Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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a good many things to say which will not exactly
concern you."

The bright, loving face was very inviting for a



Riss, and Ella gave one, and said in a lialf-whisper,
that she did not think she left her character in very
good hands, and then departed ; whilst Bertha sat in
silent astonishment at the ready obedience to a request
which, if she had made it herself, would have been
followed by the moodiness of hours.



When Ella was gone, Bertha's manner was much
changed. It was as though she felt more at ease with
herself, and had lost the unpleasant consciousness that
her acts were watched and commented upon. Mildred,
on the contrary, was more awkward. It might have
seemed that she had topics to bring forward which
she was studying how to introduce. She made an
observation upon Ella's unusual height, and then
paused for an answer, which was given her by Ber-
tha's walking up to the sofa, and placing a note
before her saying, " Mr. Lester begged me to give
you this : he is gone to London."

Mildred's speaking countenance in a moment be-
trayed her feelings whilst she read the note ; her
face was of an ashy paleness ; when it was ended,
she laid it down gently, and said, raising her eyes
steadily to Bertha's, " Then the hour is come for
action ? "

" Mr. Lester thinks so," was Bertha's reply.

Mildred said in a low voice, " Thank God," anf'
there was a pause.

" Suspicion is the worst of all evils," observed

Mildred appeared scarcely to hear her, and only

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answered^ "Mr. Lester tells me you vrill give me

Bertha drew her chair nearer ; it was an involun-
tary movement of sympathy. Mildred noticed it.
" We have one feeling,'* she said.

" Yes, I hope so. Oh ! Miss Vivian, how will it

"Not Miss Vivian, — Mildred, if you will — we have
so many interests in common." She took Bertha's
hand affectionately.

That little movement I — Bertha could never have
made it herself, — but it touched the secret chord of
cherished and hidden feelings ; she forgot that Mildred
was a Vivian as she answered, " I always hear you
called Mildred, but few call me Bertha."

" May I be one of the few ? It would seem most
natural, for Edward calls you so."

" It is strange that he should, — your brother."

" Why strange ? where would his comfort, his hope,
his children have been without you ? I have so often
longed to thank you."

" I have only done my duty," replied Bertha.

" But none can do more. He must thank you him-
self. He does deeply, heartily ; but perhaps he has
never found words to say it rightly."

" He has other things to think of than gratitude
now," replied Bertha.

" He ought not to have. Yet perhaps we must
forgive him if he is engrossed. Is this determination
his own ? "

" No; Mr. Lester's. He thinks that concealment is
no lonp^er safe. Goff has been makinir friends with


one of the servants at the Rectory ; taking the letters
to the post ; and we suspect prying into them. We
can't tell how much he knows, but something, we are
nearly sure, he has discovered."

Mildred was silent ; but her hand shook tremu-

Bertha went on. " We only found this out yester-
day. Mr. Lester had no time to write, except those
few lines. He left me to tell you all. He has no
settled plan yet ; he says he can't form any till he
has seen Edward ; then he means to write to you,

and "

, " And what ? " Mildred regarded her anxiously.

" He must trust to you to prepare General Vivian's
mind for the knowledge that Edward is in England,

unless ; it struck me whether it might be better

that they should meet without preparation."

" No, never ! " Mildred started up. " I beg your
pardon ; I did not mean to be so hasty ; but it might
be his death."

Bertha's colour rose, and she looked much dis-

" I know it has been Mr. Lester's notion," continued
Mildred ; " and it might have answered last year,
but my father appears very much shaken within the
last few months. We might ruin all by such incau-
tiousness. No one knows him," she added, her voice
sinking. " Mr. Lester thinks him hard ; he is hard
externally ; hard in his own eyes ; but he is a father

" But there must be no delay," said Bertha, with
E 3


something of her former coldness and determina-

Mildred shrank a little from her manner ; but the
feeling was scarcely perceptible in her tone, as she
replied;, " No, indeed ; if there is danger for Edward,
how could there be delay ? " Yet she spoke doubt-
fully, perhaps unwilling to comprehend the possi-
bility of danger.

" Mr. Lester thinks that both Captain Vivian and
Goff have reasons for being your brother's deadly
enemies," continued Bertha.

" I know it. There is a mystery ; but my father
has never allowed me to approach the subject. Ho.
has never mentioned Edward's name since — since
that fatal day."

" If they are his enemies there must be danger,"
continued Bertha ; " they are both desperate men."

Mildred clasped her hands in silent prayer. " The
God who has protected him hitherto will protect him
still," she said. " But I wish I could have seen Mr.
Lester himself."

" He felt it better not to wait," replied Bertha.
" It was only yesterday we discovered what Goff had
been doing. Of course there was a motive for his
interference. Perhaps it was unwise to send our let-
ters as we did, but we had not calculated on any risk.
It seemed only natural that Mr. Lester should write
to Mr. Bruce, and your letters and mine were always
inclosed in his. Mr. Lester said it was best to go to
London immediately, for he could not trust to any
more letters."

Mildred remained silent for some seconds, as if


forming some inward resolution ; then slie looked up
at Bertha, and said, "You will think of me, and
pray for me ; none can tell the effort it will be to
speak to my father."

Bertha's softer feelings were touched ; and she an-
swered gently and kindly, " God's help is ahvays
with those who live for the happiness of others."

" I hope so ; if one does live for that purpose.
Yet I have never been able to make my father

" General Vivian does not give me the idea of an
unhappy man," said Bertha, with a bluntness which
was somewhat painful.

" Possibly not. I have heard it said before ; but,
Bertha" — the name was spoken in a tone of apology
— "must one not live with persons daily before one
can venture to judge of that deep question of hap-
piness ? "

" Yes, indeed," Bertha spoke eagerly ; " I know
none can judge."

" Not the nearest and dearest at times," continued
Mildred, " still less those who only see others as the
world has seen my father — in public meetings and
formal society. It has been his pride to appear happy,
and he has succeeded with all but me."

" And Mr. Lester and Mrs. Robinson," observed
Bertha. "They have always said that he was a
crushed and broken-hearted man."

" The wound which God makes, God will and can

heal," said Mildred. " There is no healing for that

which we open for ourselves." vShe dashed awa}'- a

tear from her eyes, as she added, in a low voice,

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"Mj poor father! liis sorrow is greater tlian Ed-

"It would scarcely seem so to those who look
upon them," observed Bertha.

" Ah ! I forgot," and Mildred's face became sud-
denly animated ; " you have seen Edward. Is he
changed? Does he look very old — older than I
do?" and she smiled, and then, in a sadder tone,
added, " Perhaps we may not recognise each other."

" He does not look like General Vivian's son," re-
plied Bertha.

" Then he is changed, — he was so like ! See," she
unclasped her locket, " should you have known it ? "

" I should have remembered it," replied Bertha,
regarding the miniature closely. The allusion was
painful, — for an instant it carried both back to the
days when they had met as strangers, having a
mutual antipathy ; and when the first thought of a
near connection had been the death knell of their

Bertha was the first to speak again. " Ella is like
it," she said.

" Yes, very ; much more so than Clement, though
they are twins."

" There is such talent in it," said Bertha, still
looking at the miniature.

" Yes, but Ella will surpass both her father and
her brother in that. She is wonderfully clever."

" Talent thrown away," said Bertha shortly.

Her tone was like the opening of a closed door to
Mildred. It revealed such intricacies of feeling. " Is
it thrown away ? " she asked with some hesitation.


" It may not be yet, but it will be. It produces no

" It wants culture," observed Mildred.

" A great deal has been given her, but it is useless."

" She seems young to say so."

" Yes, if she were not so clever."

" But disproportionate talent becomes awkward-
ness," continued Mildred.

" That didn't strike me before. I don't know
now that I can tell what it means."

Mildred waited for a moment. An effort was
needed for the reply, which at the moment she could
scarcely make. Yet she conquered her reluctance,
and turning from the subject of all engrossing in-
terest, answered in a tone as unconcerned as Bertha's :
" Moral powers and mental powers take different times
for growth, I imagine. Mental powers appear to
spring up rapidly, whilst moral powers require a
lifetime to come to any thing like maturity. So one
is continually struck with a sense of disproportion
between talent and goodness, and then comes disap-

" Certainly, I don't know a more disappointing
person than Ella," observed Bertha, in the same cold

" I think she is very disappointing till one begins
to understand her."

" Understanding doesn't help me," observed Bertha.

" Doesn't it ? I should have thought it would have
kept you from expecting too much."

" But how can you help expecting a great deal
from a person who can talk and reason like a woman


of thirty when she is onlj sixteen, and can acquire
more knowledge in a day than others can in months,
or years ? "

" According to my theory this is only intellectual
growth," said Mildred, " and therefore must not be
dej)ended upon for action."

" But it ought to be power," said Bertha.

" Scarcely, — I should say indeed that it tends
rather to weakness, like any other want of pro-

Bertha looked doubtful, and again Mildred was
obliged to urge herself to continue the conversation
by remembering that it might be long before a like
opportunity would recur.

" I confess to having a theory about proportion,
very vague, and perhaps very unfounded, — but one
must think of something when one is obliged to spend
hours alone upon a sofa ; — an idea, it is, that the prin-
ciples of all beauty both physical and moral are to be
found in proportion, — that perfect beauty is nothing
more than perfect proportion, — and that perfect
goodness is the same. But all that is very dreamy,
and not much to the purpose ; only I think one can
see as one goes on in life, that the characters w^hich
leave the most lasting impress ujjon the world are
those in which the mental and moral powers are the
most equally balanced. So I fjincy, if I had the
management of a child, that is what I should the
most strive to attain."

" And if you had the management of Ella what
should you do ? "


" I can scarcely tell till I have seen wliat she is at

" But you can form some idea ; what is it you
think she wants ? " •

" Sunshine/' said Mildred smiling ; and seeing that
Bertha looked a little annoyed at not receiving a
clearer answer, she continued, " Ella's intellectual
growth seems to have been so rapid as to cast a shade
over her moral growth, if one may so speak. Per-
haps, therefore, she wants hope, encouragement,
cheerful sympathy, and patience, to expand and
foster her better feelings. She is morbid now, and
wayward, and has a great tendency to unreality."

" She is very unreal," observed Bertha.

"Would she be if she understood herself?" inquired
Mildred. " She deceives herself now because she
fancies that talking of goodness, which is an effort of
the mind, is the same thing as carrying it out in
practice, which is the work of the heart. But I think
she is beginning to open her eyes to the vast difference ;
when she sees it clearly the danger I should fear
would be despair."

" She does have fits of despondency now," observed

" And I suppose then the right thing would be to
give her encouragement," said Mildred.

" It is so difficult, when she is continuallyivexing
and disappointing one," replied Bertha.

" Still, without encouragement — without sunshine,
— how can there be any growth ? " asked Mildred,


" Yes, I suppose you are right, I dare say I
manage her very badly."

" She must be exceedingly trying, — especially to
a person who has fixed principles of right, and always
acts upon them."

" Not always," said Bertha quickly, " very seldom."

Mildred smiled. "Perhaps others can judge for us
better than we can of ourselves on such points."

" I know we ought to give sympathy," said Bertha.

" Yes, because one receives it ; and what should
one be without it ? "

A shade of sorrowful thought crossed Bertha's face ;
she said abruptly, " Can people acquire sympathy ? "

" I think — I hope so. Most of us have very little
of it by nature."

" I have none."

"Oh! indeed, indeed!" Mildred raised herself up
eagerly ; " if you had not sympathy, how could you
have done what you have ? And Mr. Lester tells me
of others who are indebted to you. Ronald Vivian,
for instance."

" That is from circumstances," replied Bertha,
her changing voice showing the quickness of her

"But if we have sympathy in any one case, it
proves that we have the power within us, only we
may not know how to exercise it."

" Then it is useless."

" Yes, till we teach ourselves better."

" That is the question. I don't think we can teach
ourselves ; it is a feeling,"

" But we make ourselves feel by action."


"I don't know tliat. I can act well without
feeling at all."

" Perhaps you don't understand yourself," said Mil-
dred. " I am sure you feel a great deal more than
you know."

" Wliatever sympathy I may have, it is not enough
for the children," said Bertha.

" It may be their fault in a great degree ; and they
must be so different from you."

"Yes, Ella and Fanny are, and Clement too. I
can understand Louisa better."

"But I suppose it may be possible to practise
putting oneself in the place of the children," said
Mildred, " trying as a matter of reason to see with
their eyes and feel with their feelings."

" But reason won't be of any use," persisted

" I should have thought it might be. I should
have imagined that it was one of the chief instru-
ments which God has given us to help us to guide
others ; one of the great causes of the superiority of
a mature mind over a young one."

"I don't understand," said Bertha, as shortly as
before, but with a greater show of interest.

Mildred felt that she must follow the leading of her
strange companion, who seemed to have no perception
that this was not the moment for carrying on abstract
inquiries upon education, so she continued :

" I suppose this kind of reasoning, and trying to
place oneself in the position of another, is the best
way of learning sympathy ; and children we see can't
avail themselves of it thoroughly, for they don't know


what a grown-up person feels. But we have passed
through childhood and youth, and have only to make
an effort of memory to recall our own difficulties, and
by that means understand their troubles."

" But all children are not alike," persisted Bertha.
" How is it possible to reason upon feelings which we
have never had ? "

" Imagination, I suppose, may help us," said Mil-
dred, "and books — fiction, which many grave people
laugh at. Whatever displays human nature truly, is
an assistance to the lesson of sympathy. And then
too the least sympathy invites confidence, and confi-
dence is experience, and experience enables us to give
greater sympathy. You see there is a continued re-
action if we can only make up our minds to begin."

" And how would you show Ella sympathy ? " in-
quired Bertha, her mind turning at once from gene-
ral theories to a direct object.

" I know how I should act myself," replied Mildred.
'• I could not venture to say what any other person
should do."

" But what would you do yourself ? "

"I think I should try always to bear in mind her
constitutional indolence, and so, as a beginning, not
expect her to be energetic ; and whenever she did
exert herself, I should praise her, even for a very
slight amount of energy. Then as to her pride and
self-will, I should endeavour to make allowance for
them, by judging her not according to what strictly
speaking she ought to be, but according to the effort
which she would need to be humble and obedient. I
should remember too that her very talents are her


temptation, causing her to be carried away by feeling
and excitement, and I should try to throw myself into
her pursuits, for the very purpose of being a balance
to her mind. Perhaps by this kind of watchfulness
I might avoid irritating her or being irritated myself?
which I am sure I should be otherwise."

" Yes," replied Bertha, speaking more freely when
she found that Mildred could share, or at least com-
prehend her difficulties, "that is the great trouble
after all ; she is provoking and I am angry, and then I
dare say I speak out quickly."

" She has made me speak out quickly several times
since she has been here," replied Mildred. "I am
just beginning to learn to think twice before I find

"But don't you find that spoils her?" inquired
Bertha. " I am sure people require to be stirred by
a quick word now and then."

" Quick words are sometimes very good for quick
natures," replied Mildred, " but I doubt if they are
good with slow ones."

"Ella, slow ! oh, no ; she is immensely quick."

" Intellectually, not morally. I think quick words
repel her, and make her creep like a snail into its
shell. Besides, I fancy they only do if one is gene-
rally very affectionate in manner ; that in a degree
neutralises the quickness."

" And I am not affectionate, I know," said Bertha,
candidly. " I dare say Ella has complained of me."

" She thinks you are more fond of the little ones,"
was Mildred's evasive answer, and Bertha, not satis-
fied, put the question again more directly.


" I can scarcely call it complaint," replied Mildred.
" She thinks you don't understand her, but she is
quite aware that a great deal is her own fault."

"And do you understand her?" inquired Bertha

" I am not sure that I do, but I see some things in
her very like my brother. I don't encourage her
though in that notion of not being understood ; it
is an excuse for a great deal of sentimentality, and
even selfishness of feeling in young people. I always
tell her that you and every one else would under-
stand her if she would only try to act up to her prin-
ciples, and be humble and considerate ; but it is such
an age for moods, and fancies, and pet griefs, one
must be merciful to it."

Bertha had not been at all merciful to Mildred,
who was nearly tired out, but there had been a pain-
ful fascination in this conversation with a person
whom hitherto she had regarded with a kind of re-
spectful antipathy, which carried her beyond what she
had in any way intended. It was a pleasure to be
drawn on, even though in a certain degree against
her will. She did not see that on Mildred's side there
was a continual effort ; she only felt that even if they
differed, they were not antagonistic. Mildred had
said nothing hard of Ella,'quite the contrary ; yet she
could see and acknowledge her faults: and neitlier
had she been flattering to herself ; she had suggested
indeed, several possible blunders in education, but it
was always as though she herself was the person
liable to make them. The effect of tlie conversation
was unquestionably soothing, and when at length


Bertha was recalled from it by tlie striking of tlie
clock, which warned her that it was time to return
home, she rose with evident regret.

The feeling was not shared by Mildred, — solitude,
leisure for thought, was her one longing desire. Yet
even then she could throw herself into Bertha's cha-
racter ; and she asked again, as a special favour, that
Ella might be allowed to remain.

It was a well-timed and well-turned request.
Bertha liked deference. She was a little sensitive as
to her position with the children, and had an unde-
fined dread of Mildred's influence and interference.
Two aunts on different sides might very well have
found matter for disagreement ; but Mildred was
thoroughly unselfish, and had no love of power.
Bertha's answer was very cordial. She was quite
sure that her mother would consent ; there could not
be any objection if General Vivian liked it.

The point settled, Ella was summoned.

The look of delight which followed the announce-
ment of the permission was a little painful to Bertha ;
but she had learnt something, much indeed, in that
half hour's interview with Mildred, and, instead of
thinking of her own chilled feelings, she threw her-
self into Ella's pleasure. " Shall you want any books
sent you, Ella? The Clevc carrier will call to-
morrow morning."

" Aunt Bertha, thank you! yes;" and Ella's eyea
sparkled at this unlooked-for instance of considera-
tion. She ran out of the room to make out a list.

Bertha drew near to Mildred. Now, for the first
time, she perceived that the conversation had beeu



carried on too long. Yet Mildred smiled, and said
she should be quite well after luncheon.

" Strong people forget what weak ones feel," said
Bertha, in a tone of self-reproach.

" And weak ones are a great trouble and burden
to strong ones ; but I am most grateful to you for
having come."

" I hope I shan't forget what you have said," ob-
served Bertha, bluntly.

Mildred smiled. " I dare say I make many mis-
takes. It is all theory, — I have had no practical

" But you must have thought a good deal."

" About my own faults ; that teaches more than
any thing."

" May I come and see you again sometimes ? "

A very awkward question. General Vivian might
not at all like to see Miss Campbell frequently at his

Mildred could only answer it honestly. *' Will you
let me write and ask you to come ? It may be the
best plan."

Bertha understood, and coloured deeply.

" It is not my will, nor my doing, you will believe,
I am sure," said Mildred, timidly.

Bertha felt very contradictory, but she was too
good to give way to the feeling. " I suppose it may
be the best plan," she answered, in a tone tolerably
free from restraint.

" Thank you very much for understanding ; but
I shall hear from you."

"Yes; if there is any thing to communicate. I
scarcely sec what there can be."


" One lives always in fear and expectation," said
Mildred. She sighed, and the sigh revealed to
Bertha that the sister's anxiety was far keener than
her own could be.

She reproached herself, and said, " I have been
troubling you about Ella, and asking your advice, —
I ought not to have done it now."

" It has done me good, by distracting my thoughts.
I shall try not to think till the time comes. Mr.
Lester, you suppose, will write to-morrow ? "

" I imagine so. He was going direct to your
brother, and I know he is anxious that no time
should be lost."

" Then God help us all ! " said Mildred ; and Bertha
silently echoed the prayer.

Ella came back again with the list of books, and
asked a good many questions about home, to Avhich
Bertha answered fully and kindly ; but Mildred did
not speak again until just at the last moment, when,
as Bertha was wishing her a final good-b'ye, she said,
in a voice so low as to be inaudible to Ella, " If
Mr. Lester is away, keep Clement at home."

" Yes, if I can ; but he is so wilful."

Bertha departed; and Mildred, too tired to talk
more to Ella, or even to listen to reading, lay quite
still, thinking upon the practical experience which
life had given her of all that is involved in that
common word — wilful.

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellCleve Hall (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 26)