“You and he are very kind,” she answered, the tears dropping faster than she could wipe them away. “But it seems to me the time is come when we ought to try and do something for ourselves. I have been thinking, Mr. Jan, that we might get a few pupils, I and Amilly. There’s not a single good school in Deerham, as you know; I think we might establish one.”
“So you might,” said Jan, “if you’d like it.”
“We should both like it. And perhaps you’d not mind our staying on in this house while we were getting a few together; establishing it, as it were. They would not put you out, I hope, Mr. Jan.”
“Not they,” answered Jan. “I shouldn’t eat them. Look here, Miss Deb, I’d doctor them for nothing. Couldn’t you put that in the prospectus? It might prove an attraction.”
It was a novel feature in a school prospectus, and Miss Deb had to take some minutes to consider it. She came to the conclusion that it would look remarkably well in print. “Medical attendance gratis.”
“Including physic,” put in Jan.
“Medical attendance gratis, including physic,” repeated Miss Deb. “Mr. Jan, it would be sure to take with the parents. I am so much obliged to you. But I hope,” she added, moderating her tone of satisfaction, “that they’d not think it meant Master Cheese. People would not have much faith in him, I fear.”
“Tell them to the contrary,” answered Jan. “And Cheese will be leaving shortly, you know.”
“True,” said Miss Deb. “Mr. Jan,” she added, a strange eagerness in her tone, in her meek, blue eyes, “if we, I and Amilly, can only get into the way of doing something for ourselves, by which we may be a little independent, and look forward to be kept out of the workhouse in our old age, we shall feel as if removed from a dreadful nightmare. Circumstances have been preying upon us, Mr. Jan: the care is making us begin to look old before we might have looked it.”
Jan answered with a laugh. That notion of the workhouse was so good, he said. As well set on and think that he should come to the penitentiary! It had been no laughing matter, though, to the hearts of the two sisters, and Miss Deb sat on, crying silently.
How many of these silent tears must be shed in the path through life! It would appear that the lot of some is only made to shed them, and to bear.
Meanwhile the spring was going on to summer—and in the strict order of precedence that conversation of Miss Deb’s with Jan ought to have been related before the departure of John Massingbird and the Roys from Deerham. But it does not signify. The Misses West made their arrangements and sent out their prospectuses, and the others left: it all happened in the spring-time. That time was giving place to summer when the father of Lucy Tempest, now Colonel Sir Henry Tempest, landed in England.