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"Will the blow reach Mrs. Denham: is it certain?"
"Most certainly, I am afraid. I know upon very good authority that the whole affair is upon the eve of collapse. I have warned Mrs. Denham and John Erskine: they will not see the danger: indeed, it is now too late, I fear, for extrica tion."
"There is Monkswood!"
"That must go: the entail was cut off long since, before Edward Denham's second marriage: I almost think in his father's lifetime, but I am not sure. I only know that when my poor sister became his wife, in opposition to her own family, we none of us ever imagined that she wedded the heir of Monkswood."
"But Edward relinquished his birthright, and so also did Augustine and Gregory: Cyril is the heir of Monkswood."
"An heirship so little worth having, that but for the desertion of his mother, I should long ago have urged him to follow the example of his brothers, and act as if there were no Monkswood in the world. As it is, I have implored him several times to mark out his own path in life. He will no more succeed to Monkswood, than you to Queen Victoria's crown."
"Only I am not a princess, and Cyril is his father's son."
"There is so much distinction, I grant you, dear: my illustration was a faulty one, for whereas the wildest dream of castle-building could never picture you upon the British throne, from simple lack of right, Cyril may some day, if he pleases, be master of Monkswood again. Elizabeth! if that grand old house were mine, and those old hinds, that were the Denhams when the Domesday Book was written. I would toil day and night, I would give myself no rest, till I redeemed to the full, and restored to something of its ancient grandeur, the inheritance of my fathers! But Cyril Denham, unless he alter speedily, will never do this. Can you wonder that I refuse my daughter to a man whose fortunes are just sinking into emptiness—to a man who neither inherits anything, nor pos
Christian World Magazine, April, 186&]
possesses the requisite qualifications for building up that which might in time replace the fallen edifice of his ancestral fortunes?"
"Papa, you are rich; and I am your only child!"
"I am not startlingly rich, Elizabeth, for my station in society; and you know that Forest Range and the baronetcy go, after my death, te our kinsman, Percival Ashburner. You will have, my dear, a very comfortable fortune—much more than your mother had when I married her: but you will not be a bait for mere money-hunters."
"But Cyril and I do not care for riches. What is money?"
"A great deal, my dear, in spite of all that cynics say to the contrary. You have never known the sorrows of' little coin, much care:' your life, my pet, has been like a fairy-tale; you have only had hitherto to wish and have."
"Then, dear papa, let me wish and have now! Let Cyril and me have enough to live in some little cottage. We should not want much; a hundred a-year, or so, would do very well. We shall not care about society. We will have a good piano, and plenty of books, and a pretty garden, and the least little bit of a greenhouse, just for flowers in win- ter-time, and a dear skye-terrier; and I suppose we might have a little basket carriage, and some quiet dumpling of a pony, to take us through the lanes."
"And how many servants should you think of keeping?"
"Oh scarcely any, of course: just a cook to get our meals, and a housemaid to clean the rooms, and a boy who could work "in the garden, and take care of the pony, and wait at table, as a sort of page."
'• You seem, my dear, to have been studying 'love in a cottage' pretty closely: but I assure you that two hundred a-year would be insufficient for the very modest menage you propose. How much do you spend in gloves alone, Elizabeth?"
"Oh! I would give up gloves."
"That would be injudicious, and scarcely civilised."
"I mean I would give up wearing so many: I would only buy dark gloves, and have them cleaned."
"You must also give up wearing French boots and Honiton lace, and Cyril must renounce Moselle, and Sauterne and unlimited llondoletia: he also must begin to study the clothes-philosophy, on the most economic principles!"
'■ But you will consent, papa'.' Dear, dear papa! you never refused me anything: and this is the only thing that I have ever asked with all ray heart. I shall die, if you separate me from Cyril."
"My dear, that is scarcely a maidenly speech! And, Elizabeth, you have asked me many things, of smaller import, with an equal earnestness. You have wept many B time for favours, little valued when received; possession of any object, however coveted, has always been succeeded by satiation and neglect. How do I know that you might not in a year's time reproach me for giving you to Cyril?" "Oh, papa, as if it were possible!" "It is possible, my daughter. You are the child of impulse: what you dote upon to-day, you care little for to-morrow: from your first doll to the new Fernery, this has always been the case! Now, husbands are not toys to be picked up, admired, and tossed away: nor are they household pets, to be caressed one month, and then discarded. Marriage is so solemn a thing. Elizabeth; it is to be entered upon gravely and thoughtfully, under God's guidance; it is to be contracted with His blessing; it is not to be rushed into at the first promptings of an untried, undisciplined heart."
"Papa, you would have thought it very hard, if you had not been allowed to marry mamma."
"Perhaps I did; for I had to wait some years for your mother: but I loved her, and I could be patient: I was content to wait God's will, feeling sure that in this, as in every other exigency. He would order the course of circumstances. My greatest fear about you is, that you do not bow yourself. I do not believe that whatyoufeel is really love—the pure, and steadfast, and beautiful love of womanhood. Nay! hear me out:
this is a mere girlish fancy, a wild unreasoning passion; and passion never lives a lifetime! Trust me, Elizabeth, your true happiness will be to submit yourself to your parents: they are your best friends; they will not keep back anything that can do you good: can you not rely on their judgment? has not the experience of many years taught them what life really is? can you not cheerfully dismiss the whole matter for a while, and wait, and see what a few years will bring forth?"
"If you would give me any positive promise, papa, that some day you would consent; and if Cyril would come back."
"I cannot pledge myself, dear: your mother, on whose wisdom I implicitly rely, sees insuperable objections to this engagement: indeed, we all think you far too much of a child to be engaged at all. Your education is by no means finished; your views of life are romantic in the extreme: you want stability, patience, firmness — a hundred things, which we trust a quiet and wise home-training will impart. No! my dear, I cannot promise any thing."
And that was the end of the conversation; and next day Elizabeth was arrayed in a snowy lacc-trimmed wrapping-gown, and carried in her father's arms to her mother's dressing-room. And there she had all the petting that all the house could give her: the gardener sent up rare flowers; the housekeeper wearied herself in devising new dainties suited to an invalid; Sir John promised her a new low carriage, and a pair of long-tailed cream-coloured ponies, real "clippers," for which she had begun to pine just before Cyril's declaration. And they were to be her very own, and at her solo disposal! Her mother talked to her about the Isle of Wight, whither they were going as soon as she was strong enough; and Elizabeth had been longing all through the winter months for Ventnor and Freshwater. And Agnes Craven and I ransacked the Soutliam and Southchester libraries, and consulted Miulie's list, in search of books that she might
[CArifttan World Jfapatiite, April, 1866.
like to read or listen to. All in vain; Elizabeth was not to be bribed, or persuaded into elieerfubiess. She did not want the long-tailed ponies now, indeed she didnot suppose she should ever drive out any more. All Mrs. Roberts' delicate achievements were slightly tasted, or sent away untouched: and she no longer wished to go to Ventnor. As for the books, which we selected with such exceeding care and pains, they lay unopened on the sofa-table, or were only glanced into to be thrown aside.
Meanwhile, she grew rapidly weaker, and her father, as he earned her at noon and at night between her chamber and the dressing-room, felt her continually grow lighter in his arms, till his loving heart misgave him, and he was ready to send for Cyril and the Rector of Ashchurch, and a special licence, and have the wedding on the spot! He would have done something very rash more than once, had not Lady Ashburncr implored him to pause, ere he acted irremediably against his own convictions. But Elizabeth still drooped and drooped: her complexion began to assume that beautiful transparency which so often accompanies the most insidious of maladies: her hands became painfully diaphanous, and the cough which had resulted from her influenza increased in frequency, though it lost something of its force.
There came a [day at last, when little Mr. Goldfinch, our family doctor, declared that he could take the responsibility of Miss Ashburner's illness no longer. She baffled him entirely; and he began to fear that he neither did, nor could, understand her case. More alarming symptoms were daily setting in; he would like to consult with Dr. Alickson, of Southam.
He might have consulted with every physician in the United Kingdom, had he thought it necessary, and he might have summoned the chief talent of continental capitals, had he made such propositions. But Dr. Alickson would satisfy him quite: he was a most celebrated provincial physician, and his prescriptions were eminently successful: he would de
Christian World ifaocuine, April, 1866.]
cide at once the real nature of Miss Ashburner's malady. And so Dr. Alickson arrived, and spent an hour with his patient, to] whom he spoke cheeringly and kindly, and then he lunched with Sir John and Lady Ashbumer in solemn conclave, and told them that the young lady was indeed in a most precarious state; consumption, though not actually set in, was threatened: and he hinted something about a mind ill at ease, and the difficulty of prescribing for such an invalid. "If, indeed. I am correct," concluded the doctor, sententiously, "the best medicine the young lady can take, will be a dose of her own way!"
The anxious parents told him something of the truth, and he shook his head, and condoled with them most heartily; but still persisted that no care of his would avail while the mind remained diseased. "You see," he continued, " it would be better to have a daughter badly married than no daughter at all, and if you lost her you would never cease to reproach yourselves."
Indubitably true! and both father and mother felt they must give way. After all, they had only themselves to blame for so implicitly putting faith in the brother and sister theory of young folks brought up very much together. And then, as Dr. Alickson, who had himself brought up a family, and given several daughters in marriage, observed—" It is after all only an engagement you are called upon to sanction. Your daughter is only seventeen, you say—seventeen last Christmas: stipulate for four years' engagement. Twenty-one is quite time enough for matrimony: I never let my girls go to the altar till they were of age. The probability is that the attachment, if it be not a very deep one, may wear itself out, and matters will arrange themselves. Miss Ashbumer is of very impulsive temperament: the young man I do not know, but you say he too much resembles her in character: now, I think it very likely that if these young people are permitted to have their own way, Miss Ashbumer will speedily recover: they will be ridiculoualy enamoured for a while, and then they will calm down, and probably cease to desire the completion of their betrothal; they will settle the business for themselves, and your daughter will be still at your disposal."
** Only," said Lady Ashburner, "I do not like that my daughter should :u-()iiirc the reputation of a jilt, or a flirt, neither would I wish her to be pitied as a young lady who has had a disappointment. There is always something objectionable in the aspect of a broken troth: and a promise is a sacred thing."
"I tell you what, my lady, that is easily arranged. Let the young folks know that their intimacy shall proceed lis before! Mr. shall visit
here as usual, and they may talk of love if they like, only—there must be no recognised engagement, no solemn plighting of faith till this time twelve-months! Then, if they are still in the same mind, they may e<>nsider themselvesformally betrothed, and the fact may be announced to all the world; but, till then—and on this point I would be very strenuous—there is no actual engagement, and the understanding between them must not be patent to society: I would threaten pains and penalties, if the secret were disclosed beyond the family circle. And that is my prescription. Sir John and Lady Ashburner: I will write one en regie if you please, to humour my good friend Goldfinch: but I do not anticipate any good result, unless you follow my advice."
And Dr. Alickson. having written down certain mysterious characters, known only to the initiated, and reteived his fee, went away, and Lady Ashburner and Sir John were left alone, to consider the adoption of the prescription.
Of course they did adopt it: in an • hoar's time the mother was closeted *ith her invalid daughter, tellingher to grieve no more, for Cyril should come back again, and all things go on in the usual way: only, if in a year's time they were still in the same mind, they might be formally engaged.
The same mind, mamma !" said
Elizabeth, "Do you suppose we could change'.'"
'■ We will not discuss that point, my dear: others have changed before you. But you quite understand: and Cyril will come as our friend still, and there will be no actual promise. If during the year either you or he alter your minds, no one must be blamed: you are both free, and must remain so, till your constancy is proved; and no one out of our own family circle is to know anything about it—that is, about the prospect of a decisive engagement in the April of next year."
Elizabeth was quite content: if Cyril were restored to his old place at Forest liange, and if their future union only depended upon constancy! she was quite happy, and could ask no more.
"But papa asks one thing more: Cyril must exert himself, and find some regular and remunerative occupation. Whatever betide, papa will not, cannot give his only child to an idle husband!'
"Oh, mamma! Cyril is not idle: he reads immensely, and he translates, and he is always going to do something which will require all his time, and all his energies."
"Well, now, he must be 'going' no longer, but set to work at once."
"You would not wish Cyril actually to work, mamma?"
"Why not, my dear? Every man and woman, who is good for anything, works and must work."
"Papa does not work!"
"I beg your pardon, there are few men in any rank of life who work harder than your father. He is one of the best farmers in the county: his own lands alone give him ample occupation. Then ho is a public man—a magistrate, the president of several societies, the patron of all our local charities, and the Squire of the neighbourhood, to whom all the poor people, whether tenants or not, look for advice, and work, and help in many ways. My dear, I would rather see a son of mine making shoes, or turning market-gardener, than see him doing nothing, which could be reasonably accounted labour."
[Christian World Uaffaxine, April, 18«.
"But you will not insist on Cyril making anything with his hands, or keeping a shop, or dreadful ' works,' like those at Southara?"
"My love, do not be ridiculous. I have no wish to see Cyril engaged inanyderogatoiycmplovment. There is, generally, always indeed, work fitted to the station of life in which it has pleased God to place us. Only Cyril must not be too fastidious; and he must put his shoulder to the wheel, in whatever he undertakes; and having chosen his occupation, he must not flinch, but persevere courageously and patiently."
"I should like him to be a great author!"
"If you value his prosperity in life, Elizabeth, do not foster that idea. Cyril lacks the perseverance which is necessary to the smallest amount of literary success; that is, after all, the real fire of authorship, and if it were really in him, I think he would have distinguished himself long ere this. He has had every opportunity, and rare advantages."
•' He has written some beautiful poems; Agnes says they are 'grand!' —only they want just finishing off, and making into a fair copy for the press. And he has notes on notes for that work about the cathedral; and he read me the opening pages of an historical romance, about Southchester in the olden time!"
"All of which proves, my dear, that Cyril does not possess the quiet industry, and the habit of patient toil, which alone can lead to the fulfilment of literary aspiration. There is a great deal of drudgery in authorship, as in every other profession. However brilliant the result of any labour, there is, and has been always, the workshop-labour, and the sweat of brow, behind the scenes! A waving field of golden corn at harvesttime, is a beautiful feature in the landscape, but what has it not cost the husbandman? what play of muscle, and what strain of sinew, and what weary hours of waiting'.' A finished piece of sculpture, or the painting of a famous master, fills us with enthusiastic pleasure: "wo seldom think how stroke by stroke the sculptor chiselled out the grace
Chrittitm World JfoinuiiK, A-nit, 1S66.J
ful outlines and the perfect loveliness of form and feature, or how the mighty master stood for hours before his easel, working patiently perhaps at one little fold of the drapery that seems so natural. We are not gods, to create strength and beauty at our will: our productions must be carefully wrought out—the brain must work, and the hand, and eye, and cultivated judgment must assist the brain, or all our labour fails, and ends in nought. Now lie down, my dear, and rest awliile. Papa will find Cyril some useful, honourable work, be sure."
MC COIIMICK'S INVESTMENT.
Next day Miss Ashburner was wonderfully better: she took beef-tea at eleven o'clock, and dined with appetite at half-past one, on the breast of a fowl, and a charming little custard-pudding. She asked for pound-cake at her tea; and on the morrow, when Mrs. Roberts came up to see her, she ordered a lobster-patty, and preferred "Stillhock" at her dinner. In less than a week she was in the drawing-room again; and Cyril was there, also, looking as if he had suffered somewhat in the storm that had ended so happily in a golden calm; and the lovers, though not acknowledged as such, were so blissfully content in each other's society, that Sir John began to think he must have been a regular flinty-hearted, tyrannical father, to think of keeping them apart.
The winter was past and gone now, and the sweet spring-tide was in its glory. By the meadow-trenches were the "fair sweet cuckooflowers!" and shining indeed like fire, was the " wild marsh-marigold, in swamps and hollows gray." From early morning to sunset, the lark's clear song rang out: the woods were lovely in their fresh green verdure, though the oak and ash, and other late-leaved trees, were still in bad. But the young larches were exquisite with their emerald fringes and their tender rosy blooms, and the