Billeder på siden
[graphic][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]




'THOU ART THE MAN.' LONDON Society had returned to the English metropolis. If 'every one' was not in town, at least most persons had come up for the short season before Christmas. Seaside resorts had resumed their normal air of dulness; tourists had flocked back from the Continent; all the inland watering-places were deserted; the upper ten thousand were either at their estates in the country or in their houses in the West-end streets and squares; almost without exception, the upper hundred thousand were back in town, to the great contentment of tradespeople and the satisfaction of country cousins, who liked to see the fine equipages and the fashionable ladies in the Park.

Lady Moffat was back, of course, likewise certainly not very strong; more restless than ever; more irritable, were such a change possible, and yet with a strangely subdued expression upon her face at times which filled Rachel with wonder.

Not that her mother gave her many opportunities for noticing her countenance. The dislike Lady Moffat had always entertained for her first-born seemed, during her absence, to have developed into actual abhorrence. That astute observer, Miss Banks, watching the pair with eyes that apparently were devoid of speculation, mentally remarked:

'She looks as if she both hated and feared the girl. I must find

out what the mystery is in this household.'

But time passed on, and Miss Banks remained as wise as ever. She tried to pump Rachel, but the girl had nothing to tell her.

'Mamma was never very fond of me,' she confessed, in answer to a sympathetic remark on the part of the spinster. 'I do not know why; perhaps some day she may love me better. O Miss Banks, if I only knew how to please her!'

So far as Sir John was concerned, he certainly found an improvement in his wife. She seemed to have lost that sudden mania for visiting and being visited; the trouble now was to get her to go out at all. The doctor said she wanted rousing, and Sir John was always proposing something which he hoped might effect that purpose. All in vain. For hours Lady Moffat would sit doing nothing, saying nothing; then perhaps starting up suddenly, she would throw a shawl over her head, and pace the terrace till it seemed as though she would with her restless feet wear out the very tiles.

'It is all on the nerves, my dear,' Miss Banks would say to Rachel. 'Don't take any notice of it.'

Miss Banks was much at Holyrood House in those days; even Sir John seemed glad of her presence. He felt it was better for the girls to have such companionship than none. She acted as a sort of breakwater between the ocean of Lady Moffat's impatience and the rest

of the household; and she was very good and kind to Rachel. Sir John was grateful to her for that.

'If you do not soon go to hear Mr. Woodham preach, Sir John,' she said one evening, 'you will lose your opportunity. He is going to leave St. Theresa's.'

'Why?' asked Lady Moffat, with a sudden interest. She had never quite ceased cherishing the hope of one day being mother to a viscountess; and though of late Miss Banks had thrown cold water on the project, she still cherished a belief Mr. Woodham might be secured for Edwina, and that he would some day succeed to the title.

'Can't agree with the vicar,' explained Miss Banks. 'I believe their views do not coincide; and it is whispered, besides, that Mr. Woodham preaches far too well to please his chief. A sermon of his about Elijah gave mortal offence, it seems, to that gentleman. At all events, he is going; so, Sir John, if you want to hear him, you really ought to lose no more time.'

'Well,' answered Sir John, 'I do want to hear him, and I should have gone long ago, only you know my opinions differ from his.'

'What can that matter?' said Lady Moffat.

'Not much, I admit,' he answered good-humouredly, willing to avoid a scene. 'Should you like to hear him, Mira?'

'Of course,' she answered. 'Then shall we go together next Sunday morning?' he asked. 'I don't think he preaches next Sunday morning,' said Miss Banks; 'but I will find out and let you know. Of course you are aware, Sir John, you will have to be temporarily divorced from your wife while in church. I mean,' she added, laughing at the sur

prise expressed in his face, 'you will not be allowed to sit together.'

'Well, we should have to separate if we went to a synagogue,' answered Sir John; and he continued talking till the fierce light had died away from his wife's eyes.

Then you really will go?' said Miss Banks at last.

'O yes, we really will go,' answered Lady Moffat; and accordingly, upon the Sunday week following, they repaired to St. Theresa's.

Incredible though the fact may seem, Sir John Moffat had never before entered a Ritualistic church. In many respects he was, as Miss Banks said, 'sadly behind the times,' and a new fashion in religion had as little attraction for him as a new mode in female dress.

The old lights would have more than sufficed him had he only truly followed where they led.

[ocr errors]

He could scarcely understand, and he certainly felt no sympathy with, these new faiths, which seemed to his mind little better than a return to the idolatry of the Jews, which their prophets denounced, and for which God punished them. At least, he regarded the Ritualistic movement as a childish attempt to play with edged weapons. Our forefathers fought and died to rescue us from the very evils these people would bring upon the land once again,' he was wont to say. And when he saw worshippers pouring into one of the highest of high churches, as he often did when his way lay through a particular street in London, he was wont to smile and think of the old Scotch woman who, in Lincluden Abbey, flung a stool at a clergyman who affected Romish doctrines.

Often he thought, in his quiet way, of the roofless church, the

« ForrigeFortsæt »