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MARSHES ROAD SCHOOLS.
Jqr 0ilbqence, R-egula~r -ttaedance, and c% ~'/
Wondmdu, duinn the Yclool Vear '1896
A GLOOMY SCENE.
tihel' traqge dodger.
A STORY IN FOUR CHAPTERS,
MRS. CLARA LUCAS BALFOUR,
Author of One by Herself," "All but Lost," etc.
SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION,
57 & 59, LUDGATE HILL, E.C.
-' CONTENTS. <-
EheI'l' jtange Lodger.
"With feeble light and half obscure,
Poor mortals life's arrangements view,
Not knowing that the least are sure,
The most mysterious just and true."
AM sorry to introduce my young
readers to a gloomy scene ; but
the trials of life begin very
early for some. They had in the
home of Ethel Mulhuish, who was standing
with a little tray in her hand, trying to
persuade a man, who sat crouched together
in an old armchair, to look up and take the
4 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
simple breakfast of coffee and dry toast that
she was holding towards him. Her persua-
sions did not shape themselves into words.
Her attitude, bending forward, was a plea;
the look of blended pity and love in her
clear blue eyes was a plea ; the enforced calm-
ness of her pale sweet face, on which a
thoughtfulness born of sorrow had come to
share the bloom of her sixteenth year, was
another plea. The man in the chair did not
look up. He held a letter loosely in one
hand, and spread the other over his eyes as
if to shut out every ray of light. Yet the
day was dark enough to suit the gloomiest of
moods-a cold, sunless March day, when
reluctant spring seems to make a step back
to winter. The wind howled mournfully
round the house and shook the windows;
the tiny fire in the grate sent out now and
then little puffs of smoke like sobs ; the
breakfast-table in the centre of the room
from which Ethel had just taken the coffee
and toast, was so meagrely furnished that a
loaf and empty cup and saucer was all the
provision spread upon it. As if to atone for
slender fare, an attempt at gaiety was made
by a scarlet cosy that enveloped the coffee-
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER. 5
pot, and a glass vase in the centre bore at
very fine double hyacinth of exquisite white-
ness. The young girl with her pleading
look and attitude had stood nearly two
minutes, when she ventured to speak in a
"Father! please, dear father, here's your
breakfast; do please take it."
"I want no breakfast. Don't pester me
with your senseless worry. I've had breakfast
enough. Get my books-get them at once."
"I will fetch them, sir," said a little
elderly woman, evidently the servant, who
stood near the door, at the same time adding,
" But you won't think, sir, of going without
bite or sup ?"
"Won't think! What's it to you, Debby,
what I think, or what I mean to do ? Mind
your own business, and take yourself off.
I've told you to go for these three months.
We've done with servants. Beggars must
He rose as he spoke; a tall, fine man, old
before his time, his face working with
emotion that he was evidently trying to dash
off, by forcing himself into a passion of rage.
Poor Ethel retreated as he rose, and place
6 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
the tray with his untasted meal on the table;
and as his'voice grew louder in anger
against Debby, it was quite in accordance
with Ethel's nature that she should try to
shield the servant, even at the risk of bring-
ing down trouble on herself.
Oh, pray," she ejaculated, clasping both
her hands, and laying them on his arm,
"don't speak so; what would poor Walter
do without Debby ?"
"Do? as well as he can; do? as we all
must, starve, die,-we can all do that." He
flung off her hands from his arm with a
sudden dash as he spoke, and Ethel with
the impetus struck against the table. The
little glass containing the flower toppled over
and fell, and the stem of the hyacinth
snapped; and Mr. Melhuish, with a. short
bitter laugh, more sad than a groan, said to
Ethel, "There, simpleton! your flower that
you put there to cheat grim poverty of
its gloom has gone. What have we to do
Ethel gave way, and the tears she had
restrained flowed down her cheeks as she
tried to hide her face on Debby's shoulder,
who stood stoutly at her side, and looking up
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
at her angry and miserable master, said
Mr. Melhuish, sir, if it's come to talk of
starving or dying, I'm one as can do them
two things as well or better than most.
'Cause why ? Not as I'm a-going to boast.
I've a Helper as will stay by me, and it's He
as told me to stay by the children here;
and it's no use master, you're a-telling
me as you did last night that the rats goes
away from a falling house. I make bold to
say' I ain't a rat.' And as to flowers,-
there's more flowers, Miss Ethel, my dear,
than grows in glasses; there's flowers as
grows in the hearts, and if your pa would
only see 'em, you and your brother Walter,
bless him! is flowers full of--" Debby's
speech, which she had jerked out with great
rapidity, was brought to a close by Mr.
Melhuish striding out of the room, and out
of the house, and closing the street door with
a bang that.shook the window.
I'm glad he's gone," said a. feeble voice
from a recess by the fireside, and a curtain
that screened a little couch was drawn aside
by a thin hand. The pensive face of an
invalid boy leaned forward with an anxious
8 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
gaze at Ethel, who, though she strove to over-
come her tears, and forced a faint smile like a
beam of wintry sunshine into her eyes as
she returned the boy's look, found the effort
too much, and sitting down, cried as if her
heart was breaking.
Debby came forward to the side of the little
couch to hush any attempts that the boy
might make at consolation.
"Let her be, Walter," said the homely
comforter, She'll be the better for a good
cry. She's too often carried a heavy heart
under a calm face, poor dear I I means too
often for her age."
"And to think, Debby, that it's her birth-
day," whispered the boy, as Debby arranged
his cushions, and that you and I raised that
hyacinth for her, and now it's broke. I
could cry myself, to Ihink you kept it all
November in the cellar, and then had it in
your attic window, where the best bit of
sunshine comes. I think, Debby, I would
like to be put in the attic out of the way of
seeing and hearing papa."
The last words travelled from the couch
to where Ethel was sitting, and roused
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Oh, Walter, Walter, pity him; you
must not speak so of your father."
"'Taint pity ; it's prayer he wants," added
Debby, pouring out the remainder of the
coffee, and pressing a cup on Ethel, and then
carrying one to Walter. For a few minutes
the scanty meal was consumed in silence,
and Ethel was regaining composure, though
her lips still quivered. She lifted up the
broken flower and put it in a little ornament
on the chimney-piece, and silently examined
the bulb, where a new shoot was sprouting
out, and returned it to the hyacinth glass,
supplying the water from a jug that was on
the table, and then, as if still continuing the
conversation, she said, "We must be kind to
poor papa, Walter; he has only us two of
his children to comfort him."
The open letter which Mr. Melhuish had
thrown to her as he had dashed out of the
room Debby picked up and brought to her
with an exclamation of pleasure.
Ethel said, "Why, it's from Isabel! "
"From Bell? then that has made papa
so savage," said Walter. It's sure to be
full of complaints."
Ethel shook her head deprecatingly at her
10 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
plain-spoken brother, and said, The last was
a cheerful letter, I'm sure."
"Oh, that was at Christmas-time; she
has not written since, and Bell was at several
of the grand parties Aunt Marston gave-
that just suited Bell; but fagging at
school is different."
An exclamation of pain from Ethel as she
read the letter struck on Walter's ear, and
he added, "I told you so. Well, what's
wrong now ? let's bear it."
Bell is coming home," gasped Ethel.
" Why, Debby, she will be here to-night!"
Coming home! what,to stay, Miss Ethel?"
There was something in the tone that
indicated anything but Debby's pleasure at
Ethel's pale face flushed as she said,
rather quickly, Debby, this is my sister's
home. If she is not happy where she is, of
course she comes back here."
Come here to live, Ethel! said Walter,
in a dismayed voice. Do say I come closer,
let me see the letter."
Debby had collected the breakfast things
on the tray, and made her retreat hastily
from the room, and Ethel went to her
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
brother's bedside, and reading all the letter
aloud, at the conclusion said, You see,
Walter, poor Bell is determined to leave
Linden House. She says Miss Scripton has
taken offence. That does not prove that our
Bell has given cause for it, you know. And
then as Aunt Marston paid for Isabel to be
an articled pupil, she is offended, and won't
let her return to Marston Grange. There's
a note of aunt's enclosed, in which she says,
very angrily, that if Bell refuses to apolo-
gize to Miss Scripton for being so trouble-
some, and if she will not exert herself to be
useful, so that she can remain, she will have
nothing more to do with her. That's very
harsh, I think."
"Oh, you always take every one's part-
every one that's in trouble. Why does she
not apologize? Uncle Marston pays for
Oliver's education, and that's a great expense,
and you know neither aunt nor uncle like
papa. They blame him for being as he is."
"They have no right to blame my father."
"Ah, Ethel, I know that it's right for you
and me to stick up for papa. But as I lie
here thinking, and very often hearing too,
what you don't notice, I can't exactly blame
12 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
aunt and uncle. When poor mamma died,
and that quarrel was, don't you remember
Aunt Marston said to papa, 'You speculated
with my sister's money, and lost it, or you
needn't be a ruined man' ?"
"Hush, Walter! I will not have you
repeat, even to me, what aunt said. Listen:
.dear papa did it for the best. He hoped to
make more money for us. Then he could
not help the journal failing on which he spent
so much time and money; and his book,
everybody who knows it says it's very clever,
but it does not sell. And all these things
coming together, and what was worst of all,
mamma's long illness and death, and the
bills and expenses-O Walter, he has had no
end of trouble. It's not wonderful that he
is so strange and altered."
No; but why won't he write to mamma's
relations in America? "
"Because, he says, since the Marstons
have insulted him, he'll ask no more favours
of the family."
Aunt Marston said it was pride," rejoined
Walter, "and she told me in her anger that
papa never even wrote to New York to tell
of dear mamma's death."
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
I know she made that and many other
charges, and is offended that I told her it
was wrong to speak against papa to his
children. But I ventured of myself to write
to New York and tell mamma's cousins how
peacefully she died. You know that mamma
set me once to write there during her illness,
so I felt free to write again, and that would,
in a measure, excuse papa's doing so. But
there has been no answer to my letter. I'm
sure mine was a kind, respectful letter, and
I told what mamma used to say to us: Look
to the light, children;' and how once, when
I said in my grief at her illness, Mamma,
what's the use of saying that when all is
dark?' she said, Where all is dark around
look up; there's light above.' Don't you
remember, Walter, her saying that ? "
They were both silent awhile, thinking, in
their ruin, of their mother's words, which
indeed were a precious legacy bequeathed to
them by a pious mother-how precious they
could not fully know; still the recollection
had a soothing influence, and they talked
over their sister Isabel's return with more
composure than at first, when they were
interrupted by Debby coming in holding two
14 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
letters, and saying, See, these somehow got
covered up in the folds of the table cloth,
Miss Ethel. I'm sure in the worrit I never
saw 'em till I shook 'em out. I s'pose
master laid 'em down and forgot 'em all
along of being bothered." Ethel took them,
and was a little surprised that they were
addressed to her. The first contained a bill,
demanding instant payment, and urging her
to prevent an execution coming into the
house by appealing to her father. Ethel
laid down the letter with a heavy sigh. It
was not the first time that the creditors, out
of interest in her, had written in this way,
but not quite so urgently. Wearily she
opened the other letter, and read it with
great surprise. It contained an application
from a Mr. Alexander for lodgings in their
house." He said "he had been told' by a
tradesman in the district that the house was
larger than the family required, that he
wanted a room with a north light, and should
give very little trouble," and, added he,
"would call during the day for a reply."
"A lodger I and papa out. Means to
. call to-day! Debby, whatever am I to
do ? said Ethel, re-reading the letter aloud
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER. 15
to the old servant, whose arms had nursed
her in infancy, and whose judgment was
clearer than her speech.
Well, Miss Ethel," said Debby, briskly,
"it's what I've said all along ; whatever's the
use of them two shut-up rooms on the first
floor? Haven't I said why don't you ask
master to let 'em !"
"But I couldn't ask papa. It would
seem so hard to him to take strangers into
"Into his house ain't to his table and
his fireside. He'd never see em, may be.
It's only me as 'ud have to look after 'em..
Bless you, my dear, I'd do all. I'm a finger
now, I know, but I'd furbish up myself and
the rooms, and I'll be bound if I ain't so fine,
I'd look a sight more wholesomer than some
London landladies. Oh, Miss Ethel dear,
don't pray turn away a chance."
"What would he pay ?" said Walter
eagerly, the little face looking pinched for
the want of nourishment as much as from
A loud bang of a single knock at the street
door startled them, and Debby saying, That
can't be the gentleman, he'd give a rat-tat,"
16 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.'
darted out, and returned with a twisted note
which a boy had brought. It was from
Mr. Melhuish, and contained only the words,
".Don't expect me home for a few days.
Debby must sell something out of the house,
or rai'S money somehow.-T.M."
Ethel was not unused to her father's
absence. But she never had been left
so completely without money, and there was
the threat of the execution and her sister's
return; and as Debby dolefully remarked,
" they had come to the last scuttle of coals,
and the last loaf." The lodger seemed the
one ray of light in the darkness.
In a strange fever of mingled dread and
expectation, Ethel went with Debby to the
rooms upstairs. In the bedroom her mother
had died just eight months before, leaving
her husband and four children.
Oliver, the eldest son, was just seventeen;
and Isabel, the eldest of the family, a little
more than eighteen; and poor Walter, the
invalid, was but eleven. Ethel might .have
been educated by her aunt, who preferred
her to Isabel, but she would not leave her
father and young brother, and so the cares of
a ruined household rested on her. Rather a
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
heavy burden for a girl of sixteen. But
on this day, at all events, Ethel found
relief in work. She busied herself with the
sitting room while Debby toiled at the bed-
room, both intent on making the old furni-
ture look its best. They had scarcely
completed their task, and Ethel's light brown
curls were falling at their own will upon her
shoulders, and Debby, to her grief, had not
put on what Walter called her "frightful
best cap," when a double knock announced
It was a little old man whom Debby
ushered up-stairs, and as she ran to fetch
Ethel, she whispered encouragingly, Don't
be afeard, child ; he's the dearest bit of a old
effigy as ever carried grey hairs and specs."
There vere not many preliminaries to
arrange with the stranger. He stood in the
middle ofthe room and gazed silently through
a pair of large round spectacles at Ethel, and
then turned to the window saying, North
"Are you an artist, sir ?" faltered Ethel.
Oh, it's no matter what I am. Where's
the master of the house ? "
"He's out of town for a few days," said
18 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Debby, and, please, whatwe wants to know
sir, and only reasonable, is what references
for a guinea and a half a week ?"
"References! I'm a stranger, That's my
reference," opening his purse and taking out
seven sovereigns. "There's a month in
advance, and a pound for incidentals. "You
landladies," addressing Debby, "are sure to
I'm not to say quite a landlady, sir; I'm
Miss Ethel's housekeeper," said Debby, with
her best curtsey, and pointing to her young
"Oh, then this Miss Ethel is my land-
lady, is she ? Well, I've no objection, so that
the house is quiet. I'll send my luggage and
be here this evening." He walked round
the room, peeped into the bedchamber, and
wentdown-stairs, followed by Debby, saying,
only three words, "Good fires, mind," and was
Ethel then timidly gathered up the money
from the table and went down to the parlour
to Walter, whose thin face flushed as he saw
the coins, and he laughed aloud at the account
his sister gave, saying, "Ethel a landlady!
and what a strange lodger! "
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
SSelf-conceit that's always wise-
In its own wilful purblind eyes."
HE first money was spent in a supply
of coals and some needful food of
the plainest kind; for Ethel felt
dubious about the stranger, and
still more as to what her father would say
about the very sudden plan which the urgency
of circumstances had forced her to adopt.
" What else could I do ? she said again and
again to her young brother and to Debby.
The boy, notwithstanding his affliction, had
enough truthfulness to be hopeful, and Debby
in a very humble way was a Christian, and
had in darkest times, as a primary article of
her faith, a sort of evergreen in the garden
of her soul, the words, The Lord will
provide ;" so she encouraged her young
mistress, and trotted about briskly, enjoying
as a luxury the making-up of the good fires
the lodger had ordered, and cooking once
more a comfortable plain dinner. The rough
March wind, as it beat against the windows,
enhanced the sense ofwarmth to poor Walter,
20 EfIEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
and he slept peacefully all the afternoon, a
smile now and then passing over his wan
face. Ethel thought of her father with a
pang that took from her own sense of comfort.
She knew he was a scholar and a gentleman
engaged in literature, and he thought it hard
that poverty should have come to him, but she
knew also that her mother had borne loss of
fortune, and privations, and painful illness
added to her troubles, with a sweetness that
never flagged. What made the difference?
Debby in her plain way had answered,
" Master leans on himself, and gets tired with
his load ; but missis leaned on the Lord, and
The greatest crook in Debby's lot, amid
her cheerful preparations for the lodger, was
the return of the eldest of the family; and
though both Ethel and Walter had no lack of
love for their sister Isabel, it was evident
they rather dreaded her coming. Ethel
wished that the lodger might arrive first, so
that Isabel might come to the fact of a
strange inmate as a settled arrangement, and
make less comment, but this wish was not to
be realized. Just as Debby had set the tea-
things in the parlour, a cab arrived with
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Isabel. She was a tall young lady, rather
showily, or, as Debby called it, "flimsily "
dressed. A long violet feather in her black
hat looked beaten by the wind, and dark
with the passing rain-drifts; her warm
shawl was on her arm, and her tight-fitting
thin silk jacket glistened with rows of jet;
while her skirt was so ruffled with rows of
little flounces nearly to her waist, and her
hair so frizzled and spread out, that when she
shook herself out in the parlour, Walter
laughed aloud as she came to him, Oh,
Isabel, you're like poor old Fluff, bristling
Fluff was a black Skye terrier the children
had once had. "It's the fashion, child," she
said, bending down and just touching his
forehead with a cool kiss. "But of course
you and Ethel know nothing of the fashion,
that's plain enough."
She laughed as she spoke, and kissing
Ethel, held her hand and turned her round as
if much amused. How long have you turned
Quaker, Ethel? What a quaint rusty black
frock! and not a bit of colour to relieve it !
nothing but that odiously precise little white
collar and cuffs. To be consistent, sister
22 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
mine, you should cut off those curls; you
wouldd I suppose, only they curl in spite of
you. Here, Debby, I'm tired; take my
things, and get my box upstairs, and be
careful of the bandboxes ; they're not well
packed, and my best bonnet has nearly come
through the bottom. 'Miss Scripton's detes-
table servants packed mythings scandalously.
You must come with me, Ethel-you and
Debby, and help me to put them straight as
we unpack. But I'm glad you've got tea;
I'm so hungry. Is there nothing but that
cold meat ?-no eggs in the house ?"
Ethel could not help contrasting the tea-
table with the dry loaf that had been the only
provision of the morning, and she said gently,
" We have done our best, Isabel. I hope
you will make a meal."
The young lady sat down rather discon-
tentedly, but she ate heartily, and talked
continuously. According to her account,
never had any one such hardships to endure
as she had at Linden House. She had a
habit, which I fear is growing on the young
people of the present time, of using strong
superlatives in her descriptions. Miss
Scripton was "the most odious fidget,"
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Linden House the most detestable place,"
the young pupils "the most abominable
torments," the servants the most insolent
nuisances," that were ever assembled under
"Goodness! what a heap of 'mosts' 1"
said Walter at length.
Aunt put you there, Isabel, for the best,"
"Aunt! She's the most selfish, exacting,
hard-hearted being that ever lived-except
uncle, and he's worse."
The hurt look on Ethel's face irritated
Isabel, whose temper was already excited
over the history of her supposed wrongs.
"Ab, you may look. It's true, and I pity
my brother Oliver. If I were Oliver, I
wouldn't study to please them-fagging over
books indeed, and no proper allowance for
spending I I don't know how I have managed
to keep myself commonly genteel. They
are so shamefully stingy with their money.
You wouldn't go to Linden House when the
grand chance was offered you, and as it's
turned out, you were in the right; for even
you, or the most hum- drum creature living,
couldn't stand it."
24 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Ethel stayed at home for my sake and
papa's," said Walter; "and I'm sure she's had
to suffer more-yes, more than your 'mosts.'"
Stuff and nonsense !" retorted Isabel;
and Ethel, fearing a quarrel on that the first
night of meeting, was heartily glad, when tea
was over,.to accompany Isabel up stairs for
the business of unpacking-a process that,
as Debby was not at once ready to come, the
young lady deferred, and entering the first-
floor sitting-room, now warm with the glow
of a bright fire, threw herself into the easy
The same old threadbare things. Ethel,
what's papa doing ? How is he getting on ?
I couldn't ask you before Walter."
Ethel could give no satisfactory answer.
Her account of the distress he was in, though
far within limits, excited Isabel's anger ; for
she said, And mamma had a fortune, and
we're the sufferers through him."
Not the only sufferers. He suffers;
and we are young, and must learn to work.
0 Isabel, what do you mean. to do? If y )u
could only have stayed the time at Miss
Scripton's you would have been fit to be a
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Fit, indeed! I am fit, if it comes to that,
and for something very much better, with
my appearance and manners and style.
Ethel, I shall get a situation at once. I
know I shall."
Ethel felt very glad that Isabel meant to
try and earn her own living; and although a
lingering fear of her incompetency lurked in
her mind, when she looked at Isabel's flushed
face, sparkling eyes, and really graceful
shape, as she reclined in the chair, she
admitted that her sister had some of nature's
best gifts, though she herself was too
conscious of them.
Debby came in from the adjoining bed-
room, which opened into the sittingroom,
and Isabel, seeing the fire within, said, with a
pleased air of condescension, "Thank you,
Ethel, for having a fire in my bedroom. It's
just what I like on a wretched windy day
Ethel coloured, and was hesitating over
her answer, when Debby said,-
It's the lodger's bedroom, Miss Isabel,
and this is his sitting-room."
"The lodger! What ever do you mean?
Surely papa does not let lodgings 1"
26 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
"I've. let them," faltered Ethel, "and the
gentleman will be here soon."
I expects him momently," said Debby,
wanting to hasten the exit of Isabel, who,
however, was not to be so silenced. Her
ever-active tongue darted out questions until
she learned the whole history of the morning
and the lodger ; then rising and drawing her-
self up she said loftily, Ethel, I'm amazed at
your stooping to such a degradation; you, a
gentleman's daughter, ought to be a lady.
Papa has sunk low indeed if he is not very
angryat your taking a stranger into the house."
"Lady here or lady there, if it comes to
that," cried Debby, the tears in Ethel's eyes
rousing her spirit, Miss Ethel's is true lady-
hood, for she's gentle and kind, and always
got a quick hand to help and a soft word to
say-that she has; and as for your do-
nothings and fal-lals-"
What more Debby's tongue might have
uttered to offend Miss Isabel cannot be said,
for a knock at the door proclaimed the
arrival of the lodger, and the two girls
hastened upstairs even more quickly than
Debby went down to usher in the strange
lodger to his apartments.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE LODGER
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
He came bringing a great packing-case of
books, portfolios, and writing desk, and in
arranging them his evening seemed to be
employed, Debby taking up the very simplest
evening meal, and serving it amid the un-
broken silence of the lodger.
Meanwhile Isabel's temper was not im-
proved by what she called the chilly detestable
bedroom which she was to share with Ethel.
Mr. Melhuish's bedroom was locked, as was
his custom when he left home, a bookcase
with MSS. and papers being there. In her
dislike of the meagre accommodation of
Ethel's chamber, Isabel would, in his absence,
have established herself in her father's room.
She missed several expensive articles of
furniture, and some pictures; and to her
inquiry, Where's the cheval glass ?"
" Where's the cheffonier ?" &c., the one
answer was Sold." What utter degrada-
tion I" she reiterated, angry at the change,
but never estimating the suffering that had
Whatever might be the proverty-stricken
aspect of Ethel's room,it was perfectly neat and
orderly when she brought Isabel into it, but,
half an hour after, it was littered from end to
30 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
end. Every chair bore its heap : some music
mostly in tatters, on one; a portfolio with
drawings in all stages of completeness, the
back bursting out; bags with worsted wool
and bits of half-worked canvas; tumbled
clothes,creased out of all shape by bad packing
on the floor, and shabby artificial flowers,
feathers, and ends of ribbon scattered every-
where. Ethel looked around in despair. It
was the same Isabel with every fault
exaggerated, who had been the plague of the
household when there were plenty of servants
to attend to her whims; Isabel the pretty but
spoiled darling of her father, who had never
learned to control a single folly, or consider
any human being but herself, and who, like
all selfish people, was always dissatisfied and
miserable. She had been told she was clever,
and so she was; but that she thought
exonerated her from any application. She
had heard of her beauty until she fancied it
was not merely a good gift, but a great merit
that all ought to defer to: and so the
estimate of her own excellences had grown
with her growth, until she had become un-
When the sisters returned to the parlour
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Walter had schooled himself to a resolution
to try for Ethel's sake to propitiate Isabel,
and the poor boy succeeded. He was a great
reader, particularly of biography, and he
often beguiled the long evenings by relating
to Ethel as she worked the incidents in
the lives he had been reading through the
day. He amused them to-night by exclaim-
ing, "Do you know this strange lodger of
Of ours I interrupted Isabel scornfully,
-" say of Ethel's, if you please."
"This strange lodger of Ethel's, then,
reminds me in his way of coming here of a
very great man, Turner, the eminent painter.
He went and took a lodging, and when the
landlady asked his name, what do you think
he said to her ? "
His sisters looked up inquiringly, "Why,
he asked hers, and said, 'Well,call me that;'
and he kept on those lodgings for many
years-I think thirty, using them at intervals;
but always paying beforehand for them; and
the landlady never knew his real name ; and
when he died she was as much surprised as
any one to discover from a direction left to
a friend that he was a wonderful artist."
32 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
"Artists are mostly poor, I think," said
Isabel with a yawn.
You're wrong if you think he was. He
died very rich, very rich indeed."
Really! said Isabel for the first time,
looking at Walter with interest, and a
thought evidently striking her.
"Prehaps this Mr.--what do you call
him ?-yes, this Mr. Alexander may be rich.
What did you do with all that money, Ethel?"
"I have paid some bills, and the rest I
have put away, and if I can I shall keep it
"Papa can't expect us to live on the
"No, I must use some of it, but only what
I think this lodger must be an artist.
I tell you what, Ethel, I shall look among my
drawings, and lay some of the best about his
"I think we had better leave his room as
it is," observed Ethel.
No, I shall let him see there's someone
with a lady's accomplishments in the house.
That piano is out of tune," she added, looking
across the room, and I see it's the old one
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
we used to have in the nursery once. What
a shame to sell the grand "
Papa sold it to pay the rent at Christmas."
Well, I think I'll just try over a piece.
Ring for Debby to fetch my music; evidently
the idea of astonishing the stranger was in
I'll go, Bell," said Ethel; "but I do think
you're too tired to-night, and it's getting late."
But Isabel persisted, and Ethel in fetching
the music stumbled over a chair, and to her
vexation made a rather noisy upset just over
the stranger's head.
He came out on the landing as she
was descending the stairs to enquire the cause
of the noise, and Ethel, covered with blushes,
said," Pray pardon my awkwardness, sir."
Through his round glasses he looked like a
grave oldgrisly owl gazing at her; but his
voice was not unkind when he retreated into
his room, saying, Not hurt herself-thought
the ceiling was falling."
Isabel seized themusicand went to the instru-
ment, which, in truth, was sadly old and out of
tune,-two things which would have marred
even a good player, but vanity is not soon
checked, and she resolved to make up in
34 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
noise for other defects, and thumped away
tremendously, making every now and then a
stumble and pumble that Walter whispered
deserved one of her own epithets,-most
hideous. After a full half-hour's exercise of
this kind, Debby came in, her face screwed
up as if resolved to say no more than the
message which had been given her.
Please it's the gentleman's own words as
he said 'em: Give my compliments to your
young lady, and tell her I wise to be quiet.
She shouldn't let her little sister practise at
such a late hour; no wonder the poor child
forgets that pounding ain't playing."
Isabel shut the piano with a bang, and
there was no more performance that night.
Nevertheless, the next day, though Ethel had
again her troubles with creditors coming, and
had to make further inroads on the money
she had received, Isabel during the lodger's
absence chose to decorate, as she thought, his
room with her drawings, laid about in what
she called elegant confusion.
She was not more successful in obtaining
his commendation on this specimen of her
accomplishments; for this time, as she con-
trived to be passing his room while the door
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
was open, she heard him say to Debby, Pray,
my good woman, take away all this litter. I
hope your young mistress,-Ethel, I think
you call her ?-I hope these are not her
"Oh no, sir," Isabel heard Debby eagerly
answer ; and then the rejoinder :
Well,-take away the trash."
Poor Ethel could not at all understand
what was the matter when Isabel rushed
into the parlour, her face scarlet with
anger, and hot tears filling her eyes,
I know papa will turn that odious spec-
tacled stump of a creature out of the house.
You've not only degraded yourself, Ethel, by
taking such a lodger, but you've degraded
me." It was vain to try to pacify her
wounded vanity and irritated temper, and
Ethel and Walter had not only to bear that,
but the added anxiety of a peremptory
demand for taxes to be paid the next day, for
which they had not half money enough. It
was, however, some comfort to them that the
second post brought a letter from their
father, telling them he was attending a
scientific gathering in the midland counties,
36 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
and writing a report of the proceedings for a
scientificjournal ; "Try, my Ethel, to stave
off applications a few days, and I'll try to
send you some money," was the hopeful line
in a note that he signed "Your unhappy
A WEEK OF PETTY ANNOYANCES.
Oh, ask not, hope not thou too much
Of sympathy below;
Few are the hearts whence one same touch
Bids the sweet fountain flow.
Few,-and by still conflicting powers
Forbidden here to meet ;-
Such joy would make this earth of ours
Too fair for aught so fleet."
-R HE week that followed the double
arrival of the strange lodger and
Isabel Melhuish was more full of
petty annoyances than any in
Ethel's troubled life. Very hard to bear are
these petty things. A tiny grain of dust in
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER, 87
the eye, a small nerve pang at the root of a
tooth, a little sting of a wasp, are not very
dignified troubles, and yet they mar enjoy-
ment. But poor Ethel's petty vexations were
added to real griefs. The tax-gatherer was
peremptory, and would give no promise of
waiting for Mr. Melhuish's return. He
threatened an execution. Ethel wrote
imploringly to her father, but feared she had
not his right address. Walter fretted about
Isabel's behaviour, and that young lady
certainly contrived to vex and annoy every
one, so that Debby was cross, and the lodger
she said would be driven away," a climax
which involved an amount of distress which
Isabel could not or would not comprehend.
Bent on self-assertion, she persisted in com-
plaining of his coming as a "depredation."
She wrote to her father a bitter series of
complaints, and managed, after having
looked at it, to lose his letter to Ethel, so
that it was her carelessness which compelled
her anxious sister to direct her letter from
memory, and, as she feared, inaccurately.
Isabel paid a visit to a neighboring
music-shop and library, and asked to have a
card left there announcing that "a young
88 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
lady had a few hours of a morning at her
disposal, and would give instruction in
Music, Drawing, French, and German,
with general English studies on moderate
terms." It took Ethel's breath away to read
the announcement. Walter exclaimed,
" Why, music is not spelled properly!" To
which Isabel replied, "Oh, that's nothing;
writing German confuses one."
It's a pity to mix up what you do know
and what you don't know to amash altogether,
I think," said the sick boy.
But Isabel had rushed off with her card,
and the young man at the shop was so oblig-
ing as to copy it in what Isabel loftily said
was his bold, tradesmanlike hand," and
corrected the error. Isabel thought in
common civility she must buy some piece of
music, and wishing to convey the idea of
proficiency, she bought what was far too
difficult for her.
Meanwhile poor Ethel finished some neat
embroidery, simple work that cost no outlay,
and which she did so well that a shop near
the music-seller's took all she could find
time to do. It was very poorly paid-a mere
pittance she earned, but it had often enabled
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
her to get a little luxury to tempt poor
Walter's appetite, and she therefore never
wasted a moment. Her busy fingers at every
leisure interval had an embroidery strip in
She had but once met the lodger, and
that was when going into the passage to
speak to the angry tax-gatherer. Her work
hung over her arm, and in sheer nervousness,
not liking to look up at the man, she benther
head over it, and took some stitches as he
stormed. The lodger had quietly descended
the stairs just as the man turned with a threat
from the door. Ethel, as she closed it, hoping
the lodger had notheard the threat,let her work
fall from her trembling hands, and the old
man, with amazing quickness, picked it up,
held it a moment a little distance from his
eyes, and peered curiously through his round
glasses at it. Then as he returned it to her
he said, I suppose you never heard of John
Foster. He wrote essays, in letters to a lady,
which few ladies now-a-days read. What
would my young landlady say when I tell her
he said of a piece of ladies' worsted work that
it was red with the Mood of murdered.
40 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
"II--please, sir, I do this to sell,"
stammered poor Ethel, angry with herself
the moment she had spoken.
The old man made no remark; he gave
her one of his "owlish stares," as Isabel
called them, and went hastily out.
Whatever need you have said that for ?"
exclaimed Isabel, who had heard all. How
low do you mean to let yourself down ? "
Three times during one day of the week
was Isabel sent for to meet inquirers about
her teaching qualifications. Poor, vain girl!
she had some long walks, only to end in dis-
appointment. She never told at home how
miserably she had failed after a few minutes'
playing, or a few words of French; and in the
last case with only a little conversation she had
been bowed out, the last lady saying politely,
but yet with kind frankness, "You are
young. Let me advise you to study and
learn all attainments sufficiently well to teach
them. In order to do that you will need to
limit the range you undertake, and begin
with very young pupils."
It was truth fitly spoken, but it so offended
Isabel that she came home resolved to give
up all attempts at teaching; and the next
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
morning she rushed off to an agency office,
and had herself put down as wanting to be
"companion tp a lady." Here again she
drew largely fn her imagination, for cheer-
ful temper and industrious habits" were
promised. At this office she met a young
lady, very showily dressed, who was engaging
two domestic servants. She walked some
distance with this stranger, and being much
pleased with her, struck up a sudden
intimacy. She told the lady she could play
and sing, and complained that she had been
rudely treated when applying for a gover-
ness's situation. At which the lady cast up
her eyes, and said, in very dubious English,
"Ho, 'evens protect me from gov'ness-
So rapidly did this acquaintance develop
into intimacy, that cards were exchanged,
and Mrs. Vernon invited Isabel to meet a few
friends at her house, and promised to get her
a nice easy situation. Home went Isabel
triumphant, and held forth to Ethel and
Walter in her grandest style. "Now she
was sure to succeed."
Debby was laying the cloth for dinner,
and after hearing all, she said bluntly,-
42 ETHEL'S STRANGE tODGEIA.
"And who's Mrs. Vernon? You bean't
a-going to take her upon trust, I hope."
As to who she is, she's a lady. I know
as much of her as Ethel does o? her strange
lodger -the disagreeable creature !"
She thought this a capital hit.
We didn't take him on trust ; he trusted
us," was Walter's reply.
However, Isabel set to work and prepared
a dress. She worked that night and all next
morning really hard at making quillings
and bows, and cleaning gloves, and putting
rosettes on her shoes; and then she spread
out the dress on a clothes-horse in the
kitchen after it had been ironed, ready for
Debby to carry upstairs. Meanwhile
Debby, who had gone marketing, was
detained by her friendly purpose of making
some inquiries about this Mrs. Vernon.
Isabel shut herself up to write a letter to a
rich relative in America, of whom she had
heard very much at her Aunt Marsden's. The
mail would go next day, and as she might be
tired after the party, she was resolved to
write that afternoon, particularly as, her hair
being in curl papers, she could not appear if
Ethel had any caller,-though as she said
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
often, "there never were any decent kind of
In her letter she gave a flourishing
account of herself and her studies, bemoaned
her father's imprudence, and set down Ethel
as quite neglected in her education, and with
no energy of character whatever. Isabel did
not design to write lies, but she was too vain
to see the truth either of herself or others.
"Given over to believe a lie" was her
condition, and that of all self-conceited
people. She wrote a flourishing direction on
this letter,-" President Wilmot, Brooklyn
Hall, New York."
A grand idea occurred to her as she wrote.
'She resolved as the mail did not go until the
next day, to have the letter laid on the little
marble slab in the passsge, that the lodger
might see it, and understand that they had
good connections, and learn to be more
respectful than he had yet shown himself to
the eldest daughter of the house.
Debby's delay was unnoticed while all this
was passing. Ethel was at her embroidery
by Walter's bedside, and Isabel had full time
to put her plan in execution. The twilight
came, and Isabel was beginning to be inr.
44 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
patient for tea, and also calculating how much
a cab to Mrs. Vernon's would cost. She
thought she heard Debby's footstep creaking
on the stairs, and called out angrily, Debby,
do you mean to keep us any longer without
There was no answer.
Sulky thing If papa could only get
out of his difficulties, he might send her off,-
I would, pretty quickly."
She whisked out of the little room on the
landing, where she had been writing, and
ran down-stairs; but the passage now was
in darkness. The only light seemed to be in
the lodger's sitting room, for she noticed its
gleam under the door. His being at home,
which she had not known, kept her from
repeating her angry call. She opened the
parlour door ; but Ethel, working at a little
table with a shaded light in the corner, raised
her finger to let her know Walter was
sleeping. Down into the kitchen region
went Isabel, depositing her letter with the
grand direction uppermost, to fetch her dress,
determining to have a cup of tea as she was
adorning herself for the party. She spread
her hands out, so as to feel her way to the
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
dark kitchen. Something wet and cold
flapped or trailed against her outstretched
fingers. She ran to the fire, and with a spill
from the mantleshelf lighted a kitchen candle,
and holding it over her head, to get as much
light as it would diffuse, looked towards the
clothes-horse, where her dress had been put
What was it that made her pause as if
stricken dumb? Her eyes and mouth were
both wide open with sudden horror! Her
dress, dripping wet and all in a miserable
twist, hung like a drowned effigy of fashion
on the railing of the horse. She stood nearly
a minute speechless, then the candlestick fell
from her hands, and she gave vent to a wild
scream of despair.
Just as Ethel started up, frightened at the
shriek, the latch-key sounded in the street
door, and Debby entered. She and Ethel
ran together into the kitchen in a
spasm of terror at Isabel's cries. It was
some moments before another light could be
kindled, and they could neither understand
theories nor make out what was the wet
mass so despairingly clinging to the clothes-
46 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
"You wicked, insolent creature, you
Debby !-it's you have done it,-I'm sure of
it," gasped Isabel, as soon as she found breath.
" That's the reason you did not answer me.
What shall I do? I can't go without my
dress. I've not another evening dress. I'll
never, no, never forgive you "
In vain both Debby and Ethel assured her
that she was wrong,-Debby had but that
instant come in. She would not hear, and
grew so violent that amid all Ethel's good-
natured pity for her disappointment and
surprise at the state of the dress, she could
not venture to utter a word. Debby, how-
ever, was roused and said,-
"If you spoke truth yourself, Miss Bell,
you'd not be so ready to accuse others of lies.
And as to your not going, I came home to
tell you as Mrs. Vernon is not a person your
father's daughter and Miss Ethel's sister, nor
any modest girl, should take up with. You
shouldn't have gone while I could 'a'
kept the door, or 'a' follered you. There's
no love lost between us, but for my mistress's
sake, who's an angel in heaven, I'd have done
my part to stand atween you and disgrace.-
though it's a small part as any poor mortal
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
can take in staying them as will go the
downward. The Lord can only stop 'em."
Isabel, at the sound of her mother's name,
fled upstairs into the parlour, and finished
off with a very successful attempt at hysterics,
which had the effect of comforting her by
making her the object of attention and the
source of discomfort to every one. Even the
lodger came knocking at the door of the
parlour to ask if there was any accident.
He went up to Walter's bed, and put-
ting a plate of large oranges on the table
"Don't be alarmed, my boy. I know
something of medicine. Your sister will
soon be better. A cold water douche is the
best remedy if your servant can apply it."
Strange to say the very mention of such
a remedy had a wonderful effect. Isabel,
supported by Ethel, retired to her room, and
the lodger after staring round the room and
at the books on Walter's table, went off with
what Walter called a benevolent grin under
He met Ethel returning down-stairs, who
stopped to put her candle on the marble slab;
but at the same instant saw the letter. Ethel
48 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
coloured deeply as she saw the title,
" President Wilmot," and she in her ner-
vousness involuntarily explained:-
"My mother's uncle was for some years
President of the Fine Arts department in the
Harvard University. My sister, perhaps,
does not know it is not customary to write
the title so."
"Indeed, yonr mother's uncle! Do you
know him ?"
"No, sir; but I wish I did."
"Why, I've been told he's a queer stick,
a regular bit of tough old hickory."
"Sir, my mother always said he was
a good man, but required to be known. I
believe-every word-dear mamma-ever
Ethel broke down utterly over the dear
remembrance of her mother, and the sense of
loneliness and sorrow that fell upon her. She
struggled a moment with her thick rising
sobs, and then, removing her handkerchief
from her face, was beginning an apology to
the strange lodger ; but to her relief he was
gone. She heard his retreating footsteps as
he entered and closed the door. She had no
heart to touch Isabel's foolishly directed letter.
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
She let it lie there, and entering the parlour,
went up to Walter, and told him, in accents
he knew were made sweet now by her tender
love, Letus do as mamma said. All is dark
around, Walter. Let us try to look above."
The boy, holding her hand as she knelt down
at his side, began and repeated the twenty-
third Psalm. When he had ended, Ethel
repeated the prayers she had learned at her
mother's knee, and added to them some
words suited to their present exigencies. It
was not a mere form; the brother and sister
really prayed, and as a real result, were
comforted, and went to rest in peace.
Poor things they needed all the strength
that prayer could give them, for the next
day's beginning was a crisis.
At ten o'clock there was an execution in
the house for taxes.
50 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
THE LODGER UNMASKED.
This world is but the rugged road
Which leads to the bright abode
Of peace above;
"So let us choose the narrow way,
Which leads no traveller astray
From realms of love."
HERE is something so cheering in
the sunshine returning after
many days of cloud and storm,
that when Ethel rose the morning
after Isabel's ball dress had come to grief so
mysteriously, she was thankful for the
breaking away of the visible clouds, and
would with the hopefulness of youth have
gladly taken it as an omen of the breaking
away of the heavy clouds of poverty and
sorrow that had so long gathered over their
Isabel did not join them at breakfast; she
chose to consider herself both ill and ill-used,
and therefore resolved that Ethel should bring
up her breakfast, and wait upon her as an
invalid. Amid all the vexations of the
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
.younger sister, she was able to feel a sort of
pity for the waywardness and vanity which
so perverted Isabel's character. She remem-
bered how indulged she had been in childhood,
and how unused even yet to those many
privations which had long been the daily
discipline of Ethel, and therefore with patient
sweetness she waited on her, hoping to over-
come evil with good. But no argument
would convince Isabel that Debby did not
wilfully spoil her dress. Who did it then?
some one must." This puzzled Ethel. She
had examined the ceiling of the kitchen,
thinking there must have been a leakage from
some water-pipe upon it ; but she was un-
able to solve the mystery. One comfort she
tried to impart. It was a muslin dress, and
therefore the trimmings only were actually
An interruption that made all other matters
seem trivial broke in upon Ethel's efforts at
consoling her sister. She was descending the
stairs with the little breakfast-tray in her
hand, when she saw that Debby was opening
the street door, and that two men walked into
the hall. One presented a paper, and Ethel
came forward with the worn-out plea, I'm
52 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
very sorry, but my father is out of town.
We expect him daily."
Then, if you don't pay, I shall leave this
man until Mr. Melhuish comes home."
The person indicated walked straight into
the parlour, and took a seat, looking round
with a keen glance, and taking a book and
portable inkstand out of his pocket, as if at
once commencing to take an inventory of the
With a scared look on his little painworn
face, Walter, from his bed in the recess,
watched the intruder. Debby wrung her
hands in helpless astonishment, and Ethel
walked up and down the room as if in a
dream. No one spoke; a stunned feeling
held them in silence. Oh, the difference in
that room which one unwelcome guest
made! It seemed no longer like home, but
like a prison. The poor children felt as
though they were offenders against the law,
of which this man seemed a stern embodi-
A dread that this incident would, if known
to the lodger, drive him instantly out of the
house, kept Debby, as she waited on him at a
late breakfast, from appealing to him. The
ETHEL STRANGE LODGER.
old man complained of being poorly, and
said that he had written to a physician to
give him a call during the morning. Setting
his big spectacles very straight on his face,
he looked hard at Debby, and inquired "how
the poor young lady was after her fits." To
which the aged servant gave a rather short
answer, to the effect that she hoped Miss
Isabel would never have fits for a more
Meanwhile the subject of these inquiries
had come slowly from her room, enveloped
in shawl and wrapper, and seated herself in
the easy chair at the fireside before she
noticed the man who was just then standing
in the shadow of the window curtain. When
she observed the intruder, and made some
hurried inquiry of Ethel, who whispered a
reply, a frightened cry rose to her lips, and
she at once rushed toward the window, as if,
in her panic, meaning to open it and call for
help in the street; but in an instant her
gaze was arrested by a well-known form in
the street approaching the house.
Oh, here's papa I-Ethel, Walter, papa's
come." She rushed into the passage, and
opened the door before he knocked, rushing
54 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
out on to the door-step, and throwing herself
sobbing into his arms.
Neither Isabel, in her frenzy of welcome,
nor Mr. Melhuish, in his alarm at her agita-
tion, noticed that a man crossed the road
hastily, and following the footsteps of the
master of the house, pushed in after him into
the hall, and then, while the weeping girl
hung about her father, and Ethel came
running with open arms and pale set face
striving for calmness, this new interloper put
his. hand lightly on Mr. Melhuish's shoulder,
"Sorry to interrupt you, sir, but I've a
writ that's it's my duty to serve on you."
Mr. Melhuish was arrested.
He strode into the parlour, and there con-
fronted the man who was put in possession ;
and for a moment he staggered as if struck,
and then sinking down in a chair, covered
his face with his hands. After a little pause
he suddenly rose up in a great rage, and
calling Debby, exclaimed,-
"How is it that Isabel has had to write
and summons me home with notice of a
fellow having intruded as a lodger into this
house-a low, insokat, brutal creature,
ETHEL'S STRA1RGE LODGER.
taking advantage of my absence? but for this I
could have stayed and completed my engage-
ment. Yes, Ethel,"-he turned as he spoke
to her,-" I wrote and told you I should
bring something to stave off these wolves;
but how could I stay when Isabel sent me
such tidings? "
He looked round like a creature at bay
who seeks some avenue of escape.
There, Isabel, you've ruined papa with
your wretched tales," panted poor Walter,
as he writhed on his bed helpless.
In an instant it flashed on Isabel's mind
that she had done dreadful mischief by her
letter; and hers had unhappily reached him,
while Ethel's explanation had, as she feared,
There was one salutary moment when a
keen shaft of self-reproach struck to Isabel's
heart. She had actually so worded her
letter as to convey to her father that his
daughters were in danger with their strange
inmate; and he braved every danger, travel-
ling by a night train, and coming home, only
to be captured for debt, which he might have
had means partly to meet, if he could have
stayed and fulfilled his literary engagement.
56 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
There are some people whose passions
once aroused, are very difficult to allay; and
Mr. Melhuish was just now in that unreason-
ing state that he must be angry with some one.
Indeed, he felt angry with all the world, but
with the lodger as a knave and with Debby
as a simpleton, especially.
Where is he? he shouted, this fellow
who has dared--"
I'm here, at your service, Mr. Melhuish,"
said a quiet voice; and gliding noiselessly
in his slippers close to the enraged man's
side, came the little white-haired gentleman,
with his big round spectacles, looking so
cool and undisturbed that a sort of calm fell
on all present as he spoke.
The fierce gleam of Mr. Melhuish's eyes
was for an instant strangely subdued. He
hesitated a moment, and then recovering,
said in an angry,but yet much lower tone,-
Sir, by what right have you thrust your-
self into my house ? "
Oh, by an undeniable right. I was
quite sure of that, or I should not have come."
Undeniable right, man ? Are you mad ?"
"I hope not. But you are. For anger
is a kind of madness."
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
Don't trifle with a desperate man."
"No, nothing is further from my thoughts
than trifling. Well, I'm here by right of
relationship. Your eldest daughter wrote
me a letter yesterday, which has not had to
cross the Atlantic to find me."
"Oh, good gracious.,ne, I never! It's
mamma's uncle, the president," gasped
"Mamma's uncle; but if you please we
won't have the presidential flourish; that title
is too good for common wear."
He turned from the wonder-stricken
father and his children, and spoke to the two
men, directing them with mild yet firm
authority to go into the passage, and leave
the family for a while,-a command the men
with unwonted civility obeyed.
"Mr. Wilmot," said Mr. Melhuish, in a
voice husky with emotion, "if I admit your
right as my wife's uncle to be here, was it
right to steal upon me in my trouble, like a
spy and a deceiver ?"
"As a general proposition I should say-
No. But you never wrote to me, and I
loved my poor niece, these children's mother,
with a love that an estrangement, after she
58 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
became your wife, never quenched." The
old man's voice quivered a moment, and he
took off his spectacles, and wiped them,
adding "You put it plain to me, and I'll put it
plain to you. My niece Marston told me
you quarrelled with her, and I resolved to
see and know for myself what you and your
children were like. I came to England in-
tending to make my visit to you in the regular
way. I heard charges, not of misfortune,
but of recklessness, made against you. I
have investigated them, and find the state-
ments have been exaggerated by dislike and
prejudice. I was led to think ill of your
eldest daughter, not from others, but from
the tone of her own letters to America, and
also from those I saw at her Aunt Marston's.
My opinion of her disposition-I am ac-
customed to speak plainly-has not been
improved from what I have heard from
Miss Scripton, of Linden House, or what
I have seen since I came here. I owe
the young lady a dress, for I ventured
to give a fatherly talk yesterday to one in
order to prevent her going into doubtful
company- a proceeding, Mr. Melhuish,
that will not, I think, be considered so
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
unpardonable by you as it is by your
Every one is prejudiced against me.
I'm doomed to be misunderstood," sobbed
But," continued Mr. Wilmot, looking
hard at Mr. Melhuish, you talk of troubles,
sir; why, you have a treasure in your home
no wealth could give-your Ethel there, in
her patience, her industry, her self-sacrifice,
her piety,-I could never have known if I
had not come here as her lodger. And as to
my young friend Walter here; ah, we'll set
him on his legs yet, by the blessing of God."
There was a pause, in which Isabel con-
tinued to sob disconsolately; and Ethel drew
close to her father. Walter, the happy tears
rolling over his pale cheeks, not knowing
exactly what to say, burst out with a boy's
speech to cheer his father and give vent to
his own feelings, a feeble "Hurrah, papa He
isn't a fellow now, is he ? Oh, papa, it's all so
queer, I must cry-hurrah!" and then hiding
his face in the pillow, he had really what is
well called a good cry.
'* Dear papa, I wish Oliver knew. He
always felt so interestedin mamma's American
60 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
relatives," said Ethel, wishing to turn her
father's thoughts into another channel, and
naturally remembering her eldest brother in
this family crisis.
He does know, my dear. I wrote him
two days back, and told him to explain who
Ethel's strange lodger was to your father.
I make no doubt you will have that explana-
tion as the sequel of that I have been com-
pelled by circumstances to make. And now,
Theodore Melhuish, will you, for the sake
of these children and of their mother,-
will you shake hands with old Alexander
Mr. Melhuish covered his eyes with one
hand, and held out the other, which the old
man grasped and shook heartily.
"There now, didn't I say as he was a
dear creature in specs, owl or no owl ? "
said Debby, as she crouched behind Ethel,
and whispered in her ear, putting her apron
to her eyes and sniffing furiously.
The reconciliation was as complete as
Mr. Melhuish's sore heart and consciousness
of pecuniary thaldrom would permit. His
spirit naturally chafed at his position and his
disappointments, but there was no parade of
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
help offered on the one side, or humiliation
on the other.
Mr. Wilmot left the room after he had
shaken his nephew's hand, feeling that the
circle needed a little time to regain compo-
sure. He was not idle though, for in as little
time as it took to look at their account, and
draw cheques for their payment, the represen-
tatives of the law were dismissed.
The old man seemed determined not to do
things by halves as regarded the family left
by his favourite niece. He called Debby to
help him open one of his packing cases, and
there was a set of sable furs for Ethel, and a
case of mathematical instruments for poor
Walter, who loved drawing ill as he was. A
handsome shawl was found for the faithful
When Ethel came up to Mr. Wilmot's
room to thank him, she said, pleadingly,
"I am grateful, sir-I hope I am; but
I am not happy. I cannot quite enjoy your
Why, Ethel, I want to make my landlady
I cannot be while Isabel seems so broken-
62 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
"Hum-well, seems is perhaps the right
Nay, uncle, is," replied Ethel, correcting
her former word.
At that very moment Isabel's letter,
disparaging her sister and full of herself, was
in Mr. Wilmot's pocket, and it was not easy
for him to listen to Ethel's plea. But she
took courage to tell him how much less easy
it was for Isabel to bear reverses, because she
had been over-indulged in childhood. "I
learntof mammain her long illness; poor Isabel
was away. Pray forgive her. She is new
to sorrow. I feel as if I were the elder, and
she but a child."
Well, be it so. I shall consult to-night
with your father if he will give me a few
hours quiet conversation. If Isabel will go
back to Miss Scripton's, and go on with her
education, I will take care of her interests as
I mean to do of yours and Walter's. Oliver
is pretty sure of a good scholarship, and is
doing well. I have a plan too for your
father, if it meets his views. But I will not,
and can not, foster selfishness and vanity."
With a heavy heart for her sister, whose
grief was very bitter-I do not say her
ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
repentance, for repentance is real sorrow for
sin itself, and not mere grief for the conse-
quences of sin ; but there was certainly an
emotion that quite distressed Ethel.
The conference of Mr. Melhuish and his
aged relative was long, and, judged by results,
satisfactory on both sides.
It was agreed to try the baths at Aix-la-
Chapelle for Walter, and that, as he needed
nursing and care as well as the baths, Debby
and Ethel should go with him. Mr. Wilmot
was anxious to remedy some deficiencies in
Ethel's education, and he knew there were
plenty of teachers to be had abroad. He was,
however, strong in his purpose that Isabel
should go back to Miss Scripton's; but that
lady wrote that she was giving up her school.
Then the old man was induced to yield, and
let the sisters study together.
And so it ended that the wilful girl was
They all went abroad; and Isabel, who
had known first foolish indulgence in child-
hood, and then some harshness in youth,
was now in the calm atmosphere of mild, firm
Christian love and principle, and her better
feelings developed under that salutary
64 ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER.
influence. Ethel had the joy of winning a
wandering soul from error's ways. Mr.
Melhuish, released from the pressure of his
difficulties, was able to give his mind with
renewed energy to his literary pursuits, and
to retrieve the past.
The last I heard of them, Walter, after a
year, was able to throw away his crutches,
and to walk strongly in thankfulness of
Old Debby was not the only one of the
family ready to say, "What a blessing to all
was ETHEL'S STRANGE LODGER I "
Printed by JAMEs SEARS & SONS, Crane Court, Fleet Street, E.C.