« VorigeDoorgaan »
shocked at her way of speaking, and took | to, though it was almost as terrible as death. great pains to impress upon her that she Such was the curious scene upon which must have been doing or thinking some- various subaltern members of society at the thing which God punished by this means. station looked on with wondering eyes. “Your pride must have wanted bringing And little Hugh Ochterlony stood near his down, my dear; as we all do, Mary, both mother with childish astonishment, and laid you and I,” said the Colonel's wife; but up the singular group in his memory, withthen Mrs. Kirkman's humility was well out knowing very well what it meant; but known.
that was a sentiment shared by many perThus they walked together to the chapel, sons much more enlightened than the poor whither various wondering people, who little boy, who did not know how much incould not understand what it meant, were fluence this mysterious transaction might straying. Major Ochterlony had meant to have upon his own fate. come for bis wife, but he was late, as he so The only other special feature was that often was, and met them only near the Mary, with the corners of her mouth turned chapel-door; and then he did something, down, and her whole soul wound up to obwhich sent the last pang of which it was stinacy, would not call herself by any name capable to Mary's heart, though it was only but Mary Ochterlony. They persuaded at a later period that she found it out. He her, painfully, to put her long disused maidfound his boy with the Hindoo nurse, and en name upon the register, and kind Mr. brought little Hugh in, 'wildered and won Churchill shut his ears to it in the service; dering: Mr. Churchill by this time had but yet it was a thing that everybody reput his surplice on, and all was ready. marked. When all was over, nobody knew Colonel Kirkman had joined his wife, and how they were expected to behave, whethstood by her side behind the “couple,” fur- er to congratulate the pair, or whether to tively grasping his grey moustache, and disappear and hold their tongues, which looking out of a corner of his eyes at the seemed in fact the wisest way. But no strange scene. Mrs. Kirkman, for her part, popular assembly ever takes the wisest way dropt her eyelids as usual, and looked down of working. Mr. Churchill was the first to upon Mary kneeling at her feet, with a cer- decide the action of the party. He detain compassionate uncertainty, sorry that scended the altar steps, and shook hands Mrs. Ochterlony did not see this trial to be with Mary, who stood tying her bonnet, for her good, and at the same time wonder with still the corners of her mouth turned ing within herself whether it had all been down, and that feverish Aush on her cheeks. perfectly right, or was not something more He was a good man, though not spirituallythan a notion of the Major's. Farther back minded in Mrs. Kirkman's opinion; and he Miss Sorbette, who was with Annie Hes- felt the duty of softening and soothing his keth, was giving vent in a whisper to the flock as much as that of teaching them, same sentiments.
which is sometimes a great deal less diffi“I am very sorry for poor Mary; but cult. He came and shook hands with her, could it be all quite right before,” Miss Sor- gravely and kindly. bette was saying, “ A man does not take “I don't see that I need congratulate fright like that for nothing. We women you, Mrs. Ochterlony," he said, “I don't are silly, and take fancies; but when a man suppose it makes much difference; but you does it, you know
know you always have all our best wishes.” And it was with such an accompaniment And he cast a glance over his audience, that Mary knelt down, not looking like a and reproved by that glance the question Madonna, at her husband's side. As for the that was circulating among them. But to Major, an air of serenity ha'l diffused itself tell the truth, Mrs. Kirkman and Miss Sorover his handsome features. He knelt in bette paid very little attention to Mr. quite an easy attitude, pleased with himself, Churchill's looks. and not displeased to be the centre of so in- “My dear Mary, you have kept up very teresting a group. Mary's face was slightly well, though I am sure it must have been averted from him, and was burning with trying,” Mrs. Kirkman said. " Once is bad the same flush of indignation as when Mrs. enough; but I am sure you will see a good Kirkman found her in her own house. She end in it at the last." had taken off her bonnet and thrown it And while she spoke she allowed a kind down by her side; and her hair was shining of silent interrogation, from her half-veiled as if in anger and resistance to this fate, eyes, to steal over Mary, and investigate which with closed mouth, and clasped her from head to foot. Had it been all hands, and steady front, she was submitting right before? Might not this perhaps be in reality the first time, the once which was she was not entirely so correct in her ideas bad enough? The question crept over of what was going on as she thought. Mrs. Ochterlony, from the roots of her hair In the first place, she could not have imdown to her feet, and examined her curi-agined how a moment could undo all the ously to find response. The answer was fair years of unblemished life which she had plain enough, and yet it was not plain to passed among them. She did not really the Colonel's wife; for she knew that the believe that they would doubt her honour, heart is deceitful above all things, and that although she herself felt it clouded ; and at where human nature is considered it is al- the same time she did not know the curious ways safest to believe the worse.
compromise between cruelty and kindness, Miss Sorbette came forward too in her which is all that their Christian feelings can turn, with a grave face. “I am sure you effect in many commonplace minds, yet must feel more comfortable after it, and I which is a great deal when one comes to am so glad you have had the moral cour- think of it. Mrs. Kirkman, arguing from age,” the doctor's sister said, with a certain the foundation of the desperate wickedness solemnity. But perhaps it was Annie Hes- of the human heart, had gradually reasoned keth, in her innocence, who was the worst herself into the belief that Mary had deof all. She advanced timidly, with her ceived her, and had never been truly an face in a blaze, like Mary's own, not know- honourable wife; but notwithstanding this ing where to look, and lost in ingenuous em- conclusion, which in the abstract would barrassment.
have made her cast off the culprit with utter “Oh, dear Mrs. Ochterlony, I don't know disdain, the Colonel's wife paused, and was what to say,” said Annie. "I am so sorry, moved, almost in spite of herself
, by the and I hope you will always be very very spirit of that faith which she so often happy; and mamma couldn't come wrapped up and smothered in disguising Here she stopped short, and looked up with talk. She did not believe in Mary; but candid eyes, that asked a hundred questions. she did, in a wordy, defective way, in Him And Mary's reply was addressed to her who was the son of a woman, and who came alone.
not to condemn; and she could not find it in “ Tell your mamma, Annie, that I am her heart to cast off the sinner. Perhaps if glad she could not come,” said the injured Mrs. Ochterlony had known this divine reawife. “ It was very kind of her.” When son for her friend's charity, it would have she had said so much, Mrs. Ochterlony struck a deeper blow than any other indig. turned round, and saw her boy standing by, nity to which she had been subjected. In looking at her. It was only then that she all her bitter thoughts, it never occurred to turned to the husband to whom she had just her that her neighbour stood by her as renewed her troth. She looked full at him, thinking of those Marys who once wept at with a look of indignation and dismay. It the Saviour's feet. Heaven help the poor was the last drop that made the cup run Madonna, whom all the world had heretoover; but then, what was the good of say- fore honoured ! In all her thoughts she ing anything? That final prick, however, never went so far as that. brought her to herself. She shook hands The ladies waited a little, and sent away with all the people afterwards, as if they Annie Hesketh, who was too young for were dispersing after an ordinary service, scenes of this sort, though her mamma was and took little Hugh's hand and went home so imprudent, and themselves laid hold of as if nothing had happened. She left the Mr. Churchill, when the other gentlemen Major behind her, and took no notice of had dispersed. Mr. Churchill was one of him, and did not even, as young Askell re- those mild missionaries who turn one's marked, offer a glass of wine to the assist thoughts involuntarily to that much-abused, ants at the ceremony, but went home with yet not altogether despicable institution of her little boy, talking to him, as she did on a celibate clergy. He was far from being Sundays going home from church; and celibate, poor man! He, or at least his everybody stood and looked after her, as wife, had such a succession of babies as no might have been expected. She knew they man could number. They had children at were looking after her, and saying, “ Poor "home" in genteel asylums for the sons Mary!” and wondering after all if there and daughters of the clergy, and they had must not have been a very serious cause for children in the airiest costume at the stathis re-marriage. Mary thought to herself tion, whom people were kind to, and who that she knew as well what they were say- were waiting their chance of being sent ing as if she had been among them, and yet “home” too; and withal, there were always more arriving, whom their poor papa re- man with a sigh, “ you are so charitable. ceived with a mild despair. For his part, If one could but hope that the poor dear he was not one of the happy men who held Major was a true Christian, as you say. But appointments under the beneficent rule of one bas no evidence of any vital change in the Company, nor was he a regimental chap- his case. And, dear Mary, I have made up lain. He was one of that hapless band who my mind for one thing, that it shall make are always “doing duty” for other and no difference to me. Other people can do better-off people. He was almost too old as they like, but so far as I am concerned, I DOW (though he was not old), and too much can but think of our Divine Example,” said hampered and overlaid by children, to have the Colonel's wife. It was a real sentiment, much hope of anything better than “ doing and she meant well, and was actually thinkduty” all the rest of his life; and the con- ing as well as talking of that Divine Examdition of Mrs. Churchill, who had generally ple; but still somehow the words made the need of neighbourly help, and of the chil- blood run cold in the poor priest's veins. dren, who were 'chietly clothed - such What in the world do you mean, Mrs. clothing as it was — by the bounty of the Kirkman ?” he said. “Mrs. Ochterlony is Colonel's and Major's and Captain's wives, as she always was, a person whom we all somehow seemed to give these ladies the may be proud to know." upper hand of their temporary pastor. He “Yes, yes,” said Miss Sorbette, who inmanaged well enough among the men, who terrupted them both without any ceremony; respected his goodness, and recognized him " but that is not what I am asking: As for to be a gentleman, notwithstanding his pov- his speaking the truth as a Christian and a erty; but he stood in terror of the women, gentleman, I don't give much weight to that. who were more disposed to interfere, and If he has been deceiving us for all these who were kind to his family and patronized years, you may be sure he would not stick himself. He tried hard on this occasion, as at a fib to end off with. What is one to on many others, to escape, but he was do? I don't believe it can have ever been hemmed in, and no outlet was left him. If a good marriage for my part.” he had been a celibate brother, there can This was the issue to which she had come be little doubt it would have been he who by dint of thinking it over and discussing would have had the upper hand; but with it'; for, indeed, the doctor's sister, like the all his family burdens and social obligations, Colonel's wife, had got up that morning the despotism of the ladies of his flock came with the impression that Major Ochterlony's hard upon the poor clergyman ; all the more fidgets had finally driven him out of his that, poor though he was, and accustomed senses, and that Mary was the most ill-used to humiliations, he had not learned yet to woman in the world. dispense with the luxury of feelings and “ And I believe exactly the contrary,” delicacies of his own.
said the clergyman, with some heat. “I "Mr. Churchill, do give us your advice," believe in an honourable man and a puresaid Miss Sorbette, who was first. “Do minded woman. I had rather give up work tell us what all this means? They surely altogether than reject such an obvious must have told you at least the rights of it. truth.” What is the secret of it all ? Do you think “Ah, Mr. Churchill,” Mrs. Kirkman said they have really never been married all this again, “ we must not rest in these vain aptime? Goodness gracious me! to think of pearances. We are all vile creatures, and us all receiving her, and petting her, and the heart is deceitful above all things. I calling her Madonna, and all that, if this do fear that you are taking too charitable a should be true! Do you think”.
view." "I don't think anything but what Major “Yes,” said Mr. Churchill, but perhaps Ochterlony told me,” said Mr. Churchill, he made a different application of the with a little emphasis. “ I have not the words ; "I believe that about the heart; least doubt he told me the truth. The wit- but then it shows its wickedness generally nesses of their marriage are dead, and that in a sort of appropriate, individual way. I wretched place at Gretna was burnt down, dare say they have their thorns in the flesh, and he is afraid that his wife would have no like the rest ; but it is not falsehood and means of proving her marriage in case any- wantonness that are their besetting sins," thing happened to him. I don't know what said the poor man, with a plain ness of speech reason there can be to suppose that Major which put his bearers to the blush. Ochterlony, who is a Christian and a gen- “Goodness gracious! remember that you tleman, said anything that was not true.” are talking to ladies, Mr. Churchill,” Miss " My dear Mr. Churchill,” said Mrs. Kirk. Sorbette said, and put down her veil. It
was not a fact he was very likely to forget;/ receive. She could not think that God had and then he put on his hat as they left the anything to do with her husband's foolish chapel, and hoped he was now free to go restlessness, and her own impatient submisupon his way.
sion. It was a great deal more like a mali· Stop a ininute, please,” said Miss Sor- cious devil's work, than anything a benefibette. " I should like to know what course cent providence could have arranged. This of action is going to be decided on. I am way of thinking was far from bringing Mary very sorry for Mary, but so long as her any consolation or solace, but still there character remains under this doubt was a certain reasonableness in her thoughts.
“ It shall make no difference to me,” said And then an indistinct foreboding of harm Mrs. Kirkman. “ I don't pretend to regu- to her children, she did not know what, or late anybody's actions, Sabina ; but when how to be brought about, weighed upon one thinks of Mary of Bethany! She may Mary's mind. She kept looking at them as have done wrong, but I hope this occur- they played beside her, and thinking how, rence will be blessed to her soul. I felt sure in the far future, the meaning of that scene she wanted something to bring her low, and he had been a witness to might flash into make her feel her need,” the Colonel's wife Hugh's mind when he was a man, and throw added, with solemnity; " and it is such a a bewildering doubt upon his mother's name lesson for us all. In other circumstances, which perhaps she might not be living to the same thing might have happened to you clear up; and these ideas stung her like a
nest of serpents, each waking up and dart“ It could never have happened to me,” ing its venom to her heart at a separate said Miss Sorbette, with sudden wrath ; moment. She had been very sad and very which was a fortunate diversion for Mr. sorry many a time before in her life, – she Churchill. This was how her friends dis- had tasted all the usual sufferings of humancussed her after Mary had gone away from ity; and yet she had never been what may her second wedding; and perhaps they be called unhappy, tortured from within were harder upon her than she had sup- and without, dissatisfied with herself and posed in her secret thoughts.
everything about her. Major Ochterlony was in every sense of the word a good husband, and he had been Mary's support and true companion in all her previous troubles.
He might be absurd now and then, but he But the worst of all to Mrs. Ochterlony never was anything but kind and tender was that little Hugh had been there - and sympathetic, as was the nature of the Hugh, who was six years old, and so intel- man. But the special feature of this misligent for his age. The child was very fortune was that it irritated and set her in anxious to know what it meant, and why arms against him, that it separated her from she knelt by his father's side while all the her closest friend and all her friends, and other people were standing. Was it some that it made even the sight and thought of thing particular they were praying for, her children a pain to her among all her which Mrs. Kirkman and the rest did not other pains. This was the wretched way want? Mary satisfied him as she best in which Mary spent the day of her second could, and by and bye he forgot and began wedding. Naturally, Major Ochterlony to play with his little brother as usual, but brought people in with him to lunch (probhis mother knew that so strange a scene ably it should be written tiffin, but our readcould not fail to leave some impression. She ers will accept the generic word), and was sat by herself that long day, avoiding her himself in the gayest spirits, and insisted husband for perhaps the first time in her upon champagne, though he knew they life, and imagining a hundred possibilities could not afford it. “We ate our real wedto herself. It seemed to her as if everybody ding breakfast all by ourselves in that vilwho ever beard of her henceforth must hear lanous little place at Gretna,” he said with of this, ånd as if she must go through the a boy's enthusiasm,“ and had trout out of world with a continual doubt upon her; the Solway: don't you recollect, Mary ? and Mary's weakness was to prize fair rep- Such trout! What a couple of happy young utation and spotless_honour above every- fools we were; and if every Gretna Green thing in the world. Perhaps Mrs. Kirkman marriage turned out like mine!” the Mawas not so far wrong after all, and there jor added, looking at his wife with beaming was a higher meaning in the unlooked-for eyes. She had been terribly wounded by blow that thus struck her at her tenderest his hand, and was suffering secret torture point; but that was an idea she could not ! and was full of the irritation of pain; and
yet she could not so steel her heart as not own absurdity and temerity and ridiculous to feel a momentary softening at sight of the pretensions, that she very nearly broke love and content in his eyes. But though down again. he loved her he had sacrificed all her scru- " I've been quarrelling with Joe,” the ples, and thrown a shadow upon her hon-quick-witted girl said, with the best grace our, and filled her heart with bitterness, to she could, and added in her mind a secret satisfy an unreasonable fancy of his own, clause to soften down the fib, -" he is so and give peace, as he said, to his mind. All aggravating; and when I saw my Madonna this was very natural, but in the pain of the looking so sweet and so still”. moment it seemed almost inconceivable to “ Hush !” said Mary “there was no need Mary, who was obliged to conceal her mor- for crying about that - nor for telling fibs tification and suffering, and minister to her either,” she added, with a smile that went guests as she was wont to do, without mak- to the heart of the ensign's wife. " You ing any show of the shadow that she felt to see there is nothing the matter with me,” have fallen upon her life.
Mrs. Ochterlony added; but notwithstandIt was, however, tacitly agreed by the ing her perfect composure it was in a hardladies of the station to make no difference, er tone. according to the example of the Colonel's “I never expected anything else,” said wife. Mrs. Kirkman had resolved upon the impetuous little woman;
* as if any that charitable course from the highest nonsense could do any harm to you! And motives, but the others were perhaps less I love the Major, and I always have stood elevated in their principles of conduct. up for him; but oh, I should just like for Mrs. Hesketh, who was quite a worldly- once to box his ears." minded woman, concluded that it would be “ Hush !” said Mary again; and then absurd for one to take any step unless they the need she had of sympathy prompted all did, and that on the whole, whatever her for one moment to descend to the level were the rights of it, Mary could be no of the little girl beside her, who was all worse than she had been for all the long time sympathy and no criticism, which Mary they had known her. As for Miss Sorbette, knew to be a kind of friendship wonderfully who was strong-minded, she was disposed to uncommon in this world. “It did me no consider that the moral courage the Och- harm,” she said, feeling a certain relief in terlonys had displayed in putting an end to dropping her reserve, and making visible an unsatisfactory state of affairs merited the one thing of which they were both public appreciation. Little Mrs. Askell, thinking, and which had no need of being for her part, rushed headlong as soon as identified by name. “ It did me no harm, she heard of it, which fortunately was not and it pleased him. I don't deny that it until it was all over, to see her suffering hurt at the time,” Mary added after a little protectress. Perhaps it was at that mo- pause, with a smile; " but that is all over ment, for the first time, that the ensign's now. You do not need to cry over me, my wife felt the full benefit of being a married dear.” lady, able to stand up for her friend and “I
— cry over you,” cried the prevaricatstretch a small wing of championship over ing Emma, “ as if such a thing had ever her. She rushed into Mrs." Ochterlony's come into my head; but I did feel glad I presence and arms like a little tempest, and was a married lady,” the little thing added ; cried and sobbed and uttered inarticulate and then saw her mistake, and blushed and exclamations on her friend's shoulder, to faltered and did not know what to say next. Mary's great surprise, who thought some- Mrs. Ochterlony knew very well what her thing had happened to her. Fortun- young visitor méant, but she took no notice, ately the little eighteen-year-old matron, as was the wisest way. She had steeled after the first incoherence was over, began herself to all the consequences by this time, to find out that Mrs. Ochterlony looked and knew she must accustom herself to the same as ever, and that nothing tragical such allusions and to take no notice of could have happened, and so restrained the them. But it was hard upon her, who had offer of her own countenance and support, been so good to the child, to think that which would have been more humbling to little Emma was glad she was a married Mary than all the desertion in the world. lady, and could in her turn give a certain
"What is the matter, my dear ?” said countenance. All these sharp, secret, unMrs. Ochterlony, who had regained her seen arrows went direct to Mary's heart. serene looks, though not her composed But on the whole the regiment kept its mind; and little Irish Emma, looking at word and made no difference. Mrs. Kirkher, was struck with such a sense of her man called every Wednesday and took