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I could never have believed you of sitting down and singing mechananything like your real age ! You ically as words and notes came to hier. have looked, among the most splendid Her mind was far away ; her auditors surroundings — pardon me, I must did not know the source of that pathetic speak out like a little girl, dutifully force which thrilled them like the influattenling some tawelry pantomime, and ence of a thrush in a still grove. too young to understand it."
“ If I were Rubinstein, I would write • Have I ? Now you know why. I music for your voice, Lady Joan," said have been thinking always of the poor the member, drawing nearer as slic - and the contrast - and the awfulness rose. - and counting the days till I came It had grown dusk ; his eyes glowed into my money. Will you be like the like smouldering coals. Lady Joan rest, and laugh at me ? Are there so looked up at him in silence, absently, many fellow-spirits in your great work, and again contrasted him with Darcy. that you can afford to push one away “ What were you and Mr. Darcy so who prays to join hands with you and absorbed about, if I may ask ?” said give all she has for the aims your heart Lady Wilmington, later. " Come and is set on ?”
warm your feet in my dressing-room, Again she looked at hin, cheek on child, you look so cold. I felt almost hand, white and calm.
ashamed to interrupt you. He seemed “There are many considerations," quite confused ; and you were gazing he began. The door flew open. with all your soul in your face, as the
“Joan !” cried Lady Wilmington's novels say. Do pray condescend to my ringing voice; “Mr. Holcroft is dying inquisitiveness." to hear you sing. Will you come now, “It was nothing of much conseor wait till after dinner ?”
quence to you, at least. I did not “I can come now,” said Joan, with know that you had Mr. Darcy's photoindifference. She went slowly, as in a graph, Julia. May I see ? " dream, not further noticing Darcy. She took a framed vignette from
molley collection above the mantelII.
piece. MR. HOLCROFT ouce flippantly an- “It is rather a beautiful face when swered to some query — the rudeness one looks into it,” she said, with the of which was disguised by a silvery same musing abstraction. accent —“I specs I grow'd.” He " My dear Joan! You heighten my had, in fact, risen from the ranks, but curiosity! It is a clever face, certainly was now, at two-and-thirty, M.P. for and some might consider it interestthe Castle Hamlets. His fluency had ing. But - beautiful ! it has not one “caught on ;” moreover, he was re- perfect feature." ported rich enough to buy up the House “ Features are secondary,” said Lady which he adorned. The ladies' gallery, Joan. when he spoke, was uncomfortably The face which she was studying crowded. In person he was tall and was thin and brown, with a rugged broad, with a ruddy complexion, an nose of aquiline tendency, a strong
, abundance of black hair, and bright mouthi, and eyes set somewhat deeply
A more decided physical under level brows. contrast to Lady Joan's companion in You can have it, if you like,” said the library could barılly exist. This Lady Wilmington, smilingly watching thought flashed across her as she ful- her. "I want the frame for Mr. Hollowed Lady Wilmington to the drawing, croft.”
Flashed merely ; she was too “ Thank you. If you would turn out much absorbed in other subjects to this face for Mr. Holcroft's, you are
certainly not worthy of it.” She was dimly aware of Mr. Hol- “My dear child, when did you des croft's stepping forward to thank her, 'velop this penchant for Mr. Darcy ? ”
dwell upon it.
“It's not a penchant,” said Joan, said Lady Joan. “Here is your photo
, sitting down, and clasping her hands graph.” behind her straw-colored head. "His “ I told you that the frame must be work has interested me for seven cleared for Mr. Holcroft,” cried Lady years. I was only fourteen when first Wilmington, laughing. I heard of his coming of age, and going But the door had softly closed. Joan away to live in some dreadful part of was gone. Loudon among the poor. People were laughing and wondering how soon he would get tired. He never did get SHORTLY before his departure on the tirel, you see, in the way they meant. following morning, Darcy was crossing I knew he never would."
the hall, when a low voice called to “ You had the gift of prescience, I him. conclude, my dear, since, whatever you “Mr. Darcy, may I speak to you ?” heard as a child, you made his actual Lady Joan stood in the entrance of acquaintance, for the first time very the billiard-room. He remembered his slightly, five months ago.”
simile of a little white spirit.
Her “ [Ie was almost a millionaire,” Lady childlike face was resolutely set, her Joan went on retiectively, ignoring this clear eyes looked full into his own.” reinark. " And now he is poor.
come. They are dare say he made mistakes at first. He shooting. I want to see you alone.” would know better how to manage
"Certainly," returned Darcy, with money now."
heightened color. * You had better take care, dear," A moment later they were shut in said Lady Wilmington affably. “It is together, she seated at the end of the all very well up here, alone with me.” long room, he standing before her, lean
Lady Joan fixed her clear gaze upon ing against the table. her cousin.
"We were interrupted yesterday. " What is all very well ?”
Did you realize that I was in earnest ? " This — interest — in Mr. Darcy.” There is no one else — no one at all“ In Mr. Darcy's work.”
who would stir a finger to deliver me. * That is all very well too. But Will you contrive that I may be the when a girl and a young man
helper who is wanted ?" “ Is be a young man ?”
not in his mind; “ My dear Joan !"
but the answer upon which, during a “I never thought of him in that wakeful night he had resolved, seemed light."
hard to utter. Her face changed suddenly. She “You are too young, Lady Joan.” stood up, dignitied and grave.
“ You were just my age when you - I thought of him merely as a fel- sold your land and gave the price and low-being, living out a great purpose, yourself to south London.” whose lisciple I would wish to be." “ The two cases cannot be compared.
“ 'The less you mention him in this I am a mau." exalted strain, the better, if you will “But if you directed me they might take my advice.”
turn out much the same, though I am * The world is even more absurd a woman." than I imagined it, then. But I will Darcy's eyes fell before those guilehave courage to rise above the world." less ones ; his flush rose.
- Something more than courage is " Don't think me ungrateful,” he required for that, my dear ; your little said ; “I quite understand. I have powers would bardly come off as you been considering. Your offer is most anticipate in the contest. But why, kind.” after all, blaipe the poor world ? What “ Kind I” Lady Joan clenched her you need, Joan, is common sense.” hands.
“I shall be late if I don't dress," “But I cannot accept it,” said Darcy, LIVING AGE. VOL. VI. 262
walking to a window. " I must submit “Good-bye,” he returned mechanto be thought ungracious, unsympa- ically. His clasp lingered upon her thizing -- what you will. You are out passive fingers. * Don't misjudge me, of your teens, certainly ; but I know Lady Joan." how persistently quiet you have been." “ The dog-cart is come round, sir,"
“ Because I was keeping myself for announced a servant. this," said the girl, with suppressed “Must you really go, Mr. Darcy ?” passion.
cried Lady Wilmington's voice. The “I know also that Lady Wilmington girl turned and fitted away by a side feels she has harlly done her duty to door. As Darcy drove from the house, you — that now, her elder daughters he glanced up and saw her face ju a being married, she means to devote high window, looking gravely after herself more exclusively to – to — your him. Good-bye,” her silent eyes interests. You scarcely realize your seemed to repeat. position as so great an heiress, in “Shall I write and explain ?” he addition to your rank. I should be thought. He lashed the horse ; the simply a hound to take advantage of railway was soon in view. A few your ignorance before you have had bours and he was back iu bis lodgings, more opportunity —
chosen for their position in the heart “For what ? " asked Lady Joan, with of the great underworld, to whose serstateliness.
vice he had pledged himself. Beyond Darcy hurriedly allered his sentence. the grimy windows the sun was setting
“Before, in short, you know what in dun clouds, an hour earlier, it apyou are about. I could not, Lady peared, thau at Somersby. Two slipJoan, indeed.” He returned to the shod lads were jeering at a half-tipsy table, bis self-control now complete. costermonger as he tried to kick his “In two years' time — this is my re- donkey. A blear-eyed girl, with matsolve if in two years you are still of ted locks below a battered hat, was the same miud, I will come to you and hawking limp chrysanthemums. The ask — perhaps I must then entreat - luxurious library, the scented fire, and what now you offer."
the white little figure silent in its glow, He did not look at her; but- rose with vivid recollection before blankly — she looked at him.
Darcy. To that question, still inwardly “I can't understand,” she said, after resounding, he answered : a short silence ; “I read your speech
66 No." in July, when your new hall was
Two years,” he said, leaning opened. Have you changed in such a against the window-frame, while farlittle while ? Would you really wishing lights sprang out each after each me or any one — to throw away two in the gin-palace over the way. A whole years ?”
drizzle began to fall in the street. “ As for wishing,” said Darcy, his The costermonger pulled up his coateyes upon the ground, “I know my collar ; the flower-girl vanished through present duty; that is enough."
an entry. Lady Joan stood up, still and calm. “ Two years," said Darcy again.
“I suppose it must be true that fa- He drew down his blinds, and abmiliarity with pain makes people cal- sorbed himself in his accumulated letlous,” she said. “ But, from your talk ters. with Mr. Holcroft, I never could have believed you callous — you! Still, two years ! Think of the thousands I “ SHALL you be in town this winter, might help, who will be dead or worse Lady Joan ?” in two years !"
The gentlemen had just entered Her eyes grew wide.
from the dining-room. Lady Joan, “Good-bye, Mr. Darcy.” She held who sat partly hidden by a huge palm, out a cold little haud.
looked up slowly.
“I wonder whether you would come my opinion all the miseries of the out to the East End uow and then, and world proceed from the usurper, Caste. sing at my People's Concerts ? Your My aim is to form the masses into an voice would waft those poor things to invincible phalanx which the so-called Paradise ! I am organizing a series of upper ranks will have to recognize as entertainments in connection with my brother men. Am I going too far for Thrift Union."
you, Lady Joan ?" • What is your Tbrift Union ?" asked Lady Joan. She was still as She sat motionless, fascinated. ever, but the forlornuess left her eyes. “ But first they must learn where
Ah ! thereby hangs a tale. I their power lies. Darcy would heal might weary you," said Mr. Holcroft. our social wounds by salves — I, by
“I could never weary of plans for probing. I know my own people. the people. You did not mention it in Certain unfortunate habits in themyour talk with Mr. Darcy.”
selves undermine their chances. My “No; Darcy has his own ideas, and Thrift Union aims at habits directly I have mine. My Thrift Uuion is the opposite, and in consequence at formaapple of my eye. You see, I judge of tion of property. It has several thrift by experience. I had not Darcy's branches ; a bank, with artisan sharepreliminary advantages. I was tum- holders, a loan office, building and lembled into the world ; I climbed myself, perance societies. I shall bring to bear and now I will help others to climb." upon it all possible influences of litera
* But Mr. Darcy does that too.” ture, music, art — whatever, in fact,
6. By the way, climbing is not his can impress the vast importance of idea for them. He goes to work – nat- thrift in the highest and widest senses urally, of course on the old consery of the word." ative lines. His efforts are splendid “ It is a grand idea. Who are your as to relieving distress, combating vice, helpers ?" overcrowding, and so forth. He and I " Ah ! We are a very young body. are two – that's all."
We want capital. I wish to interest Lady Joan looked with sudden curi- as many as possible in your class of osity at the roughly handsome face. life. May I explain details ?” She was tired of conventional faces. “Pray tell me the whole history. I The air of energy and hardihood in miglit perhaps be of use.” these strong features awakened a new " You think so ?" returned Hol. interest.
croft eagerly. His eyes again glowed ** Won't you sit down ? What do with a red light. He was evidently you mean exactly by helping them to wrapped up in his noble schemes ! climb ?"
His dash of personal audacity appeared "I have a vision,” said Holcroft, to Lady Joan well-matched with their taking a neighboring chair and leaning bold outlines. He went on relating, towards her, his arm throwu over its describing, with his fluent tongue. If back, “ of a world which might possi- he might meet her in the library, next bly shock you. I am very democratic, morning, he would show her, he said, you know."
his papers, his list of shareholders, his "I am democratic too,” said Lady lithographed plans. Joan.
“ He does not put me off and check A triumphant light gleained in his me," she thought, with a little sigh. eyes.
“ If Mr. Darcy had only opened out in “ That speech sounds strange from this way But that would be too your lips ! But I may talk to you good to be true.” without reserve, then ? What I advo- “Holcroft is a clever fellow," obcate, what I try to impress upon the served Lord Wilmington, one day. working classes, as upon the House, is "Ten to one he will be in the ministry the perfect equality of maukind. In after the next election. And I bear
that his patent – which he took out the third week in January! But Mr. at two-and-twenty — is a Fortunatus's Holcroft must be in London when the purse to him."
House meets; he cannot miss one “ Joan might fare worse, after all,” night of the first debates. And Easter said his wife reflectively. “One never is late this year; he has important knows what her queerness might end work, which I must help him in, before in !"
Easter." Lady Joan, meanwhile, was watch- 6. You will have rather a short honeying the autumnal sunset. Its crimson moon." rays transtigured her young
"Honeymoon !” Detestable phrase ! “ Another sun going down,” she “We shall stay away a fortnight,” thought; “and still I am doing noth- she replied frigidly. 6. But we shall ing! And the millions under it crying have no honeymoon at all, It will be for help! Crying and passing - and a working moon.
Mr. Holcroft is at a my life flying away! Two years ? Oli, commiitee meeting to-night, and he how selfish !!!
will take a large portmanteau of blue
books and papers with him. I shall V.
act as his secretary. I shall write and “AND to-morrow is your wedding read, under his direction, the whole day!”
time." Lady Wilmington was giving a large Darcy smiled ; as he had smiled in At Home in her house at Princes Gate. the Somersby library. Lady Joan, the supposed heroine of “ Aren't you glad, now, that I was the evening, had done hard duty in firm about those two years, Lady receiving congratulations and introduc- Joan ?” tions ; now some infantine prodigy was Lady Joan lifted her eyes, and looked attracting all the world to the concert- at him. His smile died. room, and she had lingered in a small “No, I am sorry,” she said. The boudoir, where only a few dowagers azalea tints had faded. She was were chatting in low tones.
white spirit once more ; she might At first she did not perceive that almost have risen suddenly, unsheathwhen others vanished, one figure stilling hidden wings, and floated away. haunted the doorway. But presently “ The fire burned in me just the she was aware of Mr. Darcy, who same; I had wasted years enough. quietly approached her. She had not But if you had done as I asked -I seen him since their parting at Som- would never have troubled you or inersby ; but nothing in his manner re- terfered with you - I should have been called this fact.
so happy and so free !” “I could not get near you, before. She looked at him once more, with You were the centre of such admiring unconscious reproach; then down multitudes. And to-morrow is your again, folding her hands. wedding day !” he said.
" Mr. Holcroft's ideas for the East “Yes, to-morrow,” said Lady Joan. End are very grand,” she said.
A faiut tinge, as of a delicate azalea, Darcy had listened silently, as the had risen to her fair cheek.
self-controlled sentences - a pause beShe did not ask herself why, below tween each were uttered. Now, drawher calmness, ached a foolish desire to ing a little nearer, he said, in an elder explain her reasons for marrying - to brother's tone : “Lady Joan, if I am make clear that she was not "in true lo my trade, I must sometimes love ;?? oh, how she hated that phrase ! venture hits in the dark.”
" Surely Mr. Darcy could not so mis- "I don't at all know what you judge her as to think that she was “ in mean,” said Lady Joan. love !"
“I mean," said Darcy gravely, very “ It is a little soon,” she went on, as low, “ that there are things worse than if talking of another person. Only death."