« ПретходнаНастави »
for it was real mental agony to this thoughtless young girl to feel that she might soon be in the presence of death, she who had never yet given it a thought. But in the morning Evered seemed slightly relieved, the cough was certainly not so severe, and the fever ran a degree less high. Dr. B—then took his departure, giving Virginia many directions, and also a gleam of hope, for he said, if her brother could only rally from the exhaustion which would probably follow the fever, he thought possibly Evered might pull through—much depending however on perfect quiet. At eight Evered seemed inclined to sleep, and leaving him to Galway's care, Virginia proceeded to her Aunt Cicely's room, with the fervent hope that she might not have been disturbed by the stir in the house during the night. Happily, however, as Aunt Cicely's rooms were at the farther end of the house, on the ground floor, she had slept through the commotion and knew nothing of Evered's illness. Wisely concealing the worst from her aunt, Virginia told enough to account for her being with her brother much during the day, and Nina, with not a little condescension, consented to sit with the second invalid occasionally, “though I must say it is a great nuisance, Aunt Cicely is always so fidgety."
If at the present time Miss Brereton could have seen her elder niece she would have been astonished. Incapable heretofore of doing the simplest thing for herself, or of bearing without complaints any unusual fatigue, she now waited with assiduity on her brother, sitting up with him night after night, till she was forced from sheer exhaustion to leave him for once to the care of a maid. She was naturally an unselfish being, though her education and social position had until the present time left it untested. Now the trial had come she rose equal to the occasion, and though of course her unselfishness had not such strength as if it was actuated by the purest motives, yet she had had always a strong idea of self-sacrifice, (in a worldly sense,) and this added to the new-born love for her brother upheld her during the probing she now endured. Generally inactive and slow, more from the want of something to move her, than from constitutional failing, she now found herself able to act with promptness and decision which surprised her. For many days, with unremitting care she watched Evered while he hung between life and death, while scarcely a thought of self intervened, and not even when Miss Brereton returned from Scotland could she be persuaded to give up her station at his bedside. Moreover the patient himself, during the few periods of consciousness, which occasionally enlightened three weeks' terrible suffering, showed decided preference for his sister's care and nursing, and at times when the fever was highest, would be soothed by a word from her lips, when nothing else availed.
The inflammation by dint of severe measures had been repressed ; but the fever, though never actually typhus, was continually verging thereupon; and when at length the crisis was passed, such dreadful weakness and prostration followed, that it was feared he would not rally.
After waking from the deep sleep following the fever, Evered had fallen into a deathlike swoon from which Dr. B. told them candidly there was little hope that he would revive, his opinion being that the patient would pass away during its continuance. This period of her brother's illness was by far the most trying to Virginia, for notwithstanding that all throughout Evered's illness, his life had hung on a thread as it were, yet since the first evening she had been able to drown thought in action so completely, as in a great measure to still that dreadful shrinking she experienced whenever she thought of death. Now, however, during the suspense of waiting for an almost hopeless awakening, when any sort of action was impossible, and all that could be done was to watch with care each feeble, almost imperceptible breath, Virginia was tried by the most sad and bitter thoughts which had ever come to her mind,--thoughts which would strongly affect the whole of her after life.
Contrary, however, to the doctor's declaration, Evered did rally, and though for weeks afterwards existence appeared to him one protracted day of suffering, he knew that Almighty God had lent him life again for a while longer because there was yet work for him to do in his Master's Church. But it was not without feelings of great sorrow that Evered found himself returning to the littleness of this life, having been so long on the brink of eternity; then after a time came the thought that he was not worthy to enter into rest after only four and thirty short years of work,-- perhaps too the next warning might contain the reality, -till then, as then, body, soul, and spirit, all would “wait at His command.”
With very different feelings Virginia watched her brother's returning strength-feelings in which joy predominated, not unmixed with a certain thankfulness, such as she could experience who knew not in truth the Author and Giver of all good things. The impression made on her by the last six weeks was deep and lasting. The absolute
terror with which she had regarded death had not passed away, but seemed ever to increase. That she herself might be ill and die haunted her continually, and no wonder that, not knowing where to turn for help and guidance, she was utterly unstrung and miserable. Even in his own condition of weakness Evered easily saw something was preying on her mind, and longed to ask the subject, but reserve kept him back, and he trusted to circumstances to break the ice.
Virginia's long sojourn upstairs in the sick room prevented her from seeing much of Nina, except at meals, when their temperaments could hardly clash. Reginald Staley too, though seldom really out of Virginia's thoughts, was slightly neglected; but his visits at - Square were not less frequent for her absence from the family circle. Of course the lovers met for a few minutes whenever Reginald came to the house, for the intense love Virginia bore him would not brook entire absence from his presence. But these meetings were often hurried, and to Virginia's mind unsatisfactory; yet she never complained or found fault with the way in which he put her off and curtailed the short time she could spare from her brother on the plea that Joan and Nina were to walk or ride with him then. Would not the Australian Mail soon be in? so soon now that she could wait till then to proclaim the love she imagined she held so fast. She did not see enough of Nina's conduct with Reginald, or of his to her, to cause her any pangs of jealousy or mistrust, for she was not one to imagine evils which she did not see existing. Perhaps, poor child ! it was best for her peace that it was so.
One bright afternoon in the beginning of August, the first day that Evered had been able to move into his dressing room and lie on the couch there, he asked Virginia to write a letter for him. She brought writing materials, and without questioning wrote at his dictation.
- MY DEAR COURTENAY,
“Since my arrival in London I have been very ill, and so could not fulfil my engagement to come and see you as I had proposed. Instead thereof, I want you to come to me, and the sooner the better.
66 Yours ever,
“ EVERED RANDALL."
“What address ?” said Virginia, as she folded the letter and placed it in an envelope.
“ The Reverend W. Courtenay, Street, Paddington,” was Evered's answer. There's a stamp in my pocket-book on the table in the next room.”
Virginia made no remark, but went silently at his bidding, and when she returned said,
“I can post it for you when I go out presently, if that will do ?” and then walked to the window.
There was a silence for the next few minutes, Virginia looking down upon the busy world below, Evered a little absent-perhaps in a brown study—but it was he who broke the silence at last by saying,
“I have never thanked you half enough for all your care of me since my illness."
Silence still, and Evered was wondering whether Virginia had heard his remark, when she suddenly said, still apparently occupied with objects in the street,
Evered, did you know we thought you would die ?” It was a strange question to put so abruptly, and after it was asked Virginia seemed to think so, for she added quickly, “ don't tell me unless
like." But Evered answered simply enough,“ Yes, I knew Dr. B. thought I should not recover— I heard him say so the first night I was ill. was not the first time my life had been in danger, Virginia.”
She had turned to look at him while he spoke, and now he had finished she came forward and knelt beside his couch, looking full in his face. Another minute or more of silence followed, then she said still more abruptly, but quite calmly at the commencement,
“ If it had been I instead, I could not have died.”
Astonishment at the turn the conversation was taking prevented Evered from speaking at once, and the ice being now broken, she plunged on rapidly.
“All these weeks death has haunted me from one day's end to another-I cannot escape from the thought that I might die—nowas I am-unprepared and wicked. I have not lived, as you, a life which would make it easy to die. I have never thought of death till lately with reference to myself, hardly as regards other people. Now the reality has come upon me with a force that almost stuns
I feel I must speak about it-No! if God called me now, I could not die.”
In her eagerness she had seized one of his hands, and was pressing it tightly within her own, while the rapidity with which she spoke hardly allowed her to finish one word before she began another. When she had ceased speaking, she waited for Evered's reply more calmly, letting his hand drop from her clasp, while her head was bent lower and lower.
At last he said, “ Virginia, believe me these feelings have come straight from God. Am I wrong in implying from your saying that you have not lived a life 'which would make it easy to die,' that He has not been all in all to you, your first and last ? for unless that is the case, dying must be merely dying, -indeed far worse,-not as it should be, the commencement of life. If it has been thus with you," he continued, “it is not too late to begin now, living so that when death really comes you may be prepared.”
“But, Evered,” she said, slightly lifting her head, “I don't know how to begin; my life has been hitherto merely a living for self, a miserable existence, one which I often longed could end. I am never really happy; I am always seeking for something which I believe will make me happy,—and when I attain it, it is just the same, and the old longing begins afresh. Oh, Evered! I would give up everything to
You are a priest, cannot you help me ?” · Yes, dear Virgie, I can and will help you, only all cannot be done for you,-you must help yourself too. Our dear LORD is ever ready to receive those who wish to come to Him, but the advances must not all be on one side. He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you ;' but see what follows, 'Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me... We must take
up our cross, and follow Him, often in painful obedience and submission, but then we shall find rest unto our souls.”
“I would give up everything gladly, willingly,” said the young girl sadly. “There is nothing I would not do to find real peace and rest."
“If you feel so, child,” answered her brother, “ let nothing keep you back. You are young, please God much of your life remains in which to serve Him : let it be His from this very hour, Virginia, and you may be sure that the happiness you seek will be yours. But do not think you will have no difficulties. The way is straight and narrow, full of perils and sorrows; we walk by faith, not by sight, though we may be sure that He who begins the good work in us will most surely accomplish it. He asks of us our hearts, and we must give them to Him whole, and without reserve,-no one but God must reign in them,
find real peace.