Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ture-shops, or would they buy a drawing- The poor woman was in great agitation room suite for twenty-five pounds, such as and trouble ; but this only quickened her the cheap upholsterers offer to the un- wits. “ I see John Ridgway every day of wary? This question amused me while my life,” she said, not without a little dig, I waited, and I was sorry to think that nity. “He might say whatever he pleased the new liousehold was to be planted in to me without asking anybody to speak the Levant, and we should not see how it for him.” settled itself. There was a good deal of “Won't you give your consent to this commotion going on overhead, but I did marriage?” I asked. It seemed wisest to not pay any attention to it. I pleased plunge into it at once. “It is my own myself' arranging a little home for the anxiety that makes me speak. I have new pair — making it pretty for them. always been anxious about it, almost beOf her own self Ellen would never, I felt fore I knew them.” sure, choose the drawing-room suite in “ There are other things in the world walnut and blue rep - not now, at least, besides marriages,” she said. “ In this after she had been so much with us. As house we have a great deal to think of. for John, he would probably think any My husband no doubt you heard bis curtain tolerable so long as she sate under voice just now — he is a great sufferer. its shadow. I had been somewhat afraid For years he has been confined to that of confronting the mother, and possibly little room up-stairs. That is not a very the father, but these thoughts put my cheerful life.” panic out of my head. These horsehair Here she made a pause, which I did not chairs ! was there ever such an invention attempt to interrupt; for she had disarmed of the evil one? Ellen could not like me by this half-appeal to my sympathy. them; it was impossible. When I had Then suddenly, with ber voice a little come this length my attention was sud- shaken and unsteady, she burst forth. denly attracted by the sounds up-stairs; “ The only company he has is Ellen. What for there came upon the floor over my can I do to amuse him – to lead his head the sound of a foot stamped violently thoughts off himself? I have as much in apparent fury. There were voices too ; need of comfort as he has.

The only but I could not make out what they said. bright thing in the house is Ellen. What As to this sound, however, it was easy would become of us if we were lest only enough to make out what it meant: noth- the two together all these long days? ing could be more suggestive. I trem. They are long enough as it is. He has bled and listened, my thoughts taking an not a very good temper, and he is weary entirely new direction ; a stamp of anger, with trouble — who wouldn't be in his of rage, and partially of impotence too. case? John Ridgway is a young man Then there was a woman's voice rising with all the world before him. Why can't loud in remonstrance. The man seemed he wait? Why should he want to take to exclaim and denounce violently; the our only comfort away from us?” woman protested, growing also louder and Her voice grew shrill and broken; she louder. I listened with all my might. It began to cry. Poor soul! I believe she was not eavesdropping; for she, at least had been arguing with her husband on knew that I was there; but, listen as I the other side; but it was little comfort might, I could not make out what they to her to pour out her own grievances, her said. After a while there was silence, alarm and distress, to me. I was silenced. and I heard Mrs. Harwood's step coming How true it had been what John Ridgway down the stairs. She paused to do some- said! How could he, so gentle a man, thing, perhaps to her cap or her eyes, assert himself in the face of this, and before she opened the door. She was in claim Ellen as of chief importance to him ? a flutter of agitation, the flowers in her Had not they a prior claim? black cap quivering through all their her duty first to her father and mother? wires, her eyes moist, though looking at I was put to silence myself. I did not me with a suspicious gaze. She was very know what to say. much on her guard, very well aware of “ The only thing is,” I said timidly at my motive, determined to give me no en- last, “ that I should think it would be a couragement. All this I read in her vigi- comfort to you to feel that Ellen was

settled, that she had a home of her own, " Mrs. Harwood, I came to speak to and a good husband who would take care you — I promised to come and speak to of her when - she ought to outlive us you - about Mr. Ridgway, who is a great all,” I added, not knowing how to put it. friend of mine, as perhaps you know.” “ And if it were to be always as you say,”

was not

lant eyes.

[ocr errors]

I went on, getting a little courage, “there | break his heart; it would kill him. I would be no marriages, no new homes. know that it would kill him,” she said. We have all had fathers and mothers Here I must acknowledge that I was who had claims upon us. What can it be very wicked. I could not but think in my but a heartbreak to bring up a girl for heart, that it would not be at all a bad twenty years and more, and think everything if Ellen's marriage did kill this unthing of her, and then see her go away seen father of hers who had tired their and give her whole heart to some one patience so long, and who stamped his else, and leave us with a smile on her foot with rage at the idea that the poor face?” The idea carried me away – it girl might get out of his clutches." He filled my own heart with a sort of sweet was an old man, and he was a great sufbitterness; for was not my own girl just ferer. Why should he be so anxious to come to that age and crisis? “Oh! I un- live? And if a sacrifice was necessary, derstand you; I feel with you; I am not old Mr. Harwood might just as well be unsympathetic. But when one thinks the one to make it as those two good they must live longer than we; they must young people from whom he was willing have children too, and love as we have to take all the pleasure of their lives. loved. You would not like, neither you But this of course was a sentiment to nor I, if no one cared if our girls were which I dared not give utterance. We left out when all the others are loved and stood and looked at each other while these courted. You like this good John to be thoughts were going through my mind. fond of her — to ask you for her. You She felt that she had produced an impres. would not have been pleased if Ellen had sion, and was too wise to say anything just lived on and on here, your daughter more to diminish it. while 1, for my and nothing more."

part, was silenced, and did not know what This argument had some weight upon to say. her. She felt the truth of what I said. “Then they must give in again,” I said However bard the after consequences may at last. They must part; and if she has be, we still must have our“ bairn respectit to spend the rest of her life in giving like the lave.” But on this point Mrs. music lessons, and he go away to lose Harwood maintained her position on a heart and forget her, and be married by height of superiority which few ordinary any one who will have him in his despair mortals, even when the mothers of at- and loneliness — I hope you will think tractive girls, can attain. “I have never that a satisfactory conclusion — but I do made any objection,” she said, “to his not. I do not ! ” coming in the evening. Sometimes it is Mrs. Harwood trembled as she looked rather inconvenient; but I do not oppose at me. Was I hard upon her? She his being here every night.”

shrank aside as if I had given her a “And you expect him to be content blow. “It is not me that will part them,” with this all his life?"

she said. “I have never objected. Often “It would be better to say all my life,” it is very inconvenient - you would not she replied severely; "no, not even that like it yourself if every evening, good or As for me, it does not matter much. I bad, there was a strange man in your am not one to put myself in anybody's house. But I never made any objection. way; but all her father's life — which He is welcome to come as long as he can't be very long now,” she added, with likes. It is not me that says a word a sudden gush of tears. They were so “ Do

you

want him to throw up his near the surface that they flowed at the appointment,” I cried, “his means of slightest touch, and besides, they were a life ?” great help to her argument. “I don't She looked at ine with her face set. think it is too much,” she cried, “that I might have noticed, had I chosen, that she should see her poor father out first. all the flowers in her cap were shaking and She has been the only one that has quivering in the shadow cast upon the cheered him up. She is company to him, further wall by the sunshine, but did not which I am not. All his troubles are care to remark, being angry, this sign of mine, you see. I feel it when his rheu-emotion. If he is so fond of Ellen, he matism is bad; but Ellen is outside: she will not mind giving up a chance," she can talk and be bright. What should I said; "if some one must give in, why do without her! What should I do with should it be Harwood and me?" out her! I should be nothing better than After this I left Pleasant Place hur. a slave. I am afraid to think of it; and riedly, with a great deal of indignation in her father -- her poor father — it would | iny mind. Even then I was not quite

66

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]

When you

SO

me.

66

sure of my right to be indignant; but gusted, and asks himself what is the use, I was so. “If some one must give in, at the last. Such things have been; and why should it be Harwood and me?". I you on your side will linger here, running said to myself that John bad known what out and in to your lessons with no longer he would encounter, that he had been any heart for them; unable to keep yourright in distrusting himself; but he had self from thinking that everybody is cruel, not been right trusting me. I had that life itself is cruel

- all because you made no stand against the other side. have not the courage, the spirit

come to ggle about it, and She put her hand on mine and squeezed to be uncertain which should give in, suddenly, that she hurt how painful the complications of life be- “ Don't!” she cried; "you don't know; come! To be perfect, renunciation must there is nothing, not a word to be said. be without a word; it must be done as if It is you who are cruel — you who are it were the most natural thing in the so kind; so much as to speak of it, when world. The moment it is discussed and it cannot be! It cannot be – that is the shifted from one to another, it becomes whole matter. It is out of the question. vulgar, like most things in this universe. Supposing even that I get to think life This was what I said to myself as I came cruel, and supposing he should get weary out into the fresh air and sunshine, out and disgusted. Oh! it was you that of the little stuffy house. I began to hate said it, you tliat are so kind. Supposing it with its dingy carpets and curtains, its all that, yet it is impossible; it cannot be ; horsehair chairs, that shabby, shabby there is nothing more to be said.” little parlor - how could anybody think of “ You will see him go away calmly, it as home? I can understand a bright notwithstanding all.” little kitchen, with white hearth and floor, “ Calınly,” she said, with a little laugh, with the firelight shining in all the pans calmly — yes, I suppose that is the word. and dishes. But this dusty place with I will see him go calmly: I shall not its antimacassars These thoughts make any fuss, if that is what you mean.” were in my mind when, turning the cor- “Ellen, I do not understand. I never ner, I met Ellen full in the face, and felt heard you speak like this before." like a traitor, as if I had been speaking “ You never saw me like this before," ill of her. She looked at me, too, with she said with a gasp. She was breathsome surprise. To see me there, coming less with a restrained excitement which out of Pleasant Place, startled her. She looked like despair. But when I spoke did not ask me, where have you been? further, when I would have discussed the but her eyes did, with a bewildered matter, she put up her hand and stopped gleam.

There was something in her face, “ Yes; I have been to see your mother," in its fixed expression, which was like I said ; “ you are quite right, Ellen. the countenance with which her mother And why? Because I am so much inter- had replied to me. It was a startling ested; and I wanted to see what mind thought to me that Ellen's soft fresh face, she was in about your marriage.”

with its pretty bloom, could ever be like “ My — marriage : there never was any that other face surmounted by the black question of that,” she said quickly, with a cap and crown of shabby flowers. She sudden flush.

turned and walked with me along the road “You are just as bad as the others,” to my own door, but nothing further was said I, moved by this new contradiction. said. We went along side by side silent, “What! after taking that poor young till we reached my house, when she put man's devotion for so long, you will let out her hand and touched mine suddenly, hin go away — go alone, break off every- and said that she was in a hurry and must thing."

run away. I went in more disturbed than Ellen had grown pale as suddenly as she I can say. She had always been so ready had blushed, “ Is that necessary?” she to yield, so cheerful, so soft, independent said, alarmed. “ Break off everything ? indeed, but never harsh in her indepenI never thought of that. But, indeed, I dence. What did this change mean? I think it is a mistake. If he goes, we shall felt as if me one to whom I had turned have to part, but only — only for a time.” in kindness had met me with a blow.

“How can you tell," I cried, being But by-and-by, when I thought better of highly excited,'" how long he may be it, I began to understand Ellen. Had not there? He may linger out his life there, I said to myself, a few minutes before, that always thinking about you, and longing self-renunciation when it had to be, must for you — unless he gets weary and dis. I be done silently without a word ? better

[ocr errors]

me.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

perhaps that it should be done angrily | tell him my story. He came and sat than with self-demonstration, self-asser- down by me, swinging his stick in his tion. Ellen had comprehended this; she usual absent way, and for a minute neither had perceived that it must not be asked of us spoke. or speculated upon, which was to yield. “You do not ask me if I have any news She had chosen her part, and she would for you; you have seen Ellen!” not have it discussed or even remarked. No; it is only because I have news I sat in my window pondering while the on my side. I am not going after all.” bright afternoon went by, looking out “You are not going !”. upon the distant depths of the blue spring "You are disappointed," he said, lookatmosphere, just touched by haze, as the ing at me with a face which was full of air, however bright, always is in London, interest and sympathy. These are the seeing the people go by in an endless only words I can use. The disappointstream without noticing them, without ment was his, not mine; yet he was more thinking of them. How rare it is in sympathetic with my feeling about it than human affairs that there is not some one impressed by his own. “As for me, I who must give up to the others, some one don't seem to care. It is better in one who must sacrifice himself or be sacri- way, if it is worse in another. It stops ficed! And the one to whom this lot falls any rise in life; but what do I care for a is always the one who will do it; that is rise in life ? they would never have let me the rule, so far as my observation goes. take Ellen. I knew that even before I There are some whom nature moves that saw it in your eyes." way, who cannot stand upon their rights, “Ellen ought to judge for herself,” I who are touched by the claims of others said, “ and you ought to judge for yourand can make no stand against them. self. You are of full age; you are not The tools to those that can handle them, boy and girl. No parents have a right as our philosopher says; and likewise the to separate you now. And that old man sacrifices of life to himn who will bear may go on just the same for the next them. Refuse them, that is the only dozen years.” way; but if it is not in your nature to Did you see him ?” John asked. He refuse them, what can you do? Alas ! had a languid, wearied look, scarcely liftfor sacrifice is seldom blessed. I am ing his eyes. saying something which will sound almost " I saw only her ; but I know perfectly impious to many Human life is built well what kind of man he is. He may live upon it, and social order; yet personally for the next twenty years. There is no in itself it is seldom blessed; it debases end to these tyrannical, ill-tempered peothose who accept it; it harms even those ple; they live forever. You ought to who, without wilfully accepting it, have a judge for yourselves. If they had their dim perception that something is being daughter settled near, coming to them done for them which has no right to be from her own pleasant little home, they done. It may, perhaps — I cannot tell - would be a great deal happier. You may bear fruit of happiness in the hearts of believe me or not, but I know it. Her those who practise it. I cannot tell. visits would be events; they would be Sacrifices are as often mistaken as other proud of her, an tell everybody about her things. Their divineness does not make family, and what a good husband she had them wise. Sometimes, looking back, got, and how he gave her everything she even the celebrant will perceive that his could desire.” offering had better not have been made. “ Please God,” said John devoutly; his

All this was going sadly through my countenance had brightened in spite of mind when I perceived that some one was himself. But then he shook his head. passing slowly, endeavoring to attract my “ If we had but got as far as that,” he attention. By this time it was getting said. towards evening — and as soon as I was “ You ought to take it into your own fully roused I saw that it was John Ridy- hands,” cried I, in all the fervor of a revoway:

If I could have avoided bim Ilutionary. you sacrifice your happishould have done so, but now it was not ness to them, it will not do them any possible; I made him a sign to come up-good; it will rather do them harm. Are stairs. He came into the drawing-room you going now to tell your news , slowly, with none of the eagerness that He had got up on his feet, and stood there had been in his air on the previous vaguely hovering over me with a faint day, and it may easily be believed that on smile upon his face. " She will be my side I was not eager to see him to pleased," he said ; "no advancement, but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

CHAPTER VI.

no separation. I have not much ambi- | kept up? Perhaps had she never known tion; i think I am happy too.”.

John, and that lise of infinite tender com“Then, if you are all pleased,” I cried, munion, her natural happy temperament with annoyance which I could not re would have struggled on for a long time strain, “why did you send me on such an against all the depressing effects of cirerrand ? I am the only one that seems to cumstance, unaided. But to lose is worse be impatient of the present state of affairs, than never to have had. If it is and it is none of my business. Another

better to have loved and lost, time you need not say anything about it

Than never to have loved at all, to me."

“ There will never be a time when we yet it is at the same time harder to lose shall not be grateful to you,” said John; that bloom of existence out of your lot, but even his mild look of appealing re-than to have struggled on by mere help of proach did not move me. It is hard to nature without it. She had been so happy interest yourself in people and find after — making so little go such a long way! all that they like their own way best. that the loss of her little happiness would

have been appalling to her. And yet she

was dissatisfied that this heartbreak did He was quite right in thinking Ellen not come. She had strung herself up to would be pleased. And yet, after it was it. It would have been advancement, all over, she was a little wounded and dis- progress, all that a woman desires for appointed, which was very natural. She those belonging to her, for John. Sacridid not want him to go away, but she ficing him for the others, she was half wanted him to get the advancement all angry not to have it in her power to sacrithe same. This was foolish, but still it fice herself to his "rise in life.” I think was natural, and just what a woman would I understood her, though we never talked feel. She took great pains to explain to on the subject. She was dissatisfied, alus that it was not besitation about John, though she was relieved. We have all nor even any hesitation on the part of known these mingled feelings. John in going - for Ellen had a quick This happened at the beginning of sense of what was desirable and heroic, summer; but all its agitations were over and would not have wished her lover to before the long, sweet days and endless appear indifferent about his own advance. twilights of the happy season had fully ment, even though she was very thankful expanded upon us. It seems to me as I and happy that in reality he was so. The grow older that a great deal of the comreason of the failure was that the firm had fort of our lives depends upon summer sent out a nephew, who was in the office, upon the weather, let us say, taking it in and had a prior claim. “Of course he its most prosaic form. Sometimes, inhad the first chance," Ellen said, with a deerl, to the sorrowful the brightness is countenance of great seriousness; "what oppressive; but to all the masses of ordiwould be the good of being a relation if nary mortals who are neither glad nor he did not have the first chance?” And sad, it is a wonderful matter not to be I assented with all the gravity in the chilled to the bone; to be able to do their world. But she was disappointed, though work without thinking of a fire; without she was so glad. There ought not to having a sensation of cold always in their have been any one in the world who had lives never to be got rid of. Ellen and the preference over John! She carried her lover enjoyed that summer as people herself with great dignity for some time who have been under sentence of banish. afterwards, and with the air of a person ment enjoy their native country and their superior to the foolish and partial judg- home. ments of the world; and yet in her heart You may think there is not much beauty how thankful she was ! from what an in a London suburb to tempt any one : abyss of blank loneliness and weary exer- and there is not for those who can retire tion was her life saved! For now that I to the beautiful fresh country when they knew it a little better I could see how will, and surround themselves with wavlittle that was happy was in her home. ing woods and green lawns, or taste the Her mother insisted that she should have fresliness of the mountains or the saltness that hour's leisure in the evening. That of the sea. We, who go away every year was all that any one thought of doing for in July, pined and longed for the moment her. It was enough to keep her happy, of our removal ; and my neighbor in the to keep her hopeful. But without that, great house which shut out the air from how long would Ellen's brave spirit have Pleasant Place, panted in her great gar.

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »