« ElőzőTovább »
sight,' says they. The d-d sight,' says I, for I lie on my sofy and look over their heads, marm, at things they never see—lines and bars like, over Harmonia, red-hot, and criss-cross like prisongrates. Which comes, mebbe, of layin' and lookin' so long and fanciful. They say I'd stand a chance to the hospital to New York or Boston, mebbe. I ain't gi'en it up yet. I've hopes to go and try my luck some day.
But I suppose
costs a sight. And my wife, she's set her heart on the leg's coming to of itself, and so we hang along. Sometimes folks send me down books and magazines, and such like. I got short of reading this winter, and read the Bible through—every word, from 'In the beginning' to · Amen.' It's quite a pretty little story-book, too. True ? I don't know about that. Most stories set up to be true. I s'pose if I was a parson, and a woman into the bargain, I might think so."
Among my other parochial discoveries I learned one day to my exceeding surprise that Samphiry--who had been reticent on her family affairs—was the widow of one of my predecessors. She had married him when she was young and pretty, and he was young and ambitious,-“ Fond of his book, my dear,” she said, as if she had been talking of some dead child, “but slow in speech, like Aaron of old. And three hundred and fifty dollars was tight living for a family like ours. And his heart ran out, and his people, and maybe his sermons too. So the salary kept a-dropping off, twentyfive dollars at a time, and he couldn't take a newspaper, besides selling the library mostly for doctor's bills. And so he grew old and sick and took to farming here, without the salary, and baptised babies and prayed with sick folks free and willing, and never bore anybody a grudge. So he died year before last, and half the valley turned out to bury him. But that didn't help it any, and I know you'd never guess me to be a minister's widow as well as you do, my dear. I'm all washed out and flattened in. And I can't educate my children, one of them. If you'll believe it, I don't know enough to tell when they talk bad grammar half the time, and I'd about as lieves they'd eat with their knives as not. If they get anything to eat it's all I've got heart to care. I've got an aunt down in Massachusetts, but it's such a piece of work to get there. So I suppose we shall live and die here, and I don't know but it's just as well.”
What a life it was! I felt so young, so crude, so blessed and bewildered beside it that I gave out that night at evening prayers and asked Samphiry to “ lead” for herself and me. But I felt no older, no more finished, no less blessed or bewildered, when she had done so.
I should not neglect to mention that I conducted several funerals while I was in Storm. I did not know how, but I knew how to be
sorry, which seemed to answer the same purpose ; at least they sought me out for the object from far and near. On one occasion I was visited by a distant neighbour, with the request that I would bury his wife. I happened to know that the dead woman had been once a member of the Methodist Church in East Storm, whose pastor was alive, active, and a man.
“Would it not be more suitable,” I therefore suggested, “at least more agreeable to the feelings of Brother Hand, if you were to ask him to conduct either the whole or a part of the service ? ”
“Waal, ye see, marm," urged the widower, " the cops was partikelar sot on hevin' you, and as long as I promised her afore she drawed her last that you should conduct the business, I think we'd better perceed without any reference to Brother Hand. I've been thinking of it over, and I come to the conclusion that he couldn't take offence on so slight an occasion !”
I had ministered “on trial” to the people of Storm, undisturbed by Rev. Dr. Zangrow, who, I suspect, was in private communication of some sort with Mr. Dobbins, for a month—a month of pouting spring weather, and long, lazy walks for thinking, and brisk, bright ones for doing; of growing quite fond of salt pork and barley bread; of calling on old bedridden women, and hunting up neglected girls, and keeping one eye on my Tom Paine friends; of preaching and practising, of hoping and doubting, of struggling and succeeding, of finding my heart and hands and head as full as life could hold; of feeling that there was a place for me in the earnest world, and that I was in my place; of feeling thankful every day and hour that my womanhood and my work had hit and fitted; of a great many other things which I have agreed not to mention here,— when one night the stage brought me a letter which ran :
“Hercules, April 28, 18—, “ MY DEAR,- I have the measles.
“ MADCHEN." Did ever a woman try to do anything that some of the children did not have the measles ?
I felt that fate was stronger than I. I bowed my head submissively and packed my valise shockingly. Some of the people came in a little knot that night to say good-bye. The women cried and the men shook hands hard.
It was very pleasant and very heartbreaking. I felt a dismal foreboding that, once in the clutches of Hercules and Mädchen, I should never see their dull, dear faces again. I left my sorrow and my Jeremy Taylor for Happen and my rubber-boots for Samphiry. I tucked the lace collar and the spare paper of hair-pins into Mary Ann's upper drawer. I begged Mr. Dobbins's acceptance of Barnes on Matthew, with the request that he would start a Sunday-school.
In the grey of the early morning the patient horse trotted me over, with lightened valise and heavy heart, to the crazy station. When I turned my head for a farewell look at my parish the awful hills were crossed with Happen's redhot bars, and Mary Ann, with her mouth open, stood in her mother's crumbling door.
CHAPTER XVIII.-Schloss WANTERFELS. How shall I describe what I felt as with my two companions I walked
from the Rent Tower in the calm and mellow moonlight down towards our lodgings in the town ? I tried to talk about the stars, and about the precession of the equinoxes, which were the subjects started by our professional friend. He told me at last rather sharply I must be asleep and dreaming, for I was uttering not fallacies, but absurdities; and he would fain have entered into an argument respecting the relative positions of Taurus Poniatowski and Cassiopeia. It was a great relief when he turned into his own street, and left Charles and myself to pursue our way alone.
By a mutual impulse we turned back again from the quarter whither our steps were bending, and walked a little way out of the town, till we came to a comparatively quiet place, where there was a little bridge spanning a slight stream that fell into the Neckar. Leaning against the railing with his hands in his pockets, and the moonlight full on his handsome, kindly face, Craven said :—“Well, what have we to say, Travis ?”
“What can we say? What is to be said ? What possessed the man to tell that story to-night, and to us of all the people in the world ?" Did
you never guess the truth?” "Once or twice I have had a hazy, glimmering notion that so it might be; but that was long ago when I was quite a child. I remember once telling the Marchioness right out what I should have concluded had she not spoken one little sentence.”
“ And that sentence was
“That she had not a mother's rights! I remember very well how it was; she was entreating my obedience on a certain point to which I not unreasonably demurred. It was in fact the question of my name. I was to be known only by my baptismal name-Hugh Travis. I strongly objected, and she entreated my obedience, say
ing distinctly that she had not a mother's claim—the only claim which could enforce submission. I understand it now.”
“Yes; she meant that she had forfeited all maternal prerogatives of course, as indeed she had.”
“Not so, Craven; she has had the first place in my heart ever since I first saw her in the Castle-pew that Sunday morning. I know now why I have loved her so tenderly yet so deferentially. Now, henceforth she will always speak to me with the authority of a parent. I at least must recognise her rights. Now at last I can throw myself at her feet, and call her by that divinely sweet name I have so long yearned to utter-mother, mother!” “And I felt like one in a dream as I looked
the below me, lying asleep in the calm, radiant, summer moonlight, and listened to the murniurs of the falling water. The ruin-crowned slopes of the opposite mountain glimmered dream-like before me, and behind me frowned the magnificent pile of the ancient castle, dream-like also, as I turned and looked up to its crumbling towers and arches, distinct yet shadowy in the soft, bewildering moonbeams mingled with the lovely June twilight, which would linger till it passed away in dawn. We kept silence for several minutes, and all the clocks in Heidelberg struck the hour. Strangely enough my mind went back to memories of the old Palatinate, of the hapless Elizabeth Stuart; of Otho Henry, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and grand Seneschal of the Holy Roman Empire ; of the armed knights in St. Udalrich's Chapel. And yet, mingling with these involuntary reminiscences of a once-glorious, faded past, was the thought of the present, intense, abiding, and pervading my whole being. The story I had listened to under the blossoming lindens seemed to be written on the whole shimmering landscape above, around, and below. In the rush of the Neckar I heard the deep tone of the waves of that far-off sea by whose margin my desolate child-mother had waited for a hand that could never be clasped again on this side eternity. In the oak-crested hills of the Geissberg and the Kaiserstuhl, and in the loftier ranges of the Odenwald, I saw the lonely Cumberland high fells that lay between Eaglesmere and Rosthwaite.
My reverie was disturbed by Craven. “But, Hugh, my boy, things are exactly as they were, you know, and I am not sure that it would be well for you to speak plainly to Lady Dovercourt. As far as I understand her strange story, she is so unhappily situated that any recognition of her maternal rights may interfere seriously with her prosperity, with her happiness. You will have to think quietly and dispassionately before you decide upon any line of action."
“Yes, I see that I may do irreparable mischief, and that most easily. I have no right to come between her and the Marquis.”
“I tell you what, old fellow, let us go home now and go to bed. The day after to-morrow term is up, and we are due at Schloss Wanterfels. Then we can talk it over with the mater. You see we are young and hot-headed, and may make mistakes, and my old lady is the very wisest woman that ever lived ; she always sees every side of a subject, and she is pretty sure to give you the be: t and soundest advice. Besides, she is so fond of you that if I were not half spooney on you myself I should be rather inclined to indulge in that amiable sentiment called jealousy. Seriously, Travis, we cannot do better than tell everything to my mother; she will see things in their true light, and make them clear and plain to us. I say us, Travis, because all that concerns you must concern me; I can never be indifferent where your interests are involved. And I declare to you I share my mother with you with all the satisfaction in the world, and that, I assure you, is about the strongest proof of friendship that I could possibly bring forward.”
The next day we were very busy with a final lecture, and I contrived to put Professor Rigg's story somewhat out of my head. The next afternoon we went to Schloss Wanterfels, the place which Mrs. Craven had hired, a few miles farther up the valley. The Schloss had really been a castle once, and it still boasted of battlements and machicoulis, and a lofty tower or turret with a windingstair and innumerable arrow-slits; but it was now transformed into a pretty comfortable dwelling-house. The grounds were extensive and wildly beautiful, and the view from nearly all the windows enchanting. Craven and I excessively enjoyed ourselves at Schloss Wanterfels. Our enthusiasms were still rather of the school-boy order, and I am fain to confess that Mrs. Craven indulged and petted us to her heart's content. Till to-day I had always felt on passing through the ancient gateway of the Schloss that I was entering into Paradise. Now I was excited, miserable, depressed, and quite unable to take pleasure in those sources of amusement which hitherto I had fully prized. I was not conscious of it at the time, but I believe I had the sensation of being many years older than when I had last visited Mrs. Craven. Old Foster, Mrs. Craven's confidential servant, met us as we wound our way through the avenue of oaks and firs and immense evergreens, winding upwards to the verdant lawns immediately round the Schloss, and taking our horses, which we were leading, for the ascent was steep, said, “Glad to see you, young gentlemen. The mistress has been counting the days, I do believe, of late. It's very dull here, and the German ways are enough to make one sick, and when you young gentlemen are away at your studies the dulness is just about as much as we can bear without turning into dormice or owls. Give me a gentleman's seat in good old England, and I'll never