« ПретходнаНастави »
pursued their own thoughts in silence for some time, when he said suddenly
Strange! how little one shapes one's own ways after all! I should have been in India now, Brayscombe ‘forgetting,' and by Brayscombe much 'forgot,' bad it not been for Arthur's sudden throwing up of that Berkshire curacy at the end of one year, and refusal to proceed to priests' orders ! You know what did it all ?” he asked abruptly.
“No, 'it—what do you mean ?”
“I meant what made him decide against following up his profession ?"
“No," repeated Dulcibella, with a beating heart at what revelation might be coming. “ He could not conscientiously continue it. I believe he let you
and father at the time guess that much ?—But he came to see me at Cooper's Hill before he wrote to father at all, and tried to make me promise I would take his place here since he must disappoint you all. But I wouldn't, couldn't then.”
“Dear Arthur !”
“But I really don't think he expected the howling hullabulloo of excommunication that actually fell upon him when he came here straight from Cooper's Hill to explain matters," and George could not but look as well as feel amused at the remembrance of the aggrieved and dumfounded tone of Arthur's brief communication of his reception and dismissal. “I rather think he expected pity at giving up so much for conscience' sake,' even from the father, and perhaps a little more than pity, even admiration, from yourself. It was rather a rough awakening to find you Brayscombe stay-at-homes so strictly and conscientiously orthodox that he became and instantly only the impenitent prodigal son, and by no means a martyr to the advance of modern thought.” “I dare say we were too hasty
No, consistent and conscientious yourselves in your own turn ! Only Arthur all his life thitherto,-or his friends for him—had so often succeeded in arranging that he should both eat his cake and have it,he really could not believe he should so entirely fail of doing so here."
After all even you have a little bit of our dear Irish grandmother in you,” said Dulcie, thinking with a sigh and a little smile of her own and Aunt Elizabeth's apricot-thinning conversation of but a week ago, as she pressed the lad's arm.
Yes, and Arthur a great deal; so he soon sailed lightly at the top of his waves of misfortunes, if it had been rather a severe and unex. pected blow at first to be cut adrift on £100 a year, though he really had kept his private ordination vow and never lived on credit again, so was not in debt.' “Does father allow him even that ?" asked Dulcibella, relieved.
No, not even that now !-cut off when he married so within two months ; yet what could one to whom home love and sympathy were so essential do but marry ? cut off from his old home and love ; but that dear Irish grandmother's legacy most happily did not fall in to him till he was five and twenty,—and he had the common sense by that time to insure his life with part and settle the remainder on his wife and at once ;-I'm one of the trustees, so I know."
Oh, are you? How good of you !" “Was it ? we are brothers you know; and though Arthur snubbed me awfully as a boy, I think we've been growing rather fond of one another of late. And—and—besides, you know, I really must do exactly as he did if reading up for priests' orders brought the same conviction to my own mind.”
He lowered his voice and spoke seriously and gravely, and with pain and effort. Dulcibella felt sobered too, and only after a little pause asked with difficulty,
“ You mean a sense of such utter unworthiness to be called to the higher office ? but you have never run into debt-never
“No; those are not my ways of sinning !- I meant-well, Arthur told me all after we'd met about the trusteeship at old Darton's office. Oh, yes ! I did meet him and he wanted me to go down to Stepney. True, I was just of age, but father would have felt so deeply outraged had I gone! and I could not have gone and not have let him know.”
“Did you see Frederica ?”
“No; we almost quarrelled about it though! and he said Freda would have had more sense and spirit,--that I was "but a chickenhearted nincompoop after all !'” George smiled, as at the remem
!! brance of a very Irish and hot tirade, “but when he cooled down he said we might never meet again at this rate, and he should like to make a clean breast of it all, once for all, and then have done with it. He he had no idea till he began the prescribed course of reading of all the doubts and disputes and differences of opinions and readings -but you don't wish to hear, and there's no reason women should
that had raged about almost every book, every important passage of the Bible, every doctrine the Church of England holds as gospel truth -almost from the beginning of there being any gospel at all, even the answers given in the books set him were by no means conclusive, in many cases, to his own reason. Suddenly, as he put it, the whole ground of his Faith gave way beneath him, if only for a time, and there was nothing for it but to spring back at once from the dangers of life-long hypocrisy—thankful the gulf had yawned before him prior to priests' orders at any rate—and give himself breathing and thinking time at the least for a season.'
“And now,—now that he has had a year's time?” asked Dulcie, eagerly, but in a broken voice.
“I do not know. But I should think ten years rather than one would be needed, in most men's cases, to settle down again from such a sea of doubt. And Arthur's Quixotic nature would make him oversensitive to the consequent worldly advantage to himself and those dearest to him, of his taking up his old profession again, if in our father's lifetime.” “Yes, we could then all stay here."
Ah, Dulcie ! I did not mean the advantage to you, and Amy, and the girls,—but to his own wife and—”
“Ah, yes! thank you, George, for reminding me," said Dulcibella, humbly, “ and so it ought to be. But has he never written to you,never told
any light—" “No: we agreed not to correspond. I thought perhaps he might have written to me here when I saw those deaths in the paper ; but you say he has not even to you or father.”
“ All intercourse was forbidden."
Yes, he said so that same night, adding he should have told you all I have implied, if he had not feared to upset yourself in any way; but he did not bind me to secrecy, and I am not afraid for you. He really had not the leading influence over you that he imagined, you had more over him till he went to Oxford and first got in with that modern very High Church, and then that very high Art and modern Science set.”
“ But you yourself, George? Oh, these wretched modern ways of thought—"
“ Have not affected my own faith? No, thank God," and George lifted his cap in reverent and deepest gratitude as he spoke his
thanks, “and I trust, I think I am, though the younger brother, the better armed against them,—at least inasmuch as they will not take me at unawares, and so at the terrible disadvantage which they did poor Arthur. Even my own upbringing was broader than that of you four elders, and the same blessing, as I think it now, has pursued me throughout life, even in being at Rugby and going up to Cambridge with such men as Lightfoot and Westcott to guide one. Thus I have always known that there were two sides to every question, that what is truth must to many of us, at any rate, remain an enigma till we • know as we are known,'--that much was unauthorised which I think you, and Amy, and Arthur were taught in your youth, that-but why should I trouble you with modern ideas,—even ascertained facts ?”
“I am not afraid of them,” answered Dulcibella, with sweet and perfect, also perfectly humble, confidence, “but still, as I am not likely to be called upon to aid and teach others as you are, I do not care to enter on them ; and perhaps in some things,-not all, of course, old-fashioned Bible Christians may not ultimately be found to have been so entirely and blindly bigoted as now imagined. You see poor old Herodotus is becoming by late re-discoveries quite re-established as a trustworthy, truthful historian. And, in spite of Niebuhr, many of the myths of Rome—"
She broke off as Isa came out from the garden door and looked yearningly at her, for the generally gay and careless pretty plaything of a girl had seemed all day sad and out of harmony with the relieved, if still subdued, happiness and return to usual daily life and light occupations around her.
“ Isa was always fond of you, George. Poor child, I wonder if you could be of any use to her now? She has led such a butterfly existence, these three months she has been home from Kensington till yesterday,—and the alarm of our father's attack of pain following the anxiety brought by Aunt Elizabeth's telegrams, seem to have taken all the bloom off her pretty painted wings."
“I'll take her a walk,” said George, and crossed over to her, Dulcibella returning to the house where many little duties still awaited her.
She had feared he would be unsuccessful, as she herself had failed to induce Isa to accompany the others to the Great House. But George took her coming as a matter of course, almost of obedience; and she went in for her bat. And Dulcie saw them walking out the field way towards the House to meet the others, as she and Sarah were consult
ing over the details of that general household mourning for the unseen babe which, out of love and respect to “Mr. Arthur,” and any one of the name of Erle, Dulcie had found the whole household wish to assume, and as quickly as possible, on learning that the child was already buried.
She knew that her father had already written a letter to Arthur, how she was longing for his reply, trusting that this might be shown her though the other had not. And wearisome as all dress discussions were apt to be to her, except as a matter of duty, she was almost feverishly glad now to have every moment of time occupied for her, otherwise she must have sat with folded hands and indulged in the long day-dreams of retrospection and anticipation that would quite have unfitted her for the real duties of her present life. From Sarah she was called away to see Mr. Macdonald, who had walked over to inquire in person after the rector of his mother parish, and Rosina had sought in vain for Miss Amy, who she had assured him was at home, but now could nowhere find her. Amabel was in fact sauntering slowly down a lonely tangly lane, her “ Thomas à Kempis” in her hand,—the frequent intruding thought which she was striving thus to hold at bay, “Oh, if only father had let me marry, I could have made a home for the girls, and what a brother Captain Lawson would have been to them ! Aunt Winstanley will be sure, in her kind-heartedness, to offer them a home, but indeed they must not go to her again, or William will hardly know them on his return; he cannot bear strong-minded, or useless, or conceited women.”
Dulcibella went down at once to the drawing-room, and told the tale of their late alarm and troubles without reserve to so true and faithful a friend. Amy, on her return, just opened the door and then went out again, knowing nothing of what had passed last week; and thinking, perhaps, after all, Dulcibella might yet relent,—(though she should be sorry herself that any one, even so good a man as Mr. Macdonald, should ever replace poor Frank !)—and so be enabled to give the five girls the shelter and home which she could not hope to do until this five years' commission of the “Nausicaa,” and consequent separation, had been lived out and through.
“ You will let me know if, at any time, I can be of use to Mr. Erle ? I could take his afternoon service any Sunday, or all his occasional weekly duties if you would like to take him away for a week or two's change.”