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and exclusive of dances ; and it need hardly be
said that the polka with M. Jaquetanape was
successful. The last honour, however, was not
without evil results, for it excited the envy of
Ugolina, who, proud of her own performance, had



Katie's fiest ball. 225

lono-ed, but Iiitlierto in vain, to be whirled round
the room by that wondronsly expert foreigner.

"Well, my dear/' said Ugolina, with an air
that plainly said that Katie was to be treated as
a child, " I hope you have had dancing enough.''

" Oh, indeed I have not," said Katie, fully
appreciating the purport and cause of her com-
panion's remark ; " not near enough."

" Ah — but my dear — you should remember,''
said Ugolina ; " your mama will be displeased if
you fatigue yourself."

" My mama is never displeased because we
amuse ourselves, and I am not a bit fatigued ;"
and so saying Katie walked off, and took refuge
with her sister Gertrude. Wliat business had
any Ugolina Neverbend to interfere between her
and her mama?

Then came the supper. There was a great rush
to get down stairs, but Charley was so clever tha^t
even this did not put him out. Of course there
was no sitting down ; which means that the
bashful, retiring, and obedient guests were to
stand on their legs ; while those who were for-
v/ard, and impudent, and disobedient, found seats
for themselves wherever they could. Charley
was certainly among the latter class, and he did
not rest therefore till he had got Katie into an
old arm-chair in one corner of the room, in such a
position as to enable himself to eat his own supper
leaning against the chimney-piece.

L 3



226 THE THREE CLERKS.

" I say, Jolmson," said lie, " do bring me
some ham and chicken — it's for a lady — I'm
wedged np here and can't get out — and, Johnson,
some sherry."

The good-natured yonng Weights obeyed, and
brought the desired provisions.

" And Johnson — upon my word I'm sorry to
be so troublesome — but one more plateful if you
please — for another lady — a good deal if you
please for this lady, for she's very hungry ; and
some more sherry."

Johnson again obeyed — ^the Weights are al-
ways obedient — and Charley of course appropri-
ated the second portion to his own purposes.

" Oh, Charley, that was a fib — now wasn't it ?"
" You shouldn't have said it was for a lady."

" But then I shouldn't have got it."

"' Oh, but that's no reason, ; according to that
everybody might tell a fib whenever they wanted
anything."

"Well, everybody does. Everybody except
you, Katie."

" Oh no," said Katie — "no they don't — mama,
and Linda, and Grertrude never do ; nor Harry
Norman, he never does, nor Alaric."

" No, Harry Norman never does," said Charley,
with somethins: like vexation in his tone. He
made no exception to Katie's list of truth-tellers,
but he was thinking within himself whether
Alaric had a juster right to be in the catalogue



Katie's first ball. 227

than liimself. "Harry Norman never does,
certainly. You must not compare me witli them,
Katie. They are patterns of excellence. I am
all the other way, as everybody knows.'' He was
half laughing as he spoke, but Katie's sharp ear
knew that he was more than half in earnest, and
she felt she had pained him by what she had
said.

" Oh, Charley, I didn't mean that, indeed I did
not. I know that in all serious things you are
as truthful as they are — and quite as good-—
that is, in many ways." Poor Katie ! she wanted
to console him, she wanted to be kind, and yet
she could not be dishonest.

" Quite as good ! no, you know I am not."

" You are as good-hearted, if not better ; and
you will be as steady, won't you, Charley ? I am
sure you will ; and I know you are more clever,
really more clever than either of them."

"Oh! Katie."

" I am quite sure you are. I have always said
so; don't be angry with me for what I said."

" Angry with you. I couldn't be angry with
you."

"I vrouldn't, for the world, say anything to
vex you. I like you better than either of them,
though Alaric is my brother-in-law. Of course I
do ; how could I help it, when you saved my life."

" Saved your life, pooh ! I didn't save your
life. Any boy could have done the same, or any



228 THE THREE CLERKS.

waterman about tlie place. Wiien you fell in,
tlie person xilio Y/as nearest you pulled you out,
that was all."

There was somethmg almost approaching to
ferocit}^ in his voice as he said this ; and yet when
Katie timidl}^ looked up she saw that he had
turned his back to the room, and that his eyes
were full of tears. He had felt that he was loved
by this child, but that he was loved from a
feeling of uncalled for gratitude. He could not
stop to analyze this, to separate the sweet from
the bitter ; but he knew that the latter prevailed.
It is so little liatterino^ to be loved when such love
is tlie offspring of gratitude. And then when
that gratitude is unnecessary, when it has been
given in mistake for supposed favours, the accept-
ance of such love is little better than a cheat !

" That was not all," said Ivatie, very decidedly.
" It never shall be all in my mind. If you had
not been with us I should now have been drowned,
and cold, and dead ; and mam.a, where would she
have been ? Oh ! Charley, I shall think my-
self so wicked if I have said anything to vex
you."

Charley did not analyze his feelings, nor did
Katie analyze hers. It would have been impossible
for her to do so. But could she have done it,
and had she done it, she v/ould have found that
her gratitude was but the excuse which she made
to herself for a passionate love which she could



Katie's first ball. 229

not liave excused, even to lierself, in any other
vv^ay.

He said everything he could to reassure her,
and make her happy ; and she soon smiled and
laughed again.

" Now, that's what my editor would call a
Nemesis," said Charley.

" Oh, that's a ISTemesis, is it?"

" Johnson was cheated into doing my work,
and getting me my supper ; and then you scolded
me, and took away my appetite, so that I couldn't
eat it ; that's a Nemesis. Johnson is avenged,
only, unluckily, he doesn't know it, and wicked-
ness is punished."

" Well, mind you put it into the 'Daily Delight.'
But all the girls are going up stairs ; pray let me
get out," and so Katie went up stairs again.

It was then past one. About two hours after-
wards Gertrude, looking for her sister that she
might take her home, found her seated on a
bench, v,'ith her feet tucked under her dress. She
was very much fatigued, and she looked to be so ;
but there was still a bright laughing sparkle in
her eye, which showed that her spirits were not
even yet weary.

" Well, Katie, have you had enough dancing ?'*

" Nearly," said Katie, yawning.

" You look as if you couldn't stand."

" Yes, I cwi too tired to stand : but still I
think I could dance a little more, only "



230 THE THREE CLERKS.

" Only what ?"

*' Whisper," said Katie ; and Gertude put down
her ear near to her sister's lips. *'Both my shoes
are quite worn out, and my toes are all out on
the floor."

It was clearly time for them to go home, so
away they all went.



CHAPTEE XI.



EXCELSTOE,



The last words that Katie spoke as slie walked
down ]\Irs. Yal's hall, leaning on Charley's arm,
as he led her to the carriage, were these —

" Yon will be steady, Charley, won't yon ; yon
will try to he steady, won't yon, dear Charley ? "
and as she spoke she almost imperceptibly
sqneezed the arm on which she w^as leaning.
Charley pressed her little hand as he parted from
her, bnt he said nothing. Wliat conld he say, in
that moment of time, in answer to snch a reqnest ?
Had he made the reply which wonld have come
most readily to his lips, it wonld have been this :
'' It is too late, Katie — too late for me to profit
by a cantion, even from yon, — no steadiness now
will save me." Katie, however, wanted no other
answer than the warm pressure which she felt
on her hand.

And then, leaning back in the carriage, and
shutting her eyes, she tried to think quietly over
the events of the night. Bnt it was, alas ! a
dream, and yet so like reality that she conld iiot
divest herself of the feeling that the ball was
still o'oing on. She still seemed to see the lights



232 THE THREE CLEllKS.

and liear tlie mnsic, to feel lierself wliirlecl round
tlie room, raid to see otliers wliirling, wliirling,
whirling on every side of lier. She thought over
all the names on her card, and the little con-
tests that had taken place for her hand, and all
Charley's jokes, and M. de I'Empereur's great
disaster ; and then as she remembered how long
she had gone on twistmg round with the poor
unfortunate ill-used Frenchman, she involuntarily
hurst out into a fit of laughter.

"Good gracious, Katie, what is the matter?
I thought jou were asleep," said Gertrude.

" So did I," said Linda. " What on earth can
you he laughing at now ? "

" I was laughing at myself," said Katie, still
going on with her half-suppressed chuckle, " and
thinking what a fool I was to go on dancing so
long with tliat M. de I'Empereur — Oh dear, Ger-
trude, I am so tired, shall vv^e be home soon ? "
and then she burst out crying.

The excitement and fatigue of the day had
been too much for her, and she was now com-
pletely overcome. Ugolina Neverbend's advice,
though not quite given in the kindest way, had
in itself been good. Mrs. Woodward would, in
truth, have been mihappy could she have seen
her child at this moment. Katie made an at-
tempt to laugh off her tears, but she failed, and
her sobs then became hysterical, and she lay
v/ith her head on her married sister's shoulder.



EXCELSIOR. 233

almost choking herself in her attempts to repress
them.

"Dear Katie, don't sob so," said Linda, —
" don't cry, pray don't cry, dear Katie."

" She had better let it have its way," said
Gertrude ; " she will be better directly, won't you,
Katie ? "

In a little time she was better, and then she
burst out laughing again. " I wonder why the
man went on when he was so tired, — what a
stupid man he must be."

Gertrude and Linda both laughed in order to
comfort her, and bring her round.

" Do you know, I think it Avas because he didn't
know how to say ' stop ' in English," and then
she burst out laughing again, and that led to
another fit of hysterical tears.

AYlien they reached home Gertrude and Linda
soon got her into bed. Linda was to sleep with
her, and she also was not very long in laying
her head on her pillow. But before she did so
Katie was fast asleep, and tv/ice in her sleep she
cried out, " Oh, Charley ! oh, Charley ! " Then
Linda guessed how it was with her sister, and in
the depths of her loving heart she sorrowed for
the coming grief which she foresaw.

Wlien the morning came Katie Avas feverish,
and had a head-ache. It was thought better that
she should remain in town, and Alaric took Linda
down to Hampton. The next day Mrs. Wood-



234 THE THKEE CJiEUKS.

ward came np, and as the invalid was better she
took her home. Eut still she was an invalid.
The doctor declared that she had never quite re-
covered from her fall into the river, and pre-
scribed quiet and cod's liver oil. All the truth
about the Chiswick fete and the five hours'
dancing, and the worn-out shoes, was not told to
him, or he might, perhaps, have acquitted the
water gods of the injury. Nor was it all, perhaps,
told to Mrs. Woodward.

" I'm afraid she tired herself at the ball," said
Mrs. Woodward.

" I think she did, a little," said Linda.

"Did she dance much?" said Mrs. Wood-
ward, looking anxiously.

" She did dance a good deal," said Linda.

Mrs. Woodward was too wise to ask any fur-
ther questions.

As it was a fine night Alaric had declared his
intention of walking home from Mrs. Val's party,
and he and Charley started together. They soon
parted on their roads, but not before Alaric had
had time to notice Charley's perverse stupidity
as to Miss Grolightly.

" So you wouldn't take my advice about Cle-
mentina ? " said he.

" It was quite impossible, Alaric," said Charley,
in an apologetic voice. I couldn't do it, and,
what is more, I am sure I never shall."

" No, not now ; you certainly can't do it now.



EXCELSIOR. 235

If I am not very mncli mistaken, tlie chance is
gone — I think you'll find she engaged herself to
that Frenchman to-night."

" Very likely/' said Charley.

" Well, — I did the best I conld for yon. Grood
night, old fellow."

" I'm sure I'm much obliged to you. Good
night," said Charley.

Alaric's suggestion with reference to the heiress
was quite correct. M. Jaquetanape had that
night proposed, and been duly accepted. He
was to present himself to his loved one's honour-
able mother on the followins^ mornino^, as her
future son-in-law, comforted and supported in his
task of doing so by an assurance from the lady
that if her mother would not give her consent the
marriage should go on all the same without it.
How delightful to have such a dancer for her lover,
thought Clementina. That was her " excelsior."

Charley walked home vv'ith a sad heart. He
had that day given a pledge that he would on
the morrow go to the Cat and Whistle, and visit
his lady love there. Since the night when he
sat there with ISTorah Greraghty on his knee, now
nearly a fortnight since, he had spent but Kttle
of his time there. He had, indeed, gone there
once or twice with his friend Scatterall, but had
contrived to avoid any confidential intercourse
with either the landlady or the barmaid, alleging,
as an excuse for his extraordinary absence, that



236 THE THREE CLERKS.

liis time was wholly occupied by the demands
made on it by the editor of the " Daily Delight."
Mrs. Davis, however, was much too sharp, and so
also we may say was Miss Geraghty, to be de-
ceived. They well knew that such a young man
as Charley would go wherever his inclination led
him. Till lately it had been all but impossible
to get him out of the little back parlour at the
Cat and Whistle ; now it v/as nearly as difficult
to get him into it. They both understood what
this meant.

" You'd better take up with Peppermint and
have done with it," s?tid the widow. " What's the
good of your shilly-shallying till you're as thin
as a whipping-post. If you don't mind what
you're after he'll be off too."

" And the d go along with him," said

Miss Greraghty, who had still about her a twang
of the County Clare, from whence she came.

" With all my heart," said Mrs. Davis; " I shall
save my hundred pounds ; but if you'll be led by
me you'll not throw Peppermint over till you're
sure of the other; and, take my v\^ord for it,
you're "

" I hate Peppermint."

" ISTonsense ; he's an honest good sort of man,
and a deal more likely to keep you out of want
than the other."

Hereupon Norah began to cry, and to wipe her
beautiful eyes with the glass cloth. Hers, indeed.



EXCELSIOR. 237

was a cruel position. Her face was her fortune,
and her fortune she knew was deteriorating from
day to day. She could not afford to lose the lover
that she loved, and also the lover that she did not
love. Matrimony with her was extremely desir-
able, and she v/as driven to confess that it might
very probably be either now or never. Much as
she hated Peppermint, she was quite aware that
she would take him if she could not do better.
But then was it absolutely certain that she must
lose the lover that so completely suited her taste ?
Mrs. Davis said it was ; she herself, confiding, as
it is so natural that ladies should do, a little too
much in her own beauty, thought that she couldn't
but have a chance left. She also had her high
aspirations ; she deshed to rise in the v/orld, to
leave ofoes of e^in and screws of tobacco behind
her, and to reach some position more worthy of
the tastes of a woman — ' excelsior,' translated
doubtless into excellent Irish, was her motto also.
It would be so great a thing to be the wife of
Charles Tudor, Esq., of the Civil Service, and
more especially as she dearly and truly loved the
same Charles Tudor in her heart of hearts.

She knew, however, that it was not for her to
indulge in the luxury of a hea.rt, if circumstances
absolutely forbade it. To eat and drink and
clothe herself, and, if possible, to provide eating
and drinking and clothes for her future years,
this was the business of life, this was the only



238 THE THREE CLERKS.

real necessity. She had nothing to say in oppo-
sition to Mrs. Davis, and therefore she went on
crying, and again wiped her eyes with the glass
cloth.

Mrs. Davis, however, was no stern monitor, un-
indnlo-ent to the weakness of human nature.
When she saw how Norah took to heart her sad
fate, she resolved to make one more effort in her
favour. She consequently dressed herself very
nicely, put on her best bonnet, and took the
unprecedented step of going off to the Internal
Navigation, and calling on Charley in the middle
of his office.

Charley was poking over the Kennet and Avon
lock entries with his usual official energy, when
the office messenger came up and informed him
that a lady was waiting to see him.

'' A lady," said Charley ; " what lady ? " and he
immediately began thinking of the Woodwards,
whom he was to meet that afternoon at Chiswick.

" I'm sure I can't say, sir ; all that she said
was that she was a lady," answered the messenger,
falsely, — for he well knew that the woman was
Mrs. Davis, of the Cat and Whistle.

Now the clerks at the Internal Navigation
were badly off for a waiting-room ; and in no re-
spect can the different ranks of different pubhc
offices be more plainly seen than in the presence
or absence of such little items of accommodation
as tliis. At the Weights and Measures there was



EXCELSIOR. 239

an elegant little cliamber, carpeted, furnislied
with leathern-bottomed chairs, and a clock, sup-
plied with cream laid note paper, new pens, and
the " Times " newspaper, quite a little Elysium, in
which to pass half an hour, while the Secretary,
whom one had called to see, was completing his
last calculation on the matter of the decimal
coinage. But there were no such comforts at the
Internal Navigation. There was indeed a little
room at the top of the stairs, in which visitors
were requested to sit down ; hut even here tv>ro
men were always at work — at work, or else at
play.

Into this room Mrs. Davis v^as shown, and
there Charley fomid her. Long and intunately
as the young navvy had been acquainted with
the landlady of the Cat and Wliistle, he had
never before seen her arrayed for the outer world.
It may be doubted whether Sir John Falstaff
would, at the first glance, have known even Dame
Quickley in her bonnet, that is, if Dame Quickley
m those days had had a bonnet. At any rate
Charley was at fault for a moment, and was
shaking hands with the landlady before he quite
recognised who she was.

The men in the room, however, had recognised
her, and Charley well loiew that they had done
so.

"Mr. Tudor," she began, not a bit abashed,
" I want to know what it is you are going to do."



240 THE THREE CLERKS.

Though she was not abashed, Charley was,
and very much so. However, he contrived to get
her out of the room, so that he might speak to her
somewhat more privately in the passage. The
gentlemen at the Internal Navigation were well
accustomed to this mode of colloquy, as their
tradesmen not u.nfrequently called, with the
view of having a little conversation, which could
not conveniently be held in the j^ublic room.

" And, Mr. Tudor, what are you agoing to do
about that poor girl there ? " said Mrs. Davis, as
soon as she found herself in the passage, and
saw that Charley was comfortably settled with
his back against the wall.

'' She may go to Hong Kong for me." That
is what Charley should have said. But he did
not say it. He had neither the sternness of
heart nor the moral courage to enable him to
do so. He was very anxious, it is true, to get
altogether quit of JSTorah Geraghty; but his
present immediate care was confined to a desire
of getting Mrs. Davis out of the office.

*' Do," said Charley. " Oh, I don't know ; I'll
come and settle something some of these days,
let me see when, — say next Tuesday."

" Settle something," said Mrs. Davis. " If you
are an honest man, as I take you, there is only
one thing to settle ; when do you mean to marry
her ? "

" Hush ! " said Charley ; for, as she was speak-



EXCELSIOH. 241

ing Mr. Snape came down tlie passage leading
from Mr. Oldescliole's room. " Husli ! " Mr.
Snape as lie passed walked very slowly and
looked curiously round into the widow's face —
" I'll be even with you, old fellow, for that," said
Charley to himself; and it may be taken for
granted that he kept his word before long.

" Oh ! it is no good husliing any more," said
Mrs. Davis, hardly Avaiting till Mr. Snape's erect
ears were out of hearing. " Hushing won't do
no good ; there's that girl a dying, and her grave
'11 be a top of your head, Mr. Tudor ; mind I tell
you that fairly ; so now I want to know what it
is you're a gomg to do." And then Mrs. Davis
lifted up the lid of a market basket which hun^
on her left arm, took out her pocket-handkerchief,
and began to wipe her eyes.

Unfortunate Charley ! An idea occurred to
him that he mio-ht bolt and leave her. But
then the chances were that she v/ould make her
way into his very room, and tell her story there,
out before them all. He well knew that this
woman was capable of many things if her temper
were fairly roused. And yet what could he
say to her to induce her to go out from that
building, and leave him alone to his lesser mis-
fortunes ?

"She's a dying, I tell you, Mr. Tudor,"
continued the landlady, " and if she do die, be
sure of this, I vron't be slow to tell the truth

VOL. II. M



242 THE THREE CLERKS.

about it. I'm the only friend she's got, and
I'm not going to see her put upon. So just teU
me this in two words — what is it you're a going
to do ? " And then Mrs. Davis replaced her
kerchief in the basket, stood boldly erect in the
middle of the passage, waiting for Charley's
answer.

Just at this moment Mr. Snape again appeared
in the passage, going towards Mr, Oldeschole's
room. The pernicious old man ! He hated
Charley Tudor ; and, to teU the truth, there
was no love lost between them. Charley, afflicted
and out of spirits as he was at the moment,
could not resist the opportunity of being im-
pertinent to his old foe : " I'm afraid you'll
make yourself very tired, Mr. Snape, if you
walk about so much," said he ; Mr Snape merely
looked at him and then hard at Mrs. Davis, and
passed on to Mr. Oldeschole's room.

" Well, Mr. Tudor, will you be so good as to
tell me what it is you're going to do about this
poor girl ? "

" My goodness, Mrs. Davis, you know how I
am situated — how can you expect me to give an
answer to such a question in such a place as this ?
I'll come to the Cat and Whistle on Tuesday."

" Gammon ! " said the eloquent lady ! " you
know you means gammon."

Charley, perhaps, did mean gammon ; but he
protested that he had never been more truthfully



EXCELSIOR. 243

in earnest in liis life. Mr. Oldescliole's door
opened, and Mrs. Davis perceiving it, whipped out
her handkerchief in haste, and again hegan wiping
her eyes, not without audible sobs. "Confound
the woman !" said Charley to himself; "what on
earth shall I do with her ? "

Mr. Oldeschole's door opened, and out of it
came Mr. Oldeschole, and Mr. Snape following
him. Wliat means the Clerk had used to bring
forth the Secretary need not now be inquired.
Forth they both came, and passed along the
passage, brushing close by Charley and Mrs.
Davis ; Mr. Oldeschole, when he saw that one of
the clerks was talking to a woman who apparently
was crying, looked very intently on the ground,
and passed by with a quick step ; Mr. Snape
looked as intently at the w^oman, and passed very
slowly. Each acted according to his lights.

" I don't mean gammon at all, Mrs. Davis —
indeed I don't — I'll be there on Tuesday night
certainly, if not sooner — I will indeed — I shall be
in a desperate scrape if they see me here talking
to you any longer ; there is a rule against women
being in the office at all."

"And there's a rule against the clerks mar-
rying, I suppose," said Mrs. Davis.

The colloquy ended in Charley promising to
spend the Saturday evening at the Cat and
AYliistle, with the view of then and there
settling what he meant to do about " that there


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