Allerton and Dreux (Vol. I) I

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CHAPTER I. 

ASLEEP BENEATH THE CEDARS.


THERE was a quiet chamber in an old country house, where, once in the depth of winter, sat an old nurse, with a young infant on her knee. 

    The red curtains were let down before the windows, the floor was covered with a thick carpet, and a large fire blazed upon the hearth; the nurse glanced towards the bed where her lady was sleeping, and then drew her knees still nearer to the flame, and began to moralize.  What a strange thing it was, she thought, that the Rector and his wife, whose wish for children had been well known in the parish, should have had none for so many years; while in many a cottage, where they met with but a poor welcome and scanty fare, they came regularly once a-year, though the fathers grumbled at the creaking of the cradle-rockers, and the mothers declared, with tears in their eyes, that they did not know where the crust and the clothes were to come from. 

    She heard the church clock strike twelve, and thought, with a shiver, how her poor grandchildren were shaking in their beds;—the snow lay five feet deep in the fields, and was falling still; a flock of sheep had been dug out in the morning; such a hard winter had not been known for years.  Well, God help all poor folks! if she had not had each a good supper she might have considered their case with keener consideration; but as it was, she rocked the sleeping infant softly, and fell into a light doze. 

    A cautious footstep without presently aroused her.  She lifted up her head: "Bless the man, if he isn't here again," she thought, with a slight chuckle of amusement, "and afraid to come in for fear of disturbing 'em."  She coughed slightly, to show that she was awake, and the door thereupon was softly opened, and a stout, cheerful-looking gentleman came in with elaborate caution. 

    "And how are they by this time, Mrs. Keane?"

    "They're as well as can be, bless you, Sir," answered Mrs. Keane, for at least the twentieth time during the last afternoon. 

    "I hope this cold night is not against the infant." 

    "Bless you, no, Sir; don't be afraid; they live fast enough when they're not wanted; you shouldn't be in such a mighty fuss about it.  If you don't think no more about it than other folks, the child will live like other folks' children."

    Perhaps the Rector might have thought thought there was something in this reasoning, or perhaps he thought the old Nurse was tired of his questions.  Certain it is that he did not come again till six o'clock in the morning, when he was rewarded by hearing his wife declare herself very comfortable, and also by hearing his child cry with all the strength of her baby lungs. 

    In time he got accustomed to the honour of possessing a daughter, though he firmly believed that so sweet a child had never existed before, and wondered how he had contrived to pass so many years in tolerable happiness without her. 

    That very day next year, and Mrs. Keane always said ever after that it was (next to the circumstance of Mrs. Maidley's eldest being born on a Lady-day and her second on a Christmas-day) the oddest thing that had happened to any of her ladies,—the Rector's wife gave birth to a son.  It was the same day, and the same time of day, as she always said when she told the story; and what made it more particular was,
that whereas the first was the coldest winter ever known, so that the pretty dear never breathed the fresh air (excepting when they took her to be baptized) till she was nearly three months old, the second was, on the contrary, one of the mildest ever known, so that the last china rose had not faded before the earliest primrose came out.  Little Marion was a fine child, with light hair and dimpled cheeks; her face almost always expressed the serene happiness which is the natural dower of infant humanity.  Her brother was an active, mischievous boy, round-faced, noisy, and good-humoured.  Their parents, whose love increased with their growth, began early to make them the companions of their country walks; and many a time, when the lanes were too heavy for his wife to walk in, the Rector would carry his little daughter with him on his errands of mercy, that he might listen to her pretty prattle by the way. 

    In after-years, when Marion, sitting by the fire on a winter evening, would try to remember these days of her childhood, and to recall the image of her father, there were only a few scattered words that he had said, and expressions of endearment used towards herself and her brother, which seemed to survive of him in her memory: he was confused and blended with the many baby fancies and wonders which beset a childish reason.  She could not separate him from them; he had become like a companion in a dream, an actor in some previous existence; and withdrawn into the background of her thoughts, though often present with them, however vaguely, he still exercised a real dominion over her: his words were forgotten, but a certain consciousness of the meaning that they were intended to convey was left: the tones of his voice, before their meaning could be fully understood, had influenced the first dawn of her feelings; and early as he left her, that influence could never be set aside.

    But there was one day in Marion's childhood that she did remember distinctly, and well.  It was a beautiful afternoon in the beginning of August, perfectly clear and cloudless; there had been rain in the night, but not more than enough to lay the dust in the quiet country lanes through which she and her father walked. 

    It was the first day of wheat harvest, and Marion remembered how she had listened to the voices of the reapers through the hedge, and how her father had lifted her up that she might gather a long tendril of the wild vine for herself, and had cut her some briar roses with his knife.

    She then remembered how they had entered the partially-cut corn-field, and how her father had sat down beside the reapers, who were collected together under the shade of the hedge, eating their afternoon meal. 

    It might be from having heard some of those who listened then, speak of it afterwards and repeat his words, or it might be that her childish mind was more open and alive than usual; but Marion remembered distinctly some of his remarks as he sat and talked with the reapers.  She thought, too, that she could recall the persuasive tones of his voice, when he said, "Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth us rain, the former and the latter in his season; He reserveth to us the appointed weeks of the harvest." (Jer.  v.  24.)

    Walking through the corn-field home, Marion had gathered some blue corn-flowers, and picked up a few ears of wheat: these she recollected giving to him to carry for her, and that was the last walk she took with him and the very last thing she remembered of her father. 

    On that day, which was the 1st of August, the harvest began in the parish; that day three weeks the last load was led from the fields.  Some of the same labourers who sat to rest with him under the trees, were with the heavy wagon as it wound slowly through the narrow lanes, past the Rectory-house, and along by the side of the churchyard wall.  They turned their heads that way as they went, and looked towards two cedar-trees that stood in one corner: the long shadow of the steeple seemed to be pointing to a new grave that was beneath them, and to a strange gentleman who stood beside it.  The labourers went on; they knew who the stranger was, though he had been but three days in the parish.  The dead and the living, the new Rector and the old, had met together; the old Rector was gone to his account, and another was already appointed in his room. 

    The new Rector leaned against the trunk of the great cedar-tree, with his arms folded and his eyes fixed upon the grave; he watched the long shadow of the church steeple, stealing gradually over the tomb of his predecessor—he saw beyond the boundary walls of the churchyard, orchards and cornfields, scattered cottages and homesteads, peering out from among the thick trees; blue smoke was curling up from them, and within were people to whose necessities he had ministered, and whose spiritual wants he had striven to supply.  The scene of his labours was spread out before the eyes of his successor, as well as the place of his rest.  Doubtless he had often stood in that self-same place and looked upon that self-same scene.  Perhaps the same thoughts and the same perplexities had suggested themselves to his mind, and some warm thoughts of household love besides; for between the green ash-trees that grew by the lane side, might be seen the sloping lawn and the white gables of his earthly home.

    The turf had been broken in two or three places not far off: it could not be long since he had stood there.  Had he any rejoicing now, any "profit of all his labour that he had taken under the sun?" Had God acknowledged and blessed it? Had he entered upon his rest with those so lately committed to the dust, saying of them, "Behold, here am I, and the children that thou hast given me!"

    For himself there could not be a doubt that he had died the death of the righteous; but the flock that he had left behind, had they been willing and obedient, would they bear his words in mind now that he was gone? If so, there was the more hope for his successor.  Or would they suffer them lightly to be effaced, like his footsteps in the path that were already obliterated, and the sounds of his voice, the last echo of which had utterly died away?

    The new Rector roused himself at last from his long reverie, and walked slowly towards the church.  The clerk had brought him the key that morning, he had read himself in the day before, and with a vague, uneasy sense of possession and responsibility, he turned it in the rusty lock and entered.  The great door creaked heavily behind, and closed with a hollow looming sound, that was repeated in the roof and among the pillars as he advanced towards the chancel. 

    The church was a fine structure, plain but ancient and substantial; there was room for nearly 800 people within its walls, but the population did not amount to more than two-thirds of that number, and of these a considerable proportion always stayed away. 

    As he walked up the centre aisle, and turned his eyes first to one side and then to the other, he became conscious in a painful degree of the oppressive stillness of the place, and looking upon it as the scene in which he expected to pass the most momentous hours of his future life—a place which was familiar with the tones of departed voices, which had repeated and echoed the warnings of many a now silenced pastor, and been filled with the psalmody of foregone generations,—he felt like one in the presence of many witnesses, brought into unwonted nearness with the past, such contact as almost to make him look upon himself as an intruder, one that had come to the dwelling of beings unseen, the fall of whose foot was strange to their ears, as he moved beneath the high stone arches, observed but not perceiving. 

    "Work while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work"—this seemed to be their injunction.  "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me," was the substance of his answer. 

    Some time passed while he was examining the church, vestry, and vaults; at length he came back to the door, and turned his eyes again towards the grave.  The long shadow of the church had completely covered it now, and two little children in deep mourning were sitting at its head. 

    The Rector who had died in the evening of that same day that he took the last walk with his little child, had now been buried more than a fortnight, and his tomb, which was a large flat stone not raised more than a foot and a-half from the ground, had been completed only two days.  The inscription was simple and short:—


"SACRED TO THE MEMORY

OF THE REV.  WALTER GREYSON,

FOR TWELVE YEARS RECTOR OF THIS PARISH.

DIED AUGUST 1ST, 18 —,

IN THE 41ST YEAR OF HIS AGE.

'The dead in Christ shall rise.'"


    Two little children, perfectly silent, sat together by the stone, as if waiting for some absent person, the one watching him as he came towards them, the other playing with a few daisies that he held in his pinafore.  They did not move when he came up to them and looked in their blooming faces, with the full consciousness of whose children they must be; and there was an intentional quietness about them that showed plainly to one so well acquainted as himself with the workings of infant minds, that they imagined themselves in the presence of their father, and had a vague impression that they must not make a noise lest they should disturb him.

    ''Why do you come here, little Marion?" said he, stooping down and addressing the elder child by the name he knew she bore. 

    "To see papa," replied the child in a low, cautious voice. 

    Humouring her fancy, he sat down beside her, and placing her gently on his knee, parted back her soft hair, and wondered whether her father might have resembled her; then sinking his voice almost to a whisper, he laid his hand on the stone and said, "But is papa here?"

    "Papa 's gone to heaven," said the younger child, looking up for a moment from his daisies. 

    But little Marion, who had gazed at him with a perplexed and dubious expression, now slipped off his knee, and swept softly away with her hand two or throe yellow leaves that had fallen from a young lime-tree upon the tomb, and then came back with childlike simplicity, and let him take her in his arms again. 

    This little action, so full of affection, her evident though unexpressed belief that her father was there, that he could not leave the place, but yet that it was unkind to leave him there alone, together with the tender and cautious manner with which she swept them away from the face of the cold stone, as if even her father's tomb was already becoming confused in her mind into a part of himself, — these things touched him with a strong feeling of tenderness for her, and little Marion, as the strange gentleman drew her closer towards him, was surprised to see that his eyes were filled with tears. 

    "Where is your mamma," said he after a long silence. 

    "Mamma's very ill now," said little Marion, "she can't come and see poor papa." 

    God comfort her, thought the new Rector, hers is a bitter trial indeed!

    Sitting on the tomb of their father with the two children in his arms, he felt that in their desolate state, they were as much given over to him as if he could have heard a voice from the tomb commending them to his care; while they were well content to receive his caresses, quite unconscious that his future affection was to be one of the best blessings of their lives, quite careless as to why he bestowed it, or who he might be. 

    He was still talking to them when a young servant in deep mourning advanced towards him, and seemed relieved at sight of the children.  She accounted for their having strayed into the churchyard by saying, that owing to the dangerous illness of her mistress the house was in great confusion, and they had been sent to play alone in the garden that they might be out of the way. 

    The children lifted up their faces to kiss their new friend, and obtained from him a promise that he would come again the next day; then turning away with their maid, began to skip about and laugh as soon as they had got a little distance from their father's grave. 

    There was no rectory in the parish, though the house where Mr. Greyson had lived had naturally gone by that name; there was, therefore, no need for the poor widow to think of moving, or for others to think of it for her; while day after day, and week after week she lay almost unconscious of the lapse of time, and passed through the wearisome stages of a severe illness occasioned by the overwhelming shock of her husband's sudden death, watched over with the utmost tenderness by her two sisters through sufferings that at one time left but little hope either for her life or her reason.  However, with the passing away of the old year, which seemed to take all the severity of the winter with it, she suddenly began to revive, and, once able to rise from her bed, her recovery was as rapid as her prostration had been complete. 

    In the meanwhile the new Rector had been labouring among the poor, and carrying out to the utmost the plans of his predecessor.  He, however, failed at first to make himself acceptable to the people, and for three or four months had the pain of seeing the attendance at the church get gradually less and less.  The people complained that they did not hear him well, that his voice was thick and indistinct; others declared that though he read the prayers very well, he mumbled his sermons, so that they did not understand them.  All agreed that he was a good gentleman, and had a very kind way with him, but still he was not like Mr. Greyson, and they did not think they could ever take to any one else as they had done to him.

    So the verdict was given against him in many of the cottages, and though they bestowed a great many curtseys upon him, they gave him very few smiles.  There was a certain reserve and silence about him which the poor mistook for pride, and not conceiving it possible that a gentleman like him could be conscious of any such feeling as shyness or awkwardness in talking to them, drew back themselves, and increased his uneasiness by their distant coldness and respect.  So the new Rector lived till Christmas, personally, as well as mentally, alone.  He had very few acquaintances in the neighbourhood, and the few country families whom he visited were as much influenced as the poor themselves by the sensitive reserve of his manners.  He did not seem at ease in society, and as to his own people he evidently felt that, at least at present, they had few sympathies in common.  But he was always happy and at his ease with children; it was part of the singularity of his character to understand their motives and enter into their affections without an effort.  The expression of his countenance, the tone of his voice, the very touch of his hand seemed to undergo a change when he took a child upon his knee and smoothed down its soft hair with his open palm. 

    He was a tall man, with a powerful frame, a light complexion, and a slight stoop in his shoulders; his features were rather heavy, and when he was at all agitated he had a slight hesitation in his speech, or rather a difficulty in expressing himself, that gave him an appearance of indecision and vacillation quite foreign to his real character.

    At length, though his conscientious care for them in public, and his visits to the sick could not win the hearts of the people, a circumstance very slight in itself, and arising naturally out of his love for children, caused the feeling towards him to undergo a sudden change; he rose at once to the height of popularity, and the reason was no other than this:—

    There was a new school-room in the parish, very near the church; it was finished soon after Mr. Greyson's death, and opened for use in the middle of November.  The village, which was a scattered one, was situate partly above and partly below the site of the school-room, and those children who had to come down the hill to it were obliged to cross a little brook that ran over the road, or rather lane, not far from the house where the new Rector lived.  Now this little brook, as the autumn happened to be a remarkably dry one, was so slight an impediment that any child could step across it without wetting its feet, and this state of things continued for some weeks after the new room was opened. 

    One morning, however, when the Rector went to visit it, he was surprised to see the floor covered with little wet footmarks, and on asking the reason of this, as the road was quite dry, the mistress told him that the rains of the past week had so swollen the brook, that almost all the children had wetted their feet in springing over it. 

    "Indeed, Mr. Raeburn, I don't believe there's a single dry foot in the school," she said, drawing off the shoes of a tiny child, and letting the water drop down from them. 

    "That's bad," said Mr. Raeburn; "we must make a little bridge over the stream.  Now, children, when you come in the afternoon, mind, you're not to cross the brook till I come to you." 

    Accordingly, in the afternoon he went down to the brook, which, though only three or four inches deep, was as wide as a man could stride over; here he found a large attendance waiting for him in a smiling row, with little ticket bags in their hands, and, planting one foot firmly on each side, he took up each little creature in turn, and set her down on the other side.  The children were delighted with the bustle and importance of being carried, and, above all, with the idea of having a bridge made on purpose for them; but Mr. Raeburn found to his disappointment, when he examined the place next day, that the lane was so narrow that every wagon which went down it would demolish his bridge with its heavy wheels; he was, therefore, obliged to repeat the experiment of transporting them himself all through the winter; their pleasure in the short trip seeming to compensate him for the trouble, and he not being at all conscious that he was winning for himself "golden opinions from all sorts of people," filling his church by this indirect means, and laying the foundation of a popularity that was to last till his dying day; but such proved to be the case.  Every mother's heart is accessible through her child; her feelings are touched by kindness shown to it, and her pride is flattered by notice taken of it.  It is quite true that some of these poor women did not mind particularly whether their children got their feet wet or not, but still it was gratifying to think that the Rector cared, that he did not mind leaving his breakfast to come out and carry them over.  It was their children who were of so much consequence, therefore their own importance was increased, and their husbands, fathers, and brothers heard so much henceforward of Mr. Raeburn's marvellous and varied good qualities, that even if they had been disposed to deny them, they must soon have given in for the sake of peace and quietness.  He was pronounced from that time to be one of the pleasantest gentlemen that ever lived—a little distant like, but then he could not possibly be proud, or he would never have demeaned himself to wait upon their children.  It was also discovered that if his voice was not quite "so clear as a bell," it was a very pleasant voice, and any one could hear every word he said that would take the trouble of listening.  Also woe betide the rash individual who dared after that to say he or she could not make out the meaning of his sermons.  "Some folks," it would be remarked in reply, "never knew when they were well off; but if some folks would attend to the discourse as other folks did, instead of going to sleep, looking out of window, or staring about them, perhaps they would learn the value of a good plain sermon that had no fine words in it, and not go to try to make other folks believe they couldn't make out the meaning of it." 

    The subject of this wonderful revolution of opinion, though far from divining the cause, soon began to rejoice in the effects of it.  He found that wherever he went he was greeted with smiles; the best chair was brought near the fire for him and dusted with the good wife's apron.  He wondered at first, but soon learnt to refer it to the force of habit, arguing to himself that the people from being used to him had come to like him. 

    It was a very pleasant change to him, and one that soon wrought a corresponding change in his own manner.  As for the children they had no opinion to alter; from the first they had been on his side, for, unlike other gentlemen of his age and gravity, he had a curious habit of carrying apples, cakes, peppermint, &c., in his coat pockets, not apparently for his own eating, for when he met a few small parishioners he used to throw down some of these delicacies in the road, and walk on, without saying a word or turning round to see whether they picked them up. 

    He had also a singular habit of muttering to himself, as he walked down the lanes, with his eyes on the ground and his hands in his pockets.  When first the people saw him thus engaged, and so deep in thought as to be unconscious of the presence of any one whom he might chance to meet, they said he was reckoning over his tithes; but afterwards it was reported that he was repeating prayers,—perhaps for them.  Thus it soon became true of him, as of King David of old, "The people took notice of it, and it pleased them; as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people." 

    So passed the time till the end of January, the two fatherless children of the late Rector becoming daily more endeared to his eccentric successor.  He used constantly, when he saw them playing in the garden with their nurse, to call them to the little low hedge, and lift them over to take a walk with him.  Many a long mile he carried them, first one and then the other, when the distance wearied them; and they soon learned to substitute him for their father, and gradually began to look to him for their little pleasures, following him about in his garden, and into the church and church-yard, where, with a sweet childish superstition, they always lowered their voices when they passed their father's grave. 

    Thus he had become a most familiar friend to the children before their mother had seen his face.  For the first five months of her widowhood she had not been able to bear an interview with him; but, with her sudden restoration to some measure of health, the natural strength and self-possession of her character returned, and she sent a message to request that he would come and see her. 

    After the affecting accounts that he had heard of her sufferings, both of body and mind, he was surprised at the perfect calmness with which she received him.  She even evinced a desire to speak on the subject of her loss, and turned from more general topics to thank him for his kindness to her children; alluding to their fatherless condition without outward emotion, but with that quiet sorrow that leaves little for a sympathizing friend to say.  Mr. Raeburn had not uttered many words before she perceived that he possessed in no ordinary degree the power of entering into the distress of others.  The slight hesitation of his voice was very much against him when he endeavoured to enforce a truth or make an appeal to the reason of his hearers; but in this case it imparted a touching gentleness to all he said, and his efforts to overcome his natural reserve, and his evident anxiety lest he might disturb instead of soothing her, were more grateful tokens of his fellow-feeling than any attempts he might have made at consolation. 

    But he made none.  All topics of consolation had been exhausted on her, all reasons why she should bear up suggested, all alleviating circumstances pointed out long ago.  Her friends had been very anxious that she should see the man who was now appointed to be her spiritual guide, thinking that he might be able to say still more than they had done to comfort her.  But now that she had overcome her strong reluctance, he sat beside her, offering few admonitions to submission or patience.  His manner seemed to express a consciousness that he could not lighten the dark valley through which she was walking, at the same time that it gave evidence of his willingness, if it were possible, to enter it with her by sympathy and walk for a while by her side. 

    There was no intruding, but in his consolation;—he seemed to admit at once the greatness of her trial.

    Her sisters and friends had said, "It is true that your trial is great, but would it not have been greater if pecuniary difficulties had been added? It is certain that you are greatly to be pitied, but what would it have been if you had felt no comfort as to the state of his soul? It is not to be denied that your circumstances are distressing, but they might have been far more so.  It is a sad thing to have lost jour husband, but no tears will bring him back, and you must endeavour to be resigned." 

    No such reasons for resignation were urged by the successor of her late husband.  He showed, indeed, by the tone of his voice, and the expression of his countenance, that he understood and entered into her trial; but his manner expressed a perfect consciousness that no earthly voice could heal the wound.  He did not even remind her of the undoubted fact, that time would certainly moderate her sorrow,—that most true but least welcome source of comfort that can be offered to a mourner. 

    This singularity of manner, this casting aside all the usual phrases and subjects that form the matter of conversation between the happy and the unhappy, often proved distressing to those who did not know the real feeling with which he "wept with those that wept.''  But in the case of Mrs. Greyson, it afforded a welcome relief after listening to the reasonings of well-meaning friends, who had seemed to say, "Try to look at your misfortune in the light that I do, and it will seem less hard to bear."  But this friend rather told her, "I cannot remove the suffering, but I suffer with you." 

    Soothed by his fellow-feeling, she turned, after a while, to speak of the mercies that were still accorded to her,—spoke hopefully of the peace she might yet have with her two children, and mentioned the kindness she had met with in grateful terms. 

    He replied: "I do not agree with those who complain that there is a want of kindness in this world, even among the worldly.  Surely we have all met with much; and we should take it kindly as it is meant.  If those who give us kindness do not truly understand us, and give sympathy besides, we must not blame them; they know it only by name, and have it not to give." 

    "I have felt the truth of the distinction," she answered, "and I hope it has led me to trust in something better than human sympathy; otherwise, during all my trial, I must have felt utterly alone." 

    With the same hesitation of manner, he replied, "Certainly, Madam; there are depths in the heart into which no human eye can reach.  With its bitterness, no less than with its joy, the 'stranger intermeddleth not.' The soul lives alone, and it suffers alone.  There is but One who can fully understand its wants and satisfy its cravings,—who knows all that we suffer, and fully understands all that we cannot express.  Where should we look for help if it were not for the 'Son of consolation?' When the spirit with which we had held sweet communion is withdrawn, what interest, what end would remain, if we might not hear the whispers of His love who regards as with a yet deeper tenderness than we ever bestowed on the departed, and who said, long ago, 'Let thy widows trust in me?'"

    Finding that she made no answer, he added,—"How marvellous is the sympathy of Christ! We suffer, and the Head suffers with us, even while we are enduring the very affliction that His love sees to be needful to make us meet for our heavenly inheritance.  We suffer in darkness, and sometimes not seeing nor understanding the end, and not being able to conceive the glory that shall follow.  But He sees the end from the beginning; He knows how short these years of darkness will soon be to look back upon.  Yet in all our present affliction He is afflicted, and mourns for us, and with us, over the dangers and sorrows of the way, though every painful step leads us nearer to the place that He has prepared for us, where 'sorrow and sighing shall flee away,' and the redeemed shall rest with Him, 'whose rest shall be glorious.'"

    At this moment the two children glided softly into the room.  They had been out for their walk, and had brought some snowdrops for their mother.  During her long illness they had been taught quietness, and all their movements had become habitually subdued.  But with all this gentleness they showed a delight on seeing Mr. Raeburn which touched her heart.  She felt how great that kindness must have been which gave them confidence to climb about him and importune him for the little childish pleasures that he had promised to procure for them. 

    The spring of the year opened unusually early; the blossoms and leaves were out nearly a month before their usual time.  April came in like May; and Mrs. Greyson recovered sufficient strength to be able to attend the church services, and walk along the quiet country lanes, talking to her children of their dead father.


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CHAPTER II. 

THE LITTLE TEA-MAKER.


FOR the first few months of Mr. Raeburn's residence in his new parish, he occupied rooms in an old farm-house; but at Christmas he took a lease of a fine but rather dilapidated place, the garden of which ran along by the side of the church-yard.  The children, who had free leave to follow him wherever he went, took great delight in wandering about through the grand old rooms and corridors, and in watching the progress of the work-people.  The house was a red brick structure, but its original brightness had become subdued to an umber hue.  The west front was half covered with branching ivy, which climbed over some part of the roof, and mantled the chimneys.  The lawn was adorned with a fountain and a sun-dial, from which, as from two centres, a multitude of small flower beds branched off.  There the children spent many an hour watching him, while he pulled up the worthless plants, and put in bulbs and young trees.  But the part of the garden on which he bestowed the greatest pains, was that which lay before the windows of one particular sitting-room in the south side of the house.  It was a pretty room, opening by French windows into a terrace, which led down by stone steps into the garden.  There was a long balcony over the terrace, supported on stone pillars, over which beautiful creeping plants were trained; and their slight pleasant shade cast a gloom over the room during the afternoon, when it would otherwise have been oppressively hot.  This apartment was wainscoted with oak.  The floor was partially covered with a square of Turkey carpet, and the cornice and chimney-piece were carved in a rich pattern, representing bunches of grapes twisted with ears of corn, and tied together with a carved ribbon, on which was written the motto, "I Dreux to me honour;" for the house had formerly belonged to an ancient Norman French family, of the name of Dreux, and in almost every room their arms were quaintly carved in oak of deep rich colour, very few shades removed from black.  Mr. Raeburn furnished this room in the taste of two hundred years ago.  Even the plants in pots, which he set on the steps of the terrace, were stately and old-fashioned, and consisted principally of large hydrangeas, tall hollyhocks, princes'-feathers, coxcombs, campanulas, and myrtles. 

    By the middle of spring, the house was as neat and clean inside as a single gentleman's housekeeper could make it.  But Mr. Raeburn, though as good a master as ever lived, was not perfect—who is?—and one of the qualities which, in his housekeeper's opinion, stood between him and perfection, was his terrible untidiness.  He stained the carpets with red mud, for want of care in wiping his shoes; he left her beautiful bright pokers in the fire till all their polish was burnt off; and he had a bad habit of opening any book he chanced to see, and putting his bands into it, as often as not with the strings hanging out.  Besides which, he continually mislaid his papers, books, and other possessions, and thought nothing of turning out the contents of his drawers on the floor in his search for them.  But untidiness, the housekeeper knew, was a failing common to most bachelors; so she put to rights after him with great resignation, merely remarking to her subordinates, when she found a more than ordinary uproar among his papers, "that to see how he went on, one would think he expected nature, or Providence, or some of them fine folks, to put to rights after him, instead of a lone woman that had but one pair of hands." 

    Every Monday evening, Marion and Wilfred came to drink tea with Mr. Raeburn.  Immediately before their arrival they proceeded straight into the kitchen; for it was a kitchen after all, though as clean as the study, and ornamented with a square of Kidderminster carpet, as well as with several gaudy tea-trays, the special property of the housekeeper, one of which was the subject of unceasing admiration to the two children.  It represented a striped tiger issuing from a small pink temple, and making its way towards a remarkably blue pond, whereon floated a thing like a Noah's Ark, made of wickerwork.  In this thing, supposed to be some kind of boat or raft, sat two ladies, with their heads on one side, fanning themselves with things like battledores, while a fiery gentleman was taking deliberate aim at the tiger with a weapon something like a spud. 

    When Marion and Wilfred had sufficiently admired this tray, they proceeded to toast three rounds of toast — one for each of themselves and one for Mr. Raeburn.  This duty over, they amused themselves with the cat, and watched the cuckoo clock in the corner, sometimes pulling down the weights to make it six o'clock the sooner.  When things got to this pass, Mr. Raeburn always came out and took them into his study, to sit with him till the tea came in, with the three rounds of toast, one for each of the company.  Marion always made the tea.  At first, when they began to spend their Monday evenings with Mr. Raeburn, she required a great deal of assistance, and did no more than put in sugar and milk at her own discretion.  He was extremely careful on other points to make things fair between the children, but in making the tea he admitted of no such thing as turns,—or what came to the same thing, it was always Marion's turn. 

    Marion paid great attention to his instructions, and by the time she was eight years old she had arrived at a proficiency in the art that was quite marvellous for one so young.  Indeed, she was so much at home in exercising it, and looked so sweet and happy, that as he sat gazing at her during this particular period of his life, he often conjured up another image in her place—the image of a lady whose cheeks were not so blooming, but whose clear dark eyes and brown hair would not have suffered by contrast with hers.

    One night, when tea had been over some time, and Mr. Raeburn had already concocted with his pocket-knife a whole fleet of ships cut out of walnut shells, and had also drawn a succession of landscapes in the blank leaves of his pocket-book, each consisting of one cottage in the distance, with two doors and one window, and a pond in the foreground full of ducks and ducklings, each quite as large as the cottage.—And when he had altered them to suit the fancy of the possessor, by filling the atmosphere with flying ducks, and when he had told them several stories, and they had began to get rather sleepy, he took Marion on his knees, and while she rested her head on his shoulder, and began to sing some nursery rhymes, he allowed his fancy quite to run away with him, and transport him, like the gentleman in the song, ''over the hills and far away."  The particular hills he went over in this excursion were the Malvern hills, and he alighted at the door of a pretty house, where in a parlour reading, sat the same young lady with dark eyes.

    She was very much younger than Mr. Raeburn, for she could scarcely have reached her twenty-third year; but the vision went on to show that she was delighted to see him; and it is impossible to say how far he might have pursued it, if Marion had not suddenly lifted up her face and said, "Uncle,"—he had taught her to call him so,—"Uncle, who makes tea for you on other nights, when we are not here?  What do you do all by yourself?"

    The words entered his ears and changed the scene of his reverie, though they had not power to wake him from it.  He immediately recalled the sweet image of his little tea-maker, with her childish pride in the office, and let her features change and give place to those of the dark-eyed Euphemia, whom he hoped soon to see at his board; he imagined himself reading to her in the evening, and fancied how pleasantly she would speak to the cottagers and the children.  Then he began to consider the fourteen years' difference between her age and his, and wondered whether they would make it less easy for her to enter fully into his pursuits and for him to make her happy.  He was going out the next day; in three weeks he hoped to return; by that time the country would be looking its best, for the orchards would be in full blossom and the hedges in their first fresh green.  Marion had dropped her head when she found he did not answer, and had gone on softly singing to herself; but presently the same thought struck her again, and she repeated her question,—''Uncle, what do you do all those nights when we are not here?"

    Mr. Raeburn woke up from his reverie with a start, and, smoothing her hair, inquired, ''What did you say, my pretty?"

    Marion repeated her words once more, upon which Mr. Raeburn replied, that he certainly had been obliged to spend a great deal of his time alone,—a great deal more than he liked, and he often felt very lonely.  He then went on and gave such a dismal picture of his solitary life, his sitting at tea alone, and being obliged to make it himself, that Marion's little heart was pained for him, and her eyes filled with tears.

    Didn't he think he could get some one to come and make tea for him every night? she inquired. 

    Mr. Raeburn, as if the idea was quite new to him, took a minute to consider of it, and then said, he thought he could; he was almost sure of it.  In fact, he intended to see about it very soon. 

    So Marion was satisfied, and did not trouble herself to ask any more questions, merely remarking, that if he did not remember to tell the new tea-maker (who was at present a mere abstract idea in her mind)—if he did not tell her to be very careful with the cream-jug she would certainly break it, for it was cracked already. 

    But Mr. Raeburn, to her great surprise, replied, that it did not matter about that, for he had sent to London for a new tea-pot and cream-jug made of silver, and that she should see them some day and make tea in them herself, if the new tea-maker liked, which he thought she would. 

    They were still discussing the new tea equipage when their nurse came to fetch them home; and Marion, whose sleepy feelings went off in the open air, related the conversation to her mother with great glee. 

    "Mamma, Uncle Raeburn says, that perhaps I shall make tea out of his beautiful new tea-pot." 

    "Did he tell you who was coming to make tea with it every night?" asked her mother, with a smile. 

    "No," said Marion, shaking her head; "but I dare say she is much older than I, for he said, if she liked, I might; and he thought she would." 

    This was on the evening of Easter Monday,—Mr. Raeburn was going out after morning service the next day.  Easter had fallen very late this year, and the weather was unusually fine for the season; the trees had already put out their leaves, and the lane sides were yellow with primroses. 

    Mrs. Greyson lingered in the church after service with her children till the last of the rustic congregation had withdrawn, then, going out with them to the two cedar-trees, she sat down to wait for Mr. Raeburn, close to her husband's grave. 

    It had never been a sorrowful place for them; the dead father was not connected in their minds with any mournful images; they thought of him either asleep in his grave,—a smooth place and green, and quiet within; or else sitting in heaven in the presence of the Redeemer, and of all the good men and women whom they had read of in the Bible.

    Exceedingly inquisitive, like many other children, about the employments and happiness of the separate state, they had listened with earnest wonder to every symbol put forward in Scripture to give an impression or image of the peace and the aspect of that land which is very far off. 

    They had no painful knowledge of death to make it a mournful subject; they knew that the dead in Christ should rise, for it was written on his tomb, and had often been explained to them from their earliest years; thus, when they thought of him in his deep, narrow bed, it was always as he had looked when he was alive, lying in a sleep from which he was to be awakened by that voice which will reach the dead.  From year to year their thoughts became less distinct about him and their recollections more vague, but still he was always the same dear papa who had loved them so much,—who had liked to have them with him, and had prayed God to bless them a few minutes before he died. 

    To their mother, time, which softens all sorrow, had brought something more than the passive acquiescence which visits their hearts who look upon the dispensations of God's providence simply as misfortunes which they must bear as they best can; she had learned to consider all God's dealings with her, even the most afflictive, as the evidences of a heavenly Father's love, who has promised his children that all things shall work together for their good. 

    It was a beautiful morning, and as she sat watching her two children, the treasures of her life, and looking at the beautiful landscape spread out before her, she pondered on the text which had been the subject of the morning's sermon,—"All things are yours."  It recurred to her first, as she observed the extreme beauty of everything around her.  There is a kind of natural gratitude which arises spontaneously in the heart when it is impressed by any unusual beauty or grandeur in the face of nature, and the natural mind often mistakes this feeling for true devotional aspirations after the great Maker and Founder of nature; but, in the renewed mind, such indefinite delight and awe are exchanged for grateful love to Him "who giveth us all things richly to enjoy," and who has not only in his revealed Word taught us many things by symbols drawn from the external world, thus making every season and every scene testify of Him, but has made the place of his children's pilgrimage beautiful, and filled it with objects that delight the eye, as if his bounty could never be satisfied with pouring out kindness on those whom his love has redeemed, with heaping upon them the treasures both of nature and redemption, and saying to them, "All things are yours." 

    Pondering on this subject, she forgot to observe how silent the children were, and how intently they were watching her face; but at length the striking of the church clock recalled her to herself, and she asked if they were tired, and whether they wished to go home.  They were very happy, they said, and they wished to stay till Mr. Raeburn came: they knew he would soon pass through the church-yard, for the groom had been leading his horse up and down the lane for some time; he was going to a village about five miles off to meet the north coach, and though they had taken leave of him, they wished to see him again. 

    Marion and Wilfred were tying up some little bunches of daisies for their mamma; when they had finished they laid them on her knee, and Wilfred ran off to play; Marion watched him till he disappeared behind the church; then turning to her mother she said, as if the subject had puzzled her for some time —

    "Mamma, what are toilsome years?"

    "Toilsome years," repeated her mother gently, and wondering where the child had met with the expression. 

    "Yes, mamma, I read it on Miss Dreux's monument, that young lady who was an heiress.  I always read the monuments when I go into the church with Uncle Raeburn." 

    "What is written on that one?" asked her mother.  Marion repeated the lines which had perplexed her—


"God comfort us for all our tears,
    That only He has seen,
And shortly end the toilsome years,
    Us, and his rest between.

"The love from earth with thee departs
    That thou didst with thee bring;
Thou wert unto so many hearts
    The most beloved thing. 

"But who remembrance would forego
    That thy loved face had seen,
Or let his mourning cease, nor know
    That thou hadst ever been."


    "Do you know who Miss Dreux was?" asked her mother. 

    "Yes, mamma, it says on her tomb, 'Elinor, the beloved and only child of Colonel Dreux and Maria his wife: who died in her sixteenth year.' But what made their years toilsome?"

    "Did you never hear this life compared to a journey, Marion?"

    "O yes, in the 'Pilgrim's Progress,' mamma." 

    "If you were setting out on a journey with delightful companions, and friends to love you and take care of you, the little trouble and weariness of the way would not seem very hard to bear—you would not mind being tired, perhaps, in playing and talking, you might forget that your feet ached a little; but if you had to go by yourself and these pleasant companions were all gone away, and the road was very lonely and dark, then you would begin to feel the toil of the journey and to wish it was over—don't you think you should, Marion?"

    Marion glanced at her father's grave, and then looked earnestly in her mother's face.  During the last few moments she had dimly perceived, with the sympathy of a child, that the sadness of her mother was not all occasioned by the fate of the beautiful girl, whose marble statue with its listless features lay so quietly reclined upon her tomb.

    Kind and affectionate feelings had very early exhibited themselves in her conduct and that of her little brother—the same feeling of longing desire to "show some kindness to the dead," which had often prompted them to come (as if to some duty which must not be neglected), to sit by their father's grave to bear him company; and had often filled them with remorseful sorrow, if they had neglected to do so for a longer time than usual—that same feeling which, in older hearts, gratifies itself in spending care and love upon their living representatives, now sprung up in her mind towards her mother, and touched her with a tender regret, such as will sometimes visit a child's heart at the sight of habitual melancholy, or any continuous sadness—a state of mind which is always mysterious; to them, and of all others the least easy to understand.

    Marion perceived some application in her mother's words which she could not express, and began to wonder whether her mother's were toilsome years, because if they were, she thought when she was grown older she would comfort her.

    The "desire of a man is his kindness;" this is still more strikingly true of the desire of a child; there is something lovely in the dim anxiety that haunts them when some fancied evil, some dreamed of danger hangs over the head of a father or a mother. 

    The morning was slipping away, Marion soon forgot her anxious speculations and began to make a daisy necklace.  The starlings and rooks that lived in the steeple were busy and noisy, the one darting backwards and forwards in a straight, steady flight, — the others poising themselves and floating in the air with sticks in their beaks.  The noonday air became warmer and more still, the red buds of the chestnut-trees began to unfold their crumpled leaves, and Mr. Raeburn's favourite horse, as he was led up and down with Wilfred on his back, ceased altogether to expect his master. 

    But he came at last in a great hurry, and waded through the long grass to wish Mrs. Greyson good bye: he had lingered in his house till the last minute, and was afraid he should miss the coach; but he was in very good spirits, and told Marion, as he lifted her, that he hoped in three weeks to bring back the new tea-maker. 

    The three weeks passed very happily with Marion and Wilfred.  They took long walks with their mamma, and made collections of out-of-door treasures,—hoards of fir-apples, red catkins which strewed the ground under the poplar-trees, cup mosses, and striped shells.  There was a hollow tree in Mr. Raeburn's garden, where they were in the habit of depositing these natural curiosities, together with balls of packthread, last year's nests, bits of empty honey-comb, and any other articles of pertù which it was not lawful to carry into the house.  The children thought the new tea-maker was a long time coming; they went with their mother in Mr. Raeburn's house to inspect the arrangements for his return; they admired the plants in pots which had been set all along the terrace, and the cold collation on the table, but most of all, they were delighted to see the servants in their white gloves and white ribbons, and the housekeeper in her green silk gown. 

    It was about five o'clock in the afternoon: every cottage door was open; for if there had been no wish to welcome the Rector home, it is certain that no cottage girl or cottage wife would miss the sight of a bride.  So all the doors were open, and all the gardens were full of flowers, bright ones, and large, such as cottager's love, borage for the bees, tall foxgloves, cabbage-roses, peonies, lilacs, wallflowers, crown-imperials, and guelder-roses. 

    Little Marion, with a white muslin frock and satin sash, was standing with Wilfred at their mother's gate, under the shade of a hawthorn tree, a soft shower of the falling blossoms kept alighting on her hair, till it looked as if it had been sown with seed pearls.  The air had given a more than ordinary lustre to her fair complexion, though her blue eyes retained their usual expression of serenity and peace. 

    The church clock was striking five when the Rector and his young wife turned the slope of the last hill which divided them from the village, and as the carriage advanced, saw it lying beneath them half buried in trees, with the church spire and the two cedars, and the long sunny lane which led down to them.  It was a beautiful evening; never had the scattered village looked more picturesque, the meadows and pasture-lands greener, or the little winding river more tranquil. 

    The chestnut-trees were in blossom, and the lane was chequered all over with the rays of the afternoon sun slanting through them.  No snow had ever made the hedges whiter than they were now in the full pride of their millions of blossoms—white as the bride's veil, they seemed almost weighed down with the multitudes that adorned them.  All the orchards were white too, and a slow shower kept perpetually falling from the branches to the ground below.

    Through the light foliage of lime trees in their first leaf the bride caught her earliest glimpse of her new home, watched with earnest and pleased attention every change in the beautiful landscape, and looked at the far-off range of blue hills, so faint in outline that it was not easy to say where they melted into the sky. 

    She uttered no word as they drew nearer, but kept her eyes fixed upon the lovely scene; the hanging woods and hop-gardens, the corn-fields and apple-orchards; nearer at hand the sloping glades, where dapple cows were chewing the cud in the evening sunshine, and for a background a group of pure white clouds, small and distinct, lying as quietly in the deep sky as a flock of lambs on a green hill-side. 

    The Rector watched her face as she gazed on the neighbourhood of her home, and he read in her dark eyes their tribute of admiration for its beauty; but not a word she spoke; her face, always pale, looked paler from the agitation of her feelings, and made her long dark hair seem darker than before. 

    So going slowly on they soon passed out of view of Marion and Wilfred, and turned into the garden-gate which led to their own house, drawing up at the porch, where all the servants, with the old housekeeper at their head, were waiting to receive them. 

    She was a sweet lady, the Rector's wife; they all said so before she had been long among them.  She soon paid visits to some of the cottagers with her husband, and then they too said she was a sweet lady.  Marion and Wilfred quite agreed with them, for she spoke to them so gently and tenderly; she wished them to come and drink tea as usual on Monday evening, and she gratified Marion's desire to make tea out of the new teapot.  Afterwards, sitting under the balcony with Mr. Raeburn, she let them water the flowers which were ranged upon the stone steps.  But she was very silent, and her face was generally grave, though sometimes a quiet smile stole over it and lighted it for a moment.  Her voice was low, and she had a habit of contemplating the faces of those about her, sometimes dropping her work on her knees, and looking for a long time together at her husband or her little guests with affectionate and pleased attention.  There was a great deal of repose expressed in her features, and the same trait was equally obvious in her character.

    Her dark eyes were clear, but not sparkling; all her movements were quiet.  Her affections were strong and absorbing.  She was one of those not very uncommon people who supply every defect in the character of those they love from the fair ideal they have formed of them in their own minds. 

    Her happiness was relative rather than positive.  As the moon has no brightness of her own, but shines by light reflected on her by the sun, so she seemed to have no happiness of her own and from herself; her happiness was reflected on her from others, and waxed and waned with theirs. 

    After Mr. Raeburn's marriage his reserve became very much modified, and he gradually dropped many of his singular habits.  His wife proved truly a helpmeet for him.  Under her influence he unconsciously became more animated, and both in his parish and at home his character seemed to assume a different aspect.  Marion and Wilfred, however, saw less of him than before his marriage.  They were instructed not to haunt his footsteps nor importune him to take them with him.  This they felt a great privation, especially as their mother's increasing delicacy of health, for some months after the bridal, confined her entirely to her couch.  As long as the summer lasted they could scramble about alone among the coppices and wooded dells with which the neighbourhood abounded.  But fate, in the shape of a tutor, separated them before the autumn was half over, and every morning the boy was mounted on a shaggy little pony, and sent off to the neighbouring parish, where lived a gentleman, Maidley by name, who had several sons, and was glad to receive Wilfred among them as a day-boarder. 

    Thus he was fortunately preserved from becoming a dunce, and his sister from becoming a romp. 

    Will Greyson was a very droll little boy, quite a character in his way.  He had an inexhaustible fund of good humour, a vivid red and white complexion, and a face which was such an odd compound of simplicity and shrewdness, that it was almost impossible to look at him without laughing. 

    From his earliest years he had shown a strong bent for mechanics, and great curiosity about screws, locks, wheels, &c.  Before he was six years old he had made himself personally acquainted with the inside of almost every cuckoo clock in the parish, and he had two incorrigibly bad old clocks of his own, which were an endless source of amusement to him, and which he made to perform all sorts of strange evolutions, and, by means of belts and wires, to peal all hours with alarming vigour. 

    As he grew older he soon extended his knowledge of what he called the "insides of things" to the church organ, and could not only tune musical instruments, but play upon several.  He also concocted several rude alarums, and invented a sundial, which, in the shape of an old clock-face, might often be seen protruding from his bed-room window on a sunny day, to the intense astonishment of passers-by. 

    The winter passed very cheerily to the two families; but in the spring, as Mrs. Greyson's health did not improve, a visit to the sea-side was recommended for her.  The children were delighted with the prospect of going to the sea, and the more so as one of their aunts, with her children, was to meet them there. 

    They looked forward to this their first journey with the vague delight which arises from ignorance of what the splendid sea will be like, and a wonder how it can be possible to walk beside it without danger of being drowned, when the great waves are rising and foaming as they do in pictures. 

    The sea, after all, did not answer the expectation they had formed of it.  Strange to say, they declared that it was not so big as they had expected; and they wrote word to Mr. Raeburn, when they had been there a week, that they had seen no breakers yet, nor "anything particular." 

    The first month they were very happy, though they missed their gardens more than they had thought possible.  The second month was extremely fine, and their aunt, Mrs. Paton, arrived to visit them, with her four children.  This was more delightful than can be imagined by any but country-bred children brought up in quietude and exclusion.  They were delighted with their cousins,—they almost worshipped them,—particularly the two elder girls, Dora and Elizabeth, who were clever, and older than themselves.  The two little ones were delightful playthings, and they spent many a happy hour with them in collecting sea-weeds and shells, and washing and arranging their spoils. 

    At the end of the second month, their mother one morning received a letter which seemed to give her so much pleasure, that, though they were ready dressed to go out, they lingered in the room till she had done reading it.  They knew it was from their uncle (so Mr. Raeburn was always called), and they thought it must be to tell some particularly good news;—either that he had found some wild bees' nests, or perhaps that the gooseberries were ripe in the garden, or, better than all, that he was coming to see them. 

    They did not mistake the expression of their mother's face; she was greatly pleased, and with better cause than any they had assigned to her, for this letter was to announce the important news of the birth of twin children, a son and a daughter. 

    For several days after this nothing was talked of but the two dear little babies, and the post-office was visited daily for tidings respecting them.  These were always favourable, and written in high spirits.  The carpenter's wife, who had had twins in the winter, had been sent for to come and see them, and she had declared (a rare instance of disinterested generosity) that they were finer children than hers, by a deal!

    Mr. Raeburn himself, who was allowed to be a tolerable judge of infant humanity, gave it to Mrs. Greyson as his impartial opinion that they were very satisfactory children, and had eyes as dark as their mother's. 

    Marion and Wilfred were delighted; here were some children for them to pet and patronize when they were parted from their little cousins.  They were urgent with their mother to go home directly, but this was not to be thought of, for she was now gaining strength, and as the weather became warmer, ventured out daily to saunter on the beach with her sister, and sit under the shadow of the cliffs. 

    Another month passed.  Their mother began to grow quite strong; sometimes she had a colour; she seldom lay on the sofa, and could walk out with them every day.  She had the society of their aunt also; but they began to observe, that in spite of all this she was not in good spirits.  She often sighed deeply, and their uncle's letters always made her shed tears; yet when they asked about the twins she said they were well; and as they could think of no other reason for this change in her, they thought it must be that she was longing to go home. 

    Nothing but their desire to see the twins could have made Marion and her brother willing to leave the sea and their cousins; as it was, the parting caused many tears on both sides, though it was a consolation to be promised that the next summer, if all was well, their cousins should come and visit them at their own home.  During the long journey the conviction that their mother was unhappy forced itself again upon their minds.  She did not seem to participate in their delight when they talked of Mrs. Raeburn; on the contrary, they saw several times during the day that she had difficulty in restraining her tears, and that when they spoke to her, she answered with peculiar gravity. 

    It was on the afternoon of a lovely October day that Mrs. Greyson returned home.  The yellow leaves in continual showers kept falling from the trees; the lane was so thickly covered, that as they passed along the sound of the carriage wheels was deadened. 

    The air was perfectly still, and everything was steeped in the yellow sunlight peculiar to the finest hours of our autumnal day.  There was a thin warm haze over the distance, which gave a dreamy tranquillity—a kind of sleepy repose to the landscape, and while it shed a slight indistinctness upon it, left the power for imagination to work upon deepening the hollows, lagging along the course of the river, and throwing the woods with their changing lines to a greater apparent distance. 

    Marion and Wilfred saw with delight the multitude of horse-chestnuts, acorns, and fir-apples that lay among the leaves, and they had no sooner alighted at their own door, and spoken to the servants, than they ran into the garden to collect some of these treasures, and see how their plants were flourishing.  Presently, while they were running about, with the utmost delight examining every nook and cranny where they were accustomed to play, their nurse came out and told them that Mr. Raeburn was come, and their mamma wished them to leave off playing, and come and see him. 

    They ran in at once, and, amid their caresses, began to overwhelm him with questions about Euphemia and the children, asking whether they might see them to-morrow, whether they might nurse them, and what were their names. 

    Mr. Raeburn answered all their questions with a quiet gravity, which soon checked their glee.  There was a tone in his voice that they were not accustomed to—something in his manner which they did not remember and could not understand.  He seemed pleased to see them, and evidently meant to stay and take tea with their Mamma.  Marion began to ask whether Mrs. Raeburn was coming too, but a glance from her mother checked her; upon which Mr. Raeburn said, "It is of no consequence—the question was a very natural one:" and then, drawing her towards him with his usual tenderness, assured her that she should see the babies to-morrow. 

    Marion and Wilfred were soon sleepy and tired; they went to bed shortly after tea, leaving Mr. Raeburn sitting in one comer of the sofa, with his arms folded, and his eyes fixed upon the ground.  He had not said one word since tea, either to them or their mother; and perceiving that something unusual was the matter, they were quick to observe that, as the housemaid carried away the tea-urn, she cast upon him a look of pity that could not be mistaken. 

    This same servant, who was a widow, came shortly afterwards into the nursery, and while the nurse was attending upon Marion, began to talk to her in mysterious whispers.  Marion caught a sentence here and there, which filled her with wonder. 

    "Never takes any notice of them now, poor little dears—quite out of her mind." 

    ''Mistress told her something of it while we were at the sea," said the nurse. 

    Marion looked up, and they talked of something else, but soon fell back upon the old theme, and spoke in whispers. 

    "Yes," Marion heard, ''they sent for me that night to see if I could persuade her to give up the little girl.  She had it on her lap.  They had set the bassinet beside her, in hopes she would put the baby in, and as soon as she saw me, she says, 'Watson, everything seems to be floating away.' 'Oh, you'll be better, Ma'am, when you've had some sleep.  Give me the baby; I can take care of it.  You know I am a mother myself,' I said.  'No,' she says, 'I'm afraid if I give it to you I shall never see it again.' So she looked into the bassinet, and she says, very quiet-like, 'I thought I had two of them; perhaps it was only a dream; but I love this little one that's left!'"

    "Hush!" said the nurse; "Miss is listening." 

    They then paused for a while, till she seemed attending to other things, and the next thing Marion heard was, "Dr.  Wilmot kept making signs to me to do all I could, so I said, 'Let me set the bassinet by you on the sofa, Ma'am, and then you can lay her in, and watch her.' Well, she laid the child in it, and as soon as she looked another way, they carried it out of sight."

    "Very strange she should know you, and not her own husband," said the nurse. 

    "Yes," returned the other, "and he so changed in a few days that you would have thought he had had a long illness." 

    Then followed a few sentences that Marion could not understand.  "Never takes notice of any one now; quite out of her mind."  "Then it all seemed to come on in a few days," said the nurse. 

    "Yes, and they only six weeks old, poor little dears." 

    "Does Mr. Raeburn take much notice of them?" Marion did not hear the answer to this question, but part of the housemaid's next remark reached her. 

    "He said, 'O my dear Euphemia, do you know me?—can you answer me?' And I took up her hand, and turned her face gently towards him.  She looked like a person in a dream; and I said, 'Look, Ma'am, don't you see Mr. Raeburn?— don't you see your husband?' I thought she looked at him rather earnestly; at last she said, 'That's the clergyman,' and fell to thinking.  In a few minutes she says to herself, 'And yet,' she says, 'I must have had them once; I think I heard one of them cry this morning.'"

    "Poor dear!" said the nurse; and then Marion went to bed, and dreamed of the two sweet babies whose mamma was forgetting them. 

    The next morning, when Wilfred was gone to school on his pony, Mrs. Greyson told Marion she was going to the rectory, and she might come with her.  Mr. Raeburn met them in the garden, and went up with them to the nursery, which was at the top of the house—a large white-washed room, with casement windows, half-covered with trailing ivy.  Marion's delight at sight of the two children asleep in their pretty cradles, aroused him from his despondency, and he said to her mother in a cheerful tone, "I have been very anxious for you to see them; I hope you think they look well and thriving." 

    Mrs. Greyson's reply was satisfactory, and in a short time he asked her to come down with him and see his wife. 

    Marion was left in the nursery, with the infants and their nurses: presently one of them awoke, and she was too much absorbed in watching the process of dressing it in an embroidered cloak and satin bonnet to notice her mother's protracted absence.  She came at last, and taking Marion down stairs, stood still for a few minutes in the hall to wipe away her tears.  The child asked no questions, but remained looking from her mother to Mr. Raeburn, till the latter said, "I wish you would leave Marion with me for the rest of the day, my dear Mrs. Greyson.  I think I should like to have her." 

    "Certainly," returned her mother, who had quite regained her composure, "and I will send for her in the evening."

    Marion was pleased to stay, and walked to the garden gates with her mother and Mr. Raeburn, amusing herself with watching the fall of the poplar leaves, which lay in such masses in the lane, that the movement of her mother's gown as she walked raised a little crowd of them, to flutter round her like a tribe of yellow butterflies. 

    All through the morning Marion asked no question about the unseen Euphemia, but while Mr. Raeburn sat writing in his study she amused herself with books in one corner; after which she went out with him as of old, and they called at several cottages: but though he met with a very warm welcome, and the health of the twins was inquired after with great tenderness, no direct questions were asked about Euphemia, though there was that in the manner of some of the poor women which said plainly for him, as Job said for himself, "O that it was with thee as in months past, as in the days when God preserved thee; when his candle shined upon thy head, and when by his light thou didst walk through darkness." 

    After their return from this walk, Marion went into the nursery again, and, to her great delight, was permitted by the nurses to sit in a little chair, and nurse each of the twins in turn. 

    Two o'clock was Mr. Raeburn's dinner hour, and then a servant came to fetch her down, saying that her uncle was waiting.  Marion wondered whether Euphemia would come and dine with them, or whether she and her uncle were to be quite alone.  She lingered at the door of the dining-room, half hoping, half fearing that she should hear the sound of her voice.  But Mr. Raeburn, who had been standing at the window, turned when he heard her step, and leading her in, said, as if he had read her thoughts, "There is no one here; come in, my pretty; it was very kind of mamma to let you stay "with me to-day." 

    Marion came in, and during dinner began to talk of the sea-side, of the ships and the shells, till Mr. Raeburn was beguiled of some of his heaviness by her gentle companionship, and afterwards sat listening to her conjectures as to how soon the twins would begin to know her, and when they would be able to walk, till the old servant, who was watching his master's face, blessed the day that brought her home again.  This went on till the dessert and wine were cleared away, and till the sunbeams had crept round to that side of the old house, and were playing on a pair of lustres which were held up by bronze figures on the sideboard, and covering the ceiling, the walls, and Marion's white frock with fragments of little trembling rainbows.  Mr. Raeburn took out his watch, and finding it nearly four o'clock, glanced at Marion, as if trying to decide something.  At length he said, "I am going now to sit for a while with your aunt; would you like to come with me, Marion?"

    Marion assented instantly, put her hand in his, and let him lead her through the well-ordered garden, till they approached the morning-room by the stone terrace outside.  Mrs. Keane, who had been Marion's nurse, opened the French-window when she saw them ascending the steps, and then retired into a corner and took up a piece of needle-work. 

    Marion cast a hurried glance round the room, and seeing Euphemia seated on a sofa, looking much as usual, was about to start forward and speak to her, when something in the calm face arrested her steps, and, while Mr. Raeburn walked forward and sat down beside her, she stood within the window, gazing at her with anxious perplexity. 

    It was obvious that she was perfectly unconscious of their presence; her lips were moving, but no sounds were audible; the expression of her face told of a calm abstraction, a depth of serenity and blindness to external things which nothing could possibly reach to disturb.  But she had something in her hands,—she was twisting (strange sight for an intelligent child)—she was twisting a long skein of silk in and out and backwards and forwards among her fingers. 

    Marion looked at "her uncle," and he beckoned her to approach.  It was a low sofa on which Euphemia sat, and she was reclining on one elbow upon the pillows; a large ottoman stood close to her feet.  And when Mr. Raeburn spoke to Marion, and said, "Come close to her,—see if she will know you," Marion came and knelt on the ottoman, and, putting her arms round Mrs. Raeburn's waist, said, in her soft sweet voice, "Aunt, aunt, look at me; I am come home again." 

    "Call her Euphemia" said Mr. Raeburn. 

    Marion's attitude had a little interfered with the movement of Euphemia's hands, as she went on twisting the skein, and she put out her hand and gently tried to push her face away.  As she did this their eyes met, and hers assumed for the moment a less dreamy expression.  She dropped the silk, and taking Marion's head between her hands, looked at her with great attention, and then uttered her name in the inexpressive tone of a person talking in sleep. 

    "Euphemia," said the child, as the two small hands drew her still nearer, "listen to me;—do listen to me.  I have been to see the babies." 

    But Euphemia's mind was sinking again into one of its long, listless reveries, and, having drawn Marion's head on to her bosom, she remained gazing out of the windows at the sunset clouds; then folding one arm round the child, as she knelt beside her, she presently began with the same dream-like tranquillity to pass her hands among the long waves of her luxuriant hair.  At last, to the astonishment of her husband, she lifted up her face, with an expression of evident pleasure, disengaged a yellow poplar-leaf, which had doubtless fallen on Marion's head as she passed through the garden, and held it out to him with a smile. 

    It was a long time since he had seen her smile, and it sent a thrill of pleasure to his heart.  Wishing, if it were possible, to rouse her sufficiently to make her speak to him, he then addressed her with the utmost tenderness, entreating her to look at him, and saying, "Let me hear the sound of your voice once more, even if you say no more than my name.  Let me hear my name from your lips once more." 

    But the voice to which she was so well accustomed seemed, by its very familiarity, less capable of penetrating through the deep dream of her existence; for when Marion lifted up her face and added her entreaties to his, she was again aroused to attention, and said, in reference to her words, which had been a repetition of Mr. Raeburn's entreaties that she would look at her husband:—

    "My husband's dead."  And then added, with a sigh and a touching tone of quiet regret, "It was a pity they laid him in the grave so soon.  I should like to have kissed him, before they took him away."

    Mr. Raeburn hastily arose and paced the floor with uncontrollable agitation.  He had endured for weeks past to sit by her side and hold her hand in his, while she remained unconscious of his presence and uttered not a word; but now, she had been on the very brink of resuming some kind of intercourse with him, and it appeared to him that if he could only find the right chord to touch she might be won back to him.  It was an additional bitterness to him, and one that he had not hitherto suffered, to find that his influence was even less with her than that of a happy child, who felt little pain at the sight of her malady.

    Forgetting for the moment his usual self-control, he again returned to her, and entreated, commanded, adjured her, if possible, to give him some sign that she was conscious of his existence.  Marion wept and trembled, and the nurse said what she could to calm him, but the silent object of all this pain sat still in her place, and resumed the coloured silk which she had thrown aside, turning and twisting it among her fingers.

    It was not long before he recovered some degree of self-command, came up to his wife, and kissed her passive cheek; then he hastily drew Marion away from her, took her out of the room, and left her alone in the dining-room to dry her tears and wonder at the strange scene she had witnessed.

    She had looked back as she left the room, and the image of Euphemia's face as she then saw it could never be forgotten;—the peaceful features, the quiet attitude, the sealed-up senses,—not to be reached by love or fear, or touched by the passionate entreaties of the husband who had hitherto been so dear to her.

    That night Marion made tea again, as she had so often done before Mr. Raeburn's marriage.  She was quiet, and he was much more silent than usual, but he liked to have her with him; and from that time, whenever he felt more than commonly desolate, he used to send for her to spend the day with him and talk to him about his children.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER III.

THE TWIN CHILDEEN.


MARION became now again the constant companion of Mr. Raeburn's walks, and as the twin children grew older they were often added to the party.

    They were both very lovely infants, and strongly resembled their mother, having the same soft, dark eyes, and long lashes, and the same tranquillity of expression.  Never having had a day's illness from their birth, they delighted their father by their rapid growth and dawning intelligence; and, as he held them one on each knee, he often pictured to himself the comfort they would be to him when they grew older. 

    During the first year of their lives their mother seemed occasionally conscious of their existence; and as Mr. Raeburn took care that they should often be carried into her presence, he comforted himself with the hope that, if she ever should recover her reason, they would not look upon her as a stranger. 

    But from month to month her remembrance of them diminished, her mind became less quiescent, and she would hold long conversations with herself, or with imaginary companions, always wearing the same rapt expression on her face.

    Place and scene were supplied by her fancy,—she saw no passing changes; even when one of her own children was held up before her and would smile in her face, stroking her cheeks with its tiny hands, she would suffer, but never return, the baby caress, nor take the least notice of the little open mouthy with its rows of pearly teeth, and the calm dark eyes so like her own. 

    Thus matters continued with her till they were two years old, when her condition seemed slightly to improve.  This improvement was shown by her following the children about the room with her eyes, and seeming to take some slight pleasure in the beauty of the little Euphemia, whose long hair fell in soft waves upon her neck.

    Mr. Raeburn had been in the habit of reading to her every morning since her illness, and though he continued the practice for many months without her taking the slightest apparent notice, it was afterwards evident that she retained some expectation of it; for one morning, when he did not pay the usual attention, she manifested considerable restlessness, and at last spoke to her attendant and desired her to call the clergyman,—for since her mind had been disturbed she had always called her husband by this name.

    When he entered she seemed to awake for the moment from the deep trance in which she lived, and as he sat down beside her she laid her hand upon his arm, and addressing him, with the grace and politeness which in her better days she might have shown to some stranger who had shown her a kindness, she thanked him for what she called his attentions to one who had no claim upon them, and requested that, if possible, he would never omit to read to her again. 

    But here this improvement ceased.  He read, but could elicit no remark from her on the chapter, nor any appearance of interest in the prayer with which he generally concluded.  Her two children, as soon as they could speak, were taught to call her "Mamma," and early began to manifest considerable affection for her, often attempting to draw their father to the door of the morning-room, and, if they could succeed in inducing him to take them in, standing before her hand in hand, looking up into her face with mingled tenderness and awe, and softly repeating her name. 

    In the spring of this year Dora and Elizabeth came to visit their cousins; they were very sprightly and clever, but had not the innocent gentleness of Marion, nor her serene spirits.  They were scarcely at home again before she and the twins were attacked with hooping-cough, but of the mildest type, and in spite of the backwardness of the season none of the children seemed to suffer much. 

    By the end of May they all seemed perfectly recovered.  The twins had been removed, at Mrs. Greyson's request, to her house, that she might watch over them more carefully, for their two original nurses had left them, and they were confided to the care of a less-experienced woman.  They had returned home about a week, when one morning, while Marion was learning her lessons, Mr. Raeburn came in, and said to her mother,—

    "I wish you would come and look at my boy; I do not think he is so well as when he left your house."

    "Perhaps the warm weather makes him a little fretful," she answered. 

    ''Yes; I dare say it is that," he replied, as if half-ashamed of his own uneasiness; and then added, with a smile which seemed to deprecate her ridicule, ''The fact is, he has given me a peculiar glance several times the last few days.  I think he looks as if he saw something."

    Mrs. Greyson went up stairs and put on her bonnet immediately, but felt that, in all probability, he was enduring perfectly needless anxiety, though she could scarcely wonder at it, considering the circumstances of his case.  As they walked towards the rectory she tried to give him this view of the matter, and he appeared so much restored to ease by it that he was even unwilling to allow her to proceed. 

    She, however, went up with him into the nursery, where the little Euphemia, who had just awoke from her morning sleep, was laughing on the nurse's knee, and playing with a toy made of revolving feathers. 

    She bent over the crib where the other child was sleeping, lifted up his dimpled head, and remarked to his father that he looked perfectly well.  She reminded him that it was but four days since the children had returned home, and that she had seen them twice without remarking any apparent delicacy. 

    "When did you first observe that he seemed unwell?" she inquired. 

    "Not till the day before yesterday.  No doubt it is only my fancy."

    "How very soundly he sleeps," she remarked. 

    "O, very indeed.  Ma'am," said the nurse, who was now dressing her little charge for a walk.  "The trouble I've had to wake that child these last few days nobody would believe; but he always wakes so good tempered when I do get him roused."

    Mr. Raeburn smiled at this new proof of the health of his boy, but happening to glance at Mrs. Greyson, was disturbed to see her colour change, and her face assume an expression of at least as much anxiety as he had ever felt. 

    After a momentary pause, she said, quietly, "Does he wake with a crowing noise?"

    "He has done, Ma'am, the last few days; no doubt that's the remains of the hooping-cough."

    The nature of his mother's illness flashed across Mrs. Greyson's mind, and she wished for a medical opinion; but fearful of needlessly disturbing his father, and thinking that, after all, she might be mistaken, she stood a short time irresolute, looking at the sleeping child.  It was, however, quite needless for her to tell him her anxiety: he had already seen it; and, as if he had instinctively guessed her fears, he said, hurriedly, "I hope you do not think there is anything the matter with the brain?"

    "I have no defined thought on the subject," she answered; "the symptoms are so very slight that it would be quite unreasonable to dread the very worst, when we have not even heard a medical opinion."

    She had scarcely done speaking, when the child awoke with a sudden start, and the peculiar noise the nurse had mentioned.  He seemed good-humoured, but rather heavy.  Yet when his father hinted at the propriety of sending for Dr. Wilmot, the physician who attended his mother, Mrs. Greyson assented with a readiness which gave him pain, adding, with assumed cheerfulness, that if there really was nothing the matter, it would be a relief to their minds to hear him say so. 

    Dr. Wilmot was accordingly sent for.  He arrived without much delay, and, after examining the child attentively, and listening to the symptoms, declined to give any opinion for the present.  But Mr. Raeburn saw the glance he exchanged with Mrs. Greyson as he sat at the nursery table writing his prescription, and felt that if he abstained from exciting his fears, it was more out of compassion than from any doubt in his own mind.

    For the next week or ten days the symptoms did not, to an inexperienced eye, present anything unusual, but at the end of that time the sleepiness increased to such a degree that it was scarcely possible to rouse him even to take his food, and the child began to exhibit all the distressing symptoms of water on the brain. 

    His little sister, who at first had seemed to wonder why he did not get up and play with her as usual, used to come to the side of his bed and stroke his head with her hand, telling him to wake up and have his frock on; but after a few days, finding this a hopeless entreaty, she contented herself with standing opposite and gazing at him, saying, in a sorrowful tone, "He very tired; he can't get up no more."

    Marion, who had free access to the nursery, was deeply affected.  Day after day her mother sat on one side of the bed, and Mr. Raeburn on the other.  He seldom said anything; and since the day when he was told the name of the complaint, seemed to have given up hope, sitting always in silent despondency, watching the face of the dying child. 

    At length, one afternoon there was a perceptible alteration.  The intervals of wakefulness had lately been very short, and a languor was spread over the baby features, which told plainly of the near approach of dissolution.

    Mr. Raeburn left the bedside, and unable to endure the thought of his child's dying without being again seen by his mother, went to her apartment to persuade her, if it were possible, to come into the nursery and look at him once more. 

    She had, ever since her illness, shown the greatest possible reluctance to leaving this room, and when he entered was sitting in her usual position on the sofa. 

    She took no notice of his approach, but the agonized tones of his voice when he spoke seemed to reach even her beclouded brain; and looking in his face with something like anxiety, she asked him whether anything was the matter.

    "Are you ill?" she inquired, laying her hand upon his arm.

    He shook his head.  "What then? are you unhappy?"

    The slight quivering of the compressed lip, and the look of anguish which passed across his face answered her question, and she repeated, "What is it? what is the matter?"

    Fixing his eyes upon her earnestly, and speaking with laboured distinctness, he answered, "One of my children is very ill; you must come and see him before he dies."

    Euphemia sighed deeply, but it was not for her dying boy.  She was far from understanding how truly she was to be pitied.  She sighed because the effort of leaving her accustomed place and using any kind of exertion was almost more than she could endure; nevertheless, she suffered him to raise her and lead her, half reluctantly, to the nursery, which she had never entered since the first day of her illness. 

    The child was lying perfectly still, his pale features retaining much of their infantine beauty.  His eyes were open, and he seemed to look about him with more intelligence than he had lately shown.  His mother looked at him when she came in, but neither recognised him as her own, nor even as the lovely child whose play she had watched when he had been brought with his little sister into her room. 

    His father, on whose arm she was leaning, entreated that she would kiss him; and after a pause of irresolution, she kneeled down and pressed her lips on those of the child.

    This short interval of consciousness was not yet over, and as she lifted up her face again and saw his languid eyes looking at her, she said in a tone of tender regret which added another pang to those who watched them, "Pretty child!" Marion wept bitterly, and the little Euphemia gazed upon them all with a mournful face.  The mother and child continued to look into each other's eyes; at length the latter lifted up his wasted hand, and, touching her cheek, smiled faintly and murmured the word, "Mamma." Euphemia then started up with a strength and energy which astonished them, and for a moment the real circumstances of her lot seemed fully present to her as, pressing her hand to her forehead, she seized her husband's arm and entreated him to pray for her dying boy. 

    "For he is my child," she exclaimed in a tone of agony and horror, "and they never told me that he would die." But here her hand dropped down again: she murmured, "O that I could but remember;" and then begged they would tell her what was the matter. 

    An effort was made to recall her to the scene before her, but it failed, and the dreamy look returning, she gazed forlornly about her, and desired her husband to take her down again. 

    Thinking his child had not many minutes to live, the father hesitated, and signified his wish that she would put her arm under his head.  She accordingly sat down on the side of the bed, the child was lifted up and put into her arms, and in a few minutes he breathed his last upon his mother's bosom. 

    That was a sorrowful night for the members of the household, and for those who had so fondly watched the child from his earliest infancy—a bitter night for the bereaved father, and perhaps the echo of some sounds of grief, or some slight remembrance of his loss might reach Euphemia's heart, for she was restless and uneasy; but for three days after his death she said nothing by which they could gather that she remembered the circumstance, not even when the passing bell was tolled, though the sound of it generally disturbed and irritated her.

    On the afternoon of the third day she evinced a desire to leave her usual place, and while her husband was sitting beside her, went up of her own accord into the nursery.  The little Effie was lying there, fast asleep in her pretty bed, her dimpled cheek reclining on one hand and her eyelids partially open.

    Her mother looked at her, and put her finger into the little hand, which quietly closed upon it.  She seemed pleased, but this was evidently not what she was seeking, for after looking at the other little empty bed, she left the nursery, and, her husband following her, went straight to the dressing-room of what had been her own bed-chamber while in health.  He did not make any attempt to check her, and she opened the door and entered. 

    The child was lying in his coffin, which was lined with white satin, and strewed with the buds of white flowers; a lily of the valley was laid upon his breast, which, though daily renewed, had already begun to droop and fade.  His face was perfectly pale, and, though calm and lovely, had a touching expression of sadness spread over it.  Two or three soft locks of hair were lying on his marble forehead, and the lace cap and embroidered robe gave him an appearance still more infantine than he had presented during his short life; but the baby features being settled in death, the child had never looked so like his father before, and it would seem that Euphemia observed this, for in a low voice she repeated her husband's name, and, taking up the lily, pressed it to her lips and put it in her bosom. 

    Mr. Raeburn watched her as she sat gazing long and intently at her child, while every now and then a forlorn expression of regret, which seemed a reflection of the dead baby's aspect, stole over her face.  At length, with a heavy sigh she arose as if satisfied, and returning to her old place took no further notice of the change, of the closed shutters, or of her mourning dress on the day of the funeral. 

    As for his father, when he had laid him in the grave, and seen everything that had belonged to him returned to the dressing-room, his toys, his clothes, and even his little bed, he never willingly mentioned his name again or alluded to his loss, but seemed to concentrate all his affection on his little daughter and Marion, who was his cherished companion and her playfellow. 

    Since his wife's illness he had almost entirely withdrawn himself from society, and, but for Mrs. Greyson's unfailing friendship, must have been entirely alone in the world.  His love for her children and for his little Euphemia, together with the pleasure he took in his pastoral duties, seemed all he was capable of enjoying, and for the sake of companionship he often allowed his little child to spend whole hours playing about in his study, strewing the chairs and footstool with her dolls and their various gay bonnets and gowns, till, tired with her many journeys across the room, she would hide her face in his bosom and fall asleep in his arms while he was writing. 

    Two years passed on.  Marion and Wilfred grew tall and strong, and both manifested considerable ability.  They inherited from their father a great love of music, and would spend many an hour playing on the church organ.  They were about thirty miles from a cathedral town, but as there was a railway across the country, their mother procured for them a regular instructor from thence both in singing and instrumental music. 

    Marion was now thirteen years of age, and gave promise of everything that her mother could desire.  Her face retained its infantine tenderness and serenity, and being rather small for her years she generally passed for younger than she was; while her endearing manner and confiding nature caused her to be treated like a child by Mr. Raeburn, who regarded her with scarcely less tenderness than he bestowed upon his little daughter. 

    Marion and Wilfred had never been brought forward in their childhood, nor taught to assume any other manner than that which naturally belonged to them.  They had both been rather encouraged than otherwise in their child's play, and could amuse themselves after their own fashion without the least fear of being laughed at.  Solomon, the wisest of men, when he said, "There is a time for all things," doubtless made no exception excluding the time to be a child, to think as a child, and to be delighted with childish things.  It is entirely a modern invention to make men and women of creatures not twelve years old, to give their games a philosophical turn, and make their very story-books science in disguise. 

    Marion and Wilfred had never been cheated into learning in this clandestine way; but, like the boy in "Evenings at Home," when they worked they worked, and when they played they played. 

    Their moral feelings had been carefully cultivated from their infancy, and all that one human being can do for another, in the way of religious instruction, had been imparted to them both by their mother and Mr. Raeburn.  But they had never been encouraged to display their knowledge, or take any part in religious conversation; and like most children who really feel the importance of serious religion, they evinced a sensitive shrinking from anything like an explanation of their feelings. 

    There was one amusement reserved for Marion which was not childish; it was to teach the little Euphemia to read.  This was at first thought a great honour and privilege, both by mistress and pupil,—the former, because it gave her the opportunity to exercise a little patronage; the latter, because she looked upon the lessons as a new kind of play.  But in a very short time the little creature found out that this play was different to all others, inasmuch as she was obliged to play at it whether she would or no.  She therefore began to rebel, and Mrs. Greyson was obliged to interpose her authority to prevent her from making Jack's house of the letters, or creeping under the table to nurse a sofa cushion by way of doll.  Neither teacher nor pupil looked upon these daily lessons with much enthusiasm after the first novelty had gone off; but with a little superintendence, they proved of essential benefit to both; for the pupil was a warmly affectionate child, and having a passionate temper, was more easily controlled by love than by severity.  On the other hand, her quickness and cleverness kept the faculties of her always gentle teacher in a state of salutary activity. 


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IV.

A JOURNEY IN A FOG.


ANOTHER year passed; a quiet, happy, uneventful year.  Since his wife's illness, Mr. Raeburn had never left home, but now he consented to the entreaties of his only sister to come and spend the autumn with her and her family in the Highlands.  Change of air and scene were of so much benefit to his spirits that he was easily induced to prolong his stay, and take a yachting excursion down the west coast.  He had constant letters from Marion and Mrs. Greyson, giving good accounts of his wife and child up to the period of his commencing his excursion; yet he did not approach his home without a restless feeling of agitation.  He had so long been accustomed to watch over his wife, and delight in his child, that he could not return without a half wonder lest either he or they might be changed by the absence; lest he might feel less able to bear with his poor impassive wife now, that for some weeks he had been emancipated from her, or lest his child might have learned to do without him. 

    He travelled alone inside the coach towards home.  The day had been fine and bright, but towards evening a heavy fog came on, which gradually became so thick that the coachman was compelled to slacken his pace, so completely were hedges, fences, and open common enveloped in thick white mist, which seemed, as it grew more dense, to press up to the very windows. 

    Night came on: there was a full moon, but it only gave light enough to show the density of the fog.  As they approached the cross roads, where he expected some vehicle to meet him and take him on, he almost feared the coach would pass it.  He let down a window when they stopped to change horses, and the fog poured in like smoke; it seemed to stop his breath as he put his head out to inquire whether they could not put up better lamps, to show their whereabouts to any travellers who might meet them on the road. 

    "Is that Mr. Raeburn?" he heard the landlady ask, as she stood with two candles in her hand, giving directions about a post-chaise which had gone on before them, "for the fog," she observed, "deadened sound as well as sight."

    He was about to speak to the woman when he heard her mention his name, and retreat towards the house with an exclamation of pity, which struck upon his ear with a strange sensation of surprise and annoyance. 

    He had never asked for sympathy; the condition of his wife was never alluded to by him unless it was absolutely necessary; and he had so full and true a belief that all the events of his life had been appointed in love, and for his good, that he had taken all possible pains to be not only resigned, but cheerful.  His feelings were so well understood by his friends, that he very seldom heard them allude to his lot in tones of pity, and the words of this woman, which evidently were not intended for his ears, cast a damp upon his spirits which he could not throw off—"Is that Mr. Raeburn? Ah, poor gentleman!"

    It was midnight when they reached the crossroads; he saw two dim lamps gleaming at the road side. 

    "Is that my carriage?" he exclaimed, springing out.  "Is Person there?—tell him to look after the luggage."

    It was quite a relief to speak; and by the sound of his own voice break in upon the constant mental repetition of those words,—"Is that Mr, Raeburn? Ah, poor gentleman!"

    He advanced hastily to the carriage-door, and was surprised to see the schoolmaster standing beside it. 

    "You are very late.  Sir," said the man, with peculiar gravity. 

    "Is all well?" asked the Rector, startled by his manner. 

    "In the village, did you mean, Sir?" asked the man slowly, and as if reluctantly. 

    "No, at home?" He waited for an answer. 

    The face of the schoolmaster was not very distinctly visible.  It was some time before he spoke.  At length he said,—"Did you wish to know now, Sir?"

    "No," replied Mr. Raeburn, springing into the carriage; "drive on.  Tell them to be quick.  Don't speak again,—I cannot bear it."

    The man got in also, and sat down opposite to him.  The coach had gone on.  There was some little delay in getting the luggage on to the roof of the carriage. 

    Mr. Raeburn had covered his face with his hands.  Delays are dreadful to the wretched.  With the impatience of agitation and suspense, he looked up, and said, vehemently, "Why don't you tell them to make haste? I want to get home quickly."

    The man answered, in a tone so desponding that it sounded like the echo of his own fears,—"It is of no use!"

    The next instant the carriage started at as rapid a rate as even he could have desired.  The journey was made in silence.  He went through the thick fog with his arms folded and his eyes fixed upon the shrouded landscape.  But he failed to recognise any of its features, and did not even know when he entered his own gates.  It was not till they stopped suddenly at the door that he was aware of his arrival at home. 

    The hall-door was open, a lamp was burning, and several servants were standing within.  He saw a lady pass rapidly down the stairs.  She met him on the steps; but her face was so utterly devoid of colour, so much changed, that for the moment he did not know her.  Presently he remembered that it was Mrs. Greyson.  She did not speak at first, and he advanced into the hall and demanded to see his wife. 

    The servants looked at one another; and Mrs. Greyson said, "Your wife is in her usual state;—she is asleep."

    With a strong effort he went on into the study, and laid his hat on the table.  It seemed impossible for him to ask the next question, and as he stood, amazed and pale, Mrs. Greyson sunk into a chair, and Marion, frightened and trembling, stole into the room and sheltered herself beside her. 

    Her presence seemed to recall him to himself.  He turned to her mother with startling energy and sternness, and said, "Where is my child? I want her,—I must see her.  Why don't you bring her to see her father?"

    Mrs. Greyson looked in his face.  It became paler and paler.  She knew it was needless to prepare his mind when he already foreboded the worst.  He repeated faintly, "Why don't you bring her to see her father?"

    She answered slowly, "Your child has another Father.  He has sent for her, and she is gone."

    He had sunk upon the sofa as he asked his question for the second time; and when the sound of her voice reached his ears, he shuddered, and shrunk back, as if to escape from the intolerable pain it gave him.  But he uttered no word of grief or horror, and never changed his position excepting to fold his arms tighter across his breast, and set his lips, which grew more and more white. 

    Mrs. Greyson sat motionless, gazing at his countenance with unutterable pity.  But she offered no word of consolation, and for a long, miserable hour, she and Marion retained silence, till the sound of footsteps overhead startled him from his enforced calmness.  He looked up, and seeing the tears stealing down Marion's pale cheeks, passionately entreated her mother to send her away, and fainted while he was endeavouring to explain his wish to see his beloved child. 

    How shall we expect others to sympathize with us when we know not how to sympathize with ourselves? Why, indeed, should we expect our friends fully to understand our sorrows, and make allowance for our bending under them, when the very soul which but yesterday, it may be, was stricken down to the dust, to-day is able to cry for help, to-morrow may be able to help itself, and the next day may wonder that it was so utterly cast down?

    If we cannot sympathize, neither can we understand ourselves.  When the paroxysm of pain or the storm of grief is over, we forget how great an influence it exerted for the time, and with the undisturbed, calm reason of health and composure, we look back upon our conduct and are hard upon ourselves;—we condemn our own folly, and forget that the faculties which sit in judgment now were then more than half dethroned. 

    Every parent can feel for a roan when he loses a beloved child, especially if that child was his only one,—still more if it was the solace of a life otherwise lonely and marked by misfortune. 

    Every one felt for the Rector when he committed his only child to the grave.  Many tears were shed for him when he first appeared afterwards in the church and at the cottages.  But after a while it became an ordinary thing to see him wandering through the lanes alone; the people became accustomed to his smile, which played so brightly about his mouth, but could not reach to dissipate the gloom of his eyes, and vanished so suddenly with the short sigh of a person whose heart is heavy.  People shook their heads when first they observed how much the dark-eyed children were always his favourites; but after a while, they only said it was very natural, and even the carpenter's wife soon began to think nothing of it when she saw him turn round, half unconsciously to himself, and watch her sturdy little twins as they walked hand in hand along the road. 

    Mr. Raeburn never once alluded to his loss after the first few weeks, and would not bear to hear it spoken of in his presence.  He was, after a time, so perfectly calm and self-possessed, that the care buried in his own breast could scarcely have been detected by others; and but for his sensitive shrinking from certain topics, from the mention of some few names, and of the year of good promise which had succeeded his marriage, he might have been supposed to have got over his loss altogether, and to have "ceased to send sighs after a day that was past." But the few who knew him well were conscious that such was not the case, and of those few none knew it better than little Marion. 

    As has been often before mentioned, the nursery at the rectory was a long room in the slope of the roof, with casement windows, partly shrouded by ivy.  These windows were the only part of Mr. Raeburn's house which were visible beyond the trees of its garden, an opening between them causing their diamond panes and bushy ivy to be distinctly seen from Marion's chamber. 

    As a child she had often laid awake watching these casements, lighted from within; and, with her curtains drawn back, could discern a person who might pass between them and the light, though the distance was too great for her to distinguish much more. 

    It had been a habit with her to watch this room before she went to sleep; and the dusky roof and dark outlines of the rectory, with the stars rising behind them, were among the most familiar objects that presented themselves in her dreams.  After the death of the little Euphemia, it was some time before Marion took courage to draw back her curtains and look out at the blank, desolate nursery; but the force of habit prevailing, she one night did so unconsciously.  The moon was shining full upon the windows, and their cold, blank appearance made her hide her face in the pillow and weep, till she started up, half-asleep, at sight of some one bringing a light in the nursery, setting it down near the central window, and then beginning slowly to pass up and down.

    Marion looked a long while, and fell asleep before the light was withdrawn. 

    Every night, as she had watched the place where her little playmates were, she now watched the return of their bereaved father, and saw the long falling of the shadow on the wall; but she never told any one of these visits, though they were not without effect on her mind.

    She was now old enough to know that she herself was the greatest solace left to her so-called uncle, and she returned his tenderness with a settled intention of drawing him from his trouble, and humouring him in a disposition which he sometimes showed, of trying to make her a substitute for his little daughter, and cheating himself into the fancy that she was his own child. 

    So the time passed, with little variation, till Marion was sixteen.  There was no sudden change in her, though now she looked nearly a woman. 

    Her affections had dawned early, and as she approached the borders of womanhood her face retained, in a great degree, the tender expression which had marked it in childhood; and though she was tall for her years, her figure was exceedingly youthful, and her manner, without affectation, was made up of an interesting compound of the woman and the child. 

    About this time Dora and Elizabeth, Marion's two cousins, came to spend a week with her; their father was about to take them a tour in Wales, and, as Swanstead was in their way, he sent them forward with an old servant, to stay there with his sister and her children till he was able to join them.  The cousins had not met for two years, and were all very much altered.  Dora and Elizabeth were very unlike each other in person, manners, voice, and even in dress,—that minor circumstance which often gives an apparent likeness to sisters.  Dora was rather tall, and had a very graceful figure; she was pale, had dark hair, dark grey eyes, and a grave expression. 

    Elizabeth, on the contrary, had brown eyes, a very high colour, a quantity of curling brown hair, and something remarkably lively in her manner and elastic in her movements.  Dora was so very retiring and silent in society, that Elizabeth, without any intention on her own part, had been gradually drawn on to take the lead; and as she was very much at her ease in all situations she generally passed for a clever and interesting young woman, though her talents were decidedly inferior to her sister's. 

    Two years, at their time of life, was a long time to have been separated, and their fancy that they knew each other intimately because they now corresponded freely, melted away after the first half-hour's conversation.  Marion could not help feeling, in spite of their familiar, sister-like greeting, that they were two strange young ladies.  She could scarcely believe that Elizabeth was only two years older than herself; and if they had not begun to talk about their aunt would have been abashed by their earnest gazing at her. 

    "Does my aunt lie on the sofa every evening?" asked Dora, while Marion was taking them upstairs. 

    "O yes, always.  Mamma has done so almost ever since I can remember."

    "How much older you look, Marion," said Elizabeth.  "I declare you are taller than I am."

    "Yes," said Dora, thoughtfully; and then added, "My aunt looks much older, too."

    "I hope you don't think mamma is looking ill?" asked Marion. 

    "O no," exclaimed Elizabeth, laughing.  "Dora, how grave you are; you frighten this little thing,—look how she colours.  Yon don't think my aunt is looking ill?"

    "No," said Dora, turning from the glass and drawing her bonnet-strings through her fingers, "but she certainly looks much older,"

    "Well," said Elizabeth, giving her sister a gentle push, "and of course she is older, you silly thing! You know my aunt was not young when she married.  You are getting fearfully old yourself.  Marion, did you know that Dora was out of her teens?"

    Marion had not time to answer when Elizabeth, who had sauntered to a window, exclaimed, "Here is Mr. Raeburn coming up the drive, and Mr. Maidley with him.  How I disliked Mr. Maidley when I was a child; he used to tease me so.  Marion, how is that clever son of his?"

    "Frank? Oh, he is very well"

    "Is his hair as red as ever?"

    "Quite; and he never sees me without asking after you, Elizabeth."

    "The dear youth! The time before last that I came here, we were devoted to each other.  I remember I thought myself quite a young lady, and was offended because I had to come down one morning and see Mr. Maidley in my morning pink gingham frock with short sleeves.  Frank was with him, and gave me some delicious toffee.  I remember the taste of it to this day."

    "They will stay to tea," said Marion, "and I must go down and make it, dear Elizabeth.  Mamma will be tired if she is left alone to talk to them."

    "Oh, we are quite ready, my dear; let us all come down together.  Then my aunt is easily tired, is she Marion?"

    "Yes," said Marion, disturbed to perceive that they both observed a change in her mother which had escaped her own observation; but, during tea, she could not help thinking her cousins had alarmed her needlessly.  Her mother was in high spirits, and seemed quite amused with Elizabeth's lively conversation.  Their guests, also, were inclined to be more than usually talkative, and had a great many questions to ask. 

    Elizabeth's letters had lately been very full of the praises of a certain Mr. Dreux—quite a young man,—who had lately come to the town.  His personal appearance she had described with minute accuracy; and in the same page with the laudits upon his delightful dark eyes, and his fine voice, was a great deal about High Church and Low Church, and several other things, which Marion did not know very much about. 

    Marion was very curious to hear something more about this said Mr. Dreux.  She was therefore pleased when his name was mentioned to hear Elizabeth launch out in his praise, though she observed that Mr. Raeburn listened without much enthusiasm.  That might be, she thought, because he did not like to hear young ladies talk in that high-flown style of panegyric about a clergyman.  But Elizabeth continued to descant on Mr. Dreux's various excellencies for some time with great animation, till, happening to observe that she was sure he merited a higher sphere, and she hoped he would not long be a curate, the grave manner of Mr. Raeburn's bow, in reply, caused it to flash across her mind that Mr. Dreux had an uncle in that very neighbourhood, who, it was said, had promised him the next presentation to a certain living.  "Now, if it should happen to be this living," thought Elizabeth, "what an awkward mistake I have made!"

    She was rather confirmed in the idea that this might be the case, by observing that Mr. Maidley immediately began to talk to her about her native place, and about her friends and occupations, with great apparent interest. 

    "'Religion walks in her silver slippers' at Westport," he observed, in answer to one of her remarks. 

    Elizabeth smilingly assented. 

    "In fact," she said, "the clergy are all in all there; their opinions are consulted even on indifferent subjects with the utmost deference."

    "It was so when I served my first curacy there," Remarked Mr. Raeburn, composedly sipping his coffee.  "Westtport is a very priest-ridden place."

    "Very what?" asked Mr. Maidley, laughing. 

    Elizabeth thought the assertion so extraordinary that she did not attempt to conceal her amazement; and as Mr. Raeburn chose to appear quite unconscious that he had said anything remarkable, and she could not make up her mind whether he was in joke or earnest, she glanced at her aunt with an expression of annoyance.

    "I think my niece would like some explanation," said Mrs. Greyson, smiling.  "I am sure she has never heard the term priest-ridden applied to Westport
before."

    "No, indeed," said Elizabeth, laughing, but with the slightest possible shrug of contempt. 

    Mr. Raeburn did not seem disposed to comply with the request. 

    "Tiresome man!" thought Elizabeth; "he was always prosy; but I never heard him talk in this ridiculous way before."

    "Will you favour us with a definition of the word, Miss Paton, as you take so much exception to it?" asked Mr. Maidley. 

    "Oh, I know perfectly well what it means, of course, Mr. Maidley," said Elizabeth; "but I always thought it applied exclusively to Roman Catholic countries, particularly to Ireland."

    "If it simply means, governed by priests, I think you ought in conscience to forgive Mr. Raeburn; but perhaps you objected to the expression because it is generally used to denote not simply government by priests, but bad government by priests,—not because it is a reproach to any people to be under subjection to a priesthood."

    Elizabeth again replied that she did not like, the expression, because she had heard it applied to the Irish, and it implied pity for them.  "Now, the idea," she added, "of our being pitied at Westport! We who have such active and excellent clergymen, whose churches are all crowded.  I have often heard strangers say that Westport was quite a model place.  The people are so remarkably moral, and evangelical religion has made such great advances."

    "And who are at the head of it all?"

    "Oh, the clergy, of course," replied Elizabeth. 

    "Then you do not at all wish to qualify your assertion, that they are the governing spirits of the place?"

    "No," said Elizabeth, anticipating what he might have said further; "but who so fit to preside—who would lead better? I think," she added, quite forgetting that she was taking the wrong side of the argument,—"I think it is a very good thing, and we ought to be extremely thankful that we have such excellent men to guide us, and tell us what we ought to do, and to save us the constant trouble of thinking for ourselves; besides, we are expressly told to "obey those who are set over us."

    "Certainly," said Mr. Raeburn, taking up the conversation; "but you are also commanded to 'try the spirits,' which, I presume, means something entirely opposed to unhesitatingly adopting any line of conduct or principle pointed out, just to save the trouble of thinking for yourselves."

    Elizabeth blushed, and felt annoyed—not because her faith in the strength of her own position was shaken, but because she felt that her admission of want of thought must have weakened it in the eyes of her opponents.  "I cannot see," she said, addressing Mr. Maidley, "how it can be otherwise than good to be swayed as we are by the clergy, provided they always sway us in the right direction.  They must preside, for instance, at all the religious meetings."

    "To be sure," said the Rector, looking pointedly at Mr. Maidley.  "What's the use of asking a layman to speak?"

    "I cannot speak fit to be heard," said Mr. Maidley, evidently parrying a personal thrust.  "I should make the best cause ridiculous by my way of advocating it."

    Mr. Raeburn laughed, but almost instantly sighed heavily, and beckoned to Marion to come and sit beside him on the sofa; presently, after saying, in a half bantering tone, to Elizabeth, "I am afraid you are in a terrible state of bondage, Miss Paton, like the other good people at Westport."

    "So he really means it," thought Elizabeth.  "What a queer old gentleman he is!"

    "So we are a priest-ridden set!" she said, half laughing, to Mr. Maidley. 

    "Remember that the expression was not mine, Miss Paton," was the reply.  "I by no means adopt it as the expression of my mind.  I, for my part, should be sorry to convey the slightest reflection upon the clergy of Westport; for the defects of that place (and I certainly think it has great defects,) I entirely blame the people, principally the young people, and among the young I think the greatest offenders are the young ladies."

    "There, Elizabeth!" said her aunt; "now I think you have an undoubted right to demand an explanation: this is bringing the matter very near home."

    "Really, I cannot in the least understand what we have done; I do not feel at all guilty.  First, you seem to say that we are governed by our clergy; secondly, that it ought not to be so; and yet, thirdly, that it is not their fault if they do govern us, but everything amiss is the fault of the young ladies."

    "No, I must alter your propositions a little.  First, it was you who said you were governed by your clergy.  It was, secondly, Mr. Raeburn who said that ought not to be; and it was I who intimated that I blamed the conduct of the young ladies.

    "Well, I think everything is right and delightful at Westport.  So when you have told me what you find amiss, Mr. Maidley, I do not promise to be penitent."

    "Remember that I am far from imputing it to the clergy as a fault that they take the trouble to rule.  In this instance, as they happen to rule well, there is little to regret."

    "As they happen to rule well?"

    "Certainly; for when people have been in the habit of implicitly receiving as truth what has been set before them, thus, however unconsciously, giving the attribute of infallibility to their spiritual guides; where they have been accustomed to allow themselves to be led blindfold, even in the right way, they must, by this voluntary humility, this disuse of their own reason, have so much weakened it, that if a time comes for judging and discerning,—if the man who had led them one way is taken from them, and another stands up in his place who wants to lead them in the opposite direction,—the habit of dependence and reliance on another mind may very likely have become so strong, that, as they gave up the helm to the one to guide them right, they will leave it with the other to guide them wrong."

    "Yes, perhaps so; but that applies both ways, Mr. Maidley."

    "So it does, it is of universal application; but I do not think it is therefore the less to be deplored.  If it is the fashion in any place to make a profession of serious religion, crowds will profess; and whichever party is the fashion will have plenty of so-called adherents so long as it remains in undisputed possession of the field.  But let another party come up,—no matter whether a good or bad one,—opinions change like a tide, and long-cherished sentiments melt away like frost-work; and this must be the case where people follow, not a system of doctrine, but a favourite preacher.  Instead of holding to the one eternal standard, they go to Mr. So-and-so's church, and there, they think, 'whatever is, is right.'"

    "And do you seriously think that people who have been accustomed to truth will not at once detect error and reject it?"

    "Those would, undoubtedly," said Mr. Raeburn, "who had loved truth for its own sake, knowing it to be such, having a reasonable conviction of its power, and a personal certainty of its goodness.  But in a large congregation, principally composed of the young, where the minister himself is young, popular, and amiable, and well calculated to attract regard, I should expect to find great numbers who hear with so little discrimination, so little exercise of their minds, that if he were some day to get up and advance something quite different to his usual teaching, they would scarcely remark or attend to it.  And if we add to these (the perfectly thoughtless), that mass of people who hear the man, not for the sake of his message, but for his own sake,—those particularly among the poor to whom he may have become personally endeared for kindness done to them in times of sickness and distress, and who adopt and detail his opinions, even the most unimportant, simply because they are his; and those among the young, who actually excite one another to believe that they are deeply attached to the ministry of this man or that man, making their very profession appear ridiculous by their forgetfulness of how much personal regard and admiration may have to do with their religious raptures,—if we add all these together, how few will be left whose intelligence on religious matters is sufficiently alive to enable them to discern error, if it should be taught by any whom they have hitherto looked up to.  Only imagine what would be the state of the church where your favourite Mr. Dreux officiates, if anything so lamentable should occur as his taking up erroneous doctrine.  It is difficult for a popular man to prevent his people from setting him up as a standard; they think less of his opinions than of himself.  How many people would change, do you think, if Mr. Dreux should change?"

    "Oh, I don't know, Mr. Raeburn; perhaps half of them."

    "And yet you would not blame the clergy so much, where this is the case, as the people," said Dora. 

    "No, because the best teaching is nearly useless (humanly speaking) where there is a want of intelligence in the learners; people would be ashamed to remain in as much ignorance of politics, literature, or even science, as they do contentedly of religion—I do not mean of the practical part of religion, of devotional feelings, or moral maxima, I mean of what may be called the theory of religion—those principles without which no practice of outward duty can avail.  There are thousands of well-educated people in this country who could not give a correct, distinct account of the difference between the English Church and the Church of Rome; and there are thousands more who know nothing, or at least could give no intelligent account of the great parties which exist within the Church of England, and which are divided as by vast gulfs from one another."

    "I suppose you mean the High Church and the Evangelical, and the old Moral school; but as all these are called Church people, it seems natural to conclude that they are nearly alike."

    "To be sure it seems natural, as you say; but don't you think the Church people in this country ought to know enough of the doctrines they profess to uphold, to be able to say whether their ministers are faithful or not.  The Church, as an institution, is for the people; the clergy minister to and for the people, not for themselves.  If they cannot discriminate in what good teaching consists, they are scarcely the better for it.  The misfortune is, that they often consider it an act of presumption to judge of it, instead of an act of duty."

    "But if people are to be encouraged to judge," said Elizabeth, "surely it will encourage a censorious spirit — surely it will make them presumptuous."

    "My dear, you are differing from me now on a subject of some importance."

    "Ah, but it is only in conversation; you know all clergymen do not think with you, Mr. Raeburn."

    "To be sure not; so now I have brought you to a point where you must presume to judge for yourself."

    Elizabeth laughed, and said, "Ah, but it has not the consequence which need make me fear so much to judge for myself."

    "Now there we differ again, for I say it is a matter of great consequence."

    "Go on, Elizabeth," said her aunt, "you see you are encouraged to have an opinion of your own."

    "I must say," proceeded Elizabeth, "that I think in some congregations they are very fond of judging, and are always criticising some clergyman or other."

    "There we come to a point of agreement.  I have known several cases where a censorious spirit has been manifested, but I almost always found that it exercised itself about trifles.  'This man's voice was harsh; that man's manner was offensive; this sermon was too long, and that was badly delivered;' but if the true spirit of discrimination was abroad, if people considered it in all cases their duty to know whether they heard what was true, and to know why—then, I think, the censorious spirit about trifles would nearly disappear; it is only a man incapable of appreciating a fine picture who draws your attention to a spot of dust on the frame.  Those whose attention is absorbed by the important matter of a sermon, are the least likely to quarrel with its manner.  You must not try to put off your own responsibility, you know.  You cannot really shift it to any one else's shoulders."

    "Then," said Elizabeth, half laughing, "it is still not our fault; we ought to be taught a little more self-dependence: and perhaps it would save our clergymen a good deal of anxiety in the end, and trouble too."

    "The trouble, for instance, of leading you all your lives in leading-strings.  Well, but if instead of so much religious enthusiasm and excitement, there was a more steady, serious, and reasonable value for the great truths of Christianity, I do not think the clergy would find themselves deprived of any of the respect which is due to their office; on the contrary, I should expect to find those who hitherto, from want of talent or from natural manner, had never been acceptable, though faithful and devoted, would meet with regard for their works' sake; and those now popular would still possess the love of their people, but it would be given from a better motive."

    "Well, Elizabeth," said her aunt, "you and Dora are both come to years of discretion; do you mean to take any part of this censure to yourselves—does it apply to you?"

    "Yes," said Elizabeth, in a doubtful tone, "it does in some degree; but that does not make us the chief offenders; I know of nothing particular that we have done."

    "What! nothing particular!" exclaimed Mr. Maidley; "do you call adulation nothing particular? Is there nothing dangerous to a young man in the flattery and admiration of your sex?"

    "Oh," said Elizabeth, "I cannot think that would have any effect; I am sure Mr. Lodge and Mr. Dreux, and a good many others whom I could name, are quite above any such influence.  The idea of such excellent men feeling flattered and pleased by the attentions of a few girls seems to me quite derogatory."

    "I don't mean to say," returned her antagonist, ''that I think any man of sense can be pleased at the way in which these feelings sometimes show themselves.  I know a man who told me he had had six and thirty pairs of slippers given him, some of them lined with white satin.  I heard of another, who had thirteen pocket-handkerchiefs given him, worked in the corner with hair."

    "Oh, Mr. Maidley," said Mrs. Greyson, "are you quite sure that anecdote is authentic; it sounds very like a malicious invention."

    "Quite true, I assure you and the same man had a bouquet of flowers sent him every morning for his table."

    Elizabeth blushed and looked uncomfortable; perhaps she remembered one or two things which had taken place at Westport which were uncommonly like the above anecdote.  She, however, repeated her assertion, that she was sure, quite sure, Mr. Dreux was not in the least influenced by the admiration his character could not fail to excite; that, in fact, he was so superior to young ladies of any rank or order that he could not possibly be hurt by their attentions (if he ever observed them), or tempted in the least to alter his course for the sake of pleasing them.

    "Oh," said Mr. Raeburn, rising, "if he is such a paragon as that comes to, of course we have nothing more to say.  If this excellent, handsome, and devoted young bachelor is quite beyond all earthly temptations, if he is above the reach of flattery which has tempted and swayed the highest potentates, beyond that influence which stole away King Solomon's heart and lost our first father his place in Paradise—"

    "Oh," exclaimed Elizabeth, interrupting, very much vexed, "I did not mean to make such an assertion.  I only intended—"

    "We'll hear his defence to-morrow.  Maidley, we are late already."

    "What a provoking man Mr, Raeburn is," said Elizabeth, turning to watch the two gentlemen as they walked briskly down the drive.  "The idea of his calling Mr. Dreux a handsome and devoted young bachelor!  A paragon, indeed!  I am certain he meant to infer that I at least thought him one.  However," she added, laughing, and recovering her good humour, "he need not be afraid lest people should make an idol of him!"

    "I am not so sure of that.  The people here are more than commonly attached to him."

    "Ah, just the poor, because he is so good to them, takes notice of their children, and talks to them all familiarly by name."

    "Well, perhaps it was jealousy then that made him speak in such a slighting manner of popularity," said her aunt in an ironical tone.  "Do you think that will account for it, my dear?"

    "No; but really, aunt," said Elizabeth, laughing, "it was very provoking.  I am sure he was laughing at me; I saw his eyes twinkle, though his face was so grave."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER V.

THE COWSLIP PICKING.


THE next day was hot and rainy; the three girls had their work carried to a thatched arbour in the garden, and followed themselves, with umbrellas.

    There they could talk at their ease; and very much they amused Marion, and surprised her not a little; they had a piquant way of relating things, and detailed a great deal of religious gossip for her edification; for everything they said was, as it were, tinctured with religion, and yet in a way which conveyed more the idea that they lived in a religious atmosphere, than that their own minds were deeply imbued with its solemnities.

    Mr. Dreux was described over again with minute accuracy, and old Mr. King, his Rector, who was also a very good man, it appeared, only he had a wooden leg—a cork one at least—which had a joint at the knee, and this joint creaked sometimes, and made foolish people laugh.

    Marion was very much amused with her two cousins, but began to perceive that she had not much in common with them, and liked their conversation best when they talked least about religion.   This was wrong, she supposed, and she tried to overcome it, but without much success, and as, in spite of these differences between them, the three cousins were very much attracted towards each other, they easily found conversation which was equally pleasant to all.

    The next morning was more than commonly fine, and they rose early to walk in the garden before breakfast.

    "Well, Marion," said Mrs. Greyson, when she came down, "have you thought of any plan for amusing your cousins to-day?"

    "We can have a drive in the evening, mamma; but for this morning Dora and Elizabeth have thought of something for themselves."

    "What is it, my dears?"

    "Marion told us yesterday that the maids from the rectory and two of your servants were going to join at a grand cowslip picking for cowslip wine; we thought we should enjoy of all things to go and help, for it is not very hot."

    "And we could choose the meadows along the side of the wood," said Marion, "where there is a long line of shade, and afterwards sit in the open air under that great clump of lime trees, and pick out the blossoms."

    "That will be a very good plan of spending the morning, and if you like, you shall have your dinner brought out."

    Directly after breakfast the maids sent in word that they were ready, and Dora and Elizabeth went into the hall to look at them.   Each had got a large bag fastened in front of her apron to hold the blossoms, and the gardener was going to carry a clothes-basket into the meadow for the "pips," as the flowers are called by the cowslip gatherers.

    The young women looked very happy in the prospect of their annual day's pleasure; each one had brought a basket of provisions on her arm.   The young ladies also looked all the more blooming for their delight, as they tied on the largest bonnets the house afforded and set off, under Marion's escort, about half an hour after the maids.

    "What an enchanting day!" they exclaimed, as they emerged from the garden and entered a broad meadow covered with cowslips, orchises, and the beautiful meadow-sweet.   "We shall soon fill our baskets here."

    But Marion said it would not do to stay there, the sun was too hot; they must go through this meadow and several others, till they reached the skirts of Swanstead-wood.

    It mattered very little to Dora and Elizabeth where they went, or what they did, so long as they were under the open sky in the meadows.   They wandered along with a sense of freedom and delight which increased as the morning advanced, and amused themselves with observing how the rich landscape changed with their change of position.

    At length they reached the meadow by the wood, and found that the maids had already gathered quite a rick of cowslips, which were ostentatiously heaped up, and made a great show in the shade.

    Marion and her cousins now set to work to gather a rival heap; but there were so many things to be seen, so many trees to be admired, and so many little points of view which each must call the other to see, that their rick made a very poor figure beside that of their more industrious contemporaries, who kept at first a sufficient distance to enable each party to talk without being overheard by the other.

    "How happy they look!" said Marion, turning to look at the maids, who were evidently enjoying the change from their ordinary occupations.

    "Yes, and how happy everything looks, Marion.   We must go down to the river's brink; there must be such a delightful air there, and we can keep in the shade nearly all the way."

    The river wound along one end of this meadow, and went through the thickest part of the wood.   It was brimful of water, and as smooth as glass.

    They stood for some minutes beside it, listening to the lapse of the water, and looking down the long arch of trees which met over it in the wood, where it became a perfectly green river in the clearest shade imaginable.

    "If there was but a boat," said Elizabeth, "how delightful it would be to sit on the water under that arch of trees, and there pick out the cowslip blossoms!"

    "There is a boat somewhere in the wood," said Marion, "and if the path is not very much overgrown I can find it.   But we must let the maids know where we are going, that they may tell mamma how to find us when she comes."

    The maids entered with great cordiality into this scheme of the young ladies; and as the latter had not gathered more than a peck of cowslips altogether, these generous rivals proposed to carry a quantity of their own booty into the boat for them.

    The wood was alive with birds; and when they had made their way to the water's edge, they had some difficulty in finding the low, flat-roofed boathouse, so completely were the banks overgrown with six-feet-high bulrushes.

    At last the dairy-maid discovered it, and then the next difficulty was to float the boat out, and get it clear of the rushes.   This the same young woman effected, previously emptying her apron-full of cowslip-blossoms into it, and receiving the contributions of her companions.   The boat was moored to the shed by a rope, and now the dairy-maid had to be pulled back that she might land.   This the inmates of the boat easily effected; and the rope being only about five yards long, was no sooner fastened, than the slight onward movement of the water turned the boat's head gently down the stream, and they commenced their pleasant task, completely over-canopied by the green ash and maple trees on each side of the river.

    "This really is felicity!" said Elizabeth, as she looked up among the thick branches, and saw the sunbeams shooting aslant in the tree-tops of their roof.

    Marion took off her bonnet, and the delightful air moved her luxuriant hair.

    "Look down into the water, Dora," she said; "see how full it is of tiny fishes.   I am glad we thought of coming here.   It must be very hot by this time in the open meadows.   See, Elizabeth, here is a nest!"

    Marion said this with the composure of a person who can see a nest any day; but Dora and Elizabeth were wild with delight.

    "Oh! don't stand up in such a hurry!" cried Marion.   "See how you have made the boat rock!"

    There was a branch of maple hanging down over Marion's head, quite into the boat, with a whitethroat's nest depending from it.   It was formed without of hay and grass, and lined with horsehair and a few tufts of wool.   When she had gathered some of the leaves it was distinctly visible.

    "Look at the beautiful eggs!—pink, with brown veins.   If we sit perfectly still, I dare say the mother will come back.   Whitethroats are very bold birds."

    They did accordingly sit perfectly still for some time, and picked a basket full of "pips;" but after a while they forgot themselves, and began to talk and laugh without any reference to the supposed terrors of the bird.

    "The poor little creature!—how frightened she must have been,'' said Elizabeth, in a tone of regret, when she remembered her broken resolution.   "I am afraid her eggs must be quite cold by this time."

    Marion laughed.   "Look up, Elizabeth," she said, "and do not make any exclamation."

    Elizabeth looked up.   "I see two black eyes peeping out at me," she said.   "Oh! the beautiful little creature! But how keenly she watches us, and how fast she turns her head from side to side."

    "Take no further notice of her," said Marion, "and she will sit on.   I wish mamma would come.   What a long time she is!"

    "Can my aunt walk so far from home?"

    "Oh, no!" and again Marion felt troubled.   "But she will have the pony.   There is a bridlepath through the meadows; she will only walk through the wood."

    The morning wore on more quickly than they were aware.   It was enlivened by the light species of work in which they were engaged, and diversified by such slight incidents as the playing of a larger fish than ordinary about their boat, the sudden splash of the water when a pike made a spring after the flies, or the leisurely floating towards them of a whole family of sleepy-looking waterhens, and their precipitate rush into the reeds when they beheld the human faces.

    As the sun got high the reflection of the trees in the water became greener and more distinct, and the round spots of sunshine more yellow and bright.

    Many country sounds floated down the river and made the solitude quite musical.   There were the thousand voices of the rookery, so distant that any little wren who chose to perch near could drown them with his merry chirrup.   There were the thrushes singing, and the jays chattering in the wood, the water-rats splashing, and every quarter of an hour there was the striking of Swanstead clock.

    "It struck a quarter to one just now," said Elizabeth, beginning to fan herself with her straw-hat; "if we are industrious we shall finish these flowers in a quarter of an hour."

    "Of course we shall dine here," said Dora; "there would be room for six or eight people in such a boat as this."

    It may be observed of the said boat, that it had neither seats nor oars, so that the inhabitants could recline in its flat bottom with great elegance, as in a canoe.

    At the moment the clock struck two the party became aware of a little creaking sound in the wood, as of some one treading down dead twigs.   The sound approached, and presently Mr. Raeburn appeared, making his way among the trees and talking to himself as he wandered, with his hands in his pockets, towards the boat.   He was in a fit of abstraction, and evidently had not come into the wood to look for them.

    The girls looked at each other and smiled, as they just caught a word here and there of his soliloquy.   He was just passing, when a clear merry laugh caught his attention and caused him to turn hastily.

    "Well!" exclaimed the Rector, in a tone of perplexity, "I could have declared I heard some one laugh."

The girls made signs to each other to be quiet.

    "Very odd," he continued, looking up into the trees, as if they were his last resource.   "I could have declared it was just at my elbow."

    "So could I," replied a voice from the water.

    But the sound had to pass through the stalks of so many reeds that he was still undecided as to its direction, and gazed about him some time before he saw the white dresses of the girls and their bright hair, which they had decorated with chaplets of the idean-vine, some wreaths of which hung down from the trees.

    "Do come in, uncle," said Marion, "we are going to dine here."

    "My dears, you don't want me," he replied, looking down on their smiling faces with affectionate admiration.

    "O yes, indeed we do, Mr. Raeburn," cried Elizabeth; "pray come and join us."

    Mr. Raeburn turned and saw a cavalcade advancing slowly through the wood, with the dairy-maid at the head and the gardener behind, bringing various baskets covered with vine-leaves, and presenting a tempting appearance.   Presently Mrs. Greyson appeared, and seemed rather dismayed when she saw the floating nature of their asylum.   She, however, consented to dine on board with them; and, with Mr. Raeburn's help and the dairy-maid's, the embarkation of herself, a cold fowl, a cold custard-pudding, a basket of strawberries, and sundry knives, forks, and plates, was easily effected, after which Mr. Raeburn joined the party, and they commenced their noon-day meal with infinite relish.

    The dairy-maid, who remained standing on the bank, was dismissed, with an injunction to bring a quantity more cowslips to be picked.   And the girls showed their nest to the new-comers with as much delight as if it had been "treasure trove" of a kind never before seen in those parts.

    "O the delightful sky!" said Marion, looking up through a gap in the trees; "how blue it is."

    "O the delightful child, how happy she is,"—

    "Dear uncle, you are always so pleased with us for being happy.   You seem to think it a kind of merit in us to enjoy ourselves.   But, uncle—but, mamma," continued Marion, appealing to her mother with more gravity and earnestness than the occasion seemed to call for, "don't you think it is quite time my uncle left off calling me a child, considering that I am sixteen; and considering"—

    "Considering that I am already as tall as my mother," said Mr. Raeburn, taking up her words.

    Marion, who was seated close to Mr. Raeburn, and supporting herself on her elbow, looked up at him, and answered:—"No; but really, uncle, if people always hear you say, 'My child,' they will never remember that I am nearly grown up."

    "So you are sixteen, my dear," said the Rector, taking up one of Marion's small hands and spreading out the fingers upon his own large palm.   "Well, I suppose you think it is something to be sixteen.   Why, I shall be eight or nine and forty in a few days, and I do not expect to feel at all proud on the occasion."

    Dora looked at Marion as she still continued with her blue eyes fixed on the Rector's face, and thought she had never seen anything more exquisitely childlike than the tender expression of her guileless face.

    "O no, uncle," she answered, with perfect simplicity; "I am not at all proud; but I think you talk to me more as if I were a child than you do to other girls of my age."

    "If I do, it is because I love you more."

    "When you are a few years older, Marion," said her mother, "you will wish you could have people who are fond of you say as they do now,—'We must excuse her for this or that little act of folly, for she is but a child.'"

    Marion smiled a half-incredulous smile, and held out her hand for a leaf full of strawberries which her mother had selected for Mr. Raeburn.

    "So you young ladies have actually brought books with you," said he, as she gave them to him.   "This must have been your doing, Miss Paton, for I cannot give Marion credit for being so studious." As he spoke he brought up two large volumes from the bottom of the boat.

    "Yes, I acknowledge that I brought them," said Dora, "but they have never been opened."

    "Something about Nineveh, and 'Modern Painters.' Well, I suppose you preferred to study the book of nature this beautiful day." He continued to turn over the leaves, and presently read aloud the, following sentences from the last-mentioned book:—

    "'The noblest scenes of the earth can be known and seen but by few.   It is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them.   He injures them by his presence; he ceases to feel them if he is always with them; but the sky is for all.   Bright as it is, it is not "too bright nor good for human nature's daily food." It is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart.   .   .   .   And yet we never attend to it—we never make it a subject of thought but as it has to do with our diurnal sensations.   We look upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes—upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew, which we share with the weed and the worm—only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be worthy of a moment of thought or a glance of admiration.   If in a moment of utter idleness and insipidity we turn to the sky as a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of?  One says it has been wet, and another, it has been windy, and another, it has been warm.'

    "Sweeping censure this, Miss Paton.   Do you plead guilty?"

    "No," said Dora; "but I do think the study of the beautiful for its own sake seems very little thought of, especially the looking for it in simple external things."

    "The spirit of the age is certainly very matter-of-fact, both in a religious, social, and political point of view.   Marion, my dear child—my dear young woman, I mean—what are you about?  you must not lean over so much to my side; you make the boat rock.   Actually, while we talk about the spirit of the age, that child thinks of nothing but cowslip stalks!"

    "I am listening, uncle, indeed," said Marion; "but here come the fresh cowslips."

    "Listen or not as you like, child; I don't know that our talk was worth hearing."

    "There are some interesting passages in that book about the clouds," said Dora; "do you remember them, aunt?"

    "Yes; but I do not agree with the author, that mankind in general are unobservant of the appearance of the sky.   Perhaps we have not so many persevering cloud-gazers as star-gazers; and there are certainly a vast number of people who go through the world with their eyes shut; but I think all who do observe, observe the sky."

    "I cannot recall any beautiful landscape that I have seen," said Dora, "without also remembering what kind of sky made up its background."

    "And how full the poets are of cloud-and-sky scenes," remarked Elizabeth.   "Do you remember, aunt, in those lines called 'Mathew,' how beautifully, after describing the feelings of the old man on going out with his fishing-rod, Wordsworth makes the presence of a certain cloud hanging in the sky remind him of an April morning thirty years ago, and he says—


"'My eyes are dim with childish tears,
      My heart is idly stirred;
For the same sounds are in my ears
      That on that day I heard.'


    And then he goes on to compare 'yon cloud with that long purple cleft' with the cloud seen in his youth, and treasured in his memory for so many years."

    "And what can be more exquisite than that cloud, which we all fancy we must have seen, in Wilson's sonnet, beginning—


"'A cloud lay cradled near the setting sun,
  A gleam of crimson tinged its braided snow.'


    Surely every line of that sonnet is beautiful; but our sense of its beauty is chiefly derived from our all having observed and delighted in such a cloud.   But whether or not, we may be justly accused of neglecting to derive instruction and pleasure from the sky: it is certain that, in general, we do not pay sufficient attention to the beauty of natural objects."

    "But, aunt, I thought the prevailing fault at present was said to be a kind of worship of nature.   In fact, to hear some people talk, one would almost think that if we only listened with sufficient reverence to the teachings of nature, there would be no need of revelation at all."

    "I was not thinking of such persons, my dear; it is some of those who recognise the highest principles that I think deficient in a due acknowledgment of the beauty that surrounds them.   If we shut our eyes to the beauty which lives and breathes around us, we act ungratefully, and do not enjoy all the happiness intended for us."

    "Mamma," said Marion, "look."

    Mrs. Greyson turned and looked down the smooth river.   Sunbeams slanted across it, and here and there touched the water or the leaves.   Some waterhens were diving at no great distance, and the green reflection of the trees lay in vivid distinctness all around them.   But it was not to any of these things that Marion had wished to call attention.   Through the gap in the branches one pure white cloud was visible, lying, small and distinct, in the deep sky, and its image, like a white swan, was reflected down into the water.

    It was too beautiful to talk of, Elizabeth said; and they continued to watch it till it was gradually withdrawn.

    "I shall add the recollection of that cloud to the list of my possessions," said Dora; "it will be a pleasure to me in future that no outward circumstances can take from me—something absolutely my own."

    "In addition to your harp, your watch, and your work-box, Dora," said Elizabeth, with her usual gay good humour.

    "You are not at all romantic, I see, Miss Paton," remarked the Rector, with a smile.

    "A good thing for me," returned Elizabeth, "for I shall suit the better with the spirit of the age."

    "I hope something better for you than that you should suit with the age in most of its characteristics," returned the Rector, speaking with his accustomed hesitation; "with its characteristic industry, for instance, which, though it cannot be happy unless it gets through a great deal of work, wants to cast aside the labour of hand and heart, and do it all in a delegated way, and, as it were, by machinery.

    "We even carry this desire into our religion, and having set a great deal of religious machinery to work, we are inclined to wonder that it does not produce the regenerating effect we expected.

    "But we are in a great hurry; we cannot stop to inquire the reason.   We must have something to exhibit for our trouble, and we must have it quickly.   Certainly our machinery has produced a great effect, and if we have our misgivings as to whether it is a good one, we are obliged to keep them to ourselves, for there is so much to be acted that the time for reflection is wanting.

    "I should also be inclined to accuse the age of imitating machinery in another way.   A few machines will do the work of thousands of men; they act as agents and delegates, and take the labours from human hands.   Now, in our religion we have come to think that we will have agents and delegates also.   Great masses of people consider it too much trouble to think for themselves, or to undertake the duties, and study the principles of Christianity in their own persons.   Virtually, they say to their priests, 'Do the labour of religion for us; pray you the prayers we ought to offer up; be our substitutes; believe for us, act for us; and in return we will give you a portion of our gold, which we will lay like a sacrifice upon the altar.   We do not pray that fire from heaven may descend upon it, for the age is not superstitious, and we know that the days of miracles are passed.' So they satisfy their consciences.   And as for that hidden influence which comes down like dew upon the tender herbs, it is unseen and unobtrusive, therefore often overlooked and forgotten; for we have not time to look deeply into anything."

    "My dear Mr. Raeburn," said Mrs. Greyson, "you are surely severe upon the age."

    "Am I?" he answered, taking out his watch.   "Yes, and there sits Marion, in a state of amazement; she cannot tell what I mean.   Do you know how time is slipping away?—it is nearly four o'clock.   I believe I must take my departure; but can I first help you to land?"

    The girls reluctantly consented to leave their boat, but the heat of the sun was now moderated by a soft breeze, and as they had finished their cowslips they had no excuse for staying longer, so they stepped on shore, previously sending all the cowslip stalks floating down the river.   The maids were quite delighted with the great mass of flowers that they found heaped up for them in the boat.

    Mrs. Greyson rode home on a rough little pony, and Dora walked beside her.   They passed the maids at the corner of the wood: they had lighted a fire, and hung their kettle to the branch of a tree, in true rural fashion.   Elizabeth thought she should hardly have known the landscape, it was so much altered by the opposite direction of the shadows and the different lights on the water.   She also began to feel her old liking for Mr. Raeburn revive; and as he walked home with herself and Marion, one on each arm, his affectionate tenderness for the latter touched Elizabeth with a regretful interest, and imparted so much more gentleness to her manner, that she seemed altogether a different person; and Marion could not but admire her face, so greatly were her eyes brightened and her complexion heightened.   Mr. Raeburn took his leave after bringing them to their own door, and Marion asked her cousins to be quick in changing their morning dresses.   "We are going to drink tea with the Maidleys," she said; "we always do on alternate Thursdays."

    "All your fashions in this part of the world are unchangeable," said Dora.   "Are the Maidleys as fond of clever talk as ever; and do they still always have Devonshire posset for supper?"

    "Mr. Maidley is very fond of instructing, and I dare say he will show you either some geological specimens, or talk about botany: you know he has made a collection of dried plants.   Mrs. Maidley is proud of her Devonshire cream; so I dare say you will spend the evening much as you have done several former ones."

    "'I dare say!' Dora, how cautiously this little thing expresses herself! 'Mr. Maidley is fond of instructing,' quoth she.   Why don't you say at once, Marion, that he is determined to cram one with his learning, and that he is a great bore?"

    Marion laughed, but made no answer.

    "I wish you would imitate her caution," said Dora.

    "I did not intentionally speak with caution," replied Marion, and was going to add, "I do not dislike to be instructed," but remembered that she should thereby imply a reproach to Elizabeth.

    Mr. Maidley was a brisk little man, with a light active figure, and restless observant eye, and such a love of acting the schoolmaster that he had educated both his own sons, and young Greyson also, though his means would very well have admitted of his sending them to school.

    Mrs. Maidley was also a small person, and had a neat, delicate figure, and very quiet manners.   This couple were blessed with five towering sons and daughters, two of the former and three of the latter; they were magnified images of their parents, but their gait was less brisk, and their voices were louder and deeper.   They all had red hair, easy, good-humoured manners, and imperturbable self-possession, which latter quality they certainly had not inherited from their mother, who sometimes looked a little flurried when they were all moving about round her; their heads came so near the tops of the doors, and they so completely filled up their cottage home, that they gave her much the appearance of a nervous hen in possession of a turkey's brood.

    But she was proud of them, and with reason.   Never was a milder, more docile set of young giants.   They were clever, too; and both physically and intellectually they made Dora and Elizabeth look small.

    They received their guests with vociferous joy; but Frank had evidently forgotten his childish partiality for Elizabeth, and talked of nothing all the evening but some new chemical experiments, by which he declared he could blow up the world itself, if he could only get far enough into it.   He was obliging enough to take a great deal of trouble in explaining the matter to the girls; but they looked upon him as a tiresome, uninteresting youth, and did not even affect to care for his wonderful experiments.

    As Dora had expected, they had some Devonshire posset for supper; it appeared in a bowl suited to the dimensions of the young people, one of whom,
however—namely, Peter, the younger son—was absent the greater part of the evening.

    The wheels of Mrs. Greyson's phaeton were heard at the door before supper was quite over, but the whole party rose at once and proceeded to assist in cloaking and shawling, and what Will Greyson called the stowage of the craft.   Mrs. Greyson and Will sat in front, the latter being steersman, and the three girls got in behind, together with a music book that Dora had borrowed, and three pots full of choice young calceolarias, struck by Frank for Marion, also some geraniums, with their roots tied up in cabbage leaves, and some quinces,—for the Maidleys were bountiful people; and they liked apple-pie for supper, and apple-pie flavoured with quinces; so as Mrs. Greyson had no quinces in her garden they always provided her with an abundant supply.

    The girls were wedged into the back of the carriage and had scarcely room to move, when Peter made his appearance, quite out of breath, with his straw hat full of nuts; these he handed over the back of the carriage to Marion, a pair of crackers lying on the top of them.

    "Oh Peter," exclaimed Marion, almost in despair, "Peter, do please take these back; what am I to do with them?  It was extremely kind of you to get them, but you had better eat them yourself."

    Peter was Marion's age, and was supposed to be tenderly affected towards her.

    "No, Marion, keep them yourself," he gallantly answered, as he held on by the back of the carriage, which was already in motion, and going on at a foot's-pace with its load.   "I went to Swanstead wood to get them.   You can't think how milky they are.   Eat as many as you can yourself, Marion.   I'll come for my hat to-morrow.   I've put in a pair of crackers, in case you and the Miss Patons would like some on the way home."

    So saying he took his leave.   Elizabeth made room for the plants, and Marion, with her lap full of nuts, commenced cracking them.

    "What are you about, my dear?" said her mother, turning round.   "What is that noise?  I hope the springs are not giving way.   What are you all laughing at?"

    Elizabeth explained the cause.

    "Ridiculous boy!" said the mamma, in a tone of some annoyance.

    "But it was a chivalrous action," said Dora.   "He rose from his untasted supper and darted off when we remarked that Marion used to be fond of nutting when she was a little child."

    "Yes," said Elizabeth, "it really was something for him to do.   What a pity it is those Maidleys should be so fond of eating!"

    "Devoted to it," observed Will Greyson.   "Do you know, mother, I have observed that almost all very clever people are fond of eating."

    "Have you, my dear?  I should not have thought you had many opportunities of judging."

    "Now you mention it, Will, I really think I have observed the same thing," said Elizabeth.   "How can it be accounted for, aunt?"

    "The fact must be established, my dear, before we need account for it.   My boy, if you do not keep at a foot's-pace we shall certainly break down."

    So at a foot's-pace they went home in the starlight, Marion cracking her nuts the while, and distributing them to the rest of the party.

    "Elizabeth," said Dora, when they were alone in their room, "what a happy lot Marion's is; so free from all care and responsibility."

    "Responsibility," repeated Elizabeth, laughing, "why, my dear Dora, she does not differ in that respect from you and me."

    "Indeed, I don't agree with you.   How can the eldest daughter in a large family be free from responsibility?  She has at least her example to answer for.   But the reason I think Marion so happy is that she is the first object of interest to several people; they think for her, and are as tender over her as if she really were a child.   How serene she evidently is, and no wonder, so secure as she must be of affection, and such a life of quiet happiness as she has before her.''

    "But my aunt is in very delicate health," observed Elizabeth.   "I am sure she was very different the last time we were here."

    "Yes, she could walk with us.   We shall see how papa thinks her looking when he comes."

    Mrs. Greyson had a cold the next day, and did not go out for an airing as usual.   Dora recurred to her idea that her aunt was changed, but she could see no reflection of her anxiety in the faces of the old servants, and neither Marion nor Mr. Raeburn seemed to think anything particular the matter.

    Their father arrived in a few days, and Dora resolved not to be an alarmist.   The first time he was alone with his daughters he remarked upon her altered appearance.

    "It was strange," he said, "that at her age she should be so infirm."

    "My aunt has long been in weak health," said Elizabeth, "but if she was worse than usual her children would have mentioned it."

    "True, true," he answered, and seemed glad to take his daughter's view of the subject; but it did not quite satisfy him, for he presently remarked that it would be very little out of his way to return to Westport by Swanstead and take another peep at his sister.   "Besides," he added, "you are doubly related to these cousins, and I should not like you to grow up in ignorance of one another."

    The girls were pleased with this plan; it made their parting with Marion quite a different matter, and their aunt brightened up so much during her brother's visit, that they left her without any apprehensions.

    It was a brilliant morning.   The dew lay thickly on the grass, for it had not struck five, when Dora and Elizabeth stole into their aunt's chamber to kiss her and take their leave.   Marion was up and dressed; she made breakfast for them and packed strawberries and cake in a basket for their refreshment on the journey.   The phaeton was at the door.   Mr. Paton had persuaded his sister to let her son accompany him and his daughter, and Will Greyson, full of joy, was heaping it with luggage.

    He ran softly up stairs to take leave of his mother.

    "Now, my dears," exclaimed their uncle, "no more last words, or we shall certainly miss the train.   Three weeks hence you will see us again, Marion.   Come, my dear, let the boy go."

    "I am coming, uncle," cried Will, getting up behind.   "Take care of mamma, Marion; and mind you see that all my creatures are fed."

    And so they drove off, leaving Marion standing in the porch, looking the picture of serenity.

    "She is certainly born to be happy," thought Dora.

    Both the girls were delighted with Marion, and they might have talked and thought about her more if they had not been in the full enjoyment of their first tour.   The weather was faultless, and their father was so determined that they should see everything worth looking at, that they thought they had never been so happy before.

    In three or four days they got a letter from Marion, inclosing a note from her mother to Will.   She was delighted that he was enjoying himself so much, and thought she was all the better for the little peep she had had of her brother and his children.

    "Now you will see, Dora," said Elizabeth, "that papa will not go home by Swanstead.   I know he wishes to go up by the lakes, and my aunt's cheerful way of writing will determine him that there is nothing the matter."

    The event proved that she was right.   Other letters followed, all cheerful; and Mr. Paton gave out one morning at Chester, that he had changed his plans, and meant to travel northward.

    "Poor Marion," said Dora, "she will be very much disappointed."

    "Oh, papa will let us visit her in the winter," remarked Elizabeth; "and you know, Dora, you would not like to give up the lakes for the sake of seeing her again now."

    "Certainly not.   We are not required to do so.   What is this scheme of papa's about Wilfred?"

    "Have you not seen him since he wrote to my aunt?  Oh, it is to ask her if she will let him go abroad."

    "My aunt will not like to part with him while he is so young."

    "But papa thinks he ought to see a little of the world,—he is such a child for his years; and no wonder, always living in that country-place.   Besides, Mr. Lodge is going abroad with his three pupils, and told papa he should like to take another.   My aunt cannot fail to see what a good opportunity this would be for Will to go with safety and advantage; and they are only to be away two months."

    Two or three days after this, as the party were strolling on the borders of Windermere, Mr. Paton drew Will aside and informed him, with a little stately circumlocution, of a letter received that morning consenting to the plan above mentioned.   Wilfred was wild with delight; a tour in Switzerland was a hitherto unhoped-for bliss.   He could not be grateful enough to his uncle for having planned it.

    He set off that same night with a letter of introduction from his uncle to Mr. Lodge, previously writing home to his mother to thank her for her kindness.

    The Paton family then pursued their tour, and it must be confessed that they enjoyed it more now their restless cousin was withdrawn.   Dora felt it a "responsibility" to have him with them, for he was a daring, inquisitive boy; he loved climbing among ruins; and made her very nervous by his determination to see all he could of the machinery whenever they took him with them over a manufactory.

    They returned to Westport, having heard several times from Marion during their absence.   In the first letter she said her mother was much as usual, only that the hot weather made her languid; in the next she spoke of her as poorly, but said nothing to excite alarm.   Dora, however, was of an anxious disposition, and though Marion said so little she began to wish they had not sent Will Greyson away; but the sight of her mother, her brother and sister, and her cheerful home, banished these thoughts for a while, and she and Elizabeth retired to rest very much fatigued.

    It was late when they awoke the next morning and saw their old nurse, who still lived with them, quietly opening the shutters.   She let a little light into their room to awake them more effectually, and then said, coming up to the side of the bed,—"Did you young ladies know how late it was?  It wants but five minutes to ten."

    "What will papa say?" said Elizabeth, half rising; "why did you not call us before, nurse?"

    "Your papa gave particular orders that you were not to be disturbed.   Miss Paton, are you awake, my dear?"

    "O yes, nurse; you make too much noise for me to sleep.   I wish you would ask papa for my bunch of keys,—our boxes must be opened."

    "Your papa is out, Miss."

    "Out so early?"

    "You heard no noise in the night, then, my dears?  you did not hear the carriage come round?"

    "The carriage! —papa go out at night in the carriage?  Why, nurse, what can it mean?"

    "You look frightened, Miss Paton."

    "Yes, I am frightened.   What do you mean, nurse?"

    "Your papa and mamma were sent for in the night to go to Swanstead."

    "O my aunt,—she is very ill then, and Wilfred away! O Elizabeth, how very sad!"

    "What was the message, nurse?" asked Elizabeth; "I wish to know."

    "I did not hear the message, Miss.   Your mamma left her best love for you."

    "Let us be alone, nurse," said Dora, with a trembling sigh; "we shall get up presently."

    "Poor dear Marion," said Elizabeth, with tears; "I hope my aunt is not in danger."

    But when they did get up and leave their room, they found the blinds of the house drawn down and the shutters shut.


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