"Dear aunt Jemima," said Miss Marjoribanks, "if you are pleased now, what does it matter 1 but I do hope you are pleased now V

And Mrs John took her niece into her arms again this time with better will, and cried. "I am as happy as ever I can be," said the inconsistent mother. "I always knew you were fond of each other, Lucilla; before you knew it yourselves, I saw what would come

of it. But my poor brother-in-law And you will

make my boy happy, and never turn him against his mother," cried the repentant sinner. Lucilla was not the woman to resist such an appeal. Mrs John had meant truly enough towards her in other ways, if not in this way; and Miss Marjoribanks was fond of her aunt, and it ended in a kiss of peace freely bestowed, and a vow of protection and guidance from the strong to the weak, though the last was only uttered in the protectress's liberal heart.


When Miss Marjoribanks had time to consider the prospect which had thus so suddenly opened before her, it also had its difficulties, like everything else in the world. Her marriage now could not be the straightforward business it might have been had it been Mr Ashburton instead of Tom. In that case she would have gone to an established house and life —to take her place in the one and her share in the other, and to find the greater part of her surroundings and duties already fixed for her, which was a thing that would have very greatly simplified the matter. But Tom, who had dashed home from India at full speed as soon as he heard of his uncle's death, had left his profession behind him at Calcutta, and had nothing to do in England, and was probably too old to resume his (non) practice at the bar, even if he had been in the least disposed to do so; while, at the same time, an idle man—a man to be found everlastingly at home—would have been insupportable to Lucilla. Miss Marjoribanks might feel disposed (for everybody's good) to assume the sovereign authority in her own house, but to marry anybody that would be merely an appendage to her was a thing not to be thought of; and as soon as the first preliminaries were arranged her active mind sprang up with redoubled vigour from the maze in which it had been. Her intelligence had suspended, so to speak, all its ordinary operations for twenty-four hours at least, while it was busy investigating the purely personal question : from the moment when the Member for Carlingford was finally elected until Tom Marjoribanks rang the night-bell at the old Doctor's door, Lucilla's thoughts had been in that state of overstimulation and absorption which is almost as bad as having no power of thought at all. But as soon as the pressure was removed—as soon as it was all over, and the decision made, and no further question was possible—then Miss Marjoribanks's active mind sprang up with renewed energy. For it was not only a new beginning, but everything had to be settled and arranged. Her mind was full of it while her hands were busy putting away all the Indian presents which Tom had brought—presents which were chronological in their character, and which he had begun to accumulate from the very beginning of his exile. It could not but be touching to Lucilla to see how he had thought of her for all these years; but her mind being, as everybody is aware, of a nobly practical kind, her thoughts, instead of dallying with these tokens of the past, went forward with serious solicitude into the future. The marriage could not take place until the year was out; and there was, accordingly, time to arrange everything, and to settle all the necessary preliminaries to a point as near perfection as is possible to merely human details. Tom, no doubt, was very urgent and pressing, and would have precipitated everything, and had the whole business concluded to-morrow, if he could have had his way. But the fact was that, having once given in to him in the memorable way which we have already recorded, Lucilla did not now, so far as the final arrangements were concerned, make much account of Tom's wishes. Heaven be praised, there was one of the two who knew what was right and proper, and was not to be moved from the correct path by any absurd representations. Miss Marjoribanks was revolving all these important questions when she laid her hand by chance, as people say, upon the ' Carlingford Gazette/ all damp and inky, which had just been laid upon the library table. It contained, of course, all the news of the election, but Lucilla was too well acquainted with that beforehand to think of condescending to derive her information from a newspaper. She looked at the advertisements with an eye which saw all that was there without pausing upon anything in particular. She saw the usual notice about Marmalade oranges, and the announcement that young Mr Vincent, who after that made himself so well known in Carlingford, was to preach the next Sunday in Salem Chapel, and all the other important novelties in the place; but naturally she took but a moderate amount of interest in such details as these.

Suddenly, however, Lucilla's eye, which, if it could ever be said to be vacant, had been regarding vacantly the list of advertisements, kindled up, and all its usual energy and intelligence came back to it. Her thoughtful face woke up as from a dream. Her head, which had been drooping in pensive meditation, grew erect— her whole figure expanded. She clasped her hands together, as if in the fervour of the moment, nobody else being present, she could not refrain from shaking hands with herself, and giving vent to a self-congratulation. "It is a special providence," said Lucilla to herself, with her usual piety; and then she folded up the paper in a little square, with the announcement in the middle which had struck her so much, and placed it where Tom could not fail to see it when he came in, and went up-stairs with a new and definite direction given to her thoughts. That was how it must be! Lucilla, for her part, felt no difficulty in discerning the leadings of Providence, and she could not but

« ForrigeFortsett »