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* This was a very short harangue indeed, but it startled me; and if I did not profit by it directly, still it sowed a good seed, which I hope is ripening now.
Your concluding prediction of coming prosperity has hardly been realized.
' Are you sure? Improvements in our worldly position which come slowly are apt to be overlooked. You were then at the mercy of ignoble and tyrannical men for your daily bread. You had less than half your present income; you had nothing of your present experience, position, power; nothing of your freedom from anxiety as to the support of others.
Of my freedom ? I suppose I did fancy myself overwrought, overburdened then ; but I would undergo it all again to have Eve an innocent child once
Not altogether a selfish wish, Jane, although I confess she was very dear to me. I loved her as if she were my daughter; and she was a duty, a paramount duty. I try to make her husband's welfare my
That is one blessing you have always had, in Mr. Carisbroke. It is hard to be without an aim.'
Jane's eyes were bent upon the ground,
and she spoke gravely, tenderly, and yet she censured.
Forgive me, Mordaunt, I have always thought that was your error.
You have, throughout life, clung always to some visible earthly aim. Gratitude to your cousin, ardour for independence, and later still the happiness of Eve, have been the objects of your existence. I thought these stumbling-blocks were all withdrawn ; but now I hear you have made yourself a new idol in Sir Mark.'
What, Jane, would you ask me to renounce all worthy aims ?'
Certainly, except as subordinate to the worthiest of all. Is it not better to do God's will—to submit to His will—to love His will ? Why crave to see some object to serve, some prize to win, some earthly duty to fulfil? Is it not enough that He has said, “this is thy path,' to induce you to walk in it humbly and patiently?'
He made no answer, but walked on in silence-a silence she made no attempt to break. She did not expect him at once either to see or admit his mistake.
'Do you see much of Eve ?' he said at last, thrusting aside the impulse to ruminate on her words.
'I had almost answered, nothing. It is nothing between us to have exchanged ceremonious calls, or a bow or shake of the hands in the churchyard. But don't be
But don't be angry, Mordaunt. When I undertook my errand, I did it, knowing full well that if it failed it must produce a long, if not a perpetual estrangement. I can sincerely assure you, it does not excite resentment in my bosom, and as much as possible I screen it from others—from the Sackvilles, for instance.
I need only the holding forth of her little finger to be as I always was; only just now I know less of her than the merest stranger. He might ask questions about her; but I can't, lest I should betray an ignorance which would excite comment.'
Thank you, Jane, thank you; and oh, preserve that ready spirit of forgiveness, for she will yet need a friend, I fear.' lower. • He is
kind—I honour him more day by day—but he is a disappointed man. Shall I confess how often I have nearly envied him, because he had all I lacked, and at last took even her ? But there is a void now which makes all blank to him. And she looks very ill, and changed, and depressed, and cares for nothing. I can scarcely bear to see her.'
His tone grew
"I had rather hear of that than of forced spirits and levity.'
Perhaps—but think, what a life—without sympathy, without–
It is the want of truth which is the crowning evil ;' and Jane's voice, as she interrupted him, sounded almost harsh. Quickly his eyes sought her face. Was it harshness, or was it a struggle to suppress agitation ? He saw the compressed lips. 'Want of sympathy, want of love—those have died out for her too, she thinks. Poor Jane, why was I so thoughtless ?' But he asked the question only mentally. A few more turns, a few more words, and then they parted.
One would hardly have guessed, when we were boy and girl,' she said, involuntarily, that our after life was to be som I mean, that we should meet so seldom.'
* When we were children, perhaps ; but I was not very old before I knew that le beau temps was passing away, and that—I thought I should go abroad, and probably never see you again till you were an aged woman.'
* Did you ? ah! I never dreamed you shut me out so entirely.'
And there came a sharp, quick pang at Jane's heart, which arrested her sentence. Dreamed-sometimes she had dreamed-very wildly as it seemed ; and all the while he was thinking only of other lands, and never desiring to see her again till they stood on the brink of
Again their eyes met, and she beheld a strange, confused look of pain in his countenance, half reproachful, half appealing, quickly wrestled with and driven back. But he lingered no longer in his farewell ; swiftly he trod along the shrubbery walks, bitterly repenting of that look, and of the words which had crowded to his lips and almost forced themselves into utterance.
Untrue to him, untrue—how could I be so mad, so base !
Jane stood a moment till he had disappeared ; stood still, and unconsciously her hands were pressed together. Some day, perhaps, I shall know it all ; but not in this worldhardly in this world. Sometimes it seems as if a word might break this spell; but no! there are things we never are permitted to learn on earth.'
Once Jane would have wept passionately ; now the weight at her heart only grew heavier