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himself and his sisters there would be very little reciprocity of feeling. Virginia had always been an enigma to him, and Nina he thought was little more than a school-girl, -added to all this, he was coming to them as an invalid and a burthen. When however these feelings passed away, Evered awoke to the consciousness that their existence arose from a species of discontent, very unlike what he, the sworn servant of CHRIST, should ever have cherished. Was he to forget the example of his uncle while he was mourning his loss ? Was he capable of judging beforehand what was the intended result of his being thus thrown with his unknown relations? Doubtless all was ordered for some wise and good purpose, and so for the present he must leave it. Only if during his sojourn with his family some good might be accomplished, or the knowledge of God's love brought home to one soul, the pain he felt at parting with all which was dearest to him, would be lost in the joy of knowing that through it he had promoted his Master's glory.
Virginia Randall also was looking forward to her brother's arrival with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret. Since Evered had taken Holy Orders she had seldom seen him more than twice or thrice a year, and then never for many days together. But even these occasional glimpses were sufficient to enable her thoroughly to respect him, as she did all those whom she thought“ good.” But because he was “good,” he was to be admired at a distance only, and consequently Virginia had never gone further than the surface with her brother. There was much in her character that was noble and generous, but it had never been directed into a right channel, for in her education, as well as in that of her sister, the instillation of religious principles had been strangely disregarded, and there was nothing to counteract the dictates of self in either character. But unlike Nina, Virginia longed for a nobleness which she knew she lacked, and consequently there was often a restless craving at her heart which she could not satisfy or analyse, -it might, she thought, be contented by earthly love. So when Reginald Staley asked her to be his wife, and told her she was all in all to him, she thought at first that she had attained the desired end. But, alas ! she knew nothing of that great Love which alone can fill the heart of the creature, and until that was found, she could never have true rest.
The Staleys had been old friends of the Randalls from time immemorial, indeed it was supposed that in remote ages both families had
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sprung from one common ancestor. Mr. Staley was a flourishing Australian merchant, and was at this time in Victoria transacting business. His son Reginald was in the office which would one day receive him as a partner, but he was there very little in the day, often merely going in the morning for an hour or two to superintend. Much against Virginia's will, nothing had as yet been said to her aunts about Reginald's proposal to her. It had been his wish that no one should know till he had received his father's full sanction to an engagement. He had said, “Mind, dearest, this cannot be called a regular engagement, (though we shall both regard it as such, I am sure,) till I have heard from my father. For though I do not for one moment suppose that he will withhold his consent, yet till I get an answer to the letter I shall send by the next Australian mail, you must promise to tell no one of what has passed between us. fuss,--you can be perfectly happy without letting every one know we love one another, can't you ?”
So she had unwillingly consented to his wish, though as regarded herself, she would far rather have had no concealment; not that she feared in the least that her aunts would object to the marriage, for she knew it had been a wish of theirs that either she or Cornelia should marry into the Staley family; but she felt vexed that Reginald had so bound her by this promise, that she could not even tell dear Aunt Cicely. Somehow too this evening the fact of Nina's unexpected return the next day seemed to connect itself in some mysterious fashion with the mistrust she was feeling in keeping Reginald's proposal from her aunts, for until then she had hoped that by the end of August, when fate would have brought Nina home, Reginald would have heard from his father, and their engagement would be declared.
But now she would have to meet her sister on the same old footing, with another bar to confidence between them.
“This is the last evening we shall have alone,” said Virginia that night, as she was preparing to go to bed. “I am so sorry at the thought of our quiet evenings being broken up. You won't give up coming to my room the last thing, dear auntie, will you ? I would not forego that for anything.”
“No, dear, no,” said Miss Brereton—"I should miss it as much as you. But, Virginia, I hope you will try to get on better with Nina than you did at Easter. You two are not the least like Cicely and I, when we were young; we were everything to each other, and so we are now.”
“I know,” said Virginia slowly, “but somehow you must have been very
different from Nina and me, and as to Aunt Cicely no one could help loving her."
Well, my dear, it is very strange, I cannot understand it. Perhaps when you have Evered with you, you will get on better.
Only don't keep me now, Cicely will be wanting me-good-night, darling!”
As soon as she reached her room, Virginia sat down to consider the pending changes in her life which she had so little anticipated that afternoon. “How I wish Reginald would let me tell Aunt Isabelle," she thought. “I do not half like having secrets from her ; besides I shall have to wait so long before I can say anything about it, for the mail won't be in for ages. And I wish Nina was not coming home--and Evered too ! what a bore, to be sure! I wonder how I shall like him when we come to live together. It will be a dreadful responsibility being alone in the house with two invalids and a madcap. What should I do if Evered were taken suddenly worse ? I am sure I couldn't nurse him. I suppose I shall lose all my nice walks with Reggie and Joan to sit with him. And what shall I have to talk about ? for I almost feel afraid of him. Perhaps he will preach to me--I hope not though if he does I shall let him talk on without saying a word. No, he won't be able to talk, because he has weak lungs. Then I shall have to talk to him instead, and that will be worse. May be Nina—Nina again !--how I wish she were ot coming back !”
“ The form, the form alone is eloquent!
A nobler yearning never broke her rest
The Brighton train had just come steaming into Victoria Station, the heat and glare of which place was intense, while the cries of porters and shrill screams from the spluttering engine resounded from one end of the platform to the other. A huge pile of luggage was heaped up in one direction, surrounded by numbers of people, all eagerly claiming their possessions. One short lady had mounted the box for which some neighbour was vainly searching, and with the view to being seen more easily was gesticulating vigorously with a parasol to some people at the further end of the station, who took not the slightest notice of her signs, for the very good reason that they did not see them. Among others who were thus busily engaged in hunting for boxes was Reginald Staley, who had accompanied Miss Brereton and Virginia to meet Nina on her arrival from school. Any one who has been to Victoria Station knows what the bustle and hustle is, but Reginald, with all the courtesy of a knight-errant, had succeeded in fishing out from the melée all Nina's belongings except one small bonnet-box, which of course was at the bottom of the pile. He, Reginald Staley, was a tall handsome man of about seven-and-twenty, with a dark sunburnt face, black beard and moustache, and features which betokened much good nature mixed with a certain amount of indecision, indicative of feebleness of mind. Miss Brereton was engaged in talking to the governess who had chaperoned Cornelia to Victoria, while the young girl herself was standing listening to her aunt without attempting to help her sister in the search for the missing box. She was a bright piquant-looking girl, with an immense amount of expression in her face, ever varying, as it depicted, almost like a mirror, what was passing in her mind. A fresh pink and white complexion, seldom seen except in very young people, added to her beauty, while the deep violet-blue eyes flashed and sparkled with merriment. Her chief attraction, however, lay in her hair-bright auburn-redwaving and curling round her fair face in thick and long curls. She was a great contrast to her sister, who had none of the sprightliness and vivacity so peculiar to Nina, though Virginia was not less beautiful. Hers was a grave, thoughtful face, oval and straight-featured, lighted up by a magnificent pair of hazel eyes, shaded by long black lashes. A clear olive complexion helped to bring these into prominence, and her dark brown hair was drawn from the noble forehead to coil round and round her head in thick plaits, which showed to advantage the exquisite symmetry of her head and neck. There was, however, a defect in her mouth, which was large and not well formed,
when she smiled this imperfection disappeared, and though she had none of her sister's brilliant beauty, every one admitted that having once seen Virginia Randall's face they could not easily forget it. But a careful observer would also detect something wanting in this face of almost perfect beauty-something which showed too plainly the restlessness of the mind within, while the earnest, sad, almost beseeching look which sometimes came into her eyes, proved that Virginia was not perfectly happy. Nina's mind was evidently too shallow to hold such a longing after a deficiency which she did not know existed, and therefore on her beautiful but silly face no deeper shadow ever passed than that of a pout or a frown.
At last the missing box was found, and all the luggage sent home in a fly with the footman to guard it, while Nina, who had expressed a wish to drive about, accompanied Miss Brereton and her sister to the carriage. Reginald Staley, imagining that the trio would naturally rather be without a fourth person, proceeded to say adieu, but Aunt Isabelle would not hear of his going home alone after his gallantry in coming to help them fetch Nina, and invited him to stay with them as long as they were out, with the further promise to leave him at his own house at the conclusion of the drive. This proposal was eagerly seconded by Nina, and seeing at once what was Virginia's wish on the subject, he was soon seated opposite her and Miss Brereton, being forced by Nina into an animated conversation, and before long such a flow of small talk was kept up between them, that the two others could seldom manage to get in a word. Without consulting either her sister or her aunt, Nina made an engagement to walk with Joan and Reginald on Monday in the evening, just when Virginia knew she would be unable to accompany them, on account of Evered's expected arrival. And then a jealous pang shot through the elder sister's heart, as she watched the apparent pleasure which Reginald showed in talking to this most volatile young lady; but at parting with him a few minutes later, all her displeasure vanished as she felt the hearty shake of the hand and heard the fond whispered words he gave her as a farewell. She wondered how Nina could talk with such volubility to a man of whom she knew comparatively nothing, for though she herself had seen so much of Reginald, Nina had only met him occasionally during the Easter holidays ; for the Christmas and the greater part of the Midsummer vacations had always been spent in the country with another married aunt-Miss Brereton's younger sister, Persis. Virginia put her sister down as an arrant little flirt, and felt less and less disposed to like her, or excuse the faults which several years at a large Brighton school had fostered in a naturally frivolous mind; for even in the best disciplined schools there will always be found some vain and silly girls, whose frivolity is increased by those very restrictions intended to counteract it.
The next day was Sunday, a day which the girls always found long