Page images
PDF
EPUB

ز

she might be made. Meanwhile he was grateful to his mother for the forbearance with which she restrained all observations on what was but too apparent to her. She dwelt kindly on the good qualities—she was silent as to the evil.

If sometimes those blue eyes rose rather quickly to Eve's face, when a chance word surprised or grieved her, no rebuke or comment pointed out to him more strongly his wife's errors. But in secret, how the mother's heart bled for him; how night after night that aged head turned sleeplessly upon

its pillow, and the earnest prayer ascended for help and guidance for him, for herself, and for the unhappy girl to whom she had looked so implicitly as the crowning blessing of their bright lot. In spite of Eve's efforts to be gay, resulting too often in hollow levity as unlike herself as it was painful, Mrs. Philipson became day by day more convinced that she was unhappy. She dared not conjecture the cause; she dreaded lest the natural disappointment and indignation of the mother might cloud the charity of the Christian.

Resentment, fault-finding, will be of no avail—will but embitter us, and render hopeless what is sufficiently unpromising. She is

[ocr errors]

young, she is ignorant; there are no marvels too great to be wrought by the influences of Divine truth. It may please God yet to make her our pride and joy. Let me cast my care on Him, and wait patiently.'

As her hopes sank lower day by day, she yet trembled as the time for their departure drew near. She thought of the dangers to which one so young and thoughtless might be exposed in the busy world.

'I am very sorry to lose you both,' she said to Sir Mark ; 'when was I ever glad to see you go away? And now I shall follow Eve in her new career with infinite anxiety ; it will be a trying and dizzy one; and she is so young and inexperienced, I wish her lot lay amid quieter scenes. I shall welcome her back again with gladness. She can never come too soon.'

Sir Mark's first impulse was of grateful and somewhat surprised feeling ; his next of hesitation and pain. So often as he had accused his mother of a trust in every one far too implicit—so often as he had warned her that she seemed to expect the wisdom of age from girls whose locks were golden with life's morning rays—why did she now look forth anxiously and warn him of dangers in the course of his wife? It made him, not suspicious, but thoughtful; and very meditative indeed was he during the journey to town; a reverie which weighed down Eve's spirits, inclined as they were to rise whenever she found herself safe from the observation of the mother, whose watchful tenderness she dreaded.

She looked sideways at the grave countenance of her husband; and, as minute after minute passed, bringing no change to the deep abstraction, she was inclined to marvel at the solemnity of the topics with which his brain was busy. She was beginning more fully to understand and appreciate his intellect. Hitherto she had girlishly ignored it, because she saw no accomplishments, because he had carelessly glanced at her favourite poet, and owned he had little value for his strains. But now her eyes were slowly opening to the clear comprehension, the subtle reasoning, and the practical wisdom which distinguished him. His information also she inclined to fancy boundless, and it was precisely on those subjects of which she was most ignorant. Any wish to arouse him was soon checked by the conviction of her want of power to converse on topics of interest to him. Eve—whose lips had rarely opened but to charm—whose prattle had been cheering to Mordaunt, even if his ears had sometimes disregarded the meaning of the words_sat now in sorrowful silence, learning that best, but bitter lesson, that she had been over-praised, over-valued, even as to her power of pleasing. Where there was no consoling assurance that her conduct had been actuated by true or high principles; where she trembled to look into her heart, and detect its weakness and wickedness; it was a little hard to find even vanity as to outward things worsted. Young, ignorant, infirm, she began to see that the greatness of his love might have sheltered her, if only she could have pleaded the earnest claim of an answering feeling in her own breast.

As it
was,

she shrank from his tenderness; his respect and admiration she was sure could be hers no more.

Poor, miserable Eve! what to her was the easy carriage, or the soft folds of her velvet mantle ? what the prospect of Whitefield as her own, of her mother's pride, or even of Mordaunt's release from her dependence, compared to the aching void, the yearning for the pity and sympathy which she had forfeited, and

the crushing consciousness of inferiority to the man she had deceived ? 'I could almost bear it better, I think, if I hated him,' she said once to herself. The contradiction in the ideas did not strike her. Hope of better days died out in her; only tears of shame and mortification swelled her eyelids, and were frozen back again by fear of the awful, dignified form beside her, with its stern features, and the massive brow, whereon the destiny of empires might be weighing, so heavy did it seem to her with clouds of care.

It is growing dusk; he stirs at last, bends forward and looks out. So oppressive was the silence, Eve was impelled to break it; she scarcely knew how.

'Such deep meditation--what could be the subject ?'

He paused, with compressed lips, and a strange, full gaze on her. 'A small one-only yourself.'

Oh! if she could but have met that questioning look with a clear conscience, or even could she have found courage to open to it the doubts, the fears, the errors of that shrinking heart, would she not have found mercy and help? Even the strength and dignity she

« PreviousContinue »