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passed through no less severe a discipline; but her friend, wholly occupied by herself, saw no kindred emotion in her bosom, or accepted it merely as the homage of sympathy.
At length, without letter or intelligence of any kind-for there were no telegraphs in those days, at least none available for those remote placesMather came. He had travelled night and day after receiving the missive from Ronald. Steam, by land or sea, could not carry him rapidly enough. Here he now was; resolute, impulsive, rejoicing. Yet no sooner had he crossed the threshold than his man's courage forsook him, and, hesitating and blushing, till his honest face was all one strange red, he stood in her presence, awkward, and unable to say a word. She, too, at sight of him, burst into tears and was silent.
His servants and luggage had, in the meantime, arrived at Latten-cover; and with them came a short letter from Ronald to his mother, the purport of which was, that he stayed behind at Jaffa, intending to join a party then setting off for Syria.
All now was happiness at Saxonfield; the lovers, the most devoted in the world, rejoicing in that perfect love, that perfect understanding, which casts out fear. That which was wanting had been supplied; that which was sought for had been found.
The time fixed for the marriage was early spring. In the meantime, a very merry Christmas was to be kept. All the tenants and dependants were to be feasted, so that they might rejoice together. Their residence would be Saxonfield-by far the best of the two mansions; and the steward was still to inhabit the Hall at Latten-cover.
Probably the exuberant spirits of the heiress, and the open-hearted expression of her lover's joy, reacted on Jane. Be that as it might, whilst the very walls of Saxonfield seem to echo back a jubilant exultation, she began to feel out of her place. Her mother had given her consent to her already long visit being extended over Christmas. But she longed to be at Latten-cover. Her heart yearned, especially, towards David's mother; and one afternoon, entering the little parlour where the good woman sat mending the family stockings, she seated herself by her side, and said
'Aunt Ronald, I am better worth loving now than I was in those old times in London. God has been schooling me of late; so you must love me, Aunt Ronald, if nobody else can.'
'My dear child!' exclaimed the elder woman, as if Jane had asked some unheard-of thing; and then, bursting into tears-for she was the sympathetic member of the family-she began quietly to speak of David.
From this day Jane remained at Latten-cover; and if they were not perfectly reconciled to her, nothing was said of the past.
They gave her the chamber which was called David's; one of the snuggest and warmest in that rambling old house, partly a sitting-room, in which he kept his books and his papers: and here a singular circumstance occurred.
In the solemn silence of the first night of sleeping there, shortly after midnight she seemed to hear, or rather to be awoke by a voice, which said, in mournful accents, Syrian fever!'
Without questioning or reasoning, she knew that the words had reference to David; though, till then, she had never heard of this eastern malady. She slept no more; but rose with the daylight, and sought, in the wellfurnished library, for the information she needed, knowing well that Ronald was in life's peril from this cause.
But again she told no one; and in that active house, all, excepting David's mother, were too busy to notice her; and she, simply as kind as usual, asked no questions. Jane passed much of her time alone, and prayed incessantly
Father! if he still live, bring him back to us, as thou hast brought back the other one!'
Nevertheless, she tried to be cheerful and helpful to them all; for her heart was filled with compassionate love, knowing what was before them.
They said one to another, how gentle and amiable she was, and that it was a pity she could not love David.
Christmas was now at hand; the elder ladies had new silk dresses and new caps, and the steward a bran new suit, for the great evening entertainment at Saxonfield. Miss St. Just had, a week or two before, presented Jane with her dress for the occasion-a wonderful fabric of white gauze and blue silk, which Aunt Ronald had taken charge of; and all were to go in the great coach, which had never been used since the old Squire's days, and was now to have a week's preparatory airing.
But, in the first place, enormous was the feasting of tenants and dependants at Latten-cover. Roasting, boiling, and baking went on for two whole days: and everybody was then entertained to their hearts' content, as much from the traveller's stories which the young
Squire told, at the head of the table, as from the sumptuous fare.
The following was Christmas Day. Dinner in the steward's room was a mid-day meal; and to this the young Squire was to bring several gentlemen after church, to luncheon, before they went forward to Saxonfield to dinner. But, instead of coming at one, as was expected, direct from church, they walked over the land in various directions with Linacre, and it was four o'clock before they left. In the meantime, a dreadful discovery had been made by Mrs. Ronald, who, dining early, undertook to lay everybody's things ready for them to put on with the least possible delay. Bringing forth, therefore, Jane's beautiful dress, round which was lightly pinned a soft damask table-cloth, from the large closet, her favourite depository of house-linen, always dry because it adjoined the large kitchen-chimney, and ample enough for a hanging wardrobe -what was her dismay to discover that it was perfectly spoiled, by having been hung close to an aperture through which the smoke of the great chimney had found entrance.
The dismay of the two aunts at this discovery was inconceivable. Either of them would have given her own new dress, could that have remedied the mischief; but Jane, to their not less great surprise, declared herself thankful to remain at home. The truth was, that all that day she had been agitated by an inexplicable apprehension-an undefinable sense of an approaching something-which filled her with vague
Her aunts could not understand it; they hoped it was not because she was vexed about her dress-and then, to be sure, what would Miss St. Just say? As to Uncle Linacre, he was downright angry, and scolded them all for carelessness and stupidity, declaring he would not go without Jane. But he did go without her, after all. The great old coach carried them off, every one of them vexed and disappointed.
They had been gone about three hours; and Jane, having leisurely taken her tea, was seated in the steward's easy chair, which she had drawn to the hearth, on which burned a miniature Christmas fire, when again that undefined terror took hold of her, and her heart beat violently. She seemed to be waiting for something, but for what, she knew not, only that a vague sense of apprehension filled her whole being. Then she roused herself, and tried to be rid of it, wondering what it meant.
In one of these sudden wakings up,
she heard carriage-wheels approaching slowly, then draw up at the steward's side of the house. It probably was the carriage which Miss St. Just, impatient of her absence, had sent back for her.
But in a moment or two she was aware of a bustie greater than such a summons warranted, in the somewhat narrow, dimly-lighted passage which led from the outer door to the steward's parlour. Starting up, therefore, to see what it meant, she perceived an old woman, almost the only domestic left in the house, coming forward with a kitchen candle in her hand.
'Lord-a-mercy!' exclaimed she, in a scared voice, here's Mr. David Ronald come back more dead than alive!'
The next moment she beheld a ghastly figure a tall man, wrapped in a dark cloak, with a dark foreign travelling-cap drawn close round his pallid countenance, being led forward by a foreign-looking, swarthy attendant. He was so feeble that he could scarcely stand; and Jane, overcome by the sight, and scarcely knowing whether it were reality or a portion of the strange dream out of which she had only partially awoke, rushed back into the room to assure herself that she was not dreaming; then, inwardly crying to God for help, returned to the passage; and now, placing herself by the side of the sick man, who had advanced but a few paces, and knowing of a truth that this was Syrian fever, and that he was sick unto death, said, as if sensible that this was her proper post
Let me support you, David. Lean on me, for I am strong.'
He said nothing, but placing his weak, thin arm on her shoulder, entered the warm, fire-lighted room, and was seated in the large, comfortable chair which she had vacated.
It was in one of the recurrent attacks of this terrible fever that the young man reached home. He was in Damascus when he was first seized-strange to say, on the very night when Jane received the warning; and he had suffered as much as the human frame was capable of and yet survive.
Whether it were a surprise to find Jane in attendance on him or not, he did not say. For weeks afterwards he was too near the confines of the other life to take much notice of outward objects in this; nevertheless, he was conscious of a gentle presence in his sick chamber, the very movements of which soothed him like low music; and as convalescence came on, it seemed so natural to him that it hardly called for a remark. But when she was away he
missed her; and the first recognition which she had from him were the words
'Jane, stay with me-as long as I live!'
This was her heart's wish. But not, as he expected, for a few days only.
They are now in middle life, a happy, united pair; he the steward of Saxonfield
-if he had chosen to return to the shop it would have been all the sameand she the mother of many children.
As to old Mrs. Ibbotson, nothing could remove her from the shop. She died at the age of eighty, leaving fifty thousand pounds-the accumulation of which was greatly attributable to her industry and business talents.
AN ACTING CHARADE.
THE FIRST.-PEN. Characters.
MR. QUIRK WRIGHT, a spasmodic poet.
SCENE.-The poet's study. MR. QUIRK WRIGHT discovered seated at a table covered with books and papers. He is fondly regarding his pen, which he thus addresses:
Dear expositor of the poet's fancy! Thou art to me as the sword to the soldier, the staff to the pilgrim, the net to the fisher, bread to the hungry, wine to the thirsty soul-I had better jot that down before I forget it. I see my way to a fine sonnet through that pretty apostrophe. (Writes) Sword to the pilgrim, staff to the hungry-no, that's not it. Sword to the(A knock at the door.) Come in! (Knock repeated.) Come in!
Enter MRS. Obdurate.
My landlady again. Good morning, Mrs. Obdurate.
MRS. OBD. I've come to make so bold, sir, as to say my rent I want and my rent I must have. So now you know, sir.
QUIRK. My good woman, you shall have it. Why this unseemly haste? I only owe you for eleven weeks.
MRS. OBD. And you've been here twelve. I call it abominable; for what with Johnny's measles and them perpetual taxes, to say nothing of the price of butchers' meat, I'm sure I don't know which way to turn. Haste, indeed! If I hadn't been the long sufferingest and most Job-like of females, I should have sent you packing long ago. And after all I see no chance of getting my money. (Looking round the room) The man has nothing!
QUIRK. Has nothing! What do you mean? Look at this magic instrument (holding up his pen). Have you never heard of its wondrous powers? It is the net of the pilgrim, the staff of the
MRS. OBD. Rubbish! Have you never heard of a week's notice? If you haven't, I give it you now; so you'd better look out for some other lone woman to trample on. [Exit.
QUIRK. Unfeeling creature, to vex the poet's mind with trivial matters. While I am winning undying laurels, how can I be expected to think of rent? The soaring eagle disdains the discipline of the hen-roost. That's a noble thought, and may be worked into the sonnet. I'll make a note of it.
MISS X. STACY rushes in, and throws herself at the feet of the poet.
MISS X. Ah, rapture! At last my brightest dream is realized.
QUIRK. My dear young lady, rise, I pray. (Puts his pen behind his ear and raises his visitor.) May I ask you to explain your delight?
MISS X. Am I not in the presence of Mr. Quirk Wright, the effusive genius who wrote
the 'Moans to the Moon' in the 'Scented Miscellany ?
QUIRK. You are.
Miss X. Then let me kiss the hem of your garment. (Throws herself on her knees.)
QUIRK (raising her). Compose yourself, estimable lady; my coat is not hemmed at the skirts.
Miss X. (snatching the pen from his ear). Suffer me at least to press this to my lips.
QUIRK (aside). This is very gratifying. If you will leave me your address, dear madam, I will send you one of the first copies of my forthcoming Yell of Despair.'
MISS X. You are too good. (Gives him her card, and returns pen.)
QUIRK. Thanks. (Looking at card) Miss X. Stacy, I am delighted to make your acquaint
BITTERS. How do, old fellow ? Seen this week's 'Poleaxe? They give it you hot and strong.
QUIRK. How kind of you, Bitters, to bring me the notice.
BITTERS. Don't mention it. You'd do as much for me, I know. They call you the greatest donkey that ever ambled along the paths of literature.
QUIRK (throwing down his pen). It's no use. I can't write while I am so bothered.
BITTERS. Of course not. Come for a stroll. You can read the 'Poleaxe' as you go along. It will amuse you.
QUIRK. All right. Go down stairs quietly. I don't want to let the old woman hear me going out. Hush!
enough what I mean. I have heard of your love-letters and assignations. How dare you think of marrying at your time of life? I'm four times your age, and yet unmarried.
ARABELLA. I wish I had never been born, that I do. (Aside) For a whole week I have been pent up and watched. Gus will think I am untrue to him.
Enter MRS. FOGG.
MRS. FOGG. If you please, sir, a gentleman wants to see you.
THORNY. Who is he? What is he like?
MRS. FOGG. Well, sir, he's very unlike anything I ever see in this house before. He's quite a pleasant-looking gentleman.
THORNY. What's his name?
MRS. FOGG. Well, sir, the name he give me quite took me off my legs, it was such a long one, and I can't remember a bit of it. But I do remember that he said he was a member of the meaty-ological society.
THORNY. (eagerly). Are you sure it was not the Physiological Society, Mrs. Fogg?
MRS. FOGG. Well, sir, I ain't sure whether it was meaty- or fishy-ological, but I know it began with something we have for dinner.
THORNY. Say I shall be happy to see him. [Exit MRS. FOGG.] Who can it be? It cannot be Goggles or Slowcoach, for Mrs. Fogg knows them well. Besides they are by no means plea. sant-looking gentlemen.
Re-enter MRS. FOGG, followed by AUGUSTUS, who carries a large roll of papers.
ARABELLA (aside). Good heavens! 'tis Augustus himself. What can be his object in coming here?
AUGUSTUS. Learned sir, the deep impression made by your masterly paper on the sedentary habits of the oyster has induced me to lay before you some valuable memoranda which have recently fallen into my hands.
THORNY. I am deeply grateful, sir. What is the nature of these memoranda ?
AUGUSTUS. They touch upon a variety of subjects connected with physiology, zoology, ge ology, and especially conchology. An eminent naturalist, now, alas! no more, left them to me for publication.
THORNY. Let us go over them at once. AUGUSTUS. I should be glad if you would get your Greek and Latin dictionaries, as my lamented friend coined many new terms.
THORNY. (rubbing his hands). I fly to fetch them, my esteemed young friend. Mrs. Fogg, fetch the wine. [Exit.
MRS. FOGG (aside). Well, he do look a most unlikely person for one of master's friends.
[Exit. AUGUSTUS and ARABELLA embrace. ARABELLA. Oh, Gus, if you should be found
AUGUSTUS. Desperate ills require desperate remedies, my darling. I heard of the rigorous espionage to which you have been subjected, and made my arrangements accordingly.
ARABELLA. And where did you get these papers?
AUGUSTUS. From the butterman's round the corner. While I mystify your uncle with them, you must get your bonnet on and slip out of the front door, leaving it ajar for me. I have a car. riage waiting, the ring and license are in my pocket, and you can guess the rest.
ARABELLA. Oh, Gus! I dare not. AUGUSTUS. Hush! Your uncle comes. Obey my instructions, if you love me.
Re-enter THORNYBACK, with two large books. As he comes in ARABELLA slips out, kissing her hand
THORNY. NOW, my dear young friend, I think we are prepared for our delightful task.
AUGUSTUS. My lamented friend frequently makes use of the descriptive terms 'ritooral
and 'folderol,' and I confess that their meaning is obscure. Suppose you take the Latin Dictionary first, and run through the words commencing with f, o, 1, and r, i, t. In the meantime, I will select the papers which appear to be most important.
THORNY. An excellent suggestion. (Aside) What a superior young man. Let me see; 'fol-de-rol,' what can that come from? Folium,' 'folliculus,' or some other fol,' will be sure to give us a clue to it. (Sits down at the table, and commences to study the dictionary. AUGUSTUS places a note on the edge of the table and slips out, leaving the old man absorbed in his task.)
Re-enter MRS. FOGG, with wine.
MRS. FOGG. Was the fishy young gentleman a teetotaler, sir?
THORNY. Don't interrupt me. Just give me an instance of the application of this curious term, folderol.' (Looks round, and misses AUGUSTUS.) Why, where is he?
MRS. FOGG. Just what I say myself. And
what's come of Miss Arabella?
THORNY. Good heavens! Is it possible that I have been made a fool of? (Sees note.) Ah! what's this? (Opens it, and reads) I knew it was no use asking you for your niece, so I have taken her without asking. Good-bye, uncle; we will send you cards. Confusion!
[Rushes of. MRS. FOGG. I knew he was none of master's friends. Ah! a pretty time I shall have of it now Miss Arabella's gone.
PENELOPE. ULYSSES. Three Suitors.
N.B. The classical costumes required may be readily formed from shawls and table-covers. SCENE.-Penelope's Bower in Ithaca. The Queen discovered at her task of Berlin-wool work. Three vacant chairs.
PENELOPE. Ah me! ah me! I wonder whether Troy has been taken or not? What a blessing it would be for poor me if the electric telegraph had already been invented. As it is, I know no thing of my beloved husband. Though he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, it is quite possible that he may have been slain by those horrid Trojans. I, therefore, am quite justified in repeating ah me!