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this is Christianity. Irvine's hand clenched itself. If he put it to the plough, would he turn back ? He felt a new warmth. The organ pealed forth a mighty sound, and weak, worn voices, rising together, were as the shout of an army. He launched himself on the feeling of the crowd, and was free of his desolation for a time. Without, the night was growing wilder. In the pauses of the hymn a wailing wind was heard, and once a gust of hail lashed the windows. The sense of companionship grew stronger. His brothers and sisters were close around him in a haven of refuge. All the fiends of hell might ride upon the storm, but he and his comrades would defy them. High rose the music, and the voice of Irvine Dale went out to swell the chorus, defiant and exulting. Such moments are fleeting. Other thoughts came creeping back, and he remembered how the philosophic Blogg had said that Christianity was a force which must not be ignored. He stiffened his arm with a foolish wish that he might rap that free - thinking head against the pillar. He clung to his new hope of useful life. He told himself fiercely that it might be, that it should be. He would fight against the reaction which he knew from experience would follow his first enthusiasm. When Irvine left the church, the rain had passed, and after one last wild burst the wind was still. A watery moon was astray among tumbled clouds, and the wet street was white amid the shadows. Suddenly Irvine felt a quick hand on his shoulder and heard the salutation of a cheery voice. He turned and stared with astonishment at the animated countenance of Leonard Aubrey. “What on earth are you doing here?” he asked.

“I am a lay helper,” said Aubrey, with intense enjoyment of the joke. The corners of his mouth went up as sharply as his eyebrows. He looked like incarnate mischief.

“A what?" asked Irvine.

“I sing in the choir, dispense tea, give counsel, scatter snuff, obey Dick Romney."

“ You?”

“I. Why not? I must do something. It's capital fun.”

“ Fun?"

“ Capital. You had better join us. It is just the thing for a serious fellow like you. You never saw such people. There's Mrs Nudge. Good evening, Mrs Nudge. Mind you go straight home." .

“Lor, Mr Hawbrey, you ’ave such sperrits,” said a vinous old lady with no waist.

“I wish you 'ad less,” said he; and Mrs Nudge was left behind, convulsed with internal merriment. “Is not she like Lady Dunduffy ?” said Aubrey. “They are exactly like the old women in Society. They will make you die of laughing." He began to pour forth anecdotes of the lady who was suspected of having drunk her blankets, but who ascribed their disappearance to the eccentric appetite of her cat; of the lad who nearly starved himself to death that he might keep his mother out of the workhouse. “There is nothing in the world so beautiful as the charity of the poor,” he cried, with unwonted fervour.

Before the two friends parted, Irvine promised to place himself under Romney's orders. “Tell him at once," he said, “ before I change my mind;" and Aubrey laughed. It is probable that, had any sage person preached his duty to Mr Dale that evening, the perverse youth, in spite of the effect of the service, would have coldly withdrawn into himself. But the light-hearted Leonard seemed to take his help as a matter of course, and of no overwhelming importance. It seemed equally absurd to utter a solemn refusal, and to take any credit for agreeing. “Tell him at once,” he said ; and he felt with wonder and delight that he was pledged to something.

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CHAPTER XIX.

“ THE DEAREST FRIEND TO ME.”

“ Je ne sais ou va mon chemin,

Mais je marche mieux quand ma main
Serre la tienne."

“GOOD God, Ellen! what will the boy be at next?” asked Sir Joseph, swelling with astonishment.

“I do hope he will be careful of infection," sighed his wife, comfortably; and added, after a pause, “Of course he will take orders.” Then she began to consider what would be the most desirable neighbourhood for a living.

“The boy's a fool,” said her husband; “but luckily he can afford it.” And as Sir Joseph thought of his nephew's income, a portion of his respect returned.

Miss Susan Harefel said nothing, but she thought much. She retired to commune with

herself, and after a becoming interval, produced a letter, which Mrs Adare pronounced beautiful It was full of allusions to Savonarola, and Irvine tore it into the smallest possible fragments. It increased his discontent. That very morning Romney had asked him to appear more regularly at church. Aubrey suggested his taking orders. “I am not good enough myself,” he said. “It would simplify matters if I took orders, and a wife, and a glebe, and a cow, and a horse of all work; but I can't do it. Whereas you are just the man for the place; you are not too lively. You are lowering the spirits of all the dear old ladies on your beat."

Irvine shuddered. “I would rather do anything for them than talk to them,” he said.

“Laugh at them,” said the other. “ Laugh, or you cry. Their tongues are the worst thing about them. It was only yesterday that Molly Maloney flung the chest of drawers at Betty Pryce; and this morning Betty gave Molly her last quid of tobacco. Is not that a blazing fact for you?”

“They make me sad, and then I make them sadder. Their lives are grim enough without me.”

“They are much jollier than you,” said Aubrey, with intense conviction. “Why, they are horribly contented. They don't care for cleanliness, honesty,

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