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was cold, but Lucilla's cheek was warm and blooming as only a clear conscience and a sealskin cloak could have made it; and then they went their several ways through the wintry solitude. Ah, if Harry had only not been such a fool ten years ago! Mrs Woodburn was not an enthusiastic young wife, but knew very well that marriage had its drawbacks, and had come to an age at which she could appreciate the comfort of having her own way without any of the bother. She gave a furtive glance after Lucilla, and could not but acknowledge to herself that it would be very foolish of Miss Marjoribanks to marry, and forfeit all her advantages, and take somebody else's anxieties upon her shoulders, and never have any money except what she asked from her husband. Mrs Chiley, to be sure, who was more experienced than Mrs Woodburn, and might have been her grandmother, took a different view of the subj ect; but this was what the middle-aged married woman felt, who had, as may be said, two men to carry on her shoulders, as she went anxiously down Grange Lane to conciliate Mrs Centum, wrapping her shawl about her, and feeling the light snow melt beneath her feet, and the cold and discomfort go to her heart. She had her husband to keep in good humour, and her brother to keep up and keep to the mark, and to do what she could to remedy in public the effects of his indolent Continental habits, and carry, if it was possible, the
election for him—all with the horrid sense upon her mind that if at any time the dinner should be a little less cared for than usual, or the children more noisy, Woodburn would go on like a savage. Under such circumstances, the poor woman, amid her cares, may be excused if she looked back a little wistfully at Lucilla going home all comfortable and independent and light-hearted, with no cares, nor anybody to go on at her, in her sealskin coat.
This was how Lucilla commenced that effective but decorous advocacy which did Mr Ashburton so much good in Carlingford. She did not pretend to understand about politics, or to care particularly about Eeform or the Income-tax; but she expressed with quiet solemnity her conviction that it was not opinions but a good man that was wanted; that it was not a prime minister they were going to elect, and that Mr Ashburton was the man for Carlingford. "By George! Lucilla is in the right of it!" Colonel Chiley said; "that was always my opinion;" and the people in Grange Lane soon began to echo the Colonel's sentiments, which were so sound and so just.
As for Miss Marjoribanks, nobody had any occasion to "go on" about any neglect on her part of her household duties. Dr Marjoribanks's dinners were always excellent, and it was now, as ever, a privilege
to be admitted to his table; and nothing could be more exemplary than the care Lucilla took of aunt Jemima, who had always such bad nights. Even on this snowy afternoon she went in from her more important cares, with a complexion freshened by the cold, and coaxed Mrs John into eating something, and made her as comfortable as possible at the drawing-room fireside.
"Now, tell me all about Tom," Lucilla said, when she had got her work and settled herself comfortably for a quiet afternoon—for the snow had come on heavier than ever, and unless it might be a sister of charity, or such another sister not of charity, as Lucilla had already encountered, nobody was like to stir abroad or to disturb the two ladies in their work and their talk. Lucilla had some very interesting worsted-work in hand; and the drawing-room never looked more cozy, with somebody to talk to inside, and the wintry world and driving snow without. And such an invitation as Miss Marjoribanks had just given lifted aunt Jemima into a paradise of content. She took Lucilla at her word, and told her, as may be supposed, all about Tom, including many things which she was quite acquainted with and knew by heart; and at the same time there was a something implied all through, but never obtrusively set forth, which was not displeasing to the auditor. Miss Marjoribanks listened with affectionate satisfaction, and asked a great many questions, and supplied a great many reminiscences, and entered quite into the spirit of the conversation, and the two spent a very pleasant afternoon together, —so pleasant that Mrs John felt quite annoyed at the reflection that it must come to an end like everything else that is good, and that she must get herself once more into her velvet gown and dine with her brotherin-law. If Providence had only given her the girl instead of the Doctor, who would no doubt have got on quite well without any children! but then, to be sure, if Lucilia had been hers to start with, she never could have married Tom.
For this was the extravagant hope which had already begun to blossom in his mother's breast. To be sure a woman might marry Tom, who was too comfortable at home to think of marrying just anybody who might make her an offer. But it was not easy to tell how Lucilla herself felt on this subject. Her complexion was so bright with her walk, her sensations so agreeable after that warm, cheerful, pleasant afternoon, her position so entirely everything that was to be desired, and her mind so nobly conscious of being useful to her kind and country, that, even without any additional argument, Miss Marjoribanks had her reward, and was happy. Perhaps a touch more exquisite