Charlotte felt a gleam of joy at the prospect of getting rid of him on any terms. She belonged to a class who seldom find the golden mean in money matters, being either exceedingly close and saving, or else lavish either on themselves or other people. Good old Jane had never succeeded in saving; all her halfpence went to the beggars, and all her silver melted into halfpence, or into little presents; and on the receipt of her wages, she always rushed on to the shop like a child with a new shilling. Reading had given Charlotte a few theories on the subject, but her practice had not gone far. She always meant to put into the savings’ bank; but hiring books, and daintiness, though not finery, in dress, had prevented her means from ever amounting to a sum, in her opinion, worth securing. The spirit of economy in the household had so far infected her that she had, in spite of her small wages, more in hand than ever before, and when she found what Mr. Delaford wanted, a strange mixture of feelings actuated her. She pitied the change in his fortunes; she could not but be softened by his flattering sayings,—she could not bear that he should not have another chance of retrieving his character—she knew she had trifled unjustifiably with his feelings, if he had any,- -and she had a sense of being in fault. And so the little maiden ran upstairs, peeped into her red-leather work-box, pulled out her bead-purse, and extracted therefrom three bright gold sovereigns, and ran downstairs again, trembling at her own venturesomeness, afraid that their voices might be heard. She put the whole before Delaford, saying—
’There—that is all that lays in my power. Don’t mention it, pray. Now, please go, and a happy journey to you.’
How she wished his acknowledgments and faithful promises were over! He did hint something about refreshment, bread-and-cheese and beer, fare which he used to despise as ‘decidedly low,’ but Charlotte was obdurate here, and at last he took his leave. There stood the poor, foolish, generous little thing, raking out the last embers of the kitchen fire, conscious that she had probably done the silliest action of her life, very much ashamed, and afraid of any one knowing it; and yet strangely light of heart, as if she had done something to atone for the past permission that she had granted him to play with her vanity.
’Some day she might tell Tom all about it, and she did not think he would be angry, for he knew what it was to have nowhere to go, and to want to try for one more chance.’
Late and early at employ;
Still on thy golden stores intent;
Thy summer in heaping and hoarding is spent,
What thy winter will never enjoy.
‘Stitch! stitch!’ said James Frost, entering the nursery on a fine August evening, and finding his wife with the last beams of sunshine glistening on her black braids of hair, as she sat singing and working beside the cot where slept, all tossed and rosy, the yearling child. ‘Stitch! stitch! If I could but do needlework!’