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Title: Miss Marjoribanks
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret), 1828-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miss Marjoribanks" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                      Chronicles of Carlingford

                         MISS MARJORIBANKS

                         _By_ MRS OLIPHANT


    The Zodiac Press
    LONDON



Contents


         Chapter I                         25

        Chapter II                         34

       Chapter III                         41

        Chapter IV                         45

         Chapter V                         55

        Chapter VI                         63

       Chapter VII                         72

      Chapter VIII                         80

        Chapter IX                         90

         Chapter X                         98

        Chapter XI                         110

       Chapter XII                         118

      Chapter XIII                         125

       Chapter XIV                         133

        Chapter XV                         141

       Chapter XVI                         149

      Chapter XVII                         157

     Chapter XVIII                         167

       Chapter XIX                         179

        Chapter XX                         188

       Chapter XXI                         199

      Chapter XXII                         204

     Chapter XXIII                         213

      Chapter XXIV                         229

       Chapter XXV                         240

      Chapter XXVI                         248

     Chapter XXVII                         258

    Chapter XXVIII                         267

      Chapter XXIX                         279

       Chapter XXX                         289

      Chapter XXXI                         296

     Chapter XXXII                         304

    Chapter XXXIII                         312

     Chapter XXXIV                         321

      Chapter XXXV                         333

     Chapter XXXVI                         338

    Chapter XXXVII                         341

   Chapter XXXVIII                         352

     Chapter XXXIX                         363

        Chapter XL                         377

       Chapter XLI                         387

      Chapter XLII                         394

     Chapter XLIII                         402

      Chapter XLIV                         409

       Chapter XLV                         420

      Chapter XLVI                         430

     Chapter XLVII                         439

    Chapter XLVIII                         449

      Chapter XLIX                         461

         Chapter L                         471

        Chapter LI                         481

  Chapter the last                         494



_Chapter I_


Miss Marjoribanks lost her mother when she was only fifteen, and when,
to add to the misfortune, she was absent at school, and could not have
it in her power to soothe her dear mamma's last moments, as she herself
said. Words are sometimes very poor exponents of such an event: but it
happens now and then, on the other hand, that a plain intimation
expresses too much, and suggests emotion and suffering which, in
reality, have but little, if any, existence. Mrs Marjoribanks, poor
lady, had been an invalid for many years; she had grown a little peevish
in her loneliness, not feeling herself of much account in this world.
There are some rare natures that are content to acquiesce in the general
neglect, and forget themselves when they find themselves forgotten; but
it is unfortunately much more usual to take the plan adopted by Mrs
Marjoribanks, who devoted all her powers, during the last ten years of
her life, to the solacement and care of that poor self which other
people neglected. The consequence was, that when she disappeared from
her sofa--except for the mere physical fact that she was no longer
there--no one, except her maid, whose occupation was gone, could have
found out much difference. Her husband, it is true, who had, somewhere,
hidden deep in some secret corner of his physical organisation, the
remains of a heart, experienced a certain sentiment of sadness when he
re-entered the house from which she had gone away for ever. But Dr
Marjoribanks was too busy a man to waste his feelings on a mere
sentiment. His daughter, however, was only fifteen, and had floods of
tears at her command, as was natural at that age. All the way home she
revolved the situation in her mind, which was considerably enlightened
by novels and popular philosophy--for the lady at the head of Miss
Marjoribanks school was a devoted admirer of _Friends in Council_, and
was fond of bestowing that work as a prize, with pencil-marks on the
margin--so that Lucilla's mind had been cultivated, and was brimful of
the best of sentiments. She made up her mind on her journey to a great
many virtuous resolutions; for, in such a case as hers, it was
evidently the duty of an only child to devote herself to her father's
comfort, and become the sunshine of his life, as so many young persons
of her age have been known to become in literature. Miss Marjoribanks
had a lively mind, and was capable of grasping all the circumstances of
the situation at a glance. Thus, between the outbreaks of her tears for
her mother, it became apparent to her that she must sacrifice her own
feelings, and make a cheerful home for papa, and that a great many
changes would be necessary in the household--changes which went so far
as even to extend to the furniture. Miss Marjoribanks sketched to
herself, as she lay back in the corner of the railway carriage, with her
veil down, how she would wind herself up to the duty of presiding at her
papa's dinner-parties, and charming everybody by her good humour, and
brightness, and devotion to his comfort; and how, when it was all over,
she would withdraw and cry her eyes out in her own room, and be found in
the morning languid and worn-out, but always heroical, ready to go
downstairs and assist at dear papa's breakfast, and keep up her smiles
for him till he had gone out to his patients. Altogether the picture was
a very pretty one; and, considering that a great many young ladies in
deep mourning put force upon their feelings in novels, and maintain a
smile for the benefit of the unobservant male creatures of whom they
have the charge, the idea was not at all extravagant, considering that
Miss Marjoribanks was but fifteen. She was not, however, exactly the
kind of figure for this _mise en scène_. When her schoolfellows talked
of her to their friends--for Lucilla was already an important personage
at Mount Pleasant--the most common description they gave her was, that
she was "a large girl"; and there was great truth in the adjective. She
was not to be described as a tall girl--which conveys an altogether
different idea--but she was large in all particulars, full and
well-developed, with somewhat large features, not at all pretty as yet,
though it was known in Mount Pleasant that somebody had said that such a
face might ripen into beauty, and become "grandiose," for anything
anybody could tell. Miss Marjoribanks was not vain; but the word had
taken possession of her imagination, as was natural, and solaced her
much when she made the painful discovery that her gloves were half a
number larger, and her shoes a hair-breadth broader, than those of any
of her companions; but the hands and feet were both perfectly well
shaped; and being at the same time well clothed and plump, were much
more presentable and pleasant to look upon than the lean rudimentary
schoolgirl hands with which they were surrounded. To add to these
excellences, Lucilla had a mass of hair which, if it could but have been
cleared a little in its tint, would have been golden, though at present
it was nothing more than tawny, and curly to exasperation. She wore it
in large thick curls, which did not, however, float or wave, or do any
of the graceful things which curls ought to do; for it had this
aggravating quality, that it would not grow long, but would grow
ridiculously, unmanageably thick, to the admiration of her companions,
but to her own despair, for there was no knowing what to do with those
short but ponderous locks. These were the external characteristics of
the girl who was going home to be a comfort to her widowed father, and
meant to sacrifice herself to his happiness. In the course of her rapid
journey she had already settled upon everything that had to be done; or
rather, to speak truly, had rehearsed everything, according to the habit
already acquired by a quick mind, a good deal occupied with itself.
First, she meant to fall into her father's arms--forgetting, with that
singular facility for overlooking the peculiarities of others which
belongs to such a character, that Dr Marjoribanks was very little given
to embracing, and that a hasty kiss on her forehead was the warmest
caress he had ever given his daughter--and then to rush up to the
chamber of death and weep over dear mamma. "And to think I was not there
to soothe her last moments!" Lucilla said to herself, with a sob, and
with feelings sufficiently real in their way. After this, the devoted
daughter made up her mind to come downstairs again, pale as death, but
self-controlled, and devote herself to papa. Perhaps, if great emotion
should make him tearless, as such cases had been known, Miss
Marjoribanks would steal into his arms unawares, and so surprise him
into weeping. All this went briskly through her mind, undeterred by the
reflection that tears were as much out of the Doctor's way as embraces;
and in this mood she sped swiftly along in the inspiration of her first
sorrow, as she imagined, but in reality to suffer her first
disappointment, which was of a less soothing character than that mild
and manageable grief.

When Miss Marjoribanks reached home her mother had been dead for
twenty-four hours; and her father was not at the door to receive her as
she had expected, but by the bedside of a patient in extremity, who
could not consent to go out of the world without the Doctor. This was a
sad reversal of her intentions, but Lucilla was not the woman to be
disconcerted. She carried out the second part of her programme without
either interference or sympathy, except from Mrs Marjoribanks's maid,
who had some hopes from the moment of her arrival. "I can't abear to
think as I'm to be parted from you all, miss," sobbed the faithful
attendant. "I've lost the best missus as ever was, and I shouldn't mind
going after her. Whenever any one gets a good friend in this world,
they're the first to be took away," said the weeping handmaiden, who
naturally saw her own loss in the most vivid light. "Ah, Ellis," cried
Miss Marjoribanks, reposing her sorrow in the arms of this anxious
attendant, "we must try to be a comfort to poor papa!"

With this end Lucilla made herself very troublesome to the sober-minded
Doctor during those few dim days before the faint and daily lessening
shadow of poor Mrs Marjoribanks was removed altogether from the house.
When that sad ceremony had taken place, and the Doctor returned, serious
enough, Heaven knows, to the great house, where the faded helpless
woman, who had notwithstanding been his love and his bride in other
days, lay no longer on the familiar sofa, the crisis arrived which Miss
Marjoribanks had rehearsed so often, but after quite a different
fashion. The widower was tearless, indeed, but not from excess of
emotion. On the contrary, a painful heaviness possessed him when he
became aware how little real sorrow was in his mind, and how small an
actual loss was this loss of his wife, which bulked before the world as
an event of just as much magnitude as the loss, for example, which poor
Mr Lake, the drawing-master, was at the same moment suffering. It was
even sad, in another point of view, to think of a human creature passing
out of the world, and leaving so little trace that she had ever been
there. As for the pretty creature whom Dr Marjoribanks had married, she
had vanished into thin air years and years ago. These thoughts were
heavy enough--perhaps even more overwhelming than that grief which
develops love to its highest point of intensity. But such were not
precisely the kind of reflections which could be solaced by paternal
_attendrissement_ over a weeping and devoted daughter. It was May, and
the weather was warm for the season; but Lucilla had caused the fire to
be lighted in the large gloomy library where Dr Marjoribanks always sat
in the evenings, with the idea that it would be "a comfort" to him;
and, for the same reason, she had ordered tea to be served there,
instead of the dinner, for which her father, as she imagined, could have
little appetite. When the Doctor went in to his favourite seclusion,
tired and heated and sad--for even on the day of his wife's funeral the
favourite doctor of Carlingford had patients to think of--the very
heaviness of his thoughts gave warmth to his indignation. He had longed
for the quiet and the coolness and the solitude of his library, apart
from everybody; and when he found it radiant with firelight, tea set on
the table, and Lucilla crying by the fire, in her new crape, the effect
upon a temper by no means perfect may be imagined. The unfortunate man
threw both the windows wide open and rang the bell violently, and gave
instant orders for the removal of the unnecessary fire and the
tea-service. "Let me know when dinner is ready," he said, in a voice
like thunder; "and if Miss Marjoribanks wants a fire, let it be lighted
in the drawing-room." Lucilla was so much taken by surprise by this
sudden overthrow of her programme, that she submitted, as a girl of much
less spirit might have done, and suffered herself and her fire and her
tea-things to be dismissed upstairs, where she wept still more at sight
of dear mamma's sofa, and where Ellis came to mingle her tears with
those of her young mistress, and to beg dear Miss Lucilla, for the sake
of her precious 'elth and her dear papa, to be persuaded to take some
tea. On the whole, master stood lessened in the eyes of all the
household by his ability to eat his dinner, and his resentment at having
his habitudes disturbed. "Them men would eat and drink if we was all in
our graves," said the indignant cook, who indeed had a real grievance;
and the outraged sentiment of the kitchen was avenged by a bad and hasty
dinner, which the Doctor, though generally "very particular," swallowed
without remark. About an hour afterwards he went upstairs to the
drawing-room, where Miss Marjoribanks was waiting for him, much less at
ease than she had expected to be. Though he gave a little sigh at the
sight of his wife's sofa, he did not hesitate to sit down upon it, and
even to draw it a little out of its position, which, as Lucilla
described afterwards, was like a knife going into her heart. Though,
indeed, she had herself decided already, in the intervals of her tears,
that the drawing-room furniture had got very faded and shabby, and that
it would be very expedient to have it renewed for the new reign of
youth and energy which was about to commence. As for the Doctor, though
Miss Marjoribanks thought him insensible, his heart was heavy enough.
His wife had gone out of the world without leaving the least mark of her
existence, except in that large girl, whose spirits and forces were
unbounded, but whose discretion at the present moment did not seem much
greater than her mother's. Instead of thinking of her as a comfort, the
Doctor felt himself called upon to face a new and unexpected
embarrassment. It would have been a satisfaction to him just then to
have been left to himself, and permitted to work on quietly at his
profession, and to write his papers for the _Lancet_, and to see his
friends now and then when he chose; for Dr Marjoribanks was not a man
who had any great need of sympathy by nature, or who was at all addicted
to demonstrations of feeling; consequently, he drew his wife's sofa a
little farther from the fire, and took his seat on it soberly, quite
unaware that, by so doing, he was putting a knife into his daughter's
heart.

"I hope you have had something to eat, Lucilla," he said; "don't get
into that foolish habit of flying to tea as a man flies to a dram. It's
a more innocent stimulant, but it's the same kind of intention. I am not
so much against a fire; it has always a kind of cheerful look."

"Oh, papa," cried his daughter, with a flood of indignant tears, "you
can't suppose I want anything to look cheerful this dreadful day."

"I am far from blaming you, my dear," said the Doctor; "it is natural
you should cry. I am sorry I did not write for my sister to come, who
would have taken care of you; but I dislike strangers in the house at
such a time. However, I hope, Lucilla, you will soon feel yourself able
to return to school; occupation is always the best remedy, and you will
have your friends and companions----"

"Papa!" cried Miss Marjoribanks; and then she summoned courage, and
rushed up to him, and threw herself and her clouds of crape on the
carpet at his side (and it may here be mentioned that Lucilla had seized
the opportunity to have her mourning made _long_, which had been the
desire of her heart, baffled by mamma and governess for at least a
year). "Papa!" she exclaimed with fervour, raising to him her
tear-stained face, and clasping her fair plump hands, "oh, don't send me
away! I was only a silly girl the other day, but _this_ has made me a
woman. Though I can never, never hope to take dear mamma's place, and
be--all--that she was to you, still I feel I can be a comfort to you if
you will let me. You shall not see me cry any more," cried Lucilla with
energy, rubbing away her tears. "I will never give way to my feelings. I
will ask for no companions--nor--nor anything. As for pleasure, that is
all over. Oh, papa, you shall never see me regret anything, or wish for
anything. I will give up everything in the world to be a comfort to
you!"

This address, which was utterly unexpected, drove Dr Marjoribanks to
despair. He said, "Get up, Lucilla;" but the devoted daughter knew
better than to get up. She hid her face in her hands, and rested her
hands upon her mother's sofa, where the Doctor was sitting; and the sobs
of that emotion which she meant to control henceforward, echoed through
the room. "It is only for this once--I can--cannot help it," she cried.
When her father found that he could neither soothe her, nor succeed in
raising her, he got up himself, which was the only thing left to him,
and began to walk about the room with hasty steps. Her mother, too, had
possessed this dangerous faculty of tears; and it was not wonderful if
the sober-minded Doctor, roused for the first time to consider his
little girl as a creature possessed of individual character, should
recognise, with a thrill of dismay, the appearance of the same qualities
which had wearied his life out, and brought his youthful affections to
an untimely end. Lucilla was, it is true, as different from her mother
as summer from winter; but Dr Marjoribanks had no means of knowing that
his daughter was only doing her duty by him in his widowhood, according
to a programme of filial devotion resolved upon, in accordance with the
best models, some days before.

Accordingly, when her sobs had ceased, her father returned and raised
her up not unkindly, and placed her in her chair. In doing so, the
Doctor put his finger by instinct upon Lucilla's pulse, which was
sufficiently calm and regulated to reassure the most anxious parent. And
then a furtive momentary smile gleamed for a single instant round the
corners of his mouth.

"It is very good of you to propose sacrificing yourself for me," he
said; "and if you would sacrifice your excitement in the meantime, and
listen to me quietly, it would really be something--but you are only
fifteen, Lucilla, and I have no wish to take you from school just now;
wait till I have done. Your poor mother is gone, and it is very natural
you should cry; but you were a good child to her on the whole, which
will be a comfort to you. We did everything that could be thought of to
prolong her days, and, when that was impossible, to lessen what she had
to suffer; and we have every reason to hope," said the Doctor, as indeed
he was accustomed to say in the exercise of his profession to mourning
relatives, "that she's far better off now than if she had been with us.
When that is said, I don't know that there is anything more to add. I am
not fond of sacrifices, either one way or another; and I've a great
objection to any one making a sacrifice for me----"

"But, oh, papa, it would be no sacrifice," said Lucilla, "if you would
only let me be a comfort to you!"

"That is just where it is, my dear," said the steady Doctor; "I have
been used to be left a great deal to myself; and I am not prepared to
say that the responsibility of having you here without a mother to take
care of you, and all your lessons interrupted, would not neutralise any
comfort you might be. You see," said Dr Marjoribanks, trying to soften
matters a little, "a man is what his habits make him; and I have been
used to be left a great deal to myself. It answers in some cases, but I
doubt if it would answer with me."

And then there was a pause, in which Lucilla wept and stifled her tears
in her handkerchief, with a warmer flood of vexation and disappointment
than even her natural grief had produced. "Of course, papa, if I can't
be any comfort--I will--go back to school," she sobbed, with a touch of
sullenness which did not escape the Doctor's ear.

"Yes, my dear, you will certainly go back to school," said the
peremptory father; "I never had any doubt on that subject. You can stay
over Sunday and rest yourself. Monday or Tuesday will be time enough to
go back to Mount Pleasant; and now you had better ring the bell, and get
somebody to bring you something--or I'll see to that when I go
downstairs. It's getting late, and this has been a fatiguing day. I'll
send you up some negus, and I think you had better go to bed."

And with these commonplace words, Dr Marjoribanks withdrew in calm
possession of the field. As for Lucilla, she obeyed him, and betook
herself to her own room, and swallowed her negus with a sense, not only
of defeat, but of disappointment and mortification which was very
unpleasant. To go back again and be an ordinary schoolgirl, after the
pomp and woe in which she had come away, was naturally a painful
thought; she who had ordered her mourning to be made long, and
contemplated new furniture in the drawing-room, and expected to be
mistress of her father's house, not to speak of the still dearer
privilege of being a comfort to him; and now, after all, her active mind
was to be condemned over again to verbs and chromatic scales, though she
felt within herself capacities so much more extended. Miss Marjoribanks
did not by any means learn by this defeat to take the characters of the
other personæ in her little drama into consideration, when she rehearsed
her pet scenes hereafter--for that is a knowledge slowly acquired--but
she was wise enough to know when resistance was futile; and like most
people of lively imagination, she had a power of submitting to
circumstances when it became impossible to change them. Thus she
consented to postpone her reign, if not with a good grace, yet still
without foolish resistance, and retired with the full honours of war.
She had already rearranged all the details, and settled upon all the
means possible of preparing herself for what she called the charge of
the establishment when her final emancipation took place, before she
returned to school. "Papa thought me too young," she said, when she
reached Mount Pleasant, "though it was dreadful to come away and leave
him alone with only the servants; but, dear Miss Martha, you will let me
learn all about political economy and things, to help me manage
everything; for now that dear mamma is gone, there is nobody but me to
be a comfort to papa."

And by this means Miss Marjoribanks managed to influence the excellent
woman who believed in _Friends in Council_, and to direct the future
tenor of her own education; while, at least, in that one moment of
opportunity, she had achieved long dresses, which was a visible mark of
womanhood, and a step which could not be retraced.



_Chapter II_


Dr Marjoribanks was so far from feeling the lack of his daughter's
powers of consolation, that he kept her at Mount Pleasant for three
years longer, during which time it is to be supposed he managed to be
comfortable after a benighted fashion--good enough for a man of fifty,
who had come to an end of his illusions. To be sure, there were in the
world, and even in Carlingford, kind women, who would not have objected
to take charge of the Doctor and his "establishment," and be a comfort
to him; but, on the whole, it was undeniable that he managed tolerably
well in external matters, and gave very good men's dinners, and kept
everything in perfect order, so far as it went. Naturally the fairer
part of existence was left out altogether in that grim, though
well-ordered house; but then he was only a man and a doctor, and knew no
better; and while the feminine part of Grange Lane regarded him with
natural pity, not only for what he lacked, but for a still more sad
defect, his total want of perception on the subject, their husbands and
fathers rather liked to dine with the Doctor, and brought home accounts
of sauces which were enough to drive any woman to despair. Some of the
ladies of Grange Lane--Mrs Chiley, for example, who was fond of good
living herself, and liked, as she said, "a little variety"--laid siege
to the Doctor, and did their best to coax his receipts out of him; but
Dr Marjoribanks knew better than that. He gave all the credit to his
cook, like a man of sense; and as that functionary was known in
Carlingford to be utterly regardless and unprincipled in respect to
gravy-beef, and the materials for "stock," or "consommé," as some people
called it, society was disinclined to exert its ordinary arts to seduce
so great an artiste from the kitchen of her indulgent master. And then
there were other ladies who took a different tone. "Dr Marjoribanks,
poor man, has nothing but his table to take up his mind," said Mrs
Centum, who had six children; "I never heard that the heart could be
nourished upon sauces, for my part; and for a man who has his children's
future to think of, I must say I am surprised at you, Mr Centum." As
for young Mrs Woodburn, her reply was still more decisive, though milder
in its tone. "Poor cook! I am so sorry for her," said the gentle young
matron. "You know you always like something for breakfast, Charles; and
then there is the children's dinner, and our lunch, and the servants'
dinner, so that the poor thing is worn out before she comes to what
_you_ call the great event of the day; and you know how angry you were
when I asked for a kitchen-maid for her, poor soul." The consequence of
all this was, that Dr Marjoribanks remained unrivalled in Grange Lane in
this respect at least. When rumours arose in Carlingford of a possible
second marriage for the Doctor--and such rumours naturally arose three
or four times in the course of the three years--the men of Grange Lane
said, "Heaven forbid!" "No wife in the world could replace Nancy," said
Colonel Chiley, after that fervent aspiration, "and none could put up
with her;" while, on the other side, there were curious speculations
afloat as to the effect upon the house, and especially the table, of the
daughter's return. When a young woman comes to be eighteen it is
difficult to keep her at school; and though the Doctor had staved off
the danger for the moment, by sending Lucilla off along with one of her
schoolfellows, whose family was going abroad, to make orthodox
acquaintance with all the Swiss mountains, and all the Italian capitals,
still that was plainly an expedient for the moment; and a new mistress
to the house, which had got along so well without any mistress, was
inevitable. So that it cannot be denied Miss Marjoribanks's advent was
regarded in Carlingford with as much interest and curiosity as she could
have wished. For it was already known that the Doctor's daughter was not
a mild young lady, easy to be controlled; but, on the contrary, had all
the energy and determination to have her own way, which naturally
belonged to a girl who possessed a considerable chin, and a mouth which
could shut, and tightly curling tawny tresses, which were still more
determined than she was to be arranged only according to their
inclination. It was even vaguely reported that some passages-of-arms had
occurred between Miss Marjoribanks and the redoubtable Nancy during the
short and uncertain opportunities which were afforded by holidays; and
the community, accordingly, regarded as an affair of almost municipal
importance Lucilla's final return home.

As for the young lady herself, though she was at school, she was
conscious of having had a career not without importance, even during
these three years of pupilage. Since the day when she began to read
political economy with Miss Martha Blount, who, though the second
sister, was the directing spirit of the establishment, Lucilla had
exercised a certain influence upon the school itself which was very
satisfactory. Perhaps her course might be a little deficient in grace,
but grace, after all, is but a secondary quality; and, at all events,
Miss Marjoribanks went straight forward, leaving an unquestionable wake
behind her, and running down with indifference the little skiffs in her
way. She was possessed by nature of that kind of egotism, or rather
egoism, which is predestined to impress itself, by its perfect reality
and good faith, upon the surrounding world. There are people who talk of
themselves, and think of themselves, as it were, under protest, and with
depreciation, not actually able to convince themselves that anybody
cares; but Lucilla, for her part, had the calmest and most profound
conviction that, when she discussed her own doings and plans and
clevernesses, she was bringing forward the subject most interesting to
her audience as well as to herself. Such a conviction is never without
its fruits. To be sure, there were always one or two independent spirits
who revolted; but for the crowd, it soon became impressed with a
profound belief in the creed which Miss Marjoribanks supported so
firmly. This conviction of the importance and value of her own
proceedings made Lucilla, as she grew older, a copious and amusing
conversationalist--a rank which few people who are indifferent to, or do
not believe in, themselves can attain to. One thing she had made up her
mind to as soon as she should return home, and that was to revolutionise
society in Carlingford. On the whole, she was pleased with the success
of the Doctor's dinners, though a little piqued to think that they owed
nothing to herself; but Lucilla, whose instinct of government was of the
true despotic order, and who had no objection to stoop, if by that means
she could conquer, had no such designs against Nancy as were attributed
to her by the expectant audience in Carlingford. On the contrary, she
was quite as much disposed as her father was to take Nancy for
prime-minister; for Miss Marjoribanks, though too much occupied with
herself to divine the characteristic points of other people, had a
sensible and thorough belief in those superficial general truths which
most minds acquiesce in, without taking the trouble to believe. She
knew, for example, that there was a great difference between the
brilliant society of London, or of Paris, which appears in books, where
women have generally the best of it, and can rule in their own right;
and even the very best society of a country town, where husbands are
very commonly unmanageable, and have a great deal more of their own way
in respect to the houses they will or will not go to, than is good for
that inferior branch of the human family. Miss Marjoribanks had the good
sense to see and appreciate these details; and she knew that a good
dinner was a great attraction to a man, and that, in Carlingford at
least, when these refractory mortals were secured, the wives and
daughters would necessarily follow. Besides, as is not uncommon with
women who are clever women, and aware of the fact, Miss Marjoribanks
preferred the society of men, and rather liked to say so. With all these
intentions in her mind, it may be imagined that she received coolly
enough the invitation of her friend to join in the grand tour, and the
ready consent given by her father when he heard of it. But even the
grand tour was a tool which Lucilla saw how to make use of. Nowadays,
when people go everywhere, an untravelled woman would find it so much
the harder to keep up the _rôle_ of a leader of society to which she had
devoted herself; and she felt to the depth of her heart the endless
advantage to her future conversation of the experiences to be acquired
in Switzerland and Italy. But she rejected with scorn the insinuation of
other accidents that might occur on the way.

"You will never come back again, Lucilla," said one of her companions;
"you will marry some enchanting Italian with a beautiful black beard,
and a voice like an angel; and he'll sing serenades to you, and do all
sorts of things: oh, how I wish I was you!"

"That may be," said Miss Marjoribanks, "but I shall never marry an
Italian, my dear. I don't think I shall marry anybody for a long time. I
want to amuse myself. I wonder, by the way, if it would improve my voice
to take lessons in Italy. Did I ever tell you of the Italian nobleman
that was so very attentive to me that Christmas I spent at Sissy
Vernon's? He was very handsome. I suppose they really are all very
handsome--except, of course, the Italian masters; but I did not pay any
attention to him. My object, dear, and you know it, is to return home as
well educated as possible, to be a comfort to dear papa."

"Yes, dear Lucilla," said the sympathetic girl, "and it is so good of
you; but do tell me about the Italian nobleman--what did he look
like--and what did he say?"

"Oh, as for what he said, that is quite a different matter," said
Lucilla; "but it is not what they say, but the way they say it, that is
the fun. I did not give him the least encouragement. As for that, I
think a girl can always stop a man when she does not care for him. It
depends on whether you intend him to commit himself or not," Miss
Marjoribanks continued, and fixed her eyes meditatively, but intently,
upon her friend's face.

"Whether I intend?--oh, goodness, Lucilla! how can you speak so? as if I
ever intended anything," said her companion, confused, yet flattered, by
the possibility; to which the elder sage answered calmly, with all the
composure in the world.

"No, I never supposed you did; I was thinking of myself," said Lucilla,
as if, indeed that was the only reasonable subject of thought. "You know
I have seen a good deal of the world, one way and another, with going to
spend the holidays, and I could tell you quantities of things. It is
quite astonishing how much experience one gets. When I was at Midhurst,
at Easter, there was my cousin Tom, who was quite ridiculous; I declare
he nearly brought things to an explanation, Fanny--which, of course, of
all things in the world I most wanted to avoid."

"Oh, but why, Lucilla?" cried Fanny, full of delight and wonder; "I do
so want to know what they say when they make--explanations, as you call
them. Oh, do tell me, Lucilla, why?"

"My dear," said Miss Marjoribanks, "a cousin of my own! and only
twenty-one, and reading for the bar! In the first place, my aunt would
never have forgiven me, and I am very fond of my aunt. It's so nice to
like all one's relations. I know some girls who can't bear theirs. And
then a boy not much older than myself, with nothing but what his mother
pleases! Fortunately he did not just say the words, so I escaped that
time; but, of course, I could understand perfectly what he meant."

"But, oh, Lucilla, tell me the words," cried the persistent questioner;
"do, there's a darling! I am quite sure you have heard them--and I
should so like to know exactly what they say;--do they go down on their
knees?--or do they try to take your hand as they always do in
novels?--or what do they do?--Oh, Lucilla, tell me, there's a dear!"

"Nonsense," said Lucilla; "I only want you to understand that I am not
likely to fall into any danger of that sort. My only ambition, Fanny, as
I have told you often, is to go home to Carlingford and be a comfort to
dear papa."

"Yes," said Fanny, kissing her devoted companion, "and it is so good of
you, dear; but then you cannot go on all your life being a comfort to
dear papa," said the intelligent girl, bethinking herself, and looking
again with some curiosity in Lucilla's face.

"We must leave that to Providence," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a sense
of paying a compliment to Providence in entrusting it with such a
responsibility. "I have always been guided for the best hitherto," she
continued, with an innocent and unintentional profanity, which sounded
solemn to her equally innocent companion, "and I don't doubt I shall be
so till the end."

From which it will be perceived that Miss Marjoribanks was of the
numerous class of religionists who keep up civilities with heaven, and
pay all the proper attentions, and show their respect for the divine
government in a manner befitting persons who know the value of their own
approbation. The conversation dropped at this point; for Lucilla was too
important a person to be left to the undivided possession of an
inquisitive innocent like Fanny Middleton, who was only sixteen, and had
never had even a flirtation in her own person. There were no Carlingford
girls at Mount Pleasant, except poor little Rose Lake, the
drawing-master's second daughter, who had been received on Dr
Marjoribanks's recommendation, and who heard the little children their
geography and reading, and gave them little lessons in drawing, by way
of paying for her own education; but then Rose was entirely out of Miss
Marjoribanks's way, and could never count for anything in her designs
for the future. The girls at Mount Pleasant were good girls on the
whole, and were rather improved by the influence of Lucilla, who was
extremely good-natured, and, so long as her superiority was duly
acknowledged, was ready to do anything for anybody--so that Rose Lake
was not at all badly off in her inferior position. She could be made
useful too, which was a great point in her favour; and Miss
Marjoribanks, who possessed by nature some of the finest qualities of a
ruler, instinctively understood and appreciated the instruments that
came to her hand. As for Rose, she had been brought up at the School of
Design in Carlingford, of which, under the supervision of the
authorities who, in those days, inhabited Marlborough House, Mr Lake was
the master. Rose was the pride of the school in the peaceable days
before her mother died; she did not know much else, poor child, except
novels, but her copies "from the round" filled her father with
admiration, and her design for a Honiton-lace flounce, a spirited
composition of dragons' tails and the striking plant called teazle,
which flourishes in the neighbourhood of Carlingford (for Mr Lake had
leanings towards Preraphaelitism), was thought by the best judges to
show a wonderful amount of feeling for art, and just missed being
selected for the prize. A girl with such a talent was naturally much
appreciated in Mount Pleasant. She made the most charming design for
Miss Marjoribanks's handkerchief--"Lucilla," in Gothic characters,
enclosed in a wreath of forget-me-nots, skilfully combined with
thistle-leaves, which Rose took great pains to explain were so much
better adapted to ornamentation than foliage of a less distinct
character; and the young draftswoman was so charmed by Lucilla's
enthusiastic admiration, that she volunteered to work the design in the
cambric, which was a much more serious matter. This was on the eve of
Miss Marjoribanks's final departure from school. She was to spend a year
abroad, to the envy of all whom she left behind; but for herself Lucilla
was not elated. She thought it very probable that she would ascend Mont
Blanc as far as the Grands Mulets at least, and, of course, in spring,
go up Vesuvius, having got through the Carnival and Miserere and all the
balls in Rome; but none of these things moved her out of her usual
composure. She took it all in the way of business, as she had taken her
French and her German and her singing and her political economy. As she
stepped into the steamboat at Dover which was to convey her to scenes so
new, Lucilla felt more and more that she who held the reorganisation of
society in Carlingford in her hands was a woman with a mission. She was
going abroad as the heir-apparent went to America and the Holy Land, to
complete her education, and fit herself, by an examination of the
peculiarities of other nations, for an illustrious and glorious reign at
home.



_Chapter III_


It may be well to seize the opportunity of Miss Marjoribanks's travels,
through which it is unnecessary to follow her, as they have nothing
particular to do with the legitimate history of her great undertaking,
to explain a little the state of affairs in Carlingford before this
distinguished revolutionary began her labours. It is something like
going back into the prehistoric period--those ages of the flint, which
only ingenious quarrymen and learned geologists can elucidate--to recall
the social condition of the town before Miss Marjoribanks began her
Thursday evenings, before St Roque's Chapel was built or thought of,
while Mr Bury, the Evangelical Rector, was still in full activity, and
before old Mr Tufton, at Salem Chapel (who sometimes drank tea at the
Rectory, and thus had a kind of clandestine entrance into the dim
outskirts of that chaos which was then called society), had his first
"stroke." From this latter circumstance alone the entirely disorganised
condition of affairs will be visible at a glance. It is true, Mr
Vincent, who succeeded Mr Tufton, was received by Lady Western, in days
when public opinion had made great advances; but then Lady Western was
the most good-natured creature in the world, and gave an invitation,
when it happened to come into her head, without the least regard for the
consequences; and, after all, Mr Vincent was very nice-looking and
clever, and quite presentable. Fortunately, however, the period to which
we allude was prior to the entrance of Lady Western into Grange Lane.
She was a very pretty woman, and knew how to look like a lady of
fashion, which is always of importance; but she was terribly
inconsequent, as Miss Marjoribanks said, and her introductions were not
in the least to be depended upon. She was indeed quite capable of
inviting a family of retired drapers to meet the best people in Grange
Lane, for no better reason than to gratify her protégés, which, of
course, was a proceeding calculated to strike at the roots of all
society. Fortunately for Carlingford, its reorganisation was in abler
hands. Affairs were in an utterly chaotic state at the period when this
record commences. There was nothing which could be properly called a
centre in the entire town. To be sure, Grange Lane was inhabited, as at
present, by the best families in Carlingford; but then, without
organisation, what good does it do to have a number of people together?
For example, Mr Bury was utterly unqualified to take any lead. Mrs Bury
had been dead a long time, and the daughters were married, and the
Rector's maiden sister, who lived with him, was entirely of his own way
of thinking, and asked people to tea-parties, which were like
Methodists' class-meetings, and where Mr Tufton was to be met with, and
sometimes other Dissenters, to whom the Rector gave what he called the
right hand of fellowship. But he never gave anything else to society,
except weak tea and thin bread-and-butter, which was fare, the ladies
said, which the gentlemen did not relish. "I never can induce Charles to
go out to tea," said young Mrs Woodburn piteously; "he won't, and there
is an end of it. After dinner he thinks of nothing but an easy-chair and
the papers; and, my dear Miss Bury, what can I do?" "It is a great pity,
my dear, that your husband's carelessness should deprive you of the
benefit of Christian conversation; but, to be sure, it is your duty to
stay with him, and I hope it will be made up to you at home," Miss Bury
would say. As for the Rector, his favourites were devoted to him; and as
he always saw enough of familiar faces at his sister's tea-parties, he
took no account of the defaulters. Then there was Dr Marjoribanks, who
gave only dinners, to which naturally, as there was no lady in the
house, ladies could not be invited, and who, besides, was rather a
drawback than a benefit to society, since he made the men quite
intolerable, and filled them with such expectations, in the way of
cookery, that they never were properly content with a good family dinner
after. Then the ladies, from whom something might justly have been
expected in the way of making society pleasant--such as Mrs Centum and
Mrs Woodburn, for example, who had everything they could desire, and the
most liberal housekeeping allowances--were either incapacitated by
circumstances (which was a polite term in use at Carlingford, and meant
babies) or by character. Mrs Woodburn liked nothing so well as to sit by
the fire and read novels, and "take off" her neighbours, when any one
called on her; and, of course, the lady who was her audience on one
occasion, left with the comfortable conviction that next time she would
be the victim; a circumstance which, indeed, did not make the offender
unpopular--for there were very few people in Carlingford who could be
amusing, even at the expense of their neighbours--but made it quite
impossible that she should ever do anything in the way of knitting
people together, and making a harmonious whole out of the scraps and
fragments of society. As for Mrs Chiley, she was old, and had not energy
enough for such an undertaking; and, besides, she had no children, and
disliked bustle and trouble, and was of opinion that the Colonel never
enjoyed his dinner if he had more than four people to help him to eat
it; and, in short, you might have gone over Grange Lane, house by house,
finding a great deal of capital material, but without encountering a
single individual capable of making anything out of it. Such was the
lamentable condition, at the moment this history commences, of society
in Carlingford.

And yet nobody could say that there were not very good elements to make
society with. When you add to a man capable of giving excellent dinners,
like Dr Marjoribanks, another man like young Mr Cavendish, Mrs
Woodburn's brother, who was a wit and a man of fashion, and belonged to
one of the best clubs in town, and brought down gossip with the bloom on
it to Grange Lane; and when you join to Mrs Centum, who was always so
good and so much out of temper that it was safe to calculate on
something amusing from her, the languid but trenchant humour of Mrs
Woodburn--not to speak of their husbands, who were perfectly available
for the background, and all the nephews and cousins and grand-children,
who constantly paid visits to old Mr Western and Colonel Chiley; and the
Browns, when they were at home, with their floating suite of admirers;
and the young ladies who sang, and the young ladies who sketched, and
the men who went out with the hounds, when business permitted them; and
the people who came about the town when there was an election; and the
barristers who made the circuit; and the gay people who came to the
races; not to speak of the varying chances of curates, who could talk or
play the piano, with which Mr Bury favoured his parishioners--for he
changed his curates very often; and the occasional visits of the lesser
county people, and the country clergymen;--it will be plainly apparent
that all that was wanting to Carlingford was a master-hand to blend
these different elements. There had even been a few feeble preliminary
attempts at this great work, which had failed, as such attempts always
fail when they are premature, and when the real agent of the change is
already on the way; but preparations and presentiments had taken vague
possession of the mind of the town, as has always been observed to be
the case before a great revolution, or when a man destined to put his
mark on his generation, as the newspapers say, is about to appear. To be
sure, it was not a man this time, but Miss Marjoribanks; but the
atmosphere thrilled and trembled to the advent of the new luminary all
the same.

Yet, at the same time, the world of Carlingford had not the least idea
of the real quarter from which the sovereign intelligence which was to
develop it from chaos into order and harmony was, _effectivement_, to
come. Some people had hoped in Mrs Woodburn before she fell into her
present languor of appearance and expression; and a great many people
hoped in Mr Cavendish's wife, if he married, as he was said to intend to
do; for this gentleman, who was in the habit of describing himself, no
doubt, very truthfully, as one of the Cavendishes, was a person of great
consideration in Grange Lane; and some hoped in a new Rector, for it was
apparent that Mr Bury could not last very long. Thus, with the ordinary
short-sightedness of the human species, Carlingford blinded itself, and
turned its eyes in every direction in the world rather than in that of
the Swiss mountains, which were being climbed at that moment by a large
and blooming young woman, with tawny short curls and alert decided
movements; so little do we know what momentous issues may hang upon the
most possible accident! Had that energetic traveller slipped but an inch
farther upon the _mer de glace_--had she taken that other step which she
was with difficulty persuaded not to take on the Wengern Alp--there
would have been an end of all the hopes of social importance for
Carlingford. But the good fairies took care of Lucilla and her mission,
and saved her from the precipice and the crevasses; and instinctively
the air at home got note of what was coming, and whispered the news
mysteriously through the keyholes. "Miss Marjoribanks is coming home,"
the unsuspecting male public said to itself as it returned from Dr
Marjoribanks's dinners, with a certain distressing, but mistaken
presentiment, that these delights were to come to an end; and the ladies
repeated the same piece of news, conjoining with it benevolent
intimations of their intention to call upon her, and make the poor thing
feel herself at home. "Perhaps she may be amusing," Mrs Woodburn was
good enough to add; but these words meant only that perhaps Lucilla, who
was coming to set them all right, was worthy of being placed in the
satirist's collection along with Mrs Centum and Mrs Chiley. Thus, while
the town ripened more and more for her great mission, and the ignorant
human creatures, who were to be her subjects, showed their usual
blindness and ignorance, the time drew nearer and nearer for Miss
Marjoribanks's return.



_Chapter IV_


"My daughter is coming home, Nancy," said Dr Marjoribanks. "You will
have to make preparations for her immediately. So far as I can make out
from this letter, she will arrive to-morrow by the half-past five
train."

"Well, sir," said Nancy, with the tone of a woman who makes the best of
a misfortune, "it ain't every young lady as would have the sense to fix
an hour like that. Ladies is terrible tiresome in that way; they'll come
in the middle o' the day, when a body don't know in the world what to
have for them; or they'll come at night, when a body's tired, and ain't
got the heart to go into a supper. There was always a deal of sense in
Miss Lucilla, when she hadn't got nothing in her head."

"Just so," said Dr Marjoribanks, who was rather relieved to have got
through the announcement so easily. "You will see that her room is
ready, and everything comfortable; and, of course, to-morrow she and I
will dine alone."

"Yes, sir," said Nancy; but this assent was not given in the decisive
tone of a woman whose audience was over; and then she was seized with a
desire to arrange in a more satisfactory manner the cold beef on the
sideboard. When she had secured this little interval for thought, she
returned again to the table, where her master ate his breakfast, with a
presentiment. "If you please, sir," said Nancy, "not to give you no
vexation nor trouble, which every one knows as it has been the aim o' my
life to spare you, as has so much on your mind. But it's best to settle
afore commencing, and then we needn't have no heartburning. If you
please, am I to take my orders of Miss Lucilla, or of you, as I've
always been used to? In the missus's time," said Nancy, with modest
confidence, "as was a good missus, and never gave no trouble as long as
she had her soup and her jelly comfortable, it was always you as said
what there was to be for dinner. I don't make no objection to doing up a
nice little luncheon for Miss Lucilla, and giving a little more thought
now and again to the sweets; but it ain't my part to tell you, sir, as a
lady's taste, and more special a young lady's, ain't to be expected to
be the same as yours and mine as has been cultivated like. I'm not one
as likes contention," continued the domestic oracle, "but I couldn't
abear to see a good master put upon; and if it should be as Miss Lucilla
sets her mind upon messes as ain't got no taste in them, and
milk-puddings and stuff, like the most of the ladies, I'd just like to
know out of your own mouth, afore the commencement, what I'm to do?"

Dr Marjoribanks was so moved by this appeal that he laid down his knife
and contemplated the alarming future with some dismay. "It is to be
hoped Miss Lucilla will know better," he said. "She has a great deal of
good sense, and it is to be hoped that she will be wise enough to
consult the tastes of the house."

But the Doctor was not to be let off so easily. "As you say, sir,
everything's to be hoped," said Nancy steadily; "but there's a-many
ladies as don't seem to me to have got no taste to their mouths; and it
ain't as if it was a thing that could be left to hopes. Supposin' as it
comes to that, sir, what am I to do?"

"Well," said the Doctor, who was himself a little puzzled, "you know
Miss Lucilla is nineteen, Nancy, and my only child, and the natural
mistress of the house."

"Sir," said Nancy austerely, "them is things as it ain't needful to
name; that ain't the question as I was asking. Supposin' as things come
to such a point, what am I to do?"

"Bless me! it's half-past nine," said the Doctor, "and I have an
appointment. You can come just as usual when we are at breakfast, that
will be the best way," he said as he went out at the door, and chuckled
a little to himself when he felt he had escaped. "Lucilla is her
mother's daughter, it is true," he said to himself when he had got into
the safe seclusion of his brougham, with a degree of doubt in his tone
which was startling, to say the least of it, from the lips of a medical
man; "but she is my child all the same," he added briskly, with
returning confidence; and in this conviction there was something which
reassured the Doctor. He rubbed his hands as he bowled along to his
appointment, and thought within himself that if she turned out a girl of
spirit, as he expected, it would be good fun to see Lucilla's struggle
with Nancy for the veritable reins of government. If Dr Marjoribanks had
entertained any positive apprehensions that his dinners would be spoiled
in consequence, his amusement would have come to an abrupt conclusion;
but he trusted entirely in Nancy and a little in Lucilla, and suffered
his long upper-lip to relax at the thought without much fear.

Her father had not returned from the labours of his long day when
Lucilla arrived, but he made his last visits on foot in order to be able
to send the brougham for her, which was a great thing for the Doctor to
do. There was, indeed, a mutual respect between the two, who were not
necessary to each other's comfort, it is true, as such near relations
sometimes are; but who, at the same time, except on the sole occasion of
Mrs Marjoribanks's death, had never misunderstood each other, as
sometimes happens. This time Miss Marjoribanks was rather pleased, on
the whole, that the Doctor did not come to meet her. At other times she
had been a visitor; now she had come into her kingdom, and had no desire
to be received like a guest. A sense of coming home, warmer than she
remembered to have felt before, came into Lucilla's active mind as she
stepped into the brougham. Not that the words bore any special tender
meaning, notwithstanding that it was the desire of her heart, well known
to all her friends, to live henceforward as a comfort to dear papa, but
that now at last she was coming into her kingdom, and entering the
domain in which she intended her will to be law. After living for a year
with friends whose arrangements (much inferior to those which she could
have made had she had the power) she had to acquiesce in, and whose
domestic economy could only be criticised up to a certain point, it was
naturally a pleasure to Miss Marjoribanks to feel that now at length she
was emancipated, and at liberty to exercise her faculty. There were
times during the past year when Lucilla had with difficulty restrained
herself from snatching the reins out of the hands of her hosts, and
showing them how to manage. But, impatient as she was, she had to
restrain herself, and make the best of it. Now all that bondage was
over. She felt like a young king entering in secret a capital which
awaits him with acclamations. Before she presented herself to the
rejoicing public, there were arrangements to be made and things to be
done; and Miss Marjoribanks gave a rapid glance at the shops in George
Street as she drove past, and decided which of them she meant to honour
with her patronage. When she entered the garden it was with the same
rapid glance of reorganising genius that she cast her eyes around it;
and still more decided was the look with which she regarded her own
room, where she was guided by the new housemaid, who did not know Miss
Lucilla. Nancy, who knew no better (being, like most gifted persons, a
woman o£ one idea), had established her young mistress in the little
chamber which had been Lucilla's when she was a child; but Miss
Marjoribanks, who had no sentimental notions about white dimity, shook
her head at the frigid little apartment, where, however, she was not at
all sorry to be placed at present; for if Dr Marjoribanks had been a man
of the _prevenant_ class, disposed to make all the preparations possible
for his daughter, and arrange elegant surprises for her, he would have
thoroughly disgusted Lucilla, who was bent on making all the necessary
improvements in her own person. When she went down to the drawing-room
to await her father, Miss Marjoribanks's look of disapprobation was
mingled with so much satisfaction and content in herself that it was
pleasant to behold. She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders as she
paused in the centre of the large faded room, where there was no light
but that of the fire, which burned brightly, and kept up a lively play
of glimmer and shadow in the tall glass over the fireplace, and even
twinkled dimly in the three long windows, where the curtains hung stiff
and solemn in their daylight form. It was not an uncomfortable sort of
big, dull, faded, respectable drawing-room; and if there had been a
family in it, with recollections attached to every old ottoman and
easy-chair, no doubt it would have been charming; but it was only a
waste and howling wilderness to Lucilla. When she had walked from one
end to the other, and verified all the plans she had already long ago
conceived for the embellishment of this inner court and centre of her
kingdom, Lucilla walked with her unhesitating step to the fire, and took
a match and lighted all the candles in the large old-fashioned
candlesticks, which had been flickering in grotesque shadows all over
the roof. This proceeding threw a flood of light on the subject of her
considerations, and gave Miss Marjoribanks an idea, in passing, about
the best mode of lighting, which she afterwards acted upon with great
success. She was standing in this flood of light, regarding everything
around her with the eye of an enlightened critic and reformer, when Dr
Marjoribanks came in. Perhaps there arose in the soul of the Doctor a
momentary thought that the startling amount of _éclairage_ which he
witnessed was scarcely necessary, for it is certain that he gave a
momentary glance at the candles as he went up to greet his daughter; but
he was far too well-bred a man to suggest such an idea at the moment. On
the contrary, he kissed her with a sentiment of real pleasure, and owned
to himself that, if she was not a fool, and could keep to her own
department, it might be rather agreeable on the whole to have a woman in
the house. The sentiment was not enthusiastic, and neither were the
words of his salutation: "Well, Lucilla; so this is you!" said the
moderate and unexcited father. "Yes, papa, it is me," said Miss
Marjoribanks, "and very glad to get home;" and so the two sat down and
discussed the journey--whether she had been cold, and what state the
railway was in--till the Doctor bethought himself that he had to prepare
for dinner. "Nancy is always very punctual, and I am sure you are
hungry," he said; "so I'll go upstairs, with your permission, Lucilla,
and change my coat;" and with this the actual arrival terminated, and
the new reign began.

But it was only next morning that the young sovereign gave any
intimation of her future policy. She had naturally a great deal to tell
that first night; and though it was exclusively herself, and her own
adventures and achievements, which Miss Marjoribanks related, the
occasion of her return made that sufficiently natural; and the Doctor
was not altogether superior to the natural prejudice which makes a man
interested, even when they are not in themselves particularly
interesting, in the doings of his children. She succeeded in doing what
is certainly one of the first duties of a woman--she amused her father.
He followed her to the drawing-room for a marvel, and took a cup of tea,
though it was against his principles; and, on the whole, Lucilla had the
satisfaction of feeling that she had made a conquest of the Doctor,
which, of course, was the grand and most essential preliminary. In the
little interval which he spent over his claret, Miss Marjoribanks had
succeeded in effecting another fundamental duty of woman--she had, as
she herself expressed it, harmonised the rooms, by the simple method of
rearranging half the chairs and covering the tables with trifles of her
own--a proceeding which converted the apartment from an abstract English
drawing-room of the old school into Miss Marjoribanks's drawing-room, an
individual spot of ground revealing something of the character of its
mistress. The Doctor himself was so moved by this, that he looked
vaguely round when he came in, as if a little doubtful where he was--but
that might only be the effect of the sparkling mass of candles on the
mantelpiece, which he was too well-bred to remark upon the first night.
But it was only in the morning that Lucilla unfolded her standard. She
was down to breakfast, ready to pour out the coffee, before the Doctor
had left his room. He found her, to his intense amazement, seated at the
foot of the table, in the place which he usually occupied himself,
before the urn and the coffee-pot. Dr Marjoribanks hesitated for one
momentous instant, stricken dumb by this unparalleled audacity; but so
great was the effect of his daughter's courage and steadiness, that
after that moment of fate he accepted the seat by the side where
everything was arranged for him, and to which Lucilla invited him
sweetly, though not without a touch of mental perturbation. The moment
he had seated himself, the Doctor's eyes were opened to the importance
of the step he had taken. "I am afraid I have taken your seat, papa,"
said Miss Marjoribanks, with ingenuous sweetness. "But then I should
have had to move the urn, and all the things, and I thought you would
not mind." The Doctor said nothing but "Humph!" and even that in an
undertone; but he became aware all the same that he had abdicated,
without knowing it, and that the reins of state had been smilingly
withdrawn from his unconscious hands.

When Nancy made her appearance the fact became still more apparent,
though still in the sweetest way. "It is so dreadful to think papa
should have been bothered with all these things so long," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "After this I am sure you and I, Nancy, can arrange it all
without giving him the trouble. Perhaps this morning, papa, as I am a
stranger, you will say if there is anything you would like, and then I
shall have time to talk it all over with Nancy, and find out what is
best,"--and Lucilla smiled so sweetly upon her two amazed subjects that
the humour of the situation caught the fancy of the Doctor, who had a
keen perception of the ridiculous.

He laughed out, much to Nancy's consternation, who was standing by in
open-eyed dismay. "Very well, Lucilla," he said; "you shall try what you
can do. I daresay Nancy will be glad to have me back again before long;
but in the meantime I am quite content that you should try," and he went
off laughing to his brougham, but came back again before Lucilla could
take Nancy in hand, who was an antagonist more formidable. "I forgot to
tell you," said the Doctor, "that Tom Marjoribanks is coming on Circuit,
and that I have asked him to stay here, as a matter of course. I suppose
he'll arrive to-morrow. Good-bye till the evening."

This, though Dr Marjoribanks did not in the least intend it, struck
Lucilla like a Parthian arrow, and brought her down for the moment. "Tom
Marjoribanks!" she ejaculated in a kind of horror. "Of all people in the
world, and at this moment!" but when she saw the open eyes and rising
colour of Nancy the young dictator recovered herself--for a conqueror in
the first moment of his victory has need to be wary. She called Nancy to
her in her most affectionate tones as she finished her breakfast. "I
sent papa away," said Miss Marjoribanks, "because I wanted to have a
good talk with you, Nancy. I want to tell you my object in life. It is
to be a comfort to papa. Ever since poor mamma died that is what I have
been thinking of; and now I have come home, and I have made up my mind
that he is not to be troubled about anything. I know what a good,
faithful, valuable woman you are, I assure you. You need not think me a
foolish girl who is not able to appreciate you. The dinner was charming
last night, Nancy," said Lucilla, with much feeling; "and I never saw
anything more beautifully cooked than papa's cutlets to-day."

"Miss Lucilla, I may say as I am very glad I have pleased you," said
Nancy, who was not quite conquered as yet. She stood very stiffly
upright by the table, and maintained her integrity. "Master _is_
particular, I don't deny," continued the prime minister, who felt
herself dethroned. "I've always done my best to go in with his little
fancies, and I don't mean to say as it isn't right and natural as you
should be the missis. But I ain't used to have ado with ladies, and
that's the truth. Ladies is stingy in a-many things as is the soul of a
good dinner to them as knows. I may be valleyable or not, it ain't for
me to say; but I'm not one as can always be kept to a set figger in my
gravy-beef, and my bacon, and them sorts of things. As for the butter, I
don't know as I could give nobody an idea. I ain't one as likes changes,
but I can't abide to be kept to a set figger; and that's the chief
thing, Miss Lucilla, as I've got to say."

"And quite reasonable too," said Miss Marjoribanks; "you and I will work
perfectly well together, Nancy. I am sure we have both the same meaning;
and I hope you don't think I am less concerned about dear papa than
about the gravy-beef. He must have been very desolate, with no one to
talk to, though he has been so good and kind and self-sacrificing in
leaving me to get every advantage; but I mean to make it up to him, now
I've come home."

"Yes, miss," said Nancy, somewhat mystified; "not but what master has
had his little parties now and again, to cheer him up a bit; and I make
bold to say, miss, as I have heard compliments, which it was Thomas that
brought 'em downstairs, as might go nigh to turn a body's head, if it
was vanity as I was thinking of; but I ain't one as thinks of anything
but the comfort of the family," said Nancy, yielding in spite of herself
to follow the leadings of the higher will in presence of which she found
herself, "and I'm always one as does my best, Miss Lucilla, if I ain't
worried nor kept to a set figger with my gravy-beef."

"I have heard of papa's dinners," said Lucilla graciously, "and I don't
mean to let down your reputation, Nancy. Now we are two women to manage
everything, we ought to do still better. I have two or three things in
my head that I will tell you after; but in the meantime I want you to
know that the object of my life is to be a comfort to poor papa; and now
let us think what we had better have for dinner," said the new
sovereign. Nancy was so totally unprepared for this manner of
dethronement, that she gave in like her master. She followed Miss
Marjoribanks humbly into those details in which Lucilla speedily proved
herself a woman of original mind, and powers quite equal to her
undertaking. The Doctor's formidable housekeeper conducted her young
mistress downstairs afterwards, and showed her everything with the
meekness of a saint. Lucilla had won a second victory still more
exhilarating and satisfactory than the first; for, to be sure, it is no
great credit to a woman of nineteen to make a man of any age throw down
his arms; but to conquer a woman is a different matter, and Lucilla was
thoroughly sensible of the difference. Now, indeed, she could feel with
a sense of reality that her foundations were laid.

Miss Marjoribanks had enough of occupation for that day, and for many
days. But her mind was a little distracted by her father's parting
intelligence, and she had, besides, a natural desire to view the country
she had come to conquer. When she had made a careful supervision of the
house, and shifted her own quarters into the pleasantest of the two best
bedrooms, and concluded that the little bare dimity chamber she had
occupied the previous night was quite good enough for Tom Marjoribanks,
Lucilla put on her hat and went out to make a little reconnaissance. She
walked down to the spot where St Roque's now stands, on her own side of
Grange Lane, and up on the other side into George Street, surveying all
the capabilities of the place with a rapid but penetrating glance. Dr
Marjoribanks's house could not have been better placed as a strategic
position, commanding as it did all Grange Lane, of which it was, so to
speak, the key, and yet affording a base of communication with the
profaner public, which Miss Marjoribanks was wise enough to know a
leader of society should never ignore completely; for, indeed, one of
the great advantages of that brilliant position is, that it gives a
woman a right to be arbitrary, and to select her materials according to
her judgment. It was more from a disinclination to repeat herself than
any other motive that Lucilla, when she had concluded this preliminary
survey, went up into Grove Street, meaning to return home that way. At
that hour in the morning the sun was shining on the little gardens on
the north side of the street, which was the plebeian side; and as it was
the end of October, and by no means warm, Lucilla was glad to cross over
and continue her walk by the side of those little enclosures where the
straggling chrysanthemums propped each other up, and the cheerful
Michaelmas daisies made the best of it in the sunshine that remained to
them. Miss Marjoribanks had nearly reached Salem Chapel, which pushed
itself forward amid the cosy little line of houses, pondering in her
mind the unexpected hindrance which was about to be placed in her
triumphant path, in the shape of Tom Marjoribanks, when that singular
piece of good fortune occurred to her which had so much effect upon her
career in Carlingford. Such happy accidents rarely happen, except to
great generals or heroes of romance; and it would have been, perhaps, a
presumption on the part of Lucilla to place herself conspicuously in
either of these categories. The fact is, however, that at this eventful
moment she was walking along under the shade of her pretty parasol, not
expecting anything, but absorbed in many thoughts, and a little cast
down in her expectations of success by a consciousness that this unlucky
cousin would insist upon making love to her, and perhaps even, as she
herself expressed it, _saying the words_ which it had taken all her
skill to prevent him from saying before. Not that we would have any one
believe that love-making in the abstract was disagreeable to Miss
Marjoribanks; but she was only nineteen, well off and good-looking, and
with plenty of time for all that; and at the present moment she had
other matters of more importance in hand. It was while occupied with
these reflections, and within three doors of Salem Chapel, in front of a
little garden where a great deal of mignonette had run to seed, and
where the Michaelmas daisies had taken full possession, that Lucilla was
roused suddenly out of her musings. The surprise was so great that she
stopped short and stood still before the house in the extremity of her
astonishment and delight. Who could it be that possessed that voice
which Miss Marjoribanks felt by instinct was the very one thing
wanting--a round, full, delicious contralto, precisely adapted to
supplement without supplanting her own high-pitched and much-cultivated
organ? She stopped short before the door and made a rapid observation
even in the first moment of her surprise. The house was not exactly like
the other humble houses in Grove Street. Two little blank squares hung
in the centre of each of the lower windows, revealed to Lucilla's
educated eye the existence of so much "feeling" for art as can be
satisfied with a transparent porcelain version of a famous Madonna; and
she could even catch a glimpse, through the curtains of the best
room--which, contrary to the wont of humble gentility in Carlingford,
were well drawn back, and allowed the light to enter fully--of the
glimmer of gilt picture-frames. And in the little garden in front, half
buried among the mignonette, were some remains of plaster-casts,
originally placed there for ornament, but long since cast down by rain
and neglect. Lucilla made her observations with the promptitude of an
accomplished warrior, and before the second bar of the melody indoors
was finished, had knocked very energetically. "Is Miss Lake at home?"
she asked, with confidence, of the little maid-servant who opened the
door to her. And it was thus that Lucilla made her first bold step out
of the limits of Grange Lane for the good of society, and secured at
once several important personal advantages, and the great charm of those
Thursday evenings which made so entire a revolution in the taste and
ideas of Carlingford.



_Chapter V_


Miss Marjoribanks did not leave the contralto any time to recover from
her surprise; she went up to her direct where she stood, with her song
arrested on her lips, as she had risen hastily from the piano. "Is it
Rose?" said Lucilla, going forward with the most eager cordiality, and
holding out both her hands; though, to be sure, she knew very well it
was not Rose, who was about half the height of the singer, and was known
to everybody in Mount Pleasant to be utterly innocent of a voice.

"No," said Miss Lake, who was much astonished and startled and offended,
as was unfortunately rather her custom. She was a young woman without
any of those instincts of politeness, which make some people pleasant in
spite of themselves; and she added nothing to soften this abrupt
negative, but drew her hands away from the stranger and stood bolt
upright, looking at her, with a burning blush, caused by temper much
more than by embarrassment, on her face.

"Then," said Lucilla, dropping lightly into the most comfortable chair
she could get sight of in the bare little parlour, "it is Barbara--and
that is a great deal better; Rose is a good little thing, but--she is
different, you know. It is so odd you should not remember me; I thought
everybody knew me in Carlingford. You know I have been a long time away,
and now I have come home for good. Your voice is just the very thing to
go with mine: was it not a lucky thing that I should have passed just at
the right moment? I don't know how it is, but somehow these lucky
chances _always_ happen to me. I am Lucilla Marjoribanks, you know."

"Indeed!" said Barbara, who had not the least intention of being civil,
"I did not recognise you in the least."

"Yes, I remember you were always shortsighted a little," said Miss
Marjoribanks calmly. "I should so like if we could try a duet. I have
been having lessons in Italy, you know, and I am sure I could give you a
few hints. I always like, when I can, to be of use. Tell me what songs
you have that we could sing together. You know, my dear, it is not as if
I was asking you for mere amusement to myself; my grand object in life
is to be a comfort to papa----"

"Do you mean Dr Marjoribanks?" said the uncivil Barbara. "I am sure he
does not care in the least for music. I think you must be making a
mistake----"

"Oh, no," said Lucilla, "I never make mistakes. I don't mean to sing
_to_ him, you know; but you are just the very person I wanted. As for
the ridiculous idea some people have that nobody can be called on who
does not live in Grange Lane, I assure you I mean to make an end of
that. Of course I cannot commence just all in a moment. But it would
always be an advantage to practise a little together. I like to know
exactly how far one can calculate upon everybody; then one can tell,
without fear of breaking down, just what one may venture to do."

"I don't understand in the least," said Barbara, whose pride was up in
arms. "Perhaps you think I am a professional singer?"

"My dear, a professional singer spoils everything," said Miss
Marjoribanks; "it changes the character of an evening altogether. There
are so few people who understand that. When you have professional
singers, you have to give yourself up to music; and that is not my view
in the least. My great aim, as all my friends are aware, is to be a
comfort to dear papa."

"I wish you would not talk in riddles," said Lucilla's amazed and
indignant companion, in her round rich contralto. "I suppose you really
are Miss Marjoribanks. I have always heard that Miss Marjoribanks was a
little----"

"There!" said Lucilla triumphantly; "really it is almost like a
recitativo to hear you speak. I am so glad. What have you got there? Oh,
to be sure, it's _that_ duet out of the Trovatore. Do let us try it;
there is nobody here, and everything is so convenient--and you know it
would never do to risk a breakdown. Will you play the accompaniment, or
shall I?" said Miss Marjoribanks, taking off her gloves. As for the
drawing-master's daughter, she stood aghast, lost in such sudden
bewilderment and perplexity that she could find no words to reply. She
was not in the least amiable or yielding by nature; but Lucilla took it
so much as a matter of course that Barbara could not find a word to
say; and before she could be sure that it was real, Miss Marjoribanks
had seated herself at the piano. Barbara was so obstinate that she would
not sing the first part, which ought to have been hers; but she was not
clever enough for her antagonist. Lucilla sang her part by herself
gallantly; and when it came to Barbara's turn the second time, Miss
Marjoribanks essayed the second in a false voice, which drove the
contralto off her guard; and then the magnificent volume of sound flowed
forth, grand enough to have filled Lucilla with envy if she had not been
sustained by that sublime confidence in herself which is the first
necessity to a woman with a mission. She paused a moment in the
accompaniment to clap her hands after that strophe was accomplished, and
then resumed with energy. For, to be sure, she knew by instinct what
sort of clay the people were made of by whom she had to work, and gave
them their reward with that liberality and discrimination which is the
glory of enlightened despotism. Miss Marjoribanks was naturally elated
when she had performed this important and successful _tour_. She got up
from the piano, and closed it in her open, imperial way. "I do not want
to tire you, you know," she said; "that will do for to-day. I told you
your voice was the very thing to go with mine. Give my love to Rose when
she comes in, but don't bring her with you when you come to me. She is a
good little thing--but then she is different, you know," said the bland
Lucilla; and she held out her hand to her captive graciously, and
gathered up her parasol, which she had left on her chair. Barbara Lake
let her visitor go after this, with a sense that she had fallen asleep,
and had dreamt it all; but, after all, there was something in the visit
which was not disagreeable when she came to think it over. The
drawing-master was poor, and he had a quantity of children, as was
natural, and Barbara had never forgiven her mother for dying just at the
moment when she had a chance of seeing a little of what she called the
world. At that time Mr Lake and his portfolio of drawings were asked out
frequently to tea; and when he had pupils in the family, some kind
people asked him to bring one of his daughters with him--so that
Barbara, who was ambitious, had beheld herself for a month or two almost
on the threshold of Grange Lane. And it was at this moment of all
others, just at the same time as Mrs Marjoribanks finished her pale
career, that poor Mrs Lake thought fit to die, to the injury of her
daughter's prospects and the destruction of her hopes. Naturally
Barbara had never quite forgiven that injury. It was this sense of
having been ill-used which made her so resolute about sending Rose to
Mount Pleasant, though the poor little girl did not in the least want to
go, and was very happy helping her papa at the School of Design. But
Barbara saw no reason why Rose should be happy, while she herself had to
resign her inclinations and look after a set of odious children. To be
sure, it was a little hard upon a young woman of a proper ambition, who
knew she was handsome, to fall back into housekeeping, and consent to
remain unseen and unheard; for Barbara was also aware that she had a
remarkable voice. In these circumstances, it may be imagined that, after
the first movement of a passionate temper was over, when she had taken
breath, and had time to consider this sudden and extraordinary visit, a
glimmer of hope and interest penetrated into the bosom of the gloomy
girl. She was two years older than Miss Marjoribanks, and as different
in "style" as she was in voice. She was not stout as yet, though it is
the nature of a contralto to be stout; but she was tall, with all due
opportunity for that development which might come later. And then
Barbara possessed a kind of beauty, the beauty of a passionate and
somewhat sullen brunette, dark and glowing, with straight black
eyebrows, very dark and very straight, which gave, oddly enough, a
suggestion of oblique vision to her eyes; but her eyes were not in the
least oblique, and looked at you straight from under that black line of
shadow with no doubtful expression. She was shy in a kind of way, as was
natural to a young woman who had never seen any society, and felt
herself, on the whole, injured and unappreciated. But no two things
could be more different than this shyness which made Barbara look you
straight in the face with a kind of scared defiance, and the sweet
shyness that pleaded for kind treatment in the soft eyes of little Rose,
who was plain, and had the oddest longing to make people comfortable,
and please them in her way, which, to be sure, was not always
successful. Barbara sat down on the stool before the piano, which Miss
Marjoribanks had been so obliging as to close, and thought it all over
with growing excitement. No doubt it was a little puzzling to make out
how the discovery of a fine contralto, and the possibility of getting up
unlimited duets, could further Lucilla in the great aim of her life,
which was to be a comfort to her dear papa. But Barbara was like a young
soldier of fortune, ready to take a great deal for granted, and swallow
much that was mysterious in the programme of the adventurous general who
might lead her on to glory. In half an hour her dreams had gone so far
that she saw herself receiving in Miss Marjoribanks's drawing-room the
homage, not only of Grange Lane, but even of the county families, who
would be attracted by rumours of her wonderful performance; and Barbara
was, to her own consciousness, walking up the middle aisle of
Carlingford Church in a veil of real Brussels, before little Mr Lake
came in, hungry and good-tempered, from his round. To be sure, she had
not concluded who was to be the bridegroom; but that was one of those
matters of detail which could not be precisely concluded on till the
time.

Such was the immediate result, so far as this secondary personage was
concerned, of Lucilla's masterly impromptu; and it is needless to say
that the accomplished warrior, who had her wits always about her, and
had made, while engaged in a simple reconnaissance, so brilliant and
successful a capture, withdrew from the scene still more entirely
satisfied with herself. Nothing, indeed, could have come more
opportunely for Lucilla, who possessed in perfection that faculty of
throwing herself into the future, and anticipating the difficulties of a
position, which is so valuable to all who aspire to be leaders of
mankind. With a prudence which Dr Marjoribanks himself would have
acknowledged to be remarkable "in a person of her age and sex," Lucilla
had already foreseen that to amuse her guests entirely in her own
person, would be at once impracticable and "bad style." The first
objection might have been got over, for Miss Marjoribanks had a soul
above the ordinary limits of possibility, but the second unanswerable.
This discovery, however, satisfied all the necessities of the position.
Lucilla, who was liberal, as genius ought always to be, was perfectly
willing that all the young ladies in Carlingford should sing their
little songs while she was entertaining her guests; and then at the
right moment, when her ruling mind saw it was necessary, would occur the
duet--the one duet which would be the great feature of the evening. Thus
it will be seen that another quality of the highest order developed
itself during Miss Marjoribanks's deliberations; for, to tell the truth,
she set a good deal of store by her voice, and had been used to
applause, and had tasted the sweetness of individual success. This,
however, she was willing to sacrifice for the enhanced and magnificent
effect which she felt could be produced by the combination of the two
voices; and the sacrifice was one which a weaker woman would have been
incapable of making. She went home past Salem Chapel by the little lane
which makes a line of communication between the end of Grove Street and
the beginning of Grange Lane, with a sentiment of satisfaction worthy
the greatness of her mission. Dr Marjoribanks never came home to lunch,
and indeed had a contempt for that feminine indulgence; which, to be
sure, might be accounted for by the fact that about that time in the day
the Doctor very often found himself to be passing close by one or other
of the houses in the neighbourhood which had a reputation for good
sherry or madeira, such as exists no more. Lucilla, accordingly, had her
lunch alone, served to her with respectful care by Nancy, who was still
under the impression of the interview of the morning; and it occurred to
Miss Marjoribanks, as she sat at table alone, that this was an
opportunity too valuable to be left unimproved; for, to be sure, there
are few things more pleasant than a little impromptu luncheon-party,
where everybody comes without being expected, fresh from the outside
world, and ready to tell all that is going on; though, on the other
hand, it was a little doubtful how it might work in Carlingford, where
the men had generally something to do, and where the married ladies took
their luncheon when the children had their dinner, and presided at the
nursery meal. And as for a party of young ladies, even supposing they
had the courage to come, with no more solid admixture of the more
important members of society, Lucilla, to tell the truth, had no
particular taste for that. Miss Marjoribanks reflected as she ate--and
indeed, thanks to her perfect health and her agreeable morning walk,
Lucilla had a very pretty appetite, and enjoyed her meal in a way that
would have been most satisfactory to her many friends--that it must be
by way of making his visit, which was aggravating under all
circumstances, more aggravating still, that Tom Marjoribanks had decided
to come now, of all times in the world. "If he had waited till things
were organised, he might have been of a little use," Lucilla said to
herself; "for at least he could have brought some of the men that come
on circuit, and that would have made a little novelty; but, of course,
just now it would never do to make a rush at people, and invite them all
at once." After a moment's consideration, however. Miss Marjoribanks,
with her usual candour, reflected that it was not in Tom Marjoribanks's
power to change the time of the Carlingford assizes, and that,
accordingly, he was not to be blamed in this particular at least. "Of
course _it_ is not his fault," she added, to herself, "but it is
astonishing how things happen with some men always at the wrong moment;
and it is _so_ like Tom." These reflections were interrupted by the
arrival of visitors, whom Miss Marjoribanks received with her usual
grace. The first was old Mrs Chiley, who kissed Lucilla, and wanted to
know how she had enjoyed herself on the Continent, and if she had
brought many pretty things home. "My dear, you have grown ever so much
since the last time I saw you," the old lady said in her grandmotherly
way, "and stout with it, which is such a comfort with a tall girl; and
then your poor dear mamma was so delicate. I have always been a little
anxious about you on that account, Lucilla; and I am so glad, my dear,
to see you looking so strong."

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Miss Marjoribanks, who perhaps in her heart was
not quite so gratified by this compliment as the old lady intended, "the
great aim of my life is to be a comfort to dear papa."

Mrs Chiley was very much moved by this filial piety, and she told
Lucilla that story about the Colonel's niece, Susan, who was such a good
daughter, and had refused three excellent offers, to devote herself to
her father and mother, with which the public in Grange Lane were
tolerably acquainted. "And one of them was a baronet, my dear," said Mrs
Chiley. Miss Marjoribanks did not make any decided response, for she
felt that it would be dangerous to commit herself to such a height of
self-abnegation as that; but the old lady was quite pleased to hear of
her travels and adventures instead; and stayed so long that Mrs Centum
and Mrs Woodburn, who happened to arrive at the same moment, found her
still there. Mrs Chiley was a little afraid of Mrs Woodburn, and she
took her leave hastily, with another kiss; and Lucilla found herself
face to face with the only two women who could attempt a rival
enterprise to her own in Carlingford. As for Mrs Woodburn, she had
settled herself in an easy-chair by the fire, and was fully prepared to
take notes. To be sure, Lucilla was the very person to fall victim to
her arts; for that confidence in herself which, in one point of view,
gave grandeur to the character of Miss Marjoribanks, gave her also a
certain naïveté and openness which the most simple rustic could not have
surpassed.

"I am sure by her face she has been telling you about my niece Susan,"
said the mimic, assuming Mrs Chiley's tone, and almost her appearance,
for the moment, "and that one of them was a baronet, my dear. I always
know from her looks what she has been saying; and 'the Colonel was much
as usual, but suffering a little from the cold, as he always does in
this climate.' She must be a good soul, for she always has her favourite
little speeches written in her face."

"I am sure I don't know," said Miss Marjoribanks, who felt it was her
duty to make an example; "there has always been one thing remarked of me
all my life, that I never have had a great sense of humour. I know it is
singular, but when one has a defect, it is always so much better to
confess it. I always get on very well with anything else, but I never
had any sense of humour, you know; and I am very fond of Mrs Chiley. She
has always had a fancy for me from the time I was born; and she has such
nice manners. But then, it is so odd I should have no sense of humour,"
said Lucilla, addressing herself to Mrs Centum, who was sitting on the
sofa by her. "Don't you think it is very odd?"

"I am sure it is very nice," said Mrs Centum. "I hate people that laugh
at everything. I don't see much to laugh at myself, I am sure, in this
distracting world; any one who has a lot of children and servants like
me to look after, finds very little to laugh at." And she seized the
opportunity to enter upon domestic circumstances. Mrs Woodburn did not
answer a word. She made a most dashing murderous sketch of Lucilla, but
that did the future ruler of Carlingford very little harm; and then, by
the evening, it was known through all Grange Lane that Miss Marjoribanks
had snubbed the caricaturist who kept all the good people in terror of
their lives. Snubbed her absolutely, and took the words out of her very
mouth, was the report that flew through Grange Lane; and it may be
imagined how Lucilla's prestige rose in consequence, and how much people
began to expect of Miss Marjoribanks, who had performed such a feat
almost on the first day of her return home.



_Chapter VI_


Tom Marjoribanks arrived that night, according to the Doctor's
expectation. He arrived, with that curious want of adaptation to the
circumstances which characterised the young man, at an hour which put
Nancy entirely out, and upset the equanimity of the kitchen for
twenty-four hours at least. He came, if any one can conceive of such an
instance of carelessness, by the nine o'clock train, just as they had
finished putting to rights downstairs. After this, Miss Marjoribanks's
conclusion that the fact of the Carlingford assizes occurring a day or
two after her arrival, when as yet she was not fully prepared to take
advantage of them, was _so_ like Tom, may be partially understood. And
of course he was furiously hungry, and could have managed perfectly to
be in time for dinner if he had not missed the train at Didcot Junction,
by some wonderful blunder of the railway people, which never could have
occurred but for his unlucky presence among the passengers. Lucilla took
Thomas apart, and sent him downstairs with the most conciliatory
message. "Tell Nancy not to put herself about, but to send up something
cold--the cold pie, or anything she can find handy. Tell her I am _so_
vexed, but it is just like Mr Tom; and he never knows what he is
eating," said Miss Marjoribanks. As for Nancy, this sweetness did not
subdue her in the least. She said, "I'll thank Miss Lucilla to mind her
own business. The cold pie is for master's breakfast. I ain't such a
goose as not to know what to send upstairs, and that Tummas can tell her
if he likes." In the meantime the Doctor was in the drawing-room, much
against his will, with the two young people, spinning about the room,
and looking at Lucilla's books and knick-knacks on the tables by way of
covering his impatience. He wanted to carry off Tom, who was rather a
favourite, to his own den downstairs, where the young man's supper was
to be served; but, at the same time, Dr Marjoribanks could not deny that
Lucilla had a right to the greetings and homage of her cousin. He could
not help thinking, on the whole, as he looked at the two, what a much
more sensible arrangement it would have been if he had had the boy,
instead of his sister, who had been a widow for ever so long, and no
doubt had spoiled her son, as women always do; and then Lucilla might
have passed under the sway of Mrs Marjoribanks, who no doubt would have
known how to manage her. Thus the Doctor mused, with that sense of mild
amazement at the blunders of Providence, which so many people
experience, and without any idea that Mrs Marjoribanks would have found
a task a great deal beyond her powers in the management of Lucilla. As
for Tom, he was horribly hungry, having found, as was to be expected, no
possible means of lunching at Didcot; but, at the same time, he was
exhilarated by Lucilla's smile, and delighted to think of having a week
at least to spend in her society. "I don't think I ever saw you looking
so well," he was saying; "and you know my opinion generally on that
subject." To which Lucilla responded in a way to wither all the germs of
sentiment in the bud.

"What subject?" she said; "my looks? I am sure they can't be interesting
to you. You are as hungry as ever you can be, and I can see it in your
eyes. Papa, he is famishing, and I don't think he can contain himself
any longer. Do take him downstairs, and let him have something to eat.
For myself," Lucilla continued, in a lower tone, "it is my duty that
keeps me up. You know it has always been the object of my life to be a
comfort to papa."

"Come along, Tom," said the Doctor. "Don't waste your time philandering
when your supper is ready." And Dr Marjoribanks led the way downstairs,
leaving Tom, who followed him, in a state of great curiosity to know
what secret oppression it might be under which his cousin was supported
by her duty. Naturally his thoughts reverted to a possible rival--some
one whom the sensible Doctor would have nothing to say to; and his very
ears grew red with excitement at this idea. But, notwithstanding, he ate
a very satisfactory meal in the library, where he had to answer all
sorts of questions. Tom had his tray at the end of the table, and the
Doctor, who had, according to his hospitable old-fashioned habit, taken
a glass of claret to "keep him company," sat in his easy-chair between
the fire and the table, and sipped his wine, and admired its colour and
purity in the light, and watched with satisfaction the excellent meal
his nephew was making. He asked him all about his prospects, and what he
was doing, which Tom replied to with the frankest confidence. He was not
very fond of work, nor were his abilities anything out of the common;
but at the present moment Tom saw no reason why he should not gain the
Woolsack in time; and Dr Marjoribanks gave something like a sigh as he
listened, and wondered much what Providence could be thinking of not to
give _him_ the boy.

Lucilla meantime was very much occupied upstairs. She had the new
housemaid up nominally to give her instructions about Mr Tom's room, but
really to take the covers off the chairs, and see how they looked when
the room was lighted up; but the progress of decay had gone too far to
stand that trial. After all, the chintz, though none of the freshest,
was the best. When the gentlemen came upstairs, which Tom, to the
Doctor's disgust, insisted on doing, Lucilla was found in the act of
pacing the room--pacing, not in the sentimental sense of making a little
promenade up and down, but in the homely practical signification, with a
view of measuring, that she might form an idea how much carpet was
required. Lucilla was tall enough to go through this process without any
great drawback in point of grace--the long step giving rather a
tragedy-queen effect to her handsome but substantial person and long,
sweeping dress. She stopped short, however, when she saw them, and
withdrew to the sofa, on which she had established her throne; and there
was a little air of conscious pathos on her face as she sat down, which
impressed her companions. As for Tom, he instinctively felt that it must
have something to do with that mystery under which Lucilla was supported
by her duty; and the irrelevant young man conceived immediately a
violent desire to knock the fellow down; whereas there was no fellow at
all in the case, unless it might be Mr Holden, the upholsterer, whose
visits Miss Marjoribanks would have received with greater enthusiasm at
this moment than those of the most eligible eldest son in England. And
then she gave a little pathetic sigh.

"What were you doing, Lucilla?" said her father,--"rehearsing Lady
Macbeth, I suppose. At least you looked exactly like it when we came
into the room."

"No, papa," said Lucilla sweetly; "I was only measuring to see how much
carpet we should want; and that, you know, and Tom's coming, made me
think of old times. You are so much downstairs in the library that you
don't feel it; but a lady has to spend her life in the drawing-room--and
then I always was so domestic. It does not matter what is outside, I
always find my pleasure at home. I cannot help if it has a little effect
on my spirits now and then," said Miss Marjoribanks, looking down upon
her handkerchief, "to be always surrounded with things that have such
associations----"

"What associations?" said the amazed Doctor. To be sure, he had
forgotten his wife; but it was four years ago, and he had got used to
her absence from her favourite sofa; and, on the whole, in that
particular, had acquiesced in the arrangements of Providence. "Really,
Lucilla, I don't know what you mean."

"No, papa," said Miss Marjoribanks, with resignation. "I know you don't,
and that is what makes it so sad. But talking of new carpets, you know,
I had such an adventure to-day that I must tell you--quite one of _my_
adventures--the very luckiest thing. It happened when I was out walking;
I heard a voice out of a house in Grove Street, just the _very_ thing to
go with my voice. That is not a thing that happens every day," said
Lucilla, "for all the masters have always told me that my voice was
something quite by itself. When I heard it, though it was in Grove
Street, and all the people about, I could have danced for joy."

"It was a man's voice, I suppose," suggested Tom Marjoribanks, in gloomy
tones; and the Doctor added, in his cynical way:

"It's a wonderful advantage to be so pleased about trifles. What number
was it? For my part, I have not many patients in Grove Street," said Dr
Marjoribanks. "I would find a voice to suit you in another quarter, if I
were you."

"Dear papa, it's such a pity that you don't understand," said Lucilla
compassionately. "It turned out to be Barbara Lake; for, of course, I
went in directly, and found out. I never heard a voice that went so well
with mine." If Miss Marjoribanks did not go into raptures over the
contralto on its own merits, it was not from any jealousy, of which,
indeed, she was incapable, but simply because its adaptation to her own
seemed to her by far its most interesting quality, and indeed almost the
sole claim it had to consideration from the world.

"Barbara Lake?" said the Doctor. "There's something in that. If you can
do her any good or get her teaching or anything--I have a regard for
poor Lake, poor little fellow! He's kept up wonderfully since his wife
died; and nobody expected it of him," Dr Marjoribanks continued, with a
momentary dreary recollection of the time when the poor woman took
farewell of her children, which indeed was the next day after that on
which his own wife, who had nobody in particular to take farewell of,
faded out of her useless life.

"Yes," said Lucilla, "I mean her to come here and sing with me; but,
then, one needs to organise a little first. I am nineteen--how long is
it since you were married, papa?"

"Two-and-twenty years," said the Doctor abruptly. He did not observe the
strangeness of the question, because he had been thinking for the moment
of his wife, and perhaps his face was a trifle graver than usual, though
neither of his young companions thought of remarking it. To be sure he
was not a young man even when he married; but, on the whole, perhaps
something more than this perfect comfort and respectability, and those
nice little dinners, had seemed to shine on his horizon when he brought
home his incapable bride.

"Two-and-twenty years!" exclaimed Lucilla. "I don't mind talking before
Tom, for he is one of the family. The things are all the same as they
were when mamma came home, though, I am sure, nobody would believe it. I
think it is going against Providence, for my part. Nothing was ever
intended to last so long, except the things the Jews, poor souls! wore
in the desert, perhaps. Papa, if you have no objection, I should like to
choose the colours myself. There is a great deal in choosing colours
that go well with one's complexion. People think of that for their
dresses, but not for their rooms, which are of so much more importance.
I should have liked blue, but blue gets so soon tawdry. I think," said
Miss Marjoribanks, rising and looking at herself seriously in the glass,
"that I have enough complexion at present to venture upon a pale spring
green."

This little calculation, which a timid young woman would have taken care
to do by herself, Lucilla did publicly, with her usual discrimination.
The Doctor, who had looked a little grim at first, could not but laugh
when he saw the sober look of care and thought with which Miss
Marjoribanks examined her capabilities in the glass. It was not so much
the action itself that amused her father, as the consummate ability of
the young revolutionary. Dr Marjoribanks was Scotch, and had a respect
for "talent" in every development, as is natural to his nation. He did
not even give his daughter that credit for sincerity which she deserved,
but set it all to the score of her genius, which was complimentary,
certainly, in one point of view; but the fact was that Lucilla was
perfectly sincere, and that she did what was natural to her under
guidance of her genius, so as always to be in good fortune, just as Tom
Marjoribanks, under the guidance of his, brought discredit even upon
those eternal ordinances of English government which fixed the time of
the Carlingford assizes. Lucilla was quite in earnest in thinking that
the colour of the drawing-room was an important matter, and that a woman
of sense had very good reason for suiting it to her complexion--an idea
which accordingly she proceeded to develop and explain.

"For one can change one's dress," said Miss Marjoribanks, "as often as
one likes--at least as often, you know, as one has dresses to change;
but the furniture remains the same. I am always a perfect guy, whatever
I wear, when I sit against a red curtain. You men say that a woman
always knows when she's good-looking, but I am happy to say _I_ know
when I look a guy. What I mean is a delicate pale green, papa. For my
part, I think it wears just as well as any other colour; and all the
painters say it is the very thing for pictures. The carpet, of course,
would be a darker shade; and as for the chairs, it is not at all
necessary to keep to one colour. Both red and violet go beautifully with
green, you know. I am sure Mr Holden and I could settle all about it
without giving you any trouble."

"Who told you, Lucilla," said the Doctor, "that I meant to refurnish the
house?" He was even a little angry at her boldness, but at the same time
he was so much amused and pleased in his heart to have so clever a
daughter, that all the tones that could produce terror were softened out
of his voice. "I never heard that was a sort of thing a man had to do
for his daughter," said Dr Marjoribanks; "and I would like to know what
I should do with all that finery when you get married--as I suppose you
will by and by--and leave me alone in the house?"

"Ah, that is the important question," said Tom. As usual, it was Tom's
luck; but then, when there did happen to be a moment when he ought to be
silent, the unfortunate fellow could not help but speak.

"Perhaps I may marry some time," said Miss Marjoribanks, with composure;
"it would be foolish, you know, to make any engagements; but that will
depend greatly upon how you behave, and how Carlingford behaves, papa.
I give myself ten years here, if you should be very good. By twenty-nine
I shall be going off a little, and perhaps it may be tiring, for
anything I can tell. Ten years is a long time, and naturally, in the
meantime, I want to look as well as possible. Stop a minute; I forgot to
put down the number of paces for the length. Tom, please to do it over
again for me; of course, your steps are a great deal longer than mine."

"Tom is tired," said the Doctor; "and there are no new carpets coming
out of my pockets. Besides, he's going to bed, and I'm going downstairs
to the library. We may as well bid you good-night."

These words, however, were addressed to deaf ears. Tom, as was natural,
had started immediately to obey Lucilla, as he was in duty bound; and
the old Doctor looked on with a little amazement and a little amusement,
recognising, with something of the surprise which that discovery always
gives to fathers and mothers, that his visitor cared twenty times more
for what Lucilla said than for anything that his superior wisdom could
suggest. He would have gone off and left them as a couple of young
fools, if it had not occurred to him all at once that since this sort of
thing had begun, the last person in the world that he would choose to
see dancing attendance on his daughter was Tom Marjoribanks. Oddly
enough, though he had just been finding fault with Providence for not
giving him a son instead of a daughter, he was not at all delighted nor
grateful when Providence put before him this simple method of providing
himself with the son he wanted. He took a great deal too much interest
in Tom Marjoribanks to let him do anything so foolish; and as for
Lucilla, the idea that, after all her accomplishments, and her expensive
education, and her year on the Continent, she should marry a man who had
nothing, disgusted the Doctor. He kept his seat accordingly, though he
was horribly bored by the drawing-room and its claims, and wanted very
much to return to the library, and get into his slippers and his
dressing-gown. It was rather a pretty picture, on the whole, which he
was regarding. Lucilla, perhaps, with a view to this discussion, had put
on green ribbons on the white dress which she always wore in the
evening, and her tawny curls and fresh complexion carried off
triumphantly that difficult colour. Perhaps a critical observer might
have said that her figure was a little too developed and substantial
for these vestal robes; but then Miss Marjoribanks was young, and could
bear it. She was standing by, not far from the fire, on the other side
from the Doctor, looking on anxiously, while Tom measured the room with
his long steps. "I never said you were to stride," said Lucilla; "take
moderate steps, and don't be so silly. I was doing it myself famously if
you had not come in and interrupted me. It is frightful to belong to a
family where the men are so stupid," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a sigh
of real distress; for, to be sure, the unlucky Tom immediately bethought
himself to take small steps like those of a lady, which all but threw
him on his well-formed though meaningless nose. Lucilla shook her head
with an exasperated look, and contracted her lips with disdain, as he
passed her on his ill-omened career. Of course he came right up against
the little table on which she had with her own hand arranged a bouquet
of geraniums and mignonette. "It is what he always does," she said to
the Doctor calmly, as Tom arrived at that climax of his fate; and the
look with which she accompanied these words, as she rang the bell
smartly and promptly, mollified the Doctor's heart.

"I can tell you the size of the room, if that is all you want," said Dr
Marjoribanks. "I suppose you mean to give parties, and drive me out of
my senses with dancing and singing.--No, Lucilla, you must wait till you
get married--that will never do for me."

"Dear papa," said Lucilla sweetly, "it is so dreadful to hear you say
_parties_. Everybody knows that the only thing I care for in life is to
be a comfort to you; and as for dancing, I saw at once that was out of
the question. Dancing is all very well," said Miss Marjoribanks
thoughtfully; "but it implies quantities of young people--and young
people can never make what _I_ call society. It is _Evenings_ I mean to
have, papa. I am sure you want to go downstairs, and I suppose Tom would
think it civil to sit with me, though he is tired; so I will show you a
good example, and Thomas can pick up the table and the flowers at his
leisure. Good-night, papa," said Lucilla, giving him her round fresh
cheek to kiss. She went out of the room with a certain triumph, feeling
that she had fully signified her intentions, which is always an
important matter; and shook hands in a condescending way with Tom, who
had broken his shins in a headlong rush to open the door. She looked at
him with an expression of mild despair, and shook her head again as she
accorded him that sign of amity. "If you only would look a little where
you are going," said Miss Marjoribanks;--perhaps she meant the words to
convey an allegorical as well as a positive meaning, as so many people
have been found out to do--and then she pursued her peaceful way
upstairs. As for the Doctor, he went off to his library rubbing his
hands, glad to be released, and laughing softly at his nephew's abashed
looks. "She knows how to put _him_ down at least," the Doctor said to
himself, well pleased; and he was so much amused by his daughter's
superiority to the vulgar festivity of parties, that he almost gave in
to the idea of refurnishing the drawing-room to suit Lucilla's
complexion. He rubbed his hands once more over the fire, and indulged in
a little laugh all by himself over that original idea. "So it is
Evenings she means to have?" said the Doctor; and, to be sure, nothing
could be more faded than the curtains, and there were bits of the carpet
in which the pattern was scarcely discernible. So that, on the whole, up
to this point there seemed to be a reasonable prospect that Lucilla
would have everything her own way.



_Chapter VII_


Miss Marjoribanks had so many things to think of next morning that she
found her cousin, who was rather difficult to get rid of, much in her
way: naturally the young man was briefless, and came on circuit for the
name of the thing, and was quite disposed to dawdle the first morning,
and attach himself to the active footsteps of Lucilla; and for her part,
she had things to occupy her so very much more important. For one thing,
one of Dr Marjoribanks's little dinner-parties was to take place that
evening, which would be the first under the new régime, and was
naturally a matter of some anxiety to all parties. "I shall go down and
ask Mrs Chiley to come with the Colonel," said Lucilla. "I have always
meant to do that. We can't have a full dinner-party, you know, as long
as the house is so shabby; but I am sure Mrs Chiley will come to take
care of me."

"To take care of you!--in your father's house! Do you think they'll
bite?" said the Doctor grimly; but as for Lucilla, she was quite
prepared for that.

"I must have a chaperone, you know," she said. "I don't say it is not
quite absurd; but then, at first, I always make it a point to give in to
the prejudices of society. That is how I have always been so
successful," said the experienced Lucilla. "I never went in the face of
anybody's prejudices. Afterwards, you know, when one is known----"

The Doctor laughed, but at the same time he sighed. There was nothing to
be said against Mrs Chiley, who had, on the whole, as women go, a very
superior training, and knew what a good dinner was; but it was the
beginning of the revolution of which Dr Marjoribanks, vaguely oppressed
with the idea of new paper, new curtains, and all that was involved in
the entrance of Mr Holden the upholsterer into the house, did not see
the end. He acquiesced, of course, since there was nothing else for it:
but it must be confessed that the spectre of Mrs Chiley sitting at his
right hand clouded over for the Doctor the pleasant anticipation of the
evening. If it had been possible to put her at the head of the table
beside Lucilla, whom she was to come to take care of, he could have
borne it better--and to be sure it would have been a great deal more
reasonable; but then that was absolutely out of the question, and the
Doctor gave in with a sigh. Thus it was that he began to realise the
more serious result of that semi-abdication into which he had been
beguiled. The female element, so long peacefully ignored and kept at a
distance, had come in again in triumph and taken possession, and the
Doctor knew too well by the experience of a long life what a restless
and troublesome element it was. He had begun to feel that it had ceased
to be precisely amusing as he took his place in his brougham. It was
good sport to see Lucilla make an end of Tom, and put her bridle upon
the stiff neck of Nancy; but when it came to changing the character of
the Doctor's dinners, his intellect naturally got more obtuse, and he
did not see the joke.

As for Tom, he had to be disposed of summarily. "Do go away," Miss
Marjoribanks said, in her straightforward way. "You can come back to
luncheon if you like;--that is to say, if you can pick up anybody that
is very amusing, you may bring him here about half-past one, and if any
of my friends have come to call by that time, I will give you lunch; but
it must be somebody very amusing, or I will have nothing to say to you,"
said Lucilla. And with this dismissal Tom Marjoribanks departed, not
more content than the Doctor; for, to be sure, the last thing in the
world which the poor fellow thought of was to bring somebody who was
amusing, to injure his chances with Lucilla. Tom, like most other
people, was utterly incapable of fathoming the grand conception which
inspired Miss Marjoribanks. When she told him that it was the object of
her life to be a comfort to papa, he believed it to a certain extent,
but it never occurred to him that filial devotion, though beautiful to
contemplate, would preserve Lucilla's heart from the ordinary dangers of
youth, or that she was at all in earnest in postponing all matrimonial
intentions until she was nine-and-twenty, and had begun to "go off" a
little. So he went away disconsolate enough, wavering between his
instinct of obedience and his desire of being in Lucilla's company, and
a desperate determination never to be the means of injuring himself by
presenting to her anybody who was very amusing. All Miss Marjoribanks's
_monde_, as it happened, was a little out of humour that day. She had
gone on so far triumphantly that it had now come to be necessary that
she should receive a little check in her victorious career.

When Tom was disposed of, Miss Marjoribanks put on her hat and went down
Grange Lane to carry her invitation to Mrs Chiley, who naturally was
very much pleased to come. "But, my dear, you must tell me what to put
on," the old lady said. "I don't think I have had anything new since you
were home last. I have heard so much about Dr Marjoribanks's dinners
that I feel a little excited, as if I was going to be made a freemason
or something. There is my brown, you know, that I wear at home when we
have anybody--and my black velvet; and then there is my French gray that
I got for Mary Chiley's marriage."

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Lucilla, "it doesn't matter in the least what
you wear; there are only to be gentlemen, you know, and one never
dresses for gentlemen. You must keep that beautiful black velvet for
another time."

"Well, my dear," said Mrs Chiley, "_I_ am long past that sort of
thing--but the men think, you know, that it is always for them we
dress."

"Yes," said Miss Marjoribanks, "their vanity is something dreadful--but
it is one of my principles _never_ to dress unless there are ladies. A
white frock, high in the neck," said Lucilla, with sweet simplicity--"as
for anything else, it would be bad style."

Mrs Chiley gave her young visitor a very cordial kiss when she went
away. "The sense she has!" said the old lady; but at the same time the
Colonel's wife was so old-fashioned that this contemptuous way of
treating "The Gentlemen" puzzled her unprogressive intelligence. She
thought it was superhuman virtue on Lucilla's part, nearly incredible,
and yet established by proofs so incontestable that it would be a shame
to doubt it; and she felt ashamed of herself--she who might have been a
grandmother, had such been the will of Providence--for lingering five
minutes undecided between her two best caps. "I dare say Lucilla does
not spend so much time on such vanity, and she only nineteen," said the
penitent old lady. As for Miss Marjoribanks, she returned up Grange Lane
with a mind at ease, and that consciousness of superior endowments
which gives amiability and expansion even to the countenance. She did
not give any money to the beggar who at that period infested Grange Lane
with her six children, for that was contrary to those principles of
political economy which she had studied with such success at Mount
Pleasant; but she stopped and asked her name, and where she lived, and
promised to inquire into her case. "If you are honest and want to work,
I will try to find you something to do," said Miss Marjoribanks; which,
to be sure, was a threat appalling enough to keep her free from any
further molestation on the part of that interesting family. But Lucilla,
to do her justice, felt it equally natural that beneficence should issue
from her in this manner as in that other mode of feeding the hungry
which she was willing to adopt at half-past one, and had solemnly
engaged herself to fulfil at seven o'clock. She went up after that to Mr
Holden's, and had a most interesting conversation, and found among his
stores a delicious damask, softly, spiritually green, of which, to his
great astonishment, she tried the effect in one of the great mirrors
which ornamented the shop. "It is just the tint I want," Lucilla said,
when she had applied that unusual test; and she left the fashionable
upholsterer of Carlingford in a state of some uncertainty whether it was
curtains or dresses that Miss Marjoribanks meant to have made.

Perhaps this confusion arose from the fact that Lucilla's mind was
occupied in discussing the question whether she should not go round by
Grove Street, and try that duet again with Barbara, and invite her to
Grange Lane in the evening to electrify the little company; or whether,
in case this latter idea might not be practicable, she should bring
Barbara with her to lunch by way of occupying Tom Marjoribanks. Lucilla
stood at Mr Holden's door for five seconds at least balancing the
matter; but finally she gave her curls a little shake, and took a quick
step forward, and without any more deliberation returned towards Grange
Lane; for, on the whole, it was better not to burst in full triumph all
at once upon her constituency, and exhaust her forces at the beginning.
If she condescended to sing something herself, it would indeed be a
greater honour than her father's dinner-party, in strict justice, was
entitled to; and as for the second question, though Miss Marjoribanks
was too happy in the confidence of her own powers to fear any rivals,
and though her cousin's devotion bored her, still she felt doubtful how
far it was good policy to produce Barbara at luncheon for the purpose of
occupying Tom. Other people might see her besides Tom, and her own grand
_coup_ might be forestalled for anything she could tell; and then Tom
had some title to consideration on his own merits, though he was the
unlucky member of the family. He might even, if he were so far left to
himself (though Miss Marjoribanks smiled at the idea), fall in love with
Barbara; or, what was more likely, driven to despair by Lucilla's
indifference, he might _pretend_ to fall in love; and Lucilla reflected,
that if anything happened she could never forgive herself. This was the
point she had arrived at when she shook her tawny curls and set out
suddenly on her return home.

It was now nearly one o'clock, and it was quite possible that Tom, as
well as herself, might be on the way to Grange Lane; but Lucilla, who,
as she said, made a point of never going against the prejudices of
society, made up her mind to remain sweetly unconscious of the hour of
luncheon, unless some lady came to keep her company. But then Miss
Marjoribanks was always lucky, as she said. A quarter of an hour before
Tom applied for admission, Miss Bury came to pay Lucilla a visit. She
had been visiting in her district all the morning, and was very easily
persuaded to repose herself a little; and then, naturally, she was
anxious about her young friend's spiritual condition, and the effect
upon her mind of a year's residence abroad. She was asking whether
Lucilla had not seen something soul-degrading and dishonouring to
religion in all the mummeries of Popery; and Miss Marjoribanks, who was
perfectly orthodox, had replied to the question in the most satisfactory
manner; when Tom made his appearance, looking rather sheepish and
reluctant, and followed by the "somebody amusing" whom Lucilla had
commissioned him to bring. He had struggled against his fate, poor
fellow! but when it happens to be a man's instinct to do what he is
told, he can no more resist it than if it was a criminal impulse. Tom
entered with his amusing companion, who had been chosen with care, and
was very uninviting to look at; and by and by Miss Bury, with the most
puzzled looks, found herself listening to gossip about the theatres and
all kinds of profane subjects. "I think they are going to hang that
fellow that killed the tailor," said the amusing man; "that will stir
you up a little in Carlingford, I should suppose. It is as good as a
play for a country town. Of course, there will be a party that will get
up a memorial, and prove that a man so kind-hearted never existed out of
paradise; and there will be another party who will prove him to be
insane; and then at the end all the blackguards within a hundred miles
will crowd into Carlingford, and the fellow will be hanged, as he
deserves to be; but I assure you it's a famous amusement for a country
town."

"Sir," said Miss Bury, with a tremulous voice, for her feelings had
overcome her, "when you speak of amusement, does it ever occur to you
what will become of his miserable soul?"

"I assure you, wretches of that description have no souls," said the
young barrister, "or else, of course, I would not permit myself to speak
so freely. It is a conclusion I have come to not rashly, but after many
opportunities of observing," the young man went on with solemnity; "on
the whole, my opinion is, that this is the great difference between one
portion of mankind and the other: that description of being, you may
take my word for it, has no soul."

"I never take anybody's word for what is so plainly stated in the Holy
Scriptures," said Miss Bury; "I never heard any one utter such a
terrible idea. I am sure I don't want to defend a--a murderer," cried
the Rector's sister, with agitation; "but I have heard of persons in
that unfortunate position coming to a heavenly frame of mind, and giving
every evidence of being truly converted. The law may take their lives,
but it is an awful thing--a truly dreadful thing," said Miss Bury,
trembling all over, "to try to take away their soul."

"Oh, nonsense, Lucilla. By Jove! he does not mean that, you know," said
Tom, interposing to relieve his friend.

"Do you believe in Jove, Mr Thomas Marjoribanks," said Miss Bury,
looking him in an alarming manner full in the face.

The unfortunate Tom grew red and then he grew green under this question
and that awful look. "No, Miss Bury, I can't say I do," he answered
humbly; and the amusing man was so much less brotherly than Tom that he
burst into unsympathetic laughter. As for Lucilla, it was the first real
check she had sustained in the beginning of her career. There could not
have been a more unfortunate _contretemps_, and there is no telling how
disastrous the effect might have been, had not her courage and
coolness, not to say her orthodoxy, been equal to the occasion. She gave
her cousin a look which was still more terrible than Miss Bury's, and
then she took affairs into her own hands.

"It is dreadful sometimes to see what straits people are put to, to keep
up the conversation," said Lucilla; "Tom in particular, for I think he
has a pleasure in talking nonsense. But you must not suppose I am of
that opinion. I remember quite well there was a dreadful man once here
in jail for something, and Mr Bury made him the most beautiful
character! Every creature has a soul. I am sure we say so in the Creed
every day of our lives, and especially in that long creed where so many
people perish everlastingly. So far from laughing, it is quite dreadful
to think of it," said Lucilla. "It is one of my principles never to
laugh about anything that has to do with religion. I always think it my
duty to speak with respect. It has such a bad effect upon some minds.
Miss Bury, if you will not take anything more, I think we had better go
upstairs."

To think that Tom, whose luck, as usual, had betrayed him to such an
unlooked-for extent, should have been on the point of following to the
drawing-room, was more than Miss Marjoribanks could comprehend; but
fortunately his companion had more sense, and took his leave, taking his
conductor with him. Miss Bury went upstairs in silence, sighing heavily
from time to time. The good woman was troubled in her spirit at the
evident depravity of the young men with whom circumstances had
constrained her to sit down at table, and she was sadly afraid that such
companionship must have a debasing effect upon the mind of that lamb of
the flock now standing before her. Miss Bury bethought herself of Dr
Marjoribanks's profane jokes, and the indifference he had shown to many
things in which it was his duty to have interested himself, and she
could not but look with tender pity in her young friend's face.

"Poor dear," said Miss Bury, "it is dreadful indeed if this is the sort
of society you are subjected to. I could recommend to Dr Marjoribanks a
most admirable woman, a true Christian, who would take charge of things
and be your companion, Lucilla. It is not at all nice for you, at your
age, to be obliged to receive young men like these alone."

"I had you!" said Lucilla, taking both Miss Bury's hands. "I felt it was
such a blessing. I would not have let Tom stay for luncheon if you had
not been there; and now I am so glad, because it has shown me the danger
of letting him bring people. I am quite sure it was a special providence
that made you think of coming here to-day."

"Well, my dear," said Miss Bury, who was naturally mollified by this
statement o£ the question, "I am very glad to have been of use to you.
If there is anything I desire in this life, it is to be useful to my
fellow-creatures, and to do my work while it is called day. I should not
think the time lost, my dear Lucilla, if I could only hope that I had
impressed upon your mind that an account must be given of every careless
word----"

"Oh, yes," said Lucilla, "that is _so_ true; and besides, it is quite
against my principles. I make it a point never to speak of anything
about religion except with the greatest respect; and I am quite sure it
was a special providence that I had _you_."

Miss Bury took her farewell very affectionately, not to say effusively,
after this, with her heart melting over the ingenuous young creature who
was so thankful for her protection; but at the same time she left Miss
Marjoribanks a prey to the horrible sensation of having made a failure.
To be sure, there was time to recover herself in the evening, which was,
so to speak, her first formal appearance before the public of
Carlingford. Tom was so ill-advised as to come in when she was having
her cup of tea before dinner to fortify her for her exertions; and the
reception he met with may be left to the imagination. But, after all,
there was little satisfaction in demolishing Tom; and then Lucilla had
known from the beginning that the success of her undertaking depended
entirely on herself.



_Chapter VIII_


The evening passed off in a way which, if Miss Marjoribanks had been an
ordinary woman, would have altogether obliterated from her mind all
recollection of the failure at lunch. To speak first of the most
important particular, the dinner was perfect. As for the benighted men
who had doubted Lucilla, they were covered with shame, and, at the same
time, with delight. If there had been a fault in Dr Marjoribanks's table
under the ancient régime, it lay in a certain want of variety, and
occasional over-abundance, which wounded the feelings of young Mr
Cavendish, who was a person of refinement. To-night, as that
accomplished critic remarked, there was a certain air of feminine grace
diffused over everything--and an amount of doubt and expectation,
unknown to the composed feastings of old, gave interest to the meal. As
for the Doctor, he found Mrs Chiley, at his right hand, not so great a
bore as he expected. She was a woman capable of appreciating the
triumphs of art that were set before her; and had indeed been trained to
as high a pitch of culture in this respect as perhaps is possible to the
female intelligence; and then her pride and delight in being admitted to
a participation in those sacred mysteries was beyond expression. "My
dear Lucilla, I feel exactly as if I was going to be made a freemason;
and as if your dear good papa had to blindfold me, and make me swear all
sorts of things before he took me downstairs," she said, as they sat
together waiting for the commencement of the ceremony; and when the two
ladies returned to the drawing-room, Mrs Chiley took Lucilla in her arms
and gave her a kiss, as the only way of expressing adequately her
enthusiasm. "My love," said the Colonel's wife, "I never realised before
what it was to have a genius. You should be very thankful to Providence
for giving you such a gift. I have given dinners all my life--that is,
all my married life, my dear, which comes to almost the same thing, for
I was only a baby--but I never could come up to anything like that,"
said Mrs Chiley, with tears in her eyes. As for Miss Marjoribanks, she
was so satisfied with her success that she felt at liberty to
tranquillise her old friend.

"I am sure you always give very nice dinners," she said; "and then, you
know, the Colonel has his favourite dishes--whereas, I must say for
papa, he is very reasonable for a man. I am so glad you are pleased. It
is very kind of you to say it is genius, but I don't pretend to anything
but paying great attention and studying the combinations. There is
nothing one cannot manage if one only takes the trouble. Come here to
this nice easy-chair--it is so comfortable. It is so nice to have a
little moment to ourselves before they come upstairs."

"That is what I always say," said Mrs Chiley; "but there are not many
girls so sensible as you, Lucilla. I hear them all saying it is so much
better French fashion. Of course, I am an old woman, and like things in
the old style."

"I don't think it is because I am more sensible," said Miss
Marjoribanks, with modesty. "I don't pretend to be better than other
people. It is because I have thought it all over, you know--and then I
went through a course of political economy when I was at Mount
Pleasant," Lucilla said tranquilly, with an air of having explained the
whole matter, which much impressed her hearer. "But for all that,
something dreadful happened to-day. Tom brought in one of his friends
with him, you know, and Miss Bury was here, and they talked--I want to
tell you, in case she should say something, and then you will know what
to believe. I never felt so dreadfully ashamed in my life--they
talked----"

"My dear! not anything improper, I hope," cried the old lady, in dismay.

"Oh, no," said Lucilla; "but they began laughing about some people
having no souls, you know--as if there could be anybody without a
soul--and poor Miss Bury nearly fainted. You may think what a dreadful
thing it was for me."

"My dear child, if that was all," said Mrs Chiley, reassured--"as for
everybody having a soul, I am sure I cannot say. You never were in
India, to be sure; but Miss Bury should have known better than to faint
at a young man's talk, and frighten you, my poor dear. She ought to be
ashamed of herself, at her age. Do you think Tom has turned out clever?"
the old lady continued, not without a little finesse, and watching
Lucilla with a curious eye.

"Not in the very least," said Miss Marjoribanks calmly; "he is just as
awkward as he used to be. It is dreadful to have him here just now, when
I have so many things to do--and then he would follow me about
everywhere if I would let him. A cousin of that sort is always in the
way."

"I am always afraid of a cousin, for my part," said Mrs Chiley; "and
talking of that, what do you think of Mr Cavendish, Lucilla? He is very
nice in himself, and he has a nice property; and some people say he has
a very good chance to be member for Carlingford when there is an
election. I think that is just what would suit you."

"I could not see him for the lamp," said Lucilla; "it was right between
us, you know--but it is no use talking of that sort of thing just now.
Of course, if I had liked, I never need have come home at all," Miss
Marjoribanks added, with composure; "and, now I have come home, I have
got other things to think of. If papa is good, I will not think of
leaving him for ten years."

"Oh, yes; I have heard girls say that before," said Mrs Chiley; "but
they always changed their minds. You would not like to be an old maid,
Lucilla; and in ten years----"

"I should have begun to go off a little, no doubt," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "No, I can't say I wish to be an old maid. Can they be
coming upstairs already, do you think? Oh, it is Tom, I suppose," said
Lucilla, with a little indignation. But when _They_ did make their
appearance, which was at a tolerably early period--for a return to the
drawing-room was quite a novelty for Dr Marjoribanks's friends, and
tempted them accordingly--Miss Marjoribanks was quite ready to receive
them. And just before ten o'clock, when Mrs Chiley began to think of
going home, Lucilla, without being asked, and without indeed a word of
preface, suddenly went to the piano, and before anybody knew, had
commenced to sing. She was a great deal too sensible to go into high art
on this occasion, or to electrify her father's friends with her
newly-acquired Italian, or even with German, as some young ladies do.
She sang them a ballad out of one of those treasures of resuscitated
ballads which the new generation had then begun to dig out of the bowels
of the earth. There was not, to tell the truth, a great deal of music
in it, which proved Lucilla's disinterestedness. "I only sang it to
amuse you," she said, when all the world crowded to the piano; and for
that night she was not to be persuaded to further exertions. Thus Miss
Marjoribanks proved to her little public that power of subordinating her
personal tastes and even her vanity to her great object, which more than
anything else demonstrates a mind made to rule. "I hope next time you
will be more charitable, and not tantalise us in this way," Mr Cavendish
said, as he took his leave; and Lucilla retired from the scene of her
triumph, conscious of having achieved entire success in her first
appearance in Carlingford. She laid her head upon her pillow with that
sweet sense of an approving conscience which accompanies the footsteps
of the benefactors of their kind. But even Miss Marjoribanks's
satisfaction was not without its drawbacks. She could not get out of her
mind that unhappy abortive luncheon and all its horrors; not to speak of
the possibility of her religious principles being impugned, which was
dreadful in itself ("for people can stand a man being sceptical, you
know," Miss Marjoribanks justly observed, "but everybody knows how
unbecoming it is in a woman--and me who have such a respect for
religion!"); there remained the still more alarming chance that Miss
Bury, who was so narrow-minded, might see something improper in the
presence of the two young men at Lucilla's maidenly table; for, to be
sure, the Rector's sister was altogether incapable of grasping the idea
that young men, like old men and the other less interesting members of
the human family, were simple material for Miss Marjoribanks's genius,
out of which she had a great result to produce. This was the dread that
overshadowed the mind of Lucilla as she composed herself to rest after
her fatigues. When she slept the sleep of the innocent, it still pursued
her into her dreams. She dreamed that she stood at the altar by the side
of the member for Carlingford, and that Mr Bury, with inflexible
cruelty, insisted upon marrying her to Tom Marjoribanks instead; and
then the scene changed, and instead of receiving the salutations of Mr
Cavendish as M.P. for the borough, it was the amusing man, in the
character of the defeated candidate, who grinned and nodded at her, and
said from the hustings that he would never forget the luncheon that had
been his first introduction to Carlingford. Such was the nightmare that
pursued Lucilla even into the sphere of dreams.

When such a presentiment takes possession of a well-balanced mind like
that of Miss Marjoribanks, it may be accepted as certain that something
is likely to follow. Lucilla did her best to disarm fate, not only by
the sweetest submission and dutifulness to the Doctor and his wishes,
but by a severe disregard of Tom, which drove that unhappy young man
nearly desperate. Far from saying anything about luncheon, she even
ignored his presence at breakfast, and remained calmly unconscious of
his empty cup, until he had to ask for some coffee in an injured and
pathetic voice, which amused Dr Marjoribanks beyond description. But
even this did not prove sufficient to propitiate the Fates. When They
were gone--and it may be well to say that Lucilla used this pronoun to
signify _the gentlemen_, in greater or smaller number as it might
happen--and she had finished all her arrangements, Miss Marjoribanks
decided upon going to Grove Street to pay Barbara Lake a visit, and
practise some duets, which was certainly as innocent an occupation for
her leisure as could be desired. She was putting on her hat with this
object when the bell in the garden rang solemnly, and Lucilla, whose
curiosity conquered her good manners for the moment, hastening to the
window, saw Mr Bury himself enter the garden, accompanied by a black
figure in deep and shabby mourning. All the tremors of the night rushed
back upon her mind at the sight. She felt that the moment had arrived
for a trial of her courage very different from the exertions which had
hitherto sufficed her. Nothing but the most solemn intentions could have
supported the Rector in that severe pose of his figure and features,
every line in which revealed an intention of being "faithful"; and the
accompanying mute in black, whose office the culprit could not divine,
had a veil over her face, and wore a widow's dress. Miss Marjoribanks,
it is true, was not a woman to be discouraged by appearances, but she
felt her heart beat as she collected all her powers to meet this
mysterious assault. She took off her hat with an instinctive certainty
that, for this morning at least, the duet was impracticable, when she
heard Mr Bury's steady step ascending the stairs; but, notwithstanding,
it was with a perfectly cheerful politeness that she bade him welcome
when he came into the room. "It is so good of you to come," Lucilla
said; "you that have so much to do. I scarcely could believe it when I
saw you come in: I thought it must be for papa."

"I did hope to find Dr Marjoribanks," said the Rector, "but as he is not
at home, I thought it best to come to you. This is Mrs Mortimer," said
Mr Bury, taking the chair Lucilla had indicated with a certain want of
observance of his companion which betrayed to the keen perceptions of
Miss Marjoribanks that she was a dependant of some kind or other. The
Rector was a very good man, but was Evangelical, and had a large female
circle who admired and swore by him; and, consequently, he felt it in a
manner natural that he should take his seat first, and the place that
belonged to him as the principal person present; and then, to be sure,
his mission here was for Mrs Mortimer's as well as Miss Marjoribanks's
"good." After this introduction, the figure in black put up its veil,
and revealed a deprecating woman, with a faint sort of pleading smile on
her face. Probably she was making believe to smile at the position in
which she found herself; but anyhow she took her seat humbly on another
chair at a little distance, and waited, as Lucilla did, for the next
golden words that it might please the Rector to say.

"My sister told me what happened yesterday," said Mr Bury. "She is very
sorry for you, Miss Marjoribanks. It is sad for you to be left alone so
young, and without a mother, and exposed to--to temptations which it is
difficult to withstand at your age. Indeed, at all ages, we have great
occasion to pray not to be led into temptation; for the heart of man is
terribly deceitful. After hearing what she had to say, I thought it best
to come up at once this morning and talk to Dr Marjoribanks. I am sure
his natural good sense will teach him that you ought not to be left
alone in the house."

"I do not see how papa can help it," said Lucilla. "I am sure it is very
sad for him as well; but since dear mamma died there has been nobody but
me to be a comfort to him. I think he begins to look a little cheerful
now," Miss Marjoribanks continued, with beautiful simplicity, looking
her adversary in the face. "Everybody knows that to be a comfort to him
is the object of my life."

"That is a very good feeling," said the Rector, "but it does not do to
depend too much upon our feelings. You are too young to be placed in a
position of so much responsibility, and open to so much temptation. I
was deeply grieved for Dr Marjoribanks when his partner in life was
taken from him; but my dear Miss Lucilla, now you have come home, who
stand so much in need of a mother's care, we must try to find some one
to fill her place."

Lucilla uttered a scream of genuine alarm and dismay; and then she came
to herself, and saw the force of her position. She had it in her power
to turn the tables on the Rector, and she did not hesitate, as a weaker
woman might have done, out of consideration for anybody's feelings. "Do
you mean you have found some one for him to marry?" she asked, with a
look of artless surprise, bending her earnest gaze on Mr Bury's face.

As for the Rector, he looked at Lucilla aghast, like a man caught in a
trap. "Of course not, of course not," he stammered, after his first
pause of consternation; and then he had to stop again to take breath.
Lucilla kept up the air of amazement and consternation which had come
naturally at the first, and had her eyes fixed on him, leaning forward
with all the eager anxiety natural to the circumstances, and the
unfortunate clergyman reddened from the edge of his white cravat to the
roots of his gray hair. He was almost as sensitive to the idea of having
proposed something improper as his sister could have been, though
indeed, at the worst, there would have been nothing improper in it had
Dr Marjoribanks made up his mind to another wife.

"It is very dreadful for me that am so young to go against _you_" said
Lucilla; "but if it is _that_, I cannot be expected to take any part in
it--it would not be natural. It is the great object of my life to be a
comfort to papa; but if that is what you mean, I could not give in to
it. I am sure Miss Bury would understand me," said Miss Marjoribanks;
and she looked so nearly on the point of tears, that the Rector's
anxious disclaimer found words for itself.

"Nothing of the kind, my dear Miss Lucilla--nothing of the kind," cried
Mr Bury; "such an idea never came into my mind. I cannot imagine how I
could have said anything--I can't fancy what put such an idea----Mrs
Mortimer, you are not going away?"

Lucilla had already seen with the corner of her eye that the victim had
started violently, and that her heavy veil had fallen over her face--but
she had not taken any notice, for there are cases in which it is
absolutely necessary to have a victim. By this time, however, the poor
woman had risen in her nervous, undecided way.

"I had better go--I am sure I had better go," she said hurriedly,
clasping together a pair of helpless hands, as if they could find a
little strength in union. "Miss Marjoribanks will understand you better,
and you will perhaps understand Miss Marjoribanks----"

"Oh, sit down, sit down," said Mr Bury, who was not tolerant of
feelings. "Perhaps I expressed myself badly. What I meant to say was,
that Mrs Mortimer, who has been a little unfortunate in
circumstances--sit down, pray--had by a singular providence just applied
to me when my sister returned home yesterday. These things do not happen
by chance, Lucilla. We are taken care of when we are not thinking of it.
Mrs Mortimer is a Christian lady for whom I have the greatest respect. A
situation to take the superintendence of the domestic affairs, and to
have charge of you, would be just what would suit her. It must be a
great anxiety to the Doctor to leave you alone, and without any control,
at your age. You may think the liberty is pleasant at first, but if you
had a Christian friend to watch over and take care of you----What is the
matter?" said the Rector, in great alarm. It was only that the poor
widow who was to have charge of Lucilla, according to his benevolent
intention, looked so like fainting, that Miss Marjoribanks jumped up
from her chair and rang the bell hastily. It was not Lucilla's way to
lose time about anything; she took the poor woman by the shoulders and
all but lifted her to the sofa, where she was lying down with her bonnet
off when the Rector came to his senses. To describe the feelings with
which Mr Bury contemplated this little _entr'acte_, which was not in his
programme, would be beyond our powers. He went off humbly and opened the
window when he was told to do so, and tried to find the eau-de-Cologne
on the table; while Thomas rushed downstairs for water at a pace very
unlike his usual steady rate of progress. As for Lucilla, she stood by
the side of her patient quite self-possessed, while the Rector looked so
foolish. "She will be all right directly," Miss Marjoribanks was saying;
"luckily she never went right off. When you don't go right off, lying
down is everything. If there had been any one to run and get some water
she would have got over it; but luckily I saw it in time." What possible
answer Mr Bury could make to this, or how he could go on with his
address in sight of the strange turn things had taken, it would have
been hard to say. Fortunately for the moment he did not attempt it, but
walked about in dismay, and put himself in the draught (with his
rheumatism), and felt dreadfully vexed and angry with Mrs Mortimer, who,
for her part, now she had done with fainting, manifested an inclination
to cry, for which Mr Bury in his heart could have whipped her, had that
mode of discipline been permitted in the Church of England. Lucilla was
merciful, but she could not help taking a little advantage of her
victory. She gave the sufferer a glass of water, and the eau-de-Cologne
to keep her from a relapse, and whispered to her to lie quiet; and then
she came back and took her seat, and begged the Rector not to stand in
the draught.

"I don't think she is strong," said Miss Marjoribanks confidentially,
when she had wiled the disconcerted clergyman back to her side, "her
colour changes so; she never would be able for what there is to do here,
even if papa would consent to think of it. For my part I am sure I
should be glad of a little assistance," said Lucilla, "but I never like
to give false hopes, and I don't think papa would consent;--she looks
nice if she was not so weak, poor thing!--and there are such quantities
of things to be done here: but if you wish it, Mr Bury, I will speak to
papa," said Miss Marjoribanks, lifting her eyes, which were so open and
straightforward, to the Rector's face.

To tell the truth, he did not in the least know what to say, and the
chances are he would not have been half so vexed and angry, nor felt in
so unchristian a disposition with the poor woman on the sofa, had he
meant to do her harm instead of good. "Yes, I should be glad if you
would mention it to Dr Marjoribanks," he said, without very well knowing
what he said; and got up to shake hands with Lucilla, and then
recollected that he could not leave his protégée behind him, and
hesitated, and did not know what to do. He was really grateful, without
being aware of it, to Miss Marjoribanks, when once again she came to his
aid.

"Please, leave her a little," said Lucilla, "and I can make acquaintance
with her, you know, in case papa should be disposed to think of it;--she
must lie still till it quite wears off. I would ask you to stay to lunch
if I was not afraid of wasting your precious time----"

Mr Bury gave a little gasp of indignation, but he did not say anything.
On the whole, even though smarting under the indignity of being asked to
lunch, as his sister had been, when probably there might be a repetition
of the scene of yesterday, he was glad to get safely out of the house,
even at the risk of abandoning his enterprise. As for a woman in want of
a situation, who had so little common sense as to faint at such a
critical moment, the Rector was disposed to wash his hands of her; for
Mr Bury, "like them all," as Lucilla said, was horribly frightened by a
faint when he saw one, and afterwards pretended to disbelieve it, and
called it one of the things which a little self-command could always
prevent. When he was gone Miss Marjoribanks felt the full importance of
her victory; and then, though she had not hesitated to sacrifice this
poor woman when it was necessary to have a victim, that moment was over,
and she had no pleasure in being cruel; on the contrary, she went and
sat by her patient, and talked, and was very kind to her; and after a
while heard all her story, and was more comforting than the Rector could
have been for his life.

"I knew it would hurt your feelings," Miss Marjoribanks said candidly,
"but I could not do anything else--and you know it was Mr Bury's fault;
but I am sure if I can be of any use to you----" It was thus that
Lucilla added, without knowing it, another complication to her fortunes;
but then, to be sure, clear-sighted as she was, she could not see into
the future, nor know what was to follow. She told the Doctor in the
evening with the greatest faithfulness, and described how Mr Bury
looked, and that she had said she did not think papa would be disposed
to think of it; and Dr Marjoribanks was so much entertained that he came
upstairs to hear the end, and took a cup of tea. It was the third night
in succession that the Doctor had taken this step, though it was against
his principles; and thus it will be seen that good came out of evil in a
beautifully distinct and appropriate way.



_Chapter IX_


It was not till Miss Marjoribanks had surmounted to a certain extent the
vexation caused her by her unlucky confidence in Tom, that that unhappy
young man took the step which Lucilla had so long dreaded, but which she
trusted to her own genius to hinder him from carrying into execution.
Miss Marjoribanks had extricated herself so triumphantly from the
consequences of that unhappy commencement of her very charming
luncheon-parties, that she had begun to forget the culpability of her
cousin. She had defeated the Rector in his benevolent intentions, and
she had taken up his protégée just at the moment when Mr Bury was most
disgusted with the unfortunate woman's weakness. Poor Mrs Mortimer, to
be sure, had fainted, or had been near fainting, at the most inopportune
moment, and it was only natural that the Rector should be annoyed; but
as for Lucilla, who was always prompt in her actions, and whose good
nature and liberality were undoubted, she found her opportunity in the
failure of Mr Bury's scheme. After the Rector had gone away, Miss
Marjoribanks herself conducted the widow home; and by this time Mrs
Mortimer's prospects were beginning to brighten under the active and
efficient patronage of her new friend. This being the case, Lucilla's
good humour was perfectly restored, and she had forgiven Tom his
maladroitness. "He cannot help it, you know," she said privately to old
Mrs Chiley: "I suppose some people are born to do ridiculous things."
And it was indeed as if he had intended to give a practical illustration
of the truth of this conclusion that Tom chose the particular moment he
did for driving Miss Marjoribanks to the extremity of her patience. The
upholsterers were in the house, and indeed had just finished putting up
the pictures on the new paper in the drawing-room (which was green, as
Lucilla had determined it should be, of the most delicate tint, and
looked, as she flattered herself, exactly like silk hangings); and Mr
Holden himself waited with a certain complaisance for Miss
Marjoribanks's opinion of the effect. He had no doubt on the subject
himself; but he was naturally impressed, as most people were, with that
confidence in Lucilla's judgment which so much facilitates the
operations of those persons who are born to greatness. It was precisely
at this moment that his evil genius persuaded Tom Marjoribanks to
interrupt Thomas, who was carrying Mr Holden's message to his young
mistress, and to shut the library door upon the external world. Lucilla
had taken refuge in the library during the renovation of the
drawing-room; and she was aware that this was Tom's last day at
Carlingford, and had no intention of being unkind to him. To tell the
truth, she had at the bottom of her heart a certain regard and impulse
of protection and patronage towards Tom, of which something might have
come had the unlucky fellow known how to manage. But, at the same time,
Miss Marjoribanks was aware that things must be approaching a crisis
upstairs, and was listening intently to the movements overhead, and
wondering why she was not sent for. This was the moment of all others at
which Tom thought fit to claim a hearing; and the state of Lucilla's
feelings may be easily imagined when she saw him plant himself by her
side, with his face alternately red and white, and all the signs of a
desperate resolution in his countenance. For the first time in her life
a certain despair took possession of Miss Marjoribanks's mind. The
sounds had suddenly ceased upstairs, as if the artists were making a
pause to contemplate the effect of their completed work--which indeed
was precisely the case--and at the same time nobody came to call her,
important though the occasion was. She made a last effort to emancipate
herself before it was too late.

"Ring, please, Tom," she said; "I want to know if they have finished
upstairs. I am so sorry you are going away; but you know it is one of my
principles never to neglect my duty. I am sure they must be waiting for
me--if you would only be kind enough to ring."

"Lucilla," said Tom, "you know I would do anything in the world you
liked to tell me; but don't ask me to ring just now: I am going to leave
you, and there is something I must say to you, Lucilla," said the young
man, with agitation. Miss Marjoribanks was seated near the window, and
she had a moral certainty that if any of the Browns happened to be in
that ridiculous glass-house where they did their photography, they must
have a perfectly good view of her, with Tom in the background, who had
placed himself so as to shut her into the recess of the window. This,
coupled with the evidence of her senses that the workmen up stairs had
ceased their work, and that a slow footstep traversing the floor now and
then was all that was audible, drove Lucilla to despair.

"Yes," she said, temporising a little, which was the only thing she
could do, "I am sure I am very sorry; but then, you know, with the house
in such a condition! Next time you come I shall be able to enjoy your
society," said the designing young woman; "but at present I am _so_
busy. It is one of my principles, you know, that things are never
rightly done if the lady of the house does not pay proper attention.
They are sure to make some dreadful mistake upstairs if I don't look
after them. I shall see you again before you go."

"Lucilla, don't be so cruel!" cried the unlucky Tom, and he caught her
hand though they were at the window; "do stop a moment and listen to me.
Lucilla! what does it matter about furniture and things when a man's
heart is bursting?" cried the unfortunate lover; and just at that moment
Miss Marjoribanks could see that the curtain was drawn aside a
little--ever so little--in the glass-house. She sat down again with a
sigh, and drew her hand away, and prepared herself to meet her fate with
heroism at least.

"What in the world can you have been doing?" said Lucilla innocently;
"you used always to tell me, you know, when you got into any difficulty,
and I am sure if I can be of any use to you, Tom----But as for furniture
and things, they matter a great deal, I assure you, to people's
happiness; and then, you know, it is the object of my life to be a
comfort to dear papa."

When she said this, Miss Marjoribanks settled herself again in the
recess of the window, so that the Miss Browns could command a full view
if they chose; for Lucilla's courage was of the highest order, and
nothing, except, perhaps, a strategical necessity of profound
importance, would have moved her to retreat before an enemy. As for Tom,
he was bewildered, to start with, by this solemn repetition of her great
purpose.

"I know how good you are, Lucilla," he said, with humility; "but then my
uncle, you know--I don't think he is a man to appreciate----Oh,
Lucilla! why should you go and sacrifice to him the happiness of your
life?"

"Tom," said Miss Marjoribanks, with some solemnity, "I wish you would
not talk to me of happiness. I have always been brought up to believe
that duty was happiness; and everybody has known for a long time what
was the object of my life. As for poor papa, it is the worse for him if
he does not understand; but that does not make any difference to my
duty," said the devoted daughter. She gave a little sigh as she spoke,
the sigh of a great soul, whose motives must always remain to some
extent unappreciated; and the sight of her resignation and beautiful
perseverance overwhelmed her unlucky suitor; for indeed, up to this
moment, Lucilla still entertained the hope of preventing Tom from, as
she herself described it, "saying the very words," which, to be sure,
are awkward words to hear and to say.

"Lucilla, when you are so good to my uncle, you ought to have a little
pity on me," said Tom, driven to the deepest despondency. "How do you
think I can bear it, to see you getting everything done here, as if you
meant to stay all your life--when you know I love you?" said the
unfortunate young man; "when you know I have always been so fond of you,
Lucilla, and always looked forward to the time----; and now it is very
hard to see you care so little for me."

"Tom," said Miss Marjoribanks, with indignant surprise, "how _can_ you
say I care little for you? you know I was always very fond of you, on
the contrary. I am sure I always stood your friend at home, whatever
happened, and never said a word when you broke that pretty little pearl
ring I was so fond of, and tore the scarf that my aunt gave me. I
wonder, for my part, how you can be so unkind as so say so. We have
always been the very best friends in the world," said Lucilla, with an
air of injury. "I always said at school I liked you the best of all my
cousins; and I am very fond of all my cousins." Miss Marjoribanks
concluded, after a little pause, "It is so unkind to tell me that I
don't care for _you_."

Poor Tom groaned within himself as he listened. He did not know what to
answer to Lucilla's aggrieved yet frank confession. Naturally it would
have been much less displeasing to Tom to understand that she hated him,
and never desired to see him any more. But Miss Marjoribanks was far
from entertaining any such unchristian sentiments. She even began to
forget her anxiety about what was going on upstairs in that delightful
sense of power and abundant resources with which she was mastering the
present difficulty. She reflected in herself that though it was
excessively annoying to be thus occupied at such a moment, still it was
nearly as important to make an end of Tom as to see that the pictures
were hung rightly; for, to be sure, it was always easy to return to the
latter subject. Accordingly, she drew her chair a little nearer to the
window, and regarded Tom with a calm gaze of benevolent interest which
was in perfect accordance with the sentiments she had just expressed; a
look in which a gentle reproach was mingled. "I have always been like a
sister to you," said Lucilla; "how can you be so unkind as to say I
don't care?"

As for the unhappy Tom, he got up, as was natural, and took a little
walk in front of the table, as a young man in trouble is apt to do. "You
know very well that is not what I mean, Lucilla," he said
disconsolately. "It is you who are unkind. I don't know why it is that
ladies are so cruel; I am not such a snob as to persecute anybody. But
what is the good of pretending not to know what I mean?"

"Tom, listen!" cried Miss Marjoribanks, rising in her turn; "I feel sure
they must have finished. There is Mr Holden going through the garden.
And everybody knows that hanging pictures is just the thing of all
others that requires a person of taste. If they have spoiled the room,
it will be all your fault."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake never mind the room!" said Tom. "I never thought
you would have trifled with a man, Lucilla. You know quite well what I
mean; you know it isn't a--a new thing," said the lover, beginning to
stammer and get confused. "You know that is what I have been thinking of
all along, as soon as ever I had anything to live on. I love you,
Lucilla; you know I love you! how can you trifle with me so?"

"It is you who are trifling," said Miss Marjoribanks, "especially when
you know I have really something of importance to do. You can come
upstairs with me if you like. Of course we all love each other. What is
the good of being relations otherwise?" said Lucilla calmly; "it is such
a natural thing, you know. I suppose it is because you are going away
that you are so affectionate to-day. It is very nice of you, I am sure;
but, Tom, I feel quite certain you have not packed your things," Miss
Marjoribanks added, in an admonitory tone. "Come along with me
upstairs."

And by this time Lucilla's curiosity was beginning again to get the
upper hand. If she only could have escaped, it would have been
impossible for her cousin to have renewed the conversation; and luckily
he was to leave Carlingford the same evening; but then a man is always
an inconsequent creature, and not to be calculated on. This time,
instead of obeying as usual, Tom--having, as Miss Marjoribanks
afterwards described (but only in the strictest confidence), "worked
himself up to it"--set himself directly in her way, and seized upon both
her hands.

"Lucilla," cried the unlucky fellow, "is it possible that you really
have misunderstood me all this time? Do you mean to say that you don't
know? Oh, Lucilla, listen just five minutes. It isn't because I am your
cousin. I wish to Heaven I was not your cousin, but some one you had
never seen before. I mean I want you to consent to--to--to--marry me,
Lucilla. That is what I mean. I am called to the bar, and I can work for
you, and make a reputation. Lucilla, listen to what I have to say."

Miss Marjoribanks left her hands in his with a calmness which froze poor
Tom's heart in his breast. She did not even take the trouble to draw
them away. "Have you gone out of your senses, Tom?" she asked, in her
sensible way; and she lifted her eyes to the face of the poor young
fellow who was in love, with an inquiring look, as if she felt a little
anxious about him. "If you have any feeling as if fever was coming on,"
said Lucilla, "I think you should go upstairs and lie down a little till
papa comes in. I heard there had been some cases down about the canal. I
hope it is not the assizes that have been too much for you." When Miss
Marjoribanks said this, she herself took fast hold of Tom's hands with a
motherly grasp to feel if they were hot, and looked into his eyes with a
certain serious inspection, which, under the circumstances, poor fellow!
was enough to drive him out of the little rationality he had left.

Tom was so far carried away by his frenzy, that he gave her a little
shake in his impatience. "You are trying to drive me mad, Lucilla!"
cried the young man. "I have got no fever. It is only you who are
driving me out of my senses. This time you must hear me. I will not let
you go till you have given me an answer. I am called to the bar, and I
have begun my Career," said Tom, making a pause for breath. "I knew you
would have laughed at me when I was depending on my mother; but now all
that is over, Lucilla. I have loved you as long as I can remember; and I
always thought--that you--cared for me a little. If you will have me,
there is nothing I could not do," said Tom, who thoroughly believed what
he was saying; "and if you will not have me, I will not answer for the
consequences. If I go off to India, or if I go to the bad----"

"Tom," said Lucilla solemnly, and this time she drew away her hands, "if
you ever want to get married, I think the very best thing you can do is
to go to India. As for marrying just now at your age, you know you might
as well jump into the sea. You need not be vexed," said Miss
Marjoribanks, in her motherly way. "I would not speak so if I was not
your best friend. As for marrying me, you know it is ridiculous. I have
not the least intention of marrying anybody. If I had thought of that, I
need never have come home at all. As for your going to the bad, I am not
afraid of that. If I were to let you carry on with such a ridiculous
idea, I should never forgive myself. It would be just as sensible to go
into a lunatic asylum at once. It is very lucky for you that you said
this to _me_," Lucilla went on, "and not to one of the girls that think
it great fun to be married. And if I were you, Tom, I would go and pack
my things. You know you are always too late; and don't jump on your
portmanteau and make such a dreadful noise if it won't shut, but ring
the bell for Thomas. You know we are to dine at half-past five to-day,
to give you time for the train."

These were the last words Tom Marjoribanks heard as Lucilla left the
room. She ran up to the drawing-room without losing a minute, and burst
in upon the vacant place where Mr Holden had stood so long waiting for
her. To be sure, Miss Marjoribanks's forebodings were so far fulfilled
that the St Cecilia, which she meant to have over the piano, was hung
quite in the other corner of the room, by reason of being just the same
size as another picture at the opposite angle, which the workmen,
sternly symmetrical, thought it necessary to "match." But, after all,
that was a trifling defect. She stood in the middle of the room, and
surveyed the walls, well pleased, with a heart which kept beating very
steadily in her bosom. On the whole, perhaps, she was not sorry to have
had it out with Tom. So far as he was personally concerned, Miss
Marjoribanks, being a physician's daughter, had great faith in the _vis
medicatrix_, and was not afraid for her cousin's health or his morals,
as a less experienced woman might have been. If she was angry with
anybody, it was with herself, who had not taken sufficient precautions
to avoid the explanation. "But, after all, everything is for the best,"
Lucilla said to herself, with that beautiful confidence which is common
to people who have things their own way; and she devoted her mind to the
St Cecilia, and paid no more attention to Tom. It was not till more than
an hour after that a succession of dreadful thumps was not only heard
but felt throughout the house. It was Tom, but he was not doing any harm
to himself. He was not blowing out his brains or knocking his head
against the wall. He was only jumping on his portmanteau,
notwithstanding that Lucilla had warned him against such a
proceeding--and in his state of mind the jumps were naturally more
frantic than usual. When Lucilla heard it, she rang the bell, and told
Thomas to go and help Mr Tom with his packing; from which it will be
seen that Miss Marjoribanks bore no grudge against her cousin but was
disposed to send him forth in friendship and peace.



_Chapter X_


It was nearly six weeks after this before all Miss Marjoribanks's
arrangements were completed, and she was able with satisfaction to
herself to begin her campaign. It was just before Christmas, at the time
above all others when society has need of a ruling spirit. For example,
Mrs Chiley expected the Colonel's niece, Mary Chiley, who had been
married about six months before, and who was not fond of her husband's
friends, and at the same time had no home of her own to go to, being an
orphan. The Colonel had invited the young couple by way of doing a kind
thing, but he grumbled a little at the necessity, and had never liked
the fellow, he said--and then what were two old people to do to amuse
them? Then Mrs Centum had her two eldest boys home from school, and was
driven out of her senses by the noise and the racket, as she confided to
her visitors. "It is all very well to make pretty pictures about
Christmas," said the exasperated mother, "but I should like to know how
one can enjoy anything with such a commotion going on. I get up every
morning with a headache, I assure you; and then Mr Centum expects me to
be cheerful when he comes in to dinner; men are so unreasonable. I
should like to know what _they_ would do if they had what we have to go
through: to look after all the servants--and they are always out of
their senses at Christmas--and to see that the children don't have too
much pudding, and to support all the noise. The holidays are the hardest
work a poor woman can have," she concluded, with a sigh; and when it is
taken into consideration that this particular Christmas was a wet
Christmas, without any frost or possibility of amusement out of doors,
English matrons in general will not refuse their sympathy to Mrs Centum.
Mrs Woodburn perhaps was equally to be pitied in a different way. She
had to receive several members of her husband's family, who were, like
Miss Marjoribanks, without any sense of humour, and who stared, and did
not in the least understand her when she "took off" any of her
neighbours; not to say that some of them were Low-Church, and thought
the practice sinful. Under these circumstances it will be readily
believed that the commencement of Lucilla's operations was looked upon
with great interest in Carlingford. It was so opportune that society
forgot its usual instincts of criticism, and forgave Miss Marjoribanks
for being more enlightened and enterprising than her neighbours; and
then most people were very anxious to see the drawing-room, now it had
been restored.

This was a privilege, however, not accorded to the crowd. Mrs Chiley had
seen it under a vow of secrecy, and Mr Cavendish owned to having made a
run upstairs one evening after one of Dr Marjoribanks's little dinners,
when the other _convives_ were in the library, where Lucilla had erected
her temporary throne. But this clandestine inspection met with the
failure it deserved, for there was no light in the room except the
moonlight, which made three white blotches on the carpet where the
windows were, burying everything else in the profoundest darkness; and
the spy knocked his foot against something which reduced him to sudden
and well-merited agony. As for Mrs Chiley, she was discretion itself,
and would say nothing even to her niece. "I mean to work her a footstool
in water-lilies, my dear, like the one I did for you when you were
married," the old lady said; and that was the only light she would throw
on the subject. "My opinion is that it must be in crimson," Mrs Woodburn
said, when she heard this, "for I know your aunt's water-lilies. When I
see them growing, I always think of you. It would be quite like Lucilla
Marjoribanks to have it in crimson--for it is a cheerful colour, you
know, and quite different from the old furniture; and that would always
be a comfort to her dear papa." From this it will be seen that the
curiosity of Carlingford was excited to a lively extent. Many people
even went so far as to give the Browns a sitting in their glass-house,
with the hope of having a peep at the colour of the hangings at least.
But Miss Marjoribanks was too sensible a woman to leave her virgin
drawing-room exposed to the sun when there was any, and to the
photographers, who were perhaps more dangerous. "I think it is blue, for
my part," said Miss Brown, who had got into the habit of rising early in
hopes of finding the Doctor's household off its guard. "Lucilla was
always a great one for blue; she thinks it is becoming to her
complexion;" which, indeed, as the readers of this history are aware,
was a matter of fact. As for Miss Marjoribanks, she did her best to
keep up this agreeable mystery. "For my part, I am fond of neutral
tints," she herself said, when she was questioned on the subject;
"anybody who knows me can easily guess my taste. I should have been born
a Quaker, you know, I do so like the drabs and grays, and all those soft
colours. You can have as much red and green as you like abroad, where
the sun is strong, but here it would be bad style," said Lucilla; from
which the most simple-minded of her auditors drew the natural
conclusion. Thus all the world contemplated with excitement the first
Thursday which was to open this enchanted chamber to their admiring
eyes. "Don't expect any regular invitation," Miss Marjoribanks said. "I
hope you will all come, or as many of you as can. Papa has always some
men to dinner with him that day, you know, and it is so dreadfully slow
for me with a heap of men. That is why I fixed on Thursday. I want you
to come every week, so it would be absurd to send an invitation; and
remember it is not a party, only an Evening," said Lucilla. "I shall
wear a white frock high, as I always do. Now be sure you come."

"But we can't all go in high white frocks," said Mrs Chiley's niece,
Mary, who, if her trousseau had been subtracted from the joys of
marriage, would not, poor soul! have found very much left. This
intimation dismayed the bride a little; for, to be sure, she had decided
which dress she was to wear before Lucilla spoke.

"But, my dear, you are married," said Miss Marjoribanks; "that makes it
quite different: come in that pretty pink that is so becoming. I don't
want to have any dowdies, for my part; and don't forget that I shall
expect you all at nine o'clock."

When she had said this, Miss Marjoribanks proceeded on her way, sowing
invitations and gratification round her. She asked the youngest Miss
Brown to bring her music, in recognition of her ancient claims as the
songstress of society in Carlingford; for Lucilla had all that regard
for constituted rights which is so necessary to a revolutionary of the
highest class. She had no desire to shock anybody's prejudices or wound
anybody's feelings. "And she has a nice little voice," Lucilla said to
herself, with the most friendly and tolerant feelings. Thus Miss
Marjoribanks prepared to establish her kingdom with a benevolence which
was almost Utopian, not upon the ruins of other thrones, but with the
goodwill and co-operation of the lesser powers, who were, to be sure,
too feeble to resist her advance, but whose rights she was quite ready
to recognise, and even to promote, in her own way.

At the same time it is necessary here to indicate a certain vague and
not disagreeable danger, which appeared to some experienced persons to
shadow Lucilla's conquering way. Mr Cavendish, who was a young man of
refinement, not to say that he had a very nice property, had begun to
pay attention to Miss Marjoribanks in what Mrs Chiley thought quite a
marked manner. To be sure, he could not pretend to the honour of taking
her in to dinner, which was not his place, being a young man; but he did
what was next best, and manoeuvred to get the place on her left hand,
which, in a party composed chiefly of men, was not difficult to manage.
For, to tell the truth, most of the gentlemen present were at that
special moment more interested in the dinner than in Lucilla. And after
dinner it was Mr Cavendish who was the first to leave the room; and to
hear the two talking about all the places they had been to, and all the
people they had met, was as good as a play, Mrs Chiley said. Mr
Cavendish confided to Lucilla his opinions upon things in general, and
accepted the reproofs which she administered (for Miss Marjoribanks was
quite unquestionable in her orthodoxy, and thought it a duty, as she
said, always to speak with respect of religion) when his sentiments were
too speculative, and said, "How charming is divine philosophy!" so as,
for the moment, to dazzle Lucilla herself, who thought it a very pretty
compliment. He came to her assistance when she made tea, and generally
fulfilled all the duties which are expected of a man who is paying
attention to a young lady. Old Mrs Chiley watched the nascent regard
with her kind old grandmotherly eyes. She calculated over in her own
mind the details of his possessions, so far as the public was aware of
them, and found them on the whole satisfactory. He had a nice property,
and then he was a very nice, indeed an unexceptionable young man; and to
add to this, it had been agreed to between Colonel Chiley and Mr Centum,
and several other of the leading people in Carlingford, that he was the
most likely man to represent the borough when old Mr Chiltern, who was
always threatening to retire, fulfilled his promise. Mr Cavendish had a
very handsome house a little out of town, where a lady would be next
thing to a county lady--indeed, quite a county lady, if her husband was
the Member for Carlingford.

All these thoughts passed through Mrs Chiley's mind, and, as was
natural, in the precious moments after dinner, were suggested in
occasional words of meaning to the understanding ear of Miss
Marjoribanks. "My dear Lucilla, it is just the position that would suit
you--with your talents!" the old lady said; and Lucilla did not say No.
To be sure, she had not at the present moment the least inclination to
get married, as she truly said; it would, indeed, to tell the truth,
disturb her plans considerably; but still, if such was the intention of
Providence, and if it was to the Member for Carlingford, Lucilla felt
that it was still credible that everything might be for the best.

"But it is a great deal too soon to think of anything of that sort,"
Miss Marjoribanks would reply. "If I had thought of that, I need never
have come home at all; and especially when papa has been so good about
everything." Yet for all that she was not ungracious to Mr Cavendish
when he came in first as usual. To marry a man in his position would
not, after all, be deranging her plans to any serious extent. Indeed, it
would, if his hopes were realised, constitute Lucilla a kind of queen in
Carlingford, and she could not but feel that, under these circumstances,
it might be a kind of duty to reconsider her resolution. And thus the
time passed while the drawing-room was undergoing renovation. Mr
Cavendish had been much tantalised, she said, by the absence of the
piano, which prevented them from having any music, and Lucilla had even
been tempted into a few snatches of song, which, to tell the truth, some
of the gentlemen present, especially the Doctor himself and Colonel
Chiley, being old-fashioned, preferred without the accompaniment. And
thus it was, under the most brilliant auspices, and with the full
confidence of all her future constituency, that Miss Marjoribanks
superintended the arrangement of the drawing-room on that momentous
Thursday, which was to be the real beginning of her great work in
Carlingford.

"My dear, you must leave yourself entirely in my hands," Lucilla said to
Barbara Lake on the morning of that eventful day. "Don't get impatient.
I dare say you don't know many people, and it may be a little slow for
you at first; but everybody has to put up with that, you know, for a
beginning. And, by the bye, what are you going to wear?"

"I have not thought about it," said Barbara, who had the painful pride
of poverty, aggravated much by a sense that the comforts of other people
were an injury to her. Poor soul! she had been thinking of little else
for at least a week past; and then she had not very much choice in her
wardrobe; but her disposition was one which rejected sympathy, and she
thought it would look best to pretend to be indifferent. At the same
time, she said this with a dull colour on her cheeks, the colour of
irritation; and she could not help asking herself why Lucilla, who was
not so handsome as she was, had the power to array herself in gorgeous
apparel, while she, Barbara, had nothing but a white frock. There are
differences even in white frocks, though the masculine mind may be
unaware of them. Barbara's muslin had been washed six times, and had a
very different air from the vestal robes of her patroness. To be sure,
Lucilla was not taken in, in the least, by her companion's look of
indifference, and would even have been delighted to bestow a pretty
dress upon Barbara, if that had been a possible thing to do.

"There will be no dress," said Miss Marjoribanks, with solemnity. "I
have insisted upon that. You know it is not a party, it is only an
Evening. A white frock, _high_--that is all I mean to wear; and mind you
don't lose patience. I shall keep my eye on you; and after the first, I
feel sure you will enjoy yourself. Good-bye for the present." When she
had uttered these encouraging words. Miss Marjoribanks went away to
pursue her preparations, and Barbara proceeded to get out her dress and
examine it. It was as important to her as all the complicated
paraphernalia of the evening's arrangements were to Lucilla. It is true
that there were greater interests involved in the case of the leader;
but then Barbara was the soldier of fortune who had to open the oyster
with her sword, and she was feeling the point of it metaphorically while
she pulled out the breadths of her white dress, and tried to think that
they would not look limp at night; and what her sentiments lost in
breadth, as compared with Lucilla's, they gained in intensity, for--for
anything she could tell--her life might change colour by means of this
Thursday Evening; and such, indeed, was her hope. Barbara prepared for
her first appearance in Grange Lane, with a mind wound up to any degree
of daring. It did not occur to her that she required to keep faith with
Miss Marjoribanks in anything except the duet. As regarded other
matters, Barbara was quite unscrupulous, for at the bottom she could not
but feel that any one who was kind to her was taking an unwarrantable
liberty. What right had Lucilla Marjoribanks to be kind to her? as if
she was not as good as Lucilla any day! and though it might be worth her
while to take advantage of it for the moment, it was still an insult, in
its way, to be avenged if an opportunity ever should arise.

The evening came, as evenings do come, quite indifferently whether
people are glad or sorry; and it was with a calmness which the other
ladies regarded as next to miraculous, that Miss Marjoribanks took
Colonel Chiley's arm to go to the dining-room. We say the other ladies,
for on this great occasion Mrs Centum and Mrs Woodburn were both among
the dinner-guests. "To see her eat her dinner as if she had nothing on
her mind!" Mrs Centum said in amazement: "as for me, though nobody can
blame me if anything goes wrong, I could enjoy nothing for thinking of
it. And I must say I was disappointed with the dinner," she added, with
a certain air of satisfaction, in Mrs Woodburn's ear. It was when they
were going upstairs, and Lucilla was behind with Mrs Chiley. "The fuss
the men have always made about these dinners! and except for a few made
dishes that were really nothing, you know, I can't say _I_ saw anything
particular in it. And as for Lucilla, I can't think she has any
feeling," said the banker's wife.

"Oh, my dear, it is because you don't understand," said Mrs Woodburn.
"She is kept up, you know, by a sense of duty. It is all because she has
set her heart on being a comfort to her dear papa!"

Such, it is true, were the comments that were made upon the
public-spirited young woman who was doing so much for Carlingford; but
then Lucilla only shared the fate of all the great benefactors of the
world. An hour later the glories of the furniture were veiled and hidden
by the robes of a radiant flood of society, embracing all that was most
fair and all that was most distinguished in Carlingford. No doubt there
was a world of heterogeneous elements; but then if there had not been
difficulties where would have been the use of Miss Marjoribanks's
genius? Mr Bury and his sister, who had been unconsciously mollified by
the admirable dinner provided for them downstairs, found some stray
lambs in the assembly who were in need of them, and thus had the double
satisfaction of combining pleasure with duty; and though there were
several people in the room whose lives were a burden to them in
consequence of Mrs Woodburn's remarkable gift, even they found it
impossible not to be amused by an occasional representation of an
absent individual, or by the dashing sketch of Lucilla, which she gave
at intervals in her corner, amid the smothered laughter of the audience,
who were half ashamed of themselves. "She is never ill-tempered, you
know," the persons who felt themselves threatened in their turn said to
each other with a certain piteous resignation; and oddly enough it was
in general the most insignificant people about who were afraid of Mrs
Woodburn. It is needless to say that such a dread never entered the
serene intelligence of Miss Marjoribanks, who believed in herself with a
reasonable and steady faith. As for old Mrs Chiley, who had so many
funny little ways, and whom the mimic executed to perfection, she also
was quite calm on the subject. "You know there is nothing to take off in
me," the old lady would say; "I always was a simple body: and then I am
old enough to be all your grandmothers, my dear;" which was a saying
calculated, as Miss Marjoribanks justly observed, to melt a heart of
stone.

Then the Miss Browns had brought their photographs, in which most people
in Grange Lane were caricatured hideously, but with such a charming
equality that the most _exigeant_ forgave the wrong to himself in
laughing at his neighbours. Miss Brown had brought her music too, and
sang her feeble little strain to the applause of her immediate
neighbours, and to the delight of those who were at a distance, and who
could talk louder and flirt more openly under cover of the music; and
there were other young ladies who had also come prepared with a little
roll of songs or "pieces." Lucilla, with her finger as it were upon the
pulse of the company, let them all exhibit their powers with that
enlightened impartiality which we have already remarked in her. When Mr
Cavendish came to her in his ingratiating way, and asked her how she
could possibly let all the sparrows chirp like that when the nightingale
was present, Miss Marjoribanks proved herself proof to the flattery. She
said, "Do go away, like a good man, and make yourself agreeable. There
are so few men, you know, who can flirt in Carlingford. I have always
reckoned upon you as such a valuable assistant. It is always an
advantage to have a man who flirts," said Miss Marjoribanks. This was a
sentiment perhaps too large and enlightened, in the truest sense of the
word, to meet, as it ought to have done, with the applause of her
audience. Most of the persons immediately surrounding her thought,
indeed, that it was a mere _bon-mot_ to which Lucilla had given
utterance, and laughed accordingly; but it is needless to explain that
these were persons quite unable to understand her genius.

All this time she was keeping her eyes upon a figure in the corner of a
sofa, which looked as if it was glued there, and kept staring defiance
at the world in general from under black and level brows. Lucilla, it is
true, had introduced Barbara Lake in the most flattering way to Mrs
Chiley, and to some of the young ladies present; but then she was a
stranger, and an intruder into those regions of the blest, and she could
not help feeling so. If her present companions had not whispered among
themselves, "Miss Lake! what Miss Lake? Good gracious! Lake the
drawing-master's daughter!" she herself would still have reminded
herself of her humble paternity. Barbara sat as if she could not move
from that corner, looking out upon everybody with scared eyes, which
expressed nothing but defiance, and in her own mind making the
reflections of bitter poverty upon the airy pretty figures round her, in
all the variations of that costume which Miss Marjoribanks had announced
as the standard of dress for the evening. Barbara's muslin, six times
washed, was not more different from the spotless lightness of all the
draperies round her, than was her air of fright, and at the same time of
defiance, from the gay babble and pleasant looks of the group which, by
a chance combination, she seemed to form part of. She began to say to
herself that she had much better go away, and that there never could be
anything in common between those frivolous creatures and herself, a poor
man's daughter; and she began to get dreadfully exasperated with
Lucilla, who had beguiled her into this scene, to make game of her, as
poor Barbara said; though, so far from making game of her, nobody took
much notice, after the first unsuccessful attempt at conversation, of
the unfortunate young woman. It was when she was in this unhappy humour
that her eye fell upon Mr Cavendish, who was in the act of making the
appeal to Lucilla which we have already recorded. Barbara had never as
yet had a lover, but she had read an unlimited number of novels, which
came to nearly the same thing, and she saw at a glance that this was
somebody who resembled the indispensable hero. She looked at him with a
certain fierce interest, and remembered at that instant how often in
books it is the humble heroine, behind backs, whom all the young ladies
snub, who wins the hero at the last. And then Miss Marjoribanks, though
she sent him away, smiled benignantly upon him. The colour flushed to
Barbara's cheeks, and her eyes, which had grown dull and fixed between
fright and spite, took sudden expression under her straight brows. An
intention, which was not so much an intention as an instinct, suddenly
sprang into life within her, and, without knowing, she drew a long
breath of eagerness and impotence. He was standing quite near by this
time, doing his duty according to Miss Marjoribanks's orders, and
flirting with all his might; and Barbara looked at him as a hungry
schoolboy might be supposed to look at a tempting apple just out of his
reach. How was she to get at this suitor of Lucilla's? It would have
given her so pure a delight to tear down the golden apple, and tread on
it, and trample it to nothing; and then it came into her head that it
might be good to eat as well.

It was at this moment that Miss Marjoribanks, who was in six places at
once, suddenly touched Barbara's shoulder. "Come with me a minute; I
want to show you something," she said loud out. Barbara, on her side,
looked round with a crimson countenance, feeling that her secret
thoughts must be written in her guilty eyes. But then these were eyes
which could be utterly destitute of expression when they pleased, though
their owner, at present just at the beginning of her experience, was not
quite aware of the fact. She stumbled to her feet with the awkward
motion natural to that form of shyness which her temper and her
temperament united to produce in her. She did all but put her foot
through Miss Brown's delicate skirt, and she had neither the natural
disposition nor the acquired grace which can carry off one of those
trifling offences against society. Nevertheless, as she stood beside
Lucilla at the piano, the company in general owned a little thrill of
curiosity. Who was she? A girl with splendid black hair, with brows as
level as if they had been made with a line, with intense eyes which
looked a little oblique under that straight bar of shadow. Her dress was
limp, but she was not such a figure as could be passed over even at an
evening party; and then her face was a little flushed, and her eyes lit
up with excitement. She seemed to survey everybody with that defiant
look which was chiefly awkwardness and temper, but which looked like
pride when she was standing up at her full height, and in a conspicuous
position, where everybody could see her. Most people concluded she was
an Italian whom Lucilla had picked up somewhere in her travels. As for
Mr Cavendish, he stopped short altogether in the occupation which Miss
Marjoribanks had allotted to him, and drew close to the piano. He
thought he had seen the face somewhere under a shabby bonnet in some
by-street of Carlingford, and he was even sufficiently learned in female
apparel to observe the limpness of her dress.

This preface of curiosity had all been foreseen by Miss Marjoribanks,
and she paused a moment, under pretence of selecting her music, to take
the full advantage of it: for Lucilla, like most persons of elevated
aims, was content to sacrifice herself to the success of her work; and
then all at once, before the Carlingford people knew what they were
doing, the two voices rose, bursting upon the astonished community like
a sudden revelation. For it must be remembered that nobody in
Carlingford, except the members of Dr Marjoribanks's dinner-party, had
ever heard Lucilla sing, much less her companion; and the account which
these gentlemen had carried home to their wives had been generally
pooh-poohed and put down. "Mr Centum never listens to a note if he can
help it," said the banker's wife, "and how could he know whether she had
a nice voice or not?" which, indeed, was a powerful argument. But this
evening there could be no mistake about it. The words were arrested on
the very lips of the talkers; Mrs Woodburn paused in the midst of doing
Lucilla, and, as we have before said, Mr Cavendish broke a flirtation
clean off at its most interesting moment. It is impossible to record
what they sang, for those events, as everybody is aware, happened a good
many years ago, and the chances are that the present generation has
altogether forgotten the duet which made so extraordinary an impression
on the inhabitants of Grange Lane. The applause with which the
performance was received reached the length of a perfect ovation.
Barbara, for her part, who was not conscious of having ever been
applauded before, flushed into splendid crimson, and shone out from
under her straight eyebrows, intoxicated into absolute beauty. As for
Miss Marjoribanks, she took it more calmly. Lucilla had the advantage of
knowing what she could do, and accordingly she was not surprised when
people found it remarkable. She consented, on urgent persuasion, to
repeat the last verse of the duet, but when that was over, was smilingly
obdurate. "Almost everybody can sing," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a
magnificent depreciation of her own gift. "Perhaps Miss Brown will sing
us something; but as for me, you know, I am the mistress of the house."

Lucilla went away as she spoke to attend to her guests, but she left
Barbara still crimson and splendid, triumphing over her limp dress and
all her disadvantages, by the piano. Fortunately, for that evening
Barbara's pride and her shyness prevented her from yielding to the
repeated demands addressed to her by the admiring audience. She said to
Mr Cavendish, with a disloyalty which that gentleman thought piquant,
that "Miss Marjoribanks would not be pleased"; and the future Member for
Carlingford thought he could not do better than obey the injunctions of
the mistress of the feast by a little flirtation with the gifted
unknown. To be sure, Barbara was not gifted in talk, and she was still
defiant and contradictory; but then her eyes were blazing with
excitement under her level eyebrows, and she was as willing to be
flirted with as if she had known a great deal better. And then Mr
Cavendish had a weakness for a contralto. While this little by-play was
going on, Lucilla was moving about, the centre of a perfect tumult of
applause. No more complete success could be imagined than that of this
first Thursday Evening, which was remarkable in the records of
Carlingford; and yet perhaps Miss Marjoribanks, like other conquerors,
was destined to build her victory upon sacrifice. She did not feel any
alarm at the present moment; but even if she had, that would have made
no difference to Lucilla's proceedings. She was not the woman to shrink
from a sacrifice when it was for the promotion of the great object of
her life; and that, as everybody knew who knew Miss Marjoribanks, was to
be a comfort to her dear papa.



_Chapter XI_


"You have never told us who your unknown was," said Mr Cavendish. "I
suppose she is professional. Carlingford could not possibly possess two
such voices in private life."

"Oh, I don't know about two such voices," said Miss Marjoribanks; "her
voice suits mine, you know. It is always a great thing to find two
voices that suit. I never would choose to have professional singers, for
my part. You have to give yourself up to music when you do such a thing;
and that is not my idea of society. I am very fond of music," said
Lucilla--"excessively fond of it; but then everybody is not of my
opinion--and one has to take so many things into consideration. For
people who give one party in the year it does very well--but then I hate
parties: the only pleasure in society is when one's friends come to see
one without any ado."

"In white frocks, _high_," said Mrs Woodburn, who could not help
assuming Lucilla's manner for the moment, even while addressing herself;
but as the possibility of such a _lèse-majesté_ did not even occur to
Miss Marjoribanks, she accepted the observation in good faith.

"Yes; I hate a grand toilette when it is only a meeting of friends," she
said--"for the girls, you know; of course you married ladies can always
do what you like. You have your husbands to please," said Lucilla. And
this was a little hard upon her satirist, for, to tell the truth, that
was a particular of domestic duty to which Mrs Woodburn did not much
devote herself, according to the opinion of Grange Lane.

"But about the contralto," said Mr Cavendish, who had come to call on
Miss Marjoribanks under his sister's wing, and desired above all things
to keep the peace between the two ladies, as indeed is a man's duty
under such circumstances. "You are always statesmanlike in your views;
but I cannot understand why you let poor little Molly Brown carry on her
chirping when you had such an astonishing force in reserve. She must
have been covered with confusion, the poor little soul."

"Nothing of the sort," said Mrs Woodburn, pursuing her favourite
occupation as usual. "She only said, 'Goodness me! how high Lucilla
goes! Do you like that dreadfully high music?' and made little
eyebrows." To be sure, the mimic made Miss Brown's eyebrows, and spoke
in her voice, so that even Lucilla found it a little difficult to keep
her gravity. But then Miss Marjoribanks was defended by her mission, and
she felt in her heart that, representing public interest as she did, it
was her duty to avoid all complicity in any attack upon an individual;
and consequently, to a certain extent, it was her duty also to put Mrs
Woodburn down.

"Molly Brown has a very nice little voice," said Lucilla, with most
disheartening gravity. "I like to hear her sing, for my part--the only
thing is that she wants cultivation a little. It doesn't matter much you
know, whether or not you have a voice to begin with. It is cultivation
that is the thing," said Miss Marjoribanks deliberately. "I hope you
_really_ thought it was a pleasant evening. Of course everybody said so
to me; but then one can never put any faith in that. I have said it
myself ever so many times when I am sure I did not mean it. For myself,
I don't give any importance to the first evening. Anybody can do a thing
once, you know; the second and the third, and so on--that is the real
test. But I hope you thought it pleasant so far as it went."

"It was a great deal more than pleasant," said Mr Cavendish; "and as for
your conception of social politics, it is masterly," the future M.P.
added, in a tone which struck Lucilla as very significant; not that she
cared particularly about Mr Cavendish's meaning, but still, when a young
man who intends to go into Parliament congratulates a young lady upon
her statesmanlike views, and her conception of politics, it must be
confessed that it looks a little particular; and then, if that was what
he meant, it was no doubt Lucilla's duty to make up her mind.

"Oh, you know, I went through a course of political economy at Mount
Pleasant," she said, with a laugh. "One of the Miss Blounts was
dreadfully strong-minded. I wonder, for my part, that she did not make
me literary; but fortunately I escaped that."

"Heaven be praised!" said Mr Cavendish. "I think you ought to be Prime
Minister. That contralto of yours is charming raw material; but if I
were you I would put her through an elementary course. She knows how to
sing, but she does not know how to move; and as for talking, she seems
to expect to be insulted. If you make a pretty-behaved young lady out of
that, you will beat Adam Smith."

"Oh, I don't know much about Adam Smith," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I
think Miss Martha thought him rather old-fashioned. As for poor Barbara,
she is only a little shy, but that will soon wear off. I don't see what
need she has to talk--or to move either, for that matter. I thought she
did very well indeed for a girl who never goes into society. Was it not
clever of me to find her out the very first day I was in Carlingford? It
has always been so difficult to find a voice that went perfectly with
mine."

"For my part, I think it was a great deal more than clever," said Mr
Cavendish; for Mrs Woodburn, finding herself unappreciated, was silent
and making notes. "It was a stroke of genius. So her name is Barbara? I
wonder if it would be indiscreet to ask where Mademoiselle Barbara comes
from, or if she belongs to anybody, or lives anywhere. My own impression
is that you mean to keep her shut up in a box all the week through, and
produce her only on the Thursday evenings. I have a weakness for a fine
contralto. If she had been existing in an ordinary habitation like other
people in Carlingford, I should have heard her, or heard of her. It is
clear to me that you keep her shut up in a box."

"Exactly," said Lucilla. "I don't mean to tell you anything about her.
You may be sure, now I have found her out, I mean to keep her for
myself. Her box is quite a pretty one, like what Gulliver had somewhere.
It is just time for lunch, and you are both going to stay, I hope; and
there is poor Mary Chiley and her husband coming through the garden.
What a pity it is he is such a goose!"

"Yes; but you know she never would take her uncle's advice, my dear,"
said the incorrigible mimic, putting on Mrs Chiley's face; "and being an
orphan, what could anybody do? And then she does not get on with _his_
family. By the way," Mrs Woodburn said, falling into her natural
tone--"I wonder if anybody ever does get on with her husband's family?"
The question was one which was a little grave to herself at the moment;
and this was the reason why she returned to her identity--for there was
no telling how long the Woodburns, who had come for Christmas, meant to
stay. "I shall be quite interested to watch _you_, Lucilla, when it
comes to be your turn, and see how you manage," she went on, with a keen
look at Miss Marjoribanks; and Mr Cavendish laughed. He too looked at
her, and Lucilla felt herself in rather a delicate position: not that
she was agitated, as might have been the case had the future M.P. for
Carlingford "engaged her affections," as she herself would have said.
Fortunately these young affections were quite free as yet; but
nevertheless Miss Marjoribanks felt that the question was a serious one,
as coming from the sister of a gentleman who was undeniably paying her
attention. She did not in the least wish to alarm a leading member of a
family into which it was possible she might enter; and then at the same
time she intended to reserve fully all her individual rights.

"I always make it a point never to shock anybody's prejudices," said
Miss Marjoribanks. "I should do just the same with _them_ as with other
people; all you have to do is to show from the first that you mean to be
good friends with everybody. But then I am so lucky: I can _always_ get
on with people," said Lucilla, rising to greet the two unfortunates who
had come to Colonel Chiley's to spend a merry Christmas, and who did not
know what to do with themselves. And then they all went downstairs and
lunched together very pleasantly. As for Mr Cavendish, he was "quite
devoted," as poor Mary Chiley said, with a touch of envy. To be sure,
her trousseau was still in its full glory; but yet life under the
conditions of marriage was not nearly such fun as it had been when she
was a young lady, and had some one paying attention to her: and she
rather grudged Lucilla that climax of existence, notwithstanding her own
superior standing and dignity as a married lady. And Mrs Woodburn too
awoke from her study of the stupid young husband to remark upon her
brother's behaviour: she had not seen the two together so often as Mrs
Chiley had done, and consequently this was the first time that the
thought had occurred to her. She too had been born "one of the
Cavendishes," as it was common to say in Carlingford, with a certain
imposing yet vague grandeur--and she was a little shocked, like any good
sister, at the first idea. She watched Lucilla's movements and looks
with a quite different kind of attention after this idea struck her, and
made a rapid private calculation as to who Dr Marjoribanks's connections
were, and what he would be likely to give his daughter; so that it is
evident that Lucilla did not deceive herself, but that Mr Cavendish's
attentions must have been marked indeed.

This was the little cloud which arose, as we have said, no bigger than a
man's hand, over Miss Marjoribanks's prosperous way. When the luncheon
was over and they had all gone, Lucilla took a few minutes to think it
over before she went out. It was not that she was unduly flattered by Mr
Cavendish's attentions, as might have happened to an inexperienced young
woman; for Lucilla, with her attractions and genius, had not reached the
mature age of nineteen without receiving the natural homage of mankind
on several clearly-defined occasions. But then the present case had
various features peculiar to itself, which prevented Lucilla from
crushing it in the bud, as she had meant to do with her cousin's
ill-fated passion. She had to consider, in the first place, her mission
in Carlingford, which was more important than anything else; but though
Miss Marjoribanks had vowed herself to the reorganisation of society in
her native town, she had not by any means vowed that it was absolutely
as Miss Marjoribanks that she was to accomplish that renovation. And
then there was something in the very idea of being M.P. for Carlingford
which moved the mind of Lucilla. It was a perfectly ideal position for a
woman of her views, and seemed to offer the very field that was
necessary for her ambition. This was the reason, of all others, which
made her less careful to prevent Mr Cavendish from "saying the words"
than she had been with Tom. To be sure, it would be a trial to leave the
drawing-room after it had just been furnished so entirely to her
liking--not to say to her complexion; but still it was a sacrifice which
might be made. It was in this way that Miss Marjoribanks prepared
herself for the possible modifications which circumstances might impose.
She did not make any rash resolution to resist a change which, on the
whole, might possibly be "for the best," but prepared herself to take
everything into consideration, and possibly to draw from it a superior
good: in short, she looked upon the matter as a superior mind, trained
in sound principles of political economy, might be expected to look upon
the possible vicissitudes of fortune, with an enlightened regard to the
uses of all things, and to the comparative values on either side.

Barbara Lake, as it happened, was out walking at the very moment when
Miss Marjoribanks sat down to consider this question. She had gone to
the School of Design to meet Rose, with an amiability very unusual in
her. Rose had made such progress, after leaving Mount Pleasant, under
her father's care, and by the help of that fine feeling for art which
has been mentioned in the earlier part of this history, that the charge
of the female pupils in the School of Design had been confided to her,
with a tiny little salary, which served Mr Lake as an excuse for keeping
his favourite little daughter with him. Nothing could be supposed more
unlike Barbara than her younger sister, who just came up to her
shoulder, and was twice as serviceable and active and "nice," according
to the testimony of all the children. Barbara had led her father a hard
life, poor man! the time that Rose was at Mount Pleasant; but now that
his assistant had come back again, the poor drawing-master had recovered
all his old spirits. She was just coming out of the School of Design,
with her portfolio under her arm, when Barbara met her. There were not
many pupils, it is true, but still there were enough to worry poor Rose,
who was not an imposing personage, and who was daily wounded by the
discovery that after all there are but a limited number of persons in
this world, especially in the poorer classes of the community, and under
the age of sixteen, who have a feeling for art. It was utterly
inconceivable to the young teacher how her girls could be so clever as
to find out each a different way of putting the sublime features of the
Belveder Apollo out of drawing, and she was still revolving this
difficult problem when her sister joined her. Barbara, for her part, was
occupied with thoughts of a hero much more interesting than he of
Olympus. She was flushed and eager, and looking very handsome under her
shabby bonnet; and her anxiety to have a _confidante_ was so great that
she made a dart at Rose, and grasped her by the arm under which she was
carrying her portfolio, to the great discomposure of the young artist.
She asked, with a little anxiety, "What is the matter? is there anything
wrong at home?" and made a rapid movement to get to the other side.

"Oh, Rose," said Barbara, panting with haste and agitation, "only fancy;
I have just seen him. I met him right in front of Masters's, and he took
off his hat to me. I feel in such a way--I can scarcely speak."

"Met--who?" said Rose--for she was imperfect in her grammar, like most
people in a moment of emergency; and, besides, she shared to some extent
Miss Marjoribanks's reluctance to shock the prejudices of society, and
was disturbed by the idea that somebody might pass and see Barbara in
her present state of excitement, and perhaps attribute it to its true
cause.

"Oh, you stupid little thing!" said Barbara, giving her "a shake" by her
disengaged arm. "I tell you, _him_!--the gentleman I met at Lucilla
Marjoribanks's. He looked as if he was quite delighted to see me again;
and I am sure he turned round to see where I was going. He couldn't
speak to me, you know, the first time; though indeed I shouldn't be the
least surprised if he had followed--at a distance, you know, only to see
where I live," said Barbara, turning round and searching into the
distance with her eager eyes. But there was nobody to be seen in the
street, except some of Rose's pupils lingering along in the sunshine,
and very probably exchanging similar confidences. Barbara turned back
again with a touch of disappointment. "I am quite sure he will find out
before long; and don't forget I said so," she added, with a little nod
of her head.

"I don't see what it matters if he found out directly," said Rose. "Papa
would not let anybody come to our house that he did not approve of; and
then, you know, he will never have anything to say to people who are
patronising. I don't want to hear any more about your fine gentleman. If
you were worried as I am, you would think much more of getting home than
of anybody bowing to you in the street. One of the gentlemen from
Marlborough House once took off his hat to me," said Rose, with a
certain solemnity. "Of course I was pleased; but then I knew it was my
design he was thinking of--my Honiton flounce, you know. I suppose this
other one must have thought you had a pretty voice."

This time, however, it was an angry shake that Barbara gave to her
sister. "I wish you would not be such a goose," she said; "who cares
about your Honiton flounce? He took off his hat because--because he
admired me, I suppose--and then it was a great deal more than just
taking off his hat. He gave me such a look! Papa has no sense, though I
suppose you will blaze up when I say so. He ought to think of us a
little. As for patronising, I should soon change that, I can tell you.
But then papa thinks of nothing but paying his bills and keeping out of
debt, as he says--as if everybody was not in debt; and how do you
suppose we are ever to get settled in life? It would be far more
sensible to spend a little more, and go into society a little, and do us
justice. Only think all that that old Doctor is doing for Lucilla; and
there are four of us when the little ones grow up," said Barbara, in a
tone of injury. "I should like to know what papa is thinking of? If
mamma had not died when she did----"

"It was not poor mamma's fault," said Rose. "I dare say she would have
lived if she could for all our sakes. But then you have always taken a
false view of our position, Barbara. We are a family of _artists_," said
the little mistress of the School of Design. She had pretty eyes, very
dewy and clear, and they woke up under the excitement of this proud
claim. "When papa is appreciated as he deserves, and when Willie has
_made a name_" said Rose, with modest confidence, "things will be
different. But the true strength of our position is that we are a family
of artists. We are everybody's equal, and we are nobody's equal. We have
a rank of our own. If you would only remember this, you would not grudge
anything to Lucilla Marjoribanks; and then I am sure she has been very
kind to you."

"Oh, bother!" said the unfeeling Barbara. "You do nothing but encourage
papa with your nonsense. And I should like to know what right Lucilla
Marjoribanks has to be kind to me? If I am not as good as she, it is a
very strange thing. I should never take the trouble to think about _him_
if it was not that Lucilla believes he is paying her attention--that is
the great fun. It would be delicious to take him from her, and make game
of her and her kindness. Goodness! there he is again. I felt sure that
he would try to find out the house."

And Barbara crimsoned higher than ever, and held Rose fast by the arm,
and called her attention by the most visible and indeed tangible signs
to the elegant apparition, like any other underbred young woman. As for
Rose, she was a little gentlewoman born, and had a horror unspeakable of
her sister's bad manners. When Mr Cavendish made a movement as if to
address Barbara, it was the pretty gray eyes of Rose lifted to his face
with a look of straightforward surprise and inquiry which made him
retire so hastily. He took off his hat again more respectfully than
before, and pursued his walk along Grove Street, as if he had no
ulterior intention in visiting that humble part of the town. As for
Barbara, she held Rose faster than ever, and almost pinched her arm to
make her listen. "I knew he was trying to find out the house," she said,
in an exultant whisper. "And Lucilla thinks he is paying her
attention!" For the fact was, that when Miss Marjoribanks took to being
kind to Barbara, she conferred upon the contralto at the same moment a
palpable injury and grievance, which was what the drawing-master's
daughter had been looking for, for several years of her life. And
naturally Lucilla, who was at this moment thinking it all over under the
soft green shadows from her new hangings, was deprived of the light
which might have been thrown on her reflections, had she seen what was
going on in Grove Street. The conditions of humanity are such that even
a woman of genius cannot altogether overstep them. And Lucilla still
continued to think that Mr Cavendish was paying her attention, which,
indeed, was also the general opinion in Grange Lane.



_Chapter XII_


The second of her Thursday evenings found Miss Marjoribanks, though
secure, perhaps more anxious than on the former occasion. The charm of
the first novelty was gone, and Lucilla did not feel quite sure that her
subjects had the good sense to recognise all the benefits which she was
going to confer upon them. "It is the second time that counts," she said
in confidence to Mrs Chiley. "Last Thursday they wanted to see the
drawing-room, and they wanted to know what sort of thing it was to be.
Dear Mrs Chiley, it is to-night that is the test," said Lucilla, giving
a nervous pressure to her old friend's hand; at least a pressure that
would have betokened the existence of nerves in any one else but Miss
Marjoribanks, whose magnificent organisation was beyond any suspicion of
such weakness. But, nevertheless, Mrs Chiley, who watched her with
grandmotherly interest, was comforted to perceive that Lucilla, as on
the former occasion, had strength of mind to eat her dinner. "She wants
a little support, poor dear," the old lady said in her heart; for she
was a kinder critic than the younger matrons, who felt instinctively
that Miss Marjoribanks was doing what they ought to have done. She took
her favourite's arm in hers as they went upstairs, and gave Mr Cavendish
a kindly nod as he opened the door for them. "He will come and give you
his assistance as soon as ever he can get away from the gentlemen,"
said Mrs Chiley, in her consolatory tone; "but, good gracious, Lucilla,
what is the matter?" The cause of this exclamation was a universal hum
and rustle as of many dresses and many voices; and, to tell the truth,
when Miss Marjoribanks and her companion reached the top of the stairs,
they found themselves lost in a laughing crowd, which had taken refuge
on the landing. "There is no room, Lucilla. Lucilla, everybody in
Carlingford is here. Do make a little room for us in the drawing-room,"
cried this overplus of society. If there was an enviable woman in
Carlingford at that moment, it certainly was Miss Marjoribanks, standing
on the top of her own stairs, scarcely able to penetrate through the
throng of her guests. Her self-possession did not forsake her at this
supreme moment. She grasped Mrs Chiley once again with a little
significant gesture which pleased the old lady, for she could not but
feel that she was Lucilla's only _confidante_ in her brilliant but
perilous undertaking. "_They_ will not be able to get in when they come
upstairs," said Miss Marjoribanks; and whether the faint inflection in
her voice meant exultation or disappointment, her old friend could not
tell.

But the scene changed when the rightful sovereign entered the gay but
disorganised dominion where her subjects attended her. Before any one
knew how it was done, Miss Marjoribanks had re-established order, and,
what was still more important, made room. She said, "You girls have no
business to get into corners. The corners are for the people that can
talk. It is one of my principles always to flirt in the middle of the
company," said Lucilla; and again, as happened so often, ignorant people
laughed and thought it a _bon mot_. But it is needless to inform the
more intelligent persons who understand Miss Marjoribanks, that it was
by no means a _bon mot_, but expressed Lucilla's convictions with the
utmost sincerity.

Thus it happened that the second Thursday was more brilliant and
infinitely more gratifying than the first had been. For one thing, she
felt sure that it was not to see the new furniture, nor to criticise
this new sort of entertainment, but with the sincerest intention of
enjoying themselves, that all the people had come; and there are moments
when the egotism of the public conveys the highest compliment that can
be paid to the great minds which take in hand to rule and to amuse it.
The only drawback was, that Barbara Lake did not show the same modesty
and reticence as on the former occasion. Far from being sensibly
silent, which she had been so prudent as to be on Miss Marjoribanks's
first Thursday, she forgot herself so far as to occupy a great deal of
Mr Cavendish's valuable time, which he might have employed much more
usefully. She not only sang by herself when he asked her, having brought
some music with her unseen by Lucilla, but she kept her seat upon the
stool before the piano ever so long afterwards, detaining him, and, as
Miss Marjoribanks had very little doubt, making an exhibition of
herself: for Barbara, having received one good gift from nature, had
been refused the other, and could not talk. When Lucilla, arrested in
the midst of her many occupations, heard her protégée's voice rising
alone, she stopped quite short with an anxiety which it was touching to
behold. It was not the jealousy of a rival cantatrice which inspired
Miss Marjoribanks's countenance, but the far broader and grander anxiety
of an accomplished statesman, who sees a rash and untrained hand
meddling with his most delicate machinery. Lucilla ignored everything
for the moment--her own voice, and Mr Cavendish's attentions, and every
merely secondary and personal emotion. All these details were swallowed
up in the fear that Barbara would not acquit herself as it was necessary
for the credit of the house that she should acquit herself; that she
should not sing well enough, or that she should sing too much. Once more
Miss Marjoribanks put her finger upon the pulse of the community as she
and they listened together. Fortunately, things went so far well that
Barbara sang her very best, and kept up her prestige: but it was
different in the second particular; for, unluckily, the contralto knew a
great many songs, and showed no inclination to stop. Nothing remained
for it but a bold _coup_, which Lucilla executed with all her natural
coolness and success.

"My dear Barbara," she said, putting her hands on the singer's shoulders
as she finished her strain, "that is enough for to-night. Mr Cavendish
will take you downstairs and get you a cup of tea; for you know there is
no room to-night to serve it upstairs." Thus Miss Marjoribanks proved
herself capable of preferring her great work to her personal sentiments,
which is generally considered next to impossible for a woman. She did
what perhaps nobody else in the room was capable of doing: she sent away
the gentleman who was paying attention to her, in company with the girl
who was paying attention to him; and at that moment, as was usual when
she was excited, Barbara was splendid, with her crimson cheeks, and the
eyes blazing out from under her level eyebrows. This Miss Marjoribanks
did, not in ignorance, but with a perfect sense of what she was about.
It was the only way of preventing her Evening from losing its
distinctive character. It was the Lamp of sacrifice which Lucilla had
now to employ, and she proved herself capable of the exertion. But it
would be hopeless to attempt to describe the indignation of old Mrs
Chiley, or the unmitigated amazement of the company in general, which
was conscious at the same time that Mr Cavendish was paying attention to
Miss Marjoribanks, and that he had been flirting in an inexcusable
manner with Miss Lake. "My dear, I would have nothing to do with that
bold girl," Mrs Chiley said in Lucilla's ear. "I will go down and look
after them if you like. A girl like that always leads the gentlemen
astray, you know. I never liked the looks of her. Let me go downstairs
and look after them, my dear. I am sure I want a cup of tea."

"You shall have a cup of tea, dear Mrs Chiley," said Miss
Marjoribanks--"some of them will bring you one; but I can't let you take
any trouble about Barbara. She had to be stopped, you know, or she would
have turned us into a musical party; and as for Mr Cavendish, he is the
best assistant I have. There are so few men in Carlingford who can
flirt," said Lucilla regretfully. Her eyes fell as she spoke upon young
Osmond Brown, who was actually at that moment talking to Mr Bury's
curate, with a disregard of his social duties painful to contemplate.
Poor Osmond started when he met Miss Marjoribanks's reproachful eye.

"But then I don't know how," said the disconcerted youth,--and he
flushed, poor boy, being only eighteen, and not much more than a
schoolboy. As for Lucilla, who had no intention of putting up with that
sort of thing, she sent off the curate summarily for Mrs Chiley's cup of
tea.

"I did not mean you, my dear Osy," she said, in her motherly tone. "When
you are a little older we shall see what you can do; but you are not at
all disagreeable for a boy," she added encouragingly, and took Osmond's
arm as she made her progress down the room with an indulgence worthy of
her maturer years; and even Mrs Centum and Mrs Woodburn and the Miss
Browns, who were, in a manner, Lucilla's natural rivals, could not but
be impressed with this evidence of her powers. They were like the Tuscan
chivalry in the ballad, who could scarce forbear a cheer at the sight
of their opponent's prowess. Perhaps nothing that she could have done
would have so clearly demonstrated the superiority of her genius to her
female audience as that bold step of stopping the music, which began to
be too much, by sending off the singer downstairs under charge of Mr
Cavendish. To be sure the men did not even find out what it was that
awoke the ladies' attention; but then, in delicate matters of social
politics, one never expects to be understood by _them_.

Barbara Lake, as was to be expected, took a very long time over her cup
of tea; and even when she returned upstairs she made another pause on
the landing, which was still kept possession of by a lively stream of
young people coming and going. Barbara had very little experience, and
she was weak enough to believe that Mr Cavendish lingered there to have
a little more of her society all to himself; but to tell the truth, his
sentiments were of a very different description. For by this time it
must be owned that Barbara's admirer began to feel a little ashamed of
himself. He could not but be conscious of Lucilla's magnanimity; and, at
the same time, he was very well aware that his return with his present
companion would be watched and noted and made the subject of comment a
great deal more amusing than agreeable. When he did take Barbara in at
last, it was with a discomfited air which tickled the spectators beyond
measure. And as his evil luck would have it, notwithstanding the long
pause he had made on the landing, to watch his opportunity of entering
unobserved, Miss Marjoribanks was the first to encounter the returning
couple. They met full in the face, a few paces from the door--exactly,
as Mrs Chiley said, as if it had been Mr and Mrs Cavendish on their
wedding visit, and the lady of the house had gone to meet them. As for
the unfortunate gentleman, he could not have looked more utterly
disconcerted and guilty if he had been convicted of putting the spoons
in his pocket, or of having designs upon the silver tea-service. He
found a seat for his companion with all the haste possible; and instead
of lingering by her side, as she had anticipated, made off on the
instant, and hid himself like a criminal in the dark depths of a group
of men who were talking together near the door. These were men who were
hopeless, and good for nothing but to talk to each other, and whom Miss
Marjoribanks tolerated in her drawing-room partly because their wives,
with an excusable weakness, insisted on bringing them, and partly
because they made a foil to the brighter part of the company, and served
as a butt when anybody wanted to be witty. As for Lucilla, she made no
effort to recall the truant from the ranks of the Incurables. It was the
only vengeance she took upon his desertion. When he came to take leave
of her, she was standing with her hand in that of Mrs Chiley, who was
also going away. "I confess I was a little nervous this evening," Miss
Marjoribanks was saying. "You know it is always the second that is the
test. But I think, on the whole, it has gone off very well. Mr
Cavendish, you promised to tell me the truth; for you know I have great
confidence in your judgment. Tell me sincerely, do you think it has been
a pleasant evening?" Lucilla said, with a beautiful earnestness, looking
him in the face.

The guilty individual to whom this question was addressed felt disposed
to sink into the earth, if the earth, in the shape of Mr Holden's
beautiful new carpet, would but have opened to receive him; but, after
all, that was perhaps not a thing to be desired under the circumstances.
Mr Cavendish, however, was a man of resources, and not disposed to give
up the contest without striking a blow in his own defence.

"Not so pleasant as last Thursday," he said. "I am not fit to be a
lady's adviser, for I am too sincere; but I incline to think it is the
third that is the test," said the future M.P.; and Lucilla made him, as
Mrs Chiley remarked, the most beautiful curtsey; but then nothing could
be more delightful than the manner in which that dear girl behaved
through the whole affair.

"If everybody would only help me as you do!" said Miss Marjoribanks.
"Good-night; I am so sorry you have not enjoyed yourself. But then it is
such a consolation to meet with people that are sincere. And I think, on
the whole, it has gone off very well for the second," said Lucilla,
"though I say it that should not say it." The fact was, it had gone off
so well that the house could hardly be cleared of the amiable and
satisfied guests. A series of the most enthusiastic compliments were
paid to Lucilla as she stood in state in the middle of the room, and
bade everybody good-bye. "Next Thursday," she said, with the benevolent
grace of an acknowledged sovereign. And when they were all gone, Miss
Marjoribanks's reflections, as she stood alone in the centre of her
domains, were of a nature very different from the usual reflections
which the giver of a feast is supposed to make when all is over. But
then, as everybody is aware, it was not a selfish desire for personal
pleasure, nor any scheme of worldly ambition, which moved the mind of
Lucilla. With such motives it is only natural that the conclusion, "All
is vanity," should occur to the weary entertainer in the midst of his
withered flowers and extinguished lights. Such ideas had nothing in
common with the enlightened conceptions of Miss Marjoribanks. Perhaps it
would be false to say that she had suffered in the course of this second
Thursday, or that a superior intelligence like Lucilla's could permit
itself to feel any jealousy of Barbara Lake; but it would be vain to
deny that she had been _surprised_. And any one who knows Miss
Marjoribanks will acknowledge that a great deal was implied in that
confession. But then she had triumphed over the weakness, and
triumphantly proved that her estimate of the importance of her work went
far beyond the influence of mere personal feeling. In these
circumstances Lucilla could contemplate her withered flowers with
perfect calmness, without any thought that all was vanity. But then the
fact was, Miss Marjoribanks was accomplishing a great public duty, and
at the same time had the unspeakable consolation of knowing that she had
proved herself a comfort to her dear papa. The Doctor, it is true, after
looking on for a little with a half-amused consciousness that his own
assistance was totally unnecessary, had gradually veered into a corner,
and from thence had finally managed to escape downstairs to his beloved
library. But then the sense of security and tranquillity with which he
established himself at the fire, undisturbed by the gay storm that raged
outside, gave a certain charm to his retirement. He rubbed his hands and
listened, as a man listens to the wind howling out of doors, when he is
in shelter and comfort. So that, after all, Lucilla's sensation of
having accomplished her filial duties in the most effective manner was
to a certain extent justified, while at the same time it is quite
certain that nobody missed Dr Marjoribanks from the pleasant assembly
upstairs.



_Chapter XIII_


It was thus that the reign of Miss Marjoribanks became gradually
established and confirmed in Carlingford. It would be unnecessary to
enter into detail, or to redouble instances of that singular genius
which made itself so fully felt to the furthest limits of society, and
which even indeed extended those limits miraculously beyond the magic
circle of Grange Lane. Lucilla's powers beguiled not only the Powells
and Sir John Richmond's family, who were, as everybody knows, fully
entitled to be called county people, and came only on the Thursdays when
there was moonlight to light them home, which was not so much to be
wondered at, since county society in those parts was unusually heavy at
that period; but even, what was more extraordinary, Miss Marjoribanks
made a lodgment in the enemy's country on the other side, and made a
capture, of all people in the world, of John Brown, who lived in his
father's big old house at the _town_ end of George Street, and had
always laughed in his cynical way at the pretensions of Grange Lane. But
then Lucilla had, as all the ladies admitted, an influence over "the
gentlemen," of which, as was natural, they were slightly contemptuous,
even if perhaps envious, to some extent, of the gift. For everybody
knows that it requires very little to satisfy the gentlemen, if a woman
will only give her mind to it. As for Miss Marjoribanks herself, she
confessed frankly that she did her best to please Them. "For you know,
after all, in Carlingford, one is obliged to take them into
consideration," she said, with a natural apology. "So many of you poor
dear people have to go where they like, and see the people they want you
to see," Miss Marjoribanks added, fluttering her maiden plumes with a
certain disdainful pity in the very eyes of Mrs Centum and Mrs Woodburn,
who were well aware, both of them, at the bottom of their hearts, that
but for Dr Marjoribanks's dinners, their selfish mates would find
infinite objections to the Thursday evening, which was now an
institution in Carlingford. And Lucilla knew it just as well as they
did, which gave a certain sense of condescension and superiority to her
frankness. "I never pretend I don't try to please them," Miss
Marjoribanks said; and the matrons found themselves worsted as usual;
for, to be sure, it was not for _Them_, but for the good of the
community in general, that Lucilla exerted herself so successfully.

Nothing, indeed, could have proved more completely the disinterested
character of Miss Marjoribanks's proceedings than her behaviour in
respect to Mr Cavendish. After the bold and decisive action taken by
Lucilla on the first occasion when the flirtation between him and
Barbara Lake became apparent, the misguided young man returned to a
better frame of mind; perhaps out of admiration for her magnanimity,
perhaps attracted by her indifference, as is the known and ascertained
weakness of the gentlemen. And perhaps also Mr Cavendish was ashamed of
himself, as, in Mrs Chiley's opinion at least, he had so much reason to
be. Anyhow, whatever the cause, he behaved himself with the profoundest
decorum for several weeks in succession, and treated the contralto with
such overwhelming politeness as reduced poor Barbara out of her
momentary exultation into the depths of humiliation and despair. Mr
Cavendish was Lucilla's right hand for that short but virtuous period,
and fully justified Miss Marjoribanks's opinion, which was founded at
once upon reflection and experience, that to have a man who can flirt is
next thing to indispensable to a leader of society; that is to say, if
he is under efficient discipline, and capable of carrying out a grand
conception. Everything went on delightfully so long as this interval
lasted, and Lucilla herself did not disdain to recompense her faithful
assistant by bestowing upon him various little privileges, such as
naturally appertain to a subject whose place is on the steps of the
throne. She took him into her confidence, and made him to a certain
extent a party to her large and philanthropic projects, and even now and
then accepted a suggestion from him with that true candour and modesty
which so often accompany administrative genius. While this continued,
kind old Mrs Chiley kept caressing them both in her old-womanly way. She
even went so far as to call Mr Cavendish "my dear," as if he had been a
grandson of her own, and took her afternoon drive in her little brougham
past his house with a genial sense of prospective property through
Lucilla, which was wonderfully pleasant. To be sure there was not very
much known in Carlingford about his connections; but then everybody was
aware that he was one of the Cavendishes, and the people who are not
content with that must be hard indeed to please. As for Mrs Woodburn,
she, it was true, continued to "take off" Miss Marjoribanks; but then,
as Mrs Chiley justly remarked, she was a woman who would take off the
Archbishop of Canterbury or the Virgin Mary, if she had the opportunity;
and there was no fear but Lucilla, if once married, would soon bring her
to her senses; and then Mr Chiltern grew more and more feeble, and was
scarcely once in a fortnight in his place in Parliament, which was a
sacrifice of the interests of the borough dreadful to contemplate. And
thus it was in the interests of Lucilla, notwithstanding that ladies are
not eligible for election under such circumstances, that Mrs Chiley
carried on a quiet little canvass for the future M.P.

All this lasted, alas! only too short a time. After a while the level
eyebrows and flashing eyes and magnificent voice of Barbara Lake began
to reassert their ancient power. Whatever may be the predisposition of
the Cavendishes in general, this particular member of the race was
unable to resist these influences. Barbara had managed to persuade Rose
to persuade her father that it was necessary for her to have a new
dress; and Mr Lake was more persuadable than usual, being naturally
pleased to be complimented, when he went to give his lessons, on his
daughter's beautiful voice. "Her talent has taken another development
from _ours_," he said, with his little air of dignity, "but still she
has the artist temperament. All my children have been brought up to love
the beautiful;" and this argument had, of course, all the more effect
upon him when repeated by his favourite daughter. "And then Barbara has
such a noble head," said Rose; "when nobody is looking at her she always
makes a fine composition. To be sure, when she is observed she gets
awkward, and puts herself out of drawing; but that is not to be wondered
at. I don't want her to be fine, or to imitate the Grange Lane people;
but then, you know, papa, you always say that we have a rank of our own,
being a family of artists," said Rose, holding up her little head with a
pretty arrogance which delighted the father both in a paternal and a
professional point of view. "If one could only have made a study of her
at that moment," he said to himself regretfully; and he consented to
Barbara's dress.

As for the contralto, whose sentiments were very different from those of
her father and sister, she watched over the making of the robe thus
procured with a certain jealous care which nobody unacquainted with the
habits of a family of artists could understand. Barbara's talent was not
sufficiently developed to permit of her making it herself; but she knew
already by sad experience that Rose's views of what was picturesque in
costume were peculiar, and not always successful. And then it was only a
new dress to Rose, whereas to Barbara it was a supreme effort of passion
and ambition and jealousy and wounded _amour propre_. Mr Cavendish had
paid a great deal of attention to her, and she had naturally entertained
dreams of the wildest and most magnificent character--of riding in her
carriage, as she would herself have said, and dressing as nobody else
dressed in Carlingford, and becoming the great lady of the town, and
eclipsing utterly Lucilla Marjoribanks, who had been so impertinent as
to patronise her. Such had been Barbara's delicious dreams for a whole
fortnight; and then Mr Cavendish, who had taken her up, put her down
again, and went away from her side, and delivered himself over, heart
and soul, to the service of Lucilla. Barbara had no intellect to speak
of, but she had what she called a heart--that is to say, a vital centre
of inclinations and passions, all of which were set in motion by that
intense force of self-regard which belongs to some of the lower
organisations. Thus she arrayed herself, not in simple muslin, but in
all the power of fascination which a strong will and fixed purpose can
add to beauty. And in her excitement, and with the sense she had that
this was her opportunity, and that advancement and grandeur depended
upon the result of her night's work, her level eyebrows, and flushing
cheeks, and black intense eyes, rose almost into positive beauty. There
was nobody in the room to compare with her when she stood up to sing on
that memorable evening. The Miss Browns, for example, were very pretty,
especially Lydia, who was afterwards married to young Richmond, Sir
John's eldest son; and they were much _nicer_ girls, and far more
engaging than Barbara Lake, who was not even a lady, Mrs Chiley said.
But then her determination, though it was a poor enough thing in itself,
gave a certain glow and passion to her coarser beauty.

When she stood up to sing, the whole room was struck with her
appearance. She had her new dress on, and though it was only white
muslin like other people's, it gave her the air of a priestess inspired
by some approaching crisis, and sweeping forward upon the victim who
was ready to be sacrificed. And yet the victim that night was far from
being ready for the sacrifice. On the contrary, he had been thinking it
all over, and had concluded that prudence and every other reasonable
sentiment were on the other side, and that in many ways it would be a
very good thing for him if he could persuade Miss Marjoribanks to
preside over and share his fortunes. He had made up his mind to this
with all the more certainty that he was a man habitually prone to run
off after everything that attracted him, in direct opposition to
prudence--an inclination which he shared with his sister, who, as
everybody knew, had ruined poor Mr Woodburn's fortunes by "taking off,"
before his very face, the only rich uncle in the Woodburn family. Mr
Cavendish, with this wise resolution in his mind, stood up in the very
path of the contralto as she followed Miss Marjoribanks to the piano,
and, confident in his determination, even allowed himself to meet her
eye--which was rash, to say the least of it. Barbara flashed upon him as
she passed a blaze of intense oblique lightning from under her level
brows--or perhaps it was only that straight black line which made it
look oblique--and then went on to her place. The result was such as
might have been anticipated from the character of the man. Barbara was
in richer voice than ever before, and all but obliterated even Lucilla,
though she too was singing her best; and thus poor Mr Cavendish again
fell into the snare. That very night the flirtation, which had already
created so much talk, was resumed with more energy than ever; and
Barbara took Miss Marjoribanks's place at the piano, and sang song after
song in a kind of intoxication of triumph. This, to be sure, was visible
only to a small portion of the guests who crowded Lucilla's
drawing-room. But the result was soon so visible that all Carlingford
became aware of it. The hero wavered so much that the excitement was
kept up for many weeks; but still from the first nobody could have any
reasonable doubt as to how it was to end.

And it was while this process of seduction was going on that the
character of Miss Marjoribanks revealed itself in all its native
grandeur. Lucilla had various kind friends round her to advise her, and
especially old Mrs Chiley, whose indignation went beyond all bounds. "My
dear, I would never let her enter my door again--never!" cried the old
lady; "I told you long ago I never could bear her looks--you know I
warned you, Lucilla. As for her singing, what does it matter? You have a
much prettier voice than she has: everybody knows that a soprano is
perfect by itself, but a contralto is only a _second_," Mrs Chiley said,
with mingled wrath and satisfaction; "and, my dear, I should never let
her enter my house again, if it was me."

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Lucilla, who was now, as usual, equal to the
occasion, "it is so nice of you to be vexed. You know I would do
anything to please you;--but, after all, there are thousands and
thousands of gentlemen, and it is not so easy to find a voice that goes
with mine. All my masters always said it was a quite peculiar second I
wanted; and suppose Barbara is foolish, that is not to say I should
forget _my_ duties," Miss Marjoribanks added, with a certain solemnity;
"and then, you know, she has no mother to keep her right."

"And neither have you, my poor dear," said Mrs Chiley, kissing her
protégée. As for Lucilla, she accepted the kiss, but repressed the
enthusiasm of partisanship with which her cause was being maintained.

"I have _you_," she said, with artless gratitude; "and then I am
different," added Lucilla. Nothing but modesty of the most delicate
description could have expressed the fact with such a fine reticence. No
doubt Miss Marjoribanks was different; and she proved her superiority,
if anybody could have doubted it, by the most beautiful behaviour. She
took no more notice of the unprincipled flirtation thus set agoing under
her very eyes, than if Mr Cavendish and Barbara Lake had been two
figures in gingerbread. So far as anybody knew, not even a flying female
shaft from Lucilla's bow, one of those dainty projectiles which the best
of women cast forth by times, had ever been directed against the
ungrateful young person who had made so unprincipled a use of her
admittance into Grange Lane; and the faithless gallant had not even the
gratification of feeling that Lucilla was "cool" to him. Whether this
singular self-denial cost Miss Marjoribanks any acute sufferings, nobody
could tell, but Mrs Chiley still marked with satisfaction that Lucilla,
poor dear, was able to eat her dinner, of which she had so much need to
support her strength; and after she had eaten her dinner Miss
Marjoribanks would go upstairs and show herself just as usual. She was
in perfect voice, and neither lost her colour, nor grew thin, nor showed
any of those external signs of a disappointment in love with which most
people are familiar. "It might have been different, you know, if my
affections had been engaged," she said to her sole and sympathising
counsellor; and Mrs Chiley, who had had a great deal of experience in
girls, became more and more of opinion that such sense was all but
superhuman.

Meantime the tide of public opinion ran very high in Carlingford against
Mr Cavendish, who had been so popular a little while before. If it had
been one of the Miss Browns, or a niece of the Colonel's, or indeed
anybody in Grange Lane, people might have passed over it--but one of Mr
Lake the drawing-master's daughters! The only person indifferent was Mrs
Woodburn, who ought to have known better; but then she was thoughtless,
like her brother, and liked it all the better, on the whole, that he
should transfer those attentions which he had been paying to Miss
Marjoribanks, and which in that quarter must have come to something, to
a little harmless amusement with Barbara, who, after all, was very
handsome, and had by times a little air of obdurate stupidity which
captivated the mimic. As for anything coming of _that_, Mrs Woodburn
rejected the idea with a simplicity which was perfectly consistent with
her insight into other people's weaknesses. She could put on Barbara's
stolid defiant look, and even make her eyebrows square, and give
something of an oblique gleam to her eyes, with the most perfect skill
and mastery of the character, and at the same time be just as stolid as
Barbara in respect to what was going on at her very hand, and to the
consequences which must follow. She did not want her brother to marry
Miss Marjoribanks, and yet she could not have said a word against so
unexceptionable a match; and accordingly it was quite a satisfaction to
her to see him turned aside in so perfectly legitimate a manner. She
added to her repertory a sketch of Barbara at the moment when, yielding
to Mr Cavendish's entreaties, she seated herself at the piano "for just
one song"; and being perfectly successful in the representation, Mrs
Woodburn took no further care about the matter. To be sure, the hero was
sufficiently experienced in such matters to know how to get out of it
when it should be the proper time.

Thus the affair progressed which was to have far more serious
consequences than these thoughtless persons dreamed of. Barbara ascended
again to the heights of exultation and enchantment. Perhaps she was even
a little in love; for, after all, she was young, and grateful to the man
who thus distinguished her from the world. Yet, on the whole, it is to
be feared that his house and his position in society, and the prospect
of unlimited millinery, were more to her than Mr Cavendish. All these
details were not perhaps contemplated by himself as he devoted himself
to the handsome contralto. He had not begun to dream, as Barbara had
done for a long time, of the wedding breakfast and the orange blossoms,
or even of furnishing a new drawing-room handsomer than Miss
Marjoribanks's, and giving parties which should be real parties and not
mere Thursdays. None of these imaginations occupied Mr Cavendish as he
followed Barbara's glowing cheeks and flashing eyes to his undoing. But
then if he did not mean it she meant it; and, after all, there are
occasions in which the woman's determination is the more important of
the two. So that, taking everything into consideration, there can be no
doubt that it was very fortunate that Lucilla's affections were not
engaged. She behaved as nobody else in Carlingford was capable of
behaving, and very few people anywhere, according to Mrs Chiley's
admiring belief. It was not for a vulgar antagonist like Barbara Lake to
touch Lucilla. The way in which she asked her to lunch and went on
practising duets with her was angelical--it brought the tears to Mrs
Chiley's eyes; and as for the domestic traitor whom Miss Marjoribanks
thus contrived to warm in her magnanimous bosom, she was sometimes so
full of spite and disappointment that she could neither eat her lunch
nor go on with her singing. For, to be sure, the dearest climax of her
triumph was wanting so long as Lucilla took no notice; and so far from
taking any notice, Miss Marjoribanks was sweeter and more friendly than
usual in her serene unconsciousness. "I am so afraid you have caught
cold," Lucilla would say; "if you don't feel clear in your lower notes,
we can pass over this passage, you know, for to-day. You must see papa
before you go away, and he will order you something; but, my dear
Barbara, you must take care." And then Barbara could have eaten her
fingers instead of the gloves which she kept biting in her vexation.
For, to tell the truth, if Miss Marjoribanks was not jealous, the
victory was but half a victory after all.



_Chapter XIV_


It was thus that Miss Marjoribanks went through all the preliminary
stages, and succeeded finally in making a triumph out of what would
certainly have been a defeat, and a humbling defeat, for anybody else.
She was much too sensible to deceive herself on the subject, or not to
be aware that to have a gentleman who was paying attention to her
withdrawn from her side in this open manner in the sight of all the
world, was as trying an accident as can happen to a woman. Fortunately,
as Lucilla said, her affections were not engaged; but then, apart from
the affections, there are other sentiments which demand consideration.
Everybody in Carlingford knew that Mr Cavendish had been paying her a
great deal of attention, and the situation was one which required the
most delicate skill to get through it successfully. Besides, Miss
Marjoribanks's circumstances were all the more difficult, since up to
this moment she had been perfectly sincere and natural in all her
proceedings. Policy had been constantly inspired and backed by nature in
the measures Lucilla had taken for the organisation and welfare of her
kingdom, and even what people took for the cleverest calculation was in
reality a succession of happy instincts, by means of which, with the
sovereignty of true genius, Miss Marjoribanks managed to please
everybody by having her own way. A little victory is almost necessary to
begin with, and it is a poor nature that does not expand under the
stimulus of victory; but now the young reformer had come to the second
stage. For, to be sure, that sort of thing cannot last for ever; and
this Lucilla, with the natural prevision of a ruling mind, had foreseen
from the beginning. The shape in which she had feared defeat, if a
nature so full of resources could ever be said to fear, was that of a
breakdown, when all the world was looking to her for amusement, or the
sudden appearance of a rival entertainer in Carlingford with superior
powers: though the last was but a dim and improbable danger, the first
was quite possible, and might have arrived at any moment. Miss
Marjoribanks was much too sensible not to have foreseen this danger in
all its shapes, and even in a kind of way to have provided against it.
But Providence, which had always taken care of her, as Lucilla piously
concluded, had spared her the trial in that form. Up to this moment it
had always providentially happened that all the principal people in
Carlingford were quite well and disengaged on the "evening." To be sure,
the ladies had headaches, and the married gentlemen now and then were
out of temper in Grange Lane as in other less favoured places; but these
social accidents had been mercifully averted on Thursdays, perhaps by
means of some special celestial agency, perhaps only through that
good-luck which had been born with Lucilla. Not in this vulgar and
likely manner was the trial of her strength to come.

But when she was at the height of her success, and full in the eye of
the world, and knew that everybody was remarking her, and that from the
sauces for which the Doctor's table was once so famed, but which even
Colonel Chiley no longer thought of identifying as Dr Marjoribanks's, to
the fashion of the _high_ white frock in which Lucilla had taught the
young ladies of Carlingford to appear of an evening, she was being
imitated on every hand,--at that moment, when an ordinary person would
have had her head turned, and gone wild with too much success, Miss
Marjoribanks suddenly saw her dragon approaching her. Just then, when
she could not put on a new ribbon, or do her hair in a different style,
without all Carlingford knowing of it--at that epoch of intoxication and
triumph the danger came, sudden, appalling, and unlooked for. If Lucilla
was staggered by the encounter, she never showed it, but met the
difficulty like a woman of mettle, and scorned to flinch. It had come to
be summer weather when the final day arrived upon which Mr Cavendish
forgot himself altogether, and went over to the insidious enemy whom
Miss Marjoribanks had been nourishing in her bosom. Fifty eyes were upon
Lucilla watching her conduct at that critical moment--fifty ears were on
the strain to divine her sentiments in her voice, and to catch some
intonation at least which should betray her consciousness of what was
going on.

But if Miss Marjoribanks's biographer has fitly discharged his duty, the
readers of this history will have no difficulty in divining that the
curiosity of the spectators got no satisfaction from Lucilla. Many
people even supposed she had not remarked anything, her composure was so
perfect. No growing red or growing pale, no harsh notes in her voice,
nor evidence of distracted attention, betrayed that her mind was
elsewhere while she was attending to her guests; and yet, to be sure,
she saw, just as other people did, that Barbara, all flushed and
crimson, with her eyes blazing under their sullen brows, stood in a glow
of triumph at the open window, with Mr Cavendish in devoted
attendance--a captive at her chariot-wheels. Matters had been
progressing to this point for some time; but yet the two culprits had
never before showed themselves so lost to all sense of propriety.
Instead of fainting or getting pale, or showing any other symptoms of
violent despite, Lucilla went upon her airy way, indirectly approaching
this point of interest. She went up and chatted with them, and ordered
Mr Cavendish to find a chair for Barbara. "What can you be thinking of
to let her stand so near the window? If she were to catch cold and lose
her voice, what should we all do?" said Lucilla; and she established the
two in the most commodious corner before she left them. "Take care she
does not go back again into the draught," were her parting words, and
even the culprits themselves could do nothing but stare at each other
with consternation and shame.

This was all the notice Lucilla took of what was going on. If she was
affronted, or if she was wounded, nobody found it out; and when Mrs
Chiley offered the tribute of her indignation and sympathy, it has
already been recorded how her young friend responded to her.
"Fortunately my affections never were engaged," Lucilla said, and no
doubt that was a great advantage; but then, as we have said, there are
other things besides affections to be taken into account when the woman
whom you have been kind to snaps up the man who has been paying
attention to you, not only before your eyes, but before the eyes of all
the world. The result of her masterly conduct on this occasion was that
her defeat became, as we have said, a triumph for Miss Marjoribanks. To
be sure, it is to be hoped that, in the sweets of their mutual regard,
the two criminals found compensation for the disapproval of the
spectators; but nothing could be more marked than the way in which
Carlingford turned its cold shoulder on its early favourite. "I never
imagined Cavendish was such a fool," Mr Centum said, who was a man of
few words; "if he likes that style of philandering, it is nothing to me,
but he need not make an idiot of himself." As for Mr Woodburn, he, as
was natural, inflicted vicarious punishment upon his wife. "It must be
all your fault," he growled, when he was taking her home, and had her
at his mercy, with that logic peculiar to a married man; "you ought to
tell him he's making an ass of himself. Why the deuce do you let him go
on with that tomfoolery? He'll lose all his chances in life, and then, I
hope, you'll be satisfied. You women can never see an inch before your
own noses!" cried the uncivil husband; which, it must be confessed, was
rather hard upon poor Mrs Woodburn, who had nothing to do with it, and
had indeed calculated upon perfecting her sketch of Barbara in the
quietness of the walk home; for as everybody lived in Grange Lane,
carriages were not necessary for Miss Marjoribanks's guests. They
flitted out and in, in the moonlight, with pretty scarfs thrown over
their heads and laced handkerchiefs tied under their chins, and made
Grange Lane between the two straight lines of garden-wall like a scene
in a masquerade.

While Mr Cavendish was thus suffering by deputy the contempt of his
former admirers, Lucilla, by herself in the abandoned drawing-room, was
thinking over the evening with a severe but on the whole satisfactory
self-examination. After the first shock, which she had encountered with
so much courage, Miss Marjoribanks was rather grateful than otherwise to
Providence, which had brought the necessary trial upon her in this form.
If it had been a breakdown and humiliating failure instead, how
different would her sensations have been! and Lucilla was quite
conscious that such a thing might have occurred. It might have occurred
to her, as it had done to so many people, to see Thursday come round
with a failure of all that made Thursday agreeable. Lady Richmond might
have had her influenza that day, and little Henry Centum his sudden
attack, which had kept his mother in conversation ever since, and Mrs
Woodburn one of her bad headaches; and as for the Miss Browns, there was
nothing in the world but Lucilla's habitual good fortune which prevented
them from having blacked their fingers with their photography to such an
extent as to make them perfectly unpresentable. Or, to turn to another
chapter of accidents, the last duet, which Barbara had insisted upon
singing without proper practice, might have broken down utterly. None of
these things had happened, and Lucilla drew a long breath of gratitude
as she thought how fortunate she had been in all these particulars. To
be sure, it was necessary to have a trial of one kind or other; and the
modest but intense gratification of having stood the test, diffused
itself like a balm through her bosom. No doubt she would have felt, like
most people, a certain pleasure in snubbing Barbara; but then there is,
on the other hand, a sweetness in sacrificing such impulses to the
sacred sense of duty and the high aims of genius which is still more
attractive to a well-regulated mind. Miss Marjoribanks herself put out
the candles, and went to her own room with that feeling of having
acquitted herself satisfactorily which many people think to be the
highest gratification of which the mind is capable. After all, it was by
no means certain that Mr Cavendish would be M.P. for Carlingford. Mr
Chiltern might live for twenty years, or he even might get better, which
was more unlikely; or supposing him to be comfortably disposed of,
nobody could say with any certainty that some man unknown at present in
Carlingford might not start up all of a sudden and gain the most sweet
voices of the shopkeepers, who were the majority of the community, and
quite outnumbered Grange Lane. It was thus that Lucilla consoled herself
as she went meditative but undaunted to her maiden rest.

While all this was going on, Dr Marjoribanks remained an amused
spectator, and chuckled a little quietly, without saying anything to
anybody, over the turn affairs had taken. The Doctor knew all about
everybody in Carlingford, and he had never been an enthusiast in favour
of Mrs Woodburn's brother, notwithstanding that the young man had been
received so warmly into society as one of the Cavendishes. Perhaps Dr
Marjoribanks being Scotch, and having a turn for genealogy, found the
description a little vague; but at all events there can be no doubt that
he laughed to himself as he retired from the scene of his daughter's
trial. The Doctor possibly thought, in a professional point of view,
that a little discipline of this description would be useful to Lucilla.
Perhaps he thought it would be good for her to find out that--though she
had managed to slip the reins out of his hands, and get the control of
affairs with a skill which amused the Doctor, and made him a little
proud of her abilities, even though he was himself the victim--she could
not go on always unchecked in her triumphant career, but must endure
like other people an occasional defeat. No doubt, had Lucilla been
really worsted, paternal feeling would have interposed, and Dr
Marjoribanks would to some extent have suffered in her suffering; but
then the case was different, and nobody required, as it turned out, to
suffer for Lucilla. The Doctor was pleased she had shown so much
spirit, and pleased to see how entirely she had discomfited her
antagonists, and turned the tables upon the "young puppy," in whom he
had no confidence; and withal Dr Marjoribanks chuckled a little in his
secret heart over the event itself, and concluded that it would do
Lucilla good. She had vanquished Nancy, and by a skilful jerk taken the
reins out of his own experienced hands. He was aware that he had been on
the whole very wisely governed since his abdication, but yet he was not
sorry that the young conqueror should feel herself human; so that nobody
except Mrs Chiley felt that mingled rage and disappointment with which
Barbara Lake had hoped to inspire Lucilla's bosom; and Mrs Chiley, so to
speak, had nothing to do with it. As for Barbara herself, she returned
home in a state of mingled spite and exultation and disgust, which
filled her sister with amazement.

"She is such an actor, you know," Barbara said; "she never will give in
to let you know how she is feeling--not if she can help it; but for all
that she must have felt it. Nobody could help feeling it, though she
carried it off so well. I knew how it would be, as soon as I had on a
dress that was fit to be seen."

"What is it that she could not help feeling?" said Rose. "I suppose it
is Lucilla you mean?"

"I should like to know what right she had to be kind to me," cried
Barbara, all glowing in her sullen but excited beauty; "and invite me
there, and introduce me in her grand way, as if she was any better than
I am! And then to look at all her India muslins; but I knew it would be
different as soon as I had a decent dress," said the contralto, rising
up to contemplate herself in the little mirror over the mantelpiece.

This conversation took place in Mr Lake's little parlour, where Rose had
been waiting for her sister, and where Barbara's white dress made an
unusual radiance in the dim and partially-lighted room. Rose herself was
all shrouded up in her morning dress, with her pretty round arms and
shoulders lost to the common view. She had been amusing herself as she
waited by working at a corner of that great design which was to win the
prize on a later occasion. Readers of this history who have studied the
earlier chapters will remember that Rose's tastes in ornamentation were
very clearly defined for so young a person. Instead of losing herself in
vague garlands of impossible flowers, the young artist clung with the
tenacity of first love to the thistle leaf, which had been the
foundation of her early triumphs. Her mind was full of it even while she
received and listened to Barbara; whether to treat it in a national
point of view, bringing in the rose and shamrock, which was a perfectly
allowable proceeding, though perhaps not original--or whether she should
yield to the "sweet feeling" which had been so conspicuous in her
flounce, in the opinion of the Marlborough House gentlemen--or whether,
on the contrary, she should handle the subject in a boldly naturalistic
way, and use her spikes with freedom,--was a question which occupied at
that moment all Rose's faculties. Even while she asked Barbara what the
subject was on which Lucilla might be supposed to be excited, she was
within herself thinking out this difficult idea--all the more difficult,
perhaps, considering the nature of the subject, since the design in this
case was not for a flounce, in which broad handling is practicable, but
for a veil.

"I wish you would not talk in that foolish way," said Rose; "nobody need
be any better than you, as you say. To be sure, we don't live in Grange
Lane, nor keep a carriage; but I wish you would recollect that these are
only accidental circumstances. As for dress, I don't see that you
require it; our position is so clearly defined; we are a family of----"

"Oh, for goodness gracious sake, do be quiet with your family of
artists!" cried Barbara. "Speak for yourself, if you please. I am not an
artist, and never will be, I can tell you. There are better places to
live in than Grange Lane; and as for keeping a carriage, I would never
call a little bit of a brougham a carriage, if it was me. Lucilla made
believe to take no notice, but she did not deceive me with that. She was
as disappointed as ever she could be--I dare say now she's sitting
crying over it. I never would have cared one straw if I had not wanted
to serve Lucilla out!" cried the contralto, with energy. She was still
standing before the glass pulling her black hair about into new
combinations, and studying the effect; and as for Rose, she too looked
up, and, seeing her sister's face reflected in the glass, made the
discovery that there was something like grimace in the countenance, and
paused in the midst of her meditations with her pencil in her hand.

"Don't put yourself out of drawing," said Rose; "I wish you would not do
that so often. When the facial angle is disturbed to that extent----But
about Lucilla, I think you are excessively ungrateful. Gratitude is not
a servile sentiment," said the little Preraphaelite, with a rising
colour. "It is a slavish sort of idea to think any one has done you an
injury by being kind to you. If that is the sort of thing you are going
to talk of, I think you had better go to bed."

"Then I will, and I shan't tell you anything," said Barbara
angrily--"you are so poor-spirited. For my part, do you think I'd ever
have gone to help Lucilla and sing for her, and all that sort of thing,
if it had not been to better myself? Nor I wouldn't have thought of
_him_ just at first, if it hadn't been to spite _her_. And I've done it
too. I'd just like to look in at her room window and see what she's
about. I dare say she is crying her eyes out, for all her looking as if
she took no notice. I know better than to think she doesn't care. And,
Rose, he's such a dear," said Barbara, with a laugh of excitement. To be
sure, what she wanted was to be Mrs Cavendish, and to have a handsome
house and a great many nice dresses; but at the same time she was young,
and Mr Cavendish was good-looking, and she was a little in love, in her
way, as well.

"I don't want to hear any more about it," said Rose, who was so much
moved as to forget even her design. "I can't think how it is you have no
sense of honour, and you one of the Lakes. I would not be a traitor for
a dozen Mr Cavendishes!" cried Rose, in the force of her indignation.
"He must be a cheat, since you are a traitor. If he was a true man he
would have found you out."

"You had better be quiet, Rose," said Barbara; "you may be sure I shall
never do anything for you after we are married, if you talk like that;
and then you'll be sorry enough."

"After you are married! has he asked you to marry him?" cried Rose. She
pushed away her design with both her hands in the vehemence of her
feelings, and regarded her sister with eyes which blazed, but which were
totally different in their blazing from those which burned under
Barbara's level eyebrows. It was too plain a question to have a plain
answer. Barbara only lighted her candle in reply, and smiled and shook
her head.

"You don't suppose I am going to answer after your insulting ways," she
said, taking up her candle; and she swept out of the room in her white
dress with a sense of pleasure in leaving this grand point unsettled. To
be sure, Mr Cavendish had not yet asked that important question; but
then the future was all before them, and the way clear. As for Rose, she
clenched her little fists with a gesture that would have been too
forcible for any one who was not an artist, and a member of a family of
artists. "To think she should be one of us, and not to know what honour
means," said Rose; "and as for this man, he must be a cheat himself, or
he would find her out."

This was how Mr Cavendish's defection from Lucilla took place; and at
the same time it is a satisfaction to know that the event was received
by everybody very much as little Rose Lake received it. And as for Miss
Marjoribanks, if Barbara could have had the malicious satisfaction of
looking in at the window, she would have been mortified to find that
right-minded young woman sleeping the sleep of the just and innocent,
and enjoying repose as profound and agreeable as if there had been no Mr
Cavendish in the world, not to speak of Carlingford;--which, to be sure,
was a result to be greatly attributed to Lucilla's perfect health, and
entire satisfaction with herself.



_Chapter XV_


This event was of far too much importance in the limited world of Grange
Lane to pass over without some of the many commentaries which were going
on upon the subject coming to the ears of Miss Marjoribanks, who was the
person principally concerned. As for the Doctor, as we have already
said, he was so far lost to a sense of his paternal duties as to chuckle
a little within himself over the accident that had happened to Lucilla.
It had done her no harm, and Dr Marjoribanks permitted himself to regard
the occurrence in a professional point of view, as supplying a little
alterative which he could scarcely administer himself; for it is well
known that physicians are seldom successful in the treatment of their
own families. He was more jocose than usual at breakfast for some days
following, and, on the morning of the next Thursday, asked if everybody
was to come as usual, with a significance which did not escape the young
mistress of the house.

"You know best, papa," she said cheerfully, as she poured him out his
coffee: "if there is anybody who is ill and can't come, it must be your
fault--but I did not hear that any one was ill."

"Nor I," said the Doctor, with a quiet laugh; and he could not help
thinking it would be good sport to see Cavendish come into the
drawing-room all by himself without any support, and make his appearance
before Miss Marjoribanks, and do his best to be agreeable, with an awful
consciousness of his bad behaviour, and nobody sufficiently benevolent
to help him out. The Doctor thought it would serve him right, but yet he
was not sufficiently irritated nor sufficiently sympathetic to lose any
of the humour of the situation; and it was with a little zest, as for
something especially piquant, that he looked forward to the evening. As
for Miss Marjoribanks, she too recognised the importance of the
occasion. She resolved to produce that evening a new _plat_, which had
occupied a corner of her busy mind for some time past. It was a crisis
which called for a new step in advance. She sat down by the window after
breakfast with various novel combinations floating in her creative
brain; and while she was revolving these ideas in her mind, Nancy came
in with more than her usual briskness. It is true that Lucilla had her
household well in hand, and possessed the faculty of government to a
remarkable extent; but still, under the best of circumstances, it was a
serious business to propose a new dish to Nancy. Dr Marjoribanks's
factotum was a woman of genius in her way, and by no means unenlightened
or an enemy of progress; but then she had a weakness common to many
persons of superior intelligence and decided character. When there was
anything new to be introduced, Nancy liked to be herself the godmother
of the interesting novelty; for, to be sure, it was her place, and Miss
Lucilla, though she was very clever, was not to be expected to
understand what came in best with the other dishes for a dinner. "I
ain't one as goes just upon fish and flesh and fowl, like some as call
themselves cooks," Nancy said. "If I have a failing, it's for things as
suits. When it's brown, make it brown, and don't be mean about the
gravy-beef--that's my principle; and when it ain't brown, mind what
you're a-doing of--and don't go and throw a heap of entrys and things at
a gentleman's head without no 'armony. I always says to Miss Lucilla as
'armony's the thing; and when I've set it all straight in my mind, I
ain't one as likes to be put out," Nancy would add, with a gleam in her
eye which betokened mischief. Miss Marjoribanks was much too sensible
not to be aware of this peculiarity; and accordingly she cleared her
throat with something as near nervousness as was possible to Lucilla
before she opened her lips to propose the innovation. Miss Marjoribanks,
as a general rule, did not show much nervousness in her dealings with
her prime minister, any more than in her demeanour towards the less
important members of society; and consequently Nancy remarked the
momentary timidity, and a flash of sympathy and indignation took the
place of her usual impulse of defiance.

"I heard as master said, there was some gentleman as wasn't a-coming,"
said Nancy. "Not as one makes no difference in a dinner; but I allays
likes to know. I don't like no waste, for my part. I ain't one as
calk'lates too close, but if there's one thing as I hates like poison,
it's waste. I said as I would ask, for Thomas ain't as correct as could
be wished. Is it one less than usual, Miss Lucilla?" said Nancy; and it
was Lucilla's fault if she did not understand the profound and indignant
sympathy in Nancy's voice.

"Oh, no; it is just the usual number," said Miss Marjoribanks. "It was
only a joke of papa's--they are all just as usual----" And here Lucilla
paused. She was thinking of the dish she wanted, but Nancy thought she
was thinking of Mr Cavendish, who had treated her so badly. She studied
the countenance of her young mistress with the interest of a woman who
has had her experiences, and knows how little _They_ are to be depended
upon. Nancy murmured "Poor dear!" under her breath, almost without
knowing it, and then a brilliant inspiration came to her mind. Few
people have the gift of interfering successfully in such cases, but then
to offer consolation is a Christian duty, especially when one has the
confidence that to give consolation is in one's power.

"Miss Lucilla, I would say as you've been doing too much, if anybody was
to ask me," said Nancy, moved by this generous impulse--"all them
practisings and things. They're well enough for young ladies as ain't
got nothing else to do; but you as has such a deal in your hands----If
there was any little thing as you could fancy for dinner," said Nancy,
in her most bland accents; "I've set it all down as I thought would be
nicest, allays if you approves, Miss Lucilla; but if there was any
little thing as you could fancy----" "Poor dear, it's all as we can do,"
she murmured to herself. The faithless could not be brought back again;
but Ariadne might at least have any little thing she could fancy for
dinner, which, indeed, is a very general treatment of such a case on the
part of perplexed sympathisers who do not know what to say.

Lucilla was so excited for the moment by this unusual evidence of her
own good fortune, that she had almost spoiled all by sitting straight up
and entering with her usual energy into the discussion--but instinct
saved Miss Marjoribanks from this mistake. She lost no time in taking
advantage of the opportunity, and instead of having a fight with Nancy,
and getting a reluctant consent, and still more reluctant execution of
the novelty, Lucilla felt that she was doing that excellent woman a
favour by naming her new dish. Nancy approved so thoroughly as to be
enthusiastic. "I always said as she had a deal of sense," she said
afterwards triumphantly. "There ain't one young lady in a hundred as
knows what's good for her, like Miss Lucilla." But notwithstanding this
fervent declaration of approval, Nancy, softened as she was, could not
but linger, when all was concluded, to give a little advice.

"I wouldn't worrit myself with all them practisings, Miss Lucilla, if I
was you," said her faithful retainer. "They're a deal too much for you.
I've took the liberty, when all was cleaned up, to go on the stair and
listen a bit, and there ain't nothing to equal it when you're a-singing
by yourself. I don't think nothing of them duets--and as for that
bold-faced brazen thing----"

"Oh, Nancy, hush!" said Lucilla; "Miss Lake has a beautiful voice. If
she does not look quite like a lady, it is not her fault, poor thing.
She has no mamma to set her right, you know. She is the best assistant I
have--she and Mr Cavendish," said Lucilla sweetly; and she gave Nancy a
look which moved the faithful servant almost to tears, though she was
not addicted to that weakness. Nancy retired with the most enthusiastic
determination to exert herself to the utmost for the preparation of the
little dish which Lucilla fancied. "But I wouldn't worrit about them
duets," she said again, as she left the room. "I wouldn't, not if I was
you, Miss Lucilla, asking pardon for the liberty: as for having no
mamma, you have no mamma yourself, and you the young lady as is most
thought upon in Carlingford, and as different from that brazen-faced
thing, with her red cheeks----"

"Hush, oh hush, Nancy," Lucilla said, as she sank back in her chair; but
Miss Marjoribanks, after all, was only human, and she was not so
distressed by these unpolished epithets as she might or perhaps ought to
have been. "Poor Barbara! I wish she could only look a little bit like a
lady," she said to herself; and so proceeded with her preparations for
the evening. She had all her plans matured, and she felt quite
comfortable about that evening which all her friends were thinking would
be rather trying for Lucilla. To tell the truth, when a thing became
rather trying, Lucilla's spirits rose. Mr Cavendish's desertion was,
perhaps, on the whole, more than compensated for by the exhilaration of
a difficulty to be encountered. She too began to forecast, like her
father, the possibilities of the evening, and to think of Mr Cavendish
coming in to dinner when there was nobody to support him, and not even a
crowd of people to retire among. Would he run the risk of coming, under
the circumstances? or, if he came, would he prostrate himself as he had
done on a previous occasion, and return to his allegiance? This question
roused Lucilla to a degree of energy unusual even to her who was always
energetic. It was then that the brilliant idea struck her of adjourning
to the garden in the evening--a practice which was received with such
enthusiasm in Carlingford, where the gardens were so pretty. She put on
her hat directly and went downstairs, and called the gardener to consult
him about it; and it was thus that she was employed when Mrs Chiley rang
the bell at the garden gate. If it had been anybody else in Carlingford,
Lucilla would have led her back again to the house, and said nothing
about the subject of her conference with the gardener; for it is always
best, as all judicious persons are aware, not to forestall these little
arrangements which make so agreeable a surprise at the moment; but then
Mrs Chiley was Miss Marjoribanks's special confidant. The old lady had
her face full of business that bright morning. She listened to what her
young friend proposed, but without hearing it, and said. "Oh, yes, my
dear, I am sure it will be charming," without the very least notion what
it was she applauded. "Let us go in and sit down a moment, for I have
something to say to you, Lucilla," Mrs Chiley said; and when they had
reached the drawing-room and shut the door, the Colonel's wife gave her
favourite a kiss, and looked anxiously in her face. "You have not been
to see me since Monday," said Mrs Chiley. "I am sure you are not well,
or you could not have stayed away so long; but if you did not feel equal
to going out, why did you not send for me, Lucilla, my poor dear?"
Though Miss Marjoribanks's thoughts at that moment were full of the
garden, and not in the least occupied with those more troublesome
matters which procured for her Mrs Chiley's sympathy, she placed the
kind old lady in the most easy chair, and sat down by her, as Mrs Chiley
liked to see a young creature do. Lucilla's affairs were too important
to be trusted to a young _confidante_ of her own age; but even a person
of acknowledged genius like Miss Marjoribanks is the better of some one
to whom she can open up her breast.

"Dear Mrs Chiley!" said Lucilla, "I am quite well, and I meant to have
come to see you to-day."

"My poor dear!" said Mrs Chiley again. "You say you are quite well for
you have such a spirit; but I can see what you have been going through.
I don't understand how you can keep on, and do so much. But it was not
_that_ that brought me here. There is some one coming to Carlingford
that I want you to meet, Lucilla. He is a relation of Mary Chiley's
husband, and as she does not get on very well with them, you know, I
think it is our duty to be civil. And they say he is a very nice man;
and young--enough," said Mrs Chiley, with a look of some anxiety,
pausing to see the effect produced upon Lucilla by her words.

Miss Marjoribanks had not, as she once confessed, a very vivid sense of
humour, but she laughed a little, in spite of herself, at the old lady's
anxious look. "Don't be sorry for me," she said; "I told you that
fortunately my affections were not engaged. I don't want any new
gentleman introduced to me. If _that_ was what I was thinking of, I
never need have come home," Lucilla said, with a little dignity; and
yet, to be sure, she was naturally curious to know who the new man, who
was very nice and young--enough, could be; for such apparitions were not
too plentiful in Carlingford; and it did not seem in reason that an
individual of this interesting description could come out of Colonel
Chiley's house.

"My dear, he is a clergyman," said Mrs Chiley, putting her hand on Miss
Marjoribanks's arm, and speaking in a half whisper; "and you know a nice
clergyman is always nice, and you need not think of him as a young man
unless you like. He has a nice property, and he is Rector of Basing,
which is a very good living, and Archdeacon of Stanmore. He has come
here to hold a visitation, you know; and they say that if Carlingford
was made into a bishopric, he is almost sure to be the first bishop; and
you know a bishop, or even an archdeacon, has a very nice position. I
want to be civil to him for Mary Chiley's sake, who is not on such terms
as we could wish with her husband's friends; and then I suppose he will
have to be a great deal in Carlingford, and I should like him to form a
good impression. I want you and your dear good papa to come and meet
him; and then after that--but one thing is enough at a time," the old
lady said, breaking off with a nod and a smile. She too had brought her
bit of consolation to Lucilla; and it was a kind of consolation which,
when administered at the right moment, is sometimes of sovereign
efficacy, as Mrs Chiley was aware.

"I am sure papa will be very happy," said Lucilla; "and, indeed, if you
like, I shall be very glad to ask him here. If he is a friend of yours,
that is quite enough for me. It is very nice to know a nice clergyman;
but as for being a young man, I can't see how that matters. If I had
been thinking of _that_, I need never--but I should think papa would
like to meet him; and you know it is the object of my life to please
papa."

"Yes, my poor dear," said the Colonel's wife, "and he would be
hard-hearted indeed if he was not pleased; but still we must consider
you a little, Lucilla. You do everything for other people, and you never
think of yourself. But I like to see you with nice people round you, for
my part," Mrs Chiley added--"really nice people, and not these
poor-spirited, ungrateful----"

"Hush, hush!" said Lucilla; "I don't know such nice people anywhere as
there are in Carlingford. Some people are never pleased with their
neighbours, but I always get on so well with everybody. It is my good
luck, you know; and so long as I have you, dear Mrs Chiley----"

"Ah, Lucilla!" said the old lady, "that is very kind of you--and you
could not have anybody that is fonder of you than I am; but still I am
an old woman, old enough to be your grandmother, my dear--and we have
your future interests to think of. As for all the vexations you have
had, I think I could find it in my heart to turn that ungrateful
creature to the door. Don't let her come here any more. I like your
voice a great deal better when you are singing by yourself--and I am
sure the Archdeacon would be of my opinion," said Mrs Chiley, with a
confidence which was beautiful to behold. It was true she had not seen
her new hero as yet, but that only left her so much more free to take
the good of him and his probable sentiments; for to persons of frank and
simple imagination a very little foundation of fact is enough to build
upon.

"Dear Mrs Chiley, it is so nice of you to be vexed," said Lucilla, who
thought it as well not to enter into any further argument. "Papa will be
delighted, I am sure, and I can come in the evening. The Colonel likes
to have only six people, and you will be three to start with, so there
can't be any room for me at dinner; and you know I don't mind about
dinner. I shall come in the evening and make tea for you--and if you
think he would like to come next Thursday----" said Lucilla graciously.
This was how it was eventually settled. Mrs Chiley went home again
through Grange Lane in the sunshine, with that little old-womanish
hobble which Mrs Woodburn executed with such precision, perfectly
satisfied with her success, and indulging herself in some pleasant
visions. To be sure, a nice clergyman is always nice to know, even
though nothing more was to come of it; and a new man in the field of
such distinguished pretensions, would be Lucilla's best defence against
any sort of mortification. As for Miss Marjoribanks herself, she was
thinking a great deal more of the new details for the approaching
evening than of anything else more distant, and consequently less
important; but, on the whole, she was by no means displeased to hear of
the Archdeacon. In such a work as hers, a skilful leader is always on
the outlook for auxiliaries; and there are circumstances in which a nice
clergyman is almost as useful to the lady of the house as a man who can
flirt. To be sure, now and then there occurs a rare example in which
both these qualities are united in one person; but even in the most
modest point of view, if he was not stupid or obstinately Low-Church,
there was nothing to despise in the apparition of the Archdeacon thus
suddenly blown to her very door. While she had the seats placed in the
garden (not too visibly, but shrouded among the shrubs and round the
trunks of the trees), and chose the spot for a little illumination,
which was not to be universal, like a tea-garden, but concentrated in
one spot under the big lime-tree, Lucilla permitted herself to speculate
a little about this unknown hero. She did not so much ask herself if he
would be dark or fair, according to the usage of young ladies, as
whether he would be High or Broad. But, however, that question, like
various others, was still hidden in the surrounding darkness.

This was how Mrs Chiley did her best to cheer up Lucilla in the
discouragement from which she supposed her young friend to be suffering.
It was perhaps a loftier expedient in one way than Nancy's desire that
she should have something she would fancy for dinner; but then there
could not be any doubt as to the kindness which prompted both
suggestions; and, after all, it is not what people do for you, but the
spirit in which they do it, which should be taken into consideration, as
Lucilla most justly observed.



_Chapter XVI_


That evening was one which all the people in Grange Lane had unanimously
concluded would be rather hard upon Miss Marjoribanks. To be sure, when
a crisis arrives there is always a certain excitement which keeps one
up; but afterwards, when the excitement is over, then is the time when
it becomes really trying. There was naturally, under these
circumstances, a larger assemblage than usual to watch the progress of
the little drama, and how Lucilla would behave; for, after all, society
would be excessively tame if it were not for these personal
complications, which are always arising, and which are so much better
than a play. As for the Doctor himself, the portion of the evening's
entertainment which particularly amused him was that which preceded all
the rest--the reception given by Lucilla to her guests at dinner, and
especially to the culprit, who came in quite alone, and found nobody to
stand up for him. Mr Cavendish, who felt to the full the difficulty of
his position, and, to tell the truth, was a little ashamed of himself,
came late, in order to abridge his trial as much as possible; but
Lucilla's habitual good-fortune was not confined only to her own
necessities, but seemed to involve everybody opposed to her in a
ceaseless ill-luck, which was very edifying to the spectators. Mr
Cavendish was so late that the other guests had formed into groups round
the room, leaving a great open space and avenue of approach to the lady
of the house in the middle; and the audience, thus arranged, was very
impatient and unfavourable to the lingerer who kept them waiting for
their dinner. When he came in at last, instead of doing anything to help
him, everybody ceased talking and looked on in stern silence as the
wretched culprit walked all the length of the room up to Lucilla through
the unoccupied space which exposed him so unmercifully on every side.
They all stopped in the middle of what they were saying, and fixed stony
eyes on him, as the dead sailors did on the Ancient Mariner. He had a
very good spirit, but still there are circumstances which take the
courage out of a man. To be sure, Miss Marjoribanks, when he reached her
at last, received Mr Cavendish with the utmost grace and cordiality, but
it is easy to imagine what must have been the feelings of the
unfortunate hero. The Balaclava charge itself, in the face of all the
guns, could have been nothing to the sensation of walking through that
horrible naked space, through a crowd of reproachful men who were
waiting for dinner; and it was only after it was all over, and Mr
Cavendish had safely arrived at Miss Marjoribanks's side, and was being
set at his ease, poor wretch, by her incomparable sweetness, that the
Doctor, with a certain grim smile on his countenance, came and shook
hands with his unfortunate guest.

"You are late," Dr Marjoribanks said, taking out the great watch by
which all the pulses of Grange Lane considered it their duty to keep
time, and which marked five minutes after seven, as everybody could see.
It was ten minutes after seven by the pretty French clock on the
mantelpiece, and at least twenty by the lowering countenances of Dr
Marjoribanks's guests. Mr Cavendish made the best of his unhappy
position, and threw himself upon Lucilla's charity, who was the only one
who had any compassion upon him; for to see Mrs Chiley's forbidding
countenance no one could have believed that she had ever called him "my
dear." "Dinner is on the table, papa," Miss Marjoribanks said, with a
little reassuring nod to the culprit who had made her his refuge; and
she got up and shook out her white draperies with a charitable commotion
for which her faithless admirer blessed her in his heart.

But the place at her left hand was not left vacant for Mr Cavendish; he
had not the spirit to claim it, even had he had the time; and the
consequence was that he found himself next to his brother-in-law at
table, which was indeed a hard fate. As for Lucilla, she was quite
radiant when the famous dish made its appearance which Nancy had
elaborated to please her, and told the story of its introduction to her
two next neighbours, in a half whisper, to their immense amusement.
"When the servants are gone I will tell you what we are laughing at,"
she breathed across the table to Mrs Chiley, who was "more than
delighted," as she said, to see her dear Lucilla keeping up so well; and
when the dessert was put upon the table, and Thomas had finally
disappeared, Miss Marjoribanks kept her promise. "I could not think how
I was going to get her to consent," Lucilla said, "but you know she
thought I was in low spirits, the dear old soul, and that it would be a
comfort to me." Though there was often a great deal of fun at Dr
Marjoribanks's table, nothing was ever heard there to compare with the
laughter that greeted Lucilla's narrative. Everybody was so entirely
aware of the supposed cause of the low spirits, and indeed was so
conscious of having speculated, like Nancy, upon Miss Marjoribanks's
probable demeanour at this trying moment, that the laughter was not mere
laughter, but conveyed, at the same time a confession of guilt and a
storm of applause and admiration. As for Mr Cavendish, it was alarming
to look at him in the terrible paroxysm of confusion and shame which he
tried to shield under the universal amusement. Miss Marjoribanks left
the dining-room that evening with the soothing conviction that she had
administered punishment of the most annihilating kind, without for a
moment diverging from the perfect sweetness and amiability with which it
was her duty to treat all her father's guests. It was so complete and
perfect that there was not another word to be said either on one side or
the other; and yet Lucilla had not in the least committed herself, or
condescended from her maiden dignity. As for Dr Marjoribanks, if he had
chuckled over it before, in anticipation, it may be supposed how he
enjoyed now this perfect vindication of his daughter's capacity for
taking care of herself. The sound of the victory was even heard
upstairs, where the young ladies at the open windows were asking each
other, with a little envy, what the men could be laughing at. There was,
as we have said, a larger assembly than usual that night. For one thing,
it was moonlight, and all the people from the country were there; and
then public curiosity was profoundly concerned as to how Lucilla was to
conduct herself on so trying an occasion. The laughter even jarred on
the sensitive feelings of some people who thought, where a young girl's
happiness was concerned, that it was too serious a matter to be laughed
at; but then Miss Marjoribanks was not a person who could be classed
with ordinary young girls, in the general acceptation of the word.

It was when things were at this crisis, and all eyes were directed to
Lucilla, and a certain expectation was diffused through the company,
that Miss Marjoribanks made that proposal of adjourning to the garden,
which was received with so much applause. Lucilla's instinct, or rather
her genius, had warned her that something out of the ordinary course of
proceedings would be expected from her on that special occasion. She
could not get up and make a speech to her excited and curious audience,
neither could she, apropos of nothing, tell over again the story which
had been received with such applause downstairs; and yet something was
wanting. The ordinary routine did not satisfy Lucilla's constituency,
who had come with the laudable intention of observing her on a trying
occasion, and watching how she got through it. "The air is so delicious
to-night that I had some seats placed in the garden," Miss Marjoribanks
said, "and if you all like we will sing to you up here, and give you as
much music as ever you please. You know I never would consent to be too
musical when everybody was in one room. It does not matter so much, when
there are a suite; but then papa, you know, is only a professional man,
and I have but one drawing-room," said Lucilla, with sweet humility. It
was Lady Richmond to whom she was addressing herself at the moment, who
was a lady who liked to be the great lady of the party. "It is only in
summer that we can be a little like you fine people, who have as many
rooms as you please. When you are at a little distance we will sing to
you all the evening, if you like."

"But, my dear, are you sure you feel able for so much exertion?" said
Lady Richmond, who was one of those people who did not think a young
girl's happiness a thing to be trifled with; and she looked with what
she described afterwards as a very searching expression in Miss
Marjoribanks's face.

"Dear Lady Richmond, I hope I am always able for my duty," said that
gentle martyr. "Papa would be wretched if he did not think we were all
enjoying ourselves; and you know it is the object of my life to be a
comfort to papa."

This was what the searching expression in Lady Richmond's eyes elicited
from Lucilla. The sentiment was perhaps a little different from that
which she had conveyed to her delighted auditors in the dining-room, but
at the same time it was equally true; for everybody in Carlingford was
aware of the grand object of Miss Marjoribanks's existence. Lady
Richmond went down to the garden at the head of a bevy of ladies, and
seated herself under the drawing-room windows, and placed a chair beside
her own for Mrs Chiley. "I am afraid that dear girl is keeping up too
well," Lady Richmond said; "I never saw such fortitude. All the young
people say she does not feel it; but as soon as I fixed my eyes on her I
saw the difference. You can always find out what a girl's feelings are
when you look into her eyes."

"Yes," said Mrs Chiley, with a little doubt, for she had been shaken in
her convictions by the universal laughter, though she was a little
mystified herself by Lucilla's anecdote; and then she had never been
gifted with eyes like Lady Richmond's, which looked people through and
through. "She goes through a great deal, and it never seems to do her
any harm," the old lady said, with a little hesitation. "It is such a
comfort that she has a good constitution, especially as her mother was
so delicate; and then Lucilla has such a spirit----"

"But one may try a good constitution too far," said Lady Richmond; "and
I am certain she is full of feeling. It is sure to come out when she
sings, and that is why I came to this seat. I should not like to lose a
note. And do tell me who is that horrid flirting, disagreeable girl,"
added the county lady, drawing her chair a little closer. By this time
the garden was full of pretty figures and pleasant voices, and under the
lime-tree there was a glimmer of yellow light from the lamps, and on the
other side the moon was coming up steady like a ball of silver over the
dark outlines of Carlingford; and even the two voices which swelled
forth upstairs in the fullest accord, betraying nothing of the personal
sentiments of their owners, were not more agreeable to hear than the
rustle and murmur of sound which rose all over Dr Marjoribanks's smooth
lawn and pretty shrubbery. Here and there a group of the older people
sat, like Lady Richmond and Mrs Chiley, listening with all their might;
and all about them were clusters of girls and their natural attendants,
arrested in their progress, and standing still breathless, "just for
this bar," as young people pause in their walks and talks to listen to a
chance nightingale. And, to be sure, whenever anybody was tired of the
music, there were quantities of corners to retire into, not to speak of
that bright spot full of yellow light under the lime-tree.

"Nobody but Lucilla ever could have thought of anything so delicious,"
was what everybody said. And then the two singers upstairs gave so much
scope to curiosity. "Do you think they are all by themselves?" Lydia
Brown was heard to ask, with a little natural anxiety; and the livelier
imaginations among the party set to work at once to invent impossible
tortures which the soprano might inflict on the contralto. But, to tell
the truth, the two singers were by no means alone. Half the gentlemen of
the dinner-party, who were past the sentimental age, and did not care
about moonlight, had gone upstairs according to their use and wont, and
remained there, finding, to their great satisfaction, room to move
about, and comfortable chairs to sit down in. They sat and chatted in
the corners in great content and good-humour, while Lucilla and Barbara
executed the most charming duets. Now and then old Colonel Chiley paused
to put his two hands softly together and cry "Brava!" but on the whole
the gentlemen were not much disturbed by the music. And then there were
a few ladies, who were subject to neuralgia, or apt to take bad colds in
the head, who preferred being upstairs. So that if Lucilla had meant to
pinch or maltreat her rival, circumstances would have made it
impossible. Miss Marjoribanks did nothing to Barbara, except incite her
to sing her very best; but no doubt she was the means of inflicting
considerable pain on Mr Cavendish, who stood at a little distance, and
looked and listened to both, and perhaps had inward doubts as to the
wisdom of his choice. Such was the arrangement of the personages of the
social drama, and it was in this way that everybody was occupied, when
an event occurred which at a later period awoke much excitement in
Carlingford, and had no small influence upon the future fate of some of
the individuals whose history is here recorded.

Everything was as calm and cheerful and agreeable as if Carlingford had
been a social paradise, and Miss Marjoribanks's drawing-room the seventh
heaven of terrestrial harmony. The sky itself was not more peaceful, nor
gave less indication of any tempest than did the tranquil atmosphere
below, where all the people knew each other, and everybody was friendly.
Lucilla had just risen from the piano, and there was a little pause, in
which cheers were audible from the garden, and Colonel Chiley, in the
midst of his conversation, patted his two hands together; and it was
just at that moment that the drawing-room door opened, and Thomas came
in, followed by a gentleman. The gentleman was a stranger, whom Miss
Marjoribanks had never seen before, and she made a step forward, as was
her duty as mistress of the house. But when she had made that one step,
Lucilla suddenly stood still, arrested by something more urgent than the
arrival of a stranger. Mr Cavendish, too, had been standing with his
face to the door, and had seen the new arrival. He was directly in front
of Lucilla, so near her that he could not move without attracting her
attention. When Miss Marjoribanks took that step in advance, Mr
Cavendish, as if by the same impulse, suddenly, and without saying a
word, turned right round like a man who had seen something terrible, at
which he dared not take a second look. He was too much absorbed at that
moment in his own feelings to know that he was betraying himself to
Lucilla, or even to be conscious that she was near him. His face was
more than pale; it had a green ghastly look, as of a face from which all
the blood had suddenly been withdrawn to reinforce the vital centre in
some failing of nature. His under-lip hung down, and two hollows which
had never been seen there before appeared in his cheeks. Miss
Marjoribanks was so taken by surprise that she stood still, thinking no
more of her duties, but regarding in utter dismay and amazement the look
of dead stupefied terror which thus appeared so unexpectedly before her.
Mr Cavendish had turned right round, turning his back upon a lady to
whom he had been talking the minute before. But he was as unconscious of
doing so as of the fact that he had presented the spectacle of his
miserable surprise and alarm in the most striking way to the one woman
present who had a right to entertain a certain grudge against him.

During this moment of unusual inaction on Lucilla's part, the stranger
had been led up to Colonel Chiley, and had shaken hands with him, and
was entering into some explanations which Miss Marjoribanks divined with
her usual quick intelligence; and then the old Colonel roused himself up
from his easy-chair, and leaned over to speak to Dr Marjoribanks, and
showed symptoms of approaching the lady of the house. All these
movements Lucilla followed breathlessly, with a strange consciousness
that only her presence of mind stood between her faithless suitor and a
real danger. And as if to prove the difference, Barbara Lake chose that
moment of all others to show her power, and made an appeal to Mr
Cavendish and his taste in music, to which the unhappy man made no
response. Miss Marjoribanks saw there was no time to lose. With a
fearless hand she threw down a great portfolio of music which happened
to be close to her, just at his feet, making a merciful disturbance. And
then she turned and made her curtsey, and received the homage of Mr
Archdeacon Beverley, who had arrived a day before he was expected, and
had come to look after his host, since his host had not been at home to
receive him.

"But you have broken your music-stand or something, Lucilla," said the
Colonel.

"Oh, no; it is only a portfolio. I can't think what could make me so
awkward," said Miss Marjoribanks; "I suppose it was seeing some one come
in whom I didn't know." And then the old gentleman, as was his duty,
paid the Archdeacon a compliment on having made such a commotion. "We
used to have the best of it in our day," said the old soldier; "but now
you churchmen are the men." Miss Marjoribanks heard the door open again
before this little speech was finished. It was Mr Cavendish, who was
going out with a long step, as if he with difficulty kept himself from
running; and he never came back again to say good-night, or made any
further appearance either out of doors or indoors. It is true that the
Archdeacon made himself very agreeable, but then one man never quite
makes up for another. Miss Marjoribanks said nothing about it, not even
when Mrs Woodburn came up to her with a scared face, and in full
possession of her own identity, which of itself was an extraordinary
fact, and proved that something had happened; but it would be vain to
say that Lucilla was not much excited by this sudden gleam of mystery.
It gave the Archdeacon an extraordinary and altogether unexpected
attraction; and as for Mr Cavendish, it was utterly inconceivable that a
man in society, whom everybody knew about, should give way to such a
panic. The question was, What did it mean?



_Chapter XVII_


The arrival of Mr Archdeacon Beverley in Carlingford was, for many
reasons, an event of importance to the town, and especially to society,
which was concerned in anything that drew new and pleasant people to
Grange Lane. For one thing, it occurred at the time when that first
proposal of elevating Carlingford into a bishopric, in order to relieve
the present bishop of the district of a part of his immense diocese, had
just been mooted; and supposing this conception to be ever carried out,
nobody could have been more eligible as first bishop than the
Archdeacon, who was in the prime of life, and a very successful
clergyman. And then, not to speak of anything so important, his presence
was a great attraction to the country clergy, especially as he had come
to hold a visitation. Notwithstanding all this, it is impossible to deny
that Mrs Chiley, his hostess, and even Miss Marjoribanks herself,
regarded the manner of his first appearance with a certain displeasure.
If he had only had the good sense to stay at home, and not come to seek
his entertainers! To be sure it is awkward to arrive at a house and find
that everybody is out; but still, as Mrs Chiley justly observed, the
Archdeacon was not a baby, and he might have known better. "Coming to
you the very first night, and almost in his travelling things, to take
the cream off everything," the old lady said, with tears of vexation in
her eyes; "and after that, what have we to show him in Carlingford,
Lucilla?" As for Miss Marjoribanks, she was annoyed, but she knew the
wealth of her own resources, and she was not in despair, like her old
friend. "They never know any better," she said sympathetically. "Dear
Mrs Chiley, there was nothing else to be expected; but, at the same
time, I don't think things are so very bad," said Lucilla; for she had
naturally a confidence in herself of which even Mrs Chiley's admiring
faith fell short.

The Archdeacon himself took it quite cheerfully, as if it was the most
natural thing in the world. "I have no doubt it was a very pleasant
party, if one could have got the key-note," he said, in his
Broad-Church way, as if there was nothing more to be said on the
subject, and Lucilla's Thursday was the merest ordinary assembly. For
there could be no doubt that he was Broad-Church, even though his
antecedents had not proclaimed the fact. He had a way of talking on many
subjects which alarmed his hostess. It was not that there was anything
objectionable in what he said--for, to be sure, a clergyman and an
archdeacon may say a great many things that ordinary people would not
like to venture on,--but still it was impossible to tell what it might
lead to; for it is not everybody who knows when to stop, as Mr Beverley
in his position might be expected to do. It was the custom of good
society in Carlingford to give a respectful assent, for example, to Mr
Bury's extreme Low-Churchism--as if it were profane, as it certainly was
not respectable, to differ from the Rector--and to give him as wide a
field as possible for his missionary operations by keeping out of the
way. But Mr Beverley had not the least regard for respectability, nor
that respect for religion which consists in keeping as clear of it as
possible; and the way in which he spoke of Mr Bury's views wounded some
people's feelings. Altogether, he was, as Mrs Chiley said, an anxious
person to have in the house; for he just as often agreed with the
gentlemen in their loose ways of thinking, as with the more correct
opinions by which the wives and mothers who had charge of Their morality
strove hard to keep them in the right way; and that was the reverse of
what one naturally expected from a clergyman. He was very nice, and had
a nice position; and, under all the circumstances, it was not only a
duty to pay attention to him, but a duty from which results of a most
agreeable character might spring; but still, though she could not be
otherwise than kind, it would be impossible to say that it was out of
personal predilection that Mrs Chiley devoted herself to her guest. She
admitted frankly that he was not like what clergymen were in her time.
For one thing, he seemed to think that every silly boy and girl ought to
have an opinion and be consulted, as if they had anything to do with
it--which was just the way to turn their heads, and make them utterly
insupportable. On the whole, perhaps, the old lady was more charitable
to Mary Chiley, and understood better how it was that she, brought up in
sound Church principles, did not get on so well as might be desired with
her husband's family, after a week of the Archdeacon. And yet he was a
delightful person, and full of information, as everybody admitted; and
if Carlingford should be erected into a bishopric, as would be only
right--and if Mr Beverley should happen to be appointed bishop, as was
highly probable--then it would be a pleasure to think that one had been
kind to him. At the same time, it must be owned that he showed a great
want of tact in coming to Miss Marjoribanks's Thursday on the night of
his arrival, and thus brushing, as it were, the very cream off his
introduction to Grange Lane. And Mrs Chiley still sighed a little over
Mr Cavendish, and thought within herself that it was not his fault, but
that designing, artful creature, who was enough to lead any man wrong.
For it was very clear to the meanest capacity that nobody could ever
call the Archdeacon "my dear," as, with all his faults, it had been
possible to call Mr Cavendish. And by this line of thought Mrs Chiley
was led to regret Mr Cavendish, and to wonder what had become of him,
and what family affairs it could be that had taken him so suddenly away.

A great many people in Carlingford were at that moment occupied by the
same wonders and regrets. Some people thought he was frightened to find
how far he had gone with _that_ Miss Lake, and had left town for a
little to be out of the way; and some thought he must have been
speculating, and have lost money. To tell the truth, it was very strange
that he should have disappeared so suddenly,--just at the moment, too,
when old Mr Chiltern had one of his bad attacks of bronchitis, which Dr
Marjoribanks himself had admitted might carry him off any day. Nothing
could be more important to the future interests of young Cavendish than
to be on the spot at this critical moment, and yet he had disappeared
without telling anybody he was going, or where he was going, which was
on the whole a perfectly unexplainable proceeding. His very servants, as
had been ascertained by some inquiring mind in the community, were
unaware of his intention up to the very last moment; and certainly he
had not said good-bye to anybody before leaving Dr Marjoribanks's garden
on that Thursday evening. Mr Woodburn, who was not a person of very
refined perceptions, was the only man who found his disappearance quite
natural. "After making such a deuced ass of himself, by George! what
could the fellow do?" said his brother-in-law, who naturally enjoyed the
discomfiture of so near a connection; and this was no doubt a
providential circumstance for Mrs Woodburn, who was thus saved from the
necessity of explaining or accounting for her brother's unexpected
disappearance; but it failed to satisfy the general community, who did
not think Mr Cavendish likely to give in at the first blow even of so
distinguished an antagonist as Miss Marjoribanks. Some of the more
charitable inhabitants of Grange Lane concluded that it must be the
sudden illness of some relative which had called him away; but then,
though he was well known to be one of the Cavendishes, neither he nor
his sister ever spoke much of their connections; and, on the whole,
public opinion fluctuated between the two first suggestions--which
seemed truest to nature at least, whether or not they might be fully
corroborated by fact--which were, either that Mr Cavendish had taken
fright, as he might very naturally have done, at the advanced state of
his relations with Barbara Lake; or that he had speculated, and lost
money. In either case his departure would have been natural enough, and
need not, perhaps, have been accomplished with quite so much
precipitation; but still such a community as that in Grange Lane was in
circumstances to comprehend how a young man might take fright and leave
home, either because of losing a lot of money, or getting entangled with
a drawing-master's daughter.

The immediate result, so far as society was concerned, was one for which
people did not know whether to be most glad or sorry. Mrs Woodburn, who
kept half the people in Grange Lane in terror of their lives, seemed to
have lost all her inspiration now her brother was away. She did not seem
to have the heart to take off anybody, which was quite a serious matter
for the amusement of the community. To be sure, some people were
thankful, as supposing themselves exempted from caricature; but then
unfortunately, as has been said, the people who were most afraid for Mrs
Woodburn were precisely those who were unworthy of her trouble, and had
nothing about them to give occupation to her graphic powers. As for Miss
Marjoribanks, who had supplied one of the mimic's most effective
studies, she was much disturbed by the failure of this element of
entertainment. "I have always thought it very strange that I never had
any sense of humour," Lucilla said; "but it would not do, you know, if
all the world was like me; and society would be nothing if everybody did
not exert themselves to the best of their abilities." There was a
mournful intonation in Lucilla's voice as she said this; for, to tell
the truth, since Mr Cavendish's departure she had been dreadfully
sensible of the utter absence of any man who could flirt. As for Osmond
Brown and the other boys of his age, it might be possible to train them,
but at the best they were only a provision for the future, and in the
meantime Miss Marjoribanks could not but be sensible of her loss. She
lamented it with such sincerity that all the world thought her the most
perfect actress in existence. "I have nothing to say against any of
you," Lucilla would say, contemplating with the eye of an artist the
young men of Grange Lane who were her raw material. "I dare say you will
all fall in love with somebody sooner or later, and be very happy and
good for nothing; but you are no assistance in any way to society. It is
Mr Cavendish I am sighing for," said the woman of genius, with the
candour of a great mind; and even Mrs Woodburn was beguiled out of her
despondency by a study so unparalleled. All this time, however, Lucilla
had not forgotten the last look of her faithless admirer as he faced
round upon her when Mr Archdeacon Beverley came into the room. She too,
like everybody else, wondered innocently why Mr Cavendish had gone away,
and when he was coming back again; but she never hinted to any one that
the Archdeacon _had_ anything to do with it; for indeed, as she said to
herself, she had no positive evidence except that of a look that the
Archdeacon had anything to do with it. By which it will be seen that
Miss Marjoribanks's prudence equalled her other great qualities. It
would be wrong to say, however, that her curiosity was not excited, and
that in a very lively way; for the vague wonder of the public mind over
a strange fact, could never be compared in intensity to the surprise and
curiosity excited by something one has actually seen, and which gives
one, as it were, a share in the secret,--if indeed there was a secret,
which was a matter upon which Lucilla within herself had quite made up
her mind.

As for the Archdeacon, the place which he took in society was one quite
different from that which had been filled by Mr Cavendish, as, indeed,
was natural. He was one of those men who are very strong for the
masculine side of Christianity; and when he was with the ladies, he had
a sense that he ought to be paid attention to, instead of taking that
trouble in his own person. Miss Marjoribanks was not a woman to be
blind to the advantages of this situation, but still, as was to be
expected, it took her a little time to get used to it, and to make all
the use of it which was practicable under the circumstances--which was
all the more difficult since she was not in the least "viewy" in her own
person, but had been brought up in the old-fashioned orthodox way of
having a great respect for religion, and as little to do with it as
possible, which was a state of mind largely prevalent in Carlingford.
But that was not in the least Mr Beverley's way.

It was when Lucilla's mind was much occupied by this problem that she
received a visit quite unexpectedly one morning from little Rose Lake,
who had just at that time a great deal on her mind. For it may easily be
supposed that Mr Cavendish's sudden departure, which bewildered the
general public who had no special interest in the matter, must have had
a still more overwhelming effect upon Barbara Lake, who had just been
raised to the very highest pinnacle of hope, closely touching upon
reality, when all her expectations collapsed and came to nothing in a
moment. She would not believe at first that it could be true; and then,
when it was no longer possible to resist the absolute certainty of Mr
Cavendish's departure, her disappointment found vent in every kind of
violence--hysterics, and other manifestations of unreason and self-will.
Rose had been obliged to leave the Female School of Design upon her
papa's overburdened shoulders, and stay at home to nurse her sister.
Perhaps the little artist was not the best person to take care of a
sufferer under such circumstances; for she was neither unreasonable nor
self-willed to speak of, though perhaps a little opinionative in her
way--and could not be brought to think that a whole household should be
disturbed and disordered, and a young woman in good health retire to her
room, and lose all control of herself, because a young man, with whom
she had no acquaintance three months before, had gone out of town
unexpectedly. Perhaps it was a want of feeling on the part of the
unsympathetic sister. She gave out that Barbara was ill, and kept up a
most subdued and anxious countenance downstairs, for the benefit of the
children and the maid-of-all-work, who represented public opinion in
Grove Street; but when Rose went into her sister's room, where Barbara
kept the blinds down, and had her face swollen with crying, it was with
a very stern countenance that her little mentor regarded the invalid.
"I do not ask you to have a sense of duty," Rose said, with a certain
fine disdain, "but at least you might have a proper pride." This was all
she took the trouble to say; but it must be admitted that a great deal
more to the same effect might be read in her eyes, which were generally
so dewy and soft, but which could flash on occasion. And then as the
week drew on towards Thursday, and all her representations proved
unavailing to induce Barbara to get up and prepare herself for her usual
duties, the scorn and vexation and impatience with which the dutiful
little soul met her sister's sullen determination that "she was not
able" to fulfil her ordinary engagements, roused Rose up to a great
resolution. For her own part she was one of the people who do not
understand giving in. "What do you mean by lying there?" she said,
pounding Barbara down small and cutting her to pieces with infallible
good sense and logic; "will that do any good? You would try to look
better than usual, and sing better than usual, if you had any proper
pride. I did not fall ill when my flounce was passed over at the
exhibition. I made up my mind that very evening about the combination
for my veil. I would die rather than give in if I were you."

"Your flounce!" sobbed Barbara--"oh, you unfeeling insensible thing!--as
if your h-heart had anything to do with--that. I only went to s-spite
Lucilla--and I won't go--no more--oh, no more--now he's been and
deserted me. You can't understand my feelings--g-go away and leave me
alone."

"Barbara," said Rose, with solemnity, "I would forgive you if you would
not be mean. I don't understand it in one of _us_. If Mr Cavendish has
gone away, it shows that he does not care for you; and you would scorn
him, and scorn to show you were thinking of him, if you had any proper
pride."

But all the answer Barbara gave was to turn away with a jerk of
annoyance the old easy-chair in which she was lying buried, with her
hands thrust up into her black hair, and her eyes all red; upon which
Rose left her to carry out her own resolution. She was prompt in all her
movements, and she wasted no time on reconsideration. She went down into
Grange Lane, her little head erect, and her bright eyes regarding the
world with that air of frank recognition and acknowledgment which Rose
felt she owed as an artist to her fellow-creatures. They were all good
subjects more or less, and the consciousness that she could draw them
and immortalise them gave her the same sense of confidence in their
friendliness, and her own perfect command of the situation, as a young
princess might have felt whose rank protected her like an invisible
buckler. Rose, too, walked erect and open-eyed, in the confidence of
_her_ rank, which made her everybody's equal. It was in this frame of
mind that she arrived at Dr Marjoribanks's house, and found Lucilla, who
was very glad to see her. Miss Marjoribanks was pondering deeply on the
Archdeacon at that moment, and her little visitor seemed as one sent by
heaven to help her out. For to tell the truth, though Lucilla understood
all about Mr Cavendish, and men of his description, and how to manage
them, and take full use of their powers, even her commanding
intelligence felt the lack of experience in respect to such a case as
that of the Archdeacon, who required a different treatment to draw him
out. She was thinking it over intently at the moment of Rose's arrival,
for Lucilla was not a person to give up the advantages of a novel
position because she did not quite understand it. She felt within
herself that there was no doubt a great effect might be produced if she
could but see how to do it. And it was Thursday morning, and there was
no time to lose.

"I came to speak to you about Barbara," said Rose. "She is not fit to
come out this morning. I told her it was very ungrateful not to make an
effort after you had been so kind; but I am sorry to say she has not a
strong sense of duty; and I don't think she would be able to sing or do
anything but look stupid. I hope you will not think very badly of her.
There are some people who can't help giving in, I suppose," said Rose,
with an impatient little sigh.

"And so this is you, you dear little Rose!" said Lucilla, "and I have
never seen you before since I came home--and you always were such a pet
of mine at Mount Pleasant! I can't think why you never came to see me
before; as for me, you know, I never have any time. Poor papa has nobody
else to take care of him, and it always was the object of my life to be
a comfort to papa."

"Yes," said Rose, who was a straightforward little woman, and not given
to compliments. "I have a great deal to do too," she said; "and then all
my spare moments I am working at my design. Papa always says that
society accepts artists for what they can give, and does not expect them
to sacrifice their time," Rose continued, with her little air of
dignity. Miss Marjoribanks knew very well that society was utterly
unconscious of the existence of the Lake family; but then there is
always something imposing in such a perfectly innocent and superb
assumption as that to which the young Preraphaelite had just given
utterance; and it began to dawn upon Lucilla that here was another
imperfectly understood but effective instrument lying ready to her hand.

"I should like to see your design," said Miss Marjoribanks graciously.
"You made such a pretty little wreath for the corner of my
handkerchief--don't you remember?--all frogs' legs and things. It looked
so sweet in the old satin stitch. What is the matter with poor Barbara?
I felt sure she would catch cold and lose her voice. I shall tell papa
to go and see her. As for to-night, it will be a dreadful loss to be
sure, for I never could find a voice that went so well with mine. But if
you are sure she can't come----"

"When people have not a sense of duty," said Rose, with an indignant
sigh, "nor any proper pride,----Some are so different. Barbara ought to
have been some rich person's daughter, with nothing to do. She would not
mind being of no use in the world. It is a kind of temperament I don't
understand," continued the little artist. All this, it is true, was
novel to Miss Marjoribanks, who had a kind of prejudice in favour of the
daughters of rich persons who had nothing to do; but Lucilla's genius
was broad and catholic, and did not insist upon comprehending
everything. She gave Rose a sudden scrutinising look, and measured her
mentally against the gap she had to fill. No doubt it was an experiment,
and might fail signally; but then Miss Marjoribanks was always at hand
to cover deficiencies, and she had that confidence in herself and her
good fortune which is necessary to everybody who greatly dares.

"You must come yourself this evening, you dear old Rose," said Lucilla.
"You know I always was fond of you. Oh, yes, I know you can't sing like
Barbara. But the Archdeacon is coming, who understands about art; and if
you would like to bring your design----My principle has always been,
that there should be a little of everything in society," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "I dare say you will feel a little strange at first with
not knowing the people, but that will soon pass off--and you _must_
come."

When she had said this, Lucilla bestowed upon little Rose a friendly
schoolfellow kiss, putting her hands upon the little artist's shoulders,
and looking her full in the face as she did so. "I am sure you can
talk," said Miss Marjoribanks. She did not say "Go away now, and leave
me to my arrangements;" but Rose, who was quick-witted, understood that
the salute was a dismissal, and she went away accordingly, tingling with
pride and excitement and pleasure and a kind of pain. The idea of
practically exemplifying, in her own person, the kind of demeanour which
society ought to expect from an artist had not occurred to Rose; but
destiny having arranged it so, she was not the woman to withdraw from
her responsibilities. She said to herself that it would be shabby for
her who was known to have opinions on this subject, to shrink from
carrying them out; and stimulated her courage by recourse to her
principles, as people do who feel themselves bound to lay sacrifices on
the altar of duty. Notwithstanding this elevated view of the emergency,
it must be admitted that a sudden thought of what she would wear had
flushed to Rose's very finger-tips, with a heat and tingle of which the
little heroine was ashamed. For it was Thursday morning, and there was
not a moment to be lost. However, after the first thrill which this idea
had given her, Rose bethought herself once more of her principles, and
stilled her beating heart. It was not for her to think of what she was
to put on, she who had so often proclaimed the exemption of "a family of
artists" from the rules which weigh so hard upon the common world. "We
have a rank of our own," she said to herself, but with that tremor which
always accompanies the transference of a purely theoretical and even
fantastic rule of conduct into practical ground--"We are everybody's
equal, and we are nobody's equal--and when papa begins to be appreciated
as he ought to be, and Willie has made a Name----" This was always the
point at which Rose broke off, falling into reverie that could not be
expressed in words; but she had no leisure to remark upon the chance
"compositions" in the street, or the effects of light and shade, as she
went home. A sudden and heavy responsibility had fallen upon her
shoulders, and she would have scorned herself had she deserted her
post.



_Chapter XVIII_


But the anticipations of Rose Lake were trifling matters in comparison
with the universal interest and even excitement which attended the
Archdeacon's first appearance in Carlingford. What might be called his
first public appearance took place at Dr Marjoribanks's table, although
he had previously dined at the Rectory, and also at Sir John Richmond's,
besides that there had been somebody to dinner at Colonel Chiley's
almost every day; but then there were only county people at Sir John's,
and Mr Bury's guests naturally counted for very little in Grange
Lane;--indeed, it was confidently reported that the Rector had invited
Mr Tufton of Salem Chapel to meet the Archdeacon, and that, but for the
Dissenting minister having more sense and knowing his place, that
unseemly conjunction would have taken place, to the horror of all
right-thinking people. So that Dr Marjoribanks's was in reality the
first house where he had any chance of seeing society. It would perhaps
be using too strong a word to say that Miss Marjoribanks was anxious
about the success of her arrangements for this particular evening; but,
at the same time, it must be admitted that the circumstances were such
as to justify a little anxiety. Mr Cavendish was gone, who, to do him
justice, was always agreeable, and his departure disturbed the habitual
party; and Mrs Woodburn had lost all her powers, as it seemed, and sat
at Dr Marjoribanks's left hand, looking just like other people, and
evidently not to be in the least depended on; and Lucilla was aware that
Barbara was not coming, which made, if nothing else, a change in the
programme. No music, nobody to do the flirting, nor to supply the
dramatic by-play to which Grange Lane had become accustomed; and a new
man to be made use of, and to be done honour to, and introduced in
society. A young woman of powers inferior to those of Miss Marjoribanks
would have sunk under such a weight of responsibility, and there was no
doubt that Lucilla was a little excited. She felt that everything
depended upon her courage and self-possession. If she but lost her head
for a moment and lost command of affairs, everything might have been
lost; but then fortunately she knew herself and what she could do, and
had a modest confidence that she would not lose her head; and thus she
could still eat her dinner with the composure of genius, though it would
be wrong to deny that Lucilla was a little pale.

And then, as if all these things had not been enough to discourage the
lady of the house, another discordant element was added by the presence
of Mr Bury and his sister, whom it had been necessary to ask to meet the
Archdeacon. The Rector, though he was very Low-Church, has no particular
objections to a good dinner--but he made a principle of talking of that
important daily necessity in a disparaging, or at best in a patronising
way, which roused Dr Marjoribanks's temper; and sometimes the Doctor
would launch a shaft of medical wit at his spiritual guide, which Mr
Bury had no means of parrying. Nor was this the only danger to which the
peace of the party was exposed. For the Rector, at the same time,
regarded Mr Beverley with a certain critical suspiciousness, such as is
seldom to be encountered except among clergymen. He did not know much
about his clerical superior, who had only recently been appointed to his
archdeaconry; but there was something in his air, his looks, and
demeanour, which indicated what Mr Bury considered a loose way of
thinking. When the Archdeacon made any remark the Rector would pause and
look up from his plate to listen to it, with his fork suspended in the
air the while--and then he would exchange glances with his sister, who
was on the other side of the table. All this, it may be supposed, was a
little discomposing for Lucilla, who had the responsibility of
everything, and who could now look for no assistance among the ordinary
members of her father's party, who were, as a general rule, much more
occupied with the dinner than with anything else that was going on. In
such a state of affairs, it was a great relief to Miss Marjoribanks when
the Archdeacon, who occupied the post of honour by her side, made a
lively new beginning in the conversation. It had not to call _flagged_
before--not precisely flagged--but still there were indications of
approaching exhaustion, such as can always be perceived half a mile off
by anybody who has any experience in society, and when the Archdeacon
took up the ball with all the liveliness of a man who is interested in a
special question, it will not be difficult to any lady who has ever been
in such circumstances to realise to herself Miss Marjoribanks's sense of
gratitude and relief.

"By the bye," said Mr Beverley, "I meant to ask if any one knew a man
whom I am sure I caught a glimpse of the first day I was in Carlingford.
Perhaps it was in the morning after I arrived, to be precise. I can't
recollect exactly. If he lives about here, he ought to be known, for he
is a clever amusing sort of fellow. I don't know if Carlingford is more
blessed than other country towns with people of that complexion," said
the Archdeacon, turning to Lucilla with a smile. His smile, as he paused
and turned to Miss Marjoribanks, was such as conveys a kind of challenge
when it is addressed to a young lady, and meant to lead to a lively
little combat by the way; and yet there was something of keen personal
anxiety and animosity in it. As for Lucilla, she was conscious of an
immediate thrill of curiosity, but still it was curiosity unmingled with
any excitement, and she had no particular objection to respond.

"Everybody is nice in Carlingford," said Miss Marjoribanks; "some people
are always finding fault with their neighbours, but I always get on so
well with everybody--I suppose it is my luck." This was not precisely an
answer to the Archdeacon's question; and there was somebody at the table
who could have fallen upon Lucilla and beaten her for putting off the
revelation which trembled on the lips of Mr Beverley, and yet would have
given anything in the world to silence the Archdeacon, and felt capable
of rushing at him like a fury and tearing his tongue out, or suffocating
him, to stop the next words that he was going to say. But nobody knew
anything about this, or could see into the one heart that had begun to
flutter and throb with alarm; for outwardly, all the well-dressed,
cheerful people at Dr Marjoribanks's table sat eating their dinner, one
precisely like another, as if there had been no such thing as mystery or
terror in the world.

"You must not expect me to believe in the perfection of human society,"
said the Archdeacon, going on in the same strain; "I would much rather
pin my faith to the amiable dispositions of one young lady who always
finds her neighbours agreeable--and I hope she makes no exception to the
rule," said the Broad-Churchman in a parenthesis, with a smile and a
bow--and then he raised his voice a little: "The man I speak of is
really a very amusing fellow, and very well got up, and calculated to
impose upon ordinary observers. It is quite a curious story; he was a
son of a trainer or something of that sort about Newmarket. Old Lord
Monmouth took an extraordinary fancy to him, and had him constantly
about his place--at one time, indeed, he half brought him up along with
his grandson, you know. He always was a handsome fellow, and picked up a
little polish; and really, for people not quite used to the real thing,
was as nearly like a gentleman----"

"Come, now, I don't put any faith in that," said Mr Woodburn. "I don't
pretend to be much of a one for fine company myself, but I know a
gentleman when I see him; a snob always overdoes it, you know----"

"I never said this man was a snob," said the Archdeacon, with a refined
expression of disgust at the interruption flitting over his features;
"on the contrary, if he had only been honest, he would have been really
a very nice fellow----"

"My dear sir," said Mr Bury, "excuse me for breaking in--perhaps I am
old-fashioned, but don't you think it's a pity to treat the question of
honesty so lightly? A dishonest person has a precious soul to be saved,
and may be a most deeply interesting character; but to speak of him as a
very nice fellow, is--pardon me--I think it's a pity; especially in
mixed society, where it is so important for a clergyman to be guarded in
his expressions," said the Rector. When Mr Bury began to speak,
everybody else at table ceased talking, and gave serious attention to
what was going on, for the prospect of a passage of arms between the two
clergymen was an opportunity too captivating to be lost.

"I hope Mr Bury's dishonest friends will pardon me," said the
Archdeacon; "I mean no harm to their superior claims. Does anybody know
the man here, I wonder? He had changed his name when I knew him, and
there is no telling what he may call himself now. I assure you he was a
very good-looking fellow--dark, good features, nearly six feet high----"

"Oh, please don't say any more," said Miss Marjoribanks, and she could
not quite have explained why she interrupted these personal details; "if
you tell me what he is like, I shall fancy everybody I meet is him; Mr
Centum is dark, and has good features, and is nearly six feet high.
Never mind what he is like; you gentlemen can never describe
anybody--you always keep to _generals_; tell us what he has done."

Somebody drew a long breath at the table when the Archdeacon obeyed Miss
Marjoribanks's injunction. More than one person caught the sound, but
even Lucilla's keen eyes could not make out beyond controversy from whom
it proceeded. To be sure, Lucilla's mind was in a most curious state of
tumult and confusion. She was not one of the people who take a long time
to form their conclusions; but the natural conclusion to which she felt
inclined to jump in this case was one so monstrous and incredible that
Miss Marjoribanks felt her only safeguard in the whirl of possibilities
was to reject it altogether, and make up her mind that it was
impossible; and then all the correspondences and apparent corroborations
began to dance and whirl about her in a bewildering ring till her own
brain seemed to spin with them. She was as much afraid lest the
Archdeacon by some chance should fall upon a really individual feature
which the world in general could identify, as if she had had any real
concern in the matter. But then, fortunately, there was not much chance
of that; for it was one of Lucilla's principles that men never can
describe each other. She listened, however, with such a curious
commotion in her mind, that she did not quite make out what he was
saying, and only pieced it up in little bits from memory afterwards. Not
that it was a very dreadful story. It was not a narrative of robbery or
murder, or anything very alarming; but if it could by any possibility
turn out that the man of whom Mr Beverley was speaking had ever been
received in society in Carlingford, then it would be a dreadful blow to
the community, and destroy public confidence for ever in the social
leaders. This was what Lucilla was thinking in her sudden turmoil of
amazement and apprehension. And all this time there was another person
at table who knew all about it twenty times better than Lucilla, and
knew what was coming, and had a still more intense terror lest some
personal detail might drop from the Archdeacon's lips which the public
in general would recognise. Mr Beverley went on with his story with a
curious sort of personal keenness in his way of telling it, but never
dreaming for a moment that anybody that heard him was disturbed or
excited by it. "He has a mark on his face," the Archdeacon said--but
here Miss Marjoribanks gave a little cry, and held up both her hands in
dismay.

"Don't tell us what marks he has on his face," said Lucilla. "I know
that I shall think every man who is dark, and has good features, and is
six feet, must be him. I wonder if it could be my cousin Tom; _he_ has a
little mark on his face--and it would be just like his dreadful luck,
poor fellow. Would it be right to give up one's own cousin if it should
turn out to be Tom?" said Miss Marjoribanks. The people who were sitting
at her end of the table laughed, but there was no laughing in Lucilla's
mind. And this fright and panic were poor preparatives for the evening,
which had to be got through creditably with so few resources, and with
such a total reversal of the ordinary programme. Miss Marjoribanks was
still tingling with curiosity and alarm when she rose from the table. If
it should really come to pass that an adventurer had been received into
the best society of Carlingford, and that the best judges had not been
able to discriminate between the false and true, how could any one
expect that Grange Lane would continue to confide its most important
arrangements to such incompetent hands?

Such was the dreadful question that occupied all Lucilla's thoughts. So
far as the adventurer himself was concerned, no doubt he deserved
anything that might come upon him; but the judgment which might overtake
the careless shepherds who had admitted the wolf into the fold was much
more in Miss Marjoribanks's mind than any question of abstract justice.
So that it was not entirely with a philanthropical intention that she
stopped Mr Beverley and put an end to his dangerous details. Now she
came to think of it, she began to remember that _nobody of her
acquaintance_ had any mark on his face; but still it was best not to
inquire too closely. It was thus with a preoccupied mind that she went
up to the drawing-room, feeling less in spirits for her work than on any
previous occasion. It was the first of the unlucky nights, which every
woman of Lucilla's large and public-spirited views must calculate upon
as inevitable now and then. There was no moon, and the Richmonds
naturally were absent, and so were the Miss Browns, who were staying
there on a visit--for it was after the engagement between Lydia[1] and
John; and Mr Cavendish was away (though perhaps under the circumstances
that was no disadvantage); and Mrs Woodburn was silenced; and even
Barbara Lake had failed her patroness.

[Footnote 1: It may be mentioned here that this was an engagement that
none of the friends approved of, and that it was the greatest possible
comfort to Miss Marjoribanks's mind that she had nothing to do with
it--either one way or another, as she said.]

"You are not in spirits to-night, Lucilla, my poor dear," said Mrs
Chiley, as they went upstairs; and the kind old lady cast a fierce
glance at Mrs Woodburn, who was going before them with Miss Bury, as if
it could be her fault.

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Miss Marjoribanks, "I am in perfect spirits; it
is only the responsibility, you know. Poor Barbara is ill, and we can't
have any music, and what if people should be bored? When one has real
friends to stand by one it is different," said Lucilla, with an
intonation that was not intended for Mrs Chiley, "and I _always_ stand
by my friends."

This was the spirit with which Miss Marjoribanks went upstairs. It was a
sentiment which pervaded her whole life. Even when she had occasion to
be sufficiently displeased with the people who surrounded her, and to
feel that her own loyal friendship met with no adequate response, this
was the unfailing inspiration of her heart. She did not rush into
opposition because any misguided man or woman failed for the moment to
appreciate her efforts, and return, as they ought to have been glad to
do, her sentiments of kindness. On the contrary, nothing could have been
more long-suffering and tolerant and benign than the feelings with which
Lucilla regarded the unfortunate persons who mistook or did not
appreciate her. She knew herself, which, however superior they might be,
was something they could not know; and she could afford to be sorry (for
their own sakes) for their want of discrimination. If there should
happen to be somebody in Grange Lane who had gained admittance into
society under false pretences, not even such an offence, grievous as it
was, could induce Miss Marjoribanks to condemn the culprit unheard. It
was at once her settled resolution, and a peculiarity of her character,
to stand by her friends; and whatever might be the thoughts in her own
mind, her immediate decision was to shut her ears to every indication of
the culprit's personality, and to be blind to every suggestion that
could identify him. People who like to discover the alloy which blends
with all human motives, may suppose that Lucilla felt her own credit as
the leader of society at stake, and would not admit that she had been
duped. But this had in reality but a very small share in the matter. Her
instinct, even when reason suggested that she should be doubtful of
them, was always to side with her own friends; and though there might be
persons included in that sacred number who were scarcely worthy of the
character, yet Lucilla, like every lofty character, could act but
according to her own nature, and could not forsake any one whom she
supposed to be thus mysteriously and darkly assailed.

And she had her reward. There are virtues in this world which go without
any recompense, but there are other virtues upon which a prompt guerdon
is bestowed; and Lucilla possessed this happier development. Whether it
was that little speech of hers which touched the mimic's heart, or
whether the effect was produced by some other secret influence, it is
certain that this was the night on which Mrs Woodburn's talent came to
what may be called a sort of apotheosis. She shook off her languor as by
a sudden inspiration, and gave such a sketch of the Archdeacon as up to
this day is remembered more clearly in Carlingford than the man himself.
She took him off to his very face, and he never found it out, though
everybody else did, and the house shook with restrained laughter. And as
if this was not enough, Rose Lake had come with her portfolio, with some
sketches of her brother's (who afterwards became so celebrated) in it,
which electrified all the people who were fond of art; and by the side
of the young Preraphaelite was Barbara, who had come "to spite Lucilla,"
and who remained unwittingly to grace her triumph. She stood by herself,
all wan and crumpled, all the night, showing her disappointment and rage
and jilted state so clearly in her face, as to afford to all the mammas
in her neighbourhood a most startling example of the danger of showing
your feelings, with which to point a moral to the other young people
about. She had come because Rose was coming, and she would not be
eclipsed by her younger sister. But nobody took any notice of Barbara on
this miserable evening; nobody asked her to sing, or offered her a seat,
or even spoke to her, except Lucilla, who in her magnanimity found time
to say a word as she passed. She was carelessly dressed, and her hair
was hastily arranged, and her eyes were red. She had no desire to look
as if she had not been jilted, and had no proper pride, as Rose said;
and Mrs Chiley, who was Lucilla's partisan and champion, and who thought
poor Barbara deserved it all, seized the opportunity, and delivered a
little lecture on the subject to the first group of girls who came in
her way.

"A disappointment may happen to any one," said Mrs Chiley; "and so long
as they had done nothing unbecoming, nobody could blame them; but, my
dears, whatever you do, don't show it like that! It makes me ashamed of
my sex. And only look at Lucilla!" said the old lady. Lucilla had the
best of it now. Instead of a failure, such as for a moment seemed
likely, she had a triumphant success. She, and she only, said a word of
kindness to her formerly triumphant rival. She drove her chariot over
Barbara, and drew an advantage even from her sullen looks and red eyes.
And the only thing that dissatisfied Mrs Chiley in the entire course of
the evening was the trustful confidence with which Miss Marjoribanks
left the Archdeacon, the (possible) new candidate for her favour, beside
the Lakes and their portfolio of drawings. In this, as in all other
things, Lucilla could not but follow the dictates of her magnanimous
nature. And even her own prospects, as her old friend lamented, were as
nothing to her in comparison with the good of society. Experience ought
to have taught her better; but then experience rarely does that amount
of practical good which is generally attributed to it in the world.
Lucilla gave little Rose the fullest opportunity of showing her drawings
to the Archdeacon and awakening his curiosity, and even securing his
affections, as the jealous observer thought; and everybody knows how
little is necessary, if a young woman likes to exert herself, to lead a
poor man to his undoing; and Mr Beverley, though an archdeacon, was most
probably, in this respect at least, no wiser than other men. This was
the painful aspect of the case which Mrs Chiley discussed with her
husband when they got home.

"He is not like what clergymen were in our day," said the old lady, "but
still he is very nice, and has a nice position, and it would just suit
Lucilla; but to think of her going and leaving him with these Lake
girls, notwithstanding the lesson she has had! and I have no doubt the
little one is just as designing and nasty as the other. If it should
come to anything, she has only herself to blame," said Mrs Chiley. As
for the Colonel, he took it more calmly, as a gentleman might be
expected to do.

"You may trust a parson for that," said the old soldier. "He knows what
he is about. You will never find him make such an ass of himself as
young Cavendish did." But this only made Mrs Chiley sigh the more.

"Poor Mr Cavendish!" said the old lady. "I will never blame him, poor
fellow. It was all that deceitful thing laying her snares for him. For
my part I never like to have anything to do with those artist kind of
people--they are all adventurers," said the Colonel's wife; and she went
to bed with this unchristian persuasion in her mind.

While every one else regarded the matter with, to some extent, a
personal bias, the only person who looked at it abstractly, and
contemplated not the accidents of an evening, but the work itself, which
was progressing in the face of all kinds of social difficulties, was the
master-mind which first conceived the grand design of turning the
chaotic elements of society in Carlingford into one grand unity. Lucilla
was not blind to the dangers that surrounded her, nor indifferent to the
partial disappointment she had undergone; but she saw that, in spite of
all, her great work was making progress. And when we announce that Miss
Marjoribanks herself was satisfied, there remains little more to say.

As for the Archdeacon, he, as was natural, knew nothing about the
matter. He said again, with the natural obtuseness which is so general
among the gentlemen, that it had been a very pleasant party. "She has a
fine clear candid nature," said Mr Beverley, which certainly was better
than pronouncing solemnly that she was a good woman, which was what he
said of Mrs Chiley and Lady Richmond, in the lump, as it were, without
considering how unlike they were to each other. That was all he, being
only a man, knew about it. But though Lucilla was satisfied with the
events of the evening, it would be vain to deny that there were
perturbations in her mind as she laid her head upon her maiden pillow.
She said to herself again with profounder fervour, that fortunately her
affections had not been engaged; but there were more things than
affections to be taken into consideration. Could it be possible that
mystery, and perhaps imposture, of one kind or another, had crossed the
sacred threshold of Grange Lane; and that people might find out and cast
in Lucilla's face the dreadful discovery that a man had been received in
_her_ house who was not what he appeared to be? When such an idea
crossed her mind, Miss Marjoribanks shivered under her satin quilt. Of
course she could not change the nature of the fact one way or another;
but, at least, it was her duty to act with great circumspection, so that
if possible it might not be found out--for Lucilla appreciated fully the
difference that exists between wrong and discovery. If any man was
imposing upon his neighbours and telling lies about himself, it was his
own fault; but if a leader of society were to betray the fact of having
received and petted such a person, then the responsibility was on _her_
shoulders. And softer thoughts mingled with these prudential
considerations--that sweet yet stern resolution to stand by her friends
which Miss Marjoribanks had this evening expressed, and that sense of
pity for everybody who is unfortunate which asserts itself even in the
strongest of female intelligences. On the whole, it was clear that
prudence was the great thing required, and a determination not to give
too hasty heed to anything, nor to put herself in the wrong by any
alarmist policy. Fortunately the respectability of Dr Marjoribanks's
house was enough to cover its guests with a shining buckler. Thus
Lucilla calmed down her own apprehensions, and succeeded in convincing
herself that if the impostor whom the Archdeacon had seen had been
really received in Grange Lane, it was so much the worse for the
impostor; but that, in the meantime, in the lack of evidence it was much
the best thing to take no notice. If there was any one else in
Carlingford who regarded that past danger with a livelier horror and a
more distinct fear, certainly Miss Marjoribanks had no way of knowing of
it; and nobody had been remarked as being in a despondent condition, or,
indeed, in anything but the highest spirits, in the course of this
Thursday, except the ungrateful creature who had begun all the mischief;
and tolerant as Lucilla was, it would have been going beyond the limits
of nature to have expected that she could have been profoundly sorry for
Barbara Lake.

At the same time, poor Barbara, though she was not an elevated
character, had gone home in a very sad state of mind. She had taken
courage to ask Mrs Woodburn about her brother, and Mrs Woodburn had made
the very briefest and rudest response to her question, and had "taken
off" her woe-begone looks almost to her very face. And no one had shown
the least sympathy for the forsaken one. She had not even been called
from her solitude to sing, which might have been something, and it was
Rose, as she said to herself, who had attracted all the attention; for,
like most selfish people, Barbara, though keenly aware of her own
wrongs, had no eyes to perceive that Rose, who had a proud little
spirit, was anything but satisfied with the evening's entertainment, to
which she had herself so largely contributed. "I feel as if I should
never see him more," Barbara said, quite subdued and broken down, with a
burst of tears, as the two went home; and poor little Rose, who was
soft-hearted, forgot all her disapprobation in sympathy. "Never mind
them, dear; they have no feeling. We must cling together all the closer,
and try to be everything to each other," Rose said, with eyes which were
full, but which would not shed any tears. What was passing through her
own mind was, that it was not for herself, but for her portfolio and the
talk that arose over it, that Lucilla had asked her; but, at the same
time, she said to herself, that all that was nothing in comparison to
the wound of the heart under which Barbara was suffering. "Dear, never
mind, we will be everything to each other," said poor little romantic
Rose; and the elder sister, even in the depths of her dejection, could
have given her a good shake for uttering such an absurd sentiment; for a
great deal of good it would do to be everything to each other--as if
that could ever replace the orange blossoms and the wedding tour, and
the carriage and handsome house, which were included in the name of
Cavendish! "And he was such a dear!" she said to herself in her own
mind, and wept, and made her eyes redder and redder. If Mr Cavendish had
known all that was going on in Carlingford that night, the chances are
that he would have been most flattered by those tears which Barbara shed
for him under the lamps in Grove Street; but then it is to be hoped he
would not have been insensible either to the just reticence and
self-restraint which, mingling with Miss Marjoribanks's suspicions,
prevented her, as she herself said, even in the deepest seclusion of her
own thoughts, from naming any name.



_Chapter XIX_


But Lucilla's good luck and powers of persuasion were such that after a
while she even succeeded in convincing little Rose Lake of the perfect
reasonableness, and indeed necessity, of sacrificing herself to the
public interests of the community. "As for enjoying it," Miss
Marjoribanks said, "that is quite a different matter. Now and then
perhaps for a minute one enjoys it; but that is not what I am thinking
of. One owes something to one's fellow-creatures, you know; and if it
made the evening go off well, I should not mind in the least to be
hustled up in a corner and contradicted. To be sure, I don't remember
that it ever happened to me; but then I have such luck; and I am sure I
give you full leave to box the Archdeacon's ears next Thursday; or to
tell him he does not know anything in the world about art," said Miss
Marjoribanks thoughtfully, with a new combination rising in her mind.

"Thank you, Lucilla," said Rose, "but I shall not come back again. I am
much obliged to you. It does not do for people who have work to do. My
time is all I have, and I cannot afford to waste it, especially----"

"Rose," said Miss Marjoribanks, "how are you ever to be an artist if you
do not know life? That is just the very reason why you ought to go out
into the world; and I don't see, for my part, that it matters whether it
is pleasant or not. To practise scales all day long is anything but
pleasant, but then one has to do it, you know. I don't blame you," said
Lucilla, with tender condescension. "You are a dear little thing, and
you don't know any better; but _I_ went through Political Economy, and
learnt all about that;--you don't think _I_ choose it for the pleasure?
But you all know what is the object of my life, and I hope I am not one
to shrink from my duty," Miss Marjoribanks added. And it was difficult
to reply to such a sublime declaration. Little Rose left her friend with
the conviction that it was her duty, too, to sacrifice herself for the
benefit of society and the advancement of art. Such were the lofty
sentiments elicited naturally, as enthusiasm responds to enthusiasm, by
Lucilla's self-devotion. Already, although she was not much more than
twenty, she had the consoling consciousness that she had wrought a great
work in Carlingford; and if Miss Marjoribanks required a little
sacrifice from her assistants, she did not shrink from making the same
in her own person, as has been shadowed forth in the case of Mr
Cavendish, and as will yet, in the course of this history, be still more
seriously and even sadly evolved.

Three weeks had passed in this way, making it still more and more
visible to Lucilla how much she had lost in losing Mr Cavendish, of whom
nothing as yet had been heard, when suddenly, one day, about
luncheon-time, at the hour when Miss Marjoribanks was known to be at
home, the drawing-room door opened without any warning, and the missing
man walked in. It was thus that Lucilla herself described the unexpected
apparition, which appeared to her to have dropped from the clouds. She
avowed afterwards to Mrs Chiley that his entrance was so utterly
unexpected, so noiseless, and without warning, that she felt quite
silly, and could not tell in the least how she behaved; though the
friends of Miss Marjoribanks, it is to be hoped, are too well acquainted
with her promptitude of mind and action to imagine that she in any way
compromised herself even under the surprise of the moment. As for Mr
Cavendish, he exhibited a certain mixture of timidity and excitement
which it was remarkable, and indeed rather flattering for any lady to
see, in such an accomplished man of the world. Lucilla was not a person
to deceive herself, nor did she want experience in such matters, as has
been already shown; but it would be vain to deny that the conviction
forced upon her mind by the demeanour of her visitor was that it was a
man _about to propose_ who thus made his unlooked-for appearance before
her. She confessed afterwards to her confidential friend that he had all
the signs of it in his looks and manners. "He gave that little nervous
cough," Lucilla said, "and pulled his cravat _just so_, and stared into
his hat as if he had it all written down there; and looked as They
always look," Miss Marjoribanks added, with a touch of natural contempt.
Nor was this all the change in Mr Cavendish's appearance. He had managed
miraculously in his month's absence to grow the most charming little
moustache and beard, which were, to be sure, slightly red, like most
people's. It gleamed into Miss Marjoribanks's mind in a moment that
people did such things sometimes by way of disguising themselves; but
if such had been Mr Cavendish's intention, it had utterly failed, since
he seemed rather more like himself than before, in Lucilla's opinion,
and certainly was more likely to attract attention, since beards were
not so usual in these days. They met on the very spot where Lucilla had
seen him last, with that look of insane terror on his handsome face. And
the Archdeacon was still in Carlingford, if it was he who had occasioned
such a panic. Mr Cavendish came in as if he had never been absent, as if
he had seen Miss Marjoribanks on the previous night, and had no fear of
anything in the world but of failing to please her; and Lucilla
fortunately saw the nature of the position, and was not to be put out
even by such an emergency. Of course, under the circumstances, to accept
him was utterly out of the question; but, at the same time, Lucilla did
not feel it expedient, without much more distinct information, to put a
definitive and cruel negative on Mr Cavendish's hopes. As for Barbara
Lake, that was a trifle not worth thinking of; and, notwithstanding that
there was something rather unaccountable in his conduct, he was still
the probable member for Carlingford, just, as Mrs Chiley so often said,
the position which, of all others, she would have chosen for Lucilla; so
that Miss Marjoribanks was not prepared, without due consideration, to
bring the matter to a final end.

While Lucilla made this rapid summary of affairs and took her stand in
her own mind, Mr Cavendish had taken a chair and had opened the
conversation. He hoped he had not been entirely forgotten, though a
fortnight's absence was a severe tax on anybody's memory----

"A fortnight!" said Miss Marjoribanks; "how happy you must have been
while you have been away!--for I assure you a month is a month at
Carlingford; and one does not get such ornaments in two weeks," said
Lucilla, putting her hand to her chin, which made Mr Cavendish laugh,
and look more nervous than ever.

"It is a souvenir of where I have been," he said. "I could imagine I had
been gone two years, judging by my own feelings. I am so pleased to see
that you remember how long it is. I dare say it looked a little droll
running away so, but I dared not trust myself with leave-takings," Mr
Cavendish said, with an air of sentiment. "I have been watching over a
poor friend of mine on his sick-bed. He was once very good to me, and
when he sent for me I could not delay or refuse him. I found he had
telegraphed for me when I got home the last Thursday evening I was
here," he continued, looking Lucilla full in the face with the candour
of conscious truth--though, to be sure, when people are stating a simple
fact, it is seldom that they take the pains to be so particular. "I
started by the night-train, and crossed the Channel while you were all
fast asleep. I wonder if any one gave me a thought," continued Mr
Cavendish; and it was still more and more impressed upon Lucilla that he
had all the signs of a man who had come to propose.

"I cannot say about that night in particular, but I am sure a great many
people have given you a thought," said Miss Marjoribanks. "We have all
been wondering what had become of you, where you were, and when you were
coming back. So far as I am concerned, I have missed you dreadfully,"
said Lucilla, with her usual openness; and she really thought for a
moment that Mr Cavendish in a sudden transport was going down on his
knees.

"I scarcely hoped for so much happiness," he said; and though he kept up
the tone proper to good society, which might mean sport or earnest
according as the occasion required, there was a certain air of gratitude
and tenderness in his face which sent Lucilla's active mind a-wondering.
"He is thinking of the music-stand," she said to herself, and then went
on with what she was saying; for though Miss Marjoribanks had a very
good opinion of herself, it had not occurred to her that Mr Cavendish
was very deeply in love--with _her_, at all events.

"Ah, yes--not only for the flirting, you know, which of itself is a
dreadful loss; but then you were so good in keeping the gentlemen to
their duty. I missed you dreadfully--there has been nobody at all to
help me," said Lucilla. Her tone was so genuinely plaintive that Mr
Cavendish grew more and more moved. He put down his hat, he cleared his
throat, he got up and walked to the window--evidently he was getting up
his courage for the last step.

"But I heard you had some distinguished strangers here," he said, coming
back to his seat without having, as it appeared, made up his mind. "My
sister wrote--that is to say I heard--I really don't remember how I got
the news; a dean, or bishop, or something----?"

"Oh, yes, Mr Archdeacon Beverley; he came precisely the night you went
away," said Lucilla. "Didn't you see him? I thought you stayed till
after he came into the room. A nice clergyman is very nice, you know;
but, after all, a man who has some experience in society--and we have
had no music to speak of since you went away. Poor dear Barbara has had
such a bad cold. In short, we have all been at sixes and sevens; and the
Archdeacon----"

"Oh, never mind the Archdeacon," said Mr Cavendish, and Miss
Marjoribanks felt that he had not winced at the name, though he did
glance up at her in spite of himself with a little gleam in his eyes
when she mentioned Barbara Lake. Perhaps this was because he knew
nothing about the Archdeacon, perhaps because he was prepared to hear
the Archdeacon named. Lucilla did not give him all the benefit of the
uncertainty, for she began to get a little impatient, and to wonder, if
the man had come to propose, as appearances suggested, why he did not do
it and get done with it?--which was a very reasonable question. This
time, however, it certainly was coming. "I don't like nice clergymen,"
said Mr Cavendish, "especially not when it is _you_ who find them so. If
I could really flatter myself that you missed me----"

"We all did," said Lucilla; "there is no compliment about it; and poor
dear Barbara has had such a cold----"

"Ah!" said the unfortunate aspirant; and once more he gave a doubtful
glance at Lucilla--decidedly the name of Barbara had more effect upon
him than that of the Archdeacon. It seemed to damp his fire and smother
the words on his lips, and he had to take another promenade to the
window to recover himself. After that, however, he came back evidently
wound up and determined; and his eyes, as he returned to Miss
Marjoribanks's side, fell upon the music-stand by means of which she had
covered his fright and flight (if it was not a mere hallucination on
Lucilla's part that he had been frightened and had fled) on the night he
left Carlingford. He came back with the air of a man who means to delay
and deliberate no more.

"If I could flatter myself that _you_ had missed me," he said;
"_you_--not any one else--I might have the courage to ask----"

It was at that precise moment of all moments that Mrs Chiley, whom they
had not heard coming upstairs, though she was sufficiently audible,
suddenly opened the door. Mr Cavendish, as was natural, broke off in a
moment with a face which had turned crimson, and even Lucilla herself
felt a little annoyed and put out, when, as in duty bound, she got up to
meet and welcome her old friend. One thing was fortunate, as Miss
Marjoribanks afterwards reflected, that since it was to be interrupted,
it had been interrupted so early, before he could have put himself in
any ridiculous attitude, for example; for at such moments it is well
known that some men go down upon their knees--or at least such is the
ineradicable belief of womankind. If Mr Cavendish had been on his
knees--though, to tell the truth, he was not a very likely subject--the
position would have been much more embarrassing. But as it was, there
was an end. _He_ turned back again to the window, biting his glove in
the most frantic way, and taking up his hat, while _she_, always
mistress of the position, advanced to the new-comer with outstretched
hands.

"I know you have come to have lunch with me," said Lucilla. "You are
always so nice--just when I wanted you; for, of course, I dared not have
asked Mr Cavendish to go downstairs if I had been all alone."

"Mr Cavendish!" cried the old lady, with a little scream. "So he has
really come back! I am so glad to see you. I can't tell you how glad I
am to see you; and, I declare, with a beard! Oh, you need not blush for
what I say. I am old enough to be both your grandmothers, and I am so
glad to see you together again!" said Mrs Chiley, with an imprudent
effusion of sentiment. And it may be imagined what the effect of this
utterance was upon the suitor whose love-making (if he was really going
to make love) was thus cut short in the bud. He coughed more than ever
when he shook hands with the new-comer, and kept fast hold of his hat
with that despairing grasp which is common to men in trouble. And then
he kept looking at the door, as if he expected some one else to come in,
or wanted to escape; and so far from following up his interrupted
address by any explanatory or regretful glances, he never even looked at
Lucilla, which, to be sure, struck her as odd enough.

"Miss Marjoribanks is very good," he said, "and I am very glad to see
you so soon after my return, Mrs Chiley--though, of course, I should
have called; but I may have to go away in a day or two; and I am afraid
I cannot have the pleasure of staying to lunch."

"Oh, yes, you must stay," said Mrs Chiley; "I want to hear all about it.
Go away again in a day or two? If I were Lucilla I would not let you go
away. She is queen now in Carlingford, you know;--and then poor old Mr
Chiltern is so ill. I hope you won't think of going away. They all say
it would be such a pity if anything happened to him while you were away.
Tell me where you have been, and what you have been doing all this time.
We have missed you so dreadfully. And now you look quite like a military
man with that beard."

"I have been nursing a sick friend--on the Continent," said Mr
Cavendish; "not very cheerful work. I am sorry about Mr Chiltern, but I
cannot help it. I have doubts now whether, even if he were to die, I
should offer myself. I couldn't give pledges to all the shopkeepers
about my opinions," said the embarrassed man; and as he spoke, he put
his hat against his breast like a buckler. "I must not detain you from
your lunch. Good-bye, Miss Marjoribanks; I am very sorry I can't stay."

"But, dear me, stop a minute--don't run away from us," said Mrs Chiley.
"Come and talk it all over with the Colonel, there is a dear--and don't
do anything rash. Good-bye, if you _will_ go," said the old lady. She
sat with a look of consternation in her face, looking at Miss
Marjoribanks, as he made his way downstairs. "Did I come in at a wrong
time, Lucilla?" said Mrs Chiley, in distress. "Have you refused him, my
dear? What is the matter? I am so dreadfully afraid I came in at the
wrong time."

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Lucilla sweetly, "you can never come in at a
wrong time; and it is just as well, on the whole, that he didn't--for I
was not prepared to give him any answer. I am sure, on the contrary, it
was quite providential," Miss Marjoribanks said; but it may be doubted
whether Lucilla's mind perfectly corresponded to her words on this
occasion, though she was so amiable about it, as Mrs Chiley afterwards
said. For even when a woman has not her answer ready, she has always a
certain curiosity about a proposal; and then when such a delicate matter
is crushed in the bud like this, who can tell if it will ever blossom
again, and find full expression? Miss Marjoribanks could not be said to
be disappointed, but unquestionably she regretted a little that he had
not been permitted to say out his say. As for Mrs Chiley, when she
understood all the rights of it, she was afflicted beyond measure, and
could not forgive herself for the unlucky part she had played.

"If you had only said you were engaged," the old lady exclaimed, "or not
at home--or anything, Lucilla! You know, you need never stand on
ceremony with me. No wonder he looked as if he could eat me! Poor
fellow! and I dare say he has gone away with his heart full," said Mrs
Chiley, with the tenderest sympathy. She could not get over it, nor eat
any lunch, nor think of anything else. "Poor dear boy! He need not have
been so put out with an old woman like me. He might have known if he had
given me the least hint, or even a look, I would have gone away," said
the kind old woman. "But you must be all the kinder to him when he comes
back, Lucilla. And, my dear, if I were you, I would stay in this
afternoon. He is sure to come back, and I would not keep him in pain."

"I don't think he will come back," Lucilla could not help saying; for
she had a conviction that nothing more would come of it; but
nevertheless she did stay in that afternoon, and received several
visits, but saw nothing more of Mr Cavendish. It was rather vexatious,
to tell the truth; for to see a man so near the point and not even to
have the satisfaction of refusing him, is naturally aggravating to a
woman. But Miss Marjoribanks had far too much philosophy as well as good
sense to be vexed on that account with Mrs Chiley, who could not forgive
herself, and to make up for the consequences of her unlucky visit, would
have done anything in the world. The old lady herself returned in the
afternoon to know the result, and was doubly vexed and distressed to
hear he had not come back.

"I ought to be on the Archdeacon's side, Lucilla," she said, with tears
in her eyes. "I know I ought, when it was I that brought him here: but I
can't help feeling for the other, my dear. He always was so nice--a
great deal nicer, to my way of thinking, than Mr Beverley; not to say
but that the Archdeacon is very agreeable," Mrs Chiley added,
recollecting herself; for in matters of that description a woman of
experience is aware that she cannot be too particular about what she
says; and supposing that Mr Cavendish did not come back, it would never
do to prejudice Lucilla against the other candidate. "I never blamed Mr
Cavendish about that Lake girl," the old lady continued. "It was not his
fault, poor young man. I know he was always devoted to you in his heart;
and to think he should come here the very first place as soon as he
returned! I only wish I had had one of my headaches this morning, my
dear, to keep me indoors for an old Malaprop. I do indeed, Lucilla. It
would have served me right, and I should not have minded the pain."

"But indeed I don't wish anything of the sort," said Miss Marjoribanks.
"I would not have the best man in the world at the cost of one of those
dreadful headaches of yours. It is so good of you to say so; but you
know very well it is not that sort of thing I am thinking of. If I were
to go off and marry just now, after all that has been done to the
drawing-room and everything, I should feel as if I were swindling papa;
and it is the object of my life to be a comfort to _him_."

"Yes, my dear," said Mrs Chiley, "but we must not neglect your own
interest for all that. I think it is most likely he will come this
evening. He has just come from the Continent, you know, where people do
make calls in the evening. I meant to have asked you to come down to us,
as we shall be all alone----"

"All alone? Then where is the Archdeacon?" asked Lucilla.

"He has gone out to Sir John's for a day or two, my dear," said Mrs
Chiley, and she could not understand the little gleam of intelligence
that shot into Lucilla's eye. "He left word with me for you that he
would be sure to be back before Thursday, but seeing Mr Cavendish when I
came in made me forget all about it. He would be quite distressed, poor
man! if he thought I had forgotten to give you his message. I won't ask
you now to come down and cheer me up a little, Lucilla. I think poor Mr
Cavendish is sure to come this evening, and I will not stand in his way
again. But, my dear, you must send me a little note after he has been.
Now promise. I shall be quite in suspense all night."

"Dear Mrs Chiley, I don't think he will come," said Miss Marjoribanks.
"For my part, I think it was providential your coming to-day--for I am
sure I don't know what I should have said to him. And it is so odd the
Archdeacon should be away just at this moment. I feel quite sure he will
not come to-night."

"There is nothing odd about the Archdeacon," said Mrs Chiley. "It was
for to-day he was asked, you know; _that_ is simple enough. If you are
sure that you prefer the Archdeacon, my dear----" the old lady added,
with an anxious look. But Lucilla cut short the inquiry, which was
becoming too serious, by bringing her kind visitor a cup of tea.

"I hope you don't think I prefer any of them," said the injured maiden.
"If I had been thinking of that sort of thing, you know, I need never
have come home. If they would only let one do one's duty in peace and
quiet," said Lucilla, with a sigh; and to tell the truth, both the
ladies had occasion on that trying afternoon for the consolation of
their cup of tea. But while they were thus refreshing themselves, a
conversation of a very different kind, yet affecting the same interests,
was being carried on not very far off, under the shelter of a little
flowery arbour in another of the embowered gardens of Grange Lane, where
the subject was just then being discussed from the other side.



_Chapter XX_


Mr Woodburn's house, everybody admitted, was one of the nicest in
Carlingford; but that was not so visible out of doors as in. He was a
great amateur of flowers and fruit, and had his garden lined on each
side with greenhouses, which were no doubt very fine in their way, but
somewhat spoiled the garden, which had not in the least the homely,
luxuriant, old-fashioned look of the other gardens, where, for the most
part, the flowers and shrubs grew as if they liked it and were at
home--whereas Mr Woodburn's flower-beds were occupied only by
tenants-at-will; but at one corner near the house there was a little
arbour, so covered up and heaped over with clematis that even the Scotch
gardener had not the heart to touch it. The mass was so perfect and yet
so light that it was the most perfect hiding-place imaginable; and
nobody who had not been in it could have suspected that there was a
possibility of getting inside. Here Mrs Woodburn and Mr Cavendish were
seated on this particular afternoon; she very eager, animated, and in
earnest, he silent and leaning his head on his two hands in a sort of
downcast, fallen way. Mrs Woodburn had one of her lively eyes on the
garden that nobody might enter unseen, and for this once was "taking
off" no one, but was most emphatically and unquestionably herself.

"So you did not do it," she said. "Why didn't you do it? when you knew
so much depended upon it! You know I did not wish for it myself, at
first. But now since this man has come, and you have got into such a
panic, and never will have the courage to face it out----"

"How can I have the courage to face it out?" said Mr Cavendish, with a
groan. "It is all very easy for a woman to speak who has only to
criticise other people. If you had to do it yourself----"

"Ah, if I only had!" cried the sister. "You may be sure I would not make
so much fuss. After all, what is there to do? Take your place in
society, which you have worked for and won as honestly as anybody ever
won it, and look another man in the face who is not half so clever nor
so sensible as you are. Why, what can he say? If I only could do it,
you may be sure I should not lose any time."

"Yes," said Mr Cavendish, lifting his head. "To be sure, you're a
mimic--you can assume any part you like; but I am not so clever. I tell
you again, the only thing I can do is to go away----"

"Run away, you mean," said Mrs Woodburn. "I should be foolish, indeed,
if I were trusting to your cleverness to assume a part. My dear good
brother, you would find it impossible to put yourself sufficiently in
sympathy with another," cried the mimic, in the Archdeacon's very tone,
with a laugh, and at the same time a little snarl of bitter contempt.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Nelly, no foolery just now," said Mr Cavendish.
"I don't understand how you can be so heartless. To mimic a man who has
my position, my reputation, my very existence in his hands!"

"Have you murdered anybody?" said Mrs Woodburn, with intense scorn.
"Have you robbed anybody? If you have, I can understand all this stuff.
He is the very man to mimic, on the contrary. I'd like to let you see
him as he was on that famous occasion when he delivered his opinions on
art in Lucilla's drawing-room. Look here," said the mimic, putting one
hand behind an imaginary coat tail, and with the other holding up a
visionary drawing to the light; but this was more than her audience
could bear.

"I think you must have vowed to drive me crazy," cried the exasperated
brother. "Put aside for once that confounded vanity of yours--as if a
man had always leisure to look at your playing the fool." While he spoke
in this unusual way, he got up, as was natural, and took one or two
steps across the narrow space which was shut in by those luxuriant heaps
of clematis; and Mrs Woodburn, for her part, withdrew her chair out of
his way in equal heat and indignation.

"You have always the leisure to play the fool yourselves, you men," she
said. "Vanity, indeed! as if it were not simply to show you that one can
laugh at him without being stricken with thunder. But leave that if you
like. You know quite well if you married Lucilla Marjoribanks that there
would be no more about it. There _could_ be no more about it. Why, all
Grange Lane would be in a sort of way pledged to you. I don't mean to
say _I_ am attached to Lucilla, but you used to be, or to give yourself
out for being. You flirted with her dreadfully in the winter, I
remember, when those terrible Woodburns were here," she continued, with
a shiver. "If you married Lucilla and got into Parliament, you might
laugh at all the archdeacons in the world."

"It is very easy for a woman to talk," said the reluctant wooer again.

"I can tell you something it is not easy to do," cried his sister. "It
is frightfully hard for a woman to stand by and see a set of men making
a mess of things, and not to dare to say a word till all is spoiled.
What is this Archdeacon, I would like to know, or what could he say? If
you only would have the least courage, and look him in the face, he
would be disabled. As if no one had ever heard of mistaken identity
before? And in the meantime go and see Lucilla, and get her consent. I
can't do that for you; but I could do a great deal of the rest, if you
would only have a little pluck and not give in like this."

"A _little_ pluck, by George!" cried the unfortunate man, and he threw
himself down again upon his chair. "I am not in love with Lucilla
Marjoribanks, and I don't want to marry her," he added doggedly, and sat
beating a tune with his fingers on the table, with but a poorly-assumed
air of indifference. As for Mrs Woodburn, she regarded him with a look
of contempt.

"Perhaps you will tell me who you are in love with," she said
disdainfully; "but I did not ask to be taken into your confidence in
such an interesting way. What I wish to know is, whether you want a wife
who will keep your position for you. I am not in the least fond of her,
but she is very clever. Whether you want the support of all the best
people in Carlingford, and connections that would put _all that_ to
silence, and a real position of your own which nobody could interfere
with--that is what I want to know, Harry; as for the sentimental part, I
am not so much interested about that," said Mrs Woodburn, with a
contemptuous smile. She was young still, and she was handsome in her way
(for people who liked that style), and it jarred a little on the natural
feelings to hear a young wife express herself so disdainfully; but, to
be sure, her brother was not unaccustomed to that.

"You said once that Woodburn was necessary to your happiness," he said,
with a mixture of scorn and appeal, "though I can't say I saw it, for my
part."

"Did I?" she said, with a slight shrug of her shoulders; "I saw what
was necessary on another score, as you don't seem to do. When a man has
nobody belonging to him, it is connections he ought to try for: and
Lucilla has very good connections; and it would be as good as securing
the support of Grange Lane. Do it for my sake, Harry, if you won't do it
for your own," said Mrs Woodburn, with a change of tone. "If you were to
let things be said, and give people an advantage, think what would
become of me. Woodburn would not mind so much if somebody else were
involved; but oh, Harry! if he should find out _he_ had been cheated,
and he only----"

"He was not cheated! You were always a great deal too good for him,
Nelly," said Mr Cavendish, touched at last at an effectual point; "and
as for _his_ friends and family, and all that----"

"Oh, please, don't speak of them," said Mrs Woodburn, with a shudder;
"but there are only two of us in the world; and, Harry, for my sake----"

At this appeal Mr Cavendish got up again, and began to pace the little
arbour, two steps to the wall, and two steps back again. "I told you I
had almost done it, when that confounded old woman came in," he said:
"that could not be called my fault?"

"And she said she was both your grandmothers," said the mimic, with a
slightly hysterical laugh, in Mrs Chiley's voice. "I know how she did
it. She can't be there still, you know--go now and try."

"Let alone a little; don't hurry a fellow," said her brother, somewhat
sullenly; "a man can't move himself up to the point of proposing twice
in one day."

"Then promise that you will do it to-morrow," said Mrs Woodburn. "I
shall have to go in, for there is somebody coming. Harry, before I go,
promise that you will do it to-morrow, for my sake."

"Oh, bother!" said Mr Cavendish; and it was all the answer he deigned to
give before Mrs Woodburn was called away, notwithstanding the adjuration
she addressed to him. It was then getting late, too late, even had he
been disposed for such an exertion, to try his fortunes again that day,
and Lucilla's allusion had given him a great longing to see Barbara once
more before his sacrifice was accomplished. Not that it was such a great
sacrifice, after all. For Mr Cavendish was quite aware that Miss
Marjoribanks was a far more suitable match for him than Barbara Lake,
and he was not even disposed to offer himself and his name and fortune,
such as they were, to the drawing-master's daughter. But, to tell the
truth, he was not a person of fixed and settled sentiments, as he ought
to have been in order to triumph, as his sister desired, over the
difficulties of his position. Perhaps Mrs Woodburn herself would have
done just the same, had it been she from whom action was demanded. But
she was capable of much more spirited and determined conduct in theory,
as was natural, and thought she could have done a great deal better, as
so many women do.

Mr Cavendish lounged about the garden a little, with his hands in his
pockets, and then strayed out quite accidentally, and in the same
unpremeditating mood made his way to Grove Street. He meant nothing by
it, and did not even inquire of himself where he was going, but only
strolled out to take the air a little. And it was better to go up to the
higher parts of the town than to linger here about Grange Lane, where
all the people he knew might pass, and stop to talk and ask him where he
had been, and worry his life out. And surely he had had enough of bother
for one day. By this time it was getting dark, and it was very pleasant
in Grove Street, where most of the good people had just watered their
little gardens, and brought out the sweetness of the mignonette. Mr
Cavendish was not sentimental, but still the hour was not without its
influence; and when he looked at the lights that began to appear in the
parlour windows, and breathed in the odours from the little gardens, it
is not to be denied that he asked himself for a moment what was the good
of going through all this bother and vexation, and whether love in a
cottage, with a little garden full of mignonette and a tolerable amount
of comfort within, was not, after all, a great deal more reasonable than
it looked at first sight? This, however, it must be allowed, was no
conclusion arrived at on sufficient premises, and with the calmness that
befitted such an important argument, but the mere suggestion, by the
way, of an impatient, undecided mind, that did always what at the moment
it found most agreeable to do, and reflected afterwards, when the moment
of repentance, not of reflection, had arrived.

He had paused by instinct under a lamp not yet lighted, which was almost
opposite Mr Lake's house; and it was not his fault if he saw at the
upper window a figure looking out, like Mariana, and sighing, "He cometh
not." Naturally the figure was concerned to find out who he was, and
_he_ was anxious to find out who was the figure. And, on the whole, it
was in a very innocent manner that this entirely natural curiosity was
satisfied. First the window was opened a little--a very little, just
enough to change the air--and Mr Cavendish down below heard the voice of
Barbara singing softly up above, which settled the matter as to her
identity. As to _his_, Barbara had never, from the first moment she
perceived him, any doubt of that. Her heart leaped back, as she thought,
to its right place when she first caught sight of that blessed
apparition; and with her heart came the orange-flowers, and the wedding
breakfast, and the veil of real Brussels for which Barbara had so much
wept. She tried to sing something that would convey hope and assurance
to her timid lover, according to romantic precedent; but her mind was
far from being a prompt one, as has been said. Thus it was all in the
most natural way that it came about. When Mr Cavendish felt quite sure
who it was, he took off his hat, which was only civil, and made a step
or two forward; and then Barbara took the extreme step of going down to
the door. No doubt it was an extreme step. Nothing but a great public
aim, like that of Miss Marjoribanks, could have justified such a
measure; but then Barbara, if she had not a great public, had at least a
decided personal, purpose, and obeyed the impulse of that mingled
inclination towards another and determination to have her own way, which
in such a mind calls itself passion, and which sometimes, by sheer force
of will, succeeds better than either genius or calculation. She went
down to the door, all palpitating with renewed hope, and, at the same
time, with the dread that he might escape her in the moment which was
necessary for her passage downstairs. But when she opened the door and
appeared with her cheeks glowing, and her eyes blazing, and her heart
thumping in her breast, in the midst of that quiet twilight, the object
of her hopes was still there. He had even advanced a little, with an
instinctive sense of her approach; and thus they met, the street being
comparatively quiet just then, and the mignonette perfuming the air. To
be sure, the poetry of the situation was of a homely order, for it was
under a lamp-post instead of a tree that the lover had placed himself;
and it was not the dew, but the watering, that had brought out the odour
of the mignonette; but then neither of the two were very poetical
personages, and the accessories did perfectly well for them.

"Is it you, Mr Cavendish? Goodness! I could not think who it was," cried
Barbara, out of breath.

"Yes, it is I. I thought, if I had an opportunity, I would ask how you
were--before I go away again," said the imprudent man. He did not want
to commit himself, but at the same time he was disposed to take the
benefit of his position as a hero on the eve of departure. "I heard you
had been ill."

"Oh, no--not ill," said Barbara; and then she added, taking breath, "I
am quite well now. Won't you come in?"

This was the perfectly simple and natural manner in which it occurred.
There was nobody in, and Barbara did not see, any more than her lover
did, why she should sacrifice any of her advantages. They were, on the
whole, quite well matched, and stood in need of no special protection on
either side. Though naturally Barbara, who felt by this time as if she
could almost see the pattern of the real Brussels, had a much more
serious object in view than Mr Cavendish, who went in only because it
was a pleasant thing to do at the moment, and offered him a little
refuge from himself and his deliberations, and the decision which it was
so necessary to come to. Thus it happened that when Mr Lake and Rose
came in from the evening walk they had been taking together, they found,
to their great amazement, Barbara in the little parlour, singing to Mr
Cavendish, who had forgotten all about Grange Lane, and his dangers, and
his hopes of better fortune, and was quite as much contented with the
mellow contralto that delighted his ears, and the blazing scarlet bloom,
and black level brows that pleased his eyes, as anybody could have
desired. To be sure, he had not even yet given a thought to the wedding
breakfast, which was all arranged already in the mind of the enchantress
who thus held him in thrall; but perhaps that may be best accounted for
by referring it to one of those indefinable peculiarities of difference
that exist between the mind of woman and that of man.

When Mr Lake and his daughter came in from their walk, and their talk
about Willie, and about art, and about the "effects" and "bits" which
Rose and her father mutually pointed out to each other, to find this
unexpected conjunction in the parlour, their surprise, and indeed
consternation, may be imagined. But it was only in the mind of Rose that
the latter sentiment existed. As for Mr Lake, he had long made up his
mind how, as he said, "a man of superior position" ought to be received
when he made his appearance in an artist's house. Perhaps, to tell the
truth, he forgot for the moment that his visitor was young, and his
daughter very handsome, and that it was to visit Barbara and not himself
that Mr Cavendish had come. The little drawing-master would not suffer
himself to be seduced by thoughts which were apart from the subject from
carrying out his principles. When Mr Cavendish rose up confused, with a
look of being caught and found out, Mr Lake held out his hand to him
with perfect suavity--"I have the pleasure of knowing you only by
sight," said the innocent father, "but I am very glad to make your
acquaintance in my own house;" and as this was said with the conscious
dignity of a man who knows that his house is not just an ordinary house,
but one that naturally the patrician portion of the community, if they
only knew it, would be glad to seek admittance to, the consequence was
that Mr Cavendish felt only the more and more confused.

"I happened to be passing," he explained faintly, "and having heard that
Miss Lake, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting----"

"I assure you," said the drawing-master, "that I hail with satisfaction
the appearance of a gentleman whose intelligence I have heard so much
of. We artists are a little limited, to be sure; for life, you know, is
short, and art is long, as the poet says; and our own occupation
requires so much of our thoughts. But still we are sympathetic, Mr
Cavendish. We can understand other subjects of study, though we cannot
share them. Yes, Barbara has been a little poorly--but she does not look
as if there was much the matter with her to-night. Ask for the lamp,
Rose," said Mr Lake, with a little grandeur. There was no light in the
room except the candles at the piano, which lighted that corner and left
the rest of the apartment, small as it was, in comparative shade. There
was something magnificent in the idea of adding the lamp to that
illumination; but then it is true that, as Mr Lake himself said, "every
artist is a prodigal in his heart."

Rose had been standing all this time with her hat on, looking at Mr
Cavendish like a little Gorgon. What did he want here? How had he been
admitted? She scorned to go and interrogate the maid, which involved a
kind of infidelity to her sister, but all the same she looked hard at Mr
Cavendish with a severity which had, on the whole, a reassuring effect
upon him. For, to tell the truth, the benign reception which he was
receiving from Mr Lake, instead of setting the visitor at his ease,
made him nervous; for he was not in the least aware of the heroic soul
which existed in the drawing-master's limited person. Mr Cavendish
thought nothing but that he was being "caught," according to his own
vulgar theory. He thought Barbara's father was cringing to him, and
playing the usual mean part of an interested parent who means to secure
a good match for his daughter. But as for Rose, she evidently, either
from jealousy or some other reason, was not in the plot. She stood apart
and scowled, as well as she knew how, upon the intruder. "I suppose,
papa," said Rose, "Mr Cavendish wished to hear Barbara sing, and she has
been singing. She is always very good-natured in that way; but as we
have none of us anything particular to do, I don't see what need we have
for a lamp."

At this trenchant speech Mr Cavendish rose. He was quite grateful to the
little Preraphaelite for her incivility. It made him feel less as if he
had committed himself, and more as if he were an intruder, which was the
more agreeable suggestion of the two under the present circumstances.
"You remind me that I should thank Miss Lake for letting me come in and
hear once more her lovely voice," he said. "I am at present only a
visitor in Carlingford, and indeed in England--I may have to leave again
in a day or two--good-bye. If I am still here, I shall hope to meet you
on Thursday." And then he pressed Barbara's hand, who, to tell the
truth, was very reluctant to let him go away.

"If you must go----" she said, so low that her father could not hear
her, though the vigilant, suspicious little Rose caught the sound, and
came a step nearer, like a little dragon, as Barbara was disposed to
think she was.

"I _must_ go," murmured Mr Cavendish; "but I shall see you--we shall
meet." He dared not say another word, so alarming were the looks of the
small Medusa, whose countenance he could see behind Barbara regarding
the parting. As for Mr Lake, he too regarded it with a momentary
curiosity. He did not quite understand how it was that his daughter and
his visitor could know each other well enough to communicate in this
undertone.

"I am sorry to see so little of you," said Mr Lake. "I am afraid it is
my little girl's _brusque_ way of speaking that hastens your going. I
assure you we were quite unoccupied, and would have been very
happy--perhaps we may be more fortunate another time;" and with that
the drawing-master gave a dignified dismissal to his surprising visitor.
It was Rose herself who saw Mr Cavendish to the door, which she opened
for him with an utter disregard of his excuses and attempts to do that
office for himself. She would not even shake hands, but made him the
most majestic curtsey that was ever executed by a personage five feet
high, under the influence of which Mr Cavendish went away humbled, and,
he could scarcely tell why, ashamed of himself. When Rose came back to
the parlour, still with her hat on, she found that Barbara had gone to
the window, and was looking out at the edge of the blind--which was all
that was wanted to put a climax to her sister's exasperation.

"Papa," said Rose, "I should like to know in your presence, or I should
like you to ask Barbara herself, what is the meaning of all that has
been going on to-night."

Mr Lake turned right round at this appeal with an expression of utter
amaze and bewilderment, which at another moment would have struck Rose
with the profoundest delight as a study; and as for Barbara, without any
more ado she burst into a flood of passionate tears.

"Oh, you nasty, envious thing! oh, you jealous, disagreeable thing!"
sobbed the elder sister; "to send him away and spoil everything with
your airs! when he was as near--just as near"--but here Barbara's voice
lost itself in her tears.

"My dear, what does this mean?" said Mr Lake.

"It means, papa, that she has encouraged him to come, and invited him
in, and been singing to him," cried Rose. "To think she should be one of
us, and have no proper pride! If he was fond of her, he would tell her
so, and ask your permission; but she is laying herself out to please
_him_, and is content that they should all jeer at her in Lucilla's
parties, and say she is trying to catch him. I thought I could have died
of shame when I saw him here to-night; and compromising you, as if that
was why you were so civil. If it were for her good, do you think _I_
would ever interfere?" cried Barbara's guardian angel. At this point
Rose herself would have liked excessively to cry, if the truth must be
told; but Barbara had already appropriated that facile mode of
expression, and the little artist scorned to copy. As for Mr Lake, he
turned from one to the other of his daughters with unmitigated
consternation and dismay.

"It was all your coming in," sobbed Barbara, "if you had only had the
sense to see it. _That_ was what he meant. If I was singing, it was just
to pass the time; I know that was what he came for. And you to send him
away with your airs!" cried the injured young woman. All this made up a
scene entirely novel to the amazed father, who felt it his duty to put a
stop to it, and yet could not tell what to say.

"Girls," he began, with a trembling voice, "this is all perfectly new to
me. I don't understand. If Mr Cavendish, or--or any one, wishes to pay
his addresses to my daughter, it is, of course, his business to apply to
me in the first place. Barbara, don't cry. You know how I dislike to
hear you cry," said the poor man, gradually losing his head. "Don't make
a fuss, Rose; for Heaven's sake, girls, can't you say at once what you
mean, and don't worry me to death? Ah, if your poor mother had but been
spared!" cried the unfortunate widower; and he had five daughters
altogether, poor soul!--and it was so easy to drive him out of his
senses. At this point Rose intervened, and did what she could to calm
matters down. Barbara, still sobbing, retired to her chamber; the boys
came in from their cricket, and the little children had to be put to
bed; and there was no one to attend to all these matters, in the absence
of the eldest sister, except the little mistress of the School of
Design, so that naturally all further explanation was postponed for this
night.



_Chapter XXI_


It was thus that Mr Cavendish, without particularly meaning it,
impressed upon two interesting and amiable young women on the same day
the conviction that he was about to propose, without in either case
realising that expectation. After this last exploit he went home with
his head more confused, and his will more undecided, than ever. For he
had one of those perverse minds which cling to everything that is
forbidden; and the idea that he ought not to have gone near Barbara
Lake, and that he ought not to see her again, made him more anxious to
seek her out and follow her than he had ever been before. If such a
thing had been permissible in England as that a man might marry one wife
for his liking and another for his interests, the matter might have been
compromised by proposing to them both; and there cannot be a doubt that
Lucilla, in such a case, would very soon have triumphed over her
handsome, sullen, passionate rival. But then such a way of conciliating
a man with himself does not exist in the British Islands, and
consequently was not to be thought of. And to be sure, every time he
came to think of it, Mr Cavendish saw more and more clearly what a fool
he would be to marry Barbara, who was evidently so ready to marry him.
The same thing could not with any confidence be predicated of Miss
Marjoribanks, though, if she were to accept him, and her father were to
consent, nothing could be better for his interests. All this he felt,
and yet an unconquerable reluctance kept him back. His history was not
quite spotless, and there were chapters in it which he thought it would
kill him to have brought before the public of Carlingford; but still he
was far from being a bad fellow in his way. And down at the bottom of
his heart, out of everybody's sight, and unacknowledged even by himself,
there was one little private nook full of gratitude to Lucilla. Though
he scarcely knew what was passing at the moment, he knew, when he came
to think of it, that she had saved him from the effects of his first
panic at the unexpected appearance of Mr Beverley. Perhaps it was partly
this consciousness that made him so embarrassed in her presence; and he
could not find it in his heart, with this sense of gratitude, to deceive
her, and say he loved her, and ask her to marry him. To be sure, if Mr
Cavendish had been a very acute observer, he might have felt that
Lucilla was quite able to take care of herself in such an emergency, and
was at the least a match for him, however seductive he might appear to
others; but then, few people are acute observers in a matter so entirely
personal to themselves.

He felt furious with himself as he went home, and thought how foolish he
had been ever to go near Barbara Lake in the present position of
affairs; and yet he could not help feeling that it was more delightful
to him to see the colour blaze into her cheeks, and the song rise like a
bird from her full crimson lips, and that flush of excitement and
triumph come from her eyes, than it could have been in any case to have
been admitted to the same degree of intimacy with Lucilla, who was not
in the least intoxicated by his presence. Thus the unfortunate man was
torn asunder, not so much by love and duty, as by inclination and
interest, though the inclination was not strong enough to have allowed
of any great sacrifice, nor the interest sufficiently certain to have
repaid the exertion. This only made it the more difficult to decide; and
in his circumstances, and with the panic that pursued him, he did not
feel it possible to adopt the only wise policy that remained to him, and
wait.

As Mr Cavendish was thus making his way home, horribly vexed and annoyed
with himself, and avoiding Grange Lane as if the plague was in it, Miss
Marjoribanks sat in her drawing-room alone, and thought the matter over.
Certainly she had not expected him that evening, but still, when she
heard ten o'clock strike, and felt that his coming now absolutely
impossible, she was a little--not exactly disappointed, but annoyed at
herself for having felt a sort of expectation. Lucilla was not a person
to hide her sentiments, or even to conceal a fact which was disagreeable
to her _amour propre_. She had too thorough and well-founded a
confidence in the natural interest of the world in all belonging to her
to do that; so when ten o'clock had done striking, she opened her
blotting-book and took one of her pretty sheets of paper, with
Lucilla on it in delicate rose-tinted letters, the L very large, and
the concluding letters very small, and dashed off her note to Mrs
Chiley. The Miss Blounts' at Mount Pleasant had been one of the very
first establishments to forsake the handwriting which was all corners,
in favour of the bold running hand of the present female generation; and
it was accordingly in a very free and strongly-characterised manuscript,
black with much ink, that Miss Marjoribanks wrote:

     "DEAREST MRS CHILEY,--I never expected him to come, and he has not.
     I dare say he never meant it. I am so glad. It was Providence that
     sent you at that particular moment to-day.--Always in haste, with
     fond love, your most truly affectionate

     "LUCILLA."

And when she had sent Thomas with this note, Miss Marjoribanks felt her
mind relieved. Not that it had been much distressed before, but when she
had put it in black and white, and concluded upon it, her satisfaction
was more complete; and no such troublous thoughts as those which
disturbed the hero of this day's transactions--no such wild tears as
poured from the eyes of Barbara Lake--interfered with the maidenly
composure of Lucilla's meditations. Notwithstanding all that people say
to the contrary, there is a power in virtue which makes itself felt in
such an emergency. Miss Marjoribanks could turn from Mr Cavendish, who
had thus failed to fulfil the demands of his position, to the serene
idea of the Archdeacon, with that delightful consciousness of having
nothing to reproach herself with, which is balm to a well-regulated
mind. She had done her duty, whatever happened. She had not
injudiciously discouraged nor encouraged the possible Member for
Carlingford; and at the same time she was perfectly free to turn her
attention to the possible Bishop; and neither in one case nor the other
could anybody say that she had gone a step too far, or committed herself
in any way whatsoever. While these consoling reflections were passing
through Lucilla's mind, Dr Marjoribanks came upstairs, as had grown to
be his custom lately. Sometimes he took a cup of tea, though it was
against his principles, and sometimes he only sat by while his daughter
had hers, and amused himself with her chat before he went to bed. He was
later than usual to-night, and naturally the tea-tray had disappeared
some time before. As for Lucilla, she did not for a moment permit her
own preoccupation to interfere with the discharge of her immediate duty,
which was unquestionably to be amusing and agreeable, and a comfort to
her dear papa.

"So you had Cavendish here to-day?" said the Doctor. "What brought him
here? What has he been doing? Since you and he are on such good terms, I
hope he gave you an account of where he has been."

"He has been nursing a sick friend on--the Continent," said Lucilla,
with that largeness of geographical expression which is natural to the
insular mind. "Who are Mr Cavendish's friends, papa?" added Miss
Marjoribanks, with confiding simplicity; and it was beautiful to see how
the daughter looked up into her father's face, with that angelic
confidence in his knowledge on all subjects which is so rarely to be met
with in the present generation. But it was not a question to which the
Doctor found it easy to respond.

"Who are his friends?" said Dr Marjoribanks. "He's one of the
Cavendishes, they say. We have all heard that. I never knew he had any
friends; which is, after all, next best to having very good ones," said
the philosophical old Scotchman; and there, as it appeared, he was quite
content to let the matter drop.

"I like to know who people belong to, for my part," said Lucilla. "The
Archdeacon, for example, one knows all about his friends. It's a great
deal nicer, you know, papa. Not that it matters in the least about the
Cavendishes----"

"Well, I should have thought not, after the way you made an end of him,"
said the Doctor. "I hope he doesn't mean to begin that nonsense over
again, Lucilla. He is a good fellow enough, and I don't mind asking him
to my house; but it is quite a different thing to give him my daughter.
He spends too much money, and I can't see what real bottom he has. It
may all flare up and come to nothing any day. Nobody can have any
certainty with an expensive fellow like that," said Dr Marjoribanks.
"There is no telling where he draws his income from; it isn't from the
land, and it isn't from business; and if it's money in the Funds----"

"Dear papa," said Lucilla, "if he had the Bank of England, it would not
make any difference to me. I am not going to swindle you, after you have
had the drawing-room done up, and everything. I said ten years, and I
mean to keep to it,--if nothing very particular happens," Miss
Marjoribanks added prudently. "Most likely I shall begin to go off a
little in ten years. And all I think of just now is to do my duty, and
be a little comfort to you."

Dr Marjoribanks indulged in a faint "humph!" under his breath, as he
lighted his candle; for, as has been already said, he was not a man to
feel so keenly as some men might have felt the enthusiasm of filial
devotion which beautified Lucilla's life. But at the same time he had
that respect for his daughter's genius, which only experience could have
impressed upon him; and he did not venture, or rather he did not think
it necessary, to enter into any further explanations. Dr Marjoribanks
did not in the least degree share the nervousness of Mr Cavendish, who
was afraid of deceiving Lucilla. As for her father, he felt a consoling
conviction that she was quite able to conduct her own affairs, and would
do him no discredit in any engagements she might form. And at the same
time he was amused by the idea that he might be swindled in respect to
the drawing-room, if she married at this early moment. He took it for
wit, when it was the most solid and sensible reality; but then,
fortunately, the points in which he misapprehended her redounded as much
to Lucilla's credit, as those in which he seized her meaning clearest,
so that on every side there was something to be gained.

And when Miss Marjoribanks too retired to her maidenly chamber, a
sentiment of general content and satisfaction filled her mind. It is
true that for the moment she had experienced a natural womanly vexation
to see a proposal nipped in the bud. It annoyed her not so much on
personal as on general principles; for Lucilla was aware that nothing
could be more pernicious to a man than when thus brought to the very
point to be thrown back again, and never permitted to produce that
delicate bloom of his affections. It was like preventing a rose from
putting forth its flowers, a cruelty equally prejudicial to the plant
and to the world. But when this pang of wounded philanthropy was over,
Miss Marjoribanks felt in her heart that it was Providence that had sent
Mrs Chiley at that special moment. There was no telling what
embarrassments, what complications she might not have got into, had Mr
Cavendish succeeded in unbosoming himself. No doubt Lucilla had a
confidence that, whatever difficulties there might have been, she would
have extricated herself from them with satisfaction and even _éclat_,
but still it was better to avoid the necessity. Thus it was with a
serene conviction that "whatever is, is best," that Miss Marjoribanks
betook herself to her peaceful slumbers. There are so many people in
the world who hold, or are tempted to hold, an entirely different
opinion, that it is pleasant to linger over the spectacle of a mind so
perfectly well regulated. Very different were the sentiments of Mr
Cavendish, who could not sleep for the ghosts that kept tugging at him
on every side; and those of Barbara Lake, who felt that for her too the
flower of her hero's love had been nipped in the bud. But, to be sure,
it is only natural that goodness and self-control should have the best
of it sometimes even in this uncertain world.



_Chapter XXII_


The Archdeacon returned to Carlingford before Thursday, as he had
anticipated; but in the interval Mr Cavendish had not recovered his
courage so far as to renew his visit to Miss Marjoribanks, or to face
the man who had alarmed him so much. Everybody in Grange Lane remarked
at the time how worried poor Mrs Woodburn looked. Her eyes lost their
brightness, which some people thought was the only beauty she had, and
her nerves and her temper both failed her, no one could tell why. The
personal sketches she made at this moment were truculent and bitter to
an unheard-of degree. She took off Mr Beverley with a savage force which
electrified her audience, and put words into his mouth which everybody
admitted were exactly like him, if he could ever be imagined to have
fallen into the extraordinary circumstances in which the mimic placed
him. In short, Mrs Woodburn made a little drama out of the Archdeacon.
Mr Beverley, of course, knew nothing about this, and showed some
surprise now and then at the restrained laughter which he heard in the
corners; but when anybody spoke of Mrs Woodburn, he showed an
instinctive want of confidence. "I have not studied her sufficiently to
give an opinion of her," he said, which was certainly the very reverse
of her deliverance upon him. To tell the truth, she had rather studied
him too much, and gave too keen an edge to his characteristic qualities,
as is natural to all literary portraiture, and even went so far that,
in the end, people began to ask whether she had any personal spite
against him.

"She don't know him," Mr Woodburn said, when he heard some faint echo of
this suggestion. "She's clever, and it carries her away, you know. She
enters into it so, she don't know how far she is going; but I can answer
for it she never saw the Archdeacon before; and Hal isn't here to give
her the key-note, as she says. _He_ has met everybody, I believe, one
place or another," the simple man said, with a little natural pride; for
in his heart he was vain of his fashionable brother-in-law. As for Mr
Cavendish himself, it began to be understood that he was with a friend
who was sick, on the Continent; and soon--for news had a wonderful
tendency to increase and grow bigger as it spread in Grange Lane--that
his friend was dying, and that a probable large increase of fortune to
the popular favourite would be the result, which was an idea that did
credit to the imagination of Carlingford. He had disappeared completely
once more after the eventful day which we have described, carrying out
in the fullest way Lucilla's prediction, but striking Barbara Lake with
bitter disappointment. Miss Marjoribanks had a great many things to
occupy her, but Barbara had nothing except the humble duty of looking
after her little brothers and sisters, and attending to her father's
comfort, which had never been occupations particularly to her mind. And
then Barbara was aware that, if she neglected her duties, Rose, on her
return from the School of Design, would do them, though with a fierce
little outbreak of indignation, which the elder sister felt she could
bear; and accordingly, she did little else but brood over his sudden
disappearance, and spend her time at the window looking for his return.

Lucilla conducted herself, as might have been expected, in a much more
rational and dignified manner. She made herself very agreeable to the
Archdeacon, who unbended very much, and grew very nice, as Mrs Chiley
herself allowed. "But, my dear, I am uneasy about his opinions," the old
lady said. He certainly had a very free way of talking, and was ready to
discuss _anything_, and was not approved of by Mr Bury. But still he had
very good connections and a nice position, and had always a chance of
being Bishop of Carlingford; and in marriage it is well known that one
never can have everything one wants. So that, on the whole, even Mrs
Chiley did not see what difference his opinions made, so far as Lucilla
was concerned. When Miss Marjoribanks went down to Colonel Chiley's in
the evening and made tea for the old people, like a daughter of the
house, Mr Beverley was always disposed to go over to the enemy, as the
old Colonel said. No doubt he had enough of Colonel Chiley, who had not
received a new idea into his mind since the battle of Waterloo, and did
not see what people had to do with such nonsense. And then the
Archdeacon would very often walk home with the young visitor. During
this time, as was natural, Mr Beverley heard Mr Cavendish's name a
hundred times, and regretted, like all the world, that so eminent a
member of the Carlingford commonwealth should be absent during his
visit; but, at the same time, Lucilla took great care to avoid all
personalities, and kept a discreet silence even about the gifts and
accomplishments of her almost-lover. Mrs Chiley sighed, poor soul, when
she saw how her young friend avoided this subject, and thought sometimes
that he was forgotten, sometimes that the poor dear was breaking her
heart for him; but it is needless to say that neither of these
suppositions was in the least true.

And then it began to be considered rather odd in Carlingford that the
Archdeacon should pay such a long visit. Mrs Chiley no doubt was very
kind and hospitable, and exceedingly glad to receive such a
distinguished clergyman; but when a man has been six weeks in any one's
house, and shows no inclination of going, it is natural that people
should feel a little surprised. His visitation was over, and he had
dined with everybody, and studied the place and its characteristics, and
entered into everything that was going on. The only thing, indeed, that
he did not seem to think of, was going away. If it had been Mr
Cavendish, the chances are that he would have made himself so much one
of the family, that his departure would have been felt as a domestic
calamity; but the Archdeacon was very different from Mr Cavendish. So
long as he was in the house it was impossible to forget either his
position or his ways of thinking, or the absence of any real connection
between himself and his hosts. He did not combat or contradict anybody,
but he would give a faint smile when the Colonel uttered his
old-fashioned sentiments, which drove the old soldier frantic. "As if I
was not able to form an opinion, by Jove!" Colonel Chiley said; while,
on the other hand, the Archdeacon was quite ready to enter into the
young people's absurd theories, and discuss the very Bible itself, as if
that were a book to be discussed. As for the Rector, he turned his head
away when he passed Colonel Chiley's door, and Miss Bury made visits of
condolence and sympathy. "You must feel it a great responsibility having
Mr Beverley with you," the Rector's sister would say, though naturally
without any distinct explanation of her meaning; and then she would look
at Mrs Chiley and sigh.

"Oh, I am sure it is a great pleasure," Mrs Chiley answered, not willing
to let down the prestige of her guest. "He is very nice, and takes a
great deal of interest in everything; and then, you know, he is a
connection of ours. The Colonel's niece, Mary Chiley----"

"Yes, I know," said Miss Bury. "Poor thing! she looked suffering the
last time I saw her. I hope she has found the true consolation to
support her, now she has entered into the troubles of life."

"Well, yes, I hope so," said Mrs Chiley, a little doubtfully; "but you
know one does not feel the troubles of life very severely at her age;
and I don't think I should have called a baby a trouble when I was like
her. I never had any, you know, and I used to fret over it a great deal;
but the Colonel never liked the noise of children, and I suppose it is
all for the best."

"One may always be sure of that," said Miss Bury, in her instructive
way. "I suppose the Archdeacon is going soon," she added; "he has been
here a long time now. I almost wonder he likes to be so long absent from
his parish. Two months, is it not?"

"Oh, no--not quite six weeks," said Mrs Chiley briskly. "I hope he may
be persuaded to stay some time longer. I look upon it as quite a
compliment to Carlingford; for, to be sure, he would not stay if he had
not some attraction," said the imprudent old woman. And this was
precisely what Miss Bury wanted, as any one of acute perceptions might
have seen from the first.

"It must be a great responsibility for you," said the Rector's sister,
with a sigh, pressing Mrs Chiley's hand. "If it should turn out badly,
you know----Of course, my brother and I don't agree with Mr Beverley on
all points--though I am sure I hope he is quite conscientious; but I do
feel for you with such a responsibility," said Miss Bury, with a look
that made the old lady nervous in spite of herself. Thus,
notwithstanding all her sense of the duties of hospitality, and her
anxiety about Lucilla's interests, she could not but feel that it would
be rather a relief to get so formidable a guest fairly out of the house.
It is uncomfortable, it must be allowed, to entertain in your house
anybody, particularly a clergyman of whom your Rector does not approve;
and there could be no doubt that the Archdeacon was not like the
clergymen that Mrs Chiley had been accustomed to. "And he could come
back another time," she said to herself, by way of conciliating her own
weariness with her visitor's advantage and the interests of Lucilla. But
notwithstanding these reflections on Mrs Chiley's part and
notwithstanding the Colonel's less amiable growl, uttered every
morning--"Does that parson of yours never mean to go away?"--the
Archdeacon showed no intention of budging. It was poor Mrs Chiley who
had all the brunt to bear, to exhaust herself in civilities and to be
upbraided with "that parson of yours"--whereas he was not in the least
her parson, nor even the kind of man she approved of as a clergyman. All
this, however, the brave old woman bore with fortitude for Lucilla's
sake: certainly it must be Lucilla who kept him in Carlingford--if it
were not something else.

Things were in this condition, Mr Cavendish having again disappeared
into utter darkness, and Carlingford beginning to enter warmly into the
question whether or not Mr Beverley was paying attention to Lucilla,
when it happened to Miss Marjoribanks one morning to meet the Archdeacon
in a little lane running between Grove Street and Grange Lane. Opening
from this lane was a little door in the wall, which admitted to a little
garden very bright with flowers of the simplest old-fashioned kinds,
with a little house planted at its extremity, which had pretensions to
be an old-fashioned and quasi-rural cottage, on the score of being very
rickety, uncomfortable, and badly arranged. But it must be a very
impracticable erection indeed which does not look tolerable under the
bright sunshine on a summer noon, at the end of a pretty garden where
children are playing and birds singing, and a woman or two about.
Lucilla was standing at the door of this little closed-up hermitage,
almost filling up the opening with her crisp summer draperies, and
affording only a very partial and tempting glimpse of its flowers and
shrubs and whitewashed walls inside; and when Mr Beverley came up to
Miss Marjoribanks he felt his curiosity excited. "Is it Armida's
garden, or the Elysian fields--" said the Archdeacon; and he made a dead
stop before the door, not knowing any more than any other blind mortal
what he was going to find inside.

"I don't know anything about Armida," said Miss Marjoribanks;
"unfortunately they were all Cambridge in their ways of thinking at
Mount Pleasant, and our classics got dreadfully neglected. But you may
come in if you like--at least I think you may come in, if you will
promise not to frighten the children. I am sure they never saw an
Archdeacon in their lives."

"Are there children?" said Mr Beverley, with a doubtful air; for, to
tell the truth, he had come to the age at which men think it best to
avoid children, unless, indeed, they happen to have a personal interest
in them; and he stretched his neck a little to see in over Miss
Marjoribanks's head.

"There are a whole lot of children, and a pretty governess," said
Lucilla. "It is a school, and I am so much interested in it. I may call
it my school, for that matter. I came to know her in the funniest way;
but I will tell you that another time. And it was just my luck, as
usual. She is so nice, and quite a lady. If you will not say you are an
Archdeacon, to frighten the children, I will let you come in."

"You shall call me whatever you like," said Mr Beverley; "when I am with
the lady-patroness, what does it matter what I call myself? Let me see
how you manage your educational department. I have already bowed before
your genius in the other branches of government; but this ought to be
more in my own way."

"I don't think you care for visiting schools," said Lucilla. "I know you
think it is a bore; but she is so nice, and so nice-looking; I am sure
you will be pleased with her. I am quite sure she is a lady, and has
seen better days."

"Oh, those dreadful women that have seen better days!" said the
Archdeacon; "I think Mrs Chiley has a regiment of them. It is hard to
know how to get one's self into sympathy with those faded existences.
They fill me with an infinite pity; but then what can one do? If one
tries to recall them to the past, it sounds like mockery--and if one
speaks of the present, it wounds their feelings. It is a great social
difficulty," said Mr Beverley; and he fixed his eyes on the ground and
entered meditatively, without looking where he was going, in his
Broad-Church way.

"Dear Mrs Chiley is so kind," said Lucilla, who was a little puzzled for
the moment, and did not know what to say.

"Mrs Chiley is a good, pure, gentle woman," said the Archdeacon. He
spoke in a tone which settled the question, and from which there was no
appeal; and no doubt what he said was perfectly true, though it was not
a very distinct characterisation. Thus they went in together into the
bright little garden, thinking of nothing in particular, and loitering
as people do who do not know what is coming. There was something that
morning in Mr Beverley's tone and manner which struck Lucilla as
something more than usual. She was not a young woman to attach undue
importance to looks and tones; but the Archdeacon's manner was so
softened and mellowed, and his eyes had so much expression in them, and
he looked at Lucilla with such marked regard, that it was impossible for
her not to recognise that a crisis might be approaching. To be sure, it
was not by any means so near as that crisis _manqué_ which had so lately
passed over her head in respect to Mr Cavendish. But still Miss
Marjoribanks could not but remark the signs of a slowly approaching and
most likely more important climax; and as she remarked it, Lucilla
naturally by anticipation prepared herself for the coming event that
thus threw a shadow upon her. She did not make up her mind to accept Mr
Beverley any more than she had made up her mind to accept Mr Cavendish;
but she thought it only her duty to him and to herself, and to society
in general, to take his claims into full consideration. And no doubt, if
these claims had seemed to her sufficiently strong to merit such a
reward, Miss Marjoribanks had it in her to marry the Archdeacon, and
make him an admirable wife, though she was not at the present moment, so
far as she was aware, absolutely what foolish people call in love with
him. At the same time, she made herself all the more agreeable to Mr
Beverley from her sense of the dawn of tenderness with which he regarded
her. And in this way they went up the broad central path which traversed
the little garden, neither looking to the left nor the right, but
presenting all that appearance of being occupied with each other, which,
especially to a female observer, is so easy of interpretation. For, to
be sure, the Archdeacon had not the remotest idea into whose house he
was going, nor who it was whom he was about to see.

But as it happened, Lucilla's protégée, who had seen better days, had
just finished one of her lessons, and sent her little pupils out into
the garden. She was preparing for the next little class, when, raising
her eyes accidentally, she saw Miss Marjoribanks coming through the
garden with the Archdeacon by her side. She was the same person whom Mr
Bury had brought to Lucilla with the idea of recommending her to Dr
Marjoribanks as a companion and chaperone for his daughter; but since
then Mrs Mortimer's appearance had considerably changed. She had grown
younger by ten years during the period of comparative comfort and
tranquillity which Lucilla's active help and championship had procured
for her. Her house, and her garden, and her little scholars, and the
bloom on her cheeks, and the filling-up of her worn frame, were all Miss
Marjoribanks's doing. In the intervals of her legislative cares Lucilla
had run about all over Carlingford searching for pupils, and at the same
moment had cut and stitched and arranged, and papered walls, and planted
flower-beds, for the feeble creature thus thrown upon her. This was a
side of Lucilla's character which certainly she did nothing to hide from
the public, but which, at the same time, she never made any fuss about;
and it was an endless pleasure to her to find a protégée so perfectly
content to be "done for," and do as she was told to do. It was thus that
the poor faded widow, who was sensitive and had feelings, and forgot
herself so far as to faint, or nearly to faint, just at the most unlucky
moment possible, when the Rector's character and dignity demanded
superior self-control on her part, had found her youth again and her
good looks under Lucilla's shadow. When she looked up and saw the two
approaching, Mrs Mortimer's first impulse was to smile at the
conjunction; but the next moment she had dropped the books out of her
hands, and was standing gazing out like a woman in a dream, with the
colour all gone out of her cheeks, and even out of her lips, in the
surprise of the moment. It was only surprise and a kind of dismay; it
was not terror, like that which Mr Cavendish had exhibited at the same
apparition. She dropped into her chair without knowing it, and probably
would have fainted this time also, if something more urgent than mere
"feelings" had not roused her up. As it was, it happened very happily
for her that she had thus a little preparation. When she saw that her
patroness was leading Mr Beverley up to the door, and that in a minute
more he would inevitably be brought to her very side, Mrs Mortimer
roused up all her strength. She gathered up her books in her hand
without knowing very well what she was doing, and, taking virtue from
necessity, went desperately out to meet them. It was Miss Marjoribanks
who first saw her, white and tottering, leaning against the trellis of
the little porch, and Lucilla could not but give a little cry of alarm
and wonder. What kind of man could this be, who thus struck down another
victim without even so much as a glance? It was just then that the
Archdeacon raised his eyes, and saw standing before him, among the faded
roses, the woman whom he had been approaching so indifferently--the
faded existence that had seen better days. He saw her, and he stood
stock-still, as if it was she who was the basilisk, and the look of
pleased interest went out of his face in a moment. In that moment he had
become as unconscious of the presence of Lucilla as if he had never in
his life softened his voice to her ear, or talked nonsense to please
her. His eyes did not seem big enough to take in the figure which stood
shrinking and looking at him in the porch. Then he made one long step
forward, and took hold of her sleeve--not her hand--as if to convince
himself that it was something real he saw. He showed no joy, nor
satisfaction, nor anything but sheer amaze and wonder, at this
unexpected appearance, for he had not had time to prepare himself as she
had. "Am I dreaming, or is it you?" he said, in a voice that sounded as
different from the voice with which he had been speaking to Lucilla, as
if years had elapsed between the two. And it would be vain to describe
the amazement and singular sense that the earth had suddenly given way
under her feet, with which Miss Marjoribanks stood by and looked on.



_Chapter XXIII_


Miss Marjoribanks was naturally the first to recover her senses in this
emergency. Even she, self-possessed as she was, felt the natural
giddiness inseparable from such a strange reversal of the position. But
she did not lose her head like the others. She looked at the widow
standing white and tremulous in the shadow of the little porch, and on
the Archdeacon, whose manly countenance had paled to a corresponding
colour. A man does not seize a woman by the sleeve and ask, "Is it
_you_?" without some reason for an address so destitute of ordinary
courtesy; and Lucilla was sufficiently versed in such matters to know
that so rude and startling an accost could be only addressed to some one
whose presence set the speaker's heart beating, and quickened the blood
in his veins. It was odd, to say the least, after the way in which he
had just been speaking to herself; but Miss Marjoribanks, as has been
already said, was not the woman to lose her head. She recovered herself
with the second breath she drew, and took her natural place. "I can see
that you have something to say to each other," said Lucilla. "Mrs
Mortimer, ask Mr Beverley to walk in. Never mind me. I want to speak to
the little Lakes. I shall come back presently," Miss Marjoribanks added,
nodding pleasantly to the Archdeacon--and she went away to the other end
of the garden, calling to the children with that self-possession which
is the gift only of great minds. But when Lucilla found herself at a
safe distance, and saw the Archdeacon stoop to go in under the porch, it
cannot be denied that her mind was moved by the sight. It was she who
had seen after the putting-up of that trellis round that porch, and the
arrangement of the wistaria, which had been sprawling all over the front
of the house uncared for. If there was any place in the world where she
should have been free from such a shock, it certainly should have been
here, in this spot, which she had, so to speak, created. Naturally the
unfitness of these surroundings to witness a revolution so unlooked-for
and disagreeable struck Lucilla. If she had to be again humiliated, and
to submit once more to see another preferred to herself, it certainly
should have been under other circumstances. When we admit that such a
thought did pass through the mind of Miss Marjoribanks, it will prove to
all who know her that Lucilla found her position sufficiently
aggravating. She had exerted herself for Mrs Mortimer as nobody else in
Carlingford would have exerted themselves. She had not only found pupils
and a means of living for the widow, which, perhaps, a committee of
ladies might have done at the end of a year, had it been put into their
hands; but Miss Marjoribanks had done it at once, and had taken charge
of that timid and maladroit individual herself, and set her up, and done
everything for her. It was Dr Marjoribanks's gardener, under Lucilla's
orders, who had arranged and planted the garden, and trained the
embowering foliage which had just brushed the Archdeacon's clerical hat
as he went in; and in the act of refurnishing her drawing-room, Miss
Marjoribanks had managed to procure, without costing anybody anything
except a little trouble, as she herself said, many accessories, which
gave an air of comfort to the little parlour, in which, no doubt, at
that moment, Mr Beverley and Mrs Mortimer were explaining themselves.
Lucilla had a great deal too much good sense to upbraid anybody with
ingratitude, or even to make any claim upon that slippery quality; but
she knew at the same time that the widow was the very last person from
whom a new discomfiture should come, and that to enter in under that
trellis when he left her was, on the Archdeacon's part, an aggravation
of the change in his sentiments which it was difficult to bear.

She walked along the garden path very briskly under the influence of
these thoughts, and it was not in nature to do otherwise than snub the
children when she joined them. Lucilla was a woman of genius, but she
was not faultless; and when she found Ethelinda and Ethelfreda Lake, the
two twins, the one with her clean frock all muddy and stained, the other
with the front breadth torn right up the middle, it is scarcely to be
wondered at if she lost her patience. "You little nasty untidy things!"
she said, "I should like to know who you expect is to go mending up and
washing every day for you? It will not be Barbara, I am sure," Miss
Marjoribanks added, with a fine intonation of scorn, of which the
culprits were insensible; and she gave Ethelinda a shake, who was
sitting on the wet ground, all muddy with recent watering, and who,
besides, was the one who most resembled Barbara. When this temporary
ebullition had taken place, Lucilla began gradually to right herself.
It was a grand sight, if anybody had been there to witness it, or if
anybody could have seen into Miss Marjoribanks's maiden bosom; but the
spectacle of a great mind thus recovering its balance is one which can
rarely be visible except in its results. While she set the children to
rights, and represented to Mrs Mortimer's little servant, who was in the
garden furtively on a pretence of cabbages, the extreme folly, and
indeed idiocy, of letting them get to the water and make a mess of
themselves, Lucilla was in reality coming to herself. Perhaps she spoke
with a little more energy than usual; but the offenders were so well
aware of their guilt, and so thoroughly satisfied of the justice of the
reproof addressed to them, that no other explanation was necessary; and,
little by little, Miss Marjoribanks felt herself restored to her natural
calm.

"You know I don't like to scold you," she said; "but what would anybody
say?--nice clean frocks, that I am sure were put on fresh this
morning--and you, Mary Jane----"

"Please, Miss, it was only for a young cabbage. Missis is fond of a bit
of vegetable," said the little maid. "I knew _she'd_ not say
nothing;--and just as I had told 'em all to have done and be good--and
nobody knew as _you_ was here," said Mary Jane. There was something even
in that small and humble testimony to Lucilla's sovereignty which helped
on the process which was operating in her mind. She regained bit by bit
that serene self-consciousness which places the spirit above the passing
vexations of the world. What did it matter what other people might be
doing or saying? Was not she still Lucilla Marjoribanks? and when one
had said that, one had said all.

"It is time you were all going home to your dinners," said Lucilla; "and
I have asked Mrs Mortimer to give you a half-holiday. As for you, you
little Linda, you are not fit to be seen; and I am sure if I were your
sister I should send you off to bed. Now get all your hats and things
and run away; and if you are not awfully good to-morrow, I shall never
ask for another half-holiday again."

Saying which, Miss Marjoribanks herself saw the hats brought out, and
the little scholars sent away. She took matters into her own hand with
the confidence of a superior nature. "After all the long talk they are
having she will not be able for her scholars to-day," Lucilla said
magnanimously to herself; and she again made the tour of the garden,
inspecting everything, to see that all was in order. With every step
that she took, Miss Marjoribanks became more and more herself. As we
have already said, it was a grand and inspiring sight; but then, to be
sure, as in the former case, her affections, fortunately, were not
engaged. She was not in love with the Archdeacon, any more than she had
been in love with Mr Cavendish;--though it is true, love is not
everything. And to think how he had been looking and talking not much
more than half an hour ago, and to reflect that now he had most likely
forgotten her very existence, and was explaining himself, and placing
that position which would have just suited Lucilla at the feet of the
object of her bounty, was enough to have driven a young woman of
ordinary mind half out of her senses with disgust and indignation. But,
fortunately, Lucilla's mind was not an ordinary one; and every step she
took round the garden restored her more and more entirely to herself.
Instead of conceiving any jealous dislike to Mrs Mortimer, she had
already, as has been stated, exerted herself with her usual benevolence
to leave the widow free for the rest of the day. "After all, it is not
her fault if she knew him before, or if he was in love with her,"
Lucilla said to herself. And when she had arrived at this perfectly true
and profoundly philosophical conclusion, it may be said that the crisis
was at an end.

But then where personal offence and indignation (if the natural shock to
Miss Marjoribanks's feelings could be called by such hard names) ended,
bewilderment and curiosity began. Who could this Archdeacon be who had
frightened the most popular man in Carlingford out of the place, and
whose unlooked-for appearance had driven Mrs Mortimer back out of her
recovered good looks and cheerfulness into pallor and trembling? It is
true that Lucilla knew quite well who he was--the second son of Mr
Beverley of Trent Valley, a family as well known as any family in
England. Everybody knew all about the Archdeacon: his career from his
youth up was as clearly traceable as if he had been killed in a railway
accident and had had his memoir published in the _Times_. There was
nothing in the smallest degree secret or mysterious about him; and yet
how could it come about that the sight of him should frighten Mr
Cavendish out of his senses, and make Mrs Mortimer, who was utterly
unconnected with Mr Cavendish, all but faint, as she had done on a
former occasion? Was it his mission to go about the world driving
people into fits of terror or agitation? To be sure, he was a
Broad-Churchman, and not the type of clergyman to which Lucilla in her
heart inclined; but still a man may be Broad Church, and speak a little
freely on religious matters, without being a basilisk. As these thoughts
went through her mind, Miss Marjoribanks could not help observing that
the branches of the pear-tree, which was all that the garden contained
in the shape of fruit, had come loose from the wall, and were swaying
about greatly to the damage of the half-grown pears,--not to say that it
gave a very untidy look to that corner. "I must send Crawford down this
evening to fasten it up," Lucilla said to herself, and then went on with
what she was thinking; and she made one or two other remarks of the same
description in a parenthesis as she made her tour. After all, it is
astonishing how many little things go wrong when the man or woman with a
hundred eyes is absent for a few days from the helm of affairs. It was
nearly a week since Miss Marjoribanks had been round Mrs Mortimer's
garden, and in that time the espalier had got detached, some of the
verbenas were dead in the borders, and the half of the sticks that
propped up the dahlias had fallen, leaving the plants in miserable
confusion. Lucilla shook her head over this, as she asked herself what
mysterious influence there could be in the Archdeacon. For her own part,
she was not in the slightest degree afraid of him, nor could she confess
to having felt agitated even when he walked with her into this fated
garden; but there could be no doubt of the seriousness of the effect
produced by his appearance on the two others. "They have broken half of
the props, the little nuisances," Lucilla said to herself, as she
pursued her musings. For her large mind was incapable, now that its
perfect serenity was happily regained, of confining itself, unless with
a very good reason, to one sole subject.

When she had finished her inspection, and saw that nobody had yet
appeared at the door, Miss Marjoribanks collected the books which the
children had left lying in the summer-house, and put them under
cover--for, to tell the truth, it looked a little like rain; and having
done this, and looked all round her to see if anything else required her
immediate care, Lucilla carried philosophy to its highest practical
point by going away, which is, perhaps, a height of good sense which may
be thought too much for humanity. It was not too much for Miss
Marjoribanks's legislative soul and knowledge of human nature;--and in
thus denying herself she was perfectly aware of her advantages, and of
the inevitable result. She knew, just as well as if she had already
received it, that Mrs Mortimer would write her a little three-cornered
note, marked _Private_, as soon as the Archdeacon was gone; and she
thought it was highly probable that Mr Beverley himself would come to
give some explanation. With this tranquil assurance in her mind, Lucilla
turned her face towards Grange Lane. She began to have a kind of
conviction too, since this had happened, either that Carlingford would
not be raised into a bishopric, or that the Archdeacon at least would
not be the first bishop. It was difficult to give any ground for the
idea, but it came into her mind with a kind of quiet certainty; and with
this conviction, in which she recognised that beautiful self-adjusting
balance of compensations which keeps everything right in the world,
Lucilla, quite recovered from her shock, had on the whole a pleasant
walk home.

As for the two who were shut up together in Mrs Mortimer's parlour,
their state of mind was far from partaking of the virtuous peace and
serenity which filled Miss Marjoribanks's bosom. It was more than an
hour before the Archdeacon went away; and when Mrs Mortimer had a little
collected her faculties, the result arrived which had been foreseen by
Lucilla. In the first place, terror seized the widow as to what had
become of her pupils, whom all this time she had forgotten, and deep was
her gratitude when she had ascertained that her protecting genius had
sent them away. But with that gratitude came a sudden recollection of
the manner in which Mr Beverley and Miss Marjoribanks had been coming
together up the garden path, before the mistress of the house showed
herself. Mrs Mortimer wrung her hands when she recollected the looks and
attitude of the two, and the rumour which had reached her ears that the
Archdeacon was paying attention to Miss Marjoribanks. What was she to
do?--was her miserable presence here to dispel perhaps the youthful
hopes of her benefactress, and make a revolution in Lucilla's prospects?
The poor woman felt herself ready to sink into the earth at the thought.
She went to the window and looked out disconsolately into the rain--for
it had come on to rain, as Lucilla supposed it would--and felt like a
creature in a cage, helpless, imprisoned, miserable, not knowing what to
do with herself, and the cause of trouble to her best friends. A little
house in a garden may look like a little paradise in the sunshine, and
yet feel like a dungeon when a poor woman all alone looks out across her
flowers in the rain, and sees nothing but the wall that shuts her in,
and thinks to herself that she has no refuge nor escape from it--nobody
to tell her what to do, nothing but her own feeble powers to support
her, and the dreadful idea that she has done harm and can do no good to
her only protector. Any reasonable creature would have said, that to be
there in her own house, poor enough certainly, but secure, and no longer
driven lonely and distressed about the world, was a great matter. But
yet, after all, the walls that shut her in, the blast of white,
sweeping, downright rain, which seemed to cut her off from any succour
outside, and the burden of something on her mind which by herself she
was quite unable to bear, was a hard combination; and wringing one's
hands, and feeling one's mind ready to give way under a new and
unexpected burden, could not advance matters in the slightest degree.
She was not strong-minded, as has been already proved; nor, indeed, had
she the ordinary amount of indifference to other people, or confidence
in herself, which stands in the place of self-control with many people.
After she had wrung her hands, and looked out again and again with a
vague instinct of perhaps finding some suggestion of comfort outside,
Mrs Mortimer relapsed by necessity into the one idea that had been a
support to her for so many months past. All that she could do was to
consult Lucilla--it might be to wound Lucilla, for anything she could
tell; but when a poor creature is helpless and weak, and has but one
friend in the world who is strong, what can she do but apply to her
sustainer and guardian? When, after beating about wildly from one point
to another, she arrived ultimately, as might have been predicted, and as
Miss Marjoribanks had expected from the first, at that conclusion, there
remained a further difficulty in respect to the means of communication.
Lucilla had settled quite calmly in her own mind that it would be by the
medium of a three-cornered note, a matter in which there was no
difficulty whatever, for the widow was sufficiently fluent with her pen;
but then Lucilla had not thought of Mary Jane, who was the only possible
messenger. It was to this point now that Mrs Mortimer's ideas addressed
themselves. At that moment the rain poured down fiercer than ever, the
bricks of the uncovered wall grew black with the wet, and the wistaria
crouched and shivered about the porch as if it wanted to be taken
indoors. And then to get wet, and perhaps catch cold, was a thing Mary
Jane conscientiously avoided, like the rest of the world; and it was
with a sense of alarm even stronger than that excited by the possibility
of injuring Lucilla, that Mrs Mortimer very gently and modestly rang her
bell.

"I don't think it rains quite so heavily," said the timid
experimentalist, feeling her heart beat as she made this doubtful
statement. "Have you a pair of goloshes, Mary Jane?"

"No," said the little handmaiden, with precaution; "and, please, if it's
for the post, it rains worse nor ever; and I don't think as mother would
like----"

"Oh, it is not for the post," said Mrs Mortimer; "it is for Miss
Marjoribanks. You can take mine, and then you will not get your feet
wet. I go out so very little; you may have them--to keep--Mary Jane. And
you can take the big shawl that hangs in the passage, and an umbrella. I
don't think it is so heavy as it was."

Mary Jane regarded the rain gloomily from the window; but her reluctance
was at an end from the moment she heard that it was to Miss Marjoribanks
she was going. To be sure, the distance between the Serenissime Nancy
and Thomas, and the other inmates of the Doctor's kitchen, and Mrs
Mortimer's little handmaiden, was as great as that which exists between
an English Duke and the poorest little cadet of a large family among his
attendant gentry; but, correspondingly, the merest entrance into that
higher world was as great a privilege for Mary Jane, as the Duke's
notice would be to the Squire's youngest son. She kept up a momentary
show of resistance, but she accepted the goloshes, and even after a
moment agreed in her mistress's trembling assertion about the rain. And
this was how the three-cornered note got conveyed to its destination in
the heaviest of the storm, between three and four o'clock in the
afternoon. Mrs Mortimer still sat at her window, wringing her hands from
time to time, with her head aching and her heart beating, and a dreadful
question in her mind as to what Lucilla would say, or whether perhaps
she might reject altogether in her natural indignation the appeal made
to her; which was an idea which filled the widow with inexpressible
horror. While at the same moment Miss Marjoribanks sat looking for that
appeal which she knew was sure to come. The rain had set in by this time
with an evident intention of lasting, and even from the windows of
Lucilla's drawing-room the prospect of the garden walls and glistening
trees was sufficiently doleful. Nobody was likely to call, nothing was
doing; and Lucilla, who never caught cold, had not the least fear of
wetting her feet. And besides, her curiosity had been rising every
moment since her return; and the widow's pathetic appeal, "Come to me,
my dearest Lucilla. I have nobody whom I can talk to in the world but
you!" had its natural effect upon a mind so feeling. Miss Marjoribanks
got up as soon as she had read the note, and changed her dress, and put
on a great waterproof cloak. Instead of thinking it a trouble, she was
rather exhilarated by the necessity. "Be sure you make your mistress a
nice cup of tea as soon as we get there," she said to Mary Jane. "She
must want it, I am sure, if she has not had any dinner;" for the little
maid had betrayed the fact that Mrs Mortimer could not eat anything, and
had sent away her dinner, which was naturally an alarming and wonderful
occurrence to Mary Jane. The widow was still sitting at the window when
Lucilla appeared tripping across the wet garden in her waterproof cloak,
if not a ministering angel, at least a substantial prop and support to
the lonely woman who trusted in her, and yet in the present instance
feared her. But anything more unlike a disappointed maiden, whose wooer
had been taken away from her under her very eyes, could not have been
seen. On the contrary, Miss Marjoribanks was radiant, with raindrops
glistening on her hair, and what Mrs Chiley called "a lovely colour." If
there was one thing in the world more than another which contented
Lucilla, it was to be appealed to and called upon for active service. It
did her heart good to take the management of incapable people, and
arrange all their affairs for them, and solve all their difficulties.
Such an office was more in her way than all the Archdeacons in the
world.

"I saw you knew him the moment I looked at you," said Lucilla. "I have
seen other people look _like that_ when he appeared. Who is he, for
goodness' sake? I know quite well, of course, who he is, in the ordinary
way; but do tell me what has he done to make people look like that
whenever he appears?"

Mrs Mortimer did not directly answer this question--she fixed her mind
upon one part of it, like an unreasonable woman, and repeated "Other
people?" with a kind of interrogative gasp.

"Oh, it was only a gentleman," said Lucilla, with rapid intelligence;
and then there was a little pause. "He has been here for six weeks,"
Miss Marjoribanks continued; "you must have heard of him; indeed, you
would have heard him preach if you had not gone off after these
Dissenters. Did you really never know that he was here till to-day?"

"I did not think of him being Archdeacon--he was only a curate when I
used to know him," said poor Mrs Mortimer, with a sigh.

"Tell me all about it," said Lucilla, with ingenuous sympathy; and she
drew her chair close to that of her friend, and took her hand in a
protecting, encouraging way. "You know, whatever you like to say, that
it is quite safe with me."

"If you are sure you do not mind," said the poor widow. "Oh, yes, I have
heard what people have been saying about him and--and you, Lucilla; and
if I had known, I would have shut myself up--I would have gone away for
ever and ever--I would----"

"My dear," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a little severity, "I thought
you knew me better. If I had been thinking of that sort of thing, I
never need have come home at all; and when you know how kind papa has
been about the drawing-room and everything. Say what you were going to
say, and never think of me."

"Ah, Lucilla, I have had my life," said the trembling woman, whose
agitation was coming to a climax--"I have had it, and done with it; and
you have been so good to me; and if, after all, I was to stand between
you and--and--and--anybody----" But here Mrs Mortimer broke down, and
could say no more. To be sure, she did not faint this time any more than
she did on the first occasion when she made Miss Marjoribanks's
acquaintance; but Lucilla thought it best, as then, to make her lie down
on the sofa, and keep her quite quiet, and hasten Mary Jane with the cup
of tea.

"You have been agitated, and you have not eaten anything," said Lucilla.
"I am going to stay with you till half-past six, when I must run home
for dinner, so we have plenty of time; and as for your life, I don't
consider you gone off at all yet, and you are a great deal
younger-looking than you were six months ago. I am very glad the
Archdeacon did not come until you had got back your looks. It makes such
a difference to a man," Miss Marjoribanks added, with that almost
imperceptible tone of contempt which she was sometimes known to use when
speaking of Their absurd peculiarities. As for Mrs Mortimer, the
inference conveyed by these words brought the colour to her pale
cheeks.

"It will never come to that," she said, "no more than it did in old
days; it never can, Lucilla; and I don't know that it is to be wished. I
couldn't help being put out a little when I saw him, you know; but there
is one thing, that he never, never will persuade me," said the widow.
Lucilla could not but look on in surprise and even consternation, while
Mrs Mortimer thus expressed herself. A warm flush animated the pale and
somewhat worn face--and a gleam of something that looked absolutely like
resolution shone in the yielding woman's mild eyes. Was it possible that
even she had one point upon which she could be firm? Miss Marjoribanks
stood still, petrified, in the very act of pouring out the tea.

"If it is only one thing, if I were you, I would give in to him," said
Lucilla, with a vague sense that this sort of self-assertion must be put
a stop to, mingling with her surprise.

"Never," said Mrs Mortimer again, with a still more distinct gleam of
resolution. "In the first place, I have no right whatever to anything
more than my uncle gave me. He told me himself I was to have no more;
and _he_ was very, very kind to poor Edward. You don't know all the
circumstances, or you would not say so," she cried, with a sob. As for
Miss Marjoribanks, if it is possible to imagine her clear spirit
altogether lost in bewilderment, it would have been at that moment; but
she recovered as soon as she had administered her cup of tea.

"Now tell me all about it," said Lucilla, again sitting down by the
sofa; and this time Mrs Mortimer, to whom her excitement had given a
little spur and stimulus, did not waste any more time.

"He is my cousin," she said; "not my real cousin, but distant; and I
will not deny that long, long ago--when we were both quite young, you
know, Lucilla----"

"Yes, yes, I understand," said Miss Marjoribanks, pressing her hand.

"He was very nice in those days," said Mrs Mortimer, faltering; "that
is, I don't mean to say he was not always nice, you know, but only----I
never had either father or mother. I was living with my Uncle
Garrett--my uncle on the other side; and he thought he should have made
me his heiress; but instead of that, he left his money, you know, to
_him_; and then he was dreadfully put out, and wanted me to go to law
with him and change the will; but I never blamed him, for my part,
Lucilla--he knows I never blamed him--and nothing he said would make me
give in to go to the law with him----"

"Stop a minute," said Lucilla, "I am not quite sure that I understand.
Who was it he wanted you to go to law with? and was it to the Archdeacon
the money was left?"

"Oh, Lucilla," said the widow, with momentary exasperation, "you who are
so quick and pick up everything, to think you should not understand me
when I speak of a thing so important! Of course it was not to Charles
Beverley the money was left: if it had been left to him, how could he
have wanted me to go to law? It has always been the question between
us," said Mrs Mortimer, once more lighting up with exceptional and
unwonted energy. "He said I was to indict him for conspiracy; and I
declare to you, Lucilla, that he was not to blame. Uncle Garrett might
be foolish, but I don't say even that he was foolish: he was so good to
him, like a son; and he had no son of his own, and I was only a girl. He
never was anything to me," said Mrs Mortimer, wiping her eyes--"never,
whatever Charles may choose to say; but if ever I was sure of anything
in the world, I am sure that he was not to blame."

Lucilla's head began to whirl; but after her first unsuccessful essay,
she was wise enough not to ask any more direct questions. She made all
the efforts possible, with ears and eyes intent, to disentangle this web
of pronouns, and failing, waited on in the hope that time and patience
would throw a little light upon them. "I suppose Mr Beverley thought he
was to blame?" she said, when the narrator paused to take breath.

"Is not that what I am saying?" said Mrs Mortimer. "It was through that
it was all broke off. I am sure I don't know whether he has regretted it
or not, Lucilla. It is not always very easy to understand a gentleman,
you know. After I was married to poor Edward, naturally I never had any
more correspondence with him; and to see him to-day without any warning,
and to find him just as bent as he was upon making me prosecute, and
just as full of bad feeling, and speaking as if there was some reason
more than truth and justice why I should be so determined. No, Lucilla,"
said Mrs Mortimer, raising herself up on the sofa, "it is just the same
thing as ever, and the same obstacle as ever, and it never will come to
_that_."

"You are agitating yourself," said Miss Marjoribanks; "lie down--there's
a dear--and keep quite still, and see whether we cannot make anything
better of it. Tell me, what would you go to law with him for?" Lucilla
continued, with the natural humility of imperfect comprehension. It was
perhaps the first time in her life that such a singular chance had
happened to Miss Marjoribanks, as to have a matter explained to her, and
yet be unable to understand.

"He says he could be indicted for conspiracy, or for having too much
influence over him, and making him do what he liked. But he was very
good to him, Lucilla, and to my poor Edward; and when I was married to
him----"

"Goodness gracious! were you married to him as well?" cried Lucilla,
fairly losing the thread and her balance in this confusing circle. Mrs
Mortimer grew pale, and rose quite up from the sofa, and went with the
air of an insulted woman to seat herself in her usual chair.

"I don't know why you should address me so," she said. "He is nothing to
me, and never was. It is an insult to me to think that I must have a
personal reason for refusing to do a wicked and unjust thing. I could
give up anything," said the widow, losing a little of her dignity, and
growing again pathetic--"I would give in in a moment if it was any fancy
of mine--you know I would; but I am sure it would be wicked and
unjust----"

"I am sure I am not the person to bid you do anything unjust or wicked,"
said Lucilla, who, in the utter confusion of her faculties, began to
feel offended in her turn.

"Then I beg you will never speak to me of it again!" cried Mrs Mortimer.
"How is it possible that either he or you can know the rights of it as I
do, who was in the house at the time and saw everything? He may say what
he likes, but I know there was no conspiracy; he was just as much
surprised as you could be, or Charles, or anybody. Of course it was for
his advantage--nobody denies that--but you don't mean to say that a man
is to reject everything that is for his advantage?" said the widow,
turning eyes of indignant inquiry upon her visitor; and Miss
Marjoribanks for once was so utterly perplexed that she did not know how
to respond.

"But you said when you were married to him?" said Lucilla, who felt that
the tables were turned upon her for the moment. "I am sure I beg your
pardon for being so stupid; but whom were you married to?" This was said
in the most deprecating tone in the world, but still it irritated Mrs
Mortimer, whose mind was all unhinged, and who somehow felt that she
was not finding in Miss Marjoribanks the help and support to which her
clear and detailed explanation entitled her. Though her head was aching
dreadfully, she sat up more upright than ever in her chair.

"I don't think you can mean to insult me, Miss Marjoribanks," said the
widow, "after being so kind. Perhaps I have been trying you too much by
what I have said; though I am sure I would have given up everything, and
gone away anywhere, rather than be the cause of anything unpleasant. You
know that it was my poor dear Edward I was married to; you know I have
a--a horror," said Mrs Mortimer, faltering, "in general--of second
marriages."

"Oh, yes," said Lucilla, "but there are always exceptions, you know; and
when people have no children, nor anything--and you that were so young.
I always make exceptions, for my part; and if you could only get over
this one point," Miss Marjoribanks added, making a dexterous strategical
movement. But Mrs Mortimer only shook her head.

"I don't think I am hard to get on with," she said; "but my poor Edward
always said one must make a stand somewhere. He used to say I was so
easy to be persuaded. He was glad to see I had a point to make a stand
on, instead of being disagreeable about it, or thinking he was anything
to me. And oh, Lucilla, he was so kind to him," said the widow, with
tears in her eyes. "We met him quite by chance, and he was so kind. I
will never forget it, if I should live a hundred years. And why should
Charles be in such a way? He never did him any harm! If any one was
injured, it was me, and I never felt myself injured--neither did Edward.
On the contrary, he _always_ did him justice, Lucilla," Mrs Mortimer
continued, fixing a pathetic look upon her friend. What could Lucilla
do? She was burning to take it all in her own hands, and arrange it
somehow, and unite the two lovers who had been so long separated; but
unless she could understand what the point was on which Mrs Mortimer
made her stand, what could she do?

"I never could understand," said the widow, who began to feel her heart
sick with the disappointment of that hope which she had fixed in Miss
Marjoribanks, "why he should take it so much to heart. Poor Edward never
thought of such a thing! and why he should be so set against poor Mr
Kavan, and so----Lucilla! oh, tell me, do you see anything? what do you
mean?"

"I want to know who Mr Kavan is?" said Miss Marjoribanks, much startled.
She had for the moment forgotten the Archdeacon's discovery and her own
suspicions; and the idea of connecting the man who had (apparently) fled
from Mr Beverley's presence, with the innocent and helpless woman upon
whom the appearance of the Broad Churchman had so overwhelming an
effect, had never hitherto entered her imagination. But this name, which
was not the name of anybody she knew, and yet seemed to bear an odd sort
of rudimentary relationship to another name, struck her like a sudden
blow and brought everything back to her mind. It was a bewildering sort
of explanation, if it was an explanation; but still a confused light
began to break upon Lucilla's understanding. If this was what it all
meant then there was the widest opening for charitable exertions, and
much to be done which only a mind like Miss Marjoribanks's could do.

"That is not his name now," said Mrs Mortimer, "I don't see, if he liked
it, why he should not change his name. I am sure a great many people do;
but his name was Kavan when he lived with my uncle. I don't remember
what it was after, for of course he was always Mr Kavan to me; and
Charles Beverley never could bear him. He used to think----But oh,
Lucilla, forgive me--oh, forgive me, if it is too much for you!" she
added, a moment after, as another idea struck her. "It was not with the
idea of--of anything coming of it, you know; it will never come to
that--not now;--I don't know if it is to be wished. I am sure he is
quite free so far as I am concerned. It was not with that idea I asked
for your advice, Lucilla," said the poor woman, in piteous tones. If
Miss Marjoribanks had pressed her, and insisted upon knowing what _was_
the idea which had moved her friend to ask her advice, Mrs Mortimer
would no doubt have found it very hard to reply; but Lucilla had no such
cruel intentions; and the widow, notwithstanding her piteous denial of
any motive, now that her mind was cleared, and she had caught the
comprehension of her auditor, began to regard her with a certain
instinct of hope.

As for Miss Marjoribanks, this revelation at once troubled and cleared
her mind. If this was the culprit, he _was_ a culprit and yet he was
innocent; and to heap coals of fire upon his head was in some respects a
Christian duty. Her ideas went forward at a bound to a grand finale of
reconciliation and universal brotherhood. She saw the tools under her
hands, and her very fingers itched to begin. Large and varied as her
experience was, she had never yet had any piece of social business on so
important a scale to manage, and her eyes sparkled and her heart beat at
the idea. Instead of shrinking from interference, her spirits rose at
the thought. To vanquish the Archdeacon, to pluck out from the darkness,
and rehabilitate and set at his ease the mysterious adventurer, whom, to
be sure, _she could not say she knew_--for Lucilla was very careful,
even in her own thoughts, not to commit herself on this subject--and to
finish off by a glorious and triumphant marriage--not her own, it is
true, but of her making, which was more to the purpose--such was the
programme she made out for herself with the speed of lightning, the
moment she had laid hold of the clue which guided or seemed to guide her
through the labyrinth. It would be too lengthy a matter to go into all
her tender cares for the widow's comfort during the rest of her stay,
and the pains and delicacy with which she managed to elicit further
particulars, and to make out her brief, so to speak, while she cheered
up and encouraged the witness. Miss Marjoribanks jumped to the
conclusion that "poor Edward" had been, after all, but a temporary
tenant of the heart, which was now again free for the reception of the
Archdeacon, if he could be got to accept the conditions. When half-past
six arrived, and Thomas came for her with the great umbrella, she went
off quite resplendent in her waterproof cloak, and utterly indifferent
to the rain, leaving Mrs Mortimer worn out, but with a glimmer of hope
in her mind. Such was the great work which, without a moment's
hesitation, Lucilla took upon her shoulders. She had no more fear of the
result than she had of wetting her feet, which was a thing Mrs Mortimer
and Thomas were both concerned about. But then Lucilla knew her own
resources, and what she was capable of, and proceeded upon her way with
that unconscious calm of genius which is always so inexplicable to the
ordinary world.



_Chapter XXIV_


It was the most unlucky moment for the weather to change, being the
middle of July, and as near as possible to St Swithin's Day; but the
season had been so delightful up to that time that nobody in Carlingford
at least had any reason to complain. So far as Miss Marjoribanks was
concerned, she was rather glad, on the whole, that the next day was wet,
and that she could not go out all the morning, nor was likely to be
interrupted by visitors. She had all her plans to settle and mature for
the great enterprise which she had taken in hand. By this time, so far
from feeling any personal interest in the Archdeacon, or considering
herself injured by his sudden desertion, that little episode had gone
out of Lucilla's mind as completely as if it had never been. In one
point, however, Miss Marjoribanks's conviction remained firm; it was
impressed upon her mind that Carlingford would not be made into a
bishopric, or, if made into a bishopric, that it was not Mr Beverley who
would be chosen to occupy the new see. It was one of those instinctive
certainties which are not capable of explanation, which was thus borne
in upon her spirit, and she could not have felt more sure of it had she
seen it under the Queen's own hand and seal. While she went about her
usual morning occupations, her mind was full of her great and novel
undertaking. Mr Beverley was not a man to be revolutionised in a moment;
and many people would have shrunk from the attempt to work in a few days
or weeks, with no better arms than those of acquaintance, a change which
the influence of love had not been able to do in so many years. But it
was not in Lucilla's nature to be daunted by a difficulty so
unimportant. There was, thank Heaven, some difference between herself
and the widow, who, in a strait, could think of nothing better to do,
poor soul! than to faint; and Miss Marjoribanks had the advantage of
never as yet having been beaten, whereas Mrs Mortimer had undergone
numberless defeats.

The hardest matter in the whole business, however, was the
identification of the Mr Kavan whom the Archdeacon thought he had seen
in Carlingford, and was not afraid to speak of as a clever rascal and
adventurer. Mr Beverley had never seen the fellow again, as he had told
Lucilla not many days back, and Miss Marjoribanks had been unfeignedly
glad to hear it; but now matters had changed. In the course of her
reflections, she decided that it would now be best that these two men,
if possible, should meet and recognise each other, and that the business
should once for all be definitively settled. If all the offence he had
committed against society was to have had a large sum of money left him
by a childless old man, Lucilla saw no reason why this mysterious
culprit should conceal himself; and even if he had taken a little
liberty with his name, that was not a crime--his name was his own
surely, if anything was his own. At the same time, Miss Marjoribanks
took pains to impress upon herself, as it is to be hoped a friendly
audience will also have the goodness to do, that she had no _real
foundation_ for her suspicions as to the identity of this personage, and
might turn out to be completely mistaken. He might have made no change
whatever on his name; he might be flourishing in some other quarter of
England or the world, with all his antecedents perfectly well known, and
unconscious of anything to be ashamed about; which, to tell the truth,
was, as Lucilla confessed to herself, a much more likely hypothesis than
the supposition which had taken such possession of her mind. But then
Miss Marjoribanks had a just faith in her instincts, and in those brief
but telling pieces of evidence which supported her conclusion. She was
thinking over this important branch of the subject with the greatest
care and devotion, when, looking out by chance into the rain, she saw
the Archdeacon crossing the garden. Perhaps it was just as well that she
thus had warning and a moment to prepare for his visit; not that Lucilla
was a person to be taken at disadvantage; but still, in a matter so
practical and pressing, it was always better to be prepared.

Mr Beverley came in with an air and expression so different from that
which he had borne in their intercourse no further gone than yesterday,
that, notwithstanding the corresponding revolution in her own mind, Miss
Marjoribanks could not but regard him with mingled admiration and
surprise. She judged him as the general world so often judged herself,
and gave him credit for skill and courage in assuming such an attitude,
when the fact was he was only preoccupied and natural, and did not think
of his attitude at all. It did not occur to the Archdeacon that he had
sinned towards Lucilla. He thought it right to explain to her his
extreme surprise at the sight of Mrs Mortimer, and possibly to make her
aware, at the same time, of his grievances, in so far as Mrs Mortimer
was concerned; but perhaps Mr Beverley was, on the whole, innocent of
those intentions which Mrs Chiley had attributed to him, and which even
Lucilla, more clear-sighted, had seen dawning in their last interview;
for, to be sure, this is one of the questions which the female intellect
is apt to judge in a different light from that in which it is regarded
by a man. The Archdeacon, accordingly, came in preoccupied, with a cloud
on his brow, but without the smallest appearance of penitence or
deprecation; by which demeanour he gained, without deserving it, the
respect, and to a certain extent the admiration, of Lucilla. His
expression was not that of a man repentant, but of a man aggrieved. He
had a cloud upon his countenance, and a certain air of offence and
temper; and when he sat down, he breathed a short impatient sigh.

"Thank you for receiving me so early," he said. "I called yesterday
afternoon, but found you out. You must have had very particular business
to take you out in that rain," Mr Beverley continued, with subdued
exasperation; for naturally, being a clergyman, he was a little
impatient to find, when it was _he_ who wanted her, any of his female
friends out of the way.

"Yes," said Lucilla, who thought it was best to open her battery boldly
and at once. "I was spending the afternoon with poor Mrs Mortimer; poor
dear, she is so solitary!" and to meet Mr Beverley's ill-temper, Miss
Marjoribanks put on her most heavenly air of sympathy, and rounded her
words with a soft sigh, as different from his as a flute is from a
trumpet. It was with an exclamation of impatience that the Archdeacon
replied.

"_Poor_ Mrs Mortimer!" he cried; "I don't know whether you are aware how
much her obstinacy has cost me; and herself, I suppose," he added, in a
parenthesis. "Not to depreciate your kindness, or the truly human and
Christian way in which you have conducted yourself--fancy what my
feelings naturally must have been to find her an object of
charity--actually of charity! I don't mean to say," said Mr Beverley,
controlling himself, "that it is degrading to accept succour when given
as from man to man--quite the contrary; but you will excuse me from
entering into the general question. She knew perfectly well that if I
had known where she was--if she had consented to yield to me on one
point--solely on _one_ point----"

"And she such an obstinate woman!" said Miss Marjoribanks, with fine
scorn. "How could you ever think of such a thing? A woman that never
gives in to anybody. If you knew her as well as I do----"

The Archdeacon glanced up with a momentary intense surprise, as if it
was within the possibilities that such a change might have taken place
in the widow's nature; and then he caught Lucilla's eye, and grew red
and more aggrieved than ever.

"Mrs Mortimer happens to be a relative of mine," he said, in his
authoritative voice. "I have known her from her youth. I am better
instructed in all her affairs than she can possibly be. When I urge her
to any step, however much it may be against her inclinations, she ought
to know that it can only be for her good. I beg your pardon, Miss
Marjoribanks. It will give me great grief to find that you, upon whose
superior good sense I have so much calculated, should support her in her
folly. I know how much she owes to you----"

"Oh, no, she does not owe me anything," said Lucilla. "It was just my
luck, you know. I knew she would turn out to be a lady. I don't want to
stand up for her if she is wrong; but I have only heard _her_ side. When
you tell me about it, I shall be able to form an opinion," Miss
Marjoribanks added prudently; "for of course everything has two sides."

"Most things," said Mr Beverley, "but this is precisely one of the
things which have not two sides. Nothing except some sort of infatuation
or other--but never mind, you shall hear the facts," said the
Archdeacon, once more making an effort upon himself. "Her uncle, Mr
Garrett, was above eighty. Why Providence should have let him live to
such an age to do so much mischief, Heaven alone knows. Some different
rule seems to exist up _there_ about those matters, from what we find to
answer on earth," the Broad-Churchman said, with a certain air of
disapproval. "He had this young fellow to see him and then to live with
him, and took some sort of idiotic fancy to him; and when the will was
made, it was found that, with the exception of a small sum to Helen,
everything was left to this impostor. No, I can't say I have any
patience with her folly. How could any man have two opinions on the
subject? He was neither related to him, nor connected with him," cried
Mr Beverley, with a momentary inclination, as Lucilla thought, to get
aground among the pronouns, as Mrs Mortimer had done. "I do not suspect
my cousin," the Archdeacon continued, with an air so severe and
indignant that it was evident he was contradicting his own sentiments,
"of having any partiality for such a person; but certainly her obstinacy
and determination are such----"

"Hush, please," said Lucilla; "you are only laughing when you use such
words. Now, tell me one thing, and don't be angry if it is a stupid
question--If there was any one that knew her and you, and perhaps him,
and was to try--don't you think it might be arranged?"

"By money?" said the Archdeacon; and he smiled one of those disagreeable
smiles which youthful writers describe by saying that his lip curled
with scorn. "You seem to take me for Mortimer, who could go into that
sort of compromise. I suppose he did give them money before--before she
was left a widow," said Mr Beverley, grinding his teeth slightly with a
savage expression. "No, Miss Marjoribanks. Where everlasting truth and
justice are concerned, I do not understand how things can be arranged."

After such a truculent statement, what was the peacemaker to do? She
left the fire to blaze out by itself for a minute or two, and then she
came down upon the enemy on another wind.

"I am sure I am very sorry," said Lucilla softly, "to think you should
be so fond of her and she so fond of you, and nothing but this standing
in the way; and then she is too good for this world, and never thinks of
herself. I often think, if anything was to happen to me--and my life is
no safer than other people's lives," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a
sigh--"what would become of her, poor dear! I am sure, if I knew of any
way----As for obstinate, you know it is not in her to be obstinate. She
thinks she is right, and you think you are right; and I suppose neither
of you will give in," cried Lucilla. "What is anybody to do?"

"If any one gives in, it should be she," said the Archdeacon. "For my
part, I will never stand by and consent to such a robbery,--never. In
these matters, at least, a man must be a better judge than a woman. If
you are her friend you will persuade her of her duty," Mr Beverley
added; and he did not show so much as a symptom of yielding. To say that
Miss Marjoribanks was not discouraged would be more than the truth; but
she was still at the beginning of her forces, and no thought of giving
in was in her courageous soul.

"I will tell you what occurs to me," said Lucilla frankly. "Let us find
out something about him. Do you know anything about him? If she were to
hear that he was, as you say, an impostor, you know, and a
villain?--What is his name?--Where does he live?--Is he a very, very
wicked man?" said Miss Marjoribanks, and she looked up with that
ingenuous look of appeal, which was always so touching in her, to the
Archdeacon's face.

As for Mr Beverley, in his haste and excitement, he gave vent to two
very contradictory statements. "She knows all about him. I don't know
anything about him," he said, with some heat. "I mean, she knows as much
as I do, though she draws such a different conclusion. I am sure I saw
him in Carlingford the first day I was here. For anything I can tell,
she knows _more_ of him than I do," said the Broad Churchman, with a
sudden flash of jealousy and anger. It occurred to Lucilla then for the
first time that she had found the grand clue to the whole.

"That would be dreadful," said Miss Marjoribanks, "if she knew him, and
was keeping him out of the way till you were gone. I did not think of
that. If such a thing should be the case, fond as I am of Mrs Mortimer,
I never could go near her any more," said Lucilla sadly. "Oh, don't say
you think so, please. I should have to give her up, and that would be
dreadful; for I owe it to papa, when he gives me so much liberty, to be
very careful. Oh, Mr Beverley, don't say you think so," cried Lucilla,
deeply moved. She put her handkerchief to her eyes, and yet she kept
watch upon the Archdeacon through one of the corners. He had got up by
this time, and was walking about the room like any other man in trouble.
To throw suspicion on the widow, or separate her from so effectual a
protector, was the very last thing he had any inclination to do: for, to
tell the truth, he made that jealous suggestion only in order to receive
an indignant denial, and to be assured that such a thing was impossible.
But then Mr Beverley did not know whom he had to deal with, nor that he
was not the first man whom Miss Marjoribanks had reduced to his proper
place.

"If that was the case," said Lucilla, drying her eyes, "dreadful as it
is to think of it--oh, Mr Beverley, if such a thing were the case--it
would be far better for her to marry him, and then she would have all
the fortune without going to law. If things have gone so far, though it
is miserable to think of it, and to believe that she could be so
unkind," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a sob, "and so double-minded, and
so deceitful to _me_----"

"In Heaven's name what are you thinking of?" said the Archdeacon. He had
grown as pale as he was before red, and came to a dead stop in front of
Lucilla, and stood lowering and menacing over her. His shadow was so big
and strong, and stood so directly between her and the window, that Miss
Marjoribanks's heart gave one bound of something like alarm.

"Dear Mr Beverley," said Lucilla, "try and compose yourself. It would be
a dreadful trial to me, but I should endeavour to bear it. If we love
her, we should, on the contrary, urge her to do it," said the young
moralist, with solemnity, "however hard it may be to us. It would be
better than--than dreadful concealment and misery--it would be better
than knowing and not telling, as you say. Oh, Mr Beverley, if you are
sure that is the case, let us both go to her, and beg her to marry him.
I could never, never, never see her again," sobbed Lucilla, "but she
would be happy, and that would be the end of all."

The Archdeacon, though he was not a weakling, was altogether stunned by
this address. He sank into the nearest chair, and drew it closer to
Lucilla, and looked perfectly flabby and ghastly in his white tie, with
his alarmed countenance. "For the sake of all that is sacred," said Mr
Beverley, bending forward towards her, "tell me what foundation you
have--tell me all you know."

Now was the critical moment, and Lucilla felt it. If Mrs Chiley, for
example, had only advised herself to come in then instead of
interrupting people's proposals, and driving a likely suitor to
desperation! But such happy chances do not occur at the real crises of
life. What she wanted was, naturally, not to explain herself, but to let
that arrow rankle in her opponent's heart until it should have served
her purpose. All that she said in answer to Mr Beverley's appeal was to
hide her face in her handkerchief, which was the only means that
occurred to her for the moment of gaining a little time for reflection.

"It is so hard to have such thoughts put into one's head," said Lucilla,
"of a person who has been one's friend. And she always looked so nice
and so true! I never thought she would deceive any one. I thought she
was so transparent, you know. Oh, Mr Beverley, it is so dreadful to be
disappointed in one's friends! I wish I had never heard of it--I wish
you had never told me. I almost wish, though it is dreadful to say such
a thing, that you had never come to Carlingford and found it all out."

"My dear Miss Marjoribanks," said the Archdeacon solemnly, "I implore
you, as the greatest kindness you can do me, to tell me all you know."

"Indeed, I don't know what I know," said Lucilla, partially raising her
face out of her handkerchief; "I don't think I know anything, for my
part. I always thought if one could rely upon any one, one could rely
upon her--for truthfulness, and for yieldingness, and doing what any one
asked her. I did think so; and it is perfectly bewildering to think,
after all, that she should be obstinate and deceiving, and yet look so
different!" said Lucilla. "But if it has come to that, we must be firm,
Mr Beverley. If you ask my opinion, I say she should be allowed to marry
him. That would solve everything, you know," Miss Marjoribanks added,
with sad decision. "She would get all the fortune without going to law,
and she would be settled, and off one's mind. That would be my final
advice, if everything has happened as you say."

Mr Beverley was driven as nearly out of his senses by this counsel as it
was possible for a man of ordinary self-control and warm temper to be.
He got up again and made a stride to and fro, and wiped the moisture
from his forehead, which, as Lucilla remarked at the moment, had a
Low-Church look, which she would not have expected from him. But, on the
other hand, he gave vent to some stifled and unintelligible exclamations
which, whatever they might be, were not blessings. Then he came to
himself a little, which was what Miss Marjoribanks was most afraid of,
and stood over her, large and imposing as before.

"Tell me, for Heaven's sake, what you mean!" cried the Archdeacon. "You
do not think, surely, that I for a moment meant to imply that Helen
would waste a thought upon such a miscreant. Good Heavens, marry him!
You must be raving. She would as soon think of--going for a soldier,"
said Mr Beverley, with a hoarse and perfectly unmirthful laugh, "or
doing anything else that was mad and unnatural. That is how you women
stand up for your friends--always ready to suggest something
inconceivably horrible and debasing! Happily you always go too far," he
added, once more wiping his forehead. It was a very Low-Church, not to
say Dissenterish, sort of thing to do, and it unconsciously reduced her
adversary's dignity in Miss Marjoribanks's opinion, besides affording a
proof that he was not nearly so much convinced of what he said, as he
professed to be, in his secret heart.

"Mr Beverley, I think you forget a little," said Lucilla, with dignity.
"I know nobody but yourself who has any suspicions of Mrs Mortimer. If
it had been anybody but you, I should have laughed at them. But to
return to the question," Miss Marjoribanks added, with calm grace: "I
always used to be taught at Mount Pleasant that feelings had nothing to
do with an abstract subject. I don't see, for my part, now you have
mentioned it, why she should not marry him. It would arrange the money
matter without any trouble; and I have always heard he was very nice,"
said the bold experimentalist, fixing her eyes calmly upon the
Archdeacon's face. "I am sure I should never have thought of it, if it
had been left to me; but speaking calmly, I don't see the objections,
now it has been proposed. Oh, it is only the bell for luncheon that
Thomas is ringing. Is it actually half-past one? and I expect some
people," said Lucilla. She got up as she spoke and went to the mirror,
and looked at herself with that beautiful simplicity which was one of
Miss Marjoribanks's distinguishing features. "When one has been crying
it always shows," she said, with a little anxiety. As for Mr Beverley,
his state of mind, as the newspapers say, could better be imagined than
described.

"I must go away," he said, taking up his hat. "I don't feel capable of
meeting strangers after this exciting conversation. Miss Marjoribanks,"
continued the Archdeacon, taking her hand, and holding it fast over his
hat to give emphasis to his address, "at least I can trust to you not to
breathe a word to Mrs Mortimer--not a syllable--of the horrible
suggestion which has got utterance, I don't know how. I may surely trust
to your honour," Mr Beverley said, with emphasis; but by this time Miss
Marjoribanks considered it time to bring the crisis to an end.

"I wish you would stay to luncheon," she said; "there are only one or
two of my friends. As for _honour_, you know you gentlemen say that we
have no sense of honour," said Lucilla airily; "and to think that two
women could be together and not talk of what might perhaps be a
marriage----"

At this moment some one rang the door-bell. Lucilla knew perfectly well
that it was only the baker, but it could not be expected that the
Archdeacon should be similarly initiated into the secrets of the house.
He thought, as was natural, that it was the people she expected, and
almost wrung her hand as he let it go. "You will let me see you again
first," he said, in a tone of entreaty. "Before you see her, you will
let me see you again. For Heaven's sake don't refuse me," cried Mr
Beverley. If anybody had but heard him! as Lucilla said to herself the
minute he was gone. And the truth was that Thomas did hear him, who had
just opened the door to tell his young mistress that her luncheon was
waiting, and whom the Archdeacon did all but knock downstairs in his
sudden and unlooked-for exit. The impression naturally conveyed to
Thomas by these words was of the clearest and most distinct description.
He was even known to say afterwards, "That he never knew a gentleman as
spoke more plain." But Mr Beverley rushed downstairs, without thinking
of Thomas, in a most unenviable frame of mind, into the rain. He was
more afraid of meeting Miss Marjoribanks's friends than a man of his
size and principles should have been afraid of meeting anybody; but then
there is a vast distinction, as everybody is aware, and no one more than
the Archdeacon, between physical and moral strength.

As for Lucilla, her tears and anxieties passed off in a miraculous
manner as soon as her visitor was gone. She went downstairs and ate her
luncheon with the serenest brow and a most agreeable ladylike appetite.
And it was not a fib, as may perhaps be supposed, that she was expecting
people--for at that hour Miss Marjoribanks always did expect people,
who, to be sure, might be kept back by the rain, but whom she was always
justified in looking for. Perhaps, on the whole, notwithstanding her
warm sense of the duties of hospitality, Lucilla was glad that it rained
so heavily, and that nobody came. She had a great deal to think of as
she took her maidenly and delicate repast. The first step had been
taken, and taken triumphantly. Henceforward, whatever the Archdeacon's
illusions might be, he could no longer stand calm upon his eminence, and
conclude that it was he, and he alone, who could raise the widow from
her lowly estate. Lucilla, it is true, knew that no such idea as that of
marrying her uncle's heir would ever present itself to Mrs Mortimer; and
that--at least so far as Miss Marjoribanks's information went--such a
thought was equally removed from the mind of the personage unknown, whom
Mr Beverley denounced as an impostor. But this did not in the least
affect the value of the suggestion as an instrument to be used against
the Archdeacon, who was big enough to defend himself, and on whose
account the young philanthropist had no compunctions. The first step was
thus taken, and taken successfully, but it was only after this that the
real difficulties began; and Lucilla knew no more as yet how she was to
find and identify, not to say assail and vanquish, the other side, the
mysterious Mr Kavan, the man whom the Archdeacon abused and the widow
defended, than even the greatest military genius knows at the
commencement of the first campaign how to conduct the second. This was
what she considered so closely as she sat alone in the dull afternoon.
She did not go to Mrs Mortimer, because it was impossible that every day
could be a half-holiday, and because, on the whole, she judged it best
not to subject herself, in the present undeveloped state of the
position, to much questioning; but she sent her a little note to satisfy
her mind, telling her to keep herself easy, and not to let the
Archdeacon bully her, and to confide in the devotion of her affectionate
Lucilla. When she had thus satisfied the immediate demands of
friendship, Miss Marjoribanks took her work and sat down to reflect.
Nothing could be more exciting than the position in which she found
herself; but the difficulties were only such as stimulated her genius;
and then it was not any selfish advantage, but the good of her neighbour
in its most sublime manifestation--the good of her neighbour who had
injured her, and been insensible to her attractions, which, according to
the world in general, is the one thing unpardonable to a woman--which
Lucilla sought. And it was not even the scriptural coals of fire she was
thinking of as she pondered her great undertaking in her mind. The
enterprise might not be free from a touch of human vanity, but it was
vanity of a loftier description: the pleasure of exercising a great
faculty, and the natural confidence of genius in its own powers.



_Chapter XXV_


The fruit of Lucilla's long and mature reflection was that next morning
being fine and all the clouds dispersed, she went out with her usual
firm step and self-possession, and, what was rather unusual with her,
except on necessary occasions of ceremony, knocked at Mrs Woodburn's
door.

Mrs Woodburn and Miss Marjoribanks had never, as people say, taken to
each other. They were as different in their ways as it is possible to
imagine. The mimic was a little indolent, and would not take the trouble
to make any exertions for the good of the community, except in the
exercise of her peculiar talent, though she had been known, when
excited, to go through real fatigue for that; but she had none of the
steady force, the persevering energy--or, to sum up all in one word, the
genius--of Miss Marjoribanks, who, for her part, recognised the _use_ of
such an instrument of entertainment as Mrs Woodburn possessed without
appreciating it in her own person; for Lucilla had no sense of humour,
as she candidly admitted, with that consciousness of her own faults, and
slight disposition to consider them virtues, which is common to persons
of great endowments. It was accordingly with a slight sense of effort on
both sides that they met thus in the familiarity of an early visit, at a
moment when people doing their duty to each other in a ceremonial way
would not have thought of calling. She was aware that Mrs Woodburn
regarded her, even when she kissed her in the most neighbourly and
affectionate manner, with a look which seemed to say, "What can she
want, coming here so early?" As for Lucilla, she was too wise to pretend
that it was a mere visit of regard. She was too wise, and her
interlocutor was too clever, and prone to catch every touch of
expression, though Miss Marjoribanks flattered herself she had
sufficient experience to enable her to dismiss, when there was occasion
for it, all expression from her face. But such was not her policy at
this moment. When the two faces had touched each other in that loving
and sisterly salutation, their owners immediately separated, and
regarded each other from two opposite chairs, without decided
hostility, it is true, but with the watchful air of two people whom the
fates may range on different sides, and whom it behoves to be mutually
watchful. And Lucilla thought it the most expedient course, under the
circumstances, to begin her investigations at once.

"I have come to make an inquisition," she said; "I may as well confess
it at once, for you would find me out if I didn't. Mrs Woodburn, where
is Mr Cavendish? I am not going to put up with it any longer. He must be
written to, and had back again. The only man that was to be depended
upon in Carlingford!" said Lucilla; "and to think he should disappear
like this and never say a word!"

Mrs Woodburn fairly gasped in her companion's face. She could no more
tell what this meant, than if she had been a person utterly unacquainted
with human motives and ways of working; and, indeed, it was only the
tricks of the surface for which she had any real insight. "My brother!"
she exclaimed, with something between an impulse of defence and denial,
and a quite opposite instinct of confidence. Had he proposed, after all,
without telling his sister? Had Lucilla a right to ask the question she
uttered so frankly? Had he been prudent for once in his life, and
secured this sensible alliance and prop to his position? All these
questions rushed at lightning-speed through Mrs Woodburn's mind; but she
was not so prompt as Miss Marjoribanks would have been under the
circumstances, and all she did was to open her eyes wide, and give a
start on her chair, and say, "My brother?" with a voice which trembled,
and was half extinguished by surprise.

"Yes; Mr Cavendish," said Lucilla. "Do tell me his address. There is not
a man in Carlingford who is good for anything, now that he is gone. You
must see that as well as I do. As for flirting, I have always said he
was the only man that knew anything about it. Do tell me where he is,
and I will write to him; or, please, send him word for me, that
absolutely he must come back. We are all dying for him, you may say."

Mrs Woodburn had recovered a little, and found a moment to think, but
her faculties were not so handy, except in her own particular way, as
might have been expected from such a clever woman. She could even at
that moment have taken off Miss Marjoribanks to the life, but she was in
the most profound bewilderment as to what Lucilla could mean; whether
she was really laying herself out to "catch" Mr Cavendish, or whether
she was merely talking nonsense without any particular meaning; or
whether she was feigning indifference by way of getting information; and
the stupidest person in Carlingford would have acquitted herself as well
as Mrs Woodburn felt able to do in the emergency. "I should think he
would rather hear that some of you were willing to live for him," she
said, in a tremulous way; finding nothing better come to her lips than
the echo of an old compliment, which went against her nature, but yet
with an instinct of serving her brother so far as it might be in her
power.

"Not me," said Lucilla frankly. "Some people once thought so, you know;
but I can't say I ever thought so. There never will be anything about
living or dying between him and me. I hope we know better," said Miss
Marjoribanks; "besides, if I were so much as to think of that sort of
thing I should feel I was swindling papa. Oh, no; I assure you I am
quite disinterested. I want him for my Thursdays. Do write, and say he
must come home."

"I don't like people to be too disinterested," said Mrs Woodburn; "and I
don't think Harry would be at all glad to hear it. I wish he would come
back, I am sure. I am always bullying him about it. I thought perhaps
some of you young ladies had been unkind to him," said the anxious
sister, who had recovered her head, and thought it might be possible to
get at the secret, if there was a secret, by means like this.

"No," said Miss Marjoribanks; "_I_ have not been unkind to him; and
there is nobody else I know of," said the candid Lucilla, "unless poor
Barbara; and _she_ will never be unkind, you know. I will write him a
letter if you will give me his address. Is it true that somebody has
left him a great deal of money, and he is going to change his name?"

"His name!" said Mrs Woodburn, with a little cry, like an imprudent
woman; and then she recovered herself. "I have not heard of anything of
the kind," she said, "and he would be sure to tell me of it; but in
Carlingford people know things before they happen. I should be very glad
to know that somebody was going to leave him a great deal of money; but
I don't know about the name----"

"Oh, I heard it only in a confused sort of way," said Lucilla, "or that
he _had_ changed his name. I am sure I don't know if it was past or
present. Did he ever make any change to be somebody's heir? Oh, I beg
your pardon; but you know people do it every day."

Mrs Woodburn had grown quite pale--perhaps because she began to see that
there was some method in these questions, perhaps with simple and
unreasonable fright at the suggestion. She could not say a word for a
moment, so startling was the question; and then there was something in
Lucilla's early visit, and in her instant onslaught upon Mr Cavendish,
which was alarming. She was so frightened and driven into a corner that
she could not tell how to answer. It occurred to her all at once that
perhaps Mr Cavendish had opened his heart to Miss Marjoribanks and given
her an inkling of his secret; and what would Lucilla think if she
contradicted her brother? Never was a poor woman in a greater
difficulty. All her fun and her mimicry collapsed. She no more noticed
the peculiarities of Lucilla's look and manner than if she had been an
ordinary inhabitant of Grange Lane. "Changed his name?" she faltered, in
a blank sort of interrogative way; and in spite of herself faltered and
shook, and conveyed to Lucilla the most perfect assurance that what she
supposed was true.

"When it is for a great deal of money there is some sense in it; when it
is only for a prettier name it is dreadfully stupid. Don't you think so?
As if we all could have pretty names!" said Lucilla. "I should like so
much to have a talk with Mr Cavendish. I picked up some very, very old
friends of his the other day--people who used to know him long ago. I am
sure he would be interested if he were to know."

"I don't think it could be him," said Mrs Woodburn, with something like
the instinct of despair; "I don't remember any very old friends he has;
it is so long a time ago----" and then the poor lady stopped short, as
if she had something choking her in her throat. "I don't think it could
be he."

"Not such a very long time," said Lucilla, in her easy way. "It is
dreadful to give him a character for being old. Do write him, please,
and tell him about those people. He is sure to be interested if you say
it is a lady, and a pretty woman, and a widow," continued Miss
Marjoribanks. "She says he was once very kind to her when her poor
husband was alive."

Mrs Woodburn recovered herself a little as Lucilla spoke. "It must have
been some other Mr Cavendish," she said. "Harry was--so much abroad--so
long away from home----" At that moment there was a sound in the house
of a heavy step, and Mr Woodburn's whistle became audible in the
distance. Then the poor woman, who had a secret, fixed haggard eyes upon
Miss Marjoribanks. She dared not say, "Don't speak of this before my
husband." She dared not utter a word to awaken suspicion on one side or
the other. She knew very well that if Mr Woodburn heard of the existence
of any old friends of his brother-in-law, he would insist upon having
them produced, and "paying them some attention"; and at the same time
Mrs Woodburn could not so far confide in Lucilla as to beg her to keep
silent. This was what her brother's poltroonery brought upon the
unfortunate woman. And when the emergency came she was not as equal to
it as she expected to be. Her talents were not of a nature to do her any
good in such a strait. She collapsed entirely, and looked round her in a
flutter of fright and despair, as if to find some means of escape.

But this terror all arose from the fact that she did not know Miss
Marjoribanks, who was generous as she was strong, and had no intention
of going to extremities. Lucilla got up from her chair when she heard Mr
Woodburn's whistle coming nearer. "I hear somebody coming," she said,
"and I must not stay, for I have quantities of things to do. Only mind
you tell Mr Cavendish I have something quite serious to say to him from
his old friend; and from me, please to tell him, that it is _impossible_
to get on without him," continued Lucilla, as Mr Woodburn entered the
room. "There is not a soul that can flirt or do anything. I should write
to him myself if I knew his address."

And then, as was natural, Woodburn, with his usual absurdity, as his
wife explained afterwards, struck in with some boisterous _badinage_. As
for Mrs Woodburn, in her mingled terror and relief, she was too much
excited to know what he said. But when Lucilla, serenely smiling, was
gone, the mimic, with her nerves strung to desperation, burst into the
wildest comic travesty of Miss Marjoribanks's looks and manners, and her
inquiries about Harry, and sent her unsuspicious husband into
convulsions of laughter. He laughed until the tears ran down his
cheeks--the unconscious simpleton; and all the time his wife could have
liked to throw him down and trample on him, or put pins into him, or
scratch his beaming, jovial countenance. Perhaps she would have gone
into hysterics instead if she had not possessed that other safety-valve,
for Mrs Woodburn had not that supreme composure and self-command which
belonged to Lucilla's higher organisation. She wrote a long letter that
afternoon, and had a dreadful headache all the evening after it, which,
considering all things, was to be expected under the circumstances, and
was a weak-minded woman's last resource.

No headache, however, disturbed Miss Marjoribanks's beneficent progress.
She went home conscious that, if she had not acquired any distinct
information, she had at least gained a moral certainty. And besides, she
had measured the forces of Mr Cavendish's bodyguard, and had found them
utterly unequal to any prolonged resistance. All that was wanted was
prudence and care, and that good luck which was as much an endowment in
its way as the other qualities by which Lucilla might be said to have
secured it. She went home meditating her next step, and with a certain
enjoyment in the sense of difficulty and the consciousness of how much
skill and power would be required to carry on three different threads of
innocent intrigue with the three different persons in the drama, without
ever letting the general web get confused, or confounding one strand
with another. She had to frighten the Archdeacon with the idea that Mrs
Mortimer might marry the impostor, and she had to keep the widow in the
profoundest ignorance of this suggestion, and she had to manage and
guide the impostor himself, to save his position, and deliver him from
his enemies, and make his would-be persecutor for ever harmless. If by
chance she should forget herself for a moment, and say to Mr Beverley
what she meant for Mr Cavendish, or betray her mode of dealing with
either to the third person interested, then farewell to all her hopes.
But when all that was required was skill and self-possession and
courage, Miss Marjoribanks knew herself too well to be afraid.

She came in with that sense of having done her duty which is so sweet to
a well-regulated mind. But it was not to that internal satisfaction
alone that Providence limited Lucilla's reward. There are exceptional
cases to be found here and there even in this world, in which virtue
finds its just acknowledgment, and disinterested well-doing is
recompensed as it deserves. While Miss Marjoribanks was still occupied
with the arrangement of her plans she was interrupted by a visitor, who
entered with a brow clouded by care, and yet exalted by the sense of a
charge and dignity which is not afforded to every woman. It was Mrs
Centum who thus came to unfold to Lucilla the new event which was about
to happen in Carlingford. She had a great deal to say first, as was
natural, of the dreadful vexation of such a thing happening in
holiday-time when the boys were all at home, and when she did not know
what to do.

"But you know, Lucilla, it will be delightful for all you young ladies
to have the officers," said Mrs Centum; "it keeps a place lively;
though, for my part, I always say in six months there will not be a
servant in the house that one can depend upon. It is dreadful for
servants--especially young ones, and if they are nice-looking, you know;
but it is very nice for the young ladies, and for all the picnics and
dances and everything----"

"What officers?" said Lucilla, pricking up her ears--for to tell the
truth, the very name of officers in a place like Carlingford, where
nobody could flirt but Mr Cavendish, was as water in the desert to Miss
Marjoribanks's soul.

"Has not the Doctor told you?" said Mrs Centum--"but, to be sure, very
few people know as yet. Mr Centum says it must be all on your account,
because you give such nice parties--but of course that is only his fun,
you know. However, I suppose somebody has told Lord Palmerston of all
those great buildings that were meant for the factories, and of
Carlingford being such a healthy place. And so the General is coming to
us to-morrow, Lucilla--General Travers, you know, that was in all the
papers for something he did in India; Charles used to know him at
school. He is quite handsome, and has ever so many medals and things. It
is a dreadful addition to one's troubles in holiday-time, you know; but,
my dear, I hope you will ask him to your Thursdays, and help us to make
Carlingford pleasant to him. It all depends upon him," said Mrs Centum
solemnly;--"if he likes the place, and thinks it will do, and finds nice
society--whether it is here or at Hampton that they establish the
depot."

"At Hampton!" cried Miss Marjoribanks naturally excited--"the stupidest,
wretchedest little place----"

"That is just what Mr Centum says," said the visitor, with a sigh; "what
I am nervous about is the servants, Lucilla; and you know that
under-nurse of mine, what a nice steady girl she has always been, and
such a comfort--but as soon as the soldiers come it turns their heads. I
want you to tell me, if you'll be so very good, Lucilla, how Nancy makes
that _paté_ that Mr Centum is so fond of. I know it is a good deal to
ask; but I am sure you are one to stand by your friends; and if the
General should take a dislike to Carlingford through any fault of mine,
I never could forgive myself; and I want you to ask him to your
Thursdays, Lucilla--there's a dear."

"Dear Mrs Centum," cried Miss Marjoribanks, "papa must call on the
General and ask him to dinner: as for my Thursdays, I always say they
are not parties; they are only _evenings_," said Lucilla sweetly, "and
not worth a gentleman's while."

"And about the _paté_, Lucilla," said Mrs Centum anxiously, "I hope you
won't think it too much of me to ask;--you are so clever, you know, and
so is Nancy: and what with the noise, and the nursery dinners, and all
those big boys home from school----"

Mrs Centum fixed her eyes with true solicitude on Lucilla's face. Miss
Marjoribanks was magnanimous, but the _paté_ in question was one of the
greatest triumphs of the Doctor's table. She thought, and with truth,
that it _was_ a great deal for any one to ask; but then it is true that
genius has duties as well as privileges; and to impress upon mediocrity
the benefit of loyally following and copying superior intelligence, is
of itself a moral effect of the greatest importance. And besides, the
woman who at such a moment produced a live General in Carlingford, and
held out hopes of officers, was not a woman to be denied.

"I will write it down for you," said Lucilla graciously, "if you think
your cook will understand; or perhaps Nancy might step in and show her
how--if I can persuade Nancy. Dear Mrs Centum, I hope you will always
feel sure that I am ready to do anything for my friends."

"Oh, thank you, dear," cried the grateful woman; "I knew you were not
one to mind; and if Nancy would be so very kind----I am sure you will
like the General," added Mrs Centum, with effusion; "he will live here,
you know, if the depot comes, and be such an addition! I said to
Charles, the moment he told me, That would just be the very thing for
Lucilla! And he is quite young looking, and so nice and pleasant," she
added, in the fulness of her enthusiasm and gratitude. As for Miss
Marjoribanks, she shook her head, but nevertheless received the
assurance with a smile.

"It is not that sort of thing I am thinking of," said Lucilla: "if it
had been, I need never have come home; and now, after papa has been so
kind about the drawing-room----; but I am always glad to hear of nice
new people," said Miss Marjoribanks; "and to meet a man that has been in
the world is such a pleasure to papa."

With this benign acknowledgment o£ the General's merits, Lucilla
received Mrs Centum's affectionate leave-takings. To be sure, she knew
nothing, and did not occupy herself much at that moment about General
Travers. But at the same time Miss Marjoribanks, with her usual piety,
recognised the approval of Providence in this new occurrence, and was
naturally both encouraged and exhilarated. It is but in rare cases, as
has been said, that the reward of virtue is given so promptly, and with
such beautiful discrimination: and there are even people in the world
who profess to have no faith in any prompt or visible recompense. But
Lucilla was not of that new and heretical school. For her own part, she
felt it very natural that her exertions for the good of her kind should
thus be recognised and acknowledged, and returned to her plans with that
sweet and exhilarating sense of moral harmony, which an approving
Heaven, and a sense of blessings earned and goodness recompensed, are so
well calculated to give.



_Chapter XXVI_


Miss Marjoribanks's mind had scarcely subsided out of the first
exhilarating sense of a great many things to do, and a truly important
mission in hand, when little Rose Lake sought her with that confession
of family troubles, and prayer for counsel and aid in the extremity,
which opened a new way and mode of working to Lucilla. Rose was proud,
poor little soul, not only of her exceptional position, and that of her
family, as a family of artists, but also with a constitutional and
individual pride as one of the natural conservators of domestic honour,
who would rather have died than have heard the Lakes lightly spoken of,
or upbraided with debt or indecorum, or any other crime. She had been
silent as long as she could about Barbara's shortcomings, jealously
concealing them from all the world, and attacking them with a violence
which made her big elder sister, who was twice as big and six times as
strong as she, tremble before her when they were alone. But little Rose
had at length found things come to a point beyond which her experience
did not go. Barbara began to have secret meetings with a man whose
presence nobody was aware of, and who did not come openly to the house
to seek her, and persevered, in spite of all remonstrances, in this
clandestine career; and all the prejudices and all the instincts of the
young artist rose up against her. A vague presentiment of greater evil
behind impelled her to some action, and shame and pride combined at the
same time to keep her silent. She could not speak to her father, because
the poor man lost his head straightway, and made piteous appeals to her
not to make a fuss, and threw the burden back again upon her with a
double weight; and besides, he was only a man, though he was her father,
and Rose had the pride of a woman in addition to her other pride. In
these painful circumstances, it occurred to her to consult Lucilla, who
had been, as has been recounted in an early part of this history, a
great authority at Mount Pleasant, where her heroic belief in herself
led, as was natural, others to believe in her. And then Miss
Marjoribanks was one of the people who can keep counsel; and Rose felt,
besides, that Lucilla had been injured, and had not revenged herself,
and that to put confidence in her would be, to a certain extent, to make
up for the offence. All these motives, combined with an intolerable
sense of having upon her shoulders a burden greater than she could bear,
drove the young artist at last to Grange Lane, where Lucilla, as we have
said, was still in the state of mental exhilaration and excitement
naturally consequent upon having a very important piece of work in hand.

"I don't know what to do," said Rose; "I made up my mind I never would
say a word to any one. It is so strange she should have no proper pride!
but then it is dreadful to think, what if anything should come of it!
though I am sure I don't know what could come of it; but they might run
away, or something; and then people are so fond of talking. I thought
for a long time, if I only knew some nice old lady; but then I don't
suppose there are any nice old ladies in Carlingford," added the
Preraphaelist, with a sigh.

"Oh, you little monster!" cried Lucilla, "there is Mrs Chiley, the
dearest old----; but never mind, make haste and tell me all the same."

"Lucilla," said Rose solemnly, "we are not great people like you; we
are not rich, nor able to have all we like, and everybody to visit us;
but, all the same, we have our Pride. The honour of a family is just as
precious whether people live," said the young artist, with a certain
severity, "in Grove Street or in Grange Lane."

This exordium had its natural effect upon Miss Marjoribanks; her
imagination leaped forward a long way beyond the reality which her
companion talked of so solemnly, and she changed her colour a little, as
even a woman of her experience might be excused for doing in the
presence of something terrible and disastrous so near at hand.

"I wish you would not frighten me," said Lucilla; "I am very sorry for
you, you dear little Rose. You are only a baby yourself, and ought not
to have any bother. Tell me all about it, there's a dear."

But these soothing tones were too much for Rose's composure. She cried,
and her cheeks flushed, and her dewy eyes enlarged and lightened when
they had thrown off a little part of their oppression in the form of
those hot salt tears. Miss Marjoribanks had never seen her look so
pretty, and said so to herself, with a momentary and perfectly
disinterested regret that there was "nobody" to see her--a regret which
probably changed its character before Rose left the house. But in the
meantime Lucilla soothed her and kissed her, and took off her hat and
shed her pretty curls off her forehead. These curls were not by any
means so strong and vehement in their twist as Miss Marjoribanks's own,
but hung loosely and softly with the "sweet neglect" of the poet. "You
would look very nice if you would take a little pains," Lucilla said, in
her maternal way. "You must wear your hair just so on Thursday; and now
tell me all about it--there's a dear."

"Lucilla, _you know_" said Rose, drying her tears, "she has taken to
going out in the evening, and I am sure she meets him every night. I
can't be a spy on her, whatever she does, and I can't lock her up, you
know, or lock the door, or anything like that. I am not her mother,"
said the poor little sister pathetically, with a regretful sob. "And
then she has taken to making herself _nice_ before she goes out. I don't
think she ever cared much for being nice--not at home, you know; but now
she has pretty collars and gloves and things, and I can't tell where she
gets them," cried Rose, her eyes lighting up passionately. "She has no
money to spend on such things. Lucilla, I should die if I thought she
would accept them from _him_."

"You dear old Rose, you don't know what you are saying," said the
experienced Lucilla; "most likely, if she meets a gentleman, she is
engaged to him; and They always give people presents, you know. If you
would only tell me who it is."

"Lucilla, do not trifle with me," said Rose; "it is much too serious for
that--engaged without papa knowing of it, nor me! You know very well
that would be no engagement. I sometimes think she is--is--fond of him,"
said the reverent little maiden, whose voice changed and softened under
the influence of that supposition; "and then again I think it is only
because he is rich," she went on, with new vehemence. "Oh, Lucilla, if
you only knew how dreadful it was to have such thoughts--and there is
nobody to take care of her but me! Papa cannot be worried, for that
would react upon everything. An artist is not just like other people. It
is everybody's duty to leave him undisturbed; and then, you know, he is
only a man, and does not understand; and if she won't pay any attention
to me when I speak to her, oh, Lucilla, tell me, what can I do?"

"Let me think," said Lucilla gravely. "You know I can't tell all in a
moment. It is Mr Cavendish, I suppose, though you won't say so. Now just
wait a moment, and let me think."

"I once thought of going to him," said Rose; "perhaps he might be
generous, and go away. An artist can do many things that other people
can't do. We have an exceptional position," the Preraphaelist went on,
faltering a little, and not feeling quite so sure of the fact on that
special occasion. "I thought of going and begging of him, if it was on
my knees----"

"My dear," said Lucilla, with great seriousness, "if you did, I think it
is most likely he would fall in love with _you_, and that would not mend
the matter; and I am sure Barbara would give you poison. I will tell you
what we must do. I would not do it for everybody; but you know I was
always very fond of you, you dear little Rose. You shall ask me for
to-morrow evening to come to tea."

"To come to tea!" echoed poor Rose, in dismay. She had been waiting for
Lucilla's advice with a great deal of anxiety; but at the present moment
it would be vain to conceal that the proposed expedient seemed to her
altogether inadequate for the emergency. The light went out of her face
as she opened her eyes wide and fixed them on Lucilla; and for one
moment, one desperate moment, Rose was disloyal, and lost faith in the
only person who could help her; which, perhaps, under the circumstances,
was not a thing to cause much surprise.

"My dear, you may be sure I would not propose it, if I did not feel it
was the best thing to do," said Lucilla, with great gravity. "It happens
precisely that I want to see Mr Cavendish, and if he is at home he never
shows himself, and I have been wondering how I could find him. I shall
make him walk home with me," said Miss Marjoribanks, "so you need not be
uneasy, Rose, about the trouble I am taking. I am doing it to serve
myself as well as you. We shall say eight o'clock, if that is not too
late."

"But, Lucilla----" said Rose, with consternation; and then she stopped
short, and could not tell what more to say.

"You don't understand it?" said Miss Marjoribanks; "I don't think it was
to be expected that you should understand it. A little thing like you
has no way of knowing the world. When Barbara knows I am there, she will
be sure to bring him to the very door; she will want me to see that he
is with her; and you may leave the rest to me," said Lucilla. "For my
part, I have something very particular to say to Mr Cavendish. It is my
luck," Miss Marjoribanks added, "for I could not think how to get to see
him. At eight o'clock to-morrow evening----"

"Yes," said Rose; but perhaps it was still doubtful how far she
understood the mode of operations proposed. Lucilla's prompt and facile
genius was too much for the young artist, and there was, as she herself
would have said, an entire want of "keeping" between her own sense of
the position, tragical and desperate as that was, and any state of
matters which could be ameliorated by the fact of Miss Marjoribanks
coming to tea. It had been Rose's only hope, and now it seemed all at
once to fail her; and yet, at the same time, that instinctive faith in
Lucilla which came naturally to every one under her influence struggled
against reason in Rose's heart. Her red soft lips fell apart with the
hurried breath of wonder and doubt; her eyes still expanded, and clearer
than usual after their tears, were fixed upon Lucilla with an appealing,
questioning look; and it was just at this moment, when Rose was a great
deal too much absorbed in her disappointment and surprise, and lingering
hope, to take any notice of strange sounds or sights, or of anybody
coming, that Thomas all at once opened the door and showed Mrs Centum
into the room.

Now it would have mattered very little for Mrs Centum--who, to be sure,
knew Lucilla perfectly well, and would never have dreamed for a moment
of identifying such a trifling little person as Rose Lake in any way
with Miss Marjoribanks; but then Mrs Centum happened at that precise
moment to be bringing the new arrival, the important stranger, who had
so much in his power--General Travers himself--to be introduced to
Lucilla; and it was not the fault either of Rose or the General if it
was on the young mistress of the Female School of Design that the
warrior's first glance fell. Naturally the conversation had run upon
Miss Marjoribanks on the past evening, for Mrs Centum was full of the
enthusiasm and excitement incident to that _paté_ which Lucilla had so
magnanimously enabled her to produce. "Is she pretty?" General Travers
had demanded, as was to be expected. "We--ll," Mrs Centum had replied,
and made a long pause--"would you call Lucilla pretty, Charles?" and
Charles had been equally dubious in his response; for, to be sure, it
was a dereliction from Miss Marjoribanks's dignity to call her pretty,
which is a trifling sort of qualification. But when the General entered
the drawing-room, which might be called the centre of Carlingford, and
saw before him that little dewy face, full of clouds and sunshine,
uncertain, unquiet, open-eyed, with the red lips apart, and the eyes
clear and expanded with recent tears--a face which gave a certain
sentiment of freshness and fragrance to the atmosphere like the quiet
after a storm--he did not understand what his hosts could mean. "I call
her very pretty," he said, under his breath, to his interested and
delighted chaperone; and we are surely justified in appealing to the
readers of this history, as Lucilla, who was always reasonable,
afterwards did to herself, whether it could be justly said under all the
circumstances, that either Rose or the General were to blame?

The little artist got up hurriedly when she awoke to the fact that other
visitors had come into the room, but she was not at all interested in
General Travers, whom Rose, with the unconscious insolence of youth,
classified in her own mind as an elderly gentleman. Not that he was at
all an elderly gentleman; but then a man of forty, especially when he is
a fine man and adequately developed for his years, has at the first
glance no great attraction for an impertinent of seventeen. Rose did
not go away without receiving another kiss from Lucilla, and a parting
reminder. "To-morrow at eight o'clock; and mind you leave it all to me,
and don't worry," said Miss Marjoribanks; and Rose, half ashamed, put on
her hat and went away, without so much as remarking the admiration in
the stranger's eyes, nor the look of disappointment with which he saw
her leave the room. Rose thought no more of him than if he had been a
piece of furniture; but as for the General, when he found himself
obliged to turn to Lucilla and make himself agreeable, the drawback of
having thus had his admiration forestalled and drawn away from its
legitimate object was such, that he did not find her at all pretty;
which, after all, on a first interview at least, is all They think
about, as Miss Marjoribanks herself said.

"We must do all we can to make Carlingford agreeable to the General,"
said Mrs Centum. "You know how much depends upon it, Lucilla. If we can
but make him like the place, only think what an advantage to
society--and we have such nice society in Carlingford," said the
injudicious woman, who did not know what to say.

"Nothing very particular," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I hope General
Travers will like us; but as for the officers, I am not so sure. They
are all so light and airy, you know: and to have nothing but flirting
men is almost as bad as having nobody that can flirt; which is my
position," Lucilla added, with a sigh, "as long as Mr Cavendish is
away."

"Lucilla," cried Mrs Centum, a little shocked, "one would think to hear
you that you were the greatest coquette possible; and on the contrary
she is quite an example to all our young ladies, I assure you, General;
and as for flirting----"

"Dear Mrs Centum," said Lucilla sweetly, "one has always to do one's
duty to society. As far as I am concerned, it is quite different. And I
don't mean to say that the officers would not be a great acquisition,"
Miss Marjoribanks continued, with her usual politeness; "but then too
many young people are the ruin of society. If we were to run all to
dancing and that sort of thing, after all the trouble one has taken----"
said Lucilla. Perhaps it was not quite civil; but then it must be
admitted, that to see a man look blankly in your face as if he were
saying in his mind, "Then it is only _you_, and not that pretty little
thing, that is Miss Marjoribanks!" was about as exasperating a sensation
as one is likely to meet with. Lucilla understood perfectly well
General Travers's look, and for the moment, instead of making herself
agreeable, it was the contrary impulse that moved her. She looked at
him, not blankly as he looked at her, but in a calmly considerate way,
as she might have looked at Mr Holden the upholsterer, had he proposed a
new kind of _tapisserie_ to her judgment. "One would be always
delighted, of course, to have General Travers," said Miss Marjoribanks,
"but I am afraid the officers would not do."

As for Mrs Centum, she was quite incapable of managing such a terrible
crisis. She felt it, indeed, a little hard that it should be her man who
was defied in this alarming way, while Mr Cavendish and the Archdeacon,
the two previous candidates, had both been received so sweetly. To be
sure, it was his own fault; but that did not mend matters. She looked
from one to the other with a scared look, and grew very red, and untied
her bonnet; and then, as none of these evidences of agitation had any
effect upon the other parties involved, plunged into the heat of the
conflict without considering what she was about to say.

"Lucilla, I am surprised at you," said Mrs Centum, "when you know how
you have gone on about Mr Cavendish--when you know what a fuss you have
made, and how you have told everybody----"

"By the bye, who is Mr Cavendish?" said General Travers, interposing,
with that holy horror of a quarrel between women which is common to the
inferior half of creation. "I wonder if he is a fellow one used to meet
everywhere. One never could get any satisfaction who he belonged to. He
never pretended to be one of the Devonshire Cavendishes, you know. I
don't know if he had any family at all, or relations, or that sort of
thing. In most cases a man gets on just as well without them, in my
opinion. I wonder if this fellow you are talking of is he?"

"Oh, no," said Mrs Centum. "I hope you will meet him before you leave
Carlingford. He has a sister married here; but we have always understood
he was one of the Cavendishes. I am sure Mrs Woodburn always gives
herself out for somebody," she continued, beginning to let the
interesting suspicion enter her mind; for, to be sure, they were about
of a standing, and the banker's wife had sometimes felt a little sore at
the idea that her neighbour possessed distinctions of family which were
denied to herself. "It is true, none of her relations ever come to see
her," said Mrs Centum, and she began to forget the General, and
Lucilla's reception of him, in this still more interesting subject. It
was the first time that the authenticity of the Cavendishes had been
attacked in Carlingford; and, to be sure, what is the good of having
fine connections if they cannot be produced? While Mrs Centum pondered a
suggestion so interesting, Lucilla, on her part, also took advantage of
the occasion, and descended from the calm heights of dignity on which
she had placed herself. And the General, who was a well-bred man, had
got over for the moment the unlucky impression made upon him by the
fresh face of little Rose Lake.

"Mr Cavendish is very nice," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I am very fond of
all my own relations, but I don't care about other people's. Of course
he is one of the Cavendishes. I don't see how he can help it, when that
is his name. I should think it was sure to be the same. We should be so
obliged to you if you would bring him back to Carlingford. I don't know,
I am sure, why he is so obstinate in staying away."

"Perhaps somebody has been unkind to him," said the General, feeling it
was expected of him.

"I am sure _I_ have not been unkind to him," said Lucilla. "He is such a
loss to me. If you are going to do us the pleasure of coming on
Thursday--Oh, I am sure we shall feel quite honoured, both papa and I--I
will show you how badly off I am. It is not a party in the least, and we
don't dance," said Miss Marjoribanks, "that is why I am a little
uncertain about the officers. It is one of my principles that too many
young people are the ruin of society; but it is hard work, sometimes,
when one is not properly supported," Lucilla added, with a gentle sigh.

"If I can be of any use," said the amused soldier. "I don't pretend to
be able to replace Cavendish, if it is Cavendish; but----"

"No," said Miss Marjoribanks, with resignation, "it is not easy to
replace him. He has quite a talent, you know; but I am sure it is very
kind of you, and we shall be delighted to have such an acquisition,"
Lucilla continued, after a pause, with a gracious smile; and then she
led her guests downstairs to luncheon, which was every way satisfactory.
As for the General, it cannot be doubted that he had the worst of it in
this little encounter, and felt himself by no means such a great
personage in Carlingford as his hospitable entertainers had persuaded
him he should be. Mrs Centum declared afterwards that she could not
form the least idea what Lucilla meant by it, she who was generally so
civil to everybody. But it is not necessary to say that Miss
Marjoribanks knew perfectly well what she was doing, and felt it
imperatively necessary to bring down General Travers to his proper
level. Carlingford could exist perfectly well without him and his
officers; but Lucilla did not mean that the society she had taken so
much pains to form should be condescended to by a mere soldier. And
then, after all, she was only human, and it was not to be expected she
could pass over the blank look with which her visitor turned to herself,
after having by evil fortune cast his eyes upon Rose Lake. At the same
time, Miss Marjoribanks, always magnanimous, did not blame Rose, who had
no hand whatever in the matter; and if she avenged herself in a ladylike
and satisfactory manner, it is not to be supposed that it was simply a
sense of offence which actuated Lucilla. She did it, on the contrary, on
strictly philosophical principles, having perceived that Mrs Centum was
spoiling her General, and that it was absolutely necessary that he
should be disabused.

When they left, Mrs Centum was almost afraid to put the question that
trembled on her lips. She uttered it at last, faltering, and with a very
doubtful expression, for she could not conceal from herself the fact
that the General had been snubbed. "How do you like Lucilla?" she said,
in the most humble way; and then she turned away her face. She could
bear it, whatever it might be. She said to herself that so long as the
children were well, and the holidays about over, she could bear
anything; and what did it matter to her about the officers?--but at the
same time she preferred to avert her face when she received the blow.

"I am sure Miss Marjoribanks is a person for whom I shall always
entertain the highest respect," said the General, and he gave a little
laugh. "Was that pretty little creature a sister of hers?--or a
friend?--or what? I don't know when I have seen anything so pretty,"
said the unsuspecting man; and then Mrs Centum turned round upon him
with a kind of horror.

"_That_ Lucilla's sister!--why, she has no sister; I told you so; she is
an only child, and will have everything. She will be quite an heiress,"
cried Mrs Centum, "if the old Doctor were to die; though, I am sure,
poor dear man, I hope he will not die. There is no other medical man in
the town that one can have the least confidence in, except Dr Rider;
and then _he_ is so young, and can't have much experience with children.
Her sister, indeed! It was little Rose Lake, the drawing-master's
daughter," said Mrs Centum, with cruel distinctness. The General only
said, "Oh!" but it was in a crestfallen tone; for to be snubbed by one
lady, and struck with sudden enthusiasm for another, who, after all, was
not a lady to speak of, but only a drawing-master's daughter, was rather
hard upon the poor man. Thus it was the soldier, who in ordinary
circumstances ought to have been the most successful, who began in the
most cruel and uncomfortable way his campaign in Carlingford.



_Chapter XXVII_


Miss Marjoribanks, except for her habitual walk, did not go out much
that day. She was too much occupied with what she had in hand. She could
not conceive--for Lucilla naturally took a reasonable view of affairs in
general, and did not account for the action of any such unknown quantity
as love, for example--why Mr Cavendish should conceal himself so
carefully from society in Carlingford, and yet run all the risk of
meeting Barbara Lake in the evenings. It seemed to Lucilla
inconceivable, and yet it was impossible not to believe it. Mr
Cavendish, though she had seen him on the very verge of a proposal, did
not present himself to her mind in the aspect of a man who would
consider the world well lost for any such transitory passion; neither,
as was natural, did Barbara Lake appear to Lucilla the least like a
person calculated to call forth that sentiment; but nevertheless it must
be true, and the only way to account for it was by thinking, after all,
what fools _They_ were, and what poor judges, and how little to be
depended on, when women were concerned. Miss Marjoribanks was determined
to lose no more time, but to speak to Mr Cavendish, if it was Mr
Cavendish, and she could get the chance, quite plainly of the situation
of affairs--to let him know how much she knew, and to spur him up to
come forward like a man and brave anything the Archdeacon could do. Had
it been any small personal aim that moved Lucilla, no doubt she would
have shrunk from such a decided step; but it was, on the contrary, the
broadest philanthropical combination of Christian principles, help to
the weak and succour to the oppressed, and a little, just a very little,
of the equally Evangelical idea of humbling the proud and bringing down
the mighty. She was so much occupied with her plans that it was with a
little difficulty she roused herself to keep up the conversation with
her father at dinner, and be as amusing and agreeable as ordinary; which
indeed was more than ordinarily her duty, since Dr Marjoribanks came in,
in a fractious and disturbed state of mind, discontented with things in
general. The truth was, he had got a letter from Tom Marjoribanks from
India, where that unlucky man had gone. It was all very well and natural
to go to India, and Lucilla had felt, indeed, rather satisfied with
herself for having helped forward that desirable conclusion, especially
after the Doctor had taken pains to explain to her, not knowing that she
had any share in it, that it was the very best thing for Tom to do. For
it has been already said that Dr Marjoribanks, though he liked Tom, and
thought it very odd that Providence should have given the girl to him,
and the boy to his incapable sister-in-law, who did not in the least
know how to manage him, had no desire to have his nephew for a
son-in-law. Going to India was very right and proper, and the best thing
to do; for a man might get on _there_, even at the bar, who would have
no chance _here_; but after he had made one step in the right direction,
it was only to be expected that all sorts of misfortunes should happen
to Tom. He was wrecked, which might have been looked for, and he lost
his boxes, with the greater part of his outfit, either at that unhappy
moment, or in the Desert, or at an after part of his unlucky career; and
the object of the letter which Dr Marjoribanks had just received was to
get money to make up for his losses. Tom, who was a very good son, did
not want to vex his mother, and accordingly it was his uncle whom he
applied to, to sell out a portion of the money he had in the Funds. "She
would think I was ruined, or that it was my fault, or at least that I
meant to spend all my money," wrote Tom, "and you understand, uncle,
that it is not my fault." "Confound him! it is never his fault," said Dr
Marjoribanks, as if that could possibly be brought against the
unfortunate young man as a crime.

"No, papa, it is his luck," said Lucilla; "poor Tom!--but I should not
like to take a passage in the same boat with him if I was the other
people. Though I am sure he is not a bit to blame."

"I hope he does not mean to go on like this," said the Doctor. "He will
soon make ducks and drakes of his five thousand pounds. A young fellow
like that ought to mind what he's doing. It is a great deal easier to
throw money away than to lay it by."

"Papa, it is his luck," said Miss Marjoribanks; "it is all put into a
system in political economy, you know. For my part, I am always the
other way. It is very funny before you get used to it; but you know
there has to be a balance in everything, and that is how it must be."

"I don't think it at all funny," said Dr Marjoribanks, "unless your good
luck and his bad were to be joined together; which is not an expedient I
fancy." When he said this the Doctor gave a sharp glance at his
daughter, to see if by chance that might perhaps be what she was
thinking of; but naturally the maiden candour and unsuspecting innocence
of Lucilla was proof to such glances. She took no notice at all of the
implied suspicion. But though it was very absurd for anybody to think
that she would have married him, it was not in Miss Marjoribanks's
nature to be disloyal to Tom.

"I think he is quite right about his mother, papa," said Lucilla; "she
would never understand it, you know; she would think the world was
coming to an end. I would not for anything take a passage in the same
boat with him, but he is nice in his way, poor fellow! I wonder what he
has ever done to have such dreadful luck--but I hope you are going to do
what he asks you:" and with this calm expression of her interest Miss
Marjoribanks went upstairs. When the Doctor became thus aware of his
daughter's sentiments, it seemed to him that he was more at liberty to
be kind to his nephew. He had never been able to divest himself of a
little lurking dread, an inherent idea which was so obstinate that it
felt like a prophecy, that somehow or other, after costing her father so
much, and making such a difference in the house, Lucilla, who on the
whole was a dear production, would fall to Tom's share, with all Dr
Marjoribanks's other possessions; and the Doctor saw no reason why he
should work and lay up money for a boy whom Providence, with a wonderful
want of discrimination, had bestowed, not upon him, but upon Mrs John
Marjoribanks. However, when that question was settled and done with, his
heart began to relent to Tom the unlucky, who, after all, when the
son-in-law hypothesis was fully dismissed, was his natural born nephew,
and, as Lucilla said, very nice in his way, poor fellow! The Doctor
began to write him a letter, and softened more and more with every line
he wrote; but as for Lucilla, she had something more immediately
important to occupy her upstairs.

The fact was that Miss Marjoribanks had found a shadowy figure in black
in the corner of one of the sofas when she came into the
drawing-room--a-figure with a veil down, and a large shawl, and a
tremulous air. It was very seldom that Mrs Mortimer took courage to
visit her young patroness; and to go out at night, except sometimes to
Salem Chapel when there was a meeting, and when the timid woman
represented to herself that it was her duty, was a thing unknown to her.
But yet, nevertheless, it was Mrs Mortimer who sat waiting for Lucilla.
They had not met since that momentous interview in which the widow
revealed her history to Miss Marjoribanks's sympathetic ears, and the
poor woman had been able to bear no longer the solitude of her cottage,
and her garden-walls, and her little pupils, and Mary Jane. To know that
something was going on outside that concerned her--to hear the waves, as
it were, beating round the walls of her prison, and never to have even
so much as a peep at them, what they were about, if the tide was
beginning to turn, or the wind to change, or the lifeboat to appear--was
more than Mrs Mortimer, even with all her training to patience, could
put up with; and accordingly she had made a frantic rush out, under
cover of night, to see if there was anything to see, and hear if there
was anything to hear.

"You don't know how dreadful it is to keep staring at the walls all day
and never see any change," said the widow. "It is very stupid and silly,
but you know I cannot help it. I get to fancy always that something
wonderful must be going on on the other side."

"That is because you don't go out enough," said Lucilla. "You know how
often I have said you should go out once every day; and then you would
see that everything outside was very much the same as everything
within."

"Oh, Lucilla! don't say so," said Mrs Mortimer; "and besides, _he_ has
been again, and I could see you had been saying something to him. He
spoke as if I understood it all when I did not understand a word of it;
and he spoke of him, you know, and was quite solemn, and warned me to
think well of it, and not do anything rash--as if I had anything to
think about, or was going to do anything! Tell me what you said to him,
Lucilla; for I am sure, by the way he spoke, he must have taken him for
himself, and perhaps you for me."

"Who did he take for himself, I wonder?" said Lucilla. "As for you and
me, dear Mrs Mortimer, we are so different that he could never take us
for each other, whatever the circumstances might be."

"Ah, yes, Lucilla! we are different," said the poor widow. "You have all
your own people to take care of you, and you are not afraid of anybody;
but as for me, I have not a creature in the world who cares what becomes
of me." As she made this forlorn statement it was only natural that the
poor woman should cry a little. This was no doubt the result of the four
garden-walls that closed in so tightly, and the aggravating little
pupils; but Miss Marjoribanks felt it was not a state of feeling that
could be allowed to go on.

"You ought not to speak like that; I am sure there are a great many
people who are interested in you; and you have always Me," said Lucilla,
with a certain reproachful tenderness. As for Mrs Mortimer, she raised
her head and dried her eyes when Miss Marjoribanks began to speak, and
looked at her in a somewhat eager, inquiring way; but when Lucilla
uttered those last reassuring words, it is undeniable that the widow's
countenance fell a little. She faltered and grew pale again, and only
cried the more--perhaps with gratitude, perhaps with disappointment. And
when she said, "I am sure you are very kind, Lucilla," which was all the
poor soul could utter, it was in a very tremulous undecided voice. The
fact that she had always the sympathy and co-operation of such a friend
as Miss Marjoribanks, did not seem to have the exhilarating effect upon
her that it ought to have had. It did not apparently do any more for her
than the similar reassurance that Lucilla was coming to tea did for Rose
Lake. But then, like every other benefactor of the human race, Miss
Marjoribanks was aware that the human mind has its moments of unbelief.
It was a discouraging experience to meet with; but she never permitted
it seriously to interrupt her exertions for the good of her kind.

"You should not have so poor an opinion of your friends," said Lucilla,
who after all was giving only a stone when her suppliant asked for
bread. "You know how much interested we all are in you; and for me,
anything I can do----"

"Oh, Lucilla, you are very kind; nobody could be kinder," cried Mrs
Mortimer, with compunction. "It is very nice to have friends. I do not
know what I should do without you, I am sure; but then one cannot live
upon one's friends; and then one knows, when they go away," said the
widow, with more feeling than distinctness of expression, "that they all
go away to something of their own, and pity you or forget you; but you
always stay there, and have nothing of your own to go away to. I am not
grumbling, but it is hard, Lucilla; and then you are young, and happy,
and at home, and I don't think it is possible you can understand."

"My dear," said Miss Marjoribanks, "it is quite easy to understand, and
I know exactly what you mean. You want me to tell you all about Mr
Beverley, and what I said to him, and what he has in his mind. If he is
the something of your own you would like to go away to, I think it is a
pity. I am sure he has a temper, and _I_ would not marry him for my
part. But if you mean _me_, I have nothing to go away to," said Lucilla,
with a little scorn. "I should be ashamed not to be enough for myself.
When I leave you it is not to enjoy myself, but to think about you and
to plan for you; and all that you want to know is about _him_!" said
Miss Marjoribanks, piercing through and through the thin armour of her
incapable assailant. Naturally all the widow's defences fell before this
ruthless response. She cried with a mingled sensation of shame at being
found out, and penitence for being so ungrateful, and a certain desolate
distress with her own incapacity and want of power to defend herself. It
was an acute variety of feminine anguish on the whole. The idea that
she, a mature woman, a married woman and widow, who ought to have been
done with all these vanities, should have been found out by a young girl
to be thinking about _a gentleman_, struck poor Mrs Mortimer with a
sharp sense of shame as if her wistful preoccupation had been a crime.
Indeed the chances are, if it had been a crime, she would not have been
nearly so much ashamed of it. She hid her face in her hands and blushed
down to the very edge of her black dress and up into the glooms of her
widow's veil; and all the self-defence she was capable of was a faint
"Oh, Lucilla!" a mere appeal of weakness without reason--a virtual
throwing of herself in acknowledged guilt at her judge's feet.

"Thomas is coming with the tea," said Miss Marjoribanks. "Come into my
room and take off your bonnet. What is the good of worrying yourself
when you know I have taken it into my own hands? Spoiling your eyes with
crying, and making everybody uncomfortable never does the least good;
and, besides, one never knows what harm one might do one's self," said
Lucilla seriously. "I don't think you gone off at all, for my part; but
if you don't take proper care----I shall give you some rose-water, and
you will be all right after you have had a cup of tea."

"Oh, no; it will be best to go home. I am such a poor creature now. I am
not good for anything. Let me go home, Lucilla," said poor Mrs Mortimer.
But Lucilla would not let her go home; and by the time tea was ready,
and Dr Marjoribanks had come upstairs, she had so managed to soothe her
visitor's nerves, and console her spirits, that the Doctor himself grew
complimentary. He was so civil, in fact, that Lucilla felt slightly
startled, and on the whole thought it was as well that the Archdeacon
was at hand, and affairs in a promising way; for it was doubtful whether
even Miss Marjoribanks's magnanimity could have got over any ridiculous
exhibition of interest on the part of her father, who certainly was old
enough to know better. Even to see him taking Mrs Mortimer's tea to her,
and congratulating her upon her improved looks, and felicitating himself
and the world in general on the fact that Carlingford agreed with her,
was aggravating to his daughter--more aggravating, though it is strange
to say so, than even the blank looks of General Travers in the morning,
or his transference of the homage intended for herself to little Rose
Lake; _that_ was no more than a blunder, and Lucilla felt a consolatory
conviction that, so far as incivility went, the General had received a
very satisfactory set-off. But to see Dr Marjoribanks exerting himself
in such an unheard-of way made her open her eyes. If he were still
accessible to such influences, nobody could answer for anything that
might happen; and the widow was so grateful for his kindness, that at
one moment it was all that Lucilla could do to keep her lips shut fast,
and restrain herself from a tempting allusion which would have made an
end of Mrs Mortimer. It was the first time that Lucilla's protégée had
ventured to come thus familiarly and uninvited to her friend's house;
and the Doctor, who knew no special reason for the visit, expressed his
satisfaction with a warmth which was quite uncalled-for, and hoped that
Lucilla might often "have the advantage of her company;" and actually
betrayed symptoms of a disposition to "see her home," if Miss
Marjoribanks had not already made provision for that emergency. When the
visitor had finally departed, under the charge of Thomas and Mary Jane,
the father and daughter regarded each other, for the first time, with
dubious glances--for, as far as Lucilla was concerned, it was a
revelation to her of a new and altogether unsuspected danger; and the
Doctor, for his part, was very conciliatory, and showed a certain
consciousness of having committed himself, which made matters twenty
times worse.

"Really, Lucilla, your friend is a credit to you," said Dr Marjoribanks.
"It was a stroke of talent to pick her up, as you did, and make a woman
of her--and a pretty woman too," he added incautiously; as if he, at his
age, had anything to do with that.

"I am so glad you think so, papa," said Lucilla, in her dutiful way. "I
don't think myself that she has gone off at all to speak of. In some
lights she might pass for being no older than I am--if she was very well
dressed, you know; and it really does not matter what age a woman is if
she keeps her looks. I should be very glad to see her nicely married,
for my part; she is one of the people who ought to be married," Miss
Marjoribanks continued, with an inflection of compassionate tolerance in
her voice. As for the Doctor, he mistook her as usual, and took her tone
of pity and kindly patronising disdain for another instance of his
daughter's policy and high art; whereas the truth was she was quite in
earnest, and meant every word she said. And then Dr Marjoribanks's sense
of humour was keener than that of Lucilla. After this the conversation
flagged slightly, for Miss Marjoribanks had undeniably received a shock.
In the midst of her benevolent preoccupation and care for other people,
it had suddenly dawned upon her that her own stronghold might be
attacked, and the tables turned upon her in the twinkling of an eye.
There are days of discouragement in the most triumphant career and this
was one of those uncomfortable moments. Her faith in herself did not
fail her for an instant; but the faith of her natural born subjects--the
creatures of her bounty--had visibly failed her. Neither Rose Lake nor
Mrs Mortimer had shown that confidence in Lucilla's genius which
experience and loyalty both called upon them to show. When Dr
Marjoribanks had gone downstairs to resume the case which he was writing
out for the _Lancet_, Lucilla passed through one of those moments of
sublime despondency which now and then try the spirits of the
benefactors of their race. A few tears came to her eyes as she reflected
upon this great problem. Without such trials genius would not fully know
itself nor be justly aware of its own strength. For no temptation to
give up her disinterested exertions had any effect upon the mind of Miss
Marjoribanks; and even her sense of pain at the unbelief of her
followers was mingled with that pity for their weakness which involves
pardon. Even when they wounded her she was sorry for them. It was nature
that was in fault, and not the fallible human creatures who had it not
in them to believe in the simple force of genius. When Lucilla had shed
these few tears over her subjects' weakness and want of faith, she rose
up again in new strength from the momentary downfall. It was, as we have
said, a sublime moment. The idea of giving them up, and leaving their
affairs to their own guidance, never for an instant penetrated into her
heroic mind; but she was human, and naturally she felt the prick of
ingratitude. When the crisis was over she rose up calmly and lighted her
candle, and went to her room with a smile upon her magnanimous lips. As
she performed that simple action, Lucilla had lifted up the feeble
widow, and taken the family of Lakes, and Mr Cavendish, and even the
burly Archdeacon himself, upon her shoulders. They might be ungrateful,
or even unaware of all she was doing for them; but they had the supreme
claim of Need upon Strength; and Miss Marjoribanks, notwithstanding the
wound they had given her, was loyal to that appeal, and to her own
consciousness of superior Power.

At the same time, it would not be just to omit all mention of a
consolatory recollection which occurred to Lucilla in this moment of her
weakness. At such a crisis the mind of genius may be supported by a
matter very trifling in itself. Even at the instant when the moisture
sprang to her eyes, Miss Marjoribanks said to herself, "Poor Tom!" and
felt that the bitterness, to a certain extent, had evaporated out of her
tears. He was a long way off, and Lucilla would have thought it madness
indeed to connect herself in any way with the fortunes of her unlucky
cousin; yet it gave her a certain support to think that, amid all the
want of faith she was encountering, Tom believed in her, heart and soul.
It was an insignificant matter, so far as any practical result was
concerned, if, indeed, anything can be called insignificant which gives
strength to a great mind in a moment of discouragement. She said "Poor
Tom!" and felt as if for the moment she had something to lean on, and
was comforted. We mention this fact rather as a contribution to the
history of those phenomena of the human mind, which have as yet escaped
the metaphysician, than as an actual circumstance in the life of Miss
Marjoribanks. She was a woman of genius, and he only a very simple,
unlucky fellow; and yet a sensation of comfort came to Lucilla's heart
when she said "Poor Tom!"



_Chapter XXVIII_


Lucilla prepared her toilette the next evening, to take tea with the
Lakes, with greater care than she would have spent upon a party of much
greater pretensions. She was, to be sure, dressed as usual in the white
dress, _high_, which she had brought into fashion in Carlingford; but
then that simple evening toilette required many adjuncts which were not
necessary on other occasions, seeing that this time she was going to
walk to her destination, and had in her mind the four distinct aims of
pleasing Rose, of dazzling Barbara, of imposing upon Mr Cavendish, and,
finally, of being, as always, in harmony with _herself_. She was as
punctual to the hour and minute of her engagement as if she had been a
queen; and, indeed, it was with a demeanour as gracious that she entered
the little house in Grove Street, where, naturally, there had been also
sundry preparations made for her visit. Mr Lake himself, who had
postponed his usual walk, and was taking his tea an hour later than
usual, received his young visitor with all the suavity natural to him;
and as for Barbara, she did the honours with a certain suppressed
exultation and air of triumph, which proved to Lucilla that her plan was
indeed an inspiration of genius. As for Rose, it would be impossible to
describe what were her sensations. Her faith still failed her at that
momentous hour. She was sceptical of Lucilla, and naturally of all the
world, and regarded everybody with jealous scrutiny and expectation and
distrust, as was natural to a young conspirator. She was profoundly
excited and curious to know what Miss Marjoribanks meant to do; and at
the same time she did not believe in Miss Marjoribanks, and was almost
disposed to betray and interfere with her, if such treachery had been
possible. It was Rose Lucilla specially came to visit, and yet Rose was
the only one who was cool to her, and did not seem fully to appreciate
her condescension; but then, happily, Miss Marjoribanks was magnanimous,
and at the same time had a purpose to support her, which was much more
comprehensive and of larger application than anything that had entered
into the mind of Rose Lake.

"I am proud to see you in my house, Miss Marjoribanks," said Mr Lake. "I
have always considered your excellent father one of my best friends. I
am not able to give my children the same advantages, but I have always
brought them up not to have any false pride. We have no wealth; but we
have some things which cannot be purchased by wealth," said the
drawing-master, with mild grandeur; and he looked round upon the walls
of his parlour, which were hung with his own drawings, and where one of
Willie's held the place of honour. In all Carlingford there was no other
house that enjoyed a similar distinction; and, consequently, it was with
a delicious sense of chivalrous deference yet equality that the
exceptional man of Grove Street received the young sovereign of Grange
Lane.

"I am so glad to come, Mr Lake," said Lucilla. "It is so nice to be
among such old friends; and, besides that, you know there never was any
voice that suited mine like Barbara's; and that dear old Rose was always
my pet at Mount Pleasant. I should have come long ago if anybody had
ever asked me," said Miss Marjoribanks. And as for Mr Lake, he was so
overpowered by this implied reproach upon his hospitality that he
scarcely knew how to reply.

"My dear Miss Marjoribanks, if you have not been asked it has been from
no want of--of goodwill," said Mr Lake anxiously. "I do not know what
the girls can have been thinking of. You see Rose's genius takes another
line; and Barbara, naturally, has a great many things to think of; but
in the future, I hope----"

"Oh, yes; I shall come without being asked," said Lucilla. And when the
tea came it was all she could do to keep herself quiet, and remember
that she was a visitor, and not take it out of the incapable hands of
Barbara, who never gave her father the right amount of sugar in his tea.
To tell the truth, Barbara's thoughts were occupied by a very different
subject; and even Rose had but little attention to spare for her papa's
comforts at that special moment. But Lucilla's larger mind embraced
everything. She sat with her very fingers itching to cut the
bread-and-butter for him, and give him a cup of tea as he liked it; and
asked herself, with indignation, what was the use of that great
creature, with her level eyebrows and her crimson bloom, who could not
take the trouble to remember that three lumps was what Mr Lake liked.
Miss Marjoribanks had never taken tea with him before; but his second
cup, had she dispensed it, would have been exactly to his taste--which
was a thing Barbara had not learned to make it in all these years. No
wonder that a certain sense of contemptuous indignation arose for one
moment, even in the calm and impartial bosom of genius. Perhaps Rose
would not have done much better; but then Rose was good for something
else, which was always a set-off on the other side. Thus it will be seen
that Lucilla had a respect for use, even of a kind which in her own
person she did not much appreciate, as became a person of a truly
enlightened mind; but a creature who was of no earthly good irritated
her well-regulated spirit; for, to be sure, the possession of a fine
contralto (which is, at the same time, not fine enough to be made use of
professionally) is not a matter of sufficient moment in this world to
excuse a young woman for not knowing how to give her father a
comfortable cup of tea.

It was nearly nine o'clock before Mr Lake went out for his walk, and by
that time it was almost dark, and the lamp outside was lighted, which
was not far from the door. Lucilla had taken a seat near the window,
with the view of witnessing everything; and it cannot be denied that she
felt a little excited when Barbara went out of the room after her
father, leaving Rose alone with her guest. Miss Marjoribanks's heart
gave a beat or two the more in the first minute, though before the next
had passed it had fallen into its usual measure. There were no candles
as yet in the parlour, and Grove Street--or at least the bit of it
which lay before the window, lighted by the lamp outside, and relieved
against a little square of bluish-green sky which intervened between
Miss Hemmings's house and that of old Mr Wrangle on the opposite
side--was very clear to the interested spectator. There was nobody
visible but an organ-man, who was grinding a popular melody very
dolorously out of his box, in what Rose would have called the middle
distance; and beyond, Miss Jane Hemmings looking out of the long
staircase window, and three little boys in different attitudes
below,--that is, if one did not count a tall figure which, perhaps with
the view of listening to the music of the organ, was coming and going in
a limited circuit round the light of the lamp.

"How convenient it is to have the lamp so near," said Lucilla. "Oh,
don't light any candles, please; it is so nice to sit in the dark. Where
is Barbara, I wonder? Let us have some music, and put down that dreadful
organ. I hope she has not gone out. And where are you, you sulky little
Rose?"

"She has gone upstairs," said Rose, who began to feel all the enormity
of her conduct in thus betraying her sister. "I hate sitting in the
dark. I hate being a spy; come in from the window, Lucilla, now you are
here----"

"My dear Rose," said Miss Marjoribanks, "I think you forget a little.
For my part I do not understand what being a spy means. Barbara knows
very well I am here. I should scorn to take an advantage of anybody, for
my part. If she does not bring him past the very window, and under my
eyes--Ah, yes, that is just what I thought," said Lucilla, with gentle
satisfaction. But by this time poor little Rose had roused herself into
an innocent fury.

"What is just as you thought?" said Rose, laying an impatient grasp on
Miss Marjoribanks's arm. "Come in from the window, Lucilla, this
moment--this moment! Oh, me, to think it should be my doing! Oh,
Lucilla, don't be so mean and shabby and wretched. I tell you to come
in--come in directly! If you do not shut the window, and come and sit
here in the corner, I will never, never speak to you again!"

Miss Marjoribanks, as was natural, took no notice of this childish fury.
She was sitting just where she had been sitting all the evening, within
sight of the street lamp and the organ-grinder, and Miss Jane Hemmings
at the staircase window;--just where Barbara had placed her, and where
that young woman calculated on finding her, when she made a promenade of
triumph up the partially lighted street by the side of her clandestine
suitor. Perhaps Barbara had seen Miss Jane as well, and knew that public
opinion was thus watching over her; but at all events she was not at all
ashamed of herself, or indignant at being spied upon. On the contrary,
it was a kind of apotheosis for Barbara, only second to the grand and
crowning triumph which would be accomplished in Carlingford Church under
the shadow of that veil of real Brussels, which grew more and more real
every day. Thus neither the actors in the drama, nor the principal
spectator, were in the smallest degree disturbed by horror or shame or
sense of guilt, excepting always the fanciful little Rose, who suffered
for everybody; who could have wished that the earth would open and
swallow up Barbara and her lover; who could have slaughtered Lucilla on
the spot, and given herself over to any kind of torture for her
treachery. Naturally nobody paid any sort of attention to Rose. Barbara,
for her part, took her admirer's arm in the twilight with a swelling of
exultation, which the gaining of the very highest prize in the
department of ornamental art could scarcely have conveyed to the bosom
of the little artist; and Lucilla put back her small assailant softly
with her hand, and smoothed down her ruffled plumes.

"My dear, it is Miss Hemmings that is spying," said Lucilla; "and poor
Barbara would be so disappointed if I were to go away from the window.
Have patience just a little longer--there's a dear. It is all exactly as
I thought."

And then there followed a pause, which was a terrible pause for Rose.
The organ-grinder stopped his doleful ditty, and there was scarcely any
sound to be heard in the street except the footsteps approaching and
retiring, the measured tread of two people occupied with each other,
going now more slowly, now more quickly, as the humour seized them, or
as their conversation grew in interest; even the sound of their voices
came by times to the auditors--Barbara's with an occasional laugh or
tone of triumph, and the other deeper, with which Rose had but little
acquaintance, but which was perfectly known to Lucilla. All this time,
while her companion sat panting in the dark corner, Miss Marjoribanks
was looking to the joints of her harness, and feeling the edge of her
weapons. For, after all, it was no small enterprise upon which she was
going forth. She was going to denounce the faithless knight to his face,
and take him out of the hands of the enchantress; but then she herself
meant to take him in hand, and show him his true dangers, and vindicate
his honour. A more disinterested enterprise was never undertaken by any
knight-errant. Yet, at the same time, Lucilla could not help
entertaining a certain involuntary contempt for the man who had deserted
her own standard to put himself under that of Barbara Lake, and who was
being paraded up and down here without knowing it, to gratify the vanity
of his new sovereign, and make an exhibition of his weakness. Lucilla
would have been more than mortal if she had not felt the difference
between her own rule, which would have been all to his good, and the
purely egotistical sway of Barbara; and even in her magnanimous mind, it
was impossible that pity itself should not be mingled with a certain
disdain.

She sat quite still for so long that Barbara grew intoxicated with her
triumph. "It is perhaps the last time," Lucilla said to herself, with a
movement of compassion; and the breadth of her human sympathy was such
that she waited till the very latest moment, and let the deluded young
woman have the full enjoyment of her imaginary victory. Then Miss
Marjoribanks rose with a certain solemnity, and put on her hat, and gave
an unappreciated kiss to Rose, who kept in her corner. "Good-night; I am
going," said Lucilla. The words were simple enough, but yet they rang in
Rose's ears like the signal of a conspiracy. When the calm leader of the
expedition went forth, sensible of the importance of her mission, but
tranquil as great minds always are in a moment of danger, Rose got up
too and followed, trembling in every limb. She was capable of having
thrown herself upon the spears in her own person in a sudden _élan_ of
indignation and passion; but she was not capable of waiting till the
right moment, and meeting her antagonists in reasonable combat. Miss
Marjoribanks went out deliberately, without any unnecessary haste,
sweeping into the dusky twilight with her virginal white draperies. It
was a very ordinary scene, and yet, even in the midst of her excitement,
Rose could not help observing involuntarily its pictorial qualities--if
only any painter could have transferred to his canvas the subdued
musical hum of surrounding life, the fragrance of the mignonette, and
the peaceful stillness of the summer night. The sky shone out
green-blue, lambent and wistful, from the vacant space between Miss
Hemmings's and Mr Wrangle's, and there were the dusky twilight shadows
below, and the yellow gleam of the lamp, and Barbara's exulting,
triumphant figure, and the white robes of the avenging angel. Rose could
not have observed all this if she had not been stilled into a kind of
breathless awe by the solemn character of the situation, which struck
her as being somehow like one of Millais's pictures. As for the lovers,
they had just turned at the moment that Miss Marjoribanks came out, and
consequently met her straight in the face, as she stood suave and
smiling at the little garden door.

"It _is_ Mr Cavendish," said Lucilla; "I am so glad; I have been hoping
and trying to see you for ever so long; and as soon as ever I heard you
talking I felt sure it was your voice."

This was the greeting she addressed to Barbara Lake's lover. For his
part he stood before her, growing red and growing pale, struck dumb by
the unlooked-for meeting, and with such a sense of being ashamed of
himself as never before had entered his mind, though, no doubt, he had
done worse actions in his day. Even Barbara had not calculated upon this
open encounter; and instead of giving him any assistance, as was a
woman's duty in such a case, she only tossed her head, and giggled with
an embarrassment which was more pride than shame. As for Mr Cavendish,
he would have liked to disappear under the pavement, if it had been
possible. For once he and Rose were agreed. If a gulf had opened before
him, he would have jumped into it without ever pausing to ask himself
why. And yet all the time Miss Marjoribanks was looking as placid as if
she had been in her own drawing-room, and expecting his reply to her
friendly observations. When he realised that he ought to say something,
Mr Cavendish felt that he had as much need to wipe his forehead as ever
the Archdeacon had. He turned hot and cold, and felt his mind and his
tongue frozen, and could not find a word to say. With a sudden horror he
woke up, like one of Comus's revellers, and found himself changed into
the likeness of the creature he consorted with. If he had found an ass's
head on his shoulders, he could not have felt more startled and
horrified than when he heard himself, in the imbecility of the moment,
giggle like Barbara, and answer to Lucilla's remark, "Oh! yes, it was my
voice."

"I am very sorry to separate you from Barbara," said Miss Marjoribanks;
"but she is at home, you know, and I want so much to talk to you.
Barbara, good-night; I want Mr Cavendish to walk home with me. Rose,
don't stand in the garden and catch cold; thank you, dear, for such a
pleasant evening," said Lucilla, pressing another kiss upon her little
friend's unwilling cheek. When she had done this, she put out her hand
to Barbara, and passed her, sweeping her white garments through the
narrow gateway. She took Mr Cavendish's arm as if he had been a young
brother come to fetch her. "Let us go round by the chapel," said Miss
Marjoribanks, "I have so much to say to you. Be sure to practise for
Thursday, Barbara, and bid your papa good-night for me." This was how
she carried off Mr Cavendish finally out of Barbara's very fingers, and
under her very eyes.

When the two sisters were left standing together at the door, they could
do nothing but stare at each other in the extremity of their amazement.
Rose, for her part, remained but a moment, and then, feeling by far the
guiltiest and most miserable of the whole party, ran upstairs to her own
room and cried as if her heart would break. Barbara, on the contrary,
who was past crying, stood still at the door, and watched Lucilla's
white dress disappearing on the way to Grange Lane with indescribable
emotions. A young woman cannot call the police, or appeal to the crier,
when it is her lover whom she has lost: but to see him carried off by
the strong hand--to watch him gradually going away and disappearing from
her eyes--to hear his steps withdrawing into the distance--was such a
trial as few are called upon to bear. She stood and looked after him,
and could not believe her eyes. And then it was all so sudden--an affair
of a moment. Barbara could not realise how the world had turned round,
and this revolution had been effected;--one minute she had been leaning
on his arm triumphant, making a show and exhibition of him in the pride
of her heart, though he did not know it; and the next was not she
standing here watching him with a blank countenance and a despairing
heart, while Lucilla had pounced upon him and carried him off in her
cruel grasp? The blow was so sudden, that Barbara stood speechless and
motionless till the two departing figures had vanished in the darkness.
Would he come back again to-morrow, or was he gone for ever and ever?
Such were the thoughts of the forsaken maiden, as she stood paralysed
under this sudden change of fortune, at her father's door. If some cruel
spectator had thrown into the fire that Brussels veil with which her
imagination had so long played, and Barbara had stood heart-struck,
watching the filmy tissue dissolve into ashes before her eyes, her sense
of sudden anguish could not have been more acute. Yet, after all,
Barbara's pangs were nothing to those of Mr Cavendish, as he felt Miss
Marjoribanks's light touch on his arm, and felt his doomed feet turn in
spite of himself in the most dangerous direction, and became conscious
that he was being led beyond all possibility of resistance, back to
Grange Lane and to his fate.

To be sure it was dark, which was one consolation; but it was not dark
enough to conceal Lucilla's white dress, nor the well-known form and
lineaments of the young monarch of Grange Lane, in whose company nobody
could pass unobserved. Mr Cavendish could have faced danger by sea and
land with the average amount of courage; but the danger of the walk down
the little street, which afterwards led to St Roque's, and up the
embowered stillness of Grange Lane, was more than he was equal to. He
could not be sure of making a single step by these garden-walls without
meeting somebody who knew him--somebody whose curiosity might ruin him
in Carlingford; or even without the risk of encountering in the face of
that arch-enemy, who would not go away, and whose presence had banished
him from the place. It may be supposed that, under these terrible
circumstances, Mr Cavendish's thoughts of Barbara, who had got him into
this scrape, were far from lover-like. He was a man universally popular
among ladies, and who owed a great deal of the social consideration
which he prized so highly to this fact; and yet the most gentle
sentiment in his mind at that moment, was a "Confound these women!"
which he breathed to himself, all low and deep, as he went slowly along
by Lucilla's side. As for Miss Marjoribanks, her thoughts were of a very
much more serious description than anything her unlucky escort was
thinking of, and a minute or two passed in silence before she could make
up her mind to speak.

"I have been thinking a great deal about you lately, and wishing very
much to see you," said Lucilla. "Did not Mrs Woodburn tell you?--I think
I should have written to you had I known your address."

"And I am sure you would have made me the happiest of men," said the
victim, with rueful politeness. "What had I done to deserve such a
privilege? But my sister did not tell me; she left me to hear it from
your own----"

"Yes," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a certain solemnity, interrupting
him; "I have been thinking a great deal--and _hearing_ a great deal
about you, Mr Cavendish." When she had said this Lucilla sighed, and her
sigh found a terrible echo in her hearer's bosom. She knew that he
turned green in the darkness as he gave an anxious look at her. But he
was too much alarmed to give her an opportunity of studying his face.

"_Hearing_ of me," he said, and tried to laugh; "what have my kind
friends been saying?" and for one moment the sufferer tried to delude
himself that it was some innocent gossip about Barbara which might be
circulating in Grange Lane.

"Hush," said Lucilla, "don't laugh, please; for I want to have a very
serious talk. I have been hearing about you from some very, very old
friends, Mr Cavendish--not anything about _this_, you know," Miss
Marjoribanks added, waving her hand in the direction of Grove Street.
And then Barbara Lake and everything connected with her vanished like a
shadow from the unfortunate man's mind. It was horribly ungrateful on
his part, but it was, as Miss Marjoribanks would have said, just what
might have been expected, and how They always behave. He had no longer
any time or patience for the object which had been giving occupation and
interest to his solitude. He woke up in a moment, and gave a passing
curse to his folly, and faced the real danger as he best could.

"You must be making a mistake, Miss Marjoribanks," he said, with some
bitterness; "it should have been, very, very old enemy. I know who it
is. It is that Archdeacon you ladies make such a fuss about. It is he
who has been telling lies about me," said Mr Cavendish. He breathed a
deep hard breath as he spoke, and the blood came back to his face.
Perhaps for the first moment he felt satisfied, and breathed freer after
it was over; but at the same time it was very dreadful to him to feel
that he was found out, and that henceforth Grange Lane would shut its
doors and avert its countenance. "If you take his word for it, I may
give in at once," he continued, bitterly. "A parson will say anything;
they are as bad as--as women." This the poor man said in his despair,
because he did not know what he was saying; for in reality he knew that
women had been his best friends, and that he had still a chance, if the
judgment was to rest with them.

"You are very ungrateful to say so," said Miss Marjoribanks, "but it is
only because you are excited, I suppose. No, Mr Cavendish, it was not
the Archdeacon; on the contrary, it was a lady, and she said nothing but
good of you," said Lucilla; and then there was a pause. As for Mr
Cavendish, it would be altogether impossible to describe the state of
his mind. He was like a man suddenly reprieved, but giddy with the
shock, and feeling the halter still round his neck, and knowing that he
had himself undermined the ground on which he was standing. It was
Lucilla who supported him in the shock of the moment, for all his
self-command could not keep him from a momentary shiver and stagger when
he found that things were not so bad as he thought.

"A lady, and she said nothing but good!" he muttered, under his breath;
and then he made an effort to recover himself. "Pardon me, I cannot
guess who my unknown friend may be. It is very soothing to one's
feelings to be spoken well of by a lady," said Mr Cavendish, and he
laughed again in a discordant unsteady way. Lucilla regarded him through
all these fluctuations with natural pity, and at the same time with the
calmness of a knowledge which was aware of all and had nothing more to
discover; and at the end Mr Cavendish perceived her calm, and the
absence of wonder and curiosity in her face, and began to perceive that
he had something very serious to deal with--more serious even than he
had at first supposed.

"I am going to tell you all about it," said Miss Marjoribanks, "but in
the meantime wait a minute and let me speak to you. I have something
very serious to say."

It was for this they stopped short at the foot of Grange Lane just where
the land was already parcelled out for St Roque's. What Lucilla was
going to say was too important to be spoken while walking, and she
withdrew her hand from Mr Cavendish's arm. They were both so much
absorbed that they did not see anybody coming, nor indeed had any
attention to spare for external affairs. The blood had deserted Mr
Cavendish's face, and he was once more green with anxiety and
inquietude. He stood facing her, feeling that the crisis of his fate
had come, and not knowing whether it was absolute despair or a faint
dawning of hope that possessed him. If he had been the most passionate
of lovers, and if she had held in her hands the dreadful alternative
between rapture and misery, there could not have been a more rapt and
absorbing attention in Mr Cavendish's face.

"I want to tell you, first of all, that you must have confidence in me,"
said Lucilla; "you--must--have confidence in me. We can do nothing
without that. I know everything, Mr Cavendish," Miss Marjoribanks added
compassionately--"_everything_; but nobody else knows it. I hope I can
arrange everything if it is left in my hands. This is what I wanted to
tell you first of all. Before everything, you must have confidence in
me."

What Mr Cavendish might have answered to this solemn appeal it would be
vain to imagine; for the truth was, he was stopped before he could utter
a word. He was stopped and seized by the hand, and greeted with a
frankness which was, perhaps, all the more loud and cordial from what
appeared to the new-comer the comic character of the situation. "It _is_
Cavendish, by Jove!" the intruder exclaimed, waving his hand to some
people who were coming on behind him. "I beg a thousand pardons for
disturbing you, my dear fellow; but they all talk about you so, that I
was determined to make sure it was you. Good heavens, Miss
Marjoribanks!" General Travers added, taking off his hat. It was Mr and
Mrs Centum who were coming down behind him--she with a light shawl
thrown over her head, tempted out by the beauty of the evening; and
Lucilla saw in a moment the consequences of this encounter, and how it
would be over all Carlingford before to-morrow morning that she and Mr
Cavendish were betrothed at the very least. Miss Marjoribanks had all
her wits about her, as ever, fortunately for both.

"Yes, it is me," she said calmly; "I have been taking tea with the
Lakes, and I made Mr Cavendish give me his arm home. He did not like
being found out, to be sure, but he could not help himself; and we all
know about that," Lucilla added, with a smile, taking once more the
unfortunate man's arm. "Oh, yes, we all know," said Mrs Centum, with a
laugh; but yet, notwithstanding, everybody felt sure that it was all
Lucilla's cleverness, and that Barbara Lake was a myth and fiction. And
it was thus, with Miss Marjoribanks leaning on his arm, and General
Travers, in all the warmth of renewed friendship, guarding him on the
other side, that Mr Cavendish, whose head was in a whirl of excitement,
and who did not know what he was doing, was led back in triumph past
Colonel Chiley's very door, where the Archdeacon was lying in wait to
crunch his bones, back from all his aberrations into the very heart of
Grange Lane.



_Chapter XXIX_


Mr Cavendish was led back to his own house that evening by General
Travers, whose claim of acquaintance was too decided to be rejected. He
never knew very well what passed between the moment when Miss
Marjoribanks began to expound to him the urgent necessity that he should
confide in her, and the moment in which he found himself in his own
house, admitted eagerly by the surprised and anxious servants, and
conducted by the energetic soldier. That he had taken leave of Lucilla
at her own door, that he had watched her white dress sweep away into the
dark garden with a faint sense that it was his only remaining protector
who thus left him, and that after that he had smoked a horrible cigar
with Mr Centum, and been accompanied home by the old acquaintance, who
had turned up at so unlucky a moment,--was all that the poor man was
aware of. And yet it is to be supposed that on the whole he behaved
himself very much like other people, since General Travers had no
distinct idea that his company was undesirable, or that his cordial
recognition was anything but welcome. The General, indeed, took it as
quite natural, under the circumstances, that Cavendish should be a
little confused. A man who is no longer a very young man, and has a
character to support, does not care to be found mooning with the object
of his affections on a summer evening, like a boy of twenty; and General
Travers was perfectly aware that he had thus a very good joke against
Cavendish. "It is worth a man's while to set up a bachelor establishment
in the country," the General said. "By Jove! I wish I could do it. It
makes a fellow feel Arcadian, and ready for anything;" and for his own
part he was very ready to seize upon his former acquaintance, a man who
belonged to his club, and had a chance to know what he was talking
about. "As for Charlie Centum," the soldier said, "what between business
and matrimony, he has grown the greatest guy imaginable; and I can't go
off directly, you know; and then there's always this business about the
depot. It's immense luck to find you here, Cavendish," General Travers
added, with flattering cordiality; and if poor Mr Cavendish was not
grateful, it certainly was not his friend's fault. He led the way into
his house with a glum countenance and a sinking heart, though
fortunately the latter was not visible. It was a very nice house, fitted
up with all that luxury of comfort which a man who has, as Mrs Centum
said, "only himself to look to," can afford to collect around him. Mr
Cavendish had only himself, and he had made his habitation perfect,
though, on the whole, he did not pass a very great deal of his time at
home. He had some nice pictures and a good library, though he was not
particularly given to the arts; and he had an admirable cellar, as all
the gentlemen owned in Carlingford, though, for his own part, he was
very moderate in that point, and did not give himself any airs on the
subject. Mr Centum, on the contrary, was one of the men who talk about
vintages, and raise expectations never to be carried out. And General
Travers could not but feel the force of the contrast as he sat deep into
the night, and "talked over everything," with the man who by that time
he felt convinced was one of his best friends.

As for Mr Cavendish, it would be very difficult to describe his
feelings. He had been knocking about in all sorts of poor places, making
clandestine visits to his sister, and hovering round the more than
suburban simplicity of Grove Street, and the sense of being once more
enveloped and surrounded by all that was pleasant to the eye and
comfortable to the outer man was wonderfully consolatory and agreeable.
But his mind was in a dreadfully harassed condition all the same. He was
preoccupied to the last degree, wondering what Miss Marjoribanks really
knew, and how far he had betrayed himself, and to what extent it would
be safe, as she herself said, to confide in Lucilla; and at the same
time he was obliged to listen to and show a certain interest in the
General's stories, and to make now and then a painful effort of mind to
recall some of the mutual friends referred to, whose names and persons
had in the meantime slipped out of his memory. All the babble of the
club, which General Travers felt must be so refreshing to the ears of a
rusticated member, fell as flat upon Mr Cavendish, whose mind was full
of other matters, as if it had been the merest old woman's gossip,
which, to be sure, it slightly resembled in some points. The gallant
General made himself so agreeable that he nearly drove the unfortunate
man out of his senses, and, when he had exhausted all other means of
aggravation, returned with fresh zest to the sentimental circumstances
in which, as he supposed, he had found his companion out.

"Very sensible I call it," said General Travers. "To be candid, I don't
call her strictly handsome, you know; she's too big for that--and I
don't suppose she's of any family to speak of; though perhaps you don't
mind that trifling circumstance; but a woman that will dress well and
light up well, and knows how to give a man a capital dinner, by Jove!
and no doubt has a pretty little bit of money into the bargain--I
respect your taste, Cavendish," said the friendly critic, with effusion;
and somehow this applause irritated its recipient more than all that had
gone before.

"I am sure I am much obliged to you," said Mr Cavendish, "though,
unfortunately, I don't merit your approbation. Miss Marjoribanks is a
great friend of mine, but she wouldn't have me, and I don't mean to ask
her. At the same time, she has very good connections; and that is not
the way to talk of a girl of twenty. She is worth a dozen of your fast
young ladies," said the sufferer, with some heat. He was not in the
least in love with Lucilla, and indeed had a certain dread of her at
this present moment; but he could not forget that she had once stood by
him in his need--and, besides, he was glad of any subject on which he
could contradict his visitor. "I dare say her family is better than
either yours or mine. Scotch, you know," said Mr Cavendish, trying to
laugh. As for the General, he leaned back on his chair with an indulgent
air, and stroked his mustache.

"Beg your pardon--meant no offence," he said. "For my part, I don't see
that it matters, if a woman is good-looking and has something, you know.
For instance, there was a pretty little thing--a charming little
thing--Lake, or something like that----"

"Ah!" said Mr Cavendish. It was a frightful want of self-control; but he
had been a long time at full strain, and he could not help it. It did
not occur to him, for the moment, that nobody in his senses would have
applied the term "little thing" to Barbara; and, after all the slow
aggravation that he had been submitting to, the idea of this insolent
soldier interfering in Grove Street was beyond his power of endurance.
As for the General, the tone of this exclamation was such that he too
turned round on his chair, and said, "Yes?" with equally unmistakable
meaning, startled, but ready for the emergency, whatever it might be.

Thus the two looked at each other for a second, friends in the ordinary
acceptation of the word, and yet, perhaps, on the eve of becoming
enemies. Mr Cavendish had, up to that moment, pretty nearly forgotten
Barbara Lake. It was a piquant sort of occupation when he had nothing
else to do, and when the world, according to his morbid fancy, was on
the eve of turning its back upon him--but from the moment when he had
said between his teeth "Confound these women!" and had felt the
excitement of the approaching crisis, Barbara, and her crimson cheeks,
and her level eyebrows, and her contralto, had gone altogether out of
his mind. At the same time, it is quite true that a man may feel himself
at liberty to forget a woman when other matters of more immediate
interest are absorbing his attention, and yet be driven furious by the
idea suddenly presented to him that somebody else, who has nothing
earthly to do with it, is about to interfere. Mr Cavendish, however,
recovered himself while the General sat staring at him, and began to see
how ridiculous his defiance was.

"Well?--go on. I did not say anything," he said, and lighted another
cigar. Yet he did not face his companion as a friendly listener should,
but began to beat measure to an irritating imaginary air on the table,
with a certain savage energy by moments, as if he were beating time on
the General's head.

"Then why do you stop a fellow short like that?" said General Travers;
"I was going to tell you of some one I saw the other day in the house of
your--your friend, you know. She was under Miss Marjoribanks's wing,
that was how I saw her--and I hope you are not playing the gay deceiver,
my friend;--a little thing, round-faced, hazel-eyed--a little soft
rosebud sort of creature," said the General, growing eloquent. "By Jove!
Cavendish, I hope you don't mean to make yourself disagreeable. These
sort of looks, you know----"

"It was Rose, I suppose," said Mr Cavendish, relieved in a moment; and,
to tell the truth, he could not help laughing. The more eloquent and
angry the General grew, the more amused and contemptuous grew his
entertainer. He was so tickled by the position of affairs, that he
actually forgot his anxieties for the moment. "No doubt it was Rose," he
repeated, and laughed; Rose! what anybody could see in that little
dragon! And then the contrast between the soldier, who prided himself on
his knowledge of the world, and liked to talk of his family and
position, to the annoyance of those who had none, and the amusement of
those who happen to possess these valuable qualifications--and the
mistress of the Female School of Design, filled Mr Cavendish with
amusement: perhaps all the more because he himself was in a similar
scrape. As for General Travers, he was as much disposed to be angry as,
a moment before, Mr Cavendish had been.

"It might be Rose," he said, "or Lily either, for anything I can tell;
but there is nothing laughable in it that I can see. You seem to be
perfectly _au courant_, at all events--which I hope is quite
satisfactory to Miss Marjoribanks," said the soldier; and then he
resumed, after a disagreeable little pause, "they tell me that everybody
meets at the Doctor's on Thursdays. I suppose I shall see you there.
Thursday, ain't it? to-morrow?" He looked as he spoke, with what seemed
to his victim an insulting consciousness, in poor Cavendish's face. But,
in reality, the General did not mean to be insulting, and knew nothing
whatever of the horrible internal pang which rent his companion when it
was thus recalled to him that it _was_ to-morrow--a fact which, up to
this moment, had not occurred to the unfortunate. To-morrow; and not
even to-morrow--to-day--for by this time it was two o'clock in the
morning, and the unwelcome intruder was wasting the little time he had
for deciding what he should do. Once more his own personal anxieties,
which he had put aside for a moment at the sudden dictate of jealousy,
surged over everything, and swallowed up all lesser sensations.
To-morrow!--and by this time everybody knew that he was in Carlingford,
and he could not stay away from the weekly assembly without attracting
general attention to himself, and throwing open the flood-gates of
suspicion. What was he to do? should he turn his back on the enemy once
for all, and run away and break off his connection with Carlingford? or
should he dare everything and face the Archdeacon, and put his trust in
Lucilla, as that high-minded young woman had invited him to do? With
these thoughts in his mind, it may be supposed that Mr Cavendish gave
but a very mingled attention to the babble of his visitor, who found the
wine and the cigars so good, and perhaps had begun to be a little moved
out of his ordinary lucidity by their effect.

"You've got a nice little house, Cavendish," said the General, "but it's
too small for a married man, my boy. These women are the very deuce for
turning a man out of his comfortable quarters. You'll have to go in for
boudoirs and those sort of things; and, by George! you'll be an ass if
you do, with a snug little box like this to retire into," said the
philosophical warrior; and poor Cavendish smiled a ghastly smile, with
the strongest inclination all the time to take him by the collar and
turn him out of doors. But then he _was_ a warrior and a general
officer, and a member of the same club, and six feet high--all which
particulars, not to speak of the sacred rights of hospitality, made it
somewhat difficult to carry this idea out.

"Don't you think Centum will be sitting up for you?" he said mildly;
"it's past two o'clock; and it's Thursday morning," the victim added,
with a sigh. The last words were an involuntary utterance of his own
despair, but fortunately they struck General Travers's vein of humour,
which happened to be lively at the moment, and worked the desired but
unexpected result. The General laughed loud and long, and declared that
he respected a man who was above-board, and meant to look respectable
for Miss Marjoribanks's sake; and then he poured a mighty libation to
Lucilla, and took an affectionate leave of her supposed lover. The
General made a great commotion in the decorous quiet of Grange Lane when
he knocked at Mr Centum's door. Though it was nearly three o'clock in
the morning, nothing but his inherent dread of a woman would have
prevented him from knocking up the banker to share his hilarity; but Mrs
Centum, in her nightcap, peaceably asleep as she was at the moment,
daunted the soul of the gallant soldier; and naturally his recollection
was not very perfect next day. "I had something very funny to tell you;
but, by Jove! I forget what it was!" General Travers said next morning
when he met his host at breakfast; and thus one bad joke at least was
spared. But Mr Cavendish shut his door upon his departing guest, without
any sense, poor fellow, of having done or said anything in the least
funny. He said, "Thank Heaven!" with a kind of groan of relief when his
troublesome visitor was gone. And then he went back again into his
library, where they had been sitting. Perhaps he had never fully
appreciated before the comfort of everything, the handsome house which
he had enjoyed so long without thinking anything of it, and all the
pleasant luxurious accessories of life. He had been doing without them
for a week or two, and he had not liked it; and yet at that moment it
seemed to Mr Cavendish that he could rather be content to lose them all
at a stroke, to make it known in Carlingford that he was ruined and had
lost his fortune, than that Carlingford should find out that he was not,
after all, one of the Cavendishes, nor the person it took him for. But,
alas! all his fortune could not bring reality to these pretensions, nor
hinder the exposure to which he looked forward with such horror. It is
true that he was an adventurer, but he was not a base one; nor had he
done anything dishonourable either to gain his fortune or to captivate
the good opinion of society, which had become so important to him. But
there are actual crimes that would be sooner forgiven to a man than the
folly of having permitted himself to be considered one of the
Cavendishes, and having set his heart on making a figure in that mild
provincial world. Mr Cavendish knew enough of human nature to know that
a duchess or a lord-chamberlain would forgive more readily than Mr and
Mrs Centum any such imposition upon them, and intrusion into their
exclusive circle. And then his sister, who could not run away! For her
sake it seemed to him that he had better rush off at once, and sell his
house and furniture and horses, and give up Carlingford. As he thought
of that, all the advantages of Carlingford came upon him stronger than
ever. Perhaps a man who has always been used to be recognised as one of
the members of a local aristocracy, would not have seen anything half so
precious as Mr Cavendish saw in the fact of being everywhere known and
acknowledged as a constituent part of Grange Lane;--recognised by the
county people, and by the poor people, and pointed out as he passed by
one and another to any stranger who might happen to be so ignorant as
not to know Mr Cavendish. To people who are not used to it, there is a
charm in this universal acknowledgment. And then he had more need of it
than most men have; and, when Carlingford signed his patent of
gentility, and acknowledged and prized him, it did an infinite deal more
than it had any intention of doing. To keep its regard and recognition
he would have done anything, given up the half or three parts, or even,
on emergency, all he had. Perhaps he had an undue confidence in the
magnanimity of society, and was too sure that in such a case it would
behave with a grandeur worthy of the occasion; but still he was quite
right in thinking that it could forgive the loss of his fortune sooner
than his real offence. And now it was Thursday morning, the day upon
which he must either fight or flee. He too had laughed at Miss
Marjoribanks's evenings in his time, and thought of Thursday lightly as
Lucilla's day; but there was nothing in the least amusing in the
prospect of that assembly now.

When a man has thoughts like these to entertain him, nothing can be more
useless than to go to bed, although in ordinary circumstances, at three
o'clock in the morning, that is about the only thing one can do. Poor Mr
Cavendish, however, was not quite free to act as he thought proper. He
had been a long time away from home, and he did not feel himself in a
position to shock his servants' feelings with impunity. He went to his
room, accordingly, like a martyr, carrying all his difficulties with
him, and these unpleasant companions naturally made a night of it when
they had him all to themselves. When sheer fatigue and exhaustion
procured him a moment's sleep, it was only getting deeper and deeper
into trouble: for then it was the Archdeacon who had planted a heavy
foot on his neck, or General Travers, who, with still more fatal force,
had found out the way to Grove Street. When Mr Cavendish awoke, he said
to himself, "Confound these women!" with more fervour than ever; but, at
the same time, he swore a mighty oath to himself that he would horsewhip
the fellow who ventured to come in his way. Barbara Lake might be no
great things, but at least it was to him, and no one else, that she
belonged. Such was the complication that afforded him a little outlet
for his temper in the midst of the dreadful difficulties of his
position, and the question which was constantly renewing itself in his
thoughts, as to whether he should go or stay. The idea of presenting
himself in the centre of society in Miss Marjoribanks's drawing-room,
and being met by the Archdeacon, and held up to public contempt there
and then, with all the world looking on, and even Travers, who would
carry the narrative out of Carlingford, was something too horrible to be
contemplated; and yet how was he to escape? He was still in this state
of mind, driven backwards and forwards by every new wind, when the
morning came, and when Miss Marjoribanks's note was put into his hand.

For the truth was, that, after long consideration, Lucilla had
determined that the matter was one which could not be permitted to stand
over. She was of too energetic a temperament to let things linger on in
an uncertain way when they could be made an end of, and brought to a
conclusion; and then, as nobody can predict what sudden and unexpected
turn human affairs may take, it was always possible that, if Miss
Marjoribanks did not make an end of the business dramatically, and to
the satisfaction of everybody concerned, it might be found some fine day
to have resolved itself by means of some one of those illegitimate and
incomplete expedients which abound in ordinary life. It was with this
view that Miss Marjoribanks took the step of writing to Mr Cavendish.
She had written in the sacred retirement of her own maiden chamber, when
all the world was still; perhaps at the moment when General Travers was,
as he would himself have vulgarly called it, "chaffing" Cavendish about
the beautiful and disinterested friendship which united him to the young
sovereign of Grange Lane. But naturally such poor raillery was far from
the virginal thoughts of Lucilla at that retired and sacred hour; and we
may venture to add that the elevating influence of the maiden's bower in
which she composed it, and of that tranquil moment of meditation and
solitude, breathed in every line, and gave force to every sentiment of
the letter which Mr Cavendish tore open with an excited hand. Perhaps he
was too anxious and curious to give it the solemn perusal which it ought
to have received.

     "MY DEAR MR CAVENDISH,--It was very unlucky that we should have
     been interrupted this evening at such an important moment, when I
     had so much to say to you. But I think the best thing I can do is
     to write, feeling quite sure that when you know all, _you cannot
     possibly mistake_ my motives. Everybody has retired, and I am quite
     alone, and the silence[2] seems to me full of meaning when I think
     that the fate of a person for whom I have so great a regard may be
     hanging upon it. I might be afraid of writing to you so frankly, if
     I did not feel quite sure that you would appreciate my intention.

     "Dear Mr Cavendish, it is not the Archdeacon who has said anything.
     _He does not know it is you_; therefore, of course, he could not
     say anything directly bearing upon you. But then, you know, if he
     were to meet you by hazard, as he is sure to do some day--and for
     my part I rather think he is fond of Grove Street--you would be
     exposed at once, and everything would be lost, for we all know the
     prejudices that exist in Carlingford. I have another plan of
     operations to propose to you, which I feel quite sure is for your
     good, and also naturally for the good of anybody to whom you may
     intend to unite your fortunes. I feel quite sure that it is far
     safer to adopt a bold resolution, and to have it over at once. Come
     to dinner to-morrow. If you may happen to find an enemy, you will
     find also an unlooked-for friend; and, so far as I am concerned,
     you _know_ that you may calculate on my support. I do not wonder at
     your being anxious about it; but if you will only have full
     confidence in me and a little in yourself, believe me it will be
     all over in a night. If there had ever been anything between you
     and me, as these stupid people suppose, I might have felt
     hesitation in writing to you like this; but when I know a thing to
     be right, I hope I will never be afraid to do it. I have been
     called upon to do many things that are not common for girls of my
     age, and perhaps that is why I made up my mind at once to set this
     all straight for you. Once more I repeat, dear Mr Cavendish, have
     confidence in me. Come to-morrow evening as if nothing had
     happened; and take my word for it that all will go well.--Your
     friend,

     "LUCILLA MARJORIBANKS.

     "_P.S._--If you would like to come and talk it over with me
     to-morrow, I shall be at home till twelve o'clock; but unless it
     will be a satisfaction to your own mind, it is not necessary for
     me, for I have all my plans laid."

[Footnote 2: It is only justice to Miss Marjoribanks to say that she was
not addicted to fine writing; but then she was a person who liked to
have everything in keeping, and naturally an emergency such as the
present does not come every day, and requires to be treated
accordingly.]

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be quite out of the question to attempt any explanation of Mr
Cavendish's feelings when he read this letter. His utter bewilderment,
his terror, his rage, his final helpless sense that it would be utterly
hopeless for him, or half a dozen men, to enter the field against this
curious complication of unknown friends and open enemies and generous
protectors, took away from him the last remnant of courage. He did not
know what to do or to think. He swallowed his coffee with a sense of
despair, and sent the rest of his breakfast away untasted; thus
betraying, without intending it, his emotions to his kitchen. "It stands
to reason as there's a cause for it," Mr Cavendish's domestics concluded
in committee of the whole house; and surely, if ever man had good reason
for not eating his breakfast, it was he. When he had gone over it all
again till his head had grown utterly confused and his thoughts were all
topsy-turvy, Mr Cavendish took a sudden resolution. He went upstairs and
changed his dress with a certain solemnity. He made a toilette more
careful than if he were going, as he once had gone, to propose. It was
like Nelson going into gala uniform for a battle. And then he went out
to discover, if possible, what was coming to him. The difference was,
that in this battle no honour, but only a possible salvage of reputation
and fortunate escape, was to be gained.



_Chapter XXX_


It is possible that some people may think Mr Cavendish's emotions too
acute for all the danger to which he was exposed; but no doubt every
alarm gets intensified when a man broods on it, and thinks of nothing
else for weeks at a time. All that he had to do at the present moment
was to walk into Carlingford by the most frequented way, and to go up
Grange Lane, where every house was open to him, and where nobody was so
great a favourite as he. There were as many chances in his favour that
he would not in that friendly neighbourhood encounter his one enemy, as
there is for every man who goes into action that the bullet which is
predestined to strike somebody will not be directed to him; but then Mr
Cavendish had not the excitement of personal conflict, nor the kind of
security which is given by sharing a risk with a great many other
people. And to see everything smiling and serene around, and yet to know
that the most deadly danger may arrive to you at any innocent opening,
or round the first street-corner, is a kind of risk which naturally
tells upon the nerves more than a more open peril. Mr Cavendish met Dr
Marjoribanks, and the Doctor was good enough to stop his brougham and
keep him in conversation for five minutes with his back to the foe, if
foe there was approaching; and then he met Mrs Chiley, who all but
kissed him, and was so glad to see him again, and so pleased that he was
in time to make acquaintance with the Archdeacon, and so sure that
Lucilla would be quite happy now he had come back. "Perhaps I ought not
to say so, but I _know_ she has missed you," said the injudicious old
lady; and she took both his hands and held the miserable man in a kind
of pillory, from whence he gazed with despairing eyes over her shoulder,
feeling sure that now was the fatal moment, and that his enemy _must_ be
coming. But fortune still favoured him, as it happened. He had the
presence of mind to say, "I am going to call on Miss Marjoribanks;" and
Mrs Chiley dropped his hands on the instant as if they burned her, and
patted him on the arm and sent him away. "She is sure to be in just now,
and I am so glad; and, my dear, you need not mind me, for I am both your
friends," Mrs Chiley said. But when he was delivered from that danger,
something still more formidable awaited the unfortunate man. He could
not believe his eyes at first, nor conceive it possible that Fate would
have such a spite against him; but there was no mistaking the crumpled
dress, any more than the straight eyebrows and flashing oblique glances
that had already found him out. Of all the horrible chances in the
world, it was Barbara--Barbara, who had a right to think he had deserted
her on the previous night, and with whom his next interview could not be
otherwise than stormy--who thus appeared like a lion in his way. When he
saw what awaited him, Mr Cavendish lost courage. His heart sank down
into unfathomable depths. He did not know what he could say to her to
shorten the inevitable interview, nor how he could escape, nor how
hinder her from discovering that it was Lucilla he was going to see; and
he had no longer any doubt in his mind that while he was thus engaged
the Archdeacon must inevitably appear. If he had had time to think of
ordinary subjects, he would have been sufficiently annoyed at the idea
of an interview with Barbara in broad daylight on the sacred soil of
Grange Lane, where all the world could or might be spectators; but such
a merely prudential sentiment was entirely swallowed up to-day in much
more urgent considerations. He would have been content just now, in the
horror of the moment, to plight his troth to Barbara by way of getting
rid of her, and leaving his path clear; but he could not stop her or
himself from advancing, and dared not give any vent to the panic which
was consuming his soul.

"Oh, I am sure I never thought of seeing you here, Mr Cavendish," said
Barbara, with a toss of her head. She would have done a great deal to
secure her wavering lover, but she could not be amiable at a moment when
she had him at a disadvantage. "Perhaps you are going to see Miss
Marjoribanks," said the foolish young woman. To tell the truth, she did
not suspect him of any such treachery; but her heart was beating louder
than usual, and she had the best position of the two, or thought she
had, and chose what she supposed the most aggravating thing to say.

But it is always hard to tell what a man may do when he is in a state of
despair. Mr Cavendish looked her in the face with the composure of
desperation, though she did not know that. All that he was able to think
of was how to get rid of her soonest, and to be able to continue his
way. "Yes, I am going to see Miss Marjoribanks," he said, with a face
which extremity rendered stolid and impassible. As for poor Barbara, her
colour changed in a moment. The very least that she had a right to
expect was that he should have asked her pardon, put himself at her
feet; and her mingled spite and humiliation and mortification at this
response were beyond telling. Her cheeks blazed with sudden rage, her
passion was so furious that she actually did what he wanted and stood
out of his way, and made him an imperious sign to pass on and leave her.
But even then she did not expect to be taken at her word. When Mr
Cavendish took off his hat in that heartless way and passed on, Barbara
stood aghast, not able to believe her senses. Had he really passed and
left her, she who had done so much for him? Had he actually gone over to
her adversary before her very eyes? She stood stock-still when he left
her, gazing after him, blazing with rage and despite, and scarcely able
to keep herself from shrieking out the torrent of reproaches and
vituperations that were in her mind. She made no attempt whatever to
hide her wrath or jealous curiosity from any eyes that might be there to
see; but to be sure she had, as her sister said, no proper pride. If Mr
Cavendish had carried out his intentions, the chances are that Barbara,
driven desperate, would have rushed after him, and found some means of
breaking in upon his interview with Lucilla; but after all this
badgering, he had not the courage to carry out his intentions. He looked
down the long sunshiny line of Grange Lane with a sickening sense that
any of these doors might open at any moment, and his fate rush out upon
him. There was not a soul to be seen, but that only made it all the more
likely to poor Mr Cavendish's distempered fancy that somebody was
coming. He had not even a single thought at leisure to give to Barbara,
and never asked himself whether or not she was standing watching him.
All his senses and faculties were engaged forecasting what might happen
to him before he could reach Dr Marjoribanks's house. He was approaching
it from the lower end of Grange Lane, and consequently had everything to
risk; and when Mr Centum's door opened, and all the nurses and all the
children poured out, the unfortunate man felt his heart jump, and drop
again, if possible, lower than ever. It was this that drove him, instead
of going on to Lucilla, to take refuge in his sister's house, where the
door happened to be open. He rushed in there, and took breath, and was
safe for the instant. But Barbara, for her part, watching him, divined
none of Mr Cavendish's reasons. Her heart too gave a jump, and her wrath
cooled down miraculously. No doubt it was a little impatience at being
questioned which had made him answer as he did. He had not gone to
Lucilla--he had not deserted her standard, who had always met him
half-way, and done so much for him. Barbara calmed down as she saw him
enter at Mrs Woodburn's door. After having thus witnessed his safe exit,
she felt at liberty to go back and return to her own affairs, and
prepare her toilette for the evening; for it moved her very little less
than Mr Cavendish to know that it was Thursday, and that there was no
telling what might happen that night.

As for the hero of all this commotion, he went and buried himself in Mrs
Woodburn's back drawing-room, and threw himself on the sofa in the dark
corner, and wiped his forehead like the Archdeacon. It was not his fault
if events had overwhelmed him. If he had not met in succession Dr
Marjoribanks and Mrs Chiley and Barbara, he would have gone right to
Lucilla without stopping to question himself further--but he could not
bear all this accumulation. Panic had seized upon him, and this panic
wrought more effectually than all argument. It was so terrible to live
under such a shadow, that he felt it must be put an end to. If only he
were left at rest for this moment, he felt that he could make up his
mind to take the perilous leap at night, and dare everything. "It can't
be worse than ruin," he said to himself, and tried not to think that
for his sister it might be something even worse than ruin. But the first
thing of all was to get a little rest in the meantime, and hide himself,
and forget the nightmare that was seated on his shoulders. When Mrs
Woodburn came to him in haste, and saw his careful dress and pale looks,
she was frightened for the moment. She thought it possible for one
second that despair had driven him out of his wits, and that there might
be, for anything she could tell, a little bottle of prussic acid in his
waistcoat pocket. That was her first idea, and her second was that he
was going to carry out at last his most wise and laudable resolution of
proposing to Miss Marjoribanks, and that it was this--naturally a
serious and hazardous enterprise--which made him look so pale.

"Harry, if you are going to Lucilla----!" said Mrs Woodburn; "wait and
rest yourself a little, and I will get you a glass of wine. Keep still;
there's some Tokay," said the anxious sister. "Don't you go and worry
yourself. You shall see nobody. I'll bring it you with my own hand."

"Oh, confound the Tokay!" said Mr Cavendish. "I know what Woodburn's
Tokay is--if that mattered. Look here, I want to speak to you. I _was_
going to Lucilla, but I'm not up to it. Oh, not in the way you think!
Don't be a fool like everybody. I tell you she wouldn't have me, and I
won't ask her. Read this, which is much more to the purpose," Mr
Cavendish added, taking out Miss Marjoribanks's letter. He watched her,
while she read it, with that sense of contempt and superiority which a
man naturally feels who has advanced much beyond the point in any
special matter at which his interlocutor is still stationary. He even
smiled at her cry of horror and amazement, and found the agitation she
showed ridiculous. "Don't make a row about it," he said, regaining his
colour as his sister lost hers. "It's all right. I can't ask Lucilla
Marjoribanks to have me after that, but I mean to put my trust in her,
as she says. I was going to ask her to explain; but after all, on
thinking of it, I don't see the good of explanations," said Mr
Cavendish, with lofty tranquillity. "The fact is, she is right, Nelly,
and, stand or fall, we'll have it out to-night."

But Mrs Woodburn was scarcely in a condition to reply, much less to give
any advice. "Oh, good heavens! what does she know?" cried the trembling
woman. "What do you suppose she can know? She gave me a dreadful
fright, coming and asking about you and your name. And then she never
was a great friend of mine--and if she should say anything to Woodburn!
Oh, Harry, go away, go away, and don't face her. You know you slighted
her, and she is laying a snare for us. Oh, Harry, go away! She can't do
you much harm, but she could ruin me, and any little peace I have!
Woodburn would never--never forgive--he would be frantic, you know. It
has always been he that made a fuss about the Cavendishes--and, good
heavens! to be in a girl's power, and she one that you have slighted,
Harry! Oh, for Heaven's sake, for pity's sake, if you care anything for
me----"

"Hold your tongue, Nelly," said Mr Cavendish. "Don't make a row. What on
earth is the use of Heaven's-saking? I tell you I am going to make an
end of it. If I were to run away now, it would turn up again at some
other corner, and some other moment. Give me a pen and a bit of paper. I
will write a note, and say I am coming. I don't want any explanations.
If it's all a mistake, so much the better; but I'm going to face it out
to-night."

It was some time before Mrs Woodburn recovered her senses; but in the
meantime her brother wrote Lucilla his note, and in sight of his
sister's agitation felt himself perfectly composed and serene and
manful. It even made him complaisant to feel the difference that there
was, when the emergency really arrived at last, between his own manly
calm and her womanish panic. But then it was for herself that she was
afraid, lest her husband should find out that she was not one of the
Cavendishes. "You must have been giving yourself airs on the subject,"
Mr Cavendish said, as he fastened up his note. "I never was so foolish
as that, for my part;" and naturally the more he admired his own
steadiness and courage, the steadier and more courageous he grew--or at
least so he felt for the moment, with her terror before his eyes.

"If you do go," said Mrs Woodburn at last, "oh, Harry, for goodness'
sake, mind that you deny _everything_. If you confess to anything, it
will all be proved against you; don't allow a single thing that's said
to you. It is a mistaken identity, you know--that is what it is; there
was a case in the papers just the other day. Oh, Harry, for Heaven's
sake don't be weak!--deny everything; you don't know anything about
it--you don't know what they mean--you can't understand----"

"It is I that have to do it, Nelly," said Mr Cavendish, more and more
tranquil and superior. "You must let me do it my way;" and he was very
kind and reassuring to her in his composure. This was how things ought
to be; and it was astonishing how much he gained in his own mind and
estimation by Mrs Woodburn's panic. Being the stronger vessel, he was of
course superior to all that. But somehow when he had got back to his own
house again, and had no longer the spectacle of his sister's terror
before him, the courage began to ooze out of Mr Cavendish's
finger-points; he tried hard to stimulate himself up to the same point,
and to regain that lofty and assured position; but as the evening
approached, matters grew rather worse than better. He did not turn and
flee, because flight, in the present alarmed and touchy state of public
opinion, would have equally been destruction; and nobody could answer
for it how far, if he failed to obey her, Miss Marjoribanks's discretion
might go. And thus the eventful evening fell, and the sun went down,
which was to Mr Cavendish as if it might be the last sun he should ever
(metaphorically) see--while, in the meantime, all the other people
dressed for dinner as if nothing was going to happen, and as if it was
merely a Thursday like other Thursdays, which was coming to Grange
Lane.



_Chapter XXXI_


Lucilla waited till twelve o'clock, as she had said, for Mr Cavendish's
visit; and so mingled are human sentiments, even in the mind of a person
of genius, that there is no doubt she was at once a little disappointed,
and that Mr Cavendish gained largely in her estimation by not coming.
Her pity began to be mingled by a certain respect, of which, to tell the
truth, he was not worthy; but then Miss Marjoribanks did not know that
it was circumstances, and not self-regard, or any sense of dignity, that
had kept him back. With the truest consideration, it was in the
dining-room that Lucilla had placed herself to await his visit; for she
had made up her mind that he should not be disturbed _this time_ by any
untimely morning caller. But as she sat at the window and looked out
upon the garden, and was tantalised by fifty successive ringings of the
bell, none of which heralded her expected visitor, a gentler sentiment
gradually grew in Lucilla's mind. Perhaps it would not be just to call
it positively regret; but yet she could not help a kind of impression
that if the Archdeacon had never come to Carlingford, and if Mr
Cavendish had never been so weak as to be drawn aside by Barbara Lake,
and if everything had gone as might have been expected from first
appearances--that, on the whole, it might have been well. After all, he
had a great many good qualities. He had yielded to panic for the moment,
but (so far as Lucilla knew) he was now girding up his loins to meet the
emergency in a creditable way; and if, as has been just said, nothing
had come in the way--if there had been no Archdeacon, no Mrs Mortimer,
no Barbara--if Mr Chiltern had died, as was to have been expected, and
Mr Cavendish been elected for Carlingford--then Lucilla could not help a
momentary sense that the arrangement altogether might have been a not
undesirable one. Now, of course, all that was at an end. By dexterous
management the crisis might be tided over, and the worst avoided; but
Lucilla became regretfully conscious that now no fate higher than
Barbara was possible for the unfortunate man who might once, and with
hope, have aspired to herself. It was very sad, but there was no help
for it. A certain tenderness of compassion entered Miss Marjoribanks's
bosom as she realised this change. It would be hard if a woman did not
pity a man thus shut out by hard fate from any possibility of ever
becoming the companion of her existence--a man who, on the whole, had
many capabilities, yet whose highest fortune in life could not mount
above Barbara Lake!

This thought filled Lucilla's heart with gentle regret. It was sad, but
it was inevitable; and when Mr Cavendish's note was brought to her, in
which he said simply, and very briefly, that though not sure whether he
understood the meaning of her letter, he should certainly do himself the
pleasure of accepting as usual her kind invitation, Miss Marjoribanks's
regret grew more and more profound. Such a man, who had been capable of
appreciating herself, to think that, having known her, he should decline
upon Barbara! The pity was entirely disinterested, for nobody knew
better than Lucilla that, under the circumstances, no other arrangement
was possible. He might marry the drawing-master's daughter, but Miss
Marjoribanks was too well aware of her duty to her friends, and to her
position in society, to have given her consent to his marriage with
anybody's daughter in Grange Lane. But still it was a pity--nobody could
say that it was not a pity--a man so visibly capable of better things.

Lucilla, however, could not afford to waste her morning in unprofitable
regrets. An evening so critical and conclusive had to be provided for in
many different ways. Among other things, she had to invite, or rather
command, the presence of a guest whom, to tell the truth, she had no
particular desire to see. The Archdeacon was only a man when all was
said, and might change his mind like other men; and to bring Mrs
Mortimer to Grange Lane in the evening, looking interesting, as, to be
sure, she could look by times, after that unpleasant exhibition of Dr
Marjoribanks's feelings, was naturally a trial to Lucilla. Mr Beverley
had drawn back once before, and that when Mrs Mortimer was young, and no
doubt a great deal more attractive than at present; and now that she was
a widow, forlorn and faded, it would be no wonder if he were to draw
back, especially, as Lucilla acknowledged to herself, when he saw the
ancient object of his affections in her own society, and among all the
fresh young faces of Grange Lane: and if the Archdeacon should draw
back, and leave the field open, and perhaps the Doctor, who ought to
know better, should step in--when she had got so far, Lucilla rose up
and shook out her draperies, as if by way of shaking off the
disagreeable idea. "At all events I have to do my duty," she said to
herself. And thus it was with that last and most exquisite refinement of
well-doing, the thought that she might possibly be going to harm herself
in benefiting others, that Miss Marjoribanks heroically put on her hat,
and issued forth in the dinner-hour of the little pupils, to invite her
last and most important guest.

This period of suspense had not been by any means a happy or comfortable
period for Mrs Mortimer. The poor widow was living in a constant
expectation of something happening, whereas her only true policy was to
have made up her mind that nothing would ever happen, and shaped herself
accordingly to her life. Instead of eating her dinner as she ought to
have done at that hour of leisure, and fortifying herself for the weary
afternoon's work, she was sitting as usual at the window when Miss
Marjoribanks came to the door. And if it was a tedious business looking
out of the window when the rain was drenching the four walls of the
garden and breaking down the flowers, and reducing all the poor little
shrubs to abject misery, it could not be said to be much more cheerful
in the sunshine, when pleasant sounds came in over that
enclosure--voices and footsteps of people who might be called alive,
while this solitary woman was buried, and had nothing to do with life.
Such a fate may be accepted when people make up their minds to it; but
when, so far from making up one's mind, one fixes one's thoughts upon
the life outside, and fancies that every moment the call may come, and
one may find one's place again in the active world, the tedium grows
more and more insupportable. As for Lucilla, naturally she could not see
any reason why Mrs Mortimer should sit at the window--why she could not
content herself, and eat her dinner instead.

"There are a great many people in Carlingford who have not nearly such a
pleasant lookout," Lucilla said; "for my part, I think it is a very
pretty garden. The wistaria has grown quite nice, and there is a little
of everything," said Miss Marjoribanks; and, so far as that went, she
was no doubt the best judge, having done it all herself.

"Oh, yes, it is very pretty; and I am sure I am very grateful to
Providence for giving me such a home," said the widow; but she sighed,
poor soul, as she said it: for, to tell the truth, though she was not
so young as she once was, it takes some people a long time to find out
that they themselves are growing old, and have done with life. And then
outside, in that existence which she could hear but could not see, there
was one figure which was wonderfully interesting to poor Mrs Mortimer;
which is a complication which has a remarkable effect on the question of
content or discontent.

"You ought to take a walk every day," said Miss Marjoribanks, "that is
what is the matter with you; but, in the meantime, there is something
else I want you to do. This is Thursday, you know, and I have always
some people on Thursday. It is not a party--it is only an Evening--and
no dress to speak of. Your black silk will look quite nice, and be all
that is necessary. Black is very becoming to some people," said Lucilla
reflectively. She looked at Mrs Mortimer with her head a little on one
side, and saw in a moment, with the rapid glance of genius, just what
she wanted. "And some lace for your head," Miss Marjoribanks added. "I
don't think you have gone off at all, and I am sure you will look very
nice. It is at nine o'clock."

"This evening, Lucilla!" said Mrs Mortimer, faintly: "but you know I
never go out--I am not fit for society. Oh, don't ask me, please! Since
poor Edward died----'

"Yes," said Lucilla, "it must have been a great loss, I am sure; though
I can't say I mind going into a room alone, as some people do; but you
know you can avoid that, if you like, by coming early. Come at eight,
and there will be nobody in the drawing-room, and you can choose your
own corner. Put it quite back--at the back of your head," said Miss
Marjoribanks, with a little anxiety. "I could show you how if I had the
lace. I do so want you to look nice. Oh, never mind the fashion. When
one has a style of one's own, it is always twenty times better. Put it
as you used to wear it before you were married; and then, with that nice
black silk----"

"Oh, Lucilla, don't ask me," said the widow. "I shall not know how to
talk, nor look, nor anything; and then I know nobody; and then----"

"My dear, you have always _me_," said Lucilla, with tender reproach. "I
am so sorry I can't stop any longer. I leave it quite to your own taste
about the lace. And you will find people you know, you may be quite sure
of that. Remember, not later than nine o'clock; and come at eight if you
don't like to come into the room by yourself. Good-bye now. I want you
to look very nice to-night," Miss Marjoribanks added, giving her friend
an affectionate kiss; "you must, for my sake."

"But, Lucilla----" cried Mrs Mortimer.

It was vain to make any further protest, however, for Lucilla was gone,
having, in the first place, communicated her requirements to Mary Jane,
who was not likely to forget, nor to let her mistress be late. "And mind
she is _nice_," said Miss Marjoribanks emphatically, as she went out at
the door. It was necessary she should be nice; without that the intended
_situation_ which Lucilla was preparing--the grand finale of her
exertions--would fall flat, and probably fail of its effect. For this it
was necessary that the widow should look not only pretty, but
interesting, and a little pathetic, and all that a widow should look
when first dragged back into society. Miss Marjoribanks gave a momentary
sigh as she emerged from the garden door, and could not but feel
conscious that in all this she might be preparing the most dread
discomfiture and downfall for herself. Even if it passed over as it
ought to do, and nobody was charmed but the Archdeacon, who was the
right person to be charmed, Lucilla felt that after this she never could
have that entire confidence in her father which she had had up to this
moment. The incipient sentiment Dr Marjoribanks had exhibited was one
that struck at the roots of all faith in him as a father; and every
person of sensibility will at once perceive how painful such a
suggestion must have been to the mind of a young woman so entirely
devoted as was Miss Marjoribanks to the consolation and comfort of her
dear papa.

Lucilla was not allowed to spend the rest of this momentous afternoon in
maturing her plans, as might have been necessary to a lesser
intelligence; and when the refreshing moment came at which she could
have her cup of tea before preparing for the fatigues of the evening, it
was Mrs Chiley who came to assist at that ceremony. The old lady came in
with an important air, and gave Lucilla a long, lingering kiss, as old
ladies sometimes do when they particularly mean it. "My dear, I am not
going to stay a moment, but I thought you might have something to tell
me," the kind old woman said, arranging herself in her chair with the
satisfaction of a listener who expects to be confided in. As for
Lucilla, who had no clue to Mrs Chiley's special curiosity, and who had
a good many things on her mind just at that moment which she rather
preferred not to talk about, she was for once struck with veritable
astonishment, and did not know what to say.

"Dear Mrs Chiley, what should I have to tell you?" said Miss
Marjoribanks. "You know very well where I should go the very first
moment if anything happened;" and by way of staving off more particular
questions, she took her old friend a cup of tea.

"Yes, my dear, I hope so," said Mrs Chiley, but at the same time her
disappointment was evident. "It is very nice, thank you--your tea is
always nice, Lucilla--but it was not that I was thinking of. I can't
understand how it is, I am sure. I saw him to-day with my own eyes, and
could not help seeing how anxious he was looking! I hope, I do hope, you
have not been so cruel as to refuse him, Lucilla--and all for something
that is not his fault, poor fellow, or that could be explained, you may
be sure."

Miss Marjoribanks grew more and more surprised as she listened. She put
away the kettle without filling the teapot, and left her own cup
standing untasted, and went and sat down on the stool by Mrs Chiley's
feet. "Tell me whom I have refused this time, for I don't know anything
about it," said Lucilla; and then her visitor burst forth.

"It must be all that creature's fault! He told me he was coming here;
and to tell the truth, I stood and watched him, for you know how
interested I am, my dear; and then a little while after he met _that_
Barbara. Oh, Lucilla, why were you ever so foolish as to have her here?
I told you how it would end when you brought those artist people about
your house. They are all a set of adventurers!" cried Mrs Chiley. "I saw
them meet, and I was so disgusted that I did not know what I was doing;
but he passed her as nicely as possible. Just a civil word, you know,
and then he was past. Just as I would have done myself; for it is always
best not to be uncivil to anybody. I could see her standing as if she
had been struck with lightning; and naturally, Lucilla, I never thought
anything else than that he had come here, and that all was right between
you. Oh, my dear, I hope you are sure you have not refused him," Mrs
Chiley said, piteously; "anyhow, Lucilla, you need not mind telling
_me_. I may be sorry, but I will not blame you, my dear."

"I have not refused anybody," said Lucilla, with a modest innocence that
it was a pleasure to see; "but, dear Mrs Chiley," she continued,
raising her drooping eyelids, "I think you make a mistake about Mr
Cavendish. My own opinion is that Barbara would make him a very nice
wife. Oh, please, don't be angry! I don't mean to say, you know, that I
think her quite what one would call _nice_--for oneself. But then the
gentlemen have such strange ways of thinking. Many a girl whom we could
not put up with is quite popular with Them," said Miss Marjoribanks,
with a certain mild wonder at the inexplicable creatures whom she thus
condescended to discuss. "I suppose they have a different standard, you
know; and for my part, I would advise Mr Cavendish to marry Barbara. I
think it is the best thing he could do."

"Lucilla!" cried Mrs Chiley, almost with a shriek of horror. She
thought, as was perhaps natural, that there was some pique in what her
young companion said; not doing Miss Marjoribanks justice--as indeed few
people did--for that perfect truthfulness which it was Lucilla's luck
always to be able to maintain. Mrs Chiley thought it was her young
friend's maidenly pride and determination not to take up the part of a
woman slighted or jilted. "You may refuse him, my dear, if your heart is
not with him," said the old lady; "but I would not be so hard upon him
as that, poor fellow. You may say what you please, but I always will
think him nice, Lucilla. I know I ought to be on the Archdeacon's side,"
said Mrs Chiley, putting her handkerchief to her eyes; "but I am an old
woman, and I like my old friends best. Oh, Lucilla, it is not kind of
you to keep up appearances with me. I wish you would give way a little.
It would do you good, my darling; and you know I might be both your
grandmothers, Lucilla," she cried, putting her arm round her favourite.
As for Miss Marjoribanks, she gave her old friend a close embrace, which
was the only thing that even her genius could suggest to do.

"I have always _you_," said Lucilla, with touching eloquence; and then
she freed herself a little from Mrs Chiley's arms. "I don't say,
perhaps, that everybody will receive her; but I mean to make an effort,
for my part; and I shall certainly tell Mr Cavendish so if he ever
speaks of it to me. As for Mr Beverley, he is going to be married too.
Did not you hear? He told me all about it himself one day," said Miss
Marjoribanks; "and I will ask him to-night if I may not tell you who the
lady is. It is quite a little romance, and I hope we shall have two
marriages, and it will make it quite gay for the winter. When you know
all about it," Lucilla added tenderly, by way of breaking the shock, "I
am sure you will be pleased."

But instead of being pleased, Mrs Chiley was speechless for the moment.
Her fresh old cheeks grew ashy with dismay and horror. "The Archdeacon
too!" she cried, gasping for breath. "Oh, Lucilla, my dear?--and you?"
Then the kind old lady held Miss Marjoribanks fast, and sobbed over her
in the despair of the moment. To think, after all the pains that had
been taken, and all the hopes and all the speculations, that neither the
one nor the other was coming to anything! "If it should be that General,
after all--and I cannot abide him," sobbed Lucilla's anxious friend. But
Miss Marjoribanks's genius carried her through this trial, as well as
through all the others which she had yet encountered on her way.

"Dear Mrs Chiley!" said Lucilla, "it is so good of you to care; but if
it had been _that_ I was thinking of, I need never have come home at
all, you know; and my object in life is just what it has always been, to
be a comfort to papa."

Upon which Mrs Chiley kissed her young friend once more with lingering
meaning. "My dear, I don't know what They mean," she said, with
indignation; "everybody knows men are great fools where women are
concerned--but I never knew what idiots they were till now; and you are
too good for them, my darling!" said Mrs Chiley, with indignant
tenderness. Perhaps Miss Marjoribanks was in some respects of the same
way of thinking. She conducted her sympathetic friend to the garden
door, when it came to be time for everybody to go and dress, with a
certain pathetic elevation in her own person, which was not out of
accord with Mrs Chiley's virtuous wrath. To have Mrs Mortimer and
Barbara Lake preferred to her did not wound Lucilla's pride--one can be
wounded in that way only by one's equals. She thought of it with a
certain mild pity and charitable contempt. Both these two men had had
the chance of having _her_, and this was how they had chosen! And there
can be little wonder if Miss Marjoribanks's compassion for them was
mingled with a little friendly and condescending disdain.

It was, however, an ease to Lucilla's mind that she had let Mrs Chiley
know, and was so far free to work out her plans without any fear of
misconception. And on the whole, her old friend's tender indignation was
not disagreeable to her. Thus it was, without any interval of repose to
speak of, that her lofty energies went on unwearied to overrule and
guide the crisis which was to decide so many people's fate.



_Chapter XXXII_


Dr Marjoribanks was not a man to take very much notice of trivial
external changes; and he knew Lucilla and her constitution, and, being a
medical man, was not perhaps so liable to parental anxieties as an
unprofessional father might have been; but even he was a little struck
by Miss Marjoribanks's appearance when he came into the drawing-room. He
said, "You are flushed, Lucilla? is anything going to happen?" with the
calmness of a man who knew there was not much the matter--but yet he did
observe that her colour was not exactly what it always was. "I am quite
well, papa, thank you," said Lucilla, which, to be sure, was a fact the
Doctor had never doubted; and then the people began to come in, and
there was no more to be said.

But there could be no doubt that Lucilla had more colour than usual. Her
pulse was quite steady, and her heart going on at its ordinary rate; but
her admirable circulation was nevertheless so far affected, that the
ordinary rose-tints of her complexion were all deepened. It was not so
distinctly an improvement as it would have been had she been habitually
pale; but still the flush was moderate, and did Miss Marjoribanks no
harm. And then it was a larger party than usual. The Centums were there,
who were General Travers's chaperons, and so were the Woodburns, and of
course Mrs Chiley, which made up the number of ladies beyond what was
general at Dr Marjoribanks's table. Lucilla received all her guests with
the sweetest smiles and all her ordinary ease and self-possession, but
at the same time her mind was not free from some excitement. She was on
the eve of a crisis which would be the greatest failure or the greatest
success of her public life, and naturally she anticipated it with a
certain emotion.

Mr Cavendish, for his part, had sufficient sense to come very early, and
to get into a dark corner and keep himself out of the way; for though he
was screwed up to the emergency, his self-possession was nothing to
that of Lucilla. But on the whole, it was perhaps Mrs Woodburn who
suffered the most. Her heightened colour was more conspicuous than that
of Miss Marjoribanks, because as a general rule she was pale. She was
pale, almost white, and had dark eyes and dark hair, and possessed
precisely all the accessories which make a sudden change of complexion
remarkable; and the effect this evening was so evident that even her
husband admired her for a moment, and then stopped short to inquire, "By
George! had she begun to paint?" to which question Mrs Woodburn
naturally replied only by an indignant shrug of her white shoulders and
aversion of her head. She would not have been sorry, perhaps, for this
night only, if he had believed that it was rouge, and not emotion. Of
all the people at Dr Marjoribanks's table, she perhaps was the only one
really to be pitied. Even Mr Cavendish, if vanquished, would at the most
receive only the recompense of his deeds, and could go away and begin
over again somewhere else, or bury himself in the great depths of
general society, where nobody would be the wiser; but as for his sister,
she could not go away. The first result for her would be to give the
master to whom she belonged, and for whom she had, with some affection,
a great deal of not unnatural contempt, a cruel and overwhelming power
over her; and she knew, poor soul, that he was not at all too generous
or delicate to make use of such a power. In such a case she would be
bound to the rock, like a kind of hapless Andromeda, to be pecked at by
all the birds and blown at by all the winds, not to speak of the
devouring monster from whom no hero could ever deliver her; and with all
these horrible consequences before her eyes, she had to sit still and
look on and do nothing, to see all the hidden meaning of every look and
movement without appearing to see it, to maintain ordinary conversation
when her ear was strained to the uttermost to hear words of fate on
which her whole future depended. No wonder her colour was high; and she
could not go into a corner, as Mr Cavendish did, nor keep silent, nor
withdraw herself from observation. Neither her pulse nor her heart would
have borne the scrutiny to which Miss Marjoribanks's calm organs might
have been subjected with perfect security; and the chances are, if the
Doctor had by any hazard put his finger on her wrist when he shook hands
with her, that instead of handing her over to General Travers to be
taken down to dinner, he would have, on the contrary, sent her off to
bed.

Fortunately by this time the year was declining, and that happy season
had returned in which people once more begin to dine by artificial
light; and at the same time it was not absolutely dark in the
drawing-room, so that Lucilla had not, as she said, thought it necessary
to have the candles lighted. "If there should happen to be a mistake as
to who is to take down who, it will only be all the more amusing," said
Miss Marjoribanks, "so long as you do not go off and leave _me_." This
was addressed to the Archdeacon, to whom Lucilla was very particular in
her attentions at that moment. Mrs Chiley, who was looking on with a
great sense of depression, could not help wondering why--"When she knows
he is engaged and everything settled," the old lady said to herself,
with natural indignation. For her part, she did not see what right a man
had to introduce himself thus under false pretences into the confiding
bosom of society--when he was as bad as married, or even indeed worse.
She was ruffled, and she did not think it worth while to conceal that
she was so; for there are limits to human patience, and a visitor who
stays six weeks ought at least to have confidence in his entertainers.
Mrs Chiley for once in her life could have boxed Lucilla's ears for her
uncalled-for civility. "I think it very strange that it is not the
General who takes her downstairs," she said to Mrs Centum. "It is all
very well to have a respect for clergymen; but after being here so
often, and the General quite a stranger--I am surprised at Lucilla,"
said the indiscreet old lady. As for Mrs Centum, she felt the neglect,
but she had too much proper pride to own that her man was not receiving
due attention. "It is not the first time General Travers has been here,"
she said, reserving the question; and so in the uncertain light, when
nobody was sure who was his neighbour, the procession filed downstairs.

To enter the dining-room, all brilliant and shining as it was, radiant
with light and flowers and crystal and silver, and everything that makes
a dinner-table pretty to look upon, was, as Mrs Centum said, "quite a
contrast." A close observer might have remarked, as Mrs Woodburn and
Lucilla took their places, that both of them, instead of that flush
which had been so noticeable a short time before, had become quite pale.
It was the moment of trial. Poor Mr Cavendish, in his excitement, had
taken just the place he ought not to have taken, immediately under the
lamp at the centre of the table. During the moment when the unsuspecting
Archdeacon said grace with his eyes decorously cast down, Miss
Marjoribanks owned the ordinary weakness of humanity so much as to drop
her fan and her handkerchief, and even the napkin which was arranged in
a symmetrical pyramid on her plate. Such a sign of human feebleness
could but endear her to everybody who was aware of the momentous
character of the crisis. When these were all happily recovered and
everybody seated, Lucilla kept her eyes fixed upon the Archdeacon's
face. It was, as we have said, a terrible moment. When he raised his
head and looked round him, naturally Mr Beverley's eyes went direct to
the mark like an arrow; he looked, and he saw at the centre of the
table, surrounded by every kind of regard and consideration, full in the
light of the lamp, his favourite adventurer, the impostor whom he had
denounced the first time he took his place by Miss Marjoribanks's side.
The Archdeacon rose to his feet in the excitement of the discovery; he
put his hand over his eyes as if to clear them. He said, "Good God!"
loud out, with an accent of horror which paralysed the two people lower
down than himself. As for Miss Marjoribanks, she was not paralysed--she
who had not lost a single glance of his eyes or movement of his large
person. Lucilla rose to the height of the position. She put her hand
upon his arm sharply, and with a certain energy. "Mr Beverley, Thomas is
behind you with the soup," said Miss Marjoribanks. The Archdeacon turned
round to see what it was, conscious that somebody had spoken to him, but
as indifferent to his companion and to civility as he was to Thomas and
the soup. "What?" he said hoarsely, interrupting his scrutiny for the
moment. But when he had met Miss Marjoribanks's eye the Archdeacon sat
down. Lucilla did not liberate him for a moment from that gaze. She
fixed her eyes upon his eyes, and looked at him as people only look when
they mean something. "If you tell me what surprised you so much, perhaps
I can explain," said Miss Marjoribanks. She spoke so that nobody could
hear but himself; and in the meantime General Travers at her left hand
was making himself excessively agreeable to Mrs Woodburn, and no doubt
occupying all her attention; and Lucilla never turned her eyes for a
moment from the Archdeacon's face.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr Beverley. "I was confounded by what I saw.
Good heavens! it is not possible I can deceive myself. I understand your
alarm. I am not going to make a disturbance and break up your party. I
can wait," the Archdeacon said, drawing a rapid forcible breath. "Miss
Marjoribanks, do you know who that man is?"

"Oh, yes," said Lucilla, softening into a smile. "Perfectly, I assure
you. He is one of papa's guests, and very much respected in Carlingford;
and he is one of my--very particular friends," Miss Marjoribanks added.
She laughed as she spoke, a kind of laugh which is only appropriate to
one subject, and which is as good, any day, as a confession; and the
flush was so obliging as to return at that moment to her ingenuous
countenance. "We have known each other a long time," Lucilla went on
after that pretty pause; and then she raised her confiding eyes, which
had been cast down, once more to the Archdeacon's face. "You can't think
how nice he is, Mr Beverley," said Miss Marjoribanks. She clasped her
hands together, just for a moment, as she did so, with an eloquent
meaning which it was impossible to mistake. The Archdeacon, for his
part, gazed at her like a man in a dream. Whether it was true--or
whether he was being made a fool of more completely than ever man before
was--or whether he was the victim of an optical or some other kind of
delusion,--the poor man could not tell. He was utterly stricken dumb,
and did not know what to say. He accepted the soup humbly, which Thomas
set before him, though it was a white soup, an effeminate dish, which
went utterly in the face of his principles. And then he looked at the
innocent young creature at his side in that flutter of happy confusion.
It was a terrible position for the Broad-Churchman. After such a tacit
confession he could not spring from his seat and hurl the impostor out
of the room, as in the first place he had a mind to do. On the contrary,
it was with a voice trembling with emotion that he spoke.

"My dear Miss Marjoribanks," said the Archdeacon, "I am struck dumb by
what you tell me. Good heavens! that it should have come to this; and
yet I should be neglecting my duty if I kept silent. You do not--you
cannot know who he is."

"Oh, yes," said Lucilla, with another little laugh--"_everything_--and
how he used to know Mrs Mortimer, and all about it. He has no secrets
from me," said Miss Marjoribanks. She caught Mr Cavendish's eye at the
moment, who was casting a stealthy glance in her direction, and who
looked cowed and silenced and unquiet to the most miserable degree; and
she gave him a little reassuring nod, which the Archdeacon watched with
an inward groan. What was he to do? He could not publicly expose the man
who had just received this mark of confidence from his young hostess,
who knew everything. Perhaps it was one of the greatest trials of
Christian patience and fortitude which the Archdeacon, who was not
great, as he himself would have said, in the passive virtues, had
undergone in all the course of his life. He was so utterly subdued and
confounded that he ate his soup, and never found out what kind of soup
it was. That is, he consumed it in large spoonfuls without being aware,
by way of occupying his energies and filling up the time.

"You cannot mean it," he said, after a pause. "You must be imperfectly
informed. At least let me talk to your father. You must hear all the
rights of the story. If you will let me speak half a dozen words to--to
that person, Miss Marjoribanks, I am sure he will leave the place; he
will give up any claim----"

"Oh, yes, please talk to him," said Miss Marjoribanks, "it will be so
nice to see you friends. Nothing would make me so happy. You know I have
heard all about it from you and from Mrs Mortimer already, so I am sure
there cannot be much more to tell; and as for papa, he is very fond of
Mr Cavendish," said Lucilla, with an imperceptible elevation of her
voice.

"Is it _he_ whom you call Mr Cavendish?" said the Archdeacon. He too had
raised his voice without knowing it, and several people looked up, who
were not at the moment engaged in active conversation of their own. The
owner of that name, for his part, also turned his face towards the upper
end of the table. He was sick of the suspense and continued endurance,
and by this time was ready to rush upon his fate.

"Did any one call me?" he said; and there was a little pause, and the
company in general fixed its regard upon those three people with a sense
that something remarkable was going on among them, though it could not
tell what or why.

"The Archdeacon wants to make your acquaintance," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "Mr Cavendish--Mr Beverley. There, you know each other;
and when we are gone you can talk to each other if you like," Lucilla
added; "but in the meantime _you_ are too far off, and _I_ want the
Archdeacon. He is _so_ much liked in Carlingford," she continued,
lowering her voice. "You can't think how glad we are to have him back
again. I am sure if you only knew him better----" said Miss
Marjoribanks. As for the Archdeacon, words could not give any idea of
the state of his mind. He ate his dinner sternly after that, and did not
look at anything but his plate. He consumed the most exquisite _plats_,
the tenderest wings of chicken and morsels of _paté_, as if they had
been his personal enemies. For, to tell the truth, he felt the tables
altogether turned upon him, and was confounded, and did not know what it
could mean.

It was the General who took up Mr Beverley's abandoned place in the
conversation. The gallant soldier talked for two with the best will in
the world. He talked of Cavendish, and all the pleasant hours they had
spent together, and what a good fellow he was, and how much the men in
the club would be amused to hear of his domesticity. It was a kind of
talk very natural to a man who found himself placed at table between his
friend's sister, and, as he supposed, his friend's future bride. And
naturally the Archdeacon got all the benefit. As for Lucilla, she
received it with the most perfect grace in the world and saw all the
delicate points of the General's wit, and appreciated him so thoroughly,
that he felt half inclined to envy Cavendish. "By Jove! he is the
luckiest fellow I know," General Travers said; and probably it was the
charms of his intelligent and animated conversation that kept the ladies
so long at table. Mrs Chiley, for her part, did not know what to make of
it. She said afterwards that she kept looking at Lucilla until she was
really quite ashamed; and though she was at the other end of the table,
she could see that the poor dear did not enjoy her dinner. It happened,
too, that when they did move at last, the drawing-room was fuller than
usual. Everybody had come that evening--Sir John, and some others of the
county people, who only came now and then, and without any exception
_everybody_ in Carlingford. And Lucilla certainly was not herself for
the first half-hour. She kept close to the door, and regarded the
staircase with an anxious countenance. When she was herself at the helm
of affairs, there was a certain security that everything would go on
tolerably--but nobody could tell what a set of men left to themselves
might or might not do. This was the most dreadful moment of the evening.
Mrs Mortimer was in the drawing-room, hidden away under the curtains of
a window, knowing nobody, speaking to nobody, and in a state of mind to
commit suicide with pleasure; but Miss Marjoribanks, though she had
cajoled her into that martyrdom, took no notice of Mrs Mortimer. She was
civil, it is true, to her other guests, but there could not be a doubt
that Lucilla was horribly preoccupied, and in a state of mind quite
unusual to her. "I am sure she is not well," Mrs Chiley said, who was
watching her from afar. "I saw that she did not eat any dinner"--and the
kind old lady got up slowly and extricated herself from the crowd, and
put herself in motion as best she could, to go to her young friend's
aid.

It was at this moment that Lucilla turned round radiant upon the
observant assembly. The change occurred in less than a moment, so
suddenly that nobody saw the actual point of revolution. Miss
Marjoribanks turned round upon the company and took Mr Cavendish's arm,
who had just come upstairs. "There is a very, very old friend of yours
in the corner who wants to see you," said Lucilla; and she led him
across the room as a conqueror might have led a captive. She took him
through the crowd, to whom she dispensed on every side her most gracious
glances. "I am coming directly," Miss Marjoribanks said--for naturally
she was called on all sides. What most people remarked at this moment
was, that the Archdeacon, who had also come in with the other gentlemen,
was standing very sullen and lowering at the door, watching that
triumphal progress. And it certainly was not Lucilla's fault if Mrs
Chiley and Lady Richmond, and a few other ladies, were thus led to form
a false idea of the state of affairs. "I suppose it is all right between
them at last," Lady Richmond said, not thinking that Barbara Lake was
standing by and heard her. According to appearances, it was all
perfectly right between them. Miss Marjoribanks, triumphant, led Mr
Cavendish all the length of the room to the corner where the widow sat
among the curtains, and the Archdeacon looked on with a visible passion,
and jealous rage, which were highly improper in a clergyman, but yet
which were exciting to see. And this was how the little drama was to
conclude, according to Lady Richmond and Mrs Chiley, who, on the whole,
were satisfied with the conclusion. But, naturally, there were other
people to be consulted. There was Mr Beverley, whom Miss Marjoribanks
held in leash, but who was not yet subdued; and there was Dr
Marjoribanks, who began to feel a little curiosity about his daughter's
movements, and did not make them out; and there was Barbara Lake, who
had begun to blaze like a tempest with her crimson cheeks and black
bold eyes. But by this time Lucilla was herself again, and felt the
reins in her hands. When she had deposited Mr Cavendish in safety, she
faced round upon the malcontents and upon the observers, and on the
world in general. Now that her mind was at rest, and everything under
her own inspection, she felt herself ready and able for all.



_Chapter XXXIII_


The Archdeacon stood before the fireplace with Dr Marjoribanks and a
host of other gentlemen. Mr Beverley's countenance was covered with
clouds and darkness. He stood, not with the careless ease of a man
amusing himself, but drawn up to his full height and breadth, a
formidably muscular Christian, in a state of repression and restraint,
which it was painful, and at the same time pleasing to see. The
Berserker madness was upon him; and yet such are the restraints of
society, that a young woman's eye was enough to keep him down--Lucilla's
eye, and the presence of a certain number of other frivolous creatures
in white muslin, and of some old women, as he irreverently called them,
who were less pleasant, but not more imposing. He was an Archdeacon, and
a leading man of his party, whose name alone would have conferred
importance upon any "movement," and whom his bishop himself--not to
speak of the clergy whom he charged in his visitation addresses like a
regiment of cavalry--stood a little in awe of. Yet such are the
beneficial restraints of society, that he dared not follow his natural
impulses, nor even do what he felt to be his duty, for fear of Miss
Marjoribanks, which was about the highest testimony to the value of
social influence that could be given. At the same time, it was but
natural that under such circumstances the Archdeacon should feel a
certain savage wrath at the bond that confined him, and be more
indignant than usual at the false and tyrannical conventionalism called
society. And it was at this moment, of all times in the world, that
General Travers, like a half-educated brute as (according to Mr
Beverley's ideas) he was, took the liberty of calling his attention to
what the soldier called "a lot of pretty girls." "And everything
admirably got up, by Jove!" he added; not having the remotest idea what
effect so simple an observation might produce.

"Yes, it is admirably got up," said the Archdeacon, with a snarl of
concealed ferocity. "You never said anything more profoundly true. It is
all got up, the women, and the decorations, and the gaiety, and all this
specious seeming. And these are creatures made in the image of God!"
said the Broad-Churchman--"the future wives and mothers of England. It
is enough to make the devils laugh and the angels weep!"

It may be supposed that everybody was stricken with utter amazement by
this unlooked-for remark. Dr Marjoribanks, for his part, took a pinch of
snuff, which, as a general rule, he only did at consultations, or in the
face of a difficulty; and as for the unlucky soldier who had called it
forth, there can be no doubt that a certain terror filled his manly
bosom; for he naturally felt as if he must have said something
extraordinary to call forth such a response.

"I never was accused before of saying anything profoundly true," the
General said, and he grew pale. "I didn't mean it, I'm sure, if that is
any justification. Where has Cavendish vanished to, I wonder?" the
soldier added, looking round him, scared and nervous--for it was evident
that his only policy was to escape from society in which he was thus
liable to commit himself without knowing how.

"Female education is a monstrous mistake," said Mr Beverley--"always has
been, and, so far as I can see, always will be. Why should we do our
best to make our women idiots? They are bad enough by nature. Instead of
counterbalancing their native frivolity by some real instruction----good
heavens!" The critic paused. It was not that his emotions were too much
for him; it was because the crowd opened a moment, and afforded him a
glimpse of a figure in black silk, with the lace for which Miss
Marjoribanks had stipulated falling softly over a head which had not
quite lost its youthful grace. He gave a glance round him to see if the
coast was clear. Lucilla was out of the way at the other end of the
room, and he was free. He made but one stride through the unconscious
assembly which he had been criticising so severely, and all but knocked
down little Rose Lake, who was not looking at the Archdeacon, though she
stood straight in his way. He might have stepped over her head without
knowing it, so much was he moved. All the gay crowd gave way before him
with a cry and flutter; and Lucilla, for her part, was out of the way!

But there are moments when to be out of the way is the highest proof of
genius. Miss Marjoribanks had just had a cup of tea brought her, of
which she had great need, and her face was turned in the other
direction, but yet she was aware that the Archdeacon had passed like a
Berserker through those ranks which were not the ranks of his enemies.
She felt without seeing it that the "wind of his going" agitated his own
large coat tails and heavy locks, and made a perfect hurricane among the
white muslin. Lucilla's heart beat quicker, and she put down her tea,
though she had so much need of it. She could not swallow the cordial at
such a moment of excitement. But she never once turned her head, nor
left off her conversation, nor betrayed the anxiety she felt. Up to this
time she had managed everything herself, which was comparatively easy;
but she felt by instinct that now was the moment to make a high effort
and leave things alone. And it may be added that nothing but an inherent
sense of doing the right thing under the circumstances could have
inspired Miss Marjoribanks to the crowning achievement of keeping out of
the way.

When Mr Beverley arrived in front of the two people who were seated
together in the recess of the window, he made no assault upon them, as
his manner might have suggested. On the contrary, he placed himself in
front of them, with his back to the company, creating thus a most
effectual moral and physical barrier between the little nook where his
own private vengeance and fate were about to be enacted, and the
conventional world which he had just been denouncing. The Archdeacon
shut the two culprits off from all succour, and looked down upon them,
casting them into profound shade. "I don't know what combination of
circumstances has produced this meeting," he said, "but the time was
ripe for it, and I am glad it has happened," and it was with dry lips
and the calmness of passion that he spoke.

Mrs Mortimer gave a little cry of terror, but her companion, for his
part, sat quite dumb and immovable. The moment had arrived at last, and
perhaps he too was glad it had come. He sat still, expecting to see the
earth crumble under his feet, expecting to hear the humble name he had
once borne proclaimed aloud, and to hear ridicule and shame poured upon
the impostor who had called himself one of the Cavendishes. But it was
no use struggling any longer. He did not even raise his eyes, but sat
still, waiting for the thunderbolt to fall.

But to tell the truth, the Archdeacon, though a torrent of words came
rushing to his lips, felt at a difficulty how to begin. "I don't
understand how it is that I find you here with the man who has ruined
your prospects," he said, with a slight incoherence; and then he changed
the direction of his attack. "But it is you with whom I have to do," he
said; "you, sir, who venture to introduce yourself into society
with--with your victim by your side. Do you not understand that
compassion is impossible in such a case, and that it is my duty to
expose you? You have told some plausible story here, I suppose, but
nothing can stand against the facts. It is my duty to inform Dr
Marjoribanks that it is a criminal who has stolen into his house and his
confidence--that it is a conspirator who has ventured to approach his
daughter--that it is----"

"A criminal? a conspirator?" said Mr Cavendish, and he looked in his
accuser's face with an amazement which, notwithstanding his rage, struck
the Archdeacon. If he had called him an impostor, the culprit would have
quailed and made no reply. But the exaggeration saved him. After that
first look of surprise, he rose to his feet and confronted the avenger,
who saw he had made a blunder without knowing what it was. "You must be
under some strange mistake," he said. "What do you accuse me of? I know
nothing about crime or conspiracy. Either you are strangely mistaken, or
you have forgotten what the words mean."

"They are words which I mean to prove," said the Archdeacon; but there
can be no doubt that his certainty was diminished by the surprise with
which his accusation was received. It checked his first heat, and it was
with a slightly artificial excitement that he went on, trying to work
himself up again to the same point. "You who worked yourself into a
wretched old man's confidence, and robbed an unoffending woman," said Mr
Beverley; and then in spite of himself he stopped short; for it was
easier to say such things to a woman, who contradicted without giving
much reason, than to a man who, with an air of the utmost astonishment,
stood regarding his accuser in the face.

"These are very extraordinary accusations," said Mr Cavendish. "Have you
ever considered whether you had any proof to support them?" He was not
angry to speak of, because he had been entirely taken by surprise, and
because at the same time he was unspeakably relieved, and felt that the
real danger, the danger which he had so much dreaded, was past and over.
He recovered all his coolness from the moment he found out that it was
not a venial imposition practised upon society, but a social crime of
the ugliest character, of which he was accused. He was innocent, and he
could be tranquil on that score. "As for robbing Mrs Mortimer," he added
with a little impatience, "she knows, on the contrary, that I have
always been most anxious and ready to befriend her----"

"To befriend----Her!" cried the Archdeacon, restored to all his first
impetuosity. He could not swear, because it was against his cloth and
his principles; but he said, "Good heavens!" in a tone which would have
perfectly become a much less mild expletive. "It is better we should
understand each other thoroughly," he said. "I am not in a humour for
trifling. I consider it is _her_ fortune which enables you to make an
appearance here. It is _her_ money you are living upon, and which gives
you position, and makes you presume as--as you are doing--upon my
forbearance. Do you think it possible that I can pass over all this and
let you keep what is not yours? If you choose to give up everything, and
retire from Carlingford, and withdraw all your pretensions----It is not
for my part," said Mr Beverley, with solemnity, taking breath, "to deal
harshly with a penitent sinner. It is my duty, as a clergyman, to offer
you at least a place of repentance. After _that_----"

But he was interrupted once more. Mrs Mortimer made her faint voice
heard in a remonstrance. "Oh, Charles, I always told you--I had no right
to anything!" cried the terrified widow; but that was not what stopped
the Archdeacon. It was because his adversary laughed that he stopped
short. No doubt it was the metallic laugh of a man in great agitation,
but still Mr Beverley's ear was not fine enough at that moment to
discriminate. He paused as a man naturally pauses at the sound of
ridicule, still furious, yet abashed, and half conscious of a ludicrous
aspect to his passion--and turned his full face to his antagonist, and
stood at bay.

"It is a modest request, certainly," Mr Cavendish said. "Give up all I
have and all I am, and perhaps you will forgive me! You must think me a
fool to make such a proposal; but look here," said the accused
energetically; "I will tell you the true state of affairs, if for once
you will listen. I do it, not for my sake, nor for your sake, but for
the sake of--of the women involved," he added hastily; and it was well
for him that, instead of looking at the shrinking widow beside him as he
said so, his eye had been caught by the eager eye of his sister, who was
watching from her corner. With that stimulus he went on, calming himself
down, and somehow subduing and imposing upon the angry man by the mere
act of encountering him fairly and openly. "I will tell you what are the
actual circumstances, and you can see the will itself if you will take
the trouble," said the defendant, with a nervous moderation and
self-restraint, in which there was also a certain thrill of indignation.
"The old man you speak of might have left his money to a more worthy
person than myself, but he never meant to leave it to his grand-niece;
and she knew that. She was neither his companion nor his nurse. There
was nothing between them but a few drops of blood. For my part, I gave
him----but, to be sure, it would not interest you to know how I spent my
youth. You came upon the scene like--a man in a passion," Mr Cavendish
said, with an abrupt laugh, which this time was more feeble, and proved
that his composure was giving way, "and misjudged everything, as was
natural. You are doing the same again, or trying to do it. But you are a
clergyman, and when you insult a man----"

"I am ready to give him satisfaction," said the Broad-Churchman hotly;
and then he made a pause, and that sense of ridicule which is latent in
every Englishman's mind, came to the Archdeacon's aid. He began to feel
ashamed of himself, and at the same time his eye caught his own
reflection in a mirror, and the clerical coat which contrasted so
grotesquely with his offer of "satisfaction." Mr Beverley started a
little, and changed his tone. "This has lasted long enough," he said, in
his abrupt imperious way. "_This_ is not the place nor the time for such
a discussion. We shall meet elsewhere," the Archdeacon added austerely,
with a significance which it is impossible to describe. His air and his
words were full of severe and hostile meaning, and yet he did not know
what he meant any more than Mr Cavendish did, who took him at his word,
and retired, and made an end of the interview. Whatever the Archdeacon
meant, it was his adversary who was the victor. _He_ went off, threading
his way through the curious spectators with a sense of relief that
almost went the length of ecstasy. He might have been walking on his
head for anything he knew. His senses were all lost and swallowed up in
the overwhelming and incredible consciousness of safety. Where were they
to meet elsewhere? With pistols in a corner of Carlingford Common, or
perhaps with their fists alone, as Mr Beverley was Broad-Church? When a
man has been near ruin and has escaped by a hair-breadth, he may be
permitted to be out of his wits for a few minutes afterwards. And the
idea of fighting a duel with a dignitary of the Church so tickled Mr
Cavendish, that he had not the prudence to keep it to himself. "You will
stand by me if he calls me out?" he said to General Travers as he
passed; and the air of utter consternation with which the warrior
regarded him, drove Mr Cavendish into such agonies of laughter, that he
had to retire to the landing-place and suffocate himself to subdue it.
If any man had said to him that he was hysterical, the chances are that
it was he who would have called that man out, or at least knocked him
down. But he had to steal downstairs afterwards and apply to Thomas for
a cordial more potent than tea; for naturally, when a man has been
hanging over an abyss for ever so long, it is no great wonder if he
loses his head and balance when he suddenly finds himself standing on
firm ground, and feels that he has escaped.

As for the Archdeacon, when the other was gone, he sat down silently on
his abandoned chair. He was one of the men who take pride in seeing both
sides of a question; and to tell the truth, he was always very candid
about disputed points in theology, and ready to entertain everybody's
objection; but it was a different thing when the matter was a matter of
fact. He put down his face into his hands, and tried to think whether it
was possible that what he had just heard might be the true state of the
case. To be sure, the widow who was seated half fainting by his side had
given him the same account often enough, but somehow it was more
effective from the lips of a man who confronted him than from the mild
and weeping woman whom he loved better than anything else in the world,
but whose opinion on any earthly (or heavenly) subject had not the
weight of a straw upon him. He tried to take that view of it; and then
it occurred to him that nothing was more ludicrous and miserable than
the position of a man who goes to law without adequate reason, or
without proof to maintain his cause. Such a horrible divergence from
everything that was just and right might be, as that the well-known and
highly-esteemed Archdeacon Beverley might be held up for the amusement
and edification of the country in a _Times_ leader, which was a
martyrdom the Archdeacon would have rather liked than otherwise in a
worthy cause, but not for a wretched private business connected with
money. He sighed as he pondered, feeling, as so many have felt, the
difficulties which attend a good man's progress in this life--how that
which is just is not always that which is expedient, and how the
righteous have to submit to many inconveniences in order that the
adversary may have no occasion to blaspheme. In this state of mind a man
naturally softens towards a tender and wistful sympathiser close at
hand. He sighed once more heavily, and lifted his head, and took into
his own a soft pale hand which was visible near him among the folds of
black silk.

"So you too have been brought into it, Helen," the Archdeacon said
pathetically; "I did not expect to see you here."

"It was Lucilla," said Mrs Mortimer timidly; "it was not any wish of
mine. Oh, Charles! if you would let me speak. If you will but forget all
this, and think no more about it; and I will do my best to make you
a----" Here the poor woman stopped short all at once. What she meant to
have said was, that she would make him a good wife, which nature and
truth and the circumstances all prompted her to say--as the only
possible solution to the puzzle. But when she had got so far, the poor
widow stopped, blushing and tingling all over, with a sense of shame,
more overwhelming than if she had done a wicked action. It was nothing
but pure honesty and affection that prompted her to speak; and yet, if
it had been the vilest sentiment in human nature, she would not have
been so utterly ashamed. "That was not what I meant to say!" she cried,
with sharp and sudden wretchedness; and was not the least ashamed of
telling a downright lie instead.

But, to tell the truth, the Archdeacon was paying no particular
attention. He had never loved any other woman; but he was a little
indifferent as to what innocent nonsense she might please to say. So
that her confusion and misery, and even the half offer of herself which
occasioned these feelings, were lost upon him. He kept her hand and
caressed it in the midst of his own thoughts, as if it was a child's
head he was patting. "My poor Helen," he said, coming back to her when
he found she had stopped speaking, "I don't see why you should not
come, if this sort of thing is any pleasure to you; but afterwards----"
he said reflectively. He went to that sort of thing often himself, and
rather liked it, and did not think of any afterwards; but perhaps the
case of a weak woman was different, or perhaps it was only that he
happened to be after his downfall in a pathetic and reflective state of
mind.

"Afterwards?" said Mrs Mortimer. She did not take the word in any
religious or philosophical, but in its merest matter-of-fact meaning,
and she was sadly hurt and wounded to see that he had not even noticed
what she said, much as she had been ashamed of saying it. She drew away
her hand with a quick movement of despite and mortification, which
filled Mr Beverley with surprise. "Afterwards I shall go back to my
little house and my school, and shut myself in, and never, never come
back again, you may be sure," said the widow, with a rush of tears to
her eyes. Why they did not fall, or how she kept herself from
fainting--she who fainted so easily--she never, on reviewing the
circumstances, could tell; and Miss Marjoribanks always attributed it to
the fact that _she_ was absent, and there was no eau-de-Cologne on the
table. But whatever the cause might be, Mrs Mortimer did not faint; and
perhaps there never was anything so like despair and bitterness as at
that moment in her mild little feminine soul.

"Never come back again?" said the Archdeacon, rousing up a little; and
then he put out his large hand and took back the other, as if it had
been a pencil or a book that he had lost. All this, let it be known, was
well in the shadow, and could not be seen by the world in general to
teach the young people a bad lesson. "Why should not you come back? I am
going away too," said Mr Beverley; and he stopped short, and resisted
the effort his prisoner made to withdraw. Oddly enough at that moment
his Rectory rose suddenly before him as in a vision--his Rectory, all
handsome and sombre, without a soul in it, room after room uninhabited,
and not a sound to be heard, except that of his own foot or his
servant's. It was curious what connection there could be between that
and the garden, with its four walls, and the tiny cottage covered with
wistaria. Such as it was, it moved the Archdeacon to a singular, and,
considering the place and moment, rather indecorous proceeding. Instead
of contenting himself with the resisting hand, he drew the widow's arm
within his as they sat together. "I'll tell you what we must do,
Helen," he said confidentially--"we must go back to Basing together, you
and I. I don't see the good of leaving you by yourself here. You can
make what alterations you like when you get to the Rectory; and I shall
let that--that person alone, if you wish it, with his ill-gotten gear.
He will never come to any good," said the Archdeacon, with some
satisfaction; and then he added in a parenthesis, as if she had
expressed some ridiculous doubt on the subject, "Of course I mean that
we should be married before we go away." It was in this rapid and
summary manner that the whole business was settled. Naturally his
companion had nothing to say against such a reasonable arrangement. She
had never contradicted him in her life about anything but one thing; and
that being set aside, there was no possible reason why she should begin
now.



_Chapter XXXIV_


This was how the crisis came to an end, which had been of so much
interest to the parties immediately affected. Mrs Woodburn had one of
her nervous attacks next morning, and was very ill, and alarmed Dr
Marjoribanks; but at her very worst moment the incorrigible mimic
convulsed her anxious medical adviser and all her attendants by a sudden
adoption of the character of Mrs Mortimer, whom she must have made a
careful study of the previous night. "Tell him to tell him to go
downstairs," cried the half-dead patient; "I want to speak to him, and
he is not to hear;--if he were not so thoughtless, he would offer him
some lunch at least," Mrs Woodburn said pathetically, with closed eyes
and a face as pale as death. "She never did anything better in her
life," Dr Marjoribanks said afterwards; and Mr Woodburn, who was fond of
his wife in his way, and had been crying over her, burst into such an
explosion of laughter that all the servants were scandalised. And the
patient improved from that moment. She was perfectly well and in the
fullest force a week afterwards, when she came to see Lucilla, who had
also been slightly indisposed for a day or two. When Thomas had shut the
door, and the two were quite alone, Mrs Woodburn hugged Miss
Marjoribanks with a fervour which up to that moment she had never
exhibited. "It was only necessary that we should get into full sympathy
with each other as human creatures," she said, lifting her finger like
the Archdeacon; and for all the rest of that autumn and winter Mrs
Woodburn kept society in Carlingford in a state of inextinguishable
laughter. The odd thing was that Miss Marjoribanks, who had been one of
her favourite characters, disappeared almost entirely from her
repertory. Not quite altogether, because there were moments of supreme
temptation which the mimic could not resist; but as a general rule
Lucilla was the only woman in Carlingford who escaped the universal
critic. No sort of acknowledgment passed between them of the obligations
one had to the other, and, what was still more remarkable, no discussion
of the terrible evening when Lucilla had held the Archdeacon with her
eye, and prevented the volcano from exploding. Perhaps Mrs Woodburn, for
her part, would have been pleased to have had such an explanation, but
Miss Marjoribanks knew better. She knew it was best not to enter upon
confidences which neither could ever forget, and which might prevent
them meeting with ease in the midst of the little world which knew
nothing about it. What Lucilla knew, she knew, and could keep to
herself; but she felt at the same time that it was best to have no
expansions on the subject. She kept it all to herself, and made the
arrangements for Mrs Mortimer's marriage, and took charge of everything.
Everybody said that nothing could be more perfect than the bride's
toilette, which was as nice as could be, and yet not like a _real_ bride
after all; a difference which was only proper under the circumstances;
for she was married in lavender, poor soul, as was to be expected. "You
have not gone off the least bit in the world, and it is quite a pleasure
to see you," Lucilla said, as she kissed her _that_ morning--and
naturally all Carlingford knew that it was owing to her goodness that
the widow had been taken care of and provided for, and saved up for the
Archdeacon. Miss Marjoribanks, in short, presided over the ceremony as
if she had been Mrs Mortimer's mother, and superintended the wedding
breakfast, and made herself agreeable to everybody. And in the meantime,
before the marriage took place, most people in Carlingford availed
themselves of the opportunity of calling on Mrs Mortimer. "If she should
happen to be the future bishop's lady, and none of us ever to have
taken any notice of her," somebody said, with natural dismay. Lucilla
did not discourage the practical result of this suggestion, but she felt
an instinctive certainty in her mind that _now_ Mr Beverley would never
be bishop of Carlingford, and indeed that the chances were Carlingford
would never be elevated into a bishopric at all.

It was not until after the marriage that Mr Cavendish went away. To be
sure, he was not absolutely present at the ceremony, but there can be no
doubt that the magnificent _parure_ which Mrs Mortimer received the
evening before her marriage, "from an old friend," which made
everybody's mouth water, and which she herself contemplated with mingled
admiration and dismay, was sent by Mr Cavendish. "Do you think it could
be from _him_; or only from him?" the bride said, bewildered and
bewildering. "I am sure he might have known I never should require
anything so splendid." But Lucilla, for her part, had no doubt whatever
on the subject; and the perfect good taste of the offering made Miss
Marjoribanks sigh, thinking once more how much that was admirable was
wasted by the fatal obstacle which prevented Mr Cavendish from aspiring
to anybody higher than Barbara Lake. As for the Archdeacon, he too found
it very easy to satisfy his mind as to the donor of the emeralds. He put
them away from him severely, and did not condescend to throw a second
glance at their deceitful splendour. "Women are curiously constituted,"
said Mr Beverley, who was still at the height of superiority, though he
was a bridegroom. "I suppose those sort of things give them
pleasure--things which neither satisfy the body nor delight the soul."

"If it had been something to eat, would it have pleased you better?"
said Lucilla, moved for once in her life to be impertinent, like an
ordinary girl. For really when a man showed himself so idiotic as to
despise a beautiful set of emeralds, it went beyond even the well-known
tolerance and compassionate good-humour with which Miss Marjoribanks
regarded the vagaries of "the gentlemen." There is a limit in all
things, and this was going too far.

"I said, to satisfy the body, Miss Marjoribanks," said the Archdeacon,
"which is an office very temporarily and inadequately performed by
something to eat. I prefer the welfare of my fellow-creatures to a few
glittering stones--even when they are round Her neck," Mr Beverley
added, with a little concession to the circumstances. "Jewellery is
robbery in a great town where there is always so much to be done, and so
little means of doing it; to secure health to the people, and
education----"

"Yes," said Miss Marjoribanks, who knew in her heart that the Archdeacon
was afraid of her. "It is so nice of you not to say any of those
dreadful sanitary words--and I am sure you could make something very
nasty and disagreeable with that diamond of yours. It is a beautiful
diamond; if I were Helen I should make you give it me," said Lucilla
sweetly; and the Archdeacon was so much frightened by the threat that he
turned his ring instinctively, and quenched the glitter of the diamond
in his closed hand.

"It was a present," he said hastily, and went away to seek some better
occupation than tilting with the womankind, who naturally had possession
of the bride's little house and everything in it at that interesting
moment. It was the last evening of Lucilla's reign, and she was disposed
to take the full good of it. And though Mrs Mortimer's trousseau was
modest, and not, as Lydia Brown repeated, like that of a _real_ bride,
it was still voluminous enough to fill the room to overflowing, where it
was all being sorted and packed under Miss Marjoribanks's eye.

"It is a very nice diamond indeed," said Lucilla; "if I were you I would
certainly make him give it to me--rings are no good to a gentleman. They
never have nice hands, you know--though indeed when they have nice
hands," said Miss Marjoribanks reflectively, "it is a great deal worse,
for they keep always thrusting them under your very eyes. It is curious
why They should be so vain. They talk of women!" Lucilla added, with
natural derision; "but, my dear, if I were you I would make him give it
me; a nice diamond is always a nice thing to have."

"Lucilla," said the widow, "I am sure I don't know how to thank you for
all you have done for me; but, dear, if you please, I would not talk
like that! The gentlemen laugh, but I am sure they don't like it all the
same;" for indeed the bride thought it her duty, having won the prize in
her own person, to point out to her young friend how, to attain the same
end, she ought to behave.

Miss Marjoribanks did not laugh, for her sense of humour, as has been
said, was not strong, but she kissed her friend with protecting
tenderness. "My dear, if that had been what I was thinking of I need
never have come home," said Lucilla; and her superiority was so calm
and serene, that Mrs Mortimer felt entirely ashamed of herself for
making the suggestion. The widow was simple-minded, and, like most other
women, it gratified her to believe that here and there, as in Miss
Marjoribanks's case, there existed one who was utterly indifferent to
the gentlemen, and did not care whether they were pleased or not; which
restored a little the balance of the world to the widow-bride, who felt
with shame that she cared a great deal, and was quite incapable of such
virtue. As for Lucilla herself, she was not at that moment in conscious
enjoyment of the strength of mind for which her friend gave her credit.
On the contrary, she could not help a certain sense of surprised
depression as she superintended the packing of the boxes. The man had
had it in his power to propose to her, and he was going to be married to
Mrs Mortimer! It was not that Lucilla was wounded or disappointed, but
that she felt it as a wonderful proof of the imperfection and weakness
of human nature. Even in the nineteenth century, which has learnt so
much, such a thing was possible! It filled her with a gentle sadness as
she had the things put in, and saw the emeralds safely deposited in
their resting-place. Not that she cared for the Archdeacon, who had thus
disposed of himself; but still it was a curious fact that such a thing
could be.

Altogether it must be admitted that at this special moment Miss
Marjoribanks occupied a difficult position. She had given the Archdeacon
to understand that Mr Cavendish was a "_very_ particular friend"; and
even when the danger was past, Lucilla scorned to acknowledge her pious
prevarications. During all this interval she continued so gracious to
him that everybody was puzzled, and Mrs Woodburn even insisted on her
brother, after all, making his proposal, which would be better late than
never.

"I am sure she is fond of you," said the softened mimic, "and that sort
of thing doesn't matter to a woman as it does to a man;" for it has been
already said that Mrs Woodburn, notwithstanding her knack of external
discrimination, had very little real knowledge of character. And even at
moments, Mr Cavendish himself, who ought to have known better, was half
tempted to believe that Lucilla meant it. The effect upon Dr
Marjoribanks was still more decided. He thought he saw in his daughter
the indications of that weakness which is sometimes so surprising in
women, and it disturbed the Doctor's serenity; and he actually tried to
snub Lucilla on sundry occasions, with that wonderful fatuity which is
common to men.

"I hope when this marriage is over people will recover their senses. I
hear of nothing else," Dr Marjoribanks said one day at dessert, when
they were alone. He took some chestnuts as he spoke, and burned his
fingers, which did not improve his temper. "That sort of rubbish, I
suppose, is much more interesting than attending to your natural
duties," the Doctor added morosely, which was not a kind of address
which Miss Marjoribanks was used to hear.

"Dear papa," said Lucilla, "if I attended to my duties ever so much I
could not keep you from burning your fingers. There are some things that
people _must_ do for themselves," the dutiful daughter added, with a
sigh. Nobody could doubt who knew Lucilla that she would have gladly
taken the world on her shoulders, and saved everybody from those little
misadventures; but how could she help it if people absolutely would not
take care of themselves?

The Doctor smiled grimly, but he was not satisfied. He was, on the
contrary, furious in a quiet way. "I don't need at this time of day to
be told how clever you are, Lucilla," said her father; "and I thought
you had been superior to the ordinary folly of women----"

"Papa, for Heaven's sake!" cried Miss Marjoribanks. She was really
alarmed this time, and she did not hesitate to let it be apparent. "I do
not mean to say that I always do precisely what I ought to do," said
Lucilla; "nobody does that I know of; but I am sure I never did anything
to deserve _that_. I never was superior, and I hope I never shall be;
and I know I never pretended to it," she said, with natural horror; for
the accusation, as everybody will perceive, was hard to bear.

The Doctor laughed again, but with increased severity. "We understand
all that," he said. "I am not in the secret of your actions, Lucilla. I
don't know what you intend, or how far you mean to go. The only thing I
know is that I see that young fellow Cavendish a great deal oftener in
the house and about it than I care to see him; and I have had occasion
to say the same thing before. I know nothing about his means," said Dr
Marjoribanks; "his property may be in the Funds, but I think it a great
deal more likely that he speculates. I have worked hard for my money,
and I don't mean it to go in that way, Lucilla. I repeat, I am not in
the secret of your proceedings----"

"Dear papa! as if there was any secret," said Lucilla, fixing her candid
eyes upon her father's face. "I might pretend I did not understand you
if there was anything in what you say, but I never go upon false
pretences when I can help it. I am very fond of Mr Cavendish," she
continued regretfully, after a pause. "There is nobody in Carlingford
that is so nice; but I don't see whom he can marry except Barbara Lake."
Miss Marjoribanks would have scorned to conceal the unfeigned regret
which filled her mind when she uttered these words. "I am dreadfully
sorry, but I don't see anything that can be done for him," she said, and
sighed once more. As for the Doctor, he forgot all about his chestnuts,
and sat and stared at her, thinking in his ignorance that it was a piece
of acting, and not knowing whether to be angry or to yield to the
amusement which began to rise in his breast.

"He may marry half a dozen Barbara Lakes," said Dr Marjoribanks, "and I
don't see what reason we should have to interfere: so long as he doesn't
want to marry you----"

"That would be impossible, papa," said Lucilla, with pensive gravity. "I
am sure I am very, very sorry. She has a very nice voice, but a man
can't marry a voice, you know; and if there was anything that I could
do----I am not sure that he ever wished for _that_ either," Miss
Marjoribanks added, with her usual candour. "It is odd, but for all that
it is true." For it was a moment of emotion, and she could not help
giving utterance to the surprise with which this consideration naturally
filled her mind.

"What is odd, and what is true?" said Dr Marjoribanks, growing more and
more bewildered. But Lucilla only put aside her plate and got up from
her chair.

"Not any more wine, thank you," she said. "I know you don't want me any
more, and I have so much to do. I hope you will let me invite Barbara
here when they are married, and pay her a little attention; for nobody
likes her in Grange Lane, and it would be so hard upon _him_. The more I
think of it, the more sorry I am," said Lucilla; "he deserved better,
papa; but as for me, everybody knows what is my object in life."

Thus Miss Marjoribanks left the table, leaving her father in a singular
state of satisfaction and surprise. He did not believe a word of what
she had been saying, with that curious perversity common to the people
who surrounded Lucilla, and which arose not so much from doubt of her
veracity as from sheer excess of confidence in her powers. He thought
she had foiled him in a masterly manner, and that she was only, as
people say, amusing herself, and had no serious intentions; and he
laughed quietly to himself when she left him, in the satisfaction of
finding there was nothing in it. Miss Marjoribanks, for her part, went
on tranquilly with the arrangements for the marriage; one by one she was
disembarrassing herself from the complications which had grown round her
during the first year of her reign in Carlingford; and now only the last
links of the difficulty remained to be unrolled.

The explanation she had with Mr Cavendish himself was in every way more
interesting. It happened pretty late one evening, when Lucilla was
returning with her maid from the widow's little cottage, which was so
soon to be deserted. She was just at that moment thinking of the
wistaria which had grown so nicely, and of all the trouble she had taken
with the garden. Nobody could tell who might come into it now, after she
had done so much for it; and Miss Marjoribanks could not but have a
momentary sense that, on the whole, it was a little ungrateful on the
part of Mrs Mortimer, when everybody had taken such pains to make her
comfortable. At this moment, indeed, Lucilla was slightly given to
moralising, though with her usual wisdom she kept her meditations to
herself. She was thinking with a momentary vexation of all the plants
that had been put into the beds, and of so much time and trouble
lost--when Mr Cavendish came up to her. It was a cold evening, and there
was nothing in common between this walk and the walk they had taken
together from Grove Street to Grange Lane on an earlier occasion. But
this time, so far from being reluctant to accompany her, Mr Cavendish
came to her side eagerly. The maid retired a little behind, and then the
two found themselves in that most perfect of all positions for mutual
confidence--a street not too crowded and noisy, all shrouded in the
darkness, and yet twinkling with the friendly lights of an autumn
evening. Nothing could have been more perfect than their isolation from
the surrounding world, if they thought proper to isolate themselves; and
yet it was always there to be taken refuge in if the confidence should
receive a check, or the mind of the chance companions change.

"I have been trying to catch a glimpse of you for a long time," said Mr
Cavendish, after they had talked a little in the ordinary way, as
everybody was doing in Grange Lane, about the two people henceforward to
be known in Carlingford as "the Beverleys." "But you are always so busy
serving everybody. And I have a great deal to say to you that I don't
know how to say."

"Then don't say it, please," said Lucilla. "It is a great deal better
not. It might be funny, you know; but I am not disposed to be funny
to-night. I am very glad about Mrs Mortimer, to be sure, that she is to
be settled so nicely, and that they are going to be married at last.
But, after all, when one thinks of it, it is a little vexatious. Just
when her house was all put to rights, and the garden looking so pretty,
and the school promising so well," said Lucilla; and there was a certain
aggrieved tone in her voice.

"And it is you who have done everything for her, as for all the rest of
us," said Mr Cavendish, though he could not help laughing a little; and
then he paused, and his voice softened in the darkness by Lucilla's
side. "Do not let us talk of Mrs Mortimer," he said. "I sometimes have
something just on my lips to say, and I do not know whether I dare say
it. Miss Marjoribanks----"

And here he came to a pause. He was fluttered and frightened, which was
what she, and not he, ought to have been. And at the bottom of his heart
he did not wish to say it, which gave far more force to his hesitation
than simply a doubt whether he might dare. Perhaps Lucilla's heart
fluttered too, with a sense that the moment which once would not have
been an unwelcome moment, had at last arrived. Her heart, it is true,
was not _very_ particularly engaged; but still she was sensible of all
Mr Cavendish's capacities, and was "very fond" of him, as she said; and
her exertions on his behalf had produced their natural effect, and moved
her affections a little. She made an involuntary pause for the hundredth
part of a minute, and reckoned it all up again, and asked herself
whether it were possible. There was something, in the first place,
becoming and suitable in the idea that she, who was the only person who
knew his secret, should take him and it together and make the best of
them. And Lucilla had the consciousness that she could indeed make a
great deal of Mr Cavendish. Nobody had ever crossed her path of whom so
much could be made; and as for any further danger of his real origin and
position being found out and exposed to the world, Miss Marjoribanks was
capable of smiling at that when the defence would be in her own hands.
She might yet accept him, and have him elected member for Carlingford,
and carry him triumphantly through all his difficulties. For a small
part--nay, even for the half of a minute--Lucilla paused, and made a
rapid review of the circumstances, and reconsidered her decision.
Perhaps if Mr Cavendish had been really in earnest, that which was only
a vague possibility might have become, in another minute, a fact and
real. It was about the first time that her heart had found anything to
say in the matter; and the fact was that it actually fluttered in her
reasonable bosom, and experienced a certain _malaise_ which was quite
new to her. Was it possible that she could be in love with Mr Cavendish?
or was it merely the excitement of a final decision which made that
unusual commotion far away down at the bottom of Lucilla's heart?

However that might be, Miss Marjoribanks triumphed over her momentary
weakness. She saw the possibility, and at the same moment she saw that
it could not be; and while Mr Cavendish hesitated, she, who was always
prompt and ready, made up her mind.

"I don't know what I have done in particular, either for her or the rest
of you," she said, ignoring the other part of her companion's faltering
address, "except to help to amuse you; but I am going to do something
very serious, and I hope you will show you are grateful, as you
say--though I don't know what you have to be grateful about--by paying
great attention to me. Mr Cavendish, I am going to give you good
advice," said Lucilla; and, notwithstanding her courage, she too
faltered a little, and felt that it was rather a serious piece of
business that she had taken in hand.

"Advice?" Mr Cavendish said, like an echo of her voice; but that was all
he found time to say.

"We are such old friends, that I know you won't be vexed," said Lucilla;
"and then we understand each other. It is so nice when two people
understand each other; they can say quantities of things that strangers
cannot say. Mr Cavendish, you and Barbara are in love," said Lucilla,
making a slight pause, and looking in his face.

"Miss Marjoribanks!" cried the assaulted man, in the extremity of his
amazement and horror. As for Lucilla, she came a little closer to him,
and shook her head in a maternal, semi-reproving way.

"Don't say you are not," said Miss Marjoribanks; "you never could
deceive _me_--not in anything like that. I saw it almost as soon as you
met. They are not rich, you know, but they are very nice. Mr Lake and
Rose," said Lucilla, with admirable prudence, keeping off the difficult
subject of Barbara herself, "are the two very nicest people I know; and
everybody says that Willie is dreadfully clever. I hope you will soon be
married, and that you will be very happy," she continued, with an
effort. It was a bold thing to say, and Lucilla's throat even contracted
a little, as if to prevent the words from getting utterance; but then
she was not a person, when she knew a thing was right, to hesitate about
doing it; and in Miss Marjoribanks's mind duty went before all, as has
already been on several occasions said.

After this a horrible silence fell upon the two--a silence which, like
darkness, could be felt. The thunderbolt fell upon the victim's
unprotected head without any warning. The idea that Lucilla would talk
to him about Barbara Lake was the very last that could have entered Mr
Cavendish's mind. He was speechless with rage and mortification. He took
it for an insult inflicted upon him in cold blood, doing Lucilla much
injustice as the other people who took the candid expression of her
sentiments for a piece of acting. He was a gentleman, notwithstanding
his doubtful origin, and civilised down to his very finger-tips; but he
would have liked to have knocked Miss Marjoribanks down, though she was
a woman. And yet, as she was a woman, he dared not for his life make any
demonstration of his fury. He walked along by her side down into the
respectable solitude of Grange Lane, passing through a bright bit of
George Street, and seeing askance, by the light from the shop windows,
his adviser walking beside him, with the satisfaction of a good
conscience in her face. This awful silence lasted until they reached Dr
Marjoribanks's door.

"Thank you for coming with me so far," said Lucilla, holding out her
hand. "I suppose I must not ask you to come in, though papa would be
delighted to see you. I am afraid you are very angry with me," Miss
Marjoribanks added, with a touch of pathos; "but you may be sure I would
always stand by _you_; and I said it because I thought it was for the
best."

"On the contrary, I am much obliged to you," said Mr Cavendish, with
quiet fury, "and deeply touched by the interest you take in my
happiness. You may be sure I shall always be grateful for it; and for
the offer of your support," said the ungrateful man, with the most
truculent meaning. As for Miss Marjoribanks, she pressed quite kindly
the hurried hand with which he touched hers, and went in, still saying,
"Good-night." She had done her duty, whatever might come of it. He
rushed home furious; but she went to a little worsted-work with a mind
at peace with itself and all men. She was gentler than usual even to the
maids, who always found Miss Marjoribanks a good mistress--but she felt
a little sad in the solitude of her genius. For it is true that to be
wiser and more enlightened than one's neighbours is in most cases a
weariness to the flesh. She had made a sacrifice, and nobody appreciated
it. Instead of choosing a position which pleased her imagination, and
suited her energies, and did not go against her heart, Lucilla, moved by
the wisest discretion, had decided, not without regret, to give it up.
She had sacrificed her own inclination, and a sphere in which her
abilities would have had the fullest scope, to what she believed to be
the general good; and instead of having the heroism acknowledged, she
was misunderstood and rewarded with ingratitude. When Miss Marjoribanks
found herself alone in the solitude of her drawing-room, and in the
still greater solitude, as we have said, of her genius, she felt a
little sad, as was natural. But at the same moment there came into
Lucilla's mind a name, a humble name, which has been often pronounced in
the pages of this history, and it gave her once more a certain
consolation. A sympathetic presence seemed to diffuse itself about her
in her loneliness. There are moments when the faith of a very humble
individual may save a great soul from discouragement; and the
consciousness of being believed in once more came with the sweetest and
most salutary effect upon Lucilla's heart.



_Chapter XXXV_


It was the very day after the marriage, and two or three days after this
conversation, that Mr Cavendish left Carlingford. He went to spend the
winter in Italy, which had long been "a dream" of his, as he explained
to some of the young ladies--most of whom had the same "dream," without
the enviable power of carrying it out. He made very brief and formal
adieux to Lucilla, to the extreme amazement of all the surrounding
world, and then disappeared, leaving--just at that moment after the
excitement of the marriage was over, when Grange Lane stood most in need
of somebody to rouse its drooping spirits--a wonderful blank behind him.
Lucilla said much less about her feelings on this occasion than she was
in the habit of doing, but there could be no doubt that she felt it, and
felt it acutely. And the worst of it was, that it was she who was
universally blamed for the sudden and unexplained departure of the most
popular man in Carlingford. Some people thought he had gone away to
escape from the necessity of proposing to her; and some of more friendly
and charitable disposition believed with Mrs Chiley that Lucilla had
refused him; and some, who were mostly outsiders and of a humble class,
were of opinion that Miss Marjoribanks had exercised all her influence
to send Mr Cavendish out of the way of Barbara Lake. It was with this
impression that Rose made her way one of those foggy autumn mornings
through the fallen leaves with which the garden was carpeted, to see if
any explanation was to be got from Lucilla. The art-inspectors from
Marlborough House had just paid their annual visit to Carlingford, and
had found the Female School of Design in a condition which, as they said
in their report, "warranted the warmest encomiums," and Rose had also
won a prize for her veil in the exhibition at Kensington of ornamental
art. These were triumphs which would have made the little artist
overwhelmingly happy, if they had not been neutralised by other
circumstances; but as it was, they only aggravated the difficulties of
the position in which she found herself. She came to Lucilla in a
bonnet--a circumstance which of itself was solemn and ominous; for
generally that portentous article of dress, which was home-made, and did
not consist with cheerful dispositions, was reserved by Rose for going
to church; and her soft cheeks were pale, and the hazel eyes more dewy
than usual, though it was rain, and not dew, that had been falling from
them during those last painful days.

"I am ashamed to ask you such a question," said Rose; "but I want you to
tell me, Lucilla, if you know why Mr Cavendish has gone away. She will
not come and ask you herself, or rather I would not let her come; for
she is so passionate, one does not know what she might do. You have
behaved a little strange, Lucilla," said the straightforward Rose. "If
he cared for her, and she cared for him, you had no right to come and
take him away."

"My dear, I did not take him away," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I had to
talk to him about some--business; that was all. It is disgraceful of
Barbara to bother you about it, who are only a baby and oughtn't to know
anything----"

"Lucilla!" cried Rose, with flashing eyes, "I am seventeen, and I will
not put up with it any longer. It is all your fault. What right had you
to come and drag us to your great parties? We are not as rich as you,
nor as fine, but we have a rank of our own," cried the little artist.
"You have a great deal more money, but we have some things that money
cannot buy. You made Barbara come and sing, and put things into her
head; and you made me come, though I did not want to. Why did you ask
_us_ to your parties, Lucilla? It is all your fault!"

Lucilla was in a subdued state of mind, as may have been perceived, and
answered quite meekly. "I don't know why you should all turn against me
like this," she said, more sadly than surprised. "It is unkind of you to
say it was my fault. I did not expect it from you; and when I have so
many vexations----" Miss Marjoribanks added. She sat down as she spoke,
after being repulsed by Rose, with an air of depression which was quite
unusual to her; for to be blamed and misunderstood on all sides was hard
for one who was always working in the service of her fellow-creatures,
and doing everything for the best.

As for Rose, her heart smote her on the instant. "Have _you_ vexations,
Lucilla?" she said, in her innocence. It was the first time such an idea
had entered into her mind.

"I don't think I have anything else," said Lucilla; though even as she
said it she began to recover her spirits. "I do all I can for my
friends, and they are never pleased; and when anything goes wrong it is
always my fault."

"Perhaps if you were not to do so much----" Rose began to say, for she
was in her way a wise little woman; but her heart smote her again, and
she restrained the truism, and then after a little pause she resumed her
actual business. "I am ashamed to ask you, but do you know where Mr
Cavendish is, Lucilla?" said Rose. "She is breaking her heart because he
has gone away."

"Did he never go to say good-bye nor anything?" asked Miss Marjoribanks.
She was sorry, for it was quite the contrary of the advice she had
given, but still it would be wrong to deny that Mr Cavendish rose higher
in Lucilla's opinion when she heard it. "I don't know any more than
everybody knows. He has gone to Italy, but he will come back, and I
suppose she can wait," Miss Marjoribanks added, with perhaps a touch of
contempt. "For my part, I don't think she will break her heart."

"It is because you do not know her," said Rose, with some
indignation--for at seventeen a broken heart comes natural. "Oh,
Lucilla, it is dreadful, and I don't know what to do!" cried the little
artist, changing her tone. "I am a selfish wretch, but I cannot help it.
It is as good as putting an end to my Career; and just after my design
has been so successful--and when papa was so proud--and when I thought I
might have been a help. It is dreadful to think of oneself when her
heart is breaking; but I shall have to give up everything; and I--I
can't help feeling it, Lucilla," cried Rose, with a sudden outburst of
tears.

All this was sufficiently unintelligible to Miss Marjoribanks, who was
not the least in anxiety about Barbara's breaking heart. "Tell me what
is the matter, and perhaps we can do something," said Lucilla,
forgetting how little her past exertions had been appreciated; and Rose,
with equal inconsistency, dried her tears at the sound of Miss
Marjoribanks's reassuring voice.

"I know I am a wretch to be thinking of myself," she said. "She cannot
be expected to stay and sacrifice herself for us, after all she has
suffered. She has made up her mind and advertised in the _Times_, and
nothing can change it now. She is going out for a governess, Lucilla."

"Going for a--what?" said Miss Marjoribanks, who could not believe her
ears.

"For a governess," said Rose calmly; for though she had been partly
brought up at Mount Pleasant, she had not the elevated idea of an
instructress of youth which might have been expected from a pupil of
that establishment. "She has advertised in the _Times_," Rose added,
with quiet despair, "with no objections to travel. I would do anything
in the world for Barbara, but one can't help thinking of oneself
sometimes, and there is an end of my Career." When she had said this she
brushed the last tear off her eyelashes, and sat straight up, a little
martyr and heroic victim to duty. "Her eye, though fixed on empty space,
beamed keen with honour"; but still there was a certain desperation in
the composure with which Rose regarded, after the first outburst, the
abandonment of all her hopes.

"She is a selfish thing," said Lucilla indignantly; "she always was a
selfish thing. I should like to know what she can teach anybody? If I
were you and your papa, I certainly would not let her go away. I don't
see any reason in the world why you should give in to her and let her
stop your--your Career, you know; why should you? I would not give in to
her for one moment, if I were your papa and you."

"Why should I?" said Rose; "because there is nobody else to do anything,
Lucilla. Fleda and Dreda are such two little things; and there are all
the boys to think of, and poor papa. It is of no use asking why. If I
don't do it, there will be nobody to do it," said Rose, with big tears
coming to her eyes. Her Career was dear to her heart, and those two
tears welled up from the depths; but then there would be nobody else to
do it--a consideration which continually filters out the people who are
good for anything out of the muddy current of the ordinary world.

"And your pretty drawings, and the veil, and the School of Design!"
cried Lucilla. "You dear little Rose, don't cry. It never can be
permitted, you know. She cannot teach anything, and nobody will have
her. She is a selfish thing, though she is your sister; and if I were
your papa and you----"

"It would be no good," said Rose. "She will go, whatever anybody may
say. _She_ does not care," said the little martyr, and the two big tears
fell, making two big round blotches upon the strings of that bonnet
which Lucilla had difficulty in keeping her hands off. But when she had
thus expressed her feelings, Rose relented over her sister. "She has
suffered so much here; how can any one ask her to sacrifice herself to
us?" said the young artist mournfully. "And I am quite happy," said
Rose--"quite happy; it makes all the difference. It is her _heart_, you
know, Lucilla; and it is only my Career."

And this time the tears were dashed away by an indignant little hand.
Barbara's heart, if she had such an organ, had never in its existence
cost such bitter drops. But as for Lucilla, what could she do? She could
only repeat, "If I was your papa and you," with a melancholy sense that
she was here balked and could do no more. For even the aid of Miss
Marjoribanks was as nothing against dead selfishness and folly, the two
most invincible forces in the world. Instead of taking the business into
her own hands, and carrying it through triumphantly as she had hitherto
been in the habit of doing, Lucilla could only minister to the sufferer,
and keep up her courage, and mourn over the Career thus put in danger.
Barbara's advertisement was in the newspapers, and her foolish mind was
made up; and the hope that nobody would have her was a forlorn hope, for
somebody always does have the incapable people, as Miss Marjoribanks was
well aware. And the contralto had been of some use in Grange Lane and a
little in Grove Street, and it would be difficult, either in the one
sphere or the other, to find any one to fill her place. It was thus amid
universal demolition that Christmas approached, and Miss Marjoribanks
ended the first portion of her eventful career.



_Chapter XXXVI_


One fytte of Lucilla's history is here ended, and another is to be told.
We have recorded her beginning in all the fulness of youthful confidence
and undaunted trust in her own resources; and have done our best to show
that in the course of organising society Miss Marjoribanks, like all
other benefactors of their kind, had many sacrifices to make, and had to
undergo the mortification of finding out that many of her most able
efforts turned to other people's profit and went directly against
herself. She began the second period of her career with, to some certain
extent, that sense of failure which is inevitable to every high
intelligence after a little intercourse with the world. She had
succeeded in a great many things, but yet she had not succeeded in all;
and she had found out that the most powerful exertions in behalf of
friends not only fail to procure their gratitude, but sometimes convert
them into enemies, and do actual harm; which is a discovery which can
only be made by those who devote themselves, as Miss Marjoribanks had
done, to the good of the human species. She had done everything for the
best, and yet it had not always turned out for the best; and even the
people who had been most ready to appeal to her for assistance in their
need, had proved the readiest to accuse her when something disagreeable
happened, and to say "It was your fault." In the second stage of her
progress Miss Marjoribanks found herself, with a great responsibility
upon her shoulders, with nearly the entire social organisation of
Carlingford depending upon her; and, at the same time, with her means of
providing for the wants of her subjects sensibly diminished, and her
confidence in the resources of the future impaired to an equal degree.
One thing was sure, that she had taken the work upon her shoulders, and
that she was not the woman to draw back, whatever the difficulties might
be. She did not bate a jot of her courage, though the early buoyancy of
hope had departed, never to return. It is true that she was not so
joyful and triumphant a figure as when she conquered Nancy, and won over
Dr Marjoribanks, and electrified Mr Holden by choosing curtains which
suited her complexion; but with her diminished hopes and increased
experience and unabated courage, no doubt Miss Marjoribanks presented a
still nobler and more imposing aspect to everybody who had an eye for
moral grandeur, though it would be difficult to tell how many of such
worthy spectators existed in Grange Lane.

There was, as our readers are aware, another subject also on which
Lucilla had found her position altered. It was quite true that, had she
been thinking of _that_, she never need have come home at all; and that,
in accepting new furniture for the drawing-room, she had to a certain
extent pledged herself not to marry immediately, but to stay at home and
be a comfort to her dear papa. This is so delicate a question that it is
difficult to treat it with the freedom necessary for a full development
of a not unusual state of mind. Most people are capable of falling in
love only once or twice, or at the most a very few times, in their life;
and disappointed and heartbroken suitors are not so commonly to be met
with as perhaps could be wished. But at the same time, there can be
little doubt that the chief way in which society is supposed to signify
its approval and admiration and enthusiasm for a lady, is by making
dozens of proposals to her, as may be ascertained from all the
best-informed sources. When a woman is a great beauty, or is very
brilliant and graceful, or even is only agreeable and amusing, the
ordinary idea is that the floating men of society, in number less or
more according to the lady's merits, propose to her, though she may not
perhaps accept any of them. In proportion as her qualities rise towards
the sublime, these victims are supposed to increase; and perhaps, to
tell the truth, no woman feels herself set at her true value until some
poor man, or set of men, have put, as people say, their happiness into
her hands. It is, as we have said, a delicate subject to discuss; for
the truth is, that this well-known and thoroughly established reward of
female excellence had not fallen to Miss Marjoribanks's lot. There was
Tom, to be sure, but Tom did not count. And as for the other men who had
been presented to Lucilla as eligible candidates for her regard, none of
them had given her this proof of their admiration. The year had passed
away, and society had laid no tribute of this description upon Lucilla's
shrine. The Archdeacon had married Mrs Mortimer instead, and Mr
Cavendish had been led away by Barbara Lake! After such an experience
nothing but the inherent sweetness and wholesome tone of Miss
Marjoribanks's character could have kept her from that cynicism and
disbelief in humanity which is so often the result of knowledge of the
world. As for Lucilla, she smiled as she thought of it, not cynically,
but with a sweetly melancholy smile. What she said to herself was, Poor
men! they had had the two ways set before them, and they had not chosen
the best. It made her sad to have this proof of the imperfection of
human nature thrust upon her, but it did not turn her sweet into bitter,
as might have been the case with a more ordinary mind. Notwithstanding
that this universal reward, which in other cases is, as everybody knows,
given so indiscriminately, and with such liberality, had altogether
failed in her case, Lucilla still resumed her way with a beautiful
constancy, and went forward in the face of fate undaunted and with a
smile.

It was thus that she began the second period of her career. Up to this
moment there had never been a time in which it was not said in
Carlingford that some one was paying attention to Miss Marjoribanks; but
at present no one was paying attention to her. There were other
marriages going on around her, and other preliminaries of marriage, but
nobody had proposed to Lucilla. Affairs were in this state when she took
up her burden again boldly, and set out anew upon her way. It was a
proof of magnanimity and philanthropy which nobody could have asked from
her, if Lucilla had not been actuated by higher motives than those that
sway the common crowd. Without any assistance but that of her own
genius--without the stimulating applause of admirers, such as a woman in
such circumstances has a right to calculate upon--with no sympathising
soul to fall back upon, and nothing but a dull level of ordinary people
before her,--Miss Marjoribanks, undaunted, put on her harness and
resumed her course. The difficulties she had met only made her more
friendly, more tender, to those who were weaker than herself, and whom
evil fortune had disabled in the way. When Barbara Lake got her
situation, and went out for a governess, and Rose's fears were realised,
and she had with bitter tears to relinquish her Career, Lucilla went and
sat whole afternoons with the little artist, and gave her the handiest
assistance, and taught her a great many things which she never could
have learned at the School of Design. And the effect of this
self-abnegation was, that Lucilla bore General Travers's decision, and
gave up all hope of the officers, with a stout-heartedness which nobody
could have looked for, and did not hesitate to face her position
boldly, and to erect her standard, and to begin her new campaign,
unaided and unappreciated as she was. People who know no better may go
away upon marriage tours, or they may fly off to foreign travel, or go
out as governesses, when all things do not go just as they wish. But as
for Miss Marjoribanks, she stood bravely at her post, and scorned to
flinch or run away. Thus commenced, amid mists of discouragement, and in
an entire absence of all that was calculated to stimulate and
exhilarate, the second grand period of Lucilla's life.



_Chapter XXXVII_


It would be vain to follow Lucilla in detail through her consistent and
admirable career; nor is it necessary to say that she went on steadily
in face of all her discouragements, with that mixture of success and
failure which comes natural to all human affairs. The singular thing
about it was, that the years passed on, and that she was permitted by
the world in general to fulfil her own promise and prophecy about
remaining ten years at home to be a comfort to her dear papa. She had
been nineteen when she began her career, and she was nine-and twenty
when that little episode occurred with young Dr Rider, before he was
married to his present wife. There would have been nothing in the least
unsuitable in a marriage between Dr Rider and Miss Marjoribanks, though
people who were the best informed never thought either of them had any
serious meaning; but, of course, the general public, having had Lucilla
for a long time before their eyes, naturally added on seven or eight
years to her age, and concluded her to be a great deal older than the
young doctor, though everybody allowed that it would have been a most
advantageous match for him in every possible point of view. But,
however, it did not come to anything, no more than a great many other
nibbles of the same kind did. The period arrived at which Lucilla had
thought she might perhaps have begun to go off in her looks, but still
there was no immediate appearance of any change of name or condition on
her part. Many people quite congratulated themselves on the fact, as it
was impossible to imagine what might be the social condition of Grange
Lane without Miss Marjoribanks; but it is doubtful whether Lucilla
congratulated herself. She was very comfortable, no doubt, in every way,
and met with little opposition to speak of, and had things a great deal
more in her own hands than she might have had, had there been a husband
in the case to satisfy; but notwithstanding, she had come to an age when
most people have husbands, and when an independent position in the world
becomes necessary to self-respect. To be sure, Lucilla _was_
independent; but then--there is a difference, as everybody knows.

And Miss Marjoribanks could not but feel that the world had not shown
that appreciation of her, to which, in her earlier days, she looked
forward with so little fear. The ten years, as they had really gone by,
were very different from the ten years she had looked forward to, when,
in the triumph of her youth, she named that period as the time when she
might probably begin to go off, and would be disposed to marry. By this
time the drawing-room carpets and curtains had faded a little, and
Lucilla had found out that the delicate pale green which suited her
complexion was not to call a profitable colour; and nobody could have
thought or said that to marry at this period would be in the least
degree to swindle the Doctor. Thus the moment had arrived to which she
looked forward, but the man had not arrived with it. Ten years had
passed, during which she had been at the head of society in Grange Lane,
and a great comfort to her dear papa; and now, if there remained another
development for Lucilla's character, it was about time that it should
begin to show itself. But at the same time, the main element necessary
for that new development did not seem at present likely to be found in
Grange Lane.

Unless, indeed, it might happen to be found in the person of Mr
Ashburton, who was so often in Carlingford that he might be said to form
a part of society there. It was he who was related to the Richmonds, who
were a family much respected in the county. He had been at the bar, and
even begun to distinguish himself, before old Miss Penrhyn died and left
him the Firs. He had begun to distinguish himself, but he had not, it
appeared, gone so far as to prevent him from coming down to his new
property and settling upon it, and taking his place as a local
notability. He was not a man who could be expected to care for evening
parties in a provincial town; but he never refused to dine with Dr
Marjoribanks, and was generally popular upstairs, where he always paid a
little attention to Lucilla, though nothing very marked and noticeable.
Mr Ashburton was not like Mr Cavendish, for instance (if anybody
remembered Mr Cavendish), a man whose money might be in the Funds, but
who more probably speculated. Everybody knew everything about him, which
was an ease to the public mind. The Firs was as well known as
Carlingford steeple, and how much it was worth a year, and everything
about it; and so was the proprietor's pedigree, which could be traced to
a semi-mythical personage known as old Penrhyn, whose daughter was Sir
John Richmond's grandmother. The Firs, it is true, had descended in the
female line, but still it is something to know where a man comes from,
even on one side.

Mr Ashburton made himself very agreeable in the neighbourhood, and was
never above enlightening anybody on a point of law. He used to say that
it was kind to give him something to do, which was an opinion endorsed
practically by a great many people. It is true that some of his
neighbours wondered much to see his patience, and could not make out why
he chose to rusticate at the Firs at his age, and with his abilities.
But either he never heard these wonderings, or at least he never took
any notice of them. He lived as if he liked it, and settled down, and
presented to all men an aspect of serene contentment with his sphere.
And it would be difficult to say what suggestion or association it was
which brought him all of a sudden into Miss Marjoribanks's head, one
day, when, seeing a little commotion in Masters's shop, she went in to
hear what it was about. The cause of the commotion was an event which
had been long expected, and which, indeed, ten years before, had been
looked on as a possible thing to happen any day. The wonder was, not
that old Mr Chiltern should die, but that he should have lived so long.
The ladies in Masters's cried, "Poor dear old man!" and said to each
other that however long it might have been expected, a death always
seemed sudden at the last. But, to tell the truth, the stir made by this
death was rather pleasant than sad. People thought, not of the career
which was ended, but of the one which must now begin, and of the
excitement of an election, which was agreeable to look forward to. As
for Lucilla, when she too had heard the news, and had gone upon her way,
it would be vain to assert that a regretful recollection of the time
when Mr Cavendish was thought a likely man to succeed Mr Chiltern did
not occur to her. But when Miss Marjoribanks had dismissed that
transitory thought, Mr Ashburton suddenly came into her head by one of
those intuitions which have such an effect upon the mind that receives
them. Lucilla was not of very marked political opinions, and perhaps was
not quite aware what Mr Ashburton's views were on the Irish Church
question, or upon parliamentary reform; but she said after, that it came
into her mind in a moment, like a flash of lightning, that he was the
man. The idea was so new and so striking, that she turned back and went,
in the excitement of the moment, to suggest it to Mrs Chiley, and see
what her old friend and the Colonel would say. Of course, if such a
thing was practicable, there was no time to lose. She turned round
quickly, according to her prompt nature; and such was her absorbed
interest in the idea of Mr Ashburton, that she did not know until she
had almost done it, that she was walking straight into her hero's arms.

"Oh, Mr Ashburton!" said Lucilla, with a little scream, "is it you? My
mind was quite full of you. I could not see you for thinking. Do come
back with me, for I have something very particular to say----"

"To me?" said Mr Ashburton, looking at her with a smile and a sudden
look of interest; for it is always slightly exciting to the most
philosophical mortal to know that somebody else's mind is full of him.
"What you have said already is so flattering----"

"I did not mean anything absurd," said Miss Marjoribanks. "Don't talk
any nonsense, please. Mr Ashburton, do you know that old Mr Chiltern is
dead?"

Lucilla put the question solemnly, and her companion grew a little red
as he looked at her. "It is not my fault," he said, though he still
smiled; and then he grew redder and redder, though he ought to have been
above showing such signs of emotion; and looked at her curiously, as if
he would seize what she was going to say out of her eyes or her lips
before it was said.

"It is not anything to laugh about," said Lucilla. "He was a very nice
old man; but he is dead, and somebody else must be Member for
Carlingford: that was why I told you that my mind was full of you. I am
not in the least superstitious," said Miss Marjoribanks, solemnly; "but
when I stood there--there, just in front of Mr Holden's--you came into
my mind like a flash of lightning. I was not thinking of you in the
least, and you came into my mind like--like Minerva, you know. If it was
not an intimation, I don't know what it was. And that was why I ran
against you, and did not see you were there. Mr Ashburton, it is you who
must be the man," said Lucilla. It was not a thing to speak lightly
about, and for her part she spoke very solemnly; and as for Mr
Ashburton, his face flushed deeper and deeper. He stood quite still in
the excitement of the moment, as if she had given him a blow.

"Miss Marjoribanks, I don't know how to answer you," he cried; and then
he put out his hand in an agitated way and grasped her hand. "You are
the only creature in Carlingford, man or woman, that has divined me," he
said, in a trembling voice. It was a little public at the top of Grange
Lane, where people were liable to pass at every moment; but still Miss
Marjoribanks accepted the pressure of the hand, which, to be sure, had
nothing whatever to do with love-making. She was more shy of such
demonstrations than she had been in her confident youth, knowing that in
most cases they never came to anything, and at the same time that the
spectators kept a vivid recollection of them; but still, in the
excitement of the moment, Miss Marjoribanks accepted and returned in a
womanly way the pressure of Mr Ashburton's hand.

"Come in and let us talk it over," Lucilla said, feeling that no time
was to be lost. It was a conference very different from that which, had
Mr Chiltern been so well advised as to die ten years before, might have
been held in Dr Marjoribanks's drawing-room over his successor's
prospects; but at the same time there was something satisfactory to the
personal sentiments of both in the way in which this conversation had
come about. When Lucilla took off her hat and sat down to give him all
her attention, Mr Ashburton could not but feel the flattering character
of the interest she was taking in him. She was a woman, and young
(comparatively speaking), and was by no means without admirers, and
unquestionably took the lead in society; and to be divined by such a
person was perhaps, on the whole, sweeter to the heart of the aspirant
than if Colonel Chiley had found out his secret, or Dr Marjoribanks, or
even the Rector: and Lucilla for her part had all that natural pleasure
in being the first to embrace a new interest which was natural under the
circumstances. "Let us talk it all over," she said, giving Mr Ashburton
a chair near her own. "If I believed in spirit-rapping, you know, I
should be sure that was what it meant. I was not thinking of you in the
least, and all at once, like a flash of lightning--Mr Ashburton sit down
and tell me--what is the first thing that must be done?"

"If I could ask you to be on my committee, that would be the first thing
to be done," said Mr Ashburton, "but unfortunately I can't do that. Let
me tell you in the first place how very much I am obliged----"

"Don't say that, please," said Miss Marjoribanks, with her usual good
sense, "for I have done nothing. But papa can be on the committee, and
old Colonel Chiley, who is such a one for politics; and of course Sir
John--that will be a very good beginning; and after that----"

"My dear Miss Marjoribanks," Mr Ashburton said, with a smile, and a
little hesitation, "Sir John takes exactly the other side in politics;
and I am afraid the Doctor and the Colonel are not of the same way of
thinking; and then my opinions----"

"If they are not of the same way of thinking we must make them," said
Lucilla: "after having such an intimation, I am not going to be put off
for a trifle; and besides, what does it matter about opinions? I am sure
I have heard you all saying over and over that the thing was to have a
good _man_. Don't go and make speeches about opinions. If you begin with
that, there is no end to it," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I know what you
gentlemen are. But if you just say distinctly that you are the best
man----"

"It would be an odd thing to say for oneself," said Mr Ashburton,
and he laughed; but, to tell the truth, he was not a man of very
quick understanding, and at the first outset of the thing he
did not understand Lucilla; and he was a little--just a very
little--disappointed. She had divined him, which was a wonderful proof
of her genius; but yet at the bottom she was only an ignorant woman
after all.

"I see it all quite clear what to do," said Miss Marjoribanks. "You must
have the Colonel and Sir John, and everybody. I would not pay the least
attention to Tories or Whigs, or anything of the sort. For my part I
don't see any difference. All that has to be said about it is simply
that you are the right man. Papa might object to one thing and the
Colonel might object to another, and then if Sir John, as you say, is of
quite another way of thinking----But you are the man for Carlingford
all the same; and none of them can say a word against that," said
Lucilla, with energy. She stopped short, with her colour rising and her
eyes brightening. She felt herself inspired, which was a new sensation,
and very pleasant; and then the idea of such a coming struggle was sweet
to Miss Marjoribanks, and the conviction burst upon her that she was
striking out a perfectly new and original line.

As for her candidate, he smiled, and hesitated, and paid her pretty
little compliments for a few minutes longer, and said it was very good
of her to interest herself in his fortunes. All which Lucilla listened
to with great impatience, feeling that it had nothing to do with the
matter in hand. But then after these few minutes had elapsed the meaning
of his fair adviser, as he called her, began to dawn upon Mr Ashburton's
mind. He began to prick up his mental ears, so to speak, and see that it
was not womanish ignorance, but an actual suggestion. For, after all, so
long as he was the Man for Carlingford, all the rest was of little
importance. He took something out of his pocket, which was his address
to the constituency of Carlingford (for being anxious on the subject, he
had heard of Mr Chiltern's death an hour or two before anybody else),
and choke-full of political sentiments. In it he described to the
electors what he would do if they sent him to Parliament, as carefully
as if their election could make him Prime Minister at least; and
naturally a man does not like to sacrifice such a confession of faith.
"I should like to read it to you," he said, spreading it out with
affectionate care: but Lucilla had already arranged her plans, and knew
better than that.

"If you were to read it to me," said Miss Marjoribanks, "I should be
sure to be convinced that you were quite right, and to go in with you
for everything; and then I should be no good, you know. If it were to
drive papa and Sir John and the Colonel all to their own ways of
thinking, we never should make any progress. I would never mind about
anybody's ways of thinking, if I were you. After all," said Lucilla,
with fine satire, of which she was unconscious, "what does it matter
what people think? I suppose when it comes to doing anything, the Whigs
and the Tories are just the same. Mr Ashburton, it is the Man that is
wanted," said Miss Marjoribanks, with all the warmth of sudden
conviction. She felt a little like Joan of Arc as she spoke. When an
army has the aid of a sacred maiden to bring inspiration to its
counsels, the idea of going on in the old formal way is no longer to be
tolerated. And such was the force of Lucilla's conviction, that Mr
Ashburton, though he felt a little affronted, and could not but look
with fond and compunctious regret upon his address, yet began more and
more to feel that there was justice in what she said.

"I will think over what you say," he said, rather stiffly, and put up
his address--for it was natural, when he had done her such an honour as
to offer to read it to her, that he should be affronted by her refusal.
It was a bold experiment on Lucilla's part, but then she was carried out
of herself at the moment by this singular flash of inspiration. "I will
think over what you say," Mr Ashburton continued; "and if my judgment
approves----At all events I shall not issue _this_ till I have thought
it all over. I am sure I am extremely obliged to you for your interest."
And here he stopped short, and looked as if he were going to get up and
go away, which would have spoiled all.

"You are going to stop to lunch," said Lucilla; "somebody is sure to
come in. And you know you must not lose any opportunity of seeing
people. I am so glad to-night is Thursday. Tell me just one thing, Mr
Ashburton, before any one comes. There is one thing that is really
important, and must be fixed upon. If we were to make any mistake, you
know----"

"What?" said the candidate eagerly--"about Reform? I have expressed
myself very clearly----"

Lucilla smiled compassionately, and with the gentlest tolerance, at this
wild suggestion. "I was not thinking of Reform," she said, with that
meekness which people assume when it is of no use being impatient. "I
was thinking what your colours were to be. I would not have anything to
do with the old colours, for my part--they would be as bad as opinions,
you know. You may laugh, but I am quite in earnest," said Miss
Marjoribanks. As for Mr Ashburton, he did not begin to laugh until he
had fixed upon her that gaze of utter amazement and doubt with which on
many similar occasions ordinary people had regarded Lucilla--thinking
she was joking, or acting, or doing something quite different from the
severe sincerity which was her leading principle. She was so used to it,
that she waited with perfect patience till her companion's explosion of
amusement was over. He was thinking to himself what a fool she was, or
what a fool he was to think of taking a woman into his counsels, or what
curious unintelligible creatures women were, made up of sense and folly;
and all the time he laughed, which was a relief to his feelings. Miss
Marjoribanks laughed a little too, to keep him in countenance, for she
was always the soul of good nature; and then she repeated, "Now you must
tell me what our colours are to be----"

"I am sure I don't know anything about colours," said the candidate,
"any more than you do about opinions. I think they are equally
unimportant, to say the least. I shall adopt the colours of my fair
counsellor," Mr Ashburton added, laughing, and making a mock bow to her,
and getting his hat as he did so--for he had naturally calmed down a
little from the first enthusiasm with which he had hailed the woman who
divined him, and he did not mean to stay.

"Blue and yellow are the old colours," said Lucilla thoughtfully, "and
you are the new man, you know, and we must not meddle with these
antiquated things. Do you think this would do?" As she spoke she took up
a handful of ribbons which were lying by, and put them up to her face
with an air of serious deliberation which once more disturbed Mr
Ashburton's gravity. And yet, when a young woman who is not at all
bad-looking puts up a rustling, gleaming knot of ribbons to her hair and
asks a man's opinion of the same, the man must be a philosopher or a
wretch indeed who does not give a glance to see the effect. The
candidate for Carlingford looked and approached, and even, in the
temptation of the moment, took some of the long streamers in his hand.
And he began to think Miss Marjoribanks was very clever, and the most
amusing companion he had met with for a long time. And her interest in
him touched his heart; and, after all, it is no drawback to a woman to
be absurd by moments. His voice grew quite soft and caressing as he took
the end of ribbon into his hand.

"If they are your colours they shall be mine," he said, with a sense of
patronage and protection which was very delightful; and the two were
still talking and laughing over the silken link thus formed between
them, when the people came in whom Lucilla was expecting to lunch, and
who were naturally full of Mr Chiltern's death, which, poor old man! was
so sudden at the last. Mr Ashburton stayed, though he had not intended
it, and made himself very pleasant. And Lucilla took no pains to
conceal her opinion that the thing was neither to consider Whigs nor
Tories, but a good _Man_. And Major Brown, who had come with his
daughters, echoed this sentiment so warmly that Mr Ashburton was
entirely convinced of the justice of Miss Marjoribanks's ideas. "We
can't have a tip-topper, you know," Major Brown said, who was not very
refined in his expressions; "and what I should like to see is a man that
knows the place and would look after Carlingford. That's what we're all
looking for." Mr Ashburton did not declare himself to Major Brown, but
he dashed off his new address ten minutes after he had taken leave of
Miss Marjoribanks, and put the other one in the fire like a Christian,
and telegraphed for his agent to town. Lucilla, for her part, made an
effort equally great and uncompromising. She took the ribbon Mr
Ashburton had played with, and cut it up into cockades of all
descriptions. It was an early moment, but still there was no time to be
lost in a matter of such importance. And she wore one on her breast and
one in her hair when Mr Ashburton's address was published, and all the
world was discussing the new candidate.

"Of course they are his colours--that is why I wear them," said Lucilla.
"I shall always think there was something very strange in it. Just after
I had heard of poor old Mr Chiltern's death, as I was passing
Holden's--when I was not in the least thinking of him--he came into my
mind like a flash of lightning, you know. If I had been very intimate
with poor old Mr Chiltern, or if I believed in spirit-rapping, I should
think _that_ was it. He came into my head without my even thinking of
him, all in a moment, with his very hat on and his umbrella, like
Minerva--wasn't it Minerva?" said Miss Marjoribanks. And she took up Mr
Ashburton's cause openly, and unfurled his standard, and did not even
ask her father's opinion. "Papa knows about politics, but he has not had
an intimation, as I have," said Lucilla. And, naturally, she threw all
the younger portion of Grange Lane, which was acquainted with Mr
Ashburton, and looked forward eagerly to a little excitement, and liked
the idea of wearing a violet-and-green cockade, into a flutter of
excitement. Among these rash young people there were even a few
individuals who took Lucilla's word for it, and knew that Mr Ashburton
was very _nice_, and did not see that anything more was necessary. To be
sure, these enthusiasts were chiefly women, and in no cases had votes;
but Miss Marjoribanks, with instinctive correctness of judgment,
decided that there were more things to be thought of than the electors.
And she had the satisfaction of seeing with her own eyes and hearing
with her own ears the success of that suggestion of her genius.
Carlingford had rarely been more excited by any public event than it was
by the address of the new candidate, who was in the field before anybody
else, and who had the boldness to come before them without uttering any
political creed. "The enlightened electors of Carlingford do not demand,
like other less educated constituencies, a system of political doctrines
cut and dry, or a representative bound to give up his own judgment, and
act according to arbitrary promises," said the daring candidate: "what
they want is an honest man, resolved to do his duty by his country, his
borough, and his constituency; and it is this idea alone which has
induced me to solicit your suffrages." This was what Mr Ashburton said
in his address, though at that moment he had still his other address in
his pocket, in which he had entered at some length into his distinctive
personal views. It was thus that an independent candidate, unconnected
with party, took the field in Carlingford, with Miss Marjoribanks, like
another Joan of Arc, wearing a knot of ribbons, violet and green, in her
hair, to inspire and lead him on.



_Chapter XXXVIII_


Life with most people is little more than a succession of high and low
tides. There are times when the stream runs low, and when there is
nothing to be seen but the dull sandbanks, or even mud-banks, for
months, or even years together; and then all at once the waters swell,
and come rushing twice a day like the sea, carrying life and movement
with them. Miss Marjoribanks had been subject to the _eaux mortes_ for a
long time: but now the spring-tides had rushed back. A day or two after
Mr Ashburton had been revealed to her as the predestined member,
something occurred, not in itself exciting, but which was not without
its ultimate weight upon the course of affairs. It was the day when Aunt
Jemima was expected in Grange Lane. She was Aunt Jemima to Lucilla; but
the Doctor called her Mrs John, and was never known to address her by
any more familiar title. She was, as she herself described it, a widow
lady, and wore the dress of her order, and was the mother of Tom
Marjoribanks. She was not a frequent visitor at Carlingford, for she and
her brother-in-law had various points on which they were not of accord.
The Doctor, for his part, could not but feel perennially injured that
the boy had fallen to the lot of Mrs John, while he had only a
girl--even though that girl was Lucilla; and Aunt Jemima could not
forgive him for the rude way in which he treated her health, which was
so delicate, and his want of sympathy for many other people who were
delicate too. Even when she arrived, and was being entertained with the
usual cup of tea, fears of her brother-in-law's robustness and
unsympathetic ways had begun to overpower her. "I hope your papa does
not ask too much from you, Lucilla," she said, as she sat in her
easy-chair, and took her tea by the fire in the cosy room which had been
prepared for her. "I hope he does not make you do too much, for I am
sure you are not strong, my dear. Your poor mamma, you know----" and Mrs
John looked with a certain pathos at her niece, as though she saw signs
of evil in Lucilla's fresh complexion and substantial frame.

"I am pretty well, thank you, Aunt Jemima," said Miss Marjoribanks,
"and papa lets me do pretty much what I like: I am too old now, you
know, to be told what to do."

"Don't call yourself old, my dear," said Aunt Jemima, with a passing
gleam of worldly wisdom--"one gets old quite soon enough. Are you
subject to headaches, Lucilla, or pains in the limbs? Your poor
mamma----"

"Dear Aunt Jemima, I am as well as ever I can be," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "Tell me when you heard from Tom, and what he is doing.
Let me see, it is ten years since he went away. I used to write to him,
but he did not answer my letters--not as he ought, you know. I suppose
he has found friends among the Calcutta ladies," said Lucilla, with a
slight but not unapparent sigh.

"He never says anything to me about Calcutta ladies," said Tom's mother;
"to tell the truth, I always thought before he went away that he was
fond of _you_--I must have been mistaken, as he never said anything; and
_that_ was very fortunate at all events."

"I am sure I am very thankful he was not fond of me," said Lucilla, with
a little natural irritation, "for I never could have returned it. But I
should like to know why that was so fortunate. I can't see that it would
have been such a very bad thing for him, for my part."

"Yes, my dear," said Aunt Jemima, placidly, "it would have been a very
bad thing; for you know, Lucilla, though you get on very nicely here,
you never could have done for a poor man's wife."

Miss Marjoribanks's bosom swelled when she heard these words--it swelled
with that profound sense of being unappreciated and misunderstood, which
is one of the hardest trials in the way of genius; but naturally she was
not going to let her aunt see her mortification. "I don't mean to be any
man's wife just now," she said, making a gulp of it--"I am too busy
electioneering; we are going to have a new member in dear old Mr
Chiltern's place. Perhaps he will come in this evening to talk things
over, and you shall see him," Lucilla added, graciously. She was a
little excited about the candidate, as was not unnatural--more excited,
perhaps, than she would have been ten years ago, when life was young;
and then it was not to be expected that she could be pleased with Aunt
Jemima for thinking it was so fortunate; though even that touch of
wounded pride did not lead Miss Marjoribanks to glorify herself by
betraying Tom.

"My brother-in-law used to be a dreadful Radical," said Aunt Jemima; "I
hope it is not one of those revolutionary men; I have seen your poor
uncle sit up arguing with him till I thought they never would be done.
If that is the kind of thing, I hope you will not associate yourself
with it, Lucilla. Your papa should have more sense than to let you. I
should never have permitted it if you had been _my_ daughter," added Mrs
John, with a little heat--for, to tell the truth, she too felt a slight
vexation on her part that the Doctor had the girl--even though not for
twenty girls would she have given up Tom.

Miss Marjoribanks looked upon the weak woman who thus ventured to
address her with indescribable feelings; but after all she was not so
much angry as amused and compassionate. She could not help thinking to
herself, if she had been Mrs John's daughter, how perfectly docile Aunt
Jemima would have been by this time, and how little she would have
really ventured to interfere. "It would have been very nice," she said,
with a meditative realisation of the possibility--"though it is very odd
to think how one could have been one's own cousin--I should have taken
very good care of you, I am sure."

"You would have done no such thing," said Mrs John; "you would have gone
off and married; I know how girls do. You have not married now, because
you have been too comfortable, Lucilla. You have had everything your own
way, and all that you wanted, without any of the bother. It is very
strange how differently people's lots are ordered. I was married at
seventeen--and I am sure I have not known what it was to have a day's
health----"

"Dear Aunt Jemima!" said her affectionate niece, kissing her, "but papa
shall see if he cannot give you something, and we will take such care of
you while you are here."

Mrs John was softened in spite of herself; but still she shook her head.
"It is very nice of you to say so, my dear," she said, "and it's
pleasant to feel that one has somebody belonging to one; but I have not
much confidence in your papa. He never understood my complaints. I used
to be very sorry for your poor mamma. He never showed that sympathy--but
I did not mean to blame him to you, Lucilla. I am sure he is a very good
father to you."

"He has been a perfect old angel," said Miss Marjoribanks; and then the
conversation came to a pause, as it was time to dress for dinner. Mrs
John Marjoribanks had a very nice room, and everything that was adapted
to make her comfortable; but she too had something to think of when the
door closed upon Lucilla, and she was left with her maid and her hot
water and her black velvet gown. Perhaps it was a little inconsistent to
wear a black velvet gown with her widow's cap; it was a question which
she had long debated in her mind before she resigned herself to the
temptation--but then it always looked so well, and was so very
profitable! and Mrs John felt that it was incumbent upon her to keep up
a respectable appearance for Tom's sake. Tom was very much in her mind
at that moment, as indeed he always was; for though it was a long time
ago, she could not get the idea out of her head that he must have said
something to Lucilla before he went off to India; and he had a way of
asking about his cousin in his letters; and though she would have done
anything to secure her boy's happiness, and was on the whole rather fond
of her niece, yet the idea of the objections her brother-in-law would
have to such a match, excited to the uttermost the smouldering pride
which existed in Aunt Jemima's heart. He was better off, and had always
been better off, than her poor John--and he had robust health and an
awful scorn of the coddling, to which, as he said, she had subjected his
brother; and he had money enough to keep _his_ child luxuriously, and
make her the leader of Carlingford society, while _her_ poor boy had to
go to India and put himself in the way of all kinds of unknown diseases
and troubles. Mrs John was profoundly anxious to promote her son's
happiness, and would gladly have given every penny she had to get him
married to Lucilla, "if that was what he wanted," as she justly said;
but to have her brother-in-law object to him, and suggest that he was
not good enough, was the one thing she could not bear. She was thinking
about this, and whether Tom really had not said anything, and whether
Lucilla cared for him, and what amid all these perplexities she should
do, while she dressed for dinner; and, at the same time, she felt her
palpitation worse than usual, and knew Dr Marjoribanks would smile his
grim smile if she complained, so that her visit to Grange Lane, though
Lucilla meant to take good care of her, was not altogether unmingled
delight to Mrs John.

But, nevertheless, Dr Marjoribanks's dinner-table was always a cheerful
sight, even when it was only a dinner-party of three; for then naturally
they used the round table, and were as snug as possible. Lucilla wore
her knot of green and violet ribbons on her white dress, to her aunt's
great amazement, and the Doctor had all the air of a man who had been
out in the world all day and returned in the evening with something to
tell--which is a thing which gives great animation to a family party.
Mrs John Marjoribanks had been out of all that sort of thing for a long
time. She had been living quite alone in a widowed, forlorn way, and had
half forgotten how pleasant it was to have somebody coming in with a
breath of fresh air about him and the day's budget of news--and it had
an animating effect upon her, even though she was not fond of her
brother-in-law. Dr Marjoribanks inquired about Tom in the most fatherly
way, and what he was about, and how things were looking for him, and
whether he intended to come home. "Much better not," the Doctor
said,--"I should certainly advise him not, if he asked me. He has got
over all the worst of it, and now is his time to do something worth
while."

"Tom is not one to think merely of worldly advantages," said his mother,
with a fine instinct of opposition. "I don't think he would care to
waste all the best part of his life making money. I'd rather see him
come home and be happy, for my part, even if he were not so rich----"

"If all men were happy that came home," said the Doctor, and then he
gave a rather grim chuckle. "Somebody has come home that you did not
reckon on, Lucilla. I am sorry to spoil sport; but I don't see how you
are to get out of it. There is another address on the walls to-day
besides that one of yours----"

"Oh, I hope there will be six addresses!" cried Miss Marjoribanks; "if
we had it all our own way it would be no fun;--a Tory, and a Whig, and
a--did you say Radical, Aunt Jemima? And then, what is a Conservative?"
asked Lucilla, though certainly she had a very much better notion of
political matters than Aunt Jemima had, to say the least.

"I wonder how you can encourage any poor man to go into Parliament,"
said Mrs John; "so trying for the health as it must be, and an end to
everything like domestic life. If it was my Tom I would almost rather he
stayed in India. He looks strong, but there is never any confidence to
be put in young men looking strong. Oh, I know you do not agree with me,
Doctor; but I have had sad reason for my way of thinking," said the poor
lady. As for the Doctor, he did not accept the challenge thus thrown to
him. Tom Marjoribanks was not the foremost figure in the world in his
eyes, as the absent wanderer was in that of his mother; and he had not
yet unburdened himself of what he had to say.

"I am not saying anything in favour of going into Parliament," said the
Doctor. "I'd sooner be a barge-man on the canal, if it was me. I am only
telling Lucilla what she has before her. I don't know when I have been
more surprised. Of course you were not looking for _that_," said Dr
Marjoribanks. He had kept back until the things were taken off the
table, for he had a benevolent disinclination to spoil anybody's dinner.
Now, when all the serious part of the meal was over, he tossed the
_Carlingford Gazette_ across the table, folded so that she could not
miss what he wanted her to see. Lucilla took it up lightly between her
finger and thumb; for the Carlingford papers were inky and badly
printed, and soiled a lady's hand. She took it up delicately without
either alarm or surprise, knowing very well that the Blues and the
Yellows were not likely without a struggle to give up to the new
standard, which was violet and green. But what she saw on that inky
broadsheet overwhelmed in an instant Miss Marjoribanks's
self-possession. She turned pale, though her complexion was, if
possible, fresher than ever, and even shivered in her chair, though her
nerves were so steady. Could it be a trick to thwart and startle her? or
could it be true? She lifted her eyes to her father with a look of
horror-stricken inquiry, but all that she met in return was a certain
air of amusement and triumph, which struck her at the tenderest point.
He was not sorry nor sympathetic, nor did he care at all for the sudden
shock she had sustained. On the contrary, he was laughing within himself
at the utterly unexpected complication. It was cruel, but it was
salutary, and restored her self-command in a moment. She might have
given way under kindness, but this look of satisfaction over her
discomfiture brought Lucilla to herself.

"Yes, I thought you would be surprised," said Dr Marjoribanks dryly; and
he took his first glass of claret with a slow relish and enjoyment,
which roused every sentiment of self-respect and spark of temper
existing in his daughter's mind. "If you had kept your own place it
would not have mattered; but I don't see how you are to get out of it.
You see young ladies should let these sort of things alone, Lucilla."
This was all the feeling he showed for her in her unexpected dilemma.
Miss Marjoribanks's heart gave one throb, which made the green and
violet ribbons jump and thrill; and then she came to herself, and
recognised, as she had so often done before, that she had to fight her
way by herself, and had nobody to look to. Such a thought is dreary
enough sometimes, and there are minds that sink under it; but at other
times it is like the touch of the mother earth which gave the giant back
its strength; and Lucilla was of the latter class of intelligence. When
she saw the triumph with which her embarrassment was received and that
she had no sympathy nor aid to look for, she recovered herself as if by
magic. Let what would come in the way, nothing could alter her certainty
that Mr Ashburton was the man for Carlingford; and that determination
not to be beaten, which is the soul of British valour, sprang up in an
instant in Miss Marjoribanks's mind. There was not even the alternative
of victory or Westminster Abbey for Lucilla. If she was ever to hold up
her head again, or have any real respect for herself, she must win. All
this passed through her head in the one bewildering moment, while her
father's words were still making her ears tingle, and _that name_,
printed in big inky letters, seemed to flutter in all the air round her.
It was hard to believe the intelligence thus conveyed, and harder still
to go on in the face of old friendships and the traditions of her youth;
but still duty was dearer than tradition, and it was now a necessity to
fight the battle to the last, and at all risks to win.

"Thank you all the same, papa, for bringing me the paper," said Lucilla.
"It would have been a great deal worse if I had not known of it before I
saw him. I am sure I am very glad for one thing. He can't be married or
dead, as people used to say. I am quite ashamed to keep you so long
downstairs, Aunt Jemima, when I know you must be longing for a cup of
tea--but it is somebody come back whom nobody expected. Tell him I shall
be _so_ glad to see him, papa; though I have no reason to be glad, for
he was one of my _young_ friends, you know, and he is sure to think I
have gone off." As she spoke, Lucilla turned Aunt Jemima, to whom she
had given her arm, quite round, that she might look into the great glass
over the mantelpiece: "I don't think I _am_ quite so much gone off as I
expected to be," said Miss Marjoribanks, with candid impartiality;
"though of course he will think me stouter--but it does not make any
difference about Mr Ashburton being the right man for Carlingford." She
said the words with a certain solemnity, and turned Mrs John, who was so
much surprised as to be speechless, round again, and led her upstairs.
It was as if they were walking in a procession of those martyrs and
renouncers of self, who build up the foundations of society; and it
would not be too much to say that under her present circumstances, and
in the excitement of this singular and unexpected event, such was the
painful but sublime consciousness which animated Lucilla's breast.

As for Dr Marjoribanks, his triumph was taken out of him by that
spectacle. He closed the door after the ladies had gone, and came back
to his easy-chair by the side of the fire, and could not but feel that
he had had the worst of it. It was actually Mr Cavendish who had come
home, and whose address to the electors of Carlingford, dated from Dover
on his return to England, the Doctor had just put into his daughter's
hand. But wonderful and unlooked-for as was the event, Lucilla, though
taken unawares, had not given in, nor shown any signs of weakness. And
the effect upon her father of her last utterance and confession was such
that he took up the paper again and read both addresses, which were
printed side by side. In other days Mr Cavendish had been the chosen
candidate of Grange Lane; and the views which he expressed (and he
expressed his views very freely) were precisely those of Dr
Marjoribanks. Yet when the Doctor turned to Mr Ashburton's expression of
his conviction that he was the right man for Carlingford, it cannot be
denied that the force of that simple statement had a wonderful effect
upon his mind--an effect all the greater, perhaps, in comparison with
the political exposition made by the other unexpected candidate. The
Doctor's meditations possibly took a slumbrous tone from the place and
the moment at which he pursued them; for the fact was that the words he
had just been hearing ran in his head all through the reading of the two
addresses. Mr Cavendish would think Lucilla had gone off; but yet she
had not gone off so much as might have been expected, and Mr Ashburton
was the man for Carlingford. Dr Marjoribanks laughed quietly by himself
in his easy-chair, and then went back to Mr Cavendish's opinions; and
ended again, without knowing it, in a kind of odd incipient agreement
with Lucilla. The new candidate was right in politics; but, after all,
Mr Ashburton was a more satisfactory sort of person. He was a man whom
people knew everything about, and a descendant of old Penrhyn, and had
the Firs, and lived in it, and spent about so much money every year
honestly in the face of the world. When a man conducts himself in this
way, his neighbours can afford to be less exacting as to his political
opinions. This comparison went on in the Doctor's thoughts until the
distinction between the two grew confused and faint in that ruddy and
genial glow of firelight and lamplight and personal well-being which is
apt to engross a man's mind after he has come in out of the air, as
people say, and has eaten a good dinner, and feels himself comfortable;
and at last all that remained in Dr Marjoribanks's mind was that Mr
Cavendish would think Lucilla had gone off, though she had not gone off
nearly so much as might have been expected; at which he laughed with an
odd sound, which roused him, and might have induced some people to think
he had been sleeping--if, indeed, anybody had been near to hear.

But this news was naturally much more serious to Miss Marjoribanks when
she got upstairs, and had time to think of it. She would not have been
human if she had heard without emotion of the return of the man whom she
had once dreamed of as member for Carlingford, with the addition of
other dreams which had not been altogether without their sweetness. He
had returned now and then for a few days, but Lucilla knew that he had
never held up his head in Grange Lane since the day when she advised him
to marry Barbara Lake. And now when he had bethought himself of his old
ambition, had he possibly bethought himself of other hopes as well? And
the horrible thing was, that she had pledged herself to another, and put
her seal upon it that Mr Ashburton was the man for Carlingford! It may
be supposed that, with such a complication in her mind, Miss
Marjoribanks was very little capable of supporting Aunt Jemima's
questions as to what it was about, and who was Mr Cavendish, and why was
his return of consequence to Lucilla? Mrs John was considerably alarmed
and startled, and began to think in earnest that Tom was fond of his
cousin, and would never forgive his mother for letting Lucilla perhaps
marry some one else, and settle down before her very eyes.

"If it is a very particular friend, I can understand it," Mrs John said,
with a little asperity; but that was after she had made a great many
attempts, which were only partially successful, to find it all out.

"Dear Aunt Jemima," said Lucilla, "we are all particular friends in
Carlingford--society is so limited, you know;--and Mr Cavendish has been
a very long time away. He used to be of such use to me, and I am so fond
of him," Miss Marjoribanks said, with a sigh; and it may be supposed
that Mrs John's curiosity was not lessened by such a response.

"If you are engaged to any one, Lucilla, I must say I think I ought to
have been told," said Tom's mother, with natural indignation. "Though I
ought not to blame _you_ for it, perhaps. It is a sad thing when a girl
is deprived of a mother's care; but still I am your nearest
relation----"

"My dear aunt, it is something about the election," said Miss
Marjoribanks. "How could I be engaged to a man who has been away ten
years?"

"Tom has been away ten years," said Mrs John impetuously; and then she
blushed, though she was past the age of blushing, and made haste to
cover her imprudence. "I don't see what you can have to do with the
election," she said, with suspicion, but some justice; "and I don't
feel, Lucilla, as if you were telling me all."

"I have the favours to make, Aunt Jemima," said Lucilla--"green and
violet. You used to be so clever at making bows, and I hope you will
help me;--papa, you know, will have to be on Mr Ashburton's committee,"
Miss Marjoribanks added; and then, in spite of herself, a sigh of doubt
and anxiety escaped her bosom. It was easy to say that "papa would be on
Mr Ashburton's committee, you know," but nobody had known that Mr
Cavendish was coming to drive everything topsy-turvy; and Lucilla,
though she professed to know only who was the man for Carlingford, had
at the same time sufficient political information to be aware that the
sentiments propounded in Mr Cavendish's address were also Dr
Marjoribanks's sentiments; and she did not know the tricks which some
green-and-violet spirit in the dining-room was playing with the Doctor's
fancy. Perhaps it might turn out to be Mr Cavendish's committee which
her father would be on; and after she had pledged herself that the other
man was the man for Carlingford! Lucilla felt that she could not be
disloyal and go back from her word, neither could she forget the
intimation which had so plainly indicated to her that Mr Ashburton was
the man; and yet, at the same time, she could not but sigh as she
thought of Mr Cavendish. Perhaps he had grown coarse, as men do at that
age, just as Lucilla herself was conscious that he would find her
stouter. Perhaps he had ceased to flirt, or be of any particular use of
an evening; possibly even he might have forgotten Miss Marjoribanks--but
naturally that was a thing that seemed unlikely to Lucilla. And oh! if
he had but come a little earlier, or for ever stayed away!

But while all these thoughts were going through her mind, her fingers
were still busy with the violet-and-green cockades which Aunt Jemima,
after making sure that Mr Ashburton was not a Radical, had begun to help
her with. And they sat and talked about Mrs John's breathing, which was
so bad, and about her headaches, while Lucilla by snatches discussed the
situation in her mind. Perhaps, on the whole, embarrassment and
perplexity are a kind of natural accompaniment to life and movement; and
it is better to be driven out of your senses with thinking which of two
things you ought to do than to do nothing whatever, and be utterly
uninteresting to all the world. This at least was how Lucilla reasoned
to herself in her dilemma; and while she reasoned she used up yard upon
yard of her green ribbon (for naturally the violet bore but a small
proportion to the green). Whatever she might have to do or to
suffer--however her thoughts might be disturbed or her heart
distracted--it is unnecessary to add that it was impossible to Lucilla
either to betray or to yield.



_Chapter XXXIX_


It was a very good thing for Lucilla that Mrs John was so much of an
invalid, notwithstanding that the Doctor made little of her complaints.
All that Dr Marjoribanks said was--with that remnant of Scotch which was
often perceptible in his speech--that her illnesses were a fine thing to
occupy her, and he did not know what she would do without them--a manner
of speaking which naturally lessened his daughter's anxiety, though her
sympathetic care and solicitude were undiminished. And no doubt, when
she had been once assured that there was nothing dangerous in her aunt's
case, it was a relief to Miss Marjoribanks at the present juncture that
Mrs John got up late and always breakfasted in her own room. Lucilla
went into that sanctuary after she had given her father his breakfast,
and heard all about the palpitation and the bad night Aunt Jemima had
passed; and then when she had consoled her suffering relative by the
reflection that one never sleeps well the first night or two, Miss
Marjoribanks was at liberty to go forth and attend a little to her own
affairs, which stood so much in need of being attended to. She had had
no further talk with the Doctor on the subject, but she had read over Mr
Cavendish's address, and could not help seeing that it went dead against
her candidate; neither could Lucilla remain altogether unaffected by the
expression of feeling in respect to "a place in which I have spent so
many pleasant years, and which has so many claims on my affections," and
the touching haste with which the exile had rushed back as soon as he
heard of the old member's death. If it touched Miss Marjoribanks, who
was already pledged to support another interest, what might it not do to
the gentlemen in Grange Lane who were not pledged, and who had a
friendship for Mr Cavendish? This was the alarming thought that had
disturbed her sleep all night, and returned to her mind with her first
awakening; and when she had really her time to herself, and the fresh
morning hours before her, Lucilla began, as everybody ought to do, by
going to the very root and foundation, and asking herself what, beyond
all secondary considerations, it was _right_ to do. To change from one
side to the other and go back from her word was a thing abhorrent to
her; but still Miss Marjoribanks was aware that there are certain
circumstances in which honesty and truth themselves demand what in most
cases is considered an untruthful and dishonest proceeding.

Thus in order to come to a right decision, and with a sense of the duty
she owed to her country which would have shamed half the electors in
England, not to say Carlingford, Lucilla, who naturally had no vote,
read the two addresses of the two candidates, and addressed herself
candidly and impartially to the rights of the subject. Mr Cavendish was
disposed, as we have said, to be pathetic and sentimental, and to speak
of the claims the borough had upon his affections, and the eagerness
with which he had rushed home at the earliest possible moment to present
himself to them. If poor old Mr Chiltern had been King Bomba, or a
gloomy Oriental tyrant, keeping all possible reformers and successors
banished from his dominions, the new candidate could not have spoken
with more pathos. It was a sort of thing which tells among the
imaginative part of the community, or so, at least, most people think;
and Miss Marjoribanks was moved by it for the first moment; but then her
enlightened mind asserted its rights. She said to herself that Mr
Cavendish might have come home at any hour, by any steamboat; that
Calais and Boulogne, and even Dieppe, were as open to him as if he had
been an actual refugee, and that consequently there was nothing
particular to be pathetic about. And then, if the town had such claims
on his affections, why had he stayed so long away? These two
rationalistic questions dispersed the first _attendrissement_ which had
begun to steal over Lucilla's mind. When she came to this conclusion,
her difficulties cleared away. She had no reason to go back from her
engagements and reject that intimation which had so impressed it on her,
that Mr Ashburton was the man. It was a sacrifice which ancient truth
and friendship did not demand, for verity was not in the document she
had just been reading, and that appeal to sentiment was nothing more
than what is generally called humbug. "He might have been living here
all the time," Lucilla said to herself; "he might have had much stronger
claims upon our affections; if he had wanted, he might have come back
ages ago, and not let people struggle on alone." When this view of the
subject occurred to her, Lucilla felt more indignation than sympathy.
And then, as Dr Marjoribanks had done, she turned to the calm utterance
of her own candidate--the man who was the only man for Carlingford--and
that sweet sense of having given sound counsel, and of having at last
met with some one capable of carrying it out, which makes up for so many
failures, came like balm to Lucilla's bosom. There was nothing more
necessary; the commotion in her mind calmed down, and the tranquillity
of undisturbed conviction came in its place. And it was with this sense
of certainty that she put on her bonnet and issued forth, though it
snowed a little, and was a very wintry day, on Mr Ashburton's behalf, to
try her fortune in Grange Lane.

She went to Mrs Chiley's, who was now very old, poor old lady! and
feeble, and did not like to leave her sofa. Not but what she could leave
the sofa, she said to her friends, but at that time of the year, and at
her time of life, it was comfortable. The sofa was wheeled to the side
of the fire, and Mrs Chiley reclined upon it, covered with knitted rugs
of the brightest colours, which her young friends all worked for her.
The last one arrived was what used to be called an Afghanistan blanket,
done in stripes of all sorts of pretty tints, which was a present from
Mrs Beverley. "Her work, she says, Lucilla," said the old lady; "but we
know what sort of soft dawdling woman she is, and it must have been the
Archdeacon's nieces, you know." But still it had the place of honour at
present, covering Mrs Chiley's feet, and affording something to talk
about when any one came in. And by her side was a little table, upon
which stood one China rose, in a glass of water--a pale rose, almost as
pale as her soft old cheeks, and chilled like them by the approaching
frost. And the fire burned with an officious cheerfulness at her elbow,
as if it thought nothing of such accidental circumstances as winter and
old age. To be sure this was a reflection which never came into Mrs
Chiley's head, who was, on the contrary, very thankful for the fire, and
said it was like a companion. "And I often think, my dear, how do the
poor people get on, especially if they are old and sick, they have no
fires to keep them cheerful in this dreadful weather," the kind old lady
would say. She did say so now when Lucilla came in, glowing with cold
and her rapid walk, and with a flake or two of snow slowly melting on
her sealskin cloak. Perhaps it was not a sentiment the Colonel agreed
with, for he gave a humph and a little hoist of his shoulders, as if in
protest, being himself a good deal limited in his movements, and not
liking to own it, by the wintry torpor within his big old frame, and the
wintry weather outside.

"Come and tell us all the news, Lucilla, my darling," Mrs Chiley said,
as she drew down her young friend's glowing face to her own, and gave
her one of her lingering kisses; "I felt sure you would come and tell us
everything. I said it would not be like Lucilla if she didn't. We know
nothing but _the fact_, you know--not another word. Make haste and tell
us everything, my dear."

"But I don't know anything," said Miss Marjoribanks. "Of course you mean
about Mr Cavendish. I saw it in the papers, like everybody else, but I
don't know anything more."

And then Mrs Chiley's countenance fell. She was not very strong, poor
old lady, and she could have cried, as she said afterwards. "Ah, well, I
suppose there is not time," she said, after a little pause; "I suppose
he has not got here from Dover yet--one always forgets the distance. I
calculated it all over last night, and I thought he would get home by
the eleven train; but these trains are never to be calculated upon, you
know, my dear. I _am_ a little disappointed, Lucilla. Poor dear! to
think how he must have rushed home the first moment--I could have cried
when I read that address."

"I don't see why any one should cry," said Lucilla. "I think he makes a
great deal too much of that; he might have come ever so many years ago
if he had liked. Poor Mr Chiltern did not banish him, poor old man!--he
might have been here for years."

Upon which the Colonel himself drew a little nearer, and poked the fire.
"I am glad to see you are so sensible, Lucilla," he said. "It's the
first rational word I have heard on the subject. _She_ thinks he's a
kind of saint and martyr; a silly young fellow that runs off among a set
of Frenchmen because he can't get everything his own way--and then he
expects that we are all to go into transports of joy, and give him our
votes," Colonel Chiley added, smashing a great piece of coal with the
poker, with a blow full of energy, yet showing a slight unsteadiness in
it, which sent a host of blazing splinters into the hearth. He was a man
who wore very well, but he was not so steady as he once was, and
nowadays was apt, by some tremulous movement, to neutralise the strength
which he had left.

Mrs Chiley, for her part, was apt to be made very nervous by her
husband's proceedings. She was possessed by a terror that the splinters
some day would jump out of the hearth on to the carpet and fly into the
corners, "and perhaps burn us all up in our beds," as she said. She gave
a little start among her cushions, and stooped down to look over the
floor. "He will never learn that he is old," she said in Lucilla's ear,
who instantly came to her side to see what she wanted; and thus the two
old people kept watch upon each other, and noted, with a curious mixture
of vexation and sympathy, each other's declining strength.

"For my part, I would give him all my votes, if I had a hundred," said
Mrs Chiley, "and so will you, too, when you hear the rights of it.
Lucilla, my dear, tell him--I hope _you_ are not going to forsake old
friends."

"No," said Miss Marjoribanks--but she spoke with a gravity and
hesitation which did not fail to reach Mrs Chiley's ear--"I hope I shall
never desert my old friends; but I think all the same that it is Mr
Ashburton who is the right man for Carlingford," she said slowly. She
said it with reluctance, for she knew it would shock her audience, but,
at the same time, she did not shrink from her duty; and the moment had
now arrived when Lucilla felt concealment was impossible, and that the
truth must be said.

As for Mrs Chiley, she was so distressed that the tears came to her
eyes; and even the Colonel laughed, and did not understand it. Colonel
Chiley, though he was by no means as yet on Mr Cavendish's side, was not
any more capable than his neighbours of understanding Miss
Marjoribanks's single-minded devotion to what was just and right; and
why she should transfer her support to Ashburton, who was not a ladies'
man, nor, in the Colonel's opinion, a marrying man, nor anything at all
attractive, now that the other had come back romantic and repentant to
throw his honours at her feet, was beyond his power of explanation. He
contented himself with saying "humph"; but his wife was not so easily
satisfied. She took Lucilla by the hand and poured forth a flood of
remonstrances and prayers.

"I do not understand you, Lucilla," said Mrs Chiley. "He whom we know so
little about--whom, I am sure, you have no reason to care for. And where
could you find anybody nicer than Mr Cavendish?--and he to have such
faith in us, and to come rushing back as soon as he was able. I am sure
you have not taken everything into consideration, Lucilla. He might not
perhaps do exactly as could have been wished before he went away; but he
was young and he was led astray; and I do think you were a little hard
upon him, my dear; but I have always said I never knew anybody nicer
than Mr Cavendish. And what possible reason you can have to care about
that other man----"

"It was like a special Intimation," said Lucilla, with solemnity. "I
don't see how I could neglect it, for my part. The day the news came
about poor old Mr Chiltern's death I was out, you know, and heard it;
and just at one spot upon the pavement, opposite Mr Holden's, it came
into my mind like a flash of lightning that Mr Ashburton was the man. I
don't care in the least for him, and I had not been thinking of him, or
anything. It came into my head all in a moment. If I had been very
intimate with poor dear old Mr Chiltern, or if I believed in
spirit-rapping, I should think it was a message from _him_."

Lucilla spoke with great gravity, but she did not impress her audience,
who were people of sceptical minds. Mrs Chiley, for her part, was almost
angry, and could scarcely forgive Lucilla for having made her give grave
attention to such a piece of nonsense. "If it _had_ been him," she said,
with some wrath, "I don't see how having been dead for a few hours
should make his advice worth having. It never was good for anything when
he was alive. And you don't believe in spirit-rapping, I _hope_. I
wonder how you can talk such nonsense," the old lady said severely. And
Colonel Chiley, who had been a little curious too, laughed and coughed
over the joke; for the two old people were of the old school, and of a
very unbelieving frame of mind.

"I knew you would laugh," said Miss Marjoribanks, "but I cannot help it.
If it had been impressed upon _your_ mind like that, you would have been
different. And, of course, I like Mr Cavendish much the best. I am so
glad I have no vote," said Lucilla; "it does not matter to anybody what
I think; but if I had anything to do with it, you know I could not stand
up for Mr Cavendish, even though I am fond of him, when I felt sure that
Mr Ashburton is the man for Carlingford--nobody could ask me to do
that."

There followed a pause upon this declaration; for Miss Marjoribanks,
though she had no vote, was a person of undoubted influence, and such a
conviction on her part was not to be laughed at. Even Colonel Chiley,
who was undecided in his own mind, was moved by it a little. "What does
the Doctor think?" he asked. "Ashburton doesn't say a word about his
principles that I can see; and the other, you know----"

"Dear Colonel Chiley," cried Lucilla, "he is not going to be Prime
Minister; and I have always heard you say, as long as I can remember,
that it was not opinions, you know, but a good _man_ that people wanted.
I have heard people talking politics for hours, and I always remember
you saying that, and thinking it was the only sensible thing that was
said; but, of course, I don't understand politics," Lucilla added, with
humility. As for the Colonel, he took up the poker, perhaps to hide a
little pleasant confusion, and again drew near the fire.

"By George! I believe Lucilla is in the right," he said, with a certain
agreeable consciousness. Perhaps he did not quite recollect at what
moment of his life he had originated that sentiment, but he thought he
could recollect having said it; and it was with the view of carrying off
the bashfulness of genius, and not because the coals had any need of it,
that he took up the poker--a proceeding which was always regarded with
alarm and suspicion by his wife.

"The fire is very nice," said Mrs Chiley. "I hate to have the fire poked
when it does not want it. Lucilla, if you make him go over to _that_ Mr
Ashburton's side, you will have a great deal to answer for, and I will
never forgive you. My dear, you must be dreaming--a man that is as dry
as a stick, and not one-hundredth nor one-thousandth part so nice----"

"I shan't say another word," said Lucilla; "I shan't stay any longer,
for I can't help it, and you would be angry with me. People can't help
what they believe, you know. There is poor little Oswald Brown, who has
doubts, and can't go into the Church, and will ruin all his prospects,
and nobody can help it----"

"If I were his mother I should help it!" cried Mrs Chiley. "I promise
you he should not talk of his doubts to me! A bit of a lad; and what is
good enough for all the bishops, and everybody in their senses, is not
good enough for him! If that is the kind of example you are going to
follow, Lucilla----"

"Dear Mrs Chiley," said Miss Marjoribanks, "everybody knows what my
Church principles are; and perhaps you will come round to think with me;
but I am not going to say any more about it now. I am so glad your
rheumatism is better this morning; but you must wrap up well, for it is
so cold, oh, so cold, out of doors!"

When Lucilla had thus dismissed the subject, she came to her old
friend's side and bent over her in her sealskin cloak, to say good-bye.
Mrs Chiley took her by both hands as she thus stood with her back to the
old Colonel, and drew her down close, and looked searchingly into her
eyes. "If you have any _particular_ reason, Lucilla, you ought to tell
me--that would make such a difference," said the old lady. "I always
tell you everything," said Miss Marjoribanks, with evasive fondness, as
she kissed the soft old withered cheek; and naturally, with the Colonel
behind, who was standing up before the fire shadowing over them both,
and quite unaware of this little whispered episode, it would have been
impossible to say more had there been ever so much to say. But it had
been a close encounter in its way, and Lucilla was rather glad to get
off without any further damage. She did not feel quite successful as she
went out; but still she had left a very wholesome commotion behind her;
for Colonel Chiley could not but feel that the sentiment which she had
quoted from himself was a very just sentiment. "By George! Lucilla was
in the right of it," he said again, after she was gone; and in fact went
through a process very similar to that which had modified the sentiments
of Dr Marjoribanks on the previous night. Mr Cavendish was a young
fellow who had rushed off among a set of Frenchmen, because Lucilla
Marjoribanks would not have him, or because he could not marry Barbara
Lake in addition, or at least somehow because he failed of having his
own way. It was all very well for him to come back and make a commotion,
and be sentimental about it. But what if, after all, Ashburton, who had
the Firs, and lived there, and spent his money like a Christian, was the
man for Carlingford? The Colonel's mind still wavered and veered about;
yet it had received an impulse which was by no means unworthy of
consideration.

As for Mrs Chiley, she laid back her head upon her pillows and painfully
questioned with herself whether Lucilla could have any _particular_
reason for taking Mr Ashburton's part so warmly. She thought with
justice that Miss Marjoribanks was looking brighter and better, and had
more of her old animation than she had shown for a long time--which
arose from the simple fact that she had something in hand, though the
old lady thought it might have a more touching and delicate motive. If
_that_ was the case, it would make a great difference. Mrs Chiley was no
longer able to go out in the evening, and had to be dependent on other
people's observation for a knowledge of what happened--and she was
wounded by a sense that her young friend had not been appreciated as her
worth deserved. If Mr Ashburton had the sense to see what was for his
own advantage, it would be a frightful thing, as Mrs Chiley said to
herself, if Lucilla's friends should fly in his face. And though it was
a hard trial to give up Mr Cavendish, still if anything of the kind had
happened----Thus it will be evident that Lucilla's visit, though it was
not a long one, nor the least in the world an argumentative visit, was
not without its fruit.

She went up Grange Lane again cheerful and warm in her sealskin coat. It
was a thing that suited her remarkably well, and corresponded with her
character, and everybody knows how comfortable they are. The snowflakes
fell softly, one at a time, and melted away to nothing upon her sleeves
and her shoulders without leaving any trace--and Lucilla, with the chill
air blowing in her face, and those feathery messengers in the air, could
not but feel that her walk and the general readiness which she felt to
face all kinds of objections and difficulties, and to make a sacrifice
of her own feelings, had in them a certain magnanimous and heroic
element. For after all she had no _particular_ reason, as Mrs Chiley
said. Mr Ashburton was a dry man, and of very little use in a social
point of view, and had never paid her any attention to speak of, nor at
all put himself forth as a candidate for her favour. If he had done so,
she would not have felt that thrill of utter disinterestedness which
kept her as warm within as her sealskin did without.

There was not a soul to be seen in Grange Lane at that moment in the
snow, which came on faster and faster, but one of Mr Wentworth's (who at
that time was new in St Roque's) gray sisters, and another lady who was
coming down, as quickly as Lucilla was going up, by the long line of
garden walls. The gentlemen were either at business or at their club, or
keeping themselves snug indoors; and it was only these devoted women who
braved the elements outside. The figure in the gray cloak was occupied
simply with the poor people, and that is not our present business; but
the other two were otherwise inspired. Mr Cavendish, who had lately
arrived, had not been able to make up his mind to face the weather; but
his sister was of a different way of thinking. She was not of half the
capacity of Lucilla, but still she felt that something ought to be done,
and that there was not a moment to be lost. When she saw it was Miss
Marjoribanks that was advancing to meet her, a momentary chill came over
Mrs Woodburn. She was thinking so much of her own errand that she could
not but jump at the idea that nothing less important could have induced
Lucilla to be out of doors on such a day; and her heart beat loud as the
two drew near each other. Was it an unexpected and generous auxiliary,
or was it a foe accomplished and formidable? For one thing, she was not
coming out of Mr Centum's, where Mrs Woodburn herself was going, which
at least was a relief. As they came nearer the two ladies instinctively
looked to their weapons. They had met already in many a little passage
of arms, but nothing like this had ever occurred to them before. If they
were to work in union, Mrs Woodburn felt that they would carry all
before them; and if not, then it must be a struggle unto the death.

"Is it really you, Lucilla?" she said; "I could not believe my eyes.
What can have brought you out of doors on such a day? You that have
everything your own way, and no call to exert yourself----"

"I have been to see Mrs Chiley," said Lucilla sweetly; "when the weather
is bad she sees nobody, and she is always so pleased to have me. Her
rheumatism is not so bad, thank you--though I am sure if this weather
should last----"

"You would see Mrs Beverley's blanket," said Mrs Woodburn, who was a
little nervous, though perhaps that might only be the cold; "but we know
what sort of woman she is, and it must have been the Archdeacon's
nieces, my dear. Do turn back with me a moment, Lucilla; or I shall go
with you. I want to speak to you. Of course you have heard of Harry's
coming home?"

"I saw it in the papers," said Miss Marjoribanks, whose perfect serenity
offered a curious contrast to her companion's agitation. "I am sure I
shall be very glad to see him again. I hope he will come to dinner on
Thursday as he used to do. It will be quite nice to see him in his old
place."

"Yes," said Mrs Woodburn; "but that was not what I was thinking of. You
know you used always to say he ought to be in Parliament; and he has
always kept thinking of it since he went away--and thinking, I am sure,
that it would please you," said the poor woman, faltering; for Lucilla
listened with a smile that was quite unresponsive, and did not change
countenance in the least, even at this tender suggestion. "He has come
home with that object now, you know, now that poor old Mr Chiltern is
dead; and I hope you are going to help us, Lucilla," said Mrs Woodburn.
Her voice quite vibrated with agitation as she made this hurried,
perhaps injudicious, appeal, thinking within herself at the same moment
what would Harry say if he knew that she was thus committing him. As for
Lucilla, she received it all with the same tranquillity, as if she
expected it, and was quite prepared for everything that her assailant
had to say.

"I am sure I wish I had a vote," said Lucilla; "but I have no vote, and
what can a girl do? I am so sorry I don't understand politics. If we
were going in for that sort of thing, I don't know what there would be
left for the gentlemen to do."

"You have influence, which is a great deal better than a vote," said Mrs
Woodburn; "and they all say there is nobody like a lady for
electioneering--and a young lady above all; and then you know Harry so
well, and can always draw him out to the best advantage. I never thought
he looked so nice, or showed his talents so much, as when he was with
you," said the eager advocate. She was only wrapped in a shawl herself,
and when she looked at Lucilla's sealskin coat, and saw how rosy and
comfortable she looked, and how serene and immovable, poor Mrs Woodburn
was struck with a pang of envy. If Miss Marjoribanks had married ten
years ago, it might have been she now who would have had to stand
trembling with anxiety and eagerness among the falling snow, knowing
sundry reasons why Mr Cavendish should be disposed to go into Parliament
more substantial than that of gratifying a young lady, and feeling how
much depended on her ability to secure support for him. This, as it
happened, had fallen to his sister's share instead, and Lucilla stood
opposite to her looking at her, attentive and polite, and unresponsive.
If Harry had only not been such a fool ten years ago! for Mrs Woodburn
began to think now with Aunt Jemima, that Lucilla did not marry because
she was too comfortable, and, without any of the bother, could have
everything her own way.

"It is so cold," said Miss Marjoribanks, "and I do think it is coming on
to snow very fast. I don't think it is good to stand talking. Do come in
to lunch, and then we can have a long chat; for I am sure nobody else
will venture out to-day."

"I wish I could come," said Mrs Woodburn, "but I have to go down to Mary
Centum's, and hear all about her last new housemaid, you know. I don't
know what servants are made of for my part. They will go out in their
caps and talk to the young men, you know, in a night that is enough to
give any one their death," the mimic added, with a feeble exercise of
her gift which it was sad to see. "But Harry will be sure to come to
call the first time he goes out, and you _will_ not forget what I have
said to you, Lucilla?" and with this Mrs Woodburn took her young
friend's hand and looked in her face with a pathetic emphasis which it
would be impossible to describe.

"Oh, no, certainly not," said Miss Marjoribanks, with cheerful
certainty; and then they kissed each other in the midst of the falling
snow. Mrs Woodburn's face was cold, but Lucilla's cheek was warm and
blooming as only a clear conscience and a sealskin cloak could have made
it; and then they went their several ways through the wintry solitude.
Ah, if Harry had only not been such a fool ten years ago! Mrs Woodburn
was not an enthusiastic young wife, but knew very well that marriage had
its drawbacks, and had come to an age at which she could appreciate the
comfort of having her own way without any of the bother. She gave a
furtive glance after Lucilla, and could not but acknowledge to herself
that it would be very foolish of Miss Marjoribanks to marry, and forfeit
all her advantages, and take somebody else's anxieties upon her
shoulders, and never have any money except what she asked from her
husband. Mrs Chiley, to be sure, who was more experienced than Mrs
Woodburn, and might have been her grandmother, took a different view of
the subject; but this was what the middle-aged married woman felt, who
had, as may be said, two men to carry on her shoulders, as she went
anxiously down Grange Lane to conciliate Mrs Centum, wrapping her shawl
about her, and feeling the light snow melt beneath her feet, and the
cold and discomfort go to her heart. She had her husband to keep in good
humour, and her brother to keep up and keep to the mark, and to do what
she could to remedy in public the effects of his indolent Continental
habits, and carry, if it was possible, the election for him--all with
the horrid sense upon her mind that if at any time the dinner should be
a little less cared for than usual, or the children more noisy, Woodburn
would go on like a savage. Under such circumstances, the poor woman,
amid her cares, may be excused if she looked back a little wistfully at
Lucilla going home all comfortable and independent and light-hearted,
with no cares, nor anybody to go on at her, in her sealskin coat.

This was how Lucilla commenced that effective but decorous advocacy
which did Mr Ashburton so much good in Carlingford. She did not pretend
to understand about politics, or to care particularly about Reform or
the Income-tax; but she expressed with quiet solemnity her conviction
that it was not opinions but a good man that was wanted; that it was not
a prime minister they were going to elect, and that Mr Ashburton was the
man for Carlingford. "By George! Lucilla is in the right of it!" Colonel
Chiley said; "that was always my opinion;" and the people in Grange Lane
soon began to echo the Colonel's sentiments, which were so sound and so
just.

As for Miss Marjoribanks, nobody had any occasion to "go on" about any
neglect on her part of her household duties. Dr Marjoribanks's dinners
were always excellent, and it was now, as ever, a privilege to be
admitted to his table; and nothing could be more exemplary than the care
Lucilla took of Aunt Jemima, who had always such bad nights. Even on
this snowy afternoon she went in from her more important cares, with a
complexion freshened by the cold, and coaxed Mrs John into eating
something, and made her as comfortable as possible at the drawing-room
fireside.

"Now, tell me all about Tom," Lucilla said, when she had got her work
and settled herself comfortably for a quiet afternoon--for the snow had
come on heavier than ever, and unless it might be a sister of charity,
or such another sister not of charity, as Lucilla had already
encountered, nobody was like to stir abroad or to disturb the two ladies
in their work and their talk. Lucilla had some very interesting
worsted-work in hand; and the drawing-room never looked more cosy, with
somebody to talk to inside, and the wintry world and driving snow
without. And such an invitation as Miss Marjoribanks had just given
lifted Aunt Jemima into a paradise of content. She took Lucilla at her
word, and told her, as may be supposed, _all_ about Tom, including many
things which she was quite acquainted with and knew by heart; and at the
same time there was something implied all through, but never
obtrusively set forth, which was not displeasing to the auditor. Miss
Marjoribanks listened with affectionate satisfaction, and asked a great
many questions, and supplied a great many reminiscences, and entered
quite into the spirit of the conversation, and the two spent a very
pleasant afternoon together,--so pleasant that Mrs John felt quite
annoyed at the reflection that it must come to an end like everything
else that is good, and that she must get herself once more into her
velvet gown and dine with her brother-in-law. If Providence had only
given her the girl instead of the Doctor, who would no doubt have got on
quite well without any children! but then, to be sure, if Lucilla had
been hers to start with, she never could have married Tom.

For this was the extravagant hope which had already begun to blossom in
his mother's breast. To be sure a woman might marry Tom, who was too
comfortable at home to think of marrying just anybody who might make her
an offer. But it was not easy to tell how Lucilla herself felt on this
subject. Her complexion was so bright with her walk, her sensations so
agreeable after that warm, cheerful, pleasant afternoon, her position so
entirely everything that was to be desired, and her mind so nobly
conscious of being useful to her kind and country, that, even without
any additional argument, Miss Marjoribanks had her reward, and was
happy. Perhaps a touch more exquisite might still come in to round the
full proportions of content. But, to tell the truth, Lucilla was so well
off that it was not necessary to invent any romantic source of happiness
to account for the light of well-being and satisfaction that shone in
her eyes.



_Chapter XL_


The result of Miss Marjoribanks's wise precaution and reticence was that
Sir John Richmond and the Doctor and Colonel Chiley were all on Mr
Ashburton's committee. They might not agree with his principles; but
then when a man does not state any very distinct principles, it is
difficult for any one, however well disposed, to disagree with him; and
the fact that he was the man for Carlingford was so indisputable, that
nobody attempted to go into the minor matters. "Mr Ashburton is a
gentleman known to us all," Sir John said, with great effect, in his
nomination speech; and it was a sentence which went to the hearts of his
audience. The other candidate had been a long time from home, and it was
longer still since anybody in Carlingford could be said to have
benefited by his residence there. He had had all his things down from
town, as Mr Holden, the upholsterer, pithily remarked--and that made a
great difference to start with. As for Mr Ashburton, though it is true
nobody knew what he thought about Reform or the Income-tax, everybody
knew that he lived at the Firs, and was supplied in a creditable way by
George Street tradesmen. There was no mystery whatever about him. People
knew how much he had a year, and how much he paid for everything, and
the way in which his accounts were kept, and all about him. Even when he
had his wine direct from the growers (for naturally his own county could
not supply the actual liquor), it was put in Carlingford bottles, and
people knew the kinds he had, and how much, and a hundred agreeable
details. And then, "he was a gentleman as was always ready to give his
advice," as some of the people said. All this furnished an immense body
of evidence in his favour, and made Sir John's remark eloquent. And then
Carlingford, as a general rule, did not care the least in the world
about Reform. There were a few people who had once done so, and it was
remarked in Grove Street that Mr Tozer had once been in a dreadful state
of mind about it. But he was quite tranquil on the subject now, and so
was the community in general. And what was really wanted, as Lucilla's
genius had seen at a glance, was not this or that opinion, but a good
man.

But at the same time it would be vain to deny that Miss Marjoribanks
looked forward to a possible visit from Mr Cavendish with a certain
amount of anxiety. She was not frightened, for she knew her own powers;
but she was a little excited and stimulated by the idea that he might
come in at any minute, bringing back a crowd of recollections with him;
and it was a perpetual wonder to her how he would take the inevitable
difference, whether he would accept it as natural, or put on the airs of
an injured man. Lucilla did not go out the two afternoons after her
meeting with Mrs Woodburn, partly that she might not miss him if he
called--for it was better to have it over; but Mr Cavendish did not come
on either of these days. After that, of course, she did not wait for him
any longer. But on the third or fourth day, when she was in Miss Brown's
photographing room (the eldest Miss Brown was not married, and was a
mother to the younger girls, and always enthusiastic about sitters), Mr
Ashburton called about business, and Thomas came to fetch Miss
Marjoribanks. She was sitting with the greatest good-nature for half a
dozen pictures, knowing in her secret heart all the time that she would
look a perfect fright, and that all Carlingford would see her grinning
with imbecile amiability out of the hazy background of Miss Brown's
_cartes_. Lucilla knew this, and had hitherto avoided the process with
success; but now she gave in; and as the Major was there, of course they
talked of the coming election, which, indeed, at present was almost the
only topic of conversation in Grange Lane.

"Of course, you are on Mr Ashburton's committee," said Lucilla; "you
must be, or going to be, after what you said the other day at lunch----"

"What did I say?" asked Major Brown, with an air of dismay; for, to tell
the truth, his heart inclined a little towards poor Mr Cavendish, who
was an old neighbour, and to whom Major Brown could not but think the
Marjoribanks and others had behaved rather cruelly. But then in these
electioneering matters one never knows what one may have done to
compromise oneself without meaning it; and the Major was a little
anxious to find out what he had said.

"Dear Major Brown," said Lucilla, seriously, "I am so sorry if you did
not mean it. I am sure it was that as much as anything that influenced
Mr Ashburton. He was turning it all over in his mind, you know, and was
afraid the people he most esteemed in Carlingford would not agree with
him, and did not know what to do; and then you said, What did it matter
about opinions, if it was a good man?--that was what decided him," said
Miss Marjoribanks, with sad yet gentle reproachfulness. "I am so sorry
if you did not mean what you said----"

"Good heavens! I don't remember saying anything of the sort," said Major
Brown. "I--I am sure I never thought of influencing anybody. It is true
enough about a good man, you know; but if I had imagined for an instant
that any one was paying attention----By George! it was you that said it,
Lucilla--I remember now."

"Please don't make fun of me," said Miss Marjoribanks; "as if anybody
cared what _I_ say about politics. But I know that was what decided poor
Mr Ashburton. Indeed, he told me so; and when he finds you did not mean
anything----"

"But, good heavens!--I--I did mean something," cried the accused, with
dismay. And he grew quite inarticulate in his confusion, and red in the
face, and lost his head altogether, while Lucilla sat calmly looking on
with that air of virtue at once severe and indulgent, which pities, and
blames, and hopes that perhaps there is not so much harm done as might
have been expected. This was the position of affairs when Thomas came to
say that Miss Marjoribanks was wanted, as she had told him to do when
her candidate came; for, to be sure, it was only next door. It was
terrible to hear the soft sigh she gave when she shook hands with Major
Brown. "I hope he will not feel it so much as I think; but I should be
afraid to tell him," said Lucilla; and she went away, leaving the good
man in a state of bewilderment and embarrassment and doubt, which would
have been much more unpleasant if he had not felt so flattered at the
same time. "I never meant to influence anybody, I am sure!" he said,
with a comical mixture of complacence and dismay, when Lucilla was gone.
"I have always said, papa, that you don't think enough of the weight
people give to your opinion," Miss Brown replied, as she gave the final
bath to her negatives; and they both left off work with a certain glow
of comforted _amour propre_, and the most benevolent sentiments towards
Mr Ashburton, who, to tell the truth, until he got his lesson from Miss
Marjoribanks, had never once thought about the opinion of Major Brown.

He was sitting with Aunt Jemima when Lucilla came in, and talking to her
in a steady sort of a way. Nothing could have made Mr Ashburton socially
attractive, but still there are many people to whom this steady sort of
talk is more agreeable than brilliancy. When a man is brilliant there is
always a doubt in some minds whether he is trustworthy, or sincere, or
to be relied upon; but an ordinary commonsense sort of talker is free
from such suspicion. Mr Ashburton was very sorry to hear that Mrs John
Marjoribanks had bad nights, and suggested that it might be nervousness,
and hoped that the air of Carlingford would do her good, and was very
glad to hear that her son was getting on so well in India; and Aunt
Jemima could not help approving of him, and feeling that he was a person
of substance and reflection, and not one of those fly-away young men who
turn girls' heads, and never mean anything. Lucilla herself gained
something in Mrs John's eyes from Mr Ashburton's high opinion; but at
the same time it was quite clear that he was not thinking of anything
sentimental, but was quite occupied about his election, as a man of
sense should be. Lucilla came in with a fine bloom on her cheeks, but
still with a shade of that sadness which had had so great an effect upon
Major Brown. She had taken off her hat before she came in, and dropped
into her chair with an air of languor and fatigue which was quite
unusual to her. "It makes such a difference in life when one has
something on one's mind," said Lucilla, and she sighed, as was but
natural; for though that did not affect the energy of her proceedings,
she knew and remembered at moments of discouragement how seldom one's
most disinterested exertions are appreciated at the end.

"You want your lunch, my dear," said Mrs John.

"Perhaps I do," said Miss Marjoribanks, with a mournful affectionate
smile. "I have been sitting to Maria Brown. She has taken six, and I am
sure they are every one more hideous than the other; and they will go
all over England, you know, for the Browns have hosts of people
belonging to them; and everybody will say, 'So _that_ is Miss
Marjoribanks.' I don't think I am vain to speak of," said Lucilla, "but
that sort of thing goes to one's heart."

"These amateurs are terrible people," said Mr Ashburton, in his steady
way; "and photographs are a regular nuisance. For my part----"

"Don't say that," said Miss Marjoribanks. "I know what you are going to
say; and you _must_ sit to her, please. I have said already she must do
one of you; and I will tell you presently about the Major. But wait and
talk to Aunt Jemima a little, for I am so tired," said Lucilla. She was
lying back negligently in her seat, with that air of languor which so
many young ladies excel in, but which was for her a novel indulgence.
Her hand hung over the arm of her chair as if there was no longer any
force in it. Her head fell back, her eyes were half closed; it was a
moment of abandonment to her sensations, such as a high-principled young
woman like Miss Marjoribanks seldom gives way to. But Lucilla went into
it conscientiously, as into everything she did, that she might regain
her strength for the necessary duties that were before her.

And it was at this moment that Thomas appeared at the door with a
suspicion of a grin appearing at the corners of his sober mouth, and
announced Mr Cavendish, who came in before an ordinary woman would have
had time to open her eyes. This was the moment he had chosen for his
first visit; and yet it was not he who had chosen it, but fate, who
seemed to have in this respect a spite against Lucilla. It was not only
the embarrassing presence of his rival, but the fact that neither of the
two people in the room knew or had ever seen Mr Cavendish, that put a
climax to the horror of the situation. She alone knew him, and had to
take upon herself to present and introduce him, and bridge over for him
the long interval of absence, and all this with the sense of being in
the enemy's interest, and to a certain extent false to Mr Cavendish!
Lucilla rose at once, but she was not a woman to make pretences. She did
not throw off all in a moment her fatigue, and dash into spasmodic
action. She held out her hand silently to Mr Cavendish, with a look
which spoke only affectionate satisfaction in a friend's return. She did
not even speak at all for the first moment, but contented herself with a
look, which indeed, if he had been younger and less preoccupied, would
no doubt have touched his very heart.

"So you have really come back," she said. "I am so glad! after all that
people said about your being married and dead and ever so many stupid
things. Oh! don't look at me, please. It doesn't matter with a
gentleman, but I know as well as if you had told me that you think me
dreadfully gone off----"

"_I_ entertain such a profane idea!" said Mr Cavendish; but he was
considerably embarrassed, and he was a great deal stouter, and
altogether different from what he used to be, and he had not the light
hand of his youth for a compliment. And then he sat down on the chair
Thomas had given him; and he looked uncomfortable, to say the least of
it; and he was getting large in dimensions and a little red in the face,
and had by no means the air of thinking that it didn't matter for a
gentleman. As for Miss Marjoribanks, it would be impossible to say what
mists of illusion dropped away from her mind at the sight of him. Even
while she smiled upon the new-comer, she could not but ask herself, with
momentary dismay--Had _she_ really gone off as much in the same time?

"I have been looking for you," Miss Marjoribanks resumed; "I waited in
for you Tuesday and Wednesday, and it is so odd you should have come
just at this minute. Aunt Jemima, this is Mr Cavendish, whom you have
heard so much about--and don't go, please, Mr Ashburton--you two must
know each other. You will be hearing of each other constantly; and I
suppose you will have to shake hands or something on the hustings--so it
will be much the best to begin it here."

But the two candidates did not shake hands: they bowed to each other in
an alarming way, which did not promise much for their future
brotherliness, and then they both stood bolt upright and stared at Miss
Marjoribanks, who had relapsed, in the pleasantest way in the world,
into her easy-chair.

"Now, please sit down and talk a little," said Lucilla; "I am so proud
of having you both together. There never has been anybody in the world
that I have missed so much as _you_--you knew that when you went away,
but you didn't mind. Mr Ashburton is very nice, but he is of no use to
speak of in an evening," said Miss Marjoribanks, turning a reflective
glance upon her own candidate with a certain sadness; and then they both
laughed as if it was a joke; but it was no joke, as one of them at least
must have known.

"Lucilla," said Mrs John, with consternation, "I never heard anybody
talk as you do; I am sure Mr Ashburton is the very best of society, and
as for Mr Cavendish----"

"Dear Aunt Jemima," said Lucilla, "would you mind ringing the bell? I
have been sitting to Maria Brown, and I am almost fainting. I wish you
gentlemen would sit to her; it would please her, and it would not do
_you_ much harm; and then for your constituents, you know----"

"I hope you don't wish me to look like one of Maria Brown's photographs
to my constituents," said Mr Cavendish; "but then I am happy to say they
all know me pretty well." This was said with a slight touch of
gentlemanly spite, if there is such a thing; for, after all, he _was_ an
old power in Carlingford, though he had been so long away.

"Yes," said Lucilla reflectively, "but you are a little changed since
then; a little perhaps--just a little--stouter, and----"

"Gone off?" said Mr Cavendish, with a laugh; but he felt horribly
disconcerted all the same, and savage with Miss Marjoribanks, and could
not think why "that fellow" did not go away. What had _he_ to do in
Lucilla's drawing-room? what did he mean by sitting down again and
talking in that measured way to the old lady, as if all the ordinary
rules of good breeding did not point out to him that he should have gone
away and left the field clear?

"Oh, you know it does not matter for a gentleman," said Lucilla; and
then she turned to Mr Ashburton--"I am sure the Major wants to see you,
and he thinks that it was he who put it into your head to stand. He was
here that day at lunch, you know, and it was something he said----"

"Quite true," said Mr Ashburton in his business way. "I shall go to see
him at once. Thank you for telling me of it, Miss Marjoribanks; I shall
go as soon as I leave here."

And then Mr Cavendish laughed. "This is what I call interesting," he
said. "I hope Mr Ashburton sees the fun; but it is trying to an old
friend to hear of _that_ day at lunch, you know. I remember when these
sort of allusions used to be pleasant enough; but when one has been
banished for a thousand years----"

"Yes," said Lucilla, "one leaves all that behind, you know--one leaves
ever so many things behind. I wish we could always be twenty, for my
part. I always said, you know, that I should be gone off in ten years."

"Was it the only fib you ever told that you repeat it so?" said Mr
Cavendish; and it was with this pretty speech that he took her
downstairs to the well-remembered luncheon. "But you _have_ gone off in
some things when you have to do with a prig like that," he said in her
ear, as they went down together, "and cast off old friends. It was a
thing a fellow did not expect of _you_."

"I never cast off old friends," said Miss Marjoribanks. "We shall look
for you on Thursday, you know, all the same. Must you go, Mr Ashburton,
when lunch is on the table? But then, to be sure, you will be in time at
the Browns'," said Lucilla sweetly, and she gave the one rival her hand
while she held the arm of the other, at the door of the dining-room, in
which Mr Ashburton had gallantly deposited Aunt Jemima before saying
good-bye. They were both looking a little black, though the gloom was
moderate in Mr Ashburton's case; but as for Lucilla, she stood between
them a picture of angelic sweetness and goodness, giving a certain
measure of her sympathy to both--Woman the Reconciler, by the side of
those other characters of Inspirer and Consoler, of which the world has
heard. The two inferior creatures scowled with politeness at each other,
but Miss Marjoribanks smiled upon them both. Such was the way in which
she overcame the difficulties of the meeting. Mr Ashburton went away a
little annoyed, but still understanding his instructions, and ready to
act upon them in that businesslike way he had, and Mr Cavendish
remained, faintly reassured in the midst of his soreness and
mortification, by at least having the field to himself and seeing the
last (for the present) of his antagonist--which was a kind of victory in
its way.

"I thought I knew you better than to think you ever would have anything
to do with _that_ sort of thing," said Mr Cavendish. "There are people,
you know, whom I could have imagined--but a prig like that." He became
indeed quite violent, as Aunt Jemima said afterwards, and met with that
lady's decided disapproval, as may be supposed.

"Mr Ashburton is very well-bred and agreeable," Mrs John said, with
emphasis. "I wish all the young men I see nowadays were as nice."

"Young men!" said Mr Cavendish. "Is that what people call young
nowadays? And he must be insane, you know, or he would never dream of
representing a town without saying a single word about his principles.
I dare say he thinks it is original," said the unhappy man. He thought
he was pointing out his rival's weakness to Lucilla, and he went on with
energy--"I know you better than to think you can like that
milk-and-water sort of thing."

"Oh, I don't pretend to know anything about politics," said Lucilla. "I
hear you gentlemen talk, but I never pretend to understand. If we were
not to leave you _that_ all to yourselves, I don't know what you could
find to do," Miss Marjoribanks added compassionately; and as she spoke
she looked so like the Lucilla of old, who had schemed and plotted for
Mr Cavendish, that he could not believe in her desertion in his heart.

"That is a delusion like the going off," he said. "I can't believe you
have gone over to the enemy. When I remember how I have been roving
about all those ten years, and how different it might have been, and
whose fault it all was----"

This Mr Cavendish said in a low voice, but it did not the less horrify
Aunt Jemima, who felt prepared for any atrocity after it. She would have
withdrawn, in justice to her own sense of propriety; but then she
thought it was not impossible that he might propose to Lucilla on the
spot, or take her hand or something, and for propriety's sake she
stayed.

"Yes," said Lucilla--and her heart did for one little moment give a
faint thump against her breast. She could not help thinking what a
difference it might have made to him, poor fellow, had he been under her
lawful and righteous sway these ten years. But as she looked at him it
became more and more apparent to Miss Marjoribanks that Mr Cavendish
_had_ gone off, whatever she herself might have done. The outlines of
his fine figure had changed considerably, and his face was a little red,
and he had the look of a man whose circumstances, spiritual and
temporal, would not quite bear a rigid examination. As she looked at him
her pity became tinged by a certain shade of resentment to think that
after all it was his own fault. She could not, notwithstanding her
natural frankness of expression, say to him, "You foolish soul, why
didn't you marry me somehow, and make a man of yourself?" Lucilla
carried honesty very far, but she could not go as far as that. "Yes,"
she said, turning her eyes upon him with a sort of abstract sympathy,
and then she added softly, "Have you ever seen Her again?" with a
lowering of her voice.

This interesting question, which utterly bewildered Aunt Jemima, drove
Mr Cavendish wild with rage. Mrs John said afterwards that she felt a
shiver go through her as he took up the carving-knife, though it was
only to cut some cold beef. He grew white all at once, and pressed his
lips tightly together, and fixed his eyes on the wall straight before
him. "I did not think, after what I once said to you, Miss Marjoribanks,
that you would continue to insult my judgment in that way," he said,
with a chill which fell upon the whole table, and took the life out of
everything, and dimmed the very fire in the chimney. And after that the
conversation was of a sufficiently ordinary description until they went
back again into the drawing-room, by which time Mr Cavendish seemed to
have concluded that it was best to pocket the affront.

"I am going to begin my canvass to-morrow," he said. "I have not seen
anybody yet. I have nobody but my sister to take _me_ in hand, you know.
There was once a time when it might have been different"--and he gave
Lucilla a look which she thought on the whole it was best to meet.

"Yes," said Miss Marjoribanks, with cruel distinctness, "there was a
time when you were the most popular man in Grange Lane--everybody was
fond of you. I remember it as if it had been yesterday," said Lucilla,
with a sigh.

"You don't give a man much encouragement, by Jove!" said the unlucky
candidate. "You remember it like yesterday? It may be vanity, but I
flatter myself I shall still be found the most popular man in Grange
Lane."

Miss Marjoribanks sighed again, but she did not say anything. On the
contrary she turned to Aunt Jemima, who kept in the background an
alarmed and alert spectator, to consult her about a shade of wool; and
just then Mr Cavendish, looking out of the window, saw Major Brown
conducting his rival through his garden, and shaking hands with him
cordially at the door. This was more than the patience of the other
candidate could bear. A sudden resolution, hot and angry, as are the
resolutions of men who feel themselves to have a failing cause, came
into his mind. He had been badgered and baited to such an extent (as he
thought) that he had not time to consider if it was wise or not. He,
too, had sat to Maria Brown, and commanded once the warmest admiration
of the household. He thought he would put it to the test, and see if
after all his popularity was only a thing to be remembered like
yesterday;--and it was with this intention that he bade a hurried
good-bye to Lucilla, and, rushing out, threw himself at once upon the
troubled waves of society, which had once been as smooth as glass to the
most popular man in Grange Lane.



_Chapter XLI_


Mr Cavendish thought he had been an object of admiration to Maria Brown,
as we have said. He thought of it with a little middle-aged complacency,
and a confidence that this vague sentiment would stand the test he was
about to apply to it, which did honour to the freshness of his heart.
With this idea it was Miss Brown he asked for as he knocked at the
Major's door; and he found them both in the drawing-room, Maria with
gloves on to hide the honourable stains of her photography, which made
her comparatively useless when she was out of her "studio"--and her
father walking about in a state of excitement, which was, indeed, what
Mr Cavendish expected. The two exchanged a guilty look when they saw who
their visitor was. They looked as people might well look who had been
caught in the fact and did not know how to get over it. They came
forward, both of them, with a cowardly cordiality and eagerness to
welcome him--"How very good of you to come to see us so soon!" Miss
Brown said, and fluttered and looked at her father, and could not tell
what more to say. And then a dead pause fell upon them--such a pause as
not unfrequently falls upon people who have got through their mutual
greetings almost with an excess of cordiality. They stopped short all at
once, and looked at each other, and smiled, and made a fatal conscious
effort to talk of something. "It is so good of you to come so soon,"
Miss Brown repeated; "perhaps you have been to see Lucilla," and then
she stopped again, slightly tremulous, and turned an appealing gaze to
her papa.

"I have come to see _you_," said Mr Cavendish, plucking up all his
courage. "I have been a long time gone, you know, but I have not
forgotten Carlingford; and you must forgive me for saying that I was
very glad to hear I might still come to see--Miss Brown. As for Lydia?"
said the candidate, looking about him with a smile.

"Ah, Lydia," said her sister, with a sigh--"her eldest is eight, Mr
Cavendish. We don't see her as often as we should like--marriage makes
such a difference. Of course it is quite natural she should be all for
her own family now."

"Quite natural," said Mr Cavendish, and then he turned to the Major. "I
don't think there are quite so many public changes as I expected to see.
The old Rector always holds out, and the old Colonel; and you have not
done much that I can see about the new paving. You know what I have come
home about, Major; and I am sure I can count upon you to support me,"
the candidate said, with a great deal more confidence than he felt in
his voice.

Major Brown cleared his throat; his heart was moved by the familiar
voice, and he could not conceal his embarrassment. "I hope nothing will
ever occur," he said, "to make any difference in the friendly
feelings--I am sure I shall be very glad to welcome you back permanently
to Carlingford. You may always rest assured of that," and he held out
his hand. But he grew red as he thought of his treachery, and Maria, who
was quaking over it, did not even try to say a word to help him--and as
for Mr Cavendish, he took up his position on the arm of the sofa, as he
used to do. But he had a slim youthful figure when he used to do it, and
now the attitude was one which revealed a certain dawning rotundity,
very different, as Maria afterwards said, from one's idea of Mr
Cavendish. He was not aware of it himself, but as these two people
looked, their simultaneous thought was how much he had changed.

"Thank you, you are very kind," said Mr Cavendish. "I have been a little
lazy, I am afraid, since I came here; but I expect my agent down
to-night, and then, I hope, you'll come over to my place and have a talk
with Woodburn and Centum and the rest about it. I am a poor tactician,
for my part. You shall contrive what is best to be done, and I'll carry
it out. I suppose I may expect almost to walk over," he said. It was the
confidence of despair that moved him. The more he saw that his cause was
lost, the more he would make it out that he was sure to win--which is
not an unusual state of mind.

"I--I don't know, I am sure," said poor Major Brown. "To tell the truth,
I--though I can safely say my sympathies are always with you,
Cavendish--I--have been so unfortunate as to commit myself, you know. It
was quite involuntary, I am sure, for I never thought my casual
expression of opinion likely to have any weight----"

"Papa never will perceive the weight that is attached to his opinion,"
said Miss Brown.

"I was not thinking of it in the least, Maria," said the modest Major;
"but the fact is, it seems to have been _that_ that decided Ashburton to
stand; and after drawing a man in to such a thing, the least one can do
is to back him out in it. Nobody had an idea then, you know, that you
were coming back, my dear fellow. I assure you, if I had known----"

"But even if you had known, you know you never meant it, papa," said
Maria. And Mr Cavendish sat on the arm of the sofa, and put his hands
deep into his pockets, and dropped his upper lip, and knit his eyebrows
a little, and listened to the anxious people excusing themselves. He did
not make any answer one way or another. He was terribly mortified and
disappointed, and it went against his pride to make further
remonstrances. When they had done, he got down off his seat and took his
right hand out of his pocket and offered it to Miss Brown, who, putting
her own into it, poor soul! with the remembrance of her ancient
allegiance, was like to cry.

"Well," he said, "if that is the case, I suppose I need not bother you
any longer. You'll give me your good wishes all the same. I used to hear
of Ashburton sometimes, but I never had the least idea he was so
popular. And to tell the truth, I don't think he's any great things to
brag of--though I suppose it's not to be expected _I_ should appreciate
his qualities," Mr Cavendish added, with a laugh. As for Miss Brown, it
was all she could do to keep from crying as he went away. She said she
could see, by the way he left the drawing-room, that he was a stricken
deer; and yet, notwithstanding this sympathetic feeling, she could not
but acknowledge, when Miss Marjoribanks mentioned it, that, to have been
such a handsome man, he was inconceivably gone off.

Mr Cavendish went up Grange Lane with his hands in his pockets, and
tried to think that he did not care; but he did care all the same, and
was very bitter in his mind over the failure of friends and the vanity
of expectations. The last time he had walked past those garden walls he
had thought himself sure of the support of Carlingford, and the
personal esteem of all the people in all the houses he was passing. It
was after the Archdeacon had broken down in his case against the man
whom he called an adventurer, and when Mr Cavendish felt all the
sweetness of being a member of an oligarchy, and entitled to the
sympathy and support of his order. Now he went along the same path with
his hat over his ears and his hands in his pockets, and rage and pain in
his heart. Whose fault was it that his friends had deserted him and
Carlingford knew him no more? He might as well have asked whose fault it
was that he was getting stout and red in the face, and had not the same
grace of figure nor ease of mind as he used to have? He had come very
near to settling down and becoming a man of domestic respectability in
this quiet place, and he had just escaped in time, and had laughed over
it since, and imagined himself, with much glee, an old fogy looking
after a lot of children. But the fact is that men do become old fogies
even when they have no children to look after, and lose their figure and
their elasticity just as soon and perhaps a little sooner in the midst
of what is called life than in any milder scene of enjoyment. And it
would have been very handy just now to have been sure of his election
without paying much for it. He had been living fast, and spending a
great deal of money, and this, after all, was the only real ambition he
had ever had; and he had thought within himself that if he won he would
change his mode of life, and turn over a new leaf, and become all at
once a different man. When a man has made such a resolution, and feels
not only that a mere success but a moral reformation depends upon his
victory, he may be permitted to consider that he has a right to win; and
it may be divined what his state of mind was when he had made the
discovery that even his old friends did not see his election to be of
any such importance as he did, and could think of a miserable little bit
of self-importance or gratified vanity more than of his interests--even
the women who had once been so kind to him! He had just got so far in
his thoughts when he met Mr Centum, who stared for a moment, and then
burst into one of his great laughs as he greeted him. "Good Lord!
Cavendish, is this you? I never expected to see you like that!" the
banker said, in his coarse way. "You're stouter than I am, old fellow;
and such an Adonis as you used to be!" Mr Cavendish had to bear all this
without giving way to his feelings, or even showing them any more than
he could help it. Nobody would spare him that imbecile suggestion as to
how things used to be. To be growing stouter than Centum without
Centum's excuse of being a well-to-do householder and father of a
family, and respectable man from whom stoutness was expected, was very
bitter to him: but he had to gulp it down, and recollect that Centum was
as yet the only influential supporter, except his brother-in-law, whom
he had in Carlingford.

"What have you been doing with yourself since you came that nobody has
seen you?" said Mr Centum. "If you are to do any good here, you know, we
shall have to look alive."

"I have been ill," said the unfortunate candidate, with a little natural
loss of temper. "You would not have a man to trudge about at this time
of year in all weathers when he is ill."

"I would not be ill again, if I were you, till it's all over," said Mr
Centum. "We shall have to fight every inch of our ground; and I tell you
that fellow Ashburton knows what he's about--he goes at everything in a
steady sort of way. He's not brilliant, you know, but he's sure----"

"Brilliant!" said Mr Cavendish, "I should think not. It is Lucilla
Marjoribanks who is putting him up to it. You know she had an old grudge
at me."

"Oh, nonsense about Lucilla," said Mr Centum. "I can tell you Ashburton
is not at all a contemptible adversary. He is going to work in the
cunningest way--not a woman's sort of thing, and he's not a ladies' man
like you," the banker added, with a laugh.

"But I am afraid you can't go in for that sort of thing as you used to
do, Cavendish. You should marry, and settle, and become a steady member
of society, now you've grown so stout." This was the kind of way in
which he was addressed even by his own supporter, who uttered another
great laugh as he went off upon his busy way. It was a sort of thing Mr
Cavendish was not used to, and he felt it accordingly. To be sure he
knew that he was ten years older, and that there were several things
which he could not do with the same facility as in his youth. But he had
saved up Carlingford in his imagination as a spot in which he would
always be young, and where nobody should find out the difference; and
instead of that, it was precisely in Carlingford that he was fated to
hear how changed he was, with a frankness which only old friends would
have been justified in using. As for Lucilla Marjoribanks, she was
rather better looking than otherwise, and absolutely had not gone off.
It did not occur to Mr Cavendish that this might be because Lucilla at
present was not still so old as he had been ten years ago, in the period
which he now considered his youth. He was rather disposed, on the
contrary, to take a moral view, and to consider that it was her feminine
incapacity for going too far, which had kept years and amusements from
having their due effect upon Miss Marjoribanks. And, poor fellow, he
_had_ gone too far. He had not been as careful in his life as he might
have been had he stayed at Carlingford; and now he was paying the
penalty. Such was the edifying state of mind which he had come to when
he reached the top of Grove Street. And there a waft of soft
recollections came across his mind. In the absence of all sympathy he
could not help turning back to the thought of the enchantress of old who
used to sing to him, and listen to him, and storm at him. Probably he
would have ended by strolling along the familiar street, and canvassing
for Mr Lake's vote, which would have done him no good in Carlingford,
but just then Dr Marjoribanks stopped in his brougham. The Doctor was
looking very strange that morning, though nobody had particularly
remarked it--perhaps because he smoothed his countenance when he was out
of the brougham, which was his refuge when he had anything to think
about. But he stopped suddenly to speak to Mr Cavendish, and perhaps he
had not time to perform that ceremony. He looked dark and cloudy, and
constrained, and as if he forced himself to speak; which, to be sure,
under the circumstances, was not so very strange.

"I am very glad to see you," the Doctor said, "though you were a day too
late, you know. Why didn't you give us warning before we all went and
committed ourselves? If we had known that you were coming----"

"Ah, that's what old Brown said," said Mr Cavendish, with a slight shrug
of his shoulders; which was imprudent, for the Major was not so old as
the Doctor, and besides was a much less important man in Grange Lane.

"So you have been to see old Brown," said Dr Marjoribanks, in his dry
way. "He always was a great admirer of yours. I can't wish you luck, you
know, for if you win we lose----"

"Oh, I don't want you to wish me luck. I don't suppose there can be much
comparison between my chance and that of a new man whom nobody ever
heard of in my time," said the candidate for Carlingford. "I thought you
Scotchmen, Doctor, always liked to be on the winning side."

"We've a way of making our side the winning side," said Dr Marjoribanks
grimly, for he was touchy where his nationality was concerned. "Health
all right, I hope?" he added, looking at Mr Cavendish with that critical
medical glance which shows that a verbal response is quite unnecessary.
This time there was in the look a certain insinuation of doubt on the
subject, which was not pleasant. "You are getting stout, I see," Dr
Marjoribanks added--not laughing, but as if that too was poor Mr
Cavendish's fault.

"Yes, I'm very well," he answered curtly; but the truth was that he did
not feel sure that he was quite well after he had seen the critical look
in Dr Marjoribanks's eye.

"You young men always go too fast," said the Doctor, with a strange
little smile; but the term at least was consolatory; and after that
Doctor Marjoribanks quite changed his tone. "Have you heard Woodburn
talking of that great crash in town?" he said--"that India house, you
know--I suppose it's quite true?"

"Quite true," said Mr Cavendish, promptly, and somehow he felt a
pleasure in saying it. "I got all the particulars to-day in one of my
letters--and lots of private people involved, which is always the way
with these old houses," he added, with a mixture of curiosity and
malice--"widows, and all sorts of superannuated folks."

"It's a great pity," said the Doctor: "I knew old Lichfield once, the
chief partner--I am very sorry to hear it's true;" and then the two
shook hands, and the brougham drove on. As for Mr Cavendish, he made up
his mind at once that the Doctor was involved, and was not sorry, and
felt that it was a sort of judicial recompense for his desertion of his
friends. And he went home to tell his sister of it, who shared in his
sentiments. And then it was not worth while going out any more that
day--for the electioneering agent, who knew all about it, was not coming
till the last train. "I suppose I shall have to work when he is here,"
Mr Cavendish said. And in the meantime he threw himself into an easy
chair. Perhaps that was why he was getting so stout.

And in the meantime the Doctor went on visiting his patients. When he
came back to his brougham between his visits, and went bowling along in
that comfortable way, along the familiar roads, there was a certain
glumness upon his face. He was not a demonstrative man, but when he was
alone you could tell by certain lines about the well-worn cordage of his
countenance whether all was right with the Doctor; and it was easy to
see just at this moment that all was not right with him. But he did not
say anything about it when he got home; on the contrary, he was just as
usual, and told his daughter all about his encounter with Mr Cavendish.
"A man at his time of life has no right to get fat--it's a sort of thing
I don't like to see. And he'll never be a ladies' man no more, Lucilla,"
said the Doctor, with a gleam of humour in his eye.

"He is exactly like George the Fourth, papa," said Miss Marjoribanks;
and the Doctor laughed as he sat down to dinner. If he had anything on
his mind he bore it like a hero, and gave no sign; but then, as Mrs John
very truly remarked, when a man does not disclose his annoyances they
always tell more upon him in the end.



_Chapter XLII_


There were a great many reasons why this should be a critical period in
Miss Marjoribanks's life. For one thing, it was the limit she had always
proposed to herself for her term of young-ladyhood; and naturally, as
she outgrew the age for them, she felt disposed to put away childish
things. To have the control of society in her hands was a great thing;
but still the mere means, without any end, was not worth Lucilla's
while--and her Thursdays were almost a bore to her in her present stage
of development. They occurred every week, to be sure, as usual; but the
machinery was all perfect, and went on by itself, and it was not in the
nature of things that such a light adjunct of existence should satisfy
Lucilla, as she opened out into the ripeness of her thirtieth year. It
was this that made Mr Ashburton so interesting to her, and his election
a matter into which she entered so warmly, for she had come to an age at
which she might have gone into Parliament herself had there been no
disqualification of sex, and when it was almost a necessity for her to
make some use of her social influence. Miss Marjoribanks had her own
ideas in respect to charity, and never went upon ladies' committees,
nor took any further share than what was proper and necessary in parish
work; and when a woman has an active mind, and still does not care for
parish work, it is a little hard for her to find a "sphere." And
Lucilla, though she said nothing about a sphere, was still more or less
in that condition of mind which has been so often and so fully described
to the British public--when the ripe female intelligence, not having the
natural resource of a nursery and a husband to manage, turns inwards,
and begins to "make a protest" against the existing order of society,
and to call the world to account for giving it no due occupation--and to
consume itself. She was not the woman to make protests, nor claim for
herself the doubtful honours of a false position; but she felt all the
same that at her age she had outlived the occupations that were
sufficient for her youth. To be sure, there were still the dinners to
attend to, a branch of human affairs worthy of the weightiest
consideration, and she had a house of her own, as much as if she had
been half a dozen times married; but still there are instincts which go
even beyond dinners, and Lucilla had become conscious that her
capabilities were greater than her work. She was a Power in Carlingford,
and she knew it; but still there is little good in the existence of a
Power unless it can be made use of for some worthy end.

She was coming up Grange Lane rather late one evening, pondering upon
these things--thinking within herself compassionately of poor Mr
Cavendish, a little in the same way as he had been thinking of her, but
from the opposite point of view. For Lucilla could not but see the
antithesis of their position, and how he was the foolish apprentice who
had chosen his own way and was coming to a bad end, while she was the
steady one about to ride by in her Lord Mayor's coach. And Miss
Marjoribanks was thinking at the same time of the other candidate, whose
canvass was going on so successfully; and that, after the election and
all the excitement was over, she would feel a blank--and Lucilla did not
see how the blank was to be filled up as she looked into the future;
for, as has been said, parish work was not much in her way, and for a
woman who feels that she is a Power, there are so few other outlets. She
was a little disheartened as she thought it all over. Gleams of
possibility, it is true, crossed her mind, such as that of marrying the
member for Carlingford, for instance, and thus beginning a new and more
important career; but she was too experienced a woman not to be aware
by this time, that possibilities which did not depend upon herself alone
had better not be calculated upon. And there did occur to her, among
other things, the idea of making a great Experiment which could be
carried out only by a woman of genius--of marrying a poor man, and
affording to Carlingford and England an example which might influence
unborn generations. Such were the thoughts that were passing through her
mind when, to her great surprise, she came up to her father, walking up
Grange Lane over the dirty remains of the snow--for there was a great
deal of snow that year. It was so strange a sight to see Dr Marjoribanks
walking that at the first glance Lucilla was startled, and thought
something was the matter; but, of course, it all arose from a perfectly
natural and explainable cause.

"I have been down to see Mrs Chiley," said the Doctor; "she has her
rheumatism very bad again; and the horse has been so long out that I
thought I would walk home. I think the old lady is a little upset about
Cavendish, Lucilla. He was always a pet of hers."

"Dear Mrs Chiley! she is not very bad, I hope?" said Miss Marjoribanks.

"Oh, no, she is not very bad," said the Doctor, in a dreary tone. "The
poor old machine is just about breaking up, that is all. We can cobble
it this once, but next time perhaps----"

"Don't talk in such a disheartening way, papa," said Lucilla. "I am sure
she is not so very old."

"We're all pretty old, for that matter," said the Doctor; "we can't run
on for ever, you know. If you had been a boy like that stupid fellow
Tom, you might have carried on my practice, Lucilla--and even extended
it, I shouldn't wonder," Dr Marjoribanks added, with a little grunt, as
who should say _that_ is the way of the world.

"But I am not a boy," said Lucilla mildly; "and even if I had been, you
know, I might have chosen another profession. Tom never had any turn for
medicine that I ever heard of----"

"I hope you know pretty well about all the turns he ever had with that
old--woman," said the Doctor, pulling himself up sharply, "always at
your ear. I suppose she never talks of anything else. But I hope you
have too much sense for that sort of thing, Lucilla. Tom will never be
anything but a poor man if he were to live a hundred years."

"Perhaps not, papa," said Lucilla, with a little sigh. The Doctor knew
nothing about the great social experiment which it had entered into Miss
Marjoribanks's mind to make for the regeneration of her contemporaries
and the good of society, or possibly he might not have distinguished Tom
by that particular title. Was it he, perhaps, who was destined to be the
hero of a domestic drama embodying the best principles of that Moral
Philosophy which Lucilla had studied with such success at Mount
Pleasant? She did not ask herself the question, for things had not as
yet come to that point, but it gleamed upon her mind as by a side-light.

"I don't know how you would get on if you were poor," said the Doctor.
"I don't think that would suit you. You would make somebody a capital
wife, I can say that for you, Lucilla, that had plenty of money and a
liberal disposition like yourself. But poverty is another sort of thing,
I can tell you. Luckily you're old enough to have got over all the
love-in-a-cottage ideas--if you ever had them," Dr Marjoribanks added.
He was a worldly man himself, and he thought his daughter a worldly
woman; and yet, though he thoroughly approved of it, he still despised
Lucilla a little for her prudence, which is a paradoxical state of mind
not very unusual in the world.

"I don't think I ever had them," said Lucilla; "not that kind of
poverty. I know what a cottage means; it means a wretched man, always
about the house with his feet in slippers, you know--what poor dear Mr
Cavendish would come to if he was poor----"

The Doctor laughed, though he had not seemed up to this moment much
disposed for laughing. "So that is all your opinion of Cavendish," he
said; "and I don't think you are far wrong either; and yet that was a
young fellow that might have done better," Dr Marjoribanks said
reflectively, perhaps not without a slight prick of conscience that he
had forsaken an old friend.

"Yes," said Lucilla, with a certain solemnity--"but you know, papa, if a
man will not when he may----" And she sighed, though the Doctor, who
had not been thinking of Mr Cavendish's prospects in that light, laughed
once more; but it was a sharp sort of sudden laugh without much heart in
it. He had most likely other things of more importance in his mind.

"Well, there have been a great many off and on since that time," he
said, smiling rather grimly. "It is time you were thinking about it
seriously, Lucilla. I am not so sure about some things as I once was,
and I'd rather like to see you well settled before----It's a kind of
prejudice a man has," the Doctor said abruptly, which, whatever he might
mean by it, was a dismal sort of speech to make.

"Before what, papa?" asked Lucilla, with a little alarm.

"Tut--before long, to be sure," he said impatiently. "Ashburton would
not be at all amiss if he liked it and you liked it; but it's no use
making any suggestions about those things. So long as you don't marry a
fool----" Dr Marjoribanks said, with energy. "I know--that is, of
course, I've _seen_ what that is; you can't expect to get perfection, as
you might have looked for perhaps at twenty; but I advise you to marry,
Lucilla. I don't think you are cut out for a single woman, for my part."

"I don't see the good of single women," said Lucilla, "unless they are
awfully rich; and I don't suppose I shall ever be awfully rich. But,
papa, so long as I can be a comfort to you----"

"Yes," said the Doctor, with that tone which Lucilla could remember
fifteen years ago, when she made the same magnanimous suggestion, "but I
can't live for ever, you know. It would be a pity to sacrifice yourself
to me, and then perhaps next morning find that it was a useless
sacrifice. It very often happens like that when self-devotion is carried
too far. You've behaved very well, and shown a great deal of good sense,
Lucilla--more than I gave you credit for when you commenced--I may say
that; and if there was to be any change, for instance----"

"What change?" said Lucilla, not without some anxiety; for it was an odd
way of talking, to say the least of it; but the Doctor had come to a
pause, and did not seem disposed to resume.

"It is not so pleasant as I thought walking over this snow," he said; "I
can't give _that_ up, that I can see. And there's more snow in the air
if I'm any judge of the weather. There--go in--go in; don't wait for
me;--but mind you make haste and dress, for I want my dinner. I may have
to go down to Mrs Chiley again to-night."

It was an odd way of talking, and it was odd to break off like this; but
then, to be sure, there was no occasion for any more conversation, since
they had just arrived at their own door. It made Lucilla uneasy for the
moment, but while she was dressing she managed to explain it to herself,
and to think, after all, it was only natural that her papa should have
seen a little into the movement and commotion of her thoughts; and then
poor dear old Mrs Chiley being so ill, who was one of his own set, so to
speak. He was quite cheerful later in the evening, and enjoyed his
dinner, and was even more civil than usual to Mrs John. And though he
did not come up to tea, he made his appearance afterwards with a flake
of new-fallen snow still upon his rusty gray whiskers. He had gone to
see his patient again, notwithstanding the silent storm outside. And his
countenance was a little overcast this time, no doubt by the late walk,
and the serious state Mrs Chiley was in, and his encounter with the
snow.

"Oh, yes, she is better," he said. "I knew she would do this time.
People at our time of life don't go off in that accidental kind of way.
When a woman has been so long used to living, it takes her a time to get
into the way of dying. She might be a long time thinking about it yet,
if all goes well----"

"Papa, don't speak like that!" said Lucilla. "Dying! I can't bear to
think of such a thing. She is not so very old."

"Such things will happen whether you can bear to think of them or not,"
said the Doctor. "I said you would go down and see her to-morrow. We've
all held out a long time--the lot of us. I don't like to think of the
first gap myself, but somebody must make a beginning, you know."

"The Chileys were always older than you," said Mrs John. "I remember in
poor Mrs Marjoribanks's time:--they were quite elderly then, and you
were just beginning. When my Tom was a baby----"

"We were always of the same set," said the Doctor, interrupting her
without hesitation. "Lucilla, they say Cavendish has got hold of the
Rector. He has made believe to be penitent, you know. That is cleverer
than anything you could have done. And if he can't be won back again it
will be serious, the Colonel says. You are to try if you can suggest
anything. It seems," said the Doctor, with mingled amusement and satire,
and a kind of gratification "that Ashburton has great confidence in
you."

"It must have been the agent," said Lucilla. "I don't think any of the
rest of them are equal to that. I don't see, if that is the case, how we
are to win him back. If Mr Ashburton had ever done anything very wicked,
perhaps----"

"You are safe to say _he_ is not penitent anyhow," said Dr
Marjoribanks, and he took his candle and went away with a smile. But
either Mr Ashburton's good opinion of Lucilla, or some other notion, had
touched the Doctor. He was not a man who said much at any time, but when
he bade her good-night, his hand drooped upon Lucilla's shoulder, and he
patted it softly, as he might have patted the head of a child. It was
not much, but still it was a good deal from him. To feel the lingering
touch of her father's hand caressing her, even in so mild a way, was
something quite surprising and strange to Miss Marjoribanks. She looked
up at him almost with alarm, but he was just then turning away with his
candle in his hand. And he seemed to have laid aside his gloom, and even
smiled to himself as he went upstairs. "If _she_ had been the boy
instead of that young ass," he said to himself. He could not have
explained why he was more than ordinarily hard just then upon the
innocent, far-distant Tom, who was unlucky, it is true, but not exactly
an ass, after all. But somehow it struck the Doctor more than ever how
great a loss it was to society and to herself that Lucilla was not "the
boy." She could have continued, and perhaps extended, the practice,
whereas just now it was quite possible that she might drop down into
worsted-work and tea-parties like any other single woman--while Tom, who
had carried off the family honours, and was "the boy" in this limited
and unfruitful generation, was never likely to do anything to speak of,
and would be a poor man if he were to live for a hundred years. Perhaps
there was something else behind that made the Doctor's brow contract a
little as he crossed the threshold of his chamber, into which, no more
than into the recesses of his heart, no one ever penetrated; but it was
the lighter idea of that comparison, which had no actual pain in it, but
only a kind of humorous discontent, which was the last articulate
thought in his mind as he went to his room and closed his door with a
little sharpness, as he always did, upon the outside world.

Aunt Jemima, for her part, lingered a little with Lucilla downstairs.
"My dear, I don't think my brother-in-law looks well to-night. I don't
think Carlingford is so healthy as it is said to be. If I were you,
Lucilla, I would try and get your papa to take something," said Mrs
John, with anxiety, "before he goes to bed."

"Dear Aunt Jemima, he never takes anything. You forget he is a doctor,"
said Miss Marjoribanks. "It always puts him out when he has to go out in
the evening; and he is sad about Mrs Chiley, though he would not say
so." But nevertheless Lucilla knocked at his door when she went
upstairs. And the Doctor, though he did not open, growled within with a
voice which reassured his dutiful daughter. "What should I want, do you
think, but to be left quiet?" the Doctor said. And even Mrs John, who
had waited at his door, with her candle in her hand, to hear the result,
shrank within at the sound and was seen no more. And Miss Marjoribanks,
too, went to her rest, with more than one subject of thought which kept
her awake. In the first place, the Rector was popular in his way, and if
he chose to call all his forces to rally round a penitent, there was no
saying what might come of it; and then Lucilla could not help going back
in the most illogical manner to her father's caress, and wondering what
was the meaning of it. Meantime the snow fell heavily outside, and
wrapped everything in a soft and secret whiteness. And amid the
whiteness and darkness, the lamp burned steadily outside at the
garden-gate, which pointed out the Doctor's door amid all the closed
houses and dark garden-walls in Grange Lane--a kind of visible succour
and help always at hand for those who were suffering. And though Dr
Marjoribanks was not like a young man making a practice, but had perfect
command of Carlingford, and was one of the richest men in it, it was
well known in the town that the very poorest, if in extremity, in the
depths of the wildest night that ever blew, would not seek help there in
vain. The bell that had roused him when he was young, still hung near
him in the silence of his closed-up house when he was old, and still
could make him spring up, all self-possessed and ready, when the enemy
Death had to be fought with. But that night the snow cushioned the wire
outside, and even made white cornices and columns about the steady lamp,
and the Doctor slept within, and no one disturbed him; for except Mrs
Chiley and a few chronic patients, there was nothing particularly amiss
in Carlingford, and then it was Dr Rider whom all the new people went
to, the people who lived in the innumerable new houses at the other end
of Carlingford, and had no hallowing tradition of the superior authority
of Grange Lane.



_Chapter XLIII_


The talk of this evening might not have been considered of any
importance to speak of, but for the extraordinary and most unlooked-for
event which startled all Carlingford next morning. Nobody could believe
that it was true. Dr Marjoribanks's patients waited for him, and
declared to their nurses that it was all a made-up story, and that he
would come and prove that he was not dead. How could he be dead? He had
been as well as he ever was that last evening. He had gone down Grange
Lane in the snow, to see the poor old lady who was now sobbing in her
bed, and saying it was all a mistake, and that it was she who ought to
have died. But all those protestations were of no avail against the cold
and stony fact which had frightened Thomas out of his senses, when he
went to call the Doctor. He had died in the night without calling or
disturbing anybody. He must have felt faint, it seemed, for he had got
up and taken a little brandy, the remains of which still stood on the
table by his bedside; but that was all that anybody could tell about it.
They brought Dr Rider, of course; but all that he could do was to
examine the strong, still frame--old, and yet not old enough to be
weakly, or to explain such sudden extinction--which had ceased its human
functions. And then the news swept over Carlingford like a breath of
wind, though there was no wind even on that silent snowy day to carry
the matter. Dr Marjoribanks was dead. It put the election out of
people's heads, and even their own affairs for the time being; for had
he not known all about the greater part of them--seen them come into the
world and kept them in it--and put himself always in the breach when the
pale Death approached that way? He had never made very much boast of his
friendliness or been large in sympathetic expressions, but yet he had
never flinched at any time, or deserted his patients for any
consideration. Carlingford was sorry, profoundly sorry, with that true
sorrow which is not so much for the person mourned as for the mourner's
self, who feels a sense of something lost. The people said to
themselves, Whom could they ever find who would know their
constitutions so well, and who was to take care of So-and-so if he had
another attack? To be sure Dr Rider was at hand, who felt a little
agitated about it, and was conscious of the wonderful opening, and was
very ready to answer, "I am here;" but a young doctor is different from
an old one, and a living man all in commonplace health and comfort is
not to be compared with a dead one, on the morning at least of his
sudden ending. Thank Heaven, when a life is ended there is always that
hour or two remaining to set straight the defective balances and do a
hasty late justice to the dead, before the wave sweeps on over him and
washes out the traces of his steps, and lets in the common crowd to make
their thoroughfare over the grave.

"It cannot be the Doctor," Mrs Chiley said, sobbing in her bed, "or else
it has been in mistake for me. He was always a healthy man, and never
had anything the matter with him--and a great deal younger than we are,
you know. If anything has happened to him it must have been in mistake
for me," said the poor old lady, and she was so hysterical that they had
to send for Dr Rider, and she was thus the first to begin to build the
new world on the foundations of the old, little as she meant it. But for
the moment everything was paralysed in Grange Lane, and canvassing came
to a standstill, and nothing was discussed but Dr Marjoribanks--how he
was dead, though nobody could or would believe it; and how Lucilla would
be left, and who her trustees were, and how the place could ever get
used to the want of him, or would ever look like itself again without
his familiar presence. It was by way of relieving their minds from the
horror of the idea, that the good people rushed into consultations what
Lucilla would do. It took their minds a little off the ghastly
imagination of that dark room with the snow on the window, and the late
moonlight trying to get into the darkness, and the white rigid face
inside, as he was said to have been found. It could not but make a
terrible change to her--indeed, through her it could not but make a
great change to everybody. The Doctor's house would, of course, be shut
up, which had been the most hospitable house in Carlingford, and things
would drop into the unsatisfactory state they used to be in before Miss
Marjoribanks's time, and there would no longer be anybody to organise
society. Such were the ideas the ladies of Grange Lane relapsed into by
way of delivering themselves from the pain of their first realisation of
what had happened. It would make a great change. Even the election and
its anticipated joys could not but change character in some respects at
least, and there would be nobody to make the best of them; and then the
question was, What would Lucilla do? Would she have strength to "make an
effort," as some people suggested; or would she feel not only her grief,
but her downfall, and that she was now only a single woman, and sink
into a private life, as some others were inclined to believe?

Inside the house, naturally, the state of affairs was sad enough.
Lucilla, notwithstanding the many other things she had had to occupy her
mind, was fond of her father, and the shock overwhelmed her for the
moment. Though she was not the kind of woman to torture herself with
thinking of things that she might have done, still at the first moment
the idea that she ought not to have left him alone--that she should have
sat up and watched or taken some extraordinary, unusual precaution--was
not to be driven away from her mind. The reign of reason was eclipsed in
her as it often is in such an emergency. She said it was her fault in
the first horror. "When I saw how he was looking, and how he was
talking, I should never have left him," said Lucilla, which indeed was a
very natural thing to say, but would have been an utterly impossible one
to carry out, as she saw when she came to think of it. But she could not
think of it just then. She did not think at all that first long snowy,
troubled day, but went about the house, on the bedroom floor, wringing
her hands like a creature distracted. "If I had only sat up," she said;
and then she would recall the touch of his hand on her shoulder, which
she seemed still to be feeling, and cry out, like all the rest of the
world, that it could not be true. But, to be sure, that was a state of
feeling that could not last long. There are events for which something
higher than accident must be held accountable, were one ever so ready to
take the burden of affairs on one's own shoulders; and Lucilla knew,
when she came to herself, that if she had watched ever so long or so
closely, that could have had no effect upon the matter. After a while,
the bewildering sense of her own changed position began to come upon
her, and roused her up into that feverish and unnatural activity of
thought which, in some minds, is the inevitable reaction after the
unaccustomed curb and shock of grief. When she had got used to that
dreadful certainty about her father, and had suddenly come with a leap
to the knowledge that she was not to blame, and could not help it, and
that though _he_ was gone, _she_ remained, it is no censure upon
Lucilla to say that her head became immediately full of a horror and
confusion of thoughts, an involuntary stir and bustle of plans and
projects which she did all she could to put down, but which would return
and overwhelm her whether she chose it or not. She could not help asking
herself what her new position was, thinking it over, so strangely free
and new and unlimited as it seemed. And it must be recollected that Miss
Marjoribanks was a woman of very active mind and great energies, too old
to take up a girl's fancy that all was over because she had encountered
a natural grief on her passage, and too young not to see a long future
still before her. She kept her room, as was to be expected, and saw
nobody, and only moved the household and superintended the arrangements
in a muffled way through Thomas, who was an old servant, and knew "the
ways" of the house; but notwithstanding her seclusion and her honest
sorrow, and her perfect observance of all the ordinary restraints of the
moment, it would be wrong to omit all mention of this feverish bustle of
thinking which came into Lucilla's mind in her solitude. Of all that she
had to bear, it was the thing that vexed and irritated and distressed
her the most--as if, she said to herself indignantly, she ought to have
been able to think of anything! And the chances are that Lucilla, for
sheer duty's sake, would have said, if anybody had asked, that of course
she had not thought of anything as yet; without being aware that the
mere shock, and horror, and profound commotion had a great deal more to
do than anything else in producing that fluttering crowd of busy,
vexatious speculations which had come, without any will of hers, into
her heart.

It looked a dreadful change in one way as she looked at it, without
wishing to look at it, in the solitude of her own room, where the blinds
were all down, and the snow sometimes came with a little thump against
the window, and where it was so dark that it was a comfort when night
came, and the lamp could be lighted. So far as Carlingford was
concerned, it would be almost as bad for Miss Marjoribanks as if she
were her father's widow instead of his daughter. To keep up a position
of social importance in a single woman's house, unless, as she had
herself lightly said so short a time since, she were awfully rich, would
be next to impossible. All that gave importance to the centre of
society--the hospitable table, the open house--had come to an end with
the Doctor. Things could no more be as they had once been, in that
respect at least. She might stay in the house, and keep up to the
furthest extent possible to her its old traditions; but even to the
utmost limit to which Lucilla could think it right to go it could never
be the same. This consciousness kept gleaming upon her as she sat in the
dull daylight behind the closed blinds, with articles of mourning piled
about everywhere, and the gray dimness getting into her very eyes, and
her mind distressed by the consciousness that she ought to have been
unable to think; and the sadness of the prospect altogether was enough
to stir up a reaction, in spite of herself, in Miss Marjoribanks's mind.

And on the other side she would no doubt be very well off, and could go
wherever she liked, and had no limit, except what was right and proper
and becoming, to what she might please to do. She might go abroad if she
liked, which perhaps is the first idea of the modern English mind when
anything happens to it, and settle wherever she pleased, and arrange her
mode of existence as seemed good in her own eyes. She would be an
heiress in a moderate way, and Aunt Jemima was by this time absolutely
at her disposal, and could be taken anywhere; and at Lucilla's age it
was quite impossible to predict what might not happen to a woman in such
a position. When these fairer possibilities gleamed into Lucilla's mind,
it would be difficult to describe the anger and self-disgust with which
she reproached herself--for perhaps it was the first time that she had
consciously failed in maintaining a state of mind becoming the occasion;
and though nobody but herself knew of it, the pain of the accusation was
acute and bitter. But how could Miss Marjoribanks help it?--the mind
travels so much quicker than anything else, and goes so far, and makes
its expeditions in such subtle, stealthy ways. She might begin by
thinking of her dear papa, and yet, before she could dry her eyes, might
be off in the midst of one of these bewildering speculations. For
everything was certain now so far as he was concerned; and everything
was so uncertain, and full of such unknown issues for herself. Thus the
dark days before the funeral passed by--and everybody was very kind. Dr
Marjoribanks was one of the props of the place, and all Carlingford
bestirred itself to do him the final honours; and all her friends
conspired how to save Lucilla from all possible trouble, and help her
over the trial; and to see how much he was respected was the greatest of
all possible comforts to her, as she said.

Thus it was that among the changes that everybody looked for, there
occurred all at once this change which was entirely unexpected, and put
everything else out of mind for the moment. For to tell the truth, Dr
Marjoribanks was one of the men who, according to external appearance,
need never have died. There was nothing about him that wanted to be set
right, no sort of loss, or failure, or misunderstanding, so far as
anybody could see. An existence in which he could have his friends to
dinner every week, and a good house, and good wine, and a very good
table, and nothing particular to put him out of his way, seemed in fact
the very ideal of the best life for the Doctor. There was nothing in him
that seemed to demand anything better, and it was confusing to try to
follow him into that which, no doubt, must be in all its fundamentals a
very different kind of world. He was a just man and a good man in his
way, and had been kind to many people in his lifetime--but still he did
not seem to have that need of another rectifying, completer existence
which most men have. There seemed no reason why he should die--a man who
was so well contented with this lower region in which many of us fare
badly, and where so few of us are contented. This was a fact which
exercised a very confusing influence, even when they themselves were not
aware of it, on many people's minds. It was hard to think of him under
any other circumstances, or identify him with angels and spirits--which
feeling on the whole made the regret for him a more poignant sort of
regret.

And they buried him with the greatest signs of respect. People from
twenty miles off sent their carriages, and all the George Street people
shut their shops, and there was very little business done all day. Mr
Cavendish and Mr Ashburton walked side by side at the funeral, which was
an affecting sight to see; and if anything more could have been done to
show their respect which was not done, the corporation of Carlingford
would have been sorry for it. And the snow still lay deep in all the
corners, though it had been trampled down all about the Doctor's house,
where the lamp was not lighted now of nights; for what was the use of
lighting the lamp, which was a kind of lighthouse in its way, and meant
to point out succour and safety for the neighbours, when the physician
himself was lying beyond all hope of succour or aid? And all the Grange
Lane people retired in a sympathetic, awe-stricken way, and decided, or
at least the ladies did, to see Lucilla next day, if she was able to see
them, and to find out whether she was going to make an effort, or what
she meant to do. And Mrs Chiley was so much better that she was able to
be up a little in the evening, though she scarcely could forgive
herself, and still could not help thinking that it was she who had
really been sent for, and that the Doctor had been taken in mistake. And
as for Lucilla, she sat in her room and cried, and thought of her
father's hand upon her shoulder--that last unusual caress which was more
touching to think of than a world of words. He had been fond of her and
proud of her, and at the last moment he had showed it. And by times she
seemed to feel again that lingering touch, and cried as if her heart
would break: and yet, for all that, she could not keep her thoughts
steady, nor prevent them from wandering to all kinds of profane
out-of-door matters, and to considerations of the future, and estimates
of her own position. It wounded her sadly to feel herself in such an
inappropriate state of mind, but she could not help it; and then the
want of natural light and air oppressed her sorely, and she longed for
the evening, which felt a little more natural, and thought that at last
she might have a long talk with Aunt Jemima, who was a kind of refuge in
her present loneliness, and gave her a means of escape at the same time
from all this bustle and commotion of unbecoming thoughts.

This was enough surely for any one to have to encounter at one time; but
that very night another rumour began to murmur through Carlingford--a
rumour more bewildering, more incredible still, than that of the
Doctor's death, which the town had been obliged to confirm and
acknowledge, and put its seal to. When the thing was first mentioned,
everybody (who could find it in their heart to laugh) laughed loud in
the face of the first narrator with mingled scepticism and indignation.
They asked him what he meant by it, and ridiculed and scoffed at him to
his face. "Lucilla will be the richest woman in Grange Lane," people
said; "everybody in Carlingford knows that." But after this statement
had been made, the town began to listen. It was obliged to listen, for
other witnesses came in to confirm the story. It never might have been
found out while the Doctor lived, for he had a great practice, and made
a great deal of money; but now that he was dead, nothing could be hid.
He was dead, and he had made an elaborate will, which was all as just
and righteous as a will could be; but after the will was read, it was
found out that everything named in it had disappeared like a bubble.
Instead of being the richest, Dr Marjoribanks was one of the poorest
men in Carlingford when he shut his door behind him on that snowy night.
It was a revelation which took the town perfectly by storm, and startled
everybody out of their senses. Lucilla's plans, which she thought so
wicked, went out all of a sudden, in a certain dull amaze and dismay, to
which no words could give any expression. Such was the second
inconceivable reverse of fortune which happened to Miss Marjoribanks,
more unexpected, more incomprehensible still than the other, in the very
midst of her most important activities and hopes.



_Chapter XLIV_


When the first whisper of the way in which she was--as people
say--"left" reached Lucilla, her first feeling was incredulity. It was
conveyed to her by Aunt Jemima, who came to her in her room after the
funeral with a face blanched with dismay. Miss Marjoribanks took it for
grief; and, though she did not look for so much feeling from Mrs John,
was pleased and comforted that her aunt should really lament her poor
papa. It was a compliment which, in the softened and sorrowful state of
Lucilla's mind, went to her heart. Aunt Jemima came up and kissed her in
a hasty excited way, which showed genuine and spontaneous emotion, and
was not like the solemn pomp with which sympathising friends generally
embrace a mourner; and then she made Lucilla sit down by the fire and
held her hands. "My poor child," said Aunt Jemima--"my poor, dear,
sacrificed child! you know, Lucilla, how fond I am of you, and you can
always come to me----"

"Thank you, dear Aunt Jemima," said Miss Marjoribanks, though she was a
little puzzled. "You are the only relative I have, and I knew you would
not forsake me. What should I do without you at such a time? I am sure
it is what dear papa would have wished----"

"Lucilla," cried Mrs John impulsively, "I know it is natural you should
cry for your father; but when you know all,--you that never knew what it
was to be without money--that never were straitened even, or obliged to
give up things, like most other young women. Oh, my dear, they said I
was to prepare you, but how can I prepare you? I feel as if I never
could forgive my brother-in-law; that he should bring you up like this,
and then----"

"What is it?" said Miss Marjoribanks, drying her tears. "If it is
anything new, tell me, but don't speak so of--of----What is it? say it
right out."

"Lucilla," said Aunt Jemima solemnly, "you think you have a great deal
of courage, and now is your time to show it. He has left you without a
farthing--he that was always thought to be so rich. It is quite true
what I am saying. He has gone and died and left nothing, Lucilla. Now I
have told you; and oh, my poor, dear, injured child," cried Mrs John,
with fervour, "as long as I have a home there will be room in it for
you."

But Lucilla put her aunt away softly when she was about to fall upon her
neck. Miss Marjoribanks was struck dumb; her heart seemed to stop
beating for the moment. "It is quite impossible--it cannot be true," she
said, and gave a gasp to recover her breath. Then Mrs John came down
upon her with facts, proving it to be true--showing how Dr
Marjoribanks's money was invested, and how it had been lost. She made a
terrible muddle of it, no doubt, but Lucilla was not very clear about
business details any more than her aunt, and she did not move nor say a
word while the long, involved, endless narrative went on. She kept
saying it was impossible in her heart for half of the time, and then she
crept nearer the fire and shivered, and said nothing even to herself,
and did not even seem to listen, but knew that it must be true. It would
be vain to attempt to say that it was not a terrible blow to Lucilla;
her strength was weakened already by grief and solitude and want of
food, for she could not find it in her heart to go on eating her
ordinary meals as if nothing had happened; and all of a sudden she felt
the cold seize her, and drew closer and closer to the fire. The thoughts
which she had been thinking in spite of herself, and for which she had
so greatly condemned herself, went out with a sudden distinctness, as if
it had been a lamp going out and leaving the room in darkness, and a
sudden sense of utter gloom and cold and bewildering uncertainty came
over Lucilla. When she lifted her eyes from the fire, into which she had
been gazing, it almost surprised her to find herself still in this warm
room where there was every appliance for comfort, and where her entire
wardrobe of new mourning--everything, as Aunt Jemima said, that a woman
could desire--was piled up on the bed. It was impossible that she could
be a penniless creature, left on her own resources, without father or
supporter or revenue; and yet--good heavens! could it be true?

"If it is true, Aunt Jemima," said Lucilla, "I must try to bear it; but
my poor head feels all queer. I'd rather not think any more about it
to-night."

"How can you help thinking about it, Lucilla?" cried Mrs John. "I can
think of nothing else; and I am not so much concerned as you."

Upon which Lucilla rose and kissed Aunt Jemima, though her head was all
confused and she had noises in her ears. "I don't think we are much like
each other, you know," she said. "Did you hear how Mrs Chiley was? I am
sure she will be very sorry;" and with that Miss Marjoribanks softened,
and felt a little comforted, and cried again--not for the money, but for
her father. "If you are going downstairs, I think I will come down to
tea, Aunt Jemima," she said. But after Mrs John had gone away full of
wonder at her philosophy, Lucilla drew close to the fire again and took
her head between her hands and tried to think what it meant. Could it be
true? Instead of the heiress, in a good position, who could go abroad or
anywhere, and do anything she liked, was it possible that she was only a
penniless single woman with nobody to look to, and nothing to live on?
Such an extraordinary incomprehensible revolution might well make any
one feel giddy. The solid house and the comfortable room, and her own
sober brain, which was not in the way of being put off its balance,
seemed to turn round and round as she looked into the fire. Lucilla was
not one to throw the blame upon her father, as Mrs John had done. On the
contrary she was sorry, profoundly sorry for him, and made such a
picture to herself of what his feelings must have been, when he went
into his room that night and knew that all his hard-earned fortune was
gone, that it made her weep the deepest tears for him that she had yet
shed. "Poor papa!" she said to herself; and as she was not much given to
employing her imagination in this way, and realising the feeling of
others, the effect was all the greater now. If he had but told her, and
put off a share of the burden from his own shoulders on to hers who
could have borne it! but the Doctor had never done justice to Lucilla's
qualities. This, amid her general sense of confusion and dizziness and
insecurity, was the only clear thought that struck Miss Marjoribanks;
and that it was very cold and must be freezing outside; and how did the
poor people manage who had not all her present advantages? She tried to
put away this revelation from her, as she had said to Aunt Jemima, and
keep it for a little at arm's length, and get a night's rest in the
meantime, and so be able to bring a clear head to the contemplation of
it to-morrow, which was the most judicious thing to do. But when the
mind has been stimulated by such a shock, Solomon himself, one would
suppose, could scarcely, however clearly he might perceive what was
best, take the judicious passive way. When Lucilla got up from where she
was crouching before the fire, she felt so giddy that she could scarcely
stand. Her head was all queer, as she had said, and she had a singing in
her ears. She herself seemed to have changed along with her position. An
hour or two before, she could have answered for her own steadiness and
self-possession in almost any circumstances, but now the blood seemed to
be running a race in her veins, and the strangest noises hummed in her
ears. She felt ashamed of her weakness, but she could not help it; and
then she was weak with grief and excitement and comparative fasting,
which told for something, probably, in her inability to bear so
unlooked-for a blow.

But Miss Marjoribanks thought it was best to go down to the drawing-room
for tea, as she had said. To see everything just as it had been, utterly
indifferent and unconscious of what had happened, made her cry, and
relieved her giddiness by reviving her grief; and then the next minute a
bewildering wonder seized her as to what would become of this
drawing-room, the scene of her triumphs--who would live in it, and whom
the things would go to--which made her sick, and brought back the
singing in her ears. But on the whole she took tea very quietly with
Aunt Jemima, who kept breaking into continual snatches of lamentation,
but was always checked by Lucilla's composed looks. If she had not heard
this extraordinary news, which made the world turn round with her, Miss
Marjoribanks would have felt that soft hush of exhaustion and grief
subdued which, when the grief is not too urgent, comes after all is
over; and even now she felt a certain comfort in the warm firelight and
the change out of her own room--where she had been living shut up, with
the blinds down, and the black dresses everywhere about, for so many
dreary days.

John Brown, who had charge of Dr Marjoribanks's affairs, came next day
and explained everything to Lucilla. The lawyer had had one short
interview with his client after the news came, and Dr Marjoribanks had
borne it like a man. His face had changed a little, and he had sat down,
which he was not in the habit of doing, and drawn a kind of shivering
long breath; and then he had said, "Poor Lucilla!" to himself. This was
all Mr Brown could say about the effect the shock had on the Doctor. And
there was something in this very scanty information which gave Lucilla a
new pang of sorrow and consolation. "And he patted me on the shoulder
that last night," she said, with tender tears; and felt she had never
loved her father so well in all her life--which is one of the sweeter
uses of death which many must have experienced, but which belonged to a
more exquisite and penetrating kind of emotion than was common to
Lucilla.

"I thought he looked a little broken when he went out," said Mr Brown,
"but full of pluck and spirit, as he always was. 'I am making a good
deal of money, and I _may_ live long enough to lay by a little still,'
were the last words he said to me. I remember he put a kind of emphasis
on the _may_. Perhaps he knew he was not so strong as he looked. He was
a good man, Miss Marjoribanks, and there is nobody that has not some
kind thing to tell of him," said the lawyer, with a certain moisture in
his eyes; for there was nobody in Carlingford who did not miss the old
Doctor, and John Brown was very tender-hearted in his way.

"But nobody can know what a good father he was," said Lucilla, with a
sob; and she meant it with all her heart, thinking chiefly of his hand
on her shoulder that last night, and of the "Poor Lucilla!" in John
Brown's office; though, after all, perhaps, it was not chiefly as a
tender father that Dr Marjoribanks shone, though he gave his daughter
all she wanted or asked for. Her grief was so true, and so little
tinctured by any of that indignation over the unexpected loss, which
Aunt Jemima had not been able to conceal, that John Brown was quite
touched, and felt his heart warm to Lucilla. He explained it all very
fully to her when she was composed enough to understand him; and as he
went through all the details the giddiness came back, and once more Miss
Marjoribanks felt the world running round, and heard his statement
through the noises in her ears. All this settled down, however, into a
certain distinctness as John Brown, who was very clear-headed and good
at making a concise statement, went on; and gradually the gyrations
became slower and slower, and the great universe became solid once more,
and held to its moorings under Lucilla's feet, and she ceased to hear
that supernatural hum and buzz. The vague shadows of chaos and ruin
dispersed, and through them she saw once more the real aspect of things.
She was not quite penniless. There was the house, which was a very good
house, and some little corners and scraps of money in the Funds, which
were Lucilla's very own, and could not be lost; and last of all there
was the business--the best practice in Carlingford, and entire command
of Grange Lane.

"But what does that matter?" said Lucilla; "if poor papa had retired
indeed, as I used to beg him to do, and parted with it----But everybody
has begun to send for Dr Rider already," she said, in an aggrieved
voice; and then for the first time John Brown remembered, to his
confusion, that there was once said to be "something between" Miss
Marjoribanks and Dr Rider; which complicated the affair in the most
uncomfortable way.

"Yes," he said, "and of course that would make it much more difficult to
bring in another man; but Rider is a very honourable young fellow, Miss
Marjoribanks----"

"He is not so very young," said Lucilla. "He is quite as old as I am,
though no one ever would think so. I am sure he is honourable, but what
has that to do with it? And I do think Mrs Chiley might have done
without--anybody else: for a day or two, considering when it was----"

And here she stopped to cry, unreasonably, but yet very naturally; for
it did feel hard that in the house to which Dr Marjoribanks's last visit
had been paid, another doctor should have been called in next day.

"What I meant to say," said John Brown, "was, that Dr Rider, though he
is not rich, and could not pay a large sum of money down, would be very
glad to make some arrangement. He is very anxious about it, and he
seemed himself to think that if you knew his circumstances you would not
be disinclined to----But as I did not at all know----"

Lucilla caught, as it were, and met, and forced to face her, her
informant's embarrassed, hesitating look. "You say this," said Miss
Marjoribanks, "because people used to say there was something between
us, and you think I may have some feeling about it. But there never was
anything between us. Anybody with a quarter of an eye could have seen
that he was going out of his senses about that little Australian girl.
And I am rather fond of men that are in love--it shows they have some
good in them. But it is dreadful to talk of such things now," said
Lucilla, with a sigh of self-reproach. "If Dr Rider has any arrangement
to propose, I should like to give him the preference, please. You see
they have begun to send for him already in Grange Lane."

"I will do whatever you think proper," said John Brown, who was rather
scared, and very much impressed by Miss Marjoribanks's candour. Dr Rider
had been the first love of Mr Brown's own wife, and the lawyer had a
curious kind of satisfaction in thinking that this silly young fellow
had thus lost two admirable women, and that probably the little
Australian was equally inferior to Miss Marjoribanks and Mrs Brown. He
ought to have been grateful that Dr Rider had left the latter lady to
his own superior discrimination--and so he was; and yet it gave him a
certain odd satisfaction to think that the Doctor was not so happy as he
might have been. He went away fully warranted to receive Dr Rider's
proposition, and even, to a certain extent, to decide upon it--and
Lucilla threw herself back in her chair in the silent drawing-room, from
which Aunt Jemima had discreetly withdrawn, and began to think over the
reality of her position as she now saw it for the first time.

The sense of bewildering revolution and change was over; for, strangely
enough, the greater a change is the more easily the mind, after the
first shock, accepts and gets accustomed to it. It was over, and the
world felt steady once more under Lucilla's feet, and she sat down, not
precisely amid the ruins of her happiness, but still in the presence of
many an imagination overthrown, to look at her real position. It was
not, after all, utter poverty, misery, and destitution, as at the first
glance she had believed. According to what John Brown had said, and a
rapid calculation which Lucilla had herself made in passing, something
approaching two hundred a year would be left to her--just a small single
woman's revenue, as she thought to herself. Two hundred a year! All at
once there came into Miss Marjoribanks's mind a sudden vision of the two
Miss Ravenswoods, who had lived in that pretty set of rooms over
Elsworthy's shop, facing into Grange Lane, and who had kept a lady's
maid, and asked the best people in the place to tea, upon a very
similar income, and how their achievements had been held up to everybody
as a model of what genteel economy could do. She thought of them, and
her heart sank within her; for it was not in Lucilla's nature to live
without a sphere, nor to disjoin herself from her fellow-creatures, nor
to give up entirely the sovereign position she had held for so many
years. Whatever she might ultimately do, it was clear that, in the
meantime, she could not make up her mind to any such giving up of the
battle as that. And then there was the house. She might let it to the
Riders, and add probably another hundred a year to her income; for
though it was an excellent house, and worth more than a hundred a year,
still there was no competition for houses in Grange Lane, and the new
Doctor was the only probable tenant. And, to tell the truth, though
Lucilla was very reasonable, it went to her heart at the present moment
to think of letting the house to the new Doctor, and having the patients
come as usual, and the lamp lighted as of old, and nothing changed
except the central figure of all. She ought to have been above such
sentimental ideas when a whole hundred pounds a year was in question;
but she was not, which of itself was a strange phenomenon. If she could
have made up her mind to that, there were a great many things that she
might have done. She might still have gone abroad, and to some extent
taken a limited share in what was going on in some section of English
society on the Continent. Or she might have gone to one of the mild
centres of a similar kind of life in England. But such a prospect did
not offer many attractions to Miss Marjoribanks. If she had been rich,
it would have been different. Thus there gradually dawned upon her the
germ of the plan she ultimately adopted, and which was the only one that
commended itself to her feelings. Going away was expensive and
troublesome at the best; and even at Elsworthy's, if she could have made
up her mind to such an expedient, she would have been charged a pound a
week for the rooms alone, not to speak of all kinds of extras, and never
having the satisfaction of feeling yourself in your own place. Under all
the circumstances, it was impressed upon Lucilla's mind that her natural
course was to stay still where she was, and make no change. Why should
she make any change? The house was her own, and did not cost anything,
and if Nancy would but stand by her and one good maid----It was a
venture; but still Lucilla felt as if she might be equal to it. Though
she was no mathematician, Miss Marjoribanks was very clever at mental
arithmetic in a practical sort of way. She put down lines upon lines of
figures in her head while she sat musing in her chair, and worked them
out with wonderful skill and speed and accuracy. And the more she
thought of it, the more it seemed to her that this was the thing to do.
Why should she retreat and leave her native soil and the neighbourhood
of all her friends because she was poor and in trouble? Lucilla was not
ashamed of being poor--nor even frightened by it, now that she
understood what it was--any more than she would have been frightened,
after the first shock, had her poverty even been much more absolute. She
was standing alone at this moment as upon a little island of as yet
undisturbed seclusion and calm, and she knew very well that outside a
perfect sea of good advice would surge round her as soon as she was
visible. In these circumstances Lucilla took by instinct the only wise
course: she made up her mind there and then with a perfect unanimity
which is seldom to be gained when counsellors are admitted. And what she
decided upon, as was to be expected from her character, was not to fly
from her misfortune and the scene of it, but to confront fate and take
up her lawful burden and stay still in her own house. It was the wisest
and the easiest, and at the same time the most heroic course to adopt,
and she knew beforehand that it was one which would be approved of by
nobody. All this Lucilla steadily faced and considered and made up her
mind to while she sat alone; although silence and solitude and
desolation seemed to have suddenly come in and taken possession all
around her of the once gay and brilliant room.

She had just made her final decision when she was rejoined by her aunt,
who, everybody said, was at this trying moment like a mother to Lucilla.
Yet Aunt Jemima, too, had changed a little since her brother-in-law's
death. She was very fond of Miss Marjoribanks, and meant every word she
had said about giving her a home, and still meant it. But she did not
feel so certain now as she had done about Tom's love for his cousin, nor
at all anxious to have him come home just at this moment; and for
another thing, she had got a way of prowling about the house and looking
at the furniture in a speculative, auctioneering sort of way. "It must
be all sold, of course," Aunt Jemima had said to herself, "and I may as
well look what things would suit me; there is a little chiffonier that I
have always wanted for my drawing-room, and Lucilla would like to see a
few of the old things about her, poor dear." With this idea Mrs John
gave herself a great deal of unnecessary fatigue, and gave much offence
to the servants by making pilgrimages all over the house, turning up at
the most unlikely places and poking about in the least frequented rooms.
It was a perfectly virtuous and even amiable thing to do, for it was
better, as she reasoned, that they should go to her than to a stranger,
and it would be nice for Lucilla to feel that she had some of the old
things about her; but then such delicate motives are seldom appreciated
by the homely critics downstairs.

It was with something of this same air that she came into the
drawing-room, where Lucilla was. She could not help laying her hand in a
suggestive sort of way on a small table which she had to pass, as if she
were saying to herself (as indeed she was saying), "The veneer has been
broken off at that side, and the foot is mended; it will bring very
little; and yet it looks well when you don't look too close." Such were
the ideas with which Aunt Jemima's mind was filled. But yet she came
forward with a great deal of sympathy and curiosity, and forgot about
the furniture in presence of her afflicted niece.

"Did he tell you anything, Lucilla?" said Mrs John; "of course he must
have told you something--but anything satisfactory, I mean."

"I don't know if you can call it satisfactory," said Lucilla, with a
sudden rush of softer thoughts; "but it was a comfort to hear it. He
told me something about dear papa, Aunt Jemima. After he had heard of
_that_, you know--all that he said was, Poor Lucilla! And don't you
remember how he put his hand on my shoulder that last night? I am
so--so--glad he did it," sobbed Miss Marjoribanks. It may be supposed it
was an abrupt transition from her calculations; but after all it was
only a different branch of the same subject; and Lucilla in all her life
had never before shed such poignant and tender tears.

"He might well say, Poor Lucilla!" said Mrs John--"brought up as you
have been, my dear; and did not you hear anything more important?--I
mean, more important in a worldly point of view," Aunt Jemima added,
correcting herself, "of course, it must be the greatest comfort to hear
something about your poor papa."

And then Lucilla unfolded John Brown's further particulars to her
surprised hearer. Mrs John lived upon a smallish income herself, and she
was not so contemptuous of the two hundred a year. "And the house," she
said--"the house would bring you in another hundred, Lucilla. The
Riders, I am sure, would take it directly, and perhaps a great part of
the furniture too. Three hundred would not be so bad for a single woman.
Did you say anything about the furniture, my dear?" Aunt Jemima added,
half regretfully, for she did feel that she would be sorry to lose that
chiffonier.

"I think I shall stay in the house," said Lucilla; "you may think it
silly, Aunt Jemima, but I was born in it, and----"

"Stay in the house!" Mrs John said, with a gasp. She did not think it
silly, but simple madness, and so she told her niece. If Lucilla could
not make up her mind to Elsworthy's, there was Brighton and Bath and
Cheltenham, and a hundred other places where a single woman might be
very comfortable on three hundred a year. And to lose a third part of
her income for a piece of sentiment was so utterly unlike any conception
Aunt Jemima had ever formed of her niece. It _was_ unlike Miss
Marjoribanks; but there are times of life when even the most reasonable
people are inconsistent. Lucilla, though she felt it was open to grave
criticism, felt only more confirmed in her resolution by her aunt's
remarks. She heard a voice Aunt Jemima could not hear, and that voice
said, Stay!



_Chapter XLV_


It must be allowed that Lucilla's decision caused very general surprise
in Carlingford, where people had been disposed to think that she would
be rather glad, now that things were so changed, to get away. To be sure
it was not known for some time; but everybody's idea was that, being
thus left alone in the world, and in circumstances so reduced, Miss
Marjoribanks naturally would go to live with somebody. Perhaps with her
aunt, who had something, though she was not rich; perhaps, after a
little, to visit about among her friends, of whom she had so many.
Nobody doubted that Lucilla would abdicate at once, and a certain
uneasy, yet delicious, sense of freedom had already stolen into the
hearts of some of the ladies in Grange Lane. They lamented, it is true,
the state of chaos into which everything would fall, and the dreadful
loss Miss Marjoribanks would be to society; but still, freedom is a
noble thing, and Lucilla's subjects contemplated their emancipation with
a certain guilty delight. It was, at the same time, a most fertile
subject of discussion in Carlingford, and gave rise to all those lively
speculations and consultations, and oft-renewed comparing of notes,
which take the place of bets in the feminine community. The Carlingford
ladies as good as betted upon Lucilla, whether she would go with her
aunt, or pay Mrs Beverley a visit at the Deanery, or retire to Mount
Pleasant for a little, where those good old Miss Blounts were so fond of
her. Each of these opinions had its backers, if it is not profane to say
so; and the discussion which of them Miss Marjoribanks would choose
waxed very warm. It almost put the election out of people's heads; and
indeed the election had been sadly damaged in interest and social
importance by the sad and most unexpected event which had just happened
in Grange Lane.

But when the fact was really known, it would be difficult to describe
the sense of guilt and horror which filled many innocent bosoms. The
bound of freedom had been premature--liberty and equality had not come
yet, notwithstanding that too early unwise _élan_ of republican
satisfaction. It was true that she was in deep mourning, and that for a
year, at least, society must be left to its own devices; and it was
true, also, that she was poor--which might naturally be supposed a
damper upon her energies--but, at the same time, Carlingford knew its
Lucilla. As long as she remained in Grange Lane, even though retired and
in crape, the constitutional monarch was still present among her
subjects; and nobody could usurp her place or show that utter
indifference to her regulations which some revolutionaries had dreamed
of. Such an idea would have gone direct in the face of the British
Constitution, and the sense of the community would have been dead
against it. But everybody who had speculated upon her proceedings
disapproved of Lucilla in her most unlooked-for resolution. Some could
not think how she could bear it, staying on there when everything was so
changed; and some said it was a weakness they could never have believed
to exist in her; and some--for there are spiteful people
everywhere--breathed the names of Cavendish and Ashburton, the rival
candidates, and hinted that Miss Marjoribanks had something in her mind
to justify her lingering. If Lucilla had not been supported by a
conscious sense of rectitude, she must have broken down before this
universal disapprobation. Not a soul in the world except one supported
her in her resolution, and that was perhaps, o£ all others, the one
least likely to be able to judge.

And it was not for want of opportunity to go elsewhere. Aunt Jemima, as
has been seen, did not lose an instant in offering the shelter of her
house to her niece; and Mrs Beverley wrote the longest, kindest, most
incoherent letter begging her dear Lucilla to come to her immediately
for a long visit, and adding, that though she had to go out a good deal
into society, she needn't mind, for that everything she could think of
would be done to make her comfortable; to which Dr Beverley himself, who
was now a dean, added an equally kind postscript, begging Miss
Marjoribanks to make her home at the Deanery "until she saw how things
were to be." "He would have found me a place, perhaps," Lucilla said,
when she folded up the letter--and this was a terrible mode of
expression to the genteel ears of Mrs John.

"I wish you would not use such words, my dear," said Aunt Jemima; "even
if you had been as poor as you thought, my house would always have been
a home for you. Thank Heaven I have enough for both; you never needed to
have thought, under any circumstances, of taking a--a situation. It is a
thing I could never have consented to,"--which was a very handsome thing
of Aunt Jemima to say.

"Thank you, aunt," said Lucilla, but she sighed; for, though it was very
kind, what was Miss Marjoribanks to have done with herself in such a
dowager establishment? And then Colonel Chiley came in, who had also his
proposal to make.

"_She_ sent me," the Colonel said; "it's been a sad business for us all,
Lucilla; I don't know when I have felt anything more; and as for her,
you know, she has never held up her head since----"

"Dear Mrs Chiley!" Miss Marjoribanks said, unable to resist the old
affection; "and yet I heard she had sent for Dr Rider directly," Lucilla
added. She knew it was quite natural, and perhaps quite necessary, but
then it did seem hard that his own friends should be the first to
replace her dear papa.

"It was I did that," said the Colonel. "What was a man to do? I was
horribly cut up, but I could not stand and see her making herself worse;
and I said you had too much sense to mind----"

"So I ought," said Lucilla, with penitence, "but when I remembered where
he was last, the very last place----"

It was hard upon the Colonel to stand by and see a woman cry. It was a
thing he could never stand, as he had always said to his wife. He took
the poker, which was his favourite resource, and made one of his
tremendous dashes at the fire, to give Lucilla time to recover herself,
and then he turned to Aunt Jemima, who sat pensively by:

"_She_ sent me," said the Colonel, who did not think his wife needed any
other name--"not that I would not have come of my own accord; we want
Lucilla to go to us, you see. I don't know what plans she may have been
making, but we're both very fond of her--she knows that. I think, if you
have not settled upon anything, the best that Lucilla can do is to come
to us. She'll be the same as at home, and always somebody to look after
her----"

The old Colonel was standing before the fire, wavering a little on his
long unsteady old legs, and looking wonderfully well preserved, and old
and feeble; and Lucilla, though she was in mourning, was so full of life
and force in her way. It was a curious sort of protection to offer her,
and yet it was real protection, and love and succour, though, Heaven
knows! it might not perhaps last out the year.

"I am sure, Colonel Chiley, it is a very kind offer," said Aunt Jemima,
"and I would have been thankful if she could have made up her mind to go
with me. But I must say she has taken a very queer notion into her
head--a thing I should never have expected from Lucilla--she says she
will stay here."

"Here?--ah--eh--what does she mean by here?" said the Colonel.

"_Here_, Colonel Chiley, in this great big melancholy house. I have been
thinking about it, and talking about it till my head goes round and
round. Unless she were to take Inmates," said Aunt Jemima, in a resigned
and doleful voice. As for the Colonel, he was petrified, and for a long
time had not a word to say.

"_Here!_--By Jove, I think she must have lost her senses," said the old
soldier. "Why, Lucilla, I--I thought--wasn't there something about the
money being lost? You couldn't keep up this house under a--fifteen
hundred a year at least; the Doctor spent a mint of money;--you must be
going out of your senses. And to have all the sick people coming, and
the bell ringing of nights. Bless my soul! it would kill anybody," said
Colonel Chiley. "Put on your bonnet, and come out with me; shutting her
up here, and letting her cry, and so forth--I don't say it ain't
natural--I'm terribly cut up myself whenever I think of it; but it's
been too much for her head," said the Colonel, with anxiety and
consternation mingling in his face.

"Unless she were to take Inmates, you know," said Aunt Jemima, in a
sepulchral voice. There was something in the word that seemed to carry
out to a point of reality much beyond anything he had dreamt of, the
suggestion Colonel Chiley had just made.

"Inmates! Lord bless my soul! what do you mean, ma'am?" said the old
soldier. "Lucilla, put on your bonnet directly, and come and have a
little fresh air. She'll soon be an inmate herself if we leave her
here," the Colonel said. They were all very sad and grave, and yet it
was a droll scene; and then the old hero offered Lucilla his arm, and
led her to the door. "You'll find me in the hall as soon as you are
ready," he said, in tones half gruff, half tender, and was glad to go
downstairs, though it was cold, and put on his greatcoat with the aid of
Thomas, and stand warming the tips of his boots at the hall fire. As
for Lucilla, she obeyed him without a word; and it was with his unsteady
but kind old arm to lean upon that she first saw how the familiar world
looked through the mist of this strange change that had come over it,
and through the blackness of her crape veil.

But though she succeeded in satisfying her friends that she had made up
her mind, she did not secure their approval. There were so many
objections to her plan. "If you had been rich even, I don't think I
should have approved of it, Lucilla," Mrs Chiley said, with tears; "and
I think we could have made you happy here." So the good old lady spoke,
looking round her pretty room, which was so warm and cheery and bright,
and where the Colonel, neat and precise as if he had come out of a box,
was standing poking the fire. It looked all very solid and substantial,
and yet it was as unstable as any gossamer that the careless passenger
might brush away. The two good people were so old that they had
forgotten to remember they were old. But neither did Lucilla think of
that. This was really what she thought and partly said:

"I am in my own house, that wants no expense nor changing, and Nancy is
getting old, and does not mind standing by me. And it is not so much
trouble after all keeping everything nice when there is no gentleman
coming in, and nothing else to do. And, besides, I don't mean to be
Lucilla Marjoribanks for ever and ever." This was the general scope,
without going into all the details, of what Lucilla said.

But, at the same time, though she was so happy as not to be disturbed in
her decision, or made uncomfortable, either by lamentation or
remonstrance, and had no doubt in her mind that she was doing right, it
was disagreeable to Miss Marjoribanks to go thus in the face of all her
friends. She went home by herself, and the house did look dreary from
the outside. It was just as it had always been, for none of the servants
were dismissed as yet, nor any external change made; but still a look as
if it had fallen asleep--a look as if it too had died somehow, and only
pretended to be a house and home--was apparent, in the aspect of the
place; and when the servants were gone, and nobody remained except
Lucilla and her faithful Nancy, and a young maid--which must be the
furthest limit of Miss Marjoribanks's household, and difficult enough to
maintain upon two hundred a year--what would it look like? This thought
was more discouraging than any remonstrances; and it was with a heavy
heart that Lucilla re-entered her solitary house. She told Thomas to
follow her upstairs; and when she sank, tired, into a chair, and put up
her veil before commencing to speak to him, it was all she could do to
keep from crying. The depressing influences of this sad week had told so
much on her, that she was quite fatigued by her walk to see Mrs Chiley;
and Thomas, too, knew why he had been called, and stood in a formal
manner before her, with his hands crossed, against the closed door. When
she put back her thick black veil, the last climax of painful change
came upon Miss Marjoribanks. She did not feel as if she were Lucilla; so
discouraged and depressed and pale, and tired with her walk as she was,
with all sorts of projects and plans so quenched out of her; almost if
she had been charged with being somebody else, the imputation was one
which she could not have denied.

"Thomas," she said faintly, "I think I ought to speak to you myself
about all that has happened--we are such old friends, and you have been
such a good kind servant. You know I shan't be able to keep up----"

"And sorry we all was, Miss, to hear it," said Thomas, when Lucilla's
utterance failed. "I am sure there never was a better master, though
particular; and for a comfortabler house----"

"If I had been as poor papa expected to leave me," said Miss
Marjoribanks, after a little pause, "everything would have gone on as
usual: but after your long service here, and so many people as know you,
Thomas, you will have no difficulty in getting as good a place: and you
know that anything I can say----"

"Thank you, Miss," said Thomas; and then he made a pause. "It was not
exactly that as I was thinking of; I've set my heart, this many a day,
on a little business. If you would be so kind as to speak a word for me
to the gentlemen as has the licensing. There ain't nobody as knows
better how----"

"What kind of a business, Thomas?" said Lucilla, who cheered up a little
in ready interest, and would have been very glad if she could have taken
a little business too.

"Well, Miss, a kind of a quiet--public-house, if I don't make too bold
to name it," said Thomas, with a deprecating air--"not one of them
drinking-places, Miss, as, I know, ladies can't abide; but many a man,
as is a very decent man, wants his pint o' beer now and again, and their
little sort of clubs of a night as well as the gentlefolks; and it's my
opinion, Miss, as it's a man's dooty to see as that sort of thing don't
go too far, and yet as his fellow-creatures has their bit of pleasure,"
said Thomas, who naturally took the defensive side.

"I am sure you are quite right," said Lucilla, cheering up more and
more, and instinctively, with her old statesmanlike breadth of view,
throwing a rapid glance upon the subject to see what capabilities there
might be in it; "and I hope you will try always to exercise a good
influence--What is all that noise and shouting out of doors?"

"It's one of the candidates, Miss," said Thomas, "as is addressing of
the bargemen at the top o' Prickett's Lane."

"Ah!" said Lucilla; and a deep sigh escaped from her bosom. "But you
cannot do anything of that kind, you know, Thomas, without a wife."

"Yes, Miss," said Thomas, with great confusion and embarrassment; "that
was just what I was going to say. Me and Betsy----"

"Betsy!" said Lucilla, with dismay; for it had been Betsy she had
specially fixed upon as the handy, willing, cheerful maid who, when
there was no gentleman coming in, and little else to do, might keep even
this big house in order. She sighed; but it was not in her power, even
if she had desired it, to put any restriction upon Betsy's wishes. And
it was not without a momentary envy that she received the intelligence.
It was life the housemaid was about to enter on--active life of her own,
with an object and meaning--clogged by Thomas, no doubt, who did not
appear to Lucilla as the bright spot in the picture--but still
independent life; whereas her mistress knew of nothing particularly
interesting in her own uncertain future. She was roused from her
momentary meditation by the distant shouts which came from the top of
Prickett's Lane, and sighed again, without knowing it, as she spoke.

"It's a pity you had not got your--little inn," said Lucilla, for the
sake of euphony, "six months or a year ago, for then you might have
voted for Mr Ashburton, Thomas. I had forgotten about the election until
now."

"Not as that needn't stand in the way, Miss," said Thomas eagerly;
"there's Betsy's brother as has it now, and he ain't made up his mind
about his vote; and if he knowed as it would be any comfort to you----"

"Of course it will be a comfort to me!" said Miss Marjoribanks; and she
got up from her chair with a sense that she was still not altogether
useless in the world. "Go and speak to him directly, Thomas; and here's
one of Mr Ashburton's colours that I made up myself; and tell him that
there can be no doubt _he_ is the man for Carlingford; and send up Nancy
to me. And I hope Betsy and you will be very happy," said Lucilla. She
had been dreadfully down, but the rebound was all the more grateful. "I
am not done with yet, and, thank Heaven! there must always be something
to do," she said to herself when she was alone. And she threw off her
shawl, and began to make the drawing-room look like itself; not that it
was not perfectly in order, and as neat as a room could be; but still
the neatness savoured of Betsy, and not of Lucilla. Miss Marjoribanks,
in five minutes, made it look like that cosy empire of hospitality and
kindness and talk and wit, and everything pleasant, that it used to be;
and then, when she had finished, she sat down and had a good cry, which
did not do her any harm.

Then Nancy appeared, disturbed in her preparations for dinner, and with
her arms wrapped in her apron, looking glum and defiant. Hers was not
the resigned and resourceful preparation for her fate which had appeared
in Thomas. She came in, and put the door ajar, and leant her back
against the sharp edge. She might be sent off like the rest, if that was
Miss Lucilla's meaning--her that had been in the house off and on for
more than thirty years; but if it was so, at least she would not give up
without unfolding a bit of her mind.

"Come in," said Lucilla, drying her eyes--"come in and shut the door;
you had better come and sit down here, Nancy, for I have a great deal to
say, and I want to speak to you as a friend."

Nancy shut the door, but she thought to herself that she knew what all
this meant, and made but a very little movement into the room, looking
more forbidding than ever. "Thank you all the same, Miss Lucilla, but I
ain't too old to stand," she said; and stood firm to meet the shock,
with her arms folded under her apron, thinking in her heart that it was
about one of the almshouses, her horror and hope, that her young
mistress was going to speak.

"Nancy," said Lucilla, "I want to tell you what I am going to do. I
have to make up my mind for myself now. They all go against me, and one
says I should do this and another says I should do that; but I don't
think anybody knows me so well as you do. Don't stand at the door. I
want to consult you as a friend. I want to ask you a question, and you
must answer as if you were before a judge--I have such confidence in
_you_."

Nancy's distrust and defiance gave way a little before this appeal. She
came a step nearer, and let the apron drop from her folded arms. "What
is it, Miss Lucilla?--though I ain't pretending to be one to advise,"
she said, building a kind of intrenchment round her with the nearest
chairs.

"You know how things are changed," said Lucilla, "and that I can't stay
here as I used to do. People think I should go and live with somebody;
but _I_ think, you know--if I was one of those ladies that have a
faithful old servant to stand by them, and never to grumble nor make a
fuss, nor go back on the past, nor go in for expensive dishes--one that
wouldn't mind cooking a chop or making a cup of tea, if that was all we
could afford--why, I think, Nancy----"

But Nancy could not hear any more. She made a little rush forward, with
a kind of convulsive chuckling that was half sobbing and half laughter.
"And me here!" cried Dr Marjoribanks's famous cook, who had spent a
fortune on her gravy-beef alone, and was one of the most expensive
people in Carlingford--"me as has done for you all your days! me as
would--if it was but a roast potato!" cried the devoted woman. She was
in such a state of hysterical flutter and excitement that Lucilla had to
take her almost into her arms and put the old woman into a chair and
bring her to, which was an occupation quite in Miss Marjoribanks's way.

"But I shall only have two hundred a year," said Lucilla. "Now don't be
rash; there will have to be a maid to keep things tidy, and that is
every farthing I shall have. You used to spend as much in gravy-beef,"
said Miss Marjoribanks, with a sigh.

"Oh, Miss Lucilla, let bygones be bygones," said Nancy, with tears. "If
I did, it wasn't without many a little something for them as was too
poor to buy it for themselves--for I never was one as boiled the senses
out of a bit of meat; and when a gentleman is well-to-do, and hasn't got
no occasion to count every penny----The Doctor, I will say for him, was
never one as asked too many questions. Give him a good dinner on his
own table, and he wasn't the gentleman as grudged a bit of broken meat
for the poor folks. He did a deal of good as you nor no one never know'd
of, Miss Lucilla," said Nancy, with a sob.

And then his daughter and his faithful old servant cried a little in
company over Dr Marjoribanks's vacant place. What could a man have more?
Nobody was made altogether desolate by his death, nor was any heart
broken, but they wept for him honestly, though the old woman felt happy
in her sorrow. And Lucilla, on her knees before the fire, told Nancy of
that exclamation the Doctor had made in John Brown's office, and how he
had put his hand on her shoulder that last night. "All he said was, Poor
Lucilla!" sobbed Miss Marjoribanks; "he never thought of himself nor all
his money that he had worked so hard for;" and once more that touch of
something more exquisite than was usual to her went sharply down into
Lucilla's heart and brought up tenderer and deeper tears.

She felt all the better for it after, and was even a little cheerful in
the evening, and like herself; and thus it will be seen that one person
in Carlingford--not, it is true, a popular oracle, but of powerful
influence and first-rate importance in a practical point of view--gave
the heartiest approbation to Miss Marjoribanks's scheme for her new
life.



_Chapter XLVI_


Lucilla's calculations were fully justified by the result. Twenty times
in a day she recognised the wisdom of her own early decision, which was
made while she was still by herself, and before anybody had come in to
advise her. If she had left it over until the time when, though much
shaken, she was understood to be able to see her friends, it is just
possible that the whirlwind of popular opinion which raged about her
might have exercised a distracting influence even upon Miss
Marjoribanks's clear head and steady judgment. For even now, though they
saw her in her own house, in her mourning, people would not believe that
it was true, and that Lucilla actually intended to make "no change"; and
all that tide of good advice which had been flowing through Carlingford
ever since the Doctor's death in the form of opinion, now rushed in upon
her, notwithstanding that all the world knew that she had made up her
mind. "Everybody says you are going to stay on, but we do hope it is not
true, Lucilla," her friends said, in many voices. "It is dreadful for us
to lose you, but you never _could_ bear it, dear." And this was repeated
so often that if Miss Marjoribanks had been weak-minded, she must have
ended by believing not only that it was more than she was equal to, but
more than she ought to be equal to--which was a more touching argument
still.

"You are excited now," Miss Brown said, who had a great deal of
experience in family troubles; "one always is at such a time; but when
things have settled down in their ordinary way, then you will find it is
more than you can bear. I think it is always best to make a change. If
you were to travel a little, you know----"

"But, my dear, I am poor," said Lucilla.

"It doesn't require so much money when you know how to set about it,"
said her adviser; "and there are so many people who would be glad to
have you, Lucilla! And then you might settle a little at Caen or Tours,
or some of those nice places, where there is such capital English
society, and everything so cheap; or, if you thought your health
required it, at Pau or Nice, you know. You are looking quite pale, and
I don't think you were ever very strong in the chest, Lucilla; and
everything is _so_ different on the Continent--one feels it the moment
one crosses the Channel; there is something different in the very air."

"It smells different, I know," said Lucilla meekly; and then the
conversation was interrupted by that afternoon cup of tea, which Nancy
could not be got to think was an extravagance, and around which, to tell
the truth, the Grange Lane ladies began to resume their habit of
gathering--though Miss Marjoribanks, of course, was still quite unequal
to society--as in the old times.

"And unless it is for a very short time, Lucilla," Mrs Centum said, who
had joined them, "you never can keep it up, you know. _I_ could not
pretend to afford Nancy, for my part; and when a cook is extravagant she
may promise as faithfully as you please, and make good resolutions, and
all that; but when it is in her, Lucilla--I am sure one or two receipts
she has given me have been quite ridiculous. You don't like to give in,
I know, but you'll be driven to give in; and if she does not get you
into debt as well, you will be very lucky. I know what it is. With my
family, you know, a week of Nancy would make an end of me."

"And the worst of all is," said Lady Richmond, who had driven in
expressly to add her mite to the treasure of precious counsel, of which
Miss Marjoribanks was making so little use, "that I am sure Lucilla is
overestimating her strength. She will find after that she is not equal
to it, you know; all the associations--and the people coming at night to
ask for the Doctor--and--and all that. I know it would kill _me_."

"Dear Lady Richmond," said Lucilla, making a desperate stand, and
setting, as it were, her back against a rock, "don't you think I can
bear it best here where you are all so kind to me; and where everybody
was so fond of--of _him_? You can't think what a comfort it is to me,"
said Lucilla, with a sob, "to see all the hatbands upon the gentlemen's
hats."

And then there was a pause, for this was an argument against which
nobody could find anything to say.

"For my part, I think the only thing she can do is to take Inmates,"
said Aunt Jemima. "If I were obliged to leave she would be so very
lonely. I have known ladies do it who were in a very good position, and
it made no difference; people visited them all the same. She could say,
'In consequence of changes in the family,' or 'A lady who has a larger
house than she requires'; which I am sure is quite true. It goes to
one's heart to think of all these bedrooms, and only one lady to sleep
in them all--when so many people are so hampered for want of room. Or
she might say, 'For the sake of society'; for, I am sure, if I should
have to go away----"

"But I hope you are not going away. It would be so sad for Lucilla to be
left alone," said Lady Richmond, who took a serious view of everything,
"at such a time."

"Oh, no!" Aunt Jemima said, faltering a little; and then a pink blush,
which seemed strangely uncalled for in such a mild little tea-party,
came over her mature countenance; "but then one can never tell what may
happen. I might have other duties--my son might make a call upon my
time. Not that I know of anything at present," she added hurriedly, "but
I never can bind myself on account of Tom----"

And then she caught Lucilla's eye, and grew more confused than ever.
What could she have to be confused about? If Tom did make a call upon
her time, whatever that might mean, there was nothing in it to call a
blush upon his mother's face. And the fact was, that a letter had come
from Tom a day or two before, of which, contrary to all her usual
habits, Aunt Jemima had taken no notice to Lucilla. These were things
which would have roused Miss Marjoribanks's curiosity if she had been
able to think about anything, as she said. But her visitors were taking
their cup of tea all the time, in a melancholy, half-sympathetic,
half-disapproving way, and they could not be expected to see anything
particularly interesting in Aunt Jemima's blush.

And then Rose Lake came in from Grove Street, who was rather an unusual
visitor, and whose appearance, though they were all very kind and
gracious to her, rather put the others to flight; for nobody had ever
quite forgotten or forgiven Barbara's brief entrance into society and
flirtation with Mr Cavendish, which might be said to have been the
beginning of all that happened to him in Grange Lane. As for Mrs Centum,
she took her leave directly, and pressed Lucilla's hand, and could not
help saying in her ear that she hoped _the other_ was not coming back to
Carlingford to throw herself in poor Mr Cavendish's way. "It would do
him so much harm," Mrs Centum said anxiously; "but oh! I forgot,
Lucilla, you are on the other side."

"I am on no side _now_," said Miss Marjoribanks, with plaintive meaning;
"and Barbara was as old as I am, you know, and she must have gone off."

"I have no doubt she has gone off," said Mrs Centum, with righteous
indignation. "As old as you, Lucilla! She must be ten years older at
least; and such a shocking style of looks--if men were not so
infatuated! And you have not gone off at all, my poor dear," she added,
with all the warmth of friendship! And then they were joined at the door
by the county lady, who was the next to go away.

"My dear, I hope you will be guided for the best," Lady Richmond said as
she went away; but she gave a deep sigh as she kissed Lucilla, and
looked as if she had very little faith in the efficacy of her own wish.
Maria Brown had withdrawn to another part of the drawing-room with Aunt
Jemima, so that Lucilla was, so to speak, left alone with Rose. And
Rose, too, had come with the intention of giving advice.

"I hear you are going to stay, Lucilla," she said, "and I did not think
I would be doing my duty if I did not tell you what was in my mind. _I_
can't do any good to anybody, you know; but you who are so clever, and
have so much in your power----"

"I am poor now," said Miss Marjoribanks; "and as for being clever, I
don't know about that. I never was clever about drawing or Art, like
you."

"Oh, like me!" said poor little Rose, whose Career had been sacrificed
ten years ago, and who was a little misanthropical now, and did not
believe even in Schools of Design; "I am not so sure about the moral
influence of Art as I used to be--except High Art, to be sure; but we
never have any High Art down here. And oh, Lucilla! the poor people _do_
want something done for them. If I was as clever as you, and with a
great house all to myself like this, and well off, and with plenty of
influence, and no ties----" said Rose, with energetic emphasis. She made
a pause there, and she was so much in earnest that the tears came into
her eyes. "I would make it a House of Mercy, Lucilla! I would show all
these poor creatures how to live and how to manage, if I was as clever
as you; and teach them and their children, and look after them, and be
a mother to them!" said Rose; and here she stopped short, altogether
overcome by her own magnificent conception of what her friend could or
might do.

Aunt Jemima and Miss Brown, who had drawn near out of curiosity, stared
at Rose as if they thought she had gone mad; but Lucilla, who was of a
larger mind and more enlightened ideas, neither laughed nor looked
horrified. She did not make a very distinct answer, it is true, but she
was very kind to her new adviser, and made her a fresh cup of tea, and
even consented, though in an ambiguous way, to the principle she had
just enunciated, "If you won't be affronted, my dear," Lucilla said, "I
do not think that Art could do very much in Carlingford; and I am sure
any little thing that I may be of use for----" But she did not commit
herself any further, and Rose too found the result of her visit
unsatisfactory, and went home disappointed in Lucilla. This was how the
afternoon passed; and at the end of such a day, it may well be imagined
how Miss Marjoribanks congratulated herself on having made up her mind
before the public, so to speak, were admitted. For Rose was followed by
the Rector, who, though he did not propose in so many words a House of
Mercy, made no secret of his conviction that parish-work was the only
thing that could be of any service to Lucilla; and that, in short, such
was the inevitable and providential destination of a woman who had "no
ties." Indeed, to hear Mr Bury, a stranger would have been disposed to
believe that Dr Marjoribanks had been, as he said, "removed," and his
fortune swept away, all in order to indicate to Lucilla the proper
sphere for her energies. In the face of all this it will be seen how
entirely Miss Marjoribanks's wisdom in making her decision by herself
before her advisers broke in upon her, was justified. She could now set
her back against her rock, and face her assailants, as Fitz-James did.

    Come one, come all, this rock shall fly
    From its firm base as soon as I,

might have been her utterance; but she was not in a defiant mood. She
kissed all her counsellors that day (except, of course, the Rector), and
heard them out with the sweetest patience; and then she thought to
herself how much better it was that she had made up her mind to take her
own way.

Notwithstanding, all this commotion of public opinion about her made a
certain impression upon Miss Marjoribanks's mind. It was not unpleasant
to feel that, for this moment at least, she was the centre of the
thoughts of the community, and that almost everybody in Carlingford had
taken the trouble to frame an ideal existence for her, according as he
or she regarded life. It is so seldom that any one has it in his power,
consciously and evidently, to regulate his life for himself, and make it
whatever he wants it to be. And then, at the same time, the best that
she could make of it would, after all, be something very limited and
unsatisfactory. In her musings on this subject, Lucilla could not but go
back a great many times to that last conversation she had with her
father, when she walked up Grange Lane with him that night over the
thawed and muddy snow. The Doctor had said she was not cut out for a
single woman; and Lucilla, with candour, yet a certain philosophical
speculativeness, had allowed that she was not--unless, indeed, she could
be very rich. If she had been very rich, the prospect would no doubt
have been, to a certain extent, different. And then, oddly enough, it
was Rose Lake's suggestion which came after this to Lucilla's mind. She
did not smile at it as some people might expect she would. One thing was
quite sure, that she had no intention of sinking into a nobody, and
giving up all power of acting upon her fellow-creatures; and she could
not help being conscious of the fact that she was able to be of much use
to her fellow-creatures. If it had been Maria Brown, for instance, who
had been concerned, the whole question would have been one of utter
unimportance, except to the heroine itself; but it was different in Miss
Marjoribanks's case. The House of Mercy was not a thing to be taken into
any serious consideration; but still there was something in the idea
which Lucilla could not dismiss carelessly as her friends could. She had
no vocation, such as the foundress of such an establishment ought to
have, nor did she see her way to the abandonment of all projects for
herself, and that utter devotion to the cause of humanity which would be
involved in it; but yet, when a woman happens to be full of energy and
spirit, and determined that whatever she may be she shall certainly not
be a nonentity, her position is one that demands thought. She was very
capable of serving her fellow-creatures, and very willing and well
disposed to serve them; and yet she was not inclined to give herself up
entirely to them, nor to relinquish her personal prospects--vague
though these might be. It was a tough problem, and one which might have
caused a most unusual disturbance in Lucilla's well-regulated mind, had
not she remembered all at once what deep mourning she was in, and that
at present no sort of action, either of one kind or another, could be
expected of her. There was no need for making a final decision, either
about the parish-work, or about taking Inmates, as Aunt Jemima proposed,
or about any other single suggestion which had been offered to her; no
more than there was any necessity for asking what her cousin Tom's last
letter had been about, or why his mother looked so guilty and
embarrassed when she spoke of him. Grief has its privileges and
exemptions, like other great principles of life; and the recollection
that she could not at present be expected to be able to think about
anything, filled Lucilla's mind with the most soothing sense of
consolation and refreshing calm.

And then other events occurred to occupy her friends; the election for
one thing began to grow a little exciting, and took away some of the
superfluous energy of Grange Lane. Mr Ashburton had carried all before
him at first; but since the Rector had come into the field, the balance
had changed a little. Mr Bury was very Low-Church; and from the moment
at which he was persuaded that Mr Cavendish was a great penitent, the
question as to which was the Man for Carlingford had been solved in his
mind in the most satisfactory way. A man who intrenched himself in mere
respectability, and trusted in his own good character, and considered
himself to have a clear conscience, and to have done his duty, had no
chance against a repentant sinner. Mr Cavendish, perhaps, had not done
his duty quite so well; but then he was penitent, and everything was
expressed in that word. The Rector was by no means contemptible, either
as an adversary or a supporter--and the worst of it was that, in
embracing Mr Cavendish's claims, he could scarcely help speaking of Mr
Ashburton as if he was in a very bad way. And feeling began to rise
rather high in Carlingford. If anything could have deepened the
intensity of Miss Marjoribanks's grief, it would have been to know that
all this was going on, and that affairs might go badly with her
candidate, while she was shut up, and could give no aid. It was hard
upon her, and it was hard upon the candidates themselves--one of whom
had thus become generally disapproved of, without, so far as he knew,
doing anything to deserve it; while the other occupied the still more
painful character of being on his promotion--a repentant man, with a
character to keep up. It was no wonder that Mrs Centum grew pale at the
very idea o£ such a creature as Barbara Lake throwing herself in poor Mr
Cavendish's way. A wrong step one way or other--a relapse into the ways
of wickedness--might undo in a moment all that it had cost so much
trouble to do. And the advantage of the Rector's support was thus
grievously counterbalanced by what might be called the uncertainty of
it--especially as Mr Cavendish was not, as his committee lamented
secretly among themselves, a man of strong will or business habits, in
whom implicit confidence could be placed. He might get restive, and
throw the Rector over just at the critical moment; or he might relapse
into his lazy Continental habits, and give up church-going and other
good practices. But still, up to this moment, he had shown very
tolerable perseverance; and Mr Bury's influence thrown into his scale
had equalised matters very much, and made the contest very exciting. All
this Lucilla heard, not from Mr Cavendish, but from her own candidate,
who had taken to calling in a steady sort of way. He never went into any
effusions of sympathy, for he was not that kind of man; but he would
shake hands with her, and say that people must submit to the decrees of
Providence; and then he would speak of the election and of his chances.
Sometimes Mr Ashburton was despondent, and then Lucilla cheered him up;
and sometimes he had very good hopes.

"I am very glad you are to be here," he said on one of these occasions.
"It would have been a great loss to me if you had gone away. I shall
never forget our talk about it here _that_ day, and how you were the
first person that found me out."

"It was not any cleverness of mine," said Lucilla. "It came into my mind
in a moment, like spirit-rapping, you know. It seems so strange to talk
of that _now_; there have been such changes since then--it looks like
years."

"Yes," said Mr Ashburton, in his steady way. "There is nothing that
really makes time look so long; but we must all bow to these
dispensations, my dear Miss Marjoribanks. I would not speak of the
election, but that I thought it might amuse you. The writs are out now,
you know, and it takes place on Monday week."

Upon which Miss Marjoribanks smiled upon Mr Ashburton, and held out her
hands to him with a gesture and look which said more than words. "You
know you will have _all_ my best wishes," she said; and the candidate
was much moved--more moved than at such a moment he had thought it
possible to be.

"If I succeed, I know whom I shall thank the most," he said fervently;
and then, as this was a climax, and it would have been a kind of bathos
to plunge into ordinary details after it, Mr Ashburton got up, still
holding Lucilla's hand, and clasped it almost tenderly as he said
good-bye. She looked very well in her mourning, though she had not
expected to do so; for black was not Lucilla's style. And the fact was,
that instead of having gone off, as she herself said, Miss Marjoribanks
looked better than ever she did, and was even embellished by the natural
tears which still shone by times in her eyes. Mr Ashburton went out in a
kind of bewilderment after this interview, and forgot his overcoat in
the hall, and had to come back for it, which was a confusing
circumstance; and then he went on his way with a gentle excitement which
was not unpleasant. "Would she, I wonder?" he said to himself, as he
went up Grange Lane. Perhaps he was only asking himself whether Lucilla
would or could be present along with Lady Richmond and her family at the
window of the Blue Boar on the great day; but if that was it, the idea
had a certain brightening and quickening influence upon his face and his
movements. The doubt he had on the subject, whatever it was, was not a
discouraging, but a piquant, stimulating, exciting doubt. He had all but
proposed the question to his committee when he went in among them, which
would have filled these gentlemen with wonder and dismay. But though he
did not do that, he carried it home with him, as he trotted back to the
Firs to dinner. Mr Ashburton took a walk through his own house that
evening, and examined all its capabilities--with no particular motive,
as he was at pains to explain to his housekeeper; and again he said to
himself, "Would she, I wonder?" before he retired for the night; which
was no doubt an unusual sort of iteration for so sensible a man, and one
so fully occupied with the most important affairs, to make.

As for Lucilla, she was not in the way of asking herself any questions
at that moment. She was letting things take their course, and not
interfering; and consequently, nothing that happened could be said to be
her fault. She carried this principle so far, that even when Aunt Jemima
was herself led to open the subject, in a hesitating way, Miss
Marjoribanks never even asked a single question about Tom's last letter.
She was in mourning, and that was enough for her. As for appearing at
the window of the Blue Boar with Lady Richmond, if that was what Mr
Ashburton was curious about, he might have saved himself the trouble of
any speculations on the subject. For though Miss Marjoribanks would be
very anxious about the election, she would indeed have been ashamed of
herself could her feelings have permitted her to appear anywhere in
public so soon. Thus, while Mr Ashburton occupied himself much with the
question which had taken possession of his mind, Lucilla took a good
book, which seemed the best reading for her in her circumstances, and
when she had looked after all her straitened affairs in the morning, sat
down sweetly in the afternoon quiet of her retirement and seclusion, and
let things take their way.



_Chapter XLVII_


As the election approached, it became gradually the one absorbing object
of interest in Carlingford. The contest was so equal that everybody took
a certain share in it, and became excited as the decisive moment drew
nigh. Most of the people in Grange Lane were for Mr Ashburton, but then
the Rector, who was a host in himself, was for Mr Cavendish; and the
coquetting of the Dissenting interest, which was sometimes drawn towards
the liberal sentiments of the former candidate, but sometimes could not
help reflecting that Mr Ashburton "dealt" in George Street; and the
fluctuations of the bargemen, who were, many of them, freemen, and a
very difficult part of the population, excited the most vivid interest.
Young Mr Wentworth, who had but lately come to Carlingford, had already
begun to acquire a great influence at Wharfside, where most of the
bargees lived, and the steady ones would no doubt have been largely
swayed by him had his inclinations been the same as the Rector's; but Mr
Wentworth, perversely enough, had conceived that intuitive repugnance
for Mr Cavendish which a high-principled and not very tolerant young man
often feels for the middle-aged individual who still conceives himself
to have some right to be called young, and whose antecedents are not
entirely beyond suspicion. Mr Wentworth's disinclination (and he was a
man rather apt to take his own way) lay like a great boulder across the
stream of the Rector's enthusiasm, and unquestionably interrupted it a
little. Both the candidates and both the committees had accordingly work
enough to do up to the last moment. Mr Cavendish all at once became a
connoisseur in hams, and gave a magnificent order in the most
complimentary way to Tozer, who received it with a broad smile, and
"booked" it, as he said. "It ain't ham he's a wanting," the butterman
said, not without amusement; for Tozer was well-to-do, and, except that
he felt the honour of a mark of confidence, was not to be moved one way
or another by one order. "If he dealt regular, it might be different.
Them's the sort of folks as a man feels drawn to," said the true
philosopher. Mr Ashburton, on the other side, did not make the
impression which his friends thought he ought to have made in Prickett's
Lane; but at least nobody could say that he did not stick very close to
his work. He went at it like a man night and day, and neglected no means
of carrying it to a successful issue; whereas, as Mr Centum and Mr
Woodburn mourned in secret to each other, Cavendish required perpetual
egging on. He did not like to get up in the morning, and get early to
his work. It went against all his habits--as if his habits mattered in
the face of so great an emergency; and in the afternoon it was hard to
prevent him from lounging into some of his haunts, which were utterly
out of the way of business. He would stay in Masters's for an hour at a
time, though he knew Mr Wentworth, who was Masters's great patron, did
not care for him, and that his favour for such a Tractarian sort of
place was bitter to the Rector. Anything for a little idleness and waste
of time, poor Mr Centum said, who was two stone lighter on the eve of
the election than when the canvass began. Such a contrast would make any
man angry. Mr Cavendish was goaded into more activity as the decisive
moment approached, and performed what seemed to himself unparalleled
feats. But it was only two days before the moment of fate when the
accident happened to him which brought such dismay to all his
supporters. Our own opinion is, that it did not materially affect the
issue of the contest one way or other; but that was the reverse of the
feeling which prevailed in Grange Lane.

It was just two days before the election, and all seemed going on
sufficiently well. Mr Cavendish had been meeting a Dissenting committee,
and it was on leaving them that he found himself at the corner of Grove
Street, where, under ordinary circumstances, he had no occasion to be.
At a later period he was rather fond of saying that it was not of his
own motion that he was there at all, but only in obedience to the
committee, which ordered him about like a nigger. The spring afternoon
was darkening, and the Dissenters (almost wholly unimpressed by his
arguments, and remarking more strongly than ever where Mr Ashburton
"dealt," and how thoroughly everybody knew all about him) had all
dispersed. It was but natural, when Mr Cavendish came to the corner of
Grove Street, where, in other days, he had played a very different part,
that certain softening influences should take possession of his soul.
"What a voice she had, by Jove!" he said to himself; "very different
from that shrill pipe of Lucilla's." To tell the truth, if there was one
person in Carlingford whom he felt a resentment against, it was Lucilla.
She had never done him any harm to speak of, and once she had
unquestionably done him a great deal of good. But, on the other hand, it
was she who first showed herself candidly conscious that he had grown
stout, and who all along had supported and encouraged his rival. It was
possible, no doubt, that this might be pique; and, mixed with his anger
for her sins against him, Mr Cavendish had, at the same time, a
counterbalancing sense that there still remained to him in his life one
supereminently wise thing that he still could do--and that was, to go
down Grange Lane instantly to the Doctor's silenced house, and go down
on his knees, or do any other absurdity that might be necessary to make
Lucilla marry him; after which act he would henceforward be, pecuniarily
and otherwise (notwithstanding that she was poor), a saved man. It did
not occur to him that Lucilla would never have married him, even had he
gone down on his knees; but perhaps that would be too much to ask any
man to believe of any woman; and his feeling that this was the right
thing to do, rather strengthened than otherwise the revolt of his heart
against Lucilla. It was twilight, as we have said, and he had done a
hard day's work, and there was still an hour before dinner which he
seemed to have a right to dispose of in his own way; and he did
hesitate at the corner of Grove Street, laying himself open, as it were,
to any temptation that might offer itself. Temptations come, as a
general rule, when they are sought; and thus, on the very eve of the
election, a grievous accident happened to Mr Cavendish. It might have
happened at any time, to be sure, but this was the most inopportune
moment possible, and it came accordingly now.

For, as he made that pause, some one passed him whom he could not but
look after with a certain interest. She went past him with a whisk, as
if she too was not without reminiscences. It was not such a figure as a
romantic young man would be attracted by on such a sudden meeting, and
it was not attraction but recollection that moved Mr Cavendish. It was
the figure of a large woman in a large shawl, not very gracefully put
on, and making her look very square about the shoulders and bunchy at
the neck; and the robe that was whisked past him was that peculiar kind
of faded silk gown which looks and rustles like tin, or some other thin
metallic substance. He made that momentary pause at the street corner,
and then he went on, slowly, not following her, to be sure, but merely,
as he said to himself, pursuing his own course; for it was just as easy
to get into Grange Lane by the farther end as by this end. He went along
very slowly, and the lady before him walked quickly, even with something
like a bounce of excitement, and went in at Mr Lake's door long before
Mr Cavendish reached it. When he came up on a level with the parlour
window, which was partially open though the evening was so cold, Mr
Cavendish positively started, notwithstanding the old associations which
had been rising in his mind; for there was pouring forth from the
half-open window such a volume of melody as had not been heard for years
in Grove Street. Perhaps the voice had lost some of its freshness, but
in the surprise of the moment the hearer was not critical; and its
volume and force seemed even greater than before.

It has been already mentioned in this history that a contralto had a
special charm for Mr Cavendish. He was so struck that he stood
stock-still for the moment, not knowing what to make of it; and then he
wavered for another moment, with a sudden sense that the old allegorical
crisis had occurred to him, and that Pleasure, in a magnificent gush of
song, wooed him on one side, while Duty, with still small voice, called
him at the other. He stood still, he wavered--for fifty seconds perhaps
the issue was uncertain, and the victim was still within reach of
salvation; but the result in such a case depends very much upon whether
a man really likes doing his duty, which is by no means an invariable
necessity. Mr Cavendish had in the abstract no sort of desire to do his
unless when he could not help it, and consequently his resistance to
temptation was very feeble. He was standing knocking at Mr Lake's door
before half the thoughts appropriate to the occasion had got through his
mind, and found himself sitting on the little sofa in Mr Lake's parlour
as he used to do ten years ago, before he could explain to himself how
he came there. It was all, surely, a kind of enchantment altogether. He
was there--he who had been so long away from Carlingford--he who had
been so deeply offended by hearing his name seriously coupled with that
of Barbara Lake--he who ought to have been anywhere in the world rather
than here upon the eve of his election, when all the world was keeping
watch over his conduct. And it was Barbara who sat at the piano
singing--singing one of the same songs, as if she had spent the entire
interval in that occupation, and never had done anything else all these
years. The sensation was so strange that Mr Cavendish may be excused for
feeling a little uncertainty as to whether or not he was dreaming, which
made him unable to answer himself the graver question whether or not he
was doing what he ought to do. He did not seem to be able to make out
whether it was now or ten years ago--whether he was a young man free to
amuse himself, or a man who was getting stout, and upon whom the eyes of
an anxious constituency were fixed. And then, after being so virtuous
for a length of time, a forbidden pleasure was sweet.

Mr Cavendish's ideas, however, gradually arranged themselves as he sat
in the corner of the little haircloth sofa, and began to take in the
differences as well as the bewildering resemblances of the present and
past. Barbara, like himself, had changed. She did not insult him, as
Lucilla had done, by fresh looks and mischievous candour about "going
off." Barbara _had_ gone off, like himself, and, like himself, did not
mean to acknowledge it. She had expanded all over, as was natural to a
contralto. Her eyes were blacker and more brilliant in a way, but they
were eyes which owned an indescribable amount of usage; and her cheeks,
too, wore the deep roses of old, deepened and fixed by wear and tear.
Instead of feeling ashamed of himself in her presence, as he had done in
Lucilla's, Mr Cavendish felt somehow consoled and justified and
sympathetic. "Poor soul!" he said to himself, as he sat by while she was
singing. She, too, had been in the wars, and had not come out
scatheless. She did not reproach him, nor commiserate him, nor look at
him with that mixture of wonder and tolerance and pity which other
people had manifested. She did not even remark that he had grown stout.
He was not a man fallen, fallen, fallen from his high estate, to
Barbara. She herself had fallen from the pinnacles of youth, and Mr
Cavendish was still a great man in her eyes. She sang for him as she had
sung ten years ago, and received him with a flutter of suppressed
delight, and in her satisfaction was full of excitement. The hardworked
candidate sank deeper and deeper into the corner of the sofa and
listened to the music, and felt it very soothing and pleasant, for
everybody had united in goading him on rather than petting him for the
last month or two of his life.

"Now tell me something about yourself," he said, when the song was over,
and Barbara had turned round, as she used to do in old times, on her
music-stool; "I hear you have been away, like me."

"Not like you," said Barbara, "for you went because you pleased, and I
went----"

"Why did you go?" asked Mr Cavendish.

"Because I could not stay here any longer," said Barbara, with her
old vehemence; "because I was talked about, and looked down upon,
and----Well, never mind, that's all over now; and I am sure I am very
glad to see you, Mr Cavendish, as a _friend_."

And with that something like a tear came into her eye. She had been
knocked about a good deal in the world, and though she had not learned
much, still she had learned that she was young no longer, and could not
indulge in the caprices of that past condition of existence. Mr
Cavendish, for his part, could not but smile at this intimation that he
was to be received as a friend, and consequently need not have any fear
of Barbara's fascinations,--as if a woman of her age, worn and gone off
as she was, could be supposed dangerous; but still he was touched by her
tone.

"We were once very good friends, Barbara," said the inconsistent man;
"we have lost sight of each other for a long time, as people do in this
world; but we were once very good friends."

"Yes," she said, with a slight touch of annoyance in her voice; "but
since we have lost sight of each other for so long, I don't see why you
should call me Barbara. It would be much more becoming to say Miss
Lake."

Mr Cavendish was amused, and he was touched and flattered. Most people
had been rather forbearing to him since he came back, putting up with
him for old friendship's sake, or supporting his cause as that of a
reformed man, and giving him, on the whole, a sort of patronising
humiliating countenance; and to find somebody in whose eyes he was still
the paladin of old times, _the_ Mr Cavendish whom people in Grange Lane
were proud of, was balm to his wounded soul.

"I don't know how I am to learn to say Miss Lake--when you are just as
good to me as ever, and sing as you have just been doing," he said. "I
suppose you say so because you find me so changed?"

Upon which Barbara lifted her black eyes and looked at him as she had
scarcely done before. The eyes were as bright as ever, and they were
softened a little for the moment out of the stare that seemed to have
grown habitual to them; and her crimson cheeks glowed as of old; and
though she was untidy, and looked worn, and like a creature much
buffeted about by wind and waves, she was still what connoisseurs in
that article call a fine woman. She looked full at Mr Cavendish, and
then she cast down her eyes, as if the sight was too much for her. "I
don't see any difference," she said, with a certain tremor in her voice;
for he was a man of whom, in the days of her youth, she had been fond in
her way.

And naturally Mr Cavendish was more touched than ever. He took her hand,
and called her Barbara again without any reproof; and he saw that she
trembled, and that his presence here made to the full as great an
impression as he had ever done in his palmiest days. Perhaps a greater
impression; for their old commerce had been stormy, and interrupted by
many a hurricane; and Barbara then had, or thought she might have, many
strings to her bow, and did not believe that there was only one Mr
Cavendish in the world. Now all that was changed: and if this old hope
should revive again, it would not be allowed to die away for any
gratification of temper. Mr Cavendish did not remember ever to have seen
her tremble before, and he too was fond of her in his way.

This curious revival did not come to anything of deeper importance, for
of course just then Rose came in from her household affairs, and Mr Lake
to tea; and the candidate recollected that it was time for dinner. But
father and sister also gave him, in their different ways, a rather
flattering reception. Mr Lake had already pledged him his vote, and was
full of interest as to how things were going on, and enthusiastic for
his success; and Rose scowled upon him as of old, as on a dangerous
character, whose comings and goings could not be seen without
apprehension; which was an unexpected pleasure to a man who had been
startled to find how very little commotion his presence made in Grange
Lane. He pressed Barbara's hand as he went away, and went to his dinner
with a heart which certainly beat lighter, and a more pleasant sense of
returning self-confidence, than he had felt for a long time. When he was
coming out of the house, as a matter of course, he met with the chief of
his Dissenting supporters, accompanied (for Mr Bury, as has been said,
was very Low-Church, and loved, wherever he could do it, to work in
unison with his Dissenting brethren) by the Rector's churchwarden, both
of whom stopped with a curiously critical air to speak to the Candidate,
who had to be every man's friend for the time being. The look in their
eyes sent an icy chill through him, but still the forbidden pleasure had
been sweet. As he walked home, he could not help thinking it over, and
going back ten years, and feeling a little doubtful about it, whether it
was then or now. And as he mused Miss Marjoribanks, whom he could not
help continually connecting and contrasting with the other, appeared to
him as a kind of jealous Queen Eleanor, who had a right to him, and
could take possession at any time, should she choose to make the effort;
while Barbara was a Rosamond, dilapidated indeed, but always ready to
receive and console him in her bower. This was the kind of unconscious
sentiment he had in his mind, feeling sure, as he mused, that Lucilla
would be very glad to marry him, and that it would be very wise on his
part to ask her, and was a thing which might still probably come to
pass. Of course he could not see into Miss Marjoribanks's mind, which
had travelled such a long way beyond him. He gave a glance up at the
windows as he passed her door, and felt a kind of disagreeable
satisfaction in seeing how diminished the lights were in the once
radiant house. And Lucilla was so fond of a great deal of light! but
she could not afford now to spend as much money upon wax as a
Continental church might do. Mr Cavendish had so odd a sense of
Lucilla's power over him, that it gave him a certain pleasure to think
of the coming down of her pride and diminution of her lights.

But the fact was, that not more than ten minutes after he had passed her
door with this reflection, Lucilla, sitting with her good book on the
table and her work in her hand, in the room which was not so well
lighted as it used to be, heard that Mr Cavendish had been met with
coming out of Mr Lake's, and that Barbara had been singing to him, and
that there was no telling what might have happened. "A man ain't the man
for Carlingford as takes up with that sort," Thomas said indignantly,
who had come to pay his former mistress a visit, and to assure her of
his brother-in-law's vote. He was a little more free-spoken than of old,
being now set up, and an independent householder, and calling no man
master; and he was naturally indignant at an occurrence which, regarded
in the light of past events, was an insult not only to Carlingford, but
to Lucilla. Miss Marjoribanks was evidently startled by the news. She
looked up quickly as if she had been about to speak, and then stopped
herself and turned her back upon Thomas, and poked the fire in a most
energetic way. She had even taken the hearth-brush in her hand to make
all tidy after this onslaught, but that was a thing that went to
Thomas's heart.

"I couldn't stand by and see it, Miss Lucilla," said Thomas; "it don't
feel natural;" and there was actually a kind of moisture in his eye as
he took that domestic implement out of her hand. Mr Cavendish pitied
Lucilla for having less light than of old, and Thomas for being reduced
so low as to sweep her own hearth. But Lucilla was very far from pitying
her own case. She had been making an effort over herself, and she had
come out of it triumphant; after reading so many good books, it is not
to be wondered at if she felt herself a changed and softened and
elevated character. She had the means in her hands of doing her
candidate's rival a deadly mischief, and yet, for old friendship's sake,
Lucilla made up her mind to forbear.

"I will give it you, Thomas," she said, with dignity, holding the
hearth-brush, which was in such circumstances elevated into something
sublime, "if you will promise, never, until after the election--never
to say a word about Mr Cavendish and Miss Lake. It was quite right to
tell me, and you are very kind about the hearth; but you must promise
never to say a syllable about it, not even to Nancy, until the election
is over; or I will never give it you, nor ask you to do a single thing
for me again."

Thomas was so much struck with this address that he said "Good Lord!" in
sheer amazement; and then he made the necessary vow, and took the
hearth-brush out of Lucilla's hand.

"No doubt he was asking for Mr Lake's vote," said Miss Marjoribanks.
"They say everybody is making great exertions, and you know they are
both my friends. I ought to be pleased whoever wins. But it is impressed
on my mind that Mr Ashburton will be the man," Lucilla added, with a
little solemnity, "and, Thomas, we must give them fair-play."

It would be vain to assert that Thomas understood this romantic
generosity, but he was taken by surprise, and had relinquished his own
liberty in the matter, and had nothing further to say. Indeed he had so
little to say downstairs, that Nancy, who was longing for a little
gossip, insulted and reviled him, and declared that since he took up
with _that_ Betsy there never was a sensible word to be got out of him.
And all the time the poor man was burning with this bit of news. Many a
man has bartered his free-will before under the influence of female
wiles, or so at least history would have us believe; but few have done
it for so poor a compensation as that hearth-brush. Thomas withdrew sore
at heart, longing for the election to be over, and kept his word like an
honest man; but notwithstanding, before the evening was over, the fatal
news was spreading like fire to every house in Grange Lane.



_Chapter XLVIII_


It is probable that Mr Cavendish considered the indulgence above
recorded all the more excusable in that it was Saturday night. The
nomination was to take place on Monday, and if a man was not to be
supposed to be done with his work on the Saturday evening, when could he
be expected to have a moment of repose? He had thought as he went
home--for naturally, while putting himself so skilfully in the way of
temptation, such questions had not entered into his mind--that the fact
of to-morrow being Sunday would effectually neutralise any harm he could
have been supposed to have done by a visit so simple and natural, and
that neither his sister nor his committee, the two powers of which he
stood in a certain awe, could so much as hear of it until the election
was over, and all decided for good or for evil. This had been a comfort
to his mind, but it was the very falsest and most deceitful consolation.
That intervening Sunday was a severer calamity for Mr Cavendish than
half a dozen ordinary days. The general excitement had risen so high,
and all the chances on both sides had been so often discussed and
debated, that something new was as water in the desert to the thirsting
constituency. The story was all through Grange Lane that very night, but
Carlingford itself, from St Roque's to the wilderness of the North End,
tingled with it next morning. It is true, the Rector made no special
allusion to it in his sermon, though the tone of all his services was so
sad, and his own fine countenance looked so melancholy, that Mr Bury's
devoted followers could all see that he had something on his mind. But
Mr Tufton at Salem Chapel was not so reticent. He was a man quite famous
for his extempore gifts, and who rather liked to preach about any very
recent public event, which it was evident to all his hearers could not
have found place in a "prepared" discourse; and his sermon that morning
was upon wickedness in high places, upon men who sought the confidence
of their fellows only to betray it, and offered to the poor man a hand
red with his sister's (metaphorical) blood.

But it would be wrong to say that this was the general tone of public
opinion in Grove Street; most people, on the contrary, thought of Mr
Cavendish not as a wolf thirsting for the lamb's blood, but rather
himself as a kind of lamb caught in the thicket, and about to be offered
up in sacrifice. Such was the impression of a great many influential
persons who had been wavering hitherto, and inclining on the whole to Mr
Cavendish's liberal principles and supposed Low-Church views. A man
whose hand is red metaphorically with your sister's blood is no doubt a
highly objectionable personage; but it is doubtful whether, under the
circumstances, an enlightened constituency might not consider the man
who had given a perfectly unstained hand to so thoroughly unsatisfactory
a sister as more objectionable still; and the indignation of Grange Lane
at Barbara's reappearance was nothing to the fury of George Street, and
even of Wharfside, where the bargees began to scoff openly. Society had
nothing worse to say than to quote Mrs Chiley, and assert that "these
artist people were all adventurers"; and then Grange Lane in general
could not forget that it "had met" Barbara, nor dismiss from its
consideration her black eyes, her level brows, and her magnificent
contralto; whereas in the other region the idea of the Member for
Carlingford marrying "that sort!" cast all the world into temporary
delirium. It was a still more deadly offence to the small people than to
the great. And the exceptional standing which poor Mr Lake and his
daughter Rose used to lay claim to--the "rank of their own" which they
possessed as artists--was a pretension much more disagreeable to the
shopkeepers than to society in general. Thus in every sense Mr Cavendish
had done the very worst for himself by his ill-timed indulgence; and his
guilt was about the same with most of his critics whether he meant
perfectly well and innocently, or entertained the most guilty intentions
ever conceived by man.

And all his misfortunes were increased by the fact that the intervening
day was a Sunday. Barbara Lake herself, who did not know what people
were saying, and who, if she had known, would not have cared, came to
church, as was natural, in the morning; and under pretence that the
family pew was full, had the assurance, as people remarked, to come to
the middle aisle, in that same silk dress which rustled like tin, and
made more demonstration than the richest draperies. The pew-opener
disapproved of her as much as everybody else did, but she could not turn
the intruder out; and though Barbara had a long time to wait, and was
curiously inspected by all the eyes near her while she did so, the end
was that she got a seat in her rustling silk not very far from where
Lucilla sat in deep mourning, a model of every righteous observance. As
for poor Barbara, she too was very exemplary in church. She meant nobody
any harm, poor soul. She could not help the flashing of those big black
eyes, to which the level line above them gave such a curious appearance
of obliqueness--nor was it to be expected that she should deny herself
the use of her advantages, or omit to "take the second" in all the
canticles with such melodious liquid tones as made everybody stop and
look round. She had a perfect right to do it; indeed it was her duty, as
it is everybody's duty, to aid to the best of their ability in the
church-music of their parish, which was what Lucilla Marjoribanks
persisted in saying in answer to all objections. But the effect was
great in the congregation, and even the Rector himself was seen to
change colour as his eye fell upon the unlucky young woman. Mr
Cavendish, for his part, knew her voice the moment he heard it, and gave
a little start, and received such a look from his sister, who was
standing by him, as turned him to stone. Mrs Woodburn looked at him, and
so did her husband, and Mr Centum turned a solemnly inquiring
reproachful gaze upon him from the other side of the aisle. "Oh, Harry,
you will kill me with vexation! why, for goodness' sake, did you let her
come?" his sister whispered when they had all sat down again. "Good
heavens! how could I help it?" cried poor Mr Cavendish, almost loud
enough to be heard. And then by the slight, almost imperceptible, hum
around him, he felt that not only his sister and his committee, but the
Rector and all Carlingford, had their eyes upon him, and was thankful to
look up the lesson, poor man, and bury his face in it. It was a hard
punishment for the indiscretion of an hour.

But perhaps of all the people concerned it was the Rector who was the
most to be pitied. He had staked his honour upon Mr Cavendish's
repentance, and here was he going back, publicly to wallow in the
mire--and it was Sunday when such a worldly subject ought not to be
permitted to enter a good man's mind, much less to be discussed and
acted upon as it ought to be if anything was to be done; for there was
little more than this sacred day remaining in which to undo the mischief
which a too great confidence in human nature had wrought. And then, to
tell the truth, the Rector did not know how to turn back. It would have
been hard, very hard, to have told all the people who confided in him
that he had never had any stronger evidence for Mr Cavendish's
repentance than he now had for his backsliding; and to give in, and let
the other side have it all their own way, and throw over the candidate
with whom he had identified himself, was as painful to Mr Bury as if,
instead of being very Low-Church, he had been the most muscular of
Christians. Being in this state of mind, it may be supposed that his
sister's mild wonder and trembling speculations at lunch, when they were
alone together, were well qualified to raise some sparks of that old
Adam, who, though well kept under, still existed in the Rector's, as in
most other human breasts.

"But, dear Edward, I would not quite condemn him," Miss Bury said. "He
has been the cause of a good deal of remark, you know, and the poor girl
has been talked about. He may think it is his duty to make her amends.
For anything we can tell, he may have the most honourable
intentions----"

"Oh, bother his honourable intentions!" said the Rector. Such an
exclamation from him was as bad as the most dreadful oath from an
ordinary man, and very nearly made Miss Bury drop from her chair in
amazement. Things must have gone very far indeed when the Rector himself
disregarded all proprieties and the sacredness of the day in such a
wildly-daring fashion. For, to tell the truth, in his secret heart Mr
Bury was himself a little of the way of thinking of the people in Grove
Street. Strictly speaking, if a man has done anything to make a young
woman be talked about, every well-principled person ought to desire that
he should make her amends; but at the same time, at such a crisis there
was little consolation in the fact that the candidate one was supporting
and doing daily battle for had honourable intentions in respect to
Barbara Lake. If it had been Rose Lake, it would still have been a blow;
but Rose was unspeakably respectable, and nobody could have said a
syllable on the subject: while Barbara, who came to church in a tin
gown, and rustled up the middle aisle in it, attracting all eyes, and
took such a second in the canticles that she overwhelmed the choir
itself--Barbara, who had made people talk at Lucilla's parties, and had
been ten years away, wandering over the face of the earth, nobody could
tell where--governessing, singing, play-acting, perhaps, for anything
that anybody could tell! A clergyman, it is true, dared not have said
such a thing, and Mr Bury's remorse would have been bitter could he have
really believed himself capable even of thinking it; but still it is
certain that the unconscious, unexpressed idea in his mind was, that the
honourable intentions were the worst of it--that a candidate might be a
fool, or even an unrepentant sinner, and after all it would be chiefly
his own concern; but that so much as to dream of making Barbara Lake the
Member's wife, was the deepest insult that could be offe