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for our feelings' sake, exacerbates the younger ones, and really CHAP.XXX. would be unjust towards them.'
Cherry hung her head, with tears in her eyes. to the creditors ?' she said.
'And is that just
Well, Cherry, I cannot say I have much pity for the tradesmen who trust such a young gentleman as Edgar. If it be their system, depend upon it, they have means of compensation. Chérie, sweet, indeed I am not hard-hearted, I would cut off my right hand to bring that dear boy back a free man. When we hear from him-— and I have looked over those miserable bills-I may find some means of compounding with the creditors; but I cannot despoil Angel and Bernard and Stella of education or comfort for what he has done.'
'But I can-I will-I may,' cried Cherry, with excitement; 'I shall be able to do it all; Mr. Renville said I might make £300 a year, and that would soon do it! You will not hinder me, Felix ?'
'No,' he said, kissing her; 'it's not the way in which your earnings ought to go, my Cherry; but you are quite free, and it will make you happier, I know.'
6 And you will not let Marilda help?'
'No, not if it can be helped without wounding her too much. You see she is taking her own measures through Travis.'
'I could not endure her doing it,' said Cherry, glowing with a sort of pride. And I am the one who ought. My drawing would have been worth just nothing at all but for him; and all this success is through him, and it is so cruel he can't have it, when it signifies so much more.'
'So Sir Bors always thinks,' said Felix, fondling her; but true to his own faith, he continued, 'But Edgar is not past the age for success yet. Only three-and-twenty, remember, and this grievous lesson may be just the making of him. We know he has a warm heart and plenty of power; and though we must make up our minds not to see him for a good while, he will come home from Italy some day a made man.'
'Oh yes, his sketch of Brynhild shewed that he could do anything. Do you know, I think that having such a companion as that Mr. Malone almost accounts for his having gone wrong. If he can only fall in with some real nice companions! If he would
CHAP. XXX. board at Munich with some family like the dear Frau Renville's. What a letter we will write to cheer the poor dear fellow up!'
Felix and Geraldine never failed one another in that cardinal article of theirs, trust in Edgar's genius, and in the love that hoped all things, believed all things, and endured all things from himall things personal, namely, for Felix never entirely overlooked the having tried to tempt away Lance into the life of which one passing glimpse was enough for his fastidious home-bred spirit, unable to appreciate the fascination of freedom and unconventionality. Altogether they had talked themselves into hope and consolation that surprised Marilda, when, after waiting till her patience could endure no longer, she knocked at the door, to ask whether Felix had discovered any clue by which Edgar could be traced.
It was one of those requitals of generosity that are felt inadequate because the generosity is really unsuspected. Felix and Cherry could not be as unreserved with her as if they had felt her a sister and one of themselves, and not as one whose bounty Edgar had abused. They did not-nor was it in the nature of things that they could-understand that Marilda's feelings towards him were as fraternal as their own, nay, had the force of exclusiveness, and the tenderness of protection; and so, though Felix replied to her inquiries, it was not with the detail and confidence he had shewn towards his sister; and the more she questioned and remarked, the more they both felt inclined to shrink into themselves. In fact, they knew so little worse of him than before, that after the ten days' agony there was a sort of reaction, without much visible weight on their spirits. Felix had business which made it needful to stay another day; and as he was going out Cherry begged him to take charge of a small box containing a cast which Mr. Grinstead had lent her to copy, and she did not like to entrust to any chance hand.
'If you would send in your name,' she said, 'I think he would let you see his studio, and I do so want you to see his figure of Mercy knocking at the wicket-gate.'
'I thought he never did admit strangers.'
'Oh! Geraldine is favoured,' said Mrs. Underwood, with a laugh. Depend upon it, anyone belonging to her will have the
But go, go by all means. They say his house is a perfect little bijou.-Isn't it, Geraldine? She went to a party there, you know, chaperoned by Mrs. Renville, and met Lord de Vigny.'
Felix knew all about it, much better than did Mrs. Underwood -that little select dinner of the élite of the world of art and genius, to which Mr. Grinstead had asked Cherry about a fortnight ago, and which she had described with such delight. He had not much heart for strangers and works of art at that moment, but he could not refuse Cherry's commission, nor vex her by omitting to ask to see the studio; so there, in the course of the morning, he found himself, alone at first among the statues and casts-grave and graceful creations-more from the world of Christian than of classic poetry, and if less æsthetically beautiful, more solemn and more real.
He had gone in meaning only to fulfil his duty to Cherry, but he found himself attracted and enchained, and was standing before Cherry's favourite figure of Mercy, drinking in, as it were, the beseeching wistful spirit of faint hope that breathed from the whole figure, when a crimson curtain was lifted, and a gentleman of about five-and-forty or fifty, but grey-haired and looking older, came with a soft tread towards him.
'Mr. Underwood, I believe.'
'I am very glad to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.'
'I am very much obliged for my admission. I should not have ventured, but that my sister was so anxious that I should see what she enjoys so much.'
Mr. Grinstead smiled, and quietly did the honours, while Felix -though, of course, untrained-modestly showed himself full enough of taste and intelligence to be worthy of an artist sister; Mr. Grinstead treating him all along like an honoured guest, and taking him farther into his private rooms, to see some favourite old German paintings, and to offer luncheon.
The house did indeed deserve Mrs. Underwood's term, fitted up with all that carved wood and well-chosen simple colour could do; and with wondrous gems of art-all the refinement and
beauty that a bachelor, when he does choose, can bring together, even better than a lady can.
'How long shall you be in town?' had been an early question, answered by, 'I take my sister home to-morrow;' and then, when it had struck Felix that his host was becoming increasingly thoughtful and absent, and he was trying to take leave, but was always prevented, Mr. Grinstead asked, 'Should I be likely to find your sister at home if I called this afternoon ?' 'Not early,' said Felix; 'I think she has some commissions to finish. I am to meet her at five. I am afraid I must wish you
'A few minutes longer. Mr. Underwood, I must begin by making you a confession, and asking you a question. Do you think there is any chance for me with that sweet little sister of yours?'
'With Geraldine!' Felix laid hold of the back of a chair, feeling as if his senses almost reeled, though whether consternation or exultation came uppermost, he could not have told.
'Yes,' was the reply. I am speaking abruptly, but I am taken by surprise at finding that you intend so 'soon to take her away. Indeed, I believe these are matters on which long consideration often ends in a sudden plunge,' he added, smiling a little, as if he wondered a little to find himself in a situation that seemed to reverse their ages; indeed, Felix was by far the most embarrassed.
'I do not think she is at all prepared,' was all that occurred to him to throw into the gulf of silence.
'Perhaps not,' said Mr. Grinstead, rather wistfully. I see you think the notion a preposterous one,' he continued, with something unconsciously of the elder's tone towards inexperienced youth, though there was pleading in it too; and he put a chair in his visitor's way, and speaking quietly though eagerly, as Felix tried to utter some polite disclaimer: I see the disparity myself, though perhaps less strongly than you do. Forty-six does not feel itself so vast an age as five-and-twenty may think it. The truth is this. I was made a fool of, as befalls most of us' (Felix looked more assenting than he knew, poor fellow !), and was hit harder than some, I believe. At any rate, the distaste it gave me was invincible, till I met with that wonderful compound of bright
ness and tenderness-spirit and sensitiveness—I cannot help it. She has haunted me ever since I first met her last year; and if there be nothing in the way on her side, I believe I could make her happy.'
There is nothing in the way,' repeated Felix, as an honest man, but with a sense of a jewel being dragged from him, and relieved to have something to say that was not all consent. 'It is a very great honour for our little Geraldine to be so thought of, but I think you should be aware that she has nothing of her own, and-poor child-is sadly frail and feeble in health.'
'For that,' said Mr. Grinstead, 'I think you may trust her to my care;' and he spoke eagerly, as if longing to be taking care of her. 'And though I am a self-made man, I have had prosperity enough to be able to secure a comfortable provision for her.'
'Thank you—yes,' hastily said Felix. 'It was not that I was thinking of.'
'I see you are against me,' said the sculptor, perhaps anticipating the answer that actually came-'Selfishly, sir; only selfishly. Geraldine is so much our life and light at home, that your -your proposal was a shock to me; but I see the very great advantage it would be to her, and I could not desire anything better for her.' There were tears in his eyes, and the last words came with a choking utterance.
'I see,' said Mr. Grinstead, 'that I am doing a hard thing by you, and that to hold out the idea of her becoming even more to you sounds like mockery. Besides, I am too far from secure to begin to spare any pity for you. Now tell me, can I see her this evening? Where are you to meet her?'
'I am afraid I cannot propose your joining us then,' said Felix, more cordially, for it is to be at the Baker Street Bazaar, about some very domestic shopping; but I believe we shall come home between six and seven o'clock.'
'Very well; you will find me there. You will use your own judgment as to preparing her.'
Very domestic shopping indeed it was. The ancient coalscuttle, a Froggatt legacy, had three decided holes in it, and Wilmet had a vision of one glimpsed in Baker Street. She would