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chiefly composed of the lower classes, who may be
greatly injured by such a style of preaching. I must
say I think so, Mr Walton. Only perhaps you are one
of those who think a lady's opinion on such matters is
worth nothing."

" On the contrary, I respect an opinion just as far as
the lady or gentleman who holds it seems to me qualified


to have formed it first But you have not yet told me
what you think so objectionable in my preaching."

" You always speak as if faith in Christ was something
greater than duty. Now I think duty the first thing."

" I quite agree with you, Miss Crowther. For how
can I, or any clergyman, urge a man to that which is
not his duty ? But tell me, is not faith in Christ a duty ?
Where you have mistaken me is, that you think I speak
of faith as higher than duty, when indeed I speak ot
faith as higher than any other duty. It is the highest
duty of man. I do not say the duty he always sees
clearest, or even sees at all. But the fact is, that when
that which is a duty becomes the highest delight of a
man, the joy of his very being, he no more thinks or
needs to think about it as a duty. What would you
think of the love of a son who, when an appeal was
made to his affections, should say, ' Oh yes, I love my
mother dearly : it is my duty, of course ? ' "

"That sounds very plausible, Mr Walton; but still I
cannot help feeling that you preach faith and not works.
I do not say that you are not to preach faith, of course ;
but you know faith without works is dead."

" Now, really, Hester," interposed Miss Jemima, " I
cannot think how it is, but, for my part, I should have
s;iul that Mr Walton was constantly preaching works.
He's always telling you to do something or other. I
know I always come out of the church with something
on my mind ; and I 've got to work it off somehow
before I 'm comfortable."

And here Miss Jemima got up on the chair again, anj


began to flirt with the cockatoo once more, but only in
silent signs.

I cannot quite recall how this part of the conversation
drew to a close. But I will tell a fact or two about the
sisters which may possibly explain how it was that they
took up such different notions of my preaching. The
elder scarce left the house, but spent almost the whole
of her time in reading small dingy books of eighteenth
century literature. She believed in no other; thought
Shakespeare sentimental where he was not low, and
Bacon pompous; Addison thoroughly respectable and
gentlemanly. Pope was the great English poet, incom-
parably before Milton. The " Essay on Man " con-
tained the deepest wisdom ; the " Rape of the Lock "
the most graceful imagination to be found in the lan-
guage. The " Vicar of Wakefield " was pretty, but fool-
ish ; while in philosophy, Paley was perfect, especially
in his notion of happiness, which she had heard objected
to, and therefore warmly defended. Somehow or other,
respectability in position, in morals, in religion, in con-
duct was everything. The consequence was that her
very nature was old-fashioned, and had nothing in it of
that lasting youth which is the birthright so often de-
spised of every immortal being. But I have already
said more about her than her place in my story justifies.

Miss Crovvther, on the contrary, whose eccentricities
did not lie on the side of respectability, had gone on
shocking the stiff proprieties of her younger sister till
she could be shocked no more, and gave in as to the
hopelessness of fate. She had had a severe disappoint-


ment in youth, had not only survived it, but saved her
heart alive out of it, losing only, as far as appeared to
the eyes of her neighbours at least, any remnant of selfish
care about herself; and she now spent the love which
had before been concentrated upon one object, upon
every living thing that came near her, even to her sister's
sole favourite, the wheezing poodle. She was very odd,
it must be confessed, with her gray hair, her clear gray
eye with wrinkled eyelids, her light step, her laugh at
once girlish and cracked ; darting in and out of the cot-
tages, scolding this matron with a lurking smile in every
tone, hugging that baby, boxing the ears of the other
little tyrant, passing this one's rent, and threatening that
other with awful vengeances, but it was a very lovely
oddity. Their property was not large, and she knew
every living thing on the place down to the dogs and
pigs. And Miss Jemima, as the people always called
her, transferring the Aliss Crowtlur of primogeniture to
the younger, who kept, like King Henry IV.,

" Her presence, like a robe pontifical,
Ne'er seen but wonder' d at,"

was the actual queen of the neighbourhood ; for, though
she was the very soul of kindness, she was determined
to have her own way, and had it.

Although I did not know all this at the time, such
were the two ladies who held these different opinions
about my preaching; the one who did nothing but read
Messrs Addison, Pope, Paley, and Co., considering that
I neglected the doctrine of works as the seal of faith,
and the one who was busy helping her neighbours from


morning to night, finding little in my preaching, except
incentive to benevolence.

The next point where my recollection can take up the
conversation, is where Miss Hester made the following
further criticism on my pulpit labours.

" You are too anxious to explain everything, Mr

I pause in my recording, to do my critic the justice of
remarking that what she said looks worse on paper than
it sounded from her lips ; for she was a gentlewoman,
and the tone has much to do with the impression made
by the intellectual contents of all speech.

" Where can be the use of trying to make uneducated
people see the grounds of everything 1 " she said. " It
is enough that this or that is in the Bible."

" Yes ; but there is just the point. What is in the
Bible 1 Is it this or that ? "

" You are their spiritual instructor : lell them what is
in the Bible."

" But you have just been objecting to my mode of
representing what is in the Bible."

" It will be so much the worse, if you add argument
to convince them of what is incorrect."

" I doubt that. Falsehood will expose itself the sooner
that honest argument is used to support it."

" You cannot expect them to judge of what you tell

" The Bible urges upon us to search and understand."

" I grant that for those whose business it is, like your-


" Do you think, then, that the Church consists of a
few privileged to understand, and a great many who can-
not understand, and therefore need not be taught?"
" I said you had to teach them."
" But to teach is to make people understand."
" I don't think so. If you come to that, how much
can the wisest of us understand? You remember what
Pope says,

' Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all Nature's law,
Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And show'd a Newton as we show an ape ' ? "

" I do not know the passage. Pope is not my Bible.
I should call such superior beings very inferior beings

" Do you call the angels inferior beings ? "

" Such angels, certainly."

" He means the good angels, of course."

" And I say the good angels could never behave like
that, for contempt is one of the lowest spiritual condi-
tions in which any being can place himself. Our Lord
says, ' Take heed that ye despise not one of these little
ones, for their angels do always behold the face of my
Father, who is in heaven.' "

" Now will you even say that you understand that
passage ? "

" Practically, well enough ; just as the poorest man of
my congregation may understand it. I am not to de-
spise one of the little ones. Pope represents the angels
us despising a Newton even."

2 F


" And you despise Pope."

" I hope not I say he was full of despising, and
therefore, if for no other reason, a small man."
"Surely you do not jest at his bodily infirmities?"
" I had forgotten them quite."
" In every other sense he was a great man."
" I cannot allow it. He was intellectually a great
man, but morally a small man."

" Such refinements are not easily followed."
" I will undertake to make the poorest woman in my
congregation understand that."

" Why don't you try your friend Mrs Oldcastle, then ]
It might do her a little good," said Miss Hester, now
becoming, I thought, a little spiteful at hearing her
favourite treated so unceremoniously. I found after-
wards that there was some kindness in it, however.

" I should have very little influence with Mrs Old-
castle if I were to make the attempt. But I am not
called upon to address my flock individually upon every
point of character."

" I thought she was an intimate friend of yours."
" Quite the contrary. We are scarcely friendly."
" I am very glad to hear it," said Miss Jemima, who
had been silent during the little controversy that her
sister and I had been carrying on. " We have been
quite misinformed. The fact is, we thought we might
have seen more of you if it had not been for her. And
as very few people of her own position in society care to
visit her, we thought it a pity she should be your prin-
cipal friend in the parish."


u Why do they not visit her more ? "

" There are strange stories about her, which it is as
well to leave alone. They are getting out of date too.
But she is not a fit woman to be regarded as the clergy-
man's friend. There ! " said Miss Jemima, as if she
had wanted to relieve her bosom of a burden, and had
done it.

" I think, however, her religious opinions would cor-
respond with your own, Mr Walton," said Miss Hester.

' Possibly," I answered, with indifference ; " I don't
care much about opinion."

" Her daughter would be a nice girl, I fancy, if she
weren't kept down by her mother. She looks scared,
poor thing ! And they say she 's not quite the thing,
you know," said Miss Jemima.

" What do you mean, Miss Crowther?"

She gently tapped her forehead with a forefinger.

I laughed. I thought it was not worth my while to
enter as the champion of Miss Oldcastle's sanity.

" They are, and have been, a strange family as far
back as I can remember ; and my mother used to say
the same. I am glad she comes to our church now.
You mustn't let her set her cap at you, though, Mr
Walton. It wouldn't do at all. She 's pretty enough,
too ! "

" Yes," I returned, " she is rather pretty. Tut I don't
think she looks as if she had a cap to set at anybody."

I rose to go, for I did not relish any further pursuit of
the conversation in the same direction.

I rode home slowly, brooding on the lovely marvel,


that out of such a rough ungracious stem as the Old-
castle family, should have sprung such a delicate, pale,
winter-braved flower, as Ethelwyn. And I prayed that
I might be honoured to rescue her from the ungenial
soil and atmosphere to which the machinations of her
mother threatened to confine her for the rest of a suffer-
ing life.



WAS within a mile of the village, return-
ing from my visit to the Misses Crowthcr,
when my horse, which was walking slowly
along the soft side of the road, lifted his
head, and pricked up his ears at the sound, which
he heard first, of approaching hoofs. The riders soon
came in sight Miss Oldcastle, Judy, and Captain Ever-
ard. Miss Oldcastle I had never seen on horseback
before. Judy was on a little white pony she used to
gallop about the fields near the Hall. The Captain was
Inughing and chatting gaily as they drew near, now to
the one, now to the other. Being on my own side or
the road I held straight on, not wishing to stop or to
reveal the signs of a distress which had almost over-
whelmed me. I felt as cold as death, or rather as if my
whole being had been deprived of vitality by a sudden
exhaustion around me of the ethereal element of life. I


believe I did not alter my bearing, but remained with
my head bent, for I had been thinking hard just before,
till we were on the point of meeting, when I lifted my
hat to Miss Oldcastle without drawing bridle, and went
on. The Captain returned my salutation, and likewise
rode on. I could just see, as they passed me, that Miss
Oldcastle's pale face was flushed even to scarlet, but she
only bowed and kept alongside of her companion. I
thought I had escaped conversation, and had gone about
twenty yards farther, when I heard the clatter of Judy's
pony behind me, and up she came at full gallop.

" Why didn't you stop to speak to us, Mr Walton ? "
she said. " I pulled up, but you never looked at me.
We shall be cross all the rest of the day, because you
cut us so. What have we done ? "

" Nothing, Judy, that I know of," I answered, trying
to speak cheerfully. " But I do not know your com-
panion, and I was not in the humour for an introduction."

She looked hard at me with her keen gray eyes ; and
I felt as if the child was seeing through me.

" I don't know what to make of it, Mr Walton.
You 're very different somehow from what you used to
be. There 's something wrong somewhere. But I sup-
pose you would all tell me it 's none of my business. So
I won't ask questions. Only I wish I could do anything
for you."

I felt the child's kindness, but could only say

" Thank you, Judy. I am sure I should ask you if
there were anything you could do for me. But you '11
be left behind."


" No fear of that My Dobbin can go much faster
than their big horses. But I see you don't want me, so

She turned her pony's head as she spoke, jumped the
ditch at the side of the road, and flew after them along
the grass like a swallow. I likewise roused my horse
and went off at a hard trot, with the vain impulse so to
shake off the tormenting thoughts that crowded on me
like gadflies. But this day was to be one of more trial

As I turned a corner, almost into the street of the
village, Tom Weir was at my side. He had evidently
been watching for me. His face was so pale, that I saw
in a moment something had happened.

" What is the matter, Tom?" I asked, in some alarm.

He did not reply for a moment, but kept unconsciously
stroking my horse's neck, and staring at me " with wide
blue eyes."

" Come, Tom," I repeated, " tell me what is the

I could see his bare throat knot and relax, like the
motion of a serpent, before he could titter the words.

" Kate has killed her little boy, sir."

1 le followed them with a stifled cry almost a scream,
atul hid his face in his hands.

" God forbid '" I exclaimed, and struck my heels in my
horse's sides, nearly overturning poor Tom in my haste.

" She's mad, sir; she's mad,' 1 he cried, as I rode oil.

" Come after me," I said, " and take the mare home,
I shan't be able to leave your sister."


Had I had a share, by my harsh words, in driving the
woman beyond the bounds of human reason and endur-
ance ? The thought was dreadful. But I must not let
my mind rest on it now, lest I should be unfitted for
what might have to be done. Before I reached the door,
I saw a little crowd of the villagers, mostly women and
children, gathered about it. I got off my horse, and
gave him to a woman to hold till Tom should come up.
With a little difficulty, I prevailed on the rest to go home
at once, and not add to the confusions and terrors of
the unhappy affair by the excitement of their presence.
As soon as they had yielded to my arguments, I entered
the shop, which to my annoyance I found full of the
neighbours. These likewise I got rid of as soon as pos-
sible, and locking the door behind them, went up to the
room above.

To my surprise, I found no one there. On the hearth
and in the fender lay two little pools of blood. All in
the house was utterly still. It was very dreadful. I
went to the only other door. It was not bolted as I
had expected to find it. I opened it, peeped in, and
entered. On the bed lay the mother, white as death,
but with her black eyes wide open, staring at the ceil-
ing : and on her arm lay little Gerard, as white, except
where the blood had flowed from the bandage that could
not confine it, down his sweet deathlike face. His eyes
were fast closed, and he had no sign of life about him.
I shut the door behind me, and approached the bed.
When Catherine caught sight of me, she showed no sur-


prise or emotion of any kind. Her lips, with automaton-
like movement, uttered the words

" I have done it at last I am ready. Take me away.
I shall be hanged. I don't care. I confess it. Only
don't let the people stare at me."

Her lips went on moving, but I could hear no more
till suddenly she broke out

" Oh ! my baby ! my baby ! " and gave a cry of such
agony as I hope never to hear again while I live.

At this moment I heard a loud knocking at the shop-
door, which was the only entrance to the house, and
remembering that I had locked it, I went down to see
who was there. I found Thomas Weir, the father, ac-
companied by Dr Duncan, whom, as it happened, he
had had some difficulty in finding. Thomas had sped
to his daughter the moment he heard the rumour of what
had happened, and his fierceness in clearing the shop
had at least prevented the neighbours, even in his ab-
sence, from intruding further.

We went up together to Catherine's room. Thomas
said nothing to me about what had happened, and I
found it difficult even to conjecture from his countenance
what thoughts were passing through his mind.

Catherine looked from one to another of us, as if she
did not know the one from the other. She made no
motion to rise from her bed, nor did she utter a word,
although her lips would now and then move as if mould-
ing a sentence. When Dr Duncan, after looking at the
child, proceeded to take him from her, she gave him one


imploring look, and yielded with a moan ; then began
to stare hopelessly at the ceiling again. The doctor car-
ried the child into the next room, and the grandfather

" You see what you have driven me to ! " cried Cathe-
rine, the moment I was left alone with her. " I hope
you are satisfied."

The words went to my very soul. But when I looked
at her, her eyes were wandering about over the ceiling,
and I had and still have difficulty in believing that she
spoke the words, and that they were not an illusion of
my sense, occasioned by the commotion of my own feel-
ings. I thought it better, however, to leave her, and
join the others in the sitting-room. The first thing I
saw there was Thomas on his knees, with a basin of
water, washing away the blood of his grandson from his
daughter's floor. The very sight of the child had hitherto
been nauseous to him, and his daughter had been be-
yond the reach of his forgiveness. Here was the end of
it the blood of the one shed by the hand of the other,
and the father of both, who had disdained both, on his
knees, wiping it up. Dr Duncan was giving the child
brandy; for he had found that he had been sick, and
that the loss of blood was the chief cause of his condition.
The blood flowed from a wound on the head, extending
backwards from the temple, which had evidently been
occasioned by a fall upon the fender, where the blood
lay both inside and out ; and the doctor took the sick-
ness as a sign that the brain had not been seriously
injured by the blow. In a few minutes he said


" I think he '11 come round."

" Will it be safe to tell his mother so 1 " I asked.

" Yes : I think you may."

I hastened to her room.

" Your little darling is not dead, Catherine. He is
coming to."

She threw herself off the bed at my feet, caught them
round with her arms, and cried

" I will forgive him. I will do anything you like. I
forgive George Everard. I will go and ask my father to
forgive me."

I lifted her in my arms how light she was ! and laid
her again on the bed, where she burst into tears, and lay
sobbing and weeping. I went to the other room. Little;
Gerard opened his eyes and closed them again, as I
entered. The doctor had laid him in his own crib. He-
said his pulse was improving. I beckoned to Thomas.
He followed me.

" She wants to ask you to forgive her,'' I said. " Do
not, in God's name, wait till she asks you, but go and
tell her that you forgive her."

" I dare not say I forgive her," he answered. " I
have more need to ask her to forgive me."

I took him by the hand, and led him into her room.
She feebly lifted her arms towards him. Not a word
was said on either side. I left them in each other's
embrace. The hard rocks had been struck with the
rod, and the waters of life had flowed forth from each,
and had met between.

I have more than once known this in the course of


my experience the ice and snow of a long estrangement
suddenly give way, and the boiling geyser-floods of old
affection rush from the hot deeps of the heart. I think
myself that the very lastingness and strength of animo-
sity have their origin sometimes in the reality of affec-
tion : the love lasts all the while, freshly indignant at
every new load heaped upon it ; till, at last, a word, a
look, a sorrow, a gladness, sets it free ; and, forgetting
all its claims, it rushes irresistibly towards its ends.
Thus was it with Thomas and Catherine Weir.

When I rejoined Dr Duncan, I found little Gerard
asleep, and breathing quietly.

" What do you know of this sad business, Mr Wal-
ton ? " said the doctor.

" I should like to ask the same question of you," I
returned. " Young Tom told me that his sister had
murdered the child. That is all I know."

" His father told me the same ; and that is all I know.
Do you believe it ? "

" At least we have no evidence about it. It is toler-
ably certain neither of those two could have been pre-
sent. They must have received it by report. We must
wait till she is able to explain the thing herself."

" Meantime," said Dr Duncan, " all I believe is, that
she struck the child, and that he fell upon the fender."

I may as well inform my reader that, as far as Cather-
ine could give an account of the transaction, this conjec-
ture was corroborated. But the smallest reminder of it
evidently filled her with such a horror of self-loathing,
that I took care to avoid the subject entirely, after the


attempt at explanation which she made at my request
She could not remember with any clearness what had
happened. All she remembered was that she had been
more miserable than ever in her life before ; that the
child had come to her, as he seldom did, with some
childish request or other; that she felt herself seized
with intense hatred of him ; and the next thing she knew
was that his blood was running in a long red finger
towards her. Then it seemed as if that blood had been
drawn from her own over-charged heart and brain ; she
knew what she had done, though she did not know how
she had done it; and the tide of her ebbed affection
flowed like the returning waters of the Sohvay. But be-
yond her restored love, she remembered nothing more
that happened till she lay weeping with the hope that
the child would yet live. Probably more particulars
returned afterwards, but I took care to ask no more
questions. In the increase of illness that followed. I
more than once saw her shudder while she slept, and
thought she was dreaming what her waking memory had
forgotten ; and once she started awake, crying, " I have
murdered him again."

To return to that first evening : When Thomas came
from his daughter's room, he looked like a man from
whom the bitterness of evil had passed away. To human
eyes, at least, it seemed as if self had been utterly slain
in him. His face had that child-like expression in its
paleness, and the tearfulness without tears haunting his
eyes, which reminds one of the feeling of an evening in
summer between which and the sultry day preceding it


has fallen the gauzy veil of a cooling shower, with a
rainbow in the east.

" She is asleep," he said.

"How is it your daughter Mary is not herel" I

" She was taken with a fit the moment she heard the
bad news, sir. I left her with nobody but father. I
think I must go and look after her now. It 's not the

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