Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

By degrees he began to go into society again, one invitation followed another, and he found himself once more a welcome guest everywhere. In the midst of it all, Nesta's little note dropped upon him. He had received it on his return from his club one night, and had opened it and read it with surprise and wonder. What did Nesta mean? Was this her way of bidding him farewell for ever? He read the letter again and again, and tried to understand its purport. Could a vague rumour, associating his name with Kate Danby's, have reached her ? He knew it was current in some circles, utterly unfounded as it was. What else but this could her words imply, when she spoke of the remembrance of her friendship for him, and her hope that God would bless his life and make it less shadowed than her own. What was he to infer from her allusion to the happiness that awaits all who adhere to the path of duty ? Of whom was she speaking? Of herself or of him ?

He sat there with the letter in his hand, till his candles had died out, and, too late to ring for his servant, he groped his way to bed.

The next day he was a little more reckless and a little more merry than he had been before; he was not in love with any one ; reports had been afloat and had spoken more lies than truths as their wont is, but Harry Newton's heart was untouched save by one arrow and the point of that was now blunted.

187

CHAPTER XI.

THE RENEGADE.

"Via !' says the fiend ; 'away!' says the fiend; ‘for the heavens rouse up a brave mind,' says the fiend, and run.'—Merchant of Venice. LIFE had gone on pretty smoothly with the inmates of the Villa. Every winter they now adjourned to Frankfort for the sake of the children's schooling, and the summer days at Auerbach were more than ever regarded as unmitigated holiday. Bright, happy days they were. Frank Stanley enjoyed his fishing, and Nesta and the children, who were now generally her companions, scrambled about the woods after ferns and mosses, or sometimes Nesta took her book and work, and watched the angler, while the children scampered here and there in all the delight of liberty.

I doubt much whether any life was in reality much happier than Nesta's. She had

grown by time accustomed to Hugh's absence, and though her thoughts often wandered to him and her love for him remained strong as ever, she had ceased to look for him daily and to long for him as she once had done. The short struggle of feeling that Newton's presence and declared love for her had occasioned had also passed away, and even when a lingering thought of Harry Newton crossed her mind, she had a satisfied feeling of fulfilling her duty to him also, and without a wish that her course in life were other than it was, all the love and all the hopes and all the dreams of the past seemed concentrated and realized in the duties and happiness of the present.

One day an expedition was planned far into the Odenwald ; it was to a choice spot among the hills that they had never before visited. Several villages had to be passed through, and several ascents had to be made before they could reach the interior of the mighty mass of mountains, rising in undulating outline height beyond height. Great pre

parations had been made the day before ; Kätchen had been busy in arranging all sorts of provisions; hampers were filled with sandwiches and cold chicken and hard eggs, and there were baskets full of ripe fruit and cakes, and a can of fresh cream and some bottles of newly made cider.

The children were all going, and as no carriage was supposed to be large enough to hold so many, the waggon from Dreuser's mill had been bespoken, and the novelty of the equipage added not a little to the general amusement. Heavily enough it came rolling up into the courtyard soon after breakfast. The bright chestnut horses looked worthy of a better vehicle as they tossed their heads and flicked their tails to and fro to keep off the summer flies, and finally moved off at a brisk trot down the hill, leading to the high road. The waggon jolted along, the bottles in the hamper rattled, the children laughed at the fun, and Nesta's teeth chattered as she tried to talk. Yet there was pleasure in it all; oh, why

« НазадПродовжити »