AFTER THE BATTLE.
Doctor Ashleigh, when they entered the room, saw at once that both sisters were much agitated, and yet in a different way. Both had evidently been crying; but Miss Harmer seemed endeavouring to keep down her grief by a fierce, angry determination; while Angela's sorrow was mingled with a strange, timid, anxious manner, which Dr. Ashleigh could not understand.
And so it was settled, and the will henceforth ceased to be a subject of conversation among us.
We were all silent when Sarah finished. So far, then, we had succeeded in our search. What was to be done next? We turned to papa.
"Upon what my conviction is founded I will presently inform you. My attempt failed, and I shall try no more, but leave the matter in His hands who is certain to bring the works of darkness to light in the end. You believe, Miss Harmer," and the girl's voice rose now, and became more firm and impressive, "that you are acting in the interests of God; believe me, He is strong enough to act for Himself. I have a strong, a sure conviction that some day it will be all made straight, and in the meantime I am content to trust my sister's life in His hands, and wait. If she die, it is His will; but I still hope that He will in some way or other make known to me where the will is placed."
No one spoke for some time.
"I esteem you still more for having done so, Lord Holmeskirk, and I am touched at their willingness to receive me; still, their consent must have been the result rather of their affection for you, than their own real approval of it."
The deputation retired greatly crestfallen, and the result was that for that evening the young Canterbury girls were for the first time in their lives nearly emancipated from maternal supervision, and enjoyed the evening proportionately, flirting with a zest all the greater for its being an amusement indulged in for the first time, and making their mothers' hearts swell, and their mothers' hair figuratively stand on end at such unheard of goings on. Another consequence of the lighted walks was that many families of girls who had never hitherto been allowed to dance except in quadrilles, now found themselves allowed to waltz as they pleased. Not that their mothers' views of the extreme impropriety of such dances had undergone any change; but that of two evils they chose the least, and thought it better to have their daughters waltzing under their eyes, than that they should be wandering away altogether beyond their ken.
Dear old Canterbury! It is indeed a town to love with all one's heart, as it lies, sleeping, as it were, amidst its circle of smiling hop-covered hills, with its glorious cathedral looking so solemnly down upon it, with its quiet courts, its shady, secluded nooks and corners, its quaint, old-fashioned houses, with their many gables and projecting eaves, and its crumbling but still lofty walls, it gives me somehow the idea of a perfect haven of rest and peace. It, like me, has seen its stormy times: Briton, Dane, and Saxon have struggled fiercely before its walls. It, too, has had its proud dreams, its lofty aspirations; but they are all over now, and it is, like myself, contented to pass its days in quiet, resting upon its old associations, and with neither wish nor anticipation of change in the tranquil tenour of its way.
So papa had gradually withdrawn himself from much of his paying practice; he had still an income sufficient to keep us comfortably, but it was not nearly what it had been four or five years before. However, he was quite content to work as he did, giving his skill and time to those who most required but were least able to pay for them.