Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

THE

CORNHILL MAGAZIN

JULY, 1878.

" For Percival.”

CHAPTER XXXV.

OF THE LANDLADY'S DAUGHTER.

[graphic]

EARLY in that December the

lady's daughter came home. cival could not fix the precise but he knew it was early i month, because about the 8 9th he was suddenly aware he had more than once encour a smile, a long curl, and a pa turquoise earrings on thes He had noticed the earring could speak positively as to He had seen turquoises before taken little heed of them possibly his friends had hap to buy rather small ones. felt pretty certain about the curl. And he thought there a smile, but he was not so

lutely sure of the smile. By the twelfth he was quite sure of it. It seemed to him that i cold work for any one to be so continually on the stairs in Decer The owner of the smile had said “ Good morning, Mr. Thorne."

On the thirteenth a question suggested itself to him.
VOL. XXXVIII.-NO. 223.

1.

o Was

[ocr errors]

could she be-always running up and down stairs? Or did it happen that just when he went out and came back—?” He balanced his pen in his fingers for a minute, and sat pondering. "Oh, confound it !” he said to himself, and went on writing.

That evening he left the office to the minute, and hurried to Bellevue Street. He got half way up the stairs and met no one, but he heard a voice on the landing exclaim, “Go to old Fordham's caddy, then, for you shan't-oh good gracious !” and there was a hurried rustle. He went more slowly the rest of the way, reflecting. Fordham was another lodger, elderly, as the voice had said. Percival went to his sittingroom, and looked thoughtfully into his tea-caddy. It was nearly half full, and he calculated that, according to the ordinary rate of consumption, it should have been empty, and yet he had not been more sparing than usual. His landlady had told him where to get his tea; she said she found it cheap; it was a fine-flavoured tea, and she always drank it. Percival supposed so, and wondered where old Fordham got his tea, and whether that was fine-flavoured too.

There was a giggle outside the door, a knock, and in answer to Percival's “Come in,” the landlady's daughter appeared. She explained that Emma had gone out shopping-Emma was the grimy girl who ordinarily waited on him-so, with a nervous little laugh, with a toss of the long curl, which was supposed to have got in the way somehow, and with the turquoise earrings quivering in the candlelight, she brought in the tray. She conveyed by her manner that it was a new and amusing experience in her life, but that the burden was almost more than her strength could support, and that she required assistance. Percival, who had stood up when she came in, and thanked her gravely from his position on the hearthrug, came forward and swept some books and papers out of the way, to make room for her load. In so doing their hands touched, his white and beautifully shaped, hers clumsy and coarsely coloured. (It was not poor Lydia's fault. She had written to more than one of those amiable editors, who devote a column or two in family magazines to settling questions of etiquette, giving recipes for pomades and puddings, and telling you how you may take stains out of silk, get rid of freckles, or know whether a young man means anything by his attentions. There had been a little paragraph, beginning "L.'s hands are not as white as she could wish, and she asks us what she is to do. We can only recommend," &c. Poor L. had tried every recommendation in faith and in vain, and was in a fair way to learn the hopelessness of her quest.)

The touch thrilled her with pleasure, and Thorne with repugnance. He drew back, while she busied herself in arranging his cup, saucer, and plate. She dropped the spoon on the tray, scolded herself for her own stupidity, looked up at him with a hurried apology, and laughed. If she did not blush, she conveyed by her manner a sort of idea of blushing, and went out of the room with a final giggle, being confused by his opening the door for her,

Percival breathed again, relieved from an oppression, and wor what on earth had made her take an interest in his tea and him. the reason was not far to seek. It was that tragic, melancholy, face of bis—he felt so little like a hero, that it was hard for him to that he looked like one—his sombre eyes, which might have been of an exile thinking of his home, the air of proud and rather old-fash courtesy, which he had inherited from his grandfather the Recto developed for himself. Every girl is ready to find something prince in one who treats her with deference, as if she were a pri Percival had an unconscious grace of bearing and attitude, and th siderable advantage of well-made clothes. Poverty had not yet re him to cheap coats, and advertised trousers. And perhaps the cro fascination in poor Lydia's eyes was the slight, dark, silky mous which emphasised, without hiding, his lips.

Another rustling outside, a giggle, and a whisper-Percival have sworn that the whisper was Emma's, if it had been possible she could have left it behind her when she went out shopping-an lation, “ Gracions ! I've blacked my hand !” a pause, presumably fe purpose of removing the stain, and Lydia reappeared with the 1 She poured a portion of its contents over the fender, in her anxi plant it firmly on the fire. "Oh dear !” she exclaimed, “ how stu me! Oh, Mr. Thorne !” this half archly, half pensively, fingerir curl, and surveying the steaming pool, “ I'm afraid you'll wish E hadn't

gone out—such a mess as I've made of it. What will you of me!"

"Pray don't trouble yourself,” said Percival. "The fender signify, except perhaps from Emma's point of view. It doesn't inte with my comfort, I assure you."

She departed, only half convinced. Percival, with another si relief, proceeded to make the tea. The water was boiling, and th good. Emma was apt to set a chilly kettle on a glimmering spark Lydia treated him better. The bit of cold meat on the table 1 bigger than he expected, the butter wore a cheerful sprig of g Percival saw his advantages, but he thought them dearly bought, cially as he had to take a turn up and down Bellevue Street, whil table was cleared.

After that day it was astonishing how often Emma went out ping, or was busy, or had a bad finger, or a bad foot, or was helpin with something or other, or hadn't made herself tidy, so that Lydia to wait on Mr. Thorne. But it was always with the same air being something very droll and amusing to do, and there were al some artless mistakes, which required giggling apologies. Nor cou doubt that he was in her thoughts during his absence. She had a downstairs, on which she accompanied herself as she sang, but she f time for domestic cares. His buttons were carefully sewn on, and fire was always bright. One evening his table was adorned with a b blue vase---as blue as Lydia's earrings-filled with dried grasses, and paper flowers. He gazed blankly at it, in unspeakable horror, and then paced up and down the room, wondering how he should endure life with it continually before his eyes. Some books lay on a side table, and as he passed he looked absently at them and halted. On his Shelley, slightly askew, as if to preclude all thought of care and design, lay a little volume, bound in dingy white and gold. Percival did not touch it, but he stooped and read the title, The Language of Flowers, and saw that-purely by accident of course --a leaf was doubled down as if to mark a place. He straightened himself again, and his proud lip curled in disgust, as he glanced from the tawdry flowers to the tawdry book. And from below came suddenly the jingling notes of Lydia's piano, and Lydia's voice, not exactly harsh, and only occasionally out of tune, but with something hopelessly vulgar in its intonation, singing her favourite song :

Oh, if I had some one to love me,

My troubles and trials to share. Percival turned his back on the blue vase and the little book, and flinging himself into a chair before the fire, sickened at the thought of the life he was doomed to lead. Lydia, who was just mounting with a little uncertainty to a high note, was a good girl in her way, and good-looking, and had a kind sympathy for him in his evident loneliness. But was she to be the highest type of womanhood that he would meet henceforth? And was Bellevue Street to be his world ? He glided into a mournful dream of Brackenhill, which would never be his, and of Sissy, who had loved him so well, yet failed to love him altogether--Sissy, who had hegged for her freedom with such tender pain in her voice, while she pierced him go cruelly with her frightened eyes. Percival looked very stern in his sadness as he sat brooding over his fire, while from the room below came a triumphant burst of song

But I will mirry my own love,

For true of leart am I. Sometimes he would picture to himself the future which lay before Horace's three-months old child, whose little life already played so allimportant a part in his own destiny. He had questioned Hammond about him, and Hammond had replied that he heard that Lottie and the boy were both doing well. “They say that the child is a regular Blake, just like Lottie herself," said Godfrey; "and doesn't look like a Thorne at all.” Percival thought, not unkindly, of Lottie's boy, of Lottie's great clear eyes in an innocent baby face, and imagined him growing up, slim and tall, to range the woods of Brackenhill in future years, as Lottie herself had wandered in the copses about Fordborough. And yet sometimes he could not but think of the change that it might make, if little James William Thorne were to die. Horace was very ill, they said ; Brackenhill was shut up, and they had all gone to winter

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »