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week after Edward read in a Kingsport newspaper, sent him by his sisters, 'the announcement :—" At the Manor-house, Kings. lorten, after a long and painful illness, Edwin Weathered, Esq., aged fifty-seven.”
And he was deeply thankful that the first impulse of his anguished mind had been restrained, and that he had not addressed words of reproach and bitterness to a suffering, dying man.
CHAPTER XXXIV.-DISENTANGLED AT Last. The letter addressed to Irene at Westhaven and the telegram to Alice at Kingsport reached them on the same morning; but as it had been foreseen that letter and telegram alike would arrive too late to allow of Failand being reached the same day without some hours of travelling after nightfall, the following day, by the earliest train, was appointed for both journeys.
Though travelling on different lines and from widely separated points, both journeys would find their termination at Fenley Junction, the train by which Alice would arrive being due forty minutes later than that which would
Irene. The first thought had been that Mr. Weatherill should meet his child; but it was quickly felt that her husband's presence would best serve to occupy the mind of the mother during the pause of anxious, longing waiting when Alice might momentarily be expected ; and besides, that it would be decidedly awkward for Mr. Weatherill to be the first to meet Irene, and to explain to her the unexpected presence of himself and Alice at Failand. So the ready offer of Mr. Hensler to meet the young ladies was gladly accepted.
Fenley Junction was about as dreary a place as could well be found at which to meet an arriving friend. Two main and two branch lines converged at this place, presenting to the uninitiated eye a wide confusion of iron rails, intersected by dangerous-looking crossings, for bridge there was none. One tiny booking-office there was, standing on a small raised platform, an island in the centre of this network of rails; and across the line on one side was an open shed, accommodated with one bench, on which a few detained passengers might sit, only partially sheltered from the rain, and not at all from the cold.
Looking up the straight road which on each hand stretched away from this delightful station, a few houses might be seen, belonging presumably to the village of Fenley, but so far off as scarcely to invite travellers to seek there for better shelter and refreshment. So generally disconsolate travellers having to wait, paced up and down, or sat in the dismal little shed, in grambling discontent or resigned patience, as their respective dispositions prompted. As Mr. Hensler was a quiet-minded man, he did not lose his temper or his patience, although he had reached Fenley ten minutes too early, and the train by which Irene was to arrive was twelve minutes late; but walked placidly up and down, neither teasing the expectant officials with questions, or casting aggrieved looks up the length of vacant rails apon which no train could be seen approaching.
At length, turning round again in his short monotonous walk, there it was, coming swiftly on and on, and as it slackened speed, and drew up, Mr. Hensler anxiously scanned the carriages, seeking Irene. But she first caught sight of him, and turned pale and cold; for she had not expected the minister to meet her, and the áread darted through her mind:-was she here too late ? Was Mr. Hensler come that he might break to ber the news ? In another moment he saw and greeted her with a cheerful smile, which dispelled the fear. Still, the band was tremalous she pat into his as he assisted her to alight, and the voice in which she asked, “How is she ?”
“Better; decidedly better," he replied. “Pray be carefol," for the platform-if sach the slightly raised footway by the side of the rail might be called—was difficult to reach.
“And dear Mrs. Weatherill is really better?” Irene asked again, when safely landed.
“ Yes; I am thankful to say we have now the strongest hopes of her recovery. Where is your luggage ?"
Then Irene's trunk was sought and found, and placed on the conveyance, and she was aboat to enter, when her companion stopped her. “I am very sorry," he said, “after such a long journey that you should be detained, but I have to await the coming of another train on the other side; it is due now in twenty minutes."
Irene wondered a little; visitors to Failand had not been numerous on the three occasions of her having been there ; perhaps it was only a parcel for which they had to wait.
“Should we not be better walking a little way on the road? It would not be so cold as in the shed or on the draughty platform," suggested Mr. Hensler feeling this railway station a very unsuitable place for the communications he had to make ; and Irene gladly acquiesced, greatly preferring to either shed or platform some brisk walking along a quiet country road, with a margin of grass on either hand and in the bedgerows occasional trees, and gates opening into fields, where sheep and cattle were contentedly feeding
So as they walked Mr. Hensler told her of Mr. Weatherill's sudden retorn, and that it was Miss Weatherill they were waiting you will, I
to meet; and Irene listened almost in silence, for she hardly knew what to think or what to say. “ It was the joy of her husband's return that revived her,” he ended. “Wo had almost given up hope that day,"
“ Then I am very, very glad he came. I do not know how I could have borne to have lost her,” said Irene.
“We are to have the pleasure of receiving you as our guest. Gracefield Cottage is not very large, you know; and-Miss Laureston," he continued, with a little hesitation, know, understand the necessity for great care.
The doctor is very anxious that Mrs. Weatherill should have no further excitement to-night than seeing her daughter. You will not be hurt if you should not see her until to-morrow morning ?”
“It is perfectly reasonable. I would not, for the world, do anything that could injare her," Irene said. "Is it not time for us to turn back?"
So they turned, regained the station, crossed the line, and stood under the shelter of the little booking-office. The train had been signalled. It would be here directly, a guard said, and almost as he spoke it came in sight.
“I saw Miss Weatherill once or twice. It was years ago, when she was quite a little girl; but I think that I shall know her,” Irene had said when first the coming train became visible.
Soon it reached the platform, stopped, the carriage doors were opened, and the passengers began to alight.
“That is Alice, I think,” said Irene, as a slender, gracefullooking girl, simply dressed, possessing a sweet, composed countenance, stepped a little aside from the crowd and looked round, as if in expectation, but in no embarrassment.
"Pardon me," said Mr. Hensler, addressing her with something of hesitancy, for she failed to correspond with the mental picture he had formed of the young lady he was to meet—he had expected more of a child ; “ am I speaking to Miss Weatherill ? "
“Yes,” the young lady said; “Mr. Hensler, I presume. It is very kind of you to meet me.” Alice had learned from her aonts something of her mother's present companionships and surroundings, and the ministerial dress and appearance of this gentleman suggested to her who it must be.
“ Miss Laureston," he said ; and Alice bowed to Irene with something of deference in her manner, wondering who this very beautiful and distinguished-looking young lady accompanying the minister might be ; for amid the surrounding confusion the name had been imperfectly heard, not being at all so familiar as to be readily caught. Doubtless, she must have known it at the first; but it was always as “ Irene " that the orphan had been spoken of between her mother and herself while they were together, and thought of occasionally through these years of separation. Irene, as she also bent, perceived that she remained unrecognised.
A few minutes more and the two girls, with Mr. Hensler, were seated in the carriage, and the six miles journey commenced.
It had not been thought desirable to acquaint Alice by the telegram with her mother's illness ; so she asked with some sense of embarrassment, but none of painful anxiety, “How are mamma and
Then Mr. Hensler had to tell of Mrs. Weatherill's serious illness.
“Was it—the-surprise of papa's retarn that made her ill ? " she asked anxiously.
“Oh, no! Instead of that it was the joy of seeing your father, and the hope of seeing you, that revived her. We were very anxious abcut her before."
Oh, I am so thankful—80 very thankful we came when we did, and that the passage was so quick ! If we had come too late!” and at the thought the tears came to her eyes. “But, sir, you do think she will get better now ?”
“Yes; we have every hope now; the doctor said so this morning. She must be careful for a time; especially she must not exert herself yet by much talking."
"I will be very quiet. It will be happiness enough to be near her,” Alice said—“my own dear mother!”
“She is dear to very many; she has been truly a blessing among as,” remarked the minister; "a very ministering angel to the sick and sorrowful and poor; and to the sinful too."
“And she is grown so beautiful," Irene exclaimed, suddenly, her eyes, her whole countenance, glowing with loving enthasiasm. “She was always sweet to look upon, but now she is beautifulbeautiful !”
Alice turned a look of surprised inquiry on her companion, who extended her hand, saying, “ You might, perhaps, remember me better as Irene." The proffered hand, was taken, yet Alice, on hearing the name, was conscious of a sudden chill, as of dread. Not one of the three carriage companions knew in the least what had been the occasion of the long separation between the husband and the wife. Alice was scarcely better informed than Mr. Hensler or Irene herself. On taking her from England at the first, her father had vouchsafed no explanation of that strange, heart-breaking procedure, nor of the command given that he should attempt no communication whatsoever with any of her relations or former friends ; a command so enforced that she had never dared to disobey. And when, a few weeks ago, a night had
come on which he had returned home early, but had retired without seeing her, and throughout the long hours she had heard him pacing his chamber to and fro, and in the morning he had met her with countenance and manner so changed that she had trembled more in the presence of his sorrow and shame than ever she had done in that of his anger; and had told her that within a week they must sail for England to seek her mother-even then he had explained only that the wrong had been his and not her mother's; circumstances had occarred, now fully explained by a recovered letter, which would never have been misanderstood, never could have been, but for his own insane wilfulness, pride, and anger.
She had never penetrated to the heart of this mystery, hidden from her, or imagined for a moment that Irene had been the direct and sole occasion of this dreadful separation. Yet from the first, in a vague, unexplainable way, she had been associated in her mind with her mother's sorrows. It was a dim idea, one which she bad never mentioned to any one, and never would ; but it had never wholly left her, and now caused a chilling fear that, in some way or other, Irene's presence might mar the happiness of the reconciliation.
Yet she felt it would neither be wise nor right to treat her with manifest coldness on such vagne grounds, so she said, “I did not recognise you; it is so many years since we met, and I was such a child then."
“I knew you at once,” remarked Irene; “ but then I was expecting to see yon, and you were not expecting to see me; that makes all the difference.”
Then a silence fell, and only a very occasional remark was made during the remainder of the journey, no one being desirous of conversation. Alice, composed as was her outward manner, was in reality deeply affected by the anticipation of again seeing her mother after such long and strange separation; Irene's thoughts were engaged with this unexpected change of circumstances, while Mr. Hensler, fully understanding the preference for silence shown by his young companions, was also rather relieved by it, being a man who somewhat disliked talking for talking's sake.
It was getting dosk when they turned into the Hillsbridge Road, and almost immediately the darkness deepened as they passed ander the avenue of elms. “ We are almost there," remarked Irene, when they emerged and began slowly to ascend the bill.
“Here we are,” she said, when, the summit reached, the carriage stopped before a little gate, and Gracefield Cottage was seen amid its shrubs and trees. In a moment Mr. Hensler got out, assisted the girls to alight, and the three walked up the garden