It is not good to be as much alone as we were in those days. In a solitary life anybody may make an impression, almost anybody becomes important, and young people especially are too much at the mercy of books. The monotony of our days went on, almost unbroken, for nearly three years. It was tacitly assumed that I had come out, and that my one party had been a foretaste of gaieties to follow in some vague future. The schoolroom had become more and more of a fiction even for Mary, who was almost eighteen. My mother and my governess let me go my own way in my studies, and I spent whole days in reading. I asked my mother long afterwards why she had let me read one or two books that I should hesitate to give a girl now.
"You were much older for your age than girls are now," she said, and then with her sweet, wan smile she added, "To tell the truth, I thought it would be more dangerous for you not to have them than to have them."
How hard a question it is! I am sure she was right, and I believe I got no harm; yet one would fain postpone for a girl something of the pain of the riddle of this painful earth.
More than two years after my Thornly visit—"we date from the first social war," Mary used to say—our parish priest fell ill, and was sent abroad for six months' change. In his place came a young man, who was very much out of health himself and, as I think now, in rather a queer state of