`And how is your pore dear mamma, and your dear papa, Master Ernest,' said Ellen, who had now recovered herself and was quite at home with my hero. `Oh, dear, dear me,' she said, `I did love your pa; he was a good gentleman, he was, and your ma too; it would do anyone good to live with her, I'm sure.'

Ernest was surprised and hardly knew what to say. He had expected to find Ellen indignant at the way she had been treated, and inclined to lay the blame of her having fallen to her present state at his father's and mother's door. It was not so. Her only recollection of Battersby was as of a place where she had had plenty to eat and drink, not too much hard work, and where she had not been scolded. When she heard that Ernest had quarrelled with his father and mother she assumed as a matter of course that the fault must lie entirely with Ernest.

`Oh, your pore, pore ma!' said Ellen. `She was always so very fond of you, Master Ernest: you was always her favourite; I can't abear to think of anything between you and her. To think now of the way she used to have me into the dining-room and teach me my catechism, that she did! Oh, Master Ernest, you really must go and make it all up with her; indeed you must.'

Ernest felt rueful, but he had resisted so valiantly already that the devil might have saved himself the trouble of trying to get at him through Ellen in the matter of his father and mother. He changed the subject, and the pair warmed to one another as they had their tripe and pots of beer. Of all people in the world Ellen was perhaps the one to whom Ernest could have spoken most freely at this juncture. He told her what he thought he could have told to no one else.

`You know, Ellen,' he concluded, `I had learnt as a boy things that I ought not to have learnt, and had never had a chance of that which would have set me straight.'

`Gentlefolks is always like that,' said Ellen musingly.

`I believe you are right, but I am no longer a gentleman, Ellen, and I don't see why I should be "like that" any longer, my dear. I want you to help me to be like something else as soon as possible.'

`Lor'! Master Ernest, whatever can you be meaning?'

The pair soon afterwards left the eating-house and walked up Fetter Lane together.

Ellen had had hard times since she had left Battersby, but they had left little trace upon her.

Ernest saw only the fresh-looking smiling face, the dimpled cheek, the clear blue eyes and lovely sphinx- like lips which he had remembered as a boy. At nineteen she had looked older than she was, now she looked much younger; indeed she looked hardly older than when Ernest had last seen her, and it would have taken a man of much greater experience than he possessed to suspect how completely she had fallen from her first estate. It never occurred to him that the poor condition of her wardrobe was due to her passion for ardent spirits, and that first and last she had served five or six times as much time in gaol as he had. He ascribed the poverty of her attire to the attempts to keep herself respectable, which Ellen during supper had more than once alluded to. He had been charmed with the way in which she had declared that a pint of beer would make her tipsy, and had only allowed herself to be forced into drinking the whole after a good deal of remonstrance. To him she appeared a very angel dropped from the sky, and all the more easy to get on with for being a fallen one.

As he walked up Fetter Lane with her towards Laystall Street, he thought of the wonderful goodness of God towards him in throwing in his way the very person of all others whom he was most glad to see, and whom, of all others, in spite of her living so near him, he might have never fallen in with but for a happy accident.

When people get it into their heads that they are being specially favoured by the Almighty, they had better as a general rule mind their p's and q's, and when they think they see the devil's drift with more

  By PanEris using Melati.

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