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"Against me and Mr. Bulcox!" said the woman, with a bewildered, injured, saint-like sort of swoop.
"Yes," said Jack.
"Have you seen the letter in the Jupiter?" said the chairman gravely to Mr. Bulcox.
"Mr. Bulcox was good enough to post the letter himself," Jack interposed briskly. "It was to state that I consider that you, Mr. Bulcox, are totally unfit for your present situation as master. I am aware that you have good friends among these gentlemen, and that as far as they can tell, your conduct has always been a model of deference and exemplariness. Now," said Jack, "with the board's permission I will lodge my complaints against you in form." And here Trevithic pulled out his little book and read out as follows:
"1. That the management and economy of this workhouse are altogether disgraceful."
"2. That you have been guilty of cruelty to two or three of the inmates.
"3. That you have embezzled or misapplied certain sums of money allowed to you for the relief of the sick paupers under your care."
But here the chairman, guardians, master and mistress, would hear no more; all interrupted Trevithic at once.
Really, sir, you must substantiate such charges as these. Leave the room" (to the messengers at the door).
"I cannot listen to such imputations," from the master.
"What have we done to you that you should say such cruel, false things?" from the mistress. "Oh, sir," (to the chairman,)" say you don't believe him."
"If you will come with me now," Jack continued, "I think I can prove some of my statements. Do you know that the little children here are crying with hunger? Do you know that the wine allowed for the use of the sick has been regularly appropriated by these two wretches?" cried Trevithic in an honest fury. "Do you know that people here are lying in their beds in misery, at this instant, who have not been moved or touched for weeks and weeks; that the nurses follow the example of those who are put over them, and drink, and ill-use their patients; that the food is stinted, the tea is undrinkable, the meat is bad and scarcely to be touched; that the very water flows from a foul cesspool; that at this instant, in a cellar in the house, there are three girls shut up, without beds or any conceivable comfort,-one has been there four days and nights, another has been shut up twice in one week in darkness and unspeakable misery? Shall I tell you the crime of this culprit? She spoke saucily to the matron, and this is her punishment. Will you come with me now, and see whether or not I have been speaking the truth?"
There was not one word he could not substantiate. He had not been idle all this time, he had been collecting his proofs,-ghastly proofs they were.
The sight of the three girls brought blinded and staggering out of the cellar had more effect than all the statements and assertions which Mr. Trevithic had been at such great pains to get together. The Bulcoxes were doomed; of this there could be no doubt. They felt it themselves as they plodded across the yard with the little mob of excited and curious guardians. Oker, the gas-fitter, took their part indeed, so did the grocer. The old doctor nearly fell upon the culprits then and there. The rest of the guardians seemed to be divided in their indignation against Jack for telling, against Bulcox for being found out, against the paupers for being ill-used, for being paupers; against the reporter for publishing such atrocious libels. It was no bed of roses that Trevithic had made for himself.
A special meeting was convened for the end of the week.
As years go by, and we see more of life and of our fellow-creatures, the by-play of existence is curiously unfolded to us, and we may, if we choose, watch its threads twisting and untwisting, flying apart, and coming together. People rise from their sick-beds, come driving up in carriages, come walking along the street into each other's lives. As A. trips along by the garden-wall, Z. at the other end of the world, perhaps, is thinking that he is tired of this solitary bushman's life; he was meant for something better than sheep-shearing and driving convicts, and Le says to himself that he will throw it all up and go back to England, and see if there is not bread enough left in the old country to support one more of her sons. Here, perhaps, A. stoops to pick a rose, and places it in her girdle, and wonders whether that is C. on the rough pony riding along the road from market. As for Z., A. has never even conceived the possibility of his existence. But by this time Z. at the other end of the world has made up his mind, being a man of quick and determined action, and poor C.'s last chance is over, and pretty A., with the rose in her girdle, will never be his. Or it may be that Z., after due reflection, likes the looks of his tallows, X. and Y. come to the station, which had hitherto only been visited by certain very wild-looking letters of the alphabet, with feathers in their heads, and faces streaked with white paint, and A. gives her rose to C., who puts it in his button-hole with awkward country gallantry, quite unconscious of the chance they have both run that morning, and that their fate has been settled for them at the other end of the world.
When my poor A. burst into tears at the beginning of this story, another woman, who should have been Trevithic's wife, as far as one can judge speaking of such matters, a person who could have sympathized with his ambitions and understood the direction of his impulses, a woman with enough enthusiasm and vigour in her nature to carry her bravely through the tangles and difficulties which only choked and scratched and tired out poor Anne-this person, who was not very far off at the time, and no other than Mary Myles, said to some one who was with
her-and she gave a pretty sad smile and quick shake of the head as she spoke,
"No, it is no use. I have nothing but friendliness, a horrible, universal feeling of friendliness, left for any of my fellow-creatures. I will confess honestly" (and here she lost her colour a little) “I did wrong once. I married my husband for a home-most people know how I was punished and what a miserable home it was. I don't mind telling you, Colonel Hambledon, for you well understand how it is that I must make the best of my life in this arid and lonely waste to which my own fault has brought me."
Mrs. Myles' voice faltered as she spoke, and she hung her head to hide the tears which had come into her eyes. And Colonel Hambledon took this as an answer to a question he had almost asked her, and went away. "If ever you should change your mind," he said, you would find me the same a dozen years hence." And Mary only sighed and shook her head.
But all this was years ago-three years nearly by the Dulcie almanac -and if Mary Myles sometimes thought she had done foolishly when she sent Charles Hambledon away, there was no one to whom she could own it-not even to her cousin Fanny, who had no thoughts of marrying or giving in marriage, or wishes for happiness beyond the ordering her garden-beds and the welfare of her poor people.
Fanny one day asked her cousin what had become of her old friend the Colonel. Mary blushed up brightly, and said she did not know; she believed he was in Hammersley. Fanny, who was cutting out little flannel-vests for her school-children, was immediately lost in the intricacies of a gore, and did not notice the blush or the bright amused glance in the quiet grey eyes that were watching her at her benevolent toil. Snip, snip, sni-i-i-i-i-i-ip went the scissors with that triumphant screeching sound which all good housewives love to hear. Mary was leaning back in her chair, perfectly lazy and unoccupied, with her little white hands crossed upon her knees, and her pretty head resting against the chair. She would not have been sorry to have talked a little more upon a subject that was not uninteresting to her, and she tried to make Fanny speak.
"What do you think of him? Have you heard if he has come ?" she asked, a little shyly.
"Oh, I don't know. No, I have not seen any of them for a long time," said Fanny absently. 'Mary, are you not ashamed of being so lazy? Come and hold these strips."
Mary did as she was bid, and held out grey flannel strips at arms' length, and watching the scissors flashing, the pins twinkling, and the neat little heaps rising all about on the floor and the chairs and the tables. Then Mrs. Myles tried again. "Mr. Trevithic tells me that Colonel Hambledon is coming down to help him with this workhouse business. You will have to ask them both to dinner, Fanny."
Fanny did not answer for a minute. She hesitated, looked Mary full
in the face, and then said very thoughtfully, "Don't you think unbleached calico will be best to line the jackets with? It will keep the children warm, poor little things." The children's little backs might be warmed by this heap of snips and linings; but Mary suddenly felt as if all the wraps and flannels and calicos were piled upon her head, and choking and oppressing her, while all the while her heart was cold and shivering, poor thing! There are no flannel-jackets that I know of to warm sad hearts such as hers.
Fanny Garnier was folding up the last of her jackets; Mary, after getting through more work in half-an-hour than Fanny the methodical could manage in two, had returned to her big arm-chair, and was leaning back in the old listless attitude, dreaming dreams of her own, as her eyes wandered to the window and followed the line of the trees showing against the sky-when the door opened, and a stupid country manservant suddenly introduced Jack, and the Colonel of Mrs. Myles' visionary recollections in actual person, walking into the very midst of the snippings and parings which were scattered about on the floor. Fanny was in nowise disconcerted. She rather gloried in her occupation. I cannot say so much for Mary, who nervously hated any show or affectation of philanthropy, and who now jumped up hastily, with an exclamation, an outstretched hand, and a blush.
"There seems to be something going on," the Colonel said, standing over a heap of straggling "backs" and "arms."
"Do come upstairs out of this labyrinth of good intentions," cried Mary hastily. "Fanny, please put down your scissors, and let us go up."
"I'll follow," said Fanny placidly, and Mary had to lead the way alone to the long low bow-windowed drawing-room which Trevithic knew so well. She had regained her composure and spirits by the time they reached the landing at the top of the low flight of oak steps; and, indeed, both Hambledon and Mrs. Myles were far too much used to the world and its ways to betray to each other the smallest indication of the real state of their minds. Three years had passed since they parted. If Mary's courage had failed then, it was the Colonel's now that was wanting; and so it happens with people late in life-the fatal gift of experience is theirs. They mistrust, they hesitate, they bargain to the uttermost farthing; the jewel is there, but it is locked up so securely in strong boxes and wrappers, that it is beyond the power of the possessors to reach it. Their youth and simplicity is as much a part of them still as their placid middle age; but it is hidden away under the years which are heaped upon the past, and its glory is not shining as of old upon their brows. Mrs. Myles and the Colonel each were acting a part, and perfectly at ease as they discussed all manner of things that had been since they met, and might be before they met again. Fanny, having folded away the last of her flannels, came up placid and smiling too; and after half-an-hour the two gentlemen went away. Fanny forgot to ask them to dinner, and wondered why her cousin was so cross all the rest of the afternoon.
No, Mary would not go out. No, she had no headache, thank you. As soon as she had got rid of Fanny and her questionings, Mary Myles ran up to her room and pulled out some old, old papers and diaries, and read the old tear-stained records till new tears fell to wash away the old ones. Ah, yes, she had done rightly when she sent Hambledon away. Three years ago—it had seemed to her then that a lifetime of expiation would not be too long to repent of the wrong she had done when she marriedloveless, thriftful, longing (and that, poor soul, had been her one excuse,) for the possible love that had never come to her. Life is so long, the time is so slow that passes wearily: she had been married three years, she had worn sackcloth three years; and now,-now if it were not too late, how gladly, how gratefully, she would grasp a hope of some life more complete than the sad one she had led ever since she could remember almost. Would it not be a sign that she had been forgiven if the happiness she had so longed for came to her at last? Mary wondered that her troubles had left no deeper lines upon her face; wondered that she looked so young still, so fair and smiling, while her heart felt so old; and smiled sadly at her own face in the glass.
And then as people do to whom a faint dawn of rising hope shows the darkness in which they have been living, Mrs. Myles began to think of some of her duties that she had neglected of late, and of others still in darkness for whom no dawn was nigh: and all the while, as people do whose hearts are full, she was longing for some one to speak to, some one wiser than herself to whom she could say, What is an expiation? can it, does it exist? is it the same as repentance? are we called upon to crush our hearts, to put away our natural emotions? Fanny would say yes, and would scorn her for her weakness, and cry out with horror at a second marriage. "And so would I have done," poor Mary thought, “if—if poor Tom had only been fond of me." And then the thought of Trevithic came to her as a person to speak to, a helper and adviser. He would speak the truth; he would not be afraid, Mary thought; and the secret remembrance that he was Hambledon's friend did not make her feel less confidence in his decisions.
HASTY PUDDING AND BLOWS FROM A CLUB.
MRS. MYLES had been away some little time from her house at Sandsea, and from the self-imposed duties which were waiting undone until her Something of admiration for Trevithic's energy and enterprise made her think that very day of certain poor people she had left behind, and whom she had entirely forgotten. Before Fanny came home that evening, she sat down and wrote to her old friend, Miss Triquett, begging her to be so good as to go to Mrs. Gummers, and one or two more whose