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Perhaps my reader may be sufficiently interested in the person, who, having once begun to tell his story, may possibly have allowed his feelings, in concert with the comfortable confidence afforded by the mask of namelessness, to run away with his pen, and so have babbled of himself more than he ought—may be sufficiently interested, I say, in my mental condition, to cast a speculative thought upon the state of my mind, during my illness, with regard to Miss Oldcastle and the stranger who was her mother's guest at the Hall. Possibly, being by nature gifted, as I have certainly discovered, with more of hope than is usually mingled with the other elements composing the temperament of humanity, I did not suffer quite so much as some would have suffered during such an illness. But I have reason to fear that when I was light-headed from fever, which was a not uncommon occurrence, especially in the early mornings during the worst of my illness—when Mrs Pearson had to sit up with me, and sometimes an old woman of the village who was generally called in upon such occasions—I may have talked a good deal of nonsense about Miss Oldcastle. For I remember that I was haunted with visions of magnificent conventual ruins which I had discovered, and which, no one seeming to care about them but myself, I was left to wander through at my own lonely will. Would I could see with the waking eye such a grandeur of Gothic arches and "long-drawn aisles" as then arose upon my sick sense! Within was a labyrinth of passages in the walls, and "long-sounding corridors," and sudden galleries, whence I looked down into the great church aching with silence. Through these I was ever wandering, ever discovering new rooms, new galleries, new marvels of architecture; ever disappointed and ever dissatisfied, because I knew that in one room somewhere in the forgotten mysteries of the pile sat Ethelwyn reading, never lifting those sea-blue eyes of hers from the great volume on her knee, reading every word, slowly turning leaf after leaf; knew that she would sit there reading, till, one by one, every leaf in the huge volume was turned, and she came to the last and read it from top to bottom—down to the finis and the urn with a weeping willow over it; when she would close the book with a sigh, lay it down on the floor, rise and walk slowly away, and leave the glorious ruin dead to me as it had so long been to every one else; knew that if I did not find her before that terrible last page was read, I should never find her at all; but have to go wandering alone all my life through those dreary galleries and corridors, with one hope only left—that I might yet before I died find the "palace-chamber far apart," and see the read and forsaken volume lying on the floor where she had left it, and the chair beside it upon which she had sat so long waiting for some one in vain.

And perhaps to words spoken under these impressions may partly be attributed the fact, which I knew nothing of till long afterwards, that the people of the village began to couple my name with that of Miss Oldcastle.

When all this vanished from me in the returning wave of health that spread through my weary brain, I was yet left anxious and thoughtful. There was no one from whom I could ask any information about the family at the Hall, so that I was just driven to the best thing—to try to cast my care upon Him who cared for my care. How often do we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven; that we have been compelled, as to the last remaining, so to the best, the only, the central help, the causing cause of all the helps to which we had turned aside as nearer and better.

One day when, having considerably recovered from my second attack, I was sitting reading in my study, who should be announced but my friend Judy!

"Oh, dear Mr Walton, I am so sorry you have been so ill!" exclaimed the impulsive girl, taking my hand in both of hers, and sitting down beside me. "I haven't had a chance of coming to see you before; though we've always managed—I mean auntie and I—to hear about you. I would have come to nurse you, but it was no use thinking of it."

I smiled as I thanked her.

"Ah! you think because I'm such a tom-boy, that I couldn't nurse you. I only wish I had had a chance of letting you see. I am so sorry for you!"

"But I'm nearly well now, Judy, and I have been taken good care of."

"By that frumpy old thing, Mrs Pearson, and—"

"Mrs Pearson is a very kind woman, and an excellent nurse," I said; but she would not heed me.

"And that awful old witch, Mother Goose. She was enough to give you bad dreams all night she sat by you."

"I didn't dream about Mother Goose, as you call her, Judy. I assure you. But now I want to hear how everybody is at the Hall."

"What, grannie, and the white wolf, and all?"

"As many as you please to tell me about."

"Well, grannie is gracious to everybody but auntie."

"Why isn't she gracious to auntie?"

"I don't know. I only guess."

"Is your visitor gone?"

"Yes, long ago. Do you know, I think grannie wants auntie to marry him, and auntie doesn't quite like it? But he's very nice. He's so funny! He 'll be back again soon, I daresay. I don't QUITE like him—not so well as you by a whole half, Mr Walton. I wish you would marry auntie; but that would never do. It would drive grannie out of her wits."

To stop the strange girl, and hide some confusion, I said:

"Now tell me about the rest of them."

"Sarah comes next. She's as white and as wolfy as ever. Mr Walton, I hate that woman. She walks like a cat. I am sure she is bad."

"Did you ever think, Judy, what an awful thing it is to be bad? If you did, I think you would be so sorry for her, you could not hate her."

At the same time, knowing what I knew now, and remembering that impressions can date from farther back than the memory can reach, I was not surprised to hear that Judy hated Sarah, though I could not believe that in such a child the hatred was of the most deadly description.

"I am afraid I must go on hating in the meantime," said Judy. "I wish some one would marry auntie, and turn Sarah away. But that couldn't be, so long as grannie lives."

"How is Mr Stoddart?"

"There now! That's one of the things auntie said I was to be sure to tell you."

"Then your aunt knew you were coming to see me?"

"Oh, yes, I told her. Not grannie, you know.—You mustn't let it out."

"I shall be careful. How is Mr Stoddart, then?"

"Not well at all. He was taken ill before you, and has been in bed and by the fireside ever since. Auntie doesn't know what to do with him, he is so out of spirits."

"If to-morrow is fine, I shall go and see him."

"Thank you. I believe that's just what auntie wanted. He won't like it at first, I daresay. But he'll come to, and you'll do him good. You do everybody good you come near."

"I wish that were true, Judy. I fear it is not. What good did I ever do you, Judy?"

"Do me!" she exclaimed, apparently half angry at the question. "Don't you know I have been an altered character ever since I knew you?"

And here the odd creature laughed, leaving me in absolute ignorance of how to interpret her. But presently her eyes grew clearer, and I could see the slow film of a tear gathering.

"Mr Walton," she said, "I HAVE been trying not to be selfish. You have done me that much good."

"I am very glad, Judy. Don't forget who can do you ALL good. There is One who can not only show you what is right, but can make you able to do and be what is right. You don't know how much you have got to learn yet, Judy; but there is that one Teacher ever ready to teach if you will only ask Him."

Judy did not answer, but sat looking fixedly at the carpet. She was thinking, though, I saw.

"Who has played the organ, Judy, since your uncle was taken ill?" I asked, at length.

"Why, auntie, to be sure. Didn't you hear?"

"No," I answered, turning almost sick at the idea of having been away from church for so many Sundays while she was giving voice and expression to the dear asthmatic old pipes. And I did feel very ready to murmur, like a spoilt child that had not had his way. Think of HER there, and me here!

"Then," I said to myself at last, "it must have been she that played I know that my Redeemer liveth, that last time I was in church! And instead of thanking God for that, here I am murmuring that He did not give me more! And this child has just been telling me that I have taught her to try not to be selfish. Certainly I should be ashamed of myself."

"When was your uncle taken ill?"

"I don't exactly remember. But you will come and see him to-morrow? And then we shall see you too. For we are always out and in of his room just now."

"I will come if Dr Duncan will let me. Perhaps he will take me in his carriage."

"No, no. Don't you come with him. Uncle can't bear doctors. He never was ill in his life before, and he behaves to Dr Duncan just as if he had made him ill. I wish I could send the carriage for you. But I can't, you know."

"Never mind, Judy. I shall manage somehow.—What is the name of the gentleman who was staying with you?"

"Don't you know? Captain George Everard. He would change his name to Oldcastle, you know."

What a foolish pain, like a spear-thrust, they sent through me—those words spoken in such a taken-for-granted way!

"He's a relation—on grannie's side mostly, I believe. But I never could understand the explanation. What makes it harder is, that all the husbands and wives in our family, for a hundred and fifty years, have been more or less of cousins, or half-cousins, or second or third cousins. Captain Everard has what grandmamma calls a neat little property of his own from his mother, some where in Northumberland; for he IS only a third son, one of a class grannie does not in general feel very friendly to, I assure you, Mr Walton. But his second brother is dead, and the eldest something the worse for the wear, as grannie says; so that the captain comes just within sight of the coronet of an old uncle who ought to have been dead long ago. Just the match for auntie!"

"But you say auntie doesn't like him."

"Oh! but you know that doesn't matter," returned Judy, with bitterness. "What will grannie care for that? It's nothing to anybody but auntie, and she must get used to it. Nobody makes anything of her."

It was only after she had gone that I thought how astounding it would have been to me to hear a girl of her age show such an acquaintance with worldliness and scheming, had I not been personally so much concerned about one of the objects of her remarks. She certainly was a strange girl. But strange as she was it was a satisfaction to think that the aunt had such a friend and ally in her wild niece. Evidently she had inherited her father's fearlessness; and if only it should turn out that she had likewise inherited her mother's firmness, she might render the best possible service to her aunt against the oppression of her wilful mother.

"How were you able to get here to-day?" I asked, as she rose to go.

"Grannie is in London, and the wolf is with her. Auntie wouldn't leave uncle."

"They have been a good deal in London of late, have they not?"

"Yes. They say it's about money of auntie's. But I don't understand. I think it's that grannie wants to make the captain marry her; for they sometimes see him when they go to London."

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