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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

Sibyl could learn because she loved


'They were so pleasant. I wish you had come in,' she said.

'I find the clergy as fatiguing as Anderson's beetle found cleanliness,' said Mr. Loftus, his eyes dwelling on her. 'But that is not their fault. It is because I happen to be a beetle.'

'I was a little tired, too,' said Sibyl hastily. 'They stayed rather long.'

'And did you like them?'

'Yes; I thought them very nice. And I am glad they are High Church. I think it is so much nicer, don't you?'

'Do you mean to tell me, now that we are married and it is too late to go back, that you are High Church?'

'Oh, not very high!' said Sibyl anxiously, yet reassured by his look of amusement. 'Which are you?'

'I am the same as Mr. Gresley,' said Mr. Loftus slowly, 'with a difference.'

'I thought you were different,' said Sibyl, gratified at her own powers of observation.

'I know,' continued Mr. Loftus, 'that he thinks I have no principles at all, because he believes they are not the same as his; but in reality they are very much the same as his, only they are carried further afield, and he loses sight of them, while he has a neat little ring-fence round his own. I like Mr. Gresley very much. He is an exemplary young man. But some people become very narrow by walking in the narrow path, and I fear he is one of them. Remember this, my Sibyl, that there is no barrier in your own character against which someone, sooner or later, will not stumble to his hurt. No boundary in ourselves will serve to shut God in, as this good young man thinks, but every boundary will at last shut out some fellow-creature from us, and be to one, whom perhaps we might have helped, an occasion of stumbling. And now let us show Crack the brook. I am afraid he will think but little of it after the Spey, but he will be too polite to say so. As he only arrived yesterday, it is premature to put it into words, but I have an intuition that Crack and I shall become friends. If I had any influence over him, I would encourage him to bathe in the brook, for he brought into the house with him this morning an odour that convinced me that we were on the eve of some great chemical discovery.'

So they wandered down by the brook, across the lengthening shadows. A cock pheasant was clearing his throat in the wood near the gardens. The low sun had become entangled in the rookery. A pair of sandpipers were balancing their slender selves on a tiny beach of sand. A little black and white water-ousel darted upstream with rapid, bee-like flight. Crack followed, gravely investigating the bank point by point, as if on the look-out for some fallacy in it.

And Sibyl registered the conclusion in her own mind that one must be 'wide,' like Mr. Loftus, not narrow, like Mr. Gresley. After this conversation she always spoke of her religious convictions as 'wide.'

CHAPTER VII.

'We form not our affections. It is they That do form us; and form us in despite Of our poor protests.'

LYTTON.

Summer slid into autumn, and autumn into winter. The first few months of married life had been difficult to Mr. Loftus, but he had brought his whole attention and an infinite patience to bear on them, and gradually his reward came to him. Sibyl could learn because she loved. She learned slowly, but still she did learn, to read, not her husband's thoughts--those were far from her--but his wishes. She discovered, with a pang which cost her many secret tears--but still she did discover--that he often wished to be alone, and that she must not go into his study unless she were asked to do so. She learned gradually when to join him when he paced in the rose-garden, and when it vexed and wearied him to have her by him. And she learned, too, after the first horrible experience, which neither could remember without anguish, when, with blue lips, he had begged her not to touch him; that when he had an attack of the heart she must not betray her agony of mind, if she was to be allowed to remain in the room, and she must not ignorantly try to apply the remedies, but must leave it to Mr. Loftus's valet, whose imperturbable calm and promptitude had often ministered to his master before. Sibyl's terror of death and violent emotion at its approach were peculiarly trying to Mr. Loftus, who had long since ceased to regard death with horror, and only wished to be allowed to meet it quietly, without a scene.


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