George Gissing






For many days Arthur's mind was almost entirely occupied with troublous anticipations of Helen Norman visiting the shop. John Pether had said nothing with regard to the interview between the latter and himself, and Arthur still felt convinced that Helen would come.

Almost certainly she would hear of Mr. Tollady's death from her guardian; but, even if she did not, a still small voice whispered flatteringly in the young man's ear that his prolonged absence from the studio would cause her to try and see him, for she had always manifested a frank interest in him, which, he felt, could not all at once give way to indifference.

If she should interrogate him on the subject, how would Mr. Gresham explain his pupil's sudden desertion?

Arthur trembled as he asked himself the question. So indignant had he become with Mr. Gresham that he could believe him guilty of almost any disingenuousness, even to an entire misrepresentation of what had taken place between them. When a week had passed, and still he had not seen Helen, the belief that the latter event must have occurred began to take firm possession of him. Doubtless the artist had so far defamed him in conversation with Helen that the latter could no longer experience any solicitude on his account. Who could tell what Mr. Gresham might not have accused him of? For it was plain to Arthur that, for some inscrutable reason, the artist had suddenly conceived a dislike to him. It was pain unspeakable to think of Helen viewing him in the light of false accusations, and losing all that interest in him which his talent -- was it his talent alone? -- had excited.

When the week had passed, and still he was disappointed, his mind entered upon another mood. What was Helen Norman to him, or he to Helen Norman? There was slight enough connection between them under the most favourable circumstances, and if Helen had so poor an opinion of him as to credit the first calumny she heard, then, indeed, she was of less than no account in his life.

Could he persuade himself that he had ever had especial interest in her? Impossible. That he had ever been on the point of loving her? Monstrous! Ignorant as he was of Helen's daily life, her schemes and her aspirations, he had little difficulty in so representing her character to himself as to persuade himself that there was nothing to regret in losing her from sight. What if she had given a few pounds to Mr. Tollady to distribute among the poor? There was no great credit in that, seeing that she had most likely thousands at her disposal. Very likely this had been a solitary instance of charity, induced by some momentary curiosity, some lack of occupation.

She was beautiful; that he could not endeavour to deny; but what was physical beauty to him, a man with a serious life before him and no ignoble aims?

Thus he argued with himself sophistically, and thought he was convinced. But the very currents of his life-blood, had he been calm enough to listen to them, as they throbbed along his veins, gave the lie to every one of his arguments.

In an evil moment he took her picture out of the portfolio, with the intention of destroying it; but at the first glimpse of that pure and noble countenance, he fell on his knees before it with a sob of pain. After all, she was his idol, the embodiment, to his heart and mind, of all that is loftiest and most worthy of pursuit in life. With an irresistible rush all the poetry of his nature seized upon and swelled his anguished heart; he wept violently. No, no, he would never destroy her picture! To the end of his days it would remind him of a time of real, though foolish, happiness, and would be capable of awakening the purest emotions of his breast.

He was now anxious to leave the old house as soon as possible. Since Mr. Tollady's death the shop had not been opened, and notice of the cessation of business had been forwarded to the few regular employers of the old man's printing-press. It remained to dispose of all the moveables, with the exception of Mr. Tollady's books, and the few articles of furniture which Arthur resolved to retain for his own use. The books he would not have allowed himself on any consideration to part with, so intimately were they connected with the happiest memories of his life; and with the furniture he proposed fitting up a little empty room somewhere in the neighbourhood of his work, wherever that might happen to be.

This matter of employment was naturally one of the first to be attended to. With the assistance of a few respectable tradesmen, with whom his work in former days had brought him into connection, he succeeded, after the lapse of a couple of weeks, in obtaining a situation as compositor in the office of a daily newspaper. During one week his work would occupy him throughout the day, during the next throughout the night, alternately.

This point happily gained, he was proceeding to look for a lodging, when a visit from Mark Challenger spared him the trouble. Mark (who had some time since given up his shop in Charlotte Place, and gone to work as a journeyman), occupied a bedroom in Gower Place, a small thoroughfare running out of Gower Street into Euston Square, and in the same house happened to be a small room, to be let unfurnished. Mark begged so earnestly that he would not go quite out of the neighbourhood, and represented with such sincerity what a delight it would be to him to have his young friend's companionship, that Arthur consented to take the room.

On the following day his bed, table, and two or three chairs were transported thither, and the old house in Charlotte Place was abandoned for good. At the same time it was intimated to Mr. John Waghorn that, as it was impossible to pay the remaining hundred pounds on the mortgage, the property was waiting for him to take possession of it as soon as he chose.

Arthur was now to have his first experience -- that is, since early childhood -- of the ordinary London lodging-house.

His landlady's name was Pettindund, and, besides her own family of grown-up sons and daughters, she had her house always full of lodgers. When Arthur grew to know these people with some degree of familiarity, they excited in him a feeling of unutterable disgust. Enthusiastic as were his hopes for the amelioration of the poor and ignorant, he saw at once that here he had come into contact with a class of people from whom it was vain to expect improvement save by the agency of time. They could not be called poor, since the weekly earnings of the family amounted to no small sum, the whole of which they regularly squandered in surfeit and vice; and their mental and moral debasement was to them no pain whatever. To attempt to influence these people by any powers of example or persuasion, which an individual could exercise, he saw at once would be waste of time. They were too completely sunk in their hoggish slough to be capable of rescue by any single hand. Many an hour did he spend in contemplating their condition, and not without good results to himself. He got thus by degrees truer views on the subject which most interested him. He had glimpses in time of the great truth that education, and education only, working perhaps through generations toward the same end, gaining here a point and there a point, could be the instrument of the redemption of the well-to-do labouring classes.

But, in the meantime, events occurred which were the instruments of bringing him into active spheres of life such as he longed for.

One evening, very shortly after the two had gone to live together in Gower Place, Mark Challenger announced to Arthur that he had joined a club of which he should like his friend also to become a member. He proposed to take Arthur to a meeting which would be held on the ensuing Sunday evening.

"It's a club of working men," he said, when describing it; "but men that are unmarried and have no one to support but themselves, and who come together just to do what good they can. Every man pays just what he likes every week; we have a box with a slit in it hung up in one corner, so that no one sees what you put in. And this money goes to form a fund, you see, out of which any member can have help if he really needs it. It isn't like a public club that almost anyone can join. We mean to have no more than twenty in it, at all events just at present, and all those twenty, Arthur, must be men that feel the wrongs of the poor and are sworn to work tooth and nail for bettering them. You see, it's more like a sort of committee for real working purposes. If any one of us knows someone that's badly in want and deserves help, he's only to tell the rest of the club, and they inquire into the matter. If they find it all right they either give help out of the funds of the club, or have a special subscription. We're all teetotallers, mind you. If we drank away half our money every week we shouldn't be able to contribute much; but as it is we make up a good purse, and, I can tell you, it goes to good uses.

"It seems to me a grand idea, if only it can be well carried out," said Arthur. "But how much is it usual to contribute each week?"

"The best-to-do sometimes give two shillings. I earn thirty shillings a week, and out of that I manage to give five. But then, you see, I've no one dependent on me now, and I only pay six shillings rent."

"Five shillings, Mr. Challenger!" exclaimed Arthur. "You indeed show yourself in earnest. I honour you for it."

"Bah! It's nothing. I have all I want to eat and drink, and before I get too old to work there'll be better times coming, see if there won't."

"How many members have you at present?"

"Why, only twelve. You'll make the thirteenth, if you join. You see, where there's no fixed contribution, and where there's serious work meant, we have to be quite sure of our men. Most working-men when they join a club just do it for their own advantage. But, as I've told you, that isn't our aim. We help each other if we need it, but most of us have very little fear of wanting much as long as we've our heads and our hands on, and our object is to help those poor devils that haven't had the strength or the good luck to hold out against the rich that we have. I should have been one of that sort still if it hadn't been for old Sam Tollady. Aye, aye, Arthur Golding, we must never forget Sam. Gad! What a chairman he'd have made for us if he'd only been alive now!"

"What do you do at your meetings? Is there one every Sunday night?"

"Yes, every Sunday night, and sometimes an extra called in the week, when there's any case to be considered. I'm told it was started by Will Noble. He's a printer, like yourself, and a grand fellow. You must know Will. Will had an idea that we working-men have waited too long for other people to help us, and it's time we turned to and helped ourselves. So he began to look round him, and before long he found half-a-dozen other men who were not miserably poor, but who had the same ideas as he had about doing what they could to help others. You'll know them all if you'll come down to-night, and I can tell you they're worth knowing. What do we do at our meetings? Well, we have some settled subject for discussion, you see, each Sunday night. Last Sunday was my first night there, and then Will Noble got up and spoke what he thought about the best way of helping poor people without making them lose their independence. Will said some uncommonly good things, and the best was that it's the poor must help the poor. The rich will never do it -- till the day comes when they're made, and that won't be so long, either! He said that we working men had the best chances of going about and seeing just what people wanted and what they didn't want. And when Will Noble had done, one or two of us got up and said what we thought, you see. The subject to-night is: 'How are the poor to get possession of their rights?' A man named Hodgson, a carpenter, will speak first. I don't know him at all, but I'm curious to hear what he's got to say.

"Does Mr. Pether belong to the club?" asked Arthur.

A look of perplexity rested for a moment on Mark's countenance.

"Well, no, he doesn't," he said at length, hesitating slightly in his speech; "and, to tell you the truth, Arthur, I shouldn't care for him to know about it. Poor John Pether has suffered more than any of us, and his wrongs have driven him half mad like. I'm getting almost afraid of John, he's so terribly fierce at times; I often fear he'll do either himself or some one else an injury. You see, he has brooded year after year in solitude, always growing poorer and poorer, till he couldn't get his thoughts away from that one subject, however much he tried. John won't hear of any other way of righting things except by violence, and it's just that that our club won't have anything to do with. Now you'll hear to-night what Hodgson says, but I'll warrant there won't be a word about blood in the whole of his speech. So you can see the reason why John Pether couldn't very well be a member; and things being so, I wouldn't have him know of it at all. It would seem unkind, you know, to keep him out, and I wouldn't have him think me unkind to him for the world. John and I have known each other hard upon thirty years, and we've been good friends all the time. I only wish he'd let me help him a bit now and then, but he gets into one of his fearful moods if ever I mention it. Poor fellow! I often wonder what'll become of him."

Eight o'clock was the time at which the club met, and about half-past seven Arthur and Mark set out together. Mark led his companion down Tottenham Court Road and across Oxford Street into Crown Street. Near the lower end of this they passed before the closed shop of a tin-worker, over which was written the name, "Isaac Spreadbrow." Knocking, they were almost immediately admitted, and passed through the shop into a little yard at the back. It was a sort of small timber-yard, one side of which was occupied by a long carpenter's shed. Here it was that the meetings of the club were held pro tempore.

Half-a-dozen men were already present in the yard, walking up and down, engaged in conversation. They were all hard-faced, hard-handed men, dressed with a decent care which betokened the tolerably well-to-do artisan.

Amongst them Arthur's eye at once singled out one who, he felt sure, must be the leader. He was not mistaken. To this tall man Mark at once led him, whispering that it was Will Noble.

"Mr. Noble," said Mark, "I've ventured to bring you a friend of mine, one I've known ever since he was a lad of ten or eleven. He's heart and soul in this work of ours, I assure you, and he'd feel proud if he was made a member of the club. Wouldn't you, Arthur?"

"I should indeed," replied the young man, returning the hearty grasp of the hand with which the tall man greeted him "There is nothing I feel so much interest in as efforts such as yours, and I should think it a privilege to work with you Mr. Challenger forgot to tell you my name. It is Golding."

"Well, Mr. Golding," said Will Noble, in a full, deep voice which spoke the heartiness of the man's nature, "I like the way in which you speak. You must know it is our rule that a new member must be introduced by at least two old ones who know him personally. You are one, Mr. Challenger; who is the other?"

"Why, it's rather awkward," returned Mark, looking round at the other men, who stood in a group apart. "I'm afraid there isn't another of us that knows Arthur personally. But I'll tell you just how it is. Arthur has lived and worked from a boy up with an old friend of mine called Tollady. You didn't know him, Mr. Noble; I only wish you had, but -- ha! here comes Spreadbrow. He knew him. Isaac!" he called out to a stumpy little man who was shaking hands with the members of the other group, "Did you know Sam Tollady?"

"Know him, by God!" exclaimed the tin-worker, energetically, "if I didn't know Sam Tollady show me the man who did. Damn me if I didn't!"

"Well, did you ever hear him speak of one Arthur Golding, who had lived with him?"

"Many a time, and a good lad he must have been, though I didn't know him at all. Where's he gone now that poor Sam's dead?"

"Why, here he stands," replied Mark, pointing to Arthur. "I want him to be a member, but unfortunately I'm the only one who knows him."

"I know him, Will Noble," cried Isaac, in a squeaking voice which he might appear to have caught from his trade. "Damn me, I'll go bail for him. Now I see him, I remember his face too. I must have seen him in the shop. But I'll go bail for whoever was Sam Tollady's friend, damn me if I won't!"

"Then I think that's quite enough," said Noble. "Wait till we're all together, and we'll have you elected, Mr. Golding. Mr. Challenger will take you to sign the book. Isaac, I wish you could get out of that habit of swearing. I'm no Puritan, as you know; but it don't fall pleasantly on a man's ears. Couldn't you make shift to do without it, don't you think?"

"I tell you what it is, Will Noble," returned the little man, stroking a scrubby beard, "you're about right in what you say, as you always are for the matter of that. I've had many a damned hard struggle with this habit; but, by God! it's always been too much for me yet. But I'll try again, if it's only to please you, Will. I'm damned if I don't!"

Will Noble turned away with a good-natured laugh, and Mark Challenger took Arthur into the shed, which was now illuminated by half-a-dozen tallow candles. The litter of the shop had been all pushed away into corners, and in the centre of the shed stood a long deal table, round which were placed benches. A chair was at the head, for the chairman, and on the table in front of it lay a small book containing the rules of the society, written out in Will Noble's own bold hand.

Every member had to read these rules and sign them. They recapitulated pretty much what Mark had already told Arthur, the principal being -- "That every member must be a bonâ fide working man; that every member must be a teetotaller; that each must contribute something every week, the amount to be left to his own discretion."

As Arthur put his name after Mark Challenger's, for Mark had been the last admitted, the men began to assemble in the shed, and to take seats round the table. Counting Arthur, exactly thirteen were present.

The office of chairman, it appeared, was held by all in turn. To-night, Isaac Spreadbrow assumed the head of the table. On his right hand sat Hodgson, the man who was to introduce the debate, if such it could be called where there was no opposition. Hodgson was the owner of the shed, and worked in it on weekdays.

As soon as all were seated, Isaac Spreadbrow rose.

"Gentlemen," he began, "the first thing we have to do tonight is to vote for a new member. I know you'll be glad to hear that, and I'm glad to tell it you. You know we've set our limit at twenty, this one makes the thirteenth. His name is Arthur Golding, and he's worked for years with an old friend of mine as is just dead -- that's Sam Tollady, one as would have been a member if he'd lived. I knew Mr. Golding through Sam Tollady well enough, though I never exactly talked to himself before to-night. Mr. Challenger has known him ever since he was a boy, too; and it's Mr. Noble's opinion as we may introduce him as a new member. So I'll ask your vote on the point. Those who are in favour of electing Mr. Arthur Golding hold up their hands, please."

The vote was unanimous.

"Then," continued Isaac, "Mr. Golding makes our thirteenth member. And now, before we listen to our friend Mr. Hodgson, I've got something more on my paper to speak of. And it's this. Most of us here, I think, are men as do a good bit of reading when we get the time, but most of us could do a good bit more if we'd only the books to read. It's a great shame we haven't a good public library to go to, where we could get books out for a small subscription, which we should all be able to pay. But as we haven't that, we shall have to fall back on an old rule, the rule as proves our guide in everything we do, and try to help ourselves. Now, Mr. Noble, who, you know, has our work thoroughly at heart, and constantly puzzles his brains to see how things can best be managed, has suggested to me that we should have a small weekly subscription of a stated amount, which is to go to buy a good book now and then, and one, you see, that would be too dear for each one of us to buy for ourselves. When we bought the book, whatever it was, it could go the round of us, each keeping it a certain time, and after that we'd put it somewhere to be kept for the benefit of the club in general. In that way, you see, we should get a library by degrees. Now, any one that's got anything to say to this idea, I should like him to speak."

A short discussion followed, two or three difficulties being raised with regard to the choice of books. This, however, was ultimately arranged, and the Book Club was unanimously voted for. The weekly subscription was arranged to be threepence.

The chairman then called upon Mr. Hodgson to deliver his address, which lasted some twenty minutes, and was listened to most attentively, several of the hearers making notes of what was said.

There was nothing very original, but at the same time nothing absurd or exaggerated in the speaker's ideas, which were principally that providence and co-operation were the best resources of the poor. He dwelt upon the evils of drink, maintaining that it was one of the most serious drawbacks to advancement; that it brutalised the poor and made them necessarily the servants of the rich, who had more command over their passions, or, at all events, had more means of concealing their results. He held that it was only a question of time, this restoration of the poor to their rights. In conclusion, he hoped that such working men as had votes would always use them in behalf of such candidates for Parliament as bound themselves to protect the interests of the poor.

One or two members having made remarks on this address, there ensued a pause, in the midst of which William Noble rose, and was received with much slapping of the table and clapping of hands. He looked round at his fellow-members with an earnest glance, and, after collecting his thoughts for a moment, began to speak in a slow, emphatic voice.

"Our friend Mr. Hodgson," he said, "has made a good and sensible speech, and I have had very much pleasure in listening to him. With what he said about the evils of drink I entirely agree. We are all here teetotallers simply because we see such terrible results ensue from the abuse of liquor that we choose rather to go without it altogether than to run the risk of becoming its slave. I only wish all working men could be induced to do the same. I know very well there is many a working man who drinks a glass or two glasses every day without its doing him the least harm; but these are the exceptions, I am sorry to say. We working men, on the whole, are a lot of poor, weak, ignorant fellows, who have next to no command over ourselves, whether it's in anger, or whether it's in any kind of enjoyment, and in my opinion we must try to remedy our weakness by strong means. Our disease has gone too far for a moderate treatment. We must set our faces firmly to the task of cutting away the whole habit, just as if it was a limb, and I think that if even moderate drinkers set the example of altogether going without their drink, it will be an aid and an encouragement to those who have a harder struggle to undertake. In all things we must help each other, and in this way I think we, by being teetotallers, are helping the drunkards."

The speaker was interrupted by applause, after which he continued in more rapid tones --

"But I didn't mean to talk much about this matter just at present. In all things I like to go to the very bottom; if it's geometry I study, I like to know what a straight line is; if it's arithmetic, I must know the multiplication table; and so in this matter we're discussing to-night, I want to ask myself what are these rights that the poor desire to win? Friends, I have heard men speak in the cause of the poor who seemed as if their object was nothing more nor less than to take away all the wealth from the rich and give it to the poor, as if that would mend matters. Now, I'm not one of these men. I think I have seen very well, from my own experience and from the books I've read, that as long as this world is a world, there will be in it rich people and poor people. That I feel sure of and I feel that it's no use grumbling about it. Some men are' born with more brains than others, and, even if there was no such thing as hereditary wealth, these men with the brains would have ten chances to one against the men without in the struggle for riches. Well, then, I say I am convinced there must be a rich class and a poor class. But shall I tell you what I am not convinced of? I am not convinced that, of these rich and poor, the one must be a class of brute beasts -- of ignorant, besotted, starving, toil-worn creatures -- whilst the other must be a class of lords and princes, spending in profitless luxuries -- luxuries which perish with them and are of no further good to the world -- riches which would suffice to put every poor man at his ease, which they obtain without labour, which serve only to rear generation after generation of vicious prodigals. I am not convinced that it is a necessity for the rich class to spend their days in refined selfishness, as careless of the miseries of the poor at their palace-gates as if these poor lived in another world; or that it is right for them to sit in judgment daily upon wretches who have committed a so-called crime to save themselves from starvation, and to condemn them to horrible penalties. Of all this I am far from being convinced, and that is why I did my best to form this club of ours, and hope to see it number before long twenty men who are as far from being convinced as I am, and who will work with me to remedy what they think wrong.

Murmured approvals. All the listeners hang upon the speaker's lips with rapt attention.

"And now shall I tell you why I am far from being convinced that these things are necessary? For that is the next point in an attempt to get to the bottom of the matter. For these reasons then. At their birth all men are equal, all are helpless, young creatures, dependent upon the care of parents for existence. These parents have to find sustenance for the children as they grow up, sustenance and clothing. These are the essential needs of man. Now nature has ordered that the infant's sustenance should first of all come from the mother; after that, that it should come from the earth. Now suppose a mother finds herself unable to afford milk to her new-born child, what do we say of her? Do we not say that the mother is diseased, that there is something wrong in her system, that things are not as they ought to be? Very well. Now if at a later period the child, or the grown-up man, finds himself unable to obtain that sustenance from the earth which nature prescribes, oughtn't we also to say that here too something is most clearly wrong? And worse wrong, friends, than in the other case! For whereas the diseased mother could not afford milk, the earth offers abundance of food, but certain men monopolise it, and do not allow their starving brothers to have their share. Mind you, I say their share, and their share is a sufficient quantity properly to sustain life. I have already told you that I believe some will always have more than others, but I hold that it is a wrong against nature to say that some shall have none at all!

"But you will perhaps say to me, why do you talk so much about nature? We are no longer in a state of nature. We are no longer savages, but men living in a social order. And I have even heard men say that it was one of the necessities of this social order that certain men should starve, they said they could prove it by political economy! But I tell you, friends, that, as far as food, clothing and shelter go, we are still in a state of nature, and must be, as long as we are men. We require all these as much as any savage, although we boast of being civilised. In spite of their political economy I venture to assert that my argument has proved man's right to these necessaries. If the human family increased so much that the earth could not afford food for them all, that would be a very different thing. Then no one but the earth would be to blame, and the maker of the earth, whoever that is. But we know this is so far from being the case that untold millions could yet be added without exhausting the capacities of this old earth!

"Now I think I have shown you what these rights are that Mr. Hodgson has spoken of, and also why they are rights. These are two important points gained. Now we pass to the harder questions of practical application. After all the men are right who say that, though every man is the earth's creditor for a sufficient quantity of food, it is impossible for everyone to go into the fields and gather it whenever he wants it. Of course he cannot, and the reason is because we live in an artificial state of society. (Mind, I don't imply anything bad of that word artificial. I should be crazy if I proposed that we should break up society and go back to the woods, to live as savages.) Well, it has been found necessary, through long centuries of experience, for men to do a certain amount of work for this food. As we can't all plough and reap we must do something to pay those men who do actually plough and reap for us. All men agree to this in theory, but strangely enough it has been found in practice that certain men refuse to work because they can obtain food without it, whilst others are willing to work their hardest, and yet cannot obtain food for all that. You will see that the fact of our being civilised does not in any sense take away our original rights, it only slightly alters the mode in which we are to receive them. So when the case is found to be as I have described, what shall we say? Surely not that a man must suffer because he happens to be a social being, but that there is something radically wrong in the social system which deprives him of his rights. I know very well that we find men now and then who starve because they are too lazy to work. Should I say that because these men are men, therefore they must be fed whether they work or not? Certainly not, and for this reason. If it is bidden by nature that every man should be fed, it is equally bidden by nature that every man should take the trouble of reaping his food. Now one way of reaping our food now-a-days is by working for it, and if a man refuse to do this he must suffer just as a savage would who should lie down on the ground and refuse to take the trouble of plucking fruit or killing animals. Nature would not drop food into his mouth.

"I assume, then, that nature bids the construction of a social order. But then comes a question which it is left for man to decide: 'How shall this social order be best arranged for the benefit of all men?' And here we are, friends, at the centre of the problem. We grumblers don't complain that nature will not feed us without our working, but we complain that this rich class, this class which has the main voice in the formation of society, has managed things so badly that they could scarcely have been managed worse; and, further still, that these rich men are altogether careless about the result of their bad management, trouble themselves not the least about anything, so long as they have their fine houses, their fine clothes, their fine dinners.

"Mr. Hodgson ended his address by reference to politics. Now what do we mean by politics? The science of government, I should say. In other words, the sum of what men know of the best rules for managing this social machine of ours. Now, because it is impossible for every man to have a hand in this management, we have what we call a government. Never mind that our form of government, monarchy, is in theory the most absurd the mind of man could conceive; for in reality we are not governed by a monarch, we merely pay for maintaining one because it looks generous, I suppose, to do so. But this parliament which really governs us, what has it to say to these frightful evils we have hourly before our eyes, these outrageous wrongs to which the poor have to submit? Friends, does it not in reality say: 'Well, I see the evil, I am very sorry for it, but I really don't know how to remedy it?' I maintain that all its acts amount to such a speech. But, I ask, what right has a government to exist, except as long as it successfully does its duty, the managing of the social machine? If a government no longer does this, it is no government. It should be swept from the face of the earth!

"But, friends, I am sorry to say that we cannot do this. We are not strong enough. In numbers we poor constitute a vast majority, but in influence you know we are very weak. The weakness is partly due to our poverty, partly to our ignorance. Before we can get a government such as we wish we must become as influential as the rich. How to bring this about, then, was the question Mr. Hodgson asked to-night. In my mind there is only one answer: We must get taught! The rich domineer over us not only because we are poor, but still more because we are too like the animals, we have too little of that grand intellectual power which, by taking entirely the place of bodily strength, distinguishes civilisation from barbarism! Yes, we must get taught. You have seen the government this year grant a scheme of education which will be of admirable effect, and what is this measure but the result of that very spirit in the nation which collects us together here to-night? This is our work, the work of those known as the Radicals, never mind who were the immediate agents. Well, is not this an encouragement for us? Does it not prove that we shall by degrees gain our objects? Depend upon it, it is not the government that will originate such measures; it is us, the poor, who must struggle without ceasing to raise ourselves out of the gutter and make our voices heard by the rich. If our reasons are good, the rich cannot but listen to them; these reasons of ours will weigh heavily against their wealth, and will ultimately prevail. But first we must get our reasons! We must keep our brains clear from the fumes of drink, we must get books, read and remember them; we must lay hold of this boon of reading and writing for our children, and make it a stepping stone to still more! And in the meantime we must also do our best to aid those suffering from actual want of the necessaries of life. The rich will not do this to any purpose, so we must do it ourselves. We who are here form a club of men without any ties, and therefore we can spare something out of our weekly wages. To-night we have got a new member, that means new possibilities for doing good. Don't let us be discouraged, friends, if we seem to do only a little. Every little helps, and depend upon it our exertions will not be without their influence. And so I have had my say.

Noble resumed his seat amidst much applause. Arthur, in particular, had listened to him with admiration, and had warmed with him into enthusiasm. When a few more had spoken and, after the chairman had announced the subject for the following Sunday, as well as certain items of business for the week-day meetings, the assembly broke up, Arthur shook hands heartily with him, and expressed his gratification in a few words glowing with earnest sincerity. Noble returned the young man's warmth with interest.

"Well, Mr. Golding," he said. "I see no reason why we shouldn't be very good friends. We are both of a trade are we not?"

"Yes, I work at the case," replied Arthur, with a sense of pride. "But at present the death of Mr. Tollady has put me out of employment. I hope to find some, however, before long."

"I will keep my eyes open for you, if you like," said Noble.

"Thank you," returned the other, "I should be very glad if you would."

By Mark Challenger's advice, Arthur had said nothing about his interval of artist's work, and indeed he felt there was no Insincerity in altogether passing it over. For in his present mood he firmly believed that all the time spent in the study of art had been wasted time, and that he was only now beginning serious life. His feelings were excited to the highest pitch by the events of the evening, and, on their return home, he and Mark sat up together till a late hour ardently discussing the prospects of the club.



If Arthur Golding had his days of uneasy expectation, followed by the momentary sickness of hope deferred, when Helen Norman appeared to have renounced all interest in him and his, Helen herself was but little less hurt at the repulse she had received upon her visit, the result, as she could not but believe it, of Arthur's direct instructions. Hurt she was, in the true sense of the word, and not merely distressed, as she had told her guardian, at the apparent folly with which Arthur had thrown aside his best chances of attaining to eminence in the path to which his genius had directed him. In the communings with herself which followed her return home, and the short conversation with Mr. Gresham, she would fain have persuaded herself that it was the latter feeling alone which influenced her; but that sincerity of self-examination to which she had long been accustomed told her that she suffered an emotion quite distinct from this. She was pained at the indifference to her displayed by Arthur, grieved that she had not been allowed the opportunity of expressing to him her sincere sympathy in his misfortunes. Subsequently she learned from her guardian that Arthur had renounced the benefits he might have received from her father's will, and this made her anxious with regard to his future subsistence. Nevertheless she was in no wise tempted to neglect Mr. Gresham's injunctions and pay another visit to Charlotte Place. Despite her loftiness of character, Helen Norman was still a woman, and instinct preserved her from exposing herself to still further slights.

But she too, like Arthur, had her refuge from painful reflections in determined application to her daily work. The path she had chosen for herself was no flowery one, and, though never daunted in her onward progress, she not unfrequently came to obstacles against which she had to struggle with unutterable sadness, or pity, or disgust in her heart. To begin with, wherever she went among the destitute poor, she was almost always met with the most open feelings of distrust and suspicion. She found at the very entrance to her work how terribly deep and wide was the gulf set between the class to which she belonged by birth and these poor wretches whom her heart was set on benefiting. Too often her kind words met with surly and ungracious replies, and sometimes her benefits were repaid with the basest indifference or even ingratitude. This subject was the occasion of numerous long and earnest conversations between her and Mr. Heatherley. One such took place on the day after Arthur's introduction to the "It always does me good to hear you talk, Mr. Heatherley," she said, as she sat in the arm chair by the table, and the clergyman on an ottoman in front of the window. "I have seldom felt so dreadfully exhausted as when you met me, but now I could almost go over my morning's work again, though it has not been very pleasant. You never seem tired. There is always a healthy freshness in your words which does one good."

Mr. Heatherley reddened slightly, and laughed, a low but clear and genial laugh.

"I am heartily glad my conversation has such tonic properties," he replied. "Let us hope I lose none of it when I am in the pulpit. But you say your morning's work has not been pleasant, Miss Norman. Where have you been to-day?"

"To some of the worst places you permit me to venture into. But I spoke more particularly of some people I have never mentioned to. you before. To tell you the truth I was very doubtful of what I had done for them, and wished to see the result. I find that I was not mistaken in my fear."

"Indeed? What do you refer to?"

"It is a family, named Crick, living in a cellar kitchen in an unspeakably foul alley. When I first visited them I found the man lying asleep on the floor, and his wife with three little children sitting about the room in a state of absolute idleness. Not a particle of furniture of any kind was to be seen in the place. The woman told me that none of them had tasted food for several days, that they had long ago sold all their furniture and spare clothing to keep themselves alive, and that her husband had just found work of some kind but was unable to begin because he had not a decent coat to appear in. I did not much like the appearance of the people at the time, for the man seemed a great strong fellow who ought long ago to have found some sort of occupation, and I felt sure that the cellar smelt strongly of spirits. But I could not refuse to do something for them, if only to see what effect my efforts would have, and to earn experience. So I gave the woman a few shillings to buy food, and then went with her to a shop close by and bought her a few articles of the cheapest furniture I could find, and also a suit of clothes which she said would fit her husband. She seemed extremely thankful, and when I went away I promised to call again in a very few days. Well, I went again, and this time only found the three children at home. They said their. father had not been at home since I was last there, and that their mother was out looking for work. I noticed, however, that one or two of the articles of furniture had disappeared, and I had many misgivings with regard to the state of affairs. This morning I called again, and once more found the whole family at home, but. this time the woman was asleep on the floor, the man was sitting in a state of. drunkenness on the cellar steps, and the children were quarreling for a jug of beer which the eldest of them was just drinking out of as I entered. All the furniture had once more disappeared, and the man was wearing the same clothes I had first seen him in. It was impossible for me to do any more, for they seemed hopeless people, so I went away with a heavy heart."

"I have known only too many such cases," said Mr. Heatherley. "As you say, Miss Norman, you acquire experience from them; but I should advise you to be very careful not to waste your money where there appears but slight hope of its doing good. After all, we have but very little power, except where the recipients of our charity come half way to meet us. Happily there are many such instances, and, as a rule, it is not very difficult to discern between honest distress and a true anxiety to take advantage of help."

"But the other poor wretches? Must we then let them perish in their dreadful life? Have we no means of raising them?"

"We individually have, I am afraid, none. The most we can do is to lose no opportunity of lending our aid in all reforms for the good of the poor generally. The spread of education will do a very great deal, it is to be hoped. But at the best, we cannot hope for perfection in this life."

"It is only when you speak so, Mr. Heatherley, that you are discouraging," said Helen, with a smile. "You then make me feel that, spite of all your activity and hopefulness, you in reality despair of the world. It is not this poor earth of ours on which your highest hopes are fixed, after all, and in looking forward to that shadowy future world I cannot but think that you must at times lose interest in the present."

The clergyman looked at Helen with a slight surprise. It was the first time since their first meeting that she had alluded to religion, even in the most distant manner.

"You are right, in a certain sense, Miss Norman," he replied. "I can never hope for the perfection of this world, but that does not, I trust, in the least dishearten me in my work here. The certainty of a future life of perfection is rather an inestimable incitement to me. How much more glorious to know that I am doing my best to prepare souls for eternal bliss, than to be actuated by a mere desire to lessen pain for a few fleeting years. I know you will forgive me the comparison, Miss Norman."

"Most certainly," replied Helen, smiling. "Will you permit me, in return, to ask you a question relative to your religious beliefs, Mr. Heatherley? Pray do not have any hesitation in refusing if you think me impertinent."

"I shall have the utmost pleasure in answering any question, Miss Norman," replied the clergyman, who heard Helen enter upon these subjects with a pleasure he could scarcely conceal.

"It is this then. Do you believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment?"

"What means an all-powerful and an all-merciful God may, in His wisdom, adopt for the purification of all souls and rendering them worthy of everlasting life, I am unable to say, Miss Norman; but that all souls will ultimately be likened in purity to their Creator and live for ever in His presence, I firmly believe. So you see that the doctrine of eternal punishment has no place in my creed."

"You relieve me," replied Helen. "Shall I confess it? I always feel a little uncomfortable in the presence of those who I know are possessed with this idea of the damnation of their fellow-creatures."

"Had you," asked Mr. Heatherley, "any other object in asking the question besides the desire of relief?"

"Merely that I might more thoroughly understand the spirit in which you labour among the depraved and the wicked. Under such circumstances as these, why weary yourself in efforts to bring about an end which is already predetermined?"

"How do I know, Miss Norman, that I, humble creature as I am, may not be an indispensable instrument in the hand of the Almighty? I work in obedience to the spirit which most distinctly pervades the revealed will of God, to do good to others, even as I would that others should do unto me. But I fear you do not comprehend my religion. It is not a matter of calculation and reasoning to me, but an unmistakable conviction. I follow an impulse which irresistibly actuates me, an impulse which I feel to be the will of my Creator. I do so because I cannot do otherwise."

"And I am afraid, Mr. Heatherley," replied Helen, "that it is just as impossible for you to understand the hopes and fears which actuate us who look to no other home but this present one. You can have no idea of the intense desire to be doing which possesses one who is firmly convinced that, if this life and its opportunities are neglected there will be no other chance. If you regard each one of these wretched beings as an immortal soul, and work to render them worthy of immortality, I for my part regard them as lives which are burning away like a candle, being extinguished for ever, losing day by day the million glorious possibilities which humanity sees before it, perishing without having ever known one noble thought, one worthy impulse, one hour of human happiness. Is not that a prospect capable of exciting sympathy, the deepest that can be born of human heart? Are there not here motives -- frightfully urgent motives, for action? But I grant that you have the advantage over me in sources of consolation when you feel your weakness. It is dreadful to me to see that I can do so little! Can you not advise me, Mr. Heatherley, some better way of winning the confidence of these poor? That is what I want, their confidence. They will not trust me. My speech, my dress, perhaps, revolts them. They think that I do not belong to their class, and, though they take my money, it is with suspicion of my motives. I have made my dress as plain as it possibly can be, to be respectable. If I could, I would even speak in their uncouth tongue. There is always that horrible difference of caste between us. Can it ever be removed? Will they ever learn to look upon me as a human being like themselves?"

Mr. Heatherley's eyes had remained fixed on the girl's face as she spoke, and they involuntarily expressed admiration as all her lineaments glowed with a richer beauty begotten of enthusiasm. When he replied, it was after hesitation, and in a low voice.

"You ask me, in effect, Miss Norman," he said, "to do what you have forbidden me to do -- to impress you with the truth of my religion. I fear there is much reason in what you say. I fear you find your superior position a sad obstacle. It is necessarily so. There is but one thing -- the influence of Christianity -- sufficiently strong to remove this obstacle; and of that you are unable to avail yourself. I grieve profoundly that it should be so."

The emphasis with which he pronounced these last words impressed Helen. She looked into his face, and, meeting the full gaze of his earnest eyes, averted her head again.

"I cannot think you are right, Mr. Heatherley," she replied, after a moment's pause. "Have these people so utterly lost the reasoning powers of human beings as to be unable to see that all men are necessarily born equal, though wealth may make them different as far as attainments and outward appearance go? Are they so degraded as to consider themselves hopelessly inferior? Have they not sufficient insight to discern kindred hearts even in those whom the world exalts?"

"Possibly what you imagine to be an overwhelming sense of their own superiority," replied Mr. Heatherley, "is rather a proud and obstinate assertion of their equality. We must blame the dreadful social errors which have so long forced them to live the life of beasts, even whilst they felt and knew themselves to be men. No; they have not sufficient powers of insight to distinguish one wealthy person from another. It is their hereditary belief that the rich are their enemies, and how can we expect them to be suddenly converted from it? They will much rather attribute any extravagant motive to your charity than surrender the traditions of their lives by attributing it to true benevolence."

"And do you seriously believe, Mr. Heatherley, that your religion materially assists you in gaining their confidence?"

"I do, Miss Norman. When I speak to them of God and their Saviour, when I tell them that one great Being has created all men alike, and that one Christ came down to earth to die for all; when I point to the future life, and tell them that there we shall all live again in the sight of our Father, no one of us superior or inferior to the rest, then indeed they see that I am only a man such as themselves, and they are willing to trust me. As well try to make their minds comprehend a metaphysical problem, as to put before them the fact of the equality and brotherhood of men as you understand it, Miss Norman, and expect it will aid you to win their confidence."

Helen rose to depart, and held out her hand to the clergyman.

"I thank you for your frankness with me, Mr. Heatherley," she said. "It shows that you rate my independence at its true value. What you have said will afford me matter for thought."

"If your reflection led you to see the truth of what I have said, Miss Norman," returned the clergyman, as he took her hand, "and to enter into the spirit of the faith which is my support, it would be the richest blessing of my life that God had made me the instrument to so great an end."

Helen thought, on her way home, that the more thoroughly she came to know Mr. Heatherley, the further removed from him did she feel in all the most essential of the principles by which her life was guided. If possible, she respected him more than ever after every conversation she held with him, as she came more fully to recognise his consistency, his sincerity, his powers of sympathy. But, great as were the latter powers, she felt that they were insufficient when applied to her own philosophy, and felt that in the nature of things it must be so. Mr. Heatherley did not even understand her motives, much less truly sympathise with them. All the more, however, did she respect his tolerance, and wonder at it. This, indeed, was the one feature of his character which greatly influenced her.

In listening to him, she herself became more tolerant. Hitherto she had taught herself to look upon the Christian religion as a gigantic mistake, every sign of which must be swept away from the earth as soon as possible. For individual Christians her good sense had already made her entertain the widest charity; but for the faith they professed she had been unable to preserve the slightest. Fresh from the study of ecclesiastical history, with all its hideous barbarities, its ghastly beliefs, its brutal condemnations of what is noblest in man, it was but natural that her young and enthusiastic mind should look upon Christianity as an enemy to be combated with and destroyed, of no possible use to the world, but rather of unutterable harm. But experience of life since she had been in London, and, above all, conversation with Mr. Heatherley, had greatly modified her opinions. Though her reason still forbade her as strongly as ever to relinquish her intellectual freedom for the bondage of dogmas, she was beginning to understand that Christianity has its reason for existence, and to doubt whether, even if it were possible, it would be wise to suddenly exterminate it.

After all, was there not a very close analogy between the mental condition of these denizens of the slums and alleys and that of the men of earlier ages, who found religion absolutely necessary for them, and so created it if they had not it ready to hand? Was not every child naturally impressed with religious beliefs, and was it not very possible that the history of the world was but a steady growth to maturity, corresponding to the growth of the individual mind? Theories such as these she had already met with in her reading, but had scarcely considered them with sufficient impartiality; and now they came upon her with the vivid reality of experience.

Helen was an example of that most enspiriting rule in the moral order of the world, that no one can endeavour to do good to others without at the same time actually benefiting himself.

When Helen reached home that afternoon she was rather surprised to see a cab standing before the door, from which the driver, aided by one of the servants, was lifting two large trunks into the hall. She knew of but one person who was expected to arrive about this time, and that was Mrs. Cumberbatch, Mr. Gresham's aunt. And on glancing at the first trunk that was set down in the house, she saw that it was labelled with that lady's name.

At this moment she was accosted by the housekeeper, who appeared in somewhat of a flurry.

"How very unfortunate, Miss Norman! I'm so glad you've just come. Mr. Gresham told me that this lady would be here to-morrow afternoon, and here she has come quite unexpected. There's been no fire lighted in her room yet, and hardly any preparations made, and, what's more, Mr. Gresham went out about an hour ago, and I dare say won't be back till dinner. Whatever shall we do?"

"I suppose I must see Mrs. Cumberbatch," whispered Helen in reply. "Where is she?"

"I have taken her into the drawing-room for the present, ma'am."

"Very well, I will go to her. See that her room is put into some kind of order immediately. She will want to go to it at once. There must have been some mistake."

So saying, she passed into the drawing-room.

Sitting in an arm-chair, with a small travelling-bag upon her lap, was a middle-aged lady of no very striking appearance. She was short in stature, rather prim in countenance, and wore ringlets of greyish hair on each side of her face. She was dressed with scrupulous neatness, in garments which betokened widowhood. She rose as Helen entered, and listened with close lips and a peculiar smile, half gracious, half supercilious, whilst the latter apologised for Mr. Gresham's absence.

"You didn't expect me to-day, perhaps -- h'm?" asked Mrs. Cumberbatch, in a subdued voice.

The assertion she first uttered was pronounced in a tone which seemed to take the point for granted, and the interrogatory "h'm?" came out with a sudden, unexpected start, which almost made the listener jump.

"Mr. Gresham was under the impression that you said Tuesday," returned Helen. "He must have made a mistake."

"No," said the lady. "He was quite right. I merely altered my mind."

The matter-of-course way in which she said this struck Helen as curious. Mrs. Cumberbatch spoke with her lips very close together, despite which Helen fancied that she had few, if any, teeth. She did not behave in the least like a stranger, but spoke and looked rather as if she had just come on a visit from the next street.

A servant knocked and entered.

"If you please, mum, the cabman says he has not been paid."

"I quite forgot," said Mrs. Cumberbatch, smiling calmly at Helen. "And I positively have no change. My dear, might I trouble you to lend me a couple of shillings."

Helen gave the servant the desired sum, still marvelling much at the stranger's matter-of-fact manner.

"You are Miss Norman, -- h'm?" asked the lady, and, on receiving an affirmative reply, proceeded to examine Helen's face so closely, so much with the air of a mistress inspecting a new servant, that the latter's eyes dropped, and she began to feel uncomfortable.

"Scarcely what I expected to see," proceeded Mrs. Cumberbatch, as if to herself. "Mr. Gresham -- he is my nephew, you know, but I have never seen him, and so I speak of him as a friend merely -- Mr. Gresham has told me that you are much engaged in philanthropic works, h'm?"

"I should not venture to give my efforts so dignified a name."

"But still you don't mind others doing so? In connection with what religious community do you work, may I ask?"

There was a touch of natural maliciousness in the first sentence. Helen began to wish that the duty of receiving the lady had fallen upon anyone rather than herself. She replied to the latter question that she worked in connection with no community of any kind.

"Indeed? I was in hopes you might have belonged to my own form of faith. I attend the meetings of the new branch of the Semi-United Presbyterio-Episcopal Church. Did you ever attend our services?"

"Never," replied Helen, shortly.

"You know, of course, the nearest of our meeting-houses, h'm?"

"I think I never heard of the sect before."

"Sect!" repeated Mrs. Cumberbatch, with a smiling condescension. "So I have heard people speak of us before. Some even call our faith a schism. But, of course, you know, we are the only true Church? After all I am not surprised that you are unacquainted with us. We do not care much to make converts. We alone are the elect, and if it pleases our Master to turn to us one of those who are going the broad way we accept the offering gladly. Otherwise, we can acquiesce in the Lord's will."

Helen could not restrain a smile at the cheerfulness with which Mrs. Cumberbatch acquiesced in the damnation of that not inconsiderable portion of mankind which did not belong to the new branch of the Semi-United Presbyterio-Episcopal Church. The latter answered the smile with one of her own. At this moment the servant re-entered and presented the change out of the two-shilling piece in coppers to Helen.

"Thank you," interposed Mrs. Cumberbatch, holding out her hand and taking the coppers coolly. She took out a purse from her pocket and deposited them in it with still the same self-approving smile upon her face.

"I think I may now take you to your room, Mrs. Cumberbatch," said Helen, rising. "As we did not expect you today it was not quite ready, but I think it will be in order now."

The lady accordingly followed, smiling graciously, with compressed lips, at the servant as she left the room. Helen departed to her usual occupations, and the two did not meet again till dinner-time.

When Helen entered the dining-room at that hour she found Mrs. Cumberbatch discoursing with her nephew as if she had known him from childhood, and when the little, black-robed woman with her grey ringlets assumed her seat at the end of the table opposite to Mr. Gresham it seemed as though she had always sat there. The same evening Mr. Gresham delivered over to her the management of his house. Henceforth she would be supreme in all matters of domestic arrangement. Mrs. Cumberbatch appeared pleased with the commission.

At seven o'clock Helen took the train, as usual, to the City. It was not a very long walk to the chapel, where she held her class, and on arriving there she found two or three of her pupils already waiting round the door. Helen produced the key and admitted them.

At this hour the interior of the chapel was already dark, so that the gas in the school-room had first to be lit. It was a moderate-sized room, fitted with benches, a few small desks, and a large desk for the teacher. Texts of Scripture ran round the walls in illuminated text, but the white plaster showed no other kind of ornament. Throughout the building prevailed a fresh, upholsterish smell, indicative of general newness. Indeed the chapel had scarcely been built three months, and parts of it were still unfinished.

Helen took her seat at the large desk and began to look over a few copy-books, making marks here and there with a blue lead-pencil. Whilst she was thus occupied girls continued to come into the room, each one upon entering hanging up her hat and cloak on pegs provided for that purpose and assuming her usual place upon the benches. Very shortly some ten or a dozen had collected, and sat rustling the leaves of books and whispering together quietly. Most of them appeared to be between sixteen and seventeen years old, and nearly all -- as was to be expected when the class was purely voluntary -- had faces indicating a certain degree of cheerful intelligence. Without exception they were dressed with extreme neatness. A glance at the hats hanging on the wall showed that they were not all above the temptation of a little cheap finery, but scarcely any wore ornaments on the dress, beyond a small blue or purple tie. The appearance of their hands sufficiently proved the manner in which their days were spent, the coarse stumpy fingers engrained with ineradicable dirt bespeaking toil of no delicate description. All their fingers bore the impression of the eternal needle, and not a few, on sitting down, had, by force of habit, taken a thimble from their pockets and slipped it on before beginning to spell.

Suddenly a clock in a different part of the chapel struck eight, and as the sounds died away in repeated echoes through the empty building, every girl drew herself up and sat with her book on her lap waiting for the commencement of the lesson. Helen began by calling over the roll. Two only were found to be absent.

"I have been thinking since last lesson," she then said, whilst the girls all regarded her with fixed attention, "that it would be wise to divide you into two classes. Some of you know the alphabet quite well, and are even able to read a little, whilst some do not yet even know the letters thoroughly. I wish you to understand that those who will be put in the lower class are not put there because I think them any worse than the others. In time, no doubt, they will make just as good scholars, but at present, through no fault of their own, they would keep the more advanced back if they continued in the same class with them. But for two classes it is clear that two teachers will be required, so I have asked Mr. Heatherley to endeavour to find someone to assist me. No doubt he will succeed before Saturday evening. To-night I must give one hour to each class, asking the class that I am unable to attend to at the time to go on studying by themselves."

As she concluded, Helen perceived a look of disappointment going round among the girls, and one or two whispers exchanged.

"Have you any objection to make to these arrangements?" she asked, with the good-natured smile which had already endeared her to her pupils.

There was silence for a moment, but at length one of the girls sitting on the front bench ventured to speak.

"We know it's best whatever you say, ma'am," she said, "but we don't like to have any one else teach us but you."

Several voices made themselves heard confirming this remark.

"I'm sure I ought to be very proud of your confidence in me, replied Helen, With a glad light in her eyes; "but you see that it will be clearly impossible for me to take two classes at once. Suppose I say that I will take the classes by turns, the first class one evening and the second the next. Do you think that will do, Mary Walker?"

"That seems the only way, ma'am," replied the girl who had first spoken, and the rest also murmured their assent.

"Very well. Now I will call out the names of those who will form the first class."

When the two classes had arranged themselves upon the forms, Helen proceeded to give a lesson to those who did not yet know their letters, leaving the more advanced to study in silence. It was not easy work, but the earnest desire of the poor girls to do their best made it far from disagreeable. But how slow they were! With what immense difficulty they succeeded in comprehending the difference between n and m, between b and p! Helen's quiet patience seemed inexhaustible. To the dullest she would repeat the same thing over twenty times, and the twentieth with no less of gentleness in her tone than had marked her first explanation. When at length nine o'clock struck, she turned with a sigh of relief to the first class. Here there were one or two who could read at the rate of five words in as many minutes, but these were the exceptions; most, though they knew their letters well enough, puzzled in a hopeless manner over the simplest word of two syllables. There was something dreadful in the sight of these faces bent with a determined, almost a desperate, energy over tasks which every well-educated child of five or six years old would think nothing of. The efforts it cost them were painful in the extreme, they suffered with a physical suffering. But as soon as any one looked up into the teacher's countenance, the courage which had just been on the point of giving way before apparently insurmountable difficulties came back again. Helen's smile was a perpetual incitement to the most stupid.

At ten the classes broke up. For several minutes Helen was engaged in answering questions relative to the work for next lesson, and then by degrees the schoolroom emptied itself. She watched the girls as they took down their hats and cloaks, and made internal comments upon their characters.

She had not noticed that for several minutes Mr. Heatherley had been standing in the doorway of the room, and by his side a girl of perhaps the same age as Helen, rather pretty in face, whose appearance rendered it probable that she was the daughter of a well-to-do working man. As soon as she perceived the two she advanced towards them, and Mr. Heatherley introduced his companion as Miss Venning.

"You desire to help me in my evening classes?" said Helen, as she shook hands with the girl, who was very timid in manner.

"I should not have ventured to think of teaching," replied the latter, a modest blush upon her comely features. "It is Mr. Heatherley who has persuaded me to offer myself. But I am really afraid that I have not ability enough."

"That's all nonsense, Lucy," said Mr. Heatherley, good-naturedly. "You don't mean to pretend that you can't read and write?"

The girl held down her head in silence, still blushing.

"I thought your impudence wouldn't go quite so far," said the clergyman. "Well, nothing more whatever is wanted, except a little patience. And that I know you have."

"Oh, please not to think I am unwilling to do what I can," said Lucy Venning, looking from the clergyman to Helen. "I really shall be very glad to help, if I am thought capable, very glad indeed."

"I have no doubt whatever that you will be capable, Miss Venning," replied Helen. "Patience is the principal thing needed. These poor girls are sadly ignorant, and want slow and careful teaching. Can you begin on Saturday?"

"Oh yes," said Lucy.

"Very well. I shall be sincerely glad to see you here. And now I must be off; it is getting late."

"Let me see," interposed Mr. Heatherley. "You pass Miss Venning's door, if I'm not mistaken. You must let me see you safe to the station as usual, Miss Norman."

And so they turned out the lights and left the chapel.



Seldom had Helen experienced so strong an aversion for any one as that excited in her by the words, the manner, and soon the very appearance of Mrs. Cumberbatch. In the latter's presence she suffered from continual irritation. And this was all the worse, seeing that Mrs. Cumberbatch seemed to take the utmost interest in her nephew's ward, and seldom allowed her to remain alone when in the house. On Sunday alone was there any rest from her persecution. Happily she had discovered a congregation of the new branch of the Semi-United Presbyterio-Episcopal Church, and the fact that it met at the extremity of Mile-end Road, was to her no obstacle whatever. Twice each Sunday did she attend the service there, going and returning by omnibus each time. Helen never knew her to manifest the slightest sign of fatigue. She was always the same close-lipped, smiling little woman, under every circumstance.

Under the pretence of requesting her to read to him, Mr. Gresham continued to engross much of his ward's leisure. Indeed, so strong was his infatuation becoming, that he could hardly bear her to be out of his sight. In the afternoons he always waited for her return home with childish impatience, and called her into his presence on some trivial pretext almost as soon as she had entered the house. His jealousy of a hundred imaginary rivals well-nigh drove him to madness, he plotted and schemed for hours how to put an end to her long daily absences. For all this he had not the courage openly to break his secret to her, and know his fate. Indeed, he felt that he already knew his fate only too well. He saw that Helen still behaved to him with the most perfect frankness, without a trace of embarrassment, in every respect treating him like a friend -- and no more. At times he was driven into paroxysms of rage when he thought of the mean acts he had committed, the perpetual torture from which he suffered, all in consequence of this ill-advised but involuntary passion. He mocked at himself, he attacked himself with the fiercest sarcasms and ironies; a thousand times he went to bed at night saying that in the morning he would rise calm and indifferent to the whole race of womankind, as he had been but a few months ago. And yet the morning found the invincible worm eating still deeper into his heart. He was beginning to despise himself as a coward, a creature devoid alike of honour and of courage.

He asked himself whether there was any real obstacle in the way of his offering his hand to Helen, and being either accepted or refused as the case might be. He could see none. He knew cases of men older than himself who had married wards of their own, under far less creditable circumstances. At least no one could think that he was actuated by a mercenary spirit; his own independent position forbade that. What, then, stood in his way? He knew very well that it was that stiff-necked pride, that empty vanity which had been the guiding spirit of his life. Could he, who had scoffed at all the passions, the sentiments, the principles which ordinarily rule the existence of men, who had trained himself into an affected cynicism which all his friends imagined to be real, could he now confess himself a convert to the gentle teaching of love, humble himself to entreat the favour of a girl? The thought was intolerable to him.

Helen's portrait was proceeding very slowly. Mr. Gresham lingered over it purposely; partly because he had an actual pleasure in the work, partly because it afforded him a good opportunity of frequently enjoying his ward's society; partly, again, because he felt that the completion of the picture would be the most appropriate occasion for opening his heart; and he dreaded the approach of the time. Soon it had been in hand nearly six weeks, and was all but finished. One morning he had requested Helen to sit, and had lingered for a couple of hours before the canvas, now and then adding a touch, but for the most part only pretending to paint, and keeping his eyes fixed upon the girl's face. At last he laid down his pallet, and threw himself with a careless air into a seat by Helen's side.

"And how goes the missionary work in the Oriental regions?" he asked, with a forced assumption of his wonted sceptical tone and look.

"As well as I could hope, I think," replied Helen.

"Then let us have statistics. How many have you converted to the doctrine of soap and water, say during the last week?"

"I wish the process of conversion were capable of being represented by statistics," said Helen. "We can only venture to look for decided results at the end of a comparatively long period. Ask me when I have been at work a year, Mr. Gresham, and I hope to be able to give you something tangible."

"A year! And you mean to say that your whim will last so long? Why, I was calculating that our Christmas festivities, at the latest, would celebrate its burial."

"You credit me with very little stability of character, Mr. Gresham."

"On the contrary, in giving you till Christmas I conceived I was crediting you with a most astonishing stability."

"I have already said that this will be the work of my life, and I say so in seriousness."

"Your life? And when you are married do you suppose your husband will allow you to spend your days in slums and ragged schools?"

"I think there is little prospect of my ever marrying," replied Helen, with a quiet smile.

"Indeed? Not Mr. Heatherley? You would make an admirable parson's wife, Helen."

Helen looked curiously at him as he spoke thus, and he met her gaze with one which conveyed much more earnestness than his words.

"Mr. Heatherley and I are, I hope, very good friends," she replied, "but the idea of our ever becoming more to each other than that is one for which you must yourself take credit, Mr. Gresham."

"But how and where will you live? I have been very seriously thinking of late of the Dorsetshire farm. Suppose I sell this house and go to live in the country; what will become of you then, Helen?"

"I shall take a lodging somewhere near to the scene of my occupation," replied the girl, calmly. "By so doing I should save much time and expense."

"Possibly you would like to do that at once?"

"I should only do so if I had no near friends in London. At present I enjoy living in your house, Mr. Gresham. I should lose your society with regret."

"And yet there is not much similarity between us, Helen, is there?"

"We often agree in our literary tastes."

"So we do. But then you take the world so terribly au sérieux; I look upon it as a farce, and amuse myself with the spectacle."

"That I am sorry for," said Helen.

There was silence for a while.

"Do you ever think about my character, Helen?" asked the artist then.

"I have naturally sometimes thought of it, Mr. Gresham," returned his ward, with some little hesitation. "Not to have done so would argue want of friendship."

"And what were your conclusions with regard to me? Is it indiscreet to ask such a question?"

"Rather indiscreet, perhaps."

"You decline to make any comments?"

"Would any useful end be served if I consented?"

"Possibly by regarding my image in your clear mind, I might learn to know myself better than I now do."

"In that case I will venture to mention one thought which has sometimes occurred to me. It is my belief, Mr. Gresham, that people are not so sincere with each other as they might, with great advantage, be. As you have invited me to speak, you will not be offended at what I say?"

"In no case."

"I have sometimes thought, then," said the girl, looking into her guardian's face with frank simplicity, "that it is a pity you do not try to divest your words and your manner of a certain unreality, insincerity -- what shall I call it? -- which they possess. I sometimes fancy that you are not naturally so sceptical regarding the seriousness of life as you would pretend to be. I have noticed indications of this more particularly during the last few weeks."

Mr. Gresham smiled. He seemed to experience a real pleasure in hearing these words.

"And why is it a pity that I am what I am?" he asked. "Should I be more amiable do you think -- should I seem more agreeable, say to you, if I were otherwise?"

"I am sure you would."

"But what would you have me do? How can I evince sincerity? Shall I turn Ranter, and harangue a crowd next evening from the top of the nearest lamp-post?"

"I fear you are incorrigible, Mr. Gresham," said Helen, shaking her head and smiling.

"But, in sober earnest, what shall I do? I am willing -- I am willing to be savagely serious, indeed I am. There shall be a proof of it."

He took out his pocket-book, and released from it a ten-pound bank-note.

"There," he continued, "take this, Helen, and spend it for me upon your unspeakable protégés."

Helen shook her head.

"But why not?" he pursued. "Take it, I beg of you. Shall I go down on my knees? Take it, Helen, and buy somebody a ton of soap with it -- the very best brown Windsor!"

"You do not mean what you say, Mr. Gresham. You would regret it the moment the money had left your hands."

"Upon my word, no! I am in terrific earnest. Won't you take me at my word?"

"It is always so difficult for me to understand whether you mean what you say."

"But in this case I do. Take the ten-pound note, Helen. I mean it. Take it, and when it is spent, ask me for another. I wish to be serious. I wish to be amiable. I wish to please you, Helen."

"Indeed you do please me, Mr. Gresham, if you really mean this. I will take you literally." As she spoke she put the note in her purse. "You shall have an exact account of how this money has been spent. I think I have already a purpose for it in my mind. It is very good of you to make me your agent."

Mr. Gresham suddenly took one of her hands in both his own, and looked full into her face. Just as he was opening his lips to speak, the door creaked, and Mrs. Cumberbatch entered. Mr. Gresham rose with a savage look, which he vainly endeavoured to conceal, and walked to his easel.

"The picture near completion -- h'm?" asked the intruder, turning first to Helen, who sat perfectly composed, then to the artist, who was leaning over his pallet.

"Almost finished," said the latter, in a low tone, and continued to paint.

Shortly, Mrs. Cumberbatch withdrew, and Helen at the same time. As the latter was leaving the room, Mr. Gresham recalled her for a moment.

"I shall add to it the last touches," he said, "before I go out, but in the afternoon I have an engagement which will keep me away till nearly nine to-night. Will you come up here when you return from the school and have a look at it? I shall be here then."

"Gladly," said Helen.

It was Saturday, and at eight o'clock Helen opened her classes as usual. Her new assistant, Lucy Venning, was punctual, and the room was soon a scene of assiduous study. Lucy, when she succeeded in overcoming her extreme diffidence, made a capital teacher. Her patience equalled that of Helen's, and her comprehension of, and sympathy with the pupils was perfect. From the first, Helen had regarded Lucy with much interest, and, now that she came to know her better, the interest began to develop into attachment. There was an excessive charm for her in Lucy's perfect simplicity of manner, her low, gentle voice, and her uniform sweetness of temper. As yet there had not been much opportunity of winning the girl's confidence, but each time she saw her, Helen felt more desirous of doing so. At present she felt that Lucy regarded her with somewhat of awe, knowing her to be wealthy, and in a high social position compared with herself. Despite this, she hoped before long to make a friend of Lucy.

Whilst Helen was thus engaged, Mr. Gresham was at his Club. His engagement, which was a real one, had terminated sooner than he had anticipated; and feeling by no means disposed for an evening in the company of Mrs. Cumberbatch -- from whose invasions he knew no apartment was safe -- he had dined at his Club, and proceeded to amuse himself for an hour or two with periodicals. He was almost alone there, for most of the other members were then out of town. Having finished his dinner, he retained a bottle of wine, out of which he hoped to imbibe something more than the mere juice of the grape. In fact he wanted courage. Helen had promised to visit the studio when she returned, which would be about eleven. At that hour Mrs. Cumberbatch would be, it was to be presumed, fast asleep; and the artist had resolved that tonight should decide his fate.

His attempt to read resulted in failure. He threw the paper away from him, and resolved to fight it out manfully with his thoughts. By degrees he finished the wine, and ordered another bottle. When he had also finished this, it was ten o clock. He left the Club, called a hansom, and was driven home.

With a hand and head feverishly hot, he entered the studio. He knew it was too early to expect Helen yet, but he felt relieved when he saw that the studio was dark and empty. Having lit two or three large tapers, he began to pace the room in impatience. He thought over the morning's conversation, and succeeded in persuading himself that there had been something in Helen's manner towards him which he had not before observed, something more gracious, more affectionate even. He was determined to look on nothing but the bright side of things, and the most unusual quantity of wine which he had drunk doubtless aided him in his attempt. By degrees he lost himself in glowing hopes and fancies, and was at length startled at suddenly perceiving Helen by his side.

"Ah! you are here!" he exclaimed. "Did you come down the chimney?"

"In a far more prosaic manner. I came through the door, as I usually do."

"And you have come to look at the finished picture?"

"I promised that I would."

"There it is, then. Are you satisfied with it?"

"Mrs. Cumberbatch told me it is a very good likeness. As a painting, I think it admirable."

"And now what are we to do with it, Helen?"

"I have no idea, Mr. Gresham, what your intentions are with regard to it. I should myself suggest that it be put away into some corner till you take your threatened departure for the farm in Dorsetshire, then taken with you, and hung up in a shady corner of some quiet room."

"Is there no one you would like to give it to?"

"It is not mine to give, Mr. Gresham."

"But say it were yours. Is there no one you would give it to, in preference to all the rest of the world? Tell me seriously, Helen."

The girl looked at him with some surprise, he spoke so earnestly.

"I should give it to you, Mr. Gresham," she said. "There is certainly no one to whom I should give it in preference to you."

"You mean that, Helen?" he asked eagerly.

"Certainly. I should like you to keep it as a memento of my friendship."

Helen still gazed into his face. The unusual brilliancy of his face struck her. She made as though she would say good. night and depart.

"Stay, Helen!" he said, catching her by the hands, the fierce beating of his heart almost choking his words. "It is mine, then. I thank you for the present, but grant me one more favour. Let me have it framed and hung up in my drawing. room as the portrait -- of my wife!"

He was almost stunned by the word as it left his lips. It seemed to him to echo throughout the whole house. He appeared to himself to have shouted, rather than whispered it. At all events, the word was uttered, and he stood holding Helen's hands, waiting for her reply.

She said nothing, but replied to his burning gaze with one of amazement, almost of fright. He continued to speak, using tones such as, perhaps, had never before passed his lips.

"Yes, as my wife, Helen! I mean it. In this I am serious -- in this, at least! Cannot you believe it? You have spoken to me of friendship, Helen, but it is with far more than friendship that I have long regarded you, rather with affection which I feel is sincere and true, affection such as I have never before felt for living creature. Speak Helen! Have you any such affection for me? Could you accept me for your husband? Do you believe in my affection?"

"You cannot mean what you say, Mr. Gresham," Helen replied at length, drawing her hands away.

"Every word. I love you devotedly, Helen! Quick; free me from this wretched suffering. I can endure it no longer. Will you be my wife?"

"I cannot," replied the girl, in firm, but gentle tones. "It would be impossible for me to accept your offer, Mr. Gresham. I entertain the sincerest friendship for you; I regard you always as my adopted father; I could not be your wife."

The answer fell with a calming effect on Mr. Gresham. He took one turn up and down the room, then suddenly stopped before her with the old ironical smile on his face.

"Why, so I anticipated, Helen," he said. "And the picture has been painted in vain -- not an unusual thing in this world. And so we may say good-night, I suppose, may we not?"

"Was this a jest, Mr. Gresham?" asked the girl, with something of indignation in her tone.

"By no means," he replied, grinding with his teeth. "Oh no, not a jest, by no means. But yet it would be best to think of it as such. Do you know what I am going to do now, Helen?"

She looked at him in doubt, for a moment in fear, but reflection told her that the latter feeling was groundless.

"On Monday I shall begin the task of settling all my business affairs, and as soon as they are all settled, I shall leave England for a year, perhaps for longer. Do you approve of that?"

"It grieves me extremely that I should be the cause of it, Mr. Gresham."

"You the cause of it?" he exclaimed, with affected surprise. "My good child! not in the least. You the cause of it!"

"Then why impart this purpose of yours to me under such very strange circumstances?"

"You think them strange, eh? Ah! perhaps they are rather so. Never mind. My purpose holds good for all that. You can do very well without me for a year?"

Helen began to be convinced that her guardian had partaken of too much wine. She stepped towards the door.

"It is getting very late, Mr. Gresham," she said. "I must wish you good-night."

Suddenly he started to her, and seized her arm.

"You are not a chatterbox, are you?" he asked, in a low and rather fierce tone.

"I hope not," replied Helen, relieving herself from his grasp, and opening the door.

"Then you won't go and boast to people what a damned fool I have made of myself to you to-night?"

"I shall not speak a word of it, Mr. Gresham," replied his ward, regarding him with concern; "and I hope by the morning it will all have passed from your mind."

"Amen! Good-night, Helen."

"Good-night, Mr. Gresham."

The artist was absent from home all the next day, and also the whole of Monday. During that time Helen did not see him. On Tuesday they met at meals only, during which Mr. Gresham behaved quite in his ordinary manner, except that perhaps he spoke rather less than usual. Helen also did her best to show no sign of remembering what had happened, and succeeded in appearing quite at her ease. At dinner on Tuesday, Mr. Gresham announced his departure at the end of the week for the Continent.

"Do you propose to be long away, Gilbert, -- h'm?" asked Mrs. Cumberbatch.

"Probably a month or two," was the reply. "I shall write to you, aunt, and tell you of my plans."

Mrs. Cumberbatch glanced from her nephew to Helen. She suspected something. For a wonder, however, she did not pursue her interrogations, and the subject dropped.

Mr. Gresham and his ward alike took care to avoid a private interview. On Saturday morning the artist was ready to depart, apparently in quite a cheerful mood. He shook hands with his aunt and with Helen, bestowing no more pressure in the one case than in the other, and stepped into his carriage. Helen sighed as she saw him depart, but whether with relief or not she scarcely knew. The incident which had apparently given rise to this departure affected her much; even yet she scarcely knew what to think of it. In any case, she did not see how she could have adopted any other course than that she had chosen. Nothing remained but to settle down to the companionship of Mrs. Cumberbatch, and to see whether Mr. Gresham would really fulfil his purpose of being away a year.



The Club of which Arthur Golding had become a member was only one of a great number of similar combinations which at this time the glorious spirit of Radicalism was calling into existence throughout the Metropolis. It is true that this association stood perhaps alone in the lofty and unselfish nature of its immediate aims. This was the result of the individual character of its founder, who, by gathering around him only single and moderately well-to-do working men, rendered practicable the noble scheme which he had long meditated before endeavouring to carry it into execution. The aims of other Radical clubs, which began to manifest activity towards the end of the year 1870, were almost exclusively political, though some comprehended in their scheme the advantages of a benefit-society for their own members when in need of assistance. It was a season of strong political ferment among the oppressed classes throughout the kingdom. As early as April of that year a great public meeting had been held in Trafalgar Square, at which resolutions were passed demanding the attention of the Government to the scandalous sufferings of the working-classes.

The notes of the "Marseillaise" were occasionally heard in the open streets. Republicanism of an advanced type was loudly advocated on numerous platforms and in open-air assemblies; active associations, such as the Land and Labour League, spread a knowledge of the wrongs of the poor and the tyranny of the ruling classes, far and wide over the country; men who were so crushed beneath the burden of ceaseless, brutal toil, that they had forgotten to raise their eyes from the dull earth, now began to look eagerly around them, to read the signs of the times, and to rejoice that at length their voices would be heard as they clamoured for justice.

The war between France and Germany came to aid, with the impulse of a new excitement, the movement for justice and liberty. With hopes of the downfall of tyranny in France and of the establishment once more of a Republic, the thoughts of the poor in England were naturally turned in the same direction more strongly than ever. One of the ripest outcomes of the time was the London Patriotic Society, whose meetings at the tavern called the Hole-in-the-Wall, excited the attention of rich as well as poor, and for the suppression of which indirect efforts were before long made by the Government. Great was the excitement awakened among all these humble, but not ignoble, advocates of freedom when the news of the glorious 4th of September was read in London, when it was known that Paris, the suffering high-priestess of Liberty, had once again shaken off the degrading yoke of princes and proclaimed the rule of the people. That evening an extraordinary meeting was held by the club in Crown Street. Everyday business was for once thrown aside, and the members joined hands in mutual congratulation, in exalted enthusiasm. The speech of the evening was made by Arthur Golding, for William Noble saw that his friend was bursting with eagerness to pour forth his emotion in a flood of words, and purposely withheld his own eloquence. After speaking of the event of the day, as it concerned France in particular, Arthur concluded with a glowing rhapsody, wherein was set forth the hopes he entertained for the future of their own country.

"Between England and France," he said, "roll but some twenty miles of sea. But a few hours' journey separates us from a country where the gates of the temple of Liberty have once more been thrown wide open, never, let us hope, to be closed again. Is it alone disinterested love for our fellow-creatures in France that makes us rejoice at their freedom? Let us hope that we duly feel the claims for a common humanity which links us to the oppressed in all quarters of the globe; but it would be vain to pretend that we had not some yet stronger reason for the delight this news has awakened in us. It means that we shall henceforth have before our eyes, and near at hand, an example of a great people ruled by its own voice alone, of a people that has known but too well all the terrific evils of monopolised authority, and is determined to banish them from its land for ever. This example will be of inestimable value, of incalculable aid to us in our struggle here in England. For now nearly a hundred years England has possessed such an example in the United States of America, but this has been of little effect. In the first place the vast sweep of the Atlantic lies between us and America, and though thousands of our fellow-workmen go forth thither yearly, as if to a land of promise, but few ever come to return and bring to us the good tidings. They settle for good and all in the States, exercising in a foreign land and under brighter skies the strength of mind and body which, had they stayed with us, would only have proved their curse. Secondly, it was only by means of a war with England that America procured its freedom, and, though I trust that we here are far above such foolish prejudices, this may perhaps count as one reason why Englishmen have seldom sought for an incitement to progress in the example of the enfranchised country. But with France it is different. France is a name dear to the present generation of Englishmen. In the last war which called to arms the greatest nations of Europe, France fought by the side of England, and by her side helped to conquer. France is close to our shores, her cliffs can be seen across the strip of sea which divides us. Despite her misfortunes, brought upon her head by the cursed descendant of a cursed house, France always has been, and always will be, a leading state in Europe. Her example will be unspeakably precious in the sight of us strugglers for right.

"She will teach us that the ability to govern is not alone entrusted to those whom centuries of wanton luxury have rendered the slaves of selfishness and ignoble pride, to those whose brains have been warped and narrowed by the hereditary burden of a crown! She will teach us that the meanest beggar in the streets has as indefeasible a claim to justice and right as the pampered lord who flung him a curse instead of a coin! She will teach us that men are not beasts, that light, and air, and cleanliness, and raiment, and food are what every man has a claim to, and what is the duty of those whom the people choose to represent their voices to see that every man obtains! And she will teach us that the poor have brains and mental faculties as well as the rich, that from the ranks of the poor oft-times rise the geniuses of a nation, that consequently the development of the higher nature of the poor man's child by a course of enlightened education is as much the duty of the State as the establishment and endowment of schools and colleges for the heirs to wealth.

"France has seized upon her liberty in the midst of cruel anguish and misery. Whether we shall live to see England at the feet of a foreign enemy it is impossible to foresee, we can only stoutly hope not. But is such a position the only one in which a change of government is possible? Is it only by the oppression of foreign conquest that a nation is driven to despair, and so wins the courage to cast aside its tyrants? The end of the last century saw a revolution in France which turned her rivers of water into rivers of blood, and darkened the face of Europe with the smoke of conflagration. But surely we need not expect a revolution under any such circumstances as these. Is not our position one which will excite the laughter, if not the scorn of future eyes? Here are we working classes, numbering who can say how many times more than the rich who oppress us, stronger in arm, firmer in endurance, more earnest in aim. Is it not indeed worthy of scorn that, despite all this, we suffer from day to day and see no way out of our suffering? Suppose every working-man in England got up to-morrow morning, and, instead of going to his work, walked to the great square in the town where he lives and declared that he was sick to death of the life he led and would have things otherwise. You say that the army would be marched against us, and violence would naturally result. Yes, but are not the soldiers themselves working-men, men hired to the despicable toil of making themselves machines in order to be able to slaughter their fellow-men with skill? Why should these men be more afraid of striking, of throwing up their wages with the chance of bettering themselves than other labourers are! You can scarcely say that their wages are so excellent they cannot hope to earn more under other masters and at other and better work. Then what is to prevent these soldiers from joining us?

"Friends, the work for the future lies with such clubs as this of ours. Not content with helping to keep our fellows alive, we must teach them their power! We know that the lesson has already begun to be learnt, but we must not cease in our effort for all that. We will teach these wretched poverty-stricken crowds their strength, if only they choose to exert it. And henceforth we shall have the example of France to point to, in proof of our assertion that we are not 'dependent for our existence upon kings and queens. All good wishes, then, to the new Republic. May she grow, may she thrive, may her future be all the more bright and glorious that her birth has been amid scenes of sadness and ignominy!"

This speech ended the meeting, and the members crowded round Arthur to shake hands with him.

"What do you think, Arthur?" asked Mark Challenger, as the two walked home together. "Isn't this better than being a painter, and living at somebody else's expense? Don't you feel that you are more of a man?"

"You are right!" replied Arthur, "I feel utterly ashamed of myself when I think of those days. What can have possessed me to think of being an artist? Then I should have spent my days and nights in useless labour, and after all been miserably dependent upon the rich and proud. If they had not bought my pictures, I should have starved -- and serve me right, too, I think. Now I have the consolation of knowing that I work for a useful end. The newspapers I help to print spread knowledge among thousands every day; it makes me work with energy when I think of it. Hurrah! We shall do something yet!"

Arthur possessed from nature the temperament which always accompanies genius. Undoubtedly at this period he sincerely believed the sentiments which we have just heard him express to his friend Mark. Except on Sunday he allowed himself scarcely any time for calm reflection; he lived in a perpetual ferment of activity. If he was not at his work, he was engaged heart and soul in exertions connected with the club. He became acquainted with the editor of a paper -- one of many which were springing up about this time -- which had for its object the spread at once of Radicalism and Free-thought, and not unfrequently he wrote a letter or a short article which was printed in its columns. All such circumstances as these were incitements to fresh enthusiasm. At the club he seemed already to take precedence of Will Noble himself, for he certainly excelled the latter in a certain fervid eloquence which he himself was surprised to find that he possessed. But in solid force of argument he never equalled the founder of the club. Had either of these two been of an envious disposition, they could not certainly have long continued friends under the circumstances. But envy or jealousy were remote from the thoughts of both, their minds were engrossed with far other and higher feelings. Every day cemented their friendship more firmly; every act or word of the one only incited the other to a generous rivalry.

Both Arthur and Mark kept completely apart from the other residents in Mrs. Pettindund's house as far as any social intercourse is concerned. In the first place they were not much at home, and then the appearance of their fellow-lodgers was not such as to excite much interest. To this, however, there was one exception, at least in Arthur's case. Very shortly after he had taken up his abode in Gower Place, his notice was attracted by one of the lodgers on the floor beneath him. This was a young girl, of perhaps seventeen or eighteen, whom he had occasionally passed on the stairs, and once or twice in the street. She was very pretty, if not positively handsome, tall, with dark hair which she arranged in a tasteful way, and dressed in black which seemed to indicate mourning. Though her beauty was of a somewhat sensual type, and her features betrayed no special intelligence or good-humour, Arthur felt strangely attracted to her for all that. To a beautiful female face he was always especially susceptible, and in this case the natural ardour of his years was additionally excited by the occasional and brief glimpses he obtained of her, and by the fact that she resided under the same roof as himself. There was, moreover, a fixed paleness upon the girl's face, and now and then a look of suffering which excited his compassion. As week after week went by, he noticed that these signs increased. He thought she must be ill, and felt his interest in her grow yet stronger.

He knew that she took her meals with the landlady's family in the kitchen, for on several occasions when he had gone down early in the morning to pay his rent he had seen her at breakfast there, and had heard her addressed as "Carrie." He concluded that she was in some way related to the Pettindunds. He knew also from conversation heard on the same occasion that she went out to work every day with Mrs. Pettindund's two daughters, as a "mantle-hand." Before very long he learned her complete name, for, taking a letter out of the letterbox one night just as the postman delivered it, he found it was addressed to Miss Carrie Mitchell; and it was not probable that there was more than one young lady in the house. Arthur would have been glad to know more of her; but scarcely knew how the information could be gained. He was thinking of asking Mark Challenger if he knew anything of her, when another piece of chance threw a very unexpected light upon her history.

Arthur had risen one morning about six o'clock -- it was drawing near to the end of October -- and was engaged in dressing, when Mark Challenger's door, which was next to his, opened, and Mark having called out to know if his friend was up, Arthur opened his door and replied in the affirmative, whereon Mark entered his room.

"Read that," he said, holding out a sheet of paper which looked like a letter.

Arthur took it, and read this: --

"Dear Carrie, --
"My landlady tells me a girl has been calling at my lodgings several times lately, asking to see me. I have no doubt this is you, and I wish you to understand at once that you will have to stop bothering me. I have done all I mean to do for you, and now you will have to look out for yourself. You needn't expect I shall stump up anything even if you have a child, as you say you are going to. If you try to force it out of me, it's the easiest thing in the world for me to prove that you're nothing but a common girl of the town, and then you have no remedy. Do just take this hint, and leave me alone in future; if you don't, I shall have to do something I shouldn't much care to.

"A. W."

Arthur looked at Mr. Challenger in pained astonishment.

"Why did you give me this to read?" he asked. "I thought it was something of your own. We have no business to have read this."

"Why, I'll tell you," replied Mark, scratching his head. "You know I came up late to bed last night, and as I passed one of the doors on the floor below I saw a piece of paper lying near it. I picked it up and found it to be this. After all, I don't think there's so much harm in our reading it. You see, if I'd given it back to the girl, she would never have believed that I didn't know all it contained. As it is she will perhaps never know she has lost it, and it's much better it should come into our hands than into those of someone who would talk about it all over the house."

"But what a rascal this fellow is!" cried Arthur, burning with righteous indignation. "What a cold-blooded villain! I declare, if there was only an address on it, I would seek the fellow out and tell him what I thought of him. Why, it's that poor girl underneath, called Carrie Mitchell, isn't it?"

"To be sure. I have rather noticed her lately, and I half suspected there was something wrong."

"But do you think it likely the Pettindunds know of this?"

"Can't tell; but I don't think so."

"Bye-the-by, how is the girl connected with them, do you know?"

"Oh, yes. I had the whole tale from Mrs. Pettindund one day. It seems that Carrie Mitchell is Mrs. Pettindund's niece. Her father and mother died not long since, and the girl then came here to earn her living. She pays no end of money for her board and lodging, and she certainly can't get more than fifteen shillings a week -- poor creature."

"But this letter. However can she have got into a scrape with a blackguard such as this? You see he writes a fairly good hand. Some clerk, I suppose. I should like to have my fingers on his throat!"

"What shall we do with the letter, Arthur?"

"Burn it, by all means. As you say, it is impossible to return it. I wish heartily we could do something for the poor girl!"

"And yet I don't see how we can," returned Mark. "We mustn't appear to know anything about this affair, of course."

"Such a beautiful face she has," said Arthur; "but looks so terribly pale and ill. No wonder! I shouldn't be .surprised if Mrs. Pettindund turned her out of the house as soon as she finds this out. I have very little faith in her charity."

"Well, if she does that," said Mark, "we might be able to help her; but I really don't see what we can do now."

"Nor I," added Arthur, sadly.

Throughout the day his thoughts were busy with this discovery. It did not occur to him for a moment that the girl herself might possibly be to blame. He could feel nothing but tender pity for her, passionate indignation against the heartless brute who had cast her off when she most needed his help.

For several days he did his best to catch sight of her, after listening at his door for several hours in hope of hearing her come up stairs.

One morning, just as he was returning from work through the night, he had his wish. As he entered the house he saw Carrie ascending the stairs with a large can of water, which seemed beyond her strength to lift. He ran forward at once, and begged to be allowed to help her.

As he looked into her face he saw she was crying. Not knowing how to express anxiety or condolence, he pretended not to observe her distress, and contented himself with carrying her can to her door. She thanked him in a low voice, always keeping her face averted.

Troubled beyond expression by the girl's sufferings, Arthur, instead of going at once to bed, paced his room for nearly an hour, vainly endeavouring to devise some method of giving her assistance.

Mark Challenger was already gone to business, so that there was no one at hand with whom he could take counsel. Emotions such as he had never felt surged within his heart. The sight of Helen Norman had but a short time ago been sufficient to exalt him to regions of enthusiastic rapture; but his love for Helen, if love it were, had been a pure devotion of the spirit, a sentiment which called into play the highest energies of his intellect, the noblest impulses of his heart to the exclusion of all ignobler feeling.

But now it was the senses that had sway over him. His blood coursed hot through his veins, his pulses throbbed. One moment he burned with vehement anger at the unknown author of the poor girl's troubles, becoming conscious of a depth of resentful ferocity in his nature, the existence of which he could not have believed; the next, his being seemed to melt with excess of passion, as he thought of Carrie's beautiful face and form, and dwelt with unutterable tenderness upon the vision of her tear-reddened eyes, her pale cheeks, her feeble step. He suffered physically; it was as though some force were straining at his heart-strings, making him pant for breath.

Once or twice he was on the point of casting aside all doubts and hesitations, and of going to speak to her at her own room door and to offer her what help he could -- in the shape of money. But a sense of shame and of respect for her feelings retained him. Still he could do nothing but pace the room, now quite unconscious of the weariness which had possessed him when he entered the house, and dreaming of nothing less than of sleep. The contest forced groans from his heart; he pressed his hands fiercely together upon his forehead, as if to force himself into calmness.

Just then he fancied he heard a voice speaking on the stairs. Starting to the door he opened it softly, and listened.

He was not mistaken. Someone was knocking loudly at a door below, and calling -- "Carrie! Carrie!"

Then there was a pause, during which an answer seemed to come from within, though it was not audible.

"Ain't you well?" asked the voice again, which Arthur now recognised as that of Mrs. Pettindund's daughter. "We're just going. You'll be late."

Again no reply seemed to come from within, after which the girl who had spoken ran downstairs.

Still Arthur listened intently. Presently he heard a heavier step ascending the stairs, and, leaning over the banisters, he could perceive Mrs. Pettindund's portly person. The landlady also stopped before Carrie's room, and knocked loudly.

The key turned, and the door opened.

Arthur leaned forward still more, and listened with his utmost power of attention. He saw nothing dishonourable in so doing, under the circumstances; or, perhaps, more properly speaking, he merely obeyed an instinct, and did not think about it at all.

"And so you can't go to work, eh?" asked the woman, in a tone of repulsive coarseness.

A reply was made in so low a voice that it was inaudible.

"And d'ye think I didn't know all about it long since?" returned Mrs. Pettindund, who seemed to be standing half in, half out of the room. "Well, all I've got to say is you've made yer bed and you must lay in it. How d'ye think ye're goin' to live if you don't go to work, eh?"

Arthur could hear a sob for the only reply.

"Yer don't think I'm sich a fool as to keep yer, eh?" pursued the kindly-hearted landlady. "An' lose the good name o' th'ouse an' all? If you do, you're mistaken, that's all as I've got to say t'yer."

The listener's straining ears could just catch the answer.

"You won't turn me out of doors, aunt?" pleaded the girl's sobbing voice. "Won't you let me stay till it's over, and then work and pay you all back?"

"A likely joke that, too! You pay me back! Catch yer doin' of it! I tell you, you leave this 'ouse to-day, an' there's no two ways about that. D'ye 'ear?"

"But you've always been kind to me, aunt!" sobbed Carrie "Won't you have some pity? If I've done wrong, I'm sorry for it; and I shall have to suffer for it all my life. You've been kind to me till now, aunt; don't be so cruel as to turn me out. I've no home to go to."

"What I 'ave been, an' what I'm goin' to be now, is two very different things," returned Mrs. Pettindund, in her coarse, gin-thickened, over-fed voice, and always with that inimitable ferocity of the true London lodging-house keeper. "I'll trouble yer to pay me twelve-an'-sixpence, too, as soon as you get it; so you'd best go to work to-day, if it's only for the money. I'll have no ---- i' my 'ouse, an' so you 'ave it straight."

Mrs. Pettindund, exercising her discretionary powers in the matter of English orthoepy, pronounced the last word "stright." And, having delivered herself thus, she slammed the door to, and turned to go down stairs.

Guided by the irresistible impulse of the moment, Arthur darted down the stairs. As soon as Mrs. Pettindund saw him he beckoned to her to follow him.

With a look of surprise upon her pursy and somewhat bloated face, she ascended to his room, and entered it after him. Arthur closed the door.

"I have been listening to you for the last few minutes, Mrs. Pettindund," he said, with as much of contemptuous anger in his voice as it was capable of expressing.

"An' ye're goin' to give notice?" returned the landlady. "Just what I expected!"

"No, that's not my intention," pursued Arthur. "At all events, not just yet. I only want to ask you whether you really mean to turn that unfortunate girl into the streets in her present state?"

"Why not? Of course I mean it," returned the woman, with a look of the utmost surprise.

"You mean to do so, knowing that she has not a friend in London, perhaps not in the world -- you, who are a mother, and living in comfort? You really mean that?"

"And why not, I say? I s'pose I can do as I like in my own 'ouse? Eh?"

Arthur surveyed her for a moment with a gaze of the most extreme disgust and detestation.

"You say -- why not?" he said, at length. "But I should like to know, why? Whatever can be your reason for acting so cruelly -- so mercilessly?"

"I don't see as I'm bound to give you a reason for all I do, Mr. Golding," answered the woman, with a snarl. "But if yer want to know so much, I'll just ask yer if it's reasonable I should keep a girl in the 'ouse, who can't pay no rent or money for her food, and isn't likely to do for Lord knows how long to come?"

She had modified the impertinence which at first rose to her tongue, probably remembering that Arthur was very regular in his payments, and gave no trouble.

"And that is your sole reason? For the sake of a few shillings a week you will turn your relative out of doors when most she needs tenderness and care -- turn her into the streets to beg, and starve, and very likely die?"

"I've nothing to do with all that. That's her own look out. If she hadn't done what she oughtn't there'd a' been no trouble come to her. She's made her own bed, and she must lay in it."

Not a sign of womanly pity, of human feeling even, could Arthur discern in Mrs. Pettindund's face.

He saw that to appeal to her feelings was totally vain. It only remained to appeal to her avarice.

"How much has she been paying weekly for board and lodging?" he asked.

"Twelve-an'-six, an' little enough, too. That's only because she's a sister's child."

"If I pay you this twelve-and-six each week," said the young man, after a moment's reflection, "will you allow her to remain in the house till she is able to earn her own living again?"

Mrs. Pettindund fell back several paces, in her amazement.

"Then it's you, after all, Mr. Golding," she said, "as 'as been an' got Carrie into this scrape? I couldn't have believed it of yer!"

"Keep your insults to yourself, woman!" exclaimed Arthur, with sudden passion, exasperated beyond endurance at having a crime attributed to him which he so much detested.

"And you keep yourn to yourself, Mr. Golding," retorted the other. "Woman, indeed! And why else, I should like to know, should you offer to keep the girl?"

"Never mind my reasons," returned Arthur, abruptly. "I make an offer -- will you accept it?"

"D'yer mean what yer say, Mr. Golding?"

"Of course, I do. Be quick and reply. If you are not willing I dare say I can find another lodging for her."

Mrs. Pettindund looked alarmed.

"Well, I don't mind," she answered. "But I must always have it in advance, you know."

"So I suppose. When is Miss Mitchell's rent-day?"

"To-day, Friday."

"Then I shall pay you the next week's money at once. Sit down there and write me a receipt."

Mrs. Pettindund scrawled on a piece of paper, which Arthur gave her, for several minutes. Then she handed it to him.

"Received one week's rent for first flore back for C. Mitchell from Mr. Golding. Also for one week's bord. In advance. 12s. 6d.


"Very well," said Arthur, smiling at the form. "Then, you understand, she is to live here just as she has been doing."

"I understand," said the woman. "Is that all, Mr. Golding?"

"Not quite. You are to promise me that you will not let Miss Mitchell know that I am doing this. You understand? If I find that she knows, I shall cease to pay, and offer to find another lodging for her."

"But what shall I say to her about her rent?"

"Say that you will allow her to repay you when she is able. Anything except the truth."

The idea of representing herself to a lodger in such a very benevolent light, was so completely new to Mrs. Pettindund, that she held her fat sides and laughed heartily.

"Well, well, I'll do as yer wish, Mr. Golding," she puffed. "Is that all?"

"That's all at present."

The landlady left the room and hurried downstairs. That same night she related to all her family that Carrie Mitchell had been led astray by Mr. Golding, that the girl was only about a month off her confinement, and that Mr. Golding had undertaken to pay all her expenses henceforth. But at the same time she strictly exacted that this latter piece of news should be kept secret from Carrie herself. For she had no doubt whatever that intimate relations existed between the girl and her protector, and that the latter would at once know if his conditions had been broken. Why he should have made such conditions she was wholly incapable of understanding. In truth Mrs. Pettindund's philosophy contained the key to very few problems save those of arithmetic in as far as was required for the calculation of her weekly income.

This matter settled, Arthur flung himself on the bed for a few hours' rest, his whole frame aglow with tremulous delight. To be able to have served that poor, pale-faced, yet beautiful girl, and to have done so, moreover, at the cost of some sacrifice, was a joy of almost fierce intensity. At this time he was earning thirty-five shillings weekly. Out of this he paid four shillings rent, and the remaining thirty-one he had hitherto distributed thus: ten-and-sixpence for food (being eighteen-pence a day), five shillings his weekly subscription at the club, half-a-crown for minor personal expenses; the remaining thirteen shillings were always put aside to form a fund for clothing and unexpected requirements. They just covered Carrie Mitchell's rent, and for the present his clothing would have to look after itself. In the midst of all manner of delightful fancies, in which he saw the future open before him, rich with he knew not what vague joys and blessings, Arthur fell asleep.

His light slumber was broken by Mark Challenger, who had come home during the dinner hour. He heard Mark pause at his door, listening for any indication of his being awake, and he called to him to enter. Nothing was at this moment more foreign to Arthur's mind than the faintest vanity as regarded his act, but for all that he could not help instantly revealing it to his companion at once. The words overflowed, as it were, from his heart. The secret would not be held down. He felt bound to seek for some associate in his joy.

Mark, who was a man of some fifty years old, smiled curiously as he listened to his young friend's narrative. But at the end of it he looked rather concerned.

"But," he said, "I was just going to propose to you that the club should do this. I fancy we could muster enough weekly. We haven't many calls on us at present. You'll rob yourself. You won't have enough to live on."

"Trust me, Mr. Challenger," answered Arthur, with a boyish gaiety seldom seen in his manner. "I shall take no harm. I wouldn't have allowed the club to do this for anything. And what's more, I beg you won't say a word of it to any one."

"I'll do as you like, Arthur," returned Mark, with some reluctance. "But it isn't really right that you should have the burden all on your own shoulders. Come, let me pay half. I can afford it easily."

"Not a penny! So we won't talk about it any more."

Shortly after, Mark went to his dinner, looking rather puzzled and grave. Arthur, however, finding it impossible to rest longer, took down one of Mr. Tollady's books and applied himself to study. A piece of bread, cut from a loaf which he kept in his cupboard, was quite sufficient for his dinner. He felt just now as if he should never be hungry again.

The rest of October, and half a dreary November slid rapidly away. Whenever he was at home, Arthur listened at his door for signs of Carrie, but he neither heard nor saw her. At length he was almost tempted to believe that Mrs. Pettindund had in reality fulfilled her threat of sending the girl away, and was now taking his money under false pretences. He accordingly called the woman into his room one day to make enquiries. He learned that Carrie kept herself closely shut up, and would not even come out to eat; all her meals had to be taken to her. This was the truth, as he found the same evening; for on going into the back yard purposely to look up at her window and discover if her room was lighted up, he saw her form leaning out over the window-sill. On hearing his step she instantly withdrew, and closed the window.

It might have been nearly a week after this, that, as he was lying awake in bed one night, his thoughts wandering he knew not whither, but always returning to the pale, beautiful face of Carrie Mitchell, he suddenly thought he heard a noise, just as if something had been slipped under his door. It was past midnight, and the house had long been in perfect silence. Listening intently he heard another noise, this time in the house below, which he knew to be the slamming of the front door. The absolute darkness of his room would not allow him to see whether anything had really been pushed into his room. He concluded it must have been fancy; perhaps the scratching of a mouse. Yet the slamming of the door had been unmistakable; and who could be going out at this time of night? On the other hand, it might have been somebody entering, one of the Pettindunds, or a lodger out late. These suppositions, however, did not quiet his mind. He was sleepless and uneasy, and an indefinite fear was beginning to oppress his mind, a fear bred, perhaps, of the silence and gloom. From thinking of the noises his thoughts again took their own way, and suddenly conducted him back to Adam and Eve Court in Whitecross Street. He saw himself sleeping alone in the desolate room where his father had died, and, strangely enough, he almost convinced himself that he could hear children's voices, singing,

L>DD>There is a happy land, far, far away!

He listened till the very silence seemed to throb around him, till he heard the beating of his heart. Then once more his thoughts reverted to Carrie Mitchell, and again came the vague fear. This was intolerable. He jumped out of bed and struck a light, thinking that he would read till he wearied himself out. With the first gleam of the candle something glittered close to the door; it was a piece of paper. For a moment he stood almost terrified; why, he knew not; but his nerves were so excited that the least thing proved too much for his fortitude. Then he picked up the paper with trembling fingers. He saw that it was written upon, and the writing was this: --

"I have heard that you have been paying my rent. My aunt is always telling me of my fault, and she has told me of this at last. I can't thank you enough for your great, great kindness; but I can't stay any longer. My aunt and my cousin are too cruel to me; they are always telling me of my fault. I couldn't go without thanking you; I don't know why you did the kindness for me; no one else has any pity. Please excuse my writing. I never had enough schooling to learn to spell properly.

Carrie Mitchell.


The hand-writing was extremely bad, so bad in places as to be almost undecipherable, and the orthographical errors were very abundant. I have chosen to correct the latter fault, lest the letter should excite amusement. It excited a far different feeling in Arthur Golding, as he read it by the candle-light. A dead weight seemed suddenly to fall upon his heart and press the very life out of it. He turned deadly cold, and trembled excessively.

The first thought was to dress hastily and run into the street after the fugitive. He remembered the slamming of the door, which he now saw must have announced her departure. But that had been at least half an hour ago; it would be vain to pursue her now. His anguish was unspeakable; only in this moment did he fully realise the powerful hold upon him which his passion had gained. He pressed the letter to his lips and kissed it madly. He read it over and over a hundred times, dwelling upon the words of gratitude to himself with a mixture of delight and pain, which amounted almost to frenzy. "I knew it!" he exclaimed aloud, forced to give utterance to his anguish in sounds. "I knew that she was good as well as beautiful. Curses on the villain that wronged her, and the base wretches who have driven her from house and home!" The tears rushed irresistibly to his eyes as he noticed the bad writing and spelling. The pathos of the last sentence touched him deeply; he read it over and over again, sobbing as he did so. He flung himself upon the bed, still holding the note in his hand, and buried his face in the pillow. Never before had he suffered from grief so intense.

The candle burned down to the socket, and the room was once more left in darkness. Arthur had sunk into an uneasy sleep, and this, with the intervals of half-consciousness, lasted till six o'clock. At that time it was Mark's habit to call him, and he accordingly came and knocked at the door. At the sound Arthur at once started to his feet.

"Why, you are up!" exclaimed Mark, entering with a candle. "But, good Heavens! What's the matter with you, Arthur? Are you ill?"

Arthur held out the letter, but did not speak. Mark read it, and looked at the young man with curious pity.

"Damn them all," he exclaimed, alluding to Mrs. Pettindund and her daughters. "Whatever will become of the poor thing? But you mustn't take on so terribly, Arthur. Is she so much to you as all that?"

"Oh, can't you see? Don't you know?" cried Arthur. "Couldn't you guess how much she was to me? It will kill me if I do not find her again!"

Mark, with a look of concern on his wrinkled features, did his utmost to calm the young man by assurances of their being able to discover Carrie, assurances in which, however, he had not himself much faith.

"At all events," he concluded, "we won't stay another day with these abominable brutes. I'll lose a morning's work and go and find rooms for both of us."

"No, no," returned Arthur. "We must stay here, in any case. She may return; most likely she will return. She can have no money at all. Whatever will she do?"

"Yes, yes," returned Mark, "I think she is pretty sure to come back. But don't put yourself out so terribly, Arthur. I can't bear to see you so. Have you been up all night?"

"No," groaned Arthur, throwing himself upon a chair, and covering his face with his hands. "I think I have slept -- I don't know -- I can't remember anything."

"Now don't, don't, there's a good fellow," said Mark. "Wash your face and come out with me. It's a fine morning for November. Come, that's right. We'll go and have some breakfast presently, and in the meantime we'll talk the matter over.

After some persuasion Mark induced his friend to dress and accompany him out. It was just becoming light as they issued into the street; but the air was bitterly cold.

"I think we shall have snow," said Mark, looking up to the sky, where stars were still dimly glistening here and there.

Arthur shuddered. He thought of Carrie out in this terrible season, with no one to look to for shelter or a crust of bread.



When Christmas Day was as yet a fortnight off, notes of preparation began to sound through the house in Gower Place. There was anxious reckoning-up of resources and eager devising of extra and unwonted means of supply, in order that the season might lack nothing of its due celebration. Let us see how matters stood, what chances there were of the god of gluttony and surfeit being gladdened with an appropriate sacrifice.

In the first place several of the members of the family were enrolled in the "goose club;" that is to say, they had each paid fourpence a week at a neighbouring public-house during the last half year, in acknowledgment of which patronage the landlord supplied each of them with a Christmas goose. Then Mrs. Pettindund and two of her daughters were in the "grocer's club;" that is to say, they had each paid the sum of threepence weekly since the month of May, in return for which they now rejoiced in the receipt of two pint bottles of port wine, of one or two large plum cakes, and of sundry pounds of tea, coffee and sugar. (It is curious, bye-the-by, how incapable the working classes, as a rule, are of keeping their own savings. The public-house landlord, or the grocer, or the benefit society is quite welcome to a few shillings a week, provided they return occasionally something like a tenth of what they have received). These provisions were all very well as stop-gaps, but in the serious business of the feast they went for nothing. Accordingly, in each of the three weeks immediately preceding Christmas, Mrs. Pettindund had, with the utmost efforts, succeeded in putting aside the sum of one pound out of her regular receipts. That money would go towards supplying joints, and would not be any too much. Then, the eldest Miss Pettindund had paid repeated visits of late to a pawnbroker's shop at no great distance, in the course of which sundry coats and trousers, sheets and blankets, hoots, watches, rings, necklaces, bracelets, &c., had become converted into a very respectable little sum of current cash. But neither was this sufficient, for it must be remembered that the Pettindunds took a serious view of the obligations of the season; anything less than deep carousal from Christmas Eve to the morning of the first day of January would have been desecration in their eyes. Accordingly Mrs. Pettindund herself paid a visit to a familiar loan office, where she procured, without difficulty, on the security of her house and furniture, the sum of fifteen pounds. And now at length, when this last sum had been carefully put away in the tea caddy, together with the three pounds before mentioned, and the harvest reaped at the pawnbroker's, family quietly rested till the arrival of Christmas Eve. This pause was absolutely necessary. It was like the diver taking a long breath before he springs into the water, like the athlete reposing his sinews for a moment before he tries an enormous effort of strength.

Early on the eventful day which precedes Christmas the Pettindund family was stirring to some purpose. To-day were to be baked an utterly incalculable number of mince-pies, together with half a dozen very large plum-puddings, destined to be eaten cold on the morrow. The plum-pudding, the weight of which I dare not guess at, was now made and received its first boiling, but that would have to be reboiled on the following day. To-day were to be roasted some six. or seven ducks, these also to be eaten cold on Christmas and the ensuing days. The turkey would not be boiled, of course, till to-morrow, and till then were reserved the two ponderous masses of beef, which, on account of their size, would be entrusted to the tender care of the baker. This morning, too, Mrs. Pettindund, happening to be quenching a momentary thirst at the public-house, purchased, as it were, en passant, a quart bottle of brandy and two similar sized bottles of the beverage known as "Old Tom."

"Now mind yer don't keep my Moggie a waitin' when she comes for the liquor to-night an' to-morrow," was Mrs. Pettindund's parting injunction to the landlord; to which the latter replied with a wink of each eye, and the exclamation, "All serene!"

That evening -- Christmas Eve -- only some two or three friends were expected. They arrived between eight and nine o'clock, and began by satisfying their hunger. I shall not endeavour to find a name for this meal and those that follow. At this period such purely factitious distinctions were lost sight of by the Pettindunds; the tables were spread and folks ate, all day and night. This evening, however, the mirth was kept within moderate bounds. All present knew by experience the folly of wasting one's energy in mere preliminaries. To be sure Mr. Pettindund got very drunk and passed the night on the kitchen hearth-rug, but that was a matter of course, an event which occurred so repeatedly that no one took any notice of it. By three o'clock in the morning the house was at rest.

At ten on the following morning -- Christmas morning -- the earliest guests began to appear. The very first to arrive was Jim Glibbery. Jim was a carter, and as good as engaged to the eldest Miss Pettindund; so that his arrival excited no particular attention, he being regarded as one of the family. Jim took a seat by the kitchen fire, despatched Moggie for a pot of "six ale," and undertook to watch that the saucepans on the fire did not boil over. When Mr. and Mrs. Tudge and the three little Tudges came in, however, it was a different thing. Here there was a grand reception. The visitors were shown into the best room and all the Pettindunds crowded to greet them. Mr. Tudge was, in fact, a very well-to-do oilman, and so could not be neglected. It was this gentleman's habit to flirt jestingly with the eldest Miss Pettindund, to the vast exasperation of his wife. Accordingly when this object of his affections entered the room, he bestowed a sounding smack upon her lips, and in return received no less sounding a smack on each ear, one from the maiden herself, one from the angry Mrs. Tudge.

"Well, I'm damned!" he exclaimed, without paying the least attention to these marks of favour, "here's Sarah with a new dress on! 'Ev yer wet it, Sarah, eh?"

"Not yet, Mr. Tudge," replied the damsel, with a becoming leer at herself in a glass hard by.

"Then, damn me!" cried Mr. Tudge, "where's that Moggie o' yourn? Here, Moggie, young 'un. Run for two pots of 'four ale' with a quartern of Old Tom in it! D'ye 'ear? Here's a two bob piece, and mind yer bring the right change"

The uninitiated reader must be informed that the "wetting" of a new garment means drinking the health of its wearer. Before many minutes Moggie returned with the prescribed compound in a huge tin can, into which each individual dipped his or her glass till it was all finished. But by this time numerous other visitors had arrived. Prominent among these was young Mr. Spinks, a grocer's counterman, who had an eye upon another Miss Pettindund. He was always the funny man of the party. As he entered the room he struck an attitude and exclaimed in a stagey voice --

"Bring forth the lush!"

"Ain't got none!" screamed his Miss Pettindund. "Just finished!"

"So! Then, Moggie, run and get me a 'alfporth o' four 'alf, and blast the hexpense!"

This jest was received with perfect shrieks of laughter, which continued to be excited by sallies of the same nature till the house was quite full of visitors, and at length dinner was ready. Then indeed for a time there was silence, save f or the unceasing clatter of knives and forks and the audible evidences of mastication; it would be difficult to say which of these sounds predominated. The two masses of beef disappeared like tall grass before the scythe of a sturdy mower. If any guest was incommoded owing to Mrs. Pettindund's inability to carve quickly enough, he amused himself with half a duck or a considerable fraction of turkey till his turn came. Those who were so unfortunate as to have been beyond reach of these entrées, solaced themselves with mince pies and celery alternately. Poor Moggie's life became a burden to her. Her duty it was to see that every guest's glass was kept filled, in the execution of which she rapidly emptied two large cans, ordinarily used for carrying up water into the lodgers' bed-rooms. When these contained no more she hurried for a fresh supply, and on her return was roundly cursed for having been so long. Mr. Spinks went the length of throwing a turkey's leg-bone at the unfortunate child's head, and was loudly applauded for the ingenuity of the joke.

Gorged into silence, the guests at length leaned back in their chairs, and for a few minutes amused themselves only with picking their teeth. It was the preparation for an outburst of enthusiasm. When, after a few minutes, two Misses Pettindund struggled in under the weight of a mountain of plum-pudding, which had been drenched with brandy and then set on fire, each person in the room arose and gave utterance to a yell which must have been heard in Tottenham Court Road. The cry seemed to have aided the process of digestion; the capacity of all appeared renewed. By this time ale was no longer in request, but bottles of spirits circulated round the table, and Moggie was at hand with a kettle of boiling water. The scene now baffles description. Every one talked and nobody listened. Most of the men swore, not a few told disgusting stories, a few interchanged expletives or even blows, the women shrieked and squabbled indiscriminately. At this period Mrs. Pettindund, happening to go downstairs into the kitchen, caught Moggie -- who had had nothing to eat all day, bye-the-by -- in the act of demolishing some fragments of duck which had been left. With a howl of rage and a curse which it would defile the very ink to trace, she caught up the nearest object, which happened to be an empty bottle, and hurled it at the child. Luckily her aim was not very steady, and Moggie was only bruised on the shoulder. With a yell of pain, the wretched child darted past her mother and up into the street, where she waited out of sight till she thought the incident had been forgotten.

And so the short day darkened into night. Shutters were now closed, and blinds drawn down, and two or three rooms prepared for dancing. The fact that these rooms were only about twelve feet square was no obstacle. The eldest Miss Pettindund then began to hammer a waltz on the piano, which had been carried out in the hall in order that its sounds might penetrate as far as possible, and dancing forthwith commenced. Before long the house seemed to shake and quiver to its foundations. Here a couple, whirling themselves into insensate giddiness, would fall with a heavy crash upon the floor, and two or three other couples stumbling over them, the whole room would become a mass of struggling, kicking and cursing humanity, if the latter word be not grossly inappropriate. At one point two young men became obnoxious to each other in consequence of their attentions to the same young woman. From expostulations they proceeded to recriminations, and thence rapidly to blows. Vain were the efforts of the bystanders to separate them. Unable long to stand, from the excess of liquor they had imbibed, the two rolled in each other's embraces from end to end of the room. They bit, they scratched, they tore, they kicked, had not their wonted vigour been somewhat enfeebled, one of them would without doubt have been killed. In a few minutes their faces were indistinguishable from streaming blood, their waistcoats were rent open, their collars and neck-cloths were scattered to the winds. At length they were both overpowered by pure weight of numbers, Mrs. Tudge, together with three stout women, fairly falling upon the one, and Mrs. Pettindund with all her daughters actually sitting upon the other. Most of the men present were enraged at this result. Their ferocity was excited, and they longed for the sight of blood. They satisfied themselves, however, with the anticipation of the match being fought out on the morrow when there would be no women to interfere.

Matters had been once more brought to a pacific state, and Miss Pettindund had recommenced to hammer upon the piano, when she suddenly stopped.

"What is it?" yelled half a dozen voices.

"A knock at the door," was the reply. "Fire away! I'll go."

And she accordingly went and opened the door. Outside in the black street a fierce snowstorm was raging. The girl's breath was stopped by the blast which blew into her face as she held the door and peered out to see who it was. A tall woman's figure, clad in a ragged black dress which only showed here and there through the cleaving snowflakes, and carrying some kind of bundle in a large shawl, was all that Miss Pettindund could discern.

"Why it's a beggar!" she exclaimed, indignantly. "Get away with yer! We've enough to do to make our own living, these hard times, without givin' to beggars. Now, you be orff!"

The woman stepped forward, reaching out with one long, bare arm, and saying something which the fierce blasts of wind and the riot within the house rendered inaudible.

"I've nothink to say to yer!" shrieked Miss Pettindund; and she was on the point of exerting her whole strength to slam to the door, when the beggar actually advanced into the hall.

"Sarah! Don't you know me?" she cried, in a hoarse voice.

As the light from the hall-lamp fell upon her face, Miss Pettindund saw that it was Carrie Mitchell. With a horrified scream she ran into the front parlour, calling out -- "Ma! ma!"

"What is it, child?" screeched Mrs. Pettindund, in reply. "Ugh! who's gone an' left that front door open? I'm froze to death. Whatever's the matter, Sarah?"

"Oh, my God, ma!" cried the young lady. "Here's a go! Come and look here!"

In a moment, a dozen people had crowded into the hall, and were gazing with astonishment on the tall figure, half white, half black, from whom the melted snow was running like a stream on to the floor.

"What the devil's all this about?" blustered Mr. Tudge. "Here, get you out o' this 'ere 'ouse!"

"Aunt!" cried the intruder, struggling to make herself understood with a voice which exposure to the weather had made so hoarse and feeble that it could scarcely be heard. "Aunt! let me in! -- Let me sit in the kitchen! My baby will be frozen to death!"

"Oh, God! she's got a baby!" screamed all the Misses Pettindund together.

"What! Carrie Mitchell!" exclaimed Mrs. Pettindund. "She a comin' 'ere in that way! Well, I'm blowed! Isn't it like her impudence! Now, come, trot! I've nothing to do with people of your class. Go somewhere else, and don't come to 'spectable 'ouses. You know well enough where to go, trust you! I ain't got nothin' for yer, I tell yer; go!"

One cry of despair came from the lips of the outcast, but even that was scarcely heard amid the yell of approval with which the guests greeted Mrs. Pettindund's determination. The latter, never blest with a very good temper, became a fiend when under the influence of drink. Laying a rude hand upon her niece's shoulder, she pushed her violently into the street, and slammed the door fiercely behind her.

"There!" she exclaimed, "that's how I treat them kind o' people! -- Ha, ha, ha!"

The mirth was resumed, and sped on fast and furious. In five minutes the incident had been altogether forgotten. The piano rang out its discordant waltzes, polkas and gallops, and again the very house rocked and reeled. Soon it was midnight, at which hour Mrs. Pettindund proclaimed that supper was ready. Accordingly the guests once more crowded round the table. Cold provender was there in abundance, and, in addition, the two younger Misses Pettindund had just completed the broiling of some half-dozen pounds of beef-steak, which, smoking in reeking onions, made a dish at which the guests cheered. An hour was spent in the consumption of supper, after which music and dancing recommenced. All the time, be it understood, the supply of liquids had been unfailing. Shortly before the time at which the public-house closed, Moggie had refilled all the largest vessels, the contents of which, it was hoped, would suffice to bring the merriment to an end. And so they did. Towards half-past three, signs of abatement began to manifest themselves; by four o'clock several guests were fast asleep, either on the floor or on chairs. About this hour, the movement of departure began. The party, led by Mr. Spinks, went off arm-in-arm, howling, "We won't go home till morning." Mr. Tudge staggered into the street, with difficulty supported between his wife and eldest child; bevies of young damsels, who were far from quite steady upon their feet, rushed out into the snow-storm with shrieks of laughter which made the night re-echo; the two young men who had fought went off with the young woman who had been the cause of the combat, and, before they had reached the end of the street, quarrelled again, came to blows, and wallowed together in the snow, whilst the female with them yelled like a vulture over a field of battle. Neither of the gentlemen reached their home that night, for the cries of the woman attracting one or two policemen, they were both dragged away to the police-station, and there allowed to sleep off the effect of their carouse. By five o'clock, there was silence throughout the house of the Pettindunds.

During the morning, Mark Challenger had been visiting some friends, but, as the short afternoon drew on towards night, he returned, and, before entering his own room, knocked at Arthur's door. Summoned to enter, he did so, but the moment he opened the door, such a tremendous shouting, yelling and screaming sounded from the rooms below, that Arthur started to his feet in sudden anger.

"Good God!" he exclaimed, "this is intolerable! Have they got half the inhabitants of the Zoological Gardens to dinner downstairs? Every five minutes I hear such a hideous roaring that I am almost driven mad. I have a headache to begin with."

"You may well ask whether they are beasts," replied Mark. "As I came along the passage, the front-room door was open, and I never set eyes on such a scene in my life. There must be twenty people there, and I'm quite sure they're all drunk. I had only time to notice one thing, and that was old Pettindund at one side of the table, and another man opposite to him, holding a goose, or something of the kind, by its legs, and ripping it in two between them!"

"Brutes!" replied Arthur, in a tone of disgust. "Do not such blackguards as these give good cause to the upper classes to speak of us working men with contempt? I warrant they waste as much money to-day in guzzling and swilling as would give twenty or thirty poor starving wretches a good dinner for a week to come. Mr. Challenger, I think I must leave this house. I do indeed. If this sort of thing is to go on all through Christmas week, as no doubt it will, I shall be driven mad. I seem to have become irritable of late, and nervous.

"I have thought of the same thing," returned Mark. "I don't feel justified in giving such people money for them to make beasts of themselves with. Shall we look out for another place to-morrow?"

"Let us do so, by all means. I want to get into new scenes. I shall hardly know myself if I am here much longer. I must forget everything that has happened here, and begin anew; that is the only way. I am fast losing all taste for every healthy kind of occupation. I can't read, I have no pleasure in speaking at the club, or in hearing others speak. This state of affairs will never do. I cannot live so any longer!"

"Have you had any dinner, Arthur?"

"No, indeed I haven't. I haven't felt hungry yet; is it dinner time?"

"It's nearly four."

"Nearly four? Then I suppose I must eat something. Luckily I have a loaf of bread and a bit of cheese in the cupboard here. Come and share with me, Mr. Challenger."

"Thanks; I had my dinner nearly three hours ago."

"You had! Then I must eat alone. And do talk to me about something, if you please. There must be a spider inside my skull, eating up whatever little brains there are, and spinning cobwebs in their place. Look! Gibbon's History has always been one of my chief delights, and yet I couldn't get through half-a-dozen pages to-day."

He ate his bread and cheese for some minutes in silence, then, filling a glass of water, held it up before drinking.

"It's Christmas Day," he said, "and we mustn't entirely forget to keep it. I won't drink your health in wine, Mr. Challenger, lest I should be too much like those shouting fools downstairs. So here it is in water."

"And none the less sincere for that, I know, Arthur. Do you know what I've been thinking? We really ought to go and see poor John Pether to-day."

"So we ought; so we ought. I'm very glad you thought of it. When did you see him last?"

"A little more than a week ago. He didn't seem very well then; had a bad cold, and wasn't much in the mood for talking. I'm afraid he's gradually starving to death."

"I wish to goodness," exclaimed Arthur, "that we could find some way of helping him!"

"Yes, but how is it to be done? Whenever I've hinted at it lately, he's got quite fierce and angry. I don't know what will become of the poor fellow."

"Come, let's go to him at once," said Arthur, hastily finishing his meagre repast. "I'm afraid he's having a terribly lonely day of it."

Accordingly, in a few minutes they departed, hurrying out unnoticed through the noise and confusion of the lower part of the house. At that moment, some half-dozen people were engaged carrying the piano into the passage, whilst in the front parlour Mr. Tudge was standing on a chair, singing in a voice which shook the walls, a song wherein frequent reference was made to "Sairey Jane an' me," amid unceasing plaudits from the other guests. Once in the street, Arthur and his companion struggled on in the gathering darkness, bending forward against the fierce storm of wind, sleet and snow. Snow lay thick upon the streets, and clung to the fronts of the houses, filling the corners of the windows, and heaping itself up wherever it could find a hold. Already the street-lamps were lit, and threw their dim light upon the comfortless scene, whilst streaks of pale grey still held a place amid the else uniform gloom of the sky. There were not many people about, and the few vehicles which went past made no noise. It was a desolate evening.

After casting a glance down Gower Street, where the lamps seemed to converge in a limitless perspective, the two friends walked quickly along University Street into Tottenham Court Road, where a walk of ten minutes brought them into Charlotte Place. They both cast a glance at the old shop, over which still stood Mr. Tollady's name, and Arthur sighed. The shutters were up, and the whole house showed no signs of life. Its desolation seemed heightened by contrast with the house next to it, all the windows of which gleamed with lights, whilst from within proceeded a tumult scarcely less than that the companions had left behind them.

"The shop isn't taken yet, is it?" asked Arthur, as they paused for a moment in front of it.

Mark shook his head.

"I suppose its owner has satisfied his base nature by getting possession of it," returned Arthur, "and now he cares little if it rots to pieces."

They arrived before the umbrella-mender's shop and knocked. After waiting several minutes without reply, they knocked again. Again they waited a long time, but at length heard a key turning in the lock. The door was partially opened, and John Pether, only showing his head, asked who had come to disturb him.

"It is only us, John," said Mark Challenger. "You'll let us in, won't you?"

No sign of pleasure passed over John's dark countenance, but he opened the door a little wider and admitted the two They found the shop quite dark, but a candle was burning in the room behind it, the door of which stood open. John, who, they saw, was naked all but his shirt, led the way into the lighted room, and there got into bed, whence he had come to open the door. As he lay with his head resting on the pillow, his eyes turned up towards the ceiling, his appearance was almost ghastly. His face was the colour of parchment, wrinkled and creased with hundreds of deep lines, and amid its pallor, the red stain upon his cheek showed with hideous distinctness. He paid no attention to his visitors, but lay at times shivering slightly, and moving his lips as if talking to himself.

"You're not well, John," said Mark Challenger, after one or two uneasy glances at Arthur. "Have you been in bed all day?"

"Why not," asked the other, in a hollow voice which sounded almost fierce. "It's a holiday, isn't it. Haven't I a right to take a holiday as well as rich people?"

"That you have, John," returned Mark, endeavouring to sooth his friend. "Aye, and a better right, too. The rich have holiday all the year round -- curse them! -- but you have to work hard for what little rest you have. And it's the same with Arthur and me, John. You don't think us enemies, do you?"

"Enemies!" exclaimed Pether. "No; you never did me harm."

"You ought to have a doctor to see you, Mr. Pether," put in Arthur. "You look terribly ill."

"Doctor! How am I to pay a doctor?"

"Oh, if you haven't the money just now, Mr. Challenger and I will do that gladly, and you shall pay us back when you can. Do let us do something for you, Mr. Pether. It is dreadful to see you so lonely in your suffering."

"There it is!" cried the man, half rising on his elbow. "There it is! You want to make a beggar of me, to make me feel my poverty, to know even better than I do that I am a miserable wretch. You'll tell me to go into the workhouse next! I don't want your money. It isn't friendship to offer it me; it only makes me mad -- mad -- mad! Look here; I have been reading a newspaper to-day. Do you know how many paupers there are in London? About seventy-thousand! Do you want me to make one more? I have held out these many years, and why shouldn't I hold out a few months more? It's coming, I tell you; I know it's coming. I can feel it coming by the trouble in my mind, like I can feel an east wind coming by the pains in my body. A few months and we shall have no lack of food. These seventy-thousand paupers shall be dressing themselves in the garments of the rich, and warming their frozen limbs in the blood which shall stream like water along the streets! I feel it's coming!"

Arthur shrank back before the man's violence, but kept his eyes fixed upon him. In his excitement John Pether had now fully risen, and his almost bald head, his ghastly features, his straggling beard, and his open shirt, which displayed his bony and hairy chest, gave him the appearance of a man in delirium. Neither Arthur nor Mark spoke in reply, and presently he again lay down and fixed his eyes upon the ceiling; and then his lips began to move, and he spoke as if unconscious of any one being present.

"I have been thinking of my mother to-day," he said. "She was tried and found guilty of murder, but her execution was put off because she was with child. I was born in prison, and then she was hanged."

Arthur shuddered with horror as he remembered where and when he had heard this before. Mark Challenger sat with his forehead resting on his hands, and showed no sign of attention. Probably he had heard it too often. After a few minutes of silence, John Pether continued to speak, still as if to himself only.

"I was brought up in the workhouse, and suffered cold, and hunger, and cruelty. Then they made me apprentice to a master who starved and beat me. One day he caught me taking a halfpenny which had dropped on to the floor. I thought I could buy a piece of bread with it, and the temptation was too strong. He had no mercy, and I was sent to prison. Oh, God! When I came out, I begged for days, sleeping at night in dark archways or in cellars with thieves and murderers. I prayed men to give me work, but they only threatened me with the gaol. One night I went to drown myself. It is a rare death, drowning. You feel the water, at first deadly cold, grow warmer and warmer, and a kind of music in your ears lulls you to sleep. I thought I might have drowned myself in peace, but I was saved and forced back to life."

Arthur listened eagerly to hear more of this strange and terrible history, but the speaker's lips ceased to move, and he was silent. So quiet was the house, that shouts from the revellers on the opposite side of the street could be distinctly heard. Arthur sat watching the breath of the sick man, which rose in a cloud through the freezing atmosphere of the room. At length Mark Challenger rose.

"And you won't let us do anything for you, John?" he asked.

John Pether started, looked round, then shook his head with an impatient frown.

"Then we will leave you," said Mark. "Try to sleep John; you are tired. Do you sleep well at night?"

There was no reply, and Mark beckoned to Arthur to leave the room. The latter was obeying, with much inward reluctance, when John Pether suddenly turned on his side and tried to check him with his hand.

"You remember what you swore?" he asked, in a hollow voice.

"I do," replied Arthur, pressing the other's hand.

"The time is coming," returned Pether. "A few months yet, and our chance will show itself. I feel it coming."

He then once more averted his face as the two friends left the room and passed out through the dark shop.

"Aye," said Mark Challenger, sadly, as soon as they were in the street, "I fear John Pether's time is coming. He has had an awful life. Perhaps it wouldn't be much kindness to try and make it longer."

"He seems mad," returned Arthur. "It is scarcely safe that he should be left alone."

"Poor fellow!" sighed Mark, and they walked on in silence.

They had taken a short cut which brought them into Tottenham Street. The night had grown still more boisterous, and the snow lay very deep upon the ground. Hurrying arm-in-arm in the direction of Tottenham Court Road, they shortly passed by the Prince of Wales's Theatre. As they were going beneath the portico Arthur saw what appeared to be a woman's form crouching far back in the darkness against the steps to one of the entrances. Touched with pity at the thought of a human being preparing to spend a terrible night in such a place, he pointed her out to Mark, and they stopped. The woman, seeing them, rose to her feet and staggered forward. She carried something in her arms, pressed against her bosom. In a hoarse voice, expressive of agony unutterable, she begged of them to give her enough to pay for a night's lodging.

"Is that a child you have in your arms?" asked Arthur, unable to discern clearly in the darkness.

The woman stepped out of the shadow of the portico. A gleam from a gas-lamp on the other side of the street illumined her form, as she lifted her shawl and discovered a young child's face. As she did so, Mark Challenger plucked Arthur by the sleeve.

"Don't you see who it is?" he whispered hurriedly.

Arthur looked into the woman's face, and at once in the ghastly pale and worn features recognised the face of Carrie Mitchell. She had no covering to her head but a coarse handkerchief, tied around it. Her long dark hair hung all dishevelled down her back, wet with melted snow. Her feet were bare, save for a pair of loose slippers which were no protection against the snow. Her countenance displayed no sign of intelligence; it was fixed in an unutterable expression of pain. She stood pointing at her child and muttering.

"Is your name Carrie Mitchell?" asked Arthur, overcome at once with emotions of anguish and joy.

She nodded, but continued to point to her baby.

"It is dead," were the words that struggled from her frozen lips.

"Good God!" exclaimed Arthur. "What shall we do? Mr. Challenger! What shall we do? Where can we take her?"

As he spoke the girl tottered and would have fallen had she not supported herself against one of the columns of the portico. Arthur sprang to her side and encircled her with one arm.

"There is a coffee-house at the end of the street," said Mark. "Perhaps they have a room to let there. I will go and see."

"Quick! Quick!" cried Arthur. "She's dying."

The girl seemed indeed either to be dying or to have fainted. Arthur placed her in a sitting position upon the steps at the theatre door, and commenced to chafe one of her hands. The other hand was still fixed tightly around the form of the dead child. She had once more opened her eyes with a deep sigh when Mark came running back.

"I have got a room," he cried. "Let us be quick. Can she walk?"

With difficulty the two supported her between them. It was a very small coffee-house, and at present empty of customers. Only a young girl was to be seen, who, with wide-staring eyes, watched the three enter, and led the way to a small bedroom on the first floor. The two friends were obliged to carry their charge up the stairs; she was quite incapable of walking up herself.

"We should have done better to take her to the Middlesex Hospital," said Mark, as they laid her, apparently lifeless, on the bed.

"No, no!" cried Arthur, "she shall not go to the hospital as long as I possess a penny. Now will you fetch a doctor? Where does the nearest doctor live?" he asked, turning to the girl who had accompanied them upstairs.

Information of a vague kind was given, and Mark hastened off on his errand.

"Light a fire here at once," cried Arthur. "Have you any spirits in the place?"

"We mayn't sell 'em," replied the girl.

"Will you run to the nearest public-house and get me some brandy?"

"I daren't leave," returned the girl. "They're all out."

With a hurried exclamation Arthur took a glance at the form on the bed, and himself darted down the stairs and out of the house. In three minutes he returned with a small bottle of spirits. Hot water was forthcoming, and, whilst the girl was lighting the fire in the grate, he tried to administer a little of the mixture. But Carrie was now perfectly unconscious, and her teeth were fast set. Arthur was forced to content himself with chafing her hands and arms, and bathing her forehead with the brandy.

It seemed as if Mark had been gone an hour already. Arthur fretted and fumed with impatience, and his sufferings, as he saw no sign of life returning to the girl's face, were intense He was on the point of himself running in pursuit of aid when he heard footsteps upon the stairs, and Mark appeared, followed by a middle-aged man. The latter examined his patient forthwith, and looked serious.

"We had better remove her at once to the hospital," was his first remark. "Will one of you fetch a cab?"

Mark posted off again at his best speed.

"She is alive, isn't she?" asked Arthur, in an agony of apprehension. "Can't you bring her back to consciousness?"

"She is alive at present," replied the doctor, "but I shouldn't like to promise that she will be so long."

As he spoke he disengaged the dead child from her arms with some trouble.

"The child has been dead several hours," he remarked, laying it by the side of the mother. He then proceeded to attempt the latter's restoration. In a minute or two he was interrupted by a shout from the bottom of the stairs. The cab was waiting.

Arthur and the doctor carried the patient down stairs, and placed her in the cab. After that Arthur returned to fetch the dead child. With a hurried charge to his friend Mark to pay whatever might be wanted for the use of the room, and then to follow to the hospital, he jumped in with the doctor and they drove off.

Mark Challenger followed almost immediately, and found Arthur in a waiting-room, where there was a huge fire, waiting till he should hear at least that Carrie had shown signs of life. They sat side by side, occasionally speaking to each other in a low voice for more than two hours. At the end of this time they heard that the patient was doing well. Satisfied perforce with this gleam of hope, and having obtained permission to make an inquiry in the morning, Arthur left the hospital, and walked home with his friend.



Carrie lay ill in the hospital for nearly three weeks. Many a night did Arthur wander around the building till long after the clock had sounded twelve, ever and again pausing to gaze up at the window of the ward in which he knew she lay, picturing to himself, amid the silence of the dark streets, the beautiful face of the suffering girl lying with its background of rich dark hair upon the uneasy pillow. He liked to think of her as asleep, drinking deep of sweet and healthful rest after the misery of homeless days and nights, and the long agony of starvation in the streets. He never availed himself of the visitors' days to go and see her. It was extremely unlikely that she remembered his face, and to introduce himself to her by the memory of by-gone trouble would be the mere selfish gratification of his wishes. He knew that she continued to improve, and that was sufficient.

In the meantime he had succeeded in making an agreeable change in his occupation. The night-work to which he was subject in alternate weeks had grown extremely irksome to him, and was producing an evident impression upon his health. Accordingly, he had seized the opportunity of a tempting advertisement by a celebrated firm of printers, and had been happy enough to obtain an excellent place in their office, where his work would only occupy him in the daytime, and where he would earn more than hitherto. He began to work at the new place only a few days before Carrie was ready to leave the hospital. For the latter event he immediately began to make preparations.

He and his friend Mark had kept their resolutions of relinquishing their abode in the house of the Pettindunds. At the end of their week's notice they had taken one large room in Huntley Street, at no great distance from Gower Place, where they for the present lived together, thus affecting a piece of economy very agreeable to both. In the same street Arthur now proceeded to look for a small furnished bedroom. Before long he found one precisely to his taste, at a low rent, and this he forthwith bespoke, saying that its occupant would come and take possession of it in a day or two.

Arthur was now somewhat puzzled how td proceed. He knew that Carrie was in a deplorable condition as regards clothing, and scarcely saw how he could make good the deficiency. He was troubled, moreover, to discover some plan by which he could make an offer of his assistance with suitable delicacy and then instal Carrie in her room without fear of endangering her reputation; the latter, especially, being a task which the fearful and wonderful complication of our social delicacies and pruderies renders always somewhat difficult. The world is so very slow to believe that connections other than of a certain sort can possibly exist between young people of different sex who see each other in private; it is so easy for corrupt imagination to picture situations completely familiar to themselves, so extremely difficult for them to conceive the existence of virtue and self-respect. After much reflection Arthur concluded that there was but one easily-practicable course; he must take his landlady into his confidence.

Mrs. Oaks was, as far as Arthur had hitherto been able to judge, a kind-hearted and motherly woman, not at all of the lodging-house-landlady type. She had several children, whose clean and respectable appearance had already struck Arthur as unusual under the circumstances, and as she had been a widow for several years she had no one but herself to consult upon a point of delicacy. She was, moreover, the only woman whom Arthur had at present any relations with. Arriving at a decision after a consideration of these various points, the young man requested an interview with Mrs. Oaks. In plain, straightforward terms he explained to her Carrie's helpless and friendless position -- suppressing, of course, all mention of the circumstances which had led to this -- and declared his interest in her. He stated that he had already taken a lodging for her, and then went on frankly to declare the difficulties in which he found himself, and to request Mrs. Oaks' assistance, should she be willing to give it. The good woman had listened with some signs of doubt and misgiving to the commencement of this narrative, but, as Arthur progressed in it, his frank, generous expression of face and the hearty earnestness of his voice and manner won her over to fully believe in his good intentions. Possibly Arthur's handsome features had not a little to do with the eventual conquest. Always agreeable to look upon, they became, especially to a woman, quite irresistible when lighted up with emotion.

"What I should ask you to do, then, Mrs. Oaks," said Arthur, "if you should be willing to help me, would be this. I should like you to go and see Miss Mitchell, to judge from her appearance what clothing will be necessary for her, and then to buy it for her and let her have it. I have no idea of the cost of such things. I can spare five pounds, however; do you think that will be sufficient?"

"Well, sir," returned Mrs. Oaks, "it'll, at all events, get her enough to go on with."

"Very good. Then I understand, Mrs. Oaks, you will not mind undertaking this troublesome business for me?"

"Lord, no!" returned the worthy woman. "I never grudge a little trouble if I see as I can do real good to a body. I'm sorry to say it isn't so often I have it in my power."

"I should, of course, wish you to consider the time you employ for me together with the rent at the end of the week," added Arthur, after some little hesitation.

"Pooh! no such thing!" cried Mrs. Oaks. "Time's not so over val'able to me as all that. If I go and see the girl, my eldest daughter 'll buy all the clothing, and be glad of the job. She likes shopping, Lizzie does."

"Then there is one more thing to speak of, Mrs. Oaks, and I have done troubling you. Would it be too much to ask you to let me see Miss Mitchell in your parlour for half an hour before she goes to her own lodging? As I told you, she scarcely knows me, and some sort of explanation will be necessary."

"You're welcome, sir," returned the landlady, after a moment's thought. "I have confidence in you."

"I am glad to hear you say so, Mrs. Oaks," said Arthur. "I can never sufficiently thank you for your kindness; I cannot, indeed! When you see Miss Mitchell in the hospital, please do not mention my name. Say merely that a friend has sent you -- a friend that will come td take her away on Saturday."

"Well, well," said Mrs. Oaks, laughing quietly. "I'll do as you wish. You mean to be kind-hearted, Mr. Golding. It isn't everyone as 'ud do all this."

"And it isn't everyone that would give such kind help to a stranger as you have promised, Mrs. Oaks," replied Arthur. "Once more, I thank you sincerely."

Everything went well, and at three o'clock on Saturday afternoon Arthur had a cab waiting before the Middlesex Hospital to take away the convalescent. As he stood in the waiting-room expecting Carrie's appearance, his heart beat fiercely in his bosom, he was almost choked with the varied emotions which struggled for the ascendancy within him. And when at length he saw her coming towards him, tall, graceful, still deadly pale, her thick hair done up tastefully yet simply, the plain garments which Mrs. Oaks had purchased for her giving her a fresh and neat appearance, her step evidently feeble, her eyes wandering in curious expectation, the rushing flood of deep tenderness and passion all but welled up from his heart into his eyes. He could not speak, but beckoned to her to follow him, and led her to the cab.

They drove off towards Huntley Street. Seeing the expression of doubtful recognition with which his companion regarded him, Arthur bent forward and asked if she remembered him.

"I -- I think so," she stammered. "You lived at aunt's. I think it was you who paid my rent, wasn't it?"

"And who had a note put under my door when you went away," said Arthur, smiling.

The recollection of her sufferings, blended with her physical weakness and uncertainty of mind, was too much for Carne. She burst into tears.

"Where are we going?" she sobbed. "Where are you taking me? Not to aunt's?"

"No, no, we will not go there," said Arthur, taking one of her hands gently, and chafing it like the hand of a suffering child. "Are you afraid of me? Dare you trust me?"

But still she continued to sob, and made no reply. Arthur feared she would faint, and was glad when the cab at length stopped. There was a cheerful fire burning in the parlour, and Mrs. Oaks was there ready to pour out a cup of tea. After a few kind words to Carrie, the good woman went away and left the two to themselves.

Arthur waited till Carrie had in some degree recovered herself, and then, sitting opposite her on one side of the fireplace, he told his story in a kind, soothing voice. He related how he had seen her suffering and had felt his sympathy keenly aroused, how this feeling had become yet stronger when on the evening of Christmas Day he had found her dying in the snow; how he had her taken to the hospital, and how, now that he hoped she would before long be quite restored to health, he desired nothing so much as to be allowed to serve her. He spoke not a word directly of his passion; natural delicacy withheld him. He merely represented himself as a sincere friend, and in conclusion he begged that she would not hesitate to use the room he had taken for her, and to accept of whatever assistance it was in his power to give.

She listened throughout as though she were in a dream, appearing to only half-understand what was said to her. When Arthur's voice had been silent for some minutes, she said, at length, with much hesitation --

"But how can I pay you back? I am too weak to work yet, and even when I do work I shall never get money enough to pay you back. I -- I don't know that I understand what you mean?"

A vague look of apprehension marked her countenance. Arthur divined her thought from this and the manner in which she spoke. He hastened to reassure her.

"And yet it is very simple," he said. "I want to be a sincere friend to you, that is the whole of the matter. As to paying me back, I never dreamt of it; that is out of the question. All I beg of you, is that you will let me see you occasionally and ask you whether you are comfortable. That is all."

"But why do you do this for me?" she continued to ask, looking dazed and still a little apprehensive. "You know so little of me. Why do you do it?"

"If I promise you that I will answer that question in a month's time, will that be sufficient?" asked Arthur in return.

The girl looked still more puzzled.

"But you will do what I wish, won't you?" urged Arthur, scarcely restraining himself from falling before her and declaring that he loved her madly. "You will let me provide for you, for the present? You won't refuse?"

"If I do refuse," returned Carrie, after a moment's thought, "I must go back to the workhouse. I have nowhere to go. I have no money.

"Then you accept?" cried Arthur, springing to his feet in delight.

"You are very kind," said Carrie, looking with a smile through her tears. "I don't know why you do it all for me. As soon as I am strong I can earn my own living, but till then ----"

"Not another word!" interrupted Arthur. "And you will let me see you sometimes? You will let me meet you somewhere in the evening, and see how you get on?"

"You are very kind to me," stammered Carrie, as her only reply.

"Then that's all. Now you shall go to your own lodging. I have arranged with them to wait upon you and buy whatever you want for your meals. You will be able to do that for yourself soon, but not just yet. I have one or two other things to get you, and those I shall send as soon as I can. But however shall you employ yourself? Do you like reading?"

"A -- a little," replied Carrie, with hesitation.

"I must look for a few books then. Mrs. Oaks, that's my landlady here, is going to walk to the house with you. She's a kind woman, and you needn't be afraid of her. She only knows that you are a' friend of mine. You won't have to walk, only a few yards. And you will be careful of health, won't you? Whatever you do, don't go out if it is cold or wet. I know you will take care; that is one of your ways of paying me back, mind."

He spoke thus standing, and with his hand on the door. It was agony to him to maintain such a calm and distant tone when his heart was burning in the desire to discharge itself of endless passion. He opened the door, but instantly closed it again.

"Your window looks into the street," he said. "If you see me waiting opposite about one o'clock on Monday, will you put your hat on and come to speak to me for a moment. I shall only come if it's fine."

"Yes, I will," she replied. "I will put my hat on so as to be ready, and watch."

"Only one thing more, then," said Arthur, taking a small purse from his pocket and handing it to her. "Let me know as soon as that is empty. You will, of course, pay the rent and everything else yourself. And now, good-bye for the present."

He held out his hand, and Carrie took it timidly. She seemed even yet to be uncertain as to his intention, and her dark eyes viewed him curiously and askance. He then opened the door and called Mrs. Oaks. That lady came up with her bonnet on, and at once set out with Carrie.

As the door closed behind them, Arthur hastened upstairs to his room, from the window of which he could watch them to the end of their walk. When at length Carrie and her guide completely disappeared, he sank upon a chair with a sigh, half of gladness, half of regret, and relapsed into deep thought.

As yet Mark Challenger knew nothing of all this. Arthur had feared that he would insist upon sharing in the charitable work, and he wished to have the whole delight of it for himself. But, now that it was completed, he saw no reason for further secrecy, and Mark was accordingly informed of everything the same evening.

"And what is to be the end of all this, Arthur, my boy?" he asked, gravely, as soon as the young man had completed his story.

"Who can tell?" returned Arthur, with a merry laugh.

"Who is to tell, if not yourself?"

"Ah!" sighed Arthur, "if it only depended upon me ----"

Mark regarded his young friend with a shrewd look of inquiry.

"Well?" he asked.

"Why, cannot you guess?" cried Arthur, laughing. "Carrie would be my wife to-morrow."

"Your wife?" returned the other, as if relieved. "Well, well, there's no great harm in that. The world seems to have treated you fairly well, on the whole, Arthur; let's hope you'll never be worse off than you are now. I had a wife once, and a daughter. The one starved to death, and the other -- well, well, I mustn't think of all that. It'll make me like poor John Pether, and I seem to have been getting quieter in my mind of late. I can wish you nothing better than a good wife, Arthur, after all. But don't be in a hurry, my boy; don't be in a hurry."

Arthur laughed, and, humming a merry air, sat down to one of his favourite books.

And where was the memory of Helen Norman -- of that sweet ideal which had once allied itself with all there was of noblest and most aspiring in Arthur Golding's nature? It had passed away with the use of those noble faculties and the aspirations towards which they tended; passed away, that is, as far as any active influence was concerned, though it still lingered as a sort of vaguely remembered joy -- a background of dim and fading gold to the rich, warm image of the reigning delight.

The responsibilities Arthur had taken upon his shoulders were the reverse of light. He was now compelled to become, in all that concerned his personal expenditure, an absolute miser. Luckily, during the last few months, he had saved every penny he could, always in the hope of being one day able to devote them to Carrie's needs; but these resources were now already drained, and it was only by the exercise of the most pinching economy that he could hope to keep Carrie in those circumstances of comfort which, in his eyes, befitted her.

It was not only her food and lodging which had to be paid for, but he must succeed in saving a little each week towards the purchase of clothing for her. As to her ever returning to the daily drudgery of the workroom and earning her own living, that he was determined not to suffer. Sooner would he divest himself of everything save the extremest necessaries.

Under these circumstances, there was one step he felt bound to take at once. He must relinquish his membership of the club. And this caused him the more pain because the club had of late been showing unmistakable signs of decadence. In fact, whilst no new members had joined it since Arthur, no less than six of the old ones had recently fallen off.

Enthusiasm, strongly sustained by example, can do much; but even Will Noble's firmness and eloquence had failed to keep in their posts all those whom his strong persuasion had collected around him. The men were but unenlightened working men after all, and the temptation to find other uses for their money than that of self-denying charity were too strong for their unfortified natures. So it was with some sense of shame that Arthur attended the club meeting on Sunday, knowing that it would be his last.

When it was over, he took Will Noble's arm and asked the latter to walk a short way with him. Then he related the circumstances which would lead to his defection.

Will listened without any sign of annoyance.

"If only the other men could know all this, Golding," he said at length, "you could still stay with us, for you are doing nothing but what it is our aim to do. But that, of course, under the circumstances, wouldn't be agreeable. Well, I suppose we must lose you, old fellow; but that's no reason why you and I shouldn't meet and have our chats as usual, is it?"

"None in the world. I am only afraid lest you should think less of me for having given up useful work for private ends."

"If the ends were selfish," replied Noble, "I should certainly think less of you, Golding, I confess. But when I know they are the opposite, I should be a fool if I did so. I value your friendship more than ever for this bit of kindness to that poor girl. I have a plain and downright way of looking at things, and it has always seemed to me that the man who saves one fellow-creature, however poor and miserable, from a life of degradation, deserves the utmost respect. We have such a lot of windy clamour now-a-days about doing good, but still so precious little of real individual effort. You talk of making this girl your wife. Well and good. You are the best judge in such a matter; and you ought to know whether she will suit you. Marry her by all means, and make a good, honest woman out of her. If you succeed in doing that, I can tell you, Golding, the thought of it will bring you happiness to the end of your life."

They walked on for a little distance in silence.

"Bye-the-by, Noble," said Arthur at length, "I wonder you have never thought of marriage yourself. I know very well you have plenty of use for your money, and that you do as much good as a man in your position possibly could do. But don't you think of getting a home of your own one of these days?"

Will turned away his head, though the darkness would not allow his features to be observed.

"What if I had thought of it for a long time, Golding?" he said, with a nervous twitch of his arm, which Arthur felt.

"Why, I should be glad to hear it," returned the latter. "I suppose I mustn't venture to ask if the person is decided on?"

"Yes, you may ask," said Noble, with a laugh. "She has long been decided on; but is not so ready to come to a decision herself."

"What! Is it possible that a girl can hesitate to accept you, Noble -- you, such a fine, generous, handsome fellow?"

"Hush, hush, hush!" interrupted the other, laughing still. "You make me feel uncomfortable. For all those imaginary qualities your friendship gives me, Lucy doesn't seem to care much for me. Well, well!"

He sent a sigh from his broad chest which showed that Will had sorrows of his own to occupy him occasionally, in addition to those of other people.

Arthur was silent, wondering curiously who this Lucy could be who played the coquette with such a man as Will Noble. His thoughts were interrupted by the latter's voice.

"Will you come with me some day, Golding, and see Lucy?" asked Will.

"I should be delighted," cried Arthur. "Does she live anywhere in this neighbourhood?"

"No, in the East End. We'll go some Sunday, if you like."

Very shortly after this they parted, Will taking his way homewards with a gloomier face than he usually wore, Arthur returning to dream all night of Carrie. He did not go home without first walking past the house in which he had established her and looking up at the window. It was quite dark; no doubt she was in bed and sleeping.

With many a fervent thought stirring in his heart, he sighed and walked slowly away. At all events, he would see her on the morrow.

Monday was frosty and fine. Punctually to his time, Arthur stood on the side of the street opposite to Carrie's window. For a moment he saw her face there, and a minute afterwards she came out of the front door and walked quickly towards him. He thought she looked stronger already, and flattered himself that the slight glow on her cheeks was due to pleasure at seeing him. They walked side by side out of Huntley Street towards the more quiet neighbourhood of the adjoining squares.

"And how have you occupied yourself since I saw you on Saturday?" asked Arthur, stealing side glances at her face as they walked slowly on. "Has the time seemed long?"

"No, very short," was the reply.

Arthur had hoped she would have said the opposite. He felt that the time had so crept with himself.

"Indeed? What have you been doing, then?"

"Oh, I have been putting my things in order, and doing some sewing."

"Sewing? But had you needles and cotton?"

"Oh, yes. I went out on Saturday night and bought them."

Arthur felt a sudden feeling something like anger rise within him. She had gone out alone on Saturday night? He could not bear the thought. He would have liked to be able to lock her up from all the world, so intense was his passion, and, consequently, so acute his jealousy.

"Went out!" he cried. "But I begged you never to go out except when the sun was shining. I wonder you didn't catch your death of cold."

"Oh, I wasn't out long. I only went into Oxford Street and back."

"And how do you like your room?"

"It is very nice. I am very comfortable there. And the people are so nice. When I go to work again I'm sure I shall stay there."

"When do you think you will be able to go to work?" asked Arthur, inwardly irritated at the matter-of-course way in which she spoke.

"Oh, in a week or two. The landlady's eldest daughter goes to work, and she says she can get me a place with her."

Arthur fumed in his heart. Carrie seemed already quite changed from what she had been on Saturday. She was making friends already, and plans in which he had no part. He had never suffered so acutely in his life.

"Shall you be glad to get to work again?" he asked, with something of pique in his voice.

"I shan't be glad," replied Carrie, with a slight sigh. "But what else can I do?"

Arthur's equanimity was restored. After all she was dependent upon him. He had it in his power to relieve her from a disagreeable life.

"Well, well; we won't talk about that just yet," he replied, gaily. "What you have to do now is to get well as fast as possible. You are dreadfully pale yet."

They walked about the squares, talking thus, for nearly an hour. Then Arthur, looking at his watch, found that he had no time to lose. As it was, he had sacrificed his dinner for the sake of this conversation.

"Oh, must you go?" asked Carrie, in a rather sad voice.

"I must indeed. I must be at my work at half-past two. I shall have to run."

"And when shall I see you again?"

"Perhaps in two or three days," said Arthur, with a carelessness which he purposely affected.

"Not before that?" asked his companion, with evident disappointment. "I suppose you are very busy?"

"Well, suppose I said the same time to-morrow, if it is fine?"

"Oh, yes; I will be ready."

"But mind; if it rains or snows I shall not come. And you will promise me not to go out again to-day?"


"Then good-bye."


Arthur pressed her hand for a moment in both his own, and then forced himself to walk quickly away. At the first corner he turned. Carrie was still standing where he had left her, looking after him. He waved his hand, and went on with joy in his heart.

The fortnight which succeeded was one of internal perturbation such as paled Arthur's cheek, and gave his eye a restless, feverish look. With one or two exceptions, which he forced himself to make, he saw Carrie every day. Out of fear lest their regular appointments should be noticed from the house, he arranged that they should always meet at a certain spot in Torrington Square. Here he was, day after day, punctual to his hour, though it always cost him a hard walk and the sacrifice of his regular mid-day meal. He accustomed himself to satisfy his hunger with a few biscuits, which he ate as he walked, and often on reaching the square he was ready to faint with exhaustion. In his scrupulous delicacy and care for Carrie's reputation, he would not meet her after dark, but many a night he paced up and down Huntley Street, looking up at her window. As a rule, her light was burning there, and he imagined her sitting with her book or at her sewing. But once or twice her window was dark all the evening, and he tortured himself with divining all manner of explanations, good and evil. On the following days he endeavoured to discover where she had been, though he never ventured to tell her plainly why he asked. Perhaps she would say that she had been sitting with her landlady, and with this explanation he had to satisfy himself, though jealousy seemed to eat at his very vitals.

Notwithstanding his frequent requests that she would not leave the house at night, she several times showed in conversation that she had done so. But as she became more accustomed to his character, Carrie grew more careful, and, even if she had transgressed his rule, took care not to let him know it. Arthur pressed his injunctions upon her ostensibly on account of her health, but in reality because it was agony to him to think of her walking about the streets without his company and protection. This occasional disregard of his wishes was unutterable pain to Arthur. He said to himself that she ought to do as he desired, if from mere gratitude alone. But these momentary irritations would rapidly pass away, and be succeeded by a long conversation, in which each strove to give the other pleasure, and succeeded. It was a dreadfully transparent business, this affectation of mere friendship between the two. But Arthur had resolved that, till the month was up, he would not transgress these bounds, hard as it was to keep within them. He argued with himself that it was only fair to let Carrie become well acquainted with him before he asked her to become his wife. To present himself as a lover so soon would have appeared too like taking advantage of the gratitude she owed him. He was resolved that he would treat this friendless girl with as much consideration as if she had been the child of wealthy parents. In what else, he asked himself, does the character of a gentleman consist but in this according of courtesy to such as are not able to exact it?

The commencement of the third week was marked by a painful incident. On Saturday night Arthur had walked past Carrie's window as usual, and had been troubled to see no light there. She had told him that she occasionally sat with the landlady and her daughter, and possibly she might be with them now. But an evil genius seemed to whisper suspicions in the lover's ear. He resolved to watch the house for a time, and see whether she entered her room. It was now seven o'clock, and a raw, disagreeable evening, but weather was nothing to him. The fire that ceaselessly burned within him forbade his suffering from the inclement air. For several hours he walked perpetually up and down the street, and round the adjacent streets, never daring to be out of sight of the window long, lest she should, during that time, enter her room and go to bed. As the evening went on, his anxiety increased. He worked himself up to fever-heat. Several times he had almost resolved to knock at the house-door, and ask to see her, but this his delicacy prevented. Was it possible she had gone to bed without a light? That supposition could not satisfy him. Eleven o'clock came, and, with a heart overwhelmed with bitterness, he was on the point of going away and demanding an explanation on the morrow, when he saw two female figures emerging from the darkness, and walking in the direction of that one of these was Carrie. He recognised her tall figure the house he was watching. From the first sight he felt sure and her walk, though it was impossible to discern features. The two were laughing and talking together also, and he persuaded himself that, as they drew near, he recognised her voice. Drawing back against the houses to escape notice, he saw them stop before Carrie's house and enter. He had not been mistaken.

He went home and crept shivering into bed, but closed not an eye all night. Should he kill himself at once? -- that was the question that rang unceasingly through his brain. Better to do so than suffer the internal torture that must be his lot if incidents such as this were frequent. Where could Carrie possibly have passed the whole evening? Once or twice during that night of agony, he determined that he would continue to assist her till she could support herself, and then say good-bye to her for ever. A resolution likely of fulfilment! Between three and four, whilst Mark Challenger was sleeping peacefully in his bed, which stood at the other end of the room, Arthur rose and dressed; then paced the room till day-break in perfect silence. He felt that another such night would either kill him or make him raving mad.

He was to meet Carrie at ten o'clock on the following morning, and, if the weather proved fine, they were to take a walk. But the dawn which broke on Arthur's eyes, as he sat in the cheerless room looking impatiently through the window for the first trace of daylight, was anything but promising. Thick, low, leaden-hued clouds kept back the morning till a late hour, and when first the street began to be visible, it was through a mist of hopeless, heart-breaking rain. The roofs opposite reflected the earliest rays of dawn in the dull, distorting mirror of dripping slates; the smoke which here and there began to show itself at the tops of the chimneys, faltered and sunk in a lifeless waver towards the ground; the feet of the passers-by on the pavement below, and the wheels of the occasional vehicles, went splash, splash, splash, revealing to the ear a waste of melancholy pools and snow of old deposit trodden and rained into sump; the cries of the milkmen seemed to come from afar off through deadening layers of fog.

As soon as he saw Mark Challenger beginning to stir and wake, Arthur, despite the weather, quickly put on his hat and hastened out. To have been spoken to, questioned, sympathised with, would have been intolerable. He was in no mood for any company but his own. He walked past Carrie's house. The blind was down at her window, as at every other window, and the sight of it roused within him so fierce, yet so unreasoning an excess of bitterness, that he wrung his hands together, and could scarcely hold his voice from crying aloud. He hurried on, walking he knew not whither, unconscious of everything save the slow progress of time. He had eaten nothing since noon on the preceding day, but if he at all felt the pangs of hunger, he did not recognise them. By degrees it grew lighter, but still the thin, hopeless rain came down from the leaden sky. Already it was nine o'clock. It was impossible for it to clear up that morning.

Ten o'clock came, and Arthur was at the place of meeting, feeling sure that Carrie would not come, and yet unable to return home. He had waited half-an-hour, and was on the point of moving slowly away, when he saw, at the further end of the square, a female form under an umbrella coming towards him. In a moment he saw that it was Carrie, and he ran to meet her.

"I suppose you didn't expect me?" she asked; then added, without waiting for an answer, "How queer you look in the face! Aren't you well?"

"I have had a bad night," returned Arthur, every limb trembling from physical weakness and the force of his emotions.

"I'm sorry to hear that. You shouldn't have troubled to come a dreadful morning like this."

"I always keep my promises, however difficult it may be," replied Arthur, with a steady gaze into her face. "But you don't look well. Did the landlady keep you up late again last night?"

"Oh, no," replied Carrie, carelessly.

"Did you pass the evening alone?" asked Arthur, affecting a like carelessness, though his eyes never moved from the girl' face.

"Yes. It was dreadfully lonely. I was sewing as usual."

"In your own room?"

"Of course. The people were all out somewhere last night."

Arthur stood aghast. Though he had already once or twice been tortured with a vague suspicion that Carrie was not always truthful to him, he had never caught her in so direct an untruth.

"Then you never went out of the house?" he asked, still endeavouring, though with poor result, to hide the interest he had in the matter.

"Why should I?" returned Carrie, biting her lower lip, and slightly averting her head. "You know you told me not to go out after dark."

Arthur could restrain himself no longer. For a moment a fierce combat raged within him, then he spoke in a low, trembling voice.

"In that case, Miss Mitchell, how was it that I saw you enter the house with one of the landlady's daughters at nearly midnight?"

Carrie blushed involuntarily, but only for a moment. Then her eyes met Arthur's full gaze. She stammered, but made no articulate reply.

"Where were you last night?" pursued Arthur, still holding her with his eye. Her colour went and came, and suddenly she spoke with angry emphasis.

"Well, I was at the Oxford Music Hall, Mr. Golding, if you must know. And what harm? Am I never to move out of my own room? I wish you had to live all alone as I do, you'd soon be glad of a little amusement!"

Arthur's passion caught fire at the spark. He replied with trembling lips, cheeks deadly pale, and a tongue that stammered from anger.

"What harm? A great deal of harm that you should go where I do not wish you, where I will not have you go -- at least, as long as you accept my help!"

He could have bitten off his tongue the next moment for speaking such words. But they were beyond recall. Whilst yet they were ringing in his ears, he saw Carrie turn passionately from him, and walk hastily away.



Changing himself for a hot-tempered fool, and a mean-spirited one to boot, Arthur walked round and round the adjacent streets for several hours. For a while, indignation at Carrie's behaviour struggled for place against anger at his own lack of gentleness and patience.

Oh, was it not cruel of her to act so towards him? Surely, surely it was only some momentary whim that had taken possession of her. He could not think she would deliberately plan to deceive him.

But then came the hot blast of jealousy to keep up the fire of indignation. She had gone out on Saturday night, and, above all places, to a music-hall, the resort of the most abandoned of both sexes, a place in which no woman who valued her reputation would care to be seen. Was it she who had proposed to go, or was it her companion, the landlady's daughter, who had persuaded her? In either case she was culpable.

But this mood soon spent itself, giving way to one of apprehension and self-reproach. He had allowed her to leave him in anger, and who could tell what step she might take? The suddenness with which she had departed disclosed a hasty, impulsive temper, such a one as might lead to all manner of unconsidered follies.

Perhaps she would forthwith leave her lodgings and go where he had no means of discovering her. Clearly he must follow her to the house and see her there. Impossible to wait till to-morrow on the chance of her meeting him as usual. The anguish would be too unendurable.

He had turned in that direction, and was just entering Huntley Street, when, as he hurried on with his eyes on the pavement, he was stopped by a sudden hand upon his shoulder.

Looking up, he saw the short, stout figure of Mark Challenger before him.

"Where on earth have you been, Arthur?" he asked. "Why, I have been hunting for you all the morning. Are you ill, boy? Whatever is the matter with you?"

This sudden encounter seemed to recall Arthur to a sense of his physical suffering. He was wet to the skin, and exhausted with hunger. His eyes wandered over Mark's face as if he had not yet clearly recognised him.

The latter quickly seized his arm, and, in spite of a feeble resistance, forced him to walk quickly home. In their room Arthur found a bright fire burning, and the table spread with the simple breakfast they were in the habit of taking together on Sundays. Mark compelled him to change his clothes, after which the warmth of the fire, combined with the internal action of a strong cup of coffee, soon restored him to physical strength.

As soon as he felt once more master of his faculties he rose and was going out again, with some muttered excuse, when Mark once more caught him by the arm and detained him.

"Now look here, Arthur," he said, "for the present you don't budge. Dash my buttons! What's the good of my being something approaching three times your age, if I'm not to exert a little friendly authority now and then? There's something amiss, I can see. Now can't you just tell me what it is, and ease your mind?"

Arthur felt it would indeed ease him, but he hesitated.

"Have you and Carrie been quarrelling?" pursued Mark. "That must be it. Now, tell me what's the matter, there's a good lad."

Thus pressed, Arthur did at length confess that there had been a little disagreement. To confess the whole, even to Mark, he felt to be impossible. Though the object of his love might be lowered in his own eyes, he could not bear that others should see her faults. But he said enough to make Mark partly suspect the truth, and the latter shook his head and looked grave.

Then, by dint of questioning, he got Arthur to reveal the greater part of the circumstances, proceeding after that to reason with him, and to try to show how great a need of caution and deliberation there was in a matter which probably concerned the happiness of two lives.

But Arthur was an impatient listener, and scarcely replied to his friend's words. It was impossible for him to rest whilst he was yet uncertain about Carrie's movements. Very shortly he found an opportunity of leaving the room, this time unopposed by his friend, and hurrying into the street, he took the direction of Carrie's abode. Arrived opposite to it, he was rejoiced to see her face at the window. He motioned with his hand, and the face disappeared. A few minutes afterwards she herself appeared at the door, and walked across the street to join him.

It had now ceased raining, though the day continued as dark as ever. As Carrie drew near him, Arthur saw that her eyes were red, as if from crying, and immediately his heart went out to her in a gush of forgiving tenderness.

He took her hand as though they had not already met that morning, and together they walked on in silence.

"Will you forgive me for my angry words this morning?" asked Arthur, first breaking the silence in a timid voice, and without venturing to look into his companion's face. "I did not know what I was saying."

"Will you forgive me for doing what you didn't wish me to?" was Carrie's low-voiced reply. "I am very sorry. I will not do it again."

They were near their favourite place of meeting in Torrington Square. At the moment only one or two people were in sight at the farthest end of the square, and the distant roll of vehicles was the only sound which broke the stillness of the dull January afternoon.

"Carrie!" whispered Arthur, grasping her hand as he walked on, and feeling that it trembled.

She looked into his face with a sweet smile and a questioning expression. He went on in low and eager tones --

"Will you give me the right to guard and protect you, not only from a distance, as a friend, but by your side, for the rest of your life? Will you be my wife?"

"Do you care so much for me?" asked Carrie, the sweet smile mingling with a light blush, so that she looked yet more beautiful.

"I have loved you ever since I knew you, dearest," he returned. "Can you care for me a little?"

"I can love you with all the love I have," she replied. "Is that enough?"

The word "love," uttered for the first time by her lips, smote upon the finest chords of Arthur's being, and left them throbbing with an intensity that almost deprived him of consciousness. He could only once more press her hand, when several people appeared turning the corner of the square, and coming towards them.

What had these innocent strangers done that Arthur should curse them in his heart with the bitterest of curses?

All the afternoon, all the dull, sad, dripping afternoon, till the lamplighter began to hurry on his blessed mission along the sloppy streets, did the two wander side by side, absolutely ignorant of the places they passed; listening to nothing but the sweet utterances of each other's lips, seeing nothing but the glad looks upon each other's faces. The day of unutterable gloom and misery had set in such an outbreak of glorious light as neither had ever known. What was it to them that the rain had recommenced with the coming night, that a chill, bitter wind had begun to rock the leafless boughs in the middle of the square? Other pedestrians hurried by with nipped faces and wet clothes, eager to reach the warmth and comfort of home; but for these two there was no home possessing anything like the attraction of these hideous streets. When it rained they opened their umbrellas; but, finding them inconvenient, Carrie soon closed hers and made Arthur's suffice for both, availing herself of the chance to slip her little gloved hand delicately through Arthur's arm, where it was immediately pressed warm and tight against his throbbing heart.

Consideration for his companion was the only feeling capable of arousing Arthur from his delicious trance. At length he insisted upon her going home, and she, after much resistance, consented.

They were close to Huntley Street and to Carrie's abode when they passed the pitch-dark entrance to some mews.

"We had better say good-bye here," said Arthur. "Then you must run on home quickly."

He drew her gently beneath the archway, pressed her closely to his heart and kissed her.

"Will you always love me so, Arthur?" whispered Carrie, sighing with fulness of joy.

"Always, darling," he replied, fervently; "as long as I have breath."

They then parted, Carrie running quickly home, Arthur turning to walk by a roundabout way. He did not feel ready to face his friend Mark at once. It was nearly eight o'clock when he at length entered, and he was glad to find Mark absent. In his excitement he had forgotten that the latter would be at the club as usual.

That night Arthur said not a word of his happiness. On the following day he found time, however, to visit the Registrar's Office and to give notice of an intended marriage between himself and Carrie. Neither of them had parent or guardian, so the fact that they were both under age was of no consequence. At the end of three weeks the marriage could be performed.

Wholly wrapped up as he was in one subject, Arthur would have been in danger of entirely forgetting the aims and aspirations which had so lately been the sole guides of his life, had it not been for the friendship of William Noble. Greatly as Arthur could not but admire the latter, he had grown of late almost to dread the frequent meetings with him and the long, earnest conversations into which Noble never failed to draw him. The secret of this uneasiness lay in the feeling that Noble's daily life contained a reproach, a protest against the habit of mind into which his friend had fallen of late, though Noble's own words and manner implied nothing less than a reproachful feeling. William's life was one of steady, patient, unremitting toil; toil, moreover, thoroughly fruitful for himself and those with whom he came into connection. The son of parents who had earned their daily bread by the coarsest manual labour, and who had been unable to give him any education beyond mere reading and writing, he had so wrought his way upwards by virtue of persistent labour, vitalised by a source of innate ability, that now, at the age of twenty-four, he found himself possessed of knowledge quite wonderful for a man in his position of life, and, what is better still, of an unflagging energy ever ready to operate in obedience to the dictates of a sound, healthy judgment, and a most tender, sympathetic, charitable heart. In the presence of this man Arthur felt his genius rebuked.

On the Saturday preceding his last week of surprise, Noble proposed that they should spend the following afternoon in a visit to the house of the young lady whom he had spoken of as "Lucy."

"But shall I be a, welcome visitor?" asked Arthur, who could not help regretting a walk with Carrie. "A perfect stranger, you see ----"

"Oh, you don't know them," interposed Noble, with a smile. "Mr. Venning, that's Lucy's father", is always glad to see me and any friend of mine. I have often spoken to him of you, and he is anxious to see you.

"But shall I not be in your way?"

"If you were likely to be, Golding, I shouldn't ask you," replied Noble, calmly. "As I have told you, Lucy regards me -- as yet -- with nothing but friendship, and I always go there as a mere friend. Do you care to come?"

"Oh, yes, I shall be very glad indeed to come," replied Arthur, ashamed of his hesitation as soon as he saw that a refusal would really pain his friend.

So the same evening he was obliged to inform Carrie that he should only be able to spend the Sunday morning with her, and not the whole day, the reason being that he was obliged to visit a friend.

"A friend! What friend?" asked Carrie, sharply.

Arthur, to avoid further questioning, explained the circumstances in detail.

"And you would rather go to see strange people that you know nothing about than spend the time with me?" said Carrie, in a tone of annoyance.

"You know I would not rather do so, Carrie," replied Arthur. "I have explained the case to you. You must see that it is impossible for me to refuse."

"I don't see that it is. You could say that you were engaged. I can't do without you all day to-morrow. You must write and say you find you have another engagement."

"It is impossible to do so, Carrie," urged Arthur, in his quietest tone. "It would be unkind, it would be rude to do so."

"I'm sure I think it's much ruder to leave me," retorted the girl, separating herself some feet from his side as they walked along together. "You are getting not to care about me at all. That's the second thing you've refused me in one day. I asked you to take me to the theatre to-night, and you refused, and now you refuse to see me for a whole day."

"You shouldn't speak so, dearest," urged Arthur, drawing close to her again. "I don't refuse to see you for a whole day. I shall be with you all the morning, if it's fine; and then, if you like, I will see you when I come back at night. And as to the theatre, you know why I don't wish to take you. I can't afford to pay for a good place, and I don't choose that you should crowd in with a lot of vulgar people; it isn't nice."

It was not the first time that Arthur had adopted this tone in speaking to Carrie. In his attempt to exalt her nature above the level on which it had hitherto moved, he, the democratic agitator, the ardent sympathiser with the most miserable of poverty's victims, waxed quite aristocratic in his conversation. In his heart he would rather have seen Carrie fall into the most complete snobbishness on the subject of riches and rank than continue at rest among the sympathies with vulgar life with which she had grown up. At present his passion was too earnest to permit of his playing the pedant, but already he looked forward to their marriage as affording him an opportunity of educating Carrie and rendering her, from an intellectual point of view, more worthy of his devotion.

After the above conversation they parted with rather less of their usual fervour.

"When shall I see you to-morrow morning, Carrie?" asked Arthur.

"Oh, I don't know," replied the girl. "The usual time, I suppose."

"Of course if it isn't fine you mustn't expect me."

"Very well. You will have all the more time with, your friend."

So saying, Carrie walked off, and Arthur returned home miserable to the heart's core. Luckily it was fine on the following morning, and something like a reconciliation was patched up between them, but still Carrie could not part from her lover at noon without speaking with some bitterness of his "friends," and Arthur was not sorry to look forward to Will Noble's society as a relief from these petty troubles which yet gave him such exquisite pain.

As it was a clear, frosty afternoon the walk towards the East End was agreeable. Noble was in excellent spirits, probably because he was about to see Lucy, and talked in his most cheerful vein all the way. In reply to Arthur's request for some information with regard to Mr. Venning, he told him that the latter was by trade a flute manufacturer, but not in very flourishing circumstances. His wife had been long dead and he had one child, Lucy, who was employed as a "fitter-on," or in some such capacity, in the show-rooms of a large East End millinery establishment. Hereupon he diverged into a eulogy of Lucy, speaking with delicate appreciation of her beauty, her modesty, her cleverness. Arthur was rather amused to see his friend under this new aspect, but at the same time it gave him pain. How unlike was his own passion to this calm, deep, persevering affection.

On arriving at the shop they of course found it closed, and knocked for admission at a side door. Mr. Venning himself replied to the summons, and forthwith led them into a small parlour. He was a middle-aged man, short in stature and with his left foot distorted, so that he walked very lame. In face he was somewhat care-worn, but his features wore a singularly sweet and amiable expression. In his eyes was a rather absent look, indicating that he was addicted to reverie. When he spoke his voice was low and musical. He wore neither beard nor moustache, the absence of these increasing the female cast of his countenance. His dress, though very plain and showing signs of poverty, was fastidiously neat, and Arthur observed that his hands were of a wonderful delicacy.

"Mr. Golding," said Noble, as they all took seats in the little parlour, "is an intimate friend of mine, and I felt sure you would thank me for bringing him to see you. He has the same interests at heart as ourselves, Mr. Venning."

"I am always rejoiced to see any of William Noble's friends," returned Mr. Venning, looking at Arthur with his captivating smile, and speaking in a very quiet tone, which was still cordial. "And especially on Sunday afternoon when I have leisure to sit quietly at home. Next to the society of my good friends, Mr. Golding, I have no pleasure so great as that of sitting quite still and in perfect silence. Since two o'clock I have been holding a very pleasant conversation with the fire, its cracking seemed to make answers to my thoughts. How fond I am of the stillness of the Sunday! This street is never noisy, but on Sunday not a sound reaches this parlour."

In the low, sweet tones of the speaker's voice there was something singularly soothing, something which invited irresistibly to the same perfect calm of which he spoke. In making a reply, Arthur insensibly lowered his voice to the same pitch. Loud speech in this silent little room would have appeared profanation.

"It is wonderfully quiet, indeed," he replied. "One could almost imagine he was in a little country town, such remote, peaceful places as I have read of, but, I am' sorry to say, have never seen."

"Does it make you think of that?" inquired Mr. Venning, with a quick look almost of gratitude. "Now that is the very feeling it awakens in me. And that is why I love it so, this Sabbath stillness, for it reminds me of the village I was born in. That was a little place close by the River Don in Yorkshire. You have read Scott's 'Ivanhoe,' Mr. Golding?"

"Yes, 0 yes!" replied Arthur. It was one of the first books he had read with Mr. Tollady, and the mention of it awakened pleasant thoughts.

"Then you will remember Conisboro' Castle. It is now a grey old ruin, and within sight of that I was born. Our house was a very small one, and was quite overshadowed by a huge elm. Hush! I can almost fancy that I hear the low whistling of its leaves on a midsummer afternoon, when (lazy boy that I was) I used to lie at full length in the warm sunshine on the floor of my little bedroom, and read. I think it must have been those afternoons that gave me my liking for quiet solitude."

He sighed slightly, but the next moment broke into a quiet laugh.

"It is a happy thing for me," he said, without looking at either of his companions, "that I can think of those dear old times with nothing but pure delight, though I know so well that I shall never leave London again. It used to be my ambition to work hard and make money -- just enough to live upon, no more -- and then to go back to my native place with Lucy and, in our Father's good time, be buried in the dear old church-yard. But now I know it is impossible, and, as I am sure that everything that happens to us is for the best, I do not sorrow over it."

There was silence for a few moments, broken at length by Noble.

"I suppose Lucy has not returned yet?" he asked.

"No," returned Mr. Venning, looking up with a smile. "She is still at the Sunday-school. But she cannot be more than a quarter of an hour now. How does the club get on, William?"

Noble shook his head with a rather sad smile.

"There are only five of us left," he replied. "Several have left of late from unavoidable causes, but others, I am afraid, have grown tired of the work. The other societies, which have amusement and politics for their chief aims, have attracted several."

"Well, well," said Mr. Venning, "perhaps it is too much to expect. There are not many that have your steady courage, William."

"Or perhaps it would be more correct to say," remarked Noble, "that the others are not so strongly impressed with the necessity of the work as I am."

As he spoke a light knock was heard at the outer door. Mr. Venning was to his feet.

"You recognise her hand, William?" he said, smiling. "She is so gentle, I don't think she could reconcile herself to strike even the door hard."

And he left the room, laughing in his quiet way. The next moment a light step sounded in the passage, and Lucy Venning entered the parlour. Very charming she looked in her simple walking attire, and the start and blush with which she noticed the presence of strangers were delightfully natural.

"You didn't tell me you had company, father," she said, turning to Mr. Venning with a tone of playful reproach.

"I quite forgot to mention it," replied her father, with a smile to the two young men. "One of my visitors, I fancy, is known to you, Lucy. This is Mr. Golding, a friend of William's."

Lucy offered her hand to Noble, and bowed to Arthur in a pleasant way.

"It is a very long time since we have seen you, Mr. Noble," she said, without venturing, however, to meet his eye directly.

"I do not venture to disturb your Sundays too often," was Noble's reply, whilst the accession of colour to his cheek bespoke the pleasure with which he heard Lucy's regret.

"I'm sure it is anything but disturbing us," returned Lucy, affecting to have trouble in unbuttoning her glove. "We have scarcely another friend who comes to see us. You have of course asked these gentlemen to take a cup of tea with us, father?"

"I omitted to ask them, I am afraid, dear," replied Mr. Venning, whose eyes had been wandering with something of troubled interest between his daughter's face and that of William Noble. "But it was only because I took that for granted."

Noble and Arthur exchanged glances.

"We mustn't ask too much of your good nature, Miss Venning," said Noble.

"No, and therefore you mustn't ask Lucy to excuse you," put in Mr. Venning, with a quiet laugh. "Run up and take off your hat and cloak, Lucy, and I will see that the kettle boils."

With a smile at the visitors and a glance of affection at her father, Lucy left the room. In a very few minutes she returned, and proceeded to cover the round table with a white cloth. As she was engaged in placing the tea things, the ringing of a bell in the street outside broke the silence.

"There is the crumpet-man," said Mr. Venning; "we must levy a contribution upon him this evening, Lucy."

A few minutes after Lucy was engaged in toasting crumpets, and, when they were done, all drew up to the table. The room was now the image of home comfort. The heavy green curtains had been drawn close before the window, and though the bright blaze of the fire rendered it almost needless, a large oil lamp stood in the centre of the tea-table. The furniture of the room was extremely simple, but Arthur had already noticed that in one corner stood a small piano, and he wondered whether father or daughter played. On the side over against the fire-place stood a very high, old-fashioned chest of drawers, the top covered with a white cloth, upon which were ranged a few carefully-kept volumes. On the mantel-piece, which was also high and old-fashioned, stood several quaint figures of wood. On the walls were several pictures, all representing quiet country scenes -- without doubt the choice of Mr. Venning. As Arthur seated himself at the table, he experienced a sense of delightful comfort such as he had never known. It was the first time in his life that he had enjoyed the sight of such a truly home-like picture.

"A good class this afternoon, Lucy?" asked Mr. Venning, as he passed the cups of tea to his visitors.

"Better than usual, father," replied Lucy. "I hadn't the least trouble with any of the children. Poor Nellie Wick was unable to come again. Her mother sent a note to say her cough was much worse to-day."

"Poor child! you must go and see her, Lucy."

"I did as I came from school, and Mr. Heatherley walked with me. Mr. Heatherley says he is very much afraid there is no hope for her. I fancy, father, if it were not for him, poor Mrs. Wick would have been in the workhouse long since."

"Mr. Heatherley is the clergyman whose chapel we attend, Mr. Golding," said her father. "He is a most excellent man, a man who does endless good in the neighbourhood, and all in the quietest way."

William Noble kept his eyes fixed on Lucy's face whilst her father was speaking, and for a moment she met his glance. Her face reddened slightly, and she turned away under the pretence of filling the tea-pot. There was a short silence which Noble himself broke.

"Does the lady you told me of -- I forget her name -- still continue to teach her evening school?" he asked, addressing himself to Mr. Venning.

"Miss Norman?" returned the latter. "Oh, yes. And what is more, she has taken quite a fancy to Lucy. She makes quite a friend of her."

Arthur started as he heard the name pronounced, and with difficulty concealed his surprise. Mr. Venning noticed something of it, and interpreted it into a desire for explanation.

"Miss Norman," he said, accordingly, "is a very wealthy young lady, who spends nearly all her time in efforts to help the poor, Mr. Golding. She is a friend of Mr. Heatherley's, and I think it was very likely at his suggestion that she began free evening-classes for young girls who have never been taught anything in their lives. She has nearly twenty pupils, hasn't she, Lucy?"

"Twenty-one, father."

"And Lucy is her assistant teacher," went on Mr. Venning. "I should like you to hear Lucy speak of her as she sometimes does to me. You would both be as curious to see her as I am."

"Indeed, father," said the girl, earnestly, "she deserves everything I say, and much more. I am sure there can be very few rich ladies like Miss Norman. If there were, there would not be half so many poor. And she is so unpretending, you would think she was not at all above the poor girls she teaches. They are all passionately fond of her."

Lucy paused suddenly, and blushed to find the eyes of all three fixed upon her. In her enthusiasm she had spoken with a boldness very unusual in her. Arthur, who listened with eagerness to every word that was said, feared lest the conversation might turn to another topic, and was the first to speak.

"Does this lady live in the neighbourhood?" he asked, addressing Lucy.

"Oh, no," replied the latter, "she lives somewhere in the West End, and comes to this part nearly every day. I am afraid, father, she is doing too much. I have noticed her growing paler and more worn-looking of late. She has worked for half a year now without any rest. But nothing will keep her back when she thinks she can do good. You know, father, one of Mrs. Willing's children has got the small-pox, and all the neighbours are afraid to go into the house; but Miss Norman goes every day. I heard Mr. Heatherley begging her to leave the care of Mrs. Willing to him, but she said that her visits seemed to cheer the poor woman, and she could not bear to keep away.

"She would make Mr. Heatherley a good wife, wouldn't she, Lucy?" asked her father, smiling.

Lucy was then putting a piece of sugar into her father's teacup, and it suddenly dropped from the sugar-tongs into the saucer. She blushed and seemed embarrassed for a reply. Noble, whom none could exceed in delicacy of apprehension, relieved her by introducing some other subject. Tea over, all made a circle round the fire, and Mr. Venning rendered the little circle cheerful with his conversation. He kept up a quiet, genial flow of talk which pleased at once by its agreeable naïveté and the unmistakable desire to please which manifested itself in every word. At times he was witty, at others he showed a sincere spirit of piety which excited involuntary reverence in his hearers. But of whatever he spoke, his words indicated the calm, clear mind, a sweet resignation flowing from the belief that everything in this world is arranged for the best, though the reason for so much suffering and wrong is often difficult to acknowledge.

"You are not going to send us away without any music, Mr. Venning?" asked Noble, when the clock upon the mantelpiece showed that it was nearly nine.

Mr. Venning looked with a smile towards his daughter, then turned to Arthur.

"You must not think, Mr. Golding," he said, "that because I earn my living by making musical instruments, I am a skilled musician. I now and then play a little, however, on the piano there, and Lucy sings to my accompaniment. William always tells us he has pleasure in our music, and with him we have no feeling of hesitation. But I scarcely know whether you ----"

Arthur interposed with a request that they by all means give him the pleasure of hearing them, and Mr. Venning accordingly took his seat at the piano. Lucy took a place at his side, and sang several simple hymns, compositions which, like the overwhelming majority of English devotional hymns, had no special merit, but which acquired the interest they naturally lacked by virtue of Lucy's sweet voice and earnest feeling. Neither she nor her father used a book, and the performance had a perfectly spontaneous character which removed it altogether from the reach of criticism. William Noble's face, as he listened to Lucy's singing, expressed deep emotion. Arthur noticed that, after watching the girl's features for a few minutes, he turned his eyes away and appeared to suffer keenly.

Very shortly after this the two friends left, Arthur receiving a warm invitation from Mr. Venning to repeat his visit as soon as possible. He walked on by Noble's side in silence for some time; both too occupied with their very different thoughts to exchange words. Noble was the first to break the silence.

"I never can say whether these visits give me more pleasure or pain," he said. "If I were to act upon my present feelings I should never go there again; but I know very well that tomorrow I shall have nothing but pleasant remembrances, and desires to see them both as soon as possible."

"But why do you feel otherwise at present?" asked Arthur. "I really could see nothing but the utmost friendliness in Miss Venning's manner to you."

"Friendliness; aye, that is just it, Golding! It is real friendliness -- but nothing more."

"Do you suppose, then, that she is attached to anyone else?"

"I will ask you another question," returned Noble. "Do you remember her dropping the lump of sugar at tea?"

"Yes! but what has that to do with the matter?"

"Ha, ha! You need a lover's eyes and ears to note those things, Golding. Why, it was at the moment when her father had said that Miss Norman would make the clergyman a good wife."

"And -- you suppose she is in love with the clergyman?" asked Arthur, in surprise.

"I feel sure of it. I have noticed her too closely and too frequently to doubt it."

"But what sort of a man is this Mr. Heatherley?"

"I never saw him, but I understand that he is young, handsome, energetic, good-hearted; all, in short, that a man can be to please a girl of Lucy's disposition."

"But -- excuse the question, Noble -- wouldn't he consider Miss Venning rather below his station?"

"Lucy is below no one," said Noble, decisively; "and what's more, Heatherley is the man to recognise that. He is a Radical in politics and social views, and if he fell in love with the poorest girl on earth he would see nothing to prevent his marrying her."

"But this Miss Norman," urged Arthur -- "isn't that her name? -- Mr. Venning seemed to hint at some connection with her? Do you think it possible?"

"I have not the least idea. Neither Miss Norman nor Mr. Heatherley is known to me. But I suppose it is not unlikely that a girl of her sympathies should make such a man her ideal. However, as I tell you, I know nothing of the matter."

"I dare say you wouldn't be sorry," said Arthur, "to hear that Heatherley was disposed of in that direction?"

"I cannot say," returned Noble, holding his head up as he walked. "I love Lucy Venning with all my heart, and should be glad to make her my wife because I feel sure she could marry no one who would be more devoted to her happiness. But if I find that her love for Heatherley continues, and that my position is hopeless, then I shall be glad if her love is returned. It would be selfish to feel otherwise."

There were thoughts at that moment in Arthur's heart which made this high-minded utterance sound to him like a rebuke. Their talk was on other matters during the rest of the walk, and when at length they separated, Arthur said --

"Bye-the-by, I think I haven't told you that I am to be married to-morrow?"

"Told me!" returned his friend, in astonishment. "Of course you never did! What the deuce do you mean, Golding, by stealing a march on me in that way?"

Arthur laughed and held out his hand.

"Where is it to be?" asked Noble, who returned the other's grasp.

"Oh, at the Registry Office, of course. As you know, I am no great friend to the Church."

"And when will you introduce me to your wife?"

"When you like," said Arthur, carelessly. "We shall live in my present quarters, as Challenger insists on turning out and getting another place. He's always a good-hearted fellow."

"Well, every wish for your happiness, Golding," said Noble; you deserve the utmost.

Upon this they parted, and Arthur walked slowly homewards with a vague heaviness at his heart.



The Waghorns returned to England towards the end of October, and forthwith took up their residence in a stately house in the neighbourhood of Regent's Park. The first intimation Helen Norman received of their presence in London was a personal visit. One day they drove up together in a brougham, and, as Mrs. Cumberbatch happened to be out, Helen had to receive them in solitary grandeur. It was not an enviable task, for, considering the terms on which she had last parted from Maud, she might reasonably be in doubt as to how she should behave towards her.

The commencement of the interview was formal. Mr. John Waghorn, respectable as ever, was profuse in expressions of interest. He feared that Miss Norman was not so well as when he had last seen her; certainly she looked somewhat pale. He feared she overworked herself in her never-to-be-sufficiently-lauded philanthropic undertakings. Helen, in her turn, manifested absorbing interest in her visitors. Maud was looking wonderfully well, and Mr. Waghorn appeared to enjoy something more than his usual robustness.

"And Mr. Gresham?" inquired the gentleman. "Have you heard from Mr. Gresham lately, Miss Norman?"

"We heard from Berlin about a fortnight ago," replied Helen. "Mr. Gresham was then in the enjoyment of good health."

"Would you believe it?" pursued Mr. Waghorn. "We became slightly acquainted, at Venice, with a gentleman who is one of Mr. Gresham's intimate friends, and who had left him not a fortnight before in Germany. That was the first intimation we had of his being on the Continent."

"Did he leave suddenly?" asked Maud, who was lolling hack in a low easy-chair, going lazily over the patterns of the carpet with the end of her umbrella. She spoke in a somewhat affected and languid tone, and without looking up.

"Rather suddenly," replied Helen, somewhat at a loss for a reply.

"Ah, I feared his health would give way," put in Mr. Waghorn. "I sincerely hope, Miss Norman, that you may not experience a similar misfortune. Indeed you are too devoted. You do not consider yourself sufficiently."

"You don't live altogether alone, I suppose?" asked Maud, glancing up for a moment at Helen's face.

"No," replied Helen. "An aunt of Mr. Gresham's, Mrs. Cumberbatch, is living here now. I am sorry to say she is out at present."

The conversation dragged on in this manner for some ten minutes, when Maud suddenly turned round towards her husband (she had been sitting with her back to him), and said --

"Don't you think it would be as well to go on into Oxford Street, and call for me here when you come back?"

"Possibly it might, my dear," replied Mr. Waghorn, with a slight cough and a quick glance at Helen. "You might perhaps ask, however, if Miss Norman is at liberty just now?"

Helen affirmed that she was entirely so.

"In that case I might do as you propose," said Mr. Waghorn. "I shall perhaps be a little more than half-an-hour. I will say good-bye for the present, Miss Norman."

And he withdrew with much grace of manner. The moment the door had closed upon him, Maud suddenly jumped up from her seat and, with a laugh of delight, flung her arms round Helen's neck.

"Come, come and sit down by me, you dear old beauty!" she exclaimed, kissing her friend and laughing heartily between the kisses. "Here, on the sofa. Don't be afraid of spoiling my dress. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into fits of laughter whilst that man was by -- it was so absurdly comical to see you receiving us with that stately dignity which becomes you so well, and to hear you talking polite small-talk in a way which didn't become you at all! Now confess, you didn't know whether to treat me as a friend or an enemy, did you?"

"It is true," returned Helen, "that I scarcely felt safe speaking to Mrs. Waghorn as I had once been used to talk to Maud Gresham. I can't tell you how glad I am, Maud, to hear you speak in your old way."

"Yes, yes," cried the other; "call me Maud. Let Mrs. Waghorn go to -- the old gentleman, as far as we two are concerned, Helen! That name is a mere outward garment, something I put on occasionally for show, as I do these silks and satins when I go out to pay visits. If you love me, Pallas, never a word of Mrs. Waghorn!"

Helen was pained to hear her friend speaking thus. It confirmed old fears, and once more clouded her countenance.

"Are you not happy in your marriage, Maud?" she asked, quietly.

"Happy? Oh, as the day is long! I have enough to eat and drink, a good house to live in, what I like to wear, and carriage to drive about to my friends. Why should I not be happy, 0, goddess of wisdom?"

"But your husband, Maud. Does not Mr. Waghorn enter into your list of blessings?"

"What a delightfully innocent creature you are!" exclaimed Maud, passing her arm round her companion's waist. "Have you the felicity to think that a husband can by any possibility be a blessing? Now let us understand each other once for all. Waghorn is neither a blessing nor a curse to me, but something totally indifferent. He lives his life, and I live mine, and as long as that life of his doesn't encroach upon my peculiar privileges I have nothing to say to him good or bad. You understand?"

Helen looked into the speaker's face with pained surprise.

"Why bless you, Pallas!" cried Maud, "what is there in all this to trouble one's head about! Don't you know that this is marriage à-la-mode, the way in which every matrimonial establishment with any pretension to elegance is conducted?"

"I am very ignorant in such matters," returned Helen, "but it appears to me very dreadful."

"No doubt it does, my dear child. And to you it would be dreadful. But for me, who knew exactly what it would be like before I actually experienced it, I assure you it is the most natural thing in the world. You are as different from me and the million other women who resemble me, Helen, as chalk is from cheese. Suppose I saw you suddenly seized with an infatuation for a man like Waghorn, and on the point of marrying him, do you know what I should do? I should hang upon you night and day till I had forced you to break off the engagement; I would let you have no peace; if I couldn't prevail otherwise, I would bring out one of the beautiful little pistols I carry about in my dressing-case and shoot the man that was to marry you. I would do anything rather than see you plunge into such a gulf of misery!"

"But why would you take such pains to save me from what you encounter yourself with your eyes open?"

"Because I have got brains to recognise a merit superior to my own, and a heart to cherish affection for an old friend. And that is what I want you to understand, Helen. Come, will you make a compact with me? Will you promise me that, however you see me behave before other people, however much you learn to despise me, you will still keep one little corner of your heart open to me? Promise that you will come and see me often, and that you will let me come and see you. In all London I shall not have any one but you that I can really call a friend; I know very well I shall not. You must let me come and talk seriously for a few minutes with you when I am weary of chattering nonsense to a houseful of fools. Now will you promise me all this, Pallas?"

"But it seems very sad, Maud," replied Helen, "that you should see so clearly into all your errors, and yet lack the resolution to correct them. Instead of making a friend of me in your tired-out moments only, why not let me be your friend at all times? Why not throw away all this affectation of giddiness -- I am sure it can be nothing but affectation -- and settle down to a steady useful life?"

"Why not? Why, because I am not Helen Norman, nor anything like her. That is the reason, my dear girl. You must not try to reason me out of my nature, Helen. The leopard can't change his spots, you know. But upon my word I speak the truth when I say that I have a little bit of brain and a little bit of heart still available. Possibly they may be made to expand and grow with judicious watering, I won't deliver any opinion on the point. Shall we be friends on these terms, Helen?"

"It is impossible for me to regard you otherwise than with kindness, Maud," replied her companion; "but how can real friendship subsist under such circumstances as these?"

"Oh, never mind the name!" cried Maud, impatiently. "Let us call it enmity, if you will, provided you agree to live on these terms. Shall I whisper a secret into your chaste ear, Pallas. I feel within myself now and then possibilities of wickedness which would startle you if I dared name them How shall I combat these? You know already that I have no such thing as principle to fall back upon, and as to the world's opinion, well, that can be preserved under any circumstances by one who possesses a little tact. So the fact is, Helen, I must look upon you as my principle, personified. I must have this friendship of yours to stand fast upon if I feel that which it used to be the fashion to call the devil getting hold of me. Do you understand!"

Helen was on the point of replying when suddenly the door opened and admitted Mrs. Cumberbatch. Helen had to perform the ceremony of introduction, after which the conversation once more assumed a commonplace character. Mrs. Cumberbatch's sharp little eyes never ceased to examine Maud's; whilst the latter seemed to find amusement in "drawing out" her grand-aunt. The conversation was chiefly carried on between these two, as Helen was too much occupied in reflecting upon Maud's words to take much part in it. It was a relief to her when at length Mr. Waghorn re-appeared. Once more the introduction had to be gone through, after which followed a few more polite commonplaces from each one present, and then Mr. and Mrs. Waghorn rose to depart. As Maud shook hands with Helen, she whispered --


Helen's thoughts followed the two home in their carriage, wondering greatly whether Maud had not exaggerated the indifference between herself and her husband. We, who are privileged to intrude into the most private recesses of the heart, need hesitate little to take a seat in the brougham of a lately-married couple and overhear their conversation.

"Where to now?" was Maud's question, as Mr. Waghorn, after giving directions to the coachman, entered and took his seat opposite her. She did not look at him as she spoke, but occupied herself in rustling over the leaves of a novel from Mudie's.

"To the Edwards's," replied her husband, with something of a scowl upon his face.

There was silence for a few minutes, and Mr. Waghorn was the first to break it.

"I want you to pay attention to me for a minute," he said, bending slightly forward.

"Well?" returned Maud, without raising her face.

"Look at me!" exclaimed the other, stamping his foot.

"I can hear quite well," persisted Maud, still rustling her pages.

"Look at me!" he almost shouted, clenching his fist; "or, by God ----"

Maud raised her face for a moment, and it was rather pale. But she did not speak.

"I want you to understand one thing," went on Mr. Waghorn, satisfied with having forced her to submit, and preserving in his tone but little of that suave politeness which distinguished him in society. "You may be as damned sulky as you please when we're alone together; for that I don't care a snap. But when we're obliged to be seen in each other's company, I'll thank you to show me a little more politeness. Do you hear?"

"I can hear quite well, as I said before. If you wish the coachman to hear too, why not beg him to take a seat here for a few minutes? It would save you raising your voice, and I should feel somewhat safer with his protection to look to."

"If you give me any of your blasted impudence," returned Mr. Waghorn, his face livid with passion, "you'll have need for protection in earnest. You've heard what I said. Just heed it, or I'll make you!"

And so the colloquy ended. It was not the first of the kind that had taken place between the two. In all probability it would not be the last.

Mr. John Waghorn had not been altogether wrong when he said that Helen did not look so well as she had once done, and as the year drew to a close she continued to grow paler. Her eyes seemed to lose something of their wonted joyous brightness, and oftener showed instead a dull and fixed intensity of gaze which unmistakably denoted over-application. For several months now she had been working with an energy which only a strong man would have been able to support long. Daily she spent many hours in her toil among the poor and miserable, breathing air charged with all manner of foulness, omitting no possible chance of making her work as complete as possible. As we have heard Lucy Venning testify, she would not allow herself to be withheld by any fear of evil consequences to her bodily health, penetrating into sickness -- haunted homes where others were afraid to go, finding her sole reward in the increased opportunities for exertion which there lay before her. In several cases she had already spent whole nights watching by sick beds, fulfilling all the duties of a hospital nurse, and deriving a sense of pleasure from her increasing skill and knowledge. Then she had her school two nights of the week, on which she toiled with unceasing energy, for here she felt ,that she was making clearly visible progress, and every lesson well learnt, every, good habit inculcated, cheered her on to renewed exertions. In addition to all this she never failed to spend some portion of the day in self-improvement, pursuing a course of severe technical study which she had laid out for herself. Most generally the early hours of the morning were spent thus, for she was never later than six in rising. So completely was her life one of stern self-sacrifice that, in her moments of calm reflection, she felt that she was growing to understand something of the ascetic's zeal, and asked herself with a smile whether she might not possibly develop into a veritable ascetic, loving to toil merely for the sake of toiling and the sweetness of self-imposed pain? Indeed it is not at all unlikely that to the increasing sternness of her temperament was due the course of thought she pursued with regard to Maud. A year ago she would hardly have met Maud's appeal as now she did. Her affection had become less effusive, her mind more used to stern combat with the bitterest problems of life.

Though severe application of any kind has a tendency to increase seriousness, it is only labour which has in it very much of the distasteful and disappointing that embitters the spirit. There was in Helen's character far too much of genuine firmness, of exalted purpose, of inexhaustible sympathy to permit of her ever being soured by tasks of whatever distastefulness; and yet in all probability it was the circumstance of her having so often to encounter grievous disappointment, and experience deep disgust in the course of her work, which began by degrees to impart to her perseverance a character of grim stubbornness where there had at first been only cheerful persistence. Many times was she obliged to confess in her inmost heart that, prepared as she had been to combat with horrors, her imagination had been far from encompassing the full extent of hideous suffering and wickedness which it was her daily lot to strive against. When she confessed to Mr. Heatherley that she was often brought to a pause by ingratitude, stubborn lack of confidence, and similar evils among the poor, she was only on the threshold of her labour; when she passed over from the old year to the new she had grown inured to these evils, and, as I have said, they were gradually converting her cheerfulness into stubbornness. On New Year's eve she spent several hours in reflection upon the past half-year, and the result of it was a night made sleepless by discontent and fear -- fear for the future lest her bodily strength should give way or her resolution faint. She concluded that her aims had been too high, that she must cease to hope for such great results, and be content if she made any progress at all. The dispensary had now been open for three months, and was doing good work -- there was certainly satisfaction in that. Then again when she thought of her school she obtained a glimpse of true encouragement. There was toil enough there, it is true, but not toil of such a hopeless and repulsive kind as that among nature petrified by long years of vice and crime. Among the bright young faces which met her each Tuesday and Saturday night, Helen always recovered her cheerfulness and her hope, and it was in thinking of these and in making plans for their better instruction during the year to come that she at length sunk to sleep.

Her life at home was a very lonely one. With Mrs. Cumberbatch she had no sympathy whatever, and, though the latter frequently forced her society upon her, she regarded this as an infliction rather than a relief. From time to time she saw Maud, and listened, half in wonder, half in pain, to the strange revelation which that young lady seemed to delight in making of her own cynicism and frivolity, but it appeared so impossible to penetrate to any source of genuine feeling that Helen grew somewhat weary of these bizarre conversations. Very occasionally indeed she visited Maud's house, but the certainty of finding it full of people who excited nothing but disgust in her soon led her almost entirely to cease these visits. To one of these, however, we must refer more in detail, seeing that it was the occasion of her meeting once more with very old acquaintances.

She had called rather early in the morning and was shown by the servant into the small drawing-room where she usually saw Maud in private. After she had waited nearly a quarter of an hour the door opened, but no one immediately entered. Helen could distinctly hear Maud's voice chattering to some one, and interrupting her chattering with bursts of laughter.

"Come," said Maud, at length, pushing the door wide open, "we shall be safe from interruption here. But mind, you mustn't tell me any more of those ridiculous stories. I shall positively die of laughing!"

Helen had risen to her feet, and, before she was herself perceived, saw Maud entering with her face turned back towards a tall and elegant looking young man, who was smiling as if highly pleased with himself. When Maud a moment after turned her head and perceived Helen, she started and went suddenly pale. Her discomposure only lasted for a second; then she advanced towards her visitor in her usual manner, with both hands extended.

"Why, however long have you been waiting?" she asked, in a tone of the utmost surprise. "No one told me you were here."

"I have only been here a very few minutes," replied Helen, somewhat disconcerted by a consciousness that the young man present was not entirely unknown to her, though she could not exactly recognise him.

"How desperately provoking!" pursued Maud, in the voice which she was wont, in private conversation with Helen, to term her "society voice." "Well, you are an early visitor, but you see I have another still earlier. Of course you remember this gentleman?"

"I fear not," replied Helen, glancing slightly towards the young man.

"Oh, but I'm sure you must! It is such a very old friend."

"I have doubtless altered much since I last had the pleasure of seeing Miss Norman," here put in the gentleman referred to "We met then, if I am not mistaken, in the Rectory at Bloomford."

Helen was now freed from her doubts, but surprise took their place. She could scarcely believe that in this tall, handsome, elegant, well-spoken gentleman she saw the eldest son of the Rev. Mr. Whiffle, who had given her so, much amusement during the railway journey by his raw affectation of polite manners.

"I certainly thought I remembered your face, Mr. Whiffle," she said, extending her hand with the frank courtesy natural to her; "but till you spoke I could not decide upon your identity. I hope the elder Mr. Whiffle is quite well?"

"Oh, charming!" put in Maud, as she pointed to seats for her visitors. "Why I actually believe I never told you, Helen, but we attend St. Abinadab's -- Mr. Whiffle's church, you know. You must really come with us some Sunday; you would be delighted."

"You are living in London at present, Miss Norman?" asked Augustus.

"Yes," replied Helen, "I have lived here now almost a year."

"I think I understood from my father that you had been in Germany for some time?"

"Yes, I was there two years."

"Mr. Whiffle, you must know, Helen," put in Mrs. Waghorn, "is studying for the Church. Of course he could not adopt any other career, bearing in mind Mr. Orlando Whiffle's prominence. And the fact is he has inspired me with quite a zeal for ecclesiastical matters. The reason of his calling so early this morning was to make some arrangements with regard to a bazaar we are about to hold for the purpose of contributing towards the expense of wax tapers consumed in the church. You cannot conceive, Helen, how indispensable wax tapers are to the salvation of High Church souls. Other people's souls may possibly be saved by the light of vulgar gas or even tallow-candles, but for us wax tapers are absolutely indispensable."

Whilst Maud spoke, Augustus Whiffle kept looking from her face to that of her friend, and at last a smile rose to his lips.

"Mrs. Waghorn is rather fond of speaking satirically," he said. "Don't you find it so, Miss Norman?"

"Upon my word, not in the least!" exclaimed Maud, willing to spare Helen, who she saw hesitated how to meet such a question. "I really don't think I even know the meaning of that word 'satirical.' But as I said, Helen, Mr. Whiffle is studying for the Church. I constantly impress upon him that he must not let his zeal lead him to too severe study. I really think he begins to show the result of sleepless nights. What do you think, Helen?"

"Mr. Whiffle appears to me to enjoy very good health," replied Helen, who was suffering extremely from the nature of the conversation.

"You think so? I'm afraid you are too indulgent to people who over-work themselves. You must know, Mr. Whiffle, that Miss Norman is a severe student, quite a blue-stocking."

At this moment a servant knocked and entered.

"The Rev. Mr. Whiffle wishes to know if he can see you, ma'am."

But apparently the Rev. Mr. Whiffle could not wait to receive the permission, for his voice was immediately heard close behind the servant, calling out in a tone which at once announced the fashionable clergyman.

"Oh, tell Mrs. Waghorn that I won't detain her a moment. A matter of considerable importance. Am unable to wait very long, and regret that I cannot call at a later hour."

At the first sound of the voice Augustus Whiffle and Mrs. Waghorn had at once started to their feet, interchanging a glance of something very like consternation. Scarcely had they risen when Mr. Whiffle's form followed his voice, and he pushed into the room past the servant. He was dressed in the ordinary clerical suit, which indicated, however, in several places, that his old habit of personal negligence had not altogether deserted him. His ruddy hair, which had begun to grow much scantier than of old, still asserted its inherent stubbornness, and his eyes still had the droll wide-open expression which had marked them when their possessor was a curate at Bloomford. But in person he was becoming quite stout, and, whether it was due to the physical cause, or adopted as an appropriate indication of importance, he had acquired a habit of puffing between his sentences, which, bye-the-by, were spoken in a much louder and more consequential voice than of old. For all this, Helen would have known him anywhere, and at present his appearance afforded her such unutterable relief that she really felt glad to see him.

As Mr. Whiffle's eyes fell upon his son and heir they became wider than ever, and he paused in the middle of a loud greeting to Mrs. Waghorn.

"What! You here, Gus!" he continued, putting a gold-rimmed pince-nez upon his nose. "I had not the remotest knowledge of the fact that you were acquainted with Mrs. Waghorn! I protest, it is an entire surprise to me! Mrs. Waghorn, I rejoice to see you looking so wonderfully well. This is trying weather, dreadfully trying weather; I can scarcely remember such weather since first I entered The Church, and I dare not think how many years ago that is. Ha! But whom have we here? Upon my word, I believe I have once more the pleasure, the delight, of seeing Miss Helen Norman, the daughter of my dear departed rector! Miss Norman, how do you do? Really I am overjoyed to see you! Been to old Bloomford lately, Miss Norman?"

"I have not seen Bloomford since I last called upon you there, Mr. Whiffle."

"You have not! Well, upon my word! Ah! there are sad goings on down at Bloomford, Miss Norman, very sad goings on, I assure you. During the period in which I enjoyed the inestimable honour of succeeding my dear departed rector in the incumbency of St. Peter's, I did my little utmost, Miss Norman, to establish a pure form of ritual, but I fear with little enduring result. I endured persecution, Miss Norman, which amounted to little less than martyrdom. You remember old Isaac Simpson, the retired tallow-chandler?"

"Very well," said Helen, smiling at the recollection.

"Well, would you believe it? that man was churchwarden during a portion of my incumbency, and he made it the object of his life to thwart me in my endeavour to establish a pure form of ritual. I placed a cross upon the communion table, following what I consider to have been the practice of the primal Church. Old Simpson took the first opportunity of removing it. I replaced it; old Simpson took it away again! Can you believe, Miss Norman, that old Simpson, the retired tallow-chandler, would have the unspeakable audacity to beard a rector of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as by law established in the performance of his ecclesiastical functions? I wrote a letter to the County Chronicle, wherein I spoke wrathfully, I confess, Miss Norman, and -- can you believe it? -- old Simpson was on the point of commencing an action for libel; fancy, an action against a clergyman of the Church of England; against a parson, persona ecclesiæ. But I persevered unto the end, Miss Norman, and I won the victory. Old Simpson died -- I discovered that he had never been baptised -- I refused to read the Burial Service over him!"

"But those days are happily gone by, Mr. Whiffle," interposed Maud. "At St. Abinadab's there are no such obstinate schismatics. There we have the purest of rituals, absolutely free from adulteration. But oh! how thankful I am that you triumphed over that odious Simpson! How delightful to be able to refuse to read the Service! Oh! what an admirable Church is the Church of England!"

"Thank you, Mrs. Waghorn, thank you," replied Mr. Whiffle. "If all my congregation were as ardent as you, I should indeed have little to wish for, and could at any moment intone the Nunc Dimittis with a clear voice and a quiet conscience. But I grieve to say that there is yet a drop of bitterness in my otherwise overflowing cup. Would you believe it, Mrs. Waghorn? I have only this morning received this anonymous letter, doubtless from some ill-guided member of my flock."

He pulled out an enormous bundle of letters from an inside pocket, and, after rummaging over them for some minutes, at length hit upon the one he sought.

"Now let me read you a paragraph or two from this letter, Miss Norman," he said. "You will marvel at the audacity of this fellow. Bear in mind, always, Mrs. Waghorn, that this is addressed to a clergyman of the Church of England -- nay to the Incumbent of St. Abinadab's. Hum -- hum -- hum -- Ah! I will begin here. 'I beg to call your attention to the fact that on six successive Sundays' -- so and so, so and so, and &c. -- 'you have made use of lighted candles upon the communion table, where they were evidently not needed for the purposes of light.' The paltry fellow! He ought to be thankful to anyone who lightens the darkness of his perverted soul -- ha! ha! ha! Now he goes on, observe, Miss Norman: 'Moreover, that you are in the habit of wearing unlawful ecclesiastical vestments, to wit, an alb, a chasuble, and a biretta.' -- The audacity of this creature -- 'Furthermore, that you illegally administer to your communicants wafer-bread. Again, I must remind you that to adopt the eastward position, as you habitually do, is unlawful, as also to make the sign of the cross towards the congregation, to omit kneeling during the Confession, and to have a cross upon the communion table.' And so on, and so on. And then he concludes -- 'I shall certainly esteem it my duty to make representation to the Bishop of these deviations from the ritual prescribed by the Church of England.' -- The presumptuous blockhead! The fellow, Miss Norman, has the unparalleled impudence to assert that he is better acquainted than the Incumbent of St. Abinadab's with what is, and what is not, allowed by the Church! He positively includes in his letter a long argument on the subject, which I, of course, have not done him the honour to read through, but in which I see mentions of the words Rubric, Common Prayer, and Reformation. Since he is so familiar with the Rubric, I should have imagined that his idiotship would have known that in the Rubric at the end of the calendar it is written: 'that such ornaments of the Church and of the ministers thereof at all times of their ministration shall be retained and be in use as were in this Church of England by the authority of Parliament in the second year of the reign of King Edward VI.' -- Ha, ha! Miss Norman, he'd better not come the Rubric over me! I imagine I know it as well as most men, as well as the ritual of the Church in the reign of Edward VI. 'Unlawful' and 'illegal,' forsooth! Where is the Act of Parliament to restrain me, I should like to know? Ha, ha, ha! An excellent joke!"

By this time Mr. Whiffle had talked himself completely out of breath, and into such a perspiration that he was obliged to wipe his face all over with an immense silk handkerchief.

But in the operation he was repeatedly overcome with his sense of amusement at the audacity of the letter-writer, and broke into little bursts of scornful laughter.

"But I entirely forgot to state the purpose of my visit, Mrs. Waghorn. Bye-the-by, Miss Norman, have you seen my pamphlet on 'Religious Teaching in Public Schools'?"

"I am sorry to say I have not," returned Helen.

"Indeed! Of course, I need not ask you, Mrs. Waghorn?"

"I deeply regret it has never come into my hands," said Maud.

"Not!" cried Mr. Whiffle, elevating his fat hands in horror. "You astound me! Not seen my pamphlet? I must send you a copy this very day; I will send you half-a-dozen copies! And you, too, Miss Norman, I will send you as many copies as you like, to distribute among your friends. It is only signed '0. W'. I should be loath, you know, to take undue advantage of my position as incumbent of St. Abinadab's. In controversy I always like to allow my adversaries fair play, you know, Miss Norman. 0, Mrs. Waghorn, I know you will be delighted with the pamphlet. In it I preach an absolute crusade against the godless policy of our School Boards. Miss Norman, you must certainly attend St. Abinadab's next Sunday. I am preparing a sermon which I know will please you. Promise me you will come."

"If nothing occurs to prevent me, I shall have pleasure in doing so, Mr. Whiffle."

"Of course, of course! And, bye-the-by -- but, upon my word, I am still forgetting the object of my visit, Mrs. Waghorn. Did it ever occur to you that -- that one or two of my portraits on the stalls at the bazaar might not be in bad taste? You see, it is so natural that the congregation of St. Abinadab's should like to possess a photograph of their minister. Suppose, you know, we sold them for half-a-crown a piece? I shouldn't wonder if they added materially to the profits."

"A delicious idea!" exclaimed Maud. "A perfectly dazzling idea! What a stupid creature I am that it never occurred to me before. Of course, it is the very thing -- so tasteful, so delicate. And especially on Mrs. Whiffle's stall they will be appropriate."

"You think so? My very idea! I am overjoyed."

"Oh, I hope you will sit especially for the occasion."

"Will you believe that I have already done so -- and in full canonicals? Upon my word, I believe I have one with me. Yes -- no -- yes, here it is!"

He produced a portrait and handed it to Mrs. Waghorn, and, skipping behind her like an excited child, peeped over her shoulder as she examined it.

"Do you think it good? Do you think it worthy of the incumbent of St. Abinadab's?" he asked breathlessly.

"Oh, delicious!" cried Maud. "How stately, how reverend! I vow I should have taken it for an archbishop if I had not known the features!"

"You would? No! You mean it? I am overjoyed! Miss Norman, pray what is your opinion?"

"I think it very like," and then, feeling that graceful condescension to human weakness required more than this, she added, "It is a very excellent portrait, indeed."

"I am delighted! I am entranced!" cried Mr. Whiffle, skipping about. "It is the happiest day since I entered The Church! Mrs. Waghorn, you shall have ten dozen for your stall. I'm sure you could easily dispose of that number, don't you think so?"

"Oh, ten times as many!" cried Maud, with enthusiasm.

"You shall have them!" exclaimed Mr. Whiffle. "But, I protest, I have been here nearly half an hour. I must run. Miss Norman, remember your promise for Sunday. You must come and see Mrs. Whiffle. Pray come and dine with us, any evening you like. Bye-the-by, Mrs. Waghorn, did you see my letter in the Times the other morning on that poisoning case, you know?"

"I did," returned Maud, "and was entranced with the argument."

"Oh, the mere thought of an odd moment!" exclaimed the clergyman. "But, good-bye all. Good-bye, Miss Norman, good-bye, Mrs. Waghorn; I will look in again very shortly. Gus, are you going my way?"

"I think not," replied his son, somewhat coolly.

"Very well. Once more, good-bye all."

And, clapping his soft hat on his head, he hastened from the room and from the house.

"I do believe that father of mine grows more absurd every day!" exclaimed Augustus, as soon as they were alone. "Didn't you admire Mrs. Waghorn's satirical replies, Miss Norman? I thought them admirable."

"You disrespectful boy!" cried Maud. "You do not only venture to say that your father is absurd, but also that I openly ridicule him? I'm ashamed of you!"

At this Mr. Augustus and Maud laughed heartily in chorus. Helen rose, eager to be gone.

"Are you really going?" asked Maud, in a tone of purely affected regret. "Again, I am dreadfully sorry for having kept you waiting for me. Pray come again soon. Mr. Whiffle, excuse me one moment."

Helen, having bidden adieu to Augustus, left the room, and was followed into the hall by Maud.

"Come again to-morrow morning at the same time, there's a good girl," whispered the latter. "Forget all this nonsense. You ought not to have seen me in this mood at all."

"Having seen you, Maud," returned Helen, "I sincerely wish I never had. Would it not be better if I ceased coming to you? I could not bear to be subjected to such an hour again."

"Pooh, pooh! Foolish child! I tell you, I am not in my grave mood, Pallas. I may regret it, but can't help it. Will you come to-morrow?"

"I fear I must not promise. I have much to do to-morrow."

"Well, well; whenever you like. Good-bye. Don't think too hardly of me, Helen. You know what power you have over me."

"I wish I felt that I had any," replied Helen.

And with these words they parted.


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