Colonel Keith was the person, however, with whom the new comers chiefly fraternized, and he was amused with their sense of the space for breathing compared with the lanes and alleys of their own district. The schools and cottages seemed to them so wonderfully large, the children so clean, even their fishiness a form of poetical purity, the people ridiculously well off, and even Mrs. Kelland’s lace-school a palace of the free maids that weave their thread with bones. Mr. Mitchell seemed almost to grudge the elbow room, as he talked of the number of cubic feet that held a dozen of his own parishioners; and needful as the change had been for the health of both husband and wife, they almost reproached themselves for having fled and left so many pining for want of pure air, dwelling upon impossible castles for the importation of favourite patients to enjoy the balmy breezes of Avonmouth.
Rachel talked to them about the F. U. E. E., and was delighted by the flush of eager interest on Mrs. Mitchell’s thin face. “Objects” swarmed in their parish, but where were the seven shillings per week to come from? At any rate Mr. Mitchell would, the first leisure day, come over to St. Herbert’s with her, and inspect. He did not fly off at the first hint of Mr. Mauleverer’s “opinions,” but said he would talk to him, and thereby rose steps untold in Rachel’s estimation. The fact of change is dangerously pleasant to the human mind; Mr. Mitchell walked at once into popularity, and Lady Temple had almost conferred a public benefit by what she so little liked to remember. At any rate she had secured an unexceptionable companion, and many a time resorted to his wing, leaving Bessie to amuse Lord Keith, who seemed to be reduced to carry on his courtship to the widow by attentions to her guest.
THE FOX AND THE CROW.
“She just gave one squall,
When the cheese she let fall,
And the fox ran away with his prize.”
“My dear,” said Mrs. Curtis, one Monday morning, “I offered Colonel Keith a seat in the carriage to go to the annual book-club meeting with us. Mr. Spicer is going to propose him as a member of the club, you know, and I thought the close carriage would be better for him. I suppose you will be ready by eleven; we ought to set out by that time, not to hurry the horses.”
“I am not going,” returned Rachel, an announcement that electrified her auditors, for the family quota of books being quite insufficient for her insatiable appetite, she was a subscriber on her own account, and besides, this was the grand annual gathering for disposing of old books, when she was relied on for purchasing all the nuts that nobody else would crack. The whole affair was one of the few social gatherings that she really tolerated and enjoyed, and her mother gazed at her in amazement.