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Don't you, Mary? This life is so shadowy when compared with the next.”
“Yes,” I said ; "Now we look through a glass darkly, but then face to face." But I could say no more, and burying my face in my hands, I wept bitterly. I had known for a long time that she would be taken from us soon, and now she herself was preparing me for her departure. I felt then, as I had never felt before, what I was losing, and my heart seemed ready to break under the heavy burden.
“Nay,” she said, gently, "you must not be so sorrowful ; it is almost selfish to want me to stay; this life is never quite happy, never quite free from care. I grieve most of all to leave you, my darling sister. Oh! Mary, you can never comprehend how your love has made my life seem truly happy; you have given all up to me, but I have made no sacrifice for you.'
She lay still after those words, as if in deep thought, and I could not trust myself to break the silence. It was Easter Eve, that day on which she had ever looked forward with delight to the coming great festival. Year after year had she been up at daybreak, and by my side had entered the pretty village church. But her hours were numbered now, and I feared she would not live until morning. Edward had been telegraphed for, and she was evidently longing for his arrival. As eventide drew on the good Vicar came, and performed that last solemn service. He had known her as a fair young girl; now she was passing away, and he, the aged priest, was staying behind to minister still to the sick and dying. Ere the blessing was given, her husband entered the sick-room, and breathed with us the last “Amen.” She was exhausted, but quite conscious. Seeing that manly form crushed with sorrow, I left them alone for a brief space. All through that night I never quitted her side; and he remained too, for now that the end was so near, he seemed to comprehend, for the first time, what he had gained, and what he was about to lose.
I had drawn the curtain aside, for her to catch the earliest glimpse of the breaking day, and as the first ray of the rising sun stole into that room, and rested on her lovely face, she gently smiled, and
“ She left off breathing, and no more
I smoothed the pillow beneath her head.
Through the open window looked the skies
My notes of praise were mute that Easter Day. Death, that mysterious visitor, had entered our home, and stolen away my best beloved ; and my
heart was heavy with bitter sorrow—too bitter for words.
SORROW lay heavily upon me for some time. I could not rouse myself to my accustomed work. Many came to sympathise with me, and to comfort me, but their words seemed as empty words. They had not loved as I had, they could not therefore comprehend my loss. Often as I sat by myself during those spring evenings, watching the shades of night stealing over this busy earth, I fancied I heard her sweet familiar voice upon the staircase calling, “ Mary, Mary;" then I would start up as if to meet her, and remembering all that had happened would sink back into my chair and weep bitterly. Then as weeks passed on and spring-time ripened into summer, I asked myself, “ Is life going to be thrown away in idle sorrow? Am I going to sit with listless hands and aching heart, while the sick and dying are needing my care ? Surely Elsie would look down upon me with saddened
eyes, if such were the useless path I had chosen for myself.” And as these thoughts pressed themselves upon my unwilling mind, I gradually roused myself to activity. From thenceforth I would strive to make others happy instead of mourning over my past loss. Elsie, my sister, would have wished it to be so, and the poor she had visited should now be my care. So the year went quickly by, bringing with it peace and comfort to
troubled mind. One day in autumn, when the fast falling leaves reminded me that winter was fast approaching, although the air was still soft and warm, I was pacing the garden, enjoying the afternoon sun. It was the time I had set apart in each day for reading, and I held in my hand a book I loved to study,—it was Dante's Paradise; but my thoughts would persist in wandering from the poet and his saintly guide. It was in vain I strove to fix my attention, and after a futile effort I allowed my mind to wander whither it chose.
First I wondered when Ronald Hart would return home, for I knew he was expected. Thinking thus of him my mind returned to that day when he had asked me to become his wife. I had rejected him. I had given him up for her who was as dear to me as any husband could ever be; and now she lay in her quiet grave, and I was left to wander
this cheerless earth, for cheerless it was indeed without her smile to gladden my life.
Edward Melrose had felt his loss bitterly, but I knew full well that ere many years had passed away he would receive another companion into his stately home. He had spoken very tenderly of Elsie's faithful love,-her untiring watchfulness over him, and her desire to help him in every little trouble and care. I knew all this,- I had seen it all long before he had been aware of the treasure he had gained. I felt that her married life had been far from really happy; she had hidden, with persistent care, her disappointment from my watchful eyes; she had never spoken of her husband but in the most tender tones, and yet I knew she had not been happy.
Never was I so thankful as on that day when I looked back upon my
life and knew I had not left her-my motherless sister-and if on account of that one sacrifice I was destined to live a life of loneliness, then be it so, I would not if I could have altered all that was past.
I was in deep thought-so deep that I did not hear footsteps behind me, and started when a well known voice fell upon my ear. Ronald Hart was by my side; he glanced at my mourning, and I saw tears start to his eyes. I guessed his thoughts.
“Yes, she has flown away, you will never see her again-never in this world.”
“Much has happened since I left, and this is one of the great sorrows ; I find many friends have passed away, and she amongst them.”
“She came home to die.” “ And there's only your aunt to share the cottage with you now.'
Perhaps the thought had come upon him that I had refused him because I would not leave Elsie. I saw he was much agitated, for it was the first time we had met since that eventful day upon the cliffs. He looked at me to see if I would still receive him as a friend, if as nothing else. I could not be cold towards him, for I saw how altered he was since his departure from England.
He told me of that desire for companionship which had come so ardently upon
him that his life in India had become unbearable. “I have got one year's leave on account of ill health, and then I must return. This air is reviving me already. Yes," he said, noticing my look of almost pity, “I couldn't have stood the heat much longer."
I asked him to come in and see Aunt Gertrude; he was tired already with the short walk. She sat in the same position as on that evening when I had startled her with the news of the expedition to the Lakes, still working vigorously at that endless knitting. She held out a friendly hand to Ronald, for she had known and liked him since he was a mere lad in the nursery.
“Your arrival is sudden,” she said.
“Yes, rather, but I wanted to take you all by surprise. You should have heard my sisters' screams of wonder when they found me reading complacently all the letters I could lay hands on.
Aunt Gertrude pressed him to stay for a little longer-for tea, why not?
“They will miss me at home,” he said, but appeared nevertheless loath to leave.
“I know what you shall do, Mary," exclaimed my aunt, allowing her knitting to fall in her hurry to impart the "happy thoughts." “Put on your hat and go to Mrs. Hart's, and ask if they will all come and spend the evening with us.
So off I went in better spirits than I had been for many months. When I returned with our small invading army, I thought Aunt Gertrude looked more kindly upon me than she had ever done. What had she and Ronald been talking about during my absence ?
That night after our friends had departed, she drew me towards her with her thin, delicate hand.
“Why did not you tell me all about Ronald, my child ? Is it not true that you refused him because you would not leave Elsie ps?
* Yes,” I could say nought else, for she looked at me with searching eyes, as if to gather the whole truth. She sighed a deep, heavy sigh.
"I am afraid I have been very, very blind all these years. I knew you loved her, but not so much as that, -not so much as that,” she repeated, with eyes filled with tears. “Oh, how blind, how blind I have been! I have not been a mother to you two motherless children; and now that I see it all, it is too late !"
“No, not too late—it is never too late, aunt, I shall be with you perhaps all my life.”
I longed to comfort her, for I saw how sorrowful she was,—she who had been so cold towards us.
“No, you won't,” she said bitterly. “ You will be Ronald's wife before long."
She spoke the truth, although I did not think so at the time. He asked me to share his lonely Indian home, and now that there was no tie to bind me to England, I accepted him gladly.
“There will be work for you to do out there,” he said, for he saw my reluctance to relinquish all that had made my life, since her death, less aimless. “Plenty of work for willing hands."
Since that day I have passed many happy years, yet in the midst of my new found joys, the sweet face of my sister Elsie has never faded from my memory.
K. J. NEWALL.
CHURCH LAW AND HISTORY: THE RIDSDALE
LORD Cairns could scarcely have expected that the very extraordinary Judgment which he delivered in the Ridsdale Case should remain unchallenged. It did not profess to be a Judgment of Law, but of History,—and in History he has yet to prove himself an adept. Doubtless he felt that the Judgment needed support, and so his
<-Chancellor, who formed one of the Court, resorted to the somewhat unusual course of publishing a Pamphlet in aid of it. To that Pamphlet, which contained some references to his “ Introduction to the Revisions of the Book of Common Prayer,” Mr. Parker now replies
and certainly we do not envy the feelings of any member of the Court when he discovers to what falsifications of history Lord Cairns has committed him.
1“ Did Queen Elizabeth take other Order in the Advertisements of 1566?" A Letter to Lord Selborne. By James Parker, Hon. M.A., Oxon.