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a little misfortune; it's but a little misfortune: the shade is not much darker than the moonlight itself.”
Thomas was in his arm-chair, bending forward towards the fire, as she entered. His face would have been utterly colourless, save for the bluish tinge which had settled there, a tinge distinguishable even in the red blaze. Janet, keen-sighted as Margery, thought the hue bad grown more ominous since she quitted him in the afternoon.
" Have you come back alone?” asked Thomas, turning towards
George accompanied me as far as the ash-trees : I met him. Bessy is staying on for an hour with Lady Godolphin. Have you had your medicine, Thomas ?”.
Janet drew a chair near to him and sat down, glancing almost stealthily at him. When this ominous look appears on the human face, we do not like to gaze into it too boldly, lest its owner, so soon to be called away, may read the fiat in our own dread countenance. Janet need not have feared its effect, had he done so, on Thomas Godolphin.
" It is a fine night," he observed.
“ It is,” replied Janet. “ Thomas," dropping her voice, “the Shadow is abroad.” “Ah!"
The response was spoken in no tone of dread, of dismay; but calmly, pleasantly, with a smile upon his lips.
“ It has changed its colour," continued Janet, "and may be called grey now instead of black. I thought it had left us for good, Thomas : I suppose it had to come once more.”
"If it cared to keep up its character for consistency," he said, his voice a jesting one. "If it has been the advance herald of the death of other Godolphins, why should it not herald in mine ?"
“I did not think to hear you joke about the Shadow," observed Janet, after a pause of vexation.
pe Nay, there's no harm done. I have never understood it, you know, Janet; none of us have : so little have we understood, that we have not known whether to believe or disbelieve. A short while, Janet, and things may be made plainer to me."
" How are you feeling to-night?” somewhat abruptly asked Janet.
“ Never better of late days. It seems as if ease both of mind and body had come to me. I think,” he added, after a few moments' reflection, " that what George tells me of a prospect opening for him has imparted this sense of ease. I have thought of him a great deal, Janet, of his wife and child: of what would become of him and of them.”
“And it has been troubling you, I conclude !” remarked Janet, with a touch of her old severe accent. “He is not worth it, Thomas.”
“ May God help him on now!" murmured Thomas Godolphin. " He may live yet to be a comfort to his family; to repair to others some of the injury he bas caused. Ob Janet ! I am ready to go."
Janet turned her eyes from the fire that the tears rising in them might not be seen to glisten. “ The Shadow was very light, Thomas,"
July-VOL. CXXVIII. NO. DXI.
she repeated. “Whatever it may herald forth, will not be much of a misfortune."
“A misfortune!-to be taken to my rest!-to the good God who has so loved and kept me here! A few minutes before you came in, I fell into a doze, and I dreamt I saw Jesus Christ standing there, by the window, waiting for me. He had his hand stretched out to me with a smile. So vivid had been the impression, that when I woke I thought it was reality, and I got up and was hastening towards the window before I recollected myself. Death a misfortune! No, Janet; not for me."
Janet rang the bell for lights to be brought in. Thomas, his elbow resting on the arm of the chair, bent his head upon his hand, and became lost in the imagination of glories that might so soon open to him. Bright forms were flitting around a throne of wondrous beauty, golden harps in their hands; and in one of them, her harp idle, her radiant face turned as if watching for one who might be coming, he seemed to recognise Ethel.
A misfortune for the good to die! No, no.
III. THE BELL THAT RANG OUT ON THE EVENING AIR. GEORGE GODOLPHIN sat with his wife and child. The room was bright with light and fire, and George's spirits were bright in accordance with it. He had been enlarging upon the prospect offered to him, describing a life in India in vivid colours; had drawn some imaginative pen-and-ink sketches of Miss Meta on a camel's back; in & gorgeous palanquin ; in an open terrace-gallery being fanned by about fifty slaves, the young lady herself looking on in a high state of excitement, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks burning. Maria seemed to be partaking of the general hilarity; whether she was really better, or the unexpected return of her husband had infused into her artificial strength, unwonted excitement, certain it is that she was not looking very ill that night: her cheeks had borrowed some of Meta's colour, and her lips were parted with a smile at George's words, or at Meta's ecstasies. The child's tongue was never still, it was papa this, papa the other, incessantly. Margery felt rather cross, and when she came in to add some dish to the substantial tea she had prepared for her master, told him she hoped he'd not be for carrying Miss Meta out to them wretched foreign places that was only good for convicts. India and Botany Bay ranked precisely alike in the mind of Margery.
But the tea was done with and removed, and the evening had gone on, and Margery had come again to escort Miss Meta to bed. Miss Meta was not in a hurry to be escorted. Her nimble feet were flying everywhere: from papa at the table, to mamma who sat on the sofa near the fire; from mamma to Margery, standing silent and grim, scarcely deigning to look at the pen-and-ink sketches that Meta exhibited to her.
“I don't see no sense in 'em, for my part," slightingly spoke Margery, regarding with dubious eyes one somewhat indistinct representation held up to her. “Them things bain't like Christian animals. A elephant, d'ye call it? Which is its head and which is its tail ?”
Meta whisked off to her papa, elephant in hand. “ Papa, which is its head and which is its tail ?"
« That's its tail," said George. “You'll know its head from its tail when you come to ride one, Margery," cried he, throwing his laughing glance at the woman.
“Me ride a elephant! me mount upon one of them beasts !" was the indignant response. “I'd like to see myself at it! It might be just as well, sir, if you didn't talk about 'em to the child: I shall have her start out of her sleep screaming to-night, fancying that a score of 'em's eating her up."
George laughed. Meta's busy brain was at work; very busy, very blithesome just then.
« Papa, do we have swings in India ?” “Lots of them,” responded George.
“Do they go up to the trees ? Are they as good as the one Mrs. Pain had made for me at the Folly ?"
Ten times better than that,” said George, slightingly. “ That was a muff of a swing, compared to what the others will be."
Meta considered. “ You didn't see it, papa. It went up-upob, ever so high."
“ Did it," said George. "We'll send the others higher."
“Who'll swing me " continued Meta. “Mrs. Pain ? She had used to swing me before. Will she go to India with us?"
“ Not she," said George. “What should she go for? Look here. Here's Meta on an elephant, and Margery on another, in attendance behind.”
He had been mischievously sketching it off: Meta on the elephant, sitting at her ease, her dainty little legs astride, boy fashion, was rather a pretty sight: but poor Margery grasping hold of the elephant's body and trunk, her face one picture of horror in her fear of falling, and some half-dozen natives propping her up on either side, was only a ludicrous one.
Margery looked daggers, but nothing could exceed the delight of Meta. “ Draw mamma upon one, papa; make her elephant alongside me.”
“Draw mamma upon one ?" repeated George. “I think we'll have mamma in a palanquin; the elephants shall be reserved for you and Margery."
“ Is she coming to bed to-night, or isn't she ?" demanded Margery, in an uncommonly sharp tone, speaking for the benefit of the company generally, not to anybody in particular.
Meta paid little attention ; George appeared to pay less. In taking his knife from his waistcoat-pocket to cut the pencil, preparatory to “ drawing mamma and the palanquin," he happened to bring forth a ring. Those quick little eyes saw it; they saw most things. “ That's Unele Thomas's !" cried the child.
In his somewhat hasty essay to return it to his pocket, George let the ring fall to the ground, and it rolled towards Margery. She picked it up, wonderingly-almost fearfully; she had believed that Mr. Go. dolphin would not part with his signet-ring during life: the ring which he had offered to the bankruptcy commissioners, and they, with every token of respect, had returned to him.
“Oh, master! Surely he is not dead !"
“Dead !" echoed George, looking at her in surprise. “I left him better than usual, Margery, when I came away.”
Margery said no more. Meta was not so scrupulous. “Uncle Thomas always has that on his finger: he seals his letters with it. Why have you brought it away, papa ?”
“He does not want it to seal letters with any longer, Meta," George answered, speaking gravely now, and stroking her golden curls. “I shall use it in future for sealing mine."
“ Who'll wear it ?" asked Meta. “You, or Uncle Thomas ?"
“I shall—some time. But it is quite time Meta was in bed ; and Margery looks as if she thought so. There ! just a few of mamma's grapes, and away to dream of elephants."
Some fine white grapes were heaped up on a plate on the table: they were what George had brought from London for his wife. He broke some off for Meta, and that spoiled young damsel climbed on his knee while she devoured them, chattering incessantly.
“ Will there be parrots in India ? Red ones?"
“ Plenty. Red and green and blue and yellow," returned George, who was rather magnificent in his promises. “There'll be monkeys as well—as Margery's fond of them.”
Margery flung herself off in a temper. But the words had brought a recollection to Meta : she scuffled up on her knees, neglecting her grapes, gazing at her papa in consternation.
“Uncle Reginald was to bring me home some monkeys and some parrots and a Chinese dog that won't bite: how shall I have them, papa, if I'm gone to Cal—what is it?” She spoke better than she did, and could sound the “th” now; but the name of the Hindostan presidency was difficult to be remembered. * “ Calcutta. We'll write word to Regy's ship to come round there and leave them," replied ready George.
It satisfied the child. She finished her grapes, and then George took her in his arms to Maria to be kissed, and afterwards put her down outside the door to offended Margery, after kissing lovingly her pretty lips and her golden curls.
His manner had changed when he returned. He stood at the fire, near Maria, grave and earnest, and began talking more seriously to her on this new project than he had done in the presence of the child.
“I think I should do wrong were I to refuse it: do not you, Maria ? It is an offer that is not often met with.”
“Yes, I think you would do wrong to refuse it. It is far better than anything I had hoped for.”
“ And can you be ready to start by New Year's-day?”.
“I-I could be ready, of course," she answered. “But I-I-don't know whether "
She came to a final stop. George looked at her in surprise : in addition to her hesitation, he detected considerable emotion.
· She stood up by him and leaned her arm on the mantelpiece. She strove to speak quietly, to choke down the rebellious rising in her throat: her breath went and came, her bosom was heaving. “ George, I am not sure whether I shall be able to undertake the voyage. I am not sure that I shall live to go."
Did bis heart beat a shade quicker? He looked at her, more in surprise still than in any other feeling. He had not in the least realised this faint suggestion of the future.
“My darling, what do you mean ?”.
He had passed his arm round her waist and drawn her to him. Maria let her head fall upon his shoulder, and the tears began to trickle down her wasted cheeks.
“I cannot get strong, George. I get weaker instead of stronger ; and I begin to think I shall never be well again. I begin to know that I shall never be well again !” she added, amending the words: “I have thought it some time.”
“How do you feel ?” he asked, breaking the silence that had ensued. " Are you in any pain ?”
“I have had a pain in my throat ever since the-ever since the summer; and I have a constant inward pain here"-touching her chest. “Mr. Snow says both arise from the same cause-nervousness; but I don't know."
“Maria,” he said, his voice quite trembling with its tenderness, “shall I tell you what it is ? The worry of the past summer bas had a bad effect upon you and brought you into this low, weak state. Mr. Snow is right: it is nervousness : and you must have change of scene ere you can recover. Is he attending you ?”.
“He calls every other day or so, and he sends me medicine of diffe. rent kinds; tonics, I fancy. I wish I could get strong! I mightperhaps-get a little better, that is, I might feel a trifle better, if I were not always so entirely alone. I wish," she more timidly added, " that you could be with me more than you are.”
“You cannot wish it so heartily as I, returned George. “A little while, my darling, and things will be bright again. I have been earnestly and constantly seeking for something to do in London, and was obliged to be there. Now that I have this place given me, I must be there still chiefly until we sail, making my preparations. You can come to me if you like, until we do go," he added, “ if you would rather be there than here. I can change my bachelor lodgings, and get a place large enough for you and Meta.”
She felt that she was not equal to the removal, and she felt that if she really were to leave Europe she must remain this short intervening time near her father and mother. But-even as she thought it-the conviction came upon her, firm and strong, that she never should leave it; should not live to leave it. George's voice, eager and hopeful, interrupted.
“ We shall begin life anew in India, Maria : with the old country we shall quit old sores. As to Margery-I don't know what's to be done about her. It would half break her heart to drag her to a new land, and quite break it to carry off Meta from her. Perbaps we had better not attempt to influence her either way, but let the decision rest entirely with her.”