« VorigeDoorgaan »
"Is he coming back to-day? or at hearing that Claude's departure was final. least until we are all well out of the way. She was thankful that “these people”. Better keep to your butterflies, I think; were going away, and that she should not and not attempt to interest Miss Lang-see Claude with them any more ; but the dale in any sensational story," and they coming here had been a great break in dropped the subject as they neared the her quiet life, and somehow -- although house.
she was glad they were going — their Mr. Lillingstone had recovered his packing made her feel dull, and as they composure ; he went out slowly to meet | left, one party after the other, a sense of them in his old formal manner.
desolation came over her, and she longed "He was extremely sorry that Dobree to be out of it too. should have had so much trouble.” Indeed, Dobree and Scholefield were lounging and he looked at Scholefield, including about in the garden, reading the papers, him in his excuses, “he cordially regret- and talking to Mr. Lillingstone in a desulted that their visit should end so abruptly." tory way. Laura, who was evidently in a
Then he explained, in a semi-confiden- state of increased excitement and delight, tial manner, his motive for going away-came down stairs from time to time to the motive that was to be given out; and talk to them, and from what Elsie heard they listened courteously. Of the plan of her chattering at these times, she gathfor Claude he said nothing.
ered that Miss Langdale was to be of “ Mrs. Grey is not yet downstairs," he their party; this was news to her, and continued, pointing to the dining-room; though she did not attach more import" but I have just left the young ladies ance to it than it deserved, it helped her there ;” and he went off towards the depression for the time. kitchen to have a few words with Mrs. The two young men had refused the Gaithorne. He told her it was not likely offer of the drive into Cambridge ; "they that Claude would return to Upware - would leave more room for the ladies in he was going down with them into Scot- the carriage, and they should enjoy the land. But her difficulties with the unex-walk later in the day.” Then, when all pectedly early dinner were so pressing, arrangements were made, none of them that they gave him ample excuse not to had anything more to do. They waited detain her with confidences which he felt about in a restless way, to which Elsie she might have claimed, but which it was unaccustomed, and the hours seemed would have been unpleasant for him to long to her while they waited. give.
At last they were gone, and Dobree On second thoughts Mrs. Gaithorne was returning from a solitary stroll on did not regret this either, as she told El- the road, where he had first come with sie afterwards. “She thought she could Luard a month ago, when he saw Elsie see through these people, and their ways carrying a bundle ; she was going toof acting – no doubt Mr. Claude would wards Wicken. He stopped her. “Why, go away with them as his father wished Elsie, how is this? Surely you are not - it suited his convenience just now,” going home !" and her lips curled a little. But she did “Yes, sir, I only came to help Mrs. not tell Elsie she knew he would be Gaithorne while young Mr. Lillingstone obliged to come back to Cambridge in a was here and I'm not wanted now month, when none of his family would be that he's gone away,” she added relucthere, and no doubt he expected to tantly, seeing that Dobree did not appear have it all his own way;" for during the to understand her. morning she had seen that Elsie was “Gone! but he is not gone away altocheerful and active as ever, and she at-gether, is he?" Dobree exclaimed intributed this to the effect of her own ad- voluntarily. vice, and the girl's strong sense. Elsie Elsie was puzzled, but at the same time was different to anybody she had ever it pleased her that Mr. Dobree, no more known, but then, “she had always been a than herself, believed that he had left for strange child.” She was thankful for that good. now. “She would not advise her any “Mrs. Gaithorne told me they were all more on the subject to-day; the poor girl going to Scotland,” she said quickly, had been worried enough already; and, - and that Mr. Claude would go with during the month, she would have many them.” opportunities of reminding her of the Dobree's fixed look of surprise conhints she had already given her.”
fused her ; she turned crimson, and beElsie herself was very little affected by' gan to move on. This pointed his astonLIVING AGE. VOL. II. 56
ishment, but he asked no more ques- | was because she knew them all by heart. tions.
| Whether she looked at them or not, they When she had walked a little distance, were a great part of her home to her'; he turned and looked after her sadly. their fragrance pervaded it like a memHer unusual confusion about Claude re-ory always felt through the stillness. called many slight things he had noticed Once there was a break in the stillness the day before. Claude's absence of — sounds of voices coming up the fen. manner in the early part of the evening, As they drew nearer one could hear it his excitement and good spirits towards was laughter; then it was close, and the end of it, the disturbance of the morn- | filled up with the thumping of barges and ing, and the sudden departure from the trampling of feet, but above all, laughter. fens, all this united to confirm his suspi- | The light fitful laugh of girls, wishing to cions; but these he did not yet impart to stay, yet hurrying to be gone -- the low Scholefield, and if he indulged in un- satisfied laugh of men; and in and out favourable criticism of Claude, it was and among them sparkled the ringing chiefly in connection with thoughts such | laugh of children - just as the sunbeams as had crossed his mind before. Now that peeped through the old elms laughed again they thrust themselves upon him, idly over their solemn shade. Elsie drew and he did not care to force them back. back involuntarily, though she knew none So their walk home was an unusually si-l of them would pass that way. Presently, lent one.
the sounds dispersed and melted away in
the winding lanes, but every now and CHAPTER IX.
then a burst of voices would come back The next August found Wicken as it through some opening in the hedge, and had been the last year. Winter had come always it was laughter. But soon that with its fogs and floods, and had passed died away, and it was silent again till the away in its turn. Then the wind blew sun went down. Then there was stirring piteously over the wet ground, and made in the trees, and the hush of nature bethe willows shiver. Now summer was fore night, and it grew black under the burning them again, and they were thirsty elms. and craved for shelter, but there was Suddenly Elsie's attention was arrested none; and the lodes were stagnant, and by a step lighter than that of the fen the river sleepy, and the great engine labourers. She started, listened eagerly seemed to labour harder than ever with for an instant, then, recollecting herself, less water to pump away. The cattle she leaned back as before, but with hands were scattered equally between the two now rigidly pressed together, her pale villages, for the plague had settled down face denying the heavy pulsation that no on them, and there was no thought of effort of will could keep down. separation now. With the first excite-! As the gate opened, she turned in a ment, hope had passed away; the herds forced way, but when she saw Dobree, a grew thinner and the people suffered --- slight flush passed over her face, her there had been no break in the monotony | hands fell apart, and the scarcely percepof the fens.
tible quivering of her lips betrayed how Harvest was nearly over, and the new great her disappointment had been. stacks were made where the last had Dobree noted this, and attributed it rightbeen. They were finished that day, a ly, but his manner ignored it. day just like that of Claude's first coming "Well, Elsie, you see I have found you here. Elsie was alone as then, the moth-out again, as I want more of your help. er and children were at the pits, and it How soon can you get me some ferns like was again grandfather's day at the Stan- those you collected for me last year?" nards'. Elsie had hurried her usual work Elsie was nervously ready with her anto have a little quiet before they all came swer. home ; of late, it had become a habit with “As soon as you like, sir; I could go her to do this, and she was now enjoying and get them to-morrow, if you like." herself in her own way. She stood lean- “ You need not hurry so much as that; ing against the door, looking out, with I am staying at Fordham, and it will be her hands clasped listlessly before her, in time if you get them within a week." as if she was waiting - it might have He began at once to admire her garden, been for her own people, though it was and after a few minutes spent in inquiries early to expect them yet. Her eyes wan- and praise of her management, he turned dered over her flowers, but she seemed towards the cottage, so that she felt scarcely to notice them — perhaps that I obliged to ask him in to rest.
He did not need the rest, he said, but Had not Claude asked her to believe in he should not like to go away without him in spite of unfavourable appearseeing the inside of the cottage again. ances? Had he not given her the most He was glad to find that she was alone, solemn promise before their last parting? and told her at once the real object of his It is true he had not come back when the visit.
term began !... It was bad to bear, but He had seen Miss Grey in London a he might have had good reasons for that. few weeks ago, and when she heard he Again, what did unfavourable appearances was coming down there she commissioned mean, if not something unpleasant to herhim to ascertain if Elsie would be willing self ? All this she would accept; she to leave her home. A friend of hers would yet believe in him, for she knew he wanted a confidential servant; she would loved her. have no hard work to do, but this lady! She could not help attributing Miss was anxious to find some person on whom Grey's offer of a situation to a plan made she might depend. Miss Grey had by the family to get her away from the thought of Elsie, and had instructed him fens, suspecting that Claude might now to assure her that if she accepted the offer be coming there. So her spirits rose in the new home would be a happy one. | harmony with the summer life that sur
Elsie had blushed deeply at the first rounded her, and each new burst of framention of Miss Grey's name, but her grance seemed to confirm as well as to self-possession returned before he had heighten her gladness. Exercise had infinished speaking. She refused promptly creased the look of excitement these and firmly, yet with such evident gratitude thoughts had given her, and her hair was to Miss Grey, as well as to himself, for arranged more carefully than usual, for their kindness, that Dobree felt that she she expected Dobree. must have a strong motive for refusing, She was still stroking her favourite and that that motive must be a future of when he appeared at the gate, and as he which she could not speak. This was the paused to look at her before raising the ineilable look, the expectancy in her eyes, latch, he wished he had not undertaken as she stood gazing past him out of the Miss Grey's errand so readily, or at least window, her whole being wrapped in that he did not feel bound in truth to her something beyond and away from him. to speak that which he felt he must speak,
Dobree looked at her as he had done ever since he had parted from her three the first day he met her in the fens, she nights ago. “ However,” he thought, being unconscious. It was the sweet face “this is no place for hesitation, and the that had never faded in his memory I probability is that I would not shirk it if glorified, as he had known it might be - I could." So he met Elsie's look of weland yet he was not glad.
come more naturally and with a greater He rose wearily. “I will not take your show of firmness than he really felt. answer until you have more time to think Elsie ran off at once to fetch the ferns, of it," he said ; “if you will get the ferns which she said were better than the last ready for Thursday evening, I will walk she had got for him, and her quiet manover after dinner and fetch them myself; ner, no less than her bright eyes, showed and I hope," he added, looking at her | how pleased she was at the praise he gave kindly, “by that time you may have to her good packing. thought better of Miss Grey's propos- She then led the way indoors, and put
| the ferns on the window-sill near the myrElsie smiled in answer, though she | tle, while she offered him grandfather's could promise nothing, and he went away. chair, now drawn close to the open win
On the night fixed for Dobree's return, dow. This he refused, for he felt he Elsie had been watering her garden. could not be still just now. “He was not The cat, perched on the window-sill, in going to stay long, but she must sit down ; the shadow of the honey-suckle, had there was no occasion for her to stand.” watched all her movements with a criti- This she also refused, and stood within cal air, and so far seemed to have noth- the recess of the window, in what she ing to complain of in her proceedings ; called “her own place." The thrush more than that, she even allowed herself came bustling down to the nearest corner to be petted after it was all over, and ex-of the cage with inquisitiveness in its , pressed general approbation in a low purr eyes, and a sharp little “ Quitt," that re
that was very understandable language to ceived a kind look for answer. This, Elsie. She had thought much during the however, was not quite satisfactory, as he last three days.
I let her know, by a still greater show of
bustling ; so she leaned forward, chatter- our clergyman - and — also for Miss ing to it, and it returned to its perch, com- Grey's relations, then” – ing down now and then afterwards to “Ah! yes, I remember Mr. Lilling. show that it still kept up an interest in its stone sent away several baskets from mistress. Dobree had made a few paces here ; but,” and he turned away from her in the room and come back again.
and looked into the garden again, “he “ Are your people always out? No has been a great deal too busy lately to place seems so still to me as this cottage, think of those things." and yet you are such a large family.” | Something in the tone of his voice sug.
Elsie smiled an amused smile. “It's gested a horrible thought to Elsie. “ He noisy enough in the mornings and even-was very busy with his books last year, ings, but now it's harvest-time, and they wasn't he ?” she said, breathing quickly. all come later; that helps to make it A quick light in Dobree's eye showed seem more quiet just now; but grandfa- his scorn. ther's home in the back garden," no-1 “I believe he was, but he gave up colticing Dobree's quick look round ; “he'll lege life after he left Mrs. Gaithorne's last not be coming in till sundown ; he says year, and two month's ago he was marhe likes to make the most of these long ried; he is now travelling with his wife ;” days; and he does a good bit, too, though and he pretended to see something new he's so old.”
in the elm-trees opposite him. « Quitt," said the thrush, and Dobree Elsie leaned against the window-frame. and Elsie looked towards it.
She felt her face was white, and that her They were both silent.
lips twitched helplessly now and then. “ You like your home very much, I sup- This must not be ; she must not give pose?”
way. Yes, there was the garden, cool, “I like it more and more - I love it rich, and sweet, the smell of the honeybetter than ever.” She stopped suddenly, suckle, and her little friend in the cage, and turned her head away, blushing at and Mr. Dobree, too, looking out of the the excitement she had shown.
window quite close to her. Now and They were again silent.
then they all swayed up and down. She “Have you thought about what I asked must not give way she must speak soon you the other evening ?”
- what will he think? she must say “Yes.”
something presently. “ You have not changed your mind ? ” “ Quitt, quitt," said the thrush, puzzled
“No – thank you for your kindness ; at the long silence. and please to thank Miss Grey too, but Dobree turned his attention to it, speak- I must stay at home.”
|ing low, close to the bars. Dobree was half disappointed, although Elsie fixed her eyes on them both, and this was what he had expected ; he looked they swayed up and down. What should past her into the garden for some min- she say if she were any one else ? It utes ; then, rousing himself, —
seemed an age since the stillness had “ Well, I suppose I ought not to try been broken.“ Did he take honours, as and persuade you against what you think he expected ?" Her voice, though low, right; but should anything arise to make was hard, and seemed painfully clear to you change your plans - or suppose, for her. instance, you should not be wanted so Dobree glanced slightly at her before much at home as you are now — I know I answering; and he groaned within himcan promise you Miss Grey's help in ob- self at the misery so wantonly caused taining a situation out of this place. You the life so early blighted — when “it need only let Miss Porteous know of your might have been so different.” “No, he wish."
disappointed his friends very much by “ Thank you," and the least perceptible giving up reading altogether some time smile played on Elsie's lips ; “but that ago; but I must go now.” He took up would be for a long while, as Rettie is the basket, and put out his hand. “Goodstill very young,' and she looked down bye, Elsie, and remember what I have at the ferns as if ready to give them to said about Miss Grey; you may trust him ; but he was not willing to go, though her. She likes you, and will be a friend he followed her movement.
if you want one, I am sure ; and — but it “Have you had a good sale for them is no matter, it is of little consequence this season ?”
now - good-bye,” and he turned away to “For the ferns, sir ? No, not so good avoid seeing the quivering lips that strove as last year. I got several for friends of so hard to be still.
She followed him to the door, and nod- it would, we think, be impossible for any ded a “good-bye,” when he shut the gate. candid and open-hearted reader of the Some time after, she felt a warm soft little volume * recently published, to pressure on her foot, as the cat passed think of him as a Sceptic. Scepticism is and re-passed, rubbing her back against not a creed but a disposition - a form of the hem of her dress, and purring to gain mind —a peculiarity of nature — and this her notice, but in vain.
is not the mental character of Mr. Greg. Elsie was scarcely conscious of this. He believes — almost in spite of himself She was still looking out, attracted - fas- - having no means, he confesses, of cinated, it would seem, by the golden proving the truth of what he believes in, pinnacles of the stacks that rose clear and acknowledging a great many argufrom the vague shadow of the trees, and ments against it. There is something nursed the flattering rays of the daylight amusing even in the humility with which after the day had gone.
he makes this avowal, or rather, something that would be amusing but for the perfect and dignified seriousness of the thinker, who, declining to receive Reve
lation as a possibility, and rejecting ChrisFrom Blackwood's Magazine.
tianity as a great blunder, cannot yet, he ENIGMAS OF LIFE.
allows, divest himself of his faith in God Among the many things which change and the Hereafter. We have used a word from one age to another, there is scarcely which we ought not to have used, - it is any so subject to variation, strangely pathetic rather than amusing. Mr. Greg enough, as those opinions on religious puts himself voluntarily at the bar, and subjects which are the most important our gives for his defence the humanest, the minds are capable of forming. Though most unassailable, of all pleas. It is not the hottest controversies in the Church at any bar of ours that he makes his deare generally raised for the rigid conser-fence. We are ready to give him full and vation of old forms and old conceptions of frank absolution for believing in God bereligious truth, it is nevertheless true that cause he cannot help it, because it is plus every century, and often every generation, forte que lui : but there is something inhas its own characteristic way of setting finitely curious in the spectacle of this forth these truths; and that, not to go man standing humbly uncovered before back too far nor to venture upon any dis- his peers, excusing himself for his faith. cussion such as that which has risen We can easily conceive that a great effort round the Athanasian Creed, a pious and was necessary to enable him to confront even highly orthodox Christian of the such a tribunal with such a confession. present day would hesitate at least, and The great leading principle of all the possibly shudder, were he called upon to philosophical researches of our day, both utter assertions or explanations which dis- physical and mental, is that faith' is the tilled like dew from the lips of his proto- one unallowable sentiment - the accursed type in 1773, only a hundred years ago. thing. The very state of mind which And scepticism, or philosophy, or counter-makes such a feeling possible, fills scitheology, whatever name may be the best ence with disgust and opposition; yet to use, changes with equal variety and here is a distinguished philosopher compersistency. From Voltaire to Mr. W. ing forward to confess to it, with a sense R. Greg, what a difference! We do not of his own weakness, yet with an absoknow by what name to distinguish the lute incapacity to separate himself from later author. He disbelieves the greater it, which is at once strange and whimsical part of — we may almost say all — that and pathetic. What he avows is pure Christians believe. He seems on the faith of the highest and most visionary whole to be of opinion - to us a new and kind, faith in things unprovable, without strange one - that Christianity has rather tangible foundation, without authority retarded than helped forward the reign of yet in its naked force prevailing over all purity and truth on the earth. He is the methods and habits of doubt, and all cruelly and unjustly, and sometimes we the prejudices of the intellect. The folthink ignorantly, contemptuous of all re- lowing is Mr. Greg's own explanation or ligious teachers of every class, creed, and excuse - the plea with which he presents country. He is not without that intoler-himself at the bar of philosophical ance and dogmatism which are so curi- thought :ously characteristic of the philosophic
Enigmas of Life: by W. K. Greg. London: antagonists of spiritual oppression; but | Trubner & Co. 1872.