[ocr errors]

ought to be ready to do something for conflict which he was raising up in his the parish. I think I have a right to host's mind between his offended digexpect it, and I need it much. I am nity and his courtesy. not begging now, though, and I know, And then both the women looked sir, you have done all you can.”

and waited for the answer; but while “Yes, I have,” said Mr. North, Christina's eyes were opened wide and shortly. The Rector was a simple, fixed upon her grandfather, Mrs. North's kindly, straightforward man, but he were cast down and fixed upon the was not sensitive, nor keenly alive to table-cloth. other people's sensibilities. Mr. North Why should I call ?” said Mr. was poor, and he had done all he could, North. “No, I do not intend calling. and all Mr. Warde expected of him. Quiet, absolute quiet, is what suits me Why should he hesitate to say so? and best in my old age ; and I am not why should it not be spoken of openly? prepared to make new acquaintances. I But the acknowledgment was bitter to am not good company for the rising the old man.

He could do nothing generation. more, and he knew it well enough : but Mr. Warde was still a young man in why should he be told so plainly that Mr. North's eyes, though he was thirtyit was to young Cleasby and not to five, or perhaps a little older; and him that the Rector looked for support? though be knew that his host spoke What right had he to speak to him at with contempt of the rising generation all upon such a subject ? So Mr. when he said that he was not good North thought; but the thought did not company for them, he never thought of make him less courteous and

hospitable taking exception at anything Mr. North in his manner, for Mr. Warde was his might say ; indeed, he was a man that guest, and was to be treated with all it was difficult for any one to offend. deference. Nevertheless it rankled ; “I cannot help thinking it would be and there was another reason which better for you if you saw more of your put a restraint upon their friendly neighbours,” he said, as usual giving intercourse, and deprived it of the free expression to his thoughts; and cordiality which would have been most although perhaps his advice was un. congenial to the Rector. The White called for in addressing a man so much House belonged to Mr. Warde, and had his senior, it was not given with any originally been intended for a parsonage, arrogance or priestly superiority, but but Mr. Warde was unmarried, and rather as the frank opinion of oue lived in tiny apartments over the baker's, unused to keep his sentiments to himso he had let the house to the Norths, self; nevertheless Mr. North, as might partly because he was glad to get rid have been expected, was not pleased of it with its long passages and big with the interference. fireplaces, which were not adapted for “Of that I must be the best judge," bachelor comfort, and partly because it he said : and then he looked at his was a time when Mr. North was in daughter-in-law in a way to intimate trouble, and glad to find a house for that it was time for her to leave the which he was not required to pay down money at once; so they stood in relation For the time the subject was laid of tenant and landlord, a relation which aside; but when, the long sitting over, was galling to Mr. North's feelings, and the wine was ended, and the clergy man which threw a deeper shade of formality came into the front parlour, where over his manner to the clergyman, Christina and her mother were sitting though, in his way, he both liked and

at work, it came into their talk, for respected him.

Mr. North had gone into his study for “Are you going to call at the Park ?” a book. asked Mr. Warde, in his direct matter- “Why do you not persuade him to of-fact way, with no suspicion of the exert himself ?" asked the Rector, “It


would be better for him and for you her-so Christina thought; and after all. He should not shut himself up all it did not so much matter. as he does."

One afternoon she was sitting with “It suits him,” said Christina; and her grandfather in the study, writing though she sighed at the incomprehen- from his dictation a criticism upon a sibleness of such a taste, she added, “I book he had been reading. “It is well suppose he has a right to do as he to note down one's thoughts," he had pleases ;" for Christina allowed no one said in his didactic way, and Christina but herself to blame her grandfather. had taken out pen and paper with a

“Certainly not; we have all our mental wonder that he should care to duties to ourselves and to each other,” preserve what no one would ever care said the clergyman : and this time there to know. Indeed, she wondered how was something a little clerical in his he should find it worth while to think tone which made Christina feel rebel- about such things at all; but of course lious, and prompted her to answer, that this she did not say. " as to everyone having duties, it might It was growing dusk, and the one be so, but she had never found hers candle gave but a feeble light; so she out."

was kneeling by the table to catch the “ Then you have never tried,” said firelight upon her page; but the old Mr. Warde: and soon after he went man was long in collecting his thoughts, away to his night school.

and it was only at intervals that he And although Christina did not care spoke, and Christina's eyes had wanfor his opinion, she knew that he spoke dered out into the darkness outside the sincerely. “ He does not approve of window, and her thoughts were weaving me," she said to herself ; "and though themselves into a vague dream. Then it does not matter, I dare say he is right, suddenly, when all seemed most peaceafter all !”

sul and ordinary; when the doors had, as it were, been shut upon the outer

world ; when even Bernard was not to CHAPTER III.

be expected; when her mother was, as

usual, working in the little parlour at For some days it seemed as if Mrs. the other side of the passage, and Janet North was quite right when she said was in the kitchen, and she and her that the Cleasbys' return could make grandfather were alone, he with pain no difference to them : the days passed and effort shaping his thoughts into as they had passed before, and the only words, she letting hers wander into a witnesses to their existence were the dreamland which had nothing definite lights which shone from their windows about it,—at this moment, of all others, through the Park trees. Christina could when the world seemed farthest off, the not have told why every night she calm was broken by a citizen of that looked out at them before going to world. bed, and every night they seemed a He came as if his visit were the most little farther off'; sometimes she thought commonplace thing in life, asked Janet she would cease to see them at all, and if her master were in, with easy indifyet she looked, and wondered, and ference, and followed her so closely waited.

along the passage that she had no One day the gates were opened, and opportunity to give warning of his adsome one drove past in a dogcart, but vent, but had barely time to open the she did not see who it was, and she door and announce “ Captain Cleasby," even began to think that she did not before he stood within the room. care to know. The heath was only He did not feel embarrassed, nor as divided from the trees of the Park by if his visit had anything of special imthe winding stony road; but it was a port in it; he did not feel that he was barrier which could not be passed by dining at Mr. North's table every night,


but, on the contrary, looked on that table me, sir,” he said; “I was quite a boy: as most peculiarly his own; and he had but I remember you well, and everycome to see Mr. North as a near neigh- thing about the place. We have been bour, and an old acquaintance of his moving about ever since." father's, without any thought of the “ You have been on the Continent, I circumstances which might make his understand," said Mr. North, stitily. visit a painful one ; but yet he did not Yes, at one place or another. We advance for a moment, not because he are a migratory people, but at last we felt doubtful or shy, but because in the have come home.” uncertain light he could not see clearly He did not say it as if he were glad in whose presence he stood.

to be once more at the Park; and though There was a pause, and Christina rose he called it “home," there was ever so up hastily from her knees, suddenly slight a touch of contempt in his voice. awakened from her dreams and flushed It seemed as if Mr. North gathered at the unexpectedness of the entrance, up his breath to speak, and yet the reand drew back a little and looked mark he made was a difficult one for a curiously at the stranger. Then Mr. stranger to answer. North made an effort to rise, and yet he "I was surprised and grieved to hear did not, and he knew that the young of Cleasby's death," he said. man had seen the effort when he came It was only a month since it had forward and held out his hand.

happened, and all the agitations and in“Pray don't disturb yourself,” he cidents of the time were fresh in the said, as he advanced into the light, and young man's memory. After all, long shook hands with Mr. North, and then habit and daily intercourse had created for the first time saw Christina and affection which, though it had bowed to her. “I hope I am not in- nothing in it of elevated sentiment or terrupting anything ; I must apologize respect, had yet been that of a son for for calling so late, but I have been out a father; and Mr. North's observation all day. I hope I am not interrupting brought a shadow and a change over

his face. Christina was sitting quite in the “Thank you," he said briefly. Then shadow. Even the outline of her figure there was a silence, and again it was was undefined; but a little soft low apparent to Christina that her grandlaugh came out of the darkness as father made an effort to break it. Captain Cleasby ended his apology, and Are you going to become a resident a voice which seemed as if speaking to at the Park ?” he said. itself, “I think we can forgive the in- 'I hardly know myself—we are very terruption."

uncertain ; but I dare say we shall be “ It is of no consequence,” said Mr. here for some time to come. It is only North, and his tone was very stately; myself and my sister.” “my time is quite at your service.” You prefer the Continent ?”

Perhaps the magnificence of the “Well, we know very little of English speech was thrown away upon Captain life as yet ; of course it is rather strange Cleasby, who was not thinking of to us at first, but I dare say we shall Geoffrey North as the man to whom settle down in time." the Park had belonged, but rather of He thought for a moment whether his father's friend, who, poor old fellow, he should add anything more cordial, as was sadly aged and altered. He had too would have seemed natural in speaking much tact to betray this, or show any to his nearest neighbour and to his sense of the change. He drew forward father's old friend; whether he should a chair and sat down before the fire, and say anything of future intercourse, or began to talk with a lazy ease which ask whether he had any belonging who was new to Christina.

would care for his fishing or shooting; “I cannot expect you to remember but the chilling dignity of Mr. North's


[ocr errors]

manner had repelled him, and soon after don't feel the difference; but when I he took his leave. Christina had been think what it used to be, and how in the background and dim shadow in changed it all is nowthe dusky twilight, and he had hardly "Oh, dear me!” said Christina, with noticed her, but he had been in the a kind of sad impatience : and she got circle of firelight, and she had seen him up from her chair and went to the winclearly. Was it an omen of the future? dow, and stood looking out at the mist

Well, after all he had crossed the in which the heath was shrouded, road; the barrier which she thought im- through which not even the lights from passable had been passed, but all the the house on the hill could be seen. same she was further off than ever, and It was quite true that she did not, as she felt it. There was no bond of union, her mother said, “ feel the difference;' his life had been so different from theirs, she had been used to isolation and and what could they say to him? It poverty nearly all her life, and she had was not so strange that Mr. North no recollection of brighter days; but should find a difficulty in opening and get the lonely dreariness of the life they sustaining a conversation, and Christina were leading was far more oppressive to no longer wondered at his embarrass- her than to Mrs. North, who at least had ment, nor at his decision that the nothing more to expect. Cleasbys should not come to his house. She leant up against the window and It was quite true that they had nothing drew a long breath as if she could rid to do with them, that they had nothing herself in that physical way of the dein common with prosperity, riches, and pression which was creeping over her, people of the world ; their way of and turned her back upon her grandthinking, their talk, their very manner father, who still sat meditating in his was different: and Christina sighed a chair, and upon her mother, who had little as she leant back in her chair. taken up her work and was bending

Her grandfather had forgotten his over it. book, and he too leant back in his chair, But, after all, Christina was young lost in thought.

and strong and full of life; and though “Oh, Christina !” said her mother, at times she might review her fate and "what are you doing there ? And did let despondency conquer her, very often Captain Cieasby find you like this, with she forgot it altogether in the spring and only one candle, and the room all in sunshine, and the natural freshness of disorder, and you in that old blue gown? youth. Every day the west wind blew Oh, dear! why did he come, and no one more softly, every day the tints grew expecting him?"

deeper over the Park trees, and April sure I don't know," said rains had watered the brown heath and Christina; “but as to the room and made the scanty herbage green, and the my gown, I don't suppose that he even birds began to sing and the gummy saw them :” and she laughed a little at chestnut buds to glisten, and the winter the idea. It had never occurred to her was over; and though Christina might to consider what Captain Cleasby would be lonely, and at times sad and rebelhave thought of them or their surround- lious, she had not yet shut her heart to ings, and perhaps she was too proud to the influences of the opening year. Her have given a thought to her gown; for mood softened, and she was gracious to she, like her grandfather, was proud in Bernard, and promised to go and see

[ocr errors]

his mother. “You may laugh, Christina ; I dare It was no penance to her; there was say it is very amusing to you," said the perhaps no one for whom she had so mother, in the aggrieved tone which had great a respect as hier aunt, but she become habitual to her, “ but I don't see did not go often to see her. She hardly anything to laugh at for my part. You knew herself why she did not seek her cannot remember, of course, and so you more. It was not that she was afraid, for

“I am

her way.


the present.

she was afraid of no one, and it was not her full, steady eyes upon Christina as for want of time or opportunity; perlaps she came in, and held out her hands it was because she knew Mrs. Oswestry and kissed her with a smile of welcome. did not always approve of her. She “You are welcome, my dear," she was not a woman who expressed an un- said, with a touch of her father's cerefavourable opinion readily, neither was mony: and then she led the way into she critical ; but she was essentially the little drawing-room, with its pretty just, impartial, and firm; and for some bay window full of flowers, the scent reason or other, she did not, as people of them stirred by every soft gust say, get on with Christina, who, to be through the window; and she sat sure, was destitute of many valuable down in her own chair and took up qualities. The expression of Mrs. her work, and Christina sat down also, Oswestry's face was kindly and strong but did not very well know what to and serene; a face that could not deceive, and could at times soften into “Had you anything particular to say tenderness, but witbal giving evidence to me?” said Mrs. Oswestry. She looked of a calm, well-regulated mind and a at Christina, who was twisting her hat ruling spirit. This was perhaps the about in her hands, though it was not reason that Christina set out to see her usual with her to be at a loss for words ; with no vivid anticipation of pleasure, and then Christina felt how impossible but rather with the sense that she was it was for her to answer such an appeal discharging a duty.

by any confidence. It was an opening, Yet she felt courageous also, and the perhaps, but an opening of which it was morning air had given her a spirit of quite impossible to take advantage. It enterprise, and she had said to Bernard would be much better to introduce the the evening before, “I shall tell Aunt subject casually; so she put it away for Margaret that some day I am coming to live at the Homestead;" and she thought “No, no, Aunt Margaret,” she said, that she would do it, and pictured to "only I thought that I would come. herself the surprise which she was going Bernard said I could come.” to awaken as she walked across the heath “You do not come so very often, but to her aunt's house.

you are always welcome," said Mrs. “Am I come too early, Aunt Mar- Oswestry : and she smiled, for she was garet?” she said, as she pushed open not a woman to reproach anyone for the door and found Mrs. Oswestry giving neglecting her. “It is not very lively out the linen from the cupboard in the here, and there is nothing to amuse passage.

Peace brooded over the house ; peace “I don't think of amusement,” said was within, and peace without,—in the Christina ; "you would not imagine I sunny garden outside, and in the pretty wanted it, if you knew me better. I drawing-room. There was atmo- always like this house, it is so bright. sphere of quiet about the roses, and I think you get all the sunshine up the bees, and the poultry in the yard. here, Aunt Margaret.” It was sheltered from the winds by the “Do we ?” said Mrs. Oswestry; "yes, hill which rose behind it, and all was I think that you are right as to the sun. tranquil within ; the first

shine, but I hope that we do not quite bloomed under the garden wall, or the monopolize it.” last roses shed their leaves upon the Christina did not answer, but she gravel-walks.

leant her chin upon her hand, and Mrs. Oswestry was standing, a tall looked out through the framework of figure in her long black dress, among creepers which clustered round the the piles of white linen, with the window. sweet spring air blowing in upon her “Christina," said her aunt, after a from an open window, and she turned little pause, “I sometimes think that




« VorigeDoorgaan »