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a web of many textures

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Mr. Milling had been dead a year, and had he been a
dozen beneath the sod he could scarcely have been
more effectually forgotten than he was in the little
twelvemonth by those who had formerly associated
with him, and shared his friendship and confidence.
Not a word had been heard of Mr. Upshur, and the
house of Partelot & Savage enjoyed the reputation of
being worthy successors of the late house. But little
change had taken place in the business. The old
clerks were employed, as formerly, at their long-accustomed
places. Even the two heads of the house, as
formerly, spent many hours by the desks at which they
had commenced.

“The Millings have become much reduced,” said Mr.
Partelot, one afternoon, pausing from his writing.

“Indeed!” said Savage, gruffly, not stopping to utter
the word.

“Yes; I called upon them, the other day, to offer
them assistance, and found Matilda teaching music.”

“She shows her sense, then,” said Savage, “better
than half of those who are circumstanced as she is. I
like her for it.”

“Why don't you ever go and see them, Savage?”
asked his partner. “They are wondering at your
strangeness. You have n't been to see them since the
funeral. We should try and do all the good we can.”

“Small good I can do them!” was the caustic reply.
“They don't want to see me — they never did. Or at
least only one — the youngest.”


Page 243

“Ah, yes, Lily,” said Mr. Partelot. “She is a strange
girl — a perfect marvel; and the manner in which she
improves in her education is astonishing.”


“Yes; and it has never yet been discovered at whose
expense she is being educated. There is a perfect mystery
about it. Did you ever hear about it?”


“Well, the manner of it was this: Mr. Milling had
not been dead more than a month, before his wife
received an anonymous letter, professing to be from an
old friend of Mr. Milling, generously offering to pay for
the education of little Lily, besides the other expenses
of her maintenance, the only condition being that no
inquiry should be made concerning the writer, and that
all sense of obligation should be banished, as it was but
a mere return for favor received. At first they were
reluctant to accept, but friends persuaded them to
regard the delicacy of the proffer, and an answer was
returned to the post-office address given in the note,
thanking the liberal friend for his kindness, and consenting
to his proposition. For nearly a year teachers
have visited her constantly, — coming mysteriously as
the slaves of the lamp and ring. No questions are
asked them, as it would violate the condition, and thus
it goes on. Strange, is n't it?”

“Humph! The same old story of romantic folly,”
said Savage. “Some fellow, probably, is doing it, who
has more money than brains. Were Lily not a child,
one might fancy there was an ulterior motive beside
the one of mere education. Can you not guess who this
benefactor is?”

Mr. Savage looked at his partner steadily, and that
worthy young man said, laughingly,


Page 244
“`Nay, never shake thy gory locks on me!
Thou canst not say I did it.'
My province extends no further than to be a friend
of the family, and all I can do for them is simply to
advise. I wish you would go up and see them.”

“I tell you, Partelot, they don't want to see me. It
is you, the smooth-tongued and light-footed, that is
wanted. My croaking notes would set their teeth on
edge. Leave me with the merchandise; bale-goods are
not so sensitive.”

Mr. Savage turned away as he spoke, to attend to
some other business, and an expression very like
“churl” trembled on Mr. Partelot's lips. That gentleman
felt satisfied at that moment that he was very unfortunate
in having so unsympathetic a partner, and
drew some self-gratulatory comparisons betwixt himself
and Mr. Savage, that were in no wise flattering to
the junior member of the firm.

The death of Mr. Milling had, indeed, left his family
very poor. Everything but what the law strictly
allowed them had gone to the creditors, and they found
themselves reduced to the alternative of working for a
living. The proud Matilda — her pride lifting her
above the degradation of dependence — brought the
resources of a cultivated mind to the business of life,
and, through the assistance of the few friends who
remained true to them, procured pupils for the piano,
and work for her needle, that gave a moderate income.
The greatest care was on account of Lily. She was
likely to be a burden because of her helplessness.
There was small sympathy between her and her mother
and sister, who deemed her a dreamer; and she moved
about the house in listless inactivity, her large eyes full
of angelic significance, and her heart full of loving impulses.


Page 245
It was at this time that her mother received the
following note:

My dear Madam: I am a man of few words — a
friend of your late husband — with means sufficient to
carry out what I propose. I wish to return a portion
of the benefit he conferred upon me, a poor boy. I am
aware of your family circumstances, and would relieve
a portion of your burden. Your youngest daughter
should receive an education. I have the ability to
secure it, and would deem it a favor to be allowed to
incur the expense attending it. The only condition I
propose is that no sense of obligation may be allowed
to overpower you, and no effort be made to discover
the writer.

Your obedient servant,

“P. S. Address me through the post-office, and keep
my cognomen a secret from all.”

“Well, this is a mystery!” said Mrs. Milling, as she
read the note, and handed it to her oldest daughter.
“Who can it be?”

The daughter scrutinized the letter for a long time in
silence, in an endeavor, if possible, to detect the writing.
At last she said,

“I strongly suspect it is Mr. Partelot, who takes this
delicate way of doing us a kindness. Shall you accept
the proposition?”

“Not without advice. We should be particular about
these things. The world is very censorious.”

“The world!” said the daughter, bitterly; “what is
the world to us, if it cares nothing for us but to find
fault with us? If it be Mr. Partelot, his kindness deserves
a corresponding return.”


Page 246

“But if it be not his?” replied Mrs. Milling. “I declare
I do not know what to do. I must ask advice.
Shall I of Mr. Partelot?”

“By no means,” was the reply; “anybody but him.
Ask Mr. Urbin, father's old friend. He will advise for
the best. I will endeavor to learn from Mr. Partelot if
he wrote the letter.”

Accordingly, on Mr. Partelot's next visit, the daughter
mentioned the fact of the letter, — reserving the secret
of the cognomen, — concluding with the remark, significantly

“Tax your memory, my dear sir, and see if you recall
none who would be likely to do this thing.”

She bent her eyes on him with an expression implying
that she suspected his participation in the transaction,
which he read at a glance. He lowered his
eyes beneath her look, and asked her if she suspected

She confessed that she did.

“Then,” said he, “it places me in a position where I
shall claim the privilege of the doubt. I shall not confess,
and shall claim that you intimate your suspicions
of me to no one, for a very particular reason.”

He took her hand in his as he spoke, and kissed it
very respectfully. She withdrew her hand, but a flush
of pleasure passed over her features. Her love for
Upshur had been but a superficial feeling, with which
temper and pride had more to do than the softer emotion
of the heart. This pride was wounded by his desertion,
this temper was aroused by his perfidy; and she
had banished him from her heart with no regret, or even
reluctance. The supposed discovery of a benefactor
had excited her gratitude, — a kindred feeling with love,
— and she felt a glow of happiness that had not been


Page 247
known to her for months. Partelot became a constant
visitor at the house of Mrs. Milling, and his attentions
to the fair Matilda were of the most assiduous character.
People talked of it as a fixed thing that it was to
be “a match.”

It was about this time that the conversation occurred
above recorded. Mr. Savage knew nothing of his partner's
affair with the daughter of his old employer, and
Mr. Partelot had reserved it as a surprise for him,
just as Savage was called away by business. After a
while he returned, when Mr. P., resting a moment from
his writing, said,

“By the way, Savage, I 've got a secret for you.”

“Well?” said his partner.

“What should you think if I was to tell you that I
was going to be married?”

“I should say very little about it. It 's no business
of mine. Your wife would n't become a member of the
firm, nor a part of the stock.”

“Very good! That 's true, Savage; and yet she is
one that you may be interested in. Suppose I should
tell you that it was Mr. Milling's daughter, eh?”

“What, Lily?” was asked in a tone of excitement,
Mr. Savage starting up as he uttered the words.

“No, no; Lily 's but a child. 'T is the beautiful
Matilda, man. Ha! I see the savage is moved. She
has given me encouragement to hope that she will
become Mrs. Partelot. Fine woman, Savage.”

“But do you love her, Partelot?”

“What a question to a man who has been dancing
attendance upon a woman for a year, studying how to
love her!”

“Love is a lesson, however, not to be learnt. It is


Page 248
imparted, and few breasts are warmed by it through

“Bah, Savage!” said Partelot; “you are a croaker.
Men learn to love as they learn to eat olives. 'T is unpalatable,
perhaps, at first, but after a while one gets
used to it.”

“Humph!” said the imperturbable partner, and turned
to his ledger.

Time moved on, and brought again the cheerful
season of Christmas, with its pleasant associations and
reünions, and delightful surprises; and the house of
Partelot & Savage still maintained its integrity.