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"Well, my dear"—Mr. Beaufort looked slightly perplexed—" I expect your grandfather means deportment—a more staid presence than you have. He likes women to keep their proper sphere, they should move well and have pretty feminine accomplishments, they have no need to think deeply; I saw him shake his head this morning when he found you reading Carlyle. He thinks that women should be stately and dignified, but he dislikes new notions. He says women should persevere in the beaten track—he never wishes to see any change in them."
Nuna had not listened. They were in the fly now; in another half-hour they would be home again. Through the morning she had felt as if she could not wait for the time of starting; she must see Paul, and it was possible he might leave Ashton before they reached it. But now she had changed again ; every minute was lessening the distance between them, and the dread that had so tormented her, the dread of seeming to claim his love against his will, came back to Nuna, and made her sicken with fear of seeing him.
Her father leaned forward when they came to a turn in the road, and waved his hand. Nuna looked. There was Paul, and at the sight of him, of the joy that shone out in his face, Nuna's heart gave a wild leap, and then she sank back in the carriage. Rest had come at last. She was tired, yet so ineffably happy. In the transient calm that descended on her poor struggling soul, she realized all that she had been suffering, the exhaustion of her sleepless nights and troubled days.
A few minutes more and she should be safe in the quiet of her own bedroom, the only confidant she had now, the storehouse of much unwitnessed emotion. Lately, indeed, during her cousin's visit, this room might have been called, in Persian fashion, the Place of Tears.
"At last!" she said, when the fly stopped at the Rectory gate. If Nuna had been less absorbed, the shock would have come less suddenly, but it was terrible; there stood Elizabeth smiling a sweet welcome to them both, as if they were visitors, and she herself the mistress of the parsonage. Nuna felt stunned, she submitted passively to her cousin's kiss, and went on silently into the house.
"There is a nice fire in the study, dear," said Miss Matthews, with a chirrup in her
voice that was hateful to Nuna. "Won't you come in and warm yourself, dear?"
Nuna was hurrying to the staircase, but an exclamation from her father stopped her. She paused, and looked into the study.
The Rector was standing before the fire with both Elizabeth's hands in his.
"I don't know bow to thank you," he said, warmly; "the room has not looked so home-like since I lost Mary."
Nuna had heard enough; she glided away, and when she reached her bedroom the changes there passed without notice. Storm had risen in her sorrowful soul— storm which threatened to wreck all the peace she had left. She shut the door, locked it, and then stood leaning against it; she had no power to move in that moment of passionate anger—anger in which she felt capable of leaving her father and her home for ever, a father who was so cruelly unnatural as to prefer a stranger to his own child. But the fierce swelling tempest burst into a shower of tears, great scalding drops, and the slender frame shook like a lily in summer rain.
You are perhaps thinking that Nuna weeps for her own shortcomings, and that these are tears of anguish that her forgetful, uncareful nature has made her neglectful of her father's comfort; but Mary's mistake told here against her young sister. Nuna's moral nature had not progressed with her mental powers during the years she had passed with Miss Matthews, and, except for her father's erudite but not very spiritual sermons, she had had no special outward help against herself since Mary died; and as, moreover, an indulged dislike generally brings its own sting with it, it is certain that Nuna's feelings towards her father and her cousin were at this moment most unreasonably bitter.
She was like a traveller jogging along through a dull, uninteresting journey; there is nothing to please him, but also there is nothing to cause him serious vexation. Suddenly he takes a wrong turning, he has a slight consciousness of his error, he almost wishes to retrace his steps, but he persists in going on till, losing his track altogether, he plunges into the dangers of which he had been warned before he set out.
Instead of the rest she had hoped for, here was the beginning of daily vexation. She had no thought of coping with it; she only writhed at the prospect before her. All light had gone from her life. What had been her troubles heretofore compared to this? To see the only creature she hated set in the place of her dead sister. Even to herself she could not frame the further evil she dreaded. Filial reverence had not quite" left her, and it would have seemed an insult to her father to fancy even that he could think of Elizabeth except as a cousin.
Her eyes travelled mechanically round the room, and recognized the changes effected during her absence; but these did not awaken fresh anger; Nuna's mind had no pettiness in it.
"She shall not have power to vex me," she murmured. It was sad to hear how bitterly she spoke, and to see the scorn that curved the delicate lips. '' She is too contemptible to quarrel with." She stopped; her eyes had lighted on something that aroused a fresh train of thought. A small table that she had left littered with painting materials had been cleared, its encumbrances lay in neat precision on a shelf above, and on the table, in a pretty terra-cotta flower-pot, was a club-moss, the plant, Nuna's instinct told her, that Will had promised her. Will and his love, and herself as mistress of Gray's Farm, flitted like a vision across Nuna's thoughts; and with this came the feeling of refuge from Elizabeth; scarcely for an instant, and then she had almost flung the poor club-moss out of the window, so intense was the disgust that succeeded.
She sank down into a chair, wearier than ever, so lonely, with such an ache at her heart, that even her tears flowed no longer from the dull weight there. Gradually there came to her timidly, as if it feared to mingle with the strife that had been raging in her breast, the memory of Paul's look of love.
"He loves me; yes, he loves me. Oh, if he leaves me, I must die!"
And as imagination, always with Nuna so much harder at work than was needful, conjured up the picture of her life alone, without the love she craved, the heartache culminated in a deep shuddering sob, then another, and tears came at last; no longer the proud scalding drops which had only stimulated her resentment, but softening, tender tears.
Nuna's brow was smooth, and she could
look cheerful when she at last went downstairs.
Several letters lay on the tea-table, one of them in an unknown handwriting. Nuna opened the first, and then smiled at . the result of her curiosity.
'' I thought I had a new correspondent," she said, "and it is only a circular to say that Miss Coppock has retired from business, and that some one from Weybridge solicits the continuation of my distinguished patronage. I wonder Miss Coppock did not tell me she was going away."
Miss Coppock. found herself ushered into a bare but exquisitely clean room ; the floor, the walls, the furniture—that is, the chairs and a table, there was nothing else —were all oak or oak color, a quiet neutral tint that would have relieved pictures, or flowers, or any object of art, but which had a too sober shade by itself.
Miss Coppock had scarcely time to take in the general effect when the door opened, and there was Patty—Patty, so radiant in her glowing beauty that you felt at once the room had wanted her to frame with its quiet contrast; Patty dressed to perfection, both as to style and fashion, and yet with that sought simplicity of which so few English women understand the secret.
She put her arms round Patience, and kissed her on both cheeks.
"So glad to see you; so kind of you to come on so quickly."
Involuntarily Patience drew back; she looked at Patty, and their eyes met. In those deep blue lustrous eyes Miss Coppock read that her empire had departed; there was no effort even at the graciousness which pervaded the girl's manner; there was no effusion, but there was perfect repose. In that instant Patience saw that Patty had far more self-control than she could herself ever attain to, and she felt bitterly that if she meant to benefit by her apprentice's rise in life, it could be only by subservience to her wishes. She did not realize what had caused the change, she only felt it.
Poor Patience! this her last hope of ruling was over. If she meant to live in luxurious idleness, she must go back to her life of dependence. "So soon too," she said; "not six months, and the girl I
moves about as quietly as a born lady could. I didn't think she was half so clever." Still Patience was a woman, and she would not give in without one effort for rule.
In her letters Miss Coppock had proposed to take a lodging where Patty could receive her professors; but Patty had left the proposal unanswered.
"When are you to leave Madame Mineur's?" she said gravely.
•' Not just yet, I think." Patty's tone was so calm and she smiled so bewitchingly that Miss Coppock felt helpless. "You had better get yourself a lodging at once, Patience. Madame Mineur has been inquiring for some suitable apartment for you. You must have a pretty room, you know, for I mean to spend my Sundays with you."
This was an opening. "It would be far better"—Patience spoke awkwardly and stiffly; she wanted to gain her point, and yet she was afraid of offending Patty —" far better if you came at once and lived with me altogether."
She looked up quickly; she expected to see Patty toss her head and pout. Instead, the lovely lips curved into a smile,—a smile that broadened, at the growing discomfiture in her friend's face, into a little musical laugh.
"Do you think so? I'm sorry to disappoint you, Patience, but at present I intend to stay here. I am very comfortable, and I am making friends. We shall see plenty of each other by and by, you know, when I take you to live with me." She paused, and looked at the dressmaker. Try as she would to check it, the blood rushed at once to Patience's face, but she managed to keep silence, and Patty went on in the same smiling, deliberate way: "I think, you know, we had better begin as we mean to go on; it is quite necessary to me to make friends of all kinds; you are my friend already, so it is a waste of time to shut myself up with you."
Miss Coppock could not bear it—vanity conquered policy.
"But I could teach you so many things, Patty, and I can speak French, you know, so you would not be losing that advantage."
Patty had smiled, more quietly at first; she had rehearsed this scene beforehand, while she was expecting Miss Coppock's
arrival, but she had not counted on so much resistance. The worst part of such a rehearsal as Patty's is, that we don't always consider all the provocations which may assail our self-possession, and the old spirit in the girl could not resist so good a chance of taking down her friend's conceit. For the moment'she forgot her calm inflexibility: she burst out laughing.
"Yes, I listened to your French just now; I heard you speak to Victorine as you came in. I know I can't speak easily yet; but I'm really afraid I shouldn't mend my French by shutting myself up with you." She laughed again, and looked as if she expected Miss Coppock to join her. The mortified face before her might have moved pity, but Patty had made the most of her heiress-ship at the school, and 'she was accustomed to universal worship from Madame Mineur and her satellites. Miss Coppock looked shabby and dowdy, and seemed to have grown horribly presuming. No, there was no pity for her in Patty's heart. She meant to be kind and useful to Miss Coppock, but she was determined to teach her at once her true position.
"I don't want any more help than I have in the way of speaking French," she said more gravely; "one of the teachers here, Madame de Mirancourt, devotes herself entirely to me out of class hours. Her father was a marquis or a duke, I really forget which "—Patty spoke loftily —" and she has been in regular grand society; she tells me all sorts of things, and she is forming me, she says. I pay her extra, of course. And then among the girls I have friends too. The other parlor boarders are very different to me, you know; they are only a pair of old maids. I like the school-girls better; there's a Miss Jane Deverell, whose mother is Lady Jane; and there's Elinor Dryden, whose uncle's quite a grand person; and they are both so fond of me. They will be quite sorry when I leave them."
"I dare say." Patience thought she had detected a weak spot in this boastfulness about grand people, and she made another effort. She must get Patty all to herself, or some of these new friends would rob her of her prize; besides, she had been Patty's absolute mistress once; she knew all the girl's secrets; surely if she tried hard enough she might re-establish her power." "But then you see, Patty, these are ladies with an assured position; ust now you said yourself it was necessary for you to make friends and to be formed. Now, dear,"—Miss Coppock's voice grew coaxing,—"if we took a nice suite of rooms you might invite your friends, and they would bring others, and you would soon get a little society round you, and I could be useful to you in so many ways, Patty dear."
A faint sneer curved the full red lips.
"All in good time, Patience; we have both of us something to learn first. I wish you to take French lessons, and also to learn to dress better." She kept her eyes away from Patience's face; she wanted to say all she had to say without being turned aside by pity, or the ridicule she felt for her friend's want of tact. "I must let you see Madame de Mirancourt; she. is only a poor teacher, certainly, but she always looks so nice, and she knows her place perfectly. She never volunteers an opinion unasked, and that is so nice, you know. Poor thing, she wants to get the chance you have of being my companion; but you see she is deformed, one shoulder is much higher than the other, and this has stopped her growth; she is short and insignificant; and you know, Patience"—Patty spoke quite cordially again —" you are really a striking-looking woman, and will be quite stylish when you dress better. Of course I am willing to pay all expenses. Now I'll ring and send for the address of the lodgings."
She turned away to ring the bell, and in that moment Patience's pride or else her good angel pleaded hard; told her it would be better to toil more incessantly than ever, than make herself the slave of this girl.
But even while Miss Coppock stood writhing with mortification and trying to frame a speech which should assert her independence without giving mortal offence, Patty turned round. Her lovely blue eyes were full of liquid sweetness; she was like a beautiful sunbeam. In that moment she had asked herself why she had sent for this overbearing, dull woman, so different from her gay, mocking Madame de Mirancourt, a woman she was already obliged to teach behavior to, and the answer had come.
Patience was as clever and as useful in her way as the Frenchwoman, far more
New Semis.—Vol XIV., No. i.
presentable, and without any dangerous power of repartee in case of a quarrel. But Patience was also industrious and self-denying, and De Mirancourt was greedy after presents; and above all, Patience held the secret of Patty's former condition.
It seemed to the beautiful, flattered girl whose vanity had been so lavishly fed by all around her, that hardly any one would believe the story of Patty Westropp, even if Miss Patience told it; but there was the doubt, and also there was her father with his rough country manner to give weight to such an assertion. Yes, she must have a useful friend and ally, and Patience would do for the post.
"Then I will for the future consider you my companion," she said, in the petting, caressing manner she had used at first. "Your lodging bills, living, and all that of course I shall settle; and for the present and for your own personal expenses, I thought of 200 francs a month."
Victorine came in to answer the bell. Madame Mineur had sent the address for Miss Latimer, and Patience found herself driving away in the cab again before she could get resolution to refuse Patty's offer.
Why should she refuse it? at any rate for the present.
It sounds very simple to repeat a wellknown fact, and yet in that part of the human drama called love, unless we keep, to fact, it is much easier to be unreal than it is to be probable. The truth in question is, that however well a man may love a woman, he is always aroused to a moreprecipitate course of action with regard toiler by the existence of a rival, whether this rival be merely the creation of his. own brain or a real cause of anxiety.
The dinner-party at the Rectory had so rekindled Will's longing to make Nuna his wife, that if he had been free from the necessity of entertaining Stephen Pritchard, he must have gone down to Ashton next day, and learnt his fate. And when his mother repeated Paul's words, hewould have gone off to the Rectory and have left his cousin to amuse himself, only that the good lady informed him the Beauforts were by that time on their way to Beanlands, and would not return for two. days or more.
How Will fumed and raved at his men during that interval, and contradicted his mother, and behaved himself altogether in a most refractory manner to all who came within the circle of his life, is not to be here chronicled; only towards Stephen Pritchard did he maintain an outward show of decorum. Will, as has been said, had been to Harrow, and there had imbibed rather than grasped a certain fragmentary and misty notion of classics and .mathemathics, and it may be that during this process the amount of reverence due to talent may have in some inexplicable manner grown into his brain; for although Stephen made no display of his cleverness, he could show the proof of it in type and cheques, and this last proof is, to such a mind as Will's, irrefutable: genius in rags to such a mind is a myth and a humbug,but genius, directly it gets its name before the public—in fact, has a name and produces gold—is genius, and is to be respected accordingly; and as most people are of Will Bright's way of thinking, there is no use in preaching against it, only that genius, being a Divine gift, must be the same everywhere—living in comfort or dying in debt—adaptability-being the one plank that changes its position.
In Stephen Pritchard were united the rare accidents of power and adaptability; no wonder he imposed reverence on Mr. Bright.
"I tell you what, Stephen," Will said on the morning of the third day, "Pin going down to Ashton on business; shall you object to look up your friend at 'The Bladebone' for an hour or so?"
"Not at all. I rather think, Will, between ourselves, that we shall find Whitmore gone back to London; he can't amuse himself, you know, as I can. He must be amused. I can't conceive what he does in that place: why. there's not even a shop."
"All the shops he wants, I fancy," said Will, savagely. "Dennis Fagg gets capital cigars, and the ale at 'The Bladebone' has a reputation; come, Steeve, I'm not going to have our village run down."
The dog-cart was brought round, and after some "chaff" fullyreturned between Mr. Pritchard and Larry, the cousins betook themselves to Ashton. Mr. Bright :put up at "The Bladebone," and then, leaving Stephen to find out his friend, he went off alone to the Rectory.
It was the morning after the Rector's return from Beanlands, and he had gone to visit the poor cripple who had been ill when he left home. Nuna too had gone out to see little Lottie, a fast friend of hers since her accident.
Mr. Bright therefore found Miss Matthews alone.
"I wonder why Nuna dislikes her," Will thought; "she looks so very ladylike, and her hands are so white. I should have fancied her quite a gentle, elegant creature." The word elegant, according to Mr. Bright, covered a multitude of sins, only he was not choice in applying it.
"I hope dear Nuna will be in soon; it was so extremely kind in you to send her that curiously beautiful plant. I'm sure she values it extremely; she has it upstairs in her own room."
A warm glow of pleasure rose in his face; his fear had been that Nuna might reject the gift; he could not help building on this foundation, but he waited for Miss Matthews to speak again.
"Why don't you come and see us often?" she said. "If I were not afraid of vexing you, I would tell you what I used to think last autumn."
She laughed in such a conscious way, that Will began to hate her: she had made him nervous and uncomfortable.
"What did you think?"
"Oh, nothing to vex you; only I fancy, had I been a certain young lady, I might have felt myself a little neglected, especially when I gave no discouragement."
Will's heart beat with the wild tumult in which we are plunged by an unlookedfor discovery.
"Please to speak plain, Miss Matthews; you saw a good deal of Nuna then. Do you mean, that she said she took any pleasure or interest in seeing me?"
He got up and stood before her.
Miss Matthews laughed, but she looked admiringly at his handsome, honest, troubled face.
"What noble creatures you men are in your humility," she said; "so blind to your own merits, setting aside all other advantages." Much as she wanted to hasten on a marriage between her listener and Nuna, she could not resist the side hint that these other advantages might have weight in her young cousin's eyes.
"You have not answered my question." Will spoke in a downright, determined