Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“I had better not ask his consent, if you are doubtful about it, Dulcie,- for I must go whether he give it or no.

So I will not worry him about it at all.”

“Indeed, Isa, I cannot allow you to think of such a thing, -Mr. Hope is quite a young unmarried man, and we are all so well known in Hereford; it is not like a Roman Catholic country, dear, where you might go unnoticed to a confessional, because it was an every-day occurrence, and there was a confessional to go to

“What did we mean then by singing last Sunday, 'Repent, con fess, thou shalt be loosed from all ?” asked Isabel ; and

you

chose those afternoon hymns yourself.” I, at least, meant confession to God. But if

you
feel
you

cannot speak to father about your wish, I will try to do so for you,” offered Dulcibella, with some trepidation at the prospect, for her father belonged to the older school of high churchmen, and had little toleration for “the modern ritualistic follies," as he termed them, which, he feared, were destroying the seamless robe, and imperilling the very establishment of the beloved Church of his youth.

No, thank you, Dulcie; not to-night at any rate. Let us all go to bed quietly to-night. I am sure we none of us want any more excitement, and father least of all. Now-I am very tired,-might I go to bed before prayers ? or won't he like it ?-perhaps I bad better stay up

for them, for fear he shouldn't.”

Dulcibella was sorry that the child should be kept longer from her much needed rest, but knew that her father would not wish to find one missing when he came in to prayers. This was not till the usual hour, ten; and then, perhaps, he looked better than any of his daughters, who were all weary and worn in their several ways, and not only looked pale in their black dresses, but felt tired both bodily and mentally after so much conflicting emotion, in a way men seldom realize.

Even Dulcibella was thankful that her father said, as soon as the younger ones were gone, "Well, Dulcie, I think to-night we had both better follow the young people's example. Good night,-God bless you. We must send into Hereford for the second post letters early; the three girls had better go perhaps,--this is a strange unnatural time to them, so new to grief as they all are.”

They really did all sleep profoundly that sweet still summer night. Even Dulcibella and Amy sank before midnight into profound slum

[ocr errors]

ber; on the watch, as each had believed herself to be, for any movement in their father's room.

Elizabeth Erle, as she sat by her young niece's bed, and heard the strange unfamiliar sounds of a London suburb,—S. Dunstan's clock strike ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, three,--and then the sparrows begin to twitter in the gutters, and a faint roar of reviving distant traffic along the main highways of the Mile End and Commercial Roads began to reach her, -was thinking much of Brayscombe, sweet Brayscombe, musical with nightingales, dewy with fragrant country dews on jasmine, banksias, and roses. She pictured all her Rectory nieces sleeping the deep sleep of youth after a shock and sorrow; as the young mother beside her slept, rousing only just enough to have needful nourishment given her; as even Arthur, she felt sure, was sleeping now below her. What a strange and sudden change in her own prearranged life, to be here at all, watching thus,—and with such loving anxiety,--one whom she herself,-unconsciously repeating her Brayscombe brother's phrase, --had been calling "that young woman,” only a week ago.

Dawn grew into daylight,-and at five, as arranged, she called the nurse. When she appeared, she read her satisfaction as to her patient's appearance in her eyes, and went down stairs silently, and out of the one house into the other, locking and unlocking the doors as noiselessly as was possible, to get a little rest herself before the children awoke, and Arthur would be wanting his womankind to make his house seem home to him.

She had slipped a piece of paper under his door. “A good quiet night; we shall expect you to breakfast next door at eight.”

He came in, continuing the good account. It was a strange but pleasant and cosy little meal; then Aunt Elizabeth pressed him to go for a walk, to get some fresh air, but he said that morning's post had brought an imperative demand for his next instalment of proofs, and he must once more shut himself up in his study, and ask not to be disturbed unless really wanted. “ Just wait with the children till I come back to

if spare them the ten minutes," said Elizabeth, afraid that the study would still have too many sad and tell-tale traces about it to be wholesome, morally or physically, for its young master, though he seemed, with the funeral of the children, to have laid by, at least for the present, all thought of them. He consented, and she went back to No. 4,

you,

you can

a

a

and into his room. Well! Alice had forgotten the room altogether, and thus the blind which Dr. Bell had drawn up, and the window he had opened as soon as the funeral procession had started, remained so all the night; and the eastern sun had cheered and warmed that little room before passing southward on his way. Elizabeth took off the cloth and shook it out of the window, dusted mantlepiece, table, and chairs, put the two vases of Brayscombe flowers she had found still fresh on the mantlepiece, and Arthur's desk and papers, which she now saw in a corner of the room, back in their more natural place upon the table, and a few pieces of the mignonette she had gathered from the box on the front window-sill in a little vase beside it.

She thrust a fellow piece into the front of her dress, and returned to No. 5, saying, “ I did not know Stepney flowers could smell so sweet. Smell, Awdrey,-your little front plot was all sweet and fresh with dew, when I passed by it soon after five this morning."

Arthur did not utter the compliment on his lips,—“not sweeter or fresher than you look at this moment !” but he was thinking it whilst saying, “I believe you thought no flowers could grow here at all ! and, perhaps, before the smoke factory act, some twenty years back, when Spill's indiarubber factory was still belching forth its poisonous fumes in Clare Hall Gardens,—they wouldn't. But they do now that our dear paternal government has banished noxious vapours beyond the metropolitan limits, if only to inflict our former ills

upon poor thitherto country Kent and Essex.”
“What could they have done, papa ?” asked Ludovic.

“Let the factories remain where they were originally located, but made to consume their own smoke, instead of poisoning 'fresh fields and pastures new,' and being so shortsighted as to think population wouldn't follow work. There, are you any the wiser, my man ?”

“No,–I don't understand—”

“And I am glad you don't, or you'd be a precocious bore now, and a gaping idealess idiot ten years hence, -rather see you a dunce at once. Good-bye, all, till dinner-time, unless I'm wanted first. I'm to come in here to dinner ?” he asked, as Aunt Elizabeth followed him to the front door.

“ Yes, if you will not mind sharing our so-called vegetarian fare,— a great misnomer. Are

you

afraid ?" “Not at all, for though you might victimise yourself, I know you would not set me or the children down to any futile fare, foolish

[ocr errors]

fancies, or fanatical philanthropies,” and he kissed her and laughed gently in her face. “Am I too happy, too sure now I've kept, at least, my Queenie ?” he asked, half alarmed at the sound of anything like cheerfulness again ; " the whole world seems different to me from this time yesterday. Thank God!" and he was gone, turning back to say, “Don't let that boy use his brains too much, will you ? he is so quick and observant, and has such a memory, and I fear I've made a great mistake to bring him on so! Make him a dunce again if you can, anything but a future fool. Turn him to manual labour, set him to peel your potatoes, pound your porridge, pod your peas, pare your apples, slice your beans, count your eggs or

“You saucy boy!”

* Yes, there I am joking again. But—but I will never believe a good GOD grudges His creatures any innocent cheerfulness by which they can cheat the toil, and cheer the way.'

“Neither do I. But,” “My work : yes, I must not give up all head-work yet awhile, or

' get back into the old habit of dawdling so long before going to it that it seemed no good to go at all," and he sprang over the little dividing rail and was lost to sight within No. 4 in a moment, or as he himself would have said a few years back, “ like greased lightning."

Every one at the Rectory had awaited letters with impatience that morning, although knowing well that unless Arthur had written himself and before Miss Erle's telegram had been despatched, there could be no further details, and in no case any “You girls will go in and get the letters for

you

not?” said Mr. Erle as they sat down to breakfast, and a glance told him that there was no letter from Bromley Street.

“Yes, the children can,” said Freda; "they had no fresh air yesterday, and I did have that evening drive to Hereford with Sir Charles.”

“ Yes, dear, but why? it would have been almost better to keep within the parish."

“I went to post a little hamper of flowers for Kathleen, we missed the post here. Do you really mind?

really mind? I won't go beyond the parish to-day then !” added Freda, with an attempt at her old little saucy toss of her head.

“This letter concerns you, Kitty,” said her father, opening the most business-like of his daily pile, " Messrs. Harley write to say the

a

fresh news.

us, will

[ocr errors]

two lots are yours, and they have fetched them to their own premises awaiting my pleasure. Well, as the poor child is buried, you could go there and fetch out your music, ---and perhaps corner cupboard and high-back chair,-if Potter drives you in the wagonette. This other concerns you also, from Mr. Hope,-he finds the remains of the monument have apparently, to his great regret, unaccountably disappeared ; and is doing his utmost to trace them through the contractors and architects.”

“ Thank you,” said Kathleen ; even her Nicholas Burridge ardour a little quenched, if only temporarily. And

you will remember before all things to call for the second post letters,” said Mr. Erle, as an hour later he watched the wagonette off; Amabel added to the party, because after all there was some little shopping to be done, and she had offered thus to save Dulcibella.

Kathleen and Isa, twenty-four hours ago, would have felt Amy a great encumbrance ; now they did not mind, and each sister leant back in a corner and quietly enjoyed the sweet, fresh morning air. Amy was dropped at the principal linendraper's, and though her list included mourning dress and various articles concerning the three younger girls as well as herself, they told her to choose and purchase these, as well as her own and the maids' shares, should they not be returned from Harley's by the time choice must be made.

“But I don't want to go to Harley's,” said Isabel, as soon as Amy was within the shop; “I want to go to S. Gabriel Street. Will you tell Potter to drop me at this end of it as he passes, and I will join Amy straight from that, if you will first pick up your goods and call for the letters.”

“ But I want you to look at the lots and help me to choose.”

“I have business. I cannot help it, Kitty; bring over all you can to Brayscombe, and we can choose out what we really care for there."

“But I hardly like going to Harley's alone."

"I am sorry. I cannot help it,” said Isa, conclusively, and Kathleen contended with her no longer ; gave the necessary order, and the girl was dropped at the end of S. Gabriel Street, and the wagonette

drove on.

"I hope she is not going to buy some of those immortelles wreaths at Chapell’s to send to Arthur," thought Kathleen, as the only pur

« ПретходнаНастави »