Imagens da página
[graphic][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]



"dj Profundi B."

Xife, meanwhile, was pursuing the usual regular round at Oaklands and Luffington. Tine cheery English spring and the primroses ha. tl departed, and the heat and fervour of the glorious English summer were blazing themselves out; and still the round of life was unvarying. The characters in the little drama that was being enacted there—an old English Squire and his wife; Loftus Smyly, a clerk in holy orders, in love with Kate Stewart; and Kate Stewart, in love with Loftus Smyly; a village Doctor; and a crowd of minor characters, who appear in the chorus-parts, and murmur assent or disapprobation, as the case may be. The Squire lorded it over delinquents in all the terrors of magisterial law; his good wife busied herself in all the details of household work; the clergyman used all his endeavours to heal the soul, and keep sin away from Luffington, which was, as has been hinted aforetime, no very model village, pursued his way steadfastly and rigorously, turning neither to the left nor the right to listen to the blandishments of beauty or the voice of the siren Sloth; and ofttimes when the entreating invitation came for him to join some croquet party, the great attraction of which was that she was to be there, he had closed his eyes to the alluring prospect, and gone and spent the hot weary hours of the July day in preaching the good gospel or pouring the oil of divine sympathy into the ears of a wounded sinner. His might seem to some a hard fate, and people not seldom remarked that the Curate was working himself too hard, and that he ought to take more amusement, greater leisure. He would answer them that the day allotted to man for work was not Bo very long, and that the night crept on with the silent steadiness of the tide—night, in which no work might be done.

It was hardest of all, though, to have to resist Kate's entreaties. He used to laughingly assure her that the emissary of the Evil One never came in more witching guise than that of a woman, and u«ed to instance the case

of good St. Anthony, who very nearly fell a victim to the wiles of the temptress, though all the other temptations were laughed to scorn. And really the girl's entreaties and persuasions were hard to be borne firmly. She had reason for what she said. Sharpest of all is the eye of love, and she could not help seeing that her darling's cheek was growing thinner and paler, and that a haggard look of careworn anxiety, such as must come to the man whose life-work is a constant battle with a deadly adversary, to thwart his wiles, to beat down bis strong defences of ignorance and vice—that anxiety was agonising his face.

"Why didn't you come to the Gardener's croquet party, the other afternoon, Lofty? I am sure there were no end of regrets at your absence; and recollect you owe something to me. There was I, left a prey to some harmless College youths, who pestered me with stories of their boat and their eleven, till I was ready to box their ears. Besides, you are looking positively old and careworn and quite consumptive. You work too hard, and that is as selfish as if you worked too little."

"Retro Salliana," returned the curate, with a look of fond admiration at the upturned face, and eyes of heavenly blue that appealed to him so temptingly. "Men must work and women may play croquet (which is a sufficiently dull, if fashionable, amusement) if they like. Do you know that when you were knocking the balls about and broiling in the sun I was sitting by the bed-side of a poor little child—Mary Wilson, I think you know her—enjoying the cool air, which came through a paneless window? I was sufficiently well paid by the look of quiet gratitude with which the little cripple thanked me; and I had that feeling of satisfaction, which is more precious than rubies, stealing over me, telling me that I had done my duly. All the same, my precious Kate, I feel the force of the temptation coming from you, and I don't mean to say that when I see ' the green light from the meadows underneath, and in the meadows tremulous aspen-treee and poplars, making a noise of falling showers,' I feel a slight distaste to groping my way among the dark alleys of Luffington, amid all the crime and misery antl


want there; but the people will never come to me; I must go to them. Mahomet found that much out, you know, with regard to the mountain. I know they feel grateful when I do get to them, and I know, too, that they make an effort towards cleanliness, if not to godliness. You wouldn't have me otherwise, would you, my precious one?" said he, stroking with a fond movement the braids of her golden hair. "And, besides," interrupted the Curate, seeing that she was trying some new point of attack, out of the exceeding love she bare him; seeing this, with rapid perception of love, which makes ordinary men and women adepts in the^ art of clairvoyance, as far as regards themselves,' and I'll warrant you that should the heart of Jack be distracted with care, the heart of Jill is also torn with sympathetic grief, although they use not the ordinary medium of words to express the malady—" and besides, if I don't do all this work nobody else will, you may depend. It would be different if I had a resident rector, who was able and willing to co-operate with me. But my man is not the slightest use: leaves England for three parts of the year, and the sole charge to me all the year round; and while h roi s'amuse on the Continent, I must perforce do my duty. Oh I" went on the young man, with an earnest flush mantling in his cheek and kindling in bis eyes, "if they would only get rid of the drones in our church, and pay those who do work their best a fair day's wage for a fair day's work! I haven't much sympathy with the foes of my church, I must say, and it may be that I'm prejudiced more than I should be by that particular form of vanity called High Church; but still I must confess that our enemies have much to taunt the Establishment with, that can ill be answered with a clear conscience. Why do you continue to give gentlemen and the sons of gentlemen—men with all the polish, and expensive polish too, of an university education, men of taste, intellect, and refinernement—a miserable pittance of £80 or £100 a year —a sum which, if a man is poor and foolish enough to marry, is just enough to starve him and his wife; or, if single and a man of expensive tastes and no private means, just enough to make bim figure, under the head of 'Clerks in Holy Orders,' in the Gazette, as undergoing the process of whitewash, all the while that many clergymen by luck, or the usual course of things, have, like the man in the 'Pickwick Papers,' plenty to set and little to do. It is a state of things to which no man of sense can close his eyes, and I do wish that, instead of setting up howls of criticism over the introduction of red and green garments, as if it mattered one single sixpence whether man worships his Maker in white or any other colour, as long as the service is heartfelt and solemn—I do wish people would turn their attention to the shamefully meagre way in which curates are paid for the often arduous work they have to perform. Ours is the noblest, highest work on God's earth, and for this we an paid stipends that cooks would sneer at, And there's a sermon for you,

my dainty Kate—wearied you beyond all conscience, I make no doubt; though I suppose you would listen to me patiently if I discoursed on the Fathers by the hour."

"You are always good and wise," said the girl in reply. "I only wish that I was half to good, or did my duty half so well. All I can do is to love you, and that with all my heart"— and so on.

I don't think we will penetrate any farther into the mysteries of Eros, except to say that the good Curate felt himself amply repaid for all toil as he stood there, drinking deep draught! of "Love's wine" and basking in the sunshine of the dreamy blue eyes, that looked into his with such unutterable affection. "And u they talked they walked" through the lovely line which led to Pullen's Croft, a wondrous fair prelude to a most discordant piece. Itwaii lane such as one comes suddenly on in the canvas of Creswick, after weary and resileroaming through many yards of unsatisfactory colouring; a little delicious bit on which the tired eye may rest and drink in tbe sweet refreshing green of the delicate fern, and catch frequent glimpses of the timid violet, aa coyly it peeps, like rustic beauty from out its lattice of velvety moss, and see the stately fox-glow swayed gracefully by the summer breeje; and, higher still, twining round the gnarled trunks of trees, the faery wild rose, with the tendere* of all blushes upon its cheek; hedge-rocs where, later in the year, the embrowned huel shall bend down to the earth its treasures, and children shall revel amidst the branch*!;' lane in which

"A foamless stream, in blossoms cradled deep, Flowed thro' the midst, in a mysterious tone, Like lore-lisped voicea heard in summer-sleep, That whisper and are gone;"

and where birds made joyous carol all through the warm and chequered sunlight, and sang lov serenades what time the pale young lady-moon ascended her throne, 'mid the gathering shadows of eve; a "lover's lane" the country-people called it, and certainly the rustic suitor must have been dull of heart and slow of tongue, if tbe influence of this divine spot did not move him to ik eloquence of love-speech in which to plead hie suit. At any rate the present happy lovers Too wandered at their own sweet will through this beautiful Jane found plenty to talk about, and their talk was not of that sweetly silly hind that characterizes the usual talk of lovers. High aspirations filled their hearts, and their earnest wish was for tbe amelioration of the poor ptopk who groaned in tbe bondage of undeannesi and poverty round them, who made quite a blot on the fair face of nature. To Kate's faithful bosom the Curate could confide the weary longing for success that he had, and how often he bad been disappointed and nearly despairing u> the arduous contest,

"I don't believe that these people *a*b being visited by a clergyman ai Jong »«•>»

« AnteriorContinuar »