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and the peals of thunder came nearer born in shame; the mother kept and louder. Hilda looked round, away and visited in secret, the son anxious and scared.
never publicly acknowledged, and “Nay," said he, releasing her brought up under an assumed name! hand, "if you fear the storm, Hilda, Why, then, should I care for the I will not detain you; but you are conventions of society? With you close at home; there is time to gain it is different; and yet the sacrifice shelter if the rain comes. But oh, is not all on one side. I still keep Hilda, do not cast me off rashly! part of my fortune although reThink how much is at stake for nouncing my cousin; that is, so both of us! I will not persecute long as I do not marry before her, you or come again. I will take my I am legally entitled to it. But do answer now; but oh, pray, be wise you not see that in proposing such and kind — do not crush all hope a union with you as I have dared out of me! We should be so happy to build my happiness upon, I feel together; we shall be so miserable myself to be taking advantage of apart! Again, I say, I know and a mere quibble? I should be in appreciate the sacrifice I ask you to my own eye retaining everything I make; but if you love me as I love could wish for, yet practically evadyou, you will not esteem the sacri- ing the conditions of the will. I fice too great."
say nothing of the sacrifice of the “But I am not alone,” pleaded bulk of my fortune, and with it the Hilda, “there is my brother; think abandonment of all my schemes of how he would despise me when he life, because, even if I had never grows up.”
met you, I think the condition of “ What would he know about marrying my cousin would have it?" said her lover eagerly, her been too great a price to pay for hesitation raising an ecstatic throb keeping it; but it is something for of hope in his breast; "we should a man who is perhaps a little senbe as man and wife in his eyes, sitive on such points to feel for the as we should be before the world. rest of his life that he is holding Who would know our secret? We the property which he does retain should not stay here, of course; we on terms which do not appear would go away abroad, to America, honourable to himself.” anywhere, so long as we were to- Hilda turned her face towards gether: but we would take Arthur him for an instant. He thought with us; the boy would look on he could detect a look of uncertainty me as a brother.”
and hesitation. Could it be that “But have you thought,” said he had convinced her at last, and Hilda, blushing, “that there may that she was yielding ? be others whose disgrace would. There was silence for a minute follow from—from their ”. while he stood eagerly scanning the
“Their mother? Hilda, darling, expression of her now averted face. do you think that I have not It was first broken by Hilda. thought with rapture that you might Her reply, undeceiving him, be the mother of my children? dashed away his hopes. “You You speak of disgrace; but where speak of sacrifices,” she said, sadly; would they be worse than their "I cannot vie with you in nobility father? Hilda, is it possible you of aim, but think at least of what do not know that I am an illegiti- I am sacrificing too for what you mate son myself? But ah! how must know to be right. I say different was my case! Really nothing of myself, and what I am
VOL. CXXX.NO. DCCLXXXIX.
giving up, and no doubt I shall be A few steps brought them to the able to earn a living in some way; garden-gate. He opened it for her, but is it nothing to have deprived and she passed in, and then turned my poor little brother of so good a round towards him as he was about friend ?”
to follow. “But you have not deprived “No,” he said, as if divining her him," cried Clifford. “Do you sup- intention to stop him. “I don't pose for a moment that I would want to come farther with you toallow any consideration of your day. Give me only one little word material comfort to affect your de- of comfort, Hilda, and I will leave cision ? that I would tempt you you and hurry off to make ready with the prospect of a life of ease for taking you away to new and combined with what you persist in happier scenes. Only one little thinking to be vice on the one side, word, Hilda darling," he added, contrasted with a life of want and but in a less hopeful voice, notichardship combined with virtue on ing with alarm the set expression the other? Vice and virtue indeed! of her face. I did think that you would rise “Oh, Robert,” she said, sadly, superior to such conventions. No, “I thought before you came that Hilda, whether you take me or not, I could not be more unhappy than half my remaining small fortune is I was; but you have made me far yours in any case; and a part goes more wretched now. You will be on to your little brother Arthur if angry with me now, and think me you die before he is grown up and hard and cruel; but in time to come, started in life. So much is settled perhaps, you will judge me more in any case. The deed is not kindly, and say that I have done actually drawn, but the lawyers right." have got my instructions. So you "I see what it is," he cried, cannot escape out of the difficulty bitterly, “I have been mistaken in in that way, consoling yourself with you; you do not really care for me the belief that you have purchased as I do for you. It is easy to take the unhappiness of both of us by a this high tone where the heart is great sacrifice. There is only one not in question." sacrifice asked of you, or possible for “Robert, Robert,” pleaded the you, such as it is, to me a priceless poor girl, “why say such cruel bounty—the gift of your own sweet things ?” self. Hilda, dearest, surely you “Cruel! It is you who are will never refuse me this?"
cruel. What sort of love is this As he finished speaking, the dark which wants all the sacrifice to clouds above them were suddenly be on one side! Farewell then, loosened, and poured down a deluge Hilda, since farewell it must be. of rain. Hilda stood irresolute for I thought you to be soft and sweet an instant and then turned towards and loving, but I have been carried the house.
away by my own fancies. You are “Yes, that will be best,” he said, really hard and selfish. You require hastily; “you must not stay here everything from me and will give to get wet. Here, come under this nothing in return." And he strode shelter," and he opened the umbrella away in the storm, and turning the and held it over her.
corner of the lane, was lost to view.
“And I let him go," was her first there could be no more happiness thought, “ without taking the um- for her; she must in any case be brella, and he will have to sit in miserable. And yet he wanted to the train all the way to town, continue his kindness to her and drenched to the skin! So delicate her brother. That, of course, was as his chest is too! Well might impossible. She could not accept he call me selfish ;" and even in any further favour from him, not her distress Hilda could not help even on Arthur's account. But smiling at the turn her thoughts will it be right to refuse it for the had taken. But soon there came child ? Is Arthur, too, to be sacriback in all its bitterness the recollec- ficed for me? Robert and Arthur tion of what had passed. She had —both to be sacrificed to my parted for ever from her one true scruples! He says his life will friend,-her faithful, devoted, un- have been shipwrecked by my-reselfish lover, who had sacrificed fusal; his fortunes have been alwealth, and habits and pursuits, ready. In any case the greater and cherished aims, all for her. sacrifice is on his side. Poor And she would give him nothing Robert! How can I prove my in return! And she went over and gratitude and devotion! He would over again the particulars of the not respect me any longer, of course, long meeting. Of course she had if I do what he asks, although he done right. But she could now thinks otherwise now. I should measure the full extent of what it be degraded in his eyes as well as had cost her. Yet' after all, what in my own, and he would soon was the loss of happiness to her come to feel this himself. But compared with his loss? She had then this would be all the greater won his heart and wrecked his sacrifice. And is it not the woman's fortunes. If she had not crossed part to sacrifice herself for those his path, this blight would not have she loves? Have not I been doing fallen on him. Then she thought this ever since I came home? Has what a noble nature her lover pos- not my self-respect been lowered sessed, although he was unreason- already, through no fault of my able in this one respect on the own? It will be merely one step mixture of simplicity and shrewd- lower from what I used to be. How ness in his character; his playful changed I must be already! Poor ways and his serious aims; his Robert! And this, he says, would true politeness, and, better still, his make him happy. Am I truly as generous, sympathetic heart. He heartless and selfish as he says ! had been the benefactor of her In self-communings and retrofamily, their saviour from want. spections of this sort she passed He had lifted one brother out of the sleepless night, to get up hagthe mire and set him on a clean gard and weary in the morning. way; the other he would preserve “If I go on changing at this rate,” from going astray, and bring up to thought the poor girl, smiling an honest and happy life. Of her sadly, as she looked at herself in he asked only one thing in return, the glass, “Robert would not care and that she would not give him. to press his suit for long. Poor She would shipwreck his happiness Robert! he, too, looked changed. to save her own. No, not her own; He was not like himself to speak
so harshly—and I am the cause. He has done everything for me and mine, and I do nothing for him. I must ruin him, or let myself be ruined.”
That afternoon Hilda paid a visit to Miss Pasco's school. The boys were gone out with the governesses and the sergeant to play cricket in the park, the servant said—Miss Pasco was at home; but Hilda, shrinking from a meeting with her, left word that she would call again later, and went off in search of Arthur. The party was soon found, the noise made by the little fellows being a ready guide to the spot where they were assembled. All were in high spirits, and all talking together at the top of their shrill voices. A game of cricket was going on under the superintendence of the sergeant, but the fielders were not very steady, and the younger children were playing apart, near to where the two governesses were sitting at needlework on a bench. Hilda was close upon Arthur before he saw her. His delight at her coming was as great as on the occasion of her first visit to Slaye. But there was no shedding of tears now—no pent-up feelings now burst out at the sight of the dear sister. Arthur was full of talk about the school and his school-fellows, and Miss Pasco, and Miss Playfair, and Miss Palmer, and, his first shyness having worn off, was full of childish praise about everything connected with the place. And Hilda, with a keen recollection of the dismal appearance the little fellow had presented at his last school, watched his happy face with mingled feelings of pride and self-abasement.
The two had been taking a walk together, and were now approaching the house. “So, Arthur, dear,” said his sister, stopping before the
gate, “you would not like to leave Miss Pasco, who is so kind to you, and to go back to school at Slaye?” Arthur did not answer in words, but his face changed, and he gripped his sister's hand convulsively, by way of answer. “But suppose, Arthur dear, that I could not find the money to go on paying for you here, without being dishonest?” “Do you pay for my schooling?” he asked, looking up inquiringly at her. “Miss Pasco said the gentleman who brought me here paid for me, and that it was evident he was very sweet on somebody. I heard Miss Pasco tell Miss Palmer so. Who is he sweet upon? Miss Pasco said she was a very lucky girl. What girl did she mean?” pursued Arthur, innocently. “Yes, dear. It is quite true that the gentleman pays for your schooling now. He saw that you were unhappy at Mr. Brake's, and so, being very kind and noblehearted, he took you away and brought you here where you are so happy and well cared for. But supposing, Arthur dear, that your staying here required that I should do something very wrong—something that would make respectable persons like Miss Pasco think ill of me, and turn away from me; you would not wish to stay here if you had to be ashamed of your sister, would you, dear?” Arthur looked at her with a frightened air, her manner was so serious. “Are you going to take me back to Mr. Brake's again?” he asked, and burst into tears. Hilda had some ado in getting him to stop crying. The terror of what he had undergone at Slaye was still fresh on him, and it required repeated assurances from his sister that he should not be taken there again before he was comforted.
“You would not forgive poor Hilda, then, Arthur, if she were to be the means of your going away from this nice school again?” “I should like to go home with you still better than being here, of course,” replied the child; “but the holidays will be here very soon.” “But I may not have a home to take you to. Papa has gone away, and his coming back is uncertain; and I don’t think he will be able to have you with him when he does come back; and I may not be able to keep up the house by myself. But Miss Pasco will make you very happy if you should have to stay for the holidays, I am sure. She tells me she has three or four little boys from India, who spend all their holidays with her. It will be very nice having some other boys to play with, won't it? At home, you know, you have no companions.” Arthur did not dissent from these propositions, but his face testified to the higher appreciation he set on life at home, even without playmates of his own age. “And now good-bye, dear,” continued his sister, stooping down to embrace him. “And, Arthur darling, if, by-and-by, when you grow up to be a man, you should hear people say that your sister was not as good as you thought her to be, will you promise to remember that what she did wrong was done partly for your sake, that you might get
good schooling, and grow up wise, and good, and clever? You will promise to love her still, won't you, and not to look coldly on her or forsake her ?” The child made no answer in words. He could not understand his sister's mood, that she, to whom he was accustomed to look up as the embodiment of all that was good, and kind, and powerful, should be asking his pardon and deprecating his scorn. All he could understand was that she was going away now, and that perhaps he would be left at school for the holidays; and that she was unlike her usual self, and unhappy about something. His sister's tearful eyes, too, were contagious: he lifted up his voice and wept as Hilda, giving him one more embrace, rose from her knees, and bidding him tell Miss Pasco that she would not be able to return to call on her as she had promised, opened the garden-gate for him to enter and passed quickly away.
Next day, as Clifford was sitting disconsolate in his study after breakfast, among the letters brought in to him from one of the morning deliveries was a small one addressed in the well-known handwriting. It contained merely these words:–
“Come back, and you shall no longer have cause to reproach me with being hard and selfish. 4. H.”