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him, and she had never done so; site had never perceived that he was stout, or changed from old times. As he entertained these thoughts, his steps going down Grange Lane gradually quickened, but he did not say to himself where he was going. He went a very roundabout way, as if he did not mean it, as far as St Roque's, and then up by the lane to the far-off desert extremity of Grove Street. It was simply to walk off his excitement and disappointment, and free himself from criticism for that evening at least; but as he walked he could not help thinking that Barbara, if she were well dressed, would still be a fine woman, that her voice was magnificent in its way, and that about Naples, perhaps, or the baths of Lucca, or in Germany, or the south of France, a man might be able to get on well enough with such a companion, where society was not so exacting or stiff-starched as in England. And the end was, that the feet of the defeated candidate carried him, ere ever he was aware, with some kind of independent volition of their own, to Mr Lake's door —and it may be here said once for all, that this visit was decisive of Mr Cavendish's fate.
This will not be regarded as anything but a digression by such of Lucilla's friends as may be solicitous to know what she was making up her mind to under the circumstances; but the truth is that Lucilla's historian cannot, any more than Miss Marjoribanks herself could, refrain from a certain regret over Mr Cavendish. That was what he came to, poor man! after all his experiences; a man who was capable of so much better things—a man even who, if he had made a right use of his opportunities, might once have had as good a chance as any other of marrying Lucilla herself. If there ever was an instance of chances thrown away and lost opportunities, surely here was that lamentable example. And thus, poor man! all his hopes and all his chances came to an end.
As for Miss Marjoribanks herself, it would be vain to say that this was not a very exciting moment for her. If there ever could be said to be a time when she temporarily lost the entire sway and control of herself and her feelings, it would be at this crisis. She went about all that evening like a woman in a dream. For the first time in her life she not only did not know what she would do, but she did not know what she wanted to do. There could now be no mistaking what Mr Ashburton's intentions were. Up to a very recent time Lucilla had been able to take refuge in her mourning, and conclude that she had no present occasion to disturb herself. But now that calm was over. She could not conceal from herself that it was in her power by a word to reap all the advantages of the election, and to step at once into the only position which she had ever felt might be superior to her own in Carlingford. At last this great testimonial of female merit was to be laid at her feet. A man thoroughly eligible in every way—moderately rich, well connected, able to restore to her all, and more than all, the advantages which she had lost at her father's death —a man, above all, who was Member for Carlingford, was going to offer himself to her acceptance, and put his happiness in her hands; and while she was so well aware of this, she was not at all so well aware what answer she would make him. Lucilla's mind was in such a commotion as she sat over her embroidery, that she thought it strange indeed that it did not show, and could not understand how aunt Jemima could sit there so quietly opposite her, as if nothing was the matter. But, to tell the truth, there was a good deal the matter with aunt Jemima too, which was perhaps the reason why she saw no signs of her companion's agitation. Mrs John Marjoribanks had not been able any more than her niece to shut her eyes to Mr Ashburton's evident meaning, and now that matters were visibly coming to a crisis, a sudden panic and horror had seized her. What would Tom say 1 If she stood by and saw the prize snapped up under her very eyes, what account could she give to her son of her stewardship? how could she explain her silence as to all his wishes and intentions, her absolute avoidance of his name in all her conversations with Lucilla? While Miss Marjoribanks marvelled that the emotion in her breast could be invisible, and at aunt Jemima's insensibility, the bosom of that good woman was throbbing with equal excitement. Sometimes each made an indifferent remark, and panted after it as if she had given utterance to the most exhausting emotions; but so great was the preoccupation of both that neither observed how it was faring with the other.
But perhaps, on the whole, it was aunt Jemima that suffered the most; for her there was nothing flattering, nothing gratifying, no prospect of change or increased happiness, or any of the splendours of imagination involved. All that could happen to her would be the displeasure of her son and his disappointment; and it might be her fault, she who could have consented to be chopped up in little pieces, if that would have done Tom any good; but who, notwithstanding, was not anxious for him to marry his cousin, now that her father's fortune was all lost and she had but two hundred a-year. They had a silent cup of tea together at eight o'clock, after that noisy exciting one at five, which had been shared by half Carlingford, as aunt Jemima thought. The buzz of that impromptu assembly, in which everybody talked at the same moment, and nobody listened, except perhaps Lucilla, had all died away into utter stillness; but the excitement had not died away; that had only risen to a white heat, silent and consuming, as the two ladies sat over their tea.
"Do you expect Mr Ashburton to-morrow, Lucilla?" aunt Jemima said, after a long pause.
"Mr Ashburton?" said Lucilla, with a slight start; and, to tell the truth, she was glad to employ that childish expedient to gain a little time, and consider what she should say. "Indeed I don't know if he will have time to come. Most likely there will be a great deal to do."
"If he does come," said Mrs John, with a sigh— "or when he does come, I ought to say, for you know very well he will come, Lucilla—I suppose there is no doubt that he will have something very particular to say."
"I am sure I don't know, aunt Jemima," said Miss Marjoribanks; but she never raised her eyes from her work, as she would have done in any other case. "Now that the election is over, you know"
"I hope, my dear, I have been long enough in the world to know all about that," aunt Jemima said, severely, " and what it means when young ladies take such interest in elections ;" and then some such feeling as the dog had in the manger—a jealousy of those who sought the gift though she herself did not want it —came over Mrs John, and at the same time a sudden desire to clear her conscience and make a stand for Tom. She did it suddenly, and went further than she