Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

him who breathes them only in solitude and in silence. And the other day I stood upon the shore, with the great waves rising round me, and I said

“ Break, break, break

At the foot of thy crags, oh, sea !
But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me!” No, never in this world; but, thank God! our friendships, our loves are not for this world only. One may think sadly and tenderly on the “day that is dead," but the sun that set in clouds and rain and amid the gathering shades of night will rise againyonder! Where is "yonder”? That it concerns us not to know. Only God knows, and that is quite sufficient. But we do know that we shall see Him as He is, that we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory." From glory to glory!Those words have to me a very deep significance, but I will not speak of it here. So I think tenderly and sweetly of the “day that is dead," and joyfully of that other day that may be nearer at hand than I think. For I am waiting and watching,

“ Not for the coming dark,

But for the dawning slow.” Ah! how beautiful will be the sunlight on the golden hills of Heaven! How fair the morning of the unfading day ! how great the joy of reunion-reunion in Him without whom the best part of our loves and friendships had never been.

CHAPTER XVI.-AMONG THE ALPS. It was a glorious July evening, and I wanted only two orthree weeks of iny sixteenth birthday. The Marchioness was still my loving, motherly friend; but of late I had not seen so much of her, for the Marquis had been making a long stay at the Castle, and without knowing why I always avoided meeting him. Once, and once only, I encountered him; he was fishing in the stream which ran through the park, emptying itself through a lovely wooded glen into the sea. He was in some difficulty with his tackle, and, seeing me at some distance, he halloed tbat I should come to his assistance. I obeyed, though reluctantly enough, and very soon succeeded in disentangling his line, which had run very nearly off the reel. His fish, however, which must have been a fine, big fellow, got away, and he looked vindictively down the stream, and muttered something which sounded very much like a curse. As I afterwards discovered, he had quite a weakness for maledictions, and uniformly cursed everything and everybody that crossed him. I was turning away, when he said, “Boy, who are you?”

The words, the tone, the glance, made me think of Lady Olive,

and I flushed crimson red with anger and annoyance. I had the sense, however, to control myself, for I knew it would be foolish and most impolitic to quarrel with his lordship, who had never, as far as I knew, done me any wrong. That haughty tone was the one to which his inferiors were accustomed, and his mood was constitutionally dark and gloomy. I answered stiffly, “I am Hugh Travis, my lord.” I was so used to leave out Vassall by this time that I gave my shortened name without any hesitation.

“ And who may Hugh Travis be ? "

“I am a scholar at Stoketon school, my lord, and I am staying at the Gate-house."

"Oh, at old Wray's! You're lodging there, I suppose ? ”

“Yes, my lord,” I answered ; but, thinking this was not quite the truth, I hastened to add, “that is, I am always there in the holidays. Martin Wray is my guardian."

The Marquis scanned me from head to foot, and then, fixing on me his dark, proud eyes—oh, so like Lady Olive's—he said, “ A queer sort of guardian for a young fellow like you. You are a gentleman's son, eh?”

“I am, my lord.”
“Who are your parents ?”

" They are dead; I never knew anything of them: I do not remember either father or mother. Martin has always been my guardian since I can recollect.”

"Perhaps your father forgot to go through the marriage service, and old Wray might have had a pretty daughter ?”

For one minute I was in a frenzy, my blood boiled in my veins, and I was absolutely in too great a fury to reply. Then I felt as if a bolt of ice had been suddenly shot through me; I turned of a deathly coldness, and I knew that my face was strangely lividly white. Through the mist that swam before my eyes I saw the Marquis regarding me with undisguised astonishment. “What the ails the lad?" I heard him say.

The sound of his voice roused me, and set loose my senses, which had seemed suddenly to have stiffened themselves—I can find no better term to describe what I felt. I replied, in a low, unsteady tone, “No, my lord, not that; thank God, not that! I am assured that I was born in lawful wedlock; I am no more basely born than I am nobly born!”

“All the better for you!” and he turned on his heel and walked off. From that day I disliked the Marquis more than ever.

Once only during those four years had I spoken to Lady Olive; we never met again at the Castle, for the Marchioness never asked me to stay there, unless her step-daughter was from home, as was frequently the case. I was crossing the archery ground one

[ocr errors]

morning where Lady Olive was practising by herself; her arrow flew far aside of the target, and, seeing me approach, she called out in her usual tone and style, Boy, bring me that arrow.”

I brought it instantly, and presented it with all the deference due to her rank and sex. She looked very much surprised, and said, “Boy, you are improved; you have learned manners at Stoketon.”

"I am glad your ladyship thinks so."

“Do they teach manners there? Twopence a week extra is it not?

By no means, Lady Olive. Manners are included in the regular course of instruction."

“Really! I thought they always charged extra for accomplishments, washing, and seat at church.”

“And does the Lady Olive Walton count good manners as an accomplishment ? "

She flushed and drew herself up haughtily. Though in her fifteenth year she was still a little creature but extremely graceful.

“ That is of no consequence to you. I merely wished you to understand that I thought you improved; I scarcely fancied you would bring my arrow when I called.”

“A gentleman is always ready to do the behests of a lady," I replied.

“A gentleman! How amusing! So you really imagine your. self to be a gentleman ? Ha! ha! ha!”

And she ran away, laughing her light silvery laugh, that rang mockingly among the bushes as its rippling music died away. Her arrow lay at my feet, and I picked it up with the intention of tossing it into the thicket of rhododendrons and kalmias close to which I stood. But I changed my mind. I put it inside my coat, where it could not be seen, and walked away

with it. “I will give it back to you some day, proud girl," I said to myself. “You shoot out your arrows of scorn at me as carelessly as you aim at yonder senseless target, but my turn may come. We shall see.”

Well, as I was saying,-only I have made a long parenthesis or two,-it was a July evening. I was sitting with Craven and his mother, watching the sunset from a ledge of rock in the valley of Chamouni. Mrs. Craven had not been very well some time, and Charles being rather overwrought with study it was arranged between them to make an extended tour in Switzerland, and perhaps to visit Northern Italy, and that I should accompany them seemed only a matter of course. Craven and I were both going to study at Bonn or Heidelberg for a year or two, but it would be late in the autumn before we commenced our career as German students.

The Marchioness was very fond of Craven, for he had more than once paid me a visit in the holidays. Of course his visit was nominally to the Gate-house; in reality it was to the Castl2, where during his stay, Lady Olive and her aunt being absent, we spent the entire day. I had a great affection too for Mrs. Craven, not only as the mother of my dear friend, but as a woman whom I greatly respected for her excellence, and admired for her wit, learning, and beauty, which at forty seemed almost in its prime. It was not the exquisite, bewitching loveliness of the Marchioness, but a calm, sweet, stately beauty, which seemed naturally to belong to her. She was tall, perhaps rather too slender for her age, but still graceful. She wore widow's weeds, though Charles's father had died many years before. She was a woman to whom young men naturally looked up, for there was always sense in what she said, and she had the happy art of giving useful counsel without irritating the person she counselled. She could even reprove and caution without giving offence. Hers was a remarkably rich and full-orbed nature; I have known few such ; doubtless from her Charlie inherited his rare gifts and graces. Brimful of kindness, she was always overflowing with general benevolence, yet bestowing upon few the treasure of her deeper love. She had been a devoted wife, and she was one of those who firmly believed that a true union of heart and soul is for eternity as well as for time.

“I feel nearer to him now, Hugh,” she said one day to me, " than to any living person, Charlie not excepted. Thank God that across the dark abyss we can still hold communion in Him. Ere long we shall clasp hands once more and sit down for ever in the Father's kingdom."

I need scarcely say that Craven hid nothing from such a mother, nor had I any concealments from her, only the one secret I had guarded jealously so long. But on this evening I spoke.

In the lap of the green valley lay the icy Glacier de Boisson. Close at hand was a deep pine gorge, through which rushed a mountain torrent, the river Arve, I think. On one side swelled green hills; they seemed nothing more in comparison with the mighty peaks that rose beyond-black, jagged, awful, and still beyond, that lonely world of snow, with Mont Blanc towering aloft, the crowned monarch of the Alps. Oh, the glory, as we watched the rosy flush steal over those cold white fields of ice and snow ! First of all a pale pure pink, then a deeper hue, then a rich crimson glow. And the banks of clouds above caught the tint, and the red light fell on the pine-groves lower down, and on the awful Grands Mulets, on the whole scene, till we felt as if we were gazing vpon a mount of transfiguration. Presently the beautiful rosy flush faded-slowly, slowly passing into all sorts of vivid and delicate

[ocr errors]

Craven gave

shades of pink, lilac, and purple, once very nearly the tint we now recognise as mauve, then changing into gold, which deepened into amber, and actually bronzed the black Grands Mulets with its weird reflection. By-and-bye the yellow lights too faded, melting into paler gold, and like a miraculous transformation scene it passed silently away. Last of all, a delicate, transparent pink-a sort of faint after-glow on the blue-white spectral heights, and then all was colourless and cold once more, and only the shimmering silver of the cascade flashed among the pines. Mont Blanc reposed in his “crystal shrine," to be “visited all night by troops of stars," to be touched on his loftiest peaks by the first glimmerings of the new-born day, to rise ever and ever “like a cloud of incense from the earth," telling the flushing sky, and the dim stars of dawn, and all the woods, and torrents, and the icy plains, and opening Alpine flowers

Earth with her thousand voices praises God.” As we sauntered slowly homewards, loitering at every step of our descent, I spoke of the Marchioness, who had several years before my coming to Dovercourt visited Chamouni, and from whom I had learned so much concerning its peculiar beauties, that now, when actually beholden, they scarcely seemed new or unfamiliar.

his arm to his mother, and took the greatest care of her, for the footing in the uncertain twilight was by no means of the surest. At that moment I thought how passing sweet it must be to devote one's-self to a beloved mother, and my heart went out with a strange, sad yearning towards the Marchioness. I felt that I must mention her; it was something even to be able ío talk about her.

“ Lady Dovercourt is very good to you, Hugh,” said Craven, in reply to some remark of mine.

“ Yes, I sometimes think I could not have loved my own mother better, and yet it must be so very sweet and restful to have one's very own mother, as you have, Charlie.”

'Indeed, the old lady is a great comfort to me,” said Charlie, with a laugh, but I saw him squeeze the arm within his own with something of the vehement tenderness of a lover. His mother was dearer to him than he cared to say—dearer even than he could tell. “I wonder what your mother was like, Travis,” resumed Craven. you

said to resemble her or your father ? " “Oh, I am like my father-everybody says so.” And then I remembered that “everybody” was only two people—Martin Wray and Lady Dovercourt. “I was quite a baby when he died.”

“And your mother-have you no dim half-memory of her?” asked Mrs. Craven.

" Are

« ElőzőTovább »