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had' not, of course, 'for the asking,' but on the mere relaxation of her lip or eye.”
“Dear George, you were such a happy married man yourself you think married life the only form of happiness. I do not underrate its blessings, but sometimes women are made for other, if not higher,
"With young Rowcroft she fancied she would have been happy enough." But you
could not or would not let her try that especial married life. Don't fret or tease her now ! that was the first of many trials."
“ The first of this abominable idea of taking up with hospital life.”
“ This,-no! she has relinquished it. I don't think Dulcie ever broke her word. And I think Molly's illness, and her own experience of incompetence, with all the will in the world in that great strait, were more truly the causes of the wish at all.”
“I can't bear to see a girl moping and low !”
“We must all have ebbs and flows of strength and spirits in our lives; perhaps Dulcie is right in thinking eight and twenty a great age.
“ You are younger at fifty.”
“Young again, perhaps ! At eight and twenty and eight and thirty your and my lives lay much apart and for some twenty years later. These last drawings together have been so sweet," and she drew her brother's arm through hers much as she had his daughter's four and twenty hours back.
“ And yet you have come to us only for two nights after two years' absence!” “But we are near.
I could come any
time." “By leave, sir! Train coming.'
Good-bye, God bless you! Why won't you come and live with us? Now poor Aunt Ursula has followed our dear mother you are free to choose at last.”
“Because I should lose the pleasure of staying with you. No, because, honestly, I think you and your dear girls are really better without a maiden aunt as permanent inmate of your home, and my work lies clearly elsewhere, this summer and autumn, at any rate, with poor Adelaide Meyrick.” But as she was mounting the carriage step she added softly, “Do you remember, George, this was our little Dulcie's birthday ?”
“No! was it? She was like your own child to you, Betty; why it's thirty years ago and more that she died, yet in some ways it seems but a day. I was out in the world, but to you home ones that was a sad summer.
“Yes ; and yet it has kept her a child to us for ever. Good-bye !"
“Good-bye.- Dear Elizabeth, sweetest and best of women," mused Mr. Erle to himself as he turned back to his carriage, where his faithful old deerhound Max had been keeping guard over goods and pony.
Dulcibella, sweet and fair ! surely the name would have fitted her own soul better than my poor Dulcie's: yet why I should call her poor I know not, and I won't do it; if I had let her become engaged to young Rowcroft she would have been a widow years ago ; if she had gone to that hospital she would have died of small-pox or fever long ago, for, from a child, she and Arthur always caught anything infectious that was going. What a fine child, girl, and young woman, body and soul, she was to be sure, full of promise; if only she could have had my little Freda's advantages,” and a light shone in the kind grey eyes at the very thought of this darling of later days; it may be that she was, to these later days, as a grandchild, rather than a daughter, the pleasure and delight the greater ; the responsibility, if but seemingly, the less.
“ There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
THREE hours later Miss Erle's cab stopped at 99, Church Street, Kensington, almost the last of the houses of that old street of the old Court Suburb left, even five years ago, as a private residence; and alas ! no longer, even then, for some score of years, looking through elms and hedgerows into a meadow, but on to a dreary barrack wall. Elizabeth's visits had, owing to the ever increasing infirmities of her aged mother and blind if younger aunt, of late years been so far apart to the house which she had, in earlier days, visited yearly, that this change still gave her a distinct shock, as, after ringing the bell, she turned her face eastward. “It is not even a clean wall,” was her thought, and then she closed her eyes and had drawn a mental vision of what used to be the view from that door step, before the ring was answered, cabman paid his fare and dismissed, and she was following the maid up stairs.
This maid was of many years' standing ; the same who had opened the door to Elizabeth Erle some forty years ago on her first visit tohardly London in those days—but to Kensington, and to her mother's old girlish friend, and her own godmother. Now both mothers were gone from this world's share of life ; but the inheritance of their tender friendship still existed in their children. Elizabeth Erle was thinking Anne Spetchley more changed in forty years than even poor old Church Street, whilst Anne spoke ber mind, with no need to withhold it.
“Well, Miss Elizabeth, you do wear well to be sure !"
“Do I? It is five years since I was here, Anne; more shops ! the dear old church”
“Don't talk of it, miss, those nasty Puseyites-- !"
No, Miss Elizabeth, I don't, nor will you when you see her ; nor the doctor, I expect.”
By this time the upstairs drawing-room was reached. Anne, for all her blunt ways and speech, opened the door gently, and said, as to a petted child, “Here's some one to do you good at last, Miss Addie,” and Elizabeth sped to the sofa and kissed her old friend tenderly, even with enthusiasm, “as if for all the world she had been a pretty girl of seventeen, in a becoming decline," had said Friedeswide, two years back, when witness of a somewhat similar meeting.
I don't know that pretty women generally choose pretty ones, or plain ones their less-favoured compeers, for their closest friends ; perhaps even here the attraction of contrasts holds good : or it may be the dainty comely ones of the earth, who are not merely pretty women, know and are even apt to under-estimate the real value of good looks, as the wealthy do of riches. Both so well know the heart-ills and aches from which neither beauty nor riches can deliver their possessors. Whilst to those to whom their own looking-glass can never give back a pleasing reflection, how sweet surprise and constant pleasure dwells in watching the movements and graces of their physically more highlynatured sisters.
“You sweet old thing! I was the least bit afraid to see you again; but you are just as sweet at fifty as at five and forty, or fifteen !” and Miss Meyrick laid her cheek caressingly against her friend's. “Do you never mean to have
hairs? You" “You and Anne would fain spoil me between you; but it is too pleasant to still have those in whose eyes one is still
and all one looks or says or does is right ! You, Adelaide ? one of your bad headaches, I can see.”
“Yes, not very grand, partly excitement at the hope of seeing you at last! I heard a telegram knock next door half an hour ago, and it made me feel quite faint ; my heart went down as it used to do forty years ago, when I caught George's voice, he was wont to appear ten minutes before the time that had been named to fetch
fetch you. I thought ' and now he has kept her, I knew he would never be content with only those two nights.'
“He had to be ; but he is so hospitable it is hard to get away from him, and I had not seen him in his home since Diana's marriage, and even so long back—though our dear mother kept well and active till the end, thank God!-poor Aunt Ursula's blindness and other increasing infirmities had long made it difficult for me to leave home at all, and I was only away one night even for that first grand marriage.”
“And what did you hear of Mr. and Mrs. Saville ? Amabel, she, and Kitty all seemed to me as children of the old Erle kin, sweet blueeyed stars, amid Dulcie's, Arthur's and little Freda's keener
and browns, and the uncle's death has made Mr. Saville's father Viscount Saville since the marriage,—and dear little Dinah—”
“The Honourable Mrs. Saville ! she is so young,--poor Dulcie has some fears, I gathered, that fine lady life may be spoiling her, though there were so many things and people to talk about that we hardly did more than name Diana. But George told me Sir Thomas—our old play-fellow Tommy Wollaston, Addie! wrote word to the Great House how much Mrs. George Saville was admired at Vienna. You know what a doting father George is, and I fancy he is a little disappointed at this continued absence abroad. They went away for the autumn and winter,'-and have never been home since the wedding except for a hurried visit to his parents on his uncle's sudden death a year ago. Then George and Amabel-Dulcie was kept to the house by a cold-went to Dover and spent the night with Dinah, at the Lord Warden hotel, while her husband was up in the north at the funeral.
Now Mr. Saville is very well off, and though Dulcie did not express a very high opinion of him, he added a kind message of condolence to the beautiful little letter full of sympathy which Diana wrote me on dear mother's death last year.'
“And George's other children ?”
"The three youngest still at school, the five girls at home, all very well, and some very pretty; almost all accomplished.” “And Dulcie, your pet Dulcie ? always your favourite, I know.”
Well, a little less bright and busy than of old : she has had one or two troubles.”
Ah, Arthur! George—his father-came to see me six months ago when he was in town,-and I feared there was something very wrong: he simply said in his downright way-good hater or lover as he ever was !— Don't name the ungrateful dog !'”
“ Yes, I know the very tone! six months has not moderated it: but I made him give me Arthur's address, and I told him I meant to go and see him and his wife : he was very kind; he did not like my doing it, but finally wrote down, '4, Bromley Street, Stepney—the last address I had from Darton, on an old envelope and flung it across with a growl of 'obstinate woman! but you need not think to come round me, he has made his bed and shall lie on it! You are not to write of him to Dulcie. Let her forget him.'
“Forget him ? Will George never, with all his good heart, understand us poor women ? Stepney! miles and miles away-miles and miles north, I think! Arthur always had a touch of enthusiasm in him-has he offended his father by taking a curacy in such an unfashionable part—"
“No—he would not proceed to Priest’s Orders.”
“Won't be his father's successor at Brayscombe ?” asked Miss Meyrick eagerly: she was one of the many to whom Brayscombe Rectory had been an earthly Paradise.
“No, I think I may say never ! Even, if he were to give up the unhappy scruples which stand in his way at present, he is, as you say, 'enthusiastic,' by which I know you mean chivalric and romantic as well: and I don't think he would, now, feel it fair to George to step into the place he had once left vacant for him.” “George,” repeated Miss Meyrick slowly.
Yes, George : his failings don't lie in the same direction, and so he would not feel called upon to step aside, to make room for a re