Графични страници
PDF файл

son of mine having so little com- ber this, whatever may happen, mand of himself! The madness and whatever you may hear. I say of it! for it was no question of it — Richard's mother — that can making a lady of her, a woman that have no motive to shield her. She could take his mother's place. She wanted her freedom, nothing more. had to be tanied first out of her She was not an ill woman; nothing gipsy ways, tamed like a wild beast, bad — in that way — was in her and taught to live in a house, and head. She would have put her wear decent clothes as she had knife into the man who spoke never done in her life.”

lightly to her, as soon as look at A low cry of dismay and wonder him. She was proud in her way of came from the listener's lips, and a being Richard's wife. She felt the strange pang which nobody knew difference it made between her and of went through her heart—a pang others. But she was like a wild indescribable, mingled of misery, animal, or a bird. She would not humiliation, and a kind of guilty be caged, and there was too deep and bitter pride; guilty, though an ignorance in her to learn. she was innocent enough. This There was no foundation to build was his choice, she said to herself; upon-neither ambition, nor pride, and that sharp and stinging con- nor any feeling that the like of us tempt - more painful to herself expect to find." than to the object of it—which a « And was there no love ?” The woman sometimes permits herself voice that made this inquiry tremto feel for a man who has slighted bled and had a thrill in it of her, shot through the gentlest soul feeling so mingled as to be inin the world.

describable — bitterness, wonder, “I cannot tell you,” said Lady pity, and a sense of contrast more Eskside, her voice sinking low so overwhelming than all. that her companion had to stoop Lady Eskside did not reply at forward to hear, “all that I went once. “Often and often I've through. She broke away from us, asked myself that question," she and got back to her people more said at length; "Was there love? than once. Our ways were misery How can I tell ? There are difand bondage to her. At first she ferent kinds of love, Mary. You had to be dressed like a child and I even would love very dif- watched like a child. Her ferently, let alone you and her. husband had no influence over With you there would be no her, and she was frightened for thought of anything but of the me: the moment she was out of person loved our sight her whole mind was busy “I am not at all in question, with schemes to get away.”

Lady Eskside," said the other, with “But what reason—what mo- the strangest delicate haughtiness. tive- " began the other, falter- “I beg your pardon," said the old

lady, quickly. “You are right, my “None," said Lady Eskside. dear; there is no question of you. “Listen, Mary; there was one But still there are different kinds thing. She was good, as people of love. Some think only of the call good ; there was no wickedness person loved, as I said; but some in her, as a woman. What wife are roused up into a kind of fierce meant, in any higher sense, she was consciousness of themselves through ignorant of; but there was no their very love. They feel their harm-no harm. Always remem- own individuality not less but more

ins. None" Mary ; thood, as medines

in consequence of it. This was then by weakness, and by the natuthat poor creature's way. Mixed ral restraint of the circumstances.” with her wild cravings for the said Lady Eskside, “that I hoped freedom she had been used to, and she might be changed altogether. the wild outdoor life she had been And she would talk a little—not so used to, I think she had a sort of much as that one could find out half - crazy feeling how unlike how her mind was working—but Richard she was ; and this became yet a little-enough to swear by ; all the stronger when I came. My and her voice was changed. It lost dear,” said Lady Eskside, suddenly, its wild sound and took finer modu“ the most untrained woman feels lations. You know how particular what another woman thinks of her Richard always was in all his ways far more than she feels any man's - you remember his voice ?" criticism. I have thought and The other drew back her chair a thought on this for years, and little. Somehow the sudden refperhaps I put my own thoughts erence struck her like an arrow into her mind ; but I cannot help through and through. It was not fancying that sometimes, though her fault. For years she had been she did not understand me in the trying to think of Richard—as she least, poor thing, she caught a ought to think-not too much, nor glimpse of herself through my too kindly, but with gentle indiffereyes; and what with this and what ence and friendship; no, not indifwith her longing to be out of doors, ference; old long friendship which she grew desperate, and then she may be permitted to remember. ran away."

“Like his sister,” she had often said The listener made no reply. I to herself. But somehow these don't think she cared to hear any sudden words, “ You remember his excuse made for the wild woman voice," struck poor Mary at unawho was Richard's wife — whom wares. They brought her down to Richard had chosen instead of any the very ground, She tried with a other, and who had thus justified choking sobbing sensation to get out his choice.

the word “Yes.” Remember it ! “I stayed as long as I could, and She seemed to hear it and nothing tried all I could,” Lady Eskside con- else, till her head ached and swam, tinued, "and then there came a and there was a ringing in her ears. time when I felt it was better for “Ah!” Lady Eskside paused, me to go away. I told Richard so, with a wondering sense that someand I advised him to take her thing was going on in the dark more abroad, where she would have no- potent than mere interest in her body to fly to. And so he did, and story. But after a while, as even a wandered about with her every- story which is one's own takes a where. I can't think but what she stronger hold upon one than the must have made some advances, in emotion of another, however deep sense, at least, while they were so she recommenced, going back to much together; but it takes a long herself. “Her voice had changed time to tame a savage ; it takes a wonderfully. She spoke almost like long time to graft a new stock upon an educated person—that gave me a wild tree."

great hope. I thought, what with “And have you never seen her the children and what with this again ? "

opening of new life in herself, that “I saw her when her children everything would be changed ; and were born. She was so far tamed my heart was moved to her. When I left I kissed the children, and for boys !” cried the old lady, with a the first time I kissed her; and I sob. “I never saw such sweet promised to send her a nurse, an ex- children. You may fancy all I cellent nurse I knew of, and came had said to my old lord when I home quite happy. You recollect came home, about them: one was to my coming home, and how proud have my property such as it is, and I was of the twins—the darlings ! the other the Eskside lands. A sinOh, Mary, Mary! little did I gle heir would have been better, Lord know

Eskside said, in his way, you knowMary put out her hand and took but he was as proud as I was. Two that of her old friend. She was too boys -no fear of the old house much moved herself to say anything. dying out. We began to plan out From this point she had a faint the new wing we have always knowledge of the story, as every- thought of building. Oh, Mary, body had.

now you will understand how I « The next I heard was that she can never laugh when the gentlemen had disappeared," said the old lady; make a joke with my poor old lord _" disappeared totally, taking the about the new wing!” babies with her. Richard went “Dear Lady Eskside! but you with me so far on my way home, must not — you must not break and while he was absent his wife down—for his sake.” disappeared. There is no other word “No, I must never break down ; for it; she disappeared, and no one and if I would I could not," said has ever heard of her again. Oh, the old lady; "it's no my nature. Mary, what news for us all! There I must keep up. I must stand had been some gipsy wanderers, firm till my last day. But, Mary, some of her own class, about the though it is my nature, I have to place, we found out afterwards; and pay for it, as one pays for everywhether they carried her off, or she thing. Oh, the weary nights I went of her own will, nobody knows. have lain awake thinking I heard Sometimes I have thought she must her wandering round the house, have been carried away, but then thinking I heard her at the window they would not have taken the chil- trying to get in. She knew nothdren ; and sometimes I have blamed ing about Rosscraig—nothing; but, myself, and thought that what I strange enough, I always think of said about the nurse may have her coming here. When the frightened her-God knows. We wind's blowing as it blows tosought her everywhere, Mary, as night, when the leaves are falling you may suppose. I went myself in autumn-oh, Mary, have you up and down over all the country, never heard a sound like steps and Richard went to America, and going round and round the house?” I cannot tell you where. We had “It is only the leaves falling," the police employed, and every sort said Mary; and then she added, of person we could think of; but we suddenly, “I have heard everyhave never heard any more of her thing that the heart hears." to this day."

“And that's more than the ears “Nor of the children ?” said ever hear tell of,” said the old lady; Mary, drawing closer and holding “but oh, to live for years and never still more tenderly her old friend's hear that without thinking it may hand.

be them - never to see beggar “Nor of the children-two bon- bairns on a roadside without thinknie boys—oh, my dear, two lovely ing it may be them—to go watching and waiting and wondering imaginations that represented to through your life, starting at every them another sound striking into noise, trembling at every sudden the roar of the storm ? Lady Esksound-God help us! what is that side did not start again as she had -what is that?” she cried, sud- done before, but she grasped Mary's denly rising to her feet.

hand tightly; while Mary, for her .: “Oh, Lady Eskside!” cried the part, sat bolt-upright in her chair, other, rising too, and grasping her thinking to herself that it must be hand with a nervous shudder; "it imagination, that it was a mere is nothing—nothing but the storm." trick of excitement which filled her

The old lady dropped heavily ears with echoes of fanciful knockinto her seat again. “Sometimes ings. Who could be knocking at this I cannot bear it,” she cried — “ some- hour? or how could such a sound times I cannot bear it! I get half- be heard even in the onslaught of crazed at every sound.”

the storm ? “The wind is very high," said What was it? what could it be ? Mary, soothing her, “and the Esk Now, was that the forlorn peal of a is running wild over the linn, and bell ? and now a gust of cold air as the storm tearing the trees. It if the door in opening had admitted must be the equinoctial gales. If the storm in person, which swept you only heard them as we do, through the house like a mountain rvaring and raging over the sea !” stream; and now a wild dash and

For a few minutes the two clang as if the same door had closed ladies sat quite still holding each again,shaking the very walls. Tightother's hands. The storm outside er and tighter Lady Eskside grasped was wild enough to impose silence Mary's hand. They said nothing upon those within. The trees were to each other, except a faint “It tossed about as if in an agony, is nothing — it is fancy," which against the pale whiteness of the came from Mary's lips unawares, sky; now and then a deeper note and under her breath. Was it fancy ? would come into the tumult of Was it some curious reverberation sound, the hoarse roar of the river, through the air of the countless which grew rapidly into a torrent anxieties which the old lady had at the foot of the hill; and then the hushed in her mind for years, but wind would rush, like the avenging which until now she had never bespirit through the bleeding wood in trayed ? For the next few minutes the Inferno, tearing off the limbs they heard their own hearts beating of the trees, which shrieked and loud over the storm, and then there cried in unavailing torment. The came another sound ludicrous in last lingering rays of twilight its methodical calm, which startled had disappeared out of the sky, them still more than the sounds the last gleams of firelight were they had supposed themselves to sinking too-even the mirrors had hear. sunk out of sight upon the walls, “Something has happened, Mary!" and nothing but the large windows cried Lady Eskside, withdrawing her filled with the mournful pallor of grasp and wringing her hands. the sky, and Mary's pale face, a “Something has happened ! some similar spot of whiteness, were even one has arrived and Harding is compartially visible. After this story, ing to let us know.” and while they sat silent, conscious “He is coming to light the of the strange stillness within, and lamps," said Mary, making one descommotion outside, was it their perate effort to throw off the superstitious impression; and she laughed. “My lady,” said Harding, solemnly, The laugh sounded something ter- "something has happened-somerible, full of mockery and contempt thing as is very mysterious and we in the midst of the always resound- can't understand. Would it be a ing storm ; the echo of it seemed great trouble to your ladyship if to breathe all round the room, call- we was to ask you to come downing forth diabolical echoes. In the stairs ? ” midst of these Harding came sol. She had sprung up nervously at emnly into the room. He was an his first words. She rushed now elderly man, who had been many before him down-stairs—unable to years in the house, and was deeply reply, unable to question—as light impressed by the solemnity of his as a girl of twenty, though three own position. He came in without times that age-followed trembling any light, and stood invisible at the by the other, who was not half so door, another voice and nothing else. old, nor half so full of life as she.


Before I can fully explain what clustered houses on either side of happened next, and what Lady the river, framed in by the high Eskside saw when she rushed wooded banks which you could see down-stairs, I am obliged to turn rising in the distance on either hand back for some hours to the after- as you stood on the bridge, and noon of this day, and for some miles, with the fresh green fringe of rich to a scene of a very different kind and silent country beyond, was a -a scene so opposed to the other pretty sight. There was no railway in all its circumstances, that it is near at that time, but a coach ran strange to realise the close connec- regularly on all lawful days, from tion between them; though the two the corner of Princes Street to the were so closely linked together as Bull Inn in the High Street, and to be incomprehensible, one without conveyed its few passengers with a the other. The village of Lasswade regularity and steadiness quite satislies on the Esk, at à much lower factory to those leisurely people. elevation, and nearer to the sea, than But the aspect of Lasswade, though Rosscraig House. It was, at the time considered cheerful and inviting by I speak of, a much more primitive its Edinburgh visitors, was very village than it is now, when so many dreary on this March afternoon, cottages of gentility have sprung when the wind blew a hurricane, up around as to make it almost a and the rain now and then came suburb of Edinburgh. It consisted down in torrents. Between these of little more than one street, which storm-showers there came “blinks" straggled off into the country at one of intermission, when people who end, and at the other dragged itself loved to see what was going on came across the bridge to conclude in a forth to their doors, after the fashion humble postscript of an additional of the place; and it was this humstreet on the other side of the ble sprinkling of the population water. The Esk, which ran through which, as many of them rememit, was not beautiful at this point. bered later, witnessed the passage It was somewhat dirty, and encum- through the town of a still humbler bered with the overflowings of the visitor, a poor woman who arrived village ; but yet the groups of shortly before the darkening in a

« ПредишнаНапред »