"God bless me!" was all the doctor could say; for Sophy had not in her last letter, which, indeed, had been written some time before, made any mention of her expecting such a thing. "Will you be good enough to tell her that Dr. Ashleigh is here, and ask her if she will see him; and do not mention that I did not know of her confinement."
"She is rather low to-day, sir," she said, "for Mr. Gregory went away the day before yesterday, and said he should be back yesterday; but he has not come back, and Mrs. Gregory is fretting like about it."
Although not born at Canterbury, I look upon it as my native town, my city of adoption. My earliest remembrances are of the place; my childhood and youth were spent there; and, although I was then for a few years absent, it was for that stormy, stirring time, when life is wrapped up in persons and not in places, when the mere scene in which the drama is played out leaves barely an impression upon the mind, so all-absorbing is the interest in the performers. That time over, I returned to Canterbury as to my home, and hope, beneath the shadow of its stately towers, to pass tranquilly down the hill of life, whose ascent I there made with such eager, strong young steps.
Miss Harmer cowered back into her chair before the young girl who stood looking down with her earnest face upon her; and raised her hands feebly, as if to keep her accuser at a distance.
"You know very well, my dear, that if your own daughter had gone off with such a man, you would have considered it a very much worse business, and have been far more angry about it, than if she had run away with some gentleman of position and character; so how can you now talk such nonsense as to say that the man's bad character is a palliation of her fault?"
At first she was inclined to be distant and shy; but when once she had recovered sufficiently to fix her large grey inquiring eyes upon him, she went to him readily, and in five minutes they were fast friends; for indeed he was one of those men whom children instinctively feel to be good, and take to as if by intuition.
Sophy seeing that Robert was about to express an opinion respecting the portraits which would irreparably injure the feelings of their landlady, hastily said, "That, beyond question, they were remarkable paintings; but that she had been ill, and that the eyes had such a very lifelike expression, that she should never feel quiet and alone with them looking at her."