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was always ready with them. What did the reflection of a devoted career, the esyou mean?'

sence of manliness. He did not say one diMrs. Howe only comprehended in part, rectly religious word, though Abigail knew and wanted to repair what she considered him to be a reverent, believing man ; but her mistake. When Abigail was likely to the whole tenor of his business talk was rehave an anxious time with her husband's ligious, the evidence of a life spent in aimillness was not the season to fret her with ing at duty, a commentary on the text, worldly cares.

• Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it • Oh, my dear, I meant nothing_particu- with all thy might.' lar, except that no doubt poor Tom has Tom Prior was not always unconscious, business trials like other men, which men like he would recognise Abigail, Mrs. Howe, the our Tom bear on their own broad backs— nurse provided for him. On these occasions not that his back was ever very broad, poor he announced he was better, they were onfellow - and don't shift on their wives' weak ly making a fuss about him; were they lookshoulders, especially if they are ailing shoul- ing after the children? bid Abigail lie down. ders.'

Bad as it was to hear this when he was no • Do they not? Is that right?' inquired better, and Abigail could no more have restAbigail, with sharp pain, awakened out of ed than she could bave danced, it was not a dream.

so bad as to have him toiling manfully and Oh, my dear, don't distress yourself. I self-forgetfully on his sick-bed, perhaps did not mean that he had run into debt, death-bed. The very little boys felt this; nothing of the kind. I never heard of such and Joe confided to his mother, with a girl. a thing.'

ish burst of tears which smeared his bold, • Never mind, mamma ; I have more to chubby face almost as black as his hands, he distress myself about.'

wished papa would only cry, oh dear, and Abigail had got the sum of the informa- say he could not bear it, and roar as he and tion she had expected, and it served to Jack did when they had chilblains and nurse make her husband's unconscious speech plain put the bottle on them, or they had gumto her. He spoke incessantly of his busi- boil, and not go on working for them and ness, working away at his accounts, going the Factory people when he was lying, so over and over again the accustomed ground sick in bed. Could mamma not stop him, in the Factory with an earnestness and ea- and tell him that Jack and Joe had made up gerness which contrasted broadly with his their minds to spend all the Saturday afterincapacity and inertness. His raving was noon in the Factory, and were prepared to as pure as the prattle of a child, he never help the manager to pay the hands if he said a word which could hurt a human being would allow them? except when he broke her heart by running * We must let papa alone just now, my, up, accounts, comparing invoices, weighing dears; he cannot bear to be meddled with bales, examining frames, arranging that a Abigail tried to comfort the children and place should be kept for an old woman who herself

. When he is well again, as Jack had been a worker in her young days; and and Joe pray to God to make him, we will do Bill Cobb should have his full wages, a all we can to get papa to let us share his man's child must be buried; the scapegrace work.' was in real trouble this time, well, it might Dr. Winkworth, and the other doctors sober him. Sometimes he referred to his who saw Tom at the worst -- and were the father's experience in the office, and estab- signal to Ashley that poor Tom Prior, lished a hereditary connexion with the Fac- with his wife and young family, was tory. He said it all in a matter of fact, dangerously ill, and to the Miss Mainwarcheerful voice, only waxing hoarse and ings to send her little maid to the back area husky with much speaking and failing gate, with their compliments, and please strength. Ile never alluded to disappoint- how was Mr. Prior ? twice a day ment or anxiety, smothering and strangling hopeful of his recovery, though the sympthem to the last. He had his work to do, toms were formidable. But Dr. Winkworth, and he did it, lying there, as busily as ever not like cautious old Dr. Lewis, but an unhe had done it in the counting-house or the compromising man, told all whom it might Factory. If he were to die, Abigail would concern, flatly, “Mr. Prior has not been ussay of him, he had died as truly at his post ing himself well; he has been overdoing as a sailor at the helm, or a soldier on the himself, and he has not been taking sufficient breach. For sitting there, watching Tom rest and refreshment; the consequence is, Prior's looks and words, the knowledge came he has made our office ten times more diffiirresistibly to Abigail, that they contained cult and doubtful.'

were

Abigail looked back, that aching looking • But you must be very careful, Mrs. back, to ascertain all the recklessness of Prior; you are not to expect that he is to which he and she had been guilty. Tom come out of this attack a strong man, and had been absorbed in business, she had you are not to encourage him to make exknown that, but she had always thought it ertions. He will begin to worry about his the love of business which comes to a man business presently –

- men are bad patients with years, when he has done with the fan- in that respect. If you can tell him anycies and follies of youth ; and some envy of thing that will set his mind at ease, do so; Humphrey Bingham's prosperity, with the but nothing that can vex him. Say that I fact that it rendered Humphrey more of a distinctly forbid that.' And the Doctor, sleeping partner. Lately Tom had gone to exceedingly shrewd in his physical line, the office after dinner, thus certainly cur- walked off with as silly a speech, morally, tailing his rest and refreshment, and some- as if he had forbidden the tides to obey the times worked by himself far on into the moon; but as he observed to himself shortly, night. When he was very busy he did not · It is not my business but hers to find a way come home to dinner, near as his house to keep her husband quiet.' was, but had a sandwich sent to the office. Abigail stood and looked at her husband Abigail had never prevented it. If Tom before he awoke next morning. The little chose to give himself up to business it was solid flesh he had possessed bad melted his own affair. She had never dreamt of away like the wax of the figures which injury to his health, certainly (as if she held witches placed before slow fires. All his a monopoly of illness). Mrs. Howe had oc- tangled hair and growth of beard, fast growcasionally remonstrated, but Abigail had ing grey, could not conceal the hollows in joined Tom in saying the remonstrance was his face. But Abigail for the first time in stuff , and laughing at it.

her life thought Tom Prior very handsome Very likely, though Abigail had resisted – all coarseness refined away from the Tom's malpractices, Tom, with his horror of haggard face, a certain steroness lent by its milksops, and his doggedness where his own spareness to its pleasantness, but the most ease and comfort were concerned, would manly, the truest of faces. have resisted and overcome her; but Abi- •What holes papa has got in his cheeks, gail had not resisted him, she had aided and remarked a boy with something like awe, abetted him in his great carelessness. Abi- stealing on tiptoe into the room afier his gail had not had any conception of such mother. sudden and terrible disorder of functions and Papa had always holes in his cheeks, boy, faculties as had punished Tom for his igno- only they used to look more like dimples, rance and imprudence, well-informed, sensi- his mamma explained softly. • We must ble fellow as he was. Her own illnesses had make them look like dimples again.' all consisted of weakness and irritation of She went and chatted cheerfully to the the chest, prostrating and ominous in their boys when Mrs. Howe had gone to sit with way, but so bearable, above all to a retiring, Mr. Prior. The boys had taken to their languid woman, that now and then, when mother since they were scared by the atshe was taking herself to task, she had ac- mosphere of pain and fear in the house; cused herself of making pets of her illness- and now that she de them parties to her

Now she witnessed in grief and terror reviving hopes, and was merry with them, an illness which struck root and branch, and they were enchanted with her as a new acclutched its victim — the head of the fami- quisition, and were loth to part from her. ly, its natural star and crown

of whom no · Don't go, mamma; it is so nice to hear prophet had foreboded the remote decay far you laugh — almost as jolly as having papa less of the crashing fall.

downstairs again. Why do you laugh so • If Tom die, I have helped to dig the seldom ?' grave of the only man who would have killed • You don't know what you are saying, himself, and who has killed himself for me,' child. I laugh as often as my neighbours Abigail told herself in her despair, dealing — my grown-up neighbours, I mean. I must to herself the hard lines that noble natures go now; don't detain me, you two rogues, take as their portion, when their eyes are I am going out. I have not been out since opened and they have come to their right poor papa was ill.' minds.

They were so perverse, they wanted to At last the fever slackened and the dis- walk with her, though a fortnight ago they order yielded. Dr. Winkworth pronoun- would have resented it as an approach to ced that Mr. Prior had turned over a new the insult of walking with their nurse. leaf, and he expected would be sensible • This is a wonderful accession of gallantwhen he awoke next morning.

ry. I see if I am not to pestered by the

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is a

.

was

attentions of two young men, I must exert street, to which children would only return
a little lawful atuhority. So off with you to for meals and bed if they had their will;
school, Jack and Joe, and be sure you take and Tom's dark sick-room, with its smell of
a message from me to the Rector, that I vinegar and its muffled foot-falls.
hope the usher canes you when you are late.' The servant who opened the door was

Mrs. Howe was delighted that Abigail not an Ashley man, and did not know Mrs. should think of breathing the fresh air, and Prior, so that when she asked to speak with quite certain she could keep Mr. Prior Mr. Bingham he showed her into the library, from fretting while his wife was out. which his master used as a business room,

But though Tom is amazingly better, and told her that the family were at lundon't stay away long, dear, on your own ac cheon in the dining-room, but as soon as they count, for this is a most deceitful day; there had finished he would tell the Squire.

a great deal of May sun, but the wind is The library was the room in which Humright in the east, and you know this is the phrey, his sister, and the young lady tinie of the year when you are particularly staying in the house had taken the gipsey liable to your influenzas.'

tei on the night of the ball; but what was Abigail smiled and sighed, and begged of more consequence now, it formed a suit her mother not to weary for her. But she with the dining-roem, and there was a door did not say she was going to stay away between them standing a liti le ajar, so that two or three hours at the shortest computa- Abigail sitting down in the first s'udy chair, tion. She was going to take a drive of six had but to turn her head to catch a glimpse miles and back. She was going to hire a of the party at luncheon and hear as much Cab from the Royal Hotel, and drive to the of their conversation as she cared to listen Hanger to see Humphrey Bingham. He to, while they were too well employed, and had sent regularly, and had even come making too much noise with plates, glasses, personally to the house more than once to and conversation to notive her entrance. inquire for his partner, but he had never They were a large party, includ ng not asked to go up to Tom; kind-hearted as only Humphrey, his wife, anil their elder Humphrey was, he was not fond of witness- children, with their governess, but a speciing scenes of distress, and the feeling

men of the constant succession of visitors growing upon him; but his old mistress who stayed with the B nghams when they was yoing out to the Hanger to see him. were at the Hanger.

Abigail had been very sellom, and for The Binghams had been absorbed into mere short ceremonious visits, at the the county set, for whi.h their means and Hanger since IIumphrey's murriage and her manners had qualified them. But Ashley own; so that in thinking of it at any time people blamed Mr: Hump'ırey fo- Ilumand seeing it again now, her mind recurred phrey s desertion of the town. Affible as to the time when she had known it best she had shown bers. If on her introduction

the days she had spent there with Fanny to it, she found no dilliculty in giving Bingham, in the year when she had regard- up her Ashley acquainiances when it suited ed it as her future home. It was what its her, not with offensive sligh's and cuts, but name implied, a prettily-situated country- with suffi ient decision. Mrs. Humphrey house, on the slope of a wooded hill now was so led by the gentry that she a-sumed green and fragrant in early summer. Hum- their very failings. Sie hul an eye glass phrey had added to it; until what with its fixed to the end of her driving-whip, like colonnade, which carried off the monotony Lady Metcalfe, though M's. Humphrey's of the long line of the billiard-room; what short-sightedness bad not been bevd of at with its clock-tower, which contained only an earlier date; and, as the Miss Mainwara smoking-room, it was an imposing man- ings observed, while old age did not come sion : it was in keeping with Humphrey's alone, nobody sported it at the end of a fortune, which had increased, as wealth be driving-whip, and it was absurd to mention gets wealth, by the death of Mrs. Hum- old age in the same brea'h with a young phrey's sister and coheiress, and by a rich creature like Mrs. Hunipbrey, not witlistandold uncle of Humphrey's appointing Hum- ing Mrs. Humphrey's memory had failed her phrey his chief heir and residuary legatee. where the Miss Mainwarings were

Abigail thought less of the extensive cerned. Mrs. Humphreymvle greater building than of the hyacinths which made concessions to rank thau losing her full powthe sides of the avenue blue, the crimson er of vision, — she dropped her girlish, welltassels which tipped the feathery foliage of bred periods of speech, and a lopted whatthe larch, the chorus of birds' songs almost ever expressions were slaugy alid horsey, overpowering her with their gaiety and though her ears had not been early trained sweetness, after the old shady house in Mill- i to the language of blackleys and grooins,

con

like those of poor Lady Antonia Vesey. The phrey's far-forward, arch, demure little Vicar had spoken to Mr. Bingham on the daughter - dark-haired, like her motherracket which was suffered at the Hanger on perched on one side of him, and on the other Sundays, yet M's. Bingham, in place of be- his fair daughter, with a dash of her father's ing educated in a foreign convent like the tawniness, which insured a balsam complex young countess at Oakdale, was brought up ion and sapphire eyes. Humphrey named by an aunt who was Low Church and Evan- the little girls Rouge et Noir teasinglv, and gelical.

then consoled them by biuding them fly and There was a report that Humphrey would find their hats, and he woulil brg Miss Berstand for the county at the end of the tram to grant them a hal-holid-y, and mampresent session, when it was expect- ma to stuff' them under the seats of the waged that the old member would retire; gonette. But what would be one of llumpty and it was understood Mrs. Humphrey Dumpty, the last baby brother, in their was so zealous for her husband's election absence ? Was he to sit on a wall till they all that the motive would induce her, if any- returned, and if he got a great fall should thing could, to renew her connection with they bargain that he was to break no bones? Ashley, though no doubt on a different foot- Now get along Humphrey, and don't ing. But Mrs. Humphrey was a good wife chaff the children when you know that they to Humphrey Bingham in her own way, and don't understand it. You'll have Minnie though she did not remain at home from crying and not able to say whether she will the county races to nurse her hildren go or stay, if she thinks baby is to come to through measles, saying audaciously that she grief in her absence, though, inde ed, there had no fear of them she was sure they is no occasion for the little girls going with had inheritel good constitutions and would us; they will be too late for ihe school-room recover splendidly, she did remain at home tea, and Miss Bertram, now that she is out and nurse Humphrey affectionately when he of the room, don't like kicking, ber her ls, stool hours with wet feet duck shooting, and though I never mind it. It is high time you had an aggravated quinsy afterwards. were up in town sitting in Parliment, or any:

Some excursion for which there was little where else, and not spoiling your family here.' time was in prospect for the family and the Are you to keep up two establishments, visitors at the Hanger, and the ladies were Bingham ?' asked one of the men— the lunching without ceremony in their spring poor representative of one of King Charles's bonnets and bats, while the gentlemen at- baronets. tended to them with the little stir and glee of • Two or three or half-a-dozen, Sir Charles, a cause for despatch, and a whet for wit if Mrs. Bingham is to go to Briyliton in auas well as appetile.

tumn, Paris or Vienna in winter, and Rome Mrs. Humphrey was conspicuous among in spring, as she obligiuglu su gests.' her«hildren and her guests — a beautiful wo- • Of course I shall.' Mrs. Humphrey af, man still, her tall slender figure grown a little firmed lightly and coully. All the world too large, and her delicate complexion lost; goes to grass sometime or other.' perhaps her deep voice not sounding softer • I think I had better try coining the and lower, and with not more repose though blesserl coin of the realm lere at the Hangwith more style in her gestures; but a hand- er, rather than the usedl-up device of spinsome, brilliant matron, on whom Humphrey ning cotton over at Ashley.' had never ce sed to cast his eye in admi- • I think that big boy of mine had better ration and fondness as she sat opposite him, look after the traps,' 'Mrs. llumphrey ap; the ample folds of her cashmere falling pealed to the company generally; she did about her fine shoulders and bust, a youth- | not encourage allusions to the Factory, . ful — not too youthful - looking - velvet though she bad the nous to see that llumhat, with its curling white feather turned phrey's nonchalance on his origin spared up above her plump, bonnie, blithe face. him a few aristocratic sneers.

Humphrey's back -- and it had grown a Abigail had been obliged to ove hear these very broad ba k

was towards Abigail, scraps of the conversion and to wait in pabut she could hear the old ringing familiar tiene till the pa ty rose from the table, and tones of his voice rising over and giving then she could distinguish the sound of the cheer to every other.

carriages coming round to the door and takNo, no, Eidy, lobster salad is not for a ing the place of her cab; the very borses puss like you.'

throwing up their heads at their hack brother • Just one bit, papa.'

and his hired vehicle. · Let it be but one then, you

little

gour- At last Humphrey was told that some mand."

person wanted him in the library, and reAbigail could fancy the group: Hum-, mained behind, after the rest of the compa

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ny had trooped to the front door ; even | Humphrey, with an inadvertent dryness then, when he had taken some steps to-getting into his voice. *Odd enough, he wards the library, he stopped and turned thought, clasping his knee, if Prior try to back to speak to the servant who was pre- come over me with his wife. By-the-by, paring to elear the table.

how faded the poor little woman is : I am • Tell cook her hunter's stew to-day was shocked to see her.' a masterpiece. It is one of her best dishes. No, he was asleep when I left.

It was She may send up more of it for breakfast entirely my own idea.' to-morrow.' No need to tell whence Miss • You do me honour, Mrs. Prior,' declared Edith got her gourmand propensities. Humphrey, with his old gallantry.

• May At last Humphrey came into the library, I ask, have you heard that I propose, I filling up the doorway, for his stately figure think'- he hesitated slightly, and played was becoming porfly. He was still what in with the tassel of the bell rope, though he the west of Scotland is emphatically termed felt he must plunge into his communication,

a braw man.' But a certain unwieldi- . to give up the Factory, as I have not time to ness was creeping over him, and his face look near it, and it is too much for Mr. Prior.' was considerably fuller and redder than • I do not think so,' interposed Abigail when it smiled brightly on Abigail that eagerly. · I am sure his heart is in it; if.. far a way night of the ball. It was the ef- you had only listened to him for the last fect which even gentlemanlike and respec- fortnight, you would think so too." table self-indulgence, including the pursuit • It is not worth his pains,' protested of field sports, will produce on a man; and Humphrey, abruptly dropping the tassel; the portliness and floridness were not un- he is wasting his time and my means — becoming in their present stage, though along with his own, of course.' they foreshadowed heavier and coarser traits. •I am aware he has very little of his

The contrast between Humphrey Bing- own,' said Abigail, in her quiet ingenuous ham and his partner's wife, the delicate voice. “But as far as I could follow him, pinched woman, in the winter gown and he wishes to try an improvement on the jacket of grey woollen stuff and the Ashley machinery, which would insure the work every-day bonnet of black chip, was strik- being more quickly and cheaply done.' ing — but not so extreme as the difference • Not to any extent,' exclaimed Humbetween Humphrey and the wan, hollow- phrey, impatiently. Then he checked himcheeked, silver-headed man at home, work- self, and took the trouble to explain to her ing, in dreams, of whom Abigail thought gravely, “I repeat I believe it would only intenily, as she gazed into Humphrey be the waste of more time and means; but Bingham's face.

of course you ought not to speak of it to He was so much surprised that he said her him at present. I thought it right to an. maiden name out loud, · Abigail Howe !' ticipate any proposal you might make, and but he recovered himself immediately, and it can be broken to him by degrees when he shook hands with a cordial running fire. is stronger.'

" How do you do, Mrs. Prior ? Glad to Abigail's heart sank. The Factory had see you, trust Prior is no worse; shall fetch waned into an irksome trifle to Humphrey back Alice come into the dining-room, Bingham, while it had waxed into a matter Have some luncheon, a glass of wine at least. of life and death to Tom Prior. But she Why did they show you in here ?' When would not be baulked of her proposal, the he found that Abigail would not have Mrs. drift of which was beyond Humphrey Bing: Bingham recalled, or consent to eat and ham’s liveliest imagination, though he had drink, his good nature helped her instantly. a guess that women were, at once, the meanHe assured her his going with the others est, and the most generous of created beings. was of no consequence. He was to ride, and • Mr. Bingham, when you say the imhe could easily make up to them; if she provement expected from the new machinwould permit him to send to the party to ery would not be to any extent, you mean set out without him he should be at her ser- relatively in connection with the cost and vice. He sent his request, made Abigail your income, don't you?' sit down again,

and took a seat opposite her. • I admit that I do, Mrs. Prior. It might "You are sure Prior is no worse ?'

pay Prior, but only in a small way, and • Oh no, he is a great deal better; the I really consider that he might do better. Doctor is very well pleased with him this Pray remember I do not reflect on him in the morning, if he can keep him from meddling least,' he added, kindly. •I should know. with business. That is what I came here to Tom Prior, old Tom; and I say a more speak to you about.'

honourable, devoted mechanical genius, if • Does Prior know you are here ?' asked he had the tools to work with, does not exist.'

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