "Well, what
news?"

"Nothing as is pleasant, sir," said the man, sitting down on a corner of
his chair. "I've been to the bank, and it's no use my explaining, or
begging ever so hard. They won't hear of it. 'We've done it times and
times,' they says to me, 'and we won't do it no more. That's flat,' and
so indeed it is flat, sir, as you may say downright Dunstable; but that
ain't no advantage to you and me."

"Yes, it is, Cotsdean," said the clergyman, "it is a decided advantage,
for it shows there is nothing to be hoped from that quarter, and that is
always good--even though it's bad bad, as bad as can be--"

"You may say so, sir," said Cotsdean. "I don't know what's to be done no
more than the babe unborn, and it's wearing me to death, that's what
it's doing. When I looks round on my small family, it's all I can do not
to cry out loud. What's to become of my children, Mr. May? Yours, sir,
they'll never want friends, and a hundred or so here or there, that
don't ruin gentlefolks; but without selling up the business, how am I
ever to get a hundred pounds? It ain't equal, sir, I swear it ain't. You
gets the money, and you takes it easy, and don't hold your head not a
bit lower; but me as has no good of it (except in the way o' a bit of
custom that is a deal more in looks than anything else), and has to go
round to all the folks, to Mr. Brownlow, at the bank, and I don't know
who, as if it was for me! I suffers in my credit, sir, and I suffers in
my spirits, and I suffers in my health; and when the smash comes,
what's to become of my poor children? It's enough to put a man beside
himself, that's what it is."

Here the poor man's eyes grew bloodshot, partly with rubbing them,
partly with tears. He rubbed them with the sleeve of his rough coat, and
the tears were very real, though few in number. Cotsdean's despair was
indeed tragical enough, but its outside had in it a dash of comedy,
which, though he was in no mirthful mood, caught the quick eye of Mr.
May. He was himself very painfully affected, to tell the truth, but yet
it cost him an effort not to smile.

"Cotsdean," he said, "have I ever failed you yet? You have done a good
deal for me, I don't deny it--you have had all the trouble, but beyond
that what have you suffered except in imagination? If you choose to
exaggerate dangers, it is not my fault. Your children are as safe as--as
safe as the Bank of England. Now, have I ever failed you? answer me
that."

"I can't say as you have, sir," said Cotsdean, "but it's dreadful work
playing with a man's ruin, off and on like this, and nobody knowing what
might happen, or what a day or an hour might bring forth."

"That is very true," said Mr. May. "I might die, that is what you mean;
very true, though not quite so kind as I might have expected from an old
friend--a very old friend."

"I am sure, Sir, I beg your pardon," cried the poor man, "it wasn't
that; but only just as I'm driven out o' my seven senses with thinking
and thinking."

"My dear Cotsdean, don't think; there could not be a more unnecessary
exercise; what good does your thinking do, but to make you unhappy?
leave that to me. We have been driven into a corner before now, but
nothing has ever happened to us. You will see something will turn up
this time. I ask you again, have I ever failed you? you know best."

"No, sir," said Cotsdean, somewhat doubtfully. "No, I didn't say as you
had. It's only--I suppose I ain't so young as I once was--and a man's
feelin's, sir, ain't always in his own control."

"You must take care that it is only to me that you make such an
exhibition as this," said Mr. May. "Who is there? oh, my coffee! put it
on the table. If you are seen coming here to me with red eyes and this
agitated appearance," he went on, waiting pointedly till the door was
closed, "it will be supposed there is some family reason for
it--again--"

"Oh, lor', Sir! you know--"

"Yes, I know very well," said the clergyman. "I know that there couldn't
be a better wife, and that bygones are bygones; but you must remember
and take care; everybody doesn't know you--and her--so well as I do.
When you come to see your clergyman in this agitated state, I put it to
yourself, Cotsdean, I put it to your good sense, what is anybody to
think? You must take great care not to betray yourself to anybody but
me."

The man looked at him with a half-gasp of consternation, bewildered by
the very boldness with which he was thus set down. Betray himself--he
drew a long breath, as if he had received a _douche_ of cold water in
his face, which was indeed very much like the effect that this
extraordinary address produced--betray himself! Poor Cotsdean's
struggles and sufferings arose, at the present moment, entirely from the
fact that he had allowed himself to be made use of for Mr. May's
occasions, and both the men were perfectly aware of this. But though he
gasped, Cotsdean was too much under the influence of his clergyman to do
anything more. Had he been a Dissenter, he would have patronized young
Northcote, who was as good a man as Mr. May (or far better if truth were
told), with the frankest certainty of his own superior position, but
being a humble churchman he yielded to his clergyman as to one of the
powers that be. It is a curious difference. He sat still on the edge of
his chair, while Mr. May walked across the room to the table by the
door, where his _café noir_ had been placed, and took his cup and drank
it. He was not civil enough to ask his visitor to share it, indeed it
never would have occurred to him, though he did not hesitate to use poor
Cotsdean for his own purpose, to treat him otherwise than as men treat
their servants and inferiors. When he had finished his coffee, he went
leisurely back into his former place.

"You have nothing to suggest," he said, "nothing to advise? Well, I must
try what I can do. It will be hard work, but still I must do it, you
know," added Mr. May, in a gracious tone. "I have never concealed from
you, Cotsdean, how much I appreciated your assistance; everything of
this sort is so much worse in my position than in yours. You understand
that? A gentleman--and a clergyman--has things expected from him which
never would be thought of in your case. I have never omitted to
acknowledge my obligations to you--and you also owe some obligations to
me."

"I don't deny as you've been very kind, sir," said Cotsdean,
half-grateful, half-sullen; then he wavered a little. "I never denied
it, _her_ and me could never have 'it it off but for you. I don't forget
a favour--nobody can say that of me. I ain't forgot it in this case."

"I don't say that you have forgotten it. I have always put the utmost
confidence in you; but, my good fellow, you must not come to me in this
down-in-the-mouth way. Have I ever failed you? We've been hard pressed
enough at times, but something has always turned up. Have not I told you
a hundred times Providence will provide?"

"If you put it like that, sir--"

"I do put it like that. I have always been helped, you know, sometimes
when it seemed the last moment. Leave it to me. I have no more doubt,"
said Mr. May, lifting up a countenance which was by no means so
untroubled as could have been wished, "that when the time comes all will
be well, than I have of the sun rising to-morrow--which it will," he
added with some solemnity, "whether you and I live to see it or not.
Leave it all, I say, to me."

Cotsdean did not make any reply. He was overawed by this solemnity of
tone, and knew his place too well to set himself up against his
clergyman; but still it cannot be denied that the decision was less
satisfactory than one of much less exalted tone might have been. He had
not the courage to say anything--he withdrew with his hat in his hand,
and a cloud over his face. But as he left the house the doubt in his
soul breathed itself forth. "If so be as neither me nor him see it rise,
what good will that do to my family," said Cotsdean to himself, and went
his way to his closed shop, through all the sacks of seeds and dry
rustling grain, with a heavy heart. He was a corn-factor in a tolerable
business, which, as most of the bankers of Carlingford knew, he had some
difficulty in carrying along, being generally in want of money; but this
was not so rare a circumstance that any special notice should be taken
of it. Everybody who knew thought it was very kind of Mr. May to back
him up as he did, and even to put his name to bills for poor Cotsdean,
to whom, indeed, he was known to have been very kind in many ways. But
nobody was aware how little of these said bills went to Cotsdean, and
how much to Mr. May.

When he was gone, the clergyman threw himself back again into his chair
with a pale face. Providence, which he treated like some sort of neutral
deity, and was so very sure of having on his side when he spoke to
Cotsdean, did not feel so near to him, or so much under his command,
when Cotsdean was gone. There were still two days; but if before that he
could not make some provision, what was to be done? He was not a cruel
or bad man, and would have suffered keenly had anything happened to poor
Cotsdean and his family on his account. But they must be sacrificed if
it came to that, and the thought was very appalling. What was he to do?
His friends were exhausted, and so were his expedients. There was no
longer any one he could borrow from, or who would take even a share of
his burden on their shoulders. What was he to do?



CHAPTER XIX.

THE NEW CHAPLAIN.


It cannot be denied that, reluctant as Reginald May had been to accept
the chaplaincy of which so much had been said, he had no sooner fairly
done so, and committed himself beyond remedy, than a certain sense of
relief began to steal over the young man's mind. He had made the leap.
Moved, at last, by arguments which, perhaps, were not worth very much
logically, and which even while he yielded to them he saw the weakness
of, he felt sure that when he woke in the morning, and realized what he
had done, fearful feelings of remorse would seize him. But, curiously
enough, this was not so; and his first sensation was relief that the
conflict was over, and that he had no more angry remonstrances to meet
with, or soft pleadings from Ursula, or assaults of rude abruptness from
Janey. All that was over; and then a warm glow of independence and
competency came over the young man. You may be sure he had no fire in
his rooms to make him warm, and it was a chill January morning, with
snow in the heavy sky, and fog in the yellow air; but, notwithstanding,
there came a glow of comfort over him.

Independent!--free to go where he pleased, buy what he liked, spend his
time as best seemed to him, with a "position" of his own; even a house
of his own. He laughed softly to himself at this new idea. It did not
somehow hurt him as he thought it would, this sinecure he had accepted.
Could he not make it up, as Ursula said, "work for the town in other
ways without pay, since the town had given him pay without work?" A
genial feeling of toleration came over Reginald's mind. Why should he
have made such a fuss about it? It was natural that his father should
insist, and, now that it was done, he himself did not wish it undone, as
he had expected to do. After all, if you judged matters with such
rigidity, who was there without guilt? what public appointment was
given and held according to abstract right, as, formally speaking, it
ought to be? Those in the highest offices were appointed, not because of
their personal excellence, but because of being some other man's son or
brother; and yet, on the whole, public duty was well done, and the
unjust ruler and hireling priest were exceptions. Even men whose entry
into the fold was very precipitate, over the wall, violently, or by some
rat-hole of private interest, made very good shepherds, once they were
inside. Nothing was perfect in this world, and yet things were more good
than evil; and if he himself made it his study to create for himself an
ideal position, to become a doer of all kinds of volunteer work, what
would it matter that his appointment was not an ideal appointment? It
seemed very strange to him, and almost like an interposition of
Providence in his favour, that he should feel in this way, for Reginald
was not aware that such revulsions of feeling were very natural
phenomena, and that the sensation, after any great decision, is almost
invariably one of relief. To be sure it upset this manly state of mind a
little when, coming down to breakfast, his father gave him a nod, and
said briefly, "I am glad you have seen your duty at last."

This made him almost resolve to throw it up again; but the feeling was
momentary. Why should he give it up? It had made him independent
(already he thought of his independence as a thing accomplished), and he
would make full amends to the Church and to Carlingford for taking two
hundred and fifty pounds a year without working for it. Surely he could
do that. He did not grudge work, but rather liked it, and would be ready
to do anything, he did not care what, to make his sinecure into a
volunteer's outpost for every good work. Yes, that was the way to look
at it. And it was a glorious independence. Two hundred and fifty pounds
a year!

"And the house," cried Ursula, when Mr. May had left the
breakfast-table, and left them free to chatter. "The house--I don't
think you are likely to find a tenant for it. The houses in Grange Lane
are so cheap now; and some people object to the poor old men. I think
you must keep the house. Furnishing will be an expense; but, of course,
when you have a certain income, that makes such a difference; and you
can come and see us every day."

"Why can't he live at home?" said Janey; "we are so poor; he ought to
come and pay us something for his board, and help us to get on."

"What can you know about it, at your age?" said Ursula. "We have not got
proper rooms for Reginald. He ought, at least, to have a study of his
own, as well as a bed-room, now that he has an appointment. No, you must
go to the College, Reginald; and, perhaps, you might have one of the
boys with you, say Johnnie, which would be a great saving--for he has an
appetite; he eats more than two of the rest of us do. You might take one
of them with you--to save the bills a little--if you like."

"Take me," said Janey, "I have a good appetite too; and then I'm a girl,
which is a great deal more useful. I could keep your house. Oh,
Reginald! mayn't we go out and see it? I want to see it. I have never
once been over the College--not in all my life."

"We might as well go, don't you think, Ursula?" he said, appealing to
her with a delightful mixture of helplessness and supremacy. Yesterday,
he had not been able to assert any exclusive claim to sixpence. Now he
had a house--a house all his own. It pleased him to think of taking the
girls to it; and as for having one of them, he was ready to have them
all to live with him. Ursula thought fit to accede graciously to this
suggestion, when she had looked after her numerous household duties.
Janey, in the mean time, had been "practising" in one of her periodical
fits of diligence.

"For, you know, if Reginald did really want me to keep house for him,"
said Janey, "(you have too much to do at home; or, of course, he would
like you best), it would be dreadful if people found out how little I
know."

"You ought to go to school," said Ursula, gravely. "It is a dreadful
thing for a girl never to have had any education. Perhaps Reggie might
spare a little money to send you to school; or, perhaps, papa--"

"School yourself!" retorted Janey, indignant; but then she thought
better of it. "Perhaps just for a year to finish," she added in a
doubtful tone. They thought Reginald could do anything on that wonderful
two hundred and fifty pounds a year.

The College was a picturesque old building at the other side of
Carlingford, standing in pretty grounds with some fine trees, under
which the old men sat and amused themselves in the summer mornings. On
this chilly wintry day none of them were visible, except the cheerful
old soul bent almost double, but with a chirruppy little voice like a
superannuated sparrow, who acted as porter, and closed the big gates
every night, and fined the old men twopence if they were too late. He
trotted along the echoing passages, with his keys jingling, to show them
the chaplain's rooms.

"The old gentlemen is all as pleased as Punch," said Joe. "We was a
feared as it might be somebody foreign--not a Carlingford gentleman; and
some parsons is queer, saving your presence, Mr. May; but we knows where
you comes from, and all about you, as one of the old gentlemen was just
a-saying to me. Furnished, Miss? Lord bless you, yes! they're furnished.
It's all furnished, is College. You'll think as the things look a bit
queer; they wasn't made not this year, nor yet last year, I can tell
you; and they ain't in the fashion. But if so be as you don't stand by
fashion, there they is," said Joe, throwing open the door.

The young people went in softly, their excitement subdued into a kind of
awe. An empty house, furnished, is more desolate, more overwhelming to
the imagination, than a house which is bare. For whom was it waiting,
all ready there, swept and garnished? Or were there already unseen
inhabitants about, writing ghostly letters on the tables, seated on the
chairs? Even Janey was hushed.

"I'd rather stay at home, after all," she whispered in Ursula's ear
under her breath.

But after awhile they became familiar with the silent place, and awoke
the echoes in it with their voices and new life. Nothing so young had
been in the College for years. The last chaplain had been an old man and
an old bachelor; and the pensioners were all solitary, living a sort of
monastic life, each in his room, like workers in their cells. When
Janey, surprised by some unexpected joke, burst into one of her peals of
laughter, the old building echoed all through it, and more than one
window was put up and head projected to know the cause of this
profanation.

"Joe!" cried one portentous voice; "what's happened? what's the meaning
of this?"

"It's only them a-laughing, sir," said Joe, delighting in the vagueness
of his rejoinder. "They ain't used to it, that's the truth; but laugh
away, Miss, it'll do you good," he added benignly. Joe was of a cheerful
spirit, notwithstanding his infirmities, and he foresaw lightsome days.

Somewhat taken aback, however, by the commotion produced by Janey's
laugh, the young party left the College, Ursula carrying with her sundry
memoranda and measurements for curtains and carpets. "You must have
curtains," she said, "and I think a carpet for the study. The other room
will do; but the study is cold, it has not the sunshine. I wonder if we
might go and look at some, all at once."

Here the three paused in the road, and looked at each other somewhat
overcome by the grandeur of the idea. Even Reginald, notwithstanding his
Oxford experience, held his breath a little at the thought of going
right off without further consideration, and buying carpets and
curtains. As for Janey, she laughed again in pure excitement and
delight.

"Fancy going into Holden's, walking right in, as if we had the Bank in
our pockets, and ordering whatever we like," she cried.

"I suppose we must have them!" said Reginald, yielding slowly to the
pleasure of acquisition. Ursula was transformed by the instinct of
business and management into the leader of the party.

"Of course you must have them," she said, with the air of a woman who
had ordered curtains all her life, "otherwise you will catch cold, and
that is not desirable," and she marched calmly towards Holden's, while
Janey dropped behind to smother the laughter which expressed her amazed
delight in this new situation. It is doubtful whether Holden would have
given them so good a reception had the Miss Mays gone to hint to order
curtains for the Parsonage--for the Carlingford tradesmen were very well
aware of the difficulties, in point of payment, which attended Mr. May's
purchases. But Holden was all smiles at the idea of fitting up the rooms
in the College.

"Carpets? I have a Turkey carpet that would just suit one of those old
rooms--old-fashioned rooms are so much thought of at present," said the
man of furniture.

"Yes--I suppose that would do," said Reginald, with a side look at his
sister, to know if he was right. Ursula slew him with a glance of her
brown eyes. She was almost grand in superior knowledge and righteous
indignation.

"Turkey! are you out of your senses? Do you think we have the Bank in
our pockets," she whispered to him angrily, "as Janey says?"

"How was I to know? He said so," said the alarmed chaplain, cowed,
notwithstanding his income.

"_He_ said so! that is just like you boys, taking whatever everyone
tells you. Why, a Turkey carpet costs a fortune. Mr. Holden, I think, if
you please, Brussels will do; or some of those new kinds, a jumble of
colours without any decided pattern. Not too expensive," said Ursula
solemnly, the colour mounting to her face. They were all rather brought
down from their first delight and grandeur when this was said--for
stipulating about expense made a difference all at once. The delightful
sensation of marching into Holden's as if the world belonged to them was
over; but Janey was touched to see that Holden still remained civil,
and did not express, in his countenance, the contempt he must have felt.

When this was over, and Mr. Holden had kindly suggested the idea of
sending various stuffs to the College, "that they might judge of the
effect," the party went home, slightly subdued. The air was heavy and
yellow, and prophesied snow; but a very red wintry sun had managed to
make an opening temporarily in the clouds, and threw a ruddy ray down
Grange Lane, bringing out the few passengers who were coming and going
under the old garden walls. Ursula clasped her hands together, and came
to a stop suddenly, when she turned her eyes that way.

"Oh!" she said, "here she is--she is coming! all by herself, and we
can't help meeting her--the young lady in black!"

"Shall we speak to her?" said Janey with a little awe.

"Who is the young lady in black?" said Reginald, "this girl who is
coming up? I never saw her before in Carlingford. Is she some one you
have met with the Dorsets? She don't look much like Grange Lane."

"Oh, hush! here she is," said Ursula, losing all that importance of
aspect which her position as leader of the expedition had given her. A
pretty blush of expectation came over her face--her dimples revealed
themselves as if by magic. You will think it strange, perhaps, that the
sight of one girl should produce this effect upon another. But then
Phoebe represented to Ursula the only glimpse she had ever had into a
world which looked gay and splendid to the country girl--a world in
which Phoebe had appeared to her as a princess reigning in glory and
delight. Ursula forgot both her companions and her recent occupation.
Would the young lady in black notice her; stop, perhaps, and talk to
her--remember her? Her eyes began to glow and dance with excitement. She
stumbled as she went on in her anxiety, fixing her eyes upon the
approaching figure. Phoebe, for her part, was taking a constitutional
walk up and down Grange Lane, and she too was a little moved,
recognizing the girl, and wondering what it would be wisest to
do--whether to speak to her, and break her lonely promenade with a
little society, or remember her "place," and save herself from further
mortification by passing the clergyman's daughter, who was a cousin of
the Dorsets, with a bow.

"The Dorsets wouldn't recognise me, nor Miss May either," Phoebe said to
herself, "_if they knew_--"

But Ursula looked so wistful as they approached each other that she had
not the courage to keep to this wise resolution. Though she was only the
granddaughter of Tozer, the butterman, she was much more a woman of the
world than this pretty blushing girl who courted her notice. She put out
her hand instinctively when they met. "It can't harm anybody but myself,
after all," she thought.

"Oh, I am so glad you remember me," cried Ursula. "I knew you in a
moment. Have you come to stay here? This is my brother, Reginald, and my
little sister, Janey," (how Janey scowled at that _little!_ and with
reason, for she was by half an inch the taller of the two). "Are you
taking a walk? I do hope you like Carlingford. I do hope you are going
to stay. That is our house down at the end of the lane, close to St.
Roque's. Papa is the clergyman there. It will be so delightful," said
Ursula, repeating herself in her excitement, "if you are going to stay."

"I am going to stay for some time," said Phoebe graciously, "I don't
quite know how long. I came here shortly after I saw you in town. My
grandfather lives here. Grange Lane is very nice for a walk. Grandmamma
is an invalid, so that I don't leave her very often. It was great luck
finding you just as I had come out; for it is not cheerful walking
alone."

Phoebe felt perfectly sure that through each of the three heads turned
towards her a hurried inquiry was going on as to which of those enclosed
houses contained the grandmother who was an invalid; but no sort of
enlightenment followed the inquiry, and as for Ursula it terminated
abruptly in her mind with a rush of cordiality. She was not at an age
when friendship pauses to make any inquiry into grandmothers.

"I am so glad! for if you are not going anywhere in particular, we may
all walk together. Janey knows you quite well. I have talked of you so
often," (here Phoebe gave a gracious bow and smile to Janey, who was not
quite sure that she liked to be thus patronized), "and so does my
brother," said Ursula, more doubtfully. "Do you like Carlingford? Have
you seen many people? Oh! I do hope you will stay."

"I have not seen anybody," said Phoebe. "My people are not much in
society. When one is old and sick, I don't suppose one cares--"

"There is no society to speak of in Carlingford," said Reginald. "It is
like most other country towns. If you like it we shall be sure your
liking is quite disinterested, for it has no social charms--"

When had Reginald said so many words at a time to a young lady before?
The girls exchanged glances. "I think it is pretty," said Phoebe, closing
the subject. "It is going to snow, don't you think? I suppose you skate
like all the young ladies now. It seems the first thing any one thinks
of when the winter begins."

"Do you skate?" said Ursula, her eyes brighter and opener than ever.

"Oh, a little--as everybody does! Perhaps if there is no society," said
Phoebe, turning to Reginald for the first time, "people are free here
from the necessity of doing as everybody does. I don't think there is
any such bondage in the world--dressing, living, working, amusing
yourself--you have to do everything as other people do it. So I skate--I
can't help myself; and a hundred foolish things beside."

"But I should think it _delightful_," cried Ursula, "I have always
envied the boys. They look so warm when we are all shivering. Reginald,
if it freezes will you teach us? I think I should like it better than
anything in the world."

"Yes," said Reginald, "if Miss--if we can make up a party--if you," he
added with a perfectly new inflection in his voice, "will come too."

"I see you don't know my name," said Phoebe, with a soft little laugh.
"It is Beecham. One never catches names at a party. I remembered yours
because of a family in a novel that I used to admire very much in my
girlish days--"

"Oh! I know," cried Janey, "the Daisy Chain. We are not a set of prigs
like those people. We are not goody, whatever we are; we--"

"I don't suppose Miss Beecham cares for your opinion of the family
character," said Reginald in a tone that made Janey furious. Thus
discoursing they reached the gates of the Parsonage, where Ursula was
most eager that her friend should come in. And here Mr. May joined them,
who was impressed, like everybody else, by Phoebe's appearance, and made
himself so agreeable that Reginald felt eclipsed and driven into the
background. Ursula had never been so satisfied with her father in her
life; though there was a cloud on Mr. May's soul, it suited him to show
a high good-humour with everybody in recompense for his son's
satisfactory decision, and he was, indeed, in a state of high
complacence with himself for having managed matters so cleverly that the
very thing which should have secured Reginald's final abandonment of the
chaplaincy determined him, on the contrary, to accept it. And he admired
Phoebe, and was dazzled by her self-possession and knowledge of the
world. He supported Ursula's invitation warmly; but the stranger freed
herself with graceful excuses. She had her patient to attend to.

"That is a very lady-like young woman," said Mr. May, when they had
gone in, after watching regretfully their new acquaintance's progress
through Grange Lane. "You met her in town, did you? A friend of the
Dorsets? Where is she living, I wonder; and whom does she belong to? One
does not often see that style of thing here."

"I never saw any one like her before," said Ursula fervently; and they
were still all uniting in admiration of Phoebe--when--

But such an interruption demands another page.



CHAPTER XX.

THAT TOZER GIRL!


"Well, who is she?" cried Mrs. Sam Hurst, too curious to think of the
ordinary decorums. She had no bonnet on, but a light "cloud" of white
wool over her cap, and her whole aspect was full of eagerness and
excitement. "Why didn't you tell me you knew her? Who is she? I am dying
to know."

"Who is--who?" said Ursula, rather glad of the opportunity of being
politely rude to Mrs. Sam Hurst before papa. "How is any one to find out
from the way you speak? She? who is she?"

"That is just what I want you to tell me," said Mrs. Sam Hurst, with
imperturbable good-humour. "You, Mr. May, you are always good to me,
though Ursula has her little tempers--the girl you were talking to at
the door. I stood and watched from the window, and I scarcely could
contain myself sufficiently not to bounce out in the middle of the talk.
Now do tell, as the Americans say. Who is that Tozer girl?"

"That Tozer girl!" Ursula gave a little shriek, and grew first red and
then pale with horror and dismay.

"Yes; I told you about her; so well dressed and looking so nice. That
was she; with the very same dress, such a charming dress! so much style
about it. Who is she, Ursula? Mr. May, tell me who is she? You can't
imagine how much I want to know."

Ursula dropped into a chair, looking like a little ghost, faint and
rigid. She said afterwards to Janey that she felt in the depths of her
heart that it must be true. She could have cried with pain and
disappointment, but she would not give Mrs. Sam Hurst the pleasure of
making her cry.

"There must be some mistake," said Reginald, interposing. "This is a
lady--my sister met her in town with the Dorsets."

"Oh, does she know the Dorsets too?" said the inquirer. "That makes it
still more interesting. Yes, that is the girl that is with the Tozers;
there can be no mistake about it. She is the granddaughter. She was at
the Meeting last night. I had it from the best authority--on the
platform with old Tozer. And, indeed, Mr. May, how any one that had been
there could dare to look you in the face!--"

"I was there myself," said Mr. May. "It amused me very much. Tell me now
about this young person. Is she an impostor, taking people in, or what
is it all about? Ursula looks as if she was in the trick herself, and
had been found out."

"I am _sure_ she is not an impostor," said Ursula. "An impostor! If you
had seen her as I saw her, at a great, beautiful, splendid ball. I never
saw anything like it. I was nobody there--nobody--and neither were
Cousin Anne and Cousin Sophy--but Miss Beecham! It is a mistake, I
suppose," the girl said, raising herself up with great dignity; "when
people are always trying for news, they get the wrong news sometimes, I
don't doubt. You may be sure it is a mistake."

"That's me," said Mrs. Sam Hurst, with a laugh; "that is one of Ursula's
assaults upon poor me. Yes, I confess it, I am fond of news; and I never
said she was an impostor. Poor girl, I am dreadfully sorry for her. I
think she is a good girl, trying to do her duty to her relations. She
didn't choose her own grandfather. I dare say, if she'd had any say in
it, she would have made a very different choice. But whether your papa
may think her a proper friend for you--being Tozer's granddaughter, Miss
Ursula, that's quite a different business, I am bound to say."

Again Ursula felt herself kept from crying by sheer pride, and nothing
else. She bit her lips tight; she would not give in. Mrs. Hurst to
triumph over her, and to give her opinion as to what papa might think
proper! Ursula turned her back upon Mrs. Hurst, which was not civil,
fearing every moment some denunciation from papa. But nothing of the
kind came. He asked quite quietly after a while, "Where did you meet
this young lady?" without any perceptible inflection of anger in his
tone.

"Why, papa," cried Janey, distressed to be kept so long silent,
"everybody knows where Ursula met her; no one has heard of anything else
since she came home. She met her of course at the ball. You know;
Reginald, _you_ know! The ball where she went with Cousin Anne."

"Never mind Cousin Anne; I want the name of the people at whose house it
was."

"Copperhead, papa," said Ursula, rousing herself. "If Cousin Anne does
not know a lady from a common person, who does, I wonder? It was Cousin
Anne who introduced me to her (I think). Their name was Copperhead, and
they lived in a great, big, beautiful house, in the street where
ambassadors and quantities of great people live. I forget the name of
it; but I know there was an ambassador lived there, and Cousin Anne
said----"

"Copperhead! I thought so," said Mr. May. "When Ursula has been set
a-going on the subject of Cousin Anne, there is nothing rational to be
got from her after that for an hour or two. You take an interest in this
young lady," he said shortly, turning to Mrs. Sam Hurst, who stood by
smiling, rather enjoying the commotion she had caused.

"Who, I? I take an interest in anybody that makes a stir, and gives us
something to talk about," said Mrs. Hurst, frankly. "You know my
weakness. Ursula despises me for it, but you know human nature. If I did
not take an interest in my neighbours what would become of me--a poor
lone elderly woman, without either chick or child?"

She rounded off this forlorn description of herself with a hearty laugh,
in which Janey, who had a secret kindness for their merry neighbour,
though she feared her "for papa," joined furtively. Mr. May, however,
did not enter into the joke with the sympathy which he usually showed to
Mrs. Hurst. He smiled, but there was something _distrait_ and
pre-occupied in his air.

"How sorry we all are for you," he said; "your position is truly
melancholy. I am glad, for your sake, that old Tozer has a pretty
granddaughter to beguile you now and then out of recollection of your
cares."

There was a sharp tone in this which caught Mrs. Hurst's ear, and she
was not disposed to accept any sharpness from Mr. May. She turned the
tables upon him promptly.

"What a disgraceful business that Meeting was! Of course, you have seen
the paper. There ought to be some way of punishing those agitators that
go about the country, taking away people's characters. Could not you
bring him up for libel, or Reginald? I never knew anything so shocking.
To come to your own town, your own neighbourhood, and to strike you
through your son! It is the nastiest, most underhanded, unprincipled
attack I ever heard of."

"What is that?" asked Reginald.

He was not easily roused by Carlingford gossip, but there was clearly
more in this than met the eye.

"An Anti-State Church Meeting," said Mr. May, "with special compliments
in it to you and me. It is not worth our while to think of it. Your
agitators, my dear Mrs. Hurst, are not worth powder and shot. Now,
pardon me, but I must go to work. Will you go and see the sick people in
Back Grove Street, Reginald? I don't think I can go to-day."

"I should like to know what was in the paper," said the young man, with
an obstinacy that filled the girls with alarm. They had been in hopes
that everything between father and son was to be happy and friendly, now
that Reginald was about to do what his father wished.

"Oh, you shall see it," said Mrs. Hurst, half alarmed too; "but it is
not anything, as your father says; only we women are sensitive. We are
always thinking of things which, perhaps, were never intended to harm
us. Ursula, you take my advice, and don't go and mix yourself up with
Dissenters and that kind of people. The Tozer girl may be very nice, but
she is still Tozer's granddaughter, after all."

Reginald followed the visitor out of the room, leaving his sisters very
ill at ease within, and his father not without anxieties which were so
powerful, indeed, that he relieved his mind by talking of them to his
daughters--a most unusual proceeding.

"That woman will set Reginald off at the nail again," he cried; "after
he had begun to see things in a common-sense light. There was an attack
made upon him last night on account of that blessed chaplaincy, which
has been more trouble to me than it is worth. I suppose he'll throw it
up now. But I wash my hands of the matter. I wonder how you girls can
encourage that chattering woman to come here."

"Papa!" cried Janey, ever on the defensive, "we _hate_ her! It is you
who encourage her to come here."

"Oh, hush!" cried Ursula, with a warning glance; it was balm to her soul
to hear her father call Mrs. Hurst _that woman_. "We have been to see
the house," she said; "it was very nice. I think Reginald liked it,
papa."

"Ah, well," said Mr. May, "girls and boys are queer articles. I dare say
the house, if he likes it, will weigh more with him than justice or
common sense. So Copperhead was the people's name? What would be wanted,
do you think, Ursula, to make Reginald's room into a comfortable room
for a pupil? Comfortable, recollect; not merely what would do; and one
that has been used, I suppose, to luxury. You can look over it and let
me know."

"Are we going to take a pupil, papa?" cried Janey, with widening eyes.

"I don't know what you could teach him," he said. "Manners, perhaps? Let
me know, Ursula. The room is not a bad room; it would want a new carpet,
curtains, perhaps--various things. Make me out a list. The Copperheads
have a son, I believe. Did you see him at that fine ball of yours?"

"Oh! papa, he danced with me twice; he was very kind," said Ursula, with
a blush; "and he danced all the night with Miss Beecham. It must be a
falsehood about her being old Tozer's granddaughter. Mr. Clarence
Copperhead was always by her side. I think Mrs. Hurst must have made it
all up out of her own head."

Mr. May gave a little short laugh.

"Poor Mrs. Hurst!" he said, recovering his temper; "how bitter you all
are against her. So he danced with you twice? You must try to make him
comfortable, Ursula, if he comes here."

"Is Mr. Clarence Copperhead coming here?"

Ursula was struck dumb by this piece of news. The grand house in
Portland Place, and all Sophy Dorset's questions and warnings, came
suddenly back to her mind. She blushed fiery red; she could not tell
why. Coming here! How strange it would be, how extraordinary, to have to
order dinner for him, and get his room in order, and have him in the
drawing-room in the evenings! How should she know what to say to him? or
would papa keep him always at work, reading Greek or something
downstairs? All this flashed through her mind with the rapidity of
lightning. Mr. May made no reply. He was walking up and down the room
with his hands behind him, as was his habit when he was "busy." Being
busy was separated from being angry by the merest visionary line in Mr.
May's case; his children never ventured on addressing him at such
moments, and it is impossible to describe how glad they were when he
withdrew to his own room before Reginald's return; but not a minute too
soon. The young man came back, looking black as night. He threw himself
into a chair, and then he got up again, and began also to walk about the
room like his father. At first he would make no reply to the questions
of the girls.

"It is exactly what I expected," he said; "just what I looked for. I
knew it from the first moment."

It was Janey, naturally, who had least patience with this unsatisfactory
utterance.

"If it was just what you expected, and you looked for it all the time,
why should you make such a fuss now?" she cried. "I declare, for all you
are young, and we are fond of you, you are almost as bad as papa."

Reginald did not take any notice of this address; he went on repeating
the same words at intervals.

"A child might have known it. Of course, from the beginning one knew how
it must be." Then he suddenly faced round upon Ursula, who was nearly
crying in excitement and surprise. "But if they think I am to be driven
out of a resolution I have made by what they say--if they think that I
will be bullied into giving up because of their claptrap," he cried,
looking sternly at her, "then you will find you are mistaken. You will
find I am not such a weak idiot as you suppose. Give up! because some
demagogue from a Dissenting Committee takes upon him to criticise my
conduct. If you think I have so little self-respect, so little stamina,"
he said, fiercely, "you will find you have made a very great mistake."

"Oh, Reginald, _me_?" cried Ursula, with tears in her eyes; "did I ever
think anything unkind of you? did I ever ask you to do anything that was
disagreeable? You should not look as if it was me."

Then he threw himself down again on the old sofa, which creaked and
tottered under the shock.

"Poor little Ursula!" he cried, with a short laugh. "Did you think I
meant you? But if they thought they would master me by these means,"
said Reginald with pale fury, "they never made a greater mistake, I can
tell you. A parcel of trumpery agitators, speechifiers, little petty
demagogues, whom nobody ever heard of before. A fine thing, indeed, to
have all the shopkeepers of Carlingford sitting in committee on one's
conduct, isn't it--telling one what one ought to do? By Jupiter! It's
enough to make a man swear!"

"I declare!" cried Janey loudly, "how like Reginald is to papa! I never
saw it before. When he looks wicked like that, and sets his teeth--but I
am not going to be pushed, not by my brother or any one!" said the girl,
growing red, and making a step out of his reach. "I won't stand it. I am
not a child any more than you."

Janey's wrath was appeased, however, when Reginald produced the paper
and read Northcote's speech aloud. In her interest she drew nearer and
nearer, and read the obnoxious column over his shoulder, joining in
Ursula's cries of indignation. By the time the three had thus got
through it, Reginald's own agitation subsided into that fierce amusement
which is the frequent refuge of the assaulted.

"Old Green in the chair! and old Tozer and the rest have all been
sitting upon me," he said, with that laugh which is proverbially
described as from the wrong side of the mouth, whatever that may be.
Ursula said nothing in reply, but in her heart she felt yet another
stab. Tozer! This was another complication. She had taken so great a
romantic interest in the heroine of that ball, which was the most
entrancing moment of Ursula's life, that it seemed a kind of disloyalty
to her dreams to give up thus completely, and dethrone the young lady in
black; but what could the poor girl do? In the excitement of this
question the personality of Reginald's special assailant was lost
altogether: the girls did not even remember his name.



CHAPTER XXI.

A NEW FRIEND.


After this there followed an exciting interval for the family at the
Parsonage. Reginald, with the impatience of anger, insisted upon
transporting himself to the College at once, and entering upon "his
duties," such as they were, in defiance of all public comment. And Mr.
May, delighted with the head-strong resentment which served his purpose
so well, promoted it by all the means in his power, goading his son on,
if he showed any signs of relaxing, by references to public opinion, and
what the Liberation Society would say. Before those curtains were ready,
which the girls had ordered with so much pride, or the carpet laid down,
he had taken possession, and his room in the Parsonage was already
turned upside down preparing for a new inmate. Many and strange were the
thoughts in Ursula's mind about this new inmate. She remembered Clarence
Copperhead as a full-grown man, beyond, it seemed to her, the age at
which pupilage was possible. What was he coming to Carlingford for? What
was he coming to the Parsonage for? What could papa do with a pupil
quite as old as Reginald, who, in his own person, had often taken
pupils? Ursula had read as many novels as were natural at her age, and
can it be supposed that she did not ask herself whether there was any
other meaning in it? Could he be coming to Carlingford on account of
Miss Beecham; or, on account of--any one else? Ursula never whispered,
even to her own imagination, on account of me. But it is not to be
supposed that the unbidden inarticulate thought did not steal in,
fluttering her girlish soul. Everybody knows that in fiction, at least,
such things occur continually, and are the most natural things in the
world; and to Ursula, beyond her own little commonplace world, which she
somewhat despised, and the strange world undeciphered and wonderful to
which the Dorsets had introduced her for those ten brief days in London,
the world of fiction was the only sphere she knew; and in that sphere
there could be no such natural method of accounting for a young man's
actions as that of supposing him to be "in love." The question remained,
was it with Miss Beecham, or was it with--anybody else? Such an inquiry
could not but flutter her youthful bosom. She made his room ready for
him, and settled how he was to be disposed of, with the strangest sense
of something beneath, which her father would never suspect, but which,
perhaps, she alone might know.

Clarence Copperhead was a more imposing figure to Ursula than he was in
reality. She had seen him only twice, and he was a big and full-grown
"gentleman," while Ursula only realised herself as a little girl. She
was not even aware that she had any intelligence to speak of, or that
she would be a fit person to judge of "a gentleman." To be sure she had
to do many things which wanted thought and sense; but she was too
unthoughtful of herself to have decided this as yet, or to have created
any private tribunal at which to judge a new-comer of Clarence
Copperhead's dimensions. A much greater personage than she was, an
individual whose comings and goings could not be without observation,
whose notice would be something exciting and strange, was what she took
him to be. And Ursula was excited. Did Mrs. Copperhead, that kind little
woman, know why he was coming--was she in his confidence? And how was
Ursula to entertain him, to talk to him--a gentleman accustomed to so
much better society? She did not say anything to Janey on this subject,
though Janey was not without her curiosities too, and openly indulged in
conjectures as to the new pupil.

"I wonder if he will be fine. I wonder if he will be very good," said
Janey. "I wonder if he will fall in love with Ursula. Pupils, in books,
always do; and then there is a dreadful fuss and bother, and the girl is
sent away. It is hard for the girl; it is always supposed to be her
fault. I would not allow papa to take any pupils if it was me."

"And much your papa would care for your permission," said Mrs. Sam
Hurst. "But so far I agree with you, Janey, that before he has pupils,
or anything of that sort, there ought to be a lady in the house. He
should marry--"

"Marry! we don't want a lady in the house," cried Janey, "we are ladies
ourselves, I hope. Marry! if he does, I, for one, will do all I can to
make his life miserable," said the girl with energy. "What should he
want to marry for when he has daughters grown up? There are enough of us
already, I should think."

"Too many," said Mrs. Sam Hurst with a sigh. It gave her the greatest
secret delight to play upon the girl's fears.

Besides this, however, Ursula had another pre-occupation. In that
cordial meeting with the young lady who had turned out to be a person in
such an embarrassing position, there had been a great deal said about
future meetings, walks, and expeditions together, and Ursula had been
very desirous that Phoebe should fix some time for their first encounter.
She thought of this now with blushes that seemed to burn her cheeks. She
was afraid to go out, lest she should meet the girl she had been so
anxious to make a friend of. Not that, on her own account, after the
first shock, Ursula would have been hard-hearted enough to deny her
acquaintance to Tozer's granddaughter. In the seclusion of her chamber,
she had cried over the downfall of her ideal friend very bitterly, and
felt the humiliation for Phoebe more cruelly than that young lady felt it
for herself; but Ursula, however much it might have cost her, would have
stood fast to her friendship had she been free to do as she pleased.

"I did not like her for her grandfather," she said to Janey, of whom, in
this case, she was less unwilling to make a confidant. "I never thought
of the grandfather. What does it matter to me if he were a sweep instead
of old Tozer?"

"Old Tozer is just as bad as if he were a sweep," said Janey; "if you
had ever thought of her grandfather, and known he was old Tozer, you
would have felt it would not do."

"What is there about a grandfather? I don't know if we ever had any,"
said Ursula. "Mamma had, for the Dorsets are her relations--but papa.
Mr. Griffiths's grandfather was a candle-maker; I have heard papa say
so--and they go everywhere."

"But he is dead," said Janey, with great shrewdness, "and he was rich."

"You little nasty calculating thing! Oh, how I hate rich people; how I
hate this horrid world, that loves money and loves fine names, and does
not care for people's selves whether they are bad or good! I shall never
dare to walk up Grange Lane again," said Ursula, with tears. "Fancy
changing to her, after being so glad to see her! fancy never saying
another word about the skating, or the walk to the old mill! How she
will despise me for being such a miserable creature! and she will think
it is all my own fault."

At this moment Mr. May, from the door of his study, called "Ursula!"
repeating the call with some impatience when she paused to dry her eyes.
She ran down to him quickly, throwing down her work in her haste. He was
standing at the door, and somehow for the first time the worn look about
his eyes struck Ursula with a touch of pity. She had never noticed it
before: a look of suppressed pain and anxiety, which remained about his
eyes though the mouth smiled. It had never occurred to her to be sorry
for her father before, and the idea struck her as very strange now.

"Come in," he said, "I want to speak to you. I have been thinking about
the young woman--this friend of yours. We are all among the Dissenters
now-a-days, whatever Mrs. Sam Hurst may say. You seem to have taken a
fancy to this Tozer girl?"

"Don't call her so, papa, please. She is a lady in herself, as good a
lady as any one."

"Well! I don't say anything against her, do I? So you hold by your
fancy? You are not afraid of Grange Lane and Mrs. Sam Hurst."

"I have not seen her again," said Ursula, cast down. "I have not been
out at all. I could not bear to be so friendly one day, and then to pass
as if one did not know her the next. I cannot do it," cried the girl, in
tears; "if I see her, I must just be the same as usual to her, whatever
you say."

"Very well, _be_ the same as usual," said Mr. May; "that is why I called
you. I have my reasons. Notwithstanding Tozer, be civil to the girl. I
have my reasons for what I say."

"Do you mean it, papa!" said Ursula, delighted. "Oh, how good of you!
You don't mind--you really don't mind? Oh! I can't tell you how thankful
I am; for to pretend to want to be friends, and then to break off all in
a moment because of a girl's grandfather----"

"Don't make a principle of it, Ursula. It is quite necessary, in an
ordinary way, to think of a girl's grandfather--and a boy's too, for
that matter. No shopkeeping friends for me; but in this individual case
I am willing to make an exception. For the moment, you see, Dissenters
are in the ascendant. Young Copperhead is coming next week. Now, go."

Ursula marched delighted upstairs. "Janey, run and get your hat," she
said; "I am going out. I am not afraid of any one now. Papa is a great
deal nicer than he ever was before. He says I may see Miss Beecham as
much as I like. He says we need not mind Mrs. Sam Hurst. I am so glad! I
shall never be afraid of that woman any more."

Janey was taken altogether by surprise. "I hope he is not going to fall
in love with Miss Beecham," she said suspiciously. "I have heard Betsy
say that old gentlemen often do."

"He is not so foolish as to fall in love with anybody," said Ursula,
with dignity. "Indeed, Janey, you ought to have much more respect for
papa. I wish you could be sent to school and learn more sense. You give
your opinion as if you were--twenty--more than that. I am sure I never
should have ventured to say such things when I was a child like you."

"Child yourself!" said Janey indignant; which was her last resource when
she had nothing more to say; but Ursula was too busy putting aside her
work and preparing for her walk to pay any attention. In proportion as
she had been subdued and downcast heretofore, she was gay now. She
forgot all about old Tozer; about the Dissenters' meeting, and the man
who had made an attack upon poor Reginald. She flew to her room for her
hat and jacket, and ran downstairs, singing to herself. Janey only
overtook her, out of breath, as she emerged into the road from the
Parsonage door.

"What a dreadful hurry you are in," said Janey. "I always get ready so
much quicker than you do. Is it all about this girl, because she is new?
I never knew you were so fond of new people before."

But that day they went up and down Grange Lane fruitlessly, without
seeing anything of Phoebe, and Ursula returned home disconsolate. In the
evening Reginald intimated carelessly that he had met Miss Beecham. "She
is much better worth talking to than most of the girls one meets with,
whoever her grandfather may be," he said, evidently with an instant
readiness to stand on the defensive.

"Oh, did you talk to her," said Ursula, "without knowing? Reginald, papa
has no objections. He says we may even have her here, if we please."

"Well, of course I suppose he must guide you in that respect," said
Reginald, "but it does not matter particularly to me. Of course I talked
to her. Even my father could not expect that his permission was needed
for me."

At which piece of self-assertion the girls looked at him with admiring
eyes. Already they felt there was a difference. Reginald at home,
nominal curate, without pay or position, was a different thing from
Reginald with an appointment, a house of his own, and two hundred and
fifty pounds a year. The girls looked at him admiringly, but felt that
this was never likely to be their fate. In everything the boys had so
much the best of it; and yet it was almost a comfort to think that they
had seen Reginald himself trembling before papa. Reginald had a great
deal to tell them about the college, about the old men who made a
hundred daily claims on his attention, and the charities which he had to
administer, doles of this and that, and several charity schools of a
humble class.

"As for my time, it is not likely to hang on my hands as I thought. I
can't be a parish Quixote, as we planned, Ursula, knocking down
windmills for other people," he said, adjusting his round edge of
collar. He was changed; he was important, a personage in his own sight,
no longer to be spoken of as Mr. May's son. Janey ventured on a little
laugh when he went away, but Ursula did not like the change.

"Never mind," cried Janey; "I hope Copperhead will be nice. We shall
have him to talk to, when he comes."

"Oh!" cried Ursula, in a kind of despair, "who taught you to call
gentlemen like that by their name? There is nothing so vulgar. Why,
Cousin Anne says--"

"Oh, Cousin Anne!" cried Janey, shaking her head, and dancing away.
After that she was aware there was nothing for it but flight.

Next day, however, they were more successful. Phoebe, though very little
older than Ursula, was kind to the country girls, and talked to them
both, and drew them out. She smiled when she heard of Clarence
Copperhead, and told them that he was not very clever, but she did not
think there was any harm in him.

"It is his father who is disagreeable," said Phoebe; "didn't you think
so? You know, papa is a minister, Miss May," (she did not say clergyman
when she spoke to a churchwoman, for what was the use of exciting any
one's prejudices?) "and Mr. Copperhead comes to our church. You may be
very thankful, in that respect, that you are not a dissenter. But it
will be very strange to see Clarence Copperhead in Carlingford. I have
known him since I was no bigger than your little sister. To tell the
truth," said Phoebe, frankly, "I think I am rather sorry he is coming
here."

"Why?" cried bold Janey, who was always inquisitive.

Miss Phoebe only smiled and shook her head; she made no distinct reply.

"Poor fellow, I suppose he has been 'plucked,' as the gentlemen call
it, or 'ploughed,' does your brother say? University slang is very
droll. He has not taken his degree, I suppose, and they want him to work
before going up again. I am sorry for your father, too, for I don't
think it will be very easy to get anything into Clarence Copperhead's
mind. But there is no harm at all in him, and he used to be very nice to
his mother. Mamma and I liked him for that; he was always very nice to
his mother."

"Will you come in and have some tea?" said Ursula. "Do, please. I hope,
now that I have met you again, you will not refuse me. I was afraid you
had gone away, or something--"

Ursula, however, could not help looking guilty as she spoke, and Phoebe
perceived at once that there had been some reason for the two or three
days disappearance of the girls from Grange Lane.

"You must tell me first," she said, with a smile, "whether you know who
I am. If you ask me after that, I shall come. I am old Mr. Tozer's
granddaughter, who had a shop in the High Street. My uncle has a shop
there now. I do not like it myself," said Phoebe, with the masterly
candour that distinguished her, "and no one else can be expected to like
it. If you did not know--"

"Oh, we heard directly," cried Janey; "Mrs. Sam Hurst told us. She came
shrieking, 'Who is she?' before your back was turned that day; for she
wondered to see you with old Tozer--"

"Janey!" cried Ursula, with horror. "Of course we know; and please will
you come? Every new person in Carlingford gets talked over, and if an
angel were to walk about, Mrs. Sam Hurst would never rest till she had
found out where he came from."

"And, perhaps, whether he had a broken feather in his wing," said Phoebe.
"I am very glad you don't mind. It will be very pleasant to come. I will
run in and tell them, and then I will join you. Grandmamma is an
invalid, and would like to know where I am."

And the news made a considerable flutter in the dim room where Mrs.
Tozer sat between the fire and the window, looking out upon the crocuses
and regretting the High Street.

"But run and put on another dress, dear. What will they think of you in
that everlasting brown frock as you're so fond of? I'd like them to see
as my grandchild could dress as nice as any lady in the land."

"She'll not see much finery there," said Tozer; "they're as poor as
church mice, are them Mays, and never a penny to pay a bill when it's
wanted. I don't think as Phoebe need mind her dressing to go there."

"And you'll send for me if you want me, grandmamma; you will be sure to
send?"

But for the brown frock, Mrs. Tozer's satisfaction would have been
unalloyed as she watched her granddaughter walking across the garden.

"She's at home among the quality, she is," said the old woman; "maybe
more so than she is with you and me; but there ain't a better girl in
all England, and that I'll say for her, though if she would think a
little more about her clothes, as is nat'ral at her age, it would be
more pleasing to me."

"The worst dress as Phoebe has is better than anything belonging to them
Mays," said Tozer.

He did not care for the parson at St. Roque; though he was pleased that
his child should be among "the quality." But it was on that evening that
poor old Mrs. Tozer had one of her attacks, and Phoebe had to be summoned
back at an early hour. The servant went down with an umbrella and a
note, to bring her home; and that trifling incident had its influence
upon after affairs, as the reader shall shortly see.



CHAPTER XXII.

A DESPERATE EXPEDIENT.


It was something of a comfort to Phoebe to find that the "tea" to which
Ursula asked her was a family meal, such as Mr. and Mrs. Tozer indulged
in, in Grange Lane, with no idea of dinner to follow, as in more refined
circles. This, she said to herself benignly, must be "country fashion,"
and she was naturally as bland and gracious at the Parsonage tea-table
as anybody from town, knowing better, but desiring to make herself
thoroughly agreeable, could be. She amused Mr. May very much, who felt
the serene young princess, accepting her vulgar relations with gentle
resignation, and supported by a feeling of her own innate dignity, to be
something quite new to him. Phoebe had no objection to talk upon the
subject, for, clever as she was, she was not so clever as to see through
Mr. May's amused show of interest in her trials, but believed
ingenuously that he understood and felt for her, and was, perhaps, at
last, the one noble, impartial, and generous Churchman who could see
the difficulties of cultivated Dissenters, and enter into them
sympathetically. Why Mr. May took the trouble to draw her out on this
point it is more difficult to explain. Poor man, he was in a state of
semi-distraction over Cotsdean's bill. The ten days had shortened into
three, and he was no nearer finding that hundred pounds than ever. Even
while he smiled and talked to Phoebe, he was repeating over and over to
himself the terrible fact which could not now be ignored. "17th, 18th,
19th, and Friday will be the 20th," he was saying to himself. If that
20th came without any help, Cotsdean would be virtually made a bankrupt;
for of course all his creditors would make a rush upon him, and all his
affairs would be thrown open to the remorseless public gaze, if the
bill, which had been so often renewed, had to be dishonoured at last.
Mr. May had a conscience, though he was not careful of his money, and
the fear of ruin to Cotsdean was a very terrible and real oppression to
him. The recollection was upon him like a vulture in classic story,
tearing and gnawing, as he sat there and smiled over the cup of tea
Ursula gave him, feeling amused all the same at Phoebe's talk. He could
scarcely have told why he had permitted his daughter to pursue her
acquaintance with Tozer's granddaughter. Partly it was because of
Clarence Copperhead; out of curiosity, as, being about to be brought in
contact with some South Sea Islander or Fijian, one would naturally wish
to see another who was thrown in one's way by accident, and thus prepare
one's self for the permanent acquaintance. And she amused him. Her
cleverness, her ease, her conversational powers, her woman of the world
aspect, did not so much impress him, perhaps, as they did others; but
the complacency and innocent confidence of youth that were in her, and
her own enjoyment of the situation, notwithstanding the mortifications
incurred--all this amused Mr. May. He listened to her talk, sometimes
feeling himself almost unable to bear it, for the misery of those words,
which kept themselves ringing in a dismal chorus in his own mind, and
yet deriving a kind of amusement and distraction from it all the same.

"One of your friends was very hard upon my son--and myself--at your
Meeting the other night, Miss Beecham."

"He was very injudicious," said Phoebe, shaking her head. "Indeed I did
not approve. Personalities never advance any cause. I said so to him.
Don't you think the Church has herself to blame for those political
Dissenters, Mr. May? You sneer at us, and look down upon us--"

"I? I don't sneer at anybody."

"I don't mean you individually; but Churchmen do. They treat us as if
we were some strange kind of creatures, from the heart of Africa
perhaps. They don't think we are just like themselves: as well educated;
meaning as well; with as much right to our own ideas."

Mr. May could scarcely restrain a laugh. "Just like themselves." The
idea of a Dissenter setting up to be as well educated, and as capable of
forming an opinion, as a cultivated Anglican, an Oxford man, and a
beneficed clergyman, was too novel and too foolish not to be somewhat
startling as well. Mr. May was aware that human nature is strangely
blind to its own deficiencies, but was it possible that any delusion
could go so far as this? He did laugh a little--just the ghost of a
laugh--at the idea. But what is the use of making any serious opposition
to such a statement? The very fact of contesting the assumption seemed
to give it a certain weight.

"Whenever this is done," said Phoebe, with serene philosophy, "I think
you may expect a revulsion of feeling. The class to which papa belongs
is very friendly to the Established Church, and wishes to do her every
honour."

"Is it indeed? We ought to be much gratified," said Mr. May.

Phoebe gave him a quick glance, but he composed his face and met her look
meekly. It actually diverted him from his pre-occupation, and that is a
great deal to say.

"We would willingly do her any honour; we would willingly be friends,
even look up to her, if that would please her," added Phoebe, very
gravely, conscious of the importance of what she was saying; "but when
we see clergymen, and common persons also, who have never had one
rational thought on the subject, always setting us down as ignorant and
uncultured, because we are Dissenters----"

"But no one does that," said Ursula, soothingly, eager to save her new
friend's feelings. She paused in the act of pouring out the children's
second cup of tea, and looked up at her with eyes full of caressing and
flattering meaning. "No one, at least, I am sure," she added, faltering,
remembering suddenly things she had heard said of Dissenters, "who knows
_you_."

"It is not I that ought to be thought of, it is the general question.
Then can you wonder that a young man like the gentleman we were talking
of, clever and energetic, and an excellent scholar (and very good in
philosophy, too--he was at Jena for two or three years), should be made
bitter when he feels himself thrust back upon a community of small
shopkeepers?"

Mr. May could not restrain another short laugh.

"We must not join in the vulgar abuse of shopkeepers," he said.

Phoebe's colour rose. She raised her head a little, then perceiving the
superiority of her former position, smiled.

"I have no right to do so. My people, I suppose, were all shopkeepers to
begin with; but this gives me ways of knowing. Grandpapa is very kind
and nice--really nice, Mr. May; but he has not at all a wide way of
looking at things. I feel it, though they are so kind to me. I have been
brought up to think in such a different way; and if I feel it, who am
fond of them, think how that young minister must feel it, who was
brought up in a totally different class?"

"What kind of class was this one brought up in?" said Mr. May, with a
laugh. "He need not have assaulted Reginald, if he had been born a
prince. We had done him no harm."

"That is making it entirely a private question," said Phoebe, suavely,
"which I did not mean to do. When such a man finds out abuses--what he
takes to be abuses--in the Church, which treats him like a roadside
ranter, may not he feel a right to be indignant? Oh, I am not so. I
think such an office as that chaplaincy is very good, one here and there
for the reward of merit; and I think he was very right to take it; but
still it would not do, would it, to have many of them? It would not
answer any good purpose," she said, administering a little sting
scientifically, "if all clergymen held sinecures."

These words were overheard by Reginald, who just then came in, and to
whom it was startling to find Phoebe serenely seated at tea with his
family. The hated word sinecure did not seem to affect him from her lips
as it would have done from any one else's. He came in quite
good-humouredly, and said with a smile--

"You are discussing me. What about me? Miss Beecham, I hope you take my
side."

"I take everybody's side," said Phoebe; "for I try to trace people's
motives. I can sympathise both with you and those who assailed you."

"Oh, that Dissenting fellow. I beg your pardon, Miss Beecham, if you are
a Dissenter; but I cannot help it. We never go out of our way to attack
them and their chapels and coteries, and why should they spring at our
throats on every occasion? I think it is hard, and I can't say I have
any charity to spare for this individual. What had we done to him?
Ursula, give me some tea."

"Miss Beecham, I leave the cause of the Church in younger and, I hope,
abler hands," said Mr. May, getting up.

Partly it was that Reginald's onslaught made him see for the first time
certain weak points in the situation; partly it was that his private
care became too clamorous, and he could not keep on further. He went
away quite abruptly, and went downstairs to his study, and shut himself
in there; and the moment he had closed the door, all this amusement
floated away, and the vulture gripped at him, beak and talons digging
into his very soul. Good God! what was he to do? He covered his face
with his hands, and turned round and round mentally in that darkness to
see if anywhere there might be a gleam of light; but none was visible
east or west. A hundred pounds, only a hundred pounds; a bagatelle, a
thing that to many men was as small an affair as a stray sixpence; and
here was this man, as good, so to speak, as any--well educated, full of
gifts and accomplishments, well born, well connected, not a prodigal nor
open sinner, losing himself in the very blackness of darkness, feeling
that a kind of moral extinction was the only prospect before him, for
want of this little sum. It seemed incredible even to himself, as he sat
and brooded over it. Somehow, surely, there must be a way of
deliverance. He looked piteously about him in his solitude, appealing to
the very blank walls to save him. What could they do? His few books, his
faded old furniture, would scarcely realize a hundred pounds if they
were sold to-morrow. All his friends had been wearied out, all natural
resources had failed. James might any day have sent the money, but he
had not done so--just this special time, when it was so hard to get it,
James, too, had failed; and the hours of this night were stealing away
like thieves, so swift and so noiseless, to be followed by the others;
and Cotsdean, poor soul, his faithful retainer, would be broken and
ruined. To do Mr. May justice, if it had been only himself who could be
ruined, he would have felt it less; but it went to his very heart to
think of poor Cotsdean, who had trusted in him so entirely, and to whom,
indeed, he had been very kind in his day. Strife and discord had been in
the poor man's house, and perpetual wretchedness, and Mr. May had
managed, he himself could scarcely tell how, to set it right. He had
frightened and subdued the passionate wife, and quenched the growing
tendencies to evil, which made her temper worse than it was by nature,
and had won her back to soberness and some kind of peace, changing the
unhappy house into one of comparative comfort and cheerfulness. Most
people like those best to whom they have been kind, whom they have
served or benefited, and in this way Mr. May was fond of Cotsdean, who
in his turn had been a very good friend to his clergyman, serving him as
none of his own class could have done, going in the face of all his own
prejudices and the timorousness of nature, on his account. And the
result was to be ruin--ruin unmitigated to the small man who was in
business, and equally disastrous, though in a less creditable way, to
his employer. It was with a suppressed anguish which is indescribable
that he sat there, with his face covered, looking this approaching
misery in the face. How long he had been there, he could scarcely
himself tell, when he heard a little commotion in the hall, the sounds
of running up and down stairs, and opening of doors. He was in a
feverish and restless condition, and every stir roused him. Partly
because of that impatience in his mind, and partly because every new
thing seemed to have some possibility of hope in it, he got up and went
to the door. Before he returned to his seat, something might have
occurred to him, something might have happened--who could tell? It might
be the postman with a letter containing that remittance from James,
which still would set all right. It might be--he rose suddenly, and
opening the door, held it ajar and looked out; the front door was open,
and the night air blowing chilly into the house, and on the stairs,
coming down, he heard the voices of Ursula and Phoebe. Ursula was pinning
a shawl round her new friend, and consoling her.

"I hope you will find it is nothing. I am so sorry," she said.

"Oh, I am not very much afraid," said Phoebe. "She is ill, but not very
bad, I hope; and it is not dangerous. Thank you so much for letting me
come."

"You will come again?" said Ursula, kissing her; "promise that you will
come again."

Mr. May listened with a certain surface of amusement in his mind. How
easy and facile these girlish loves and fancies were! Ursula knew
nothing of this stranger, and yet so free were the girl's thoughts, so
open her heart to receive impressions, that on so short knowledge she
had received the other into it with undoubting confidence and trust. He
did not come forward himself to say good-bye, but he perceived that
Reginald followed downstairs, and took his hat from the table, to
accompany Phoebe home. As they closed the outer door behind them, the
last gust thus forcibly shut in made a rush through the narrow hall, and
carried a scrap of paper to Mr. May's feet. He picked it up almost
mechanically, and carried it with him to the light, and looked at it
without thought. There was not much in it to interest any one. It was
the little note which Tozer had sent to his granddaughter by the maid,
not prettily folded, to begin with, and soiled and crumpled by the
bearer.

"Your grandmother is took bad with one of her attacks. Come back
directly. She wants you badly.

"SAML. TOZER."

This was all that was in it. Mr. May opened it out on his table with a
half-smile of that same superficial amusement which the entire incident
had caused him--the contact, even momentary, of his own household with
that of Tozer, the old Dissenting butterman, was so droll an event. Then
he sank down on his chair again with a sigh, the amusement dying out all
at once, purely superficial as it was. Amusement! how strange that even
the idea of amusement should enter his head in the midst of his despair.
His mind renewed that horrible mechanical wandering through the dismal
circle of might-be's which still survived amid the chaos of his
thoughts. Once or twice there seemed to gleam upon him a stray glimmer
of light through a loophole, but only to throw him back again into the
darkness. Now and then he roused himself with a look of real terror in
his face, when there came a noise outside. What he was afraid of was
poor Cotsdean coming in with his hand to his forehead, and his
apologetic "Beg your pardon, sir." If he came, what could he say to him?
Two days--only two days more! If Mr. May had been less sensible and less
courageous, he would most likely have ended the matter by a pistol or a
dose of laudanum; but fortunately he was too rational to deliver himself
by this desperate expedient, which, of course, would only have made the
burden more terrible upon the survivors. If Cotsdean was to be ruined,
and there was no remedy, Mr. May was man enough to feel that it was his
business to stand by him, not to escape in any dastardly way; but in the
mean time to face Cotsdean, and tell him that he had done and could do
nothing, seemed more than the man who had caused his ruin could bear. He
moved about uneasily in his chair in the anguish of his mind. As he did
so, he pushed off some of his papers from the table with his elbow. It
was some sort of break in his feverish musings to pick them up again in
a bundle, without noticing what they were. He threw them down in a
little heap before him. On the top, as it chanced, came the little dirty
scrap of paper, which ought to have been tossed into the fire or the
waste-paper basket. Saml. Tozer! What was Saml. Tozer to him that his
name should stare him in the face in this obtrusive way? Tozer, the old
butterman! a mean and ignorant person, as far beneath Mr. May's level as
it is possible to imagine, whose handwriting it was very strange to see
on anything but a bill. He fixed his eyes upon it mechanically; he had
come, as it were, to the end of all things in those feverish musings; he
had searched through his whole known world for help, and found there
nothing and nobody to help him. Those whom he had once relied on were
exhausted long ago; his friends had all dropped off from him, as far, at
least, as money was concerned. Some of them might put out a hand to keep
him and his children from starvation even now, but to pay Cotsdean's
bill, never. There was no help anywhere, nor any hope. Natural ways and
means were all exhausted, and though he was a clergyman, he had no such
faith in the supernatural as to hope much for the succour of Heaven.
Heaven! what could Heaven do for him? Bank-notes did not drop down out
of the skies. There had been a time when he had felt full faith in
"Providence;" but he seemed to have nothing to expect now from that
quarter more than from any other. Samuel Tozer! why did that name always
come uppermost, staring into his very eyes? It was a curious signature,
the handwriting very rude and unrefined, with odd, illiterate dashes,
and yet with a kind of rough character in it, easy to identify, not
difficult to copy--

What was it that brought beads of moisture all at once to Mr. May's
forehead? He started up suddenly, pushing his chair with a hoarse
exclamation, and walked up and down the room quickly, as if trying to
escape from something. His heart jumped up in his breast, like a thing
possessed of separate life, and thumped against his side, and beat with
loud pulsations in his ears. When he caught sight of himself in the
mirror over the mantelpiece, he started as if he had seen a ghost. Some
one else seemed to see him; seemed to pounce upon and seize him out of
that glass. He retreated from the reach of it, almost staggering; then
he returned to his table. What thought was it that had struck him so
wildly, like a sudden squall upon a boat? He sat down, and covered his
face with his hands; then putting out one finger, stealthily drew the
paper towards him, and studied it closely from under the shadow of the
unmoved hand, which half-supported, half-covered his face. Well! after
all, what would be the harm? A gain of three months' time, during which
every sort of arrangement could be made so nicely; supplies got
anywhere, everywhere; the whole machinery of being set easily in motion
again, and no harm done to any one: this was the real force of the
idea--no harm done to any one! Long before the three months were out,
that hundred pounds--a paltry business, a nothing, when a man had time
before him--could be got, one might make sure; and where was the harm?
_He_ would never know it. Poor Cotsdean need never have the slightest
burden upon his conscience. Here, in the stillness of his own room, it
could all be done as easily as possible, without a soul being taken into
confidence, except that bloodless wretch in the glass with his staring
face, Mr. May said to himself, only dimly sensible that this wretch was
himself. No, it would harm no one, that was clear; it never need be
known to any one. It was a mere act of borrowing, and borrowing was
never accounted a crime; borrowing not money even, only a name, and for
so short a time. No harm; it could do no one in the world any harm.

While these reasonings went on in his mind, his heart dropped down again
into its right place; his pulse ceased to beat like the pistons of a
steam-engine; he came gradually to himself. After all, what was it? Not
such a great matter; a loan of something which would neither enrich him
who took, nor impoverish him who, without being aware of it, should
give--a nothing! Why people should entertain the prejudices they did on
the subject, it was difficult to see, though, perhaps, he allowed
candidly to himself, it might be dangerous for any ignorant man to
follow the same strain of thinking; but in the hands of a man who was
not ignorant, who knew, as he himself did, exactly how far to go, and
what might be _innocently_ done; _innocently_ done--in his own mind he
put a great stress on this--why, what was it? A thing which might be of
use in an emergency, and which was absolutely no harm.

Mr. May was late in leaving his room that night. It was understood in
the family that he "was writing," and all was kept very quiet in the
house; yet not sufficiently quiet, for Janey, when she brought in the
coffee, placing it on the table close to the door, was startled by the
fierceness of the exclamation with which her father greeted her
entrance.

"What do you want prying here?" he said, dropping his hand over the
writing.

"Prying himself!" said Janey, furiously, when she was up again in the
cheerful light of the drawing-room; "a great deal there is to pry into
in that dreadful old study."

"Hush! he never likes to be disturbed in his writing," said Ursula,
soothingly.

And he sat at his "writing" to a much later hour than usual, and he
stumbled upstairs to his bed-room in the dead of the night, with the
same scared pale face which he had seen in the glass. Such a look as
that when it once comes upon a man's face takes a long time to glide
away; but his heart beat more tranquilly, and the blood flowed even in
his veins. After all, where was the harm?



CHAPTER XXIII.

TIDED OVER.


Next morning, Cotsdean was mournfully turning over his ledger in the
High Street, wondering whether he should go back to Mr. May on another
forlorn expedition, or whether he should betray his overwhelming anxiety
to his wife, who knew nothing about the state of affairs. The shop was
what is called a corn-factor's shop, full of sacks of grain, with knots
of wheat-ears done up ornamentally in the window, a stock not very
valuable, but sufficient, and showing a good, if not a very important,
business. A young man behind, attended to what little business was going
on; for the master himself was too much pre-occupied to think of bushels
of seed. He was as uneasy as Mr. May had been on the previous night, and
in some respects even more unhappy; for he had no resource except a sort
of dumb faith in his principle, a feeling that he must be able to find
out some way of escape--chequered by clouds of despondency, sometimes
approaching despair. For Cotsdean, too, felt vaguely that things were
approaching a crisis--that a great many resources had been
exhausted--that the pitcher which had gone so often to the well must, at
last, be broken, and that it was as likely the catastrophe was coming
now as at any other time. He said to himself that never in his previous
experience had things seemed so blank as at present; never had the
moment of fate approached so nearly without any appearance of
deliverance. He had not even the round of possibilities before him which
were in Mr. May's mind, however hopeless, at this particular moment, he
might find them.

Cotsdean, for his part, had nothing to think of but Mr. May. Would he
find some way out of it still, he who was always so clever, and must, in
his position, have always "good friends?" How the poor man wished that
he had never been led into this fatal course--that he had insisted, long
ago, on the settlement which must come some time, and which did not get
any easier by putting it off; but then, who was he to stand against his
clergyman? He did not feel able now to make any stand against him. If he
had to be ruined--he must be ruined: what could he do? The man who had
brought him to this, held him in such subjection that he could not
denounce or accuse him even now. He was so much better, higher, abler,
stronger than himself, that Cotsdean's harshest sentiment was a dumb
feeling of injury; a feeling much more likely to lead him to miserable
tears than to resistance. His clergyman--how was he to stand against his
clergyman? This was the burden of his thoughts. And still, perhaps,
there might be salvation and safety in the resources, the power, and
cleverness, and superior strength of the man for whom, in his humility,
he had risked everything. Poor Cotsdean's eyes were red with
sleeplessness and thinking, and the constant rubbings he administered
with the sleeve of his rough coat. He hung helpless, in suspense,
waiting to see what his chief would say to him; if he would send for
him--if he would come. And in the intervals of these anxious thoughts,
he asked himself should he tell poor Sally--should he prepare her for
her fate? She and her children might be turned out of house and home,
very probably would be, he said to himself, leaping to the extreme
point, as men in his condition are apt to do. They might take everything
from him; they might bring all his creditors on him in a heap; they
might sell him up; his shop by which he made his daily bread, and
everything he had, and turn his children out into the streets. Once more
he rubbed his sleeve over his eyes, which were smarting with
sleeplessness and easily-coming tears. He turned over the pages of the
ledger mechanically. There was no help in it--no large debts owing to
him that could be called in; no means of getting any money; and nothing
could he do but contemplate the miseries that might be coming, and wait,
wait, wondering dully whether Mr. May was doing anything to avert this
ruin, and whether, at any moment, he might walk in, bringing safety in
the very look of his bold eyes. Cotsdean was not bold; he was small and
weakly, and nervous, and trembled at a sharp voice. He was not a man
adapted for vigorous struggling with the world. Mr. May could do it, in
whose hands was the final issue. He was a man who was afraid of no one;
and whose powers nobody could deny. Surely now, even at the last moment,
he would find help somehow. It seemed profane to entertain a doubt that
he would be able to do it even at the very last.

But Cotsdean had a miserable morning; he could do nothing. Minute by
minute, hour by hour, he waited to be called to the Parsonage; now and
then he went out to the door of his shop and looked out wistfully down
the street where it ended in the distance of Grange Lane. Was that the
maid from the Parsonage coming up across the road? Were these the young
ladies, who, though they knew nothing about the matter at issue, very
frequently brought a note, or message, from their father to Cotsdean?
But he was deceived in these guesses as well as in so many others. All
the world seemed out of doors that morning, but nobody came. The ruddy
sunshine shone full down the street, glorifying it with rays of warm
gold, and tinting the mists and clouds which lurked in the corners. It
had been heavy and overcast in the morning, but at noon the clouds had
cleared away, and that big red globe of fire had risen majestically out
of the mists, and everybody was out. But no one, except humble people in
the ordinary way of business, came to Cotsdean. Bushels of grain for
chickens, pennyworths of canary seed--oh! did any one think he could pay
a hundred pounds out of these?--a hundred pounds, the spending of which
had not been his, poor man; which was indeed spent long ago, and
represented luxuries past and over, luxuries which were not Cotsdean's.
Strange that a mere lump of money should live like this, long after it
was, to all intents and purposes, dead, and spent and gone!

Then came the hour of dinner, when his Sally called him to the room
behind the shop, from which an odour of bacon and fine big beans--beans
which were represented in his shop in many a sackful. He went in
unwillingly in obedience to her command, but feeling unable to eat, soon
left the table, sending the young man to fill his place, with whose
appetite no obstacle of care or thought interfered. Poor Cotsdean felt
that the smell of the dinner made him sick--though he would have liked
to eat had he been able--the smell of the bacon which he loved, and the
sight of the small children whom he loved still better, and poor Sally,
his wife, still red in the face from dishing it up. Sally was anxious
about her husband's want of appetite.

"What ails you, John?" she said, pathetically; "it wasn't as if you were
out last night, nor nothing o' that sort. A man as is sober like you
don't ought to turn at his dinner."

She was half sorry, and half aggrieved, poor woman, feeling as if some
blame of her cookery must be involved.

"It's the bile," said poor Cotsdean, with that simplicity of statement
which is common in his class. "Don't you take on, Sally, I'll be a deal
better by supper-time----or worse," he added to himself. Yes, he would
make an effort to eat at supper-time; perhaps it might be the last meal
he should eat in his own comfortable home.

He had been out at the shop door, gazing despairingly down the road; he
had come in and sold some birdseed, wondering--oh, what good would that
penny do him?--he who wanted a hundred pounds? and was standing
listening with a sad heart to the sound of the knives and forks and
chatter of the children, when suddenly all at once Mr. May walked into
the shop, changing dismay into hope. What a thing it was to be a
gentleman and a clergyman. Cotsdean could not but think! The very sight
of Mr. May inspired him with courage; even though probably he had no
money in his pocket, it was a supporting thing only to see him, and hear
the sound of his free unrestrained step. He came in with a friendly nod
to his humble helper; then he glanced round the shop, to see that no one
was present, and then he said, "All right, Cotsdean," in a voice that
was as music to the little corn-factor's ears. His heart, which had been
beating so low, jumped up in his bosom; his appetite came back with a
leap; he asked himself would the bacon be cold? and cried, "God be
praised, sir," in a breath.

Mr. May winced slightly; but why should it be wrong to be grateful to
God in any circumstances? he asked himself, having become already
somewhat composed in his ideas on this particular point.

"Are we quite alone?" he said. "Nobody within hearing? I have not
brought you the money, but a piece of paper that is as good as the
money. Take it: you will have no difficulty in discounting this; the man
is as well known as the Carlingford Bank, and as safe, though I dare say
you will be surprised at the name."

Cotsdean opened out the new bill with trembling hands. "Tozer!" he said
faintly, between relief and dismay.

"Yes. You must know that I am taking a pupil--one who belongs to a very
rich Dissenting family in London. Tozer knows something about him, from
his connection with the body, and through this young man I have got to
know something of _him_. He does it upon the admirable security of the
fees I am to receive with this youth; so you see, after all, there is no
mystery about it. Better not wait for to-morrow, Cotsdean. Go at once,
and get it settled. You see," said Mr. May, ingratiatingly, "it is a
little larger than the other--one hundred and fifty, indeed--but that
does not matter with such an excellent name."

"Tozer!" said Cotsdean, once more bewildered. He handled the piece of
paper nervously, and turned it upside down, and round about, with a
sense that it might melt in his hold. He did not like the additional
fifty added. Why should another fifty be added? but so it was, and there
seemed nothing for him but to take the immediate relief and be thankful.

"I'd rather, sir, as Tozer hadn't known nothing about it; and why should
he back a bill for me as ain't one of my friends, nor don't know nothing
about me? and fifty more added on," said Cotsdean. It was the nearest he
had gone to standing up against his clergyman; he did not like it. To be
Mr. May's sole stand-by and agent, even at periodical risk of ruin, was
possible to him; but a pang of jealousy, alarm, and pain came into his
mind when he saw the new name. This even obliterated the immediate sense
of relief that was in his mind.

"Come three months it'll have to be paid," said Cotsdean, "and Tozer
ain't a man to stand it if he's left to pay; he'd sell us up, Mr. May.
He ain't one of the patient ones, like--some other folks; and there's
fifty pounds put on. I don't see my way to it. I'd rather it was just
the clear hundred, if it was the same to you."

"It is not the same to me," said Mr. May, calmly. "Come, there is no
cause to make any fuss. There it is, and if you don't like to make use
of it, you must find some better way. Bring the fifty pounds, less the
expenses, to me to-night. It is a good bit of paper, and it delivers us
out of a mess which I hope we shall not fall into again."

"So you said before, sir," said the corn-factor sullenly.

"Cotsdean, you forget yourself; but I can make allowance for your
anxiety. Take it, and get it settled before the bank closes; pay in the
money to meet the other bill, and bring me the balance. You will find no
difficulty with Tozer's name; and what so likely as that one respectable
tradesman should help another? By the way, the affair is a private one
between us, and it is unnecessary to say anything to him about it; the
arrangement, you understand, is between him and me."

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Cotsdean, with a deprecatory movement of
his hand to his forehead; "but it is me as will be come upon first if
anything happens, and that fifty pounds--"

"Have you ever found me to fail you, Cotsdean? If you knew the anxiety I
have gone through, that you might be kept from harm, the sleepless
nights, the schemes, the exertions! You may suppose it was no ordinary
effort to ask a man like Tozer."

Cotsdean was moved by the touching tone in which his partner in trouble
spoke; but terror gave him a certain power. He grumbled still, not
altogether vanquished.

"I don't say nothing against that, sir," he said, not meeting Mr. May's
eye; "but when it comes to be paid, sir, I'm the first in it, and where
is that other fifty to come from? That's what I'm a thinking for--for
I'm the first as they'd haul up after all."

"You!" said Mr. May, "what could they get from you? You are not worth
powder and shot. Don't be ridiculous, my good fellow. I never avoid my
responsibilities, as you know. I am as good, I hope, for that fifty as
for all that went before. Have you ever known me leave you or any one in
the lurch?"

"No, sir, I can't say as--I don't suppose I have. I've always put my
trust in you like in Providence itself," he cried, hastily, holding his
breath.

"Then do as I tell you," said Mr. May, waving his hand with careless
superiority; and though his heart was aching with a hundred anxious
fears, he left the shop with just that mixture of partial offence and
indifference which overawed completely his humble retainer. Cotsdean
trembled at his own guilty folly and temerity. He did not dare to call
his patron back again, to ask his pardon. He did not venture to go back
to the table and snatch a bit of cold bacon. He was afraid he had
offended his clergyman, what matter that he was hungry for his dinner?
He called the young man from the bacon, which was now cold and all but
eaten up, and snatched at his hat and went out to the bank. It was all
he could do.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A VISIT.



     "DEAR MAY,

     "Young Copperhead, the young fellow whom you have
     undertaken to coach, is coming to the Hall for a few days
     before he enters upon his studies, and Anne wishes me to
     ask you to come over on Tuesday to dine and sleep, and to
     make acquaintance with him. You can carry him back with you
     if it suits you. In my private opinion, he is a cub of the
     most disagreeable kind; but the girls like his mother, who
     is a kind of cousin, as you know. It is not only because he
     has failed to take his degree (you know how I hate the
     hideous slang in which this fact is generally stated), but
     that his father, who is one of the rich persons who abound
     in the lower circles of society, is ambitious, and would
     like to see him in Parliament, and that sort of thing--a
     position which cannot be held creditably without some sort
     of education: at least, so I am myself disposed to think.
     Therefore, your pleasing duty will be to get him up in a
     little history and geography, so that he may not get quite
     hopelessly wrong in any of the modern modifications of
     territory, for instance; and in so much Horace as may
     furnish him with a few stock quotations, in case he should
     be called upon, in the absence of any more hopeful
     neophyte, to move the Address. He is a great hulking
     fellow, not very brilliant, you may suppose, but not so
     badly mannered as he might be, considering his parentage. I
     don't think he'll give you much trouble in the house; but
     he will most probably bore you to death, and in that case
     your family ought to have a claim, I should think, for
     compensation. Anyhow, come and see him, and us, before you
     begin your hard task.

     "Very truly yours,
           "R. DORSET."

     "Anne makes me open my letter to say that Ursula must come
     too. We will send a carriage to meet you at the station."

This letter caused considerable excitement in the Parsonage. It was the
first invitation to dinner which Ursula had ever received. The
dinner-parties in Carlingford were little frequented by young ladies.
The male population was not large enough to afford a balance for the
young women of the place, who came together in the evening, and took all
the trouble of putting on their pretty white frocks, only to sit in rows
in the drawing-room, waiting till the old gentlemen came in from the
dining-room, after which everybody went away. There were no young
gentlemen to speak of in Carlingford, so that when any one was bold
enough to attempt a dancing-party, or anything of an equally amusing
description, friends were sent out in all directions, as the beaters are
sent into the woods to bring together the unfortunate birds for a
_battue_, to find men. These circumstances will explain the flutter in
Ursula's innocent bosom when her father read her that postscript. Mr.
May was singularly amiable that day, a thing which happened at
periodical intervals, usually after he had been specially "cross." On
this occasion there was no black mark against him in the family
reckoning, and yet he was more kind than any one had ever known him.
Instead of making any objections, he decided at once that Ursula must
go, and told her to put on her prettiest frock, and make herself look
very nice.

"You must let Anne Dorset see that you care to please her," he said.
"Anne is a very good woman, and her approval is worth having."

"Oh, papa!" cried Janey, "when you are always calling her an old maid!"

"L'un n'empêche pas l'autre," he said, which puzzled Janey, whose French
was very deficient. Even Ursula, supposed to be the best French scholar
in the family, was not quite sure what it meant; but it was evidently
something in favour of Cousin Anne, which was sweet to the grateful
girl.

Janey, though suffering bitterly under the miserable consciousness of
being only fourteen, and not asked anywhere, helped with disinterested
zeal to get her sister ready, and consoled herself by orders for
unlimited muffins and cake for tea.

"There will only be the children," she said, resignedly, and felt
herself _incomprise_; but indeed, the attractions of a good romp
afterwards, no one being in the house to restrain the spirits of the
youthful party, made even Janey amends.

As for Reginald, who was not asked, he was, it must be allowed, rather
sulky too, and he could not solace himself either with muffins or romps.
His rooms at the College were very pleasant rooms, but he was used to
home; and though the home at the Parsonage was but faded, and not in
such perfect order as it might have been, the young man felt even his
wainscoted study dull without the familiar voices, the laughter and
foolish family jokes, and even the little quarrels which kept life
always astir. He walked with Ursula to the station, whither her little
box with her evening dress had gone before her, in a half-affronted
state of mind.

"What does he want with a pupil?" Reginald was saying, as he had said
before. "A fellow no one knows, coming and taking possession of the
house as if it belonged to him. There is plenty to do in the parish
without pupils, and if I were not on the spot he would get into trouble,
I can tell you. A man that has been ploughed, 'a big hulking fellow'
(Sir Robert says so, not I). Mind, I'll have no flirting, Ursula; that
is what always happens with a pupil in the house."

"Reginald, how dare you--"

"Oh, yes, I dare; my courage is quite equal to facing you, even if you
do shoot thunderbolts out of your eyes. Mind you, I won't have it. There
is a set of fellows who try it regularly, and if you were above them,
would go in for Janey; and it would be great fun and great promotion for
Janey; she would feel herself a woman directly; so you must mind her as
well as yourself. I don't like it at all," Reginald went on. "Probably
he will complain of the dinners you give him, as if he were in an inn.
Confound him! What my father means by it, I can't tell."

"Reginald, you ought not to swear," said Ursula. "It is dreadfully
wicked in a clergyman. Poor papa meant making a little more money. What
else could he mean? And I think it is very good of him, for it will
bother him most. Mr. Copperhead is very nice, Reginald. I saw him in
London, you know. I thought he was very----".

"Ah! oh!" said Reginald, "I forgot that. You met him in London? To be
sure, and it was there you met Miss Beecham. I begin to see. Is he
coming here after her, I should like to know? She doesn't look the sort
of girl to encourage that sort of thing."

"The sort of girl to encourage that sort of thing! How strangely you
talk when you get excited: isn't that rather vulgar? I don't know if he
is coming after Miss Beecham or not," said Ursula, who thought the
suggestion uncalled for, "but in a very short time you can judge for
yourself."

"Ah--indignation!" said the big brother, who like most big brothers
laughed at Ursula's exhibition of offended dignity; "and, by the way,
Miss Beecham--you have not seen her since that night when she was sent
for. Will not she think it strange that you never sent to inquire?"

"I sent Betsey--"

"But if Miss Beecham had been somebody else, you would have gone
yourself," he said, being in a humour for finding fault. "If poor old
Mrs. Tozer had been what you call a lady--"

"I thought you were much more strong than I am against the Dissenters?"
said Ursula, "ever since that man's speech; and, indeed, always, as long
as I can recollect."

"She is not a mere Dissenter," said Reginald. "I think I shall call as I
go home. She is the cleverest girl I ever met; not like one of you
bread-and-butter girls, though she is not much older than you. A man
finds a girl like that worth talking to," said the young clergyman,
holding himself erect. Certainly Reginald had not improved; he had grown
ever so much more self-important since he got a living of his own.

"And if I was to say, 'Mind, I won't have it, Reginald?'" cried Ursula,
half-laughing, half-angry. "I think that is a great deal worse than a
pupil. But Miss Beecham is very dignified, and you may be sure she will
not think much of a call from you. Heaven be praised! that is one thing
you can't get into your hands; we girls are always good for something
there. Men may think themselves as grand as they please," said Ursula,
"but their visits are of no consequence; it is ladies of the family who
must _call_!" After this little out-break, she came down at once to her
usual calm. "I will ask Cousin Anne what I ought to do; I don't think
Miss Beecham wanted me to go then--"

"I shall go," said Reginald, and he left Ursula in her father's keeping,
who met them at the station, and went off at once, with a pleasant sense
of having piqued her curiosity, to Grange Lane.

It was still early, for the trains which stopped at the little country
station next to the Hall were very few and inconvenient, and the sun,
though setting, was still shining red from over St. Roque's upon Grange
Lane. The old red walls grew redder still in the frosty night, and the
sky began to bloom into great blazing patches of colour upon the wintry
clearness of the blue. There was going to be a beautiful sunset, and
such a thing was always to be seen from Grange Lane better than anywhere
else in Carlingford. Reginald went down the road slowly, looking at it,
and already almost forgetting his idea of calling on Miss Beecham. To
call on Miss Beecham would be to call on old Tozer, the butterman, to
whom alone the visit would be naturally paid; and this made him laugh
within himself. So he would have passed, no doubt, without the least
attempt at intruding on the privacy of the Tozers, had not the
garden-door opened before he got so far, and Phoebe herself came out,
with her hands in her muff, to take a little walk up and down as she did
daily. She did not take her hand out of its warm enclosure to give it to
him; but nodded with friendly ease in return to his salutation.

"I have come out to see the sunset," said Phoebe; "I like a little air
before the day is over, and grandmamma, when she is poorly, likes her
room to be very warm."

"I hope Mrs. Tozer is better. I hope you have not been anxious."

"Oh, no! it is chronic; there is no danger. But she requires a great
deal of attendance; and I like to come out when I can. Oh, how fine it
is! what colour! I think, Mr. May, you must have a _spécialité_ for
sunsets at Carlingford. I never saw them so beautiful anywhere else."

"I am glad there is something you like in Carlingford."

"Something! there is a very great deal; and that I don't like too," she
said with a smile. "I don't care for the people I am living among,
which is dreadful. I don't suppose you have ever had such an experience,
though you must know a great deal more in other ways than I. All the
people that come to inquire about grandmamma are very kind; they are as
good as possible; I respect them, and all that, but----Well, it must be
my own fault, or education. It is education, no doubt, that gives us
those absurd ideas."

"Don't call them absurd," said Reginald, "indeed I can enter into them
perfectly well. I don't _know_ them, perhaps, in my own person; but I
can perfectly understand the repugnance, the distress--"

"The words are too strong," said Phoebe, "not so much as that;
the--annoyance, perhaps, the nasty disagreeable struggle with one's self
and one's pride; as if one were better than other people. I dislike
myself, and despise myself for it; but I can't help it. We have so
little power over ourselves."

"I hope you will let my sister do what she can to deliver you," said
Reginald; "Ursula is not like you; but she is a good little thing, and
she is able to appreciate you. I was to tell you she had been called
suddenly off to the Dorsets', with whom my father and she have gone to
pass the night--to meet, I believe, a person you know."

"Oh, Clarence Copperhead; he is come then? How odd it will be to see him
here. His mother is nice, but his father is----Oh, Mr. May! if you only
knew the things people have to put up with. When I think of Mr.
Copperhead, and his great, ugly, staring wealth, I feel disposed to hate
money--especially among Dissenters. It would be better if we were all
poor."

Reginald said nothing; he thought so too. In that case there would be a
few disagreeable things out of a poor clergyman's way, and assaults like
that of Northcote upon himself would be impossible; but he could
scarcely utter these virtuous sentiments.

"Poverty is the desire of ascetics, and this is not an ascetic age," he
said at length, with a half-laugh at himself for his stiff speech.

"You may say it is not an ascetic age; but yet I suppose the
Ritualists----. Perhaps you are a Ritualist yourself, Mr. May? I know as
little personally about the church here, as you do about Salem Chapel. I
like the service--so does papa--and I like above all things the
independent standing of a clergyman; the feeling he must have that he is
free to do his duty. That is why I like the church; for other things of
course I like our own body best."

"I don't suppose such things can be argued about, Miss Beecham. I wish
I knew something of my father's new pupil. I don't like having a
stranger in the house; my father is fond of having his own way."

"It is astonishing how often parents are so," said Phoebe, demurely; "and
the way they talk of their experience! as if each new generation did not
know more than the one that preceded it."

"You are pleased to laugh, but I am quite in earnest. A pupil is a
nuisance. For instance, no man who has a family should ever take one. I
know what things are said."

"You mean about the daughters? That is true enough, there are always
difficulties in the way; but you need not be afraid of Clarence
Copperhead. He is not the fascinating pupil of a church-novel. There's
nothing the least like the Heir of Redclyffe about him."

"You are very well up in Miss Yonge's novels, Miss Beecham."

"Yes," said Phoebe; "one reads Scott for Scotland (and a few other
things), and one reads Miss Yonge for the church. Mr. Trollope is good
for that too, but not so good. All that I know of clergymen's families I
have got from her. I can recognize you quite well, and your sister, but
the younger ones puzzle me; they are not in Miss Yonge; they are too
much like other children, too naughty. I don't mean anything
disagreeable. The babies in Miss Yonge are often very naughty too, but
not the same. As for you, Mr. May----"

"Yes. As for me?"

"Oh, I know everything about you. You are a fine scholar, but you don't
like the drudgery of teaching. You have a fine mind, but it interferes
with you continually. You have had a few doubts--just enough to give a
piquancy; and now you have a great ideal, and mean to do many things
that common clergymen don't think of. That was why you hesitated about
the chaplaincy? See how much I have got out of Miss Yonge. I know you as
well as if I had known you all my life; a great deal better than I know
Clarence Copperhead; but then, no person of genius has taken any trouble
about him."

"I did not know I had been a hero of fiction," said Reginald, who had a
great mind to be angry. All this time they were walking briskly backward
and forward before Tozer's open door, the Anglican, in his long black
coat, following the lively movements of Tozer's granddaughter, only
because he could not help himself. He was irritated, yet he was pleased.
A young man is pleased to be thought of, even when the notice is but
barely complimentary. Phoebe must have thought of him a good deal before
she found him out in this way; but he was irritated all the same.

"You are, however," she answered lightly. "Look at that blaze of
crimson, Mr. May; and the blue which is so clear and so unfathomable.
Winter is grander than summer, and even warmer--to look at; with its
orange, and purple, and gold. What poor little dirty, dingy things we
are down here, to have all this exhibited every evening for our
delight!"

"That is true," he said; and as he gazed, something woke in the young
man's heart--a little thrill of fancy, if not of love. It is hard to
look at a beautiful sunset, and then see it reflected in a girl's face,
and not to feel something--which may be nothing, perhaps. His heart gave
a small jump, not much to speak of. Phoebe did not talk like the other
young ladies in Grange Lane.

"Mr. May, Mr. May!" she cried suddenly, "please go away! I foresee a
disastrous encounter which alarms me. You can't fight, but there is no
saying what you might do to each other. Please go away!"

"What is the matter?" he said. "I don't understand any encounter being
disastrous here. Why should I go away?"

She laughed, but there was a certain fright in her tone. "Please!" she
said, "I see Mr. Northcote coming this way. He will stop to speak to me.
It is the gentleman who attacked you in the Meeting. Mr. May," she added
entreatingly, between laughter and fright, "do go, please."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," said Reginald, roused; "I am not
afraid. Let him come on. This wall shall fly from its firm base as soon
as I."

Phoebe clasped her hands in dismay, which was partially real. "The
typical churchman," she said, with a glance at Reginald's figure, which
was not displeasing to him, "and the typical Dissenter! and what am I to
do between them? Oh, I wish you would go away."

"Not an inch," said the young champion. Phoebe was frightened, but she
was delighted. "I shall introduce him to you," she said threatening.

"I don't mind," he replied; "nothing on earth should induce me to fly."



CHAPTER XXV.

TEA.


Now here was a business! The typical Anglican and the typical Dissenter,
as Phoebe said, with only that clever young woman to keep them from
flying at each other's throats; the one obstinately holding his place by
her side (and Phoebe began to have a slight consciousness that, being
without any chaperon, she ought not to have kept Reginald May at her
side; but in the Tozer world, who knew anything of chaperons?), the
other advancing steadily, coming up the Lane out of the glow of the
sunset, showing square against it in his frock-coat and high hat, formal
and demagogical, not like his rival. The situation pleased Phoebe, who
liked to "manage;" but it slightly frightened her as well, though the
open door behind, and the long garden with its clouds of crocuses, was a
city of refuge always within reach.

"Is it really you, Mr. Northcote?" she said. "You look as if you had
dropped out of that lovely sunset I have been watching so long--and I
thought you were at the other end of the world."

"I have been at the other end of England, which comes to the same
thing," said Northcote, in a voice which was harsh by nature, and
somewhat rough with cold; "and now they have sent me back to Salem
Chapel, to take Mr. Thorpe's place for three months. They asked for me,
I believe; but that you must know better than I do."

It was not in the nature of man not to be a little proud in the
circumstances, and it is quite possible that he considered Phoebe to have
something to do with the flattering request.

"No, I have not heard; but I am glad," said Phoebe; "and if it is not
wicked to say so, I am glad Mr. Thorpe is to be away. Let us hope it
will do him good. I am sure it will do the rest of us good, at all
events."

Northcote made no answer; but he looked at the other, and several
questions began to tremble on his lips. That this was a Churchman did
not immediately occur to him; for, indeed, various young pastors of his
own body put on the livery which he himself abjured, and the sight of it
as a servile copy filled him with a certain contempt.

"Mr. May has been stopped in his way by the beauty of the skies," said
Phoebe, rather enjoying the position as she got used to it. "Mr.
Northcote--Mr. May. It is not easy to pass such an exhibition as that,
is it?--and given to us all for love, and nothing for reward," she
added; for she was a well read young woman, and did not hesitate to
suffer this to appear.

And then there was a momentary pause. Northcote was confused, it must be
allowed, by thus coming face to face, without previous warning, with the
man whom he had so violently assailed. Reginald had the best of it in
every way, for he was the man injured, and had it in his power to be
magnanimous; and he had the advantage of full warning, and had prepared
himself. Besides, was not he the superior by every social rule? And that
consciousness is always sweet.

"If Mr. Northcote is new to Carlingford, he will probably not know what
a fine point of view we have here. That, like so many other things,"
said Reginald, pointedly, "wants a little personal experience to find it
out."

"For that matter, to see it once is as good as seeing it a hundred
times," said Northcote, somewhat sharply; for to give in was the very
last thing he thought of. A little glow of anger came over him. He
thought Phoebe had prepared this ordeal for him, and he was vexed, not
only because she had done it, but because his sense of discomfiture
might afford a kind of triumph to that party in the connection which was
disposed, as he expressed it, to "toady the Church."

"Pardon me, I don't think you can judge of anything at a first view."

"And, pardon me, I think you see everything most sharply and clearly at
a first view," said the Nonconformist, who was the loudest; "certainly
in all matters of principle. After a while, you are persuaded against
your will to modify this opinion and that, to pare off a little here,
and tolerate a little there. Your first view is the most correct."

"Well," said Phoebe, throwing herself into the breach, "I am glad you
don't agree, for the argument is interesting. Will you come in and fight
it out? You shall have some tea, which will be pleasant, for it shall be
hot. I really cannot stay out any longer; it is freezing here."

The new-comer prepared to follow; but Reginald hesitated. Pride
whispered that to go into the house of Tozer, the butterman, was
something monstrous; but then it might be amusing. This "Dissenting
fellow," no doubt, was a drawback; but a kind of angry antagonism and
disdain half-attracted him even to the Dissenting fellow. It might be
well, on the whole, to see what kind of being such a person was. All
curious phenomena are attractive to a student. "The proper study of
mankind is man," Reginald said to himself. Before he had got through
this little argument with himself, Phoebe had gone in, and Northcote,
whose disgust at the interposition of an adversary had no such softening
of curiosity, followed her abruptly, without any of those graces which
are current in society. This rudeness offended the other, who was about
to walk on indignant, when Phoebe turned back, and looked out at him from
the open door.

"Are not you coming, Mr. May?" she said softly, looking at him with the
least little shrug of her shoulders.

Reginald yielded without further resistance. But he felt fully that to
see him, the chaplain of the old College, walking down through Tozer's
garden, between the two rows of closed-up crocuses which glimmered
ghostly by the side of the path, was one of the strangest sights in the
world.

Phoebe, to tell the truth, was a little confused as to where to convey
her captive, out of whom she meant to get a little amusement for the
long winter afternoon. For a girl of her active mind, it may easily be
imagined that a succession of long days with Mrs. Tozer was somewhat
monotonous. She did her duty like a hero, and never complained; but
still, if a little amusement was possible, it was worth having. She
carried in her two young men as naughty boys carry stag-beetles, or
other such small deer. If they would fight it would be fun; and if they
would not fight, why, it might be fun still, and more amusing than
grandmamma. She hesitated between the chilly drawing-room, where a fire
was lighted, but where there was no evidence of human living, and the
cozy parlour, where Mrs. Tozer sat in her best cap, still wheezy, but
convalescent, waiting for her tea, and not indisposed to receive such
deputations of the community as might come to ask for her. Finally,
Phoebe opened the door of that sanctuary, which was dazzling with bright
fire-light after the gloom outside. It was a very comfortable interior,
arranged by Phoebe to suit her own ideas rather than those of grandmamma,
though grandmamma's comfort had been her chief object. The tea-things
were sparkling upon the table, the kettle singing by the fire, and Mrs.
Tozer half-dozing in the tranquillity and warmth.

"Grandmamma, I have brought Mr. May and Mr. Northcote to see you," she
said.

The poor old lady almost sprang from her chair in amazement.

"Lord bless us, Phoebe, Mr. May!"

"Don't disturb yourself, grandmamma; they will find seats. Yes, we were
all looking at the sunset, and as I knew tea must be ready--I know you
want it, dear granny--I asked them to have some. Here it is, as I told
you, quite hot, and very fragrant this cold night. How cold it is
outside! I think it will freeze, and that skating may come off at last,
Mr. May, that you were talking of, you remember? You were to teach your
sisters to skate."

"Yes, with the advantage of your example."

Reginald had put himself in a corner, as far away as possible from the
old woman in the chair. His voice, he felt, had caught a formal tone. As
for the other, his antagonist, he had assumed the front of the
battle--even, in Tozer's absence, he had ventured to assume the front of
the fire. He was not the sort of man Reginald had expected, almost hoped
to see--a fleshy man, loosely put together, according to the nature, so
far as he knew it, of Dissenters; but a firmly knit, clean-limbed young
man, with crisp hair curling about his head, and a gleam of energy and
spirit in his eye. The gentler Anglican felt by no means sure of a
speedy victory, even of an intellectual kind. The young man before him
did not look a slight antagonist. They glared at each other, measuring
their strength; they did not know, indeed, that they had been brought in
here to this warmth and light, like the stag-beetles, to make a little
amusement for Phoebe; but they were quite ready to fight all the same.

"Mr. Northcote, sir, I'm glad to see you. Now this is friendly; this is
what I calls as it should be, when a young pastor comes in and makes
free, without waiting for an invitation," said Tozer kindly, bustling
in; "that speech of yours, sir, was a rouser; that 'it 'em off, that
did, and you can see as the connection ain't ungrateful. What's that you
say, Phoebe? what? I'm a little hard of hearing. Mr.--May!"

"Mr. May was good enough to come in with me, grandpapa. We met at the
door. We have mutual friends, and you know how kind Miss May has been,"
said Phoebe, trembling with sudden fright, while Reginald, pale with rage
and embarrassment, stood up in his corner. Tozer was embarrassed too. He
cleared his throat and rubbed his hands, with a terrible inclination to
raise one of them to his forehead. It was all that he could do to get
over this class instinct. Young May, though he had been delighted to
hear him assailed in the Meeting, was a totally different visitor from
the clever young pastor whom he received with a certain consciousness of
patronage. Tozer did not know that the Northcotes were infinitely
richer, and quite as well-born and well-bred in their ways as the Mays,
and that his young Dissenting brother was a more costly production, as
well as a more wealthy man, than the young chaplain in his long coat;
but if he had known this it would have made no difference. His relation
to the one was semi-servile, to the other condescending and superior. In
Reginald May's presence, he was but a butterman who supplied the family;
but to Horace Northcote he was an influential member of society, with
power over a Minister's individual fate.

"I assure you, sir, as I'm proud to see you in my house," he said, with
a duck of his head, and an ingratiating but uncomfortable smile. "Your
father, I hope, as he's well, sir, and all the family? We are a kind of
neighbours now; not as we'd think of taking anything upon us on account
of living in Grange Lane. But Phoebe here--Phoebe, junior, as we call's
her--she's a cut above us, and I'm proud to see any of her friends in my
'umble 'ouse. My good lady, sir," added Tozer, with another duck,
indicating with a wave of his hand his wife, who had already once risen,
wheezy, but knowing her manners, to make a kind of half-bow,
half-curtsey from her chair.

"You are very kind," said Reginald, feeling himself blush furiously, and
not knowing what to say. The other young man stood with his back to the
fire, and a sneer, which he intended to look like a smile, on his face.

And as for Phoebe, it must be allowed that, notwithstanding all her
resources, even she was exquisitely uncomfortable for a minute or two.
The young people all felt this, but to Tozer it seemed that he had
managed everything beautifully, and a sense of elation stole over him.
To be visited in this manner by the gentry, "making free," and "quite in
a friendly way," was an honour he had never looked for. He turned to
Northcote with great affability and friendliness.

"Well," he said, "Mr. Northcote, sir, it can't be denied as this is a
strange meeting; you and Mr. May, as mightn't be, perhaps, just the best
of friends, to meet quite comfortable over a cup of tea. But ain't it
the very best thing that could happen? Men has their public opinions,
sir, as every one should speak up bold for, and stick to; that's my way
of thinking. But I wouldn't bring it no farther; not, as might be said,
into the domestic circle. I'm clean against that. You say your say in
public, whatever you may think on a subject, but you don't bear no
malice; it ain't a personal question; them's my sentiments. And I don't
know nothing more elevatin', nothing more consolin', than for two public
opponents, as you may say, to meet like this quite cozy and comfortable
over a cup o' tea."

"It is a pleasure, I assure you, which I appreciate highly," said
Reginald, finding his voice.

"And which fills me with delight and satisfaction," said Northcote.
Those stag-beetles which Phoebe, so to speak, had carried in in her
handkerchief, were only too ready to fight.

"You had better have some tea first," she said breathless, "before you
talk so much of its good effects. Sit down, grandpapa, and have your
muffin while it is hot; I know that is what you like. Do you care about
china, Mr. May? but every one cares for china now-a-days. Look at that
cup, and fancy grandmamma having this old service in use without knowing
how valuable it is. Cream Wedgwood! You may fancy how I stared when I
saw it; and in everyday use! most people put it up on brackets, when
they are so lucky as to possess any. Tell Mr. May, grandmamma, how you
picked it up. Mr. Northcote, there is an article in this review that I
want you to look at. Papa sent it to me. It is too metaphysical for me,
but I know you are great in metaphysics--"

"I am greater in china; may not I look at the Wedgwood first?"

"Perhaps you will turn over the literature to me," said Reginald,
"reviews are more in my way than teacups, though I say it with
confusion. I know how much I am behind my age."

"And I too," whispered Phoebe, behind the book which she had taken up.
"Don't tell any one. It is rare, I know; and everybody likes to have
something that is rare; but I don't really care for it the least in the
world. I have seen some bits of Italian _faience_ indeed--but English
pottery is not like Italian, any more than English skies."

"You have the advantage of me, Miss Beecham, both as regards the pottery
and the skies."

"Ah, if it is an advantage; bringing poetry down to prose is not always
an advantage, is it? Italy is such a dream--so long as one has never
been there."

"Yes, it is a dream," said Reginald, with enthusiasm, "to everybody, I
think; but when one has little money and much work all one's
life--poverty stands in the way of all kinds of enjoyment."

"Poverty is a nice friendly sort of thing; a ground we can all meet on,"
said Phoebe. "But don't let us say that to grandpapa. How odd people are!
he knows you are not Croesus, but still he has a sort of feeling that you
are a young prince, and do him the greatest honour in coming to his
house; and yet, all the same, he thinks that money is the very grandest
thing in existence. See what prejudice is! He would not allow that he
had any class-reverence, and yet he can no more get rid of it--"

"Miss Beecham, it is very difficult for me to say anything on such a
subject."

"Very difficult, and you show your delicacy by not saying anything. But
you know, apart from this, which is not gratifying, I am rather proud of
grandpapa's way of looking at some things. About saying out your
opinions in public, and yet bearing no malice, for instance. Now, Mr.
Northcote is the very Antipodes to you; therefore you ought to know him
and find out what he means. It would be better for you both. That is
what I call enlarging the mind," said Phoebe with a smile; which was, to
tell the truth, a very pretty smile, and filled with a soft lustre the
blue eyes with which she looked at him. Whether it was this, or the
cogency of her argument, that moved the young Anglican, it would be hard
to say.

"If you are to be the promoter of this new science, I don't object to
studying under you," he said with a great deal of meaning in his voice.

Phoebe gave him another smile, though she shook her head; and then she
turned to the hero on the other side.

"Is it genuine, Mr. Northcote? is it as fine as I thought? There now, I
told you, grandmamma! Have you been telling Mr. Northcote how you picked
it up? I am sure you will present him with a cup and saucer for his
collection in return for his praises."

"Not for the world," said Northcote, with profound seriousness; "break a
set of cream Wedgwood! what do you take me for, Miss Beecham? I don't
mean to say that I would not give my ears to have it--all; but to break
the set--"

"Oh, I beg your pardon! I was not prepared for such delicacy of
feeling--such conscientiousness--"

"Ah!" said Northcote, with a long-drawn breath, "I don't think you can
understand the feelings of an enthusiast. A set of fine China is like a
poem--every individual bit is necessary to the perfection of the whole.
I allow that this is not the usual way of looking at it; but my pleasure
lies in seeing it entire, making the tea-table into a kind of lyric,
elevating the family life by the application of the principles of
abstract beauty to its homeliest details. Pardon, Miss Beecham, but Mrs.
Tozer is right, and you are wrong. The idea of carrying off a few lines
of a poem in one's pocket for one's collection--"

"Now that's what I call speaking up," said Mrs. Tozer, the first time
she had opened her lips, "that's just what I like. Mr. Northcote has a
deal more sense than the like of you. He knows what's what. Old things
like this as might have been my granny's, they're good enough for every
day, they're very nice for common use; but they ain't no more fit to be
put away in cupboards and hoarded up like fine china, no more than I am.
Mr. Northcote should see our best--that's worth the looking at; and if
I'd known as the gentleman was coming--but you can't put an old head on
young shoulders. Phoebe's as good as gold, and the trouble she takes with
an old woman like me is wonderful; but she can't be expected to think of
everything, can she now, at her age?"

The two young men laughed--it was the first point of approach between
them, and Phoebe restrained a smile, giving them a look from one to
another. She gave Reginald his cup of tea very graciously.

"Mr. Northcote prefers the Wedgwood, and Mr. May doesn't mind,
grandmamma," she said sweetly. "So it is as well to have the best china
in the cupboard. Grandpapa, another muffin--it is quite hot; and I know
that is what you like best."

"Well, I'll say that for Phoebe," said Tozer, with his mouth full, "that
whether she understands china or not I can't tell, but she knows what a
man likes, which is more to the purpose for a young woman. That's what
she does; and looks after folk's comforts as I never yet saw her match.
She's a girl in a thousand, is Phoebe, junior. There be them as is more
for dress," he added, fond and greasy, looking at her seated modestly in
that gown, which had filled with awe and admiration the experienced mind
of Mrs. Sam Hurst; "and plays the pianny, and that sort of style of
girl; but for one as minds the comforts of them about her----" Tozer
turned back to the table, and made a gulp of his last piece of muffin.
Eloquence could have no more striking climax; the proof of all his
enthusiasm, was it not there?

"Don't you play, Miss Beecham?" said Reginald, half-amused, half-angry.

"A little," said Phoebe, with a laugh. She had brought down a small
cottage piano out of the drawing-room, where nobody ever touched it,
into a dark corner out of reach of the lamp. It was the only
accomplishment upon which she prided herself. She got up from the table,
when she had poured out another cup of tea for her grandfather, and
without saying a word went to the little piano. It was not much of an
instrument, and Reginald May was very little of a _connoisseur_.
Northcote, who knew her gifts, gave himself up to listening, but the
Tozers looked on, shaking their heads, and it was only after some time
had passed, that Reginald began to understand that he was listening to
something which he had never heard before. Ursula's school-girl tunes
had never interested him very much; he did not know what this was which
seemed to creep into his heart by his ears. He got up by and by, and
stole towards the piano bewildered.

"It'll soon be over, sir," said Tozer, encouragingly. "Don't you run
away, Mr. May. Them are queer tunes, I allow, but they don't last long,
and your company's an honour. As for the playing, it'll soon be over;
you needn't run away."



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE HALL.


It is unnecessary to say that the dinner party in the Hall bore very
little resemblance to those simple amusements in No. 6, Grange Lane.
There were three or four people to meet Mr. May, who, as an orator and
literary man, had greater reputation even such a little way from home
than he had in his own town. He was a very good preacher, and those
articles of his were much admired as "thoughtful" papers, searching into
many mental depths, and fathoming the religious soul with wonderful
insight. Ladies especially admired them; the ladies who were
intellectual, and found pleasure in the feeling of being more advanced
than their neighbours. The Rector's wife of the parish in which the
Dorsets lived applied herself with great vigour to the art of drawing
him out. She asked him questions with that air of delightful submission
to an intellectual authority which some ladies love to assume, and which
it pleases many men to accept. His daughters were not at all reverential
of Mr. May, and it soothed him to get marks of devotion and literary
submission out of doors. Even Sophy Dorset had gone through the phase of
admiration for her cousin. This had been dissipated, it is true, long
ago; but yet she did not laugh, as she usually did, at the believers in
him. She listened to Mrs. Rector plying him with eager questions, asking
his advice on that point and the other, and smiled, but was charitable.
As for Cousin Anne, she was charitable by nature, and all the world got
the advantage of it. Little Ursula was one of her prime favourites--a
motherless girl, who was the eldest, and who had to work for the family,
was of all others the thing which moved her sympathies most. The little
Indian children had long ere this yielded to the charms of Aunt Anne.
They followed her wherever she went like little spaniels, hanging on by
her dress. She had to go up to the nursery to hear them say their
prayers before she dressed for dinner.

"You see, this is a proof that with children one should never be
discouraged," she said; "for they did not take to me at first;" and she
turned her mild countenance, beaming with soft light, upon Ursula. To be
hampered by these babies clinging about her, to have them claiming
imperiously her attention and her time, however she might be engaged; to
give up to them the moments of leisure in which otherwise she might have
had a little quiet and repose, this was what Anne Dorset considered as
her recompense.

"Oh, I wish I could be as good to Amy and Robin! But I feel as if I
should like to shake them often," cried Ursula, "even though I love them
with all my heart. Oh! Cousin Anne, I don't think there is any one like
you."

"Yes, that is what she thinks her reward," said Sophy. "I should like
something better, if it was I. Don't copy her, Ursula. It is better to
have children of your own, and get other people to nurse them. Anne, you
see, likes it. I want you to marry, and get all the good things in this
life. Let us leave the self-denials to her; she likes them, you
perceive."

"I don't know why you should always talk of marrying to me, Cousin
Sophy," said Ursula with gentle reproach. "I hope I am not a girl to
think of such things."

"And why not? Is it not the first duty of woman, you little simpleton?"
said Sophy Dorset, with a laugh.

But Ursula could not imagine that it was only in this general way that
her cousin spoke. She could not but feel that this big Clarence
Copperhead, with the diamond buttons, and that huge expanse of
shirt-front, had something to do with Sophy's talk. There was six feet
of him, which is a thing that goes a long way with a girl; and he was
not bad-looking. And why did he come to Carlingford, having nothing in
the world to do with the place? and coming to Carlingford, why was papa
sought out, of all people, to be his tutor? Certainly the circumstances
were such as invited conjecture, especially when added on to Sophy's
allusions. He took Ursula in to dinner, which fluttered her somewhat;
and though he was much intent upon the dinner itself, and studied the
_menu_ with a devotion which would have made her tremble for her
housekeeping, had she been sufficiently disengaged to notice it, he yet
found time to talk a little between the courses.

"I did not expect, when I saw you in London, that we were to meet again
so soon, Miss May," was the perfectly innocent remark with which he
opened the conversation.

Ursula would have said it herself had he not said it, and all she could
do was to answer, "No, indeed," with a smile.

"And I am coming to your father to be coached," continued the young man.
"It is a funny coincidence, don't you think so? I am glad you came to
that ball, Miss May. It makes me feel that I know you. I don't like
starting off afresh, all at once, among people I don't know."

"No," said Ursula; "I should not like it either. But there are other
people you know in Carlingford. There is the lady who was at the
ball--the young lady in black, I used to call her--Miss Beecham; you
must know her better than you know me."

"Who? Phoebe? really!" he said, elevating his eyebrows. "Phoebe in
Carlingford! By Jove! how the governor will laugh! I should like to
know," with a conscious smile on his countenance, "what _she_ is doing
there."

"Her grandmamma is ill, and she is nursing her," said Ursula simply, at
which young Copperhead laughed again.

"Oh, that is how it is! Very good of her, don't you think? Shouldn't
suppose she would be amusing, the old granny, and Phoebe likes to be
amused. I must go to see her as soon as I can get there. You know, we
are Dissenters at home, Miss May. Good joke, isn't it? The governor will
not hear a word against them. As a matter of fact, nobody does go to
chapel in our rank of life; but the governor sometimes is as obstinate
as an old pig."

"I suppose he likes it best," said Ursula, gently; and here a new course
came round, and for the moment Clarence had something else to do. He
resumed after the _entrées_, which were poor, as he made a mental note.

"Is there anything to do at Carlingford, Miss May? I hope you skate. I
am not much in the hunting way; nor your father, I suppose? for, to be
sure, a hunting parson would never do. I am too heavy a weight for most
horses, and the good of galloping over the country all day, after a poor
brute of a fox!--but we must not say that before Sir Robert. I suppose
it is dull?" he said, somewhat pathetically, looking in her face.

"We don't think it dull, Mr. Copperhead. It may be, perhaps, for a
gentleman."

"That's it," said Clarence. "I don't know if it's because women have
more resources, or because they want less; but you always get on better
than we do, somehow; very lucky for you. You don't expect so much. I
believe that's what it is."

"Then that shows we are the most sensible," said Ursula, roused, and a
little indignant.

He paused, to make his choice between the inevitable turkey and the
inevitable beef.

"I hope it's braised," he said, in a devout undertone. "You don't expect
so much, Miss May, that's what it is; you're always in the house. You
don't care for exercise. Bless you, if I didn't take exercise, I should
be fifteen stone before you could turn round. How much are you? about
eight, perhaps; not much more. That makes a deal of difference: you
don't require to keep yourself down."

Ursula did not make any answer. She was prepared to look upon him very
favourably, and accept what he said as full of originality and force;
but the tone the conversation had taken was not entirely to her mind.
Phoebe could have managed it; but Ursula was not Phoebe. She was more
disposed to take offence at the young man's tone than to guide it into
better ways.

"I hope your mother is well," she said at last, falteringly, after a
long pause. Ursula thought her companion would remark this pause, and
think her displeased. She might have saved herself the trouble, for it
was the braised turkey which kept Clarence quiet, not offence.

"Oh, quite well, I thank you. Not so well as when I am at home; she
don't like parting with me," he said, "but, of course, I can't be always
at my mother's apron-strings. Women forget that."

"She was very kind when I was in London."

"Yes, that just pleases her; she is never so happy as when she is buying
things for somebody," he replied, betraying an acquaintance with the
exact manner of the kindness which somewhat disturbed poor Ursula: "that
is exactly her way. I dare say she'll come and see the Dorsets while I'm
here."

Then there was again a pause, and Clarence turned to speak to some one
at his other side.

"No, I don't hunt much," he said; "I have come into the country to be
coached. My father's a modern sort of man, and wants a fellow to be up
in history, and that sort of thing. Bore--yes; and I dare say
Carlingford is very dull. Oh, yes, I will go out with the hounds now and
then, if there is not a frost. I should rather like a frost for my
part."

It was a hunting lady who had started this new conversation, into which
the stranger had drifted away, leaving Ursula stranded. She was slightly
piqued, it must be allowed, and when Sophy asked her after dinner how
she liked her companion, made a dignified reply.

"I have no doubt he is very nice," she said; "I don't know much of
gentlemen. He talks of papa as if he were a school-master, and thinks
Carlingford will be dull."

"So it is, Ursula. I have often heard you say so."

"Yes, perhaps; but a stranger ought to be civil," said the girl,
offended; and she went and entrenched herself by the side of Cousin
Anne, where the new pupil could not come near her. Indeed he did not
seem very anxious to do so, as Ursula soon saw. She blushed very hotly
all by herself, under Cousin Anne's shadow: that she could have been so
absurd as ever to think--But his size, and the weight over which he had
lamented, and his abundant whiskers and large shirt front, made it quite
impossible for Ursula to think of him as a person to be educated. It
must be Miss Beecham, she said to herself.

No thoughts of this kind crossed Mr. Clarence Copperhead's mind, as he
stretched his big limbs before the drawing-room fire after dinner, and
said "Brava!" when the ladies sang. He knew "Brava" was the right thing
to say. He liked to be at the Hall, which he had never visited before,
and to know that it was undeniable gentry which surrounded him, and
which at the piano was endeavouring to gain his approbation. He was so
much his father's son that he had a sense of pleasure and triumph in
being thus elevated; and he had a feeling, more or less, of contempt for
the clergyman, "only a parson," who was to be his coach. He felt the
power and the beauty of money almost as much as his father did. What was
there he could not buy with it? the services of the most learned pundit
in existence, for what was learning? or the prettiest woman going to be
his wife, if that was what he wanted. It may be supposed then that he
had very little attention indeed to bestow upon a girl like Ursula, who
was only the daughter of his coach--nobody at all in particular--and
that her foolish fancies on the subject might have been spared. He aired
himself on the hearth-rug with great satisfaction, giving now and then a
shake to one of his long limbs, and a furtive glance to see that all was
perfect in the _sit_ of the garment that clothed it. He had been
ploughed it is true, but that did not interfere much with his mental
satisfaction; for, after all, scholarship was a thing cultivated chiefly
by dons and prigs, and poor men; and no doubt this other poor man, the
parson, would be able to put all into his head that was necessary, just
as much as would pay, and no more--a process the mere thought of which
made Clarence yawn, yet which he had wound up his noble mind to submit
to.

"Mind you, I don't say I am going to work," he had said to his mother;
"but if you think he can put it into me, he may try," and he repeated
much the same sentiment, with a difference, to Sophy Dorset, who by way
of civility, while the Rector's wife paid court to Mr. May, talked to
Clarence a little, from the corner of the ottoman close to the fire.

"Work! well, I suppose so, after a sort. I don't mean to make myself ill
with midnight oil and that sort of thing," he said (he was not at all
clear in his mind as to how the midnight oil was applied), "but if Mr.
May can get it into me, I'll give him leave; for one thing, I suppose
there will be nothing else to do."

"Not much in Carlingford; there are neither pictures, nor museums, nor
fine buildings, nor anything of the sort; and very little society; a few
tea-parties, and one ball in the season."

Mr. Clarence Copperhead shrugged his large shoulders.

"I shan't go to the tea-parties, that's certain," he said; "a fellow
must hunt a little, I suppose, as the place is so destitute. As for
pictures and museums, that don't trouble me. The worst of going abroad
is that you've always got to look at things of that sort. To have to do
it at home would be beyond a joke."

"Have you seen the box of curious things John sent me with the
children?" said Sophy. "They are on the table at the end of the
room,--yataghans, and I don't know what other names they have, all sorts
of Indian weapons. I should think you would be interested in them."

"Thanks, Cousin Sophy, I am very well where I am," he said. He looked at
her in such a way that she might have appropriated this remark as a
compliment, had she pleased; but Sophy laughed, and it is to be feared
did not feel the compliment, for she turned right round to somebody
else, and took no more notice of Clarence. He was so fully satisfied
with himself that he had not any strong sense of neglect, though he had
but little conversation with the company. He was quite satisfied to
exhibit himself and his shirt-front before the fire.

Next day he accompanied the Mays back to Carlingford. Mr. May had
enjoyed his visit. His mind was free for the moment; he had staved off
the evil day, and he had a little money in his pocket, the remains of
that extra fifty pounds which he had put on to Tozer's bill. With some
of it he had paid some urgent debts, and he had presented five pounds to
Cotsdean to buy his wife a gown, and he had a little money in his
pockets. So that in every way he was comfortable and more at ease than
usual. The reckoning was four months off, which was like an eternity to
him in his present mood of mind, and of course he would get the money
before that time. There was so much time, indeed, that to begin to think
of the ways and means of paying it at this early period seemed absurd.
He was to have three hundred pounds for the year of Copperhead's
residence with him, if he stayed so long, and that would do, if nothing
else. Therefore Mr. May was quite easy in his mind, not in the least
feeling the possibility of trouble in store for him. And the visit had
been pleasant. He had enlarged his acquaintance, and that among the very
sort of people he cared to know. He had been very well received by all
the Dorsets, and introduced by Sir Robert as a relation, and he had
received some personal incense about his works and his gifts which was
sweet to him. Therefore he was in very good spirits, and exceedingly
amiable. He conversed with his future pupil urbanely, though he had not
concealed his entire concurrence in Sir Robert's opinion that he was "a
cub."

"What have you been reading lately?" he asked, when they had been
transferred from the Dorsets' carriage, to the admiration and by the
obsequious cares of all the attendant officials, into the railway
carriage. Mr. May liked the fuss and liked the idea of that superiority
which attended the Dorsets' guests. He had just been explaining to his
companions that Sir Robert was the Lord of the Manor, and that all the
homage done to him was perfectly natural; and he was in great
good-humour even with this cub.

"Well, I've not been reading very much," said Clarence, candidly. "What
was the good? The governor did not want me to be a parson, or a lawyer,
or anything of that sort, and a fellow wants some sort of a motive to
read. I've loafed a good deal, I'm afraid. I got into a very good set,
you know, first chop--Lord Southdown, and the Beauchamps, and that lot;
and--well, I suppose we were idle, and that's the truth."

"I see," said Mr. May; "a good deal of smoke and billiards, and so
forth, and very little work."

"That's about it," said the young man, settling himself and his
trousers, which were the objects of a great deal of affectionate care on
his part. He gave them furtive pulls at the knees, and stroked them down
towards the ankle, as he got himself comfortably into his seat.

Mr. May looked at him with scientific observation, and Ursula with
half-affronted curiosity; his self-occupation was an offence to the
girl, but it was only amusing to her father. "An unmitigated cub," Mr.
May pronounced to himself; but there where he sat he represented three
hundred a-year, and that, at least, was not to be despised. Ursula was
not so charitable as her father; she was not amused by him in the
slightest degree. Had he come down to Carlingford in humble worship of
her pretty eyes, and with a romantic intention of making himself
agreeable to her, the captivating flattery would have prepossessed
Ursula, and prepared her to see him in a very pleasant light, and put
the best interpretation upon all he did and said. But this pretty
delusion being dissipated, Ursula was angry with herself for having been
so foolish, and naturally angry with Clarence for having led her into
it, though he was quite without blame in the matter. She looked at him
in his corner--he had taken the best corner, without consulting her
inclinations--and thought him a vulgar coxcomb, which perhaps he was.
But she would not have been so indignant except for that little bit of
injured feeling, for which really, after all, he was not justly to
blame.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A PAIR OF NATURAL ENEMIES.


After the evening at Grange Lane which has been described, Reginald May
met Northcote in the street several times, as was unavoidable,
considering the size of the place, and the concentration of all business
in Carlingford within the restricted length of the High Street. The two
young men bowed stiffly to each other at first; then by dint of seeing
each other frequently, got to inclinations a little more friendly, until
at length one day when Northcote was passing by the College, as Reginald
stood in the old doorway, the young chaplain feeling magnanimous on his
own ground, and somewhat amused by the idea which suddenly presented
itself to him, asked his Dissenting assailant if he would not come in
and see the place. Reginald had the best of it in every way. It was he
who was the superior, holding out a hand of favour and kindness to one
who here at least, was beneath him in social consideration; and it was
he who was the assailed, and, so to speak, injured party, and who
nevertheless extended to his assailant a polite recognition, which,
perhaps, no one else occupying the same position would have given. He
was amused by his own magnanimity, and enjoyed it, and the pleasure of
heaping coals of fire upon his adversary's head was entirely delightful
to him.

"I know you do not approve of the place or me," he said, forgetting in
that moment of triumph all his own objections to it, and the ground upon
which these objections were founded. "Come in and see it, will you? The
chapel and the rooms are worth seeing. They are fair memorials of the
past, however little the foundation may be to your mind."

He laughed as he spoke, but without ill-humour; for it is easy to be
good-humoured when one feels one's self on the gaining, not the losing
side. As for Northcote, pride kept him from any demonstration of
unwillingness to look at what the other had to show. He would not for
worlds have betrayed himself. It was expedient for him, if he did not
mean to acknowledge himself worsted, to put on a good face and accept
the politeness cheerfully. So that it was on the very strength of the
conflict which made them first aware of each other's existence, that
they thus came together. The Dissenter declared his entire delight in
being taken to see the place, and with secret satisfaction, not easily
put into words, the Churchman led the way. They went to all the rooms
where the old men sat, some dozing by the fire, some reading, some busy
about small businesses; one had a turning-lathe, another was
illuminating texts, a third had a collection of curiosities of a
heterogeneous kind, which he was cleaning and arranging, writing neat
little labels in the neatest little hand for each article.

"The charity of our ancestors might have been worse employed," said
Reginald. "A home for the old and poor is surely as fine a kind of
benevolence as one could think of--if benevolence is to be tolerated at
all."

"Ye-es," said Northcote. "I don't pretend to disapprove of benevolence.
Perhaps the young who have a future before them, who can be of use to
their country, are better objects still."

"Because they will pay," said Reginald; "because we can get something
out of them in return; while we have already got all that is to be had
out of the old people? A very modern doctrine, but not so lovely as the
old-fashioned way."

"I did not mean that," said the other, colouring. "Certainly it ought to
pay; everything, I suppose, is meant to pay one way or other. The life
and progress of the young, or the gratified sentiment of the benefactor,
who feels that he has provided for the old--which is the noblest kind of
payment? I think the first, for my part."

"For that matter, there is a large and most flourishing school, which
you will come across without fail if you work among the poor. Do you
work among the poor? Pardon my curiosity; I don't know."

"It depends upon what you call the poor," said the other, who did not
like to acknowledge the absence of this element in Salem Chapel; "if you
mean the destitute classes, the lowest level, no; but if you mean the
respectable, comfortable--"

"Persons of small income?" said Reginald. "I mean people with no incomes
at all; people without trades, or anything to earn a comfortable living
by; labouring people, here to-day and away to-morrow; women who take in
washing, and men who go about hunting for a day's work. These are the
kind of people the Church is weighted with."

"I don't see any trace of them," said the Nonconformist. "Smooth lawns,
fine trees, rooms that countesses might live in. I can't see any trace
of them here."

"There is no harm in a bit of grass and a few trees, and the rooms are
cheaper in their long continuance than any flimsy new rubbish that could
be built."

"I know I am making an unfortunate quotation," said Northcote; "but
there is reason in it. It might be sold for so much, and given to the
poor."

"Cheating the poor, in the first place," said Reginald, warmly concerned
for what he felt to be his own; "just as the paddock an old horse dies
in might bear a crop instead, and pay the owner; but what would become
of the old horse?"

"Half-quarter of this space would do quite as well for your pensioners,
and they might do without--"

"A chaplain!" said Reginald, laughing in spite of himself. "I know you
think so. It is a sinecure."

"Well, I think they may say their prayers for themselves; a young man
like you, full of talent, full of capability--I beg your pardon," said
Northcote, "you must excuse me, I grudge the waste. There are so many
things more worthy of you that you might do."

"What, for example?"

"Anything almost," cried the other; "digging, ploughing,
building--anything! And for me too."

This he said in an undertone; but Reginald heard, and did not carry his
magnanimity so far as not to reply.

"Yes," he said; "if I am wasted reading prayers for my old men, what are
you, who come to agitate for my abolition? _I_ think, too, almost
anything would be better than to encourage the ignorant to make
themselves judges of public institutions, which the wisest even find too
delicate to meddle with. The digging and the ploughing might be a good
thing for more than me."

"I don't say otherwise," said the young Dissenter, following into the
old fifteenth-century chapel, small but perfect, the young priest of the
place. They stood together for a moment under the vaulted roof, both
young, in the glory of their days, both with vague noble meanings in
them, which they knew so poorly how to carry out. They meant everything
that was fine and great, these two young men, standing upon the
threshold of their life, knowing little more than that they were
fiercely opposed to each other, and meant to reform the world each in
his own way; one by careful services and visitings of the poor, the
other by the Liberation Society and overthrow of the State Church; both
foolish, wrong and right, to the utmost bounds of human possibility. How
different they felt themselves standing there, and yet how much at one
they were without knowing it! Northcote had sufficient knowledge to
admire the perfect old building. He followed his guide with a certain
humility through the details, which Reginald had already learned by
heart.

"There is nothing so perfect, so beautiful, so real now-a-days," said
the young Churchman, with a natural expansion of mind over the beauty to
which he had fallen heir. It seemed to him, as he looked up at the tall
windows with their graceful tracery, that he was the representative of
all who had worked out their belief in God within these beautiful walls,
and of all the perpetual worshippers who had knelt among the old brasses
of the early founders upon the worn floor. The other stood beside him
with a half envy in his mind. The Dissenter did not feel himself the
heir of those centuries in the same unhesitating way. He tried to feel
that he was the heir of something better and more spiritual, yet felt a
not ungenerous grudge that he could not share the other kinship too.

"It is very beautiful and noble," he said. "I should like to feel for it
as you do; but what I should like still better would be to have the same
clear certainty of faith, the same conviction that what they were doing
was the only right thing to do which made both building and prayer so
unfaltering in those days. We can't be so sure even of the span of an
arch now."

"No--nor can you be content with the old span, even though it is clearly
the best by all rules," said Reginald. The other smiled; he was the most
speculative of the two, being perhaps the most thoughtful; and he had no
fifteenth-century chapel to charm, nor old foundation to give him an
anchor. He smiled, but there was a little envy in his mind. Even to have
one's life set out before one within clear lines like this, would not
that be something? If it had but been possible, no doubt saying prayers
for the world, even with no better than the old men of the College to
say amen, had something more beautiful in it than tours of agitation for
the Liberation Society; but Northcote knew that for him it was not
possible, any more than was the tonsure of Reginald's predecessor, who
had said mass when first those pinnacles were reared towards heaven.
After he had smiled he sighed, for the old faith was more lovely than
all the new agitations; he felt a little ashamed of the Liberation
Society, so long as he stood under that groined and glorious roof.

"May!" said some one, coming in suddenly. "I want you to go to the
hospital for me. I am obliged to go off to town on urgent
business--convocation work; and I must get a lawyer's opinion about the
reredos question; there is not a moment to lose. Go and see the people
in the pulmonary ward, there's a good fellow; and there are two or three
bad accidents; and that old woman who is ill in Brown's cottage, you saw
her the other day; and the Simmonds in Back Grove Street. I should have
had a day's work well cut out, if I had not had this summons to town;
but the reredos question is of the first importance, you know."

"I'll go," said Reginald. There is nothing more effectual in showing us
the weakness of any habitual fallacy or assumption than to hear it
sympathetically, through the ears, as it were, of a sceptic. Reginald,
seeing Northcote's keen eyes gleam at the sound of the Rector's voice,
instinctively fell into sympathy with him, and heard the speech through
him; and though he himself felt the importance of the reredos, yet he
saw in a moment how such a question would take shape in the opinion of
the young Dissenter, in whom he clearly saw certain resemblances to
himself. Therefore he assented very briefly, taking out his note-book to
put down the special cases of which the Rector told him. They had a
confidential conversation in a corner, during which the new-comer
contemplated the figure of Northcote in his strange semi-clerical
garments with some amaze. "Who is your friend?" he said abruptly, for he
was a rapid man, losing no time about anything.

"It is not my friend at all; it is my enemy who denounced me at the
Dissenters' meeting."

"Pah!" cried the Rector, curling up his nostrils, as if some
disagreeable smell had reached him. "A Dissenter here! I should not have
expected it from you, May."

"Nor I either," said Reginald; but his colour rose. He was not disposed
to be rebuked by any rector in Carlingford or the world.

"Are you his curate," said Northcote, "that he orders you about as if
you were bound to do his bidding? I hope, for your own sake, it is not
so."

Now it was Reginald's turn to smile. He was young, and liked a bit of
grandiloquence as well as another.

"Since I have been here," he said, "in this sinecure, as you call
it--and such it almost is--I have been everybody's curate. If the others
have too much work, and I too little, my duty is clear, don't you
think?"

Northcote made no reply. Had he known what was about to be said to him,
he might have stirred up his faculties to say something; but he had not
an idea that Reginald would answer him like this, and it took him aback.
He was too honest himself not to be worsted by such a speech. He bowed
his head with genuine respect. The apology of the Churchman whom he had
assaulted, filled him with a kind of reverential confusion; he could
make no reply in words. And need it be said that Reginald's heart too
melted altogether when he saw how he had confounded his adversary? That
silent assent more than made up for the noisy onslaught. That he should
have thus overcome Northcote made Northcote appear his friend. He was
pleased and satisfied beyond the reach of words.

"Will you come to the hospital with me?" he said; and they walked out
together, the young Dissenter saying very little, doing what he could to
arrange those new lights which had suddenly flashed upon his favourite
subject, and feeling that he had lost his landmarks, and was confused in
his path. When the logic is taken out of all that a man is doing, what
is to become of him? This was what he felt; an ideal person in
Reginald's place could not have made a better answer. Suddenly somehow,
by a strange law of association, there came into his mind the innocent
talk he had overheard between the two girls who were, he was aware,
May's sisters. A certain romantic curiosity about the family came into
his mind. Certainly they could not be an ordinary family like others.
There must be something in their constitution to account for this sudden
downfall, which he had encountered in the midst of all his theories. The
Mays must be people of a different strain from others; a peculiar race,
to whom great thoughts were familiar; he could not believe that there
was anything common or ordinary in their blood. He went out in silence,
with the holder of the sinecure which he had so denounced, but which now
seemed to him to be held after a divine fashion, in a way which common
men had no idea of. Very little could he say, and that of the most
commonplace kind. He walked quite respectfully by the young clergyman's
side along the crowded High Street, though without any intention of
going to the hospital, or of actually witnessing the kind of work
undertaken by his new friend. Northcote himself had no turn that way. To
go and minister at a sick-bed had never been his custom; he did not
understand how to do it; and though he had a kind of sense that it was
the right thing to do, and that if any one demanded such a service of
him he would be obliged to render it, he was all in the dark as to how
he could get through so painful an office; whereas May went to it
without fear, thinking of it only as the most natural thing in the
world. Perhaps, it is possible, Northcote's ministrations, had he been
fully roused, would have been, in mere consequence of the reluctance of
his mind, to undertake them, more real and impressive than those which
Reginald went to discharge as a daily though serious duty; but in any
case it was the Churchman whose mode was the more practical, the more
useful. They had not gone far together, when they met the Rector
hurrying to the railway; he cast a frowning, dissatisfied look at
Northcote, and caught Reginald by the arm, drawing him aside.

"Don't be seen walking about with that fellow," he said; "it will injure
you in people's minds. What have you to do with a Dissenter--a
demagogue? Your father would not like it any more than I do. Get rid of
him, May."

"I am sorry to displease either you or my father," said Reginald
stiffly; "but, pardon me, in this respect I must judge for myself."

"Don't be pig-headed," said the spiritual ruler of Carlingford; but he
had to rush off for his train, and had no time to say more. He left
Reginald hot and angry, doubly disposed, as was natural, to march
Northcote over all the town, and show his intimacy with him. Get rid of
an acquaintance whom he chose to extend his countenance to, to please
the Rector! For a man so young as Reginald May, and so lately made
independent, such an act of subserviency was impossible indeed.

Before they entered the hospital, however, another encounter happened of
a very different character. Strolling along in the centre of the
pavement, endeavouring after the almost impossible combination of a yawn
and a cigar, they perceived a large figure in a very long great-coat,
and with an aspect of languor and _ennui_ which was unmistakable a
hundred yards off. This apparition called a sudden exclamation from
Northcote.

"If it was possible," he said, "I should imagine I knew that man. Are
there two like him? but I can't fancy what he can be doing here."

"_That_ fellow!" said Reginald. "It's a pity if there are two like him.
I can't tell you what a nuisance he is to me. His name is Copperhead;
he's my father's pupil."

"Then it _is_ Copperhead! I thought there could not be another. He gives
a sort of odd familiar aspect to the place all at once."

"Then you are a friend of his!" said Reginald, with a groan. "Pardon the
natural feelings of a man whose father has suddenly chosen to become a
coach. I hate it, and my dislike to the thing is reflected on the person
of the pupil. I suppose that's what my antipathy means."

"He does not merit antipathy. He is a bore, but there is no harm in him.
Ah! he is quickening his pace; I am afraid he has seen us; and anybody
he knows will be a godsend to him, I suppose."

"I am off," said Reginald; "you will come again? that is," he added,
with winning politeness, "I shall come and seek you out. We are each the
moral Antipodes of the other, Miss Beecham says--from which she argues
that we should be acquainted and learn the meaning of our differences."

"I am much obliged to Miss Beecham."

"Why, Northcote!" said Clarence Copperhead, bearing down upon them in
his big grey Ulster, like a ship in full sail. "Morning, May; who'd have
thought to see you here. Oh, don't turn on my account! I'm only taking a
walk; it don't matter which way I go."

"I am very much hurried. I was just about to hasten off to an
appointment. Good-bye, Northcote," said Reginald. "We shall meet again
soon, I hope."

"By Jove! this is a surprise," said Clarence; "to see you here, where I
should as soon have thought of looking for St. Paul's; and to find you
walking about cheek by jowl with that muff, young May, who couldn't be
civil, I think, if he were to try. What is the meaning of it? I suppose
you're just as much startled to see me. I'm with a coach; clever, and a
good scholar and a good family, and all that; father to that young
sprig: so there ain't any mystery about me. What's brought you here?"

"Work," said Northcote, curtly. He did not feel disposed to enter into
any kind of explanation.

"Oh, work! Now I do wonder that a fellow like you, with plenty of money
in your pocket, should go in for work as you do. What's the good of it?
and in the Dissenting parson line of all things in the world! When a
fellow has nothing, you can understand it; he must get his grub somehow.
That's what people think of you, of course. Me, I don't do anything, and
everybody knows I'm a catch, and all that sort of thing. Now I don't say
(for I don't know) if your governor has as much to leave behind him as
mine--But halt a bit! You walk as if we were going in for athletics, and
doing a two mile."

"I'm sorry to see you so easily blown," said Northcote, not displeased
in his turn to say something unpleasant. "What is it? or are you only
out of training?"

"That's it," said Clarence, with a gasp. "I'm awfully out of training,
and that's the fact. We do, perhaps, live too well in Portland Place;
but look here--about what we were saying--"

"Do you live with the Mays?"

"Worse luck! It's what you call plain cooking; and bless us all, dinner
in the middle of the day, and the children at table. But I've put a stop
to that; and old May ain't a bad old fellow--don't bother me with work
more than I like, and none of your high mightiness, like that fellow.
I'll tell you what, Northcote, you must come and see me. I haven't got a
sitting-room of my own, which is a shame, but I have the use of their
rooms as much as I like. The sisters go flying away like a flock of
pigeons. I'll tell you what, I'll have you asked to dinner. Capital fun
it will be. A High Church parson cheek by jowl with a red-hot Dissenter,
and compelled to be civil. By Jove! won't it be a joke?"

"It is not a joke that either of us will enjoy."

"Never mind, _I'll_ enjoy it, by Jove!" said Copperhead. "He daren't say
no. I'd give sixpence just to see you together, and the Bashaw of two
tails--the young fellow. They shall have a party; leave it all to me."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE NEW PUPIL.


Mr. May, since the bargain was fairly concluded with the Copperheads,
had thought a great deal about the three hundred a-year he was to get
for his pupil. It almost doubled his income in a moment, and that has a
great effect upon the imagination. It was true he would have another
person to maintain on this additional income, but still that additional
person would simply fill Reginald's place, and it did not at first
occur to him that what was good enough for himself, Mr. May, of St.
Roque's, was not good enough for any _parvenu_ on the face of the earth.
Therefore the additional income represented a great deal of additional
comfort, and that general expansion of expenditure, not going into any
special extravagances, but representing a universal ease and enlargement
which was congenial to him, and which was one of the great charms of
money in his eyes. To be sure, when he reflected on the matter, he felt
that the first half-year of Clarence's payment ought to be appropriated
to that bill, which for the present had brought him so much relief; but
this would be so entirely to lose the benefit of the money so far as he
was himself concerned, that it was only in moments of reflection that
this appeared urgent. The bill to which Tozer's signature had been
appended did not oppress his conscience. After all, what was it? Not a
very large sum, a sum which when put to it, and with time before him, he
could so easily supply; and as for any other consideration, it was
really, when you came to think of it, a quite justifiable expedient, not
to be condemned except by squeamish persons, and which being never
known, could do no harm in the world. He had not harmed anybody by what
he had done. Tozer, who was quite able to pay it over and over again,
would never know of it; and in what respect, he asked himself, was it
worse to have done this than to have a bill really signed by a man of
straw, whose "value received" meant nothing in the world but a simple
fiction? Cotsdean was no more than a man of straw; if left to himself,
he could not pay anything, nor had he anything really to do with the
business for which his name stood sponsor; and Tozer's name was merely
placed there in the same fictitious way, without any trouble to Tozer,
or burden of responsibility. What was the difference, except that it
saved trouble and anxiety to everybody except the principal in the
affair--he who ought to bear the brunt? Mr. May recognised this without
doubt. It was he who had reaped the advantage; and whether Cotsdean was
the instrument who knew all about it, or Tozer, who did not know
anything about it, it was he, Mr. May, whose natural duty it was to meet
the claim and pay the money. He was an honest man; if he was
occasionally a little slow in his payments, no one could throw any doubt
upon his character. But, of course, should any unforeseen emergency
arise, the pupil at once made that straight. Mr. May felt that he had
only to go to the bank, which generally did not encourage his visits,
and tell them of his pupil, to have the money at once. Nobody could
reject such unmistakeable security. So that really there was no further
occasion for so much as thinking of Tozer; that was provided for; with
the freest conscience in the world he might put it out of his mind. But
how he could feel this so strongly, and at the same time revel in the
consciousness of a fuller purse, more to enjoy, and more to spend, is a
mystery which it would be difficult to solve. He did so, and many others
have done so besides him, eating their cake, yet believing that they had
their cake with the fullest confidence. He was a sensible man, rather
priding himself on his knowledge of business, with much experience in
human nature, and a thoughtful sense (fully evidenced in his writings)
of all the strange inconsistencies and self-deceits of mankind; but he
dropped into this strain of self-delusion with the calmest satisfaction
of mind, and was as sure of his own good sense and kindness as if he had
never in all his life taken a step out of the rigidest of the narrow
ways of uprightness.

Some part of this illusion, however, was sharply dispelled at a very
early date. Clarence Copperhead, who was not likely to err by means of
too much consideration for the feelings of others, grumbled frankly at
the mid-day meal.

"I don't understand a two o'clock dinner," he said; "it's lunch, that's
what I call it; and I won't be disagreeable about the kids, but I must
have my dinner. Bless you! a man can't live without his dinner. What is
he to do? It is the sort of thing you can look forward to, whatever
happens. If it's a wet day, or anything of that sort, there's always
dinner; and after it's over, if there's music or a rubber, why that's
all very well; or if a man feels a bit sleepy, it doesn't matter. Why,
dinner's your stand-by, wherever you are. I'd as soon do without my
head, for my part."

Ursula hastened to tell her father this with dismay in her looks.

"I've always heard that late dinners were so expensive; you require
twice as many dishes. At two, one has only what is necessary; but at
seven, you require to have fish, and soup, and _entrées_, and all sorts
of things, besides the joint. It was disgraceful of him to say it!"
cried Ursula; "and I think he ought to be made to follow our plan,
whatever it is, and not do everything he likes here."

"That is all very true," said Mr. May; "but he is right about the
dinner; it is a great deal more agreeable."

"And expensive, papa."

"Well, perhaps it is a great deal to expect at your age; but if you read
your cookery-book, as I have often said, when you were reading those
novels, and learned how to toss up little dishes out of nothing, and
make _entrées_, and so forth, at next to no expense--"

The tears came into Ursula's eyes at this unjust assault.

"Papa," she said, "you ought to know better at your age. One forgives
the boys for saying such silly things. How can I toss up little dishes
out of nothing? If you only knew the price of butter, not to talk of
anything else. Made dishes are the most expensive things! A leg of
mutton, for instance; there it is, and when one weighs it, one knows
what it costs; but there is not one of those _entrées_ but costs
_shillings_ for herbs and truffles and gravy and forcemeat, and a glass
of white wine here, and a half pint of claret there. It is all very well
to talk of dishes made out of nothing. The meat may not be very
much--and men never think of the other things, I suppose."

"It is management that is wanted," said Mr. May, "to throw nothing away,
to make use of everything, to employ all your scraps. If you once have a
good sauce--which is as easy as daylight when you take the trouble--you
can make all sorts of things out of a cold joint; but women never will
take the trouble, and that is the secret of poor dinners. Not one in
fifty will do it. If you wanted really to help us, and improve my
position, you might, Ursula. I can't afford to fall out with Copperhead,
he is very important to me just at this moment; and perhaps it is better
that I should give in to him at once about the late dinner."

"You may say it is not my business," said Ursula, "but we have already
another maid, and now two dinners--for it is just the same as two
dinners. He will not be any advantage to you like that, and why should
he be so much harder to please than we are? Reginald never grumbled, who
was much better bred and better educated than Mr. Copperhead."

"And with so much money to keep up his dignity," said her father
mockingly. "No, it is not your business, the cookery-book is your
business, and how to make the best of everything; otherwise I don't want
any advice from you."

"What did he say?" cried Janey, rushing in as soon as her father had
left the room. Ursula, a very general consequence of such interviews,
was sitting by the fire, very red and excited, with tears glistening in
her eyes.

"Of course I knew what he would say; he says it is not my business, and
there are to be late dinners, and everything that man chooses to ask
for. Oh, it is so hard to put up with it!" cried Ursula, her eyes
flashing through her tears. "I am to read up the cookery-book and learn
to make _entrées_ for them; but to say we can't afford it is not my
business. I wonder whose business it is? It is I who have to go to the
tradespeople and to bear it all if they grumble; and now this horrible
man, who dares to tell me the coffee is not strong enough, as if I was a
barmaid--"

"Barmaids don't have to do with coffee, have they?" said matter-of-fact
Janey; "but the fact is _he is not a gentleman_; why should you mind?
What does it matter what a person like that says or does? You said so
yourself, he is not a bit a gentleman. I wonder what Cousin Anne and
Cousin Sophy could mean."

"It is not their fault; they think of his mother, who is nice, who sent
those things; but Mr. Copperhead knew about the things, which was not so
nice of her, was it? But never mind, we must try to make the best of it.
Get the cookery-book, Janey; perhaps if you were to read it out loud,
and we were both to try to fix our mind upon it--for something must be
done," said Ursula gravely. "Papa will never find it out till all the
money is spent, but we shall be poorer than we were before we had the
pupil. Who is that, Janey, at the door?"

It was Phoebe, who came in blooming from the cold, in a furred jacket, at
which the girls looked with unfeigned admiration. "The skating will soon
come on in earnest now," she said; "grandmamma is better, and I thought
I might come and see you. I had a long talk with your brother the other
day, did he tell you? and I made him know Mr. Northcote, one of our
people. I know you will turn up your pretty nose, Ursula, at a
Dissenter."

"I should think so," cried Janey; "we have nothing to do with such
people, being gentlefolks, have we, Ursula? Oh, I forgot! I beg your
pardon, I didn't mean to say--"

Phoebe smiled upon her serenely. "I am not angry," she said, "I
understand all that; and in Carlingford I have no right, I suppose, to
stand upon being a lady, though I always thought I was one. I am only a
young woman here, and not so bad either for that, if you will promise,
Janey, not to call me a young person--"

"Oh, Miss Beecham!"

"Mr. Copperhead is a Dissenter," said Ursula, somewhat sullenly, "we put
up with him because he is rich. Oh, it is all very disagreeable! I don't
want to know any new people whatever they are; I find the old ones bad
enough. Reginald hates him too, a big lazy useless being that treats one
as if one were a chambermaid!"

"Is it Clarence? It is not quite his fault. His mother is a lady, but
his father is a brute," said Phoebe, "thinking of nothing but his
horrible money. Clarence is not so bad. It is because he has no
imagination, and does not understand other people's feelings; he does
not mean it, poor fellow; he goes trampling about with his big feet upon
everybody's toes, and never is a bit the wiser. Here he is--he is coming
in with your father. I suppose there must be a great deal in race," she
added with a soft little sigh, "Clarence looks a clown, and your father
such a gentleman. I suppose I show just the same when I stand beside
you."

Now Phoebe was well aware that this was not the case, and Ursula's
indignant disclaimer made her rather laugh, because it was so
unnecessary, than be pleased by its vehemence. There was an old convex
mirror opposite which reflected the girls in miniature, making a pretty
picture of them as they sat together, Ursula with her dark locks, and
Phoebe in her golden hair, and the tall sharp school-girl, Janey, all
elbows and angles, short petticoats and grey stockings. Janey was the
only one in whom there could have been suspected any inferiority of
race; but her awkwardness was that of youth, and her disordered hair and
dress belonged also to her age, for she was at that troublesome period
when frocks are constantly getting too short, and sleeves too scanty.
Janey was shuffling slowly round the visitor, admiring her at every
point; her garments were not made as dresses were made in Carlingford.
Their fit and their texture were alike too perfect for anything that
ever came out of High Street. The furred jacket had not been seen in
Grange Lane before. Perhaps it was because the cold had become more
severe, an ordinary and simple reason--or because Clarence Copperhead,
who knew her, and in whose eyes it was important to bate no jot of her
social pretensions, was here; and the furred jacket was beyond
comparison with anything that had been seen for ages in Carlingford. The
deep border of fur round the velvet, the warm waddings and paddings, the
close fit up to the throat, were excellencies which warranted Janey's
tour of inspection. Phoebe perceived it very well, but did not confuse
the girl by taking any notice, and in her heart she was herself slightly
pre-occupied, wondering (as Ursula had done) what the man had come here
for, and what he would say when he saw her. Both of these young women
had a secret belief that something romantic, something more than the
mere prose of reading in the first tutor's house that happened to have
been suggested to him, had brought young Copperhead to such an unlikely
place as Carlingford. Ursula had by this time learned to reject this
hypothesis with much indignation at herself for having entertained it,
but Phoebe still felt slightly fluttered by this possibility, and was
eager for the entrance of Clarence. She would know at once what had
brought him, she said to herself, the moment she caught his eye.

And though Mr. May had reconciled himself so completely to the Tozer
business, the appearance of Tozer's granddaughter gave him a momentary
shock. "What did you do with my grandfather's letter? he thought her
eyes said, and the meeting confused and disturbed him. This, however,
was only for a moment. He was a man to whom it was always possible to
make himself agreeable to women, and though he felt so easy in his mind
about Tozer, still it was evident that to conciliate Tozer's relation,
and that so influential a relation, was on the whole a good thing to do.
He was going up to her accordingly with outstretched hands, and the most
amiable inquiries about her grandmother's health, when, to his surprise,
he was frustrated by Clarence who had come in before him--his large
person swelling out, as it always seemed to do when he presented himself
upon a new scene, with importance and grandeur.

"Miss Beecham!" he said, "really, who would have thought it? Now look
here, I came to Carlingford thinking there was not a soul I knew in the
place; and here have you turned up all at once, and Northcote (you know
Northcote?). It is very queer."

"It is odd, isn't it?" said Phoebe quickly. "I was astonished to see Mr.
Northcote, and though I heard you were coming I am not less surprised to
see you." "He has not come for me," she said rapidly to herself, "nor
for Ursula either; then who is it?" Phoebe demanded in the depths of her
own bosom; that he should have come for nobody at all, but simply for
his own purposes, to get a little information put into his head, seemed
incredible to both the girls. Ursula, for her part, had been angry when
she discovered his want of meaning, though why she would have found it
hard to say. But Phoebe, for her part, was not angry. She took this like
other things of the kind, with great and most philosophical calm, but
she could not outgrow it all at once. For whom was it? His cousins,
those Miss Dorsets? But they were much older, and not the kind of women
for whom such an act was likely. Her mind wandered forth lively and
curious in search of the necessary clue. She could not consent to the
fact that no clue was necessary where no mystery was.

"I am glad to see that you venture out in this wintry weather," said Mr.
May; "you set us all a good example. I am always telling my girls that
cold weather is no sufficient reason for staying indoors. I wish Ursula
would do as you do."

"Papa, how can you talk so?" said Janey, indignant, "when you know very
well it is not the cold that keeps Ursula in, but because she has so
much to do."

"Oh, yes, one knows the sort of things young ladies have to do," said
Clarence, with a laugh; "read stories, and look up pretty dresses for
their parties, eh, Miss Janey? and consult the fashion-books. Oh, of
course you will deny it; but my mother makes me her confidant, and I
know that's what you all do."

"To be sure," said Phoebe, "we are not so clever as you are, and can't do
so many things. We know no Latin or Greek to keep our minds instructed;
we acknowledge our infirmity; and we couldn't play football to save our
lives. Football is what you do in this season, when you don't hunt, and
before the ice is bearing? We are poor creatures; we can't parcel out
our lives, according as it is time for football or cricket. You must not
be so severe upon girls for being so inferior to you."

("Oh, don't be too hard upon him,") whispered Ursula, in a parenthesis,
afraid that this irony should drive the pupil to desperation. ("Hard
upon him! he will never find it out,") Phoebe whispered back in the same
tone.

"Oh, hang it all, I don't mean to be severe upon girls," said Clarence,
pulling his moustache with much complacency; "I am sorry for them, I can
tell you. It ain't their fault; I know heaps of nice girls who feel it
horribly. What can they do? they can't go in for cricket and football.
There ought to be something invented for them. To be sure there is
lawn-tennis, but that's only for summer. I should go mad, I think, if I
had nothing to do."

"But you have more brain and more strength, you see, than we have; and
besides, we are used to it," said Phoebe. "I am afraid, Ursula,
grandmamma will want me, and I must go."

Here Mr. May said something to his daughter which filled Ursula with
excitement, mingled of pleasure and displeasure.

"Papa says, will you come to dinner to-morrow at seven? It appears there
is some one you know coming--a Mr. Northcote. I don't know who he is,
but it will be very kind if you will come on my account," the girl
concluded, whispering in her ear, "for how shall I ever get through a
dinner-party? We never gave one in my life before."

"Of course I will come," said Phoebe. "Dinner-parties are not so common
here that I should neglect the chance. I must thank Mr. May. But I hope
you know who Mr. Northcote is," she added, laughing. "I gave an account
of myself loyally, before I permitted you to ask me; but Mr.
Northcote--Oh, no! he does not belong to----the lower classes; but he is
a fiery red-hot----"

"What?" cried eager Janey, pressing to the front. "Radical? I am a
radical too; and Reginald used to be once, and so was Ursula. Oh, I wish
it was to-night!" said Janey, clasping her hands.

"Not a radical, but a Dissenter; and you who are a clergyman, Mr. May! I
like you, oh, so much for it. But I wonder what the people will say."

"My dear Miss Beecham," said the suave Churchman, quite ready to seize
the chance of making a point for himself, "in the Church, fortunately,
what the people say has not to be studied, as your unfortunate pastors,
I am informed, have to do. While Mr. Copperhead is under my roof, I make
his friends welcome--for his sake first, probably afterwards for their
own."

"Yes, I asked Northcote," said Clarence; "I never thought they would
have any objection. He's not a common Dissenter, like the most of those
fellows that have nothing but their salaries. He's well off; he don't
require, bless you, to keep people in good temper, and toady to 'em,
like most do. He's as independent as I am; I don't say that he's quite
as well off; but money always finds its level. I shouldn't have thought
of asking May to receive a common Dissenting fellow, like the rest."

Phoebe laughed. It did not occur to the accomplished scion of the house
of Copperhead, nor to the two girls, who were not experienced enough to
think of such things, what was the meaning expressed in Phoebe's laugh,
which was not cheerful. Mr. May himself had the advantage of more
discrimination.

"I hope you will find that, Dissenter or not, I know what is my duty to
my friends," he said. "What my guests may possess, or the exact nature
of their opinions on all points, are not subjects to be discussed by
me."

"Oh, there is nothing to find fault with in _you_," said Phoebe, with
less than her usual universal courtesy; "you are always kind, Mr. May;"
and then she laughed again. "Some people are very clever in finding out
the vulnerable places," she said.

"She is changed," said Clarence, when she was gone. "She is not the
jolly girl she used to be. She was always a very jolly girl; ready to
help a fellow out of a scrape, you know. But Northcote's a fearfully
clever fellow. You should just hear him talk. He and May will go at it
hammer and tongs, as sure as fate."



CHAPTER XXIX.

URSULA'S ENTRÉES.


It would be difficult to describe the anxiety with which that first
"late dinner" was regarded by Ursula. Janey, too, had thrown herself
into it heart and soul, until she received the crushing intimation from
her father, that her company was not expected at this stately meal; a
discovery which altogether extinguished poor Janey, accustomed to be
always in the front whatever occurred, and to whom suggestions of things
that could not be done by a girl who was not "out," had never presented
themselves. She retired to her own room dissolved in tears when this
fearful mandate went forth, and for the rest of the morning was good for
nothing, her eyes being converted into a sort of red pulp, her rough
hair doubly dishevelled, her whole being run into tears. She was of no
more use now to go errands between the kitchen and the drawing-room, or
to read the cookery-book out loud, which was a process upon which Ursula
depended very much, to fix in her mind the exact ingredients and painful
method of preparation of the _entrées_ at which she was toiling. Betsy,
the former maid-of-all-work, now promoted under the title of cook, could
be trusted to roast the saddle of mutton, which, on consideration that
it was "a party," had been thought preferable to a leg, and she could
boil the fish, after a sort, and make good honest family soup, and the
rice-pudding or apple-tart, which was the nearest approach to luxury
indulged in at the Parsonage; but as for _entrées_, Betsy did not know
what they were. She had heard of made dishes indeed, and respectfully
afar off had seen them when she was kitchen-maid at Lady Weston's--the
golden age of her youthful inexperience. But this was so long ago, that
her recollections were rather confusing than useful to Ursula, when she
went downstairs to make her first heroic effort.

"La, Miss, that ain't how cook used to do 'em at Lady Weston's," Betsy
said, looking on with unbelieving eyes. She was sure of this negative,
but she was not sure of anything else, and utterly failed to give any
active assistance, after driving the girl desperate with her criticisms.
Altogether it was a confused and unpleasant day. When Reginald came in
in the morning, his sister had no time to speak to him, so anxious was
she and pre-occupied, and the drawing-room was being turned upside down,
to make it look more modern, more elegant, more like the Dorsets'
drawing-room, which was the only one Ursula knew. The comfortable round
table in the middle, round which the family had grouped themselves for
so long, had been pushed aside into a corner, leaving one fresh patch of
carpet, quite inappropriate, and unconnected with anything else; and
instead of the work and the school-books which so often intruded there,
all that was gaudy and uninteresting in the May library had been
produced to decorate the table; and even a case of wax flowers, a
production of thirty years since, which had been respectfully
transferred to a china closet by Ursula's better taste, but which in the
dearth of ornament she had brought back again. Reginald carried off the
wax flowers and replaced the table with his own hands, while Ursula
scorched her cheeks over the _entrées_ downstairs.

"All this for Northcote," he said, when she ran up for a moment, done up
in a big white apron, her face crimson with the fire and anxiety
combined: "for Miss Beecham has been here before, and you made no fuss
about her then."

"She came to tea," said Ursula. "And I got a cake, which was all any one
could do; but a dinner is a very different thing." Indeed she had by
this time come to share her father's opinion, that dinner was the right
and dignified thing in all cases, and that they had been hitherto living
in a very higgledy-piggledy way. The dinner had gone to her head.

"Then it is for Northcote, as I say," said Reginald. "Do you know who he
is?"

"A Dissenter," said Ursula, with a certain languor; "but so, you know,
is Mr. Copperhead, and he is the chief person here now-a-days. Papa
thinks there is nobody like him. And so is Phoebe."

"Oh, have you come so far as that?" said Reginald, with a little tinge
of colour in his face. He laughed, but the name moved him. "It is a
pretty fresh sort of country name, not quite like such an accomplished
person."

"Oh, that is just like you men, with your injustice! Because she is
clever you take it amiss; you are all jealous of her. Look at her pretty
colour and her beautiful hair; if that is not fresh I should like to
know what is. She might be Hebe instead of Phoebe," said Ursula, who had
picked up scraps of classical knowledge in spite of herself.

"You are a little goose," said Reginald, pinching her ear, but he liked
his sister for her generous partizanship. "Mind you don't come to dinner
with cheeks like that," he said. "I like my sister to be herself, not a
cook-maid, and I don't believe in _entrées_;" but he went away smiling,
and with a certain warmth in his breast. He had gone up and down Grange
Lane many times at the hour of sunset, hoping to meet Phoebe again, but
that sensible young woman had no mind to be talked of, and never
appeared except when she was certain the road was clear. This had
tantalized Reginald more than he chose to avow, even to himself. Pride
prevented him from knocking at the closed door. The old Tozers were
fearful people to encounter, people whom to visit would be to damn
himself in Carlingford; but then the Miss Griffiths were very insipid by
the side of Phoebe, and the variety of her talk, though he had seen so
little of her, seemed to have created a new want in his life. He thought
of a hundred things which he should like to discuss with her--things
which did not interest Ursula, and which the people about him did not
understand much. Society at that time, as may be presumed, was in a poor
way in Carlingford. The Wentworths and Wodehouses were gone, and many
other nice people; the houses in Grange Lane were getting deserted, or
falling into inferior hands, as was apparent by the fact that the
Tozers--old Tozer, the butterman--had got one of them. The other people
were mostly relics of a bygone state of things: retired old couples, old
ladies, spinsters, and widows--excellent people, but not lively to talk
to--and the Griffiths, above mentioned, put up with in consideration of
tolerable good looks and "fun," became tiresome when anything better was
to be had. The mere apparition of Phoebe upon the horizon had been enough
to show Reginald that there were other kinds of human beings in the
world. It had not occurred to him that he was in love with her, and the
idea of the social suicide implied in marrying old Tozer's
granddaughter, had not so much as once entered his imagination. Had he
thought of it, he would have pulled that imagination up tight, like an
unruly horse, the thing being too impossible to bear thinking of. But
this had never entered his mind. He wanted to see Phoebe to talk to her,
to be near her, as something very new, captivating and full of
interest--that was all. No one else within his sphere could talk so
well. The Rector was very great indeed on the reredos question, and the
necessity of reviving the disused "Church" customs; but Reginald could
not go so far as he did as to the importance of the reredos, and was
quite in doubt whether it was not as well for most people to "direct"
themselves by their own consciences as to be directed by the spiritual
head of the parish, who was not over wise in his own concerns. His
father, Reginald knew, could be very agreeable among strangers, but he
seldom chose to be so in his own house. All this made the advent of
Phoebe appear to him like a sudden revelation out of a different world.
He was an Oxford man, with the best of education, but he was a simpleton
all the same. He thought he saw in her an evidence of what life was like
in those intellectual professional circles which a man may hope to get
into only in London. It was not the world of fashion he was aware, but
he thought in his simplicity that it was the still higher world of
culture and knowledge, in which genius, and wit, and intellect stood
instead of rank or riches. How Tozer's granddaughter had got admission
there, he did not ask himself, but this was what he thought, and to talk
to her was a new sensation. He was quite unconscious of anything more.

Nobody knew when Ursula took her place at the head of the table in her
pretty white dress, which she had worn at the Dorsets', how much toil
and anxiety the preparations had given her. At the last moment, when her
mind was so far clear of the _entrées_, &c.--as clear as the mind of an
inexperienced dinner-giver can be, until the blessed moment when they
are eaten and done with--she had to take Sarah in hand, who was not very
clear about the waiting, and to instruct her according to her own very
imperfect knowledge how to fulfil her duties.

"Think it is not a dinner-party at all, but only just our ordinary
luncheon, and don't get fluttered; and when I look at you like _this_
come quite close, and I will whisper what you are to do. And oh, Sarah,
like a good creature, don't break anything!" said Ursula almost with
tears.

These were all the directions she could give, and they, it must be
allowed, were somewhat vague. The excitement was becoming to her. She
sat down with a dreadful flutter in her heart, but with her eyes shining
and sparkling. Clarence Copperhead, who extended an arm very carelessly
to take her downstairs, absolutely certain of being a more important
person than his guest Northcote, was roused for the first time to the
consciousness that she was very pretty, which he had not found out
before. "But no style," he said to himself. Phoebe was the one who had
style. She sat between Mr. May and the stranger, but devoted herself to
her host chiefly, displaying a gentle contempt of the younger men in his
presence. No anxiety was in her mind about the dinner. She did not
follow the fate of those _entrées_ round the table with terrible
palpitations, as poor Ursula did; and, alas, the _entrées_ were not
good, and Ursula had the mortification to see the dishes she had taken
so much trouble with, rejected by one and another. Reginald ate some,
for which she blessed him, and so did Phoebe, but Mr. May sent his plate
away with polite execrations.

"Tell your cook she shall go if she sends up such uneatable stuff again,
Ursula," her father cried from the other end of the table.

Two big tears dashed up hot and scalding into Ursula's eyes. Oh, how she
wished she could be dismissed like Betsy! She turned those two little
oceans of trouble piteously, without knowing it, upon Northcote, who had
said something to her, without being able to reply to him. And
Northcote, who was but a young man, though he was a fiery political
Dissenter, and who had come to the Parsonage with a curious mixture of
pleasure and reluctance, immediately threw down any arms that nature
might have provided him with, and fell in love with her there and then
on the spot! to his own absolute consternation. This was how it
happened. The moment was not romantic, the situation was not sublime. A
little motherless housekeeper crying because her father scolded her in
public for a piece of bad cookery. There is nothing in this to make an
idyll out of; but such as it was, it proved enough for Horace Northcote;
he yielded himself on the spot. Not a word was said, for Ursula felt
that if she tried to talk she must cry, and anything further from her
troubled thoughts than love it would be impossible to imagine; but then
and there, so far as the young man was concerned, the story began. He
talked very little for the rest of the meal, and Ursula did not exert
herself, though she recovered slightly when the mutton turned out to be
very good, and was commended; but what was the mutton in comparison with
her _entrées_, which she had made with her own hands, and which were a
failure? She was reduced to silence, and she thought that the stranger
at her left hand was nice, because he did not bother her, and was
content with a very little talk.

"Oh, Phoebe, did you hear papa about those _entrées_?" she cried, when
they reached the drawing-room; and sitting down on the stool by the fire
which Janey usually appropriated, she cried, poor child, with
undisguised passion. "I had made them myself; I had been busy about them
all day; I read the cookery-book till my head ached, and took such
pains! and you heard what he said."

"Yes, dear, I heard him; but he did not think what he was saying, it
never occurred to him that it was you. Don't shake your little head, I
am sure of it; you know, Ursula, your papa is very agreeable and very
clever."

"Yes, I know he is clever; and he can be nice when he likes--"

"Did you like it?" cried Janey, bursting in, red-eyed and dishevelled in
her morning frock. "Oh, no, I am not dressed, I don't mean to, to let
him get the better of me, and think I care. Only just for a moment to
see you two. Oh, isn't Phoebe grand in that dress? She is like a picture;
you are nothing beside her, Ursula. Tell me, is it nice to have dinner
instead of tea? Did it go off very well, did you enjoy yourselves? Or
were you all unhappy, sitting round the table, eating beef and mutton,"
cried Janey with all the scorn of ignorance, "at that ridiculous hour!"

"I was as miserable as I could be," cried Ursula, "I was not happy at
all. Enjoy myself! with the _entrées_ on my mind, and after what papa
said. Oh, run away, Janey, and dress, or else go to bed. Papa will be so
angry if he comes up and finds you here."

"I should like to make him frantic," cried Janey with vindictive force,
"I should just like to drive him out of his senses! Never mind, yes, I
am angry; haven't I a right to be angry? I am as tall as Ursula--I hope
I know how to behave myself--and when there were people coming, and a
real dinner--"

"Oh, I hear them," cried Ursula in alarm, and Janey flew off, her hair
streaming behind her. Phoebe put her arm round Ursula, and raised her
from the stool. She was not perhaps a perfect young woman, but had her
own ends to serve like other people; yet she had a friendly soul. She
gave her friend a kiss to preface her admonition, as girls have a way of
doing.

"I would not let Janey talk so," she said, "I think you should not talk
so yourself, Ursula, if you will forgive me, of your papa; he is very
nice, and so clever. I should try all I could to please him, and I
should not let any one be disrespectful to him if it was I."

"Oh, Phoebe, if you only knew--"

"Yes, I know, gentlemen don't understand often; but we must do our duty.
He is nice, and clever, and handsome, and you ought to be proud of him.
Dry your eyes, here they are really, coming upstairs. You must be
good-humoured and talk. He is ever so much nicer than the young men,"
said Phoebe, almost loud enough to be heard, as Clarence Copperhead,
sauntering in advance of the others with his large shirt-front fully
displayed, came into the room. He came in half whistling in serene
indifference. Phoebe had "style," it was true; but she was only a
Dissenting parson's daughter, and what were two such girls to Clarence
Copperhead? He came in whistling an opera air, which he let drop only
after he was well inside the door.

"Miss Beecham, let us have some music. I know you can play," he said.

"If Miss May likes," said Phoebe, covering his rudeness; and then she
laughed, and added, "if you will accompany me."

"Does Mr. Copperhead play too?"

"Oh beautifully. Has he not let you see his music? Won't you bring it
here and let us look over it? I dare say there are some things we can
play together."

"You can play everything," said the young man. "And I'll bring my
violin, if you like."

He was delighted; he quickened his steps almost into a run as he went
away.

"You should not laugh at Mr. Copperhead," Ursula retorted on her friend.
"You should be good-humoured, too. You are better than I am, but you are
not quite good, after all."

"Violin!" said Mr. May. "Heaven and earth! is there going to be any
fiddling? Miss Beecham, I did not expect you to bring such a horror upon
me. I thought I had nothing but good to expect from you."

"Wait till you hear him, sir," said Phoebe.

Mr. May retired to the far corner of the room. He called young Northcote
to him, who was standing beside Ursula, eager to talk, but not knowing
how to begin. It was bad enough to be thus withdrawn from his chance of
making himself agreeable; but the reader may imagine what was the
Dissenter's feelings when Mr. May, with a smile, turned upon him. Having
given him a (tolerably) good dinner, and lulled him into a belief that
his sins against the family were unknown, he looked at him, smiling, and
began.

"Mr. Northcote, the first time I saw you, you were discoursing at an
Anti-Establishment Meeting in the Town Hall."

Northcote started. He blushed fiery red. "It is quite true. I wished to
have told you; not to come here on false pretences; but Copperhead--and
your son has been very kind--"

"Then I suppose your views are modified. Clergymen no longer appear to
you the demons in human shape you thought them then; and my son, in
particular, has lost his horns and hoofs?"

"Mr. May, you are very severe; but I own there is reason--"

"It was you who were severe. I was not quite sure of you till Copperhead
brought you in. Nay," said the clergyman, rubbing his hands; "do you
think that I object to the utterance of a real opinion? Certainly not.
As for Reginald, it was the thing that decided him; I leave you to find
out how; so that we are positively in your debt. But I hope you don't
fiddle too. If you like to come with me to my study--"

Northcote gave a longing look round the room, which had become all at
once so interesting to him. Mr. May was too clear-sighted not to see it.
He thought, quite impartially, that perhaps it was an excusable
weakness, even though it was his own society that was the counter
attraction. They were two nice-looking girls. This was how he put it,
being no longer young, and father to one of them; naturally, the two
young men would have described the attraction of Phoebe and Ursula more
warmly. Clarence Copperhead, who had come in with an armful of music and
his fiddle, was not thinking of the girls, nor of anything but the sweet
sounds he was about to make--and himself. When he began to tune his
violin, Mr. May got up in dismay.

"This is more than mortal can stand," he said, making as though he would
have gone away. Then he changed his mind, for, after all, he was the
chaperon of his motherless girl. "Get me the paper, Ursula," he said. It
would be hard to tell with what feelings Northcote contemplated him. He
was the father of Ursula, yet he dared to order her about, to bring the
tears to her eyes. Northcote darted the same way as she was going, and
caught at the paper on a side-table, and brought it hastily. But alas,
that was last week's paper! he did not save her the trouble, but he
brought upon himself a gleam of mischief from her father's eyes. "Mr.
Northcote thinks me a tyrant to send you for the paper," he said, as he
took it out of her hands. "Thank him for his consideration. But he was
not always so careful of your peace of mind," he added, with a laugh.

Ursula looked at him with a wondering question in her eyes; but those
tears were no longer there which had gone to Northcote's heart.

"I don't know what papa means," she said, softly; and then, "I want to
beg your pardon, please. I was very silly. Will you try to forget it,
and not tell any one, Mr. Northcote? The truth was, I thought I had done
them nicely, and I was vexed. It was very childish," she said, shaking
her head with something of the same moisture floating back over the
lustre in her pretty eyes.

"I will never tell any one, you may be sure," said the young man; but
Ursula did not notice that he declined to give the other pledge, for
Reginald came up just then with wrath in his eyes.

"Is that idiot going to fiddle all night?" he cried (poor Clarence had
scarcely begun); "as if anybody wanted to hear him and his tweedle-dees.
Miss Beecham plays like St. Cecilia, Ursula; and I want to speak to her
about something. Can't you get that brute beguiled away?"

Clarence was the one who was _de trop_ in the little party; but he
fiddled beatifically, with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, without the
slightest suspicion of the fact, while Phoebe accompanied him, with
little smiles at her friends, and shrugs of her shoulders. Reginald felt
very strongly, though for the first time, that she was over doing the
Scriptural maxim of being all things to all men.



CHAPTER XXX.

SOCIETY AT THE PARSONAGE.


After this dinner-party, such as it was, the Parsonage became gradually
the centre of a little society, such as sometimes forms in the most
accidental way in a house where there are young men and young women, and
of which no one can say what momentous results may arise. They came
together fortuitously, blown to one centre by the merest winds of
circumstance, out of circles totally different and unlike. Why it was
that Mr. May, so good a Churchman, permitted two people so entirely out
of his sphere to become his habitual guests and the companions of his
children was very perplexing to the outside world, who half in mere
surprise, and a little in despite, wondered and commented till they were
tired, or till they had become so familiar with the strange spectacle
that it ceased to strike them. A rich pupil might be forgiven for being
a Dissenter, indeed in Carlingford as elsewhere money made up for most
deficiencies; but even natural complacency towards the rich pupil
scarcely accounted for the reception of the others. The neighbours could
never be quite sure whether the family at the Parsonage knew or did not
know that their new friend Northcote was not only acting as Minister of
Salem Chapel, but was the assailant of Reginald May at the
Anti-Establishment Meeting, and various persons in Grange Lane held
themselves for a long time on the tip-toe of preparation, ready to
breathe to Mr. May the painful intelligence, in case he was unaware of
it. But he never gave them the opportunity. Honestly, he had forgotten
the speaker's name at first, and only recognized him when he was
introduced by young Copperhead; and then the situation was piquant and
amused him, especially the evident confusion and consternation of the
culprit when found out.

"I don't know what he thinks he has done to you," said Clarence, "I
could scarcely make him come in. He says he is sure you can't wish to
see him."

This was two days after the dinner, when Horace Northcote came to leave
a respectful card, hoping that he might see Ursula at a door or window.
Clarence had seized upon him and dragged him in, in spite of himself.

"On the contrary, I am very glad to see him," said Mr. May, with a
smile. He looked at the young Dissenter with a jeer in his eyes. He
liked to punish him, having suddenly perceived that this jeer was much
more potent than any serious penalty. "If he will promise not to slay
me, I shan't quarrel with him." Mr. May was in such good spirits at this
moment that he could afford to joke; his own magnanimity, and the
other's confused looks of guilt, overcame his gravity. "Come back
again," he said, holding out his hand; and though Horace retired for the
moment utterly confounded, yet the attractions of the cheerful house
overcame, after a while, his sense of humiliation and inappropriateness.
If the injured family had condoned his offence, why should he mind? and
the pleasant girlish friendliness, without any _arrière pensée_, of
Ursula, was enough to have set any man at his ease; the facts of the
case being that Mrs. Hurst was away upon a long visit, and that, having
no other gossip within the range of her acquaintance, Ursula did not
know. Reginald, who did, had the same sense of magnanimity as his father
had, and began to like the society of the congenial yet different spirit
which it was so strange to him to find under a guise so unlike his own.
And Northcote, on his side, finding no house to which he could betake
himself among those whom Phoebe called "our own people;" found a refuge,
which gradually became dearer and dearer to him, at the Parsonage, and
in his profound sense of the generosity of the people who had thus
received him, felt his own partizanship wax feebler and feebler every
day. He seemed to see the ground cut from under his feet, as he watched
the young chaplain at his work. Mr. May, to be sure, was no example of
pastoral diligence, but he was a pleasant companion, and had put himself
from the first in that position of moral superiority which naturally
belongs to an injured person who can forgive heartily and without
prejudice. And Ursula! He did not venture to call her Ursula, even in
the secret depths of his heart. There a pronoun was enough, as, indeed,
incipient Love generally finds it. She spoke to him, smiled at him in
the street; and immediately life became a _Vita Nuova_ to him. The young
Dissenter was as Dante, and simple Ursula, with her housekeeping books
in her hand, became another Beatrice. It is not every one who has the
capacity for this perfect and absorbing sentiment; but Horace Northcote
had, and for a long time Ursula was as unconscious of it as heart could
desire.

Phoebe's admission to the house had been more simple still. A girlish
fancy on Ursula's part, a fit of good-nature on her father's, and then
that secret thread of connection with Tozer which no one knew of, and
the coming of Clarence Copperhead, to please whom Mr. May permitted
himself to be persuaded to do much; and in addition to all this, her
good looks, her pretty manners, her cleverness and the deference she had
always shown in the proper quarter. Mr. May did not enter into the lists
with his son, or think of offering himself as a suitor to Phoebe; but he
liked to talk to her, and to watch what he called "her little ways," and
to hear her play when Clarence and his violin were otherwise disposed
of. He was an experienced man, priding himself on a knowledge of human
nature, and Phoebe's "little ways" amused him greatly. What did she
mean?--to "catch" Clarence Copperhead, who would be a great match, or to
fascinate Northcote? Oddly enough Mr. May never thought of Reginald,
though that young man showed an eagerness to talk to Phoebe which was
more than equal with his own, and had always subjects laid up ready to
discuss with her, when he could find the opportunity. Sometimes he would
go up to her in the midst of the little party and broach one of these
topics straight on end, without preface or introduction, as which was
her favourite play of Shakespeare, and what did she think of the
character of King Lear? It was not very wise, not any wiser than his
neighbour was, who made pretty little Ursula into the ideal lady, the
most gentle and stately figure in poetry; and yet no doubt there was
something in both follies that was a great deal better than wisdom. The
society formed by these two young pairs, with Clarence Copperhead as a
heavy floating balance, and Mr. May and Janey--one philosophical, wise
and mistaken; the other sharp-sighted and seeing everything--as
spectators, was very pleasant to the close little coterie themselves,
and nobody else got within the charmed circle. They grew more and more
intimate daily, and had a whole vocabulary of domestic jokes and
allusions which no one else could understand. It must be allowed,
however, that the outside world was not pleased with this arrangement on
either side of the question. The Church people were shocked with the
Mays for harbouring Dissenters under any circumstances whatever, and
there had not been a Minister at Salem Chapel for a long time so
unpopular as Horace Northcote, who was always "engaged" when any of the
connection asked him to tea, and preached sermons which went over their
heads, and did not remember them when he met them in the street. Tozer
was about the only one of the congregation who stood up for the young
man. The others thanked Heaven that "he was but tempory," and on the
whole they were right, for certainly he was out of place in his present
post.

As for Clarence Copperhead, he led an agreeable life enough among all
these undercurrents of feeling, which he did not recognise with any
distinctness. He was comfortable enough, pleased with his own
importance, and too obtuse to perceive that he bored his companions; and
then he considered himself to be slightly "sweet upon" both the girls.
Ursula was his favourite in the morning, when he embarrassed her much by
persistently seeking her company whenever liberated by her father; but
Phoebe was the queen of the evening, when he would get his fiddle with an
unfailing complacency which drove Reginald frantic. Whether it was mere
good-nature or any warmer impulse, Phoebe was strangely tolerant of these
fiddlings, and would go on playing for hours with serene composure,
never tired and never impatient. Yet poor Clarence was not an
accompanyist to be coveted. He was weak in the ear and defective in
science, but full of a cheerful confidence which was as good as genius.

"Never mind, Miss Phoebe," he would say cheerfully, when he had broken
down for the twentieth time, "play on and I'll catch you up." He had
thus a series of trysting places in every page or two, which might have
been very laughable to an indifferent spectator, but which aggravated
the Mays, father and son, to an intolerable extent. They were the two
who suffered. As for Horace Northcote, who was not a great talker, it
was a not disagreeable shield for his silent contemplation of Ursula,
and the little things which from time to time he ventured to say to her.
For conversation he had not the thirst which animated Reginald, and
Ursula's talk, though lively and natural, was not like Phoebe's; but
while the music went on he could sit by her in a state of silent
beatitude, now and then saying something to which Ursula replied if she
was disposed, or if she was not disposed put aside by a little shake of
her head, and smiling glance at the piano. Sometimes it was simple
wilfulness that made her silent; but Northcote set it down to an
angelical sweetness which would not wound even the worst of performances
by inattention. They were happy enough sitting there under the shelter
of the piano, the young man absorbed in the dreams of a young love, the
girl just beginning to realize the adoration which she was receiving,
with a timid perception of it--half-frightened, half-grateful. She was
in spite of herself amused by the idea only half understood, and which
she could scarcely believe, that this big grown man, so much more
important than herself in everybody's eyes, should show so much respect
to a little girl whom her father scolded, whom Reginald sent trotting
about on all sorts of errands, and whom Cousin Anne and Cousin Sophy
considered a child. It was very strange, a thing to call forth
inextinguishable laughter, and yet with a strange touch of sweetness in
it, which almost made her cry in wondering gratitude. What she thought
of him, Ursula did not ask herself; that he should think _like this_ of
her was the bewildering, extraordinary, ridiculous fact that at present
filled her girlish head.

But if they were sweet to Northcote, these evenings were the crown of
Clarence Copperhead's content and conscious success; he was supremely
happy, caressing his fiddle between his cheek and his shoulder, and
raising his pale eyes to the ceiling in an ecstasy. The music, and the
audience, and the accompanyist all together were delightful to him. He
could have gone on he felt not only till midnight, but till morning, and
so on to midnight again, with short intervals for refreshment. Every ten
minutes or so there occurred a break in the continuity of the strain,
and a little dialogue between the performers.

"Ah, yes, I have missed a line; never mind; go on, Miss Phoebe, I will
make up to you," he said.

"It is those accidentals that have been your ruin," said Phoebe laughing;
"it is a very hard passage, let us turn back and begin again," and then
the audience would laugh, not very sweetly, and (some of them) make
acrid observations; but the pianist was good-nature itself, and went
back and counted and kept time with her head, and with her hand when she
could take it from the piano, until she had triumphantly tided him over
the bad passage, or they had come to the point of shipwreck again.
During these labours, Phoebe, who was really a good musician, ought to
have suffered horribly; but either she did not, or her good-nature was
stronger than her good taste, for she went on serenely, sometimes for
hours together, while her old and her young admirers sat secretly
cursing (in such ways as are becoming to a clergyman) each in his
corner. Perhaps she had a slight degree of pleasure in the evident power
she had over father and son; but it was difficult fully to understand
her views at this somewhat bewildering period of her life, in which she
was left entirely to her own resources. She was herself groping a little
through paths of uncertain footing, enjoying herself a great deal, but
not seeing clearly where it led to, and having no definite purpose, or
chart of those unknown countries in her mind.

"How you can go on," said Reginald, on one of these occasions, having at
length managed to seize upon and get her into a corner, "for hours,
having your ears sacrificed and your patience tried by these fearful
discords, and smile through it, is a mystery which I cannot fathom! If
it was only consideration for your audience, that might be enough to
move any one--but yourself--"

"I don't seem to feel it so very much myself."

"And yet you are a musician!"

"Don't be too hard upon me, Mr May. I only play--a little. I am not like
my cousins in the High Street, who are supposed to be very clever at
music; and then poor Mr. Copperhead is a very old friend."

"Poor Mr. Copperhead! poor us, you mean, who have to listen--and you,
who choose to play."

"You are very vindictive," she said, with a piteous look. "Why should
you be so vindictive? I do what I can to please my friends, and--there
is no doubt about what poor Clarence likes best; if you were to show me
as plainly what you would like--_quite_ plainly, as he does----"

"Don't you know?" said Reginald, with glowing eyes. "Ah, well! if I may
show you plainly--quite plainly, with the same results, you may be sure
not to be left long in doubt. Talk to me! it is easier, and not so
fatiguing. Here," said the young man, placing a chair for her; "he has
had your patient services for two hours. Do only half as much for me."

"Ah! but talking is a different thing, and more--difficult--and
more--personal. Well!" said Phoebe, with a laugh and a blush, taking the
chair, "I will try, but you must begin; and I cannot promise, you know,
for a whole hour."

"After you have given that fellow two! and such a fellow! If it was
Northcote, I might be equally jea--displeased, but I could understand
it, for he is not a fool."

"I think," said Phoebe, looking towards the other end of the room, where
Northcote was occupied as usual close to Ursula's work-basket, "that Mr.
Northcote manages to amuse himself very well without any help of mine."

"Ah!" cried Reginald, startled; for of course it is needless to say that
the idea of any special devotion to his little sister had never entered
his mind. He felt disposed to laugh at first when the idea was suggested
to him, but he gave a second look, and fellow-feeling threw a certain
enlightenment upon the subject. "That would never do," he said gravely;
"I wonder I never thought of it before."

"Why would it not do? She is very nice, and he is clever and a rising
man; and he is very well off; and you said just now he was not a fool."

"Nevertheless it would never do," said Reginald, opposing her pointedly,
as he had never opposed her before; and he remained silent for a whole
minute, looking across the room, during which long interval Phoebe sat
demurely on the chair where he had placed her, looking at him with a
smile on her face.

"Well?" she said at length, softly, "it was talk you said you wanted,
Mr. May; but you are not so ready to tune up your violin as Mr.
Copperhead, though I wait with my fingers on the piano, so to speak."

"I beg your pardon!" he cried, and then their eyes met, and both
laughed, though, as far as Reginald was concerned, in an embarrassed
way.

"You perceive," said Phoebe, rising, "that it is not nearly so easy to
please you, and that you don't know half so exactly what you want, as
Clarence Copperhead does, though you abuse him, poor fellow. I have got
something to say to Ursula! though, perhaps, she does not want me any
more than you do."

"Don't give me up for one moment's distraction; and it was your fault,
not mine, for suggesting such a startling idea."

Phoebe shook her head, and waved her hand as a parting salutation, and
then went across the room to where Ursula was sitting, where Horace
Northcote at least found her very much in his way. She began at once to
talk low and earnestly on some subject so interesting that it absorbed
both the girls in a way which was very surprising and unpleasant to the
young men, neither of whom had been able to interest the one whose
attention he was specially anxious to secure half so effectually.
Northcote, from the other side of the table, and Reginald from the other
end of the room, gazed and gloomed with discomfited curiosity, wondering
what it could be; while Clarence strutted uneasily about the piano,
taking up his fiddle now and then, striking a note, and screwing up his
strings into concord, with many impatient glances. But still the girls
talked. Was it about their dresses or some nonsense, or was it a more
serious subject, which could thus be discussed without masculine help?
but this matter they never fathomed, nor have they found out till this
hour.



CHAPTER XXXI.

SOCIETY.


Notwithstanding such little social crosses, however, the society at the
Parsonage, as thus constituted, was very agreeable. Mr. May, though he
had his faults, was careful of his daughter. He sat in the drawing-room
every evening till she retired, on the nights their visitors came, and
even when it was Clarence only who remained, an inmate of the house, and
free to go and come as he pleased. Ursula, he felt, must not be left
alone, and though it is uncertain whether she fully appreciated the care
he took of her, this point in his character is worth noting. When the
young party went out together, to skate, for instance, as they did, for
several merry days, Reginald and Janey were, he considered, sufficient
guardians for their sister. Phoebe had no chaperon--"Unless you will take
that serious office upon you, Ursula," she said, shrugging her shoulders
prettily; but she only went once or twice, so well was she able, even
when the temptation was strongest, to exercise self-denial, and show her
perfect power of self-guidance. As for old Tozer and his wife, the idea
of a chaperon never entered their homely head. Such articles are
unnecessary in the lower levels of society. They were anxious that their
child should enjoy herself, and could not understand the reason of her
staying at home on a bright frosty day, when the Mays came to the door
in a body to fetch her.

"No, if they'd have gone down on their knees, nor if I had gone down on
mine, would that girl have left me," cried the old lady, with tears in
her eyes. "She do behave beautiful to her old granny. If so be as I
haven't a good night, no power on earth would make that child go
pleasuring. It's 'most too much at her age."

But Phoebe confided to Ursula that it was not altogether anxiety about
her grandmother.

"I have nobody of my own to go with. If I took grandpapa with me, I
don't think it would mend matters. Once or twice it was possible, but
not every day. Go and enjoy yourself, dear," she said, kissing her
friend.

Ursula was disposed to cry rather than to enjoy herself, and appealed to
Reginald, who was deeply touched by Phoebe's fine feeling. He took his
sister to the ice, but that day he went so far as to go back himself to
No. 6, actually into the house, to make a humble protest, yet to
insinuate his admiration. He was much impressed by, and approved highly
of this reticence, having a very high standard of minor morals for
ladies, in his mind, like most young men.

"She is not one of the girls who rush about everywhere, and whom one is
sick of seeing," he said.

"I think it is very silly," cried Janey. "Who cares for a chaperon! and
why shouldn't Phoebe have her fun, like the rest, instead of shutting
herself up in a stuffy room with that dreadful old Mrs. Tozer?"

Her brother reproved her so sharply for this speech that Janey withdrew
in tears, still asking "Why?" as she rushed to her room. Clarence
Copperhead, for his part, stroked his moustache and said it was a bore.

"For she is the best skater of all the ladies here," he said. "I beg
your pardon, Miss Ursula. She's got so much go in her, and keeps it up
like fun. She's the best I know for keeping a fellow from getting tired;
but as it's Thursday, I suppose she'll be there in the evening."

Clarence never called them anything but Miss Ursula and Miss Phoebe,
dropping the prefix in his thoughts. He felt that he was "a little sweet
upon" them both; and, indeed, it had gleamed dully across his mind that
a man who could marry them both need never be bored, but was likely
always to find something "to do." Choice, however, being necessary, he
did not see his way so clearly as to which he would choose. "The
mountain sheep are sweeter, but the valley sheep are fatter," he said to
himself, if not in these immortal words, yet with full appreciation of
the sentiment. Ursula began to understand dinners with a judicious
intelligence, which he felt was partly created by his own instructions
and remarks; but in the evening it was Phoebe who reigned supreme. She
was so sensible that most likely she could invent a _menu_ all out of
her own head, he thought, feeling that the girl who got him through the
"Wedding March" with but six mistakes, was capable of any intellectual
feat. He had not the slightest doubt that it was in his power to marry
either of the girls as soon as he chose to intimate his choice; and in
the mean time he found it very agreeable to maintain a kind of mental
possibility of future proprietorship of them both.

And thus the pleasant life ran on in the most agreeable absorption and
abstraction from the world outside. "Don't ask any one else; why should
we have any one else?" they all said, except Janey, who had condescended
to appear in the evening in her best frock, though she was not admitted
at dinner, and who thought a few additional guests, and a round game now
and then, would be delightful variations upon the ordinary programme;
but the others did not agree with her. They became more and more
intimate, mingling the brother and sister relationship with a something
unnamed, unexpressed, which gave a subtle flavour to their talks and
flirtations. In that incipient stage of love-making this process is very
pleasant even to the spectators, full of little excitements and
surprises, and sharp stings of momentary quarrel, and great revolutions,
done with a single look, which are infinitely amusing to the lookers-on.
The house became a real domestic centre, thought of by each and all with
tender sentiment, such as made its owners somewhat proud of it, they
could scarcely tell why. Even Mr. May felt a certain complacence in the
fact that the young men were so fond of the Parsonage, and when he heard
complaints of the coldness and dullness of domestic intercourse, smiled,
and said that he did not feel it so, with that pleasant sense of
something superior in himself to cause this difference, which is sweet
to the greatest Stoic; for he was not as yet enlightened as to the
entire indifference of the little circle to any charm in him, and would
have been utterly confounded had any one told him that to the grave and
reflective Northcote, whom he had treated with such magnanimous charity,
binding him (evidently) by bonds of gratitude to himself for ever, it
was little Ursula, and not her father, who was the magnet of attraction.
Mr. May was a clever man, and yet it had not occurred to him that any
comparison between his own society and that of Ursula was possible.
Ursula! a child! He would have laughed aloud at the thought.

But all this pleasant society, though father and daughter both agreed
that it cost nothing, for what is a cake and a cup of tea? and the late
dinners and the extra maid, and the additional fires, and general
enlargement of expenditure made immense inroads, it must be allowed,
into the additional income brought by Clarence Copperhead. The first
quarter's payment was spent, and more than spent, before it came. The
money that was to be laid up for that bill of Tozer's--perhaps--had now
no saving peradventure left in it; for the second half would not be due
till two months after the Tozer bill, and would but be half, even if
procurable at once. Mr. May felt a slight shock while this gleamed
across his mind, but only for a moment. There was still a month, and a
month is a long time, and in the mean time James was almost certain to
send something, and his Easter offerings might, probably would, this
year be something worth having. Why they should be better than usual
this year Mr. May did not explain to himself; his head was a little
turned it must be supposed by the momentary chance of having more money
in his hands than he used to have. Already he had got into the habit of
ordering what he wanted somewhat recklessly, without asking himself how
the things he ordered were to be paid for, and, as so often happened,
followed up that first tampering with the rules of right and wrong by a
general recklessness of the most dangerous kind. He was not so much
alone as he had been; his house, in which he was infinitely more amiable
than of old, had become more pleasant to him; he liked his life better.
His son was independent with an income of his own, and therefore he felt
much more respect for him, and treated him as a companion. His daughter
had developed, if not in the way of _entrées_, a talent for dinners
which raised her very much in his eyes; and naturally the regard shown
to her by the visitors reacted upon Mr. May, though it had not crossed
his mind as yet that any one could be in love with Ursula. All this made
him happier in spite of himself. When you begin to esteem and be proud
of your children your life is naturally happier than when you scoff and
jeer at them, and treat them as creatures of inferior mould to yourself.
Mr. May found out all at once that Reginald was a fine young fellow,
that Ursula was pretty and pleasant, and that droll Janey, with her
elf-locks and angles, was amusing at least, if no more. As for the
little ones, they were considerably thrust into a corner when the elder
youth forced itself into the front. They learned their lessons in
corners, and had their tea by themselves, and were much humbled and
subdued from the moment in which their school-books and toys had
meandered over the whole house, and their looks and likings had been
just as important as anything else. When there is no mother to protect
them, the elder sister's first lover marks a terribly critical period
for the children of the house. They were banished from the
drawing-room, except on special occasions, when they came _en grande
tenue_, in their best things, and were jeered at by Mr. Copperhead. He
called them "the kids," both Amy and Robin were aware, and they resented
it unspeakably. Thus the inward happiness of the Mays confined itself to
the upper regions of the family. Even Betsy regretted the days when, if
she had more to do, she had at least "her kitchen to herself," and
nobody to share the credit. There was more fuss and more worry, if a
trifle less labour, and the increase in consequence which resulted from
being called cook, instead of maid-of-all-work, was scarcely so sweet in
possession as had seemed in prospect.

"Them late dinners" were the object of her perpetual railings; "oh, how
much more comfortable it was, if gentry would but think so, to have your
dinner at two, and get done with your washing up before you was cleaned,
or had any occasion to bother yourself about your cap!" When little Amy
cried over the loneliness of "the children's tea," which they frequently
had to pour out for themselves, Betty gave her a cake and a kiss, and
felt disposed to cry too.

"And she don't know, poor child, not the half," said Betty, which was a
kind of oracular sentence difficult for Betty herself to understand. The
children had nothing to do with the late dinner; they were sent to bed
earlier than they used to be, and scolded if any distant sounds of romps
made itself audible at seven o'clock when their elders were dining; and
then when the little ones went injured to bed, and Johnnie, indignant,
worked at his lessons by himself in a corner of the old nursery, deeply
aware that his school-boy boots and jacket were quite unfit for the
drawing-room, the grown-up young people ran lightly upstairs, all smiles
and pleasure, and those delightful evenings began.

The children sometimes could not get to sleep for the piano and the
raspings of the fiddle, which sounds of mirth suggested nothing but the
wildest enjoyment to them; and when the door opened now and then, bursts
of laughter and mingling voices would come out like the sounds the Peri
heard at the gates of Paradise. The elder ones were happy; their little
atoms of individual life had all united for the moment into one sunshiny
and broad foundation, on which everything seemed to rest with that
strange sense of stability and continuance, which such a moment of
happiness, though it carries every element of change in it, almost
invariably brings. It felt as if it might go on for ever, and yet the
very sentiment that inspired it made separation and convulsion
inevitable--one of those strange paradoxes which occur every day.

Thus the year crept round, and winter melted away with all its
amusements, and spring began. Mr. Northcote's time at Salem Chapel was
more than half over, a fact on which the congregation congratulated
itself much.

"If so be as he had a settled charge of his own, I shouldn't be sorry to
see him gone to-morrow," said one of the recent members.

"Settled charge! You take my word," said Mrs. Pigeon, who was getting
old, but always continued a woman of spirit, "he'll never have a settled
charge in our connection. He carries on here, 'cause he can't help
hisself, but he ain't cut out for a pastor, and he's a deal too thick
with them Church folks. A parson, too! I'd 'a thought he had more
pride."

"Nay, now, but I don't wish him no harm," said the first speaker; "he's
a civil spoken gentleman if he ain't so free and so pleasant as a body
looks for."

"Civil spoken!" said the other; "one of our own ministers in our own
connection! Bless you! they're our servants, that's what they are. I'd
like to see one on 'em as 'ud take upon him to be civil spoken to me."

"Well, I wouldn't go as far as that," cried Mrs. Brown; "we pays 'em
their salary, and we 'as a right to a civil word: but a minister's a
minister, and I'll show him respect as long as he deserves it. I ain't
one for being too hard upon ministers, especially when they're young
men, as has their temptations like, we all know."

"I don't know what you call temptations," said Mrs. Pigeon; "licking the
dust under the feet of a Church parson! and after speaking up so bold
against young May and them old cheats at the College. I wish he was gone
from here, that's what I wish, and our old pastor (if we can't get none
better) back again. He was one as knew his place, and wouldn't have set
his foot inside one of them Parsonages. Parsonages, indeed! kept up with
our money. If ever there was an iniquity on this earth it's a State
Church, and all the argufying in the world won't put that out of me."

It happened that Northcote was in the poulterer's shop, talking to the
poulterer himself at this moment, and he heard the conclusion of this
speech delivered with much unction and force. Such sentiments would have
charmed him three months ago, and probably he would have thought this
uneducated but strenuous partisan an extremely intelligent woman. He
hurried away now with an uncomfortable smile. If an opinion is the
right opinion, why should it have an air of absurdity thrown upon it by
being thus uttered in ungrammatical language by a poulterer's wife?
Truth is the same by whomsoever stated; but yet, was not dogmatism on
any subject the sign of an inexperienced and uncultivated, or a rude and
untutored mind? What did this woman know of the Parsonage, which she
supposed she helped to pay for? What had he himself known three months
ago of Reginald May, whom he had assaulted so savagely? This Church
family, which Mrs. Pigeon knew no better than to abuse, with what divine
charity it had received himself, notwithstanding his public sin against
it. When he thought of that public sin, Northcote's countenance glowed
with shame, and it continued to glow with a more agreeable warmth when
he escaped into thought of the goodness which the Mays had shown him.
Had there ever been such goodness? Was there ever so sweet a home of the
heart as that faded, homely drawing-room? His heart beat high, his steps
quickened; they carried him down Grange Lane in a path so often trod
that he felt there must be a special track of his own under the garden
walls, going Parsonage way.



CHAPTER XXXII.

LOVE-MAKING.


Mrs. Sam Hurst had been a long time out of Carlingford; she had been
paying visits among her friends, with whom, though the young Mays would
never believe it, she was very popular, for she was not ill-natured in
her gossip, and she was often amusing in the fulness of her interest in
other people. It was April when she came back, and the early warmth and
softness of the spring were beginning to be felt in Grange Lane; the
doors of the houses began to be left open, and the girls at the
Parsonage had taken to running out and in without their hats, gleaming
through the little shrubbery in front, and round to the back garden. One
evening it was so mild that they all (which comprehensive term,
sometimes extended to "the whole party," began to be commonly used among
them with that complacence in the exclusiveness of their little coterie,
which every "set" more or less feels) came downstairs in a body, and
wandered about among the laurel-bushes in the spring moonlight. There
was Ursula and Mr. Northcote, Phoebe and Reginald, and Clarence
Copperhead, with Janey behind, who followed where they went, but did not
enjoy the ceremony. It was bad enough in the drawing-room; but
moonlight, who cared about moonlight? Janey said to herself indignantly.
She was the only one who looked up to Mrs. Hurst's window, where there
was a faint light, and when the voices became audible Janey perceived
some one come behind the curtain and look out. The girl was divided
between her faithful family feud against Mrs. Hurst, and a vague sense
of satisfaction in her presence as a Marplot, who one way or other would
infallibly interfere.

"She will say something to papa," said Janey, her heart involuntary
rising at the thought, though at the same time she shivered to think of
the treachery involved to all the tenets of the family. Janey sat on the
steps and listened to the others talking. No one pointed out the stars
to her, or followed her about as Reginald followed Phoebe. As for Mr.
Copperhead, Janey thought he was almost as lonely as she was. He had
lighted his cigar, and was strolling up and down, interrupting both of
the other pairs occasionally, breaking into the midst of Northcote's
astronomical lecture abruptly, and stopping Phoebe herself in the middle
of a sentence. Janey, watching sharply from the steps, noticed, as a
spectator has it in her power to do, that whereas Northcote was
extremely impatient of the interruption, and discovered immediately that
the stars could be seen better from another spot, Phoebe took it quite
sweetly, and addressed herself to him as she went on, which Reginald did
not like, Janey was sure. Were they in love with each other? the girl
asked herself--was this how it was managed? When the moon went under a
cloud for a moment Clarence Copperhead's vast shirt-front made a kind of
substitute down below. Janey lost the other two among the bushes, but
she always beheld that orb of white moving backward and forward with two
dark figures near. She felt sure Reginald did not want to have him in
such close neighbourhood; but Phoebe's voice went on talking to both
alike. Janey was half-pleased, and half-indignant. She had a jealous
dislike, such as most girls have, to see her brother engrossed by any
one, but no more did she like to see another man preferred to Reginald;
she was jealous both ways. As she sat and watched, a slight little creak
came to her sharp ears, and looking up she saw Mrs. Hurst's drawing-room
window opened the very least little bit in the world. Ah! Janey said,
with a long breath. There was nothing she would not have given to have
talked it all over with Mrs. Hurst, and to hear what she would say, if
she had not been the traditional adversary against whom all the family
steeled their hearts.

That was a very pleasant evening; they all remembered it afterwards. It
was the moment when Ursula discovered all in the darkness, when the moon
was under that cloud, _what Mr. Northcote meant_. It flashed upon her
like a sudden light, though they were standing in the shade of a great
laurel. He did not make any declaration, nor say a word that she could
remember. And yet all at once, by some magic which is not explainable,
she found out that that was what he was meaning. This is not an
admirable sentence; but it is difficult to know how to put it better. It
was quite a strange discovery. It set her heart beating, thumping
against her breast. She herself meant nothing whatever, and she never
thought of any response, or of the time when he might ask her to make a
response. The sensation of the moment was quite enough for Ursula. She
was greatly startled, surprised, yet not surprised, touched and full of
a wondering respect and sympathy, awe and half-amusement. Could it be
possible, was _that_ what it was? Though he was not conscious of
betraying himself in any way, Northcote thought he had done something to
offend her. Her shy silence and withdrawal from him went to his heart;
never had her society been so sweet, never had he had her so completely
to himself. What had he done to alarm or offend her? He went home with
his head full of this, able to think of nothing else.

And Phoebe went home too, escorted by Reginald and Clarence together, to
her grandfather's door, with her head buzzing with many thoughts. It was
not her heart that was in a commotion, like little Ursula's. She was
more experienced, though she was not much older, and had gone through
such discoveries before now. But a much more perplexing accident had
befallen her. Reginald May had fallen in love with her, and Clarence
Copperhead, after considerable resistance and hanging off, was making up
his mind to propose. Yes. Phoebe felt with unerring instinct that this
was the state of affairs. He was making up his mind to propose. So much
of her and so little of her had at length made an end of all the prudent
hesitations that lay under the crisp pie-crust of that starched and
dazzling shirt front. That he should never be able to speak a word to
her without that May! that fellow! "the son of my coach!" poking himself
in, was a thing which at length had fired his cool blood to fever heat.
Nobody else could play his accompaniments like that, or pull him through
the "Wedding March" like that; and who would look better at the head of
a table, or show better at a ball, or get on better in society? No one
he knew, certainly. It was true she was only a Minister's daughter, and
without a penny; for the little fortune Mr. and Mrs. Beecham had
carefully gathered together and preserved for their daughter, what was
that to the Copperheads?--nothing, not a penny. But, on the other hand,
Clarence felt that he himself, or rather his father, was rich enough to
be able to afford a wife without money. There was no reason why he
should marry money; and a wife like Phoebe, what a relief that would be,
in the way of education! No need of any more coaching. She was clever,
and fond of reading, and so forth. She would get everything up for him,
if he went into parliament, or that sort of thing; why, she'd keep him
posted up. "There ain't many girls that could do that," he said to
himself. She would save him worlds of trouble; save his money even, for
coaches and that sort of thing cost money; and then that fellow May
would be out of it; his nose would be put out of joint. These are not
eloquent sentiments, but so it was that Clarence's natural feelings
expressed themselves. He had intimated that he would see Miss Phoebe
home, but May had stalked out side by side with him--had not left them
for a moment; and Clarence determined that he would not stand it any
longer. If there was no other way of shaking this fellow off, why, then
he would make up his mind to it, and propose.

Phoebe somehow saw all this written in his fine countenance, and she saw
at the same time that poor Reginald, who was (she thought) young and
simple, and just the sort of poor boy to yield to such folly, was in
love with her; and her head was buzzing with the double discovery. The
first was (of course) the most important. She had no time to indulge her
thoughts while she walked up between them, keeping them in play each
with a word, talking all the way to fill up the somewhat sulky silence
between them; but when she got safely within the garden door, and heard
it shut behind her, and found herself in the quiet of the little green
enclosure, with the budding trees and the lilac bushes for her only
companions, the relief was very grateful to her. She could not go in all
at once to make conversation for grandpapa and grandmamma, and give them
the account they liked to hear, of how she had "enjoyed herself." She
took off her hat to be cooler, and walked slowly down under the
moonlight, her head all throbbing and rustling with thought. The paths
were bordered with primroses, which made a pale glimmer in the moon, and
shed a soft fragrance about. Phoebe had nothing to appeal to Heaven
about, or to seek counsel from Nature upon, as sentimental people might
do. She took counsel with herself, the person most interested. What was
the thing she ought to do? Clarence Copperhead was going to propose to
her. She did not even take the trouble of saying to herself that he
loved her; it was Reginald who did that, a totally different person, but
yet the other was more urgent. What was Phoebe to do? She did not dislike
Clarence Copperhead, and it was no horror to her to think of marrying
him. She had felt for years that this might be on the cards, and there
were a great many things in it which demanded consideration. He was not
very wise, nor a man to be enthusiastic about, but he would be a career
to Phoebe. She did not think of it humbly like this, but with a big
capital--a Career. Yes; she could put him into parliament, and keep him
there. She could thrust him forward (she believed) to the front of
affairs. He would be as good as a profession, a position, a great work
to Phoebe. He meant wealth (which she dismissed in its superficial aspect
as something meaningless and vulgar, but accepted in its higher aspect
as an almost necessary condition of influence), and he meant all the
possibilities of future power. Who can say that she was not as romantic
as any girl of twenty could be? only her romance took an unusual form.
It was her head that was full of throbbings and pulses, not her heart.
No doubt there would be difficulties and disagreeables. His father would
oppose it, and Phoebe felt with a slight shiver that his father's
opposition was nothing to be laughed at, and that Mr. Copperhead had it
in him to crush rebellion with a ferocious hand. And would Clarence have
strength of mind or spirit to hold out? This was a very serious
question, and one which included all the rest. If she accepted his
proposal, would he have the heart to stand to it against his father? or
would her consent simply involve her in a humiliating struggle which
would end in defeat? That was the great question. If this should be the
case, what use would there be in any sacrifice that Phoebe might make? A
struggle with Mr. Copperhead would affect her father's position as much
or more than her own, and she knew that a great many of the congregation
would infallibly side with Mr. Copperhead, feeling it a most dangerous
precedent that a pastor's daughter should be encouraged to think herself
eligible for promotion so great, and thus interfere with the more
suitable matrimonial prospects of wealthy young men who might happen to
attend her father's chapel. Such a thing the conscript fathers of the
connection would feel ought to be put a stop to with a high hand. So it
may be supposed that Phoebe had enough to think of, as she strolled
about in the moonlight alone, between the two borders of primroses.
Tozer thought she had gone upstairs to take off her "things," and it was
natural that when a girl got before a looking-glass she should forget
the progress of time; so that he merely wondered at her non-appearance
until the little chill of air stole in from the open door, and made Mrs.
Tozer cough.

"If it ain't our Phoebe a-walking about in the moonlight like a
play-actor!" said Tozer, in consternation, drawing aside the curtain to
look out. "I'll tell you what, old woman, the girl's in love; and that's
what it is." He thought this was a capital joke, and followed his
witticism with a laugh.

"Not much wonder, neither, with all them young fellows about," said the
old lady. "You may laugh; but, Tozer, I ain't so easy in my mind as you.
If it's him as they call Northcote, that don't matter; but if it's that
big gabby of a Copperhead, there's troubles a-coming; though he's as
rich, they do say, as Creases, whoever Creases might be, and it would be
a credit to have the girl make a match like that out of our house."

Whereat Tozer again laughed loud and long.

"Well," he said, "if Mister Creases himself was here, I wouldn't say as
he was a bit too good for our Phoebe. Don't you trouble your head, old
woman; Copperhead or t'other one, let her make her choice. Phoebe
junior's the girl as'll be their match, and you may take my word for
that. Phoebe's the one as will keep them in their right place, whoever
they may be."

Phoebe heard this laugh echo out into the quiet of the night. Of course,
she did not know the cause of it, but it disturbed her in her thoughts.
Poor, kind, excellent grandpapa, she said to herself, how would he get
on with Mr. Copperhead? He would touch his forelock to so rich a man. He
would go down metaphorically upon his knees before so much wealth; and
what a fool Clarence would be thought on every side for wanting to marry
her! Even his mother, who was a romantic woman, would not see any
romance in it if it was she, Phoebe, who was the poor girl whom he wanted
to marry. Ursula might have been different, who was a clergyman's
daughter, and consequently a lady by prescriptive right. But herself,
Tozer's granddaughter, Tom Tozer's niece, fresh from the butter-shop, as
it were, and redolent of that petty trade which big trade ignores, as
much as the greatest aristocrat does! Phoebe was too sensible by far to
vex or distress herself on this point, but she recognised it without any
hesitation, and the question remained--was it for her advantage to enter
upon this struggle, about which there could be no mistake, or was it
not? And this question was very difficult. She did not dislike
Clarence, but then she was not in love with him. He would be a Career,
but he was not a Passion, she said to herself with a smile; and if the
struggle should not turn out successful on her part, it would involve a
kind of ruin, not to herself only, but to all concerned. What, then, was
she to do? The only thing Phoebe decided upon was that, if she did enter
upon that struggle, it _must_ be successful. Of this alone there could
be no manner of doubt.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A DISCLOSURE.


"Well, young ladies!" said Mrs. Sam Hurst, "I left you very quiet, but
there seems to be plenty going on now-a-days. What a beautiful moon
there was last night! I put up my window to look at it, and all at once
I found there was a party going on below. Quite a _fête champêtre_. I
have newly come from abroad, you know, and it seemed quite congenial. I
actually rubbed my eyes, and said to myself, 'I can't have come home.
It's Boulogne still, it isn't Carlingford!'"

"There was no company," said Ursula with dignity; "there was only our
own party. A friend of Reginald's and a friend of mine join us often in
the evening, and there is papa's pupil--if you call that a party. We are
just as quiet as when you went away. We never invite strangers. We are
as much by ourselves as ever."

"With a friend of Reginald's, and a friend of yours, and papa's pupil!"
said Mrs. Hurst, laughing; "double your own number, Ursula! and I don't
suppose Janey counts yet. Why, there is a young man too many. How dare
you waste the gifts of Providence, you prodigal child? And now let me
hear who they are."

"You may say Janey doesn't count," cried that young woman in person.
"Oh, Mrs. Hurst, what a bore they are! If that's society, I don't care
for society. One always following Ursula about whenever she moves, so
that you can't say a word to her; and the others pulling poor Phoebe to
pieces, who hates them, I am sure. Phoebe was so jolly at first. She
would talk to you, or she would play for you! Why, she taught Johnnie
and me a part-song to sing with her, and said he had a delightful
voice; but she never has any time to look at us now," said Janey,
stopping in this breathless enumeration of wrongs. "She is always taken
up with those horrible men."

"I suppose you call Reginald a horrible man?" said Ursula, with rising
colour. "If that was my opinion of my own brother, I should take care
not to say it, at least."

"Oh, Reginald isn't the worst! There's your Mr. Northcote, and there's
that Copperhead--Woodenhead, we call him in the nursery. Oh, how papa
can put up with him, I can't tell! he never had any patience with us.
You can't think how dull he is, Mrs. Hurst! I suppose girls don't mind
when a man _goes on_, whether he's stupid or not. I never heard Mr.
Northcote say much that was interesting either; but he looks clever, and
that is always something."

"So Mr. Northcote is Ursula's one," said Mrs. Hurst, laughing. "You are
a perfect jewel, Janey, and I don't know how I should ever find out
anything that's going on, but for you. Northcote! it is a new name in
Carlingford. I wonder I have not heard of him already; or have you kept
him entirely to yourself, and let nobody know that there was a new man
in the place?"

There was a little pause here. The girls knew nothing about Northcote,
except the one fact that he was a Dissenter; but as Mrs. Hurst was an
excellent Churchwoman, much better than they were, who had, perhaps,
been brought up too completely under the shadow of the Church to believe
in it implicitly, they hesitated before pronouncing before her that
unfortunate name.

"I don't know whether you are aware," Ursula said at last, with some
slowness and reluctance, "that papa's pupil is of a Dissenting family.
He is related, through his mother, to our cousins, the Dorsets." (This
fact Ursula put forth with a little triumph, as refuting triumphantly
any ready conclusion as to the social standing of Dissenters.) "I think
Mr. Northcote came first to the house with Mr. Copperhead. He is a
Dissenter too."

"Why, Ursula," cried Mrs. Hurst, "not the man who attacked Reginald in
the Meeting? It was all in the papers. He made a frightful violent
speech about the College and the sinecure, and what a disgraceful thing
it was that your brother, a young man, could accept it. You don't mean
him?"

Ursula was struck dumb. She looked up at her questioner with her lips
falling apart a little, with a look of mingled consternation and fear.

"Of course it can't be," said the gossip, who was not ill-natured. "You
never read the papers, but your papa does, and so does Reginald. Oh,
you may be sure it is some other Northcote, though I don't know the
name."

"Ursula doesn't like to tell you," said Janey; "but he's the Dissenting
Minister, I know he is. Well! I don't care! He is just as good as
anybody else. I don't go in for your illiberal ways of thinking, as if
no one was worth talking to except in the Church. Mr. Northcote is very
nice. I don't mind what you say. Do you mean to tell me that all those
curates and people who used to plague our lives out were nicer? Mr.
Saunders, for instance; he is a real good Churchman, I have always heard
people say--"

"Hold your tongue, Janey; you don't know anything about it," said Mrs.
Hurst, whom this wonderful disclosure elevated into authority. "A
Dissenting Minister! Ah, me! what a thing it is for you poor girls to
have no mother. I did not think your papa would have had so little
consideration as to expose you to society like that. But men are so
thoughtless."

"I don't know what right you have to speak of exposing us to society
like that," cried Ursula, quivering all over with sudden excitement.

She felt as if some one had dug a knife into her, and turned it round in
the wound.

"Men have so little consideration," repeated Mrs. Hurst, "especially
when a girl is concerned. Though how your papa could have received a man
who made such an assault upon him--even if he had passed over the attack
upon Reginald, he was attacked himself."

"It must be a mistake," said Ursula, growing pale. Her hands came
together half-unconsciously, and clasped in a mute gesture of appeal.
"It is not possible; it cannot be true."

"Well, it is very odd that your papa should show such charity, I allow.
I don't think it is in human nature. And Reginald, what does Reginald
say? If it is that man, it will be the strangest thing I ever heard of.
But there could not be two Northcotes, Dissenting Ministers in
Carlingford, could there? It is very strange. I can't think what your
papa can have had in his head. He is a man who would do a thing for a
deep reason, whether he liked it or not. How did this Mr. Northcote come
first here?"

"Oh, it was through Mr. Copperhead," said Janey. "It was the first
dinner-party we had. You should have seen the fright Ursula was in! And
papa would not let me come to dinner, which was a horrid shame. I am
sure I am big enough, bigger than Ursula."

"If he came with the pupil, that makes it all quite plain. I suppose
your papa did not want to quarrel with his pupil. What a predicament for
him, if that was the case! Poor Mr. May! Of course, he did not want to
be uncivil. Why, it was in the 'Gazette,' and the 'Express,' and all the
papers; an account of the Meeting, and that speech, and then a leading
article upon it. I always file the 'Express,' so you can see it if you
like. But what an embarrassment for your poor papa, Ursula, that you
should have taken this man up! And Reginald, how could he put up with
it, a touchy young man, always ready to take offence? You see now the
drawback of not paying a little attention to what is going on round you.
How uncomfortable you must have made them! It might be very well to look
over an offence, not to be unpleasant to the stranger; but that you
should have thoughtlessly led this man on into the position of an
intimate--"

"I did nothing of the sort," cried Ursula, growing red and growing pale,
starting up from her work with a sense of the intolerable which she
could not restrain. "What have I done to be spoken of so? I never led
him on, or any one. What you say is cruel, very cruel! and it is not
true."

"Isn't it true that he was here last night, following you about, as
Janey says? Oh, I know how these sort of things go on. But you ought to
think of your papa's position, and you ought to think of Reginald. If it
was to come to the Bishop's ears that St. Roque's Parsonage was a refuge
for Dissenters! For I know who _your_ friend is, Ursula! That Tozer
girl, another of them! Indeed, I assure you, it makes me feel very
uncomfortable. And Reginald, just at the very beginning of his career."

Ursula did not make any reply. She bent her head down over her work, so
low that her flushed cheeks could scarcely be seen, and went on
stitching with energy and passion such as needles and thread are seldom
the instruments of; and yet how much passion is continually worked away
through needles and thread! Mrs. Hurst sat still for some time, looking
at her, very little satisfied to keep silence, but feeling that she had
discharged an efficient missile, and biting her lips not to say more to
weaken its effect. When some time had passed in this way, and it was
apparent that Ursula had no intention of breaking the silence, her
visitor got up and shook out her skirts with a little flutter of
indignation.

"You are offended," she said, "though I must say it is very ill on your
part to be offended. What motive can I have but your good, and regard
for your poor dear papa? It is he that is always the victim, poor man,
whether it is your vagaries he has to pay for, or Reginald's
high-flying. Oh, yes; you may be as angry as you like, Ursula; but you
will find out the difference if your encouragement of this Dissenter
interferes with something better--a living for Reginald, perhaps, or
better preferment for your poor papa."

"Oh!" cried Janey, awe-stricken; "but after all, it was not Ursula; it
was papa himself. I think he must have done it to please Mr. Copperhead;
for, Mrs. Hurst, you know Mr. Copperhead is very important. We have all
to give in to him. He pays papa three hundred a-year."

"Three thousand wouldn't make up for it if it spoilt all your career,"
cried the indignant woman, and she swept away without saying any more to
Ursula, who kept quite still over her work without budging. Janey went
downstairs meekly after her to open the door, whispering an entreaty
that she would not be angry.

"No, no, I am not angry," said Mrs. Hurst, "but I shall keep it up for a
day or two. It is the best thing for her. I think she was struck with
what I said."

Janey stole upstairs again, feeling rather guilty; but Ursula took
little notice of her. The dinner was ordered and everything settled for
the day. She was busy with her week's mending and darning, with the
stockings and other things in a big basket beside her. When she came to
some articles belonging to Janey, she threw them out with great
impatience.

"You may surely mend your things yourself, you are big enough. You can
talk for yourself and me too," cried Ursula with sudden impetuosity; and
then she sat and worked, her needle flying through the meshes of her
darning, though it is hard to darn stockings in that impassioned way.
They were socks of Johnnie's, however, with holes in the heels that you
could put your fist through, and the way in which the big spans filled
themselves up under this influence was wonderful to see. Janey, who was
not fond of mending, set to work quite humbly under the influence of
this example, and made two or three attempts to begin a conversation but
without avail.

The girls were seated thus in a disturbed and restless silence, working
as if for their lives, when the usual little jar of the gate and sound
of the bell downstairs announced a visitor. On ordinary occasions, they
were both in the habit of rushing to the window when the gate was opened
to see who was coming, and Janey had thrown aside her work to do so when
a look from Ursula stopped her. High-spirited as Janey was, she did not
dare to disobey that look. By right of the passion that had got
possession of her, Ursula took the absolute command of the situation in
a way she had never done before, and some sudden intuition made her
aware who it was who was coming. The girls both sat there still and
breathless, waiting for his appearance. He never came in the day, never
had been seen in the Parsonage at that hour before, and yet Ursula was
as certain who it was as if she had seen him a mile off. He came into
the room, himself looking a little breathless and disturbed, and gave a
quick impatient look at Janey as he went up to her sister. Ursula saw it
and understood well enough. Janey was in his way; he had come this
morning with a special purpose. Her heart sank down to her very shoes,
and then rose again with a feverish and unreal leap. Was it not her duty
to take the initiative, to cut away the very ground from beneath his
feet? He took a seat, not far from where she was sitting, and made an
effort to begin a little ordinary conversation, throwing frequent
glances at Janey. He said it was a fine day, which was self-evident;
that he almost feared they would be out; that he had come to--to
tell her something he had forgotten last night, about--yes,
about--Cassiopeia's chair, to correct what he said about Orion--yes,
that was it; and again he looked at Janey, who saw his looks, and
wondered much what she ought to do--go away, as he evidently wished her,
or stay and listen, which was the eager desire of her mind. When Ursula
lifted her head from her darning, and looked at him with cheeks
alternately white and crimson, Janey felt herself grow hot and
breathless with kindred excitement, and knew that the moment had come.

"Mr. Northcote," said Ursula, looking at him fixedly, so fixedly that a
nervous trembling ran over him, "I have a question to ask you. You have
been coming to us very often, and perhaps papa may know, but I don't. Is
it true that you made a speech about Reginald when you first came here?"

Janey, looking eagerly on, saw Northcote grow pale, nay, grey in the
fresh daylight. The colour seemed to ebb out of him. He started very
slightly, as if waking up, when she began to speak, and then sat looking
at her, growing greyer and greyer. A moment elapsed before he made any
reply.

"Yes, I did," he said, with a half-groan of pain in his voice.

"You did! really you did! Oh!" cried Ursula, the hot tears falling
suddenly out of her eyes, while she still looked at him, "I was hoping
that it was all some horrible mistake, that you would have laughed. I
hoped you would laugh and say no."

Northcote cleared his throat; they were waiting for him to defend
himself. Janey, holding herself on the leash, as it were, keeping
herself back from springing upon him like a hound. Ursula gazed at him
with great blazing reproachful eyes; and all he could do was to give
that sign of embarrassment, of guilt, and confusion. He could not utter
a word. By the time he had got himself wound up to the point of speech,
Ursula, impatient, had taken the words out of his mouth.

"Reginald is my brother," she said. "Whatever is against him is against
us all; we have never had any separate interests. Didn't you think it
strange, Mr. Northcote, to come to this house, among us all, when you
had been so unkind to him?"

"Miss May--"

He made a broken sort of outcry and motion of his head, and then cleared
his throat nervously once more.

"Did you think how your own brothers and sisters would have stood up for
you? that it would have been an offence to them if anybody had come to
the house who was not a friend to you? that they would have had a
right--"

"Miss May," said the culprit; "all this I have felt to the bottom of my
heart; that I was here on false pretences--that I had no right to be
here. But this painful feeling was all quenched and extinguished, and
turned into gratitude by the goodness of your father and brother. I did
not even know that you had not been told. I thought you were aware from
the beginning. You were colder than they were, and I thought it was
natural, quite natural, for it is easier to forgive for one's self than
for those one loves; and then I thought you melted and grew kinder to
me, that you saw how all my ideas were changed, all my feelings--my mind
itself; changed by the great charity, the wonderful goodness I have
found here!"

"Mr. Northcote!" Ursula had been struggling to break in all the time;
but while he spoke her words dispersed, her feelings softened, and at
the end she found nothing but that startled repetition of his name with
which to answer him. No doubt if he had given her time the eloquence
would have come back; but he was too much in earnest to be guilty of
such a mistake.

"What can I say about it?" cried the young man. "It has filled me with
shame and with happiness. I have been taken in my own trap--those whom I
attacked as you say--went out of my way to attack, and abused like a
fool because I knew nothing about them--have shown me what the Bible
means. Your father and brother knew what I had done, they met me
separately, quite independent of each other, and both of them held out
their hands to me; why, except that I had offended them, I cannot tell.
A stranger, belonging to an obscure class, I had no claim upon them
except that I had done what ought to have closed their house against
me. And you know how they have interpreted that. They have shown me what
the Bible means."

The two girls sat listening, both with their heads bent towards him, and
their eyes fixed upon his face. When he stopped, Janey got up with her
work in her lap, and coming a little nearer to Ursula, addressed her in
a wondering voice.

"Is it _papa_ he is talking of like that?" she said, under her breath.

"Yes," he said, fervently, turning to her. "It is your father. He has
made charity and kindness real things to me."

"Poor papa!" said Ursula, whose tears were arrested in her eyes by the
same surprised sensation, half-pleasure, half-pain, which hushed even
Janey's voice. They were "struck," as Mrs. Hurst had said, but by such a
strange mingling of feelings that neither knew what to make of them.
Northcote did not understand what they meant; their words conveyed a
slight shock of surprise, but no distinct idea to him; and when Janey,
too much impressed to settle down again, went away after a while
musingly, carrying her work in the upper skirt of her gown, held like a
market-woman's apron by her elbow against her side; and he found himself
to have attained in the very confusion of his intentions to what he
wished, i.e., an interview with Ursula by herself, he was almost too
much agitated to take advantage of it. As for Ursula, she had floated a
hundred miles away from that sensation of last night which, had no
stronger feeling come in to bewilder her, would have made his errand
very plain to her mind. She had ceased to think about him, she was
thinking with a certain tenderness, and wondering, half-awed,
half-amused, self-questioning, about her father. Was he so good as this?
had he done this Christian action? were they all perhaps doing papa
injustice? She was recalled to herself by Northcote's next proceeding.
He went to the door and closed it after Janey, who had left it open, of
course, and then he came to the back of the chair on which stood the
great basket of darning. His voice was tremulous, his eyes liquid and
shining with emotion.

"Will you forgive me, since they have forgiven me? and may I ask _you_
something?" he said.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AN EXTRAVAGANCE.


Mr. May did not take any particular notice of what was going on around
him among the young people. Nobody could have been more startled than
he, had he been told of the purpose with which Horace Northcote, the
Dissenting minister, had paid his early morning visit; and though he had
a half-scornful, half-amused glimmer of insight into the feelings of his
son, and saw that Clarence Copperhead was heavily veering the same way,
it did not occur to him that any crisis was approaching. He was enjoying
himself in his way, and he had not done that for a long time. He dearly
liked the better way of living, the more liberal strain of housekeeping
and expenditure; he liked the social meetings in the evening, the talk
after dinner with the three young men, the half-fatherly flirtation with
Phoebe, which she too enjoyed much, avowedly preferring him, with pretty
coquetry, to the others. All this was very pleasant to him; and the
additional money in his pocket was very pleasant, and when the post came
in, one of these April mornings, and brought a letter from James,
enclosing a draft for fifty pounds, his satisfaction was intense. The
sight of the money brought an itching to his fingers, a restlessness
about him generally. And yet it was not all that might have been
desired, only fifty pounds! he had been buoying himself up by vain
thoughts of how James this time, having been so long writing, would send
a larger sum, which would at once tide him over the Tozer business, and
on this account had been giving himself no trouble about it. Never
before had he been so _insouciant_, although never before had the risk
been so great. He had suffered so much about it last time, probably,
that was why he took it so easily now; or was it because his trust in
the chapter of accidents had grown greater since he was more dependent
on it? or because of the generally expanded sense of living in him which
made anxiety uncongenial anyhow? Whatever the cause was, this was the
effect. A momentary disappointment when he saw how little James's draft
was--then a sense of that semi-intoxication which comes upon a poor man
when a sum of money falls into his hands--gradually invaded his soul. He
tried to settle down to his writing, but did not feel equal to the
effort. It was too little for the purpose, he said to himself, for which
he wanted it; but it was enough to do a great many pleasant things with
otherwise. For the first time he had no urgent bills to swallow it up;
the very grocer, a long-suffering tradesman who made less fuss than the
others, and about whom Ursula made less fuss, had been pacified by a
payment on account of the Copperhead money, and thus had his mouth
stopped. Barring that bill, indeed, things were in a more comfortable
state than they had been for a long time in the May household; and
putting that out of account, James's money would have been the nearest
approach to luxury--reckoning luxury in its most simple form as money to
spend without any absolutely forestalling claim upon it--which Mr. May
had known for years. It is so seldom that poor people have this
delicious sense of a little, ever so little surplus! and it would be
hard to say how he could entertain the feeling that it was an overplus.
There was something of the fumes of desperation perhaps, and impending
fate in the lightness of heart which seized upon him. He could not keep
still over his writing. He got up at last, and put James's draft into
his pocket-book, and got his hat to go out. It was a fine morning, full
of that exhilaration which belongs only to the spring. He went to the
bank, and paid in the money, getting a small sum at the same time for
his own immediate use; but somehow his restlessness was scarcely
satisfied by that very legitimate piece of business, and he extended his
walk into the town, and strayed, half by chance, half by intention, to
the old furniture shop at the other end of the High Street, which was a
favourite resort of the higher classes in Carlingford, and where
periodically there was an auction, at which sometimes great bargains
were to be had. Mr. May went into this dangerous place boldly. The sale
was going on; he walked into the midst of temptation, forgetting the
prayer against it, which no doubt he had said that morning. And as evil
fate would have it, a carved book-case, the very thing he had been
sighing for, for years, was at that moment the object of the
auctioneer's praises. It was standing against the wall, a noble piece of
furniture, in which books would show to an advantage impossible
otherwise, preserved from dust and damp by the fine old oak and glass
door. Mr. May's heart gave a little jump. Almost everybody has wished
for something unattainable, and this had been the object of his desires
for years. He gave a little start when he saw it, and hurried forward.
The bidding had actually begun; there was no time to think and consider,
if he wished to have a chance, and it was going cheap, dead cheap.
After a minute or two of competition the blood rose to his cheeks, he
got thoroughly excited. The effect of this excitement was two-fold--not
only did it drive all thought of prudence out of his head, but it raised
by several pounds the price of the book-case, which, had he gone about
it coolly, he might have had at a much cheaper rate. When he suddenly
woke up to find himself the owner of it, a thrill of consternation ran
over him--it was all so sudden; and it was perfectly innocent, if only
he had any money; and to be sure he had James's money, which was not
enough to do anything else--certainly not to do the thing he wanted it
for. He tried to laugh at himself for the little thrill of alarm that
ran through him; but it was too late to recede; and he gave his cheque
for the money and his directions as to having it sent to the Parsonage,
with a quake at his heart, yet a little flourish of satisfaction.

"Just what I have been wanting for years," he said, as he examined his
new acquisition, and the people about looked at him with additional
respect he felt, not being used to see Mr. May so prompt in payment, and
so ready with his money. This pleased him also. He walked home with his
head a little turned still, although there was a quake and flutter
underneath. Well! he said to himself, who could call it an extravagance?
a thing he had wanted for years--a thing which was a necessity, not for
luxury, but everyday use--a thing which was not dear, and which was very
handsome and substantial, and _really good_; how could any one say it
was extravagant? Ursula might stare with her big eyes, but she was only
a silly little girl, and women always were silly about expenses, alarmed
by a big bold handsome purchase, though there was nobody better at the
art of frittering away money in pretty nothings. When he got home, he
began at once nervously to clear the space where it should stand. What
an improvement it would be! and his books were getting spoiled daily in
those unsightly, open shelves, entirely spoiled. It was exciting to
anticipate its arrival, and the admiration and commotion in the house.
He called in Betsy and gave her orders about it; how, if it came when he
was absent, it was to be put in that particular place, no other.

"And mind that great care is taken, for it is valuable, and a beautiful
piece of furniture," he said.

"La, sir!" said Betsy, who was thunderstruck, though she knew it was not
"her place" to show any feeling. He did not think it was necessary to
appeal to Ursula on the same subject, but was rather glad to get out
again, feeling the restlessness which had not been dissipated, but
rather the reverse. He went and saw one or two poor people, to whom he
was much more tolerant and kind than his wont, for in general Mr. May
was not attracted towards the poor; and he gave them a shilling or two
of the money he had drawn at the bank that morning--though somehow it
had acquired a certain value in his eyes, and it was with a grudge that
he took it out of his pocket. I must not spend this, he said to himself;
but gave the shillings as a kind of tithe or propitiatory offering to
Providence, that things might go well with him. Why should not things go
well with him? He was not a bad man, he wronged nobody. He had done
nothing to-day that a saint might not have done; he wanted the
book-case, and he had the money, a sum not big enough for any more
important purpose; but which was far better disposed of so than
frittered away in nothings, as no doubt it would have otherwise been. By
the afternoon, when the book-case arrived, he had convinced himself that
it was not only quite reasonable, but a most lucky chance, a thing he
could scarcely have hoped for, the opportunity and the money both coming
in such exact accord with each other. When he returned from his walk the
girls were looking at it, Ursula somewhat scared, Janey in open
raptures.

"It is very nice indeed, papa," said the elder girl; "but it must have
cost a deal of money."

"Be thankful that you haven't got to pay for it," he said, brusquely. He
was not disposed to stand criticism. How it filled up his bare room, and
made it, Mr. May thought, all at once into a library, though the old
writing-table and shabby chairs looked rather worse perhaps than before,
and suggested renewal in the most urgent way. To make it all of a piece,
to put a soft Turkey carpet instead of the drugget, how pleasant it
would be!--not extravagant, only a natural inclination towards the
seemly, and a desire to have things around him becoming his position. No
doubt such things were things which he ought to have in his position; a
gentleman and a scholar, how humiliating it was that nothing but the
barest elements of comfort should be within his reach. This was not how
life ought to be; a poor creature like Clarence Copperhead, without
birth, or breeding, or brains, or anything but money, was able to
gratify every wish, while he--his senior, his superior! Instead of
blaming himself, therefore, for his self-indulgence, Mr. May sympathized
with himself, which is a much less safe thing to do; and accordingly, it
soon began to appear to him that his self-denial all this time in not
giving himself what he wanted had been extreme, and that what he had now
done, in conceding himself so harmless a gratification, was what he
ought to have done years ago. It was his own money sent to him by his
dutiful son without conditions; and who had any right to interfere?

When he was at dinner, Betsy came behind his chair under pretence of
serving him; Betsy, whose place was in the kitchen, who had no right to
show in the dining-room at all, and whose confused toilette had caught
Ursula's eye and filled her with horror.

"Please, sir," she said, breathing hot on Mr. May's ear, till he shrank
with sensitive horror. "Cotsdean's in the kitchen. He says as how he
must see you; and I can't get him away."

"Ah, Cotsdean? tell him if he has anything to say to me, to write it
down."

"Which he's done, sir," said Betsy, producing a little bit of paper
rolled tightly together, "but I wasn't to give it till I'd asked you to
see him. Oh, please see him, sir, like a dear good gentleman. He looks
like a man as is going off his head."

"He is a fool," said Mr. May, taking the paper, but setting his teeth as
he did so. Evidently he must get rid of this fellow--already beginning
to trouble him, as if he was not the best person to know when and how
far he could go.

"Tell him I'll attend to it, he need not trouble himself," he said, and
put the paper into his pocket, and went on with his dinner. Cotsdean,
indeed! surely there had been enough of him. What were his trumpery
losses in comparison with what his principal would lose, and how dare
that fellow turn up thus and press him continually for his own poor
selfish safety? This was not how Mr. May had felt three months before;
but everything changes, and he felt that he had a right to be angry at
this selfish solicitude. Surely it was of as much consequence to him at
least as to Cotsdean. The man was a fussy disagreeable fool, and nothing
more.

And as it happened they sat late that night at dinner, without any
particular reason, because of some discussion into which Clarence and
Reginald fell, so that it was late before Mr. May got back to his room,
where his books were lying in a heap waiting their transportation. They
seemed to appeal to him also, and ask him reproachfully how they had got
there, and he went to work arranging them all with all the enthusiasm
natural to a lover of books. He was a book-lover, a man full of fine
tastes and cultured elegant ways of thinking. If he had been extravagant
(which he was not) it would have been in the most innocent, nay
delightful and laudable way. To attach any notion of criminality, any
suspicion of wrong-doing to such a virtuous indulgence, how unjust it
would be! There was no company upstairs that evening. Copperhead had
strolled out with Reginald to smoke his cigar, much against the will of
the latter, and was boring him all the way to the College with accounts
of his own lavish expenditure, and how much he had given for this and
that; his cameos, his diamond studs, the magnificent dressing-case which
was the wonder of the Parsonage. "Hang it all, what is the good of
having money if you don't spend it?" said Clarence, and Reginald, who
had not much money to spend, felt as near hating him as it was in his
nature to do. Thus Mr. May was released from duty in the drawing-room,
where Ursula, palpitating with many thoughts which were altogether new
to her, sat doing her darning, and eluding as well as she could Janey's
questions. Janey was determinedly conversational that night. She drove
Ursula nearly out of her senses, and kept Johnnie--who had crept into
the drawing-room in high delight at finding it for once free to
him--from learning his lessons.

"Oh, how nice it is to be by ourselves," said Janey, "instead of all
those new people. I don't mind Phoebe; but strange men in the house, what
a nuisance they are, always getting in one's way--don't you think so,
Ursula?"

Ursula made no reply, and after awhile even Janey sank into silence, and
the drawing-room, usually so gay, got a cold and deserted look. The new
life which had come in had left its mark, and to go back to what had
once been so pleasant in the past was no longer possible. Johnnie and
Janey might like it, having regained their former places, but to Ursula
the solitude was horrible. She asked herself, with a great blush and
quiver, what she would do if that temporary filling up of new interests
and relationships was to fall away, as was likely, and leave her to the
old life unbroken, to Janey's childish society and questions, and papa's
imperious and unmodified sway. She grew pale and chill at the very
thought.

But Mr. May, as we have said, was off duty. He forgot all about Cotsdean
and the note in his pocket, and set to work with the most boyish
simplicity of delight to arrange his books in his new shelves. How well
they looked! never before had their setting done them justice. There
were books in gorgeous bindings, college prizes which had never shown at
all, and which now gleamed out in crimson and gold from behind the
glass, and made their owner's heart beat with pleasure. Alas! to think
how much innocent pleasure is denied us by the want of that small sum of
money! and worse still, how an innocent pleasure becomes the reverse of
innocent when it is purchased by the appropriation of something which
should have been employed elsewhere. Perhaps, however, the sense of
guilt which he kept under, added zest in Mr. May's mind to the pleasure
of his acquisition; he was snatching a fearful joy, Heaven knows how
soon the penalty might overwhelm him. In the mean time he was determined
to take the good of it, and enjoy what he had gained.

When the books were all in he sat down at his table and surveyed it,
rubbing his dusty hands. How much that is childish, how much that is
fresh, and youthful, and innocent must be in the mind of a man (you
would say) who could be thus excited about a book-case! and yet this was
not the kind of man whom you would call unsophisticated and youthful. It
was probably the state of suppressed excitement in which he was, the
unreality of his position, that helped him to that sense of elation as
much as anything else; for emotion is a Proteus ready to take any form,
and pain itself sometimes finds vent in the quick blazing up of
fictitious delight, as much as in the moanings that seem more accordant
with its own nature. He put his hand into his pocket for his pencil to
make a note of the contents of the new shelves, and then he found
Cotsdean's note, which he had not forgotten, but which he had felt no
desire to remember. When he felt it between his fingers his countenance
fell a little; but he took it out and read it with the smile still upon
his face. It was a dirty little roll of paper, scribbled in pencil.

     "Rev. Sir,

     "I hope as you are not forgetting the 15th. Pleas excuse
     anxiety and bad writing, i am a poor nervous man I no, a
     word of answer just to say as it is all right will much
     oblidge.

     "Rev. Sir,
     "Your humble servant,
     "T. COTSDEAN."

Betsy knocked at the door as he read this, with a request for an answer
to Mr. Cotsdean's note. "Little Bobby, sir, is waiting for it in the
kitchen."

"Give Bobby some supper," said Mr. May, "tell him to tell his father
it's all right, and I shan't forget. You understand? He is a troublesome
little fool; but it's all right, and I shan't forget, and give the child
some supper, Betsy. He ought not to be out so late."

"He is a delicate little thing, sir, thankye, sir," said Betsy,
half-frightened by her master's amiability; and he smiled and repeated,

"Tell him it's all right."

Was it all right, the 15th? Cotsdean must have made a mistake. Mr. May's
countenance paled, and the laugh went off; he opened a drawer in his
writing-table and took out a book, and anxiously consulted an entry in
it. It was the 18th certainly, as clear as possible. Something had been
written on the opposite page, and had blotted slightly the one on which
these entries were written; but there it stood, the 18th April. Mr. May
prided himself on making no mistakes in business. He closed the book
again with a look of relief, the smile coming back once more to his
face. The 18th, it was three days additional, and in the time there was
no doubt that he would find out what was the right thing to do.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE MILLIONNAIRE.


When Mr. May woke next morning, it was not the book-case he thought of,
but that date which had been the last thing in his mind on the previous
night. Not the 15th,--the 18th. Certainly he was right, and Cotsdean was
wrong. Cotsdean was a puzzle-headed being, making his calculations by
the rule of thumb; but he had put down the date, and there could be no
possible mistake about it. He got up disposed to smile at the poor man's
ignorance and fussy restlessness of mind. "I have never left him in the
lurch, he may trust to me surely in the future," Mr. May said to
himself, and smiled with a kind of condescending pity for his poor
agent's timidity; after all, perhaps, as Cotsdean had so little profit
by it, it was not wonderful that he should be uneasy. After this, it
might be well if they did anything further of the sort, to divide the
money, so that Cotsdean too might feel that he had got something for the
risk he ran; but then, to be sure, if he had not the money he had no
trouble, except by his own foolish anxiety, for the payment, and always
a five-pound note or two for his pains. But Mr. May said to himself that
he would do no more in this way after the present bill was disposed of;
no, he would make a stand, he would insist upon living within his
income. He would not allow himself to be subject to these perpetual
agitations any more. It would require an effort, but after the effort
was made all would be easy. So he said to himself; and it was the 18th,
not the 15th, three days more to make his arrangements in. It had come
to be the 12th now, and up to this moment he had done nothing, having
that vague faith in the Indian mail which had been realized, and yet had
not been realized. But still he had nearly a week before him, which was
enough certainly. Anything that he could do in six months, he said to
himself, he could easily do in six days--the mere time was nothing; and
he smiled as he dressed himself leisurely, thinking it all over. Somehow
everything looked perfectly easy to him this time; last time he had been
plunged into tragic despair; now, and he did not know why, he took it
quite easily; he seemed to fear nothing. There were various ways of
getting the money as natural as the daylight, and in the mean time why
should he make himself unhappy? As soon as he was ready he went to his
room and had another look at the book-case which, with his best books in
it, all in order and ranged in unbroken lines, looked everything a
book-case ought to look. It made him feel more of a man somehow, more
like the gentleman and scholar he had meant to be when he started in
life; he had not intended then to be a poor district incumbent all his
life, with a family of eight children. His book-case somehow transported
him back to the days when he had thought of better things for himself,
and when life had held an ideal for him. Perhaps at the best of times it
had never been a very high ideal; but when a man is over fifty and has
given up doing anything but struggle through each day as it comes, and
get out of his work as best he may, doing what he must, leaving undone
what he can, any ideal almost seems something higher than himself; but
the recollection of what he had meant to be, came back to him strongly
when he looked at his carved oak. It had not been carried out; but still
he felt rehabilitated and better in his own opinion as he stood beside
this costly purchase he had made, and felt that it changed his room and
all his surroundings. It might have been almost wicked to run into such
an extravagance, but yet it did him good.

"My people came down to the Hall last night," Clarence Copperhead said
to him at breakfast, "and the Governor is coming over along with Sir
Robert. He'd like to see you, I am sure, and I suppose they'll be going
in for sight-seeing, and that sort of thing. He is a dab at
sight-seeing, is the Governor. I can't think how he can stand it for my
part."

"Then you must remember that I put myself at his orders for the day,"
said Mr. May graciously. "Sir Robert is not a bad guide, but I am a
better, though it sounds modest to say it; and, Ursula, of course Mr.
Copperhead will take luncheon with us."

"Don't think of that," said Clarence, "he's queer and likes his own way.
Just as likely as not he'll think he ought to support the hotels of the
place where he is--sort of local production, you know. I think it's
nonsense, but that is how it is--that's the man."

"We shall look for him all the same," said Mr. May, with a nod at
Ursula; and a sudden project sprang up in his mind, wild as projects so
often are. This father whom his fancy, working upon what Clarence said,
immediately invested with all the prodigal liberality of a typical rich
man; this stranger to whom a hundred pounds was less then a penny was to
himself, would give him the money he wanted. What so easy? He drew a
long breath, and though he had not been aware that he was anxious, he
was suddenly conscious of a sense of relief. Yes, to be sure, what so
simple, what so likely? he would explain his monetary necessities
lightly and with grace, and Mr. Copperhead would supply them. He was in
the mildest state of desperation, the painless stage, as may be seen,
when this strange idea entered into his head. He hugged it, though he
was a man of the world and might have known better, and it produced a
kind of elation which would have been a very strange spectacle to any
looker-on who knew what it meant. The thing seemed done when he next
thought of it ten minutes later, settled as if it had been so for years.
Mr. Copperhead would make it all right for him, and after that he would
undertake such risks no more.

Mr. Copperhead, however, did not come for two days, though Ursula spent
all the morning and a great deal of trouble in arranging a luncheon for
him; but on the second morning he came, driven by Sir Robert, who had
changed horses on the road, and who was in a somewhat irritated and
excited condition, very glad to get rid of his visitor.

"I hope you don't mind having your toes trodden on, May," he said,
privately; "that fellow is never happy but when he's insulting some
one." And indeed Mr. Copperhead began this favourite pastime at once by
making very big eyes at the sight of Ursula. "A-ha!" he said, rubbing
his hands, and elevating his eyebrows; and he gave a meaning laugh as he
shook hands with her, and declared that he did not expect to find young
ladies here. "I haven't a great deal of education myself, and I never
knew it could be carried on so pleasantly," he said. "You're a lucky
young dog, Clar, that's what you are;" and the son laughed with the
father at this excellent joke, though the rest of the company looked on
with great gravity. Ursula, for her part, turned with wondering eyes
from the new-comer to her old friend, Sir Robert.

"What does he mean?" she asked, with an appealing look.

"He is the greatest brute I know," said poor Sir Robert, under his
breath; and he went off suddenly on the plea of business, leaving his
unpleasant visitor in Mr. May's hands, who undertook the charge not
unwillingly, being possessed by his own plan. Mr. Copperhead went all
over Carlingford. He inspected the town-hall, the infirmary, and the
church, with the business-like air of a man who was doing his duty.

"Poor little place, but well enough for the country," he said. "A
country-town's a mistake in my opinion. If I had it in my power I'd raze
them all to the ground, and have one London and the rest green fields.
That's your sort, Mr. May. Now you don't produce anything here, what's
the good of you? All unproductive communities, sir, ought to be swept
off the face of the earth. I'd let Manchester and those sort of places
go on till they burst; but a bit of a little piggery like this, where
there's nothing doing, no trade, no productions of any kind."

"We like it all the same," said Mr. May; "we small sort of people who
have no enterprise like you--"

"I dare say you like it! To be sure, you can moon about here as much as
you please, and make believe to do something, and there's nobody to
contradict you. In a great centre of industry you couldn't live like
that; you must work or you'll get pushed aside altogether; unless, of
course, you're a millionnaire to start with," Mr. Copperhead added, with
a noisy laugh.

"Which I am not certainly--very much the reverse--in short, a poor man
with a large family, which I suppose is a thing about as objectionable
in a centre of industry as anything can be."

"The large family ain't objectionable if you make 'em work," said Mr.
Copperhead; "it all depends on that. There's always objections, you
know," he said, with a jocular grin, "to pretty girls like that daughter
of yours put straight in a young fellow's way. You won't mind my saying
it? They neither work themselves nor let others work--that sort. I think
we could get on with a deal fewer women, I must allow. There's where
Providence is in a mistake. We don't want 'em in England; it's a waste
of raw material. They're bad for the men, and they ain't much good for
themselves, that I can see."

"You are a little hard upon the ladies, Mr. Copperhead."

"Not I--we can't do without 'em of course, and the surplus we ought to
export as we export other surpluses; but I object to them in a young
man's way, not meaning anything unpleasant to you. And perhaps if I had
been put up to it sooner--but let's hope there's no mischief done. What
is this now? some of your antiquities, I suppose. Oh yes, let's have a
look at it; but I confess it's the present age I like best."

"This is the College," cried Mr. May, swallowing certain sensations
which impaired his sense of friendliness; "but not an educational
college, a foundation for old men--decayed citizens, as they are
called--founded in the fifteenth century. My son is the chaplain, and
will be very glad to show it you. There are twelve old men here at
present, very comfortably looked after, thanks to the liberal
arrangements of the founder. They attend chapel twice a day, where
Reginald officiates. It is very agreeable to me to have him settled so
near me."

"Cunning I call it," said Mr. Copperhead, with his hoarse laugh; "does
you credit; a capital snug nest--nothing to do--and pay--pay good now?
those old fellows generally managed that; as it was priests that had the
doing of it, of course they did well for their own kind. Good Lord, what
a waste of good money all this is!" he continued, as they went into the
quadrangle, and saw the little park beyond with its few fine trees;
"half-a-dozen nice villas might be built on this site, and it's just the
sort of place I should fancy where villas would pay. Why don't the
Corporation lay hands on it? And your son lives here? Too dull for me; I
like a little movement going on, but I dare say he likes it; and with
how much a year?"

"Two hundred and fifty; and some advantages beside--"

"Bravo!" said Mr. Copperhead, "now how many curates could you get for
that two and a-half? I've got a great respect for you, Mr. May; you know
what's what. That shows sense, that does. How do you do, sir? fine old
place you've got here--capital snug appointment. I've just been saying
to your father I admire his sense, looking out for you a nice fat easy
appointment like this."

Reginald turned from red to white, and then to portentous blackness. The
subject was of all others the one least likely to please him.

"It is not very fat," he said, with a look of offence, quite undeserved
by the chief sufferer, towards his father, "nor very easy. But come in.
It is rather an interesting old place. I suppose you would like to see
the Chapel, and the old captain's rooms; they are very fine in their
way."

"Thank you; we've been seeing a deal already, and I feel tired. I think
I'll--let you off the chapel. Hallo! here's another old
friend--Northcote, by George! and what are _you_ doing here I should
like to know, a blazing young screamer of the Liberation Society, in a
high and dry parson's rooms? This is as good as a play."

"I suppose one is not required to stay at exactly the same point of
opinion all one's life," said Northcote, with a half-smile.

"By George! but you are though, when you're a public man; especially
when you're on a crusade. Haven't I heard you call it a crusade? I can
tell you that changing your opinion is just the very last thing the
public will permit you to do. But I shan't tell for my part--make
yourself easy. Clarence, don't you let it out; your mother, fortunately,
is out of the way. The world shall never know through me that young
Northcote, the anti-state Churchman, was discovered hob-nobbing with a
snug chaplain in a sinecure appointment. Ha, ha! had you there."

"To do Northcote justice," said Mr. May; "he began life in Carlingford
by pointing out this fact to the neighbourhood; that it was a sinecure,
and that my son and I--"

"Would it not be more to the point to inspect the chapel?" said
Reginald, who had been standing by impatiently playing with a big key;
upon which Mr. Copperhead laughed more loudly than before.

"We'll not trouble the chapel," he said, "railway stations are more in
my way; you are all a great deal finer than I am, and know a deal more,
I suppose; but my roughness has served its purpose on the whole, better
perhaps for some things--yes, for some things, Clar, and you may thank
your stars, old boy. If you had been a parson's son, by George! there
would have been no fat appointment waiting for you."

"After all, my son's appointment is not so very fat," said Mr. May,
forcing a laugh. "It is not so much as many a boy at school gets from
his father."

"Ah, you mean my boy at school! he's an extravagant dog. His mother and
he, sir, are made of different clay from me; they are porcelain and I am
delft. They want fine velvet cupboards to stand themselves in, while I'm
for the kitchen dresser. That's the difference. But I can afford it,
thank Heaven. I tell Clarence that he may thank his stars that I can
afford it, and that he isn't born a poor man's son. He has been plucked
at Oxford, you know," he said, with a big laugh, thrusting forth his
chest as Clarence thrust forth his shirt-front, with an apparent
complacency over the very plucking. My son can afford to be plucked, he
seemed to say. He got up as he spoke, and approaching the fireplace
turned his back to it, and gathered up his coat-tails under his arm. He
was no taller than Mr. May, and very little taller than Reginald; but
they both shrank into insignificance beside the big self-assertive
figure. He looked about the room as if he was thinking of "buying up"
the whole contents of it, and thought very little of them. A glance of
contempt, a shrug more implied than actual, testified his low opinion of
everything around. When he withdrew his eyes from the furniture he shook
out his leg, as Clarence had done his, and gave a pull to his trousers
that they might sit properly. He had the word "Rich" painted in big
letters all over him, and he seemed to feel it his vocation to show this
sense of superiority. Clarence by his side, the living copy of the great
man's appearance and manners, strutted and put himself forward like his
father, as a big calf might place itself beside the parent cow. Mr.
Copperhead did not look upon his offspring, however, with the cow's
motherly complacency. He laughed at him openly, with cynical amusement.
He was clever in his way, and Clarence was stupid; and besides he was
the proprietor, and Clarence, for all he was porcelain, was his goods
and chattels. When he looked at him, a wicked leer of derision awoke in
his eye.

"Yes, my boy," he said, "thank your stars; you would not make much of it
if you were a poor man. You're an ornament that costs dear; but I can
afford you. So, Northcote, you're changing your opinions--going over to
the Church, eh? Extremes meet, they say; I shouldn't have thought it--"

"I am doing nothing of the kind," said Northcote stoutly. He was not in
a mood to be taken to task by this Mammon of unrighteousness, and indeed
had at all times been a great deal too independent and unwilling to
submit to leading members of the connection. Mr. Copperhead, however,
showed no resentment. Northcote too, like Clarence, had a father before
him, and stood on quite a different footing from the ordinary young
pastor, whose business it was to be humble and accept all that his
betters might portion out.

"Well," he said, "you can afford to please yourself, and that's always
something. By the way, isn't it time to have something to eat? If there
is a good hotel near--"

"Luncheon will be waiting at my house," said Mr. May, who was still
doing his best to please the man upon whom he had built such wild hopes,
"and Ursula will be waiting."

"Ah, ah, the young lady! so she will. I wouldn't miss that for
something; but I don't like putting you to so much expense. My son here
has an excellent appetite, as you must have found out by this time, and
for my part so have I. I think it a thousand pities to put you to this
trouble--and expense."

"Pray don't think of that," said Mr. May with courtesy, which belied his
feelings, for he would have liked nothing so well as to have knocked
down his complacent patron. He led the way out, almost with eagerness,
feeling Mr. Copperhead to be less offensive out of doors than within
four walls. Was this the sort of man to be appealed to for help as he
had thought? Probably his very arrogance would make him more disposed
towards liberality. Probably it would flatter his sense of consequence,
to have such a request made to him. Mr. May was very much at sea,
letting I dare not wait upon I would; afraid to speak lest he should
shut this door of help by so doing, and afraid to lose the chance of any
succour by not speaking. He tried hard, in spite of all his
difficulties, to be smooth and agreeable to a man who had so much in his
power; but it was harder work than he could have thought.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

FATHER AND SON.


Ursula had prepared a very careful luncheon for the stranger. She
thought him disagreeable, but she had not looked at him much, for,
indeed, Ursula's mind was much unsettled. Horace Northcote had spoken to
her that morning, after Mrs. Hurst's visit and her retaliation upon him,
as no man yet had ever spoken to her before. He had told her a long
story, though it was briefly done, and could have been expressed in
three words. He was not of her species of humanity; his ways of
thinking, his prejudices, his traditions, were all different from hers,
and yet that had happened to him which happens all over the world in
every kind of circumstances--without knowing how it was, he had got to
love her. Yes, he knew very well how it was, or rather, he knew when it
was, which is all that is to be expected from a lover. It was on the
evening of the _entrées_, the first dinner-party, and he had gone on
ever since, deeper and deeper, hearing her say many things which he did
not agree in, and tracing her life through a score of little habits
which were not congenial to his, yet loving her more and more for all
that was new to him, and even for the things which were uncongenial. He
had told her all this, and Ursula had listened with a kind of awe,
wondering at the ardour in the young man's eyes, and the warmth with
which he spoke; wondering and trembling a little. She had guessed what
he meant the night before, as has been said, and this had touched her
with a little thrill of awakened feeling; but the innocent girl knew no
more about passion than a child, and when she saw it, glowing and
ardent, appealing to her, she was half-alarmed, half-overawed by the
strange sight. What answer could she make to him? She did not know what
to say. To reject him altogether was not in Ursula's heart; but she
could not respond to that strange, new, overwhelming sentiment, which
put a light in his eyes which she dared not meet; which dazzled her when
she ventured a glance at him. "Was he to go away?" he asked, his voice,
too, sounding musical and full of touching chords. Ursula could not tell
him to go away either. What she did say to him, she never quite knew;
but at least, whatever it was, it left him hopeful, if unsatisfied.

And since that time her mind had been in a strange confusion, a
confusion strange but sweet. Gratified vanity is not a pretty title to
give to any feeling, and yet that mixture of gratification and
gratitude, and penetrating pleasure in the fact of being elevated from
an often-scolded and imperfect child to an admired and worshipped woman
is, perhaps, of all the sensations that feminine youth is conscious of,
the most poignant in its sweetness. It went through her whole life;
sometimes it made her laugh when she was all alone, and there was
nothing of a laughter-producing nature in her way; and sometimes it made
her cry, both the crying and the laughter being one. It was strange,
very strange, and yet sweet. Under the influence of this, and of the
secret homage which Northcote paid her whenever they met; and which she
now understood as she had never understood it before, the girl's whole
nature expanded, though she did not know. She was becoming sweet to the
children, to puzzled Janey, to every one around her. Her little
petulances were all subdued. She was more sympathetic than she had ever
been before. And yet she was not in love with her lover. It was only
that the sunshine of young life had caught her, that the highest
gratification of youth had fallen to her share unawares. All this might
have been, and yet some one else come in to secure Ursula's real love;
but in the mean time she was all the happier, all the better for the
love which she did not return.

This is a digression from our immediate subject, which was the luncheon
prepared for Mr. Copperhead. Ursula sent up an urgent message for Phoebe,
who came to her in her prettiest morning dress, very carefully
arranged, but with a line of care upon her brow.

"I will come if you wish it, dear," she said; "but I don't want to meet
Mr. Copperhead. I don't like him."

"Neither do I like him," cried Ursula. "He said something disagreeable
the little moment he was here. Oh, I don't remember what it was, but
something. Please stay. What am I to do with them all by myself? If you
will help me, I may get through."

Phoebe kissed her with a tremulous kiss; perhaps she was not unwilling to
see with her own eyes what the father of Clarence meant, and what
brought him here. She sat down at the window, and was the first to see
them coming along the street.

"What a gentleman your father looks beside them," cried Phoebe; "both of
them, father and son; though Clarence, after all, is a great deal better
than his father, less like a British snob."

Ursula came and stood by her, looking out.

"I don't think he is much better than his father," she said.

Phoebe took her hand suddenly and wrung it, then dropped it as if it had
hurt her. What did it all mean? Ursula, though rays of enlightenment had
come to her, was still perplexed, and did not understand.

Mr. Copperhead did not see her till he went to luncheon, when Phoebe
appeared with little Amy May looking like a visitor, newly arrived. She
had run upstairs after that first sight of him from the window,
declaring herself unable to be civil to him except at table. The great
man's face almost grew pale at the sight of her. He looked at Ursula,
and then at Clarence, and laughed.

"'Wheresoever the carcase is the eagles are gathered together,'" he
said. "That's Scripture, ain't it, Miss Ursula? I am not good at giving
chapter and verse."

"What does it mean?" asked Ursula.

She was quite indifferent to Mr. Copperhead, and perfectly unconscious
of his observation. As for Phoebe, on the contrary, she was slightly
agitated, her placid surface ruffled a little, and she looked her best
in her agitation. Mr. Copperhead looked straight at her across the
table, and laughed in his insolent way.

"So you are here too, Miss Phoebe!" he said. "I might think myself in the
Crescent if I didn't know better. I met young Northcote just now, and
now you. What may you be doing here, might one ask? It is what you call
a curious coincidence, ain't it, Clarence and you both here?"

"I said so when Mr. Clarence came," said Phoebe. "_I_ came to take care
of my grandmother, who is ill; and it was a very lucky thing for me that
I had met Miss May at your ball, Mr. Copperhead."

"By Jove, wasn't it!" said Clarence, roused to some dull sense of what
was going on. "We owe all the fun we have had here to that, so we do.
Odd, when one thinks of it; and thought so little of it then, didn't we?
It's a very queer world."

"So you've been having fun here?" said his father. "I thought you came
here to work; that's how we old fellows get taken in. Work! with young
ladies dangling about, and putting things into your head! I ought to
have known better, don't you think so, Miss Ursula? _You_ could have
taught me a thing or two."

"I?" said Ursula, startled. "I don't know what I could teach any one. I
think Mr. Clarence Copperhead has kept to his hours very steadily. Papa
is rather severe; he never would take any excuse from any of us when we
were working with him."

"He is not so severe now, I'll be bound," said Mr. Copperhead. "Lets you
have your fun a little, as Clarence tells me; don't you, May? Girls will
be girls, and boys, boys, whatever we do; and I am sure, Miss Phoebe, you
have been very entertaining, as you always were."

"I have done my best," said Phoebe, looking him in the face. "I should
have had a dull life but for the Parsonage, and I have tried to be
grateful. I have accompanied your son on the violin a great many
evenings, and I hope our friends have liked it. Mr. Clarence is a
promising player, though I should like him to trust less to his ear; but
we always pulled through."

"Thanks to you," said Clarence, in the middle of his cutlet

He did not quite see why she should flourish this music in his father's
face; but still he was loyal in a dull fashion, and he was obstinate,
and did not mean to be "sat upon," to use his own words. As for Phoebe,
her quick mind caught at once the best line of policy. She determined to
deliver Ursula, and she determined at the same time to let her future
father-in-law (if he was to be her father-in-law) see what sort of a
person he had to deal with. As soon as she made up her mind, her
agitation disappeared. It was only the uncertainty that had cowed her;
now she saw what to do.

"So!" said Mr. Copperhead, "musical evenings! I hope you have not
turned poor Clar's head among you, young ladies. It's not a very strong
head; and two is more than a match for one. I dare say he has had no
chance between you."

"Make yourself quite easy," said Phoebe, with her sweetest smile; "he was
only one of a party. Mr. Reginald May and Mr. Northcote are both very
pleasant companions. Your son is bored sometimes, but the rest of us are
never bored. You see, he has been accustomed to more brilliant society;
but as for us, we have no particular pretensions. We have been very
happy. And if there has been two to one, it has been the other way."

"I think I must let your people know of your gaieties, Miss Phoebe. If
your mother sent you here, I don't doubt it was for a purpose, eh? She
knows what she's about, and she won't like it if she knows you are
fritting away your chances and your attentions. She has an eye for
business, has Mrs. Beecham," said the leading member, with a laugh.

"You cannot tell mamma more about me than she knows already," said
Phoebe, with rising colour.

And by this time every one else at table was uncomfortable. Even
Clarence, who had a dull appreciation of his father's jokes when they
were not levelled at himself, and who was by no means indisposed to
believe that "girls," generally, were "after him," and that even in this
particular case Phoebe herself might have come to Carlingford on purpose
to complete his conquest, even Clarence was moved.

"I don't know what you mean by brilliant society," he said. "I know I'm
the dull one among you clever people. I don't say much, but I know it
all the same; and it's awfully good of you to pull me through all that
music. I don't begrudge you your laugh after. Is my mother coming over,
sir, to see the place?"

"To see what? There is not much in the place," said Mr. Copperhead.
"You're coming back with me, my boy. I hope it won't inconvenience you,
May. I've other views for him. Circumstances alter cases, you know. I've
been turning it over in my head, and I think I can see my way to another
arrangement."

"That, of course, is entirely in your own hands," said Mr. May, with a
cheerfulness he did not feel. His heart sank, but every rule of good
society made it incumbent upon him to show no failure at such a moment.
"Copperhead, see that your father has some wine. Well, I suppose our
poor little Carlingford is not much of a place; no trade, no movement,
no manufactures--"

"The sort of place that should be cleared off the face of the earth,"
said the millionnaire; "meaning no offence, of course. That's my opinion
in respect to country towns. What's the good of them? Nests of gossip,
places where people waste their time, and don't even amuse themselves.
Give me green fields and London, that is my sort. I don't care if there
was not another blessed brick in the country. There is always something
that will grow in a field, corn or fat beasts--not that we couldn't get
all that cheaper from over the water if it was managed as it ought to
be. But a place like this, what's the good of it? Almshouses and
chaplains, and that kind of rubbish, and old women; there's old women by
the score."

"They must be somewhere, I suppose," said Mr. May. "We cannot kill them
off, if they are inoffensive, and keep the laws. So that, after all, a
country town is of use."

"Kill 'em off--no; it's against what you benevolent humbugs call the
spirit of the time, and Christianity, and all that; but there's such a
thing as carrying Christianity too far; that's my opinion. There's your
almshouses now. What's the principle of them? I call it encouraging
those old beggars to live," said Mr. Copperhead; "giving them permission
to burden the community as long as they can manage it; a dead mistake,
depend upon it, the greatest mistake in the world."

"I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of Euthanasia," said
Phoebe, quietly stepping into the conversation; "but then it would have
to be with the consent of the victims. When any one found himself
useless, unnecessary to the world, or unhappy in it--"

"Humbug and nonsense," said Mr. Copperhead. "A likely thing for anybody
to do. No, it is not a question for law-making. Let 'em die out
naturally, that's my opinion. Don't do anything to hurry 'em--that is, I
don't see my way to it; but let 'em go quiet, and don't bring 'em
cordials and feather-beds, and all that middyeval nonsense, to keep 'em
going as long as possible. It's wicked, that's what it is."

"At all events," said Mr. May, who, poor man, was bent on pleasing, "it
is refreshing to hear opinions so bold and original. Something new is
always a blessing. I cannot say I agree with you--"

"No parson would be bold enough for that. Christianity's been a capital
thing for the world," said Mr. Copperhead, "I don't say a word against
it; but in these go-ahead days, sir, we've had enough of it, that's to
say when it's carried too far. All this fuss about the poor, all the row
about dragging up a lot of poor little beggars to live that had far
better die, and your almshouses to keep the old ones going, past all
nature! Shovel the mould over them, that's the thing for the world; let
'em die when they ought to die; and let them live who can live--that's
my way of thinking--and what's more, I'm right."

"What a fine thing for you, Mr. Clarence," cried Phoebe, "who are going
into Parliament! to take up your father's idea and work it out. What a
speech you could make on the subject! I saw a hospital once in Paris
that would make such a wonderful illustration. I'll tell you about it if
you like. Poor old wretched people whose life was nothing but
wretchedness kept going, kept living for years and years--why, no one
could tell; for I am sure it would have been better, far better for them
to die and be done with it. What a speech you might make when you bring
a bill into Parliament to abolish almshouses and all sorts of
charities!" she added with a laugh, turning from Clarence, at whom she
had been looking, to his father, who was puzzled, and did not know how
to understand the young woman's eyes.

"I'll never make much of a speech in Parliament," said Clarence; "unless
you make it for me," he added in an undertone. But no one else was
speaking, and the undertone was quite audible. Meanwhile Phoebe had not
ceased to look at his father, and held him with a pair of eyes not like
the Ancient Mariner's. Mr. Copperhead was confused, his power even of
insolence was cowed for the moment. He obeyed quite docilely the
movement made to leave the table. Was it possible that she defied him,
this Minister's daughter, and measured her strength against his? Mr.
Copperhead felt as if he could have shaken the impertinent girl, but
dared not, being where he was.

And lunch being over, Mr. May led his pupil's father into his study. "I
want to show you what your boy has been doing," he said, pointing to a
line of books which made the millionnaire's soul shrink within him. "I
have not bothered him with classics; what was the use as he is not going
back to Oxford? but I have done my best for him in a practical way. He
has read history, largely as you see, and as much as I could give him of
political and constitutional--"

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Copperhead, reading the titles of some of the books
under his breath. They impressed him deeply, and took away for a moment
his self-confidence. It was his habit to boast that he knew nothing
about books; but in their presence he shrank, feeling that they were
greater than he, which was, there is little doubt, a sign of grace.

"If you wish to remove Clarence," said Mr. May, "perhaps I had better
make out a scheme of reading for him."

"Look here," cried the rich man, "I didn't want to remove him; but there
he is, the first I see of him, cheek for jowl with a good-looking girl.
I don't mean to say a word against Miss May, I've no doubt she's
charming; but anyhow there she is side by side with Clar, who is no more
able to resist that sort of thing--"

Mr. May laughed, and this time with unmitigated amusement. "Do you mean
Ursula? I think I can answer for it that she made no attempts upon him
for which resistance would be necessary."

"That's all very well to say; but bless you they do it, every one," said
Mr. Copperhead, "without exception, when a young fellow's well off and
well-looking; and as if one wasn't bad enough, you've got Phoebe Beecham.
You won't tell me she doesn't mean anything?--up to any mischief, a real
minister's daughter. I don't mean anything uncivil to you or yours. I
suppose a parson's different; but we know what a minister's daughter is
in our connection. Like the men themselves, in short, who are always
pouncing on some girl with a fortune if her relations don't take care.
And Clarence is as weak as a baby; he takes after his mother--a poor bit
of a feeble creature, though he's like me in exterior. That's how it is,
you perceive; I don't quite see my way to letting him go on."

"That is of course precisely as you please," said Mr. May, somewhat
sharply. He would preserve his dignity even though his heart was
sinking; but he could not keep that tone of sharpness out of his voice.

"Of course it is as I please. I'll pay up of course for the second three
months, if you choose, fair and square. I meant him to stay, and I'll
pay. But that's all. You've no further claim upon me that I know of; and
I must say that for a tutor, a regular coach, to keep girls in his
house, daughters, or whatever you choose to call them, is something
monstrous. It's a thing no fellow's friends would put up with. It's what
I call dishonourable."

"Perhaps," said Mr. May, with all the self-possession he was master of,
"you will let your son know at once that he must pack and go. I dare
say, Sir Robert can take him, and we will send the portmanteaux. In such
a case, it is better there should not be a moment's delay."

"Clarence!" cried Mr. Copperhead, walking to the door and opening it.
"Come along, look sharp, you're to go. I'll take you with me, do you
hear? And May will see to sending you your boxes. Quick, come along,
there's no time to lose."

"Go!" said Clarence, coming in startled, with his eyebrows rising almost
into his hair. "Go? What do you mean? Out of the Parsonage? The
Governor's been having too much sherry," he said, coming close to Mr.
May's arm; he had himself been taking too much of the sherry, for the
good reason that nobody had taken any notice of what he did, and that he
had foreseen the excitement that was coming. "You don't mean it, I
know," he added aloud; "I'll go over for the night if Sir Robert will
have me, and see my mother--"

"Ask May," said Mr. Copperhead, "you'll believe him, I suppose; he's as
glad to get rid of you as I am to take you away."

"Is this true?" cried Clarence, roused and wondering, "and if so, what's
happened? I ain't a baby, you know, to be bundled about from one to
another. The Governor forgets that."

"Your father," said Mr. May, "chooses to remove you, and that is all I
choose to say."

"But, by George, I can say a deal more," said Mr. Copperhead. "You
simpleton, do you think I am going to leave you here where there's
man-traps about? None of such nonsense for me. Put your things together,
I tell you. Phoebe Beecham's bad enough at home; but if she thinks she's
to have you here to pluck at her leisure, she and her friends--"

"W--hew!" said Clarence, with a long whistle. "So that's it. I am very
sorry, father, if these are your sentiments; but I may as well tell you
at once I shan't go."

"You--must go."

"No," he said, squaring his shoulders and putting out his shirt front;
he had never been roused into rebellion before, and perhaps without
these extra glasses of sherry he would not have had the courage now. But
what with sherry, and what with _amour propre_, and what with the thing
he called love, Clarence Copperhead mounted all at once upon a pedestal.
He had a certain dogged obstinacy in him, suspected by nobody but his
mother, who had little enough to say in the guidance of her boy. He set
himself square like a pugilist, which was his notion of resistance. Mr.
May looked on with a curious mixture of feelings. His own sudden and
foolish hope was over, and what did it matter to him whether the
detestable father or the coarse son should win? He turned away from them
with contempt, which was made sharp by their utter uselessness to
himself. Had it been possible that he might have what he wanted from
Mr. Copperhead, his patience would have held out against any trial; but
the moment that hope was over, what further interest had he in the
question? He went to his writing-table and sat down there, leaving them
to fight it out as they would, by themselves. It was no affair of his.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A PLEASANT EVENING.


The result, however, was a compromise. Clarence Copperhead went off with
his father and Sir Robert to the Hall for the night, but was to return
next day, and Phoebe was left in a condition of some excitement behind
them, not quite knowing what to think. She was as sure as ever that he
had made up his mind to propose; but he had not done it, and what effect
his father's visit, and perhaps his mother's entreaties, might have upon
him, Phoebe could not tell. The crisis excited her beyond any excitement
which she would have thought possible in respect to Clarence Copperhead.
She was more like an applicant for office kept uncertain whether she was
to have a desirable post or not, than a girl on the eve of a lover's
declaration. This was her own conception of the circumstances. She did
not dislike Clarence; quite the reverse. She had no sympathy with
Ursula's impatience of his heavy vanity. Phoebe had been used to him all
her life, and had never thought badly of the heavy boy whom she had been
invited to amuse when she was six years old, and whom she had no
particular objection to amuse still, let the others wonder at her as
they might. Poor Reginald, contemplating bitterly her many little
complacencies to his rival, set them down hastily to an appreciation of
that rival's worldly advantages, which was not quite a just sentence. It
was true, and yet it was not true; other feelings mingled in Phoebe's
worldliness. She did, indeed, perceive and esteem highly the advantages
which Clarence could give her; but she had not the objections to
Clarence himself that the others had. She was willing, quite willing, to
undertake the charge of him, to manage, and guide, and make a man of
him. And yet, while it was not pure worldliness, much less was it actual
love which moved her. It was a kind of habitual affection, as for the
"poor thing, but mine own, sir," of the jester. He was but a poor
creature, but Phoebe knew she could make something of him, and she had
no distaste to the task. When she began to perceive that Reginald, in so
many ways Clarence's superior, was at her disposal, a sense of
gratification went through Phoebe's mind, and it certainly occurred to
her that the feeling he might inspire would be a warmer and a more
delightful one than that which would fall to Clarence Copperhead; but
she was not tempted thereby to throw Clarence off for the other. No, she
was pleased, and not unwilling to expend a little tender regret and
gratitude upon poor Reginald. She was ready to be "kind" to him, though
every woman knows that is the last thing she ought to be to a rejected
lover; and she was full of sympathy for the disappointment which,
nevertheless, she fully intended was to be his lot. This seems
paradoxical, but it is no more paradoxical than human creatures
generally are. On this particular evening her heart beat very high on
account of Clarence, to know if he would have strength of mind to hold
his own against his father, and if he would come back to her and ask
her, as she felt certain he meant to do, that one momentous question.
Her heart would not have been broken had he not done so, but still she
would have been disappointed. Notwithstanding when the evening came, the
absence of Clarence was a relief to Phoebe as well as to the rest of the
party, and she gave herself up to the pleasures of a few hours of
half-tender intercourse with Reginald, with a sense of enjoyment such as
she seldom felt. This was very wrong, there is no denying it, but still
so it was. She was anxious that Clarence should come back to her, and
ask her to be his wife; and yet she was pleased to be rid of Clarence,
and to give her whole attention and sympathy to Reginald, trying her
best to please him. It was very wrong; and yet such things have happened
before, and will again; and are as natural, perhaps, as the more
absolute and unwavering passion which has no doubt of its object,
passion like Northcote's, who had neither eyes nor ears for anything but
Ursula. The four were alone together that evening, and enjoyed it
thoroughly. Clarence was away, who, to all but Phoebe, was an
interruption of their intercourse; and Mr. May was away in his study,
too much absorbed to think of any duties that ought to have devolved
upon him as chaperon; and even Janey was out of the way, taking tea with
Mrs. Hurst. So the two young pairs sat round the table and talked; the
girls, with a mutual panic, which neither breathed to the other, keeping
together, avoiding separation into pairs. Ursula out of very shyness and
fright alone, lest another chapter of the strange, novel, too moving
love-tale might be poured into her ears; but Phoebe with more settled
purpose, to prevent any disclosure on the part of Reginald. The evening
was mixed up of pleasure and pain to the two young men, each eager to
find himself alone with the girl whom he loved; but it is to be feared
the girls themselves had a furtive guilty enjoyment of it, which they
ought not to have had. Open and outrageous love-making is not half so
delicate a pastime as that in which nothing distinct dare be said, but
all is implication, conveyed and understood without words. I know it is
a dangerous thing to confess, but veracity requires the confession; you
may say it was the playing of the cat with the mouse, if you wish to
give a disagreeable version of it; but, however you choose to explain
it, this was how it was.

It was with fear and trembling at last that Phoebe went to the piano,
which was at the other end of the room, after making all the resistance
which was possible.

"Thank Heaven, that idiot and his fiddle aren't here to-night to
interfere!" cried Reginald.

Phoebe shook her head at him, but ventured on no words; and how she did
exert herself on the piano, playing things which were a great deal too
classical for Reginald, who would have preferred the simplest stock
piece, under cover of which he might have talked to her hanging over her
chair, and making belief to turn over the music! This was what he
wanted, poor fellow. He had no heart nor ears for Beethoven, which Phoebe
played to him with a tremor in her heart, and yet, the wicked little
witch, with some enjoyment too.

"This is not the sort of thing you play when Copperhead is here," he
said at last, driven to resistance.

"Oh, we play Mendelssohn," said Phoebe, with much show of innocence; and
then she added, "You ought to feel the compliment if I play Beethoven to
you."

"So I ought, I suppose," said Reginald. "The truth is, I don't care for
music. Don't take your hands off the keys."

"Why, you have done nothing but worry me to play!"

"Not for the music," said Reginald, quite satisfied to have got his
will. "Why will you not talk to me and play to me, as I wish?"

"Perhaps, if I knew what you wish--" Phoebe said, in spite of herself.

"Oh, how I should like to tell you! No, not Beethoven; a little, just a
little music. Heavens!" cried Reginald, as she crashed into a
fortissimo, "another sonata! Listen, I am not equal to sonatas. Nay,
Miss Beecham, play me a little nothing--talk to me."

She shook her head at him with a laugh, and went on playing the hardest
piece of music she could think of, complicating herself in difficult
chords and sudden accidentals. If there had been anybody there to hear
who could have understood, Phoebe's performance would, no doubt, have
appeared a masterpiece of brilliant execution, as it was; but the two
others were paying not the slightest attention, and as for Reginald, he
was in a state of tantalized vexation, which half-amused himself, and
filled the performer with an exhilarating sense of successful mischief.
Northcote was trying to say--what was he not trying to say?--to Ursula,
under cover of the music, which was the best shield he could have had;
and perhaps in reality, though Reginald was tantalized to the utmost
degree of tantalization, even he had a certain enjoyment in the saucy
self-defence which was more mischievous than cruel. He stood behind
Phoebe's chair, now and then meeting her laughing glance with one of
tender appeal and reproach, pleased to feel himself thus isolated with
her, and held an arm's-length in so genial a way. He would have his
opportunity after a while, when there would be no piano to give her a
momentary refuge, and then he would say out all that was in his heart,
with no possible shadow of a rival to interfere with him. Angry? no; as
he stood behind her, watching her fingers fly over the keys, a
delightful calm stole over Reginald. Now and then she would throw a
half-mocking glance at him upward over her shoulder, as she swept over
the resounding board. When the sonata was concluded, Phoebe sprang up
from the piano, and went back to the table. She proposed that they
should play a game at cards, to which Ursula agreed. The young men
shrugged their shoulders and protested; but, after all, what did it
matter, so long as they were together? They fell into their places quite
naturally, the very cards assisting; and so the moments flew by. There
was not so much sound as usual in the old faded drawing-room, which had
come to look so bright and homelike; not so much sound of voices,
perhaps less laughter--yet of all the evenings they had spent there
together, that was the one they looked back upon, all four, with most
tender recollection. They had been so happy, or, if not happy, so near
(apparently) to happiness, which is better sometimes than happiness
itself.

"Don't let Reginald come with me," Phoebe whispered, as she kissed her
friend, and said good night, "or ask Mr. Northcote to come too."

"Why?" said Ursula, with dreamy eyes; her own young tide of life was
rising, invading, for the moment, her perceptions, and dulling her sense
of what was going on round her. There was no time, however, for
anything more to be said, for Reginald was close behind with his hat in
his hand. Phoebe had to resign herself, and she knew what was coming. The
only thing was, if possible, to stop the declaration on the way.

"This is the first chance I have had of seeing you home without that
perpetual shadow of Copperhead--"

"Ah, poor Clarence!" said Phoebe. "I wonder how he is getting on away
from us all to-night."

"Poor Clarence!" echoed Reginald aghast. "You don't mean to say that
you--miss him, Miss Beecham? I never heard you speak of him in that tone
before."

"Miss him! no, perhaps not exactly," said Phoebe, with a soft little
sigh; "but still--I have known him all my life, Mr. May; when we were
quite little I used to be sent for to his grand nursery, full of lovely
toys and things--a great deal grander than mine."

"And for that reason--" said Reginald, becoming bitter, with a laugh.

"Nothing for that reason," said Phoebe; "but I noticed it at six as I
should at twenty. I must have been a horrid little worldly-minded thing,
don't you think? So you see there are the associations of a great many
years to make me say Poor Clarence, when anything is the matter with
him."

"He is lucky to rouse your sympathies so warmly," cried Reginald,
thoroughly wretched; "but I did not know there was anything the matter."

"I think there will be if he has to leave our little society, where we
have all been so happy," said Phoebe, softly. "How little one thought,
coming here a stranger, how pleasant it was to be! I especially, to whom
coming to Carlingford was rather--perhaps I might say a humiliation. I
am very fond of grandpapa and grandmamma now, but the first introduction
was something of a shock--I have never denied it; and if it had not been
for sweet kind Ursula and you--all."

The little breathless fragmentary pause which Phoebe made between the you
and the "all," giving just a ghost of emphasis to the pronoun, sounded
to poor Reginald in his foolishness almost like a caress. How cleverly
it was managed, with just so much natural feeling in it as gave it
reality! They were approaching No. 6, and Martha, the maid, already was
visible at the open door.

"Then you do give me some share--some little share," he cried, with a
broken voice. "Ah, if you would only let me tell you what your coming
has been to me. It has opened up my life; I feel everything different,
the old earth itself; there is a new light upon the whole world--"

"Hush, here is Martha!" cried Phoebe, "she will not understand about new
lights. Yes, it has been pleasant, very pleasant; when one begins to
sigh and realize how pleasant a thing has been, I always fear it is
going to be broken up."

"_Absit omen!_" cried Reginald, fervently, taking the hand she had put
out to bid him good night, and holding it fast to detain her; and was
there moisture in the eyes which she lifted to him, and which glistened,
he thought, though there was only the distant light of a lamp to see
them by?

"You must not keep me now," cried Phoebe, "here is grandpapa coming. Good
night, Mr. May, good night."

Was Phoebe a mere coquette _pure et simple_? As soon as she had got safe
within these walls, she stooped down over the primroses to get rid of
Martha, and then in the darkness had a cry, all by herself, on one side
of the wall, while the young lover, with his head full of her, checked,
but not altogether discouraged, went slowly away on the other. She
cried, and her heart contracted with a real pang. He was very tender in
his reverential homage, very romantic, a true lover, not the kind of man
who wants a wife or wants a clever companion to amuse him, and save him
the expense of a coach, and be his to refer to in everything. That was
an altogether different kind of thing. Phoebe went in with a sense in her
mind that perhaps she had never touched so close upon a higher kind of
existence, and perhaps never again might have the opportunity; but
before she had crossed the garden, she had begun once more to question
whether Clarence would have the fortitude to hold his own against
everything that father or mother could do to change his mind. Would he
have the fortitude? Would he come back to her, safe and determined, or
would he yield to arguments in favour of some richer bride, and come
back either estranged or at the least doubtful? This gave her a pang of
profound anxiety at the bottom of her heart.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

AN EXPEDITION.


Mr. May did not come upstairs that evening. It was not that he was
paralysed as he had been on the previous occasion, when he sat as now
and heard Phoebe go away after her first visit, and when the wind blowing
in from the open door playfully carried to his feet the scribbled note
with Tozer's name. He was not stupefied as then, nor was he miserable.
The threatened withdrawal of Clarence Copperhead was more to him than
the impending ruin meant by that bill which was so nearly due. He was
occupied by that to the exclusion of the other. It would be a most
serious change to him in every way. He had calculated on the continuance
of this additional income for at least a year, and short of the year it
would have done him no good, but had simply plunged him into additional
expense. It was this he was thinking of, and which kept him in his study
after the young people had assembled. Cotsdean had come again while Mr.
May was at dinner, which by some curious unconscious aggravation on his
part was the time he especially chose as most convenient for him; and he
had again sent a dirty note by Bobby, imploring his principal to think
of the impending fate, and not to desert him. Mr. May was angry at this
perpetual appeal. "Why should I desert him, the idiot?" he said to
himself; and moved by the man's persistence, he took out his pocket-book
again, and made out beyond all chance of mistake, that it was the 18th.
Why should the fool insist upon its being the 15th with such perpetual
iteration? There were the figures as plain as possible, 18th April. Mr.
May wrote a peremptory note announcing this fact to Cotsdean, and then
returned to his own thoughts. Sir Robert had asked him to go over that
morning and spend the day at the Hall with the Copperheads, not knowing
of any breach between them. He thought he had better do this. If
Clarence determined to stay, that would be a great thing in his favour,
and he had seen that the young man's dull spirit was roused; and if that
hope failed, there might still be advantage even in this sudden breaking
of the bond. Part of the second quarter was gone, and the father had
offered three months additional pay. These two payments would make up
the hundred and fifty pounds at once, and settle the business. Thus, in
either way, he should be safe, for if Clarence went away the money would
be paid; and if he stayed, Mr. May himself had made up his mind to risk
the bold step of going to the bank and asking an advance on this
inalienable security. All these deliberations made his mind easy about
the bill. It must come right one way or another; he might have chosen
perhaps not to run it quite so close; but after all the 15th was only
to-morrow, and there were still three days. While his mind was full of
these things he did not care to go upstairs. He heard the voices of the
young people, but he was too much engrossed with his own calculations to
care to join them. It was a close thing, he said to himself, a very
close thing; but still he felt that he could do it--surely he could do
it. If Mr. Copperhead settled with him--and he was the sort of man, a
man to whom money was nothing, to do so on the spot if he took it into
his head--then all was right. And if Mr. Copperhead did not do so, the
bank, though his past transactions with it had not been encouraging,
would certainly make all right on account of these Copperhead payments,
which were as certain as any payments could be. He went to bed early,
being engrossed by these thoughts, not even saying good-night to Ursula,
as was his wont; and he made up his mind to take an early breakfast, and
start the first thing in the morning for the Hall. There was an early
train which would suit admirably. He could not afford to drive, as Sir
Robert had done, changing horses half way. He went upstairs to bed,
somewhat heavily, but not discontented, seeing his way. After all, the
great thing in life is to see your way. It does not matter so much
whether that way is great or small, so long as you can see it plain
before you. Mr. May breathed a sigh of anxiety as he ended the day. He
had a great many things on his mind; but still he was not altogether
heavy-hearted or discouraged beyond measure; things, he felt, would
shape themselves better than he had hoped. He was not perhaps going to
be so much better off than of old, as he thought possible when Clarence
Copperhead came. Such delusive prospects do glimmer across a poor man's
path when any apparent expansion of means occurs to him; but in the
majority of cases he has to consent to see the fine fictitious glow die
away. Mr. May was not ignorant of this experience already. A man who is
over fifty is generally more or less prepared for anything that can
happen to him in this kind; but he thought he could "get on;" and after
all that is the sum of life to three parts of mankind.

He was silent at breakfast, but not disagreeable, and Ursula was too
much taken up with her own concerns to pay much attention to him.
Ursula's concerns were developing with a rapidity altogether
extraordinary. In the mind of a girl of twenty, unforestalled by any
previous experience, the process that goes on between the moment when
the surprising, overwhelming discovery rushes upon her that some one
loves her in the old way of romance, until the corresponding moment when
she finds out that her own heart too has been invaded by this wonderful
sentiment, which is like nothing that was ever known before, is of a
very rapid description. It is like the bursting of a flower, which a
day's sunshine brings to the blooming point like a miracle, though it is
in reality the simplest result of nature. Already there began to glow a
haze of brightness about those three months past in which everything had
begun. When or how it began she could not now tell. The glow of it was
in her eyes and dazzled her. She heard the voices of the others sounding
vaguely through this bright mist in which she herself was isolated; when
she was obliged to reply, she called herself back with an effort, and
did so--but of her own will she seldom spoke. How Janey chattered, how
the children maundered on about their little concerns, which were of
consequence to nobody! Papa was the person whom Ursula really respected
this morning, for he had more sense than to talk. How could people talk,
as if there was pleasure in that? But papa had more sense, he had things
to think of--too. So the girl approved her father, and thought more
highly of him, and never inquired what it might be that occupied his
mind, and kept him from noticing even when the children were unruly. And
it would be giving the reader an unfair idea of the children, if we
attempted to conceal that they did take advantage of their
opportunities, and were as unruly as well-conditioned children in the
circumstances were likely to be. Mr. May took no notice; he took his
coffee hurriedly and went off to the station.

"If I don't return this evening you need not be alarmed. I shall come
back at the latest to-morrow morning," he said.

The children all rushed to the window to see him go away; even Ursula
looking out dreamily remarked him too, as she seldom did; and Mrs. Sam
Hurst at her window, wondering where her neighbour could be going,
heaved a deep sigh of admiration, which though she was not "in love," as
the girls thought, with Mr. May, was a passing tribute to his good looks
and training. He looked a gentleman every inch of him--an English
gentleman, spotless in linen, speckless in broadcloth, though his dress
was far from new; the freshness of sound health and a clear conscience
on his handsome face, though he was no longer young. His abundant hair,
steel-grey, slightly crisped under his hat, not curling exactly, but
with a becoming twist in it--clerical, yet not too clerical, a man given
to no extremes, decorously churchmanlike, yet liberal and tolerant of
the world. Though she was too wise to compromise her own comfort by
marrying him, Mrs. Hurst felt that there was a great pleasure in making
his daughters anxious about her "intentions," and that even to be said
to be in love with such a man was no shame, but rather the reverse.

He went away accordingly, taking a short cut to the railway, and thus
missing Cotsdean, who came breathless ten minutes after he was gone, and
followed him to the train; but too late.

"Well, well," Cotsdean said to himself, wiping his forehead, "Old Tozer
has plenty, it ain't nothing to him to pay. They can settle it between
'em."

Cotsdean himself was easier in his mind than he had ever been before on
such an occasion. His clergyman, though personally an awful and
respect-inspiring personage, was so far as money went a man of straw, as
he well knew, and his name on a bill was very little worth; but Tozer
was a man who could pay his way. A hundred and fifty pounds, or even ten
times that, would not ruin the old shopkeeper. Cotsdean's sense of
commercial honour was not so very keen that the dishonouring of his bill
in the circumstances should give him a very serious pang. He would not
be sold up, or have an execution put into his shop when the other party
to the bill was so substantial a person. Of course Tozer, when he signed
it, must have been told all about it, and Cotsdean did not see how with
two such allies against ruin, anything very serious could befall him. He
was uneasy indeed, but his uneasiness had no such force in it as before.
He went back to his shop and his business prepared to take the matter as
calmly as possible. He was but passive in it. It could not harm him much
in the eyes of his banker, who knew his affairs too well to be much
astonished at any such incident, and Tozer and Mr. May must settle it
between them. It was their affair.

Meanwhile Mr. May rattled along in the railway towards the Hall. He got
a dog-cart at the little inn at the station to take him over, though
generally when he went to see the Dorsets it was his custom to walk.
"But what were a few shillings?" he said to himself, the prodigality of
desperation having seized upon him. In any case he could pay that, and
if he was to be ruined, what did a few shillings more or less matter?
but the discomfort of walking over those muddy roads, and arriving with
dirty boots and a worn-out aspect, mattered a great deal. He reached the
Hall at a propitious moment, when Mr. Copperhead was in the highest
good-humour. He had been taken over the place, from one end to another,
over the stables, the farm-buildings, the farm itself from end to end,
the preserves, the shrubberies, the greenhouses, everything; all of
which details he examined with an unfailing curiosity which would have
been highly flattering to the possessors if it had not been neutralized
by a strain of comment which was much less satisfactory. When Mr. May
went in, he found him in the dining-room, with Sir Robert and his
daughters standing by, clapping his wings and crowing loudly over a
picture which the Dorsets prized much. It represented a bit of vague
Italian scenery, mellow and tranquil, and was a true "Wilson," bought by
an uncle of Sir Robert's, who had been a connoisseur, from the Master
himself, in the very country where it was painted; and all these details
pleased the imagination of the family, who, though probably they would
have been but mildly delighted had they possessed the acquaintance of
the best of contemporary painters, were proud that Uncle Charles had
known Italian Wilson, and had bought a picture out of his studio. A
Hobbema or a Poussin would scarcely have pleased them as much, for the
worst of an old Master is that your friends look suspiciously upon it as
a copy; whereas Wilson is scarcely old enough or precious enough to be
copied. They were showing their picture and telling the story to the
millionnaire with an agreeable sense that, though they were not so rich,
they must, at least, have the advantage of him in this way.

"Ha!" said Mr. Copperhead, "you should see my Turner. Didn't I show you
my Turner? I don't venture to tell you, Sir Robert, what that picture
cost me. It's a sin, it is, to keep that amount of capital hanging
useless upon a bit of wall. The Wilson may be all very well. I ain't a
judge of art, and I can't give my opinion on that point, though it's a
common sort of a name, and there don't seem to be much in it; but
everybody knows what a Turner means. Here's May; he'll be able to tell
you as well as another. It means a few cool thousands, take my word for
it. It means, I believe, that heaps of people would give you your own
price. I don't call it a profitable investment, for it brings in no
interest; but they tell me it's a thing that grows in value every year.
And there it is, Sir, hanging up useless on my wall in Portland Place,
costing a fortune, and bringing in not a penny. But I like it; I like
it, for I can afford it, by George! Here's May; he knows what that sort
of thing is; he'll tell you that a Turner is worth its weight in gold."

"Thank you, I don't think I need any information on that subject," said
Sir Robert. "Besides, I saw your Turner. It is a pretty picture--if it
is authentic; but Wilson, you know--"

"Wasn't a big-enough swell not to be authentic, eh?" said Mr.
Copperhead. "Common name enough, and I don't know that I ever heard of
him in the way of painting; but I don't pretend to be a judge. Here's
May; now, I dare say he knows all about it. Buying's one thing,
knowing's another. Your knowing ones, when they've got any money, they
have the advantage over us, Sir Robert; they can pick up a thing that's
good, when it happens to come their way, dirt cheap; but fortunately for
us, it isn't often they've got any money," he added, with a laugh,
slapping Mr. May on the shoulder in a way which made him totter. But the
clergyman's good-humour was equal even to this assault. It is wonderful
how patient and tolerant we can all be when the motive is strong enough.

"That is true," he said; "but I fear I have not even the compensation of
knowledge. I know enough, however, to feel that the possessor of a
Turner is a public personage, and may be a public benefactor if he
pleases."

"How that? If you think I am one to go lending my pictures about, or
leaving them to the nation when I'm done for, that's not my sort. No, I
keep them to myself. If I consent to have all that money useless, it is
for myself, you may depend, and not for other people. And I'll leave it
to my boy Clarence, if he behaves himself. He's a curiosity, too, and
has a deal of money laid out on him that brings no interest, him and his
mother. I'll leave it to Clar, if he doesn't make a low marriage, or any
folly of that kind."

"You should make it an heir-loom," said Sir Robert, with sarcasm too
fine for his antagonist; "leave it from father to son of your
descendants, like our family diamonds and plate."

Anne and Sophy looked at each other and smiled, the one sadly, the other
satirically. The Dorset family jewels were rose-diamonds of small value,
and the plate was but moderate in quantity, and not very great in
quality. Poor Sir Robert liked to blow his little trumpet too, but it
was not so blatant as that of his visitor, whose rude senses did not
even see the intended malice.

"By George! I think I will," he said. "I'm told it's as safe as the
bank, and worth more and more every year, and if it don't bring in
anything, it don't eat anything; eh, May? Look here; perhaps I was
hasty the other day," he said, pushing the clergyman a little apart from
the group with a large hand on his shoulder. "Clarence tells me you're
the best coach he ever saw, and that he's getting on like a house on
fire."

"He does make progress, I think," answered the tutor, thus gracefully
complimented.

"But all the same, you know, I had a right to be annoyed. Now a man of
your sense--for you seem a man of sense, though you're a parson, and
know what side your bread's buttered on--ought to see that it's an
aggravating thing when a young fellow has been sent to a coach for his
instruction, and to keep him out of harm's way, to find him cheek by
jowl with a nice-looking young woman. That's not what a father has a
right to expect."

"You couldn't expect me to do away with my daughter because I happened
to take a pupil?" said Mr. May, half-amused; "but I can assure you that
she has no designs upon your son."

"So I hear, so I hear," said the other, with a mixture of pique and
satisfaction. "Won't look at him, Clar tells me; got her eye on some one
else, little fool! She'll never have such a chance again. As for having
no designs, that's bosh, you know; all women have designs. I'm a deal
easier in my mind when I'm told she's got other fish to fry."

"Other fish to fry?" said Mr. May; this time he was wholly amused, and
laughed. "This is news to me. However, we don't want to discuss my
little Ursula; about your son it will be well that I should know, for I
might be forming other engagements. This moment is a time of pecuniary
pressure with me," he added, with the ingratiating smile and
half-pathetic frankness of the would-be borrower. "I have not taken
pupils before, but I want money for the time. My son's settlement in
life, you see, and--but the father of a large family can always find
good reasons for wanting money."

"That's it," said Mr. Copperhead, seriously. "Why are you the father of
a large family? That's what I ask our ministers. It's against all
political economy, that is. According as you've no money to give 'em,
you go and have children--when it should be just the other way."

"That may be very true; but there they are, and can't be done away with;
and I do want money, as it happens, more now than I shall want it a year
hence, or, perhaps, even six months hence."

"Most people do," said Mr. Copperhead, withdrawing his hand from his
pocket, and placing his elbow tightly against the orifice of that very
important part of him. "It's the commonest thing in the world. I want
money myself, for that matter. I've always got a large amount to make up
by a certain date, and a bill to pay. But about Clar, that's the
important matter. As he seems to have set his mind on it, and as you
assure me there's no danger--man-traps, or that sort of thing, eh?"

The colour came to Mr. May's cheek; but it was only for a moment. To
have his own daughter spoken of as a man-trap gave him a momentary
thrill of anger; but, as he would have applied the word quite composedly
to any other man's daughter, the resentment was evanescent. He did not
trust himself to answer, however, but nodded somewhat impatiently, which
made the millionnaire laugh the more.

"Don't like the man-trap?" he said. "Bless you, they're all alike, not
yours more than the rest. But as I was saying, if it's warranted safe I
suppose he'll have to stay. But I don't stand any nonsense, May; and
look here, your music and all that ain't in the agreement. He can have a
master for his music, he's well enough able to pay for it; but I won't
have a mistress, by George, to put folly into his head."

"I am to forbid him the drawing-room, I suppose, and take his fiddle
from him! I have no objections. Between ourselves, as I am not musical,
it would be very agreeable to me; but perhaps he is rather over the age,
don't you think, for treatment of that kind?"

Clarence had come in, and stood watching the conversation, with a look
Mr. Copperhead was not prepared for. Those mild brown eyes, which were
his mother's share in him, were full a-stare with sullen resolution, and
his heavy mouth shut like that of a bull-dog. He lingered at the door,
looking at the conversation which was going on between his father and
his tutor, and they both noticed him at the same moment, and drew the
same conclusion. Mr. May was in possession of the _parole_, as the
French say, and he added instinctively in an undertone,

"Take care; if I were you I would not try him too far."

Mr. Copperhead said nothing; but he stared too, rather aghast at this
new revelation. What! his porcelain, his Dresden figure of a son, his
crowning curiosity, was _he_ going to show a will of his own? The despot
felt a thrill go over him. What kind of a sentiment love was in his mind
it would be hard to tell; but his pride was all set on this heavy boy.
To see him a man of note, in Parliament, his name in the papers, his
speeches printed in the "Times," was the very heaven of his
expectations. "Son of the famous Copperhead, the great contractor." He
did not care about such distinction in his own person; but this had
been his dream ever since Clarence came into being. And now there he
stood gloomy, obdurate. If he had made up his mind to make a low
marriage, could his father hinder him--could anything hinder him? Mr.
Copperhead looked at his son and quailed for the first time in his life.

"May," he said, hurriedly, "do the best you can; he's got all his
mother's d----d obstinacy, you can see, can't you? but I've set my heart
on making a man of him--do the best you can."

Mr. May thought to himself afterwards if he had only had the vigour to
say, "Pay me six months in advance," the thing would have been done. But
the lingering prejudices of breeding clung about him, and he could not
do it. Mr. Copperhead, however, was very friendly all the rest of the
day, and gave him private looks and words aside, to the great admiration
of the Dorsets, to whom the alliance between them appeared remarkable
enough.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

A CATASTROPHE.


Mr. May left the Hall before dinner, notwithstanding the warm invitation
which was given to him to stay. He was rather restless, and though it
was hard to go out into the dark just as grateful odours began to steal
through the house, it suited him better to do so than to spend the night
away from home. Besides, he comforted himself that Sir Robert's cook was
not first-rate, not good enough to make it a great temptation. It was a
long walk to the station, for they had no horses at liberty to drive
him, a fact at which he was slightly offended, though he was aware that
Sir Robert's stable was but a poor one. He set out just as the
dressing-bell began to ring, fortified with a glass of sherry and a
biscuit. The night was mild and soft, the hedgerows all rustling with
the new life of the spring, and the stars beginning to come out as he
went on; and on the whole the walk was pleasant, though the roads were
somewhat muddy. As he went along, he felt himself fall into a curious
dreamy state of mind, which was partly fatigue perhaps, but was not at
all unpleasant. Sometimes he almost seemed to himself to be asleep as he
trudged on, and woke up with a start, thinking that he saw indistinct
figures, the skirt of a dress or the tail of a long coat, disappearing
past him, just gone before he was fully awake to what it was. He knew
there was no one on the lonely road, and that this was a dream or
illusion, but still he kept seeing these vanishings of indistinct
wayfarers, which did not frighten him in the least, but half-amused him
in the curious state of his brain. He had got rid of his anxiety. It was
all quite plain before him what to do,--to go to the Bank, to tell them
what he had coming in, and to settle everything as easily as possible.
The consciousness of having this to do acted upon him like a gentle
opiate or dream-charm. When he got to the railway station, and got into
a carriage, he seemed to be floating somehow in a prolonged vision of
light and streaks of darkness, not quite aware now far he was going, or
where he was going, across the country; and even when he arrived at
Carlingford he roused himself with difficulty, not quite certain that he
had to get out; then he smiled at himself, seeing the gas-lights in a
sort of vague glimmer about him, not uncomfortable, but misty and
half-asleep. "If Sir Robert's sherry had been better, I should have
blamed that," he said to himself; and in fact it was a kind of drowsy,
amiable mental intoxication which affected him, he scarcely could tell
how. When he got within sight of his own house, he paused a moment and
looked up at the lights in the windows. There was music going on; Phoebe,
no doubt, for Ursula could not play so well as that, and the house
looked full and cheerful. He had a cheerful home, there was no doubt of
that. Young Copperhead, though he was a dunce, felt it, and showed an
appreciation of better things in his determination not to leave the
house where he had been so happy. Mr. May felt an amiable friendliness
stealing over him for Clarence too.

Upstairs in the drawing-room another idyllic evening had begun. Phoebe
"had not intended to come," but was there notwithstanding, persuaded by
Ursula, who, glad for once to escape from the anxieties of dinner, had
celebrated tea with the children, to their great delight, though she was
still too dreamy and pre-occupied to respond much to them. And Northcote
had "not intended to come." Indeed, he had gone further than this, he
had intended to keep away. But when he had eaten his solitary dinner,
he, too, had strayed towards the centre of attraction, and walking up
and down in forlorn contemplation of the lighted windows, had been spied
by Reginald, and brought in after a faint resistance. So the four were
together again, with only Janey to interpose an edge of general
criticism and remark into the too personal strain of the conversation.
Janey did not quite realize the importance of the place she was
occupying, but she was keenly interested in all that was going on, very
eager to understand the relationships in which the others stood, and to
see for herself what progress had been made last night while she was
absent. Her sharp girlish face, in which the eyes seemed too big for the
features, expressed a totally different phase of existence from that
which softened and subdued the others. She was all eyes and ears, and
watchful scrutiny. It was she who prevented the utterance of the
half-dozen words trembling on Northcote's lips, to which Ursula had a
soft response fluttering somewhere in her pretty throat, but which was
not destined to be spoken to-night; and it was she who made Phoebe's
music quite a simple performance, attended with little excitement and no
danger. Phoebe was the only one who was grateful to her, and perhaps even
Phoebe could have enjoyed the agitations of the evening better had Janey
been away. As it was, these agitations were all suppressed and
incipient; they could not come to anything; there were no hairbreadth
escapes, no breathless moments, when the one pursued had to exercise her
best skill, and only eluded the pursuer by a step or two. Janey, with
all her senses about her, hearing everything, seeing everything,
neutralized all effort on the part of the lovers, and reduced the
condition of Ursula and Phoebe to one of absolute safety. They were all
kept on the curb, in the leash, by the presence of this youthful
observer; and the evening, though full of a certain excitement and
mixture of happiness and misery, glided on but slowly, each of the young
men outdoing the other in a savage eagerness for Janey's bed-time.

"Do you let her sit up till midnight every night?" said Reginald, with
indignation.

"Let me sit up!" cried Janey, "as if I was obliged to do what she tells
me!"

Ursula gave a little shrug to her pretty shoulders, and looked at the
clock.

"It is not midnight yet; it is not nine o'clock," she said, with a sigh.
"I should have thought papa would have come home before now. Can he be
staying at the Hall all night?"

Just then, however, there was the well-known ring at the bell, and
Ursula ran downstairs to see after her father's supper. Why couldn't
Janey make herself useful and do that, the little company thought
indignantly and with one accord, instead of staying here with her sharp
eyes, putting everybody out? Mr. May's little dinner, or supper, served
on a tray, was very comfortable, and he ate it with great satisfaction,
telling Ursula that he had, on the whole, spent a pleasant day.

"The Dorsets were kind, as they always are, and Mr. Copperhead was a
little less disagreeable than he always is; and you may look for
Clarence back again in a day or two. He is not going to leave us. You
must take care that he does not fall in love with you, Ursula. That is
the chief thing they seem to be afraid of."

"Fall in love with _me_!" cried Ursula. "Oh, papa, where are your eyes?
He has fallen in love, but not with me. Can't you see it? It is Phoebe he
cares for."

Mr. May was startled. He raised his head with a curious smile in his
eyes, which made Ursula wonder painfully whether her father had taken
much wine at the Hall.

"Ah, ha! is that what they are frightened for?" he said, and then he
shrugged his shoulders. "She will show bad taste, Ursula; she might do
better; but I suppose a girl of her class has not the delicacy--So that
is what they are frightened for! And what are the other fish _you_ have
to fry?"

"Papa!"

"Yes. He told me he was not alarmed about you; that you had other fish
to fry, eh! Well, it's too late for explanations to-night. What's that?
Very odd, I thought I saw some one going out at the door--just a whiff
of the coat-tails. I think my digestion must be out of order. I'll go
into the study and get my pills, and then I think I'll go to bed."

"Won't you come upstairs to the drawing-room?" said Ursula, faltering,
for she was appalled by the idea of explanations. What had she to
explain, as yet? Mr. May shook his head, with that smile still upon his
face.

"No, you'll get on excellently well without me. I've had a long walk,
and I think I'll go to bed."

"You don't look very well, papa."

"Oh, yes, I'm well enough; only confused in the head a little with
fatigue and the things I've had to think about. Good-night. Don't keep
those young fellows late, though one of them is your brother. You can
say I'm tired. Good-night, my dear."

It was very seldom that he called her "my dear," or, indeed, said
anything affectionate to his grown-up children. If Ursula had not been
so eager to return to the drawing-room, and so sure that "they" would
miss her, she would have been anxious about her father; but as it was,
she ran upstairs lightly when he stopped speaking, and left him going
into the study, where already his lamp was burning. Betsy passed her as
she ran up the stairs, coming from the kitchen with a letter held
between two folds of her apron. Poor papa! no doubt it was some tiresome
parish business to bother him, when he was tired already. But Ursula did
not stop for that. How she wanted to be there again, among "them all,"
even though Janey still made one! She went in breathless, and gave her
father's message only half-articulately. He was tired. "We are never to
mind; he says so." They all took the intimation very easily. Mr. May
being tired, what did that matter? He would, no doubt, be better
to-morrow; and in the mean time those sweet hours, though so hampered by
Janey, were very sweet.

Betsy went in, and put down the note before Mr. May on his table. He was
just taking out his medicine from the drawer, and he made a wry face at
the note and at the pills together.

"Parish?" he said, curtly.

"No, sir; it's from Mr. Cotsdean. He came this morning, after you'd
gone, and he sent over little Bobby."

"That will do."

A presentiment of pain stole over him. He gave Betsy a nod of dismissal,
and went on with what he was doing. After he had finished, he took up
the little note from the table with a look of disgust. It was badly
scrawled, badly folded, and dirty. Thank Heaven, Cotsdean's
communications would soon be over now.

Janey had proposed a round game upstairs. They were all humble in their
desire to conciliate that young despot. Reginald got the cards, and
Northcote put chairs round the table. He placed Ursula next to himself,
which was a consolation, and sat down by her, close to her, though not a
word, except of the most commonplace kind, could be said.

Just then--what was it? an indescribable thrill through the house, the
sound of a heavy fall. They all started up from their seats to hear what
it was. Then Ursula, with a cry of apprehension, rushed downstairs, and
the others after her. Betsy, alarmed, had come out of the kitchen,
followed by her assistant, and was standing frightened, but irresolute;
for Mr. May was not a man to be disturbed with impunity. And this might
be nothing--the falling of a chair or a table, and nothing more.

"What is it?" cried Ursula, in an anxious whisper.

She was the leader in the emergency, for even Reginald held back. Then,
after a moment's pause, she opened the door, and with a little cry
rushed in. It was, as they feared, Mr. May who had fallen; but he had so
far recovered himself as to be able to make efforts to rise. His face
was towards them. It was very pale, of a livid colour, and covered with
moisture, great beads standing on his forehead. He smiled vaguely when
he saw the circle of faces.

"Nothing--nothing--a faintness," he faltered, making again an effort to
rise.

"What is it, papa? Oh, what's the matter?" cried Janey, rushing at him
and seizing him by the arm. "Get up! get up! what will people think? Oh,
Ursula, how queer he looks, and he feels so heavy. Oh, please get up,
papa!"

"Go away," said Mr. May, "go away. It is--a faintness. I am very well
where I am--"

But he did not resist when Reginald and Northcote lifted him from the
floor. He had a piece of paper tightly clasped in his hand. He gave them
a strange suspicious look all round, and shrank when his eyes fell upon
Phoebe. "Don't let her know," he said. "Take me away, take me away."

"Reginald will take you upstairs, papa--to your room--to bed; you ought
to go to bed. It is the long walk that has worn you out. Oh, Reginald,
don't contradict him, let him go where he pleases. Oh, papa, where _are_
you going?" cried Ursula, "the other way; you want to go to bed."

"This way, take me--somewhere," said the sufferer; though he could not
stand he made a step, staggering between them, and an effort to push
towards the hall door, and when they directed him in the other direction
to the staircase which led to his room, he struggled feebly yet
violently with them. "No, no, no, not there!" he cried. The sudden
confusion, dismay, and alarm into which the family was plunged, the
strange sense of a catastrophe that came upon them, cannot be told.
Ursula, calling out all the time that they were not to contradict him,
insisted imperiously with words and gestures that he should be taken
upstairs. Janey, altogether overcome, sat down on the lower steps of the
staircase and cried. Reginald almost as pale as his father, and not
saying a word, urged him towards the stairs. To get him up to his room,
resisting as well as he could, and moaning inarticulate remonstrances
all the way, was no easy business. As the procession toiled along Phoebe
was left below, the only one in possession of her faculties. She sent
the housemaid hurriedly off for the doctor, and despatched Betsy to the
kitchen.

"Hot water is always wanted," said Phoebe; "see that you have enough in
case he should require a bath."

Then with her usual decision she stepped back into the study. It was not
vulgar curiosity which was in Phoebe's mind, nor did it occur to her that
she had no right to investigate Mr. May's private affairs. If she could
find what had done it, would not that be a great matter, something to
tell the doctor, to throw light on so mysterious a seizure? Several bits
of torn paper were lying on the floor; but only one of these was big
enough to contain any information. It was torn in a kind of triangular
shape, and contained a corner of a letter, a section of three lines,

                                        "must have mistaken the date
                                                   presented to-day,
                                                      paid by Tozer,"

was what she read. She could not believe her eyes. What transactions
could there be between her grandfather and Mr. May? She secured the
scrap of paper, furtively putting it into her pocket. It was better to
say nothing either to the doctor, or any one else, of anything so
utterly incomprehensible. It oppressed Phoebe with a sense of mystery and
of personal connection with the mystery, which even her self-possession
could scarcely bear up against. She went into the kitchen after Betsy,
avowedly in anxious concern for the boiling of the kettle.

"Hot water is good for everything," said Phoebe; "mamma says a hot bath
is the best of remedies. Did Mr. May have anything--to worry him, Betsy?
I suppose it is only fatigue, and that he has taken too long a walk."

"I don't believe in the long walk, Miss," said Betsy, "it's that
Cotsdean as is always a-tormenting with his dirty letters. When that man
comes bothering here, master is always put out."

"Cotsdean? I don't know the name."

"Don't say nothing, Miss," said Betsy, sinking her voice, "but you take
my word it's money. Money's at the bottom of everything. It's something,
as sure as you're alive, as master has got to pay. I've been a deal with
gentlefolks," added Betsy, "and ne'er a one of them can abide that."



CHAPTER XL.

THE SINNED-AGAINST.


Phoebe's mind was full of many and somewhat agitating thoughts. She went
upstairs with a restless haste, which she would have been the first to
condemn, to the room where the others were congregated, when they had
laid Mr. May on his bed with no small difficulty, and were now
consulting what to do. Ursula had fallen a little from the position of
command she had taken up. To get him to bed, to send for the doctor,
these were evident practical steps to take; but after having done these
she was bewildered and fell back upon her advisers.

"We can't do anything, we can only wait and watch him," Reginald was
saying, as Phoebe, herself unseen, looked in at the anxious party; and
without asking any question she turned and went downstairs again, and
hastily putting on her shawl and hat, went out, shutting the door
softly, and ran home on the shady side of Grange Lane, where nobody
could see her. It was a very quiet road, and she was not disturbed by
any unreasonable alarms. It was still early when she got home, earlier
than usual, and her intention was not to stay there at all, but to go
back again and offer her assistance to Ursula, for whom she had left a
message to this effect. Phoebe was full of genuine regard and
friendliness towards the Mays.

She felt that she had obligations to all of them, to the parson-father
for submitting to her presence, nay, encouraging it, and to Ursula for
receiving her with that affectionate fervour of friendship which had
completely changed the tenor of Phoebe's life at Carlingford. She was
obliged to them, and she knew that she was obliged to them. How
different these three months would have been but for the Parsonage; what
a heavy leaden-coloured existence without variety and without interest
she must have lived; whereas it had gone by like a summer day, full of
real life, of multiplied interests, of everything that it was most
desirable to have. Not at home and in London could she have had the
advantages she had enjoyed here. Phoebe was sensible enough--or perhaps
we might use a less complimentary word--worldly enough, to count within
those manifest benefits the advantage of seeing more of Clarence
Copperhead, and of drawing him within the charmed circle of her
influence, and she was grateful to the Mays, for this was their doing.
And then, on the other hand, quite a different thing, her heart was
touched and softened with gratitude to Reginald for loving her; of all
her gratitudes, perhaps this indeed was the most truly felt. They had
given her unbounded kindness, friendliness, everything that is most
sweet to the solitary; and over and above, as if these were not enough,
they had made her the exquisite present of a heart, the best thing that
can be given or received by man. Phoebe felt herself penetrated with
gratitude for all this, and she resolved that, if anything she could do
could benefit the Mays, the effort on her part should not be wanting.
"Paid by Tozer." What had been paid by Tozer? What had her grandfather
to do with it. Could it be he who had lent money to Mr. May? Then Phoebe
resolved, with a glow on her face, he should forgive his debtors. She
went in with her mind fully made up, whatever might happen, to be the
champion of the sufferer, the saviour of the family. This would show
them that their kindness had been appreciated. This would prove even to
Reginald that, though she would not sacrifice her own prospects by
marrying him, yet that she was grateful to him, to the bottom of her
heart. Her mind was full of generous ardour as she went in. She knew her
power; her grandfather had never yet refused her anything, never
resisted her, and it did not seem likely that he should begin now.

Mrs. Tozer was by herself in the parlour, dozing over the fire. She woke
up with a little start when Phoebe came in and smiled at the sight of
her.

"I didn't expect as you'd have come so soon," she said; "you've broke up
early to-night, darling. Couldn't you have no music? I didn't look for
you for an hour or more."

"You know, grandmamma, it is Mr. Copperhead who teases me most for
music, and he is not here."

"Yes, yes, _I_ know," said the old lady, nodding her head with many
smiles. "I know a deal more about it than you think for, Phoebe, and
don't you think as I disapprove, for it's quite the other way. But you
won't tell me as there ain't others as cares for music as well as young
Copperhead. I've seen one as couldn't take his eyes off of you while you
were playing."

"Hush, grandmamma; the others like music for music's sake, or perhaps
for my sake; but Mr Copperhead likes it for his own sake, and therefore
he is the one who insists upon it. But this is not the reason why I have
come home so soon. Mr. May has been taken suddenly ill."

"Lord bless us!" cried Mrs. Tozer, "deary, deary me! I'm very sorry,
poor gentleman, I hope it ain't anything serious. Though he's a church
parson, he's a very civil-spoken man, and I see his children drag him
into his own house one day as me and Tozer was passing. I said to Tozer
at the time, you take my word, whatever folks say, a man as lets his
children pull him about like that ain't a bad one. And so he's ill, poor
man! Is there anything as we can do to help, my dear? They ain't rich,
and they've been as kind to you as if you'd been one of their own."

"I thought that would be the first thing you would ask me," said Phoebe
gratefully, giving her a kiss--"dear grandmamma, it is like your kind
heart--and I ran off to see that you were quite well and comfortable,
thinking perhaps if you did not want me I might go back to poor Ursula
for the night."

To hear her granddaughter call Miss May by her Christian name was in
itself a pleasure to Mrs. Tozer. She gave Phoebe a hug. "So you shall, my
darling, and as for a bottle of good wine or that, anything as is in the
house, you know you're welcome to it. You go and talk to your
grandfather; I'm as comfortable as I can be, and if you'd like to run
back to that poor child--"

"Not before you are in bed," said Phoebe, "but if you please I'll go and
talk to grandpapa as you said. There are things in which a man may be of
use."

"To be sure," said Mrs. Tozer, doubtfully; "your grandfather ain't a man
as is much good in sickness; but I won't say as there ain't some
things--"

"Yes, grandmamma, I'll take your advice and run and talk to him; and by
the time I come back you will be ready for bed."

"Do, my dear," said Mrs. Tozer. She was very comfortable, and did not
care to move just then, and, as Phoebe went away, looked after her with
dreamy satisfaction. "Bless her! there ain't her match in Carlingford,
and the gentlefolks sees it," said Mrs. Tozer to herself. But she had no
idea how Phoebe's heart was beating as she went along the dimly-lighted
passage, which led to a small room fitted up by Tozer for himself. She
heard voices in earnest talk as she approached, but this made her only
the more eager to go in, and see for herself what was going on. There
could be no doubt, she felt sure of it, that the discussion here had
some connection with the calamity _there_. What it was she had not the
slightest idea; but that somehow the two were connected she felt
certain. The voices were loud as she approached the door.

"I'll find out who done it, and I'll punish him--as sure as that's my
name, though I never put it on that there paper," Tozer was saying.
Phoebe opened the door boldly, and went in. She had never seen her
grandfather look so unlike himself. The knot of the big white
neckerchief round his neck was pushed away, his eyes were red, giving
out strange lights of passion. He was standing in front of the fireplace
gesticulating wildly. Though it was now April and the weather very mild
and genial, there were still fires in the Tozer sitting-rooms, and as
the windows were carefully shut, Phoebe felt the atmosphere stifling. The
other person in the room was a serious, large man, whom she had already
seen more than once; one of the chief clerks in the bank where Tozer
kept his account, who had an old acquaintance with the butterman, and
who was in the habit of coming when the bank had anything to say to so
sure a customer about rates of investment or the value of money. He was
seated at one side of the fire, looking very grave and shaking his head
as the other spoke.

"That is very true, and I don't say anything against it. But, Mr. Tozer,
I can't help thinking there's some one else in it than Cotsdean."

"What one else? what is the good of coming here to me with a pack of
nonsense? He's a poor needy creature as hasn't a penny to bless himself
with, a lot of children, and a wife as drinks. Don't talk to me of some
one else. That's the sort of man as does all the mischief. What, Phoebe!
run away to your grandmother, I don't want you here."

"I am very sorry to interrupt you, grandpapa. Mayn't I stay? I have
something to say to you--"

Tozer turned round and looked at her eagerly. Partly his own fancy, and
partly his wife's more enlightened observations, had made him aware that
it was possible that Phoebe might one day have something very interesting
to reveal. So her words roused him even in the midst of his
pre-occupation. He looked at her for a second, then he waved his hand
and said,

"I'm busy; go away, my dear, go away; I can't talk to you now."

Phoebe gave the visitor a look which perplexed him; but which meant, if
he could but have read it, an earnest entreaty to him to go away. She
said to herself, impatiently, that he would have understood had he been
a woman; but as it was he only stared with lack-lustre eyes. What was
she to do?

"Grandpapa," she said, decisively, "it is too late for business
to-night. However urgent it may be, you can't do anything to-night. Why,
it is nearly ten o'clock, and most people are going to bed. See Mr.
----, I mean this gentleman--to-morrow morning the first thing; for you
know, however anxious you may be, you can't do anything to-night."

"That is true enough," he said, looking with staring eyes from her to
his visitor, "and more's the pity. What had to be done should ha' been
done to-day. It should have been done to-day, sir, on the spot, not left
over night like this, to give the villain time to get away. It's a
crime, Phoebe, that's what it is--that's the fact. It's a crime."

"Well, grandpapa, I am very sorry; but it will not mend matters, will
it, if sitting up like this, and agitating yourself like this, makes you
ill? That will not do away with the crime. It is bed-time, and poor
grandmamma is dozing, and wondering what has become of you.
Grandpapa----"

"Phoebe, go away, it ain't none of your business; you're only a bit of a
girl, and how can you understand? If you think I'm going to sit down
with it like an old fool, lose my money, and what is worse nor my money,
let my very name be forged before my eyes--"

Phoebe gave so perceptible a start that Tozer stopped short, and even the
banking-clerk looked at her with aroused curiosity.

"Forged!" she cried, with a gasp of dismay; "is it so bad as that?" She
had never been more near betraying herself, showing a personal interest
more close than was natural. When she saw the risk she was running, she
stopped short and summoned all her energies. "I thought some one had
pilfered something," she said with an attempt at a laugh. "I beg your
pardon, grandpapa; but anyhow what can you do to-night? You are
keeping--this gentleman--and yourself out of bed. Please put it off till
to-morrow."

"I think so too," said the banker's clerk. "I'll come to you in the
morning as I go to the Bank. Perhaps I may have been wrong; but I think
there's more in it than meets the eye. To-morrow we can have the man
Cotsdean up and question him."

"After he's had time to take himself off," said Tozer, vehemently. "You
take my word he ain't in Carlingford, not now, let alone to-morrow."

"Then that shows," said Phoebe, quietly, "that it is of no use making
yourself ill to-night. Grandpapa, let this gentleman go--he wants to go;
and I have something to say to you. You can do anything that is
necessary to-morrow."

"I think so indeed," said Mr. Simpson, of the Bank, getting up at last,
"the young lady is quite right. We can't act hastily in a thing like
this. Cotsdean's a man of good character, Mr. Tozer; all that has to be
taken into account--and he is not a beggar. If he has done it, we can
recover something at least; but if he has been taken advantage of--I
think the young lady is a good counsellor, and that it's much the best
to wait till to-morrow."

Phoebe seized upon her grandfather's arm to restrain him, and held him
back. "Good-night," she said; "grandpapa, stay with me, I have something
to say to you. Listen; you don't think me very silly, do you, grandpapa
dear?"

"Silly!" he said, listening to the steps of the departing visitor as
they receded along the passage. "What has a chit like you to do with
business? I tell you it'll kill me. Me a-signing of accommodation bills
for a bit of a small shopkeeper like that Cotsdean! I tell you it'll
make an end of me, that will, unless I gets my money and clears myself
afore the world. And here you've been and sent away Simpson, and who's
to manage for me? I ain't a lawyer to know what to do. Get away, get
away, and leave me to myself, I can't be disturbed with women-folks when
I've got real business in hand."

"I'll manage for you," said Phoebe; "you need not stare at me like that,
grandpapa--"

"Go out o' the room this moment, Miss!" he cried furious; "you! here's a
sort of thing for me to put up with. Sam Tozer wasn't born yesterday
that a bit of an impudent girl should take upon her to do for him.
Manage for me! go out o' my sight; I'm a fool, am I, and in my dotage to
have a pack of women meddling in my affairs?"

Phoebe had never met with such an outburst of coarse anger in her life
before, and it gave her a shock, as such assaults naturally do to people
brought up softly, and used to nothing but kindness. For a moment she
wavered, doubtful whether she should not proudly abandon him and his
affairs altogether; but this was to abandon her friends too. She
mastered herself accordingly, and the resentment which she could not
help feeling--and stood pale but quiet opposite to the infuriated old
man. His grey eyes seemed to give out sparks of fire. His hair bristled
up on his head like the coat of a wild animal enraged. He went up and
down on the hearth-rug like the same animal in a cage, shaking his fist
at some imaginary culprit.

"Once I get him, see if I let him go," he cried, his voice thick with
fast-coming words and the foam of fury. "Let the bank do as it likes;
I'll have him, I will. I'll see justice on the man as has dared to make
free with my name. It ain't nothing to you, my name; but I've kep' it
honest, and out of folk's mouths, and see if I'll stand disgrace thrown
on it now. A bill on me as never had such a thing, not when I was
struggling to get on! Dash him! damn him!" cried the old man,
transported with rage. When he had come to this unusual and terrible
length, Tozer paused dismayed. He had lost his temper before in his
life; but very seldom had he been betrayed into anything so desperate as
this. He stopped aghast, and cast a half-frightened look at Phoebe, who
stood there so quiet, subdued out of her usual force, pale and
disapproving--his own grandchild, a pastor's daughter! and he had
forgotten himself thus before her. He blushed hotly, though he was not
used to blushing, and stopped all at once. After such frightful
language, so unbecoming a deacon of Salem, so unlike a consistent member
of the connection, what could he say?

"Grandpapa," said Phoebe softly, "it is not good to be so angry; you are
made to say things you are sorry for. Will you listen to me now? Though
you don't think it, and perhaps won't believe it, I have found out
something quite by chance--"

He went up to her and clutched her by the arm. "Then what are you
a-standing there for, like a figure in stone? Can't you out with it, and
ease my mind? Out with it, I tell you! Do you want to drive me out of my
senses?"

He was so much excited that he shook her in the hot paroxysm of
returning rage. Phoebe was not frightened, but indignation made her pale.
She stood without flinching, and looked at him, till poor old Tozer let
go his hold, and dropping into a chair, covered his face with his hands.
She was too generous to take advantage of him, but went on quietly, as
if nothing had occurred.

"Grandpapa, as I tell you, I have found out something by chance that has
to do with the thing that troubles you; but I don't know quite what it
is. Tell me first, and then--is this the thing?" said Phoebe, curiously,
taking up a slip of paper from the table, a stamped piece of paper, in a
handwriting which seemed horribly familiar to her, and yet strange.
Tozer nodded at her gloomily, holding his head between his hands, and
Phoebe read over the first few words before her with an aching heart, and
eyes that seemed to ache in sympathy. Only a few words, but what
evidence of guilt, what pitiful misery in them! She did not even think
so much of the name on the back, which was and was not her grandfather's
name. The rest of the bill was written in a hand disguised and changed;
but she had seen a great deal of similar writing lately, and she
recognized it with a sickening at her heart. In the kind of fatherly
flirtation which had been innocently carried on between Phoebe and her
friend's father, various productions of his in manuscript had been given
to her to read. She was said, in the pleasant social jokes of the party,
to be more skilled in interpreting Mr. May's handwriting than any of his
family. She stood and gazed at the paper, and her eyes filled with tears
of pain and pity. The openness of this self-betrayal, veiled as it was
with a shadow of disguise which could deceive no one who knew him, went
to Phoebe's heart. What could he have done it for? Mere money, the
foolish expenses of every day, or, what would be more respectable, some
vague mysterious claim upon him, which might make desperate expedients
necessary? She stood, temporarily stupefied, with her eyes full, looking
at that pitiful, terrible, guilty bit of paper, stupefied by the sudden
realization of her sudden guess at the truth--though, indeed, the truth
was so much more guilty and appalling than any guess of hers.

"Well," said Tozer, "you've seen it, and now what do you think of it?
That's my name, mind you, my name! I hope the Almighty will grant me
patience. Stuck on to what they calls a kite, an accommodation bill.
What do you think of that, Miss Phoebe? A-a-ah! if I had hold of him--if
I had him under my fists--if I had him by the scruff of the neck!"

"Grandpapa, doesn't it say in the Bible we are to forgive when harm is
done to us?"

Phoebe had begun to tremble all over; for the first time she doubted her
own power.

He got up again, and began to prowl about the table, round and round,
with the same wild look in his eyes.

"I am not one as would go again' Scripture," he said, gloomily; "but
that's a spiritual meaning as you're too young to enter into. You don't
suppose as Scripture would approve of crime, or let them escape as had
wronged their fellow-creatures? There wouldn't be no business, no
justice, no trade, on such a rule as that."

"But, grandpapa--"

"Don't you but me. You've seen me in good spirits and good temper,
Phoebe, my girl; but you don't know old Sam Tozer when his spirit's up.
D---- him!" cried the old man, striking his hand violently on the table;
"and you may tell your father, as is a Minister, that I said so. The
Bible's spiritual; but there's trade, and there's justice. A man ain't
clear of what he's done because you forgive him. What's the law for
else? Forgive! You may forgive him as fast as you like, but he's got to
be punished all the same."

"But not by you."

"By the law!" cried Tozer. His inflamed eyes seemed to glare upon her,
his rough grey hair bristled on his head, a hot redness spread across
his face beneath his fiery eyes, which seemed to scorch the cheek with
angry flames. "The law that ain't a individual. That's for our
protection, whether we like it or not. What's that got to do with
forgiving? Now, looking at it in a public way, I ain't got no right to
forgive."

"Grandpapa, you have always been so kind, always so good to everybody. I
have heard of so many things you have done--"

"That is all very well," said Tozer, not without a certain gloomy
complacence, "so long as you don't touch _me_. But the moment as you
touches me, I'm another man. That's what I can't bear, nor I won't. Them
as tries their tricks upon me shan't be let off, neither for wife nor
child; and don't you think, my girl, though you're Phoebe, junior, that
you are a-going for to come over me."

Phoebe could not but shiver in her fright and agitation; but distressed
and excited as she was, she found means to take a step which was
important indeed, though at the moment she did not fully realize its
importance, and did it by instinct only. She had a handkerchief in her
hand, and almost without consciousness of what she was doing, she
crushed up the miserable bit of paper, which was the cause of so much
evil and misery, in its folds. He was far too impassioned and excited to
observe such a simple proceeding. It was the suggestion of a moment,
carried out in another moment like a flash of lightning. And as soon as
she had done this, and perceived what she had done, fortitude and
comfort came back to Phoebe's soul.

"You will not hear what I have found out, and now I do not choose to
tell you, grandpapa," she said, with an air of offence. "Unless you wish
to be ill, you will do much better to go to bed. It is your usual hour,
and I am going to grandmamma. Say good-night, please. I am going out
again to stay all night. Mr. May is ill, and I ought to help poor
Ursula."

"You go a deal after them Mays," said Tozer, with a cloud over his face.

"Yes. I wonder whom else I should go after? Who has been kind to me in
Carlingford except the Mays? Nobody. Who has asked me to go to their
house, and share everything that is pleasant in it? None of your Salem
people, grandpapa. I hope I am not ungrateful, and whatever happens, or
whatever trouble they are in," cried Phoebe, fervently, "I shall stand up
for them through thick and thin, wherever I go."

The old man looked at her with a startled look.

"You speak up bold," he said; "you won't get put upon for want of
spirit; and I don't know as what you're saying ain't the right
thing--though I don't hold with the Church, nor parsons' ways. I'd do a
deal myself, though you think me so hard and cross, for folks as has
been kind to you."

"I know you will, grandpapa," said Phoebe, with a slight emphasis which
startled him, though he did not know why; and she kissed him before she
went to her grandmother, which she did with a perfectly composed and
tranquil mind. It was astonishing how the crackle of that bit of paper
in her handkerchief calmed and soothed her. She recovered her breath,
her colour, and her spirits. She ran up to her room and changed her
dress, which was silk, for a soft merino one, which made no rustling;
and then she folded the bill carefully, and put it into the safe keeping
of the little purse which she always carried in her pocket. No one would
think of searching for it there, and she would always have it at hand
whatever happened. When she had made these needful arrangements, she
went to old Mrs. Tozer, and took her comfortably upstairs. Never was
there a more devoted nurse. The old lady chatted cheerfully, yet
sympathetically, of the poor gentleman and his illness, with the
half-satisfaction of an invalid in hearing of some one else who is ill.

"And be sure you take him some of the port wine as the doctor ordered,
and Tozer paid that dear for. I don't care for it, not a bit, Phoebe. I'd
sooner have it from the grocer's, at two shillings a bottle. That's what
I've always been used to, when I did take a glass of wine now and again.
But I dare say as Mr. May would like it, poor gentleman."

When Mrs. Tozer had laid her head, all nodding with white muslin frills,
edged with cotton lace, upon her pillow, Phoebe, noiseless in her soft
merino gown, went back, accompanied by Martha, to the Parsonage, where
Ursula's careworn face lighted a little at sight of her. Ursula had left
her father for the moment in Betsy's care, to get something that was
wanted, and she stole into the dining-room on hearing of her friend's
arrival, and talked a little in a whisper, though the sick man was on
the upper floor, and could not possibly have heard anything. Northcote
was still there, sitting with Reginald, too anxious and excited to go
away; and they all conversed in whispers, the three of them talking
together for the benefit of the new-comer.

"Not paralysis; at least, he does not think so; a great mental
shock--but we can't tell a bit what it was--coming when he was
dreadfully tired, and not able to bear it."

They all spoke together, each of them saying a few words, and kept close
together in the centre of the room, a curious little half-frightened
group, overawed and subdued by the sudden change and strange calamity
dropt into their midst. Phoebe seemed to bring them new life and hope.

"If it is going to be an illness," she said, "you gentlemen had better
go home and go to bed, to be able to help us when we want help. Anyhow,
what good can they do, Ursula? They had much better go to bed."

Ursula looked at them with a certain regret; though they could not do
much good, it was a relief to come and whisper a few words to them now
and then, giving them news of the patient. But Phoebe was right, and
there was nothing to be said against her decision. The two young women
and the faithful Betsy were enough, and, indeed, more than enough to
watch over Mr. May.



CHAPTER XLI.

A MORNING'S WORK.


"Go and lie down for an hour," whispered Phoebe. "I am not sleepy at all.
I have sat up before, and never felt it, you never did, I can see it in
your poor little white face; and besides, I am steadier, because I am
not so anxious. Now go, Ursula, if you are really fond of me, as you
say--"

"Oh, Phoebe! if you think he is a little better. Oh, how horrible it is
to be sleepy, as if you were all body, and had no heart at all!"

"You have plenty of heart, but you have never been used to this nursing.
Leave your door open, so that I may call you in a moment. I have sat up
often. Now go, to please me," said Phoebe. She had another object than
mere rest to her friend, who at last, very much ashamed and crying
softly, yet so weary that nothing on this earth seemed so desirable to
her as sleep, crept to her room, and lay down there as the pale morning
began to dawn. Betsy slept heavily in an easy-chair outside the door of
the sick-room. She was there at hand in case anything was wanted, but
she was happily unconscious where she was, sleeping the sleep of hard
work and a mind undisturbed. Phoebe had seen that the patient was
stirring out of the dull doze in which his faculties had been entirely
stilled and stupefied. He was rousing to uneasiness, if not to full
consciousness. Two or three times he made a convulsive movement, as if
to raise himself; once his eyes, which were half open, seemed to turn
upon her with a vague glimmer of meaning. How strangely she felt towards
him, as she sat there in the grey of the morning, sole guardian, sole
confidant of this erring and miserable man! The thought ran through her
with a strange thrill. He was nothing to her, and yet he was absolutely
in her power, and in all heaven and earth there seemed no one who was
capable of protecting him, or cared to do so, except herself only. She
sat looking at him with a great pity in her mind, determined to be his
true protector, to deliver him from what he himself had done. She had
not realized at first what it was he had done, and indeed it was only
now that its full enormity, or rather its full consequences (which were
the things that affected her most urgently), made themselves apparent
to her. Generalizations are unsafe things; and whether it was because
she was a woman that Phoebe, passing over the crime, fixed her thoughts
upon the punishment, I do not venture to say; but she did so. After all
a few lines of writing on a bit of paper is not a crime which affects
the imagination of the inexperienced. Had it been a malicious slander
Phoebe would have realized the sin of it much more clearly; but the copy
of her grandfather's signature did not wound her moral sense in the same
way, though it was a much more serious offence. That Mr. May could have
intended to rob him of the money appeared impossible to her; and no
doubt the borrowing of the signature was wrong--very wrong. Yes, of
course it was horribly, fatally wrong; but still it did not set her
imagination aglow with indignant horror, as smaller affairs might have
done. But the consequences--disgrace, ruin, the loss of his position,
the shame of his profession, moral death indeed, almost as frightful as
if he had been hanged for murder. She shivered as she sat by him, veiled
by the curtain, and thought of her grandfather's vindictive fierceness;
only she stood between him and destruction, and Phoebe felt that it was
by no legitimate means that she was doing so, not by her influence over
her grandfather as she had hoped, but only by an unjustifiable expedient
which in itself was a kind of crime. This, however, brought a slight
smile on her face. She took out her little purse from her pocket, and
looked at the bit of paper carefully folded in it. The faint perfume of
the Russia leather had already communicated itself to the document,
which had not been so pleasant in Tozer's hands. As she looked at it
lying peacefully on her lap, her attention was suddenly called by the
patient, who sat upright and looked furtively about him, with his hand
upon the coverings ready to throw them off. His ghastly white face
peered at her from behind the curtain with wild eagerness--then relaxed,
when he met her eye, into a kind of idiot smile, a painful attempt to
divert suspicion, and he fell back again with a groan. The trance that
had stupefied him was over; he had recovered some kind of consciousness,
how much or how little she could not tell. His mind now seemed to be set
upon hiding himself, drawing his coverings over him, and concealing
himself with the curtain, at which he grasped with an excess of force
which neutralized itself.

"Mr. May," said Phoebe, softly. "Mr. May! do you know me?"

She could not tell what answer he made, or if he made any answer. He
crouched down under the bed-clothes, pulling them over his face, trying
to hide himself from her; from which she divined that he did recognize
her, confused though his faculties were. Then a hoarse murmuring sound
seemed to come out of the pillow. It was some time before she could make
out what it was.

"Where am I?" he said.

With the lightning speed of sympathy and pity, Phoebe divined what his
terror was. She said, almost whispering,

"At home, in your own bed--at home! and safe. Oh, don't you know me--I
am Phoebe." Then after a pause, "Tozer's granddaughter; do you know me
now?"

The strange, scared, white-faced spectre shrank under his covering, till
she could see no more of him except two wild eyes full of terror which
was almost madness.

"Listen!" she said eagerly, "try to understand! Oh, Mr. May, try to
understand! I know about it--I know everything, and you are safe--quite
safe; you need not have any fear!"

He did not follow what she said, Phoebe perceived with pain and terror.
Even the impression made by the first sight of her seemed to fade from
his mind. His grasp relaxed upon the curtains and coverlet; and then the
hoarse murmuring was resumed. Straining all her ears, she made out that
he was not speaking to her or any one, but moaned to himself, saying the
same words over and over again. It took her a long time to make out even
what these words were. When at last she did make them out they filled
the girl with an alarm beyond words.

"It used to be hanging," he said. "Hard labour; can I bear hard labour?
And the children--the children! Hard labour--for life. Hanging--was soon
over. The children! I cannot bear it. I never was put to--hard
labour--in all my life."

Phoebe was too sick at heart to listen to more. She drew a little apart,
but near enough to be seen by him. If he chose to spring up, to fling
himself from the window, as she had heard of men doing in delirium, who
could restrain him? Not she, a slight girl, nor Betsy, even if Betsy
could be roused to the danger. She did not know how long the vigil which
followed lasted, but it seemed like years to her; and when at last she
was relieved by the joyful sound of Reginald's voice and footstep coming
up the stairs, she felt disposed to run to the glass at once, and look
if her hair had grown white, or her countenance permanently changed with
the terror. Reginald, for his part, thought of his father in the second
place only, as children are apt to do; he came up to her first, and
with a thrill in his voice of surprise and emotion, addressed her
hastily by her name.

"Phoebe! is it _you_ who are watching--you, darling?"

"Hush! I sent Ursula to bed; she was so tired. Don't leave him. I am
frightened," cried Phoebe. "He is wandering in his mind. Oh, don't leave
him, Mr. May!"

"I will do exactly as you tell me," said Reginald, in a confused
transport of feeling, the very anxiety in his mind helping to destroy
his self-control. He stooped down and kissed her hands before she could
divine what he was about to do. "Only you or an angel would have done
it," he cried, with a tremulous voice.

Was it not natural that he should think that some thought of him had
made Phoebe so careful of his father? His heart was swelling, too full to
hold, with a sudden joy, which expanded the pain, and made that greater
too.

"Oh, what does it matter about me? Mr. May, think what I am saying.
Don't leave him for a moment. He might throw himself out of the window,
he might do some harm to himself. Ah! again!" said Phoebe, trembling.

But this time it was only a convulsive start, nothing more. The patient
dropped down again softly upon his pillows, and relapsed into his doze,
if doze it could be called, in which his faculties were but
half-dormant, and his open eyes contradicted all the appearances of
natural sleep.

When she was relieved from the sick room--and now she had a double
motive in getting away--Phoebe stole softly into the faded little place
where Ursula lay, still fast asleep, though fully dressed, and bathed
her face and strained eyes. "I wonder if my hair is grey underneath,"
she said to herself. "I wonder nothing has happened to me." But a great
deal had happened to her. Such a night is rarely encountered by so young
a creature, or such an alarming charge undertaken. And sudden hot kisses
upon little, cold, agitated hands, worn by fatigue to nervous perception
of every touch, are very exciting and strange to a girl. They had given
her a kind of electric shock. She was not in love with Reginald, and
therefore she felt it all the more, and her heart was still throbbing
with the suddenness and excitement of the incident. And after she had
made an effort to get over this, there remained upon her mind the
disturbing burden of a knowledge which no one shared, and a
responsibility which was very heavy and terrible, and too tremendous for
her slight shoulders. After she had made that hasty toilette, she sat
down for a moment at the foot of the bed on which Ursula lay sleeping,
unconscious of all those mysteries, and tried to think. It is not an
easy process at any time, but after a long night's watching, terror, and
agitation, it seemed more impossible to Phoebe than it had ever done
before. And she had so much occasion for thought, so much need of the
power of judging clearly. What was she to do?--not to-morrow, or next
week, but now. She had taken the responsibility of the whole upon
herself by the sudden step she had taken last night; but, bold as she
had been, Phoebe was ignorant. She did not know whether her theft of the
bill would really stop the whole proceedings, as had seemed so certain
last night; and what if she was found out, and compelled to return it,
and all her labour lost! A panic took possession of her as she sat there
at the foot of Ursula's bed, and tried to think. But what is the use of
trying to think? The more you have need of them, the more all mental
processes fail you. Phoebe could no more think than she could fly. She
sat down very seriously, and she rose up in despair, and, thought being
no longer among her possibilities, resolved to do something at once,
without further delay, which would be a consolation to herself at least.
How wonderful it was to go out in the fresh early morning, and see the
people moving about their work, going up and down with indifferent
faces, quite unconcerned about the day and all it might bring forth! She
went up Grange Lane with a curious uncertainty as to what she should do
next, feeling her own extraordinary independence more than anything
else. Phoebe felt like a man who has been out all night, who has his own
future all in his hands, nobody having any right to explanation or
information about what he may choose to do, or to expect from him
anything beyond what he himself may please to give. Very few people are
in this absolutely free position, but this was how Phoebe represented it
to herself, having, like all other girls, unbounded belief in the
independence and freedom possessed by men. Many times in her life she
had regarded with envy this independence, which, with a sigh, she had
felt to be impossible. But now that she had it, Phoebe did not like it.
What she would have given to have gone to some one, almost any one, and
told her dilemma, and put the burden a little off her shoulders! But she
durst not say a word to any one. Very anxious and pre-occupied, she went
up Grange Lane. Home? She did not know; perhaps she would have thought
of something before she reached the gate of No. 6. And accordingly, when
she had lifted her hand to ring the bell, and made a step aside to
enter, an inspiration came to Phoebe. She turned away from the door and
went on up into the town, cautiously drawing her veil over her face, for
already the apprentices were taking down the shutters from her uncle's
shop, and she might be seen. Cotsdean's shop was late of opening that
morning, and its master was very restless and unhappy. He had heard
nothing more about the bill, but a conviction of something wrong had
crept into his mind. It was an altogether different sensation from the
anxiety he had hitherto felt. This was no anxiety to speak of, but a
dull pain and aching conviction that all was not right. When he saw the
young lady entering the shop, Cotsdean's spirits rose a little, for a
new customer was pleasant, and though he thought he had seen her, he did
not know who she was. She was pleasant to look upon, and it was not
often that any one came so early. He came forward with anxious
politeness; the boy (who was always late, and a useless creature, more
expense than he was worth) had not appeared, and therefore Cotsdean was
alone.

"I wanted to speak to you, please," said Phoebe. "Will you mind if I
speak very plainly, without any ceremony? Mr. Cotsdean, I am Mr. Tozer's
granddaughter, and live with him at No. 6 in the Lane. I dare say you
have often seen me with Miss May."

"Yes--yes, Miss, certainly," he said, with a thrill of alarm and
excitement running through him. He felt his knees knock together under
cover of the counter, and yet he did not know what he feared.

"Will you please tell me frankly, in confidence, about----the bill which
was brought to my grandfather yesterday?" said Phoebe, bringing out the
question with a rush.

Whether she was doing wrong, whether she might bring insult upon
herself, whether it was an interference unwarrantable and unjustifiable,
she could not tell. She was in as great a fright as Cotsdean, and more
anxious still than he was; but fortunately her agitation did not show.

"What am I to tell you about it, Miss?" said the man, terrified. "Is it
Mr. Tozer as has sent you? Lord help me! I know as he can sell me up if
he has a mind; but he knows it ain't me."

"Don't speak so loud," said Phoebe, trembling too. "Nobody must hear; and
remember, you are never, never to talk of this to any one else; but tell
me plainly, that there may be no mistake. Is it--Mr. May?"

"Miss Tozer," said Cotsdean, who was shaking from head to foot, "if
that's your name--I don't want to say a word against my clergyman. He's
stood by me many a day as I wanted him, and wanted him bad; but as I'm a
living man, that money was never for me; and now he's a-gone and left me
in the lurch, and if your grandfather likes he can sell me up, and
that's the truth. I've got seven children," said the poor man, with a
sob breaking his voice, "and a missus; and nothing as isn't in the
business, not a penny, except a pound or two in a savings' bank, as
would never count. And I don't deny as he could sell me up; but oh!
Miss, he knows very well it ain't for me."

"Mr. Cotsdean," said Phoebe, impressively, "you don't know, I suppose,
that Mr. May had a fit when he received your note last night?"

"Lord help us! Oh! God forgive me, I've done him wrong, poor gentleman,
if that's true."

"It is quite true; he is very, very ill; he can't give you any advice,
or assist you in any way, should grandpapa be unkind. He could not even
understand if you told him what has happened."

Once more Cotsdean's knees knocked against each other in the shadow of
the counter. His very lips trembled as he stood regarding his strange
visitor with scared and wondering eyes.

"Now listen, please," said Phoebe, earnestly; "if any one comes to you
about the bill to-day, don't say anything about _him_. Say you got
it--in the way of business--say anything you please, but don't mention
_him_. If you will promise me this, I will see that you don't come to
any harm. Yes, I will; you may say I am not the sort of person to know
about business, and it is quite true. But whoever comes to you remember
this--if you don't mention Mr. May, I will see you safely through it; do
you understand?"

Phoebe leant across the counter in her earnestness. She was not the kind
of person to talk about bills, or to be a satisfactory security for a
man in business; but Cotsdean was a poor man, and he was ready to catch
at a straw in the turbid ocean of debt and poverty which seemed closing
round him. He gave the required promise with his heart in his mouth.

Then Phoebe returned down the street. Her fatigue began to tell upon her,
but she knew that she dared not give in, or allow that she was fatigued.
However heavy with sleep her eyes might be, she must keep awake and
watchful. Nothing, if she could help it, must so much as turn the
attention of the world in Mr. May's direction. By this time she was much
too deeply interested to ask herself why she should do so much for Mr.
May. He was her charge, her burden, as helpless in her hands as a child;
and nobody but herself knew anything about it. It was characteristic of
Phoebe's nature that she had no doubt as to being perfectly right in the
matter, no qualm lest she should be making a mistake. She felt the
weight upon her of the great thing she had undertaken to do, with a
certain half-pleasing sense of the solemnity of the position and of its
difficulties; but she was not afraid that she was going wrong or
suffering her fancy to stray further than the facts justified; neither
was she troubled by any idea of going beyond her sphere by interfering
thus energetically in her friend's affairs. Phoebe did not easily take
any such idea into her head. It seemed natural to her to do whatever
might be wanted, and to act upon her own responsibility. Her
self-confidence reached the heroic point. She knew that she was right,
and she knew moreover that in this whole matter she alone was right.
Therefore the necessity of keeping up, of keeping alert and vigilant, of
holding in her hand the threads of all these varied complications was
not disagreeable to her, though she fully felt its importance--nay,
almost exaggerated it in her own mind if that could be. She felt the
dangerous character of the circumstances around her, and her heart was
sore with pity for the culprit, or as she called him to herself the
chief sufferer; and yet all the same Phoebe felt a certain sense of
satisfaction in the great role she herself was playing. She felt equal
to it, though she scarcely knew what was the nest step she ought to
take. She was walking slowly, full of thought, to Tozer's door,
pondering upon this, when the sound of rapid wheels behind roused her
attention, and looking up, surprised, she suddenly saw leaping out of a
dog-cart the imposing figure of Clarence Copperhead, of whom she had not
been thinking at all. He came down with a heavy leap, leaving the light
carriage swinging and quivering behind him with the shock of his
withdrawal.

"Miss Phoebe!" he said, breathless; "here's luck! I came over to see you,
and you are the first person I set eyes on--"

He was rather heavy to make such a jump, and it took away his breath.

"To see me?" she said, laughing, though her heart began to stir. "That
is very odd. I thought you must have come to see poor Mr. May, who is so
ill. You know--"

"May be hanged!" said the young man; "I mean--never mind--I don't mean
him any harm, though, by Jove, if you make such a pet of him, I don't
know what I shall think. Miss Phoebe, I've come over post-haste, as you
may see; chiefly to see you; and to try a horse as well," he added,
"which the governor has just bought. He's a very good 'un to go; and
pleased the governor would be if he knew the use I had put him to," he
concluded, with a half-laugh.

Phoebe knew as well as he did what that use was. He had brought his
father's horse out for the first time, to carry him here to propose to
her, in spite of his father. This was the delicate meaning which it
amused him to think of. She understood it all, and it brought a glow of
colour to her face; but it did not steel her heart against him. She knew
her Clarence, and that his standard of fine feeling and mental elevation
was not high.

"Look here," he said, "I wish I could speak to you, Miss Phoebe,
somewhere better than in the street. Yes, in the garden--that will do.
It ain't much of a place either to make a proposal in, for that's what
I've come to do; but you don't want me to go down on my knees, or make a
fuss, eh? I got up in the middle of the night to be here first thing and
see you. I never had a great deal to say for myself," said Clarence,
"you won't expect me to make you fine speeches; but I _am_ fond of
you--awfully fond of you, Phoebe, that's the truth. You suit me down to
the ground, music and everything. There's no girl I ever met that has
taken such a hold upon me as you."

Phoebe heard him very quietly, but her heart beat loud. She stood on the
gravel between the flower-borders, where the primroses were beginning to
wither, and glanced over her life of the past and that of the future,
which were divided by this moment like the two beds of flowers; one
homely, not very distinguished, simple enough--the other exalted by
wealth to something quite above mediocrity. Her heart swelled, full as
it was with so many emotions of a totally different kind. She had gained
a great prize, though it might not be very much to look at; more or
less, she was conscious this golden apple had been hanging before her
eyes for years, and now it had dropped into her hand. A gentle glow of
contentment diffused itself all over her, not transport, indeed, but
satisfaction, which was better.

"Mr. Copperhead--" she said, softly.

"No, hang it all, call me Clarence, Phoebe, if you're going to have me!"
he cried, putting out his big hands.

"Grandmamma is looking at us from the window," she said, hurriedly,
withdrawing a little from him.

"Well, and what does that matter? The old lady won't say a word, depend
upon it, when she knows. Look here, Phoebe, I'll have an answer. Yes or
no?"

"Have you got your father's consent--Clarence?"

"Ah, it is yes then! I thought it would be yes," he cried, seizing her
in his arms. "As for the governor," added Clarence, after an interval,
snapping his fingers, "I don't care _that_ for the governor. When I've
set my mind on a thing, it ain't the governor, or twenty governors, that
will stop me."



CHAPTER XLII.

A GREAT MENTAL SHOCK.


"Have you any notion what was the cause?"

"None," said Reginald. "Oh, no, none at all," said Ursula. They were all
three standing at the door of the sick-room, in which already a great
transformation had taken place. The doctor had sent a nurse to attend
upon the patient. He had told them that their father was attacked by
some mysterious affection of the brain, and that none of them were equal
to the responsibility of nursing him. His children thus banished had set
the door ajar, and were congregated round it watching what went on
within. They did not know what to do. It was Northcote who was asking
these questions; it was he who was most active among them. The others
stood half-stunned, wholly ignorant, not knowing what to do.

"I don't think papa is ill at all," said Janey. "Look how he glares
about him, just as I've seen him do when he was writing a sermon, ready
to pounce upon any one that made a noise. He is watching that woman. Why
should he lie in bed like that, and be taken care of when he is just as
well as I am? You have made a mistake all the rest of you. I would go
and speak to him, and tell him to get up and not make all this fuss, if
it was me."

"Oh, Janey! hold your tongue," said Ursula; but she, too, looked
half-scared at the bed, and then turned wistful inquiring eyes to
Northcote. As for Reginald, he stood uncertain, bewildered, all the
colour gone out of his face, and all the energy out of his heart. He
knew nothing of his father's affairs, or of anything that might disturb
his mind. His mind; all that his son knew of this was, that whatsoever
things disturbed other minds his father had always contemptuously
scouted all such nonsense. "Take some medicine," Mr. May had been in the
habit of saying. "Mind! you mean digestion," was it nothing more than
some complicated indigestion that affected him now?

"Is it anything about--money?" said Northcote.

They all turned and looked at him. The idea entered their minds for the
first time. Yes, very likely it was money.

"We have always been poor," said Ursula, wistfully. Northcote took her
hand into his; none of them except Ursula herself paid any attention to
this involuntary, almost unconscious caress, and even to her it seemed a
thing of course, and quite natural that he should be one of them, taking
his share in all that was going on.

"I--am not poor," he said, faltering. "You must not think me
presumptuous, May. But the first thing to be done is to get him out of
his difficulties, if he is in difficulties--and you must let me help to
do it. I think you and I should go out and see about it at once."

"Go--where?" Reginald, like most young people, had taken little notice
of his father's proceedings. So long as things went smoothly, what had
he to do with them? When there was a pressure for money, he knew he
should hear of it, at least in the shape of reproaches and sneers from
his father at his useless life, and the expenses of the family. But even
these reproaches had died away of late, since Reginald had possessed an
income of his own, and since the revenues of the Parsonage had been
increased by Clarence Copperhead. Reginald was more helpless than a
stranger. He did not know where to turn. "Do you think we could ask him?
I am almost of Janey's opinion. I don't think he is so ill as he seems."

And then they all paused and looked again into the room. The nurse was
moving softly about, putting everything in order, and Mr. May watched
her from the bed with the keenest attention. His face was still livid
and ghastly in colour; but his eyes had never been so full of eager fire
in all the experience of his children. He watched the woman with a close
attention which was appalling; sometimes he would put his covering half
aside as if with the intention of making a spring. He was like some
imprisoned animal seeing a possibility of escape. They looked at him,
and then at each other, with a miserable helplessness. What could they
do? He was their father, but they knew nothing about him, and just
because he was their father they were more slow to understand, more dull
in divining his secrets than if he had been a stranger. When there came
at last a suggestion out of the silence, it was Northcote who spoke.

"I don't see how you can leave him, May. It is plain he wants watching.
I will go if you will let me--if Ursula will say I may," said the young
man with a little break in his voice. This roused them all to another
question, quite different from the first one. Her brother and sister
looked at Ursula, one with a keen pang of involuntary envy, the other
with a sharp thrill of pleasurable excitement. Oddly enough they could
all of them pass by their father and leave him out of the question, more
easily, with less strain of mind, than strangers could. Ursula for her
part did not say anything; but she looked at her lover with eyes in
which two big tears were standing. She could scarcely see him through
those oceans of moisture, bitter and salt, yet softened by the sense of
trust in him, and rest upon him. When he stooped and kissed her on the
forehead before them all, the girl did not blush. It was a solemn
betrothal, sealed by pain, not by kisses.

"Yes, go," she said to him in words which were half sobs, and which he
understood, but no one else.

"You perceive," he said, "it is not a stranger interfering in your
affairs, May, but Ursula doing her natural work for her father through
me--her representative. God bless her! I am Ursula now," he said with a
broken laugh of joy; then grew suddenly grave again. "You trust me,
May?"

Poor Reginald's heart swelled; this little scene so calmly transacted
under his eyes, would it ever happen for him, or anything like it? No,
his reason told him--and yet; still he was thinking but little of his
father. He had his duty too, and this happened to be his duty; but no
warmer impulse was in the poor young fellow's heart.

And thus the day went on. It was afternoon already, and soon the sky
began to darken. When his children went into the room, Mr. May took no
notice of them--not that he did not know them; but because his whole
faculties were fixed upon that woman who was his nurse, and who had all
her wits about her, and meant to keep him there, and to carry out the
doctor's instructions should heaven and earth melt away around her. She
too perceived well enough how he was watching her, and being familiar
with all the ways, as she thought, of the "mentally afflicted,"
concluded in her mind that her new patient was further gone than the
doctor thought.

"I hope as you'll stay within call, sir," she said significantly to
Reginald; "when they're like that, as soon as they breaks out they're as
strong as giants; but I hope he won't break out, not to-day."

Reginald withdrew, shivering, from the idea thus presented to him. He
stole down to his father's study, notwithstanding the warning she had
given him, and there with a sick heart set to work to endeavour to
understand his father--nay, more than that, to try to find him out. The
young man felt a thrill of nervous trembling come over him when he sat
down in his father's chair and timidly opened some of the drawers. Mr.
May was in many respects as young a man as his son, and Reginald and he
had never been on those confidential terms which bring some fathers and
sons so very close together. He felt that he had no business there
spying upon his father's privacy. He could not look at the papers which
lay before him. It seemed a wrong of the first magnitude, wrought
treacherously, because of the helplessness of the creature most
concerned. He could not do it. He thrust the papers back again into the
drawer. In point of fact there were no secrets in the papers, nor much
to be found out in Mr. May's private life. All its dark side might be
inferred from, without being revealed in, the little book which lay
innocently on the desk, and which Reginald looked over, thinking no
harm. In it there were two or three entries which at length roused his
curiosity. Cotsdean, October 10th. Cotsdean, January 12th. C. & T. April
18th. What did this mean? Reginald remembered to have seen Cotsdean
paying furtive visits in the study. He recollected him as one of the few
poor people for whom his father had a liking. But what could there be
between them? He was puzzled, and as Betsy was passing the open door at
the time, called her in. The evening was falling quickly, the day had
changed from a beautiful bright morning to a rainy gusty afternoon,
tearing the leaves and blossoms from the trees, and whirling now and
then a shower of snowy petals, beautiful but ill-omened snow, across the
dark window. Beyond that the firmament was dull; the clouds hung low,
and the day was gone before it ought. When Betsy came in she closed the
door, not fastening it, but still, Reginald felt, shutting him out too
much from the sick-bed, to which he might be called at any moment. But
he was not alarmed by this, though he remarked it. He questioned Betsy
closely as to his father's possible connection with this man. In such a
moment, confidential, half-whispered interviews are the rule of a house.
Every one has so much to ask; so much to say in reply; so many
particulars to comment upon which the rest may have forgotten. She would
have liked to enter upon the whole story, to tell how the master was
took, and how she herself had thought him looking bad when he came in;
but even to talk about Cotsdean was pleasant.

"I told Miss Beecham," said Betsy, "and I told the other gentleman, Mr.
Northcote, as was asking me all about it. It's months and months since
that Cotsdean got coming here--years I may say; and whenever he came
master looked bad. If you'll believe me, Mr. Reginald, it's money as is
at the bottom of it all."

"Money? hush, what was that? I thought I heard something upstairs."

"Only the nurse, sir, as is having her tea. I'm ready to take my oath as
it's money. I've been in service since I was nine years old," said
Betsy, "I've had a deal of experience of gentlefolks, and it's always
money as is the thing as sets them off their head. That's what it is. If
that Cotsdean didn't come here something about money, never you believe
me no more."

"Cotsdean! a poor shopkeeper! what could he have to do with my father's
affairs?" Reginald was not speaking to the woman, but drearily to
himself. If this was the only clue to the mystery, what a poor clue it
was!

"I dunno, sir," said Betsy, "it ain't for me to tell; but one thing I'm
sure of--Lord bless us, what's that?"

Reginald rushed to the door, nearly knocking her down as he pushed her
aside with his hand. When they got outside, it was only the hat-stand in
the hall that had fallen, something having been torn off from it
apparently in mad haste, and the door had opened and shut. Reginald
rushed upstairs, where the nurse was sitting quietly at her tea, the
bed-curtains being drawn.

"All right, sir; he's in a nice sleep," said that functionary; "I didn't
light no candles, not to disturb him, poor gentleman."

Reginald tore the curtains aside, then turned and dashed downstairs, and
out into the windy twilight. In that moment of stillness and darkness
the patient had escaped. He could see a strange figure walking rapidly,
already half way up Grange Lane, and rushed on in pursuit without taking
thought of anything. The sick man had seized upon a long coat which had
been hanging in the hall, and which reached to his heels. Reginald flew
on, going as softly as he could, not to alarm him. Where could he be
going, utterly unclothed except in this big coat? Was it simply madness
that had seized him, nothing more or less? He followed, with his heart
beating loudly. There seemed nobody about, no one to whom he could make
an appeal to help him, even if he could overtake the rapidly progressing
fugitive. But even while this thought crossed his mind, Reginald saw
another figure, broad and tall, developing in the distance, coming
towards them, which stopped short, and put out an arm to stop the
flight. Even that moment gave him the advantage, and brought him near
enough to make out that it was Mr. Copperhead.

"The very man I want," he heard him say with his loud voice, putting his
arm within that of Mr. May, who resisted, but not enough to attract the
attention of the new-comer, as Reginald came up breathless and placed
himself on his father's other side. The darkness prevented any
revelation of the strange appearance of the fugitive, and Mr. Copperhead
was not lively of perception in respect to people unconnected with
himself.

"You, too," he cried, nodding at Reginald, "come along. I've come to
save that boy of mine from a little artful--Come, both of you. The sight
of a young fellow like himself will shame him more than anything; and
you, May, you're the very man I want--"

"Not there, not there, for God's sake!" said Mr. May, with a hoarse cry,
"not there, my God! Reginald! it used to be hanging. Do you mean to give
me up?"

"Hold him fast," Reginald whispered in desperation, "hold him fast! It
is madness."

"Lord bless us!" said Mr. Copperhead, but he was a man who was proud of
his strength, and not given to timidity. He held his captive fast by the
arm, while Reginald secured him on the other side. "Why, what's this,
May? rouse yourself up; don't give in, man. No, you ain't mad, not a bit
of you. Come along, wait here at Tozer's for me, while I do my business;
and then I'll look after _you_. Come on."

There was a violent but momentary struggle; then all at once the
struggling man yielded and allowed himself to be dragged within the
garden-door. Was it because an ordinary policeman, one of the most
respectful servants of the law, who would have saluted Mr. May with the
utmost reverence, was just then coming up? He yielded; but he looked at
his son with a wild despair which made Reginald almost as desperate as
himself in maddening ignorance and terror.

"Ruin! ruin!" he murmured hoarsely, "worse than death."



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE CONFLICT.


The day which had intervened between Phoebe's morning walk, and this
darkling flight along the same road, had been full of agitation at the
house of the Tozers. Phoebe, who would willingly have spared her lover
anything more than the brief intercourse which was inevitable with her
relations, could find no means of sending him away without breakfast.
She had escaped from him accordingly, weary as she was, to make
arrangements for such a meal as she knew him, even in his most
sentimental mood, to love--a thing which required some time and
supervision, though the house was always plentifully provided. When she
had hastily bathed her face and changed her dress she came back to the
room where she had left him, to find him in careless conversation with
Tozer, who only half-recovered from the excitement of last night, but
much overawed by a visit from so great a personage, had managed to put
aside the matter which occupied his own thoughts, in order to carry on a
kind of worship of Clarence, who was the son of the richest man he had
ever heard of, and consequently appeared to the retired butterman a very
demigod. Clarence was yawning loudly, his arms raised over his head in
total indifference to Tozer, when Phoebe came into the room; and the old
man seized upon the occasion of her entrance to perform another act of
worship.

"Ah, here's Phoebe at last. Mr. Copperhead's come in from the country, my
dear, and he's going to make us proud, he is, by accepting of a bit of
breakfast. I tell him it's a wretched poor place for him as has palaces
at his command; but what we can give him is the best quality, that I
answers for--and you're one as knows how things should be, even if we
ain't grand ourselves."

"Have you palaces at your command, Clarence?" she said, with a smile.
Notwithstanding the fatigue of the night, the fresh air and her
ablutions, and the agitation and commotion of her mind, made Phoebe
almost more animated and brilliant than usual. Her eyes shone with the
anxiety and excitement of the crisis, and a little, too, with the glory
and delight of success; for though Clarence Copperhead was not very much
to brag of in his own person, he still had been the object before her
for some time back, and she had got him. And yet Phoebe was not
mercenary, though she was not "in love" with her heavy lover in the
ordinary sense of the word. She went towards him now, and stood near
him, looking at him with a smile. He was a big, strong fellow, which is
a thing most women esteem, and he was not without good looks; and he
would be rich, and might be thrust into a position which would produce
both honour and advantage; and lastly, he was her own, which gives even
the most indifferent article a certain value in some people's eyes.

"Palaces? I don't know, but nice enough houses; and you know you like a
nice house, Miss Phoebe. Here, I haven't said a word to the old
gentleman. Tell him; I ain't come all this way for nothing. You've
always got the right words at your fingers' end. Tell him, and let's get
it over. I think I could eat some breakfast, I can tell you, after that
drive."

"Grandpapa," said Phoebe, slightly tremulous, "Mr. Copperhead wishes me
to tell you that--Mr. Copperhead wishes you to know why----"

"Bless us!" cried Clarence with a laugh. "Here is a beating about the
bush! She has got her master, old gentleman, and that is what she never
had before. Look here, I'm going to marry Phoebe. That's plain English
without any phrases, and I don't know what you could say to better it.
Is breakfast ready? I've earned it for my part."

"Going to marry Phoebe!" Tozer gasped. He had heard from his wife that
such a glory was possible; but now, when it burst upon him, the dazzling
delight seemed too good to be true. It thrust the forgery and everything
out of his head, and took even the power of speech from him. He got up
and gazed at the young people, one after the other, rubbing his hands,
with a broad grin upon his face; then he burst forth all at once in
congratulation.

"God bless you, sir! God bless you both! It's an honour as I never
looked for. Rising in the world was never no thought of mine; doing your
duty and trusting to the Lord is what I've always stood by; and it's
been rewarded. But she's a good girl, Mr. Copperhead; you'll never
regret it, sir. She's that good and that sensible, as I don't know how
to do without her. She'll do you credit, however grand you may make her;
and if it's any comfort to you, as she's connected with them as knows
how to appreciate a gentleman--" said Tozer, breaking down in his
enthusiasm, his voice sinking into a whisper in the fulness of his
heart.

"Grandpapa!" said Phoebe, feeling sharply pricked in her pride, with a
momentary humiliation, "there are other things to be thought of," and
she gave him a look of reproach which Tozer did not understand, but
which Clarence did vaguely. Clarence, for his part, liked the homage,
and was by no means unwilling that everybody should perceive his
condescension and what great luck it was for Phoebe to have secured him.
He laughed, pleased to wave his banner of triumph over her,
notwithstanding that he loved her. He _was_ very fond of her, that was
true; but still her good fortune in catching him was, for the moment,
the thing most in his thoughts.

"Well, old gentleman," he said, "you ain't far wrong there. She _is_ a
clever one. We shall have a bad time of it with the governor at first;
for, of course, when there's no money and no connections, a man like the
governor, that has made himself, ain't likely to be too well pleased."

"As for money, Mr. Copperhead, sir," said Tozer with modest pride, "I
don't see as there's anything to be said against Phoebe on that point.
Her mother before her had a pretty bit of money, though I say it, as
shouldn't--"

"Ah, yes--yes," said Clarence. "To be sure; but a little bit of coin
like that don't count with us. The governor deals in hundreds of
thousands; he don't think much of your little bits of fortunes. But I
don't mind. She suits me down to the ground, does Phoebe; and I don't
give that for the governor!" cried the young man valiantly. As for Phoebe
herself, it is impossible to imagine any one more entirely put out of
her place, and out of all the comfort and satisfaction in her own
initiative which she generally possessed, than this young woman was,
while these two men talked over her so calmly. It is doubtful whether
she had ever been so set aside out of her proper position in her life,
and her nerves were overstrained and her bodily strength worn out, which
added to the sense of downfall. With almost a touch of anger in her tone
she, who was never out of temper, interrupted this talk.

"I think breakfast is ready, grandpapa. Mr. Clarence Copperhead wants
some refreshment after his exertions, and in preparation for the
exertions to come. For I suppose your papa is very likely to follow you
to Carlingford," she added, with a low laugh, turning to her lover. "I
know Mr. Copperhead very well, and I should not like my first meeting
with him after I had thwarted all his views."

"Phoebe! you don't mean to desert me? By Jove! I'll face him and twenty
like him if you'll only stand by me," he cried; which was a speech that
made amends.

She suffered him to lead her into breakfast less formally than is the
ordinary fashion, and his hand on her trim waist did not displease the
girl. No; she understood him, knew that he was no great things; but yet
he was hers, and she had always meant him to be hers, and Phoebe was
ready to maintain his cause in the face of all the world.

The breakfast was to Clarence's taste, and so was the company--even old
Tozer, who sat with his mouth agape in admiration of the young
potentate, while he recounted his many grandeurs. Clarence gave a great
deal of information as to prices he had paid for various things, and the
expenses of his living at Oxford and elsewhere, as he ate the kidneys,
eggs, and sausages with which Phoebe's care had heaped the table. They
had no _pâté de foie gras_, it is true, but the simple fare was of the
best quality, as Tozer had boasted. Mrs. Tozer did not come downstairs
to breakfast, and thus Phoebe was alone with the two men, who suited each
other so much better than she could have hoped. The girl sat by them
languidly, though with a beating heart, wondering, as girls will wonder
sometimes, if all men were like these, braggards and believers in brag,
worshippers of money and price. No doubt, young men too marvel when they
hear the women about them talking across them of _chiffons_, or of
little quarrels and little vanities. Phoebe had more brains than both of
her interlocutors put together, and half-a-dozen more added on; but she
was put down and silenced by the talk. Her lover for the moment had
escaped from her. She could generally keep him from exposing himself in
this way, and turn the better side of him to the light; but the presence
of a believer in him turned the head of Clarence. She could not control
him any more.

"A good horse is a deuced expensive thing," he said; "the governor gave
a cool hundred and fifty for that mare that brought me over this
morning. He bought her from Sir Robert; but he didn't know, Phoebe, the
use I was going to put her to. If he'd known, he'd have put that hundred
and fifty in the sea rather than have his beast rattled over the country
on such an errand." Here he stopped in the midst of his breakfast, and
looked at her admiringly. "But I don't repent," he added. "I'd do it
again to-morrow if it wasn't done already. If you stand by me, I'll face
him, and twenty like him, by Jove!"

"You don't say nothing," said her grandfather. "I wouldn't be so
ungrateful. Gentlemen like Mr. Copperhead ain't picked up at every
roadside."

"They ain't, by Jove!" said Clarence; "but she's shy, that's all about
it," he added, tenderly; "when we're by ourselves, I don't complain."

Poor Phoebe! She smiled a dismal smile, and was very glad when breakfast
was over. After that she took him into the garden, into the bright
morning air, which kept her up, and where she could keep her Clarence in
hand and amuse him, without allowing this revelation of the worst side
of him. While they were there, Martha admitted the visitor of yesterday,
Mr. Simpson from the Bank, bringing back to Phoebe's mind all the other
matter of which it had been full.

"Don't you think you ought to go and see about the horse and the
dog-cart?" she said suddenly, turning to her lover with one of those
sudden changes which kept the dull young man amused. "You don't know
what they may be about."

"They can't be up to much," said Clarence. "Thank you, Miss Phoebe, I
like you better than the mare."

"But you can't be here all day, and I can't be here all day," she said.
"I must look after grandmamma, and you ought to go down and inquire
after poor Mr. May--he is so ill. I have been there all night, helping
Ursula. You ought to go and ask for him. People don't forget all the
duties of life because--because a thing of this sort has happened--"

"Because they've popped and been accepted," said graceful Clarence. "By
Jove! I'll go. I'll tell young May. I'd like to see his face when I tell
him the news. You may look as demure as you like, but you know what
spoons he has been upon you, and the old fellow too--made me as jealous
as King Lear sometimes," cried the happy lover, with a laugh. He meant
Othello, let us suppose.

"Nonsense, Clarence! But go, please go. I must run to grandmamma."

Mr. Simpson had gone in, and Phoebe's heart had begun to beat loudly in
her throat; but it was not so easy to get rid of this ardent lover, and
when at last he did go, he was slightly sulky, which was not a state of
mind to be encouraged. She rushed upstairs to her grandmother's room,
which was over the little room where Tozer sat, and from which she could
already hear sounds of conversation rapidly rising in tone, and the
noise of opening and shutting drawers, and a general rummage. Phoebe
never knew what she said to the kind old woman, who kissed and wept over
her, exulting in the news.

"I ain't been so pleased since my Phoebe told me as she was to marry a
minister," said Mrs. Tozer, "and this is a rise in life a deal grander
than the best of ministers. But, bless your heart, what shall I do
without you?" cried the old woman, sobbing.

Presently Tozer came in, with an air of angry abstraction, and began to
search through drawers and boxes.

"I've lost something," he answered, with sombre looks, to his wife's
inquiry. Phoebe busied herself with her grandmother, and did not ask what
it was. It was only when he had searched everywhere that some chance
movement directed his eyes to her. She was trembling in spite of
herself. He came up to her, and seized her suddenly by the arm. "By
George!" he cried, "I'm in a dozen minds to search you!"

"Tozer! let my child alone. How dare you touch her--her as is as good
as Mr. Copperhead's lady? What's she got to do with your dirty papers?
Do you think Phoebe would touch them--with a pair of tongs?" cried the
angry grandmother.

Phoebe shrank with all the cowardice of guilt. Her nerves were unstrung
by weariness and excitement. And Tozer, with his little red eyes blazing
upon her, was very different in this fury of personal injury, from the
grandfather of the morning, who had been ready to see every virtue in
her.

"I believe as you've got it!" he cried, giving her a shake. It was a
shot at a venture, said without the least idea of its truth; but before
the words had crossed his lips, he felt with a wild passion of rage and
wonder that it was true. "Give it up, you hussy!" he shrieked, with a
yell of fury, his face convulsed with sudden rage, thickly and with
sputtering lips.

"Tozer!" cried his wife, flinging herself between them, "take your hands
off the child. Run, run to your room, my darling; he's out of his
senses. Lord bless us all, Sam, are you gone stark staring mad?"

"Grandpapa," said Phoebe, trembling, "if I had it, you may be sure it
would be safe out of your way. I told you I knew something about it, but
you would not hear me. Will you hear me now? I'll make it up to
you--double it, if you like. Grandmamma, it is a poor man he would drive
to death if he is not stopped. Oh!" cried Phoebe, clasping her hands,
"after what has happened this morning, will you not yield to me? and
after all the love you have shown me? I will never ask anything, not
another penny. I will make it up; only give in to me, give in to me--for
once in my life! Grandpapa! I never asked anything from you before."

"Give it up, you piece of impudence! you jade! you d--d deceitful----"

He was holding her by the arm, emphasizing every new word by a violent
shake, while poor old Mrs. Tozer dropped into a chair, weeping and
trembling.

"Oh! it ain't often as he's like this; but when he is, I can't do
nothing with him, I can't do nothing with him!" she cried.

But Phoebe's nerves strung themselves up again in face of the crisis. She
shook him off suddenly with unexpected strength, and moving to a little
distance, stood confronting him, pale but determined.

"If you think you will get the better of me in this way, you are
mistaken," she said. "I am not your daughter; how dare you treat me so?
Grandmamma, forgive me. I have been up all night. I am going to lie
down," said Phoebe. "If grandpapa has anything more to say against me, he
can say it to Clarence. I leave myself in his hands."

Saying this, she turned round majestically, but with an anxious heart,
and walked away to her room, every nerve in her trembling. When she got
there, Phoebe locked the door hastily, in genuine terror; and then she
laughed, and then she cried a little. "And to think it was here all the
time!" she said to herself, taking out the little Russia leather purse
out of her pocket. She went into the closet adjoining her room, and
buried it deep in her travelling trunk which was there, relieving
herself and her mind of a danger. Then--Phoebe did what was possibly the
most sensible thing in the world, in every point of view. She went to
bed; undressed herself quietly, rolled up her hair, and lay down with a
grateful sense of ease and comfort. "When Clarence comes back he will be
disappointed; but even for Clarence a little disappointment will be no
harm," said the sensible young woman to herself. And what comfort it was
to lie down, and feel all the throbs and pulses gradually subsiding, the
fright going off, the satisfaction of success coming back, and gradually
a slumberous, delicious ease stealing over her. Of all the clever things
Phoebe had done in her life, it must be allowed that there was not one so
masterly as the fact that she, then and there, went to sleep.

All this had taken up a good deal of time. It was twelve when Mr.
Simpson of the bank disturbed the lovers in the garden, and it was one
o'clock before Phoebe put a stop to all Tozer's vindictive plans by going
to bed. What he said to Mr. Simpson, when he went back to him, is not on
record. That excellent man of business was much put out by the long
waiting, and intimated plainly enough that he could not allow his time
to be thus wasted. Mr. Simpson began to think that there was something
very strange in the whole business. Tozer's house was turned upside down
by it, as he could hear by the passionate voices and the sound of crying
and storming in the room above; but Cotsdean was secure in his shop,
apparently fearing no evil, as he had seen as he passed, peering in with
curious eyes. What it meant he could not tell; but it was queer, and did
not look as if the business was straight-forward.

"When you find the bill, or make up your mind what to do, you can send
for me," he said, and went away, suspicious and half-angry, leaving
Tozer to his own devices. And the afternoon passed in the most
uncomfortable lull imaginable. Though he believed his granddaughter to
have it, he looked again over all his papers, his drawers, his
waste-basket, every corner he had in which such a small matter might
have been hid; but naturally his search was all in vain. Clarence
returned in the afternoon, and was received by poor old Mrs. Tozer, very
tremulous and ready to cry, who did not know whether she ought to
distrust Phoebe or not, and hesitated and stumbled over her words till
the young man thought his father had come in his absence, and that Phoebe
had changed her mind. This had the effect of making him extremely eager
and anxious, and of subduing the bragging and magnificent mood which the
triumphant lover had displayed in the morning. He felt himself "taken
down a peg or two," in his own fine language. He went to the Parsonage
and tried very hard to see Ursula, to secure her help in case anything
had gone wrong, and then to Reginald, whose vexation at the news he felt
sure of, and hoped to enjoy a sight of. But he could see no one in the
absorbed and anxious house. What was he to do? He wandered about,
growing more and more unhappy, wondering if he had been made to fling
himself into the face of fate for no reason, and sure that he could not
meet his father without Phoebe's support. He could not even face her
relations. It was very different from the day of triumph he had looked
for; but, as Phoebe had wisely divined, this disappointment, and all the
attending circumstances, did not do him any harm.

It was late in the afternoon when Northcote called. He too had acted on
the information given by Betsy, and had gone to Cotsdean, who made him
vaguely aware that Tozer had some share in the business in which Mr. May
was involved, and who, on being asked whether it could be set right by
money, grew radiant and declared that nothing could be easier. But when
Northcote saw Tozer, there ensued a puzzling game at cross purposes, for
Tozer had no notion that Mr. May had anything to do with the business,
and declined to understand.

"I ain't got nothing to do with parsons, and if you'll take my advice,
sir, it 'ud be a deal better for you to give 'em up too. You're
a-aggravating the connection for no good, you are," said Tozer, surely
by right of his own troubles and perplexities, and glad to think he
could make some one else uncomfortable too.

"I shall do in that respect as I think proper," said Northcote, who was
not disposed to submit to dictation.

"Fact is, he's a deal too well off for a minister," Tozer said to his
wife when the young man disappeared, "they're too independent that sort;
and I don't know what he means by his Mays and his fine folks. What have
we got to do with Mr. May?"

"Except that he's been good to the child, Tozer; we can't forget as he's
been very good to the child."

"Oh, dash the child!" cried the old man, infuriated; "if you say much
more I'll be sorry I ever let you see her face. What has she done with
my bill?"

"Bill? if it's only a bill what are you so put out about!" cried Mrs.
Tozer. "You'll have dozens again at Christmas, if that is all you want."

But the laugh was unsuccessful, and the old man went back to his room to
nurse his wrath and to wonder what had come to him. Why had his
granddaughter interfered in his business, and what had he to do with Mr.
May?

Phoebe got up refreshed and comfortable when it was time for the family
tea, and came down to her lover, who had come back, and was sitting very
dejected by old Mrs. Tozer's side. She was fresh and fair, and in one of
her prettiest dresses, having taken pains for him; and notwithstanding
Tozer's lowering aspect, and his refusal to speak to her, the meal
passed over very cheerfully for the rest of the party, and the two young
people once more withdrew to the garden when it was over. The presence
of Clarence Copperhead protected Phoebe from all attack. Her grandfather
dared not fly out upon her as before, or summon her to give up what she
had taken from him. Whatever happened, this wonderful rise in life, this
grand match could not be interfered with. He withdrew bitter and
exasperated to his own den, leaving his poor wife crying and wretched in
the family sitting-room. Mrs. Tozer knew that her husband was not to be
trifled with, and that, though the circumstances of Phoebe's betrothal
subdued him for the moment, this effect in all probability would not
last; and she sat in terror, watching the moments as they passed, and
trembling to think what might happen when the young pair came in again,
or when Clarence at last went away, leaving Phoebe with no protection but
herself. Phoebe, too, while she kept her dull companion happy, kept
thinking all the while of the same thing with a great tremor of
suppressed agitation in her mind; and she did not know what was the next
step to take--a reflection which took away her strength. She had taken
the bill from her trunk again and replaced it in her pocket. It was
safest carried on her person, she felt; but what she was to do next,
even Phoebe, so fruitful in resources, could not say. When Northcote came
back in the evening she felt that her game was becoming more and more
difficult to play. After a brief consultation with herself, she decided
that it was most expedient to go in with him, taking her big body-guard
along with her, and confiding in his stupidity not to find out more than
was indispensable. She took Northcote to her grandfather's room,
whispering to him on the way to make himself the representative of
Cotsdean only, and to say nothing of Mr. May.

"Then you know about it?" said Northcote amazed.

"Oh, hush, hush!" cried Phoebe; "offer to pay it on Cotsdean's part, and
say nothing about Mr. May."

The young man looked at her bewildered; but nodded his head in assent,
and then her own young man pulled her back almost roughly, and demanded
to know what she meant by talking to that fellow so. Thus poor Phoebe was
between two fires. She went in with a fainting yet courageous heart.

"Pay the money!" said Tozer, who by dint of brooding over it all the day
had come to a white heat, and was no longer to be controlled. "Mr.
Northcote, sir, you're a minister, and you don't understand business no
more nor women do. Money's money--but there's more than money here.
There's my name, sir, as has been made use of in a way!--me go signing
of accommodation bills! I'd have cut off my hand sooner. There's that
girl there, she's got it. She's been and stolen it from me, Mr.
Northcote. Tell her to give it up. You may have some influence, you as
is a minister. Tell her to give it up, or, by George, she shall never
have a penny from me! I'll cut her off without even a shilling. I'll put
her out o' my will--out o' my house."

"I say, Phoebe," said Clarence, "look here, that's serious, that is; not
that I mind a little pot of money like what the poor old fellow's got;
but what's the good of throwing anything away?"

"Make her give it up," cried Tozer hoarsely, "or out of this house she
goes this very night. I ain't the sort of man to be made a fool of. I
ain't the sort of man--Who's this a-coming? some more of your d--d
intercessors to spoil justice," cried the old man, "but I won't have
'em. I'll have nothing to say to them. What, who? Mr. Copperhead's
father? I ain't ashamed to meet Mr. Copperhead's father; but one thing
at a time. Them as comes into my house must wait my time," cried the
butterman, seeing vaguely the group come in, whom we left at his doors.
"I'm master here. Give up that bill, you brazen young hussy, and go out
of my sight. How dare you set up your face among so many men? Give it
up!" he cried, seizing her by the elbow in renewed fury. The strangers,
though he saw them enter, received no salutation from him. There was one
small lamp on the table, dimly lighted, which threw a faint glow upon
the circle of countenances round, into which came wondering the burly
big Copperhead, holding fast by the shoulder of Mr. May, whose ghastly
face, contorted with wild anxiety, glanced at Tozer over the lamp. But
the old man was so much absorbed at first that he scarcely saw who the
new-comers were.

"What's all this about?" said Mr. Copperhead. "Seems we've come into the
midst of another commotion. So you're here, Clar! it is you I want, my
boy. Look here, Northcote, take hold, will you? there's a screw loose,
and we've got to get him home. Take hold, till I have had a word with
Clarence. That's a thing that won't take long."

Clarence cast a glance at Phoebe, who even in her own agitation turned
and gave him a tremulous smile of encouragement. The crisis was so great
on all sides of her that Phoebe became heroic.

"I am here," she said, with all the steadiness of strong emotion, and
when he had received this assurance of support, he feared his father no
more.

"All right, sir," he said almost with alacrity. He was afraid of nothing
with Phoebe standing by.

"Make her give me up my bill," said Tozer; "I'll hear nothing else till
this is settled. My bill! It's forgery; that's what it is. Don't speak
to me about money! I'll have him punished. I'll have him rot in prison
for it. I'll not cheat the law--You people as has influence with that
girl, make her give it me. I can't touch him without the bill."

Mr. May had been placed in a chair by the two young men who watched over
him; but as Tozer spoke he got up, struggling wildly, almost tearing
himself out of the coat by which they held him. "Let me go!" he said.
"Do you hear him? Rot in prison! with hard labour; it would kill me! And
it used to be hanging! My God--my God! Won't you let me go?"

Tozer stopped short, stopped by this passion which was greater than his
own. He looked wonderingly at the livid face, the struggling figure,
impressed in spite of himself. "He's gone mad," he said. "Good Lord! But
he's got nothing to do with it. Can't you take him away?"

"Grandpapa," said Phoebe in his ear, "here it is, your bill; it was _he_
who did it--and it has driven him mad. Look! I give it up to you; and
there he is--that is your work. Now do what you please--"

Trembling, the old man took the paper out of her hand. He gazed
wondering at the other, who somehow moved in his excitement by a sense
that the decisive moment had come, stood still too, his arm half-pulled
out of his coat, his face wild with dread and horror. For a moment they
looked at each other in a common agony, neither the one nor the other
clear enough to understand, but both feeling that some tremendous crisis
had come upon them. "He--done it!" said Tozer appalled and almost
speechless. "_He_ done it!" They all crowded round, a circle of scared
faces. Phoebe alone stood calm. She was the only one who knew the whole,
except the culprit, who understood nothing with that mad confusion in
his eyes. But he was overawed too, and in his very madness recognized
the crisis. He stood still, struggling no longer, with his eyes fixed
upon the homely figure of the old butterman, who stood trembling,
thunderstruck, with that fatal piece of paper in his hand.

Tozer had been mad for revenge two moments before--almost as wild as the
guilty man before him--with a fierce desire to punish and make an
example of the man who had wronged him. But this semi-madness was
arrested by the sight of the other madman before him, and by the
extraordinary shock of this revelation. It took all the strength out of
him. He had not looked up to the clergyman as Cotsdean did, but he had
looked up to the gentleman, his customer, as being upon an elevation
very different from his own, altogether above and beyond him; and the
sight of this superior being, thus humbled, maddened, gazing at him with
wild terror and agony, more eloquent than any supplication, struck poor
old Tozer to the very soul. "God help us all!" he cried out with a
broken, sobbing voice. He was but a vulgar old fellow, mean, it might
be, worldly in his way; but the terrible mystery of human wickedness and
guilt prostrated his common soul with as sharp an anguish of pity and
shame as could have befallen the most heroic. It seized upon him so that
he could say or do nothing more, forcing hot and salt tears up into his
old eyes, and shaking him all over with a tremor as of palsy. The scared
faces appeared to come closer to Phoebe, to whom these moments seemed
like years. Had her trust been vain? Softly, but with an excitement
beyond control, she touched him on the arm.

"That's true," said Tozer, half-crying. "Something's got to be done. We
can't all stand here for ever, Phoebe; it's him as has to be thought of.
Show it to him, poor gentleman, if he ain't past knowing; and burn it,
and let us hear of it no more."

Solemnly, in the midst of them all, Phoebe held up the paper before the
eyes of the guilty man. If he understood it or not, no one could tell.
He did not move, but stared blankly at her and it. Then she held it over
the lamp and let it blaze and drop into harmless ashes in the midst of
them all. Tozer dropped down into his elbow-chair sniffing and sobbing.
Mr. May stood quite still, with a look of utter dulness and stupidity
coming over the face in which so much terror had been. If he understood
what had passed, it was only in feeling, not in intelligence. He grew
still and dull in the midst of that strange madness which all the time
was only half-madness, a mixture of conscious excitement and anxiety
with that which passes the boundaries of consciousness. For the moment
he was stilled into stupid idiotcy, and looked at them with vacant
eyes. As for the others, Northcote was the only one who divined at
all what this scene meant. To Reginald it was like a scene in a
pantomime--bewildering dumb show, with no sense or meaning in it. It was
he who spoke first, with a certain impatience of the occurrence which he
did not understand.

"Will you come home, sir, now?" he said. "Come home, for Heaven's sake!
Northcote will give you an arm. He's very ill," Reginald added, looking
round him pitifully in his ignorance; "what you are thinking of I can't
tell--but he's ill and--delirious. It was Mr. Copperhead who brought him
here against my will. Excuse me, Miss Beecham--now I must take him
home."

"Yes," said Phoebe. The tears came into her eyes as she looked at him; he
was not thinking of her at the moment, but she knew he had thought of
her, much and tenderly, and she felt that she might never see him again.
Phoebe would have liked him to know what she had done, and to know that
what she had done was for him chiefly--in order to recompense him a
little, poor fellow, for the heart he had given her, which she could not
accept, yet could not be ungrateful for. And yet she was glad, though
there was a pang in it, that he should never know, and remain unaware of
her effort, for his own sake; but the tears came into her eyes as she
looked at him, and he caught the gleam of the moisture which made his
heart beat. Something moved her beyond what he knew of; and his heart
thrilled with tenderness and wonder; but how should he know what it was?

"Give my love to Ursula," she said. "I shall not come to-night as she
has a nurse, and I think he will be better. Make her rest, Mr. May--and
if I don't see her, say good-bye to her for me----"

"Good-bye?"

"Yes, good-bye--things have happened--Tell her I hope she will not
forget me," said Phoebe, the tears dropping down her cheeks. "But oh,
please never mind me, look at him, he is quite quiet, he is worn out.
Take him home."

"There is nothing else to be done," said poor Reginald, whose heart
began to ache with a sense of the unknown which surrounded him on every
side. He took his father by the arm, who had been standing quite silent,
motionless, and apathetic. He had no need for any help, for Mr. May went
with him at a touch, as docile as a child. Northcote followed with grave
looks and very sad. Tozer had been seated in his favourite chair, much
subdued, and giving vent now and then to something like a sob. His
nerves had been terribly shaken. But as he saw the three gentlemen going
away, nature awoke in the old butterman. He put out his hand and plucked
Northcote by the sleeve. "I'll not say no to that money, not now, Mr.
Northcote, sir," he said.



CHAPTER XLIV.

PHŒBE'S LAST TRIAL.


"Now if you please," said Mr. Copperhead. "I think it's my turn. I
wanted May to hear what I had got to say, but as he's ill or mad, or
something, it is not much good. I can't imagine what all these
incantations meant, and all your play, Miss Phoebe, eyes and all. That
sort of thing don't suit us plain folks. If you don't mind following
your friends, I want to speak to old Tozer here by himself. I don't like
to have women meddling in my affairs."

"Grandpapa is very tired, and he is upset," said Phoebe. "I don't think
he can have any more said to him to-night."

"By George, but he shall though, and you too. Look here," said Mr.
Copperhead, "you've taken in my boy Clarence here. He's been a fool, and
he always was a fool; but you're not a fool, Miss Phoebe. You know
precious well what you're about. And just you listen to me; he shan't
marry you, not if he breaks his heart over it. I ain't a man that thinks
much of breaking hearts. You and he may talk what nonsense you like, but
you shan't marry my boy; no, not if there wasn't another woman in the
world."

"He has asked me," said Phoebe; "but I certainly did not ask him. You
must give your orders to your son, Mr. Copperhead. You have no right to
dictate to me. Grandpapa, I think you and I have had enough for
to-night."

With this Phoebe began to close the shutters, which had been left open,
and to put away books and things which were lying about. Tozer made a
feeble attempt to stop her energetic proceedings.

"Talk to the gentleman, Phoebe, if Mr. Copperhead 'as anything to say to
you--don't, don't you go and offend him, my dear!" the old man cried in
an anxious whisper; and then he raised himself from the chair, in which
he had sunk exhausted by the unusual commotions to which he had been
subjected. "I am sure, sir," Tozer began, "it ain't my wish, nor the
wish o' my family, to do anything as is against your wishes--"

"Grandpapa," said Phoebe, interrupting him ruthlessly, "Mr. Copperhead's
wishes may be a rule to his own family, but they are not to be a rule to
yours. For my part I won't submit to it. Let him take his son away if he
pleases--or if he can," she added, turning round upon Clarence with a
smile. "Mr. Clarence Copperhead is as free as I am to go or to stay."

"By Jove!" cried that young man, who had been hanging in the background,
dark and miserable. He came close up to her, and caught first her sleeve
and then her elbow; the contact seemed to give him strength. "Look here,
sir," he said, ingratiatingly, "we don't want to offend you--_I_ don't
want to fly in your face; but I can't go on having coaches for ever, and
here's the only one in the world that can do the business instead of
coaches. Phoebe knows I'm fond of her, but that's neither here nor there.
Here is the one that can make something of me. I ain't clever, you know
it as well as I do--but she is. I don't mind going into parliament,
making speeches and that sort of thing, if I've got her to back me up.
But without her I'll never do anything, without her you may put me in a
cupboard, as you've often said. Let me have her, and I'll make a figure,
and do you credit. I can't say any fairer," said Clarence, taking the
rest of her arm into his grasp, and holding her hand. He was stupid--but
he was a man, and Phoebe felt proud of him, for the moment at least.

"You idiot!" cried his father, "and I was an idiot too to put any faith
in you; come away from that artful girl. Can't you see that it's all a
made-up plan from beginning to end? What was she sent down here for but
to catch you, you oaf, you fool, you! Drop her, or you drop me. That's
all I've got to say."

"Yes, drop me, Clarence," said Phoebe, with a smile; "for in the mean
time you hurt me. See, you have bruised my arm. While you settle this
question with your father, I will go to grandmamma. Pardon me, I take
more interest in her than in this discussion between him and you."

"You shan't go," cried her lover, "not a step. Look here, sir. If that's
what it comes to, her before you. What you've made of me ain't much, is
it? but I don't mind what I go in for, as long as she's to the fore. Her
before you."

"Is that your last word?" said Mr. Copperhead.

"Yes." His son faced him with a face as set and cloudy as his own. The
mouth, shut close and sullen, was the same in both; but those brown eyes
which Clarence got from his mother, and which were usually mild in their
expression, looking out gently from the ruder face to which they did not
seem to belong, were now, not clear, but muddy with resolution,
glimmering with dogged obstinacy from under the drooping eyelids. He was
not like himself; he was as he had been that day when Mr. May saw him at
the Dorsets, determined, more than a match for his father, who had only
the obstinacy of his own nature, not that dead resisting force of two
people to bring to the battle. Clarence had all the pertinacity that was
not in his mother, to reinforce his own. Mr. Copperhead stared at his
son with that look of authority, half-imperious, half-brutal, with which
he was in the habit of crushing all who resisted him; but Clarence did
not quail. He stood dull and immovable, his eyes contracted, his face
stolid, and void of all expression but that of resistance. He was not
much more than a fool, but just by so much as his father was more
reasonable, more clear-sighted than himself, was Clarence stronger than
his father. He held Phoebe by the sleeve, that she might not escape him;
but he faced Mr. Copperhead with a dull determination that all the
powers of earth could not shake.

For the moment the father lost his self-control.

"Then I'll go," he said, "and when you've changed your mind, you can
come to me; but--" here he swore a big oath, "mind what you're about.
There never was a man yet but repented when he set himself against me."

Clarence made no answer. Talking was not in his way. And Mr. Copperhead
showed his wondering apprehension of a power superior to his own, by
making a pause after he had said this, and not going away directly. He
stopped and tried once more to influence the rebel with that stare.
"Phoebe--Phoebe--for God's sake make him give in, and don't go against Mr.
Copperhead!" cried Tozer's tremulous voice, shaken with weakness and
anxiety. But Phoebe did not say anything. She felt in the hesitation, the
pause, the despairing last effort to conquer, that the time of her
triumph had nearly come. When he went away, they all stood still and
listened to his footsteps going along the passage and through the
garden. When he was outside he paused again, evidently with the idea of
returning, but changed his mind and went on. To be left like this, the
victors on a field of domestic conflict, is very often not at all a
triumphant feeling, and involves a sense of defeat about as bad as the
reality experienced by the vanquished. Phoebe, who was imaginative, and
had lively feeling, felt a cold shiver go over her as the steps went
away one by one, and began to cry softly, not knowing quite why it was;
but Clarence, who had no imagination, nor any feelings to speak of, was
at his ease and perfectly calm.

"What are you crying for?" he said, "the governor can do what he likes.
I'd marry you in spite of a hundred like him. He didn't know what he was
about, didn't the governor, when he tackled _me_."

"But, Clarence, you must not break with your father, you must not
quarrel on my account--"

"That's as it may be," he said, "never you mind. When it's cleverness
that's wanted, it's you that's wanted to back me up--but I can stick to
my own way without you; and my way is this," he said, suddenly lifting
her from the ground, holding her waist between his two big hands, and
giving her an emphatic kiss. Phoebe was silenced altogether when this had
happened. He was a blockhead, but he was a man, and could stand up for
his love, and for his own rights as a man, independent of the world. She
felt a genuine admiration for her lout at that moment; but this
admiration was accompanied by a very chill sense of all that might be
forfeited if Mr. Copperhead stood out. Clarence, poor and disowned by
his father, would be a very different person from the Clarence
Copperhead who was going into parliament, and had "a fine position" in
prospect. She did not form any resolutions as to what she would do in
that case, for she was incapable of anything dishonourable; but it made
her shiver as with a cold icy current running over; and as for poor old
Tozer he was all but whimpering in his chair.

"Oh, Lord!" he cried. "A great man like Mr. Copperhead affronted in my
'umble 'ouse. It's what I never thought to see. A friend of the
connection like that--your father's leading member. Oh, Phoebe, it was an
evil day as brought you here to make all this mischief! and if I had
known what was going on!" cried Tozer, almost weeping in his despair.

"You are tired, grandpapa," said Phoebe. "Don't be frightened about us.
Mr. Copperhead is very fond of Clarence, and he will give in; or if he
doesn't give in, still we shall not be worse off than many other
people." But she said this with a secret panic devouring her soul,
wondering if it was possible that such a horrible revolution of
circumstances and change of everything she had looked for, could be.
Even Clarence was silenced, though immovable. He went away soon after,
and betook himself to his room at the Parsonage, where all his
possessions still were, while Phoebe attended upon her grandmother, whose
agitation and fear she calmed without saying much. Tozer, quite broken
down, retired to bed; and when they were all disposed of, Phoebe went out
to the garden, and made a mournful little promenade there, with very
serious thoughts. If Clarence was to be cast off by his father what
could she do with him? It was not in Phoebe to abandon the stupid lover,
who had stood up so manfully for her. No, she must accept her fate
however the balance turned; but if this dreadful change happened what
should she do with him? The question penetrated, and made her shiver to
the depths of her soul; but never even in imagination did she forsake
him. He was hers now, come good or ill; but the prospect of the ill was
appalling to her. She went up and down the garden-path slowly in the
silence, looking up to the stars, with her heart very full. Phoebe felt
that no usual burden had been put upon her. Last night her occupation
had been one of the purest charity, and this Providence had seemed to
recompense in the morning, by dropping at her very feet the prize she
had long meant to win; but now she was down again after being lifted up
so high, and a great part of its value was taken out of that prize. Was
she mercenary or worldly-minded in her choice? It would be hard to say
so, for she never questioned with herself whether or not she should
follow Clarence into obscurity and poverty, if things should turn out
so. She would never abandon him, however bad his case might be; but her
heart sunk very low when she thought of her future with him, without the
"career" which would have made everything sweet.

Mr. Copperhead, too, had very serious thoughts on this subject, and sat
up long drinking brandy-and-water, and knitting his brows, as he turned
the subject over and over in his mind, recognizing with disgust (in
which nevertheless there mingled a certain respect) that Clarence would
not yield, he was as obstinate as himself, or more so. He had gone to
the inn, where he was alone, without any of his usual comforts. It was
perhaps the first time in his prosperous life that he had ever been
really crossed. Joe had never attempted to do it, nor any of the first
family. They had married, as they had done everything else, according to
his dictation; and now here was his useless son, his exotic plant, his
Dresden china, not only asserting a will of his own, but meaning to have
it; and showing a resolution, a determination equal to his own. His
mother had never shown anything of this. She had yielded, as every one
else had yielded (Mr. Copperhead reflected), to whatever he ordered.
Where had the boy got this unsuspected strength? A kind of smile broke
unawares over the rich man's face, as he asked himself this question, a
smile which he chased away with a frown, but which nevertheless had been
there for a moment roused by a subtle suggestion of self-flattery.
Where, but from himself, had his gentleman-son (as the millionnaire
proudly held him to be) got that strength of obstinacy? He chased the
thought and the smile away with a frown, and went to bed gloomily
nursing his wrath; but yet this suggestion which he himself had made was
more flattering to himself than words can say. As for Clarence, the only
other person deeply concerned, after he had asked for Mr. May, and
expressed his regret to learn how ill he was, the young man smoked a
cigar on the doorsteps, and then went peaceably, without either care or
anxiety, to bed, where he slept very soundly till eight o'clock next
morning, which was the hour at which he was called, though he did not
always get up.

When Mr. Copperhead began the new day, he began it with a very unwise
idea, quickly carried out, as unwise ideas generally are. Feeling that
he could make nothing of his son, he resolved to try what he could make
of Phoebe; a young woman, nay, a bit of a girl not more than twenty, and
a minister's daughter, brought up in reverence of the leading
member--any resistance on her part seemed really incredible. He could
not contemplate the idea of giving up all the cherished plans of his
life by a melodramatic renunciation of his son. To give up Clarence whom
he had trained to be the very apex and crowning point of his grandeur,
was intolerable to him. But Mr. Copperhead had heard before now of young
women, who, goaded to it, had been known to give up their lover rather
than let their lover suffer on their account, and if this had ever been
the case, surely it might be so in the present instance. Had he not the
comfort of the Beecham family in his hands? Could not he make the
Crescent Chapel too hot to hold them? Could he not awaken the fears of
scores of other fathers very unlikely to permit their favourite sons to
stray into the hands of pastors' daughters? There was nothing indeed to
be said against Mr. Beecham, but still it would be strange if Mr.
Copperhead, out and away the richest man in the community, could not
make the Crescent too hot to hold him. He went down the Lane from the
"George," where he had slept, quite early next morning, with this
purpose full in his head, and, as good luck (he thought) would have it,
found Phoebe, who had been restless all night with anxiety, and had got
up early, once more walking up and down the long garden-path, reflecting
over all that had happened, and wondering as to what might happen still.
What a piece of luck it was! He was accustomed to have fortune on his
side, and it seemed natural to him. He went up to her with scarcely a
pause for the usual salutations, and plunged at once into what he had to
say.

"Miss Phoebe, I am glad to find you alone. I wanted a word with you," he
said, "about the affair of last night. Why shouldn't you and I, the only
two sensible ones in the business, settle it between ourselves? Old
Tozer is an old ass, begging your pardon for saying so, and my son is a
fool--"

"I do not agree to either," said Phoebe gravely, "but never mind, I will
certainly hear what you have to say."

"What I have to say is this. I will never consent to let my son Clarence
marry you." Here he was interrupted by a serious little bow of assent
from Phoebe, which disconcerted and angered him strangely. "This being
the case," he resumed more hotly, "don't you think we'd better come to
terms, you and me? You are too sensible a girl, I'll be bound, to marry
a man without a penny, which is what he would be. He would be properly
made an end of, Miss Phoebe, if he found out, after all his bravado last
night, that you were the one to cast him off after all."

"He cannot find that out," said Phoebe with a smile; "unfortunately even
if I could have done it under brighter circumstances my mouth is closed
now. I desert him now, when he is in trouble! Of course you do not know
me, so you are excused for thinking so, Mr. Copperhead."

The rich man stared. She was speaking a language which he did not
understand. "Look here, Miss Phoebe," he said, "let's understand each
other. High horses don't answer with me. As for deserting him when he's
in trouble, if you'll give him up--or desert him, as you call it--he
need never be in trouble at all. You can stop all that. Just you say no
to him, and he'll soon be on his knees to me to think no more of it. You
know who I am," Mr. Copperhead continued with a concealed threat. "I
have a deal of influence in the connection, though I say it that
shouldn't, and I'm very well looked on in chapel business. What would
the Crescent do without me? And if there should be an unpleasantness
between the minister and the leading member, why, you know, Miss Phoebe,
no one better, who it is that would go to the wall."

She made no answer, and he thought she was impressed by his arguments.
He went on still more strongly than before. "Such a clever girl as you
knows all that," said Mr. Copperhead, "and suppose you were to marry
Clarence without a penny, what would become of you? What would you make
of him? He is too lazy for hard work, and he has not brains enough for
anything else. What would you make of him if you had him? That's what I
want to know."

"And that is just what I can't tell you," said Phoebe smiling. "It is a
very serious question. I suppose something will turn up."

"What can turn up? You marry him because he is going into parliament,
and could give you a fine position."

"I confess," said Phoebe with her usual frankness, "that I did think of
his career; without that the future is much darker, and rather
depressing."

"Yes, you see that! A poor clod of a fellow that can't work, and will be
hanging upon you every day, keeping you from working--that you will
never be able to make anything of."

"Mr. Copperhead," said Phoebe sweetly, "why do you tell all this to me?
Your mere good sense will show you that I cannot budge. I have accepted
him being rich, and I cannot throw him over when he is poor. I may not
like it--I don't like it--but I am helpless. Whatever change is made, it
cannot be made by me."

He stared at her in blank wonder and dismay. For a moment he could not
say anything. "Look here," he faltered at last, "you thought him a great
match, a rise in the world for you and yours; but he ain't a great match
any longer. What's the use then of keeping up the farce? You and me
understand each other. You've nothing to do but to let him off; you're
young and pretty, you'll easily find some one else. Fools are plenty in
this world," he added, unable to refrain from that one fling. "Let him
off and all will be right. What's to prevent you? I'd not lose a moment
if I were you."

Phoebe laughed. She had a pretty laugh, soft yet ringing like a child's.
"You and I, I fear, are no rule for each other," she said. "Mr.
Copperhead, what prevents me is a small thing called honour, that is
all."

"Honour! that's for men," he said hastily, "and folly for them according
as you mean it; but for women there's no such thing, it's sham and
humbug; and look you here, Miss Phoebe," he continued, losing his temper,
"you see what your father will say to this when you get him into hot
water with his people! There's more men with sons than me; and if the
Crescent ain't too hot to hold him within a month--Do you think I'll
stand it, a beggarly minister and his belongings coming in the way of a
man that could buy you all up, twenty times over, and more!"

The fury into which he had worked himself took away Mr. Copperhead's
breath. Phoebe said nothing. She went on by his side with soft steps, her
face a little downcast, the suspicion of a smile about her mouth.

"By George!" he cried, when he had recovered himself, "you think you can
laugh at me. You think you can defy me, you, a bit of a girl, as poor as
Job!"

"I defy no one," said Phoebe. "I cannot prevent you from insulting me,
that is all; which is rather hard," she added, with a smile, which cost
her an effort, "seeing that I shall have to drag your son through the
world somehow, now that you have cast him off. He will not give me up, I
know, and honour prevents me from giving him up. So I shall have hard
work enough, without any insults from you. It is a pity," said Phoebe,
with a sort of sympathetic regret for herself so badly used. "I could
have made a man of him. I could have backed him up to get on as well as
most men; but it will certainly be uphill work now."

She did not look at the furious father as she spoke. She was quite calm,
treating it reflectively, regretfully, as a thing past and over. Mr.
Copperhead tried to burst forth again in threats and objurgations; but
in spite of himself, and though she never said another word, the big,
rich, noisy man was silenced. He went away, threatening to appeal to her
father, which Phoebe, with a last effort, begged him smilingly to do. But
this was the last of which she was capable. When she had closed the door
after him, she rushed upstairs to her room, and cried bitterly.
Everything was very dark to her. If he did appeal to her father, the
appeal would spread confusion and dismay through the pastor's heart and
family; and what was to become of herself, with Clarence on her hands,
who could do nothing that was useful, and could earn neither his own
living nor hers? All this was very terrible to Phoebe, and for a moment
she contemplated the unheard of step of having a headache, and staying
upstairs. But she reflected that her poor old grandfather had done _his_
duty, at no small sacrifice, according to her bidding, yesterday; and
she bathed her eyes heroically, and collected her strength and went
down to breakfast as usual. It was her duty, which she must do.

As for Mr. Copperhead, he took a long walk, to reflect upon all the
circumstances, which were complicated enough to cause him much trouble.
He could not give up his cherished scheme, his Member of Parliament, his
crown of glory. It was what he had been looking forward to for years. He
tried to realize the failure of his hopes, and could not--nay, would
not, feeling it more than he could bear. No; without his gentleman son,
his University man, his costly, useless production, who was worth so
much money to him, yet brought in nothing, he felt that he must shrink
in the opinion of all his friends, even of his own sons, the "first
family," who had so envied, sneered at, undervalued Clarence, yet had
been forced to be civil to him, and respect their father's imperious
will as he chose that it should be respected. What a sorry figure he
should cut before all of them if he cast off Clarence, and had to
announce himself publicly as foiled in all his plans and hopes! He could
not face this prospect; he shrank from it as if it had involved actual
bodily pain. The men who would laugh at his failure were men of his own
class, to whom he had bragged at his ease, crowing and exulting over
them, and he felt that he could not face them if all his grand
anticipations collapsed. There was nothing for it but to give in. And on
the other hand this girl Phoebe was a very clever girl, able not only to
save the expense of coaches, but to cram the boy, and keep him up better
than any coach could do. She could make his speeches for him, like
enough, Mr. Copperhead thought, and a great many reasons might be given
to the world why she had been chosen instead of a richer wife for the
golden boy. Golden girls, as a general rule, were not of so much use.
"Fortune ain't worth thinking of in comparison with brains. It was
brains I wanted, and I've bought 'em dear; but I hope I can afford it,"
he almost heard himself saying to an admiring, envious assembly; for Mr.
Copperhead so far deserved his success that he could accept a defeat
when it was necessary, and make the best of it. When he had nearly ended
his walk, and had reached in his thoughts to this point, he met his son,
who was walking up from the Parsonage to No. 6 in the Lane. Clarence
looked cheerful enough as he walked along, whistling under his breath,
towards his love; but when he saw his father, a change came over his
face. Once more his eyelids drooped over his eyes, and those muddy brown
orbs got fixed in dull obstinacy; once more his upper lip shut down
sullen and fast upon the lower. The entire expression of his face
changed. Mr. Copperhead saw this afar off, from the moment his son
perceived him, and the sight gave to all his thinking that force which
reality gives to imagination; the risk he was running became doubly
clear.

"Good morning, Clarence," he said.

"Good morning, sir," responded the other, with lowering brows and
close-shut mouth.

"I suppose you were coming to the George to me? Come along, I've had no
breakfast; and let's hope, my boy, that you're in a better mind than
last night."

"Look here, sir," said Clarence; "you might as well ask one of those
houses to walk with you to the George, and show a better mind. I'm of
one mind, and one only. I'll marry Phoebe Beecham, whether you like it or
not, and no other woman in this world."

"Is that your last word?" said the father, curiously repeating, without
being aware of it, his question of the previous night.

"That's my last word," said the son, contemplating his father sullenly
from under the heavy lids of his obstinate eyes.

"Very well," said Mr. Copperhead; "then come along to breakfast, for I'm
hungry, and we can talk it over there."



CHAPTER XLV.

THE LAST.


This is how Phoebe's difficulties ended. Contrary to her every
expectation, Mr. Copperhead made a great brag of her powers wherever he
went. "Money is money," he said, "but brains is brains, all the same--we
can't get on without 'em--and when you want to make a figure in the
world, sir, buy a few brains if they fall in your way--that's my style.
I've done with stupid ones up till now; but when I see there's a want of
a clever one, I ain't such a fool as to shut my eyes to it. They cost
dear, but I'm thankful to say I can afford that, ay, and a good deal
more." Thus everything was satisfactorily arranged. Tozer and his wife
cried together for joy on the wedding-day, but they did not expect to be
asked to that ceremony, being well aware that Phoebe, having now
completely entered into the regions of the great, could not be expected
to have very much to say to them. "Though I know, the darling, as she'd
just be the same if she was here, and wouldn't let nobody look down upon
you and me," said the old woman.

"She's a wonderful girl, she is," said old Tozer. "Wind us all round her
little finger, that's what she could do--leastways, except when there
was principle in it, and there I stood firm. But I've done things for
Phoebe as I wouldn't have done for no other breathing, and she knew it. I
wouldn't give in to her tho' about church folks being just as good as
them as is more enlightened. That's agin' reason. But I've done things
for 'em along of her!--Ah! she's a wonderful girl is Phoebe--Phoebe,
Junior, as I always call her. There ain't her match between here and
London, and that's what I'll always say."

But we will not try to describe the glory and joy that filled Mr.
Beecham's house in the Terrace, when Mrs. Clarence Copperhead went back
there with all their friends to the wedding-breakfast, which was in the
very best style, and regardless of expense. Even at that moment it gave
Phoebe a little pang to see her mother in the bright colours which she
loved, but which made her so much pinker and fatter than was needful.
Little Mrs. Copperhead, in dim neutral tints, looked like a little
shadow beside the pastor's buxom wife, and was frightened and ill at
ease and sad to the heart to lose her boy, who had been all she
possessed in the world. Sophy Dorset, specially asked for the purpose
with Ursula May, who was a bridesmaid, looked on with much admiration at
the curious people, so rich, so fine, and so overwhelming, among whom
her father had found it so remarkable to meet not one person whom he
knew. "Now, Ursula," she said, "if you had played your cards properly
that beautiful bridegroom and that nice little house in Mayfair, and the
privilege, perhaps, of writing M.P. after your name some time or other,
might all have been yours instead of Miss Beecham's. Why did you let her
carry off the prize?"

"Cousin Sophy!" cried Ursula indignantly. "As if I ever thought of him
as a prize! But I know you are only laughing at me. The strange thing is
that she likes him, though I am sure she knew very well that
Reginald--Oh, when one thinks how many people there are in this world
who do not get what they wish most--and how many people there are--"
Ursula paused, involved in her own antithesis, and Sophy ended it for
her with a sigh.

"Who do--and the one is no happier than the other, most times, little
Ursula; but you don't understand that, and as you are going to be one
of the blessed ones, you need not take to making reflections; that is my
privilege, my dear."

"Oh, Cousin Sophy, why were not you one of those blessed ones too?"
cried Ursula, clasping her arms suddenly round her kind friend. This, be
it understood, was after the breakfast was over, and when, in the deep
gloom which generally concludes a wedding day, everybody had gone home.
The two were in a magnificent large bedchamber in Portland Place, in the
vast silent mansion of the Copperheads, where at present there was
nothing more cheerful than the bridegroom's soft-eyed mother, taking
herself dreadfully to task for not being happy, and trying not to cry,
though there was to be a great dinner and entertainment that night.

"Don't you know?" said Sophy, putting her aside with a certain proud
coldness, and a momentary laugh, "he I loved proved false; that is to
say, in simple language, he turned out so poor a creature that it is
very good of me not to despise humanity for his sweet sake. Never mind.
If all had gone well, and he had been a real man instead of the sham
image of one, I don't suppose I should have ever been among the blessed
ones. Anne is, who never thought of such mysteries at all; and so you
will be, my little Ursula--very happy. I am sure of it--though how you
can manage to be happy, my dear, marrying a man who is not a good
Churchman, it is not for me to say."

"Cousin Sophy, have I been brought up in a way to make me so fond of
Churchmen?" said Ursula solemnly. She could not have told how much or
how little she knew about her father's behaviour, and the "shock to his
mental system;" but vaguely and by instinct there was a great deal that
she did know.

"You have been behind the scenes too much perhaps," said Sophy Dorset,
shrugging her shoulders, "but don't think any worse of the world than
you ought, if you can't think very much better. No class is good or bad,
Ursula. Men are but men all over the world."

This made Ursula cry, though it is difficult to say why. She thought it
cynical, and probably so will the reader. Perhaps Sophy Dorset abandoned
the cause of mankind too easily, as most people of her temperament and
age are disposed to do. Anyhow the evening entertainment took place and
was very fine, and every honour was done to Clarence Copperhead's
marriage, especially by his mother, who appeared in the most lovely
satin that eyes ever saw, and diamonds--and almost succeeded all the
evening in keeping herself from crying, but not entirely. She did break
down when the health of bridegroom and bride was drunk as it ought to
be; but recovered herself hastily when the mother on the other side gave
her a kiss of sympathy. Though it was an honest kiss it filled poor
little Mrs. Copperhead's mind with the most unchristian feelings, and
gave her strength to keep up for the rest of the evening, and do her
duty to the last. Nevertheless Phoebe was the best of daughters-in-law,
and ended by making her husband's mother dependent on her for most of
the comforts of her life. And Clarence got into Parliament, and the
reader, perhaps (if Parliament is sitting), may have had the luck to
read a speech in the morning paper of Phoebe's composition, and if he
ever got the secret of her style would know it again, and might trace
the course of a public character for years to come by that means. But
this secret is one which no bribe nor worldly inducement will ever tempt
our lips to betray.

Northcote was released from the charge of Salem Chapel directly after
these events, by the return of the minister safe and sound from his
holiday, to the great delight of the congregation, though they had not
been very fond of their old pastor before. Now they could not
sufficiently exult over the happy re-instalment. "The other one never
crossed our doors from the day he came till now as he's going away,"
said one indignant member; "nor took no more notice of us chapel folks
nor if we were dirt beneath his feet." "That time as the Meeting was
held, when he spoke up again' the sinecure, was the only time as my mind
was satisfied," cried another. "And a deal came of it after, making
friends with the very man he had abused." "All his friends was Church
folks," said a third; "he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, that's what I
calls him; and a poor moralist as a preacher, with never a rousing word
in them things as he called his sermons. We're well rid of the likes of
him, though he may be clever. I don't give much for that kind of
cleverness; and what's the good of you, minister or not minister, if you
can't keep consistent and stick to your own side." The chorus was so
strong that the echo of it moved Tozer, who was a kind of arch-deacon
and leading member too, in his way, where he sat twiddling his thumbs in
his little room. "I'm one as is qualified to give what you may call a
casting vote," said Tozer, "being the oldest deacon in Salem, and one as
has seen generations coming and going. And as for Church and Chapel,
I've served 'em both, and seen the colour of their money, and there's
them as has their obligations to me, though we needn't name no names.
But this I will say, as I'm cured of clever men and them as is thought
superior. They ain't to be calculated upon. If any more o' them young
intellectuals turns up at Carlingford, I'll tell him right out, 'You
ain't the man for my money.' I'll say to him as bold as brass, 'I've
been young, and now I'm old, and it's my conviction as clever young men
ain't the sort for Salem. We want them as is steady-going, and them as
is consistent; good strong opinions, and none o' your charity, that's
what we wants here.'" Now Tozer had loved clever young men in his day
more well than wisely, as everybody knew, and this deliverance carried
all the more weight in consequence, and was echoed loudly by one general
hum of content and applause.

Northcote took this very quietly, but he retired, after he had married
Ursula, from the office of pastor, for which he was not fitted, and from
the Liberation Society, and various other societies, coming to see that
Disestablishment was not a panacea for national evils any more than
other things. He was in the habit of quoting his brother-in-law,
Reginald May, as the best man he knew; but this did not make him a
Churchman; for naturally he could not say the same of other members of
the same class and family. He was shaken out of his strong opinions; but
it is doubtful how far this was good for him, for he was a man of
warlike disposition, and not to have something which he could go to the
stake for--something which he could think the devil's own stronghold to
assail, was a drawback to him, and cramped his mental development; but
he was happy in his home with his pretty Ursula, which is probably all
the reader will care to know. He paid Tozer's hundred and fifty pounds.
And he made no inquiries, and tried not to ask himself what all that
strange scene had meant--and whatever it did mean it was over for ever,
and nobody asked any further questions or made any revelations on the
subject. As for Mr. May, his mysterious illness went on for some time,
the doctors never venturing to put any name to it. It was "mental
shock," and perhaps aberration, though he was sane enough to calm down
after that incomprehensible scene. Mr. Simpson of the Bank had a good
guess at the secret of the enigma, but even Tozer got hazy about it
after a while, and though he knew that he had done Mr. May a wonderful
service, could scarcely have told what it was--and neither, when it was
all over, could the culprit have told. He got better and worse for about
a year, and then he died, his strength failing him without any distinct
reason, no one could tell how. Reginald got the living and stepped into
his father's place, making a home for the children, which sharp Janey
rules over, not so softly or steadily as Ursula, with a love of theories
and experiments not quite consistent with the higher graces of
housekeeping, yet with an honest meaning through it all. As the times
are so unsettled, and no one can tell what may become within a year of
any old foundation, the trustees have requested Reginald to retain his
chaplaincy at the old College; so that he is in reality a pluralist, and
almost rich, though they say the hardest-worked man in Carlingford. He
has his vagaries too, which no man can live without, but he is the
kindest guardian to his brothers and sisters, and bears with Janey's
freaks with exemplary gentleness. And he has a curate, whom in the
course of nature Janey will probably marry--though this has not yet been
revealed to either party, who have reached only the first stage of
hating each other up to this time. It is not thought in the family that
Reginald will ever marry. She was never worthy of him, the sisters say;
but he thinks differently, as yet at least. However he is young, and
things may mend.

THE END.





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