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pentant, elder brother. But then this disappointment, and very real grief, is not all the vexation he has cost our poor George; there had been troubles at Oxford—and yet he went there full of promise ! and now, he has married, I fear in the most foolish impulsive way, and on the slenderest and most uncertain means,-and, not even quite a lady."
Here Miss Meyrick was not ready with comfort, “ Very few unequal marriages turn out well, or can do so," she answered simply, “the higher-bred husband is offended in so many little ways of daily life and etiquette; disgust and quarrels almost inevitably follow. And Arthur! such a fastidious, good-looking fellow, and who might, in these days, have married any one ! for if young curates have not quite so freely what poor Aunt Eliza would have called, to our dear mother's horror, 'the pick of the matrimonial market- -as in the first full flood of High Church revival, -such a good-looking intellectual young fellow as Arthur, with Brayscombe in the background, would not only easily have won fair lady's heart but need not have dreaded her parents' disapproval.” Have
you seen Arthur lately?” “No, not since he left Oxford.”
“He did not improve there !” said Elizabeth, shortly for her. “I fear the days of plain-living and high-thinking disappeared with Newman and Keble, and the other godly men of that once goodly company; indeed I heard a good and sensible, as well as religious father say the other day, most combination and even lecture rooms were, now, so miserably infected by these modern speculative doubts he should hesitate to send a son of his to Oxford at all. It made me glad George is at Cambridge, if the other is the dear old Alma Mater of all previous Brayscombe traditions ! No! Oxford did not improve him in any way, or else I don't think he could have chosen this young woman for his wife"
“My dear !” said Miss Meyrick, raising herself on her elbow, halfalarmed, half-amused, “what was 'this young woman ?' I never heard your tone so near disgust in speaking of a fellow-creature before! a barmaid ? a street-singer-"
“No! no such romance about it! the daughter of a Battersea butterman—the widow of a late Margate apothecary—so her name, once Adelina Moggs, become thus Potticary.”
Miss Meyrick laughed. “You dear old-fashioned thing! since
Dukes' sons have taken to trade, there are no longer three liberal professions, only, in the world,—is she very pretty ?”
“He says so, and everything better than pretty."
“No, but he wrote and told me of it-I think he expected me not to mind-but I do. I was to tell my mother and Aunt Ursula, that at least his grandmother and his godmother should not see it only in the papers.” “And you mean to find him out to tell him
do mind ?” No, not that: I think we ought to know her, and the worst-for fear-'
“But it may be, and the best :' Arthur never could have been attracted by a vulgar woman, however pretty; remember there are Nature's gentlewomen not only amongst the poor, but the lower middle classes, though I really think there are some people who hope not to meet these latter even in Heaven! But this quarrel, at least cooling, between George and his son must be a great blow to poor Dulcie ; how proud she was of this brother, and what a 'mother's darling,' and with good reason, he was—the last time I ever saw dear Brayscombe ;but I did always think there was more real .grit in the girl herself.”
“She is a noble woman,” said Miss Erle undoubtingly, and with quite recovered serenity, “one of a type growing, in its turn, as oldfashioned as ourselves, I fear,” and then both friends laughed at this clinging to the traditions of their own prime as perfection ; and Anne, entering to separate and to scold, turned away, leaving them undisturbed, though it was Miss Adelaide's dinner-time, too glad to hear her “young mistress” laugh again.
“You hardly can start for Eastbourne to-morrow, can you ?”
“But I can, I must! it has been so hard to get up courage for a journey this once, I should not dare to lose it, now—and Anne is always more timid for me than I am for myself !—if we go in the cool of the afternoon,-but why?”
“I should like to see Arthur before I go away ; I am so seldom in town; but not to keep you in another day's state of tension : I can go to-morrow morning." “In the morning! those eight or ten miles right through London ?"
Yes, they won't hurt me,-only I would have given them notice if I could ; it is hardly fair to come on a poor home unaware—or in the morning at all ; but I can write to-night.”
“And what have Arthur and his wife and step-children been living on ? has he taken up any fresh profession ?”
“ I believe not, but Aunt Ursula though deeply offended did not alter her will, -he has had that £500 by this time, I hope. And old Mrs. Desmond,—her other daughter, Mrs. Winstanley, having no son, made him a special bequest of £5,000,"and happily,-her will being made just after his first money troubles-not to be his till he was five and twenty. He was that only last spring ; I do hope that bequest had not been anticipated, or is now being squandered away! But here is
dinner.” “Yes, and I cannot bear stairs, or much talking at meals ; so Anne persuaded me not to attempt either to-day.
Miss Meyrick looked fagged ; and Elizabeth Erle went away quietly to her old bedroom, refreshed her toilette, had her late early-dinner downstairs; sat in the armchair still left by the dining-room hearth, finding the afternoon sun made the odd-shaped little sitting-room behind it unendurably warm, although a small piece of garden still stretched some little way back to the west ; and finally passed, from day-dreams of past days, into a land of repose without dreams,-for, after all, she was not so young at fifty as at fifteen, --and thence was only roused by the clang of the one church bell for five o'clock service.
She went quietly up stairs, listened at the drawing-room door, all was still quiet there, opened the back-room door, and found Anne working there, as had been her afternoon practice these forty years; learnt her mistress liked to be left quiet, these hot days, till the six o'clock tea, “ which she hoped Miss Erle would share with her ;” so put on her bonnet and went to the service. The cool cold greys of the new stone church were refreshing to her outer senses in some ways, if irritating in others; for the gloom of oaken seats, wainscots, and galleries had, the last time she had been at Kensington, been tranquillising also, in a sweeter because more familiar way. She stole to the same place as far as she could judge where the Meyricks' seat had been of old; she knelt down, and shut her eyes, and once more visions of long ago floated before her; the first words of the first sentence startled her from her knees with a sense of shame; and yet what a glorious, comforting cloud of well-known, well-beloved witnesses, seemed thenceforward around her in that, at entrance, strange, cold spacious unhomelike building; the service itself an unspeakable refreshment, and means of communication, imparting a sense of allpervading presence of all those who had so often knelt with her in the old church, but some sooner, some later—departed this life in God's faith and fear. And when the vicar's own hymn, “ The saints of God,” was sung, what visions of old Brayscombe, “angel faces loved and lost awbile,” seemed to pass by to the sweet, soothing strains : her little Dulcie, perhaps first of all; their common mother gathered to her fathers but eleven months ago, the last; between a goodly band of young men and maidens, old men and matrons, even rich and poor ; for so large a band had passed through many a variety of life's battle before admittance into their “ bright Paradise of Rest.”
She passed out again unconscious of the sad state of confusion of that loved churchyard, of the smart pale-brick modern shops supplanting the old home-like dwellings that had once lined the little High Street, and went back to Church Street and entered her friend's room with the calm, sweet radiant smile that had made that friend from the time Kingsley's poem caused the thitherto little known Hungarian Queen to become a household word, call her, in secret, “S. Elizabeth.”
A very unpractical woman Miss Erle felt herself however when on Anne coming in to ask at eight o'clock if there were any letters for the post, she remembered that she had not written either to Brayscombe or to Stepney; she wrote two postcards hurriedly for the waiting messenger, and then after a little twilight conversation with her friend, followed her example in going early to bed, in preparation for the many fatigues of the morning, and slept well in spite of a high midnight gale and early unclouded sunrise.
“How can I best get to Stepney?” she asked Anne the next morning as she supplied the invalid's tray from her own breakfast-table, “eight or ten miles north your mistress said it was.
“North, ma'am ? surely it is east, but I know little of it except father used to say it was the parish of all those born at sea.”
Perhaps you can lend me a map of London ?” and it did prove Stepney to be eastward, and some nine miles away. “ I could not afford to drive all that distance, even if any cabman would take me, or I could bear to take his horse."
Finally Miss Erle made her way from the Kensington High Street Station to the Mansion House, and thence by cab to 4, Bromley Street, for good traveller as she might be, a little more of such underground London railway travelling would have made her regret having attempted such an expedition, with the journey to Eastbourne also to be accomplished that day.
The cab drew up in a broad, clean little street, built on what had some fifty years ago been fields, and even then had not become valuable, fortunately for its present inhabitants ; thus its row of humble dwellings, only two stories high, had each a small piece of garden in the rear as well as a little court in front. In that of No. 4, a man in his shirt sleeves nailing up a creeper which the high wind of the previous night had blown down, turned round as the cab stopped, and as Elizabeth had some difficulty in opening the door, came forward and opened it, and not till she had alighted cried, “Why, Aunt Elizabeth !” “ Did you not expect me? did not you know me ?
I wrote-yes, two shillings is the fare."
“ Let me settle with the fellow! This is kind !-all right !” and he was back beside her at the door and was wringing her hand, “ let me give you a kiss of welcome to my home. I thought you would not give me up, but never expected even you for many a long day yet!”
“You have had my postcard ?”
“I am afraid I did put N after the address, but it isn't fair on your wife to come in on her unexpectedly at the busiest time of the day.”
“Why not? the first resolution of our married life was to put up with the straits of poverty without adding to them the needless one of false shame. I am gardener, knife cleaner—"
Oh, Arthur !" “ Yes, I wish I could keep my hands as clean-looking as if I weren't, but I can only keep them as clean as I can—as Ludovic would say, yes, my
little man ?” “Mother will be down in two minutes, father ; she hopes Gwenny is just going to sleep."
“And Awdrey is already so in the corner, poor little woman,” said Arthur, softly. “ Neither child is well, so we must not make much noise, must we, Ludo? Sit down, Aunt Elizabeth, near the window, there is some air there," and he gently opened it wider.
“These are-Adelina's,” Miss Erle pronounced the name with a little effort even now, “ Adelina's children?"