« AnteriorContinuar »
skein of silk or wool anwound-loose, exposed to careless handling and tumblings in and out, and the tangling comes ! And as true it is that without deep-laid plots and hardened deceivings, merely by timid concealments, evasions, prudent expedients followed in place of direct right, there may come into human relationships entanglements that will never be patiently unravelled, but, instead, be cut through with a sharp sword, though “the sword reacheth anto the soul.”
"I am thinking, Edward,” Clarissa said next day, “that it would, perhaps, be better not to carry out your very kind suggestion of having Irene here for Christmas. It might only unsettle her, being in a home and seeing things so different-only make her more dissatisfied with her lot. She will have to rely on herself. poor child, and work and be content with few pleasures ; for she has very few friends, and
little to depend on. She is a nice girl, but peculiar ; very sensitive and impulsive in temperament, and I think, on the whole, it would be better not—at least for the present-indeed, I am sare it would be better not. It was very, very kind of
Without acknowledging it possible that he could have been wrong in the sharpness and reprovings of a week or two ago, Edward yet felt a desire to do something which would give pleasure to his wife, and prove to her, so he put it to himself, that if ever he appeared harsh or stern it was not through any'want of affection, but because circumstances made sach seeming severity absolutely necessary, and therefore kind and right. It was this desire which had largely prompted the saggestion of Irene's visit ; he had expected his proposal would have been eagerly accepted, for he had noticed the interest with which the child's letters were received, and he felt disappointed by his wife's non-approval, and the failure of this attempt to show sympathy with her and to give her pleasure.
Disappointed, and a little perplexed, the reasons adduced against the visit seeming to him just so many arguments in its favoar. To be sure, his wife was quite accustomed to give inconclusive reasons and use illogical argaments, fully satisfied with their soundness—that was nothing new; bat in this instance, he felt a strong saspicion that she was aware of their invalidity ; that, in fact, the reasons pat forward were not those which had really led to her decision.
“Possibly," he thought, “the little girl is not altogether so nice a child as my kind-hearted wife would like her to be sopposed ; she may bave defects of character, or manners which would make her companionship a doubtful advantage for Alice and Bertie,
bat, poor child, I hardly know of any fault which is not likely to be aggravated by constant depressing isolation; a few happy weeks in a family might have done her real good, and I almost wish she were coming. However, this is Clarissa's affair, not mine;" and, thus thinking, the matter passed from his mind.
Not from Clarissa's. Many times that day, and in days sacceeding, she said to herself, “How I wish Irene could have come! What a pity it is! What a pity!”
CHAPTER XIII.-A VISIT, AFTER ALL. Christmas had not for Irene all the joyous associations it has for children brought up in a family of brothers and sisters and surrounded by loving relatives; and, accordingly, the idea of spending that social season alone at school was not to her so painfally dreary as it would have been to any one of her school. fellows.
True it was, that as she heard the girls telling one to another all they hoped for of happy meetings, festive gatherings, Christmas gifts; and saw the busy preparations for home going and the boxes packed and corded, one after another brought down into the hall, she did wish that she, too, had a home to go to, and parents and friends waiting to welcome her ; and once or twice she tried to find a quiet corner in the house, so full of bustle, that she might cry a little anobserved.
Yet all the time she said to herself that she would rather, oh, so much rather, be the orphan child of her own father, having the memory of all he was, the proud thought of all he would have been had not death came so crnelly, than possess, as living parent, any one of the fathers of her schoolfellows-sach very commonplace gentlemen as she felt sure they all of them were !
And as regarded the holiday spent alone at school, that she should not mind at all; she should enjoy it, she felt sure. She should have time for reading, and for thinking her own thoughts, and no one to distarb her; and she would write long letters to dear Mrs. Weatherill, and perhaps Mrs. Weatherill would send her a Christmas present; most likely she would! And she should not be for ever afraid of saying something that some one or other would consider objectionable, and she should have the big bedroom all to herself, and she should, perhaps, be allowed to go out alone; 80 mach pleasanter than walking in that formal string of yonng ladies beside Emma Hart. And Mrs. Ingram would be very
kind she was sure; and so would Miss Ingram, in her way.
All these things she said to herself ; and, although she pradently refrained from giving her reasons, she assured her school-fellows that she did not at all mind staying at school alone; a statement not one of them believed; that she should even say sach a thing, was another proof that Miss Laureston liked to appear different from every one else.
Irene was much liked by the little girls in the school. Of these she taught a class for an hour, morning and afternoon, and Miss. Ingram could not help observing, though somewhat reluctantly (for the young monitor's departures from her "system” were many), that the little papils were more interested, and made more progress, than when solely instructed by Miss Ackland. Out of school hours Irene gained their affections by telling them stories, drawing pictures for them on their slates, and inventing enlivening additions to their games.
But with the young ladies older than herself, and of much the same age, she was not popular. With some, perhaps, this arose partly from envy of her personal appearance, for it was difficult for the vainest girl to conceal from herself that, attired in silk and delicate muslin, she failed to look as well as did this orphan, wearing her simple mourning dress ; and, although Irene really exercised considerable self-restraint in the matter of giving her opinion and speaking her mind, still the decided belief she entertained of her own mental superiority and better judgment in all questions of taste, was abundantly apparent to her schoolfellows, and did not at all tend to conciliate their regard.
Had it not been for Miss Ellen Seymour, this want of cordial liking might have developed into distinct antagonism, rendering Irene's position most uncomfortable; bat from the first Ellen had quietly assumed an attitude of protective kindliness towards the lonely stranger, alike by example and by persuasion, trying to win her class-mates to forbearance and friendliness, and using the paramount influence she exercised over Irene to guard her against mistakes, and displays of eccentricity and annoying egotism.
To Miss Seymour's home-loving, social nature, it seemed so impossible that Irene could be happy during her lonely holidays, that she had written to her parents asking to be allowed to bring home with her the solitary child. So many visitors were, however, expected, that this addition to their number was deemed im. practicable, and Ellen would not tantalise Irene by any mention of an enjoyment which could not be, and had to content herself with borrowing a number of books for her entertainment, with resolving to write her a weekly letter, and to send some little gift to brighten her Christmas Day.
I cannot bear to part with you," Irene said, vainly trying to keep back her tears, when Miss Saymour, a little before the time of departare, disengaged herself from her companions that she might say a few words of parting kindness to her little friend.
"And, Oh! I do wish I had a father and mother to go to. But just the staying by myself, I really don't mind; please do not think that I told an antruth in saying so."
And when the last cab had driven from the door, and a strange quietness had settled down on the house, and Irene had gone upstairs to make some little re-arrangements in the bed-room, now all her own, and had been told by Miss Ingram that there would be a fire in the small school-room, but that she might sit with Mrs. Ingram and herself when ever they were alone, and she preferred doing so, and had learned that ander certain regulations and promises given, she might sometimes walk oat anaccompanied; and when she had been brought by kindly Mrs. Ingram into the parlour, and treated to cake and carrant wine, and then employed in holding some knitting-cotton, she told them both that she was content and happy; and, in truth, she did experience quite a holiday feeling.
Nevertheless, Irene's Christmas was not destined to be passed in Portsmouth Square.
By that afternoon's post arrived for Mrs. and Miss Ingram from relatives residing in London, a pressing invitation to spend the holidays with them. T'he elder lady would on her own account have preferred staying quietly at home, but for the sake of her danghter's health, after the wear and tear of the unbroken halfyear, she was desirous, as was Miss Ingram herself, that the invitation should be accepted. But what could be done about Irene ? Mrs. Walton was herself from home, or, as she was very kind, she might have received her; it was plain that Mrs. Weatherill had no thought of inviting her to Kingsport, or some intimation woald have been received ere then.
"Miss Laureston could come to as ; I feel sure mother would not mind,” said John Rivers, Mrs. Ingram's nephew, who bappened to call soon after the letter had been received. would be a companion for Lettie, now Rose is away. Hilda is so engaged with her classes and essay-writing, she cannot attend to ber much."
And after some few hesitations and difficulties, so it was arranged, and preparations and packings began again, in which, this time, Irene had her own little share.
This change of place was to her rather disconcerting, and she thought that, on the whole, she was rather sorry. Yet she was not quite sure; perhaps she might like it! She knew that the family to whom she was going resided near the summit of Queensdown Hill. Sarely there would be a grand view from thence over the city and the country round, and her eyes were tired of the level, prim monotony of Portsmouth Square. And she liked John Rivers. .
She had seen him more than once since that first evening when he had covered her with the sofa-rag; not that they had spoken many words to each other, yet she felt sure that she liked him, and should do so always. And his little sister Lettie she was pleased with, too. She had seen her once with Miss Rivers that young lady she did not like; but there, she should have most to do with Lettie. It would be a change, at any rate ; and, as she had to go, it was not much use to consider whether she liked it or not.
So the third afternoon of the holiday saw Irene transferred from Portsmouth Square to No. 31, Summer Street. Her first disappointment was that there was, after all, no prospect from the windows. Summer Street was one of three which ran steep and straight up the face of Queensdown Hill, and sach houses as were continuous, having no side-windows, might as well, as regarded view, have stood upon a plain-so, at least, it was with No. 31.
“I wish you lived next door," Irene said to Jobn, for No. 30 was separated from the house next below by a narrow, seldom frequented way, leading into Henry Street, and it possessed two side windows, which, she rightly judged, commanded the wide prospect citywards for which she had longed.
“We might,” said John, “for it belongs to father, and we onght, as far as profit goes, for it is vacant more than half the time. But this desirable residence,' as the advertisements say, is cold in winter, and badly arranged. There are only two windows which have much view, and a view is not everything."
“Oh, it is much, very, very much. I do wish you lived there."
“If it were only empty, as usual, I would have let you in, and lighted a fire, and carried in a chair for you, and then you could have sat and enjoyed the prospect. I wish it were."
“How very good-natured you are; you seem always to want to please everybody,” remarked Irene.
“Well, is not that the right way?" asked John.
“Yes, I suppose,” Irene replied, doubtfully. She was conscious that, except in the case of those to whom she was strongly attached, a desire to give pleasure was not, with her, a very ruling motive.
“And I should always like to please you,” John added.
“So I thought; and I'm glad, for I like other people to please me; I'm quite sure about that.”
Irene had not long been located in Summer Street before she was quite confirmed in the opinion that companionship with John would be the chief pleasure of her stay there, and next in degree with the loving little Lettie.
Mrs. Rivers was by no means unkindly, and she sincerely desired that the little girl received into her house might be content and comfortable ; still, her main anxiety was to prove a careful