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"No. I don't want you altered. It would spoil you. You will come and see us at Woodbine Villa! Only think how many things we have to talk of now."
"Why, of course."
"And will you wait two years for me?"
"Two years!" (blushing like a rose.) "Why, I hope it will not be two days before you come and see us."
"Ah, you mock me."
"No; no. But suppose you should take the advice I gave you in my mad letter?"
"There's no fear of that."
"Are you sure?" (with a glance at Jael.)
"Then--good-by. Please drive on."
She wouldn't answer his question; but her blushes and her radiant satisfaction, and her modest but eloquent looks of love, fully compensated her silence on that head, and the carriage left him standing there, a figure of rapture.
Next day Dr. Amboyne rode up to the farm with a long envelope, and waved it over his head in triumph. It contained a communication from the Secretary of the Philanthropic Society. The committee were much struck with Mr. Little's report, but feared that no manufacturer would act on his suggestions. They were willing to advance L500 toward setting Mr.
Little himself up as a manufacturer, if he would bind himself to adopt and carry out the improvements suggested in his report. The loan to bear no interest, and the return of the capital to depend upon the success of the scheme. Dr. Amboyne for the society, to have the right of inspecting Mr. Little's books, if any doubt should arise on that head. An agreement was inclosed, and this was more full, particular, and stringent in form than the above, but the purport substantially the same.
Little could not believe his good fortune at first. But there was no disbelieving it; the terms were so cold, precise, and business-like.
"Ah, doctor," said he, "you have made a man of me; for this is your doing, I know."
"Of course I used my influence. I was stimulated by two spurs, friendship and my hobby. Now shake hands over it, and no fine speeches, but tell me when you can begin. 'My soul's in arms, and eager for the fray.'"
"Begin? Why as soon as I get the money."
"That will come down directly, if I telegraph that you accept the terms.
Call in a witness, and sign the agreement."
Jael Dence was called in, and the agreement signed and witnessed, and away went the doctor in high spirits, after making an appointment with Henry in Hillsborough for the next day.
Henry and Jael Dence talked eagerly over his new prospects. But though they were great friends, there was nothing to excite Grace's jealousy.
No sooner was Little proved to be Raby's nephew than Jael Dence, in her humility, shrank back, and was inwardly ashamed of herself. She became respectful as well as kind; called him "the young master" behind his back, and tried to call him "Sir" to his face, only he would not let her.
Next day Little went to his mother and told her all. She was deeply interested, but bitterly disappointed at Henry's refusal of Raby's offer. "He will never forgive us now," she said. "And oh, Henry, if you love Grace Carden, that was the way to marry her." This staggered him; but he said he had every reason to hope she would marry him without his sacrificing his independence, and waiting with his hands in his pockets for dead men's shoes.
Then he went to Dr. Amboyne, and there were the five hundred pounds waiting for him; but, never having possessed such a sum before, he begged the doctor to give him only L100 at a time. To finish for the present with this branch of the story, he was lucky enough to make an excellent bargain, bought the plant and stock of a small master-grinder recently deceased. He then confined the grinding to saws and razors; and this enabled him to set up his own forge on the premises, and to employ a few file-cutters. It was all he could do at starting. Then came the important question, What would the Trades say? He was not long in suspense; Grotait called on him, expressed his regret at the attack that had been made on him, and his satisfaction that now the matter could be happily arranged. "This," said he, "is the very proposal I was going to make to you (but you wouldn't hear me), to set up as a small master, and sell your carving-tools to London instead of to Hillsboro'."
"What! will that make me right with the trade?"
"Pretty near. We protect the workmen from unfair compet.i.tion, not the masters. However, if you wish to cure the sore altogether, let your own hands grind the tools, and send them out to be handled by Parkin: he has got men on the box; trade is dull."
"Well, I don't object to that."
"Then, I say, let by-gones be gone-byes."
They shook hands over this, and in a very few hours it was known that Mr. Little was right with the trade.
His early experiences as a philanthropic master were rather curious; but I shall ask leave to relate them in a series of their own, and to deal at present with matters of more common interest.
He called twice on Grace Carden; but she was out. The third time he found her at home; but there was a lady with her, talking about the ball Mr. and Miss Carden were about to give. It was a subject calculated to excite volubility, and Henry could not get in a word edgewise. But he received some kind glances that made his heart beat.
The young lady sat there and gabbled; for she felt sure that no topic imported by a male creature could compete in interest with "the ball."
So, at last, Henry rose in despair. But Grace, to whom her own ball had been a bore for the last half hour, went with him to the door; and he seized the opportunity to tell her he was a workmen no longer, but a master, having workmen under him.
Grace saw he was jubilant, so she was glad directly, and said so.
But then she shook her pretty head, and hoped he would not have to regret Mr. Raby's offer.
"Never," said he, firmly; "unless I lose you. Now I'm a master, instead of a man, won't you wait two years for me?"
"No," said Grace, archly. Then, with a look that sent him to heaven, "Not two, but TWENTY, sooner than you should be unhappy, after all you and I--"
The sentence was never completed. She clapped one hand swiftly before her scarlet face, and ran away to hide, and think of what she had done.
It was full five minutes before she would bring her face under the eye of that young gossip in the drawing-room.
As for Henry, he received the blow full in his heart, and it quite staggered him. He couldn't believe it at first; but when he realized it, waves and waves of joy seemed to rise inside him, and he went off in such a rapture he hardly trod the earth.
He went home, and kissed his mother, and told her, and she sympathized with him perforce, though she was jealous at bottom, poor thing.
The next day Grace received an unexpected visitor--Jael Dence.
Grace stared at sight of her, and received her very coldly.
"Oh, miss," said Jael, "don't look so at me that love you dearly;" and with this threw her arms round her neck, and kissed her.
Grace was moved by this; but felt uncomfortable, and even struggled a little, but in vain. Jael was gentle, but mighty. "It's about your letter, miss."
"Then let me go," cried Grace. "I wish I had never written it."
"Nay; don't say so. I should never have known how good you are."
"What a fool I am, you mean. How dare you read my letter? Oh! did he show it you? That was very cruel, if he did."
"No, miss, he never showed it me; and I never read it. I call it mean to read another body's letter. But, you know, 'tisn't every woman thinks so: and a poor la.s.s that is very fond of me--and I scold her bitterly--she took the letter out of his pocket, and told me what was in it."
"Very well, then," said Grace, coldly, "it is right you should also read his answer. I'll bring it you."
"Not to-day, miss, if you please. There is no need. I know him: he is too much of a man to marry one girl when he loves another; and 'tis you he loves, and I hope you will be happy together."