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Evered thought it best to continue, regardless of her apparent apathy, so he added,
“ And he says there is not much chance of a Confirmation in London at this season ; they generally take place earlier or later in the year, but he will inquire."
“ It is very good of him to trouble himself about it.”
Evered was disappointed, and began to fear that her feelings only had been excited during that conversation in his dressing-room, while her heart had really remained untouched, and that night he prayed still more fervently that God, in His mercy, would vouchsafe to reveal Himself to her soul, and that she might give her whole self to Him.
Later on, just as she was going to bed, Evered said; “Mr. Courtenay and another Priest are coming here to-morrow morning to celebrate Holy Communion. Would you tell Barton, please, to bring them up at once to me when they arrive. I expect them about eight.”
Virginia lingered, “ Can I do anything to the room before they come ?” she said, “I would get up
earlier on purpose,
me, do !”
“Thank you, Virginia dear, I shall be very glad if you will tidy up the dressing-room a little for them, but they will make all the necessary arrangements themselves, I shall be up.”
“Oh, Evered, I'm sure you ought not—" but here Virginia stopped, seeing the expression on Evered's face, and half ashamed she added, “won't it harm you ?”
“ You have yet to learn that we never suffer from doing right,” he said gently, and the pressure of their hands as they were locked in a firm clasp showed that even now there was sympathy between them.
When morning came, Virginia was not sorry that she had an object for rising earlier. Her night's rest had been broken and disturbed. If she slept she dreamed horrid dreams about Nina and Reginald, and being awake was worse, for then the dreams changed to reality. At a quarter before eight she was in Evered's room, and found him ready and lying on the sofa in his dressing-room. He was very kind and tender, this morning, particularly so, Virginia thought, and as she stood in her favourite place by the window, she felt that if she might only tell him her grief it would lessen it considerably. Sympathy was what she longed for,.indeed the void which her crushed love had left in her heart was perhaps the worst part of her sorrow. So ab
sorbed was she in her own thoughts that she did not hear the door bell ring, for which she was waiting as a signal to leave the room, and ere she had time to escape the two Priests entered together. young, younger than Evered, the other evidently much older, with a peculiarly kind and gentle face, a sympathetic face Virginia thought. His manner was at once so courteous and fatherly that he put Virginia at her ease directly, and instead of feeling angry with herself for being caught where she had no intention of being seen, she experienced real pleasure when Evered introduced her to Mr. Courtenay, as,“ my sister of whom I spoke.”
However she soon left the room and went to the drawing-room to sit down idly and muse again and again over all that had passed between herself and Reginald. The love she bore him was overriding the anger now, and she began to feel sorry for the way in which she had spoken to him. Not that she repented having broken the engagement, but she wished now that she had done it less violently and rudely. Towards Nina too she was somewhat less irate; though it was very hard not to feel jealous of her who had stolen away the only thing which she thought could have made her happy : and a still heavier depression fell upon her as she wondered what, when Evered was well and had gone to his work again, she should have to live for. She knew directly her brother's health was restored, he would go away and begin working once more, and as she thought of the dull blank in life before her, the old listless, useless life, she wept again. When he was gone the same restless existence would begin. Oh! should she never find peace! “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These words came back to her mind like a solution to an apparently vain problem, or as a lost chord in a strain of music. Never had she entered into them before as she did now, and as her understanding grasped and took them in, their very repetition seemed to soothe her. Then too, she remembered hearing a sermon on some such words as these, “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” and as she mused gentler, holier thoughts came to her aid, and calmed her sorrow-stricken heart. Perhaps there was, after all, something worth living for beside mere earthly love; perhaps God had taken away Reginald's, that she might learn to trust in Him alone. Would He really help her to bear her sorrow, and make it light? Could a life like that led by Evered, ever be attained by herself? Would He really accept her heart, such as it was, after one and twenty years spent away from Him? “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” She had not felt thus when she was talking to Evered. Then all he had held up before her to be done was so new that it seemed an impossibility, something far above her reach, unattainable in fact. But now, as all returned to her memory, the desire to serve God entered her heart, and after that never again left it. Was this the effect of Evered's earnest prayer, as he knelt in the presence of his dear LORD at that time? Surely those who believe in the efficacy of intercessory Prayer, and the ever readiness of JESUS to welcome souls to Himself, would not doubt it for one moment.
“Nor deem the irrevocable past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
“ARE you going out now, Virginia ?” said Miss Brereton, putting her head into Evered's room one day.
“Yes, in about a quarter of an hour, Aunt Isabelle," returned Virginia, “I must finish this letter first. Do you want me to do anything for you?”
Yes, I shall be glad if you will call at Crescent and leave cards of inquiry for Mrs. Cobham Lane, I am ashamed to think how long it is since we asked for her," and then turning to Evered she continued, “Nina is coming to sit with you while Virginia is out, for I'm afraid I can't leave Cicely to-day, she seems restless and out of sorts. I hope she is not going to have another stroke,” with a sigh, quickly followed by her departure from the room. Virginia continued her writing steadily, and at the end of ten minutes had finished her letter; then she busied herself with putting the little dressing-room in order, with quick dexterous fingers. Evered watched her with pleasure, somehow she had grown very dear to him of late, but he noticed that she looked ill and worn, and there were dark rings round her eyes which betokened want of rest. “ 'Tis all caused by the same thing,” thought he, but he did not touch on that subject then, though he fully intended to do so before long. “ It will be a comfort to her to speak of it to some one, I am certain : the only fear is, will she think me interfering ?”
“Now Evered, is there anything I can do for you before I go, or while I am out ?” she said as she was preparing to leave the room.
“Nothing, thanks, Virgie dear," he answered, “I suppose there are no letters ? I half thought to have heard from Mr. Courtenay."
*I have not heard the knock,” said Virginia, " but if there are any, Nina is sure to bring them up to you, good-bye."
Several minutes elapsed, during which, Evered's thoughts reverted to Ardleigh, and the chances for and against a good appointment. Presently Nina burst in, exclaiming,
“Such a quantity of letters for you, Evered, and some for Virginia too: I brought them up here thinking to catch her before she went out. You and she are generally the fortunate individuals, I never saw any one get so many letters as you do. I believe they are billets doux !”
That I'm sure they are not,” replied Evered, smiling in spite of some annoyance, "you had better leave Virgie's notes here, as she has gone out, and they will be quite safe.
But don't go away,
I little of you, and these can wait,” pointing to the little heap of letters by his side.
“I have such continual engagements," said Cornelia, loftily, "that I never seem to have a moment to myself. Joan Staley expects me to walk with her every evening, I have only just parted from her now. She tells me that her brother Reginald is going in a day or two, to Scotland, for the grouse shooting, which is rather a sudden move on bis part, I think. By the bye, you've never seen him, have you ? but he's not your style though, so of course you won't like him.”
Evered winced a little, he did not like this flippant style of speaking, so by way of changing the subject, he said, quite suddenly,
"Virginia has made up her mind to be confirmed.”
"Good gracious, Evered! so you've actually converted her. Well !" (with six notes of exclamation at least.) She stood quite still for half a minute, swinging her hat to and fro, with an almost contemptuous smile on her face, and then she said, perhaps fearing that Evered would “convert” her by force too, if she stayed in the enemy's land, “I think I shall go now, if you don't really want me. I expect a dressmaker, and must not keep her waiting, adieu, au revoir," and she left the room, playfully kissing the tips of her fingers and performing a pirouette, ending in a graceful reverence to her brother, as she shut the door.
Virginia did not return to her brother's room before she went out, but summoned Galway, as usual, to accompany her on her aunt's message. Generally she walked in Hyde Park, but when the cards were left to-day, she still continued in that part of the town, taking the opportunity of calling on a great friend living in Delamere Terrace, who, however, was out. As she turned from the house, the sound of a bell ringing reminded her she was close to S. Margaret's, the church where Mr. Courtenay was senior curate. An irresistible impulse seized her to join in the service, and acting upon it, she told her maid that she might go where she liked for half-an-hour, and return to the church for her again. Galway was greatly astonished at her young lady's freak, as she thought it, but having a friend in the shape of a dressmaker living in that part of London, she was nothing loath to comply with the command, and well pleased, left Virginia at one of the side doors of S. Margaret's. She pushed it open and entered, but such a strange feeling of awe crept over her, that she felt afraid to proceed up the middle aisle, and knelt where she was, quite at the bottom of the church, which was fast filling. It was certainly very unlike any church she had ever seen, except S. Martin's and the Roman Catholic church of the Assumption, and as her eyes wandered to the chancel, so highly elevated above the nave, they rested on the reredos, the subject of which was the crucifixion, most beautifully sculptured. As she gazed, the reality of the Sacrifice on Calvary came home to her, for the first time, and so absorbed was she in contemplation, that even the first notes of the organ failed to rouse her, and it was not till she saw the rest of the congregation rising as the choir and clergy entered, that she remembered rightly where she was. In after years she never joined in the Church's Evensong, or sang those glorious psalms for the sixteenth evening without her thoughts going back to the first time she heard them at S. Margaret's, chanted to those quaint Gregorian tones.
How utterly different did the service appear, rendered in this manner, to what she was accustomed at the church her aunt attended, and she mentally resolved that Aunt Isabelle should come to S. Margaret's in future, if she could only be induced to give up attending what was in reality her parish church.
When she returned home, she looked in upon Evered, and said, “I've been to evensong at S. Margaret's.”
“Have you? I am glad. Here are some letters for you," and he added to hers, one directed to himself.
“ This is yours, Evered,” she said returning it.