« PreviousContinue »
am sure he is not much more entertaining than the old farmer at the Clemences; and indeed Lord Alton is almost as bad. And even Sir William, when once he begins about land, never knows when to stop. What weary people they are !"
Why, Constance, I thought you liked them,” I said. “I like the way in which they live, their mode of speaking, their manners and so on; but they are too much alike.”
“ And yet,” said Philip, “ each of them has a different story. Should you not like to know the history of these people, Constance? They may appear very similar, yet each of their lives has had its events, its turning-points, its scenes, its hopes and fears. This is what interests me.”
“Do you mean that they all have histories, like people in a novel ?"
" Nearly all of them. Some of the most common-place people have had their parts in romances as strange as any we read. That life must be unusually dull which has not had at least one incident worthy of note in its course. The multitude of personal histories in print are as nothing to the number which have happened; but people who feel these things and live through them, are, for the most part, silent; they keep them hidden in their memories. Would you not like to read the hearts of those around you, Constance ?"
"Not if they are like novels,” answered she," for I cannot read them. I like to know about people's manners and dresses, but in novels they only talk of their feelings."
“ You might as well judge of a walnut by its shell,” said I, “ as of persons by their dress.'
“No,” said Constance ; “people are more like apples than nuts. Show me an apple and I will tell you whether I care to eat it; show me a person and I will say whether I care to know her. Now Lady Dunsmore is a russet, a little rough outside, but firm and sound within. Miss Vyvyan is a gravenstein, with her rosy cheeks.”
“Go on,” said Philip, much amused; “ class us all-Ned and me and Miss Forbes to begin with.”
"I am not sure about you and Mr. Linton,” she said; "but Miss Forbes is like some that Dawson showed me to-day. “Yes, they're fine to look at,” he said ; " nice colour and all; but just you taste them; they're the sourest things !” “ Then what is the use of them ?" I asked.
Oh, you see, miss, they grow better when they're older; they want a deal of keeping.”
It was time to follow the rest of the company who were leaving for the dancing-room, so we went.
That evening plainly showed that it was not only in partial eyes that Constance's beauty was esteemed uncommon. I was almost sur
prised at the sensation she caused, perhaps because, for a wonder, I had not been struck, as I often was, by her appearance. This may have been because of her entire independence on dress or externals. Pretty and even elegant as her attire was, it added nothing to her beauty. I had seen her look as well in the old blue dress which she wore in the morning at her school. But I was unique in this respect ; every one else was talking of her, admiring her, and wondering who
I spoke of it to Miss Vyvyan. “Does Constance strike you more than usual to-night?” I asked. “She seems to be making a stir amongst these good Devonshire people.”
“She is certainly wonderfully beautiful,” said Miss Vyvyan ; " but I do not know, as you say, whether she looks better to-night than usual; yet her dress suits her very well; the white shows the beauty of her complexion, and those pink flowers are very becoming. Ever so many people want to know who she is; I have been asked by a dozen at least. Lord Alton is praising her to every one; see, there he is, introducing his mother and sister to her.” They were at the other side of the room from us. Lady St. Stephens was a plump, comfortable, and really dignified lady. Lord Alton's sister was, like himself, tall, fair, fashionable, and affected ; his manner at the moment very eager;
he seemed most anxious that his friends should see Constance with the same favour as he did.
“ What is rather unusual,” said Miss Vyvyan, “ the ladies admire her as much as the gentlemen. It is seldom the case ; our ideas of beauty and yours are so different, that I can scarcely ever get a gentleman to agree with me in my opinion of another lady."
Perhaps it was not only Constance's face which attracted so much notice; her manner was very pretty and unaffected, even simple; her face so animated, and her enjoyment so evident, that each and all added to the spell which she threw around her. Had the dances been ten score instead of two, she might have danced them all. Philip stood generally near her, but was not dancing. Once I asked him the
"I have tried,” he answered, “ with Constance, but this pain in my side came on and knocked me up. Never mind, I am quite contented to watch her. Now that I know she is mine, I care not how many see and appreciate her. It is even a testimony to my judgment, and a triumph to me to have been chosen by one so universally approved of.”
We were up at the end of the room behind one of the great flowerstands, unobserved observers of the whole scene, and able to talk without being overheard. “I never coveted wealth for myself,” said Philip, “but I do for her. She is so fit to enjoy it; now she is in her sphere. I must make her as pretty a home as I can, but I wish it
were not to be in London, at least not for the whole year. There she is, talking to Lady St. Stephens. I almost believe that young Alton is in love with her; he follows her all around the room. Poor fellow ! I pity him if he be."
Once for the evening I danced with Constance; it was a set of Lancers only; but even for that, as she saucily informed me, I ought to be deeply grateful, for many were envious of me that I had secured even one dance.
“Constance,” said I, as we walked up the room together, “ you must let me come and congratulate you."
“ Has Philip told you ?" she asked; "and are you really glad ?"
It might sometimes have been an awkward question to answer, but this night she had bewitched me. I said “Yes," unhesitatingly.
“I was half afraid you would not be,” she said. “Why?'
“ Because, you know, I have half a feeling that you do not consider me good enough for Philip. I am not surprised at it, for I know myself that he is a man in ten thousand. I feel afraid when I think of having him and you as the judges of my actions."
“ Constance, you must be joking. When was Philip ever else but kind to you? And you must think meanly of him and of me to imagine that I should attempt to interfere between him and you, or that he would allow it for one moment."
She smiled. “ Then you think that I shall satisfy him ?”
I did not quite see how she drew this conclusion from my words, but I said, “ Yes, if you really wish to.”
“That I do with all my heart.”
“Then, Constance, you will succeed. If you are bent on making him happy, and he is willing to come much more than half way, what should keep you from being very happy ?”
"I hope we may be,” she said.
After supper, when we again filled the drawing-room, the Duke advanced to Constance, and said, with a consciousness that he was aking to an audience, and a desire for that effect which was so great a consideration to him:
“ Lady Dunsmore has given me permission, Miss Le Geyt, to ask you to favour us with one song."
Constance was willing; the Duke offered her his arm and led her away. Lord Alton, Philip, Miss Vyvyan, I, and some others followed them; but the rest, preferring dancing to any other amusement, staid behind. Constance was a little flushed as she took her seat at the piano. After all, a duke is a duke, be he never so prosy, and I suspect his compliments had been very impressive on the way from one room to the other. She sang, with the bright flush still on her cheek, her eyes shining with excitement, the pink flowers glowing in her hair. The childlike grace which was still hers, the white dress, the deep expression which she threw into her song, made an impression beyond words—there was something spiritual about her when she sang. Philip devoured her with his eyes. Deep trust and happiness were expressed in his face. No longer doubtful, now that the prize was his own, he had perfect rest, undoubting confidence in her. What need of jealousy now? had he not her word that she loved him? What were these others to her ? Shadows, as they were to him.
Before long the drawing-room filled. Another and another song was begged and prayed for. Constance had indeed a triumphant evening. Admired, courted, praised, she would have been made of ice had she not felt some vanity at her own charms and power of winning love and praise.
THE OLD HOME.
because few knew how beautiful it was, and only those who lived there loved it. Perhaps the fishermen might have wished that the iron-bound coast had been a trifle less picturesque, and by so much the less dangerous, and that the mighty cliffs and long lines of sharpridged rocks running far out to sea and narrowing the passage to the cove to a mere thread, could have been exchanged for one of those quiet, smooth, land-locked bays where the sea is only a bigger kind of lake, and the fish take quietly to the nets, and keep in them when they get there. And perhaps the farmers cared less for the solemn grandeur of the wide and rugged uplands, with their old-world memorials of granite quoit and cromlech, "castle” and carn, holy chapel and haunted rounds of stone-struck “Merry Maidens," which gave the purple moors such a special character, than they did for the storms that swept over their fields, beating down grass and corn as if a troop of cavalry had passed through them, and ruining in an hour the labour of months. But the fishermen forgave the magnificent cruelty of the jagged and caverned coast for the sake of its wealth in cod and pilchard ; if the cliffs were barren of all save ling and heather, golden gorse and sweet shy seaside flowers, they were just the right height for the “huers” watching for the “schools"; and seine-fishing prospered if agriculture had but a hard time of it. And seine-fishing meant wealth and good living to the whole community when it was a large “school,” and poverty, distress, debt, and wellnigh starvation, when it fell short.
Then again, counting up the mercies, which perhaps is the wisest