« EelmineJätka »
Madame Barenna glanced toward pletion of a suggestion which made his a chair, which Sir John hastened to hearer bridle her stout person. bring forward. He despised her al- "No, no,” she whispered, glancing ready, and she admired his manner over her shoulder at the door-"no; it vastly.
is my daughter. Ah, señor, you can “I have taken the immense liberty of scarce imagine what is it to live upon a intruding myself upon your notice, volcano!" madame”
And she pointed to the oak floor with "Not to sell me a Bible?" exclaimed her fan. Sir John deemed it wise to Señora Barenna, with her fan upheld in confine his display of sympathy to a warning.
glance of the deepest concern. "A Bible! I believe I have one at
"No,” he said; “it is merely a perhome, in England, madame, but
sonal matter. I have a communication "It is well,” said madame, sinking
to make to my friend, General Vinback and fanning herself rather faintly. cente, or to his daughter." "Excuse my fears, but there is an En
"To Estella ?” glishman-what is his name, I for
"To the Señorita Estella."
“Do you think her beautiful? Some
do, you know. Eyes, I admit-yes, “Borrow."
lovely." "Yes, that is it-Borrow. And he
“I admire the señorita exceedingly." sells Bibles, and Father Concha, my
"Ah, yes-yes! You have not seen confessor-a bear, but a holy man, a
my daughter, have you, señor? Julia. holy bear, as one might say-has for
She rather resembles Estella," bidden me to buy one. I am so afraid
The contessa paused and examined of disobeying him, by heedlessness or
her fan with a careless air. fear or forgetfulness. There are, it ap
"Some say," she went on, apparently pears, some things in the Bible which
with reluctance, “that Julia is-wellone ought not to read, and one natu
has some advantages of Estella. But rally
I do not, of course, I admire Estella She finished the sentence with a shrug
excessively-oh, yes-yes.” and expressive gesture of the
And the señora's dark eyes searched fan. “One naturally desires to read them,” found more in sculptured marble.
Sir John's face. They might have suggested Sir John; "the privilege of
“Do you know where she is?” asked all Eve's daughters, madame."
Sir John, almost bluntly. Like a workSeñora Barenna treated the flatterer
man who has mistaken his material, he to what the French call a fine sourire,
was laying aside his finer conversaand wondered how long Julia would
tional tools. stay away. This man would pay her
"Well, I believe they arrive in Toledo another compliment in a moment.
this evening. I cannot think why. But "I merely called on the excuse of a
with General Vincente one never knows. common friendship, to ask if you can
He is so pleasant, so playful, such a tell me the whereabouts of General Vin
smile; but you know him. Well, they cente," said Sir John, stating his busi
say in Spain, that he is always where ness in haste and when the opportunity he is wanted. Ah!"— madame paused presented itself.
and cast her eyes up to the ceiling"Is it politics?" asked the lady, with
"what it is to be wanted somewhere, a hasty glance round the room.
señor!" “No; it is scarcely politics; but why And she gave him the benefit of one do you ask? You are surely too wise, of her deepest sighs. Sir John mentally madame, to take part in such. It is a followed the direction of her glance, woman's mission to please, and when it and wondered what the late count is so easy!”
thought about it. He waved his thin white hand in com- “Yes, I am deeply interested in Es
tella, as, indeed, is natural, for she is ing, but did not, of course, appear in my niece. She has no mother, and the the public rooms. His dusty old travelgeneral has such absurd ideas. He ling carriage was placed in a quiet thinks that a girl is capable of choosing corner of the courtyard of the hotel, and a husband for herself; but to you, an the general appeared on this, as on all Englishman, such an idea is naturally occasions, to court retirement and obnot astonishing. I am told that in your livion. Unlike many of his brothers in çountry it is the girls who actually pro- arms, he had no desire to catch the pubpose marriage."
"Not in words, madame; not more in “There is doubtless something astir," England than elsewhere."
said the waiter who, in the intervals of “Ah!" said madame, looking at him a casual attendance on Sir John, spoke doubtfully, and thinking despite herself of these things, cigarette in mouthof Father Concha.
“there is doubtless something astir, Sir John rose from the chair he had since General Vincente is on the road. taken at the señora's silent invita- They call him the Stormy Petrel, for tion.
when he appears abroad there usually “Then I may expect the general to follows a disturbance.” arrive at my hotel this evening?” he Sir John sent his servant to the gensaid. “I am staying at the Red Hat, eral's apartment about eight o'clock in the only hotel, as I understand, in the evening, asking permission to preToledo."
sent himself. In reply the general him“Yes; he will doubtless descend there. self came to Sir John's room. Do you know Frederick Conyngham, “My dear sir,” he cried, taking both señor??'
the Englishman's hands in an affection“Yes."
ale grasp, “to think that you were in the “But every one knows him!" ex- hotel, and that we did not dine toclaimed the lady vivaciously. “Tell me gether. Come-yes, come to our poor how it is. A most pleasant young man, apartment, where Estella awaits the I allow you, but without introductions, pleasure of renewing your acquaintand quite unconnected. Yet he has ance.” friends everywhere
"Then the señorita," said Sir John, The contessa paused, and closing her following his companion along the fan leaned forward in an attitude of dimly lighted passage, "has her father's intense confidence and secrecy.
pleasant faculty of forgetting any little “And how about his little affair?" she contretemps of the past ?” whispered.
"Ask her," exclaimed the general, in "His little affair, madame?"
his cheery way--"ask her." "De carur," explained the lady, tap- And he threw open the door of the ping her own breast with an eloquent dingy salon they occupied. fan.
Estella was standing with her back to “Estella," she whispered, after a the window, and her attitude suggested pause.
that she had not sat down since she had "Ah!" said Sir John, as if he knew heard of Sir John's presence in the too much about it to give an opinion. hotel. And he took his leave.
“Señorita," said the Englishman, "That is the sort of woman to break with that perfect knowledge of the one's heart in the witness-box,” he said, world which usually has its firmest as he passed out into the deserted basis upon contempt and indifference to street; and Señora Barenna, in the great criticism,"señorita, I have come to room with the armor, reflected compla- avow a mistake, and to make my excently that the English lord had been cuses." visibly impressed.
"It is surely unnecessary,” said EsGeneral Vincente and Estella arrived tella rather coldly. at the hotel of the Red Hat in the even- "Say rather," broke in the general, in
his smoothest way, "that you have
From Blackwood's Magazine. come to take a cup of coffee with us,
THE BLUE JAR. and to tell us your news.”
I. Sir John took the chair which the general brought forward.
The licensed victualler's business at "At all events,” he said, addressing the “Borrowed Plume” was in danger Estella, “it is probably a matter of in- of being transferred-nay, at the time I difference to you, as it is merely an write the transfer had almost actually opinion expressed by myself which I occurred. Old John Tilbury, long wish to retract. When I first had the known in the neighborhood as an honest pleasure of meeting you, I took it upon man, was dying, and his wife would myself to speak of a guest in your have to reign in his stead. father's house, fortunately in the pres- And even as in dynasties so in many ence of that guest himself, and I now smaller concerns of life the cry is ever, wish to tell you that what I said does “Le roi est mort! vive le roi!" not apply to Frederick Conyngham Thus the sequence of things is mainhimself, but to another whom Conyng- tained, and in this case the small round ham is screening. He has not con- of monotonous duties to the public fessed so much to me, but I have satis- would remain unbroken. But this exfied myself that he is not the man I ternal acquiescence only served to seek. You, general, who know more of throw into sharp relief the very oppothe world than the señorita, and have site feelings which had paralyzed John been in it almost as long as I have, can Tilbury's wife with a sense of the disbear me out in the statement that the ruption of all things when first she unmotives of men are not so easy to dis- derstood the serious nature of her huscern as younger folks imagine. I do band's condition. For she was (and I not know what induced Conyngham to state it apologetically in the face of a undertake this thing, probably he en- pessimistic world) absorbed in her detered into it in a spirit of impetuous and votion to her husband. She had marreckless generosity, which would only ried when a mere girl, and he was a be in keeping with his character. I man past fifty; and in the absence of only know that he has carried it out her parents, who were both dead, she with a thoroughness and daring worthy had loved him as a husband and her one of all praise. If such a tie were possi- great friend. ble between an old man and a young, People had wondered at the time how I should like to be able to claim Mr. Co- such a pretty girl, and one so young, nyngham as a friend. There, señorita, could have married a man So much thank you; I will take coffee. I made older than herself. But so it bad been. the accusation in your presence, I re- Perhaps an anomaly, but never a mistract it before you. It is, as you see, take. And now that she was barely a small matter."
thirty her short spell of contented hap"But it is of small matters that life piness was to end, for the man who had is made up," put in the general, in his been a companion and good friend to deferential way.
"Our friend," he her for the last nine years had to leare went on after a pause, “is unfortunate her; the doctor had told her he was sick in misrepresenting himself. We also unto death and must die. have a little grudge against him, a little And all existence had become matter of a letter which has not been shrouded with a great cloud, and for explained. I admit that I should like days she had cried stealthily to herself to see that letter."
when out of his sight. “And where is it?" asked Sir John. But with him she was ever attentive. "Ah!" replied Vincente, with a shrug as for the last time, to those small unof the shoulders and a gay little laugh, expected thoughts to which the sick “who can tell? Perhaps in Toledo, my man gave expression, and to the simple dear sir-perhaps in Toledo."
charity which as ever colored all his ut
terances, while she moved about his She nodded, for she hardly trusted room and wondered dully why God al- herself to speak. lowed human hearts to break and her "He'd want to sell it ef yer married happiness to end. And he, on his part, him. Ef he didn't like it. Why did he knowing his end was come, was trying not like it?” he went on querulously. feebly to arrange everything before he “We've known each other twenty-two left this world. He did not fear death, years come next March, and he always only the loneliness it would bring on was chaffing about something. And her. So his mind was troubled.
last Christmas 'twas that jar—" "Mary," he said one day, “T wonder "Yes," said his wife, and there was a where Biddulph is! Abroad somewhere, certain eagerness in her voice. I suppose!"
"But maybe I was cross, and he'll He was referring to an old friend of grow older and eppreciate it,” he said, theirs, a man some years his junior, who his usual optimism about others showwas a corn importer, and lived when ing itself. at home in their neighborhood. This “Then yer'll marry him ?” he added, had occurred once or twice, for a sudden with quiet assurance. wish had arisen in his heart, and finally, "Oh, don't, John; it's cruel.” having asked his wife one evening to “Oh, Mary, dear, it's for you I wants iift hiin up in bed. he had murmured, - it. Say yer'll marry him if he gets to
“I wonder where Biddulph is, deary!" admire it. He'd stand by yer and love Then looking up, he added, “Would you yer." mind marrying him when I am gone?" Evidently the idea had taken full pos
Mary started and her color went. In- session of the sick man's mind and he stinctively she glanced at him; but he was worrying over it. The woman was quite coherent, and bending her moved uneasily in her chair, while the head down, she writhed under his ticking of the clock in the silence words.
seemed to be beating time to her sway. "Oh, don't, John," she waileil.
ing thoughts. Then she turned and “But, Mary, you can't remember me said gently,always, and you'd be glad then; and he "Don't fret, John dear; it shall be as said to me once he thought I was a you wish.” lucky fellow to have you."
And the answer had made the old But there was no answer, only a sob. man happy, and the woman was satisSuddenly she looked up and said, fied it could lead to nothing.
“John, you and he did not agree at And within a few days of this old Cl:ristmas, do you remember? He was John Tilbury passed away, leaving, as laughing because you thought so much far as mortal man can tell, not an enof the blue jar.”
emy behind him. "Yes; he ain't no eye for color. That's what young Mr. Jeffrey, who painted here in the summer, called it. And in The weary months, which dragged on coorse he would not submit to it. And as milestones on the road to despair it's real Saver, and my grandmother got and utter loneliness, seemed at one it given her by one of them poor refu- time to Mary Tilbury after her husgees from France." For a moment he band's death as nerer to end. She was paused, for he easily tired, and he lay a young woman still, with all the zest there gently stroking his wife's hand. and beauty of youth left, and had
“In coorse he would not submit to it," known no life except with him, and he repeated slowly, “ef he did not ad- had had no interests except his. And mire it-saw no color in it, so to speak. now that it had ended so suddenly, she Mary," he went on, "you'll never sell or could hardly realize to herself give away that jar? It was in my old times that he was not there. Fortumother's parlor ever since I was any nate it was for her in those days that height."
she had her sister Annie, a girl some
what younger than herself, staying ing leaf, which in its turn had given with her. At least she could get away way to fairy and to darkening greens at times from the bustle of the inn and The copses where the woodmen bad those guests whose heedlessness to her been thinning in the winter had sbelloss only made her solitude seem more tered the primroses and anemones, and acute; and her sister would look after they had come and gone, and now in them, and perform those duties which this engendering month of May the would have brought her face to face woods were all azure, carpeted with with people.
hyacinths and blue-bells, and ground But gradually in course of time life and sky were mysterious in that great and its responsibilities became sweeter awakening which God does give us to her, dulling her pain as the days year by year. Though tending by the went on; but the shock produced on contrast of its beauty to strengthen the her mind by her husband's dying re- shadow through which she was passquest did not fade so quickly.
ing, Mary accepted it with the natural It was very early in her widowhood love of a countrywoman, and spent a that one day, when she was in the lit great part of the day, for the inn was tle parlor with her sister, she had seen quite empty, in the woods and tending the jar her husband had referred to. the small garden at the back of the
“Annie,” she said, “do take that thing house. On one of these occasions ADaway; in the cupboard in my room will nie had stayed behind, and while do.”
mending a torn curtain in her sister's For it was there as a record of her room she suddenly remembered that husband's inexplicable request, and in the blue jar was still shut up in the her eyes was an abhorrence. And her cupboard. Thinking it was good for sister had taken it, being ignorant of Mary, she had persistently put all the its fault and somewhat wondering. So winter things back as they were before in mournful monotony the months John's death, whenever she got tbe rolled by, until spring returned to the chance; and as Mary had generally acsodden fields and warmed them into cepted their return passively, Annie on life. And Mary had become calmer this occasion, despite its emphatie re and more reconciled, though her old moval in the first instance, felt no hes. love and craving for her husband had itation in taking the jar out and going not ceased. Even that dimly expressed down-stairs with it to the parlor, set consciousness of the blue jar and its wondering with a half smile whether relation to her, which was always ly- her sister would notice it or not. As ing latent in her mind, seemed as time she entered the room she saw through went on to grow weaker. Certain it the window a dog-cart coming up the is, that one day she had opened the hill to the house, and in it a man whom cupboard where it was and had looked she knew very well by sight. Giving a at it, and allowed her mind to be jump of excitement, and hastily putflooded with the memory of the curious ting the jar on the dresser, she fled to compact she had made with her hus- the garden to tell Mary. band; and still later on she had delib- "There's Henry Biddulph coming up erately taken it down and dusterl it, re. the hill in a dog-cart,” she panted. membering how John had loved it, and Mary stopped short for the anfor the time thinking but little of his nouncement stunned her. Then pulllast request and the influence it might ing herself together and dismissing her have on her future. For winter had first inclination to refuse to see him, sped its chilly course, and her husbanıl she quickened her pace towards the had been dead now eight months, and house, feeling very uncomfortable and Henry Biddulph was forgotten. Spring nervous. that year had opened warm and bright, “Annie,” she said, “he'll go to the remaining so. The brown and purple stable first, so come and help me put woods had reddened before the burst- the parlor straight." And she walked