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was equally wife and friend. Besides, I might not be supposed to possess a lively interest in his domestic matters; and I believe I should have been troubled to answer in kind. I was, therefore, more relieved than hurt when, at his son's birth, he confined himself to a simple announcement of the fact, and left the record ungarnished by any of those rhapsodies so common to newly-made young fathers.
Six months passed away, making a year and a half since Marchmont and I had met. My vicar was nonresident, and I had the whole care and responsibility of the parish on my shoulders, so that I could not easily absent myself. In addition to this, my stipend was so narrow that, as I had no private means, I was naturally much confined. A walk on the breezy moor when the purple heather was breaking into bloom; a climb to the grey ridge of Elpen Fell, and a long feast on the golden glow of sunset, lighting up the green valley at my feet: these were my pleasures, my short holidays, and I enjoyed them with the keener relish that I had so few.
I had just returned from one of these excursions, and was still in that softened frame of mind in which the contemplation of Nature leaves a thoughtful person, when the little lad who acted as my postman, met me in the lane leading to my lodgings, with a letter in his hand. It is never my habit to speculate on the contents of a letter when I can open it, and satisfy my curiosity on the spot. The handwriting on the envelope was strange to me, but I hardly gave myself time to note this fact, ere I was master of the whole mystery, even to my new correspondent's name.
In saying that I knew the whole mystery, I am, perhaps, presumptuous, for there was a secret of infinite sorrow beneath those smooth, graceful lines, which Minnie Walker kept back, until we should meet face to face. She might have thought that it would sound less harsh spoken than written; that I should be able to forget
her husband's errors the more easily afterwards, for having no such proof in my hands. But who shall even try to unravel that greatest of psychological problems — a woman's heart? Not I, with my poor knowledge, my sorry experience. How could I hope to get the least degree near the mark, when so many wiser than myself have lamentably failed!
I started betimes the next morning, and arrived in London just as the summer twilight was deepening into night. I went straight to Mrs. Walker's lodgings, and presented myself before her covered with the dust of travel—hungry, weary, and anxious.
She had her baby in her arms, and there were the traces of tears on her face, as she came forward to meet me. She evidently struggled hard with some fresh burst of feeling, which the sight of me evoked. But when I imprudently enquired for Marchmont, her self-control gave way utterly, and she could only just sob out—
"Gone! where?" I exclaimed in a blunt, awkward tone, for which I have never ceased to reproach myself since.
For a time she literally could not speak, and I went to the window to give her a chance of recovering her composure. Presently she withdrew to an inner room with the child, and when she returned a few minutes later alone, she was quite calm, and had evidently nerved herself for the trying recital before her. She said,
"You will be sorry and shocked to hear, Mr. Grey, that my husband has gone over to Rome, and has even become a priest of that Church. It is now nearly five months since he left me, and although I have written to him over and over again, urging, praying him to return to me and my boy, he so entirely rejects our claims upon him that he will not so much as answer my letters. I had thought of going to 'him, but he is in a convent near Paris, and although I have managed to ascertain that he is allowed to see male visitors for about two hours on the first day of every month, in the presence of one of the monks, how could I hope to gain access to him by any form of artifice or supplication?"
"When did you first perceive any difference in your Imshand?" I enquired, as she paused, evidently expecting me to speak. I ought to have divined her request, and have anticipated it by a frank, unsolicited offer of my services, but I am bound to acknowledge to my sorrow that I am equally devoid of both discernment and tact: therefore, had I understood Mrs. Walker's hint, I verily believe it would never have struck me that I was meant to take the initiative in any way. Consequently I forced her to ask later that which I should and could have tendered freely from the first. There was a shadow of disappointment on her young face as she replied to my question.
"I noticed very early in our married life that he had peculiar opinions on some points, and I could not fancy that his doctrine was sound. But I kept this knowledge jealously to myself, whilst I laboured diligently to coax and argue him back into orthodoxy. I think now that I was wrong, and should have left him alone. For, instead of convincing, I wearied and exasperated him, and drove him more and more into the society of a gentleman of the town, who I have since discovered to be a Jesuit in disguise. He has acknowledged to me that he was under a solemn promise to effect my husband's conversion, and that knowing a great part of lus property was at his own disposal, and could be willed by him to whomsoever he liked, even during his father's life-time, he hoped to enrich his own Church with some of our Protestant spoils. At last the terrible climax was reached. It was about five weeks after our child's birth that he came to me one evening, announcing his apostacy, and his firm resolve to proceed at once to Rome, there to take orders as soon as possible in the Romish Church. Jt would be vain to tell you how I pleaded. I was both
wife and mother, and I had a father as well as a husband to win back. But I failed. He went that very night, and the next morning I left Dex also, and came here, making Mr. Walker and my own father the sole confidants of my sad secret. I felt so sure he would repent soon, and I wished to make his return easy. He should come back without shame or sacrifice, and the world should not even know that he had wandered. And so I waited hopefully, patiently, until despair began to creep into my heart, and the 'sickness of hope deferred' became a disease worse than death. Then, Mr. Grey, I thought of you. You had been my husband's friend, you would take some interest in his fate. That which I could not do, you might do for me—obtain an interview with my unfortunate husband, and add your influence to my prayers."
"You say he is in Faris?"
"Yes; and the day after tomorrow being the first of the month, I thought you might get an opportunity of seeing and speaking with him."
"Trust me that I will try."
I found that, in spite of her troubles, Mrs. Walker had made the most thoughtful provision for my comfort and refreshment. A bed had been prepared for me in the house, and just as I had finished my early breakfast next morning, my hostess came in, and pressed a full purse into my keeping, bidding me remember that I was doing her work, and not my own, and that I should not be justified in accepting such a commission if it must needs militate against the interests of my poor people at home.
"It is not necessary to ask you to write to me as soon as you have any news," she said, finally. "And Mr. Grey " — dropping her voice, whilst tears stood in her earnest eyes—" Tell him-- tell my husband —that I have nothing to forgive: I only want him back. The boy begins to take notice now, say; and we are both longing, and longing, to have him home again."
I pass over the journey to Paris, which was easy and uneventful. The next morning I presented myself at the convent gates, and after being sharply scanned through the grating by a pair of dark, keen eyes, the huge porte-cochere was withdrawn, and I was admitted into the paved courtyard. After this I was ushered by my guide into a small, dingy parlour, where another monk was seated with his cowl thrown back from his swarthy face, and apparently so intent upon his book, that he started, or pretended to start, when I addressed liira. I asked for my friend, and noticed some hesitation in his manner. But when I hinted that I should apply at once to the English Ambassador, if I were denied the interview I sought, he grew suddenly propitious, offered me a chair, and bade me wait whilst he went to fetch brother Pierre himself. I could not recognise my old friend under this name: I could hardly recognise him either in his monkish garb. When he glided in presently with the hands that had always been so ready for my clasp hidden in the flowing sleeves of his cassock, and his white, sad face gleaming terribly from the shadow of his cowl, I was foolish perhaps, but I could only turn away to hide my tears.
We were not alone—I had never allowed myself to hope that we should be ;—but I had thought it possible that our companion might not understand English. I was grievously disappointed, therefore, when the young man who followed Marchmont into the room addressed to me a few words of English greeting, only in the slightest degree defiled by a foreign accent. But I had come there to speak certain things to my friend, and I meant to speak them. I began vehemently to urge his return to Mrs. Walker, whom I described as nearly heartbroken at his desertion. I then gave her parting words, and Marchmont's face flushed a vivid red, as he answered,
"I thought Minnie had resigned herself easily to my absence. She has never once written to me, never
made the faintest effort to induce me to acknowledge her claims."
•' Oh! Marchmont!" I eagerly exclaimed, "you have been most miserably deceived! Your wife has written to you over and over again, and would have come here to see you had there been the least chance of obtaining admittance."
Here the monk in attendance remonstrated with me for the fourth time, although I had hitherto paid small heed to his representations. When he found that his last objection was likely to have no better effect than the preceding ones, he departed to fetch the Father Superior, enunciating a few vague threats as he went
I seized my opportunity to gain from Marchmont a confession that he was detained in the convent against his wish. I even took out pencil and paper, and made him write it down, and sign his name, promising with this weapon in my hand to effect his speedy release.
"Surely," I said, as I pocketed my treasure, "you might have escaped earlier, if you had only persistently opposed these men, and claimed your right as a British subject to perfect freedom of action."
"So weak as I am both in body and will," he said, mournfully, "a
child might have led me '* But
he broke off suddenly, and the hectic glow on his cheek burned brighter, then faded utterly, as the Father Superior entered the room.
A bland, portly personage, with the air of a man who had seen something of courts, and more of life, was the new comer. He bowed to me with dignified ease, and I could almost have admired the art and address with which he anticipated my complaints, and disposed of them and me without allowing a single uncourteous word to pass his lips.
"My dear young brother here," he said, laying his hand on Marchmont's shoulder, " has been in such a delicate state of health lately, that we have considered it expedient to keep from him any letters or family matters that might excite him in any way, and retard his recovery. On this account I had given strict orders that he should not come into the parlor, even if he were asked for, and since he has chosen to disobey me, he must resign himself to the consequences."
"My friend wishes to leave at an early opportunity," I said, and I turned to Marchmont with a gesture rather of command than appeal, for I found that in his present state he looked naturally to coercion to assist his feeble will.
"I should like to leave here," answered Marchmont, drearily. "These long penances and fasts wear"
"They are for the good of your soul, brother," interrupted the Superior quickly, but gently.
"But his body needs care now," I said, " and as it will be more likely to have this amongst his own friends, I mean to take immediate steps for his removal."
A faint flash of menace kindled in the bland Superior's mild eye, but he answered quietly, "Your friend belongs to us now."
'• By religion, perhaps, but not by country. With the former I have nothing to do; I claim him from you solely on the grounds of his nationality, and as France and England are friendly states, I imagine I shall find but little difficulty in receiving an unwilling captive, and restoring him to his own country and his own friends."
With tliis I departed, and although the Father bowed me to the gates, I felt that I had given him a blow which had struck home, and inspired him with a painful sense of my power.
I need hardly specify the means I used to obtain Marchmont's release, since they are-so well known to most readers. But a week's delay occurred before the Home Secretary and our Ambassador in Paris had finished their investigations, and the matter had been referred to the proper quarter. Then I was officially informed that Marchmont would be at full liberty to quit the convent at any day or hour he liked.
Mrs. Walker was in Paris by this
time, but I thought it better that she should not see her husband until I had prepared him for the meeting. I went, therefore, alone to the convent, and as I passed through the gates I saw the Father Superior coming to meet me with the tottering figure of my friend leaning on his arm. Even now Marchmont wavered irresolutely, as if the mere effort of a decision were beyond his strength, and I had almost to drag him away to the carriage, nipping the Father's pathetic farewell in the bud, so greatly I feared its effect on Marchmont's unstable mind.
At last my uncertain mission was accomplished, and I placed Marchmont in his wife's eager arms. Then I left them. But I had hardly been gone an hour, and had just begun the preparations for my journey home, when a messenger brought me a hurried summons from Mrs. Walker. Her husband had broken fl blood-vessel, and could not survive many hours. I went to him at once, and as I stood over his bed I could see hovering near—
"The shadow cloaked from head to font, That holds the key of all the creeds."
At midnight Marchmont died, but although he spoke to me of his will, in which he said he had left all his property to the Romish Church, under coercion, and prayed me to make every effort to get it cancelled in favour of his wife and child, we could not persuade him to any expression of other feelings and opinions, and consequently we were left in painful doubt at the last, and could only believe, as we hoped, that he died in the Protestant faith.
There was little difficulty in setting Marchmont's will aside. Our laws do not easily sanction this sort of bequest, the danger of the system being so obvious. Every rightminded man in England rejoiced at the issue of this trial, which ensured the security of our homes, and vindicated the sanctity of domestic life. Marchmont's son is now an eminent divine of our Church, and when I feel inclined
to mourn over my friend's untimely fate, I am reminded that his sad history and example have been a warning to one whose ardent ima
ginations and strong passions might perhaps have led him into like penis, had not his father "Gone over to Rome." E. M. O. L.
BY THE EDITOR.
"If we believe that Jesus died and rose again , even so, them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."—1 Thess. iv. 14.
Sleeping !—sleeping !—ever sleeping
Through the rosy summer's light,
Through the harvest's silvery night.
When the soft flakes mutely fall,
Like a maiden's snow-white pall!
Every bud on every bough.
All the freed streams gladly flow.
Smile again, oh! purple violets,
Breathe your perfume through the vale:
Ring them over hill and dale!
Blush, O roses! hawthorn pale!
Floating sweetness on the gale.
Leaf unfold, and chalice ope!
'Neath the blue lark-ringing cope.
Wake up, too, oh! best-beloved ones.
Ye have slept both well and long:
All the breezy choirs among:
Lo! the wintry hours are past,
Where we roamed together last.
Wliile through all the laughing skies
"Children of the earth—arise!"
Sleeping still? Aye best! 'tis better,
Closed lids, and brain at rest,
On the calm unheaving breast,
With this weary life of ours,
Than to pluck the fairest flowers.