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
"I hope this cold night is not against the
"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
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
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
"To see papa," replied the child in a low,
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
follow him wherever he went, took great delight in wandering about
through the grand old rooms and corridors, and in watching the
of the work-people. The house was a red brick structure, but its
original brightness had become subdued to an umber hue. The west
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
pretty room, opening by French windows into a terrace, which led
down by stone steps into the garden. There was a long balcony over
terrace, supported on stone pillars, over which beautiful creeping
plants were trained; and their slight pleasant shade cast a gloom
room during the afternoon, when it would otherwise have been
oppressively hot. This apartment was wainscoted with oak. The floor
partially covered with a square of Turkey carpet, and the cornice
and chimney-piece were carved in a rich pattern, representing
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
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
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
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
putting his bands into it, as often as not with the strings hanging
out. Besides which, he continually mislaid his papers, books, and
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
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
with several gaudy tea-trays, the special property of the
housekeeper, one of which was the subject of unceasing admiration to
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
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
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
they began to spend their Monday evenings with Mr. Raeburn, she
required a great deal of assistance, and did no more than put in
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
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
walnut shells, and had also drawn a succession of landscapes in the
blank leaves of his pocket-book, each consisting of one cottage in
distance, with two doors and one window, and a pond in the
foreground full of ducks and ducklings, each quite as large as the
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
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
sing some nursery rhymes, he allowed his fancy quite to run away
with him, and transport him, like the gentleman in the song, ''over
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
as she observed the extreme beauty of everything around her. There
is a kind of natural gratitude which arises spontaneously in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
''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
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
"Not till the day before yesterday. No doubt it is only
"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
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
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
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.
A JOURNEY IN A FOG.
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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,
"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
"It was so when I served my first curacy there," Remarked Mr.
Raeburn, composedly sipping his coffee. "Westtport is a very
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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. . .
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
"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
"Listen or not as you like, child; I don't know that our talk was
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"Devoted to it," observed Will Greyson. "Do you know, mother,
I have observed that almost all very clever people are fond of
"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
"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
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
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 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
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
"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.