The place was so small and the family so large that the last assurance was not wholly unnecessary. Mrs. Rexford brought Eliza in and set her near the stove. The girls and children gathered round her somewhat curiously, but she sat erect without seeming to notice them much, an expression of impassive, almost hardened, trouble on her pale face. She was a very tall, strong girl, and when she dropped the shawl back a little from her head they saw that she had red hair.
The village of Chellaston was, in itself, insignificant. Its chief income was derived from summer visitors; its largest building was an hotel, greatly frequented in summer; and its best houses were owned by townspeople, who used them only at that season. That which gave Chellaston a position and name above other places of the same size in the country was an institution called “The New College,” in which boys up to the age of eighteen were given a higher education than could be obtained at ordinary schools. The college was a square brick building, not handsome, but commodious; and in the same enclosure with it were the head-master’s house, and a boarding-house in which the assistant-masters lived with the pupils. With that love of grand terms which a new country is apt to evince, the head-master was called “The Principal,” and his assistants “Professors.” The New College was understood to have the future of a university, but its present function was merely that of a public school.
Chellaston was prettily situated by a well-wooded hill and a fair flowing river. The college, with some fields that were cultivated for its use, was a little apart from most of the houses, placed, both as to physical and social position, between the commonplace village and the farms of the undulating land around it; for, by a curious drift of circumstances, the farms of this district were chiefly worked by English gentlemen, whose families, in lieu of all other worldly advantage, held the more stoutly by their family traditions. In doing so they were but treasuring their only heirloom. And they did not expect to gain from the near future any new source of pride; for it is not those who, as convention terms it, are the best born who most easily gather again the moss of prosperity when that which has been about them for generations has once been