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Weekly commercial herald. (Vicksburg, Miss.) 1884-18??, June 11, 1886, Image 2

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87090237/1886-06-11/ed-1/seq-2/

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jtnfAor of "Canity iordwa.., i.. Cm
Girli lie.
BOOK ONE.
Commenced Sunday, May 1
V. THE REV, ANTHOKT BRENT AND SOPHIA
DESPONDENCY V LOVB.
"Miss Temple," the clergyman slid, with
melancholy air, not the leant feigned, al
tlioiigh, by casting a gloom over bin conver
sation, it greatly furthered Mrs. Barbara
f Teinple'i ends, limes have changed, changed
indeed, I had letter from my son two day
go."
How that good little heart leaped to hear
It; Pereival! be teemed near her once again,
anil she would be strengthened now.
"How is Pereival!" she asked gently.
"Pretty well," the rector replied; "tolerably
well, I may say. But he writes in bad spirits.
Little wonder; his prospects are very uncer
tain. I don't think he will ever return to
England.".
"He meant to come back when he left,"
poor Sophia said, turning sick at heart after
her little gush of pleasure.
That I know," the rector answered, in the
same downcast tone. "But his intention will
change, If it has not changed already. Per
ciyal has to face a life of struggle. I was
very glad to find that yon and he had quite
broken off from each other."
"We wanted to act prudently," the poor
girl said. 0, how delighted she would have
bean had the rector, in the remotest way, rec
ognized '.hat an understanding existed be
tween tb.'ml
"It was prudent," he continued, "To you
such a thing could only have meant bondage
and disappointment; and to him weU,
Sophia, greatly as I like you, I don't really
think Pereival would have been so likely to
prosper had bs been still engaged to you,"
"I could not bear the thought of injuring
him," the poor thing said. She was on the
edge of a fit of crying, but Mr. Brent, never
man of observation, and now quite occu
pied with his own cares, did not notice her
agitation.
"I am sure of that," he replied. "Of course
that is why you so wholly detached yourself
from him. It is better for both of you. Per
eival, as you know, has returned to the man
with whom he resided when his health was
delicate. This man Warren is getting ad
vanced in life, and wants a helper in his busi
ness. Pereival, I have no doubt, will get
that appointment, for they are very fond of
him that is, I mean Warren and his daugh
ter are very fond of him."
"Mr. Warren has a daughter, thenr Sophia
asked.
"Yes, he is a widower, and she is his only
child. I think indeed, I know that she was
rather soft on Percy when he lived there. In
fact, one or two rather unnecessary letters
followed him to England. I laughed then;
now I cannot but think that if Pereival man
ages the business well, and gets Into the old
man's good books, and and marries little
Bessie, as he used to call her "
"He called her little Bessie, did her Sophia
inquired.
"little Bessie that was her name," the rec
tor answered. "He always called her that
It meant nothing, of course. You see, they
were a great deal together, and Pereival says
thai in the colonies people are not so stiff as
we are in England. He used to say he lil-ed
colonial manners. Well, to return if he
marries Bessie it might be a nice thing for
him. Indeed, it will be his solitary chance in
life."
It was a sore, an aching heart that lay in
Sophia's gentle breast as she and her mother
drove home. The poor girl had not the
smallest suspicion that her mother had ar
ranged all these nice little thunderclaps; but
even had she known it, the knowledge could
not have blunted the dreadful edge of the
rector's communication. However power
ful her own friends bad argued, they could
not have affected her as Mr. Brent had done.
It seemed as if the father spoke for his son.
It sounded like a message from the lover him
self, saying "Let us part" And In the mists
of her fears and doubts the figure of Bessie
Warren rose before her, at Percy's side, see
ing him day by day, at the head of the house
hold of which he was to' be a member,
wealthy, and fond of Percy known to him
by a pet familiar name. What chance had
she against this fatal Bessie Warren (
Little Mrs. Barbara Temple was no tyrant,
and would not have inflicted any useless pain
on her daughter. She saw Sophia out of the
side of her eyes as they drove home, and
marked her misery, and felt really sorry for
her, but it was sorrow such as a humane sur
geon feels for the shrinking patient on whom
he is about to operate; it was all for Sophia's
good. These tears would flow and (ten be
gone, and after the dread and thetoperation,
and the shrinking and the crying, there would
be the world tha bright, prosperous world,
wealth, fashion, ease, respect all that station
can secure aud money can buy. 0, no doubt
of itl she was acting the part of a wise moth
er; and so, quenching her last misgiving, Mrs,
Barbara Temple made ready for the final,
tha winning stroke in her grand matrimonial
game.
CHAPTER VIIL
YES OR KO.
Mother and daughter sat down to dinner.
Sophia's face was full of care; but by some
accident, or by the caprice of fate, she was
beautifully dressed, and looked very charm
ing in her sadness. The beautiful attire was
not, indeed, very surprising, for Sophia gave
sucn particular attention to dress, and was,
besides, such a "colorist," that I don't sup
pose she had an unbecoming gown in her
whole wardrobe. To-night she wore a dress
of pearl gray with a tucker of white lace
round the open front, and a garnet brooch,
which I suppose she had pinned In by chance;
but :t was in the best taste: Indeed, if the
poor heart-sick girl had spent two hours at
her glass and dressed herself for rivalry or
conquest, she could not have looked more
lovely. Just as an accomplished writer when
he is thinking least of form will throw off his
most finished piece, so Sophia, who was a true
mistress of the art of dress, did this evening,
when her thoughts were far enough from the
toilet, deck herself out in a way which most
of all displayed her charms. Mrs, Barbara
Temple marked her as she sat
"When Prendergast comes," that keen
witted woman said to herself (having ar
ranged that he was to appear accidentally
after dinner), "when Prendergast comes, and
tees you, if the sight does not unlock his lips,
he is not the man I take him fori"
Perceiving Sophia's melancholy air, the lit
tle mother assumed the same herself. She
was taciturn, thoughtful, sighed, and in
everything reflected her daughter's sadness.
This was supreme high art; it was saying to
Sophia, "if you are heavy at heart, so am I;
I, too, am facing great anxiety." And so
effectually did she play her part that, to
ward the end of dinner, Sophia, rousing her
: self by an effort, tried to talk cheerfully.
Mrs Barbara felt a thrill of reasonable prids
in this recognition of her power as a success
ful dissembler. Instead of feeling low spir
ited she was, in truth, highly excited in view
of her approaching triumph. She felt that
Sophia was in ber hands. The pensive look,
t IT Mt A. fj'H. sit i ns
r.ry to ten f..-Lad no rtitine left
.- n :& . j 1 1 vii 1- ri.t tl ii nv'it
So vxm-t hail tiijy pot into tiie drawing
room Uian Mrs. Barbara asked Sophia to sing
to ber.
"Yes, mamma," Sophia said, looking at
ber wistfully. "I will ung or play or do any
thing you like."
This eonfpliant speech meant, and well the
mother knew it: "If you would only use me
for your own pleasure, how happy we both
might be!" Jim Barbara Temple under
stood, but did not regard; she was bent on
marriage.
Sophia sat down and began her favorite;
"Oft in the Stilly Night;" and finely she sang
it, the melancholy ditty serving as a vehicle
for her own sorrows Her voice was a power
ful contralto, and, without at all exerting
herself unduly, she was able to to occupy her
mother's ear that Prendergast entered the
room unobserved, and was standing beside
Mrs. Barbara before she knew it The little
mother gave him a sprightly nod of silent
recognition not to disturb the song, and then,
slowly turning her eyes from him to Sophia,
and fixing them on ber, she seemed to say:
"Is she not a woman worth winning!"
And Prendergast met her returning look
with a look of his own, full of tender admi
ration, which conveyed his thought in reply;
and just then Sophia, ending her song, sa
that Prendergast was behind ber. Surprise
and some other emotion, sent over her faot
the loveliest blush surely that ever woman
wore, and it seemed to spread until her neck
was touched with its conscious hue. Pren
dergast read it as an omen that at last she
had begun to feel kindly toward him, and he
could scarcely speak to her for the pleasure
he felt And Mrs. Barbara Temple, who
never in her life made a mistake, was ready
to clap her bands.
"She loves him! she loves liim!" the little
conqueror murmured to herself. "See what
management does ! 0, what a woman I am !"
Alm'Wt before another word was spoken,
Mrs. Temple's maid came Into the room, and,
advancing to her mistress, said:
"Please, ma'am, is the letter rcadyl"
"Wliat letter, Jones"
"Tha letter, ma'am, you said was so very
particular, which must go by to-night's pest,
and which we was to be sure not to forget to
ask for."
This was delivered in recitation style, like
something got carefully off by heart
"Dear me I" exclaimed Mrs. Temple, with
uplifted hands. "How could I have forgotten
itl Sophia, my dear, you mustentertain Mr.
Prendergast for twenty minutes or half an
hour. It is an important letter, and will
.take quite that time to Tirite. How very
stupid I have been!"
And without a single glance at Prender
gast the very stupid woman left the room,
but not until she saw Sophia's blush return .
with deeper glow.
"Ah," she thought, "now for a pretty
scene! 0 the merry days when "we were
young!"
When our little mother returned to the
drawing room she saw Prendergast standing
alone in the center of the floor. His look
told her nothing; but as she came toward
him, he said very earnestly:
"Mrs. Temple, your daughter is an angel!"
Victory! The little mother could have
skipped ou the carpet for triumph ; but recol
lecting that it would not be business-like to
seem too much delighted, she restrained her
self, and said:
"I see. She has accepted you."
"No, she has not."
"Yes, yes; but that Is only a girl's way;
virtually she has accepted you, and you know
it"
"Mrs. Temple, she will never marry me."
"What do you meant' The shock was great
and Mrs. Temple found It hard to speak.
"Simply that your daughter has explained
to me her position and the state of her affec
tions. She has been so kind, so frank, so like
all I thought she must be, that I am more in
love with her than ever. But I know the
truth, and will no longer struggle against it"
He dropped his head on his breast and said
no more, and for nearly a minute the nimble
little tongue and versatile little brain of his
hostess were at fault But she collected her
spirits.
"Prendergast," she said In a tone that was
dry and even contemptuous, "that is not the
way to win a woman like Sophia."
"Perhaps not," he answered; "but It is the
only way I can follow." Even she was for
the moment dumb, and he became silent
again, but he roused himself and spoke afresh:
"The fact is, I have bean rebuked to-night
Ten years ago I loved a woman something
like your daughter, and she died before our
marriage. Over her grave I vowed to live
for her memory, and that vow I kept until
this year; and to-night, as Sophia was speak
ing to me, it seemed as if my own buried dear
one came from her abode of happiness and
bade me "
"Prendergast," Mrs. Barbara Temple said,
with pointed acrimony, "the bell is near you.
Will you ring for tea?"
It will be admitted by everybody that, from
Mrs. Temple's point of view, her situation
was decidedly irritating. She was angry with
Prendergast, and bitterly angry with Sophia.
To a plotting, planning nature like h?rs noth
ing is so vexatious as a failure such as this.
She was working for Sophia's good; she had
arranged everything so as to insure success;
at the last moment Sophia stupidly spoils all I
Wicked was the look with which she regarded
her daughter, when, after Preudergast's de
parture, Sophia shyly stole into the room and
took her seat at the tea table. Mrs. Barbara
opened fire: "So, Sophia, Prendergast has
proposed to youi"
"Yes, mamma."
"And you have accepted his offer, of
course?"
The little woman put the question in this
way, with a kind of concentrated vicious
nets which made Sophia tremble.
"No, mamma," the poor girl said, doing
what undoubtedly was wisest at the junc
ture, and breaking into sobs. "I could not,
mamma, I could not marry him."
"Sophia," the mother said, rising from her
seat and standing before her daughter, "you
are a weak girL I don't say you have done
wrong, but I say you are a weak girL Weak
ness, of all things, I hate. Sibyl would not
have actd in this way. Caroline would not
You have neither sense nor spirit, and it is
mortifying to me to think that the daughter
who is least like myself, and least dutiful, is
the one with whom I must, I suppose, pass
the remainder of my life."
This was a most unkind speech; but we
must remember how bitterly the little woman
was disappointed; and we must remember,
too,that she did not often lose her temper.
Sophia, who might perhaps at another time
have defended herself, was really broken
down by the succession of the day's excite
ment, and only sobbed the more. Her
mothor's last sarcasm had wounded her in
deed. "I dont care for crying," the mother went
on, quite forgetting her better self and her
own maxims of self-possession. "Really,
Sophia, 'if you are so determined to have
your own way, have the courage, too, and
don't stand whimpering there. You can dis
obey me. You can fly in the face of every
body who cares for you. Then do carry it
out I had rather see you in a passion than
as you are. Has anybody injured you I
Have you not done as you wish? If you had
accepted Prendergast against your will
there would be an excuse for this pettishnesi
and nonsense; but here you have bad youi
W,n. killl A n . 'u i , o ci II It
ball winkm-- weakn .' d --pii ahic f 'oak
lets; and weak n- wi akin sss-wwtihcsa,"
she repeated the word in Mimxhive i-a'iies of
annoyance, "I hate and di'spi."
. Weak and strong uVy certainly lookivl
She with her compact figure brawl and
erect, her stretched out hand, her declaiming
attitude, her clear, resolute voice; Sophia
bending like a willow, her face hidden, and
one low sob following another in reply to her
mother's taunts as they fell on her ear. But
before the morning dawned Mrs.. Barbara
Temple got a lesson which led her to recall
her bitter words, and to confess that the
strength was not so entirely her own, nor the
weakness so entirely her daughter's, as she
imagined just now, while she was standing
mistress in her own drawing room.
BOOK FIVE.
LADY BEAUTY8 SORROW.
CHAPTER I
SOr-HIA IX A NEW CHARACTER.
Three weary hours dragged by that night
before tired Sophia feel asleep, and sleep had
no sooner closed her eyelids than she was
roused, A low intense whisper, which even
In tiie moment of wakening she felt to be
charged with terror, broke her short slumber.
"Sophia! Sophia!" she heard ber mother
uttering in her ear.
Wide awake in an instant, and alarmed by
the way in which her mother spoke, she sat
up in bed, Mrs. Temple was standing beside
her in her night dress, and, by the dim light
of the lamp which burned in her room, she
saw that the old woman's face was almost
lifeless from its expression of intense alarm.
"Mamma! maninia!" she cried out "What
is the matter?"
"Hush! hush!" the mother nswerrd, mo
tioning her not to speak so loud. "1 we are
heard we shall be killed."
"What is the matter?" Sophia asl.ed again,
now almost as terrified as her mother.
"There are robbers in the he use," Mrs.
Temple answered, gasping for utterance.
"Come here softly."
She motioned Sophia to the door, and, step
ping out on the landing, bid her listen. All
was dark and still, and for a moment Sophia
either heard or thought oho heard her
mother's heart thumping against her side.
But the house was perfectly silent
"It's nothing, mamma," Sophia said at
last, beginning to speak in her natural voice.
"You made a mistake."
"Hush !" the mother cried, in the same ter
rified wisper as before. "I heard them in
the bouse. I tried to ring the bell in my
room and I find it wont work. It was quit
right yesterday. This is a planned robberj,
The servants are in it; we shall be kUlak,
Sophia, murdered. 0, what shall I do!"
And now, indeed, Sophia, ttraining hnv
ears to listen, did hear a strange sound below
stairs, and, bending over the balustrade, she
plainly saw one gleam of light hastily vanish
ing, as if a lantern had for an instant been
turned in the wrong direction. Nearly dead
with fear she listened again, and soon after
sounds ju the entrance hall, as if a heavy box
were being cautiously moved, convinced her
that her mother was not wrong. She took
the old woman's shaking hand and led her
back to her own room.
"We must try my bell, mamma; we must
ring that The noise will frighten them."
"Try it, try it!" the mother answered. She
could hardly articulate, and the words came
from between her motionless lips as if she had
not uttered them.
But when Sophia tried her own bell the re
sult was simply that the wires pulled lightly
and no sound was made. These, too, had
been put out of order.
"I knew it!" the old woman gasped. "The
servants are in it. We shall both be mur
dered here, in this room"
And in truth the position was frightful
enough. Their windows overlooked the
garden, and to open those and cry for help
would have been not only vain, but would
have added danger to danger. Mrs. Temple
had sunk upon the bed, and in the paralysis
of terror seemed to be losing consciousness;
and Sophia, although she tried to keep her
senses, felt as if she herself would swoon
away.
"There is nothing to be done," the old
woman said. "We must wait till they come
end kill us. O, Sophia, Sophia I can't you
do anything to save raei"
It was surprising to see how utterly pros
trated with fear the active energetic woman
nad become in a few moments. And Sophia,
the quiet and delicate girl, was even now
growing more collected. She remembered
that the former owner of the house had
erected in one wing a kind of belfry, with a
bell of sonorous tongue hanging in it; for he
was a nervous householder, dwelling in fear
of thieves. The girls knew this belfry so
they called it well, and had more than once
rung the bell in the daytime in sport; and
now Sophia thought that if she were only
there, she might easily raise such an alarm
as would effectually frighten away the rob
bers. But how to reach the belfry? The only
way was across the very hall where the rob
bers were now at work. Sophia could not
make up her mind to go even a step down the
stairs; and as to consulting her mother in her
present paralyzed state, that was altogether
useless. She stood irresolute, herself almost
losing her senses with fear, but neither mov
ing nor speaking until the old woman called
out again:
"Sophia, Sophia! can't you do anything to
save me!"
This appeal bad a wholesome effect Nerv
ing herself by an almost superhuman effort,
the brave girl replied:
"I will try, mamma; but you must stay
here."
"Not alone, Sophia," she answered. "I dare
not stay alone. You shall not leave me."
"I must, mamma," she replied. "I must
leave you. You can lock your door behind
me. I don't think they will come upstairs
Quick; follow me and lock the door."
She stole out and her mother rose up and
went after her. Just as she was going out
the old woman caught her hand again.
"Sophia, you must not leave me; I shall
die before you come back."
"Lock the door," Sophia whispered again.
And her mother heard her; for, as she stole
into the dark passage, the door was softly
shut upon her and the key was turned.
It was a truly frightful position for the
girL Nearly mad as, she was with fear, she
yet gathered up courage how she knew not
to steal a few steps down stairs. And now
the noises in the hall were quite audible, and
again she was just about to fly back and
take her chance in her own room with her
mother. Just at this juncture a little bit of
courage seemed to kindle in her breast, and
she waited a moment, and then stole three
steps down stairs. Here, at the turning, she
saw plainly that there was light in the hall;
and somehow the sense that she was in the
darkness and the robbers in the light gave
her a sensation of returning security. She
listened, trembled, and then with shaking
limbs ventured three steps down the second
flight She could distinctly hear the burglars
talking, and as one of them gave a low,
brutal laugh she shuddered to think what
wretches were near. Sophia always declared
that the next few steps she took unconsciously,
and that she only knew herself when she
found she was peering from the dark angle
of the stairs into the halL
Three men were there. It was evident that
t1iThad mii,takn anoHoak chest which stool
epunst the wall for a depository of valuables,
and this tliy were now trying to force open.
They were quite oecupi-.l for the moment,
and from her dark angle Sophia could plainly
observe their movements. It was curious
that now, when fear might altogether havs
overcome ber, h began t Jsel a renewal of
courage. She koked across the dark hall to
the passage on the other side which she
wished to reach, and she resolved while the
robberti were still engaged upon the chest t
make a dart across. Several seconds sh
waited, until ske saw an opportunity, and
while the men were trying to force the oakei
lid, she flew across the hall, and was in th.
passage on the other side, hidden from view.
But now, as she slowly groped her way
along the passage, a new terror arose. What
if the belfry door should be locked? Th
room was never used, and it might well be
that the key had been taken away. The bare
idea so terrified her that she scarce dared to
creep to the door, lest her fear should be veri
fied. But there was no returning, and the
next moment she felt the door, and finding
the handle she turned it slowly, and to her un
speakable joy the door opened at her touch.
O, what a rush of relief she felt! Her po
sition might still be perilous; but the greatest
danger was past. She crept round the wall,
feeling her way until her hands touched the
bell rope; and then, drawing a breath for the
effort, she pulled hard and fast, and immedi
ately the iron tonftue outside began to answer
her back in tones that seemed to tell that she
was once again in communication with the
honest world outside, and need fear no more.
Stroke after stroke the bell sent its resonant
alarm out upon the midnight; and at each
note Sophia tugged with fresh energy, and
the faithful bell above seemed to grow more
vehement as she with gathering strength ap
plied to it for help.
CHAPTER IL
A VERY SHORT CHAPTER,
This passage, the only morsel of sensation
in our boudoir story, bas Ixen dismissed as
rapidly as was possible. Indeed, it would
never have been told at all, bad it not been a
link in the chain of incident on which the his
tory depends.
Of course, nil Kettlewell applauded our
Sophia Her midnight descent, her flight
across the hall, her plucky behavior at the
bell rope everything she had done wa
praised. Tha burglars fled at the first jienl,
but Sophia kept on ringing until all thr
neighbors were aroused; and then such a
congregation of servants and others bad
gathered in the house and grounds that
fear was not to be thought of. All of us
applauded her quickness of thought about the
belfry; the only person who spoke in anything
like a qualified tone being hgerton, who re
marked that he was far from wishing to cast
any slur on Sophia, but still he must say that
the would have made a great deal more noise
if she had used the Chinesie gong which stood
in the halL For sounding an alarm, Egerton
said, there was nothing like a Chinese gong.
Sophia, in the gentlest way, but with laugh
ter trembling on her lips, pointed out that
the gong stood just where the robbers were
working; upon which Egerton retorted that
he had not raid anything about where it
t food, but only that for sounding an alarm
there was nothing like a Chinese gong.
Now, how would, you expect the little
mother to have acted? To have denied her
own abject terror, and attenuated Sophia's
bravery? She did nothing of the kind.
"I was dead with fear," she said, in her
gay way. "Courage is not one of my vir
tues. I could no more have gone down those
stairs and past those dreadful men than I
could raise that piano with my finger. Deuce
take my heart!" sometimes, in her easy
moods, she would let fly nn expression of this
sort "I thought it would never beat again!
And Sophia was as cool as if she were going
down to see a visitor. Sophia ought to be a
soldier's wife; she ought to be a soldier her
self. Few women would have acted as she
did that night. Really, I would not have be
lieved she had it in her. "
One happy result for the peor girl was that
her mother's wrath was not to much ap
peased as effaced. The whole Prendergast
incident was for the time forgotten; and
when Mrs. Barbara Temple's mind reverted
to the matter, the admitted to herself that in
charging Sophia with weakness she made a
great mistake. She still deplored the issue
of the affair, but the never again reproached
her daughter, and she even made one or two
indirect apologies for her severity of speech,
and these we may be sure Sophia was only
tea willing to accept
And now there began quite an era In
iophia's life. Her lover was absent, and
they were not allowed to communicate, with
each other, for on this point Mrs. Temple
never relaxed. She was not formally en
gaged; indeed, she was understood to be open
to an offer a fact which her mother, still
following her original policy, took care to
publish abroad. Caroline and Sibyl now
fully agreed with their mother that Sophia
was acting recklessly in allowing the fresh
ness of her youth to pass away under this
blighting spell. And all this time, only by
the merest chance, seldom perhaps never
could she hear anything of Pereival Brent He
might be untrue; and even then, according to
the words of their agreement, she could not
reproach him with incontsancy. It was a
trying time for her; tut during this period
her character was formed, and she who on
her fiftieth birthday was with general con
sent and delight styled "Lady Beauty" learned
her secret of charming in this period of
anxiety and waiting, when her constancy
and her patience were so severely tried. I
here relate the main incidents of this unevent
ful period, and having at the same time tried
by touches here and there to give you an
idea of the maturity of charms toward which
Time was bearing our dear heroine. I shall
be able in my next book to tell you how it all
ended; whether Pereival was true or false;
whether or not happiness of the kind she ex
pected rewarded the constancy of her pure,
glowing, and yet never impatient affection.
CHAPTER IIL
MRS. TEMPLE ECONOMIZES. .
During the weeks that immediately fol
lowed Sophia observed that her mother was
very often thoughtful, and would talk to her
self, nod her head, shake it, frown and make
a number of those signs which denote that we
are thinking hard and reasoning with our
selves. She never dropped the smallest al
lusion to Prendergast, and Sophia, glad of
the opportunity, seized the favorable mo
ments, and showered caresses and attentions
upon her mother, which the mother for her
part received with every mark of satisfac
tion. Thus the time, which, had it fulfilled
Sophia's expectations, would have been one
long scene of reproaches and regrets, did as
a matter of fact glide easily and pleasantly
by, giving another illustration of that great
common truth, that if we only wait until our
troubles actually come they will often turn
out no troubles at alL Sophia, however,
wondered what the moot case could be that
her mother so pondered and argued with her
self. "Sophy," the little woman said one morning
at breakfast, "this house is too large for us.
I shall give it up, and rent a small one rather
nearer the town. Our lease expires in Sep
tember, and I don't fancy another winter in
this lonely place."
So this had been the matter of internal
debate. Sophia was not at all surprised to
And that her mother was giving up thl
Beeches, for the burg'.ary was a sufficient
reason ; but when the old woman bejan to
talk of reasons of economy, sh concluded
that, ashamed to confess to fear, she was ex
cusing her flight by alleging pecuniary mo
tives. Sophia, however, soon found that
there was more in the matter than she had
imagined.
"I shall keep one carriage in the future, no
more," Mrs. Temple said a few days after.
"One carriage, one horse, and one man ser
vant. Quite enough for us two."
"Mamma," Sophia cried, "the idea of you
trotting about in a little brougham with one
horse ! How f imny you will feel '."
"Not at all, dear, so long as the carriage Is
neat and the horse what a horse should be.
Quite enough for us, Sophy. More seems af
fectation; ju3t like those Dones. Horrid
people, with a fresh carriage for every day in
the week and such horses! It strikes me that
whenever a vulgarian makes money and re
tires, being of no family himself, he resolves
to have horses with a pedigree. No, no,
Sophy, we shall not lose anything by living
quietly. Leave that to me, dear; you may
safely leave that to me."
Great was the astonishment of KettlewelL
Not that we wondered at Mrs. Temple giving
up the Beeches; with us, as with Sophia, the
burglary was a sufficient reason for that. But
when she chose a small box of a villa near
the entrance of the town, and put down two
of her carriages, dismissed five of her ser
vants, and in a general way reduced her ex
penditures by more than one-half, we were
surprised indeed. Had Sophia been married
the affair would have been intelligible, but
who, for any motive except neces
sity, ever beard of a match-making mother
lowering her mode of living until all her
daughters were settled? There was a great
deal of talk in Kettlewell, and a great deal of
whispering. Had Mrs. Temple beon living
beyond her means? Had she made some bad
speculation? AVas this only the prelude to a
final crjsh? All these questions were asked
freely, and most of us had some surmLse to
make; but nobody quite agreed with any
body else except in one point Mrs. Temple
was not the woman to retrench without ur
gent reason ; and after all, the most likely
reason was that she had not the money to
maintain her original gsandeur. One spite
ful lady friend congratulated her ironically
behind her back on having married two
daughters well, at all events, and said that
even if the mother died a bankrupt, dear
Sophia would always have a comfortable
home with her sisters.
Car and Sibyl were as much amazed as the
rest, and, not daring to inquire of their
mother, they beset Sophia with questions
which she was unable to answer. Sibyl was
especially searching for reasons why, her
husband having directed her mind to the
subject in his elephantine way.
"It is not for us," he said, pausing as he
stirred his coffee for they were at break
fast "it is not for us to ask questions, but
still your mother's conduct is unaccountable.
If you could find out whether she has been
speculating, or if her affairs are involved, I
might interfere with advantage to your
mother."
Goldmore, as he said this, cleared his throat
and shifted his chin between his shirt collar
in an imposing way. The chin was very
well shoved, and the shirt collar very white
and stiff, as is invariably the case with
millionaires in the morning.
"I might advise with your mother," the
great man added, seeing that his wife did
not speak, "and tender ber my aid."
Sibyl was really alarmed at this suggestion
from her husband, who, as she well knew,
was neither a meddler nor one who formed
his opinions hastily. She hurried off to
Sophia and declared her misgivings; and all
Sophia could say was that there seemed good
reason for fearing that something was wrong.
But, Bophia added, she had already tried
every possible means to find out her mother's
actual position and motives, and had entirely
failed.
"In that case," Archibald Goldmore said,
when his wife reported this result to him, "I
shall call upon your mother myself and in
troduce the subject. It is my duty to offer
her my counsel. What can she know about
business?'
And he called upon little Mrs. Barbara,
who received him with her usual cheerful
ness. Goldmore was a favorite with her in
his way.
"You know me well enough to be quite
sure that I am no 'Paul Pry,' " the millionaire
said. Ho seemed to think that there was
magnanimity in his very mention of that
character in connection with himself. "'I
hope I don't intrude' is not often on my lips,
for this simple reason I know I don't in
trude." Little Mrs. Temple gave him a brisk nod
and smile, and ho proceeded, approaching
his subject with slow dignity, as if he were
driving the lord mayor's coach round a
ticklish corner.
"We have been a little surprLsed Sibyl
and myself at the great change you have
made in your household; and knowing, as we
do, your sound common sense, we are sure
there Is a good reason for it. It is a great
change," he added, looking round the small
drawing room, "although you have displayed
your usual good taste here from from floor
to ceiling."
"Yes," Mrs. Temple replied unconcernedly,
"it is a nice little house."
"This has been a bad time for investments,"
Goldmore remarked, resolved to keep near
his real business, "aud expenses are very
heavy. I have sometimes thought how little
I imagined, when I Orst married, how costly
my establishment w-Juld be." The old rogue
lived to the full a third within his income,
"I am sometimes fl Ightened at expenditure,
Mrs. Tample."
"Are you?" she remarked. "Now, I never
am!"
"I am glad to hear it," he answered. "To
tell you the truth, I was afraid that you
might have found your own expenses a little
in excess of your calculations; and to be quite
plain with you, I came this morning to know
if there is any business you would like to
talk over with me. I know," Goldmore said,
with the modesty of a monarch, "something
about affairs. Now can I be of any use to
you? Can my knowledge of the money
market" this being a joke he laughed a lit
tle "be of any use to youi"
"Not any, Archibald," she said. "I always
manage my own business."
"There is no difficulty I can clear up?"
"All my business is straightforward and
intelligible."
"Then," said the baffled inquirer, "it only
remains for me to say that I hope you do
not consider my visit and my offer at all
impertinent?"
"Quite the contrary, Archibald," she cried
vivaciously. "Kind, most kind. No one in
the world I would sooner have consulted if I
had wanted advice. But I don't want advice,
Archibald."
So Archibald Goldmore went home as wise
as he came; and when his wife mot him in the
avenue and asked him if he knew everything,
it was with some slight vexation he replied
that he knew nothing.
"But I have my fears," he said, "and very
grave fears. However," he added, seeing his
wife's face fall, "don't be alarmed. If any
thing happens we shall see what cad be
dona" He spoke like a financial pillar; there
could be no dreadful crash in the family so
long at be stood unshaken.
Egerton and Caroline talked the matter
over, too, and Egerton said at once that hit
mother-in-law was going out of ber mind,
md deeming it his duty to prepare Sophia
'or the worst.
"I have noticed this comingon for months,"
ie said to her, while she could scarcely look
lira in tho face for laughter. "There have
seen many symptoms which I have been ,
watching. I would not be frightened, Sophia
being frightened never does any good but
still, if I were you, I should sleep with a
strait waistcoat under my pillow, and then,
if anything sudden happened, you could clap
it on. Forewarned is forearmed, Sophia."
Thus both within the family circle and
nutside it the affairs of Mrs. Temple were dis
cussed, with great assiduity; but relatives,
'riends and acquaintances were alike left in
the dark.
The ordinary sot of people talked the mat
ter over, wondered, surmised, and then for
got all about it But the family could not so
lightly dismiss a doubt which concerned their
own interests ; and in the family the whis
pered belief was that the little mother, for
all her shrewdness, had run into extrava
gance, and that poverty was now forcing her
to retrench. Then came questions: What is
her position now? From what source comes
her income? What, will Sophia have when -
she dies? And these misgivings were the(
more anxious, because it was already known
that a portion of her property, at lea3t, would
at her death go .to her, first husband's heir. ' t
CHAPTER IV.
REV. ANTHONY BRENT CEASES TO BE RECTOS.
With all her seriousness Sophia had never
been what we call an ecclesiastical girl. The
modern fashion of church decoration and
other customs of reverence and taste in re
ligion, had not at that time fairly arisen; but
ladies wern even then very active in church
work. From tlus Sophia had always kept
aloof, greatly to the surprise of successive
clergymen, who had marked her as likely to
be useful in their parishes. To repeated in
vitations that she would become a district
visitor or Sunday school teacher Sophia had
always answered no; and she had never given
any reason for this refusal.
Whether she liked dancing, and feared that
her pleasure might be restricted, or what may
have been her reason, I cannot guess. Even
when our rector tried to persuade her to help
him, her answer was still a simple no;
nor could the merry little clergyman
by any semi-jocose questioning extract
from her a syllable more. He turned
about and tried gravity and serious
remonstrance; but with no better result.
Ac-' v
cordlngly Mr. Brent was somewhat sur
prised when, about six months after his son's k
departure, Sophia asked him if she could be
of any use to him in the parish or the Sunday
school. Of course he accepted her offer
gladly. And a capital teacher and punctual J
visitor he found her. But Mr. Brent noticed
that at their various little meetings Sophia j
would manage to linger until the other
ladies were gone, then she would talk a bit,
and somehow the talk always veered about
till it settled on Pereival, when Sophia would
ask a few questions and be gone. Even little j .
Mr. Brent, who was not an observer of things, ;
sometimes felt that these two or three little !
sentences about Pereival were with Sophia
the business of the day. At an earlier period j
of his career he would have broken many a
jostupon this discovery; but jests were by-
gones with our poor rector. The twinkle i l,
had fallen from his eye, and the blitheness ; ;
had sunk out of his tone. A pallor was steal- j .
ing over his face, and he was fast turning ,
gray. As one of his parishioners who made ;
her living by laundry work said, "He looked
like a gown that had been to the wash;" the:
colors had run; what remained was, himself
and not himself.
And now, disregarding for a moment our i
small chronology, let me dismiss the rector
from this tale, where, indeed, he has little 1
more to do. St'l
Poor Sophia clung to him more than most vSs
of his parishioners and she found a real
pleasure in his society, because it seemed to
be a kind of remote contact with Pereival.
The bedroom where Pereival had slept from
boyhood was in that house. The books he
had read were on the shelves. Here he used
to sit at dinner. There was the garden walk
whore he was wont to saunter with his pipe.
She knew the very peg where his hat used to
hang. Somehow he did not seem quite so far
away when she was in the precincts of his
own home, and the rector's dispirited talk
had a certain liveliness for her, because he
was PercivaUs father. Occasionally, too, she
would get a glimpse at her absent lad him
self. For instance, one day, as they were
walking together to the garden gate, the
rector said:
"Percy planted that rose."
Next week, as they went the same way,
Sophia stopped beside the rose tree to pluck
off a few withered leaves and make the plant
look trim. Mr. Brent, stopping with her,
said in his abstracted way:
"I never told you; Pereival planted that
rose."
' He never told her! Why, by that time she
knew how many leaves were on it, and could
spell its name and knew its prospect of lifoy
havmg become for rercival s sake a porfe-
horticultural actuary.
Then another day the rector said listles-O
for he never joked with her about his sov
and indeed seemed to have only a faint re1
membranes of that connection:
"I heard from Percy this morning; would
you care to hear his letter?"
Sophia, who would have lived on bread and
water for a week rather than miss one line
her darling wrote, said, trying with miserable .
affectation to imitate the rector's apathetic
tone:
"Yes, if It is not troubling you."
"Perhaps," Mr. Brent said, "as you don't -seem
greatly to care for it, we need not read
this one, but wait for the next."
He said this quite innocently, but he put
Sophia in a dreadful fix. With the instinct
of true generalship, however, she resolved to '
recover her lost position by a bold stroke. '
"I would not miss hearing it for the world,"
the said audaciously. "0, do read it!"
And the rector, looking up with a faint '
tmile, like a man who remembers something,
took the letter out and read it through.
In none of these letters did Percy mention
her name, until three years after his depart
ure, when one day the rector read this line:
"If you ever seethe girl who wax woe my
little Sophia, give her my love."
He read it mechftnicnllv. as he did averv- w , '
thing now; then,
j , - j
s
loose lingers, it slipped from him any.'
skimmed downundor the table, and presently
he was called from the room. Sophia dropped
on her knees aud caught the sheet up, and
read the line again:
"7jou ever see the girl who was ope my
little Sophia, give her my love." ' ;
Bless me, how she kissed that sheet! It got
all the love kisses that had been ripening on
her lips for six and thirty months. Hod it
been the age of transformation, that sheet
would surely have turned into a lover under
the transmuting power of those kisses. And
then Miss Sophia, who had a terribly tender .
conscience of her own, looked at the letter,
and colored up at a certain suggestion of her
own mind, and wondered would it be very
wrong, and would the rector ever find it out,
and was it very mean of her to do it in tha
hope that he would never find it out? And,
deciding on action, she nici !y tore off the
finest little morsel of the pa; r, where on the
last line these precious woros were inscribed;
and she slipped the shred into her watch case,
where she could look at it night and morning.
The UttU girl that was my Sophia. Tim
11 that shall be! until you bid her cease!" w . -
t

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