Fanny's Fortune (II)

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CHAPTER XIV.

A HARD LIFE.




received Philip with her usual gracious calm, but he was not to be soothed by it; and it was not long before she noticed his irritability, restlessness, and gloom.  They set to work as usual, but Philip's gloom and restlessness increased, and affected Mrs. Austin, in spite of herself.  Their joint labours were drawing to a close.  The box whose contents they were engaged upon was the last save one.  At the bottom of it Philip came upon a legal-looking document tied with red tape, and looking at the endorsement found it to be the draft of a marriage settlement, sketched out by Mr. Austin on behalf of his wife.  "This you had better keep with your other papers," he said, handing it over to his companion.

    She looked at it.  "I do not suppose it is of any use," she replied, after glancing over it.  This was afterwards altered; her voice was agitated.  "Will you tear it up?" she added.

    He proceeded to do so, when a letter fell out of the folds of the paper and fluttered to the floor.

    Mrs. Austin caught it.  "A letter of my father's," she said, looking at it.  "Poor father!" she murmured, with a look of profound pity.

    "Was he unfortunate?" said Philip, "for if so we have this too in common."

    "Very," she answered.  "He became bankrupt; not a splendid bankrupt, like those who led him into speculation, whose wives had handsome settlements, and never dropped their carriages, or put a stop to their engagements, because their husbands could not pay a tithe of what they owed.  He was a broken man, and died a clerk in the office of a tradesman."

    "Which was a great deal more honourable, Mrs. Austin," said Philip, "than if he had done as those you mention, and secured himself at the expense of his creditors.  The easy release from debt which dishonest men may obtain is a public scandal.  It is lowering the whole tone of public morality.  Peers take the lead in insolvency nowadays.  Every peer who enters the Bankruptcy Court should come out of it stripped of his titles and honours at the least.  It is the honest man who loses everything, and to him bankruptcy can hardly be embittered."

    "It was very bitter to us, Mr. Tenterden.  We were an exceedingly attached family, and felt keenly for each other, and especially for our father, who broke down completely.  He had not the kind of power which resists pressure."

    "Did he die before your marriage?" asked Philip.

    "No," she answered; "it bought him a year or two of repose."

    Philip looked the question he did not ask.

    "My marriage secured to my parents a hundred a year," she said quickly. "My mother has it still."

    "Oh, I see!" exclaimed Philip.

    Mrs. Austin looked distressed.  "There was no undue pressure put upon me," she explained.  "I did it quite willingly—nay, gladly; but I did it in utter ignorance of all that it involved.  Oh, Mr. Tenterden! good men must despise a woman who sells herself for so much money—that was what I did."

    "The woman is despicable enough," said Philip, "who does it to obtain for herself the things that money will buy—meats, drinks, dresses, houses, fine company, servants, &c.; but that is not your case, Mrs, Austin.  No one has a, right to despise you, and it would be impossible to any one who knows you.  But perhaps there was some one you cared for which made the sacrifice harder."

    "No," she answered, sadly; "but when he brought me here, away from home, I drooped and pined; I could not help it.  I became home-sick.  He resented it.  He was a man of harsh and despotic temper, and he made little effort to win me.  He settled into sternness and gloomy reserve, aggravated latterly by severe suffering."

    "Yes, your life must have been a hard one," said Philip.

    "It would have made me wicked," she said, "if I had not learnt to love him after a fashion.  And oh! how I missed him—miss him still!  He made the duty of my life; and a life without a duty is drearier than a life without a pleasure."

    "That I can imagine," he replied; "and that you at least would shape your life to any duty, however hard; but with a man it is different.  A duty which binds him down, and leaves him no room to shape his life for himself, becomes intolerable.  My father was not a bankrupt," he said, "but he died wholly insolvent, leaving me a legacy of debt which it will take the best part of my life to clear myself from.  I am glad that you should know this, though no one else does; it will explain some things which may seem strange to you, I believe;" and he laughed a little bitterly.  "I have already acquired a character for miserliness, but that is a small matter; it is hard, however, that the only happiness I could have cared for, the happiness of making a home for the girl I loved, should be beyond my reach; that I have nothing to offer any woman, and may never have."

    Ellen's heart beat fast, and a hot flush went up over her face, as she tried to answer steadily, "She whom you love might think it enough if you offered only yourself."

    "You forget," he said bitterly, "I have not even myself to offer."

    There was a pause, during which Ellen suffered the choking sensation like something drowning in the heart, which comes with the sudden extinction of hope which has never seen the light.  She sat still, and made no sign till it was gone.  Then she said gently, pleading for that other, "She might wait till you were free."

    "She—she is gone from me already," he answered abruptly.

    What hindered her then to comfort him?  She had the impulse—the impulse to lavish herself and all that was most precious to her in the effort, but the words would not come.  It was impossible for her to break through the fence of her womanly reserve.  She sat before him dumb and restrained, and never had he been so distant and so cold.  Absorbed in his own feelings, he had not thought of hers.

    A loud knock at the outer door broke the silence.  Mrs. Austin started.  "I wonder if that is my mother!" she exclaimed; "I expected her home in a day or two, but she must have returned earlier."

    It was Fanny, who, with a shawl thrown over her head, and followed by Ada in similar costume, had come in from next door to speak to Philip.


 
CHAPTER XV.

PERPETUAL FRIENDSHIP.


ARTHUR WILDISH had dashed up to Hampton as fast as a hansome could carry him.  Lucy was at home, and alone.  She had been lying on the hearthrug, a great white fleecy one, reading, with Muff, a black, silky terrier, keeping her company.  Arthur and she were great friends, yet she hoped she had jumped up in time to avoid discovery, and she hastened to say, "Mamma is out," with a pretty little blush born of a consciousness that Muff and she were a little dishevelled in aspect, as she had been intending to run away and dress for dinner, only her book was too entrancing to be left.

    Arthur was rash enough not to have considered what he would say.  To have had something to say would have been useful, even if he hadn't said it, closing a few of the many possible approaches to a great subject.

    "Have you seen my father?" asked Lucy, innocently.

    "Yes, I left him in his room.  He will be up at the usual hour," said Arthur.

    "And why are you so early?" she asked; "have you got nothing to do?"

    "I have come to see you," he answered gaily, and smiling at her fondly; but the gaiety and the fondness being mixed up together, left Lucy quite unconscious still.

    "May I run away from you for a few minutes?" she said. "Muff has a fancy for pulling out my pins," and she stooped and picked up a pin with a silver star at the end of it, the neighbour of which was fastened in the plaits of her brown hair.

    "No, I can't spare you just now," said Arthur, the audacious, "I have something particular to say to you."

    She stood in front of him with clear questioning eyes and laughing lips, and said, "What is it? have you got a brief? or are you going to the bush to be a squatter?"

    Nothing daunted, Arthur answered, "Neither the one nor the other, Lucy.  I love you—"

    "Oh, why—" she exclaimed, moving backwards, not knowing in the least what she said, and looking in her movement like a startled fawn.

    "Why!" he answered gaily; "was there ever such a question? because I love you, and have a hundred other bemuses all summed up in that; because you are what you are, so sweet and good; because you are like music that I want to set my life to—must, for it will go to no other; because I think we would be so happy that we must make the whole old world a bit happier and better for us.  Eh, Lucy," sad his blue eyes kindled and suffused as he moved nearer and held out both hands to her, saying, "Lucy, will you be my wife?"

    She shrank away still further, crying, "Oh, Mr. Wildish, I cannot—I cannot!"

    "Don't you like me, Lucy?" he asked, sorely dismayed.

    "Like you—oh yes, I like you a great deal," she answered; "but that is different."

    "But if you like me a great deal, you may love me in time," he said, with reviving hope.  "I will wait, Lucy; I will make you love me."

    "Oh no—no!" she answered, as if she feared the very possibility.

    Her little work-table stood there, and she had slid behind it.  He sat down on the chair before it, and covered his face with his hands.  Was he crying? she thought so, and trembled in the silence.  He was suffering, she could see that, and she could not bear to see suffering, far less to inflict it.  She drew near to him, and laid a timid hand on his arm.  "I am so sorry," she murmured, close at his ear.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"'I am so sorry,' she murmured."


    He raised his head, and the tears came when she saw his face.  It was pale and fixed; she had never seen a face so changed, for she had never seen sudden disappointment and heart-suffering, and Arthur Wildish was suffering keenly according to his nature.  Lucy could not restrain her tears, nor stand by refusing to comfort him.  "It was enough to drive a fellow mad, though," he said to himself, for she slipped a slender hand into his, and whispered, her face all one vivid crimson, "If I had not loved some one else long ago, I am sure I could have loved you."

    Long ago!  She had loved long ago, this bright, child-like girl.  What was the meaning of it?  Her parents could know nothing about it.  Was she engaged? he asked.

    "Oh no! please do not speak of it," she answered, in the deepest agitation; "no one knows.  I hardly knew myself till now; he does not care for me."

    "My poor darling!" and Arthur Wildish heaped passionate kisses on the trembling hand he held.

    "We may still be friends, may we not?" she asked, withdrawing her hand gently, and with a deprecating look.

    "Friends!" he replied; and was going to say, "I will never be anything but your lover, Lucy," only that look of hers checked him, and he vowed everlasting friendship instead.  Both were acting in perfect good faith, and a blessed unconsciousness of what the wisdom of the world would rate their proceeding at, and they once more clasped hands over their compact.  Then Lucy fled; she had heard her mother coming, and could not meet her for once in her life.

    Mrs. Tabor found Arthur alone in the drawing-room, and was not a little puzzled at hearing that he had just parted from Lucy, and was not going to stay the evening as usual.  It seemed to her that something must have happened, and she made a very shrewd guess as to what that something was; but she could argue little from the gentleman's appearance, which was certainly graver, but not much more dejected than usual.

    On his arrival at home, Mr. Tabor was still more astonished to find Mr. Wildish gone, a fact from which, with his superior knowledge, he could draw only one conclusion—namely, that Lucy had rejected him.  The young lady in question delayed her appearance till dinner was on the table, and not a word could be said.  She had a suspiciously heightened colour, and a dilation of the eyes which told of some excitement, but nothing more.  Late in the evening she got behind her papa's chair, and prefacing her speech with a kiss on the top of his head, told him, what he knew already, that Mr. Wildish had been there, and dashing into the subject with trembling haste, said simply, "Papa, he wanted me to marry him."

    "And you wouldn't?" said her father, helping her out.

    "No; but we are friends," she replied.

    "Oh!" said her father, with some significance.  Well, I am glad you are not ready to leave me for the first jackanapes who holds up a finger to you, though Wildish is an excellent young follow."

    Another kiss from Lucy, and she tripped away from her father to encounter a far more trying tête-à-tête with her mother in the drawing-room, out of which she came forth triumphantly, by reason of her mother's pressing exclusively on the advantages of the match, which Lucy, who really loved her home, and was not discontented with her lot, was honestly incapable of feeling.

    Meantime Arthur Wildish, rattling homeward, made up his mind in the midst of his defeat to win in the end.  But who could he be—the insensate mortal who had gained such a hidden treasure as the heart of Lucy Tabor, and neither knew nor cared?  He cast about in his mind who it could be.  He conjured up all the young men whom he had seen at the hospitable house of the Tabors, a house of old-fashioned, solid hospitalities—not of flimsy modern ones, and he could think of no one.  Philip Tenterden crossed his mind, but was rejected as too old and too grave.  At length he remembered Mr. Huntingdon.  "Of course, it's the clergyman," he said to himself, and he proceeded to depreciate clergymen in general, and this clergyman in particular.  But this tangible rival gave birth to the pangs of jealousy.  He did not know what to do with himself.  He dined at a restaurant, and then dropped into the streets, a unit in the vast London crowds, ever hurrying to and fro, driven by all sorts of strange necessities.  Life assumed a new aspect to the spirit of the enthusiastic, idealistic young man—an aspect terrible and hopeless.  He began to drink the cup of youthful misery, and to perceive the attraction of recklessness and despair.


 
CHAPTER XVI.

A BITTER NIGHT.


ONCE more Albert Lovejoy failed to appear at home at the usual hour; and as time went on and he did not come, a dumb anguish, which seemed to dry up her tears, took possession of his poor little wife.  About ten o'clock, when the children had been asleep for hours, there came a knock at the door, and she hastened down to see if it concerned her husband.

    Geraldine had already opened the door, and was answering some one as well as she could for coughing.  When she had shut the door again Emily came forward.  "I thought it might be about Albert," she said; "I feel as if something must have happened to him this time."

    "So it is about Albert," replied Geraldine; "that man was asking for him, and he has been walking up and down and looking up at the windows for I don't know how long.  He looks just like a thief or housebreaker, Emily," she added.

    "Nonsense, Jerry," said her sister-in-law; "we're too poor for thieves to be looking after us.  But what did he want with Albert?"

    "I don't know," replied Geraldine; "he only asked if he was at home, and I told him no, but that we expected him every minute."

    "Is he coming back then?" said Emily,

    "I don't know.  Let's see if he is there still" said Geraldine.  "We are all in the kitchen tonight, and I went into the parlour in the dark, that was how I saw him."

    They went into the room together, and stole to the window.  "Yes, there he is," said Geraldine, in an eager whisper.

    A man passed close to the window, and looked up at the house just as Geraldine had said.  Emily leant against the shutter and trembled like an aspen.

    In a very little time he passed again.  Emily did not think he was a robber, but what did he want with Albert?  A nameless horror crept over her, and she pressed her hand against her heart to keep it from beating so fast.  Then her baby woke and cried, and she ran up-stairs, and Geraldine went and brought her father and mother to look out also.  But they saw nothing particular in the fact of a man's asking for Albert, or walking up and down waiting for him.  Jerry ought to have asked him in, they said.  While they stood he did not return, and they concluded therefore that, as it was getting late, he had gone away.  Beatrice had eaten her supper, and would not even stir to look out; but Emily, as soon as she had got her baby off to sleep again, went and stood in the dark at the front room window and watched—watched alone, in spite of her fears, for the rest of the family had gone to bed.  How long she stood there she did not know; it must have been more than an hour before she heard Albert come in.  She cried a little with relief from anxiety when she heard him, but dried her tears to meet him.

    The kettle was singing on the hob, and she asked if he would take a cup of tea.  He answered yes, and she set about making it, without noticing anything unusual in his appearance; indeed, he had been looking so haggard and wretched lately there was nothing unusual to notice.

    In her thankfulness for his return, and her anxiety to make him comfortable, she had not yet told about the visitor, and she nearly let the teapot fall from her hands when that knock (quite a subdued knock, too, it was) sounded once more through the silent house.

    "It's the man," she said, trembling.

    "What man?" asked her husband, crossly, drawing off his boot.

    "A man who has been here asking for you," she answered, not daring to say more.

    He did not offer to go, as Emily would fain have desired, so she took the candle and went herself down-stairs to open the door.

    The man (for it was be) desired civilly enough to see Mr. Albert Lovejoy.

    "He has just come in," answered Emily.

    The man actually walked into the passage and shut the door, saying, "I'll follow you, if you please."

    She led the way up-stairs, and the stranger followed, passed, and entered before her.  "You must come with me," he said addressing Albert; "I've been waiting some time for you."

    Ghastly with terror, Albert sat without uttering a word.

    "What do you want him for?" asked Emily.

    "He's wanted about a little matter of money that's missing," answered the man.  "Don't take on so," he added, for Emily gave a scream as if some one had stabbed her.  "He may be all right for anything I know, only I must do my dooty, and he must come alon' with me."

    Still Albert answered nothing, but began with haste to pull on the boot he had taken off.

    "Say it is not true, Albert—O Albert! say it is not true.  You never took any man's money.  Say you never took it, and let him go away," pleaded Emily.

    "His saying it ain't true won't make any difference, he must prove it," said the man.

    "You can prove it, Albert?" she implored.  "You we not going away with him."

    "Don't be a fool," he answered.  "I must go, I suppose?" and he looked at the man.

    "No mistake about it," said the functionary, in answer to the look.

    "I am lucky!" ejaculated Albert.  "Mind," he said, turning to the man, "this is all a mistake."

    "It's all a mistake," repeated poor Emily.  "I am sure you could be punished for taking up an innocent man."

    "I'm only doin' my dooty," said the officer patiently, used to such ineffectual wrath.

    "Emily, be quiet, I tell you!" shouted Albert; and looking in his face, white as the tablecloth, his wife read, with a sure instinct, not innocence, but guilt.

    Her heart died within her; but her manner, after the manner of women driven by weakness to deceit, became lighter.  "Will you take your tea, Albert?" she asked; and turning to the man, added, "will you take a cup of tea, sir?"

    "I don't mind if I do," answered the man.

    So they stood and drank each a cup of tea, the man pouring it into the saucer and drinking leisurely, eating a slice of bread-and-butter as well; Albert pouring it down his throat of at the risk of a scalding, and biting the cup to steady it.

    "Where are you going to take him?" asked Emily.

    "To the lock up for to-night," answered the man, his mouth full of bread-and-butter.

    "Good-bye," said Albert, without looking at Emily.

    She went over to him and kissed him.  He kissed her again mechanically.

    "When will he come back?" asked Emily.

    "It depends," said the man, swallowing a last mouthful.

    Emily held the door open, and they went downstairs.  "Will you go in and tell them?" she cried, and Albert answered, "No," and was gone.

    Then Emily sat down alone; but not to cry—no tears would come, only her poor little heart kept sinking, sinking, sinking, till she could bear it no longer, and she crept up-stairs to the room where Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy slept, and stole in beside them.  In the dark, and kneeling on the floor beside their bed, she told what had happened—it eased her heart to tell it; and then she went away, and crept in beside her baby and cried herself to sleep.


 
CHAPTER XVII.

TROUBLE.




LOVEJOY had a nature as innocent as it was light and gay.  He could suffer privation with a cheerfulness which, to his very differently constituted wife, seemed perfectly insane.  He would go without dinner, and make a late meal of tea and bread and herring, with absolute graciousness; a man who for himself feared poverty not at all.  Its shifts, to others so painful, and even disgraceful, were to him only little difficulties to be triumphed over by patient endurance, and smiled at when they were past.  He had persisted in being a gentleman in the midst of them.  Disgrace in the true sense he had never experienced.  When he heard Emily's account of his son's capture, lying there in the dark, he uttered not a word.  Mrs. Lovejoy said but little.  She, too, had a conviction that the charge was true.  But as soon as her daughter-in-law left she rose.  She could not lie there, she said, and Albert in prison.  Still her husband did not speak.  She lighted a candle and dressed, preparing to leave the room, when he murmured, "I'm very sick, Susan; give me a drop of water."

    There was none in the room, and, with his usual habit of sparing her trouble, he said, "Never mind, I'll rise too."

    He rose, and they went down-stairs together and lighted a fire, over which they sat shivering.  All at once Mr. Lovejoy moaned, and his wife looking at him, saw him grow deadly pale, and be would have fallen had she not held him.  He had fainted.  With some difficulty his wife managed to restore him, and prop him up in his chair, and the spreading warmth of the little fire revived him still more.  As he became better, and Mrs. Lovejoy was relieved from the anxiety she had felt while he was unconscious, she began to feel a bitter contempt that he should take it thus, fall down before this trouble as it were, while she maintained herself erect, in spite of the raging pain at her heart.  She was not a woman who could be tender in her sorrow, and she was anything but that now; she felt savage with her misery. She would have liked, only she knew it was useless, to go after her son that very night. She chafed at having to sit still there; it was only one degree more bearable than lying in her bed.  So the two sat over the fire, neither attempting to comfort the other; Mr. Lovejoy drooping his head, and at length laying it down on the wooden table.

    "I can't think what I've done to deserve this," said his wife, breaking a long silence.  "He was as pretty a child as ever was born, and I tried hard to do my duty by him; he never wanted for anything that I could give him."

    Her husband lifted a woebegone face.  "And what have I done, Susan?" he said.  With sure instinct he picked up the clue to her tangled thoughts, and found it was reproach to himself.  Thus we often know what people think, more from what they don't say than from what they do.  "I've been honest and honourable," he went on; "through all our poverty I've never touched a farthing of other men's money, though I've had my pockets full of it, and been like to drop with hunger.  God knows he has not learnt dishonesty from me."

    "If we had been comfortably off, if things hadn't been so hard, he might never have been what he is.  He never could bear to be mean and shabby," said Mrs. Lovejoy, bitterly.  (By "mean and shabby" Mrs. Lovejoy meant in the outer man: that her husband had never been mean and shabby, in his most threadbare garments and with his empty purse, she had no comprehension.)

    "I don't think be has had a very hard life," said Albert's father.  "Some people might think my life had been a hard one, Susan, for I was brought up in luxury; but it hasn't; you've never heard me murmur: it has been very happy till now.  When the children were young, Susan, do you remember how happy we were, if we could only make ends meet and get bread and cheese?  When we went to Greenwich Park on a summer Sunday, and ate our dinners under the old tree, and fetched water from the well to drink, we were happy enough, and there wasn't a prettier set of children on the ground than ours.  Yes, we were happy then."

    Accustomed as she was to his ideas, Mrs, Lovejoy stared at him; she could not remember the happiness.  She could remember her husband proposing the park and bread and cheese, and no need to cook a dinner, because there was none to cook.  She had never been happy, she thought, and truly; for to her happiness consisted of purchasable commodities, and she had never been able to purchase them in sufficient quantities.  Even her stomach, temperate though she was, rose at cold water with chalk in it, and preferred London stout.  She wanted to see her children well clad and well shod, rather than down at the heel, and dancing in the sunshine.  It was the same life she and her husband were looking at, and yet how different! the one saw all its squalor and dinginess, all the manifold unpleasantnesses of its poverty; the other dwelt upon its glimpses of sunshine and radiance, the beauty of his little children, and all the unpurchasable pleasures.

    Mrs. Lovejoy was by no means a bad woman; she was not even a coarse woman, but she had not a spark of imagination.  He, weak as he was, had abundance of that Divine gift; it was this that had redeemed him, and not as his wife thought be-fooled him.  Without it he would have been equally weak and far more worthless; and as men cannot live without pleasure of some sort, he might have been such another as his son Albert.

    The haggard couple sat and talked at intervals throughout the bitter night; they talked of him, and of their other children, whom the mother alternately defended and abused.  They were of very mixed characteristics, from hard, cold, selfish Beatrice, to Ada, whose affections centred in her father, and were of passionate intensity.  The mother's favourite was Geraldine, who had a strong sense of duty, quickened by imagination—a sense of duty which was always triumphing over her inclinations.

    "I don't know what's come to Beatrice," her mother murmured on; " I think there is some young man in the case, and that she wants to get married.  God forgive me, but I wish almost that her child may give her as sore a heart as she has given me."

    "Hush, Susan!" said her husband, "don't wish ill to your own child."

    "There's Jerry," she replied, "the best of the lot; she's got a cough like to split, through wearing a thin jacket, and Beatrice might have given us the money to get her a thick one, and wouldn't."

    Mr. Lovejoy could only moan his grief: these children were breaking his heart.

    Towards morning Mrs. Lovejoy made a cup of tea, cheerfully informing her husband that the coals would not last the day, and there was no money in the house to get more.  They did not wake the girls till their usual hour; but they were thankful when that hour came and the house was again astir, and the voices of Albert's children were heard up-stairs.  Emily brought them down and came herself to see what was to be done for Albert.  The first thing was to see him if possible, for Emily did not even know at whose instance he had been imprisoned.  On this mission Mr. Lovejoy went forth as soon as it was thought advisable.  He wasted several hours among a miserable little crowd, chiefly women, waiting to see his son, which he at length accomplished, and learnt what he chiefly wanted to know—the name of his accuser, and the extent of his guilt.

    The story which Albert told his father was substantially true, with the exception of the way in which the money had been spent, and which he persisted in saying he had lost.  He was full of the injury which Mr. Tenterden had done him in refusing to lend him his cousin's money.  Indeed, according to him, the entire calamity rested on Philip's shoulders.  Mr. Lovejoy next went to his son's late employer and explained the circumstances.  He did it in perfect good faith, for he had taken to himself immense comfort from his son's statement, that he had not the slightest intention of keeping the money; but the man was inexorable, and swore that, unless the ten pounds were paid down, the law must take its course.  It was a case of embezzlement, and he had had too much of it lately, and was determined to make an example.  At that very hour he was sending out a short tale of goods to a great company, whose manager and storekeeper he had bribed.

    Mr. Lovejoy came away as miserable as he had been hopeful in going to this man.  He was faint, for he had traversed dreary miles on foot, and he returned to the penniless little household utterly exhausted.  Emily got him some food; but he was unable to eat it.  He seemed completely broken down, and his daughter-in-law took him up-stairs and made him lie down.

    Ada's coming on that afternoon was hailed with joy by all the family.  Ada was soft and almost supine on ordinary occasions, but she had a way of rising to emergencies.  She went and sat beside her father, and made herself mistress of the whole story.  Then she proceeded to act.  She took up a burning hatred against Philip Tenterden as the cause of all this suffering, and seeing that the immediate issue was the getting of this ten pounds, she set off, determined that he should be made to disburse it, with every possible ignominy.  She was but a child, without notion of complicated motives, and with a pure and passionate will, which on occasion could carry all before it.

    She had no sooner got home than she poured her story into Fanny's ears, and Fanny, knowing where Philip was to be found, permitted herself to be dragged at once into his presence.


 
CHAPTER XVIII.

NEGATIVES AND POSITIVES.


"I CAME in to speak to you, Philip," gasped Fanny; "I knew you were here."

    "You could have sent for me," he replied, not very graciously.

    "It's about Albert," she returned.

    "Had you not better wait, and I will come in when I leave Mrs. Austin?  It was my intention to do so," he said.

    Fanny looked at Ada, as if for inspiration; but she had been smitten on entering the room with her usual childish shyness, and shrank behind her cousin.

    "Go into the dining-room, Fanny, if you want to consult Mr. Tenterden," said Mrs. Austin.  She was aware of Fanny's difficulties already.

    Philip said, "Thank you," and led the way into the Opposite room, and Ada was left behind— a proceeding which she did not at all approve.

    Mrs. Austin tried to find something to say to her, but failed.  Nothing but a faint monosyllable could be got out of her.  Happily she could still be treated as a child, and left in silence if she did not choose to talk.

    The interview in the next room was, however, prolonged, and Ada's pent-up feelings found relief in an angry sob.

    "What is the matter, dear?" said Mrs. Austin, going over to her.  "What has distressed you?  Are you ill?  Can I do anything for you?"  She asked her questions out of simple tenderness, not at all anticipating the embarrassing answer.

    "He has all my cousin's money, and he will not let her have any of it," burst from the girl's pale lips.

    "Who?" said Mrs. Austin, mechanically; "Mr Tenterden?"

    "Yes, Mr. Tenterden."

    "You do not understand matters of business," sais Mrs. Austin, soothingly.  "Mr. Tenterden will do what is right."

    "My brother is in prison, all through his fault!" said Ada.

    Mrs. Austin was aghast at the girl's unexpected revelations.  She would have kept them back if she could; and she hastened at once to put a stop to them.  "I think you must be mistaken," she said; "but at any rate you must not speak in this way: it might do more harm than you are aware of."

    Just then Fanny returned with Philip, the latter looking deeply annoyed, the former very subdued.  She called to Ada to follow her at once, and went off as she had come; and Philip only stayed to explain that he had some unpleasant business before him, and left also.  His manner was constrained and unnatural, and went far to deepen the impression which Ada's words had made on the mind of Mrs. Austin.  Had she been standing on the brink of a precipice?  Was Philip guilty of some secret wrong, and unworthy to be loved or trusted?  She had caught glimpses of his mind which revealed a higher and purer standard of right than most.  If he was not to be trusted, there was no one worthy to be trusted.  All life was a lie—nothing was true, nothing was pure, nothing was holy.  Ellen passed through hours of deepening anguish, tormented by thoughts like these.  Hour after hour she sat in her lonely room, like a woman turning to stone, and at length there breathed through her pale lips the prayer—"Give me something to love, or let me die."

    Ellen Austin was more to be pitied than blamed for the distrust which had so readily taken possession of her spirit, for she had seen too much of the untrustworthy side of human character; but in the daylight, she reproached herself severely for entertaining such thoughts.  She was, however, so depressed and unhappy that she sat down and wrote to her mother, begging her to return as soon as possible; and knowing that she was already heartily tired of, "dear Julia's," that might mean as soon as the earliest train could bring her.

    Philip immediately set about obtaining the release of Albert Lovejoy, which he accomplished without much difficulty on the payment of the ten pounds and the legal expenses incurred.  The virtuously indignant employer considered this a much more satisfactory process than that involving the trouble and worry of prosecution, and the loss of his money besides, and willingly agreed to stop proceedings.

    Though glad enough to be set at liberty, Albert Lovejoy was by no means grateful to the instrument of his liberation.  Of course, he would never have been imprisoned at all if Philip had given him the money, as he ought to have done, therefore the effects of that stain upon his character were to be laid at Philip's door.  That was Albert's way of looking at it, and more or less the way in which the whole family looked at it; for though they knew him well enough to be able to give him a full share of private disapprobation, still he was one of them, and it was not in human nature to approve of any one who had injured him, Philip was henceforth to be regarded as the enemy of the house; and he was thus regarded by none more than by Ada, whose antagonism to him was more marked than that of any other member of the family.

    Fanny had come to be very fond of her young cousin, though the girl at first made not the slightest pretence of affection for her.  Indeed she showed plainly that her only care was for those she had left, and she acted as a perfect conduit through which Fanny's money and Fanny's goods might find their way to them.  But she gave very little other intimation of what was passing in her mind; questioning endlessly, but very seldom volunteering any opinion.  Fanny was never tired of admiring the girl's dexterity in everything that could be accomplished by hand; the multitudinous pieces of fancywork, strewed up and down the house, grew and flourished.  There was nothing she couldn't do with needle and thread and scissors, and other like implements, picking up the most elaborate patterns in a moment.  And Ada's mind was as dexterous as her fingers; it gave her not the slightest trouble to adapt herself to all her surroundings, to fall in with the minutest requirements of a new code of manners.  If she had been suddenly transformed into a princess, it would have been impossible to tell that Ada had not been born to the purple, she took everything about her in the world so simply and grandly.

    Fanny took her with her everywhere; she had been several times in at Mrs. Tabor's, and Lucy, who had been attracted by the pale, perfect face and great grey eyes, carried her off one day into her own room, where she entertained her particular friends.  It was a pretty little room, lined with books and pictures, and filled with every conceivable variety of nicknack; a case of ferns in one window, a tank of gold fish in the other; a lovely azalea blossoming here, and a pot of tulips there.

    Ada looked round her with interest, and Lucy seated her in a rocking-chair, and began to talk to her.  Ada was two or three years younger than Lucy, but incalculably older in her knowledge of life.

    "Are you fond of music?" said Lucy, making a beginning.

    "Yes," replied Ada, simply.

    "Perhaps you only like it when it is very good.  I like playing and singing to myself, but I am not a first-rate musician.  Do you like reading?"

    To this came the unexpected answer, "No," given quite unhesitatingly.

    "I don't mean hard reading," said Lucy, smiling, "but tales and novels.  Perhaps there are some of mine you have not read."

    "I don't care for tales at all," said Ada.  "What is the use of reading what is not true?"

    Lucy could not know that Ada's experience of tales was confined to those of a rather low kind, patronised by Beatrice.  The answer gave Lucy a great respect for her young companion, for reading novels was a weakness which she had to guard against by restricting the enjoyment to the least useful portion of her day.

    "I like to read useful books," added Ada, still further increasing Lucy's respect.

    "History?" suggested Lucy.

    "Yes, if I could be sure it was true."

    Lucy broke into a merry laugh.

    Ada smiled gravely.  "I like best to know how people live," she said.

    Lucy regarded her with smiling astonishment.

    "Have you lived all your life here?" said Ada.

    "No, not all my life; I remember living in Finsbury Square."

    Ada knew where that was.  "Do you like this better?" said Ada.

    "Oh yes, we have a garden here, and lovely walks all round."

    "That is like the little church on the hill," said Ada, pointing to a picture.

    "It is a drawing of mine," said Lucy.

    "I should like to learn to draw," said Ada.

    "I might help you a little," said Lucy; "and here is a little book," (and she took down Mr. Ruskin's "Elements,") "which would help you a great deal."

    "Thank you," said Ada, quietly, and standing up to examine a statuette.

    "That is Florence Nightingale with her lamp, and this is a reduced copy of the Venus of Milo."

    "I like that best," said Ada, pointing to the latter.

    On the mantelshelf were several photographs on small stand-frames.

    "Do you know this gentleman?" said Ada, quickly pointing to one of Philip—certainly a very flattering one, for a bright smile illumined the whole face.

    "Yes; he is my father's partner," said Lucy.

    "I hate him," said Ada, coolly.

    Lucy looked shocked and pained.

    "He has all my cousin's money, and he will not let her have it," she repeated."  There was no sort of compromise with Ada.

    "You ought not to hate any one," said Lucy, looking with pained reproof at the girl, and then pointing to a print of the Saviour which hung in the recess by the fire-place.

    "Are you very good?" said Ada.

    "You queer child—no," said Lucy.

    "I am sure you are," said Ada, taking Lucy's hand and kissing it.

    Half attracted, half repelled, Lucy drew her close to her and kissed her forehead.  She wondered if this strange girl put every one through as close a cross-examination.  She ought to have heard the question Fanny had to answer.

    Ada was looking at the azalea.

    "Do you like flowers?" asked Lucy.

    "No, but my father and Geraldine do," said Ada.

    "Will you take this one for Geraldine?" said Lucy.  "Come with me and see the conservatory first."

    Ada followed.  They passed through the dining-room, and Ada, examined everything.  Mr. Tabor would have been abundantly satisfied with her interest in his pictures.  When Fanny went away, Ada carried off her azalea wrapped in a newspaper, and she was impatient to be allowed to carry it to Geraldine without delay.

    Of course Ada had her way, and she and her carefully-guarded treasure arrived at home that same afternoon.  But she was doomed to disappointment.  She unveiled its glories to eyes which were too dull and weary to rejoice in them.  Her father sat in the chimney-corner, drooping and despondent.  He had never recovered the blow he had received on that miserable night of Alfred's capture.  It seemed to have struck the very colour out of his eyes.  His beard was untrimmed, his whole aspect dishevelled.  Her mother hardly raised her eyes from her work.  Geraldine was working, too, but fitfully.  Ada came in, looking fresh as the white blossoms in her hands, and set the pot on the table by her sister's side.  She kissed her father first, then her mother, and then she went and hung over Geraldine's chair.

    "How pretty it is," said the latter, leaning back with a sigh, and adding, "oh, Ada!  I am so tired."

    "I wish I could help you, dear," said Ada.  "Let me do a bit while I stay;" and she took up the work dropped by her sister's hands.  "How hot your hands are—and your cheeks—and your breath!", she exclaimed, as she touched her lovingly.

    "Oh, Ada!  I am so ill," moaned the girl; "I can't eat, and I can't sleep, and I can't work, and nothing but cough, cough, cough all night long."

    Ada's great eyes took a startled look, and mouth drew to a close line as she looked at sister's altered face.

    Geraldine shivered.

    "What has made you ill, Jerry?" said Ada.

    "It's easy enough to tell what has made her ill," said Mrs. Lovejoy, while she worked on faster than ever; "it's the poor living and the cold nights.  She'll never get well if things go on as they're doing."

    "Mother, she shall get well!" said Ada, in a voice which startled them.  "She shall go to Cousin Fanny's instead of me—this very night."

    "What nonsense!" said her mother, sharply.

    "No, it isn't nonsense, the same things fits both, and Jerry shall put on mine.  She won't feel the cold through this thick jacket.  Jerry!" she cried eagerly, addressing her sister, "couldn't you eat nice things, and sleep in a nice warm bed, and get well if you had nothing to do?"

    An eager, wistful assent came from poor Geraldine's parched lips, but she said, "No—no, Ada, I can't take your place.  I'm glad you're so well off, dear."

    "But you must—you shall!" said Ada, at white heat; "I won't stay there, if you don't.  I won't go back again."

    "I'm sure we don't want you here," said her mother, bitterly; "and don't go and add to our troubles by offending your cousin.  You know very well that Jerry can't go without being asked."

    Ada subsided; but the look on her face was one of triumph still.  She laid on the table the silver Fanny had given her to pay her fare by omnibus and cab, and said, "Good-bye," speedily setting out to walk the whole immense distance as she had done once or twice before.  Nor had she slackened in her purpose by the time she had reached what was now her home.  She flung herself down on the hearthrug at Fanny's feet, and begged that Geraldine might come to live there instead of herself.

    "Don't you like living with me, Ada?" asked her cousin, not a little hurt at the request; "don't you love me a little?"

    "Yes, I like you a little; but I will love you all my life, if you will only take Jerry instead.  She will die there."

    "Dear me!" said Fanny; "is she ill then?"

    "If she stays there, with the work and the cold, and not being able to eat the things we have at home, she will die."  Ada fell to weeping bitterly.

    "Hush!" said Fanny; "don't cry, Geraldine shall come."

    "To-morrow?" said Ada, with a sob.

    "To-morrow," repeated Fanny.  "Come and have some supper now."


 
CHAPTER XIX.

A PROPOSAL UNPROPOSED.




had taken the success of Arthur Wildish for granted, seeing that there was no interruption to the friendly relations between him and Mr. Tabor.  Philip did not see Wildish quite so often at the office, but then he had gone up to him in the neighbourhood of Park Villas, averring that the air of Kensington did not agree with him.  And Philip was not more miserable than he had been before.  It may seem paradoxical, but he would have been more unhappy if he had been in happier circumstances.  He had long ago made up his mind to the result.  He had made up his mind that he could not marry for years to come, and that he could not ask Lucy in her first bloom and freshness to waste those years in waiting for him, already a jaded man, even if the result of such asking had been sure, which to him it did not by any means appear.  He felt doubtful whether she had ever cared for him at all in the way he would have desired; whether she did not look upon him—kindly, it is true, but as a friend—almost on a footing with her father.  Besides which he could not approach her on the subject at all, without a preliminary explanation of circumstances which he had hitherto concealed.

    Then, as to Wildish, if he had had a favourite sister, was he not just such a husband as he would have desired for her—pure, affectionate, generous, high-minded?  Still it was hard for him, a man of superlative energy, to stand by and make no effort to win the prize he most coveted; to see another step out of the ranks and claim it.  The motive that held him back must have been strong indeed.

    There were times when Philip, who had in him a distinct fighting propensity, and had been an enthusiastic rifle volunteer (it was one of the things it had cost him most to give up, this volunteering), longed to throw up everything and lead the life of an adventurer in foreign lands.  He allowed himself to indulge in dreams of such a life, generally ending in the thought, "When I am free—bah! when I am free, it will be too late for anything."

    His last evening with Mrs. Austin to be devoted to the papers had arrived.  Their task was almost finished, and he was in the mood to derive a melancholy pleasure from the fact.  He was fond of Ellen's ready sympathy; but he felt that he would make no effort to keep hold on it.  He would probably part from her that very night, and allow her to drift away from him beyond recall.  He was completely undecided, or rather, for it better expresses Philip's mind, the only thing he had decided upon was indecision.  He would let circumstances decide for him and the decision was forthcoming.

    There, in her seat in the chimney-corner, sat Fate, in the shape of Mrs. Torrance, knotting her threads as vigorously as ever, with the ball at her feet, and the bag containing her web more distended than ever.  Mrs. Torrance had an air of extreme satisfaction.  It arose from the consciousness of having performed every maternal duty to "dearest Julia," while "dearest Ellen" had found it necessary to recall her just when those duties were becoming unnecessary and therefore irksome.

    Mrs. Torrance sat and watched from her corner the progress of the almost finished task.  She watched also, with jealous eyes, the progress of something else, and that was the friendship between Mr. Tenterden and Ellen, which had evidently been making rapid strides during her unavoidable absence.  Ellen had not said much about Mr. Tenterden, and now he was not the only trouble looming in the distance.  Mrs. Torrance had been at home but six days, and in that short space of time Mr. Huntingdon had called twice.  On the last occasion she had found him sitting suspiciously close to Ellen, with an expression on his face as if he was engaged in some personal confidences.  Nor was her penetrations at fault, though from Ellen's manner she could gather nothing, and and the latter offered no explanation, a had only mentioned that in her absence Mr. Huntingdon had been a frequent visitor.  Now Mrs. Torrance had as much objection to her daughter marrying the clergyman as the layman.  In the first place, Ellen by a second marriage lost a considerable part of her income—that which was derived from the profits of the firm, which she shared to the extent of one-third, and which in that event reverted to the partners.  In the second, she had not found husbands at all conducive to generosity or gratitude on the part of her daughters; not that she was a merely mercenary woman, far from it.  Thanks to Ellen, she had quite enough to live upon, and would have been delighted to spend her little income on these very ingrates; but she wanted to manage for them; she coveted a first place in their consideration and affection; she desired to deal with refractory servants, refractory babies, and even refractory husbands after her own fashion.  Ellen allowed her to rule to her heart's content, but if she married again it would be quite different.  Ellen would no longer be her own mistress.  Ellen's house would no longer be a haven of refuge when the husbands of dearest Bessie and dearest Julia proved refractory.  Ellen might have a refractory husband of her own, and as Ellen was never known to manage anybody, of course he would have it all his own way.  Mrs. Torrance conscientiously considered that it was better for Ellen to remain as she was.

    In reality Ellen was in much greater danger than Mrs. Torrance supposed.  On the occasion when she had interrupted Mr. Huntingdon's confidences, they were indeed leading up to a declaration.  These confidences suddenly made were rather startling to Ellen, who had no idea of their drift till it was too late to stop them.  Mr. Huntingdon had hitherto had some pretext or other for his calls, and he had pitched his intended declaration in the lowest possible key, which was certainly in his favour as far as obtaining a hearing went.  He was very poor, he said, poorer even than he seemed, for he was paying back to his parents, now in reduced circumstances, the money they had spent on his education.  It was most likely he would have to support them entirely in the end, as well as a deformed sister, who, though very clever and accomplished, and willing to teach, found the utmost difficulty in getting a situation as a governess or companion.  He was very straightforward and manly in his bearing as he told her he could only marry a lady who had money, and that both the lady and her money must lend themselves to further his usefulness in the ministry to which he had devoted himself.  He acknowledged that there was nothing very tempting in the offer he had to make.  Did Mrs. Austin think it was one that was worth listening to by any good and loving woman for whom he could have the necessary affection and esteem?  At this point Mrs. Torrance had broken in upon them and rather disconcerted Mr. Huntingdon, and he took his leave, holding Mrs. Austin's hand, which trembled in his, while he begged her to think over what he had been saying, which might have had reference to anything, from mothers' meetings to matters of faith and doctrine.  But Ellen had no alternative save silence, for up to the last moment it would have been impossible for her to make a personal application of his words.

    And now with Philip there was a grave constraint in her manner, which he set down to the presence of her mother.  Almost in silence they went on with their task, drawing quickly to a close, but it was not destined to be uninterrupted as heretofore.  At an early period Mr. Huntingdon presented himself, dropping in of an evening being the habit of an intimate in the little circle, a habit never before practised by him, and therefore all the more marked.  The servant had shown him into the drawing-room, and came and announced to her mistress his presence there.  Mrs. Torrance knotted furiously, and her daughter suffered an embarrassment she could not wholly conceal, and which was increased by the servant saying that she had shown him into the drawing-room, because he particularly desired to see Mrs. Austin alone, and would retire if she was engaged.

    "Mamma," said Ellen, "I wish you would go to Mr. Huntingdon, and I will come to him in a little."

    Mrs. Torrance went with alacrity.  Mr. Huntingdon was certainly the most dangerous of the two.  This was something like an emergency, and Mrs. Torrance's spirit rose to meet emergencies.  But her going left Ellen embarrassed as before; nay, her embarrassment increased rather than diminished.

    It was apparent to her companion, who rose and said, "We have very nearly finished our task, Mrs. Austin; another short sitting will do it, and I had better leave you now."

    Ellen hesitated.  "No, stay," she answered; "I dare say Mr. Huntingdon will not detain me long.  I should be sorry to give you more trouble."

    "Make your mind easy upon that score," he said; "it will only be lengthening out a pleasure.  I will say good-bye, to-night;" and he did say good-bye, putting on his hat and rushing out of the house in the strangest manner possible; while Ellen lingered beside the writing-table, unable to make up her mind to encounter Mr. Huntingdon.

    Meantime Mrs. Torrance had been entertaining the clergyman, who was seated in an arm-chair looking absent and answering at random.  Mrs. Torrance mentioned that her daughter was engaged in some business with Mr. Tenterden, assuming at the same time that Mr. Huntingdon knew him well.

    Mr. Huntingdon murmured that he had met the gentleman in question, but that they were not likely to be friends, as they differed very widely in opinion.

    "Indeed!" rejoined Mrs. Torrance, point blank "what opinions, may I ask?"

    "I think his are rather dangerous, to say the truth," said Mr. Huntingdon, rousing himself.

    "You surprise me," said Mrs. Torrance; "my daughter and he are great friends.  He is partner in the firm of which Mr. Austin was the head, and Mrs. Austin has still her share in the business you know, as long as she remains unmarried.  If she marries again," she added, hitting her nail on the head and driving it home, "she loses everything."

    She justified the statement to her conscience by taking it to mean everything from that source, and went on smoothly to other topics, presently wondering that her daughter had not appeared, and leaving him with the hope that he would not be detained much longer.

    How much longer he was detained, poor Mr. Huntingdon never knew, for in that time he went through an agony of humiliation and shame enough for a whole lifetime.  He had come there to ask the sweetest and noblest woman he had ever met to be his wife, and he must go away, not only without accomplishing his object, but relinquishing it for ever, and relinquishing it for a motive which at that moment he could not but feel to be an utterly ignoble and ungenerous one.  Money, money, more and more money, was the pitiful craving created by an age of luxury and false refinement.  Why could he not marry Ellen? the idea flashed wildly across his brain.  He felt that he had never known his own heart till now, so disguised had it been in the swathings of conventionality.  Now he seemed to see it throbbing nakedly.  Why could he not marry Ellen on a hundred and fifty pounds a year, while his parents and sister lived on the other moiety of his income?  Why must he have a costly house and costly furniture and several servants?  Why could he not live differently to the people of his class, and be an example of plain living and high thinking? No, he felt he could not.  A great genius might do it, or a great Christian.  He was neither, but a common man among common men.  If he did any such thing the bland men and sugared women of the villas round him, even those who had still some trouble with their h's and final r's would look down upon him, turn their backs to him, hide their faces from him in spite of his superior education.  His last chance of usefulness among them would be gone.  He would be in the position of their own or their fathers' clerks.  They would look upon him, the servant of God, as their servant, and that not in the sense in which he truly was theirs and every man's.  No, the man to do such a thing must be one who was not under the necessity of doing it.  So difficult is it to live on a higher level than the people about one.  All this flashed through his mind in far less time than it takes to write.  And what should he say for himself?  She must know what he had intended by coming there that night, and he must give her an explanation.  Should he get out of it as easily as possible, invent some excuse for the occasion, and let the thing die a natural death?  Alas! feigning and falsehood! had he come to that?  His anguish was unspeakable.  It paled his ruddy face, as if with deadly sickness.  His head sunk down till it was almost bent upon his knees as he sat.

    At length Ellen came in, and he rose to meet her and held out his hand.  She took it, and it was cold and clammy.  He stood looking at her face for a moment, for his lips were too dry for rapid speech, while she met his eyes calmly and feelingly; but the words he uttered, strange as they were, gave her immense relief.

    "Forgive me, I have offered you an insult.  You must know what I came here to say, I cannot say it.  My circumstances will not allow me; but I never knew how much I cared for you till I was forced to give you up."

    She could almost have smiled, so different was it from what she had expected and dreaded; but she saw that he was in deadly earnest, his face, his voice, his manner, all betokening an overpowering agitation, and instead of telling him that his suit would have been in vain, she spoke the kindest words she could think of.  "You have honoured me with you confidence, Mr. Huntingdon.  I cannot look on your withdrawal as an insult, and I would fain retain your friendship under any circumstances."

    "God bless you!" he said, and left her somehow with tears in her eyes.


 
CHAPTER XX.

PHILIP'S INTERFERENCE.


FANNY'S Money was melting like snow.  Instead of sending Ada home and taking her sister in her stead she went next day along with Ada, and brought both girls back in her cab—a piece of native generosity, which really won for her the prize she coveted.  Ada took her into the circle of her close affections from the hour.  But that did not mean that she was not going to make use of her.  The more she loved her, the less compunction she had about spending her money, just as she would have spent her own if she had had any.  She negotiated loans for her father and for Albert and his wife, who would otherwise have been under the necessity of parting with the last relics of comfort and respectability—in short she was the channel through which the whole family had begun to draw their support, with the exception of Mrs. Lovejoy and Beatrice, who stood aloof and independent.  Nor did this state of affairs seem likely to come to an end at any very early date.  A fortnight passed, and Albert had not found another situation.  During the first week two had offered; but his applications had been rejected, and he was beginning to be hopeless.  Geraldine was no better and the doctor whom Fanny called in looked grave over her case—far more grave, it seemed, than her illness warranted, for she was often quite cheerful and free from suffering.  Still the fact remain that she did not gain strength, and the little cough could not be removed, so that under the circumstances she could not be sent home again.

    The constant drain on Fanny's purse at length necessitated another application to Philip, and Fanny was weak enough to let Ada see the reluctance which she made it.

    "It's your own money, Cousin Fanny, is it not?" asked the girl.

    "Yes, of course it's my own," replied Fanny; "but Mr. Tenterden keeps it for me, and he doesn't like me to spend too much of it."

    "I wouldn't let him keep my money," said Ada indignantly; and the idea took roothold in the girl's determined mind, that Philip ought to be made to give it up, and, like other ideas that take root thus, it was destined to bear its fruit.

    This time Fanny determined to see Philip at the office, and she took Ada with her as a kind of protectress.  It was curious, the ascendency which girl had already obtained over the woman's mind.  Ada herself was quite unconscious of it, had neither schemed for it, nor worked for it in any way; but Fanny's ideas, being always in a state of fluidity, required a channel to flow in, and Ada had the power of making channels.  The girl's mind was intensely practical, and though free from meanness, even in the midst of mean surroundings, always went straight at the nearest object, removed the nearest obstacle, did the nearest duty, however small.  And it was this directness and fixity of purpose that enslaved Fanny.  In the small affairs of the household Ada's faculty brought order out of confusion, and good out of evil, and Fanny's trust in her was therefore unbounded.

    Fanny took Ada with her, and she acted as a check on Philip to such an extent, that at length he begged her to go into the outer office for a few minutes.  He could not warn Fanny against Ada's family in Ada's presence; but as soon as she was gone he did remonstrate warmly.  And Fanny was uncomfortable under the remonstrance, and wished, for the first time, that her money was in other hands.  Philip evidently exaggerated her incapacity to manage her own affairs.  She was only lending, which was not the same as giving, and yet he spoke as if it was.  In the end he gave Fanny a cheque for the sum she wanted; but he made it as difficult as possible for her to apply to him again.

    When the interview was over he bade her good-bye evenly, and led her into the outer office to Ada, of whom he took the slightest possible notice.

    But though Ada had been excluded from the interview, she managed by judicious cross-examination to obtain from Fanny a particular account of it.

    "Why do you let him keep your money?" she repeated indignantly.

    "He has always had it," replied Fanny, limply.  "Always—I don't understand," said Ada the Practical.

    "His father managed for me when I was a girl like you," Fanny explained.

    Ada was silent for a while.  Then she spoke suddenly, her thoughts having been busy enough the while.  "What if he has spent the money himself, Cousin Fanny?" she said.

    "Oh, no fear of that," answered Fanny.

    Nevertheless she felt uneasy when Ada answered with preternatural assurance, "I do believe he has;" a view of matters which Ada was not at all likely to keep to herself.

    Once more in his room, with the best of the day before him, for Fanny had paid him a very early visit, Philip thought over Fanny's affairs with his usual concentration.  He greatly exaggerated her incapacity, and did not give her credit for sense enough to stop short of absolute ruin, and concluded that it was necessary to keep a tighter hand on her ever.  He also painted the Lovejoy family in blacker colours than they deserved, and determined to put a stop, as far as possible, to their exactions, and also to interfere more decidedly in their affairs.

    And, in the first place, what was to be done with that young man?  Fanny had not said too much about his difficulties in obtaining employment.  Who would employ him without a character?  It occurred to Philip that there was a vacancy in the office at that very moment, a vacancy which any lad could fill.  Should he place Albert in it for a time?  The salary was a mere pittance; but the situation might be a passport to something better, might reinstate him among honest men.  He disliked the idea of bringing him there—disliked it intensely; but that was no reason with him for not doing it, rather the reverse.  He could do no harm, for there would be nothing in his power.  He would be removed from the influence of bad associates.  In short, having entertained the suggestion, Philip determined that it was the right thing to do, and he sat down and wrote to Fanny at once, asking her to send the young man to him, and telling her, not too graciously, his intentions toward him.

    Albert's qualifications were found quite equal to the office, a faultless style of penmanship running in the family, and he was only too glad to accept the eighteen shillings a week attached to it.

    Fanny was quite delighted with Philip for his interference in the young man's behalf.  Even Ada was coming round to a belief in Philip's goodness, until she went home one day and heard Albert's opinion concerning the benefit conferred on him.  In his estimation it was neither more nor less than a shabby dodge, which, taking advantage of his unfortunate circumstances, secured his invaluable services on utterly inadequate terms.  The shock of this discovery Ada lost no time in communicating to Fanny; and it ought to be borne in mind that it is only robust minds which throw off successive shocks of this kind.  Fanny's was not a robust mind.  She began to be uncomfortable about her money.

    Ada had received her account of Albert's way of taking Philip's kindness from her mother, who believed it with that kind of impatient half-belief which people give to the most untrustworthy when they happen to be closely connected with them, because, as some one has said, even the most untruthful necessarily speak more truth than falsehood.  Besides, as everything seemed to be going against Mrs. Lovejoy, the worst interpretation seemed the most natural at the time.  Her daughter Beatrice was troubling her sorely.  Letters had lately been coming for her nearly every day, and an expensive valentine had reached her on the morning of the fourteenth of February.  Also her mother had caught the glitter of jewels in her ears one night, and she had gone up to her room and taken them off and hid them away.  She was often late, too, in returning home, and had been remonstrated with in vain.

    At last Mrs. Lovejoy, on the watch continually, had seen her parting with a young man of gentlemanly appearance at the end of the road, which led to the better-class streets of the district.  The mother's heart beat fast as the young man stooped and kissed the girl, who held up her face as if accustomed to the salute.

    Mrs. Lovejoy was not the woman to be passive under the circumstances.  She went up to her daughter, in her shabby bonnet and with her basket on her arm, and laid hold of her, putting the young gentleman to instant flight.

    "Who is he?" she asked sternly.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"'Who is he?' she asked sternly."


    "A friend of mine," answered the girl, defiantly.

    "A friend of yours!" replied her mother; "and how came you to know him, pray?"

    "I met him in the train."

    "And on the street," said her mother.  "Do you think that is the way respectable girls meet their lovers?  In my time girls saw their friends under heir parents' roof.  If he won't come to see you there, he means no good to you."

    "I haven't a home fit to bring him to," said Beatrice, scornfully.

    "Has he a home fit to take you to then?''

    "Yes, he has, and a mother and sisters?"

    "And have you seen them?" asked Mrs. Lovejoy more calmly.

    "No," faltered Beatrice, "not yet."

    "Then the sooner you give him up the better," said her mother.  "He's only some selfish fellow who wants to make a fool of you."

    "I can take care of myself," answered Beatrice, with a hard, unpleasant laugh.

    And indeed, whatever the young man was, it would have been very difficult for him to be more selfish than Beatrice Lovejoy.


 
CHAPTER XXI.

FADING.




winter had been a mild one.  The spring came early.  All about the neighbourhood of Park Villas the hedges were greening.  Primroses were gleaming in the gardens, and would have been gleaming on the banks, but that it was too near London for the least flower to live in freedom.  There was that indescribable sweetness in the air which is felt in spring-time only, though it is no longer the season of the poets.  The birds felt it, and sang; the earth felt it, and blossomed.  Alas! for those who did not or could not feel it—for the pent-up city children; or the youth cankered and blighted; for the manhood, conscious that a glory has passed away alike from earth without and spirit within.

    Lucy Tabor came out of the house and into the high-walled garden, in the sweet March morning, and stood on the steps for a moment listening to the birds, the sunshine bending down her eyelids.  Muff jumped about her, and wriggled his fat little body with delight, and started away as if he was saying, "Now for a run."  He made more than one start and came back again, wriggling and whining, for his mistress did not move.  She used to try races with him down the garden walk, and that was what he wanted now.  He looked up in her face and said so—plain as dog could speak.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Lucy Tabor came out of the house."


    She understood him perfectly.  "No—no, doggie," she said, and shook her head at him sadly.  A sparrow lighted on the path and Muff was after him as fast as his little legs would carry him.  The bird hopped on to a branch of lilac, and chirped at him, chaffing him unmercifully.  He felt it, and came back to his mistress a miserable dog.

    Lucy's eyes ran along the ground.  On the brown earth the bright spring flowers shone radiantly.  Here a cluster of crocuses shot up their tiny flame-spires; there a knot of primroses lay like drops of sunshine, and a solitary snowdrop hung its head between.  With a sigh Lucy stooped and gathered it.  Then she went down the walk, from spot to spot of blossom, and gathered all she could find.  She brought in quite a posy—the firstlings of her flock.  Her mamma was in the dining-room still.  Mr. Tabor had been gone an hour or more.  "See," said Lucy, holding the flowers towards her mother; "and, oh, mamma! to think that they are blooming and that she is fading."

    The flowers she had gathered were for Geraldine Lovejoy.  As the spring had advanced she had become weaker and weaker, and now the doctor had given it as his private opinion that she could not recover.

    Lucy had been deeply interested in Geraldine from the first.  She liked her better than she liked Ada, whom she did not quite understand—indeed, it would have been strange if she had, for Ada did not in the least understand herself.  Geraldine, whose qualities lay more on the surface, loved books and flowers and music, which Ada could not satisfy herself with, because other things were so much more necessary, especially money—which, indeed, could procure them all, and the girl brooded, and was dissatisfied, and restless and eager, and, it seemed, worldly in her eagerness.  So Lucy brought Geraldine her favourite books and read them to her, and in the new atmosphere, and her invalid quietude and calm, Geraldine's mind grew like a hot-house plant.  Life appeared before her in a totally new aspect; no longer a treadmill round of working to live, and living to work, barren of all nobler result, but a great triumphal progress, leading to all that heart could desire of beauty and good.

    Everybody round her, too, was so kind, so good, and indeed it seemed as if the little circle of Park Villas had wanted something on which to expend their more unselfish affections, so great was the flow of tenderness towards the fading girl.  Lucy was a daily visitor, and Arthur Wildish found his way there in her train, and furnished an enlivening element, especially delighting in drawing out Ada.

    For Mrs. Austin Geraldine had developed a strong attachment.  Mrs. Austin would bring her costly delicacies, but there was something in Ellen which was more to the girl than these.  She had little enough appetite for earthly food; but she had an undefined craving for all spiritual nourishment, and she had fastened upon Mrs. Austin as the one from whom she desired something that the others had not to give.  There was something religious in Ellen's aspect which attracted the girl, though no word of formal piety had been spoken between them.

    Geraldine, though she knew it not, was fast fading away from earth.  At first she had not assumed invalid habits at all, but had gone about the house, with her slight cough and drooping figure, and had even crept out in the sunshine, and gone once or twice to church.  Then the doctor had forbidden her to go abroad, and she had moved freely from room to room, gradually growing weaker and weaker, until she had to be assisted in that.  Then the downward progress was more rapid.  A day came when she could not leave her room at all; and another followed when she had to remain in her bed; and still her eyes were not opened.  The weather was trying, they said, and if she could only eat and drink and take enough of medicine, she might get well when the summer came.

    It was to Mrs. Austin that the doctor first spoke his assurance, that all hope was vain; and having broken it to Fanny and the rest, to all indeed with the exception of Ada, even to Mr. and Mrs. Lovejoy, who came about once a week now, it was she who was selected to tell Geraldine herself.  They feared to tell Ada first, lest the scene between the sisters should be too painful, and they trusted to Geraldine to soften Ada's grief.  Ellen was left alone with her for the purpose, trembling at the task before her and praying that she might have strength to do it tenderly.

    "Are you feeling very ill, dear?" she asked, bending over her.

    Geraldine looked up at her with eyes grown unnaturally large and bright, and did not speak, but gave a patient smile and little nod for answer.

    Ellen went and poured out a cordial, and saying, "Take this, dear," raised and supported her while she drank it.

    "Raise me up a little," said Geraldine, "I feel so faint.  Often in the night I seem to be sinking, sinking, sinking down through the bed and the floor and the earth.  I was feeling it now.  I like your arm round me so."

    Ellen's heart beat.  If she did not tell her now, it would soon be too late.  "Would you like some one to pray with you?" she asked, touching the girl's forehead with her lips.

    Ellen will never forget the look of terror that dawned upon Geraldine's face.  Her breath failed, and she sank into a momentary swoon.  But Ellen stood fast, upholding her, though unable to keep he tears from falling.

    At length Geraldine opened her eyes again looked up at her, whispering, "Am I so ill? am I going to die?"

    "We will try and keep you as long as we can, dear; we love you very much," said Ellen; but God is calling you away from us; you must trust in His love; you must try and say His will be done."

    "Oh! I can't—I can't!" came from the parched lips.  "I want to get better, and to get up and go home."

    "My darling, you are going home to God and to Jesus Christ our Lord.  You would not go unwillingly?"

    She closed her eyes and did not answer, and Ellen in a low voice repeated the Lord's prayer.  Geraldine's face grew calmer, and soon Ellen laid her down like a child asleep.  But in a little she woke again with a start and a look of fear, painful to see, and when Ellen would have spoken, she begged her quickly not to speak of that.

    They had trusted to her to tell Ada, but she did not.  All the day her eyes followed wistfully her sister's every movement; but she spoke little, and not at all of herself.

    Mrs. Austin stayed with her that night, and in the night Geraldine's mental suffering increased with the restlessness and exhaustion which generally came on then.  Ellen was always by her when she woke from her brief snatches of slumber, always ready to support her in her arms, and to whisper all that she knew of the consoling words of inspiration; but in spite of all, cold dews of terror stood on the girl's forehead.  Not only did she cling to life, which never before seemed so inviting, but she shrank from death, with all the horror of a child who dread the darkness.

    In the morning, after consulting Fanny, Mrs. Austin wrote to Mr. Huntingdon, begging him to come and see Geraldine.  The note was sent by a servant who brought back the message that Mr. Huntingdon was not at home.


 
CHAPTER XXII.

SOMETHING WRONG ABOUT THE HEART.


THE first Sunday after his humiliating proposal—or rather non-proposal—Mr. Huntingdon had dreaded the appearance of Mrs. Austin in her pew near the pulpit; he also dreaded her non-appearance.  He had to strive hard on first entering the desk to banish her from his mind, and he never raised his eyes for a moment during the service.  He had been thinking what were her feelings toward him, now that in all probability she had drawn the correct conclusion from his conduct.  These thoughts seemed to struggle upwards in his mind, but by great effort and determination he kept them away while he was engaged in the services of the Lord's house.

    Once or twice he stumbled in his sermon at some remote allusion to the riches of this world.  How dared he measure things by the high, unworldly standard of the Gospel?  How should he ever be able to denounce that worldliness which now seemed to him the one thing against which he was called to preach, the thing which above all things was closing men's eyes and hardening their hearts.

    The next Sunday came, and Mrs. Austin was not present.  She was spending the day in rest, and in sitting with Geraldine, who needed constant attendance now.  Mr. Huntingdon tortured himself with her absence, as he had done with her presence.  She could not listen to him any more, that was evident.  It was quite natural, even justifiable, her falling away from him.  What could his ministrations be worth to her?  Would not every hearer he had fall away from him if he knew this secret of his?

    Mr. Huntingdon did not feel this torture sharply; he might have thrown it off in some way more readily if he had; he felt it in a dull, heavy, constant fashion, and was patient under it, as under a hurt deserved.  But he was not like men such as Philip, who can bear their burden alone—nay, in some sort take a savage pleasure in its galling them.  He longed for solace under it, for help to bear it—human as well as Divine.  And failing to find this, he began to feel ill and depressed beyond measure.  He was weak and languid; through all his robustness and ruddiness the fact made itself apparent.  He was pale about the lips, and had a withered look.  He felt an utter want of energy, a prostration of spirit greater than any he had ever known.  He told two gentlemen whom he met coming out of church that he was ill.  They said he looked ill, and duly commiserated him.  Then they told their wives, who communicated to wives the interesting intelligence, and the commiseration spread.  On Monday inquiries were made at his lodgings.  On Tuesday an old lady sent a parcel of lambs'-wool hosiery, with a letter informing him how best to guard himself against the inconsistencies of the season, and beseeching him to take care of his throat, in which she had noticed a huskiness.  On Wednesday he encountered a bevy of youthful matrons, and was entreated to keep indoors, as the wind was in the east, and he looked really dreadful.

    "You are overworking, I am sure," said one, without the faintest notion of what constituted overwork.

    "No, not that, at any rate," he answered; "it is possible I may not be working enough."

    "Isn't he a dear?" said one to the other when they had bidden him good-bye.

    Nevertheless he went home and began to feel "dreadful."  He assured himself that he was on the eve of a breakdown, that the energy which had flagged would return no more.  Perhaps he might never be allowed to do any more work: he would have to go home, give up his charge, and drag out weary months, or even years in sickness and inaction.  And yet when he called in the merry young doctor, who examined him with care, all the satisfaction he got was—"My dear fellow, there's nothing whatever the matter with you.  You're sound as a bell—a little out of tone, perhaps, with a slightly relaxed throat, but nothing else."

    Privately to himself the doctor remarked, "What cowards those strong, healthy fellows are in the matter of disease; but he certainly does look pulled —something wrong with the heart, I fancy," and he laughed knowingly.

    But Mr. Huntingdon felt he could endure it no longer, so he packed some things into a black bag, and early next morning went off by train to Norwich.  His father and mother with sister Clara lived there in a quiet and unpretending manner.  They did not expect him so soon again, for he had very recently paid them a visit, nevertheless they were glad to welcome him—unusually glad.  On the last occasion he had come to confide to them the intention he had formed with regard to Mrs. Austin.  It was to them a matter of the deepest moment whom he should marry; perhaps they would have been glad if he had remained single for their sakes; but they had not thought of opposing him—nay more, they had heartily wished him success.  They had heard his eulogium on Ellen with perfect confidence in the excellence of his choice, and they had awaited with trembling anxiety the result of his proposal, of which he had modestly told them he was by no means sure.

    Then had come a letter to Clara, a letter which ran:—


"DEAR CLARA,—Think no more of what I came down to tell you; it has all ended in smoke.  You are not going to lose your big fellow after all.  You had best make up your mind to keep him altogether.  Some day you shall come and be my little housekeeper, and bully me as much as you please.  I leave it to you to tell this piece of news to those whom it concerns as lightly as possible.
                                     Your affectionate
                                                                                    C
HARLEY."


    This Clara naturally interpreted into the fact that her brother had met with a refusal, and she could have cried, half for sorrow and half for joy, only she never did cry.  The emotions struggled together on her pale, upturned face, and she ended in feeling heartily indignant with the unknown object of her brother's choice, whom she could not in the least realise from that brother's description.

    And now here he was again: he had come back to them after his defeat, and they felt doubly tender to him for coming then.  He was only going to stay a couple of days, and go back on Saturday, taking Clara with him.  Clara longed to go; but she shrank a little from what it involved—of mixing with a new set of people, of meeting the eyes of strangers.

    He did not speak of his disappointment to father or mother, neither did they to him.  They respected his silence with the delicacy which ruled them in all their dealings with their children.  But Clara was in his confidence, and thought that he might like to speak more fully if the ice was broken.  She was sitting in the room with him, and he was writing, or trying to write rather, for he walked up and down, or sat with his head in his hands, looked out of the window, or spoke to her—in short, exhibited all the distraction of a man who has to write and cannot.

    "Shall I leave you, Charles?" said his sister.

    "Yes," he replied; "perhaps I had better be alone.  I'm a great humbug, Clara."

    "You are no such thing, Charles," said Clara, with an indignant flash from her blue-grey eyes.  "Did she say anything very unkind to you?"

    "She!  Mrs. Austin, you mean?  No.  What put such a thought in your head?"

    "You are only vexed by her refusal."

    "She did not refuse me," he said; "I never asked her."

    "How was it then?" she inquired innocently; "I don't understand."

    "Don't say anything more about it," he answered.

    "Not if you wish it to be so," she said, leaving him, rather puzzled, but greatly mollified towards Mrs. Austin.

    He was ashamed that his sister should know how it had come about, and his shame deepened the humiliation; but at length the sermons were written, and packed in their case into the black bag, and the brother and sister returned together.

    The first thing they encountered was Mrs. Austin's note.  Clara saw the peculiar paleness, which was the sign of strong emotion, deepen round her brother's lips, and his big hand trembled as he took it up.  "You won't mind my going at once, Clara?" he said.

    "Won't you stay and take a cup of tea first?" she pleaded.

    "Look, dear; you won't wish me so stay when you read that."  And she did not.  A few brief words told that Geraldine was very ill—dying; would he come to her at once?  He did not even take off his hat; he went straight out of the house, leaving the note in his sister's hands.  Clara was more puzzled than ever, but she looked almost fondly at the little note, and laid it up carefully in his letter-rack.

    Mr. Huntingdon went straight to Fanny's.  Mrs. Austin was leaving the house as he entered it.  It was their first encounter, but Mrs. Austin met him with a simplicity and welcomed him with an earnestness which reassured him.  She hurried back into the house to speak with him.

    "I was sorry to have been absent when you set for me," he said.  "How is she?"

    "There is no change," said Mrs. Austin; "it is terrible to witness her fear of death.  Oh! Mr. Huntingdon, I am so glad you are come; you may be able to do something for her."

    "Thank you for sending for me," he said humbly.  "What is it she fears?—God or sin, I mean," added.

    "It is the mere fact of death, I think—of going away from all she loves, of separation from the body."

    "Can I go to her now?" he asked.

    "Yes, I think so.  There is another thing I wish to say.  There is a younger sister with her, who known nothing of her danger.  We trusted to Geraldine to speak of it herself, but she does not; she will learn it from you perhaps."

    "I understand," he said.  Then they shook hands and parted; for Fanny, to whom his presence had been made known, came to lead him up-stairs to Geraldine's room.

    He sat down by her bed and spoke a few kindly words, which he felt sure she did not hear.  She evidently regarded his ministrations as part of the dreadful rite and ceremony of death, and looked at him with dismay.  But she was silent.  Ada was watching him with wondering eyes.  Then he knelt and Fanny kneeling, signed to Ada to do the same.  The attitude and sacred exercise of prayer for a time kept down the girl's rising passion, but at the first direct allusion to her sister's state, she started to her feet, and sobbing her protest against it, flung herself on Geraldine's bed.

    Mr. Huntingdon had never witnessed such a scene—such utterly undisciplined moral natures he had never been called to deal with, and never before had the awful responsibilities of his position as a minister of religion been forced upon him.  He prayed, he entreated, and he stayed till peace was restored, and Ada was sitting holding her sister's hand.  "Shall I come again to-morrow?" he asked at parting; and with one voice they answered, "Yes."

    It was necessary to procure a nurse for Geraldine, whose nights were very bad.  Mrs. Austin and Fanny had shared the task with the servants for a week or two, and they would not hear of Ada sitting up, though she had pleaded hard to be allowed to do so.

    Fanny sent for Mrs. Lovejoy to consult her, and she proposed at once, as there was no hope for Geraldine, to take her home.  But that Fanny could not allow—besides, Geraldine was really too ill to be removed.  Then Mrs. Lovejoy proposed that she should come and nurse her daughter where she was.  She arranged it all herself.  She was to come every night, and be with Geraldine till morning, getting what rest she could on a couch by her side; in the morning she was to go back to see to Beatrice and her husband, promising also to seek rest at home.  But this she did not do.  The endurance of Mrs. Lovejoy was perfectly marvellous, and was only equalled by her abstemiousness while under Fanny's roof.

    Nevertheless, Fanny was keeping open house for the family, and Philip's anticipations were being rapidly fulfilled.  Mr. Lovejoy came every other day, and had begun a system of loans, for which Fanny held certain valuable securities in the shape of I.O.U.'s.  With Fanny's money he had even made certain small ventures, which promised magnificent returns.  And Fanny went on anticipating her income in the wildest way, only restrained by having to go to Philip for everything, which she felt to be an increasing bondage, and by her grand idea, that capital was not to be touched.  She desired more than ever to manage her own affairs in her own way; but she had not the courage to say this to Philip, who, however, was gradually losing all influence over her.


 
CHAPTER XXIII.

RUMOUR.




LOVEJOY had hitherto conducted himself with tolerable propriety.  He stood in salutary awe of the head clerk, Mr. Sollinger, who addressed him with such extreme politeness—a politeness which lost its value when Albert found that the same grave urbanity of manner was bestowed upon the messenger, the charwoman, the smallest boy who entered the office on the smallest errand.  But it overawed him, perhaps, by the impossibility of accounting for it.  On the copying clerk, Mr. Cater, he looked down actually and metaphorically.  He was an exceedingly small man, with a large family, and most parsimonious in his personal habits, often contenting himself at midday with a piece of bread-and-butter, which he brought in his pocket wrapped in an old newspaper, and going home to an exceedingly mythical dinner in the evening.  Mr. Cater had only thirty shillings a week, and he had eight delicate children, so that each person in the family had to exist on an average of three shillings.  But Mrs. Cater kept lodgers, which paid her house rent, and she made and mended every stitch of her family clothing, which, as far as the boys were concerned, descended and redescended from Mr. Cater and the elder ones to the smallest animal that ever wore knickerbockers.  No one would have guessed that the family which kept up such "an appearance" had less by half than the grimy, ragged, disreputable lot belonging to the skilled artisan in the court behind.  Mr. Cater, however, never indulged in a visit to the public-house over the way, of which Albert speedily became a daily frequenter.  There, though he met no one from the office of Tabor and Tenterden, he met other clerks from other offices, and entered into friendly relations with them, or with such of them as were kindred spirits.  Saturday evening now found him lingering there over beer, billiards, and bets—the three B's of an education in ruin and profligacy.  It is true he did not spend much, though he boasted freely of former spendings; he was, as he chose to express it, "confusedly hard up" just then.

    Emily and the children fared hardly enough, certainly—indeed, they could not have lived at all but for the help which Emily received from her friends, and which she had hitherto concealed from his knowledge.  One Saturday, however, a letter, which ought to have arrived by an earlier post when Albert was not at home, came too late and fell into his hands.  It contained a remittance, and mentioned former remittances, of which poor Emily had rendered no account.

    "So you've been having lots of money all the time, and never told me," said the husband, with ill-omened glee.

    "No, I haven't had lots," sobbed Emily; "we've eaten it all, every farthing of it."

    "Well, that's good," laughed Albert.

    It was quite a pleasure to him to think that Emily had deceived him, or tried to deceive him; it absolved him, too, from the self-denial for which he gave himself credit.  He resolved to have an evening of enjoyment on the strength of Emily's resources present and to come; she, poor creature, being quite relieved to find that he had not made a grievance of her concealment.

    That evening was inaugurated at the Lemon Tree Tavern by a toss up between Albert and a young man of the name of Jones for a shilling's worth of brandy and cigars.  Albert lost, but took his loss with satisfaction, remarking that "somebody must make a beginning," which showed that the end was not yet at hand, or in sight.  When they had disposed of the shilling's worth they were joined by others, for Albert and Jones had been early, and the long evening passed in lounging, playing, and drinking.  As the drink—now beer, now brandy put into Albert's weak head, he became more and more boastful and mendacious.  Mr. Jones wanted to know what position he held in the office.

    "Position!" said Albert; "blest if I know.  But I'll tell you in confidence it isn't the right one.  I've a cousin, a lady of property, it's through her I'm there.  One of the partners has got her money in his hands—don't like to part with it either," and he winked at Jones.

    "No!" said Jones. "Respectable old cove the governor," he added.

    "It's the young one, I mean," said Albert.

    "Tenterden?" said Jones.

    Albert nodded.  "I've got my eye on him," he said, "and I'll come down on him pretty sharp, I warrant."

    "You don't mean it!" said Jones.

    "Don't I, though!  He'll be kicked out of there some day, if I'm not mistaken.  He'll have to give an account of himself, and I don't think he'll like it.  I want to know what he does with the money," cried Albert, with a tipsy stare of defiance; "and I will know, that's more!  Think of a lady that has thousands and tens of thousands, and can't lay her hands on a ten pounder."

    "Do you think he makes away with it?" asked one.

    Albert indulged in a pantomime of assent.

    "I've heard queerish things about Tenterden," said another.

    "He's a regular screw," said a third; "but that wouldn't account for the money."

    "Perhaps he intends to get all he can and bolt with it."

    "I shouldn't wonder," said Albert.

    "Shall you stay?  It's a snug concern," said Jones; "you might be partner some day."

    "Dare say I might," said Albert; "but I don't think I will.  It's not much in my line, the law isn't."  There Mr. Albert broke off abruptly, having remembrance by no means pleasant of his late encounter with the law.

    Now his companions did not believe one word of it, but that did not hinder them from repeating it.  Mr. Jones had a friend who knew Mr. Cater in the privacy of domestic life, and who repeated the conversation as to a person interested.  Mr. Cater heard it with indignation, and repeated it to Mr. Sollinger, who listened with incredulous politeness, but considered it his duty to repeat it to Mr. Tabor.

    Mr. Tabor was evidently annoyed at what Albert had said, and sent at once for Philip to put the matter into his hands, suggesting an investigation and the dismissal of the culprit.  But Philip declined to investigate; it was not worth investigating so idle a story.  He knew what Albert Lovejoy was, and did not, he concluded decisively, desire to take any steps in the matter.

    Mr. Tabor, however, was far from satisfied.

    Happening to look in upon Fanny that same evening, she asked how Albert was getting on.  "He is not particularly satisfactory, I understand," said the cautious lawyer—"out of the office, I mean.  He has been talking about you in a rather objectionable manner, which it would be well to put a stop to.  You may be able, by the way, to give him a hint to that effect."

    "Talking about me in an objectionable manner, dear me!" said Fanny, open-mouthed with astonishment.

    "Yes; the truth is he has been complaining of Mr. Tenterden's management of your affairs, talking as if you were distrustful or dissatisfied.  Mr. Tenterden will take no notice of it, but I do not like it, and I wish you could give the young man a hint it is not to be tolerated."

    A sudden inspiration seized Fanny.  "Don't you think I could manage for myself, Mr. Tabor, and save Philip the trouble?" she said.

    "Certainly," said Mr. Tabor, looking curiously at her.  "There is nothing to hinder you.  Have you been expressing a wish to do this?"

    "No," said Fanny; "but I think I would like it better—better than going to somebody else for everything."

    "Then perhaps you are dissatisfied.  That explains the matter—only it has been twisted, as things do get twisted."

    "I am not dissatisfied," Fanny hastened to say, "only I would like to spend my money in my own way.  Sometimes I want to spend very little, and sometimes I want to spend a great deal."

    "And Philip won't let you?" said Mr. Tabor.  Fanny acquiesced.  "But that is for your good, you know," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I wouldn't spend more than I had to spend," she answered.  "I know I must not touch the capital.  I may do with my income as I like, and I would not always spend as much as I am doing now.  Could I not borrow and pay it back again?"

    "Certainly, on your securities," said Mr. Tabor.

    "I haven't got any," said Fanny, whose money might have dropped from the moon for anything she knew about it.

    "Of course you have them.  They are in Tenterden's hands; but you ought to know a little more about them.  Without them you would have nothing."

    "Do you think they are safe?" asked Fanny uneasily, allowing her distrust of Philip to appear.

    Mr. Tabor was in consternation.  "Perfectly," he replied (thinking to himself, "This comes of the ignorance of women.")  "But if you would really like to relieve Mr. Tenterden of the responsibility which he has so kindly taken, why not place your affairs in the hands of the firm? though I don't know that my being conjoined with him would render it any easier for you."

    "Oh, but it would," said Fanny.  "I should like it very much, and I want to make a will too."

    "Very proper, very proper," said Mr. Tabor.  "I will speak to Tenterden, and it shall be as you wish."

    Mr. Tabor did not contemplate finding any difficulty in making this arrangement.  Miss Lovejoy's affairs had been managed by Philip as a matter of friendship, and he would doubtless feel thankful to be relieved of a responsibility which Fanny's ignorance must have rendered troublesome, and had now made disagreeable.  If he had wanted any further proof of the necessity for relieving his partner at once from his self—or rather circumstance-imposed position of Fanny's guardian, it was forthcoming.  The unpleasant rumour reached Mr. Tabor next day from another and higher quarter.  It was only a word in confidence from a friend who could venture to take so great a liberty.  "What's this about Tenterden keeping back some old lady's money?"

    "Very provoking, a pure invention," said Mr. Tabor.

    "Coming out of his quixotic love of prevention rather than cure?"

    "Just so," said Mr. Tabor.

    "He would force people to do the right thing, rather than see them do the wrong thing and suffer for it, and they naturally resent being forced," remarked the gentleman, laughing.

    Mr. Tabor took the first opportunity of speaking to his partner after this.  It was with a hesitation for which he could hardly account, however, that he entered on the subject.  Something had arisen to put a certain distance and restraint between them lately.  "I have had a little more of this absurd rumour about Miss Lovejoy," he said.

    Philip's brow darkened, but he stood more erect by the mantelshelf.

    "Would it not be better for you to place Miss Lovejoy's affairs in the hands of the firm, and rid yourself of the responsibility?" continued Mr. Tabor.

    Philip was driven into a corner.  "I do not see any necessity for doing so," he said, "so long as Miss Lovejoy is satisfied."

    "That is the point," said Mr. Tabor; "but I think she would prefer it."

    "Has she spoken to you on the subject?" asked Philip, stiffly.

    "Well, yes," replied Mr. Tabor; "she has—but—"

    Philip broke in indignantly: "It seems ungrateful, after all—" he was going to say, the kindness she had received from his family.  Mr. Tabor knew that, but he could not account for Philip's stoppage in the midst of so natural a speech, nor for his evident and strange perturbation.

    There was an awkward pause, broken by Mr. Tabor saying, "I suggested the arrangement I have mentioned as probably the best for you."

    "I think she ought to have consulted me, and that I had better wait till she does so before I take any step in the matter."

    "As you please," said Mr. Tabor, a little hurt.  This want of frankness was so unlike the Philip of former days.  "Miss Lovejoy's wish is to manage for herself, it appears," said Mr. Tabor.

    "And lose everything she has," said Philip.

    "How is the money invested?" asked Mr. Tabor, looking innocently at him.

    Philip hesitated.  Mr. Tabor, always calm and penetrating, could not help feeling that something was wrong, but he awaited the answer.

    "A portion of it is invested in the public funds," answered Philip, speaking the strict truth, "and the rest is lent on personal security, and for the safety of it I alone am responsible."  Philip moved to the table and took up some papers and asked a question concerning them.  He had evidently done with the subject, leaving-his partner very ill at ease; and the more he reflected on what Philip had said, and on his manner of saying it, the more ill at ease he became.  This unpleasant rumour was no light thing if it had a background of unpleasant fact.


 
CHAPTER XXIV.

ART IS LONG.


IT so happened that the office of Messrs. Tabor and Tenterden had never been so full of business, so that Philip could have enough, and more than enough, of the grand solace—work.  He literally plunged into it.  No amount of it seemed to overwhelm him.  When Mr. Tabor suggested additional help, he scouted the idea.  The more he did the more he seemed able to do.  Every evening saw the black bag carried home to his lodgings fuller and fuller of work, every morning saw the work accomplished, like the tasks of the good people in the fairy tales.  He excused himself to Mrs. Austin; he became more of a recluse than ever.  What was his object?  Mr. Tabor asked himself this question again and again.  Was he making himself so absolutely necessary to the business that whatever might come out (and Tabor felt sure that there was something to come) his position would be secure?  It was a thought which poisoned Mr. Tabor's peace, for above all things he hated suspicion, but it had been forced upon him by Philip's refusal to explain the evident anomalies of his position.

    And Philip felt that there had risen up between him and Mr. Tabor the cold shadow of distrust.  Even the solace of work would have failed him if he had known that it followed him into that.  It was painful enough as it was.  His feeling towards Mr. Tabor was almost filial in its affectionateness.  He had had the sincerest respect for his judgment, and even when his own did not bow to it, he was ready to yield his will, and Philip was a self-willed man.  Mr. Tabor on his side had exhibited all the kindness towards Philip which might have been the portion of a son, and a son after his own heart.  To have this kind and happy relation marred was an unspeakable pain to both.  Of itself it was enough to cloud happiness of both.

    At this time Philip felt that he had two minds—one on the surface, sane, orderly, and calm, and one down in the depths, full of dire and dark disorder.  He forced himself to eat and drink and walk and work, and never go below the surface at all, for he saw no way out of his embarrassments which did not involve others, or which did not also involve a confession that he had taken upon himself a burden which he was unable to bear, and he shrank with sensitive pride from either.  Besides, no explanation would explain them away.  The best of all explanations, the truth, would only, perhaps, relieve him from one aspersion to place him under another.

    He came at length to the conclusion that he must speak to Fanny.  She had every reason to have faith in him; she was weak and illogical, and he might at once alarm and reassure her.  It was rather late one evening when she was called down to the drawing-room; she and Ada had been sitting with Geraldine, and she left Ada at her post.  She was not a little fluttered to find Philip there, having a presentiment of the business he had come upon, and she kept talking hurriedly on the outside of it.

    Then be began.  He had been greatly annoyed by what had taken place between her and Mr. Tabor.  Fanny felt very guilty, and said she did not mean to offend him.

    "It is not a question of offending me," he said; "it is a question of saving yourself.  You must leave your affairs in my hands for the present; they came into my hands ruined.  I have worked hard to retrieve them, and you will lose nothing if I can help it. it.  In the event of my death you are perfectly safe.  Your money was lost, and has had to be replaced by me.  I am replacing it, and you must not hinder me, and set people talking; you must trust me, and show that you do.  If I had bribed you with your own, you would have been perfectly satisfied," he added bitterly.

    Now all this was to Fanny a perfect enigma, and she may be pardoned for not in the least understand its bearings.  He had said too much and not enough; he could acknowledge this to himself, for, cool and practical as he was in other men's matters, he was not so in his own affairs.  He proceeded to dictate to her a policy of silence and confidence which fell on almost unheeding ears.  All that Fanny clearly comprehended was that she had been ruined—and ruin, past, present, and to come, was the one idea which took possession of her mind.

    Mrs. Lovejoy had come in and gone up-stairs, and Ada, released, burst in.  Philip nodded to her, wishing her out of the way, and almost resolving to ask her to leave the room.  But he reflected that Fanny had probably enough for the present, and so he left her to absorb what he had said.

    As soon as he was gone she began to tremble and to cry.  Ada had never seen her cry before.  Her round, cheerful face was distorted, and she shook all over.

    "What's the matter, Cousin Fan?" cried Ada; "it's all that Mr. Tenterden," she added resentfully.  "What has he been doing to you?"

    "Nothing," moaned Fanny with a burst of sobs.

    "Oh, but he has," said Ada, sternly; "he has been saying something nasty, and you must tell me."

    "It is nothing, I am better now," said Fanny.

    "It is the money!" cried Ada, with inspiration.

    This was not to tell.  Ada had guessed; Ada was wonderful at guessing.  It relieved Fanny's heart to cry out that she was ruined.

    "Never mind, dear," said Ada, patronisingly; "never mind; you shall come and live with us."  There did not seem to be much comfort in that for Fanny.  "Since I have been with you I have learnt a great deal," continued Ada, thoughtfully, "about the ways of making money, and I mean to try myself.  Players and singers make a great deal, and so do painters, and I mean to be one of the three."

    "Don't tell your father or Geraldine or any of them about this," said Fanny; "let none of them know," she besought helplessly.  "He says he will pay me back."

    "He is a wicked, man," said Ada, "and I always knew he was," which of course settled the question.  Ada had been very busy lately in a new direction.  She had taken to art, under Mr. Ruskin theoretically and Lucy Tabor practically; and Ada was not a girl who did things by halves.  She was one of these who will have or do all or nothing.  She gave herself no rest from her labours.  Fanny had made over to her her old paint-box full of unused materials, of which Lucy supplied the deficiencies, and she drew and painted everything that could be drawn or painted; and when she was not drawing or painting she looked at everything as an object for art, and was astonished to find out how much more clearly she saw, and how much more there was to see in everything.  The long hours which she spent in Geraldine's room were turned to account.  There she sat on a low stool, her sketch-book on her knee, copying anything and everything—taking the water-jug, the candlestick, the flower-glass, the medicine-bottle, and trying again and again to fix the features of her sister's fading face.  Nothing was too small for her, nothing was too great.  Of course the more she worked, and the more she learnt, the more did the difficulties of art appear, the more did she realise how much there was to be learnt and laboured at; and Ada began to sigh over it, not that the mere labour discouraged her.  Her sigh contained the thought of the poet, though she did not put it into words—

    "Art is long, and time is fleeting."


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"The long hours which she spent in Geraldine's room were turned to account."


    Meantime her work was furnishing to Geraldine a fresh interest and a daily pleasure.


 
CHAPTER XXV.

LOVE AND DEATH.





if the very desire to live gave her a new hold upon life, Geraldine rallied daily after having been made aware of the worst.  Those about her were not deceived—at least those who were wise enough—into thinking that she would ever be well again, but were thankful for the temporary respite.  But she herself would indulge in hope; she would say, "When I am well," I will do this or that; as she had done when she had first fallen ill.  "I should like to go out on Easter Sunday;" and when Easter Sunday came and went, and the improvement had not much advanced, she said, "The warm weather will be in by Whit-Monday, I am sure I shall be well by that time."  It was sad to see her cling to life as she did, and tenderly those about her strove to loosen her hold on it.  They feared to see her clinging to its last ledge as it were, and torn unwillingly from hence.

    Mr. Huntingdon came to see her every day, learning more than he taught perhaps, but earnestly seeking to awaken in her the blessed hope of immortality.  Many a searching question he had to answer, as the girl's eyes began to seek his, with more and more of trustful confidence; for what she wanted was a true human experience, the hold of a real hand to walk among the shadows.

    Geraldine became the centre of the little circle, and her presence gave a new sense of reality to all their lives.  Coming near her was like coming to a touchstone, where all that was unreal suffered detection, all that was worthless collapsed: and this not through any searching quality of intellect which she possessed.  Geraldine was not clever as Ada was.  Her mind was not dexterous, but slow.  She did not receive impressions swiftly; but those which she did receive were indelible.  The influence came out of her simplicity and directness—out of her ignorance itself, and also out of the position in which she stood.  As a great black cloud in the background of a landscape will give a strange vividness to every object, a quite new distinctness of colour and outline, so did the darkness of death behind her give a new significance to the mortal things in the midst of which she moved, with light and radiance of youth and beauty still upon her.

    Mr. Huntingdon coming home to his sister Clara remarked this.  "I never knew before what the simplicity of the Gospel was," he said.

    "God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," said Clara, looking up with a keen, sweet smile.

    Clara as yet had not gone to see any one.  She could not altogether conquer her shrinking from strangers, though it had lost much of the pain it inflicted on her once.  But the day after her conversation with her brother, she went to see Geraldine.  She had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Austin at the same time—a pleasure which she had longed for, but did not like to ask her brother to give her.

    Mrs. Austin, on her part, felt a great attraction to Clara—an attraction which she felt, indeed, for all who were suffering and sorrowful, and which was heightened in this case by the charm of intellect and refinement which predominated in Clara.  Ellen begged her to come and see her, and Clara promised to do so.

    The improvement in Geraldine's health had been short-lived.  April had passed away.  The daffodils had come out under the lilac bushes at the bottom of the garden, each like a mimic sun shining its little day.  The last were fading under cold inclement skies when May came in; and Geraldine was visibly fading too.


 
CHAPTER XXVI.

MUSIC CARRIES THE DAY.


ARTHUR WILDISH delighted to draw out Ada after a good-humoured fashion, but he was forced to confess that in the playful encounter he had not always the best of it.  Ada, who had got to believe in him as a sort of depositary of universal knowledge, very often puzzled him with her minute and curious questions, and did not spare him when he was at a loss for an answer.

    One Saturday afternoon, when he came to inquire for Geraldine and to find Lucy—as, of course, everybody knew perfectly well—he missed the latter and came upon Ada alone.  Ada was in one of her moods of excessive concentration, moods in which she appeared deaf and blind to everything but the purpose before her.  She was pale, but so she always was, only the small mouth was closer and more colourless, and the grey eyes had a far-off look in them.  On this occasion the eyes looked up into Arthur's face, and the mouth said promptly and plainly, "I wanted to see you alone."  She showed no excitement and no confusion.  She was utterly ignorant of any outrage on propriety, and shutting her prisoner into the drawing-room, she went away and left him in smiling wonderment.  Presently she returned with a small portfolio.  "I want to show you what I have been doing," she began, with a business-like air.  "I have been working steadily, you know; and Lucy thinks my drawings very good considering."

    "She has been giving you lessons, I think," said Arthur.  "She herself draws exquisitely.  She has had every advantage, you know," he added, for fear of giving discouragement.  Ada spread her work before him while he was speaking; some of the things on mere scraps of drawing-paper, and he began to look over them.  "But these are not all yours," he said quickly.

    "Yes, they are," she answered.

    "Then they are astonishingly clever.  And has Lucy been your only teacher?" he added.

    "My father used to give me lessons long ago," she said.  "It was my favourite amusement when a child, but I never had any regular teaching."

    "Lucy must be a very good teacher then," he said—she had his first thought, you see—"and you are an admirable scholar."

    "Well," said Ada, rather impatiently, "I want to know if such drawing is of any value."

    "Money value do you mean?"

    "There isn't any other," said Ada, with a smile.

    "No, I don't think they have," he answered.  "You see so many can do things as well as that; and if not so well, still well enough to please themselves; so that the people who would care for them don't want them.  Then the people who buy pictures wouldn't care for them."

    "Now will you hear me sing?" said Ada, to the still greater astonishment of the unlawfully detained Arthur.

    "I didn't know you sang," he said, without pressing any desire for the performance, and thinking it untimely only that Ada was so grave about it.

    "I am going to try," said Ada.  "Will you play for me the music of that song Lucy sang the other evening?  You played it for her."

    That was something very different, still he sat down to the piano.  "'The Brook,' you mean," he said.

    "Yes, I have heard it several times, and tried it," said Ada.

    He could not think what she was driving at, but he played, and Ada sung.  She sung, as she did everything, without trepidation, without consciousness; and went through the song unfalteringly, triumphantly.  It was the triumph of a perfect voice and of a perfect ear.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"It was the triumph of a perfect voice."


    Arthur Wildish was enthusiastic now.  "Why, Ada, you would make a great singer," he said, attracted to the girl as he had never been before, seeing a great gift possessed in such perfect humility.

    "Then I will be a great singer," she answered instantly.  "I want to make money, and to make it fast.  If you had thought I could paint pictures that would sell, I would have been a painter; but singing seems the easiest."

    Arthur laughed.  "You have high aims, but a low motive, Ada," he said.  "What makes you love money so?"

    "Tell me what I must do?" she asked, quite unheeding alike his praise and dispraise, and passing over his question.

    "You must study hard, and under the best masters you can get," said Arthur; "and you have talents well worth cultivation.  You might be either a painter or singer if you chose."

    "Which takes the longest time to learn, singing or painting?" said Ada, hesitating a little.

    "I would recommend you to study both," replied Arthur.  "I am sure your cousin will be happy to give you the means of doing so.  The music will help you in painting and the painting in music, and there is nothing good under the sun that will not help you in both."

    "Oh, but there is not time for all that!" said Ada, quickly, perceiving the vagueness of his advice; "I want to be paid for what I do at once."

    "In music, I suppose, you might do a little in that way," he answered.  "You might teach and work at once; but I don't know much about that."

    "It was you who told me how much the great singers could make, hundreds of pounds in a single night," said Ada.  "I heard you say you had been to a private concert at the house of a German merchant where Mdlle. Titiens got fifty guineas for singing a couple of songs."

    "Well, but you are not Titiens.  You may expect to get the same when you have become as accomplished and famous as she," returned Arthur, amused.  "But what a mercenary little thing you are, Ada.  This, then, is your reason for asking so many questions about art and music, taking such an interest in the fortunes of their followers, and all the rest of it, which puzzled us so."

    "Yes, I have thought of it before, but now I must do it," said Ada, quite gravely.  "I must make money somehow.  Cousin Fanny has lost hers.  She has been very kind to us, and I must make it up to her."

    "I am very sorry to hear of your cousin's loss," said Arthur; "I hope it is not ruinous."

    Ada did not answer, but when Arthur rose to take his leave she thanked him very heartily, opened the door for him, and he went straight into Mr. Tabor's, and found Lucy also alone.  "What a strange girl that Ada Lovejoy is," he said to Lucy.  "One can hardly tell whether to like or dislike her; at one time she is so matter-of-fact and dull, and at other times all fire and impulse."

    "I am beginning to like her better than I did," said Lucy.  "Do you know what she puts me in mind of?"

    "No."

    "A glass of cold water."

    "Well, I think she does throw cold water on most things."

    "No, it is not that—that was what I disliked her for–only dislike is much too strong.  After you have been eating sweets, the first sip of cold water is distasteful; but when you are really thirsty it is more delightful than anything else."

    "She is certainly refreshing."

    "Yes; and when I have found myself inclined to be angry with her way of putting things, I have found afterwards that it was only that she was putting them in a perfectly direct point of view, while I wanted to look at them in relation to something else more agreeable to my own notions.  But what has Ada been saying now?"

    Arthur gave an account of his so recent encounter, ending with the loss of Fanny's fortune.

    "She must be mistaken—she is surely mistaken," said Lucy, in a tone of such extreme agitation as amazed Arthur Wildish.  Lucy was getting further and further out of reach of understanding, it seemed to him.  Here she was, with the colour flying from her cheeks at the bare mention of the probable loss of property by a rather uninteresting elderly lady, and quite insensible to all the attractions of love and fortune which were at her service in his single person.  She was evidently very much moved by what he had told her, and till he took his leave kept the restless and unhappy look which had come into her face, and the distraction of manner which showed that she was barely listening to his talk, that her mind was, indeed, wandering.  She felt that it had, for her look at parting was like a plea for forgiveness; and when he left her she sat down like one who is suddenly set free from some hard task at playing a part, and allowed her face to become a perfect picture of tearless anguish.

    She was startled almost immediately by the entrance of Ada.  She had rushed in without her hat—her bright hair, child fashion, flying loose behind her—to give Lucy her version of the interview with Arthur.

    "You will help me?" she said, when she had ended, and mentioned nothing whatever concerning her cousin.

    "Yes, I will help you, Ada, but you have not told me about the loss of your cousin's money," said Lucy.  "What is it?  Are you not mistaken?"

    "No, I am not mistaken," said Ada, indignantly.  "Mr. Tenterden told her himself that he had lost it and ruined her.  He says he will try and make it up to her, but I don't believe he ever will."

    "You must not say this, Ada," said Lucy, quietly but firmly, acting a part once more.  "I do not believe it, and if it were true you ought not to say it.  Do you know it may seriously injure Mr. Tenterden, and perhaps others also—my father, for instance?"

    Ada looked rebuked.  "Fanny said I was not to tell," she exclaimed; "at least, that I was not to tell Geraldine and the rest."

    "Then why did you tell me?"

    "I did not promise to keep it a secret," said Ada.

    "Promise now, then," said Lucy.

    "Very well, I promise," said Ada lightly, and she sat down before Lucy's piano and ran her fingers over the keys, blindly searching for their music.

    The room swam round with Lucy, but she sat patiently till her father and mother came in, and it was close on dinner-time, giving Ada her first lesson in music.



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