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The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1004, March 25, 1899

The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1004, March 25, 1899
Author: Various
Title: The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1004, March 25, 1899
Release Date: 2018-08-07
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Girl's Own Paper.

Vol. XX.—No. 1004.]

[Price One Penny.

MARCH 25, 1899.

[Transcriber’s Note: This Table of Contents was not present in the original.]




All rights reserved.]

Miss Colbourne was expecting a visitor totea. Not to the ordinary lodging-house mealwhich was prepared for herself every evening,but to a special four o’clock tea, every detailof which was arranged by her own hands.The little copper kettle was purring on theold-fashioned hob, the unsteady round tablewas covered with a dainty white cloth, andweighted with the silver salver and porcelaincups without handles that had belonged toher grandmother. Hot cakes were keepingwarm in front of the fire, and there was aspecial little jug of cream.

The room itself was of a very common type.Carpets and curtains were in clashing shadesof crimson, while a green table-cloth disagreedwith both. There was the usual profusion ofchina ornaments with various photographs ofthe landlady’s friends. Miss Colbourne hadinhabited the room for years past. Sheobjected to the ornaments, but respect for{402}her landlady’s feelings enabled her to keepsilence and to endure them. Nothing elsetroubled her. Her own possessions weredisposed inartistically enough; books encumberedthe sideboard, more lay in piles on thefloor. She had few pretty things, and hadnot the knack of so arranging her surroundingsas to make a nest for herself. Her roomreminded the onlooker of a temporary haltingplace—never of a home.

She had only just finished her preparations,and was in the act of rolling up an easy-chairclose to the fire, when a slight tap at the doorwas followed by the entrance of the expectedvisitor.

Jessie Blaher was a slim rosy-cheeked girlof sixteen, who had been one of MissColbourne’s favourite pupils from the timeshe was a tiny trot of seven. Lessons hadonly been given up when Mr. Blaher removedhis family into the country.

Jessie had not seen her old teacher formore than twelve months. Over tea andcake they talked of the past and present, ofbooks and men. Then Jessie helped to washup and put away the cherished relics. MissColbourne was bringing out some photographs,when she exclaimed—

“Oh, I want so much to see the views ofFlorence that Lena sent you!”

“Do you mean the illustrations of Romola?”

“Yes, please!”

Miss Colbourne walked across to the cornerof the room that held her especial treasures.There stood a bookshelf brought from Bellagioby a friend, carved out of the olive wood withinlaid work. On the bottom shelf werearranged her Italian books, one or two rareeditions among them. Above was a finelikeness of Dante and a plaster medallion ofSavonarola, with some trifling objects pickedup by friends on their wanderings. One ofthe most precious of these treasures was thedainty portfolio which she now brought forwardand laid on the table.

Jessie took it up eagerly.

“Lena amused herself last winter,” saidMiss Colbourne, “with collecting all the viewsshe could find to illustrate Romola. Sheknows it is my favourite story.”

“And did she make the case too?”

“Yes, out of a piece of Italian silk. Theseare the Florentine lilies she has embroideredon the front.”

Miss Colbourne untied the ribbons—green,white, and blue—carefully, and showed thecontents—the Via de Bardi, Santa Croce, theConvent of San Marco, and many another.

“Lena could not get pictures of all theplaces,” she said, “so she took severalsketches herself. These in the side-pocketdon’t belong exactly to Romola—they arephotographs of some of the great pictures inthe Galleries.”

“How well you explain it!” said Jessieadmiringly as she put the case carefully back.“Just as if you had been there! But youhaven’t been to Italy, have you?”

“No,” said Miss Colbourne, “but I hopeto go soon,” and her face glowed withsuppressed fervour. “It has been the dreamof my life to see Italy ever since I was a littlegirl. It seemed impossible then, but now Ithink it may be managed next year.”

After Jessie had gone, Miss Colbournesettled down to her books. It was aftereight when Mrs. Coombes, the churchwarden’swife, bustled in. She was a stout, pleasantlittle woman who knew everyone’s business.

“Good evening, Miss Colbourne. Why,bless me, you have let your fire out! Aren’tyou cold?”

“I have been busy and forgot it,” said MissColbourne apologetically, rising to meet her,“and it is rather early for fires, don’t youthink?”

“Oh, I don’t know! It looks prettydismal without one on a wet evening. I havejust run in to pay for Gertie’s lessons. Mr.Coombes wrote you out a cheque two or threedays ago, but I’ve been too busy to get roundwith it.”

While Miss Colbourne was receipting theaccount, Mrs. Coombes went on—

“I suppose you have heard about Mrs.Bateson? I can’t say that I was surprised.”

“No,” said Miss Colbourne, turning round,her pen suspended in her hand. “What is it?Nothing wrong, I hope?”

“It seems when she went home in Augusther mother wasn’t satisfied with her looks andmade her see a physician. He said she isconsumptive—one lung affected—and that sheought to winter abroad.”

“Dear, dear, I am sorry!”

“Yes, it’s a bad business. I don’t knowwhat they can do! A curate with fourchildren can’t be expected to have means tosend his wife abroad at a moment’s notice.”

“But can nothing be done?”

“Well, Mr. Coombes has been talking tothe Vicar, and they are making a collection.Fifty pounds will be wanted, and so far theyhave fifteen towards it. I’m afraid they willnever raise it. It’s a pity, because the doctorsaid she was a hopeful case—probably thewinter away would save her life. But I mustbe going, Miss Colbourne; my husband willbe wondering where I am. You do look cold.Why don’t you have your fire lit again?”

Her visitor gone, Miss Colbourne did notsettle to her work again. Usually she didnot find time for all she wanted to accomplish,but to-night she tried one thing after anotherwithout success. At last, flinging her bookson one side, she fell to pacing up and downthe room.

After a while she opened the secret drawerin her desk, and taking out an old-fashionedlong silk purse, she turned out its contents—fiveten-pound notes and a little loose gold.She weighed them in her hands—the savingsof ten years. Often had she sat without afire and gone without a hot meal to add tothat hoard. It explained why she wore athreadbare jacket and shabby bonnet. Withit she thought to turn the dream of her youthinto reality. Once and again she had beenon the point of visiting Italy, but illness andbereavement had barred the way. Now shewas so near attainment that she had plannedto go after Christmas. She did not lock themoney up again, but laid it in a heap on theopen desk and resumed her pacing.

She knew the Batesons well. She respectedand admired the curate and sincerely loved hiswife. She knew enough of their circumstancesto be sure that, unless help from outside wereforthcoming, the doctor’s advice could not befollowed. She felt equally sure that Mrs.Coombes was right, and that the necessarysum would not be raised by so poor acongregation.

Must the invalid then face the rigours of anEnglish winter? There seemed no othersolution to the problem. And yet as sheturned in her deliberate walk, there was thelittle pile of money glittering in the lamplightthat offered quite another solution.

Miss Colbourne was not given to sentiment;she was a woman who had faced theworld and earned her own living for thirtyyears, and was not quickly moved by anysudden impulse of compassion. Neither wasshe one to grasp at her own advantage. Hadit been merely her own pleasure she was askedto sacrifice, she would have done it willingly.It was characteristic that this aspect of thequestion did not trouble her. In her heartshe knew well that this was her last opportunityof realising her dreams: never againwould she possess the necessary funds; youthhad gone, health and strength were both onthe wane. To give up now meant to give upfor life. She realised this, but it did not moveher; it hurt her, but it did not shake herpurpose. It was not her own pleasure thatshe hesitated to relinquish; it was rather aquestion of her duty to herself. Miss Colbournetook life very seriously, and lived upto a delicately poised standard of right andwrong. She had a few months before refusedan invitation to a performance of the Agamemnon,because she did not consider herknowledge of Greek equal to its perfect comprehension,and she would not pose as a Greekscholar. The pleasure the spectacle wouldhave given her was not allowed to influenceher decision. In the same way now shehesitated whether she ought to give up thisopportunity of widening and enriching hermind, cramped by narrow horizons at home.The months she dreamed of spending abroadwould not only increase her mental stores,but send her back with enlarged and quickeningpowers to her pupils. “Where,” shedebated, “does one’s duty to one’s highernature leave off and that to one’s neighbourbegin? Shall I not be a more useful memberof society if I go abroad, and ought I not toconsider my work first?”

In her pacings she picked up one of theviews that had dropped from the portfolio andcarried it back to its place. It was a quaintrepresentation of the bonfire of vanities. Shehandled her treasures tenderly, and with herhandkerchief wiped an imaginary speck ofdust from Savonarola’s medallion. As shedid so she wondered whether the great asceticwould have thought this dream of hers a“vanity” too. Very lightly did cultureweigh in his mind.

This was a new thought; she was called toanother kind of self-denial than that of foodand clothing. Might not the culture of themind be dearly bought at the expense ofanother’s life? Myra Bateson’s life, too, involvedthe happiness of the little ones gatheredabout her knees. The problem grew complex;contrasted with the well-being of thisfamily group Miss Colbourne felt the insignificanceof her own needs.

“I don’t want to believe it,” she said atlast, with a half-smile, “but after all theMother is more important than the Teacher.”

While Miss Colbourne was thus debating anice point of morals, Mrs. Bateson was wearilypacing up and down her nursery, trying tohush the baby to sleep. But he was cuttinghis first tooth, and quite fractious enough toprefer his mother’s arms to the cot. Whenhe condescended to be laid down, anotherchild awoke, and it was nine o’clock beforetheir mother descended the stairs. Her husband’scoat, saturated with rain, caught hereye in the hall, and she carried it off to thekitchen to dry. He was not in the sitting-roomwhere the supper table, spread with coldmeat and bread and cheese, awaited him. Shedid not like to disturb him, but sat down toan overflowing basket of socks till he shouldbe ready. Perhaps of all those who knew ofher illness she was the least concerned; shewas thinking then, not of her journey, butwhether Tommy ought not to give up skirtsthis autumn. She wished her husband wouldnot work so late, she was anxious to consulthim about so many things—he ought to havea new overcoat, and she wanted to make himpromise to order it at once.

But the curate was not at work; the rainthat had drenched him in his long walk backfrom church to his home in the suburbsseemed to have affected him mentally. Hesat, a limp, huddled-up figure, in his studyarmchair; he heard his wife come downstairs,but he was not ready to meet her gentle eyesand join in easy talk.

Over six feet in height, his face had notlost its boyish look, with wavy light hair and{403}bright blue eyes. But the lids were downcastnow, and the lips under the scantymoustache were set in a curve of pain. TheVicar had not been to church, but Coombeshad told him of the scanty response to theirappeal. His pride revolted at their dependenceon charity, while his heart was wrungwith pity for his suffering wife.

He had entered the ministry with a singledesire for God’s service, and for a time all hadgone well with him. But now the iron hadentered

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