Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/13

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OUT OF DUE TIME.

copses, sluggish ditches, white thorns and stunted yews that I first remember this temptation. Something in the spring stirred me to discontent. My mother had been speaking of the time of the Vatican Council in Rome, to the priest who had stayed to breakfast after saying Mass in our little chapel. She had said enough to fill me with interest and to make me feel how much she had not said that she could have told me. So, in the sunshine, at the age of sixteen, I wrestled with the temptation to revolt against the long quiet years that I saw before me.

I think I did conquer. I prayed to my dear father, who would have understood me so well, I thought, who would surely have taken me away from Crowfield sometimes, who had liked my mother to have pretty frocks—whereas mine were hideous—and who would surely have wished me to see some people of my own age. And there is the pathos of it! My mother never told us of her difficulties simply because they were my father's fault. All through that brilliant young married life of hers, she had struggled in vain, gently and worshipfully, to make her dear husband spend a little less money. She knew all the time, though she would not own it to her stern stepson, that Thornly Hall was being steadily but surely impoverished. No tradesman suffered, no pensioner had less, but each year a couple of thousands were sold out and were hardly missed. Poor father, he died leaving a beautiful will, and a handsome jointure for my mother, but for my half-brother there was a fine old property gone to rack and ruin, and the sound investments, independent of land, that had been the mainstay of the family since the days of the East India Company, had simply ceased to exist. My half-brother John was not exactly a chivalrous character, and he certainly had his trials. There must have been much that was painful, but nothing coarse or angry could be associated