Anything, meanwhile, prettier than Diana's face it would be difficult to see. Flushing like a girl, her lips wreathing with smiles, tear-drops hanging on the eyelashes still, but with flashes and sparkles coming and going in the usually quiet grey eyes. Dispossessed Rosy on the floor meanwhile looked on in astonishment so great that she even forgot to protest. Basil looked down at her at last and laughed.
"Rosy has had a lesson," he said, picking her up. "She will know her place henceforth. Come, Di, sit down and talk to me. How came this about?"
"I don't know, Basil," said Diana meekly.
"Where did it begin?"
"I don't know that either. O, begin? I think the beginning was very long ago, when I learned to honour you so thoroughly."
"Honour is very cold work; don't talk to me about honour," said Basil. "I have fed and supped on honour, and felt very empty!"
"Well, you have had it," said Diana contentedly.
"Go on. When did it change into something else?"
"It has not changed," said Diana mischievously.
"When did you begin to give me something better?"
"Do you know, Basil, I cannot tell? I was not conscious myself of what was going on in me."
"Perhaps—since soon after I came home from Clifton. It had not begun then; how soon it began after, I cannot tell. It was so gradual."
"When did you discover a change?"
"I felt it—I hardly discovered it—a good while ago, I think. But I did not in the least know what it was. I wished—Basil, it is very odd!"—and the colour rose in Diana's cheeks,—"I wished that I could love you."
The minister smiled, and there was a suspicious drop in his eyes, which I think to hide, he stooped and kissed Rosy.
"Go on. When did you come to a better understanding?"
"I don't think I recognised it until—I told mother, not a great while ago, that I cared for nobody in the world but you; but that was different; I meant something different; I do not think I recognised it fully, until—you will think me very strange—until I saw—Evan Knowlton."
"And then?" said Basil with a quick look at his wife. Diana's eyes were dreamily going out of the window, and her lips wore the rare smile which had vexed Evan, and which he himself had never seen on them before that day.
"Then,—he ventured to remind me that—once—it was not true."
"What?" said Basil, laughing. "Your mother makes very confused statements, Rosy?"
"He was mortified, I think, that I did not seem to feel more at seeing him; and then he dared to remind me that I had married a man I did not"—Diana left the word unspoken.
"Then I knew all of a sudden that he was mistaken; that if it had been true once, it was true no longer. I told him so."
"Told him!" echoed her husband.
"I told him. He will make that mistake no more."
"Then, pray, why did you not tell the person most concerned?"
"I could not. I thought you must find it out of yourself."
"How did he take your communication?"
"Basil—human nature is a very strange thing! I think, do you know?—I think he was sorry."
"Poor fellow!" said Basil.
"Can you understand it?"
"I am afraid I can."
"You may say 'poor fellow!'—but I was displeased with him. He had no right to care; at least, to be anything but glad. It was wrong. He had no right."
"No; but you have fought a fight, my child, which few fight and come off with victory."
"It was not I, Basil," said Diana softly. "It was the power that bade the sea be still. I never could have conquered. Never."
"Let us thank Him!"
"And it was you that led me to trust in him, Basil. You told me, that anything I trusted Christ to do for me, he would do it; and I saw how you lived, and I believed first because you believed."
Basil was silent. His face was very grave and very sweet.
"I am rather disappointed in Evan," said Diana after a pause. "I shall always feel an interest in him; but, do you know, Basil, he seems to me weak?"
"I knew that a long while ago."
"I knew it two years ago—but I would not recognise it." Then leaving her place she knelt down beside her husband and laid her head on his breast. "O Basil,—if I can ever make up to you!"—
"Hush!" said he. "We will go and make things up to those millworkers in Mainbridge."
There was a long pause, and then Diana spoke again; spoke slowly.
"Do you know, Basil, the millowners in Mainbridge seemed to me to want something done for them, quite as much as the millworkers?"
"I make the charge of that over to you."
"Me!" said Diana.
"What do you want me to do for them?"
"What do you think they need?"
"Basil, they do not seem to me to have the least idea—not an idea—of what true religion is."
"They would be very much astonished to hear you say so."
"But is it not true?"
"You would find every wealthy community more or less like Mainbridge."
"Would I? That does not alter the case, Basil."
"No. Do you think things are different here in Pleasant Valley?"
Diana pondered. "I think they do not seem the same," she said. "People at least would not be shocked if you told them here what Christian living is. And there are some who know it by experience."
"No doubt, so there are in the Mainbridge church, though it may be we shall find them most among the poor people."
"But what is it you want me to do, Basil?"
"Show them what a life lived for Christ is. We will both show them; but in my case people lay it off largely on the bond of my profession. Then, when we have shown them for awhile what it is, we can speak of it with some hope of being understood."
"Has anything special come to the Dominie?" Mrs. Starling asked that evening, when after prayers the minister had gone to his study.
"He seems to have a great deal of thanksgiving on his mind!"
"That's nothing very uncommon in him," said Diana, smiling.
"What's happened to you?" inquired her mother next, eyeing her daughter with curious eyes.
"Why do you ask?"
"I don't do things commonly without a reason. When folks roll their words out like butter, I like to know what's to pay."
"I cannot imagine what manner of speech that can be," said Diana, amused.
"Well—it was your'n just now. And it was your husband's half an hour ago."
"I suppose," said Diana, gravely now, "that when people feel happy, it makes their speech flow smoothly."
"And you feel happy?" said Mrs. Starling with a look as sharp as an arrow.
"Yes, mother. I do."
Diana hesitated, and then answered with a kind of sweet solemnity,—"All earth, and all heaven."
Mrs. Starling was silenced for a minute.
"By 'all earth' I suppose you mean me to understand things in the future?"
"And things in the past. Everything that ever happened to me, mother, has turned out for good."
Mrs. Starling looked at her daughter, and saw that she meant it.
"The ways o' the world," she muttered scornfully, "are too queer for anything!" But Diana let the imputation lie.
They went to Mainbridge. Not Mrs. Starling, but the others. And you may think of them as happy, with both hands full of work. They live in a house just a little bit out of the town, where there is plenty of ground for gardens, and the air is not poisoned with smoke or vapour. Roses and honeysuckles flourish as well here as in Pleasant Valley; laburnums are here too, dropping fresh gold every year; and there are banks of violets and beds of lilies, and in the spring-time crocuses and primroses and hyacinths and snowdrops; and chrysanthemums and asters, and all sorts of splendours and sweetnesses in the fall. For even Diana's flowers are not for herself alone, nor even for her children alone, whose special pleasure in connection with them is to make nosegays for sick and poor people, and to cultivate garden plots in order to have the more to give away. And not Diana's roses and honeysuckles are sweeter than the fragrance of her life which goes through all Mainbridge. Rich and poor look to that house as a point of light and centre of strength; to the poor it is, besides, a treasury of comfort. There is no telling the change that has been wrought already in the place. It is as Basil meant it should be, and knew it would be. It is as it always is; when the box is broken at Christ's feet, the house is filled with the odour of the ointment.
MURRAY AND GIBB, EDINBURGH,
PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.
Typographical errors silently corrected:
Chapter 1: take off slice replaced by take off a slice
Chapter 1: those biscuits too brown replaced by them biscuits too brown
Chapter 1: Why has anybody replaced by Why, has anybody
Chapter 1: a rouser? replaced by a rouser!
Chapter 1: it 'ill take us replaced by it'll take us
Chapter 1 hev replaced by hev'
Chapter 1: I spect they're dreadful replaced by I s'pect they're dreadful
Chapter 2: little meetins replaced by little meetin's
Chapter 2: and she looked like replaced by "and she looked like
Chapter 2: "Don't the minister replaced by Don't the minister
Chapter 3: strip of gold replaced by stripe of gold
Chapter 7: no sitting still replaced by no sittin' still
Chapter 7: Farmer Selden replaced by farmer Selden
Chapter 11: You see there are seldom replaced by You see, there are seldom
Chapter 14: your place, Mrs. Reverdy replaced by your place, Mis' Reverdy
Chapter 14: of fierce replaced by o' fierce
Chapter 14: of the pulpit replaced by o' the pulpit
Chapter 14: hev replaced by hev'
Chapter 15: grass leading replaced by grass, leading
Chapter 15: woman by nature replaced by woman, by nature
Chapter 17: why like a ripe replaced by why, like a ripe
Chapter 17: Scripter does replaced by Scripter doos
Chapter 17: hev replaced by hev'
Chapter 18: oursn's replaced by our'n's
Chapter 20: folk's houses replaced by folks' houses
Chapter 22: a preacher?'" replaced by a preacher'?"
Chapter 24: hev replaced by hev'
Chapter 25: could get too much replaced by could git too much
Chapter 25: hev replaced by hev'
Chapter 25: at folk's secrets replaced by at folks' secrets
Chapter 25: Wall, I don't know replaced by Wall, I don' know
Chapter 34: Who does, then replaced by Who doos, then