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- Cashel Byron's Profession - 10/49 -


waiting at the door to hear that long history. Adieu!" She waved her hand; Alice suddenly felt that it was possible to be very fond of Miss Carew.

She spent an unhappy afternoon with her mother. Mrs. Goff had had the good-fortune to marry a man of whom she was afraid, and who made himself very disagreeable whenever his house or his children were neglected in the least particular. Making a virtue of necessity, she had come to be regarded in Wiltstoken as a model wife and mother. At last, when a drag ran over Mr. Goff and killed him, she was left almost penniless, with two daughters on her hands. In this extremity she took refuge in grief, and did nothing. Her daughters settled their father's affairs as best they could, moved her into a cheap house, and procured a strange tenant for that in which they had lived during many years. Janet, the elder sister, a student by disposition, employed herself as a teacher of the scientific fashions in modern female education, rumors of which had already reached Wiltstoken. Alice was unable to teach mathematics and moral science; but she formed a dancing-class, and gave lessons in singing and in a language which she believed to be current in France, but which was not intelligible to natives of that country travelling through Wiltstoken. Both sisters were devoted to one another and to their mother. Alice, who had enjoyed the special affection of her self-indulgent father, preserved some regard for his memory, though she could not help wishing that his affection had been strong enough to induce him to save a provision for her. She was ashamed, too, of the very recollection of his habit of getting drunk at races, regattas, and other national festivals, by an accident at one of which he had met his death.

Alice went home from the castle expecting to find the household divided between joy at her good-fortune and grief at losing her; for her views of human nature and parental feeling were as yet pure superstitions. But Mrs. Goff at once became envious of the luxury her daughter was about to enjoy, and overwhelmed her with accusations of want of feeling, eagerness to desert her mother, and vain love of pleasure. Alice, who loved Mrs. Goff so well that she had often told her as many as five different lies in the course of one afternoon to spare her some unpleasant truth, and would have scouted as infamous any suggestion that her parent was more selfish than saintly, soon burst into tears, declaring that she would not return to the castle, and that nothing would have induced her to stay there the night before had she thought that her doing so could give pain at home. This alarmed Mrs. Goff, who knew by experience that it was easier to drive Alice upon rash resolves than to shake her in them afterwards. Fear of incurring blame in Wiltstoken for wantonly opposing her daughter's obvious interests, and of losing her share of Miss Carew's money and countenance, got the better of her jealousy. She lectured Alice severely for her headstrong temper, and commanded her, on her duty not only to her mother, but also and chiefly to her God, to accept Miss Carew's offer with thankfulness, and to insist upon a definite salary as soon as she had, by good behavior, made her society indispensable at the castle. Alice, dutiful as she was, reduced Mrs. Goff to entreaties, and even to symptoms of an outburst of violent grief for the late Mr. Goff, before she consented to obey her. She would wait, she said, until Janet, who was absent teaching, came in, and promised to forgive her for staying away the previous night (Mrs. Goff had falsely represented that Janet had been deeply hurt, and had lain awake weeping during the small hours of the morning). The mother, seeing nothing for it but either to get rid of Alice before Janet's return or to be detected in a spiteful untruth, had to pretend that Janet was spending the evening with some friends, and to urge the unkindness of leaving Miss Carew lonely. At last Alice washed away the traces of her tears and returned to the castle, feeling very miserable, and trying to comfort herself with the reflection that her sister had been spared the scene which had just passed.

Lucian Webber had not arrived when she reached the castle. Miss Carew glanced at her melancholy face as she entered, but asked no questions. Presently, however, she put down her book, considered for a moment, and said,

"It is nearly three years since I have had a new dress." Alice looked up with interest. "Now that I have you to help me to choose, I think I will be extravagant enough to renew my entire wardrobe. I wish you would take this opportunity to get some things for yourself. You will find that my dress-maker, Madame Smith, is to be depended on for work, though she is expensive and dishonest. When we are tired of Wiltstoken we will go to Paris, and be millinered there; but in the meantime we can resort to Madame Smith."

"I cannot afford expensive dresses," said Alice.

"I should not ask you to get them if you could not afford them. I warned you that I should give you expensive habits."

Alice hesitated. She had a healthy inclination to take whatever she could get on all occasions; and she had suffered too much from poverty not to be more thankful for her good-fortune than humiliated by Miss Carew's bounty. But the thought of being driven, richly attired, in one of the castle carriages, and meeting Janet trudging about her daily tasks in cheap black serge and mended gloves, made Alice feel that she deserved all her mother's reproaches. However, it was obvious that a refusal would be of no material benefit to Janet, so she said,

"Really I could not think of imposing on your kindness in this wholesale fashion. You are too good to me."

"I will write to Madame Smith this evening," said Lydia.

Alice was about to renew her protest more faintly, when a servant entered and announced Mr. Webber. She stiffened herself to receive the visitor. Lydia's manner did not alter in the least. Lucian, whose demeanor resembled Miss Goff's rather than his cousin's, went through the ceremony of introduction with solemnity, and was received with a dash of scorn; for Alice, though secretly awe-stricken, bore herself tyrannically towards men from habit.

In reply to Alice, Mr. Webber thought the day cooler than yesterday. In reply to Lydia, he admitted that the resolution of which the leader of the opposition had given notice was tantamount to a vote of censure on the government. He was confident that ministers would have a majority. He had no news of any importance. He had made the journey down with Lord Worthington, who had come to Wiltstoken to see the invalid at the Warren. He had promised to return with him in the seven-thirty train.

When they went down to dinner, Alice, profiting by her experience of the day before, faced the servants with composure, and committed no solecisms. Unable to take part in the conversation, as she knew little of literature and nothing of politics, which were the staple of Lucian's discourse, she sat silent, and reconsidered an old opinion of hers that it was ridiculous and ill-bred in a lady to discuss anything that was in the newspapers. She was impressed by Lucian's cautious and somewhat dogmatic style of conversation, and concluded that he knew everything. Lydia seemed interested in his information, but quite indifferent to his opinions.

Towards half-past seven Lydia proposed that they should walk to the railway station, adding, as a reason for going, that she wished to make some bets with Lord Worthington. Lucian looked grave at this, and Alice, to show that she shared his notions of propriety, looked shocked. Neither demonstration had the slightest effect on Lydia. On their way to the station he remarked,

"Worthington is afraid of you, Lydia--needlessly, as it seems."

"Why?"

"Because you are so learned, and he so ignorant. He has no culture save that of the turf. But perhaps you have more sympathy with his tastes than he supposes."

"I like him because I have not read the books from which he has borrowed his opinions. Indeed, from their freshness, I should not be surprised to learn that he had them at first hand from living men, or even from his own observation of life."

"I may explain to you, Miss Goff," said Lucian, "that Lord Worthiugton is a young gentleman--"

"Whose calendar is the racing calendar," interposed Lydia, "and who interests himself in favorites and outsiders much as Lucian does in prime-ministers and independent radicals. Would you like to go to Ascot, Alice?"

Alice answered, as she felt Lucian wished her to answer, that she had never been to a race, and that she had no desire to go to one.

"You will change your mind in time for next year's meeting. A race interests every one, which is more than can be said for the opera or the Academy."

"I have been at the Academy," said Alice, who had made a trip to London once.

"Indeed!" said Lydia. "Were you in the National Gallery?"

"The National Gallery! I think not. I forget."

"I know many persons who never miss an Academy, and who do not know where the National Gallery is. Did you enjoy the pictures, Alice?"

"Oh, very much indeed."

"You will find Ascot far more amusing."

"Let me warn you," said Lucian to Alice, "that my cousin's pet caprice is to affect a distaste for art, to which she is passionately devoted; and for literature, in which she is profoundly read."

"Cousin Lucian," said Lydia, "should you ever be cut off from your politics, and disappointed in your ambition, you will have an opportunity of living upon art and literature. Then I shall respect your opinion of their satisfactoriness as a staff of life. As yet you have only tried them as a sauce."

"Discontented, as usual," said Lucian.

"Your one idea respecting me, as usual," replied Lydia, patiently, as they entered the station.

The train, consisting of three carriages and a van, was waiting at the platform. The engine was humming subduedly, and the driver and fireman were leaning out; the latter, a young man, eagerly watching two gentlemen who were standing before the first-class carriage, and the driver sharing his curiosity in an elderly, preoccupied manner.


Cashel Byron's Profession - 10/49

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