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“You and your father are continually thrusting that girl's company upon us! She is not suitable society for your
sisters.” "If they were only half as worthy of her society as she is superior to theirs,” interrupted Mr. Travice, with a touch of his father's old heat, “they would be very different girls from what they are.”
“ How dare Lucy thrust herself in upon us in the manner she does ?” asked Mrs. Arkell, her face growing very red at Travice's boldness.
“She does not thrust herself here,” retorted Travice; “she rarely, if ever, comes of her own accord. It is half the business of my life to persuade her that she is courted here : and so she is, by my father.”
“ Your father is a great fool in many things, and you are no better!" screamed Mrs. Arkell, whose temper was rising beyond control.
“ How dare you oppose me in this way, Travice ?"
“ I am very sorry,” returned the youg man, "and I beg your pardon if I
say more than I ought. But I cannot join in your unjust abuse of Lucy, and I never will tolerate it. I wish, mother, you would refrain from bringing up the subject to me, for it is one we never can agree
“ You have likewise requested me not to bring up the subject of Miss Fauntleroy to you,” returned Mrs. Arkell
, in a voice of irony. “How many other subjects would you be pleased to interdict ?”
“I don't want ever to hear the name of those Fauntleroys,” burst out Mr. Travice, in a fume. “ They are not fit to tie Lucy's shoes. She has more sense, more propriety in her little finger, than they both have in all their vulgar overgrown bodies. Great brazen milkmaids !"
This was a climax. And Mrs. Arkell, suppressing the passion that shook her as she stood, spoke with deliberate calmness, her very face white with fury.
“ Continue your intercourse with that girl if you will; but—listen! you shall never make a wife of any one so paltry and so pitiful! And Í pray God that I may sooner follow
you to your grave, Travice, than see you marry Lucy Arkell !”
It may be that Mrs. Arkell spoke the words, in her blind rage, without reflecting on their full import. It is certain that she little foresaw a time was soon to come, when she should mourn over them in the very extremity of vain and hopeless repentance.
“ His intimacy with Lucy Arkell shall be put a stop to," she repeated to herself, when her violence had passed, and Travice had quitted her“ it shall be put a stop to!" And when Lucy arrived that afternoon to spend it with them, according to promise, Mrs. Arkell began to lay the first foundation-stone.
“I was rather unwilling to come,” observed Lucy, as she laid aside her bonnet and shawl, “ for my father has seemed worse since dinner. I fear he took cold to-day.”
“ Draw your chair nearer the fire, Lucy,” said Mrs. Arkell, with a little more cordiality in her manner than she usually observed towards Lucy. “ The girls will be in directly, I suppose. They have gone to call upon the Fauntleroys.” But Mrs. Arkell did not add that she had purposely sent them out of the way, so that she might have an opportunity of saying to Lucy what she had resolved to say. " There seemed to be some bustle about the Guildhall, as I came by," “Do you know whether there is any meeting there to-day?"
“I thought everybody knew it," replied Mrs. Arkell.
“A meeting of the manufacturers was convened for this afternoon: for Mr. ;"mentioning one of the city members—“is down, and will be present. Mr. Arkell and Travice have gone to it.”
“Their meetings seem to bring them no redress,” returned Lucy, sadly. “Report says, now, that the ports are to be permanently kept
“I don't know what is to become of us,” ejaculated Mrs. Arkell, querulously. “Charlotte, thank goodness, will soon be married and away : but there's Sophy! Travice, with care, will have enough to live upon, without business."
“ Will he ?" exclaimed Lucy, looking brightly up. “ I am so glad to hear it! I thought your property had diminished until it was but small."
“Our property is diminishing daily,” replied Mrs. Arkell. "
" Which makes it the more necessary that Travice should secure money by his marriage.”
Lucy did not answer, but her heart throbbed violently, and the faint colour on her cheek forsook it. Mrs. Arkell, without looking towards her, rose to poke the fire, and continued talking as she leaned over the grate, with her back to Lucy :
“ It is Barbara Fauntleroy that Travice is going to marry.".
Going to marry! The sense of the words was very decided, carrying painful conviction to Lucy's startled ear.
“ Lucy, my dear,” proceeded the lady, “I am speaking to you in entire confidence, and I desire you will respect it as such. Do not drop a hint to Travice or the girls : they would not like my speaking of it."
Lucy sat quiet, offering no remark.
“At first he did not care much for Barbara, and I don't think now that he likes her so cordially as one we make a wife ought to be liked," continued Mrs. Arkell. “ But that will all come in time. Travice, like many other young men, may have indulged in a little carved-out romance of his own—I don't know that he did, but he may—and he has had the good sense to see that his romance must yield to reality.”
“ Yes!” ejaculated Lucy, feeling that she was expected to say something in answer.
“ There is our property dwindling down to little ; there's the business dwindling down to nothing; and suppose Travice took it into his head to marry a portionless girl, what prospect would there be before him? Why, nothing but poverty and self-reproach; nothing but misery. And in time he would hate her for having brought him to it.”
“ True! true !" murmured Lucy.
“ And now,” added Mrs. Arkell, “ that he does consent to marry Bab Fauntleroy, it is the duty of all of us, if we care for his future happiness and welfare, to urge his hopes to that point. You see it, Lucy, I should think, as well as we do."
There was no outward emotion to be observed in Lucy. A transiently white cheek, a momentary quiver of the lip, and all that could be seen was over. Like her aunt Mildred, it was her nature to bear in silence : but some of us know too well that that is the grief which tells. She almost wished never to see Travice Arkell more, for his
presence could now bring her nothing but misery—that presence which hitherto had
been to her as a light from Heaven. And yet she must come into contact with it at once, even that very evening!
But she did not. For while the thoughts were running through her mind, there arrived a messenger at the house to speak with her. He brought news that her father felt alarmingly worse, and that Lucy was to hasten home immediately.
Whether the alloted span of life had indeed run out for Peter Arkell, or whether his exposure to the cold that morning helped to shorten it, could not be decided, but in a very few days, it was known that time, for him, was all but over. Lucy wrote, in haste and distress, for her aunt Mildred : but a letter from Miss Arkell to her brother—it was a singular coincidence ---crossed hers, giving notice of the death of her kind protectress, Lady Dewsbury, who had expired suddenly.
It was impossible for Miss Arkell to leave Dewsbury House before the funeral, even to hasten to her dying brother. She had, for a long while, been almost the sole mistress of Lady Dewsbury's household : and besides, she felt that her quitting it just then, would hurt the feelings of the family, who had been universally kind and considerate towards her. But in the evening of the day after her mistress was interred, she arrived at Riverton.
They did not know she was coming, and nobody was at the coach to meet her. Leaving her luggage to be sent after her, she made her way to her brother's house on foot-it was not far; about a quarter of an hour's walk. She trembled as she came in sight of it, the old home of her early youth, fearing that its windows might be closed, like, those of the one she had quitted. As she stood before the door, waiting to be admitted, remembrances of her childhood came painfully across her, of her happy girlhood, when those blissful dreams of William Arkell were mingled with every thought of her existence.
“ And oh! what did they end in!” she cried, clasping her hands tightly together, and speaking aloud in her anguish; -- what am I now? Chilled in feeling ; worn in heart ; old before
time !" A middle-aged woman, with a light in her hand, opened the door. It was the night nurse.
“How is Mr. Arkell ?” inquired Mildred, stepping softly over the threshold.
“As bad as can be, ma'am,” replied the woman, dropping a low curtsey, and looking very much surprised at the handsomely-attired lady, dressed in the deepest mourning, who was walking into the house at that hour, unasked.
“Shall I find him in his old room?" inquired Mildred, advancing towards the staircase.
“Goodness, ma'am! you can't go up there !" uttered the woman, in amazement. “The poor gentleman is dying : we don't know but what every breath will be his last.”
"I am Miss Arkell,” replied Mildred, quietly, passing the woman to ascend the stairs.
She entered the chamber softly, leaving outside her sombre bonnet with its deep crape veil. Lucy was at a table, measuring medicine into a teacup. À pale, handsome young man stood by the fire, his elbow resting on the mantelpiece: Mildred glanced at his face, and did not need to ask who it was.
Near the bed was Mr. William Arkell; but oh! how different from the lover of Mildred's youth! Now, he was a bowed, grey-haired man, looking much older than were his actual years : then, tall, handsome, and attractive, as Travice was now. And did William Arkell, at the first view, recognise his cousin ? No. For that careworn, middle-aged woman, in a close, white muslin cap, and scant, braided hair, bore little resemblance to the once happy Mildred Arkell. But the dying man, lying panting on the raised pillows, knew her instantaneously, and held out his feeble hands towards her. It was a painful meeting, and one into which we have no right to penetrate further.
“Who will protect my poor child ?" he murmured, just before his death ; "who will afford'her shelter? where will she find a home ?"
“I would willingly promise it to you, Peter," interrupted Mr. Arkell; poor Lucy should be as welcome to a shelter under my roof as are my own girls, but, God help me! I know not how long I may have a home for any one."
“ Leave Lucy to me,” interposed Miss Arkell. “I shall make a home for myself now, Peter, and that home shall be Lucy's. Let no fear of her welfare disturb your peace.”
“ They need not think about a home for you, Lucy," whispered Travice, at the fire, as he took her hand; " that shall be my care. Our home must be together."
Lucy drew her hand coldly away, She did not affect to misunderstand his words and what they implied, but her head was full of Miss Fauntleroy, and the words of Mrs. Arkell came rushing through her memory.
“ And now that he does consent to marry Bab Fauntleroy, it is the duty of all of us, if we care for his future happiness and welfare, to urge his hopes to that point.” What business had he, the engaged husband of another, to breathe such words into her ear?
“ I shall never have my home with you,” she uttered, in the same low whisper ; “ nothing you could say should induce me to it. With you, aunt, with you,” she murmured, turning away and clinging to Miss Arkell, “ let me have my home with you!"
Mildred threw her arm round her, and clasped her to her side, whilst Travice, hurt and resentful at Lucy's words and manner, stole silently from the room.
II. Mrs. ARKELL paid a stately visit of ceremony to Mildred, a day or two after her brother's funeral. Lucy did not appear. Miss Arkell, whose heart was softened by grief, received her with cordiality: and the two proceeded to talk more affectionately together, and more confidentially, at least, so far as Mildred went, than they had ever done in their lives. 66 What
young man Travice is !” observed Miss Arkell. “ The finest in Riverton,” answered the mother. She of course was partial.
“ He and Lucy have been intimate friends, it seems,” resumed Mildred. “Is there any probability, think you, that ideas of a nearer relationship may be running through their minds?"
Mrs. Arkell tossed her head, and answered indignantly—there is such a thing, mind you, as indignation of tone as well as of words :
“ I don't think Travice would so far forget himself as to encourage
any feeling of the kind for Lucy Arkell
, considering he is engaged to another—whatever she may have done! You have heard of the rich Fauntleroy girls: he marries one of them.”
“I had no reason to hazard such an opinion,” retorted Mildred, speaking warmly in her turn, vexed that Lucy should be despised, which she could now very well see she was. “ Indeed, from what I have observed, I should fancy her hopes may lie in a different direction. Young Palmer, the lawyer, the son of her father's old friend, has been very attentive in calling to inquire after her health. His motives may probably be more interested ones.”
Now this was a little romance of Mildred's, called forth by the anger of the moment. It is true that Tom Palmer frequently did call: he and Lucy had been brought up more like brother and sister than anything else: but Miss Arkell had no foundation, and knew that she had none, for saying that he admired Lucy; and Mrs. Arkell knew it too. However, home went Mrs. Arkell, and the first of her family she came across happened to be Travice.
“So that sly girl Lucy Arkell has been engaged all this time !" she exclaimed. “ 'The idea of her keeing it so quiet!
“Engaged in what ?" echoed Travice.
“Engaged to be married," answered the lady, looking up from the corner of one eye, to see how much of her news Travice took in. is young Palmer
, the lawyer. They are to be married as soon as a decent time has elapsed after the death of her father.”
“ It's not true!" burst forth Mr. Travice. “ Who in the world told it
" Not true!" repeated Mrs. Arkell. “Why don't you say it is not true that I am sitting here—not true that this is Monday-not true that you are Travice Arkell ? Upon my word, you are very polite, sir!"
“Who told it you?” reiterated Travice.
“ They told me. I have been there for the last hour, and we were talking the affair over. Mildred introduced it. And I can tell you what, Travice; it will be an excellent match for her, and they seem to know it.”
Travice did not gainsay his mother again, for there ran through his heart what felt like a shaft of ice, as he remembered the night he had stood with Lucy in the chamber of her dying father, when he had whispered to her that his home should be hers, and she had turned coldly from him with the slighting answer, “ Nothing you could say should induce me to have my home with you!" These words, this behaviour had hitherto been unaccountable, but they did not remain so now. And he no longer doubted his mother's information, but felt, from that time forward, that there was an insuperable bar thrust between him and Lucy Arkell.
Miss Årkell returned to Dewsbury House, for there were final arrangements to be made, at which her presence was necessary. She took Lucy with her. The house and effects lapsed to the eldest nephew of Lady Dewsbury: but he was abroad, and the family entreated Mildred to remain there as mistress, until he should return. So that six or eight months elapsed, after Lucy and her aunt's quitting Riverton, before they returned to it for good. The old house meanwhile, the scene of her own and of Lucy's childhood, was, by Miss Arkell's directions, put in thorough