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lord :” said Lewis. “In these times, when a whole life of honest labour does not ensure a man independent provision for his old age, she is fortunate in being permitted to live rentfree through your uncle's indulgence. Cottages are very scarce, and the steward, last year, threatened to eject her; but she forwarded, by my advice, a petition to Sir Frederick, stating how long her husband and sons had worked for his family, and entreating permission to remain in the place where she had lived for so many years. Her request was granted immediately, and she is afraid, though an inveterate talker and grumbler, to disturb his honour by any complaints of the unwholesomeness and discomfort of her dwelling. She receives aid from the parish to enable her to maintain two grandchildren, both of whom lie ill of the fever. Of all her trials, she
those of this spring have been the heaviest.”.
Laura Derwent's eyes filled with tears.
husband and sons worked for our family, she ought not to be reduced to accept parish relief.”
“It is, and ought to be no reproach to the labouring classes to receive it :" answered Lewis. “The times are gone by when honesty and exertion could keep the peasant above want. The chances of life-sickness-accidents—with a rate of wages which renders it well nigh impossible to lay by any fund for the day when no man can work, oblige the poor, with hardly an exception, to seek parochial relief. We honour the example afforded by the few who still manage to keep their heads above water, but we must not cast a slur upon those who are less fortunate."
The sound of their voices, as they passed round the corner of the garden fence, probably reached the still acute ears of the old woman; for she came out, and was standing curtseying on the other side of the stepping-stones, when
SIR FREDERICK DERWENT,
they reached the front of the cottage. Laura's purse was in her hand, but she did not venture to cross over. After enquiring kindly for the children, and promising to send them what was likely to be of service, from the Hall, she timidly asked the young clergyman to distribute the money contained in it among the sick people.
He had listened with pleasure to her soft, compassionate accents; but his manner changed as he replied
"Forgive me, Miss Derwent, but I cannot be your almoner. For many reasons, it would not suit me. You must put up your pretty purse. It will be enough if you tell Sir Frederick Derwent what you have seen.
He leaves these matters to his steward, who is a hardnatured man, and, if the old people are troublesome, threatens to eject them. They are glad, at any inconvenience, to remain in their miserable abodes. It is not of want of
enture or the
charity, but of that care which would raişe the character of the children of the soil, that the tenants have to complain.”
He lifted his hat from his brow, as he bade them good evening; and Laura saw that a proud flush suffused his usually pale counte
“I am very well known here,” he said, "and my visits are acceptable, though I have little to give. Do not be deterred from trying to be of service,” he added, after a moment's hesitation. “Be assured, there is work enough for all, though your line of duty does not lead you into places like these, full of infectious disorders only to be safely braved by those whose nerves are firmly steeled to encounter them. There is many a cottage in Maydwell, where your presence would be recognised as a blessing, and where you can go without danger or inconvenience."
“Do not go in !" said Laura, timidly, as he turned towards the cottage.
Surely, it is
wrong to go in search of danger, and these people are not your parishioners. Why does not Mr. Holcombe visit here."
“Perhaps his wife will not let him :” answered Lewis, smiling. “I have no one to be alarmed for my safety; and, on my return home, I shall take every precaution. It is not right to expose others to what we may not fear for ourselves I cannot tell you why Mr. Holcombe does not visit Jane Farleigh ; but until I meet him there, and find that my ministration is unnecessary, I shall continue it. Believe me, there is not the slightest cause for apprehension, on my account.”
He looked grateful, nevertheless, for their anxiety, as both of the girls exhorted him to be cautious. Lewis Pemberton watched them silently, while they crossed the meadow to the spot where, passing through a turnstile, they entered the grounds of Maydwell. At a little distance, among the trees, lay the peacefullooking village. The last gleam of twilight