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fresh yourself with a nice walk, my dear not so sure of his own powers of resistance boy."
The rector got up well pleased. The alacrity with which he left the room, however, did not correspond with the horror-stricken and helpless expression of his face, when, after walking very smartly all round the rectory garden, he paused with his hand on the gate, doubtful whether to retreat into his study, or boldly to face that world which was plotting against him. The question was a profoundly serious one to Mr. Proctor. He did not feel by any means sure that he was a free agent, or could assert the ordinary rights of an Englishman, in this most unexpected dilemma. How could he tell how much or how little was necessary to prove that a man had" committed himself"? For any thing he could tell, somebody might be calculating upon him as her lover, and settling his future life for him. The rector was not vain - he did not think himself an Adonis; he did not understand any thing about the matter, which indeed was beneath the consideration of a Fellow of All-Souls. But have not women been incomprehensible since ever there was in this world a pen with sufficient command of words to call them so? And is it not certain that, whether it may be to their advantage or disadvantage, every soul of them is plotting to marry somebody? Mr. Proctor recalled in dim but frightful reminiscences stories which had dropped upon his ear at various times of his life. Never was there a man, however ugly, disagreeable, or penniless, but he could tell of a narrow escape he had, some time or other. The rector recollected and trembled. No woman was ever so dismayed by the persecutions of a lover, as was this helpless middle-aged gentleman under the conviction that Lucy Wodehouse meant to marry him. The remembrance of the curate of St. Roque's gave him no comfort: her sweet youth, so totally unlike his sober age, did not strike him as unfavorable to her pursuit of him. Who could fathom the motives of a woman? His mother was wise, and knew the world, and understood what such creatures meant. No doubt it was entirely the case—a dreadful certainty-and what was he to do?
At the bottom of all this fight and perplexity must it be owned that the rector had a guilty consciousness within himself, that if Lucy drove the matter to extremities, he was
as he ought to be? She might marry him before he knew what she was about; and in such a chance the rector could not have taken his oath at his own private confessional that he would have been so deeply miserable as the circumstances might infer. No wonder he was deeply alarmed at the position in which he found himself; nobody could predict how it might end.
When Mr. Proctor saw his mother again at dinner, she was evidently full of some subject which would not bear talking of before the servants. The old lady looked at her son's troubled, apprehensive face with smiles and nods and gay hints, which he was much too pre-occupied to understand, and which only increased his bewilderment. When the good man was left alone over his glass of wine, he drank it slowly, in funereal silence, with profoundly serious looks; and what between eagerness to understand what the old lady meant, and reluctance to show the extent of his curiosity, had a very heavy half-hour of it in that grave, solitary diningroom. He roused himself with an effort from this dismal state into which he was falling. He recalled with a sigh the classic board of All-Souls. Woe for the day when he was seduced to forsake that dear retirement! Really to suffer himself to fall into a condition so melancholy, was far from being right. He must rouse himself-he must find some other society than parishioners; and with a glimpse of a series of snug little dinner-parties, undisturbed by the presence of women, Mr. Proctor rose and hurried after his mother, to hear what new thing she might have to say.
Nor was he disappointed. The old lady. was snugly posted, ready for a conference. She made lively gestures to hasten him when he appeared at the door, and could scarcely delay the utterance of her news till he had taken his seat beside her. She had taken off her spectacles, and laid aside her paper, and cleared off her work into her work-basket. All was ready for the talk in which she delighted.
"My dear, they've been here," said old Mrs. Proctor, rubbing her hands-"both together, and as kind as could be—exactly as I expected. An old woman gets double the attention when she's got an unmarried son. I've always
served that; though in Dev
The rector, not knowing what else to say, shouted Indeed, mother!" into the old lady's ear.
onshire, what with your fellowship and see-saw in imagination the mild elder sister in ing you so seldom, nobody took much no- her comely old maidenhood. Nobody could tice. Yes, they've been here; and I like doubt her good qualities, and could it be them a great deal better than I expected, questioned that for a man of fifty, if he was Morley, my dear." to do any thing so foolish, a woman not quite forty was a thousand times more eligible than a creature in blue ribbons? Still the unfortunate rector did not seem to see it: "Quite so," continued that lively observer his face grew longer and longer-he made no -"nice young women-not at all like their answer whatever to his mother's address; father, which is a great consolation. That while she, with a spice of natural female elder one is a very sensible person, I am malice against the common enemy triumphShe would make a nice wife for some-ing for the moment over the mother's adbody, especially for a clergyman. She is not miration of her son, sat wickedly enjoying in her first youth, but neither are some other his distress, and aggravating it. His dispeople. A very nice creature indeed, I am may and perplexity amused this wicked old quite sure." woman beyond measure.
During all this speech the rector's countenance had been falling, falling. If he was helpless before, the utter woe of his expression now was a spectacle to behold. The danger of being married by proxy was appalling certainly, yet was not entirely without alleviations; but Miss Wodehouse! who ever thought of Miss Wodehouse? To see the last remains of color fade out of his cheek, and his very lip fall with disappointment, was deeply edifying to his lively old mother. She perceived it all, but made no sign.
"And the other is a pretty creature-ccrtainly pretty shouldn't you say she was pretty, Morley ?" said his heartless mother. Mr. Proctor hesitated, hemmed-felt himself growing red-tried to intimate his sentiments by a nod of assent; but that would not do; for the old lady had presented her ear to him, and was blind to all his gestures. "I don't know much about it, mother," he made answer at last.
"Much about it! it's to be hoped not. I never supposed you did; but you don't mean to say you don't think her pretty ?" said Mrs. Proctor-" but, I don't doubt in the least, a sad flirt. Her sister is a very superior person, my dear."
The rector's face lengthened at every word —a vision of these two Miss Wodehouses rose upon him every moment clearer and more distinct as his mother spoke. Considering how ignorant he was of all such female paraphernalia, it is extraordinary how correct his recollection was of all the usual details of their habitual dress and appear
"I have no doubt that younger girl takes a pleasure in deluding her admirers," said Mrs. Proctor; "she's a wicked little flirt, and likes nothing better than to see her power. I know very well how such people do; but, my dear," continued this false old lady, scarcely able to restrain her laughter, " if I were you, I would be very civil to Miss Wodehouse. You may depend upon it, Morley, that's a very superior person. She is not very young, to be sure, but you are not very young yourself. She would make a nice wife-not too foolish, you know, nor fanciful. Ah! I like Miss Wodehouse, my dear."
The rector stumbled up to his feet hastily, and pointed to a table at a little distance, on which some books were lying. Then he went and brought them to her table. "I've brought you some new books," he shouted into her ear. It was the only way his clumsy ingenuity could fall upon for bringing this most distasteful conversation to an end.
The old lady's eyes were dancing with fun and a little mischief, but, notwithstanding, she could not be so false to her nature as to show no interest in the books. She turned them over with lively remarks and comment. "But for all that, Morley, I would not have you forget Miss Wodehouse," she said, when her early bedtime came. "Give it a thought now and then, and consider the whole matter. It is not a thing to be done rashly; but still you know you are settled now, and you ought to be thinking of settling for life."
With this parting shaft she left him. The troubled rector, instead of sitting up to his
beloved studies, went early to bed that night, and was pursued by nightmares through his unquiet slumbers. Settling for life! Alas! there floated before him vain visions of that halcyon world he had left-that sacred soil at All-Souls, where there were no parishioners to break the sweet repose. How different was this discomposing real world!
It happened one day, while still in this condition of mind, that the rector was passing through Grove Street on his way home. He was walking on the humbler side of the street, where there is a row of cottages with little gardens in front of them-cheap houses, which are contented to be haughtily overlooked by the staircase windows and blank walls of their richer neighbors on the other side of the road. The rector thought, MATTERS went on quietly for some time but could not be sure, that he had seen two without any catastrophe occurring to the figures like those of the Miss Wodehouses rector. He had shut himself up from all going into one of these houses, and was society, and declined the invitations of the making a little haste to escape meeting those parishioners for ten long days at least; but enemies of his peace. But as he went hasfinding that the kind people were only kinder tily on, he heard sobs and screams from one than ever when they understood he was "in- of the houses-sounds which a man who hid disposed," poor Mr. Proctor resumed his or- a good heart under a shy exterior could not dinary life, confiding timidly in some extra willingly pass by. He made a troubled pause precautions which his own ingenuity had in- before the door from which these outcries vented. He was shyer than ever of address-proceeded, and while he stood thus irresoing the ladies in those parties he was obliged lute whether to pass on or to stop and inquire to attend. He was especially embarrassed the cause, some one came rushing out and and uncomfortable in the presence of the took hold of his arm. "Please, sir, she's two Miss Wodehouses, who, unfortunately, dying-oh, please, sir, she thought a deal o' were very popular in Carlingford, and whom you. Please, will you come in and speak to he could not help meeting everywhere. Not- her?" cried the little servant-girl who had withstanding this embarrassment, it is curi- pounced upon him so. The rector stared at ous how well he knew how they looked, her in amazement. He had not his prayerand what they were doing, and all about book-he was not prepared; he had no idea them. Though he could not for his life have of being called upon in such an emergency. told what these things were called, he knew In the mean time the commotion rather inMiss Wodehouse's dove-colored dress and creased in the house, and he could hear in her French gray; and all those gleams of the distance a voice adjuring some one to blue which set off Lucy's fair curls, and go for the clergyman. The rector stood unfloated about her pretty person under vari- certain and perplexed, perhaps in a more seous pretences, had a distinct though inartic-rious personal difficulty than had ever hapulate place in the good man's confused remembrances. But neither Lucy nor Miss Wodehouse had brought matters to extremity. He even ventured to go to their house occasionally without any harm coming of it, and lingered in that blooming fragrant garden, where the blossoms had given place to fruit, and ruddy apples hung heavy on the branches which had once scattered their petals, rosy-white, on Cecil Wentworth's Anglican coat. Yet Mr. Proctor was not lulled into incaution by this seeming calm. Other people besides his mother had intimated to him that there were expectations current of his "settling in life." He lived not in false security, but wise trembling, never knowing what hour the thunderbolt might fall upon his head.
pened to him all his life before. For what did he know about deathbeds? or what had he to say to any one on that dread verge? He grew pale with real vexation and distress.
"Have they gone for a doctor? that would be more to the purpose," he said, unconsciously, aloud.
"Please, sir, it's no good," said the little maid-servant. 'Please, the doctor's been, but he's no good-and she's unhappy in her mind, though she's quite resigned to go: and ob, please, if you would say a word to her, it might do her a deal of good."
Thus adjured, the rector had no choice. He went gloomily into the house and up the stair after his little guide. Why did not they send for the minister of Salem Chapel
close by? or for Mr. Wentworth, who was
change it one way or another. Ask the good
The sufferer lay breathing heavily in the poor apartment. She did not look very ill to Mr. Proctor's inexperienced eyes. Her color was bright, and her face full of eagerness. Near the door stood Miss Wodehouse, looking compassionate but helpless, casting wistful glances at the bed, but standing back in a corner as confused and embarrassed as the rector himself. Lucy was standing by the pillow of the sick woman with a watchful readiness visible to the most unskilled eye-ready to raise her, to change her position, to attend to her wants almost before they were expressed. The contrast was wonderful. She had thrown off her bonnet and shawl, and appeared, not like a stranger but somehow in her natural place, despite the sweet youthful beauty of her looks, and the gay girlish dress with its floating ribbons. These singular adjuncts notwithstanding, no homely nurse in a cotton gown could have looked more alert or serviceable, or more natural to the position, than Lucy did. The poor rector, taking the seat which the little maid placed for him directly in the centre of the room, looked at the nurse and the patient with a gasp of perplexity and embarrassment. A deathbed, alas! was an known region to him.
A look from Lucy quickened the rector's speech, but increased his embarrassments. "It-it isn't her doctor she has no confidence in?" he said, eagerly.
The poor woman gave a little cry. doctor-the doctor! what can he do to a poor dying creature? Oh, Lord bless you, it's none of them things I'm thinking of; it's my soul-my soul!"
"But my poor good woman," said Mr. Proctor, "though it is very good and praiseworthy of you to be anxious about your soul, let us hope that there is no such-no such haste as you seem to suppose."
The patient opened her eyes wide, and stared, with the anxious look of disease, in his face.
"I mean," said the good man, faltering under that gaze, "that I see no reason for your making yourself so very anxious. Let us hope it is not so bad as that. You are very ill, but not so ill-I suppose."
Here the rector was interrupted by a groan from the patient, and by a troubled, disapproving, disappointed look from Lucy Wodehouse. This brought him to a sudden standstill. He gazed for a moment helplessly at the poor woman in the bed. If he had known any thing in the world which would have given her consolation, he was ready to have made any exertion for it; but he knew nothing to say-no medicine for a mind disun-eased was in his repositories. He was deeply distressed to see the disappointment which followed his words, but his distress only made him more silent, more helpless, more inefficient than before.
"O sir, I'm obliged to you for coming O sir, I'm grateful to you," cried the poor woman in the bed. "I've been ill, off and on, for years, but never took thought to it as I ought. I've put off and put off waiting for a better time-and now, God help me, it's perhaps too late. O sir, tell me, when a person's ill and dying, is it too late ?"
Before the rector could even imagine what he could answer, the sick woman took up the broken thread of her own words, and continued,―
"I don't feel to trust as I ought to-I don't feel no confidence,” she said, in anxious confession. "O sir, do you think it matters if one feels it ?-don't you think things might be right all the same though we were uneasy in our minds? My thinking can't
After an interval which was disturbed only by the groans of the patient and the uneasy fidgeting of good Miss Wodehouse in her corner, the rector again broke silence. The sick woman had turned to the wall, and closed her eyes in dismay and disappointment-evidently she had ceased to expect any thing from him.
"If there is any thing I can do," said poor Mr. Proctor. "I am afraid I have spoken hastily. I meant to try to calm her mind a little; if I can be of any use?"
"Ah, maybe I'm hasty," said the dying woman, turning round again with a sudden effort" but, oh, to speak to me of having
time when I've one foot in the grave al- two young creatures by the deathbed acready! knowledged that their patient was dying;
"Not so bad as that-not so bad as that," the woman stood by her watchful and affecsaid the rector soothingly.
tionate-the man held up before her that cross, not of wood or metal, but of truth and everlasting verity, which is the only hope of man. The spectators looked on, and did not
"But I tell you it is as bad as that," she cried, with the brief blaze of anger common to great weakness. "I'm not a child to be persuaded different from what I know. If interrupt-looked on, awed and wondering you'd tell me if you'd say a prayer-ah, Miss Lucy, it's coming on again."
In a moment Lucy had raised the poor creature in her arms, and in default of the pillows which were not at hand, had risen herself into their place, and supported the gasping woman against her own breast. It was a paroxysm dreadful to behold, in which every laboring breath seemed the last. The rector sat like one struck dumb, looking on at that mortal struggle. Miss Wodehouse approached nervously from behind, and went up to the bedside, faltering forth questions as to what she could do. Lucy only waved her hand, as her own light figure swayed and changed, always seeking the easiest attitude for the sufferer. As the elder sister drew back, the rector and she glanced at each other with wistful mutual looks of sympathy. Both were equally well-disposed, equally helpless and embarrassed. How to be of any use in that dreadful agony of nature was denied to both. They stood looking on, awed and self-reproaching. Such scenes have doubtless happened in sick-rooms before now.
-unaware of how it was, but watching as if it were a miracle wrought before their eyes. Perhaps all the years of his life had not taught the rector so much as did that halfhour in an unknown poor bed-chamber, where, honest and humble, he stood aside, and, kneeling down, responded to his young brother's prayer. His young brother-young enough to have been his son-not half nor a quarter part so learned as he; but a world further on in that profession which they shared-the art of winning souls.
When those prayers were oyer, the rector without a word to anybody, stole quietly away. When he got into the street, however, he found himself closely followed by Miss Wodehouse, of whom he was not at this moment afraid. That good creature was crying softly under her veil. She was eager to make up to him, to open out her full heart; and indeed the rector, like herself, in that wonderful sensation of surprised and unenvying discomfiture, was glad at that moment of sympathy too.
"O Mr. Proctor, isn't it wonderful?" sighed good Miss Wodehouse.
The rector did not speak, but he answered by a very emphatic nod of his head.
"It did not used to be so when you and I were young," said his companion in failure. "I sometimes take a little comfort from that; but no doubt, if it had been in me, it would have shown itself somehow. Ah, I fear, I fear, I was not well brought up; but, to be sure, that dear child has not been brought up at all, if one may say so. Her poor mother died when she was born. And oh, I'm afraid I never was kind to Lucy's mother, Mr. Proctor. You know she was only a year or two older than I was; and to think of that child, that baby! What a world she is, and always was, before me that might have been her mother, Mr. Proctor!" said Miss Wodehouse, with a little sob.
When the fit was over, a hasty step came up the stair, and Mr. Wentworth entered the room. He explained in a whisper that he had not been at home when the messenger came, but had followed whenever he heard of the message. Seeing the rector, he hesitated, and drew back with some surprise, and, even (for he was far from perfect) in that chamber, a little flush of offence. The rector rose abruptly, waving his hand, and went to join Miss Wodehouse in her corner. There the two elderly spectators looked on silent at ministrations of which both were incapable; one watching with wondering yet affectionate envy how Lucy laid down the weakened but relieved patient upon her pillows; and one beholding with a surprise he could not conceal, how a young man, not half his own age, went softly, with all the "But things were different in our young confidence yet awe of nature, into those mys-days," said the rector, repeating her sentiteries which he dared not touch upon. The ment, without inquiring whether it were true