صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

only that she did to the utmost the work for which she was remunerated (though that in itself is a duty not always faithfully discharged), nor was it that her private conduct was ever and always irreproachable; but it was far more than this that caused the good Archdeacon to acknowledge to his wife, that Mrs. Langton was not unworthy of their esteem. In other scenes he had met her, and had learned to know her worth; for in the home of the afflicted, and beside the bed of the dying, her kindly presence had seemed to bring a comfort and a brightness beyond price. From her little store the Schoolmistress had also drawn succour for the needy; for she had not now to learn that the pill of good advice is easier swallowed when gilded; and that the visitor who comes empty-handed is rarely welcome. With her there was neither ostentation nor feigned humility, for in all her acts she seemed to say, that she had done only that which it was her duty to do.


Mother,' said Mrs. Morton's little daughter Ruth to her one day, why does Mrs. Langton never kiss me? She kisses Davie often, and he's a boy.'

*Perhaps, dear, she thinks you are too old to care for kisses. Davie is hardly more than a baby, you know.'

But, mother,' said Ruth, returning to the subject, after a pause given to reflection on the subject of the endearments bestowed upon the youthful Davie ; 'why do you never shake hands with Mrs. Langton ? Isn't she a lady?

The question was a simple one, but still the mother found it hard to answer. She would not explain to the child that the contact with her hand had been (though unobtrusively yet) so invariably shunned by Helen, that she had at last ceased to make any demonstration of a civility which she knew would not be accepted. At an early stage of their acquaintance, she had, on one occasion found, on her entrance into the Schoolmistress's little parlour, the Vicar's wife already established there, and busy with parochial accounts of books, coals, and blankets. Willing to prove to Mrs. Fanshawe in how high an estimation she held their young hostess, the Archdeacon's kindly wife held out her hand to her in greeting, but as usual it was not accepted, nay, more, it was refused with marked avoidance, and a deep and ceremonious courtesy was her only acknowledgment of the proffered token of cordiality and esteem.

This was strange, and the more so, as Helen had ever appeared grateful for acts of kindness done, and for any warm feeling of friendship expressed towards her.

Meanwhile, and during the two years that had elapsed since she had been installed in her new office, Mrs. Langton bad found that she was considered by the Vicar's wife as under her especial authority and management; guided and controlled by that active lady, she assisted in her self-imposed duties, dealing out petticoats, and doling out bonnets, and being in short as much her curate or help, as was the melancholy-looking Mr. Doall to the sleek and comfortable Vicar.

But though Helen had no objection to the work, inasmuch as to be useful was her delight, yet she did think the Vicaress's constant visits almost too great a tax upon her patience; and never did she feel more rebellious against the autocratical Mrs. Fanshawe than when those visits interfered with her free enjoyment of Mrs. Morton's society.

It was a few days after the one on which little Ruth had asked her mother the question to which she could not satisfactorily reply, that the latter, leading her little Davie by the hand, made her appearance in Helen's parlour. Filled with flowers was that tiny chamber, and among them, seated at the open casement, and busied with some homely work, was the fairest flower of them all, at least in the estimation of the happy



child, who, flinging himself into her arms, covered her face with kisses.

'I am come,' said Mrs. Morton, as soon as the boy's violent demonstrations of affection were sufficiently calmed down, to allow the object of them to reply to questions asked, “I am come to make you promise to be of our haymaking party to-morrow. The children all declare that it will not be a real happy day without you. Ask her, Davie;' and Davie, once more throwing his little arms 'round her neck, whispered to * Nellie,' that she must come.

'How I should enjoy it,' exclaimed Helen, as she returned his caresses; 'but to-morrow is such a busy day.'

Never mind the busy day, take a holiday; it will do you good.'

But what would Mrs. Fanshawe say to such an act of independence and insubordination?' remarked Helen, with a smile.

Something too bad to repeat, I dare say,' said merry Esther Morton.



« السابقةمتابعة »