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the Vicarage for a cup of tea, but Christina thought it best to go back to Mrs. Earle, somewhat to good Mrs. Brooks's disappointment; she would have liked the honour of entertaining her ladyship, but yet her anxiety was chequered with a fear lest the Vicarage meal might not be considered quite the thing by a person of so much distinction. It was odd that any one who prided herself upon good sense and sincerity, should have this weakness, but she was what people call thoroughly English, in her defects as well as her manifest good qualities.
The Grahames had no such fears-Kenneth probably because the question did not occur to him, till he found Elizabeth already installed; Christina from the ingrained Scottish conviction that what was good enough for the Grahames of Glendarroch was good enough for their guest, whoever she might be. The fare was simple enough-cold mutton even not being allowed on a vigil! Mrs. Earle had an egg, and Elizabeth the offer of one. Sydney Parker was present, and he and Kenneth fell into a discussion. They began talking about the general disregard of Ascension Day, and the Curate said he could not bear to see the Church only half filled.
"And I enjoy the service all the more," said Kenneth, "because I know that those who come really care about it."
"And I like Sunday evenings," said the Curate, "when there's a crowd of common people singing out heartily with all their might, and drowning the choir."
"Half of them only come to look-and they shout because others do."
"All out of tune too," put in Christina.
"You are both much too fastidious," said Sydney, "I like to see a good number of vulgar people also; better even than the very poor, we can get at them in other ways."
"Nothing more fatal to a good cause than popularity with the shopocracy," said Kenneth. "Our Brotherhood of S. Stephen will suffer, I fear, now that you have let in so many of that class."
"I have never heard of it!" said Elizabeth. "Do tell me what it means."
So they explained the nature of the various confraternities connected with the Church, and Elizabeth professed an ardent desire to become a member of the Guild of S. Agnes, to which Christina belonged. Sydney was charmed with her freshness and enthusiasm, and spoke of her to the Grahames as "your fascinating friend."
However, Elizabeth was fated not to have any more to do with S. Stephen's, for Madame de Bosch arrived just as they were setting out for the Church again, and carried off her pupil. Lady Margaret wished her to return, and there was no help for it. She did not even go to the Ascension Day Services.
Lady Margaret had written to her mother a day or two before, "Bessy's last new craze is ritualism, but I dare say she will soon get tired of going to Church on week-days."
Lady Lynwood was alarmed. She had always considered herself as a strict member of "our Protestant Church," and she had a horror of Romanizing priests. She wrote to Margaret, entreating her to keep the darling safe from Jesuits who would certainly be on the watch to entrap an heiress! and Margaret was quite ready to carry out her mother's instructions.
Bessy was at first highly indignant, but she could not help being amused, and she confided as much as she knew, to Christina, who was ready to encourage her to rebel. "It was too unjust! too absurd to accuse poor Mr. Brooks, or Sydney Parker, of being Jesuits in disguise! Surely it would be wrong to give way to such manifest injustice." But Kenneth advised submission when Christina laid the case before him, and at the next Curzon Street party, he succeeded in convincing Elizabeth that it would not be right for her to enter upon any course of good works in open opposition to her mother's wishes. "There will be time enough later on; I dare say you can find something to do, not so open to objections, if you try."
Is it actually my duty to submit to prohibitions I think unreasonable ?"
"Yes, sometimes-I don't think there would be any blessing on works done in defiance of the fifth commandment, however good they may seem."
"I did not think of that exactly," said Bessy, “but-surely it would be hard to have to wait all one's life."
"You can convince people that you are in earnest by waiting now, at any rate. Isn't that the best way of putting one's resolution to the proof? And there are other churches open on weekdays too."
'Yes, and the services are so dull! I don't like giving up what I feel to be really good for me!"
"It will be the beginning of self-discipline. One's good reso
lutions stand in need of bracing. And isn't there anything else you might do ?"
"Something I don't care about-yes," said Bessy, honestly; and she told him about Madame de Bosch's harmless invalid. A dreary old blind lady—just not a lady—who was thankful for any one to come and read to her. "I can do it easily, of course; but, it seems so childish!"
'The very thing! One must do what lies nearest-as I found out myself some time ago." Elizabeth's sympathy drew him on to relate something of the past, and how he began first to help in the work at S.Stephen's. Not indeed the whole, there were things too sacred to be spoken of save to Sydney; but he told more to Elizabeth than he ever had to Christina of his early hopes and poetic visions, and how very differently they had been fulfilled. Lady Margaret, when she found out that Kenneth had advised her to be content to do her mother's bidding, was more than ever satisfied that the intimacy with the Grahames could not do Bessy any harm.
Henceforth though Kenneth began to turn to her almost unconsciously for sympathy in the thoughts and feelings which he had hitherto kept very much to himself. Neither the practical Christina nor the earnest-minded Sydney, with all their affection, had ever entered far into the inner world of poetry and imagination which had been the delight of his solitary hours. Now, that inner world seemed to him more full of treasures than ever, lighted up by a rare and delicate lustre. In the long bright days of summer he felt as if he too were inspired to sing for joy of heart; however, if he wrote poetry the fact remained unknown. He only seemed to grow younger and happier; knighterrant as he was by nature, he no longer felt a longing for the days of chivalry. The Past still retained its charm, but the Present seemed to him full of infinite joy.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, found hero-worship and friendship a delightful combination. She gradually gained in depth of thought and earnestness of feeling, and her fanciful aspirations became less visionary; she began to translate them into the language of reality, and to invest them with a higher and nobler purpose.
Neither suspected danger in this frequent intercourse, which seemed to bring to both so much that was good.
"Then said the knight,
Of ease or rest I may not yet devise,
For by the faith which I to arms have plight,
I bounden am straight after this emprise."
A REVELATION came at last.
One day when Christina arrived in Curzon Street for a practising, she found her pupil looking strangely troubled and excited.
Oh, you did not get my note?" asked Bessy, "I am glad, for I wanted so much to see you, and I can't work. Margaret insisted on my putting you off, so I had to write. O, Christie, such a strange, wonderful, dreadful thing has happened; I don't know what to do!"
"Why, Bessy dear, what can be the matter?"
"Sit down, dear, and have patience with me! I must tell you, Christie, though it is a secret as yet. Do you remember Lord Prestmore? the tall man with greyish hair, who talked a good deal to George about drainage, the other evening? the philanthropist ?"
"Who said he wanted to build some model cottages ?"
"Yes. He's in Parliament, and an eldest son, and all that; nearly forty, if not more. I thought him a kind of elderly uncle sort of man, good but dull, and very kind to me. O, Christie! he he has made an offer, to me; he says he would like to marry me; and papa approves; they all knew before I did. O, I don't know what to do!"
"But dear Bessy, if you do not care for him-"
"No, at least I never, never thought of him in that light! and he said he would give me time to think about it. They won't let me say No. All say it is such a good match, and he is such a nice man; and Margaret talked to me seriously. She was talked into marrying George, when she was hardly out of the schoolroom, and she says she is thoroughly happy. But I can't! O, Christie!" "No one can make you do it if you had rather not," said Christina. "Surely you need not marry any one just yet ?"
"I can't care for that sort of man, in the way that one ought, if—. He isn't a bit like my ideal. When one knows what a noble, unworldly, self-sacrificing life can be, how is one to care about something totally different? O, Christie, I should be miserable, and make him so, perhaps !"
"But Bessy, dear," said her friend, perplexed, "you need not marry him, you ought not, if you cannot love him."
"I can't even think of him in that way," exclaimed Bessy, "my heart and head are full of-of something else, and that can never be, never, for he will never know. O, Christie! fate is hard; I dare not
think what mine will be. Ah! there comes Margaret, don't let her see that you know."
Christina stood up to go.
"Well, Bessy, dear, if you don't intend to practise to-day, I will leave you. What about to-morrow ?"
Good-morning, Miss Grahame," said Lady Margaret, coming forward. "Poor Bessy is a little overdone to-day, I am going to take her into the country for a day or two, and we will let you know about the practising. How do you like this hot weather? I hope you are not getting knocked up;" and then after replying to a few more kind and commonplace remarks, Christina departed.
She could not help understanding what was implied by Elizabeth's broken words, and eloquent looks. She knew well who was the ideal hero of her imagination. How could any one that knew Kenneth Grahame, and appreciated him rightly, dream of putting Lord Prestmore in comparison with him, apart from worldly considerations! "And it is more than appreciation, more than hero-worship," Christina said to herself." It is love! She shrinks from naming it, but that is because she feels it; and as for him-there can be little doubt, surely." Was he not always at his best and brightest in Elizabeth's presence? was he not always pleased and interested by anything his sister could tell him about Elizabeth's actions, and sentiments, and opinions? If he were once to know how she felt towards him, would it be possible for him to remain unmoved? And why shouldn't he know? thought Christina.
As she walked home under the mid-day sun, through the burning streets, with her gauze veil down, and a roll of music in her hand, the fearless business-like girl revolved in her mind considerations as to what should be her course of action under the circumstances.
Here were two people-the two whom she loved best in the world— who might be perfectly happy together for life; evidently made for each other, as far as character, tastes, disposition were concerned; but― What was the bar? Poverty, of course! As to rank, the attainted honours of the Grahames were worth far more in Christina's eyes, yes,