« 이전계속 »
house he lives in now; but he won't be there long, for it's an old place, and is to be taken own shortly, to make way for new buildings. My husband was in business then, and well to do; and as we did not live far off, and people were more neighbourly in those days, we knew all about the new comers; and there was a deal of gossip about them, for the doctor had two pretty sisters with him, that kept his house. He began with practising gratis for the poor, and his sisters were not above helping him to do good; and so much good they did do, and seemingly got so little for themselves, that people began to wonder how they managed, as if there wasn't a God in the world to return in some way what was given in his name. Two or three years passed on very quietly, and one day we were all astonished to hear there was a wedding at Dr. Blake's. There was much marvelling and guessing as to which of the sisters it could be, for both had been seen dressed alike, and both were gone on the wedding trip. And the young doctor himself seemed to enjoy the perplexity every one was in, and only said in reply to enquiries, that he had lost both his sisters, and thought it was high time to look out a wife for himself. After some weeks the eldest sister returned, and was shortly afterwards sought in marriage by a merchant, a rich man in the city—but he was rejected; and then it came out that Mrs. Blake had been engaged for some years to a young gentleman that had gone out to America, and was shortly expected to return with a good fortune. But it was so ordered that he never should return, for the ship in which he came over was lost, and he and all his hard earnings with it. He had sent over money to furnish a house; and a blythe man was the doctor whilst superintending the arrangement of his sister's future home. It was a pretty house he took, standing by itself, in the midst of a large garden over the fields yonder. It stood alone, then, but is now surrounded by many others—I will show it you when you go out; she often walks past it with sad enough thoughts of old times. It was a sore trial to her at first, and many thought she would never get over it; they were wrong. But ah! she was a strangely altered creature when we next saw her walking out with her brother, as she used to do. It is now above thirty years since the day of her trouble, and she has never put off the deep mourning she then began to wear. Some people have called this affectation, but they did not know the consistency that was in her. Some time afterwards my own troubles began; my husband had serious losses in business, and one by one our children dropped into the grave, in a strange sort of decay, that the doctors could make nothing of. It seemed as if every earthly comfort and stay was leaving us,
and at length the ruin of our business was completed, and then my husband got in a low way, saying he must go to his chil. dren. But I am talking to you of my own troubles, which I didn't mean to do, further than as they proved the goodness of the Blakes, for they were everything to me after I was left a childless widow, with no prospect but the earning of my own bread; they have never lost sight of me since then. Ten years after the misfortune of the eldest sister, the younger lost her husband. He was a clergyman, living somewhere in Cumberland, and a good, worthy man; but his living had been a poor one, and when he died, he left a sick widow, with seven young children, and God to provide. You may be sure, they that were so ready to help others were not unmindful of their own; and in a very little time after Mr. Herbert's death, the old house in Holborn (which, the doctor said, thank God, was large enough) was brightened up with young, happy faces, and echoed again with the music of merry voices, and tiny, tireless feet. It was evident to every one, that the widow had only come back to die; and then it was that Mrs. Ruth Blake showed the real goodness of her heart. She became a mother to the motherless. The doctor himself never looked back for these troubles, nor lost, save for a time, any of his old, pleasant humour. He would romp as merrily with his dead sister's children as if the whole burden of their future maintenance did not lie on himself; and when rallied about continuing a bachelor, would jocularly ask, who would marry an old man with such a family as he had got. And it pleased God to prosper him; for he always had a happy home, and the children grew up affectionate, and dutiful, and self-helpful, and there is not one of them but loves him as a father. Mr. Reginald, the third son, is the only one left near him, for the other brothers are surgeons
and navy, and the two sisters are married well, and far away from here; but as many of them as can, assemble at the old place every Christmas, and a happy meeting it always is. And a pity it would be, if those kind hearts could not rejoice still, for they have never wearied in welldoing; and to such, there can be no cloud so thick that the sunshine cannot break through. But, dear me! I am just pleasing myself, and tiring you to death; you will find me a sad gossip, when you get stronger; there is such a pleasure in talking about good people.”
Jessy had listened with a breathless interest, so intense as to become painful. She had never before caught such an insight into social life, never obtained such palpable ideas of the pains and pleasurcs attending those ties of kindred, the absence of which for herself she had so often regretted; and she felt that,
however deep the sorrow, there was a compensating joy wherever love remained steadfast, and duty perfect, and the isolation in which she herself stood upon earth, appeared more appallingly desolate than it had ever done before.
“No wonder that you find pleasure in talking about them, dear Mrs. Markham,” she said; “I could listen to you for
I can now understand that air of settled resignation on Mrs. Blake's sweet face, and the source of her brother's unceasing flow of spirits; and ah! what a blessed privilege it is to belong to the generation of the righteous!”
“That is just it," answered the woman; goodness begets goodness, as vice does vice;” and she went on, illustrating what appeared to her to be the truth in this matter, not noticing that the shadow of some inward agony fell darkly on the girl's face, leaving it colder and whiter than before.
“Bless me, if that is not Mrs. Blake's step!” exclaimed the nurse, interrupting herself.
“How quickly the time has passed.” Mrs. Blake entered as she spoke, a mild, lady-like personage, whose very fair face, over which time had evidently passed lightly, looked yet fairer from the contrast of her uni. formly sombre dress.
“Well, nurse," she said, “how are you getting on to day? not so well, I fear,”—glancing at the girl's pale, agitated face.
“If it is so, I must take blame to myself for thoughtlessly talking too much," observed the nurse.
“I feel better-indeed, much better, and stronger," said Jessy ; "and I am sure there is no need that I should tax your kindness so heavily as I have hitherto done, or lead an idle life longer. I cannot tell you, dear madam, how much happier I should feel, if some part of my time was occupied with work."
“Yes, you look very like a worker, with those thin, wasted fingers ! you must positively be content to be nursed a little longer, and we'll see about the work in good time. Nurse, I must trouble you to deliver a parcel for me: this bundle of linen, which I wish you to leave with the poor woman who was burnt; and be back as soon as you can to-day ; I have many engagements on hand, and shall not be able to stop so long as usual.
You see I am come laden like a bee,” she continued, placing a book on the table as the nurse closed the door behind her, “my nephew has sent you the book he promised; he has been up
all night with one of his uncle's patients, who is dying, and is with him again to-day. You have one of the Tatlers again I see; they seem to be your favourite reading, Jessy, yet my nephew tells me you appeared to have their contents hy heart already.”
Jessy coloured and looked embarrassed, although she promptly replied that she had read them some years before.
“I don't approve of too much reading, or too much sedentary employment of any kind for young people,” said Mrs. Blake, “and we must see to it when you get stronger. In the mean time I have good news for you: to-morrow, I think, you may venture up stairs to see Mrs. Carr.”
“ Thank you,” said the girl; “dear, kind Mrs. Carr! I long, and yet I am ashamed to see her. She only did me justice in believing my story, yet it was bitter to be even for a moment suspected of deceit; bitter that she should suffer through my misfortune: it is bitter to feel, as I do daily, that I can act openly with none that befriend me, whatever circumstances may again arise to occasion distrust."
The girl spoke with a strange energy, and her face became flushed with excitement. Mrs. Blake was alarmed by this sudden outbreak in one hitherto so unimpassioned and gentle.
“Do not think of the past now," she said soothingly, "we know there is some mystery connected with you,
but we have never sought to fathom it; and that we think you worthy of all our attention you may well believe. I can set your mind at rest with regard to Mrs. Carr's loss: she acknowledges herself to be indebted to you in a sum that will cover it. You executed her work well and cheerfully, whilst she was unable to do it herself; and without, poor child, exacting payment for your labour, which it was only just you should receive. In justice to Mrs. Carr I must add, that it was against her wish that this sum was so appropriated : she intended it to be given to yourself; but there were others who thought the arrangement only right, and that it would please you better."
Large tears gushed into the girl's eyes, and for a moment she could find no voice to reply. “You are all too good to me,' she exclaimed at length: "I have borne harshness better than I can bear kindness, it breaks my heart !” and she leaned back in the chair, exhausted. Here was a new phase of human misery to Mrs. Blake, and she herself became embarrassed under the influence of the unfathomable sorrow by which the girl was evidently bowed down. Her own heavy troubles had long been softened into melancholy yet cherished memories, and in their
extremity they had presented nothing like to this. By gentle degrees she changed the conversation, and at length opened the Book of books.
“Here, Jessy," she said, “is a balm for every sorrow; a friend to confide in when we can confide in none other : carry all your afflictions to God. You have surprized us by your scriptural knowledge ; you have evidently studied the book'; and surely to good purpose.
The girl was again embarrassed. “How,” she said, “shall I make myself understood ? I have prayed, oh! how fervently, for guidance, yet I cannot see my way through; I cannot determine to what line of conduct duty calls me; I am here admonished to obey those put in authority over me; to honour them to whom I owe my being ;-what if I cannot do this?”
“ It is clear,” said Mrs. Blake, quietly, “that we are to do no evil. To them that require from us any infringement of God's law, we owe no obedience : this is plain enough.”
“ You have made it so: I have been timid and irresolute; I was alone in the world, and its solitude frightened me. I have known what I ought to do, but I knew not how to do it: I do not know yet; for there are terrible gulfs in my way, and I know not how to cross them."
“ Continue to pray, and the Spirit will teach you even this."
A hasty messenger arrived to summon Mrs. Blake, and she was reluctantly compelled to depart. Lighting a small oil lamp, for it was now growing dark, she placed it on the table; then, holding the girl's head between her hands, she kissed her, whispering, as she did so, “Be of good courage : all will be well.”
Whatever thoughts occupied the girl in her solitude, they had no outward manifestation, for she sat, pale and motionless as a statue, until a quick footstep on the stairs, and the sudden bursting open of her door, caused her to start even to her feet. As quickly she sank again in her chair when she perceived the tall, gaunt form of her grandmother standing before her. The woman had cautiously closed the door, and now stood with folded arms, looking down upon the shrinking girl.
“So! you can make yourself comfortable here, I see," she exclaimed. “ You can readily forget them that protected you in your infancy and childhood; you would, doubtless, gladly disown them: yet you have art enough to make yourself appear amiable before others. What matters it where I hide my grey hairs, so that I do not mar your prospects by my presence ?”
“God help me!” exclaimed the girl, after a terrible pause; “I am here, as you must know, by no will of my own, and I would I had died, rather than have fallen into th ehands of the