IN the morning,
Mr Marten and I went off to one of the most celebrated
ecclesiastical warehouses. I had not been in such a place
since my boyhood, when I had carried a message from my good old
master, relative to some simple piece of church furniture which he
had ordered for the use of his parish church. I found the
house much enlarged. In the old-fashioned days of my youth the
garments of the sanctuary were so plain and so universal that they
needed no display, but orders for them were quietly received at a
desk, and the only matter for consideration was the precise quality
of the silk or linen. But now a plate-glass window was stocked
with clerical finery. Upon a dummy, like those in mercers'
windows, stood a surplice with a cross embroidered on the collar,
and over it was thrown a hood ostentatiously displaying the "Oxford"
colours. We passed through this department, and then we were
shown into another, where we were detained some time, until the
assistant who attended the sales of coloured glass was at liberty to
wait upon us. In this place, I should have been fairly
confounded but for the rector's explanations. I did not even
know the names of the things about me, and when I learned them from
the shopmen I was no wiser, until Mr Marten gave me the plain
English for such words as "lectern" and "faldstool," "credence" "
and "piscina," and taught me that an "eagle" might be a
reading-desk, and a "corporal" a cloth, and not a soldier!
"But it seems to me all rank folly," I said; "and I cannot
understand how any sane man can upset the unity of the Church for
"To those who do so, it is not such folly as it seems to
you," answered the rector. "In their eyes these things
symbolise certain doctrines. For instance, that cloth which
they choose to call a corporal is used to cover the bread at
the Lord's Supper. Its name is plainly derived from the Latin
corpus, or body, a subtle introduction of that doctrine of
transubstantiation which changes our feast of remembrance
into a sacrifice. Admitting the idea of sacrifice, an
altar is needed, and where there is an altar there must be, not a
simple ministry like that of the apostles, but a priesthood clothed
with the mystic dignity and terrible powers of spiritual
privilege—and able to brand with the sin of schism any who venture
to expose its duplicity, or who dare to defy its encroachments."
"I don't think I could argue about it at all," I said; "I can
only say this doesn't seem like the New Testament."
"It is not, it is not," responded the rector, warmly.
"It is a retreat from light into darkness—from realities into
shadows—from the sermon on the Mount to the rules for building the
tabernacle. And when and where will it end?" he added,
"It will end in God's good time and place," I answered; and,
meanwhile, out of evil He can bring some good. Just now, let
it stir our zeal to make His house a pleasant place, without turning
His service into a mummery."
And so we went on to look at the glasses.
We were shown many specimens of that false and monkish art of
which Ruth had spoken. We were assured that it was "admired,"
and "popular," and "devotional," (strange connexion of words!)
We asked it they had no illustrations of the parables or miracles,
and, with a sigh for our bad taste, our attendant owned they had;
but they were not new, having been removed from a church about to be
restored. They were shown us, and proved appropriate in
shape. But as they were too large to admit of three in the St
Cross window, we instantly decided on the Prodigal Son and the Good
Samaritan, with a neat medallion representing an open Bible, for the
centre of the triangular top of the window. A small device for
the groundwork, and a richly-coloured border for the whole, were
very easily selected, and so, having made all due arrangements, we
left the warehouse and strolled leisurely back to our hotel.
Of course, we looked at the shops; now it is natural for
every one to look at pictures and books, and occasionally, according
to one's sex, at cravats or bonnets. Also it is pleasant to
behold beautiful house-furniture, such as carved sideboards, inlaid
cabinets, and stately mirrors. But what possessed Mr Marten to
pull me up in front of a painted, cane-bottomed chair, bearing a
label, "36s. a dozen," while he remarked, "That seems cheap; doesn't
it, Mr Garrett? A dozen chairs go a long way in bedrooms."
And a few minutes after, when I was admiring some photographs, and
turned to call his attention to their beauty, I found he had
wandered away to a china-shop, where he was gravely weighing the
comparative merits of tea-sets, respectively priced £1, 1s." and
"£1, 5s." And at last, when he actually stopped to feel the
thickness of some very cheap drugget, I slyly said, "Come, come, Mr
Marten, we old bachelors need not trouble ourselves about such
things." And he answered, hastily, "Oh, no," and hurried on.
Having brought our business to a satisfactory conclusion, we
agreed to return to Upper Mallowe by the next day's early train.
I felt that my few remaining hours in London were due to my old city
friends, and as Mr Marten had many acquaintances of his own to whom
he must show attention, I went alone to the counting-house by the
churchyard, and saw the whole array of familiar faces, among whom so
many years of my life had passed. Of course I saw Ewen, but
only as one of the crowd. I went home with the senior partner,
and dined at his house in Highbury Crescent, and spent a very
pleasant evening, for every one was exceedingly kind.
Nevertheless, I left before nine o'clock, and took a cab to the
corner of a certain quiet street in the Liverpool Road.
The old-fashioned parlour-shutters were closed, and but for a
light in the passage, the whole front of the house was dark.
The same cheerful woman opened the door, and instantly recognising
me, invited me to enter with a cheerful "Good evening, sir.
Will you please to walk up-stairs? Mr M'Callum is at home."
I knocked at Ewen's door, and a voice, not his, cried, "Come
in." So I entered. There were two figures seated at the
table, with a solitary candle between them. Ewen had his back
towards me, and when he heard my voice, he started up, glanced
nervously at his companion, and hurried forward to offer me a seat
in the cane armchair. I saw he was drawing. The stranger
was reading. At first he did not look up, but while Ewen and I
carried on that desultory chat which distinguishes unexpected
visits, I found that he turned from his book, and regarded me with a
He was quite a young man, of not more than five or six and
twenty. His face was remarkably pale, but his features were
handsome, though a little worn for his time of life. I did not
notice the details of his attire, but he had an elegant appearance,
and his hands were white, and singularly fine in form. At
first, I thought he was a little uneasy, though he only showed it by
a statue-like stillness, scarcely seeming even to breathe. But
after his eyes had twice or thrice met mine, this passed away, and
presently he made some casual remark which fell in with the course
of our conversation.
By and by Ewen quitted the room. I concluded he went to
instruct his landlady to prepare some little hospitality. For
a few minutes I and the stranger were silent. Then thinking I
must not lose so good an opportunity, I observed—
"It gives me much pleasure to make the acquaintance of a
young artist of whose talents my friend speaks so warmly, though I
do not think he has ever chanced to mention your name"――
"Ralph—Mr Ralph," he interrupted, with a graceful bow; "and I
feel it a great honour to introduce myself to you, sir," he added
hastily, with a strange emotion: "for I, too, have heard and—and
heard again of the goodness of Mr Garrett."
"Ah, but you must not trust Ewen for my character," I said,
smiling, "for I fear he exaggerates—yes, he certainly exaggerates."
At this instant Ewen returned, followed by a servant-girl
with a little supper. It was a very simple repast, but it was
quite a treat to me, carrying me back to the distant days when I
gave such feasts to my few visitors, the dear friends of my youth,
who are now all nearer God.
Our conversation during supper was not very brisk. Mr Ralph
was decidedly taciturn, like one who does not care to conceal that
his mind is not with his company. But this seemed an unconscious
habit on his part, and perhaps arose from too much solitude.
Whenever he spoke he was agreeable, though his words sometimes left
an uncomfortable impression. Once or twice he was merry, and his
mirth was saddest of all. It was as if a man, pursued by a
relentless fate, from which he felt himself too weak to escape,
recklessly turned and smiled in her direful face. I could not
understand the intimacy between him and Ewen. It was evidently of
the closest nature, no casual fellowship, entered into from
community of tastes or motives of mere financial economy, Yet I
could not pass an hour with these two young men without observing a
great disparity between their natures, But there seemed a bond
between them stronger than any difference of character, and firm
enough to resist all change of circumstance. Their manner towards
each other had none of the gushing enthusiasm of hastily warm
friendships, but rather the quiet settled confidence one notices
between brothers, old school-fellows, or tried comrades in war or
"And did you two make acquaintance in London?" I found opportunity
to inquire in the course of conversation.
"Oh, we knew each other a long time ago," said Mr Ralph. "Will you
pass the ale, M'Callum?"
"School-fellows, perhaps?" I suggested, remembering that Ewen's
early education had been received among lads of the apparent
position of his companion.
"No; our acquaintance was of a very casual kind," he returned; "but one greets a familiar face when one has been lost in London.—A
little more cheese, please, Ewen."
So I understood that the subject was to drop.
"I suppose you will ride home, sir?" remarked young M'Callum, when I
rose to go.
"I don't think so," I answered, looking from the window. "This is a
bright moon, and the streets are clear and quiet now."
"May I come with you?" said Mr Ralph. "I shall so enjoy the walk."
"Shall I come too?" queried Ewen, as if consulting his friend's
"No, my boy," returned the other; "you have to rise early, and march
off to business. You go to bed, and to sleep. I will see Mr Garrett
safely to his hotel."
After receiving Ewen's home messages, we started off together. My
companion offered me his arm. He had a fine, tall figure, and
altogether what one calls "a good presence."
"What solemn grandeur hangs over London by night!" I said, as we
walked through the moonlit streets. "Are you a native of the city,
Mr Ralph, or did you come here to try your fortune?"
"I came here to set the Thames on fire," he answered with a light
laugh. "And the Thames extinguished me!"
"Ah," I said, "London is the best place to teach a man his measure. A good lesson, Mr Ralph, and one that is never learned too soon."
"I don't know that," he retorted, laughing again. "When ignorance is
bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."
"But when is ignorance bliss!" I asked.
"When knowledge comes too late," he replied.
"And when does knowledge
come too late?" I queried.
"When you've done what you can't undo," said he, shortly.
"Then at least you can repent it," I observed. "It is never too late
for that. If one's life is ruined, one's soul need not be lost."
"But when one has done all the harm one can," he answered gloomily,
"it seems mere gross selfishness to try pushing into heaven at last!"
There was a something in his tone which chilled me as he uttered
these dreadful words. Dreadful indeed they were—the very utterance
of despair. They revealed a perilous nature, one that would slide
down and down, and then use its most loveable instincts to excuse
its never rising and struggling upward. He could actually see
selfishness in seeking salvation! Well, perhaps his error was not
worse than one much more common, when men fancy they have forsaken
evil because they are simply sick of it. I tried to fight him with
his own weapons.
"But whatever harm one has done," I observed, "he does a greater
harm when he finally leaves his soul to destruction."
"Harm to himself or to others?" he inquired,
"One cannot harm one's-self without harming others," I answered.
"'Nobody's enemy but his own,' is a false saying. By benefiting
others one benefits one's-self, and by hurting one's-self one hurts
"Then goodness is pure selfishness," said he.
"Each has two selves," I explained in answer: "a lower self and a
higher self, a temporary self and an eternal self. Each must serve
one or the other. By solely seeking the gratification of one's lower
and mortal part, one does harm in the world, and neglects one's own
best interests. By following the dictates of one's nobler and
immortal part, one does good in the world, and makes it a school of
preparation for heaven."
"I can believe that," said Mr Ralph, gently, "because I have seen
"Now supposing that you were in the case we have in point," I went
on; "supposing that you had done as much harm as you could, and
had caused much sin, and suffering, and sorrow—that is, if you will
grant me the liberty of such an illustration?"—
"Oh, certainly," said he, with a laugh.
"Then do you not feel that the very fear lest your soul was lost at
last would cause more suffering, and more sorrow, and possibly more
"Well, I think it might," he answered, nervously lifting his hat
from his head;—"yes, it would: there's one or two that it would
grieve, and there's one who'd say it was only what he expected."
"Then, if you left no reasonable cause for such fear, and so gave
happiness to those who love you, and also taught your enemy more
charity in future, would not you serve yourself and others at the
He did not reply; but walked by my side in silence. I felt I was
carrying on the discussion at a great disadvantage; because I did
not say that if it chanced there were none on earth who cared
whether he went to God or to Satan, there was still One in heaven
whom his absence would grieve, because it would show that he refused
the salvation which He had purchased with a great price—even His own
blood. And I dared not say this; because I was sure that my
companion was as well-informed in the mere theology of the matter as
myself. And the formal repetition of a fact whose truth can
only be felt does no good—nay, it may disgust, by seeming but the easy
parade of a glib lip-religion.
At last he spoke suddenly.
"Wandering a little from our subject," he said, "do you think that
if a man makes some great self-sacrifices, he does not lose in the
"If he do it for his neighbour's good or God's glory, I am sure he
does not," I replied. "But he cannot make the sacrifice in this
feeling. If he could, it would lose the very nature of sacrifice. And besides, God's compensations are seldom such as man in his
mortality can appreciate. If one resigned his worldly prospects for
the sake of another, God might recompense him by an early call to
Himself. But till he was fairly within the veil, the touch of death
would seem rather his Maker's chastening rod, than his loving
"Do you—do you think it is right to allow another to make great
sacrifices for one's own sake?" he asked, with a broken voice and
with averted face.
"It depends upon circumstances," I answered, gently, for I felt I was
walking blindfold over the youth's own history; "but I should not
refuse a friend's sacrifice barely because it was greater than I
could ever make in return. Why should I grudge him a brighter
heavenly crown than mine? Only I should take care his goodness was
not for nought. And, Mr Ralph, if ever a great sacrifice be made in
our behalf, let it stand in our hearts as a type of His love who
left His Father's throne for our sakes! Let the human affection
interpret the Divine love, and don't waste either."
The young man turned and looked at me—not with the face which he
carried to the galleries and the picture dealers, but with the look
which he surely had worn when he said "Our Father" at his mother's
knee, years before;—a look which might return and remain for
eternity, if his eyes met the eyes of a good woman who loved him. The reckless prodigal laugh was silent; the cynical artist sneer
was gone; the man's angel was in his countenance—the same angel
that had once been in the innocent child's face—only with the
pathetic look of its long struggle with the reckless prodigal and
the cynic artist. And God had marked that angel all the time, and He
would watch it to the very end! It is because He is All-seeing that
He is All-loving.
And then we walked in silence for the length of many streets, until
at last we reached that leading to my hotel. There we shook hands;
and in our parting I made some simple remark in praise of Ewen
"Yes, yes," he answered, with singular fervour, "all you say is
true; but you don't know him as I do, that 's all, Mr Garrett."
And so saying, he hurried off.
When I entered my sleeping room, I found a note from Mr Marten,
intimating that a telegram had followed him from Upper Mallowe to
London, urging him to hasten to Cambridge, to the dying bed of a
young relative, a
student there. He had received this on reaching the hotel during my
absence, and in compliance with its entreaty he had started off
So my homeward journey was a solitary one.
A NEW IDEA.
I WAS very glad to
find myself again in my quiet village home. My little trip to London
gave us some new topics of conversation, and my sister was much
interested in my account of young M'Callum and his friend. But she
took a prejudice against the latter, and hazarded the uncharitable
conjecture that he was "no good." When she saw Alice she threw out
hints to this effect, which Alice received very quietly and without
Mr Marten's young relation did not die, but his convalescence was
tedious and unsatisfactory, and as he had no other friend to attend
him, our rector's absence from his parish proved a long one. A
neighbouring clergyman came to us on Sundays, and gave us two
sermons in the Refuge. But Mr Marten was at liberty by the time the
church repairs were complete.
St Cross was re-opened on the second Sunday in July. The
weather was—just beautiful English summer; I can find no better
words for it. Ruth and I set out at the first summons of the
new peal of bells, which were among our improvements. I
believe in church bells, simple, soft, and sweet,—a sound meet to
echo in the sacred memories of childhood's Sabbath. If once
linked with feelings of holy happiness, theirs is a voice which may
speak where the preacher cannot come, and where the Bible is shut.
And praised be God, they now sound so widely over the world that few
can wander out of their reach.
When we arrived at St Cross, I was quite satisfied with the
effect of our alterations, which, though sufficiently familiar to me
while in process, I now saw for the first time tested by usage.
The narrow path was widened and gravelled, and many evergreens and
some flowers were planted about the graves. The porch was much
enlarged, and the inner doors stood wide open. But it was the
interior which was most changed. All the windows were widened,
which destroyed the monotony of the white wall, and their opaque
glass was exchanged for small clear panes, with one large coloured
pane, bearing some appropriate device, in the centre of each window.
Two new windows, containing more coloured glass, were opened north
and south of the communion-table, thus brightening a portion of the
building which had formerly been both dismal and ill-ventilated.
The table itself was entirely refitted, and the candlesticks were
gone—into the vestry! The tables of the law were re-written in
legible characters, and over one was a scroll bearing averse from
the road psalm, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord
pitieth them that fear Him;" and over the other was another
inscribed with our Saviour's words, "Take my yoke upon you and learn
of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto
But the change was certainly the new chancel window.
As the worshippers entered, one by one, or in groups, their eyes
instantly fell on it, and each countenance brightened. Old Mr
M'Callum, with his daughter and George Wilmot, were among the
earliest arrivals. Bessie Sanders came soon afterwards, and
presently Mr Herbert and Agnes. And just before service
commenced, Mr Weston arrived, rather flushed, and in such a twitter
that he did not notice the attendant who trotted forward to show him
a pew, but precipitately took refuge in the M'Callums' seat, where
presently he became quite at home.
The service was conducted in a very simple, spirited way, and
Mr Marten's sermon did not attempt to "improve the occasion."
Our young rector had sufficient judgment to conclude that
"occasions" have a voice sufficiently eloquent to plead for
themselves. And his sermon was very short, but full of those
pithy truths which stick in the mind like arrows, and are not easily
When all was over, the congregation was in no hurry to
disperse. Some stayed to speak to others about the new window,
and a few old people, whose sight was dim, drew nearer to the
chancel to read the texts written above the table.
Mr Marten himself very speedily reappeared from the vestry,
and it was then I first noticed that Lieutenant Blake and his
daughter were that day among the worshippers at St Cross. He
walked off with them, and as I stood in the churchyard speaking to
Mr Herbert, I saw the three pause to examine the skeleton of the
house now rapidly rising behind the church, and in front of it Miss
Blake turned and gazed around, and made some remark. I fancy
she said it had a very fine prospect.
"Well, my brother," said Ruth, as we sat down to our dinner
that day, "you have certainly done one good work for Upper Mallowe."
"Yes, and only one," I answered, "for the Refuge is yours."
"Mine!" she ejaculated, "when all I gave was a few household
"You gave the thought," I said. "The liberal deviseth
"And I suppose the Lord will accept a plan, if it's all one
can do," she replied; "and I have no money to give until I die, for
as God prospered me just sufficiently to be independent, please God
I'll never be dependent—even on you!"
"But you should not call even the church repairs my work," I
said, presently. "You must not forget that the village has
been so liberal that my share of the expense will not exceed a
tolerably moderate subscription."
"But then, if I gave the scheme for the Refuge," she
answered, "you gave the scheme for the church, and you led the way,
and took all the responsibility, whether it might prove great or
"Yes, I'll own that," I conceded; "I do so little good that
I'll willingly acknowledge all I can."
"Now, I'll tell you what, Edward," said my sister, in that
business-like tone which always means something: "you've fairly
started the Refuge, and in my will they'll find a little endowment,
which, with the annual subscriptions, will carry it safely on.
And in the Refuge, I include the Orphan Home, which will cost very
little, when once the additional rooms are made. So now I'll
give you something else to do. Establish a village hospital,
"A village hospital!" I echoed, rather startled.
"Yes;" she answered, "what provision have our people in
sickness? The very poor are dragged off to Hopleigh workhouse
infirmary. Should you like to go there if you were ill?
The class a little better off are taken to the hospital in the
county town, at great expense of time, and money, and strength, just
when they are all most valuable. You give ten pounds a year to
that hospital. That ten pounds would be worth at least twenty,
if you kept it in Upper Mallowe. And there would be no tedious
recoveries, hindered by home-sickness, and no more deaths among
"But don't you think the establishment of even a village
hospital will be a somewhat complicated matter?" I ventured to
"No," she answered, decisively, "a country home for the sick
is as different from a city hospital as Upper Mallowe is from
London. We shan't want six or eight wards, but about as many
rooms. We shan't want a secretary, and a staff of Sisters of
St Something or another, but just one experienced God-fearing woman,
with two or three young girls between sixteen and eighteen years of
age under her."
"Ah," I said, "I begin to see the possibility and the beauty
of your plan, Ruth. Why, it may do great good in more ways
"With God's blessing, it certainly will," she answered.
"At the present time, I know of a nice house standing empty.
It is a detached cottage on the lonely side of the green, and it has
eight well-sized and airy rooms. It may be either rented or
sold, but it is dearer than the Refuge was."
"I'll buy it, nevertheless," I said.
"Yes, you can certainly afford that," returned my
plain-speaking sister, "and then it will need serviceable, suitable
furniture, and there must be maintenance and salary for the matron
"You mean the head nurse," I interrupted.
"Call her by the wise German name of 'housemother,"' my
sister went on,—"that includes all her duties; then there will be
maintenance for the sick, and medical attendance. I think that
is all the outgoing. And the income will include
subscriptions, the interest from your endowment, for I must leave
that matter to you, my brother, and small weekly payments from the
girls who assist the house-mother."
"Weekly payments from the girls?" I queried.
"Certainly," she answered. "It will be an excellent
preparation for all branches of domestic life. Any lady
interested in a young girl, or the girl's own parents, ought readily
to give enough to purchase her victuals in exchange for such
advantages. House-room and instruction will be gratuitous."
"But will one nurse and two or three girls be sufficient for
the work?" I asked, dubiously.
"Except during epidemics," she answered, "and then funds for
more aid will not be lacking. What is the average number of
hospital cases in this little village at one time? Seldom more
than five or six, and three or four of those not at all serious."
"But will people have confidence in such a homely affair?" I
"Perhaps they'll laugh at it while they're in health," she
promptly replied, "but when the head is sick and the heart is faint,
there's nothing very reassuring in a line of pallets, and a long row
of windows, and a gaunt white woman coolly naming one with a number.
Then one longs for a roughly-plastered room, with the trees
whispering outside, and familiar faces smiling within. Then
they'll come to us, and, please God, they'll never laugh at us
"But who shall we choose for the house-mother?" I inquired.
"Alice has little nursing experience, and she is too young: besides,
the Refuge cannot spare her."
"The Refuge will lose her soon enough," said Ruth,
significantly, "and then we shall find it tolerably hard to supply
"If Miss Sanders would like to become principal of our
hospital," I observed, "surely she would suit it admirably.
She is clear-headed and kind-hearted, and only God can fathom the
depth of her patience."
"But what can we do with her sweet sister?" asked Ruth, with
a wry face.
"We must get her a situation," I said.
"Ay, but will she keep it?" queried my sister. "If I
wanted a servant, I would not have her, even without wages. I
would sooner pension her."
"Then if the worst comes to the worst, we must pension her,"
"A fine reward for idleness!" exclaimed Ruth, indignantly.
"Very just towards poor Bessie!"
"Do you suppose Bessie would like us to pension her?"
I asked, slyly.
"Ah, well, I'll own she would not," conceded my sister, "and
I doubt if she would not carry her independence so far as to resent
our doing as much for the lovely Anne."
"Nevertheless, if we get Bessie to like our hospital scheme,"
I said, "we will manage the rest somehow."
"Yes, somehow," assented Ruth.
Nothing more was said on the subject until Monday morning,
when my sister, steadily true to her old principle of striking the
iron while it was hot, took me first to see the empty cottage, and
then to visit Miss Sanders. Bessie's face brightened softly as
we unfolded our plan, though her words were simple and cool enough.
"Yes, she should like it very much, but—Anne?"
"Make her a present of your business," said Ruth. The
dressmaker shook her head.
"Let her sell it to some young woman, and remain here as
housekeeper," was my sister's next suggestion. Miss Bessie
smiled dimly, and shook her head again.
"At least try that experiment," I said; "it will certainly do
no harm. We can but make some other arrangement if she do not
suit the in-comer."
She reflected a few minutes, and then said, "It can do no
harm. I beg pardon for being so slow, but the thought of a
change rather confuses me. But—but I must speak to Anne before
anything is decided."
She went to the door, and called her sister's name. It
was but her proud determination to put the best possible appearance
on her unhappy family life.
Anne presently answered the summons. She entered, with
a grimy face, and a dress representing the fashion of bygone years.
Ruth told our errand in a few clear words.
"You need not have asked me, Bessie," said she, turning to
her sister. "Why should you consider me? Do what
you think best for yourself, and I hope you will never repent
it, but that you will be quite comfortable at last.
Don't think of me at all," she added, turning to us, "anything will
do for me. Some respectable young person will take Bessie's
place, and I'll wait on her. I don't mind drudging all day.
I'll do anything to please any one. I don't mind how I turn
about. Since I'm only fit for mean work, I'll not make myself
"No work is mean," said Ruth, rather fiercely, taking up her
old argument, "except to a mean mind; and mean mind makes everything
"Well, I'm very glad you agree with our plans," I observed,
rising, for I foresaw a useless tournament between Anne and my
sister; "we shall press our work forward as much as we can, so
prepare as quickly as possible for your approaching separation.
Shall you bring away any of this furniture, Miss Sanders?" I asked.
"Only two or three little things which belong to me
personally," she answered. She evidently desired to give Anne
"Ah, that will do," I said; "we will provide all the rest.
By the way," I added, when we were in the passage, and out of Anne's
hearing, "I have not visited you since Mr Marten and I brought you
that sad relic of your poor cousin. I suppose no new thought
has struck you in connexion with that affair?"
"No, sir," she answered; "and I suppose you have not seen
young M'Callum yet, to tell him about the knife?"
"I have seen him," I replied. "I went to London for a
day or two, and I saw him there. But I told him nothing.
It struck me that he was not very well, and I thought it best he
should not hear of it till his own people told him in his own home.
I hope you are not angry with my consideration, Miss Sanders."
"Oh, sir," she replied, "if every one considered others as
you do, it would be a blessed world!" (Remember, my readers, that
she measured my consideration only by her sister's, which was
nothing at all.)
And so Ruth and I walked homeward.
"Our scheme is ripening fast," I remarked.
"Edward," said she, shortly, "I'm in a bad temper!"
"Indeed!" I exclaimed, "I am sorry for that."
"I daresay you are!" she said, "but that does no good.
I'll always say that I'm selfish, and that I don't care for anybody
but myself, and that I will have my own way! I'll do anything
to be different from that Anne Sanders! No woman has provoked
me so much since Laura Carewe. I'm in a regular passion!
I feel as if I wanted to kick."
I knew that at that instant no words of mine would soothe my
sister's ire, so I walked by her side in silence.
"And you never told me that you did not think Ewen was well!
she added, presently, with no abatement of asperity; you leave me to
find that out for myself. You come home from London and say
nothing about it to Alice or me. Can I be sure you are not
reserving something else; I've a great mind to go to London and see
him for myself."
"My dear Ruth," I expostulated, "I said nothing because I
thought it might be only my own imagination. He will have his
holidays in a few weeks. So why should I trouble you or his
sister? He would not like a fuss over a trifling ailment or a
"You'd have made fuss enough had it been Agnes Herbert," said
my sister, wrathfully. "You're always noticing whether she
looks unhappy or no,—though depend on it she has nothing at all to
trouble her except some fine fantastical sentimentality of her own.
But women always get all the sympathy. They are the porcelain
of humanity, of course, with all their delicate dandelion virtues
which blow away at the first breath of every-day air!"
"Is that your description of Alice M'Callum and Bessie
Sanders?" I asked, gently.
I knew Ruth heard the question, but she did not heed it, and
presently started off on a new tack with
"As I said directly I heard of him, you may depend upon it
that new friend of Ewen's is no good. Some idle daundering
good-for-naught" (when Ruth was excited she often used the graphic
diction of the country-side) "who takes no trouble for himself, but
just lives to trouble honest people. Talk about vampires!
I believe in them. There are people who put all their
self-made sufferings to suck the very life from other people, and
never feel their sting themselves. Oh, well I remember your
description of him, just a personification of your Childe Harolds
and your Corsairs, and all your other rubbish, who might easily make
a good riddance of themselves and their miseries, and not be afraid
the world would stop without them!"
By this time we had reached home, and Ruth stepped off to her
bedroom, while I went dismally into the parlour, marvelling at the
mysterious influence which some natures possess of souring whoever
comes near them, even as others always sweeten. The scolding
Ruth had given me was all due to her glimpse of Anne Sanders.
I knew that well enough.
In about ten minutes my sister reappeared. I had taken
refuge behind the outspread newspaper. But she came up to me
and put her hand on my shoulder. I looked up, and she laughed
"The fit is over," she said, "and I'm sorry for the words I
said. I'm afraid some of them are true. But I'm just as
sorry I said them. Some women have hysterics and some have
THE RIGHT OF REFUSAL.
very energetically with her hospital plans. She wished the
house to be in readiness in case of any visitation of those
sicknesses so often attendant on early or late autumn. Agnes
Herbert was again her helper, in happy ignorance of the ruthless
words which my sister had spoken in her anger, but for which Ruth
strove to atone by extraordinary kindness and complacency.
Very industriously the two worked and consulter together, with
Bessie Saunders for an occasional third. Bessie sold her
business very easily, for it was in good repute. So she took
up her abode in the little hospital, and found plenty of occupation
in putting up the furniture and preparing the house linen.
Meanwhile, the Refuge was in full vigour. Harvest
operations had brought down the usual crowd of needy, unskilled
labourers, who gladly took shelter there until they procured work.
I liked to wander in the fields at their dinner hour, and have a
chat about their winter life in London, and hear what they thought
of their temporary home in our High Street. They did not know
me, or my connexion therewith, and so I knew I should get the truth,
and might obtain some useful hints for the future. But had
they known who I was, I should certainly have suspected them of
insincerity, for there was nothing but praise. Many a hearty
Irish blessing did I hear bestowed on Alice M'Callum, "the purty
girleen, with the face like the Holy Virgin's in the picture over
the altar"—the out-spoken women adding, "We guess she won't be at
the Refuge when we come again this time next year. Sure there
is a big house down the hill with no want of anything, where she
would be kindly welcome, for we have eyes in our heads, and we know
what we know; and the ould gintleman will find it a lonely life
without her. Heaven's blessing light on the both of them!"
Both Mr M'Callum and his grand-daughter were eagerly looking
forward to Ewen's holidays. Through the exigencies of
business, these were rather later than had been expected, but Alice
bore the delay very patiently, feeling that she would have more time
to enjoy her brother's society, when harvest was over, and the
Refuge restored to its ordinary condition. Ewen's letters came
regularly, both to the Refuge and to our house. Very nice
letters they were—written in his close, neat, rather peculiar
calligraphy—simply worded, half boyish and half manly in their tone.
They had no fine sentences—nothing that any one would care to read
but those who knew and loved him. But then to such there was a
strange sacredness about these simple letters. One could not
bring one's self to destroy them. I kept all he sent me.
They are in my desk now. Alice stored hers in her workbox.
And you, too, my reader, have some such letters stored somewhere,
though your fire may have devoured many clever ones, and perhaps
even some with "autographs."
I must say that the medical man of Upper Mallowe entered very
warmly into the interests of our little hospital. He was a
young married man with a scattered poor practice, and when he named
a very modest sun, as the annual price for his professional services
at our sick home, I knew there was more real charity in the
business-like agreement than in many a magnificent donation; and I
think Ruth felt the same, for she sought his advice and concurrence
in every question of arrangement and management, and it was
wonderful how their views of such things coincided, though he saw
everything from the point of scientific knowledge, while she saw all
in the plain light of simple common-sense.
I was not admitted to the hospital until everything was
finished, by which time Miss Saunders had gained a patient, and also
a rosy-faced, obedient damsel to assist her. The patient was a
middle-aged woman, an old resident in the village. Her malady
was a rapid waste, and when I saw her the truth of my sister's words
shone fully on me, and I felt how cruel it would have been had the
worn-out invalid been doomed to the worry and excitement of strange
sights and systems.
We found Bessie Saunders in the little sitting-room of the
place, busily engaged with a basket full of that mysterious "white
work" which always appears to excite a feeling of dignified and
business-like elation in the heart of every true woman. She
looked uncommonly well, and her plain dark violet gown showed to
double advantage, inasmuch as it suited both her office and her
person. By a skilful arrangement of her own little
personalities, and a few simple ornaments with which Ruth had
presented her, she had given the humble apartment quite the sociable
look of home. We did not find her alone. Agnes Herbert
came forward to greet us, with her hat swinging in her hand, as if
her visit was no hasty one.
We went over all the rooms, one after another, kitchen and
dormitories. As sickness must be, such a place seemed pleasant
to suffer in. If it were possible for a life to be all so
dreary that one could not remember a mother's smile, or a single
"good time," still in these quiet chambers the passing soul might
surely carry away one thanksgiving. The poor consumptive
woman, sitting in her easy chair, almost too weak to speak, smiled
kindly when she saw us. Oh, if we hope there are some angels
somewhere in heaven who rejoice to know of us, let us be very gentle
to the dying. They are starting for the land we long for.
Let them take a good report of us.
"I only fear one thing," said Bessie in reply to my warm
praises of all I saw—"I only fear Miss Garrett has trusted me too
much, and that I fill a place which another might supply much
"Well, if we had given Miss Saunders a longer notice, she
might easily have taken a little training at some great hospital," I
remarked to Ruth as we walked homeward.
"Don't talk of what you don't understand, Edward,"
interrupted Ruth. "I won't say a word against the systems of
the famous hospitals. Doubtless it is necessary for their
nurses to be drilled like soldiers. There are not enough
staunchly true women to supply their requirements, and that
discipline may do a great deal of good to the shams whom they are
obliged to receive into their ranks. Is not there something in
Miss Saunders which makes her just Bessie Saunders, and no one
else,—and something in me which makes me Ruth Garrett, and nothing
more? And don't tell me we should be improved if that
something was taken out of us. Would you like pictures painted
in faintly differing shades of the same colour? Would you like
all the flowers in your garden to be alike?"
"But, my dear Ruth," I pleaded, "would you like variety such
as existed between those famous ladies, Betsy Prig and Sarah Gamp?"
"And, my dear Edward," retorted my sister ironically,
"because one system is bad, it does not always follow that its
opposite is perfection. And if you believe that any
system can regenerate human nature, I don't. If Betsy Prig and
Sarah Gamp existed under the old arrangements, depend upon it they
have slipped in under the new ones, only of course they have changed
"Still, now-a-days," I said, "at least they cannot drink gin,
and morally murder their patients."
"Those are very negative virtues in a nurse," replied my
sister; "but what I complain about is the modern cant of 'training.'
You men don't let it get among yourselves. When once you are
grown up, by which time your general or technical education, as the
case may be, is completed, you find out what each other can do, and
set each other to do it. If a man cannot become a clerk by
simply passing upwards through the various grades of a clerk's duty,
he turns to something else. There is no establishment where he
may be artificially 'trained' at the public expense. But if a
girl wishes to be a bookkeeper, instead of expecting her to work her
way like a boy, many employers request her to bring them a
certificate of competency from some training class, where she has
been stupefied by sham ledgers, and dazzled by precepts which she
will never need to practise. Teachers are wanted for national
schools, and instead of suitable women being chosen, and brought
gradually onward through small schools to large ones, thousands of
pounds are annually spent to make women competent, or rather what is
called competent. Now there is always somebody exactly fitted
for every work that exists in the world, and that somebody should be
found for it."
"But, Ruth," I suggested, "in speaking of men a minute ago,
you said, 'when their technical education is completed.' Now
this 'training' simply comes in the place of that technical
"Then why isn't it paid for in the same way, and taken at the
same time, close at the heels of common school days?" she asked
rather sharply. "And mind you that in ordinary male
employment, shop-keeping, clerkships, and so forth, there is no
'training' at all, only a steady working up from the lowest step of
the ladder. It is a natural development of all they learnt
when boys. And every woman's early life should have fitted her
for something. Has not an elder sister had good discipline for
a governess, and a tradesman's daughter for a business woman, and so
on? And there will never be more exceptional women wanted than
exceptional chances will provide. And yet ten chances to one,
instead of making the best of each as she is, some wiseacre will set
her in 'training' to become what she is not."
"But I'm sorry to say a woman's early life does not always
fit her for anything," I said.
"Then I'm afraid nothing else will," retorted Ruth.
"But what is she to do?" I queried.
"Marry the first man who asks her," said my sister shortly.
"And is a woman who is fit for nothing else, fit for a wife?"
"No," she returned, "but she is quite good enough for any man
who gives her a chance. But you are always asking me these
sort of questions, Edward. Are you contemplating such a step
"Nay, Ruth," I answered, a little nettled; "I ask these
questions gravely, and you turn them off with a joke. It is
not a laughing matter."
"No," she said, "but it would do no good if I cried, and my
sex don't feel they need anybody's tears. They think it is
only the cruel injustice of the men which prevents them from filling
the highest places in the land. Very likely the Lord
Chancellor does not know how to make tea, and so a woman who does
not know either thinks she could be Lord Chancellor. We hear
that it is hard to obtain good nurses or thorough governesses, and
yet, forsooth, the ladies aim to become doctors and professors."
"But may not the deficiencies you name arise simply from want
of training?" I pleaded.
"Then let them be trained by first painfully climbing the
lowest step of the ladder, and staying there until they can mount
higher without any help," she returned. "Till the ranks of
good nurses are filled, women need not wish for opportunities to
"But, Ruth," I said, "many women who would like to be doctors
would shrink from mere nursing, because it is often foolishly
regarded as a humiliating servitude."
"If a true gentlewoman by birth, breeding, or education,
engages in any work, however humble," replied my sister, "she does
not sink to its lowest level, but she raises it to herself, and it
is thought better of for her very sake. And mind, if women so
scrupulously defer to a wrong popular prejudice, why don't they heed
that other prejudice, which has some reasonable foundation, and
hesitates before it gives a man's work to a woman?"
"But who shall define what is man's work and what is
woman's?" I asked, briskly, thinking I had hit upon a poser.
"The proper seed for every soil is what grows there without
forcing," returned Ruth promptly. "I suppose a man or a woman
may compel themselves to do almost anything, just as they may
distort their limbs into unnatural attitudes. But you may
always know when they are out of their proper place by the terrible
bragging they make. An old bachelor does not boast of his
ledger and cash-box, but he triumphs miserably in sewing on buttons
and mending gloves. A woman does not publish a list of her
seams and samplers, but she glories in her examinations and
"But may not that be because she has conquered, not nature,
but merely custom?" I inquired. "Don't you really think that
some employments now monopolised by men might fairly be shared by
"They might be opened to women," she answered. "A
steady, patient girl, who can manage delicate needlework, could
manage watchmaking. And there are many other occupations now
kept by men which are quite within the compass of a woman's
abilities. But then I don't think the men would object to
admit a woman. I have not forgotten my own early days,
"I am glad to hear you admit that women might have a wider
sphere than at present," I said.
"I admit less than you think," she returned, "and even from
my admission, I think you and I draw different inferences. I
would not apprentice an indefinite number of girls to these
employments, as is sometimes proposed. It would be sheer waste
of time and money. In five years' time nineteen girls out of
twenty would have carried, and thus wholly retired—at least I hope
so—to the other business of housekeeping. As a body, women
will never pass beyond the stage of raw learners. And that is
one reason why men need never fear their rivalry."
"But, Ruth, don't you think it would be better if girls had
other objects in life besides matrimony?" I asked.
"Of course it would," she answered, "but putting it as you
put it now, it is only twaddle. If you were a young man, would
you like a girl to refuse you on the grounds that she had a good
business, and so thought it her duty to keep to it?"
"No, I certainly should not," I replied.
"The fact is," my sister went on, "the people who start these
movements proceed on a wrong track. They start with the belief
that all women can follow occupations, for which not more than
twenty per cent. are really suited. They ignore the fact that
perhaps only one out of that twenty will require such occupation
through her whole life. So they scare the men, and rouse all
their opposition, by announcing that they will be beaten out of the
field by female labour, equal in kind and superior in cheapness.
Now, this equality in kind and superiority in cheapness are both
"O Ruth," I said, indignantly, "will you say that women
cannot work as well as men, when you know how well you carried on
your own business?"
"I know all about it, Edward," she answered, "and that is why
I say it. Didn't I have Latin manuscripts sent me, and didn't
I always take them to be copied by the old schoolmaster at Mallowe
Academy, and didn't he allow me a small commission for giving him
the job? O Edward, Edward, that is how I succeeded. I
knew what I could not do, as well as what I could!"
"But at any rate women's labour is certainly cheaper than
men's," I said, presently.
"Mechanical labour of the sort we mean should have one price
and only one," she returned. "If a woman devotes herself to
these occupations, she cannot have time to cook her meals, or clean
her room, or make her clothes. And so her existence becomes as
costly as a man's. And remember, too, that the work which is
easy to an ordinary man, requires a superior woman, in whose
education much money and care have been invested. So she ought
not to work except for a fair return on that investment."
"But those questions can scarcely be considered in the labour
market," I remarked.
"And that's just why a woman should never take the question
of her labour into the labour market," she retorted. "If
exceptional work come in her way, and she be able to do it, let her
do it quietly, and be thankful. When an able woman steps from
the beaten track, they are not her friends who make a flourish of
trumpets as if an army were about to follow."
"Then what do you lay down as the first principle in a girl's
preparation for the future?" I inquired.
"Develop all those powers and instincts which will make her a
good mistress of a family, as she will most likely become," returned
Ruth. "And even if not, after such rearing, she need not fear
for a good and honest maintenance. Train her in industry, and
patience, and energy, and whether she be single or married she will
be always worth her place in the world."
"But still if some women have special talents for medicine or
science," I said, "does it not seem a pity they should not follow
"Of course, they can do as they like," she answered.
But I have noticed that those who best realise great
responsibilities are always slowest to voluntarily incur them.
And I observe that these lady-doctors are meant to attend upon women
and children. Let me warn them that women will never trust
women in that way."
"But is it not hard they should have so little confidence in
their own sex?" I queried. "I wonder how it is?"
"Because women know what women are," answered Ruth; adding
dryly, "It is not for me to deny that they might mistrust men as
much if they knew them as well. But in the meantime, timid
mistrust, however mistaken, injures a patient; while child-like
confidence, however credulous, is half the cure."
Just at this moment, at the turn of a lane, we encountered Mr
Weston. I say "encountered," for he paused before us and
stared, as if it took him a moment to recall who we were.
However, when he had collected himself, he saluted us warmly enough,
and offered Ruth his arm. So as the path was sometimes rather
narrow, I was obliged to drop behind, and soon fell into a reverie
over our recent conversation. I am not very quick in
discussion, and Ruth soon sets me down. Therefore, though to
me her arguments are unanswerable, though I am not sure they are so
to other people. But even if there be a little prejudice in
them, they are worthy of thought. And after all, what seems
prejudice is sometimes truth. And certainly Ruth acts out her
own precepts, and her actions seem always to the point. And I
almost fancy that tests the goodness of precepts, as much as adding
together the second and third rows proves a subtraction sum.
Walking behind Ruth and Mr Weston, I could distinctly hear
their voices, but I did not listen for more, until my ear was struck
by my sister saying―
"Well, sir, I have just been preaching down woman's rights;
but she has one right which I have never heard disputed—the right of
"If that is no secret, Ruth," I said, "I should like to know
what it is."
"Mr Weston will tell you, if he wishes," she answered,
The young man turned and stood still. His honest blue
eyes had the helpless look of a poor dog's, when it is hurt by its
own master's foot.
"She's refused me," he said, "and it's all over!" and then he
walked on by my side, and, of course, I did not look into his face.
"We must all submit to these things sometimes," I observed,
presently; "ay, and often to far worse!" (For surely it was better
to be rejected by Alice M'Callum than to be jilted by Maria
Willoughby.) "But still, Weston, I should not have thought
this of Alice. She ought to have guessed what you wanted long
"Don't blame her, please, sir," he said, "she has never given
me any encouragement; but yet somehow I thought she liked me,
and—I've left her crying now. I thought she liked me—I did."
"Are you sure she does not?" I inquired more hopefully.
"What did she say?"
"She said—she said she'd never carry the cloud on her family
into any man's house, sir. She's a fool, Mr Garrett!"
"You didn't say so?" I queried.
"No, and I don't say so, sir," he exclaimed, "except as if an
angel lived in the world, we should very likely call her a fool!
But I shouldn't have liked her to have sent me away without caring,
sir; and yet now her caring makes it all the harder! What
shall I do, sir?"
"Go home," said I, "go home, and be quiet. Things
always prove better than they seem. And even if they don't,
God and one's work remain, Mr Weston. Go home, and be quiet."
"Oh, sir," said he, forlornly, "could you bear it?"
"I have borne it, my boy," I answered. "Yes, twice—once
in sorrow, and once in wrath and bitterness. And yet now, I
would not change anything if I could. Go home, and be quiet."
"And this is the end of it," said Ruth, when I joined her,
after parting from him; "and this is another specimen how―
'The best laid plans of mice and men
Gang aft a-gee"'
IT proved that
Ewen's holidays were not only later, but also shorter, than he had
expected. The exigencies of business would only allow him a
few days. So one fine autumn morning shortly after our meeting
with Mr Weston, Alice came very early to our house to say that he
had arrived at the Refuge late the night before. I thought her
visit rather odd, as her brother would be sure to announce himself a
few hours later. It was the first time we had seen her since
Mr Weston's tidings, and despite her joy at Ewen's visit, she looked
rather pale and grave, and so recalled all my first impressions of
her. When she prepared to go away, Ruth followed her from the
room, and presently I heard them in the next apartment, speaking in
earnest whispers. At last the hall-door closed, I saw Alice go
down the garden path, and then my sister reappeared.
"Can you guess why she came?" she inquired.
"No," I answered, "but I can guess she did not
come without an object."
"She came to ask us not to name Mr Weston to Ewen," replied
my sister, in that whisper which comes so naturally when any secrecy
"I can understand all her reasons," I said. "It is a
beautiful piece of unselfishness. But I wish she had forgotten
to enjoin our silence, for then I should have spoken. Now, we
must decidedly yield to her wishes."
"And the poor girl is fretting dreadfully about the change in
her brother," Ruth went on. "It makes me quite anxious to see
"Oh, Alice forgets that he has been living a sedentary town
life," I replied; "and, besides, Ewen's is not the style of face
which ever displays robust health, once the first bloom of boyhood
So all the morning I sat at home waiting for him. But
he did not come. When dinner-time came and passed without his
appearance, I grew a little vexed. And when Ruth broadly took
his part, and invented such good reasons for his non-arrival, I grew
vexed with her also.
"You would not like it if I fidgeted you because Agnes
Herbert neglects me," said Ruth pointedly. "And she has never
been here to tea since the night when Alice showed us those
I had no answer to make, but after dinner I went out, saying
to myself that if everybody had forgotten the old man, he would at
least take care of himself, and get a little fresh air. That
is not often my train of thought, and I am very glad of it, for I
found it was not at all conducive to happiness, and I went along
grumbling to myself at a fine rate. I took my usual route,
through the meadows flanking the road to the village. Between
their bordering of trees, now lightened of half their wealth of
leaves, I caught glimpses of the Great Farm. But in the field,
immediately facing the house (it was the one behind the Low Meadow),
I almost started to see him whose apparent negligence had thus put
me out of temper. He stood, leaning against a tree upon a
slight elevation. His arms were folded, and he was so rapt in
gloomy reverie that he did not observe my approach. When he
did so, he started, and then stepped forward to meet me. All
my pique vanished when I saw his face. If it struck me as
sharpened and wan when I saw him in his twilight garret, after a day
spent in crowds of faded London faces, it now seemed tenfold so, as
I saw it under the trees, facing the glowing sunset. Nay,
more, he wore a look of acute pain, no mere fleeting expression, but
one which had lasted long enough to fix a hard line about his mouth,
which was not even broken by his smile. His face recalled the
face of a companion of my early manhood who underwent a severe
surgical operation. The sufferer endured without groan or
sigh, but his countenance bore the stamp of that anguish till the
day he died, years afterwards.
"Alice has told me about the knife which George Wilmot found
in this field," he remarked presently.
I glanced at him, thinking that perhaps the revival of
Painful associations had something to do with the look he wore, but,
on the contrary, his face seemed to clear as he went on.
"I am very glad of its discovery."
"Why so, in particular?" I asked, quietly.
"Every little detail throws light on the story," he answered,
"This does not enlighten me at all," I said.
"No," he replied, "but any item may tend to disprove or to
prove anything that is said."
"What is said?" I inquired, testily.
"Oh, nothing," he answered, in some confusion.
His manner perplexed me. If he had spoken with such
embarrassment during our first interview on the hill overlooking the
river, I should have doubted his innocence. Even now, my
confidence shook just a little, and we walked side by side in
"That is the door of the Great Farm," he said suddenly,
turning in its direction as a slight sound met my ear, so trifling
and distant that I scarcely noticed it.
"You seem to know it well," I observed.
"You remember I once worked round the house, sir," he
replied, with almost a dash of haughtiness in his manner. "I
think Miss Herbert and her dog Griff are coming this way, sir."
So we stood still and waited for them. The great,
substantial grey dog, her constant attendant, came bounding towards
us, but instead of paying his usual compliments to me, he leaped
upon Ewen, and overwhelmed him with the most demonstrative
professions of regard.
His mistress came up almost breathless. "Oh, it is
you," she said when she saw Ewen, and there was a disappointed sound
in her voice which was not at all complimentary to the young man.
"Griff seems to recognise you," she added more graciously.
"He recognises something," he replied, caressing the dog.
"Griff, Griff, poor, faithful old fellow!"
"And how are you going on in London, my boy?" I asked
presently; "as well as before, I hope."
"Oh, yes, sir," he answered. "I wrote you that my
salary was raised at Midsummer."
"Yes," I returned, "and I knew it beforehand. But what
are you doing as an artist?"
Ewen was on my right hand, and Miss Herbert on my left.
She bent a little forward as I asked this question, and he rather
drew back, and replied very precisely:
"I succeed better than I hoped. I have illustrated one
or two poems in some journals."
"I hope they pay you well," I said.
"I am satisfied, sir," he answered, with a slight smile.
"Beginners often fare badly," I said, shaking my wise head;
"however well they work, they are generally paid only as beginners."
"Then there's something to look forward to," replied the
young man, with one of those quick turns by which he sometimes
reminded me of my sister. "Oh, I find people very kind," he
went on, "and they are more ready to notice things than one would
believe. A gentleman whose poem I illustrated asked about and
invited me to his house, and then he called on me and looked over
all my drawings, and then he asked us to a little party of young
artists and authors. He is a well-born, wealthy gentleman, who
can afford to show these kindnesses."
Agnes listened with intense interest.
"Does Mr Ralph illustrate too? " I asked.
"Yes, and he does it beautifully," Ewen answered.
"Yet the gentleman did not notice his work," I said, slyly,
"and so Mr Ralph had to wait for his invitation till he made his
I wanted to put the young man on his mettle in defence of his
friend, and I did not fail.
"His oversight was only an accident," he answered eagerly.
"Did he see Mr Ralph's drawings when he visited you?" I
"Mr Ralph did not offer to show them," said Ewen.
"Very well, my boy," I returned; "but whether it was his own
fault or not, your invitation was earned and his was only honorary."
"The gentleman could see Mr Ralph was his equal," returned
Ewen, with his strange new dignity of manner. "His presence at
his house would not need the explanation that he had drawn this, or
"And how is Mr Ralph?" I inquired presently.
"He is much better, sir, and he sent his most dutiful regards
to you," he replied, returning to his old simple manner.
"I'm afraid Miss Herbert thinks us rather rude," I said; "our
conversation must be a riddle to her. Let me explain, my dear,
that Mr Ralph is a young artist who lives with our friend here, and
who seems to have seen a great deal of trouble."
"Indeed!" said Agnes. "Griff, Griff, come away, sir.
You are quite troublesome to Mr M'Callum. Really, sir," she
added, bending forward and addressing Ewen, "he seems as if he
thought you had seen some friend of his, and so leaped up to whisper
inquiries in your ear. See, up he goes again! Griff,
Griff, come away!"
Her words were simple and natural enough, though she seldom
said as much to a comparative stranger; but she spoke with a
singular formality and emphasis, and presently, as if she thought
she had not shown sufficient interest in my explanation, she
"'Ralph' sounds odd for a surname. It is much more
natural as a Christian one."
"Yes, certainly it is," replied Ewen, with a warmth of assent
quite beyond the subject.
"And how do you like London?" she asked in a few minutes, and
without waiting for a reply, added another question: " Have you ever
met any one you knew before?"
I answered for him. "I know he has met one, for he had
some old acquaintance with this very Mr Ralph."
"Yes, I knew Ralph before," he assented, for the first time
naming his friend without the prefix "Mr." "Ralph thinks of
going abroad next spring," he stated presently.
"Going abroad!" exclaimed Agnes, so sharply that I started.
"Does he think he will find more scope in a new country?" I
Ewen shook his head. "I fear he will go only because he
is weary of the old country," he replied. "Poor fellow, I own
he acted foolishly in some things, but he has been punished as if
folly were a sin, and the shadow of all he has lost hangs constantly
over him. He fancies he will escape it. I think it will
go with him. But, as he says, at any rate Australia or Canada
will be as home like as England is now, and there is not one who
will suffer by his departure."
"But suppose he is mistaken in all this!" exclaimed Agnes, in
a voice full of tears. Poor girl, I knew her sympathetic and
"I tell him he is mistaken," said Ewen with earnest
solemnity; "but I only wish I could prove it to him."
And then we wandered on in silence, till I broke the spell by
claiming Ewen's company for my sisters tea-table, and informing Miss
Herbert that Ruth made certain comments about her long absence from
our house. Agnes replied that she should come to see us in a
day or two, and she was sure she would come oftener, only she feared
to be troublesome. She made this answer with a bright, eager
look on her sweet face, and then she turned to Ewen and said in that
pretty petitioning tone which women use when they have some dear
little trifling request to make―
"Mr M'Callum, I have long wished to write to a dear friend in
London, but I do not know the exact address. If I direct it as
well as I can, and send it to the Refuge under cover to you, will
you, if possible, supply the omissions of my superscription? I
think you will be able."
"Certainly I will do what I can," he answered as if he
sincerely felt the commonplace commission to be an honour and a
pleasure. Then they shook hands,—a regular hearty, honest
shake. And she turned away, calling the reluctant Griff to
It was nearly tea-time when Ruth welcomed our young guest.
We partook of the meal in the twilight, for it was a very fine
evening, without that autumnal murk and chill which makes artificial
light and artificial heat alike grateful. The young man seemed
to have recovered his spirits, and consequently his face had lost
that haggard hunger which had so startled me at our first meeting.
Nevertheless, when the lamp was at last brought in, and Ruth took up
her knitting, I saw she stole many a glance at him, as we sat
conversing about his promotions, and the cheerful prospect before
him. Suddenly she said "Don't let the bustle of London life
make you an old man before your time, Ewen."
He laughed, a little constrainedly. "Do you see any
symptoms, ma'am?" he queried lightly.
"Yes," answered my candid sister. "You are nearly ten
years older since this time last year. Now I should not speak
of this, if it were anything you could not help, but I believe it
can be helped. Nobody has any right to be spendthrift in his
energies and emotions."
"But, Ruth," I said, "business sometimes compels"――
"I don't say any one is not to be 'diligent in business,'"
she interrupted. "But I believe the methodical exercise energy
gets in business proves only strengthening development, at least
while energy is young and fresh. And besides, if it be spent
for any adequate return, it is well spent. If a clock wear out
in keeping time, it has done its work. But if it be worn out
by the hands whirling round the dial sixty times a day, then it is
wasted. And so is all energy expended in emotion."
"Ruth," I exclaimed, "do you mean that one may prevent
"Yes, I do," she answered; "at least to a certain degree.
Mental pain is subject to the same conditions as bodily pain, which
any one can either alleviate or aggravate. If a man unbinds a
wound, and thinks about it, and reads about his disease, and twists
the hurt limb to test the extent of the injury, he suffers for it.
So if a man sets up a sorrow as a shrine where he may worship, and
walks round it to survey it from all sides, and draws all his life
about it, and reads fiction and poetry to see what others say of the
same, then he also suffers for it."
"But sorrow should scarcely be shunned like a sin," I said.
"And it should not be courted like a virtue," she returned.
"God-sent sorrow is an angel in mourning. But any sorrow which
we may rightfully escape is not God-sent. Sometimes, in old
days, I've wished to cry, but couldn't, because I had to go into the
shop. And by the time the shop was closed I was braver, and
did not want to cry."
"But the tears would have been a relief," I said, "and you
certainly suffered no less because they might not come."
"But I was stronger for the self-control," she answered, "and
'Not enjoyment and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.'
But though I quote poetry," she added, turning to Ewen with a smile,
"I don't advise you to read it. It's not that you want now.
Build with granite before you clothe with creepers. Read
Bacon, and Montaigne, and Rollin, and Shakespeare. He's a
poet, you say? Yes, my dear, but he 's a dramatist. He
does not tell us how bitterly he feared Anne Hathaway would reject
him. He says nothing about himself. He was above it, he
had better things to say. So he don't make us, his readers,
think of ourselves, rather he lifts us out of self. But leave
all other poets till you are growing bald, then you will want them
to remind you of what you were. If they moisten your eyes
then, it will do you good. Why, Mr M'Callum," she said,
pointing to our book-case, "there are books on those shelves which I
have never dared to read since I was eighteen until—not very long
My dear, enduring sister!
Ewen stayed with us that night until nine o'clock, and we saw
him two or three times afterwards during his brief holidays.
But that visit was the only lengthened one which he paid us.
For I would not give him a set invitation, as I knew his punctilious
conscientiousness would accept it, however much he might prefer the
society of his grandfather and sister.
But I met him in my walks, and one day, as we were strolling
down a lane, rather silently, it occurred to me to inquire if Miss
Herbert had forwarded her promised letter.
"Yes," he answered so briskly that I thought he was about to
make some further remark, but he did not.
"And I hope you can help her with the address? I said.
"The letter has reached its destination by this time," he
"I am glad of it," I observed, just for the sake of
"So am I," he responded, rather dryly.
"Miss Herbert is a very lovely girl," I went on in my prim
old-fashioned way, "but having spent so much of her life in London,
I almost think she suffers from the monotony of country existence."
"Perhaps she does," said Ewen, "but though one can see when
something is wrong, it is hard to guess rightly what it is.
Now, I see there is something amiss with Alice, and yet I supposed
Alice was so happy!"
"And so she is," I answered, "only, as the healthiest are
sometimes ailing, so the happiest are sometimes sad. Life,
like a portrait, must have its shadows. But the good are never
miserable, though they may suffer very keenly through the sins of
others, or for their sakes."
"Ay, and how far may that suffering extend he asked rather
"Never farther than the valley of the shadow of death," I
That was the last time I saw Ewen before he returned to
London. On the day of his departure I proposed that we should
take a walk towards the station, and so have a chance of seeing the
last of him. But Ruth said, "No, leave him to his own
relations. Partings are long remembered, and so they may like
to remember they had it all to themselves."
THAT year we
enjoyed a singularly fine autumn, with but little mist or moisture;
consequently it was a healthy season, and the resources of our
little hospital were not prematurely tried. Also, it furthered
the speedy and satisfactory completion of the Refuge orphan rooms,
which were at last put in perfect readiness for any who might need
them during the coming months. Over these things Ruth and I
had many a quiet chat in the dusky twilight of our parlour, and we
thanked God we had not quite done with the world, however the world
had done with us. When I say "world," reader, I do not mean
that narrow crust of society which is often implied thereby. I
mean God's whole creation, "the earth and the fulness thereof."
Nevertheless, we were rather lonely that autumn. We saw
nothing of Mr Weston after our memorable interview in the meadows.
He did not come again to St Cross, but in the course of some
incidental conversation I heard with regret that he had been seen at
the Puseyite church at Hopleigh. But it was still early in
October when Mr Marten paid us an afternoon call, and promptly
accepted our invitation to tea. And though he stated he had a
little difficulty which he wished to discuss with us, he looked so
flourishing and content, that it was very plain the "difficulty"
gave him no undue disturbance. Indeed, it proved to be only a
feeling on his part that it was the duty of the leaders in the
parish in some way to direct their juniors' evening occupations and
amusements during the coming winter.
"In short," he went on, "if St Cross is to maintain its
ground, we must certainly do something. The Hopleigh people
are very energetic in this matter. They have established a
series of lectures, penny readings, &c., varied with entertainments
and soirées and concerts.
Besides these, they have opened classes, presenting a very
attractive course of study for almost nominal fees."
Just then I happened to glance at Ruth behind the tea-urn,
and I saw a storm gathering in her face. When Mr Marten
ceased, there was an ominous pause. Then Ruth said, grimly―
"If you give children sugar-plums every day, they are never a
treat, and they spoil their teeth into the bargain. That's a
figure of speech for you, Mr Marten."
"Why, Miss Garrett," exclaimed the rector, "surely you don't
disapprove of innocent and improving recreations?"
"I disapprove of 'gadding about,"' she answered, severely.
"I disapprove of everything which makes folks at home when they are
out, and strangers when they are at home. In short, I
disapprove of dissipation, whatever mask it may wear."
"I hope you don't see things in this light, sir," said Mr
Marten, turning to me.
"Not altogether," I replied, "but I am a slow person, and I
weigh matters very leisurely."
"I wonder what had become of my business if I had taken to
lectures, and classes, and so forth!" exclaimed my sister.
"Ruth, Ruth," I said gently, "remember that we must not carry
our personalities too far in these affairs."
"Well it's one way of getting at a bit of truth," she
returned, "and I always fear to advise others to do what I never did
myself. It's like holding out a cup and saying, 'I know that
would poison me, but I think it will be good medicine for you.'"
"You must remember, Miss Garrett," said the rector, "that
some homes are not very attractive. Think of the many
one-roomed homes, with few books and no intelligent conversation."
"Mr Marten, Mr Marten," I repeated warningly, "has that good
song gone out of fashion,—
'Be it ever so fondly,
There's no place like home?'
But at the same time I willingly grant that home is often all the
dearer for short absences, even as such short absences are more
enjoyable for the sake of the dear home there they will end."
"And again," Mr Marten went on, inclining his head in
acknowledgment of my words, "there are many young people who are
"That is true," said Ruth, "but for the sake of the future
they should be encouraged as much as possible to form homely habits.
If bachelors or spinsters cannot settle to books or work in their
lonely rooms, I fear they will fret at the stay-at-home ways of
comfortable matrimony, when once its novelty has worn off."
"Well, I'm sorry to find you see another side to this
matter," observed the rector; "for to me these evening lectures and
classes seemed such a splendid means for mental improvement and
"Can you give us any details of the Hopleigh programme?" I
inquired; "for until one knows all, one may differ about theories
rather than facts."
"Oh, I can tell you all about it," he responded, briskly
tugging at his pocket. "See! I came armed with all
necessary documents!" and he produced sundry printed bills, and
spread them out on the table.
"Take one by one, and read each aloud, please," requested
Ruth, suddenly shifting her knitting needles and beginning another
I have a strange notion that my sister's knitting is to her
strength of mind something like Samson's hair to his bodily prowess.
Whenever we two are in argument, I have a wild wish to snatch that
mysterious web from her agile fingers. Besides, its very
continuance daunts one with the reproach—"Behold, in spite of all
your idle clatter, these needles go on, and so does the world!"
"Which shall I take first?" queried the rector. "There
are a prospectus of the classes, a programme of the lectures, and a
list of the discussions."
"Read whichever you like," said I.
"Then I'll read the paper of the classes," he answered; and
so began the sheet with its very heading:―
"Hopleigh College. Under this name it is proposed to
establish a course of evening classes. The subjects chosen,
with the names of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken to teach
them, will recommend themselves. Monday, Latin and English
Composition (by Mr Senecca Moon); Tuesday, French (by M. Vert);
Wednesday, Elementary Singing; Thursday, Writing and Arithmetic (by
Mr Senecca Moon); Friday, Reading and Elocution (by Mr O'Toole);
Saturday, Advanced Singing. Hours from eight to ten o'clock.
Fee for one class, two shillings each month; for the whole course,
eight shillings. Entrance fee, one shilling. Intending
members are invited to enrol as soon as possible. Under the
especial patronage of the Rev. Ambrose Angelo, Rector of St Cyprian,
"You see, Miss Garrett," the rector commented, when he had
finished, "this is not even innocent recreation, but improving
"I doubt whether it is either 'improving' or 'sturdy,'" she
answered, taking up his words a little tartly. Suppose girls
are included in these classes. I wonder if the clergyman would
like his own daughter to run through the streets after nightfall in
"A distinction must be made between certain ranks, madam,"
returned Mr Marten, rather stiffly.
"That is what I always say!" assented Ruth. "But let
the distinction be in acquirements rather than in manners or
"But some of these classes go to the very rudiments of
education," pursued the rector: "reading, for instance, and writing
and arithmetic. If by some evil chance these were neglected in
childhood, would you suffer the girl or boy to go on in ignorance,
She answered thoughtfully, "No: reading and writing are
almost like two extra senses. They are worth some sacrifice.
But what poor servant girl, sensible in spite of her ignorance,
would venture to 'Hopleigh College?' And would she study A B C
in the first hour, and then learn how to spout 'My name is Norval'
during the remainder of the time! And would she be much at
ease in the society of the smart shop-girls, who would come to
practise rant, and who would attend the French and Latin classes on
the other evenings
"But I think these institutions are really for the benefit of
a higher class than common servants or ploughboys," said Mr Marten;
"and for such how serviceable is French, and how useful the power of
writing a correct letter!"
"Thorough French is a valuable acquirement," returned Ruth,
"and a good letter is a sure sign of a sound education. But
mere 'lingo' is ridiculous, and a 'phrase' epistle is an
abomination. Perhaps you will add, that even superficial
French may be useful in business; but if poor M. Vert is willing to
teach it for two shillings a month, can the scholars expect to make
it more profitable than the master?"
"But M. Vert, who is a working professor, would not teach at
that rate, except for a consolation-fee from the committee,"
explained the rector.
"I hate that false method of cheapening good things,"
answered my sister. "If an acquirement be worth anything, it
is worth its price, and let those who desire it deny themselves to
pay that price. All who can derive advantage from it will
readily do so. Those who want pearls dive for them, and shall
others take them to throw before swine?"
There was a pause. Then I inquired what were the other
"They have a fortnightly lecture," replied Mr Marten, taking
up another paper. "The Rev. Ambrose Angelo will deliver one on
Ecclesiastical History; and Mr Senecca Moon, the principal of
Hopleigh Academy, will give another on Meteorology. On two
evenings there will be Readings from Popular Authors by various
gentlemen, among them, Mr Daniel O'Toole and Mr Smith—["Rather
vague," murmured Ruth.] And on Christmas-eve there will be a
vocal and instrumental concert, for which, the bill says, 'many
ladies and gentlemen have promised assistance.'"
"I think the lectures are too dry," I said; "and they are
certainly subjects of which 'a little knowledge' is very useless."
"But how nice to hear about a word which ordinary folk cannot
pronounce!" observed Ruth, ironically, laying down her knitting, and
taking a book from the little bracket which always stood on her
work-table. "Met-e-o-ro-lo-gy," she repeated, turning over the
leaves. "Dear me! I fear Dr Johnson's ideas on the
subject were nearly as misty as mine; for he only defines it as the
doctrine of meteors.'"
"But I must say I like the 'Readings from Popular Authors,'"
I remarked. "In themselves they are amusing, and they are well
calculated to awaken a desire for further information."
"That is quite true," said my sister; "but they should only
be entrusted to people whose age and position qualify them for the
teacher's desk. Otherwise the parish school-room simply
becomes the scene of bad amateur theatricals."
"Then what do you say to the concert inquired Mr Marten.
I answered—"Only this: that men are always too ready to speak
lightly of those women who, having real musical gifts, display them
for hire to maintain themselves and their dependents. The gift
may stir in their souls, the remuneration may mean home and
household happiness, but the audience listens and applauds and
slights. It is not right! Publicity is a dire necessity
to those women—the dark side of their profession, which must be
accepted with the bright one. But what of girls who, without
their gifts, and unneeding their pay, court the common eye and the
common clap? Sir, I belong to the old-fashioned days, when a
woman's pretty accomplishments were kept for those who loved her,
and when a young lassie, safe and happy in the retreat of her
father's house, would have blushed to see her name printed in bills,
and stuck up on walls and shop-windows."
"And the old-fashioned notions were certainly right," said my
sister, with a little sigh; "but in spite of them all, there were
young girls, and young girls then, as now! Yet need we meddle
with what we cannot mend?"
"We only criticise these matters to guide our own actions," I
answered. "Have you any more announcements, Mr Marten?"
"There is also a discussion-class," he replied, with a slight
hesitation. "The paper says it is held in the boys' schoolroom
at Hopleigh, every Friday evening, at eight o'clock, and it
announces the four discussions for the month of November. The
first will be opened by your friend Mr Weston, of Mallowe, the
subject being, 'Is not the single state most conducive to
Ruth and I both looked up in such startled amazement, that it
might almost have betrayed the confidence the young man had reposed
"Can any one attend these discussions?" my sister asked,
"Oh, certainly," returned the rector; "and the other subjects
are, 'Was Robert Emmett a patriot?' opened by Mr O'Toole; 'The
advantages of Co-operation,' by Mr Smith."
"The exciseman, I suppose?" queried Ruth.
"I believe so," said Mr Marten; "and the Rev. Ambrose Angelo
closes the list with the knotty question, 'Is the Protestant church
a Catholic church?'"
"And now," I remarked, "we must come to the point, and
consider what part of this intellectual machinery we can best adapt
to St Cross."
"Don't have any 'discussions,'" said my sister, shaking her
head; "they only encourage a parcel of foolish boys to spout
nonsense, which they will wish forgotten when they are grown older
"I cannot say I like them," assented the rector, "for I think
they only give occasion to a certain order of minds to display their
powers by triumphantly making the worse appear the better cause."
"We will put them out of the question," I said, "and let us
reflect what we can do in the way of evening classes."
"Let us have two," rejoined my sister, "one for youths, and
one for young women; and let the instruction be confined to reading,
writing, and simple arithmetic, and let each class meet twice
weekly. It is hopeless to teach reading by one lesson a-week."
"I am sure I shall be very happy to take one class," said Mr
"That would be a mistake," answered Ruth. "Your
attentions would be voluntary, and you would either demand no fee,
or the fees would be devoted to some parochial use. Now honest
young people don't like to be recipients of charity. Besides,
amateur teaching, like everything that is amateur, is none of the
best. Let somebody be paid to teach, or, better still, let him
receive the fees, and it will become his interest to make the
classes as attractive and serviceable as possible."
"It must be a low nature that would not do so without such
stimulus," observed Mr Marten.
"Ah, but we must not ignore the natural propensity towards
evil," said my sister; "and I don't see there is any wrong in making
the right easy and pleasant. For which reason, I will promise
a prize for the best girl-scholar. And it shall be no sham
"And I'll promise one for the best boy," I added; "and now
what shall we do about the lectures?"
"In the first place, don't have them too often," said my
sister. "It only destroys their interest, and all home comfort
into the bargain."
"Let us have them but once a month," I said, "and let them be
genuine 'recreations.' I don't think that poor tired heads are
benefited by hearing dates and statistics. Mine never was.
Let us have something to draw out blithe, honest, innocent laughter,
which leaves the heart larger than it found it. Let us have
tears sometimes, those sympathetic tears which are the best cure for
our own unspoken sorrows. In short, let us be as human
"And shall we never have a concert?" queried the rector,
rather regretfully; "and music is so popular!"
"And such an agent for good," I rejoined, warmly; though I
don't think any of God's blessings is so fearfully perverted.
The exercise of that gift which we specially connect with the
glories of heaven, but too often becomes a temptation to vanity and
frivolity, and worse!"
"Ah," said Ruth, "I went to a village concert once, and I saw
the singer girls sitting in a row in their best dresses, which were
too fine for their owners' pockets, and in one or two cases not very
modest in taste. And when I heard the village audience—their
little world-whispering of the beauty of this one, and the dress of
the other, and the voice of a third, I could not forget the old
saying, that a 'woman's true honour was not to be spoken about!'"
"Then let us always have singing at the lectures," I said,
"just as we have at church. Let us take some familiar airs,
such as 'Rule Britannia,' 'Ault langsyne,' and so forth, and sing
them in the course of the evening, the assembly standing, and all
who can, joining."
"Ah," said Ruth, I think that might give a greater love and
taste for music than a few young people on a platform practising
airs and graces, and striking up, 'In Celia's Arbour,' and so on,
which means nothing at all to ignorant people like me, who listen
with our hearts instead of our ears."
"And then we can always conclude with the dear old doxology,"
"But may not that seem rather irreverent sometimes?" queried
"Never!" I replied, "if we have been merry, we shall
'Praise God from whom all blessings flow,'
and include our mirth and laughter among those blessings. The
same apostle who asks, 'Is any among you afflicted? let him pray,'
adds, 'Is any merry? let him sing psalms.'"
There was a short silence, which Ruth broke by saying,—
"Edward, at Christmas-time, let us have a genuine party; not
a tea-meeting, nor a soirée,
but a thorough old-fashioned hospitable party, with games and
forfeits, and music, and all good cheer. We have no room in
this house sufficiently large, or I should like it to be in a
private dwelling even better than in the great room of the Refuge.
But I fancy Mr Herbert could be brought to favour that scheme, and
his noble dining-room would be the right place."
"At anyrate, we can ask him," I said and then, "if he will
not consent, we can but take refuge in the Refuge;" and I laughed at
my own little joke.
"And are you quite satisfied with all these plans, Mr
Marten?" I inquired presently; "I almost fear you think them too
homely and simple."
"No," he answered, starting from a reverie into which he had
fallen, "for I was just thinking that when we clergymen enter upon
our duties, fresh from collegiate cloisters, we are too apt to
forget the claims of home, and to ignore the heavenward end of
secular duties, and I fear many of my brethren persevere in this
mistake to the very end. They do not realise that they are
only set aside for a special purpose, and so they constantly strive
to draw people from their own line of work and study into theirs."
"Yes," returned Ruth, "and even more, they often seem to
forget that God made the world, and so speak of is appointments as
if they were hindrances on the road to Him. They literally
say, with Thomas à Kempis (hand me
his book, Edward,) 'O that thou lightest never have need to eat, or
drink, or sleep: but lightest always praise God, and only employ
thyself in spiritual exercises: thou shouldest then be much more
happy than now thou art, when for so many necessities thou art
constrained to serve thy body.' And the good man constantly
repeats that mistake in his otherwise beautiful 'Imitation of
Christ,' forgetting that He worked in the carpenter's shop, and went
to the marriage feast, and wept at Lazarus' grave. How
different from the Scripture precept, 'Whether ye eat, or drink, or
whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God!' The one comes
to us like a draught from a cathedral crypt, and the other like a
breeze from the hills!"
And so our long consultation drew to an end, and when the
rector had departed, and we had drawn our chairs close together to
partake of our cozy little supper, Ruth gave me a sly side glance,
"We will both be present when Mr Weston opens that wonderful
COMING EVENTS AND SHADOWS BEFORE.
eagerly forward to the display of Mr Weston's oratory, wondering
what he would say, and how he would look when he saw us. It
seemed but a little thing, but we knew it concerned the futures of
two whose welfare we desired, and besides, we had now reached that
happy resting-place when the feelings are only stirred by the
interests of others. And so I was quite ready to echo my
sister's expectations and conjectures.
But our sympathies and counsels were destined to be evoked in
other directions besides. About noon on the day of the
discussion, Agnes Herbert paid us a visit. I saw her cross the
garden at a brisk pace, and when Phillis admitted her, her step in
the hall was less noiseless, and her voice higher than usual.
In short, her whole aspect had brightened, and the very expression
of her face went far to fulfil the prophecy which the flickering
firelight had revealed to me a year before. She had donned her
winter garments, and her bonnet was enlivened by a ribbon of pure
scarlet, in place of the sombre mixtures which she had hitherto
affected. Altogether she was as much changed from her former
self as is a darkened room when the curtains are suddenly drawn
aside to admit the sunshine.
And yet she was the bearer of uncomfortable tidings, with the
misery of which she strongly sympathised. But there was the
difference. At an earlier date, her sympathy would have been
true, but listless—the sympathy which sits down by the sufferer, and
says, "It is a weary world—let us endure together." Now it was
aroused and active, busily inquiring, "What can be done?"
The evil was nothing more nor less than Anne Sanders, and the
misfortune was, that the young stranger who had taken Bessie's
place, had called at the hospital, complaining that she must resign
her position: she found the business good, and the house
comfortable, but the housekeeper was like the fly in the ointment,
which spoiled all. She could not enter into Anne's
shortcomings; they were of that almost indefinite kind which pervade
life, and make it unendurable, without leaving any distinct mark.
Agnes had also visited the hospital, and had found Bessie in
great trouble about this disturbing communication. Bessie
seemed to have placed much confidence in our pretty friend.
Perhaps she preferred to open her mind to a young creature of whose
sympathy she was sure, yet who could not fancy she claimed more than
sympathy. Doubtless it soothed her lonely heart to let her
memory wander back to those earlier days when her kindred was not
centred in the narrow, selfish sister, who could neither love nor be
loved. For she had evidently spoken to Agnes of the dead Katie
and her unhappy lover, and of all the pleasant budding hopes which
had once promised fairly to bloom into realities. As Miss
Herbert repeated the sorrows of Bessie Sanders, I could see her
feelings were touched, and there was earnest solicitude in her
"What can be done?"
"Does Miss Sanders suggest anything?" I inquired, in return.
Agnes looked up deprecatingly. "She says it will be her
duty to go back to Anne, as of course Anne cannot be received at the
hospital," she answered. "But oh, Mr Garrett, do you think it
can be God's will that any one should submit for ever to the
ceaseless tyranny of an evil nature?"
"Whatever Mr Garrett may think, Miss Garrett does not think
so," replied Ruth; "and besides, Anne is not benefited by Bessie's
sacrifice. When kindness fails, severity may succeed.
Let her leave Bessie's successor in undisturbed possession and go
into some lodging in the village, until she can find a suitable
"Will she ever do so?" I queried, shaking my head.
"I don't know," answered my sister. "But that scheme
will certainly gain us a little time; and very often the world comes
round to those who will but wait."
"Yes, I think it does," said Agnes, with a bright glance,
like that of one suddenly assenting in the solution of an old
"I will put on my bonnet and shawl, and go about the matter
directly," remarked my energetic sister. "I won't ask you to
come with me, Agnes, for that miserable woman is likely to put one
out of patience with human nature, and you are young, and must
endure it for a long time."
And so Miss Herbert and I were left together. The
newspaper was on the table, and I took it up and started some topic
of public interest. I forget what it was, but it was something
about which I held peculiar notions, and I began to explain them,
meantime holding up the paper, and interspersing my oration with
sundry sentences therein, which I thought to agree with my views.
I talked on with great animation, till I made some observation which
called for an answer. Then I paused; but none came. I
dropped the paper. Agnes sat opposite me, her scarlet strings
untied, and her hands, loosely holding her gloves, lying in her lap.
But her thoughts were not with me and my politics, for her lips were
parted with a soft, slight smile, and her eyes had the far-off look
of young eyes when they gaze into the future, and fancy they catch
glimpses of angels walking in its mists. But the rustling
paper recalled her to the present, and she hastily tried to take up
the broken thread of my discourse. But where it had fallen,
there I let it lie; and so there was silence.
Suddenly she rose and came towards me, and stood beside my
chair. Then she paused, and I did not look at her till she
whispered in a very girlish voice―
"Mr Garrett, you are not angry?"
"Angry, my dear!" I exclaimed; "am I such a cantankerous old
stick, that you imagine anger is my natural condition?"
"No, sir," she answered, with a little laugh. "But I
was so rude a minute ago, and I can't excuse myself, for I was only
thinking about my own affairs!"
"Well, my dear," I replied, "and if you would talk about
them, and let me have a share in them, I'm sure I would not trouble
you with the leading articles."
"I want to ask your advice and help," she said, with downcast
"O-ho," thought I, "must the old bachelor intercede with the
stern uncle?" But I merely said, "I can only say, Miss
Herbert, that you are heartily welcome to the best I can give."
She went back to her seat, as if to gain a moment to choose
her words. I was all attention. And this was what she
"I should like my father's best writings to be collected and
made into a small volume."
I had expected something very different; but I bowed my head,
and assented. "A very dutiful wish, my dear. And have
you any hope of its fulfilment?"
"I have gone very carefully through his pieces," she said,
and I have selected the best. You see I remember his opinions
of them," she added, as if excusing her temerity, "and I have made
copies of them, embracing alterations which he wrote on their
margins, and I have added two or three which remained unpublished
when he died. I think they will make a very nice book.
But I should not like to send it to a publisher without somebody
else seeing it. Will you look over it, Mr Garrett?" and
opening a little leathern reticule, she produced the manuscript, and
handed it to me.
It was of considerable size, and the writing was not of that
deceptive, scrawling kind which spreads two or three words over a
page. It was firm, compact calligraphy, not as characteristic
as Ewen M'Callum's, but as easy to read as print. I have a
respect for good writing, by which I mean plain writing.
Illegible scribble is selfish and rude, implying that the reader's
time is less valuable than the writer's. In literary matters,
I cannot but think plain writing must be advantageous; for even
editors are human; and the man who can wade through a manuscript
novel when he must pore over every word, need be above the frailties
to which ordinary flesh is liable.
"Have you spoken to Mr Herbert about your wish to publish
this?" I inquired.
"Yes," she answered.
"And he consents?" I queried.
"He leaves me at liberty to do so," she replied: her
conscientious nature drawing a distinction between consent and mere
"You will pass the day with us, my dear?" I said.
"Uncle said I might," she returned; and thus she accepted my
invitation, and put aside her bonnet and mantle. I continued
to look over the manuscript, and when next I glanced at my fair
companion, she was seated in the easy chair, busily employed
in—what? Darning stockings! I think my head gave a
little involuntary shake. There was a change in the girl―a
change which made her think of housewifery and practical life.
God bless her! What jumps my heart always gave whenever Lucy
Weston talked of what she would do if she became the mistress of a
house! But Agnes Herbert is not like Lucy. Her nature is
perhaps stronger, but she is not half as sweet.
"You wish to be paid for this book, I suppose," I said, still
turning over its leaves.
"Oh yes," she answered, decidedly and it will be as money
left me by my father,—the nest-egg of my fortunes, sir;" and she
laughed, but not quite merrily; and neither of us spoke again until
Ruth came back.
"I have settled it all," exclaimed my sister, as she came in;
"and Anne Sanders is fairly lodged in a room in the High Street,
where she can disgrace nobody but herself. The young
dressmaker helped her to pack up her belongings, and she parted from
her quite kindly, just because she was so glad to part from her!
And such a mess as her things were, I never saw. There were
good lace collars run to rags for want of a stitch; and cuffs, and
mantles, and bonnets all suffered to lie useless, because she was
too idle to alter and re-model. Oh, I spoke to her! 'You'll be
sorry for your life when it's too late!' I said. 'What have I
done?' she cried out. 'What have I done?' 'Miss Anne
Sanders,' I answered, 'you have done nothing: and that is
your crime; for whoever does nothing, does evil; and I wish you were
a little child, that I might give you a whipping!'"
And my sister dropped into a chair in an exhausted way quite
uncommon for her, and then drew a long breath, like one who has just
gone through unusual and straining exertion.
But the minute she sat down, her quick eye observed Agnes'
work. "I'm glad to see you so well employed, my dear," she
said; "and are you a good darner? Let me see! Yes.
And do you like it?"
"I don't always like it," answered Agnes; "but just now I
"Then you should always like it," retorted Ruth. "Don't
form the habit of whims, and fits, and starts. When you like
your duty, praise God for the blessing; and when you don't like it,
pray God for His help. Anyhow, do it all the same."
"But can we always be sure what is our duty?" asked Agnes,
very softly, while a faint shadow crept over her face.
"I won't deny there are some puzzling cases," returned Ruth;
"but we needn't vex ourselves about them until we've done the little
bit that is quite plain before us, and few of us get through that.
And what are you reading, Edward?" she inquired. "Poetry?
In Miss Herbert's writing? Child," she asked, severely,
"surely you don't write poetry?"
"No, indeed," said Agnes, laughing. "It is my
"Ah, I'm glad it's not yours," answered Ruth, taking the book
from me. "If a woman lives poetry, that is quite enough.
If she write it, I fear lest it evaporate at her fingers' ends.
Thank God you're not a genius, Agnes; but don't thank Him in the
Pharisee's fashion. Genius is God's great gift; but too often
it is over-heavy for woman's hand."
I fear Agnes had a somewhat quiet day, but I don't suppose
she regretted our silence, since we were absorbed in her father's
writings. Generally, when a tale or a poem touched either of
us, it was handed to the other, and perused in silence, and then
commented on. But once, Ruth raised her head, and said―
"Edward, listen;" and so she read:—
"NOT WITHOUT HOPE."
They say you are not as you were
In days of long ago:
That clouds came o'er your sun at noon,
And dimm'd its golden glow.
Yet every gentler word I say,
Each gentler deed I do,
Is but a blossom on the grave
Where sleeps my love for you.
And can a weed bring forth a flower?
Or blight bear beauty? Nay,
This darkness is but short eclipse
To surely pass away.
Though one by one my early friends
Have faded from my prayer,
Your name was always first and last,
And still it lingers there.
I love but dearer for my fears
And prayers for such a one:
I think God does not love us less
For costing Him his Son.
And I believe when death shall break
This spell of human pain,
The love that I to God entrust
He'll give to me again.
"There!" said Ruth, with a swell of suppressed emotion in her
voice. "Nothing can improve that, Edward."
So I thought then. I have read it since, and not cared
for it at all, except for the memory of my first impression.
But my sister's reading put a soul into the dry bones,—yea, her own
soul, for was it not the story of her life?
"I remember when my father wrote it," said Agnes
thoughtfully: "I was but a little girl, and I thought it must be
quite true. And when my hour came—my hour was between the
sunlight and the candles,—I asked him who it meant; surely not
mamma, for he had always told me she was safe in heaven, waiting for
us. And then he first explained to me that genius must rise
beyond and above its own experience,—must let itself out of itself,
and alike comprehend the calm of a saint's heart and the tortures of
a malefactor's conscience. In short, he taught me that the
power to do thus is genius itself. But he added, he did not
believe even genius could catch the secrets of a character above
itself, and that a man's loftiest conception revealed the highest
possibility of his own nature. He might degrade it, but it was
still in him,—his ideal,—the image of God as reflected in the mirror
of the individual soul. I did not understand him then, and I
fancy he only spoke to clear his own thoughts from misty silence.
But I remembered his words, and I think I understand them now.
And I think they are true."
"I think so," I replied; "and if so, then the higher man's
best conception, the wider the range below it. And thus he who
gives us Brutus, gives us also Bardolph."
"Of course," said Ruth, "or a man's mind would be like Isaac
Newton's door, with a large hole for the cat, and a small one for
There was a moment's pause. Then Agnes said, "Ewen
M'Callum will be a great man."
"I believe so," I answered.
"But what makes you say it?" queried Ruth.
"Because he has the greatness which makes a man great even
following the plough," she replied with flushing face and quivering
lips, "and then he has genius to be the voice of that greatness.
Some great souls are dumb, and only God can understand their signs!"
"Has your London friend, to whom he carried your letter, made
any acquaintance with him?" I inquired.
"That is how I learn to praise him!" she returned. "I
hear enough—enough—to make me speak as I do, but—they—say there is
something beyond—something I must not know, which eclipses all I may
know. And from what I do know, I can believe him equal to
She spoke with some excitement, which betrayed itself in the
reiteration of her words. Then with great energy she resumed
her darning. Glancing at Ruth, I saw she was gazing at Agnes.
She, too, could see the change in the girl—a change which, as the
day wore on, grew more manifold. There was no further outburst
of the enthusiasm pent within her, but her mind, her whole nature
was awake. She forestalled my sister's movements; she asked
the recipe for a pudding which appeared on our dinner table; she
took an active part in each domestic matter. Ruth was charmed.
If Agnes would have remained in our house for the evening, I am sure
my sister would willingly have foregone even the long-expected
discussion. But Miss Herbert was resolved to return to the
Great Farm before tea. She sustained her new character to the
last moment of her visit, showing Ruth her winter bonnet, and
proudly explaining that it was but a renovation of last year's, and
that the fashion of its shape and trimming were all due to her own
"She has in her the making of a good housewife," said my
sister when she was gone; "and I think it will come out. But
she's not the woman to be a manager for management's sake."
"For whose sake then?" I asked, slyly.
"For the sake of some worthless man," retorted Ruth; "and the
more he gives her to manage, the better she'll like him. Did
you see how her fingers twittered about her engaged ring every time
she dropped her work? Engaged ring, indeed! Engaged
So we set off to Hopleigh in our little pony-chaise, and we
reached the school-room of St Cyprian in such very good time that
nobody else was there. Slowly, the audience straggled in.
At last came Mr Weston. He lingered in the outer room to speak
to an acquaintance, and while so doing, I saw his eyes fall on us.
Just then, some of my sister's old friends from Mallowe entered and
surrounded us, and hid him from our sight. Presently the
assembly got into order: there was expectant silence, but no Mr
Weston. Then an attendant mysteriously stepped about the room,
adjusting windows and blinds, after the fashion of attendants, to
screen unpunctuality. Again expectant silence, but still no Mr
Weston. At last the Rev. Ambrose Angelo, a spare, sallow youth
in a very prim collar, stood up, and said that he feared some
unforeseen circumstance had prevented the appearance of our
estimable friend, and that the discussion must proceed in the
absence of its promoter. His motion was seconded, and the
discussion proceeded. It proved no discussion at all—only an
outpouring of sentiment, none of the speakers, on either side, ever
forgetting the presence of the reverend gentleman—a saintly and
confirmed celibate of five-and-twenty—a novice in the class of life
to which he had been raised by the liberality of a theological
college. For how, in the light of his mild spectacled eyes,
could any farmer or tradesman dare to suggest that a littered noisy
family room might be nearer heaven and a better school for
self-denial than his ascetic chambers, with their sacred pictures
and crosses, and their constant influx of illuminated texts,
wherewith the young ladies of St Cypriot faithfully fortified the
piety of the Reverend Ambrose?
When the discussion was over, and it was satisfactorily
proved that God was best served by a state of things which would
bring His world to a speedy end, the assembly dispersed, and we
heard many conjectures about the non-appearance of Mr Weston.
"He was here," said somebody; "for I spoke to him outside."
"He must have been sent for afterwards," remarked another;
"but it's strange he did not leave a message only perhaps he did not
expect to be detained."
"Ah, his good sense came back to him," whispered Ruth,
gripping my arm, "and he could scarcely send that message into a
roomful of people!"
"A wasted evening, Ruth," I said, as we re-entered our
"No, indeed," she returned; "we have saved an honest man from
making a fool of himself!"
AN ANONYMOUS LETTER.
NOT very long
after that memorable evening when Mr Weston was conspicuous by his
absence, I paid a visit to the M'Callums at the Refuge. That
morning's post had brought me a letter from Ewen, and I always gave
them the benefit of the last news from him.
I found the High Street in a low bustle. Curious faces
peeped from doors and windows. The object of interest was an
old-fashioned, ungainly carriage standing in front of a little
hosiery shop. Now, it was above this shop that Ruth had found
lodgings for Anne Sanders.
Mr M'Callum himself was at the gate with a comical smile on
his cheerful old face.
"It's an ill wind that blows naebody guid," said he,
admitting me; "but it's no often there's a guid wind that blows
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"There's just an auld leddy come to fetch away Miss Bessie's
sister," he replied. "She's an auld widow cousin of their
mither's, an' she's never luiked on the sisters before. But
she says, for the credit of the family she'll no hear of the puir
lassie being left to fight her ain way in a sair warld. She
has nae end o' siller, and mayhap Miss Anne will come in for it a' i'
Looking across the road, I could see the lady standing in the
hosier's shop—a little woman, quaintly dressed, with her face almost
hidden by a hood-like bonnet. "Does she live far from here?" I
"She lives in a queer little house on the side of Mallowe
Heath," he answered.
"In the parish of St Cross?" I said. "Then I suppose I
have seen her at church?" for there seemed something familiar in the
"Na, na," returned Mr M'Callum, she doesna gang to the kirk,
but to a chapel on the Heath, where she's the richest and greatest
leddy. She has neither child nor kith or kin save these
Sanderses—but she isna the body to mind. Money canna buy love,
but it can buy fear, and she has a mighty hard high spirit that's
weel satisfied wi' that, puir body."
"Does Miss Sanders know of her sister's removal?" I asked,
still watching the small angular form, with that uneasy interest we
always feel when our memory is stirred we know not how.
"She's over in the house wi' her the noo," replied Mr
M'Callum. "But it's a blessed change to hae that fulish,
ill-conceited being ta'en respectably aff her hands. What culd she
do wi' her? She's ill to go and ill to guide. But that
aye gaes wi'out saying, for the waur the fule, the better the mule."
"Do you think the old lady knows the character of her adopted
friend?" I inquired.
The old man's merry eyes gave a sly wink. "I dinna
think she cares," said he. "Whan ye're a certain age, and a
crackit auld body tae the bargain, ye maun hae a body-servant, and
whan ye hae tried a' the lasses i' the toon, and they hae a' run
back to their mithers, and said ye might keep their bit wage sae ye
let them gae free, then ye're owre glad to find anybody left.
Miss Anne wad suit nae service, and the auld leddie would suit nae
servant, and by the blessing o' God they hae found out each ither!"
Then I proceeded to give the grandfather his boy's messages.
And I asked where Alice was. She was upstairs at needlework,
he said. In bygone days she would have come down directly she
heard my voice, but the poor girl was just now passing through those
trials which honest hearts bear best in solitude and silence.
While we stood at the gate, George Wilmot came in from his
morning's work. In Mr M'Callum's words, "the laddie was
shooting up," and his blue eyes had gained quickness without losing
their frank honesty. Now, when he was addressed, they did not
fall and his answer was ready, thought the blush still came.
As the wise old Scotchman said, "There was guid gowd in the callant,
and guid gowd will aye brichten."
Just then there was a bustle at the hosier's door. It
was the moment of departure. Bessie came to the doorstep, and
there the two sisters shook hands. No warmer salutation.
Bessie was very pale. Anne was fussy, and dropped her gloves,
and ran her umbrella at the side of the carriage. Bessie gave
her arm to assist her agèd relation
down the steps. Then I first saw the lady's face. It was
a yellow, dry face, with wizened lips and faded eyes, and no white
in the thin, withered hair. But then I knew it had once been
fair and comely, a face which I had coveted to confront me on my own
hearth—ay, a face which I had once kissed truly and tenderly; alas!
a face which afterwards I had almost cursed—for that haggard shrew
was the remains of Maria Willoughby! Thank God that Lucy
Weston was my first love, and lives safe with Him!
When they were gone, Miss Sanders crossed the road and spoke
to us. She only said all had happened very fortunately, and
she hoped Anne would be happy, and inquired after Ruth, and sent her
dutiful regards to her. Then she drew down her veil, and went
"She has lost her torment, and yet she seems sad," I
"It's hard to hae kin to tease one," said Mr McCallum; "but
it's harder to hae nane to please one. I reckon she'd give ten
years of her life to hae a richt to ilka body who had a bit o' love
But after the arrival of George Wilmot I feared lest I was
keeping the good man from his dinner, so with a very few words more
I left him, and went homewards in a somewhat sobered and saddened
mood. However I had parted from Maria Willoughby, I could not
forget how we had once met, and her re-appearance, an embittered,
loveless old woman, sickened my spirit like a breath of clammy air
from a tomb. What said Mr M'Callum?—that money could not buy
love? Ah, she had love once without thought of buying, and she
threw it away! Does its ghost ever visit her? There are
houses which stand so foul and neglected that passers-by say,
"Surely they are haunted." And so there are faces which warn
us not to ask the secrets of the hearts behind them. Poor
Maria! poor Maria!
But just at my own gate, I was roused from my reverie by the
stout voice of Mr Herbert. His niece was with him, and they
had come to pay us a visit. Somehow, Mr Herbert had heard of
the proposed gathering of the people of St Cross, and he had
actually come, unasked, to offer the use of his great dining-room
for the occasion. I think he conferred the obligation in
return for the little aid I had rendered Agnes; for I had
transmitted her father's book to a friend of mine in Paternoster
Row, who promised to give her a hundred pounds for it. The
transaction was managed by Agnes and me, and it was never mentioned
in the presence of her uncle, and he never mentioned it himself; but
from his manner I concluded his niece had kept no secret, though
both he and she preferred a tacit silence on the subject.
"You and your worthy sister and Mr Marten can invite the
folks-who you like and as many as you like—the more the merrier,"
said the bluff farmer. "The whole house is at your service,
and so are Mrs Irons and the girls, and I'll provide the victuals―don't
fear I shan't have enough."
"We shall certainly want the whole house, sir," returned my
sister: "kitchen, parlours, dining-room, and all, for everybody must
come; and I'm sure you'll welcome nobody so kindly as some who will
be most at home by the kitchen fire. We won't place anybody,
but we'll give everybody a chance of placing himself. There
are some that we should rise up before, Mr Herbert, who would not
thank us if we put them on cushioned chairs and Turkey carpet."
"You're a wise woman, Miss Garrett," said he and for my part,
if I could only sit in my own kitchen, I shouldn't be sorry.
My great-grandfather was a better man than me, ma'am, and he sat
there. Ah, ma'am, if we kept to the old ways we should be none
"But at which old way shall we make a stand?" asked Ruth
dryly. "The oldest ways in England were woad and acorns, and
Druids and sacrifices."
"Now, it strikes me you are laughing at me, Miss Garrett,"
said the farmer, good-humouredly; "I thought you liked the old ways
"I like some old ways," Ruth answered, "but along with the
good old ways there were bad old ways, and somehow I think the good
old ways live longest. I don't believe the world grows worse,
"Then do you think it grows better?" he asked rather quickly.
She shook her head: "I won't say that either," she replied,
"but I think it is like a child growing up. Its evil passions
are still there, but they are kept under more restraint."
"You are a clever woman," he said, "and you get beyond me.
I just like to keep in the beaten track, and do what my people did
before me, and then, at least, I'm safe."
"I don't know that," returned Ruth, carrying on the figure,
"you may be going over different soil, where a light wheel would
travel better than a heavy one."
"A heavy wheel may be sometimes slow, but it's always sure,"
said he, "and that reminds me a waggon of mine is now at the
wheelwright's, and I had best go and see after it."
He left Agnes behind him, saying he would send Mrs Irons to
fetch her in the course of the evening. The girl had not
expected this prolonged visit, and, as she had brought no work, she
asked us to provide her with some, and so I set her to sort and
endorse a basketful of old letters which I wished to keep. The
task lasted all day, though she went through it with alacrity, and
we were just going over the last papers, when there was a hasty rap
at the door, and a moment after Phillis hurriedly announced "Miss
Sanders," adding in a whisper, "She is crying, ma'am, and all in a
Bessie entered. She had lost no time on her toilet, for
her bonnet was not tied, and her shawl was only thrown hastily round
her. She had an open letter in her hand, which she laid before
Ruth, and then stood, breathless, unheeding the chair which Phillis
set for her.
My sister perused the document in silence, then, with a flash
of astonished intelligence, she said, "Edward, listen to this," and
"I feel it is my duty to tell you that the boy known in your
village as George Wilmot, and now living at the Refuge, is the son
of your dead cousin George Roper, who was privately married in
London under an assumed name. With this information to start
from, I think you will soon trace a likeness between the two.
I only disclose this as I think it will give happiness to both you
and the lad. In token of my good intentions I enclose a
sovereign for George Wilmot, not as a present, but as part payment
of an old account between his father and me. And I can only
"ONE WHO HAS MUCH TO REGRET."
"There it is!" exclaimed Bessie, dropping the piece of gold
on the table, and then, sinking on a seat, she gave way to a storm
of hysteric tears and laughter, among which the only intelligible
words were, "loneliness ended—thank God—thank God!" She
forgave her cousin's faithlessness to her sister's memory: she
forgave his hidden marriage, and the deception in which he died.
She thought only of a new right to love, of another call to live and
We all examined the letter. It was in delicate upright
writing, evidently the disguise of a refined, but perhaps
egotistical hand. The postmark was St Martin's-le-Grand, and
there was no stationer's name on the envelope. The writer had
known how to secure secrecy. Yet there was a simplicity about
the letter and its enclosure which seemed to ensure its
truthfulness. Evidently Bessie Sanders did not doubt it.
Presently she grew calm, and then arose, saying―
"I must go to the Refuge, and fetch him."
I prepared to go with her. Just as I put on my hat,
Agnes Herbert whispered―
"Please take me with you, and leave me at the Great Farm as
I looked down at the girl, and was startled by her ashen face
and wan eyes. "My dear," I said, " I fear you have done too
"I am a little tired," she answered, "but it's not for that I
want to go home; only if I go with you it will save Mrs Irons a
So she went with us, and we left her at her uncle's gate.
I half-expected she would ask me to call in on my return, and tell
her what passed at the Refuge, but she did not.
The M'Callums and George were all comfortably seated in their
little sitting-room. Our very appearance at that untimely
season startled them, and our errand startled them more. They
would fain have doubted the letter, but Bessie was terribly in
earnest, and had brought her sister's portrait, and there certainly
was a likeness between it and the half-pleased, half-frightened boy,
who submitted rather timidly to his relation's caresses, and then
stole back to Alice M'Callum.
Wherever his future home might be, Bessie implored that he
might return with her that night, until at last, with quivering
lips, Alice prepared his little outfit. Then the old man
blessed the boy, and Alice kissed him—quite calmly, until the
garden-gate clanged behind the happy woman and the astonished lad,
and then the gentle "matron" sat down, and wept bitterly—almost as
bitterly as a mother when her firstborn is carried from her arms to
"You must not grudge him to Miss Sanders," I said as gently
as I could; "she has nothing. You still have your grandfather
"Yes, I know," she sobbed. "And Ewen will never tire of
me, but oh, I must keep away from him. For he will
rise—rise—rise, and I must not keep him down. I must make him
think I don't care much for him, and can be quite happy without him.
And I thought we should have George always!"
"Wisht, lassie!" said old M'Callum; "the Lord gives and the
Lord takes awa', and a' ye've to do, lassie, is to bless His holy
"And you have not lost George," I pleaded. "Even if he
lives with Miss Sanders, still he will be close to you, and he will
not forget that you are his old friend—his first friend."
And just then it struck me it was a good thing his
relationship to the Sanderses had not been known on his arrival at
Upper Mallowe, for though Bessie's heart was soft enough towards him
now, when she saw him subdued, mellowed, and somewhat instructed,
her charity was not as tender and catholic as Alice's, and she might
have shrunk from the uncouth coarseness of the mere tramper boy.
"And he is George Roper's son," Alice exclaimed suddenly, her
tears ceasing, as she started up to set the supper dishes, "and it
was his father's knife he found in the hedge—and Bessie Sanders
believes our Ewen guilty—and now—"
"But George does not," I interrupted, "and George never
will—and your brother's innocence may be made manifest yet.
This very evening gives us an instance how secret things are brought
I said no more, for I knew her woman's heart was very
sore—smarting with the old ache of her brother's sufferings, and the
newer pang of Mr Weston's love affair. At another time she
would rejoice in the joy of Bessie and George, but just now it
mocked her—as a laugh in the streets mocks the watcher by a dying
So I returned home, musing at the wondrous providence which
weaves together such varying threads of human life, and suddenly the
question forced itself upon my mind—"Is it possible that he who led
George Wilmot to our house a year ago is the same who now sends this