The Maidens' Lodge Part 45

"Well! I don't know," responded Mrs Jane, in that tone which people use when they make that a.s.sertion as the prelude to the declaration of a very decisive opinion,--"_I_ don't know, but I reckon there's a pretty deal about you that's big and grand, my dear; and I'm mightily mistaken if Mr Derwent and Mrs Rhoda don't think the same."

"My dear Jane!" said Mrs Dorothy, with a twinkle of fun in her eyes.

"Mr and Madam Derwent Furnival, if you please."

"Oh, deary me!" e.j.a.c.u.l.a.t.ed Mrs Jane. "Leave that stuff to you. She can call herself Madam Peveril-Plantagenet, if she likes. Make no difference to me. Mrs Rhoda she was, and Mrs Rhoda I shall call her to the end of the chapter. Don't mean any disrespect, you know--quite the contrary. Well, I'm sure I'm very glad to see her at White-Ladies; but, Mrs Phoebe, if it could have been managed, I should have liked you too."

"Thank you, Mrs Jane, but you see it couldn't."

"Well, I don't know. There was no need for you to come down to the Maidens' Lodge, without you liked. Couldn't you have kept rooms in the Abbey for yourself, and still have given all to your cousin?"

"I'd rather have this," said Phoebe, with a smile. "I am more independent, you see; and I have kept what my grandmother meant me to have, so that, please G.o.d, I trust I shall never want, and can still help my friends when they need it. I can walk in the park, and enjoy the gardens, just as well as ever; and Rhoda will be glad to see me, I know, any time when I want a chat with her."

"I should think so, indeed!" cried Mrs Jane. "Most thankless woman in the world if she wasn't."

"Oh, don't say that! You know I could not have done anything else, knowing what Madam intended, when things came to me."

"You did the right thing, dear child," said Mrs Dorothy, quietly, "as G.o.d's children should. He knew when to put the power in your hands. If Madam Derwent had come to White-Ladies ten years ago, she wouldn't have made as good use of it as she will now. She was not ready for it. And I'm mistaken if you are not happier, Phoebe, in the Maidens' Lodge, than you ever would have been if you had kept White-Ladies."

"I am sure of that," said Phoebe. "Well, but she didn't need have come down thus far!" reiterated Mrs Jane.

"She is the servant of One who came down very far, dear Jane," gently answered Mrs Dorothy, "that we through His poverty might be rich."

"Well, it looks like it," replied Mrs Jane, with a little tell-tale huskiness in her voice. "Mrs Phoebe, my dear, do you remember my saying, when Madam died, to you and Mrs Rhoda, that I'd tell you ten years after, which I was sorry for?" Phoebe smiled an affirmative.

"Well, I'm not over sorry for either of you; but, at any rate, not for _you_."

"The light has come back to thine eyes; dear child, and the peace," said old Mrs Dorothy. "Ah, folks don't always know what is the hardest to give up."

And Phoebe, looking up with startled eyes, saw that Mrs Dorothy had guessed her secret. She went to the fire for fresh water from the kettle. Her face was as calm as usual when she returned. Softly she said,--

"'Mon sort n'est pas a plaindre, Il est a desirer; Je n'ai plus rien a craindre, Car Dieu est mon Berger.'"


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