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"You are looking better this morning, my dear aunt," said Gerald. They had a great respect for each other these two; but when Miss Cecilia turned to hear what her elder nephew was saying, her face lost the momentary look of approval it had worn, and she again, though very softly, almost imperceptibly, began to shake her head.
"We were not asking for your sympathy," said Miss Leonora, sharply. "Don't talk like a saucy boy. We were talking of our own embarrassment. There is a very excellent young man, the curate of the parish, whom Julia Trench is to be married to. By the way, of course, this must put it off; but I was about to say, when you interrupted me, that to give it away from you at this moment, just as you had been doing well-doingyour duty," said Miss Leonora, with unusual hesitation, was certainly very uncomfortable, to say the least, to us."
there is a living in the family, to educate one of his sons for it. In my opinion, it's one of the duties of property. You have no right to live off your estate, and spend your money elsewhere; and no more have you any right to give less than than your own flesh and blood to the people you have the charge of. You've got the charge of them to-to a certain extent
soul and body, sir," said the Squire, growing warm, as he put down his Times,' and forgetting that he addressed a lady. "I'd never have any peace of mind if I filled up a family living with a stranger- unless, of course," Mr Wentworth added in a parenthesis -an unlikely sort of contingency which had not occurred to him at first "you should happen to have no second son.-The eldest the squire, the second the rector. That's my idea, Leonora, of Church and State."
Miss Leonora smiled a little at her brother's semi-feudal, semi-pagan ideas. "I have long known that we were not of the same way of thinking," said the strong-minded aunt, who, though cleverer than her brother, was too wise in her own conceit to perceive at the first glance the noble, simple conception of his own duties and position, which was implied in the honest gentleman's words. "Your second son might be either a fool or a knave, or even, although neither, might be quite unfit to be intrusted with the eternal interests of his fellow-creatures. In my opinion, the duty of choosing a clergyman is one not to be exercised without the gravest deliberation. A conscientious man would make his selection dependant, at least, upon the character of his second son-if he had one. We, however
"But then his character is so satisfactory, Leonora," cried Miss Dora, feeling emboldened by the shadow of visitors under whose shield she could always retire. Everybody knows what a good clergyman he is-I am sure it would
be like a new world in Skelmersdale if you were there, Frank, my dear-and preaches such beautiful sermons!" said the unlucky little woman, upon whom her sister immediately descended, swift and sudden, like a storm at sea.
"We are generally perfectly of accord in our conclusions," said Miss Leonora ; 'as for Dora, she comes to the same end by a roundabout way. After what my brother has been saying
"Yes," said the Squire, with uncomfortable looks, "I was saying to your aunt, Frank, what I said to you about poor Mary. Since Gerald will go, and since you don't want to come, the best thing to do would be to have Huxtable. He's a very good fellow on the whole, and it might cheer her up, poor soul, to be near her sisters. Life has been hard work to her, poor girl-very hard work, sir," said the Squire, with a sigh. The idea was troublesome and uncomfortable, and always disturbed his mind when it occurred to him. It was indeed a secret humiliation to the Squire, that his eldest daughter possessed so little the characteristic health and prosperity of the Wentworths. He was very sorry for her, but yet half angry and half ashamed, as if she could have helped it; but, however, he had been obliged to admit, in his private deliberations on the subject, that, failing Frank, Mary's husband had the next best right to Wentworth Rectory-an arrangement of which Miss Leonora did not approve.
“I was about to say that we have no second son," she said, taking up the thread of her discourse where it had been interrupted. "Our duty is solely towards the Christian people. I do not pretend to be infallible," said Miss Leonora, with a meek air of self-contradiction; "but I should be a very poor creature indeed, if, at my age, I did not know what I believed, and was not perfectly convinced that I am right. Consequently (though, I repeat, Mr Shirley has chosen the most incon
venient moment possible for dying), it can't be expected of me that I should appoint my nephew, whose opinions in most points are exactly the opposite of mine."
I wish, at least, you would believe what I say," interrupted the Curate, impatiently. "There might have been some sense in all this three months ago; but if Skelmersdale were the highroad to everything desirable in the Church, you are all quite aware that I could not accept it. Stop, Gerald; I am not so disinterested as you think," said Frank; "if I left Carlingford now, people would remember against me that my character had been called in question here. I can remain a Perpetual Curate," said the young man, with a smile, "but I can't tolerate any shadow upon my honour. I am sorry I came in at such an awkward moment. Good morning, aunt Leonora. I hope Julia Trench, when she has the Rectory, will always keep of your way of thinking. She used to incline a little to mine," he said, mischievously, as he went away.
"Come back, Frank, presently," said the Squire, whose attention had been distracted from his "Times.' Mr Wentworth began to be tired of such a succession of exciting discussions. He thought if he had Frank quietly to himself he could settle matters much more agreeably; but the 'Times' was certainly an accompaniment more tranquillising so far as a comfortable meal was concerned.
"He can't come back presently," said aunt Leonora. "You speak as if he had nothing to do; when, on the contrary, he has everything to do that is worth doing," said that contradictory authority. back to lunch, Frank; and I wish you would eat your breakfast, Dora, and not stare at me.'
Miss Dora had come down to breakfast as an invalid, in a pretty little cap, with a shawl over her dressing-gown. She had not yet got over her adventure and the excitement of Rosa's capture. That
unusual accident, and all the applauses of her courage which had been addressed to her since, had roused the timid woman. She did not withdraw her eyes from her sister, though commanded to do so; on the contrary, her look grew more and more emphatic. She meant to have made a solemn address, throwing off Leonora's yoke, and declaring her intention, in this grave crisis of her nephew's fortunes, of acting for herself; but her feelings were too much for Miss Dora. The tears came creeping to the corners of her eyes, and she could not keep them back; and her attempt at dignity broke down. "I am never consulted," she said, with a gasp. "I don't mean to pretend to know better than Leonora; but-but I think it is very hard that Frank should be disappointed about Skelmersdale. You may call me as foolish as you please," said Miss Dora, with rising tears, "I know everybody will say it is my fault; but I must say I think it is very hard that Frank should be disappointed. He was always brought up for it, as everybody knows; and to disappoint him, who is so good and so nice, for a fat young man, buttered all over like-like-a pudding-basin," cried poor Miss Dora, severely adhering to the unity of her desperate metaphor. "I don't know what Julia Trench can be thinking of; I-I don't know what Leonora means.'
"I am of the same way of thinking," said aunt Cecilia, setting down, with a little gentle emphasis, her cup of tea.
Here was rebellion, open and uncompromised. Miss Leonora was so much taken by surprise, that she lifted the tea-urn out of the way, and stared at her interlocutors with genuine amazement. But she proved herself, as usual, equal to the occasion.
"It's unfortunate that we never see eye to eye just at once," she said, with a look which expressed more distinctly than words could have done the preliminary flourish
of his whip, by means of which a skilful charioteer gets his team under hand without touching them; "but it is very lucky that we always come to agree in the end," she added, more significantly still. It was well to crush insubordination in the bud.
Not that she did not
share the sentiment of her sisters; but then they were guided like ordinary women by their feelings, whereas Miss Leonora had the rights of property before her, and the approval of Exeter Hall.
"And he wants to marry, poor dear boy," said Miss Dora, pale with fright, yet persevering; "and she is a dear good girl-the very person for a clergyman's wife; and what is he to do if he is always to be Curate of St Roque's? You may say it is my fault, but I cannot help it. He always used to come to me in all his little troubles; and when he wants anything very particular, he knows there is nothing I would not do for him," sobbed the proud aunt, who could not help recollecting how much use she had been to Frank. She wiped her eyes at the thought, and held up her head with a thrill of pride and satisfaction. Nobody could blame her in that particular at least. "He knew he had only to tell me what he wanted," said Miss Dora, swelling out her innocent plumes. Jack, who was sitting opposite, and who had been listening with admiration, thought it time to come in on his own part.
"I hope you don't mean to forsake me, aunt Dora," he said. “If a poor fellow cannot have faith in his aunt, whom can he have faith in? I thought it was too good to last," said the neglected prodigal. "You have left the poor sheep in the wilderness and gone back to the ninety-and-nine righteous men who need no repentance." put up his handkerchief to his eyes as he spoke, and so far forgot himself as to look with laughter in his face at his brother Gerald. As for the Squire, he was startled to hear his eldest son quoting Scrip
ture, and laid aside his paper once more to know what it meant.
"I am sure I beg your pardon, Jack," said aunt Dora, suddenly stopping short, and feeling guilty. "I never meant to neglect you. Poor dear boy, he never was properly tried with female society and the comforts of home; but then you were dining out that night," said the simple woman, eagerly. "I should have stayed with you, Jack, of course, had you been at home."
From this little scene Miss Leonora turned away hastily, with an exclamation of impatience. She made an abrupt end of her tea-making, and went off to her little business room with a grim smile upon her iron-grey countenance. She too had been taken in a little by Jack's pleasant farce of the Sinner Repentant; and it occurred to her to feel a little ashamed of herself as she went up-stairs. After all, the ninety-and-nine just men of Jack's irreverent quotation were worth considering now and then; and Miss Leonora could not but think with a little humiliation of the contrast between her nephew Frank and the comfortable young Curate who was going to marry Julia Trench. He was fat, it could not be denied; and she remembered his chubby looks, and his sermons about selfdenial and mortification of the flesh, much as a pious Catholic might think of the Lenten oratory of a fat friar. But then he was perfectly sound in his doctrines, and it was undeniable that the people liked him, and that the appointment was one which even a Scotch ecclesiastical community full of popular rights could scarcely have objected to. According to her own principles, the strong-minded woman could not do otherwise. She threw herself into her arm-chair with unnecessary force, and read over the letter which Miss Trench herself
had written. "It is difficult to think of any consolation in such a bereavement," wrote Mr Shirley's niece; "but still it is a little comfort to feel that I can throw myself on your sympathy, my dear and kind friend." "Little calculating thing!" Miss Leonora said to herself as she threw down the mournful epistle; and then she could not help thinking again of Frank. To be sure, he was not of her way of thinking; but when she remembered the "investigation" and its result, and the secret romance involved in it, her Wentworth blood sent a thrill of pride and pleasure through her veins. Miss Leonora, though she was strong-minded, was still woman enough to perceive her nephew's motives in his benevolence to Wodehouse; but these motives, which were strong enough to make him endure so much annoyance, were not strong enough to tempt him from Carlingford and his Perpetual Curacy, where his honour and reputation, in the face of love and ambition, demanded that he should remain. "It would be a pity to balk him in his self-sacrifice," she said to herself, with again a somewhat grim smile, and a comparison not much to the advantage of Julia Trench and her curate. She shut herself up among her papers till luncheon, and only emerged with a stormy front when that meal was on the table'; during the progress of which she snubbed everybody who ventured to speak to her, and spoke to her nephew Frank as if he might have been suspected of designs upon the plate-chest. Such were the unpleasant consequences of the struggle between duty and inclination in the bosom of Miss Leonora ; and, save for other unforeseen events which decided the matter for her, it is not by any means so certain as, judging from her character, it ought to have been, that duty would have won the day.
Frank Wentworth once more went up Grange Lane, a thought ful and a sober man. Exhilaration comes but by moments in the happiest of lives and already he began to remember how very little he had to be elated about, and how entirely things remained as before. Even Lucy; her letter very probably might be only an effusion of friendship; and at all events, what could he say to her what did he dare in honour say? And then his mind went off to think of the two rectories, between which he had fallen as between two stools: though he had made up his mind to accept neither, he did not the less feel a certain mortification in seeing that his relations on both sides were so willing to bestow their gifts elsewhere. He could not tolerate the idea of succeeding Gerald in his own person, but still he found it very disagreeable to consent to the thought that Huxtable should replace him-Huxtable, who was a good fellow enough, but of whom Frank Wentworth thought, as men generally think of their brothers-inlaw, with a half-impatient, half-contemptuous wonder what Mary could ever have seen in so commonplace a man. To think of him as rector of Wentworth inwardly chafed the spirit of the Perpetual Curate. As he was going along, absorbed in his own thoughts, he did not perceive how his approach was watched for from the other side of the way by Elsworthy, who stood with his bundle of newspapers under his arm and his hat in his hand, watching for "his clergyman" with submission and apology on the surface, and hidden rancour underneath. Elsworthy was not penitent; he was furious and disappointed. His mistake and its consequences were wholly humiliating, and had not in them a single saving feature to atone for the wounds of his self-esteem. The Curate had not only baffled and
beaten him, but humbled him in his own eyes, which is perhaps, of all others, the injury least easy to forgive. It was, however, with an appearance of the profoundest submission that he stood awaiting the approach of the man he had tried so much to injure.
"Mr Wentworth, sir," said Elsworthy, "if I was worth your while, I might think as you were offended with me; but seeing I'm one as is so far beneath you"-he went on with a kind of grin, intended to represent a deprecatory smile, but which would have been a snarl had he dared-"I can't think as you'll bear no malice. May I ask, sir, if there's a-going to be any difference made?"
"In what respect, Elsworthy?" said the Curate, shortly.
"Well, sir, I can't tell," said the Clerk of St Roque's. "If a clergyman was to bear malice, it's in his power to make things very unpleasant. I don't speak of the place at church, which ain't neither here nor there-it's respectable, but it ain't lucrative; but if you was to stretch a point, Mr Wentworth, by continuing the papers and suchlike-it ain't that I valley the money," said Elsworthy, “but I've been a faithful servant; and I might say, if you was to take it in a right spirit, an 'umble friend, Mr Wentworth," he continued, after a little pause, growing bolder. "And now, as I've that unfortunate creature to provide for, and no one knowing what's to become of her—”
"I wonder that you venture to speak of her to me," said the Curate, with a little indignation, “after all the warnings I gave you. But you ought to consider that you are to blame a great deal more than she is. She is only a child; if you had taken better care of her-but you would not pay any attention to my warning;-you must bear the consequences as you best can.'