+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error



                              IN FIVE BOOKS.

                                   BOOK V.

AN April day smiled and wept over
Shipley. Wherever the clouds broke after
a shower, the sky showed of a pale blue
colour. Near the zenith floated white
wreaths of vapour. Below them were long
lateral bars of grey cloud stretching
singularly straight across the horizon. They
were vague and unfinished at the ends,
like lines drawn by a soft lead pencil; and
they seemed of about that colour against the
blue and white. A few early flowers peeped
out in the garden borders. When the sun
shone fitfully on the old yew-tree, it was
seen to glisten with trembling diamond-
drops of rain. A blackbird piped his sweet
clear song from the shrubbery. Light and
shadow animated the flatness of the distant
wold, whence came the many-voiced bleat
of larms blended into one sound. A solitary
sheep cropped the short turf in St.
Gildas's graveyard.

A young lady sat there on the low
stone wall, looking across the flats
towards Danecester. She sat so still that
the grazing sheep came quite near to her as
its teeth cut the short grass with a crisp
sound in regular cadence. It was Maud
Desmond who sat there on the wall of the
graveyard, and whose golden hair was
ruffled under her hat by the April breeze.
She was absorbed in a reverie. She had
been in Shipley now nearly a week, and
she was mentally passing in review all
the traits and circumstances she had
observed during that time, which served to
show what changes had taken place in the
vicar's mode of life, and in the vicar himself,
since she had left his house for her aunt's.

At first sight things had seemed little
altered. But she soon found that there
was a change in Mr. Levincourt which she
had not observed in him in London. In
the first place, he seemed to have broken
completely the few relations he had ever
held with his country neighbours in the
rank of gentlefolks. That was perhaps to
be expected with a character such as Mr.
Levincourt's; it was natural that he should
shun any possible occasion of reading in
the manner, or even in the faces, of his
equals that he had become an object of pity
to them. But this was not all. It seemed
to Maud, that after the first paroxysm of
grief, and wounded feeling, and crushed
pride had ceased, the whole character of
her guardian had subtly deteriorated. He
shrank from the society of his equals; but,
on the other hand, he appeared by no means
to shun that of his inferiors. He would sit
for hours enduring the baldest chat of Mrs.
Meggitt, and women such as she. Maud
was shocked and astonished to find him,
one day, listening almost with avidity to
some gossiping details of village scandal
from the lips of Mugworthy, the parish
clerk. The air of personal refinement
which had formerly distinguished him,
seemed to be disappearing under the
influence of a slip-shod lazinessa kind of
slothful indifference to everything save his
own immediate comfort. He was by turns
querulous, almost lachrymose, and self-
asserting. It was terrible to Maud to see
his whole character thus lowered; and she
tried to believe that the change was but
temporary, and that perhaps she even
exaggerated it in her affectionate anxiety.

During the journey from London, her