« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
appeared for a moment on Miss Leonora's "Don't let that have the slightest influence face. She paused a little, evidently diverted on you, I beg!" cried the Perpetual Curate, from the line of discourse which she had con- with all the pride of his years. "I hope I templated, and wavered like a vessel disturbed have been doing my duty all along," the in its course. "The fact is, I have just had young man added, more softly, a moment afa letter announcing Mr. Shirley's death," ter; upon which the squire gave a little nod, she continued, facing round toward her neph, partly of satisfaction and encouragement to ew, and setting off abruptly, in face of all con- his son, partly of remonstrance and protest sequences, on the new tack. to his sister.
"I am very sorry," said Frank Wentworth, though I have an old grudge at him on account of his long sermons; but as you have expected it for a year or two, I can't imagine your grief to be overwhelming," said the curate, with a touch of natural impertinence to be expected under the circumstances. Skelmersdale had been so long thought interesting to him, that now, when it was not in the least interesting, he got impatient of the name.
"I quite agree with you, Frank," said Miss Wentworth. Aunt Cecilia had not been able for a long time to agree with anybody. She had been, on the contrary, shaking her head and shedding a few gentle tears over Gerald's silent submission and Louisa's noisy lamentations. Everything was somehow going wrong; and she who had no power to mend, at least could not assent, and broke through her old use and wont to shake her head, which was a thing very alarming to the family. The entire party was moved by a sensation of pleasure to hear Miss Cecilia say, "I quite agree with you, Frank.
"You are looking better this morning, my dear aunt," said Gerald. They had a great respect for each other, these two; but when Miss Cecilia turned to hear what her elder nephew was saying, her face lost the momentary look of approval it had worn, and she again, though very softly, almost imperceptibly, began to shake her head.
"Yes, I suppose so-with the flowers at Easter for example," said Miss Leonora, with a slight sneer. "I consider that I have stood by you through all this business, Frank,but, of course, in so important a matter as a cure of souls, neither relationship nor, to a certain extent, approval," said Miss Leonora, with again some hesitation, I can be allowed to stand against public duty. We have the responsibility of providing a good gospel minister"
"I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Leonora," said the squire; but I can't help thinking that you make a mistake. I think it's a man's bounden duty, when there is a living in the family, to educate one of his sons for it. In my opinion, it's one of the duties of property. You have no right to live off your estate, and spend your money elsewhere; and no more have you any right to give less than-than your own flesh and blood to the people you have the charge of. You've got the charge of them to-to a certain extent,-soul and body, sir," said the squire, growing warm, as he put down his Times, and forgetting that he addressed a lady. "I'd never have any peace of mind if I filled up a family living with a stranger; unless, of course," Mr. Wentworth added in a parenthesis,—an unlikely sort of contingency which had not occurred to him at first, you should happen to have no second son. The eldest the squire, the second the rector. That's my idea, Leonora, of Church and State."
"We were not asking for your sympathy," said Miss Leonora, sharply. "Don't talk like a saucy boy. We were talking of our Miss Leonora smiled a little at her brothown embarrassment. There is a very excel-er's semi-feudal, semi-pagan ideas. "I have lent young man, the curate of the parish, long known that we were not of the same whom Julia Trench is to be married to. By way of thinking," said the strong-minded the way, of course, this must put it off; but I was about to say, when you interrupted me, that to give it away from you at this moment, just as you had been doing welldoing your duty," said Miss Leonora, with unusual hesitation, was certainly very uncomfortable, to say the least, to us.” THIRD SERIES. LIVING AGE. VOL. XXVI.
aunt, who, though cleverer than her brother, was too wise in her own conceit to perceive at the first glance the noble, simple conception of his own duties and position which was implied in the honest gentleman's words. "Your second son might be either a fool or a knave, or even, although neither, might be
quite unfit to be intrusted with the eternal | I believed, and was not perfectly convinced interests of his fellow-creatures. In my opin- that I am right. Consequently (though, I reion, the duty of choosing a clergyman is one peat, Mr. Shirley has chosen the most inconnot to be exercised without the gravest delib- | venient moment possible for dying), it can't eration. A conscientious man would make be expected of me that I should appoint my bis selection dependent, at least, upon the nephew, whose opinions in most points are character of his second son-if he had one. exactly the opposite of mine." We, however, "
"I wish, at least, you would believe what "But then his character is so satisfactory, I say," interrupted the curate, impatiently. Leonora," cried Miss Dora, feeling embold-"There might have been some sense in all ened by the shadow of visitors under whose this three months ago; but if Skelmersdale shield she could always retire. Everybody were the highroad to everything desirable in knows what a good clergyman he is,—I am the church, you are all quite aware that I sure it would be like a new world in Skel- could not accept it. Stop, Gerald; I am not mersdale if you were there, Frank, my dear, so disinterested as you think," said Frank; -and preaches such beautiful sermons!"" if I left Carlingford now, people would said the unlucky little woman, upon whom remember against me that my character had her sister immediately descended, swift and been called in question here. I can remain a sudden, like a storm at sea. Perpetual Curate," said the young man, with a smile; "but I can't tolerate any shadow upon my honor. I am sorry I came in at such an awkward moment. Good-morning, Aunt Leonora. I hope Julia Trench, when she has the rectory will always keep of your way of thinking. She used to incline a little to mine," he said, mischievously, as he went away.
"We are generally perfectly of accord in our conclusions,” said Miss Leonora; "as for Dora, she comes to the same end by a roundabout way. After what my brother has been saying "
“Yes,” said the squire, with uncomfortable looks, "I was saying to your aunt, Frank, what I said to you about poor Mary. Since Gerald will go, and since you don't want to come, the best thing to do would be to have Huxtable. He's a very good fellow on the whole, and it might cheer her up, poor soul, to be near her sisters. Life has been hard work to her, poor girl,—very hard work, sir," said the squire, with a sigh. The idea was troublesome and uncomfortable, and al-accompaniment more tranquillizing so far as a
"Come back, Frank, presently," said the squire, whose attention had been distracted from his Times. Mr. Wentworth began to be tired of such a succession of exciting discussions. He thought if he had Frank quietly to himself, he could settle matters much more agreeably; but the Times was certainly an
comfortable meal was concerned.
ways disturbed his mind when it occurred to him. It was, indeed, a secret humiliation to the squire, that his eldest daughter possess ed so little the characteristic health and prosperity of the Wentworths. He was very sorry for her, but yet half angry and half ashamed, as if she could have helped it; but, however, he had been obliged to admit, in his private deliberations on the subject, that, failing Frank, Mary's husband had the next an invalid, in a pretty little cap, with a shawl best right to Wentworth Rectory,—an arrange-over her dressing-gown. She had not yet got ment of which Miss Leonora did not approve. over her adventure and the excitement of Rosa's capture. That unusual accident, and all the applauses of her courage which had been addressed to her since, had roused the timid woman. She did not withdraw her eyes from her sister, though commanded to do so; on the contrary, her look grew more and more emphatic. She meant to have made a solemn address, throwing off Leonora's yoke,
"I was about to say that we have no second son," she said, taking up the thread of her discourse where it had been interrupted. "Our duty is solely towards the Christian people. I do not pretend to be infallible," said Miss Leonora, with a meek air of self-contradiction; "but I should be a very poor creature indeed if, at my age, I did not know what
"He can't come back presently," said Aunt Leonora. "You speak as if he had nothing to do; when, on the contrary, he has everything to do—that is worth doing,” said that contradictory authority. "Come back to lunch, Frank; and I wish you would eat your breakfast, Dora, and not stare at me."
Miss Dora had come down to breakfast as
and declaring her intention, in this grave crisis of her nephew's fortunes, of acting for herself; but her feelings were too much for Miss Dora. The tears came creeping to the corners of her eyes, and she could not keep them back; and her attempt at dignity broke down. "I am never consulted," she said, with a gasp. "I don't mean to pretend to know better than Leonora ; but-but I think it is very hard that Frank should be disappointed about Skelmersdale. You may call me as foolish as you please," said Miss Dora, with rising tears. "I know everybody will say it is my fault; but I must say I think it is very hard that Frank should be disappointed. He was always brought up for it, as everybody knows; and to disappoint him, who is so good and so nice, for a fat young man, buttered all over like—like—a puddingbasin," cried poor Miss Dora, severely adhering to the unity of her desperate metaphor. I don't know what Julia Trench can be thinking of; I—I don't know what Leonora means."
“I am of the same way of thinking," said Aunt Cecilia, setting down, with a little gentle emphasis, her cup of tea.
Here was rebellion, open and uncompromised. Miss Leonora was so much taken by surprise that she lifted the tea-urn out of the way, and stared at her interlocutors with genuine amazement. But she proved herself, as usual, equal to the occasion.
me in all his little troubles; and when he
"I hope you don't mean to forsake me,
"I am sure I beg your pardon, Jack," said Aunt Dora, suddenly stopping short, and feeling guilty. "I never meant to neglect you. Poor dear boy, he never was properly tried with female society and the comforts of home; but then you were dining out that night," said the simple woman, eagerly. "I should have stayed with you, Jack, of course, had you been at home.”
From this little scene Miss Leonora turned away hastily, with an exclamation of impatience. She made an abrupt end of her
"It's unfortunate that we never see eye to eye just at once," she said, with a look which expressed more distinctly than words could have done the preliminary flourish of his whip, by means of which a skilful charioteer gets his team under hand without touching them; "but it is very lucky that we always come to agree in the end," she added, more tea-making, and went off to her little busisignificantly still. It was well to crush in-ness room with a grim smile upon her ironsubordination in the bud. Not that she did gray countenance. She, too, had been taken not share the sentiment of her sisters; but in a little by Jack's pleasant farce of the then they were guided like ordinary women Sinner Repentant; and it occurred to her to by their feelings, whereas Miss Leonora had feel a little ashamed of herself as she went the rights of property before her, and the ap-up-stairs. After all, the ninety-and-nine proval of Exeter Hall. just men of Jack's irreverent quotation were worth considering now and then; and Miss Leonora could not but think with a little humiliation of the contrast between her nephew Frank and the comfortable young curate who was going to marry Julia Trench. He was fat, it could not be denied; and she remembered his chubby looks, and his ser
"And he wants to marry, poor dear boy," said Miss Dora, pale with fright, yet persevering; "and she is a dear good girl,—the very person for a clergyman's wife; and what is he to do if he is always to be Curate of St. Roque's? You may say it is my fault; but I cannot help it. He always used to come to
mons about self-denial and mortification of the flesh, much as a pious Catholic might FRANK WENTWORTH once more went up think of the Lenten oratory of a fat friar. Grange Lane, a thoughtful and a sober man. But then he was perfectly sound in his doc- Exhilaration comes but by moments in the trines, and it was undeniable that the people happiest of lives,—and already he began to liked him, and that the appointment was one remember how very little he had to be elated which even a Scotch ecclesiastical community about, and how entirely things remained as full of popular rights could scarcely have ob- before. Even Lucy; her letter very probajected to. According to her own principles, bly might be only an effusion of friendship; the strong-minded woman could not do other- and at all events, what could he say to her, wise. She threw herself into her arm-chair-what did he dare in honor say? And then with unnecessary force, and read over the his mind went off to think of the two rectoletter which Miss Trench herself had written.ries, between which he had fallen as between "It is difficult to think of any consolation in two stools: though he had made up his mind such a bereavement," wrote Mr. Shirley's to accept neither, he did not the less feel a niece; “but still it is a little comfort to feel certain mortification in seeing that his relathat I can throw myself on your sympathy, tions on both sides were so willing to bestow my dear and kind friend." "Little calcu- their gifts elsewhere. He could not tolerate lating thing!" Miss Leonora said to herself the idea of succeeding Gerald in his own peras she threw down the mournful epistle; and son; but still he found it very disagreeable to then she could not help thinking again of consent to the thought that Huxtable should Frank. To be sure, he was not of her way replace him,-Huxtable, who was a good felof thinking; but when she remembered the low enough, but of whom Frank Wentworth "investigation" and its result, and the se- thought, as men generally think of their cret romance involved in it, her Wentworth brothers-in-law, with a half-impatient, halfblood sent a thrill of pride and pleasure contemptuous wonder what Mary could ever through her veins. Miss Leonora, though have seen in so commonplace a man. To she was strong-minded, was still woman think of him as Rector of Wentworth inenough to perceive her nephew's motives in wardly chafed the spirit of the Perpetual his benevolence to Wodehouse; but these Curate. As he was going along, absorbed motives, which were strong enough to make in his own thoughts, he did not perceive how him endure so much annoyance, were not his approach was watched for from the other strong enough to tempt him from Carling- side of the way by Elsworthy, who stood with ford and his perpetual curacy, where his his bundle of newspapers under his arm and honor and reputation, in the face of love and his hat in his hand, watching for "his clerambition, demanded that he should remain. gyman" with submission and apology on the "It would be a pity to balk him in his self-surface, and hidden rancor underneath. Elssacrifice," she said to herself, with again a worthy was not penitent; he was furious and somewhat grim smile, and a comparison not disappointed. His mistake and its consemuch to the advantage of Julia Trench and quences were wholly humiliating, and had her curate. She shut herself up among her not in them a single saving feature to atone papers till luncheon, and only emerged with for the wounds of his self-esteem. The cua stormy front when that meal was on the rate had not only baffled and beaten him, but table, during the progress of which she humbled him in his own eyes, which is persnubbed everybody who ventured to speak to haps, of all others, the injury least easy to her, and spoke to her nephew Frank as if he forgive. It was, however, with an appearmight have been suspected of designs upon ance of the profoundest submission that he the plate-chest. Such were the unpleasant stood awaiting the approach of the man he consequences of the struggle between duty had tried so much to injure. and inclination in the bosom of Miss Leonora; and, save for other unforeseen events, which decided the matter for her, it is not by any means so certain as, judging from her character, it ought to have been, that duty would have won the day.
"Mr. Wentworth, sir," said Elsworthy, if I was worth your while, I might think as you were offended with me; but seeing I'm one as is so far beneath you," he went on with a kind of grin, intended to represent a deprecatory smile, but which would have
been a snarl had he dared, "I can't think as you'll bear no malice. May I ask, sir, if there's a-going to be any difference made?" "In what respect, Elsworthy?" said the curate, shortly.
Well, sir, I can't tell," said the clerk of St. Roque's. "If a clergyman was to bear malice, it's in his power to make things very unpleasant. I don't speak of the place at church, which aint neither here nor there,it's respectable, but it aint lucrative; but if you was to stretch a point, Mr. Wentworth, by continuing the papers and suchlike; it aint that I valley the money," said Elsworthy, “but I've been a faithful servant; and I might say, if you were to take it in a right spirit, an 'umble friend, Mr. Wentworth," he continued, after a little pause, growing bolder. "And now, as I've that unfortunate creature to provide for, and no one knowing what's to become of her”—
"I wonder that you venture to speak of her to me," said the curate, with a little indignation, "after all the warnings I gave you. But you ought to consider that you are to blame a great deal more than she is. She is only a child; if you had taken better care of her,—but you would not pay any attention to my warning;-you must bear the consequences as best you can."
“Well, sir,” said Elsworthy, "if you're a-going to bear malice, I haven't got nothing to say. But there aint ten men in Carlingford as wouldn't agree with me that when a young gentleman, even if he is a clergyman, takes particklar notice of a pretty young girl, it aint just for nothing as he does itnot to say watching over her paternal to see as she wasn't out late at night, and suchlike. But bygones is bygones, sir," said Elsworthy, " and is never more to be mentioned by me. I don't ask no more, if you'll but do the
said Elsworthy, hastening on after him, yet keeping half a step behind. "I'm a humbled man,-different from what I ever thought to be. I could always keep up my head afore the world till now; and if it aint your fault, sir,-as I humbly beg your pardon for ever being so far led away as to believe it was,—all the same it's along of you."
"What do you mean?" said the curate, who, half amused and half indignant at the change of tone, had slackened his pace to listen to this new accusation.
"What I mean, sir, is, that if you hadn't been so good and so kind-hearted as to take into your house the-the villain as has done it all, him and Rosa could never have known each other. I allow as it was nothing but your own goodness as did it; but it was a black day for me and mine," said the dramatist, with a pathetic turn of voice. "Not as I'm casting no blame on you, as is well known to be "—
"You wont ask no more?" said the cu
rate, angrily; "do you think I am afraid of you? I have nothing more to say, Elsworthy. Go and look after your business I will attend to mine; and when we are not forced to meet, let us keep clear of each other. It will be better both for you and
The curate passed on with an impatient nod; but his assailant did not intend that he should escape so easily. "I shouldn't have thought, sir, as you'd have borne malice,"
"Never mind what I'm well known to be," said the curate; "the other day you thought I was the villain. If you can tell me anything you want me to do, I will understand that; but I am not desirous to know your opinion of me," said the careless young man. As he stood listening impatiently, pausing a second time, Dr. Marjoribanks came out to his door and stepped into his brougham to go off to his morning round of visits. The doctor took off his hat when he saw the curate, and waved it to him cheerfully with a gesture of congratulation. Dr. Marjoribanks was quite stanch and honest, and would have manfully stood by his intimates in dangerous circumstances; but somehow he preferred success. It was pleasanter to be able to congratulate people than to condole with them. He preferred it, and nobody could object to so orthodox a sentiment. Most probably, if Mr. Wentworth had still been in partial disgrace, the doctor would not have seen him in his easy glance down the road; but though Mr. Wentworth was aware of that, the mute congratulation had yet its effect upon him. He was moved by that delicate symptom of how the wind was blowing in Carlingford, and forgot all about Elsworthy, though the man was standing by his side.
"As you're so good as to take it kind, sir," said the clerk of St. Roque's, “and as I was a-saying, it's well known as you're always ready to hear a poor man's tale, per