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CHAPTER XXV. MINNA BETTERS HERSELF.
Away over in London, the winter had passed far less happily for poor little Minna than it had passed at Rome for Colin Churchill. While he had been writing home enthusiastically of the blue skies and invigorating air of that delicious Italy, the fogs in London had been settling down with even more than their customary persistency over the great grey gloomy winter city. While he had been filled with the large-hearted generosity of that noble fellow Maragliano—'May I not be proud, Minna,' he wrote, 'to have known such a man, to have heard his soft Genoese accents, to have watched his wonderful chisel at its work, to have listened to his glorious sentiments on art?'—she, poor girl, had found prim, precise, old-maidish Miss Woollacott harder to endure and more pernicketty to live with than ever. Now that Colin was gone, she had nobody to sympathise with her; nobody to whose ear she might confide those thousand petty daily personal annoyances which are to women (with all sympathetic reverence be it written) far more serious hindrances to the pursuit of happiness than the greatest misfortunes that can possibly overtake them. Worst of all, Colin, she was afraid, didn't even seem to miss her. She was so miserable in London without him; so full of grief and loneliness at his absence; while he was apparently enjoying himself in Rome quite as much without her as if she had been all the time within ten minutes' walk of his attic lodging. How perfectly happy he seemed to be in his intercourse with this Signor Maragliano that he wrote to her about! How he revelled in the nymphs, and the Apollos, and the Niobes! How his letters positively overflowed with life and enthusiasm! She was glad of it, of course, very glad of it. It was so nice to think that dear Colin should at last be mingling in the free artistic life for which she knew he was so well fitted: should be moving about among those splendid Greek and Roman things he was so very fond of. But still... well, Minna did wish that there was just a little more trace in his letters of his being sorry to be so very, very far away from her.

Besides, what dreadful note of warning was this that sounded so ominously on Sunday mornings, when she had half an hour later to lie in bed and read over all Colin's back letters—for she kept them religiously? What dreadful note of warning was this that recurred so often?—'Miss Howard-Russell, a niece of the old vicar's, and a cousin of Lord Beaminster's, who, I told you, came with me from Paris to Rome in the same carriage'... And then again, 'Miss Howard-Russell, whose name I daresay you remember'—oh, didn't she?—'came into the studio this morning and was full of praise of my figure in the clay from the living model.' And now here once more, in to-day's letter, 'Miss Howard-Russell was at the picnic, looking very pretty,' (oh, Colin, Colin, how could you!) 'and I took her round through a beautiful gallery of oaks' (Italianisai for avenue, already, but uncritical little Minna never spotted it) 'to an old Roman archway where Winthrop was painting a clever water-colour. I believe Winthrop admires her very much' (Minna fervently hoped his admiration would take a practical form:) 'but she doesn't seem at all to notice him.' Why, how closely Colin must have watched her! Minna wasn't by any means satisfied with the habits and manners of this Miss Howard-Russell. And the insolence of the woman too! to go and be a cousin to the Earl of Beaminster! Unless you happen to have lived in the western half of Dorsetshire yourself, you can have no idea how exalted a personage a cousin of the Earl of Beaminster appeared in the eyes of the Wootton Mande-ville fisherman's daughter.

'Minna Wroe,' Miss Woollacott observed in her tart voice, as the little pupil-teacher came down to breakfast on the Sunday morning after the picnic, 'you're nearly seven minutes late—six minutes and forty-nine seconds, to be precisely accurate: and I've been all that time sitting here with my hands before me waiting prayers for you. And, Minna Wroe, I've noticed that since that young man you describe as your cousin went to Rome, you've had a letter with a foreign stamp upon it every Sunday. And when those letters arrive I observe that you're almost invariably late for breakfast. Now, Minna Wroe, I should advise you to write to your cousin'—with a strong emphasis of sarcastic doubt upon the last word—'asking him to make his communications a little less frequent: or else not to lie in bed quite so late in the morning reading your cousin's weekly effusions. Family affection's an excellent thing in its way, no doubt, but it may go a little too far in the table of affinities.'

Instead of answering, to Miss Woollacott's great surprise, poor little Minna burst suddenly into an uncontrollable flood of tears.

Now Miss Woollacott wasn't really cruel or ill-natured, but merely desiccated and fossilised, after the fashion of her kind, by the long drying-up process incidental to her unfortunate condition and unhappy calling: and moreover, she shared the common and pardonable inability of all women (I say 'all' this time advisedly) to see another woman crying without immediately kneeling down beside her, and taking her hands in hers, and trying with all her heart to comfort and console her.

So in a few minutes, what with Miss Woollacott saying 'There, there, dear, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings,' and smoothing Minna's hair tenderly with her skinny old fingers (worn to the bone in the hard struggle), and muttering to herself audibly, 'I hadn't the least idea that that was what was really the matter,'—Minna was soon restored to equanimity for the present at least, and Miss Woollacott, forgetting even to read prayers in her discomposure ('Which it's the only time, mum,' said Anne the slavey to the landlady, 'as ever I know'd the ole cat to miss them since fust she come here') went on with the breakfast, beaten all along the line, and trying to pass off 'this unpleasantness' by pretending to talk as unconcernedly as possible about every distracted idea that happened to come uppermost in her poor old scantily-furnished and disconnected cranium. But when breakfast was over, and Minna had positively kissed Miss Woollacott (an unheard-of liberty), and begged her not to trouble herself any more about the matter, for she wasn't really offended, and didn't in the least mind about it she went off upstairs to her own room alone, and sat down, and had a good cry all by herself with Colin's letters, and sent down word by Anne the slavey, that if Miss Woollacott would kindly excuse her she didn't feel equal to going to church that morning. 'And the ole cat, she acshally up and says, you'd hardly believe it, mum, says she, “Well, Anne, an' if Miss Wroe doesn't feel equal to it,” says she, “I think as how she'd better lie down a bit and rest herself, poor thing,” says she: and when she said it, mum, you could 'a knocked me down with a feather, a'most, I was that took aback at the ole cat's acshally goin' and sayin' it. Which I do reely think she must be goin' to be took ill or somethin', or else what for should she go an' answer one back so kind and chrischun-like, mum, if she didn't feel her end was a comin'?'

And old Miss Woollacott, putting on her thin-worn thread gloves for Church upon her thin-worn skinny fingers, felt softened and saddened, and remembered with a sigh that though she had never positively had a lover herself—not a declared one, that is to say—for who knows how many hearts she may have broken in silence?—she was once young herself, and fancied she might some day have one of her own, just as well as her sister Susan, who married the collector of water-rates; and if so, she was dimly conscious in her own poor old shrivelled feminine heart, much battered though it was in its hard struggle for life till it had somewhat hardened itself on the strictest Darwinian principles in adaptation to the environment, that she too under the same circumstances would have acted very much as Minna Wroe did.

But as Minna lay on her bed alone through that Sunday morning, only for a short time disturbed by the obtrusive sympathy of Anne the slavey, she began to think to herself that it was really very dangerous after all to let Colin remain at Rome without her; and that she ought to try sooner or later to go over and join him there. And as she turned this all but impossible scheme over in her head (for if even Cohn found it hard to get over to Italy, how could she, poor girl, ever expect to find the money for such a long journey, or subsistence afterwards?), a sudden glorious and brilliant possibility flashed all unexpectedly upon her bewildered mental vision:—

Why not try to go to Rome as a governess?

It was a wild and impossible idea—too impossible to be worth discussing almost—and yet, the more she thought about it, the more feasible did it seem to become to her excited imagination. Not immediately, of course: not all at once and without due preparation. Minna Wroe had learnt the ways of the world in too hard a school of slow self-education not to know already how deep you must lay your plans, and how long you must be prepared to work them, if you hope for success in any difficult earthly speculation. But she might at least make a beginning and keep her eyes open. The first thing was to get to be a governess; the next was, to look out for openings in the direction of Italy.

It seems easy enough at first sight to be a governess; the occupation is one open to any woman who knows how to spell decently, which is far from being a rare or arduous accomplishment; and yet Minna Wroe felt at once that in her case the difficulties to be got over were practically almost insuperable. If she had only been a man, now, nobody would have asked who she was, or where she came from: they would have been satisfied with looking at her credentials and reading over the perfunctory testimonials of her pastors and masters to her deserts and merits. But as she was only a woman, they would of course want to inquire all about her; and if once they discovered that she had been in a place as a servant, it would be all up with her chances of employment for ever. The man who rises makes for himself his own position; but the woman who rises has to fight all her life long to keep down the memory of her small beginnings. That is part and parcel of our modern English Christian conception of the highest chivalry.

Little Minna Wroe, however, with her round gipsy face and pretty black eyes, was not the sort of person to be put down in what she proposed to do by any amount of initial difficulty. If the thing was possible, she would stoutly fight her way through to it. So the very next morning, during recess time, she determined to strike while the iron was hot, and went off bravely through the rain to a neighbouring Governesses' Agency. It was one of the wretched places where some lazy hulking agent fellow, assisted by his stout wife, makes a handsome living by charging poor helpless girls ten per cent, on their paltry pittance of a first year's salary, in return for an introduction to patrons too indolent to hunt up a governess for themselves by any more humane and considerate method. These are the relatively honest and respectable agencies: the dishonest and disreputable ones make a still simpler livelihood by charging an entrance-fee beforehand, and never introducing anybody anywhere.

Minna put her name down upon the agent's list, but was wise enough not to be inveigled into paying the preliminary two-and-sixpence. The consequence was that the agent, seeing his only chance of making anything out of her lay in the result of getting her a situation, sent her from time to time due notice of persons in want of a nursery governess. Minna applied to several of these in rotation, her idea being, first to get herself started in a place anyhow, and then to look out for another in a family who were going to Italy. But as she made it a matter of principle to tell inquiring employers frankly that she had once been out at service, before she went to the North London Birkbeck Girls' School, she generally found that they, one and all, made short shrift of her. Of course it's quite impossible (and in a Christian land, too,) to let one's children be brought up by a young person who has once been a domestic servant.

One day, however, before many weeks, Minna received a note from the agency, asking her whether she could call round at half-past eleven, to see two persons who were in want of nursery governesses. It was recess-hour, luckily, so she buttoned up her neat plain cloth jacket, and put on her simple straw hat, and went round to meet the inquiring employers.

The first inquiry, the agent said, was from a clergyman—Reverend Walton and wife, now waiting in the ante-room. Reverend Walton, Miss Wroe: Miss Wroe, Reverend Walton and Mrs. Walton.

Minna bowed. The Reverend Walton (as the agent described him with official brevity), without taking the slightest notice of Minna, whispered audibly to his wife: 'This one really looks as if she'd do, Amelia. Dress perfectly respectable. No ribbons and laces and fal-lal tomfoolery. Perfectly presentable, perfectly.'

Minna coloured violently; but the Reverend Walton's wife answered in the same stage aside: 'Quite a proper young woman as far as appearance goes, certainly, Cyril. And fifteen pounds a year, Mr. Coppinger said, would probably suit her.'

Minna coloured still more deeply. It couldn't be called a promising beginning. (She had sixteen pounds already, by the way, when she had been a parlour-maid. Such are the prizes of the higher education for women in the scholastic profession.)

They whispered together for a little while longer, less audibly, and then Mrs. Walton began closely to cross-question the little pupil-teacher. Minna answered all her questions satisfactorily—she had been baptised, confirmed, was a member of the Church of England, played the piano, could teach elementary French, had an excellent temper, didn't mind dining with the children, would go to early communion, could mend dresses and tuckers, wasn't particular about her food, never read books of an irreligious tendency, and would assist in the housework of the nursery whenever necessary.

'In fact,' Minna said, with as much quiet dignity as she could command, 'I'm not at all afraid of house-work, because (I think I ought to tell you) I was out at service for some years before I went to the Birkbeck Schools.' Reverend Walton lifted his eyebrows in subdued astonishment. Mrs. Walton coughed drily. Then they held another whispered confabulation for a few minutes, and at the end of it Mrs. Walton suggested blandly, in a somewhat altered tone of voice, 'Suppose in that case we were to say fourteen pounds and all found, and were to try to do altogether without the nursemaid?'

Though Minna saw that this was economy with a vengeance—cutting her down another pound, and saving the whole of the nursemaid's wages—she was so anxious to find some chance of rejoining Colin that she answered somewhat reluctantly, 'If you think that would be best, I shouldn't mind trying it.'

'Oh, if it comes to that,' Mrs. Walton said loftily, 'we don't want anybody to come to us by way of a favour. Whoever accepts our post must accept it willingly, thankfully, and in a truly religious spirit, as a door thrown open to them liberally for doing good in.'

Minna bowed faintly. 'I would accept the situation,' she said as well as she was able, though the words stuck in her throat (for was she not taking it as a horrid necessity, for Colin's sake only?) 'in just that spirit.'

Mrs. Walton nodded her triumph. 'That'll do then,' she said 'What did she say her name was, Cyril? We'll inquire about you of this Miss Jigamaree.'

Reverend Walton took out a pencil and note-book ostentatiously to put down the address.

'My name is Minna Wroe,' the poor girl said, colouring once more violently.

'Minna!' Reverend Walton said, biting the end of his pencil with a meditative frown. 'You must mean Mary. You can't have been christened Minna, you know, can you?'

'Yes, I was,' Minna answered defiantly.

'I was christened Minna, quite simply. M-I-N-N-A, Minna.'

Reverend Walton entered it in his notebook under protest. 'M-I-N-N-A,' he said, 'Minna; R-O-W-E, Rowe, I suppose.'

'No,' Minna answered, 'not R-O-W-E: W-R-O-E, Wroe.'

Reverend Walton sucked the other end of his pencil in evident hesitation. 'Never heard of such a name in all my life,' he said, dubitatively. 'Must be some mistake somewhere.

All the Rowes I ever heard of were R-O-W-E's.'

Minna didn't tell him that the names Rowe and Wroe are perfectly distinct in origin and meaning, because she wasn't aware of that interesting fact in the history and etymology of English nomenclature: but she did answer stoutly, with some vehemence, 'My family have always spelt the name as I spell it.'

Reverend Walton sneered visibly. 'Probably,' he said, 'your family didn't know any better. Nothing's more common in country parishes than to find that people don't know even how to spell their own names. At any rate, while you remain a member of our household, you'd better arrange to call yourself Mary Bowe, R-O-W-E, spelt in the ordinary proper civilised manner.'

Poor Minna's smothered indignation could restrain itself no longer. 'No,' she said firmly, with flashing eyes (in spite of her guaranteed good temper), 'I'll call myself nothing of the sort. I'm not ashamed of my name, and I won't change it.' (A rash promise that, on the part of a young lady.) 'And you needn't take the trouble to apply to Miss Woollacott, thank you, for on further consideration I've come to the conclusion that your place won't suit me. And so good morning to you.'

Reverend Walton and wife conferred together in a loud whisper with one another for a few minutes more, and then with a profound salutation walked with dignity in perfect silence out of the ante-room. 'And I think, Cyril,' Mrs. Walton observed in a stage aside as they held the door ajar behind them, 'we're very lucky indeed to have seen the young woman in one of her exhibitions of temper, for besides her unfortunate antecedents, dear, I'm quite convinced, in my own mind, that she isn't a really Christian person.'

'Won't do, that lot?' the agent said, popping his head in at the door to where Minna stood alone and crimson; 'ah, I thought not. Too much in this line, aren't they?'—and the agent cleverly drove in an imaginary screw into the back of his left hand with a non-existent screw-driver in his right. 'Well, well, one down, t'other come on. You'll see Reverend O'Donovan, now, miss, won't you?' 'What, another clergyman?' Minna cried a little piteously. 'Oh, no, not now, if you please, Mr. Coppinger. I feel so flurried and frightened and agitated.'

'Bless your heart, miss,' the agent said, not unkindly, 'you needn't be a bit afraid, you know, of Reverend O'Donovan. He's a widower, he is—four children—nice old fatherly person—you needn't be a bit afraid of seeing him. Besides, he's waiting for you.' Thus reassured, Minna consented with some misgivings to go through the ordeal of a further interview with the Reverend O'Donovan.

In a minute the agent returned, ushering into the room a very brutal-looking old gentleman, the most surprising that Minna remembered ever to have seen in the whole course of her experience. In spite of his old-fashioned clerical dress, she could hardly believe that he could really be a clergyman. He seemed to her at first sight the exact model of the Irish villain of Mr. Tenniel's most distorted fancy in the 'Punch' cartoons. She couldn't make out all his features at once, she was so much afraid of him; but she saw immediately that what made his face so especially ugly was the fact that he had a broken nose, just like a prizefighter. Minna quite shrank from him as he came in, and felt she should hardly have courage to get through the interview.

But the old clergyman put a chair for her with old-fashioned politeness, and then said in a gentle musical voice which quite astonished her coming from such a person, 'Pray be seated, Miss Wroe; I learned your name from Mr. Coppinger. We may have to talk over matters at a little length—I'm an old man and prosy—so we may as well make ourselves comfortable together beforehand. That's my name, you see, Cornelius O'Donovan; a very Irish one, isn't it? but we don't live in Ireland; in fact I've never been there. We live at a very quiet little country village in the weald of Surrey. Do you like the country?'

There was something so sweet and winning in the old clergyman's cultivated voice, in spite of his repulsive appearance, that Minna plucked up heart a little, and answered timidly, 'Oh, yes, I'm a country girl myself, and I'm awfully fond of the country, though I've had to live for some years in London. I come from Dorsetshire.'

'From Dorsetshire!' Mr. O'Donovan answered in the same charming gentle accent.

'Why, that's quite delightful—indeed, almost providential. I was born in Dorsetshire myself, Miss Wroe; my father had a parish there, a sweet little fisher village parish—Moreton Freshwater: do you happen to know it?'

'Moreton!' Minna repeated warmly. 'Moreton! oh yes, of course I do. Why, it's just close to our home. My folks live at Wootton Mandeville.'

'God bless my soul!' exclaimed the old clergyman with a little start. 'This is really providential, quite providential. I knew Wootton Mandeville when I was a boy—every stone in it. Dear me! and so you come from Wootton Mandeville, do you? Ah, well, I'm afraid all the people I knew at Wootton must be dead long ago. There was old Susan who sold apples at the corner by the Buddie, where the coach used to stop to set down passengers; she must have been dead, well, before you were born, I should say, certainly. And old Jack Legge that drove the coach; a fine old fellow, he was, with a green patch on the eye that Job Puddicombe blinded; I can remember his giving me a lift, as what we used to call a super—defrauding his employers, I'm sorry to say; but in the West Country, you know, in the old days, people did those things and thought no harm of them. And Ginger Radford, the smuggler; I'm afraid he was a bad lot, poor man, but by Jove, what a fine, hearty, open, manly fellow. Ah yes, capital people, even the worst of them, those good old-fashioned West Country folks.'

The old clergyman paused a moment to wipe his glasses, and looked at Minna pensively. Minna began to notice now that, though his face was so very dreadful to look at, his eyes were tender and bright and fatherly. Perhaps after all he wasn't really quite so terrible as she at first imagined him.

'Ah,' Mr. O'Donovan went on, replacing his spectacles, 'and there was Dick Churchill and his son Fiddler Sam, too, who used to draw pictures. You might have known Fiddler Sam; though, bless my heart, even Sam must be an old man nowadays, for he was older than I was. And then there was Fisherman Wroe, and his son Geargey; fine young fellow, Geargey, with a powerful deal of life and spirit in him—why.... God bless my soul, they said your name was Miss Wroe, didn't they? If I may venture to ask you, now—excuse me if I'm wrong—you don't happen to be a daughter of George Wroe's of Wootton, do you?'

'Yes,' Minna answered, warming a little towards the old gentleman, in spite of his repulsive countenance (it didn't look half so bad already, either, and she noticed that when once you got accustomed to the broken nose, it began to beam with courtesy and benevolence.) 'I'm George Wroe's daughter.'

Mr. O'Donovan's face lighted up at once with a genial smile of friendly recognition. 'George Wroe's daughter!' he cried, with much animation. 'George Wroe's daughter! Why, this is really most providential, my dear. God bless my soul, we don't need any introduction to one another. I knew your father well: many's the time we've been out fishing for whiting pollock on the Swale Daze together; a fine young fellow as ever lived, my dear, your father. When you see him again—he's living, I trust—that's well; I'm glad to hear it—whenever you see him again, my child, just you ask him whether he remembers Con O'Donovan (that's my name, you see, Cornelius; fifty years ago they used to call me Con O'Donovan). And just you ask him, too, whether he remembers how we got chased by the revenue cutter from Portland Roads mistaking us for the gig of the French smack, that brought over brandy (smuggled, I'm sorry to say—ah, dear me, dear me!) to tranship into old Gingery Radford's “Lively Sally “; and how we ran, and the cutter chased us, and we put on all sail, and made for Golden Cap, and the cutter went fifteen miles out of her way bearing down upon us, and caught us at last, and overhauled us, and found after all we'd nothing aboard but a small cargo of lob-worms and launces! Ah, bless my soul, that was a splendid run, that was! Oh, ho, ho! a splendid run, that one!' and Mr. O'Donovan laughed to himself a big, gentle, good-humoured laugh at the recollection of the boisterous jokes of fifty years ago, and of the captain of the cutter, who swore at them most terribly, in a varied and extensive assortment of English profanity, after the fashion of the United Service at the beginning of the present century.

'And now, my dear,' he went on, after another short pause—'I won't call you Miss Wroe any longer, if you're my old friend Geargey's daughter—excuse our plain old Dorsetshire dialect. So you want to be a governess? Well, well, tell me all about it, now. How did it all happen?'

By this time Minna had got so far accustomed to the old gentleman, that she began her whole story from the very beginning, and told it without shame or foolish hesitation. When Mr. O'Donovan had heard it through with profound attention, he looked at the little gipsy face with a look of genuine admiration, and then murmured to himself quite softly, 'God bless my soul, what a very remarkable plucky young lady! Quite a worthy daughter of my dear brave old friend Geargey! Went out to service to begin with; perfectly honourable of her; the Wroes were always a fine, manly, honest, courageous, self-respecting lot, but never above doing a turn of decent work either, whenever it was offered to them. And then turned schoolmistress; and now wants to better herself by being a governess. Most natural, most natural; and very praiseworthy. A most excellent thing, honest domestic service—too many of our girls nowadays turn up their noses at it—but not of course at all suitable for a young lady of your attainments and natural refinement, my dear; oh no, no—far from it, far from it.' 'Well, my dear,' he continued, looking at her gently once more, 'this is just what the matter is. We want a nursery governess for four little ones—girls—the eldest nine; motherless—motherless.'

As Mr. O'Donovan repeated that word pathetically, as if to himself, Minna saw that his face would have been quite handsome but for the broken nose which disfigured it for the first twenty minutes of an acquaintance only. 'Are they your daughters, sir?' she ventured to ask, with a sympathetic tinge of feeling in her voice.

'No, my dear, no,' Mr. O'Donovan answered, with the tears standing in the corners of his bright eyes. 'Granddaughters, granddaughters. I never had but one child, their mother; and she, my dear——' he pointed above, and then, turning his hand vaguely eastward, muttered softly, 'India.'

There was a moment's silence, before Minna went on to ask further particulars; and as soon as the old clergyman had answered all her questions to her perfect satisfaction, he asked in a quiet, assured sort of tone, 'Then I may take it for granted, may I, that you'll come to us?'

'Why, certainly,' Minna answered, her heart throbbing a little, 'if you'll take me, sir.' 'Take you!' Mr. O'Donovan echoed. 'Take you! God bless my soul, my dear, why, of course we'll be only too glad to get my old friend Geargey's daughter. And when you're writing to your father, my child, just you mention to him that you're going to Con O'Donovan's, and ask him if he remembers——'

But the remainder of Mr. O'Donovan's reminiscence about how that astonishingly big conger-eel bit the late vicar in the hand ('I never laughed so much in my life, my dear, as to see the astonishment and indignation of that pompous self-satisfied old fellow—a most exemplary man in every respect, of course, but still, we must admit, an absurdly pompous old fellow ') has no immediate connection with the general course of this history.

However, before Minna finally closed with the old rector's offer, she felt it incumbent upon her to tell him the possibility of her leaving her situation in the course of time, in order to go to Rome; and the rector's face had now grown so peculiarly mild in her eyes, that Minna even ventured to hint indirectly that the proposed visit was not wholly unconnected with the story of her cousin Colin, which story she was thereupon compelled to repeat forthwith to the patient old man with equal minuteness. Mr. O'Donovan smiled at her that placid gentle smile, devoid of all vulgar innuendo or nonsense, with which an old gentleman can sometimes show that he reads the secret of a young girl's bosom.

'And are you engaged to your cousin Colin, my dear?' he asked at last, quite innocently and simply.

'Not exactly engaged, you know,' Minna answered, blushing, 'but——'

'Ah, yes, quite so, quite so; I know all about it,' Mr. O'Donovan replied with a kindly gesture. 'Well, my dear, I don't see why you shouldn't come and live with us for the present, at least as a stop-gap; and meanwhile, I'll try my best to look out for some family who are going to Rome for you. We might advertise in the Guardian; capital paper for advertisements of that sort, the Guardian. Anyhow, meanwhile, you'll come and take us as we are; and very providential, too, very providential. To think I should have been lucky enough, quite by accident (as the world says), to hit upon a daughter of my old friend Geargey! And I'm so glad you're not afraid of me, either, because of my misfortune. A great many people are, just at first, especially. But it wears off, it wears off with habituation. A cricket-ball, my dear, that's all—when I was under twenty; off Sam Churchill's bat, too; but no fault of his, of course—I was always absurdly short-sighted. You'll get accustomed to it in time, my child, as I myself have.'

But Minna didn't need time to get accustomed to it, for she could now see already that old Mr. O'Donovan's face was really a very handsome, gentle, and cultivated one; and that even in spite of the broken nose, you felt at once how handsome it was, as soon as it was lighted up by his genial smile and the pleasant flash of his bright old eyes. And in one month from that morning, she was comfortably installed, under Mr. O'Donovan's guidance, in the delightful ivy-covered parsonage of a remote and beautiful little Surrey village.


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