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giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Yes! the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! I could write those words over and over again, for in them is my hope, my joy, my only and unfailing trust! And so—forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before—let me ever press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!
Why have I written all this today? Because it is just one year since my great sorrow came upon me. I am not ashamed to call it so, not ashamed for God and all His holy angels to look into my heart, and see how I have cared for Cyril Denham: but I could not bear, unless that, too, were God's will, that any mortal creature should guess this truth. Ah! my Cyril, are you going to be happy? I can trust myself better than I can trust you to God's most righteous will; that shows how faithless still I am! I am afraid, oh! so afraid, that all you have passed through is but the beginning of sorrows. God grant that I may ever be true to the compact I made with you last April, to be your sister! your true, devoted, faithful sister; which compact of course includes allegiance and devotion to her who will be your wife. And yet it is there that I dread to look too closely; does she prize the jewel she wears so carelessly, the jewel of your love? I would I could answer that question, but I cannot to my satisfaction. Well! time proves all things; but if the proving should be to your misery, my poor Cyril!
April 18</j.—I am afraid I am getting too clear an answer to the question I asked myself, when I talked to you, my diary, last. Let me here write it down, while it is fresh in my memory. Yesterday I went with Janet into Southchester, and after we had done our shopping she went to make a call on some lady—a prebend's widow, who lives on the road between the city and St. Croix. I— knowing nothing of the prebendal relict, who is a nervous invalid, and
has a horror of strange faces—chose rather to walk on by myself and appoint to meet Janet at the St. Croix station, five minutes before train time. It was a lovely April day, soft, and golden, and fragrant, and a light wind played among the budding branches, and swayed the half-opened leaves of the pale green horse-chesnuts behind the mossy walls; and insensibly I took the turning to Monkswood, and found myself soon before the battlemented gateway, where still in the fretted stonework the Denhams' coat of arms and ancient mottoes were discernible. But all Denham memories will fade away ere long, for when I passed into the grounds I scarcely knew the place. The dilapidated roof was gone; the upper story, so long given over to the winds and dew of heaven and the birds of the air, was gone also; the outer walls of the old rambling place remained, but much of the inside was a mere shell. How I wondered whether the Cedar Chamber would be altered, and I could not go to see, for the house was full of workmen, laughing and singing, and cracking ribald jokes. I could only note that the great dining-room was under the enchanter's wand; it was being restored, as Vivian Gower called it; being marred, it seemed to me, who loved the past far better than the present. Would Elizabeth ever come there, I thought, and look upon the changes, and think pensively of the melancholy, grand, old Monkswood, under its rightful lords? Somehow, very foolishly, I could not feel that Vivian Gower was the lawful owner of the place, though well I knew that it had been put up for sale, and that he had bought it. and paid for it with coin of the realm, current and genuine. I felt, and I always shall feel, still very foolishly, I know, that Cyril, and none but he, is the real master of Monkswood.
Turning away from the old house, resonant with loud voices, and the sound of trowel, and hammer, and saw, I strolled away by a path that I knew through the grounds, which led me by the wood and the black pool in its depths, to a stile which brought me into a field skirting the high road, close to the Hospital Church. I crossed the green lawn, or quadrangle, of the ancient hospital itself; its beds were gay with hyacinths, and small red and yellow tulips, and purple anemones. The afternoon sun lighted up the old grey tower and the half-ruined cloisters on its eastern side, and lingered yet on the face of the mossy dial. The great western portal of the church was unclosed, and I entered, and walked slowly up the echoing damp nave, and through the silent choir, to the solemn chancel, where she sleeps beneath the faded banners of her husband's hapless house. Yes, there was the diamonded marble square, with its recently mortared edges, and its newly chiseled inscription :— "F. B. D. Obiit, Sept. 28, 18— JEtat 08." All that remained of the earthly part of Frances Barbara Denham, nee Delamere!
I felt very sad, standing by that quiet grave, in the chancel of St. Croix; only I remembered her last words,—" I yield my soul to Him!" and who ever trusted in Thee, most merciful, most holy, most omnipotent, and was confounded? Then I wandered away into an outer aisle, where there was a little shrine or chapel, belonging to some other county family, and across it fell a ruddy golden sunbeam, which lighted up a faded dim escutcheon of the olden time, and led me to trace out one single word, "Resuroam." Oh! the joy, the inestimable glory of the blessed Easter-tide! It carried me away from the poor mouldering dust and ashes under the coffin-hd, to the brightness and beauty of the resurrection morning! Over again I write, with humble, yet rejoicing heart:—" Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" I told Janet where I had been, when we met again on the station-platform; but we said very little about Monks wood or that grave I had just visited, and I was glad; one cannot talk sometimes, one can only feel, and hold comBJunion with that which is not seen.
We got home to dinner, and the evening passed as usual, and we had exchanged good-nights, when I remembered that Elizabeth had a certain book of mine, to which I wanted to refer, and I knew she had quite finished with it, and had only forgotten to return it. So I went to her room, and found her sitting over a cheerful little fire, reading what seemed to be a very lengthy letter. She put it away as I entered, and turned on me her beaming face, so radiant, so beautiful, and yet a little startled, perhaps a little flushed. "Oh! is it you, Agnes?" she exclaimed, "I want somebody to chat to before I go to bed; I am glad you are come. Sit down!"
I sat down, though I had not intended staying at all. I always j-ield to Elizabeth; with me she has all the privileges of a charming, petted child, and we talked for a while about all sorts of tilings; finally I told her where I had been that day, and how sad it seemed to mo that Monkswood should have passed into the hands of strangers!
"We can hardly call Vivian Gower a stranger," she said presently.
"Well, no ; but quite a stranger, as far as the lands of Monkswood are concerned."
"Poor old Monkswood! and it is being quite altered, you tell mo?"
"Quite. You will not know it again, if ever you can make up your mind to visit it!"
"I am sorry; but Vivian Gower has great taste, he consulted me about the alterations in the diningroom!"
"He had the effrontery, the indelicacy to do so?"
"Agnes! you forget that there is no engagement between Cyril and myself! We are both free: such liberty was expressly stipulated for,
when the , the , when papa
and mamma gave consent that ,
that we might, if we wished it, be something more than common friends!"
"No! I do not forget; and I remember also, how you repudiated the idea of being really free! Elizabeth! surely you do not regret last April's promises?"
"Beg ret t that is a strong term to use. Well, no ; I do not: but I think I was too impulsive. I was a child; I did not know myself. You see, Agnes, I was little more than seventeen."
"And you are little more than eighteen now!"
"Ah! but twelve months, at my age, makes such a difference."
Undeniably true! I had felt it so myself. Never does the mind, never does the whole woman progress so rapidly as from seventeen to oneand-twenty. One's inner self grows like a seedling in a showery June.
"But, Elizabeth, Cyril is coming down that this understanding between you may become an acknowledged, ratified engagement. The year of probation has expired, very
nearly. You cannot mean that ,
that ;really, I hardly know how
to put it,—but you speak as if you had not acted wisely, in pledging yourself thus far."
"Now, Agnes, don't look grave in that way. You are the only creature I can speak to unreservedly. You know, Aggy dear, I always come to you in all my troubles: and if you get stiff and starched what shall I do?"
"I cannot help looking grave when you say such things."
"What things C' She spoke pettishly, like an angry child convicted of misdoing.
"You admit that you were too impulsive when, a year ago, you
fave yourself, conditionally, to Cyril >enham."
"Well! Did you not all of you say the same thing?"
"I do not know that I said it; but others did, certainly. But what was said to you then and what is said by you now must have very different bearings. Only tell me, Elizabeth—and forgive me for asking the question—are you tiring of Cyril?"
"No; not tiring, oh no! How can you think of such R thing? But still"
"Still what?" I was determined I would not help her.
"Still, I am not sure that Cyril is the match for me."
"Oh Elizabeth! you should have thought of that twelve months ago."
"How could I? I had seen no one else: I was like Miranda, and thought the first man I saw that was not quite a Caliban, a thing divine!"
"Not quite a Caliban? Elizaheth!"
"Why do you say my name in that tone, with at least twenty notes of interrogation after it, and as many more of exclamation? Why, even Miranda cried, after a little while.
"' How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave
"You are talking wildly. You are not Miranda, you have seen men all your life ; if not Ferdinands, certainly not Calibans. If Cyril could hear you, he wouldbe wounded most cruelly."
To my surprise she burst into tears; but I did not feel that I could pet and comfort her, as I should have done an hour ago. "It is too bad of you to scold me so!" she cried; "and you look as if I had done some very wicked thing."
"You will do a very wicked thing if you play Cyril Denham false."
She looked appalled, and the lovely roses faded from her cheeks. I felt I was too harsh; and yet Cyril, my friend, my brother, I could not bear that your happiness should be so lightly handled by a careless girl, who seems inclined to wear her lovers as she wears her gloves and bonnet—till she wearies of them, and wishes "something new." "Oh, Agnes!" she sobbed out, "you know I would not for the world be really wicked. But you should remember there was no engagement. Papa emphatically said we were not to consider ourselves affianced, and if either of us changed our minds during the year of probation, neither of us was to blame the other. I am sure if Cyril wanted to marry you, I would not say an unkind word to him. It was part of the agreement that we both should be left at libertv. Papa insisted on it."
"Does your papa know that you are unwilling to recognise the understanding there has been between you and Cyril Denham, as a decisive engagement?"
"No, Agnes! neither does mamma, nor Janet, nor anybody that I know, and I dread to tell them; and Cyril will be here on the third of May. I want you to say a word to mamma for me, just a word."
"Not a syllable, Elizabeth! You have tangled the skein yourself, and no one else can wind it off. Only be candid, be merciful; remember that Cyril is not a Persian cat, or a Pomeranian dog; he has a human heart, and is gifted, if I mistake not, with great capabilities of suffering: do not torture him!"
"What ought I to do?"
"In the first place, know your own mind, and be sure that you really do know it; in the second place, communicate that knowledge to your parents—and to Cyril."
"I never can! Oh! why did they listen to me, and allow me to entangle myself in what was tantamount to an engagement; and I only seventeen!"
I could have smiled at her plea of youth, had not my heart been so very sore. I could not help saying, rather sarcastically, "A warning to parents not to give their daughters of seventeen their own way, though they be dying for it. But let me understand you, Elizabeth; do you really, actually desire not to enter upon a recognised engagement with the man who has been your accepted lover all these months?"
"How you put it, Agnes! Really, you are a little coarse!"
"I think not; but I am very frank! In a matter of such terrible moment, one had better be a little coarse than make any more mistakes under cover of refinement. But if you do not like to answer my question, never mind. I had no right to ask it, and should not have done so had you not given me so far your confidence."
"Well, then! I am convinced that it would not be for my happiness to
marry Cyril Denham; and of course, the sooner this implied engagement is broken off the better."
"What has made you change your mind? This time last year all your happiness was centred in him?"
"I mistook a sisterly love for the other sort of love. I am not the first who has fallen into such an error, I see now that Cyril and I are, as mamma says, too much alike, we both lack energy; and I am told that Cyril is not going on in London very satisfactorily."
"Who could tell you that?"
"I may not say; but I have heard. He is wearying of his officeduties: he is frightfully extravagant!"
"And you believe it? How could you listen to the base traducer, the cowardly, mean slanderer?"
"It is no traduction, no slander; it is true! And there is much more that I was not told—that could not be told, I fear, to you and to me!"
I exclaimed with horror. No.no! Cyril might be vacillating, and impulsive, even weak and lazy now and then; but immoral f Never, never. It was the singular purity of his nature, a purity that shone out in every lineament and feature, that had at first attracted my regards. I said as much to Elizabeth. She coolly replied, " Ah! but then he had not encountered the temptations of a bachelor-life in town."
I turned away angrity, and replied, " I will not discuss this matter, Elizabeth; it is not a fitting theme for either of us. And it is utterly unworthy of you to bring unfounded accusations against your friend, to justify your own capricious temper. Yes! I am angry; I do not deny it. It was enough that you should make Cyril miserable through want of faith, but it is horrible that you should in extenuation of that faithlessness charge him with such faults."
"Agnes! Agnes! you are mad! What fault did I charge him with?"
"You hinted at faults of the very gravest nature. If he be guilty of sins that could not be retailed to us, because we are young women, his conduct must indeed be culpable and shameful! But again I say, who told you this?"
"And again I say I cannot answer. The information was given me in confidence; I may not mention names."
"I scarcely need to ask. I know but one man who has access to your ear who would stab anot her man in the dark, and that man is Vivian Gower!"
I saw Elizabeth turn deathly pale, and then turn flaming scarlet. She was too excited to speak, and her eyes were sparkling with indignation, as were my own. My very finger-ends were tingling with the strong emotion, and I dared not trust myself to say another word. I felt sure that if then I uttered what was seething in my mind, I should bitterly regret it. I should say what could not be unsaid, and do what could not be undone. As Cyril's trusted friend and sister, I must be calm and self-possessed. I must not fight his battles in such a spirit. So I turned away, and went to my own room: but not to sleep. Oh, Cyril! my dear friend Cyril ! how darkly are the clouds gathering about you, and I cannot help you, I cannot comfort you. I can only pray for you day and night: but, oh, Cyril, my brother, it is very hard! All the wealth of your great love is lavished upon her, and she despises it, while I am thankful for the merest crumbs of your affection. But, oh! Elizabeth, you will rue the day you listened first to Vivian Gower; you have flung away the virgin ore to pick up miserable gilded pinchbeck! A costly jewel was confided to your keeping; you should have worn it silently and jealously in your bosom, till such time as God should have seen fit to set it in your matron-crown of womanhood; but you drop it heedlessly, and flaunt the tawdry, glittering ornaments, that will tarnish ere you tire of them! Foolish Elizabeth! unhappy Cyril!
I must ask you to go back a little while; for the curtain rises now on a
scene that transpired some weeks before the events recorded in Miss Craven's diary; and the scene is no longer at Forest Range, or melancholy Monkswood, but in the busy haunts of London life. It is time we followed more particularly the career of the young man concerning whose fortunes I write professedly; it is tune to inquire whether there were any just grounds for those aspersions which had grieved the very soul of Agnes Craven,—aspersions she nscribed, and most correctly, to Vivian Gower.
It was the close of a miserable February day, nearly the last of the month, and the clerks in the office in Parliament Street—that special office where Cyril had found a post —were shutting up their desks, putting books away, locking safes, and the junior portion of them chaffing each other as young men will in the absence of their chief. Cyril was in an inner office, a sort of private room, which he shared in common with a Mr. Ratteiibury, his senior in years and standing, but thanks to Government influence and Sir John Ashburner, his junior in position. Mr. Kattenbury was a gloomy man of five-aud-forty, a singularly reserved man, morose in his bearing, saturnine in speech, and generally shunned, if not detested, by his co-workers in Parliament Street. Still, no one could say a word against Mr. Rattenbury, he always fulfilled his duties, scrupulously avoided giving direct offence, and had once or twice done the youngsters about the place some trifling service, which led them to say "Rattenbury was not such a very bad fellow after all! He was generous enough, and quite the gentleman; only he was sulky, and it pleased him to keep aloof, and play the bear. Well, every man had his peculiarities, and these were Rattenbury's!" Cyril and he. though they shared the room and its convenience, had very little else in common; they were not antagonistic, only coldly civil, and somewhat ceremonious. The sentences exchanged between them during the day, not relating to business, were