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'He ought not to touch a Bible-he sha'n't have mine,' said Lance resentfully.
Was he doing anything wrong with it?' "Oh, no! But he ought not to have it before he is christened, and I would have read to him.'
Mr. Audley knew what Lance's reading was, and smiled. Was that all, Lance? I like your guardianship of the Bible, my boy; but it was not given only to those who are Christians already, or how could anyone learn ?
“He sha'n't touch mine, though,' said Lance, with an odd sturdiness ; stumping up-stairs with his treasure, a little brown sixpenny S.P.C.K. book, but in which his father had written his name on his last birth-day
Mr. Audley only waited to take down a New Testament, and present himself at Fernando's bed-side, observing gladly that there was much more wistfulness than offence about his expression.
It was a scruple on the young man's part,' said Mr. Audley, smiling, though full of anxiety; "he meant no unkindness.'
'I know he did not,' said Fernando quietly; but gazing at the purple book in the clergyman's hands.
• Did you want this ?' said Mr. Audley; 'or can I find anything in it for you?
* Thank you;' and there was a pause. The offended manner towards Mr. Audley had been subsiding of late into friendliness under his constant attentions, and Fernando's desire for an answer prevailed at last. “Felix told me to read the Life of Christ,' he said, not irreverently, "and that it would shew me He must be True.'
'I hope and trust that so it may be,' said Mr. Audley, more moved than he could bear to shew, but with fervour in his voice far beyond his words.
' Felix,' said Fernando, resting on the name, 'Felix does seem as if he must be right, Mr. Audley; can it be really as he says—and Lance-that their belief makes them like what they are ?' Most assuredly.'
And you don't say so only because you are a minister ?' asked the boy distrustfully.
'I say so because I know it. I knew that it is the Christian faith that makes all goodness, long before I was a minister.'
• But I have seen plenty of Christians that were not in the least like Felix Underwood.'
So have I; but in proportion as they live up to their faith, they have what is best in him.'
'I should like to be like him,' mused Fernando; "I never saw such a fellow. He and little Lance, too, seem to belong to something great and good and bright and strong, that seems inside and outside, and I can't lay hold of what it is.'
One day you will, dear boy,' said Mr. Audley. “Let me try to help you.'
Fernando scarcely answered save by half a smile, and a long sigh of relief; but when Mr. Audley put his hand over the long brown fingers, they closed upon it.
(To be continued.)
THE WEDGE OF GOLD.
• What can I possibly have done with it?'
This inquiry was addressed to no one. It was rather a soliloquy, and was uttered by a lady, who stood alone in a passage gazing at the door opposite, which door was locked. Her hand was in her pocket, but the key was certainly not there.
*I left it in the lock, I now remember, when I got out the preserves, and I suppose Mary has taken it; and she is gone into her district, and will be out no one can say how long, and the servants waiting for all kinds of things.
But at that very instant a sweet gay voice was heard in the distance :
“Yes, Philip, I saw Mrs. Moon. She cannot last many days; but as you have that funeral as well as the Evening Service, I am sure you need not go to her now. Indeed, she fell into a comfortable sleep while I was there.'
“Thank you, darling Polly, I must own I am very busy.'
Gradually the voices had drawn nearer. In another moment there were the speakers, in presence of her who still stood in the passage with her hand in her pocket.
O Mary! quick, give me the key. What a comfort to see you ! •What key? The store-room key? I have not got it.'
* Then who can possibly have taken it? and what am I to do? I shall have to send to the grocer's.'
*Very well, I can take the order, only tell me what you want. I came back for some wine for poor old Tring, so I shall have to pass Nixon's.'
With that Miss Tollmashe again dived into her pocket, and produced a letter, on the cover of which she wrote (with a minute gold pencil fastened to her watch-chain, and making a table of the wall) a list of various groceries long enough to rejoice the heart of the grocer, who, now that the Civil Service tickets were in favour, saw but rarely those scribbled lists signed nobly · Ann Tollmashe,' which formerly had come in two or three times a week, much to the benefit of his establishment.
Then Mary Tollmashe, considerably younger than her sister, darted off on her various errands, and Ann slowly ascended the stairs, pondering as she went the probable whereabouts of the missing key.
It was now near five o'clock. The house was in process of being tumbled inside out in preparation for a grand party that was to take place the same evening, in honour of the visit of Mrs. Russel, Miss Tollmashe's married sister, and three of her children ; but Mrs. Russel was a lady who had head-aches at the most unseasonable times, and she had appeared that morning at breakfast with that unmistakeable pallor of countenance, that gravity and perplexity of mien, which invariably notified to her family that a head-ache was at hand, and like an electric shock it had been felt by them all, and received as befitted so great a calamity.
Good gracious!' exclaimed Miss Tollmashe, leaning back in her chair. 'Poor, poor Maggie !' said Mary; "how sorry I am ! We must put off the people,' said the elder lady resignedly.
O Ann, impossible,' said the younger ; 'perhaps she will be better by the evening.'
You know perfectly well, Mary, that she never is better by the evening.'
A chorus now broke upon this duet, from the young Russels, and from the rest of the party. 'Is it possible, Mamma, you have a head-ache ? Oh, misery, misery!'
'My darlings,' said poor Mrs. Russel, as she smelt at a bottle of salvolatile, ‘if I have, I can't help it; you will all get on very well without me, though it is most disappointing.'
Then her head dropped on her hand, and breakfast proceeded.
‘Margaret, darling,' said Mary Tollmashe, which will you have, tea or coffee ?'
Neither.' Oh, do! do take something.' •Well, a little tea, very hot.'
Then Mary knelt down before the fire, and although there was plenty of dry toast on the table, she burnt her face by making a very delicate little curling strip of toast, beautifully brown on either side.
'See if you can eat that, my Maggie.'
'Thank you, darling Mary;' and Mrs. Russel looked up and kissed the well-toasted face, whose sweetness of expression would have outshone and outweighed its being toasted black.
But after the first mouthful, Mrs. Russel got up and said, “I retire from this scene,' and went towards the door. Mr. Tollmashe hastened to open it. The three Russels-Herbert, Rachel, and little Ned, rose and looked on in innocent silent pity.
“Mamma, can we do anything to help you ?'
'Nothing, nothing; eat your breakfast.' And then the door closed, and all resumed their places as before.
This had been a melancholy beginning to the day; but so many people were invited, and so much preparation made, that there was no further question of putting off the guests.
And now it was, as I before said, about five o'clock; and as Miss Tollmashe mounted the stairs, she remembered one or two things omitted on her list, and hastened to her room, hoping there to find the key. Failing in her search, she proceeded to the door of Mrs. Russel's room, and knocked gently. No answer. Another little knock, and then Ann opened the door with such care that it creaked horribly.
‘Oh! pray don't.' 'Oh, my dear Maggie, I beg your pardon! I knocked twice.' 'Don't you know I can't call out “Come in,” when I can hardly open
These words came in faint accents from the bed.
• Dear dear! I remember! how stupid of me! I came to see if I could have left the store-room key here. May I just open the curtains a little ?
Apparently Mrs. Russel's powers were used up, for she did not answer.
'It is most extraordinary about that key. But I have such a head! still, I thought I left it in the door.' Saying this, she still further opened the curtains, and then there was light enough to see that Mrs. Russel was lying in a death-like paleness, and with a handkerchief soaked in vinegar and water across her forehead.
‘Do close the curtains, Ann.'
‘Oh! has the light hurt you? Dear, dear! and in a moment it was as dark as could be, and Miss Tollmashe gingerly stepped out of the room, and closed the door.
Three hours later it was again opened. But this time not preceded by a knock, and this time it did not creak. Into the darkness stepped à most beautiful figure of a young girl dressed in white silk, and with a dark red rose in her hair.
· Mamma !
In a moment light sprang up, and Mrs. Russel, turning her eyes to the foot of the bed, surveyed her daughter.
'I think it all looks very nice. Come and kiss me, my darling.'
Rachel stooped and kissed her mother. "How dreadfully melancholy it is, Mamma, that you can't come down ; everything is so pretty.'
“Go now, my darling.'
Mrs. Russel watched her as, lingering and regretful, Rachel left the room, and then she closed her eyes.
Presently the door was again opened, and little Ned (but he would not let anybody call him so now, since he had been at Eton a whole half) came in with a springing step, walking on tip-toe. He had on the full Eton costume-light blue tie, beautiful fitting black jacket and waistcoat, and black trousers. The candle-light, though dim, was enough to shew a fair face, with the same peaceful yet gay expression, possessed by his Aunt Mary.
Mamma!' 'Is that you, my little Ned? Let me see how nicely you are dressed.'
With that Ned scrambled on to the great square bed, and knelt upright beside his mother.
'Who made you so nice, my darling ?'
"Since it was evident that no one had the least intention of putting out my things, or doing anything for me whatever, I just did it all by myself.'
* Then you have succeeded very well indeed; you know all the maids are busy.'
Does my hair shine enough ?'
Quite. 'I hope you excuse my not knocking at the door. I remember that it is very troublesome to say “Come in ” when you have a head-ache.'
* Thank you, my darling, I excuse it.'
Now Mrs. Russel, when she had head-aches, liked to be left alone, and exist as well as she could without help; but she immediately invented two or three small wants. And the little boy, still on tip-toe, and with that inner smile, as it were, beaming all over him, fulfilled all her behests, and then said, 'As the people are beginning to come, had I better go down ??
'Yes; and don't forget that you are to go to bed at half-past ten. Even that is too late.'
* Dreadfully early I call it. Once at my tutor's I stayed up till twelve o'clock. But still, Mamma, since your head is so bad, I will very sorrowfully go to bed at half-past ten.'
• And don't eat too many good things.'
As to that, there is not the slightest fear; for who will notice me enough to offer me good things? Still perhaps Aunt Polly will; and if so, I will remember.'
Good-night, my little love!'
Once more the door was opened, this time preceded by a clear short knock, and followed up directly by a young man in what might be called semi-toilet; for he had on dress-waistcoat and trousers, spotless white shirt, and in his hand was a very delicate white tie.
Mamma! 'What, dear?
I've spoilt three already. If you thought you could tie my tie for me.'
Ann Tollmashe might have thought herself aggrieved by the severity and gravity of her sister's manner towards her if she had seen the same pale and suffering face suddenly beaming.
‘Stoop a little, my darling, and I will see wbat I can do.' Mrs. Russel was so subtile with her fingers, that she could do almost