Part 8 out of 8
sympathy were fully enlisted on his behalf.
"It is a foregone conclusion as far as Dinah is concerned," he
thought, as he laid his head on his pillow. "Herrick can make her
believe anything he likes, she has such faith in him; he has only to
say that it is a capital plan, and that I shall make a first-rate
farmer, and she will be ready to take out her cheque-book at once."
Cedric went round to 27 Queen's Gate to pay his respects to the
ladies before he started for Staplegrove. Malcolm, who dined there
that night, was amused by his mother's openly-avowed admiration of
their young friend.
"Cedric Templeton is one of the most attractive-looking men I have
ever seen," she said in her most serious voice; "he is very much
improved in every way, and is altogether charming."
"I hope you agree with my mother, Anna?" observed Malcolm, laughing.
"I think Cedric's ears must be burning at the present moment." But
Anna only returned rather shyly that she thought Mr. Templeton
looked extremely well.
Malcolm had fixed his day, but he refused to state any hour for his
arrival. There was no need to send the dog-cart for him; he would
prefer taking a fly from the station. Of course, he put forth
business as his plea; but in reality he did not wish Cedric to meet
him, the lad's incessant chatter all the way to Staplegrove would
have worried him excessively. It was just a year since he had seen
Elizabeth, and in his heart he was secretly dreading that first
meeting. Perhaps he had left it too long, he ought to have gone
sooner; they would be like strangers, and the first interview would
be very embarrassing to them both. Yes, he had been a fool to spare
himself the pain of seeing her grief. He had kept away, banishing
himself for all these months, and yet what good had it done him? it
had only increased his nervousness and discomfort tenfold. He was
haunted by the fear that he should find her changed, that she would
be cold and distant with him. He worked himself up into such a fever
at last, that half-way up the Staplegrove Hill he stopped the fly
and told the driver that he wished to walk, and directed him to take
his bag to the Wood House.
The walk certainly refreshed him, and by the time he reached the
Crow's Nest he felt more ready for the ordeal. When he came to the
gate that led to the Wood House, he hesitated, and then crossed the
road and stood for a few moments looking down the little woodland
path he remembered so well. No other place was so associated with
Elizabeth. How often he had met her at this little gate, or waited
for her when he knew she was coming back from Rotherwood! That day,
for example, when she wore her white sun-bonnet, and came along
swinging her arms like an imperial milkmaid, a "very queen of curds
and cream." At that moment a little sharp clang of a distant gate
made his heart beat suddenly. There were footsteps--yes, without
doubt, there were footsteps--it was no fancy. Then at the bend of
the road he could see distinctly a tall black figure, walking rather
slowly and wearily along, and though he could not see her face he
knew it was Elizabeth.
The next minute he unlatched the gate a little noisily; he would not
steal a march on her--she believed herself alone; then she looked up
and quickened her pace, and when he came up to her, there was
actually a smile on her face.
"You are fond of surprises," she said, looking at him as she gave
him her hand. "Am I late, have you come to meet me; and what have
you done with your luggage?"
"I have sent it on," he returned quietly; "it is such a lovely
afternoon that I preferred to walk. No, I did not come to meet you;
for all I knew, you might have been at the Wood House. I only had a
fancy that I should like to see the woodlands again, and then I saw
"It is not my usual afternoon for Rotherwood," she returned quickly,
but a faint colour had come in her face at his words; "but I am
there most days. You know, of course--Dinah will have told you--of
the new interest I have there. I think Die tells you most things,"
she continued, with the same glimmer of a smile on her lips.
"Yes, she is very good," he returned gravely. They were walking side
by side now. Malcolm had hardly trusted himself to look at her, and
yet nothing had been lost on him. How changed she was! that was his
first thought. She looked years older; mourning did not suit her;
the black hat with its heavy trimming seemed to extinguish her
somehow. She was paler and thinner, he was sure of that, and had
lost some of her splendid vitality; and yet in spite of all this it
was to him the dearest face in the world.
As she made that poor little attempt at a smile, his whole heart
went out to her in profound love and pity, and he forgot his own
pain in remembering her trouble.
"Your sister told me about Mr. Carlyon," he said, as they crossed
the road; "I was very glad to hear from her how well it answered."
"He is very happy at Rotherwood," returned Elizabeth. "The people
seem to take to him, and he and the vicar are like brothers, and the
work exactly suits him. Theo is happy too, and that is a great
blessing. And we have made the cottage so pretty that I should like
you to see it." Elizabeth's manner had become more natural; she
spoke now as though she were sure of Malcolm's interest. He did not
"I shall certainly call there when I go to the vicarage," he
returned, and then he stopped as though to take breath. "I was very
glad when I read your sister's letter, and knew that this new work
was to come to you; it must make you so much happier."
Malcolm's words were almost magical in their effect, for Elizabeth
turned to him with her old eagerness.
"Oh, you always understand," she said gratefully; "that is why it is
so easy to talk to you. Yes, indeed, it has made me so much happier.
Life is worth living when one knows there is some one in the world
who is dependent on one for earthly comfort. Of course Mr. Carlyon
has Theo, but she does not know him as I do. I am at the cottage
nearly every day."
Malcolm listened and smiled, but he could not have spoken at that
moment. How little she guessed how her words stabbed him! She could
tell him to his face that life was worth living "because there was
some one dependent on her for earthly comfort," and yet she could
leave him hungering and thirsting in that sad pilgrimage of his. All
her thoughts and sweet ministries were for David's father. "It is
for him," he thought bitterly; "he is my rival still--dead as well
as living. She is very faithful: she will not forget him, and her
heart is still closed to me."
Elizabeth did not seem to notice his silence; she talked on about
Mr. Charrington, and the new schools; and then Cedric came flying
down the path to meet them, and the next moment Malcolm saw Dinah
smiling in the porch.
After dinner that evening they gathered round the fire, for the
nights were still chilly, and Elizabeth joined the circle to hear
Cedric's scheme discussed.
From his dark corner Malcolm watched her. In spite of her unrelieved
black and absence of ornaments, she was looking more like the old
Elizabeth. She grew interested and then quite absorbed in Cedric's
project, and soon began discussing it with her wonted vivacity. When
Malcolm made some damping remark, she argued the point with him in a
most peremptory fashion, and was quite Elizabethan in her rebuke.
"That is the worst of talking to a lawyer," she said severely: "his
legal mind takes such cut-and-dried views. Granted that it is a
speculation, it seems a promising one; and nothing venture, nothing
have. I don't know how you feel, Die, but I am quite willing to do
my share." Then Dinah, who was in quite a flutter of excitement and
pleasure, looked at her adviser in a timid, deprecating fashion.
"If Mr. Herrick thinks we are not imprudent, I should like to do as
Cedric wishes," she replied; "though there is no need to touch your
money, Betty." But Elizabeth took no notice of this remark.
"I have a proposal to make," she went on in such an animated voice
that Malcolm quite started. "Why should we not all go down and see
the place? And Mr. Strickland could come too. Donnarton is only
three hours from town; it would be a sort of picnic excursion, and I
know Dinah would like it."
"Bravo, Betty, what a brick you are!" exclaimed Cedric boisterously;
and Malcolm observed in a low voice that it was an excellent idea.
But when they talked it over quietly they found an amendment was
necessary. It would be impossible to go and return the same day;
there was the farm to inspect, and most likely they would have to
consult the lawyer. The matter ended by Cedric volunteering to go
back with Malcolm when he returned to town, and talk the matter over
with Harry Strickland; and if any decent lodgings could be found in
the little town of Donnarton, they would stop at least one night.
As early a day as possible was to be fixed, and all the arrangements
were to be made by the gentlemen. Dinah was evidently charmed with
the prospect of seeing the Priory; but Elizabeth's ardour quickly
cooled when she found it would be necessary to remain the night. "I
suppose you could not go without me, Die?" she observed when alone
with her sister. Then Dinah's face fell.
"Oh, Betty dear, that would spoil everything," she said in a
distressed tone. "Surely you want to see dear Cedric's future home."
"Of course I want to see it," returned Elizabeth rather shortly;
"only I should have preferred going down quietly a little later on"-
-which was somewhat contradictory, as she had herself proposed the
plan. But perhaps the delighted look on Malcolm's face when he heard
her proposition had somewhat alarmed her; for the next day she was a
little cool and distant in her manner to him, and left his
entertainment to Dinah and Cedric.
"YOU CAN BE DINAH'S FRIEND"
Sometimes I said: This thing shall be no more;
My expectation wearies and shall cease;
I will resign it now and be at peace:
Yet never gave it o'er.
Various complications prevented the Templeton-Strickland picnic, as
Cedric termed it, from being speedily carried out, and it was not
until the middle of May that a day was definitely fixed, and Cedric
brought his sisters up to Waterloo, where Malcolm and Mr. Strickland
met them. The whole party were to be housed at the Priory, where
they were to sleep two nights. There were plenty of good bedrooms,
Harry Strickland told them, and in a rough, homely fashion he could
undertake that they should be comfortable. He had already been down
to the Priory to look after things, and to tell Mrs. Renshaw that
she must find some temporary help. He would have brought down a
hamper of delicacies from Fortnum and Mason, but Cedric remonstrated
with him and said his sisters would much prefer simple country fare.
And then Harry gave orders to his bailiff that the plumpest chickens
and the fattest ducks were to be sacrificed, and new laid-eggs and
cream served ad libitum.
Malcolm always looked back on those two days as the saddest and yet
the most beautiful he had ever known. For what sadness can be equal
to that of being with the person one loves best in the world, and
yet being conscious of a great dividing gulf, that never narrows;
and yet in spite of this, what happiness to know that one roof would
cover them for two days! Malcolm was in that condition when he was
thankful for even fragments and crumbs--a kind smile, an approving
word from Elizabeth made his heart beat more quickly. As for Dinah,
she was in the seventh heaven. The country was lovely, the Priory a
beautiful, picturesque old place, with leaded casements and a deep
porch, and a wonderful neglected garden, a veritable wilderness of
sweets. She liked everything, admired everything; she thought Harry
Strickland a thoroughly nice fellow; and she and Elizabeth wandered
all over the house, suggesting improvements in their practicable,
sensible way; and full of admiration for the fine oak staircase and
some really beautiful cabinets, and benches, on the landing-place
and in the best parlours. Roger Strickland had always called them
parlours--the oak parlour and the cedar parlour--the latter a
charming room with a fine ceiling, cedar-lined panels, and a cosy
nook by the fireplace covered with quaint tapestry. Elizabeth fell
in love with this room directly. She insisted that a certain cabinet
she had seen upstairs should be brought down to the cedar parlour,
and that an empty recess should be fitted up for books; and the
young men listened to her quite meekly. Her reforms and alterations
became so sweeping and extensive at last, that Malcolm, who at first
had been only amused, grew seriously alarmed. "We must see what Mr.
Atkins thinks," he kept observing; "we must decide on nothing
without him." Mr. Atkins was the lawyer who had managed all the
Strickland business, and they were to drive into Donnarton that very
afternoon to consult him. Nevertheless, when Malcolm made his little
protest, Elizabeth only shrugged her shoulders and muttered
something about "cautious legal minds" under her breath.
"Good for you, Betty, that we have a lawyer handy," observed Cedric
in high good-humour, "or you would be ruining yourself and Dinah
too. No--no, Herrick is right: we will mend the holes and lay down
fresh flooring where it is absolutely necessary, and do any cleaning
and painting that are required, but the rest can keep for a while;
the parlours and two decent bedrooms are all we shall require." And
then they went off to see the dairy.
They drove into Donnarton after an early dinner; but on arriving at
the lawyer's Elizabeth suddenly remarked that they were far too
large a party, and that she meant to do a little sight-seeing on her
own account. So, as they knew of old that it was useless to argue
with her, they went inside, and from over the wire blind in the
dingy front room Malcolm watched her crossing the butter market in
the direction of the ancient churchyard that skirted one side of it.
It troubled him to hear a bell toll as she passed through the little
gate, and a moment later a funeral procession, following a small
coffin, evidently of a child, climbed slowly up the steps.
After that he resigned himself to a long, tedious hour. The room was
hot and airless, the lawyer very prosy and unnecessarily fluent; but
he seemed a straightforward, honest man, and gave them good counsel.
Malcolm was soon put into possession of all the Strickland bequest,
and after this it was all plain sailing.
The land was good, and though the farm had deteriorated, a little
judicious management and a moderate outlay would soon put things on
a different footing. This was Mr. Atkins's opinion; he had himself
suggested that a partner with some capital should be found.
Some final arrangements were made after this; then Cedric suggested
that they should have tea at the inn, and Malcolm volunteered to go
in search of Elizabeth.
He felt sure that he should find her still in the churchyard, and he
was right. She was standing near one of those dreary monuments which
affectionate relatives loved to raise to their departed friends in
the early Victorian era. There was old Time with his beard and
scythe, a broken column, veiled mourners and a dejected-looking
cherub, and the stiff funereal urn; but Elizabeth was looking at a
cluster of grassy mounds under a yew tree, with simple headstones,
and here and there a cross. She looked up at Malcolm with a quiet
"Have they sent you to find me?" she asked. "It is so nice and
peaceful here; I like to think of all those tired workers resting
after their labours--their work done."
"I think you make a mistake there," returned Malcolm, falling at
once into her vein of thought. "Resting, true, but their work is
certainly not finished: it is only broken off, because probably they
have reached a part that can only be carried on under certain
Elizabeth turned round in her quick way. "Say that again!" she
exclaimed eagerly, and Malcolm repeated his speech.
"I like that," she murmured: "if one could only grasp that thought."
"There is no difficulty, surely," he replied. "People often talk of
continuity of life, and continuity of love, and why not continuity
of work? Think of all the thousands of workers who have gone hence,
many of them in the prime of their youth or manhood--votaries of
science, of art, pioneers and missionaries, soldiers of the Cross,
and soldiers of the Queen--a vast army that no man can number!" Here
"Yes, yes--oh, please go on!" Elizabeth was drinking in his words as
though they were new wine.
"You know what the Wisdom of Solomon says: 'In the sight of the
unwise they seemed to die, and their departure is taken for misery;'
but," looking at her with a smile, "you and I know better than
"And you think, as Mr. Carlyon does, that there will be active life
and work there?" and Elizabeth's large sad eyes were full of
yearning as she asked the question.
"How could I face the future if I did not believe it?" returned
Malcolm earnestly. "Why are these talents, these gifts of genius,
this thirst for knowledge given to us, if they are not to be
developed and turned to account hereafter? Think of the conditions
under which such work will be done"--and here Malcolm's voice was
full of enthusiasm--"the wisdom of the ages around us, the great
ones of the earth--in whose footprints we have striven to walk--
beside us in the fulness of their majesty--no hindrances, no
physical weakness, no painful conflict between the human will and
the clouded intellect: the heir of all the ages will have entered
his goodly heritage. Oh, forgive me," checking himself abruptly, for
the tears were streaming down Elizabeth's cheeks.
"No--no, it has been such a comfort! I shall not forget; you have
done me so much good;" and then she wiped away her tears, and tried
to smile, and by the time they reached the inn she had regained her
composure. During their drive home Malcolm occupied the seat next
her in the waggonette, and Dinah, who was opposite to them, noticed
that Elizabeth talked more to him than she had done since that
unlucky afternoon at the Pool, and that Malcolm looked unusually
But his content was of short duration. The next morning, as they
were waiting for the waggonette to take them to the station,
Elizabeth wandered into the deserted garden, and Malcolm, who
followed her, found her standing under a Guelder rose-tree, picking
some of the snowy blossoms.
She greeted him with a smile. "This reminds me of Cedric's nursery
days," she observed. "He used to love to pelt me with these soft
white balls when he was a mite of a thing in a white frock and blue
ribbons. Powder-puffins," he used to call them. "What a pretty
little fellow he was, to be sure! Well, Mr. Herrick," as Malcolm
made no reply, "so our little jaunt is at an end. It has really been
very pleasant, don't you think so?"
"I have enjoyed it," returned Malcolm. He spoke with marked
"Oh, so have we all," she replied lightly. "It is so delightful to
see those two boys so ridiculously happy;" for both Cedric and Harry
Strickland had behaved during breakfast time like a couple of crazy
"You have helped to make them so," observed Malcolm meaningly.
"Oh no," in a careless tone; "Dinah is taking the lion's share. If I
had had my way, I would have restored this beautiful old place--but
two lawyers are enough to crush any woman."
"I am only thankful that we were able to check such sinful
extravagance," he returned calmly; "I believe generosity can
degenerate into positive vice." But Elizabeth refused to listen to
"If it had been Cedric's house, I would have done it up from garret
to basement," she said wilfully. "Anyhow, I mean to take the garden
in hand. When you come down to the Wood House next, you shall hear
all my plans, and of course we shall have one of our old fights over
Now what was there in this speech to cause such a curious revulsion
in Malcolm's mind? Elizabeth was speaking with the utmost good-
humour, and at any other moment he would have thought her
imperiousness charming--so what possessed him to draw himself up and
say rather stiffly that he feared that it would be some time before
they saw him at Staplegrove. "You know, I am going abroad this
summer with my mother and Anna Sheldon," he continued gravely; "we
are going to the Engadine and the Italian Lakes."
"But that is not until August," returned Elizabeth, rather taken
aback by Malcolm's sudden gravity. She had been so pleased with him
the previous afternoon; her liking for him had deepened, and she had
felt a genuine desire for his friendship. In her secret heart she
knew how well he had behaved, and was grateful to him for his
delicacy and tact; but at this moment she felt as though she had
received a douche of cold water. "That is not until August, and it
is only May now," she repeated rather seriously.
"Yes, I know"--but here Malcolm lost his self-command. Perhaps the
May sunshine dazzled him, or the soft friendliness in Elizabeth's
eyes and that unvarying kindliness tried his endurance, but for once
the underlying bitterness found vent.
"I cannot come before I go abroad--you, of all people, ought not to
expect it! You must know how I feel--that it is not good for me!
When I am with you, I can scarcely endure my pain!" He spoke
harshly, almost flinging the words at her; but she answered him
"Forgive me, I did not want to hurt you," in a trembling voice--"I
did not understand."
"No, you have never understood," but there was no conciliation in
his tone; "you make things harder for me. Elizabeth, I ought not to
have said this, but the happiness of these two days has been too
much for me. I will keep away until I have regained mastery over
myself, and then I will come. If you want me--if there be anything
that I can do for you or your sister, you must send for me."
"I could not do that," she returned, averting her face, and showers
of white petals powdered the ground at her feet, as her nervous
fingers unconsciously stript the stalks--"you have made that
impossible," And then she continued impulsively, "Mr. Herrick, you
must believe how sorry I am. You have been such a friend--such a
true, kind friend, and I have been so grateful to you!"
"I can never be your friend, Elizabeth"--there was a sad finality
about Malcolm's tone that made Elizabeth shrink from him almost
"Can you not?" she returned with a little sob. "But you can be
Dinah's friend. Do not let her suffer because of this; if we are
both unhappy, there is no need that she should be, and you are one
of her greatest comforts."
"You are right," replied Malcolm more gently, "and I shall always be
at Miss Templeton's service. I know you tell her everything, will
you let her know this?--when she wants me, when either of you want
me, I will come if needs be from the ends of the earth. You will
"I always believe Dinah's friend," she returned, in a voice he
hardly recognised--it was so soft and full of feeling; "but how I
shall miss mine!" and here Elizabeth's eyes were very sad. She
looked at the bare flower-stalks in her hands rather remorsefully
before she threw them away and returned to the house.
On their way to the station Malcolm occupied a seat next to the
driver. Now and then Elizabeth glanced up at the broad shoulders a
little wistfully. How silent he was, she did not once hear his
voice! While they waited for the train, he and Harry Strickland
paced up and down the platform. The train was rather full, one or
two strangers were in their compartment, and whether accidentally or
by purpose, Malcolm was shut off from the rest of his party.
At Waterloo a silent hand-shake was all that passed between him and
Elizabeth, and even to Dinah he said little; but as he drove off in
the hansom, he told himself that he had done right, and that he did
not regret a single word he had spoken.
It was far better for her to know the truth: he understood her so
well--she was not dense, but she was wilfully blinding her eyes;
very likely she was misled by his calm, matter-of-fact manner.
"She thinks I have got over it--that I have come to my senses, and
accepted the inevitable--that we can be friends in the comfortable,
approved fashion"--here Malcolm's eyes flashed with sudden fire--
"but she has found out her mistake. No, there shall be no more
deception. When I see her again I shall wear my true colours--though
Heaven forbid that I should persecute her with attentions that only
embarrass and distress her. No, you are safe with me, dear," he
murmured inwardly; "but even for your sweet sake I will not act a
lie. I am Dinah's friend, but your lover, Elizabeth--and must be as
long as I have life and breath"--and somehow this solemn avowal of
his heart's secret did Malcolm good. But Dinah noticed that
Elizabeth was more than usually depressed for some time after their
return to the Wood House.
THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME
Give what you have; to some it may be better than
you dare to think.
The Possible stands by us ever fresh,
Fairer than aught which any life hath owned,
And makes divine amends.
Two years had passed away since Malcolm had uttered his passionate
protest in the Priory garden that May morning, when the white petals
of the Guelder roses in Elizabeth's hand lay like snow on the gravel
path, and all this time he had sternly adhered to his resolution.
In those two years he had only paid four visits to the Wood House,
and on two of these occasions Elizabeth had been absent. Each time
he had come on Dinah's invitation, to give her the help and counsel
she needed, and more than once he had met her at 27 Queen's Gate.
For Cedric had had his way, and had effected an introduction between
his sisters and Mrs. Herrick; and as they had mutually taken to each
other, a pleasant intimacy had been the result, and Anna had paid
two or three visits to the Wood House. From the first moment of
their meeting Anna had fallen in love with Dinah. "You must not
think that I do not care for Miss Elizabeth Templeton," she had
observed rather shyly to Malcolm, after her first visit to
Staplegrove--"for I admire and like her more than I can say, and I
am never tired of talking to her--but I do love my dear Miss Dinah!"
And indeed Dinah accepted the girl's innocent worship with great
kindness. "She is a dear child, and Elizabeth and I are very fond of
her," she wrote once to Malcolm; "the thought that some one else is
fond of her too makes me very happy." For at this time it was
evident to all Cedric's friends that a mutual attachment was growing
up between him and Anna.
The years had not been unfruitful to Malcolm, and his name as a
powerful and successful author was firmly established. He no longer
held his appointment, and had given up his dingy chambers in
Lincoln's Inn. His own work fully occupied him, and thanks to his
literary receipts and his mother's generosity, he realised a good
To his own regret and to his friends also, he was no longer a member
of the Keston menage. He had outgrown his homely quarters, and now
occupied one of the new flats in Cheyne Walk, and lived in quite a
palatial fashion, though many a pipe was still smoked in Amias's
studio. Malcolm had emerged from his shell, and mixed freely in
society. His was a name to conjure with, and all the people best
worth knowing gathered round him and delighted to do him homage.
Elizabeth used to read his name sometimes in the columns of the
Times and the Morning Post. "He seems to go everywhere, and to know
every one," she observed once to Dinah; "I am afraid he will be
terribly spoiled." But she only said it to tease Dinah. She knew
that Malcolm Herrick had no overweening estimate of himself--that,
in spite of his success and his many friends, and all the smiles and
adulation lavished on him, at heart he was a lonely man. Perhaps in
her way Elizabeth was lonely too. In spite of her devotion to
David's father, there were times when the narrowness of her life
oppressed her--when her broad sympathies and strong vitality seemed
to cry out for a larger life, for a wider outlook--when she trod the
woodland paths with a sense of weariness--the same path day after
"How tired one gets of it all!" she said to herself one May
afternoon, as she came in sight of the porch where Mr. Carlyon was
reading tranquilly and enjoying the sweet spring air. The curate-in-
charge looked slightly older and had taken to spectacles, but
otherwise there was little change in him. On the whole, his
existence was a very peaceful one. He loved Rotherwood and the
simple, kindly folk amongst whom he lived. His books and Elizabeth's
society were his chief pleasures. If the day passed without seeing
her, Theo noticed that he grew restless and preoccupied, and finally
went across to the Wood House on some excuse or other, to assure
himself that nothing was amiss.
"Father thinks that there is no one like Elizabeth," Theo would
observe: "nothing that she says or does is wrong. If he had his way
they would never be apart;" and Theo was right.
In spite of his short sight, Mr. Carlyon soon detected the signs of
mental weariness on Elizabeth's pale face; for as she seated herself
on the wooden bench beside him, he patted her hand in his tender,
"What is it, my dear?" he asked gently. "You look tired, Elizabeth."
"Do I?" she returned absently; "I feel as though I could walk ten
miles with pleasure. That is the worst, I am so strong that nothing
tires me. Sometimes I fancy it would be a pleasant experience to be
honestly fatigued in some good cause. How one would sleep after it!"
"I thought you always slept well, dear?"
"Oh, so I do: often I fall asleep as soon as my head is on the
pillow. But I wake early--the first twitter of the birds rouses me--
and then life looks so long." Elizabeth spoke in a dejected tone.
"Come and walk," was Mr. Carlyon's only answer to this; "I have been
writing my sermon all the morning, and I feel a bit stiff and
headachy. Let us go down the valley;" and as Elizabeth made no
objection to this, he got his hat and stick, and they sallied forth
together. Outside the gate they came upon the vicar, and the three
walked on together, as Mr. Charrington intended calling at the
Crow's Nest. Elizabeth had been very silent all the way, and had
left the conversation to the two gentlemen. When Mr. Charrington had
quitted them, they turned into the long woodland path that skirted
the valley. It was a beautiful spot, and a favourite resort of
Elizabeth's. She loved to breathe the spicy incense of the pines,
and to watch the shadows move across the valley. As they seated
themselves under a little clump of firs, they could look down into
the dark woods far below. All round them were heather, bracken,
whortleberries, and brambles, and later on the hillside would be a
glory of purple.
"Well, Elizabeth, what is it?" asked Mr. Carlyon, as she still sat
beside him in a brown study, and her brow puckered and lined with
thought. "I am sure I have been patient enough." Then she started
and laughed a little nervously.
"How stupid I am this afternoon! And I have so much to tell you. I
am so ashamed of myself, for I ought to be in such good spirits. The
young people have come to an understanding at last. Cedric and Anna
have written to Dinah; I left her crying for joy over their
"I do not wonder at that--Miss Sheldon is a sweet girl."
"Cedric thinks she is perfect. I wish you could have seen his
letter: he is rapturously happy. And Anna writes so sweetly: she
says it seems like a dream; that she can hardly believe in her
happiness; that she does not deserve it, and that Cedric is
everything that she could desire."
"Ah, they are young--life does not seem long to them, does it,
Elizabeth?" She smiled and shook her head.
"Cedric is going to bring her down on Wednesday, and he wants Mr.
Herrick to come too. Dinah means to ask him, I believe. I tell her
that he is far too busy and important a personage to trouble with
our small family concerns; but Dinah was quite indignant when I said
"She has greater faith in his friendship, you see." But to this
Elizabeth made no answer. She went on talking with assumed eagerness
of the young couple.
"Cedric intends to be married soon," she said. "Mr. Strickland is
going to let them have the Priory, and has taken a cottage for his
own use. How charmed Anna will be when she sees it--the garden is a
dream of beauty, and the house is delightful!" For each summer she
and Dinah had spent weeks at the Priory, and had succeeded in
transforming the place. Anna would have a lovely home, and the
simple country life would be far more to her taste than ever town
had been. Even Mrs. Herrick, who would feel her loss keenly, owned
"And Mr. Herrick is to be asked on this grand occasion? I am glad of
that, Elizabeth;" and here Mr. Carlyon pushed up his spectacles and
peered at her in his mild, short-sighted way. "Do you know, my
child, there is something I have been wanting to say to you for a
long time, and I may as well say it now."
Elizabeth looked at him rather apprehensively: there was something
significant in his manner.
"Something? What do you mean?" she faltered,
"You have been a dear good daughter to me," he went on, clearing his
throat from a slight huskiness, "and if you were my own flesh and
blood you could not be more to me. We have so much in common, have
we not, my dear--and then we both loved David."
"Yes--yes," she murmured, and the ready tears sprang to her eyes.
"We mourned for our dear boy together," he went on slowly, "and
groped our way hand in hand through the darkness. How unhappy we
were three years ago! Even now it is painful to look back on those
days, but, thank God! time and His grace have helped us, and we no
"I am not so sure of that," returned Elizabeth in a low voice; but
he seemed not to hear her.
"You have been very faithful, Elizabeth. If you had been David's
widow you could not have mourned for him more deeply; but, as
David's father, I would bid you mourn no more."
She stared at him with parted lips, but the words would not come.
"Why should you spoil your life, Elizabeth? You are only thirty-
five, and please God there are many, many years before you. Why is
your heart to be empty and your arms unfilled because our precious
boy is in paradise? Do you know, my dear, we often spoke of this--he
and I. Thank God, there were no secrets between us, and he told me
more than once that the thought of your future was always on his
Elizabeth bowed her head on her hands. She was weeping now, though
the tears came very quietly. "If he had only talked to me!" she
"He tried to do so more than once," returned Mr. Carlyon, "but each
time you stopped him. Would you like me to tell you what he said as
well as I can remember his words?" She nodded, but her face was
"It was at Ventnor, and very near the end, and he was talking about
you--living or dying you were his one thought. 'I know how she will
grieve,' he said to me, 'but, father, you must not let her grieve
too long. I think it would trouble me even in paradise--if such a
thing could be--if I thought I had spoilt her life. Elizabeth is
made for happiness--she must not waste her sweetness.' And then--
shall I go on?" but all the same he did not wait for consent--"it
was then that David told me something that I had guessed before--
that some one else loved you, and loved you dearly. I am right, am I
not, Elizabeth?" No answer, but he could see how her hands clutched
each other, as though in sudden agitation.
"'I was beforehand, and he had no chance,' David went on, 'but he is
my superior in everything'--he was always so humble in his own
estimation, dear fellow. 'Father, Malcolm Herrick worships the
ground she walks on. One day he must have his reward.'"
"Oh, hush--hush, for pity's sake," and Elizabeth stretched out her
hand to stop him, but he detained it gently.
"Elizabeth, three years are long enough for mourning, and Mr.
Herrick has been very patient. Why should another life be spoiled?
Why should you doom him as well as yourself to loneliness? I have
not forgotten his look that evening when you were singing to us--it
was the look of a man who is starving for a little happiness, for
the comfort and sweet sustenance that only a wife can give him.
There, I will say no more--I have discharged my conscience, and
repeated my boy's words. I trust they have not been spoken in vain."
His hand rested lightly on her head for a moment as though in
blessing, but no word escaped his lips. Then he rose, and after a
moment Elizabeth joined him, and they walked back silently together.
"You are not vexed with me, my dear?" he asked anxiously, when they
parted at the gate of Rowan Cottage. Then Elizabeth raised her sad
eyes to his.
"Why should I be vexed? You are always so kind--so kind; but you
have said things that have troubled me;" and she left him, and
walked on rapidly until she found herself in the familiar woodland
path, and then she unconsciously slackened her pace.
She felt strangely shaken and agitated. The words her old friend had
spoken had thrilled her as though by an electric shock. It was a
message from the dead. Half-involuntarily she sank down on the bank
in the very spot where Malcolm had picked the honeysuckle. She knew
what it was to be tired now--for the moment she felt weak and
powerless as a little child.
Over and over again she repeated dumbly Mr. Carlyon's words. How
could she doubt that David had spoken them when he had tried with
loving unselfishness to say them to her! Would she ever forget the
tender solemnity of his manner?--
"Elizabeth, life is long as you say, and your great loving heart
must not remain unsatisfied. Do not mourn for me too long--do not
refuse comfort that may be offered to you, if you can be happy,
dear;" but she had stopped him, and he could say no more. Truly, as
his father had said, "living or dying she had been his one thought."
"Oh, how good you were to me, David!" she whispered.
She rose and paced restlessly to and fro, while a bright-eyed robin
watched her from a hazel twig; for other words besides David's were
haunting her, and had been haunting her for two years, thought she
had vainly tried to forget them. Sometimes she would wake from sleep
with her heart beating, and those sad, reproachful words sounding in
"I can never be your friend, Elizabeth." And again, "If either of
you want me, I will come if needs be from the ends of the earth."
Would she ever forget the look on his face as he said this!
She had told him then that she should miss him. In these two years
she had only seen him twice, and each time some strange
embarrassment on her part had seemed to estrange them still more. He
was Dinah's friend, not hers--from her he would have all or nothing.
And yet, as time went on, and that vast loneliness of life pressed
on her more and more, and her woman spirit seemed to wander through
waste places seeking rest and finding none, that silent, patient
love, that seemed to enfold her from a distance, began to appeal to
her more strongly. "Why should another life be spoiled?" Mr. Carlyon
had said. "Ah, why indeed?" she murmured.
Then her mood changed; her face grew hot, and there was a pained
look in her eyes. "I have tried him too much," she thought; "there
are limits even to his patience. Last time I noticed a change: he is
growing weary--perhaps he has seen some one else;" and here she
choked down something like a sob and hurried on.
Dinah wondered what was amiss with her that evening; she seemed so
listless and silent, and took so little interest in the absorbing
topic of Cedric's engagement.
The young couple were to arrive the following afternoon, and Dinah
had arranged to drive to Earlsfield to meet them. As they sat down
to luncheon, she said to Elizabeth, "I am so glad that Mr. Herrick
has promised to come to-morrow; I have just had a telegram from
him;" and she handed it to her sister. Elizabeth was rather a long
time reading it. "Shall be with you by dinner-time. Shall take fly.
Stay two nights."
"Is it not good of him to come, when he is so dreadfully busy?"
continued Dinah in her placid, satisfied voice. "Cedric will be
delighted to have him! Do you think we ought to ask Theo and Mr.
Carlyon to dinner, or would Mr. Herrick prefer just a family party?"
"Oh, I think a family party will suit him best," returned Elizabeth
gravely; "Theo rather bores him with her parish talk;" and Dinah
said no more.
A MAY AFTERNOON
What is this love that now on angel wing
Sweeps us amid the stars in passionate calm.
Elizabeth stood on the terrace in the sweet stillness of a May
afternoon. She had been gathering flowers for the dinner-table and
drawing-room--masses of white and mauve lilac, long golden trails of
laburnum, dainty pink and white May blossoms--but though the Guelder
roses almost dropped into her hand, she passed them by untouched and
with averted eyes. All her life they had been her special
favourites, but now they recalled too vividly a painful episode--the
day when Malcolm Herrick so sternly and so sorrowfully refused her
Malcolm had been nearly twenty-four hours at the Wood House, and she
had hardly exchanged a dozen words with him, and already he had
signified his intention of returning to town the next morning, in
spite of Cedric's vehement protestations. He had arrived so late the
previous evening that he had had only time for a hasty greeting
before he went to his room to prepare for dinner. During the evening
the young couple had naturally engrossed his attention. A harder-
hearted man than Malcolm would have been touched by Anna's innocent
happiness and her shy pride in her handsome young lover. "Does she
not look lovely!" Elizabeth had said to him in a low voice as they
were all gathered on the terrace after dinner. And indeed the girl
looked very fair and sweet in her white silk dress, with a row of
pearls clasped round her soft throat. "You are right; and yet I
never thought Anna really pretty," he returned in a cool, critical
tone. "Happiness is generally a beautifier, and my little girl
certainly looks her best to-night." And then he went after them; and
Elizabeth saw that Anna was hanging on his arm as they went down the
steps and that Cedric's hand was on his shoulder.
"How happy they are!" she thought a little enviously; "they are both
devoted to him, and he certainly returns their affection. He is good
and kind to every one but me," she continued resentfully: "if Dinah
had said that, he would not have answered her so curtly and then
turned on his heel and left her." Here Elizabeth wilfully ignored
the fact that Cedric had signalled to him somewhat impatiently.
"I believe that he has made a vow not to speak to me if he can help
Elizabeth was in a restless, irritable frame of mind that prevented
her from taking a reasonable view of things. If she had been less
alive to her own embarrassment and discomfort, she would have
discovered for herself that Malcolm was ill at ease too.
If he had not talked much to her, he had watched her closely, and it
had troubled and pained him to see how thin and worn she looked; in
the strong light he had even noticed a faint tinge of gray in her
bright brown hair.
"She is pitiless to herself as well as to me," he said to himself
bitterly; "if she goes on like this, she will be an old woman before
her time. Her life is too limited: it suits Dinah, but it does not
suit Elizabeth. Why should she spend her lime teaching village
children and fagging after that old man"--for Malcolm was growing
hopeless and embittered.
The evening had not been productive of much comfort to either of
them; a sense of widening estrangement, of ever-deepening
misunderstanding kept them apart. When Elizabeth went to the piano--
for she had been induced to resume her singing--Malcolm did not
follow her; neither did she sing one of his favourite songs. Even
when Dinah innocently recalled one that she remembered he loved, and
begged her sister to sing it, Elizabeth obstinately refused. "Oh,
that old thing!" she said contemptuously; "I am so tired of it." But
Malcolm was quite aware of her reason for refusing: she would make
no effort to please him, for fear he should be encouraged to repeat
The next morning things were no better. Cedric had asked Malcolm to
walk with them to the valley. It was a glorious morning--bright and
fresh and sweet--"just the day for a prowl," as Cedric said. "You
will come too. Betty?" he continued; but to every one's surprise
Elizabeth demurred to this.
"She was very sorry," she stammered, "but she had promised to go to
"Why, we are all going there after luncheon!" exclaimed Cedric.
"Herrick wants to call at the vicarage, so we can leave him there,
and you can go on to Rowan Cottage."
But again Elizabeth hesitated. "It was a great pity," she returned
hurriedly, "but Mr. Carlyon and Theo were going to Earlsfield in the
afternoon, and she wanted to see Theo particularly about the new
school-books that they were to order at Thornton's. Theo makes such
mistakes," she went on: "the last batch was all wrong and had to be
sent back;" and though Cedric argued with her, and Anna put in a
persuasive word or two, Elizabeth was firm. The afternoon would not
do. She was very sorry to be so unsociable; but it could not be
helped--she must go alone.
All this time Malcolm had said no word. Perhaps if he had, Elizabeth
might have been induced to reconsider her decision. The fact was,
she was getting sore as well as unhappy. "If he had wanted me, he
would have asked me to accompany them," she said to herself, never
dreaming that her brusque, decided manner made any such invitation
on his part a sheer impossibility.
So Elizabeth had her way, and spent a long pottering morning in the
schools and in going over accounts with Theo. More than once she put
back her hair from her hot forehead with a gesture of weariness. How
lovely the valley would look! she thought. How dark the shadows of
the firs would lie! while golden shafts of sunlight would penetrate
between the slender stems! She knew where they would be sitting--on
a shady knoll overlooking the Dale farm and the range of hillside
beyond. They would be talking to him about the Priory, and their
future life, and all their hopes and fears; and he would be
listening to them with that kind smile she knew so well on his lips.
"What is the matter with you, Elizabeth?" cried Theo rather
pettishly; "do you know, you have added up all those figures
"Have I, dear? I am so sorry;" and Elizabeth, with a tired little
sigh, worked her way up the column again. When she had entered the
sum-total, she took up her hat.
"Surely you will wait for father," observed Theo, rather surprised
at this unusual haste; "you know he promised us that he would be
back soon after twelve."
"Yes, I know; but we have a guest staying with us, and I ought not
to absent myself too long. I have seen Mr. Carlyon already and he
will understand. Please give him my love."
Elizabeth could not have told why she was in such a hurry to be
home, or why the morning seemed so endless to her. Theo's tactless
remarks irritated her more than usual; she could hardly control her
impatience as she answered her.
"Theo is very wearisome at times," she thought, as she walked
rapidly through the woodlands.
But after all there had been no need for haste. She found Dinah
alone; the walking party had not returned.
"Oh, how tired you look, Betty dear!"--this had been Dinah's
constant remark of late. "You have been shut up with those noisy
children and Theo all the morning, instead of sitting on the
hillside enjoying the breeze from the moor. I am afraid"--here Dinah
hesitated--"that Mr. Herrick was a little hurt about it. Don't you
think one ought to do something to entertain one's guests?"
This was quite a severe reproof from her gentle sister; but
Elizabeth only laughed a little mirthless laugh.
"He is your guest, not mine, Dinah--you ought to have gone to the
valley yourself"--which was carrying the attack into the enemy's
country. "No one wanted my society--a disagreeable, cross old maid--
eh, Dinah?" Elizabeth's poor little joke nearly ended disastrously,
for her lip quivered and she was very near a sob; but in another
minute she recovered herself, and Dinah wisely said no more.
But the moment Elizabeth saw Malcolm's face at luncheon she knew her
sister was right: he was unusually silent, rather constrained in
manner, and hardly addressed her.
Then an evil spirit of contradiction entered into Elizabeth, and she
became suddenly extremely talkative. To listen to her, Rotherwood
might have been a rustic paradise, full of "village Hampdens and
mute, inglorious Miltons," and that in its idyllic streets peace and
simplicity reigned. Even the heavy, loutish Tommies and Jacks, who
had exasperated her by their dense stupidity that morning, were only
subjects for a humorous anecdote or two, with little effective and
sprightly touches which made Cedric throw back his head with a
boyish laugh. But Malcolm never raised his eyes from his plate. To
him Elizabeth's graphic descriptions were far from amusing. He was
thankful when the meal was over and they were ready to set out for
Dinah had some calls to pay, so Elizabeth had the house to herself
for an hour or two; but she would not be idle for a moment. The sun
was hot on the terrace and flower-beds, but the vases were to be
replenished. Dinah had returned and brought her a cup of tea before
she had finished. "I should not be surprised if they all had tea at
the vicarage," she observed, and Elizabeth assented.
But a little later, as she stood on the terrace with a few sprays of
lilac in her hand, which she meant to carry off to her own room, she
heard Cedric's laugh distinctly from the drive. Her cheeks burned
suddenly and a curious revulsion came over her. She had not expected
them back so soon: she was not ready to meet them. She glanced at
the drawing-room windows behind her. It would not do to go in that
way; they would come face to face in the hall. She would go down to
the Pool; no one would look for her there. He--Mr. Herrick--had
never once been there since that day. She knew how he avoided the
place. Yes, she would be safe there, and could get cool and collect
her thoughts, and to-night she would behave better and sing some of
the old songs. Elizabeth was half over the rustic bridge as she made
this resolution; then she walked quickly through the little gap
which led to the shady pool, with its moss-grown boulders; but the
next minute she recoiled in absolute terror. Some one was standing
there, gazing down into the still water, with bent head and folded
arms. It was Malcolm!
She would have crept away; but at the sound of her footsteps he
turned round, and her retreat was cut off. "You quite startled me,
Mr. Herrick," she said rather nervously; "I thought you never came
here." It was the last thing she ought to have said, but she was
confused by the sudden surprise. A faint smile crossed Malcolm's
"You are right," he said in a curious undertone, "I have never seen
it since that day, three and a half years ago. But it has haunted
me: more than once I have dreamt of it--such foolish dreams! You
were Ophelia, and the water-weeds were strangling you and dragging
you down, and I was trying to help you."
"Well," with a forced laugh, "did you succeed in saving me?"
"I think not; I have a fancy that you told me that you preferred
strangling to my help. Oh, it was only a dream," as Elizabeth looked
rather horrified at this; "my dreams of the Pool were never happy
Elizabeth made no reply to this--perhaps words were a little
difficult at the moment. But as Malcolm said no more, she observed
presently--"I suppose you thought you could exorcise the nightmares
by seeing the place again?" Then he turned round and looked her full
in the face, and the lines round his mouth were fixed and stern.
"No," he said with unnatural calmness, "any such exorcism would be
useless in my case; I have only come to take a last look at it."
Elizabeth's strength seemed to forsake her, and she sank down on the
boulder. "What--what do you mean?" she asked faintly.
"What do I mean?" with a bitter laugh, but his eyes flashed
ominously. "I mean that I am a coward. Cowards run away, do they
not? Elizabeth, I am beaten--I confess it--I am going to give it up.
I shall come here no more."
"No more--not come to the Wood House?" Elizabeth could scarcely gasp
out the words.
"No," he replied quietly, "not even to see your sister. I mean to
tell her so before I leave; she will understand me. Why should I
come here to be treated as you have treated me to-day? Each time I
come you show me more plainly that my love and devotion are nothing
to you. Well, dear as you are to me--God only knows how dear--I can
lead my life without you. Yes, I will free myself from my bonds--I
will be no woman's slave."
If she could only speak! The tears were running down her face now;
he must have seen them if he had looked; but as she put up her hands
to hide them, a little choking sob escaped her and reached his ear.
He bent over her and spoke in a gentler tone. "Why are you weeping,
Elizabeth? Are those tears for yourself or me?"
"For myself," she whispered; "because you are leaving me, and I want
you--I want you so."
Strong man as he was, Malcolm trembled from head to foot with the
sudden shock and revulsion. What could she mean? The next minute he
was kneeling on the ground beside her, and had drawn away her hands,
so that she was as defenceless as a child:
"I must see your face, Elizabeth," very firmly. "You are a truthful
woman, you never deceived any one; let me read the truth in your
eyes. You want me you say--does that mean you are beginning to care
"I think so;" but Elizabeth's eyes refused to meet his.
"Does it mean that you love me well enough to be my wife?" he asked
again, and his voice thrilled her through and through. Then a lovely
colour came to Elizabeth's face.
"I think I do, Malcolm," she whispered timidly. "I believe I have
been caring a long time, but I would not let myself believe it. Oh,"
dropping her hot cheek against his shoulder, "it nearly broke my
heart when you said you would never come again."
"I meant it, dearest; it seemed to me that my last hope was gone.
Oh, my beloved--my own at last!" and then Malcolm's long, passionate
kiss set the seal to their betrothal, and for a little while there
was the silence of a great peace.
An hour had passed--no one had come in search of them, and the
evening shadows were beginning to steal over the Pool--but still
they sat hand in hand, talking earnestly and lovingly after the
manner of lovers, until the gong warned them that it was time to
return to the house. But even then they lingered.
"Is the spirit of the Pool properly exorcised now, Malcolm?" asked
Elizabeth, with her old playfulness. Then he clasped her close.
"I have her safe in my own keeping. Dearest," in a low, vibrating
tone full of tenderness, "if I ever grow supine or forgetful in my
great happiness, and the memory of these long years of misery and
unrest fade away, you must bring me here and I shall remember."
"You shall remember nothing but that I love you," she whispered.
"Malcolm, you will not leave me to-morrow? I cannot part with you so
soon." And he promised that he would certainly remain over Sunday.
Elizabeth had not entirely laid aside her mourning, but the black
silk dress she selected that evening fitted her exquisitely, and the
dull, heavy folds suited her tall, queenly figure. She looked at
herself for a moment, then with a hesitating hand she fastened a
spray of white lilac in her dress. The next moment there was a
familiar tap at her door, and Dinah, flushed and agitated, came into
Elizabeth watched her smilingly; then she opened her arms without a
word, and for a few moments the sisters held each other very
"Oh, Betty, my darling--my darling, if you knew how happy this has
"How did you know, Die--have you seen him?"
"Yes, just now; he was crossing the hall, and I saw his face. We
were alone, there was no one near, and he caught hold of my hands--
oh, such a grip. 'Dinah,' he said--'you will let me call you Dinah
now? for I am going to be your brother.' But we had no time for
another word, for Cedric and Anna came out of the drawing-room."
"We shall not tell them this evening," returned Elizabeth. "Malcolm
has promised to keep it quiet. I told him that only you--my other
self--must know to-night. You will be careful, will you not, Die?"
"Yes, dear, but you must let me hear more. How did it happen, Betty?
I thought you and Malcolm Herrick never meant to speak to each other
again. It has been such a tiresome, uncomfortable day. When I
brought you that cup of tea on the terrace I did so long to say a
word to you; but I saw by your face that I should only make things
"I am glad you refrained. Do you know, Die, I thought I heard them
in the drive--I had no idea that Malcolm had returned an hour
before--and I got into such a panic that I went down to the Pool to
recover myself, and--and he was there."
"At the Pool?"
"Yes, and he heard me, and I was obliged to stay; and then he told
me that the place haunted him, and gave him bad dreams--oh, such
ghastly dreams; and then all at once he said he was taking his last
look at it--that he never meant to come here again."
"Poor fellow, did he really say that?"
"It was poor Betty, I think, then. Oh, Die, if you knew how limp and
helpless I felt when he said that; I trembled so that I was obliged
to sit down, and--and I could not help crying. I know I acted like a
fool, but the next moment I could feel him bending over me, and his
voice was quite changed and gentle when he asked me why I was
"Of course you told him?"
"Yes, I could not keep it back; and then somehow it all came right,
and we were both so happy. Oh, Die, how wonderful it seems that two
such men should love me--my own dear David, and now Malcolm! I am
not young or beautiful, or even clever."
"I think I understand it," returned Dinah, affectionately. And then
Elizabeth put the last touches to her toilet, and a moment later
they went downstairs, and found Malcolm still pacing the hall. He
put out his hand silently to Elizabeth as they followed Dinah into
the dining-room. That warm, quiet grasp was full of comforting
assurance: as long as life lasted Elizabeth would have her lover and
her friend; she had found her rightful mate, and the old restless
days were over.
"MY DEAREST REST"
She loves thee even as far-forth than
As any woman may a man;
And is thine own, and so she says;
And cares for thee ten thousand ways.
Something in Elizabeth's aspect seemed to attract Cedric's
attention; perhaps it was the veiled brightness of her expression,
or the white flowers at her breast, but more than once he eyed her
in a puzzled fashion.
"What have you done to yourself, Betty?" he burst out at last; "you
look scrumptious--ten years younger, and as though you had turned up
trumps;" and though Elizabeth pretended to frown at these personal
remarks, it was impossible not to laugh. Cedric had no idea how
nearly he had gauged the truth: he little knew the good news that
awaited him the next day. The knowledge that his dearest and most
honoured friend was to be his brother-in-law would fill his cup of
bliss to the brim.
Anna was somewhat weary with her unusual exertions that day, and
after dinner Dinah established her in a cosy corner of the drawing-
room, promising that Cedric should come and talk to her there.
"I will stay with you till he comes, and then I have a letter to
write," she observed, for Dinah's tact was never at fault.
Elizabeth kissed her hand to them smilingly; then she wrapped
herself up in a soft fleecy shawl and went out into the moonlight,
and presently Malcolm joined her.
"I had some difficulty in shaking off Cedric," he remarked, as he
took her hand and placed it on his arm; "he was in a talkative mood,
but I told him his ladye-love would be waiting for him. He little
knew my ladye-love was waiting for me too."
"No; how pleased he will be when we tell him." How sweetly that "we"
sounded in Malcolm's ears! "Malcolm, there is something I want to
ask you. Will you go with me to Rotherwood to-morrow? I must see Mr.
Carlyon. He will be so happy about this"--with a light emphasising
pressure on his arm--"and he is like my own father. And then I want
you to come with me to David's grave."
"Did you fear I should refuse?" for Elizabeth's voice had been
somewhat hesitating. "Do you think I should refuse any wish that it
is in my power to gratify?"
"No," she said gently; "I know how good you will be to me--that if
it were possible you would strew my daily path with thornless roses.
But it is not possible, Malcolm."
"Then we will take our share of the briars and thorns together."
"Indeed we will. Malcolm, there is something I want to tell you
before we stand by that grave to-morrow--something I should like you
to know;" and then, in a voice broken by emotion, Elizabeth repeated
the substance of her conversation with Mr. Carlyon.
"It has made me so much happier," she faltered, when she had
finished. Then Malcolm drew her closer to him.
"I am glad you told me this," he said in a moved tone. "Dear
Elizabeth, I have a confession to make. In those old unhappy days I
used to wonder how you could care so much for him. He was good and
true and earnest, and he loved you dearly; but all the same I could
"Dinah and Mrs. Godfrey could not understand either," she replied
gently; "but you none of you knew my David: it made me a better
woman only to be near him. His father has just the same simple,
guileless nature--my two Nathanaels I used to call them."
"Dear, I understand better now," returned Malcolm kindly; "but I ask
myself, could I have done the same in his place? I fear--I greatly
fear, my love is not so selfless. If I had to die and leave you--"
but Elizabeth would not listen to this.
"If you had been in his place you would have been equally generous;
I know your good heart far too well to doubt that, Malcolm."
Elizabeth was a tall woman, and as she bent involuntarily towards
him, her cheek rested for a moment against his; that simple womanly
caress seemed to set the seal to her sacred confidence. But when she
would have moved away he held her fast.
"Elizabeth--Elizabeth," it was all he could say; but it was enough--
no words were needed. Silently they said their Te Deum together, and
the fair white moonlight lay on their bowed heads like a benison.
Two or three days later Malcolm found his way to 27 Queen's Gate,
and entered his mother's study unannounced. Mrs. Herrick was writing
as usual. Her keen gray eyes lighted up with pleasure when she saw
"My dear boy, at this hour--what a delightful surprise! I was just
writing to Anna. Cedric will not hear of bringing her back until
Malcolm smiled at his mother's tone. Strong-willed woman as she was,
he knew that Cedric would rule her utterly; the lad's wheedling ways
and blarneying tongue had already won her heart. Cedric never could
be made to understand why people were afraid of Mrs. Herrick.
"Have you come to spend the afternoon with me, Malcolm?"
"Yes, if you will have me. I have some news for you, mother."
Malcolm was little nervous, and spoke with some abruptness. Mrs.
Herrick laid down her pen and looked at him intently.
"You need not tell me," she returned quietly. "I know your news--I
can read it in your face--Elizabeth Templeton has promised to marry
"Mother, are you a witch?" in an astonished tone. "It is not
possible that any one has betrayed me; Anna and Cedric promised not
to say a word."
"No one has betrayed your confidence, Malcolm; and a mother does not
need witchcraft to enable her to read her children's hearts."
"My dear boy," she continued--her strong features working a little
with emotion,--"do you really imagine that I have been blind all
these years--that, although you chose to withhold your confidence
from me, I was not aware of your trouble. You are a reserved, self-
contained man like your father, Malcolm--he always kept things to
himself too--but all the same you could not hide from your mother
that your poor heart was almost broken because the woman you wanted
refused to marry you."
Malcolm took his mother's hand and kissed it. "You have been very
good to me," he murmured; "but I could not speak, the pain was too
great. Thank God, Elizabeth is mine now."
"I say, thank God, too"--and the keen eyes filled with tears. "Will
you bring her to me, Malcolm?"
"Will I not, mother! But you must send her a message."
"Tell her, that from this hour she shall be the dearest of daughters
to me, and that, for your sake, I shall love her dearly. And tell
her--no, I will keep that for my own lips when we meet--that my son,
God bless him! is worthy of any woman's love." And then, as Malcolm
bent over her, she folded him in her motherly embrace. At that
moment Malcolm and his mother fully understood each other.
Malcolm was anxious to be married as soon as possible; and as his
mother and Dinah were on his side, and there was really no reason
for delay, Elizabeth soon yielded to his persuasions, and a day was
fixed early in August. Cedric and Anna were to wait until the elder
couple returned from Scotland, and then Malcolm would give his
adopted sister away; and after a fair amount of grumbling, Cedric
acquiesced in this arrangement.
In the middle of June, Dinah and Elizabeth paid a long visit to 27
Queen's Gate, and Elizabeth did her shopping and saw the house in
South Kensington that Malcolm had described to her in such glowing
terms. A friend of his had recently bought it and furnished it in
admirable taste; and now his wife's ill-health obliged him to part
with it, and Malcolm was in treaty for it. The sisters were charmed
with the house when they saw it, and Elizabeth strongly advised
Malcolm to take most of the furniture. "It suits the house so
exactly, and it will save you so much trouble," she observed
sensibly; "I know Dinah agrees with me." And Dinah smiled and
"Die has made such a charming suggestion," continued Elizabeth, as
she stepped out through the French window at one end of the long
drawing-room on to a balcony, pleasantly shaded by an awning and
prettily fitted up with flower-boxes and Indian matting and
delightful lounging-chairs. "She says we must call this our town
house, but that the Wood House must be our country house. She wants
us to be there ail the summer and autumn;" and here Elizabeth looked
at Malcolm rather wistfully.
"And you think that arrangement would suit you?" he asked with a
smile; but he knew her answer before hand.
"Oh, I should love to be with Die;" she replied earnestly. "Dear, do
you mean that you will consent? Think what it would mean to me. I
shall not be separated from Mr. Carlyon and my poor people; and I do
so love the country; and we should have our winter and spring in
"I think it will work excellently," returned Malcolm in a tone of
such conviction that Elizabeth's doubts vanished. "I can do my work
as well at Staplegrove as here, and I love the country too. As long
as we are together and you are happy, I shall be satisfied."
"Dearest, how good you are," she whispered, with one of her rare,
shy caresses. "Die has planned everything so beautifully. You know
the large end room we call our morning-room, that is to be your
study. You are to have all your own books and things. Die is going
to fit it up; she says it is to be her wedding present to you. The
smaller room near it is to be the morning-room."
"But you will not leave me alone in my study!" observed Malcolm in
an alarmed voice. "Your writing-table must be there too, Elizabeth.
Do you think I could bear you out of my sight?"
Elizabeth laughed and blushed, and called him a foolish, jealous
boy; but in her heart she loved to think that she was the delight of
his eyes, and that every day she grew dearer to him.
It was the evening before the wedding, and a quiet little house-
party had assembled at the Wood House--Mrs. Herrick and Anna,
Colonel and Mrs. Godfrey; and Malcolm, who had taken up his quarters
at the "King's Arms," had joined them at dinner. The wedding was to
be at an early hour the next morning, and no other guests were to be
invited. Colonel Godfrey would give the bride away, and the vicar
and Mr. Carlyon would perform the ceremony between them. Anna would
be the solitary bridesmaid.
The sunset clouds were fading behind the little fir wood when
Elizabeth and Malcolm came out on the terrace. Elizabeth had been a
little grave and thoughtful during dinner, and Malcolm, who could
read her perfectly, knew that she was somewhat oppressed by all the
talk. The still peacefulness of the evening, only broken by the
sleepy twittering of the birds, seemed to calm and refresh her.
"Malcolm," she said presently, "did you hear what Mrs. Godfrey was
telling me at dinner--that Mr. Rossiter is coming to the Manor
"Yes, I heard her," was the reply. "The Colonel was talking to me
this afternoon; he says it is a foregone conclusion that Leah Jacobi
will not refuse him a third time. His kindness and devotion after
her brother's death have already won her gratitude. Hugh Rossiter is
one of the best fellows I know," he observed, "and Leah will be a
happy woman the day she marries him. And marry him she will, you may
take my word for it."
"Poor Leah, I am so glad he cares for her. Of course you know Mrs.
Richardson is dying, Malcolm, and that she is likely to be left
alone in the world?"
"Yes, and then Hugh Rossiter will have his innings." And Malcolm was
right, for before long the news of Leah's marriage reached them.
"I am so glad Mrs. Godfrey told me that," went on Elizabeth. "I want
every one to be as happy as we are to-night. But for saying good-bye
to Die and Mr. Carlyon I should not have a care. I can think of
David without sadness, and life looks so beautiful. "Dear," with the
vivid, bright smile he loved so well, "I am so glad you are an
author and a famous man--I shall be so proud of you; and though I
cannot share your work as some women could, I can help you in other
ways. I must be your right hand, Malcolm."
"Shall I tell you what you will be to me," he returned, in a voice
of deep, vibrating tenderness that thrilled her through and through.
"I once read an old Scandinavian ballad where a warrior calls his
love 'My dearest Rest.' 'Three grateful words,' the annotator goes
on to say, 'and the most perfect crown of praise that ever woman
won.' Shall I call you that, Elizabeth?--'my dearest Rest.'"
"It is far too beautiful for me," she whispered; "I do not deserve
it." But even as Elizabeth said this, her woman's heart registered
its first wifely vow.
Yes, she would be that to him--his haven and comfort when he was
weary with the storm and stress of life--God helping her, now and
for ever "his dearest Rest."