Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

· Perhaps had Harry Newton seen her again that day it would have saved a great deal of misery and suspense. But the world we live in is not intended to be a pleasureground; we may believe that all the troubles and annoyances and hardships over which we groan are designed for our ultimate good, and that all tend in some way or other to the moulding and forming of our character. Nesta was not physically the better for all she had suffered, and when some months after it was decided that Frank Stanley and his wife were to go abroad, they asked Nesta to accompany them, both for her own pleasure and for theirs. Nesta, who had scarcely left the school-room, and knew nothing of places and people but what she had learned in lesson books, was charmed with the proposal. There is nothing much more agreeable to a girl of eighteen than the idea of travel; for once it has the charm of novelty. After that time, if we have not seen cathedrals and ruins and old towns, we have seen pictures of them; and we know the Gothic façades and the broken towers and the gabled streets so well from these, that when we do have the lucky chance of seeing them for the first time, there is no feeling of surprise ;-I am not sure that there is not often one of disappointment.

By degrees, Nesta's heart grew calmer and happier. The promise given was a sacred promise for ever, but the ceaseless longing for its fulfilment lapsed into a restful trust. It was no hard thing to have promised to love no one else. How could she, she thought, loving him so entirely. The ardour of 'Love's first flash in youth' was perhaps gradually quenched, but the secret between them of their mutual love became a light, lightening her whole life; and the promise given grew into a help and a support, strengthening her for action and for work. Everything, even small acts, became associated with the absent. Duty began to claim a kinship with Love. The dream of happiness that comes across some young lives was refused to hers. But in

vere

its stead, the realities of life were giving her strength and vigour; perhaps even, struggling as she did against the old longing of her heart, she was becoming an ascetic.

This was one phase. The next, the riper one, was to find Love in Duty. The strength that had grown out of struggle and victory, became united with tenderness and unselfishness, as other claims on her heart arose in her sister's children. And that true love which can brighten all sad lives, and cheer all sad hearts, shed its light upon hers and dispelled the shadows; little nephews and nieces, Dick and Alice, and Ernie and Gerty, clustered round her and loved her only second to their mother, who, like themselves, could not do anything without Aunt Nesta.

"I don't know what I should do without Nesta,' Mrs. Stanley had said one day to her husband.

“She is not going, is she ?' “No, I hope not; only someone else

might want her more than we do. Your friend Mr. Newton, the other day, seemed quite out of spirits, I thought, when he said good-bye.

I did not notice it; he and my brother Tom, you know, have put their heads together to disapprove of my settling abroad; I think he was only annoyed at my sticking to it, nothing more.?

But Mrs. Stanley's eyes had seen more truly. Newton's admiration for the little bridesmaid had grown into something stronger, and as he had said good-bye, and had walked away, there was but one thought in his mind, and that was of the woman he had left standing there. A strange emotion had come over him as he had held her small hand in his, and the vision of her as he saw her then haunted him for many a day to come. It haunted him through years of suspense and hope and despair, till his youth and hers had passed away.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

My friends were poor, but honest ; so's my love.

AU 8 Well that Ends Well.

It was five o'clock in the evening, and the Hochstädten road was crowded with people. It was a long hot dusty road, as the valley widened and the woods could afford less shade, but no one seemed to care for either sun or dust. Everybody was in holiday clothes, matrons with their high white caps and black gowns, and neat black neckerchiefs, and girls in bright colours, usually purple or green, with aprons and kerchiefs in glaring contrast-most of them short compact figures, with a type of face which in England would certainly not be reckoned beautiful. Now and then a waggon passed along full of people; girls and boys eating apples and

« НазадПродовжити »