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world to her, passed away in some measure at seeing how everything in the invalid's room was still unchanged, and cheerful as ever. · The bright little fire, with the small table before it, ready for her mother's tea, was just as usual ; Mrs. Marvin herself was looking as bright as if no verdict of death had been declared against her; Aunt Catherine was knitting away at her interminable strip of counterpane, with only an occasional little sigh and a few tears, conspicuously wiped away, to show that she bad heard the result of the visit.
Annie had never been so grateful to her for her crossness as she felt when the sharp little voice began, ' Dear me, those tiresome children! what a noise ! and Dr. Wightman said you must be kept quiet, my dear !
It was positively a delight to hear anything so natural as the little snappish grumbling at the children. The old lady, by dint of the very roughnesses of her temper, was great resource through that long strange evening; no one could easily settle down into tears with that prim figure and face always at hand to rouse her companions by some well-meant but provoking remark, ill-timed enough to set anyone's teeth on edge,' as Annie had often grumbled.
And Mrs. Marvin did, in another way, all that she could to help the others; though it was doubtful whether her cheerfulness did not make the trouble yet harder by force of contrast. Who could believe-seeing and hearing her placid looks and bright voice--that Dr. Wightman had come, and said that !
'I declare, Papa,' said Annie, a few days afterwards, when the certainty of what was coming was growing more realized, “I don't think I should mind it so much if she wasn't so contented. She is just as cheerful this morning as if—as if—she never seems to think that anything is coming to an end-as it is, Papa ! but as if her life was going on and on through it all.'
Mr. Marvin almost smiled at the incoherent remark.
'I know what you mean, my dear; and your dear mother is right. Annie, immortality does live on through what we call death! your mamma has found the clue to the greatest mystery of all; you should be very thankful for it.'
• I'm not ! answered Annie's rebellious thoughts; thankfulness seemed to be the most difficult thing in the world now; to be patient was more than the poor girl hoped for; to be grateful—'ah! I'm not half good enough for that!' she sighed.
She began to envy even Arthur now, for the state of blissful ignorance' he seemed to enjoy on the one dreaded subject.
Coming home as he did to see his mother at her best times, brightening up into her old smile of welcome, and listening as delightedly as ever to his boyish stories ; he appeared to have no idea of her real state, and the hints that his father threw out from time to time had no more visible effect than to produce a few school-boy remarks on the cold wind; while Aunt Catherine's very open communications were listened to as nothing more nor less than 'humbug.'
The children had been too much accustomed to her croaking propensities to pay the least attention to her ill-omens.
'I say, will she be able to come this year?' said the boy, with a look to the sofa.
Come where!' said Annie, horrified.
“Why, to us, of course!' was the important answer ;-sayings and doings at the Abbey Farm were always reported with a large sprinkling ofwe,' .our,' and 'us.'
* Arthur! the idea of it! Look at her!' said Annie, shocked at her brother's thoughtlessness, as it seemed to her.
“That's a bore,' was the cool answer; 'but it is awfully cold, and no mistake.-I say, you youngsters, what do you think of the Harvest Home?'
And in answer to the shout of delight, Arthur proceeded to issue his invitations to the coming festival, Mr. Hatherly sitting by, and smiling as if only pleased at the cool way in which his pupil was usurping his rights.
Next Thursday, St. Luke's Day, you little stupid !' to an unfortunate child, who ventured to ask if it couldn't be sooner than that; we didn't have it the usual day, Michaelmas; I suppose we hadn't got all the harvest in, or something.'
Ah, Annie knew too well why the annual rejoicing had been deferred ! Dr. Wightman's visit had taken place only a few days before St. Michael's.
"Yes, I hope we shall secure a fine day,' Mr. Hatherly remarked; we ought to expect one in St. Luke's summer.'
"It will not be a more beautiful one than we had last year; I shall never forget that,' said Mrs. Marvin. That had been the last of such holidays to her, and she looked back to it with the pleasure of a child. “You must all enjoy it for me this time.'
Annie looked more than doubtful; she could not stand this cool way of talking of holidays and festivals now.
*You would rather not come said Mr. Hatherly, moving across the room to speak to her; 'I would not urge it for an instant. But might not the change do you good ? Last year—'
Annie interrupted him in an impetuosity very unlike the stiff politeness she had favoured him with of late. “Don't talk of last year! I remember it a thousand times too well! I can't come!' And disappeared, to calm herself down in her own room.
Everything happens to upset one now ! she thought. "Why should he talk to me in his kindest way now? I wonder Papa doesn't quote a text for me "the grasshopper shall be a burden,”-the tiniest little thing knocks one down now! And I can't tell Mamma!
The poor child was certainly in no frame of mind to endure the anniversary of last Michaelmas; luckily for her, she had no persuasions from her mother to withstand. Sorry to have her lose what had been the great yearly treat, she yet rather helped her in her decision to stay at home. “Poor child ! it would be awkward to go to Mr. Hatherly's house after what has passed,' she said, when Mr. Marvin began to suggest that the absence from home for a few hours would brighten her up, and Aunt Catherine would keep strict watch in the sick-room, and
'I am sorry you cannot enjoy the holiday with us, my dear,' were her father's parting words, as he set off among the noisy children, with a face showing so very plainly what a mockery the word enjoyment was to him, that Annie could hardly keep up her bravery, and only ventured on giving him a tight squeeze for her good-bye, without trying her voice. Then she stood at the little wicket-gate, looking after the chattering party, and noticing how, with that dreadful weight at his heart, he was yet listening to the little ones' merriment-answering it, too, for she could hear his voice, and letting his own great sorrow be no check on their delight.
'I never cared for him so much! He is so good! and so unhappy!
Annie , was learning how, among all the crushing effects of great trouble, it has a compensation, almost an antidote, for its bitterness, when it becomes a bond to draw more closely together those who suffer from it, and teaches them to cling only more lovingly together, bearing the common burden more cheerfully each for another's sake.
That was a great day for Arthur! It was a pleasant thing even to see his delight in doing the honours of the Abbey to the youngsters ; and the pride with which he made himself thoroughly at home, showing off his room, which would have held half the Vicarage in itself, giving orders to the servants, and taking upon himself the management of the dinner preparations, in a dignified style that rather made the little ones look up to him with awe! He fared better, certainly, in the way of enjoyment than his elders.
The very resemblance of the whole affair to the last anniversary made it painful to them; so much looked the same, that the blanks were terribly conspicuous. Just as they had done last year, Mr. Marvin and Mr. Hatherly stood for a few minutes after the Morning Service looking into the long tithe-room, where decorations, that looked as if they might be the identical wreaths of a twelvemonth ago, shone as gaudily as ever with the enormous sun-flowers that had scandalized Annie's correctness; and where the only change appeared to be in the words upon the altar-scroll. Now they were, ‘The harvest is the end of the world.'
With so much unchanged, why was not Mrs. Marvin's bright face ready to welcome them from the oriel-window? why was not Annie's elder-sister authority interfering with the riotous delight of the noisy children ?
Yes; my hopes have had another failure,' said Mr. Hatherly, almost as if taking up the last year's conversation about the desired church.
*For a time; but it is better for you to have had them; good true aspirations can never meet with entire failure in the long run. A man who has acted on the hope of something better, as you have, is in a very different position from one who has had no concern at all with the future, though the actual outward circumstances may be the same.'
"You are right; it is better to have had one's hopes; sadder at the time, perhaps, but better-I am willing to admit that.'
'I am sure, continued the Vicar, 'that many things that you and I would call failures or losses here, will be recognized in the great future as something very different.'
Both spoke as if with an under-current of thought. 'I know it,' was the earnest answer.
““The Harvest is the end of the world,”' read Mr. Marvin, as he turned away
from the tithe-room door. And the text was a comment on the words and unspoken thoughts of each.
Arthur's voice came ringing up in an authoritative command-—'Out of that punt, Fred! and look alive, too! We're not going to have you drowning yourselves for your own amusement; out with you!
And they watched Master Freddy, yielding unwillingly to superior force, dragged ignominiously into temporary safety, with a dignified assurance that, if he behaved decently, he himself, Arthur, the owner of the coveted punt, would even condescend to give him a row presently!
Mr. Hatherly smiled contentedly.
• The young fellow does make himself at home to some purpose! I hope he is not much trouble,' said the Vicar.
'None. We get on capitally. He enrolls himself on the side of order, you see, already. He will keep the young ones out of mischief.'
'On the strength of his new dignity as host. Poor boy ! continued his father, he has no idea of what is coming; I think sometimes he ought to be prepared for it.'
• He may have more suspicions than he lets us see; at his age, a lad would naturally make a great show of indifference, to hide his feelings. I will find out.'
'I should be very glad if you would,' said Mr. Marvin gratefully. One of the great troubles with him was the looking forward to Arthur's horror at the shock the news would be to him, unprepared as he seemed.
a terrible thing to have to say what must throw such a cloud over his boyish life; and this day he did look so thoroughly happy and at his ease! he was lording it over the youngsters in such evident rejoicing in the dignity of his new position !
That was a long long day for Mr. Marvin.
'I say, I've beaten Annie!' said the merry lad, coming up to the two gentlemen when, at last, the Harvest Home came to an end; she never kept these babies in the order they've been in to-day! If I had but caught one of them daring to tear his jacket! Tell her I've taken the shine out of her, Sir!
“Very well, my boy ;' and Mr. Marvin attempted a smile; ‘I will tell her. And what message shall I take to your mother? You must send her one, you know.'
Oh! give her my love, that's all. And, I say, Papa, tell her to get better.'
And Arthur disappeared.
"Tired, my boy?' said Mr. Hatherly, coming into the dining-room after watching the last of the Vicarage party, and finding his pupil curled up on the sofa, with his face among the cushions.
Why did Papa speak like that?' was all the answer the boy gave, in a voice that showed no indifference.
Mr. Hatherly hesitated.
'I am afraid you know it already ; I am afraid it is quite true, Arthur!
"What?' asked the boy; "about Mamma ?' “Yes,' said Mr. Hatherly sadly.
'I thought it was ! muttered the poor boy, 'only I wouldn't believe it! I say, Mr. Hatherly, do let me go home! oh, do let me go home!
You shall go as often as you like, my dear fellow,' was the answer; and Arthur lifted up a wet face, sadly unlike the bright looks of the past day, and jumped up from his cushions.
'Let me go now! do!
'Not to-night. Why, Arthur, it would do them all more harm than good if you and I were to make our appearance at the Vicarage at this time of night! When we go there, we must both be very quiet and brave, my boy, and help the others to bear up cheerfully. That is what you and I must do, Arthur! Come, let us have a quiet talk about it!
He put his arm round the boy's shoulder, and almost by force made him walk with him up and down the long moonlighted room, talking quietly yet not gloomily to him, till Arthur could answer almost cheerfully; a kind of treatment that the lad would have resented in anyone else as beneath his dignity.
‘You see how much ought to depend on you, my boy,' concluded Mr. Hatherly; "you must try for a brave heart, and a good, true spirit, Arthur!
I'll do my best, Sir,' said Arthur, with an unsteady voice still. he meant it!
(To be continued.)