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such strong and unfounded prejudices had been awakened, Ella clung to the extraordinary idea, that the young man whose acquaintance she was just now making, was really much better than he seemed to be, to others-in short, that he was worth much pains to save; and as he had come unexpectedly across her path, and seemed so much disposed to open his heart in confidence to her, that she herself was possibly—nay, probably, the very person in the world whose bounden duty it was to endeavour to reclaim him, and so to make him happier, wiser, and better than he was.
In connection with this apparently very laudable undertaking, one thing was certain, that it could not be very disagreeable to any young gentleman to submit himself to the process of improvement under so fair and so gentle a hand. But, especially, for one so lonely, so unfriended, and so pleased with kindness, as Arthur Grahame, there needed very little encouragement on Ella's part to bring him again within the reach of her good advice, and even of her correction. Who would not wish to be made better on such terms?—to sit in sunshine in a lovely garden, or in the softer light of trellis bowers, or in the prettiest and most elegant of all little parlours, listening to the music of a kind woman's voice, or gazing on the beauty of her cheek and brow; and all in a sweet atmosphere redolent of perfumes, and surrounded by all that could charm the eye, or gratify the taste ?
There could be no wonder that Arthur Grahame called at the cottage again before many days had passed over-in short, that he found repeated excuses for calling-sometimes in the borrowing of a book-sometimes in the lending of one; and sometimes in a word of advice to be asked in the conduct of his affairs.
On this point Ella made a discovery of some interest to her. It was that the very same gentleman who had been employed to make her husband's will, and whom she had often seen and conversed with since her return to England, was the leader of the law proceedings against the Grahame family, in their attempted recovery of the Grange. This fact, which was a subject of painful regret to herself, she did not communicate to the young man, nor indeed to any one; but she drew from it a faint hope, which was carefully concealed within her own heart, that possibly she might be able to render her new friend some service by communicating privately with this gentleman. In short, Ella busied herself very frequently in this matter, without, what would have appeared to some of her friends, a sufficient motive. She wrote letters to different parties connected with it; consulted Mr. Stevens, who thought it safest not to meddle; and read more dry books of English law in a single week than she had ever read, or even heard of, in her whole life before.
As a natural consequence, the more Ella busied herself in these affairs, the more interested she grew; and the higher rose her interest, the more earnest she became, both in devising, and doing. The family at the rectory wondered what she was occupying herself with. The poor people who had been told to call at her door, were surprised to find that their distressed condition had altogether escaped her recollection. Alice Greyburn alone, knew the secret of this wonderful occupation of time and thought; and to some extent shared in it. Alice too would have assisted, if she could, but the intricacies of the law were far beyond her powers of comprehension. She therefore contented herself with planning a pair of slippers, and even beginning to work them in secret, under the hope that by the time they should be completed, the intimacy with Arthur Grahame would have grown to such a height, that she might venture to lay her work at his feet.
But in the mean time, another candidate for Ella's favour and kindness appeared upon the field—another claimant for the exercise of duty-another wanderer to be reclaimedanother heart to be set right, and nobody but Ella to do the blessed work. Ah! how easy it is to find the weak point of some really good people, better than Ella by many many degrees. No wonder, then, that she was overcome by flattery, so welcome, and so gratifying, as that which persuaded her that she had more power, and more influence than any other human being in the case which demanded her immediate attention ; that it was because of her own sweetness of character, and warmth of sympathy, that her advice had been sought; and that not for worlds would the same exposure have been risked before any other human eye.
It was on the evening of a pleasant summer's day, that a tired looking traveller appeared at Ella's door. The servant who announced the circumstance, called the traveller a person, and Ella consequently sent out to enquire the name. In reply to this enquiry, Mrs. Lorrimer's card was handed to her.
Ella felt the colour rush into her face at the sight of this too well remembered name ; but she could not refuse admission to one whose object in coming so far, she concluded, must have been no other than to see her. She secretly hoped, however, that Mrs. Lorrimer might prove to be on a journey northward -"probably,” she said to herself, "just calling by the way,
for old acquaintance sake.” She intended to be very shy about inviting her to remain ; and with this intention, she bade the servant shew the lady in.
It was well that Ella laid some stress upon the word lady, for the individual about to be introduced, would scarcely have commanded that designation from others; especially not from servants, by her own dress, or by any external recommendation. In fact, the eyes of servants, and of persons of that class, are generally remarkably quick to perceive any external flaw in this title, particularly where it can be detected in a last year's fashion, in the dying or turning of a dress, in gloves that have often been mended, or in shoes that have done the duty of long travel. These are all points of distinction, upon which they seize in a moment. They are, in their opinion, badges of low caste, and being such as they themselves are compelled to wear, they see no reason why they should not reduce any one who wears the same to their own level. Thus they seem to think they owe a grudge to any person thus attired, who walks into a
drawing-room, and holds converse on equal terms with people of wealth, or gentility.
It required scarcely more than a moment's observation to see that Mrs. Lorrimer was much changed since Ella had known her before. There were marks of age about her facethose strong evidences which look so sad, when they come, and will come, where there is a struggle to keep them off, almost like that which people make for life, when but a few chances of retaining it remain. But there were also evidences of another kind, equally strong, in the present instancethere were evidences of poverty, of failing means, and that to such an extent, that the servant who ushered her in might well be excused for making some private calculations of her own, that the visitor, should she remain, would prove to be a kitchen guest, and not a very welcome one, either; for Mrs. Lorrimer had little in her countenance to conciliate or please, on the first view of it. Covered with dust, however, as she was, from having travelled on the outside of a coach, she entered the room in her blandest manner, smiling the most courteous smile which, perhaps, had ever sat upon her face. One glance of her large pale eyes around the room most probably sufficed to convince her that this was a place which it would be very pleasant to remain at; and such, she thought, were the chances in her favour, that no time ought to be lost in making them good. The lady of the house must therefore be conciliated, then interested, and then the work would be done. “ Once located in a comfortable spare bed-room,” thought Mrs. Lorrimer, “I shall be safe.” Once to hear a proposal that her trunk should be sent for from the inn, and all doubt would be at an end, all difficulty over.
Ella was at first rather distant, and did not even hold out her hand; but she spoke frankly and cheerfully, because she was in her own house, and she was too much a gentlewoman to do otherwise. A steady look at the tired, aged, and even emaciated figure before her, wrought a great change in her feelings; and a strong sense of pity softened down the repulsion which she had at first experienced. A vivid consciousness, too, of the wide difference between her own circumstances and those of the apparently destitute being who had sought the shelter of her roof, helped to make the interview more cordial on her part, than it would otherwise have been. Ella felt deeply, at that moment, how privileged was her own lot, in comparison with that of this forlorn creature; and she mentally exclaimed,—“Has it then come to this !” And when she looked again and again at the weary movements of that wasted form, she longed to set before her some bodily refreshment, at least, if she could do nothing for her in any other way.
This offer was soon made, and readily accepted. The cloth was spread, and a comfortable repast set out, with wine, which the guest appeared to think a very desirable accompaniment, and which she sipped with a relish which looked as if it had for some time, and from some cause, been a forbidden beverage to her. In short, Mrs. Lorrimer ate and drank as if she was really hungry, and actually in want of the comfortable stimulus which the repast supplied.
Ella wished it was possible to come at a knowledge of her plans and prospects, without asking about them directly; but she was defeated each time that she attempted to find them out; and she had nothing for it, at last, but to ask Mrs. Lorrimer if she was on a journey. But the guest replied still vaguely, for, assuredly, she herself had no desire to travel an inch beyond where she was. She was in the condition best described by saying, that she was feeling her way; and until she could ascertain whether there was a resting-place for her at the cottage, it was utterly impossible to say anything definite about her prospects for the future. One thing Mrs. Lorrimer knew very well, that if she went further, it must be without money, for she had long since come to an end of all tangible means, and lately to an end of all credit, so that even to receive her trunk from the coachman, who had not been fully paid, had been a matter of so much difficulty, as to collect around the village inn a complete mob of idlers, whose