‘I wish to consult you about my poor, foolish child.’
‘Ah! I am afraid we have not helped her enough!’ said Bessie. ’If we had been more sympathetic she might have trusted us more.’
’Then you are good enough to believe that it was not all folly and presumption.’
‘I am sure it was not,’ said Bessie. ’None of us ever thought it more than inexperience and a little exaltation, with immense good intention at the bottom. Of course, our dear old habits did look dull, coming from life and activity, and we rather resented her contempt for them; but I am quite sure that after a little while, every one will forget all about this, or only recollect it as one does a girlish scrape.’
’Yes. To suppose all the neighbourhood occupied in laughing at her is only another phase of self-importance. You see, the poor child necessarily lived in a very narrow world, where examinations came, whatever I could do, to seem everything, and she only knew things beyond by books. She had success enough there to turn her head, and not going to Cambridge, never had fair measure of her abilities. Then came prosperity—’
‘Quite enough to upset any one’s balance,’ said Bessie. ’In fact, only a very sober, not to say stolid, nature would have stood it.’
’Poor things! They were so happy—so open-hearted. I did long to caution them. “Pull cup, steady hand."’
‘It will all come right now,’ said Bessie. ’Mrs Arthuret spoke of their going away for the winter; I do not think it will be a bad plan, for then we can start quite fresh with them; and the intimacy with the Myttons will be broken, though I am sorry for the poor girls. They have no harm in them, and Arthurine was doing them good.’
’A whisper to you, Miss Merrifield—they are going back with me, to be prepared for governesses at Arthurine’s expense. It is the only thing for them in the crash that young man has brought on the family.’
’Dear, good Arthurine! She only needed to learn how to carry her cup.’
I. FATHER AND DAUGHTER
MR. A. So, my dear good child, you will come back to me, and do what you can for the lonely old man!
MRS. M. I know nothing can really make up—
MR. A. Ah! my dear, you know only too well by your own experience, but if any one could, it would be you. And at least you will let nothing drop in the parish work. You and Cicely together will be able to take that up when Euphrasia is gone too.
MRS. M. It will be delightful to me to come back to it! You know I was to the manner born. Nothing seems to be so natural!
MR. A. I am only afraid you are giving up a great deal. I don’t know that I could accept it—except for the parish and these poor children.