Johnny Ludlow Third Series Part 42

If you are looking for Johnny Ludlow Third Series Part 42 you are coming to the right place.
Johnny Ludlow is a Webnovel created by Mrs. Henry Wood.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

Just a few roods out of the village stood a small dwelling called Marigold Cottage. A tidy woman named Bean lived in it with her two daughters, one of whom was the paid mistress of the national girls’-school. Mr. Leafchild lodged here, as the late curate had before him, occupying the spare sitting-room and bedroom. And if Mrs. Bean was to be believed–and she had been a veracious woman all her life–three days out of the seven, at least, Mr. Leafchild went without meat at his dinner, having given it away to some sick or poor creature, who wanted it, he considered, more than he did. A self-denying, earnest, gentle-minded man; that’s what he was: and perhaps it may be forgiven to Helen Whitney that she fell in love with him.

When Helen went home from London, carrying with her the mortification that came of her interrupted marriage and Captain Foliott’s delinquency, she began to do what she had never done in her life before, busy herself a little in the parish: perhaps as a safety-valve to carry off her superfluous anger. The curate was a middle-aged man with a middle-aged wife and two babies, and Helen had no scruple in going about with him, here, there, and everywhere. To the schools, to the church, to practise the boys, to visit the poor, went she. But when in a few months that curate’s heart was made glad by a living–two hundred a-year and a five-roomed Vicarage–and Mr. Leafchild came in his place, it was a little different. She did not run about with the new curate as she had with the old, but she did see a good deal of him, and he of her. The result was they fell in love with one another. For the first time in her life the uncertain G.o.d, Cupid, had pierced the somewhat invulnerable heart of Helen Whitney.

But now, could anything be so inappropriate, or look more hopeless?

Charles Leafchild, B.A., curate of b.u.t.termead, positively only yet reading for his full t.i.tle, scantily paid, no prospect of anything better, lacking patronage; and Miss Helen Whitney, daughter of Sir John Whitney, baronet! Looking at it from a practical point of view, it seemed that he might just as well have expected to woo and wed one of the stars in the sky.

On the bleak February morning that followed Helen’s expedition to Timberdale, Mr. Leafchild came down from his chamber and entered his sitting-room. The fire, a small one, for Mrs. Bean had received a general caution to be sparing of his coal, burnt brightly in the grate.

He stood over it for a minute or two, rubbing his slender hands at the blaze: since he left the West Indies he had felt the cold more keenly than formerly. Then he turned to the breakfast-table, and saw upon it, a small portion of cold neck of mutton, an uncut loaf, and a pat of b.u.t.ter. His tea stood there, already made.

“If I leave the meat, it will do for dinner,” he thought: and proceeded to make his meal of bread-and-b.u.t.ter. Letty Bean, who chiefly waited on him, came in.

“A letter for you, sir,” she said, handing him a note.

He took it, looked at the handwriting, which was thick and sprawly and not familiar to him, and laid it beside his plate.

“Sir John Whitney’s footman brought it, sir,” continued Letty, volunteering the information: and a hot colour flushed the curate’s face as he heard it. He opened it then. Short and peremptory, it merely requested the Reverend Charles Leafchild to call upon Sir John Whitney that morning at Whitney Hall.

“Is the man waiting for an answer, Letty?”

“No, sir. He went away as soon as he gave it me.”

Mr. Leafchild half suspected what had occurred–that Sir John must, in some way, have become acquainted with the state of affairs. He judged so by the cold, haughty tone of the note: hitherto Sir John had always shown himself friendly. Far from being put out, Mr. Leafchild hoped it was so, and went on with his breakfast.

Another interruption. Mrs. Bean this time. She wore a mob cap and had lost her teeth.

“Here’s that tipsy Jones come to the door, sir. He says you told him to come.”

“Ah yes, I did; let him come in,” said the curate. “Is he tipsy this morning?”

“No, sir, only shaky. And what shall I order you for dinner, sir, to-day? I may as well ask, as I am here.”

“That will do,” he answered, pointing to the cold meat. “And please mash the potatoes.”

Jones came in. The man was not an incorrigibly bad doer, but weak and irresolute. If he worked two days, he idled and drank three, and his wife and children suffered. Mr. Leafchild, who felt more sorrow for him than anger, invited him to a seat by the fire, and talked to him long and persuasively, almost as one brother might talk to another, and gave him a hot cup of tea. Jones went away great in promises and penitence: and about eleven o’clock the curate betook himself to the Hall.

Of all men living, the Squire perhaps excepted, Sir John was about the worst to carry out any troublesome negotiation. He was good-hearted, irresolute, and quick-tempered.

When Mr. Leafchild was shown in, Sir John utterly forgot certain speeches he had conned over in his mind, broke down, went into a pa.s.sion, and told the curate he was a designing, impudent villain.

Though his love for Helen, and that was intense, caused him to feel somewhat agitated in the presence of Helen’s father, Mr. Leafchild’s manner was quiet and calm, a very contrast to that of Sir John. After a little while, when the baronet had talked himself cool, Mr. Leafchild entered into a history of the affair: telling how he and Miss Whitney had met without any intention of any kind, except of that which might be connected with the parish interests, and how with as little intention, a mutual liking–nay, a _love_–had sprung up.

“Yes, that’s all very fine,” said Sir John, shuffling about his steel spectacles that were perched on his old red nose. “You knew she was my daughter; you knew well what you were about.”

The young man reddened at the reproach.

“Sir, indeed you misjudge me. I never thought of such a thing as falling in love with Miss Whitney until the love had come. Had she been the most obscure of young women, it would have been all the same.”

“Then you are an idiot for your pains,” retorted Sir John. “Why, goodness gracious me! have you not _one_ single atom of common sense?

Can’t you see how unfitting it is?”

“My family is a very good one; in point of fact, as good as yours, Sir John–if you will pardon me for saying so thus pointedly,” urged the curate in his gentle voice. “And though—-“

“Oh, bother!” interrupted Sir John, having no counter argument particularly at hand. “That goes for nothing. What are your prospects?”

“They are not great. Perhaps I ought to say that I have no prospects as yet. But, sir—-“

“Now come! that’s honest. No prospects! And yet you must go making love to my daughter.”

“I have not done that, sir, in one sense–‘made love.’ Hardly a word, I think, has pa.s.sed between myself and Miss Whitney that you might not have heard. But we have, notwithstanding, been fully aware of the state of each other’s heart—-“

“The state of each other’s fiddlestick,” spluttered Sir John. “A nice pair of you, I must say! And pray, what did you think it would come to?”

“What Miss Whitney may have thought I have not presumed to ask. For myself, I confess I am cherishing hopes for the future. It is some little time now since I have been wishing to speak to you, Sir John: and I intended, if you were so kind as not to entirely reject me, to write to my father, Dr. Leafchild, and lay the whole case before him. I think he can help me later if he will; and I certainly believe he will be only too glad to do it.”

“Help you to what?”

“To a living.”

“And, bless my heart and mind, how long do you suppose you might have to wait? A dozen years. Twenty years, for all you know. The curate who was here before you, poor Bell, had been waiting more than twenty years for one. It came to him last year, and he was forty-seven years old.”

Mr. Leafchild could say nothing to this.

“And a fine living it is, now he has it!” went on Sir John. “No, no, sir: Helen Whitney cannot be dragged into that kind of fate.”

“I should be the last to drag her, or wish to drag her into it. Believe that, Sir John. But, if I had a good living given to me, then I should like her to share it. And I think that my father would perhaps allow me some private means also, for Helen’s sake. He has money, and could do it.”

“But all those fancies and notions are just so many vapours, clouds up in the sky, and no better, don’t you see! You young men are sanguine and foolish; you lose sight of facts in fallacies. We must look at what is, not at what might be. Why, you are not yet even a priest!”

“No. I shall be ordained to that in a few months’ time.”

“And then, I suppose, you will either remain here, or get a curacy elsewhere. And your income will be that of a curate–a hundred pounds a-year, all told. Some curates get but fifty.”

“True. We are poorly paid.”

“And that may go on till you are forty or fifty years of age! And yet, in the face of it, you ask me to let you have my daughter. Now, Mr.

Leafchild, you are either a simpleton yourself, or you must think I am one,” added Sir John, rising to end the interview, which had been to him one of thorough discomfort. “And I’m sure I hope you’ll pick up a little common sense, young man, and I shall order Miss Helen to pick some up too. There, that’s all.”

“I trust you are not angry with me, sir,” said the curate mildly, for Sir John was holding out his hand to be shaken.

“Well, yes, I am. Anything like this causes one such worry, you know.

I’m sure I and my wife have had no sleep all night. You must not think any more of Helen. And now good-morning.”

As Mr. Leafchild walked back to his lodgings at Dame Bean’s, his hopes seemed to be about as dull as the wintry sky on which his nice brown eyes were fixed. His whole happiness, socially speaking, lay in Helen; hers lay with him; but only separation seemed to be looming in the air.

Suddenly, when he was close to Marigold Cottage, a little rift broke in the leaden clouds, and a bit of pale blue sky shone forth.

“I will take that as an omen for good; pray G.o.d it may be so!” spoke the curate gladly and reverently, as he lifted his hat. “And–come what may, in storm and in tempest, G.o.d is over all.”

Helen went home in the dumps and to sundry edifying lectures. An embargo was laid on her parish work, and she only saw the curate at church. One month, two months pa.s.sed over thus, and she grew pale and thin. Sir John was cross, Lady Whitney uncomfortable; they were both simple-minded people, caring more for their children’s happiness than for their grandeur. The former told the Squire in confidence that if the young fellow could get a decent living, he was not sure but he’d give in, and that he liked him ten thousand times better than he had ever liked that Foliott.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *