then when she had consoled her suffering relative by the reflection that one never sleeps well the first night or two, Miss Marjoribanks was at liberty to go forth and attend a little to her own affairs, which stood so much in need of being attended to. She had had no further talk with the Doctor on the subject, but she had read over Mr Cavendish's address, and could not help seeing that it went dead against her candidate; neither could Lucilla remain altogether unaffected by the expression of feeling in respect to "a place in which I have spent so many pleasant years, and which has so many claims on my affections," and the touching haste with which the exile had rushed back as soon as he heard of the old member's death. If it touched Miss Marjoribanks, who was already pledged to support another interest, what might it not do to the gentlemen in Grange Lane who were not pledged, and who had a friendship for Mr Cavendish? This was the alarming thought that had disturbed her sleep all night, and returned to her mind with her first awakening; and when she had really her time to herself, and the fresh morning hours before her, Lucilla began, as everybody ought to do, by going to the very root and foundation, and asking herself what, beyond all secondary considerations, it was right to do. To change from one side to the other and go back from her word was a thing abhorrent to her; but still Miss Marjoribanks was aware that there are certain circumstances in which honesty and truth themselves demand what in most cases is considered an untruthful and dishonest proceeding.

Thus in order to come to a right decision, and with a sense of the duty she owed to her country which would have shamed half the electors in England, not to say Carlingford, Lucilla, who naturally had no vote, read the two addresses of the two candidates, and addressed herself candidly and impartially to the rights of the subject. Mr Cavendish was disposed, as we have said, to be pathetic and sentimental, and to speak of the claims the borough had upon his affections, and the eagerness with which he had rushed home at the earliest possible moment to present himself to them. If poor old Mr Chiltern had been King Bomba, or a gloomy Oriental tyrant, keeping all possible reformers and successors banished from his dominions, the new candidate could not have spoken with more pathos. It was a sort of thing which tells among the imaginative part of the community, or so, at least, most people think; and Miss Marjoribanks was moved by it for the first moment; but then her enlightened mind asserted its rights. She said to herself that Mr Cavendish might have come home at any hour, by any steamboat; that Calais and Boulogne, and even Dieppe, were as open to him as if he had been an actual refugee, and that consequently there was nothing particular to be pathetic about. And then, if the town had such claims on his affections, why had he stayed so long away? These two rationalistic questions dispersed the first attendrissement which had begun to steal over Lucilla's mind. When she came to this conclusion, her difficulties cleared away. She had no reason to go back from her engagements and reject that intimation which had so impressed it on her, that Mr Ashburton was the man. It was a sacrifice which ancient truth and friendship did not demand, for verity was not in the document she had just been reading, and that appeal to sentiment was nothing more than what is generally called humbug. "He might have been living here all the time," Lucilla said to herself; "he might have had much stronger claims upon our affections; if he had wanted, he might have come back ages ago, and not let people struggle on alone." When this view of the subject occurred to her, Lucilla felt more indignation than sympathy. And then, as Dr Marjoribanks had done, she turned to the calm utterance of her own candiVOL. III. p

date—the man who was the only man for Carlingford—and that sweet sense of having given sound counsel, and of having at last met with some one capable of carrying it out, which makes up for so many failures, came like balm to Lucilla's bosom. There was nothing more necessary; the commotion in her mind calmed down, and the tranquillity of undisturbed conviction came in its place. And it was with this sense of certainty that she put on her bonnet and issued forth, though it snowed a little, and was a very wintry day, on Mr Ashburton's behalf, to try her fortune in Grange Lane.

She went to Mrs Chiley's, who was now very old, poor old lady! and feeble, and did not like to leave her sofa. Not but what she could leave the sofa, she said to her friends, but at that time of the year, and at her time of life, it was comfortable. The sofa was wheeled to the side of the fire, and Mrs Chiley reclined upon it, covered with knitted rugs of the brightest colours, which her young friends all worked for her. The last one arrived was what used to be called an Affghanistan blanket, done in stripes of all sorts of pretty tints, which was a present from Mrs Beverley. "Her work, she says, Lucilla," said the old lady; "but we know what sort of soft dawdling woman she is, and it must have been the Archdeacon's nieces, you know." But

still it had the place of honour at present, covering Mrs Chiley's feet, and affording something to talk about when any one came in. And by her side was a little table, upon which stood one China rose, in a glass of water—a pale rose, almost as pale as her soft old cheeks, and chilled like them by the approaching frost. And the fire burned with an officious cheerfulness at her elbow, as if it thought nothing of such accidental circumstances as winter and old age. To be sure this was a reflection which never came into Mrs Chiley's head, who was, on the contrary, very thankful for the fire, and said it was like a companion. "And I often think, my dear, how do the poor people get on, especially if they are old and sick, they have no fires to keep them cheerful in this dreadful weather," the kind old lady would say. She did say so now when Lucilla came in, glowing with cold and her rapid walk, and with a flake or two of snow slowly melting on her sealskin cloak. Perhaps it was not a sentiment the Colonel agreed with, for he gave a humph and a little hoist of his shoulders, as if in protest, being himself a good deal limited in his movements, and not liking to own it, by the wintry torpor within his big old frame, and the wintry weather outside. "Come and tell us all the news, Lucilla, my dar

« ForrigeFortsett »