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the inconsistent man; "we have lost sight of each other for a long time, as people do in this world; but we were once very good friends."
"Yes," she said, with a slight touch of annoyance in her voice; "but since we have lost sight of each other for so long, I don't see why you should call me Barbara. It would be much more becoming to say Miss Lake."
Mr Cavendish was amused, and he was touched and flattered. Most people had been rather forbearing to him since he came back, putting up with him for old friendship's sake, or supporting his cause as that of a reformed man, and giving him, on the whole, a sort of patronising humiliating countenance; and to find somebody in whose eyes he was still the paladin of old times, the Mr Cavendish whom people in Grange Lane were proud of, was balm to his wounded soul.
"I don't know how I am to learn to say Miss Lake —when you are just as good to me as ever, and sing as you have just been doing," he said. "I suppose you say so because you find me so changed?"
Upon which Barbara lifted her black eyes and looked at him as she had scarcely done before. The eyes were as bright as ever, and they were softened a little for the moment out of the stare that seemed to have grown habitual to them; and her crimson cheeks glowed as of old; and though she was untidy, and looked worn, and like a creature much buffeted about by wind and waves, she was still what connoisseurs in that article call a fine woman. She looked full at Mr Cavendish, and then she cast down her eyes, as if the sight was too much for her. "I don't see any difference," she said, with a certain tremor in her voice; for he was a man of whom, in the days of her youth, she had been fond in her way.
And naturally Mr Cavendish was more touched than ever. He took her hand, and called her Barbara again without any reproof; and he saw that she trembled, and that his presence here made to the full as great an impression as he had ever done in his palmiest days. Perhaps a greater impression; for their old commerce had been stormy, and interrupted by many a hurricane; and Barbara then had, or thought she might have, many strings to her bow, and did not believe that there was only one Mr Cavendish in the world. Now all that was changed; and if this old hope should revive again, it would not be allowed to die away for any gratification of temper. Mr Cavendish did not remember ever to have seen her tremble before, and he too was fond of her in his way.
This curious revival did not come to anything of deeper importance, for of course just then Rose came
in from her household affairs, and Mr Lake to tea; and the candidate recollected that it was time for dinner. But father and sister also gave him, in their different ways, a rather flattering reception. Mr Lake had already pledged him his vote, and was full of interest as to how things were going on, and enthusiastic for his success; and Rose scowled upon him as of old, as on a dangerous character, whose comings and goings could not be seen without apprehension; which was an unexpected pleasure to a man who had been startled to find how very little commotion his presence made in Grange Lane. He pressed Barbaras hand as he went away, and went to his dinner with a heart which certainly beat lighter, and a more pleasant sense of returning self-confidence, than he had felt for a long time. When he was coming out of the house, as a matter of course, he met with the chief of his Dissenting supporters, accompanied (for Mr Bury, as has been said, was very Low-Church, and loved, wherever he could do it, to work in unison with his Dissenting brethren) by the Rector's churchwarden, both of whom stopped with a curiously critical air to speak to the Candidate, who had to be every man's friend for the time being. The look in their eyes sent an icy chill through and through him, but still the forbidden pleasure had been sweet. As he walked home, he could not help thinking it over, and going back ten years, and feeling a little doubtful about it, whether it was then or now. And as he mused, Miss Marjoribanks, whom he could not help continually connecting and contrasting with the other, appeared to him as a kind of jealous Queen Eleanor, who had a right to him, and could take possession at any time, should she choose to make the effort; while Barbara was a Rosamond, dilapidated indeed, but always ready to receive and console him in her bower. This was the kind of unconscious sentiment he had in his mind, feeling sure, as he mused, that Lucilla would be very glad to marry him, and that it would be very wise on his part to ask her, and was a thing which might still probably come to pass. Of course he could not see into Miss Marjoribanks's mind, which had travelled such a long way beyond him. He gave a glance up at the windows as he passed her door, and felt a kind of disagreeable satisfaction in seeing how diminished the lights were in the once-radiant house. And Lucilla was so fond of a great deal of light! but she could not afford now to spend as much money upon wax as a Continental church might do. Mr Cavendish had so odd a sense of Lucilla's power over him, that it gave him a certain pleasure to think of the coming down of her pride and diminution of her lights.
But the fact was, that not more than ten minutes after he had passed her door with this reflection, Lucilia, sitting with her good book on the table and her work in her hand, in the room which was not so well lighted as it used to be, heard that Mr Cavendish had been met with coming oat of Mr Lake's, and that Barbara had been singing to him, and that there was no telling what might have happened. "A man ain't the man for Carlingford as takes up with that sort," Thomas said, indignantly, who had come to pay his former mistress a visit, and to assure her of his brother-in-law's vote. He was a little more freespoken than of old, being now set up, and an independent householder, and calling no man master; and he was naturally indignant at an occurrence which, regarded in the light of past events, was an insult not only to Carlingford, but to Lucilla. Miss Marjoribanks was evidently startled by the news. She looked up quickly as if she had been about to speak, and then stopped herself and turned her back upon Thomas, and poked the fire in a most energetic way. She had even taken the hearth-brush in her hand to make all tidy after this onslaught, but that was a thing that went to Thomas's heart.