The Green Goddess - Louise Jordan Miln - ebook

The Green Goddess ebook

Louise Jordan Miln

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The vicar suffered – almost the same way he suffered the night his wife, Elena, died – and because he suffered, he put his beautiful cameo-like face in the sunniest smile. It was his path – part of his daily life, an integral part of himself. A pious man, in the strongest senses of this over-used word, Philip Reynolds possessed a noble talent for the things of the earth that at the same time soften human life and give it a poignancy.

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHAPTER XXXIX

CHAPTER XL

CHAPTER XLI

CHAPTER XLII

CHAPTER XLIII

CHAPTER XLIV

CHAPTER XLV

CHAPTER I

The Vicar was suffering–almost as much as he had suffered the night that Helen, his wife, had died–and because he was suffering he dressed his fine cameo-like face in its sunniest smile. That was his way–part of his creed-of-daily-life, an intrinsic part of his self.

A godly man, in the sweetest and strongest senses of that overused word, Philip Reynolds had a wholesome flair for the things of earth that both mellow human life and give it a tang. He liked his dinner, and he liked it good. He loved his roses, and he was vastly proud of his turnips. His modest cellar was admirably stocked. He enjoyed the logs that burned and glowed on his wide hearths. He was fond of his books–both inside and out. If he found a newly purchased book (he subscribed to no library) little worth reading, he discarded it. He gave it away, if he held it harmless; if he thought it a hurtful volume, he burned it. But his taste was broad, and his charity–to books as well as to people–was wide. He played a good hand of bridge–though Lucilla, his girl, played even a better. But he could beat the county at whist, and most of it at chess. He still could give a crack tennis player a game, and he could ride neck and neck with the next–and so could Lucilla.

But all these things were so much to him only because they that he loved were so greatly more. There were four big human loves in his being and keeping. Three whom he loved were out in the churchyard–only one, Lucilla, still lived. But he loved the three as actively now as he had when they had been here in the vicarage with him. And the creature things he cared for and cultivated–wine, food, games, flowers, books–he cared for and appreciated most because he associated them with the beings of his strong living love: his mother, his wife, Jack, his boy, and Lucilla, his daughter.

He had one great friendship, and two or three more moderate, but staunch and warm. His great friendship was with God. It amounted to reverent intimacy. He felt more quickly alive to God’s nearness than to that of most human creatures. His friendship with God filled his life. But his human loves filled his heart. Philip Reynolds loved his God, and obeyed Him loyally and gladly. But he knew that his love for the three in the churchyard, and the girl whom he was giving up to another to-morrow was a more passionate thing than the devoted affection he gave to his Maker and Master. And he dared to think this no offense to the Supreme. God who had granted them to him understood and did not blame, he thought.

He had no doubt of God’s personal existence, and never had had. As a little child he had believed implicitly because his mother did, and as he grew older, and came to live–as we all, even the most heart-bound and interknit with close human intimacies must–a life somewhat of his own, all that he saw, experienced, and came to think added a strong and vivid conviction, a reasoned and constantly augmented conviction, to what had been just acceptance and credulity. Everything convinced him that there was a God, a gracious, humane and intensely personal God, in whose image all men were made. The marvelous, masterly plan of the universe, the exquisite creation of flowers, the flight and the song of birds, the fitness and interfitting of all natural and unspoiled things, the unerring instincts of animal life and of the vegetable world–instincts of reproduction and of self-defending; these and a myriad other daily “miracles” convinced him of a Master Workman omnipotent and very near; gave him a conviction which never could be shaken or threatened–an invincible, glowing, grateful faith. And it was his strength. But his human loves were his inspiration; they flowed through his being like rare wine in his veins, they colored his life, sparkled his thought, and perfumed his world. He knew God, and worshiped Him, and gave Him a beautiful friendship. But his love, as he understood “love”–life’s earthly stimulant and elixir–was for the three in the churchyard and for the girl their going had left with him behind them.

A son never had loved a mother more than Philip Reynolds had loved his; but she held the fourth place in his heart. Helen, his wife, had held the first, and after her he had loved Jack, their boy. Jack had died almost immediately after Helen’s death, and Reynolds, because he so exquisitely and deeply loved Helen, rejoiced more than he grieved. He was glad to have Jack forever safe in their Father-God’s keeping, radiantly glad that Helen should have the boy’s companionship and keeping in that near Heaven where she waited his coming. The parishioners marveled at their Vicar’s sunny serenity close on the loss of his only son; one or two questioned it, even, not too approvingly. Other priests held it his very great “grace.” But they were wrong, for it was no saintship, but simply the supreme sincerity of his love of his wife, making him glad to give to her what he most of all things would have wished to keep for himself: the daily and constant companionship of Jack. And yet–were they wrong after all? Surely to love as this man loved is “grace,” a grace unto the grace of the Kingdom of Heaven.

His wife, his son, and his mother were as much an active part of his daily life to-day as they ever had been; and Jack, the last to be laid there, had lain in the old Surrey churchyard a full score of years. Each day he went to their graves which no hand but his ever tended–it was not far to go; only across the narrow country road–saw that their flowers were fresh, and the bleakest winter’s day they had their flowers, and passed on in to pray in the church where his mother and he and Jack had been christened, and where his mother and Helen and he had been married–then back to his home and his people, his tireless, gentle ministering to good and to sinful, his sipping of good wine, his reading of books, his games and his writing, and his care of Lucilla.

He could not remember his father; for the father had “gone down with his ship” when Philip had been but a baby; and Lucilla could remember neither her mother nor brother; for they had died when she was not three.

Helen Reynolds was still remembered in the parish for her pretty face, and her soft kind ways–remembered as “a nice little thing” with the best heart in the world, but no special strength of mind or of will.

But that had not been so. Few women have ever had a stronger will, and even fewer a more capable mind. Her intense gentleness had been a dignity, not weakness. An entirely happy life had left her will unruffled, and her really fine mind had been homekeeping, a trifle proud, and more than a trifle scornful of the mental equipments–outside of the vicarage itself–about her. A great many rich and leisured people–quite a few of them with minor titles–had smart country establishments in the purlieus of her husband’s parish, but they were not intellectuals, they read more novels than quarterlies, attended more race-meetings than academic lectures, were more steeped in fashions than in philosophies, and the village folk were true to type, self-seeking, self-absorbed, gossipy, curious, ordinary. They read the Surrey Comet–some of them sometimes–abused the weather, asked alms directly or indirectly, but industriously, of Vicar and Squire, and took a keen rather than gracious interest in each other’s births and marriages, ups and downs, debts and earnings, shortcomings and Sunday dinners. They had not interested Helen Reynolds; which was not altogether to their disadvantage. For the Vicar’s wife had a shrewder gift of analysis than the Vicar had. He saw chiefly the good in every one. She saw the bad, as quickly and surely as she did the good; and her sense of justice leaned to severity rather than to mercy. She had been as devoted to Philip as he to her. But he had deserved it. A faulty husband would have had short shrift with Helen Reynolds, whose “sweetly pretty” face and soft, rippling, girlish hair enhoused a relentless judgment, an exigeant taste and unwavering determination. But she had a sweet, sunny spirit and a quick, bubbling sense of humor. She rarely smiled, but she laughed fairly often. And her wit was both pretty and trenchant.

The Vicar never made a joke in his life, and never failed to see one–and, if it really was good, never failed to enjoy it greatly.

There was more lion, more indomitability, in wife than in husband, but they were excellently matched in tastes, culture and breeding; and their comradeship had been “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” And death did not separate them.

The daughter of such parents and of such a marriage came into life with fine equipment. She had her mother’s mind, the good taste of the two, a person less “pretty,” more distinguished than her mother’s. She had her mother’s cool, clear head, her father’s big, loyal heart, her mother’s sharp eyes, her father’s fine, firm hand on bridle or reins. She had his genial liking of people, his love of fun, her mother’s resentment of all that offended her taste, the tireless limbs of them both, the flair of adventure and travel that they had shared almost equally. She was fearless and exquisitely bred.

Philip Reynolds had traveled much in his younger days, and he still roamed the world–in his study and in the easy chair by the drawing-room fire. But since his wife’s death he had not spent a night out of the sleeping-room that had also been hers. He still loved to travel–with the book on his knee; but not for all the wonder-spots of earth would he have foregone even once his daily tryst at the graves in the churchyard.

Lucilla Reynolds always had longed to travel, but had done it but little. For her own sake her father had been unwilling to spare her–for they had few relatives, and none to whom he cared to entrust his girl often. But he was relinquishing her now. And she was going to travel far. For Captain Crespin’s regiment was stationed in India. And they were to be married to-morrow, Antony Crespin and Lucilla Reynolds.

CHAPTER II

The Vicar was suffering acutely. He knew he’d miss his daughter. And he thought he should not see her again after to-morrow’s parting. So he went into the breakfast-room, where he knew she’d be waiting for him as she always was, wearing his brightest face. No shadow of his making should dim the child’s last day at home with her father. There would be time enough–all the rest of his life–to miss her in, and he did not intend to do it to-day, in the least, or to anticipate it. This should be a day of great and unbroken joy. And he didn’t intend to mope after she’d gone. Not he! He had the churchyard, his people to shepherd, the flowers in his garden, and good-fellow books on his shelves, and his one great Friendship. And he was brave.

It was hard to let the child go–that of course–but the way of her going contented him well. From the hour of her birth he had prayed that Lucilla might marry. The new dispensation that made life so much more interesting and varied for unmarried women had his cordial endorsement, because it did, as he judged, make the world a pleasanter place for an unmarried woman; but he was profoundly and acutely sure that marriage was for every woman “the better part,” and in the increasing preponderance of women to-day, making marriage a mathematical impossibility for so awkwardly many, his prayer that his girl should marry took on an unplacid quality of anxiety, almost a certain feverishness that he owned to himself was less than becoming to so spiritual an act as prayer.

He was glad when love found Lucilla out, and marriage beckoned and claimed her. He liked and approved Antony Crespin. And he rejoiced that her marriage was to take so far afield the daughter whose actual presence he could so ill spare, and would, he knew, so sorely miss. He knew that she–for all her sweet and unaffected happiness in it–had begun to find the quiet, beaten Surrey path a trifle tame, a little same and narrow. Because she was going so far, he thought that he should not see her again; but he was glad that she was. India would fascinate her, he thought; and the army life would amuse her. And of her happiness and welfare he had no doubt; for Crespin was good all through, a sterling, capable fellow, and Lucilla herself was as sane and sensible as she was true and sweet. Antony had beyond his Captain’s beggarly pay, though a bit less beggarly in an Indian regiment, of course, a decent private income; not too much, but just enough. The prayer of Agar would be answered for the husband and wife, and Philip Reynolds was sure that “Grant me neither poverty nor riches” was one of the most sensible petitions ever lifted up to God by man. Yes–it was a good match in every sense. And, if to-morrow would be one of his sharp sorrow-days, it too would be one of his gladdest.

Lucilla stood quietly radiant waiting for him at the breakfast table.

“Well, Daddy?” she said.

“Well, dear?”

“Sleep well?”

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