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possible for her to have yet paid it away. Would she rise to this fly? Tiresome as she was to hook, would she swallow this bait?
Miss Banks felt doubtful, but at the same time she felt very sure that if her ladyship did not she should remain at Scarborough all alone.
In a second, bait and hook and line and everything had vanished.
'Can't I make up all that deficiency?' asked Lady Moffat eagerly. Yes; how much will you want? But never mind that now. Here is twenty pounds; take that, and we can talk about the rest when you come back. You will come back, now, won't you?'
'If I find him better,' said Miss Banks. 'But, dear Lady Moffat, I must not take this money. What would Sir John say?'
Sir John would say nothing, except that he felt pleased. Now come back, do, and I will follow your advice. I will be more prudent. We must consult together. I think it might be well to take lodgings. What do you say?'
I think so too, decidedly.' With coy reluctance Miss Banks refrained from putting the note into the purse; but she kept it close at hand on the table, and it must have been a clever person who could have got it back again, even under those apparently easy circumstances.
'Do you believe in dreams?' asked Lady Moffat, after a moment's silence, suddenly raising her eyes and fastening them on her friend's face.
Miss Banks hesitated. If she had answered truthfully, she would have said she believed in nothing, except silver and gold, and money in the funds, and little trifles of that sort. She felt strongly of opinion that Lady
Moffat's creed was identical with her own; but still, she could not be quite certain, and was sharp enough, moreover, to perceive that the tone of the question did not savour altogether of incredulity.
'I have heard of some wonderful coincidences as regards dreams,' she answered cautiously.
'I have heard of some persons whose dreams always come true,' said Lady Moffat gloomily. Do you think there is anything in the idea?'
'I think it not at all improbable. Even in their waking moments many people have an uncomfortable gift of prophecy.'
Lady Moffat did not speak for a moment or two; then she said, 'I had an awful dream last night.'
Indeed!'exclaimed Miss Banks; 'what was it?'
There was no answer. Lady Moffat rose and paced the length of the room, her head bent down, and her hands clasped behind her back. Miss Banks took the opportunity of slipping the morning's gains into her pocket.
'I never used to dream,' resumed Lady Moffat, after a pause; 'I never knew till lately what it was to pass a bad night. I wonder how it is. What can be the reason?'
'You are not well,' said Miss Banks decidedly, 'and I am afraid you have been exerting and exciting yourself too much since we came here. What should you think,' she added briskly, 'of leaving Scarborough, and going to Whitby? I fancy you would be better there.'
'I should be glad to feel better anywhere,' answered Lady Moffat; I can't bear lying awake, and dreaming when I fall asleep.'
'You ought to speak to the doctor about it,' advised Miss Banks, wondering, as she spoke,
how Lady Moffat would bear the wakeful nights so many of her fellow-creatures have to endure, or survive dreams that are but the distorted realities of most human lives.
'She is afraid of being alone,' considered the spinster; that is why she was so urgent for me to return. She would never have given me that twenty pounds if she had not expected full change out of it for herself. I should like to know what she dreamt about. If she would only tell me, I, like Daniel, might interpret it for her.'
There was no reason in the world why Miss Banks should have returned to London, since her invalid chanced, at that period, to be as well as he was ever likely to be in this world; but she had grown horribly, deadly tired of her companion, and of a life which till that morning had not resulted in one sixpence of actual profit. She had not even increased her connection-only run up against that odious Captain Battersley, between whom and herself there was a feud of many years' standing, and become acquainted with Viscount Chesunt, a person not likely, so far as she could see, to prove of use to man, woman, or child. Scarborough had not to her proved a success, and she felt she needed a whiff of the familiar London air, and a sight of the remembered streets, to blow the cobwebs engendered by an aggravatingly easy sort of life off her brain.
She had promised herself that she would make the Moffats the most useful acquaintances she possessed, and after a month's close companionship it was only by the merest accident, only in consequence of some remarkable change of mental temperature, that she secured the 'mere trifle' Lady Moffat's generosity alone could ever have offered her.
Further, having said she must return to town, she knew she must, to adhere to her programme; for all of which reasons she started by a late train, travelling from York in the most economical manner known to railway passengers, and contenting herself on her journey with such light refreshment as she had garnered from the dessert.
'You will come back very soon?' Lady Moffat's last words in farewell; and if you should happen to see Sir John, you may tell him I am not at all well.'
'I shall make a point of going to Palace Gardens,' answered Miss Banks, and then she went down the stairs smiling. 'Yes, I shall certainly make a point of going to Palace Gardens,' she said to herself, and smiled again.
In the narrow house at Kensington, wedged in between two larger residences, Miss Banks did not, on her return to town, find domestic affairs going much more smoothly than they are wont to do in larger establishments. Like death, servants would appear to be no respecters of persons, and it often happened that even when Miss Banks was at home she had her trials in the basement.
When she reached home on the morning after her departure from Scarborough she was greeted by Niel, who, in an easy morning undress of gray trousers and a striped jacket, seemed from his appearance to have been blackleading the grates, if, indeed, he had not been sweeping the chimneys.
"I am thankful to see you, ma'am,' he said; and indeed, to do him justice, he looked his gladness.
'Why, what has happened?' she inquired; 'my brother'-she always called Mr. Gayford by that endearing name when it was unnecessary to refer to him in terms of commiseration.
'He's pretty well, ma'am,' answered Niel, though the warm weather has tried him, as it always does, you know, ma'am. But Mrs. Nicholson and her son and daughter came yesterday afternoon; and cook she had taken herself off an hour before in a tantrum, and Jane had gone out to spend the day and never came back; she is not back yet-'
Gardens; somewhere close by here I imagine.'
'Not very far,' said Miss Banks. I know a family living there; delightful people; they must call; your friends will be charmed with them, I know.'
'Like a good soul, then, do introduce them,' said Mrs. Nicholson, tying on her bonnet preparatory to a course of shopping.
Miss Banks almost fell against They will be lonely in London at the wall.
'What did you do, Niel?' she asked, in despair, for Mrs. Nicholson chanced to be a lady with whom she desired to stand well, and it was one of Miss Banks' boasts to harassed young housekeepers that she never had any trouble with her servants.'
'I made them as comfortable as I could, ma'am; I asked the milkman to call and tell Mrs. Hemans to come round as fast as she could, and she did; and she will send a good strong girl this morning; and we have managed, ma'am. But still it is better you should be here yourself. They are none of them stirring yet, of course.'
Happily for Miss Banks' promised return to the north, Mrs. Nicholson was merely passing through London, and did not propose just then, she said, to make any lengthened stay in the metropolis.
'We hope to be up again after Christmas, she said, 'and then, if you can give us house-room for about a fortnight, we shall feel very grateful. A dear friend of mine, General Graham, whom I have not seen for ages-not likely, as he was in Australia and I in Canada is returning to England, and I am hoping to see him and his daughter. Such a romance, my dear; it is like something in a story-book. I'll tell it to you presently. They will be in Palace
first, I daresay; the General has been out of the country for ages. Madgy, his daughter, was born in Australia.'
'Lady Moffat will be sure to call,' said Miss Banks. She is the kindest creature in the world. I have been staying with her at Scarborough.'
'Well, certainly you have the most wonderful knack of making friends,' remarked Mrs. Nicholson;
and they are always just living in the neighbourhoods and moving in the rank one wants. As I often say, I never met with any person like you.'
Which, if Mrs. Nicholson had been wise as she was fluent, she would have considered a cause for especial thanksgiving.
SIR JOHN CONSIDERS.
'WHEN,' advises Mr. Caxton, in the most charming of delightfully pedantic books which ever was written, some one sorrow that is yet reparable gets hold of your mind like a monomania; when you think, because Heaven has denied you this or that on which you had set your heart, that all your life must be a blank,--O, then diet yourself well on biography, the biography of good and great men. See how little a space one sorrow really makes in life. See scarce
a page, perhaps, given to some grief similar to your own, and how triumphantly the life sails on beyond it! You thought the wing was broken. Tut, tut! it was but a bruised feather! See what life leaves behind it when all is done! A summary of positive facts far out of the region of sorrow and suffering linking themselves with the being of the world.'
That is yet reparable.' Sir John Moffat's sorrow could not be included in such a category; yet it is undeniable, although he did not seek comfort in reading of the troubles other men had encountered, of the stormy seas they had been engulfed in, and still came safe to land, he did begin by slow degrees to feel a vague consolation in his intercourse with Mr. Woodham, and in hearing him speak of the thousand varied miseries and temptations to which poor humanity is exposed.
Hitherto he had been too apt to consider the trials of his fellows merely from a pecuniary point of view; he knew the generality of men were more or less harassed, and it seemed to him they were all more or less harassed on account of shortness of money. Now it took the form of starvation, in another not being able to meet engagements; and between these two extremes of having everything to gain and everything to lose there stretched a wide country filled with various forms of distress, all of which could be removed or alleviated by a couple of sovereigns, or a cheque filled in for a good amount. The delicate child, the sick wife, the husband out of employment, the clerk who had embezzled, and whose master would not prosecute if the amount were made good-all these forms of sorrow could be at least assuaged by a mere wave of his wand by
This was, perhaps, the reason Sir John had not hitherto found much healing for his own wound in the ointment of other persons' distress. He did not lack money; he believed gold lay at the root of every trouble he had known. But for it, he should never have thrust help on Mr. Palthorpe; had he been destitute of it, Mrs. Palthorpe never would have thrown in her lot with him. Considering, therefore, how much evil a balance at his banker's had wrought him, how little the wealth even of a Rothschild could do for him, it was perfectly natural he should regard lightly those troubles which could be salved over with silver, the ailments capable of cure with a hundred-pound note. Mixing little amongst his fellows save in the way of business and of charity, these, however, had hitherto been almost the only sorrows except his own into the depths of which he had penetrated. Behind the scenes in any of life's greatest theatres he had never been; and from constantly contemplating the stage of existence from only a single side, and that the one presented to the public, he had little even theoretical knowledge of the tragedies ever enacting in private; of the anguished faces that put on masks of gladness when they went forth to meet their fellows, of the hearts in which all hope and freshness and vitality died long ago, that seem as light and joyous in society as though they had never known a
But now the pathos and the sorrow of human life were beginning to expand their long scrolls of ever- varying, never - ceasing wrongs, sins, devices, before his eyes.
Hitherto he had been going round and round the circle of his own sin less usefully, but as wearily as a horse in a mill; with intelligent gaze he began to explore the broad avenues of open folly and grief, and the more tortuous alleys and zigzag tracks marked by the feet of men who had secretly gone astray, and who could never make the wrong they had committed right in time or in eternity.
The son, round whom his parents' hopes and desires had centred, flinging off all restraint, and madly plunging into the vortex of dissipation; the mother of a family, not dead, as many imagined, but lost more hopelessly than if she had been in her grave; the child of hope and prayer missing out of the home, his name never mentioned, a vacant place where his portrait had hung, and a void which could not be filled in hearts that once beat high in expectation of a brilliant future; here the head of a household absent, and a raving maniac bearing some faint resemblance to him, wearing out his weary days in a private asylum; there a young wife, rich, noble, dying of a painful and insidious disease.
Money! If there could have been temporal salvation in it, these people had lacked no manner of thing that was good; they were all rich.
If thousands and tens of thousands could buy reason or goodness or health or virtue, erase the lines traced on the soul by sin, or efface the brand of disgrace, they had been forthcoming. Money could do literally nothing for such as these; its possession only gave them time for thinking,
leisure for brooding over the troubles it could not remove.
'When I lived down in the East of London,' said Mr. Woodham, I thought the sufferings of the busy poor very great, as most undoubtedly they are; but since I have been in the West, I have come to the conclusion the misery of the idle rich is infinitely worse. The first travel a hard stony road; but the last know no rest. are for ever labouring on the treadmill of their own memories, sorrows, disappointments. As a rule, wealthy people seem to me most wretched. Underneath all the purple and fine linen there are sores, real and fancied, worse than any galling the beggar at Dives' gate.'
Sir John winced; the truth in this remark touched him. Why, he would have been a beggar gladly could he, by the mere act of casting aside his riches, cast aside his trouble likewise. Had not he too for years and years and years been labouring upon one weary treadmill? Did ever criminal pursue that cruel and useless toil with greater industry? not his purple and fine linen, his splendid house, his riches, conceal a sore from which all honest eyes would turn shocked and astonished? It was true, quite true; and there were hundreds, thousands, affected with diseases as fatal to all happiness, if not exactly similar in their cause. No, his case could not be considered the exception he had imagined it. In the world he was not the only leper. Moving amongst their healthier fellow-creatures, and apparently like them in all respects, walked men who, were they only seen stripped of all conventional disguise, would be found covered from head to foot with a disease, in comparison to which the physical leprosy of Gehazi was clean.