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party," said Eleanor softly to me before running up stairs, "it tired Bess out, and gave me a bad headache; you were a wise auntie to stay at home.”
SNOW AND ICE.
BEFORE the middle of January all our festivities were over ; they were concluded by a small party, which the girls by long coaxing persuaded their father into giving, to repay the hospitality that had been shown us. We were all rather nervous and anxious over our preparations, and Brian shut himself into the study a great deal to avoid them. Mr. Curtis came out strongly on the occasion, and the girls were brighter and happier than I had ever known them. It was at his instigation we thought of charades as a variety from the usual programme of dancing, and he suggested to the home party to get up one or two scenes from Shakespeare which met, when they were acted, with great applause. There was a purpose in this, I found afterwards. Ever since our memorable conversation, he had been on the watch to find out with what key he could best unlock the resources of Eleanor's mind. Hard study would not do to begin with; she refused to be charmed when he spoke of Euclid and Greek, but Romeo and Juliet, Katharine and Petruchio, Portia and Nerissa were quite a different matter. I must say en passant that it did amuse me, to see Eleanor acting the part of Katharine in the famous cap scene, with Mr. Curtis for her Petruchio and Herbert Deveril looking on. I am not quite sure, as he watched her bright eyes and face beaming with fun, that he would have felt so averse to the part as he once professed himself to be.
After this entertainment Brian betook himself for a fortnight to London, and we devoted ourselves to Shakespeare. Mr. Curtis was an ardent devotee and student, and his delight was great when he found Eleanor awakened to admiration. She had hitherto looked upon our great poet's works simply as "books which no gentleman's library should be without," and shunned them accordingly, so the surprise and pleasure of discovering an inexhaustible fund of such rich mental food was very great. The noble beautiful devoted characters of his women touched her heart, and awakened her enthusiasm. All the Shakespeares we could lay hands on were routed out, and borrowed, and we read through several of the plays, taking different characters. Then Mr. Curtis produced Wordsworth's “Shakespeare and the Bible," which brings out so clearly and incontestably the wonderful way in which the great bard's knowledge of Scripture permeates and immortalises his works; and he sent for Cowden Clarke's beautiful lectures and Mrs. Jameson's“ characteristics” of his women, till even Elizabeth and Tristram were kindled into enthusiasm.
When the first fervour died away, and Brian's return put a stop to our evening recitations, I could see the good that was being done to Eleanor. There had not been a single violent explosion of passion since the afternoon Mr. Curtis arrived. I could see she was on her guard and eager to check herself. Her manner to myself was as affectionate as it had before been froward, and she began to try and study diligently. It was hard work at first ; she took up her Italian that she might read Dante, and there I was able to help her a little ; and she set herself to a course of history under Mr. Curtis's supervision. Elizabeth would do nothing regularly but music, yet even that was a step in advance, and added to the pleasure of winter evenings.
The early part of January passed peacefully and happily, and then there came a terrible fall of snow. It fell so suddenly and swiftly, that we awoke one morning to find our communication with the village quite cut off. What was to be done ? Brian and Mr. Curtis held a consultation, to which John and the two farm labourers were sum
ned, and which resulted in the production of an old snow plough that had been made ten years ago, and with all the available horses harnessed to it, our gentlemen took leave, meaning to pick up what men they could as they went.
Fortunately our house was well stocked with provisions, and we immediately began a large manufacture of soup, two or three old men whom Brian had despatched, came up with cans to fetch some in the course of the afternoon, bringing sad accounts of the snow, which were corroborated fully in the evening. Mr. Curtis's beard was quite frozen when he returned, and he and Brian sat down to dinner as " hungry as hunters," they said.
They had opened Mr. Grant a way from the Rectory, and cleared the snow, which had drifted so high in one direction, that several poor people had been unable to open their doors before their arrival. Next morning there had been another though less heavy fall, and they started again, this time to clear a road to the mill. It seemed strange to be without any post for two days, and after luncheon Eleanor declared
she must venture out a little way, would I accompany her? but I pleaded the infirmities of age as an excuse, and she started alone.
In about half an hour she returned with bright eyes and glowing cheeks, full of excitement.
“Oh, Aunt Mary, you have missed such a glorious sight! our lane where they have cleared a way through the drifting, is like an Alpine pass, snow high above one's head on either hand. Then I went a little way along the Peverton Road, and you never saw anything like the hedges covered with that pure white, and sometimes at a corner the wind had blown it into shapes like angel's wings. There has not been such a sight for sixty years, Mr. Grant told me; I met him starting out on a visiting round ; he really ought not to venture out in such weather.”
Dinner time was long past before the snow plough returned, and at the sound of voices we all went into the hall. Only Brian was there, shaking the snow off his gaiters.
“I have sent the men round to the kitchen for some soup,” he said. “ Curtis heard that old Anne Beverly was out of bread, and insisted on making his way there, Gist went with him. I was much against it, but he would not be stayed; he is a brave, kind-hearted chap."
We sat down to our meal in rather a subdued state, and when it was over Brian went to smoke in the study, the girls, Tristram, and myself adjourned to the drawing-room. Eleanor could hardly control her restless anxiety. She strained her eyes out over the white waste, but there was nothing to break its whiteness. At ten Brian came in.
“I don't like this at all,” he said. “I wish I had gone with the fellow, but the cold bas given me a faint kind of feeling once or twice : please God he has not got into a drift.”
Eleanor turned pale and squeezed my arm tight, Tristram groaned, and Elizabeth said, “ Papa, don't talk of such horrible things.”
Brian twice went down to the village without getting news; at last Gist came with tidings. They had reached the widow's cottage safely, to her intense joy; but on the way back both had got into a drift, Mr. Curtis the deepest. Gist had managed to struggle out, but could not extricate his companion, and by the time he obtained help our friend's strength was nearly spent. The nearest house was the rectory, so they had taken him there, and Mr. and Mrs. Grant were doing all they could for him, as getting a doctor was impossible. To our great joy he came up himself next morning, looking rather white, but not other
wise the worse for his adventure, and much disappointed that the snow plough had started on a third expedition without him.
“ You should not have run such a risk,” I could not help saying.
“If there was a risk I was the person to run it,” he said smiling ; “my loss would break up no one's home," and then, looking round suddenly, he caught Eleanor with the tears in her eyes, a strange expression passed over his face; he seemed about to speak, but checked himself, and left the room abruptly instead. Somehow or other, the snow brought Brian into friendly contact with his rector, who heartily thanked him for all the trouble he had taken about it, and healed an old sore to my great relief. No great event occurred till early in April, Mr. Curtis announced that he must leave us; he had obtained the offer of a mastership at R- and must be there to begin the summer term.
I could see that he felt going very much, and we were all sorry to lose him; Eleanor, I suspected, something more than sorry. "You must look on this place as home,” Brian said cordially, “and if you go abroad in the summer spend your Christmas holidays with us.”
“That will be something to live for," he murmured, as he shook hands with me, and looked at Eleanor.
I was not surprised at his starting a brisk correspondence with Tristram and myself, and Eleanor kept up to the mark in all her pursuits that I might be able to give a good account of ber. I felt quite proud of my niece now, her character had so improved and developed that her companionship was my daily delight. Elizabeth followed in her wake at a distance, but her nature was a lower one, incapable of the force, energy and feeling that Eleanor's displayed.
Herbert Deveril was smitten anew by her charms, but his day was over now, the key to Eleanor's heart was not held by him.
One morning in September Brian came to me, an open letter in his hand, and a dismayed expression on his face. “I say, Mary," he exclaimed, “ had you any idea of this ?—that poor fellow Curtis is madly in love with my Eleanor. An old uncle has died and left him a mint of money, and he wants to know if he may have leave to speak when he comes at Christmas.”
“How delightful,” I said, “I am so very glad." “But you don't think Eleanor will have him ?”
'Just tell her the news and see how she takes it," I said mischievously.
He hurried off to the drawing-room, where his daughter was practising, and presently came back half laughing, half vexed. “Well, I suppose old fathers must expect to go to the wall when a young lover appears, but the idea of Curtis never did enter my head. Mrs. Grant was right after all, and
selection was of no avail.” “I never could make out why you thought him ugly,' Brian.”
“No, of course not; he made a conquest of you as well as your niece. There, Mary, I must try not to be selfish, and rejoice in her happiness ; poor girl, it was pretty to see her."
And now all I can do is to wish my readers as happy a Christmas as the one to which we are looking forward.
Reviews and Notices. Mr. James Brooks, of Bowood Schools, Wilts, has just sent us a long MS. sheet, mounted on rollers, which he has prepared at great pains, to show “the Testimony of Protestant Dissent to the Doctrine of the Church of Eng. land on the Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. It is ranged under seven or eight heads, and contains extracts from the Hymnals used in the principal Sects. It is open of course for persons to say that poetry is not to be taken literally as an exponent of doctrine ; but when the tone is so generally uniform, we seem warranted in the conclusion that when persons speak freely in the language of devotion their opinions are more orthodox than their formularies. We congratulate Mr. Brooks on what he has done—but how is it to be circulated ?
The S.P.C. K. has added two new volumes to the very useful Series of Diocesan Histories. The Diocese of “Durham,” which contains in itself an epitome of Early English Church History, has fallen into the hands of the Rev. J. L. Low, and is admirably done. “Peterborough” being only a Reformation See has of course much less to say for itself,—but in a Memoir of 240 pages,
Mr. George Ayliffe Poole has poured out the accumulations of a long life's study of history and architecture, as bearing on that portion of England which is included in the limits of the See. We strongly recommend the volumes.
A third volume which has just come to hand describes the very interesting Diocese of “Chichester,” and is from the pen of Prebendary Stephens, who was already known by his history of the “South Saxon Church.” Both he and Mr. Poole have adopted the plan which we recommended last year, of giving some account of the principal churches in the diocese, and Mr. Stephens has done it in a really systematic method, devoting his whole third chapter to a description of “the monastic and collegiate churches of the diocese.” It is strange, however, that while the See bears the head of S. Thomas of Canter