« ПретходнаНастави »
A clear ringing voice, which made the old lady wince, answered, “ Helen.” “Humph,” she muttered, in a changed, angry tone,“ his wife's
Well, I never saw such infatuation! But she has some of the Carrock features too,” continued the old lady, “though I do see a look of her mother in the face.”
As Helen Carrock is to be my heroine, I must now proceed to describe her, as she stood with the full light of the fire on her tall, shapely figure—from which she had thrown off the long travelling cloak, on entering the house-enduring her grandmother's searching gaze. Her head, which was not too small for intellect, was crowned with a profusion of glossy hair, of that peculiar, dark golden brown, which I cannot compare to anything but the glint of sunshine on the clear brown pools of a mountain stream ; dark in the shade, gleaming in the light. These rippling tresses were drawn back from a massive white brow, and fastened in rich coils behind. Her features were irregular, and not strictly beautiful; the charm of the face lay in its expression, which was ever changing, as the lights and shadows on the hills. Her eyes were perhaps her most beautiful feature. They were of that clear dark tint, which one sometimes sees in grey Scotch pebbles, and were shaded by long dark eyelashes, which, in their owner's thoughtful moods, almost entirely veiled them, and gave a dreamy expression to her face. At other times these eyes would sparkle and flash with fun and merriment, and a light would beam from them when she smiled that illuminated her whole countenance like a ray of sunshine. Her nose was slightly aquiline, and her mouth neither large nor small; in fact it was a very ordinary mouth till she smiled, and then somehow, no one thought of noticing whether it were of the exact size prescribed by the rules of beauty. Her chin was square and more determinedlooking than those of most female faces, and her throat long and slender. She had a fair, clear complexion, and a soft, white skin, which was tinted with delicate carmine on her cheeks; small, shell-like ears, and white, though not exactly regular teeth. Such is the lifesized portrait of Helen Carrock.
The entrance of Jessie with the chops (which were not a bit burnt, after all Mrs. M'Nab's fears) put an end to the species of inquisition to which the two children had been subjected, and which, to say the truth, had not been peculiarly agreeable to either. In fact, I am afraid I must confess that this first act of their grandmother's had
raised some feelings near akin to rebellion in their
hearts. The meal was a silent one, for the travellers were to the last degree tired with their long journey, which had been all the way from Southampton ; and besides they felt a stiffness and constraint in presence of the cold, handsome old lady, who sat so stately and upright at the head of the table. Thus, after the ordinary questions about the journey had been asked and answered, no one spoke a word till supper was ended, and then Mrs. Carrock, rising from her seat, said, “Now then, I dare say you are both tired, and would like to go to your rooms. To-morrow I will speak to you both, and tell you what are the rules of my house, which I must have strictly observed.”
So saying she took up a bedroom candle, and beckoning to the children, led the way across the hall, through the swing-door, up two flights of stairs, and along a short passage, at the end of which were two doors opposite each other. Opening the one to the right, she showed Helen a small chamber, with a dormer window, before which was drawn a white curtain. The floor was covered with a green carpet, running all over which was a shaded pattern, like tufts of soft moss. At one end of the room, near the window, was a small tent-bed, hung with white dimity; at the other, an old-fashioned fireplace, the grate filled with flowering heather. Opposite the door, stood a low chest of drawers, the top of which was made to serve the purpose of a dressing-table; and in addition to these, the room contained a small washstand, and a single chair.
Mrs. Carrock advanced towards the dressing-table, lighted the candle which stood there, stooped down and kissed Helen's brow, and then, closing the door, prepared to show Ronald where he was to sleep. When the old lady had left the room, Helen stood for a moment motionless, then passing her hand over her brow she went to the window, and drawing aside the curtain, looked out on the moon-lit landscape. Her eyes were still fixed vacantly on the sparkling Carrockcleugh, which flashed like a silver thread, under the white beams, when the old lady's retreating footsteps were heard going down stairs, then the door opened softly, and Ronald came in. “I say, Helen," he exclaimed, in such a loud whisper, that his sister
” , was terrified lest he should be heard downstairs, what do
think of this? It's pleasant, isn't it, to be stared at, as if one was a wild beast ? A fellow can't stand that, I can tell her. Oh, I
what bore it will be, having to live with such an old quiz.”
Hush, hush, Rony dear, you should not speak of her like that, you kuow she is father's mother.”
“That's good, Helen, a nice mother she's been to him ; you know how she behaved to poor mamma ;” at this mention of the mother they had so lately lost, Helen's lip quivered, and she had to turn away to hide her tears, while her brother continued; "she's given you a good enough room ; but you should see mine.
should see mine. It hasn't got a bit of carpet on it, only a kind of matting, and the ceiling is all on a slope. Does she expect a fellow to spoil a carpet, I wonder ? Won't you come and see my den, Helen ? It's just opposite yours.”
“No, Ronald, not to-night, you know grandmamma said we were to go to bed directly, and we mustn't disobey her.”
Grandmamma, indeed! I shan't call her anything of the kind, I can tell you. I say, Helen, doesn't she look as if she had committed a murder? She's just my idea of Lady Macbeth, or Queen Elizabeth -happy thought! I shall call her one of those names, in future. Well, I see you are longing to get rid of me, so here goes,”—and he gave his sister a hearty kiss—"good night."
When Ronald was gone, Helen mechanically undressed herself ; but when she knelt to say her prayers, and prepared to lie down, the strange cold loneliness which came over her, the remembrance of her grandmother's stately, frigid welcome, was too much for her tired frame. A sad wistful look came into her dark eyes ; an intense longing filled her soul, for the lost mother's kiss, she should never feel again; and throwing herself on the bed, she burst into a passionate fit of tears, and sobbed half aloud, in broken, heart-rending tones. “Oh, mamma, mamma, do come back again, only once more! Oh, my God, how can I bear it! I am so lonely!” By degrees her sobs grew fainter and fainter, the passionate murmurs turned into a whispered, submissive prayer : “Oh, our Father, help me to bear it.” And at length,
” overcome with utter weariness, she dropped asleep, to begin the first night in her new home.
While Helen is sleeping, I will give a slight sketch of her family history, in order to explain what has gone before. The Carrocks were a very old Cumberland family, and took their name from the following circumstance. An ancestor of theirs having been killed while bravely fighting against the Normans; Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, to whom Cumberland then belonged, caused a large heap of stones, or
carrock, as it is called in that country, to be erected over the spot where he fell, which remains to this day; endowed the family of the dead warrior with all the lands within several miles round the place, and commanded that they and their descendants should thenceforth bear the name of Carrock, in remembrance of their brave ancestor who had repelled the Normans at the price of his own life. So runs the legend, which, whether true or not, was firmly believed by the family it concerned, and by all the simple country folk living on the Carrockcleugh estate. The Carrocks had kept their lands even when Cumberland returned to her allegiance to England, and fiercely they fought for their new country against their old allies in many a bloody battle and midnight raid.
In the reign of Edward II. a deadly feud arose between them and the Carlaverocks, an equally ancient family dwelling on the other side of the Border, the chief of the latter house having crossed the frontier in truce time, killed Ronald Redhand, head of the Carrocks, and carried off his bride, and for generations the enmity had been kept up by many a deed of bloody revenge on the part of both families. They had taken different sides in the wars of 1745, the Carrocks being brought to the brink of ruin by their devotion to “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” while the Carlaverocks were rewarded with a baronetcy for their services to the opposite party. Ronald Carrock, the grandson and successor of the old Jacobite hero, was not one to retrieve the fallen fortunes of his house. He had married a Carlaverock, and was entirely under the influence of his wife's brother, to whom he had mortgaged the Carrockcleugh property, under an agreement, that if the money were not paid off within a given term of years, the whole estate should pass into the hands of the Carlaverocks. Always weak and ailing, Ronald Carrock did not long survive the signing of this deed. During a long illness, he was tended with the most unwearied care by his wife Elizabeth, who although cold and proud to all others, was devotedly attached to him, and to their only and long looked-for child, Wilfred Carrock, a fine, spirited lad, who went into the Navy and rose rapidly in his profession. After her husband's death, Mrs. Carrock quitted the old rambling castle, which she had neither the means nor the inclination to keep up, and went to reside at Burnstones, the dowerhouse of the Carrock family. The marriage of her darling son with “bonnie Helen Scott,” as she was called, daughter of the old Rector of Carrockcleugh, was a sad blow to her pride, for she had looked
much higher for her handsome boy; and from that day to the time when my story begins, she had never consented to see him.
During Captain Carrock's voyages, Ronald and Helen had been left at Southampton under the care of their mother, who in spite of great delicacy of health, had done her utmost to bring them up well. Ronald's heart was set on following his father's profession, and with that view he had accompanied Captain Carrock on his last voyage, on the understanding that when the latter was promoted to a new ship, (which he expected would be the case in the course of a year), young Ronald should serve as a midshipman on board his father's vessel. On returning from the above-mentioned voyage, Captain Carrock found that his dearly-loved wife had been for some weeks in her grave,
and that but for the kindness of an old lady in Southampton, his only daughter would have been without a shelter. While hesitating what to do with the two children during a voyage to China, (for which his ship was under orders), a letter from his mother reached him, offering a home to the brother and sister, which the Captain, after due consideration, accepted. And thus it came to pass that Ronald and Helen arrived on that calm August night among the fells of Cumberland.
“How gently slumber rests upon her face,
SHELLEY, The Cenci.
The bright morning sun was filling Helen's room with a flood of golden light, and one warm ray was resting full upon the face of the sleeping girl. But it had not power to break the magic charm of the deep slumber which had taken possession of every faculty, and was slowly and surely renewing all the life-springs of her tired frame. A light breeze was playing with the ivy sprays and perfumed rose-clusters, which nestled close round the casement, causing them to cast tremulous, checkered shadows on the snowy coverlet of the bed. The sweet morning air blew softly through the open window, tossing the halfdrawn curtain in and out in swelling folds. Larks were mounting