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   Chapter 3 No.3

Hard Cash By Charles Reade Characters: 6508

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


THE long vacation commenced about a month afterwards, and Hardie came to his father's house, to read for honours, unimpeded by university races and college lectures; and the ploughed and penitent one packed up his Aldrich and his Whately, the then authorities in Logic, and brought them home, together with a firm resolution to master that joyous science before the next examination for Smalls in October. But lo! ere he had been an hour at home, he found his things put neatly away in his drawers on the feminine or vertical system-deep strata of waistcoats, strata of trousers, strata of coats, strata of papers-and his Logic gone.

In the course of the evening he taxed his sister good-humouredly, and asked "What earthly use that book was to her, not wearing curls."

"I intend to read it, and study it, and teach you it," replied Julia, rather languidly-considering the weight of the resolve.

"Oh, if you have boned it to read, I say no more; the crime will punish itself."

"Be serious, Edward, and think of mamma! I cannot sit with my hands before me, and let you be reploughed."

"I don't want. But-reploughed!-haw, haw! but you can't help me at Logic, as you used at Syntax. Why, all the world knows a girl can't learn Logic."

"A girl can learn anything she chooses to learn. What she can't learn is things other people set her down to." Before Edward could fully digest this revelation, she gave the argument a new turn by adding fretfully, "And don't be so unkind, thwarting and teasing me!" and all in a moment she was crying.

"Halloa!" ejaculated Edward, taken quite by surprise. "What is the matter, dears?" inquired maternal vigilance from the other end of the room. "You did not speak brusquely to her, Edward?"

"No, no," said Julia eagerly. "It is I that am turned so cross and so peevish. I am quite a changed girl. Mamma, what is the matter with me?" And she laid her brow on her mother's bosom.

Mrs. Dodd caressed the lovely head soothingly with one hand, and made a sign over it to Edward to leave them alone. She waited quietly till Julia was composed: and then said, softly, "Come, tell me what it is: nothing that Edward said to you; for I heard almost every word, and I was just going to smile, or nearly, when you-- And, my love, it is not the first time, you know. I would not tell Edward, but I have more than once seen your eyes with tears in them."

"Have you, mamma?" said Julia, scarcely above a whisper.

"Why, you know I have. But I said to myself it was no use forcing confidence. I thought I would be very patient, and wait till you came to me with it; so now, what is it, my darling? Why do you speak of one thing and think of another? and cry without any reason that your mother can see?"

"I don't know, mamma," said Julia, hiding her head. "I think it is because I sleep so badly. I rise in the morning hot and quivering, and more tired then I lay down."

Mrs. Dodd inquired how long this had been.

Julia did not answer this question; she went on, with her face still hidden: "Mamma, I do feel so depressed and hysterical, or else in violent spirits: but not nice and cheerful as you are, and I used to be; and I go from one thing to another, and can settle to nothing-even in chu

rch I attend by fits and starts: I forgot to water my very flowers last night: and I heard Mrs. Maxley out of my window tell Sarah I am losing my colour. Am I? But what does it matter? I am losing my sense; for I catch myself for ever looking in the glass, and that is a sure sign of a fool, you know. And I cannot pass the shops: I stand and look in, and long for the very dearest silks, and for diamonds in my hair." A deep sigh followed the confession of these multiform imperfections; and the culprit half raised her head to watch their effect.

As for Mrs. Dodd, she opened her eyes wide with surprise; but at the end of the heterogeneous catalogue she smiled, and said, "I cannot believe that. If ever there was a young lady free from personal vanity, it is my Julia. Why, your thoughts run by nature away from yourself; you were born for others."

Her daughter kissed her gratefully, and smiled: but after a pause, said, sorrowfully, "Ah! that was the old Julia, as seen with your dear eyes. I have almost forgotten her. The new one is what I tell you, dear mamma, and that" (within sudden fervour) "is a dreamy, wandering, vain, egotistical, hysterical, abominable girl."

"Let me kiss this monster that I have brought into the world," said Mrs. Dodd. "And now let me think." She rested her eyes calm and penetrating upon her daughter; and at this mere look, but a very searching one, the colour mounted and mounted in Julia's cheek strangely.

"After all," said Mrs. Dodd thoughtfully, "yours is a critical age. Perhaps my child is turning to a woman; my rosebud to a rose. And she sighed. Mothers will sigh at things none other ever sighed at.

"To a weed, I fear," replied Julia. "What will you say when I own I felt no real joy at Edward's return this time? And yesterday I cried, 'Do get away, and don't pester me!'"

"To your brother? Oh!"

"Oh, no, mamma, that was to poor Spot. He jumped on me in a reverie, all affection, poor thing."

"Well, for your comfort, dogs do not appreciate the niceties of our language."

"I am afraid they do; when we kick them."

Mrs. Dodd smiled at the admission implied here, and the deep penitence it was uttered with. But Julia remonstrated, "Oh no! no! don't laugh at me, but help me within your advice: you are so wise and so experienced: you must have been a girl before you were an angel. You must know what is the matter with me. Oh, do pray cure me, or else kill me, for I cannot go on like this, all my affections deadened and my peace disturbed."

And now the mother looked serious and thoughtful enough; and the daughter watched her furtively. "Julia," said Mrs. Dodd, very gravely, "if it was not my child, reared under my eye, and never separated from me a single day, I should say, this young lady is either afflicted with some complaint, and it affects her nerves and spirits; or else she has-she is-what inexperienced young people call 'in love.' You need not look so frightened, child; nobody in their senses suspects you of imprudence or indelicacy; and therefore I feel quite sure that your constitution is at a crisis, or your health has suffered some shock-pray Heaven it may not be a serious one. You will have the best advice, and without delay, I promise you."

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