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like the once-flogged soldier sink hopelessly into the abyss of degradation."
“But what would you do?" asked Herbert. áre told that the poor shall not cease out of the earth, and are enjoined to give in charity to those that are in need."
“To this I shall reply by one of your own truisms
one, however, that deserves to be written in letters of gold, viz., that 'Prevention is better than cure.' True, the irrecoverable words have gone forth, which condemn a certain proportion of our fellow-creatures to comparative poverty; but I have yet to learn that any are pre-doomed to positive destitution; any whose meed it is to die of want. Hard, indeed, it is, and God has said it, for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. But why hard? I say, because of the poor — of the poor whose well-being they neglect, of the poor who will hereafter rise up in judgment against them, and condemn them!”
Here Thornleigh broke in impatiently.
"And what, may I ask, do you think of our public charities; of our munificent donations to the starving populations both of our own and other lands? Read the columns of the "Times,' and count up the names of rich men who give their hundreds, and of less opulent ones who offer up their mite."
“Granted that it looks well, and in many of those who so give, it is well; but I confess to being suspicious of the charity that vaunteth itself in the broad columns of a newspaper: as well engrave it on the phylacteries, and enlarge for its insertion the border of our garments. There is no denying the fact that we have among nations a great name for charity, and
that our good deeds are trumpeted forth on sounding brass, and titillate our ears with a pleasant sound of tinkling cymbals; but, in my opinion, the man who does good by stealth and would blush to find it fame, does better service to the indigent, and is perhaps, nearer the kingdom of heaven.”
“Really,” said Philip a little peevishly, for he did not quite approve of post-prandial discussions when they took a serious turn; “really, to hear you quoting Scripture, my dear Brandreth
"Reminds you of the devil doing the same thing," interrupted his friend cheerfully. “But never mind. Bible sentences are always effective, and nothing tells more than a text, even supposing one had no better motive for introducing them,” added he half apologetically; for he saw that the Rector was making ready for a protest, and the present neither seemed a fitting time, nor the audience a sufficiently liberal one for the advantageous setting-forth of his peculiar tenets.
“Have it out with Alice,” was their host's suggestion, as they rose from their seats. "Alice will floor you at once; she's a dead hand at that sort of thing."
"And I am sure," added Herbert, following up his friend's move, “that Miss Ellerton's visits to the cottages
"My dear fellow, were they an angel's visits," broke in Brandreth.
“My sister-in-law's to wit,” suggested Philip, provokingly.
“Precisely so, was Brandreth's unabashed reply. "And I am sure Herbert will agree that the words are synonymous; but even so, I deprecate visits, the result
of which is to lower the sense of moral responsibility, and induce a reliance on what is vague, that is highly prejudicial to the healthy continuance of individual exertion. But as Thornleigh advises, I will have it out with Miss Ellerton. I am tolerably sure of making a convert of her, and am willing to enter the lists at once."
During the early part of this conversation the figures of the sisters had been dimly visible among the shrubs, and on the distant portion of the lawn their white garments were traceable as they flitted here and there along the well-kept walks. But now night was come — the sweet, calm, summer-night and their forms were no longer discernible in the gathering darkness.
Though the state of chronic suspicion into which Philip's mind had been tormented by his wife's altered conduct had considerably diminished his affections for her, yet enough of that affection still remained to make him long to prove her deserving of the residue that was left. The "doating, yet doubting," "the suspecting, yet strongly loving” symptoms of the complaint had been gone through, and were past away to return no more; and his condition had now become one that nothing short of decided measures could improve, or the shock of some happy discovery startle into a more satisfactory state of being.
Philip Thornleigh was one of those men to whom the approximation of women is almost as necessary as the air they breathe. Had any one ventured to accuse him of such a weakness, he would have resented the imputation with honest indignation; but the accusation was, nevertheless, well deserved; a fact that might
have been proved to himself every hour of the day. It was not so much their conversation, as the sight of the gentle sex, and, albeit unknown to himself, their softening influence on the home atmosphere, that were so' essential to his enjoyment of existence; and yet he was more given to miss them, almost painfully, when absent, than to appreciate them when present with discrimination and good judgment. He valued them collectively if we may so speak more than individually; as an instance of which, it is probable that he never separated, or even attempted to separate, the very different merits or claims on his notice of his wife and his wife's sister; regarding them both as pieces of useful and ornamental furniture, alike necessary to his comfort and pleasant to his eyes.
Seeing that this was the light in which Sir Philip was wont to view the women of his household, it is not surprising that when he and his guests emerged from their darkened retreat, and sauntered into the drawing-room, a feeling both of surprise and disappointment should have crept over him, when he found their accustomed places empty. The dazzling lamplight found its way into every corner of the lofty chamber, but its rays betrayed no Gertrude reposing in dreamy idleness on the sofa, and no Alice quietly occupied (as was her custom), with her music or her book. The room seemed very empty to those three men; but it was by Brandreth that the void was felt the most; the others missed their belongings, but the absence of the ladies was to them only the loss of a few minutes of their daily right to their society, a right to be insisted on with interest on the morrow; while to Brandreth (who in an hour's time was to ride
forth into the night, with only the memory of Alice's smiles to lighten his solitary journey, and nought but the remembered melody of her song to cheer him on the way), every minute was a thing of value. For Arthur Brandreth was very near to loving Alice Ellerton; perhaps he did love her more than he knew himself; and if to watch over her happiness with jealous
to note if her cheek were a shade more pale, or her voice less steady - if to mould his opinions unconsciously upon hers, and shape his conduct according to his notion of what she most admired symptoms of the passion that next to that of vanity) is the most absorbing by which our nature is beset, then Arthur loved that maiden with a true and faithful heart.
Not for worlds would he have attempted to lessen the affection that as he was well aware Alice felt for his friend. We will not affirm that had he entertained any doubt of the probability of her ultimate happiness as Herbert's wife, he would not have endeavoured to loosen the bonds that bound them to each other; for Brandreth's was a singular character, and it was his habit to make his conscience a law unto himself. But although in his inmost heart he did not deem the Rector fully deserving of the prize that he had gained, he respected him too highly, and knew too well his intrinsic value not to feel certain that no afterdiscoveries of faults or vices hidden away in the background would tend to make him less worthy, than at the present time, of Alice's affections.
As for the girl's own sentiments, they were more difficult to analyse. Had any one suggested to her the possibility of her heart being occupied by two