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thence to the drawing-room, all on that floor. She lingered in all. A home sanctified by years of happiness cannot be quitted without regret, even when exchanged at pleasure for another ; but to turn out of it in humiliation, in poverty, in hopelessness, is a trial of the sharpest and sorest kind. Apart from the pain, the feeling was a strange one. The objects crowding these rooms; the necessary furniture costly and substantial; the elegant ornaments of various shapes and sorts, the chaste works of art, not necessary but so luxurious and charming, had hitherto been their own, hers in conjunction with her husband's. They might have done what they pleased with them. Had she broken that Wedgewood vase, there was no one to call her to account for it; had she or George chosen to make a present of that, rare basket in medallion, with its speaking likenesses of the beauties of the whilom gay French court, there was nobody to say them nay; had they felt disposed to change that fine piano for a different one, the liberty to do so was theirs. They bad been the owners of these surroundings, the master and mistress of the house and its contents. And now? Not a sole article belonged to them: they were but tenants on sufferance: the things remained, but their right in them had passed away. If she dropped and broke only that pretty trifle which her hand was touching now, she must answer for the mishap. The feeling, I say, was a strange one.
She walked through the rooms with a dry eye and hot brow. Tears seemed long ago to have gone away from her. It is true she had been surprised into a few that day, but the lapse was unusual. Why should she make this farewell to the rooms ? she began asking herself. She needed it not to remember them. Visions of the past came crowding upon her memory; of this or the other happy day spent in them: of the gay meetings when they had received the world, of the sweet home hours when she had sat there alone with him of whom she had well-nigh made an idol-her husband. Mistaken idolatry, Mrs. George Godolphin! mistaken, useless, vain idolatry. Was there ever an earthly idol yet that did not mock its worshipper? I know of none. We make an idol of our child, and the time comes when it will turn round to sting us: we make an idol of the god or goddess of our passionate love, and how does it end?
Maria sat down and leaned her head upon her hand, thinking more of the past than of the future. She was getting to have less hope in the future than was good for her : it is a bad sign when a sort of apathy with regard to it steals over us; a proof that the mind is not in the healthy state that it ought to be. A time of trial, of danger, was approaching for Maria, and she seemed to contemplate the possi. bility of her sinking under it with strange calmness. “A few months back, the bare glance at such a fear would have unhinged her : she would have clung to her husband and Meta and sobbed out her passionate prayer to God in her dire distress, not to be taken from them. Things had changed: the world in which she had been so happy had lost its charm for her; the idol in whose arms she had sheltered herself turned out not to have been of pure gold: and Maria Godolphin began to realise the forcible truth of the words of the wise King of Jerusalem-that the world and its dearest hopes are but vanity.
MRS. PAIN TAKING LEAVE. MRS. CHARLOTTE Pain, in her looped-up petticoats and nicelyfitting kid boots, was tripping jauntily through the streets of Prior's Ash. Mrs. Pain had been somewhat vacillating in regard to her departure from that long-familiar town; she had reconsidered her determination of quitting it so abruptly ; and on the day she went out of Lady Godolphin's Folly, she entered on some stylish lodgings in the heart of Prior's Ash. Only for a week or two; just to give her time to take proper leave of her friends, she said: but the weeks had gone on and on, and Charlotte was there yet.
Society bad been glad to keep Charlotte. Society of course shuts its lofty ears to the ill-natured tales spread by low-bred people: that is, when it finds it convenient to do so. Society had been pleased to be deaf to any little obscure tit-bits of scandal which had made vulgarly free with Charlotte's name: and as to the vague rumours connecting Mr. Verrall with George Godolphin's ruin, nobody knew whether that was not pure scandal too. But if not, why-Mrs. Pain could not be justly reflected on for the faults of Mr. Verrall. So Charlotte was as popular and dashing in her hired rooms as she had been at Lady Godolphin's Folly, and she had remained in them until now,
But now she was really going. This was the last day of her sojourn at Prior's Ash, and Charlotte was walking about unceremoniously, bestowing her farewells on anybody who would receive them. It almost seemed as if she had only waited to witness the removal from the bank of Mr. and Mrs. George Godolphin.
She walked along in exuberant spirits, nodding her head to everybody: up at windows, in at doorways, to poor people on foot, to rich ones in carriages; her good-natured smile was everywhere. She rusbed into shops and chatted familiarly, and won the shopkeepers' hearts by asking if they were not sorry to lose her. She was turning out of one when she came pop on the Rector of All Souls'. Charlotte's petticoats went down in a swimming reverence.
“I am paying my farewell visits, Mr. Hastings. Prior's Ash will be rid of me to-morrow."
Not an answering smile crossed the rector's face: it was cold, im. passive, haughtily civil : almost as if he were thinking that Prior's Ash might have been none the worse, had it been rid of Mrs. Charlotte Pain before.
“ How is Mrs. Hastings to-day ?" asked Charlotte. “ She is not well.”
“ No! I must try and get a minute to call in on her. Adieu for the present. I shall see you again, I hope.”
Down sunk the skirts once more, and the rector lifted bis hat in silence. In the ultra politeness, in the spice of sauciness gleaming out from her flashing eyes, the rector read incipient defiance. But if Mrs. Pain feared that he might be intending to favour her with a
little public clerical censure, she was entirely mistaken. The rector washed his hands of Mrs. Pain, as Lady Godolphin did of her stepson, Mr. George. He walked on, condemnation and scorn lighting his face.
Charlotte walked on: and burst into a laugh as she did so. “Was he afraid to forbid my calling at the rectory ?" she asked herself. “He would have liked to, I know. I'll go there now.”
She was not long reaching it. But Isaac was the only one of the family she got to see. He came to her charged with Mrs. Hastings's compliments—she felt unequal to seeing Mrs. Pain.
“What's the matter with her ?” inquired Charlotte, suspecting the validity of the excuse.
“She is never very well now," was the somewhat evasive answer : and Isaac, though civilly courteous, was as cold as his father. “ When do you say you leave us, Mrs. Pain ?”
« To-morrow morning. And you? I heard you were going to London. You have found some situation there, George Godolphin told me."
Isaac threw his eyes—they were just like the rector's—straight and full into her face. Charlotte's were dancing with a variety of expressions, but the chief one was good-humoured mischief.
“I am going into a bank in Lombard-street. Mr. Godolphin got me in."
“ You won't like it," said Charlotte. “ I dare say not. But I think myself lucky to get it.” “ Therell be one advantage," continued Charlotte, good naturedly -" that you can come and see us. You know Mrs. Verrall's address. Come as often as you can; every Sunday if you like; any week-day evening : I'll promise you a welcome beforehand."
“ You are very kind,” briefly returned Isaac. They were walking slowly to the gate, and he held it open for her.
“What's Reginald doing?" she asked. “Have you heard from bim lately ?"
“ Not very lately. You are aware that he is in London under a master of navigation, preparatory to passing for second officer. As soon as he has passed, he will be going to sea again."
“ When you write to him, give him our address, and tell him to come and see me. And now good-by,” added Charlotte, heartily. “ And mind you don't show yourself a muff, Mr. Isaac, but come and see us. Do you hear ?"
"I hear," said Isaac, smiling as he thawed to her good humour. “I wish you a pleasant journey, Mrs. Pain."
“ Merci bien. If I say, is that Grace ?"
Charlotte had cast her eyes to the rectory's upper windows. Mrs. Akeman, her baby in her arms-a great baby, getting, now-stood at one.
“ She is spending the afternoon with us,” explained Isaac.
“ And wouldn't come down to me!" retorted Charlotte. “ She's very polite. Tell her so from me, Isaac. Good-by."
The church clock boomed out five as Charlotte passed it, and she came to a stand-still of consideration. It was the hour at which she had ordered her dinner to be ready.
“ Bother dinner!" decided she. “I can't go home for that. I want to go and see if they are in their lodgings yet. Is that you, Mrs. Bond ?"
Sure enough, Mrs. Bond had come into view, and was halting to bob down to Charlotte. Her face looked pale and pinched. There had been no supply of strong waters to-day.
“I be aʼmost starving, ma'am," said she. “I be a waiting here to catch the parson, for I've been to his house, and they says he's out. I dun know as it's of any good seeing of him, either. 'Tain't much as he have got to give away now.”
“I am about to leave, Mrs. Bond," cried Charlotte, in her free and communicative humour.
“ More's the ill luck, and I have heered on't," responded Mrs. Bond. “ Everybody as is good to us poor goes away, or dies, or fails, or sum'at. There'll be soon naught left for us but the work'us. Many's the odd bit o' silver you have give me at times, ma'am.”
“ So I have,” said Charlotte, laughing. “What if I were to give you this, as a farewell remembrance ?"
She took a half-sovereign out of her purse and held it up. Mrs. Bond gasped: the luck seemed too great to be realised.
“ Here, you may have it,” said Charlotte, dropping it into the shaking and dirty hand held out. “ But you know you are nothing but an old sinner, Mrs. Bond.”
“I knows I be," humbly acquiesced Mrs. Bond. “'Tain't of no good denying of it to you, ma'am: you be up to things.”
Charlotte laughed. “You'll go and change this at the nearest gin. shop, and you'll reel into bed to-night blindfold. That's the only good you'll do with it. There! don't say I quitted Prior's Ash, forgetting you."
She walked on rapidly, leaving Mrs. Bond in her ecstasy of delight to waste her thanks on the empty air. The lodgings George had taken were at the opposite end of the town, nearer to Ashlydyat, and to them Charlotte was bound. They were not on the high road, but in a quiet side lane. The house, low and commodious, and built in the cottage style, stood in the midst of a productive garden. A small grass-plat and some flowers were before the front windows, but the rest of the ground was filled with fruit and vegetables. Charlotte opened the green gate and walked up the path, which led direct to the house.
The front door was open to a small hall, and Charlotte went in, finding her way, and turned to a room on the left: a cheerful, goodsized, old-fashioned parlour, with a green carpet, and pink flowers on its walls. There stood Margery, laying out some teacups and some bread-and-butter. Her eyes opened at the sight of Mrs. Pain.
“Are they come yet, Margery ?”
“No," was Margery's short answer. “ They'll be here in half an hour, maybe; and that'll be before I want 'em—with all the rooms and everything to see to, and only me to do it.”
“Is that all you are going to give them for tea ?” cried Charlotte, looking contemptuously on the bread-and-butter. "I should surprise them with a little dainty dish or two on the table. It would look cheering: and they might soon be cooked."
May-Vol. CXXVIII. NO. DIX.
“I dare say they might, where there's conveniences and time," wrath. fully returned Margery, who relished Mrs. Pain's interference as little as she relished her presence. “ The kitchen we are to have is about as big as a rat-hole, and my hands are full enough this evening without dancing out to buy meats, and trying if the grate 'll cook 'em."
“Of course you will light the fire here," said Charlotte, turning to the grate. “I see it is laid.”
“ It's not cold,” grunted Margery. “But the fire will be like a pleasant welcome. I'll do it myself.”
She caught up a box of matches which stood on the mantelpiece, and set fire to the fagots underneath the coal. Margery took no notice one way or the other. The fire in a fair way of burning, Charlotte hastened from the house, and Margery breathed freely again,
Not for long. A short space, and Charlotte was back again, accompanied by sundry parcels. There was a renowned comestible shop in Prior's Asb, and Charlotte had been ransacking it. She had also been home for a small parcel on her own account: but that did not contain eatables.
Taking off her cloak and bonnet, she made herself at home. Criti. cally surveying the bedrooms; visiting the kitchen to see that the kettle boiled ; lighting the lamp on the tea-table, for it was dark then; demanding an unlimited supply of plates, and driving Margery nearly wild with her audacity. But Charlotte was doing it all in good feel. ing, in her desire to render this new asylum bright-looking at the moment of their taking possession of it; to cheat the first entrance of some of its bitterness for Maria. Whatever may have been Mrs. Charlotte Pain's faults--and Margery, for one, gave her credit for plenty-she was capable of generous impulses. It is probable that in the days gone by, a feeling of jealousy, of spite, had rankled in her heart against George Godolphin's wife : but that had worn itself out; had been finally lost in the sorrow felt for Maria since the misfortunes had fallen. When the fly drove up to the door, and George brought in his wife and Meta, the bright room, the well-laden tea-table greeted their surprised eyes, and Charlotte was advancing with open hands.
“I thought you'd like to see somebody here to get things comfortable for you, and I knew that cross-grained Margery would have enough to do between the boxes and her temper," she cried, taking Maria's hands. “How are you, Mr. George pri
George found his tongue. “This is kind of you, Mrs. Pain.”
Maria felt that it was kind : and in her tide of gratitude, as her hand lay in Charlotte's warm grasp, she almost forgot that cruel calumny. Not quite: it could not be quite forgotten, even momentarily, until earth and its passions should bave passed away.
“And mademoiselle ?" continued Charlotte. Mademoiselle, little gourmande that she was, was raised on her toes, surveying the table with curious eyes. Charlotte lifted her in ber arms, and held up to her view a glass jar, something inside it the colour of pale amber. “This is for good children, this is.”
“ That's me," responded Meta, smacking her lips. “What is it?"
“It's-Jet me read the label-it's pine-apple jelly. And that's boned fowl; and that's gélatine de veau ; and that's pâté de lapereau aux truffes—if you understand what it all means, petite marmotte. And