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"Well, sir," said Elsworthy, "if you're a-going to bear malice, I haven't got nothing to say. But there ain't ten men in Carlingford as wouldn't agree with me that when a young gentleman, even if he is a clergyman, takes particklar notice of a pretty young girl, it ain't just for nothing as he does it -not to say watching over her paternal to see as she wasn't out late at night, and suchlike. But by gones is bygones, sir," said Elsworthy, "and is never more to be mentioned by me. I don't ask no more, if you'll but do the
"You won't ask no more?" said the Curate, angrily; "do you think I am afraid of you? I have nothing more to say, Elsworthy. Go and look after your businessI will attend to mine; and when we are not forced to meet, let us keep clear of each other. It will be better both for you and me."
The Curate passed on with an impatient nod; but his assailant did not intend that he should escape so easily. "I shouldn't have thought, sir, as you'd have borne malice," said Elsworthy, hastening on after him, yet keeping half a step behind. "I'm a humbled man- - different from what I ever thought to be. I could always keep up my head afore the world till now; and if it ain't your fault, sir-as I humbly beg your pardon for ever being so far led away as to believe it was-all the same it's along of you."
"What do you mean?" said the Curate, who, half amused and half indignant at the change of tone, had slackened his pace to listen to this new accusation.
"What I mean, sir, is, that if you hadn't been so good and so kindhearted as to take into your house the—the villain as has done it all, him and Rosa could never have known each other. I allow as it was nothing but your own goodness as did it; but it was a black day for me and mine," said the dramatist,
with a pathetic turn of voice. "Not as I'm casting no blame on you, as is well known to be—"
"Never mind what I'm well known to be," said the Curate; "the other day you thought I was the villain. If you can tell me anything you want me to do, I will understand that—but I am not desirous to know your opinion of me," said the careless young man. As he stood listening impatiently, pausing a second time, Dr Marjoribanks came out to his door and stepped into his brougham to go off to his morning round of visits. The Doctor took off his hat when he saw the Curate, and waved it to him cheerfully with a gesture of congratulation. Dr Marjoribanks was quite stanch and honest, and would have manfully stood by his intimates in dangerous circumstances; but somehow he preferred success. It was pleasanter to be able to congratulate people than to condole with them. He preferred it, and nobody could object to so orthodox a sentiment. Most probably, if Mr Wentworth had still been in partial disgrace, the Doctor would not have seen him in his easy glance down the road; but though Mr Wentworth was aware of that, the mute congratulation had yet its effect upon him. He was moved by that delicate symptom of how the wind was blowing in Carlingford, and forgot all about Elsworthy, though the man was standing by his side.
"As you're so good as to take it kind, sir," said the Clerk of St Roque's, "and, as I was a-saying, it's well known as you're always ready to hear a poor man's tale, perhaps you'd let bygones be bygones, and not make no difference? That wasn't all, Mr Wentworth," he continued eagerly, as the Curate gave an impatient nod, and turned to go on. "I've heard as this villain is rich, sir, by means of robbing of his own flesh and blood ;-but it ain't for me to trust to what folks says, after the experience I've had, and never can forgive myself for be
ing led away," said Elsworthy; "it's well known in Carlingford
66 'For heaven's sake come to the point and be done with it," said the Curate. "What is it you want me to do?"
"Sir," said Elsworthy, solemnly, "you're a real gentleman, and you don't bear no malice for what was a mistake-and you ain't one to turn your back on an unfortunate family-and Mr Wentworth, sir, you ain't a-going to stand by and see me and mine wronged, as have always wished you well. If we can't get justice of him, we can get damages," cried Elsworthy. "He ain't to be let off as if he'd done no harm -and seeing as it was along of you
"Hold your tongue, sir!" cried the Curate. "I have nothing to do with it. Keep out of my way, or at least learn to restrain your tongue. No more-not a word more," said the young man, indignantly. He went off with such a sweep and wind of anger and annoyance, that the slower and older complainant had no chance to follow him. Elsworthy accordingly went off to the shop where his errand-boys were waiting for the newspapers, and where Rosa lay up-stairs, weeping, in a dark room, where her enraged aunt had shut her up. Mrs Elsworthy had shut up the poor little pretty wretch, who might have been penitent under better guidance, but who by this time had lost what sense of shame and wrong her childish conscience was capable of in the stronger present sense of injury and resentment and longing to escape; but the angry aunt, though she could turn the key on poor Rosa's unfortunate little person, could not shut in the piteous sobs which now and then sounded through and through the house, and which converted all the errand-boys without exception into indignant partisans of Rosa, and even moved the heart of Peter Hayles, who could hear them at the back window where he was making up Dr Mar
joribanks's prescriptions. As the sense of injury waxed stronger and stronger in Rosa's bosom, she availed herself, like any other irrational, irresponsible creature, of such means of revenging herself and annoying her keepers as occurred to her. Nobody ever took no care of me," sobbed Rosa. "I never had no father or mother. Oh, I wish I was dead! I wish I was dead!-and nobody wouldn't care!" These utterances, it may be imagined, went to the very heart of the errand-boys, who were collected in a circle, plotting how to release Rosa, when Elsworthy, mortified and furious, came back from his unsuccessful assault on the Curate. They scattered like a covey of little birds before the angry man, who tossed their papers at them, and then strode up the echoing stairs. "If you don't hold your d-d tongue," said Elsworthy, knocking furiously at Rosa's door, "I'll turn you to the door this instant, I will, by Nobody in Carlingford had ever before heard an oath issue from the respectable lips of the Clerk of St Roque's. When he went down into the shop again, the outcries sank into frightened moans. Not much wonder that the entire neighbourhood became as indignant with Elsworthy as it ever had been with the Perpetual Curate. The husband and wife took up their positions in the shop after this, as far apart as was possible from each other, both resenting in silent fury the wrong which the world in general had done them. If Mrs Elsworthy had dared, she would have exhausted her passion in abuse of everybody-of the Curate for not being guilty, of her husband for supposing him to be so, and, to be sure, of Rosa herself, who was the cause of all. But Elsworthy was dangerous, not to be approached or spoken to. He went out about noon to see John Brown, and discuss with him the question of damages; but the occurrences which took place in his absence are not to be mixed up with the present nar
rative, which concerns Mr Frank Wentworth's visit to Lucy Wodehouse, and has nothing to do with ignoble hates or loves.
The Curate went rapidly on to the green door, which once more looked like a gate of paradise. He did not know in the least what he was going to do or say he was only conscious of a state of exaltation, a condition of mind which might precede great happiness or great misery, but had nothing in it of the common state of affairs in which people ask each other" How do you do?" Notwithstanding, the fact is, that when Lucy entered that dear familiar drawing-room, where every feature and individual expression of every piece of furniture was as well known to him as if they had been so many human faces, it was only "How do you do?" that the Curate found himself able to say. The two shook hands as demurely as if Lucy had indeed been, according to the deceptive representation of yesterday, as old as aunt Dora; and then she seated herself in her favourite chair, and tried to begin a little conversation about things in general. Even in these three days, nature and youth had done something for Lucy. She had slept and rested, and the unforeseen misfortune which had come in to distract her grief, had roused all the natural strength that was in her. As she was a little nervous about this interview, not knowing what it might end in, Lucy thought it her duty to be as composed and self-commanding as possible, and, in order to avoid all dangerous and exciting subjects, began to talk of Wharfside.
"I have not heard anything for three or four days about the poor woman at No. 10," she said: "I meant to have gone to see her today, but somehow one gets so selfish when-when one's mind is full of affairs of one's own.'
"Yes," said the Curate; "and, speaking of that, I wanted to tell you how much comfort your letter had been to me. My head, too, has
been very full of affairs of my own. I thought at one time that my friends were forsaking me. It was very good of you to write as you did."
Upon which there followed another little pause. Indeed, the goodness was all on your side," said Lucy, faltering. "If I had ever dreamt how much you were doing for us! but it all came upon me so suddenly. It is impossible ever to express in words one-half of the gratitude we owe you," she said with restrained enthusiasm. She looked up at him as she spoke with a little glow of natural fervour, which brought the colour to her cheek and the moisture to her eyes. She was not of the disposition to give either thanks or confidence by halves; and even the slight not unpleasant sense of danger which gave piquancy to this interview, made her resolute to express herself fully. She would not suffer herself to stint her gratitude because of the sweet suspicion which would not be quite silenced, that possibly Mr Wentworth looked for something better than gratitude. Not for any consequences, however much they might be to be avoided, could she be shabby enough to refrain from due acknowledgment of devotion so great. Therefore, while the Perpetual Curate was doing all he could to remind himself of his condition, and to persuade himself that it would be utterly wrong and mean of him to speak, Lucy looked up at him, looked him in the face, with her blue eyes shining dewy and sweet through tears of gratitude and a kind of generous admiration; for, like every other woman, she felt herself exalted and filled with a delicious pride in seeing that the man of her unconscious choice had proved himself the best.
The Curate walked to the window, very much as Mr Proctor had done, in the tumult and confusion of his heart, and came back again with what he had to say written clear on his face, without any possibility of mistake. "I must
speak," said the young man; "I have no right to speak, I know; if I had attained the height of selfsacrifice and self-denial, I might, I would be silent-but it is impossible now." He came to a break just then, looking at her to see what encouragement he had to go but as Lucy did nothing but listen and grow pale, he had to take his own way. "What I have to say is not anything new," said the Curate, labouring a little in his voice, as was inevitable when affairs had come to such a crisis, "if I were not in the cruelest position possible to a man. I have only an empty love to lay at your feet; I tell it to you only because I am obliged-because, after all, love is worth telling, even if it comes to nothing. I am not going to appeal to your generosity," continued the young man, kneeling down at the table, not by way of kneeling to Lucy, but by way of bringing himself on a level with her, where she sat with her head bent down on her low chair, or to ask you to bind yourself to a man who has nothing in the world but love to offer you; but after what has been for years, after all the hours I have spent here, I cannot-part-I cannot let you go without a word
And here he stopped short. He had not asked anything, so that Lucy, even had she been able, had nothing to answer; and as for the young lover himself, he seemed to have come to the limit of his eloquence. He kept waiting for a moment, gazing at her in breathless expectation of a response for which his own words had left no room. Then he rose in an indescribable tumult of disappointment and mortification-unable to conclude that all was over, unable to keep silence, yet not knowing what to say.
"I have been obliged to close all the doors of advancement upon myself," said the Curate, with a little bitterness; I don't know if you understand me. At this moment I have to deny myself the dearest privilege of existence. Don't mis
take me, Lucy," he said, after another pause, coming back to her with humility, "I don't venture to say that you would have accepted anything I had to offer; but this I mean, that to have a home for you now-to have a life for you ready to be laid at your feet, whether you would have had it or not;-what right have I to speak of such delights?" cried the young man. does not matter to you; and as for me, I have patience-patience to console myself with
Poor Lucy, though she was on the verge of tears, which nothing but the most passionate self-restraint could have kept in, could not help a passing sensation of amusement at these words. "Not too much of that either," she said, softly, with a tremulous smile. "But Patience carries the lilies of the saints," said Lucy, with a touch
of the sweet asceticism which had once been so charming to the young Anglican. It brought him back like a spell to the common ground on which they used to meet; it brought him back also to his former position on his knee, which was embarrassing to Lucy, though she had not the heart to draw back, nor even to withdraw her hand, which somehow happened to be in Mr Wentworth's way.
"I am but a man," said the young lover. "I would rather have the roses of life-but, Lucy, I am only a Perpetual Curate," he continued, with her hands in his. Her answer was made in the most heartless and indifferent words. She let two big drops-which fell like hail, though they were warmer than any summer rain-drop out of her eyes, and she said, with lips that had some difficulty in enunciating that heartless sentiment, "I don't see that it matters to me
Which was true enough, though it did not sound encouraging; and it is dreadful to confess that, for a little while after, neither Skelmersdale, nor Wentworth, nor Mr Proctor's new rectory, nor the no-income of the Perpetual Curacy of St Roque's, had
the smallest place in the thoughts of either of these perfectly inconsiderate young people. For half an hour they were an Emperor and Empress seated upon two thrones, to which all the world was subject; and when at the end of that time they began to remember the world, it was but to laugh at it in their infinite youthful superiority. Then it became apparent that to remain in Carlingford, to work at "the district," to carry out all the ancient intentions of well-doing which had been the first bond between them, was, after all, the life of lives ;which was the state of mind they had both arrived at when Miss Wodehouse, who thought they had been too long together under the circumstances, and could not help wondering what Mr Wentworth could be saying, came into the room, rather flurried in her own person. She thought Lucy must have been telling the Curate about Mr Proctor and his hopes, and was, to tell the truth, a little curious how Mr Wentworth would take it, and a little the very least-ashamed of encountering his critical looks. The condition of mind into which Miss Wodehouse was thrown when she perceived the real state of affairs would be difficult to describe. She was very glad and very sorry, and utterly puzzled how they were to live; and underneath all these varying emotions was a sudden, half-ludicrous, half-humiliating sense of being cast into the shade, which made Mr Proctor's fiancée laugh and made her cry, and brought her down altogether off the temporary pedestal upon which she had stepped, not without a little feminine satisfaction. When a woman is going to be married, especially if that marriage falls later than usual, it is natural that she should expect, for that time at least, to be the first and most prominent figure in her little circle. But, alas! what chance could there be for a mild, dove-coloured bride of forty beside a creature of half her age, endued with all the natural bloom and natural interest of youth?
VOL. XCVI.-NO. DLXXXV.
Miss Wodehouse could not quite make out her own feelings on the subject. "Don't you think if you had waited a little it would have been wiser?" she said, in her timid way; and then kissed her young sister, and said, "I am so glad, my darling-I am sure dear papa would have been pleased," with a sob which brought back to Lucy the grief from which she had for the moment escaped. Under all the circumstances, however, it may well be supposed that it was rather hard upon Mr Wentworth to recollect that he had engaged to return to luncheon with the Squire, and to prepare himself, after this momentous morning's work, to face all the complications of the family, where still Skelmersdale and Wentworth were hanging in the balance, and where the minds of his kith and kin were already too full of excitement to leave much room for another event. He went away reluctantly enough out of the momentary paradise where his Perpetual Curacy was a matter of utter indifference, if not a tender pleasantry, which rather increased than diminished the happiness of the moment-into the ordinary daylight world, where it was a very serious matter, and where what the young couple would have to live upon became the real question to be considered. Mr Wentworth met Wodehouse as he went out, which did not mend matters. The vagabond was loitering about in the garden, attended by one of Elsworthy's errand-boys, with whom he was in earnest conversation, and stopped in his talk to give a sulky nod and "Good morning," to which the Curate had no desire to respond more warmly than was necessary. Lucy was thinking of nothing but himself, and perhaps a little of the "great work" at Wharfside, which her father's illness and death had interrupted; but Mr Wentworth, who was only a man, remembered that Tom Wodehouse would be his brother-in-law with a distinct sensation of disgust, even in the moment of his triumph-which is one in