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it would be to express his concern at my departure; but it was only to say,–‘I should think you will be willing enough to go?’

‘Yes–for some things,’ I replied.

‘For SOME things only–I wonder what should make you regret it?’

I was annoyed at this in some degree; because it embarrassed me: I had only one reason for regretting it; and that was a profound secret, which he had no business to trouble me about.

‘Why,’ said I–‘why should you suppose that I dislike the place?’

‘You told me so yourself,’ was the decisive reply. ‘You said, at least, that you could not live contentedly, without a friend; and that you had no friend here, and no possibility of making one–and, besides, I know you MUST dislike it.’

‘But if you remember rightly, I said, or meant to say, I could not live contentedly without a friend in the world: I was not so unreasonable as to require one always near me. I think I could be happy in a house full of enemies, if–‘ but no; that sentence must not be continued–I paused, and hastily added,–‘And, besides, we cannot well leave a place where we have lived for two or three years, without some feeling of regret.’

‘Will you regret to part with Miss Murray, your sole remaining pupil and companion?’

‘I dare say I shall in some degree: it was not without sorrow I parted with her sister.’

‘I can imagine that.’

‘Well, Miss Matilda is quite as good–better in one respect.’

‘What is that?’

‘She’s honest.’

‘And the other is not?’

‘I should not call her DIShonest; but it must be confessed she’s a little artful.’

‘ARTFUL is she?–I saw she was giddy and vain–and now,’ he added, after a pause, ‘I can well believe she was artful too; but so excessively so as to assume an aspect of extreme simplicity and unguarded openness. Yes,’ continued he, musingly, ‘that accounts for some little things that puzzled me a trifle before.’

After that, he turned the conversation to more general subjects. He did not leave me till we had nearly reached the park-gates: he had certainly stepped a little out of his way to accompany me so far, for he now went back and disappeared down Moss Lane, the entrance of which we had passed some time before. Assuredly I did not regret this circumstance: if sorrow had any place in my heart, it was that he was gone at last–that he was no longer walking by my side, and that that short interval of delightful intercourse was at an end. He had not breathed a word of love, or dropped one hint of tenderness or affection, and yet I had been supremely happy. To be near him, to hear him talk as he did talk, and to feel that he thought me worthy to be so spoken to–capable of understanding and duly appreciating such discourse–was enough.

‘Yes, Edward Weston, I could indeed be happy in a house full of enemies, if I had but one friend, who truly, deeply, and faithfully loved me; and if that friend were you–though we might be far apart–seldom to hear from each other, still more seldom to meet– though toil, and trouble, and vexation might surround me, still–it would be too much happiness for me to dream of! Yet who can tell,’ said I within myself, as I proceeded up the park,–‘who can tell what this one month may bring forth? I have lived nearly three- and-twenty years, and I have suffered much, and tasted little pleasure yet; is it likely my life all through will be so clouded? Is it not possible that God may hear my prayers, disperse these gloomy shadows, and grant me some beams of heaven’s sunshine yet? Will He entirely deny to me those blessings which are so freely given to others, who neither ask them nor acknowledge them when received? May I not still hope and trust? I did hope and trust for a while: but, alas, alas! the time ebbed away: one week followed another, and, excepting one distant glimpse and two transient meetings–during which scarcely anything was said–while I was walking with Miss Matilda, I saw nothing of him: except, of course, at church.

And now, the last Sunday was come, and the last service. I was often on the point of melting into tears during the sermon–the last I was to hear from him: the best I should hear from anyone, I was well assured. It was over–the congregation were departing; and I must follow. I had then seen him, and heard his voice, too, probably for the last time. In the churchyard, Matilda was pounced upon by the two Misses Green. They had many inquiries to make about her sister, and I know not what besides. I only wished they would have done, that we might hasten back to Horton Lodge: I longed to seek the retirement of my own room, or some sequestered nook in the grounds, that I might deliver myself up to my feelings- -to weep my last farewell, and lament my false hopes and vain delusions. Only this once, and then adieu to fruitless dreaming– thenceforth, only sober, solid, sad reality should occupy my mind. But while I thus resolved, a low voice close beside me said–‘I suppose you are going this week, Miss Grey?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. I was very much startled; and had I been at all hysterically inclined, I certainly should have committed myself in some way then. Thank God, I was not.

‘Well,’ said Mr. Weston, ‘I want to bid you good-bye–it is not likely I shall see you again before you go.’

‘Good-bye, Mr. Weston,’ I said. Oh, how I struggled to say it calmly! I gave him my hand. He retained it a few seconds in his.

‘It is possible we may meet again,’ said he; ‘will it be of any consequence to you whether we do or not?’

‘Yes, I should be very glad to see you again.’

I COULD say no less. He kindly pressed my hand, and went. Now, I was happy again–though more inclined to burst into tears than ever. If I had been forced to speak at that moment, a succession of sobs would have inevitably ensued; and as it was, I could not keep the water out of my eyes. I walked along with Miss Murray, turning aside my face, and neglecting to notice several successive remarks, till she bawled out that I was either deaf or stupid; and then (having recovered my self-possession), as one awakened from a fit of abstraction, I suddenly looked up and asked what she had been saying.

CHAPTER XXI–THE SCHOOL

I left Horton Lodge, and went to join my mother in our new abode at A-. I found her well in health, resigned in spirit, and even cheerful, though subdued and sober, in her general demeanour. We had only three boarders and half a dozen day-pupils to commence with; but by due care and diligence we hoped ere long to increase the number of both.

I set myself with befitting energy to discharge the duties of this new mode of life. I call it NEW, for there was, indeed, a considerable difference between working with my mother in a school of our own, and working as a hireling among strangers, despised and trampled upon by old and young; and for the first few weeks I was by no means unhappy. ‘It is possible we may meet again,’ and ‘will it be of any consequence to you whether we do or not?’–Those words still rang in my ear and rested on my heart: they were my secret solace and support. ‘I shall see him again.–He will come; or he will write.’ No promise, in fact, was too bright or too extravagant for Hope to whisper in my ear. I did not believe half of what she told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was far more credulous than I myself supposed; otherwise, why did my heart leap up when a knock was heard at the front door, and the maid, who opened it, came to tell my mother a gentleman wished to see her? and why was I out of humour for the rest of the day, because it proved to be a music-master come to offer his services to our school? and what stopped my breath for a moment, when the postman having brought a couple of letters, my mother said, ‘Here, Agnes, this is for you,’ and threw one of them to me? and what made the hot blood rush into my face when I saw it was directed in a gentleman’s hand? and why–oh! why did that cold, sickening sense of disappointment fall upon me, when I had torn open the cover and found it was ONLY a letter from Mary, which, for some reason or other, her husband had directed for her?

Was it then come to this–that I should be DISAPPOINTED to receive a letter from my only sister: and because it was not written by a comparative stranger? Dear Mary! and she had written it so kindly- -and thinking I should be so pleased to have it!–I was not worthy to read it! And I believe, in my indignation against myself, I should have put it aside till I had schooled myself into a better frame of mind, and was become more deserving of the honour and privilege of its perusal: but there was my mother looking on, and wishful to know what news it contained; so I read it and delivered it to her, and then went into the schoolroom to attend to the pupils: but amidst the cares of copies and sums–in the intervals of correcting errors here, and reproving derelictions of duty there, I was inwardly taking myself to task with far sterner severity. ‘What a fool you must be,’ said my head to my heart, or my sterner to my softer self;–‘how could you ever dream that he would write to you? What grounds have you for such a hope–or that he will see you, or give himself any trouble about you–or even think of you again?’ ‘What grounds?’–and then Hope set before me that last, short interview, and repeated the words I had so faithfully treasured in my memory. ‘Well, and what was there in that?–Who ever hung his hopes upon so frail a twig? What was there in those words that any common acquaintance might not say to another? Of course, it was possible you might meet again: he might have said so if you had been going to New Zealand; but that did not imply any INTENTION of seeing you–and then, as to the question that followed, anyone might ask that: and how did you answer?–Merely with a stupid, commonplace reply, such as you would have given to Master Murray, or anyone else you had been on tolerably civil terms with.’ ‘But, then,’ persisted Hope, ‘the tone and manner in which he spoke.’ ‘Oh, that is nonsense! he always speaks impressively; and at that moment there were the Greens and Miss Matilda Murray just before, and other people passing by, and he was obliged to stand close beside you, and to speak very low, unless he wished everybody to hear what he said, which–though it was nothing at all particular–of course, he would rather not.’ But then, above all, that emphatic, yet gentle pressure of the hand, which seemed to say, ‘TRUST me;’ and many other things besides–too delightful, almost too flattering, to be repeated even to one’s self. ‘Egregious folly–too absurd to require contradiction–mere inventions of the imagination, which you ought to be ashamed of. If you would but consider your own unattractive exterior, your unamiable reserve, your foolish diffidence–which must make you appear cold, dull, awkward, and perhaps ill-tempered too;–if you had but rightly considered these from the beginning, you would never have harboured such presumptuous thoughts: and now that you have been so foolish, pray repent and amend, and let us have no more of it!’

I cannot say that I implicitly obeyed my own injunctions: but such reasoning as this became more and more effective as time wore on, and nothing was seen or heard of Mr. Weston; until, at last, I gave up hoping, for even my heart acknowledged it was all in vain. But still, I would think of him: I would cherish his image in my mind; and treasure every word, look, and gesture that my memory could retain; and brood over his excellences and his peculiarities, and, in fact, all I had seen, heard, or imagined respecting him.

‘Agnes, this sea air and change of scene do you no good, I think: I never saw you look so wretched. It must be that you sit too much, and allow the cares of the schoolroom to worry you. You must learn to take things easy, and to be more active and cheerful; you must take exercise whenever you can get it, and leave the most tiresome duties to me: they will only serve to exercise my patience, and, perhaps, try my temper a little.’

So said my mother, as we sat at work one morning during the Easter holidays. I assured her that my employments were not at all oppressive; that I was well; or, if there was anything amiss, it would be gone as soon as the trying months of spring were over: when summer came I should be as strong and hearty as she could wish to see me: but inwardly her observation startled me. I knew my strength was declining, my appetite had failed, and I was grown listless and desponding;–and if, indeed, he could never care for me, and I could never see him more–if I was forbidden to minister to his happiness–forbidden, for ever, to taste the joys of love, to bless, and to be blessed–then, life must be a burden, and if my heavenly Father would call me away, I should be glad to rest. But it would not do to die and leave my mother. Selfish, unworthy daughter, to forget her for a moment! Was not her happiness committed in a great measure to my charge?–and the welfare of our young pupils too? Should I shrink from the work that God had set before me, because it was not fitted to my taste? Did not He know best what I should do, and where I ought to labour?–and should I long to quit His service before I had finished my task, and expect to enter into His rest without having laboured to earn it? ‘No; by His help I will arise and address myself diligently to my appointed duty. If happiness in this world is not for me, I will endeavour to promote the welfare of those around me, and my reward shall be hereafter.’ So said I in my heart; and from that hour I only permitted my thoughts to wander to Edward Weston–or at least to dwell upon him now and then–as a treat for rare occasions: and, whether it was really the approach of summer or the effect of these good resolutions, or the lapse of time, or all together, tranquillity of mind was soon restored; and bodily health and vigour began likewise, slowly, but surely, to return.

Early in June, I received a letter from Lady Ashby, late Miss Murray. She had written to me twice or thrice before, from the different stages of her bridal tour, always in good spirits, and professing to be very happy. I wondered every time that she had not forgotten me, in the midst of so much gaiety and variety of scene. At length, however, there was a pause; and it seemed she had forgotten me, for upwards of seven months passed away and no letter. Of course, I did not break my heart about THAT, though I often wondered how she was getting on; and when this last epistle so unexpectedly arrived, I was glad enough to receive it. It was dated from Ashby Park, where she was come to settle down at last, having previously divided her time between the continent and the metropolis. She made many apologies for having neglected me so long, assured me she had not forgotten me, and had often intended to write, &c. &c., but had always been prevented by something. She acknowledged that she had been leading a very dissipated life, and I should think her very wicked and very thoughtless; but, notwithstanding that, she thought a great deal, and, among other things, that she should vastly like to see me. ‘We have been several days here already,’ wrote she. ‘We have not a single friend with us, and are likely to be very dull. You know I never had a fancy for living with my husband like two turtles in a nest, were he the most delightful creature that ever wore a coat; so do take pity upon me and come. I suppose your Midsummer holidays commence in June, the same as other people’s; therefore you cannot plead want of time; and you must and shall come–in fact, I shall die if you don’t. I want you to visit me as a friend, and stay a long time. There is nobody with me, as I told you before, but Sir Thomas and old Lady Ashby: but you needn’t mind them–they’ll trouble us but little with their company. And you shall have a room to yourself, whenever you like to retire to it, and plenty of books to read when my company is not sufficiently amusing. I forget whether you like babies; if you do, you may have the pleasure of seeing mine–the most charming child in the world, no doubt; and all the more so, that I am not troubled with nursing it- -I was determined I wouldn’t be bothered with that. Unfortunately, it is a girl, and Sir Thomas has never forgiven me: but, however, if you will only come, I promise you shall be its governess as soon as it can speak; and you shall bring it up in the way it should go, and make a better woman of it than its mamma. And you shall see my poodle, too: a splendid little charmer imported from Paris: and two fine Italian paintings of great value–I forget the artist. Doubtless you will be able to discover prodigious beauties in them, which you must point out to me, as I only admire by hearsay; and many elegant curiosities besides, which I purchased at Rome and elsewhere; and, finally, you shall see my new home–the splendid house and grounds I used to covet so greatly. Alas! how far the promise of anticipation exceeds the pleasure of possession! There’s a fine sentiment! I assure you I am become quite a grave old matron: pray come, if it be only to witness the wonderful change. Write by return of post, and tell me when your vacation commences, and say that you will come the day after, and stay till the day before it closes–in mercy to

‘Yours affectionately,

‘ROSALIE ASHBY.’

I showed this strange epistle to my mother, and consulted her on what I ought to do. She advised me to go; and I went–willing enough to see Lady Ashby, and her baby, too, and to do anything I could to benefit her, by consolation or advice; for I imagined she must be unhappy, or she would not have applied to me thus–but feeling, as may readily be conceived, that, in accepting the invitation, I made a great sacrifice for her, and did violence to my feelings in many ways, instead of being delighted with the honourable distinction of being entreated by the baronet’s lady to visit her as a friend. However, I determined my visit should be only for a few days at most; and I will not deny that I derived some consolation from the idea that, as Ashby Park was not very far from Horton, I might possibly see Mr. Weston, or, at least, hear something about him.

CHAPTER XXII–THE VISIT

Ashby Park was certainly a very delightful residence. The mansion was stately without, commodious and elegant within; the park was spacious and beautiful, chiefly on account of its magnificent old trees, its stately herds of deer, its broad sheet of water, and the ancient woods that stretched beyond it: for there was no broken ground to give variety to the landscape, and but very little of that undulating swell which adds so greatly to the charm of park scenery. And so, this was the place Rosalie Murray had so longed to call her own, that she must have a share of it, on whatever terms it might be offered–whatever price was to be paid for the title of mistress, and whoever was to be her partner in the honour and bliss of such a possession! Well I am not disposed to censure her now.

She received me very kindly; and, though I was a poor clergyman’s daughter, a governess, and a schoolmistress, she welcomed me with unaffected pleasure to her home; and–what surprised me rather– took some pains to make my visit agreeable. I could see, it is true, that she expected me to be greatly struck with the magnificence that surrounded her; and, I confess, I was rather annoyed at her evident efforts to reassure me, and prevent me from being overwhelmed by so much grandeur–too much awed at the idea of encountering her husband and mother-in-law, or too much ashamed of my own humble appearance. I was not ashamed of it at all; for, though plain, I had taken good care not to shabby or mean, and should have been pretty considerably at my ease, if my condescending hostess had not taken such manifest pains to make me so; and, as for the magnificence that surrounded her, nothing that met my eyes struck me or affected me half so much as her own altered appearance. Whether from the influence of fashionable dissipation, or some other evil, a space of little more than twelve months had had the effect that might be expected from as many years, in reducing the plumpness of her form, the freshness of her complexion, the vivacity of her movements, and the exuberance of her spirits.

I wished to know if she was unhappy; but I felt it was not my province to inquire: I might endeavour to win her confidence; but, if she chose to conceal her matrimonial cares from me, I would trouble her with no obtrusive questions. I, therefore, at first, confined myself to a few general inquiries about her health and welfare, and a few commendations on the beauty of the park, and of the little girl that should have been a boy: a small delicate infant of seven or eight weeks old, whom its mother seemed to regard with no remarkable degree of interest or affection, though full as much as I expected her to show.

Shortly after my arrival, she commissioned her maid to conduct me to my room and see that I had everything I wanted; it was a small, unpretending, but sufficiently comfortable apartment. When I descended thence–having divested myself of all travelling encumbrances, and arranged my toilet with due consideration for the feelings of my lady hostess, she conducted me herself to the room I was to occupy when I chose to be alone, or when she was engaged with visitors, or obliged to be with her mother-in-law, or otherwise prevented, as she said, from enjoying the pleasure of my society. It was a quiet, tidy little sitting-room; and I was not sorry to be provided with such a harbour of refuge.

‘And some time,’ said she, ‘I will show you the library: I never examined its shelves, but, I daresay, it is full of wise books; and you may go and burrow among them whenever you please. And now you shall have some tea–it will soon be dinner-time, but I thought, as you were accustomed to dine at one, you would perhaps like better to have a cup of tea about this time, and to dine when we lunch: and then, you know, you can have your tea in this room, and that will save you from having to dine with Lady Ashby and Sir Thomas: which would be rather awkward–at least, not awkward, but rather– a–you know what I mean. I thought you mightn’t like it so well– especially as we may have other ladies and gentlemen to dine with us occasionally.’

‘Certainly,’ said I, ‘I would much rather have it as you say, and, if you have no objection, I should prefer having all my meals in this room.’

‘Why so?’

‘Because, I imagine, it would be more agreeable to Lady Ashby and Sir Thomas.’

‘Nothing of the kind.’

‘At any rate it would be more agreeable to me.’

She made some faint objections, but soon conceded; and I could see that the proposal was a considerable relief to her.

‘Now, come into the drawing-room,’ said she. ‘There’s the dressing bell; but I won’t go yet: it’s no use dressing when there’s no one to see you; and I want to have a little discourse.’

The drawing-room was certainly an imposing apartment, and very elegantly furnished; but I saw its young mistress glance towards me as we entered, as if to notice how I was impressed by the spectacle, and accordingly I determined to preserve an aspect of stony indifference, as if I saw nothing at all remarkable. But this was only for a moment: immediately conscience whispered, ‘Why should I disappoint her to save my pride? No–rather let me sacrifice my pride to give her a little innocent gratification.’ And I honestly looked round, and told her it was a noble room, and very tastefully furnished. She said little, but I saw she was pleased.

She showed me her fat French poodle, that lay curled up on a silk cushion, and the two fine Italian paintings: which, however, she would not give me time to examine, but, saying I must look at them some other day, insisted upon my admiring the little jewelled watch she had purchased in Geneva; and then she took me round the room to point out sundry articles of vertu she had brought from Italy: an elegant little timepiece, and several busts, small graceful figures, and vases, all beautifully carved in white marble. She spoke of these with animation, and heard my admiring comments with a smile of pleasure: that soon, however, vanished, and was followed by a melancholy sigh; as if in consideration of the insufficiency of all such baubles to the happiness of the human heart, and their woeful inability to supply its insatiate demands.

Then, stretching herself upon a couch, she motioned me to a capacious easy-chair that stood opposite–not before the fire, but before a wide open window; for it was summer, be it remembered; a sweet, warm evening in the latter half of June. I sat for a moment in silence, enjoying the still, pure air, and the delightful prospect of the park that lay before me, rich in verdure and foliage, and basking in yellow sunshine, relieved by the long shadows of declining day. But I must take advantage of this pause: I had inquiries to make, and, like the substance of a lady’s postscript, the most important must come last. So I began with asking after Mr. and Mrs. Murray, and Miss Matilda and the young gentlemen.

I was told that papa had the gout, which made him very ferocious; and that he would not give up his choice wines, and his substantial dinners and suppers, and had quarrelled with his physician, because the latter had dared to say that no medicine could cure him while he lived so freely; that mamma and the rest were well. Matilda was still wild and reckless, but she had got a fashionable governess, and was considerably improved in her manners, and soon to be introduced to the world; and John and Charles (now at home for the holidays) were, by all accounts, ‘fine, bold, unruly, mischievous boys.’

‘And how are the other people getting on?’ said I–‘the Greens, for instance?’

‘Ah! Mr. Green is heart-broken, you know,’ replied she, with a languid smile: ‘he hasn’t got over his disappointment yet, and never will, I suppose. He’s doomed to be an old bachelor; and his sisters are doing their best to get married.’

‘And the Melthams?’

‘Oh, they’re jogging on as usual, I suppose: but I know very little about any of them–except Harry,’ said she, blushing slightly, and smiling again. ‘I saw a great deal of him while we were in London; for, as soon as he heard we were there, he came up under pretence of visiting his brother, and either followed me, like a shadow, wherever I went, or met me, like a reflection, at every turn. You needn’t look so shocked, Miss Grey; I was very discreet, I assure you, but, you know, one can’t help being admired. Poor fellow! He was not my only worshipper; though he was certainly the most conspicuous, and, I think, the most devoted among them all. And that detestable–ahem–and Sir Thomas chose to take offence at him–or my profuse expenditure, or something–I don’t exactly know what–and hurried me down to the country at a moment’s notice; where I’m to play the hermit, I suppose, for life.’

And she bit her lip, and frowned vindictively upon the fair domain she had once so coveted to call her own.

‘And Mr. Hatfield,’ said I, ‘what is become of him?’

Again she brightened up, and answered gaily–‘Oh! he made up to an elderly spinster, and married her, not long since; weighing her heavy purse against her faded charms, and expecting to find that solace in gold which was denied him in love–ha, ha!’

‘Well, and I think that’s all–except Mr. Weston: what is he doing?’

‘I don’t know, I’m sure. He’s gone from Horton.’

‘How long since? and where is he gone to?’

‘I know nothing about him,’ replied she, yawning–‘except that he went about a month ago–I never asked where’ (I would have asked whether it was to a living or merely another curacy, but thought it better not); ‘and the people made a great rout about his leaving,’ continued she, ‘much to Mr. Hatfield’s displeasure; for Hatfield didn’t like him, because he had too much influence with the common people, and because he was not sufficiently tractable and submissive to him–and for some other unpardonable sins, I don’t know what. But now I positively must go and dress: the second bell will ring directly, and if I come to dinner in this guise, I shall never hear the end of it from Lady Ashby. It’s a strange thing one can’t be mistress in one’s own house! Just ring the bell, and I’ll send for my maid, and tell them to get you some tea. Only think of that intolerable woman–‘

‘Who–your maid?’

‘No;–my mother-in-law–and my unfortunate mistake! Instead of letting her take herself off to some other house, as she offered to do when I married, I was fool enough to ask her to live here still, and direct the affairs of the house for me; because, in the first place, I hoped we should spend the greater part of the year, in town, and in the second place, being so young and inexperienced, I was frightened at the idea of having a houseful of servants to manage, and dinners to order, and parties to entertain, and all the rest of it, and I thought she might assist me with her experience; never dreaming she would prove a usurper, a tyrant, an incubus, a spy, and everything else that’s detestable. I wish she was dead!’

She then turned to give her orders to the footman, who had been standing bolt upright within the door for the last half minute, and had heard the latter part of her animadversions; and, of course, made his own reflections upon them, notwithstanding the inflexible, wooden countenance he thought proper to preserve in the drawing- room. On my remarking afterwards that he must have heard her, she replied–‘Oh, no matter! I never care about the footmen; they’re mere automatons: it’s nothing to them what their superiors say or do; they won’t dare to repeat it; and as to what they think–if they presume to think at all–of course, nobody cares for that. It would be a pretty thing indeed, it we were to be tongue-tied by our servants!’

So saying, she ran off to make her hasty toilet, leaving me to pilot my way back to my sitting-room, where, in due time, I was served with a cup of tea. After that, I sat musing on Lady Ashby’s past and present condition; and on what little information I had obtained respecting Mr. Weston, and the small chance there was of ever seeing or hearing anything more of him throughout my quiet, drab-colour life: which, henceforth, seemed to offer no alternative between positive rainy days, and days of dull grey clouds without downfall. At length, however, I began to weary of my thoughts, and to wish I knew where to find the library my hostess had spoken of; and to wonder whether I was to remain there doing nothing till bed-time.

As I was not rich enough to possess a watch, I could not tell how time was passing, except by observing the slowly lengthening shadows from the window; which presented a side view, including a corner of the park, a clump of trees whose topmost branches had been colonized by an innumerable company of noisy rooks, and a high wall with a massive wooden gate: no doubt communicating with the stable-yard, as a broad carriage-road swept up to it from the park. The shadow of this wall soon took posession of the whole of the ground as far as I could see, forcing the golden sunlight to retreat inch by inch, and at last take refuge in the very tops of the trees. Ere long, even they were left in shadow–the shadow of the distant hills, or of the earth itself; and, in sympathy for the busy citizens of the rookery, I regretted to see their habitation, so lately bathed in glorious light, reduced to the sombre, work-a- day hue of the lower world, or of my own world within. For a moment, such birds as soared above the rest might still receive the lustre on their wings, which imparted to their sable plumage the hue and brilliance of deep red gold; at last, that too departed. Twilight came stealing on; the rooks became more quiet; I became more weary, and wished I were going home to-morrow. At length it grew dark; and I was thinking of ringing for a candle, and betaking myself to bed, when my hostess appeared, with many apologies for having neglected me so long, and laying all the blame upon that ‘nasty old woman,’ as she called her mother-in-law.

‘If I didn’t sit with her in the drawing-room while Sir Thomas is taking his wine,’ said she, ‘she would never forgive me; and then, if I leave the room the instant he comes–as I have done once or twice–it is an unpardonable offence against her dear Thomas. SHE never showed such disrespect to HER husband: and as for affection, wives never think of that now-a-days, she supposes: but things were different in HER time–as if there was any good to be done by staying in the room, when he does nothing but grumble and scold when he’s in a bad humour, talk disgusting nonsense when he’s in a good one, and go to sleep on the sofa when he’s too stupid for either; which is most frequently the case now, when he has nothing to do but to sot over his wine.’

‘But could you not try to occupy his mind with something better; and engage him to give up such habits? I’m sure you have powers of persuasion, and qualifications for amusing a gentleman, which many ladies would be glad to possess.’

‘And so you think I would lay myself out for his amusement! No: that’s not MY idea of a wife. It’s the husband’s part to please the wife, not hers to please him; and if he isn’t satisfied with her as she is–and thankful to possess her too–he isn’t worthy of her, that’s all. And as for persuasion, I assure you I shan’t trouble myself with that: I’ve enough to do to bear with him as he is, without attempting to work a reform. But I’m sorry I left you so long alone, Miss Grey. How have you passed the time?’

‘Chiefly in watching the rooks.’

‘Mercy, how dull you must have been! I really must show you the library; and you must ring for everything you want, just as you would in an inn, and make yourself comfortable. I have selfish reasons for wishing to make you happy, because I want you to stay with me, and not fulfil your horrid threat of running away in a day or two.’

‘Well, don’t let me keep you out of the drawing-room any longer to- night, for at present I am tired and wish to go to bed.’

CHAPTER XXIII–THE PARK

I came down a little before eight, next morning, as I knew by the striking of a distant clock. There was no appearance of breakfast. I waited above an hour before it came, still vainly longing for access to the library; and, after that lonely repast was concluded, I waited again about an hour and a half in great suspense and discomfort, uncertain what to do. At length Lady Ashby came to bid me good-morning. She informed me she had only just breakfasted, and now wanted me to take an early walk with her in the park. She asked how long I had been up, and on receiving my answer, expressed the deepest regret, and again promised to show me the library. I suggested she had better do so at once, and then there would be no further trouble either with remembering or forgetting. She complied, on condition that I would not think of reading, or bothering with the books now; for she wanted to show me the gardens, and take a walk in the park with me, before it became too hot for enjoyment; which, indeed, was nearly the case already. Of course I readily assented; and we took our walk accordingly.

As we were strolling in the park, talking of what my companion had seen and heard during her travelling experience, a gentleman on horseback rode up and passed us. As he turned, in passing, and stared me full in the face, I had a good opportunity of seeing what he was like. He was tall, thin, and wasted, with a slight stoop in the shoulders, a pale face, but somewhat blotchy, and disagreeably red about the eyelids, plain features, and a general appearance of languor and flatness, relieved by a sinister expression in the mouth and the dull, soulless eyes.

‘I detest that man!’ whispered Lady Ashby, with bitter emphasis, as he slowly trotted by.

‘Who is it?’ I asked, unwilling to suppose that she should so speak of her husband.

‘Sir Thomas Ashby,’ she replied, with dreary composure.

‘And do you DETEST him, Miss Murray?’ said I, for I was too much shocked to remember her name at the moment.

‘Yes, I do, Miss Grey, and despise him too; and if you knew him you would not blame me.’

‘But you knew what he was before you married him.’

‘No; I only thought so: I did not half know him really. I know you warned me against it, and I wish I had listened to you: but it’s too late to regret that now. And besides, mamma ought to have known better than either of us, and she never said anything against it–quite the contrary. And then I thought he adored me, and would let me have my own way: he did pretend to do so at first, but now he does not care a bit about me. Yet I should not care for that: he might do as he pleased, if I might only be free to amuse myself and to stay in London, or have a few friends down here: but HE WILL do as he pleases, and I must be a prisoner and a slave. The moment he saw I could enjoy myself without him, and that others knew my value better than himself, the selfish wretch began to accuse me of coquetry and extravagance; and to abuse Harry Meltham, whose shoes he was not worthy to clean. And then he must needs have me down in the country, to lead the life of a nun, lest I should dishonour him or bring him to ruin; as if he had not been ten times worse every way, with his betting-book, and his gaming- table, and his opera-girls, and his Lady This and Mrs. That–yes, and his bottles of wine, and glasses of brandy-and-water too! Oh, I would give ten thousand worlds to be Mss Murray again! It is TOO bad to feel life, health, and beauty wasting away, unfelt and unenjoyed, for such a brute as that!’ exclaimed she, fairly bursting into tears in the bitterness of her vexation.

Of course, I pitied her exceedingly; as well for her false idea of happiness and disregard of duty, as for the wretched partner with whom her fate was linked. I said what I could to comfort her, and offered such counsels as I thought she most required: advising her, first, by gentle reasoning, by kindness, example, and persuasion, to try to ameliorate her husband; and then, when she had done all she could, if she still found him incorrigible, to endeavour to abstract herself from him–to wrap herself up in her own integrity, and trouble herself as little about him as possible. I exhorted her to seek consolation in doing her duty to God and man, to put her trust in Heaven, and solace herself with the care and nurture of her little daughter; assuring her she would be amply rewarded by witnessing its progress in strength and wisdom, and receiving its genuine affection.

‘But I can’t devote myself entirely to a child,’ said she; ‘it may die–which is not at all improbable.’

‘But, with care, many a delicate infant has become a strong man or woman.’

‘But it may grow so intolerably like its father that I shall hate it.’

‘That is not likely; it is a little girl, and strongly resembles its mother.’

‘No matter; I should like it better if it were a boy–only that its father will leave it no inheritance that he can possibly squander away. What pleasure can I have in seeing a girl grow up to eclipse me, and enjoy those pleasures that I am for ever debarred from? But supposing I could be so generous as to take delight in this, still it is ONLY a child; and I can’t centre all my hopes in a child: that is only one degree better than devoting oneself to a dog. And as for all the wisdom and goodness you have been trying to instil into me–that is all very right and proper, I daresay, and if I were some twenty years older, I might fructify by it: but people must enjoy themselves when they are young; and if others won’t let them–why, they must hate them for it!’

‘The best way to enjoy yourself is to do what is right and hate nobody. The end of Religion is not to teach us how to die, but how to live; and the earlier you become wise and good, the more of happiness you secure. And now, Lady Ashby, I have one more piece of advice to offer you, which is, that you will not make an enemy of your mother-in-law. Don’t get into the way of holding her at arms’ length, and regarding her with jealous distrust. I never saw her, but I have heard good as well as evil respecting her; and I imagine that, though cold and haughty in her general demeanour, and even exacting in her requirements, she has strong affections for those who can reach them; and, though so blindly attached to her son, she is not without good principles, or incapable of hearing reason. If you would but conciliate her a little, and adopt a friendly, open manner–and even confide your grievances to her– real grievances, such as you have a right to complain of–it is my firm belief that she would, in time, become your faithful friend, and a comfort and support to you, instead of the incubus you describe her.’ But I fear my advice had little effect upon the unfortunate young lady; and, finding I could render myself so little serviceable, my residence at Ashby Park became doubly painful. But still, I must stay out that day and the following one, as I had promised to do so: though, resisting all entreaties and inducements to prolong my visit further, I insisted upon departing the next morning; affirming that my mother would be lonely without me, and that she impatiently expected my return. Nevertheless, it was with a heavy heart that I bade adieu to poor Lady Ashby, and left her in her princely home. It was no slight additional proof of her unhappiness, that she should so cling to the consolation of my presence, and earnestly desire the company of one whose general tastes and ideas were so little congenial to her own–whom she had completely forgotten in her hour of prosperity, and whose presence would be rather a nuisance than a pleasure, if she could but have half her heart’s desire.

CHAPTER XXIV–THE SANDS

Our school was not situated in the heart of the town: on entering A— from the north-west there is a row of respectable-looking houses, on each side of the broad, white road, with narrow slips of garden-ground before them, Venetian blinds to the windows, and a flight of steps leading to each trim, brass-handled door. In one of the largest of these habitations dwelt my mother and I, with such young ladies as our friends and the public chose to commit to our charge. Consequently, we were a considerable distance from the sea, and divided from it by a labyrinth of streets and houses. But the sea was my delight; and I would often gladly pierce the town to obtain the pleasure of a walk beside it, whether with the pupils, or alone with my mother during the vacations. It was delightful to me at all times and seasons, but especially in the wild commotion of a rough sea-breeze, and in the brilliant freshness of a summer morning.

I awoke early on the third morning after my return from Ashby Park- -the sun was shining through the blind, and I thought how pleasant it would be to pass through the quiet town and take a solitary ramble on the sands while half the world was in bed. I was not long in forming the resolution, nor slow to act upon it. Of course I would not disturb my mother, so I stole noiselessly downstairs, and quietly unfastened the door. I was dressed and out, when the church clock struck a quarter to six. There was a feeling of freshness and vigour in the very streets; and when I got free of the town, when my foot was on the sands and my face towards the broad, bright bay, no language can describe the effect of the deep, clear azure of the sky and ocean, the bright morning sunshine on the semicircular barrier of craggy cliffs surmounted by green swelling hills, and on the smooth, wide sands, and the low rocks out at sea–looking, with their clothing of weeds and moss, like little grass-grown islands–and above all, on the brilliant, sparkling waves. And then, the unspeakable purity–and freshness of the air! There was just enough heat to enhance the value of the breeze, and just enough wind to keep the whole sea in motion, to make the waves come bounding to the shore, foaming and sparkling, as if wild with glee. Nothing else was stirring–no living creature was visible besides myself. My footsteps were the first to press the firm, unbroken sands;–nothing before had trampled them since last night’s flowing tide had obliterated the deepest marks of yesterday, and left them fair and even, except where the subsiding water had left behind it the traces of dimpled pools and little running streams.

Refreshed, delighted, invigorated, I walked along, forgetting all my cares, feeling as if I had wings to my feet, and could go at least forty miles without fatigue, and experiencing a sense of exhilaration to which I had been an entire stranger since the days of early youth. About half-past six, however, the grooms began to come down to air their masters’ horses–first one, and then another, till there were some dozen horses and five or six riders: but that need not trouble me, for they would not come as far as the low rocks which I was now approaching. When I had reached these, and walked over the moist, slippery sea-weed (at the risk of floundering into one of the numerous pools of clear, salt water that lay between them), to a little mossy promontory with the sea splashing round it, I looked back again to see who next was stirring. Still, there were only the early grooms with their horses, and one gentleman with a little dark speck of a dog running before him, and one water-cart coming out of the town to get water for the baths. In another minute or two, the distant bathing machines would begin to move, and then the elderly gentlemen of regular habits and sober quaker ladies would be coming to take their salutary morning walks. But however interesting such a scene might be, I could not wait to witness it, for the sun and the sea so dazzled my eyes in that direction, that I could but afford one glance; and then I turned again to delight myself with the sight and the sound of the sea, dashing against my promontory–with no prodigious force, for the swell was broken by the tangled sea-weed and the unseen rocks beneath; otherwise I should soon have been deluged with spray. But the tide was coming in; the water was rising; the gulfs and lakes were filling; the straits were widening: it was time to seek some safer footing; so I walked, skipped, and stumbled back to the smooth, wide sands, and resolved to proceed to a certain bold projection in the cliffs, and then return.

Presently, I heard a snuffling sound behind me and then a dog came frisking and wriggling to my feet. It was my own Snap–the little dark, wire-haired terrier! When I spoke his name, he leapt up in my face and yelled for joy. Almost as much delighted as himself, I caught the little creature in my arms, and kissed him repeatedly. But how came he to be there? He could not have dropped from the sky, or come all that way alone: it must be either his master, the rat-catcher, or somebody else that had brought him; so, repressing my extravagant caresses, and endeavouring to repress his likewise, I looked round, and beheld–Mr. Weston!

‘Your dog remembers you well, Miss Grey,’ said he, warmly grasping the hand I offered him without clearly knowing what I was about. ‘You rise early.’

‘Not often so early as this,’ I replied, with amazing composure, considering all the circumstances of the case.

‘How far do you purpose to extend your walk?’

‘I was thinking of returning–it must be almost time, I think.’

He consulted his watch–a gold one now–and told me it was only five minutes past seven.

‘But, doubtless, you have had a long enough walk,’ said he, turning towards the town, to which I now proceeded leisurely to retrace my steps; and he walked beside me.

‘In what part of the town do you live?’ asked he. ‘I never could discover.’

Never could discover? Had he endeavoured to do so then? I told him the place of our abode. He asked how we prospered in our affairs. I told him we were doing very well–that we had had a considerable addition to our pupils after the Christmas vacation, and expected a still further increase at the close of this.

‘You must be an accomplished instructor,’ he observed.

‘No, it is my mother,’ I replied; ‘she manages things so well, and is so active, and clever, and kind.’

‘I should like to know your mother. Will you introduce me to her some time, if I call?’

‘Yes, willingly.’

‘And will you allow me the privilege of an old friend, of looking in upon you now and then?’

‘Yes, if–I suppose so.’

This was a very foolish answer, but the truth was, I considered that I had no right to invite anyone to my mother’s house without her knowledge; and if I had said, ‘Yes, if my mother does not object,’ it would appear as if by his question I understood more than was expected; so, SUPPOSING she would not, I added, ‘I suppose so:’ but of course I should have said something more sensible and more polite, if I had had my wits about me. We continued our walk for a minute in silence; which, however, was shortly relieved (no small relief to me) by Mr. Weston commenting upon the brightness of the morning and the beauty of the bay, and then upon the advantages A— possessed over many other fashionable places of resort.

‘You don’t ask what brings me to A— ‘ said he. ‘You can’t suppose I’m rich enough to come for my own pleasure.’

‘I heard you had left Horton.’

‘You didn’t hear, then, that I had got the living of F-?’

F— was a village about two miles distant from A-.

‘No,’ said I; ‘we live so completely out of the world, even here, that news seldom reaches me through any quarter; except through the medium of the–Gazette. But I hope you like your new parish; and that I may congratulate you on the acquisition?’

‘I expect to like my parish better a year or two hence, when I have worked certain reforms I have set my heart upon–or, at least, progressed some steps towards such an achievement. But you may congratulate me now; for I find it very agreeable to HAVE a parish all to myself, with nobody to interfere with me–to thwart my plans or cripple my exertions: and besides, I have a respectable house in a rather pleasant neighbourhood, and three hundred pounds a year; and, in fact, I have nothing but solitude to complain of, and nothing but a companion to wish for.’

He looked at me as he concluded: and the flash of his dark eyes seemed to set my face on fire; greatly to my own discomfiture, for to evince confusion at such a juncture was intolerable. I made an effort, therefore, to remedy the evil, and disclaim all personal application of the remark by a hasty, ill-expressed reply, to the effect that, if he waited till he was well known in the neighbourhood, he might have numerous opportunities for supplying his want among the residents of F— and its vicinity, or the visitors of A—, if he required so ample a choice: not considering the compliment implied by such an assertion, till his answer made me aware of it.

‘I am not so presumptuous as to believe that,’ said he, ‘though you tell it me; but if it were so, I am rather particular in my notions of a companion for life, and perhaps I might not find one to suit me among the ladies you mention.’

‘If you require perfection, you never will.’

‘I do not–I have no right to require it, as being so far from perfect myself.’

Here the conversation was interrupted by a water-cart lumbering past us, for we were now come to the busy part of the sands; and, for the next eight or ten minutes, between carts and horses, and asses, and men, there was little room for social intercourse, till we had turned our backs upon the sea, and begun to ascend the precipitous road leading into the town. Here my companion offered me his arm, which I accepted, though not with the intention of using it as a support.

‘You don’t often come on to the sands, I think,’ said he, ‘for I have walked there many times, both morning and evening, since I came, and never seen you till now; and several times, in passing through the town, too, I have looked about for your school–but I did not think of the–Road; and once or twice I made inquiries, but without obtaining the requisite information.’

When we had surmounted the acclivity, I was about to withdraw my arm from his, but by a slight tightening of the elbow was tacitly informed that such was not his will, and accordingly desisted. Discoursing on different subjects, we entered the town, and passed through several streets. I saw that he was going out of his way to accompany me, notwithstanding the long walk that was yet before him; and, fearing that he might be inconveniencing himself from motives of politeness, I observed–‘I fear I am taking you out of your way, Mr. Weston–I believe the road to F— lies quite in another direction.’

‘I’ll leave you at the end of the next street,’ said he.

‘And when will you come to see mamma?’

‘To-morrow–God willing.’

The end of the next street was nearly the conclusion of my journey. He stopped there, however, bid me good-morning, and called Snap, who seemed a little doubtful whether to follow his old mistress or his new master, but trotted away upon being summoned by the latter.

‘I won’t offer to restore him to you, Miss Grey,’ said Mr. Weston, smiling, ‘because I like him.’

‘Oh, I don’t want him,’ replied I, ‘now that he has a good master; I’m quite satisfied.’

‘You take it for granted that I am a good one, then?’

The man and the dog departed, and I returned home, full of gratitude to heaven for so much bliss, and praying that my hopes might not again be crushed.

CHAPTER XXV–CONCLUSION

‘Well, Agnes, you must not take such long walks again before breakfast,’ said my mother, observing that I drank an extra cup of coffee and ate nothing–pleading the heat of the weather, and the fatigue of my long walk as an excuse. I certainly did feel feverish and tired too.

‘You always do things by extremes: now, if you had taken a SHORT walk every morning, and would continue to do so, it would do you good.’

‘Well, mamma, I will.’

‘But this is worse than lying in bed or bending over your books: you have quite put yourself into a fever.’

‘I won’t do it again,’ said I.

I was racking my brains with thinking how to tell her about Mr. Weston, for she must know he was coming to-morrow. However, I waited till the breakfast things were removed, and I was more calm and cool; and then, having sat down to my drawing, I began–‘I met an old friend on the sands to-day, mamma.’

‘An old friend! Who could it be?’

‘Two old friends, indeed. One was a dog;’ and then I reminded her of Snap, whose history I had recounted before, and related the incident of his sudden appearance and remarkable recognition; ‘and the other,’ continued I, ‘was Mr. Weston, the curate of Horton.’

‘Mr. Weston! I never heard of him before.’

‘Yes, you have: I’ve mentioned him several times, I believe: but you don’t remember.’

‘I’ve heard you speak of Mr. Hatfield.’

‘Mr. Hatfield was the rector, and Mr. Weston the curate: I used to mention him sometimes in contradistinction to Mr. Hatfield, as being a more efficient clergyman. However, he was on the sands this morning with the dog–he had bought it, I suppose, from the rat-catcher; and he knew me as well as it did–probably through its means: and I had a little conversation with him, in the course of which, as he asked about our school, I was led to say something about you, and your good management; and he said he should like to know you, and asked if I would introduce him to you, if he should take the liberty of calling to-morrow; so I said I would. Was I right?’

‘Of course. What kind of a man is he?’

‘A very RESPECTABLE man, I think: but you will see him to-morrow. He is the new vicar of F—, and as he has only been there a few weeks, I suppose he has made no friends yet, and wants a little society.’

The morrow came. What a fever of anxiety and expectation I was in from breakfast till noon–at which time he made his appearance! Having introduced him to my mother, I took my work to the window, and sat down to await the result of the interview. They got on extremely well together–greatly to my satisfaction, for I had felt very anxious about what my mother would think of him. He did not stay long that time: but when he rose to take leave, she said she should be happy to see him, whenever he might find it convenient to call again; and when he was gone, I was gratified by hearing her say,–‘Well! I think he’s a very sensible man. But why did you sit back there, Agnes,’ she added, ‘and talk so little?’

‘Because you talked so well, mamma, I thought you required no assistance from me: and, besides, he was your visitor, not mine.’

After that, he often called upon us–several times in the course of a week. He generally addressed most of his conversation to my mother: and no wonder, for she could converse. I almost envied the unfettered, vigorous fluency of her discourse, and the strong sense evinced by everything she said–and yet, I did not; for, though I occasionally regretted my own deficiencies for his sake, it gave me very great pleasure to sit and hear the two beings I loved and honoured above every one else in the world, discoursing together so amicably, so wisely, and so well. I was not always silent, however; nor was I at all neglected. I was quite as much noticed as I would wish to be: there was no lack of kind words and kinder looks, no end of delicate attentions, too fine and subtle to be grasped by words, and therefore indescribable–but deeply felt at heart.

Ceremony was quickly dropped between us: Mr. Weston came as an expected guest, welcome at all times, and never deranging the economy of our household affairs. He even called me ‘Agnes:’ the name had been timidly spoken at first, but, finding it gave no offence in any quarter, he seemed greatly to prefer that appellation to ‘Miss Grey;’ and so did I. How tedious and gloomy were those days in which he did not come! And yet not miserable; for I had still the remembrance of the last visit and the hope of the next to cheer me. But when two or three days passed without my seeing him, I certainly felt very anxious–absurdly, unreasonably so; for, of course, he had his own business and the affairs of his parish to attend to. And I dreaded the close of the holidays, when MY business also would begin, and I should be sometimes unable to see him, and sometimes–when my mother was in the schoolroom– obliged to be with him alone: a position I did not at all desire, in the house; though to meet him out of doors, and walk beside him, had proved by no means disagreeable.

One evening, however, in the last week of the vacation, he arrived- -unexpectedly: for a heavy and protracted thunder-shower during the afternoon had almost destroyed my hopes of seeing him that day; but now the storm was over, and the sun was shining brightly.

‘A beautiful evening, Mrs. Grey!’ said he, as he entered. ‘Agnes, I want you to take a walk with me to–‘ (he named a certain part of the coast–a bold hill on the land side, and towards the sea a steep precipice, from the summit of which a glorious view is to be had). ‘The rain has laid the dust, and cooled and cleared the air, and the prospect will be magnificent. Will you come?’

‘Can I go, mamma?’

‘Yes; to be sure.’

I went to get ready, and was down again in a few minutes; though, of course, I took a little more pains with my attire than if I had merely been going out on some shopping expedition alone. The thunder-shower had certainly had a most beneficial effect upon the weather, and the evening was most delightful. Mr. Weston would have me to take his arm; he said little during our passage through the crowded streets, but walked very fast, and appeared grave and abstracted. I wondered what was the matter, and felt an indefinite dread that something unpleasant was on his mind; and vague surmises, concerning what it might be, troubled me not a little, and made me grave and silent enough. But these fantasies vanished upon reaching the quiet outskirts of the town; for as soon as we came within sight of the venerable old church, and the–hill, with the deep blue beyond it, I found my companion was cheerful enough.

‘I’m afraid I’ve been walking too fast for you, Agnes,’ said he: ‘in my impatience to be rid of the town, I forgot to consult your convenience; but now we’ll walk as slowly as you please. I see, by those light clouds in the west, there will be a brilliant sunset, and we shall be in time to witness its effect upon the sea, at the most moderate rate of progression.’

When we had got about half-way up the hill, we fell into silence again; which, as usual, he was the first to break.

‘My house is desolate yet, Miss Grey,’ he smilingly observed, ‘and I am acquainted now with all the ladies in my parish, and several in this town too; and many others I know by sight and by report; but not one of them will suit me for a companion; in fact, there is only one person in the world that will: and that is yourself; and I want to know your decision?’

‘Are you in earnest, Mr. Weston?’

‘In earnest! How could you think I should jest on such a subject?’

He laid his hand on mine, that rested on his arm: he must have felt it tremble–but it was no great matter now.

‘I hope I have not been too precipitate,’ he said, in a serious tone. ‘You must have known that it was not my way to flatter and talk soft nonsense, or even to speak the admiration that I felt; and that a single word or glance of mine meant more than the honied phrases and fervent protestations of most other men.’

I said something about not liking to leave my mother, and doing nothing without her consent.

‘I settled everything with Mrs. Grey, while you were putting on your bonnet,’ replied he. ‘She said I might have her consent, if I could obtain yours; and I asked her, in case I should be so happy, to come and live with us–for I was sure you would like it better. But she refused, saying she could now afford to employ an assistant, and would continue the school till she could purchase an annuity sufficient to maintain her in comfortable lodgings; and, meantime, she would spend her vacations alternately with us and your sister, and should be quite contented if you were happy. And so now I have overruled your objections on her account. Have you any other?’

‘No–none.’

‘You love me then?’ said be, fervently pressing my hand.

‘Yes.’

Here I pause. My Diary, from which I have compiled these pages, goes but little further. I could go on for years, but I will content myself with adding, that I shall never forget that glorious summer evening, and always remember with delight that steep hill, and the edge of the precipice where we stood together, watching the splendid sunset mirrored in the restless world of waters at our feet–with hearts filled with gratitude to heaven, and happiness, and love–almost too full for speech.

A few weeks after that, when my mother had supplied herself with an assistant, I became the wife of Edward Weston; and never have found cause to repent it, and am certain that I never shall. We have had trials, and we know that we must have them again; but we bear them well together, and endeavour to fortify ourselves and each other against the final separation–that greatest of all afflictions to the survivor. But, if we keep in mind the glorious heaven beyond, where both may meet again, and sin and sorrow are unknown, surely that too may be borne; and, meantime, we endeavour to live to the glory of Him who has scattered so many blessings in our path.

Edward, by his strenuous exertions, has worked surprising reforms in his parish, and is esteemed and loved by its inhabitants–as he deserves; for whatever his faults may be as a man (and no one is entirely without), I defy anybody to blame him as a pastor, a husband, or a father.

Our children, Edward, Agnes, and little Mary, promise well; their education, for the time being, is chiefly committed to me; and they shall want no good thing that a mother’s care can give. Our modest income is amply sufficient for our requirements: and by practising the economy we learnt in harder times, and never attempting to imitate our richer neighbours, we manage not only to enjoy comfort and contentment ourselves, but to have every year something to lay by for our children, and something to give to those who need it.

And now I think I have said sufficient.