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   Chapter 10 THE PHILANTHROPIST.

The Clever Woman of the Family By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 43561

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"Scorn not the smallness of daily endeavour,

Let the great meaning ennoble it ever,

Droop not o'er efforts expended in vain,

Work, as believing, that labour is gain."

Queen Isabel, &c. by S. M.

The sturdy recusant against Myrtlewood croquet continued to be Rachel Curtis, and yet it was not a testimony against the game so much as real want of time for it. She was always full of occupation, even while her active mind craved for more definite and extended labour; and when she came upon the field of strategy, it was always either with some business before her, or else so late that the champions were only assisting their several lags to bring the battle to an end.

If there had been a will there would have been a way, but, as she said, she saw enough to perceive that proficiency could only be attained at the cost of much time and study, and she did not choose to be inferior and mediocre. Also, she found occupations open to her elsewhere that had long been closed or rendered unpleasant. Mr. Touchett had become wonderfully pacific and obliging of late, as if the lawn tactics absorbed his propensities for offence and defence, he really seemed obliged for one or two bits of parish work that she attended to; finding that between him and his staff of young ladies they were getting omitted. Somehow, too, an unaccountable blight was passing over the activity of those curatolatresses, as Rachel had been wont to call them; they were less frequently to be met with popping out of the schools and cottages, and Rachel, who knew well all the real poor, though refusing the bonds of a district, was continually detecting omissions which she more often supplied than reported. There was even a smaller sprinkling at the weekly services, and the odd thing was that the curate never seemed to remark or be distressed by the change, or if any one spoke of the thin congregation he would say, winter was the Avonmouth season, which was true enough, but the defaulters were mostly his own peculiar followers, the female youth of the professional and mercantile population.

Rachel did not trouble herself about the cause of all this, indeed she was too much occupied with the gradual gliding into somewhat of her original activity and importance in the field thus left open to her. None the less, however, did she feel the burden of life's problems; the intercourse she had enjoyed with Colonel Keith had excited her for a time, but in the reaction, the old feelings returned painfully that the times were out of joint; the heavens above became obscure and misty as before, the dark places of the earth looked darker than ever, and those who lived at ease seemed to be employed either in sport upon the outside of the dungeon where the captives groaned, or in obstructing the way of those who would fain have plunged in to the rescue.

Her new acquaintance, Mr. Mauleverer, was an example of such prevention, which weighed much on her mind. He had been perfectly unobtrusive, but Mrs. Curtis meeting him on the second day of his sketching, had naturally looked at his drawing, and admired it so much that she brought her daughters to see it when in course of completion the next day. He had then asked whether there would be any objection to his making use of the sketches in the way of remunerative sale. Mrs. Curtis looked rather taken aback, it hardly agreed with her exclusive notions of privacy, and he at once apologized with such humility that she was touched, and felt herself doing him a wrong, whilst Rachel was angry at her scruple, yet uncomfortably thought of "that landscape painter," then said in her decided way, "you did not mean to object, mother?"

"Oh, not for a moment, pray don't think of it," returned Mr. Mauleverer, in haste. "I would not think of the intrusion. It is only that these poor trifles are steps to one of the few means by which I can still hope to do even a little for my fellow creatures; the greatest solace that remains to me."

"My mother did not mean to prevent anything," said Rachel eagerly; "least of all any means of doing good."

"Indeed, I cannot but be aware that Miss Curtis is the last individual who would do so, except indeed by the good works she herself absorbs."

"You are too good, sir," returned Mrs. Curtis; "I am sure I did not mean to object to anything for good. If it is for a charity, I am sure some of our friends would be very glad to take some sketches of our scenery; they have been begging me this long time to have it photographed. I should like to have that drawing myself, it would please your aunt so much, my dear, if we sent it to her."

Mr. Mauleverer bowed, but Rachel was not sure whether he had not been insulted.

Next day he left at the door the drawing handsomely mounted, and looking so grand and meritorious that poor Mrs. Curtis became much troubled in mind whether its proper price might not be five or even ten guineas, instead of the one for which she had mentally bargained, or if this might not be the beginning of a series; "which would be quite another thing, you know, my dear."

Rachel offered to go and talk to the artist, who was sketching in full view from the windows, and find out what value he set upon it.

"Perhaps, but I don't know, my dear. Won't it be odd? Had you not better wait till Grace comes in, or till I can come down with you?"

"No need at all, mother, I can do it much better alone, and at my age-"

So Rachel took a parasol and stepped out, looked at the outline newly produced, thanked and praised the drawing that had been received, adding that her mother would be glad to know what price Mr. Mauleverer set upon it. She was met by a profession of ignorance of its value, and of readiness to be contented with whatever might be conferred upon his project; the one way in which he still hoped to be of service to his fellow creatures, the one longing of his life.

"Ah!" said Rachel, greatly delighted with this congenial spirit, and as usual preferring the affirmative to the interrogative. "I heard you had been interesting yourself about Mrs Kelland's lace school. What a miserable system it is!"

"My inquiries have betrayed me then? It is indeed a trying spectacle."

"And to be helpless to alleviate it," continued Rachel. "Over work, low prices and middle-men perfectly batten on the lives of our poor girls here. I have thought it over again and again, and it is a constant burden on my mind."

"Yes, indeed. The effects of modern civilization are a constant burden on the compassion of every highly constituted nature."

"The only means that seems to me likely to mitigate the evil," continued Rachel, charmed at having the most patient listener who had ever fallen to her lot, "would be to commence an establishment where some fresh trades might be taught, so as to lessen the glut of the market, and to remove the workers that are forced to undersell one another, and thus oblige the buyers to give a fairly remunerative price."

"Precisely my own views. To commence an establishment that would drain off the superfluous labour, and relieve the oppressed, raising the whole tone of female employment."

"And this is the project you meant?"

"And in which, for the first time, I begin to hope for success, if it can only receive the patronage of some person of influence."

"Oh, anything I can do!" exclaimed Rachel, infinitely rejoiced. "It is the very thing I have been longing for for years. What, you would form a sort of industrial school, where the children could be taught some remunerative labour, and it might soon be almost self-supporting?"

"Exactly; the first establishment is the difficulty, for which I have been endeavouring to put a few mites together."

"Every one would subscribe for such a purpose!" exclaimed Rachel.

"You speak from your own generous nature, Miss Curtis; but the world would require patronesses to recommend."

"There could be no difficulty about that!" exclaimed Rachel; but at this moment she saw the Myrtlewood pony carriage coming to the door, and remembering that she had undertaken to drive out Ermine Williams in it, she was obliged to break off the conversation, with an eager entreaty that Mr. Mauleverer would draw up an account of his plan, and bring it to her the next day, when she would give her opinion on it, and consider of the means.

"My dear," said her mother, on her return, "how long you have been; and what am I to give for the water-colour?"

"Oh, I forgot all about the water-colour; but never mind what we give, mamma, it is all to go to an asylum for educating poor girls, and giving them some resource beyond that weary lace-making-the very thing I have always longed for. He is coming to settle it all with me to-morrow, and then we will arrange what to give."

"Indeed, my dear, I hope it will be something well managed. I think if it were not for those middle-men, lace-making would not be so bad. But you must not keep poor Miss Williams waiting."

Ermine had never seen Rachael in such high spirits as when they set out through the network of lanes, describing her own exceeding delight in the door thus opening for the relief of the suffering over which she had long grieved, and launching out into the details of the future good that was to be achieved. At last Ermine asked what Rachel knew of the proposer.

"Captain Keith, heard he was a distinguished professor and essayist."

"Then I wonder we have not heard his name," said Ermine. "It is a remarkable one; one might look in the 'Clergy List' at Villars's."

"Villars called him a clerical gentleman," mused Rachel.

"Then you would be sure to be able to find out something about him before committing yourself."

"I can see what he is," said Rachel, "a very sensible, accomplished man, and a great deal more; not exactly a finished gentleman. But that is no objection to his doing a great work."

"None at all," said Ermine, smiling; "but please forgive me. We have suffered so much from trusting too implicitly, that I never can think it safe to be satisfied without thorough knowledge of a person's antecedents."

"Of course," said Rachel, "I shall do nothing without inquiry. I will find out all about him, but I cannot see any opening for distrust. Schemes of charity are not compatible with self-seeking and dishonesty."

"But did I not hear something about opinions?"

"Oh, as to that, it was only Villars. Besides, you are a clergyman's daughter, and your views have a different colouring from mine. Modern research has introduced so many variations of thought, that no good work would be done at all if we required of our fellow-labourers perfect similarity of speculative belief."

"Yet suppose he undertook to teach others?"

"The simple outlines of universal doctrine and morality which are required by poor children are not affected by the variations to which investigation conducts minds of more scope."

"I am afraid such variations may often reach the foundation."

"Now, Miss Williams, I am sure you must often have heard it observed how when it comes to real practical simple teaching of uninstructed people, villagers or may be heathens, the details of party difference melt away, and people find themselves in accordance."

"True, but there I think party differences in the Church, and even the variations between Christian sects are concerned, both being different ways of viewing the same truth. These may, like the knights in the old fable, find that both were right about the shield, both have the same foundation. But where the foundation is not the same, the results of the teaching will not agree."

"Every one agrees as to morality."

"Yes, but do all give a motive sufficient to enforce the self-denial that morality entails? Nay, do they show the way to the spiritual strength needful to the very power of being moral?"

"That is begging the question. The full argument is whether the full church, say Christian system, exactly as you, as we hold it, is needful to the perfection of moral observance. I don't say whether I assent, but the present question is whether the child's present belief and practice need be affected by its teacher's dogmatic or undogmatic system."

"The system for life is generally formed in childhood. Harvest depends on seed time."

"And after all," added Rachel, "we have no notion whether this poor man be not precisely of your own opinions, and from their fruits I am sure you ought to claim them."

"Their blossoms if you please," laughed Ermine. "We have not seen their fruits yet."

"And I shall take care the fruits are not nipped with the blight of suspicion," said Rachel, good-humouredly.

However, after driving Ermine home, and seeing her lifted out and carried into the house by her sister, Rachel did send the carriage back by the groom and betake herself to Villars's shop, where she asked for a sight of the "Clergy List." The name of Mauleverer caught her eye, but only one instance of it appeared, and he was a cathedral canon, his presentation dated in 1832, the time at which, judging from appearances, the object of her search might have been born; besides, he rejoiced in the simple name of Thomas. But Rachel's search was brought to an abrupt conclusion by the issue of Mr. Mauleverer himself from the reading-room within the shop. He bowed and passed by, but Rachel for the life of her could not hinder a burning colour from spreading to the very tips of her ears; so certain did she feel that she was insulting him by her researches, and that he perceived them. She felt absolutely ashamed to see him the next day, and even in her dreams was revolving speeches that might prove that though cautious and clear-sighted, she was neither suspicious nor narrow-minded.

He came when some morning visitors were at the Homestead, prosy neighbours whose calls were always a penance to Rachel, and the butler, either from the manner of the inquiry or not regarding him as drawing-room company, put him into the dining-room and announced, "Mr. Mauleverer to see Miss Rachel." Up jumped Miss Rachel, with "You'll excuse me, it is on business;" and went off highly satisfied that "the mother" was hindered by politeness from making any attempt at chaperonage either personally or through Grace, so unnecessary at her age, for since Colonel Keith's departure, Rachel's age had begun to grow on her again. She held out her hand as if to atone for her search, but she found at once that it had been remarked.

"You were doing me the honour to look for my name in the 'Clergy List,' Miss Curtis," he said.

"Yes, one is apt-," faltered Rachel, decidedly out of countenance.

"I quite appreciate the motive. It is exactly in accord with Miss Curtis's prudence and good sense. I should wish to be fully explicit before any arrangements are made. I am unhappily not in orders, Miss Curtis. I know your liberality will regard the cause with leniency."

"Indeed," said Rachel, sufficiently restored to recall one of her premeditated reassurances. "I can fully appreciate any reluctance to become stringently bound to dogmatic enunciations, before the full powers of the intellect have examined into them."

"You have expressed it exactly, Miss Curtis. Without denying an iota of them, I may be allowed to regret that our formularies are too technical for a thoughtful mind in the present age."

"Many have found it so," returned Rachel, thoughtfully, "who only needed patience to permit their convictions to ripen. Then I understand you, it was a rejection on negative not positive grounds?"

"Precisely; I do not murmur, but it has been the blight of my life."

"And yet," said Rachel, consolingly, "it may enable you to work with more freedom."

"Since you encourage me to believe so, Miss Curtis, I will hope it, but I have met with much suspicion."

"I can well believe it," said Rachel; "even some of the most superior persons refuse to lay their hands to any task unless they are certified of the religious opinions of their coadjutors, which seems to me like a mason's refusing to work at a wall with a man who liked Greek architecture when he preferred Gothic!"

If Rachel had been talking to Ermine she might have been asked whether the dissimilarity might not be in the foundations, or in the tempering of the mortar, but Mr. Mauleverer only commended her liberal spirit, and she thought it high time to turn from this subject to the immediate one in hand. He had wished to discuss the plan with her, he said, before drawing it up, and in effect she had cogitated so much upon it that her ideas came forth with more than her usual fluency and sententiousness. The scheme was that an asylum should be opened under the superintendence of Mr. Mauleverer himself, in which young girls might be placed to learn handicrafts that might secure their livelihood, in especial, perhaps, wood engraving and printing. It might even be possible, in time, to render the whole self-supporting, suppose by the publication of a little illustrated periodical, the materials for which might be supplied by those interested in the institution.

If anything could add to Rachel's delight it was this last proposition. In all truth and candour, the relief to the victims to lace-making was her primary object, far before all besides, and the longing desire of her heart for years seemed about to be fulfilled; but a domestic magazine, an outlet to all the essays on Curatocult, on Helplessness, on Female Folly, and Female Rights, was a development of the plan beyond her wildest hopes! No dull editor to hamper, reject or curtail! She should be as happy, and as well able to expand as the Invalid herself.

Mr. Mauleverer had brought a large packet of letters with him, in all manner of hands. There were some testimonials from a German university, and letters from German professors in a compromise between English and German hand, looking impossible to read, also the neat writing and thin wavy water-marked paper of American professors and philanthropists in high commendation of his ability and his scheme, and a few others that he said were of too private a nature to do more than show Miss Curtis in confidence, but on which she recognised some distinguished names of persons interested in Social Science. She would not wound his feelings by too close an inquiry, but she felt armed at all points against cavillers. Really, she began to think, it was a great pity Colonel Keith should cross her path again, she had so much on her hands that it would be a public misfortune if any one man's private domestic love should monopolize her; and yet, such was this foolish world, the Honourable Mrs. Colin Keith would be a more esteemed lady patroness than Miss Rachel Curtis, though the Curtises had been lords of the soil for many generations, and Colonel Keith was a mere soldier of fortune.

One disappointment Rachel had, namely, that Mr. Mauleverer announced that he was about to return to St. Herbert's, the very large and fashionable watering-place in the next indentation of the coast. He had duties there, he said, and he had only come to Avonmouth for a brief holiday, a holiday that was to result in such happy effects. He lived in an exceedingly retired way, he said, being desirous of saving his small private means for his great object, and he gave Rachel his address at the chief printseller's of the place, where his letters were left for him, while he made excursions from time to time to study the picturesque, and to give lectures on behalf of philanthropical subjects. He offered such a lecture at Avonmouth, but Mr. Touchett would not lend either school-room, and space was nowhere else available. In the meantime a prospectus was drawn up, which Rachel undertook to get printed at Villars's, and to send about to all her friends, since a subscription in hand was the first desideratum.

Never since she had grown up to be a thinking woman had Rachel been so happy as with this outlet to her activity and powers of managing, "the good time coming at last." Eagerly she claimed sympathy, names and subscriptions. Her own immediate circle was always easily under her influence, and Lady Temple, and Mrs. Curtis supplied the dignity of lady patronesses; Bessie Keith was immensely diverted at the development of "that landscape painter," and took every opportunity of impressing on Rachel that all was the result of her summons to the rescue. Ermine wished Rachel had found out who was the bishop's chaplain who rejected him, but allowed that it would have been an awkward question to ask, and also she wondered if he were a university man; but Mr. Touchett had been at a Hall, and never knew anybody, besides being so firmly convinced that Mr. Mauleverer was a pestiferous heretic, that no one, except Lady Temple, could have obtained a patient answer from him on that head-and even with her he went the length of a regret that she had given the sanction of her name to an undertaking by a person of whose history and principles nothing satisfactory was known. "Oh!" said Fanny, with her sweet look of asking pardon, "I am so sorry you think so; Rachel wished it so much, and it seems such a nice thing for the poor children."

"Indeed," said Mr. Touchett, well nigh disarmed by the look, "I am quite sensible of the kindness of all you do, I only ventured to wish there had been a little more delay, that we were more certain about this person."

"When Colonel Keith comes back he will find out all about him, I am sure," said Fanny, and Mr. Touchett, to whom seemed to have been transferred Rachel's dislike to the constant quoting of Colonel Keith, said no more.

The immediate neighbourhood d

id not very readily respond to the appeal to it in behalf of the lace-makers. People who did not look into the circumstances of their neighbours thought lace furnished a good trade, and by no means wished to enhance its price; people who did care for the poor had charities of their own, nor was Rachel Curtis popular enough to obtain support for her own sake; a few five-pound notes, and a scanty supply of guineas and half-guineas from people who were ready at any cost to buy off her vehement eyes and voice was all she could obtain, and with a subscription of twenty pounds each from her mother, Lady Temple, and Grace, and all that she could scrape together of her own, hardly seemed sufficient to meet the first expenses, and how would the future be provided for? She calculated how much she could spare out of her yearly income, and actually, to the great horror of her mother and the coachman, sold her horse.

Bessie Keith was the purchaser. It was an expense that she could quite afford, for she and her brother had been left very well off by their father-a prudent man, who, having been a widower during his Indian service, had been able to live inexpensively, besides having had a large amount of prize money. She had always had her own horse at Littleworthy, and now when Rachel was one day lamenting to her the difficulty of raising money for the Industrial Asylum, and declaring that she would part with her horse if she was sure of its falling into good hands, Bessie volunteered to buy it, it was exactly what would suit her, and she should delight in it as a reminder of dear Avonmouth. It was a pang, Rachel loved the pretty spirited creature, and thought of her rides with the Colonel; but how weigh the pleasure of riding against the welfare of one of those hard-worked, half-stifled little girls, and besides, it might be best to have done with Colonel Keith now that her mission had come to find her. So the coachman set a purposely unreasonable value upon poor Meg, and Rachel reduced the sum to what had been given for it three years before; but Bessie begged her brother to look at the animal and give his opinion.

"Is that what you are after?" he exclaimed.

"Indeed, Alick, I thought it was the greatest kindness I could do her; she is so very eager about this plan, and so anxious to find poor Meg a good home."

"Purely to oblige her?"

"Of course, Alick, it was much more convenient to her than if she had had to send about to horse-dealers or to advertise. I doubt if she could have done it at all; and it is for her asylum, you know."

"Then give the coachman's sixty guineas at once."

"Ah, Alick, that's your infatuation!" and she put on a droll gesture of pity. "But excuse me, where would be the fine edge of delicacy in giving a manifestly fancy price? Come and look at her."

"I never meddle with horse-dealing."

"Stuff, as if you weren't the best-mounted man in the regiment. I shall send a note to Captain Sykes if you won't; he knows how to drive a bargain."

"And give a fancy price the other way. Well, Bessie, on one condition I'll go, and that is, that Meg goes to Bishopsworthy the day she is yours. I won't have her eating Lady Temple's corn, and giving her servants trouble."

"As if I should think of such a thing."

Captain Keith's estimate of the value of the steed precisely agreed with Rachel's demand of the original price. Bessie laughed, and said there was collusion.

"Now seriously, Alick, do you think her worth so much? Isn't it a pity, when you know what a humbug poor Rachel is going to give it to?" and she looked half comical, half saucy.

"If she were going to throw it into the sea, I don't see what difference that would make."

"Ah! you are far too much interested. Nothing belonging to her can bear a vulgar price."

"Nothing belonging to me is to gain profit by her self-denial," said Alick, gravely. "You cannot do less than give her what she gave for it, if you enter on the transaction at all."

"You mean that it would look shabby. You see we womankind never quite know the code of the world on such matters," she said, candidly.

"There is something that makes codes unnecessary, Bessie," he said.

"Ah! I can make allowances. It is a cruel stroke. I don't wonder you can't bear to see any one else on her palfrey; above all as a sacrifice to the landscape painter."

"Then spare my feelings, and send the mare to Bishopsworthy," said Alick, as usual too careless of the imputation to take the trouble to rebut it or to be disconcerted.

Bessie was much tickled at his acceptance, and laughed heartily.

"To be sure," she said, "it is past concealment now. You must have been very far gone, indeed, to have been taken in to suppose me to be making capital of her 'charitable purposes.'"

"Your acting is too like life," he said, not yet induced to laugh, and she rattled on with her droll, sham sentimental air. "Is it the long words, Alick, or is it 'the great eyes, my dear;' or is it-oh, yes, I know what is the great attraction-that the Homestead doesn't possess a single spot where one could play at croquet!"

"Quite irresistible!" replied Alick, and Bessie retreated from the colloquy still not laughing at but with him; that is, if the odd, quaint, inward mirth which only visibly lengthened his sleepy eyes, could be called a laugh.

Next time Captain Keith rode to Avonmouth he met the riding party on the road, Bessie upon Rachel's mare, and it appeared that Lady Temple had considered it so dreadful that Meg should not share her hospitality, that it had been quite impossible to send her away. "So, Alick, your feelings must endure the dreadful spectacle."

Meanwhile Rachel was hard at work with the subscribers to the "Christian Knowledge Society." Beginning with the A's, and working down a page a day, she sent every member a statement of the wrongs of the lacemakers, and the plans of the industrial establishment, at a vast expense of stamps; but then, as she calculated, one pound thus gained paid for two hundred and forty fruitless letters.

"And pray," said Alick, who had ridden on to call at the Homestead, "how do you reconcile yourself to the temptation to the postmen?"

"They don't see what my letters are about?"

"They must be dull postmen if they don't remark on the shower of envelopes that pass through their hands-ominous money-letters, all with the same address, and no detection remember. You don't know who will answer and who will not."

"I never thought of that," said Rachel; "but risks must be run when any great purpose is in hand."

"The corruption of one postman versus the rescue of-how many children make a postman?" asked Captain Keith, with his grave, considering look.

"The postman would be corrupt already," said Grace, as Rachel thought the last speech too mocking to be worthy of reply, and went on picking up her letters.

"There is another objection," added Captain Keith, as he watched her busy fingers. "Have you considered how you are frightening people out of the society? It is enough to make one only subscribe as Michael Miserly or as Simon Skinflint, or something equally uninviting to applications."

"I shall ask you to subscribe by both names!" said Rachel, readily. "How much for Simon Skinflint?"

"Ten pounds. Stop-when Mr. Mauleverer gives him a reference."

"That's ungenerous. Will Michael Miserly make up for it?"

"Yes, when the first year's accounts have been audited."

"Ah! those who have no faith to make a venture can never effect any good."

"You evidently build on a great amount of faith from the public. How do you induce them to believe-do you write in your own name?"

"No, it makes mamma unhappy. I was going to put R. C., but Grace said people would think it meant Roman Catholic. Your sister thought I had better put the initials of Female Union for Lacemaker's Employment."

"You don't mean that Bessie persuaded you to put that?" exclaimed Alick Keith, more nearly starting up than Rachel had ever seen him.

"Yes. There is no objection, is there?"

"Oh, Rachel, Rachel, how could we have helped thinking of it?" cried Grace, nearly in a state of suffocation.

Rachel held up her printed appeal, where subscriptions were invited to the address of F. U. L. E., the Homestead, Avonmouth.

"Miss Curtis, though you are not Scottish, you ought to be well read in Walter Scott."

"I have thought it waste of time to read incorrect pictures of pseudo-chivalry since I have been grown up," said Rachel. "But that has nothing to do with it."

"Ah, Rachel, if we had been more up in our Scotch, we should have known what F. U. L. E. spells," sighed Grace.

A light broke in upon Rachel. "I am sure Bessie never could have recollected it," was her first exclamation. "But there," she continued, too earnest to see or stumble at straws, "never mind. It cannot be helped, and I dare say not one person in ten will be struck by it."

"Stay," said Grace, "let it be Englishwoman's Employment. See, I can very easily alter the L into an E."

Rachel would hardly have consented, but was forced to yield to her mother's entreaties. However, the diligent transformation at L's did not last long, for three days after a parcel was left at the Homestead containing five thousand printed copies of the appeal, with the E rightly inserted. Bessie laughed, and did not disavow the half reluctant thanks for this compensation for her inadvertence or mischief, whichever it might be, laughing the more at Rachel's somewhat ungrateful confession that she had rather the cost had gone into a subscription for the F. U. E. E. As Bessie said to herself, it was much better and more agreeable for all parties that it should so stand, and she would consider herself in debt to Alick for the amount. Indeed, she fully expected him to send her in the bill, but in the meantime not one word was uttered between the brother and sister on the subject. They understood one another too well to spend useless words.

Contrary to most expectation, there was result enough from Rachel's solicitations to serve as justification for the outlay in stamps. The very number of such missives that fly about the world proves that there must be a great amount of uninquiring benevolence to render the speculation anything but desperate, and Rachel met with very tolerable success. Mr. Mauleverer called about once a week to report progress on his side, and, in his character of treasurer, to take charge of the sums that began to accumulate. But Rachel had heard so much on all sides of the need of caution in dealing with one so entirely a stranger, that she resolved that no one should blame her for imprudence, and therefore retained in her own name, in the Avoncester Bank, all the sums that she received. Mr. Mauleverer declared himself quite contented with this arrangement, and eagerly anticipated the apologies that Rachel was ashamed even to make to him.

Enough was collected to justify a beginning on a small scale. A house was to be taken where Mr. Mauleverer and a matron would receive the first pupils, teach them wood engraving, and prepare the earlier numbers of the magazine. When a little more progress had been made, the purchase of a printing-press might be afforded, and it might be struck off by the girls themselves, but in the meantime they must be dependent on the regular printer. On this account Mr. Mauleverer thought it best to open the establishment, not at Avonmouth, but at St. Herbert's, where he had acquaintance that would facilitate the undertaking.

Rachel was much disappointed. To be in and out constantly, daily teaching and watching the girls, and encouraging them by learning the employment herself, had been an essential portion of her vision. She had even in one of her most generous moods proposed to share the delight with the Williamses, and asked Ermine if she would not, if all things suited, become the resident matron. However, Mr. Mauleverer said that there was an individual of humbler rank, the widow of a National Schoolmaster, so anxious to devote herself to the work, that he had promised she should share it whenever he was in a condition to set the asylum on foot; and he assured Rachel that she would find this person perfectly amenable to all her views, and ready to work under her. He brought letters in high praise of the late school master, and recommendations of his widow from the clergyman of the parish where they had lived; and place and name being both in the "Clergy List," even Ermine and Alison began to feel ashamed of their incredulity, whilst as to Grace, she had surrendered herself completely to the eager delight of finding a happy home for the little children in whom she was interested. Grace might laugh a little at Rachel, but in the main her trust in her sister's superiority always led her judgment, and in the absence of Colonel Keith, Fanny was equally willing to let Rachel think for her when her own children were not concerned.

Rachel did not give up her hopes of fixing the asylum near her till after a considerable effort to get a house for it at Avonmouth, but this was far from easy. The Curtises' unwillingness to part with land for building purposes enhanced the price of houses, and in autumn and winter the place was at its fullest, so that she could not even rent a house but at a ruinous price. It would be the best way to build on Homestead land, but this would be impracticable until spring, even if means were forthcoming, as Rachel resolved they should be, and in the meantime she was obliged to acquiesce in Mr. Mauleverer's assurance that a small house in an overbuilt portion of St. Norbert's would be more eligible than one in some inland parish. Anything was better than delay. Mr. Mauleverer was to superintend from his lodgings.

Rachel went with Grace and her mother to St. Norbert's, and inspected the house, an ordinary cheap one, built to supply lodgings for the more economical class of visitors. It was not altogether what Rachel wished, but must serve till she could build, and perhaps it would be best to form her experience before her plans. Mr. Mauleverer's own lodgings were near at hand, and he could inspect progress. The furniture was determined upon-neat little iron beds for the dormitories, and all that could serve for comfort and even pleasure, for both Mr. Mauleverer and Rachel were strong against making the place bare and workhouse-like, insulting poverty and dulling the spirit.

Grace suggested communication with the clergyman of the parish; but the North Hill turned out not to belong to St. Norbert's proper, being a part of a great moorland parish, whose focus was twelve miles off. A district was in course of formation, and a church was to be built; but in the meantime the new houses were practically almost pastorless, and the children and their matron must take their chance on the free seats of one of the churches of St. Norbert's. The staff of clergy there were so busy that no one liked to add extra parochial work to their necessary duties, and there was not sufficient acquaintance with them to judge how they would view Mr. Mauleverer's peculiarities. Clerical interference was just what Rachel said she did not want; it was an escape that she did not call it meddling.

One bit of patronage at least she could exercise; a married pair of former Homestead servants had set up a fuel store at St. Norbert's, receiving coal from the ships, and retailing it. They were to supply the F. U. E. E. with wood, coal, and potatoes; and this was a great ingredient in Mrs. Curtis's toleration. The mother liked anything that brought custom to Rossitur and Susan.

The establishment was at present to consist of three children: the funds were not sufficient for more. One was the child of the matron, and the other two were Lovedy Kelland and the daughter of a widow in ill health, whose family were looking very lean and ill cared for. Mrs. Kelland was very unwilling to give Lovedy up, she had always looked to receiving the apprentice fee from the Burnaby bargain for her as soon as the child was fourteen, and she had a strong prejudice against any possible disturbance to the lace trade; but winter would soon come and her sale was uncertain; her best profit was so dependent on Homestead agency that it was impolitic to offend Miss Curtis; and, moreover, Lovedy was so excited by the idea of learning to make pictures to books that she forgot all the lace dexterity she had ever learnt, and spoilt more than she made, so that Mrs. Kelland was reduced to accept the kind proposal that Lovedy should be Lady Temple's nominee, and be maintained, by her at the F. U. E. E. at seven shillings a week.

Fanny, however, asked the clergyman's consent first, telling him, with her sweet, earnest smile, how sorry she was for the little girl, and showing him the high testimonials to Mrs. Rawlins. He owned that they were all that could be wished, and even said at her request that he would talk to Mr. Mauleverer. What the talk amounted to they never knew; but when Fanny said "she hoped he had found nothing unsatisfactory, the poor man must be so glad to be of use;" Mr. Touchett replied with, "Indeed, it is an unfortunate situation;" and his opposition might therefore be considered as suspended.

"Of course," cried Bessie, "we know by what witchery!" But Alison Williams, her listener, turned on her such great eyes of wilful want of comprehension, that she held her peace.

Rachel and Grace united in sending Mary Morris, the other child; they really could do nothing more, so heavily had their means been drawn upon for the first expenses; but Rachel trusted to do more for the future, and resolved that her dress should henceforth cost no more than Alison Williams's; indeed, she went through a series of assertions by way of examining Alison on the expenses of her wardrobe.

The house was taken from Michaelmas, and a few days after, the two little victims, as Bessie laughingly called them, were taken over to St. Norbert's in the Homestead carriage, Lady Temple chaperoning the three young ladies to see the inauguration, and the height of Rachel's glory.

They were received by Mr. Mauleverer at the door, and slightly in the rear saw the matron, Mrs. Rawlins, a handsome pale woman, younger than they expected, but whose weeds made Fanny warm to her directly; but she was shy and retiring, and could not be drawn into conversation; and her little Alice was only three years old, much younger than Rachel had expected as a pupil, but a very pretty creature with great black eyes.

Tea and cake were provided by way of an inauguration feast, and the three little girls sat up in an atmosphere of good cheer, strongly suggestive of school feasts, and were left in the midst, with many promises of being good, a matter that Lovedy seemed to think would be very easy in this happy place, with no lace to make.

Mrs. Rawlins, whose husband had been a trained schoolmaster, was to take the children to church, and attend to their religious instruction; indeed, Mr. Mauleverer was most anxious on this head, and as Rachel already knew the scruples that withheld him from ordination were only upon the absolute binding himself to positive belief in minor technical points, that would never come in the way of young children.

Altogether, the neat freshness of the room, the urbanity of Mr. Mauleverer, the shy grief of the matron, all left a most pleasant impression. Rachel was full of delight and triumph, and Grace and Fanny quite enthusiastic; the latter even to the being sure that the Colonel would be delighted, for the Colonel was already beginning to dawn on the horizon, and not alone. He had written, in the name of his brother, to secure a cottage of gentility of about the same calibre as Myrtlewood, newly completed by a speculator on one of the few bits of ground available for building purposes. A name was yet wanting to it; but the day after the negotiation was concluded, the landlord paid the delicate compliment to his first tenant by painting "Gowanbrae" upon the gate-posts in letters of green. "Go and bray," read Bessie Keith as she passed by; "for the sake of the chief of my name, I hope that it is not an omen of his occupations here."

The two elder boys were with her; and while Francis, slowly apprehending her meaning in part, began to bristle up with the assurance that "Colonel Keith never brayed in his life," Conrade caught the point with dangerous relish, and dwelt with colonial disrespect, that alarmed his mother, on the opinion expressed by some unguarded person in his hearing, that Lord Keith was little better than an old donkey. "He is worse than Aunt Rachel," said Conrade, meditatively, "now she has saved Don, and keeps away from the croquet."

Meantime Rachel studied her own feelings. A few weeks ago her heart would have leapt at the announcement; but now her mission had found her out, and she did not want to be drawn aside from it. Colonel Keith might have many perfections, but alike as Scotsman, soldier, and High-Churchman, he was likely to be critical of the head of the F. U. E. E., and matters had gone too far now for her to afford to doubt, or to receive a doubting master. Moreover, it would be despicable to be diverted from a great purpose by a courtship like any ordinary woman; nor must marriage settlements come to interfere with her building and endowment of the asylum, and ultimate devotion of her property thereunto. No, she would school herself into a system of quiet discouragement, and reserve herself and her means as the nucleus of the great future establishment for maintaining female rights of labour.

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