Studies for Stories (8)

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CHAPTER IV.


IT was a wet Christmas that year, and during her long journey Emily saw little of the scenery that she passed through.  The winter day closed early, and it had been dark three hours when they at length arrived at the station, and Emily found herself in London.

    The noise and confusion at first bewildered her, and she was glad she had no harder task to perform than to stand by her boxes while Mr. Glover got a cab for her.  In spite of the pushing and jostling of passengers, who were distracted because a box or a bundle was not yet forthcoming, and in spite of the civil 'By your leave' of the porters, as they pushed past their luggage-barrows, she contrived to stand quietly till her good friend came to her, got the boxes put on the cab, handed her in, gave directions to the driver, and shook hands with her.

    She was now alone, and the cab began to move through London streets; the brilliant lights, the splendid shops, the crowding passengers, dazzled and delighted her; but she felt very anxious as to her reception by Mrs. Smalley; and moreover, she feared her boxes would be wet before they reached their destination.  Almost every street they turned into Emily said: 'I wonder whether this is it?  I wonder whether this is where Mrs. Smalley lives? but, no; on they went, till all the shops were gone and rows of private houses succeeded.  These were very handsome, but looked cold and inhospitable, with all their windows shut and curtains drawn against the world without; but the longest street, even in London, has its last house, and at the last of these, in a particularly long street, the driver stopped at length, and thundered at a remarkably imposing-looking door.

    'Dear me!' thought Emily, 'I wish he would not make such a noise.  I hope Mrs. Smalley won't be angry.'

    Emily looked up at the large blank house, and then at the pavement, on which rain in such quantities had been splashing all day, that it was washed quite clean from the dirt and blacks of London, and shone with broken and uncertain reflections of the street lamp.

    The driver knocked again, and Emily noticed that this house differed from most that she had passed, in having no lamp in the hall: at last a dim light was visible inside, and the door was half-opened by a particularly dirty-looking servant, with a black cap on, and curl-papers beneath it.

    'Dear me!' thought Emily: 'I suppose the footman only answers the door to Mrs. Smalley's grand customers.  What a dirty servant for such a grand house!  However, she had not much time for reflection, she paid the driver, and ran up the steps, asking humbly:

    'Do you know whether Mrs. Smalley expects me?'

    The woman looked confused, and as the driver was already setting Emily's boxes within the door, she said:—

    'What's these for?  I reckon you've mistook the house?'

    Emily now found that she was a little hard of hearing, and repeated her question

    'Does Mrs. Smalley expect me?  Is she at home?'

    'Mrs. Smalley?' repeated the woman; 'why, miss, she has left this two months.'

    'Left!' repeated Emily, shocked and frightened. 'I did not know that; please tell the cabman to wait.  I must go on to her.  Do you know where she has moved to?'

    'No, nor nobody else,' replied the woman, coolly.

    'Then I can't go to her to-night,' said Emily, frightened, and feeling all the desolates of her situation.  'Oh! what shall I do?  Please let me come inside for a moment; I shall be quite wet.'

    'If you want the cabman, you'd better say so at once,' observed the woman, for he's just a-driving off.  There, you're too late that gentleman has called him.'

    'Please let me stand inside,' pleaded Emily, 'till I can consider what to do; the lady will not object to that, will she?'

    'Lady, there's no lady.  The house is empty, and I am put in to take care of it.  You may stand in the 'all, if you like, for a few minutes.'

    'Emily came in and stood, the picture of perplexity and distress.  The woman stood beside her, with her greasy tin candlestick in her hand, which she tapped every few moments impatiently with the door-key; Emily looked up the desolate uncarpeted staircase, still strewed with shaving-like lengths of paper and wisps of hay, in which the furniture had been packed, and said:—

    'Surely you can remember, or find out for me, where Mrs. Smalley has moved to: it must be somewhere at this end of London, on account of her business.'

    'It's nothing of the sort,' replied the woman, impatiently.  'Mrs. Smalley is not to be found anyhow, she has run away from her creditors.'

    'Run away!' repeated Emily, aghast.

    'I said run away, plain enough, young woman, repeated the dirty warder of the house.  You need not stare like that.  She could not pay her debts.  They say she speculated in railways; however, one fine day, madam was off, and the bailiffs came in: and there has been a sale, and that's all I know about it.'

    The rain spattered and splashed outside, and the dirty candle guttered inside. Emily was wet, weary, hungry, and altogether cast down, and she said to the woman—

    'Would you be so kind as to let me sit by your fire, and give me something to eat?  I could pay for it, and for a bed, if you would.'

    Perhaps the rough housekeeper found Emily's voice persuasive; perhaps she pitied her distress and admired her youth and beauty; for she certainly softened her voice a little, and said, less gruffly

    'Well, I've been a-washing to-day, and the place ain't to say comfortable, but you may come and sit by the fire, if you like. O yes, you may come.'

    How different was everything she saw and heard from what her fancy had so frequently pictured!  Here was a London underground kitchen hung with wet clothes, a huge range screwed up to its narrowest proportions, and those not half-filled with a smouldering fire.  All the light was afforded by the one candle, which had shown her the empty hall and the desolation up stairs.  Emily sat and shivered and pondered.  Tired, hungry, and dispirited, what could she do?  She earnestly hoped that she should not be turned out that night, and when her entertainer agreed to let her share a very uncomfortable and by no means clean-looking bed that stood in one corner of the ample floor, she felt truly thankful, and asked for something to eat, which was set before her on consideration of her paying for it.

    Emily ate and drank, then sat with her feet on the fender, and pondered again till the woman was ready for bed; but, tired as she was, she could not rest during this, her first night in London.  The dull noise of distant vehicles, the rattle of those that passed the house, her own self-reproaches and regrets that she had been over-persuaded to come up to London before an answer had been received from Mrs. Smalley: all these things together kept her waking till morning should have appeared, but it dawns very late in a London kitchen in December; and when, after one hour's sleep, she awoke, roused by her companion, who was dressed, she heard to her astonishment that it was eight o'clock, and saw that the darkness was then sufficient to make them dependent on the well-known dip candle.

    The woman casually remarked that it was rather a foggy morning; and Emily, looking out, had her first experience of a London fog, which, to her surprise, changed from amber to brown, and from brown to a greenish-grey, more than once before their cheerless breakfast was over.

    After breakfast Emily said she would go and endeavour to obtain a situation with some other milliner, as Mrs. Smalley had failed her.  But as hour after hour wore on, and she could hardly discern the opposite houses, her companion declared that it would be highly dangerous to go out, for she would infallibly lose herself; and Emily, though sorely against her will, felt that her present asylum, dismal as it was, was better than having her last night's experience over again.  So she sat lamenting her haste in coming up to London, till, the fog becoming more white, she had light enough to see to read, and got out a book, with which she beguiled the time till dinner was ready, and after that, as some bread was wanted, she insisted on accompanying her hostess to fetch it from the baker's.  So dismal a walk she had never taken; the fog hemmed them in, and she felt as if her country lungs could hardly breathe in it; but at least it was new and strange, and when they turned out of their own street into one which was crowded with people and full of shops, she was bewildered and yet pleased with all she saw; with the grand windows lighted up as if it was night, and even with the people who pressed past her showing their shrewd pale faces, and then vanishing in the fog.  She did not walk a quarter of a mile, but could not help being glad that her companion had not suffered her to go out by herself, and when they reached the empty house again, she was really thankful for the shelter it afforded.

    Emily was to pay half of what the various articles for their meals had cost.  There was a piece of beefsteak, some tea, some bread, a cabbage, and some potatoes.  Emily set these items down on a slate, and put her hand in her pocket to draw out her purse.  It was not there, and she looked towards her work-box, saying:

    'I must have left it behind me.'

    'No, you didn't,' said the woman; 'for I remember particularly saying to you, "take a shilling or two in your pocket, but don't take all your money if you have much;" and says you, "No; I may want more than that," and you put the purse in your pocket.'

    Emily searched again; it was certainly gone.

    'Surely,' said the woman, 'you never walked about in that fog without minding your pocket?'

    'I never thought of my pocket,' said Emily, 'and I don't believe in such a dark day anybody could find the pocket-hole.'

    'Why, what's this?' asked her companion.  'Dear, dear, I never gave it a thought to tell you to mind yourself; I thought you'd sense to watch over your own earnings.  Look here, they've been and cut a hole in your gown, and got a hand through it, and carried the purse clean off, as I'm a Christian woman!'

    At first Emily could hardly believe that so great a misfortune had happened to her.  She started up, declaring that the purse might have been left in her work-bag; it might have been dropped on the floor; but after several fruitless searches, it became too evident that she had been robbed, and she sank down on her chair quite pale with agitation, and sat motionless, till her companion at last roused her by asking the colour of the purse.

    'Was it purple leather or green ?' she said.

    'What does that matter now?' muttered Emily.

    'Matters a great deal,' was the reply ; 'because I'm going off to the police-court about it.'

    Emily roused herself, and seeing her companion already dressed in her shawl, and pinning her bonnet strings, thanked her, gave the required description, and added:

    'But it's no use telling the police, Mrs. Smart.  I feel sure, now that I come to think about it, that the purse was stolen while we were pressing up to the pastry cook's window to look at those cakes; and there was nothing in it but money; no note or post-office order that might be known again.  O dear me!  O dear!'

    'Well, well, child, don't cry and take on; pick-pockets are taken up sometimes with the things they stole upon them; so don't give way.'

    So saying, Mrs. Smart walked off, and Emily wept at her leisure.  She was naturally hopeful, and even when she found that Mrs. Smalley had failed her, she consoled herself by thinking that she could get a situation with another milliner, or she could, if that proved impossible, come home again when the Christmas holidays were over, take her papers to the diocesan examination at Salisbury, and give up her dream of making a fortune as a London milliner.  But now she had no money wherewith to return, and her pride was deeply wounded at the notion that she could not return to Dorsetshire without selling those handsome clothes which she had bought in order to fit herself, as she supposed, for her new sphere.  No; she felt that she could not and would not do that.  She must stay in London, at least till she had earned enough to go home with; but in the meantime she must live.  She owed Mrs. Smart two shillings and fourpence; she must get her to take payment in the shape of some article of clothing, and she must get work at once — to-morrow, whether the day was foggy or fine.

    Mrs. Smart soon came back; she was kinder to Emily than could be expected, considering that she was quite a stranger to her.  She told her that till she got work she might have her bed free of charge, provided she could pay for her food: coals, candles, and house-room she received for her trouble, as well as a small weekly sum.

    'So you are welcome to stop, young woman,' she observed, with condescending kindness, 'for I find it lonesome being here by myself, specially o' nights.'

    Emily was grateful for this kindness, but felt how much she had already come down in the world, when a dirty and ignorant woman such as Mrs. Smart could lay her under an obligation, and treat her with patronizing pity.

    That night, weariness made her sleep in spite of sorrow, and the next morning was tolerably fine, and the buoyant spirits of youth in part returned to her, and she dressed herself neatly and went out early to seek for a situation.  Mrs. Smart had counselled her to ask her way only of the policemen whom she would see from time to time, and by no means to remain out till it became dusk.  She also told her that there were no less than three milliners in a street very near at hand, and having given her ample directions as to how she should find it, she shut the door after her, and poor Emily went forth alone to seek her fortunes.  She could not well be robbed now, for she had nothing in her pocket, and she thought she could not well fail in finding work in a place which contained such multitudes of employers.

    The winter day wore on, and though Mrs. Smart had charged Emily not to be late, the lamplighter was in the street when she answered the door and let her in.  Wet, pale, and weary, she came in without a word, closed her dripping umbrella, and sat down in the dim kitchen, as she had not spirit or strength enough left to divest herself of her out-of-door dress.

    'Had aught to eat, child?' asked Mrs. Smart.

    Emily's shivering figure drew itself up, and she seemed to shrink from being questioned, but when asked again, she answered 'No.'

    'Well, the tea will be ready in a minute.  Got a situation yet?'

    'No,' repeated Emily.

'    'I did not expect you would, child, in such a hurry.  Dear me, some folks expect situations to come in crowds the minute they wants 'em, just as black beetles come when it gets dusk like.'

    Emily knew to her sorrow that the illustration of the black beetles was not drawn from the good woman's imagination, but from her familiar daily life; indeed, while she spoke a large one peeped from a crack, and came on briskly towards Emily's foot.

    She started up with more alacrity than even the prospect of a home could make her, in order to get out of the way of her black fellow-lodger, and as she wearily walked to her box, and took off and deposited therein her bonnet and cloak, she listened with languid patience to Mrs. Smart's moral sentiments, which went to prove that she, Mrs. Smart, thought that young people ought not to expect too much, seeing that, as far as it appeared, they never got more than a little; however, they ought to think themselves well off when they had a good house over their heads that never was built for them, nor such as them.  'A house,' continued Mrs. Smart, wandering from the point, 'that has five bedrooms and two dressing-rooms, let alone parlours and pantries, and what not, and which is now empty entirely, along of them railways, which is the greatest conveniency that ever was for them that want to travel, and I wish there was more of them.  Now, child, come to your tea.'

    Emily drew her chair to the table, and as she drank the steaming tea and ate the bread and butter, her fainting spirits revived a little, and the colour returned to her cheeks.

    'It's a little strange, too,' observed Mrs. Smart, 'that you could not meet with any work, child, for this is a busy time, and most of the houses very full of work.'

    'I could have got work, if I had been willing to do it for almost nothing,' said Emily.  'I've been sent away for all sorts of reasons.  One said she never took young girls to teach — they were more trouble than they were worth; and one said she should expect a premium, and pay me nothing for the first six months; and another said I did not look as if I should suit; and the last offered such a little for a day's work, that I could not pay you for my food with it, and I saw a good many who would have nothing to say to me.'

    'You're too high, child, too high by half.  You don't look like a prentice girl, and you speak so fine and dress so smart, that they don't know what to make of you,' replied Mrs. Smart.  'Now, if I was you, I would rather work for sixpence a day than sit idle here like a fine lady.'

    Emily sighed bitterly, and felt with keen shame that, though this advice was most distasteful to her, Mrs. Smart had a full right to offer it, for she was giving her that tea, and allowing her to run in debt for her food.

    She sat silent, however, and could not assent to the remark, that it was better to work for sixpence a day than be idle like a fine lady.  Fine lady indeed, in a dirty kitchen, and about to sleep in a dingy bed; fine lady, without a penny in her pocket, or a friend within two hundred miles of her, or any prospect but hard work, or any hope but to return speedily to the very occupation she had considered so much beneath her !

    The downward path in life is always easy; when once descent begins, it is not only hard to rise, but hard to prevent the further decline.  Poor Emily found this to her cost; she went out several days in search of work, but did not succeed in getting any that she thought it worth her while to take.  She had no money, and by degrees the contents of her boxes had been disposed of — some to Mrs. Smart, some to the pawnbrokers in the neighbourhood till by the time she had been a month in London, she had not enough of her good outfit left to bring in money for a journey home; and the chance work she had done from time to time had only served to show her how hard was the work of a London sempstress.  It had not occurred to her when first she took a shawl to the pawnshop, that it would be difficult to get it out; and this way of raising a little money seemed so easy, — moreover she did not particularly want the shawl, — so it went; and she got taken on as an 'extra hand' at a very grand millinery establishment, where the wages were not very bad, and when by the day that she had saved enough to take her things out of pawn, she determined to leave that part of London, and go and apply for a situation at the office of the Home and Colonial Schools Society.

    Emily did not know what she should have to undergo as an 'extra hand;' she found it hard to sit up night after night till two or three o'clock, finishing the endless wedding orders, or mourning orders, or ball-dresses, which poured in upon the fashionable milliners, and had been positively promised for so early a day that it seemed impossible that the promise could be kept.

    Day after day, as the over-dressed and pompous head of the house sailed into the workroom, Emily heard, with a sinking heart, 'I wouldn't disappoint Lady W. on any account; that blue silk dress must go home punctually at six o'clock.  Let the cerise tarlatan be put in hand immediately, as well as the white and amber; Lady Georgians was positively promised that she should have them both to-night, in time for Mrs. A.'s reception, that she may choose which she likes best.  That mourning order ought to be in a greater state of forwardness; the young people cannot go home till it is finished.'

    Being only an extra hand, Emily had to return to her home at whatever hour of the night the work was finished; and as the heated workroom, with its unwholesome atmosphere, made her feverish and weak, the sudden change to night air, rain, snow, or fog, had a very bad effect on her constitution: she became pale and thin, and her eyelids heavy and red with overwork and bad light, and her gait stooping from constantly bending over her task.

    'There's a letter for you,' said Mrs. Smart, as she opened the door to her one evening in March.

    Emily took it with great pleasure; it was the first letter from home.  She saw that it was in John Mills' handwriting, and addressed to her at Mrs. Smalley's.

    'He does not know of my present circumstances,' she thought; and she took the letter down and read it with avidity:—


    'DEAR MISS WELLAND,—Your grandmother has felt very unwell this past week, and last night had the doctor; but he does not seem to think there is very much the matter with her, — at least he said he saw no reason why she should not recover.  She does not think so herself, for she told my mother she was sure she was taken for death, and she wished she could see you; so I said I would write, and I was to say that if Mrs. Smalley could spare you she would take it very kind.

    I feel that you may think it odd I cannot call you Emily, but I know there is a great difference of station between us now, and you are living in luxury while I am only a workman, so I began this without taking the liberty to write your Christian name, and now, for fear you should misunderstand, I must tell you why.

    'You have such a kind heart that I know you will be glad to hear of father being better, so that now he can sit up all day and amuse himself with netting; and as for me, I sent up the figure that you know of, and Mr. Clements wrote me word that a gentleman he knew had valued it at fourteen pounds, "which," said he, "is more than I expected, and it is not convenient to me to give such a sum for it, therefore I have sent it to be disposed of at that price."  Would you believe that I should be so well off, Miss Welland?  A great lady saw it, and bought it, and Mr. Clements has forwarded me the money, so now all our debts are paid, and what is better, I have got an order for another figure from the same cast.

    'I have not heard anything from Mrs. Smalley respecting the monument; and if you should find an opportunity to mention it to her I should be very much obliged to you.

    'Perhaps I may be in London before long, for as soon as I have carved this new order I shall have money in hand to last the family for seven weeks, and therefore I think I shall have a right to leave them for that time; and I think of walking up to London to see whether I can improve myself or get higher wages than I now earn.  I shall not take the liberty to call on you, unless I hear that it would be agreeable, for I know I have no chance with you, and I would not wish that you should think me troublesome, though I shall always be, as long as I breathe, your faithful lover, J
OHN MILLS.'


    Emily read this letter over and over again.  She was made very uneasy by the account of her grandmother, who would scarcely have asked to see unless she had firmly believed herself to be dying.  But to go to her was out of the question.  Her work did not quite pay for her board, and her clothes were slowly diminishing.  She had been nine weeks in London; nine weeks divided between hard work and the scarcely less hard work of seeking for it.  She knew that return, for the present, was impossible, and she went to her task the next morning with a heavy heart, intending to write to John by the next day's post — not to tell him how gladly and thankfully she would return if she had the means, but to beg him to send her further particulars, and to give her love and duty to her grandmother.

    She left work, however, so late on Saturday night that it was Sunday morning before she reached home.  Another letter from John awaited her, — a long, considerate, and most kind letter; and she thought so herself as soon as she could see to read it for her tears.  Her grandmother had died quietly very soon after the first letter had been posted, and her son and daughter had been sent for from the village in the neighbourhood where they lived; they had taken possession of what the good woman had left, and had accepted John's offer to write and give Emily an account of her death.  Moreover, they had sent word that Emily had better stop where she was, and not think of spending money in coming home, as there was nothing for her to do.  A very fulsome message to Mrs. Smalley was also conveyed by John from the said son and daughter, and a humble request that she would permit their mother's name to appear also on the much-talked-of monument.

    It was well for Emily that the next day was Sunday; it gave her time to shed her natural tears over her kind old grandmother, and to write to John.

    She now felt that she had no tie to Dorsetshire, no object in returning, that she was thrown entirely on her own resources, must work for her bread, and strive earnestly to rectify the mistake she had made, and rise again into the position she had lost.

    As a proof, however, that adversity had not been without its use, she hesitated long between pride and a desire to be sincere; and at last sincerity so far triumphed, that she told John she felt sure he would never hear from Mrs. Smalley respecting the monument, for that Mrs. Smalley was not able to pay her just debts, but she added — partly to save John from anxiety respecting her, partly from a desire to keep her altered circumstances from her little world in Dorsetshire — 'I am with quite as grand a milliner as Mrs. Smalley ever was, and one who employs more work-people.'

    So much she could say with truth the rest of her experience she left unsaid, but she added several expressions of friendship for John, which that kind-hearted fellow prized highly, and which, if he could have known how Emily's mind was turning to him in her trouble, and how much more highly she thought of him than she had done in her prosperity, he would have prized still more.

    And so John was getting on, and rising slowly out of that poverty and distress in which she had seen him; John, whose conscientious scruples had prevented him from taking one doubtful step, and who had suffered so patiently, not only poverty, but the want of that teaching which alone as it had seemed could enable him to rise; John was likely to have it at last, and could have it lawfully.

    Emily thought much of this; she repented of that craving ambition which had made her formerly so discontented with her lot, and she now felt that needlework was but a poor exchange for the pleasure of teaching, and the comfort of being able to make some use of that love of order and talent for governing children, which all who possess invariably wish to exercise, especially when they have once had the opportunity of doing so.

    'Let me only get my things out of pawn,' was her thought, 'and I will apply for a situation at one of the schools in London, or I will even venture to set up a day-school of my own.'  But week after week wore on, and instead of taking her goods out of pawn, more and more had got into the hands of the pawnbroker, for the simple reason that she never got enough regular work to enable her to pay for her board.  At last, in despair of ever earning wages to pay for her food, she resolved to bring her food down to the level of her wages: a natural resolution, but not wise, for poor Emily was not accustomed to the London air and the late hours, and the close application that she now had to submit to, and when to these she added a meagre diet, she soon found, not that denying her appetite made her hungry, but that she could not eat even what she provided, and left at every meal some of her bread and of the two or three radishes which she had substituted for butter, meat, or cheese.

    She was getting out of debt to Mrs. Smart; but this did not give her the pleasure she expected, and a degree of sleepiness was creeping over her which made her often sit at work in a half doze.  A kind-hearted companion, who sat next to her, took pains to keep her awake, at least when any of the superiors of the house came in; but Emily dozed again as fast as she was awakened, and one evening, happening to be dismissed early, she was conscious of a degree of drowsiness, even in the street, which it required all her little strength to resist.

    Oh, how welcome was the shade of the desolate hall, and the repose of the dingy bed, after the light and noise of the street!  Emily felt that, come what would, now she must rest; and the next day, though conscious of repeated assurances from Mrs. Smart that she would be late for the workroom, she fell away from one doze to another, and wished for nothing but to lie quiet, and drink, whenever she woke, a long draught of water.

    At last, late in the afternoon, a sharp, distinct voice decidedly woke her.

    'Sleep, sir? she does nothing but sleep, and for the last ten days she has eaten, as one may say, a mere nothing.'

    It was Mrs. Smart who spoke, and Emily felt that some one took hold of her hand.  She opened her eyes, and met a quiet, steady gaze fixed upon her.  Mrs. Smart had evidently fetched a doctor.

    'I am not ill, sir,' said Emily.

    The doctor smiled compassionately, and continued to feel her pulse, but Emily could not attend to what he said sufficiently to answer his questions.  She heard him say, 'The girl has a great deal of low fever hanging about her,' and then the old faint drowsiness came over her again.  She felt pleased shortly after to have a cup of tea given to her, but after that, night and day began to be confused in her mind, and though she was never absolutely delirious, she could not govern her thoughts or speak connectedly.

    Every day the doctor came to see her, and she felt a kind of satisfaction in seeing his calm attentive face, and in hearing his quiet questions: 'And how do you feel to-day, Emily Welland?'  'No pain? that's well.'

    'She never complains of anything, sir,' Mrs. Smart would remark.  Mrs. Smart had become very kind and good to her now.  'She is as patient as a lamb,' was her frequent observation; 'and if I ask her how she does, she always says she's better.'

    A long time passed in this way.  At last, one afternoon, Emily opened her eyes, and observed that it was Sunday.  She was led to make this observation because she saw that Mrs. Smart had cleaned herself, taken off her curl-papers, and put on the green mousseline-de-laine gown that she never wore but on Sunday afternoon.  After lying still a while, looking about her, she observed that her own two boxes were gone from their usual places, and this made her still more wakeful.  She was aware that whatever illness she had suffered from was passing away, and she found strength to repeat in a faint tone, 'Mrs. Smart!  Mrs. Smart!'

    Mrs. Smart was toasting bread, and when she came at Emily's call she brought a piece with her, and some tea, telling her that the doctor had said she was much better, and when she awoke might eat and drink a little.

    'I know you have been very good to me,' said Emily, looking at her; 'you have nursed me, and I was nothing to you.'

    Mrs. Smart was evidently not sorry to hear Emily speak sensibly; and perhaps, after the trouble and pains she had been at, she was also glad to find that her patient was grateful.

    'I have done according to orders,' she replied, 'and the doctor knows I haven't sold more of your clothes than I could help; it was all done with his knowledge.'

    'Have I anything left?' asked Emily, humbly.

    'Yes, child, your best pink muslin gown, and your best pair of boots, and your prize books, besides the clothes you went to work in.'

    At another time this news would have shocked Emily; but now she was returning from the dreary delusive world of fever to sense, life, and reality, and thankfulness was her prevailing feeling, and she took the toast and tea with such relish as those who have never been in her circumstances cannot possibly understand.

    It was a chilly day in the middle of April when Emily had left her work; it was a hot morning early in June when she crept languidly forth again in her working clothes.  The pink muslin dress and the best boots had followed her other possessions, and, in the expressive language of the poor, she had nothing now but what she stood upright in.

    The kind-hearted doctor had told her to call at his house in the neighbouring square, of which he had promised to lend her the key, that she might go in and sit down under the trees and enjoy the quiet and the comparatively fresh air.

    Emily entered the square, and sat down under the shade of some young lime-trees.  The air revived her, and the quiet and freshness of the place did her good; but she was recovering her strength slowly, and was aware that her natural anxiety about the future was keeping her back.  She sat long, with her pale cheek leaning on her hand, meditating as to what course she should pursue.  She possessed but one sixpence now, and was not strong enough to work; moreover, her friend Mrs. Smart would not long be able to afford her a shelter, for the house was let, and in less than a fortnight the new tenants would dispense with her services.


 
CHAPTER V.


THE last six months seemed to Emily like a dream.  She felt deeply that she had made a great mistake; but as she had long regretted it, and wished to repair it, she thought it rather hard that she had been unable to do so.  The one false step of leaving her own line in life in which she had grown up, and which she was so well fitted for, she did not now see how to rectify: first, for want of money to reach the different places at any one of which she could have been examined for her certificate; and secondly, for want of clothes, for London had made sad havoc with the one gown and bonnet that she had left.  She was not strong enough to take a teacher's situation now, and though she thought it very likely that her old friend and mistress, Miss Cooper, would be very glad to recommend her in case she came back, and might have influence enough to induce the Vicar to overlook her withdrawal, she felt with a pang of pride that she could not bear to go back dressed almost like a beggar; and moreover the journey would be expensive, and there was no one from whom she could borrow the money, so that must be given up.

    What then should be done?  She pondered long, and at last decided to apply personally at a place in London which she knew well by reputation, a training-school, where she could go in, as she thought, on a humble footing, and work her way till she had earned what would buy her some decent clothes, and then go in for her examination, and try to obtain a situation in which she could maintain herself.  She felt that her present delicate appearance was against her, but that she thought would improve every day.  What she most objected to was her very shabby dress, and her short hair (for her long dark locks had been cut off); and she was sure the other young teachers with whom she would have to associate would look so nicely, dressed with their well-made gowns, neat bonnets, and glossy hair, that she should suffer heavily from a sense of inferiority.

    'But at all hazards,' thought Emily, 'no more dressmaking and shop working for me.  I have seen something of that, and I may just as well expect to be made queen as to be taken into partnership with one of my employers, or even to earn enough to maintain myself comfortably.'

    It was something to have decided what course to pursue, and this made her feel better and easier in her mind, though painful visions haunted her of haughty looks from the young girls in the training-school, and contemptuous withdrawings from her and her dingy and threadbare gown.

    The next day early she set off on her errand, making herself as scrupulously neat as she could with what clothes she possessed, and creeping slowly along, that she might feel tolerably fresh for presenting herself before the committee whom she expected to see.

    Mrs. Smart, who, dirty and slatternly still, had taken a great liking to the friendless girl, walked with her for a mile, and then, with many directions and encouragements, and a present of a new penny roll, which she was to eat when she felt faint, left her to pursue her way full of hope, though still weak and white-faced from illness.

    'It will be the old story over again,' said the good woman, 'but she shall have a rare tea this day, even if I pay for it.'  So she stopped at a shop and bought two mackerel, and then a Yorkshire cake for toasting; and home she went to the black beetles, in whose lively company she did not miss Emily, though, to do her justice, she sincerely wished her all success.

    Emily would not be home before four o'clock, she felt sure, so she ate some bread and cheese at twelve o'clock, and spread what seemed to be a sumptuous board in the afternoon, — broiled mackerel, bread and butter and cake, and a lettuce.

    Just as everything was ready, she saw Emily coming languidly down the area-steps, and let her in, but said nothing to her.  Success was certainly not written on the poor pale face, and though faint with hunger she scarcely showed any pleasure at the sight of those appetizing viands.  Not a word she said, but threw off her bonnet, and sunk into a chair with a heavy sigh.

    'Well, well, child,' said Mrs. Smart, taking failure for granted, 'this is only the first day; you can try again to-morrow.'

    But the only answer was:

    'Oh, Mrs. Smart, I wish I had never seen this wretched place!'

    'Well, I'm sure!' replied Mrs. Smart, rather tartly, 'that's mighty civil to me.  You wish you'd never seen me, then; and I've been the best of friends to you.  There, come along, and get some tea, and don't be down-hearted.  I hate to see folks downhearted; it makes me think o' my own troubles, and I've had a many on 'em.'

    Emily, thus admonished, drew her chair to the table, and though Mrs. Smart seemed not to be in the best of humours, she heaped her plate with substantial food till the poor girl felt her strength revive, and her weary spirits begin to rise a little.

    'So they won't have nothing to say to you, eh, child?' asked the good woman.

    'No: the gentleman at the first place I went to said, "Have you been ill, young woman?"  "Yes, sir," I said.  "What's been the matter — a fever?"  "Yes, sir."  "What sort of fever? nothing infectious, I hope."  So I said, "I believe it was low typhus."  "Bless me," says he, "and only just getting better!  How could you think of coming among all these candidates, and expect to teach in the school?  It was exceeding wrong of you, young woman, to come here;" and I assure you they were in such a hurry to shut me out, that they would not allow me time even to inquire how long it would be before I might come again.  Well, it was nearly the same thing at the next place I went to, and at the last I do believe they took me for an impostor; they looked me up and down, and then said they were sure I was not strong enough for any sort of exertion; but one of the gentlemen said he would give me a recommendation to the Consumption Hospital; and when I said I was not at all consumptive, he says, "Well, well, in two or three months, if you are better, you may come again."'

    Emily made this long speech almost in a breath, as if she knew she must give some account of herself, and wished to get it done as soon as possible, and alluded no more to the painful subject.

    She went out the next day with the same result, and sat drooping in the evening in a way that made the dirty housekeeper's heart ache.  Not a word was said to her, and after a restless night she went and brought home some shop-work, and began to stitch as fast as her then trembling hand would let her.

    'What, child, going to try shop-work again?' said Mrs. Smart.

    'I must live,' replied Emily.  'I am getting into debt to you for my board already, and I've no chance of getting a teacher's situation till I look more healthy, and my hair is longer.  Seeing it only an inch long, everybody that I apply to asks if I have had a fever.'

    Mrs. Smart replied in a liberal spirit, that the next time Emily went out after a situation she would give a friend of hers, who was a barber, a sixpence to lend her a wig with long ringlets.  And Emily thanked her, but inwardly resolved not to accept her kindness.

    So the days wore on till the new tenant came in, and Mrs. Smart hired a little room to live in, Emily going with her.  And now that she dwelt among the poor, Emily found herself not so much cut off from sympathy as she had been hitherto, for a lady, who was district visitor there, called on her, and when she found how beautifully Emily could work, she got her some children's dresses to make, for which she received very much better pay than she had earned hitherto.

    But Emily's recovery was very slow, and so much sedentary occupation did not suit her, so that she was often ailing, and therefore frequently received a visit from this new friend, who, when Mrs. Smart was out at work, would sit and talk kindly to her, and give her the best advice she could, considering how little she knew of Emily's circumstances.

    Like other persons who had been compelled to pawn good clothing, Emily felt that the small sum she had received upon it was nothing compared with its real value to herself, and she worked very hard to get the interest paid on some of her most useful articles, and, if possible, to get them once again before the year was over.

    She felt that a tolerable appearance of health and some decent clothes were absolutely needful, if she wished to be a teacher, and with unremitting industry she worked, seldom having more than enough time to fulfil what she undertook, partly owing to the kindness of the lady visitor, and partly to her obliging and civil manner and neat work.

    At last, Christmas came round again, and Emily had been able to get some of her possessions into her own keeping; she looked stronger, and her hair was growing as quickly as could be expected; moreover, she was beginning to talk more openly to her friend, the district visitor; and when this lady found that she was denying herself many little comforts, and every moment of leisure, for the sake of taking the remainder of her clothing out of pawn, she one day offered to lend her two sovereigns, saying, that this would save her from having any further interest to pay, and that she might take everything out of pawn, and pay back this sum at her convenience.

    Emily was very grateful for this kindness, and agreed to pay two shillings a week to her kind friend, till she had restored all.  The mere circumstance of being so trusted did her good, and revived her spirits; and when she got back her comfortable clothes into her own keeping, she could take more pleasure in her needle, for she had now a character to maintain with her visitor; she had been trusted as well as employed, and she resolved not to spend one day even in looking after a teacher's situation, till she had paid back every farthing.

    In all her distress and loss of health, Emily had never so far forgotten her bringing up, and the excellent instruction she had received, as to neglect attendance at church, or a due observance of the Lord's day.  She had, like John Mills, been tried as to whether she would and could present herself in her working dress; and perhaps at first it was the recollection that, even in his native town and among those who knew him, he had not shrunk from this plain duty, which nerved up Emily to do likewise.  Like him, she ventured forth shamefaced and forlorn; but like him, she often came home refreshed and strengthened for her week-day task, and she found a blessing where she had only gone as a duty.  In the days of her prosperity she had often been a careless worshipper, and a little thing would make her attention wander; but now she needed this weekly refreshment, this reminding of holy things, to make her hard work easier, and lead her to think amid the turmoil of the great city, that often seemed as if it would sweep her away and swallow her up, of that heavenly city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

    From her childhood she had been accustomed to read a chapter in the Bible before she retired to bed, but during her sojourn with Mrs. Smart in the empty house, she had often reached home so late, that her weary eyes were not fit for any further occupation, and if she had gone through the task mechanically, it would have made no impression on her mind.

    Now, however, that she shared a little room with her old friend, and did her work at home, she resumed her former habit, and often read the chapter aloud to Mrs. Smart, after a return from the day's Charing, that kind creature listening with due attention, and evidently supposing that it was more Emily's duty than her own to be religious and devout; because, as she observed

    'The girl has learning, and is to be a school-missis.'

    But Mrs. Smart derived much benefit from Emily besides this nightly reading, for Emily kept the room so clean and comfortable, cooked her such a cosy little supper by the time she returned from her charing or washing, and was so pleasant and good-tempered, that Mrs. Smart thought she could do no less than yield to her persuasion that she would come with her to church, so she put on her best things one fine Sunday morning, and set off in good time to the free seats, remarking that it was a highly respectable thing to go to church, but not apparently aware that it was a necessary thing, which could not be neglected with impunity by any who had opportunity to attend.


 
CHAPTER VI.


WE must now leave Emily Welland for a time, to follow the fortunes of her old friend John Mills, whose prospects began to brighten at the same time that hers became clouded.

    John came up to London about the time that he mentioned in his letter to Emily, and several times in the evening he came and walked before the house where Mrs. Smalley had lived.  He observed that it was not tenanted.  As Emily had told him that she worked for a milliner who was quite as rich as her aunt had ever been, the poor fellow had foolish visions of her present manner of life that were very far indeed from the truth.  He supposed that all success had attended her, for she had not told him that it was otherwise.  He fancied her prettily dressed, and looking handsomer than ever, engaged in the light and pleasant occupation of trying on shawls and bonnets for beautiful ladies, and sometimes getting a drive in the milliner's carriage.

    'I only hope her head will not be turned,' thought honest John, 'for what with the riches one sees on all hands, and what with the succeeding so well as everybody seems to do, it is very difficult not to grow covetous, and forget the world to come in the prosperity and happiness of this.'

    By that speech it will easily be seen that John was a successful man, for as the unfortunate often learn to look at the side which harmonizes most with their own circumstances, and observe poverty, loss, and descent, so the successful see most the riches and prosperity around them, and if they are rising in life they can think of many who are doing the same.

    John, as we have said, walked several times past the house formerly occupied by Mrs. Smalley; because it was the only place in London where he knew that she had been.  She had not told him the name of the milliner for whom she worked, but had allowed him to address to her to the care of Mrs. Smart.  He therefore had no clue to her abode, and when the house was let he ceased to pass it, and utterly lost sight of her, for she did not correspond with any one in Dorsetshire, and he sometimes thought with pain that this might be because she now felt ashamed of her old friends.

    John stayed in London for a year, for the money he earned by his carvings was enough to maintain his family, though he bestowed so little time on them as to leave him abundant leisure for improvement.  He came back, as his mother phrased it, 'quite the gentleman;' but by this the good woman did not mean that he held himself high, for she distinctly declared to a neighbour that such was not the case; but that his manners were improved by intercourse with his superiors, and his language cleared from provincial expressions, for John had not forgotten his old feeling, that a man 'who wanted to marry a schoolmistress' had need to take pains with his learning; and though he had quite lost sight of Emily, and could scarcely hope to see her again, much less obtain her for a wife, she was still a spur to him, and having long wished to feel, he could now begin to feel, that he was not unworthy of her.

    Mr. Clements had been very kind to John; had given him introductions to several artists, and had procured for him first-rate instruction.  The pupil proved more apt than the master could have hoped, and was soon so much the fashion in the circle of his patron, as to become independent of any help, and to have more orders than he could execute.

    But John had excellent sense: he had come to London to improve himself, and improvement he would have even at the expense of present profit: he therefore executed no more carving work than sufficed to earn for his mother the customary weekly sum, and to provide for himself a bare maintenance.

    The time passed quickly with him, and might have passed happily, but that he could not forget Emily, nor cease to long for her society; but he supposed she was well off, and that this ought to content him, and he came to his family cheerful and full of hope; he had obtained what he wanted, and more; he had satisfied his craving for instruction; he had seen some of the finest wood-carvings in existence; he had decided that carving in wood and not in stone was to be his art, and he had a reasonable expectation that he should be able to earn an abundant and even handsome maintenance.

    And now there was no need to work in a chill shed and eat coarse food; John hired a pretty house in a good garden, and removed his parents to it.  It was such a short distance from the old cottage that he could see distinctly from his pleasant workroom the gable end and the windows of Emily's former home, the little casement where he had often seen her sitting at work, and the tall white lilies which had been his models years before.

    It was the time of the midsummer holidays when he returned and placed his mother in her new abode, which the good woman declared to be 'quite a paradise,' — in fact, it had a parlour within and a little orchard without, and if that did not constitute her a proud and happy woman she wondered what would.  So she bustled about with a little servant whom her dutiful son had hired for her; and considering the place to be far too good to be lived in, she was for sitting in the parlour only on Sunday afternoons, lest some harm should happen to the little square of Scotch carpet, and the six cane chairs which stood by the walls.

    John, however, made a decree that his father should sit in the parlour every night during the warm weather, in his own particular easy-chair, and play a game at chess with him, for that was almost the only amusement the poor cripple could enjoy.  'After which,' said John, 'you will sit there, mother, and work, for it looks comfortable, and is far cooler than the kitchen.'

    To this the mother consented with secret pleasure, but stipulated that the family should return to the kitchen to eat their supper, and that the children should sit there to learn their tasks.  'If they want to look at their father and me sitting like gentlefolks,' said the good woman, 'they may come outside and see us through the window.'

    Of this permission the Miss Mills frequently availed themselves while there was any novelty in the sight; but people soon grow accustomed to comfort, and Mrs. Mills learned before the cold weather set in not only to see a fire in the grate, but even to drink tea in the parlour and see her children sit there.

    But nobody enjoyed the parlour so little as John did, — John, who had provided the small square of carpet which was reckoned such a luxury, and the six cane chairs which looked so glossy and yellow.  John was sometimes in low spirits now; for though he strove to be thankful and glad of the great change and happy ease of his present life, a conversation that he had had with Miss Cooper soon after his return weighed on his mind, and cost him many a restless hour.

    Miss Cooper had called to see him, and had asked what he knew about Emily.

    'Nothing,' said John.

    'I was afraid so,' answered Miss Cooper, sighing; 'poor girl!'

    'Why poor?' asked John.  'I never doubted that she was quite as well off as I am; she can hardly be better off.'

    'No, no, Mr. Mills,' replied the schoolmistress; 'I know Emily well, and I am quite sure that, if she was in good circumstances, she would have written; why should she not write to me that am her old friend?  You may be sure she would have done so and given us an address —'

    'Surely you don't think she is dead?' exclaimed John, turning cold and sick at heart.

    'Oh, no; I have no ground for such a thought,' said the schoolmistress: 'but I say, unless there was some reason for it, she would write.'

    'She said in her letter that she worked for a rich milliner,' observed John.

    'And what is that?  No more than working for a poor one, as far as earnings are concerned, and I know that those must be small.  Unknown girls from the country do not get taken into partnership or made confidential assistants, as Emily expected her aunt to do for her.  No, John, depend on it she has made the best of matters to you, but I feel sure that if she was really comfortable, she would have written to me and told me so, and asked me to come and see her, for she knows that I have a sister there, and that I have been talking of going up to stay with her, for a long time.'

    But John, though this conversation made him uneasy, struggled against the feeling, for it seemed to him unreasonable; he argued with himself that Emily was very clever, and was therefore sure to get on; she had excellent principles and would not do wrong; the only real danger for him, he considered, was, lest she should marry some other man before he had a chance of showing her what a comfortable home and what a well-informed husband he could now give her, if she would but change her mind and like him well enough to be his wife.

    'John, I expect you'll soon be thinking of settling,' said his mother, one day when he came home with a new American clock for the best kitchen, 'but don't marry a dawdle, lad; take a good sprack lass, whoever she be.'

    'I shall never marry any but a Dorsetshire girl, mother,' said John, who well knew that his mother was thinking of the gaily dressed daughters of one of the drapers in the town, — girls who would never have thought of him in his former circumstances, but who now were particularly civil to him, and to his mother and to his young sisters.'

    'Well, lad,' said she, 'though I be not Dorsetshire myself, I have no objections to thy having a liking to it and to a good Dorset lass, only providing it be not Emily Welland thou sets thy heart upon.'

    'And why not Emily Welland?' exclaimed John.

    'Why not? because she will never like thee.  John, it vexes me to see that face in the carving shed; I know very well whose face it is.'

    'I carved that figure for my own pleasure,' replied John, 'and it has been a comfort to me.  Why would you have me give up my hope and my ambition, mother?'

    'Ambition! why, lad, sure Emily Welland cannot hold her head higher than thine now.  Ambition indeed!'

    'It has always been my ambition to be worthy of her,' said John, calmly, 'and if I cannot forget her, what is the use of talking about my settling, mother?  Are you so very anxious that I should settle?'

    'No, lad; we've struggled through a good deal together; I've been used to be the first, and I don't want to see another woman set over my head — that's the truth.'

    'I knew that before you told me,' said John, smiling.  'Look here, mother; we shall know what time of day it is now to a minute, and I've bought father a new waistcoat and you a tea-caddy.'

    'He does not look as if things went well with him,' thought the mother, as her son retired to his workshop.  'I've seen him look cheerfuller when he had but a crust.'

    John went to his workshop, and there worked hard, having bravely resolved to look on the bright side of his circumstances.  He had everything in this life that he cared for, and more than he could reasonably have hoped; but one thing was denied him — the knowledge of Emily's welfare.  This he was not to have; and, like a wise man, instead of indulging melancholy, and relaxing his efforts to improve himself in consequence of this anxiety, he resolved rather to redouble his exertions, not to allow himself one idle moment, and to take for his special motto the text, 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.'

    With his might he carved, with his might he read and attended lectures, during the week; with his might on Sunday he taught in the Sunday school, attended divine service, listened to the sermon, and strove to make a good use of the hours spent at home.  So passed a year fruitful in exertions, full of improvement and success, and on the whole a very happy year, though still the memory of that face to which his mother had alluded was dear to John, and he did not wish to forget it.

    He had carved a figure, as he said, for his own pleasure; and in his workshop he had made a small recess, with a little door to shut it in.  Sometimes he would open the door and look at his work; it was the best and finest he had ever done, and represented a young girl stepping over fallen leaves; loose and light as feathers they looked, owing to the carver's skill; and a shawl was drawn over the head, which fell in simple folds down the youthful figure; the face was Emily Welland's; but it was more as she looked when seated at her work in the London garret than as John had known her in the earlier days of her prosperity, for it had a gentle and thoughtful expression that it then very seldom, though now it habitually wore.

    It was drawing towards autumn; London was emptied of nearly all who were rich enough to go out and enjoy the air and freshness of the country; the parks were dusty and hot, the grass scorched, the streets close, and the passers through them frequently looked tired and languid.  Even strong workmen wielded their tools less actively than usual, and street-beggars plied their trade with less alacrity and ready impertinence.  The weather was too much for them.  Work was very slack with the needlewomen —the ladies were out of town; the dressmakers, no less gaily attired, had followed in their wake, and there was nothing stirring.  In a quiet little square, however, the committee of a society for promoting emigration was sitting; that is to say, three members were sitting, the remaining nine being out of town.

    To the committee-room of this society a well-dressed young man was shown just as a young woman left it by another door.

    'Mr. Mills, I believe?' said the chairman, and then, looking at the new-comer, 'You come for information, I presume, not for help from the society?'

    'Oh, no,' said John Mills, for he it was; 'but I am taking my family out to Sydney, and some men whom I now employ wish to go with me; it is on their account that I want to make some inquiries, sir, concerning this society.'

    'You could give them regular employment there?' asked the chairman.

    'Yes; I have taken a contract to supply all the carving required for one of the new public buildings there.  I want workmen, but they cannot go without their families.'

    Upon this followed an account from the chairman of the amount of assistance given by the committee to deserving families, and the care taken of their members — especially of them during the somewhat wearisome voyage.  John listened with interest, but he had not much time to spare, and was about to say that he thanked the chairman, and would retire, as he had received the requisite information, when one of the committee said in a careless tone to the other, 'By the bye, that young woman might do for a teacher, though too young to superintend the women.  Did you tell her to apply again?'

    Some doubtful answer was made which did not reach John's uninterested ears, and then a book was referred to for a name.

    'Let me see,' said the chairman, turning over the leaves of a book, 'applications accepted, Clara Hope, Ellen Smith; applications declined, Emily Welland —'

    John had already risen to make his parting bow, the bell was rung, and the door was opened, a person had already appeared to show him out, when the name of the rejected applicant struck upon his ear, and he stopped with a sudden start.  Emily Welland!  It was not a common name, and John immediately asked to have it repeated, and to be allowed to copy the address.  These were soon given to him, and as he stood soon after leaning against the rails of a dusty square, and looking upon the scorched grass and dingy trees within, his heart beat high with hope and wonder, for this Emily Welland was the young woman whom he had seen leaving the room as he had entered; her face had been turned from him, but, excepting that Emily was the same height as she had appeared in the cursory glance he had cast towards her, there was nothing in this girl's appearance that even reminded him of her.

    Neat, trim, fresh, and well dressed, with a light elastic step, an erect figure, the real Emily rose before his imagination.  This young woman was certainly neat, but to his country eyes there was a dingy look about the very plain bonnet, and an appearance of poverty in the common black print gown and shabby shawl, which few young maid-servants would have presented even in their everyday costume.  Yet the name was Emily Welland.  It was worth inquiring into, he thought, so he strolled out of the square and called a cab, reading the address to the driver from the paper in his hand, for John had plenty of money in his pocket, no need, and indeed not time to spare, for walking now; the distance was four miles, and he had some purchases to make on his way.

    So he stopped at several shops, asking for things that no one buys but emigrants, — sun-bonnets for his mother and sisters, pegged chessmen to be used at sea, and other things which took some time to choose, but which did not divert his mind from the possibility that he might after all be on his way to see the long-lost Emily.

    At last the cab threaded several narrow and dingy streets, with rags stuffed into broken panes, dirty Irish children lying on the pavement in the shade, and dirty mothers squatted beside them with backs to the wall.

    John now laughed outright in the cab, and called himself a foolish fellow for coming on such a wild-goose chase, as if the delicate Emily lived in such a hole, he thought.

    'She never went down a place like this in her life, I'll engage,' he said to himself; 'however, on I'll go, and see for myself that it is some other person of her name.  There is nothing like seeing, to drive foolish thoughts away.'

    Presently the cab stopped.  John found himself an object of interest.  A cab did not often visit the alley; and two pale-faced children were looking in at the open windows and making their remarks to each other respecting his dress and appearance.

    'That's the court you want, sir,' said the cabman, pointing down a still narrower alley.

    John told him to wait, and not without some trepidation went down it, and looked for the number upon his address.  There stood the house; it was three stories high, and the room he was to find Emily Welland in was the three-pair back.

    He mounted the stairs, and knocked at the door in question, then tried it, and found it locked; but a young woman with work in her hand looked out from the front room, and said her neighbour was out.

    'What is your neighbour's name?' asked John.'

    'Welland,' was the reply.  'There was an old lady named Smart, that used to live with her, but she's just dead.'

    'I wanted to see Emily Welland,' said John.

    The woman took a key, opened the locked door, and John walked in eagerly, and began to look about him with an attention which appeared to surprise her.  Not a trace could he find; not a book, nor a box, nor even an article of any kind, which he remembered as having belonged to the pupil-teacher, was to be seen.  The little room was clean, but bare in the extreme: a bed, two or three chairs, a table with work upon it, and a box, were all it contained, excepting the smallest of corner-cupboards, the door of which stood open.  John walked up to it, and looked in at the few cups and plates, the morsel of butter, the small piece of bread, and the tiny tea-caddy.

    This scrutiny seemed to alarm the woman.  Perhaps she thought he was a policeman in plain clothes, for she coloured, and remarked nervously, that all the people in the house were very respectable, and that Emily Welland had never been in trouble.

    'What is Emily Welland's occupation?' asked John.

    'She takes in needlework,' said the neighbour.  'What did you please to want with her, sir?'

    John felt that this was a natural question, but he hardly knew how to answer it, especially as a decent-looking woman, evidently fresh from the wash-tub, stood wiping her arms just outside the open door, and two girls were peeping at him from the staircase.

    'I merely wished to speak to her.'

    'Gentleman says he merely wished to speak to Emily,' shouted the neighbour in the ear of the washerwoman, who was deaf.

    The washerwoman, in that peculiarly internal voice often used by the deaf, replied that if the gentleman had any work for her, he had better leave a message; and this reply was repeated to him by the other neighbour, who told him at the same time that Mrs. Brian was a very respectable woman, and washed for Mrs. Green in the Square.

    'I have no doubt she is very respectable,' replied John, repeating their favourite word, and as he spoke he was conscious of a gentle step coming softly upstairs.

    He heard it even while the neighbour shouted this complimentary sentence into the deaf washerwoman's ear, and he felt that it was close to the door.

    'There's a gentleman wants to speak to you,' said one of the girls.

    John's eyes were on the ground; he felt so ashamed of having tracked out one who might have had great reason for wishing to remain unknown, that for an instant, though he saw the skirts of the shabby black gown, he could not raise them to see the person who stood before him.

    'John,' said Emily, in a quiet voice.

    'Yes, Emily,' replied John, with his old humility, 'I beg your pardon if I intrude.'

    'No, you don't intrude, John,' said Emily; but after glancing at him, she looked round the bare room and at the poverty-stricken neighbours, and reddened as she had hardly done since she left Dorsetshire.

    She then took the door-handle in her hand, and the neighbour somewhat reluctantly withdrawing, she closed the door, and she and John looked each other in the face for the first time.

    Emily saw a well-dressed young man, strong, healthful, and with an intelligent expression; prosperity appeared in his independent bearing, his manners were improved, his appearance even justified the epithet that those women had bestowed on him of 'the gentleman.'

    And John saw a quiet, gentle-looking creature, with a pale cheek and a thin hand, privation written on every line of the subdued and somewhat sickly face, which was still pretty, though in all but mere features greatly changed.

    'I have had a great many troubles since I saw you last,' said Emily quietly.

    John shook back his curly hair, and felt as if the words he wanted to say were choking him, but at length he muttered, that for his part he had had many blessings, and no trouble at all worth mentioning, excepting the not having been able to find out anything about her.

    'I had got nearly clear of my difficulties,' said Emily, 'and was hoping to get a teacher's situation, when my good friend that I lived with fell ill, and wanted so much nursing and doctoring, that I had to part with almost all I had on her account, and give up my thought of teaching.'

    Emily began this speech very bravely, but when she got so far, she shed a few tears, and stopped to wipe them away before she went on.

    'There is nothing now to prevent my taking up teaching again.  I have been to look after a situation to-day, and I hope I shall get one in time.'

    John had not a word to say; it was evident that Emily did not intend to allow him to condole with her; but he was determined not to go, so he boldly sat down, and Emily set her bread and butter on the table, and remarking that a neighbour of hers would lend her some boiling water, took away her teapot and left him for a minute or two alone.

    When she came back she cut up the bread; they drank some tea; and Emily was drawn on gradually to tell of her past troubles, and the three years she had lost out of her life, and John to tell of his intended voyage, the growth of his sisters, and his father's notion that the voyage would be the making of him, and be the means, most likely, of restoring his crippled hand.  At last, when tea was over, Emily remarked that she had some work to do, and irresistible curiosity bringing in the deaf neighbour, John felt compelled to go, but he had told her that he should come again and see her, and to bring her a book that had been her grandmother's, which he had bought of her uncle, because he had seen her read in it when he was a child.

    And now Emily was left alone, and as she sat at work silent tears stole down her face.  The contrast between herself and John was painful to her in the extreme; but she was not the same Emily in mind and thought who had been so ambitious and self-seeking as she sat in her grandmother's pleasant cottage.  Sorrow and privation had, with the blessing of God, made her see, not only her mistake, her too great desire for ease and for a higher station, but had opened her eyes to the state of mind under which she had cherished ambitious hopes and present discontent.

    The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; this she felt had been proved in her case.  She had received swiftness for the race of life, but she had been vain-glorious, had stumbled, and now the person in whose way had been placed so many impediments had outstripped her, and shown her that all her advantages, all her favourable circumstances, all her intelligence, could not weigh again the blessing of Providence upon the simple performance of humble every-day duties.

    Nearly three years of her young life, as she thought, had been lost utterly, — lost as far as advancement and usefulness went; for with the help of her kind friend the district-visitor, she had scarcely got back her clothes from the pawn-shop, when Mrs. Smart fell ill, and she felt that she could do no less than return the kindness this good woman had shown to herself.  It was not a case for an hospital, nor could she leave her for the day to teach, and after a few bitter struggles with herself, principle got the upper hand, and she resolved, whatever might be the disadvantage to herself, to remain with her first friend in the dreary waste of London, and return her the goodwill and kindness she had shown to her in her trouble.  It was no easy task that she had taken on herself.  The illness was soon declared incurable, and, one by one, almost everything the poor woman possessed went to the old resort; there was no other means of procuring her food or medicine.  Emily's possessions, so lately redeemed, followed once more, for her needlework done at home was not sufficient to maintain them, even with the help of parish relief and charity.

    By slow degrees the lamp of life burnt low, and now Emily derived a blessing in her turn from the poor woman, whom she had by gentle urgency and kindness persuaded to attend to those things which belonged to her peace.  Now she saw a patience under suffering which made her own task in waiting and working easy to her; now she received such gratitude and affection as made her mind turn gratefully to that Redeemer who had done so much more for her than she could hope to do for her fellow-mortal.  At last the sufferer died, blessing and thanking her; and Emily, when she returned from the funeral to her empty room, thanked God that she had been enabled to be of use, and turned her thoughts again to her first calling.  She was now free to teach, if she could meet with a situation; and being told of the society where John had heard her name, she applied for a free voyage to Australia, on condition of teaching the young female emigrants, and keeping order amongst them on board ship.  She was thought too young, but hope was given her of a passage, not as a teacher, but as taught; she might go as one of the young people, if she liked; but she must be under the matron, and conform to the regulations in all respects.

    Emily blushed deeply on hearing this, and asked for time to consider; but, as she walked home, her quiet and now truly humble mind revolved the matter.  There was a situation as teacher to a ragged-school that she believed she could have at once, if she applied for it; but if it should fail her, she thought she would go to Australia under the discipline of the matron spoken of.  And thus she began life under fairer auspices, and with every reasonable hope of success.

    She looked about her little bare room and thought to herself, with keen annoyance, that she could have wished her old friend had not seen her in her poverty and degradation; this one painful circumstance had hitherto been spared her, for none of her former acquaintances had found her out, but to-day the one whose good opinion she most cared for, had, as she thought, looked on her as being now far more below him than he had ever been, in her opinion, beneath her.

    Perhaps, if she could have heard John's own account of the matter, she would have been consoled, for when his mother remarked to him the next day that he seemed to be in very good spirits, he gave her as a reason that he had met with Emily Welland's address, and had been to see her.  His mother, who was packing a box, looked very grave on hearing this, and said, 'Lad, don't deceive thyself with any false hopes.'

    John made no reply, and his mother added, 'She was always proud.  And how did she receive thee, my lad?  How did she look?'

    'She looked pretty,' said John.  'I don't know that she is quite as blooming as she was, but for all that she is very much improved — wonderfully improved.'

    'Ah,' cried the mother, shaking her head, 'improved — that's to be expected; London ways improve thee, and they would her.  But she's out of thy reach, lad, with her silks and her flowers.  Thou must not be so ambitious.  Improved, is she?  Well, is she in partnership with the grand lady she worked with?'

    'No, mother, I am sure she is not,' answered John; 'and when I said she was improved, I did not mean in such things as her dress or her manners.  I meant that she looked so gentle — so — just what a woman should look.  I am sure, if you could see her now, you would not say that she was proud.'

    The mother shook her head and went on with her packing, which absorbed her attention, and she soon began to talk of the 'Black Ball' line of packets in which they were all to sail, of the comfortable new outfits, and of her husband's joy in the prospect of the sea voyage.

    John would have liked to tell her of Emily Welland's circumstances; but seeing her so much interested in other matters, he stood by her silently reflecting on those words of Holy Writ: 'He putteth down one and setteth up another.'

    'I hope, mother, we shall not forget in our prosperity the good God who helped us in our distress,' he said at last.

    'No, lad,' replied the mother, and presently said, 'I'm not proud, I'm only thankful.'

    'Mother, have you forgotten Emily?' asked John.

    'No, lad,' she answered. 'Art going to see her again?'

    'Yes,' said John; 'and I shall ask her to marry me.  Wish me success, mother.'

    Upon this the good woman looked up, and rose from her box.

    'Wish thee success, lad! ay, to be sure; but I don't expect she will marry thee.  I thought as thou had sold the figure — thou had forgotten her.'

    'No, mother; but when I came to reflect that I had been offered thirty pounds for that figure, and that there was no fear of my forgetting the form of Emily, I felt that it was a sin to keep it by me, for that thirty pounds would enable three families to come out to us, for the society I told you of only asks ten pounds, and will provide all the rest.  What had I done, mother, to help others in token that I was grateful to God who has helped me? — Why, nothing, and I had no money to spare, when all we required was bought — indeed, I had nothing but that; so I just touched the face a little to take away the likeness, and parted with it.'

    John's mother on hearing this wished him success again, and off he went, leaving her to the occupation that she thought so delightful — that of folding, sorting, and packing an abundance of good neat clothing for herself, her husband, and her children.  Sometimes during the afternoon she thought of John, but oftener of the outfits, though she did heartily wish him success, for Emily Welland was the wife whom she had always wished he might have.

    At last, when it had become quite dusk, and she had had her supper, and retired again to the little bedroom of the lodging, and was wondering whether she could pack any longer without a candle, she heard her son's step as he came slowly up the stairs, and when he entered, without saying a word, she felt sure that he had been disappointed, and said to him, with motherly affection

    'Well, lad, there's more than one good lass in the world, thank God.'

    'Yes, thank God for that, mother,' replied John; 'but I'll thank Him first for giving me the one I asked for.'

    'What!' exclaimed the mother, really surprised and pleased, 'did she take thee, after all, and not say, as I thought she would, that thou was too ambitious, lad?'

    'No, mother, said John; 'but we have been talking about being ambitious, and Emily says she is sure there must be two kinds, and that hers was the wrong one, so she sent her love to you, mother, and I was to tell you that she knew you had often thought her ambitious, and so she has been: she has been always wishing, she says, to rise and do a higher kind of work, instead of doing her own work in the highest and best way.'

    'Ah,' said the mother, 'that last is thy kind, lad.'

    'I wish it to be,' said John; 'so, mother, I must try to take that ambition with me, as Emily will to leave her ambition behind.'


――――♦――――




S. Cowan & Co., General Printers, Perth.

 


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