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Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles written by Mrs. Henry Wood who was an English novelist. This book was published in 1862. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles
Mrs. Henry Wood
PART THE FIRST.
CHAPTER I. THE CLERGYMAN'S DAUGHTER.
CHAPTER II. THE SHADOW BECOMES SUBSTANCE.
CHAPTER III. THE REV. FRANCIS TAIT.
CHAPTER IV. NEW PLANS.
CHAPTER V. MARGARET.
CHAPTER VI. IN SAVILE-ROW.
CHAPTER VII. LATER IN THE DAY.
CHAPTER VIII. SUSPENSE.
CHAPTER IX. SEEKING A HOME.
CHAPTER X. A DYING BED.
CHAPTER XI. HELSTONLEIGH.
CHAPTER XII. ANNA LYNN.
CHAPTER XIII. ILLNESS.
CHAPTER XIV. A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
CHAPTER XV. THE FUNERAL.
CHAPTER XVI. TROUBLE.
CHAPTER XVII. THOMAS ASHLEY.
CHAPTER XVIII. HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER XIX. MRS. REECE AND DOBBS.
CHAPTER XX. THE GLOVE OPERATIVES.
CHAPTER XXI. THE LADIES OF HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER XXII. MR. BRUMM'S SUNDAY SHIRT.
CHAPTER XXIII.THE MESSRS. BANKES.
CHAPTER XXIV. HARD TO BEAR.
CHAPTER XXV. INCIPIENT VANITY.
CHAPTER XXVI. MR. ASHLEY'S MANUFACTORY.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE FORGOTTEN LETTER.
PART THE SECOND.
CHAPTER I. A SUGGESTED FEAR.
CHAPTER II. SHADOWS IN HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER III. THE DARES AT HOME.
CHAPTER IV. THROWING AT THE BATS.
CHAPTER V. CHARLOTTE EAST'S PRESENT.
CHAPTER VI. THE FEAR GROWING GREATER.
CHAPTER VII. THE END.
CHAPTER VIII. A WEDDING IN HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER IX. AN EXPLOSION FOR MRS. CROSS.
CHAPTER X. A STRAY SHILLING.
CHAPTER XI. THE SCHOOLBOYS' NOTES.
CHAPTER XII. A LESSON FOR PHILIP GLENN.
CHAPTER XIII. MAKING PROGRESS.
CHAPTER XIV. WILLIAM HALLIBURTON'S GHOST.
CHAPTER XV. "NOTHING RISK, NOTHING WIN."
CHAPTER XVI. MRS. DARE'S GOVERNESS.
CHAPTER XVII. TAKING AN ITALIAN LESSON.
CHAPTER XVIII. A VISION IN HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER XIX. THE DUPLICATE CLOAKS.
CHAPTER XX. IN THE STARLIGHT.
CHAPTER XXI. A PRESENT OF TEA-LEAVES.
CHAPTER XXII. HENRY ASHLEY'S OBJECT IN LIFE.
CHAPTER XXIII. ATTERLY'S FIELD.
CHAPTER XXIV. ANNA'S EXCUSE.
CHAPTER XXV. PATIENCE COME TO GRIEF.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE GOVERNESS'S EXPEDITION.
CHAPTER XXVII. THE QUARREL.
PART THE THIRD.
CHAPTER I. ANNA LYNN'S DILEMMA.
CHAPTER II. COMMOTION.
CHAPTER III. ACCUSED.
CHAPTER IV. COMMITTED FOR TRIAL.
CHAPTER V. A BRUISED HEART.
CHAPTER VI. ONE DYING IN HONEY FAIR.
CHAPTER VII. COMING HOME TO THE DARES.
CHAPTER VIII. AN UGLY VISION.
CHAPTER IX. SERGEANT DELVES "LOOKS UP."
CHAPTER X. THE TRIAL.
CHAPTER XI. THE WITNESSES FOR THE ALIBI.
CHAPTER XII. A COUCH OF PAIN.
CHAPTER XIII. A RAY OF LIGHT.
CHAPTER XIV. MR. DELVES ON HIS BEAM ENDS.
CHAPTER XV. A LOSS FOR POMERANIAN KNOLL.
CHAPTER XVI. AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XVII. THE EXPLOSION.
CHAPTER XVIII. "CALLED."
CHAPTER XIX. A GLIMPSE OF A BLISSFUL DREAM.
CHAPTER XX. WAYS AND MEANS.
CHAPTER XXI. THE DREAM REALIZED.
CHAPTER XXII. THE BISHOP'S LETTER.
CHAPTER XXIII. A DYING CONFESSION.
CHAPTER XXIV. THE DOWNFALL OF THE DARES.
CHAPTER XXV. ASSIZE TIME.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE HIGH SHERIFF'S DINNER PARTY.
In a very populous district of London, somewhat north of Temple Bar, there stood, many years ago, a low, ancient church amidst other churches—for you know that London abounds in them. The doors of this church were partially open one dark evening in December, and a faint, glimmering light might be observed inside by the passers-by.
It was known well enough what was going on within, and why the light was there. The rector was giving away the weekly bread. Years ago a benevolent person had left a certain sum to be spent in twenty weekly loaves, to be given to twenty poor widows at the discretion of the minister. Certain curious provisos were attached to the bequest. One was that the bread should not be less than two days old, and should have been deposited in the church at least twenty-four hours before distribution. Another, that each recipient must attend in person. Failing personal attendance, no matter how unavoidable her absence, she lost the loaf: no friend might receive it for her, neither might it be sent to her. In that case, the minister was enjoined to bestow it upon "any stranger widow who might present herself, even as should seem expedient to him:" the word "stranger" being, of course, used in contra-distinction to the twenty poor widows who were on the books as the charity's recipients. Four times a year, one shilling to each widow was added to the loaf of bread.
A loaf of bread is not very much. To us, sheltered in our abundant homes, it seems as nothing. But, to many a one, toiling and starving in this same city of London, a loaf may be almost the turning-point between death and life. The poor existed in those days as they exist in these: as they always will exist: therefore it was no matter of surprise that a crowd of widow women, most of them aged, all in poverty, should gather round the church doors when the bread was being given out, each hoping that, of the twenty poor widows, some one might fail to appear, and the clerk would come to the door and call out her own particular name as the fortunate substitute. On the days when the shilling was added to the loaf, this waiting and hoping crowd would be increased four-fold.
Thursday was the afternoon for the distribution. And on the day we are now writing about, the rector entered the church at the usual hour: four o'clock. He had to make his way through an unusual number of outsiders; for this was one of the shilling days. He knew them all personally; was familiar with their names and homes; for the Rev. Francis Tait was a hard-working clergyman. And hard-working clergymen were more rare in those days than they are in these.
Of Scottish birth, but chiefly reared in England, he had taken orders at the usual age, and become curate in a London parish, where the work was heavy and the stipend small. Not that the duties attached to the church itself were onerous; but it was a parish filled with poor. Those familiar with such parishes know what this means, when the minister is sympathising and conscientious. For twenty years he remained a curate, toiling in patience, cheerfully hoping. Twenty years! It seems little to write; but to live it is a great deal; and Francis Tait, in spite of his hopefulness, sometimes found it so. Then promotion came. The living of this little church that you now see open was bestowed upon him. A poor living as compared with some others; and a poor parish, speaking of the social condition of its inhabitants. But the living seemed wealth compared with what he had earned as a curate; and as to his flock being chiefly composed of the poor, he had not been accustomed to anything else. Then the Rev. Francis Tait married; and another twenty years went by.
He stood in the church this evening; the loaves resting on the shelf overhead, against the door of the vestry, all near the entrance. A flaring tallow candle stood on the small table between him and the widows who clustered opposite. He was sixty-five years old now; a spare man of middle height, with a clear, pale skin, an intelligent countenance, and a thoughtful, fine grey eye. He had a pleasant word, a kind inquiry for all, as he put the shilling into their hands; the lame old clerk at the same time handing over the loaf of bread.
"Are you all here to-night?" he asked, as the distribution went on.
"No, sir," was the answer from several who spoke at once. "Betty King's away."
"What is the matter with her?"
"The rheumaticks have laid hold on her, sir. She couldn't get here nohow. She's in her bed."
"I must go and see her," said he. "What, are you here again, Martha?" he continued, as a little deformed woman stepped from behind the rest, where she had been hidden. "I am glad to see you."
"Six blessed weeks this day, and I've not been able to come!" exclaimed the woman. "But I'm restored wonderful."
The distribution was approaching its close, when the rector spoke to his clerk. "Call in Eliza Turner."
The clerk placed on the table the four or five remaining loaves, that each woman might help herself during his absence, and went out to the door.
"'Liza Turner, his reverence has called for you."
A sigh of delight from Eliza Turner, and a groan of disappointment from those surrounding her, greeted the clerk in answer. He took no notice—he often heard it—but turned and limped into the church again. Eliza Turner followed; and another woman slipped in after Eliza Turner.
"Now, Widow Booth," cried the clerk, sharply, perceiving the intrusion, "what business have you here? You know it's again the rules."
"I must see his reverence," murmured the woman, pressing on—a meek, half-starved woman; and she pushed her way into the vestry, and told her pitiful tale.
"I'm worse off than Widow Turner," she moaned piteously, not in tones of complaint, but of entreaty. "She has a daughter in service as helps her; but me, I've my poor unfortunate daughter lying in my place weak with fever, sick with hunger! Oh, sir, couldn't you give the bounty this time to me? I've not had a bit or drop in my mouth since morning; and then it was but a taste o' bread and a drain o' tea, that a neighbour give me out o' charity."
It was absolutely necessary to discountenance these personal applications. The rector's rule was, never to give the spare bounty to those who applied for it: otherwise the distribution might have become a weekly scene of squabbling and confusion. He handed the shilling and bread to Eliza Turner; and when she had followed the other women out, he turned to the Widow Booth, who was sobbing against the wall; speaking kindly to her.
"You should not have come in, Mrs. Booth. You know that I do not allow it."
"But I'm starving, sir," was the answer. "I thought maybe as you'd divide it between me and Widow Turner. Sixpence for her, sixpence for me, and the loaf halved."
"I have no power to divide the gifts: to do so would be against the terms of the bequest. How is it you are so badly off this week? Has your work failed?"
"I couldn't do it, sir, with my sick one to attend to. And I've a gathering come on my thimble finger, and that has hindered me. I took ninepence the day before yesterday, sir, but last night it was every farthing of it gone."
"I will come round and see you by-and-by," said the clergyman.
She lifted her eyes yearningly. "Oh, sir! If you could but give me something for a morsel of bread now! I'd be grateful for a penny loaf."
"Mrs. Booth, you know that to give here would be altogether against my rule," he replied with unmistakable firmness. "Neither am I pleased when any of you attempt to ask it. Go home quietly: I have said that I will come to you by-and-by."
The woman thanked him and went out. Had anything been needed to prove the necessity of the rule, it would have been the eagerness with which the crowd of women gathered round her. Not one of them had gone away. "Had she got anything?" To reply that she had something, would have sent the whole crowd flocking in to beg in turn of the rector.
Widow Booth shook her head. "No, no. I knowed it before. He never will. He says he'll come round."
They dispersed; some in one direction, some in another. The rector blew out the candle, and he and the clerk came forth; and the church was closed for the distribution of bread until that day week. Mr. Tait took the keys himself to carry them home: they were kept at his house. Formerly the clerk had carried them there; but since he had become old and lame, Mr. Tait would not give him the trouble.
It was a fine night overhead, but the streets were sloppy; and the clergyman put his foot unavoidably in many a puddle. The streets through which his road lay were imperfectly lighted. The residence apportioned to the rector of this parish was adjoining a well-known square, fashionable in that day. It was a very good house, with a handsome outward appearance. If you judged by it, you would have said the living must be worth five hundred a year at least. It was not worth anything like that; and the parish treated their pastor liberally in according him so good a residence. A quarter of an hour's walk from the church brought Mr. Tait to it.
Until recently, a gentleman had shared this house with Mr. Tait and his family. The curate of a neighbouring parish, the Rev. John Acton, had been glad to live with them as a friend, admitted to their society and their table. It was a little help: and but for that, Mr. and Mrs. Tait would scarcely have thought themselves justified in keeping two servants, for the educational expenses of their children ran away with a large portion of their income. But Mr. Acton had now been removed to a distance, and they hoped to receive some one or other in his place.
On this evening, as Mr. Tait was picking his way through the puddles, the usual sitting-room of his house presented a cheerful appearance, ready to receive him. It was on the ground floor, looking upon the street, large and lofty, and bright with firelight. Two candles, not yet lighted, stood on the table behind the tea-tray, but the glow of the fire was sufficient for all the work that was being done in the room.
It was no work at all: but play. A young lady was quietly whirling round the room with a dancing step—quietly, because her feet and movements were gentle; and the tune she was humming, and to which she kept time, was carolled in an undertone. She was moving thus in the happy innocence of heart and youth. A graceful girl of middle height; one whom it gladdened the eye to look upon. Not for her beauty, for she had no very great beauty to boast of; but it was one of those countenances that win their own way to favour. A fair, gentle face, openly candid, with the same earnest, honest grey eye that so pleased you in Francis Tait, and brown hair. She was that gentleman's eldest child, and looked about eighteen. In reality she was a year older, but her face and dress were both youthful. She wore a violet silk frock, made with a low body and short sleeves: girls did not keep their pretty necks and arms covered up then. By daylight the dress would have appeared old, but it looked very well by candle-light.
The sound of the latch-key in the front door brought her dancing to an end. She knew who it was—no inmate of that house possessed a latch-key except its master—and she turned to the fire to light the candles.
Mr. Tait came into the room, removing neither overcoat nor hat. "Have you made tea, Jane?"
"No, papa; it has only just struck five."
"Then I think I'll go out again first. I have to call on one or two of the women, and it will be all one wetting. My feet are soaked already"—looking down at his buckled shoes and black gaiters. "You can get my slippers warmed, Jane. But"—the thought apparently striking him—"would your mamma care to wait?"
"Mamma had a cup of tea half an hour ago," replied Jane. "She said it might do her good; if she could get some sleep after it, she might be able to come down for a little before bedtime. The tea can be made whenever you like, papa. There's only Francis at home, and he and I could wait until ten, if you pleased."
"I'll go at once, then. Not until ten, Miss Jane, but until six, or about that time. Betty King is ill, but does not live far off. And I must step in to the Widow Booth's."
"Papa," cried Jane as he was turning away, "I forgot to tell you. Francis says he thinks he knows of a gentleman who would like to come here in Mr. Acton's place."
"Ah! Who is it?" asked the rector.
"One of the masters at the school. Here's Francis coming down. He only went up to wash his hands."
"It is our new mathematical master, sir," cried Francis Tait, a youth of eighteen, who was being brought up to the Church. "I overheard him ask Dr. Percy if he could recommend him to a comfortable house where he might board, and make one of the family: so I told him perhaps you might receive him here. He said he'd come down and see you."
Mr. Tait paused. "Would he be a desirable inmate, think you, Francis? Is he a gentleman?"
"Quite a gentleman, I am sure," replied Francis. "And we all like what little we have seen of him. His name's Halliburton."
"Is he in Orders?"
"No. He intends to be, I think."
"Well, of course I can say nothing about it, one way or the other," concluded Mr. Tait, as he went out.
Jane stood before the fire in thought, her fingers unconsciously smoothing the parting of the glossy brown hair on her well-shaped head as she looked at it in the pier-glass. To say that she never did such a thing in vanity would be wrong; no pretty girl ever lived but was conscious of her good looks. Jane, however, was neither thinking of herself nor of vanity just then. She took a very practical part in home duties: with her mother, a practical part amidst her father's poor: and at this moment her thoughts were running on the additional work it might bring her, should this gentleman come to reside with them.
"What did you say his name was, Francis?" she suddenly asked of her brother.
"That gentleman's. The new master at your school."
"Halliburton. I don't know his Christian name."
"I wonder," mused Jane aloud, "whether he will wear out his stockings as Mr. Acton did? There was always a dreadful amount of darning to be done to his. Is he an old guy, Francis?"
"Isn't he!" responded Francis Tait. "Don't faint when you see some one come in old and fat, with green rims to his spectacles. I don't say he's quite old enough to be papa's father, but——"
"Why! He must be eighty then, at least!" uttered Jane, in dismay. "How could you propose it to him? We should not care to have any one older than Mr. Acton."
"Acton! That young chicken!" contemptuously rejoined Francis. "Put him by the side of Mr. Halliburton! Acton was barely fifty."
"He was forty-eight, I think," said Jane. "Oh, dear! How I should like to have gone with Margaret and Robert this evening!" she exclaimed, forgetting the passing topic in another.
"They were not polite enough to invite me," said Francis. "I shall pay the old lady out."
Jane laughed. "You are growing too old now, Francis, to be admitted to a young ladies' breaking-up party. Mrs. Chilham said so to mamma——"
Jane's words were interrupted by a knock at the front door, apparently that of a visitor. "Jane!" cried her brother, in some trepidation, "I should not wonder if it's Mr. Halliburton! He did not say when he should come!"
Another minute, and one of the servants ushered a gentleman into the room. It was not an old guy, however, as Jane saw at a glance with a distinct feeling of relief. A tall, gentlemanlike man of five or six and twenty, with thin aquiline features, dark eyes, and a clear, fresh complexion. A handsome man, very prepossessing.
"You see I have soon availed myself of your permission to call," said he, in pleasant tones, as he took Francis Tait's hand, and glanced towards Jane with a slight bow.
"My sister Jane, sir," said Francis. "Jane, this is Mr. Halliburton."
Jane for once lost her self-possession. So surprised was she—in fact perplexed, for she did not know whether Francis was playing a trick upon her now, or whether he had previously played it; in short, whether this was, or was not, Mr. Halliburton—that she could only look from one to the other. "Are you Mr. Halliburton?" she said, in her straightforward simplicity.
"I am Mr. Halliburton," he answered, bending to her politely. "Can I have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Tait?"
"Will you take a seat?" said Jane. "Papa is out, but I do not think he will be very long."
"Where did he go to—do you know, Jane?" cried Francis, who was smothering a laugh.
"To Betty King's; and to Widow Booth's. He may have been going elsewhere also. I think he was."
"At any rate, I'll just run there and see. Jane, you can tell Mr. Halliburton all about it whilst I am away. Explain to him exactly how he will be here, and how we live. And then you can decide for yourself, sir," concluded Francis.
To splash through the wet streets to Betty King's or elsewhere was an expedition rather agreeable to Francis, in his eagerness; otherwise there was no particular necessity for his going.
"I am sorry mamma is not up," said Jane. "She suffers from occasional sick-headaches, and they generally keep her in bed for the day. I will give you any information in my power."
"Your brother Francis thought—that it might not be disagreeable to Mr. Tait to receive a stranger into his family," said Mr. Halliburton, speaking with some hesitation. But the young lady before him looked so lady-like, the house altogether seemed so well appointed, that he almost doubted whether the proposal would not offend her.
"We wish to receive some one," said Jane. "The house is sufficiently large to do so, and papa would like it for the sake of society: as well as that it would help in our housekeeping," she added, in her candour. "A friend of papa's was with us—I cannot remember precisely how many years, but he came when I was a little girl. It was the Rev. Mr. Acton. He left us last October."
"I feel sure that I should like it very much: and I should think myself fortunate if Mr. Tait would admit me," spoke the visitor.
Jane remembered the suggestion of Francis, and deemed it her duty to speak a little to Mr. Halliburton of "how he would be there," as it had been expressed. She might have done so without the suggestion, for she could not be otherwise than straightforward and open.
"We live very plainly," she observed. "A simple joint of meat one day; cold, with a pudding, the next."
"I should consider myself fortunate to get the pudding," replied Mr. Halliburton, smiling. "I have been tossed about a good deal of late years, Miss Tait, and have not come in for too much comfort. Just now I am in very uncomfortable lodgings."
"I dare say papa would like to have you," said Jane, frankly, with a sort of relief. She had thought he looked one who might be fastidious.
"I have neither father nor mother, brother nor sister," he resumed. "In fact, I may say that I am without relatives; for almost the only one I have has discarded me. I often think how rich those people must be who possess close connections and a happy home," he added, turning his bright glance upon her.
Jane dropped her work, which she had taken up. "I don't know what I should do without all my dear relatives," she exclaimed.
"Are you a large family?"
"We are six. Papa and mamma, and four children. I am the eldest, and Margaret is the youngest; Francis and Robert are between us. It is breaking-up night at Margaret's school, and she has gone to it with Robert," continued Jane, never doubting but the stranger must take as much interest in "breaking-up nights" as she did. "I was to have gone; but mamma has been unusually ill to-day."
"Were you disappointed?"
Jane bent her head while she confessed the fact, as though feeling it a confession to be ashamed of. "It would not have been kind to leave mamma," she added, "and I dare say some other pleasure will arise soon. Mamma is asleep now."
"What a charming girl!" thought Mr. Halliburton to himself. "How I wish she was my sister!"
"Margaret is to be a governess," observed Jane, "and is being educated for it. She has great talent for music, and also for drawing; it is not often the two are united. Her tastes lie quite that way—anything clever; and as papa has no money to give us, it was well to make her a governess."
"And you?" said Mr. Halliburton. The question might have been thought an impertinent one by many, but he spoke it only in his deep interest, and Jane Tait was of too ingenuous a disposition not to answer it as openly.
"I am not to be a governess. I am to stay at home with mamma and help her. There is plenty to do. Margaret cannot bear domestic duties, or sewing either. Dancing excepted, I have not learnt a single accomplishment—unless you call French an accomplishment."
"I am sure you have been well educated!" involuntarily spoke Mr. Halliburton.
"Yes; in all things solid," replied Jane. "Papa has taken care of that. He still directs my reading. I know a good bit—of—Latin"—she added, bringing out the concluding words with hesitation, as one who repents his sentence—"though I do not like to confess it to you."
"Why do you not?"
"Because I think girls who know Latin are laughed at. I did not regularly learn it, but I used to be in the room when papa or Mr. Acton was teaching Francis and Robert, and I picked it up unconsciously. Mr. Acton often took Francis; he had more time on his hands than papa. Francis is to be a clergyman."
"Miss Jane," said a servant, entering the room, "Mrs. Tait is awake, and wishes to see you."
Jane left Mr. Halliburton with a word of apology, and almost immediately after Mr. Tait came in. He was a little taken to when he saw the stranger. His imagination had run, if not upon an "old guy" in spectacles, certainly upon some steady, sober, middle-aged mathematical master. Would it be well to admit this young, good-looking man to his house.
If Jane Tait had been candid in her revelations to Mr. Halliburton, that gentleman, in his turn, was not less candid to her father. He, Edgar Halliburton, was the only child of a country clergyman, the Rev. William Halliburton, who had died when Edgar was sixteen, leaving nothing behind him. Edgar—he had previously lost his mother—found a home with his late mother's brother, a gentleman named Cooper, who resided in Birmingham. Mr. Cooper was a man in extensive wholesale business, and wished Edgar to go into his counting-house. Edgar declined. His father had lived long enough to form his tastes: his greatest wish had been to see him enter the Church; and the wish had become Edgar's own. Mr. Cooper thought there was nothing in the world like business: and looked upon that most sacred of all callings, God's ministry, only in the light of a profession. He had carved out his own career, step by step, attaining wealth and importance, and wished his nephew to do the same. "Which is best, lad?" he coarsely asked: "To rule as a merchant prince, or starve and toil as a curate? I'm not quite a merchant prince yet, but you may be." "It was my father's wish," pleaded Edgar in answer, "and it is my own. I cannot give it up, sir." The dispute ran high—not in words, but in obstinacy. Edgar would not yield, and at length Mr. Cooper discarded him. He turned him out of doors: told him that, if he must become a parson, he might get some one else to pay his expenses at Oxford, for he never would. Edgar Halliburton proceeded to London, and obtained employment as an usher in a school, teaching classics and mathematics. From that he became a private teacher, and had so earned his living up to the present time: but he had never succeeded in getting to college. And Mr. Tait, before they had talked together five minutes, was charmed with his visitor, and invited him to take tea with him, which Jane came down to make.
"Has your uncle never softened towards you?" Mr. Tait inquired.
"Never. I have addressed several letters to him, but they have been returned to me."
"He has no family, you say. You ought—in justice, you ought to inherit some of his wealth. Has he other relatives?"
"He has one standing to him in the same relationship as I—my Cousin Julia. It is not likely that I shall ever inherit a shilling of it, sir. I do not expect it."
"Right," said Mr. Tait, nodding his head approvingly. "There's no work so thriftless as that of waiting for legacies. Wearying, too. I was a poor curate, Mr. Halliburton, for twenty years—indeed, so far as being poor goes, I am not much else now—but let that pass. I had a relative who possessed money, and who had neither kith nor kin nearer to her than I was. For the best part of those twenty years I was giving covert hopes to that money; and when she died, and nothing was left to me, I found out how foolish and wasteful my hopes had been. I tell my children to trust to their own honest exertions, but never to trust to other people's money. Allow me to urge the same upon you."
Mr. Halliburton's lips and eyes alike smiled, as he looked gratefully at the rector, a man so much older than himself. "I never think of it," he earnestly said. "It appears, for me, to be as thoroughly lost as though it did not exist. I should not have mentioned it, sir, but that I consider it right you should know all particulars respecting me; if, as I hope, you will admit me to your home."
"I think we should get on very well together," frankly acknowledged Mr. Tait, forgetting the prudent ideas which had crossed his mind.
"I am sure we should, sir," warmly replied Edgar Halliburton. And the bargain was made.
And yet it had perhaps been well that those prudent ideas had been allowed to obtain weight. Mr. Halliburton took up his abode with the Taits; and, the more they saw of him, the more they liked him. In which liking Jane must be included.
It was a possible shadow of the future, the effects the step would bring forth, which had whispered determent to Mr. Tait: a very brief shadow, which had crossed his mind imperfectly, and flitted away again. Where two young and attractive beings are thrown into daily companionship, the result too frequently is that a mutual regard arises, stronger than any other regard can ever be in this world. This result arrived here.
A twelvemonth passed over from the time of Mr. Halliburton's entrance—how swiftly for him and for Jane Tait they alone could tell. Not a word had been spoken to her by Mr. Halliburton that he might not have spoken to her mother or her sister Margaret; not a look on Jane's part had been given by which he could infer that he was more to her than the rest of the world. And yet both were inwardly conscious of the feelings of the other; and when the twelvemonth had gone by it had seemed to them but a span, for the love they bore each other.
One evening in December Jane stood in the dining-room waiting to make tea just as she had so waited that former evening. For any outward signs, you might have thought that not a single hour had elapsed since their first introduction—that it was the same evening as of old. It was sloppy outside, it was bright within. The candles stood on the table unlighted, the fire blazed, the tea-tray was placed, and only Jane was there. Mrs. Tait was upstairs with one of her frequent sick-headaches, Margaret was with her, and the others had not come in.
Jane stood in a reverie—her elbow resting on the mantel-piece, and the blaze from the fire flickering on her gentle face. She was fond of these few minutes of idleness on a winter's evening, between the twilight hour and lighting the candles.
The clock in the kitchen struck five. It did not arouse her: she heard it in a mechanical sort of manner, without taking note of it. Scarcely had the sound of the last stroke died away when there was a knock at the front door.
That aroused her—for she knew it. She knew the footsteps that came in when it was answered, and a rich damask arose to her cheeks, and the pulses of her heart went on a little quicker than they had been going before.
She took her elbow from the mantel-piece, and sat down quietly on a chair. No need to look who entered. Some one, taller by far than any in that house, came up to the fire, and bent to warm his hands over the blaze.
"It is a cold night, Jane. We shall have a severe frost."
"Yes," she answered; "the water in the barrel is already freezing over."
"How is your mamma now?"
"Better, thank you. Margaret has gone up to help her to dress. She is coming down to tea."
Mr. Halliburton remained silent a minute, and then turned to Jane, his face glowing with satisfaction. "I have had a piece of preferment offered me to-day."
"Have you?" she eagerly said. "What is it?"
"Dr. Percy proposes that, from January, I shall take the Greek classes as well as the mathematics, and he doubles my salary. Of course I shall have to give closer attendance, but I can readily do that. My time is not fully employed."
"I am very glad," said Jane.
"So am I," he answered. "Taking all my sources of income together, I shall now be earning two hundred and eighty-three pounds a year."
Jane laughed. "Have you been reckoning it up?"
"Ay; I had a motive in doing so."
His tone was peculiar, and it caused her to look at him, but her eyelids drooped under his gaze. He drew nearer, and laid his hand gently on her shoulder, bending down before her to speak.
"Jane, you have not mistaken me. I feel that you have read what has been in my heart, what have been my intentions, as surely as though I had spoken. It is not a great income, but it is sufficient, if you can think it so. May I speak to Mr. Tait?"
What Jane would have contrived to answer she never knew, but at that moment her mother's step was heard approaching. All she did was to glance shyly up at Mr. Halliburton, and he bent his head lower and kissed her. Then he walked rapidly to the door and opened it for Mrs. Tait—a pale, refined, delicate-looking lady, wrapped in a shawl. These violent headaches, from which she so frequently suffered, did not affect her permanent health, but on the days she suffered she would be utterly prostrated. Mr. Halliburton gave her his arm, and led her to a seat by the fire, his voice low and tender, his manner sympathizing. "I am already better," she said to him, "and shall be much better after tea. Sometimes I am tempted to envy those who do not know what a sick-headache is."
"They may know other maladies as painful, dear Mrs. Tait."
"Ay, indeed. None of us can expect to be free from pain of one sort or another in this world."
"Shall I make the tea, mamma?" asked Jane.
"Yes, dear; I shall be glad of it, and your papa is sure to be in soon. There he is!" she added, as the latch-key was heard in the door. "The boys are late this evening."
The rector came in, and, ere the evening was over, the news was broken to him by Mr. Halliburton. He wanted Jane.
It was the imperfect, uncertain shadow of twelve months ago become substance. It had been a shadow of the future only, you understand—not a shadow of evil. To Mr. Halliburton, personally, the rector had no objection—he had learned to love, esteem, and respect him—but it is a serious thing to give away a child.
"The income is very small to marry upon," he observed. "It is also uncertain."
"Not uncertain, sir, so long as I am blessed with health and strength. And I have no reason to fear that these will fail."
"I thought you were bent on taking Orders."
Mr. Halliburton's cheek slightly flushed. "It is a prospect I have fondly cherished," he said; "but its difficulties alarm me. The cost of the University is great; and were I to wait until I had saved sufficient money to go to college, I should be obliged, in a great degree, to give up my present means of living. Who would employ a tutor who must frequently be away for weeks? I should lose my connection, and perhaps never regain it. A good teaching connection is more easily lost than won."
"True," observed Mr. Tait.
"Once in Orders, I might remain for years a poor curate. I should most likely do so. I have neither interest nor influence. Sir, in that case Jane and I might be obliged to wait for years: perhaps go down to our graves waiting."
The Rev. Francis Tait threw back his thoughts. How he had waited; how he was not able to marry until years were advancing upon him; how in four years now he should have attained threescore years and ten—the term allotted to the life of man—whilst his children were still growing up around him! No! never, never would he counsel another to wait as he had been obliged to wait.
"I have not yet given up hope of eventually entering the Church," continued Mr. Halliburton; "though it must be accomplished, if at all, slowly and patiently. I think I may be able to keep one term, or perhaps two terms yearly, without damage to my teaching. I shall try to do so; try to find the necessary means and time. My marriage will make no difference to that, sir."
Many might have suggested to Edgar Halliburton that he might keep his terms first and marry afterwards. Mr. Tait did not: possibly the idea did not occur to him. If it occurred to Edgar Halliburton himself, he drove it from him. It would have delayed his marriage to an indefinite number of years; and he loved Jane too well to do that willingly. "I shall still get much better preferment in teaching than that which I now hold," he urged aloud to the rector. "It is not so very small to begin upon, sir, and Jane is willing to risk it."
"I will not part you and Jane," said Mr. Tait, warmly. "If you have made up your minds to share life and its cares together, you shall do so. Still, I cannot say that I think your prospects golden."
"Prospects that appear to have no gold at all in them sometimes turn out very brightly, sir."
"I can give Jane nothing, you know."
"I have never cast a thought to it, sir; have never imagined she would have a shilling," replied Mr. Halliburton, his face flushing with eagerness. "It is Jane herself I want; not money."
"Beyond a twenty-pound note which I may give her to put into her purse on her wedding morning, that she may not leave my house absolutely penniless, she will have nothing," cried the rector, in his straightforward manner. "Far from saving, I and her mother have been hardly able to make both ends meet at the end of the year. I might have saved a few pounds yearly, had I chosen to do so; but you know what this parish is; and the reflection has always been upon me: how would my Master look upon my putting by small sums of money, when many of those over whom I am placed were literally starving for bread? I have given what I could; but I have not saved for my children."
"You have done well, sir."
Mr. Tait sought his daughter. "Jane," he began—"Nay, child, do not tremble so! There is no need for trembling, or for tears, either: you have done nothing to displease me. Jane, I like Edgar Halliburton; I like him much. There is no one to whom I would rather give you. But I do not like his prospects. Teaching is very precarious."
Jane raised her timid eyes. "Precarious for him, papa? For one learned and clever as he!"
"It is badly paid. See how he toils—and he will have to toil more when the new year comes in—and only to earn two or three hundred a year!—in round numbers."
Tears gathered in Jane's eyes. Toil as he did, badly paid as he might be, she would rather have him than any other in the world, though that other might have revelled in thousands. The rector read somewhat of this in her downcast face.
"My dear, the consideration lies with you. If you choose to venture upon it, you shall have my consent, and I know you will have your mother's, for she thinks Edgar Halliburton has not his equal in the world. But it may bring you many troubles."
"Papa, I am not afraid. If troubles come, they—you—told us only last night——"
"That troubles, regarded rightly, only lead us nearer to God," whispered Jane, simply and timidly.
"Right, child. And trouble must come before that great truth can be realized. Consider the question well, Jane—whether it may not be better to wait—and give your answer to-morrow. I shall tell Mr. Halliburton not to ask for it to-night. As you decide, so shall it be."
Need you be told what Jane's decision was? Two hundred and eighty-three pounds a year seems a large sum to an inexperienced girl; quite sufficient to purchase everything that might be wanted for a fireside.
And so she became Jane Halliburton.
A hot afternoon in July. Jane Halliburton was in the drawing-room with her mother, both sewing busily. It was a large room, with three windows, more pleasant than the dining-room beneath, and they were fond of sitting in it in summer. Jane had been married some three or four months now, but looked the same young, simple, placid girl that she ever did; and, but for the wedding-ring upon her finger, no stranger would have supposed her to be a wife.
An excellent arrangement had been arrived at—that she and her husband should remain inmates of Mr. Tait's house; at any rate, for the present. When plans were being discussed, before making the necessary arrangements for the marriage, and Mr. Halliburton was spending all his superfluous minutes hunting for a suitable house near to the old home, and not too dear, Francis Tait had given utterance to a remark—"I wonder who we shall get here in Mr. Halliburton's place, if papa takes any one else?" and Margaret, looking up from her drawing, had added, "Why can't Mr. Halliburton and Jane stay on with us? It would be so much pleasanter."
It was the first time the idea had been presented in any shape to the rector, and it seemed to go straight to his wishes. He put down a book he was reading, and spoke impulsively. "It would be the best thing; the very best thing! Would you like it, Halliburton?"
"I should, sir; very much. But it is Jane who must be consulted, not me."
Jane, her pretty cheeks covered with blushes, looked up and said she should like it also; she had thought of it, but had not liked to mention it, either to her mother or to Mr. Halliburton. "I have been quite troubled to think what mamma and the house will do without me," she added, ingenuously.
"Let Jane alone for thinking and planning, when difficulties are in the way," laughed Margaret. "My opinion is that we shall never get another pudding, or papa have his black silk Sunday hose darned, if Jane goes from us."
Mrs. Tait burst into tears. Like Margaret she was a bad manager, and had mourned over Jane's departure, secretly believing she should be half worried to death. "Oh! Jane, dear, say you'll remain!" she cried. "It will be such a relief to me! Margaret's of no earthly use, and everything will fall on my shoulders. Edgar, I hope you will remain with us! It will be pleasant for all. You know the house is sufficiently large."
And remain they did. The wedding took place at Easter, and Mr. Halliburton took Jane all the way to Dover to see the sea—a long way in those days—and kept her there for a week. And then they came back again, Jane to her old home duties, just as though she were Jane Tait still, and Mr. Halliburton to his teaching.
It was July now and hot weather; and Mrs. Tait and Jane were sewing in the drawing-room. They were working for Margaret. Mr. Halliburton, through some of his teaching connections, had obtained an excellent situation for Margaret in a first-rate school. Margaret was to enter as resident pupil, and receive every advantage towards the completion of her own education; in return for which she was to teach the younger pupils music, and pay ten pounds a year. Such an arrangement was almost unknown then, though it has been common enough since, and Mr. and Mrs. Tait thought of it very highly. Margaret Tait was only sixteen; but, as if in contrast to Jane, who looked younger than her actual years, Margaret looked older. In appearance, in manners, and also in advancement, Margaret might have been eighteen.
She was to enter the school, which was near Harrow, in another week, at the termination of the holidays, and Mrs. Tait and Jane had their hands full, getting her things ready.
"Was this slip measured, mamma?" Jane suddenly asked, after attentively regarding the work she had on her knee.
"I think so," replied Mrs. Tait. "Why?"
"It looks too short for Margaret. At least it will be too short when I have finished this fourth tuck. It must have been measured, though, for here are the pins in it. Perhaps Margaret measured it herself."
"Then of course it must be measured again. There's no trusting to anything Margaret does in the shape of work. And yet, how clever she is at music and drawing—in fact at all her studies!" added Mrs. Tait. "It is well, Jane, that we are not all gifted alike."
"I think it is," acquiesced Jane. "I will go up to Margaret's room for one of her slips, and measure this."
"You need not do that," said Mrs. Tait. "There's an old slip of hers amongst the work on the sofa."
Jane found the slip, and measured the one in her hand by it. "Yes, mamma! It is just the length without the tuck. Then I must take out what I have done of it. It is very little."
"Come hither, Jane. Your eyes are younger than mine. Is not that your papa coming towards us from the far end of the square?"
Jane approached the window nearest to her, not the one at which Mrs. Tait was sitting. "Oh, yes, that's papa. You might tell him by his dress, if by nothing else, mamma."
"I could tell him by himself, if I could see," said Mrs. Tait, quaintly. "I don't know how it is, Jane, but my sight grows very imperfect for a distance."
"Never mind that, mamma, so that you can continue to see well to work and read," said Jane cheerily. "How fast papa is walking!"
Very fast for the Rev. Francis Tait, who was not in general a quick walker. He entered his house, and came up to the drawing-room. He had not been well for the last few days, and threw himself into a chair, wearily.
"Jane, is there any of that beef-tea left, that was made for me yesterday?"
"Yes, papa," she said, springing up that she might get it for him. "I will bring it to you immediately."
"Stay, stay, child, not so fast," he interrupted. "It is not for myself. I can do without it. I have been pained by a sad sight," he added, looking at his wife. "There's that daughter of the Widow Booth's come home again. I called in upon them and there she was, lying on a mattress, dying from famine, as I verily believe. She returned last night in a dreadful state of exhaustion, the mother says, and has had nothing within her lips since but cold water. They tried her with solid food, but she could not swallow it. That beef-tea will just do for her. Have it warmed, Jane."
"She is a sinful, ill-doing girl, Francis," remarked Mrs. Tait, "and does not really deserve compassion."
"All the more reason, wife, that she should be rescued from death," said the rector, almost sternly. "The good may dare to die: the evil may not. Don't waste time, Jane. Put it into a bottle, warm, and I'll carry it round."
"Is there nothing else we can send her, papa, that may do for her equally well?" asked Jane. "A little wine, perhaps? There is very little of the beef-tea left, and it ought to be kept for you."
"Never mind; I wish to take it to her," said the rector. "A little wine afterwards may do her good."
Jane hastened to the kitchen, disturbing a servant who was doing something over the fire. "Susan, papa wants the remainder of the beef-tea warmed. Will you make haste and do it, whilst I search for a bottle to put it into? It is to be taken round to Charity Booth."
"What! is she back again?" exclaimed the servant, slightingly, which betrayed that her estimation of Charity Booth was no higher than was that of her mistress. "It's just like the master," she continued, proceeding to do what was required of her. "It's not often that anything's made for himself; but if it is, he never gets the benefit of it; he's sure to drop across somebody that he fancies wants it worse than he does. It's not right, Miss Jane."
Jane was searching a cupboard, and brought forth a clean green bottle, which held about half-a-pint. "This will be quite large enough, I think."
"I should think it would!" grumbled Susan, who could not be brought to look upon the giving away of her master's own peculiar property as anything but a personal grievance. "There's barely a gill of it left, and he ought to have had it himself, Miss Jane."
"Susan," she said, turning her bright face laughingly towards the woman, "it is a good thing that you went to church and saw me married, or I might think you meant to reflect upon me. How can I be 'Miss Jane,' with this ring on?"
"It's of no good my trying to remember it, ma'am. All the parish knows you are Mrs. Halliburton, fast enough; but it don't come ready to me."
Jane laughed pleasantly. "Where is Mary?" she asked.
"In the back room, going on with some of Miss Margaret's things. It's cooler, sitting there, than in this hot kitchen."
Jane carried the little bottle of beef-tea to her father, and gave it into his hand. He looked very pale, and rose from his chair slowly.
"Oh, papa, you do not seem well!" she involuntarily exclaimed. "Let me run and beat you up an egg. I will not be a minute."
"I can't wait, child. And I question if I could eat it, were it ready before me. I do not feel well, as you say."
"You ought to have taken this beef-tea yourself, papa. It was made for you."
Jane could not help laying a stress upon the word. Mr. Tait placed his hand gently upon her smoothly parted hair. "Jane, child, had I thought of myself before others throughout life, how should I have been following my Master's precepts?"
She ran down the stairs before him, opening the front door for him to pass through, that even that little exertion should be spared him. A loving, dutiful daughter was Jane; and it is probable that the thought of her worth especially crossed the mind of the rector at that moment. "God bless you, my child!" he aspirated, as he passed her.
Jane watched him across the square. Their house, though not actually in the square, commanded a view of it. Then she returned upstairs to her mother. "Papa thinks he will not lose time," she observed. "He is walking fast."
"I should call it running," responded Mrs. Tait, who had seen the speed from the window. "But, my dear, he'll do no good with that badly conducted Charity Booth."
About an hour passed away, and it was drawing towards dinner-time. Jane and Mrs. Tait were busy as ever, when Mr. Halliburton's well-known knock was heard.
"Edgar is home early this morning!" Jane exclaimed.
He came springing up the stairs, two at a time, in great haste, opened the drawing-room door, and just put in his head. Mrs. Tait, sitting with her back to the door and her face to the window, did not turn round, and consequently did not see him. Jane did; and was startled. Every vestige of colour had forsaken his face.
"Oh, Edgar! You are ill!"
"Ill! Not I," affecting to speak gaily. "I want you for a minute, Jane."
Mrs. Tait had looked round at Jane's exclamation, but Mr. Halliburton's face was then withdrawn. He was standing outside the door when Jane went out. He did not speak; but took her hand in silence and drew her into the back room, which was their own bedroom, and closed the door. Jane's face had grown as white as his.
"My darling, I did not mean to alarm you," he said, holding her to him. "I thought you had a brave heart, Jane. I thought that if I had a little unpleasant news to impart it would be best to tell you, that you may help me break it to the rest."
Jane's heart was not feeling very brave. "What is it?" she asked, scarcely able to speak the words from her ghastly lips.
"Jane," he said, tenderly and gravely, "before I say any more, you must strive for calmness."
"It is not about yourself! You are not ill?"
The question seemed superfluous. Mr. Halliburton was evidently not ill; but he was agitated. Jane was frightened and perplexed: not a glimpse of the real truth crossed her. "Tell me what it is at once, Edgar," she said, in a calmer tone. "I can bear certainty better than suspense."
"Why, yes, I think you are becoming brave already," he answered, looking straight into her eyes and smiling—which was intended to reassure her. "I must have my wife show herself a woman to-day; not a child. See what a bungler I am! I thought to tell you all quietly and smoothly, without alarming you; and see what I have done!—startled you to terror."
Jane smiled faintly. She knew all this was only the precursor of tidings that must be very ill and grievous. By a great effort she schooled herself to calmness. Mr. Halliburton continued:
"One, whom you and I love very much, has—has—met with an accident, Jane."
Her fears went straight to the right quarter at once. With that one exception by her side, there was no one she loved as she loved her father.
"Yes. We must break it to Mrs. Tait."
Her heart beat wildly against his hand, and the livid hue was once more overspreading her face. But she strove urgently for calmness: he whispered to her of its necessity for her own sake.
"Edgar! Is it death?"
It was death; but he would not tell her so yet. He plunged into the attendant details.
"He was hastening along with a small bottle in his hand, Jane. It contained something good for one of the sick poor, I am sure, for he was in their neighbourhood. Suddenly he was observed to fall; and the spectators raised him and took him to a doctor's. That doctor, unfortunately, was not at home, and they took him to another, so that time was lost. He was quite unconscious."
"But you do not tell me!" she wailed. "Is he dead?"
Mr. Halliburton asked himself a question—What good would be done by delaying the truth? He thought he had performed his task very badly. "Jane, Jane!" he whispered, "I can only hope to help you to bear it better than I have broken it to you."
She could not shed tears in that first awful moment: physically and mentally she leaned on him for support. "How can we tell my mother?"
It was necessary that Mrs. Tait should be told, and without delay. Even then the body was being conveyed to the house. By a curious coincidence, Mr. Halliburton had been passing the last doctor's surgery at the very moment the crowd was round its doors. Unusual business had called him there; or it was a street he did not enter once in a year. "The parson has fallen down in a fit," said some of them, recognizing and arresting him.
"The parson!" he repeated. "What! Mr. Tait?"
"Sure enough," said they. And Mr. Halliburton pressed into the surgeon's house just as the examination was over.
"The heart, no doubt, sir," said the doctor to him.
"He surely is not dead?"
"Quite dead. He must have died instantaneously."
The news had been wafted to the mob outside, and they were already taking a shutter from its hinges. "I will go on first and prepare the family," said Mr. Halliburton to them. "Give me a quarter of an hour's start, and then come on."
So that he had only a quarter of an hour for it all. His thoughts naturally turned to his wife: not simply to spare her alarm and pain, so far as he might, but he believed her, young as she was, to possess more calmness and self-control than Mrs. Tait. As he sped to the house he rehearsed his task; and might have accomplished it better but for his tell-tale face. "Jane," he whispered, "let this be your consolation ever: he was ready to go."
"Oh yes!" she answered, bursting into a storm of most distressing tears. "If any one here was ever fit for heaven, it was my dear father."
"Hark!" exclaimed Mr. Halliburton.
Some noise had arisen downstairs—a sound of voices speaking in undertones. There could be no doubt that people had come to the house with the news, and were imparting it to the two trembling servants.
"There's not a moment to be lost, Jane."
How Jane dried her eyes and suppressed all temporary sign of grief and emotion, she could not tell. A sense of duty was strong within her, and she knew that the most imperative duty of the present moment was the support and solace of her mother. She and her husband entered the drawing-room together, and Mrs. Tait turned with a smile to Mr. Halliburton.
"What secrets have you and Jane been talking together?" Then, catching sight of Jane's white and quivering lips, she broke into a cry of agony. "Jane! What has happened? What have you both come to tell me?"
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