Ah! to soar out of such a set as this, of which Laura Tinley is a sample, are not some trifling acts of inhumanity and practices in the art of ‘cutting’ permissible? So the ladies had often asked of the Unseen in their onward course, if they did not pointedly put the question now. Surely they had no desire to give pain, but the nature that endowed them with a delicate taste, inspired them to defend it. They listened gravely to Laura, who related that not only English books, but foreign (repeated and emphasized), had been supplied by Mr. Chips to Mr. Barrett.
They were in the library, and Laura’s eyes rested on certain yellow and blue covers of books certainly not designed for the reading of Mr. Pole.
“I think you must be wrong as to Mr. Barrett’s position,” said Adela.
“No, dear; not at all,” Laura was quick to reply. “Unless you know anything. He has stated that he awaits money remittances. He has, in fact, overrun the constable, and my brother Albert says, the constable is very likely to overrun ham, in consequence. Only a joke! But an organist with, at the highest computation—poor absurd thing!—fifty-five pounds per annum: additional for singing lessons, it is true,—but an organist with a bookseller’s bill of twenty-three pounds! Consider!”
“Foreign books, too!” interjected Adela.
“Not so particularly improving to his morals, either!” added Laura.
“You are severe upon the greater part of the human race,” said Arabella.
“So are the preachers, dear,” returned Laura.
“The men of our religion justify you?” asked Arabella.
“Let me see;—where were we?” Laura retreated in an affected mystification.
“You had reached the enlightened belief that books written by any but English hands were necessarily destructive of men’s innocence,” said Arabella; and her sisters thrilled at the neatness of the stroke, for the moment, while they forgot the ignoble object it transfixed. Laura was sufficiently foiled by it to be unable to return to the Chips-Barrett theme. Throughout the interview Cornelia had maintained a triumphant posture, superior to Arabella’s skill in fencing, seeing that it exposed no weak point of the defence by making an attack, and concealed especially the confession implied by a relish for the conflict. Her sisters considerately left her to recover herself, after this mighty exercise of silence.
Cornelia sat with a clenched hand. “You are rich and he is poor,” was the keynote of her thoughts, repeated from minute to minute. “And it is gold gives you the right in the world’s eye to despise him!” she apostrophized the vanished Laura, clothing gold with all the baseness of that person. Now, when one really hates gold, one is at war with one’s fellows. The tide sets that way. There is no compromise: to hate it is to try to stem the flood. It happens