Изображения страниц

"I don't know whether he did or not," said Christina.

"But Ken

neth has the very spirit of a Crusader! and he is one now in a sort of way."

"How? O do tell me!"

Elizabeth had to wait until their next meeting however; when, after the lesson was over, Christina, nothing loth, recounted some of Kenneth's exploits in connection with his night-school work, which she looked on quite in the light of a Crusade. Elizabeth was filled with astonishment. It was like opening the door of a new world. In the pleasant easy-going life to which she was accustomed, she had thought it the height of self-denial to teach a class of little children now and then in a country Sunday-school, and most meritorious to pay a visit to a cottage. These efforts were well enough for people who had nothing else to do. But it was wonderful to think of a hard-working business man giving up his evenings to such work as Christina described; teaching the roughest lads without help, maintaining his authority often by physical force; accompanying his friend the Curate in raids into dangerous alleys and mysterious public-houses, to rescue old scholars and capture new recruits. Christina dilated on the dan

gers they encountered, and the triumphs they gained, with a fervour which set Elizabeth's heart and imagination on fire. She was eager to know all about the various good works going on at S. Stephen's. It was a new light to her that so much was being done by those known to her as "the Ritualists."

"Now I know what they are really like," she said, "I shall always stand up for them. I thought it was all vestments and incense,—very nice things too! only this is worth ever so much more. I don't wonder at your devotion to your brother now, but I wish he thought more of the glorious destiny to which your Art has called you!"

"Perhaps he will in time," said Christina.


"A dancing shape, an image gay,

To haunt, to startle, and waylay."

SIR George Dacre, who was a thoroughly good-hearted man notwithstanding his irritable temper, showed much more interest than his wife did when he learnt that Bessy's pretty young teacher was one of the Grahames of Glendarroch. Often, in the neighbourhood of their old

home, he had heard the young people spoken of with much affection and compassion; and he felt at once a great desire to show them some kindness in their fallen fortunes, now that he found them within reach. Margaret was ready to agree with him, only suggesting that it might be as well to make a few inquiries first of Mr. Rutherford, the Glendarroch lawyer. Elizabeth's enthusiastic descriptions could hardly be considered as the most trustworthy vouchers.

The old gentleman wrote of Kenneth in terms which coming from a cautious Scotch lawyer amounted to the highest praise. "The most honourable and high-minded young man he had ever known, though proud and stiff-necked; and imbued like his forebears with an overstrained sense of loyalty. Rejecting wise counsel, he had rashly entered upon what Mr. Rutherford could not but consider an unnecessary and laborious task." And the letter proceeded to relate the particulars of Kenneth's resolution. Further, he believed the young man had strong religious views of a prelatical nature, with which he himself could not sympathise. The writer's affection for his client was certainly evident, in spite of differences of opinion.

Sir George read the letter aloud at breakfast, adding, "Well, Maggie! what say you to that? He must be a capital good fellow. I should like to know him. We will ask him and his sister to come to us some evening."

"O, how delightful!" cried Bessy. "You dear old George! I'm so glad. I have been wanting so much to see the living likeness of the Last of the Cavaliers;' and Christina says he is as heroic as Montrose, and as beautiful as Dundee !"

"Well," said Margaret placidly, "I'll leave cards there if you like; and we will ask them to come to us one day next week, if you can get away from the House pretty early."

Perhaps Elizabeth's wildly expressed admiration might have deterred a more vigilant chaperon from allowing any intimacy with such an interesting hero of romance. But Margaret was too well accustomed to her sister's exaggerations to regard them as of any real consequence. Besides, it would be absurd to take Bessy's enthusiasm seriously, considering she had never seen the young man.

However, it so happened that Elizabeth did see him that very day for the first time, and under circumstances she would hardly have chosen, had she had the power. It was Saturday morning; and Bessy had begun her practising rather later than usual. Just as the lesson

was over, Charlie, who had been outside in the tiny garden, came up the steps leading to the window, "There is a nest in the lime-tree," he said, “and not a sparrow's. I don't know what kind of birds they I saw one go out just now."


"Oh, if I could only see them I should be able to tell you," cried Bessy, jumping up. "I am country-bred, and know all about birds' nests. Are there any eggs in it, I wonder? I'll see."

"You are not going to climb the tree ?" asked Christina with some amazement.

"A thing I very often do, my dear girl, at home."

"I can get the ladder-steps, I mean," said Charlie, and he ran off to Sarah's domain.

A few minutes later Kenneth entered the sitting-room, his thoughts full of the book he had been reading on his homeward way, namely, Spenser's Faerie Queene. The music of the enchantment still held sway over his imagination, filling it with the mysterious beauty of fairyland, with visions of fair gliding forms and wild woodland scenes. As he came in the sound of laughing voices near the window reached his ear, and he looked out. The fresh green foliage of the lime-tree glittered all tremulous and radiant in the lustre of the May sunshine. Was he dreaming? what fairy vision was that, of a sweet childlike face, with parted rosy lips and sparkling eyes, and soft dark hair in wild confusion, in the midst of that bower of green and golden leaves? The whole air seemed full of quivering sunlight, and silvery laughter, and the faint yet enchanting odour of lime blossoms. Kenneth stood as if spellbound; but in another moment all was clear. Christina, who stood below holding the ladder, perceived him and called out to him to come down into the garden. "O, but what will he think of her?" said Christie to herself. "How shocked he would be to see me up in a tree! I do hope he won't mind, but he is so particular, and she is really dreadfully wild !"

Elizabeth herself was certainly startled, but the absurdity of her position in this first rencontre with a hero of romance struck her forcibly, and she laughed so much that she did not dare to move. Charlie, who was also up in the tree, offered to help her to descend.

"No, no!" she said, still laughing, "you go down first."

By this time Kenneth was looking up from below, half amused, half eager, also asking if he could be of any use.

[ocr errors]

O no, thank you,—at least, perhaps you can help us with an opinion. I dare say you wonder what we are doing here."

[ocr errors]

There's a nest," said Charlie, explaining. "Lady Elizabeth thinks it's a blackbird's, but she is not quite sure." He came down and jumped off the steps.


"I can settle that in a minute," said Kenneth ascending. but I wonder we did not notice the birds building it. Well, we will leave them undisturbed. I hope this inspection will not frighten them away."

"If they find the nest and this egg all right they won't mind, will they?" said Elizabeth. "How nice it is up here! but it's rather a small tree for such large birds as I am-Oh! my hair!" as the last coil gave way, caught on a twig.

[ocr errors]

You mustn't leave them any of your feathers," said Kenneth with a quiet smile, as he helped to disentangle the soft dark locks from the leafy boughs; "there, that is safe; now are you ready to go down?"

"I don't know. This is just like a fairy bower; I think I would rather stay with the birds; I feel quite safe so long as I keep still." "Ah, if you only had wings to bear you up in case of falling, you would be safe anyhow.'

[ocr errors]

How do you know I haven't wings?-of aspiration, at least ?" said she laughing.

Very possibly, but one can't altogether depend upon them," he answered lightly. "Though they will carry one over difficult places too, sometimes."

Most of this colloquy was lost upon Christina, who became impatient. Kenneth continued his conversation with Elizabeth for about five minutes more, till suddenly the church clock struck the half-hour. O dear! I must come down, I suppose," sighed Bessy. "What a pity all nice things come to an end !"

'Such is life!" observed Kenneth, with

[ocr errors]

a smile. Well, whenever you want to go bird's-nesting again pray remember that this tree is at your service. Now can I help you?"

She did not decline his offer, as she had Charlie's; and presently both were standing in safety below.

"O, Bessy, dear," exclaimed Christina, ruefully regarding the disordered state of her appearance, "do let me fasten up your hair. And oh! your dress is quite spoilt; just see this rent-and then the blacks!"

"There's a difference between London and country trees," said Elizabeth. "Thank you, Christie dear, but never mind. Is Pique here? How shocked she will be, but I dare say she has secured a cab, so I shan't disgrace her by my rags and tatters!"

"I believe there was a cab drawn up outside when I came in,” said Kenneth; but somehow I never thought of it's being at our door." "There is some one in the passage," said Charlie.

"The much-enduring Pique," exclaimed Elizabeth, hastily donning her hat and jacket, with Christina's ready help. "What a drive I shall have, hearing of all my misdeeds! However I have the most goodnatured sister and governess; they will only laugh. No one ever scolds me except Pique-oh, and Schulz; and I'm sure I deserve it. Good-bye till Monday, Christie dear.”

A sudden rush of shyness came over her as Kenneth conducted her to the cab. Somehow she felt as if she had forgotten until then that he was a young man, a stranger, and moreover a hero; the circumstances of their meeting had been so unexpected and amusing, that she had enjoyed the surprise with perfect unconsciousness. But when she saw the tall grave young man quietly going through the ceremony of opening the door for her, and handing her into the cab, with Pique following, solemn and stately, she felt vexed with herself. He must think her a foolish, childish, ridiculous being. Christie had often told her how fastidious he was, and she would have liked to appear at her best in the presence of such a hero! After all he parted from her with a very pleasant smile. He surely did not dislike her then, even though he might disapprove. How silly she had been altogether! She had even forgotten to tell Christie about Margaret's intended invitation. "O, if they come," she inwardly resolved, “I'll try and see if I can't behave prettily! but he will never forget this, I'm afraid."

When Kenneth came back Christina was busy helping Sarah to prepare the dinner table. He went and stood by the piano, and began turning over the music.

"So that is the way you practise Beethoven," he said, with a smile on his face, which Christina did not see.

She began defending herself in the course of her task. "No indeed. The practising was quite over. You must ask Charlie how it happened. She was off in a moment, like a child-I couldn't help it. She took a sudden freak into her head, I suppose. But Kenneth, what do you

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »