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CHAPTER XIV. MINNA GIVES NOTICE.
Colin,' Minna Wroe said to the young workman one evening, as they walked together through the streets of London towards the Regent's Park: 'do you know what I've actually gone and done to-day? I've give notice.'

'Given notice, Minna! What for, on earth? Why, you seemed to me so happy and comfortable there. I've never seen you in any other place where you and your people seemed to pull so well together, like.'

'Ah, that's just what she said to me, Colin.' (She in this connection may be familiarly recognised as a pronoun enclosing its own antecedent.) 'She said she couldn't imagine what my reason could be for leaving; and so I just up and told her. And as it isn't any use keeping it from you any longer, I think I may as well up and tell you too, Colin. Colin, I don't mean any more to be a servant.'

Cohn looked at her, dazzled and stunned a little by the suddenness and conciseness of this resolute announcement. Half a dozen vague and unpleasant surmises ran quickly through his bewildered brain. 'Why, Minna,' he exclaimed with some apprehension, looking down hastily at her neat little figure and her pretty, dimpled gipsy face, 'you're not going—no you're not going to the drapery, are you?'

Minna's twin dimples on the rich brown cheeks grew deeper and deeper, and she laughed merrily to herself a wee musical ringing laugh. 'The drapery, indeed,' she cried, three-quarters amused and one-quarter indignant. 'The drapery, he says to me! No, Mr. Colin, if you please, sir, I'm not going to be a shop-girl, thank you. A pretty shop-girl I should make now, shouldn't I? That's just like all you men: you think nobody can go in for bettering themselves, only yourselves. If a girl doesn't want to be a parlour-maid any longer, you can't think of anything but she must want to go and be a shop-girl. I wonder you didn't say a barmaid. If you don't beg my pardon at once for your impudence, I won't tell you anything more about it.'

'I beg your pardon, I'm sure, Minna,' Colin answered submissively. 'I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.'

'And good reason, too, sir. But as you've got the grace to do it, I'll tell you all the rest. Do you know what I do with my money, Colin?'

'You save it all, I know, Minna.'

'Well, I save it all. And then, I've got grandmother's eleven pound, what she left me; and the little things I've been given now and again by visitors and such like. And I've worked all through the “Complete Manual of Letter Writing,” and the “English History,” and the “First School Arithmetic “: and now, Miss Woollacott—you know; her at the North London Birkbeck Girls' Schools—she says she'll take me on as a sort of a pupil-teacher, to look after the little ones and have lessons myself for what I can do, if only I'll pay her my own board and lodging.'

Colin gazed at the girl aghast. 'A pupil-teacher, Minna!' he cried in astonishment. 'A pupil-teacher! Why, my dear child, what on earth do you mean to do when you're through it all?'

Minna dropped her plump brown hand from his arm at the gate of the park, and stood looking up at him pettishly with bright eyes flashing. 'There you are again,' she said, with a little touch of bitterness in her pretty voice. 'Just like you men always. You think it's all very well for Colin Churchill to want to go and be a sculptor, and talk with fine ladies and gentlemen, and make his fortune, and become a great man by-and-by, perhaps, like that Can-over, or somebody: that's all quite right and proper; of course it is. But for Minna Wroe, whose people are every bit as good as his, to save up her money, and do her best to educate herself, and fit herself to be his equal, and become a governess,—why, that of course is quite unnatural. Her proper place is to be a parlour-maid: she ought to go on all her life long cleaning silver, and waiting on the ladies and gentlemen, and changing the plates at dinner—that's just about what she's fit for. She's only a woman. You're all alike, Colin, all you men, the whole lot of you. I won't go any further. I shall just go home again this very minute.'

Colin caught her arm gently, and held her still for a minute by quiet force. 'My dear Minna,' he said, 'you don't at all understand me. If you've really got it in your mind to better yourself like that, why, of course, it's a very grand thing in you, and I admire you for your spirit and resolution. Besides, Minna,' and Colin looked into her eyes a little tenderly as he said this, 'I think I know, little woman, what you want to do it for. What I meant was just this, you know: I don't see what it'll lead to, even when you've gone and done it.'

'Why,' Minna answered, trying to disengage herself from his firm grasp, 'in the first place,—let me go, Colin, or I won't speak to you; let me go this minute I say; yes, that'll do, thank you—in the first place, what I want most is to get the education. When I've got that, I can begin to look out what to do with it. Perhaps I'll be a governess, or a Board-school teacher, or suchlike. But in the second place, one never knows what may happen to one. Somebody might fall in love with me, you see, and then I should very likely get married, Colin.' And Minna said this with such a saucy little smile, that Cohn longed then and there, in the open park, to stoop down and kiss her soundly.

'Then you've really arranged it all, have you, Minna?' he asked wonderingly. You've really decided to go to Miss Woollacott's?'

Minna nodded.

'Well, Minna,' Colin said in a tone of genuine admiration, 'you may say what you like about us men being all the same (I suppose we are, if it comes to that), but I do admire you immensely for it. You've got such a wonderful lot of spirit and determination. Now, I know what you'll say; you'll go and take it wrong again; but, Minna, it's a great deal harder and more remarkable for a woman to try to raise herself than for a man to go and do it. Why, now I come to think of it, little woman, I've read of lots of men educating themselves and rising to be great people—George Stephenson, that made the steam-engines on railways, and Gibson the sculptor, and lots of painters and architects and people—but really and truly, I believe, Minna, I never read yet of a woman who'd been and done it.'

'That's because the books are all written by men, stupid, you may be certain,' Minna answered saucily. 'Anyhow, Colin, I'm going to try and do it. I'm going to leave my place at the end of the month, and go for a pupil-teacher at Miss Woollacott's. And I'm beginning the geography now, and the Second Grade English Grammar, so that I can get myself fit for it, Colin, a bit beforehand. I don't see why you should be reading all these fine books, you know, and I should be content with being no more nor a common parlourmaid.'

It was in the park, but it was getting dusky, and lovers in London are not so careful of secrecy as in the unsophisticated and less limited country. The great perennial epic of each human heart must needs work itself out somehow or other even under the Argus eyes of the big squalid ugly city. So Colin stooped down beneath the shade of the plane trees and kissed Minna twice or three times over in spite of her pretended struggling. (It is a point of etiquette with girls of Minna's class that they should pretend to struggle when one tries to kiss them.)

'Minna,' he said earnestly, 'I'm proud of you. My dear little girl, I'm really proud of you.'

'What a funny thing it is,' thought Minna to herself, 'that he never makes love to me, though! I don't know even now whether he considers himself engaged to me or not.

'Beneath the shade of the plane-trees.

How queer it is that he never makes me a proper proposal!' For Minna had diligently read her 'London Herald,' and knew well that when a young man (especially of Colin's attainments) proposes to a young lady, he ought to do it with all due formalities, in a set speech carefully imitated from the finest literary models of the eighteenth century. Instead of which, Colin only kissed her now and again quite promiscuous like, just as he used to do long since at Wootton Man-deville, and called her 'Minna' and 'little woman.' Still she did think on the whole that 'little woman' sounded after all a great deal like an irregular betrothal. (She distinctly recollected that Mabel in the 'London Herald,' and Maud de Vere in the 'Maiden's Stratagem,' always called it a betrothal and not an engagement.)

END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


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