« AnteriorContinua »
ular," interposes Irene, standing beside daunt, angrily. “I wont have them defi)him in the porch.
ing your ears with things that are not fit “Do you hear what I say to you ?” he for you to hear. If it is the case, why repeats to the servant, and not noticing can't they keep the disgrace to themselves ? her. “What are you standing dawdling You can do no good by kuowing the there for ?!?
truth." The groom touches his hat and drives “O Philip, but you don't understand! away.
It was the poor girl told nie, and it was “ What is the matter, Philip?"
such a comfort to her-she has no one else " There is nothing the matter that I to confide in. And besides, she is so nnknow of."
happy, because Mrs. Cray beats her poor “Why did you send the pony-chaise for little boy, and she is afraid he will be illme, then? Why didn't you come and fetch treated when she is gone.” me yourself? I would much rather have “And wants to extract a promise from walked home through the fields with you.” you to go down there every morning and
“We cannot both neglect our guests, see that her precious offspring has slept Irene. If you desert them, it becomes iny and eaten well since the day before. No, duty to try and supply your place.”
thank you, Irene! I think we've had quite “Why, Aunt Cavendish is not affronted, enough of this sort of thing for the present, is she? She must know that it's only once and when the laundress's niece is dead, I in a way. Did you get my note, Philip?" hope that you will confine your charity
“I received a dirty piece of paper with a more to home, and not carry it on ad infininotice that you would not be back to tum to the third and fourth generation." dinner."
He makes one step downwards as though “I thought it would be sufficient,” says to leave her then, but she plucks biun timIrene, sighing softly; "and I really couldn't idly by the sleeve and detains him. leave poor Myra, Philip. She is dying as “But Philip~I promised her!"! fast as it is possible, and she had something “ Promised what?" very particular to tell me. You are not " Tbat I would befriend her child when angry with me?"
she is gone; that I would take him away “Angry? O dear, no! Why should I be from Mrs. Cray (she was so miserable about angry? Only I think it would be advisable
hiin, poor girl, she said she couldn't die in another time if these paupers' confidences peace), and—and (I do so hope you wont were got over in the morning. And I cer- be vexed)--and bring him up under my tainly do not approve of your being at the
own care." beck and call of every sick person in the What!” cries Colonel Mordaunt, roughvillage, whether you are lit to attend to
ly, startled out of all politeness. them or no. You had a bad headache
“I promised her I would adopt him; yourself when I left you this afternoon." surely, it is nothing so very much out of “O, my poor head! I had forgotten all
the way.” about it. Yes, it was very painful at one “Adopt a beggar's brat out of the village time, but I suppose my excitement has -a child not born in wedlock-a boy, of driven the pain away. Philip, I have been all things in the world! Irene, you must listening to such a sad story. You know be out of your senses !” the child-the little boy that they said was “ But it is done every day.” at nurse with Mrs. Cray.”
It may be done occasionally by people “ I have heard you mention it. I really who have an interest in Ragged Schools, or did not know if 'twas a boy or a girl, or if the Emigration Society, or the Shoe Black you knew yourself," he replies, indif- Brigade, or who have arrived at the meridferently.
ian of life without any nearer ties of their “No, no, of course not,” she says, color- own; but for a young lady, just married, ing;
“ but you know what I mean. Well, and with her hands full of occupation, both what do you think? It's a secrel, though, for the present and the future, it would be mind,” lowering her voice; "he belongs to absurd-unheard of-impossible ! poor Myra, after all. Isn't it shocking ?" “But what occupation have 1 that need
“And what is the use of their telling you prevent my looking after a little child, such tales as that ?? replies Colouel Mor Philip? If-11-"
“More than I ever thought to hear from "I don't know why I should be so silly your lips. O Philip, I did not think you as not to like to mention it," she goes on, could be so unkind to me!" And she turns hurriedly, though with an effort; "but froin him weeping, and goes up to her own supposing 1-1-had a child of my own; room, leaving him conscience-stricken in that would not interfere with my duties as the porch. It is their first quarrel; the mistress here, would it?"
first time angry words have ever passed “And would you like to have a child of between them, and he is afraid to follow your own, darling ?” he answers, sweetly her, lest he should meet with a rebuff; so but irrelevantly, and relapsing into all his he remains there, moody and miserable, usual tenderness. Were Irene politic, she and before half an hour has elapsed, could might win him over at this moment to bite out his tongue for every word it grant her anything. A smile, an answering uttered. look, a pressure of the hand would do it, The idea of the adopted child is as unand bring him to her feet a slave! But, in palatable to him as ever; it appears a most oue sense of the word, she is not politic; hare-brained and absurd idea to him. But her nature is too open. She cannot bring he cannot bear to think that he should her heart to stoop to a deception, however have been cross with Irene, or that she plausible, for her own advantage. And should have been betrayed into using basty so she answers her husband's question words to him. frankly.
O, that first quarrel! how infinitely “No, not at all, Philip. I've told you wretched it makes humanity, and what a that a dozen times already. But I want to shock it is to hear hot and angry words take this poor little boy away from Mrs. pouring from the lips that have never Cray, and bring him up respectably li opened yet for us except in blessing. mind and body.”
Better thus, though-beiter hot and anColonel Mordaunt's momentary softness gry words than cold and calm. vanishes, and his “grumpiness" returns The direst death for love to die is when in fall force.
is reasoned into silence by the voice of “Then I object altogether. I'm not so indifference and good sense. fond of brats at any time as to care to have Othello's passion was rough and deadly, those of other people sprawling over my
but while it lasted it must have been very house-a'd a pauper's brat, of all things. sweet pain. Was it not kinder to smother You must dismiss the idea at once." Desdemona whilst it was at white heat, “ But I have promised, Philip.”
than to let her live to see the iron cool? “ You promised more than you can But Colonel Mordaunt is in no inood for perform."
reasoning; he is simply miserable, and his “But I swore it. O Philip, you will not mood ends-as all such moods do end for make me go back from an oath made to true lovers-by his creeping up to Irene's the dying! I shall hate myself forever if side in the twilight, and humbly begging you do!"
her forgiveness, which she grants him “You had no right to take such an oath readily-crying a little over her own shortwithout consultivg me.”
comings the while—and then they make it “Perhaps not; I acknowledge it. But up, and kiss, as husband and wife should it is done, and I cannot recede from my do, and come down stairs together, and are given word.”
very cheerful for the rest of the evening, “I refuse to endorse it. I will have no and never once mention the obnoxious bastard brought up at my expense.” subject that disturbed their peace.
The coarseness of the retort angers her; she colors crimson, and recoils from him. The next morning is bright and beauti
“ How cruell how pitiless of you to use ful; all nature appears jubilant, but bethat term! You have no charity! Some tween these two there is a slight reserve. day you may need it for yourself!"
All trace of discomfiture has passed-they At that he turns upon her, crimson, too, are as loving and attentive to each other as and panting.
before, but they are not quite so easy. “What makes you say so?
What have With her first awakening, Irene's thoughts you heard ?
have down to poor Myra. She wonders
how she has passed the night, and vividly The weather is beautiful, the distance remembers that she promised to visit her is nothing-a matter of fourteen miles; in the morning; but Colonel Mordaunt just a pleasant drive. And I am sure it. says nothing on the subject, and Irene will do you good, besides giving pleasure dares not broach it. She is so afraid of to our guests. If you ask my opinion, I disturbing his restored serenity, or of ap- say, let's go." pearing ungrateful for the extra love he “That's right, uncle !” shouts Oliver;: has bestowed on her in order to efface the “she can have nothing to say after that. remembrance of their misunderstanding. Now, Irene” (for it had been settled be
Every one knows what it is to feel like tween these young people that, considering this after a quarrel with one whom we the equality of their ages, they should adlove. The storm was so terrible, and the dress each other by their Christian names), succeeding peace is so precious to us, we “let's make an inroad on the larder (what are not brave enough to risk a repetition of a blessing it is old Quekett's not here to our trouble by alluding to the subject that prevent us!), pack up the hamper, order provoked it. So Irene dresses in silence, round the carriage, put on our hats, and thinking much of her interview with Myra the thing is done." of the day before, and wondering how it “Shall we be long away?" demands. will all end, and longing that her husband Irene, anxiously, of her husband. would be the first to revert to it. But they He observes her indifference to the meet at breakfast, and nothing has been proposed plan, guesses its
cause, and said.
frowns. Miss Cavendish is particularly lively this "That depends entirely on our own will. morning. She knows there was a slight But if our friends” (with a slight stress on disagreement between her host and hostess the word) “enjoy themselves at the Castle, last evening, and she is anxious to dispel I see no reason why we should not remain the notion that any one observed it but as long as it gives them pleasure." themselves.
“Dear Irene, pray don't go against your “What a beautiful day!" she says, as inclination," urges Mrs. Cavendish. Coloshe enters the room; “ bright, but not too nel Mordaunt answers for her-with a warm. Ah, Colonel Mordaunt, who was it laugh. promised to take us all over to picnic at “ Don't indulge her, Mrs. Cavendish. Walmsley Castle on the first opportunity ?” She is only lazy. She will enjoy herself as
“One who is quite ready to redeem his much as any of us when she is once there. promise, madam,” replies the colonel, gal. Come, my darling, see after the commisJantly, “if his commander-in-chief will sariat de
rtment at once, and I will order give him leave. But I am only under or- the carriage. The sooner we start the betders, you know-only under orders." ter. Oliver, will you ride, or take the box
“ Not very strict ones, I imagine. What seat ?" And so it is all settled without do you say, Irene? Is this not just the day further intervention on her part. for Walmsley? And Mary and I must She goes up stairs to prepare for the exleave you the beginning of the week." pedition, feeling very undecided and rather
“O, do let us go, Irene !” interposes her miserable. After all, does not her duty lie cousin.
more towards the fulfilment of her hus“ It will be awful fun," says Oliver band's wishes than an engagement with Ralston. “Just what we were wishing for, one who has no real claims upon ber. is it not, Miss Cavendish ?!!
Only she is so sorry that she promised to Irene thinks of Myra in a moment; it is visit Myra this morning. Perhaps she is on the tip of her tongue to remonstrate, expecting her even at this moment-strainand say she cannot go to-day of all days in ing her ears to catch the sound of her footthe week; but she glances at her husband, step--waiting in feverish anxiety to repose and the expression of his face makes her some further confidence in her. The hesitate.
thought is too painful. Could she not run “Philip, what would you wish me to down to the cottage before they go, if it do ?" she says, timidly.
was only for ten minutes ? She hears her “I want you to please yourself, my dear; husband in his dressing-rooin. but I see no reason why you should not go. “Philip,” she says, hurriedly, "I prom
ised to see poor Myra again this morning. “ Within a few minutes. I suppose we Is there no time before we start?”
had better be thinking of going home, or “ Time!” he echoes; “why, the car- we shall be late for dinner." riage is coming round now, and the ladies “I hardly think we shall have much aphave their things on. You've gone mad petite for dinner after this,” says Mrs. on the subject of that woman, Irene; but Cavendish, laughing, as she regards the if it's absolutely important you should see scanty remnants of their meal. her again to-day, you must go down in the “ Fire! It cannot be so late as five," reevening. Come, my darling,” he contin- peats Irene, in a voice of distress. “O ues, changing his manner to a caressing Philip, do order the horses to be put to at coaxing tone, which it is most difficult to
Poor Myra!" combat, we had quite enough fuss over Her expression is so pleading that he this subject yesterday; let us have a peace- rises to do her bidding without delay; but ful happy day all to ourselves, for once in he cannot resist a grumble as he does it. a way; there's a dear girl.” And, after But she does not heed him; she heeds that, there is nothing more for Irene to do nothing now but her own thoughts, which but to walk down stairs disconsolately, and have flown back to her broken promise, drive off with her guests to Walmsley with a dreadful fear that she may be too Castle.
late to redeem it. She remembers everyThey are a merry party; for it is just one thing that happened with sickening fidelity; of those glorious days when to live is to how Myra longed to detain her, and only enjoy, and she tries to be merry, too, for let her go upon her given word that she gloom and ill-humor have no part in her would return. What right had she to break compusition. But she cannot help her it-for any one, even for Philip? What thoughts reverting, every now and then, must the dying woman think of her? to Myra, with a tinge of self-reproach for She is so absorbed in this idea that she not having been braver. Yet her husband cannot speak to any one; her conduct sits opposite to her, his eye glowing with seems quite changed from what it did in pride as it rests upon her countenance, and the morning. She is a pitiful coward in a quiet pressure of the hand or foot telling her own eyes now. And as she drives back her at intervals that, with whomsoever he to Priestley she sits alone, miserable and may appear to be occupied, his thoughts silent, longing to reach home, and fancyare always hers, and she cannot decide ing the road twice as long as when they whether she has done right or wrong. It last traversed it. is useless, however, to ponder the question “Are you ill, my dear?'' says Mrs. Cavnow, when she is already miles away from endish. “Has the day fatigued you ?” Priestley, and so she tries to dismiss it “You had better not speak to Irene,” from her mind, with a resolution to pay replies Colonel Mordaunt, in her stead. her promised visit the minute she returns. “She is in one of her Lady Bountiful
Walmsley Castle is a ruin, situated in a moods. You and I are not worth attendvery picturesque part of the county; and, ing to in comparison.” allowing for a long drive there and a fa- She is too low-spirited even to be saucy tiguing exploration, followed by a lengthy in reply, and presently her husband's hand luncheon and a lazy discussion on the creeps into hers, and she knows that her sward, it is not surprising that morning reticence has pleased him, and gives it a merged into noon, and noon into evening, good squeeze for reward. before our party were aware of the fact, But as the carriage drives ap to the Court and that the first thing that calls Irene's her quick eye catches sight of a dirty little attention to the hour is a cool breeze blow- figure crouched by the doorsteps, and all ing across the hills, which makes her ber vague forebodings return.
“O, there is Jenny!" she exclaims, ex“How cold it has turned,” she says, sud
citedly. “I felt sure there was something denly, as she changes her position. “Why,
• , wrong. Jenny, what is it?'' as the carriage
reaches the door. “Is Myra worse ?” * Just five, dear," he answers, quietly.
Please, nium," says Jenny, with a bob, "Five! Five o'clock! It never
"she's as bad as ever she can be, and mother says, please, mum, could you como
Philip, what o'clock is it??'
down and see her, for she's a-goin' fast, and she keeps on a-callin' for you. And motiver says"
“O, I will go at once!" says Irene, leaping down from the carriage. “Pbilip, dearest, you wont be angry?" And with that, begins to run down the drive.
Stop, Irene, stop!” cries her husband. But she does not beed or hear him, and, having handed the other ladies out, he drives after her, and catches her before she has reached the outside of the grounds.
“Stop, dearest! Get in. I will drive down with you,” he exclaims, as he overtakes her.
“Yes; why not? Am I to bave no share in the troubles of this kind little heart ?!
“O Philip, thank you! You are too good to me! It is such a comfort to me!" And with that she seizes the great rough hand that has drawn her so tenderly to his side, and cries over it quietly. He smears her tears all over her face with his pockethandkerchief in well-meant attempts to wipe them away, after the manner of men, but not another word is exchanged between them till they reach the cottage.
There all is silent. The lower part of the house seems deserted. And Irene, leaving her husband pacing the garden in front, finds her way quietly up stairs.
Myra's room seems full. Mrs. Cray is there with ber soapy satellites, and all her children, except Joel and Jenny, and at first Irene's entrance is unnoticed. But as the women nearest the door perceive her, they fall back. “Ah, you've come too late, mum !"
says Mrs. Cray, reproachfully. “I doubt if she'll reckonize you. She's a'most gone, poor creetur.”
“I am so sorry," replies Irene, making her way up to the bed on which the sick girl lies motionless; “but I could not come before. Dear Myra, don't you know me?'' And she lays her warm lips upon the clammy forehead, The dying eyes quiveropen-recognize her; and a faint smile hovers over the lead-colored lips.
“We were-we were" she gasps, and then stops, still gasping, and unable to proceed.
“ Is it anything you want to tell me?" says Irene, gently, trying to help her.
“ We were" commences Myra, again; but death will not let her finish. * Tom
my” she ejaculates, with a world of meaning in her eyes, but with an cfort so painful to behold that Irene involuntarily closes her own; and when she opens them again Myra's are glazed, her lips are parted, and two quick sobbing breaths herald the exit of her soul.
“She's a going!" screams Mrs. Cray, rushing forward to assist in the Great Change.
“She is gone," says Irene, quietly, as, awestruck, she sinks down by the bedside and covers her face with her hands.
“Poor dear!" quoths Mrs. Cray, in order to better the occasion, “how bad she's bin a wantin' of you, ruum, all to-day, to be sure; and how she's bin a asking every minute when I thought you'd be here. It seemed to me as though the poor creetur couldn't die till she'd seen you again. I've seen 'em lie like this, bless 'em, for days a fightin' for their breath, and not able to go, when there's bin a pigeon-feather in the ticking, but never from trying to see a face as that poor thing has longed to see yours. 'And I'm sure, if I've sent one message to the Court to-day, I've sent a dozen, and she a watchin' each time as though"
“O, don't tell me! please don't tell me !" entreats Irene, as the whole mournful panorama passes before her mental vision, and overwhelms her with reproach, that ends in sobbing. Colonel Mordaunt hears the sound of her lears through the open casement, and comes to the bottom of the stairs.
“ Irene-Irene !" he says, remonstratingly.
“0, please to walk up, sir; it's all over," says Mrs. Cray, with her apron to her eyes; and, for the sake of his wife, the colonel does walk up. When he reaches the little room, he is distressed beyond measure at the sight before him; the poor dead wasted body stretched upon the bed, and his beautiful Irene crying beside it as though her heart would break.
Come, my dearest,” he says, soothingly, “ you can do no more good here. Let me take you lonie.”
But she turns from him; she will not auswer bim; she does not even seem to be aware that he is present.
“I hate myself! I hate myself!" she says, vehemently. “Why did I ever consent to go to that detestable picnic, when my place was here? I promised her, poor