Зображення сторінки

he never carried one? The Captain should be set right on this point; and before Addy went to sleep, she determined to do so on the first opportunity.


SAFE! THE “cotton fellow” turned up trumps, as cotton fellows will do under similar provocation. He agreed that the day his Dick married Rosey her twenty thousand pounds should take unto itself, for better and worse, forty thousand which he would then make over to the happy bridegroom; and the young people and their children, if they had any, should not be forgotten in his will. Moreover he made it impossible for them to wake up any morning, as predicted by Mr. Norton, and find him in the Gazette. He had long been seeking an excuse for retiring from business, and here it was. He could not well do so much for Dick without giving his elder brother something handsome. So Mr. Fred. Vyner became “cotton fellow” in his father's place. “And look here, Dick!” he said, “I shall come and stay some part of the year with you, if you'll have me; but I should like to see the girl. Oh yes, I know! she's everything that's beautiful and good, of course, only I should like to see her.” So Dick wrote to Rosey, and Rosey put it to Addy, and Addy told her husband to be so good as to invite Mr. Vyner to Climbury with his son. By this time Harry had given in. Happy Dick's letter to him, in which love and business, Rosey and the three per cents were mingled in the most delightful confusion, cut the ground under his feet. He did indeed talk some more nonsence about the "taint of trade,” but his mother, who was not deficient in shrewdness, set the vicar at him, who proved ore rotundo that such notions were "unkind, my dear fellow, and, yes, really unchristian, and —and quite out of date.”

The cotton fellow” came to Climbury, and made it exceedingly difficult to perceive in what manner the “ taint” aforesaid showed itself-perhaps because he was going to retire from trade, and so was conyalescent from the dreadful disease. He was charmed with dear little Rosey, and the wedding was fixed for the first week of the new year. Dick was a happy man—so happy that for a long time he did not notice how his host shunned him. One day the fact became too palpable.

"I don't know what the de— what I've done to your husband, Mrs. Norton,” he said at the five o'clock tea to which he had the entré. “I've offended him somehow, that's clear.”

“Nonsense !"

“But I do assure you there's something wrong, and I hate to see it and not know the why and the wherefore. I know I say a lot of

things that I might just as well keep to myself, but I'm not above apologizing when I'm in the wrong."

"Perhaps he does not like your stealing his sister,” said Addy maliciously. “Give her up and make peace.

“Oh, Mrs. Norton !" “ You stupid fellow ! do you think I was in earnest ? It's only fancy.”

Addy's resolves were not very durable. She had almost forgotten that conversation touching the pocket-book, but this brought it up again.

"Did I not understand you to say,” she continued, after a pause, " that you had seen my husband in Colombia ?”

"Yes, at Colon."
“He does not remember having seen you.”

“I don't think he did. I was half-asleep in a hammock at the viceconsul's when he came in, and as his business was not important I did not turn out.”

“Not important!"

"Well he certainly seemed very much cut up and worried, but it was only about a pocket-book. When I said not important I meant not private, such as a fellow ought not to overhear.”

“You must have been more than half-asleep. It was the loss of a brother not a pocket-book that so 'cut him up'as you say."

"A brother!"

"Have you not remarked that tablet in the church, To the Memory of George Sutcliffe: Lost at Sea.'”

“Right opposite your pew?”
“ Yes."
“ Was he a sailor ?”

“No, he was my husband's half-brother. He went with him to Colombia, to look after some gold mines. They missed the mailpacket on their homeward journey and took a schooner, which was wrecked. Harry was all but lost, and poor George- It was in the hope-a vain one, as it turned out—that he might have been washed ashore on some part of the coast that Harry got the viceconsul to send a ship to explore. How could you possibly think that he was seeking a pocket-book ?”

“I declare to you most positively, Mrs. Norton, that not one word was said about his brother! Until this moment I never knew that he had a brother named Sutcliffe, or that his brother was lost at sea. I remember distinctly remarking to the vice-consul that he must have lost papers of value in the pocket-book, and the vice-consul said that he was lucky to have saved his life, as everyone else on board was drowned. Not a word about any brother! He spoke of his pocketbook, and of nothing else."

Dick Vyner's account of himself that he said a lot of things that he might just as well keep to himself, was certainly a true one. Absorbed in the endeavour to clear himself from the implied accusation of having misrepresented what had passed, he did not notice the effect his persistence had on his listener, and blundered on:

“ You ask him," he said, “ if he didn't bother old Nailor's life outjolly old fellow Nailor, he's got promoted, and serve him right !-about that pocket-book.”

Addy was far from guessing at even a shadow of the truth, but this flat contradiction of what Harry had said in that very room, not ten days ago, sent a shudder through her which she could not suppress or account for—at least, not then.

“Perhaps," she replied, in a low, half-musing voice, as though she thought aloud—“it is just possible, I mean, that we are speaking of different occasions."

"Oh, if he was there twice I give in !" cried honest Dick, just wakening up to the idea that he might be making mischief; "and if

he says

“ My husband says very little on this sad subject, Captain Vyner,” interrupted Addy, haughtily, “and what he says is beyond question. We are evidently at cross-purposes, so let the subject drop.”

“With all my heart, only—

“Don't you see that this happened long before we were married,” she broke in. “ Would you like Rosey to drag you back to any painful event in your past life and make you unhappy when time had done its best to cure the smart? I was very silly to allude to it at all, knowing so little as I do of the real facts. Of course, he was twice at Colon; I ought to have remembered that.”

“And so the mystery is fully accounted for.”

Addy made no reply. Her husband had really been twice at Colon -once in going out. Her words were true: the meaning they conveyed, false. She was ashamed of the falsehood. It seemed to her all the meaner in that it was so frankly accepted; but the vague shapeless dread which had sent that shudder through her veins was deepening. She would have done anything to cut the conversation short. She gave a great sigh of relief as Rosey tripped in and rendered its renewal impossible.

That night she met Vyner on the stair, as he was going down to dinner, drew him aside and whispered :

“Not a word, Dick, to my husband or Rosey about that pocketbook! I should be scolded for opening up a sore subject.”

It was the first time that the haughty lady of Climbury had called him Dick. He was very pleased, pressed the little white hand which held his sleeve, and kept his word.

His promise was not exacted too soon. The very next day, at luncheon, the conversation turned upon disasters at sea-apropos of the recent wreck of an emigrant ship—and good Mr. Woodburn

improved the occasion (as it was Sunday) by alluding to "poor George.” He deemed it necessary to explain that the Almighty did not thus convulse His world entirely for the purpose of punishing poor emigrants, and that sort of people, many of whom, no doubt, had led very sad lives. In His wisdom, he sometimes plucked the wheat with the tares-yes, indeed! “And what is your opinion, Captain Vyner,” the vicar continued, dropping the preacher and helping himself to a glass of sherry,“ on the subject of cyclones ? Did you happen to hear any particulars of that dreadful one in the Caribbean Sea, which we have all such reason to deplore ?"

As Dick looked up, hearing his name, he caught Addy's eye. "No," he replied, “I was not afloat at the time. According to all accounts, it was a cracker. When I was a mid. in the Tremendous we were caught in just such another, off Puerto Cabello. It was on us like a shot. The barometer had not time to fall. Our course was SSW. by S. with a slight breeze from the—” Here followed a yarn which the reader will not thank me for repeating. The vicar listened with great attention, putting in a “Ah, indeed!” and “Yes—s, just so," as Dick described the manquvres which had saved Her Majesty's ship; as though he (the vicar) fully understood them, and thought that if he had been captain he would have done much the same in a similar predicament.

As Vyner began to speak in reply to the question about the cyclone in the Caribbean Sea, something moved Addy to look at her husband. She saw his lips turn livid, and the perspiration start out on his forehead. She knew he held his breath for fear. She saw that fear fade away as the sailor broke out into his yarn, and an expression of relief, which deepened almost into exultation, take its place gradually, as dissolving views blend one into the other. She had not hitherto noticed anything strange in her husband's conduct towards Rosey's intended. Her reply to the latter's remark on the subject was, as we have seen, “Nonsense !” She did remark though, during the rest of the day, that Mr. Norton was very chatty and free with his brother-inlaw elect,-that he was in unusually good-temper and spirits. A load was off his mind. “ Thank God!" he murmured, as he left the luncheon-room after Dick's yarn—" Thank God! If that chattering fool had known anything he would have spluttered it out. He knows nothing, and I am safe !"

Safe! He had not noticed his wife, so intent was he to hear every word that fell from the man he dreaded. Safe! There is nothing in the lot of the sons of men—not even a guilty conscience-into which some mercy is not mingled. If men like Harry Norton tremble at a shadow, the faintest ray of hope fills their hearts with rejoicing. The blink of light which now broke upon his path was very dim; but then the sky had been woefully dark and lowering, and the gleam shone or seemed to him to shine—with steady rays.

Love Gifts.

Love gifts should be of little intrinsic value; they should owe their preciousness to the band that gives. The token of love should not, by its beauty or costliness, distract the attention for one moment from the meaning of the gift—heart speaking to heart, in language eloquent though dumb. What are the objects that have been gazed upon, and kissed and wept over as priceless treasures ? A “paltry ring with a posy,” a glove, a true-love knot in hair or ribbon, or, as likely as not, a few faded flowers; but is there one who has loved who cannot recall to mind the throb of ecstasy, the glow of paradisaical bliss, with which the first love-gift was received ?—the silent messenger, bringing the full assurance of love's return ? The youth who has just obtained a lock of hair, or a simple rose-bud maybe, from his mistress's hand, given after much pleading, would he part with it for a rose of rubies and gold ? Would yonder girl, as she sits in her chamber alone, turning on her finger the slight ring that binds her to him who has won her maiden troth, change it for a circlet of the costliest diamonds ? Not for worlds!

A poet of Queen Elizabeth's days, inquiring why his mistress should be so obdurate, says:

“Is't that no costly gifts mine agents are?

No: my true heart, which I present to you,

Should more than gold or pearls content you." Hamlet's presents may have been princely; but Ophelia tells us that "Rich gifts wax poor, when givers prove unkind.” Under these circumstances the jewels become worthless, the gold is only so much dross; one of the simple violets that “withered” when her "father died,” was more precious when Hamlet loved her. So it is—80 it has ever been. It is the sweet madness of youth that leaves some touch of tender memory, keeping green one nook in the hearts of careworn, avaricious old age. Even Shylock would not have parted with the turquoise Leah gave him, when he was a bachelor, for a wilderness of monkeys.

From time immemorial the most usual love-gifts have been rings, bracelets of hair, flowers, birds, scented gloves, embroidered handkerchiefs, and such like articles. Autolycus has, in his ' pedlar's pack,

“Golden quoifs and stomachers For

my lads to give their dears."

« НазадПродовжити »