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   Chapter 18 THE FORLORN HOPE.

The Clever Woman of the Family By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 30798

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"She whipped two female 'prentices to death,

And hid them in the coal-hole. For her mind

Shaped strictest plans of discipline, sage schemes,

Such as Lycurgus taught."-Canning and Frere.

The favourite dentist of the neighbourhood dwelt in a grand mansion at St. Norbert's, and thither were conducted Conrade and Francis, as victims to the symmetry of their mouths. Their mother accompanied them to supply the element of tenderness, Alison that of firmness; and, in fact, Lady Temple was in a state of much greater trepidation than either of her sons, who had been promised five shillings each as the reward of fortitude, and did nothing but discuss what they should buy with it.

They escaped with a reprieve to Conrade, and the loss of one tooth of Francis's, and when the rewards had been laid out, and presents chosen for all the stay-at-home children, including Rose, Lady Temple became able to think about other matters. The whole party were in a little den at the pastrycook's; the boys consuming mutton pies, and the ladies ox-tail soup, while waiting to be taken up by the waggonette which had of late been added to the Myrtlewood establishment, when the little lady thus spoke-

"If you don't object, Miss Williams, we will go to Rachel's asylum on our way home."

Miss Williams asked if she had made the appointment.

"No," said Lady Temple, "but you see I can't be satisfied about those woodcuts; and that poor woman, Mrs. Kelland, came to me yesterday about my lace shawl, and she is sadly distressed about the little girl. She was not allowed to see her, you know, and she heard such odd things about the place that I told her that I did not wonder she was in trouble, and that I would try to bring the child home, or at any rate see and talk to her."

"I hope we may be able to see her, but you know Colonel Keith could not get in without making an appointment."

"I pay for her," said Lady Temple, "and I cannot bear its going on in this way without some one seeing about it. The Colonel was quite sure those woodcuts were mere fabrications to deceive Rachel; and there must be something very wrong about those people."

"Did she know that you were going?"

"No; I did not see her before we went. I do not think she will mind it much; and I promised." Lady Temple faltered a little, but gathered courage the next moment. "And indeed, after what Mrs. Kelland said, I could not sleep while I thought I had been the means of putting any poor child into such hands."

"Yes," said Alison, "it is very shocking to leave them there without inquiry, and it is an excellent thing to make the attempt."

And so the order was given to drive to the asylum, Alison marvelling at the courage which prompted this most unexpected assault upon the fortress that had repulsed two such warriors as Colonel Keith and Mrs. Kelland. But timid and tender as she might be, it was not for nothing that Fanny Temple had been a vice-queen, so much accustomed to be welcomed wherever she penetrated, that the notion of a rebuff never suggested itself.

Coombe rang, and his lady made him let herself and Miss Williams out, so that she was on the step when the rough charwoman opened the door, and made the usual reply that Mr. Mauleverer was not within. Lady Temple answered that it was Mrs. Rawlins, the matron, that she wished to see, and with more audacity than Alison thought her capable of, inserted herself within the doorway, so as to prevent herself from being shut out as the girl took her message. The next moment the girl came back saying, "This way, ma'am," opened the door of a small dreary, dusty, cold parlour, where she shut them in, and disappeared before a word could be said.

There they remained so long, that in spite of such encouragement as could be derived from peeping over the blinds at Coombe standing sentinel over his two young masters at the carriage window, Lady Temple began to feel some dismay, though no repentance, and with anxious iteration conjured Miss Williams to guess what could be the cause of delay.

"Making ready for our reception," was Alison's answer in various forms; and Lady Temple repeated by turns, "I do not like it," and "it is very unsatisfactory. No, I don't like it at all," the at all always growing more emphatic.

The climax was, "Things must be very sad, or they would never take so much preparation. I'll tell you, Miss Williams," she added in a low confidential tone; "there are two of us, and the woman cannot be in two places at once. Now, if you go up and see the rooms and all, which I saw long ago, I could stay and talk to the poor children."

Alison was the more surprised at the simple statecraft of the General's widow, but it was prompted by the pitiful heart yearning over the mysterious wrongs of the poor little ones.

At last Mrs. Rawlins sailed in, crape, streamers, and all, with the lowest of curtsies and fullest of apologies for having detained her Ladyship, but she had been sending out in pursuit of Mr. Mauleverer, he would be so disappointed! Lady Temple begged to see the children, and especially Lovedy, whom she said she should like to take home for a holiday.

"Why, my lady, you see Mr. Mauleverer is very particular. I hardly know that I could answer it to him to have one of his little darlings out of his sight. It unsettles a child so to be going home, and Lovedy has a bad cold, my lady, and I am afraid it will run through the house. My little Alice is beginning of it."

However, Lady Temple kept to her desire of seeing Lovedy, and of letting her companion see the rest of the establishment, and they were at last ushered into the room already known to the visitors of the F. U. E. E., where the two children sat as usual in white pinafores, but it struck the ladies that all looked ill, and Lovedy was wrapped in a shawl, and sat cowering in a dull, stupified way, unlike the bright responsive manner for which she had been noted even in her lace-school days. Mary Morris gazed for a moment at Alison with a wistful appealing glance, then, with a start as of fright, put on a sullen stolid look, and kept her eyes on her book. The little Alice, looking very heavy and feverish, leant against her, and Mrs. Rawlins went on talking of the colds, the gruel she had made, and her care for her pupils' ailments, and Lady Temple listened so graciously that Alison feared she was succumbing to the palaver; and by way of reminder, asked to see the dormitory.

"Oh, yes, ma'am, certainly, though we are rather in confusion," and she tried to make both ladies precede her, but Lady Temple, for once assuming the uncomprehending nonchalance of a fine lady, seated herself languidly and motioned Alison on. The matron was evidently perplexed, she looked daggers at the children, or Ailie fancied so, but she was forced to follow the governess. Lady Temple breathed more freely, and rose. "My poor child," she said to Lovedy, "you seem very poorly. Have you any message to your aunt?"

"Please, please!" began Lovedy, with a hoarse sob.

"Lovedy, don't, don't be a bad girl, or you know-" interposed the little one, in a warning whisper.

"She is not naughty," said Lady Temple gently, "only not well."

"Please, my lady, look," eagerly, though with a fugitive action of terror, Lovedy cried, unpinning the thin coarse shawl on her neck, and revealing the terrible stripes and weals of recent beating, such as nearly sickened Lady Temple.

"Oh, Lovedy," entreated Alice, "she'll take the big stick."

"She could not do her work," interposed Mary with furtive eagerness, "she is so poorly, and Missus said she would have the twenty sprigs if she sat up all night."

"Sprigs!"

"Yes, ma'am, we makes lace more than ever we did to home, day and night; and if we don't she takes the stick."

"Oh, Mary," implored the child, "she said if you said one word."

"Mary," said Lady Temple, trembling all over, "where are your bonnets?"

"We haven't none, ma'am," returned Mary, "she pawned them. But, oh, ma'am, please take us away. We are used dreadful bad, and no one knows it."

Lady Temple took Lovedy in one hand, and Mary in the other; then looked at the other little girl, who stood as if petrified. She handed the pair to the astonished Coombe, bidding him put them into the carriage, and let Master Temple go outside, and then faced about to defend the rear, her rustling black silk and velvet filling up the passage, just as Alison and the matron were coming down stairs.

"Mrs. Rawlins," she said, in her gentle dignity, "I think Lovedy is so poorly that she ought to go home to her aunt to be nursed, and I have taken little Mary that she may not be left behind alone. Please to tell Mr. Mauleverer that I take it all upon myself. The other little girl is not at all to blame, and I hope you will take care of her, for she looks very ill."

So much for being a Governor's widow! A woman of thrice Fanny's energy and capacity would not have effected her purpose so simply, and made the virago in the matron so entirely quail. She swept forth with such a consciousness of power and ease that few could have had assurance enough to gainsay her, but no sooner was she in the carriage than she seized Mary's hand, exclaiming, "My poor, poor little dear! Francis, dear boy, the wicked people have been beating her! Oh, Miss Williams, look at her poor neck!"

Alison lifting Lovedy on her knee, glanced under the shawl, and saw indeed a sad spectacle, and she felt such a sharpness of bone as proved that there was far from being the proper amount of clothing or of flesh to protect them. Lady Temple looked at Mary's attenuated hand, and fairly sobbed, "Oh, you have been cruelly treated!"

"Please don't let her get us," cried the frightened Mary.

"Never, never, my dear. We are taking you home to your mother."

Mary Morris was the spokeswoman, and volunteered the exhibition of bruises rather older, but no less severe than those of her companion. All had been inflicted by the woman; Mr. Mauleverer had seldom or never been seen by the children, except Alice, who used often to be called into Mrs. Rawlins's parlour when he was there, to be played with and petted. A charwoman was occasionally called in, but otherwise the entire work of the house was exacted from the two girls, and they had been besides kept perpetually to their lace pillows, and severely beaten if they failed in the required amount of work; the ample wardrobe with which their patronesses had provided them had been gradually taken from them, and their fare had latterly become exceedingly coarse, and very scanty. It was a sad story, and this last clause evoked from Francis's pocket a large currant bun, which Mary devoured with a famished appetite, but Lovedy held her portion untasted in her hand, and presently gave it to Mary, saying that her throat was so bad that she could not make use of anything. She had already been wrapped in Lady Temple's cloak, and Francis was desired to watch for a chemist's shop that something might be done for her relief, but the region of shops was already left behind, and even the villas were becoming scantier, so that nothing was to be done but to drive on, obtaining from time to time further doleful narratives from Mary, and perceiving more and more how ill and suffering was the other poor child.

Moreover, Lady Temple's mind became extremely uneasy as to the manner in which Rachel might accept her exploit. All her valour departed as she figured to herself that young lady discrediting the alarm, and resenting her interference. She did not repent, she knew she could not have helped it, and she had rather have been tortured by Rachel than have left the victims another hour to the F. U. E. E., but she was full of nervous anxiety, little as she yet guessed at the full price of her courage; and she uttered more than once the fervent wish that the Colonel had been there, for he would have known what to do. And Alison each time replied, "I wish it with all my heart!"

Wrought up at last to the pitch of nervousness that must rush on the crisis at once, and take the bull by the horns, this valiant piece of cowardice declared that she could not even return the girls to their homes till Rachel knew all about it, and gave the word to drive to the Homestead, further cheered by the recollection that Colonel Keith would probably be there, having been asked to luncheon, as he could not dine out, to meet Mr. Grey. Moreover, Mr. Grey was a magistrate and would know what was to be done.

Thus the whole party at the Homestead were assembled near the door, when, discerning them too late to avoid them, Lady Temple's equipage drew up in the peculiarly ungraceful fashion of waggonettes, when they prepare to shoot their passengers out behind.

Conrade, the only person who had the advantage of a previous view, stood up on the box, and before making his descent, shouted out, "Oh, Aunt Rachel, your F. U. thing is as bad as the Sepoys. But we have saved the two little girls that they were whipping to death, and have got them in the carriage."

While this announcement was being delivered, Alison Williams, the nearest to the door, had emerged. She lifted out the little muffled figure of Lovedy, set her on her feet, and then looking neither to the right nor left, as if she saw and thought of no one else, made but one bound towards Colonel Keith, clasped both hands round his arm, turned him away from the rest, and with her black brows drawn close together, gasped under her breath, "O, Colin, Colin, it is Maria Hatherton."

"What! the matron?"

"Yes, the woman that has used these poor children like a savage. O, Colin, it is frightful."

"You should sit down, you are almost ready to faint."

"Nothing! nothing! But the poor girls are in such a state. And that Maria whom we taught, and-" Alison stopped.

"Did she know you?"

"I can't tell. Perhaps; but I did not know her till the last moment."

"I have long believed that the man that Rose recognised was Mauleverer, but I thought the uncertainty would be bad for Ermine. What is all this?"

"You will hear. There! Listen, I can't tell you; Lady Temple did it all," said Alison, trying to draw away her arm from him, and to assume the staid governess. But he felt her trembling, and did not release her from his support as they fanned back to the astonished group, to which, while these few words were passing, Francis, the little bareheaded white-aproned Mary Morris, and lastly Lady Temple, had by this time been added; and Fanny, with quick but courteous acknowledgment of all, was singling out her cousin.

"Oh, Rachel, dear, I did not mean it to have been so sudden or before them all, but indeed I could not help it," she said in her gentle, imploring voice, "if you only saw that poor dear child's neck."

Rachel had little choice what she should say or do. What Fanny was saying tenderly and privately, the two boys were communicating open-mouthed, and Mrs. Curtis came at once with her nervous, "What is it, my dear; is it something very sad? Those poor children look very cold, and half starved."

"Indeed," said Fanny, "they have been starved, and beaten, and cruelly used. I am very sorry, Rachel, but indeed that was a dreadful woman, and I thought Colonel Keith and Mr. Grey would tell us what ought to be do

ne."

"Mr. Grey!" and Mrs. Curtis turned round eagerly, with the comfort of having some one to support her, "will you tell us what is to be done? Here has poor dear Rachel been taken in by this wicked scheme, and these poor-"

"Mother, mother," muttered Rachel, lashed up to desperation; "please not out here, before the servants and every one."

This appeal and Grace's opening of the door had the effect of directing every one into the hall, Mr. Grey asking Mrs. Curtis by the way, "Eh? Then this is Rachel's new female asylum, is it?"

"Yes, I always feared there was something odd about it. I never liked that man, and now-Fanny, my love, what is the matter?"

In a few simple words Fanny answered that she had contrived to be left alone with the children, and had then found signs of such shocking ill-treatment of them, that she had thought it right to bring them away at once.

"And you will commit those wretches. You will send them to prison at once, Mr. Grey. They have been deceiving my poor Rachel ever so long, and getting sums upon sums of money out of her," said Mrs. Curtis, becoming quite blood-thirsty.

"If there is sufficient occasion I will summon the persons concerned to the Bench on Wednesday," said Mr. Grey, a practical, active squire.

"Not till Wednesday!" said Mrs. Curtis, as if she thought the course of justice very tardy. But the remembrance of Mr. Curtis's magisterial days came to her aid, and she continued, "but you can take all the examinations here at once, you know; and Grace can find you a summons paper, if you will just go into the study."

"It might save the having the children over to-morrow, certainly," said Mr. Grey, and he was inducted almost passively into the leathern chair before the library table, where Mr. Curtis had been wont to administer justice, and Grace was diving deep into a bureau for the printed forms long treasured there, her mother directing her, though Mr. Grey vainly protested that any foolscap would do as well. It was a curious scene. Mrs. Grey with her daughters had the discretion to remove themselves, but every one else was in a state of excitement, and pressed into the room, the two boys disputing under their breath whether the civilians called it a court martial, and, with some confusion between mutineers and Englishwomen, hoping the woman would be blown from the mouth of a cannon, for hadn't she gone and worn a cap like mamma's? They would have referred the question to Miss Williams, but she had been deposited by the Colonel on one of the chairs in the furthest corner of the room, and he stood sheltering her agitation and watching the proceedings. Lady Temple still held a hand of each of her rescued victims, as if she feared they were still in danger, and all the time Rachel stood and looked like a statue, unable to collect her convictions in the hubbub, and the trust, that would have enabled her to defy all this, swept away from her by the morning's transactions. Yet still there was a hope that appearances might be delusive, and an habitual low estimate of Mr. Grey's powers that made her set on looking with her own eyes, not with his.

His first question was about the children's names and their friends, and this led to the despatching of a message to the mother and aunt. He then inquired about the terms on which they had been placed at St. Norbert's, and Rachel, who was obliged to reply, felt under his clear, stringent questions, keeping close to the point, a good deal more respect for his powers than she had hitherto entertained. That dry way of his was rather overwhelming. When it came to the children themselves, Rachel watched, not without a hope that the clear masculine intellect would detect Fanny in a more frightened woman's fancy, and bring the F. U. E. E. off with flying colours.

Little Mary Morris stood forth valiant and excited. She was eleven years old, and intelligent enough to make it evident that she knew what she was about. The replies were full. The blows were described, with terrible detail of the occasions and implements. Still Rachel remembered the accusation of Mary's truth. She tried to doubt.

"I saw her with a bruised eye," said the Colonel's unexpected voice in a pause. "How was that?"

"Please, sir, Mrs. Rawlins hit me with her fist because I had only done seven sprigs. She knocked me down, and I did not come to for ever so long."

And not only this, and the like sad narratives, but each child bore the marks in corroboration of the words, which were more reluctant and more hoarse from Lovedy, but even more effective. Rachel doubted no more after the piteous sight of those scarred shoulders, and the pinched feeble face; but one thing was plain, namely, that Mr. Mauleverer had no share in the cruelties. Even such severities as had been perpetrated while he was in the house, had, Mary thought, been protested against by him, but she had seldom seen him, he paid all his visits in the little parlour, and took no notice of the children except to prepare the tableau for public inspection. Mr. Grey, looking at his notes, said that there was full evidence to justify issuing a summons against the woman for assaulting the children, and proceeded to ask her name. Then while there was a question whether her Christian name was known, the Colonel again said, "I believe her name to be Maria Hatherton. Miss Williams has recognised her as a servant who once lived in her family, and who came from her father's parish at Beauchamp."

Alison on inquiry corroborated the statement, and the charge was made against Maria Rawlins, alias Hatherton. The depositions were read over to the children, and signed by them; with very trembling fingers by poor little Lovedy, and Mr. Grey said he would send a policeman with the summons early next day.

"But, Mr. Grey," burst out Mrs. Curtis, "you don't mean that you are not going to do anything to that man! Why he has been worse than the woman! It was he that entrapped the poor children, and my poor Rachel here, with his stories of magazines and illustrations, and I don't know what all!"

"Very true, Mrs. Curtis," said the magistrate, "but where's the charge against him?"

It may be conceived how pleasant it was to the clever woman of the family to hear her mother declaiming on the arts by which she had been duped by this adventurer, appealing continually to Grace and Fanny, and sometimes to herself, and all before Mr. Grey, on whose old-world prejudices she had bestowed much more antagonism than he had thought it worth while to bestow on her new lights. Yet, at the moment, this operation of being written down an ass, was less acutely painful to her than the perception that was simultaneously growing on her of the miserable condition of poor little Lovedy, whose burning hand she held, and whose gasping breath she heard, as the child rested feebly in the chair in which she had been placed. Rachel had nothing vindictive or selfish in her mood, and her longing was, above all, to get away, and minister to the poor child's present sufferings; but she found herself hemmed in, and pinned down by the investigation pushed on by her mother, involving answers and explanations that she alone could make.

Mr. Grey rubbed his forehead, and looked freshly annoyed at each revelation of the state of things. It had not been Mauleverer, but Rachel, who had asked subscriptions for the education of the children, he had but acted as her servant, the counterfeit of the woodcuts, which Lady Temple suggested, could not be construed into an offence; and it looked very much as if, thanks to his cleverness, and Rachel's incaution, there was really no case to be made out against him, as if the fox had carried off the bait without even leaving his brush behind him. Sooth to say, the failure was a relief to Rachel, she had thrown so much of her will and entire self into the upholding him, that she could not yet detach herself or sympathize with those gentle souls, the mother and Fanny, in keenly hunting him down. Might he not have been as much deceived in Mrs. Rawlins as herself? At any rate she hoped for time to face the subject, and kneeling on the ground so as to support little Lovedy's sinking head on her shoulder, made the briefest replies in her power when referred to. At last, Grace recollected the morning's affair of Mrs. Rossitur's bills. Mr. Grey looked as if he saw daylight, Grace volunteered to fetch both the account-book and Mrs. Rossitur, and Rachel found the statement being extracted from her of the monthly production of the bills, with the entries in the book, and of her having given the money for their payment. Mr. Grey began to write, and she perceived that he was taking down her deposition. She beckoned Mary to support her poor little companion, and rising to her feet, said, to the horror and consternation of her mother, "Mr. Grey, pray let me speak to you!"

He rose at once, and followed her to the hall, where he looked prepared to be kind but firm.

"Must this be done to-day?" she said.

"Why not?" he answered.

"I want time to think about it. The woman has acted like a fiend, and I have not a word to say for her; but I cannot feel that it is fair, after such long and entire trust of this man, to turn on him suddenly without notice."

"Do you mean that you will not prosecute?" said Mr. Grey, with a dozen notes of interjection in his voice.

"I have not said so. I want time to make up my mind, and to hear what he has to say for himself."

"You will hear that at the Bench on Wednesday."

"It will not be the same thing."

"I should hope not!"

"You see," said Rachel, perplexed and grievously wanting time to rally her forces, "I cannot but feel that I have trusted too easily, and perhaps been to blame myself for my implicit confidence, and after that it revolts me to throw the whole blame on another."

"If you have been a simpleton, does that make him an honest man?" said Mr. Grey, impatiently.

"No," said Rachel, "but-"

"What?"

"My credulity may have caused his dishonesty," she said, bringing, at last, the words to serve the idea.

"Look you here, Rachel," said Mr. Grey, constraining himself to argue patiently with his old friend's daughter; "it does not simply lie between you and him-a silly girl who has let herself be taken in by a sharper. That would be no more than giving a sixpence to a fellow that tells me he lost his arm at Sebastopol when he has got it sewn up in a bag. But you have been getting subscriptions from all the world, making yourself answerable to them for having these children educated, and then, for want of proper superintendence, or the merest rational precaution, leaving them to this barbarous usage. I don't want to be hard upon you, but you are accountable for all this; you have made yourself so, and unless you wish to be regarded as a sharer in the iniquity, the least you can do by way of compensation, is not to make yourself an obstruction to the course of justice."

"I don't much care how I am regarded," said Rachel, with subdued tone and sunken head; "I only want to do right, and not act spitefully and vindictively before he has had warning to defend himself."

"Or to set off to delude as many equal foo-mistaken people as he can find elsewhere! Eh, Rachel? Don't you see, it this friend of yours be innocent, a summons will not hurt him, it will only give him the opportunity of clearing himself."

"Yes, I see," owned Rachel, and overpowered, though far from satisfied, she allowed herself to be brought back, and did what was required of her, to the intense relief of her mother. During her three minute conference no one in the study had ventured on speaking or stirring, and Mrs. Curtis would not thank her biographer for recording the wild alarms that careered through her brain, as to the object of her daughter's tete-a-tete with the magistrate.

It was over at last, and the hall of justice broke up. Mary Morris was at once in her mother's arms, and in a few minutes more making up for all past privations by a substantial meal in the kitchen. But Mrs. Kelland had gone to Avoncester to purchase thread, and only her daughter Susan had come up, the girl who was supposed to be a sort of spider, with no capacities beyond her web. Nor did Rachel think Lovedy capable of walking down to Mackarel Lane, nor well enough for the comfortless chairs and the third part of a bed. No, Mr. Grey's words that Rachel was accountable for the children's sufferings had gone to her heart. Pity was there and indignation, but these had brought such an anguish of self-accusation as she could only appease by lavishing personal care upon the chief sufferer. She carried the child to her own sitting-room and made a couch for her before the fire, sending Susan away with the assurance that Lovedy should stay at the Homestead, and be nursed and fed till she was well and strong again. Fanny, who had accompanied her, thought the child very ill, and was urgent that the doctor should be sent for; but between Rachel and the faculty of Avonmouth there was a deadly feud, and the proposal was scouted. Hunger and a bad cold were easily treated, and maybe there was a spark of consolation in having a patient all to herself and her homoeopathic book.

So Fanny and her two boys walked down the hill together in the dark. Colonel Keith and Alison Williams had already taken the same road, anxiously discussing the future. Alison asked why Colin had not given Mauleverer's alias. "I had no proof," he said. "You were sure of the woman, but so far it is only guess work with him; though each time Rose spoke of seeing Maddox coincided with one of Mauleverer's visits. Besides, Alison, on the back of that etching in Rose's book is written, Mrs. Williams, from her humble and obliged servant, R. Maddox.'"

"And you said nothing about it?"

"No, I wished to make myself secure, and to see my way before speaking out."

"What shall you do? Can you trust to Rose's identifying him?"

"I shall ride in to-morrow to see what is going on, and judge if it will be well to let her see this man, if he have not gone off, as I should fear was only too likely. Poor little Lady Temple, her exploit has precipitated matters."

"And you will let every one, Dr. Long and all, know what a wretch they have believed. And then-"

"Stay, Alison, I am afraid they will not take Maddox's subsequent guilt as a proof of Edward's innocence."

"It is a proof that his stories were not worth credit."

"To you and me it is, who do not need such proof. It is possible that among his papers something may be found that may implicate him and clear Edward, but we can only hold off and watch. And I greatly fear both man and woman will have slipped through our fingers, especially if she knew you."

"Poor Maria, who could have thought of such frightful barbarity?" sighed Alison. "I knew she was a passionate girl, but this is worse than one can bear to believe."

She ceased, for she had been inexpressibly shocked, and her heart still yearned towards every Beauchamp school child.

"I suppose we must tell Ermine," she added; "indeed, I know I could not help it."

"Nor I," he said, smiling, "though there is only too much fear that nothing will come of it but disappointment. At least, she will tell us how to meet that."

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