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"Lina, you have not answered me; tell me the whole truth-was there anything between you?"
"We are nothing to each other, Blanche,—really,—I mean to keep my freedom.” Her words were light, but the effort to control her voice was scarcely successful,―her poor heart was throbbing so hard. Madeleine, you are hiding something from me, your hands are cold and trembling; my darling, tell me, do you love him ?"
The weary head could hold itself up no longer, it sank into Blanche's lap, and the voice came gasping out, "He loved me once, but I refused to marry him."
"You did not love him then, darling?"
'Oh, yes." The words were repented of as soon as uttered. Was
this fulfilling her sacred trust? but now it was useless to try and keep up her self-restraint,-her secret was gone.
Blanche stroked her hair, and spoke to her as to a child.
"Tell me all about it, dearest; you must let me comfort you. When did it all happen ?"
Gradually she drew from her the story of her love, but still she could not understand the refusal, Madeleine gave no reason for that. "Why did you throw away such love, darling? You must have had some great reason. I must know all."
"I had you, Blanche, and I was so proud of dear Gerald's trust." "His trust! Did he ask you? Did you willingly sacrifice your happiness for me?"
Madeleine winced as she remembered how hard she had found the sacrifice. She was too true to let herself be so well thought of. "I had promised," she said.
Then Blanche knew all the touching truth.
"He made you promise,-my husband,—but O, Blanche, you ought not to have hidden this from me! and you always so patient and loving with me. I could never have given up Gerald like that," and her tears came so thick and fast that Madeleine had to take her old place of comforter, and rising from her low seat she soothed and fondled her sister, and told her how easy she and her child had made her trial by their love and trust, and in the midst little Gerald came boisterously in, crying out for a story from Aunt Lina.
The conversation was not referred to again, but when they parted for the night, Blanche called Madeleine back to say,
"Happy dreams to you, darling, and remember my boy is quite big
enough to take care of me now. I can afford to spare my sweet comforter."
All the calm was gone from Madeleine's heart; now there was only a restless beating, with an under current of a strange wild joy. She dreaded Hubert's coming,—she had shown him so distinctly that she was indifferent to him, so she flattered herself, and now they must meet as friends,-nothing more.
He arrived one cold, stormy evening,-coming in to the blazing fire, with the glow on his face, and the light in his eye; noble and bright, the one, only one in the world. His friend had another visit to pay, and was to follow in a couple of days. He told of his adventures, and played with his little friend Gerald, till Blanche wondered whether anything could weigh upon his heart, but his eye rested on Madeleine from time to time as she sat at work, and when Blanche returned from attending to some domestic want, she found that he was making the boy a go-between, and drawing forth the smiles from Madeleine's sweet eyes and the soft laugh from her rosy lips.
A clear, frosty October morning,-cold but without wind, and so the perfection of an autumn day.
Madeleine set off on an errand to a cottage soon after breakfast, and after a romp with Gerald, Hubert Grantley walked into the village to call upon a friend of two years past, but he saw a form coming briskly along the road, and his friend must wait. He hastened towards Madeleine, and said,
"I hardly thought to meet you here, but will you go with me to the churchyard ?"
you like; perhaps we may as well go now that Blanche
They kept up a determined conversation all the way back, but when they reached the grave, on it lay a cross of flowers.
"Blanche must have brought that this morning," said Madeleine, "she often comes before breakfast quite alone.”
"What a comfort you have been to her, Miss Clifford; with all her fearful sorrow there is a look on her face now that she never used to have, a look of rest and hope."
"She is so good," answered Madeleine, "and she has true hope." They were turning away through the lych-gate into the lane where the leaves came floating down resigned to death. There was a little silence, and then Hubert said,
"Hope, yes, it is hard to live without that, even earthly hope. It seems a heartless thing to say, but I could fancy it almost easy for her to bear her sorrow, having once possessed a perfect love. Miss Clifford, can a love, unchanged in these two long years, only grown more tender and true, if possible,—can it now have any hope of a return ?" he took her hand in his, and she made no effort to release it. “I have never tried to forget you, that would have been, if I could have done it, cutting off a part of my life,—but I have kept away from you that I might not annoy you; but seeing you so unexpectedly by the shore that day almost maddened me,—and now will you-can you love me, my own Madeleine ?”
“Oh, Hubert, have I not loved you all this while !"
And the dear protecting arms were round her, and her joy had come home to her at last.
In a pleasant valley in South Wales-sheltered to the north by wooded hills, but open southwards to a lovely bay, may be seen an oldfashioned, substantial mansion, situated in the midst of a small park. The house is not very large, but roomy and comfortable enough, and furnished with every elegance and convenience. Ascending the oaken staircase we open a heavy, curiously carved door, and find ourselves in a boudoir, bright and warm, and very inviting with its red hangings and cheery fire, and books lying about on the tables waiting to be read. The sun shines in though it is a sharp January afternoon, and lights up a face which we last saw four years ago, and a little girl with golden hair and large dark eyes is doing her best to make mamma upset the teapot, from which she is pouring the fragrant tea. An old lady is sitting in a comfortable arm-chair by the fireside, and she pauses in her knitting to watch her pet grandchild. Madeleine rises and brings a cup of tea to her, and taking the work tenderly from the withered hands, kisses them and the sweet face. You must not work any more, mother. Hubert will be here directly."
Even as she speaks, the door opens and the bright face enters. Madeleine looks round with her loving welcome, and then her husband comes close, little Geraldine clinging to him. He puts his arm round his wife, she leans her head on her dear resting place, whilst the mother takes his hand in hers and strokes it.
"Do you remember, mother, that this is our wedding day-the day on which I gave you your daughter ?"
"My darling children!" said the gentle voice, "who could have thought that I should live to see this day! your love has kept me alive. I never used to think, Hubert, that I should be able to find anybody fit for my boy, but the first day I saw her I took her to my heart as my own: kiss me, Lina."
"Ah! mother, I was very unselfish to let anybody come to divide your love with me! I do believe she is just as much to you as your poor old Hubert; now tell me the truth."
"Yes Hubert, so she is, and I should lose a good bit of your love, I fancy, if I said 'no,' but I never think of you as two. I knew at your marriage service that it was true of you: They two shall be one flesh.” The next day the old house was full. All the family were to keep the new year together. Mr. and Mrs. Clifford came from Brookwood with Willie and Clarice, and there were two parties from Southbourne; Blanche with her fine boy of ten years old, proud to be his mother's protector in such a long journey, and scorning the help of the other two who came with them, Mr. Clayton the Curate of Southbourne, and his wife, in whose elegant form and merry, sparkling manner, we recognize the pretty Grace of old times.
Borderside was the peaceful, happy home where any of the family in need of change or refreshment delighted to come, and once in the year, at least, they all met there to fasten closer the links that united them, and so left no room for jars or discords, nor time for any member to drift away into separate interests and a severed life.
Madeleine," said Hubert as they watched the last of the party drive away, a fortnight later, from Borderside, "sorry as we are to lose our dear ones, it is nice to have more time for each other again."
"O, yes, dearest, and do let us have a little walk together before we in doors."
He drew her arm in his and said: "Do you remember, darling, how I went away from you once? I thought then that Borderside would always be desolate for me, always wanting just the one thing to make it what, thank GOD, it is-you were cruel then!"
"Cruel to myself, my own love," was the reply, "and perhaps if I had forfeited my trust then, I should not have had the perfect happiness of your precious confidence now."
MORS JANUA VITÆ.
EVE OF S. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS.
O MY LORD JESUS, in the lonely garden,
Thou hadst Thine Angel of the Agony,
Lend me some aid, and seal me with Thy pardon,
Far from the world of sorrow and of sighing,
Ways full of woe, and
passages of pain,
Through the bright gate of life, which men call dying,
Yea, but he holds a cup that I must carry,
A loving hand deals forth that deadly wine.
Low on my knees Thy chalice will I drain,
Steeped in the virtue of Thy healing pain.
Bright Angel Guardian, now I see thee clearer,
M. J. K.
[The Editor is not responsible for the opinions of the Correspondents.]
To the Editor of the Churchman's Companion.