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and uninteresting. Miss Brereton was very stringent about their going to church both in the morning and afternoon, but there ended all religious observance, and the rest of the day they were free to occupy as they chose. Going to church was looked upon by the girls as a sort of weekly penance, which had to be endured for respectability's sake; and they always experienced a relief when the day was over.
A very worthy woman was Isabelle Brereton, but the times had gone faster than either she or Cicely, and the old barn-like church, with its high pews and duet between parson and clerk, was in her eyes everything, and contained all needful as external aids to devotion. It was not that Isabelle had any antipathy to Catholicity; but she always most carefully avoided any sort of religious controversy, so that it is doubtful if she had ever heard more than the name of “ High Church,” most certainly its principles had not been explained to her,--thus the Truth had never been placed before her. She was thoroughly and earnestly good according to her light, and by no means puritanical, never preventing Virginia from accompanying Joan and Reginald Staley to the Roman Catholic church close by on Sunday evenings sometimes, with the same liberal-mindedness as would also have consented to her niece going to hear Newman Hall preach, had she expressed a wish to do so. Both Reginald and his sister were passionately fond of music, and neither had been taught any more than Virginia Randall that to go to a service merely for the enjoyment of the singing was wrong, nor did they know that in attending the offices of another Church beside the one in which they had been brought up they not only incurred a fearful responsibility, but decidedly committed an act of schism. Virginia always liked going to these services very much, for she was soothed by the music, and could appreciate the grandeur of the solemn Ritual, and the feeling would often cross her mind that if she could only attain true devotion perhaps it might fill the painful void in her heart. But she did not know where to go for help and advice, and so it was useless, she thought, to trouble herself about it. Once too, Reginald had taken her to S. Martin's on the dedication festival, but she had been unable to understand or enter into our own Liturgy clothed in its proper garb of Catholic Ritual, and as the church was a long way off she never expressed a wish to go there again.
On Monday morning Miss Brereton started for Inverness-shire, amidst the sincere regrets of both nieces, leaving many injunctions and directions as to the care Virginia was to bestow upon Aunt Cicely and Evered. Virginia felt slightly overwhelmed by all the responsibility which seemed to rest on her shoulders, but she got through that day successfully, seeing very little of her younger sister, as she had to stay chiefly in her aunt's room and amuse her. Towards the afternoon, however, this became a hard task, for the poor invalid was getting nervous at the thought of having her almost stranger-nephew in the house while her sister was away, and she worried herself with every possible conjecture as to how he would be, whether he would be comfortable, &c. Many times did she ask Virginia if she was sure all was properly prepared for him--were the blankets well aired ? would it not be best to have a fire lighted in his room ? till the perplexed Virginia almost despaired of getting her to take her usual evening doze. However, by dint of reading aloud, she gradually soothed her aunt, and by the time she had to prepare to meet Evered, she had the satisfaction of leaving her in a calm sleep, which seemed likely to last some time. Nina had already gone out on her walk with the Staleys, as she had settled, but as it was getting late, Virginia had no time to think how much she would have liked to accompany them. Barton, the old butler, went with her to the station, and just as she stepped upon the platform the train came whizzing in. With the quick eye of an adept, Barton soon recognized Evered, and the train being unusually empty there was no difficulty about luggage. It grieved Virginia much to see how dreadfully thin and ill her brother looked, and he was so weak and moved with such difficulty that she was fain to offer him the support of her arm for the short walk to the carriage. Side by side the brother and sister looked wonderfully alike; there was the same long low forehead in each, the same earnest brown eyes, and the same coloured hair, but where in the girl's face there was a blank, the priest's was filled with an all-absorbing look of something indescribable, felt rather than understood. Illness was leaving traces on his face which helped to make him look older than he really was; but though there was more of this in store for him, his life was to be spared, as there was yet work for him to do for the Master, Who was ever foremost in his thoughts.
“You must not be too shocked at my appearance,” he said, seeing the look of concern on her face; “remember I have not done so much as this for many days, and when I started this morning the old housekeeper declared I looked better than I had done for weeks past."
“Better !” thought Virginia ; “what must he have looked like?" but she added aloud a little timidly,—“I hope rest and the care we shall take of you will set you up, and that you will be really better when Aunt Isabelle returns. She bade me tell you how concerned she was at having to leave town just as you were coming to us, but her importunate friend, Miss Hardinge, would not dispense with her presence at her wedding, and she was forced to go. And Evered," she continued, “shall you mind if I don't let Aunt Cicely see you to-night, you do look so very unwell, that I am sure it would be best for you both not to meet to-day. If she were to see you looking so dreadfully altered before she goes to bed, I don't suppose she would sleep at all."
"I agree with you that the two invalids had better not see each other till morning,” said Evered, smiling cheerily; "when you see her you can give her my love, and tell her I have borne the journey well. For my part, I shall not be sorry to get to bed.”
Here the carriage stopped at No. 19, and Evered was helped up stairs by Virginia, where on the landing they encountered Nina, in her walking things. “Good gracious!" she exclaimed, irreverently, "is that you or your ghost, Evered ? My word ! how altered you look, I should not have"
“Be quiet, Nina, do! you will wake Aunt Cicely," interrupted Virginia, in no gentle tone; don't
you see you are keeping us ; let us pass, please. Now," she continued, when with some difficulty Evered was installed in an arm-chair in his room— -“ Now I will get you something to eat, you are quite worn out I can see,” and the rest of the evening she spent in tending him, which she did unexceptionably. She had the rare gift of being able to nurse, and her ready fingers and quick woman's eye, forestalled all he required. By nine o'clock he was in bed, though Virginia could see by the restlessness of his movements, that he was far from comfortable, and the distressing cough returned each time he moved. She offered to sit up with him, but he declared she must do nothing of the kind, saying that even during his first severe illness he had seldom kept any one with him the whole night. But his sister was by no means satisfied, and so strong were her feelings of anxiety, that she determined not to undress till she could feel more satisfied about him. When she looked in upon him two hours later, she did not repent of her decision, for though he appeared
asleep, his slumber was broken and restless, and interrupted at intervals by the racking cough which had grown much worse since she was last with him. Really alarmed, she drew nearer to his bed, shading the candle carefully with her hand, and saw that the heat he complained of when he first lay down had heightened considerably, his face was flushed crimson, and after each exhausting fit of coughing his breath came with difficulty and in gasps. She saw too that what she had imagined sleep was in reality a demi-unconsciousness, from which he appeared incapable of rousing himself. She called him gently, and he evidently heard her, for he murmured his uncle's name, and then opened his eyes with a wild strange look which thoroughly frightened Virginia. Tenderly she raised his head, and succeeded in propping him up, and seeing he seemed slightly relieved by this change of posture, she left him so, and called to Galway, her maid, who fortunately was not yet undressed, and desired her to tell the footman to fetch a doctor immediately. "Be quick-his life may depend on speed; bring me up some ice if it is not all melted, and make up the kitchen fire in readyness for what may be ordered. Make a poultice of linseed-meal and bring it up at once.” These orders she gave with clearness and precision, feeling as though she had suddenly grown ten years older, and then returned to her brother's room.
“ Tombe, agenouille-toi, créature insensée :
ALFRED DE MUISSET.
The longer to obey;
To end his toilsome day.”
When Virginia re-entered her brother's room his cough seemed slightly abated, but the fever was rising rapidly. “No wonder in this stifling hot room,” thought she. Can I dare open the window? or will it be running too great a risk ?” She touched the sufferer's hand, and appalled at its heat and the throbbing of the pulse, she turned to the window, and, regardless of consequences, threw up the sash. Though already so late, the hum and buzz of the great city was still going on, heard chiefly at a distance, very little actually passed in the
square except an occasional foot passenger walking heavily by, or the roll of a noisy cab returning from some place of amusement with its occupants. “How little it matters to others what is happening to an individual,” thought Virginia, as she stood for a moment looking out upon the lamp-lit street below : “this is a cruel world, and there is no sympathy to be found anywhere in it,” but a moan from Evered brought her back to the middle of the room, and kneeling down beside his bed she watched him anxiously, waiting for the appearance of Galway, who seemed gone an interminable time, each minute was like a quarter of an hour. Till the doctor was come, she would be utterly powerless to alleviate her brother's terrible suffering, and as the thought crossed her mind that he might die, while she was so waiting, a great longing seized her to leave him and go away. She could not meet death! and then again the thought of losing bim woke such feelings of tenderness in her heart that she wondered how such love as she now felt for him could have sprung up in so short a time. But still she waited on, laying at intervals her cool palms on his burning forehead, or moistening his lips with water,—all to no avail, for each moment the fever increased. At last Galway came with the poultice, which they placed on his chest, and the little ice left unmelted by the relentless heat, they put on his head. It was all they could do for him then, and so the waiting recommenced, though less painful to Virginia now she was not alone.
Just as the clock struck midnight the doctor came-a kind greyhaired old man, who shook his head directly he looked at Evered, but said Virginia had done rightly, both in opening the window and using ice, remedies which, had he been there, he should have ordered himself. The fear was, he said, (for Dr. B- always made it a rule to tell his opinion candidly) that the fever might turn to typlus, and therefore the cooler the patient was kept the better. Something, however, should be done to reduce the inflammation on the lungs, which he said had set in, and when Virginia told him this was the second attack in six weeks, he looked even more grave, and expressed his determination to stay there till morning. This was a great relief to Virginia; and she was still more thankful for his kindness when Dr. B- told her he thought her brother's recovery very doubtful. To her own surprise she found she could assist, with skill and self-command, to put leeches on Evered's chest, for which Dr. B—- praised her and said she made a capital nurse; but in truth she was trying to drown thought in action,