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"No," I answered, slowly," and yet I sometimes think I remember a time before I came to Eaglesmere; Martin says I cannot; it must be only fancy."
And then, all of a sudden, a sudden inspiration seemed to come to me, bidding me place confidence in these my kind, true friends ; and, without any further consideration, I said in a low voice that sounded in my own ears with a strange distinctness, and yet as if it were an echo rather than an actual utterance, “Mrs. Craven, I should like to tell you; I think you ought to know-you and Charlie—my mother is not dead! She is living somewhere at this moment; but I know nothing about her; she is dead to me! I have been told again and again never to seek her, never to make inquiries about her."
"Poor Hugh!” said Craven, affectionately. “That is far worse than being actually motherless; but I am glad that you have told us your secret; I always fancied you had one. Did Dr. Richardson know?"
“No one knew except the Wrays, and Mr. Gibson at Eaglesmere, and—the Marchioness. She knows more than any one; she must have known both my father and my mother most intimately; she speaks in the highest terms of my father. She says he was the best, and truest, and bravest of men; that his son can never be too proud to bear his father's name.”
“ Did your mother leave this good, honourable man, then ? " asked Mrs. Craven, gravely.
“Oh, no-indeed no; she was a true, devoted wife ; Lady Dovercourt said it again and again; she said she had been cruel to me, but far more cruel to herself. She told me to think gently, kindly of her if I could, but she bade me ask no more about her, and never, never seek her. Since that day I have not mentioned her; and gradually—and foolishly, perhaps, all things considered --I have come to look upon Lady Dovercourt as a mother, and to love her as if I were indeed her son. I really think I love her as Charlie loves you ; but I suppose I do not; one can never quite love any one as one must love one's own real mother.”
"The tie between Charlie and myself is an exceptionally close one,” said Mrs. Craven, turning fondly to her son. “He is brother and friend to me as well as son, and as far as may be he fills his father's place. All mothers and sons are not united as we are. But, Hugh, this is a very strange, sad story of yours. Had your mother been a faithless wife, a false woman, as your tale seemed at first to well imply, I could have understood it all quite well. Of course she would be lost to you, and you to her, while time lasted. But as it is, I confess it is inexplicable. How a mother can resign a child-an only child, the child, too, of a dearly beloved husband-I cannot understand. Hugh, I am glad, and yet sorry, that you have told us this."
“Why are you sorry ?”
“ Because it will do you no good, and make you no happier to dwell upon the mystery which you may not at present even attempt to fathom. And speaking of a thing causes it to assume a reality and intensity unknown before. Still it must be a relief to you. Secrets are by no means desirable possessions, and they now and then grow into burdens too heavy to be borne. On the whole, I am glad you have spoken, and I need not say Charlie and I will keep your secret faithfully."
“I am sure of it," I replied. “It was a comfort to speak, and it makes no difference. I suppose when I am older I shall be told more exactly how I am situated; for instance, I have money, and I have no notion where it comes from. When I was a child I fancied Martin kept me out of charity ; when I came to Dovercourt I found out that that was not the case, that Martin and Margery were amply repaid for their care of me. Then I thought perhaps it came from the Marchioness, but she said it was no gift of hers; it was my own money, and that I was not under pecuniary obligations to any person, that I never need be if I were true to myself and acquitted myself as became my father's son. I wondered then if it were & settlement from my unknown mother, but that could scarcely be; she was so very poor, utterly unprovided for at my father's death. I know so much.”
“Surely she never sold you for money?" said Charlie, suddenly, _“I mean made a sort of bargain to give you up to some wealthy person who wanted a child? I have heard of such things; I can believe that a mother would and could if need were make so terrible a sacrifice.”
But I was not given up to any rich person. Martin and Margery were poor people in humble life, very little better than the peasantry among whom they lived. The Marchioness has been most kind to me—more than kind, and she has been extremely generous, but she has never pretended to adopt me or to lay any claim to me save that which I myself allow. She has always given me to understand that we may at any moment be entirely separated, and lavish as she is in her gifts I quite comprehend that they are but gifts, and may perforce one day cease altogether. So that theory, like all others, falls to pieces."
“ Try not to think about it," said Mrs. Craven, tenderly, passing her arm round my shoulders. “This mystery which unhappily enfolds you may be a temptation and a snare to you, or it may quite as easily turn into a blessing. Do not be restless; do not seek to make discoveries ; if they are brought to you all well and good. If not be passive, be content, for at least several years; make the very best possible use of your advantages, which are no ordinary ones. Work and wait, and leave the shadowy future with God. What is hidden from you He knows, and He will, if you trust Him and faithfully serve Him, turn it all to your good. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass-yea, and give thee thy heart's desire.”
CHAPTER XVII.-PROFESSOR Rigg's STORY. In the autumn Charlie and I entered upon our university life at Heidelberg, and Mrs. Craven, in order not to be entirely separated from her son, took a house at a few miles' distance, so that with her we could always spend our regular vacations as well as any leisure time we could spare from our studies, which were suffi. ciently arduous, and left us but short space for recreation. Months passed on, and we lived the ordinary lives of German students, though with less than the regulation allowance of beer and tobaccosmoke, for it was very seldom that we either of us entered a Siudenten-Kneipe," not caring for the atmosphere we found there nor for the noise of the revellers, which was generally insupportable. In former times in old Dutch taverns guests used to be charged for the noise they made as well for the alcohol they imbibed. It is a pity that this admirable usage cannot be restored and universally adopted.
But sometimes Craven and I went into a certain Kneipe, which was frequented by a quieter set of men, who were inveterate smokers and also profound thinkers, and there, coming away early one evening, we made the acquaintance of a little elderly Englishman, who had taken an eager part in the discussion we left unfinished, and had interested as well as amused us by his quick, quaint rejoinders, which were at once striking, racy, and startlingly conclusive. It was a mild evening in early summer, and we were glad, Craven and I, to find ourselves in the outer world, and to change the fumes of nicotine and stale beer for the fragrance of the lime-trees, which were just coming into flower. The Professor, as we called our countryman, followed us out almost immediately, and joined us as we sauntered slowly along the Hauptstrasse. “Rather pleasanter out here, gentlemen," he said, puffing quietly at bis beloved clay pipe. “An agreeable change after the odours of yonder vile den. Faugh! what beasts these Germans are !”
A lively conversation ensued, and Charlie and I, partly for the sake of argument, defended the Germans. A tremendous disquisition followed on their philosophic spirit, their uncouth terminology, their peculiar schools of thought, their confused present, and their probable future, &c., &c. And we listened with interest, for Professor Rigg was no vain talker, though perhaps rather crude in his notions, excessively pronounced in his opinion, and, as Charlie averred, just the least bit-bumptious ! An Englishman to the backbone, though he had spent so many years in Germany. We strolled on, talking Carlyle, Hegel, Schlegel, Kant, Goethe, Jean Paul, and Herder, one after the other in glorious confusion, till we came to the grand terrace leading into the court-yard of the castle. It was still early, the air was warm and balmy; we were loth to turn homewards immediately. “Let us follow the example of Paul Flemming and the Baron,” said Craven ; “ let us go and sit under the great lindens on the summit of the Rent Tower.”
· Agreed!” exclaimed both the Professor and I; and gaining access to the tower, we soon climbed to the wooden seat, under the great lindens, the perfume of which was so delightful that Professor Rigg voluntarily put away his pipe.
“Let us talk about England,” he said, lazily, when we had said a few words anent the crowd still lingering in the gardens beneath, and admired the moon rising broad and red behind the ruined convent on the mountain of All Saints.
“ You two young men hail from the South ? "
“ Yes; we both come from Southamshire—we are Stoketon lads," replied Craven.
“I am scarcely Southamshire," I interrupted; “I am a north countryman. I was born in Cumberland, and lived there till I was eleven years old."
“You don't say so ? ” cried Rigg, seizing my hands with quite a gush of friendship. Why, I am a Cumbrian born and bred, and when I am a few years older I mean to go back and die there, for there will never be any place to me like .rocky Cumberland.' Besides, all my people lie there, in the quiet seaside churchyard of Rosthwaite ; and I should like to rest at last in the God's-acre of my fathers. Do you know Rosthwaite, Mr. Travis ?”
“ No; but I believe I have heard of it. Is it a place of any importance ?"
“By no means; at least it was a mere dot of a village sixteen years ago. I have not been there since, and I have no friends living nearer to it than Whitehaven. It is out of the
of everything, though I daresay these railways will catch it up, and include it in the circle of so-called civilisation, and so spoil it."
“ You have been in Germany sixteen years then ?” said Craven. “No wonder you speak and read the language like a native."
“More than sixteen years. I came to Heidelberg before I was twenty; and I lived in Berlin for upwards of fourteen years. Seventeen years back I took it into my wise head to go home and see
who was alive and who was dead. My father and mother were buried in my youth, my sisters had gone far away from Rosthwaite, and I never had a brother; but I had left more distant relations and connexions living in the neighbourhood, and I wanted to see a kinsman's face again. So I went."
“And you found your friends, I hope ?
“I found some with whom I could claim relationship; but they cared not for me. I had grown out of mind; no one wanted me, no one welcomed me. Nevertheless I stayed twelvemonths—I stayed because I was interested in a very sad and singular story. Shall I tell it to you? There is no harm in telling the story now, and I will not mention names."
“Pray tell it; there is nothing like a story—a real, true life story," I replied, enthusiastically, and Craven and I both prepared to listen.
"It is not much,” said Rigg, in a melancholy tone; "but it seemed much to me then, and I suppose I made a great fool of myself; from which remark you will conjecture that I fell in love."
“ Just so,” said Craven. “I suppose men are sometimes very foolish when under the sway of the tender passion; but you see I have had no experiences as yet. I am only eighteen, but I despair of finding a woman worthy to stand beside my mother."
“The Frau Craven is a very charming woman,” said Professor Rigg, bowing politely to Charlie ; " but you may think differently some day. And in the meantime you are full ower young' for falling in love. I do not think much of young men's love; it is remarkably like soda-water, mad enough to begin with, but suddenly flat and stale. A girl's love will thrive on very meagre diet, that is one thing. I was nearly forty when I met my fate, and you know the old saying, 'Love is like the small-pox, the older you are the worse it is.' Love, first love too, at forty, is no joke, I can assure you, young men; for all the depth, and strength, and tenacity of mature age is combined with all the passion and fervour of earlier years. Well, my short story is soon told. I saw a young and very lovely widow, and I met my fate. She was only a girl, a mere child as it seemed to me, though she had a baby of her own.
I could not describe her, for anything so lovely I never saw before, and have never seen since. Helen of Troy-her name was Helena—could not have been more exquisitely beautiful. I think a savage would have paused in awe before her. When I first saw her she was a wife, with her black-eyed baby in her arms, and she was expecting her husband home daily.
“He never came. News arrived instead that he had died in far away latitudes and was buried in the deep sea. The agony of that poor young thing was something fearful to behold ; first of all wo