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   Chapter 17 THE SIEGE.

The Clever Woman of the Family By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 31942

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"The counterfeit presentment."-Hamlet.

Christmas came, and Rachel agreed with Mr. Mauleverer that it was better not to unsettle the children at the F. U. E. E. by permitting them to come home for holidays, a decision which produced much discontent in their respective families. Alison, going to Mrs. Morris with her pupils, to take her a share of Christmas good cheer, was made the receptacle of a great lamentation over the child's absence; and, moreover, that the mother had not been allowed to see her alone, when taken by Miss Rachel to the F. U. E. E.

"Some one ought to take it up," said Alison, as she came home, in her indignation. "Who knows what may be done to those poor children? Can't Mr. Mitchell do something?"

But Mr. Mitchell was not sufficiently at home to interfere. He was indeed negotiating an exchange with Mr. Touchett, but until this was effected he could hardly meddle in the matter, and he was besides a reserved, prudent man, slow to commit himself, so that his own impression of the asylum could not be extracted from him. Here, however, Colonel Keith put himself forward. He had often been asked by Rachel to visit the F. U. E. E., and he surprised and relieved Alison by announcing his intention of going over to St. Norbert's alone and without notice, so as to satisfy himself as far as might be as to the treatment of the inmates, and the genuineness of Mauleverer's pretensions. He had, however, to wait for weather that would not make the adventure one of danger to him, and he regarded the cold and rain with unusual impatience, until, near the end of January, he was able to undertake his expedition.

After much knocking and ringing the door was opened to him by a rude, slatternly, half-witted looking charwoman, or rather girl, who said "Master was not in," and nearly shut the door in his face. However, he succeeded in sending in his card, backed by the mention of Lady Temple and Miss Curtis; and this brought out Mrs. Rawlins, her white streamers floating stiff behind her, full of curtsies and regrets at having to refuse any friend of Miss Curtis, but Mr. Mauleverer's orders were precise and could not be infringed. He was gone to lecture at Bristol, but if the gentleman would call at any hour he would fix to morrow or next day, Mr. Mauleverer would be proud to wait on him.

When he came at the appointed time, all was in the normal state of the institution. The two little girls in white pinafores sat upon their bench with their books before them, and their matron presiding over them; Mr. Mauleverer stood near, benignantly attentive to the children and obligingly so to the visitor, volunteering information and answering all questions. Colonel Keith tried to talk to the children, but when he asked one of them whether she liked drawing better than lace-making her lips quivered, and Mrs. Rawlins replied for her, that she was never happy except with a pencil in her hand. "Show the gentleman, my dear," and out came a book of studios of cubes, globes, posts, etc., while Mr. Mauleverer talked artistically of drawing from models. Next, he observed on a certain suspicious blackness of little Mary's eye, and asked her what she had done to herself. But the child hung her head, and Mrs. Rawlins answered for her, "Ah! Mary is ashamed to tell: but the gentleman will think nothing of it, my dear. He knows that children will be children, and I cannot bear to check them, the dears."

More briefly Mr. Mauleverer explained that Mary had fallen while playing on the stairs; and with this superficial inspection he must needs content himself, though on making inquiry at the principal shops, he convinced himself that neither Mr. Mauleverer nor the F. U. E. E. were as well known at St. Norbert's as at Avonmouth. He told Rachel of his expedition, and his interest in her work gratified her, though she would have preferred being his cicerone. She assured him that he must have been very much pleased, especially with the matron.

"She is a handsome woman, and reminds me strongly of a face I saw in India."

"There are some classes of beauty and character that have a remarkable sameness of feature," began Rachel.

"Don't push that theory, for your matron's likeness was a very handsome Sepoy havildar whom we took at Lucknow, a capital soldier before the mutiny, and then an ineffable ruffian."

"The mutiny was an infectious frenzy; so that you establish nothing against that cast of countenance."

Never, indeed, was there more occasion for perseverance in Rachel's championship. Hitherto Mrs. Kelland had been nailed to her pillow by the exigencies of Lady Keith's outfit, and she and her minions had toiled unremittingly, without a thought beyond their bobbins, but as soon as the postponed orders were in train, and the cash for the wedding veil and flounces had been transmitted, the good woman treated herself and her daughters to a holiday at St. Norbert's, without intimating her intention to her patronesses; and the consequence was a formal complaint of her ungrateful and violent language to Mrs. Rawlins on being refused admission to the asylum without authority from Mr. Mauleverer or Miss Curtis.

Rachel, much displeased, went down charged with reproof and representation, but failed to produce the desired effect upon the aunt.

"It was not right," Mrs. Kelland reiterated, "that the poor lone orphan should not see her that was as good as a mother, when she had no one else to look to. They that kept her from her didn't do it for no good end."

"But, Mrs. Kelland, rules are rules."

"Don't tell me of no rules, Miss Rachel, as would cut a poor child off from her friends as her mother gave her to on her death-bed. 'Sally,' says she, 'I know you will do a mother's part by that poor little maid;' and so I did till I was over persuaded to let her go to that there place."

"Indeed you have nothing to regret there, Mrs. Kelland; you know, that with the kindest intentions, you could not make the child happy."

"And why was that, ma'am, but because her mother was a poor creature from town, that had never broke her to her work. I never had the trouble with a girl of my own I had with her. 'It's all for your good, Lovedy,' I says to her, and poor child, maybe she wishes herself back again."

"I assure you, I always find the children well and happy, and it is very unfair on the matron to be angry with her for being bound by rules, to which she must submit, or she would transgress the regulations under which we have laid her! It is not her choice to exclude you, but her duty."

"Please, ma'am, was it her duty to be coming out of the house in a 'genta coloured silk dress, and a drab bonnet with a pink feather in it?" said Mrs. Kelland, with a certain, air of simplicity, that provoked Rachel to answer sharply-

"You don't know what you are talking about, Mrs. Kelland."

"Well, ma'am, it was a very decent woman as told me, an old lady of the name of Drinkwater, as keeps a baker's shop on the other side of the way, and she never sees bread enough go in for a cat to make use of, let alone three poor hungry children. She says all is not right there, ma'am."

"Oh, that must be mere gossip and spite at not having the custom. It quite accounts for what she may say, and indeed you brought it all on yourself by not having asked me for a note. You must restrain yourself. What you may say to me is of no importance, but you must not go and attack those who are doing the very best for your niece."

Rachel made a dignified exit, but before she had gone many steps, she was assailed by tearful Mrs. Morris: "Oh, Miss Rachel, if it would not be displeasing to you, would you give me an order for my child to come home. Ours is a poor place, but I would rather make any shift for us to live than that she should be sent away to some place beyond sea."

"Some place beyond sea!"

"Yes, ma'am. I beg your pardon, ma'am, but they do say that Mr. Maw-and-liver is a kidnapper, ma'am, and that he gets them poor children to send out to Botany Bay to be wives to the convicts as are transported, Miss Rachel, if you'll excuse it. They say there's a whole shipload of them at Plymouth, and I'd rather my poor Mary came to the Union at home than to the like of that, Miss Rachel."

This alarm, being less reasonable, was even more difficult to talk down than Mrs. Kelland's, and Rachel felt as if there wore a general conspiracy to drive her distracted, when on going home she found the drawing-room occupied by a pair of plump, paddy-looking old friends, who had evidently talked her mother into a state of nervous alarm. On her entrance, Mrs. Curtis begged the gentleman to tell dear Rachel what he had been saying, but this he contrived to avoid, and only on his departure was Rachel made aware that he and his wife had come, fraught with tidings that she was fostering a Jesuit in disguise, that Mrs. Rawlins was a lady abbess of a new order, Rachel herself in danger of being entrapped, and the whole family likely to be entangled in the mysterious meshes, which, as good Mrs. Curtis more than once repeated, would be "such a dreadful thing for poor Fanny and the boys."

Her daughters, by soothing and argument, allayed the alarm, though the impression was not easily done away with, and they feared that it might yet cost her a night's rest. These attacks-absurd as they were-induced Rachel to take measures for their confutation, by writing to Mr. Mauleverer, that she thought it would be well to allow the pupils to pay a short visit to their homes, so as to satisfy their friends.

She did not receive an immediate answer, and was beginning to feel vexed and anxious, though not doubtful, when Mr. Mauleverer arrived, bringing two beautiful little woodcuts, as illustrations for the "Journal of Female Industry." They were entitled "The free maids that weave their thread with bones," and one called "the Ideal," represented a latticed cottage window, with roses, honeysuckles, cat, beehives, and all conventional rural delights, around a pretty maiden singing at her lace-pillow; while the other yclept the "Real," showed a den of thin, wizened, half-starved girls, cramped over their cushions in a lace-school. The design was Mr. Mauleverer's, the execution the children's; and neatly mounted on cards, the performance did them great credit, and there was great justice in Mr. Manleverer's view that while they were making such progress, it would be a great pity to interrupt the preparation of the first number by sending the children home even for a few hours. Rachel consented the more readily to the postponement of the holiday, as she had now something to show in evidence of the reality of their doings, and she laid hands upon the cuts, in spite of Mr. Mauleverer's unwillingness that such mere essays should be displayed as specimens of the art of the F. U. E. E. When the twenty pounds which she advanced should have been laid out in blocks, ink, and paper, there was little doubt that the illustrations of the journal would be a triumphant instance of female energy well directed.

Meantime she repaired to Ermine Williams to persuade her to write an article upon the two pictures, a paper in the lively style in which Rachel herself could not excel, pointing out the selfishness of wilfully sentimental illusions. She found Ermine alone, but her usual fate pursued her in the shape of, first, Lady Temple, then both Colonel and Captain Keith, and little Rose, who all came in before she had had time to do more than explain her intentions. Rose had had another fright, and again the Colonel had been vainly trying to distinguish the bugbear of her fancy, and she was clinging all the more closely to him because he was the only person of her aquaintance who did not treat her alarms as absolutely imaginary.

Rachel held her ground, well pleased to have so many spectators of this triumphant specimen of the skill of her asylum, and Lady Temple gave much admiration, declaring that no one ought to wear lace again without being sure that no one was tortured in making it, and that when she ordered her new black lace shawl of Mrs. Kelland, it should be on condition that the poor girls were not kept so very hard at work.

"You will think me looking for another Sepoy likeness," said the Colonel, "but I am sure I have met this young lady or her twin sister somewhere in my travels."

"It is a satire on conventional pictures," said Rachel.

"Now, I remember," he continued. "It was when I was laid up with my wound at a Dutch boer's till I could get to Cape Town. My sole reading was one number of the 'Illustrated News,' and I made too good acquaintance with that lady's head, to forget her easily."

"Of course," said Rachel, "it is a reminiscence of the painting there represented."

"What was the date?" asked Alick Keith.

The Colonel was able to give it with some precision.

"You are all against me," said Rachel, "I see you are perfectly determined that there shall be something wrong about every performance of the F. U. E. E."

"No, don't say so," began Fanny, with gentle argument, but Alick Keith put in with a smile, "It is a satisfaction to Miss Curtis."

"Athanasius against the world," she answered.

"Athanasius should take care that his own foot is firm, his position incontrovertible," said Ermine.

"Well!"

"Then," said Ermine, "will you allow these little pictures to be examined into?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Look here," and the Colonel lifted on the table a scrap-book that Rose had been quietly opening on his knee, and which contained an etching of a child playing with a dog, much resembling the style of the drawing.

"Who did that, my dear?" he asked.

"Mamma had it," was Rose's reply; "it was always in my old nursery scrap-hook."

"Every one knows," said Rachel, "that a woodcut is often like an etching, and an etching like a woodcut. I do not know what you are driving at."

"The little dogs and all," muttered Alick, as Rachel glanced rather indignantly at Rose and her book so attentively examined by the Colonel.

"I know," repeated Rachel, "that there is a strong prejudice against Mr. Mauleverer, and that it is entertained by many whom I should have hoped to see above such weakness but when I brought these tangible productions of his system, as evidence of his success, I did not expect to see them received with a covert distrust, which I own I do not understand. I perceive now why good works find so much difficulty in prospering."

"I believe," said Alick Keith, "that I am to have the honour of dining at the Homestead on Monday?"

"Yes. The Greys spend the day with us, and it is Emily's due to have a good sight of you."

"Then will you let me in the meantime take my own measures with regard to these designs. I will not hurt or injure them in any way; they shall be deposited here in Miss William's hands, and I promise you that if I have been able to satisfy myself as to the means of their production, Simon Skinflint shall become a subscriber to the F. U. E. E. Is it a bargain?"

"I never made such a bargain," said Rachel, puzzled.

"Is that a reason for not doing so?"

"I don't know what you mean to do. Not to molest that poor Mrs. Rawlins. I will not have that done."

"Certainly not. All I ask of you is that these works of art should remain here with Miss Williams, as a safe neutral, and that you should meet me here on Monday, when I will undertake to convince myself."

"Not me?" cried Rachel.

"Who would make it part of his terms to convince a lady?"

"You mean to say," exclaimed Rachel, considerably nettled, "that as a woman, I am incapable of being rationally convinced!"

"The proverb does not only apply to women," said Ermine, coming to her rescue; but Rachel, stung by the arch smile and slight bow of Captain Keith, continued-"Let the proof be convincing, and I will

meet it as candidly as it is the duty of all reasonable beings to do. Only let me first know what you mean to prove."

"The terms are these then, are they not, Miss Williams? I am to come on Monday, February the 5th, prepared to test whether these designs are what they profess to be, and Miss Curtis undertakes to be convinced by that proof, provided it be one that should carry conviction to a clear, unbiassed mind. I undertake, on the other hand, that if the said proof should be effectual, a mythical personage called Simon Skinflint shall become a supporter of the Female Union for Englishwomen's Employment."

Ho spoke with his own peculiar slowness and gravity, and Rachel, uncertain whether he were making game of her or not, looked perplexed, half on the defence, half gratified. The others were greatly amused, and a great deal surprised at Alick's unwonted willingness to take trouble in the matter. After a few moment's deliberation, Rachel said, "Well, I consent, provided that my candour be met by equal candour on the other side, and you will promise that if this ordeal succeeds, you will lay aside all prejudice against Mauleverer."

A little demur as to the reasonableness of this stipulation followed, but the terms finally were established. Mr. and Mrs. Grey, old family friends, had long been engaged to spend the ensuing Monday at the Homestead. The elder daughter, an old intimate of Grace's, had married an Indian civil servant, whom Colonel Keith was invited to meet at luncheon, and Captain Keith at dinner, and Alick was further to sleep at Gowanbrae. Lady Temple, who was to have been of the party, was called away, much to her own regret, by an appointment with the dentist of St. Norbert's, who was very popular, and proportionately despotic, being only visible at his own times, after long appointment. She would therefore be obliged to miss Alick's ordeal, though as she said, when Rachel-finding it vain to try to outstay so many-had taken her leave, "I should much like to see how it will turn out. I do believe that there is some difference in the colour of the ink in the middle and at the edge, and if those people are deceiving Rachel, who knows what they may be doing to the poor children?"

It was exactly what every one was thinking, but it seemed to have fresh force when it struck the milder and slower imagination, and Lady Temple, seeing that her observation told upon those around her, became more impressed with its weight.

"It really is dreadful to have sent those little girls there without any one knowing what anybody does to them," she repeated.

"It makes even Alick come out in a new character," said the Colonel, turning round on him.

"Why," returned Alick, "my sister had so much to do with letting the young lady in for the scrape, that it is just as well to try to get her out of it. In fact, I think we have all sat with our hands before us in a shamefully cool manner, till we are all accountable for the humbuggery."

"When it comes to your reproaching us with coolness, Captain Keith, the matter becomes serious," returned Colin.

"It does become serious," was the answer; "it is hard that a person without any natural adviser should have been allowed to run headlong, by force of her own best qualities, into the hands of a sharper. I do not see how a man of any proper feeling, can stand by without doing something to prevent the predicament from becoming any worse."

"If you can," said Colonel Keith.

"I verily believe," said Alick, turning round upon him, "that the worse it is for her, the more you enjoy it!"

"Quite true," said Ermine in her mischievous way; "it is a true case of man's detestation of clever women! Look here, Alick, we will not have him here at the great ordeal of the woodcuts. You and I are much more candid and unprejudiced people, and shall manage her much better."

"I have no desire to be present," returned the Colonel; "I have no satisfaction in seeing my friend Alick baffled. I shall see how they both appear at luncheon afterwards."

"How will that be?" asked Fanny, anxiously.

"The lady will be sententious and glorious, and will recommend the F. U. E. E. more than ever, and Alick will cover the downfall of his crest by double-edged assents to all her propositions."

"You will not have that pleasure," said Alick. "I only go to dinner there."

"At any rate," said the Colonel, "supposing your test takes effect by some extraordinary chance, don't take any further steps without letting me know."

The inference was drawn that he expected great results, but he continued to laugh at Alick's expectations of producing any effect on the Clever Woman, and the debate of the woodcuts was adjourned to the Monday.

In good time, Rachel made her appearance in Miss Williams's little sitting-room. "I am ready to submit to any test that Captain Keith may require to confute himself," she said to Ermine; "and I do so the more readily that with all his mocking language, there is a genuine candour and honesty beneath that would be quite worth convincing. I believe that if once persuaded of the injustice of his suspicions he would in the reaction become a fervent supporter of Mr. Mauleverer and of the institution; and though I should prefer carrying on our work entirely through women, yet this interest would be so good a thing for him, that I should by no means reject his assistance."

Rachel had, however, long to wait. As she said, Captain Keith was one of those inborn loiterers who, made punctual by military duty, revenge themselves by double tardiness in the common affairs of life. Impatience had nearly made her revoke her good opinion of him, and augur that, knowing himself vanquished, he had left the field to her, when at last a sound of wheels was heard, a dog-cart stopped at the door, and Captain Keith entered with an enormous blue and gold volume under his arm.

"I am sorry to be so late," he said, "but I have only now succeeded in procuring my ally."

"An ally?"

"Yes, in this book. I had to make interest at the Avoncester Library, before I could take it away with me." As he spoke he placed the book desk-fashion on a chair, and turned it so that Ermine might see it; and she perceived that it was a bound-up volume of the "Illustrated London News." Two marks were in it, and he silently parted the leaves at the first.

It revealed the lace-making beauty in all her rural charms.

"I see," said Rachel; "it is the same figure, but not the same shaped picture."

Without another word, Alick Keith opened the pages at the lace-school; and here again the figures were identical, though the margin had been differently finished off.

"I perceive a great resemblance," again said Rachel, "but none that is not fully explained by Mr. Mauleverer's accurate resemblance and desire to satirize foolish sentiment."

Alick Keith took up the woodcut. "I should say," he observed, holding it up to the light, "that it was unusual to mount a proof engraving so elaborately on a card."

"Oh, I see what your distrust is driving at; you suspect the designs of being pasted on."

"There is such a test as water," suggested Alick.

"I should be ashamed to return the proof to its master, bearing traces of unjust suspicion."

"If the suspicion you impute to me be unjust, the water will produce no effect at all."

"And you engage to retract all your distrust and contempt, if you are convinced that this engraving is genuine?"

"I do," he answered steadily.

With irritated magnanimity Rachel dipped her finger into the vase of flowers on the table, and let a heavy drop of water fall upon the cottage scene. The centre remained unaltered, and she looked round in exultation, saying, "There, now I suppose I may wipe it off."

Neither spoke, and she applied her pocket handkerchief. What came peeling away under her pressure? It was the soft paper, and as she was passing the edge of the figure of the girl, she found a large smear following her finger. The peculiar brown of Indian ink was seen upon her handkerchief, and when she took it up a narrow hem of white had become apparent between the girl's head and its surroundings. Neither spectator spoke, they scarcely looked at her, when she took another drop from the vase, and using it more boldly found the pasted figure curling up and rending under her hand, lines of newspaper type becoming apparent, and the dark cloud spreading around.

"What does it mean?" was her first exclamation; then suddenly turning on Ermine, "Well, do you triumph?"

"I am very, very sorry," said Ermine.

"I do not know that it is come to that yet," said Rachel, trying to collect herself. "I may have been pressing too hard for results." Then looking at the mangled picture again as they wisely left her to herself, "But it is a deception! A deception! Oh! he need not have done it! Or," with a lightened look and tone of relief, "suppose he did it to see whether I should find it out?"

"He is hardly on terms with you for that," said Ermine; while Alick could not refrain from saying, "Then he would be a more insolent scoundrel than he has shown himself yet."

"I know he is not quite a gentleman," said Rachel, "and nothing else gives the instinct of the becoming. You have conquered, Captain Keith, if it be any pleasure to you to have given my trust and hope a cruel shock."

"With little satisfaction to myself," he began to say; but she continued, "A shock, a shock I say, no more; I do not know what conclusion I ought to draw. I do not expect you to believe in this person till he has cleared up the deceit. If it be only a joke in bad taste, he deserves the distrust that is the penalty for it. If you have been opening my eyes to a deception, perhaps I shall thank you for it some day. I must think it over."

She rose, gathered her papers together, and took her leave gravely, while Alick, much to Ermine's satisfaction, showed no elation in his victory. All he said was, "There is a great deal of dignity in the strict justice of a mind slow to condemn, or to withdraw the trust once given."

"There is," said Ermine, much pleased with his whole part in the affair; "there has been full and real candour, not flying into the other extreme. I am afraid she has a great deal to suffer."

"It was very wrong to have stood so still when the rascal began his machinations," repeated Alick, "Bessie absolutely helping it on! But for her, the fellow would have had no chance even of acquaintance with her."

"Your sister hardly deserves blame for that."

"Not exactly blame; but the responsibility remains," he replied gravely, and indeed he was altogether much graver than his wont, entirely free from irony, and evidently too sorry for Rachel, and feeling himself, through his sister, too guilty of her entanglement, to have any of that amused satisfaction that even Colin evidently felt in her discomfiture. In fact Ermine did not fully enter into Colin's present tactics; she saw that he was more than usually excited and interested about the F. U. E. E., but he had not explained his views to her, and she could only attribute his desire, to defer the investigation, to a wish that Mr. Mitchell should have time to return from London, whither he had gone to conclude his arrangements with Mr. Touchett, leaving the duty in commission between three delicate winter visitors.

Rachel walked home in a kind of dreamy bewilderment. The first stone in her castle had been loosened, and her heart was beginning to fail her, though the tenacity of her will produced a certain incapacity of believing that she had been absolutely deceived. Her whole fabric was so compact, and had been so much solidified by her own intensity of purpose, that any hollowness of foundation was utterly beyond present credence. She was ready to be affronted with Mauleverer for perilling all for a bad joke, but wildly impossible as this explanation would have seemed to others, she preferred taking refuge in it to accepting the full brunt of the blow upon her cherished hopes.

She had just re-entered the house on her return, when Grace met her, saying, "Oh, Rachel dear, Mrs. Rossitur is here."

"I think old servants have a peculiar propensity for turning up when the house is in a state of turmoil," returned Rachel.

"I have been walking round the garden with her, and doing my best to suffice for her entertainment," said Grace, good-naturedly, "but she really wants to see you on business. She has a bill for the F. U. E. E. which she wants you to pay."

"A bill for the F. U. E. E.?"

"Yes; she makes many apologies for troubling you, but Tom is to be apprenticed to a grocer, and they want this fifteen pounds to make up the fee."

"But I tell you, Grace, there can't have been fifteen pounds' worth of things had in this month, and they were paid on the 1st."

"She says they have never been paid at all since the 1st of December."

"I assure you, Grace, it is in the books. I made a point of having all the accounts brought to me on the 1st of every month, and giving out the money. I gave out £3. 10s. for the Rossiturs last Friday, the 1st of February, when Mr. Mauleverer was over here. He said coals were dearer, and they had to keep more fires."

"There must be some mistake," said Grace. "I'll show you the books. Mr. Mauleverer keeps one himself, and leaves one with me. Oh, botheration, there's the Grey carriage! Well, you go and receive them, and I'll try to pacify Mrs. Rossitur, and then come down."

Neatly kept were these account books of the F. U. E. E,, and sure enough for every month were entered the sums for coals, wood, and potatoes, tallying exactly with Mrs. Rossitur's account, and each month Mr. Mauleverer's signature attested the receipt of the sum paid over to him by Rachel for household expenses. Rachel carried them down to Mrs. Rossitur, but this evidence utterly failed to convince that worthy personage that she had ever received a farthing after the 1st of December. She was profuse in her apologies for troubling Miss Rachel, and had only been led to do so by the exigencies of her son's apprentice fee, and she reposed full confidence in Rachel's eager assurance that she should not be a loser, and that in another day the matter should be investigated.

"And, Miss Rachel," added the old servant, "you'll excuse me, but they do say very odd things of the matron at that place, and I doubt you are deceived in her. Our lads went to the the-a-ter the other night, and I checked them well for it; but mother, says they, we had more call to be there than the governess up to Miss Rachel's schule in Nichol Street, dressed out in pink feathers."

"Well, Mrs. Rossitur, I will make every inquiry, and I do not think you will find anything wrong. There must be some one about very like Mrs. Rawlins. I have heard of those pink feathers before, but I know who the matron is, and all about her! Good-bye. I'll see you again before you go, I suppose it won't be till the seven o'clock train."

Mrs. Rossitur remained expressing her opinion to the butler that dear Miss Rachel was too innocent, and then proceeded to lose all past cares in a happy return to "melting day," in the regions of her past glories as cook and housekeeper.

Rachel repaired to her room to cool her glowing cheeks, and repeat to herself, "A mistake, an error. It must be a blunder! That boy that went to the theatre may have cheated them! Mrs. Rawlins may have deceived Mr. Mauleverer. Anything must be true rather than-No, no! such a tissue of deception is impossible in a man of such sentiments! Persecuted as he has been, shall appearances make me-me, his only friend-turn against him? Oh, me! here come the whole posse purring upstairs to take off their things! I shall be invaded in a moment."

And in came Grace and the two younger ladies, and Rachel was no more her own from that moment.

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