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housekeeper has sent me word to-day that he hasn't long to live. Poor Thomas ! That journey to Paris was quite too much for him. His housekeeper says he has hardly ever been round his fields since; but just sits with his hands on his knees in the counting-house, not reading or any thing, but only saying, what a wonderful city Paris was! Paris has much to answer for, if it's killed my cousin Thomas, for a better man never lived.”
" Does Miss Matilda know of his illness ?” asked I, a new light as to the cause of her indisposition dawning upon me.
“ Dear! to be sure, yes! Has not she told you? I let her know a fortnight ago, or more, when first I heard of it. How odd, she shouldn't nave told you !"
Not at all, I thought; but I did not say any thing. I felt almost guilty of having spied too curiously into that tender heart, and I was not going to speak of its secrets-hidden, Miss Matty believed, from all the world. I ushered Miss Pole into Miss Matilda's little drawing-room ; and then left them alone. But I was not sur. prised when Martha came to my bed-room door to ask me to go down to dinner alone, for that missus had one of her bad headaches. She came into the drawing-room at tea-time ; but it was evidently an effort to her; and, as if to make up for some reproachful feeling against her late sister, Miss Jenkyns, which had been troubling her all the afternoon, and for which she now felt penitent, she kept telling me how good and how clever Deborah was in her youth ; how she used to settle what gowns they were to wear at all the parties (faint, ghostly ideas of grim parties far away in the distance, wher Miss Matty and Miss Pole were young); and how Deborah and her mother had started the benefit society for the poor, and taught girls cooking and plain sewing; and how Deborah had once danced with a lord; and how she used to visit at Sir Peter Arley's, and try to remodel the quiet rectory establishment on the plans of Arley Hall, where they kept thirty servants; and how she had nursed Miss Matty through a long, long illness, of which I had never heard before, but which I now dated in my own mind as following the dismissal of the suit of Mr. Holbrook. So we talked softly and quietly of old times, through the long November evening.
The next day Miss Pole brought us word that Mr. Holbrook was dead. Miss Matty heard the news in silence; in fact, from the account of the previous day, it was only what we had to expect. Miss Pcle kept calling upon us for some expression of regret, by asking if it was not sad that he was gone; and saying,
6. To think of that pleasant day last June, when he seemed so well! And he might have lived this dozen years if he had not gone to that wicked Paris, where they are always having Revolutions."
She paused for some demonstration on our part. I saw Miss Matty could not speak, she was trembling so nervously; so I said what I really felt; and after a call of some durationall the time of which I have no doubt Miss Pole thought Miss Matty received the news very calmly-our visitor took her leave. But the effort at self-control Miss Matty had made to conceal her feelings—a concealment she practiced even with me, for she has never alluded to Mr. Holbrook again, although the book he gave her lies with her Bible on the little table by her bedside ; she did not think I heard her when she asked the little milliner of Cranford to make her caps something like the Honorable Mrs. Jamieson's, or that I noticed the reply
" But she wears widows' caps, ma'am ?" « Oh! I only meant something in that style; not widows', of course, but rather like Mrs. Jamieson's."
This effort at concealment was the beginning of the tremulous motion of head and hands which I have seen ever since in Miss Matty.
The evening of the day on which we heard of Mr. Holbrook's death, Miss Matilda was very silent and thoughtful; after prayers she called Martha back, and then she stood uncertain what to say.
“Martha !" she said at last ; “you are young;" and then she made so long a pause, that Martha, to remind her of her half-finished sentence, dropped a courtesy, and said,
“ Yes, please, ma’am; two-and-twenty last third of October, please, ma'am.”
“ And perhaps, Martha, you may some time meet with a young man you like, and who likes you. I did say you were not to have followers; but if you meet with such a young man, and tell me, and I find he is respectable, I have no objection to his coming to see you once a week. God forbid !” said she, in a low voice, “ that I should grieve any young hearts." She spoke as if she were providing for some distant contingency, and was rather startled when Martha made her ready eager answer:
* Please, ma'am, there's Jim Hearn, and he's a joiner, making three and sixpence a day, and six foot one in his stocking-feet, piease, ma’am; and if you'll ask about him to-morrow morning, every one will give him a character for steadi. ness; and he'll be glad enough to come to-morrow night, I'll be bound.”