Изображения страниц


send a beast to market any better than a child. Bythe-by, they have put you into a public office, haven't

"Yes, my lord.”

"And a very good thing, too, - a very good thing, indeed. But why were you asleep in the wood? It isn't warm, you know. I call it rather cold.” And the earl stopped, and looked at him, scrutinizing him, as though he resolved to inquire into so deep a mystery.

“I was taking a walk, and thinking of something, I sat down.”

“Leave of absence, I suppose?”
“Yes, my lord.”

. “Have you got into trouble? You look as though you were in trouble. Your poor father used to be in trouble."

“I haven't taken to farming,” said Johnny, with an attempt at a smile.

"Ha, ha, ha, – quite right. No, don't take to farming. Unless

Unless you learn it, you know, you might just as well take to shoemaking; just the same. You haven't got into trouble, then; eh?"

“No, my lord, not particularly.”

“Not particularly! I know very well that young men do get into trouble when they get up to London. If you want any — any advice, or that sort of thing, you may come to me; for I knew your father well. Do you like shooting?"

“I never did shoot anything.'

"Well, perhaps better not. To tell the truth, I'm not very fond of young men who take to shooting without having anything to shoot at. By-the-by, now I think of it, I'll send your mother some game."


[ocr errors]

and was

[ocr errors]

may, however, here be fair to mention that game very often came from Guestwick Manor to Mrs. Eames. "And look here, cold pheasant for breakfast is the best thing I know of. Pheasants at dinner are rubbish, mere rubbish. Here we are at the house. Will you come in and have a glass of wine?”

But this John Eames declined, pleasing the earl better by doing so than he would have done by accepting it.

Not that the lord was inhospitable or insincere in his offer, but he preferred that such a one as John Eames should receive his proffered familiarity without too much immediate assurance He felt that Eames was a little in awe of his companion's rank, and he liked him the better for it. He liked him the better for it,

a man apt to remember his likings. "If you won't come in, good-by," and he gave Johnny his hand.

“Good evening, my lord,” said Johnny.

"And remember this; it is the deuce of a thing to have rheumatism in your loins. I wouldn't go to sleep under a tree, if I were you, not in October. But you're always welcome to go anywhere about the place."

“Thank you, my lord.”

"And if you should take to shooting, but I dare say you won't; and if you come to trouble, and want advice, or that sort of thing, write to me. I knew your father well.” And so they parted, Eames returning on his road towards Guestwick.

For some reason, which he could not define, he felt better after his interview with the earl. There had been something about the fat, good-natured, sensible old man which had cheered him, in spite of his sorrow

“Pheasants for dinner are rubbish, mere rubbish,” he said to himself, over and over again, as he went along the road; and they were the first words which he spoke to his mother, after entering the house.

"I wish we had some of that sort of rubbish,” said she.

“So you will, to-morrow;" and then he described to her his interview.

“The earl was, at any rate, quite right about lying upon the ground. I wonder you can be so foolish. And he is right about your poor father too. But

you have got to change your boots; and we shall be ready for dinner almost immediately."

But Johnny Eames, before he sat down to dinner, did write his letter to Amelia, and did go out to post it with his own hands, much to his mother's annoyance. But the letter would not get itself written in that strong and appropriate language which had come to him as he was roaming through the woods. It was a bald letter, and somewhat cowardly withal.

DEAR AMELIA (the letter ran), I have received both of yours; and did not answer the first because I felt that there was a difficulty in ex. pressing what I wish to say; and now it will be better that you should allow the subject to stand over till I am back in town. I shall be there in ten days from this. I have been quite well, and am so; but of course am much obliged by your inquiries. I know you will think this very cold; but when I tell you everything, you will agree with me that it is best. If I were to marry, I know that we should be unhappy, because we should have nothing to live on. If I have ever said anything to deceive you, your pardon with all my heart; but perhaps it will be better to let the subject remain till we shall meet again in London.

Believe me to be
Your most sincere friend,
And I may say admirer, - (Oh, John Eames !)


I beg


The Last Day.

[ocr errors]

Last days are wretched days; and so are last moments wretched moments. It is not the fact that the parting is coming which makes these days and moments so wretched, but the feeling that something special is expected from them, which something they always fail to produce. Spasmodic periods of pleasure, of affection, or even of study, seldom fail of disappointment when premeditated. When last days are coming, they should be allowed to come and to glide away without special notice or mention. And as for last moments, there should be none such. Let them ever be ended, even before their presence has been acknowledged.

But Lily Dale had not yet been taught these lessons by her world's experience, and she expected that this sweetest cup of which she had ever drank should go on being sweet sweeter and still sweeter long as she could press it to her lips. How the dregs had come to mix themselves with the last drops we have already seen;

and on that same day Monday evening – the bitter task still remained; for Crosbie, as they walked about through the gardens in the evening, found other subjects on which he thought it necessary to give her sundry hints, intended for her edification, which came to her with much of the savour of a lecture. A girl, when she is thoroughly in love,


on the

[ocr errors]

as surely was the case with Lily, likes to receive hints as to her future life from the man to whom she is devoted; but she would, I think, prefer that such hints should be short, and that the lesson should be implied rather than declared; — that they should, in fact, be hints and not lectures. Crosbie, who was a man of tact, who understood the world and had been dealing with women for many years, no doubt understood all this as well as we do. But he had come to entertain a notion that he was an injured man, that he was giving very much more than was to be given to him, and that therefore he was entitled to take liberties which might not fairly be within the reach of another lover. My reader will say that in all this he was ungenerous. Well; he was ungenerous. I do not know that I have ever said that much generosity was to be expected from him. He had some principles of right and wrong under the guidance of which it may perhaps be hoped that he will not go utterly astray; but his past life had not been of a nature to make him unselfish. He was ungenerous, and Lily felt it, though she would not acknowledge it even to herself. She had been very open with him, - acknowledging the depth of her love for him; telling him that he was now all in all to her; that life without his love would be impossible to her; and in a certain way he took advantage of these strong avowals, treating her as though she were a creature utterly in his power;

as indeed she was.

On that evening he said no more of Johnny Eames, but said much of the difficulty of a man establishing himself with a wife in London, who had nothing but his own moderate income on which to rely. He did

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »