Hilary called for, and protected through the crowd, the little, timid, widow lady who had taken off the Misses Leaf’s hands their house and furniture, and whom they had made very happy—as the poor often can make those still poorer than themselves—by refusing to accept any thing for the “good will” of the school. Then she was fetched by Elizabeth, who had been given a whole afternoon’s holiday; and mistress and maid went together home, watching the last of the festivities, the chattering groups that still lingered in the twilight streets, and listening to the merry notes of the “Triumph” which came down through the lighted windows of the Town Hall, where the open-air tea drinkers had adjourned to dance country dances, by civic permission, and in perfectly respectable jollity.
“I wonder,” said Hilary—while, despite some natural regret, her spirit stretched itself out eagerly from the narrowness of the place where she was born into the great wide world; the world where so many grand things were thought and written and done; the world Robert Lyon had so long fought with, and was fighting bravely still—“I wonder, Elizabeth, what sort of place London is, and what our life will be in it?”
Elizabeth said nothing. For the moment her face seemed to catch the reflected glow of her mistress’s, and then it settled down into that look of mingled resistance and resolution which was habitual to her. For the life that was to be, which neither knew—oh, if they had known!—she also was prepared.
The day of the Grand Hegira came.
“I remember,” said Miss Leaf, as they rumbled for the last time through the empty morning streets of poor old Stowbury: “I remember my grandmother telling me that when my grandfather was courting her, and she out of coquetry refused him, he set off on horseback to London, and she was so wretched to think of all the dangers he ran on the journey, and in London itself, that she never rested till she got him back, and then immediately married him.”
“No such catastrophe is likely to happen to any of us, except, perhaps, to Elizabeth,” said Miss Hilary, trying to get up, a little feeble mirth, any thing to pass away the time and lessen the pain of parting, which was almost too much for Johanna. “What do you say? Do you mean to get married in London, Elizabeth?”
But Elizabeth could make no answer, even to kind Miss Hilary. They had not imagined she felt the leaving her native place so much. She had watched intently the last glimpse of Stowbury church tower, and now sat with reddened eyes, staring blankly out of the carriage window,
“Silent as a stone.”
Once or twice a large slow tear gathered on each of her eyes, but it was shaken off angrily from the high check bones, and never settled into absolute crying. They thought it best to take no notice of her. Only, when reaching the new small station, where the “resonant steam eagles” were, for the first time, beheld by the innocent Stowbury ladies, there arose a discussion as to the manner of traveling. Miss Leaf said, decidedly “Second class; and then we can keep Elizabeth with us.” Upon which Elizabeth’s mouth melted into something between a quiver and a smile.