Christ. Nothing else matters. I shall always pray for that.'

'You may have whom you like up here; I don't mind if it makes you happy. I'm ashamed of myself. Don't let's say any more about it. I'm only down for the day. I'm going home to-morrow.'

'Home, Arthur! this is your home. I can't bear to hear you speak of any other place as your home.'

'Well, mother, then I shall say that I'm going back to business to-morrow.'

Mrs. Barfield sighed.


CHAPTER XLVI

DAYS, weeks, months passed away, and the two women came to live more and more like friends and less like mistress and maid. Not that Esther ever failed to use the respectful 'ma'am' when she addressed her mistress, nor did they ever sit down to a meal at the same table. But these slight social distinctions, which habit naturally preserved, and which it would have been disagreeable to both to forgo, were no check on the intimacy of their companionship. In the evening they sat in the library sewing, or Mrs. Barfield read aloud, or they talked of their sons. On Sundays they had their meetings. The folk came from quite a distance, and sometimes as many as five-and-twenty knelt round the deal table in the drawing-room, and Esther felt that these days were the happiest of her life. She was content in the peaceful present, and she knew that Mrs. Barfield would not leave her unprovided for. She was almost free from anxiety. But Jack did not seem to be able to obtain regular employment in London, so the sight of his handwriting made her tremble, and she sometimes did not show the letter to Mrs. Barfield for some hours after.

-388-

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