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knee, and the tears fell. The Vicar watched the struggle while his own eyes grew dim, and when he saw what the end of it was, he rose to depart.
CHAPTER II.—LITTLE TROTTIE GIVEN UP. Annie and Jane Goldering were astonished when told of their mother's contemplated journey on the morrow; and more so when informed that their little sister was to be nicely dressed and made ready to accompany her.
Jane was disposed to envy the child. “Why should she go?” she questioned in an indigant aside to Annie, “just because she's the youngest, mother lets her have all the enjoyment.”
Still the thought that if the mother had let seniority guide her in choice of a companion upon her journey, it would have fallen to Annie to go and not to herself, contented Jane eventually. Annie felt no grudge against the little one.
“Oh, such a journey as our little Trottie's going to make!” she exelaimed. “ She'll be quite a traveller. What will she bring home with her for Sissie ? "
“Me bring oo me self,” lisped the little one, and Annie showered kisses upon the baby lips for the thought. How sad she would have been had she known that “me self” was just the one thing the little one could not bring back, and that long years would elapse before she would again set. eyes upon the loved face of her little sister.
Mrs. Goldering said nothing to her children of what might be the event of that journey up to town; how, setting forth with the dear baby hand clasped in hers, she would in all probability return alone, and then for her the bitterness of death would be past. She had faced the truth in the long, silent hours of the still dark night; lying wakeful upon her bed she had communed with her God and gained the victory over her heart's clinging weakness. She was resolved steadily to pursue the course marked out for her, crushing down the treacherous hope that would rise in her breast, suggesting to her the tempting thought that many causes might intervene to prevent the contemplated separation from her darling.
Upon reaching London she took a cab and went direct to the address of an agent given her by Mr. Paston, who had some friendly connection with that gentleman, and was so well known to him that he had assured Mrs. Goldering she might faithfully rely upon every word he said.
He was an intelligent, middle-aged man; a gentleman in speech and manners.
He'received Mrs. Goldering cordially, having been advised of her coming by a letter received from Mr. Paston that morning.
“You desire to be informed what family is at present in the occupation of 56, Brook Street, Hanover Square?”
Mrs. Goldering inclined her head in the affirmative.
He took down a large volume from the shelves to his right, laid it upon his desk, and turned over the leaves. Presently he paused at one, Mrs. Goldering watching him eagerly, little Trottie stretching out her tiny hand to catch the motes floating in the sunbeams, ignorant that her fate depended upon the answer her mother so anxiously waited for.
“ 56 Brook Street is the town residence of Sir William and Lady Trevor. Country house, Crowland Abbey, Westernshire, one of the most ancient seats in the kingdom.” He stopped and turned round. “You will not care for a mere handy-book description of a country-house !"
“Read me everything, please, every word you have there,” pleaded Mrs. Goldering, to whom every feature, however deficient in interest to others, of what might possibly be her child's future home was fraught with significance; and, constrained by the glittering eyes looking out upon him from the widow's wan face, he turned again to the book spread open upon the desk and read from it: “ The estate is richly wooded, the park stocked with deer. The abbey itself, the small remaining part of the original structure, dates back to the time of Edward the Confessor, and was endowed by grants from him. Recent owners have added, improved, and renovated. The neighbourhood is one of the most fertile and beautiful that the heart could desire, watered by the meandering stream of the Nova, and enclosed by the swelling heights of the Woldscote Hills. Viewing it one may well endorse the words of the poet
"Here nature in her unaffected dress,
Plaited with valleys and embossed with hills,
Sits lovely in her native russet clad.'
He shut the book, and turned towards her once more as he put the question.
“Do you know anything of Sir William and Lady Trevor ? What character do they bear?”
“I always hear them well spoken of. They are in deep affliction now, I believe, and have only just arrived in town from Crowland for the purpose of having the constant supervision of an eminent physician for their little girl, their only remaining child.”
“ Have they lost some?”
“ The eldest, a boy, died of fever at school barely a year ago, and a little girl was drowned at Crowland within the last month while out walking with the nurse."
Involuntarily Mrs. Goldering drew her own little one closer to her. There were trials one might be called upon to bear heavier than such a separation as this.
Grateful for the information he had furnished her with, Hester Goldering rose from her seat, and took her leave of Mr. Paston's friend.
She went next to a luncheon house in St. Paul's Churchyard. She seated herself at one of the small tables in the room at the back of the confectioner's shop, and called for a cup of chocolate and roll and butter for herself, and cakes and sweets for the little one. The last meal most likely that they would eat together for many, many years, it might be for ever; and Hester Goldering's heart was very heavy as she watched the unconscious baby devouring her sweets with so much zest, intent only upon the delightful gratification of her own little self. It was a sad picture and a very suggestive one—the mother in her widow's weeds, every feature of her pale face shaded by a touching melancholy, watching with wistful, lingering gaze the rosy child at her feast, while her own refreshment stood untasted.
“A' don," said Trottie, shaking the crumbs from her little black frock expressively. “Me ont more tates, me does.”
“Not more, darling. Trottie will make herself sick, and then mamma will be so sorry.”
“ Me does ont more.”
Doubtless Trottie perceived with a child's quick instinct that nothing would be refused her that day, and Miss Trottie was a little maiden by no means averse to self-indulgence. So more cakes were brought, and then further demands were satisfied with a paper of sweetmeats shut up in one chubby hand. When Mrs. Goldering got into an omnibus at the top of Fleet-street to ride into Regent Street, Trottie was soon fast asleep upon her lap.
At Hanover Street she got out of the omnibus, and holding little Trottie's hand withing her burning grasp, she proceeded along it. When she came to Brook Street, having passed through the square, she began reading the numbers. All too soon they came to fiftysix, and not trusting herself to linger, Mrs. Goldering rang the bell.
The door was opened immediately, and Mrs. Goldering was bowed into the entrance hall by the stately possessor of silken calves, striped waistcoat, and powdered hair. Probably she was not the first applicant in answer to the advertisement, for the porter seemed to understand her errand when he caught sight of the child at her side, and handed her over to a gentleman in broad cloth, to be by him conveyed to Lady Trevor's presence.
Up a broad staircase, on to a wide landing, where there was a mingling of prismatic rays as the light fell through stained glass on to rare exotics and gleaming statuettes, with a rich tropical perfume, intoxicating to the senses, Mrs. Goldering followed the silken calves as in a dream. What if her child was come to be at home in all this luxury? What if her passionate craving for the sweets of life was to be gratified evermore? Like many a foolishly fond mother, Hester Goldering believed there was nothing so desirable for her darling as the gratification of all her desires. Deny yourselves, learn to endure hardness, was advice all very good as far as herself was concerned; but for the child she loved, the more her lines fell in pleasant places the better. The thought was essentially a mother's; better, a great deal, that her child's every want should find its fulfilment than that her tender feet should be blistered on the road to Calvary. This is not God's discipline, and He often sends the needful nourishment to the soul that would die but for His care, in opposition to that mistaken earthly love that would let it sink into a deathly lethargy rather than that the body should suffer. For this Hester Goldering was nerving her heart to make that sacrifice; for her own feet thorns and roughness, for her own heart martyrdom, for her love crucifixion, for little Trottie brightness, and warmth, and beauty, no matter though her own heart broke in the effort to secure these for her child.
Mrs. Goldering was ushered into a large, partially shaded apartment, whose general appearance was that of luxury and elegance combined.
A lady, who had been seated upon a couch at the further end of the room, rose and came forward as she entered.
She was dressed in deep mourning, her sombre skirts trailed behind her as she advanced, and two small white nervous hands were clasped before her. Her hair was very fair and lustreless, her face likewise, as though the light of hope had been banished by watching and weeping. But it was a lovely, patrician face, notwithstanding the absence of light and colour, and the dignity of high birth and position gave a stateliness to the small slender form.
She motioned Mrs. Goldering to a seat, and took one herself, for indeed she was hardly able to stand, a quiver passed over her from head to foot when she noticed the rosy, healthy child by the mother's side.
Trottie was in no way abashed by her strange surroundings. She did not shrink back and hide her face in her mother's gown as a timid child would have done ; but she stood a little apart from her, with finger thrust into her mouth, staring around. Then her blue eyes came back to her own immediate neighbourhood, and fixed themselves upon the lady facing her. So it happened that the conversation between the two women was commenced less formally than it would have been.
Lady Trevor drew Trottie to her side, stroked down her hair, and kissed her brow, and the other woman watched Trottie's wiling submission to these caresses, her heart fluttering like a live thing within her bosom. Sheclasped both hands tightlyover it. Looking into Lady Trevor's face, she read there that which instinctively commanded her respect and confidence. With that knowledge the last, lingering hope of carrying Trottie back with her to Hartford died out; her child would be as dearly and honourably cared for by Lady Trevor as she would be by herself, and no excuse remained by means of which she could avoid fulfilling the promise made to Mr. Paston.
"You are the Mrs. Goldering of whose coming I have received intimation this morning by letter from a Mr. Paston of Hartford, are you not ?" Lady Trevor asked.
Mrs. Goldering bowed in the affirmative; words failed her just then.
“Mr. Paston alludes to great troubles you have been called upon to bear. I am very sorry for your trials ; my own heart's grief makes me tender of that of others. If you will allow me I shall be able to relieve you of your most pressing need, but you must not look upon it as the price of the great sacrifice you are here to make. Disabuse your mind of that idea entirely, and look upon it as a gift from one sorrowing woman upon whom the Lord has bestowed an abundance of worldly wealth to another who has need of it."
Mrs. Goldering's tears fell at this evidence of Lady Trevor's delicate consideration.
"Your ladyship is very kind.” "Not so kind as your willing sacrifice warrants my being. Are you satisfied to resign this little one to me?”
"Your ladyship does not, I am sure, expect too much from me. I am satisfied since I have seen you, for I know she will be tenderly and justly treated, but resigned I am not, and cannot be at present. The sacrifice is a great one.”
“I acknowledge it, and I appreciate it all the more on that account. Mr. Paston informs me that you have a family of children, so that the parting from this child will be less keen than it might be.”
“I have others, my lady, and yet, with cruel perversity, my heart fixes itself upon this one above all the rest, though I am parting with her to ease the burden of their maintenance."
Lady Trevor eagerly seized the opportunity here afforded of changing the conversation to a theme less painful.