Page images
PDF
EPUB

passed so completely out of her life, and reverses had seemed so improbable, that she could not fail to be startled. But she uttered no word of reproach or repining. Careless observers might have thought her insensible, so quiet was her voice, as she lightly swept her hand over his hair, and said softly

And so you are almost my own poor Mark again. Does Eve know?' she asked, after a pause.

Not yet.'

"You must tell her,' she continued. You need not fear. I do not think she values riches in the least.'

Sir Mark raised his head quickly.

You think not? That is my own impression too.'

It was pleasant to have his conviction confirmed ; ' but why?' thought his mother.

' What I do dread communicating,' he proceeded, ‘is, that after much deliberation, it is evident that either Mordaunt or myself must

No one less acquainted with the interests in question, or less free to act promptly, would do—and he has at once responded to the call. No time is to be lost, and he sails in three days after this. I am afraid this will

6

go to

grieve poor Eve. She will hardly see him before he leaves; and besides the long absence which may be requisite, we cannot shut our eyes to the contingencies, the risk of the hurried journey at this season, the possible effect of the climate upon his constitution. After thirty the chances are said to be against one. I hesitated to avail myself of his aid at such a possible sacrifice; but he has been so noble, so devoted, so resolved not to spare himself, that I could not shake his resolution. If she should take alarm at it all, how it will pain her!

Mrs. Philipson rejoiced even in that hour of perplexity to see that in her son's heart love for his wife was strong as ever. 'I am grieved for her,' she said at last, but I hope Mordaunt's departure will not be to Eve now the shock, the bereavement which it must have been before she was your wife.'

"I wish I could be sure of that,' Sir Mark murmured, sadly.

I have learned to know her, I fancy, well during the last few weeks,” Mrs. Philipson continued, and I can confidently express my belief that this change of interests has come to her, as it does to so many.'

[ocr errors]

"Is it not that she takes little interest in anything ? Sir Mark asked quickly, and the next moment regretted the question.

'I should be truly ungrateful if I assented,' his mother replied, gently.

'I have seen her show no want of interest in the old sick woman she was sent to nurse. No light-minded, coldhearted, common-place girl could have been to me what she has been. I think, Mark, she has been badly trained. Her mother, perhaps, is uncongenial. I could imagine her one who has been alternately spoiled by petting and coercion. I used to wonder at the little care which had evidently been taken to plant sound principles in the mind, and induce clear reasoning. But there is no poverty in the mind itself, and I am struck with astonishment at the way in which it has worked itself into the true course—or, should I not rather been guided ?

*Not by me,' he interposed.

No, Mark; by One mightier than you, whose child she now knows herself to be.'

Mrs. Philipson proceeded to tell him how great a change Eve's presence had wrought upon herself, her health, her comfort, even upon her establishment. She could not

She could not weary of the

say,

6

recital of the many unselfish acts, the diligence, the tenderness which had won her love to her daughter-in-law.

*You saw all this in her during Mordaunt's illness, of course.

I do not wonder that you loved her.'

The usually stern face was flushed with joy and surprise. He could not even refrain from a smile.

You perceive then, mother, that I was not captive to the red and white, and the flaxen curls of a mere doll.' 'I never thought so, Mark ; and forgive me

; if I add that Eve's beauty always struck me as overpraised. She is lovely in my eyes now, but it is rather loveliness visible to my heart than my gaze.'

'Because you never saw her in her real beauty,' he answered ; but when I first beheld her, I thought I had never looked on anything

I so perfect. Even now the form and features are exquisite, but the light has faded. How ? where ? As well might one ask for the rays of last year's summer, or the scent of its faded flowers.'

'I fear her health is very delicate,' Mrs. Philipson said, at last, seeing that the long

[ocr errors]

lashes of his downcast eyes glistened as he spoke.

Just then the door opened, and Eve glided in with an aspect more serene and cheerful than she had yet worn that day. They exchanged glances which agreed that the news should be broken to her now; and accordingly,

; without entering upon the subject of his own anxieties, except in as far as stating that there were many difficulties now in all business affairs, he proceeded to tell her how desirable it was that some one should go to to represent him.

He briefly described the character of the person required, the powers which must be intrusted to him; and then, as gently and skilfully as he could, he added that she would soon guess who alone could fill this post, who alone volunteer to accept it.

Who?' she echoed, feebly, as the colour faded from her cheek ; and when her husband spoke the name, who can unravel the chain of recollections which surrounded her ? Mordaunt's early sorrow, struggles, self-devotionher own resolve to save him—the cost at which she had striven to fulfil it; and now—now this crowning sacrifice, which showed her that all she had done, so evilly done, was vain.

« PreviousContinue »