MY COLLEGE FRIENDS.

CHARLES RUSSELL, THE GENTLEMAN-COMMONER.

[MAGA. August 1846.]

CHAPTER I.

Have you any idea who that fresh gentleman-commoner is?” said I to Savile, who was sitting next to me at dinner, one day soon after the beginning of term. We had not usually in the college above three or four of that privileged class, so that any addition to their table attracted more attention than the arrival of the vulgar herd of freshmen to fill up the vacancies at our own. Unless one of them had choked himself with his mutton, or taken some equally decided mode of making himself an object of public interest, scarcely any man of “old standing” would have even inquired his name.

“Is he one of our men?” said Savile, as he scrutinised the party in question. “I thought he had been a stranger dining with some of them. Murray, you know the history of every man who comes up, I believe—who is he?”

“His name is Russell,” replied the authority referred to; “Charles Wynderbie Russell; his father’s a banker in the city: Russell and Smith, you know, —— Street.”

“Ay, I dare say,” said Savile; “one of your rich tradesmen; they always come up as gentlemen-commoners, to show that they have lots of money: it makes me wonder how any man of decent family ever condescends to put on a silk gown.” Savile was the younger son of a poor baronet, thirteenth in descent, and affected considerable contempt for any other kind of distinction.

“Oh!” continued Murray, “this man is by no means of a bad family: his father comes of one of the oldest houses in Dorsetshire, and his mother, you know, is one of the Wynderbies of Wynderbie Court—a niece of Lord De Staveley’s.”

I know!” said Savile; “nay, I never heard of Wynderbie Court in my life; but I dare say you know, which is quite sufficient. Really, Murray, you might make a good speculation by publishing a genealogical list of the undergraduate members of the university—birth, parentage, family connections, governors’ present incomes, probable expectations, &c. &c. It would sell capitally among the tradesmen—they’d know exactly when it was safe to give credit. You could call it A Guide to Duns.”

“Or a History of the Un-landed Gentry,” suggested I.

“Well, he is a very gentlemanlike-looking fellow, that Mr Russell, banker or not,” said Savile, as the unconscious subject of our conversation left the hall; “I wonder who knows him?”

The same question might have been asked a week—a month after this conversation, without eliciting any very satisfactory answer. With the exception of Murray’s genealogical information—the correctness of which was never doubted for a moment, though how or where he obtained this and similar pieces of history, was a point on which he kept up an amusing mystery—Russell was a man of whom no one appeared to know anything at all. The other gentlemen-commoners had, I believe, all called upon him, as a matter of courtesy to one of their own limited mess; but in almost every case it had merely amounted to an exchange of cards. He was either out of his rooms, or “sporting oak;” and “Mr C. W. Russell,” on a bit of pasteboard, had invariably appeared in the note-box of the party for whom the honour was intended, on their return from their afternoon’s walk or ride. Invitations to two or three wine-parties had followed, and been civilly declined. It was at one of these meetings that he again became the subject of conversation. We were a large party, at a man of the name of Tichborne’s rooms, when some one mentioned having met “the Hermit,” as they called him, taking a solitary walk about three miles out of Oxford the day before.

“Oh, you mean Russell,” said Tichborne: “well, I was going to tell you, I called on him again this morning, and found him in his rooms. In fact, I almost followed him in after lecture; for I confess I had some little curiosity to find out what he was made of!”

“And did you find out?”—“What sort of a fellow is he?” asked half-a-dozen voices at once; for, to say the truth, the curiosity which Tichborne had just confessed had been pretty generally felt, even among those who usually affected a dignified disregard of all matters concerning the nature and habits of freshmen.

“I sat with him for about twenty minutes; indeed, I should have staid longer, for I rather liked the lad; but he seemed anxious to get rid of me. I can’t make him out at all, though. I wanted him to come here to-night, but he positively would not, though he didn’t pretend to have any other engagement: he said he never, or seldom, drank wine.”

“Not drink wine!” interrupted Savile. “I always said he was some low fellow!”

“I have known some low fellows drink their skins full of wine, though; especially at other men’s expense,” said Tichborne, who was evidently not pleased with the remark; “and Russell is not a low fellow by any means.”

“Well, well,” replied Savile, whose good-humour was imperturbable—“if you say so, there’s an end of it: all I mean to say is, I can’t conceive any man not drinking wine, unless for the simple reason that he prefers brandy-and-water, and that I do call low. However, you’ll excuse my helping myself to another glass of this particularly good claret, Tichborne, though it is at your expense: indeed, the only use of you gentlemen-commoners, that I am aware of, is to give us a taste of the senior common-room wine now and then. They do manage to get it good there, certainly. I wish they would give out a few dozens as prizes at collections; it would do us a great deal more good than a Russia-leather book with the college arms on it. I don’t know that I shouldn’t take to reading in that case.”

“Drink a dozen of it, old fellow, if you can,” said Tichborne. “But really I am sorry we couldn’t get Russell here this evening; I think he would be rather an acquisition, if he could be drawn out. As to his not drinking wine, that’s a matter of taste; and he is not very likely to corrupt the good old principles of the college on that point. But he must please himself.”

“What does he do with himself?” said one of the party—“read?”

“Why he didn’t talk about reading, as most of our literary freshmen do, which might perhaps lead one to suppose he really was something of a scholar; still, I doubt if he is what you call a reading man; I know he belongs to the Thucydides lecture, and I have never seen him there but once.”

“Ah!” said Savile, with a sigh, “that’s another privilege of yours I had forgotten, which is rather enviable; you can cut lectures when you like, without getting a thundering imposition. Where does this man Russell live?”

“He has taken those large rooms that Sykes used to have, and fitted up in such style; they were vacant, you remember, the last two terms; I had some thought of moving into them myself, but they were confoundedly expensive, and I didn’t think it worth while. They cost Sykes I don’t know how much, in painting and papering, and are full of all sorts of couches, and easy-chairs, and so forth. And this man seems to have got two or three good paintings into them; and, altogether, they are now the best rooms in college, by far.”

“Does he mean to hunt?” asked another.

“No, I fancy not,” replied our host: “though he spoke as if he knew something about it; but he said he had no horses in Oxford.”

“Nor anywhere else, I’ll be bound; he’s a precious slow coach, you may depend upon it.” And with this decisive remark, Mr Russell and his affairs were dismissed for the time.

A year passed away, and still, at the end of that time—(a long time it seemed in those days)—Russell was as much a stranger in college as ever. He had begun to be regarded as a rather mysterious person. Hardly two men in the college agreed in their estimate of his character. Some said he was a natural son—the acknowledged heir to a large fortune, but too proud to mix in society, under the consciousness of a dishonoured birth. But this suspicion was indignantly refuted by Murray, as much on behalf of his own genealogical accuracy, as for Russell’s legitimacy—he was undoubtedly the true and lawful son and heir of Mr Russell the banker, of —— Street. Others said he was poor; but his father was reputed to be the most wealthy partner in a wealthy firm, and was known to have a considerable estate in the west of England. There were not wanting those who said he was “eccentric”—in the largest sense of the term. Yet his manners and conduct, as far as they came within notice, were correct, regular, and gentlemanly beyond criticism. There was nothing about him which could fairly incur even the minor charge of being odd. He dressed well, though very plainly; would converse freely enough, upon any subject, with the few men who, from sitting at the same table, or attending the same lectures, had formed a doubtful sort of acquaintance with him; and always showed great good sense, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a courtesy, and at the same time perfect dignity of manner, which effectually prevented any attempt to penetrate, by jest or direct question, the reserve in which he had chosen to enclose himself. All invitations he steadily refused; even to the extent of sending an excuse to the deans’ and tutors’ breakfast parties, to their ineffable disgust. Whether he read hard, or not, was equally a secret. He was regular in his attendance at chapel, and particularly attentive to the service; a fact which by no means tended to lower him in men’s estimation, though in those days more remarkable than, happily, it would be now. At lectures, indeed, he was not equally exemplary, either as to attendance or behaviour; he was often absent when asked a question, and not always accurate when he replied; and occasionally declined translating a passage which came to his turn, on the ground of not having read it. Yet his scholarship, if not always strictly accurate, had a degree of elegance which betokened both talent and reading; and his taste was evidently naturally good, and classical literature a subject of interest to him. Altogether, it rather piqued the vanity of those who saw most of him, that he would give them no opportunity of seeing more; and many affected to sneer at him, as a “muff,” who would have been exceedingly flattered by his personal acquaintance. Only one associate did Charles Russell appear to have in the university; and this was a little greenish-haired man in a scholar’s gown, a perfect contrast to himself in appearance, whose name or college no man knew, though some professed to recognise him as a Bible-clerk of one of the smallest and most obscure of the halls.

Attempts were made to pump out of his scout some information as to how Russell passed his time: for, with the exception of a daily walk, sometimes with the companion above mentioned, but much oftener alone, and his having been seen once or twice in a skiff on the river, he appeared rarely to quit his own rooms. Scouts are usually pretty communicative of all they know—and sometimes a great deal more—about the affairs of their many masters; and they are not inclined in general to hold a very high opinion of those among “their gentlemen” who, like Russell, are behindhand in the matter of wine and supper-parties—their own perquisites suffering thereby. But Job Allen was a scout of a thousand. His honesty and integrity made him quite the rara avis of his class—i.e., a white swan amongst a flock of black ones. Though really, since I have left the university, and been condemned to house-keeping, and have seen the peculation and perquisite-hunting existing pretty nearly in the same proportion amongst ordinary servants—and the higher you go in society the worse it seems to be—without a tittle of the activity and cleverness displayed by a good college scout, who provides supper and etceteras for an extemporary party of twenty or so at an hour’s notice, without starting a difficulty or giving vent to a grumble, or neglecting any one of his other multifarious duties (further than perhaps borrowing for the service of the said supper some hard-reading freshman’s whole stock of knives, and leaving him to spread his nocturnal bread and butter with his fingers); since I have been led to compare this with the fuss and fidget caused in a “well-regulated family” among one’s own lazy vagabonds, by having an extra horse to clean, or by a couple of friends arriving unexpectedly to dinner, when they all stare at you as if you were expecting impossibilities, I have pretty well come to the conclusion, that college servants, like hedgehogs, are a grossly calumniated race of animals—wrongfully accused of getting their living by picking and stealing, whereas they are in fact rather more honest than the average of their neighbours. It is to be hoped that, like the hedgehogs, they enjoy a compensation in having too thick skins to be over-sensitive. At all events, Job Allen was an honest fellow. He had been known to expostulate with some of his more reckless masters upon the absurdities of their goings-on; and had more than once had a commons of bread flung at his head, when taking the opportunity of symptoms of repentance, in an evident disrelish for breakfast, to hint at the slow but inevitable approach of “degree-day.” Cold chickens from the evening’s supper-party had made a miraculous reappearance at next morning’s lunch or breakfast; half-consumed bottles of port seemed, under his auspices, to lead charmed lives. No wonder, then, there was very little information about the private affairs of Russell to be got out of Job Allen. He had but a very poor talent for gossip, and none at all for invention. “Mr Russell’s a very nice, quiet sort of gentleman, sir, and keeps his-self pretty much to his-self.” This was Job’s account of him; and, to curious inquirers, it was provoking both for its meagreness and its truth. “Who’s his friend in the rusty gown, Job?”—“I thinks, sir, his name’s Smith.” “Is Mr Russell going up for a class, Job?”—“I can’t say indeed, sir.” “Does he read hard?”—“Not over-hard, I think, sir.” “Does he sit up late, Job?”—“Not over-late, sir.” If there was anything to tell, it was evident Job would neither commit himself nor his master.

Russell’s conduct was certainly uncommon. If he had been the son of a poor man, dependent for his future livelihood on his own exertions, eking out the scanty allowance ill-spared by his friends by the help of a scholarship or exhibition, and avoiding society as leading to necessary expense, his position would have been understood, and even, in spite of the prejudices of youthful extravagance, commended. Or if he had been a hard-reading man from choice—or a stupid man—or a “saint”—no one would have troubled themselves about him or his proceedings. But Russell was a gentleman-commoner, and a man who had evidently seen something of the world; a rich man, and apparently by no means of the character fitted for a recluse. He had dined once with the principal, and the two or three men who had met him there were considerably surprised at the easy gracefulness of his manners, and his information upon many points usually beyond the range of undergraduates: at his own table in hall, too, he never affected any reserve, although, perhaps from a consciousness of having virtually declined any intimacy with his companions, he seldom originated any conversation. It might have been assumed, indeed, that he despised the society into which he was thrown, but that his bearing, so far from being haughty, or even cold, was occasionally marked by apparent dejection. There was also, at times, a breaking out as it were of the natural spirits of youth, checked almost abruptly; and once or twice he had betrayed an interest in, and a knowledge of, field-sports and ordinary amusements, which for the moment made his hearers fancy, as Tichborne said, that he was “coming out.” But if, as at first often happened, such conversations led to a proposal for a gallop with the harriers, or a ride the next afternoon, or a match at billiards, or even an invitation to a quiet breakfast-party—the refusal, though always courteous—and sometimes it was fancied unwilling—was always decided. And living day by day within reach of that close companionship which similarity of age, pursuits, and tastes, strengthened by daily intercourse, was cementing all around him, Charles Russell, in his twentieth year, in a position to choose his own society, and qualified to shine in it, seemed to have deliberately adopted the life of a recluse.

There were some, indeed, who accounted for his behaviour on the ground of stinginess; and it was an opinion somewhat strengthened by one or two trifling facts. When the subscription-list for the college boat was handed to him, he put his name down for the minimum of one guinea, though Charley White, our secretary, with the happy union of impudence and “soft sawder” for which he was remarkable, delicately drew his attention to the fact, that no other gentleman-commoner had given less than five. Still it was not very intelligible that a man who wished to save his pocket, should choose to pay double fees for the privilege of wearing a velvet cap and silk gown, and rent the most expensive set of rooms in the college.

It happened that I returned one night somewhat late from a friend’s rooms out of college, and had the satisfaction to find that my scout, in an unusually careful mood, had shut my outer “oak,” which had a spring lock, of which I never by any chance carried the key. It was too late to send for the rascal to open it, and I was just planning the possibility of effecting an entrance at the window by means of the porter’s ladder, when the light in Russell’s room caught my eye, and I remembered that, in the days of their former occupant, our keys used to correspond, very much to our mutual convenience. It was no very great intrusion, even towards one in the morning, to ask a man to lend you his door key, when the alternative seemed to be spending the night in the quadrangle: so I walked up his staircase, knocked, was admitted, and stated my business with all proper apologies. The key was produced most graciously, and down I went again—unluckily two steps at a time. My foot slipped, and one grand rattle brought me to the bottom: not head first, but feet first, which possibly is not quite so dangerous, but any gentleman who has tried it will agree with me that it is sufficiently unpleasant. I was dreadfully shaken; and when I tried to get up, found it no easy matter. Russell, I suppose, heard the fall, for he was by my side by the time I had collected my ideas. I felt as if I had skinned myself at slight intervals all down one side; but the worst of it was a sprained ankle. How we got up-stairs again I have no recollection; but when a glass of brandy had brought me to a little, I found myself in an easy-chair, with my foot on a stool, shivering and shaking like a wet puppy. I staid there a fortnight (not in the chair, reader, but in the rooms); and so it was I became intimately acquainted with Charles Russell. His kindness and attention to me were excessive; I wished of course to be moved to my own rooms at once, but he would not hear of it; and as I found every wriggle and twist which I gave quite sufficiently painful, I acceded to my surgeon’s advice to remain where I was.

It was not a very pleasant mode of introduction for either party. Very few men’s acquaintance is worth the pains of bumping all the way down-stairs and spraining an ankle for: and for a gentleman who voluntarily confines himself to his own apartment and avoids society, to have another party chummed in upon him perforce, day and night, sitting in an arm-chair, with a suppressed groan occasionally, and an abominable smell of hartshorn—is, to say the least of it, not the happiest mode of hinting to him the evils of solitude. Whether it was that the one of us, compelled thus against his will to play the host, was anxious to show he was no churl by nature, and the other, feeling himself necessarily in a great degree an intruder and a bore, put forth more zealously any redeeming social qualities he might possess; be this as it might, within that fortnight Russell and I became sincere friends.

I found him, as I had expected, a most agreeable and gentlemanlike companion, clever and well informed, and with a higher tone and more settled principles than are common to his age and position. But strongly contrasted with his usually cheerful manner, were sudden intervals of abstraction approaching to gloominess. In him, it was evidently not the result of caprice, far less of anything approaching to affectation. I watched him closely, partly from interest, partly because I had little else to do, and became convinced that there was some latent cause of grief or anxiety at work. Once in particular, after the receipt of some letters (they were always opened hurriedly, and apparently with a painful interest), he was so visibly discomposed and depressed in spirits, that I ventured to express a hope that they had contained no distressing intelligence. Russell seemed embarrassed at having betrayed any unusual emotion, and answered in the negative; adding, that “he knew he was subject to the blues occasionally”—and I felt I could say no more. But I suppose I did not look convinced; for catching my eyes fixed on him soon afterwards, he shook my hand and said, “Something has vexed me—I cannot tell you what; but I won’t think about it again now.”

One evening, towards the close of my imprisonment, after a long and pleasant talk over our usual sober wind-up of a cup of coffee, some recent publication, tasteful, but rather expensive, was mentioned, which Russell expressed a wish to see. I put the natural question to a man in his position who could appreciate the book, and to whom a few pounds were no consideration—why did he not order it? He coloured slightly, and after a moment’s hesitation hurriedly replied, “Because I cannot afford it.” I felt a little awkwardness as to what to say next; for the style of everything round me betrayed a lavish disregard of expense, and yet the remark did not at all bear the tone of a jest. Probably Russell understood what was passing in my mind; for presently, without looking at me, he went on: “Yes, you may well think it a pitiful economy to grudge five guineas for a book like that, and indulge one’s-self in such pompous mummery as we have here;” and he pushed down with his foot a massive and beautiful silver coffee-pot, engraved with half-a-dozen quarterings of arms, which, in spite of a remonstrance from me, had been blackening before the fire to keep its contents warm. “Never mind it,” he continued, as I in vain put out my hand to save it from falling—“it won’t be damaged; it will fetch just as much per ounce; and I really cannot afford to buy an inferior article.” Russell’s behaviour up to this moment had been rational enough, but at the moment a suspicion crossed my mind that “eccentricity,” as applied to his case, might possibly, as in some other cases, be merely an euphonism for something worse. However, I picked up the coffee-pot, and said nothing. “You must think me very strange, Hawthorne; I quite forgot myself at the moment; but if you choose to be trusted with a secret, which will be no secret long, I will tell you what will perhaps surprise you with regard to my own position, though I really have no right to trouble you with my confidences.” I disclaimed any wish to assume the right of inquiring into private matters, but at the same time expressed, as I sincerely felt, an interest in what was evidently a weight on my companion’s mind. “Well, to say the truth,” continued Russell, “I think it will be a relief to me to tell you how I stand. I know that I have often felt of late that I am acting a daily lie here, to all the men about me; passing, doubtless, for a rich man, when in truth, for aught I know, I and all my family are beggars at this moment.” He stopped, walked to the window, and returned. “I am surrounded here by luxuries which have little right within a college’s walls; I occupy a distinctive position which you and others are supposed not to be able to afford; I never can mix with any of you, without, as it were, carrying with me everywhere the superscription written—‘This is a rich man.’ And yet, with all this outward show, I may be a debtor to your charity for my bread to-morrow. You are astonished, Hawthorne; of course you are. I am not thus playing the hypocrite willingly, believe me. Had I only my own comfort, and my own feelings to consult, I would take my name off the college books to-morrow. How I bear the life I lead, I scarcely know.”

“But tell me,” said I, “as you have told me so much, what is the secret of all this?”

“I will; I was going to explain. My only motive for concealment, my only reason for even wishing you to keep my counsel, is, because the character and prospects of others are concerned. My father, as I dare say you are aware, is pretty well known as the head of the firm of Russell and Smith: he passes for a rich man, of course; he was a rich man, I believe, once; and I, his only son and heir—brought up as I was to look upon money as a plaything—I was sent to college of course as a gentleman-commoner. I knew nothing, as a lad, of my father’s affairs: there were fools enough to tell me he was rich, and that I had nothing to do but to spend his money—and I did spend it—ay, too much of it—yet not so much, perhaps, as I might. Not since I came here, Hawthorne; oh no!—not since I found out that it was neither his nor mine to spend—I have not been so bad as that, thank God. And if ever man could atone, by suffering, for the thoughtlessness and extravagance of early days, I have well-nigh paid my penalty in full already. I told you, I entered here as a gentleman-commoner; my father came down to Oxford with me, chose my rooms, sent down this furniture and these paintings from town—thank Heaven, I never knew what they cost—ordered a couple of hunters and a groom for me—those I stopped from coming down—and, in fact, made every preparation for me to commence my career with credit as the heir-apparent to a large fortune. Some suspicions that all was not right had crossed my mind before: certain conversations between my father and cold-looking men of business, not meant for my ear, and very imperfectly understood—for it appeared to be my father’s object to keep me totally ignorant of all the mysteries of banking—an increasing tendency on his part to grumble over petty expenses which implied ready payment, with an ostentatious profusion in show and entertainments—many slight circumstances put together had given me a sort of vague alarm at times, which I shook off, as often as it recurred, like a disagreeable dream. A week after I entered college, a letter from my only sister opened my eyes to the truth. What I had feared was a temporary embarrassment—a disagreeable necessity for retrenchment, or, at the worst, a stoppage of payment, and a respectable bankruptcy, which would injure no one but the creditors. What she spoke of was absolute ruin, poverty, and, what was worse, disgrace. It came upon me very suddenly—but I bore it. I am not going to enter into particulars about family matters to you, Hawthorne—you would not wish it, I know; let me only say, my sister Mary is an angel, and my father a weak-minded man—I will hope, not intentionally a dishonest one. But I have learnt enough to know that there are embarrassments from which he can never extricate himself with honour, and that every month, every week, that he persists in maintaining a useless struggle will only add misery to misery in the end. How long it may go on no one can say—but the end must come. My own first impulse was, of course, to leave this place at once, and so, at all events, to avoid additional expenses: but my father would not hear of it. I went to him, told him what I knew, though not how I had heard it, and drew from him a sort of confession that he had made some unfortunate speculations. But ‘only let us keep up appearances’—those were his words—a little while, and all would be right again, he assured me. I made no pretence of believing him; but, Hawthorne, when he offered to go on his knees to me—and I his only son—and promised to retrench in every possible method that would not betray his motives, if I would but remain at college to take my degree—‘to keep up appearances’—what could I do?”

“Plainly,” said I, “you did right: I do not see that you had any alternative. Nor have you any right to throw away your future prospects. Your father’s unfortunate embarrassments are no disgrace to you.”

“So said my sister. I knew her advice must be right, and I consented to remain here. You know I lead no life of self-indulgence; and the necessary expenses, even as a gentleman-commoner, are less than you would suppose, unless you had tried matters as closely as I have.”

“And with your talents—” said I.

“My talents! I am conscious of but one talent at present: the faculty of feeling acutely the miserable position into which I have been forced. No, if you mean that I am to gain any sort of distinction by hard reading, it is simply what I cannot do. Depend upon it, Hawthorne, a man must have a mind tolerably at ease to put forth any mental exertion to good purpose. If this crash were once over, and I were reduced to my proper level in society—which will, I suppose, be pretty nearly that of a pauper—then I think I could work for my bread either with head or hands: but in this wretchedly false position, here I sit bitterly, day after day, with books open before me perhaps, but with no heart to read, and no memory but for one thing. You know my secret now, Hawthorne, and it has been truly a relief to me to unburden my mind to some one here. I am very much alone, indeed; and it is not at all my nature to be solitary: if you will come and see me sometimes, now that you know all, it will be a real kindness. It is no great pleasure, I assure you,” he continued, smiling, “to be called odd, and selfish, and stingy, by those of one’s own age, as I feel I must be called; but it is much better than to lead the life I might lead—spending money which is not mine, and accustoming myself to luxuries, when I may soon have to depend on charity even for necessaries. For my own comfort, it might be better, as I said before, that the crisis came at once: still, if I remain here until I am qualified for some profession, by which I may one day be able to support my sister—that is the hope I feed on—why, then, this sort of existence may be endured.”

Russell had at least no reason to complain of having disclosed his mind to a careless listener. I was moved almost to tears at his story: but, stronger than all other feelings, was admiration of his principles and character. I felt that some of us had almost done him irreverence in venturing to discuss him so lightly as we had often done. How little we know the hearts of others, and how readily we prate about “seeing through” a man, when in truth what we see is but a surface, and the image conveyed to our mind from it but the reflection of ourselves!

My intimacy with Russell, so strangely commenced, had thus rapidly and unexpectedly taken the character of that close connection which exists between those who have one secret and engrossing interest confined to themselves alone. We were now more constantly together, perhaps, than any two men in college: and many were the jokes I had to endure in consequence. Very few of my old companions had ventured to carry their attentions to me, while laid up in Russell’s rooms, beyond an occasional call at the door to know how I was going on; and when I got back to my old quarters, and had refused one or two invitations on the plea of having Russell coming to spend a quiet evening with me, their astonishment and disgust were expressed pretty unequivocally, and they affected to call us “the exclusives.” However, Russell was a man who, if he made few friends, gave no excuse for enemies; and, in time, my intimacy with him, and occasional withdrawals from general college society in consequence, came to be regarded as a pardonable weakness—unaccountable, but past all help—a subject on which the would-be wisest of my friends shook their heads and said nothing.

I think this new connection was of advantage to both parties. To myself it certainly was. I date the small gleams of good sense and sobermindedness which broke in upon my character at that critical period of life, solely from my intercourse with Charles Russell. He, on the other hand, had suffered greatly from the want of that sympathy and support which the strongest mind at times stands as much in need of as the weakest, and which in his peculiar position could only be purchased by an unreserved confidence. From any premeditated explanation he would have shrunk; nor would he ever, as he himself confessed, have made the avowal he did to me, had it not escaped him by a momentary impulse. But, having made it, he seemed a happier man. His reading, which before had been desultory and interrupted, was now taken up in earnest: and idly inclined as I was myself, I became, with the pseudo sort of generosity not uncommon at that age, so much more anxious for his future success than my own, that, in order to encourage him, I used to go to his rooms to read with him, and we had many a hard morning’s work together.

We were very seldom interrupted by visitors: almost the only one was that unknown and unprepossessing friend of Russell’s who has been mentioned before—his own contradictory in almost every respect. Very uncouth and dirty-looking he was, and stuttered terribly—rather, it seemed, from diffidence than from any natural defect. He showed some surprise on the first two or three occasions in which he encountered me, and made an immediate attempt to back out of the room again: and though Russell invariably recalled him, and showed an evident anxiety to treat him with every consideration, he never appeared at his ease for a moment, and made his escape as soon as possible. Russell always fixed a time for seeing him again—usually the next day; and there was evidently some object in these interviews, into which, as it was no concern of mine, I never inquired particularly, as I had already been intrusted with a confidence rather unusual as the result of a few weeks’ acquaintance; and on the subject of his friend—“poor Smith,” as he called him—Russell did not seem disposed to be communicative.

Time wore on, and brought round the Christmas vacation. I thought it due to myself, as all young men do, to get up to town for a week or two if possible; and being lucky enough to have an old aunt occupying a very dark house, much too large for her, and who, being rather a prosy personage, a little deaf, and very opinionated, and therefore not a special object of attraction to her relations (her property was merely a life-interest), was very glad to get any one to come and see her—I determined to pay a visit, in which the score of obligations would be pretty equally balanced on both sides. On the one hand, the tête-à-tête dinners with the old lady, and her constant catechising about Oxford, were a decided bore to me; while it required some forbearance on her part to endure an inmate who constantly rushed into the drawing-room without wiping his boots, who had no taste for old china, and against whom the dear dog Petto had an unaccountable but decided antipathy. (Poor dog! I fear he was ungrateful: I used to devil sponge biscuit internally for him after dinner, kept a snuff-box more for his use than my own, and prolonged his life, I feel confident, at least twelve months from apoplexy, by pulling hairs out of his tail with a pair of tweezers whenever he went to sleep.) On the other hand, my aunt had good wine, and I used to praise it; which was agreeable to both parties. She got me pleasant invitations, and was enabled herself to make her appearance in society with a live nephew in her suite, who in her eyes (I confess, reader, old aunts are partial) was a very eligible young man. So my visit, on the whole, was mutually agreeable and advantageous. I had my mornings to myself, gratifying the dowager occasionally by a drive with her in the afternoon; and we had sufficient engagements for our evenings to make each other’s sole society rather an unusual infliction. It is astonishing how much such an arrangement tends to keep people the best friends in the world.

I had attended my respectable relation one evening (or rather she had attended me, for I believe she went more for my sake than her own) to a large evening party, which was a ball in everything but the name. Nearly all in the rooms were strangers to me; but I had plenty of introductions, and the night wore on pleasantly enough. I saw a dozen pretty faces I had never seen before, and was scarcely likely to see again—the proportion of ugly ones I forbear to mention—and was prepared to bear the meeting and the parting with equal philosophy, when the sight of one very familiar face brought different scenes to my mind. Standing within half-a-dozen steps of me, and in close conversation with a lady, of whom I could see little besides a cluster of dark curls, was Ormiston, one of our college tutors, and one of the most universally popular men in Oxford. It would be wrong to say I was surprised to see him there or anywhere else, for his roll of acquaintance was most extensive, embracing all ranks and degrees; but I was very glad to see him, and made an almost involuntary dart forward in his direction. He saw me, smiled, and put out his hand, but did not seem inclined to enter into any conversation. I was turning away, when a sudden movement gave me a full view of the face of the lady to whom he had been talking. It was a countenance of that pale, clear, intellectual beauty, with a shade of sadness about the mouth, which one so seldom sees but in a picture, but which, when seen, haunts the imagination and the memory rather than excites passionate admiration. The eyes met mine, and, quite by accident, for the thoughts were evidently pre-occupied, retained for some moments the same fixed gaze with which I almost as unconsciously was regarding them. There was something in the features which seemed not altogether unknown to me; and I was beginning to speculate on the possibility of any small heroine of my boyish admiration having shot up into such sweet womanhood—such changes soon occur—when the eyes became conscious, and the head was rapidly turned away. I lost her a moment afterwards in the crowd, and although I watched the whole of the time we remained, with an interest that amused myself, I could not see her again. She must have left the party early.

So strong became the impression on my mind that it was a face I had known before, and so fruitless and tantalising were my efforts to give it “a local habitation and a name”—that I determined at last to question my aunt upon the subject, though quite aware of the imputation that would follow. The worst of it was, I had so few tangible marks and tokens by which to identify my interesting unknown. However, at breakfast next morning, I opened ground at once, in answer to my hostess’s remark that the rooms had been very full.

“Yes, they were: I wanted very much, my dear aunt, to have asked you the names of all the people; but you really were so much engaged, I had no opportunity.”

“Ah! if you had come and sat by me, I could have told you all about them; but there were some very odd people there, too.”

“There was one rather interesting-looking girl I did not see dancing much—tallish, with pearl earrings.”

“Where was she sitting? how was she dressed?”

I had only seen her standing; I never noticed—I hardly think I could have seen—even the colour of her dress.

“Not know how she was dressed? My dear Frank, how strange!”

“All young ladies dress alike now, aunt; there’s really not much distinction; they seemed all black and white to me.”

“Certainly the balls don’t look half so gay as they used to do: a little colour gives cheerfulness, I think.” (The good old lady herself had worn crimson satin and a suite of chrysolites—if her theory were correct, she was enough to have spread a glow over the whole company.) “But let me see;—tall, with pearls, you say; dark hair and eyes?”

“Yes.”

“You must mean Lucy Fielding.”

“Nonsense, my dear ma’am—I beg a thousand pardons; but I was introduced to Miss Fielding, and danced with her—she squints.”

“My dear Frank, don’t say such a thing!—she will have half the Strathinnis property when she comes of age. But let me see again. Had she a white rose in her hair?”

“She had, I think; or something like it.”

“It might have been Lord Dunham’s youngest daughter, who has just come out—she was there for an hour or so?”

“No, no, aunt: I know her by sight too—a pale gawky thing, with an arm and hand like a prize-fighter’s—oh no!”

“Upon my word, my dear nephew, you young men give yourselves abominable airs: I call her a very fine young woman, and I have no doubt she will marry well, though she hasn’t much fortune. Was it Miss Cassilis, then?—white tulle over satin, looped with roses, with gold sprigs”——

“And freckles to match: why, she’s as old as”——; I felt myself on dangerous ground, and filled up the hiatus, I fear not very happily, by looking full at my aunt.

“Not so very old, indeed, my dear: she refused a very good offer last season: she cannot possibly be above”——

“Oh! spare the particulars, pray, my dear ma’am; but you could not have seen the girl I mean: I don’t think she staid after supper: I looked everywhere for her to ask who she was, but she must have been gone.”

“Really! I wish I could help you,” said my aunt with a very insinuating smile.

“Oh,” said I, “what made me anxious to know who she was at the time, was simply that I saw her talking to an old friend of mine, whom you know something of, I believe; did you not meet Mr Ormiston somewhere last winter?”

“Mr Ormiston! oh, I saw him there last night! and now I know who you mean; it must have been Mary Russell, of course; she did wear pearls, and plain white muslin.”

“Russell!—what Russells are they?”

“Russell the banker’s daughter; I suppose nobody knows how many thousands she’ll have; but she is a very odd girl. Mr Ormiston is rather committed in that quarter, I fancy. Ah, he’s a very gentlemanly man, certainly, and an old friend of the family; but that match would never do. Why, he must be ten years older than she is, in the first place, and hasn’t a penny that I know of except his fellowship. No, no; she refused Sir John Maynard last winter, with a clear twelve thousand a-year; and angry enough her papa was about that, everybody says, though he never contradicts her; but she never will venture upon such a silly thing as a match with Mr Ormiston.”

“Won’t she?” said I mechanically, not having had time to collect my thoughts exactly.

“To be sure she won’t,” replied my aunt rather sharply. It certainly struck me that Mary Russell, from what her brother had told me, was a person very likely to show some little disregard of any conventional notions of what was, or what was not desirable in the matter of matrimony; but at the same time I inclined to agree with my aunt, that it was not very probable she would become Mrs Ormiston; indeed, I doubted any very serious intentions on his part. Fellows of colleges are usually somewhat lavish of admiration and attentions; but, as many young ladies know, very difficult to bring to book. Ormiston was certainly not a man to be influenced by the fortune which the banker’s daughter might reasonably be credited with; if anything made the matter seem serious, it was that his opinion of the sex in general—as thrown out in an occasional hint or sarcasm—seemed to border on a supercilious contempt.

I did not meet Miss Russell again during my short stay in town; but two or three days after this conversation, in turning the corner of the street, I came suddenly upon Ormiston. I used to flatter myself with being rather a favourite of his—not from any conscious merit on my part, unless that, during the year of his deanship, when summoned before him for any small atrocities, and called to account for them, I never took up his time or my own by any of the usual somewhat questionable excuses, but awaited my fate, whether “imposition” or reprimand, in silence—a plan which, with him, answered very well, and saved occasionally some straining of conscience on one side, and credulity on the other. I tried it with his successor, who decided that I was contumacious, because, the first time I was absent from chapel, in reply to his interrogations I answered nothing, and upon his persevering, told him that I had been at a very late supper-party the night before. I think, then, I was rather a favourite of Ormiston’s. To say that he was a favourite of mine would be saying very little; for there could have been scarcely a man in college, of any degree of respectability, who would not have been ready to say the same. No man had a higher regard for the due maintenance of discipline, or his own dignity, and the reputation of the college; yet nowhere among the seniors could the undergraduate find a more judicious or a kinder friend. He had the art of mixing with them occasionally with all the unreservedness of an equal, without for a moment endangering the respect due to his position. There was no man you could ask a favour of—even if it infringed a little upon the strictness of college regulations—so readily as Ormiston; and no one appeared to retain more thoroughly some of his boyish tastes and recollections. He subscribed his five guineas to the boat, even after a majority of the fellows had induced our good old Principal, whose annual appearance at the river-side to cheer her at the races had seemed almost a part of his office, to promulgate a decree to the purport that boat-racing was immoral, and that no man engaged therein should find favour in the sight of the authorities. Yet, at the same time, Ormiston could give grave advice when needed; and give it in such a manner, that the most thoughtless among us received it as from a friend. And whenever he did administer a few words of pointed rebuke—and he did not spare it when any really discreditable conduct came under his notice—they fell the more heavily upon the delinquent, because the public sympathy was sure to be on the side of the judge. The art of governing young men is a difficult one, no doubt; but it is surprising that so few take any pains to acquire it. There were very few Ormistons, in my time, in the high places in Oxford.

On that morning, however, Ormiston met me with evident embarrassment, if not with coolness. He started when he first saw me, and, had there been a chance of doing so with decency, looked as if he would have pretended not to recognise me. But we were too near for that, and our eyes met at once. I was really very glad to see him, and not at all inclined to be content with the short “How d’ye do?” so unlike his usual cordial greetings, with which he was endeavouring to hurry on; and there was a little curiosity afloat among my other feelings. So I fairly stopped him with a few of the usual inquiries, as to how long he had been in town, &c., and then plunged at once into the affair of the ball at which we had last met. He interrupted me at once.

“By the way,” said he, “have you heard of poor Russell’s business?”

I actually shuddered, for I scarcely knew what was to follow. As composedly as I could, I simply said, “No.”

“His father is ruined, they say—absolutely ruined. I suppose that is no secret by this time, at all events. He cannot possibly pay even a shilling in the pound.”

“I’m very sorry indeed to hear it,” was all I could say.

“But do you know, Hawthorne,” continued Ormiston, taking my arm with something like his old manner, and no longer showing any anxiety to cut short our interview, “I am afraid this is not the worst of it. There is a report in the city this morning, I was told, that Mr Russell’s character is implicated by some rather unbusinesslike transactions. I believe you are a friend of poor Russell’s, and for that reason I mention it to you in confidence. He may not be aware of it; but the rumour is, that his father dare not show himself again here: that he has left England I know to be a fact.”

“And his daughter?—Miss Russell?” I asked involuntarily—“his children, I mean—where are they?”

I thought Ormiston’s colour heightened; but he was not a man to show much visible emotion. “Charles Russell and his sister are still in London,” he replied; “I have just seen them. They know their father has left for the Continent; I hope they do not know all the reasons. I am very sincerely sorry for young Russell; it will be a heavy blow to him, and I fear he will find his circumstances bitterly changed. Of course he will have to leave Oxford.”

“I suppose so,” said I; “no one can feel more for him than I do. It was well, perhaps, that this did not happen in term time.”

“It has spared him some mortification, certainly. You will see him, perhaps, before you leave town; he will take it kind. And if you have any influence with him—(he will be inclined to listen just now to you, perhaps, more than to me; being more of his own age, he will give you credit for entering into his feelings)—do try and dissuade him from forming any wild schemes, to which he seems rather inclined. He has some kind friends, no doubt; and remember, if there is anything in which I can be of use to him, he shall have my aid even to the half of my kingdom—that is, my tutorship.”

And with a smile and tone which seemed a mixture of jest and earnest, Mr Ormiston wished me good-morning. He was to leave for Oxford that night.

Of Russell’s address in town I was up to this moment ignorant, but resolved to find it out, and see him before my return to the University. The next morning, however, a note arrived from him, containing a simple request that I would call. I found him at the place from which he wrote—one of those dull quiet streets that lead out of the Strand—in very humble lodgings; his father’s private establishment having been given up, it appeared, immediately. The moment we met, I saw at once, as I expected, that the blow which to Ormiston had naturally seemed so terrible a one—no less than the loss, to a young man, of the wealth, rank, and prospects in life to which he had been taught to look forward—had been, in fact, to Russell a merciful relief. The failure of that long-celebrated and trusted house, which was causing in the public mind, according to the papers, so much “consternation” and “excitement,” was to him a consummation long foreseen, and scarcely dreaded. It was only the shadow of wealth and happiness which he had lost now; its substance had vanished long since. And the conscious hollowness and hypocrisy, as he called it, of his late position, had been a far more bitter trial to a mind like his, than any which could result from its exposure. He was one to hail with joy any change which brought him back to truth and reality, no matter how rude and sudden the revulsion.

He met me with a smile; a really honest, almost a light-hearted smile. “It is come at last, Hawthorne; perhaps it would be wrong, or I feel as if I could say, thank God. There is but one point which touches me at all; what do they say about my father?” I told him—fortunately, my acquaintance lying but little among men of business, I could tell him so honestly—that I had heard nothing stated to his discredit.

“Well, well; but they will soon. Oh! Hawthorne; the utter misery, the curse that money-making brings with it! That joining house to house, and field to field, how it corrupts all the better part of a man’s nature! I vow to you, I believe my father would have been an honest man if he had but been a poor one! If he had never had anything to do with interest tables, and had but spent his capital, instead of trying to double and redouble it! One thing I have to thank him for; that he never would suffer me to imbibe any taste for business; he knew the evil and the pollution money-handling brings with it—I am sure he did; he encouraged me, I fear, in extravagance; but I bless him that he never encouraged me in covetousness.”

He grew a little calmer by degrees, and we sat down and took counsel as to his future plans. He was not, of course, without friends, and had already had many offers of assistance for himself and his sister; but his heart appeared, for the present, firmly bent upon independence. Much to my surprise, he decided on returning at once to Oxford, and reading for his degree. His sister had some little property settled upon her—some hundred and fifty pounds a-year; and this she had insisted on devoting to this purpose.

“I love her too well,” said Russell, “to refuse her: and trifling as this sum is,—I remember the time when I should have thought it little to keep me in gloves and handkerchiefs—yet, with management, it will be more than I shall spend in Oxford. Of course, I play the gentleman-commoner no longer; I shall descend to the plain stuff gown.”

“You’ll go to a hall, of course?” said I; for I concluded he would at least avoid the mortification of so palpable a confession of reduced circumstances as this degradation of rank in his old college would be.

“I can see no occasion for it; that is, if they will allow me to change; I have done nothing to be ashamed of, and shall be much happier than I was before. I only strike my false colours; and you know they were never carried willingly.”

I did not attempt to dissuade him, and soon after rose to take my leave.

“I cannot ask my sister to see you now,” he said, as we shook hands: “she is not equal to it. But some other time, I hope”——

“At any other time, I shall be most proud of the introduction. By the way, have you seen Ormiston? He met me this morning, and sent some kind messages, to offer any service in his power.”

“He did, did he?”

“Yes; and, depend upon it, he will do all he can for you in college; you don’t know him very well, I think; but I am sure he takes an interest in you now, at all events,” I continued, “and no man is a more sincere and zealous friend.”

“I beg your pardon, Hawthorne, but I fancy I do know Mr Ormiston very well.”

“Oh! I remember, there seemed some coolness between you, because you never would accept his invitations. Ormiston thought you were too proud to dine with him; and then his pride, which he has his share of, took fire. But that misunderstanding must be all over now.”

“My dear Hawthorne, I believe Mr Ormiston and I understand each other perfectly. Good-morning; I am sorry to seem abrupt, but I have a host of things, not the most agreeable, to attend to.”

It seemed quite evident that there was some little prejudice on Russell’s part against Ormiston. Possibly he did not like his attentions to his sister. But that was no business of mine, and I knew the other too well to doubt his earnest wish to aid and encourage a man of Russell’s high principles, and in his unfortunate position. None of us always know our best friends.

The step which Russell had resolved on taking was, of course, an unusual one. Even the college authorities strongly advised him to remove his name to the books of one of the halls, where he would enter comparatively as a stranger, and where his altered position would not entail so many painful feelings. Every facility was offered him of doing so at one of them where a relative of our Principal’s was the head, and even a saving in expense might thus be effected. But this evident kindness and consideration on their part, only confirmed him in the resolution of remaining where he was. He met their representations with the graceful reply, that he had an attachment to the college which did not depend upon the rank he held in it, and that he trusted he should not be turned out of two homes at once. Even the heart of the splenetic little vice-principal was moved by this genuine tribute to the venerable walls, which to him, as his mistress’s girdle to the poet, encircled all he loved, or hoped, or cared for; and had the date been some century earlier—in those remarkable times when a certain fellow was said to have owed his election into that body to a wondrous knack he had at compounding sherry-posset—it is probable Charles Russell would have stepped into a fellowship by special license at once.

He had harder work before him, however, and he set stoutly to it. He got permission to lodge out of college—a privilege quite unusual, and apparently without any sufficient object in his case. A day or two after his return, he begged me to go with him to see the rooms he had taken: and I was surprised to find that although small, and not in a good part of the town, they were furnished in a style by no means, I thought, in accordance with the strict economy I knew him to be practising in every other respect. They contained, on a small scale, all the appointments of a lady’s drawing-room. It was soon explained. His sister was coming to live with him. “We are but two, now,” said Russell in explanation; “and though poor Mary has been offered what might have been a comfortable home elsewhere, which perhaps would have been more prudent, we both thought, why should we be separated? As to these little things you see, they are nearly all hers: we offered them to the creditors, but even the lawyers would not touch them: and here Mary and I shall live. Very strange, you think, for her to be here in Oxford with no one to take care of her but me; but she does not mind that, and we shall be together. However, Hawthorne, we shall keep a dragon: there is an old housekeeper who would not be turned off, and she comes down with Mary, and may pass for her aunt, if that’s all; so don’t, pray, be shocked at us.”

And so the old housekeeper did come down, and Mary with her; and under such guardianship, a brother and an old servant, was that fair girl installed within the perilous precincts of the University of Oxford; perilous in more senses than one, as many a speculative and disappointed mamma can testify, whose daughters, brought to market at the annual “show” at commemoration, have left uncaught those dons of dignity, and heirs-apparent of property, whom they ought to have caught, and caught those well-dressed and good-looking, but undesirable young men, whom they ought not to have caught. Mary Russell, however, was in little peril herself, and, as little as she could help it, an occasion of peril to others. Seldom did she move out from her humble abode, except for an early morning walk with her brother, or sometimes leaning on the arm of her old domestic, so plainly dressed that you might have mistaken her for her daughter, and wondered how those intensely expressive features, and queen-like graces, should have been bestowed by nature on one so humble. Many a thoughtful student, pacing slowly the parks or Christchurch meadow after early chapel, book in hand, cheating himself into the vain idea that he was taking a healthful walk, and roused by the flutter of approaching female dress, and unwillingly looking up to avoid the possible and unwelcome collision with a smirking nurse-maid and an unresisting baby—has met those eyes, and spoilt his reading for the morning; or has paused in the running tour of Headington hill, or Magdalen walk (by which he was endeavouring to cram his whole allotted animal exercise for the day into an hour), as that sweet vision crossed his path, and wondered in his heart by what happy tie of relationship, or still dearer claim, his fellow-undergraduate had secured to himself so lovely a companion; and has tried in vain, over his solitary breakfast, to rid himself of the heterodox notion which would still creep in upon his thoughts, that in the world there might be, after all, things better worth living and working for, prizes more valuable—and perhaps not harder to win—than a first class, and living impersonations of the beautiful which Aristotle had unaccountably left out. Forgive me, dear reader, if I seem to be somewhat sentimental: I am not, and I honestly believe I never was, in love with Mary Russell; I am not—I fear I never was or shall be—much of a reading man or an early riser; but I will confess, it would have been a great inducement to me to adopt such habits, if I could have insured such pleasant company in my morning walks.

To the general world of Oxford, for a long time, I have no doubt the very existence of such a jewel within it was unknown; for at the hours when liberated tutors and idle undergraduates are wont to walk abroad, Mary was sitting, hid within a little ambush of geraniums, either busy at her work, or helping—as she loved to fancy she helped him—her brother at his studies. Few men, I believe, ever worked harder than Russell did in his last year. With the exception of the occasional early walk, and the necessary attendance at chapel and lecture, he read hard nearly the whole day; and I always attributed the fact of his being able to do so with comparatively little effort, and no injury to his health, to his having such a sweet face always present, to turn his eyes upon, when wearied with a page of Greek, and such a kind voice always ready to speak or to be silent.

It was not for want of access to any other society that Mary Russell spent her time so constantly with her brother. The Principal, with his usual kind-heartedness, had insisted—a thing he seldom did—upon his lady making her acquaintance; and though Mrs Meredith, who plumed herself much upon her dignity, had made some show of resistance at first to calling upon a young lady who was living in lodgings by herself in one of the most out-of-the-way streets in Oxford, yet, after her first interview with Miss Russell, so much did her sweetness of manner win upon Mrs Principal’s fancy—or perhaps it will be doing that lady but justice to say, so much did her more than orphan unprotectedness and changed fortunes soften the woman’s heart that beat beneath that formidable exterior of silk and ceremony, that before the first ten minutes of what had been intended as a very condescending and very formal call were over, she had been offered a seat in Mrs Meredith’s official pew in St Mary’s; the pattern of a mysterious bag, which that good lady carried everywhere about with her, it was believed for no other purpose; and an airing the next day behind the fat old greys, which their affectionate coachman—in commemoration of his master’s having purchased them at the time he held that dignity—always called by the name of the “Vice-Chancellors.” Possibly an absurd incident, which Mary related with great glee to her brother and myself, had helped to thaw the ice in which “our governess” usually encased herself. When the little girl belonging to the lodgings opened the door to these dignified visitors, upon being informed that Miss Russell was at home, the Principal gave the name simply as “Dr and Mrs Meredith:” which, not appearing to his more pompous half at all calculated to convey a due impression of the honour conveyed by the visit, she corrected him, and in a tone quite audible—as indeed every word of the conversation had been—up the half-dozen steep stairs which led to the little drawing-room, gave out “the Master of —— and lady, if you please.” The word “master” was quite within the comprehension of the little domestic, and dropping an additional courtesy of respect to an office which reminded her of her catechism and the Sunday school, she selected the appropriate feminine from her own vocabulary, and threw open the door with “the master and mistress of ——, if you please, Miss.” Dr Meredith laughed, as he entered, so heartily, that even Mary could not help smiling, and the “mistress,” seeing the odds against her, smiled too. An acquaintance begun in such good humour, could hardly assume a very formal character; and, in fact, had Mary Russell not resolutely declined all society, Mrs Meredith would have felt rather a pleasure in patronising her. But both her straitened means and the painful circumstances of her position—her father already spoken of almost as a criminal—led her to court strict retirement; while she clung with redoubled affection to her brother. He, on his part, seemed to have improved in health and spirits since his change of fortunes; the apparent haughtiness and coldness with which many had charged him before, had quite vanished; he showed no embarrassment, far less any consciousness of degradation, in his conversation with any of his old messmates at the gentlemen-commoners’ table; and, though his communication with the college was but comparatively slight, nearly all his time being spent in his lodgings, he was becoming quite a popular character.

Meanwhile, a change of a different kind seemed to be coming over Ormiston. It was remarked, even by those not much given to observation, that his lectures, which were once considered endurable, even by idle men, from his happy talent of remark and illustration, were fast becoming as dull and uninteresting as the common run of all such business. Moreover, he had been in the habit of giving, occasionally, capital dinners, invitations to which were sent out frequently and widely among the young men of his own college; these ceased almost entirely; or, when they occurred, had but the shadow of their former joyousness. Even some of the fellows were known to have remarked that Ormiston was much altered lately; some said he was engaged to be married—a misfortune which would account for any imaginable eccentricities; but one of the best of the college livings falling vacant about the time, and, on its refusal by the two senior fellows, coming within Ormiston’s acceptance, and being passed by him, tended very much to do away with any suspicion of that kind.

Between him and Russell there was an evident coolness, though noticed by few men but myself; yet Ormiston always spoke most kindly of him, while on Russell’s part there seemed to be a feeling almost approaching to bitterness, ill concealed, whenever the tutor became the subject of conversation. I pressed him once or twice upon the subject, but he always affected to misunderstand me, or laughed off any sarcastic remark he might have made, as meaning nothing; so that at last the name was seldom mentioned between us, and almost the only point on which we differed seemed to be our estimation of Ormiston.

CHAPTER II.

It was the last night of the boat-races. All Oxford, town and gown, was on the move between Iffley and Christchurch meadow. The reading man had left his ethics only half understood, the rowing man his bottle more than half finished, to enjoy as beautiful a summer evening as ever gladdened the banks of Isis. One continued heterogeneous living stream was pouring on from St “Ole’s” to King’s barge, and thence across the river in punts, down to the starting-place by the lasher. One moment your tailor puffed a cigar in your face, and the next, just as you made some critical remark to your companion on the pretty girl you just passed, and turned round to catch a second glimpse of her, you trod on the toes of your college tutor. The contest that evening was of more than ordinary interest. The new Oriel boat, a London-built clipper, an innovation in those days, had bumped its other competitor easily in the previous race, and only Christchurch now stood between her and the head of the river. And would they, could they, bump Christchurch to-night? That was the question to which, for the time being, the coming examination and the coming St Leger both gave way. Christchurch, that had not been bumped for ten years before—whose old blue and white flag stuck at the top of the mast as if it had been nailed there—whose motto on the river had so long been “Nulli secundus?” It was an important question, and the Christchurch men evidently thought so. Steersman and pullers had been summoned up from the country, as soon as that impertinent new boat had begun to show symptoms of being a dangerous antagonist, by the rapid progress she was making from the bottom towards the head of the racing-boats. The old heroes of bygone contests were enlisted again, like the Roman legionaries, to fight the battles of their vexillum, the little three-cornered bit of blue-and-white silk before mentioned; and the whole betting society of Oxford were divided into two great parties, the Oriel and the Christchurch,—the supporters of the old, or of the new dynasty of eight oars.

Never was signal more impatiently waited for than the pistol-shot which was to set the boats in motion that night. Hark! “Gentlemen, are—you—ready?” “No, no!” shouts some umpire, dissatisfied with the position of his own boat at the moment. “Gentlemen, are—you—ready?” Again “No, no, no!” How provoking! Christchurch and Oriel both beautifully placed, and that provoking Exeter, or Worcester, or some boat that no one but its own crew takes the slightest interest in to-night, right across the river! And it will be getting dusk soon. Once more—and even Wyatt, the starter, is getting impatient—“Are you ready?” Still a cry of “No, no,” from some crew who evidently never will be satisfied. But there goes the pistol. They’re off, by all that’s glorious! “Now Oriel!” “Now Christchurch!” Hurrah! beautifully are both boats pulled—how they lash along the water! Oriel gains evidently! But they have not got into their speed yet, and the light boat has the best of it at starting. “Hurrah, Oriel, it’s all your own way!” “Now, Christchurch, away with her!” Scarcely is an eye turned on the boats behind; and, indeed, the two first are going fast away from them. They reach the Gut, and at the turn Oriel presses her rival hard. The cheers are deafening; bets are three to one. She must bump her! “Now, Christchurch, go to work in the straight water!” Never did a crew pull so well, and never at such a disadvantage. Their boat is a tub compared with the Oriel. See how she buries her bow at every stroke. Hurrah, Christchurch! The old boat for ever! Those last three strokes gained a yard on Oriel! She holds her own still! Away they go, those old steady practised oars, with that long slashing stroke, and the strength and pluck begins to tell. Well pulled, Oriel! Now for it! Not an oar out of time, but as true together as a set of teeth! But it won’t do! Still Christchurch, by sheer dint of muscle, keeps her distance, and the old flag floats triumphant yet another year.

Nearly hustled to death in the rush up with the racing boats, I panted into the stern sheets of a four-oar lying under the bank, in which I saw Leicester and some others of my acquaintance. “Well, Horace,” said I, “what do you think of Christchurch now?” (I had sufficient Tory principle about me at all times to be a zealous supporter of the “old cause,” even in the matter of boat-racing.) “How are your bets upon the London clipper, eh?” “Lost, by Jove,” said he; “but Oriel ought to have done it to-night; why, they bumped all the other boats easily, and Christchurch was not so much better; but it was the old oars coming up from the country that did it. But what on earth is all that rush about up by the barges? They surely are not going to fight it out after all?”

Something had evidently occurred which was causing great confusion; the cheering a moment before had been deafening from the partisans of Christchurch, as the victorious crew, pale and exhausted with the prodigious efforts they had made, mustered their last strength to throw their oars aloft in triumph, and then slowly, one by one, ascended into the house-boat which formed their floating dressing-room; it had now suddenly ceased, and confused shouts and murmurs, rather of alarm than of triumph, were heard instead: men were running to and fro on both banks of the river, but the crowd both in the boats on the river and on shore made it impossible for us to see what was going on. We scrambled up the bank, and were making for the scene of action, when one of the river-officials ran hastily by in the direction of Iffley.

“What’s the matter, Jack?”

“Punt gone down, sir,” he replied without stopping; “going for the drags.”

“Anybody drowning?” we shouted after him.

“Don’t know how many was in her, sir,” sung out Jack in the distance. We ran on. The confusion was terrible; every one was anxious to be of use, and more likely therefore to increase the danger. The punt which had sunk had been, as usual on such occasions, overloaded with men, some of whom had soon made good their footing on the neighbouring barges; others were still clinging to their sides, or by their endeavours to raise themselves into some of the light wherries and four oars, which, with more zeal than prudence, were crowding to their assistance, were evidently bringing a new risk upon themselves and their rescuers. Two of the last of the racing eights, too, coming up to the winning-post at the moment of the accident, and endeavouring vainly to back water in time, had run into each other, and lay helplessly across the channel, adding to the confusion, and preventing the approach of more efficient aid to the parties in the water. For some minutes it seemed that the disaster must infallibly extend itself. One boat, whose crew had incautiously crowded too much to one side, in their eagerness to aid one of the sufferers in his struggles to get on board, had already been upset, though fortunately not in the deepest water, so that the men, with a little assistance, easily got on shore. Hundreds were vociferating orders and advice, which few could hear, and none attended to. The most effectual aid that had been rendered was the launching of two large planks from the University barge, with ropes attached to them, which several of those who had been immersed succeeded in reaching, and so were towed safely ashore. Still, however, several were seen struggling in the water, two or three with evidently relaxing efforts; and the unfortunate punt, which had righted and come up again, though full of water, had two of her late passengers clinging to her gunwale, and thus barely keeping their heads above the water’s edge. The watermen had done their utmost to be of service, but the University men crowded so rashly into every punt that put off to the aid of their companions, that their efforts would have been comparatively abortive, had not one of the pro-proctors jumped into one, with two steady hands, and authoritatively ordering every man back who attempted to accompany him, reached the middle of the river, and having rescued those who were in most imminent danger, succeeded in clearing a sufficient space round the spot to enable the drags to be used (for it was quite uncertain whether there might not still be some individuals missing). Loud cheers from each bank followed this very sensible and seasonable exercise of authority; another boat, by this example, was enabled to disencumber herself of superfluous hands, and by their united exertions all who could be seen in the water were soon picked up and placed in safety. When the excitement had in some degree subsided, there followed a suspense which was even more painful, as the drags were slowly moved again and again across the spot where the accident had taken place. Happily our alarm proved groundless. One body was recovered, not an University man, and in his case the means promptly used to restore animation were successful. But it was not until late in the evening that the search was given up, and even the next morning it was a sensible relief to hear that no college had found any of its members missing.

I returned to my rooms as soon as all reasonable apprehension of a fatal result had subsided, though before the men had left off dragging; and was somewhat surprised, and at first amused, to recognise, sitting before the fire in the disguise of my own dressing-gown and slippers, Charles Russell.

“Hah! Russell, what brings you here at this time of night?” said I; “however, I’m very glad to see you.”

“Well, I’m not sorry to find myself here, I can tell you; I have been in a less comfortable place to-night.”

“What do you mean?” said I, as a suspicion of the truth flashed upon me—“Surely”——

“I have been in the water, that’s all,” replied Russell quietly; “don’t be alarmed, my good fellow, I’m all right now. John has made me quite at home here, you see. We found your clothes a pretty good fit, got up a capital fire at last, and I was only waiting for you to have some brandy-and-water. Now, don’t look so horrified, pray.”

In spite of his good spirits, I thought he looked pale; and I was somewhat shocked at the danger he had been in—more so from the suddenness of the information.

“Why,” said I, as I began to recall the circumstance, “Leicester and I came up not two minutes after it happened, and watched nearly every man that was got out. You could not have been in the water long then, I hope?”

“Nay, as to that,” said Russell, “it seemed long enough to me, I can tell you, though I don’t recollect all of it. I got underneath a punt or something, which prevented my coming up as soon as I ought.”

“How did you get out at last?”

“Why, that I don’t quite remember; I found myself on the walk by King’s barge; but they had to turn me upside down, I fancy, to empty me. I’ll take that brandy by itself, Hawthorne, for I think I have the necessary quantity of water stowed away already.”

“Good heavens! don’t joke about it; why, what an escape you must have had!”

“Well, seriously then, Hawthorne, I have had a very narrow escape, for which I am very thankful; but I don’t want to alarm any one about it, for fear it should reach my sister’s ears, which I very much wish to avoid, for the present at all events. So I came up to your rooms here as soon as I could walk. Luckily, John saw me down at the water, so I came up with him, and got rid of a good many civil people who offered their assistance; and I have sent down to the lodgings to tell Mary I have staid to supper with you; so I shall get home quietly, and she will know nothing about this business. Fortunately, she is not in the way of hearing much Oxford gossip, poor girl!”

Russell sat with me about an hour, and then, as he said he felt very comfortable, I walked home with him to the door of his lodgings, where I wished him good night, and returned.

I had intended to have paid him an early visit the next morning; but somehow I was lazier than usual, and had scarcely bolted my commons in time to get to lecture. This over, I was returning to my rooms, when my scout met me.

“Oh, sir,” said he, “Mr Smith has just been here, and wanted to see you, he said, particular.”

Mr Smith? Of all the gentlemen there might be of that name in Oxford, I thought I had not the honour of a personal acquaintance with one.

“Mr Russell’s Mr Smith, sir,” explained John: “the little gentleman as used to come to his rooms so often.”

I walked up the staircase, ruminating within myself what possible business “poor Smith” could have with me, of whom he had usually appeared to entertain a degree of dread. Something to do with Russell, probably. And I had half resolved to take the opportunity to call upon him, and try to make out who and what he was, and how he and Russell came to be so intimately acquainted. I had scarcely stuck old Herodotus back into his place on the shelf, however, when there came a gentle tap at the door, and the little Bible-clerk made his appearance. All diffidence and shyness had wholly vanished from his manner. There was an earnest expression in his countenance which struck me even before he spoke. I had scarcely time to utter the most commonplace civility, when, without attempt at explanation or apology, he broke out with—“Oh, Mr Hawthorne, have you seen Russell this morning?”

“No,” said I, thinking he might possibly have heard some false report of the late accident—“but he was in my rooms last night, and none the worse for his wetting.”

“Oh, yes, yes! I know that; but pray, come down and see him now—he is very, very ill, I fear.”

“You don’t mean it? What on earth is the matter?”

“Oh! he has been in a high fever all last night! and they say he is worse this morning—Dr Wilson and Mr Lane are both with him—and poor Miss Russell!—he does not know her—not know his sister; and oh, Mr Hawthorne, he must be very ill! and they won’t let me go to him!”

And poor Smith threw himself into a chair, and fairly burst into tears.

I was very much distressed too: but, at the moment, I really believe I felt more pity for the poor lad before me, than even apprehension for my friend Russell. I went up to him, shook his hand, and begged him to compose himself. Delirium, I assured him—and tried hard to assure myself—was the usual concomitant of fever, and not at all alarming. Russell had taken a chill, no doubt, from the unlucky business of the last evening, but there could not be much danger in so short a time. “And now, Smith,” said I, “just take a glass of wine, and you and I will go down together, and I dare say we shall find him better by this time.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you,” he replied; “you are very kind—very kind indeed—no wine, thank you—I could not drink it: but oh! if they would only let me see him! And poor Miss Russell! and no one to attend to him but her!—but will you come down now directly?”

My own anxiety was not less than his, and in a very few minutes we were at the door of Russell’s lodgings. The answer to our inquiries was, that he was in much the same state, and that he was to be kept perfectly quiet; the old housekeeper was in tears; and although she said Dr Wilson told them he hoped there would be a change for the better soon, it was evident that poor Russell was at present in imminent danger.

I sent up my compliments to Miss Russell to offer my services in any way in which they could be made available; but nothing short of the most intimate acquaintance could have justified any attempt to see her at present, and we left the house. I thought I should never have got Smith from the door; he seemed thoroughly overcome. I begged him to come with me back to my rooms—a Bible-clerk has seldom too many friends in the University, and it seemed cruel to leave him by himself in such evident distress of mind. Attached as I was to Russell myself, his undisguised grief really touched me, and almost made me reproach myself with being comparatively unfeeling. At any other time, I fear it might have annoyed me to encounter as I did the inquisitive looks of some of my friends, as I entered the college gates arm-in-arm with my newly-found and somewhat strange-looking acquaintance. As it was, the only feeling that arose in my mind was a degree of indignation that any man should venture to throw a supercilious glance at him; and if I longed to replace his shabby and ill-cut coat by something more gentlemanly in appearance, it was for his sake, and not my own.

And now it was that, for the first time, I learnt the connection that existed between the Bible-clerk and the quondam gentleman-commoner. Smith’s father had been for many years a confidential clerk in Mr Russell’s bank; for Mr Russell’s bank it was solely, the Smith who had been one of the original partners having died some two generations back, though the name of the firm, as is not unusual, had been continued without alteration. The clerk was a poor relation, in some distant degree, of the some-time partner: his father, too, had been a clerk before him. By strict carefulness, he had saved some little money during his many years of hard work: and this, by special favour on the part of Mr Russell, he had been allowed to invest in the bank capital, and thereby to receive a higher rate of interest for it than he could otherwise have obtained. The elder Smith’s great ambition—indeed it was his only ambition—for the prosperity of the bank itself he looked upon as a law of nature, which did not admit of the feeling of hope, as being a fixed and immutable certainty—his ambition was to bring up his son as a gentleman. Mr Russell would have given him a stool and a desk, and he might have aspired hereafter to his father’s situation, which would have assured him £250 per annum. But somehow the father did not wish the son to tread in his own steps. Perhaps the close confinement, and unrefreshing relaxations of a London clerk, had weighed heavily upon his own youthful spirits: perhaps he was anxious to spare the son of his old age—for, like a prudent man, he had not married until late in life—from the unwholesome toils of the counting-house, varied only too often by the still less wholesome dissipation of the evening. At all events, his visions for him were not of annually increasing salaries, and future independence: of probable partnerships, and possible lord-mayoralties; but of some cottage among green trees, far away in the quiet country, where, even as a country parson, people would touch their hats to him as they did to Mr Russell himself, and where, when the time should come for superannuation and a pension—the house had always behaved liberally to its old servants—his own last days might be happily spent in listening to his son’s sermons, and smoking his pipe—if such a thing were lawful—in the porch of the parsonage. So while the principal was carefully training his heir to enact the fashionable man at Oxford, and in due time to take his place among the squires of England, and shunning, as if with a kind of remorseful conscience, to make him a sharer in his own contaminating speculations; the humble official too, but from far purer motives, was endeavouring in his degree, perhaps unconsciously, to deliver his boy from the snares of Mammon. And when Charles Russell was sent to the University, many were the inquiries which Smith’s anxious parent made, among knowing friends, about the expenses and advantages of an Oxford education. And various, according to each individual’s sanguine or saturnine temperament, were the answers he obtained, and tending rather to his bewilderment than information. One intimate acquaintance assured him, that the necessary expenses of an undergraduate need not exceed a hundred pounds per annum: another—he was somewhat of a sporting character—did not believe any young man could do the thing like a gentleman under five. So Mr Smith would probably have given up his darling project for his son in despair, if he had not fortunately thought of consulting Mr Russell himself upon the point; and that gentleman, though somewhat surprised at his clerk’s aspiring notions, good-naturedly solved the difficulty as to ways and means, by procuring for his son a Bible-clerk’s appointment at one of the Halls, upon which he could support himself respectably, with comparatively little pecuniary help from his friends. With his connections and interest, it was no great stretch of friendly exertion in behalf of an old and trusted servant; but to the Smiths, father and son, both the munificence which designed such a favour, and the influence which could secure it, tended to strengthen if possible their previous conviction that the power and the bounty of the house of Russell came within a few degrees of omnipotence. Even now, when recent events had so fearfully shaken them from this delusion; when the father’s well-earned savings had disappeared in the general wreck with the hoards of wealthier creditors, and the son was left almost wholly dependent on the slender proceeds of his humble office; even now, as he told me the circumstances just mentioned, regret at the ruined fortunes of his benefactors seemed in a great measure to overpower every personal feeling. In the case of the younger Russell, indeed, this gratitude was not misplaced. No sooner was he aware of the critical situation of his father’s affairs, and the probability of their involving all connected with him, than, even in the midst of his own harassing anxieties, he turned his attention to the prospects of the young Bible-clerk, whose means of support, already sufficiently narrow, were likely to be further straitened in the event of a bankruptcy of the firm. His natural good-nature had led him to take some little notice of young Smith on his first entrance at the University, and he knew his merits as a scholar to be very indifferent. The obscure suburban boarding-school at which he had been educated, in spite of its high-sounding name—“Minerva House,” I believe—was no very sufficient preparation for Oxford. Where the Greek and the washing are both extras at three guineas per annum, one clean shirt in the week, and one lesson in Delectus, are perhaps as much as can reasonably be expected. Poor Smith had, indeed, a fearful amount of up-hill work, to qualify himself even for his “little-go.” Charles Russell, not less to his surprise than to his unbounded gratitude, inasmuch as he was wholly ignorant of his motives for taking so much trouble, undertook to assist and direct him in his reading: and Smith, when he had got over his first diffidence, having a good share of plain natural sense, and hereditary habits of plodding, made more rapid progress than might have been expected. The frequent visits to Russell’s rooms, whose charitable object neither I nor any one else could have guessed, had resulted in a very safe pass through his first formidable ordeal, and he seemed now to have little fear of eventual success for his degree, with a strong probability of being privileged to starve upon a curacy thereafter. But for Russell’s aid, he would, in all likelihood, have been remanded from his first examination back to his father’s desk, to the bitter mortification of the old man at the time, and to become an additional burden to him on the loss at once of his situation and his little capital.

Poor Smith! it was no wonder that, at the conclusion of his story, interrupted constantly by broken expressions of gratitude, he wrung his hands, and called Charles Russell the only friend he had in the world. “And, oh! if he were to die! Do you think he will die?”

I assured him I hoped and trusted not; and with the view of relieving his and my own suspense, though it was little more than an hour since we had left his lodgings, we went down again to make inquiries. The street door was open, and so was that of the landlady’s little parlour, so we walked in at once. She shook her head in reply to our inquiries. “Dr Wilson has been up-stairs with him, sir, for the last hour nearly, and he has sent twice to the druggist’s for some things, and I fancy he’s no better at all events.”

“How is Miss Russell?” I inquired.

“Oh, sir, she don’t take on much—not at all, as I may say; but she don’t speak to nobody, and she don’t take nothing: twice I have carried her up some tea, poor thing, and she just tasted it because I begged her, and she wouldn’t refuse me, I know—but, poor dear young lady! it is very hard upon her, and she all alone like.”

“Will you take up my compliments—Mr Hawthorne—and ask if I can be of any possible service?” said I, scarce knowing what to say or do. Poor girl! she was indeed to be pitied; her father ruined, disgraced, and a fugitive from the law; his only son—the heir of such proud hopes and expectations once—lying between life and death; her only brother, her only counsellor and protector, now unable to recognise or to speak to her—and she so unused to sorrow or hardship, obliged to struggle on alone, and exert herself to meet the thousand wants and cares of illness, with the added bitterness of poverty.

The answer to my message was brought back by the old housekeeper, Mrs Saunders. She shook her head, said her young mistress was very much obliged, and would be glad if I would call and see her brother to-morrow, when she hoped he would be better. “But oh, sir!” she added, “he will never be better any more! I know the doctors don’t think so, but I can’t tell her, poor thing—I try to keep her up, sir; but I do wish some of her own friends were here—she won’t write to anybody, and I don’t know the directions”—and she stopped, for her tears were almost convulsing her.

I could not remain to witness misery which I could do nothing to relieve; so I took Smith by the arm—for he stood by the door half-stupified—and proceeded back towards college. He had to mark the roll at his own chapel that evening; so we parted at the top of the street, after I had made him promise to come to breakfast with me in the morning. Russell’s illness cast a universal gloom over the college that evening; and when the answer to our last message, sent down as late as we could venture to do, was still unfavourable, it was with anxious anticipation that we awaited any change which the morrow might bring.

The next day passed, and still Russell remained in the same state. He was in a high fever, and either perfectly unconscious of all around him, or talking in that incoherent and yet earnest strain, which is more painful to those who have to listen to and to soothe it than even the total prostration of the reason. No one was allowed to see him; and his professional attendants, though they held out hopes founded on his youth and good constitution, acknowledged that every present symptom was most unfavourable.

The earliest intelligence on the third morning was, that the patient had passed a very bad night, and was much the same; but in the course of an hour or two afterwards, a message came to me to say that Mr Russell would be glad to see me. I rushed, rather than ran, down to his lodgings, in a perfect exultation of hope, and was so breathless with haste and excitement when I arrived there, that I was obliged to pause a few moments to calm myself before I raised the carefully muffled knocker. My joy was damped at once by poor Mrs Saunders’ mournful countenance.

“Your master is better, I hope—is he not?” said I.

“I am afraid not, sir; but he is very quiet now: and he knew his poor dear sister; and then he asked if any one had been to see him, and we mentioned you, sir; and then he said he should like to see you very much, and so Miss made bold to send to you—if you please to wait, sir, I’ll tell her you are here.”

In a few moments she returned—Miss Russell would see me if I would walk up.

I followed her into the little drawing-room, and there, very calm and very pale, sat Mary Russell. Though her brother and myself had now so long been constant companions, I had seen but very little of her; on the very few evenings I had spent with Russell at his lodgings she had merely appeared to make tea for us, had joined but little in the conversation, and retired almost before the table was cleared. In her position, this behaviour seemed but natural; and as, in spite of the attraction of her beauty, there was a shade of that haughtiness and distance of manner which we had all at first fancied in her brother, I had begun to feel a respectful kind of admiration for Mary Russell, tinged, I may now venture to admit—I was barely twenty at the time—with a slight degree of awe. Her very misfortunes threw over her a sort of sanctity. She was too beautiful not to rivet the gaze, too noble and too womanly in her devotion to her brother not to touch the affections, but too cold and silent—almost as it seemed too sad—to love. Her brother seldom spoke of her; but when he did, it was in a tone which showed—what he did not care to conceal—his deep affection and anxious care for her; he watched her every look and movement whenever she was present; and if his love erred in any point, it was, that it seemed possible it might be even too sensitive and jealous for her own happiness.

The blinds were drawn close down, and the little room was very dark; yet I could see at a glance the work which anguish had wrought upon her in the last two days, and, though no tears were to be seen now, they had left their traces only too plainly. She did not rise, or trust herself to speak; but she held out her hand to me as if we had been friends from childhood. And if thorough sympathy, and mutual confidence, and true but pure affection, make such friendship, then surely we became so from that moment. I never thought Mary Russell cold again; yet I did not dream of loving her; she was my sister in everything but the name.

I broke the silence of our painful meeting—painful as it was, yet not without that inward throb of pleasure which always attends the awakening of hidden sympathies. What I said I forget; what does one, or can one say, at such moments, but words utterly meaningless, so far as they affect to be an expression of what we feel? The hearts understand each other without language, and with that we must be content.

“He knew me a little while ago,” said Mary Russell at last; “and asked for you; and I knew you would be kind enough to come directly if I sent.”

“Surely it must be a favourable symptom, this return of consciousness?”

“We will hope so: yes, I thought it was; and oh! how glad I was! But Dr Wilson does not say much, and I fear he thinks him weaker. I will go now and tell him you are come.”

“You can see him now if you please,” she said when she returned; “he seems perfectly sensible still; and when I said you were here, he looked quite delighted.” She turned away, and, for the first time, her emotion mastered her.

I followed her into her brother’s room. He did not look so ill as I expected; but I saw with great anxiety, as I drew nearer his bed, that his face was still flushed with fever, and his eye looked wild and excited. He was evidently, however, at present free from delirium, and recognised me at once. His sister begged him not to speak much, or ask questions, reminding him of the physician’s strict injunctions with regard to quiet.

“Dr Wilson forgets, my love, that it is as necessary at least for the mind to be quiet as the tongue,” said Russell with an attempt to smile; and then, after a pause, he added, as he took my hand, “I wanted to see you, Hawthorne; I know I am in very great danger; and, once more, I want to trouble you with a confidence. Nay, nothing very important; and pray, don’t ask me, as I see you are going to do, not to tire myself with talking: I know what I am going to say, and will try to say it very shortly; but thinking is at least as bad for me as speaking.” He paused again from weakness; Miss Russell had left the room. I made no reply. He half rose, and pointed to a writing-desk on a small table, with keys in the lock. I moved towards it, and opened it, as I understood his gestures; and brought to him, at his request, a small bundle of letters, from which he selected one, and gave it me to read. It was a banker’s letter, dated some months back, acknowledging the receipt of three hundred pounds to Russell’s credit, and enclosing the following note:—

Sir,—Messrs —— are directed to inform you of the sum of £300 placed to your credit. You will be wrongly advised if you scruple to use it. If at any time you are enabled, and desire it, it may be repaid through the same channel.

One of your Father’s Creditors.

“I have never touched it,” said Russell, as I folded up the note.

“I should have feared you would not,” said I.

“But now,” he proceeded, “now things seem changed with me. I shall want money—Mary will; and I shall draw upon this unseen charity; ay, and gratefully. Poor Mary!”

“You are quite right, my dear Russell,” said I, eager to interrupt a train of thought which I saw would be too much for him. “I will manage all that for you, and you shall give me the necessary authority till you get well again yourself,” I added in a tone meant to be cheerful.

He took no notice of my remark. “I fear,” said he, “I have not been a wise counsellor to my poor sister. She had kind offers from more than one of our friends, and might have had a home more suited to her than this has been, and I allowed her to choose to sacrifice all her own prospects to mine!”

He turned his face away, and I knew that one painful thought besides was in his mind—that they had been solely dependent on her little income for his support at the University since his father’s failure.

“Russell,” said I gently, “this conversation can surely do no good; why distress yourself and me unnecessarily? Come, I shall leave you now, or your sister will scold me. Pray, for all our sakes, try to sleep; you know how desirable it is, and how much stress Dr Wilson has laid upon your being kept perfectly calm and quiet.”

“I will, Hawthorne, I will try; but oh, I have so much to think of!”

Distressed and anxious, I could only take my leave of him for the present, feeling how much there was, indeed, in his circumstances to make rest even more necessary, and more difficult to obtain, for the mind than for the body.

I had returned to the sitting-room, and was endeavouring to give as hopeful answers as I could to Miss Russell’s anxious inquiries as to what I thought of her brother, when a card was brought up, with a message that Mr Ormiston was below, and “would be very glad if he could see Miss Russell for a few moments, at any hour she would mention, in the course of the day.”

Ormiston! I started, I really did not know why. Miss Russell started also, visibly; did she know why? Her back was turned to me at the moment; she had moved, perhaps intentionally, the moment the message became intelligible, so that I had no opportunity of watching the effect it produced, which I confess I had an irrepressible anxiety to do. She was silent until I felt my position becoming awkward: I was rising to take leave, which perhaps would have made hers even more so, when, half turning round towards me, with a tone and gesture almost of command, she said, “Stay!” and then, in reply to the servant, who was still waiting, “Ask Mr Ormiston to walk up.”

I felt the few moments of expectation which ensued to be insufferably embarrassing. I tried to persuade myself it was my own folly to think them so. Why should Ormiston not call at the Russells, under such circumstances? As college tutor, he stood almost in the relation of a natural guardian to Russell; had he not at least as much right to assume the privilege of a friend of the family as I had, with the additional argument, that he was likely to be much more useful in that capacity? He had known them longer, at all events, and any little coolness between the brother and himself was not a matter, I felt persuaded, to be remembered by him at such a moment, or to induce any false punctilio which might stand in the way of his offering his sympathy and assistance when required. But the impression on my mind was strong—stronger, perhaps, than any facts within my knowledge fairly warranted—that between Ormiston and Mary Russell there either was, or had been, some feeling which, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged—whether reciprocal or on one side only—whether crushed by any of those thousand crosses to which such feelings, fragile as they are precious, are liable, or only repressed by circumstances and awaiting its development—would make their meeting under such circumstances not that of ordinary acquaintances. And once again I rose, and would have gone; but again Mary Russell’s sweet voice—and this time it was an accent of almost piteous entreaty, so melted and subdued were its tones, as if her spirit was failing her—begged me to remain—“I have something—something to consult you about—my brother.”

She stopped, for Ormiston’s step was at the door. I had naturally—not from any ungenerous curiosity to scan her feelings—raised my eyes to her countenance while she spoke to me, and could not but mark that her emotion amounted almost to agony. Ormiston entered: whatever his feelings were, he concealed them well; not so readily, however, could he suppress his evident astonishment, and almost as evident vexation, when he first noticed my presence: an actor in the drama for whose appearance he was manifestly unprepared. He approached Miss Russell, who never moved, with some words of ordinary salutation, but uttered in a low and earnest tone, and offered his hand, which she took at once, without any audible reply. Then turning to me, he asked if Russell were any better? I answered somewhat indefinitely, and Miss Russell, to whom he turned as for a reply, shook her head, and, sinking into a chair, hid her face in her hands. Ormiston took a seat close by her, and after a pause of a moment said,

“I trust your very natural anxiety for your brother makes you inclined to anticipate more danger than really exists, Miss Russell: but I have to explain my own intrusion upon you at such a moment”—and he gave me a glance which was meant to be searching—“I called by the particular request of the Principal, Dr Meredith.”

Miss Russell could venture upon no answer, and he went on, speaking somewhat hurriedly and with embarrassment.

“Mrs Meredith has been from home some days, and the Principal himself has the gout severely; he feared you might think it unkind their not having called, and he begged me to be his deputy. Indeed he insisted on my seeing you in person, to express his very sincere concern for your brother’s illness, and to beg that you will so far honour him—consider him sufficiently your friend, he said—as to send to his house for anything which Russell could either want or fancy, which, in lodgings, there might be some difficulty in finding at hand. In one respect, Miss Russell,” continued Ormiston in somewhat a more cheerful tone, “your brother is fortunate in not being laid up within the college walls; we are not very good nurses there, as Hawthorne can tell you, though we do what we can; yet I much fear this watching and anxiety have been too much for you.”

Her tears began to flow freely; there was nothing in Ormiston’s words, but their tone implied deep feeling. Yet who, however indifferent, could look upon her helpless situation, and not be moved? I walked to the window, feeling terribly out of place where I was, yet uncertain whether to go or stay: for my own personal comfort, I would sooner have faced the collected anger of a whole common-room, called to investigate my particular misdemeanours; but to take leave at this moment seemed as awkward as to stay; besides, had not Miss Russell appeared almost imploringly anxious for me to spare her a tête-à-tête?

“My poor brother is very, very ill, Mr Ormiston,” she said at last, raising her face, from which every trace of colour had again disappeared, and which seemed now as calm as ever. “Will you thank Dr Meredith for me, and say I will without hesitation avail myself of his most kind offers, if anything should occur to make his assistance necessary.”

“I can be of no use myself in any way?” said Ormiston with some hesitation.

“I thank you, no,” she replied; and then, as if conscious that her tone was cold, she added—“You are very kind: Mr Hawthorne was good enough to say the same. Every one is very kind to us, indeed; but”—and here she stopped again, her emotion threatening to master her; and Ormiston and myself simultaneously took our leave.

Preoccupied as my mind had been by anxiety on Russell’s account, it did not prevent a feeling of awkwardness when I found myself alone with Mr Ormiston outside the door of his lodgings. It was impossible to devise any excuse at the moment for turning off in a different direction, as I felt very much inclined to do; for the little street in which he lived was not much of a thoroughfare. The natural route for both of us to take was that which led towards the High Street, for a few hundred steps the other way would have brought us out into the country, where it is not usual for either tutors or undergraduates to promenade in cap and gown, as they do, to the great admiration of the rustics, in our sister university. We walked on together, therefore, feeling—I will answer at least for one of us—that it would be an especial relief just then to meet the greatest bore with whom we had any pretence of a speaking acquaintance, or pass any shop in which we could frame the most threadbare excuse of having business, to cut short the embarrassment of each other’s company. After quitting any scene in which deep feelings have been displayed, and in which our own have been not slightly interested, it is painful to feel called upon to make any comment on what has passed; we feel ashamed to do so in the strain and tone which would betray our own emotion, and we have not the heart to do so carelessly or indifferently. I should have felt this, even had I been sure that Ormiston’s feelings towards Mary Russell had been nothing more than my own; whereas, in fact, I was almost sure of the contrary; in which case it was possible that, in his eyes, my own locus standi in that quarter, surprised as I had been in an apparently very confidential interview, might seem to require some explanation which would be indelicate to ask for directly, and which it might not mend matters if I were to give indirectly without being asked. So we proceeded some paces up the little quiet street, gravely and silently, neither of us speaking a word. At last Ormiston asked me if I had seen Russell, and how I thought him? adding, without waiting for a reply, “Dr Wilson, I fear from what he told me, thinks but badly of him.”

“I am very sorry to hear you say so,” I replied; and then ventured to remark how very wretched it would be for his sister in the event of his growing worse, to be left at such a time so utterly helpless and alone.

He was silent for some moments. “Some of her friends,” he said at last, “ought to come down; she must have friends, I know, who would come if they were sent for. I wish Mrs Meredith were returned—she might advise her.”

He spoke rather in a soliloquy than as addressing me, and I did not feel called upon to make any answer. The next moment we arrived at the turn of the street, and, by what seemed a mutual impulse, wished each other good morning.

I went straight down to Smith’s rooms, at ——Hall, to get him to come and dine with me; for I pitied the poor fellow’s forlorn condition, and considered myself in some degree bound to supply Russell’s place towards him. A Bible-clerk’s position in the University is always more or less one of mortification and constraint. It is true that the same academical degree, the same honours—if he can obtain them—the same position in after life—all the solid advantages of a University education, are open to him, as to other men; but, so long as his undergraduateship lasts, he stands in a very different position from other men, and he feels it—feels it, too, through three or four of those years of life when such feelings are most acute, and when that strength of mind which is the only antidote—which can measure men by themselves and not by their accidents—is not as yet matured either in himself or in the society of which he becomes a member. If, indeed, he be a decidedly clever man, and has the opportunity early in his career of showing himself to be such, then there is good sense and good feeling enough—let us say, to the honour of the University, there is sufficient of that true esprit du corps, a real consciousness of the great objects for which men are thus brought together—to insure the acknowledgment from all but the most unworthy of its members, that a scholar is always a gentleman. But if he be a man of only moderate abilities, and known only as a Bible-clerk, then, the more he is of a gentleman by birth and education, the more painful does his position generally become. There are not above two or three in residence in most colleges, and their society is confined almost wholly to themselves. Some old schoolfellow, indeed, or some man who “knows him at home,” holding an independent rank in college, may occasionally venture upon the condescension of asking him to wine—even to meet a friend or two with whom he can take such a liberty; and even then, the gnawing consciousness that he is considered an inferior—though not treated as such—makes it a questionable act of kindness. Among the two or three of his own table, one is the son of a college butler, another has been for years usher at a preparatory school; he treats them with civility, they treat him with deference; but they have no tastes or feelings in common. At an age, therefore, which most of all seeks and requires companionship, he has no companions; and the period of life which should be the most joyous, becomes to him almost a purgatory. Of course the radical and the leveller will say at once, “Ay, this comes of your aristocratic distinctions; they ought not to be allowed in universities at all.” Not so: it comes of human nature; the distinction between a dependent and an independent position will always be felt in all societies, mark it outwardly as little as you will. Humiliation, more or less, is a penalty which poverty must always pay. These humbler offices in the University were founded by a charity as wise as benevolent, which has afforded to hundreds of men of talent, but of humble means, an education equal to that of the highest noble in the land, and, in consequence, a position and usefulness in after life which otherwise they could never have hoped for. And if the somewhat servile tenure by which they are held (which in late years has in most colleges been very much relaxed) were wholly done away with, there is reason to fear the charity of the founders would be liable to continual abuse, by their being bestowed upon many who required no such assistance. As it is, this occurs too often; and it is much to be desired that the same regulations were followed in their distribution throughout the University, which some colleges have long most properly adopted: namely, that the appointment should be bestowed on the successful candidate after examination, strict regard being had to the circumstances of all the parties before they are allowed to offer themselves. It would make their position far more definite and respectable, because all would then be considered honourable to a certain degree, as being the reward of merit; instead of which, too often, they are convenient items of patronage in the hands of the Principal and Fellows, the nomination to them depending on private interest, which, by no means insuring the nominee’s being a gentleman by birth, while it is wholly careless of his being a scholar by education, tends to lower the general standing of the order in the University.

This struck me forcibly in Smith’s case. Poor fellow! with an excellent heart and a great deal of sound common sense, he had neither the breeding nor the talent to make a gentleman of. I doubt if an university education was any real boon to him. It insured him four years of hard work—harder, perhaps, than if he had sat at a desk all the time—without the society of any of his own class and habits, and with the prospect of very little remuneration ultimately. I think he might have been very happy in his own sphere, and I do not see how he could be happy at Oxford. And whether he or the world in general ever profited much by the B.A. which he eventually attached to his name, is a point at least doubtful.

I could not get him to come and dine with me in my own college. He knew his own position, as it seemed, and was not ashamed of it; in fact, in his case, it could not involve any consciousness of degradation; and I am sure his only reason for refusing my invitations of that kind was, that he thought it possible my dignity might be compromised by so open an association with him. He would come over to my rooms in the evening to tea, he said; and he came accordingly. When I told him in the morning that Russell had inquired very kindly after him, he was much affected; but it had evidently been a comfort to him to feel that he was not forgotten, and during the hour or two which we spent together in the evening, he seemed much more cheerful.

“Perhaps they will let me see him to-morrow, if he is better?” he said, with an appealing look to me. I assured him I would mention his wish to Russell, and his countenance at once brightened up, as if he thought only his presence were needed to insure our friend’s recovery.

But the next morning all our hopes were dashed again; delirium had returned, as had been feared, and the feverish symptoms seemed to gain strength rather than abate. Bleeding and other usual remedies had been had recourse to already to a perilous extent, and in Russell’s present reduced state, no further treatment of the kind could be ventured upon. “All we can do now, sir,” said Dr Wilson, “is little more than to let nature take her course. I have known such cases recover.” I did not ask to see Mary Russell that day; for what could I have answered to her fears and inquiries? But I thought of Ormiston’s words; surely she ought to have some friend—some one of her own family, or some known and tried companion of her own sex, would surely come to her at a moment’s notice, did they but know of her trying situation. If—if her brother were to die—she surely would not be left here among strangers, quite alone? Yet I much feared, from what had escaped him at our last interview, that they had both incurred the charge of wilfulness in refusing offers of assistance at the time of their father’s disgrace and flight, and that having, contrary to the advice of their friends, and perhaps imprudently, taken the step they had done in coming to Oxford, Mary Russell, with something of her brother’s spirit, had made up her mind now, however heavy and unforeseen the blow that was to fall, to suffer all in solitude and silence. For Ormiston, too, I felt with an interest and intensity that was hourly increasing. I met him after morning chapel, and though he appeared intentionally to avoid any conversation with me, I knew by his countenance that he had heard the unfavourable news of the morning; and it could be no common emotion that had left its visible trace upon features usually so calm and impassible.

From thoughts of this nature, indulged in the not very appropriate locality of the centre of the quadrangle, I was roused by the good-humoured voice of Mrs Meredith—“our governess,” as we used to call her—who, with the Doctor himself, was just then entering the college, and found me right in the line of her movements towards the door of “the lodgings.” I was not until that moment aware of her return, and altogether was considerably startled as she addressed me with—“Oh! how do you do, Mr Hawthorne? You young gentlemen don’t take care of yourselves, you see, when I am away—I am so sorry to hear this about poor Mr Russell. Is he so very ill? Dr Meredith is just going to see him.”

I coloured up, I dare say, for it was a trick I was given to in those days, and, in the confusion, replied rather to my own thoughts than to Mrs Meredith’s question.

“Mrs Meredith! I really beg your pardon,” I first stammered out as a very necessary apology, for I had nearly stumbled over her—“May I say how very glad I am you are returned, on Miss Russell’s account—I am sure”——

“Really, Mr Hawthorne, it is very natural I suppose, but you gentlemen seem to expend your whole sympathy upon the young lady, and forget the brother altogether! Mr Ormiston actually took the trouble to write to me about her”——

“My dear!” interposed the Principal.

“Nay, Dr Meredith, see how guilty Mr Hawthorne looks! and as to Mr Ormiston”—— “Well, never mind” (the Doctor was visibly checking his lady’s volubility), “I love the poor dear girl so much myself, that I am really grieved to the heart for her. I shall go down and see her directly, and make her keep up her spirits. Dr Wilson is apt to make out all the bad symptoms he can—I shall try if I can cure Mr Russell myself, after all; a little proper nursing in those cases is worth a whole staff of doctors—and, as to this poor girl, what can she know about it? I dare say she sits crying her eyes out, poor thing, and doing nothing—I’ll see about it. Why, I wouldn’t lose Mr Russell from the college for half the young men in it—would I, Dr Meredith?”

I bowed, and they passed on. Mrs Principal, if somewhat pompous occasionally, was a kind-hearted woman. I believe an hour scarcely elapsed after her return to Oxford, before she was in Russell’s lodgings, ordering everything about as coolly as if it were in her own house, and all but insisting on seeing the patient and prescribing herself for him, in spite of all professional injunctions to the contrary. The delirium passed off again, and though it left Russell sensibly weaker, so weak, that when I next was admitted to see him with Smith, he could do little more than feebly grasp our hands, yet the fever was evidently abated; and in the course of the next day, whether it was to be attributed to the remedies originally used, or to his own youth and good constitution, or to Mrs Meredith’s experienced directions in the way of nursing, and the cheerful spirit which that good lady, in spite of a little fussiness, succeeded generally in producing around her, there was a decided promise of amendment, which happily each succeeding hour tended gradually to fulfil. Ormiston had been unremitting in his inquiries; but I believe had never since sought an interview either with the brother or sister. I took advantage of the first conversation Russell was able to hold with me, to mention how very sincerely I believed him to have felt the interest he expressed. A moment afterwards I felt almost sorry I had mentioned the name—it was the first time I had done so during Russell’s illness. He almost started up in bed, and his face glowed again with more than the flush of fever, as he caught up my words.

“Sincere, did you say? Ormiston sincere! You don’t know the man as I do. Inquired here, did he? What right has he to intrude his”——

“Hush, my dear Russell,” I interposed, really almost alarmed at his violence. “Pray, don’t excite yourself—I think you do him great injustice; but we will drop the subject, if you please.”

“I tell you, Hawthorne, if you knew all, you would despise him as much as I do.”

It is foolish to argue with an invalid—but really even my friendship for Russell would not allow me to bear in silence an attack so unjustifiable, as it seemed to me, on the character of a man who had every claim to my gratitude and respect. I replied therefore somewhat incautiously, that perhaps I did know a little more than Russell suspected.

He stared at me with a look of bewilderment. “What do you know?” he asked quickly.

It was too late to hesitate or retract. I had started an unfortunate subject; but I knew Russell too well to endeavour now to mislead him. “I have no right perhaps to say I know anything; but I have gathered from Ormiston’s manner, that he has very strong reasons for the anxiety he has shown on your account. I will not say more.”

“And how do you know this? Has Mr Ormiston dared”——

“No, no, Russell,” said I, earnestly; “see how unjust you are, in this instance.” I wished to say something to calm him, and it would have been worse than useless to say anything but the truth. I saw he guessed to what I alluded; and I gave him briefly my reasons for what I thought, not concealing the interview with his sister, at which I had unintentionally been present.

It was a very painful scene. When he first understood that Ormiston had sought the meeting, his temper, usually calm, but perhaps now tried by such long hours of pain and heaviness, broke out with bitter expressions against both. I told him, shortly and warmly, that such remarks towards his sister were unmanly and unkind; and then he cried, like a chidden and penitent child, till his remorse was as painful to look upon as his passion. “Mary! my own Mary! even you, Hawthorne, know and feel her value better than I do! I for whom she has borne so much.”

“I am much mistaken,” said I, “if Ormiston has not learned to appreciate her even yet more truly. And why not?”

“Leave me now,” he said; “I am not strong enough to talk; but if you wish to know what cause I have to speak as I have done of your friend Ormiston, you shall hear again.”

So exhausted did he seem by the excess of feeling which I had so unfortunately called forth, that I would not see him again for some days, contenting myself with learning that no relapse had taken place, and that he was still progressing rapidly towards recovery.

I had an invitation to visit my aunt again during the Easter vacation, which had already commenced, and had only been prevented from leaving Oxford by Russell’s alarming state. As soon, therefore, as all danger was pronounced over, I prepared to go up to town at once, and my next visit to Russell was in fact to wish him good-by for two or three weeks. He was already sitting up, and fast regaining strength. He complained of having seen so little of me lately, and asked me if I had seen his sister. “I had not noticed it until the last few days,” he said—“illness makes one selfish, I suppose; but I think Mary looks thin and ill—very different from what she did a month back.”

But watching and anxiety, as I told him, were not unlikely to produce that effect; and I advised him strongly to take her somewhere for a few weeks for change of air and scene. “It will do you both good,” I said; “and you can draw another £50 from your unknown friend for that purpose; it cannot be better applied, and I should not hesitate for a moment.”

“I would not,” he replied, “if I wanted money; but I do not. Do you know that Dr Wilson would take no fee whatever from Mary during the whole of his attendance; and when I asked him to name some sufficient remuneration, assuring him I could afford it, he said he would never forgive me if I ever mentioned the subject again. So what remains of the fifty you drew for me, will amply suffice for a little trip somewhere for us. And I quite agree with you in thinking it desirable, on every account, that Mary should move from Oxford—perhaps altogether—for one reason, to be out of the way of a friend of yours.”

“Ormiston?”

“Yes, Ormiston; he called here again since I saw you, and wished to see me; but I declined the honour. Possibly,” he added bitterly, “as we have succeeded in keeping out of jail here, he thinks Mary has grown rich again.” And then he went on to tell me how, in the days of his father’s reputed wealth, Ormiston had been a constant visitor at their house in town, and how his attentions to his sister had even attracted his father’s attention, and led to his name being mentioned as likely to make an excellent match with the rich banker’s daughter. “My father did not like it,” he said, “for he had higher views for her, as was perhaps excusable—though I doubt if he would have refused Mary anything. I did not like it for another reason: because I knew all the time how matters really stood, and that any man who looked for wealth with my sister would in the end be miserably disappointed. What Mary’s own feelings were, and what actually passed between her and Ormiston, I never asked; but she knew my views on the subject, and would, I am certain, never have accepted any man under the circumstances in which she was placed, and which she could not explain. I did hope and believe, however, then, that there was sufficient high principle about Ormiston to save Mary from any risk of throwing away her heart upon a man who would desert her upon a change of fortune. I think he loved her at the time—as well as such men as he can love any one; but from the moment the crash came—Ormiston, you know, was in town at the time—there was an end of everything. It was an opportunity for a man to show feeling if he had any; and though I do not affect much romance, I almost think that in such a case even an ordinary heart might have been warmed into devotion; but Ormiston—cold, cautious, calculating as he is—I could almost have laughed at the sudden change that came over him when he heard the news. He pretended, indeed, great interest for us, and certainly did seem cut up about it; but he had not committed himself, I conclude, and took care to retreat in time. Thank Heaven! even if Mary did ever care for him, she is not the girl to break her heart for a man who proves so unworthy of her regard. But why he should insist on inflicting his visits upon us now, is what I cannot make out; and what I will not endure.”

I listened with grief and surprise. I knew well that not even the strong prejudice which I believed Russell to have always felt against Ormiston, would tempt him to be guilty of misrepresentation; and, again, I gave him credit for too much penetration to have been easily deceived. Yet I could not bring myself all at once to think so ill of Ormiston. He had always been considered in pecuniary matters liberal almost to a fault; that he really loved Mary Russell, I felt more than ever persuaded; and, at my age, it was hard to believe that a few thousand pounds could affect any man’s decision in such a point, even for a moment. Why, the very fact of her being poor and friendless was enough to make one fall in love with such a girl at once! So when Russell, after watching the effect of his disclosure, misconstruing my silence, proceeded to ask somewhat triumphantly—“Now, what say you of Mr Ormiston?”—I answered at once, that I was strongly convinced there was a mistake.

“Ay,” rejoined he with a sneering laugh; “on Ormiston’s part, you mean; decidedly there was.”

“I mean,” said I, “there has been some misunderstanding, which time may yet explain: I do not, and will not believe him capable of what you impute to him. Did you ever ask your sister for a full and unreserved explanation of what has passed between them?”

“Never; but I know that she has shunned all intercourse with him as carefully as I have, and that his recently renewed civilities have given her nothing but pain.” My own observation certainly tended to confirm this; so, changing the subject—for it was one on which I had scarce any right to give an opinion, still less offer advice, I asked whether I could do anything for him in town; and, after exchanging a cordial good-by with Miss Russell, in whose appearance I was sorry to see strong confirmation of her brother’s fears for her health, I took my leave, and the next morning saw me on the top of “The Age,” on my way to town.

There I received a letter from my father, in which he desired me to take the opportunity of calling upon his attorney, Mr Rushton, in order to have some leases and other papers read and explained to me, chiefly matters of form, but which would require my signature upon my coming of age. It concluded with the following PS.:—

“I was sorry to hear of your friend’s illness, and trust he will now do very well. Bring him down with you at Christmas, if you can. I hear, by the way, there is a Miss Russell in the case—a very fascinating young lady, whom you never mention at all—a fact which your mother, who is up to all those things, says is very suspicious. All I can say is, if she is as good a girl as her mother was before her—I knew her well once—you may bring her down with you too, if you like.”

How very unlucky it is that the home authorities seldom approve of any little affairs of the kind except those of which one is perfectly innocent! Now, if I had been in love with Mary Russell, the governor would, in the nature of things, have felt it his duty to be disagreeable.

I put off the little business my father alluded to day after day, to make way for more pleasant engagements, until my stay in town was drawing to a close. Letters from Russell informed me of his having left Oxford for Southampton, where he was reading hard, and getting quite stout; but he spoke of his sister’s health in a tone that alarmed me, though he evidently was trying to persuade himself that a few weeks’ sea-air would quite restore it. At last I devoted a morning to call on Mr Rushton, whom I found at home, though professing, as all lawyers do, to be full of business. He made my acquaintance as politely as if I had been the heir-expectant of an earldom, instead of the very moderate amount of acres which had escaped sale and subdivision in the Hawthorne family. In fact, he seemed a very good sort of fellow, and we ran over the parchments together very amicably—I almost suspected he was cheating me, he seemed so very friendly, but therein I did him wrong.

“And now, my dear sir,” continued he, as we shut up the last of them, “will you dine with me to-day? Let me see; I fear I can’t say before seven, for I have a great deal of work to get through. Some bankruptcy business, about which I have taken some trouble,” he continued, rubbing his hands, “and which we shall manage pretty well in the end, I fancy. By the way, it concerns some friends of yours, too: is not Mr Ormiston of your college? Ay, I thought he was; he is two thousand pounds richer than he fancied himself yesterday.”

“Really?” said I, somewhat interested; “how, may I ask?”

“Why, you see, when Russell’s bank broke—bad business that—we all thought the first dividend—tenpence-halfpenny in the pound, I believe it was—would be the final one: however, there are some foreign securities which, when they first came into the hands of the assignees, were considered of no value at all, but have gone up wonderfully in the market just of late; so that we have delayed finally closing accounts till we could sell them to such advantage as will leave some tolerable pickings for the creditors after all.”

“Had Ormiston money in Mr Russell’s bank, then, at the time?”

“Oh, yes: something like eight thousand pounds: not all his own, though: five thousand he had in trust for some nieces of his, which he had unluckily just sold out of the funds, and placed with Russell, while he was engaged in making arrangements for a more profitable investment; the rest was his own.”

“He lost it all, then?”

“All but somewhere about three hundred pounds, as it appeared at the time. What an excellent fellow he is! You know him well, I dare say. They tell me that he pays the interest regularly to his nieces for their money out of his own income still.”

I made no answer to Mr Rushton at the moment, for a communication so wholly unexpected had awakened a new set of ideas, which I was busily following out in my mind. I seemed to hold in my hands the clue to a good deal of misunderstanding and unhappiness. My determination was soon taken to go to Southampton, see Russell at once, and tell him what I had just heard, and of which I had no doubt he had hitherto been as ignorant as myself. I was rather induced to take this course, as I felt persuaded that Miss Russell’s health was suffering rather from mental than bodily causes; and, in such a case, a great deal of mischief is done in a short time. I would leave town at once.

My purse was in the usual state of an undergraduate’s at the close of a visit to London; so, following up the train of my own reflections, I turned suddenly upon Mr Rushton, who was again absorbed in his papers, and had possibly forgotten my presence altogether, and attacked him with—

“My dear sir, can you lend me ten pounds?”

“Certainly,” said Mr Rushton, taking off his spectacles, and feeling in his pockets, at the same time looking at me with some little curiosity—“certainly—with great pleasure.”

“I beg your pardon for taking such a liberty,” said I, apologetically; “but I find I must leave town to-night.”

“To-night!” said the lawyer, looking still more inquiringly at me; “I thought you were to dine with me?”

“I cannot exactly explain to you at this moment, sir, my reasons; but I have reasons, and I think sufficient ones, though they have suddenly occurred to me.”

I pocketed the money, leaving Mr Rushton to speculate on the eccentricities of Oxonians as he pleased, and a couple of hours found me seated on the Southampton mail.

The Russells were surprised at my sudden descent upon them, but welcomed me cordially; and even Mary’s pale face did not prevent my being in excellent spirits. As soon as I could speak to Russell by himself, I told him what I had heard from Mr Rushton.

He never interrupted me, but his emotion was evident. When he did speak, it was in an altered and humbled voice.

“I never inquired,” he said, “who my father’s creditors were—perhaps I ought to have done so; but I thought the knowledge could only pain me. I see it all now; how unjust, how ungrateful I have been! Poor Mary!”

We sat down, and talked over those points in Ormiston’s conduct, upon which Russell had put so unfavourable a construction. It was quite evident, that a man who could act with so much liberality and self-denial towards others, could have had no interested motives in his conduct with regard to Mary Russell; and her brother was now as eager to express his confidence in Ormiston’s honour and integrity, as he was before hasty in misjudging him.

Where all parties are eager for explanation, matters are soon explained. Russell had an interview with his sister, which brought her to the breakfast table the next morning with blushing cheeks and brightened eyes. Her misgivings, if she had any, were easily set at rest. He then wrote to Ormiston a letter full of generous apologies and expressions of his high admiration of his conduct, which was answered by that gentleman in person by return of post. How Mary Russell and he met, or what they said, must ever be a secret, for no one was present but themselves. But all embarrassment was soon over, and we were a very happy party for the short time we remained at Southampton together; for, feeling that my share in the matter was at an end—a share which I contemplated with some little self-complacency—I speedily took my departure.

If I have not made Ormiston’s conduct appear in as clear colours to the reader as it did to ourselves, I can only add, that the late misunderstanding seemed a painful subject to all parties, and that the mutual explanations were rather understood than expressed. The anonymous payment to Russell’s credit at the bank was no longer a mystery: it was the poor remains of the College Tutor’s little fortune, chiefly the savings of his years of office—the bulk of which had been lost through the fault of the father—generously devoted to meet the necessities of the son. That he would have offered Mary Russell his heart and hand at once when she was poor, as he hesitated to do when she was rich, none of us for a moment doubted, had not his own embarrassments, caused by the failure of the bank, and the consequent claims of his orphan nieces, to replace whose little income he had contracted all his own expenses, made him hesitate to involve the woman he loved in an imprudent marriage.

They were married, however, very soon—and still imprudently the world said, and my good aunt among the rest; for, instead of waiting an indefinite time for a good college living to fall in, Ormiston took the first that offered, a small vicarage of £300 a-year, intending to add to his income by taking pupils. However, fortune sometimes loves to have a laugh at the prudent ones, and put to the rout all their wise prognostications; for, during Ormiston’s “year of grace”—while he still virtually held his fellowship, though he had accepted the living—our worthy old Principal died somewhat suddenly, and regret at his loss only gave way to the universal joy of every individual in the college (except, I suppose, any disappointed aspirants), when Mr Ormiston was elected almost unanimously to the vacant dignity.


Mr Russell the elder has never returned to England. On the mind of such a man, after the first blow, and the loss of his position in the world, the disgrace attached to his name had comparatively little effect. He lives in some small town in France, having contrived, with his known clever management, to keep himself in comfortable circumstances; and his best friends can only strive to forget his existence, rather than wish for his return. His son and daughter pay him occasional visits, for their affection survives his disgrace and forgets his errors. Charles Russell took a first class, after delaying his examination a couple of terms, owing to his illness, and is now a barrister, with a reputation for talent, but as yet very little business. However, as I hear the city authorities have had the impudence to seize some of the college plate in discharge of a disputed claim for rates, and that Russell is retained as one of the counsel in an action of replevin, I trust he will begin a prosperous career, by contributing to win the cause for the “gown.”

I spent a month with Dr and Mrs Ormiston at their vicarage in the country, before the former entered upon his official residence as Principal; and can assure the reader that, in spite of ten—it may be more—years of difference in age, they are the happiest couple I ever saw. I may almost say, the only happy couple I ever saw, most of my married acquaintance appearing at the best only contented couples, not drawing their happiness so exclusively from each other as suits my notion of what such a tie ought to be. Of course, I do not take my own matrimonial experience into account; the same principle of justice which forbids a man to give evidence in his own favour, humanely excusing him from making any admission which may criminate himself. Mrs Ormiston is as beautiful, as amiable, as ever, and has lost all the reserve and sadness which, in her maiden days, overshadowed her charms; and so sincere was and is my admiration of her person and character, and so warmly was I in the habit of expressing it, that I really believe my dilating upon her attractions used to make Mrs. Francis Hawthorne somewhat jealous, until she had the happiness to make her acquaintance, and settled the point by falling in love with the lady herself.