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visit. Sally Hawkes would also be our guest.
I believe Lady Asliburner was better pleased to receive Sally under her roof than any other of her expected friends, for she knew Sally well, and esteemed her accordingly; and it pleased her to give the poor little lady a passing taste of this world's happiness, and to make her very comfortable, and cater for her pleasures so far as her grim patroness would permit. But as a rule, Mrs. Denham objected to visible enjoyment in any shape whatever, ;and she had checked Sally so long and so perseveringly that she had nearly succeeded in teaching her to repress every manifestation of hilarity that she might temporally enjoy.
'• What kind of religion does Mrs. Denham profess?" asked Miss Craven of Elizabeth the day after we had dined at Monkswood. "I mean to what denomination does she belong? She handled the Book of Common Prayer so severely last night that I need not ask if she belongs to the Established Church."
Of course she does not; she would just as soon ally herself with Popery or Mohammedanism as the Anglican Church. I always call her a double Dissenter, because she dissents from the State Church, and from all other sects as well. She is not an Independent, or a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Quaker, or a Plymouth Sister; but I really believe she has picked out the worst bits of all religions and made of them a special rule of faith by which she herself abides, and which she would fain force upon everyone who comes within her influence. I have myself heard her call Cyril' a child of perdition.'"
"• Shocking!"' said Miss Craven, warmly." "How can you endure her society?" And she looked up- pealingly at Lady Asliburner.
"My dear!" said Lady Asliburner, '• We are very old friends, and the habits of a lifetime are not to be broken for mere opinions; and I trust Mrs. Denham would not act upon the creed she says she holds. We are used to her; and for Cyril's sake, I will not, if I can help it.
quarrel with her. Cyril is to me as a son, and to Elizabeth as a brother."
"Mr. Denham does not follow any profession, I believe?"
"No! on that point we have had many arguments. It is chiefly his mother's fault; but I should like to see him in this instance asserting himself, and using his powers and gifts, which are no ordinary ones, for the benefit of his fellow creatures, and of course to his own advantage."
"Mr. Denham is a Christian man?"
•' No !" was Lady Ashbumer's decided answer. Agnes looked surprised. Lady Asliburner resumed; "Cyril is a most lovely character, generous, tender-hearted, chivulrio, the very soul of honour: he needs only the one thing to make him happy and useful. He has not found that blessed peace and rest on which alone the Christian life can truly be sustained. That he will find it I am fully confident; but I sometimes fear it may be through great trial that he will pass from the world's shadows and illusions into the clear light of God's own truth. Natures like his are not easily swayed on matters of deepest import. He has the making of a noble man in him, but at present he lacks the motive power by which alone he can live, as all on earth should live, to the praise and glory of God. There is so much in Cyril that is pure, and high, and valuable: onlythc perfect spring is wanting."
'• Lady Asliburner!" said Agnes, earnestly: " do you think that, generally speaking, men and women come to God through suffering? that through the shadows they pass into the light, that through the tempest they wend their way to perfect rest?'
"My dear, I think all of us who reach the heavenly shore will have to look back upon some seasons, longer or shorter, of painful discipline. God trains us for His work in His own way. He brings us into deep waters, and lets the waves go ^ over our heads, and removes from us friend and brother: He lets the
fiery darts go home, cleaving the shrinking flesh, and thrilling the soul with agony, that His child may be weaned from earth and from self, and from all refuges save that which is steadfast and eternal. And so He trains the special workers in His vineyard, so he shapes out of this frail and tried humanity, a grand and noble life; so He teaches patience, strength, and perfect faith, knowing too that they who have been sorely smitten can best bind up another's wounds, they who by His grace have fought their way to rest can best help those weak ones who know not yet the secret of His peace."
"Mamma!" said Elizabeth, "I could not live through so much suffering: I could not bear a terrible anguish: I would rather die."
"God will never lay upon you that which you cannot bear, my child. I do not wish to sadden you, but some sorrow there is sure to be for each one of us ere life closes. Let us not anticipate it, but trust that when the time shall come we may have strength given us according to our need."
It was only a day and a night that Cyril remained at Forest Range when he came to bring his mother's message; but in that day he and Agnes Craven seemed to become close friends. The weather was beautiful, and we went a long walk through the woods and across the breezy down that stretched away from Ashchurch, far into the south. There was a breath of Spring in every little breeze that swayed the budding boughs, a voice of melody in the rushing of the waters, a spirit of gladness in every fragrant violet that we plucked J, we knew it could not last; there would be more winter days yet, and the cold east winds would blow and the little violets shrink beneath their leaves, and the waters of the stream go sadly on their way; but, like sensible people, we took the present good and made the best of it, and were thankful for the sunshine, and the scanty herbage, and the balmy breezes blowing from the pleasant south. q Elizabeth and I were rather behind our companions for a mile or
more'; for Miss Ashburner had an accident with her dress—her flounces had a knack of getting torn—and she was obliged to go into a cottage and beg for pins, and the good woman of t he house just threaded her needle and put in half-a-dozen stitches, which would prevent all further damage during the walk; and so Cyril and Agnes strolled slowly on before, and it was nearly half-anhour before we came up with them, under the fir clump at the top of Ashchurch Down. Indeed, I think they made the ascent by one path and we by another.
Here again, I copy from Agnes Craven's diary:—
"MarchtV2th.—Such a glorious walk we have had through the woods of Forest Range, and along the breezy downs that stretch so far away, almost like our northern moors, only they do not seem so rich in heather, they are not so billowy, and there are no great mountains like to ours, girdling them in with giant-arms on every side! I had no idea I could be so happy in this new home of mine, —for home it really seems to be, as if it had been mine for many, many years! Now. I know what it must be like to have a mother! I really feel that in some sort I have one, for I seem to share all Elizabeth's advantages. And in Elizabeth and Janet I find the sisters for whom my heart has yearned so long, and in Cyril Denham,—shall I say the brother I have longed for, ever since I can remember?
No! I cannot feel that Cyril is my brother, he is my friend, and I am his friend, we settled that to-day, somehow, Janet and Elizabeth fell behind, and Cyril and I walked on alone ,and we had much talk, which was a real refreshment to us both. He told me all about his boyhood, all about his early youth, how sad it has been. Lady Ashbumer says he is reserved, but he spoke most freely to me, indeed, he said I had exorcised an evil spirit of taciturnity respecting himself and his inner life, thathad troubled him formanyyears.
"But you can confide in Lady Ashburner ?" I said.
"Indeed I can," he answered. ■' I am not worthy to speak the excellencies of my second mother, but it is precisely because she is so good, so calm, so free from common petty failings that I cannot speak to her as I have spoken to you. She is so kind, and so wise, but she does not fully understand me."
No! I had thought not; but I answered, " yet I cannot help you—I a.m so faulty, so inexperienced!"
"You do help me," he said; '■ you shame my want of courage, you teach me lessons that I never learnt before. 1 trill be strong. God helping me."
"Are you then so very weak?
"So weak, that you would despise me if you knew me as I am. Ah! Miss Craven. I am compelled to own to myself that I am one of God's unprofitable servants."
"You judge yourself too harshly. I am convinced you will do the world good service before you die."
'• I wish I may, but never yet have I found any definite and settled purpose: never yet have I devoted myself to any steady continuous line of action. There is one thing though, if I could but achieve that, I think I should triumph in all beade!"
He did not say what that "one thing " was. and of course I did not ask him. And then he fell into a fit of musing, very sad musing too, it seemed, and just as we began to talk again, Elizabeth and Miss Austruther came up on the further slope of the hill, and we all sat down and rested under the firs that crown the topmost ridge of Ashchurch Down.
How very much Cyril Denham has read, and more remarkable still, how very much he retains, and what a vein of poesy runs through his simplest converse. He and I think very much alike, only he is so much the wiser—I was going to say so much the stronger, but I am not certain about that. It strikes me very forcibly that the chief defect in my new friend's character is a want of strenuous purpose, and wholesome self-reliance. For a man, he seems too much inclined to lean on
others. It may be true that which Lady Ashburner says of him—that he is as yet, too dreamy to grapple earnestly with life's realities. But then his dreams are very beautiful dreams, and they may issue some day in a rich fulfilment; why not'.' Has not all true greatness found its cradle in a dream ?—a dream which has grown and grown, and haunted brain and heart, till gradually it has shaped itself into real walking action? I suppose the mischief is when we content ourselves with dreaming only; and here I record my own conviction—think it presumptuous, if you will, oh, my diary!—that Cyril Denham is something more than an idle dreamer— that Cyril Denham will be a great good man. and that I shall glory in calling him my friend. My friend! how sweet that sounds! Ah! but must he suffer, as Lady Ashburner almost prophesied? Suffering with him would be intense, as great happiness would also be. And I too'.' —must I know the pain of hope destroyed, the grief of solitude, the sense of loss, before my soul is purified and lifted to that higher life for which it yearns, but which it never has attained? Lady Ashburner said that Cyril was not a true Christian; if he is not a Christian, neither am I. And yet I thought I was religious. I like to go to church: I strive—yes! I surely strive to do my duty, and I trust in God! What else is wanting? Surely something ! yes! my heart tells me that it yet needs something more,— something whereon it firmly may abide in the day of tribulation. Mine is a religion, I suspect, that would not wear: it does well enough for sunshine and fair weather: would it comfort me, if a great and overwhelming Borrow fell upon me? Would it give me light if all around were darkness? Would it teach me patience if I were most sorely tried? I am afraid not! My religion is only a sort of philosophy, based on certain Christian ,'principles, which I am not sure I fully comprehend.
I think I will ask Lady Ashburner the secret of the peace that fills her soul, for that she has suffered keenly I am certain. No! I will ask Sally Hawkes what it is that makes her happy in that dreary, ghostly house. Why does she look cheerful, tormented and tyrannized over as she is, with no better prospect than wearing out her days in genteel servitude? The tradesman who would have married her has taken to himself a wife, so Cyril tells me, so there is no hope to be derived from that source. She is actually the daughter of a clergyman—a poor curate, who died five and twenty years ago, and left a delicate widow, and this only child, to struggle as best they might with all the ills of poverty. Sally is thirty now, and looks rather old-maidish; but she must have been pretty once. I wonder she is not changed into stone living as she does with that—that Gorgon, I am afraid I was going to write ; but she is Cyril's mother, and
MR. RUSKIN'S LECTURES
Here is a Christmas book by Mr. Ruskin, and those who are acquainted with that author's child's "story, "The Black Brothers; or, the King of the Golden River," one of the very finest tilings of its kind in the English language, will open it not without expectations. Sooth to say, it is not much like the Christmas booklets with which the caterers for our literary entertainment ha ve been this year regaling us. The fashion, —and we suppose, from its universality, that it is the approved fashion, —in these things is, that there shall be a certain number of tales, which we may figure as apples, and one other tale, or sketch, enclosing these, which we may figure as crust, so that the apple-pie is complete.
The setting, or crust, or machinery, may be to this effect:— that a kind-hearted cheap-jack plays the part of benefactor to a deaf and dumb girl and collects the tales for her gratification; or to this,—that Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so have invited a party to dinner, but are prevented, by a railway mishap, from meeting their friends at the time appointed, who, thereupon, dine by themselves,
he never spcaksj>fhcr with disrespect, lam ashamed of myself. Well, next week Sally will be here, and I meanto cultivate her. Cyril seemed so glad to think thepoorgirl would enjoy herself like other people for a little while: he is very kind. I wonder what Mrs. Erskine will be like'.' they tell me she is very much like Cyril: but Elizabeth makes a face and says— "Oh. mamma! oh, Janet! how can you think so'.' Mrs. Erskine is not half so nice as Cyril, no! nor a quarter!"
With this week our seclusion ends: after next Monday the house will be full; besides the Denhams and the Erskincs, there are coming two other people, a favourite schoolfellow of Elizabeth, and her brother. I have been so happy, so perfectly content ever since I came to Forest Range that I rather dread the change. How very foolish of me!
TO LITTLE HOUSEWIVES.
and tell stories between the courses. Still more fascinating are the narratives which relieve this machinery. How Mr. Griffin was to receive an estate from Mr. Sniffin, on the demise of old Mrs. Tiffin. How Mr. Griffin, with his inventive powers thus finely stimulated, shuts up the said Mrs. Tiffin in a dark store room, amid casks of sugar and boxes of almonds, and. putting three yards of crape on his hat and pulling a face as long as Ids ami, announces to the world that the lady is dead, and that the property is his. Whereupon the still more ingenious Mr. Slippin, gliding from the diningtable after a Christmas banquet, makes his way into the aforesaid store room, precisely at the moment when the deceased Mrs. Tiffin is taking steps from its darkest corner, with a view to securing the roast pig and plum pudding for which she has bargained as her Christmas dinner. Dreadful explosion as a matter of course, and appalling excitement on the part of Mr. Griffin. Or the incidents may be of a still more stirring and tragic nature. The gaunt, large-featured, disagreeable-looking Don Goglando falls in love at first sight with the angelically beautiful Miss Matilda, like a great goggle-eyed blunderer as he is, Goglando expects the lady to accept him off-hand. The latter promptly and briefly answer, No. The stupid Don, who might have recollected the sapient dignity with which the Laird of Cochpen, after a similar repulse, reflected merely upon the immeasurable idiocy of Lady Jane, in rejecting a landed proprietor, or might have emulated that sagacious cavalier who, in circumstances equally trying, chaunted a philosophical ditty referring to a proposed journey of the obstinate fair one to Hongkong, or at least have written to the editor of Lloyd's for a solution of his difficulty, adopts a truly unreasonable line of action. Refusing to be refused, he takes up with witches and other suspicious persons, [adds the character of madman to his previously developed character of fool, and stalking to the brow of a mountain, jumps down, dragging the unfortunate Matilda with him. How exquisite in design, how thrilling in interest, how fresh in power, all this! Have we not advanced since the days when Thackeray wrote his "Miscellanies," Dickons his " Christmas Carol," Wilson his "Border Tales?"
Neither in machinery nor in matter has Mr. Ruskin to any extent followed these popular models, and this may perhaps be one reason why Saturday Reviewers, and other infallible critics, have been so severe with him. He has, to begin with, discarded the invariable method of bringing together a lot of tales. He takes the unheard of liberty of making a Christmas book turn on truth and reality, not on fiction. A sad error, doubtless, but not so bad u it might have been. In the seven plentiful years of Egypt, men would not think very hardly of a farmer who withheld one sheaf from the mill; and as there is already produced, in this happy country, as much fiction yearly as would thatch St. Paul's and half the other churches of London, we confess that it seems to us a venial offence in Mr. Ruskin,
to have published a Christmas book which is not a volume of tales.
The "machinery" is also real. The lectures were given, in substance, at a girl's school in the country. The '• little housewives "were the pupils, a few of whom are introduced to us under the names of Florrie, Violet, and the like, and the lecturer not only lectures but puts and answers questions. To our grim friend of the Saturday Review all this seems intolerably trivial. Mere fireside or drawing-room, or school-room pictures are offensive to his iron manhood and austere dignity and general elevation of view. Whether Mr. Ruskin has been successful or the reverse in the execution of his sketches does not seem to be agreed upon among critics. We are told by some that he makes the girls types of seraphic virtue, while" others ask why men of their importance should be made to listen to the pert questions of school-girls. For our own part, the general conception seems to us appropriate, pleasant, and in harmony with the merry Christmas time, while the execution, on the whole felicitous and brilliant, is occasionally heavy. By far the clumsiest bit is where the girls, by way of showing their humility, crouch under tables and hide behind doors. This trenches rather too closely on the province of dull pantomime. The amiable reviewer of the Saturday naturally quotes this passage as a sample of the whole. Here is a nice little touch of chaff for a school room lecture :— "Mary (aged twenty). There's one question more; then I've done. Lecturer. Only one '.' Mary. Only one. Lecturer. But if it is answered, won't it turn into two? Mary. No: I think it will remain single and be comfortable." Having thus kept the Lecturer, who seemed really to be approaching an irrelevant topic, to his point, Mary is permitted to put her question.
But little housewives among our readers are anxious to know what light this book throws upon the art and mystery of housekeeping. Is it upon i'1,000 a year, or .£500, or i300, or .£150, that Mr. Ruskin proH