Fanny's Fortune (I).

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FANNY'S FORTUNE

BY ISA CRAIG-KNOX, AUTHOR OF "ESTHER WEST," "TWO YEARS," ETC. ETC.

――――♦――――

CHAPTER I.

PHILIP.





    "At forty man suspects himself a fool," says Young, the sententious.  Philip Tenterden suspected it a little earlier, it seemed, for he muttered the objectionable word, evidently casting it in his own teeth, as he passed the mirror on the mantelshelf, and greeted his gloomy reflection there.  Then he flung himself into the nearest chair, and from thence surveyed the immediate prospect with determined resignation.

    It certainly was not an inviting one.  A newly-kindled fire sputtered in the grate, and the room, already full of November fog, was fast filling with the acrid smoke of burning wood.  "Fool!" muttered Philip; but for what?—for living the life of a bachelor in London lodgings, or for feeling desperately depressed and miserable on that particular occasion, when there was nothing more than usual in the circumstances, except that the fire refused to burn up and the not very neat-handed Phillis, Mary, had re-lit it so awkwardly that half of the smoke found its way into the room instead of up the chimney.  She had also disappeared, leaving behind her a stalactite-looking candle, the light of which made fog and smoke and darkness visible.

    Presently, however, the damsel reappeared, carrying a regulator lamp—a very ill-regulated lamp it was, for Mary generally contrived to make it smoke and smell abominably at some period of the evening, besides which, it showed itself capable of a variety of caprices quite incomprehensible to the ordinary intelligence.  On the present occasion it simply went out as soon as it was set upon the table, and Mary—who, by the aid of a vivid imagination, could always account for its vagaries—stated apologetically that it had had too much "ile," adding privately what sounded very much like "drat it," as she lifted the glass globe and chimney, and applied a lighted match to the wick.  When she had set the lamp agoing, she went down upon her knees and poked the fire with her fingers, and blew it with her breath.  And not a word of remonstrance fell from the lips of the figure in the chair—not a word, for he knew that the slightest murmur would bring down upon him a shower of fibs.

(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Not a word of remonstrance fell from the lips of the figure in the chair."


    Mary was an Irish girl, clean and active and clever enough, but awkward at little things, as if her fingers had an inherited incapacity for dealing with them, an incapacity which extended to her tongue with regard to facts big and little.  Several times in his despair Philip had summoned the landlady, but on her appearance his accusations had assumed the mildest form—indeed, they had sounded to the poor woman, unused to so much courtesy, like commendation itself.  She laboured under a distressing breathlessness, which made her eyes brighten and dilate, and which gave her, as she leaned heavily against the table with one hand, and held the other before her lips in a deprecating manner, the look of a creature hunted and at bay.  Philip was glad to see as little of her as possible.

    Mary, having coaxed, the fire into burning, proceeded with the ordinary routine of the evening.  She covered one half of the table with a cloth—a plan which strictly defined the isolation of the meal-maker—and set thereon the materials for a nondescript meal—tea, and a mutton chop.  Philip Tenterden had given up dining.  In this fashion he breakfasted and in this fashion he supped, eating besides a comfortless midday meal in a city dining- room.

    He ate his chop and drank his tea slowly and in silence.  It seemed indeed a very silent house, in one of those "no thoroughfare" roads, where the grass grows along the edges of the pavement and by the sides of the railings.  When the things had been removed, he went to a side-table and took up a book, one he had taken from a lending-library, and sat reading for a time.  At length he threw it down in disgust—it might have been with his own mood, but the unfortunate author came in for a share of it.  He wished that he had brought work with him—a thing which he often did—but as he had not, he tossed back his hair from his forehead and sat resolutely looking into the fire, daring to do nothing.  Yes, daring! for it was not a pleasant airy daydream that came to take possession of the mind of Philip Tenterden; it was a troop of dark, sad, bitter, perhaps well-nigh maddening thoughts, to which, with a scornful smile lengthening his long, close lips, he said, "Come on."

    Philip Tenterden is dark, but certainly not strikingly handsome, he is too long-nosed and lantern-jawed for that; but he has a fine graceful head and beautiful eyes.  The lines of his face are neither weak nor sensual.  A man who would enjoy keenly and suffer keenly; he sees and fights with the shadows about him, pursues them, entreats them, and does not succeed in dispelling them with the light of common day, or its artificial substitutes, as most of us do.  And distrust has come to be the attitude of his soul; perhaps his profession fosters it, for he is junior partner in a firm of City solicitors, Messrs. Austin, Tabor, and Tenterden, and he sees a good deal of naked human nature on one side or the other.  And he never gives over suffering because of this: every new instance of falsehood, treachery, overreaching, and wrong which comes before him gives him a new pang.  He would fain reverence humanity, and to him its wholesale insincerities and degradations are continually revealed in their darkest colours.  Once on a time, with a youthful passion of pity, he had gone down among the poor—the outcast poor of London—and he had found himself floundering in a perfect quagmire of imposture and deceit.  "Charity is an impossibility," he had said to himself, turning back into the beaten tracks of respectability, and adding, "all men are liars."

    But was there no insincerity in Philip Tenterden's own life?  It seemed to some who knew him that there must be, for his conduct and principles were not always reconcilable, at least from without.  He was rich—that is to say, rich for his position, having an income of nearly £1,000 a year, and yet he was not liberal—in fact, never gave at all toward any purpose, however laudable, even when he had been betrayed into speaking of it with enthusiasm.  Was he a miser?  It seemed so to some who knew that he lived in humdrum lodgings at a guinea a week, dressed with extreme plainness, and never entered a place of amusement.  "Why do you live in that out-of-the-way place, Tenterden?'' said his senior, Mr. Tabor.  "I wish you would come up beside us again and be a little more accessible."

    But Philip Tenterden shook his head and said he had got accustomed to his solitude and had given up going out in the evening.

    It was strange, so many things men think good were open to him; society, local public business, the claims of which he had been wont to advocate and from which he had hurriedly withdrawn, and last (not least) marriage.  And he had nothing to say to any of them.

    "Depend upon it there is a lady in the case," said Mrs. Tabor in confidence to her husband.

    "I thought at one time," said Mr. Tabor, speaking with his usual deliberation, as if he always weighed his words, which was the case—"I thought at one time he was getting fond of our little Lucy."

    "You discouraged him rather, I think," said his wife, with the slightest ring of dissatisfaction in her tone.  Philip had always been an immense favourite of Mrs. Tabor's.

    "I don't know that I did particularly," said Mr. Tabor.  "There was no advance on his part enough to be dealt with in a discouraging manner, and Lucy was but a child.  You know it is two years nearly since he left the neighbourhood, and we have seen little enough of him since then.  Lucy is only nineteen, and we don't want to lose the little one yet, do we?"

    "No," replied Mrs. Tabor, warmly; "but there's nobody I would like so much to see her marry as Philip."

    Mrs. Tabor was anything but deliberate—a rash, warm-hearted woman.  Not that her husband's deliberateness was the result of want of heart.  On the contrary, Mr. Tabor was kind and liberal; it was the result of an overwhelming conscientiousness acting upon a naturally slow and cautious temperament.

    "I did not know you had gone so far as that," remarked her husband, rather wistfully; "at least in serious intention."

    "I don't know about serious intention," she answered, laughing.  "He was fond of her when she was ten years old, and he was twenty.  They were the best of friends up to two years ago, and I think she misses him."

    "Has she said anything to make you think so?" said Mr. Tabor, anxiously.

    "No, she says nothing—a far worse sign in a girl like Lucy."

    "Well, you know best, mamma," he answered, smiling tenderly; "but I think the child does not look unhappy."

    "Oh! thank God, no," said the mother, earnestly.  These two had known sorrow in their youth, and their one desire was to shield their daughter from it, though indeed it had not been bad for either of them; it had not been to either of them the sorrow that worketh death.  Not death to the body, it seldom does that; but to the soul, with its hopes and loves and aspirations.  They had laid their trouble clean away out of sight and hearing, and made their little world as bright and gay as they could make it for their laughing, dancing child.

    "That is well," said Mr. Tabor, "for of late I have noticed some things I do not quite approve of in Philip."

    "Indeed!" said Mrs. Tabor.  "He used to be the best young man you ever had in the office; before be was taken into partnership you had the highest opinion of his business abilities."

    "And so I have still," replied her husband; "he transacts every piece of business entrusted to him with ability and zeal, throws his whole heart and soul into it.  It is not that.  I have noticed a certain graspingness, which is unnatural in youth, and a parsimoniousness which is unfitting and unnecessary.  I would not like to give our little one into the keeping of a miserly man.  I like a liberal spirit, even if it errs on the side of liberality."

    And Mrs. Tabor once more jumped to her own conclusion, and repeated, "Depend upon it he is going to get married, and is saving up for it.  You can have nothing to say against that, my dear."


 
CHAPTER II.

MEMORIES.


PHILIP TENTERDEN'S mode of living did not allow of much variety of occupation.  When he had looked for some time into the fire, he went and looked out at the window, to see whether there remained for him the possibility of the only alternative to his lonely sitting, a long lonely walk.  At first, of course, he saw the reflection of the room, with its lamp and fire blurred with fog.  But he got behind the venetian, and as he watched the street lamp glimmer feebly on the opposite side of the road he decided that the night was not very bad, and that he might venture out.  He heard just then the eight o'clock post enter the road.  Rat-tat after rat-tat sounded nearer and nearer, but awoke no expectation in his mind.  He had no letters that did not go to the City.  So he neither stirred nor changed his attitude, even when the postman knocked at his own door.  He was standing there when Mary entered with two notes on a little black tray.  He advanced to take them, and noted a mark on each, suspiciously like that called "Peter's thumb," but he saw nothing more till the girl had withdrawn.  Then he looked at the letters, and as he did so a smile dawned on his face, making it tenderer and more beautiful than one might have fancied.  The letter held uppermost, the letter smiled upon so tenderly, was addressed in a pretty hand he knew.  He opened it, and it was written in the same, but not in the writer's name.  It was a formal invitation to a party on the 28th of the month, purporting to come from the writer's mamma.  It was quite extraordinary the amount of attention those four and a half lines seemed to require.  He knitted his brows and bit his lips over them, took several turns up and down, stood irresolute, sat down and got up again, and appeared as if he could not dismiss them.

    At length he sat down once more, wrote an acceptance, which was informal, and ran:—


"DEAR MRS. TABOR,—Though I have given up party going for some time, I mean to allow myself the pleasure of being present on the 28th.—Yours, always sincerely
                                                "P
HILIP TENTERDEN."


    But when he had so written he laid the note aside, as if quite uncertain whether he should send it or no, while his face relapsed into the deepest gloom.  He took up the other with a look of supreme disgust.  It was addressed in a particularly scrawling hand, and written in the same; but it had also the merit of being brief.  It ran:—


"DEAR PHIL,—I want to see you immediately about something that has happened.  Please come to-night if you can.—Yours affectionately,
                                                 "F
ANNY LOVEJOY."


    Over this Philip hesitated not at all.  He determined at once to answer the summons, perhaps for the very reason that it would dispose of a disagreeable duty, though he had a certain relish for such, and in five minutes more he was abroad.

    He caught a train at the suburban station, about ten minutes' walk from his lodgings, and by dint of expertness reached the other side of London in little more than an hour.  Having arrived at the outskirts—that is to say, the last row of buildings that had infringed on the open fields—he had also arrived at his destination; but for full five minutes he paused, looking up at the closely shuttered and curtained windows before him, through which not even a ray of light escaped to cheer him, with tidings of warmth and light within.

    The row consisted of a block of three villas, distinguished—or rather quite the reverse of distinguished—by the title of "Park Villas," looking out on the pleasant fields which stretch upwards to Hampstead Heath.  They had been built and inhabited by families connected together by the ties of business and friendship, who had migrated thither in a body from the neighbourhood of Finsbury Square.

    Mr. Austin, who took possession of No. 1, was the head of the firm of Austin and Tabor, solicitors.  He was at that time a bachelor.  His partner, Mr. Tabor, brought with him a wife and daughter, a little maid of some nine summers, to No. 2; while Mr. Tenterden, Philip's father, who was an old friend of both partners, occupied No. 3, with his sons Francis and Philip, and his orphan ward, Fanny Lovejoy.

    As Philip glanced up at the houses the thought in his mind was not of the changes wrought within and around them by the tide of human vicissitude; it was of sunny slips of garden on Sabbath afternoons, when he sat upon the wall, a long-limbed lad, and teased and petted and pelted with flowers a laughing girl, whose every secret he knew, whose every happiness he shared.  Winters must have alternated with summer even in that favoured locality, but they were blotted out of remembrance, only the "sunny memories" lived and clung about the home of Philip's youth.

    At length he knocked at No. 3.  A great brass plate was on the door bearing upon it the name of Lovejoy, a fancy of Fanny's when she came to live there all by herself.  A tidy housemaid admitted him, rather astonished at his late appearance; but looking a welcome when she saw who it was, and ushering him at once into the presence of her mistress.

    Fanny rose with an exclamation of pleasure and advanced to meet him, took his hand in her plump fingers and led him to a chair, while a big light-coloured cat caught the ball from which she had been knitting, and played with it, lazily lying on his side on the hearth-rug.

    "It was very kind of you to come to-night, very; but I hardly expected you.  Indeed, there was no hurry.  I didn't say there was, did I, Phil?  I forget exactly what I said."

    "What has happened?" he asked, releasing his hand.  "I see Puck is all right," looking down at the cat.  "Has one of the servants been robbing you? or is it a case of virtue in distress you want to see me about?"

    "Oh, dear, no—that is, yes.  The servants are the best creatures in the world.  Thank you."

    This last was for the return of the ball, which Philip had picked up, and disentangled from the feet of the stool, just as Miss Lovejoy had upset a basketful of diamond-shaped patches of knitting in search of it.

    "Thank you," she repeated, as he picked up the pieces.  "This is the fifty-fourth diamond of my fourth quilt.  I can't see now to read at night; and I like to sit and think."

    "That's more than I do," said Philip.  "Your thoughts must be pleasant ones."

    "Oh yes," she answered, with a little laugh.  "I was thinking before you came in how many people I have known, all dead now.  There was father and mother and the little ones, you know, before I came to live with you.  Then there was Uncle Joshua and your father and mother, and Dr. Darle and his wife, and our old neighbours the Finches, and the Rev. Mr. What-was-his-name, the young curate, who went to Torquay with his sister."

    "Quite enough! Fanny, stop," exclaimed Philip, when she had got so far; "I can't bear that sort of thing, you know."

    Fanny was accustomed to Philip's impatience with her speeches, and she placidly paused in her cheerful enumeration.

    For the first time in his life, and he had known her as long as he could remember, Philip felt a movement of pathetic interest in Fanny Lovejoy, sitting there with that group of old familiar faces looking at her out of the shadows and peopling her solitude.

    It was greater than his own, and growing greater as she advanced on her journey, and one after another old friends dropped off.  She was at the age, too, when all the ties of later life are forming; when the little ones are growing up who will lend us their arms to lean upon when our steps begin to be feeble, who will close our eyes in the last darkness, and lean over the verge of our graves; but she had no link to the new generation and no attraction for the old; no light nor heat of intellect or energy to draw a little circle round her out of the advancing darkness.

    Fanny had been the oldest daughter in a sickly family, a family in which disease and death had been ever present in their saddest forms.  Neither, it might be, had this man sinned, nor his father; but sin there must have been somewhere against those laws written on the tissues of flesh as clearly as on tables of stone, to have introduced those fearful visitations of malformation, sickliness, and idiotcy which had afflicted the Lovejoy family.  The unhappy parents, struggling with their own infirmities, had laid down child after child, with aching hearts, acknowledging that it was better so; that death was better than the life which they had transmitted; and in the midst of all this Fanny lived and throve and grew fat and merry, an altogether inconsequent little person, never considered very wise, though her only unwisdom lay in her immense imperturbability, and in her being fat when it was expected that she should be lean, and cheerful when all around her were depressed.  Good nature was scrawled in every lineament of her fat face, a good nature which had been set down to stupidity, an opinion justified by a curious incoherence and inconsequence of speech, qualities which did not come out in act or deed.  She was not, as a girl, either ill-formed or ugly; but she was unusually fat, and persistently untidy.  Her strings were always untied and her buttons unfastened, and she lost things endlessly.  And now, before middle age, she was left entirely alone, and entirely independent, a woman who trusted everybody who came near her.  She was bound to do something foolish, in the opinion of the one or two people who had any interest in her still, and they watched accordingly; but her confiding trust had hitherto been completely justified.

    A friendless orphan at seventeen, she had been left to the care of Philip's father, who was her sole guardian; and for fifteen years of her life she had remained in his house as a daughter.  She had three hundred a year at her own disposal; and, after paying a hundred and fifty for her board and that of the servant who waited on her, she spent the remainder in her own slipshod fashion, giving away a large proportion of it in easy charity.  But she had been very free and very happy in the Tenterden household, having apparently no ambition and no desires beyond it.

    Five years after the removal to Park Villas, Mrs. Tenterden died, a quiet, colourless woman—perhaps because her lot was quiet and colourless—but one who ruled her house like an embodied equity.  Mr. Tenterden, a singularly reserved man, exhibited a strange mixture of sorrow and of what appeared relief from restraint when she died.  His sons believed that he acted under excitement, for he was demonstrative where he had been hitherto shy, and voluble where he had been silent.  Philip, the youngest son, had remained under his father's roof.  Articled at seventeen to Messrs. Austin and Tabor, he had remained after his five years' probation on the footing of a future partner, an honour which he obtained after other five years of servitude.  Francis, the eldest son, was settled in the North of England as an engineer.

    The long-established routine of the widower's household went on as before, under the guidance of Fanny Lovejoy; but Mr. Tenterden himself was failing rapidly, becoming a tremulous, sleepless, sickly man.  One day he astonished Philip by saying that he would be glad to see him settled in life before he gave up entirely.

    "I am not an unsettled character," Philip had said, with truth; "and I have no immediate wish to marry, if that is what you mean."

    Philip laid stress on the word "immediate."  He did wish to marry some time, of course.  Then what was he waiting for?  Was it for the lady?  Her he had chosen long ago, and she had kept the door of his heart against all comers; but only the other day his little Lucy had been a child, and he had held back from wooing her with scrupulous delicacy, for younger and tenderer than she seemed either to father or mother, she seemed to him.

    Imagine Philip's feelings, therefore, when his father said, with a ghastly attempt to appear jocular, and an ill-concealed anxiety beneath the surface, "You and Fanny might make a match of it."

    "What can have put such an idea into your head?" replied the indignant Philip; "an imbecile old woman!"  Fanny was not so many years older than himself.

    The joke was never repeated in the face of Philip's unmitigated amazement and disgust; but many a time did the young man look at the unconscious Fanny with curious eyes, wondering how such an idea could ever have entered into his father's mind.


 
CHAPTER III.

UNCLE VALENTINE.


TWO or three months elapsed, and one evening Philip was called in from a little party at Mr. Tabor's, to find the whole house in confusion, one servant having been sent for him, and one for the nearest doctor, while Fanny stood crying helplessly over his father's chair, in which the old man was, to all appearance, dying.  He had a long illness nevertheless, or rather a long dying; and, as he lingered for months, Fanny watched over him with the greatest devotion.  He recovered consciousness, but not the power of speech, or even of motion; so that you could but dimly guess at his meaning by the expression in his eyes.

    Both his sons were present at his death-bed; but it was Fanny to whom he looked for everything—literally looked, for she watched his eyes, and knew when he wanted anything.  She had raised him on the pillow, with Philip's help, and he was actually making an effort to speak, an effort which became painful to witness as it increased in intensity.  He was evidently expiring; but again and again he roused himself, trying to articulate, while one and another bent over him with words of soothing.

    "It is nothing be wants," said Fanny.  "It is something he has to say.  It is you he seeks, both of you, not me;" and she stood back, that his sons might draw nearer.

    The long-pleading, fast-fading gaze wandered from one face to the other.  Francis remained mute; but Philip stooped and said in clear tones, "Do not trouble yourself about anything.  We will try and find out what you would wish to have done, and do it."  There was no sign that the words had penetrated the dying ear; but his eyes rested on Philip a few moments longer, and then closed for ever.

    Before the funeral the brothers had begun to look into their father's affairs, and to find that they were in a very disordered condition; but on the eve of that event there was a quarrel, and Francis washed his hands of them altogether.  On the day after he went away, and all correspondence between the brothers ceased.

    Philip Tenterden then prepared to leave his father's house, which, however, Fanny Lovejoy took over, furniture and all.  She was rather hurt that Philip should go away, and that he should be so very particular as to a valuation of the things.  She liked round numbers, especially with cyphers to them; and her affairs were to be managed by Philip, as they had been managed by his father, so what could it matter that everything should be so rigidly set down to the last sixpence before Fanny commenced housekeeping on her own account.

    "Tell me what has happened," said Philip, rather abruptly, breaking the pause.

    "Oh yes," cried Fanny, with another little laugh, provoking beyond everything to her listener, who would have given her a certificate of lunacy on the spot, and with a clear conscience.  "He has turned up at last; I knew he would."

    "Who has turned up at last?" said Philip.

    "Uncle Valentine.  Papa had a younger brother than Joshua, you know, one who went away and married beneath him, and was never heard of."

    "Well, have you seen him?"

    "Yes, last Monday; that's, let me see, two days ago.  I was going out, but I didn't go, when he came to the door, and asked for Miss Lovejoy—asked if she lived here.  The servant said 'Yes,' but didn't ask him in.  She asked what he wanted, and he said he wanted to see me.  And she said he couldn't, for she thought he was a man selling pencils or pens or something, for he looked rather shabby.  But I was listening in my bonnet and cloak, and I heard him say that he was father's own brother, and I ran down-stairs as fast as I could, and asked him to come in."

    "How do you know he is not an impostor?" said Philip.

    "I knew he was Uncle Valentine," said Fanny, "the moment I heard his voice; so I had him in and fetched him a glass of wine, for he was all of a tremble."

    "How did you know him?" asked Philip, interrupting her.

    "By his voice; it was so like papa's," replied Fanny.

    "But that is not enough.  Did he show any knowledge of the family?" asked Philip.

    "I told him papa and Uncle Joshua and all the others were dead, and that I was left all by myself; and he told me that he and his family had come down in the world, and were in great need of help just at present."

    "I thought that would be the case," said Philip, in a hard tone: "and of what does his family consist?"

    "Oh, he has a wife and four children, nearly grown up; the rest are dead, like ours."

    "He wanted money, of course?" said Philip, quite prepared to find that she had given all that she possessed at the moment to a rank impostor.

    "Yes, I suppose so," said Fanny; "but I didn't like to give him a little and send him away like a beggar.  A little would not do him any good.  He wants enough to set him on his feet, he says."

    "Doubtless," said Philip, who was now compelled to admit that it must have been Uncle Valentine of whom he had heard.

    "And I thought I would like you to advise me what I ought to do," she added.

    "As far as I ever heard," said Philip, "your uncle broke off all connection with his family of his own accord; and he has sought you out now only for what he may get."

    "I wish Uncle Joshua had been alive," said Fanny.  In his lifetime, the bachelor uncle had been habitual referee on all occasions of difficulty.

    "Or your father," she added.  "Perhaps, after all, I ought not to have anything to do with them."

    Philip was silent for a little.  There was a conflict going on in his own mind, and he became for a moment oblivious of his listener, whose round dark eyes were fixed patiently and wistfully on his face.

    "No, I cannot go so far as that," he answered, after a time.  "These people, if they are what they profess to be, are your nearest relations.  The children can have no blame in the matter, and they are your first cousins.  I think you ought to see them, and form your own opinion, and help them as far as you can without injury to yourself, for that, remember, would also injure your power of helping them hereafter.  Give them what you can spare out of your income, but do not pledge yourself to anything like setting them on their feet.  If people can't get on their own feet," he concluded with severity, it's likely they won't be able to stand on them."

    "No, no; I'll take care," said Fanny, joyfully, having received the sanction which she had desired.  "I'll take care.  You may trust me;" and she laid special emphasis on the last syllable, as if it was impossible to doubt her sagacity and insight.  "Father always told me never to touch the capital, and to trust Mr. Tenterden.  Do you know, Philip," she added, with solemnity, "I would like to make my will."

    Philip answered nothing, and she wandered off into less important matters, certain to return to it at a greater or lesser interval.

    Walking home that night—and he walked the whole way, through suburb and bye-way, over bridge and thoroughfare—Philip had food enough for reflection.  He strode along, with set, drawn lips and knitted brows, and when he arrived at his own door he actually reeled, and had to grasp the railing.  The sensation was not one arising from bodily exhaustion—he was unconscious of fatigue in those lithe strong limbs—but from a concentration of thought, which the sudden stoppage at his own door had jarred.

    Mary had kept in his fire, and now asked if he wanted anything, with sleep in her brown, doggish eyes, at once faithful and furtive.

    "I'm sorry I've kept you up so late," said Philip, kindly.  "I shall not want anything."

    Mary could have lain down to sleep at the back of the door for pure appreciation of his courtesy, as she turned away with her "Good night, sir."

    It was indeed Uncle Valentine who had turned up—Uncle Valentine, concerning whose beauty and whose gaiety of heart traditions still lingered among the friends of his family—Uncle Valentine, who had set out on the high road of life with such brilliant expectations, such dazzling visions of success.  His family had heard from him at first from time to time, each letter more overflowing than the last with hope and happiness.  Liverpool was the place where he finally settled, and was lost sight of.  There he had begun business as a general merchant, with a partner who had money it was to be hoped, as Valentine had but a few hundred pounds.  Friends heard of the beginning of the business, but never of the end of it—at least from him; but the general business was reported to have ended in general bankruptcy, and with the absconding of the partner with the money of the firm, which appeared to have come entirely out of other people's pockets.  At the very first sign of failure, Valentine had ceased to communicate with his friends.  It was like him to wait for better times, and to go on sure of the future, denying himself everything but hope; but the better times were long of coming.  He had been heard of again as a clerk in a Liverpool warehouse, married to the daughter of his lodging-house keeper.

    Later, he had gravitated to London; but by that time both his brothers were dead, and the place that had known them in the vast city knew them no more.  He had not even heard the names of the people who had received and protected his orphan niece, and he had not been anxious to make inquiries.  He had still his fortune to make, and firmly believed that he would make it yet, though his locks were turning grey.  He threw up a plodding situation as town traveller to an oil merchant, with £150 a year—on which his family had lived in comparative comfort—in order to turn commission agent, and make fabulous sums by per-centage on a patent invention.  The pretty little house and garden had to be given up for a stifling court, for nobody wanted the new invention, and his old post was filled up.  Since that time, endless had been the migrations of the family, and legion on the agencies which Mr. Lovejoy had held; but the invention had evidently not yet been patented by which his fortune was to be made.  But he could now look back upon prosperity as well as forward to it, and that was a gain.  The days of his prosperity were those of his small but steady income, and his pretty cottage home.  What flowers he used to rear in its garden.  To his fancy they were brighter than any ever seen at the most aristocratic flower-show; what luxuries he enjoyed of Mrs. Lovejoy's own making; what holidays he had with the children, who were dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, in wonderful frocks and bonnets, of Mrs. Lovejoy's own construction.  He had an excellent wife, and had reason to know it; one who made the most of every sixpence, and who believed in her husband with all her soul.

    Alas! that these happy days were over and gone; alas! that she no longer believed in him, though she still made the most of every sixpence, and even helped to earn them.  Husband and wife had been falling more and more apart; they had long been sinking deeper and deeper into the slough of poverty.  One after another of their children died, always, it seemed, owing to some preventable cause, or rather some cause which poverty alone made unpreventable.  They had been very pretty as children, and they grew up absolutely lovely; but the younger ones had been sadly neglected.  He tried to teach them himself, and succeeded with the youngest, Ada, who learned without any trouble, remembered everything she learned, and had the voice of an angel.  Indeed, all the girls had sweet voices, and picked up every song they could hear, or induce their father to sing to them.  They had had a piano in the days of the pretty cottage—one their father had picked up at a sale.  It had been Ada's delight as a baby, but not more than it had been her father's.  Even after the old piano had to be sold, the singing went on.  What cared the blithe young hearts for plainest fare or lack of gay garments; but it had gradually died down, as they grew older, and care fell more heavily, and the voices were seldom heard mingling in glee or chorus, as in more childish days.

    They were very silent, and very busy at the hard, ill-paid work, which was their last resource, when their father returned one evening in elastic spirits.  He had been coming home of late worn out and depressed, and the change was visible in his brisk gait and happy smile.

    "You have had a lucky day, papa," cried Ada, her pale face lighting up all over.

    "I should think so," said Mr. Lovejoy, rubbing his hands, and simmering with good tidings; "the luckiest day of my life is this."

    "What is it?" asked Geraldine, looking up from her work.

    "Do tell us, papa!" cried Ada still more eagerly, laying aside hers altogether.

    Mrs. Lovejoy looked up for a moment, and continued her task with an energy of indifference.

    "I've found out a cousin of yours, girls—my brother Frank's only daughter, living all by herself in very good style—indeed, she is quite wealthy, I fancy, and without a friend in the world.  I am sure if I had known that a daughter of Frank's was left in that lonely way, I would never have rested till I had found her.  As it is, it was the merest accident that I discovered her.  I saw the name on a doorplate—it's an uncommon name, ours—and I thought I would ask who lived there.  I asked a baker's boy, who served the house, and he told me that the lady was single, and I felt sure it was Frank's daughter.  I had seen her, you know, when she was a very little girl."

    "But how did you know, papa?" said Ada; "it might have been another Miss Lovejoy."

    "You can't account for intuitions, Ada; I have had them all my life, my dear," he answered blandly.

    Mrs. Lovejoy sniffed.

    "And in this instance my intuition was verified, you see; and, what is more wonderful, my niece recognised me at once, and bade me welcome.  She was extremely kind."

    Mrs. Lovejoy could not help betraying some slight interest; but her husband's relations had been rather a sore point.  She thought that in some way or other they might have turned up sooner to help them in their straits, only that she had given up believing in any help by or through her husband.

    He was now assailed by a shower of questions:  "How old was she?  What was she like?  Was she beautiful?" those were Geraldine's questions.  "Was she clever?" was Ada's.

    Mr. Lovejoy found the queries rather difficult to answer.  "One thing I feel sure of," he said evasively, shirking the beauty and talent queries, "she is kind—she will help us.  I told her that I only wanted to be set upon my feet; with a very little capital I could realise a handsome income on the patent polish for instance—that sold well, if there had been any profit on it."

    "And what did she say?" asked Mrs. Lovejoy sharply.

    "She said she would gladly do anything in her power.  Of course I told her that we did not want anything as a gift—that money affairs even between near relations were matters of business; in all of which she acquiesced.  Yes, she was most agreeable," he added warmly, "and she is coming to see you very soon."

    "To see us!" cried Ada, joyfully.

    "To see us!" echoed Geraldine, ruefully; "I shall have to run up-stairs and hide myself, I'm sure; look at my feet."

    "You needn't trouble yourself about your feet, nor yet about your head, Jerry; she'll never look near us," said Mrs. Lovejoy, adding, "make haste, or we shall have to sit up to finish, and waste coal and candle."


 
CHAPTER IV.

LUCY TABOR.


THE room was already full of guests when Philip presented himself at Mrs. Tabor's, on the 28th.  After paying his respects to the busy host and hostess, he took up his station close to the door, a position from which his quick eye could take note of every person present.  There, sunk in a low easy chair, was Fanny Lovejoy, airily attired in black net, and fanning herself with a black-and-gold fan.  Beside her, seated on a high chair, and also in black, evidently worn as mourning, was a most attractive-looking young lady, fair, slightly drooping, and pensive, and entirely free from preoccupation.  Philip catches her eye and bows, then his own wanders off again.  The yellow lady with the black hair, the blue lady with the light hair, and the white and pink ladies with the brown hair—that was the rather uncomplimentary fashion in which Philip mentally distinguished the ladies present.  When he had come round again to the yellow lady, he turned away his eyes; she whom he sought was not there.

    Lucy had not been in the room when he entered, but presently she came up behind him, and frankly saluted him by name.  He started perceptibly, for he had been looking the other way; and at this she laughed, saying gaily, "One would think I was a ghost."

    "I think you are," he said.

    "Why?" she asked.

    "I'm not going to tell you," he answered.

    "It's one of your riddles.  I can guess," she answered, merrily.  Such quips and cranks had been a favourite pastime in the old days, when Philip had sat with his legs over the garden wall.

    She stood with her head a little on one side, trying to guess.  "It's a long time since you were here, but it has nothing to do with that."  A pause, "Won't you help me?"

    "No," decidedly, from Philip.

    "Then I give it up," said Lucy.

    "I think you had better," said Philip, grimly.

    "I am so glad you came to-night," she went on, putting a world of sweet cordiality into the commonplace words.  "You used to be at all our parties;" and she looked, though she did not say, as if they were pleasanter then.

    But he did not respond; and when she went away to another corner, he did not follow her, as she hoped and expected—for she wanted a chat with her old kind playfellow—so she held aloof from him, frankly disappointed, as any one might have discovered with very little pains.

    It is a difficult matter to describe Lucy, who was neither short nor tall, slim nor stout, dark nor fair.  Her features were rather round and childish; but hers was one of those illumined faces which seem transparent to every emotion, where the large clear eyes and soft full lips seem capable of expressing to the utmost the joy of joy, the very woe of woe.  As yet, happily, Lucy had lived in the sunshine, and the illumination was one of gladness and of mirth.  She was not a sentimental girl.  She was too honest to manufacture feeling, and too shy at heart, with all her frankness, to show it; and she was not sarcastic, for sarcasm gives pain, and Lucy could not bear to give pain; neither was she opinionated, as some young ladies are, for she had not two opinions in her dear little head that did not belong to somebody she loved, and she exercised her intellect in making them agree with each other, so as to allow her to hold both when they happened to oppose—and not such a bad exercise of intellect either.  But this is a description in negative, which every one who knew Lucy Tabor would protest against, for she had the most perfect individuality in the world.

    Philip followed this charming individuality with his eyes, and saw her provided with a companion, a young man whom he knew, a pleasant fellow, and the best of talkers—at least in the opinion of unprejudiced people, which you may have begun to see Philip was not.

    "There he goes," thought that gentleman; "just like a barrel-organ—any tune you please.  Music, literature, art; art, literature, music; " and he stalked over ostentatiously to where Fanny and her companion sat.

    He shook hands with Fanny, who was radiant with good humour, and more ceremoniously with her neighbour, Mrs. Austin, the widow of the late senior partner, whose name was still retained in the firm.  Mr. Austin had been old enough to be her father.  People had marvelled at the marriage after they came to know her; for she was so unlike the kind of woman who marries from mercenary motives.  They rather suspected her of some great sacrifice.  Then she had behaved so well to Mr. Austin.  She had waited upon him through a long and trying illness with the greatest sweetness; and he, poor man, was anything but sweet.  Her temper was angelic, every one said, for the old man had been irritable nigh to madness; and all that she ever did was to leave him quietly to his nurse, and take a walk for the sake of her health, or read for an hour or two in her own room.  When he was unusually bad, she shrank and trembled and cried a little, and stayed away as long as she dared.  People said she had been sold to him, and it was true; but she had behaved beautifully as wife and widow.  This was her first appearance in public after a year of seclusion.

    Mrs. Austin was what is called interesting.  People liked to be introduced to her, and wanted to know more of her.  There was a wonderful sadness in her face, which was, perhaps, its attraction.  By the way, she was a perfect contrast to Lucy.  Her face was an opaque one, with long and slightly sharp but perfect features, and large, but rather dull grey eyes.

    Music had commenced, and was going on vigorously.  It was a noisy duet which was being played; and two young ladies appeared to be scolding each other, one on each side of the performer.  Philip stood behind Mrs. Austin in gloomy silence.  She tried to say something that would lead him to talk, but hardly knew on what subject to begin.  Had he read a certain book, the best of the season?  He had; and they discussed several in succession.

    "You are almost as omnivorous a reader of fiction as I am," he said.

    "I should never have guessed it," she replied, smiling.  "It is my world, this world of fiction; much more real to me than these living men and women."

    "But it is necessary to correct one's ideas by a little knowledge of living men and women," said Philip, smiling.

    "But how is one to get it?" she replied.  "One knows so little of the people one meets.  If I knew their histories, I would cease to be afraid of them."

    "Afraid of them!" he repeated.  He had hated heartily a good many of his fellow-creatures, but he had feared none.  Then he reflected that she was a woman, and might fear where he hated.  He had a strong desire to combat her fears, however; and he found himself assuming the attitude of a defender of human nature.  "Men are bad enough," he said, "but they are not so bad as fiction paints them.  I believe that, in this, imagination outruns reality.  Worse things have been imagined than were ever done, I fancy."

    "What dreadful things are in the papers, then," she said.

    "You ought not to read the papers," he said impulsively.  "You must remember that they drain the impurities and crimes of a whole nation into their pages.  They represent life even more unfairly than fiction.  If I had a sister, I would not allow a newspaper to enter the house."

    "You are rather arbitrary, I think," she answered, with brightened eyes.  "Do you think women ought to remain ignorant of all evil?"

    "No, I am not speaking from the obscurantist point of view; I am simply pleading for a fair representation of life as it really is.  When you read the daily papers, you are apt to forget from what a wide area their daily allowance of horror is drawn, and that a large proportion of crimes—all the worst of them, I am inclined to believe—are the result of aberrations of intellect."

    Mrs. Austin smiled at his earnestness.  "I have not got the length of fancying I may meet a murderer any day," she said.  "It is not the passions of my fellow-creatures I am afraid of; it is rather their harsh judgments, their repulsions, their discords."

    "And fiction, for its own purposes, exaggerates them all."

    "Why do you read so much of it then?" she said, laughing, and showing her white, regular teeth.

    He laughed also.  "For the sake of company," he answered, "or, to put it grandly, to satisfy my social instincts."

    "Are you so lonely, then?" she asked, in a voice full of sympathy.

    "Lonely enough," he answered, grimly watching Lucy, who seemed to be enjoying herself quietly; while her companion divided his attentions, keeping however, as Philip could see, the largest share for Lucy.

    "Your friends complain of your keeping aloof from them," Mrs. Austin said frankly.

    "Do they?" he asked, with sudden eagerness.  "Mr. and Mrs. Tabor especially," she added.

    "Yes, they are true friends," he replied, warmly; "they are not subject to the chills and changes of those who turn whichever way the wind blows."

    "And Lucy is such a darling," put in Mrs. Austin; "she is just as steadfast and sincere."

    Thus they talked while the evening flew on, condescending to little personal matters of likes and dislikes, and finding, as only people who have kept their first youth—though both Philip and Mrs. Austin might to ordinary eyes have appeared to have lost it—find, that they had very much in common, and yet feeling, as only two people who have gained by the loss of youth feel, that it is not necessary to be lovers to enjoy each other's society.  These two felt that they could never be strangers again, as, though claiming a longish acquaintanceship, they had hitherto been.  Each really knew a little of the other, that little which enables to know more.  A certain confidence had been established between them.

    Then Mr. Tabor came up, and said, holding out one arm to Mrs. Austin and another to Fanny, who had not spoken a single word during the evening, but had sat beaming and listening, "I have come to offer an arm to each of you, if you will go down to supper."

    "I will take Mrs. Austin," said Philip, and he led her away.  Just before he spoke he saw Lucy led off by Mr. Wildish.

    But Mrs. Austin, who was very fond of Lucy, led him to the seat beside her, which was vacant, and so Philip had to stand and serve before her.  He attended to Mrs. Austin's wants, and then he went away and ate a hearty supper of cold chicken and champagne.

    When they were all up in the drawing-room again, the same group gathered in the same corner, with the addition of Mr. Tabor.  "By the way," he said, addressing Mrs. Austin, "Tenterden here might look over the papers you were speaking to me about."  Then, turning to Philip, he explained that Mr. Austin had left a mass of private papers, which it was desirable to go through, and Mrs. Austin required some help in doing so, as it was impossible for her to know what was valuable and what not, many of them relating to the affairs of the firm.

    Philip readily promised to devote one or two evenings a week to the task, the time for beginning to be settled by a communication from Mrs. Austin.  But suddenly, and without warning, Philip stalked away.  He had seen an opportunity—Lucy standing unoccupied and alone—and he reached her just as another music storm set in.

    "I haven't found out your riddle yet," said Lucy.

    "Have you been trying?" asked Philip.

    "Yes, all the evening."

    "Hasn't Mr. Wildish helped you?" he said wickedly.

    "I did not ask him."

    "You are not up in ghosts, Lucy; you might have seen me acting one the other night, looking up at your windows.  They were barred and bolted; nothing but blackness to be seen, not a single ray of light greeted me except that of the hall lamp."  His tone was one of light mockery, but Lucy looked up with serious eyes, and asked wistfully—

    "Why did you not come in?"  She knew that he had been with Fanny.

    "I was haunting the place where I had lived," said Philip.

    "I shall never like to close our shutters again," said Lucy; "I don't much like it as it is."

    He had not answered her question; but answering questions does not matter much when every look and every tone is an answer to unspoken questionings, that go deeper than words.

    Philip and Lucy kept together for the remainder of the evening.  Philip indeed saw nothing and heard nothing, beyond Lucy's happy voice.  In vain young Wildish strove to enter the charmed circle; he was obliged to fall back and yield to Philip the claims of old acquaintanceship.  That gentleman did not even notice Mrs. Austin go, and he was himself among the last to leave.

    "Well, puss, and how have you enjoyed yourself?" said Mr. Tabor, touching Lucy's cheek, where the pure pale colour had deepened; "you don't look sleepy!"

    "I thought it rather slow at first," said transparent Lucy, "but it went off very well; don't you think so, mamma?"

    "Yes, my love," replied Mrs. Tabor, absently, and looking wistfully at the bright eyes and glowing lips, as bright and as glowing as if there were neither weariness nor woe in all the world, and no need of the night for either rest or weeping.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Well, puss, and how have you enjoyed yourself?"

 
CHAPTER V.

A LAWYER'S LEGACY.




Sunday Philip called on the Tabors at the hour when he knew that Lucy would be out teaching her class at the rector's school; and he went away before she returned, to the great relief of Mr. Tabor, who had been made uneasy in his mind by sundry observations which Mrs. Tabor had made on the night of the ball, and who felt—what a good many fathers feel, in spite of modern mammonism—utterly disgusted at the idea of giving up his daughter to any young fellow, however worthy. How could any young fellow be worthy of a creature who had absorbed all the care and affection of two whole lives? how could he possibly have earned a right to such rose-leaf kisses as dropped every evening on the crown of his bald head when Lucy came to bring him in to tea and to coax him out of his guineas—not for herself, that would have been easy, but for some object of charity which he considered doubtful; and the little puss had lighted on this fact, and used it as an argument on occasions like these. "You know, papa," she would say, "you would give me ten times as much for a new dress, if I liked to have it, and I would rather have this and go with an old one. Lucy Tabor liked to shower gifts about her like a fairy princess, for pure delight in giving; and I think, for pure delight in giving, she might one day give herself, if anybody wanted her very much.

"Mr. Tenterden has been here, my love," said her mother, watching the effect of her words; "and he left his kind regards for you."

But Lucy made no remark. She neither turned red nor pale, nor behaved in any way unusual to her. Only she seemed that evening more lavish of her kisses and her smiles; seemed to throw herself more entirely into the sacred Sabbath music which her father loved. The small but perfect circle of husband, wife, and child, spending the evening together and alone in tranquil happiness, seemed as yet independent of the great chain of life, of which, with all its stress and strain, they formed a link.

"You see," said Mr. Tabor, when Lucy had gone to her room, "there is nothing the matter with the child."

"The matter with her!" repeated Mrs. Tabor; "of course not."

"Yet Philip did not seek her to-day as he might have done, if he had chosen," said Mr. Tabor. "He avoided her, I fancy, and she has not drooped in consequence."

"No, that sort of thing does not come on all at once, like a fever, with girls like Lucy. But if she cares at all for Philip, as I think she does, this way of his of keeping at a distance from her and, than devoting himself to her, as he did last night, and then leaving her again, will only end in making her love him all the more. I have known more than one instance of a girl having her heart and life completely wasted in this way."

"Remember what an old acquaintance Philip is," said Mr. Tabor; "he would never treat our little girl in that way."

"Not knowingly," said Mrs. Tabor.

"Philip never does anything unknowingly," said Mr. Tabor.

Mrs. Tabor was convinced against her will, and every one knows what that means: she was decidedly of the same opinion still.

Next day Mrs. Austin communicated to Philip, through Mr. Tabor, her desire, if it was convenient, to begin upon the papers at once. After some little consultation, the Thursday following was fixed as the date when the work should begin; and Mrs. Tabor resolved to put on all her armour of defence against the foe who would thus be in such close proximity.

On Thursday evening, accordingly, Philip presented himself at Mrs. Austin's house; but he showed no intention of invading that of her next door neighbour, further than by glancing up at the windows. That glance, however, was enough to cause him first to smile and then to frown. The smile was for Lucy, the frown was for himself. Something more than a fool it was that he called himself when he saw a light streaming through a chink left unclosed in the shutter of what he knew to be Lucy's room, a little sitting-room set apart to her sole use, and opening out of her mother's drawing-room.

Philip was shown into Mrs. Austin's presence. An elderly lady was with her, to whom he was introduced, Mrs. Austin saying simply, "My mother, Mrs. Torrance, Mr. Tenterden." Then they all three adjourned without loss of time to the library, a room which Philip knew well as the usual sitting-room of the late Mr. Austin. A cheerful fire was blazing in the grate, and a couple of shaded reading-lamps were burning on the table. Three chairs were set in the circle of light, but a great leathern one stood back against the wall, among the shadows. It was the chair which had always been occupied by the late master of the house, and Philip had a curious feeling of the harsh old man's presence for a moment.

The papers which Mr. Austin had left behind him and which were now to be examined for the fin time, were contained in a series of black tin boxes, numbered and ranged along the wall untie: the lowest bookshelf. They agreed to begin with No. 1, and proceed in a thoroughly methodical manner, concerning which Philip gave a few simple directions. He placed the box between them on the floor, and at the side of each a waste-paper basket. Mrs. Austin was to hand over to her companion whatever seemed of the slightest importance, or related to business of which she had no knowledge; while circulars or unimportant notes were to be thrown at once into the basket. Philip, on his part, was to consult Mrs. Austin concerning the more strictly private papers; while he set aside any of the business ones which seemed to him worthy d preservation. Mr. Austin had been one of those men, generally anything but benefactors of the' kind, who never destroy a single scrap of paper, written or printed, which comes into their hands, There they lay, papers of thirty years back, done up in bundles, and in packets tied with red tape, or threaded on cord, just as they had been whet removed from their dusty pile—circulars, notices of meetings, appointments, drafts of letters and of ancient briefs, notes of cases, instructions to counsel, The baskets at their feet were filled almost in silence. They had not exchanged more than half a dozen brief sentences when Mrs. Austin rang the bell to have them removed and emptied, and they paused to take breath.

Philip had glanced now and then at Mrs. Torrance, seated in the chimney-corner, with an idle desire to know what sort of woman Mrs. Austin's mother might be. Whenever he did so, he found the lady's eyes directed on her work, though if he had glanced up a moment sooner he might have seen them watching her daughter and himself; and yet if he had glanced up a moment sooner the probability is that Mrs. Torrance would have been looking at her work all the same. She held an ivory mesh in her still deft and youthful-looking fingers, and netted with amazing rapidity, fastening every knot with a jerk which seemed to say, "That is a final business." The web at which she worked was stuffed into, and proceeded out of, a linen bag which lay on the floor; and Philip found himself taking an interest in the work which seemed so slight, and yet so strong. It seemed to him as if she was weaving the web of fate. It, too, is slight and strong; made up of the slightest threads of action, twisted ever so little, and yet not to be undone except by the fatal shears.

After the brief pause, Mrs. Austin turned to her task again. She evidently did not desire to play over it; and it was no child's play, for the mass of papers to be got through was immense.

They had tea a little later, and had to wash their hands in order to partake of it. Mrs. Austin's almost transparent fingers were black, looked blacker than Philip's, with the dust of those bygone years.

After tea they resumed their work once more. At ten o'clock they had filled their baskets three times over, but they had not got through the first of the black boxes. However, Philip then rose and took his leave, and Mrs. Austin acknowledged, with a sigh of fatigue, that she had had enough of it for one evening. The task was to be resumed on that day next week, and so on each week till it was finished.

It certainly was not particularly interesting work, and yet somehow Philip had been interested in it. He took his way homeward under the December stars with a calmer spirit than usual, even after glancing up again at the neighbouring window, and ascertaining that a light was still burning in Lucy's room for the benefit of any homeless ghost who might be roaming near. Why he felt calmer than usual he did not ask himself. It was probably owing to a combination of influences: to his having had no time to brood over his grievances; to his having been surrounded with the subtle atmosphere of womanly refinement, to which he was now a stranger; and to his sense of kindly feeling in having been engaged in. helping one so gentle and sweet as Mrs. Austin in the performance of a disagreeable duty.

Philip's grievances, as far as they were known, did not bring him any sympathy. It was known that his father bad left nothing,—had even been to some extent insolvent, though to what extent no one knew, as his sons had evidently taken his debts upon their own shoulders. Then he and his brother had quarrelled,, and held no communication with each other. But these things did not appear to justify the change in him, or to account for the mode of life he had adopted.

When he had gone, a little colloquy took place concerning him between the ladies he had left.

"My dear, I don't like that young man," said Mrs. Torrance, fastening a knot with an additional jerk.

"Indeed, mamma," said Mrs. Austin, but with very little astonishment. "Mr. Tabor likes him, and trusts him, and so did Mr. Austin," she added.

She did not venture upon any opinion of her own; she knew her mother too well for that. Mrs. Torrance would have simply jerked another knot, and said something which implied that her daughter's remark was quite irrelevant. Mrs. Austin did not even inquire into the reason of her mother's dislike of Mr. Tenterden; but her mother was ready to give it, and did give it.

"I should think he was designing, Ellen," she remarked.

Mrs. Austin replied quietly, " There is nothing make you think so, mamma."

Mrs. Torrance was evidently rather astonish at the decision of the reply. Her daughter was n ordinarily so decided. She went on, "It strikes me that he is remarkably ready to give up his evenings to this tiresome job. It is not likely that young man like him has not engagements that pleasanter—at least if he has not some end in vie) You are young, my dear Ellen, and rich, and he might think it an excellent opportunity—"

"Mother," interrupted Ellen Austin, but the word ended in a choking sob.

Mrs. Torrance looked perplexed. "I did not me vex you, my dear," she said. "You don't care for him, do you?"

"No, no—it is not that," she answered, but s did not explain. She went and divided the curia' and let them fall and shroud her, as she looked out into the night with a mute pitiful appeal.

Mrs. Torrance netted on faster than ever, glancing up at the curtain that concealed her daughter's figure. Nothing was sacred from that woman's tongue, though she could bid it be silent, tie it a double knot if she chose; but she knew very Wei the power of talk over feeling—she knew that rose- buds unfolded leaf by leaf before their time will not open, but die. It was, or had been, the secret of her power over the finer nature of her daughter; the terror of that tongue of hers, not loud, but sharp—sharp, and, if necessary, tipped with poison, the poison of detraction and malice. And at present she was only trying experiments. She did not know how much, if any, of this power remained to her. As a married woman, whose husband had determinedly kept Mrs. Torrance at a distance, Ellen had slipped her neck out of the yoke, and Mrs. Torrance was not quite sure that she would submit to it again. But Ellen felt that she would. It is very easy to despise her for it, but gentleness was the habit of her soul, and obedience to her mother had been the habit of her life. It did not matter that hers was by far the larger nature, in intellect as well as heart, and that sometimes she knew it; her mother's sharp words, her mother's watchful eyes, would constrain her against her judgment and her will, and she would act upon her mother's decisions instead of upon her own, accept her mother's conclusions instead of her own—in fact, hand herself over bodily to every tyranny, while she escaped in the life of the soul. There was in Ellen a defect of will, a defect which had been her father's, and had been his ruin.


 
CHAPTER VI.

POOR RELATIONS.


ACCORDING to her promise, and backed up by Philip's advice, Fanny Lovejoy determined to know something more of her long-lost relations.  They lived at a considerable distance, and as Fanny was no pedestrian, and was apt to lose her way whenever that feat was possible, she hired a brougham for the occasion, and set out one morning at ten o'clock.  Less than an hour's driving took her to their place of abode—one of an endless row of small houses in an unsavoury suburb of district S.E.  But the houses, though small and dingy, looked respectable, and did not prepare the visitor for the poverty of the interior.  Fanny, like many a woman of her class, knew nothing whatever of the homes where poor men lie.

    A tall, gaunt, middle-aged woman opened the door, and opened it only a very little way, informing Fanny, who inquired for Mr. Lovejoy, that her husband and son had gone to business.

    "I'm Miss Lovejoy," said Fanny, beaming on her in her usual manner.

    Not the ghost of an answering smile dawned on the woman's face, as she said with a sigh, "I'm Mrs. Lovejoy.  Will you walk in, miss?"

    Crabwise, Fanny got through the narrow doorway and was ushered into the parlour.  There was a handful of fire in the grate, and a piece of drugget laid down before the fire; but the room was bare of every comfort else.  On a table at the window lay a heap of work, which looked like children's dresses, and two girls sat at the table, each with a small embroidered garment in her hands.

    "That is pretty work," said Fanny, advancing, and they both looked up without speaking.  "Are these your daughters?" she asked, turning to Mrs. Lovejoy.

    "Yes, that's Ada and this is Geraldine," said Mrs. Lovejoy, indicating each; "Beatrice has gone to business."

    "I am your cousin," said Fanny again, addressing the girls, and holding out her hand before she took the seat Mrs. Lovejoy had placed for her.

    They each looked up with a pair of very bright eyes, and held out to her a little thin chilly hand.

    "Now go on with your work," said Mrs. Lovejoy to the girls in a dreary hopeless tone, and they bent their eyes and began sewing together the parts of each little garment.

    "I hope I am not hindering you," said Fanny, looking to Mrs. Lovejoy for an answer.

    "Well, if you'll excuse me a minute," replied that lady with no excess of politeness.

    "Oh, certainly," said Fanny, and Mrs. Lovejoy thereupon disappeared.  Fanny was capable of a great deal of silence, and evidently so were the young ladies before her.  She had time to examine their faces, and every detail of their dress and surroundings before another word was spoken.  She had time to notice that their flimsy gowns were stained, patched, and torn; that they had trumpery earrings in their small ears, and enormous chignons disfiguring their pretty brown heads, that they had slim, graceful figures and clear complexions—Geraldine with rose pink on her cheeks, and Ada pure and pale as a white lily.  Fanny's kind heart took in the pair at once.  "Have you lived a long time here?" she ventured to ask.

    "Oh yes, a very long time," replied Geraldine.  Papa has often wanted us to go away from here, but mamma wouldn't stir, she was tired of moving."

    "Well I might be," said Mrs. Lovejoy, re-entering.  "I've had ten children, and not two of them born in the same place; and I've buried six, and not laid two of them together."

    "Dear me! how sad!" exclaimed Fanny.

    "And this house is handy for the City, and for the warehouse where we get our work; and Albert's wife stays with us and helps pay the rent," continued Mrs. Lovejoy, "so the girls and me can live."

    "How quickly they work," said Fanny; "I've been watching them.  I could not do as much in a day as they have done since I sat down here.  Is it well paid now?"

    "We have to work from morning to night, all three of us to earn a shilling a day each.  I've just been hanging up a few things to dry, and I'll have to make up the time, for they're busy at the warehouse with Christmas orders, and if you try to turn out the work when they're busy, they'll try and keep you on when they're slack,"—she had already found needle and thread, and was making them fly through the stuff.

     "But what does Mr. Lovejoy do?" said Fanny, reflectively; "you oughtn't to have to work so hard as that."  Fanny held the good old-fashioned notion that money-earning belonged to the man's part in the world's work.

    "He's agent for selling something or other—something which nobody ever wants to buy," said Mrs. Lovejoy with a burst.

    "Dear me!" said Fanny; "why doesn't he give up selling it then?"

    "He has given up things often enough, and worn the shoes off his feet looking for something else, and when he got it it was worse than ever; they wanted the new thing less than the old."

    "It must be very disheartening," said Fanny with sincere sympathy.

    "Disheartening!" exclaimed Mrs. Lovejoy, who had got upon her great grievance, and was communicative in a cheerless fashion; "I should think so, to keep going and going where nobody wants you, and asking and asking, and never getting.  I couldn't live such a life.  When the girls or me go to the warehouse, and they say they haven't any work for us, we're hard put to it before we can go back again.  It turns me sick to have to beg for it like, and I've seen Ada and Jerry crying before they'd do it.  But nothing disheartens Mr. Lovejoy.  He's been going to make a fortune every day the last thirty years, and all the time we've been getting worse and worse off, till I wouldn't trust to him any longer, and I only wish I had settled to work before we got so poor and had to part with everything."

    "You have a son?" said Fanny, wondering how such poverty had come about.

    "Yes, Albert has enough to do with himself.  He has a wife and two children, and he hasn't been fortunate."  She was not going to be communicative on this subject.

    "And they live here?" said Fanny.

    "Yes, up-stairs."

    "Might I go and see them?" she asked.

    "Oh yes," replied Mrs. Lovejoy.  "Jerry, take your cousin up to see Emily and the children."  Geraldine rose, and it seemed as if her wretched dress would fall from her tall figure as she led the way up the narrow stair.  But the rooms when reached were not uncomfortable, though far from tidy; that is to say, they were carpeted, and one furnished as a bedroom, the other as a parlour.  Fanny was introduced to a white-faced girl with a superabundance of dark hair, who was suckling a baby; while a little fellow between two and three years old stood by her side, quiet, but with evidences of recent riot all around him.  Fanny thought she saw traces of tears on Emily's face, and after a little chat with the passive young creature retreated.

    "We sleep up-stairs," said Geraldine, pointing upward as they closed Mrs. Albert's door; and Fanny took it as an invitation to ascend, and did not in the least observe the girl's evident reluctance.

    "This is our room, and that is mother's," said the girl, as she opened the doors, blushing crimson and coughing terribly.

    "But you don't sleep here?" said uncomprehending Fanny.

    "Yes, we do," said the girl, with a suppressed sob.  Mother had to part with the beds when we were slack in the summer-time."

    "Dear me!—dear me!" said Fanny, weeping, and stumbling down the steep stairs.  "You'll come and see me," she said to the group as she re-entered the parlour.

    Mrs. Lovejoy replied that she seldom went from home.

    "But you'll let the girls come?" said Fanny.  "Could they come and dine with me on Sunday next?"

    Mrs. Lovejoy hesitated.  "Beatrice might," she replied; " she has boots.  But Ada's and Geraldine's are both worn out, and they catch cold with the wet coming in.  Other things they can make up for a trifle, but boots are boots."

    "You'll let me make my cousins a little present?" said Fanny, shyly.  "This is a rather pretty purse;" and she put hers into Geraldine's hand.  "You can share what is in it between you;" and saying goodbye, she hurried out of the house, with head and heart both a good deal fuller than they could well hold.

    The examination of the contents of the purse took place as soon as the door had closed upon their visitor.  Geraldine shook out into the palm of her hand four sovereigns, and six-and-sixpence in silver, and in spite of the impassivity with which she had received her husband's relative, Mrs. Lovejoy trembled with excitement as she saw the glitter of the gold.  She had felt very little interest in the advent of her husband's niece.  She was only another of the mare's nests which Mr. Lovejoy was perpetually finding, and which, far from supplying the fabulous riches he had believed them to contain, had failed to furnish his family with daily bread.  She had listened every day since the new discovery to schemes in which his niece's wealth and his niece's influence bore a part, but in which so much was taken for granted that Mrs. Lovejoy may be pardoned a little impatience, when presented with the results, as quite equivalent to bread-and-butter realities.

    Mr. Lovejoy felt assured all his difficulties would now be at an end; but Mrs. Lovejoy refused to believe that hers would ever end on this side the grave.  She was utterly faithless as to any good Fanny's advent was likely to produce.  She had been misled and tortured all her life by visions of wealth amid ever-increasing poverty.  She was a woman who could only enjoy realities.  Heaven knew her sufferings had been real enough.  As for her husband, he enjoyed delusions: he, for his part, lived on dreams.  He would have preferred dry bread and a bare pallet with them, rather than feasting and a canopy of state without them.

    Often and often had he neglected the sound advice of his wife to follow the cheats and snares of his foolish fancy.  What! accept some ill-paid, easy drudgery, when he might create a great branch of industry, be entreated to accept a partnership in the concern which was indebted to him for its prosperity, extend and multiply the business till it had its agents all over the globe, and die a millionaire!  Mrs. Lovejoy, poor woman, had long ceased to believe in this sort of thing, and she actually trembled at the sight of Fanny's gold, as if fresh misfortune might come to her with the realisation of the least part of her husband's new delusion.

    But she was recalled to her senses by the question, what was to be done with the money? instantly propounded by Geraldine.  She counted it over, halved it, and handed the half to her sister, who at once, and with eyes moist with glad emotion, handed it to her mother.  Geraldine retained hers a little longer, returning it to the purse, which she rattled in her hand.

    "It would be so nice to spend it.  I believe I could spend it all on myself," she said.

    "Do you think she meant Beatie to have a share?" said Ada.

    "Not at all," replied Geraldine, stoutly.  "She said plainly, 'Divide it between you.'  Beatie does not need it as we do, and she would keep it all to herself.  I'm glad she was not here."

    "She is sure to think she ought to have some," said Ada.

    "There, mother," said Geraldine, with a sigh of resignation, and tumbling out the money once more, this time into her mother's hand; "you'll let us have what you can spare, won't you, just to make ourselves like other girls?"

    "I'll go and buy you each a pair of boots at once," said the mother.  "Then there's the rent; we're six weeks behind with that, and we'd better pay it up.  And the baker and the grocer."

    "Oh, mother! you'll spend it all," said Geraldine, who had had a vision of a smart hat, and saw it fading away from her.

    "No, I won't, my dear.  You must be decent to go there"—meaning to her cousin's—"and I'll only pay part; it will make them willing to wait for the rest.  But what we should have done without this money I don't know."

    Mrs. Lovejoy got herself ready with speed, and went out on her various missions with a lighter heart than she had had for many a day—nay, she actually found herself, after the first excitement was over, dreaming of other good things to come from the same source—not for herself, but for her children.

    When she was gone, Geraldine ran up-stairs for a few minutes to tell her sister-in-law, and to snatch the baby, to whom she promised, not greatly to his satisfaction it seemed, a new pair of sleeve-ribbons.


 
CHAPTER VII.

THE FAMILY PARTY.




as soon as she got home Fanny Lovejoy sat down and wrote one of her scrawling little notes, asking her uncle, aunt, and cousins to dine with her on Sunday at two o'clock, that being the hour which she fancied would best suit the family.  She also wrote asking Philip to come and meet them.

    The invitation was not a particularly welcome one to Philip; nevertheless, he resolved to go.  "Fanny is a fool," he said to himself, "and there is no knowing what she may do in the way of involving herself; and besides, I ought to know what sort of people they are."

    When the day arrived, Fanny made preparations as for a host, having been left in ignorance as to how many she might expect; and at the hour when the churches have emptied, as Fanny, who had just come in, was still untying her bonnet, the party arrived.  It consisted of Mr. Lovejoy, with a daughter on each arm, and Albert and Beatrice, detached, bringing up the rear.

    Mr. Lovejoy might be shabby, but he was too genteel-looking for the fact to be noticeable, and between Geraldine and Ada he was utterly hidden and in eclipse.  These young ladies were wonderful to behold.  Their beautiful, richly-shaded brown hair bulged out behind in some mysterious manner, and then flowed over their shoulders, as if to show that no chignon, however monstrous, was capable of containing it.  It was plaited across their heads, and fringed over their brows; it was adorned with bright red ribbons, and fastened with great glittering pins; while on the top of all was perched a tiny black felt hat, with three little cock's feathers to match their ribbons.  The rest of their costume it will be needless to describe, except that they had lost half a week's sleep on the frills.  Nevertheless, under the disfigured heads were the two fresh, smooth, flower-like faces; and Mr. Lovejoy was glad to introduce them into their cousin's drawing-room as into their natural sphere.

    Beatrice, the eldest, was better dressed, as far as material, and even taste, went, and was therefore a more pleasing object to look upon; for she, too, was pretty, only a close observer would have noticed that she had keener eyes and a harder mouth.  Ada and Geraldine were young and tender yet.  On Beatrice her circumstances, perhaps, had begun to tell more.  She and Albert did not look as if they belonged to the same family as the others.  Ada and Geraldine were shy and silent; Beatrice was self-possessed, and Albert swaggering.  They were soon all seated in the drawing-room, waiting for the announcement of dinner and the arrival of Philip.  Albert's manner seemed to say, "I am quite at home, you see;" and presently he got up and went to the window.  Then he whistled under his breath, and finally said he would step out into the garden and have a cigar.

    Ada and Geraldine were but fifteen and sixteen respectively, and could not remember many of the better days of the family to which their father made frequent allusion; Beatrice, who was three-and-twenty, and Albert, who was two years her senior, could.  Ten years before, when the latter was a lad of fifteen, they had, to all outward appearance, been tolerably well off.  He had received a good education at a commercial school; and being a fair writer, as his father had been, he had been taken into a City warehouse at a salary of twenty-five pounds per annum, to be increased five pounds a year till be was twenty, when its further advance depended on his own exertions.  It was a fair enough prospect for a boy in his position; but the employer with whom he had been placed was one of the worst possible men for a weak, self-indulgent lad to come in contact with.  He was self-indulgent and strong.  Fond of low sensual pleasures, and ever ready to encourage others to be fond of them too; he could do with impunity what weaker men could not do without death or ruin, and his warehouse had turned out youth after youth whose history had ended in one or both of these.

    Albert began by spending the whole of his earnings upon himself, and at first he required the money for necessaries—his clothes, his dinners in the City, and his trains.  As he got older and richer, he added cigars, occasional soda-and-brandy, and other luxuries.  His family at this time becoming poorer and poorer, his mother suggested the propriety of his paying something for his board and lodging, but he put her off, saying, he would soon have double the salary—in fact, his services were priceless, and his expenses were in the meantime heavy.  He would however, make it up to her some day.  He was obliged to dine at a better place and dress better; dressing better included putting on a handsome ring when he went out, and carrying his glove in his hand to show it off.

    His mother had transferred her faith and allegiance from his father to him, and believed in him as long as possible.  When that faith ended in bitter disappointment, she laid aside all hope, and almost resented its appearance in any other quarter.  Up to that time he had only been a foolish, conceited, dandified youth; but the two years that followed made a rapid change for the worse.  There were older men in his set, further gone in vice and folly; and though it was in vice and folly, Albert would not be outdone.  The set consisted of choice spirits, who met every morning in the up-town trains, a headachy, dreary lot, smoking the biggest of pipes and swaggering the biggest of swaggers.  It made you hopeless to look at them.  They met, too, every evening in one of the great corner public-houses to play billiards, drink brandy-and-water, talk idiotic slang, and sing yet more idiotic songs.

    Albert's great exertions for his employers were evidently not appreciated as they ought to have been.  The truth was that he had no talent for business, and no industry to make up for the want of it.  He was invariably late, and would come to the warehouse half asleep besides, the consequence being that at twenty-one he had still but £80 a year.

    And on this he chose to marry.  His mother, who was breaking her heart over him, hailed it as a forlorn hope for his reformation.  She had tried to remonstrate with him; but he had silenced her in such a way that she did not care to repeat the experiment; no one else put forth hand or voice to warn him.  How could they—she had kept his delinquencies entirely to herself?  Poor mother! often and often had she sat up listening for every footfall, till the last train was in and all was silence, and then gone to bed, trying vainly to believe that (as he was sure to say) he had been kept late and had taken a bed with a friend.

    Marriage and its responsibilities might sober him, and she never thought of the fate it was preparing for the girl he had chosen.  Albert Lovejoy had a weak sort of beauty about him, which he was doing his best to spoil—the beauty of bright eyes and a fair skin, and a certain young neighbour was supposed to be very fond of him.  The family, though steeped in debt by that time, occupied a house in a better quarter, and had furniture which they still called their own.  The young people had numerous opportunities of meeting, as the gardens of their respective houses were only divided by a breast-high palisade.  Mrs. Lovejoy invited Emily to tea, and otherwise promoted the affair, and Albert at length agreed to get married.  He would have gone back at the last, and kept his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, if it had not transpired that Emily Blake had £200 of her own, which she could take possession of on her wedding-day.  She was an orphan, and the niece of the couple with whom she lived, who thought Albert, with the prospects he vaunted, a very good match indeed.

    Albert had now been three years married, and he had but £80 still, and was not at all likely to have more.  Emily's money had melted away and come to nought, except what of it had been invested in the furnishing of their rooms, and she, poor thing, had two little children.  She had been very ailing since her marriage, and very fretful, and her husband was equally impatient of both complaints, and made them the excuse for living a more dissipated life than ever.  She was left at home on the present occasion, a sadder sort of Cinderella crying over the fire, because Albert had refused to let her go, want of a suitable dress he said, but really because her going involved taking the baby, and Albert detested the very sight of it.

    Philip had not intended to arrive so early; but when the time came be was unable to stop away.  You see he was not a lofty imperturbable being, but an eager-hearted and very movable man.  He arrived while Albert was still in the garden, and had not been five minutes in the room when he was seized with inward laughter.  It seemed to him that he had been introduced into a company of cockatoos, as his quick eye took in the scene around him.  Mr. Lovejoy was narrating some experience of the glorified past, and looked for all the world like an old bird preening his scanty feathers, and all but saying, "You wouldn't believe what a fine fellow I was once upon a time."  Then the girls, with the clear eyes and the pantomimic heads, were looking up to their father with unfailing interest and admiration, each with her head a little on one side.  A third young lady with sidelong glance seemed to be taking an inventory of the furniture.  Philip was prepared at once to be amused with the party.  The evident innocence and unworldliness of Mr. Lovejoy was pleasant to him.  He could not amuse himself with, or at the expense of, unpleasant varieties of this species, and so when Albert sauntered in, smelling of tobacco and looking supreme assurance, his amusement gave place to disgust.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Mr. Lovejoy was narrating some experience of the glorified past."


    Fanny promptly introduced the new-comer, naming Philip as her oldest friend and the manager of her affairs, for which Philip by no means thanked her.

    "Oh," said Mr. Albert, extending his hand, "a gentleman of the legal profession, eh?" and he laughed at what he appeared to think a joke, while Philip preserved a profound gravity, and coldly bowed.

    Albert felt oppressed immediately, and inclined to detest the young lawyer, who was acting, in his choice phraseology, "the heavy swell."  But they were immediately summoned to dinner, and to dinners they went, in a rather heterogeneous manner.

    At table Mr. Lovejoy still kept up the conversation.  He talked without ceasing.  Everything reminded him of something else, which it did or did not resemble.  The company certainly were not half grateful enough to him for his exertions, perhaps because they were so free from effort.  The two petty cockatoos pecked away on each side of him, eating very little and speaking not at all, except to utter every now and then a spasmodic "No, thank you!" which shook their scarlet top-knots.

    Beatrice, who sat next to Philip, was equally silent, but more observant, and Albert was speedily absorbed in the good things before him.  Philip watched him with no friendly eye, as he drank quantities of beer and sherry, and began to address himself with undue familiarity to the maid who waited.

    Unobservant as Fanny was, she was glad when the dinner came to an end, and she did not prolong her stay at the table longer than she could help.  When she rose Philip rose also, and they adjourned by common consent to the drawing-room.

    Mr. Lovejoy was holding forth to his niece upon the splendid profits to be realised by a patent manure company, for whom he had been briefly engaged, and was making her hair stand on end by a description of the horrible and dangerous processes by which the article was obtained, when Albert sauntered up to Philip, on the other side of the room, and observed with easy familiarity that "the governor there would go on for ever with that jaw of his."

    Philip's only answer was a contemptuous stare.

    In the pause, Mr. Lovejoy was heard saying, "If you had a little capital to invest, you know, it would yield cent. per cent.—excellent investment."  And Fanny was heard to answer simply, and with a directness for which Philip had not given her credit, "I leave all that to Mr. Tenterden, for I don't know anything about investments.  My money is all in the funds, I believe."

    "Well, that's a pity now—a waste of money, I call it," returned Mr. Lovejoy.

    "Let's go and have a cigar," said Albert.

    "I don't smoke," replied Philip, feeling as if there was something phantasmagoric in his present surroundings—in the half-tipsy and wholly disagreeable young man, and in the pretty, silent girls, with their preposterous beads, wholly unconscious of anything to be regretted in their own appearance, or in the behaviour of their father and brother.

    Philip was conscious of a maddening sense of the mockery of life, which was certainly not diminished when Albert, determined not to be rebuffed, remarked in an undertone that lawyers generally knew a thing or two, and added, still lower, and nodding in Fanny's direction, "Is she well off now?"

    Philip exploded.  "I do not feel called upon to discuss Miss Lovejoy's affairs with you," he said sternly, immediately walking over to the other side of the room, watched by Beatrice, who had not lost a word, and was not likely to let her brother forget the snubbing he had received.

    The fire of momentary anger kindled in the young man's face, but it was quenched in the animal craving to consume something.  So he went out and lit his cigar, and paced up and down the garden.

    Philip felt that to stay longer was an utter impossibility.  He went up to Fanny, made an apology for departing so abruptly, and left, much to her dismay, for simple as she was, she was feeling rather uneasy at the tone of her new relations.  As for Philip, he had one of his bad attacks of despondency and gloom, and betook himself to the rather dangerous plan of exhausting his misery by exhausting himself.


 
CHAPTER VIII.

A NEW CORDELIA.


A FORTNIGHT passed away, and Philip had devoted an evening in each week, as agreed upon, to the task of assisting Mrs. Austin in the disposal of the papers.  They had got through two of the black boxes, and had left them absolutely empty.  Mrs. Austin was as gentle and gracious as ever; but Philip thought her a trifle more reserved than she had been on the evening when they began their task.

    To Philip it was the pleasantest task he had ever undertaken.  Mrs. Austin's presence began to act like a charm upon him.  He would come in from the walk to her house, with a bitter and restless mood upon him, and before he had been many minutes there the ice was thawing round his heart, he felt himself becoming genial and calm; the attitude of resistance in which he lived continually could not be maintained, and it was a real rest to him to lay it aside.

    Mrs. Torrance sat in her corner handling her mesh, knotting the threads of her apparently endless web, and raying malign influence from her eyes; but Philip took no heed.  He was so glad to enjoy the presence of one woman, whom he felt to be pure and good—he who had such a need, such a hunger for faith in goodness and purity; and he read them in every form of expression, in every feature, in every word and act of Mrs. Austin's.

    Philip did not want Mrs. Torrance out of the way that he might make love to Mrs. Austin; but he would have liked her out of the way to confide in Mrs. Austin, to tell her much that was in his heart, and much that was in his life.  He had a craving for her sympathy for which he could not account, seeing he was not in love with her; and, if he had but known it, the craving was mutual.

    Poor Ellen, in all her chilled life, had never met any human being whom she liked as she liked Philip Tenterden.  It was more than liking, it was an instinct impossible to explain, of mingled trust and tenderness.  What she had felt that first evening would perhaps never come to her again—thanks to her mother's tongue—that satisfying sense of safety and happiness.  She did not say to herself, "Here is one human being who will not hurt me knowingly or unknowingly," but she felt it, and expanded in it as in light and freedom.  Thus they were mutually giving pleasure, and unconsciously the pleasure and satisfaction would ray from the one to the other, in word and smile and lightest touch.

    On the third evening a little incident happened which called this mutual feeling into active play.  Philip had taken up a packet folded in brown paper and tied with cord, but with nothing unusual about it, and with not even a name to indicate its contents; there was only a date written outside and a black seal.  Breaking the seal and cutting the cord he came upon a bundle of yellow letters, written in faded ink, and he had no sooner glanced over the first than he put it back again and handed the packet to Mrs. Austin, saying, "This is private."

    She took it from him with a smile, and began also to peruse the letter; but the smile quickly faded and her hand trembled a little.

    Philip continued to look at her, as if he awaited her decision.  Her downcast eyes were still fixed on the faded page; but she was not seeing, she was striving to force back the coming tears.  When he became aware of this, Philip averted his face, and he felt sure that she wept a little, and was anxious to hide her emotion from her mother.  After a few minutes she laid the packet down by itself and resumed her task without speaking.

    But a little later Mrs. Torrance rose and went out of the room, after searching her bag and muttering, "I thought I had another ball."  She had gone up to her room to fetch one.  To be bereft of occupation for her tongue was bad enough, but to be left without work for her hands as well was unendurable.  Mrs. Torrance suffered from a diseased activity of body and mind.

    Then Mrs. Austin rose and took the little packet, and stooped to place it in the fire.

    "Will you not look through it first?" said Philip, quickly.

    "No," she answered sadly.  "He never mentioned her name to me.  He would not wish it."

    "Still I do not think they should be destroyed unread," he ventured to say; "a mere glance would suffice."

    "Will you look over them then, and destroy them one by one?" and she held the packet towards him.  He hesitated.  The letter he had read was full of terms of endearment.

    "I cannot do it," she urged.  "Mr. Tenterden, perhaps you know that my life has not been a happy one.  It has had in it more of sorrow than of love.  I think he must have loved her, and her only.  Oh! I wish he had but told me.  It would have made a difference.  He did not care for me at all, and I—I would have loved him if he would have let me."  Her face was quivering all over with pain.

    Philip took the packet from her hands.  "I am not too happy, Mrs. Austin," he said; "and therefore I may be allowed to sympathise with you;" and he passed his own hand gently over the hand that lay in his for a moment, thrilling the woman through with a passion of tender pain, which she would gladly have wept out at his feet.

    But just then Mrs. Torrance entered.  There was a slight elevation of the eyebrows as she saw the changed attitude of the pair, both standing on the hearthrug, and both visibly moved.  But neither vouchsafed an explanation.  Mrs. Austin made way for her mother, and Philip began unfolding letter after letter, glancing at their contents and committing them to the flames.

    "Have you come upon anything particular?" inquired Mrs. Torrance, unable to restrain her curiosity.

    "Some early love-letters, mamma," said Mrs. Austin.

    "Oh, I should have liked a look at them," said Mrs. Torrance.

    "I have not looked at them," replied Mrs. Austin, with gentle emphasis; and Philip coolly finished putting them into the heart of the fire, a proceeding which sealed his fate with Mrs. Torrance.

    When the black marble timepiece on the mantelshelf chimed ten, Philip prepared to shut up the box and to say good night, as usual.

    Mrs. Torrance interposed.  "My dear," she said, addressing her daughter, "you are not thinking of going to work at those papers on Christmas week; surely you will let them stand over for a little."

    "I had forgotten, mamma," she answered; and then turning to Philip, with a smile, "I must not! think of troubling you for a week or two," she said.

    "Pray do not think of me," replied Philip, sincerely; "it is anything but a trouble.  You do not know how empty and dull my evenings are, and how pleasant it is to find a use for them.  Let me come if you are disengaged."

    Mrs. Torrance had never heard such a confident speech from any young man in the course of her life.

    "No, we will agree to take a holiday," replied Mrs. Austin.  "I shall improvise a little party for this day week, Christmas Eve; and you will come, will you not?  I need not send you a formal invitation, there will only be a few mutual friends."

    "I will come," said Philip, answering her look of entreaty; but his own had clouded, and he could not add the customary "with pleasure."

    "I shall expect you then.  We dine at six," she said; and "good nights" were exchanged.

    Mrs. Torrance could hardly believe her own ears.  Improvise a party without consulting her, and ask this audacious young man on quite an intimate footing!  She must really speak seriously to Ellen.

    They were no sooner alone than she began, using this time a little diplomacy.  "Ellen, my love, you really must beware, or Mr. Tenterden will take your kindness to him for more than it really means, I think I can see—and I'm sure you have often acknowledged how clearly I see into those sort of things—he cares a great deal more for you than you think.  If you don't wish to encourage him—"

    Mrs. Torrance stopped abruptly, for her daughter had once more moved away—once more shrouded herself in the heavy curtains.  It was a habit of hers to look out thus.  But she was not this time hiding a hurt, she was looking up to the moon in the clear lofty sky, with a face all transfigured with a strange joy.  She was thinking, "Is it so?" and for a moment she realised the sweetness of the hope; but only for a moment.  Such happiness was not for her, who had bartered her life away; and there rose before her a vision of Lucy Tabor in all the glow and freshness of her youth, and contrasting herself with the vision, she felt the joy was not for her.

    After what seemed to her mother so long a pause that she started to receive an answer, Ellen stepped quietly back to the table.  "Mamma," she said, with unusual sternness, "I think you are mistaken; but at any rate, please do not speak in this way again.  Let me take people just as I find them; let me make of my life what may still be made of it.  I am not likely to err on the side of rashness."

    "Very well, Ellen," said Mrs. Torrance, angered more at the tone than at the words, and more at what was unsaid than what was said.  "Perhaps I had better leave you.  Bessie will take me in, though her husband does all he can to make me uncomfortable.  Or there's Julia; she'll want me in the course of a month or so.  Poor thing! she can hardly make ends meet, and can't put me up very well, but I'm always welcome.  I'll go to Julia's."

    Mrs. Austin allowed her mother to run on.  Bessie and Julia were her sisters, from whose homes Mrs. Torrance periodically retreated, vowing that, unless in a case of life and death, she would never enter them again.

    At this point something possessed Mrs. Torrance to cry, a thing which she was not in the habit of doing.  "It's very hard at my time of life," she sobbed, "to be bundled about in this way, and I did think I could have been at peace with you, Ellen."

    "Mamma, mamma!" cried Ellen, in the greatest grief, "pray do not speak in that way; you who have been so good to us, have done so much for us.  Forgive me, mammy dear;" and she flung herself at her mother's feet.

    Mrs. Torrance's ascendency was once more complete.  It was quite true she had been a devoted, if not a tender, mother.  Many a day and many a night she had worked for her children till her limbs had ached and her eyes grown dim; she had denied herself rest and comfort, and even warmth and food, that they might be warmed and fed; she had sat up stitching, ironing, plaiting, knitting, netting, and crocheting, that they might look fair without and be cosy within; and none of her self-denials and sacrifices were forgotten by this Cordelia of hers.  Nor did they appear the less because they were made the most of.


 
CHAPTER IX.

WAS IT WELL DONE?




had accepted two invitations for Christmas week—viz., to dine at Mrs. Austin's on Christmas Eve, and on the following day at his partner Mr. Tabor's.  The company assembled in Mrs. Austin's room, which he was the last to enter, consisted of the Tabors, Fanny Lovejoy, and the incumbent of the district church—all friends, as Mrs. Austin had said, and they went to dinner in the following order: the clergyman, Mr. Huntingdon, took Mrs. Austin, Mr. Tabor took Mrs. Torrance, and Philip took Mrs. Tabor, Lucy and Miss Lovejoy bringing up the rear.  But at table Philip was seated between the two latter.  Philip could not well have been placed in a position more trying to him.  There he was, seated between an attraction which he had the strongest determination to repel, and a repulsion which he had the good grace to desire at least to conceal.  Philip was certainly very unfair to Fanny; but he was by no means fair in many things.  Mrs. Tabor, watching her darling, and seeing the look of sweet content which dawned upon her face as she took her seat beside him, felt mightily indignant at his unfairness.  That impulsive little woman had the strongest desire to cross over from her place, and bodily protect her little Lucy by taking her away from his side.  "If he didn't want to marry Lucy, why didn't he go and marry somebody else and make an end of himself?" she had said, to her husband's amusement, for the subject had been renewed more than once between them.  She felt sure that in some way he had been tampering with the child's affections.  "After all, he may be only waiting to have something more to offer her," suggested Mr. Tabor.

    "As if we would only part with her to the highest bidder!" cried Mrs. Tabor, indignantly.  "He has a great deal more than you had when I engaged myself to you," she added; "you had only three hundred a year."

    "And you had nothing at all," said Mr. Tabor, fondly.  "But, my love, I tell you frankly, I don't understand Philip.  He has not been open with me lately about his affairs; it is just possible, however, that he may be saving in order to marry.  You know young people nowadays can't set up house on a hundred or two as we did, and Philip had less than nothing to start with."

    Lucy had begun to prattle to Philip in her soft fresh voice, and he answered in almost savage monosyllables, the effect of the restraint he was putting on himself, for he at least had made up his mind that he was not in a position to marry Lucy Tabor, and he had as great a horror of tampering with the girl's affections as Mrs. Tabor could possibly have desired.

    Fanny went on eating her dinner in silence.  Poor Fanny, she stood just a little in awe of Philip, and had done so ever since his boyhood, when he had been both disagreeably conscientious and conscientiously disagreeable, and had frequently in these moods fallen foul of the slipshod Fanny.  She loved him, but it was from household use and wont, and because she was of a loving nature; but he had been more or less to her a veritable enfant terrible.  Also at the present moment Fanny had upon her mind a feather bed—not metaphorical but actual, a feather bed with all the appurtenances thereof, and sundry other articles of furniture, which she had sent off to her uncle's house out of her own.  And though these things were strictly hers to do with as she would, she felt quite as guilty as many another would who had stolen them, and also, though she was not under the slightest compulsion to tell Philip what she had done, she had a well-founded conviction that out it would come.

    Gradually Lucy began to wonder at Philip.  She glanced up at him from time to time, puzzled at first, and then hurt—grievously hurt, so hurt that her heart seemed in her throat, and she could scarcely swallow a morsel.  Lucy had in former days been petted by Philip.  She had sat on his knee.  He had stroked her hair and her hands with a peculiar caressing touch, which the child had loved; and though they had met but seldom recently, there was outwardly the old frankness between them still.  Even at her party the other night, though he had held aloof at first, he had come to her at last, and had stayed by her, making her heart beat fast with pleasure.  What had she done to offend him?  She could not account for it at all.

    And yet it was not difficult to account for Philip's conduct.  He had resolved to give up all idea of Lucy, and had begun to banish her image from his very thoughts, when that unlucky party placed him once more so near her that to resist the attraction became impossible.  He had resisted it as long as he could, and then getting warm with excitement he yielded, and for the rest of the evening had defied all prudence and self-control, though he heard their voices plainly enough.  But he had determined never to risk so much again, for what he put in peril was not only his own honour but Lucy's happiness.

    Therefore he answered abruptly, moodily, even harshly, the remarks which Lucy addressed to him, and made her feel that she had never been so unhappy in the whole course of her life.  Poor Mrs. Austin, engrossed by Mr. Huntingdon, little thought of the discomfort of at least three of her guests.

    Mr. Huntingdon was a large, fair, comfortable-looking young man, with an air of great self-satisfaction; that would have been Philip's description of him.  But the ladies around him, and they were but a sample of some hundreds, would have pronounced it an inexcusably unfair one.  He was of course the idol of a circle, naturally and necessarily, for he was the only creature to whom, from the dead level of their suburban society, they could lift their eyes.  And he was by no means an unpleasing object.  He was good, he was handsome, he was tolerably cultivated, and he had about him a manly simplicity, which his admirers were doing their best to spoil.  He was poor, and the church was not endowed.  He was remunerated for his labours by a moiety of the seat-rents.  It was therefore necessary to keep up the congregation, in order to keep out of debt.  He had to get up, and to keep up, an amount of fervour which he found it difficult to maintain—at least, in the atmosphere of the St. Luke's congregation.  It was very difficult to sustain any fervour at all in the presence of that sea of millinery, blooming faces and shiny pates of comfortable papas, who asked him to dine with them, and discussed passing events, while they guarded against the least allusion to those spiritual matters which were the work of the clergyman's life.  No one in that congregation appeared to have any troubles—no one appeared to have any sins.  Our clergyman, who longed to do battle with real evil in men's lives and souls, found himself fighting with shadows.  It took the heart out of him, for his was the heart of a worker, not of a preacher; he was no preacher—few are.  He took occasion to lament his luke-warmness openly, and it had a great effect.  He was held to be quite apostolic; his church filled, and he became popular, and was of course tempted to preach in the style which made him so.  Every effort which he made after thorough sincerity of life seemed to lead him further from it.

    When the three gentlemen were left to themselves, Mr. Huntingdon succeeded in leading the conversation into a more serious channel than usual; and in the course of it Philip broached some opinions which startled the clergyman, as coming from one who considered that he had a right to be held a member of the Church of England.  Philip was not sorry to startle Mr. Huntingdon.  He was not a perfect character; he was out of temper with himself and things in general, and he gave undue prominence to what rested in his mind as speculation rather than belief.  And when Philip asserted that he believed a great many people were going about in the world without souls, having literally and truly lost them, Mr. Huntingdon set him down as dangerous, and all the more dangerous that he attempted to support the theory by reason, and even by the authority of Scripture.  Mr. Huntingdon knew nothing of Philip's life; but even if he had known it to be more blameless than most, he would never have endorsed the maxim, "He can't be wrong whose life is in the right."  He would, on the contrary, have held most conscientiously to the converse, that his life could not be right who was in the wrong with his creed.

    Mr. Tabor, always cautious and peace-loving, seeing how matters were going between the two young men, made a motion to join the ladies.  These ideas of Philip's revealed to him a new, and rather uncomfortable phase of his junior partner's mind.

    So they adjourned to the drawing-room, and Mr. Huntingdon at once made his way to the place where Mrs. Austin was seated by the side of Mrs. Tabor.  Mr. Tabor went over and joined Fanny and Mrs. Torrance; and the former seized upon the opportunity to give him an account of her uncle and cousins.  Lucy had been playing already, and Mrs. Austin had begged her to go on.  Common politeness required the unattached Philip to go and turn over the leaves of her music for her, which he accordingly did.

    "Sing us something, Lucy," cried her father, when she paused, and Lucy sang.  Mr. Tabor, listening (for he loved his daughter's music), caught a depth of tone in it which he had never heard before; and he could not help exclaiming when she had finished the song, "Well done, Lucy!"

    Was it well done?  It was the pain at her heart that wrung the music out.  She was being taught to love by love's suffering instead of by its joy, though as yet she did not know that it was so.  When she had finished her song, she smiled as she thanked Philip and turned away, and he allowed her to pass over to her mother's side.  It was Lucy's first sorrow, and her first dissimulation was to hide it, which the girl did heroically.

    Shortly after, the Tabors went away and broke up the little party.  Once at home, Lucy kissed her father and mother with a semblance of her old gaiety, and ran up-stairs to her own room.  But in her own room she knelt for a long time quite dumbly.  She had no words for the pain within her.  The thought in her heart was only, "Why do I suffer thus?"

    On the morrow Lucy joined in the household greetings, and walked to church with her father, a little paler than her wont, which was all that showed outwardly of the change within.  The last time she had sat there with her parents, listening to the Christmas service, she had been a mere child—so it seemed to herself; she could look back upon herself as so different.  Only now had she come into a separate existence, with a life and experience of her own, and it was pain.  And yet the pain was a quickening one, as if she had passed from winter into spring—had come forth into bud and blossom, though the wind was cold, and the frost might blight and wither.

    In the evening at her father's house the company was the same, with two additions—Mr. Wildish, and a young doctor who had settled in the neighbourhood; both units, like Philip and Fanny, who had no circle to gather to.  But under the new arrangement, necessitated by these added units, a complete change was wrought upon the rest.  The party was as lively and merry as Mrs. Austin's had been chill and dismal.  Lucy was seated between Arthur Wildish and the doctor; the latter robustly sanguine, as a young physician ought to be, the former, who was of Celtic blood, with a quite un-English flow of enthusiasm and spirits; and on the surface Lucy was gay.  Even Philip, seated by Mrs. Austin was charmed into accord with the general geniality.

    It was only at the close of the evening that he discovered, or thought he discovered in Mr. Wildish a tendency to hover about Lucy, as a bee hovers round a blossom, and that he found it necessary to stand beside her, to protect her from his buzzing.

    Philip could not help smiling, when he found the the subject of the conversation which had roused his jealousy was working men's clubs.  "Confess that you know rather more about the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands, Lucy, than about the habits of working men," said Philip.

    "I fear it is true," said Lucy, "but I can listen; and Mr. Wildish has been telling me a great deal about them.  He has been giving me an account of a club he has helped to establish, where they go to read the newspapers and amuse themselves."

    "And I assure you," said Wildish, turning to Philip, "that some of them are as nice, intelligent fellows as you could wish to meet."

    "I don't see anything remarkable in that," said Philip.  "There is far greater equality of intelligence among men than we are apt to suppose; and I wonder that working men can endure to be treated like a parcel of children, and petted and patted on the back perpetually."

    "Our club is to be self-supporting," said Wildish, "all that we have done is to initiate it."

    "Whatever is worth doing for them, they can do for themselves if they choose," said Philip; "and they don't choose, there is no good done at all."

    "May not we, who have leisure and cultivation, help them to choose?" said Wildish, eagerly.

    "Working men will soon be the most leisurely class in the kingdom," said Philip.  "What man who is going to do anything for himself sets out by working only nine hours a day?"

    "But surely nine hours is enough to devote to hard manual labour?" said Wildish.

    "No, it isn't, unless a man wants to do something harder," said Philip.

    "Too bad," cried Wildish, laughing; "all work and no play you know."

    "What are the things you think best worth having, Wildish?" asked Philip. "Money?"

    "No."

    "Ah, well, that's because you have enough of it; but suppose you had not enough of it, and could get nothing that you wanted without it?"

    "Well, we'll say money then," said Wildish.

    "After that education, social consideration, the right to rise into any position for which you were fitted—these are the best things as regards this life.  They are within reach of the working men, but they must work harder, and deny themselves more than, as a class, they have any idea of, in order to get them."

    "I don't see how that bears upon our argument," said Wildish.  "You are against working men's clubs."

    "No, I am not," said Philip.

    "Well, you are against people of education, people of the upper classes, helping to establish them?"

    "No again.  I am only in favour of working men doing that, and far greater things, for themselves."

    "But their wants claim our consideration, do they not?" said Wildish.

    "And I want them to claim a far higher consideration," said Philip.

    "Mr. Wildish would lead them to higher things," broke in Lucy, blushing.

    At this Mr. Wildish looked radiant.

    "And Philip," she added, turning to him, "I know you want to be able to treat them as true equals, and to meet them wherever men may meet as such."

    "What are you disputing so vehemently, with Miss Tabor for umpire?" said the doctor, coming up.

    Mr. Wildish gave the information.

    "Then you ought to beg Miss Tabor's pardon for discussing such a subject with her," returned the doctor, whose manners and ideas were somewhat underbred.

    "No, indeed," said Lucy, earnestly, and not in the least intending to flatter Mr. Wildish, "I have been very much interested."

    But the doctor had broken up the discussion, and Lucy was called upon to sing; so the little group separated immediately, nor did it form again, only when Philip was saying good-bye, and Lucy found herself beside him for a moment out of the others' hearing, she took courage to whisper, "Are you offended with me, Philip?"

    "Have I been cross to you, Lucy?" he said, for answer.

    "Something very like it," she replied, between laughing and crying.

    "Forgive me," he whispered; "I am very wretched."

    There was no time for more.  Her eyes had questioned, but he could not answer; and the effect of his words he could not possibly foresee.  Their effect was to make Lucy forget her own grievance and dwell completely upon his, giving up her whole heart to yearning tenderness.


 
CHAPTER X.

ARTHUR WILDISH.




year was about six weeks old when Philip and Mrs. Austin resumed their interrupted task; and Philip, on his part, resumed it with alacrity.  He was beginning to feel the mode of life which he had adopted very irksome in its isolation, and very narrowing in its denials.  It was cutting him off from the sympathy even of the men whom he met in the hours of business.  He could feel a taunt as acutely as most men, and he did not escape being taunted on his parsimony on more than one occasion.  A certain tone of unfriendliness began to appear against him among some.  Those who persisted in being friendly were, if possible, a still greater trouble to him.  Young Wildish was one of these; and he was fated just then to see a good deal of Wildish.  On one pretext or another the young man began to haunt the chambers of Messrs. Tabor and Tenterden.  Mr. Tabor, it is true, had been lately putting some work in his way, and had been very friendly to him, owing to the warm recommendation of an old friend of his own.  Philip had already seen Wildish more than once depart homewards with Mr. Tabor, the young man leaning on the elder's arm, and he could follow him in imagination into the bright and genial atmosphere of Lucy's home, and into the light of Lucy's presence.  And going back to that shabby lodging of his, and to the company of his own hard thoughts, was not very pleasant after that.

    Then Wildish had taken it into his head to obtain Philip's special favour, and it was very difficult to resist his advances, made as they were without calculation and without warning.  It was difficult to resist the flash of a pair of frank eyes, blue as wild hyacinths, the grasp of a warm hand that had the feel of true fellowship, and the words, simple and manly enough, but with a strange ring in them, coming from one young man to another, in which he sought Philip's friendship—"I want you to be my friend, Tenterden.  There's nobody I like so well.  Let's go and dine together," or, "You'll come and hear me read my paper at the S. S. A.?"

    And Philip went and heard him read his paper "On Co-operation;" (for Wildish was an enthusiast in social reform, and talked and wrote the wildest Ruskinese,) and having heard him, got up in his most savage mood and, as poor Wildish said, "knocked down the heads of his neatly got-up paper like a row of nine-pins."

    "I wish you had chosen the bar," said Wildish, after the meeting, linking his arm in Philip's, as his manner was.  "You could have done anything—risen to the woolsack.  And now to show you I don't bear malice I'll take you to a capital place for a little supper."

    "You'll do no such thing," said Philip.  "I don't want you to spend your money."

    "Nonsense!  I've more than I can spend," said Wildish.

    "Then found something, and confound those theories of yours.  Good night;" and he left poor Wildish looking as wistful as a woman.  And then he went back to him and volunteered to go home with him to his luxurious West-end lodgings, with a tender care that the younger man, with his riches and his freedom and his innocence, might not fall a prey to the many temptations of the great city, and the feeling unconsciously tinged Philip's tone towards him, and brought forth in return some affectionate sallies that almost made Philip blush.  And before they parted Wildish confided to him his admiration for Lucy Tabor, for which piece of presumption Philip could have boxed his ears.

    Those evenings with Mrs. Austin began to appear to Philip like a haven of refuge, and he was glad to receive the little note which recalled him.

    When he went he found Mrs. Austin alone, and she explained that since she had written—indeed, that very morning, her mother had been called away.  But it seemed to make no difference; they did very well without Mrs. Torrance, and went on with their task just as if she had been there.  Perhaps they heard one another's voices a little oftener, or more frequently made a little digression from the business in hand; but they were hardly aware that they did.  Neither of them had ever come in contact with a mind so deeply in accord with their own.  Neither had ever felt companionship so perfect or so sweet.

    At the close of the next evening they had begun to calculate how long it would take them to finish the papers that remained, and Philip had boldly said he should be sorry to see the end of them.

    After this it was inevitable that they should think of each other after they parted for the night.  Philip, walking homeward, thought there was even yet a possibility of happiness for him in the future if this one woman would consent to love him and to help him.  The same obstacle existed in Mrs. Austin's case as in Lucy's—she was rich.  Philip was suffering from some form or other of pecuniary embarrassment.  He thought of her help even more than of her love.  And yet why would it be more honourable to seek to marry her than to seek to marry Lucy?  Perhaps, it was that he set a greater value on Lucy's love, which was as yet an altogether unknown quantity; whatever it might be, unless be could enter the lists at once he had not the slightest chance of it.

    The Wildish affair was rushing rapidly to a conclusion, and that irrepressible being was evidently, and doubtless with good reason, full of hope.  He had even begun to speak to Philip of what was necessary and desirable in the way of settlements—not mentioning any names—and of what was requisite in the shape of a mansion for a newly-married man with a few thousands a year to begin with.  He even showed an exasperating interest in the shop windows, as he and Philip walked together to exchange a volume at Mudie's.

    Now the truth was that Wildish had boldly attacked Mr. Tabor, and taken him at a disadvantage.  He had asked to be received on the footing of Lucy's lover, and it was all in vain that Mr. Tabor protested sincerely, but laughingly, that he would rather see him no more, as he had no wish to get rid of his daughter.  It was too bad, he said, to ask him to encourage a deliberate robber.  But the young man pleaded that somebody or other would rob him of his treasure soon, and if he had no objection to his person or fortune, it was but fair to let him try.  He had been quite open.  He had not spoken to Lucy at all.  Mr. Tabor took that into the most favourable consideration.  Mrs. Tabor went over to his side with enthusiasm, with that infatuation which mothers have for seeing their daughters married; and there he was, staying with the Tabors from Saturday to Monday, and dining there once or twice a week besides.  And Lucy was always glad to see him, and never once set down his frequent visits to her own account.  It was not the first time a friendless young man had been made free of her father's house.  He was a companion of her own age, and Lucy enjoyed his companionship, and the fulness of that companionship, and the impulsive kindliness of Arthur Wildish's manner quite covered the tenderness of his love—indeed, warm-hearted as he was, Wildish had not the peculiar quality of tenderness, and he did not miss its manifestation in Lucy.  He was, as Philip saw, full of hope, and Mr. Tabor had already conveyed several hints to his junior partner of how matters appeared to stand.

    It was hard lines for Philip, and he felt it, and gave himself quite enough of pity to keep his pain thoroughly alive and stinging—a species of self-torture in which we all indulge more or less.  But on the whole he bore it like a man.  He had lost his greatest stake and another had won, and all the issues of the game would be different—nay, his very interest in it was partly gone; but he was not going to give up.  Blankness he could not endure; rather, from the nature of his mind, blankness was an impossibility to him.  He must look forward to something, and he looked forward to a friendship with Mrs. Austin, a life-long friendship, not without love.  He would never be able to love her as he loved Lucy.  Little Lucy, who had grown up before him from child to woman, had grown into his soul.  And perhaps he was right.  The fresh untried nature, wrapped intender mystery, has a perpetual and peculiar charm, and must be treated with all tenderness, and to pour out tenderness was in Philip's nature.  Mrs. Austin had suffered, and they could have fellowship in suffering, which was quite another thing.  He could tell her all the circumstances of his case when the time came, make demands upon her sympathy, and at length marry her when freed from his secret embarrassments.

    It did not strike him that he was going rather empty-handed to her from whom he expected so much.  Poor Ellen, she had had quite enough of chill negation in her life, and just then she was entertaining far other dreams—dreams which were shedding a rare, late splendour over her life—a life in which she moved freely because in perfect harmony with the mind of her companion, and in which she could sacrifice herself with complete satisfaction, making his life the channel for the fulness of her own.


 
CHAPTER XI.

IS FANNY TO BE FLEECED?


MEANTIME Fanny Lovejoy's new-found relations had been giving her a great deal of anxiety.  Never had they been so unfortunate, according to Mr. Lovejoy, whose imagination always illuminated the past and the future, and Fanny did not know that he had repeated the same phrase a hundred times under the pressure of present trial.  In the first place, work was scarce, and Mrs. Lovejoy and her two daughters were thrown idle.  It was of no use going from warehouse to warehouse, their stocks were complete for the season, and each had the same dreary answer, "Nothing to do."  It was in vain that Mr. Lovejoy received an advance—that is to say, borrowed from his employer on the goods of his which he was going to sell and didn't, the daily needs of the family swallowed up everything.  Beatrice gave a proportion of her earnings, by no means more than sufficient for what she received, and could not be induced, even by the sight of her mother's and sisters' sufferings, to give more.  It was absolutely necessary for them to eat, and when they came to the last loaf—that is, the last loaf which they were allowed to eat on credit—something had to be "put away" to get money to buy the next.  That something was Fanny's feather bed, followed by Fanny's warm blankets, given up just when their warmth was most grateful to the poor souls, whose nourishment consisted of tea and bread.

    Hearing nothing of them for several weeks, Fanny had gone to see them, and had found things in this plight.  Mr. Lovejoy would have concealed the fact that the gifts of his niece were gone; but Mrs. Lovejoy was bent upon telling, that she might not have it on her mind, and Mr. Lovejoy had covered her retreat by a rapid fire of talk concerning the hopes and expectations of the coming spring, when work would be abundant and sales unprecedented.  Fanny thought the girls looked very dreary.  They were dirty and dejected, and both had colds, and it made their cousin's kind heart sick to think that they were suffering from want of the food and warmth which she had in abundance.  In her shy way she gave Mrs. Lovejoy money for immediate necessities, and was going away, when the thought occurred to her that she might take one of the girls to be a kind of companion, and she mentioned it at once, saying, "One of the girls might come and stay with me, as they are doing nothing.  It would be a nice change for either Ada or Geraldine; and if we liked each other we need not be in a hurry to part, you know."

    Mr. Lovejoy was delighted.  Which of them would Fanny prefer to have?

    Neither of the girls spoke.  Ada looked at her father wistfully, and Geraldine looked at her mother, with an eager light in her eyes, which said plainly, "Let me go."

    Mrs. Lovejoy was suffering a pang new in her maternal experience; death had taken her children, and she had parted with them painfully enough, but it was almost more painful to have them choose to go away from her thus.  And yet it would be wrong in her to refuse to let one go—never to come back to share her troubles any more, and so never to be her real daughter any more.  She knew it would end in this way and in no other.  For what had she to share with them, only when Geraldine looked at her so, it broke her heart.

    "Ada had better go," said Mr. Lovejoy, seeing that no one spoke.

    "Oh, father, don't send me," Ada found courage to say; "I want to stay with you."

    "Jerry, you want to go?" said her mother.

    "Yes, mother," said the girl, frankly; "but it's best, as papa says, for Ada to go.  I can get work sooner than Ada.  She can't go about to the shops as I can, and she can't help you so well.  Let Ada go".

    "You shall settle it among yourselves," said Fanny, taking her leave of them; "only one of you will come," and she nodded to her young cousins; "you know you needn't stay if you don't like living with me."

    And they settled it speedily enough; Ada was to go.  It was some consolation to Mrs. Lovejoy that the lot fell to the unwilling Ada, who parted from her old home with regrets and lamentations not very flattering to her new one.  And immediately the seemingly quiet and passive girl was installed in Fanny's cosy home, and became part and parcel of the furniture of Fanny's life.  Fanny was very good to her; but she was rather distressed that her gifts made no impression on the girl—not that she wanted gratitude; but her unresponsive acceptance seemed to argue a heart that had no response to make.  But it was not long before Fanny found the spring that unlocked it.  When she proposed the smallest kindness to her father or mother, or to her sister Geraldine, the girl's wistful eyes gathered light and her pale face alacrity and brightness.  Fanny's union with the family became closer every day—closer than she had ever contemplated.  Ada was never so happy as when she was allowed to go and see "them at home," and she was therefore allowed to go as often as she chose, or when she was not allowed to go, for she fell rather ill on Fanny's hands, one or other of the family came to see her.  Through Ada all the details of their poverty became, known to Fanny.  The only one of the family concerning whom Ada was reticent was her brother Albert, of him she never spoke at all.

    But one day Ada was favoured with a call from Albert, and she happened to be alone to receive him.  He came swaggering into the room where she sat reading, and the girl received him coldly, without any of that kindling of eye and face which showed when she was pleased.  "What have you come for?" she said, rising; "is somebody ill?"

    "No," he said; "why should you think somebody must be ill?"

    "I only wondered what had brought you here," she replied.

    "The train brought me," he answered rudely.  Albert Lovejoy's manners were the manners of his set, and they were by no means conciliatory.  Ada waited for him to speak after that.

    "I'm not welcome to your ladyship, I see," he said mockingly; "I'm come a begging, you suppose, don't you?  Come, Ada," he added in another tone, "I want you to do something for me.  I'm terribly down on my luck.  I want you to get the old girl to lend me ten or a dozen pounds.  My month's screw will be paid next week, and I'll pay it back—I will indeed."

    "What do you want the money for, Albert?" she said, looking quickly at him, all her passiveness gone, and speaking with a decision that seemed quite new in her.

    He flushed as he answered, "To make up some money I lost last week; ten pounds out of petty cash.  I'm a lucky fellow," he added, with a forced laugh, "am I not?  There's no end of a row in our place over anything of the sort—just as if fellows were thieves."

    "Did you lose this money or spend it, Albert?" asked his sister.

    "I've told you I lost it," replied Albert, sulkily.  (It was true, he had lost it—at play.)  "I'll lose my situation over this paltry piece of business," he went on—"that is, if I can't pay up the money; and I can't afford to lose it.  I could do a great deal better for myself, of course; but I can't go out like an unmarried man, and they know it too," he swaggered.

    At this juncture Fanny appeared, and both brother and sister kept silence.

    "How is Emily?" said Fanny, kindly, when she had shaken hands with Albert, who was her least frequent visitor—indeed, she had never seen him since the Sunday he dined there.  "Why did you not bring her with you?"

    "Beg to be excused," he said, with an attempt at waggery.  "Em'ly cries from morning to night, and the baby from night to morning."

    "Dear me!" said Fanny; "they must be ill."

    "If Em'ly could be set up a little," said Ada, with the wisdom of fifteen, "the baby would get better, and cease fretting."

    Albert laughed, but not pleasantly, and Fanny asked him to be seated, but he continued to stand.

    "I've been telling Ada what I came for," he said.  "I've been very unlucky, and lost ten pounds of my employer's money, and I want you to lend it to me for a week or two."

    "Dear me!" said Fanny, reddening; "I'm sorry I've not got so much in the house.  It's in the second half of the quarter," she added, apologetically, "and you know I draw my income quarterly—that is, Mr. Tenterden brings it to me."  Fanny did not say that her quarter's income had not lasted out, so great had been the drafts already made upon her.

    "It's very hard," said Albert, in an injured tone.

    Fanny quite felt she was doing him an injury when he recapitulated the likelihood of his losing his situation and being suspected of dishonesty.

    Ada had remained neutral till now.

    "Mother will be in a fine way if I get disgraced," said her brother, looking at her; and her face became eager in a moment.

    "What can I do?" asked the helpless Fanny.

    Nobody answered her; but Ada, seeing her perplexity, went over to her side and crouched down by her chair.

    Albert did not offer to go.  It was very painful to Fanny, and becoming every moment more painful.  She must make a final decision.  It was this he was waiting for.  Fanny found it impossible to make the decision against him.

    "Dear me! dear me!" she kept repeating; and then it occurred to her to say, "but surely the gentleman would wait if it was all explained to him."

    "No, I assure you he won't wait; you don't know what business is," said Albert.  "The governor is hard as nails.  He wouldn't believe I had lost it if I went down on my knees to him."

    "Could you wait till to-morrow?" asked Fanny, at the last of her defences, and thinking within herself that she would borrow the money somewhere.

    "It'll be all up with me if I wait till to-morrow," he said, thinking that the present opportunity must not be allowed to slip.

    Then Fanny rose and went to her desk, and wrote a little note to Philip Tenterden, in which she asked him to give the bearer ten pounds, adding that the said bearer would explain to him the necessities of the case.

    Albert accepted the solution, though not very cheerfully, and went away, going straight to Philip's quarters, which, as it took some time, and the evening was far advanced, he did not reach till after that gentleman's return.

    Their mutual antagonism was apparent at the first encounter.  They did not offer to shake hands.  Philip took the note held forth by Albert, and coldly motioned him to a seat.  Very coldly he then requested the explanation mentioned in the note.

    "I don't know what you mean by an explanation," swaggered Albert.

    "You will see by reading this;" and Philip handed back to him Fanny's little note.

    "The explanation is, that I lost the money, and it was not mine to lose, and must be made good at once," said Albert, sulkily.

    "But how did you lose it?" asked Philip.

    "That's none of your business," said Albert, losing his temper completely.  "It's not your money I'm asking a loan of."

    While this was going on a rapid argument had been passing through Philip's mind.  "These people are fleecing Fanny," he thought; "and I ought not to allow her to be fleeced."  Then he answered, "I cannot let you have this money; Miss Lovejoy has already drawn her quarter's interest, and I must see her before I can advance another."

    "You see what she says!" cried Albert, passionately.

    "I do."

    "And you won't let me have it?"

    "I will not."

    "I should like to know what right you have to refuse.  She can take her money out of your hands any day," was Albert's rejoinder.

    But Philip stood his ground, and to this he merely bowed.

    And Albert took his departure, muttering threats and insinuations, in which Philip caught and winced at the words, "You'll repent of this."


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"She can take her money out of your hands any day," was Albert's rejoinder."

 
CHAPTER XII.

DRIFT.




the past weeks the private history of the Lovejoy family had been a very sad one.  The old couple who had brought up Albert's wife had some time before retired to Brighton, and Emily had been asked to bring her children and spend the Christmas week with them.  As the money necessary for the journey was sent, and more might be forthcoming, her husband had suffered her to go.

    So Emily went, and stayed a fortnight instead of a week, and was petted and made much of by her old friends.  The poor thing cried a great deal even there.  She cried with gratitude, she cried with excitement, she cried with pleasure, just as at home she cried with weariness and vexation.  But the cause was physical, and did not arise from temper at all.  She needed rest and quiet to heal her fretted nerves, and fresh air and tempting food to restore her strength, and before the fortnight had elapsed, under these influences her tears had ceased to flow.  But her uncle had made up his mind to see her home, and he did, for there had come out the pitiful fact, that she was afraid to return after having stayed a week longer than was fixed.  Her uncle could understand her.  He feared some positive ill-treatment; he did not know that she shrank from an unkind word more than some would shrink from blow.

    It was late when they reached home, andMrs. Lovejoy herself opened the door.

    "I came to take care of George," said the gentleman, getting out of the cab with the fellow sleeping on his shoulder.

    This would have been reason good in Mrs. I joy's eyes at any other time, for she doated on child, but being in an irritable mood she muttered something about it's being a pity when people could not take care of their own children.  She had always considered her daughter-in-law a poor creature.

    "I'm sure you look well," she went on, greeting Emily as if she grudged the poor girl her faint roses.  Emily's lips quivered, but she got out with baby and went into the parlour.  "Where is Albert?" she asked.

    "He's not at home," replied Albert's mother; "it's rather dull work staying at home when other people are away enjoying themselves."

    Emily began to cry.

    "Be good, dear mamma,—be good," said little George, who had roused himself, and was looking round brightly.

    It was what she said to him when he cried, and she might have made answer in his own baby phrase, "I can't be good."

    Mrs. Lovejoy gave her a candle, and her uncle, who had been settling with the cabman, followed her up-stairs.  Then she sat down and cried afresh.  The baby stared in wonderment, the child stood wistfully at her knees, and the old man patted her shoulder.


(Drawn by ROBERT BARNES)

"Then she sat down and cried afresh."


    There are some people who may be poisoned, stabbed, slain, without either drug or knife, on whom other people's harsh tempers act as doses of irritant poison, whom other people's sharp tongues wound with cureless wounds that bleed inwardly, and take life away slowly but surely.  Such a one was Emily Blake.  There was another element in the young wife's grief.  Her husband had not even cared to be at home to welcome her.  She had loved him so fondly, admired him so much in her childish fashion, and it was so hard to feel that he cared for her not in the least.  She knew she had no influence over him, and she could not know that not an angel from heaven would have had power to influence him now.  Young as he was, he was being tied and bound with the chain of self-indulgence, till it would come to body and soul parting company before he could be set free.

    When at length Albert came home he met his wife and children without a single greeting.  With trembling and tears Emily wished that she had never gone away.  What had she done to deserve such a home-coming as this, and what had he been doing in her absence ?  Surely he was altered for the worse.

    Yes, hard as Mrs. Lovejoy was, she was to be pitied.  Albert had spent the fortnight in one continued debauch.  Some nights he had not come home at all.  If his wife had little power over him, she, poor mother, had less.  He would not listen to the slightest remonstrance of hers, and at his father's authority he mocked.  As a consequence of that fortnight's behaviour he had already received notice of dismissal from his employer's service.

    Albert Lovejoy's downward career was not arrested by the discipline of adversity.  His health indeed was slightly improved by enforced abstinence from brandy and tobacco, but his temper was worse than ever.  He would sit at home whole days, making the poor women miserable.  The little child could not move about at play without irritating him, and he would insist on sending him out of the room where he was.  If the baby cried, he would shout at the unconscious creature in the meaningless jargon of his tribe, but with a look which terrified his helpless wife.  "Hold that noise, or I will kill you!"  If Emily had been given to reading works medical and psychological, she would certainly have pronounced him mad.  As it was, she kept the children as much as possible out of his way, especially the boy, who, accustomed to the gentleness of his mother and the doting fondness of his grandmamma, resented his father's harsh tones and angry looks with little tremblings and poutings of the lip, which generally ended in a prolonged roar, as a slap or a punch accelerated the catastrophe.  Then the master of the house would go forth, declaring that he was driven out of doors with the din.  At length he carried his unkindness to the children to such a pitch, that even Emily rebelled.  Little George (he was but a baby still) had been fretful and feverish, suffering from some of the ills that baby flesh is heir to—probably the cutting of a double tooth.  A little thing would make him cry, and his movements were more restless than usual.  He chose to drum upon the table with a spoon.  It was tea-time, and his father was there.  Albert seized the plaything, and flung it to the other side of the table.

    At first the child began to laugh, as at a novel and agreeable diversion, but looking in his father's face his little heart was seized with a sudden sense of wrong, his little lip began to quiver.  His mamma had always allowed him to drum as much as he pleased.  His grandmamma had even furnished him, on occasion, with a little tray on which to make music yet more delectable.  He lifted up his little hand and struck at his father.

    A white flash of anger rose on Albert Lovejoy's foolish face, and he dealt the little one a blow on the cheek with the full force of his open hand, leaving crimson marks of his fingers on the soft baby cheek.

    Emily flew to her boy, who was screaming with rage and pain, and sheltered him in her arms.  For the first time in her life she turned and defied the aggressor.  "If you do that again," she cried, all white and trembling, "I'll leave you and beg my way to Brighton."

    Poor young wife, she had not energy enough left in her to get as far as the next street.  Then she added her own hysterical weeping to the cries and sobs of the unappeasable infant.  Even his mother denounced him when she came up to ascertain the cause of so much wailing.

    "By George!" he exclaimed, "here's no end of a row;" and sullenly, without a word of pacification or apology, he took his hat and departed from the house.

    Night came, and he did not return.  Emily kept on at her needlework till morning, when she fell asleep with weariness and sorrow.

    Mother and daughter-in-law crept about the house next day in mortal terror of what the day might bring forth.  The others were abroad.  Beatrice was at work as usual.  Both Mr. Lovejoy and Geraldine had gone to make inquiries.  But the day passed, and nothing had been heard of him.  This was the worst that had happened yet, and the two who suffered most became friends in their great calamity.  Towards night their dread grew sickening.  Some accident had certainly befallen him.  He was lying in some hospital, dying, or dead; or still more dreadful, he had gone to the bottom of the river in a fit of suicidal mania.

    Once Mr. Lovejoy thought he was on the point of finding him, as he walked between the double row of sufferers to the bed of one who lay insensible and unknown; one who had been brought into the hospital yesterday from a terrible street accident, the breaking of a chain which was swinging a stone up to the cornice of a new building.  But it was not he.  Some one else was missing in some corner of the vast city; some one else was waiting for the unknown sufferer, and suffering too.

    It was towards the close of the third day, when Mr. Lovejoy had given information to the police, that Albert made his appearance—a woeful spectacle of wrecked and blasted youth.  His wife and mother received him without question or reproach, thanking God in their hearts that he had come back at all.  His watch and much-valued trinkets were gone.  No one asked how or where.  What use in asking ?  Silence comes with despair.

    Then all at once a situation offered.  True, it was with a man so characterless that he could not obtain any one to help him that had either character or self-respect; a man as violent as he was unscrupulous; as resentful of being over-reached himself, as he was ready to over-reach others.  Into this man's establishment Albert Lovejoy went to supply the vacancy caused by a sudden dismissal—no unusual occurrence there.

    On some parts of the coast—those exposed to the long wash of great seas—each little bay or indentation is paved with a different kind of shell or pebble.  The great ocean has sorted them out as it were, one by one, and flung them into various receptacles, according to their size and weight.  And the ocean of life sorts out individuals in much the same fashion.  They, too, are drifted into this position or that, according to their weight and quality.  Albert Lovejoy's new associates, who had entered their master's service on much the same footing as himself, were all more or less fast and loose young men, given to music-saloons, billiards, and little suppers; and they were immediately bent upon having one of these little suppers at Albert's expense.

    Now Albert had not so much as a shilling to spare; he had not even wherewithal to pay for his dinners, and he could not solace himself with imaginary ones as his father could.  He felt the actual hunger, and more than that, he felt keenly the shame of impecuniosity.  The lack of his watch and trinkets made him actually shrink as a dog does who has recently lost his tail.  His companions would have been quite content with a promise from him to stand treat when he received his wages.  They knew what it was to be "not very flush of coin."  But Albert had once been the "nob" of his set, and it was galling to begin among new men an acknowledged pauper.

    It was the third evening of his engagement, and he did not come home at the usual time.  The warehouse shut at seven, and at that hour Emily put her children to bed, and made her room a little tidy for his return.  She then sat down to sew and to wait.  Half-past eight came; the warehouse might be shut, but plenty of work goes on with closed doors.  Albert might be detained.  Nine, ten, and still he had not come.

    The rest of the family had supper and went to bed.  Mrs. Lovejoy came up to sit with Emily.  Nearly another hour, and neither she nor her mother-in-law had spoken.  Emily had eaten nothing, which was making her low and faint.

    "I hope he isn't going to stay out all night again," said Mrs. Lovejoy, in an injured tone, laying down the last stocking to be mended.

    It was too much for Emily; she burst into tear; and quitted the room, going into the dark one opposite that she might indulge more freely.

    Meantime Albert had had his little supper, and paid for it—a heavy price for poor enjoyment, if, indeed, it could be called enjoyment.  It was by no means a costly entertainment as far as money went.  It did not consist of ortolans and champagne, but of oysters and beefsteak-pie, pale ale, cigars, and brandy.  Four sat down to it, and it cost but fourteen shillings.

    But where did the money come from?  Albert paid the bill with a Bank of England note for ten pounds, and put his name on the back of it with a flourish.  Where did be get it?  That very morning he had passed the workshop of one of the customers of his former master, and the man, standing in the doorway, had hailed him as he passed.  Not knowing that he had left his former employment, he asked him to receive the sum of ten pounds on account.  The man was not a very good payer.  "I had better give it you while I can," he said; "money's a great temptation."

    And Albert took the money, handing the man a receipt for it in due form; and it came into his head that he might borrow it for a few days.  He would spend only as much of it as he could replace at the end of the week, and nobody would be a bit the wiser.

    The party at the "Dove and Rainbow " had broken up early.  They had not had a particularly jolly evening.  Albert Lovejoy had not been successful in his capacity of host.  In truth, it was a very dull affair—an affair of stupid jokes, joyless laughter, and unmeaning talk.  The night was cold and raw, and each went shivering home out of the steaming room.  Albert staggered on the threshold, but not with drink, and his teeth rattled in his head.

    But how glad his mother and Emily were to hear his latchkey in the lock a little after eleven!  The wife's face brightened more than a girl's who expects her lover, as she flew to the door to meet him, and he was welcomed as if he had been the best of men and husbands—indeed, as the best of men and husbands are not often welcomed.  Next day, at his departure, he received a gentle hint to return earlier if possible—a hint to which he replied impatiently enough, but still to the effect that he would return early.  Nevertheless the same dreary waiting was in store for Emily, who this evening waited alone.

    About the same hour Albert returned, but looking so wild and ghastly that a nervous dread seized the poor young wife, and made her tremble like an aspen.  That night Albert had been gambling.  He had been desperately uncomfortable all day about the money in his possession, and in the evening it occurred to him that he might try his luck with it, win back what be had spent, and hasten to pay it over to its rightful owners.  He was accounted a good hand at billiards.  He did not lose invariably.  His winnings and his losings over a given space of time would indeed have fairly balanced themselves ; but he had thought more of the winnings than of the losings, and they seemed the greatest.  It was the old story.  He went to the biggest place he knew, won at first, then lost, got nervous, and could not regain; playing desperately for some sort of retrieval, and leaving off when he was obliged with very little money, and of hope none at all.  He had spent more than he could make up in many weeks.

    The day after he left his place of business early, on the plea of illness (a plea real enough too), and tried, as we have seen, to borrow the ten pounds of Fanny.


 
CHAPTER XIII.

INTERRUPTIONS.


IT was the busiest hour of the day at Messrs. Tabor and Tenterden's.  In the outer office, which was entered by a glass door, pens were going rapidly.  In each of the deep window recesses was a desk, whose occupant was availing himself of whatever light was to be had.  With less of light, but apparently more of leisure, another clerk looked ever papers at a central erection full of drawers and pigeon holes, while a messenger sat on a bench and waited.  This outer office opened into a larger and more cheerful apartment, in which sat Philip Tenterden, who, after all sorts of interruptions, had just sat down to finish one or two important letters for the post.  Out of Philip's room a door led into a narrow passage, on the opposite side of which opened Mr. Tabor's room, and another.  This passage had a separate outlet on the landing, so that clients on confidential business, though ushered in by the outer office, might pass from their hearing direct.

    Another interruption, and Philip raised his head with a gesture of impatience.  It was Arthur Wildish, who came forward in irreproachable attire, as Philip could see, but in somewhat subdued spirits.  "I want to catch the four o'clock post," said Philip, unceremoniously after giving his hand; "you won't mind my going on with my letters?"

    "No, I'm going directly.  I only looked in in passing.  I want a word with Mr. Tabor."

    "He is disengaged," said Philip, nodding in the direction of the opposite door.

    Mr. Wildish loitered, looking as if he had something to say, but meeting with no encouragement he said good-bye, and went out by the other door.

    But the interruption, slight as it had been, proved fatal to the letter upon which Philip was engaged.  It was some time before it was proceeded with at all, and then it was in a manner so unsatisfactory that it had to be torn up and re-written.  When it was re-written, and Philip touched his bell and gave it to the messenger without a moment to lose, a hectic flame was burning on his cheeks, from the force which he had had to put upon his wandering thoughts.  He came back again to his seat and tried to concentrate his mind upon some other matter, but failed, and finally rose and went out of his room, and into that of his senior partner, who he concluded had gone out.  He had heard him at the door with Wildish some time ago.  But no, there was Mr. Tabor, in the unusual attitude of contemplating the points of his toes, seated opposite the fire with his feet on the fender, doing nothing.

    "I thought you were gone," said Philip; "I came in for Fisher's letters."

    "Oh, that can stand over," said Mr. Tabor, evidently disinclined for business.  "Wildish has gone up without me;" and Mr. Tabor sighed unconsciously, and fidgeted in his chair.  "He wanted the start of me to-night, it appears," he added, in a tone which was almost an invitation to further inquiry.  But Philip made none.

    Why should he ask what that young fellow wanted, when he left Mr. Tabor behind in order to reach Mr. Tabor's own house in its master's absence, when he knew it perfectly well, had divined with a lightning flash of intelligence from the moment Wildish had entered his room?  Mr. Tabor wanted sympathy at that moment, and sympathy was the last thing Philip was capable of giving.  Mr. Tabor was feeling the mere fact of his presence not being wanted at that particular moment, even in his own home, very much as a schoolboy feels at being out of the game.  Hence the attitude of abandon so unprecedented in the methodical, painstaking, hardworking lawyer.

    He was told to stand aside politely, and allow the creature whom he had accounted his very own to pass into the possession of another, and be from henceforth his only in name.  He was also suffering from a great regret.  The thing he loved next to his daughter was his business—not the profit of it, that was really and truly a secondary consideration with him—but the business itself, which he and his dead partner had built up by dint of rare probity and industry, and which he had often in the days gone by wished for a son to inherit.  The next best thing he had coveted was that his only daughter should marry the business, in the shape of his younger partner and successor; and he had cherished in his heart quite a fatherly love for Philip in consequence.  And in this matter Philip had disappointed him, and disappointed him to his own hurt.  He would have liked Philip to understand something of this, but Philip at that moment seemed to understand nothing.  He seemed to be labouring under an unusual density, while all the time he was alive to the last fibre of consciousness.  He was traversing every inch of the road with young Wildish, following him into the very presence of Lucy; but his imagination refused to go further, though he felt that he should know the very momentous question was asked and answered.

    So the opportunity passed, and Mr. Tabor proceeded homewards, intending to take a turn on the heath before entering his house, in order not to interrupt the lovers till they had settled that little affair of a lifetime.  Philip, too, went home to dress, and go Mrs. Austin's.  For one evening he remembered the engagement without pleasure.  Even that had not power to distract his thoughts.  He would have preferred a twelve miles' walk under the frosty stars.  He quarrelled with a man who elbowed him at the train, and his fellow-travellers set him down as the person in fault because his brow was like a thundercloud, while the fat and selfish aggressor made himself comfortable in his corner.  He was altogether in an electric condition, ready to flash out at a touch.



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