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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

But it did not appeal to Sibyl


He

had run the risk which all who would fain help others must be content to run--the risk that their work will be thrown away. He saw that the little rock-pool which reflected his own face was shallow, but he had not gauged the measure of its shallowness. His deep enthusiasms, tried and tempered before she was born, weary now with his own weariness, aroused hers as the Atlantic wave, sweeping up the rocks, just reaches and arouses the rock-pool, and sends a flight of ripples over it, which, if you look very close, break in mimic waves against the further edge. And before the thunder of the wave is silent the pool is glass once more.

On natures like these the only influence which can make any impression is a personal one. It is overwhelming while it lasts; but it is the teacher who is everything--the teaching is nothing. And when he is removed, they passively drift under another personal influence, as under another wave, and the work of the first, the foundation patiently and lovingly built in its pretty yellow sand, is swept away, or remains in futile fragments, as a mark of the folly of one who built on sand.

Certain strong, abiding principles Mr. Loftus had sought to instil into Sibyl's mind. She had perceived their truth and beauty; but she cared nothing for them in reality, and had fallen at the feet of the man who had awakened those exquisite feelings in her.

And now either

she would not, or could not, get up. She clung to her imaginary passion with all the obstinacy which is inherent in weak natures. The disappointment had undermined her delicately-poised health. As she walked down towards the Spey alone on this particular June afternoon, she looked more fragile and ethereal than ever. The faint colour had gone from her cheek, and with it half her evanescent prettiness had departed. Her slight, willowy figure seemed to have no substance beneath the many folds of white material in which her despairing dressmaker had draped her. With the suicidal recklessness of youth, she made no attempt to turn her mind to other thoughts, but pondered instead upon her trouble, with the unreasoning rebellion against it with which, in early life, we all meet these friends in disguise.

She picked her way down the steep hillside, through the wakened broom and sleeping heather, and along the edge of the little oasis of oatfield, where so many thousands of round, river-worn stones had been gleaned into heaps, and where so many thousands still remained among the springing corn. The long labour and the patience and the partial failure which that little field meant, reclaimed from the heather, but not wholly reclaimed from the stones, had often touched Lady Pierpoint, who knew what labour was; but it did not appeal to Sibyl.

She sat down with a sigh on the river-bank, a forlorn white blot against the crowded world of green, with Crack, her little Scotch terrier, beside her, and looked listlessly across the sliding water, which ran deep and brown as Crack's brown eyes, and loitered shallow and yellow as a yellow sapphire among its clean gray stones and gleaming rocks. A pair of oyster-catchers sped upstream, low over the water, swift as eye could follow, with glad cries, like disembodied spirits that have found wings at last and feel the first rapture of proving them.

'Happy birds!' said Sibyl to herself. 'They do not know what trouble means.'


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