I am not young now. I have had my sorrows, and with them all that wealth, virtually unlimited, can command; and through the retrospect a few bright and pure lights quiver along my life’s dark stream—dark, but for them; and these are shed, not by the splendour of a splendid fortune, but by two or three of the simplest and kindest remembrances, such as the poorest and homeliest life may count up, and beside which, in the quiet hours of memory, all artificial triumphs pale, and disappear, for they are never quenched by time or distance, being founded on the affections, and so far heavenly.
A CHAPTER-FULL OF LOVERS
We had about this time a pleasant and quite unexpected visit from Lord Ilbury. He had come to pay his respects, understanding that my uncle Silas was sufficiently recovered to see visitors. ’And I think I’ll run up-stairs first, and see him, if he admits me, and then I have ever so long a message from my sister, Mary, for you and Miss Millicent; but I had better dispose of my business first—don’t you think so?—and I shall return in a few minutes.’
And as he spoke our tremulous old butler returned to say that Uncle Silas would be happy to see him. So he departed; and you can’t think how pleasant our homely sitting-room looked with his coat and stick in it—guarantees of his return.
’Do you think, Milly, he is going to speak about the timber, you know, that Cousin Knollys spoke of? I do hope not.’
‘So do I,’ said Milly. ’I wish he’d stayed a bit longer with us first, for if he does, father will sure to turn him out of doors, and we’ll see no more of him.’
‘Exactly, my dear Milly; and he’s so pleasant and good-natured.’
‘And he likes you awful well, he does.’
’I’m sure he likes us both equally, Milly; he talked a great deal to you at Elverston, and used to ask you so often to sing those two pretty Lancashire ballads,’ I said; ’but you know when you were at your controversies and religious exercises in the window, with that pillar of the church, the Rev. Spriggs Biddlepen—’
‘Get awa’ wi’ your nonsense, Maud; how could I help answering when he dodged me up and down my Testament and catechism?—an I ’most hate him, I tell you, and Cousin Knollys, you’re such fools, I do. And whatever you say, the lord likes you uncommon, and well you know it, ye hussy.’
’I know no such thing; and you don’t think it, you hussy, and I really don’t care who likes me or who doesn’t, except my relations; and I make the lord a present to you, if you’ll have him.’
In this strain were we talking when he re-entered the room, a little sooner than we had expected to see him.
Milly, who, you are to recollect, was only in process of reformation, and still retained something of the Derbyshire dairymaid, gave me a little clandestine pinch on the arm just as he made his appearance.