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as I valued his love. His love- ings as I regarded my two children. had I not lost it? But I clung even In them I found my only happiness, to the shadow of it, and I never again and in them I found my most intense risked meeting such another glance. suffering. I was so haunted by the
The Priory was deserted during dread of evil coming on them for that long winter, and I remember our punishment, that I have stolen well the pang with which I confessed from my sleepless bed at night to to myself that I rejoiced in Maud's gaze upon them, as if to assure myabsence. I felt so entirely, irretriev- self of their safety. When all other ably separated from all that was good prayer seemed impossible to me, I and pure, that an impassable barrier have knelt and tried to implore a seemed to have arisen between Maud blessing for my children ; but how and me. I felt such a complete different was my supplication from change in my own thoughts and feel the humble, trusting prayer that a ings, everything was so poisoned, so mother should offer for her children ! embittered to me, that I felt that Mine was but a burst of anguish it would be impossible to associate from an over - burdened bosom, with Maud at that time without be- trembling lest danger should come traying my inward sufferings. Even near my beloved ones. No trust, her letters were a trial, letters breath- no submission, dwelt in my breasting the peace and purity of her nothing but a frantic desire to clasp spirit. She was in London. She these children in my arms and shield was greatly occupied and interested them there from every harm-keep by a baby brother who had been them there in defiance of the deborn there, and she anticipated with crees of Heaven itself. delight returning to the Priory in After little Violet's birth, Hubert's summer, and meeting me again, mood changed. He seemed to cast • And so that winter wore away, aside the gloom and misery of the and as the first spring-flowers blos- last six months, and, returning to somed, a little daughter was born to society again, to seek there the forus at Earlscourt.
getfulness which was not to be found How different had my feelings in solitude at Earlscourt. I found been when my first-born was placed any change a relief. I knew that the in my arms, to those with which I deep, silent despondency of these gazed on my infant daughter ! There six months could not last, if life and was a cloud now between heaven reason were to be preserved. I did and me. I could not send up that not wish to die. Wretched as I purest and most earnest of prayers- was, in the desert of my life there the mother's prayer for her new-born was an oasis. I did not wish to child. I looked on the little face, leave my children. Never for one and I seemed to see it written there moment could memory be silent ; but that the sins of the parents are visited her voice might be sometimes lost on the children. I fancied that it in excitement, and "I seconded all must be impossible that I could be Hubert's endeavours to make Earlsallowed to rear and watch those court as gay now as it had hitherto children. Were they sent to be been silent and gloomy. trials to me? Would the sword of We remained as much estranged vengeance reach me through them? from each other as ever. Never Must they suffer for our sins ? and I again could my husband and I be clasped the little one still closer to my as we had been. I knew that. I aching heart, whilst the prayer that did not intend to struggle against it. I dared not frame 'for her rose up When at times the hollow false life from that heart in speechless agony. around me became unbearable-not
Strangely mingled were my feel- in my husband's arms might I recal calmer days, and shed my bitter Arthur Vivian asked Maud to be his tears. His manner forbade it. wife. They were both staying at Reckless, careless, in perpetual ex- Earlscourt at the time. Maud did citement, I could scarce recognise not tell me what had passed, but Mr. the Hubert who had sought and Vivian told Hubert of his disapgained my love so few years ago ; still pointment. He left Earlscourt abrupt. less could I recognise the gloomy, ly on that same day. Maud drove remorse-stricken man whom I had alone with me that afternoon, and I watched during these long winter spoke to her on the subject. months.
“ You have refused Mr. Vivian, It was on my little Violet's ipno Maud ?" cent face that my tears fell when She coloured slightly. I think tears would flow. It was when clasp- she had not expected that Mr. Vivian ing Lionel in my arms that I yielded would betray his own secret. She to occasional bursts of grief, which assuredly would never have done made him gaze on me with wonder, so. till, winding his little arms round my “You know, Ellinor, that I shall neck, he would mingle his tears never marry. You cannot be surwith mine, in childish sympathy prised to hear that I have refused with a sorrow that was a mystery Mr. Vivian." to him.
“Sometimes, dear Maud, when I Maud Courtenaye returned to the have remembered our conversation Priory, and resumed her visits to on that evening at the Priory, I have Earlscourt. I could bear her pre- thought that your resolution might sence in the whirl of my life at that be yet one day broken. You time, although I had shrunk from made it when your heart was free; the very thought of it when I was but if you were to love, Maud-if more exclusively given up to my you were to love as Arthur Vivian misery, and when that misery was loves you, I hardly think that your new.
resolution would be kept.” I knew afterwards that Maud “Nothing can change the circummarked the change which that year stances which caused me to make had wrought on me. I knew after that resolution," said Maud gravely. wards that she ascribed my fitful “ I shall never break it.” spirits, my changeable moods, to the I looked at her as she spoke. I estrangement which she, who knew thought how calm her feelings were. us both well, could not but ob- It seemed to me that she could never serve between Hubert and myself. know what it is to love. I knew this afterwards, but at that “Maud, you are cold. I envy time there could be no confidence you your coldness. It will save you between Maud and me; and I some from much suffering in life." times marvelled how she submitted She turned her mournful eyes upon patiently to the apparent caprice me. I did not quite understand her which at times made me cold and expression. She seemed to look indifferent to her, whilst at other at me rather reproachfully for a motimes I sought her society eagerly. ment, but she only said gently :Maud thought me miserable. She “Do not speak of this again, loved me through all, and she thought Ellinor. Let us forget it altogether." that the time might come when the My thoughts had returned, with all way should be made plain to her, in the selfishness of misery, to my own which balm might be poured into feelings. , my wound. I knew this long years “You are right, Maud,” I said, afterwards.
“ to keep your freedom — freedom It was during that summer that of thought--freedom of action. You will be happier and better than if wherever it falls, there is suffering you married. You have only your for me. It is a miserable world, own sorrows now, only your own Maud, and the fewer ties one has in secrets; and your sorrows are light, it, the better chance of happiness your secrets are innocent.”
whilst it lasts." Maud had never answered me “These are not natural feelings when I spoke in this way to her. for a wife and mother, Ellinor," She would not seem to intrude upon said Maud, and she spoke very Sorrows that were not confided to earnestly. “I will not ask you to her. She only answered me now tell me what has embittered your by saying in a low voice,
feelings so painfully. I will only “I need not tell you, Ellinor, ask you to remember how differently that no state of life is free from trial you viewed life last year. You could and sorrow."
look on your husband and child “No; you need not tell me so— then without this vague dread of evil I should not believe it. What trial which seems to torture you now. or sorrow had I at Ilcombe, Maud ? There is a cloud just now, dear My life was placid as a sleeping Ellinor. I do not wish to know what lake-bright as the sunshine which it is; but if you seek light in the plays on its waters. And even if right way, light will come and disyou are right, Maud, even if every perse the darkest cloud.” state of life has some trial, some “Light-Maud? There can never sorrow, I still say that you are hap- be light again at Earlscourt. But I pier alone. You can only suffer for will echo your own words. Do not yourself now. If clouds darken let us speak of this again. Let us around you, you can fold your hands, forget it altogether.” and bow your head, and resign your- And if Maud saw the tears which self to whatever comes. But I-I rose to my eyes as I said these must watch clouds darkening, and words, and felt how utterly hopelook in terror from one loved face less it was for me to forget, she to another, uncertain where the did not speak of them, and our stroke may fall, but feeling that drive was finished in silence.
The following winter Hubert spent arrived, and after watching his on the Continent. He had at first carriage drive away, I recalled proposed my accompanying him ; his hasty embrace, his evident but I thought that our children anxiety to be gone, the total abwere too young to be exposed to sence of any of the tender parting the discomforts of travelling, espe- words that make partings bearable cially as Violet was a delicate child, between those whose hearts are requiring constant care and some- bound together as ours had once times anxious watching.
been. He had left me without Hubert went alone. I saw that emotion, he had left me without it would be impossible for him expressing a single wish or anxiety now to live quietly at Earlscourt. with regard to my own mode of His craving for excitement seemed life in the solitude to which he to increase. I believed now that was thus leaving me. I thought it was absolutely necessary to him. of the morning of our first parting, I did not attempt to detain him'; when soon after our marriage he but very bitter were my feelings had left me for a few days only. when the day of his departure I recalled that parting, his fond words and anxious care for me, I thought that I shuddered as I his injunction to write daily, the gazed into that gulf. I turned to last tender embrace. The contrast leave its margin; but I paused was very bitter, the change very abruptly when I marked the scene terrible. No longer were Hubert's before me. A dreary waste lay there pleasures to be found at my side. -wild and barren it stretched farHis love, once so warm, was ex- ther than I could see, and a bleak tinguished. It seemed hard, it wind swept over it as I gazed. The seemed unjust. I felt that his action sky was dark and lowering. The had darkened my life-that through scene was sunless-treeless-flowerhim I was condemned to undying less. Again my steps turned to the remorse ; and I knew that I could brink of the precipice. I longed to have borne my lot better if his escape from that howling desert. I love were still mine, if he had not gazed across the chasm-it yawned thrust me out from his heart and widely at my feet, and I saw Hubert feelings to isolation in the desert standing on the opposite side. I of my own. It was true that at dreamed that I stretched out my first solitude had seemed even to arms to him, that I strove to call me more endurable than com- him ; but I knew that the noise of panionship; but soon, very soon, I the torrent below drowned my voice. had shrunk affrighted from that He did not look at me. He did solitude, and would fain have clung not gaze into that dark gulf. His more closely than ever to my hus- head was averted, and with hesitatband-to my companion in guilt. ing footsteps he followed a flowery He had tacitly repulsed me. He path, which turned and twisted with had heaped sorrow on sorrow for many windings around him. I watchme. Where could I turn ?
ed him. I saw that the flowers I did not indulge long in such withered as he past by them. Bright feelings. I remember starting as I and blooming as they appeared at found myself reproaching Hubert. I each new turn of that path, they ever would not reproach him even in the drooped and withered as his steps innermost recesses of my thoughts. drew near them. Many times the Mine, too, was the crime—and in windings of the path brought him his indifference I but reaped a again to the brink of the gulf which portion of the punishment which lay between us, but he never looked I must expect to find pursuing me into its depths. He ever averted through life - of which I thought his head as he came near it, and when I looked with trembling on pursued the flowery path. I thought my children.
that I saw that he shrunk from the I had a dream that night, the withered flowers. I thought that I recollection of which is as vivid this saw him hasten his steps as some of day as it was when I started from the brighter blossoms shrivelled unmy restless sleep, with its horror der his glance, as if he would fain still upon me, in the solitude of that hurry on to reach those which were wintry night.
blooming beyond. It seemed to me I dreamed that I stood upon the at last that under many of these brink of a precipice. I strained my flowers I saw that there were veneeyes vainly to gaze into the depths mous reptiles concealed. I saw of the gulf which yawned below. It Hubert start, and hurry on as an was deep and dark, and I heard the adder glided from beneath some dark roar of a torrent which seemed to blue violets, and then I saw him rush along far beyond mortal sight. pause, and gaze on some object I knew that it roared many thousand which I could not clearly discover feet below the spot where I stood. at first. Could it be a grave ?
I looked earnestly. I saw two waking dreams ? Did my bright boy's graves.
presence banish them? I dreamed that the darkness of Alas! answer, you who have night was falling on the scene. Once known what it is to have the sanctity again I glanced shuddering at the of your motherhood sullied by a wilderness around me- once again I dark secret, a secret of guilt and strove to call on Hubert to come to shame. me-and I seemed to know whilst In the hours when I have yearned
I called how impassable the gulf most over my children, when I have was. I dreamed that a heavy thun- endeavoured to pray for them, when derstorm rolled up as night fell. I have striven to instil holy lessons The lightning flashed, and each into their young minds, which should flash seemed to take a form, a form of take root and flourish, and bring living fire ; and horror-stricken, terri- forth fruit in later years—in those fied, I recognised in that form the hours have the most sudden and semblance of the picture which had startling clouds fallen on my spirit; haunted me for so long-the living in those hours the words have died likeness of Francesca. I saw in upon my lips, and I have clasped each flash, as in rapid succession the little ones in my arms with a they illuminated the waste around measure of silent suffering which me-I saw the proud glance-the cannot be described. The touch of threatening attitude - the large glit- Lionel's arms round my neck; the tering eyes. Again I turned towards touch of Violet's baby fingers as she Hubert, again I strove for utterance; would lovingly stroke the hand which but he did not hear me. I could no clasped her—these were the most longer see him, and overpowered by crushing reproaches to me—these my dread of that fiery form, I cast roused my most agonising emotions. myself into the dark gulf, and as I 1-their mother-I, who idolised sunk into its lowest depths my gaze them-1, to whom their young eyes turned towards the sky, and the looked so fondly, so trustingly-I, storm seemed suddenly to have whose word and wishes were law to passed away. The evening star them-I, to whom they must look came softly out, and as I gazed for the pleasures and joys of their upon its radiance it seemed to young lives—what was I?-unfit in change from a star to a human my shame to gaze calmly into their countenance, and Maud Courten- young, questioning eyes ; unworthy, aye's mournful eyes met mine. As in my guilt, to guide and train their I stretched my arms towards her pure minds, unable, in my misery, to with a faint last hope that she might surround their childish footsteps save me, I awoke.
with the daily joy which the happy A storm was raging wildly that mother so easily and naturally benight. The wind roared round my stows on her innocent children. stately home, the rain drove in tor- Oh! how I have longed for the rents against the windows. The power of hearing and answering storm might have influenced my their childish prattle as it should be dream. I dared not sleep again heard and answered ! How I have lest it should return. I rose and tried to cast my misery aside for cast myself on my knees; but I their sakes, and enter into the holy could not pray.
place of a young child's innocent From that night little Violet's thoughts and words! How vain the cradle stood by my bed. I felt as effort ever was! I have sent them if her baby presence must banish from me because I felt that the such dark troubled dreams. Did her shadow of my dark thoughts was baby presence ever banish my dark falling unnaturally on their young