blame me

you do not make the most of what in the wind, at the creepers outside, and comes to you.”

the glass of spring flowers on the roseChristina coloured a little, and turned wood work-table, and all the trivialities her eyes upon Mrs. Oswestry, and upon which make a house a home, and she the instant took up arms.

sighed again as she thought of the “I don't know what you mean, Aunt contrast. Margaret. I suppose we are not like “It is all very different with us," she other people exactly; but I don't see said. how I can make the most of what I Yet Mrs. Oswestry's drawing-room was have not got. You can see for yourself not luxurious, nor even very orderly. that we are not spoilt by pleasures, There was a drugget on the floor, and and except that, I don't see how you the mirror over the mantelpiece was can know about it; only I suppose small, and the chintz had seen better Bernard

days, and Bernard's compasses and rules “ Bernard has nothing to do with what and drawing materials were littered I am saying,” said her aunt, interrupting about on one of the tables ; but yet her. “I speak from my own observation, it had the unmistakeable air of a room and for your good, Christina.”

to which people come for rest and “I speak to Bernard sometimes, I cheerfulness and domestic peace; and know,” said Christina quickly, not no- this was a look quite unkrown to the ticing the interruption, "and tell him rooms at the White House, things, because I have no one else to Christina went over to the table where speak to; but if he makes other people Bernard's drawings were strewn about,

and began to turn them over; not be“Oh, Christina, my dear child,” said cause she cared much about them, but her aunt; “oh, Christina, why do you because she was a little ashamed of her pretend to think it is Bernard? You last speech, to which her aunt had made know well enough he never blames no response, and she was glad to change you."

the subject. Christina hung her head and coloured “What is Bernard doing? where is again, and a sudden smile fitted across he gone?” she asked : and the elder her face. She knew it, of course, quite woman, who could not, of course, read well; but no one, not even Bernard her thoughts, imagined that there was himself, had ever put it to her so embarrassment in her voice. But she plainly before. Then she lifted up her was wrong, for Christina could speak head, and, moved by a yearning and an quite openly of her cousin; and if she impulse to seek for sympathy, was about spoke less frankly than usual, it was to make her confession and give her not upon his account, but because she confidence, had not Mrs. Oswestry gone was dissatisfied with her visit and on without giving her time to answer. vexed with herself.

"I am not speaking as Bernard's “ Bernard is gone to Overton; he is deputy, and I will not say that his drawing some plans for the new church, thoughts always agree with mine, but if you can stay, he will be back by though I believe that he hides no- tea-time, and then he can walk home thing from me,” said his mother; and with you," said her aunt. she spoke with the proud confidence of She did not approve of Christina ; a woman who has yet to learn that she she did not altogether like her ; but it does not hold the first place in her son's her boy had set his heart upon it, she heart. Mrs. Oswestry was a just and would not stand in his way; and if it impartial woman, but yet the first know

were to be, it had better be done ledge would have been bitter to her, and openly, and with everyone's knowledge. Christina could not tell her that it was And then Christina's heart smote her, 80. She looked round again at the partly for her own reticence, partly for room, at the muslin curtains blowing the confidence shown in her. Would


it be so, she wondered, if her aunt knew it had been so dark when he called, and of what had been between them ? She she had been so much in the backalmost wished that it had never been, ground. but his words could not be forgotten : It was a very lonely spot, a little she had told him she might change, but wood in a hollow between two ridges of she knew that he at least was pledged moorland, where hyacinths and anefor ever.

mixed themselves with the “No, I cannot wait for Bernard," tangled undergrowth. she said; “I must go home, but thank Christina stood still, doubtful one you all the same, Aunt Margaret :” and moment, and then Captain Cleashy she went over and kissed her aunt with lifted his hat and put his hand on sudden compunction.

the gate. He was coming through the After that they went out together, and wood with his dogs at his heels, and as fed the poultry, and looked at the Christina stepped forward one of them hives, and nailed up some straggling snarled and showed his teeth. His creepers; and gradually, standing in master struck him with his cane and that peaceful atmosphere, looking up made his apologies, and then he recoginto the serenity of Mrs. Oswestry's nized Christina and claimed her acface, Christina felt the spirit of the quaintance. place creeping over her, charming away “It was so dark the other evening, I her longings, and filling her with the did not suppose that you would know contentment of rest. After all, (what

me again,” she said. could she desire more? One day this “I am not thinking of the other would be her home.

day," he answered, smiling; “but I think I should have known you again,

although you were such a little girl CHAPTER IV.

when I saw you last !” and such a

pretty little girl, he thought to himALTHOUGH it was so early in the year, self,—but he did not say it. the sun was still in the south when

Yes, I remember,” said Christina, Christina turned homewards, with that and she too smiled as he turned back to feeling of calm contentment and rest, walk with her. the predominant one within her; and “I wonder that you can remember," the Homestead she was leaving behind he said ; "it is such years and years ago her still stood forth in her mind as the

—ten or eleven years. I should think end to be desired.

I must have been about sixteen." A sort of vague satisfaction filled her Yes, you gave me a ride on your as she made her way back across the pony,” said Christina; “I remember it heath more slowly than she had come, quite well, but then I have not had no longer quickened by the sense of many things to remember in


life.” enterprise and exhilaration with which

Captain Cleasby smiled again someshe had set out. She was not now what compassionately, thinking of the thinking of the future as comprehending dreary house and the dusky room, and anything new or unaccustomed, and she

the old man sitting there in his solistarted a little when she came to the tude, but he made no direct answer. entrance of the wood, and, suddenly “I hardly know whether my visit lifting her eyes, saw Captain Cleasby was welcome to your grandfather,” he coming towards her, ready to open the said ; “it is so long since he saw me, gate.

and I ought to have remembered there She was not exactly shy, for it was were painful associations. I was sorry not usual with her, and in point of to find him so much aged. But I hope fact there was nothing to cause her em- my living at the Park does not make barrassment, only she was curious to him look upon me as a natural enemy.' know if he would recognize her again, Christina paused for moment.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



Captain Cleasby was a stranger, though to do with him ; he is quite different she had said she remembered him, and from us; it is not as it used to be !" she hesitated as to what she should say “I suppose he is different, but people or leave unsaid ; but somehow she felt can be friends all the same, said a persuasion that he would not take Christina ; "he does not want to avoid advantage of any admission that she And as to being different, we are might make.

just what we were always; we are just Grandpapa is very much changed," as much worth knowing as when we she said, “ and he does not like to see lived at the Park. I am sure I wish we strangers, or even his old friends; and never had lived there,” she added, with I dare say he does not like to be re a little shrug of her shoulders. minded of old times," said Christina, “ You don't know what you say,” candidly.

said the mother, “and it is hardhearted As for Captain Cleasby, her straight of you to talk in that way ; but you forward answer took him by surprise, can understand that Captain Cleasby is certainly; but he was only a little not wanted here; and I think if I were interested by a candour to which he you I would not say anything to your was unaccustomed.

grandfather; he does not like to hear of “I understand," he said, “and I the Cleasbys.” remind him of old times. But I hope “I know," said Christina: and she you have not all the same feeling. Do

went away after that, and did not say you too look upon me as a natural anything about Captain Cleasby's hope

that they did not all look upon him as "Oh no," said Christina, turning her a natural enemy; but she remembered it, frank eyes upon him; “no,—why nevertheless, perhaps the more, that she should I? It matters nothing to me. did not speak of it.

we part in peace," said It was just at this time that Mrs. Captain Cleasby, for they had come Oswestry was called away to nurse a to the gate of the White House, and cousin who was sick and lonely, and Christina's mother was standing in the Bernard came to stay at the White window looking out.

House, for a “little company,” as his Then he turned back along the way aunt said ; for the Homestead was shut he had come with her, whistling to his up, and only a man and a maid left to dogs.

take care of it. It was a change which “Who was with you, Christina?” said some people would have looked upon Mrs. Nortli, anxiously, as she came as anything but cheerful, from the lightly up the garden path, and, open

sunny hillside, ing the parlour door, stood before her, making a spot of light, as it were, in “That woodbined cottage, girt with orchard

trees, the dingy atmosphere, with her cheeks

Last left and earliest found of birds and a little flushed by her walk, her eyes bees,” shining, and a smile still hovering round her mouth.

to the White House on the heath ; but "It was Captain Cleasby; he met Bernard had his reasons, and came me in the Hollow," said Christina. She readily enough. was not exactly elated, but she felt as “I wonder you come,” Christina had if a break had been discovered in the said. hills which bounded her horizon, and a “Do you ?” he answered: and then new vista opened to her view.

something in his manner had made her “Your grandfather does not wish to stop, and recalled her to herself ; she see him here,” said Mrs. North, who coloured a little, though she turned generally sheltered herself under his away quickly and pretended not to name when she thought she was about to thwart Christina; we have nothing After all it did make a wonderful

see it.

difference in her life. He was working " All the same I wish you were not hard, and he was not much at home, but going !” she said, as she walked across still his presence brought light and the heath with him on the afternoon warmth and colour into her life. In

before his departure. the early mornings, coming in to break He had some orders to give at the fast fresh from bathing in the river, his Homestead on his way into Overton; he fair hair still hanging damp about his was to leave next morning, and he had face, rushing up the stairs, clattering asked her to go with him. The garden along the passages, striding across the required to be looked to, and she could heath, whistling to himself as he drew take back some roses for her mother, so he his plans; even when he sat over his had said, and as they turned their backs book in the evening his sunshiny upon the White House and the stony presence made itself felt, and Chris road, he thought to himself that he was tina sometimes found herself breaking bringing her to the house where she into sudden unaccustomed laughter, from would one day be brought as his the very contagion of his boyish light- bride. heartedness.

Christina too thought of it as she sat These were happy days, when in under the elm, tying up the roses which spirit they could still go back to their he threw into her lap. The soft wind childhood and almost realize its dreams. rustled the leaves above her head, the They were days for Bernard without doves were cooing in their cage, the one cloud or presentiment of evil; and as butterflies were flitting about among for Christina, she was happy in the the flowers, the shadows were quiverpresent, and took no thought of the ing upon the lawn, the whole air was future.

musical with the hum of insects, and Captain Cleas by was away, and his sweet with the fragrance of summer. sister was in deep mourning, and had She thought no longer that she should not been seen except in church, so there change, and she told him so, bringing were no interruptions or agitations from the quick blood to his cheek with a without.

I tilsyn

sudden flush, making him start and If life could always go on as smoothly turn his eyes upon her with a look and easily and thoughtlessly, it would which she remembered afterwards, when not be hard to look for nothing else. the scene came again before her eyes, And the hedges were white with haw distinct in all its features—of the thorn blossoms, and the cuckoos were sheltered garden, and the roses, and calling among the Park trees, and spring the flickering sunlight, and Bernard was blossoming into summer; and was standing before her with that radiance it wonderful that Christina too should in his face which she was never again leave the winter behind her, and forget to see but in retrospect. that it had ever been ? It was a time “You will not forget, Christina,” he of almost childish happiness whilst it said ; and there was a happy confidence lasted ; and though it was shortly to in his voice, a belief in her which depart

, how could she know that it nothing could diminish or destroy. would not come back ? Bernard was "No," said Christina ; no,

Bergoing away, certainly, but it was not for nard, I think not.

Why should I always. She should miss him, but she change? There is no place to me like could look forward to his return, and this. I wish you were not going away. he would not take all her sunshine with Dear Bernard, how happy we have him. He was going to the north, on been !” some business connected with his

pro She sighed a little, but not as she fession : it would help him on, he had so often sighed, from weariness, or would see more of the world, and would longing, or discontent, but simply from have something to tell when he came a regret which comes to us when we back.

are happiest, a regret born of the joy

which, like all other earthly joys, must “They come from my aunt's garden," sooner or later fade before our eyes. said Christina ; "they don't grow well

The world too seemed very beautiful at the White House." to Bernard, . but he did not put his “ You have been to see your aunt? thoughts into words; they were happy, how virtuous !” said Captain Cleasby. and was it not enough?

“It is a social duty which has no recomSo they sat together under the trees, pense unless she has quarrelled with all and wandered about among the roses her nearer relations. I have been doing for an hour or more of the golden after- my duty too, pursuing my studies in noon, and then parted: he striding along solitude, and now I have my reward :" the lanes to Overton at the rapid pace and he put his book into his pocket and which belonged to his long limbs, and took up his cap and walked on with she making her way back across the Christina, as if it were a proceeding to heath towards her own home.

which no one could have taken excepIf she had ever been true to Bernard, tion. she was true to him now : she had no He was quite right as far as Christina thought, as she had said, of change, or was concerned ; her grandfather did not of anything else to be desired than life like her to speak of him, it was true; it with him in his home, where storms reminded him of old times; but, as she and tempests could not penetrate; where had said, it could not matter to her, and all was peace, and rest, and love; where she cared nothing about the past. they should always be as happy as they “How generously your aunt has cut had been to-day; where she should be her flowers !” said Captain Cleasby, safe from the world and from herself.

looking at the long stalks and clusters The calniness of the afternoon had of buds and fresh green shoots which stilled her, and she lingered with that had fallen a prey to Bernard's ruthless indifference to the lapse of time which knife. belongs to happiness. Slowly she made “ It was not my aunt; my aunt is her way amongst the yellow gorse, away,” said Christina ; "it was Bernard although the sun was sinking behind the Oswestry, my cousin." hill, and the sunset lights were glowing “ Then Bernard Oswestry, your cousin, in the west. Slowly she came along must be prepared to render up his acthe narrow path, but immediately in the count when she comes back," said Capdirection of the path she caught sight tain Cleasby, lightly. of a figure lying in the heather; and Bernard Oswestry, and his mother, though she was thinking of other and the White House, were all nothing things, and the figure was still a long to Captain Cleasby, who cared neither way off, she knew quite well that it for Christina's belongings nor for her could be no one else than Captain life and surroundings. Cleasby.

But Christina herself was a different He was lying with his elbow resting matter, and in a sort of way he meant on the ground, and his chin propped up it when he said that he had had his on his hand; his little terrier lay at his reward. He said it carelessly, and in side, and he had a book spread open on truth Christina paid little heed to his the heather before him. He was quite words; only as he talked to her she close to the path, so that Christina's forgot for the moment the garden and dress would have almost touched him as the Homestead, and the peacefulness she passed; but it was not until she which she had left so regretfully. She was quite close that he was conscious of thought no more of Bernard, and the her, and sprang up hastily from his lair. visions which he had put before her had

“A thousand pardons," he said ; “I faded from her mind. It was not that thought no one ever came here. Are consciously she compared him with you on your way home? Ah, what

Ah, what Captain Cleashy and found him wantlovely roses !”

ing. Captain Cleasby had not his No. 146.-VOL. XXV.


« VorigeDoorgaan »