Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 126.djvu/353

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THE DILEMMA.

341

which the father brought back from his early service; the tapestry the mother wrought through her long years of declining health; the dog grown blind and old, the companion of walks which shall never be taken again; the instrument which once answered to a sweet touch forever still — these things make us feel death and change as we never feel them amid the instability and eager interests of town existence. All things remain as of old "since the fathers fell asleep." The leaves of the woods come afresh, and then fade; the rooks come cawing home; the church bells ring, and the old clock strikes the hour. Only there is one chair pushed a little aside from its wonted place, an old horse turned out to graze in peace for his latter days; a bedroom up-stairs into which no one goes, save in silent hours, unwatched and furtively.

As time goes by, and one after another of those who have made youth blessed have dropped away, and we begin to count the years of those who remain, and watch grey hairs thickening on heads we remember golden, and talk of the hopes and ambitions of early days as things of the past — things which might have been, but now, we know, will never be on earth — when all this comes to pass, then the sense of the tragedy of life becomes too strong for us. The dear home, loved so tenderly, is for us little better than the cenotaph of the lost and dead; the warning to ourselves that over all our busy schemes and hopes the pall will soon come down — "the night cometh when no man can work."

I believe it is this deep, sorrowful sense of all that is most sad and most awful in our mortal lot — a sense which we escape amid the rushing to and fro of London, but which settles down on our souls in such a home as I have pictured — which makes the country unendurable to many, as the shadows of the evening lengthen. To accept it, and look straight at the grave towards which they are walking down the shortened vista of their years, taxes men's courage and faith beyond their strength, and they fly back to the business and the pleasures wherein such solemn thoughts are forgotten and drowned. And yet beneath our cowardice there is the longing that our little race should round itself once again to the old starting-point; that where we spent our blessed childhood, and rested on our mother's breast, and lisped our earliest prayers, there also we should lay down the burden of life, and repent its sins, and thank the Giver for its joys, and fall asleep, — to waken, we hope, in the eternal Home.




From Blackwood's Magazine.

THE DILEMMA.


CHAPTER XIII.

A few days had passed after the Grand Mustaphabad Steeplechase, during which Yorke was casting about in vain to discover some opportunity for obtaining a glimpse of the one person who now made up his world, uneasy and restless at getting no news of her, yet not venturing to present himself at the residency lest he should be thought to be presuming too much on the sympathy Miss Cunningham had shown on that occasion; when one morning Mr. Spragge, returning from the mess a little later than his chum, came across the little garden towards the veranda where Yorke was sitting in his easy-chair, waving a piece of paper in his hand, and calling out, "Don't you wish you were me, my boy! Here's a start!" handed the paper to Yorke to read. It ran as follows: —

"Brigade Office, February ——
"The 76th N. I. will furnish a detachment of one European officer and eighty sepoys to receive charge of treasure from the detachment —th N.I. which arrived at the station this morning, and to convey the same to the residency. The officer to report himself at the brigade office for instructions at 3 p.m.
"By order.
"Adjutant's Office, 76th N. I.
"With reference to the foregoing extract from brigade orders. Ensign Spragge is directed to take charge of the detachment, which will be furnished by Nos. 3 and 4 companies in equal proportions, and will parade at 3 p.m.
"By order.
J. Poynter
Lt. and Adjutant.

"What do you think of that, my boy, for an opportunity for making the running?" said Spragge, while the other read the extract with eager face; "cut you out, old fellow, and no mistake. No, no, Arty, it's only my chaff," he continued, seeing that Yorke's eye glared on him with a ferocious expression quite unusual to it. "I sha'n't aspire to the lady herself, you know; I shall make up