« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
WALKING TO ST. SYLVESTER's.
ERTIE LISLE was sorely driven
and perplexed, for a few days after his triumphant performance on the organ. His letter was not a failure, but further persuasion was required to make his success complete ; and during the brief interval he was persecuted by Gordon's brother.
Mr. William Gordon, when amiable and flattering, had an air of rough and hearty friendliness which was very well, as long as you held him in check. But when, though still amiable, he thought he might begin to take liberties, it was not so well. He was hard, coarse-tongued, and humorous. And when Mr. William Gordon had the upper hand, he showed himself in his true colours, as a bully and a blackguard. Bertie Lisle, not yet two-and-twenty, was
no match for this man of thirtyfive. He owed him money–no great sum—but more than he could pay.
Now that matters had come to this pass, Lisle was heartily VOL. XXXVIII.- NO. 225.
“ I'm not so sure of that. I'm afraid Miss Crawford leaves too much and you
will break down." “I'm more afraid Miss Crawford will break down. Poor old lady, it goes
heart to see her. She tries so hard not to see that she is past work—and she is !”
“ Is she so old ? I didn't know-2"
“She was a governess till she was quite middle-aged, and then she had contrived to scrape together enough to open this school. My mother was her first pupil, and the best and dearest of all, she says. She had a terribly uphill time to begin with, and even now it is no very great success. Though she might do very well, poor thing, if they would only let her alone!"
" And who will not let her alone ?"
“Oh, there are a swarm of hungry relations, who quarrel over every halfpenny she makes, and she is so good! But you can understand why she is anxious not to think that her harvest time is over."
“ Poor old lady !" said Percival. “And her strength is failing?"
Judith nodded. “ She does her best, but it makes my heart ache to see her. She comes down in the morning, trying to look so bright and young, in a smart cap and ribbons—I feel as if I could cry when I see that cap, and her poor shaky hands going up to it to put it straight." There were tears in the girl's voice as she spoke.
“And her writing! It is always the bad paper, or the bad pen, or the day is darker than any day ever was before !”
“ Does she believe all that?” the young man asked.
“I hardly know. I think she never has opened her eyes to the truth, but I suspect she feels that she is keeping them shut. It is just that trying not to see, which is so pathetic, somehow. I find all manner of little excuses for doing the writing, or whatever it may happen to be, instead of her, and then I see her looking at me as if she half doubted
“ Does the school fall off at all ?”
Schools fluctuate, you know, and it seems they had scarlet fever about six months ago. That might account for a slight decrease in the numbers- don't
?" “Oh, certainly !” said Percival, with as much confidence as if boarding-school statistics had been the one study of his life. “No doubt of it."
They walked a few paces in silence, and then Judith said, “ Perhaps she will be better after the holidays. I think she is very tired, she is so terribly drowsy. She drops asleep directly she sits down, and is quite sure she has been awake all the time. I'm so afraid the girls may take advantage of it some day.”
“ But, even for Miss Crawford's sake, you must not do too much,"
“ I will try not. But it is such a comfort to me to be able to help
her. If it were not for that, I sometimes question whether I did wisely in coming here at all.”
“If it is not an impertinent question—though I rather think it iswhat should
had not come?”
but she would not help Bertie, and I fancied that I could be of use to him. But I doubt if I can do him much good, and, if I lost my situation, I should only be a burden to him.”
"Perhaps that might do him more good than anything," Percival suggested. “He might rise to the occasion, and take life in earnest, which is just what he wants, isn't it? For any one can see how fond he
is of you."
“He's a dear boy," Judith answered with a smile, and looked over her shoulder. The dear boy was not in sight.
“Plenty of time,” said Percival. " But it is rather a long way for him, so often as he has to go to St. Sylvester's."
“He doesn't mind that. He says he can do it in less than ten minutes, only to-day he had to go back, you see.”
“It isn't so far as it would be to St. Andrew's," Thorne went on. “By the way, have you ever been to your parish church ?”
“ Never. I don't think your description was very inviting.”
“Oh, but it would be worth while to go once. The first time I went I thought it was like a quaint, melancholy dream. Such a dim, hollow, dusty old building, and little cherubs, with grimy little marble faces, looking down from the walls. When the congregation began to shuffle in, each new comer was more decrepit and withered than the last, till I looked to see if they could really be coming through the door-way from the outer world, or whether the vaults were open, and they were the ghosts of some dead and gone congregation of long ago. And when I looked round again, there was the clergyman, in a dingy surplice, as if he had risen like a spectre in bis place. He stared at us all with his dull old eyes, and turned the leaves of a great book. And all at once he began to read, in a piping voice, so thin and weak, that it sounded just like the echo of some former service, as if it had been lost in the dusty corners, and was coming back in a broken, fragmentary way. It was all the more like an echo, because the old clerk is very deaf, and he begins in a haphazard fashion, when he thinks it is time for the other to have done. So sometimes there is a long pause, and then you have their two old voices mixed up together, like an echo when it grows confused. It is
very strange-gives one all manner of quaint fancies. You should go once. Nothing could be more utterly unlike St. Sylvester's."
" I think I will go,” said Judith. “I know a church something like that, only not quite so dead. There is a queer old clerk there, too."
" Where is that?”
“Oh, it isn't anywhere near here. A little, old-fashioned, country town-Rookleigh."
Percival turned eagerly. “Where did you say? Rookleigh 9"
“My aunt, Miss Lisle, lives there. The aunt I was telling you about, who wanted me to stay with her.”
“ And you were there last summer ?"
“ Yes. In fact I was there on a visit when I heard that-that our home was broken up. I stayed on for some time, I had nowhere to go."
“Miss Lisle lives in a red house by the river-side," said Percival, prompted by a sudden impulse.
It was Judith's turn to look surprised. “Yes, she does. But, Mr. Thorne, how do you know ?”
“The garden slopes to the water's edge," he went on, not heeding her. “And there is a wide gravel path, down the middle, cutting it exactly in two. It is all very neat—it is wonderfully neat, and Miss Lisle comes down the path, looking right and left, to see whether all the carnations and the chrysanthemum plants are tied up properly, and whether there are any snails.”
“ Mr. Thorne, who told you- ? No, you must have seen."
didn't walk with her. There was a cross path behind some evergreens
“Yes,” said Judith, “I hated to be seen then. I couldn't go beyond the garden, and I used to walk backwards and forwards there, so many times to a mile. I forget how many now. But, Mr. Thorne, tell me, how do
know all this?" “It is simple enough," he said. “I was at Rookleigh one day, and I strolled along the path by the river. You can see the house from the further side. I stood and looked at it.”
6 Yes—but how did you know whose house it was?”
“ I hadn't the least idea. But it took my fancy, why I don't know, And while I was looking I saw that some one came and went behind the
“ Then it was only a guess when you began to describe it?"
“ Well, I suppose so. It must have been, mustn't it?" he said, looking curiously at her.
“ But it felt like a certainty.” They were just at St. Sylvester's, and Bertie ran up, panting, waring his music.
· Lucky I've not got to sing," said the young fellow in a jerky voice, and rushed to the vestry door, where Mr. Clifton fidgeted, watch in hand.
After such a race it was natural enough that the young organist should be somewhat flushed, as he went up the aisle, with surpliced boy at his heels. But Judith had not hurried, had rather lingered, looking hack. What was the meaning of that soft rosy glow upon
her cheeks? And why was Thorne so absent, standing up, and sitting down, mechanically, till the service was half over before he knew it?
He was recalling that day at Rookleigh, the red houses by the waterside, the poplars, the pigeons, the old church, the sleepy streets, the hot blue sky, the grey glitter of the river through the boughs, and the girl half seen behind the evergreens.
She had been to him like a fair faint figure in a dream, and the airy fancies, that clustered round her, had been more dreamy yet. But suddenly the dream girl had stepped out of the clouds into every day life, and stood in flesh and blood beside him. And the nameless fascination with which his imagination had played, was revealed as the self-same attraction as that which his soul had known, when, years before, he first met Judith Lisle.
FAINT HEART WINS FAIR LADY.
Percival THORNE would have readily declared that it was a matter of utter indifference to him, whether his landlady went, at the end of March, to pay a three-weeks' visit to her eldest sister, or whether she stayed at home. He took very little notice when Mrs. Bryant told him of her intention. She talked for some time. When she was gone, Thorne found himself left with the impression, that the lady in question was a Mrs. Smith, residing somewhere in Bethnal Green ; that some one was a plumber and glazier ; that some one had had the measles; that trade was not all one could wish ; nor were Mrs. Bryant's relations quite what they should have been ; but that, she thanked goodness, they were not all alike. This struck him as a reasonable cause for thankfulness, as otherwise there would certainly have been a terrible monotony in the family circle. He also had an idea that Mrs. Smith had received a great deal of good advice on the subject of her marriage, and he rather thought that Smith was not the sort of man to make a woman happy. “Either Smith isn't-or Bryant wasn't when he was alive—now which was it?" smiled Percival to himself, ruffling his wavy hair, and leaning back in his chair, with a confused sense of relief. And then the disputo about the grandmother's crockery came in, and the uncle who bad a bit of money, and married the widow at Margate. "I hope to goodness Mrs. Bryant will stay away some time, if she has half as much to say on her return."
The good woman had not gone into Mr. Thorne's room for the purpose of giving him all this information. It had come naturally to her lips when she found herself there, but she merely wished to suggest to him that Lydia would be busy while she was away, and money matters were terribly muddling, weren't they :- and perhaps it would make it casier if Mr. Thorne's bill stood over- Percival understood in a moment. The careworn face, the confused manner, told him all. Lydia would probably waste the money, and the old lady, though with per