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the first time you have thought of her head, and died, was your poor that?”
young wife, Joyce Hayward, The Colonel was very apologetic. Henry. There is your letter to “I am afraid I am dense,” he her—not the kind of letter I should said ; “but, my dear, I always like have thought you would have to wait till I know what you think written; and there is hers to you, and as yet you have said nothing. a voice out of the grave.
Don't How was I to suppose
Here look at me in that pitiful way. I he broke off, seeing in his wife's don't expect you to read it here. eyes more than he could read all Go
your own room or at once, and with a tremulous into the woods, Henry, and read movement laid his hand again upon your wife's letter. Go away! go her arm.
" What is it?” he said. away! and do this for yourself She was tremulous too, but in a without me.
I am not the perdifferent fashion. She began to son,” cried Mrs Hayward, thrusting
” open out a little parcel which she them into his hands, and pushing held in her hand quickly, almost him impatiently from her,—“I am with indignation. “You will know not the person to read your
wife's what to think when you see your letter. Go away! go away!” own hand and name,” she said. “My wife's letter,” he said, with “There ! that's been laid up wait- a momentary look of awe and ing for me—fancy! for me to find trouble. Then suddenly he put one it these twenty years."
arm round her, and, half sobbing, The Colonel looked at the yellow said, “Twenty years since! it has old letters with increasing agita- always been right, all the time, my tion, but no increase of under- darling, between you and me.” standing. "What is it?" he said. “Oh, Henry !—is that all you “What does it mean, Elizabeth ? think of at such a moment?” I did not go through all this, only He patted her shoulder with his to come to an old letter of my own large and unsteady hand, and held at the last."
her close. “If it is not all, it's The little woman stamped her the first and foremost,” he said ; foot with a kind of fury. “I “you will never again, Elizabeth, think you are determined not to never any moreunderstand," she cried. “Look who “Oh, go away! go away!" she that letter is addressed to — look cried, stamping her foot upon the at this other along with it; for path. There were tears in her eyes, God's sake, Henry, don't worry half love and softness, half impame any more! don't ask what I tience and fury. She pushed him think : look at them for yourself.” away from her with all her strength,
He did look, but with so be- and, turning her back upon him, wildered an expression that com- walked quickly through the trees passion overcame her. She took and across the park in the full the papers over which he was sunshine. She was distracted with puzzling, looking at his own writ- conflicting sentiments, unwilling to ing vaguely, with a quick impa- be melted, yet touched to the heart; tient movement.
determined that he should go back “ You have been right, quite by himself into that distant past right in your conjectures," she with which she had nothing to said; “tho poor girl that came do, yet scarcely able to resist the here alone twenty years ago, and habit of doing everything for him, had her baby, and went wrong in of encountering even that for him.
She hurried along until she had not unmingled with pain and the got within the shade of a belt of contradictoriness of a highly senwood, and out of sight of the spot sitive, impatient, and intolerant where she had left her husband. soul, sharply conscious of every comHere Mrs Hayward suddenly sat plication. For notwithstanding down upon
and hid her her strong personal share in the face in her hands. Sometimes it matter, it was clear to Elizabeth became necessary for her, even in that he ought to have thought the ordinary course of affairs, to of the other, the poor girl in her escape for a moment now and youth and misery, first, and that then from the Colonel's constant the sight of her letter, the words demands. But to-day it seemed written in her anguish, coming to to her that she must do this or him as it were from her grave, die. The sudden summons, the across the silence of twenty years, long journey, the agitating news, ought to have transported the man the commission so suddenly put to whom these words were adinto her hands, the discovery she dressed out of all recollection of the had made, all united had over- present,-out of everything save whelmed her at last. She cried that tragedy of which, however heartily, as she did everything, innocently, he was the cause. She with an abundant natural over- could not but feel it sweet that flow of feeling which relieved and it was herself and not the dead exhausted her, and a sensation Joyce of whom in reality he had underneath all which she could not thought: yet, in a manner, she define whether it was happiness or resented it, and was wounded by pain. This Joyce, who had been it as a thing against nature which from the beginning the shadow ought not to have been. “ That is upon her married life, in despite of all that a man's love is worth," whose possible claims she had mar- she said to herself. “He cost her ried, and whom she had regarded her life, and it is me he thinks of, all through with a mixture of pity who am well and strong, and in and indignation and fear, roused no trouble.” And yet it went to in her, dead, almost as strong feel- her heart that he should have so ings as if she had been a living thought. In this keen complicaclaimant to the name and place tion of feeling, Mrs Hayward, for which were hers. The very fact the time, could realise nothing that the poor girl's story was so else. It was not possible to think pitiful, and that nothing could of the dead girl and herself but as take away the interest and com- rivals: and this, too, gave her a passion roused by the image of pang: How mean, how ungenera young forsaken creature dying ous, how miserable it was! Such so miserably with no
a story in a book, much more in who loved her, was to Mrs Hay- real life, would have moved her ward at this moment an addi- to warm tears; but in this, which tional aggravation, adding a pang touched herself so closely, she to all the rest. And yet there could feel no true pity. was in it an unspeakable relief; her rival, it was one who had and the fact that this, and not come before her, whose shadow had any revival of the romance of lain upon her life and darkened it, his youth, had been her husband's who even now was bringing trouble first thought, was exquisite to her, into it-trouble of which it was yet with a certain acrid sweetness, impossible to fathom the full ex.
tent. How could there be tender- sprang up as if to arms, to meet ness where such sharp antagonism the new antagonist who thus prewas? And yet, how poor, how sented herself, and must be met, small, how petty, how unworthy but not with arms in hand, nor was the feeling!
as an antagonist at all. Joyce In these contrarieties her mind herself would scarcely have been
aught, and thrilled with so terrible to encounter as Joyce's sharp vexation, shame, scorn of child thus coming between her herself, and sense of that profound husband and herself, taking posvanity of human things which session of the foreground of their makes the present in its pettiness existence whether they would or so much greater than the past, not. What Mrs Hayward would and dims and obliterates every- be called upon to do would bething that is over. To think that not to retire before this new actor such a tragedy had been, and that in her existence, not to withdraw those who were most concerned and leave the field as she had althought of their poor share in it ways felt it possible she might first, and not of her who was have to do, but to receive, to live the victim ! That contradiction with,—good heavens! perhaps to of all that was most true and just, love her! Yes; no doubt this was that infidelity which is in every what the Colonel would want; he human thing, the callousness and would require her to love this egotism which ran through the girl who was his child. He would best, jarred her with a discord take it for granted that she must which was in herself as well as in do so; he would innocently lay all all the rest. But when she had the burden upon her, and force her cried her heart out, Mrs Hayward, into a maternity which nature had as was natural, exhausted that first not required of her. A mother! ah poignant sensation, and came to yes, she could have been a mother contemplate apart from all that indeed had God willed it so; but was past the present condition of to produce that undeveloped side affairs, which was not more con- of her, that capacity which she solatory. Indeed, when, putting had been so often tempted to the tragedy of the poor Joyce who think Providence had wronged her was dead out of her mind, she re- by leaving in abeyance, for the turned to the present, the figure benefit of this country girl, this of the living Joyce suddenly rose Scotch peasant with all her crude before her with a sharp distinct- education, her conceit (no doubt) ness that made her spring to her of superiority, her odious schoolfeet as a soldier springs to his mistress's training! weapon when suddenly confronted Mrs Hayward could not sit by an enemy. Mrs Hayward still and look calmly at what was had never seen Joyce, so that this before her. There was something figure was purely imaginary which intolerable in it, which stung her rose before her, with a stinging into energy, which made her feel touch, reminding her that here the necessity of being up and was something which was not doing, of making a stand against past but present, a reality,—no misfortune. However much she affair of memory or sentiment, might resent and resist in her but a difliculty real and tangible, private soul, she would have to standing straight before her, not do this thing, and put on a semto be passed by or forgotten. She blance of doing it withi, not
against, her own will and liking. ence to some little prig of a schoolTalk of the contradictions of fate! master, a girl with neat collars they seemed to be all grouped and cuffs, knowing her own contogether in this problem which dition in life, and very respectful she had to work out. If the child to her superiors : or else bumptious, had been a boy, the Colonel would and standing upon her dignity as have been compelled more or less an educated person, which Mrs to take the charge upon himself. Hayward had heard was There would have been school or the
of the Scotch. In either college, or the necessities of a point of view what a prospect, profession, to occupy the what a companion ! comer; but that it should be a And the Colonel's wife knew how girl—a girl, a young woman, a that good man would conduct himcreature entirely within the sphere self. He would remonstrate with of Colonel Hayward's wife, whose her if the girl were gauche, or if business it would be not only to she were disagreeable and presumbe a mother to her, but to receive ing. He would say, “ You must her as a companion, to amend her tell her”_"you must make her do manners, to watch over all her so-and-so.” If his taste was shocked, proceedings, to take the responsi- if the girl turned out to be very bility night and day! Mrs Hay- dreadful, he himself, who ought to ward felt that she could have put know so much better, would throw up with a boy. He would not have all the blame upon her. been her business so much as his haps, which would be still more infather's, and he would not for ever tolerable, his eyes would be blindand ever have recalled his mother, ed, and he would see nothing that and put her in mind of all that was not beautiful and amiable in had been, and of all she herself his child. With a sudden flush had already borne. For though she of irritation, Mrs Hayward felt had accepted the position knowing that this would be more unbearall that was involved, and though able still. Joyce had been the bugit was, so to speak, her own fault bear of his life in the past; what that she had encountered these if Joyce were to be the model, the difficulties, still there could be no example of every good quality, doubt that she had for years had the admiration and delight of his much to bear; and now what a life to come: and she herself, the climax, what a crown to every- stepmother, the half-rival, halfthing! A second Joyce, no doubt, tyrant, the one who would not with all the headstrong qualities appreciate the new heroine ! No which had made the first Joyce one was so ready as Elizabeth to spoil her own life and the lives of perceive all her husband's excellent others, with all the disadvantages qualities. He was good as of her peasant training, of her angel or a child—there was education even, which would be soil in him. His kindness, his rather
than ignorance. tenderness, his generous heart, Mrs Hayward conjured up before his innocent life, were her pride her the image of a pupil-teacher, and delight. And the perpetual a good girl striving for examin- appeal which he made to her, the ations, immaculate in spelling, helplessness with which he flung thinking of everything as the sub- himself upon her for inspiration ject of a lesson : looking up with and counsel, made him dearer still. awe to the inspector, with rever- She herself laughed and sometimes
frowned at the devout aspiration, which made her start. She was “If only Elizabeth were here!” not a fanciful woman, nor given for which all his friends smiled at to metaphors. But there was somethe Colonel ; but at the same time thing in the peace of the landit warmed her heart. And yet scape, the summer quiet, broken there was no one in the world so only by the hum of insects and feelingly alive to the irritations rustle of the waving boughs, the and vexations which were involved distant town too far off to add in this supreme helplessness and a note to that soft breathing of trust. There were moments when nature, which made a centre to he worried her almost beyond the picture and no more- —when endurance. She had to be per- the air was suddenly rent by the petually on the watch. She had harsh and fatal sound of the gun, to subdue herself and forget her- making the spectator start, which self, and make a thousand daily was to her like an emblematic resacrifices to the man whom she presentation of what had hapruled absolutely, and who was pened to herself. To be sure, if ready at her fiat almost to live she had but thought of it, that
But of all intolerable voice of war had been tamed into things, that which was most in- a service of domestic peace, a tolerable was the suggestion that sound as innocent as chanticleer; he might in this matter judge for but Mrs Hayward was a stranger, himself without her aid,—that he and was unaware of this. As she might admit this strange girl into rose up hurriedly, startled by the his heart, and place her on the shock in the air, she saw her huspinnacle which had hitherto been band coming towards her across sacred to Elizabeth alone.
the sunshine. He was moving like She had seated herself on a man in a dream, moving instincgrassy bank under the shade of tively towards where she was, but the trees which skirted one side otherwise unconscious where he of the park of Bellendean. In
was going, unaware of the little stinctively she had chosen a spot heights and hollows, stumbling where there was “a view." How over the stump of a tree that came many such spots are there to which
The sight of his abpreoccupied people, with some- straction brought her back to herthing to think out, resort half un- self. He came up to her, and held awares, and all-unconscious of the out the little packet in his hand. landscape spread before them ! • Put them away,” he said, Edinburgh grey in the distance, hoarsely; “lock them up in some with her crags and towers, shone sure place, Elizabeth. To think through the opening carefully cut all that should have been going in the trees, the angle of the on, and I ignorant-oh, as ignorcastled rock standing forth boldly ant as the babe unborn !” against the dimness of the smoke “How could you know when behind; and the air was so clear, she never told you ?” Mrs Hayand the atmosphere so still, that ward cried quickly, instinctively while Mrs Hayward sat there the taking his part, even against himsound of the gun which regulates self. He put his large hand upon the time for all Edinburgh, the her small shoulder, and patted her gun
fired from the Castle at with a deprecating, soothing touch, one o'clock, boomed through the as if the wrong and the sorrow distance with sudden shock were not his but hers.
in his way.