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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 24
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What Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 24 Post by :stefancs Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1887

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What Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 24

BOOK III CHAPTER XXIV

Laugh at forebodings of evil, but
tremble after day-dreams of happiness.


Waife left behind him at the cottage two letters,--one entrusted to the bailiff, with a sealed bag, for Mr. Hartopp; one for Sophy, placed on a chair beside her bed.

The first letter was as follows:--

"I trust, dear and honoured sir, that I shall come back safely; and when I do, I may have found perhaps a home for her, and some way of life such as you would not blame. But, in case of accident, I have left with Mr. Gooch, sealed up, the money we made at Gatesboro', after paying the inn bill, doctor, etc., and retaining the mere trifle I need in case I and Sir Isaac fail to support ourselves. You will kindly take care of it. I should not feel safe with more money about me, an old man.

"I might be robbed; besides, I am careless. I never can keep money; it slips out of my hands like an eel. Heaven bless you, sir; your kindness seems like a miracle vouchsafed to me for that child's dear sake. No evil can chance to her with you; and if I should fall ill and die, even then you, who would have aided the tricksome vagrant, will not grudge the saving hand to the harmless child."

The letter to Sophy ran thus:--

"Darling, forgive me; I have stolen away from you, but only for a few days, and only in order to see if we cannot gain the magic home where I am to be the Genius, and you the Princess. I go forth with such a light heart, Sophy dear, I shall be walking thirty miles a day, and not feel an ache in the lame leg: you could not keep up with me; you know you could not. So think over the cottage and the basket-work, and practise at samplers and pincushions, when it is too hot to play; and be stout and strong against I come back. That, I trust, will be this day week, ---'t is but seven days; and then we will only act fairy dramas to nodding trees, with linnets for the orchestra; and even Sir Isaac shall not be demeaned by mercenary tricks, but shall employ his arithmetical talents in casting up the weekly bills, and he shall never stand on his hind legs except on sunny days, when he shall carry a parasol to shade an enchanted princess. Laugh; darling,--let me fancy I see you laughing; but don't fret,--don't fancy I desert you. Do try and get well,--quite, quite well; I ask it of you on my knees."

The letter and the bag were taken over at sunrise to Mr. Hartopp's villa. Mr. Hartopp was an early man. Sophy overslept herself: her room was to the west; the morning beams did not reach its windows; and the cottage without children woke up to labour noiseless and still. So when at last she shook off sleep, and tossing her hair from her blue eyes, looked round and became conscious of the strange place, she still fancied the hour early. But she got up, drew the curtain from the window, saw the sun high in the heavens, and, ashamed of her laziness, turned, and lo! the letter on the chair! Her heart at once misgave her; the truth flashed upon a reason prematurely quick in the intuition which belongs to the union of sensitive affection and active thought. She drew a long breath, and turned deadly pale. It was some minutes before she could take up the letter, before she could break the seal. When she did, she read on noiselessly, her tears dropping over the page, without effort or sob. She had no egotistical sorrow, no grief in being left alone with strangers: it was the pathos of the old man's lonely wanderings, of his bereavement, of his counterfeit glee, and genuine self-sacrifice; this it was that suffused her whole heart with unutterable yearnings of tenderness, gratitude, pity, veneration. But when she had wept silently for some time, she kissed the letter with devout passion, and turned to that Heaven to which the outcast had taught her first to pray.

Afterwards she stood still, musing a little while, and the sorrowful shade gradually left her face. Yes; she would obey him: she would not fret; she would try and get well and strong. He would feel, at the distance, that she was true to his wishes; that she was fitting herself to be again his companion: seven days would soon pass. Hope, that can never long quit the heart of childhood, brightened over her meditations, as the morning sun over a landscape that just before had lain sad amidst twilight and under rains.

When she came downstairs, Mrs. Gooch was pleased and surprised to observe the placid smile upon her face, and the quiet activity with which, after the morning meal, she moved about by the good woman's side assisting her in her dairywork and other housewife tasks, talking little, comprehending quickly,--composed, cheerful.

"I am so glad to see you don't pine after your good grandpapa, as we feared you would."

"He told me not to pine," answered Sophy, simply, but with a quivering lip.

When the noon deepened, and it became too warm for exercise, Sophy timidly asked if Mrs. Gooch had any worsted and knitting-needles, and being accommodated with those implements and materials, she withdrew to the arbour, and seated herself to work,--solitary and tranquil.

What made, perhaps, the chief strength in this poor child's nature was its intense trustfulness,--a part, perhaps, of its instinctive appreciation of truth. She trusted in Waife, in the future, in Providence, in her own childish, not helpless, self.

Already, as her slight fingers sorted the worsteds and her graceful taste shaded their hues into blended harmony, her mind was weaving, not less harmoniously, the hues in the woof of dreams,--the cottage home, the harmless tasks, Waife with his pipe in the armchair under some porch, covered like that one yonder,--why not?--with fragrant woodbine, and life if humble, honest, truthful, not shrinking from the day, so that if Lionel met her again she should not blush, nor he be shocked. And if their ways were so different as her grandfather said, still they might cross, as they had crossed before, and--the work slid from her hand--the sweet lips parted, smiling: a picture came before her eyes,--her grandfather, Lionel, herself; all three, friends, and happy; a stream, fair as the Thames had seemed; green trees all bathed in summer; the boat gliding by; in that boat they three, borne softly on,--away, away,--what matters whither?--by her side the old man; facing her, the boy's bright kind eyes. She started. She heard noises,--a swing ing gate, footsteps. She started,--she rose,--voices; one strange to her,--a man's voice,--then the Mayor's. A third voice,--shrill, stern; a terrible voice,-heard in infancy, associated with images of cruelty, misery, woe. It could not be! impossible! Near, nearer, came the footsteps. Seized with the impulse of flight, she sprang to the mouth of the arbour. Fronting her glared two dark, baleful eyes. She stood,--arrested, spellbound, as a bird fixed rigid by the gaze of a serpent.

"Yes, Mr. Mayor; all right! it is our little girl,--our dear Sophy. This way, Mr. Losely. Such a pleasant surprise for you, Sophy, my love!" said Mrs. Crane.

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