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description; and she sought out in farmhouse or cottage all who could tell her anght of those his early days, and wherever she went a kindly welcome was accorded her. On her second visit she presented to the community, greatly to the admiration and delight of all the people, a painting representing the chapel, house, and garden; and still it hangs on the wall of the best parlour in the minister's house. But for Mrs. Weatherill she painted the opening into the little wood, a young moon visible between the trees, and its faint light falling on the stone lying low amid the grass. That painting Clarissa still keeps and prizes well.
CHAPTER XXIX.—THE YOUNG ARTIST.
It must now be told what had been the manner of Irene's life during these four years.
Almost at the same time that Mrs. Weatherill was considering whether she could allow herself the solace of Irene's companionship Mr. and Mrs. Palmer had been debating a similar question ; should they offer her a permanent home with them? and they two had somewhat reluctantly arrived at a negative conclusion.
Mr. Palmer had fully shared his wife's partiality for their guest, and felt as she did, that much of the sunshine of their home would be gone when she had departed. But he had children, some of them in not very prosperous circumstances, and numerous grandchildren; he could not consistently with their claims make any testamentary disposition in her favour; and to accustom her during her earlier years to easy dependence in a comfortable home, then to be thrown saddenly on her own resources, would, he felt, be not kindness but cruelty. Attractive as she was, she would in all probability have opportunities of marriage; but for a woman to be compelled to look to marriage as a means of livelihood, Mrs. Palmer in particular felt to be degrading and morally injurious. That her manifest (gifts as
artist showed the direction her efforts for self-support should take neither of them doubted. Could there have been found in the small town near to which they resided any facilities for the pursuit of art, they would gladly have continued to her a home during her preliminary studies, but as this certainly could not be, parting with her became a regretted necessity.
Irene was herself very anxious to begin in good earnest her purposed life-work, and although pained at leaving these most kind friends, entirely concurred in their decision. Mrs. Weatherill also fully approved, and expressed her determination to meet all expenses of tuition and maintenance. Two objects bad to be secured; the finding for the young artist opportunities of instruc
tion and advancement, and at the same time a suitable home, not entirely among strangers. After a little consideration Westhaven was decided upon as the only place where it was possible to unite the two, although had the first point only been under consideration, London would have been preferred. In the provincial city, however a Government school of art had been for some years established, and there was open to pupils the studio of at least one artist of somewhat more than local reputation.
Mrs. Walton and Mrs. Rivers both interested themselves in finding for Irene a suitable adode, and much to the satisfaction of John, Rose and Lettie, this was found in Henry Street, scarcely two minntes walk from their own home with the Misses Pring, three elderly maiden sisters, the narrowness of whose income had made them glad to let two unoccupied rooms of the house, in which they had lived for thirty years—and who by their established respectability, industrious and orderly habits, and austere gravity, appeared to Mrs. Rivers peculiarly desirable companions for their young inmate, both in the way of guardianship and example.
Much of advice and watchfulness was expended upon Irene on this her second settlement in Westhaven Mrs. Palmer gave to her in parting wise, motherly council, and a letter fall of yearning anxious tenderness from Mrs. Weatherill awaited her arrival. Neither Mrs. Walton nor Miss Ingram believed that discretion bad been shown in furthering her desire to follow art as a profession; but this did not prevent either of these ladies from bestowing opon her care and attention; Miss Ingram coldly, and in measured degree, impelled by a sense of duty; Mrs. Walton with full, frank cordiality, the result of affection and real liking, while Mrs. Rivers watched over her with a mixtare of fussy kindness and meddlesome interference which Irene would scarcely have tolerated had she not known that some degree of patience ander the infliction was a necessary condition of freedom of intercourse with John, with Rose, and with the loving little Lettie.
Nor did all this advice and concern appear to be wasted upon her, for daring the earlier period of her studies she so conducted herself as to escape any serious blame, even from Miss Ingram and Mrs. Rivers. There seemed, indeed, more reason to fear that she was pursuing her avocation with an unremitting application, dangerous to health, than that she would fall into any perverse vagaries and eccentricities of conduct. Her time was almost exclusively spent in the “Fine Arts Academy,” the studio of Mr. Claude Durant, or her own little painting-room in Henry-street. Only occasionally did she allow herself the recreation of a visit to a friend, an anaccompanied walk in such directions as her prudent friends deemed permissible, a longer ramble with John, Rose, or Lettie, a morning in the cathedral or at St. Mary's. Fortunately the distance between her lodgings and her accustomed places of study was not inconsiderable, or she might have suffered from want of air and exercise. As it was, her health did not seem seriously affected by such close application, and a much-enjoyed visit to Mrs. Weatherill, at Failand, late in the autumn, refreshed and strengthened her for the work of the winter.
No morbid feelings of wounded pride disturbed Irene in accepting the means of instruction and livelihood from her affectionate, generous friend, yet a desire not to impose anduly on such everready kindness proved an incentive both to frugality in expenditure and to such diligence as might the sooner enable self-support. A happy day it was to her when, fifteen months after the commencement of her studies, on occasion of the annual exhibition of paintings held in connection with the Academy of Fine Arts, two paintings she had sent in—"The Lady-chapel, Westhaven Cathedral," and "Late Aatamn," from a sketch taken during her visit to Failand, were accepted by the hanging committee, and almost as pleasant was it, on her second visit to the Exhibition, a week after its opening, to see affixed to the cathedral picture the little white ticket>“ Sold."
From that time, with more of steady success and less of disappointment than generally falls to the lot of young aspirants either in art or in literature, her labours became remunerative, so that when another year had passed she wrote to Mrs. Weatherill, with warmest thanks for all her generous aid, saying that now, should health be continued to her, she believed she might safely undertake herself to meet all necessary expenses.
But Clarissa was reluctant to give up the charge which to her bereaved spirit had been a relief and a pleasure, and she insistednot very wisely, so Mrs. Walton thought that things shonld remain as they were for at least one year longer.
So Irene now knew the pleasure—and a pleasure ondoubtedly it is, more especially when possessing the charm of novelty-of possessing money at her disposal which might be expended largely according to taste and preference, not being called for imperatively to meet this, that, and the other necessity.
As the months went on some of her friends, Miss Ingram and Mrs. Rivers in particular, became much dissatisfied with the manner in which a part of her resources were expended, and thought that it would have been better had she continued longer in entire dependence, and so constrained by a sense of honour to careful expenditure, and, therefore, to the monotonous manner of life which strict economy must enforce.
It was not with extravagance in dress her disapproving friends charged her. On that matter, indeed, their complaints took the opposite direction, for Irene steadily refused to adopt at the dictate of fashi on any attire which failed to commend itself to her artistic taste by harmoniousness of colour and dignity and grace of line.
But her nice little bedroom, Mrs. Rivers said, was getting to look like an old curiosity shop, and if she wanted walks what could be better than the Promenade, Queensdown Parade, and Greyland Avenue ? It was most unbecoming for a young lady to go gadding about by rail and by water, to castles and abbeys and ruins, poking about in out-of-the-way villages, no one knew where.
Irene listened to Mrs. Rivers with the sort of unanswering impatient patience she usually bestowed on that lady's admonitions ; but to Mrs. Weatherill and Mrs. Walton, who were also somewhat anxious about her unattended wanderings, she endeavoured to give reassuring explanations.
Such anremitted application, she said, as had marked the first eigbteen months of her studies could not be continued without danger to her health and her eyesight. That she should make sketches, gain vivid mental pictures, keep her imagination awake by the sight of the beautiful, the striking, and the new, was a condition of continued success. And she was not imprudent. She remembered their admonitions, and resisted the temptation to wander with her sketch-book into really solitary places; and what danger could they fear in a day's excursion unattend d; travelling in railway carriages or on the deck of a steamer ; seeing round some place of interest in company with any other visitors ; walking in broad daylight through a crowded city thoroughfare, though the city were strange to her, or the quiet street of equally unknown village? She had been treated many times with respectful kindness, but never once with the slightest approach to familiarity or rudeness. And in so saying, she spoke the truth ; whether because she was exceptionally fortunate in the chance companions of her journeyings, or because there was something in her appearance and ber manner—frank, anconscious, fearless—that shielded her from discourtesy.
Sometimes she yielded to opinion, and sought companionship in her wandering : Lettie oftenest, very occasionally Rose or John might share the day's excursion ; now and then some other friend. Sbe, however, always said that, for purposes of artistic suggestion and stimulus, she did best alone; with one exception--John's presence was never the least interruption.
But as the time went on both Jobn and Rose became increasingly unable to find leisure for other enjoyment than might be found in the diligent performance of duty. On the home in Sammer Street prosperity was not resting. Mr. Rivers was a most industrions
man ; his thoughts were greatly engrossed by business cares; but his habits of mind were slow and conservative; and unable to accommodate himself to the rapidly changing methods of retail trade, his business declined, and the profits diminished year by year. From assured plenty in the home there came to be a measure of straitness, and the necessity forever-increasing economy. A childservant was substituted for the former capable domestic; Rose did less fancy work, and instead, made her own and her sister's dresses, and trimmed their bonnets; while John occupied many of his evenings in bookkeeping, after his day's work at the office. Hilda expressed the belief that, sooner or later, she should contribute largely to the family resources by her pen; an expectation, however, never in the smallest degree accomplished. And at the close of Irene's third year at Westhaven, another trial came upon the family. Mrs. Rivers was seized with paralysis, and became a helpless invalid, dependant upon others for the power to move from room to room.
Very slowly did she recognise the fact that all her busy activities were over, that this helplessness must continue to the end.
"I do not know how poor mother will bear it, when she knows the truth,” Jobn said to Irene, tears filling his eyes. When she did know she bore the tidings with greater resignation than had been expected; but as she realised that the loss of free locomotive power was final, all the stronger became her determination, notwithstanding, to control, direct, and manage, everything and every one, and to keep up what semblance of activity was possible.
She insisted upon being dressed before seven in the morning, and helped downstairs to breakfast; and Rose was often sorely perplexed by the difficulty of carrying out in kitchen and market the minute and stringent directions proceeding from the sofa of the invalid.
With quiet courage Rose tried to fill her difficult position, to bear with gentle patience her mother's exactions, and to discern between cases wherein a precise following of directions was a duty, and such as rendered modification allowable, because necessary. Lettie, in her intervals of school study, did her best to cheer the safferer by loving attentions and much talking, and when he was at home, John's arm was ever ready to support or . lift. Mr. Rivers was not very helpful, though he never added to trouble by impatience or ill-temper; nor was Hilda ; the cultivation of her literary talents was, she said, the best service she could render to her family.
From the time of Mrs. Rivers' affliction, Irene's presence was much more frequent in the saddened home. Pity had aroused