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said a bitterer good-bye to the rocks and harbour and hills of Dalkey, and had been transported into the town house, to see Mrs Clement for the last time, and, along with her, make my farewell visit to Kildare.
It was a grievous hour for poor Nurse Cockrane. Jim, her husband, who was down at Wexford two months ago when I came back from Lysterby, had returned a fortnight earlier with death in his eyes.
When we got down at the post-house, the soft fine rain of Ireland was drizzling over the land. A few steps brought us to the top of the green, with the slit of water along the sky and two wild swans visible through the pearl mist.
All the blinds of nurse's windows were drawn down, and I instantly recalled a like picture the day Stevie dropped out of life.
The door was open, and a group of working men, in their Sunday suits, were talking in undertones.
"What has happened?" asked Mrs Clement, alarmed. "Troth, ma'am, an' 'tis a bad day for herself," said one.
"A power of ill-luck," said another. "A fine young man struck down like that in the flower of youth.'
Mrs Clement hurried inside, and I followed her in excited silence. In the familiar old parlour, with the china dogs and the green spinet, dear kindly nurse sat back in the black
horse - hair arm - chair, sobbing and moaning in the frantic way peasants will when grief strikes them, and around
her in voluble sympathy women hushed and exclaimed and ejaculated, "Glory be to God!" "But who'd think of it?" "Poor Jim! but 'tis himself was the good poor crathur."
I advanced hesitatingly, abashed and frightened by such an explosion of sorrow-I who always went under a bed to weep lest others should mock me. Not then or since could I ever have given expression to such expansive and boisterous feeling, restrained by a fierce and indomitable pride even at so young an age.
Nurse caught sight of me, and held out both hands. I encircled her neck with my arms, and pressed my cheek against hers, and when her sobs had subsided, she stood up, holding me still in a frenzied clasp.
"Come, darling, and look at him for the last time. Poor Jim! He loved you as if you had been his own, his very own, for sure never a child had he.”
She took me into Stevie's room, the best bedroom, and on the bed lay a long rigid form. I hardly recognised the dear friendly Jim of my babyhood, on whose knee I so often sat, in the pallid emaciated visage, with the lank black hair round it, and the moustache and beard as black as pitch against the hollow waxen cheek. The same candles were alight upon the table in daytime, and the air yielded the same heavy odour of flowers as on that other day I had penetrated into this room, and found Stevie in his coffin. I shuddered and clung to nurse's skirt, sick with a nameless re
pulsion, yet I am thankful now that I found courage, when she asked me to kiss him, not to shrink from that simple duty of gratitude. I allowed her to lift me, and I put my mouth to the frozen forehead, with what a sense of fear and horror I even can recall to-day. I was glad to nestle up against Mrs Clement on the mail-car and press my lips against her live arm to get the cold contact from them. I felt so miserable, so broken was my faith in life, that the return to Lysterby passed unnoticed. I remember neither the departure, the journey, nor the arrival at school.
The episode of my first vacation closed with that dread picture of a dead man and a white shroud, and in the lugubrious illumination of tapers, and nurse sobbing and keening, with no hope of comfort. After that the troubles of home and school looked poor enough, and for some time the nuns found me a very sober and studious little girl. It was long before even Mr Parker could raise a smile; and Play Day, when we were permitted to do as we liked all day, found me with no livelier desire than to sit still and pore over the novels of Lady Georgiana Fullerton.
CHAPTER XXVIII.-MY FIRST COMMUNION.
This period of unwonted mildness in a turbulent career was seized by the good ladies of Lysterby as a fitting moment for my first communion. might be only a temporary lull in a course of perversity which would not occur again and so I was ordered to study anew the lives of the saints. This was quite enough to turn my eager mind from thoughts of daring deed to dreams of sanctity.
I proposed to model my life on that of each fresh saint; was in turn St Louis of Gonzague, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Theresa and St Stanislaus of Koscuetzo, for the life of me I cannot remember the spelling of that Polish name, but it began with a K and ended with an O, with a mad assortment of consonants and vowels between. St Elizabeth I found
very charming, until the excessive savagery of her confessor, Master Conrad, diminished my enthusiasm. When I came to the barbarous scene where Master Conrad orders the queen to visit him in his monastery, which was against the monacal law, and then proceeds to thrash her bare back while he piously recites the Miserere, I shut the book for ever, and declined upon the spot to become a saint.
Nevertheless I made my first communion in a most edifying spirit. I spent a week in retreat down in the town convent, and walked for hours up and down the high-walled garden discoursing with precocious unctuousness to my good friend Mother Aloysius, who, naïve soul, was lost in wonder and admiration of my gravity and sanctimoniousness. I medi
"Has Bob turned hedgehog since he succeeded? I forgot -I was sorry, Betty. I saw it in the papers. Your father was very good to me. It's no use talking about it; I'm sorry."
She said nothing, but laid her hand for a moment on his arm.
"But about Bob- he must have had a reason. Tell it me. Ah! come and let us sit on those chairs." They sat in silence for some momentsHerbert compressing his lips, Betty scratching in the dust with her parasol. Then he said quietly, "You're going to be married?"
"Am I to have back my ring?" She met his eyes, perplexed. He had almost banished appeal from them, but his lips twitched.
"Honour, Betty. It pledges you to nothing but a feeling, and I shall never remind you. Am I to have back my ring?"
"No, Herbert. I shall keep your ring."
He gave a slow sigh of relief, and leaned back on the little green chair. Lady Betty spoke quickly, digging at the ground. "Understand, Herbert. This man— the man I'm going to marry-is fond of me, I know, and I don't dislike him. I'm going to be to be a good wife, you know."
"Fairbrother Elton by Jove! Did you ever read my dad's pamphlet 'The Cost of our Vulgarians'? I suppose
not. Why, this Fairbrother was one of the villains of it. The dad went down, it seems, and talked with his work-people. Well, Fairbrother's got back this time. But I don't like it, Bet. Do you understand what your money will come from? Well it's no use to bother you, and I won't talk economics. What's the fellow like?"
"You saw him last night. Bob says he was talking to him when you went by."
"That fellow! Yes; I saw him, and I loathed him. I loathe the type. It's all right chopping wood or fighting in the ranks; but I can't stand it carrying its clumsy manners into drawing-rooms and giving the tone to all England. Curse him! A sleek, confident, stupid, purse-proud pig! Betty, I can't let you go to a creature like that."
Lady Betty laughed for the first time. "You'd have said something of that kind whoever it was, and he's not like that. He's rather a sportsman: he can fence awfully well, and
back, himself hardly know why-to leave his narrative
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when he came, he dreaded the Hand old me that old friends for whom he was to jo not care, and the q 'W to which he had so por an
decent income, and very likely murmured the bright chorus.
put me in the way of a fortune, and he's a gentleman and a man of his word I should hate it, but I'd do it for you In ten years we might come back and live decently, and all my crimes would be forgotten. Will you marry me?"
She bent down over her parasol, and then her little head and her big hat shook. “No-I can't. I can't make enemies of everybody. I can't give everything up. I'm fond of you-but not like that. It's
Herbert stood up. "Well, good-bye, my little weak darling-I knew you wouldn't. One can't expect it in our little weak world." He stood before her smiling: the place was empty where they were, and as he glanced round it, the trim grass and trees, shining demurely in the noon -day sun, seemed to hint of comedy. He broke into his light laugh, and
of a song she remembered—
-Si vous vlez venir avec moi
On la la, ou la la
But you don't, do you? So good-bye, good-bye, dear." They shook hands, and he swung quickly away.
As he turned into Piccadilly at Hyde Park Corner he recognised Fairbrother, looking very prosperous and content, and walking westwards. Fairbrother, self-absorbed, did not notice the glance, which, seeming to look indifferently over his head, took in his appearance very accurately; but Herbert, when he had passed him, set his mouth and looked savage.
Lady Betty sat on, and dropped a few tears as women use, and presently took her innocent baby face to lunch with her family.
They had dined at six-a compromise; but it was supposed that Sir Eustace Flair of old may well have postponed his dinner-hour in view of the business and rejoicings to be done when he came to his own: they had dined at six, and the sky was red over the sea with the setting sun when Bob Mereworth rose in his place. His pleasant face was flushed, and he raised his glass with a jovial gesture, and seemed complacent in his knowledge of old phrases.
"Fair ladies, and my dear friends, you who have honoured my poor house and my simple feast, and you whose natural place is here"-he smiled at Lady Betty and nodded to Arthur Fairbrother—“I ask you to drink with me the health of the gentleman behind my chair. Sir Eustace Flair, wherever he may be!"
They all rose, and held their glasses towards the silent, pale figure on the canvas. "Sir Eustace Flair!" and they emptied their glasses.