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- The Long Vacation - 58/58 -
"I should like to be able to sign my name to my thanks to all, if only to feel that I have a name, and one so honoured, but these fingers of mine will not obey me, so you must take the will for the deed, and believe that you have made me very happy, and completed all I could wish. I fear you never will believe how jolly it is to lie here, the pain all gone, since having done with that terrific train, and the three tenderest, most watchful of slaves always round me, while my Cherie is spared the sight of the wreck.—-(L.)
"You know that good old Fernan established a missionary station here, building a church, and getting the ground consecrated where my father lies. I can just see the top of the cross, and there he promises that I shall lie. You will be able to put my name in the cloister under my father's, as no impostor.
"Don't grieve, my Cherie, it is best as it is; my brains were full of more notions than you ever quite guessed, and of which I have seen the seamy side out here, though there is much that I should feel bound to work out, and that might have grieved you. I was not tough enough for the discipline that was needed to strike the balance. (He is thinking aloud, dear fellow.-—M. A.) I am afraid I have often vexed you in my crudeness and conceit, but I know you forgive. I am very thankful for this year, and for the way in which my poor mother was given into my hands at last. Fernan has helped me to make a short will, to save confusion and difficulty.
I have left everything to Clement, knowing that you and he will provide for all. Fernan and Marilda will care for Lida. (That we will.-—M. A.) I cannot leave her to be a tax on Vale Leston. Give my books and MSS. to Dolores, and please be kind to her. My violin, which Fernan redeemed for me, the eponym (How do you spell it?-—M. A.), by the way, of this place, my father's own fiddle, give to Lance for his pretty Ariel; Anna, my good sister, should have my music, which will be a memory of happy evenings. Emmie may like the portfolio of drawings that I made for the mission-house; dear old Sibby the photograph in my room of the 'Ecce Homo.' I have it in my eye now.-—(M. A.)
"Everything is such a comfort, Fernan and Marilda are the best of nurses and helpers, and I mourn for the folly that chaffed about them and boredom. Tell Emmie so. Fernan has made this place a little oasis round my father's grave, and his parson, who has a mission among the remains of the Sioux, is with me every other day, and does all that Clement could desire for me. So do-—do believe that it is all for the best, dear people.-—(L.)
"One thing good is, that I shall not bring any bad blood into the Underwood inheritance. By the bye, tell them-—(Continued by Marilda) Mr. Gracchus Van --— suddenly arrived here, greatly shocked at Gerald's state, and actually wanting to marry Lydia on the spot—- which of course she declined. But Fernan was pleased with him, and he told him he had never met any one to hold a candle to 'Jerry Wood,' so 'smart' and 'chipper,' as he saw at first, and then cheerful, good-humoured, and kindly, whatever happened. None of your Britisher's airs, but ready to make the best of any fixings. I don't think dear Gerald meant me to tell all this, but think of the difference from the fastidious fine gentleman he used to be! He is dozing now, I fear he is getting weaker; but he is ever so sweet and good, and I quite long to beg his pardon for having called him your spoilt boy. Mr. Fraser, the clergyman here, is very much struck with him, and Fernan remembers the time when he baptized him as he lay unconscious. Dear Cherry, it will grieve you, but I think there will be comfort in the grief.
"Your affectionate cousin, "M. A. T. U."
There were long letters to Dolores, dictated to Lida-—all in the same spirit. One of them said, "Go bravely on, my Dolores; though we do not live together in our bicycle-roving castles. You will do good work if you uphold the glory of God and the improvement of man, all through creation and science. I should like to talk it over with you. Things are plainer to me than in the days of my inexperience and cocksureness. Short as the time was, in months, it showed me much more, especially my own inefficiency to deal with the great problems of these times, perhaps of all times. Remember this, but go on-—if we do but put grains of sand into the great Edifice."
More was written, but these were the most memorable extracts, before the letter that told that something like a fresh stroke had come, and taken away the power of distinct speech, then that the throat had failed, and there was only one foreboding more to be told, and soon realized. The young ardent spirit, trained by so short a discipline, had passed away in peace. And they laid him beside his father, whose better spirit he had unconsciously evoked, and whom he had loved so deeply. The doctors said that the real cause of his death had been the Indian bullet, inflicting injury on the spine, which the elasticity of youth had for the time overcome, but which manifested itself again under overstrain. Ferdinand, when he awoke the child back to life, had given him years not spent in vain for himself or for others.
It would have been utter desolation to the little sister save for the motherly tenderness of Marilda, who took her to the home in the Rocky Mountains, and would fain have adopted her, but that Lida, acting perhaps on advice from her brother, only begged to be so educated as to fit her to be independent, and to be given a start in life. It would be shown in a year or two whether her vocation should be musical or scholastic.
Gerald had his meed of tears at home, but not bitter ones. Nay, those that had the most quality of bitterness were Emilia's, shed in secret lest interpretations should be put on those that had the quality of remorse, as she recollected the high aspirations that had ended so differently in the two cousins.
Dolores dried hers, to feel a consecration on her studies and her labours as she grew forward to the fulfilment of her purpose of being a leading woman in the instruction and formation of young minds, working all the better for the inspiriting words and example, and the more gently and sympathizingly for the love that was laid up in her heart.
She and his "Cherie" came to have a great affection and understanding of each other, and discussed what Dolores called "ethics" with warm interest, the elder lady bringing the old and sacred lights to bear on the newer theories.
Clement was the undoubted owner of Vale Leston, and the John Harewoods had decided on leaving the Priory. Just at the same time, when the acceptance of Clement's resignation of St. Matthew's had arrived, William Harewood was offered a canonry at Minsterham, with the headship of the theological college. The canonry had been the summit of his ambition when a boy, and there was no one fitter than he for the care of a theological college. He was pre-eminently a scholar, and his fifteen years of parish experience made good preparation for training young clergy.
So Clement could decide on presenting himself to the living of Vale Leston, with a staff of curates, and Geraldine to be his home sister, making the Priory a resting-place for overworked people, whether clergy, governesses, or poor, or mission-folk at home. It was a trust to be kept for Lancelot and his boy, who would make the summer home of the family there, to Dr. May's great content. It was a peaceful home, and to every one's surprise, Alda decided to remain at hand, chiefly to keep her boy under his uncle's influence, which thus far was keeping him well in hand, and as he would go to a public school with little Felix, might be prolonged.
It was a comfort and encouragement to feel that hereditary dangers and temperament could be subdued and conquered in Gerald; and if the sins of parents had their consequence in the children, the scourge might become a palm. When the commemorative brass in the cloister was to be put up, Geraldine said—-
"I should like to put 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece that was lost.'"
"He never was lost."
"Oh no, no, my dear boy. But his work was so like the finding the stained, tarnished piece of silver, cast aside, defaced, dust-marked, and by simple duty and affection bringing her back."
"I see! Let us have the inscription in Greek. Then none can apply it to himself! It was a wonderful work, and it is strange that having fulfilled it, he who brought the child from his father's arms should lay him to his rest beside his father."
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