Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 129.djvu/711

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rain was still falling in torrents, the thunder was crashing, the heavy darkness was still brooding. Doubtless it was the storm that awed her a little.

There was an old clock ticking in a tall case in the corner. At precisely ten minutes past four Thomas Baines disappeared, and John Lamb took his place; and at twenty minutes past the chair opposite the rector was empty once more. Was that being business-like? Mr. Harcourt wondered with a little thrill of thankfulness. He was learning to respect Jane Francis intensely; he had only admired her, and pitied her somewhat before. Six weeks ago he would hardly have thought it possible for any woman to be dignified under such circumstances, and now he told himself that he was in the presence of the most dignified woman he had ever seen. Was there any peculiar grace in the fashion of her old grey gown? he wondered, as she began to move about the room, her tiny figure flitting lightly and softly in and out. They had no servant then. She had begun to clear away the remains of the meal herself. She reminded him of two lines of George Herbert's: —

Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
Makes that and th' action fine.

He was not sure as to what laws Jane might be obeying, but certainly there was something fine in her manner of putting away teacups. Would he have admired her more if she had been sitting at a bad piano, playing worse music? he wondered; or would she have looked more graceful with a croquet-mallet in her hand? The very thought of these things seemed incongruous, and jarred upon him as a ballad sung in the street jars upon the ears of a man who reads an heroic poem.

He had not been reading a poem, but had he not been moving for a little while as it were in the atmosphere of one? Had Geraint, watching Enid, the "sweet and serviceable," as she

Took his charger to the stall,
And then, because their hall must also serve
For kitchen, boiled the flesh, and spread the board,
And stood behind, and waited on the three, —

had he felt the change in heart and brain, and the glamour of the change, as something that could only be indulged as men indulge a felicitous dream between sleeping and waking? The rector could hardly remember, but he took down the "Idyls of the King" when he went home, and in the soft quiet twilight that followed the storm he read the story twice; first eagerly, then lingeringly. It was a foolish thing to do, and somehow he felt that it was. It would have been much better to try to get rid of any passing impression he might have unconsciously received than to have deepened and sweetened it in that way. One voice, one face, haunted him ceaselessly; and his sleeping dreams were even more vivid and dangerous than the waking ones had been.

And there was change in Jane Francis too. When Mr. Harcourt had gone, her uncle went back to his workroom, and Jane sat down, hardly knowing for a while what to think. It could not be said that she was yet altogether quite at ease about this new and partially-known clergyman, who had as it were thrust himself into her narrow life; but she was no more burdened with any sense of irritation or false shame. She had been mistaken; this she acknowledged to herself, remembering her former burst of feeling with something of repentance. She had seen him with very different eyes to-day; and she had seen so much more of him, enough to compel recognition of the truth and earnestness and conscientiousness that was in him. And there was a certain simplicity about him, too, that she liked; he said directly and without hesitation the thing he wanted to say. And for all his smiles and radiancies, he was a man who could sympathize and understand. Certainly she had been mistaken; and there was relief in feeling that she had. She would no more be so quick to decide if any new person should cross her path.

From Our Own Fireside.


The first stone of this magnificent building was laid, in 1764, by Louis XV. It was intended to replace the ancient Abbey Church, and was to bear the same name. But, before it was completed, the tide of democracy burst over France, and swept away all ancient institutions in its headlong course. The unfinished church became at once the property of the people, and they decided to transform it into a national mausoleum for distinguished citizens. The inscription, which still in large gilt letters surmounts the entrance, was set up,—