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Take care you do not expose yourselves to it."
He had addressed Laura so hurriedly, though she stood farther back from the gate than Clarice, that he scarcely gave himself time to bow to them. Perhaps, her pale, delicate complexion made the young clergyman consider her more liable to the danger of which he warned her, than the more energetic, lively brunette, whose bright colour and sparkling glance told of unimpaired health and spirits.
Laura did not speak. She was of a very timid nature, and she instinctively shrank back and trembled. Clarice still stood by the cottage gate.
“ These people seem wretchedly in need of assistance:” she said. “I am not at all afraid and you have been ministering to them personally. Can they be Sir Frederick Derwent's tenants ?"
“ No:" answered Lewis Pemberton, shortly. “I am sorry to say they are my brother's. But they are not in want, at this moment, of
anything you can supply; and neither of you, in all probability, can be guarded by habit, like myself, from the perilous consequences of venturing into such unwholesome abodes. Do not begin with this one."
He walked on in silence for some minutes, keeping parallel with but not near them. Both the girls looked at him respectfully. Duty and usefulness were seldom out of Lewis Pemberton's mind; and fearing to check their benevolent intentions, he said, presently :
“ You will easily learn where the fever is to be dreaded, and where, on the contrary, your charitable visits will be most acceptable. I believe them to be always beneficial to ourselyes. It is in these outlying cottages, which do not come under most people's observation, and are so supereminently wretched, that the disease has lingered longest. Only a person like myself, familiar with the country from childhood, can know all the odd nooks and corners of these hills and valleys. This track
can only be pursued on foot and is impassable in winter, I wonder at your finding it out."
Miss Derwent told him that they had imagined the lane to be one which Sir Frederick had pointed out, as affording a pleasant mode of varying their walks across the down.
Lewis said they would hardly find it practicable, even at that season. Farther on, the steep, rough causeway formed the bed of the brook, and was only used by the carts and waggons from the farm in their passage to the fields. The road Sir Frederick had indicated lay more to the left.
6. These hills are intersected by streams, he observed," and even high up on their sides, marshy places extend which you cannot cross, It will not do for you to trust to every fairseeming pathway in this wild district. The land is very imperfectly drained, and I regret, especially that, in the neighbourhood of habitations, the water is permitted to accumulate, rendering the miserable dwellings unhealthy,
SIR FREDERICK DERWENT.
and causing many of them to be scarcely ever free from fever and ague. I am convinced that if Sir Frederick Derwent were aware of the state of the cottage yonder, it would not remain in its present condition."
He pointed, as he spoke, to a hovel scarcely a shade better than the one they had previously passed. It stood in an angle of the field; the brook in its meanderings flowing round three sides of it, and separating this nook from Roger Pemberton's property, which lay on the right hand bank of the stream. No care had been taken to keep the channel of the rivulet clear. The water wandered at its own sweet will over the meadow, and beneath the bending hedges of honeysuckle and blackberry bushes.
The cottage itself was small, and only accessible by means of stepping-stones laid down in front of an opening in the hedge, wherein was set a very steep stile. A little plot of cabbages, several beehives, and a few flowers about the
house, showed that some attention to neatness was paid by its occupants, and that the most was made of their trifling possessions. In summer, with the brook, and the green grass and flowery banks around it, the place, in spite of its crumbling walls and broken thatch, had a pleasant aspect; but its forlornness in winter, when the brawling stream swept past and hemmed it in, must have been extreme.
From the lane where they were walking, a prospect was obtained over the meadows through which the water took its course till it was lost to sight in the grounds of Maydwell ; and Laura and Clarice perceived that they had approached, from another direction, the cottage belonging to the woman whom they had met with on the day of their arrival. Miss Derwent's tender conscience upbraided her for not having fulfilled the promise she had made to visit her.
“ The old dame who lives there has, perhaps, a slenderer claim than others upon her land