“If any creditors inquire for Mr. Leaf, give them this. His friends may always hear of him at the London University.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” replied the now civil landlady. “Indeed, I wasn’t afraid of the young gentleman giving us the slip. For though he was careless in his bills he was every inch the gentleman. And I wouldn’t object to take him in again. Or p’raps you yourself, ma’am, might be a-wanting rooms.”
“No, I thank you. Good morning.” And Hilary hurried away.
Not a word did she say to Elizabeth, or Elizabeth to her, till they got into the dull, dingy parlor—henceforth, to be their sole apology for “home:” and then she only talked about domestic arrangements—talked fast and eagerly, and tried to escape the affectionate eyes which she knew were so sharp and keen. Only to escape them—not to blind them; she had long ago found out that Elizabeth was too quick-witted for that, especially in any thing that concerned “the family.” She felt convinced the girl had heard every syllable that passed at Ascott’s lodgings: that she knew all that was to be known, and guessed what was to be feared as well as Hilary herself.
“Elizabeth”—she hesitated long, and doubted whether she should say the thing before she did say it—“remember we are all strangers in London, and family matters are best kept within the family. Do not mention either in writing home, or to any body here, about—about—”
She could not name Ascott; she felt so horribly ashamed.
Living in lodgings, not temporarily, but permanently, sitting down to make one’s only “home” in Mrs. Jones’s parlor or Mrs. Smith’s first floor, of which not a stick or a stone that one looks at is one’s own, and whence one may be evicted or evade, with a week’s notice or a week’s rent, any day—this sort of life is natural and even delightful to some people. There are those who, like strawberry plants, are of such an errant disposition, that grow them where you will, they will soon absorb all the pleasantness of their habitat, and begin casting out runners elsewhere; may, if not frequently transplanted, would actually wither and die. Of such are the pioneers of society—the emigrants, the tourists, the travelers round the world; and great is the advantage the world derives from them, active, energetic, and impulsive as they are. Unless, indeed, their talent for incessant locomotion degenerates into rootless restlessness, and they remain forever rolling stones, gathering no moss, and acquiring gradually a smooth, hard surface, which adheres to nothing, and to which nobody dare venture to adhere.