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in a great many things, but yet she had not succeeded in all; and she had found out that the most powerful exertions in behalf of friends not only fail to procure their gratitude, but sometimes convert them into enemies, and do actual harm; which is a discovery which can only be made by those who devote themselves, as Miss Marjoribanks had done, to the good of the human species. She had done everything for the best, and yet it had not always turned out for the best; and even the people who had been most ready to appeal to her for assistance in their need, had proved the readiest to accuse her when something disagreeable happened, and to say "It was your fault." In the second stage of her progress Miss Marjoribanks found herself, with a great responsibility upon her shoulders, with nearly the entire social organisation of Carlingford depending upon her; and, at the same time, with her means of providing for the wants of her subjects sensibly diminished, and her confidence in the resources of the future impaired to an equal degree. One thing was sure, that she had taken the work upon her shoulders, and that she was not the woman to draw back, whatever the difficulties might be. She did not bate a jot of her courage, though the early buoyancy of hope had departed, never to return. It is true that she was not so joyful and triumphant a figure as when she conquered Nancy, and won over Dr Marjoribanks, and electrified Mr Holden by choosing curtains which suited her complexion; but with her diminished hopes and increased experience and unabated courage, no doubt Miss Marjoribanks presented a still nobler and more imposing aspect to everybody who had an eye for moral grandeur, though it would be difficult to tell how many of such worthy spectators existed in Grange Lane.
There was, as our readers are aware, another subject also on which Lucilla had found her position altered. It was quite true that, had she been thinking of that, she never need have come home at all; and that, in accepting new furniture for the drawing-room, she had to a certain extent pledged herself not to marry immediately, but to stay at home and be a comfort to her dear papa. This is so delicate a question that it is difficult to treat it with the freedom necessary for a full development of a not unusual state of mind. Most people are capable of falling in love only once or twice, or at the most a very few times, in their life; and disappointed and heartbroken suitors are not so commonly to be met with as perhaps could be wished. But at the same time, there can be little doubt, that the chief way in which society is supposed to signify its approval and admiration and enthusiasm for a lady, is by making dozens of proposals to her, as may be ascertained from all the bestinformed sources. When a woman is a great beauty, or is very brilliant and graceful, or even is only agreeable and amusing, the ordinary idea is, that the floating men of society, in number less or more according to the lady's merits, propose to her, though she may not perhaps accept any of them. In proportion as her qualities rise towards the sublime, these victims are supposed to increase; and perhaps, to tell the truth, no woman feels herself set at her true value until some poor man, or set of men, have put, as people say, their happiness into her hands. It is, as we have said, a delicate subject to discuss; for the truth is, that this well-known and thoroughly established reward of female excellence had not fallen to Miss Marjoribanks's lot. There was Tom, to be sure, but Tom did not count. And as for the other men who had been presented to Lucilla as eligible candidates for her regard, none of them had given her this proof of their admiration. The year had passed away, and society had laid no tribute of this description upon Lucilla's shrine. The Archdeacon had married Mrs Mortimer instead, and Mr Cavendish had been led away by Barbara Lake! After such an experience nothing but the inherent sweetness and wholesome tone of Miss Marjoribanks's character could have kept her from that cynicism and disbelief in humanity which is so often the result of knowledge of the world. As for Lucilla, she smiled as she thought of it, not cynically, but with a sweetly melancholy smile. What she said to herself was, Poor men ! they had had the two ways set before them, and they had not chosen the best. It made her sad to have this proof of the imperfection of human nature thrust upon her, but it did not turn her sweet into bitter, as might have been the case with a more ordinary mind. Notwithstanding that this universal reward, which in other cases is, as everybody knows, given so indiscriminately, and with such liberality, had altogether failed in her case, Lucilla still resumed her way with a beautiful constancy, and went forward in the face of fate undaunted and with a smile.
It was thus that she began the second period of her career. Up to this moment there had never been a time in which it was not said in Carlingford that some one was paying attention to Miss Marjoribanks; but at present no one was paying attention to her. There were other marriages going on around her, and other preliminaries of marriage, but nobody had proposed to Lucilla. Affairs were in this state when she took up her burden again boldly, and set out anew upon her way. It was a proof of magnanimity and philanthropy which nobody could have asked from her, if Lucilla had not been actuated by higher motives than those that sway the common crowd. Without any assistance but that of her own genius—without the stimulating applause of admirers, such as a woman in such circumstances has a right to calculate upon—with no sympathising soul to fall back upon, and nothing but a dull level of ordinary people before her,—Miss Marjoribanks, undaunted, put on her harness and resumed her course. The difficulties she had met only made her more friendly, more tender, to those who were weaker than herself, and whom evil fortune had disabled in the way. When Barbara Lake got her situation, and went out for a governess, and Eose's fears were realised, and she had with bitter tears to relinquish her Career, Lucilla went and sat whole afternoons with the little artist, and gave her the handiest assistance, and taught her a great many things which she never could have learned at the School of Design. And the effect of this self-abnegation was, that Lucilla bore General Travers's decision, and gave up all hope of the officers, with a stout-heartedness which nobody could have looked for, and did not hesitate to face her position boldly, and to erect her standard, and to begin her new campaign, unaided and unappreciated as she was. People who know no better may go away upon marriagetours, or they may fly off to foreign travel, or go out as governesses, when all things do not go just as they wish. But as for Miss Marjoribanks, she stood bravely at her post, and scorned to flinch or run away. Thus commenced, amid mists of discouragement, and in an entire absence of all that was calculated to stimulate and exhilarate, the second grand period of Lucilla's life.