She was still so engaged, when she was startled by:
'Hal-loa!' From her brother, sitting up in bed.
'You made me jump, Charley.'
'Jump! Didn't you make ME jump, when I opened my eyes a moment ago, and saw you sitting there, like the ghost of a girl miser, in the dead of the night.'
'It's not the dead of the night, Charley. It's nigh six in the morning.'
'Is it though? But what are you up to, Liz?'
'Still telling your fortune, Charley.'
'It seems to be a precious small one, if that's it,' said the boy. 'What are you putting that little pile of money by itself for?'
'For you, Charley.'
'What do you mean?'
'Get out of bed, Charley, and get washed and dressed, and then I'll tell you.'
Her composed manner, and her low distinct voice, always had an influence over him. His head was soon in a basin of water, and out of it again, and staring at her through a storm of towelling.
'I never,' towelling at himself as if he were his bitterest enemy, 'saw such a girl as you are. What IS the move, Liz?'
'Are you almost ready for breakfast, Charley?'
'You can pour it out. Hal-loa! I say? And a bundle?'
'And a bundle, Charley.'
'You don't mean it's for me, too?'
'Yes, Charley; I do; indeed.'
More serious of face, and more slow of action, than he had been, the boy completed his dressing, and came and sat down at the little breakfast-table, with his eyes amazedly directed to her face.
'You see, Charley dear, I have made up my mind that this is the right time for your going away from us. Over and above all the blessed change of by-and-bye, you'll be much happier, and do much better, even so soon as next month. Even so soon as next week.'
'How do you know I shall?'
'I don't quite know how, Charley, but I do.' In spite of her unchanged manner of speaking, and her unchanged appearance of composure, she scarcely trusted herself to look at him, but kept her eyes employed on the cutting and buttering of his bread, and on the mixing of his tea, and other such little preparations. 'You must leave father to me, Charley--I will do what I can with him--but you must go.'
'You don't stand upon ceremony, I think,' grumbled the boy, throwing his bread and butter about, in an ill-humour.
She made him no answer.
'I tell you what,' said the boy, then, bursting out into an angry whimpering, 'you're a selfish jade, and you think there's not enough for three of us, and you want to get rid of me.'
'If you believe so, Charley,--yes, then I believe too, that I am a selfish jade, and that I think there's not enough for three of us, and that I want to get rid of you.'
It was only when the boy rushed at her, and threw his arms round her neck, that she lost her self-restraint. But she lost it then, and wept over him.
'Don't cry, don't cry! I am satisfied to go, Liz; I am satisfied to go. I know you send me away for my good.'
'O, Charley, Charley, Heaven above us knows I do!'
'Yes yes. Don't mind what I said. Don't remember it. Kiss me.'
After a silence, she loosed him, to dry her eyes and regain her strong quiet influence.
'Now listen, Charley dear. We both know it must be done, and I alone know there is good reason for its being done at once. Go straight to the school, and say that you and I agreed upon it--that we can't overcome father's opposition--that father will never trouble them, but will never take you back. You are a credit to the school, and you will be a greater credit to it yet, and they will help you to get a living. Show what clothes you have brought, and what money, and say that I will send some more money. If I can get some in no other way, I will ask a little help of those two gentlemen who came here that night.'
'I say!' cried her brother, quickly. 'Don't you have it of that chap that took hold of me by the chin! Don't you have it of that Wrayburn one!'
Perhaps a slight additional tinge of red flushed up into her face and brow, as with a nod she laid a hand upon his lips to keep him silently attentive.