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   Chapter 24 THE HONEYMOON.

The Clever Woman of the Family By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 41120

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"Around the very place doth brood

A calm and holy quietude."-REV. ISAAC WILLIAMS.

The level beams of a summer sun, ending one of his longest careers, were tipping a mountain peak with an ineffable rosy purple, contrasting with the deep shades of narrow ravines that cleft the rugged sides, and gradually expanded into valleys, sloping with green pasture, or clothed with wood. The whole picture, with its clear, soft sky, was retraced on the waters of the little lake set in emerald meadows, which lay before the eyes of Rachel Keith, as she reclined in a garden chair before the windows of a pretty rustic-looking hotel, but there was no admiration, no peaceful contemplation on her countenance, only the same weary air of depression, too wistful and startled even to be melancholy repose, and the same bewildered distressed look that had been as it were stamped on her by the gaze of the many unfriendly eyes at the Quarter Sessions, and by her two unfortunate dinner parties.

The wedding was to have been quietness itself, but though the bridegroom had refused to contribute sister, brother-in-law, or even uncle to the numbers, conventionalities had been too strong for Mrs. Curtis, and "just one more" had been added to the guests till a sufficient multitude had been collected to renew all Rachel's morbid sensations of distress and bewilderment with their accompanying feverish symptoms, and she had been only able to proceed on her journey by very short stages, taken late in the day.

Alick had not forgotten her original views as to travelling, and as they were eventually to go to Scotland, had proposed beginning with Dutch reformatories and Swiss cretins; but she was so plainly unfit for extra fatigue and bustle, that the first few weeks were to be spent in Wales, where the enjoyment of fine scenery might, it was hoped, be beneficial to the jaded spirits, and they had been going through a course of passes and glens as thoroughly as Rachel's powers would permit, for any over-fatigue renewed feverishness and its delusive miseries, and the slightest alarm told upon the shattered nerves.

She did not easily give way at the moment, but the shock always took revenge in subsequent suffering, which all Alick's care could not prevent, though the exceeding charm of his tenderness rendered even the indisposition almost precious to her.

"What a lovely sunset!" he said, coming to lean over the back of her chair. "Have you been watching it?"

"I don't know."

"Are you very much tired?"

"No, it is very quiet here."

"Very; but I must take you in before that curling mist mounts into your throat."

"This is a very nice place, Alick, the only really quiet one we have found."

"I am afraid that it will be so no longer. The landlord tells me he has letters from three parties to order rooms."

"Oh, then, pray let us go on," said Rachel, looking alarmed.

"To-morrow afternoon then, for I find there's another waterfall."

"Very well," said Rachel, resignedly.

"Or shall we cut the waterfall, and get on to Llan-something?"

"If you don't think we ought to see it."

"Ought?" he said, smiling. "What is the ought in the case? Why are we going through all this? Is it a duty to society or to ourselves?"

"A little of both, I suppose," said Rachel.

"And, Rachel, from the bottom of your heart, is it not a trying duty?"

"I want to like what you are showing me," said Rachel.

"And you are more worried than delighted, eh?"

"I-I don't know! I see it is grand and beautiful! I did love my own moors, and the Spinsters' Needles, but-Don't think me very ungrateful, but I can't enter into all this! All I really do care for is your kindness, and helping me about," and she was really crying like a child unable to learn a lesson.

"Well," he said, with his own languor of acquiescence, "we are perfectly agreed. Waterfalls are an uncommon bore, if one is not in a concatenation accordingly."

Rachel was beguiled into a smile.

"Come," he said, "let us be strong minded! If life should ever become painful to us because of our neglect of the waterfalls, we will set out and fulfil our tale of them. Meantime, let me take you where you shall be really quiet, home to Bishopsworthy."

"But your uncle does not expect you so soon."

"My uncle is always ready for me, and a week or two of real rest there would make you ready for the further journey."

Rachel made no opposition. She was glad to have her mind relieved from the waterfalls, but she had rather have been quite alone with her husband. She knew that Lord and Lady Keith had taken a house at Littleworthy, while Gowanbrae was under repair, and she dreaded the return to the bewildering world, before even the first month was over; but Alick made the proposal so eagerly that she could not help assenting with all the cordiality she could muster, thinking that it must be a wretched, disappointing wedding tour for him, and she would at least not prevent his being happy with his uncle; as happy as he could be with a person tied to him, of whom all his kindred must disapprove, and especially that paragon of an uncle, whom she heard of like an intensification of all that class of clergy who had of late been most alien to her.

Alick did not press for her real wishes, but wrote his letter, and followed it as fast as she could bear to travel. So when the train, a succession of ovens for living bodies disguised in dust, drew up at the Littleworthy Station, there was a ready response to the smart footman's inquiry, "Captain and Mrs. Keith?" This personage by no means accorded with Rachel's preconceived notions of the Rectory establishment, but she next heard the peculiar clatter by which a grand equipage announces its importance, and saw the coronetted blinkers tossing on the other side of the railing. A kind little note of welcome was put into Rachel's hand as she was seated in the luxurious open carriage, and Alick had never felt better pleased with his sister than when he found his wife thus spared the closeness of the cramping fly, or the dusty old rectory phaeton. Hospitality is never more welcome than at the station, and Bessie's letter was complacently accepted. Rachel would, she knew, be too much tired to see her on that day, and on the next she much regretted having an engagement in London, but on the Sunday they would not fail to meet, and she begged that Rachel would send word by the servant what time Meg should be sent to the Rectory for her to ride; it would be a kindness to exercise her, for it was long since she had been used.

Rachel could not help colouring with pleasure at the notion of riding her own Meg again, and Alick freely owned that it was well thought of. He already had a horse at his uncle's, and was delighted to see Rachel at last looking forward to something. But as she lay back in the carriage, revelling in the fresh wind, she became dismayed at the succession of cottages of gentility, with lawns and hedges of various pretensions.

"There must be a terrible number of people here!"

"This is only Littleworthy."

"Not very little."

"No; I told you it was villafied and cockneyfied. There," as the horses tried to stop at a lodge leading to a prettily built house, "that's Timber End, the crack place here, where Bessie has always said it was her ambition to live."

"How far is it from the Parsonage?"

"Four miles."

Which was a comfort to Rachel, not that she wished to be distant from Bessie, but the population appalled her imagination.

"Bishopsworthy is happily defended by a Dukery," explained Alick, as coming to the end of the villas they passed woods and fields, a bit of heathy common, and a scattering of cottages. Labourers going home from work looked up, and as their eyes met Alick's there was a mutual smile and touch of the hat. He evidently felt himself coming home. The trees of a park were beginning to rise in front, when the carriage turned suddenly down a sharp steep hill; the right side of the road bounded by a park paling; the left, by cottages, reached by picturesque flights of brick stairs, then came a garden wall, and a halt. Alick called out, "Thanks," and "we will get out here," adding, "They will take in the goods the back way. I don't like careering into the churchyard."

Rachel, alighting, saw that the lane proceeded downwards to a river crossed by a wooden bridge, with an expanse of meadows beyond. To her left was a stable-yard, and below it a white gate and white railings enclosing a graveyard, with a very beautiful church standing behind a mushroom yew-tree. The upper boundary of the churchyard was the clipped yew hedge of the rectory garden, whose front entrance was through the churchyard. There was a lovely cool tranquillity of aspect as the shadows lay sleeping on the grass; and Rachel could have stood and gazed, but Alick opened the gate, and there was a movement at the seat that enclosed the gnarled trunk of the yew tree. A couple of village lads touched their caps and departed the opposite way, a white setter dog bounded forward, and, closely attended by a still snowier cat, a gentleman came to meet them, so fearlessly treading the pathway between the graves, and so youthful in figure, that it was only the "Well, uncle, here she is," and, "Alick, my dear boy," that convinced her that this was indeed Mr. Clare. The next moment he had taken her hand, kissed her brow, and spoken a few words of fatherly blessing, then, while Alick exchanged greetings with the cat and dog, he led her to the arched yew-tree entrance to his garden, up two stone steps, along a flagged path across the narrow grass-plat in front of the old two-storied house, with a tiled verandah like an eyebrow to the lower front windows.

Instead of entering by the door in the centre, he turned the corner of the house, where the eastern gable disclosed a window opening on a sloping lawn full of bright flower-beds. The room within was lined with books and stored with signs of parish work, but with a refined orderliness reigning over the various little ornaments, and almost betokening feminine habitation; and Alick exclaimed with admiration of a large bowl of fresh roses, beautifully arranged.

"Traces of Bessie," said Mr. Clare; "she brought them this morning, and spent nearly an hour in arranging them and entertaining me with her bright talk. I have hardly been able to keep out of the room since, they make it so delicious."

"Do you often see her?" asked Alick.

"Yes, dear child, she is most good-natured and attentive, and I take it most kindly of her, so courted as she is."

"How do you get on with his lordship?"

"I don't come much in his way, he has been a good deal laid up with sciatica, but he seems very fond of her; and it was all her doing that they have been all this time at Littleworthy, instead of being in town for the season. She thought it better for him."

"And where is Mr. Lifford?" asked Alick.

"Gone to M-- till Saturday."

"Unable to face the bride."

"I fear Ranger is not equally shy," said Mr. Clare, understanding a certain rustle and snort to import that the dog was pressing his chin hard upon Rachel's knee, while she declared her content with the handsome creature's black depth of eye; and the cat executed a promenade of tenderness upon Alick.

"How are the peacocks, Alick?" added Mr. Clare; "they, at least, are inoffensive pets. I dreaded the shears without your superintendence, but Joe insisted that they were getting lop-sided."

Alick put his head out at the window. "All right, sir; Joe has been a little hard on the crest of the left-hand one, but it is recovering."

Whereupon, Rachel discovered that the peacocks were creatures of yew-tree, perched at either end of the garden fence. Mr. Clare had found them there, and preserved them with solicitous fidelity.

Nothing could be less like than he was to the grave, thin, stooping ascetic in a long coat, that she had expected. He was a tall, well-made man, of the same youthful cast of figure as his nephew, and a far lighter and more springy step, with features and colouring recalling those of his niece, as did the bright sunny playful sweetness of his manner; his dark handsome eyes only betraying their want of sight by a certain glassy immobility that contrasted with the play of the expressive mouth. It was hard to guess why Bessie should have shunned such an uncle. Alick took Rachel to the bedroom above the library, and, like it, with two windows-one overlooking churchyard, river, and hay-fields, the other commanding, over the peacock hedge, a view of the playground, where Mr. Clare was seen surrounded by boys, appealing to him on some disputed matter of cricket. There was a wonderful sense of serenity, freshness, and fragrance, inexpressibly grateful to Rachel's wearied feelings, and far more comfortable than the fine scenery through which she had been carried, because no effort to look and admire was incumbent on her-nay, not even an effort to talk all the evening. Mr. Clare seemed to have perfectly imbibed the idea that rest was what she wanted, and did not try to make small talk with her, though she sat listening with pleased interest to the conversation between him and his nephew-so home like, so full of perfect understanding of one another.

"Is there anything to be read aloud?" presently asked Alick.

"You have not by chance got 'Framley Parsonage?'"

"I wish I had. I did pick up 'Silas Marner,' at a station, thinking you might like it," and he glanced at Rachel, who had, he suspected, thought his purchase an act of weakness. "Have you met with it?"

"I have met with nothing of the sort since you were here last;" then turning to Rachel, "Alick indulges me with novels, for my good curate had rather read the catalogue of a sale any day than meddle with one, and I can't set on my pupil teacher in a book where I don't know what is coming."

"We will get 'Framley,'" said Alick.

"Bessie has it. She read me a very clever scene about a weak young parson bent on pleasing himself; and offered to lend me the book, but I thought it would not edify Will Walker. But, no doubt, you have read it long ago."

"No," said Rachel; and something withheld her from disclaiming such empty employments. Indeed, she was presently much interested in the admirable portraiture of "Silas Marner," and still more by the keen, vivid enjoyment, critical, droll, and moralizing, displayed by a man who heard works of fiction so rarely that they were always fresh to him, and who looked on them as studies of life. His hands were busy all the time carving a boss for the roof of one of the side aisles of his church-the last step in its gradual restoration.

That night there was no excitement of nerve, no morbid fancy to trouble Rachel's slumbers; she only awoke as the eight o'clock bell sounded through the open window, and for the first time for months rose less weary than she had gone to rest. Week-day though it were, the description "sweet day, so calm, so cool, so bright," constantly recurred to her mind as she watched the quiet course of occupation. Alick, after escorting his uncle to a cottage, found her searching among the stores in the music stand.

"You unmusical female," he said, "what is that for?"

"Your uncle spoke of music last night, and I thought he would like it."

"I thought you had no such propensity."

"I learnt like other people, but it was the only thing I could not do as well as Grace, and I thought it wasted time, and was a young ladyism; but if can recover music enough to please him, I should be glad."

"Thank you," said Alick, earnestly. "He is very much pleased with your voice in speaking. Indeed, I believe I first heard it with his ears."

"This is a thorough lady's collection of music," said Rachel, looking through it to hide her blush of pleasure. "Altogether the house has not a bachelor look."

"Did you not know that he had been married? It was when he first had the living twelve years ago. She was a very lovely young thing, half Irish, and this was the happiest place in the world for two years, till her little brother was sent home here from school without proper warning of a fever that had begun there. We all had it, but she and her baby were the only ones that did not recover! There they lie, under the yew-tree, where my uncle likes to teach the children. He was terribly struck down for years, though he went manfully to his work, and it has been remarkable how his spirits and sociability have returned since he lost his sight; indeed, he is more consistently bright than ever he was."

"I never saw any one like him," said Rachel. "I have fallen in with clergy that some call holy, and with some that others call pious, but he is not a bit like either. He is not even grave, yet there is a calming, refreshing sense of reverence towards him that would be awe, only it is so happy."

Alick's response was to bend over her, and kiss her brow. She had never seen him so much gratified.

"What a comfort your long stay with him must have been," she said presently, "in the beginning of his blindness!"

"I hope so. It was an ineffable comfort to me to come here out of Littleworthy croquet, and I think cheering me did him good. Rachel, you may do and say what you please," he added, earnestly, "since you have taken to him."

"I could not help it," said Rachel, though a slight embarrassment came over her at the recollection of Bessie, and at the thought of the narrow views on which she expected to differ. Then, as Alick continued to search among the music, she asked, "Will he like the piano to be used?"

"Of all things. Bessie's singing is his delight. Look, could we get this up?"

"You don't sing, Alick! I mean, do you?"

"We need not betray our talents to worldlings base."

Rachel found her accompaniment the least satisfactory part of the affair, and resolved on an hour's practice every day in Mr. Clare's absence, a wholesome purpose even as regarded her health and spirits. She had just sat down to write letters, feeling for the first time as if they would not be a toil, when Mr. Clare looked in to ask Alick to refer to a verse in the Psalms, quoting it in Greek as well as English, and after the research had been carried to the Hebrew, he told Rachel that he was going to write his sermon, and repaired to the peacock path, where he paced along with Ranger and the cat, in faithful, unobtrusive attendance.

"What, you can read Hebrew, Alick?"

"So can you."

"Enough to appreciate the disputed passages. When did you study it?"

"I learnt enough, when I was laid up, to look out my uncle's texts for him."

She felt a little abashed by the tone, but a message called him away, and before his return Mr. Clare came back to ask for a reference to St. Augustine. On her offer of her services, she was thanked, and directed with great precision to the right volume of the Library of the Fathers, but spying a real St. Augustine, she could not be satisfied without a flight at the original. It was not, however, easy to find the place; she was forced to account for her delay by confessing her attempt, and then to profit by Mr. Clare's directions, and, after all, her false quantities, though most tenderly and apologetically corrected, must have been dreadful to the scholarly ear, for she was obliged to get Alick to read the passage over to him before he arrived at the sense, and Rachel felt her flight of clever womanhood had fallen short. It was quite new to her to be living with people who knew more of, and went deeper into, everything than she did, and her husband's powers especially amazed her.

The afternoon was chiefly spent in the hay-field under a willow-tree; Mr. Clare tried to leave the young people to themselves, but they would not consent; and, after a good deal of desultory talk and description of the minnows and water-spiders, in whom Mr. Clare seemed to take a deep interest, they went on with their book till the horses came, and Alick took Rachel for a ride in Earlsworthy Park, a private gate of which, just opposite to the Rectory, was free to its inhabitants. The Duke was an old college friend of Mr. Clare, and though much out of health, and hardly ever able to reside at the Park, all its advantages were at the Rector's service, and they were much appreciated when, on this sultry summer's day, Rachel found shade and coolness in the deep arcades of the beech wood

s, and freshness on the upland lawns, as she rode happily on the dear old mare, by whom she really thought herself fondly recognised. There was something in the stillness of the whole, even in the absence of the roll and plash of the sea waves beside which she had grown up, that seemed to give her repose from the hurry and throb of sensations and thoughts that had so long preyed upon her; and when the ride was over she was refreshed, not tired, and the evening bell drew her to the conclusion most befitting a day spent in that atmosphere of quietude. She felt grateful to her husband for making no remark, though the only time she had been within a church since her illness had been at their wedding, he only gave her his arm, and said she should sit in the nook that used to be his in the time of his lameness; and a most sheltered nook it was, between a pillar and the open chancel screen, where no eyes could haunt her, even if the congregation had been more than a Saturday summer evening one.

She only saw the pure, clear, delicately-toned hues of the east window, and the reverent richness of the chancel, and she heard the blind pastor's deep musical voice, full of that expressive power always enhanced by the absence of a book. He led the Psalms with perfect security and a calm fervour that rendered the whole familiar service like something new and touching; the Lessons were read by Alick, and Rachel, though under any other circumstances she would have been startled to see him standing behind the Eagle, could not but feel all appropriate, and went along with each word as he read it in a tone well worthy of his uncle's scholar. Whether few or many were present, Rachel knew not, thought not; she was only sensible of the fulness of calm joy that made the Thanksgiving touch her heart and fill her eyes with unbidden tears, that came far more readily than of old.

"Yet this can't be all," she said to herself, as she wandered among the tall white lilies in the twilight; "is it a trance, or am I myself? I have not unthought or unfelt, yet I seem falling into a very sweet hypocrisy! Alick says thought will come back with strength. I don't think I wish it!"

The curate did not return till after she had gone to bed, and in the morning he proved to be indeed a very dry and serious middle-aged man, extremely silent, and so grave that there was no knowing how much to allow for shyness. He looked much worn and had a wearied voice, and Mr. Clare and Alick were contriving all they could to give him the rest which he refused, Mr. Clare insisting on taking all the service that could be performed without eyes, and Alick volunteering school-work. This Rachel was not yet able to undertake, nor would Alick even let her go to church in the morning; but the shady garden, and the echoes of the Amens, and sweet, clear tones of singing, seemed to lull her on in this same gentle, unthinking state of dreamy rest; and thence, too, in the after part of the day, she could watch the rector, with his Sunday class, on his favourite seat under the yew-tree, close to the cross that marked the resting-place of his wife and child.

She went to church in the evening, sheltered from curious eyes in her nook, and there for a moment she heard the peculiar brush and sweep of rich silk upon pavement, and wondered at so sophisticated a sound in the little homely congregation, but forgot it again in the exulting, joyous beauty of the chants and hymns, led by the rector himself, and, oh, how different from poor Mr. Touchett's best efforts! and forgot it still more in the unfettered eloquence of the preaching of a man of great natural power, and entirely accustomed to trust to his own inward stores. Like Ermine Williams, she could have said that this preaching was the first that won her attention. It certainly was the first that swept away all her spirit of criticising, and left her touched and impressed, not judging. On what north country folk call the loosing of the kirk, she, moving outwards after the throng, found herself close behind a gauzy white cloak over a lilac silk, that filled the whole breadth of the central aisle, and by the dark curl descending beneath the tiny white bonnet, as well as by the turn of the graceful head, she knew her sister-in-law, Lady Keith, of Gowanbrae. In the porch she was met with outstretched hands and eager greetings-

"At last! Where did you hide yourself? I had begun to imagine dire mischances."

"Only in the corner by the chancel."

"Alick's old nook! Keeping up honeymoon privileges! I have kept your secret faithfully. No one knows you are not on the top of Snowdon, or you would have had all the world to call on you."

"There are always the Earlsworthy woods," said Alick.

"Or better still, come to Timber End. No one penetrates to my morning room," laughed Bessie.

"Now, Uncle George," she said, as the rector appeared, "you have had a full allowance of them for three days, you must spare them to me to-morrow morning."

"So it is you, my lady," he answered, with a pleased smile; "I heard a sort of hail-storm of dignity sailing in! How is Lord Keith?"

"Very stiff. I want him to have advice, but he hates doctors. What is the last Avonmouth news? Is Ermine in good heart, and the boys well again?"

She was the same Bessie as ever-full of exulting animation, joined to a caressing manner that her uncle evidently delighted in; and to Rachel she was most kind and sisterly, welcoming her so as amply to please and gratify Alick. An arrangement was made that Rachel should be sent for early to spend the day at Timber End, and that Mr. Clare and Alick should walk over later. Then the two pretty ponies came with her little low carriage to the yew-tree gate, were felt and admired by Mr. Clare, and approved by Alick, and she drove off gaily, leaving all pleased and amused, but still there was a sense that the perfect serenity had been ruffled.

"Rachel," said Alick, as they wandered in the twilight garden, "I wonder if you would be greatly disappointed if our travels ended here."

"I am only too glad of the quiet."

"Because Lifford is in great need of thorough rest. He has not been away for more than a year, and now he is getting quite knocked up. All he does care to do, is to take lodgings near his wife's asylum, poor man, and see her occasionally: sad work, but it is rest, and winds him up again; and there is no one but myself to whom he likes to leave my uncle. Strangers always do too little or too much; and there is a young man at Littleworthy for the long vacation who can help on a Sunday."

"Oh, pray let us stay as long as we can!"

"Giving up the Cretins?"

"It is no sacrifice. I am thankful not to be hunted about; and if anything could make me better pleased to be here, it would be feeling that I was not hindering you."

"Then I will hunt him away for six weeks or two months at least. It will be a great relief to my uncle's mind."

It was so great a relief that Mr. Clare could hardly bring himself to accept the sacrifice of the honeymoon, and though there could be little doubt which way the discussion would end, he had not yielded when the ponies bore off Rachel on Monday morning.

Timber End was certainly a delightful place. Alick had railed it a cockney villa, but it was in good taste, and very fair and sweet with flowers and shade. Bessie's own rooms, where she made Rachel charmingly at home, were wonderful in choiceness and elegance, exciting Rachel's surprise how it could be possible to be so sumptuously lodged in such a temporary abode, for the house was only hired for a few months, while Gowanbrae was under repair. It was within such easy reach of London that Bessie had been able from thence to go through the more needful season gaieties; and she had thought it wise, both for herself and Lord Keith, not to enter on their full course. It sounded very moderate and prudent, and Rachel felt vexed with herself and Alick for recollecting a certain hint of his, that Lady Keith felt herself more of a star in her own old neighbourhood than she could be in London, and wisely abstained from a full flight till she had tried her wings. It was much pleasanter to go along with Bessie's many far better and more affectionate reasons for prudence, and her minutely personal confidences about her habits, hopes, and fears, given with a strong sense of her own importance and consideration, yet with a warm sisterly tone that made them tokens of adoption, and with an arch drollery that invested them with a sort of grace. The number of engagements that she mentioned in town and country did indeed seem inconsistent with the prudence she spoke of with regard to her own health, or with her attention to that of her husband; but it appeared that all were quite necessary and according to his wishes, and the London ones were usually for the sake of trying to detach his daughter, Mrs. Comyn Menteith, from the extravagant set among whom she had fallen. Bessie was excessively diverting in her accounts of her relations with this scatter-brained step-daughter of hers, and altogether showed in the most flattering manner how much more thoroughly she felt herself belonging to her brother's wife. If she had ever been amazed or annoyed at Alick's choice, she had long ago surmounted the feeling, or put it out of sight, and she judiciously managed to leap over all that had passed since the beginning of the intimacy that had arisen at the station door at Avoncester. It was very flattering, and would have been perfectly delightful, if Rachel had not found herself wearying for Alick, and wondering whether at the end of seven months she should be as contented as Bessie seemed, to know her husband to be in the sitting-room without one sight of him.

At luncheon, however, when Lord Keith appeared, nothing could be prettier than his wife's manner to him-bright, sweet, and with a touch of graceful deference, at which he always smiled and showed himself pleased, but Rachel thought him looking much older than in the autumn-he had little appetite, stooped a good deal, and evidently moved with pain. He would not go out of doors, and Bessie, after following him to the library, and spending a quarter of an hour in ministering to his comfort, took Rachel to sit by a cool dancing fountain in the garden, and began with some solicitude to consult her whether he could be really suffering from sciatica, or, as she had lately begun to suspect, from the effects of a blow from the end of a scaffold-pole that had been run against him when taking her through a crowded street. Rachel spoke of advice.

"What you, Rachel! you who despised allopathy!"

"I have learnt not to despise advice."

And Bessie would not trench on Rachel's experiences.

"There's some old Scotch doctor to whom his faith is given, and that I don't half believe in. If he would see our own Mr. Harvey here it would be quite another thing; but it is of no use telling him that Alick would never have had an available knee but for Mr. Harvey's management. He persists in leaving me to my personal trust in him, but for himself he won't see him at any price! Have you seen Mr. Harvey?"

"I have seen no one."

"Oh, I forgot, you are not arrived yet; but-"

"There's some one," exclaimed Rachel, nervously; and in fact a young man was sauntering towards them. Bessie rose with a sort of annoyance, and "Never mind, my dear, he is quite inoffensive, we'll soon get rid of him." Then, as he greeted her with "Good morning, Lady Keith, I thought I should find you here," she quickly replied.

"If you had been proper behaved and gone to the door, you would have known that I am not at home."

He smiled, and came nearer.

"No, I am not at home, and, what is more, I do not mean to be. My uncle will be here directly," she added, in a fee-faw-fum tone.

"Then it is not true that your brother and his bride are arrived?"

"True in the same sense as that I am at home. There she is, you see-only you are not to see her on any account," as a bow necessarily passed between him and Rachel. "Now mind you have not been introduced to Mrs. Keith, and if you utter a breath that will bring the profane crowd in shoals upon the Rectory, I shall never forgive you."

"Then I am afraid we must not hope to see you at the bazaar for the idiots."

"No, indeed," Bessie answered, respecting Rachel's gesture of refusal; "no one is to infringe her incog, under penalty of never coming here again."

"You are going?" he added to Bessie; "indeed, that was what brought me here. My sisters sent me to ask whether they may shelter themselves under your matronly protection, for my mother dreads the crush."

"I suppose, as they put my name down, that I must go, but you know I had much rather give the money outright. It is a farce to call a bazaar charity."

"Call it what you will, it is one device for a little sensation."

Rachel's only sensation at that moment was satisfaction at the sudden appearance of Ranger's white head, the sure harbinger of his master and Alick, and she sprang up to meet them in the shrubbery path-all her morbid shyness at the sight of a fresh face passing away when her hand was within Alick's arm. When they came forth upon the lawn, Alick's brow darkened for a moment, and there was a formal exchange of greetings as the guest retreated.

"I am so sorry," began Bessie at once; "I had taken precautions against invasion, but he did not go to the front door. I do so hope Rachel has not been fluttered."

"I thought he was at Rio," said Alick.

"He could not stand the climate, and was sent home about a month ago-a regular case of bad shilling, I am afraid, poor fellow! I am so sorry he came to startle Rachel, but I swore him over to secrecy. He is not to mention to any living creature that she is nearer than Plinlimmon till the incog, is laid aside! I know how to stand up for bridal privileges, and not to abuse the confidence placed in me."

Any one who was up to the game might have perceived that the sister was trying to attribute all the brother's tone of disapprobation to his anxiety lest his wife should have been startled, while both knew as well as possible that there was a deeper ground of annoyance which was implied in Alick's answer.

"He seems extremely tame about the garden."

"Or he would not have fallen on Rachel. It was only a chance; he just brought over a message about that tiresome bazaar that has been dinned into our ears for the last three months. A bazaar for idiots they may well call it! They wanted a carving of yours, Uncle George!"

"I am afraid I gave little Alice Bertie one in a weak moment, Bessie," said Mr. Clare, "but I hardly durst show my face to Lifford afterwards."

"After all, it is better than some bazaars," said Bessie; "it is only for the idiot asylum, and I could not well refuse my name and countenance to my old neighbours, though I stood out against taking a stall. Lord Keith would not have liked it."

"Will he be able to go with you?" asked Alick.

"Oh, no; it would be an intolerable bore, and his Scottish thrift would never stand the sight of people making such very bad bargains! No, I am going to take the Carleton girls in, they are very accommodating, and I can get away whenever I please. I am much too forbearing to ask any of you to go with me, though I believe Uncle George is pining to go and see after his carving."

"No, thank you; after what I heard of the last bazaar I made up my mind that they are no places for an old parson, nor for his carvings either, so you are quite welcome to fall on me for my inconsistency."

"Not now, when you have a holiday from Mr. Lifford," returned Bessie. "Now come and smell the roses."

All the rest of the day Alick relapsed into the lazy frivolous young officer with whom Rachel had first been acquainted.

As he was driving home in the cool fresh summer night, he began-

"I think I must go to this idiotical bazaar!"

"You!" exclaimed Rachel.

"Yes; I don't think Bessie ought to go by herself with all this Carleton crew."

"You don't wish me to go," said Rachel, gulping down the effort.

"You! My dear Rachel, I would not take you for fifty pounds, nor could I go myself without leaving you as vice deputy curate."

"No need for that," said Mr. Clare, from the seat behind; "young people must not talk secrets with a blind man's ears behind them."

"I make no secret," said Alick. "I could not go without leaving my wife to take care of my uncle, or my uncle to take care of my wife."

"And you think you ought to go?" said Mr. Clare. "It is certainly better that Bessie should have a gentleman with her in the crowd; but you know this is a gossiping neighbourhood, and you must be prepared for amazement at your coming into public alone not three weeks after your wedding."

"I can't help it, she can't go, and I must."

"And you will bring down all the morning visitors that you talk of dreading."

"We will leave you to amuse them, sir. Much better that," he added between his teeth, "than to leave the very semblance of a secret trusted by her to that intolerable puppy-"

Rachel said no more, but when she was gone upstairs Mr. Clare detained his nephew to say, "I beg your pardon, Alick, but you should be quite sure that your wife likes this proposal."

"That's the value of a strong-minded wife, sir," returned Alick; "she is not given to making a fuss about small matters."

"Most ladies might not think this a small matter."

"That is because they have no perspective in their brains. Rachel understands me a great deal too well to make me explain what is better unspoken."

"You know what I think, Alick, that you are the strictest judge that ever a merry girl had."

"I had rather you continued to think so, uncle; I should like to think so myself. Good night."

Alick was right, but whether or not Rachel entered into his motives, she made no objection to his going to the bazaar with his sister, being absolutely certain that he would not have done so if he could have helped it.

Nor was her day at all dreary; Mr. Clare was most kind and attentive to her, without being oppressive, and she knew she was useful to him. She was indeed so full of admiration and reverence for him, that once or twice it crossed her whether she were not belying another of her principles by lapsing into Curatocult, but the idea passed away with scorn at the notion of comparing Mr. Clare with the objects of such devotion. He belonged to that generation which gave its choicest in intellectual, as well as in religious gifts to the ministry, when a fresh tide of enthusiasm was impelling men forward to build up, instead of breaking down, before disappointment and suspicion had thinned the ranks, and hurled back many a recruit, or doctrinal carpings had taught men to dread a search into their own tenets. He was a highly cultivated, large-minded man, and the conversation between him and his nephew was a constant novelty to her, who had always yearned after depth and thought, and seldom met with them. Still here she was constantly feeling how shallow were her acquirements, how inaccurate her knowledge, how devoid of force and solidity her reasonings compared with what here seemed to be old, well-beaten ground. Nay, the very sparkle of fun and merriment surprised and puzzled her; and all the courtesy of the one gentleman, and the affection of the other, could not prevent her sometimes feeling herself the dullest and most ignorant person present. And yet the sense was never mortifying except when here and there a spark of the old conceit had lighted itself, and lured her into pretensions where she thought herself proficient. She was becoming more and more helpful to Mr. Clare, and his gratitude for her services made them most agreeable, nor did that atmosphere of peace and sincerity that reigned round the Rectory lose its charm. She was really happy all through the solitary Wednesday, and much more contented with the results than was Alick. "A sickening place," he said, "I am glad I went."

"How glad Bessie must have been to have you!"

"I believe she was. She has too much good taste for much of what went on there."

"I doubt," said Mr. Clare, laughing, "if you could have been an agreeable acquisition."

"I don't know. Bessie fools one into thinking oneself always doing her a favour. Oh, Rachel, I am thankful you have never taken to being agreeable."

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