“I know not what to make of Arthur,” said Herbert, somewhat sadly, “he is strangely, unaccountably changed the last few months. When he was first settled in his curacy, his conduct was such as to excite the approbation of both my father and yourself; and now, I greatly fear, that he is alienating both.”
“Do not condemn him harshly, without good proof, dear Mr. Howard,” said Ellen, earnestly. “I, too, have noticed that he is changed, though I scarcely know in what manner; but for his father’s sake and for mine, do not treat him coldly before my uncle at least. He has many faults, but surely some good qualities.”
“I trust he has; but I wish he would not so carefully conceal them, and suffer his parishioners to have cause to relate so many tales of neglect and levity in their curate,” replied Mr. Howard; “but we will not bring forward accusations when the accused is not present to defend himself: and here we are at the Rectory before I had thought we were half way. Will you come in, my young friends, and share an old man’s homely luncheon?”
Gladly would they have done so, but Ellen had promised to return to Oakwood in time for that meal, and was compelled to refuse; adding, that both her brother and cousin might, for the Rectory was so near one of the entrances to the park, she could easily return alone; but such was not Mr. Howard’s intention. He knew how Edward longed for a few minutes’ private conversation with his sister, and playfully detaining Herbert, declaring he could not do without one at least, dismissed the orphans on their walk, bestowing his parting blessing on Ellen with a warmth that surprised her at the time, but the meaning of which was fully explained in the interesting conversation that passed between her and her brother ere they reached the house, and as the expression of approbation in the minister she loved, filled her young mind with joy, while the mutual confidence bestowed in that walk added another bright link to the chain of affection which bound the souls of that brother and sister so fondly together.
It was the hour when all in general retired to rest, and the inmates of Oakwood had dispersed for the purpose; but this night thoughts of a mingled and contending nature occupied Mrs. Hamilton’s mind, and prevented all wish for sleep. Her guests had the last week increased, and the part of hostess had been kindly and pleasingly performed; but the whole of that day she had longed to be alone, and gladly, gratefully she hailed that hour which enabled her to be so. Shading her eyes with her hand, she gave to her thoughts the dominion they demanded. Maternal ambition, maternal pride, in that silent hour fell before the stronger, more absorbing power of maternal love. But a few brief hours, and the child of her anxious cares, of fervent petitions at the throne of grace, would be no longer an inmate of her father’s